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.


Lesley Dill at George Adams Gallery, NYC

Via a great Chelsea photo-laden post on Words in Space:

Lesley Dill, Faith & the Devil, Installation View, 2011-2012, acrylic paint, oil pastel, silver leaf, gold leaf, mixed media on cotton panel. // Source:

Lesley Dill, Faith & the Devil, Installation View, 2011-2012, acrylic paint, oil pastel, silver leaf, gold leaf, mixed media on cotton panel. // Source:

Closed Jun 2, 2012
Lesley Dill: Faith & The Devil
George Adams Gallery
525 West 26th Street, First Floor, New York, New York 10001

Kicking myself for missing this calligraphy-installation show! See smallish photos on the gallery’s exhibition page, and a stunning detail on Words in Space.


Chelsea jaunt

Made lemons out of lemonade today: Sidelined from running, I took up biking, and I rode down to Chelsea and up to Columbia for some art shows. Perfect weather for it.


Three of the four shows I loved have to do with mirrors. So sue me.

Michelangelo Pistoletto, Lavoro - Atelier, 2008-2011, Silkscreen on polished super mirror stainless steel 59 X 59 inches (150 X 150 cm). // Source:

Michelangelo Pistoletto, Lavoro - Atelier, 2008-2011, Silkscreen on polished super mirror stainless steel 59 X 59 inches (150 X 150 cm). // Source:

Michelangelo Pistoletto at Luhring Augustine
Thru April 28

The Arte Povera mirror-maker depicts construction workers, bringing the past of each building these are shown in into the present. I liked these a lot. Baffled why the statement said that the images are “adhered” when the image captions, and the works themselves, suggest screenprinting as the medium. These are not my favorite Pistolettos; I liked some of the older ones at the Walker and Brooklyn Museum better, but it’s still great to see so many of them in one place. A treat.

Greg Smith at Susan Inglett Gallery
ners Banners Banners Ban
Thru May 26


If you can’t make it, read on…. (Spoiler alert.)

I made a point of going into galleries that aren’t on my usual route, and this one paid off. There are drawings and mixed media assemblages with a harness, all very cruddy and rough. The best thing, though, is a video that documents a performance in which the artist produced and installed the works under and on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. There’s a belt of canvas that goes completely around the car, and shots of the artist operating a sewing machine while driving (not recommended!). He used copious amounts of sweetly colorful dots, and also made some fabric-and-cotton-batting pennant flags. It’s a bizarre experiment with lots of physical and legal risk for crafty, yet un-crafted, artworks. Super thought-provoking for thinking about what is at stake in a work or practice, and what is success or failure.

Grey Peak of the Wave, Installation view, 2012 Alicja Kwade, Alexandra Leykauf and Florian & Michael Quistrebert. Source:

Grey Peak of the Wave, Installation view, 2012 Alicja Kwade, Alexandra Leykauf and Florian & Michael Quistrebert. Source:

Grey Peak of the Wave at Harris Leiberman
Group show of European artistst
Through April 28

I love this kind of work. Subtle, open-ended, perceptual, quiet. My favorites were:

Alicja Kwade’s taped glass sheets with two lamps, one on, one off (above, on ground). In the glass’ reflection, the unlit lamp appears convincingly illuminated.

Alicja Kwade’s bent mirrors, as if drooping down off the wall like a sheet of paper (also seen above, in the rear space). Surreal. Materially simple, disguising what I’m sure was laborious or expensive fabrication. Manipulating common materials in uncommon ways never gets old to me.

Alexandra Leykauf’s wall vinyls and framed photos (also above, back wall). Who doesn’t love a b/w photo of geometric abstraction made with real objects? And then complicating commodification with both framed works and site-specific, one-use vinyl? So simple, so good.

IRAN do ESPÍRITO SANTO, Installation view of SWITCH at Sean Kelly Gallery, New York March 21 - April 28, 2012 Photo: Jason Wyche, New York. Source:

IRAN do ESPÍRITO SANTO, Installation view of SWITCH at Sean Kelly Gallery, New York March 21 - April 28, 2012 Photo: Jason Wyche, New York. Source:

Iran do Espírito Santo at Sean Kelly
Thru April 28

I loved this Brazilian artists’ subtle, perceptual, materially sophisticated works ever since I saw a few at Altman Siegal in San Francisco. This show is a brave selection of 3 major works: a large wall painting, a series of marble replicas of glass bulb covers, and this series of “mirrors.” In fact, these are all made with two sheets of plate glass sandwiching a reflective tint. They look like mirrors until you spend a little more time with them, and realize that they are slightly transparent. They don’t, as the press release states, look like they’re folding, the way Kwade’s bent mirrors do at Harris Lieberman. But they do achieve something else, which as to do with how the leaning piece and the floor piece allow slightly different amounts of light and reflectivity. It’s sort of like the difference between a 100% printed CMYK black, and a “rick black,” which is a mixture using more colors, and hence, more saturation. The mirror on the floor looks as if you could fall into it.


Fun Facts

Last weekend, I enjoyed the rare honor of speaking publicly about my work twice in the same day.

First, I delivered a guest artist’s talk to a graduate seminar in San Francisco via Skype (a first for me). Emphasizing the vicissitudes of my life in the arts, I shared a factoid I learned from Creative Capital’s Professional Development workshop. I hope I remembered it correctly:

One positive response for every 13 to 15 applications for grants, residencies and awards is a pretty good average.

(Artists: It’s Spring deadline season. How are your applications coming along? Listings here.)

Being an artist can be variously trivial, serendipitous, laborious, or intentional. So I might have over-explained my art for these students, but it seems a worthy risk if it counter-balances, at least a bit, the obfuscation and unspoken rules about engaging the art world as an emerging artist.

While I wanted to convey the principle, nothing free—paying dues and investing sweat equity—I came away marveling at my good fortune to have benefitted from so many supportive organizations, foundations, and individuals… such as people who dream big, put in work, show up, share, and ask good questions—like the seminar students. The end of the Q&A came too soon.

Then, I participated in a group artists’ talk alongside other artists in Voices of Home at Jenkins Johnson Gallery. Independent curator Kalia Brooks did a great job moderating the panel, which included wave-splashing painting teachers and self-effacing younger artists. The artists have varied practices, terrain enough for an engaging discussion.

The audience, which exceeded the gallery’s seating capacity, was really great; thanks to everyone who attended.

The talk was organized in recognition of Black History Month, so with a panel of all (but one) Black artists, the subject of race and representation in the art field came up for discussion.

For emerging artists in San Francisco, New York City might still be seen as an art world center, with the center-of-the-center being Chelsea. For a panel of largely Black artists, speaking to a largely African American audience in a commercial gallery in Chelsea, geography was a non-issue, but access, via the lens of identity, was still a concern.

Some of the artists rejected the idea that they ought contend with identity in the studio, but no one disavowed as much when it came to engaging the professional field and the public realm.

Have you fantasized about de-activating your Facebook account? Me, too. Paul Martin’s definition of addiction—desire without pleasure—has characterized my recent experiences.

The headline,

“The Anti-Social Network: By helping other people look happy, Facebook is making us sad,”

of Libby Copeland’s article on Slate last year provides a clue to the problem.

Here is some irony about positive sentiments: I tried to keep my status updates positive, but willfully-upbeat presentations may actually be annoying, and en masse, distressing. I don’t think this undermines the value of optimism and positive enthusiasm in general, but speaks to Facebook’s perniciousness as a substitute for interaction and companionship.

So I’m taking a Facebook hiatus. It’s been four days, though it seems longer than that. Congratulations to me, I know. <Hallelujah hands.> [Sarcastic, I know. But I ought to share my un-Photoshopped sentiments, too, apparently. You have to start somewhere, buddies.]

One more fun fact, by way of Ritter Sport chocolates:

What Germans call “Halbbitter” (literally, “Half bitter”) is the same as what Americans call “semi-sweet.”

The half-full, half-empty optimism/pessimism riddle just got a chocolate-y analogue.



mirrorsblackportrait, 2011, mirrors, paint, frames, wire, motor, hardware; 112 x 21 x 21 in / 2.8 m x 0.5 x 0.5 m (site variable).

mirrorsblackportrait, 2011, mirrors, paint, frames, wire, motor, hardware; 112 x 21 x 21 in / 2.8 m x 0.5 x 0.5 m (site variable).

I made mirrorsblackportrait, a new kinetic sculpture, for The Black Portrait, an exhibition curated by Natasha L. Logan and Hank Willis Thomas, currently on view through May 16 at Rush Arts Gallery, 526 W. 26th Street in New York City’s Chelsea district. I’m quite pleased of the result and very proud to be in the show, which is mostly 2-D portraits or figurative works by African American artists, as well as a few videos and installations. I think my piece is points out the construction of race, as well as working as an abstraction, in a sense, within the show.

I’ve posted a video on Vimeo of mirrorsblackportrait. Have a look!

If you’re in town, please visit the show, I think it’s got a lot of strong works in it. I’d also be happy to walk through the show too, if you’re interested—email me. Cheers!


Duke Riley, Gary Hill, Erik Wysocan

I took a very brief jaunt around NYC’s Chelsea a few days ago and was enamored with the following shows:

Duke Riley: Two Riparian Tales of Undoing
Magnan Metz Gallery, 521 West 26th Street
Through April 9 (Last day is tomorrow!)

I’d adored a prior show at Magnan Metz Gallery on West 26th Street, and I was impressed again with the scope of Riley’s exhibition. There are two large, detailed shows that remind me of historical museums in different ways. The first, on one of Riley’s train-riding, hobo, antecedents was an immersive installation dotted with videos, dense smells and a massive-window-turned-lightbox featuring a handmade drawing. The second tells of Riley’s attempt to recover an island near Pennsylvania where said antecedent once squatted. This is told through mosaics, a delft-inspired plate collection, artifacts, rubbings, and a documentary video. I love that Riley, additionally a tattooist, clearly has a love of the drawn line, but his draftsmanship enhances—rather than defines—the scope of his inquiries.

The MM site appears to be down at the moment, so have a look at the photos that accompany Time Out’s review of the show.

Gary Hill: of surf, death, tropes & tableaux: The Psychedelic Gedankenexperiment
Gladstone Gallery, 515 West 24th Street
Through April 23

Hill presents a series of trip-out psychedelic projects, including 3-D videos, animations, a stereoscopic photo, and a video installation that exploits optical after burns. A molecule model, presumably of lysergic acid diethlyamide, recurs throughout, in a instance where constancy does not reassure. Nice install photos on Gladstone’s site.

Erik Wysocan: A Thousand and One Nights
Andrea Rosen, 525 West 24th Street
Through April 23

I originally plotted to see David Altmejd’s exhibition in the main gallery. His oversized plexiglass vitrine displaying thread and human anatomy of clay was interesting, however, I lingered much longer in Wysocan’s installation in the back room. Viewers pass through mock metal detectors to a security clearance and storage area.

What I loved most was the way Wysocan used light, lightboxes, plexiglass, and optical media to unique effects. He had two lightboxes featuring polarizing film sandwiched between glass sheets, one of which was broken. That, in turn was in front of a wrinkled sheet of clear cellophane. I spent a long time trying to figure out how it worked, what I was looking at, appreciating the optical effects, as well as the nice installation touches (such as running electrical leads behind the drywall).

He also had bass-ackwards vitrines where, presumably confiscated objects were on display, or not, in the case of one vitrine made of dark-tinted plexiglass where each object was carefully masked out. A number of reversals occurred where exterior-grade plywood pedestals were perched upon clear vitrines. Especially charming was a still-life of flowers in rococo vases, colors muted by their encasement in a tinted vitrine. Lots of great photos on Rosen’s site.