Off Cuts, Part 2

Some more odds and ends to mull…

In my London art trip, I was intrigued by about two collection-based venues; both in Camden and both new to me. The current shows were interesting enough, but I am more intrigued by the spaces and the ambitious, cutting-edge contemporary art they will show.

David Roberts Art Foundation is “an independent, non-profit foundation” founded in 2007 and seems to aggressively collect and exhibit contemporary art, including the work of younger artists. I really loved the experimental, questioning nature outlined in the exhibition pamphlet:

a museum is a production site, a site that not only presents and describes an existing context, but generates new contexts, a site where artists, curators, critics and other stakeholders can produce, share, discuss, act and interact, where visitors are co-producers, and where the machinery of exhibitions produces prototypes, experiences, catalysts for thought….

I liked this too:

An artwork is a system that cannot be reduced only to an object or an index (certificat, instructions, etc.). It also includes the histories (material and conceptual), the trajectories (physical or virtual) and the narratives (past or to come) generated by the artwork: this is what this programme will research.


Study is not an attempt to capture or seize but a methodology of encounter and the insistence on the provisional as both form and content within the process of research.

Read more here (click on A House of Leaves. First Movement).

Gerhard Richter Fuji, 1996 Oil on alucobond. David Roberts Collection // Source:

Gerhard Richter, Fuji, 1996 Oil on alucobond. David Roberts Collection // Source:

Small but stunning Richter on view in A House of Leaves as of two weeks ago; it’s an ever-unfolding exhibition so who knows what’s on now?

While DRAF is housed in an industrial brick warehouse in an alley off of the high street, the Zabludowich Collection is sited in an imposing church in a residential street.

Founded in 1994, the Zabludowich Collection “exhibits in venues in the UK, USA and Finland” and “actively creates new opportunities for audiences to engage with emerging art.”

Matthew Darbyshire, Showhome, 2012 // Source:

Matthew Darbyshire, Showhome, 2012 // Source:

The current exhibition by Matthew Darbyshire featured sets made of printed vinyl CG streetscapes. I was most interested in the Showhome installation, involving mass manufactured chairs and high-end interior design decorations. It was familiar yet preposterous and sad. There’s something interesting in packaging showrooms’ theatricality in art exhibit’s pretentions of perfect, timeless viewing experiences. The exhibition as a whole expressed some of the suffocation of consumer culture, and I couldn’t help but feel some of that coldness and repression as I left the show.

This detail of The Tempest (~1862) by Peder Balke. It’s a seascape, maybe one of the most unlikely genres of painting I’d be attracted to. But the elegance, brushstrokes,  simplicity and evocativeness is what gets me.

Stephen Chambers’ gold leafed potato print, on view now at the Royal Academy of Arts in the Artist’s Laboratory.

Two faces, carved with simple marks. Maybe a man and a woman. Despite the elemental form, I still read the faces as deeply empathetic with each other, united in the way that lifelong couples are.

Potato prints are a basic form of printmaking, one that could be the first type of printmaking children experience. The idea of gold-leafing a potato print is so absurd it’s brilliant.

The show features a 70-part screenprint mural, nice stuff, interesting timeless narrative vignettes.

Richard Artschwager’s Tower II (1979)

A theoretical device for communication. Nice pairing with Demand and Opie. Plus a daringly bright aqua wall. Go Tate!

Richard Artschwager, Tower II, 1979 (center), with a photo by Thomas Demand (left) and Julian Opie's You See An Office Building 4 (1996). Tate Liverpool.

Richard Artschwager, Tower II, 1979 (center), with a photo by Thomas Demand (left) and Julian Opie’s You See An Office Building 4 (1996). Tate Liverpool.

San Francisco or London?

Notting Hill.

Notting Hill.

Love this message.


Text: ESPO in Shoreditch.

Jason Evans‘ photo/installations.

By chance, I stumbled into The Grange Prize exhibition at Canada House.

It was a group exhibition featuring the work of four finalists for a major international, contemporary photo prize. I was most attracted to Jason Evans’ work; it was the most playful and mixed-media, using wall graphics, texts, objects, and loud colors. The combination unfolds in a way that I think asks the viewer to engage the experience in a more multi-sensory way.

Here are some of his casual, snapshot-like photos. I think they work better en masse.

Jason Evans. // Source:

Jason Evans. // Source:

Jason Evans. // Source:

Jason Evans. // Source:

Jason Evans. Installation view. // Source:

Jason Evans. Installation view. // Source:

Curiously, I couldn’t bring myself to cast a vote. The show seemed too small; there’s not enough work on view to get a sense of each artist’s scope and capacities. (The winner was announced; her work seems to demonstrate photographic skill the most apparently, but with the least compelling subject matter and use of materials for me personally.)

Meta-Practice, Research

words on social practice and creativity

Christoph Büchel’s Piccadilly Community Centre: an exciting example of social practice.

J.J. Charlesworth’s “Hidden Intentions,” (Art Review, December 2011) introduced me to this brilliant intervention transforming the tony Central London Hauser & Wirth location (formerly a bank) into a working social centre, and not just for in-the-know art students, but for the public—senior citizens, yoga practitioners and so on. Piccadilly Circus is a popular tourist’s nexus like Times Square, where simply winding through crowds, dodging street salesmen, and finding a restroom can be exhausting. So Büchel’s gesture of turning an exclusive, expensive, private space into a rambunctious, free, public one is quite satisfying. I was also intrigued to read that

much was made of whether Büchel’s project was a comment on David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’

I find Büchel’s responsiveness commendable.

On irony, and bridging the divide between art and life

“Hidden Intentions” is not an exhibition review, but a speculative essay. Charlesworth also examines Matthew Darbyshire’s faux loft ads at Herald Street, writing that it

is interesting because, like Büchel’s community centre, it points backwards to interrogate the capacity of the viewer to recognise the gesture as ironic. Because irony always implies a ‘double’ audience—those who accept the gesture at face value and those who realise the gesture is simulated intentionally—it also implies a form of superiority, which is often couched in terms of criticism of another….

This is art that writes itself into the fabric of everyday life with only the fading trace of the artist as proof of its reality as a sort of ironic gesture, and in which the work’s audience is made complicity with the artist’s manipulation of the world of others…. Of course, it still needs the institutional frame of the artworld to allow it to happen, but in doing so, it takes to an extreme the postmedium scope of current artistic possibility, where in the end, the only thing that is distinguishable is the discursive setup of the artworld itself.

Conflict aids creativity?

So argues Jonah Lehrer in “Group Think: The Brainstorming Myth” (The New Yorker, January 20, 2o12). He presents evidence contrary to the widely-accepted prohibition against criticism in brainstorming:

According to [psychology professor Charlan] Nemeth, … “…debate… will always be more productive. True creativity requires some trade-offs.”

To Lehrer and Nemeth, I’d respond with a constructively critical, “Yes, but…”

Positive Sign #1, 2011, glitter and fluorescent pen with holographic foil print on gridded vellum, 8.5 × 11 in / 21.5 × 28 cm

Consider Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi‘s five stages of the creative process: preparation, incubation, insight, evaluation, and elaboration. I would think that debate is productive in some stages (such as evaluation and elaboration) and not others (such as preparation, incubation, and insight).

Perhaps more even-handed: sociologist Brian Uzzi analyzed musicals to find correspondences between social intimacy among creators and box office and critical success.

“The best Broadway teams, by far, were those with a mix of relationships,” Uzzi says. “These teams had some old friends, but they also had newbies. This mixture meant that artists could interact efficiently—they had a familiar structure to fall back on—but they also managed to incorporate some new ideas. They were comfortable, but not too comfortable.”

For artists considering creative and professional collaborators, choose carefully.

Lehrer also makes an exemplar of the MIT “rad lab”—where a disused building became home to divergent departments, creating spillover, and presumably, lending interdisciplinary gusto to the work of Chompsky, Bose, and other paradigm shifters. Lehrer concludes

The lesson of Building 20 is that when the composition is right—enough people with different perspectives running into on another in unpredictable ways—the group dynamic will take care of itself…. The most creative spaces are those which hurl us together.

I cringed when I read that last sentence, after my experiences in open-plan studios in graduate school. Unwanted intrusions can make focusing attention seem like a Herculean task. Being hurled together say, when you’re reading or trying to resolve an artwork, with someone taking a phone call or playing music, is not creative, but torturous. Psychologist Jonathan Haidt points out that humans can adapt to many things, but we never adapt to intermittent noise:

Research shows that people who must adapt to new and chronic sources of noise … never fully adapt, and even studies find some adaptation still find evidence of impairment on cognitive tasks. Noise, especially noise that is variable or intermittent, interferes with concentration and increases stress. It’s worth striving to remove sources of noise in your life.

Jonathan Haidt, The Happiness Hypothesis, New York: Basic Books (2006) 92.