Research

barely veiled aggression

R used to joke about the hyper-aggressive language that businessmen would appropriate for talking about business deals. Artists, however, are not innocent of similarly hollow combativeness:

Working for a contemporary art magazine, I get sent a vast amount of press material each day, almost all of which employs a strikingly similar tone of voice. Most common is the one of academic solemnity infused with a barely veiled aggression, as though art were engaged in some cultural ‘war on terror’. Words such as ‘forcing’, ‘interrogating’ or ‘subverting’ occur with incredible frequency. Boundaries are ‘broken down’ and ‘preconceptions challenged’ so often as to make subversion and radicality seem like a mandatory daily chore rather than a blow to the status quo. They perpetuate old-fashioned notions, such as that of the artist visionary liberating the masses from mental enslavement by bourgeois values. Overuse has made these words sound strangely toothless, for what’s at stake in the art is often less important (but not necessarily without value) than the language suggests.

Dan Fox, “A Serious Business: What Does it Mean to be a Professional Artist?” Frieze Magazine, Issue 121, March 2009
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Art & Development

Zeitgeists, LA art, Mysteries

Frieze, January-February 2010. Source: Frieze.com.

Even critics who hate contemporary art reckon on [the zeitgeist]—it allows them to use a small handful of particularly loathed examples in order to damn an entire system.

Dan Fox, “Spirit Guide: The Many Uses o f the Zeitgeist,” Frieze, January-February 2010.

If I had a nickel for every time someone cited Damien Hirst’s diamond-covered skull as everything that’s wrong with contemporary art….

There are certain sectors of the art world that crave a useful social role for art. Other see art as an activity making important contributions to intellectual discourse. Many look to art for pleasure. And then there are those who appreciate all of this seriousness, but crave the trappings of the entertainment industry too—fame, power, money, glamour, hierarchies, cultural parochialism. One year the art world is interested in this, the next year it’s interested in that. It wants to party, it wants to be scholarly. Markets go up, markets go down. … Everything changes and nothing changes…

—Fox, cont.

Fox’s tone might be interpreted as weary, or maybe even cynical. But I like to think that this passage is the art critic’s equivalent of the maxim, This too shall pass. Chasing the next trend in contemporary art, and comiserating about contradictions in the art world’s collective behavior, isn’t worth the time. Paradox happens.

Glimpse a tiny peek at the massive (9×14′ and up) photographs in Andreas Gursky‘s new exhibition at Gagosian Beverly Hills in “Andreas Gursky makes a long-distance connection” by Suzanne Muchnic, LA Times (March 6, 2010). They’re really a sight to behold.

Gary-Ross Pastrana, rule of thumb. Source: LATimes.com

Check out another great LA Times art review—this one of Minimum Yields Maximum, a group exhibition curated by Gina Osterloh and written by Leah Ollman.

Laura Collins-Hughes inaugurates a new series on alternative arts spaces with a profile of the very artist-friendly non-profit Southern Exposure for ARTicles, the blog of the National Arts Journalism Program.

I had a great time at SoEx’s Monster Drawing Rally, and was really pleased with the result of my hour (OK, 70 minutes) of cutting and collaging. Photos are forthcoming.

Brice Bischoff, Bronson Caves, 2010

Brice Bischoff, Bronson Caves, 2010. Source: SoEx.org


Alchemy, SoEx’s next exhibition, looks like it’s gonna be killer. Curated by Sarah Smith, the artists include Ellen Babcock, Brice Bischoff, Michelle Blade, John Chiara, Randy Colosky, Adam Hathaway, Christopher Sicat, Lindsey White. I suspect there will be many nicely executed photographs about magic in the mundane, and some unabashedly transcendentalist paintings and works on paper. A few years ago, I found San Francisco’s glut of dreamy, semi-ironic, new-age-y paintings terribly insincere and pretentious in their faux-naïveté. I’m still averse to woo-woo-for-woo-woo’s-sake, and laziness regardless of how it’s stylized. Alchemy presents highly capable artists and I’m looking forward to this show. Maybe I’ve sipped the Kool-Aid and it tasted great…. Drink it all in at the opening, Friday, March 12, 7-9pm, concurrent with the opening of Alison Pebworth’s Beautiful Possibility.

Image: Michelle Blade. Source: basebasebase.com

Image: Michelle Blade. Source: basebasebase.com


…Along those same lines, Michelle Blade‘s work can exhibit an earnestness that is anachronistically un-ironic, but I really loved every minute of viewing Blow as Deep as You Want to Blow, her solo exhibition at Triple Base Gallery (through March 21). [Full disclosure: she’s a collaborator of mine; I constructed the lightbox in the show.] She’s turned her high attention to materials and craftsmanship towards transcendence, patterned rugs and metaphysical books. Deploying opalescent paints and vellum marked on both sides, she’s created physical experiences of radiance. It’s Romanticism for 2010. Go see it in person. The front room is great, and if the back room, filled with accomplished works on paper, is not enough, there’s even more works on paper spilling over in a portfolio on the flat files. Inspirational work ethic and spirit-informing content matter.

Perhaps that’s why mystery, now more than ever, has special meaning. Because it’s the anomaly, the glaring affirmation that the Age of Immediacy has a meaningful downside. Mystery demands that you stop and consider—or, at the very least, slow down and discover. It’s a challenge to get there yourself, on its terms, not yours….

The point is, we should never underestimate process. The experience of the doing really is everything. The ending should be the end of that experience, not the experience itself.

J.J. Abrams, “J.J. Abrams on the Magic of Mystery,” Wired Magazine, 17.05, April 20, 2009.

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