Art & Development

Irrational Exuberance (Asst. Colors) Closing

Irrational Exuberance (Asst. Colors) closed today with a closing reception and an open dialogue featuring guests curator and critic Glen Helfand and artist, writer and theorist Ginger Wolfe-Suarez. Writer and curator Patricia Maloney moderated a lively discussion on topics such as optimism and pessimism, pleasure in art, the search for happiness, beauty, Kant, viewers’ experiences, discount stores, metaphorical/literal readings vs phenomenological readings, readings vs experiences, and critical versus psychological readings of the work in the show. Work by artists such as Haim Steinbach, Allan McCollum, Cary Leibowitz, Amanda Ross-Ho and Stephanie Syjuco also came up. Numerous artists, critics and curators were in attendance.

I was honored to help convene such thoughtful guests and attendees. Hearing their responses, reservations and speculations about my work was especially humbling.

As Is: Pop & Complicity

Dialog at the closing reception to Irrational Exuberance, Asst. Colors at Sight School, Oakland, CA

Featured guests (L-R): artist, writer and theorist Ginger Wolfe-Suarez, curator and critic Glen Helfand, and writer and curator Patricia Maloney.

Vicki Gannon poses a question, as Amanda Curreri, Frank Ebert, Matthew Rana and others look on.

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Art & Development

Sat., June 12: As Is: Pop and Stuffhood, Dialogue and Closing

as is

Sight School presents
AS IS: POP & STUFFHOOD
Closing reception for Irrational Exuberance (Asst. Colors) art exhibition and dialog featuring Glen Helfand and Ginger Wolfe-Suarez
Moderated by Patricia Maloney
Saturday, June 12
2-4 pm

An open dialogue agitating notions about artists’ shops, pop art, complicity and metaphors

Glen Helfand is a freelance writer, critic, curator and teacher. His writing on art, culture, design and technology, often concentrating on works by Bay Area artists, has appeared in Artforum, Art on Paper, Salon, SFGate, Wired, San Francisco Bay Guardian, and many other publications.

Patricia Maloney is a curator and writer living and working in Berkeley, CA. In addition to her role as Editor-in-Chief for Art Practical, she works with the alternative exhibition space Ampersand International Arts, is a contributing writer to Artforum.com and a frequent commentator on the weekly contemporary art podcast Bad at Sports.

Ginger Wolfe-Suarez is an emerging sculptor, writer, and theorist whose work has used a combination of sculpture, ephemeral events, text, and performance to negotiate shifting concepts of memory–both historical, personal, imagined, and desired.

In conjunction with the closing reception for Irrational Exuberance (Asst. Colors), on view May 14 – June 12, 2010, Wed-Sat, noon-5pm and by appointment.

Sight School
5651 San Pablo Ave (at Stanford Ave)
Oakland, CA

In preparation for the dialog, I’ve compiled a list of artists’ shops. One of my favorites:

Allan Ruppersburg, Als Cafe, 1969 Installation, 1913 West Sixth Street, Los Angeles, CA. Source: Air de Paris website, Artists, Allan Ruppersberg, Kunsthalle Dusseldorf page

Al’s Cafe, a diner re-imagined by Allan Ruppersberg in the 1960s in LA.

To give thanks where they’re due: I first approached Michelle to do a show because I was so inspired after visiting a series of “feral events” programmed by Kim Anno and friends in empty storefronts in Berkeley. The sense of potential that incredible, urgent art experiences could happen here was an irresistible, welcome alternative to the deference given to San Francisco/commercial galleries.

Thanks to Kim for the leadership and inspiration, Josh Churchill for the invitation, and Justin Limoges, Brian Barreto, Dana Hemenway, Suzanne Husky, Amanda Curreri and Michael Yap for the support, without whom Irrational Exuberance (Asst. Colors) would not have been possible.

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Art & Development, Community

parallels

Some connections between projects in Oakland, California, USA and Birmingham and Manchester, England, U.K….

Simon and Tom Bloors' exhibition at Eastside Projects, Birmingham UK, 2009

Simon and Tom Bloors' exhibition at Eastside Projects, Birmingham UK, 2009

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.

James Sterling Pitt, installation view, Sight School

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.

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Art & Development

First Friday Openings

Lots of art-fun on Friday to look forward to! Just a matter of picking sides of the Bay; or being super ambitious and light of foot.

EAST BAY

Groundswell opening at Kala Gallery
2990 San Pablo, Berkeley, CA
6-8 pm
A juried exhibition featuring Elliot Anderson, Mitra Fabian, Nathan Hodges, Suzanne Husky, Joan Margolies-Kiernan, Rebecca Najdowski, Jennifer Parker and Barney Haynes, and Emily Payne

Oakland Art Murmur
Various Galleries in and around downtown Oakland
6-9 pm
Krowswork is usually pretty interesting.

Junk Pirate at the Compound Gallery
1167 65th Street, Oakland, CA
7-10 pm
A solo show of reconfigured junk store items by Oakland artist, art impresario and zinester Pete Glover.

(Shameless self-promotion alert!)
Irrational Exuberance (Asst. Colors) at Sight School
5651 San Pablo (at Stanford), Oakland, CA
5-8pm
My solo show of new installation, sculpture and works on paper inspired by discount stores, the decorative impulse and positive psychology.

Here and Now kicks off with the first night of Elaine Buckholtz’ Out of the Blue (Mills Hall Reconsidered)
Mills Hall (c.1871), Mills College, Oakland, CA
Sunset to 10:00 pm
Admittedly, I’m presenting a project on June 5th in this series as well, but I think Elaine’s work is killer too.

The Oakland Museum of California is also open til 8pm. But it is every Friday and Saturday, would you believe?

The Residents perform at the Berkeley Art Museum
2575 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, CA
7-9pm
The galleries will also be open til 9pm.

SAN FRANCISCO

Now and When opening reception at SFAC Gallery
Main Gallery and Grove Street, SF
6-8 pm
Newly-commissioned projects along the theme of time capsules by The Bureau of Urban Secrets, Joseph del Pesco, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Packard Jennings, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Ken Lo, Gay Outlaw & Bob Schmitz, Paul Schiek and Margaret Tedesco & Matt Borruso and Taro Hattori. Curated by Meg Shiffler.

Rehistoricizing Abstract Expressionism in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1950s-1960s, opening at the Luggage Store Gallery
1007 Market Street, San Francisco, CA
6-9pm
This show sounds killer. I love it when programming is ambitious. Villa, venerable SF artist and teacher, aims nothing less than to set the record straight on the presence of women and people of color in AbEx, largely seen as a field for macho cowboys.

Curated by CARLOS VILLA. This large scale exhibition creates and contextualizes an archive of women artists and artists of color who were undervalued because of the public and personal hegemonic social and aesthetic scrutiny at that time. Featuring 33 artists.

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Research

Groceteria

Stumbled upon Groceteria, a blog about American grocery stores from 1920-1980s. There’s a friendliness and quirkiness to the architecture, store layout and typography that I find utterly optimistic and charming.

My current exhibition at Sight School, Irrational Exuberance (Asst. Colors), is informed by artists’ shops, which are variations and tangents of real shops. Better still, grocery stores are at an intersection of commerce and food (where there’s vitality and latent good cheer and humor: think of dancing bananas, cheese balls and hot dogs).

54. …Camp asserts that good taste is not simply good taste; that there exists, indeed, a good taste of bad taste. … The discovery of the good taste of bad taste can be very liberating. The man who insists on high and serious pleasures is depriving himself of pleasure; he continually restricts what he can enjoy…. Here Camp taste supervenes upon good taste as a daring and witty hedonism. It makes the man of good taste cheerful, where before he ran the risk of being chronically frustrated….
55. Camp taste is, above all, a mode of enjoyment, of appreciation – not judgment. Camp is generous. It wants to enjoy. It only seems like malice, cynicism. (Or, if it is cynicism, it’s not a ruthless but a sweet cynicism.) Camp taste doesn’t propose that it is in bad taste to be serious; it doesn’t sneer at someone who succeeds in being seriously dramatic. What it does is to find the success in certain passionate failures.
56. Camp taste is a kind of love, love for human nature. It relishes, rather than judges, the little triumphs and awkward intensities of “character.” . . . Camp taste identifies with what it is enjoying. People who share this sensibility are not laughing at the thing they label as “a camp,” they’re enjoying it. Camp is a tender feeling.(Susan Sontag, “Notes on Camp”)

Play The Clash’s “Lost in the Supermarket” on iLike/MySpace.

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Research

Points of Reference: Irrational Exuberance: Artists’ shops

A partial selection of artist’s shops and shop-like installations informing Irrational Exuberance (Asst. Colors), on view at Sight School through June 12:

Claes Oldenberg’s The Store, (Ray Gun Mfg. Co.), 1961
107 East 2nd Street, New York, NY, USA

Claes Oldenburg, The Store. 1961. Letterpress, composition: 26 5/8 x 20 7/16" (67.6 x 51.9 cm); sheet: 28 3/8 x 22 1/8" (72.1 x 56.2 cm). Mary Ellen Meehan Fund. © 2010 Claes Oldenburg. Source: Moma.org/collection

Read MOMA’s gallery label text for this poster.

Claes Oldenburg’s The Store (1961), photographed by Robert R. McElroy. Source: Artnet.com

In 1961, Claes Oldenburg began working on The Store, a storefront on the Lower East Side of Manhattan where he made and sold his work. He presented himself as both a shopkeeper and a manufacturer, cramming the store windows with brightly painted objects he made by layering plaster-soaked muslin over chicken-wire armatures. These items, including Bride Mannikin, constitute non-wearable clothes and inedible food displayed for sale. Putting into question each object’s function, Oldenburg sought to blur the line between sculpture and commodity, viewer and consumer, and art and life. (moca.org)

Michael Lüthy wrote about Claes Oldenburg’s “The Store” for Shopping. A Century of Art and Consumer Culture, ed. by Max Hollein and Christoph Grunenberg (a catalog for an exhibition at Tate Liverpool, Ostfildern-Ruit, 2002, p. 148-53). You can read an excerpt on Lüthy’s archive.

You can see a large selection of sculptures from Oldenburg’s “The Store,” including “Bride Mannikin,” in Collection: MOCA’s First Thirty Years, at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles thru July 12.

Various artists, The American Supermarket, organized by Ben Birillo and Paul Bianchini, 1964
Bianchini Gallery, Upper East Side, New York, NY, USA

American Supermarket Exhibition 1964. From Life magazine. Source: Timelines.com

Roy Lichtenstein, Turkey Shopping Bag, 1964, Screenprint on shopping bag with handles, Composition: 7 1/2 x 9" (19.1 x 22.8cm); sheet (irreg.): 19 5/16 x 16 15/16" (49 x 43cm). Publisher: Bianchini Gallery, New York. Printer: Ben Birillo, New York. Edition: approx. 125. Source: MOMA.org, collection section

A collaboration between the great names of Pop Art including Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Richard Artschwager, Robert Watts, Tom Wesselman and others, the exhibition is an evocation of an ordinary 1964 supermarket – complete with meat, cheese and fruit counters, neon signs and jaunty background musak. In the installation’s “aisles,” real foods are mixed together with iconic Pop works such as Warhol’s stacks of Campbell’s Soup cans and Robert Watts’ alluring chrome fruits and multi-colored wax eggs.
…With its Pop Art proprietors The American Supermarket celebrated the spectacle of consumption with a happening-like event in which shopping was elevated to an art form and serious art collectors were turned into ordinary supermarket customers. (from a press release from The Andy Warhol Museum, May 20, 2003

More info on The American Supermarket can be found in Shopping. A Century of Art and Consumer Culture, ed. by Max Hollein and Christoph Grunenberg (a catalog for an exhibition at Tate Liverpool, Ostfildern-Ruit, 2002

George Brecht and Robert Filliou, La Cédille qui Sourit (The Cedilla that Smiles), 1965-8
Villefranche-sur-Mer, in the south of France

George Brecht with Robert Filliou at La Cédille qui sourit, rue des May, Villefranche-sur-mer, 1965-1968. Source: Flux Fest: Fluxus & Happening

The shop was intended to explore ideas about the ‘obtuse relationship(s) to the institution of language'[35] but instead ushered in what he described cheerfully as “accelerated creative inactivity” (Brecht’s obit from the Independent, as quoted in en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Brecht)

Allan Ruppersburg’s Al’s Cafe, 1969
1913 West Sixth Street, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Allen Ruppersberg, Al's Cafe, 1969-1995. Source: x-traonline.org

Allan Ruppersburg, Als Cafe, 1969 Installation, 1913 West Sixth Street, Los Angeles, CA. Source: Air de Paris website, Artists, Allan Ruppersberg, Kunsthalle Dusseldorf page

The Cafe was intended to be a limited-run restaurant, staged once a week—Thursday nights from eight to eleven—in a rented location in downtown Los Angeles. It was to function socially as a meeting place for friends, members of the art world, and anyone else who wanted to drop by. In direct opposition to what one might have expected from a young [Minimalist/Post-Minimalist/Conceptualist] artist at the time, the decor was familiar to the point of strangeness: hyperfamiliar, you might say today…. It was a place where any American would have felt at home. It was exorbitantly familiar….

…[Ruppersberg] was determined to emphasize culture at every turn, to demonstrate that we are wholly defined by it in every act of … of representation of any kind…. In my memory, it was Al who reminded our troubled generation that simple, normal, everyday rituals of human commerce (horrors!) contained a significant complement of decency and joy that needed to be recognized and appreciated—not in spite of, but along with whatever else might have been wrong with the world in those especially uneasy years. (Allan McCollum, “Allen Ruppersberg: What One Loves About Life Are the Things That Fade,” from “Al Ruppersberg: Books, Inc.,” Frac Limousin, France, 2001)

Gordon Matta-Clark, Food, 1971
Corner of Prince and Wooster Streets, New York, NY, USA

Promotion for Food, a restaurant by Gordon Matta-Clark and other artists. Photo: Richard Landry, alteration by Gordon Matta-Clark. Source: New York Times.

Artists were also invited weekly to serve as guest chefs, and the whole dinner was considered a performance art piece. One of the most fabled, costing $4, was Matta-Clark’s “bone dinner,” which featured oxtail soup, roasted marrow bones and frogs’ legs, among other bony entrees. After the plates were cleared, the bones were scrubbed and strung together so that diners could wear their leftovers home. (Randy Kennedy, “When Meals Played the Muse,” New York Times, Feb. 21, 2007.)

Martha Rosler’s Garage Sale, 1973 / London Garage Sale, 2005
University of California at San Diego art gallery, CA, USA / Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, UK

Martha Rosler, Garage Sale, California, 1973, image courtesy of the artist. Source: e-flux.com

Martha Rosler, Garage Sale, 1973, Art Gallery of the University of California, San Diego. Source: ica.org.uk

In 2005 Martha Rosler restaged her piece from 1973, Garage Sale. The exhibition offered a piece of institutional critique on object festishism, the act of buying and selling, and the notion of an ‘art exhibition’. However, Rosler was now a known entity, an institution in herself. Is all critique eventually undone, institutionalised, aestheticised? Or did the restaging prove the persistent validity of such a project? Art into Society: Society into Art (ICA, 1974) brought together the greatest agent provocateurs of their day – Hans Haacke, Gustav Metzger and Joseph Beuys. Are such attempts at undoing the binary oppositions suggested by that exhibition title still pertinent? Was truly anti-institutional exhibition-making simply channelled into live art and happenings, events and music, leaving the exhibition the place for historicised critique? Did we stop chewing the fat of Beuys’s critique when we started preserving it? (London ICA’s website, description for event: Institutional Critique held on October 29, 2008.)

Haim Steinbach’s installations and sculptures, 1970s-current

Haim Steinbach, six feet under, 2004, plastic laminated wood shelf; plasitc frog; plastic feet; ceramic pig; wooden clogs 38 x 69 1/4 x 19 “ (96.5 x 175.9 x 48.3 cm). Source: haimsteinbach.net

Haim Steinbach (born Rehovot, Israel, 1944 and living in New York City since 1957) has been an influential exponent of art based on already existing objects. Since the late 1970’s Steinbach’s art has been focused on the selection and arrangement of objects, above all everyday objects. In order to enhance their interplay and resonance, he has been conceiving structures and framing devices for them.

Steinbach presents objects ranging from the natural to the ordinary, the artistic to the ethnographic, giving form to art works that underscore their identities and inherent meanings. Exploring the psychological, aesthetic, cultural and ritualistic aspects of objects as well as their context, Steinbach has radically redefined the status of the object in art. (from the artist’s website)

Keith Haring’s Pop Shop, 1986-2005
292 Lafayette Street, New York, NY, USA

A close-up shot of the awning and signage of the recently closed Pop Shop, posted October 9, 2005, on Global Graphica, blog of Visual Culture. Ivan Corsa Photo.

Installation view of the re-creation of Keith Haring’s Pop Shop (1986), featuring original Pop Shop ephemera, "Pop Life: Art in a Material World," Tate Modern, 2009. © Tate Photography. Source: ArtInfo.com/modernpainters

Haring’s Pop Shop was recreated for Pop Life: Art in a Material World at the Tate Modern. You can read more about it in the catalog (purchase it from tate.org.uk or find it in the nearest library collection on worldcat.org), or visit the exhibition as it travels to the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa from June 11–September 19, 2010.

The Keith Haring Foundation maintains an online Pop Shop.

Cady Noland’s installations and sculptures, late 1980s-1990s

Cady Noland, Trashed Mailbox, 1989. Source: Artnet.com

Cady Noland American, born 1956 This piece doesn't have a title yet 1989 Beer cans, scaffolding, cloth and vinyl flags, hand tools. Source: Mattress Factory

Noland, not Barney, Hirst, or Gonzalez-Torres, is the crucial link between late-1980s commodity art and much that has followed; she is the portal through which enormous amounts of appropriational, political, and compositional notions pass. So mercurial, fierce, and originally poetic is she that I think of her as our Rimbaud. (Jerry Saltz, “Invasion of the Sculpture Snatchers,” Village Voice, May 9, 2006)

Tracy Emin’s and Sarah Lucas’ The Shop, 1993
103 Bethnal Green Road, London, UK

Sarah Lucas (L) and Tracey Emin (R) at The Shop. Bethnel Green, London, UK. Photo by Carl Freedman. Source: Artnet.com

Read Tracy Emin’s reflections on The Shop in the Times (“Tracey Emin on her previous life as a shop girl,” Sept. 26, 2009). Or, listen to a podcast of the artist’s talk at Tate (Tate Events podcast, 08-12-2009 Tracey Emin discusses ‘The Shop,’ released 4/6/10, 1:18:03.)

Harrell Fletcher, Jon Rubin, and neighborhood participants, Gallery HERE, 1993-1995
College Avenue, Oakland, CA, USA

Jon Rubin, Harrell Fletcher and neighborhood collaborators, Gallery Here, garage sale, 1993-1995,

Jon Rubin, Harrell Fletcher and neighborhood collaborators, Gallery Here, garage sale, 1993-1995,

Jon Rubin and I started Gallery Here while we were still in Grad School at CCAC. We borrowed a vacant retail building that was in the neighborhood where we lived. For a year and a half until the building was rented we put on a series of shows about people and places in the neighborhood. … For another show we had people’s garage sales in the gallery and put story tags on all of the stuff that was for sale. (Harrell Fletcher’s website: projects: Gallery Here.)

Cary Leibowitz (aka Candyass) Carnival installations, early 1990s

Cary Leibowitz, Art Forum Berlin, 2007. A re-creation of Leibowitz’ iconic Candy Ass Carnival installations from the early 1990s. Source: Alexander Gray Associates

Cary Leibowitz’s Tondo Schmondo Fran Drescher Fan Club and Sad Rainbow, Happy Rainbow at Alexander Gray Associates. Source: Artnet.com

Cary Leibowitz mixes Jewish identity, kitsch, modernist critique, Queer politics, and design culture into dryly witty multiples and paintings. (Contemporary Jewish Museum)

Watch a short video on the installation at Art Forum Berlin on Vernissage TV. Or watch Cary Leibowitz’ artist’s talk in conversation with Glen Helfand at the Jewish Contemporary Museum in San Francisco on March 28, 2010.

Takashi Murakami’s Louis Vuitton shop in ©MURAKAMI, 2008
Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Murakami at MOCA (Glenn Koenig / Los Angeles Times) A fully operational, fully staffed Louis Vuitton boutique, with merchandise designed by Murakami, sits above the show. Source: LATimes.com, Arts & Culture, Murakami at Moca

Watch extensive videos of Murakami discussing his works in the ©MURAKAMI exhibition at MOCA.

One gets spat out of the Murakami’s wonderland not through a volcano, but through a fully operational Louis Vuitton boutique. And if the Vuitton bag exceeds the budget the true Murakami experience can yet be attained through a shopping splurge in the Murakami-equipped museum store. Without a clear boundary between them, exhibition visit and shopping blend together to a borderless state of full satisfaction or, as Murakami likes to call it an ‘ongoing study in meaninglessness.’ (from Anna Gritz’ review of the exhibition in Frieze Magazine.

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Art & Development, Research

Pop teeth

Artists are consumers themselves. They have their own elaborately constructed systems of valuation as subsets within larger realms of consumer value. No art is absolutely pure, or created in a vacuum outside those larger realms. (Gibson Cuyler on Libby Black’s Be Here Now, Art Practical 13, April 22, 2010)

Strange that this must be re-stated, but it’s often the case that criticism and radical opposition are considered equivocal. (Johanna Drucker argues that critics and academics best accept our complicity and move on to responding to the actual art in Sweet Dreams.)

To broach capitialism or material culture in one’s artwork is to risk easy, politically loaded readings. The work might be interpreted sympathetically as anti-capitalist commentaries, leftist/Marxist/politically correct indictments of globalization/consumerism/mass media/environmental destruction. On the opposite extreme lie allegations of consumerist gluttony, environmental sinfulness, aesthetic hedonism, artistic slumming, or naked ambition. Tsk-tsk! should art, which could signify genius and the sublime, muddy itself in base, money-grubbing popular culture.

I’m interested in work that doesn’t deny the facts of the world: capitalism, labor, production, material culture, popular culture. I think artists have the right to beg/borrow/steal from these themes without having being pigeonholed into positions of critical subversion or immoral kowtowing. It’s possible I’m a waffler. That I’m exploiting ambiguity by not taking a stand. If you were really cynical, you could argue that the only crime worse than politically incorrectness in contemporary art is being boring and didactic.

I’m looking at the catalog for Pop Life, the recent survey of Pop Art after 1970 at the Tate Modern. As I’m developing Irrational Exuberance (Asst. Colors), a shop-like exhibition of work on paper, sculpture and installation coming up at Sight School (opens May 14), it’s neat to think about Keith Haring’s Pop Shop and Sarah Lucas and Tracey Emin’s The Shop. I also listened to the Tate’s podcast of Emin talking about The Shop, wherein Emin clicked for me: her personality, class, background, enmeshed in the world, results in work that is likewise enmeshed in the world and her life.

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