Points of Reference

Lars Tunbjörk

LARS TUNBJÖRK, LAWYER'S OFFICE, NEW YORK, 1997, 20 X 24 inches, Edition of 12, C Print. Source:

This 1997 photo by Lars Tunbjörk is pretty great. It’s from his series on corporate offices. He’s got a great eye for narrative — the feeling you get is one of hygenic oppression, like Robert Longo’s indicting drawings of white collar workers. I really like the abstraction and sense of space in this picture, and the cheeky realization that it’s the most mundane of mundane things, a garbage bin.

I’m also pretty happy to discover invisible thread. It’s not really invisible, and it’s not really thread, if you think of finely wound fibers, because it’s thin monofilament. It worked great in hand-sewing and in my sewing machine. Brush up on your knot-tying skills with animated demos by Grog.

Small victories in procurement, the art activity I love to hate: For my recent sewing/craft projects, the fabric department at the big CVS (formerly Longs/Payless) in North Oakland has been great. A $4 Fiskers portable scissor sharpener (a sharpening stone in two blade guides at the perfect angle) proved its worth within a few minutes. For more specialist items, visit Discount Fabrics in West Berkeley.

Did I mention Calvin Tompkins yet? His profiles of contemporary artists in the New Yorker have been fascinating. Recent subjects include Julie Mehretu (read the abstract), Urs Fischer (read the abstract) and Bruce Nauman (read the abstract). I found the profile of Nauman most interesting, maybe because his career and work is so unconventional, and the expressions of his psyche so singular. The Fischer and Mehretu profiles operate on surface levels more often, but readers interested in the mechanics of art star careers will find them fascinating.

Art & Development

Here’s to women and risk-taking

Housewarming. The ribbons are embroidered with SoEx Rules.

Housewarming. The ribbons are embroidered with SoEx Rules.

CHEERS to the female-staffed SoEx, for successfully pulling off the grand opening of a beautiful permanent home.


CHEERS to Stephanie Syjuco, for successfully bridging her interest in black markets with a commercial art fair, to critical acclaim. It’s a dicey proposition to put other artists and galleries’ livelihood (and by extension, one’s own popularity and career if there’s a bad fallout) at stake but Stephanie forged (ahem!) ahead with a great idea, and it’s proven to be a timely commentary on the art market and the economic climate. Read about Copystand, her project at the Frieze Art Fair on and

These feats are admirable. It’s pretty extraordinary to be so committed to a vision and a practice. You could say that being an artist is like being a small business owner — the fact is, most people don’t have the stomach for the financial ups and downs, much less the creative ones.

There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious.

Calvin Tompkin’s recent profile of contemporary artist Urs Fishcher in the New Yorker left me with two major takeaways. Curiously, they had nothing to do with art practice — Fischer seems too mercurial to extract much substance in that area. Rather, I was quite impressed with Urs Fischer as an organization.

Tompkins described a visit to Fischer’s studio, where the staff ate lunch — loaves of french bread and cheese — communally in the studio kitchen. I loved this. If I ever have staff, I’d like it to be the kind of work environment where a convivial meal is part of the day. (I’d add tea, fruit and chutney to the pantry.)

Second, Fischer employed close friends whose honesty and judgment he could rely on. Only very successful international artists can command fees that allow for full-time staff, yet I find the idea of paying people who I love and trust, and treating them well as colleagues, to be really beautiful and inspiring.

It’s wildly ambitious for me to imagine myself in Fischer’s shoes. Yet these mental notes form a welcome alternative to the model of the lone artist toiling away in isolation and struggle.