Monthly Archives: September 2013

Sarah Urist Green Lecture

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I’d never been to an official lecture by a curator, and I wondered if it would follow the same format as an artist talk. Would there be slides?  Would the experience of working with artists be discussed, or purely the curatorial decision-making?

Sarah Urist Green is one of three guest curators chosen for the 2014 SAIC MFA Show at Sullivan Galleries. I have no idea how these curators are selected and I’m still working out exactly what their role will encompass; I’m hoping we will be paired with one of them for studio visits and general advising.

Sarah is the curator of contemporary art at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. She did show slides and began by discussing the big move she had made from NYC, and then touched on the challenges of creating a stimulating and current exhibition schedule that also appeals to the local public. This appears to be an ongoing conflict of interest and I appreciated her placing such high importance on whether visitors had ‘liked’ the shows; I guess this is one big measure of success for a curator.

Sarah discussed a number of varied site-specific pieces she had commissioned from artists for the museum’s central gallery foyer, but I was most taken by her recent curatorial project titled ‘Graphite’. The exhibition celebrated a broad range of uses of the medium, from Carl Andre’s solid graphite chunks, to Judith Braun’s wall pieces. She spoke about how some of the artist’s initial ideas for the show had changed dramatically on final installation and her attitude to this was very understanding and accepting.

Unfortunately, I had to leave before the end, but there was no mention made of The MFA Show and what she hoped to bring to the table. I’d certainly enjoy working with her as I feel she understands the artistic process and is open to artists changing direction and focus as projects develop.

Not your typical hotel experience.

 

 

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The first time I walked into 21c’s lobby, in Louisville, KY, I was trying to decide if it felt like a hotel lobby or an art museum.  Somehow defied both and had a feeling as unique as the experience it offers.  You are greeted with contemporary art on the sidewalk around the hotel and from the moment you walk through the doors.

21c has a feel of old and new together. The building itself is rehabbed from historic tobacco and bourbon warehouses (important Kentucky products) that were renovated to be a contemporary space.  This was a very clever way to merge the city’s history and culture with new ideas. 21c also has hotels in Cincinnati, Oh and Bentonville, AK

I had read and heard about this hotel for years. So I jumped on the opportunity to spend the day there.  Despite all my research, I still expected it to be a hotel with an art gallery and distinct places where art is placed in the hotel.  It was quite the opposite.  Contemporary art is integrated in every aspect of the hotel.  There are traditional gallery-type spaces in the hotel.  But at the same time 21c almost offers an alternative reality, one that keeps you on your toes at every step.  You eat, sleep, even use the restroom immersed in artworks made by living artists.  These experiences are provoking and challenging of daily rituals and the roles of art in our lives. But does this experience really challenge the museum experience or does it embellish it?

Just down the hall from the lounge area, is “Text Rain,” an interactive piece by Camille Utterback and Romy Achituv.  This piece is projected on the wall in between the 2 elevators on the ground floor.  This piece puts the person standing in between those 2 elevators inside the projection and the raining letters build up and bounce off the projections of the people.  If one needed to go to their room they are forced to be part of this piece every time they wait for the elevator.

Once in the elevator, above one’s head is a piece “Untitled” by Ivan Navarro.  It utilizes lights and mirrors to create an endless tunnel of light.  I noticed the plaque with a title before I looked up and realized the elevator itself was an experience of art, again almost forcing patrons to participate with it.

The public restrooms on the ground floor near the elevators, force people in the restroom to question the issue of privacy.  Both the men and women’s bathrooms contain large 2 way mirrors on the outside walls, so that people outside the restroom can peer in.  One cannot see into the individual stalls, but the rest of the bathroom is visible.  Curiosity seems to force almost everyone that passes by to peep through the mirror and are then met with embarrassment when they realize they were now “peeping toms.”  Inside the restroom  (I can only speak for the women’s restroom) you are still confronted with the concept of being watched.  The mirror in the restroom is littered with small LCD screens with rapidly moving eyes.  This is a piece by Sean Bidic titled Voyeurism #6 and #7.  If one reads the plaque they learn that the recorded eyes are eyes of people who are blind, so they are being watched by eyes that can’t see.

Even the restaurant Proof, which is part of the hotel, not only provides unique culinary experiences, many specific to Kentucky, but it also provides a space where you eat surrounded by contemporary art, in front of you, behind you, above you etc.

21c offers a free 24 hour experience of art that artists like the Art Workers’ Coalition would have fought for in 1969 -70. Still it seems to not have won the battle against the bureaucracy of the privileged art world like the artist Hans Haacke built art around in the 70’s also. 21c embraces the luxury of the art world. It is not an inexpensive “Super 8” or “Days Inn.” What would the experience of contemporary art in those type of hotels be, compared to 21c? The average “joe” may not be able to afford 21c’s 230-500 dollar a night rooms, or expensive dining.  Could 21c be a family experience like most hotels promote?  Maybe not with the explicit content that contemporary art often offers.  Would there be more of a risk of the art being damaged or stolen in more affordable hotels, especially with contemporary art pieces in every room?

The artworks that hotel patrons in 21c could “live” with in the actual hotel room would have to be curated very carefully too, and there would be a lot of limitations to how far a patrons dreams could be realized.  These works would have to be safe and sturdy and be conducent for sleeping, a Dan Flavin neon piece might not be optimal for a good night’s sleep

Does artwork in this hotel context change the work at all?  Maybe the experience of being on a stress free vacation and being surrounded by art in your stay gives a more peaceful air to the works, or maybe being forced to interact with work brings frustration to the art.

The first time I visited 21c, I had the privilege of visiting Miami Art Basel a short few weeks later.  It was interesting to me that I saw a lot of the same artists’ work over and over at the various fairs in Miami that I had just seen at 21c.  I love it that a an art hotel in Louisville, KY is so update on the contemporary art world, that it shows the same work one would see at a famous art expo in the US.

Often my personal basic definition of successful art and art experiences, is art that promotes discussion and provokes questions.  Though 21c might still be an imperfect institution to display contemporary artworks, it left me thinking and talking about the experience.  After leaving the hotel I found myself wondering, what will the next generation of art viewing experiences bring?

-L Whittle

 

 

Art Expo Highlights

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Greg Bogin for Leo Koenig

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David Klamen for Richard Gray

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Ettore Spalletti for Galarie Lelong

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Tom Wesselmann for Galerie Terminus. 

This being my first art fair experience, I walked into Navy Pier last Friday with a pessimistic expectation. I’ve heard tons of negative feedback about the quality of work and experience of the venue at Expo Chicago. I was ready for a Sam’s Club-like experience filled with tons of bad painting and archaic sculpture. But, after about 15 minutes of browsing I found myself pleasantly surprised by some of the work I saw. Looking past the convention center atmosphere and the false gallery booths I actually began to decipher a number of pretty arousing pieces.  

Greg Bogin’s Sci Fi/Pop Artish/Post-Minimal/Color field painting (whatever category it falls in) and fluorescent urethane casted sculpture caught my eye for sure. I’ve seen Bogin’s work  online but I’ve never gotten a chance to encounter it in person. It was great to see the rounded dimensionality of his wall piece and the high quality finish he uses on his painted gradients. I was particularly jazzed on the speckled black and purple border of the painting, and to be frank, it was really that fucking rad. Brought me to ruminate some of my childhood Easter experiences of eating those speckled easter egg candies. 

Browsing along, sifting through the good from the bad I noticed some great late 60’s early 70’s work from John McCracken, Ed Rushca, Carlos Cruz-Diez , Rauschenberg, and Warhol. The Tom Wesselman in the Galerie Terminus booth was one of the best pieces of his I’ve seen. Bordering both object and painting, his shaped painting of a faceless nude woman drifiting back into an odd perspective is perplexing, smart, and funny. Rendered in his typical pop art palette with soft edges, air brushed gradients, and a lack of detail; this painting is sexy! 

Other highlights I saw was David Klamens painting of a galaxy painting in a museum, Ettore Spalletti sliced edge wall piece, and Andreas Lolis cardboard and styrofoam objects made in marble. All in all the bad might have slightly outweighed the good, but the good was great enough to keep me in the facility for 2 hours. It was definitely exciting to see such a wide range of works in one container, regardless of how over saturated the venue was. 

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Andrew Falkowski  and Karl Erickson. The Suburban

The space was consumed and pleasantly overwhelming. Saturated glowing colors intwewoven with barely legible text and information that was meant to invite and push the viewer away simultaneously.  The History of the pattern making, that is called “Razzle Dazzle”, was to create a vibration in the visual perceception of information to distort the object. In this case the vibration was an interior space with small “Knights” helmets formed from paper that also possessed the same pattern making as the walls. The shear scale of the work consuming the space made you dizzy, not allowing your eyes to really focus on anyone particular thing, almost like a carnival attraction. The sculptures became lost in the field that was the wall conflating object and space. If you didn’t puke you had a “fun” and visually stimulating experience

Am I Getting Dumber?

A friend, who recently completed her MFA, called me up the other day worried that she had gotten dumber since undergrad.  She had come across some essays from college she had written and was both impressed and concerned how intelligent she sounded-varied vocabulary, smart ideas, compelling thesis.  We both graduated from strong liberal arts programs and I could immediately relate to her concern, having recently read over some old philosophy papers of my own.  And it makes me consider the possible intellectual dangers of pursuing an MFA.

I have learned invaluable information since coming to art school–about the contemporary art market, about how how to talk about work, how to write artist statement, how to enter the world as an artist and theories on how to stay afloat, etc–but it is very one-sided.  The pass/fail system of my program allows for a certain amount of freedom to prioritise individually, but the motivation level in classes deemed not-100%-relevant-to-studio-practice seems to suffer.

I admit to enjoying total studio-emersion on one hand, but on the other hand I miss the rigorous academic atmosphere of my undergrad where I was able to explore subjects not directly related to my studio practice (which I continue to draw influence from) without being treated as an artist.  Typically non-art-related courses such as Math or Science classes geared towards art majors have the potential for not being as challenging or informative as their traditional counterparts.

As artists, we are encouraged to absorb and reflect our environments, our brains, and experiences, and if presented material which is already partially digested through the art perspective, it becomes harder to find a fresh and sincere angle.   The danger of such a narrow academic environment makes me question the benefits of a BFA all-together.  I think it is far more interesting to approach art-making, not as a student of art and wholly art-centric individual who re-arranging a series of art-appropriate gestures within the context of art history, but as a critical thinker and generally curious individual with a fresh perspective on the world fueled by a conglomeration of a variety of experiences who chooses to express those ideas through art.

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EXPO Chicago Top Five

This year’s EXPO Chicago felt much like the 2012 fair with a similar showing of galleries and the wonderful interior environment designed by Jeanne Gang and Studio Gang Architects again adding elegance to the lounge areas (love those noodle couches!). The only marked difference was the absence of Jessica Stockholder whose work seemed to be present in every other booth last year.

Here’s my top five artist picks amidst the 120 galleries represented:

Judy Pfaff
There was a strange mix of wall relief pieces from 1984 to 2013, but the same wild and unrestrained signature Pfaff style unified the collection presented by Carl Solway Galleries in Cincinnati. I’ve always been a huge fan of her work and the latest pieces utilizing honeycomb cardboard and paper lanterns she found through her travels through China are full of energy and noise.

Betty Woodman
I almost mistook Woodman’s work for a Matisse cut-out (which wouldn’t have seemed out of place next to the booth dedicated to Motherwell’s collages).  Instead of painted paper, she utilizes glazed ceramic slab pieces and pots as collage elements against canvas. The result is far from crafty and it should be noted that Betty Woodman was 82 when she made this piece last year…what an absolute legend!

Greg Bogin
I’m sure I’m not the only one who was intrigued by the odd yet enthralling yellow urethane sculpture on show in Koenig and Clinton’s booth by Greg Bogin. The piece is incredibly seductive and well-lit to show the slight translucency of the material. It left me wanting to see more of Bogin’s work.

Clive Murphy
Who can resist fully inflated BBQ cardboard boxes and FedEx packing? These pieces are playful yet the level of their inflation makes me uneasy; I can almost hear the explosive pop should their pressure be released. On researching more of Murphy’s work, he is certainly not a ‘one-trick-pony’ as I had suspected and definitely one to watch.

Kaari Upson
Upson’s mattress drew me into an otherwise dull gallery booth; its fleshy forms and strange rectangular impression where we would expect a soft head-shaped imprint adds to the unsettling undertone of the piece.  I assume it is made of cast silicone like her other mattress pieces (the scribbled label only listed her name) and this one has an even more disconcerting feeling with its size association to cots and infants.

Chicago Needs A Dose of Grand Rapids

I recently took a trip to Grand Rapids, MI for an ArtPrize event at the UICA.  Having lived in a city for the past several years, I was instantly charmed by the small town feel of Grand Rapids but the art scene had the vibrancy of a city twice its size.  Recently christened “the new Austin”, Grand Rapids is quickly gathering speed on the art front–particularly since the ArtPrize started in 2009.  Admittedly, few of the entries I saw there were memorable but what I took away was the sheer collective enthusiasm of the city itself.

I love Chicago but there seems to be an underlying bitterness agitated by its competition towards NYC and LA, and its struggle to keep its young artists/recent MFA grads from moving out.  One of my professors suggested Chicago needs more galleries which cater to young artists and there needs to be more connections between MFA programs and these galleries to establish relationships before these artists move away.

From what I could tell, Kendall College graduates and professors seem to run the up-and-coming art scene in Grand Rapids.  A young scene like this isn’t jaded yet, and doesn’t have the struggle of hierarchy within the gallery scene. It was refreshing to be among artists and gallerists with a sense of optimism.  Obviously Chicago, having an established place in the art market, cannot ignore its history and cannot/should not strive for a small-town up-and-coming-at-scene attitude, but I do think that a healthy dose of enthusiasm and a good night’s sleep would go a long way.

ART EXPO

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3-D at Expo

Unsurprisingly, galleries participating in Expo Chicago mainly showcase two-dimensional artwork.  There are obvious space limitations and exhibiting paintings and drawings is practical.  Art fairs are a great opportunity for galleries to promote the artists they work with to a larger audience while participating in the market.  It’s understandable that the amount of two-dimensional work outweighs sculpture in the art fair environment.

I am new to art fairs. I have never experienced art fairs before today, but I had an idea of what to expect.  My expectations were fairly accurate.  A lot painting and most of it not very engaging.  Nonetheless, a very active day and an opportunity to share a few favorites.

For this shortlist, I wanted to highlight three dimensional work rather than focusing on painting and drawing.

Sculptural Highlights:

Alexandre da Cunha

Bill O’Brien

Robert Gober

Carol Bove

Ken Price

Although this is a list highlighting sculpture, I can’t help but mention Betty Woodman’s use of combining both painting and sculpture in her works.  Woodman’s ceramics, including vessels and slabs of clay surfaces depicting the decorative elements of those vessels, are usually displayed in front of the painting.  Her paintings function as a backdrop. Interiors are represented with colorful, fluid brushstrokes enhancing the architecture of each of her chosen spaces.

Zoe Leonard: Midas middle finger.

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I wonder if success in the art world buys the artist the freedom to do whatever. Perhaps, once an artist is minted onto the art world, validated by Biennials, and consumed by big names, a sort of Midas effect takes place, in which anything produced by the later is considered intellectual product, no matter how barren it may be.

I consider Zoe Leonard’s presentation at the AIC to be offensive. Mainly because I do not need to be lectured on the working mechanics of a Camera Obscura. As I understand it, the optical phenomenon taking place within it is the same regardless if it executed in Paris or NY. I also question both her capacity and authenticity as an artist with this project. In her lecture, she described how her work took a turn when she started “experimenting” with pinhole projections, and how the space becomes “…a device for the temporal perceptive manipulation” and “a social gathering place”. If the artist is being genuine about these statements, and I hope not, I wonder if she even considered how painfully silly and ingenuous this train of thought is, especially in today’s day and age.

Attached is a web page containing the work of fellow artist and photographer, Herminio Rodriguez. We used to share a studio space back in my country. He decided, out of fun, to convert his studio into a camera obscura. The projection on the walls was that of the low income housing project directly in front of us. I remember during the opening, how the people of the housing project flocked the studio, amazed by the projections. It was a beautiful moment; these people never had a proper school education, didn’t understand the optical mechanics at work, and waited in lines to see the buildings they lived in projected in walls. If Zoe truly wanted to generate a gathering space of dialog, my former studio partner achieved it for real, for a humble studio in front of a low income housing project in Puerto Rico is not the same as a high end gallery in Paris.