Monday, October 20, 2014

I Survived Frieze Week And All I Get Is This Tote Bag

I have been around the art fair block a few times so experiencing Frieze and happening to be living in London has not changed much.  But as always, being somewhere new puts things into perspective or at least accumulates things. These things include the purpose, tone, vibe, scene and a general scalding temperature gauge on what is going on in the art world in both market and aesthetics.  I was working the fair which is a whole other bag of crazy but in the little spare spaces of time and focus, I did catch a few things that may be called ‘trends’ or maybe more accurately observations.

This will be quick as I am off to join my feminist think tank to stir up and plan world domination. Aka, this is sloppy brain seconds but hey, I’ll be here for a while.


So so so so so much black and navy. It is all over the place. Black and navy, everything. Everywhere. Once you notice it you realize everyone is wearing black and navy.  I’m not sure which design house set this trend but it’s working. It is something that is not supposed to be done, matching those two colors used to equal you had bad lights and couldn’t tell the difference. Now, it’s all about poopoo-ing old timey rules like that.  Think the whole all white craze we are teetering out of from Margelia’s influence. The novel idea of no white past Labor Day is so suburban passé. I don’t know about the navy and blue thing but hey, rich looks good in any color combo.

Speaking of rich, art fairs are full of them (obvi). It doesn’t matter what race, age or sex you are. There is a certain level of rich person that is just a species of its own. Somehow their hair is better, their skin is cleaner, their clothes are comfortable yet costs more then a year’s worth of rent. They are quite, they have distinct bag and shoe cues (men have their watches).  It’s like they just smell better. Cause they smell like money. It’s both repelling and hypnotic to see rich people in their art shopping setting. And to be very honest about it, some of them are the nicest people I have met.

Other fashion notices: slacks vs. jeans, half up half down hair, large black bags, very demur accessories or tacky large items, high heels and strollers, solids, very few prints.


So I have learned from this week that Performance Art at art fairs is probably the worst thing ever. Ever. Ever. Please. Please. Please. Stop.  This is such a cop out. Fair organizers, dealers etc. like this idea because it is seemingly subversive. It’s not. The art fair is a mega money making monster and to have some sliver of ‘subversion’ in it is just so self gratifying. Also, it is truly just spectacle, a side show that makes audience and participant feel like there is alternative, authenticity, weirdness somewhere in this vortex of art commerce.  Performance Art is symbol for some sort of  alternate other but in this context it is just a token.

Water was everywhere. Maybe it’s our subtle shift in realizing the earth is doomed or maybe this also touches on the subversion of material as touched on above. Water is an apparent no-no inside with art but there were many instances where this uncontrollable element was displayed. A little meh for me but hey, gotta do what you gotta do. Now let’s see how they handle fire. Fire is actually really scary.

Metal has replaced the former white plaster craze. It comes in all forms, large, small, smooth, textured, rough, it’s metal so it has that infinite possibility. Bronze, aluminum, steel, you name it, it was at the fair. Maybe artists are retreating back to the earth, elements as above mentioned in some deeper way that is vibrating throughout art practices. I think it’s cool, it’s a tough thing to do, it’s time consuming it’s labor intensive and the cost is very high. Jeff Koons might have more to do with this then we think. Ah, that mighty mighty dollar.


I basically hid in my room the whole time if I wasn’t working. Every night there were parties, multiple ones. There is this thing where people say ‘what are you doing tonight?’ and then you respond and they respond and then it’s a comparison game of who knows what and who has access to what and blah blah blah.

All I gots to say is that I left New York for a reason. Buh-bye.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Let’s Talk About Amalia. Let’s Talk About Tracey.

Amalia Ulman at Evelyn Yard

Tracey Emin at White Cube

There is a bounty of shows on view in London and I have only gleaned a small portion of these. Out of those that I have seen, two have particularly stuck with me, the first being Amalia Ulman’s, The Destruction of Experience at Evelyn Yard and the second being Tracey Emin’s, The Last Great Adventure is You at White Cube. They have stuck with me for a variety of reasons but mostly because they surprised me in ways I did not expect and they also have a linkage to each other that bespeaks a much larger issue.

Let’s be fair. Ulman is young (b.1989) and I only specifically point this out because it is so largely a part of her ‘art’ and her ‘identity.’ Her youngness is also a way for me to couch maybe the depth of dullness that is her current show. It is an “immersive installation” and it does achieve this quite well.  There is high production going on with blue linoleum flooring, whispy curtains and pearl bedazzled frames of calendars, amongst other baby blue and white tchotchkes. It is certainly full and seems to have been done exactly as desired in context to space and time. This completeness is why it surprised me in being so utterly boring.

Up to this point I had only seen singular works of Ulman’s along with casual updates of her performative practice via online feeds. With that in mind I was fully aware and lenient about my opinion about her work because I knew that my contact with it was stilted. But seeing this show, in its very realized state, it left me baffled to her persistent notoriety as an artist. This is harsh I know. I know that being a young artist and having your first show(s) is tough and it takes some time to get there with your work but I must remark on it and more then anything I feel bad for Ulman. Her support by the 89plus structure has promoted her and fast tracked her into the limelight and the leaching machine of scooper uppers in the art world. This trajectory is beneficial because it generates attention, money, opportunities and access but it has also resulted in making work, showing work and creating identities that have not had time to incubate, to be fostered, or worked out. 

I now hop over to Tracey Emin and her show at White Cube. One word. Fabulous. It really is a wonderful show and one I think is a must see if you are in London. It is her first in five years and it has a lot of her signature parts. Literally, there are a lot of nudes and the body is site and central.  There are quick line drawings of a nude woman made of gouache in slight varieties of repose that line the corridor walls. I am assuming they are of her, as is everything else in the show. These small drawings are translated into large scale embroidered works, which felt unnecessary but highly sellable.

Then there is the main gallery and within there are small paintings, gouache on canvas, of more firmly formed but still sketched nudes, copulation and extremely abstracted penetration. There is a long table with plaster and shellac lion and lamb at either end and there is more sculpture around the bend made of bronze, some of bodies disintegrating and of forming and others of things like birds.  In addition there are larger scale sculpture and painting as well as a few of her highly familiar neon text pieces. 

There is a lot here but there is a sparseness in scale and a beauty in intimacy. This is the thing that surprised me. I felt like seeing this multi-part and diverse show made me finally ‘get it’ about Emin and her work. The show is so personal but in the very best way. You can feel the feelings because they are about the most human things, love, relationships, the body, time. You also are granted entry into these works by her awareness of the viewer. The nudes and the sex scenes seem like they have been photographed, there is a third party in the room watching or a mirrored gaze reflecting itself. Through this device everything feels very close and more involved.

I can gush on about this show but let’s get back to why I am talking about Ulman’s show and Emin’s show at the same time. They are seemingly very different and they are (obviously) but they share a lot. One is at the beginning of her artistic practice, while the other is firmly established but both of these artists are products of something larger then themselves, currently and in the past.

Emin was apart of the whole YBA stampede and at the time of its arrival everyone loved to hate it and many directed their dislike and anger of its success and hype onto Emin because she is a women and a sassy one a that.  Ulman, as before mentioned, is a part of the trend where very young artists are being plucked by curators and other older males in positions of power to accelerate careers, create a new aesthetic context and to ride collector and press agency trend chasing. A lot of people are very into this new model but many also really dislike it (although most do not talk about it for fear of being shunned out of it). A lot of people who do express their disdain target Ulman because she is the most visible female in this new gang.

Because of these reflective situations, it does give me pause about my own attitude to it all and makes me wonder about how art functions, how things become established and who is gatekeeping all this. In the end am I just liking Emin’s show so much because it happens to have had enough time to get there? I am just disliking Ulman’s show so much because it is at the beginning of an artistic practice which probably shouldn’t yet be seen by the public? I am not sure but it seems impossibly set and I know that there will continue to be artists who we love to hate and some will fade but many will stay around and become more then just hype.

Monday, October 6, 2014

What They Don’t Tell You About London

Been in London for about a month, it has been one crazy month and I’m still vagabonding it (one more day!). I’m exhausted and at the library trying to read some queer theory, eek I know. But as I am taking a lil’ break (aka just realized it was a Monday), I will use this time to chat about some stuff I have learned about, and is particular to London over these few weeks.

Limescale – WTF is that?! Exactly my reaction when first learning about good old limescale.  It is in the water.  The tap water and what you do your dishes and laundry with. It means that the water is ‘hard’ and it leaves this white chalky, build-up residue that can get all chunked up and make your appliances all wacked out if you don’t use tablets and such to counteract the limescale accumulation. It apparently doesn’t hurt your body but it’s a bit off to think about it when/if you drink from the tap. This girl says, ‘no thank you’ most of the time to ingesting it but hey, sometimes you just gotta drink from the tap.

Fashion – It’s varied obviously because it is a mega city but the thing that I want to remark upon is how the ladies on London, specifically arty ones, dress. They dress in supreme comfort and total affordability. Baggy is in, department store off the rack is in, soft is in, sweats (tops and bottoms) are in.  Cheap-o shoes are in, sneakers (trainers) are in, doing your makeup on the train is in. I don’t know what to call it. How to pin it down but there is a casually lazy but indeterminately cool vibe being produced by all these parts. Maybe it’s because they are just so damn comfortable. Who knows but I have most certainly embraced this and have been wearing boys sweat pants for four days strait.

Rocket – Yo, but for real. They call arugula, ‘rocket.’ Mind blown.

24 hours doesn’t exist – So you are out someplace far or even sorta not that far and you are having fun and talking and drinking and making new friends and then it’s like holy crap it’s 2/3am and omg all the trains are done-zo for the night. So you have to try to find a bus and try to get home on a series of these and then somehow you make it home but it took you a good hour plus to do it. Sobering. Infuriating. London does not like 24-hour transport. This is going to be a very awkward year.

Middle Eastern/Muslim Population – Maybe people know about this but I didn’t know that London has a HUGE population of Muslims and Middle Easterners. I have only been to a few areas but in all those I have been to, this is very noticeable and it is fab for the food and complex demographic influences. It’s relative to New York’s Latin/Mexican/Central America population and their presence and effect on commerce, food and conversations about race, politics and economies. Fascinating to see.

School is basically free, except PhDs – So school is like insane cheap for UK/EU citizens. Yes, yes I am sure things have gotten more expensive and changed over the years but compared to America it is nearly free. Amazing. I think that changes a lot of the potential and mentality people have here re: higher education and also the pursuit of degrees that will probably leave them with a middling income at best. On the flip of this, what is very surprising to learn is that PhD programs are not funded in the way American programs are.  Not only do all PhD programs in the states have their tuition funded but here is additional monies for living expenses. Maybe all those years of cheap schooling has a final price to pay.

Buses – You are always, always, ALWAYS on a bus. Aka dying.

Political – People, artists, students are very political. Very. Seriously.

Change – I think that London is actually trying to bury me alive with change. They have so much change! It is heavy and all sorts of sizes and they look all different and you literally get ‘change’ when you get ‘change’ like 10 pounds worth of change in one transaction. Dying. Need a coin purse asap before my wallet explodes.

Credit/Banking – I feel like I’m in the year 2000 with the banking and credit/debit use here. My US debit card is not signed, never has been. This is a MAJOR problem every time I use it because they literally check your signature to the receipt you sign. Every time. And then they don’t believe it and then you get into this fight.  You don’t use a pin, you literally have to write your name exactly the way you wrote it that one time. Nuts. Also to check my UK bank account online and to do any transfers etc. I have this secure key that I have to put all this stuff into and codes for each step. I have no idea why they are so remedial in banking. Seems possibly indicative of other traits.

Plants, Shrubs, Flowers – I can’t get over how cute and quaint and charming many neighbourhoods of London are.  They are adorable! People from here sorta roll their eyes at me when I express this but really, it is super clean, (have yet to smell urine in the streets/ while using transport). There are lovely roses, and flowers, and shrubs and bushy flowers all over the place. Also, this is a wide, short city so you can see the sky and clouds. Being able to do this makes even the sombre, rainy days feel at least brisk and fresh.  I’m sure I’ll get over it soon but seeing sky is something sorely missed in New York.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Beware Wet Paint at ICA, Bone Daddies Ramen Bar, Columbia Road Flower Market

Parker Ito in Beware Wet Paint at ICA (photo by me)

Beware Wet Paint at ICA

ICA, aka, Institute of Contemporary Arts in London has a show on view entitled Beware Wet Paint, featuring about one work each of the artists, Korakrit ArunanondchaiIsabelle CornaroJeff ElrodNikolas GambaroffParker ItoDavid OstrowskiPamela RosenkranzNed Vena, and Christopher Wool.  The concept of the exhibition is to show how these artists use painting in singular ways while also having wider practices. It also distinguishes linage amongst peers, recent groundbreakers (specifically Christopher Wool) and bonafide heavy hitters like Duchamp.  Oh wait, did you say Duchamp? Him and a bragging bill of other names are included in the short press release.  These names include; Richard Prince, Richard Hamilton,  Jan Verwoert and yes, Duchamp. The press release is only 200 words long.

I am going on about this press release because this is evidence to a larger symptom in this show and in others I have seen in London.  There is such a curatorial concentration and pedigree here that it seems to be a total reliance on that merit (or the history of that merit) alone.

For instance, in this show it is truly a plopping down of one work by a trending artist amongst other trending artists. It feels like a carpet sample, a showroom of fancy cars, a display that is not about space, time, material in any sort of relationship to a whole (the show) but more fixed on the focus of one artist and having a sampler piece of their art.  I don’t know who organized this show, it leaves no official accountancy for this so I’m going to assume that is was the “Creative” department’s overseeing.  Whoever it was, I think that they did a lax job of a potentially ripe concept.  The selection of artists is great on paper together, the concept as a general (albeit too vague) sounds great on paper. What seems to have been forgotten is that exhibitions, curation, works in a room together are not just about being good on paper.

Who gives two craps about how fancy, brainy, smart, deep, theory driven, names inserted for validation a show is if the actual show feels like a somber funeral room where the works inside are just waiting to die or just getting further dehydrated of any content? Well, I don’t and I’m sorry ICA and London but I want to see some sizzle as well as institutional and academic smarts the next time I come into an exhibition room.

Bone Daddies Spicy Miso Ramen (photo by me)

Bone Daddies Ramen Bar

This hip joint located in Soho…Stop. Just. Stop. So the proceeding sentence just about sums it up. You know how this place is going to feel like, smell like and you are just curious to know what it tastes like.  Well I did just that thing because I went to the Japan Matsuri festival this past Saturday (sorta cute, sorta boring), and I was planning on eating some ramen at one of their stands but people love Japanese things and people love waiting in line for food so I had to scoot out of there to fix my ramen craving. So I walk about and I find this ramen place across from the Supreme store and I think, ‘this will not end well,’ but proceeded anyways because by that point it was 3:00 or as they like to say here 15:00 and I hadn’t eaten since breakfast.  I sat down, it took a while to get any service, and then when a waiter came by I ordered the Spicy Miso Ramen. I’m Korean so spicy ramen and me are very close friends. Anyways it comes, it is very attractive looking, the broth is nice but could use some more punch.  Then I start investigating further.

It has a nice piece of pork, some general veg filler like bamboo shoots and bean sprouts and it has those amazing orange yolked eggs that are just the ‘normal’ eggs in London town. So it looks good, the broth is passable but then you get to the noodles. THE NOODLES! The noodles are no good. They are good, but they are not how ramen noodles should be.  They are stringy, yellow and lack that wave that helps the broth and oils to stick onto them with each bite.

I ate the ramen because I was ravenous and it wasn’t the worst thing to eat but here’s a word of advice. Just because something may look good, it does not mean it tastes good. This is doubly true when it is trying so hard to be cool.

Columbia Road Flower Market (photo by me)

Columbia Road Flower Market

This is the best place ever!!! So, I exaggerate but seriously this was such a great way to spend a Sunday. It is a short walk from the Hoxton Overground (yes I am getting much better at using this thing), it is a small strip of a few blocks but it is probably one of my more intense and fun flower market experiences I have had.  I went late, it closes at 3:00 and I went there around 2:00. 

As you walk closer to it you know it because there are streams of people holding bunches of flowers in blue plastic bags.  Then you see it, not the flowers and plants but the mass of people.  The set up is on a street that is very narrow. Two cars would not easily be able to pass each other. On either side of the street are small stands and they are brimming with amazing blooms and plants.  The sellers are either good looking young things that probably don’t know much about what they are selling or they are the true hawkers with a voice that booms and a ready tip of what to do with what you are buying.

The variety on display was fabulous. Native plants, lots of small shrubs and delicate things along with hardy winter enduring plants were piled high.  Each stand had some focus; loose stems, orchids, potted plants but there was variety within each and it felt more like a continuous line of lush living things then some other markets I have been too.

It was also packed with bodies and they were all buying one thing or another.  Whether it was a student or a granny or a couple with kids in tow, everyone was buying flowers and there was the excitement or purchase and the marvel of something newly discovered that made the almost unbearable density of bodies mildly exhilarating.

This buying and body density frenzy was probably due to the must-sell-now slashing of prices but even the starting prices seemed more then fair for what you received.  At the end of my trip I purchased a potted orchid and some pink anthuriums for my lovely host in London.  I don’t have a room of mine own yet, (soon!) and after coming to this market it makes me even more excited about when I do because I can fill it with all of these amazing plants and flowers.

Monday, September 22, 2014

London, First Impressions

Hi there.  For those of you that don’t know, I’m in London.  I’ve been here for less then a week but it feels like a lifetime.  Since I have been here it’s like I have been on vacation, because of circumstances and settings.  But soon, I’ll be a full-fledged visa certified resident going to school here for the next year.  Why am I going to school at my advanced age? Haaaa! Gawd only knows.  But that aside for the moment I want to squeeze in this post because hell hath no fury like a Monday with YaYaYa.

Frankly dears, I am pooppppppppeeeed.  You know that feeling when you are acting like a tourist and squeezing in everything and then some to your days and nights?!  I can barely stand or keep my eyes open.  This is in advance of the I don’t know what is about to come next in this post.  So bare with me, next week I promise I will be chop full of thoughtful London insights.  For now, I give you a very dashed off list of some first impressions.  And remember what they say about first impressions…

Art – Fabulous! All the museums are actually free which is just amaze and they have sooo many of them and it’s England which like took over everywhere so there is a lot of things from all those places they took over.  They are spread out so it’s a one venue a day type of thing.  I have to say, I was a bit disappointed with the Tate Modern.  I did NOT like the way they exhibit/install/curate their collections.  I have to give it some more time to think about exactly why that is.  They have a Malevich retro on view (which you have to pay 14 pounds for) and I have to admit it sort of confirmed my blasé feeling forward him and all that.  But anyways. Art yes, so much and so excited to see more in the big and small scales.

Food – I have yet to eat fish and chips, bangers and mash, and a motley crew of blood things and I am in no rush to and that darlings is perfectly fine.  London is super amaze cosmopolitan and has sooo many various ethnic groups and they rep hard with their cuisine.  It is sort of different then how it is in NYC, it feels very private, openly secret, there is less faux melting pot like there is in the city.  The best meal I have had was at a Persian restaurant called Kish off the Maida Vale stop. AMAAAZE! I also went to some NYTimes reviewed places and they were good but Kish gets it #1 even if it will take over an hour away from where I will end up living.  Sadness but I will definitely trek out to eat their incredible food.

Underground – OMG I really really really do not like London’s underground, overground, busses, etc.  DIE, DIE, DIE. I will never complain about NYC subway/bus systems ever again.  London’s underground is claustrophobic, dirty ass fabric, knees touching knees close, no AC, hot underground vent air, bullet penis shuttle feel. Smelly, things always stuck or delayed or not working. Is either really fast, which is great, or very slow which is like soul sucking.  I truly hate it.  And it’s expensive! And you still end up having to walk like twenty mins to where you wanna go. DIE!

Style – London people dress well, better in some ways then in NYC but in this weird generic “cool” way which is like annoying.  Girls are cute, boys are very cute. People are cute.  They seem a bit to catalog but meh, they are trying.  Maybe that’s what I don’t like about it.  They look great but it’s like they tried to look great.  NYC bebes be like, and what, I eat a bagel and I’m not even sure what shoes I got on.  Sorta love that vibe more. Meh.

Accents – Kewt but sorta almost over it (it’s been less then a week!) sigh.

Money – Yo but seriously people, it is WAYYY more expensive in London then in NYC.  Like omgawd what?  Cheap rents, living in the ass far part of  the city, are around $1,200-$1,700.  There are all these taxes like council tax and stuff.  Plus, even broke bitches have a cleaner so that’s like another $40 a month and then that stupid train which is like $3.50-$4.00 per ride! And the a coffee is like $2.50.  And everything is in pounds so your like, ah that’s not too bad 1.5 pounds for a small cup of coffee but man the exchange is 1.67 to the $1 so like 400 pounds is like close to 800 dollars! Scary. Imma just eat those amazing orange yolk eggs they sell off the shelf for every meal.