Monday, December 26, 2011

Art Crushes, Hey Ladies…

Back in April of 2011 I made a quick list of guys in the art world that I had “art crushes” on. It was an homage to the coming spring in New York with its buzz of love and fun as the weather warmed up. Just a bit ago someone asked when I would be doing my female art crush list, as I said I would eventually, and although I’m not the type of gal to take requests it is something that has already been on my mind.

I was originally going to wait until this coming April but since the seed has been planted, why not bite the apple now especially at the advent of 2012. I predict that 2012 will have events, charismatic figures and a new momentum that will change this whole art game in new and unapologetic ways. This lack of apology and a need to seek consent from males or of previous generations will be the key. Also, this new prerogative is what will flip things back, over and sideways in the “women-art dialogue” and in addition, deeds, actions and proof of those actions will evidence these shifts. I too, am going to make it a point to put my money (when I have it), time and energy to making the shifts I want to see versus just rants and raves, which are necessary but not enough. More on these upcoming endeavors and hijinx to come.

So ladies and gents, here’s to a new year and below are the lovely ladies that are on my mind.

Kari Altman --------------- (Annie Oakley of the Internet since 2.0 ((prompted post))

Diane Arbus --------------- (duh)

Karen Archey -------------- (gotta give props for her net art lockdown, also nice capes)

Julie Ault ------------------- (rad, rad, super rad)

Linda Benglis ------------- (rock-a-da-cock)

Melanie Bonajo------------- (take me to your planet)

Louise Bourgeois ---------- (she will lay eggs in your brains and it will make you smarter)

Connie Butler --------------- (just feel like I have too…)

Elaine Cameron-Weir ------ (intrigued by her work)

Amy Cappellezzo ---------- (integrity even in integrity-free art auction profession)

Talia Chetrit ----------------- (zang)

Milano Chow --------------- (one day I WILL buy a piece!)

Cleopatra’s ------------------ (I know...its not just one gal but kudos kudos)

Jennifer Cohen ------------- (jazzy)

Lisa Cooley ----------------- (Too Cooley for Schooley)

Paula Cooper --------------- (I mean come on, PAULA COOPER!)

Clarissa Dalrymple -------- (her life etched on her face. Damn I wanna look that lived)

Elizabeth Dee --------------- (makes things happen)

Aleksandra Domanovic --- (smarty pants)

Dora and Maja ------------- (loveliest Croats)

Tracey Emin ----------------(slap that smirk off her face BUT first get drunk, dance, make out)

Lia Gangitano --------------- (no fluff or kissy-poo-poo-face here)

Barbara Gladstone ---------- (doesn’t need to join the boys club, she IS the club)

Thelma Golden -------------- (Harlem a la Jim Jones)

Nan Goldin ------------------ (I want to fluff up your hair)

Sara Greenberger Rafferty - (her work is like good bad comedy)

Guerilla Girls ---------------- (still relevant ya’ll)

K8 Hardy --------------------- (crazy, hawt, weird, brutal brains)

Mary Heilmann -------------- (ya ya)

Eva Hesse -------------------- (ropes in the shape of nipples done right)

Laura Hoptman -------------- (does anyone else think she looks like Roberta Smith's twinsies?)

Joan Jonas -------------------- (just found out her and Richard Serra used to be together. Gah!)

Rosalind Krauss ------------- (actually have not read much by her BUT I know that I need too)

Yayoi Kusama --------------- (you so cray cray)

Lucy R. Lippard ------------- (there's a sculpture made of bread of you under my pillow)

Sarah Lucas ------------------ (set off firecrackers with you)

Joanna Malinowska --------- (always knew this girl was in-ter-es-thing as heck)

Ana Mendieta ---------------- (fire, walk with me)

Piper Marshall --------------- (hip-ity-hip-hip)

Agnes Martin ----------------- (slow and steady wins the race)

Katja Mater ------------------- (on my mind for over 3 months)

Jenny Moore ------------------ (made Dee’s program tight, now independent curator)

Sophie Morner --------------- (a horse in a field at dusk)

Ree Morton ------------------- (Cappuccinos in the park)

Kristie Mueller --------------- (go Can-a-da)

Marlie Mul -------------------- (nice and smart)

Elizabeth Murray ------------ (dance on the floor that lights up in different colors with you)

Narcissister ------------------- (you put a what-what up your who-who?!)

Linda Nochlin ---------------- (keeps it rockin’)

Yoko Ono --------------------- (short, fierce, Asian)

Mai-Thu Perret --------------- (I want to smoke cigarettes and throw rocks in a lake with you)

Virginia Poundstone --------- (smoke a joint and melt crayons together)

Yvonne Rainer ---------------- (smartest person in the room)

Martha Rosler ----------------- (as real as it gets)

Emily Roysdon ---------------- (G-G-Girl)

Carolee Schneemann --------- (living legend ya’ll)

Cindy Sherman ---------------- (haters keep hating, there is a reason why she is the tops)

Allison Schulnik -------------- (let’s do mushrooms in the dessert)

Amy Sillman ------------------ (whoop whoop)

Kiki Smith --------------------- (witchy, but in a good witch way)

Roberta Smith ----------------- (Girl can WRITE! Unlike uh-hum and hum-huh…)

Nancy Spero ------------------- (snakes and scrolls, get into it)

Kate Steciw -------------------- (you had me at Steciw)

Gertrude Stein ----------------- (showing how tough, smart and ugly can equal charm)

Dorothea Tanning ------------- (her fabric sculptures rule me)

Carrie Mae-Weems ------------ (early work)

Martha Wilson ----------------- (Cindy Sherman, eat your heart out)

Well I hope that does some justice to all the fab females that have been with me for a while or only for a few days. No offense to anyone left out, my brain is filled with x-mas goop still.

Have a fantastic-amazing-super-fab-tastic-yummy New Years! Till then be nice to animals.

Monday, December 19, 2011

If I Had A Lot of Money I Would Buy The Art World This…

Today was one of those days when leaving the apartment was a b-a-d idea. I put off going Christmas shopping this year until today and entering into the consumer vortex made me literally want to barf or just lay on the floor and let it all end. How people enjoy going to stores to shop is perplexing to me but like all things in life, to each their own. That being said and me being drained from staring at things vacantly with “ummmmmmm, uhhhhhhhhhh, hmmmmmmm” running through my head for the past few hours I will take off a load by imaging what I would buy for the collective art world IF I had a bunch of money.

Artists that I am friends with and I like their work – I would buy one piece by them worth up to $4,000.

Artists that I am friends with but I don’t like their work – I would buy them a round of drinks.

Artists that I don't know personally and like their work – Chocolate croissants. For life!

Artists that I don't know personally and do not like their work – A "don't worry be happy" t-shirt with yellow smiley face.

New York Times Art Critics – Very good dark chocolate on the form of a Koons' Balloon Dog and a day spa pass that includes a facial with those cucumber eye things and a mud bath.

Wall Street Journal Culture Writers – A silver hand mirror and a vibrator or plug, whatever they prefer.

All other art critics on newspaper staffs – A classic Swatch watch circa 1987

Artforum editors – One of those Russian matryoshka dolls starting with the likeness of Beuys then on to, Rauschenberg, Serra, Barney, and then finally just white wax with a single hair sprouting from the top.

Artforum critics – A pig roast party with lots of pineapple themed drinks.

Art Critics for NY Magazine – A toilet made of 24k gold that plays Bing Crosby when flushed.

All other freelance art critics in print media (excluding newspapers) – One month’s rent.

All art critics online – A sleeping bag that doubles as a floatation device that has the likeness of Bill Cosby on the front.

Dealers of blue chip galleries (racking in the millions) – A yacht. Hey, why the hell not?

Dealers of 2nd tier galleries (good rosters but not banking millions per show) – A yacht. Hey, why the hell not?

Dealers of 3rd tier galleries (okay rosters but can stay in the game) – A yacht (but its smaller). Hey, why the hell not?

Dealers of 4th tier galleries (how the hell do these places stay open for so long?) – A gift certificate to Chili’s.

Dealers of young-hip galleries (new to the scene but working damn hard) – A $3,000 shopping spree at Opening Ceremony.

Big non-profits – I’ll pay for Bill Clinton to attend your next gala.

Small non-profits – I’ll pay for Hillary Clinton to attend you next gala.

MoMA – A lemon tree, a maple tree, and a raspberry bush.

The Whitney – Lifetime supply of Murry’s bagels and cream cheese.

The Guggenheim – A koi pond.

The New Museum – A blimp.

The Met – A horse with braids in its hair.

All other museums or large private collections made public – Season tickets to the Knicks for all staff.

Artists Assistants – Fuzzy cat slippers.

Studio Assistants – Fuzzy bunny slippers.

Personal Assistants – Access to a loaded gun in a bank vault, you know, just in case…

Art Handlers – Tickets to see a Tracy Morgan comedy set.

Gallery workers – A Swedish message, the collected writings of Charles Bukowski and $500.

Curators on staff at major institutions – Hip sunglasses and a scarf.

Curators on staff at smaller institutions – A trip to China.

Independent curators – A bonsai tree and gift certificate to go to the salon.

Independent contractors (those that make things and do physical labor jobs) – A 4-day rental on Lake Placid.

Freelancers (web, design, grant writers, things like that...) – A comfy robe and espresso machine.

Guards at museums and bigger galleries – An Eames chair and $1,000.

Gift shop workers – A puppy.

Art Advisors – A tattoo of “$”anywhere on their body.

Art Fairs – A giraffe.

Art Schools – A truck load of illegal immigrants ready to work.

Art Professors (with actual PhDs and without) – A dark blazer and a packet of yummy ramen.

Collectors – Some acid.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Top 10 for 2011

2011, what a year. It’s not over yet, we still have 19 glorious days to go of it but as I lay about with the cats and reflect back upon this year and what is to come, there are highlights, lowlights and the in-betweens that have made 2011 a jam packed year. Below are a few things that made a dent in my brain, for good or for bad, which have made this year fly by.

10) Young curators. Some may not notice this, but there is a lot of transition going on in the top museums and institutions in this town. There are many new younger curators that have been given more carte blanche and it is really making things more zingy to see and to be excited about. This is happening mostly at MoMA, but I predict this will swell in the other sanctums of art, especially at The Met and at the Whitney, just my own voodoo predictions there, but even if those don’t happen it is thoroughly refreshing to see some new tastemakers being given authority to influence.

9) The end of the recession. I know some may not think this, but the worst of the recession is over. I know that things are still tough out there for many people but in the art world and in New York City, things are perky and fast once again. This is a good thing even though some think that there should still be more of an art world purge. We all need the money to flow again, especially those that aren’t the super rich or powerful. Yes, we have to be creative and not delusional or lie down dead and except things as they are about this financial situation, but things are looking up and this will only ensure better and more substantial things.

8) Non-profits failing. I’m not sure what is happening but there are a few non-profit institutions that have become behemoths of late, I am thinking of two in particular, and the rest seem to be emaciated. For a bit now, the weight loss of these other creative bastions was worn well, like skinny girls at fashion week, but now it’s just too malnourished. Where have all these places gone? Well, technically they are still physically there but they seem so sedate. Is this because the introduction of new, young artists to the scene is no longer reliant on this system anymore? Who knows, but it’s a sad trend and one that hopefully rebounds in the new year.

7) Klaus Bisenbach. My gawd, could anyone have predicted that this severely hair-cutted German could have had such influence on the arts?! He’s one we all love to hate but really the man is like a crazy-Jesus-magician. Walking on water and changing water to wine level and it has been making New Yorkers salivate. We all need a target, we all need a charismatic someone to draw the line in the sand and as much as it is mildly horrifying, it’s very effective. Will he last though? That’s the million-dollar question. My two cents fling themselves at his feet and say, “pretty please, pick me!” Well just in case, because like Jesus, if he IS real you better have all your bases covered for the big judgment day.

6) Internet movies and TV. Maybe I’m like so 2009, but dang, the internet is really getting movie and TV streaming done right. Everything is now so clickably available and it makes things much more interesting, well at least the times you need to just unwind and tune out. For a while now, the influence TV and movies have had on the art world has been a non-factor, something that fascinated our parents but not us youths, but with this new ease, these mediums will once again be very relevant to the conversations about art and image making.

5) No more Deitch. When he left last year, I didn’t think it was for real. I thought that it would all crop up in some form or another in the tentacle web of the Deitch cognizanti but alas, there hasn’t been. For me, this is a positive thing in some ways as I thought it was all a farce to begin with but surprisingly, I also sort of miss it. There was something undoubtedly ghastly in the way that anything was possible through his gallery, but oddly I miss that sense of unnecessary but impressive possibility.

4) The de Kooning retrospective at MoMA. Seriously, go see it if you haven’t, and go see it one more time if you already have. It is still sitting with me, like a loaf of challah bread about to be made into French toast. Makes a person want to start painting or at least squeeze a ball of clay.

3) Facebook. For the love of gawd when will it stop?! I am still perplexed about how Facebook has been so normalized and is so a part of everyone’s daily measure of self. It is transforming the way that we as a society interact, communicate and perceive others and ourselves. It is totally pedestrian and promotes a vulgar level of voyeurism but it’s like a powerful drug which daily stimulates our very human need to connect with others. I doubt it will end in the near future but I can bet an imagined 10k that it will be passé by year 2013. Whoever the next social networking genius is who manages to usurp it, can count me in and please give me stock options as well.

2) Good galleries doing good shows. This was a very solid year of art in the galleries in New York, the top contemporary galleries kept cranking out the hits with established and beloved artists from their rosters in a very consistent way. There seemed to be less flash but that was good as the bigger-newer-better thing was getting old. The lack of this in your face art sensations was refreshing and allowed artists that have been around for the past few decades to prove their chops once again. I’m so over the hip and young dash and although more will pop up as things get more moneyed, it’s a delight to see people like Marclay, Goldin, and the like to get face time and prove that this kids, is how it’s done.

1) The Meta. There is a trend happening that is bigger then any medium that uses it. It is that of The Meta, where ideas, visuals, systems, and everything else is not being overtly analyzed or critiqued but it is being re-presented in its most heightened configuration. I’m thinking Dis, Trecartin, crazy fashion that mixes Arab with goth nun, and the dialogues about the internet. It is all so very cool, sharp, clean, lucid and irony free. This is the new species of thought and it is not bred but fused together with lasers and alcohol free DJ sets. It’s an odd mix of club world meets PhD programs mixed with eunuch. It is humorless but very witty in turn. I can’t keep up with it, it’s just not my thang, but there is no doubt that it is the super chillest thing happening.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Not All White Guys Are Bad – Robert Irwin, Arthur Shopenhauer, Ernest Hemingway, Andy Warhol, Peter Schjeldahl

As much as any stereotype, being a “white male” has a burden all of its own. In America, the white male is synonymous with power, wealth, oppression, dominance, history, devastation, pride, prejudice, and so on. All of these superlatives veer towards negative connotations these days because let’s face it, white guys have been in power for a very long time and have stopped at nothing to maintain and to strengthen this. The glory that was once outwardly asserted and flaunted has become, in some ways, very different then it used to be. Today’s white males have, ever so slowly, been taught that being the top dog in society isn’t something to brag about and frankly should be a source of inherited shame. This is largely in part due to the even slower pace, but gradual gain that women have been making in the workplace thus having capital strength in this capitalist society. Also, there were those wonderful, delirious decades just a few blinks ago that gave civil rights to everyone else in the country that was not a white male. The advances in these two areas has made the playing field, by no means even, but at least not the sheer cliff it once was.

Today’s white males, (we are speaking in general, mid to upper class terms), have lost not their true status but at least the bragging rights of that status publicly, so now what are they to do? Well, some are doing a born-again-bro-culture thing where they; have mustache and beard growing contests; make tie-dye shirts or embroidered bomber jackets to signify a “gang” they belong to; have bro-vacations, and bro-nights; and my fave, the bro-code which entails telling their friend he is dating a bitch or a slut relentlessly to his face and hers. But one has to sympathize with these efforts as every movie, TV show, wedisode, and commercial these days seems to feature 1. An in charge, she wears the pants and brings the bacon wife, or girlfriend who rolls eyes or smirks a lot 2. A male who is utterly inept, childish, scared of getting caught by wife/girlfriend 3. A child or dog as witness. This depiction must come from some truth in our society but it is utterly revulsing as it would be for any reduction of type casting a group.

Now, I’m not saying that white males have or are having a terrible time in this day in age, far from that, but in the pursuit of being fair and honest about all forms of oppressive behavior, it has to be admitted that not all white guys are the dev (aka the devil). I too have to call myself out in this situation because as an Asian American women, all of my boyfriends have been skinny white guys that are six feet or taller. That’s got to say something about my whole psychology and as much as that makes me think, gee-gah-ouchie about my preferences, it is what it is, although it does create pause. This whole thing is not to give white males any leeway or pass for all the crazy shit they have done for like eternity but let’s be consistent in our criticisms. Whiteness and maleness doesn’t make you a jerk, abuse of power and oppression with that power does.

Now, as is my want, I will list a few old or dead white guys that have been in my little pocket pet brain of late and who have been jazzing up my neurons in my thinking about life and art.

Robert Irwin – I have recently read the book about him entitled, Seeing is Forgetting, The Name of the Thing One Sees, 1982 and boy is that a protein shake for the mind. I have never seen Irwin’s work in person, or perhaps I have and just glazed over it, which is more then possible with his work. And although the focus of him being an artist is the grand point of it all, the book serves more as a guide or an annotated philosophy on what art means, can mean and more essentially who Robert Irwin is. He is a Californian artist and one learns about that whole scene and the culted Ferus Gallery and those ins and outs. One also learns about his methods; sitting in a room for hours on end, passing in and out of sleep, just looking at a wall, things like that. It tells how his holy grail is about perception and how he makes art to change this with the most intense controlled minuteness. I most like how he uses the ideas of science and those methods to art making. Most especially about logic and reason and how reason has slipped out of the conversation and methodologies of everything including science and art and how the system of logic, even if those systems are unevidenced theories, exert themselves as facts. He gave up things, lived off betting on horses and sports, loves Coca-Cola and didn’t have time for such frivolities as romance; these things are all interesting methods of achieving a life that is art. I wish I could talk more about it, but that’s basically the jist. It is not the best composed book but a good book to read especially if you have cast yourself into a void, such as I have recently.

Arthur Schopenhauer – I came across Schopenhauer’s Aphorisms sometime in the beginning of college and for a gal who already leaned towards melancholic angst, he was like the Angel Gabriel, giving herald of all that was pessimistic yet succinctly prescient and written in absolute terms. He was very much my partner in crime in accepting and reveling in my tendencies of being mildly nihilistic, supremely arrogant in my beliefs and totally thinking the whole life thing was a fixed job. Yes, yes, he was a total ass in regards to the way he thought women are, were, should be and many of his other dictates are far from agreeable but there are still gems of grumpy, unflowery emphatics that makes him one of the few people, had we ever met, who may “get me.” He’s a quoters delight and his views on perception and art are quite interesting as well.

Ernest Hemingway – Sometimes I really enjoy reading him, other times not so much but I have been thinking about him recently because he seemed like a guy who was manly but was also a sleep, eat, shit type of artist. He lived hard, drank hard, thought hard, loved hard, all of it was so thoroughly done. Heck, he even died hard, in the most certain of terms, something that seems obvious and refreshing somehow. Although Hemingway has this highly developed and evoked manliness, he is one of the few men that I am inspired to be like. His short story “Soldier’s Home,” is an example of possibly perfect short story writing.

Andy Warhol – Gotta Love Andy. That’s the t-shirt that I will make and sell on the corner of St. Marks to all those college kids and all my money worries would be solved. But seriously, one does have to Love Andy. He was just the weirdest thing made in this country in this century. He is also the most American invention one could conjure. There was a shift in possibilities when he bloomed in full in the art world and he took all that was supposed to be and all that was going to be in a totally different direction. He is like a giant confetti bomb in an empty room. Very sad, very brilliant, very odd. His book The Philosophy of Andy Warhol: From A and B and Back Again, 1977 very much settled some issues I had about art, myself, and a bunch of other stuff in a deliriously liberating and affirming way. I think that if Warhol was still alive and didn’t look like the walking dead, I would be just too nervous to even be in the same room with him but that’s the joy of having influencers, you don’t have to want to meet all of them.

Peter Schjeldahl - I would punch someone in the face if they talked smack on my beloved P.S.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Turning 30 and Being a Woman in the Arts

Today is my birthday and I am turning 30, not relevant really to the whole art thing, but to the lead up of this day, there are things that have shifted in the way that I think about art, or will let myself be positioned within the context of art. I think that it is both a mix of the age and also about being a woman turning this particular age. How this affects one’s trajectory in all aspects of life is not defining but it is particular. I think this is very true within the art world, as it is in most sectors of society, but this is an art platform and this is what I will focus on today.

Being in the art world is beneficial for women as the expectations of marriage and child rearing being equivalent to success as a human being is less emphasized then in society as a whole. For any women in the arts, if they are highly competitive and at the top of their fields, child rearing and marriage are complications if not total hindrances. Sadly, this is because as a society we are still functioning in a male prescribed system and women still have not had enough influence to realign this system. Call is patriarchy, call it capitalism, whatever it is, it’s all screwed up.

Although a woman in the arts when she is in her 30s is less pressured to have children etc. then other women in the general population, the sticky issue of biology is still potent. During this decade and possibly into her mid 40s, with today’s medical wonders, a woman can decide to have children. If a woman decides to have a child it will most certainly halt a certain momentum in her career that is not equaled in her male counterparts. This obvious fact is mostly glazed over by the art world because it just seems so boring to have to discuss. This is not being spoken of as excuse or as a never-ending diatribe but people, let’s be honest about this one at least. This is probably one of the major factors to why disparities in the art world are still so entrenched.

The only shift within the last 20 years in the art world that may balance the rates of super star male and female participants in the arts is that in this industry youth is adored. With this sexual fetish, the art world can now possibly pump out some wunderkinds, girl, boy, otherwise. Sadly, being an old hag of 30 in this industry and still not having “made it” (“made it" to me = being on ArtForum Scene/Heard at least once every 6 months and/or being a frequent contributor to Frieze and/or having Klaus Bisenbach ask me if there is anything else he could get for me) makes this option void for me but here’s to best of luck for all you young things out there.

In the face of that, what is a girl to do when she is no longer “20-something?” There are a few options, each a bit more depressing then the next:

1) Be Very Odd – Eccentricity goes a long way in the arts, just don’t overdue it because if you do you’ll just be a running joke and cliché of a cliché.

2) Become A Careerist Hyena – Drink, Talk, Drugs, Sex, Laugh, Party, Attend, Join, Money, Work, Work, Work, Kiss Ass, Read Semiotics, Let People Touch You, Beg, Be Humiliated, Humiliate, Work, Work, Work. Do this every night for 5 years straight and sky’s the limit.

3) Marry/ Get Impregnated/ Have a Torrid Affair - With someone powerful in the art world. Everyone may trash talk you behind your back but the art world still deems itself to be a genteel class, so all those galas will be filled with kiss-kisses.

4) Start A Collective/ Apartment Gallery/ Online Literary or Art Zine – One more of these things the world surely does not need but it will give you something to talk about or to say in response to that nag of a question everyone in NYC asks all the time “So, what have you been up to?”

5) Move to Berlin – Getting so old but they do not archive themselves as much as New Yorkers so that’s powerful in a way. Plus 50 is the new 30 over there.

6) Move to Canada – You heard it here first, Canada is the new Berlin.

7) Drop out Completely – This can be done either by leaving the city or by just getting a job in another industry, seriously you will disappear like cocaine at one of those dumb hip hotels downtown. Then if you want in a year or two you can pop back in. Make sure to embellish/straight out lie about what you were doing for the past few years and people will think you are just so fab. If you wait too long and you actually have nothing new to contribute you will just be tagged as desperate.

Out of these ploys, I am personally shooting for option 1 or possible option 5 or 6, none are off the table though. The art world is a huff and it’s a hustle, and you have to really get off on it if you want to keep pace or excel in it. There are other ways of achieving this though, like being really rich or being genius smart, but I’m neither nor, as most of us are, so things are a bit more complicated for us overeducated working stiffs.

Ah life…

When I graduated from art school in 2004 (undergrad) I had decided that I would not even attempt to make art until I was 30 because I considered myself to be a very bad artist and that I had absolutely no reason to make it and spread that into the universe. I have stuck to that and through the years, as I have surrounded myself with looking at and thinking about art on a constant basis, I have been grateful for that decision as I don’t think I would have absorbed art in the same way I have if I was an art producer as well. Now that I am at my internal deadline, the idea of possibly allowing myself to make art in the form of objects or shared constructions called “art” is interesting. In the end, who knows, I have no idea what will come in the next decade. I hope through it all though I never feel like I have to compromise. I’m not sure if that is possible, but hopefully as a woman entering her 30s, I can add to and support what is possible for us ladies in the arts.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Allison Schulnik - Zieher Smith : Jim Hodges - Gladstone Gallery : Neo Rauch - David Zwirner

Allison Schulnik - Zieher Smith

The first time I saw Allison Schulnik’s video was at a hip hotel in Los Angeles. It was a music video for Grizzly Bear. It was an animation of melty, goo-faced, sad monsters that were morphing into and out of eye sockets, the ground, and other bodies. It had me fixated. Just by wandering chance I popped into Zieher Smith the other day and lo and behold there was Schulnik. Then I realized I had seen her paintings somewhere before. They are massed glops of never going to dry paint that make muddy colored peaks and divots. They are of murky and distorted animals, plants, clowns, and they reminded me of dried flowers and specimens that have already begun to rot. In addition to these there were glazed ceramic works, a miniature lotus flower tableau, a quirky white cat. This type of quick hand sculpting and glazing in ceramics is something I have noticed cropping up more, Schulnik doesn’t do it the best but I understand the impulse. Then there is a projection of an animated film called MOUND. Her cast of purgatorial clay beings returns, again sprouting and cannibalizing themselves in soft colored swirls. There are also puppets in the film; stringy haired wallflowers with stooped necks performing a choreographed dance. The audio is an old-timey ballad by Scott Walker entitled “It’s Raining Today,” the whole effect is really lovely. Schulnik’s films are very good, the best of her art repertoire, but she’s smart to keep at it in the various mediums, her checklist was almost completely sold out with very well positioned prices for an artist gaining traction. This is a good sign, since experimental film is impossibly hard to manage without time and money.

Jim Hodges – Gladstone Gallery

There is a duel show of Jim Hodges works at Gladstone Gallery; I only viewed one in their massive project space located on 21st street. In this high ceiling room, four massive boulders sit. These are very pretty boulders, they have appealing, dented egg like shapes and they have lichen and geologic streaking but what makes them the prettiest rocks in town is that half of each boulder is covered with mirroring tinted metal. They are purple, blue, yellow and orange mixed with gasoline luminosity that visually blends together in their reflected surfaces. In the press release it goes into detail about the various points of investigation Hodges explores in his art and this installation was apparently inspired by his trip to India. The release says that through these boulders he is, “Merging the real with the imagined…seamlessly juxtaposes dense organic forms with the interventions of synthetic beauty.” There that is in a nutshell, but regardless of the talky-talk, it does get to its point. They are impressive or at least makes the day a bit different after you have been next to them. Also, they are executed stunningly, really superb objects. As much as those types of efforts usually make me shake my head in disbelief of sapped resources, they are admittedly neat to see. Also, just by randomness, Glen Ligon was the only other person viewing this piece when I was there, so we were solemnly rotating around these objects and reflecting into them. I know a thing like that should not change the way art is experienced, but it does. Everything is relative.

Neo Rauch – David Zwirner

Neo Rauch’s exhibition, Heilstätten, at David Zwirner is a flat bore. Sorry to say it Rauchians but that is the truth of it. His exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2007 (god times flies) was impressive, immersive and even if you are not into that sort of thing you got why so many people fawned over his paintings. Now, this current exhibition at Zwirner feels like a cliff notes version of that show. It has the same characters, the same compositions and the same devices but the substance is gone. The larger paintings are dull and obvious and too self-aware. His technique of morphing animals and humans seems silly and awkward and his other technique of thwarting space by skewing architecture and scale by inventing coexisting visual planes seems formulaic at best. Interspersed there were smaller canvases, and these were a bit better then the larger works but still they seemed more like money making devices then works in themselves. The most embarrassing part of the whole show was the bronze sculpture entitled Die Jägerin that is supposed to be Athena. It looks like a gouty Benjamin Franklin that has face tumors and one of those fake owls you put on your roof to scare away small rodents. The sculpture seems like evidence of that thing that happens when people get stratospherically successful and then there is this entourage of Yes people that fuel and feed any bad idea that may be thought out loud. Is this being too harsh? Possibly, I mean it is just art for goodness sakes and not every show or every decade is going to be a hit but the thing that bothers me the most about this show is just what I referred to, this allowance and proffered way of making art and selling art that has forgotten what the whole point of it was in the first place. What that exactly is, I’m not sure but what I do know is that it’s not supposed to look like this. Hopefully, Rauch’s next hurrah will be less manicured but I think the veil may have been lifted on Rauch for me, which is a bit sad but inevitable it seems.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Thank god For Yvonne Rainer

Has the art world always been like it is today? So hierarchical, so entrenched, so authoritative and so elite? I’m not sure, I’ve only experienced this go of it, but even so, there definitely have been noticeable shifts in the last few years. Things have flattened out in the art world. It seems that it was at least more interesting, when there was the rich, elite, high snob art world and the very poor, actually hungry but groundbreaking art world. Now everyone seems to be in a chlorine wave pool, no one can drown. Everyone wants to be a star, but not in a Warhol fifteen minutes way, that little motto is just too sentimental these days. There is a lack of the exceptional in culture as a whole and because of this, celebrity seems, and possibly is, more attainable. I blame the curators. I blame them for now being the cultural arbiters who need celebrity to stay on top. Sadly, the critic has been beaten to a pulp by a gang of scarf wearing, euro-centric, mostly guys, leaving them with little to no influence. Those critics that still posses power are curiously poor writers but have a lot of social know how. So now the curator is the cultural-agent to the stars, bridging the high with the rich and playing translator and matchmaker. It only takes a few well groomed curators to make this the new norm because to be honest things are just too boring and safe otherwise. Of course we all pay attention and glom onto it because everyone wants to go to be invited to the party.

So now we have actors who are make-believing as artists, pop singers who are somehow leaking in to the canon of performance art and the artists, gallerists, collectors, everyone, is shoveling it all in and back out again. It’s just too wacky tacky but true.

Just when it seems like there is no hope that anyone in any station of authority or capacity was going to make any dissention heard, in comes Yvonne Rainer. Her letter, as well Douglas Crimp’s and Taisha Paggett’s, is in response to LA MOCA’s gala performance organized by Marina Abramović. I cannot even begin to express my thankfulness to this clear, smart, and necessary response. Below is the letter in full she wrote to Jeffrey Deitch, Director of the museum. Also, you can read the original message that was sent to Rainer by someone who tried out for this at In addition I have included Rainer’s “No Manifesto” from 1965. Really, about time things were aired out in this bizarre art orgy.

The full text of the original letter reads as follows:

To Jeffrey Deitch:

I am writing to protest the “entertainment” about to be provided by Marina Abramović at the upcoming donor gala at the Museum of Contemporary Art. It has come to my attention that a number of young people will be ensconced under the diners’ tables on lazy Susans and also be required to display their nude bodies under fake skeletons.

This description is reminiscent of Salo, Pasolini’s controversial film of 1975 that dealt with sadism and sexual abuse of a group of adolescents at the hands of a bunch of post-war fascists. Reluctant as I am to dignify Abramović by mentioning Pasolini in the same breath, the latter at least had a socially credible justification tied to the cause of antifascism. Abramović and MoCA have no such credibility, only a flimsy personal rationale about eye contact. Subjecting her performers to public humiliation at the hands of a bunch of frolicking donors is yet another example of the Museum’s callousness and greed and Ms Abramović’s obliviousness to differences in context and some of the implications of transposing her own powerful performances to the bodies of others. An exhibition is one thing—this is not a critique of Abramović’s work in general—but titillation for wealthy donor/diners as a means of raising money is another.

Abramović is so wedded to her original vision that she—and by extension, the Museum director and curators—doesn’t see the egregious associations for the performers, who, though willing, will be exploited nonetheless. Their desperate voluntarism says something about the generally exploitative conditions of the art world such that people are willing to become decorative table ornaments installed by a celebrity artist in the hopes of somehow breaking into the show biz themselves. And at subminimal wages for the performers, the event is economic exploitation as well, verging on criminality.

This grotesque spectacle promises to be truly embarrassing. We the undersigned wish to express our dismay that an institution that we have supported can stoop to such degrading methods of fund raising. Can other institutions be far behind? Must we rename LA MoCA “MODFR” or the Museum of Degenerate Fund Raising?


Yvonne Rainer
Douglas Crimp
Taisha Paggett

*this letter was later updated, saying basically the same thing but after Rainer was able to see a rehearsal for it. Many more people also signed.

Yvonne Rainer’s 1965 “No Manifesto”

NO to spectacle.

No to virtuosity.

No to transformations and magic and make-believe.

No to the glamour and transcendency of the star image.

No to the heroic.

No to the anti-heroic.

No to trash imagery.

No to involvement of performer or spectator,

No to style.

No to camp.

No to seduction of spectator by the wiles of the performer.

No to eccentricity.

No to moving or being moved.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Nan Goldin : Scopophilia : Matthew Marks Gallery, New York

Seeing Nan Goldin’s Ballad of Sexual Dependency, 1979-1986, as a freshman in college made my eyes flex muscles they never knew they had. These photographs were Punk. They are utterly cool and messed up yet obviously the real deal; Nan Goldin is a damn good photographer. Her current show at Matthew Marks Gallery is entitled Scopophilia, which in Greek means “the love of looking” and deriving pleasure from this act. This new show may not posses all the punk of the past but there are traces. Overall this is a complicated show that I’m not sure I have decided on yet but one that should certainly be seen by those who love or hate Goldin’s work.

This is her first solo exhibition in New York since 2007 but this wait feels okay because the show has an in the desert biblical cleansing vibe. Goldin has been living in Paris since 2000 as a result of what she considers Bush’s stolen election that year. Being a nuevo expatriate in Paris, Goldin has become a Parisian darling and has been given the ultimate embrace of approval by being allowed and commissioned to photograph works at the Louvre alone and after hours. Now THAT is a golden ticket. She took photographs of paintings and sculptures that ooze fleshy bygone tales, myths and gospels. Most are close-ups of an arm, breast, back, and other body parts and seeing these cropped snippets is fascinating. The focus and the ability to see such a zoomed in morsel is a treat, especially with works so entombed. Goldin then takes photos from her extensive archive of over 400 images and she pairs these with those she took at the Louvre. Sometimes this is a direct one to one but there are others that are scattered amongst a grid.

For the gridded and side-by-side images there is an odd matchy-match game that starts to happen. The eye keeps popping from one image to the next in comparison and contrast; this is a bit unnerving and ungenerous to the eye. Seeing a statue of a Greek goddess in certain repose and then seeing a young girl on a bed in a similar repose does give certain gratifications but the way this is forced is a strain. Also, there are a few technical annoyances about the presentation; one is that the gallery lighting is awful. There is a lot of ambient light from outside, which may be on purpose in some way, but the glare is unsightly. Second point of contention is the glass or plexi in front of the images is not non-reflective so this glare is made even more punishing. Most times I would have given a pass to this sort of thing but Goldin’s photographs from the Louvre already have their own funky angles, glares and focus so adding more optical hurdles is not a good idea. A room that did work was a semicircular yellow room with portraits of Goldin’s friends and lovers and these had a mated painted portrait from the Louvre’s collection above them. The focus on all the faces is the eyes. It is the eyes that are the key, the match; they are the points that posses a certain quality that resonates in both portraits and seems to fit like two pieces of a strange Nan Goldin puzzle.

In a separate room there is a slide show that is 25 minutes long and is a more extensive presentation of images from the Louvre and her archives. Goldin speaks at points, about how she came upon doing this project, about the show’s title, and about the things she discovered in her looking. She describes the act of looking for her as being a point of transcendence, a thing that brings you to a point beyond contemplation and also brings you to pleasure. This excitement of seeing and of looking is the most important thing one can hope of art. This presentation also has opera playing at times, dramatic yes but also quite beautiful. There are some absolute stunners from Goldin’s catalog, portraits of young, barely budded lovers, and images of friends making love, during, before and after. These people are all intimates of Goldin and she and they let you be intimate as well. This is the defining difference between Goldin’s work and others that photograph in what could be called a diaristic style, and why ideas about voyeurism do not stick to her. Her photographs are not about secrets being scene, or any form of violation in the act of looking. They are intimate and intimacy is private and shared. Goldin’s masterful use of light and color in her compositions also lend to the warmth of her images, something that more recent crops of young photographers, you know who they are, seem to have sucked dry from their works. There is utter sincerity in Goldin’s photographs this is most effectively seen in the slideshow format. There is a rhythm that serves these images well and also the idea of light penetrating onto a wall gives the images an almost sculptural presence.

Now, the inclusion of the Louvre images of the breasts, buttocks, backs, hair, faces, fingers and embraces shuffled into Goldin’s archives in this format is less cumbersome then in the photograph installations, but it still is an odd idea in the first place. In an unsettling way, it seems as if Goldin is self-positioning herself in comparison to these works of art in order to catapult her own into the same sphere. This, if Goldin really believes it, is just too arrogant to bear. But, I am giving the benefit of the doubt that this is not what she is implying. She is doing this for, hopefully, a bigger idea one that shows how people, the body, desire, and flesh, are all exquisite and are eternal. There is a power in Goldin’s sensuality. There is a timeless presence of the flesh, of the person, a persistence of being that artists try to capture through representational art. This is another quick point to make; representational art in the classic formalist way has been so revolted upon in painting that it is suicide to even challenge it in today's contemporary art world. But Goldin, who is a photographer, can still refer to the body with legitimacy. In addition to elegizing the body, Goldin transfixes on the narratives of the works at the Louvre. All the works there are a stand in for the history of a person, a myth or a story, there is a density and a purpose to their physical form. Goldin’s photographs posses this in some ways but they, to me, are more about the evidence of things immortal. They peak into the idea that the now and the recent pasts are not as removed from a few hundred years ago or even a few thousand, which in the big scheme of things is just a blip of our humanity.

The slide show is really lovely, yes it is over the top and romantic and dramatic but so what, the art world could use a little bit of that to temper its too cool for school vibe. What is most touching is that in the end, the piece is dedicated to Peter Hujar and David Wojnarowicz. To know those artists works and to know even a little about the triangle of friendship and love these three artist shared makes everything more touching.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Lake Erie Ramblings

I was going to write about Nan Goldin’s new exhibition at Matthew Marks this week but I was only able to see it for a brief time and the slide/audio show for only a few minutes and this is just not enough time to do it justice so it will have to be next week. Apologies. I am already apologizing because now you will have to suffer reading my unfocused rambling (more than usual). These particular ramblings are set at Lake Erie, where I have spent the last few days. You have been warned; you can click off from this point, as what is to follow is a real piñata of my dehydrated mind.

Briefly On Nature and the Visual Experience: When walking in the woods, (not a neat path in the woods), one must always look down. Looking down is required so that one does not fall or misstep. On occasion, one must look up to see what is coming ahead in the near future in regards to terrain and to avoid any branches, protrusions, animals and other human beings. The scope of sight is very focused and is 80% focused within 1-5 feet, 15% within 5-20 feet and 5% to the full extent of visibility. Because of this acute focus there is no time to look out and contemplate on what is around unless one purposefully stops. This may be why most people who partake in hiking and walking in the woods have a goal to reach; a top, a vista, or a certain spot that is considered the best visual field. This is in contrast to a setting like a beach or a meadow or another similar place that is more flat and the typography is more even. This allows for less focus on the immediate visual range and more to the horizon. This can result in a more contemplative experience with nature, as the focus is more circumferential then it is pointed. The passivity of the eye can be seen in both unstable nature and stable nature. The psychology of the person within that terrain is in the end the most influential factor of the visual cognizance of any given natural space. The elements as sound, temperature, precipitation and other factors that effect the physical experience can have much if not total dominance over the visual experience.

Briefly On Quaint Towns: The idealization of a small town in the United States is due to the need for authenticity that can be sometimes found in nostalgia. The ideal town consists of a Main Street and off that street are various businesses and community buildings that are the primary meeting places for the town. This town refers to a period of America that dates from 1940-1970, the architecture is a third incarnation of the Victorian style but its construction is prefab and it is made of almost all synthetic materials. Those that participate in reconstructing a small town in this manner are 99% white and are from incomes that range between $30,000 - $150,000 per household. Both the very poor and the very wealthy do not have impulse or desire to be apart of this idealized town. This may be due to the lack of the need to search for a nostalgic authenticity as both the poor and rich have other forms of this realized authenticity. Towns that are constructed from scratch to resemble this referred town will not flourish past 30 years. Towns that have a history and are re-built or expended upon can possibly last through multiple generations.

Briefly On Pie: There is place located in Westfield New York that makes the most superb, the most perfect, the most delicious pies ever to be made. They are called Portage Pie, named after the street in which their modest shop is located. This statement is not partial, as in truth, this writer does not even like pies very much. These pies are made by a woman named Connie and her husband, whose name is not known to writer. They have large sized pies and also small pies. Each pie is perfectly delicious because it accentuates the flavor of the filling, be it fruit, such as; apple, concord grape, peach, sour cherry or more cream based. Each flavor is perfectly clear on the palate yet never overly sugary. The crust is consistently moist, flaky and gently salted. This more savory crust highlights the pie fillings’ natural sweetness or tart. The pies are very economically priced and can last up to a week on the shelf. They should not be refrigerated. Also, the bakers pick the fruit seasonally from local farmers but not in a highfalutin way. This writer is not a dessert enthusiast nor has a sweet tooth but when something is perfectly made, as these pies are, they transcend being an edible treat but a form of art. These are the most perfect pies one can eat, if you happen to ever be in or pass near Westfield New York it would be derelict to not sample one or many of these delicious pies.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Hello Houston

There was a time when I thought Texas and I would never meet, but we have and Houston is a city that has disarmed any assumptions I may have had of this state. It is surprising how geographically disengaged I am with the America; I have been to more foreign countries than I have been to states. Is this out of snobbery, laziness, and the impulse to only seek the obscure of the cosmopolitan? Yes and no. You go to places for one reason or another and I never had one for Texas on my own, but business has brought me here and I’m lucky for that because Houston is a very fine town.

What takes the socks off Houston is The Menil Collection. Oh My Goodness. Now this is a collection well acquired and handled. To learn about the de Menil’s and their “passion” for art go to their website, they have more detail and fervor in this tale then I want to be responsible for. But anyways the collection of Dominic Schlumberger and John de Menil is a wowzer affair. First the building that it is housed in is an exemplar of unassuming, tranquility inducing, Shaker aesthetic. It has the lushest grass and also the fattest, daring, brown squirrels I’ve ever been acquainted with. The building is, thank goodness, made of wood and is painted a periwinkle blue. If I have to see another hideous brushed-steel building I may just have a minnie seizure. The space inside is minimal, quite, and straightforward with a lobby at center and galleries to the left and right. The rooms are generous and well proportioned allowing the objects in the room converse with each other versus having to merely exist in the same space. The feature exhibition was Walter de Maria’s Trilogies. The room with the three perfectly preserved Chevy Bel Airs with a stainless steel rod piercing through them in the triangle, rectangle and circle forms was an impressive feat of human energy. That’s all I have to say about that.

The most “oh my goodness” factor is the amazing Surrealist collection. Apparently, the de Menils have the largest and most comprehensive collection of Surrealist works and this installation shows so many hits that it makes the heart lurch. Seeing things in real time and space is more then important, it is essential in the arts. Due to our digital reality there has been a trend of separating the idea of an artwork from the artwork itself. Yes, art is about the ideas, art is the memento mori of our collective conscious and history but it also self-specific and functional outside of a placeholder or cue. Seeing René Magritte’s, C’est nes pas une pipe at this collection reaffirms this idea to me. It is just a thing; another thing amongst things when you get down to it, but it is more then just a reproduction of itself. Its presence has meaning beyond just a scavenger hunt for our recent cultural feats. In addition to this zinger was a catalog of all the masters of Surrealism, you name it they were there, Max Ernst, René Magritte, Man Ray, Georgio de Chirico, Yves Tanguey… I have always had a soft spot for Magritte but seeing so many of them at one time somehow made me a bit embarrassed about this affection. I may be turning a new corner with him, there is something very dull about some of his works, or maybe I’m projecting on who I image him to be as a person. Time will tell. What was stunning to see were the Georgio de Chiricos. His work is much more alive in person then as reproduction. But the biggest zinger of the group was Dorothea Tanning’s Cousins, 1970. Fury, hugging, entwined, faceless brown creatures that are both endearing and creepy. There is now a distinct visual marker for me, the time before I was introduced to Tanning’s sculptures and the time after. Really remarkable.

In addition to this intimidating possession of works there was a small room with artifacts, objects, masks, toys, rocks, and various other curios and tribal wonderments that was accumulated as a showing of objects that the Surrealists either personally owned or was in the spirit of the things they owned. This was, I think, a thoughtful and insightful inclusion. This accumulation of objects also triggers this unsettling realization that all that is in this room is vacuumed sealed of its potency and its self-possession. There are still clinging reverberations of spirit, or whatever you want to call it, in some of the objects though. In the end it is sad to witness but also rewarding to one’s mental map of visual culture.

There were other remarkable works and a breadth of discerning taste evidenced in the other galleries. It is stunning what money can buy. It feels a bit unfair in a way but better for us that it is on view and accessible to all versus above a couch or a toilet. Anyone who happens to be in Houston must must go view this collection. The Menil also claims the Rothko Chapel, which is a big to do. It is very Rothko-y. There was unfortunately a cluster of black folding chairs cramped in the space. I think that is a pity of my timing. In the room with me was one balding, pony tailed, white male on the floor in lotus position and also an attendant, a black women in her fifties who was looking over the circulars. There is a Rothko Chapel office next door in a charming house. There were lots of cats eating from small piles of cat food on the porch. I enjoyed watching the cats. That’s all I have to say about the Rothko Chapel.

Houston is a very nice town, and I mean nice. Everyone is so pleasant and friendly here. Not in the exaggerated way I thought they would be but in a very honest way. There are young, stylish, hip people and if there are those types there must be a thriving art scene somewhere about. This seems like a place that likes being exactly the way it is. It is a car town for sure but the largess of the city allows for un-trafficked flow. The week I was here was apparently the best weather week almost all year, mid 70s to 80s, low humidity, clear skies and bright sun. This is something I am most enamored with about Houston. Its big flat sky and the sun is as bright and warm as its shaded areas are clean and cool. It has the hint of same sun as LA but the air here is cleaner so the light is more penetrating. Also it has the most fabulous springing from the cracks flora and fauna I have seen. Oh and the birds, they have these kooky black birds that strut and make vocal undulations that are hilarious. I could never call Houston home but it is just as nice to visit as any place I’ve visited before.