Sunday, October 29, 2006

Schlock and Awe

After Iraq, Katrina and Abu Ghraib, what should we expect from US artists?
-the Guardian's Adrian Searle
The Guardian has a review of the new Saatchi show - USA TODAY. It features some favorite Chelsea stars such as Barnaby Furnace (above), Dana Shutz, and everyone's choice debutante, Dash Snow. If there ever has been a case to ban trust fund kids from art, Snow may be it. We see the affect trust fund kids have had on the White House -of course he does seem to go to some choice parties.

It is nice to see that Huma Bhaba gets a positive review - she's been going at this for awhile now and seems to finally be getting some deserved recognition. The conclusion is that the show isn't a stinker but rather acceptible, expected and middle of the road. Searle ends with this:
It may not be great art, but it doesn't need to be. That's the problem. I want an art more powerful - not just loud, not just blunt. Most of art's audience already know what they think about the state of America and the war on terror. The job of artists, novelists, film-makers, musicians and playwrights demands that they go further than stating the obvious. USA Today is an expression, more than anything, of impotence.
Something to mull over I'd say.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Dim in Dallas

For what ever reason I've come this story nearly 2 months late but it still has me rattled. The Times ran a story in September about the Dallas area
school teacher of 28 years who lost her job do to some ingnorant evangelical scum. The crime - the Dallas Museum of Art, rather nudes on exhibit at the museum - time honored 'pornographic' works such as these. The action by the 'concerned' parent further illustrates just how childish and repressed our population has become.

Tyler Green has the latest critique of museum director Jack Lane who in a pathetic parallel of the Mapplethorpe scandal, shrunk from his responsibity as museum director and a member of the community by not defending the artworks on display and his institution. Not so much as even an op-ed to engage the philistines about why certain works belong to the collection. Not a peep as to why historical pieces have educational merit for a civilization. Instead the artworld proves again and again how seperate it is from the culture at large and continually shows how weak it actually is. We don't need to hear the 'art is good for you' rap but why not some dead on adult discussion about how art functions? About why it is critical. That it is not a therapeutic salve for the masses or just some exotic pretty shit shoved in an expensive building to make you feel 'cultured' for an hour or so. Art has a real function so why won't these administrators clue some people in? Are they above that? Do they think average people can't handle it?

There is an enemy out there - yes, a real firebreathing meta-physical enemy that wants art to go away - our Taliban, the religious right. Trust me, it is not post-modern in nature and can not be discussed away. For now they play by the rules, manipulating the system like getting qualified teachers fired through litigious threats. In the future they may be sending in thugs to 'purify' the place. Think it is a crazy minority? 40 million people is a pretty strong power block and their off spring are getting more 'crazy' - just watch JesusCamp- that is for REAL. For now it just may be a seed but more is on the way.

Artists and institutions need to get engaged soon because they are one of the first lines of defense for a democracy, and generally the first to be persecuted.

Pod Purgatory

So perhaps I'm getting into the Halloween spirit here, but this tale of ghosts in a pod city is great. Via Kazys, I checked out the (:- Electro*Plankton-;) site for more details and a very weird photo set. The location is an abandoned concept resort city - San Zhi, on the northern coast of Taiwan. The project was created by a group of anonymous architects (Govt. contract) and due to unnatural deaths, the project was abandoned mid-construction. What is left is a pod purgatory for wayward souls - and perhaps a great location for Tacita Dean!

Friday, October 27, 2006

so what does a big fat swollen tick look like?

So by now I know most people have seen the footage of Rush mocking Parkinson's Disease, but in case you haven't you really should take some time to view this footage at Crooks and Liars.

This folks is the nerve center for GOP smear tactics and the heart and soul of the party. The architect behind O'Reilly, Hannity and the other monsters. This is a man personally responsible for the reality of a GOP Congress - a man who was married by Clarence Thomas and routinely lunches with his good buddy Newt Gingrich. Lee Atwater would be proud.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Wicked Games

"When the 1960’s came along I was feeling split, schizophrenic. The war, what was happening to America, the brutality of the world. What kind of man was I, sitting at home, reading magazines, going into a frustrated fury about everything - and then going into my studio to adjust a red to a blue?"
- Phillip Guston, 1974. (something we should all be considering)
Seemingly out of left field comes some figurative art that is addressing the more sinister brutalities of today - Abu Ghraib by Botero. Yes, Botero. I confess, I associate Botero with art collectors who spend as much on their fumador and wine collections as their contemporary art collections. Yet here the Colombian born artist is addressing atrocities and pulling it off (I think) like Leon Golub. They have an intensity reminescient of Bacon and perhaps a little of Masaccio. I'm still digesting these and I'm sure scale (these are huge) plays a major part for these works. A visit to Marlboro may be necessary.

Botero has addressed violence in the past regarding the upheavals of Colombia so in some ways this isn't new territory for the artist but certainly for viewers less familiar with his engagements in Colombia - such as myself. It is worth noting that these works have been traveling throughout Europe but NO U.S. institution has agreed to show the paintings! That silence speaks volumes - you fill in the gaps.

My initial response (beyond historical and journalistic) was to compare this work to Jenny Holzer's last show at Cheim & Reid which focused on Gitmo. I was flinching abit as I was hoping that this was not some effort at relavancy through platform political/human rights subject matter. I detest profiteering like that in the artworld or Hollywood for that matter. I was relieved to read this:

They are going to be donated to a museum eventually, I don’t know where. I’m not new to the principle of donating. I donated 200 of my paintings to Colombia, and I donated a whole series of paintings based upon the war in Colombia to the National Museum there. But I will donate these because I don’t feel like doing business based upon somebody else’s pain. That’s not my thing.
I have no proof to the otherwise, but I'm wondering if the Cheim & Reid show was strictly for profit on the shoulders of others agony. I'm not doubting the content but wonder about the back room business ethics surrounding politically senstitive works. It is a very sticky line to walk. Despite no US venue to have a discussion on America's role in torture, these Botero works will at least be part of the public record somewhere long after the journalistic images go into hiding.

Here is the complete ART INFO Interview:

Monday, October 23, 2006

Art Attack - Moscow

I am very disturbed by the recent posting over at
Mark Vallen's Art For a Change. Mark details the recent mauling of gallerist Marat Guelman over an exhibition that many New Yorkers flocked to earlier this year at White Box - Russia 2: Bad News From Russia. An excellent show of contemporary Russian art that featured the artist team - The Blue Noses, one of Russias larger exports (very nice comical guys btw). It seems that Fascists/Nationalists still are threatened by art. Some things never go out of style it seems. As bad as things are here, we have yet to sink quite to this level of barbarity. Of course that could change easily - how would we respond?

More ArtWorld Life Cycle - the Art Adviser

There are a lot of novice collectors out there who don’t realize that you can’t run through the door and make your first purchase. You have to finesse your way to that. Primary market galleries like us often have three-year waiting lists. We’re very picky. - David Zwirner

Coming on the heels of the Saltz piece (see here) it was great to see this article by the Times posted by the Digging Pitt blog. For all the artists that feel humiliation at the hands of their coveted gallerist - meet the young collector who can't even buy respect :) Very informative for those not understanding the "business". It wasn't so long ago that the art adviser was more or less derided as bench player.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


“hi Alonzo i hope this is your mailbox”

I was happy to see you the other day. I hope you are truly had like the New York.
So much so much happening all the time, lots of great opportunities.

Hip Hop superstar Sean "P.Diddy" Combs sees a colossal prospect for his company in collaboration with Goldmark inc. Sean "P.Diddy" Combs tells that it is enjoyably to deal with these guys. They as anybody else know entertainment industriousness and exactly know what is necessary for the American spectators

TAKE GDKI and you will earn from every sale of that golden disc!

And speaking of opportunities,

Is your girlfriend as tight as Fort Knox?
Deliver the ultimate weapon and youre sure to slide in!

she would lose instead
reproduction of the actual object visible at
not, even if he wanted to, emigrate -

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Have You Hugged Your Critic Today?

Never use your sales pitch on your peers – save it for the clients – Dave Hickey.

Having attended the Donald Kuspit lecture the other night (see Deborah Fisher) entitled Why Do Artists Hate Critics, I decided to add a different angle to the lecture discussion and what DF covers on her blog. I will say that I found my self interested in most of what was covered in the lecture but also felt a little bored. I guess for me I understand the historic binary of the critic and the cultural producer and the artist vs. artist mentality and was disappointed that we didn’t go beyond these things which frankly feel like a preamble to where we are today. I had hoped to get into the emerging role of artists speaking for themselves and filling some critical gaps in the contemporary landscape we find ourselves. I also wanted to get into why artists and critics are very similar animals in the end and what the critic means to the cycle of life in the artworld. Criticism seems to me to be a bit of a lonely practice not so indifferent from many studio practices. I’ve always felt some consternation as to why so many artists feel directly threatened by what ultimately is simply a larger discussion on meaning that can change and turn at any point by a myriad of varied catalysts. I can understand the raw feelings from a negative review (as if these even happen now) but ultimately these are tests to the practitioner to get out of their own skin from time to time and see how their works operate within the larger sphere of public engagement.

I was glad to find some thoughts on the role of the critic “these days” coming on the heels of this lecture. The Sept. issue of Modern Painters has a great little piece by Jerry Saltz that touches on this somewhat. It’s a great commentary on the role of the critic in a time where the market is so strong and global -frankly dictating more than most artists even comprehend. Saltz begins his respectful discussion with some of the sales pitch motifs he encounters from gallerists all the time. He cites that now the artist being exhibited is always described in terms of big name artists as if the work being viewed can not stand on its own without an associative qualifier. The current fashion is to say that this work is related to Warhol, Richter, Nauman, Kippenberger, Richard Prince, Mike Kelley or Jeff Wall (regarding emerging male artists). Or the trick is to say a famous artist “loves” this work, As in, “Well Kiki Smith really loves this work”. The reality of such assertions is that Kiki Smith probably said something along the lines of “congrats” on the show which ultimately gets spun into a celebrity endorsement. Saltz backs this up with an anecdote of such a case as told by Elizabeth Murray. The other slamdunk pitch is to say Saatchi is “interested”. I think we’ve all heard that! Or this piece is significant because Saatchi is buying it. I’ve heard this a few times as a pitch by the gallerist and the artist as well. My gut response is congrats on the sale but who cares abut the Saatchi part – it’s just as easy to view that as a negative. He buys every young artist and just for that reason – young. It’s a real estate speculation. If you own all the property you’re bound to make a profit – its basic monopoly not curatorial vision.

But back to the plight of the critic! Saltz continues with horror stories of dealers trying to hustle him and ultimately prevent him from seeing the actual art. He feels demoralized because in the current aggressive climate he is being told what to think. This should sound familiar to most artists. He continues that curators are now in the same act, pimping, pushing and plugging as if every interaction is a sales opportunity.
To look at art you need to get very, very quiet inside yourself. You must be able to hear your reactions. You can’t do this while someone is telling you what your reactions should be.
So what about the market and the role of the dealer, critic and artist? At no time in the last 50 years has what an art critic written had less of an effect on the market than now.
Many have hailed this as the death of criticism and that can be true, especially of the new breed of reviewer which seems more about networking and association into a preferred clique than critical engagement with art. Saltz wisely sights that it is really about the power of the market – the market is “smart” and is moving at its own momentum so no matter what anyone writes it doesn’t have a real monetary impact on what is collected.

This can be viewed as horrible but I’m willing to wager along with Saltz that it could actually free criticism to do what it needs to do – critique, and draw conclusions for the larger art equation that needs constant stewardship and rigorous review while being outside the market. It also frees artists to do what they need to do – their work, in terms of practice but also in terms of engaging criticism. The artist and the critic need each other now because the market is so forceful that without this reciprocal relationship of the “serious”, things may very well be reduced to hyped product and redundant drivel so associated with Chelsea and London right now - which ultimately insults Art.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Berliner; Travelogue

So finally back on board here, after a long patch of travel and work. When traveling, I always hold this fantasy that I will get ahead on some reading and thus bring along several thick books. Of course I never crack these but do manage to read the airline magazine and gift guide and generally suffer through some bad film on both legs of the journey. You’ll be glad to know I held to form with my Berlin trip. X-Men and Xanax or Michel deCerteau? Who’s gonna win that one right? I had hoped to blog but I found out quickly that it was not to be done with so many late nights and jet lag. Next time perhaps because I sincerely feel I missed something in not blogging on the run. At least I “finally” got to see Devil Wears Prada as a consolation prize...wretched.

Anywho, on to Berlin. Artists should be proud in the fact that I did not go to Art Forum art fair as planned (despite a free ticket) – we all hate the fairs so it seemed more appropriate to head to the Holocaust Memorial and the Hamburger Bahnhof Museum while there. The payoff was huge. I hit the memorial around 10:00 am so the crowd was small but enough to experience some of the intended tension and mystery of the site. The sun was really cresting at this time and shot through the concrete corridors with laser precision. Wandering the lanes of constantly shifting altitude, piercing sunlight and momentary glimpses of others in the periphery was quite intense on 3 hours of sleep. Ghostly and profound, my thoughts strayed to the narrative of the atrocities and the stories of several friends who had relatives directly involved. I also couldn’t help but think of the graveyards in New Orleans as well – the above ground tombs that create labrinyths of past lives. It was a striking connection about abandonment. The memorial is Peter Eisenman’s masterpiece and a real triumph of how art/architecture can convey the human experience, even a dark chapter with integrity, abstract beauty and solitude. I know what the critics think but I found it a place of reflection.

From there I made my way to the Mitte to hit some galleries, etc. Most of the offerings were quite dull and I was disappointed but happy to have some decent coffee. While in that area I did manage to see some video works by Mika Rottenberg and Jen DeNike at Kunst Werk, the Institute for Contemporary Art. Solid works by Rottenberg and DeNike but I was a little disinterested in the Aaron Young pieces. Great venue to see video though.

Building on the video theme, I was happily impressed by the shows at the Hamburger Bahnhof which is a former train station come art museum. Spectacular space and so many good shows I had trouble getting out of there. Imagine this list at any NY Museum: Joseph Beuys, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, The Atlas Group, and the best video show I have EVER seen in one place: “Beyond Cinema: The Art of Projection Films.Videos and Installations from 1963-2005”. The works primarily came from the Flick and Kramlich Collections It was such an expertly installed show expect for perhaps what may be a mistake with the Peter Campus piece. I don’t think I have ever dedicated so much time to viewing video, nearly 2 hours on a single visit with no sleep – that should say plenty. I’d love to recap each one but it’s impossible. I’ll just say that I did get emotionally swept up with Pipilotti Rist smashing car windows with a flower. I was tweaked enough to crave each and every blow to the unsuspecting autos. Awesome.

The rest of the trip was art related work. Long conferences, etc. I did get to meet and spend time with some great people along the way. So to name drop a few: Mathilde Rosier, Lu Jie, Kay Pallister, and many more. The social side was mostly a few random bars and a fairly delinquent night at the famed Paris Bar (and later King Kong). Perhaps past its prime but I’m a tourist sucker for history (and the free flowing wine) surrounded by donated artworks (some famous) from the past 50 years was too good to pass up. At moments you get that Cold War nostalgia mixed with the 19th century French Boheme mythology. Good stuff when you’re wasted!

So a brief taste, but Berlin seems to be a great place to be right now with tons of ex-pats from the US, France, UK, etc. -the hype may be true, Berlin is the new Center. The NY artists I met seem to be truly in love with place and want to stay for awhile. The support they are experiencing and the cost of living is too good to give up for that million dollar a month studio in Bushwick it seems. The best part is I never once was asked about or heard the word Chelsea!