Practical advice from artists. I share my favorite quotes from Living and Sustaining a Creative Life about time management, navigating inside and outside of the market, how artists shape the art worlds we would like to participate in, optimism, and gratitude.
I recommend Sharon Louden’s Living and Sustaining a Creative Life (University of Chicago, 2013) to artists.* It’s a conversational, engaging read with 40 short essays or interviews with visual artists on the practical matters of being an artist.
Common topics are:
- time management; notably, many artists are parents and talk frankly about juggling family responsibilities
- gallery relationships, roles, responsibilities
- acknowledging assistants and vendors (something that is nearly invisible in the art world)
- day jobs—many contributors are working as teachers; others are art handlers or artists’ assistants, or as as Sean Mellyn describes, “the post-art school, low-wage worker force—artists that make the art world run”
- studio time: how to use it wisely, and not taking it for granted
The book is full of useful insights, but it doesn’t include one-size-fits-all secrets to success. Rather, readers learn about the diversity of artists’ lives and strategies.
There are as many ways to run an artist’s studio as there are ways to make art.
in the same way that you’re in your studio coming up with a very individual body of work … your career should be the same way. …no two careers look exactly the same.
I’ve struggled a lot with managing time and space since moving to New York. It feels like a catch-22: you work more to afford a space, leaving little time to use your space. This seems like a nearly universal challenge, and artists use numerous strategies. One I’ve started exploring is waking up early.
Finding time… is the most valuable commodity.
—Blane de St. Croix
everything is made little by little… process is key.
There are never enough hours in the day. [After having a child] I’ve pretty much stopped procrastinating; I just don’t have the time.
my work is so incredibly labor-intensive that time is more precious than space.
—Michael Waugh, on subletting studio space instead of keeping a day job
Scheduling Studio Time
at least several times a month, I will wake up … 4:00 or 5:00 a.m. … The amount I’ve accomplished over the years in these pre-dawn hours has been significant.
As teachers, [my husband and I] are both designated atypical work structures…. This flexibility provides for bursts of creative output throughout the year. The downside … is inconsistency. We are in a regular state of building a graceless schedule…. with the exception of an early 4:30 a.m. routine that gives my studio practice its resolute rhythm.
I … get up at 5:30 a.m. … to work.
I maximize my time—I usually work seven days a week.
—Blane de St. Croix
…during the academic school year I spend three days a week at my teaching job, and three days a week in my studio.
A day of rest.
Being self-employed, I am susceptible to the impulse to work every day. To avoid burning out, I take one day off every week… on Sunday. The double benefit … is [looking] forward to Sundays [as well as] Mondays, eager to begin working again.
Setting Boundaries to Protect Studio Time
For me, the studio is for working: painting, drawing, developing ideas. I try to allocate three to four studio days a week. …this means nothing else is scheduled on those days.
on days that I am not teaching [I] regulate all non-creative tasks … to the morning so I can be an unfettered artist in the afternoon and evening. At least one late night in the studio every week helps tremendously.
Nothing is more critical to my process than time…. [after having kids] There is no room for waste. I try not to schedule meetings/appointments during studio time, and to keep clear lines around work and play, which requires a great deal of discipline.
I manage and try to keep up a reasonable balance between studio and home. I … have rules … only working during daylight hours and very rarely on weekends … based on aesthetics… making my professional life comfortable naturally leads to that life being sustainable.
I needed to harmonize the ecology of studio life with life in the world. The necessities and imperatives of one don’t always support the other. … Paying bills, maintaining jobs and relationships persistently threatened to pop [the studio’s] protective bubble of productive dissociation, while success itself created tasks and responsibilities that also encroached on the time necessary to sustain the very process that produced it.
A note of self-forgiveness.
It’s impossible to do all things right at all times, and so in deciding to be an artist, I finally put my practice above all….
The biggest struggle throughout my life as an artist has been to put my studio time first. This doesn’t always sit so well with the people in my life, but after 25 years I have managed to surround myself with those who accept this as a given in our relationship.
Family time and time spent away from art-making allow my studio experience to be more focused, essential, and creative. … life has to be nourished first. Creativity follows sustenance.
Having Flexible Space
I maintain a smaller live/work studio, and get larger space when big projects require it. This helps me maintain my overhead.
—Blane de St. Croix
What previous tenants had used for a living room, I use for a studio … I’ve been able to tame my freely spreading work space by renting storage nearby.
My studio is in my home, so I don’t waste any time commuting.
With the studio door about 18 steps from the bedroom…, I’m able to get up and immediately go to work.
Home, university and studio are all within walking distance from each other.
—Justin Quinn, who lives in a small city in Minnesota
Having my studio, [home and job] in close proximity … is very important in order that I spend as much time as I can working on my artwork.
Space and time need to be purchased and it converts many artists into responsible money-makers.
20% for savings, 30% for taxes. This leaves 50% for me to live on.
Find Your Own Way
Working Within the Market
[Living from sales] means I sometimes live well and at other times marginally.
Just because you’re showing, you’re not making, necessarily, enough money to pay the bills. And … it’s just very up and down. That’s the thing all artists have to contend with.
The sales from my work support my family.… a situation I tried hard to avoid…, because I didn’t want to be beholden to the marketplace.
—Beth Lipman (who formerly worked as an arts administrator, which left 8 hours/week to make art)
The Market’s Myths
…many artists with apparently thriving careers and gallery representation still had day jobs. …the art world is at least 50% smoke and mirrors. … tons of brilliant and well known-artists (and curators, and critics and art dealers) are utterly broke, working full-fledged outside jobs [and/or] relying on money from their families.
Working Outside the Market
the work I love to do best involves interactivity, community action, and … political topics…. A huge part of my success has been in coming to this realization early, because I think artists can get very mired in success models that are really not applicable to a particular life.
I refuse to be depressed about what happens in the art market, and I am always willing to act, to take risks against the status quo, and to create the kind of work that I want to do.
Opposition to the Market
[the 1% is] the way the art market works: a hierarchical structure in which only a limited number of artists achieve any lasting recognition, usually with their work acquiring tremendous value, while other less recognized art workers exist at the margins. … [There is] inadequate support available to most contemporary practitioners, including not just monetary compensation, but all the factors that contribute to the legitimization of an artist.
my practice … has remained oppositional to the gallery system. And rather than hide behind the false idealism, I am forced to find alternative ways to make my living and support my studio and art practice. I have decided to engage myself in … projects which engage new audiences outside of the art world—and which can be sponsored and commissioned by alternative art economies and shown by museums, festivals, foundations….
Working with Galleries
Sometimes that it’s what’s in [galleries’] best interest that is their top priority. To them it’s not personal, it’s business. But for an artist, everything about their work is usually personal….
I don’t have time for the drama of dealing with galleries that don’t pay their artists.
The one deal-breaker for me is non-payment without negotiation.
I have taken a sabbatical from showing with commercial galleries….
that is a very dangerous myth…: that somehow a gallery is an artist’s parent…. I think an artist should want to be an equal player in their career…. There should not be this infantilization of the artist.
Seeking Out Alternative Institutions
It has been a conscious decision to keep my work unimpeded by seeking non-profit project spaces, institutions and museums that would fund my … projects and research.
—Blane de St. Croix
I’ve been working independently for some years now. …I don’t have a main gallery representing me…. I often work directly with clients and institutions.
It does not make sense to get invited to show in an institution where everybody enjoys professional working conditions but the artist. …an artist fee is obligatory….
Maintaining the Integrity of Your Process
The important problem … was to establish and sustain a routine in which study and learning could be braided into the activity of making artworks….
Efficiency in my practice means that I engage in willful awareness that my work is not simply a product of consciously directed, linear intellectual work….
Keeping a healthy balance between my art practice, the market, and demands of a career by buffering myself financially has been beneficial…. The pace and progress of the work are determined internally, rooted in process…
—Annette Lawrence (who holds a university teaching job)
…I heard Chuck Close on Charlie Rose saying, “Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us show up and get to work.” …I always have to remind myself, while … searching … resolution to one problem or another, that showing up and doing the work will get me there. And so it always has.
I’ve always admired those artists whose careers went through … creative transformations challenging what they know about themselves.
Serendipity is underrated.
So much of my growth is strictly about visibility, so I am continually looking for opportunities to keep my work out in the world, whether it is through my website or exhibitions.
Artists frequently feel forgotten … so it helps to curate a show with yourself in it or have people come to your studio.
Cultivate Community: Contributing and Crit Groups
Real artists buy other artists’ work. … From working in the arts, to running a gallery space, to curating shows…, and [reading] art criticism, I have become part of a community where I help people and in turn be helped.—Austin Thomas
…the last aspect of my life that … has been crucial … my community of artist and arti-involved friends. [Our] crit group … forced each of us to keep making our work when no one else cared whether we did or not.
…I’ve been in several artist groups where we … give each other unstinting critiques, with a real commitment to honesty …. I’ve learned from teaching that we almost have to pay to get truly honest critiques.
I enjoy [professional commitments such as lecturing, being a selection committee panelest, etc.] very much. …they also reinforce my interest in serving as an active citizen in the arts community…. Undoubtedly one of the most sustaining activities of my life as an artist.
Collaboration is grueling and incredible. I highly recommend it for getting out of our own headspace, which we can all start to privilege a lot more than it warrants.
Engagement: Shaping the World/Art World We Want to See
[My project’s] call is meant to challenge artists to think about what it means to be active citizens, and how their critical and creative tools might work to create humane alternatives to all those bestial acts that keep the 1% alive at the expense of the rest.
[I started my artist-run space to investigate] What direction of contemporary art production do we want to see flourish?
I like to work but don’t always like to start, so I make it as easy to begin as possible.
Everyday I create a problem for myself to solve, a battle that within my four walls is the only battle in the world.
Since my work is labor- and time-intensive, I set doable goals that insure progress from day to day. … Typically an extended body of work will take two to three years to complete.
Fear is a tool—it is more frightening to think of not evolving within my practice than not selling the work.
I like the challenge of making art and my primary motivation is curiosity. I really do want to know what something will be like if I make it. The most satisfying aspect of being an artist, for me, is to spend most of my time working out ideas.
in the end it is the everyday-ness of the studio practice that yields work that has significance and a life that has meaning.
I have come to realize the sacrifices I have to make on a daily basis… things… a social life… people… [but as] my painting professor, Stanley Whitney, said, “Even if you had every day for the rest of your life to paint, it still wouldn’t be enough.” And that wakes me up each day.
Respect, flexibility, and honesty
Respect is also a key part of my business. … In a profession ruled by deadlines, shifting priorities and unforeseen challenges, the ability to work well with others and to adapt quickly to changing circumstances is essential.
the best professional relationships that I have had have been open and honest. The art world is an extremely anxious and subjective world; the last thing that you need is to be second-guessing your work or your relationship to your dealer.
a sense of humor really helps…. And by that I mean a sense of perspective. I think that artists who come into this with a very specific idea of what’s supposed to happen [in their careers] are setting themselves up for disappointment.
I believe that [artists] will always find creative ways to overcome obstacles and support ourselves… and I am proud to belong to such a dedicated, hard-working lot.
I continue to be inspired and challenged by the smart people around me, who make me always want to be a better artist.
Ultimately, the key to running my studio relatively successfully has been my ability to interweave all these realms of art; to be nimble, to recognize the strengths and talents of the people working with and for me, and never associate myself with those who say that something cannot be done.
Every day, I feel so fortunate to be able to go into my studio and make art.
Despite … leaving New York…, I make more art and am happier than I’ve ever been. … I’m creatively stimulated almost all the time, which is an amazing place to be.
I am living exactly the life I wanted to live…. I feel very lucky to be part of this community….
[Working seven days a week] is not a sacrifice. I enjoy my artist life and need and want to be in the studio. It is a reward not a task.
—Blane de St. Croix
being in your studio should be its own reward. And if it’s not, then you might want to reconsider what your goals are. If it is, you’re going to be happy no matter what happens to you.
*Cynics may wonder what practical advice the Yale-MFA-owning, NYC-based author can offer. But I found the NYC-based essays counterweighted with non-NYC contributions that frankly covered the advantages and non-impacts of their locations. MFAs were a non-issue; practical concerns like making ends meet, were dedicated more attention.
Jerry Saltz makes some interesting observations in “Saltz on the Death of the Gallery Show” in NY Mag (3/31/13).
His main point is that
A great thing about galleries … is that they’re social spaces…. places where one can commune with the group mind.
But due art fairs, mega-collectors, and skyrocketing rents in Chelsea, galleries are
playing a diminished role in the life of art.
The problem is
When so much art is sold online or at art fairs, it’s great for the lucky artists who make money, but it leaves out everyone else who isn’t already a brand. This art exists only as commerce, not as conversation or discourse.
….Many artists are now in “abundant production,” seducing collectors on the prowl for stuff to fill their oversize atriums.
Baffinglingly, Saltz goes on to make these statements about NYC-centrism:
Art doesn’t have to be shown in New York to be validated. That requirement is long gone. Fine. But… a good Los Angeles dealer chided me for not going to art fairs, not seeing art in L.A. and London, and not keeping track of the activity online. He said I “risked being out of touch with the art world,” and he was right….
I brooded for months over this. Then … I started thinking about “the art world.” Something clicked and brightened my mood. There is no “the” art world anymore. There have always been many art worlds, overlapping, ebbing around and through one another.
This last realization seems a bit belated. Artists outside of NYC have had to cultivate their own art worlds for ages, not because of the recent overabundance of fairs, but because of long-standing NYC-centrism. NYC is home to major publications and art commerce, yet artists outside of NYC have found ways to persist—regardless of the facts that NYC critics focus on NYC shows (ahem!), and art fairs diminish Chelsea galleries’ audiences.
And, paradoxically, it seems as if Saltz is using the de-centralization of the art world to justify his own NYC-centrism. No one critic could see all the art in these different art worlds, but could certainly try harder to get out of his own city—and borough—more often.
He ends on an upbeat note:
When I go to galleries, I now mainly see artists and a handful of committed diligent critics, collectors, curators, and the like. In this quiet environment, it may be possible for us to take back the conversation. Or at least have conversations. While the ultrarich will do their deals from 40,000 feet, we who are down at ground level will be engaging with the actual art—maybe not in Chelsea, where the rents are getting too high, but somewhere. That’s fine with me.
That Saltz has been able to seek out dialogues in commercial galleries seems like a fluke, in my book. Most Chelsea galleries feel too-cool-for-school to strike up conversations.
Those spaces where dialogues happen, where art by artists’ artists is shown, are non-profit, alternative, and artist-run spaces. NYC has its share, but nothing like the vibrancy of SF Bay Area’s community, in my opinion.
I also sense that many NYC alternative spaces show a higher proportion of artists with commercial gallery representation (artists further along in the “emerging” spectrum) than those without. It would be fantastic to take a survey comparing the proportion of represented artists shown at Artist’s Space, White Columns, Sculpture Center, Socrates Sculpture Park, Smack Mellon, Momenta Art, Art in General, Apex Art and Flux Factory against those at Southern Exposure, Intersection for the Arts, The Luggage Store, The Lab, SF Camerawork, Pro Arts, and San Jose ICA. It would beg the question of what alternative art organizations are for, who they serve, what kind of dialogues they create, and with whom.
What if more commercial galleries fold in NYC, but an equal number of new non-profit and alternative spaces sprung up in their wake? What if they focused on truly emerging artists—not trying to compete with commercial spaces, but were real, imaginative, risk-taking alternatives? What if big-time critics visited and wrote about alternative spaces more often, not just when they mount shows by established artists or shut their doors? What if, essentially, NYC can learn a thing or two from other cities like San Francisco?
Among so many gallery booths, the artwork at art fairs suffers from little context, quietude, and time for reflection–but I still managed to enjoy myself at Armory, VOLTA, Independent, and Pulse (I missed Scope and the others; sorry). I assessed galleries rather than artwork, and looked at art to learn about artists and techniques. In short, I went as an artist, not a critic.
What caught my eye?
Recent Works by Artists I Like:
I love this stylish signature for this narrative “period” painting.
Photo by Anne Collier from Marc Foxx Gallery, Los Angeles (Armory). I saw another photo from this series of handouts at another booth at Independent. The list of questions are fitting for art fairs—the second question here is, “Where have I seen this before?”
Artists who piqued my curiosity:
Mirrored installation and colored pencil drawings on black paper by Claudia Weiser from Sies and Höke, Düsseldorf (Armory). I think a lot of my neo-hippie/Romanticist/mystic artist friends in California would love this work.
A nice colored pencil drawing by Claudia Weiser.
A second look: Lots of pictures, including some glorious Mad Men meets Flintstones installations. Colorful, ironic, likable pathetic-aesthetic. I can see why this work would be popular, in a Judd Apatow sort of way. Tongue-in-cheek tropes of male identity means you can have your bar cart and wink-wink humor too.
A second look: Rendering everyday objects in luxe materials is not very original, but the inanity still struck me. Craft suggests time and labor—human energy—thus imbuing objects with meaning (or the idea of meaning). Yet does meaning always equate to significance…?
You would think that only a few days after seeing the biggest cockroach in my life that I wouldn’t enjoy these pest-infested paintings by Jorge Perianes from Galeria Adhoc, Vigo (Volta). But fake bugs that don’t move are much more fun and funny than real NYC bugs. [The gallery’s site uses frames, so links to the artist’s page are not available.]
A second look: A quick glance at the gallery site suggests that this type of surrealist installation is atypical for the artist. Perhaps more is forthcoming.
Paintings of bandaged and decorated military officers by Willem Andersson from Gallery Niklas Belenius, Stockholm (VOLTA). Of course these are of grave implications, but there’s something comical about the proliferation of the medals. The complete bandaging is also reminiscent of Georgio de Chirico‘s canvas-covered manequins, and The Invisible Man TV series.
Not more than three days had passed since I told RR how no one actually types out their conceptual projects on a typewriter anymore. Above, Liversidge proves me wrong. To boot, the gallery’s site states that Liversidge types these at his kitchen table.
Per the typewritten instructions above, I stood before and read the proposal, presented a dollar bill to the gallery staff, who embossed my bill with the text. I love the site-specific, limited-duration aspect of the project. And I’m eager to learn more about Liversidge, to gain insight on the possible explanations for the text.
Will history be kind to me? Will I write history? And since the project is limited to the Armory Fair, and only US dollar bills were proscribed, What are the consequences of how I spend my money on writing history?
A second look: As it turns out, Liversidge makes text installations that completely appeal to my tastes. We’ve even used similar, ambivalent/psychological texts; the same maxim inspired his project, The Darkest Hour is Just Before the Dawn and my installation, Binary Pair. He also uses flowers to spell out advice that positive psychologists would agree with. Fantastic!
Soares detail: “For KATHERINA v. F. who taught me / that love is more / than the longing / to be together.” A brilliant project that compiles uses a few words to convey unknowable authors’ love and gratitude.
Artworks relating to themes in my current work—happiness, exuberance, decoration, cheap plastic, mythologized interiors:
Photo by Alex McLeod from Angell Gallery, Toronto (Pulse: Impulse). This is like a still-life equivalent of Owl City—super cute verging on twee, appealing to many and possibly grotesque to cynics. I think it’s adorable, and also interesting in how it balances extraordinary cuteness and good taste.
Image Source: Artist’s section at MorganLehmanGallery.com
Garage-inspired installation by Joseph Burwell from Miyako Yoshinaga Art Prospects, Tokyo (Pulse: Impulse). Though there is a high proportion of 2-D art in the installation, it appeals to my interest in the domestic and decoration—what is art and not art, why, and how each functions to provide pleasure or happiness.
Color-shifting LED signage by Kira Kim from Kukje Gallery/Tina Kim Gallery, Seoul/NYC (Armory). Cursive scripts were never meant to be set in all capitals like this. The typographic awkwardness is part of the ridiculousness of such a sign.
A second look: Oddly, Kim’s work is completely different on the site. No textual works or signs and no discernable ties to love.
A map made with stickers by Nelson Lierner from Galerie Gabrielle Maubre, Paris (Armory). [I’d link to the artist’s page, but there isn’t one.] That’s Micky and Minnie Mouse on North America, kangaroos on Australia, and—yes—gorillas on Africa.
A second look: I’m all for experimentation, but when the results go horribly wrong, as it did with the gallery’s ugly Google-based website, conventional HTML seems not so bad.
Beads, sequins and styrofoam by Sarah Pucci from Air de Paris, Paris (Armory). [Frame-based site—no link to artist’s page available. From the home page, click on news to access main navigation.]
Another Pucci. I like how it looks so ornate and rich with such common materials. In viewing her other work, she seems to reference the Baroque, but there’s something crafty that speak to heavily beaded garments from many cultures too.
No labels identified these holographic sticker sheets from Seventeen Gallery, London (Armory). It was adjacent to Abigail Reynold’s collages, however.
Conceptual and textual works:
Antoni Muntadas’ Project involved framed texts with the 5W’s and other basic questions. Gabrielle Maubrie, Paris (Armory).
Text panels by Fia Backström, Murray Guy, NYC (Armory).
Assorted toxins. Gustavo Artigasi.
Textual by association: bookcase of wood planks by Ulrik Weck from Galleri Christina Wilson, Copenhagen (Armory). [This idea of planks standing in for books will be echoed in Re-Covering, a group exhibition curated by Mike Chavez-Dawson at Untitled Gallery in Manchester this summer.]
Thick felt letters by an unidentified artist, Sutton Lane, London/Paris/Brussels (Independent).
Oversized prints/posters on a tiled penny floor. Artist(s) unidentified, Untitled Gallery, NY (Armory).
Projector with a loop that shows only light, on a silver metallic canvas. Artist unknown, from Sprueth Magers, Berlin/London (Independent).
Screenprint on brushed metal by Alberto Borea from Isabel Hurley, Málaga (VOLTA).
In commercial printing, foil printing has been around a long time, but only recently has it been developed for fine art printmaking workshops. If you’re Damien Hirst or Other Criteria, however, you can employ commercial printing techniques for fine art editions.
Gold brick crayons by Andrew Lewicki from Charles James Gallery, Los Angeles (Pulse).
Detail of a Matsubara sculpture. Video displayed beneath a cup of water.
Source: MA2 Gallery website.
Black and white video of a ring of fire. What you can’t see from the photo is that the video is behind a piece of two-way mirror. In a white gallery, it’s only when dark reflections—such as the viewer’s face—appear in the mirror that the video becomes visible. Matsubara’s work is impressively slick—few pieces had visible electrical leads, and it’s evident that many of his pieces use the latest, thinnest and smallest screen technologies. There was a Gothic/cabinet of curiosity/black mirror feel to the works that would appeal to many people.
I’m thoroughly perplexed by this piece. The wall label ascribes the material as “etched mirror,” but etching is done with acid, which would leave a frosted surface, which the glass does not have on either side. The pattern suggests that the hot, liquid silvering was dripped or thrown at the glass. Typically, glass is not meant to withstand sudden changes in temperature, so that it might survive partial silvering is really interesting…
[A look at the gallery site brought me to this installation…
Source: Jim Lambie’s secion on themoderninstitute.com.
…by Jim Lambie. Those papery things are aluminum sheets with fluorescent paint. Love it!]
A sculpture with Plexiglas Radiant, whose colors change upon reflection and transparency, sort of like Golden Paint’s Interference Colors. By Patrick Aarnivaara from Galleri Charlotte Lund, Stockholm (Armory).
More Plexiglas Radiant. Artist unidentified, Casa Triângulo, Saõ Paulo (Armory).
Another unidentified artist, I believe, from Casa Triângulo, Saõ Paulo (Armory).
The installation featured a flash of projected light onto kinetic crystal sculptures.
This made me want to paint on photos. I’ve done it in the past, but adding only a layer of colorful dots is really sweet and playful. Photo with paint and ink by Sebastiaan Bremmer from Hales Gallery, London (Pulse). Hales’ site features other photos with dots by Bremmer.
Realist interiors rendered only in subtly-folded paper by Simon Schubert from Patrick Heide Contemporary Art, London (Pulse). Looks like Heide doesn’t represent Schubert. For more pics, visit the artist’s site.
Paper sculptures of paper crafts. Artist unknown, Galeria Casas Riegner, Bogotá (Armory).
The binder clip is made of paper. Artist unknown, Galeria Casas Riegner, Bogotá (Armory).
The triangle and stool is made of wood. But the tapes, razor and eraser are made of paper. Artist unknown, Galeria Casas Riegner, Bogotá (Armory).
Interesting display strategies:
Glass: slimmer and cheaper than a vitrine; the object is not encased, but its surface is protected. There’s something nice, too, about how it’s flattened into an image. Étienne Chambaud from Bugada & Cargnel, Paris (Armory).
Apologies to artists and their galleries for the quality of my snapshots. I know many artists dislike poor documentation of their work (myself included), but bear in mind that the purpose of my posts is to share my enthusiasm. Linking to galleries’ websites is a time-consuming task I could do without, but I do it so that readers can learn more about the artists, and hopefully, see more photos of the works, or perhaps even see the work in person one day.
I collected information from wall labels, which were not always available. Booth signage was sometimes confusing. Sorry for any incomplete or incorrect information. Corrections welcome.
Some connections between projects in Oakland, California, USA and Birmingham and Manchester, England, U.K….
Eastside Projects is an artist-run space, a public gallery for the City of Birmingham and the World. It is organised by a founding collective comprising Simon & Tom Bloor, Céline Condorelli, Ruth Claxton, James Langdon and Gavin Wade, who first conceived and now runs the space.
Eastside Projects is a new model for a gallery, one where space and programme are intertwined: a complex evolving programme of works and events starting from radical historical positions. We aim to commission and present experimental contemporary art practices and exhibitions. The artist is invited to set the existing conditions for the gallery. Work may remain. Work may be responded to. The gallery is a collection. The gallery is an artwork. The artist-run space is a public good.
We aim to support the cultural growth of the City.
Sight School is an artist-run exhibition space directed by Michelle Blade. The space began from a desire to create dialogue around new modes of living and being in the world in order to reveal connections between art and life.
As Michelle and I have worked together on Irrational Exuberance (Asst. Colors), I’ve gotten a better sense of her vision for Sight School. She’s committed to her local neighborhood—she makes a point to get to know her neighbors, put up flyers at local businesses, and support the growth of the Golden Gate Arts District (an emergent auxiliary to downtown Oakland’s wildly popular Art Murmur). She is highly invested in community—her decisions that structure the gallery and space are often driven by generosity and openness. She’s got a keen sense of contemporary practice in art. I get the feeling that the gallery is something like a commons for art experimentation; that her aim is to provide a site for artists to do experimental projects that would be considered untenable elsewhere. She seems interested in this as an experiment, thinking of every next move as an opportunity to innovate. This is not merely another gallery; she’s stepping out of the white cube by hosting one-night events, mutual learning projects and discourses. So when I re-visited Eastside Projects’ mission statement, particularly
The artist is invited to set the existing conditions for the gallery.
The gallery is an artwork.
The artist-run space is a public good.
it occurred to me that ESP and Sight School might be kindred spirits, with their energetic, unruly collectivity.
The director of ESP is an interesting curator and artist’s book instigator named Gavin Wade. In an interview on NYFA.org, Wade says that American artists differ from their UK counterparts because we’re less
willing to interact and collaborate and allow their work even to sit on top of someone else’s. There’s a certain individuality here; New York is so much about standing alone.
That interest in interaction, collaboration and experimentation that challenges artworks’ autonomy will be at work in Unlimited Potentials, an exhibition organized by Manchester-based curator and performance artist Mike Chavez-Dawson at Cornerhouse.
The show is comprised of several ambitious components, including loads of collaborators (including Wade), a project instigated by Liam Gillick, dozens of contributors (myself included) and a talk with Kwong Lee, the brilliant director of Castlefield Gallery, an important MCR artist-run space (their recent exhibitions include shows by David Osbaldeston and Leo Fitzmaurice and Kim Rugg).
Last year, when I exhibited my installation, Unlimited Promise, at an open studio at the end of the Breathe Residency at Chinese Art Center in Manchester, Mike Chavez-Dawson told me about Unrealised Potentials. I’m excited to play a small part in his forthcoming exhibition, especially when you consider the themes of resisting finished-ness in artwork in We have as much time as it takes at the Wattis:
We have as much time as it takes questions and highlights expectations of achievement, productivity, and established systems of management that make up the programs and academic mission of the Wattis Institute and CCA. … The works embody circular processes, resist completion, welcome change, and refute demands for definable results and resolution. They challenge the conventional form of the art object and the traditional parameters of exhibitions.
I’m excited that this conceptual investigation and expansion of exhibition-form-making is occurring in so many spaces around the world right now. In conjunction with more traditional viewing experiences, viewers of art are being offered more ways to think about art, participate in exhibitions, and complete the speculative thought processes artists begin.
My last day of four in London. Too premature to sum up any concrete ideas. Immediate impressions follow:
-Manchester’s great. I was really impressed with the city’s investment in culture. Saw “Outside of the Box,” a knock-out show of media art at Cornerhouse, an contemporary art gallery and film hub, as well as a cool retrospective of work by SF-based Lynn Hershman Leeson at the Whitworth Gallery at the University of Manchester. I was so impressed with the city’s vibrance that I found the constant refrain that Manchester was trying to shake off its industrial reputation to seem outdated, but a Londoner’s slight scoff at Manchester proved me that other minds have yet to be opened.
-London has looked like this in my visit:
–Lewisham Road feels remarkably similar, at least on appearances to parts of Brooklyn: lots of immigrants from all over the world, internet cafes/call centers, low storefronts with lightboxes, fried chicken, mattress retailers. Of course on the other side of Lewisham Road is Goldsmith’s, where I’ve stumbled upon a small community of Filipino and Fil-Am expats. How funny it is to sit in a Morrocan cafe in punk-rock Camden-town and listen to Taglish.
–Quiet opulence everywhere. The city is not especially pretty, but the remarkable architecture always gives me an awareness of a sensibility of being in the seat of an Imperial power, however faded it may be in the shadow of the U.S. superpower. Even as I snap my tourist photos of Parliament and Big Ben, I’m thinking: what were the conditions that made all of this possible? The finest building materials: gold, marble. The huge consumption of tea from China, chocolate from Latin America, sugar from the West Indies? I like the idea that somehow I can subvert something by being here and sitting in Royal parks, walking through the free museums… but of course what’s more important is what I can bring home as a citizen, not just a consumer, of the United States.
I was startled and amazed and angered when, lost in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London’s swank South Kensington, I stumbled upon a view of two great halls. In one hall sat two monumental columns, which soared to the atrium several stories above. They were the two halves of Trajan’s Column, built in Rome in AD 131. On the other side sat a conservatory for antiquities, with a replica of Michalangelo’s David sitting among dozens of partially crated busts, statues and reliquaries. The view of these priceless antiquities was awe-inspiring. And I mean awe in the sense of terrific, and terrible. I am only surmising the conditions that made it possible for the Column to be cut in half and moved to South Kensington from Rome. And there are so many layers of meaning to explore: the collapse of the Roman empire, the past greatness of the British Empire, the vulnerability in the consolidation of wealth and power of that magnitude.
My DIY Burtynsky. Visited the Mall of America — mega-church of consumerism and diversions — on an unplanned overnight layover in Minneapolis (Tip: Flying to London? Fly direct and avoid Northwest Air).
The wealth of nations at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
–In addition to some art and history museums, I’ve been visiting as many contemporary art spaces as possible, seeing everything from Doris Salcedo’s unsettling exhibition at White Cube on Hoxton Square to Ed Ruscha’s stunning watercolors at Gagosian on Oxford street — about £1m in small photorealist watercolors were watched over by two suited and booted guards who found my photo-taking suspicious — to group shows at Alma Enterprises, which has all the atmosphere of a decaying public high school, in up-and-coming Bethnel Green. The standout space, however, is inIVA, the Institute for International Visual Arts, spearheaded by an international consortium of artists, thinkers and business leaders of color. It’s brand new, on a smelly alley in Hoxton, with a largish gallery, project space, and library that collects catalogs by artists of color only. I love it. It’s a beautiful building in a great location with top-notch art and huge potential to be a formidible force in London, and hopefully, the world. I find it hope-inspiring.
Rico Reyes (artist, curator, theorist and my generous host in London) and I had the good fortune of participating in Leticia Valverdes’ project, “Is London the Place for Me?” As I’ve been travelling and shooting photos of landscapes of sheeps and stone walls, neo-Gothic cathedrals and plates of bangers and mash, I’d been wondering how much I’m looking for experiences that fit my expectations of England, instead of seeing England as it is. But with Valverdes’ props and a digital studio, we were able to play with the cliches. We placed ourselves — Chinese American and Filipino American artists — into a tea room designed to display wealth and refinement. It’s a simple, ironic gesture, and I enjoyed it very much.