December 31, 2010

Jerry Saltz's burden

James Panero and me discussing social networking media face-to-face over pizza and beer at an exhibition at STOREFRONT in Bushwick. Photo courtesy Jason Andrew.

In “My Jerry Saltz Problem,” a spiritedly discursive philippic in the New Criterion about the changing nature of art criticism, James Panero articulates how disgruntled print journalists and traditional art critics feel about new media such as blogs, Twitter, and Facebook. Panero pines for the longer deadlines, the romantic hours spent at his desk crafting insightful long-form essays, the touch and feel of ink on coated paper, the discrete objects known as magazines. Then he suggests that Jerry Saltz, one of the few art critics to fully embrace social networking tools, has compromised the art critic’s role by becoming part of the story. “On Facebook and now elsewhere online,” Panero writes, “Saltz regularly mixes portentous metaphysical questions with internet messianism, unctuous flattery of his followers, treacly self-doubt, and gaseous emissions of political cant. The ultimate topic of discussion is not art or even his devoted followers, but Jerry Saltz himself.” As both a social media proselytizer and an enthusiastic contributor to traditional print publications, I think Panero is exaggerating the downside and missing the upside of the new media’s effect on art discourse.

When I started blogging at Two Coats of Paint, blogs were still generally considered the domain of exhibitionist teenagers and oversharing adults. This reputation was somewhat deserved, but I loved the immediacy of the process, the ability to link easily to related online content, the conversations that developed with other artists, and the small but generous art-blogging community. Then Facebook, Twitter, and other social media tools emerged and expanded the internet’s potential as an engine of dialogue and mobilization well beyond the whims of narcissistic shut-ins. At one point, a writer friend who, like Panero, valued print publications more highly than online publishing, suggested I submit an article for publication in a print magazine. I saw it as a new challenge, and perhaps as a good way to promote the blog. When the article was accepted, my friend was pleased and saw it as a validation of my online work.

Of course, I was used to the immediacy of blogging. Several rounds of editing, contract approval, gathering legal images, and the long wait until the article was ultimately published were a little exasperating. If the article was timely when I wrote it, the drawn-out process threatened to render my ideas old news by the time anyone else got to read them. To make matters worse, print publications often withhold online content in order to encourage readers to buy the magazine, so initially there was no way to link to the article from the blog and get a conversation started. Even though I was often paid for print articles, I preferred the public profile and immediate back-and-forth that blogging provided. Yet publication in print undeniably gave me more respectability in the art criticism community, which in turn helped increase the readership of my blog. So in my experience, blogging and print are evolving as complementary rather than truly competitive modes of publication – or at least that is the most constructive way to think about and shape the relationship.

From that point of view, perhaps Panero and others who scold Saltz for degrading his print brand with an uneven and impetuous online presence should be less wary of social media’s encroachment on old-school dialogue and more supportive of the risks Saltz is taking in venturing into new territory. Traditional journalists and art critics tend to dismiss Saltz’s move to Facebook (and more recently, Twitter and blogging) as an expression of self-indulgent megalomania. But that assumes an improbable degree of calculation on his part. It seems to me that Saltz just took a shot at something new, intrigued by the prospect of quick and unmediated feedback. On account of the name recognition he had established as a print journalist, he had a huge Facebook following within weeks – he and I have been Facebook friends since he joined in 2009 – before he had any clear idea of how social networking might affect his status and perspective as a critic. Notwithstanding Panero’s fear and loathing, Saltz is a long way from becoming the Hunter S. Thompson of art criticism. His stumbles and excesses – highly visible and heavily scrutinized due to his pre-internet exposure – are simply part of the process of acclimating to a new environment.

Panero suggests that involvement with social media might compromise a critic’s independence. But professional conflict of interest on account of social relationships is nothing new. What’s new is that thanks to Facebook and Twitter awkward relationships between critics and those who want something from them are no longer secret. On balance, that seems a good thing. In any case, there is nothing intrinsic to a writer’s online activity that imperils his or her credibility as a “serious” art critic. It remains eminently possible, if not likely, that Saltz’s print publications and online presence will cross-fertilize and establish a healthy and sustainable equilibrium.

Although critics tend to label Saltz’s Facebook friends sycophantic loyalists, there’s more synergy there than meets the eye: they have used Saltz’s Facebook wall to build a real community. It’s true that to an extent the internet has “dematerialized” our social relationships, but virtual relationships do have genuine substance. For extremely sociable, outgoing people (which hugely successful artists and writers are more likely to be), the dearth of more tactile contact may be lamentable. For less extroverted types (including many artists of less conspicuous achievement), though, it’s something of a relief that lowers the threshold for productive interaction and networking. Relationships formed online still eventually lead to the real-life interaction that Panero applauds – studio visits, art exhibitions, and more. On that score, Panero’s viewpoint and my own converge: to have an authentic art experience, there’s no substitute for seeing art "in the flesh."

Related posts:
In the NY Times, Steven Burn writes: Beyond the Critic as Cultural Arbiter
Joanne McNeil's brief history of blogging at Tomorrow Museum.


December 30, 2010

Artist of the day: Imi Knoebel

Imi Knoebel installation at Grasslin/Nagel (Frankfurt) at Art Basel Miami Beach. Image courtesy of Joanne Mattera Art Blog.

Ever since I met Imi Knoebel's work at Dia: Beacon I've been interested in his constructed paintings, but I was surprised to see these new pieces in Joanne Mattera's extensive coverage of the Miami art fairs that took place in early December. Knoebel seems to have broken free of the grid he was using at his 2009 show at Mary Boone and moved in a quirkier, more idiosyncratic direction. I'm loving these.
Imi Knoebel, "Sommer 2009-2," 2009, acrylic auf aluminum, 180 x 244 x 12.7 cm

 Imi Knoebel: "Sommer 2009-4," 2009, acrylic auf aluminum, 180 x 250 x 12.7 cm

Imi Knoebel, "Sommer 2009-5," 2009, acrylic auf aluminum, 180 x 250 x 12.7 cm

December 29, 2010

You be the judge

I received a note recently that New American Paintings, a juried painting publication produced annually by Steven Zevitas, has just introduced the New American Paintings Annual Prize. The Prize includes two components: a cash prize of $1,000 awarded to one artist selected from the artists featured in the publication by a panel of curators, and a $500 (gift crertificate) Readers' Choice Award.  Zevitas has asked me to invite Two Coats readers to participate by taking a look at the twelve finalists and voting for your favorite. The voting deadline is January 7, and the winner will be announced on January 17.

Here are the finalists:

Matthew Bourbon, "For Your Own Good,"acrylic on canvas, 72 x 72"
Joseph Cohen, "Proposition 138," reclaimed latex on walnut, 54 x 39 x 2"

Megan Dirks, "Glass House Seamount," oil on canvas, 72 x 96"

Jim Gaylord, "Particulated Bronco," gouache on paper, 26.5 x 40.25"

Vera Iliatova, "Excursion," oil on canvas, 42 x 36"

Annie Lapin, "The Ssion," oil on linen, 50 x 54"

Mike Nudelman, "It Doesn’t Get Much Better Than This 8 (After F.E.C. Again)," ballpoint pen on paper, 26 x 40"

Matthew Penkala, "Incomprehensible," acrylic on canvas stretched panel, 60 x 60"

Chris Scarborough, Untitled (Orbital Debris), graphite and watercolor on paper, 19 x 15"

Ellen Siebers, "Christmas with the Voegler," oil on canvas, 48 x 39"

Amy Sherald, "Well Prepared and Maladjusted," oil on canvas, 54 x 43"

Bart Vargas, "Paroxysm," acrylic paint, epoxy resin on panel, 32 x 32"

For more information about the artists and to submit a vote, click here.

Conversion Party, #rank

In NY Press, Chase Hoffberger tells the tale of Two Coats of Paint's loveworthy band: Conversion Party. The story includes long distance love, endless patience, and nose-to-the-grindstone dedication.  Hoffberger concludes that their latest material, tighter than all their previous output, is the "ripe fruit" of their extensive labor. Be sure to check them out tomorrow night in Williamsburg at Bruar Falls (245 Grand, between Driggs and Roebling)....after the #rank discussion at Winkleman, of course.

Related posts:
Conversion Party at CMJ

Two Coats house band?

December 27, 2010

Life imitates art...or something like that

Roy Lichtenstein, "Thinking Nude 289," 1994, edition of 40, relief print on Rives BFK.
Carl Fudge, "Live Cat"

I'm in the middle of An Object of Beauty, Steve Martin's entertaining new novel about the Upper East Side art world's auctions, fabulously wealthy collectors, and their dealers' unregulated, extremely lucrative (and perhaps illegal) business practices. This recent news story (via AFP) reminds me that the corner of the art world depicted in Martin's breezy novel may be far from the scrappy, cash-poor art world I know, but it isn't simply a figment of his imagination.
Police in New York have asked for public assistance in tracking a half a dozen paintings by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein that were stolen from an apartment in November. A police statement made public Friday said the burglary took place between November 24 and 28 when an unknown suspect broke through a hallway wall into the apartment and removed artwork, watches and other jewelry.

The artwork includes "Superman", "The Truck" and "Camouflage" by Andy Warhol as well as Lichtenstein's "Moonscape" and "Thinking Nude." "Live Cat," a painting by British artist Carl Fudge, was also among the stolen objects. Police have not revealed the name of the collection's owner, but local media reports said it belonged to New York art collector Robert Romanoff. The value of the stolen objects is estimated to be around 750,000 dollars.

I guess I should read Lindsey Pollock's blog Art Market Views more regularly for news of the UES art world.

Snow day!

Robert Henri's "Snow in New York."

Robert Henri (1865 - 1929) a charismatic teacher and  leading figure of the Ashcan School,  rebelled against the pretty landscapes being turned out by the American Impressionists by painting dark, gritty scenes of everyday life in the poorer neighborhoods of New York. Henri taught at the New York School of Art (1902-1909),the Henri School of Art (1909-1912), the Modern School of the FerrerSociety (1911-1916), and the Art Students League (1912-1928). Some of his notable students included Stuart Davis, Rockwell Kent, Man Ray, Andrew Dasburg,George Bellows, and Edward Hopper. In 1923, student Margery Ryerson compiled The Art Spirit, a book of Henri's teachings which may have been one of my undergrad favorites, but read today strikes me as hopelessly reactionary [see clarification in Comments below]. Here's an underlined passage from my dog-eared paperback edition:
"There is an idea in America that people can be told how to appreciate pictures. Whereas the appreciation of art is a very personal and special response to creative work. And it must be a part of the province of the artist so to present his work to help create this response." 
Perhaps Henri was anticipating future conceptual work that requires a lengthy explanation and theoretical grounding?

Anyway, let's all stay home today and reread an old favorite.

Related post:
From the MoMA/MoMA PS 1 blog:  “Snow,” a Poem in Five Pictures

December 23, 2010

New LA Weekly editor Drex Heikes poised to dumb-down art crit

Critic Christopher Miles had his first solo show of 16 oversize “Noggins,” glazed stoneware heads mounted on stainless steel poles (all 2010), at Acme in Los Angeles

According to Jori Finkel at the LA Times, critics Doug Harvey and Christopher Miles, both known for a lively sort of intellectual brinksmanship in their writing (and for curating and making art on the side)will no longer be writing for the LA Weekly. "Miles, who has written for the Weekly for five years (and has also contributed to the Los Angeles Times), says he had been on hiatus for a few months to pursue other projects but 'had plans with (former editor) Tom Christie  to start publishing regularly again in December. After his departure, I attempted to contact the publishers of the Weekly and haven't heard back. I don't take it to be a good sign.'

"Harvey, who freelanced for the Weekly for 13 years and served as its lead art critic for much of that time, says his situation is clear:  He will not be writing for the paper. 'They don't want me,' he says, explaining that his last article -- a review of the William Eggleston exhibition at LACMA that had been greenlighted by Christie -- was not accepted for publication by new Weekly editor Drex Heikes.

"'Drex wanted me to completely rewrite it in a simplified fashion,' says Harvey. 'He was pretty dismissive of it -- said it was academic and 'rough sledding.' After responding that he hadn't budgeted the time for a rehaul and suggesting that the piece be run more or less as is, Harvey received an e-mail from Heikes saying: This seems like a good time, with Tom's departure, to end the relationship with the Weekly.'

'Tom was a terrific editor and a great wordsmith with a deep knowledge of the art scene in town,' says Heikes. "But he’s no longer here, so we’re looking to go in a little different direction. We want to bring in new writers. We want critics who are accessible, not academic at all. That's a key thing for me....Both Doug and Chris Miles are brilliant,' he adds. “There are other writers who write well but have far less to say.'"

Revisiting some of Doug Harvey's reviews:

John Baldessari's Pure Beauty: In LA through Sept. 12, then NYC in October

Reassessing Mercedes Matter

Saul, Brown, and Shaw: Invoking creative craftsmanship over formulaic novelty

Doug Harvey's untidy whatever

Revisiting some of Christopher Miles's reviews:

Christopher Miles: The onslaught of everyday life

Lari Pittman: Addressing, redressing and undressing

Mark Grotjahn's personal code

Heather Brown: Cartoonish, but carefully observant

Tomory Dodge turns viscous brushwork into levitating clutter

December 22, 2010

A simple passion for painting: Kate Faust

 Kate Faust, "The Apothecary, oil on canvas,  16” x 24.” Images are from the artist's website.

Kate Faust, "Poppies for You," oil on linen, 18” x 24”

 Kate Faust, "The Master’s Closet," oil on canvas, 24” x 18”

In the Town Journal Eileen LaForgia reports that painter Kate Faust is having a show at the Ridgewood Public Library. "This is an exciting time for me. I'm reorganizing my life and finding who I am as an individual" Faust said. "After 20 years raising four daughters, I now have 100 percent of my time to devote to my passions - painting and photography."

Faust said she was motivated by her husband, who told her "It's your time now!"

Four years ago she began painting at the Ridgewood Art Institute (RAI) and has never looked back. "I try to capture prismatic light and atmospheric effects that have been taught to me by John Osborne and Lorraine Minetto," she said. Faust is currently also displaying three pear paintings at a group show of oil paintings at the Salmagundi Club in New York City.

"I consider myself an Impressionist, leaning towards Realism. I want still life paintings to be solid - like you could pick them up," Faust said. She called her paintings very expressive in nature. "My main interest is the way light hits an object."


The Two Coats of Paint Final Exam:
Check out the visually related exhibition:  Paul P. at Daniel Reich
Reread this post (including Comments).
And then, as Pam Allara used to say in my art history classes at Tufts, compare and contrast.

December 21, 2010

Exhibition of the Week: Steve DiBenedetto's "Who Wants to Know?"

Steve DiBenedetto,"Quarry," 2010, oil on canvas, 78 x 116"

Steve DiBenedetto, "Scene Selection," 2010, oil on canvas, 60 x 48"

Steve DiBenedetto, "Template," 2010, oil on canvas, 60 x 48"

Steve DiBenedetto's new paintings at David Nolan have the super-charged jangling energy of previous work, but he's working looser, scraping down and thinning the paint to create a less clotty version of his networked schematics, underground bunkers, and knotty roadways. Finally, there's room to breath.

"Steve DiBenedetto: Who Wants to Know?" David Nolan, New York, NY. Through Jan 8, 2011.

Related post:
"A certain amount of total disregard for the logic of the painting."


"Unrelenting analysis" continues to grip art world

Christopher K. Ho 2010 / Hirsch E.P. Rothko 2001 (No. 21), 2010, acrylic, watercolor, graphite and color pencil on linen, 12" x 16"
Christopher K. Ho 2010 / Hirsch E.P. Rothko 2001 (No. 23), 2010, acrylic and watercolor on linen, 12" x 16"

Christopher K. Ho 2010 / Hirsch E.P. Rothko 2001 (No. 15), 2010, watercolor and acrylic on linen, 12"x 16"

Anyone living amid artists who work outside the New York art world can verify that few are looking for a review in the New York Times, a spot in the next Whitney Biennial, or even representation by a commercial gallery. Unaware of (or uninterested in) the larger critical dialogue, they make art for art's sake, often derivative but well crafted and heartfelt. [See clarification in Comments below.] So when conceptual artist Christopher K. Ho spent a year in Telluride, Colorado, he seemed charmed, perplexed and maybe a little jealous at the absence of critical awareness or self-consciousness among the local artists. In response to his year in the mountains, Ho has put together "Regional Painting (2010)," a thought-provoking interrogation of regional art practice, at Winkleman Gallery.

In ArtForum Nuit Banai  suggests that a productive friction emerged from Ho's engagement with the art  community in Telluride, which sparked the creation of fictional artist "Hirsch E. P. Rothko,'" an embittered conceptual artist turned born-again painter. "The show consists of twelve abstract paintings and Hirsch’s acerbic memoir (supposedly ghostwritten by one Inez Kruckev). Overall, it underscores an earnest attempt to carve out an alternative model of criticality by contending with the contemporary meaning of regionalism. After dutifully ingesting all the 'correct' critical texts, rubbing elbows with powerful people, teaching at a respected art academy . . . and still not seeing his career flourish in New York City, Rothko decamps to Colorado, lives in a shed covered with license plates, and discovers his passion for painting. Away from the commercial and critical framework of the metropolis, he realizes that regionalism is' not about a specific look or style' but operates from a 'position alongside the main.' Regionalism’s 'side-guard' status, which obeys neither the avant-garde’s imperative for newness nor the rear guard’s for unoriginality, opens up new options."

At Hyperallergic, Stephen Truax, one of Ho's former students at RISD,  writes that Ho combines two opposing points of view: one, the regional artist who makes art for the sake of art, and two, the self-aware critic/academic who seeks to advance the field. "Before this offering, Ho was merely the latter, and now, he can be both. By deploying a self-deprecating sense of humor, the absurdity of the art school, a love of making, critical theory, and his own unique brand of compulsive attention to detail, Ho manages to hit that sweet spot between regionalism and the international/critical art world. It is not his paintings’ 'lack of pursuit of originality' (from the press release) that makes them register as a valuable contribution, which would only constitute a purposeful regression or reactionary conservatism.  Rather, Ho’s unrelenting analysis of the significance of making art in the present cultural moment, every possible method of making meaning,  interpretation, cultural register, signifier or sign, that we find valuable. The center of Ho’s show is not the paintings at all, but the real work of being a conceptual artist in 2010."

Unfortunately, artists like Ho find thought and analysis so deeply engaging that authentic unmediated experience is beyond their grasp. In the not-too-distant future perhaps we might look back on the ruminative analysis that marks much of the art of our era and wonder whether it was a little too unrelenting.

"Christopher K. Ho: Regional Painting (2010)," Winkleman Gallery, New York, NY. Through December 23, 2010.

December 20, 2010

December 19, 2010

2010: The girls are all right

Keltie Ferris, ooooOOO()()()," 2010, oil, acrylic, oil pastel & sprayed paint on canvas, 100x80"

Klara Lidén,"Toujours Être Ailleurs (Always To Be Elsewhere)," 2010, (detail), mixed media. Photograph: Arno Gisinger, image courtesy of Jeu de Paume, Paris © 2010 Klara Lidén

Adrian Piper, "Past Time: Selected Works 1973 - 1995," installation view

According to Roberta Smith in her year-end overview, one of the bright spots of 2010 was the visibility of female artists. "In the scrum of exhibitions surrounding the Frieze Art Fair in London, the small survey of Klara Lidens architectural interventions and re-creations at the Serpentine Gallery, the forward-looking alternative space in Regent’s Park, was a standout. Back in New York a newly refurbished Artists Space showed work by the overlooked German Minimalist Charlotte Posenenske; and the Elizabeth Dee Gallery rented a floor of the building formerly known as the Dia Center for the Arts to amount a spacious Dia-like survey of the work of the influential Conceptual artist Adrian Piper.

Maria Harriet Elizabeth Cator (English, d. 1881), untitled page from the Cator Album, late 1860s/70s, collage of watercolor and albumen silver prints; 10 7/8 x 8 1/2," Hans P. Kraus, Jr., New York

At the Metropolitan Museum of Art the exhibition “Playing With Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage” proposed that the onset of collage be moved back nearly half a century and across the English Channel, out of the studios of the Cubists and into the drawing-rooms of upper-class British women making tableaus from cut-up photographs. At the Modern “On Line: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century” teems with work by little-known or under-shown women.

Faith Ringgold installation at the Neuberger Museum

The Neuberger Museum or Art in Purchase, N.Y., resurrected Faith Ringgold’s staunch early paintings, and the Brooklyn Museum added a roster of women to the history of Pop Art. And in New York galleries substantial shows by women have been abundant, including those by newcomers like Liz Magic Laser, Shio Kusaka, Keltie Ferris and Tatiana Trouvé, as well as better-known artists like Sarah Sze, Anya Kielar, Huma Bhabha, Claire Pentecost, Rineke Dijkstra, Mika Rottenberg, Siobhan Liddell, Pipilotti Rist and Joan Snyder. Diverse in age, style and medium, the girls are all right, and getting better all the time. Too bad they don’t run Washington yet."

At the Brooklyn Museum: Kiki Kogelnik (Austrian, 1935–1997), "Astronaut," 1964, oil and acrylic on canvas, 79 x 55," Kiki Kogelnik Foundation, Vienna and New York