Monday, March 28, 2011

On Studio Visits

Studio visits are probably the best way to get to know an artist. They are instructive and they are a strange social in-between. Intimate, brief and personal. Studio visits can be done between peers and between prospective business alliances. They are, to me, one of the truly interesting and enjoyable things that one can do as a member of an arts community. This is the space that still remains untrammeled by total co-option (to some degree). Studio visits are cultural dates that have the anxieties of making good impressions but also have a specific decorum and sometimes objectives.

The below are generalities. This is not specific to anyone or to any time, just a cursory guide of the expectations and etiquette. (This is based on a one to one, first time meeting).


When a time is set for a studio visit, both the artist and the visitor should be prompt. If there is any delay on either party or any cancellations to be made a generous notice or concerted effort of notice should be made.

Studio visits should last about an hour. Plan your schedule around this time frame accordingly. Never make the other person feel rushed in the visit. A studio visit that lasts under an hour is usually a sign of disappointment.

Beverages and Snacks:

If the studio visit is after 5:00pm, an alcoholic beverage should be made available. If it is before this time, coffee or tea should be offered. Snacks are nice to have on hand, especially if around a mealtime, but not necessary. Never have food on display, or leave evidence of a meal recently eaten. Water should always be close at hand.


The artist should have works that they want to be the focus of their visit on display ahead of visiting time. If the visitor has certain works in mind, it is helpful to express this beforehand. Works should be displayed in the best presentation possible in given space. Additional works should also be available to view in real time or on a computer.


The visitor should ask questions. If the work is completely un-engaging, questions should still be asked. Vague questions should be avoided. Artists are not responsible of asking questions. If your visitor is lacking in any questions it is okay to give directional statements of ones work to possibly lead to a question. Personal questions should not be asked beyond where one grew up and where one went to school. (Unless going really really really well).


Visitor should give comments. If there is nothing nice to say though, please keep to a minimum. Being critical about an artist’s work is okay and should be done as long as it is not rude or unjustified. Artist is free to remark or answer on comments given. The more open a visitor is, the better the visit will be. Comments are just opinions so they should not be taken too much to heart by the artist. The visitor is just that, a visitor. The visitor is in no way obliged to be flattering but positive remarks should be used to soften negative ones.

Visitor should refrain from making general statements of artists work such as “this reminds me of _____’s work.”


Artists should have a place that visitor can place their jacket, bag etc that is not on a messy surface.

Visitors should not poke around the artist’s studio or touch anything without permission.

A seat should be offered if talking about work/ideas in general terms for over 10 minutes.

Music or radio should be turned off completely.

No promises should be made by either party regarding exhibitions, projects, etc. during visit, discussion of such things okay.

Artist should walk visitor out to the door of building.

Visitor and artist should not take phones calls, email or text during visit.

The above are obvious types of things that I have been thinking about in regards to the function and the forms that take place during studio visits. I have had blisteringly curt and short visits and I have also had four hour wine fuelled ones. They are all interesting in the end and they do make the work more revealed as the work is the product of its maker. Being able to engage in meaningful and uninhibited dialogue with an artist or a visitor is to participate in the ultimate point of art making. The above aren’t rules by any means. They are a loose list that has been on my mind regarding this strange type of interaction. There is nothing more fun then to meet someone new, to bypass the niceties and go straight to talking about the more interesting things in life and in the mind. Always remember though that this too, as in all other social interactions, requires manners.

Monday, March 21, 2011

JstChillin : Read/Write : 319 Scholes : Brooklyn, NY & Rirkrit Tiravanija : Fe ar Eats the Soul : Gavin Brown Enterprises : New York, NY

JstChillin is a project formed by Caitlin Denny and Parker Ito apparently from an unsuccessful Rhizome program bid, but anyways, it exists. This show includes the works of artists who use the internet and its many devices as their primary medium and who have contributed to afore mentioned project. The exhibition is housed in a converted warehouse in Bushwick that gave it a nice off the tracks sort of feel at first glance. Nothing was confirmed or diminished by this show but the idea that, hey this is what internet art looks and feels like, seems to be boringly confirmed.

There was just a lot of stuff hung and placed and tucked everywhere. Considerations of installation and presentation were obviously attempted but somehow with poor results. Maybe it’s too hard to “exhibit” a butt load of internet artists at one time. Maybe. The fact that this show had a title suggests that there was a specific theme but it appears to have devolved into a more “fuck it” attitude.

This is a very close network of people and they rightfully, like all others, have affections for including their peers. I too am at fault for being partial as the works I was most engaged in were by artists I knew, even if barely. This is the problem and also a perk of this sort of art, it requires more from the viewer, it requires an accumulated knowledge and dialogue of that particular artist but once you get whatever that may be, things become flat and smooth and interesting.


Rirkrit Tiravanija’s current show at Gavin Brown’s self isolated space is entitled Fear Eats The Soul
. This title is like a brand, an Adbuster bumper sticker also available as spray paint stencil. The title, from the press release (which is an actual hoot and a perfect example of “press-releasy”) says it’s from Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Ali: Fear Eats The Soul. This is actually one of my favorite Fassbinder movies. This movie is totally kick ass and sexy and sad and drama in the sharp colors and silent contrasts sort of way. Tiravanija’s version is meh in comparison and, I think, highly audacious for such cultural branding.

Oh yes, I forgot to mention what this show’s main thing is about; it’s about providing free soup Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays 10-6pm for the duration of the show. The menu changes every week. This was the first they had a vegetarian soup. It was pumpkin, it was spicy, it was very delicious. Besides it being yummy to eat, I was still not convinced of it all. Food makes people nicer, its one of the very few things we can do that reveals we are animals in the presence of more then just yourself, one other, and if you’re into it, two people. It is sensory, basic and when done right, divine. The use of food as artistic device to upend and dissolve structures of the art world, of the gallery, of human beings is stupendous, but to me, boring. I think that there is nothing more obvious then this and it may appear I am being a boo-hooer, but I’m not, honestly. I get the wonderfulness, the simplicity and the possibilities of this method of art deconstruction, yada yada, but I can’t help but feel unmoved. Especially since the installation was a lot of spray-painted psedo street cred heavy handedness.

In addition to this faux grit, there were the two rooms; one with Helvetica angst phrases being silk screened on white t-shirts ($20 a pop) being plucked and selected by gentlemen who were actually wearing cravats! And then there is Gavin Brown himself in a room of wonderfully sellable bronze works (Tiravanija’s tap tap to be same samey with Warhol) greeting you with the friendliest “hello!” uttered by a gallery owner’s lips. I think it is all just fine. The serving of the food feels sincere, the soup was very delicious and although it was a nice way to pass some time on a sunny New York afternoon it left less tingle in my little soul then when I happened, on leaving the gallery, to pass a tour group who was being shown the house from the Cosby Show.

Monday, March 14, 2011

George Condo : Mental States & Lynda Benglis : New Museum, NY

Oh George Condo. There is a whisper campaign against him after his whole Kanye West album cover. The exact note being passed around may be that of “celebrity sellout” but I think we should give the guy a break. His current show at the New Museum, entitled Mental States is just a-ok with me.

He gets two floors (the boys always seem to get at least two floors in that place) the fourth floor is the biggest stacked box of them all with a high, silly high, ceiling. What is exaggerated in the room’s height is deficient in its lack of depth. There is a main wall and this wall is made even more frightfully oppressive by the almost floor to ceiling salon style hanging of his portrait paintings. The wall text states that Condo; uses, applies, derives from old master painting techniques to achieve his painting style. So yes, Condo obviously is pulling from a deck of art postcards of yore to riff on, but people, let’s be honest about this one thing; George Condo cannot paint very well. He paints well in the contemporary sense but if such grand statements of his painterly abilities as being equaled to the masters, then this must be called out as false, immediately, preferably by megaphone or robo-calling.

This is not to say that Condo’s paintings are not interesting. They actually possess a very strange effect only possible by painting and all its histories. The wall of portraits is like the walls in rich peoples’ houses with all their relatives from forever and beyond. They are familiar because they are obvious references to big hitters like Picasso, Goya, Rembrandt, and on and on, but they were twisted, all of them, like entering into a mental institution then drinking LSD tea and eating a cocaine bran muffin. The floor below had more segmented rooms grouped in respective degenerative states. It was in these that I gave Condo a gold star of good job on this whole painting thing. The vortexed, pinched, puckered, and squeezed faces are cartoonish but also cringingly familiar. Most stare directly at you with what I refer to as “crazy eyes” the same eyes that certain homeless/not homeless types in the subway have. When you know that to look into their eyes is to have invited a torrential vice grip of crazy. All of the characters are fleshy and super crusty. Condo’s most exceptional thing is he can accomplish a lot of feeling, trauma, flesh, movement, secrets with charmingly minimal energy, strokes and colors. Being open to him, starting with below average expectations, made this exhibit actually not all that bad.


Now to Lynda. Oh Oh Oh Oh, OH Lynda Benglis, how you make a girl happy to be a girl. She is firmly in the history books and not just the femanist section, she is IN. Her work is mostly on the second floor, a few scatter near the cafĂ© but that’s always a bad idea. Anyways, this show says it’s a retrospective and by golly it is. It has a slide show feel, things neatly arranged in chronological groupings. Most artists would suffer from this but Benglis is just too RAD to have anything that formulaic take her down.

There is a sampling of just about everything. Her “Fallen Paintings,” glob like lava pouring out the walls, latex pieces, wax pieces, bric a brac sculptures, knots, videos, and so forth. I was most surprised by the glitter pieces, which were done in the smartest, coolest way possible. There were these two rods on the wall parallel to each other and I can’t help but recall my index flash card of Barnet Newman’s Vir Heroicus Sublimis whenever I see vertical parallel lines, eat your heart of Newman. Also the knots, I want to be one of those knots, I want to wear one as a hat or as a turtle shell. Sadly I am not allowed to squeeze the knots, this is the one thing regrettable about Benglis’ work, if you don’t own it you can’t play with it.

The best of this survey was a room of phosphorescent falling paintings entitled Phantom (1971). Someone mentioned this show and described this room and I replied that I didn’t know she did glow in the dark pieces and he replied that was probably because it was only the second time it was ever shown. For shame and also aren’t we lucky! Five ectoplasm cascades glow at rates of various brightness controlled by black lights and dimmer switch. They triggered off a ticker tape of references; Slimer, Matthew Barney, raves, Halloween, on and on. Most surprisingly though it made me think a lot of Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Teresa one of my favorite, sadly never seen sculptures. In these works and in almost all others by Benglis, its about sex. Not in a vulgar, or obvious politicized way but about sensuality, about pleasure. Benglis' work is smart, political, sexy and fun and she seeks no affirmation of their success. Dildos are okay! Romping with a man in a giant puppy costume is okay! Glitter is okay! Being as bad-ass a sculptor as the boys is okay! Thank god there is Benglis to remind us of this.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Ramblings on : Art Fairs

It was just art fair week, well Armory week, in New York City. The first week of March is festooned with more art being stuffed into this town then even thought possible. The big one is The Armory Show, on the piers, then there is the ADAA’s The Art Show at an actual armory, and then there is Independent in the old DIA Chelsea and then there is everything else. This is the way it is. All other fairs get over it. I totally dislike but totally get why art fairs are in existence. For those who press their frowned lips and finger point at art fairs, they are just being oh so very collegiate in their understandings about the world. Baby, money makes this big ball called earth go round. But also, for those who think that art fairs are the best and most tactical things, blah to you too.

Art fairs are like Target stores; bright, big, organized, repetitive, weird foods smells mixed with weird smell smells, and let’s not forget the strollers. They are unpleasant to be in but also a place one must go since we all like to walk down the runway of culture and see and be seen. I think this impulse is also why people get gussied up for church; to see and be seen, to be “a part” of something bigger then yourself without the obvious vanities. Art fairs will be around for a long time so stop fussing over it and also stop trying to re-invent it. There is nothing more annoying then to use the rhetoric and philosophies of empowerment and revolution in application for art fairs. STOP DOING THIS! Yes they are boring as hell and they are full of bullies and meanies but what do you expect? The art world is this way, life is this way.

Independent started by Elizabeth Dee and what’s his name from Hotel in London last year is the alterna darling of the art fairs in NYC. Last year it was cool, this year it was cooler. Cool-cool and super-cool are all civilly chilling out in a room together. It is all like wallpaper in a way but there’s no denying that it’s cool. Trends spotted; 16mm films (there were six or so of these), canvas sculptures, ceramics. If Ms. Dee knocked on my door and was like “hey you wanna do this thing” I would be like “HELL YES” cause to do it is to be tapped with the golden finger of hip (for now).

There was a small thing at the Sheraton Hotel called Dependant with a handful of galleries and collective like things. It was only one night and for only a few hours. There was a massive line, I cut without much planning, and then voila 14 flights up and you get to be crammed in an insufferably tight hallway with artists, art handlers and their pals. It was like band camp trips but less possibility of sex and more smell of beer/stale cigarettes. It was okay. It was something that I guess is something to do. Sometimes things like that make me really happy. This time it made me feel like time is stuck in an oscillating doorframe, one side shit, the other side fucked.

Art fairs…It’s fun in Miami, it’s fun in rich European places, it may even be fun in glassed in Abu Dhabi but in New York it isn’t fun, it isn’t necessary, it isn’t relevant. I think that the art world and the fashion world should just agree to have Armory week and Fashion week be at the same time. The crowds, the intention, everything about both overlaps and is a mirror of its selves, so why not? It would save time, energy and the mental power that is sucked away from the required self-lobotomy of being everywhere, seeing everything, the parties, the private events, the this and the that. All the endless beautiful spectacle and absurdity that makes art oh so very hideous and also the most wonderful thing to be a part of.