Meta-Practice, Values

How to be everywhere at once, or not

Inspired by a walk around Chelsea and CAA, here are a few thoughts about how artists of a certain level are able to sustain multiple galleries and fairs…

Variations and editions

At Doug Aitken’s show at 303 Gallery, the list of works stated that all artworks, except for the site-specific installation, were multiples. Text works that could have been fabricated by sign shops were editions of four, plus two artist’s proofs. Other text works that might involve more chance, such as a piece with broken mirrors and another foam piece that was partly carved by hand, were variations, plus artist’s proofs.

The way Aiken and many contemporary other artists edition sculptures seems  pragmatic—there is so much research and development that goes into each work, and so many venues for international artists, that being able to exhibit and sell the same work is advantageous. Yet, these editioned sculptures would never be displayed next to each other, or heavens forbid, in the same fair at different booths—like the earliest fine art print editions, the whole concept of an edition is to create scarcity and value. I’m curious if collectors feel like they’re buying originals, are concerned with the fidelity to exhibition copies, or are simply less concerned with purchasing copies, especially of industrially-fabricated works.

(The show itself was dazzling in the video as well as in person, but not especially affective. I believe a critic for the New Yorker found the show to be resemble window displays, and I got the same feeling. There were intimations of destruction, but no danger. In the large hole drilled out of the concrete gallery floor, the milky water was lit from beneath, as if a hot tub. One text work was set behind a faux wall with a cartoonish circular hole cut away; the drywall was filled with pebbly rubble painted white as if on a theatrical set made of Plasticine.)

A few rules make disparate drawings a series

Of particular interest at Mark Dion at Tanya Bonokdar:

1. The vitrines with marine encrustations that were on view in International Orange in San Francisco are now highly salable objects in a Chelsea gallery. (Also, I believe  those were clearly indicated as collaborations in San Francisco, a fact not obvious in NYC.) The settings are so different I found it humorously ironic. Fort Point was bitterly cold, practically in the Pacific Ocean than abutting it. The vitrines were lit in a theatrically dim light, which minimized Fort Point’s peeling walls. At Bonokdar, the pristine gallery housed a number of vitrines and installations, all of which were perfectly installed and maintained. The change of context from the edge of the continent to the center of a commercial art world demonstrates a fluidity that contrasts greatly with so many artists I know who exhibit in odd places in the Bay Area.

2. Dion makes preliminary sketches for his various public projects and commissions—from the UK to San Francisco’s Balboa Park—in red and blue colored pencil. Who knows why, but the effect is that a room with dozens of such drawings hung salon-style looks fantastic. A simple set of rules increases the volume of exhibition-ready work.

Conflicts of Interest Vs. Conflicts of Self-Interest

At the College Art Association conference a few weeks ago, I attended a session called “The Future of Art Magazines” (see’s write-up). A comment that has stuck with me is that people play so many roles in the art strata, that it can pose dilemmas to critics. For example, critics who are also curators may worry that they can’t negatively review certain institutions that they might work with, or risk offending artists that they might curate or be asked to curate. I wondered if this was an actual conflict of interest, when the potential of a partnership is merely a potential. Perhaps it would better be phrased as a conflict of self-interest?

Of course people do this all the time. Yet the frequency of self-interested behavior doesn’t make it right—call it Darwinian, hustlin’, or playing the game, it’s also selfish, opportunistic, and small.

To be big, one must imagine that other people are big, too. That artists or administrators won’t be offended if you write a negative review with honesty and integrity. Whether others are in a position of power or not relative to yourself, people should be able to handle direct, open communication with judiciousness and discretion. In my recent correspondence with commenters on Temporary Art Review, I have been trying to encourage artists to give feedback directly to residency administrators. It seems a reasonable thing to do, except for a fear of retaliation that is not a part of the art world that I would like to participate in.


303 Gallery – Doug Aitken – 100 YRS

Doug Aitken, still from 100 Years gallery walk-through, 303 Gallery, NYC.

Doug Aitken, still from 100 Years gallery walk-through, 303 Gallery, NYC.

Doug Aitken usually makes big videos, but his current show at 303 Gallery in Chelsea looks full of installations including large sculptural text works. I’m excited to see it in person. Have a look at the really nicely produced video:
 303 Gallery – Doug Aitken – 100 YRS.


See: Florian Maier-Aichen & SVA MFA Open Studio Picks

Florian Maier-Aichen’s show of large face-mounted photographic works at 303 Gallery is pretty great. There are some eerie, manipulated landscapes and strange photographs of paintings and mixed media works. The result is baffling in a good way. I especially liked:

Florian Maier-Aichen, Östersjön I, 2011

Florian Maier-Aichen, Östersjön I, 2011. Source:

Florian Maier-Aichen,Untitled, 2011.

Florian Maier-Aichen, Untitled, 2011. Source:

The exhibition continues through June 25. 303 Gallery is located at 547 W 21st Street in Chelsea, NYC. (Thanks to Glen Helfand and Mills Art Museum for providing my introduction to Maier-Aichen’s work in the 2006 exhibition, Particulate Matter.)

R* and I took a very late, very quick jaunt through SVA’s MFA Open Studios. Here’s what jumped out at me from the maze of barely-drywalled studios…

First, I sought out the studios of three artists who happened to be interns at Art in General. Their practices couldn’t be more different: Elán Jurado subjects himself to physically demanding performances, Kim Smith makes sluice-y abstract paintings with fluorescent underpainting, and Jonathan Rider crafts meticulous and tiny punched paper assemblages. Rider’s work conjured “In the Reign of Harad IV,” Stephen Millhauser’s beautifully crafted short story about a miniaturist who works beyond the barrier of visibility. (Listen to Cynthia Ozick read it in a New Yorker Fiction podcast. Highly recommended for any artist, especially those aware of the dilemma that refining sensibilities may result in diminishing audiences.)

While grad school should be about experimentation, and indeed much of the work in the studios doesn’t appear on the students’ websites, there were some studios that seemed to exhibit freshness and coherence, which appealed to me from the chaotic quarters.

Perhaps the riotous surroundings further enhanced the appeal of minimal installations by Oh Jong and Aken Wahl. Or maybe I just like brainy, minimal, barely perceptible art that uses glass, wires and multiples. Nothing wrong with that.

Max Glaser had some really interesting polished metal ingots and polished pennies in his studio. There was an emphasis on material and process that seemed to convey a confidence in his inquiry. But the inquisitive mood was completely destroyed by a dead mouse, smashed against the glass in a picture frame and encased in acrylic. Displaying decomposing flesh in such an aestheticized manner (in white frame on a white wall) struck me as cruel and profane. As MA pointed out after a recent visit to the Mütter Museum in Philly, displays of mortality often beget questions of morality.

Rebecca S. Ward’s investigations of tape as an installation material is interesting. She also had some various colored roll media standing on end on the floor, as very simple, ingenious sculptures. Eli Gabriel Halpern’s paintings alternated between figuration and abstraction, unified by a pastel palette that was attractive and slightly repulsive. Aaron Hillebrand walks the good/bad/ugly line with his crumple-paintings, with oddball paintings and video works nestled between and behind.

SVA’s MFA Open Studios continue tomorrow from noon to 6pm.

*She’s a good photographer. Check it out.