Art & Development

Points of Reference, June 8, 2014

Insights, artworks, and other recent ignition sparks.

Self-organized Bronx AIM studio visit, at Brian Zegeer's studio at Chashama studios at Brooklyn Army Terminal. Watching Brian's 3D animation/video installation.

AIMers watching Brian Zegeer’s 3D animation/video installation at his Chashama studio at Brooklyn Army Terminal. See clips of Brian’s Book of Khalid project.

Last weekend, I shared my work with fellow Bronx AIM program participants. Among smart, interested friends, I spoke honestly about where I’m at in my studio practice, leading up to current work-in-progress and the questions that surround them.

I got great feedback. It was fantastic. A mutually supportive community can make an incredible difference. So I highly recommend:

Organizing studio visits with likeminded artists.

Though I procrastinate on organizing visits to my studio, the AIM program was a perfect foil for my hang-ups, with the added benefit of learning about great artists’ work too. So, artists: Just do it! Get a group together, set up a schedule—maybe every two weeks or once a month, and create conditions for great conversations to take place! It’s important! If it seems that it’s not a great time, be forgiving—there’s hardly ever a perfect time, so better now than never.

After my visit, I started thinking about:

Not taking myself too seriously.

The tone of my presentation was blunt and vulnerable, but also (sometimes unintentionally) funny. My colleagues really “got” me and where I’m coming from. I’d love it if my audience also had this perspective. I wonder how to incorporate this further into the reading of my work? For starters, it’d help me keep approaching:

Art-making as a way to test ideas.

In grad school, I allowed works to be resolved to varying degrees. Maybe I’ve drifted towards the dominant market-oriented inclination to make things that are more polished, impressive, “accomplished,” and intelligible to selection review committees, gallerists, etc.

So Ernesto Pujol’s writing resonated with me on many fronts:

I… practice with the belief that there is enough art, feeling no pressure to create more art, so what excites me is to create something ambiguous, something liminal, so that it has the effect of art, regardless of its final label.

—Ernesto Pujol, in Mary Jane Jacobs and Jacqueline Baas, eds., Learning Mind: Experience Into Art [Berkeley: UC Press] 2009

 

Time to re-set.

If I am to re-orient my approach, it’ll make the way I relate to viewers more open-ended. I’ll be able to:

Speak openly about unintended receptions of artworks.

How viewers interact, interpret, and experience the work—in a full range of successes and failures—could be embraced.

We must risk and endure misunderstanding, even by those who supposedly support us, which is the most painful of all misinterpretation, because we still create and promote all this mainly through art world channels.

—Ernesto Pujol, in Learning Mind

 

Which implies:

Embracing middle grounds

[Artists] should regard ourselves as writers of novels for smaller but more substantial audiences, even as we would like to make them accessible and meaningful to all.

—Ernesto Pujol, in Learning Mind

JHK Activity—Collection & Research on J H Kocman

My influential grad school advisers Ted Purves and the late Steven Lieber helped me stop worrying about making grand statements, and appreciate modest gestures such as ephemera. Just as I was thinking about becoming more process- and less results-oriented, I learned about Ted’s latest project—a blog documenting the works of Czech conceptualist J H Kochman. This work, in particular, exemplifies what I gained from Ted and Steven, and my “un-aspirational” aspirations:

J. H. Kocman, Bipolar Analysis of a Square, offset print, A4, signed/numbered. // Source:  jhkactivity.wordpress.com.

J. H. Kocman, Bipolar Analysis of a Square, offset print, A4, signed/numbered. // Source: jhkactivity.wordpress.com.

Pae White: In Between the Inside Out

Pae White: In Between the Inside Out, Installation view, Mills College Art Museum, 2009 // Photo: Paul Kuroda // Source: ArtandEducation.net

Pae White: In Between the Inside Out, Installation view, Mills College Art Museum, 2009 // Photo: Paul Kuroda // Source: ArtandEducation.net

Five years later,* still thinking about White’s 3-D rendering video projected inside enclosures made of two-way mirrors. First seen at New Langton Arts (RIP) and Mills College Art Museum.

*Read my enthusiastic 2009 response—sorry about the link-rotted images. (FYI, I’ve improved my image linking now.)

To re-orient to the studio, I’ve enjoyed diving into books by artists. They counterbalance criticism and theory, and can be an antidote to market orientations.

The Human Argument by Agnes Denes

Excited to grow my appreciation of Agnes Denes work with a book of her writings:

The Human Argument, The Writings of Agnes Denes

The Human Argument, The Writings of Agnes Denes

See ArtBook for the description (though it’s out of stock there; I found a used copy on ABEBooks).

Don’t know why I never got around to this one, either. The oversight that shall be redressed shortly.

Allan Kaprow (Jeff Kelley, ed.), Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life

Allan Kaprow (Jeff Kelley, ed.), Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life

A reminder about the centrality of studio practice:

A life of making isn’t a series of shows, or projects, or productions, or things; it is an everyday practice.

…It isn’t necessarily the objects of art in their many forms that we are here to support, it is the possibility of art, the question of art, the place it makes in the culture for those acts which ‘just are’ and, in their being just for the sake of themselves, can open worlds in which we might listen differently.

—Ann Hamilton, in Learning Mind

Hamilton also shared this lovely quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson:

Let me remind the reader that I am only an experimenter. Do not set the least value on what I do, or the least discredit on what I do not, as if I pretended to settle anything as true or false. I unsettle all things. No facts are to me sacred, none are profane; I simply experiment, an endless seeker with no past.”

 

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Art & Development

odds and ends

1.
I think the conceptual artist Glenn Ligon is fantastic. And I, for one, think Americans should be proud to have the Obamas in the White House. So it totally floats my boat that the Obama family has selected a work by Ligon for display in their home.

2.
I was right! Fred Tomaselli’s lecture was great — brisk, jocular and razor-sharp. Again, there’s nothing like hearing a thoughtful, well-spoken artist share his narrative of artistic development. Plus, his work is so stunning! My colleagues and I were unanimously impressed and inspired.

This coming Monday, October 12, Xu Tan, who’s currently showing his Keywords project at YBCA, is speaking at SFAI.

3.
Pae White’s exhibition at the Mills College Art Museum closes in 10 days. I saw the show’s iteration at New Langton Arts, where it blew my mind.

4.
It seems to be a good time to read.
Research is critical for my studio momentum. Here are texts I hope to synthesize into my art practice soon:

Calvin Tomkins’ profile of Bruce Nauman, “Western Disturbances,” The New Yorker, June 1, 2009, p. 68
(Reassuringly, Nauman’s studio practice also involves a lot of sitting, reading and thinking. I also love how the author characterizes Nauman’s work as “uningratiating.” I am driven to make work that’s also rather unspectacular, though I’ve yet to shake the urge to apologize for its visual paucity. It seems pointless and maybe a bit classist, but it’s true, people still like big, colorful, spectacular art.)

In “Thinking literally: The surprising ways that metaphors shape your world” (Boston Globe, September 27, 2009), Drake Bennett describes psychologists who are uncovering how metaphors are crucial tools in human thought. I find the writing style a bit too commercial, but I’m enjoying the idea that scientific research can validate the intuitive decisions involved in making phenomenological installations. Perhaps there is a sensory, non-literal, common ground through which an installation artist can communicate with her audience, without an intellectual interpretation….

I think this idea might work well in parallel with “Against Interpretation” by Susan Sontag.

Benedict Carey’s “How Nonsense Sharpens the Intellect” (NYTimes.com, October 5, 2009) seems like another great, timely reference, because it touches on the ideas of aberrations (which I’ve been thinking about since the Galaxy show at BAM), and seems to related to the slightly-off effects my viewer-oriented installations aspire to create.

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Community

Art reviews: Steven Barich, Scott Kildall and Victoria Scott, Pae White

After knocking out a new screenprinted edition (see it at the Headlands Open House July 12, or at The Kiss of A Lifetime in Newcastle and London) and attending the artists’ talks at the Headlands yesterday, I decided to knock off and go enjoy some galleries this Friday afternoon.

Steven Barich: The Logic Stone and other new work
Rowan Morrison Gallery
Oakland, CA

steven barich the logic stone rowan morrison gallery
Image source: Rowan Morrison Gallery.

Steven Barich‘s show at Rowan Morrison is comprised of a series of mostly-compact graphite drawings of logic stones, in which the stones themselves are rendered in a pixelated greyscale grid. The images in reproduction look flat, but the drawings have a lot of “hand” in them; the teeny scale of the pixels seems to point your attention to the tooth of the paper, the grains of graphite. “Technology v. Nature” seems to be an overworked thread in contemporary art, but Barichs’ drawings depict as well as enact this dichotomy. The labor of representing a machinelike perfection in pixels is contrasted with the labor in representing the baroque carvings of the stands. It’s also interesting to notice that so much pixel-based hand-made contemporary art uses full color spectra, whereas Barich’s work is limited to shades of grey. I imagine it’s not an easy task to create random patterns with only value contrast to work with. While the premise behind The Logic Stone may seem straightforward, these deliberate reductions reveal a tight conceptual and technical approach.

re:con-figure
Kala Art Institute
Berkeley, CA

no matter scott kildall victoria scott
Scott Kildall and Victoria Scott, Pot of Gold. Image source: No Matter website

Kala’s new gallery space on San Pablo Avenue is spacious, with high ceilings, a nice balance between open space and smaller nooks, and great walls and good lighting. The current exhibition, re:con-figure, features the work of several past Fellows or AIRs, who exemplify a certain Bay Area contemporary art diversity. On view were video-papercut-installations, mixed media collages, photo-sculptures, performance-installations and kinetics-installations (and noticibly, not a whole lot of traditional printmaking per se. re:con-figure seems to announce that Kala is a contemporary art presenter, in case you still thought of it as a intaglio-oriented printmaking atelier.)

I really enjoyed Scott Kildall‘s and Victoria Scott‘s No Matter project of humorous cut-and-fold assemblies. The objects appear to be inspired by Kildall’s ongoing interest in virtual reality; the planar, crappily-colored objects bring Second Life hokeyness into “first life” materialization. This project is similar to eTeam‘s (Hajoe Moderegger & Franziska Lamprecht) Second Life Dumpster , but No Matter embodies the cheap crappiness I found lacking.

The renderings in 3D animation can be woefully inadequate, so to create 2D prints that cut and fold into truly 3D counterparts is a brilliant rhetorical gesture. Even when the wood-grained Contact paper-wrapped shelves and chalky inkjet paper announce their media a bit too obviously, it works with the spirit of the piece, which seems to saying that Second Life is Camp, and the artists intend to honor to the spirit of the Camp with its own oblivious pretensions. The ridiculousness is appreciated, since by acknowledging the artifice of virtual reality, the artists might be acknowledging the artifice of artmaking itself.

Pae White: In Between the Outside-In
New Langton Arts
San Francisco, CA

pae white in between the outside-in
Image source: New Langton Arts website

Pae White’s show at New Langton Arts may be one of the most surprising art experiences I’ve had in the Bay Area in the past two months. It’s killer. So killer, I’m shocked and dismayed how little press I’ve seen on it, and how no one has told me that I have to see the show. So I’m telling you now: You have to see the show. Especially if you like how the self is brought to the fore in installation art, have any interest in digital animation, or, like me, you find disorienting perceptual experiences and your resulting hyper-awareness to epitomize the best that contemporary art can offer. It’s Earth Art, yes, but unconventionally so, and it seems to be fully Romantic in nature, in the sense of presenting a techno-digital-Sublime that’s otherworldy and quite possibly terrifying.

I’ll add that the show ends July 18th, and say no more.

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