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, Community

A Week in Review: Seven Days in My Art World

Art and art experiences from the past seven days.

So I haven’t been to the Whitney or MoMA lately. Does that mean I’m taking living in NYC for granted? Possibly. But over the past eight days, I’ve experienced art and art dialogues in lots of ways….

  • Self-organized studio visits among Bronx AIM participants (Margaret Inga Wiatrowski, Didier William, Tatiana Isotomina, and Anna Ablogina). The cohort’s practices are quite developed; members ask very thoughtful questions; and we stay fueled up on candy and snacks. There’s a lot of mutual goodwill and I’m so thankful to be part of it.
  • A few Chelsea galleries off the beaten path. Making a highly-edited list on artcards.cc forced me off my usual four-block slither…. Killer charcoal drawings by Robert Longo at Petzel—an art school fundamental, executed to perfection. Peter Dreher painted the same glass of water, over and over (Koenig & Clinton); hardheaded persistence seemed winsome to me. Insignia intermixed with Thai embellishments by Jakkai Siributr at Tyler Rollins Fine Art…. My list exceeded my time; yet to see the shows by Justin Matherly, Lisi Raskin, David Maisel, Kristen Morgin, Josephine Mekseper, and Adam Pendleton. [Funny, all but one of these artists I have worked with, or handled their artworks, or heard them speak. This makes me think that Chelsea is less predictable than I usually give it credit for, or galleries are putting their best foot forward for this month’s fairs. Or maybe I’m just getting around more.]
  • Artist’s talk at a Parson’s undergrad class.* Under-slept and over-caffeinated, I delivered a zippy talk about my work, opinions on the art world, and professional strategies.  Seeing the students sprawled out on the model plinths, half-broken stools and paint-splattered floor made me a little nostalgic for art school.
  • My studio. Finishing up a new ribbon text—actually a translation of an existing text—for a forthcoming billboard overseas. (Details will be announced soon.) Starting a new project—the hardest part. I remembered the art school assignment to do 100 drawings—it’s still a great way to declare a no-judgment zone, overcome self-critical inertia, and get to work. Patti Smith’s descriptions of her and Mapplethorpe’s passion for getting lost in creative activity in Just Kids helped too.**
  • LMCC’s Open Studios. Visited one of the strangest settings for art—an entire semi-reconstructed floor of a corporate high-rise in the financial district. Lots of great artists in this highly competitive studio program. I was also very moved by an interactive play-in-progress by Aya Ogawa.

*Thanks, SAS, for inviting me!

** Thanks for the book trade, CLF.

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Art & Development

2013 Year-end Roundup

 

phtos from residency at the Tides Institute and Museum of Art, Montalvo Art Center, Happiness Is... Chinese Arts Centre, more

2013 year-in-review. Highlights include the residency at the Tides Institute and Museum of Art in Eastport, Maine; Happiness Is…, at Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga, California; Irrational Exuberance Flags at Southern Exposure; Irrational Exuberance (Asst. Colors) at Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art in Manchester, UK; Obsolete Californias in San Francisco; Jenkins Johnson Gallery in NYC; publications such as Temporary Art Review and The Dark Would.

Looking back at 2013, I’m grateful for the generosity and passion of many people…

• the dedicated staff at arts organizations providing residencies and exhibition opportunities to artists like myself…

• whipsmart collaborators Leah Rosenberg and Susan O’Malley… and

• inspiring, fearless women artists like Torreya Cummings, Sarrita Hunn and Lauren Adams who shape the art worlds they would like to participate in.

In 2014, I’m looking forward to…

Bronx AIM informal studio visits. Visiting photographer Martyna Szczesna's studio.

Bronx AIM informal studio visits. Visiting photographer Martyna Szczesna‘s studio.

• participating in the Bronx Museum of Art’s AIM program, and helping to organize mutual studio visits in the interim…

• contributing to artist’s publications: the next Ortega y Gasset Gazette, and Land and Sea, slated to debut at the LA Book Fair…

• launching a new version of my website…

• continuing to read and participate in book clubs about class, community, and engagement.

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Meta-Practice

Goals: Looking back, looking forward

Be strategically optimistic. Imagine and implement advantageous conditions.

In 2012, I inserted these goals and attitude reminders into my rotating desktop photos:

  • Be active and injury-free.
  • Forgive.
  • Do six studio visits.
  • Enter [art] competitions.
  • Have a strong show of killer new work.
  • Make work that answers, “What would I do with a solo show?”
  • Be open [to new experiences].
  • Practice kindness.
  • Embrace adventure.
  • Practice gratitude, not garbage.
  • Be strategically optimistic. Imagine and implement advantageous conditions.

Most of these were attended to with solid efforts, to varying degrees of success. Many will require more time, intention and attention. I take it as a sign that these are good reminders for me, as they are not too easily achieved nor unrealistically ambitious.

All still seem like good ideas to carry forward into 2013. They’re what positive psychologists call “self-concordant”—rather than reflecting societal demands, they are aligned with my professional and personal goals.

If you’re thinking about making New Year’s resolutions, Creative Capital’s goal-setting tips might be useful. I have been using their goal-setting strategies for the past few years and highly recommend that artists espouse and maintain the practice. It is like plotting a course on an open sea.

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Meta-Practice

It’s a joy

On Tuesday, I drove 240 miles to de-install and pick up my work from Catskill, NY. Today, I spent over 2 hours in transit going to Chelsea and back to photograph my installation. After this, I’m going to color-correct the photos, then work on a residency application. (Meanwhile, my latest studio project has been untouched—frozen in a state of incompletion—for the past 1.5 weeks.)

There is little joy in schlepping. The transit left me knackered, and feeling not especially productive. But I want to contrast these niggling feelings about artists’ extrastudio activity with a different sentiment about being an artist, to make space for an attitude adjustment.

When I visited Michael Arcega’s and Stephanie Syjuco’s studios in San Francisco last Friday, it felt like this is where they report to work, because it’s their jobs to be artists. This is less about occupations—Arcega and Syjuco both work as teachers—and more to do with the seriousness and intention of their practices, of their drive to be making and exhibiting as artists. The visits made me want a bigger studio, and somehow restructure my life so that I can spend more and more of my time being an artist. I left feeling inspired to be more ambitious, diligent, and committed.

I savored this sense of forward momentum. During my long drive to Catskill, I came to this realization: Being an artist for a day—working on your art, managing your art career, even undertaking extrastudio activities—is a gift.

Artists often want to focus on studio work—most of us probably became artists because of the pleasures of creativity and discovery. But there is much more to being an artist, and rather than disparage the extrastudio work—the unending grant applications, the mounting rejection letters, the mindless schlepping—I thought about being grateful for it. There are countless other things competing for our attentions—but we choose to be artists, and therefore the activities we engage in are of our volition and intention.

A few points of reference come to mind:

Lee Pembleton, in my interview with Earthbound Moon for Art Practical, said,

We pour our resources in to the work. Of course, it is not a suffering work, but an ecstatic one.

The Artist, directed by Michel Hazanavicius, is about finding pleasure, satisfaction, purpose, and happiness in one’s work. I won’t give away the ending, but I will say that there are spoken words in this nearly silent film, and they are of lasting import to me.

Yes, there is little pleasure in schlepping. But perhaps I can approach this work, in all of its facets, however transcendent or mundane, exciting or tedious, in terms of finding satisfaction and purpose. From that perspective, the ability to be an artist—the capacity and circumstances—are delights in themselves.

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Community, News, Travelogue

In Other Words, in a few pictures

Grateful for few days of art, sunshine, and friendly faces in California.

Thanks to everyone who came out to check out In Other Words at Intersection for the Arts in San Francisco. I really appreciate the interest and support! I think the show looks fantastic—all respect due to Kevin Chen, gallery director; Intersection staff, and the other artists for their thoughtful contributions.

The show continues through March 24, with many public events—most are free or sliding scale.

Here are a few snapshots, with better photos to follow on my site….

Positive Signs at In Other Words, Intersection for the Arts, San Francisco, CA.

Positive Signs greets viewers at In Other Words, Intersection for the Arts, San Francisco, CA.

Positive Signs at In Other Words, Intersection for the Arts, San Francisco, CA.

Closer view of Positive Signs. In Other Words, Intersection for the Arts, San Francisco, CA.

Another set of Positive Signs at In Other Words, Intersection for the Arts, San Francisco, CA.

Detail: Positive Sign #16 at In Other Words, Intersection for the Arts, San Francisco, CA.

Detail: Positive Sign #16 at In Other Words, Intersection for the Arts, San Francisco, CA.

Detail: Positive Sign #16 at In Other Words, Intersection for the Arts, San Francisco, CA.

Intersection Gallery Director Kevin Chen (center) delivered thoughtful comments, connecting the show's linguistic theme with the gallery's location in the San Francisco Chronicle building.

Intersection Gallery Director Kevin Chen (center) delivered thoughtful comments, connecting the show's linguistic theme with the gallery's location in the San Francisco Chronicle building.

Susan O'Malley's sandwich boards. In Other Words, Intersection for the Arts, San Francisco, CA.

Susan O'Malley's sandwich boards. In Other Words, Intersection for the Arts, San Francisco, CA.

Another project by Susan O'Malley involved semi-hidden placards. In Other Words, Intersection for the Arts, San Francisco, CA.

Another project by Susan O'Malley involved semi-hidden placards. In Other Words, Intersection for the Arts, San Francisco, CA.

Meryl Pataky had a nice pair of installed wire works, whose shadows spelled positive and negative words phonetically.

Meryl Pataky had a nice pair of installed wire works, whose shadows spelled positive and negative words phonetically.

More photos, including the infamous pinkie cam treatment, on Alan Bamberger’s ArtBusiness.com site.

Snapshots of other exhibitions I enjoyed…

Kinetic media installation by Mario Ancalmo, SECA 2010, SFMOMA.

Kinetic media installation by Mario Ancalmo, SECA 2010 exhibition, SFMOMA.

See also Ancalmo’s show at Eli Ridgeway Gallery; don’t miss the lower level installations.

Deflated balloon dog by Jeffrey Songco, Steven Wolf Fine Arts.

Deflated balloon dog by Jeffrey Songco, Steven Wolf Fine Arts.

No photos, but worth checking out: Gina Osterloh’s solo show of studio photos and a documentary about blind massuers, connected by her interest in dysfunctions of the body of  and Richard T. Walker’s video at ybca.

…as well as inspiring studio visits…

Studio visit with Stephanie Syjuco.

Studio visit with Stephanie Syjuco.

Spool holders, hooray!

Spool holders, hooray!

Studio visit with Michael Arcega. Baby, the artist-designed and -made collapsible, outrigger canoe, under a pinata-disco ball-hybrid. Not to mention an envy-inspiring woodshop in the studio.

Studio visit with Michael Arcega. Baby, the artist-designed and -made collapsible, outrigger canoe, under a pinata-disco ball-hybrid. Not to mention an envy-inspiring woodshop in the studio.

Mini disco ball, wood glue, and the story of a sailing expedition at Michael Arcega's studio.

Mini disco ball, wood glue, and the story of a sailing expedition at Michael Arcega's studio.

Free crate + casters + door + sawhorses = two tables that fold into one. Genius.

Free crate + casters + door + sawhorses = two tables that fold into one. Genius!

Plus, (aerial) Geometry vs Abstraction.

Geometry

Geometry.

Geometry detail.

Geometry detail.

Abstraction.

Abstraction.

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