Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Year in Review: The Museum of Peripheral Art in 2015

To see past annual reviews for the Museum of Peripheral Art, click on the years under the blog archive. The last entry each year is the annual review.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

A Streak of Look

by Drew Martin
One project I got carried away with this year, from the beginning of fall to the beginning of winter, was my morning run photo series, posted to @peripheralart on Instagram. It consisted of 100 pictures from 100 consecutive morning runs. The first 88 images where set in a similar matrix (8 frames wide x 11 high) and turned into wrapping paper for my friends. It was lacking the last dozen because I had to send it off to the printer in order to get it back in time for the holidays. The series celebrates my 7+ year running streak of running every morning.

In the beginning I thought that this series was the perfect solution for me: a way to integrate my running and the arts, and those two separate groups of friends. But it got to the point where setting up the shot, and even the act of stopping for the photos took away from the running, and by the end it felt like I was stretching it a bit. It was a relief to end the series and was able to solely focus on running again. That being said, if I do see a great photo op when I am out there, I certainly don't hesitate to snap a picture. 

Below are all the images shrunken down and missing the stories and comments that went with each one, such as tales of my working in a northern Czech zoo in the early 1990s that accompany the images with animals. If you wish to read those just scan through my @peripheralart feed on Instagram.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Wolfgang and Helene Beltracchi: Forging Ahead

by Drew Martin
With the art market being such a random and unregulated field of whims and speculations, the question of what is art and why certain works are worth millions of dollars gets turned on its head when a fake is introduced, especially when it takes a team of art experts, forensic scientists and chemical analysis to make the distinction between an original and a forgery.

A copy of a painting only becomes a forgery when the forger signs the name of the original artist. Wolfgang Beltracchi is a master forger who made millions by passing off works by great artists. His specialty was not an exact copy of something (that would be too easy to identify) but of works existing only in literature and not in catalogs. 

There were many paintings by artists that were written about but never photographed and are not in anyone's collection. So Beltracchi, who boasts he can paint like anyone and in any style, filled that gap. When questions of provenance came up, Beltracchi's scheme sent the collectors down a rabbit hole of his game. He and his wife, Helene, turned her deceased grandparents into fictitious collectors, and even went so far as to fake photographs of Helene, posing as her grandmother with the works: all forgeries by Beltracchi. (Second picture from the bottom)

Beltracchi's father was an art restorer and a decorative painter who used the tricks of the trade to paint plastered surfaces in churches to look like wood and marble. The young Beltracchi was a quick study and learned all these techniques but this practical approach desensitized him to art. He says his emotions are devoted only to his family and not to art. That might sound shocking to a collector or curator, but is actually quite refreshing to hear. He explains that he never did the forgeries for money but rather for the rush.

Beltracchi led himself slowly to this art-crime career by way of restoration. He had the eye and skills to fake anything. So, he reasoned, why not take it to another level? Between 1970 and 2010 Beltracchi created at least 300 forgeries, sold as originals, which supported an extravagant lifestyle and was a means to raise his family in beautiful houses and locations in Europe and Morocco. He was meticulous about the details of the forgeries but his game was exposed when he did not mix his own white paint and the too modern titanium white was used for a pre-WWI forgery of Heinrich Campendonk. After he was caught and punished, and asked if he had any regrets he could only offer that he should never have used titanium white, and ponders where it came from.

He and his wife went to prison for several years when they were found guilty and charged with forgery of 14 works of art that sold in total for $45 million. Only 50 or so of Beltracchi's works have been identified. The balance of his faked 300+ drawings and paintings are still in museums and other collections, unidentified as forgeries, with the art world non the wiser. An interesting comment he made was that it is easier to sell a fake for millions of dollars than it is to sell it for thousands of dollars because people are less likely to question the authenticity of a painting with a higher price.  

The bottom picture is of the Beltracchis moving out of their beautiful glass house in Freiburg, Germany. This piece of property and other real estate was liquidated to compensate the collectors who bought his forgeries. This is actually a really interesting business model for art: people invest in forgeries, that money gets invested in appreciating real estate, and when the work is identified as fake, they are compensated by the sale of the properties. Compared to a Ponzi scheme the investors could have done much worse than buying a Beltracchi copy. The couple is now living freely and making millions producing art again, this time not as forgeries.

This whole story unfolds in the documentary Beltracchi: Die Kunst der Fälschung, (The Art of Forgery), which I recently watched. While he has been vilified by many, I am in the camp that thinks he's more a genius than a criminal and have more respect for him than artists like Koons or Cattelan. For one thing, he has much more sheer talent than the aforementioned businessman and prankster. In many ways he is actually more honest than them. Also, his ability to replicate the work of any artist and fool the best eyes of the art world challenges the value we place on art, financially as well as emotionally. 

If a painting-by-painting case study reveals his trickery, and exposes the experts' and collectors' naiveté, the totality of his influence questions if our interest in art is a delusion of our species. At a base level, there is also a kind of payback from an art world that too often undervalues artists while they are alive and then fans the flames of financial success among themselves when the creators are dead. Beltracchi cracks a hole into those coffers and takes what he thinks is his own value. When he is shown faking a piece by Max Ernst, an artist he does not regard as anyone special, he kicks back with his daughter, looks at the progress of the work and sighs that the real pity is that he cannot sell the painting for five million, as he could if his business was still under wraps.

The film is made during his and Helene's very loose prison years: they only needed to report to separate prisons at night but were allowed to spend their days working together in an off-site studio. Not only is Beltracchi very optimistic and cheerful in the film but he is also incredibly cooperative and takes the viewer through the whole process of forgery: going to flea markets to find old canvases, scraping off the original paint and integrating any remaining marks into the final piece. He even sifts early-20th Century dust between the stretcher bars and the repainted canvas, and tries to give a painting the smell of the place in which it would have been hung. He claims that he can tell which country a painting is from by its smell. He suggests you can hang it for awhile in bar to get the right odor, but then jokes at least your could when you were still allowed to smoke in bars.

The top picture here shows Beltracchi scraping the paint off an old, worthless canvas, which he picked up in an open-air market, as he prepares it to create a painting as if done by the hand and mind of Marie Vassilieff. The photo here under that, second from top, is the new/old painting underway while he talks to the camera, as he hides any trace of the original sub-par nude:

"I'll make the one breast into a little tree. And I'll make the second breast into a house. Voilà. Now she's gone." 

If you are interested in other articles/documentaries about individuals who turned the art world upside down, check out my post Mona Lisa is Missing.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Finding the Familiar in Foreign Films

by Drew Martin
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is most famous worldwide for their Academy Awards - The Oscars. Many American films have more explosions and gunfire than actual dialogue, and bad dialogue at that, so it's surprising that anything not in English is in a whole other category, which sits on the side of the Awards like children at the kiddie table.

The first Awards, which started in 1929 made no such separation but between 1947 - 1952, and in 1954 and 1955 Special/
Honorary Awards were given out for "foreign language films" released in the U.S. The Academy Award of Merit, a.k.a the Best Foreign Language Film Award for non-English "speaking" films began in 1956.

It is offensive to label non-English language films released in the U.S. as foreign language films. The top film of this category last year, Ida, is not a foreign language film to my wife who is an American citizen and is a native Polish speaker, or for nearly10 million Polish Americans. The same could be said for any language film.

Netflix has an International Movies section, which includes English language films that are African, Australian, British, Canadian and Irish.

I wish Netflix had an even bigger selection of international movies because if it's a good movie, it does not matter what language it's in if you can follow it with subtitles in your own language. Netflix in the U.S. only offers subtitles in English.

A couple recent releases on Netflix worth mentioning are The Lesson and Phoenix.

The Lesson is a 2014 Bulgarian film that starts off with an underpaid school teacher confronting a class when a student reports that her wallet was swiped. The teacher can't let the incident go until the very end of the film, after she has robbed a bank to save her house from foreclosure, which is one of my favorite movie scenes: she is going to defer payment to a loan shark through reluctant sexual favors. On her way to see him she is overwhelmed with fear and disgust about what she is about to do, and the stockings she has put on that day for him become her mask, and a realistic-looking water gun she took earlier from a student becomes her stick-up weapon for a robbery of a bank, which had previously given her a hard time when she was trying to transfer money to save her house.

is 2014 German film about a woman returning from a concentration camp to Berlin after WWII. Her face was shattered by a bullet so she is brought by a friend to Switzerland for reconstructive surgery. It's enough give her a familiar face to people she knew before the war but not to be recognized by her husband who betrayed her and gave her up to the Nazis for his own release, and thinks she is dead. It's way too complicated to explain further, but they meet and he finds her resemblance close enough to make others believe she is alive in order to go after her inheritance, without him actually knowing it's her. Sounds crazy but it's a good movie with a great ending of how he finally realizes it is indeed her.

When I sat down to write this blog I got entirely distracted by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TEDGlobal 2009 talk in London: The danger of a single story. It is a great talk about flattened stories and the problem of one story being the only story you have of a culture and an event. Her angle is literature, although she also talks about her native Nigeria's Nollywood, which produces more than 800 films a year. The take-away I got from Chimamanda's talk is that we are all guilty of summarizing another culture with a single-story that is convenient for us. And the best way to change this limited perspective is to write one's own story to share with the people who put you in a box, and to absorb as much as you can of other cultures through literature, cinema, art and music.

The nice thing about "foreign language films" is that you get to absorb more of the culture through the spoken language (if it's not dubbed) and the locations, as opposed to reading a "foreign language book" in translation to your own language.

So if you are not up for sitting through these entire films, at least take a minute to watch the trailers:

And if you have 15 minutes to spare, watch Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TED talk:

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Free-Range Eggs at Kate Werble Gallery

by Drew Martin
I was at a company holiday luncheon later this afternoon in TriBeCa and one of the topics discussed was the yolk-to-egg white ratio. A young colleague, who is an engineer, was arguing that the yolk should be bioengineered to a fraction of its size. So to my surprise, walking back from our department gathering to my office in SoHo, I passed the Kate Werble Gallery full of sunny-side-up fried egg sculptures: LIVESTRONG by Christopher Chiappa. The 7,000 resin and plaster eggs (584 dozen plus a few extra) cover the floor and walls of the two-room gallery. Although I was in a bit of a rush, the eggs were playful and inviting so I stopped in for a few minutes to have a look and take some pictures (posted here).

The show is surreal and makes me think about the use of eggs in the history of painting (egg tempera) and of artists who have represented eggs: Salvador Dalí and Claes Oldenburg first come to mind. The multiplication of the eggs also conjures up sci-fi references, like the classic Star Trek episode The Trouble with Tribbles, when furry, featureless pom-pom creatures reproduce at an alarming rate and threaten the integrity of the Starship Enterprise. 

Aside from the immediate fun of this installation, the deeper meaning is of course in the idea of reproduction. The eggs we consume are unfertilized and sexless, and a chicken without a rooster can yield an egg a day. In the classic paradox, Which came first the chicken or the egg?, this installation offers a situation in which the chicken has been bioengineered out of the equation and the eggs themselves continue on through asexual reproduction.

It's a great show that put this little gallery on the map for me. I look forward to seeing what Kate has planned for this space in the new year.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Vidal Signs

by Drew Martin
I just watched a new documentary about an old debate. Best of Enemies is a fairly new release about the televised debates between the politically and morally clashing intellectuals William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal during the ABC News coverage of the Republican National Convention in Miami Beach and the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in August 1968.

The climax is Buckley's rage to Vidal when he loses it and spouts: 
Now listen, you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I’ll sock you in your goddam face, and you’ll stay plastered.

It's a moment that changed the course of television: the gloves were off and any chance of legitimate debate was trumped by this kind of caustic banter.

In the epilogue of the tenth debate Vidal offers, "I think these great debates are absolutely nonsense. The way they're set up, there's no interchange of ideas, very little, even, of personality. There's also the terrible thing about this medium that hardly anyone listens. They sort of get an impression of someone and think they've figured out just what he's like by seeing him on television."

One commentator says the debate was the harbinger of the unhappy future of television. And in response to a question to Buckley, "Does television run America?" he responds that "there is an implicit conflict of interest between that which is highly viewable and that which is highly illuminating."

Television as the public square was over. A commentator suggests, "The ability to talk the same language is gone. More and more we are divided into communities of concern. Each side can ignore the other side and live in its own world. It makes us less of a nation because what binds us together is the picture in our heads. But if these people are not sharing those ideas they're not living in the same place."

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Alien Aesthetic: H.R. Giger

by Drew Martin
Last night I watched a really good documentary about the artist whose surreal and bleak futuristic imagery influences us more than we can imagine - Dark Star: H.R. Giger's World.

Hans Ruedi Giger (1940 - 2014) was a Swiss airbrush painter who created a world of biomechanical creatures that cycle through themes of sex, birth, and death. 

It is easy to look at his work and dismiss it as a certain sci-fi fantasy style, but it's a look he introduced to the world and created from his dreams. In the documentary he talks about dreams, and laments the unfinished erotic dream from which one is unfairly pulled away to awaken to reality. 

Look closer and you will see the skills of his years of study in architecture and industrial design combined with an intuitive grasp of anatomy and references to Egyptian art. A friend of his, who does not believe in the occult, says he feels like Giger was channeling another world for us to witness. A psychiatrist in the film calls Giger an artistic reporter for the darkness in us. 

It was always a personal fantasy of mine as a kid to be able to bring something physical back from my own dreamworld, and Giger did just that. A delightful aspect of the film is that it shows his chaotic, overgrown house, which is a labyrinth of rooms full of his images, sculptures based on his world, curious artifacts and skulls. 

As a child Giger was scared of a mummy at a local museum. His older sister teased him about this so he returned every day until he got over his fear. Likewise, his father, a pharmacist, was given a human skull by the Ciga-Geigy pharmaceutical company. At first it scared the younger Giger but then he started dragging it by a string around town in order to show that he was no longer afraid of it. 

Perhaps this is part of his attraction for his devoted fans: no matter how much fantasy Giger creates in his images, there is an overwhelming sense of morbid reality, which is not sugarcoated and he is a totally uncensored artist, without moral apologies. His work has an honesty to it that is unparalleled. In one of the final scenes we see Giger shortly before his death signing books and drawings for his fans. Many of them extend an arm for him to sign. A few of them pull off their shirts to reveal tattoos of his work. These same, rough-looking individuals profusely thank him with such emotional intensity that they break into tears.

Giger's paintings sold well as posters and he was hired to do album design for musicians such as the American punk band, the Dead Kennedys. The first time I saw his Penis Landscape, which is featured on their Frankenchrist album was in a friend's dorm room in college. It is an impossible motif/collage of stacks of buttocks, and penises copulating with vaginas. 

Giger broke out on the world scene when Hollywood discovered him and he was hired to create the look of the creatures and their ship in the 1979 Academy-Award-winning sci-fi horror film, Alien, by Ridley Scott. It's an aesthetic that continues with Blade Runner in 1982, and we see used countless other times in sci-fi films such as The Matrix.

The term "airbrushed" shares the same cultural meaning as "Photoshopped" as a kind of digital makeup/plastic surgery but this film restores it to the original source and has some nice scenes of Giger airbrushing his work without any preliminary sketches. It's a lost art where natural arm movements are now replaced by bezier computer curves. From a graphics point of view, the documentary is worth viewing for those moments alone.

Pictured top is Giger with Swiss actress Li Tobler. They were together for nine years before she shot herself. Tobler's face and nude body are featured in much of his work during their time together. The image second from the top is representational of Giger's biomechanical creatures. The third image from the top is his design of the alien spaceship in Alien. And finally, the last picture is an interior he created for one of two Giger-themed bars in Switzerland.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Physics of Light

by Drew Martin
Over the past week I watched a six-part, South Korean-made series about physics, called The Physics of Light. It is a well-done and engaging introduction to the scientific conceptual leaps made by Galileo, Newton, Einstein and other famous scientists.

Some of the concepts are quite complicated, especially when it ventures into Quantum Mechanics, and five variations of String Theory rolled up into M-Theory. Don't feel bad if you find these ideas difficult to understand, Einstein himself could not wrap his head around Quantum Mechanics and everything that came after that. Fortunately this series is witty and clear.

At times I could not tell if it was being dumbed down a bit for a younger audience or if it was simply a cultural difference; that a South Korean approach to education might purposefully be repetitive with explanations.

I always tell people that I went to college to study medical illustration (ended up getting a degree in fine arts after studying "pre-med" for two years) but more accurately I was going to focus on scientific illustration. At school I contributed to the college daily newspaper as an editorial illustrator, which, like scientific illustration, brings clarity to a subject. This is still a big interest of mine, which means I have a keen eye on what is being shown to explain a system, whatever the field.

All the images here are from the series. The top diagram is used to explain how Newton applied his first law of motion to explain how the inertia of the moon keeps it constantly "falling" around the Earth, while the apple on Earth will fall directly to the ground. Newton is hands down the most brilliant scientist to ever live and the series does a good job of showing his range of interest, and profound, independent thoughts. 

I do not have a problem with the way the series explains his thinking. My eight-year-old was watching this section last night and was able to comprehend his laws of gravity through the graphic explanations and analogies. I do have a problem with how Einstein's special theory of relativity and Hermann Minkowski's space-time is often visually explained. The middle picture here is clear, though exaggerated, if you are discussing how light would bend around objects in space but it fails as a substitute in explaining how it has replaced Newtonian gravity.

While many complicated theories in physics must be explained mathematically, they are often conceived of visually, but they are more visual concepts that do not translate well as visual analogies. This is not so much a fault of the documentary as it is about the scientific community and its inability to properly edit graphics.

The most humorous example of the disconnect between visualizing and visuals is the when leading physicists are asks to draw the strings of String Theory, and they end up drawing simple lines, as pictured in the bottom image.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Slowest, Dumbest Genius You'll Ever Meet

by Drew Martin
I watched a documentary today about Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway (no, he did not die by driving one off a cliff). He is also the founder of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, which brings out the engineers in students through arena-style robotic competitions) and the SEE Science Center, a hands-on learning museum in Manchester, New Hampshire.

The documentary is called SlingShot, which is the name of a water distillation machine he hopes to distribute and install around the world in order to bring clean water to communities who are in need of potable water. He chose the name SlingShot because of the story of David and Goliath, which fascinated him as a kid. While most people focus on the small, less-powerful David overcoming Goliath, his giant adversary, the take-away of the story for Kamen was that technology (the slingshot) is cool, and empowering. It also complements one of the many adages he expresses in the documentary: that a really big person helps everybody else be big and to not keep them small.

Kamen has devoted his life to technology; specifically to technology that saves lives, including SlingShot as well as a home dialysis machine, which actually led to the development of SlingShot in order to provide medical-grade water for dialysis. Like most of us, I probably looked at the Segway as more of a recreational scooter, but Kamen approached it as a real people-mover in order to solve the problem of car-congested/polluted cities and as a segway between walking and driving.

While technology is king for Kamen, and he has filled his dream house in New Hampshire with beautiful machines such as a 150+-year-old steam engine from an old tugboat, and a real helicopter in a glass-walled garage, which he flies around, he does see shortcomings to its promises, such as the social contradictions of how it is used as well as unattainable dreams including his desire for a time machine. Another adage he says is that truth is transient, especially with technology.

To this point Kamen suggests that we do not have an education problem in America, but rather a cultural problem in that we do not pay much attention to the great minds that contribute to the betterment of society but are amazed that someone can perform slightly better in a sport, and get a basketball in a net. He says that unless you are doing something that inspires you and wake up ready to embrace each day, you are cheating yourself of a happy and meaningful life.

Kamen's intelligent humor shows through in many moments of the documentary, such as when he takes off the housing of a SlingShot model to explain its inner workings and points to the location of its expensium, unobtainium, unreliabilium, and icantmaketwoathem.

While he has had many successes, he also explains the difficulty of implementing innovation and warns his staff at his company DEKA of resting on their laurels, which he expresses as taking a nap on the bear-skin rug before you are sure you shot the bear.

Kamen is concerned by an attitude towards aid work that something of no cost has no value but his drive to solve world problems through technological solutions is unyielding, and with his wit promises that he will be an overnight success in twenty years.

On a hallway wall in his house he has hung drawings of great scientists and thinkers, which his father drew: Archimedes, Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton, James Clerk Maxwell, and Albert Einstein, who he refers to as Big Al. While responding to a comment about his own genius, he is flattered but explains he is a very slow learner with dyslexia. He says..If I am a genius then I am the slowest, dumbest genius that you'll even meet.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

33 Artists in 3 Acts

by Drew Martin
I recently finished reading Sarah Thornton’s 33 Artists in 3 Acts. I was immediately hooked on Thornton’s writing when I first read her Seven Days in the Art World; a clear-headed, and clearly-written look at the art world. 33 Artists in 3 Acts continues her inquiry into what makes the art world tick, through her anthropological approach, which spares the reader from art-speak and breaks from what she calls the binary way of thinking typically expressed by reviewers.

The premise of the book is to tease out of artists what it means to be an artist. While Thornton likes one response she got, that the artist is a myth, she is still fascinated by the individuals who adopt and perpetuate the myth. I liked reading this book very much but while Thornton gathers interviews and anecdotes of creative personalities, she never quite cracks the nut. You never get into the mind of an artist as you do with writings such as Keith Haring’s Journals, Anne Truitt’s Day Book, or particularly Robert Irwin’s Seeing Is Forgetting the Name of the Thing One Sees

I think there is a myth of the stereotypical artist, but I would never deny that there are individuals who are propelled to create, and or interpret the world around them in a new and meaningful way. A proof of this is the very essence of the book. If you are an artist, you have a particular way of thinking, and your conversation with another artist has a very different feeling than Thornton’s writing. For example, a conversation with my friends with whom I went to school, or with whom I have exhibited is typically, and creatively about source and process. In most cases, the most creative conversations have nothing to do with “art” but are about the nature of things. 33 Artists in 3 Acts reads more like conversations heard at art openings about a lifestyle, status, and a product (even if it is a performance). There is a desire to be artistically creative by association, which is what I feel has fueled Thornton’s writing career with the arts. In my mind she is a welcome guest and I totally appreciate what she adds to this booming art world. The problem here, however, is in the selection of her character studies. I think there is a fantastic range to show what kind of artists exist, but it’s not the right gathering of individuals to dig deeper and really answer her question. 

Jeff Koons, for instance, is not an artist. He is a businessman who manages a portfolio of art products. Sure it’s a creative role but part of his elusiveness is an inability to think as an artist, which is why you only get sound bytes from him, and art-book-entry references. I think he wanted badly to be an artist as a kid because he liked what he saw of that lifestyle and the attention it earned so he found a way to call himself an artist through a very formulated process. Ai Weiwei is also not an artist. He is first and foremost a political activist who uses art as his form of communication. Of course, there are artists in the book; I am not going to go through them all. The most peculiar entry is of Lena Dunham. Thornton includes her parents Carroll Dunham and Laurie Simmons, and even her sister, Grace. The whole section of this family clan seems like a personal favor, and that of Lena, in particular, as if she is trying to be a cool mom, or to appease and pull in the audience of Lena’s godparents Jerry Saltz and Roberta Smith, two of the most-read art reviewers in the world. There are other instances of nepotism, such as Gabriel Orozco, who I really like, and am happy she included him in two of the acts, but Orozco has the soul of artist.

I have a gut reaction to many of the people she interviews. Thornton does too. For example, there is mistrust of Koons, and tension with Damien Hirst that is felt in the temper of her writing. My personal reaction to and judgment of Thornton’s roster is actually the best part of the book, although I do not think it is by her design. By this I mean that as I read her book, my own ideas of what and who is an artist were stirred up and challenged. One of my favorite results of reading this book came from a passing comment about Tracey Emin. I was familiar with a few of her pieces, but with a closer look, especially in one presentation she gave at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Australia, I quickly grew to appreciate both her work and her way of thinking about art:

In conclusion, there is no grand theory, or formula, but rather a diverse splattering of answers about artists and art such as…

A conceptual artist is a leader, a painter is a peasant.

Art is not a job for an artist, just as religion is not a job for a priest.

Art is not supposed to repeat what you already know. It is supposed to ask questions.

You can take photographs or you can make photographs.

Artists have varying degrees of repetition compulsion or a drive to repeat a singular impulse over and over again, trying to get it right, or “righter.”

The most fun time to be an artist is when you are young, and when you are old.

There are good real artists (i.e. Bruce Bauman), bad real artists (i.e. Jasper Johns), good fake artists (i.e. Francis Alys) and bad fake artists (i.e Ai Weiwei)

If the critics don’t like something, just make more. [Warhol]

The public is in need of experiences that are not just voyeuristic.
Artists should be the oxygen of society.

The function of the artist in a disturbed society is to give awareness of the universe, to open consciousness and elevate the mind.

An artist is a myth. Most artists internalize the myth in the process of their development and then strive to embody and perform it.

They say that there are three kinds of artist: the perverse, the neurotic, and the psychotic.

One of the core fantasies of artists is unconditional love and the associate unconditional value attributed to anything that we produce. It’s about love, attention, recognition, regard…and freedom from shame.

I can teach someone to make my last artwork but not my next one.

Craft can be taught but whereas art is about self-realization.

A lot of artists are really bad craftsmen and most craftsmen are really bad artists.

The big burden for artists working in the art world is self-consciousness. We’ve lost our innocence. We’re constantly looking at ourselves making art. It’s one of the many appeals of outsider artists; they don’t give a damn about what people think.

There are moments when artists are artists and then they are not anymore. When they are not thinking, they become craftsmen of their own art.

Humans want something beautiful to live with. That is not a shallow desire. It affects our well-being. With decorative art, this is a need to aestheticize and exteriorize their thoughts and feelings.

While a desire to communicate is a key artistic motivator, a fear of being too direct or didactic also prevails.

A category of an artwork is a “ghetto” or prison.

I’m not unique. I’m just a particular instance of the possible.

And, one of my favorite, not in the book, which an older artist friend of mine in Poland once told me, “Anyone who is not an artist is crazy.” 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

A Stellar Show

by Drew Martin

The Frank Stella retrospective at the Whitney is an impressive fifth-floor-gallery-packed show that opens your eyes to a lifetime of his work. I have appreciatively walked by Stellas a few times a day for the past fifteen years in my lobby at work, which could stand in for very similar pieces in this show. Stella’s work moves from precise, flat, minimalist paintings, to high-tech, space-hogging, carbon-fiber sculptures. The in-between is an explosion of colorful, intensively-constructed works that straddle the fields of painting and sculpture. Sometimes they are constructed as sculptures but work as paintings. Other times they are sculptures disguised as paintings. After circling the gallery with a friend last night, she remarked, “I am surprised you aren’t taking pictures.” I happened to have my good camera on me so I circled the gallery again and took up-close shots of the work to detail his mastery of materials.