February 28, 2011

Double feature: Artists and politics

Dan Perjovschi interview at Columbia University.
Wall painting in first image: Kader Attia, Untitled, 2010.

"Project Europa: Imagining the (Im)Possible," an excellent and disturbing show at Columbia University's Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, explores the past two decades in European history. Marked by the fall of the Berlin Wall and the unification of Europe, the exhibition brings together work (primarily video and photographic installations) created in the aftermath of these historic events and examines the relationship of art to democracy. Dan Perjovschi, who is known for transforming gallery and museum walls with his cartoon-graffiti hybrid drawings, has contributed a piece to the entranceway of the exhibition.

 Images of Perjovschi's drawings at the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Gallery at Columbia University. Images courtesy Dan Perjovschi.

While Europe embodies the notions of democracy, human rights, peace and diversity, it also reverberates with xenophobia, racism, religious intolerance, and—especially after the fall of the World Trade Center towers—heightened security and the hardening of immigration policies. Each of the pieces in the show suggest new ways of thinking about the challenges Europe faces.

To explore the challenges that violent Islamic extremism present, I'm going to see Xavier Beauvois's new film "Of Gods and Men" this evening. A plot summary: In the 1990s, eight French Christian monks live in harmony with their Muslim neighbors in a monastery perched in the mountains of North Africa. When a crew of foreign workers is massacred by an Islamic terrorist group, fear sweeps though the region. The army offers them protection, but the monks refuse. The film is loosely based on the experience of Cistercian monks of Tibhirine in Algeria, from 1993 until their kidnapping in 1996. Although I've heard that the ending of the movie is ambiguous, the real monks were eventually beheaded by their captors. (UPDATE: This haunting film's ending, which features an amazing final shot of the monks walking away through the snow, is not in the least ambiguous.)

"Project Europa: Imagining the (Im)Possible," curated by Kerry Oliver-Smith at the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art. Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Gallery at Columbia University, New York, NY. Through March 26, 2011. Artists included in the exhibition are Francis Alÿs, Fikret Atay, Kader Attia, Maja Bajević, Yto Barrada, Tacita Dean, Beate Gütschow, Jens Haaning, Susan Hefuna, Eva Leitolf, Aernout Mik, Marcel Odenbach, Dan Perjovschi, Marjetica Potrč, Andrea Robbins and Max Becher, Bruno Serralongue, Superflex and Lidwien Van de Ven.


February 21, 2011

IMAGES: Louise Belcourt's place in the world

 Louise Belcourt in her Williamsburg studio.

A year ago in The Brooklyn Rail I wrote about Louise Belcourt's show at Jeff Bailey Gallery, and yesterday, after a quick visit to see the show at Soloway on South 4th, we caught up in her Williamsburg studio. She continues to paint abstract landscapes that reference her childhood home on the south shore of the Saint Lawrence River in Canada, where she spends several months each year, and her studio, which overlooks Manhattan and the Williamsburg Bridge.

Belcourt's process begins with careful observation of her everyday environment. In Canada, she routinely fills her sketchbooks with gouache landscape studies. Surrounded by blocky geometic forms that impede the natural view (huge, manicured 100-year old hedges in Canada; industrial buildings in Brooklyn), Belcourt is drawn to their pronounced and inexorable physicality--their heavy and decisive placement in the world. In her paintings, she convincingly challenges the notion that they are obstacles.

Part of this artistic alchemy turns on her preoccupation with coaxing the illusion of crisp, clear light from pigment. "Finding the right color that will give light, space and the feeling of hope (goodness, elegance, rightness of purpose) to each work is a major concern," she says. "This is how I approach painting. It’s not that I am painting a ‘landscape,’ it’s that I know I am fundamentally a part of it and the reason for painting is to find out a little bit more about that."

  Louise Belcourt, "Land #7," 2008, gouache on paper, 22" x 29." Belcourt showed me several striking gouaches that inexplicably weren't included in the 2010 show at Jeff Bailey.

 Louise Belcourt, "Land #10 ," 2008, gouache on paper, 22" x 29"


IMAGES is a regular feature devoted to work by painters who deserve more love.


February 19, 2011

Sean Scully: If you're plotting art, and trying to make something to get something, you're not in a state of creative innocence. You're not making art. You're doing something else.

"Abstract painter Sean Scully may have been born in Dublin, but for the past few years he has lived in southern Germany – where, he says, the rural scenery has changed forever the urban texture of his art. Guardian filmmaker Laurence Topham is given rare access to his studio, where Scully discusses the intimate struggle to paint, his new exhibition in Ludwigshafen and how it feels to be a father in his 60s." (via  The Garage Studios and  The Guardian)

This video is fascinating. If you're interested in other painters' process, don't miss the part toward the end where Scully starts putting paint on canvas. Painter Liliane Tomasko (b. 1967) is toddler Oisin's  mother.


February 18, 2011

Josh Smith: Paints better than he thinks

Josh Smith, "Stage Painting 2," 2011, wood, paint, fabric, lights and hardware, 96 x 68 x 54 inches 

 Josh Smith, "Untitled," 2010, mixed media on panel (6 panels), 120 x 144"

 Josh Smith, "Untitled," 2010, mixed media on panel, 48 x 36"

Josh Smith, "Untitled," 2010, oil on canvas, 60 x 48"

Josh Smith, "Untitled," 2010, oil on canvas, 48 x 36"

Josh Smith, "Untitled," 2010, enamel on aluminum, 48 x 48"

 Josh Smith, "Stage Painting 6," 2011, wood, paint, fabric, lights and hardware, 96 x 68 x 54"(Is Smith in a band? These sure look like road cases to me.)

 Josh Smith, "Untitled," 2008-2010, oil on board, 48 x 36"

At his third solo show at Luhring Augustine, Josh Smith presents paintings, collages, and crudely constructed, portable platforms that feature hanging paintings of his name, lit by clamp lamps. In the wall pieces, he has continued to surround his name with abstractions of fish, leaves, skeletons and insects, purportedly choosing these images arbitrarily, so that he can "take the act of painting beyond aesthetics" in “his ongoing exploration of abstraction.” Yet it seems odd to contend that the process transcends aesthetics, when its overt and immediate visual effect is to root each piece more firmly in the formalist camp.

Even assuming the individual objects depicted are arbitrary in the narrow sense of being substantively meaningless to the artist (itself a dubious proposition), each individual decision Smith makes would still have to be at least intuitively based on aesthetic considerations – and all the more heavily if meaning were somehow taken out of the artistic equation. After describing Smith's process, which includes printing old imagery and incorporating the prints in new work, the gallery's statement declares that "collectively, they represent an exhaustive exploration of technical and compositional possibilities" – formalist language if ever I heard it. I'm unconvinced that Smith's imagery is arbitrary or that his subject is abstraction. I think his subject is denial – and that works for me.

"Josh Smith," Luhring Augustine, New York, NY. Through March 19, 2011.

Related posts:
Paintings of a certain size (and depth)

NY Times Art in Review: Art Green and Josh Smith

Everybody hearts painting, 4eva



George Condo's schtick

All images are details from Condo's paintings at the New Museum.

In Jerry Saltz's "Ask an Art Critic" column, reader Aaron Holtz asks why so many people love the George Condo exhibition at the New Museum. Here's an excerpt from Saltz's uncharacteristically dismissive answer along with a few excerpts from other reviews for comparison. When I saw the show I was struck by Condo's painterly brio, but I haven't given the paintings much thought since, except to wonder what their popularity might mean about our cultural legacy. Are audiences drawn to Condo's work for the same reason that they're drawn to reality TV, celebrity news, and junk food?  Condo isn't an intellectually tight philosopher-painter, but he's not a charlatan either, and his work certainly reflects the anti-intellectualism of our times.
Among living artists, George Condo may be the most embraced by the powers that be. The Times called his New Museum show “sensational.” That was just the beginning. Collectors love Condo’s paintings and buy them by the hundreds....I’m thrilled that the New Museum is having a success, and I admire the curators of the show, Laura Hoptman and Ralph Rugoff; however, to me, Condo is a zombie — a very limited, ironic, art-about-art artist whose work sounds the same visually derivative, technically generic notes over and over again. He provides almost no internal or psychic depth, instead giving people a sense of being in on some art-world in-jokes about style, tradition, kitsch, and appropriation.

The top floor of Condo’s show is the better of the two, because it blatantly imparts his deep content. More than 50 portraits hang here, floor to ceiling and wall to wall....But mostly you don’t have to look at any one painting here for more than a few seconds. That’s all they demand.

People always say Condo is a “virtuoso painter.” The second-floor display gives the lie to this claim. Condo is an enthusiastic confident drawer who paints in high-keyed funky color with flourish. But he is simply deft and dexterous, aping R. Crumb and Philip Guston without any of the gutsiness or exposed inner life of these artists.... Any idea of the grotesque is replaced by burlesque and shtick.

Condo’s is well-done work for a time still jittery about painting, weaned on idiotic ideas that it’s somehow suspect, that it can only be good if it makes jokes or comments about itself. This sort of deconstructionism has been done to death, and is so familiar and enfeebled that it can barely lift the gun to its own head. At his best, Condo is not much more than Koons-lite, a safe Schnabel, a more ingratiating Richard Prince....
Holland Cotter reports in the NYTimes: "He’s the missing link, or one of them (Carroll Dunham is another), between an older tradition of fiercely loony American figure painting — Willem de Kooning’s grinning women, Philip Guston’s ground-meat guys, Jim Nutt’s cubist cuties, anything by Peter Saul — and the recent and updated resurgence of that tradition in the work of Mr. Currin, Glenn Brown, Nicole Eisenman, Dana Schutz and others....Some of the paintings are stronger and stranger than others. But covering a long wall up to the ceiling, with no two images alike, they add up to a tour de force of stylistic multitasking and figurative variety. "

Howard Halle writes at Time Out New York: "Over the years, I’ve learned not to expect too much from exhibitions at the New Museum, as they tend toward visual and intellectual incoherence. So imagine my surprise at 'Mental States,' a three-decade survey of New York painter George Condo: It looks fantastic. This is all the more remarkable when you consider that close to 90 works have been crammed into the building’s third- and fourth-floor galleries. I’m guessing the artist himself oversaw the hanging; it certainly feels that way. But whatever the case, the show is a delight, and that comes from someone who never really counted himself as a Condo fan."

In The Village Voice, ChristianViveros-Fauné suggests that Condo makes relentlessly attractive but meaningless paintings. "Mark Rothko, that dark star of righteousness, had a point (or three) to make about unchallenging art: 'There is no such thing as good painting about nothing.' Speaking to the widely held notion that 'it does not matter what one paints as long as it is well painted,' Rothko fulminated against the medium's more carny impulses—its penchant to razzmatazz while saying nada. Condo's paintings, recent critical genealogies aside, have historically proved Rothko's dictum. Rather than being an acknowledged progenitor of the 1990s painting that shocked the art world—John Currin and Lisa Yuskavage's principal debt is to fusty William Bailey, the old Yale teacher they reacted against—Condo was more a loyal keeper of the medium's flame when it fell out of favor. But consider for a minute Condo's effect on those painters whom he did influence. Children of the art-market boom, artists like Dana Schutz, Kristin Baker, Josh Smith, Dan Colen, et al., have Condo—and Ashley Bickerton, among others—to thank for making it possible for them to produce relentlessly attractive paintings that are overwhelmingly, repetitively, maddeningly about diddly....More garden-variety harum-scarum than wicked, vexing, or disturbing in any compelling way, this hodge-podge of paintings proves all cartoony cleft palate and no bite."
"George Condo: Mental States," curated by Ralph Rugoff, Laura Hoptman. The New Museum, New York, NY. Through May 8, 2011. The exhibition is accompanied by a 190-page catalogue, George Condo: Mental States, featuring essays by Ralph Rugoff, Laura Hoptman and novelists Will Self and David Means.

After its presentation at the New Museum in New York, a modified version of the exhibition, organized by the Hayward Gallery, will travel to Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam (June 25–September 25, 2011); Hayward Gallery, London (October 18, 2011–January 15, 2012); and Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt (February 23–May 28, 2012).

Installation view, 4th floor. Check out a  full photo essay at Hyperallergic.


February 13, 2011

The long haul: Ellsworth Kelly

Ever since I saw his 1996 Guggenheim retrospective, I've been too much of a fan(atic) to objectively review Ellsworth Kelly's work--it's been so important to me over the years. On Thursday night I stopped by the opening of his new show at Matthew Marks, where I finally got to meet the man. Dressed in a navy suit, checked blue-and-white shirt, and dark tie, Mr. Kelly, 87 years old, cheerfully greeted well-wishers, friends, and admirers. This new exhibition, which sprawls over three Chelsea spaces, features thirteen new paintings, a sculpture, and twenty forceful small works-on-paper made between 1954 and 1959 that testify to the maestro's lifelong commitment to his early minimalist vision.

[UPDATE (December 28, 2016): Ellsworth Kelly died yesterday at his  home in Spencertown, New York. He was 92 years old. Read Holland Cotter's excellent obituary in the NYTimes.]
[Image at top: Ellsworth Kelly, Gray Curve Relief, 2010, oil on canvas, two joined panels, 80 1/8 x 52 3/4 inches.]

With or without a dealer

 Found Art (Bowery) Unmonumental 470. Photo: Joy Garnett 2011.

Here's a repost of Joy Garnett's excellent report on "Making a Living as an Artist: With or Without a Dealer," the panel I participated in at the College Art Association last Thursday. Garnett's report was originally published in the CAA Conference blog and at NEWSgrist. Big thanks to everyone who attended. Stay-tuned for more CAA coverage; my next post will share ideas and images from two painting panels I attended.

Today's well attended ARTspace panel,  was lively and informative as all get-out. Organized and chaired by artist Sharon Louden, it brought to bear the expertise of a number of New York City's finest art mavens: the artist and writer Sharon Butler, whose well appointed blog Two Coats of Paint will be familiar to many readers here; artist, former gallery director, curator and current Director of the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts Studio Program Bill Carroll; artist, curator and current Dean of The New York Academy of Art Peter Drake; and New York dealer, inveterate blogger and author of How to Start and Run a Commercial Art Gallery Ed Winkleman.

[Full disclosure: I am represented by Winkleman Gallery; Sharon Butler, a fellow painter, is the author of one of my favorite art blogs, where she recently wrote a thoughtful review of my last show; Sharon Louden -- well, Sharon is every artist's hero (she's been mine for quite some time); and Bill Carroll and Peter Drake aren't exactly chopped liver! Basically, there was no way I was going to miss this panel...]

Here is an encapsulation of the discussion (paraphrased) -- I've divided it up into several posts:

Sharon Louden: Everyone here on the panel wears a number of different hats; some of them have been through many dips in the economy before. My interest in gathering you together here is to explore how artists themselves have the power to weather these dips, and the kinds of partnerships that might help that process.

Bill Carroll: It is very difficult to make a living as an artist. You need a fallback, as it really is like a lottery. During a downturn, having a gallery may even be irrelevent if they can't sell your work. Interestingly, more galleries closed during the 90s downturn than in this recent one. Back then, the mid-career artists were hit hardest -- that market completely died. One of our artists [at Charles Cowles Gallery] who was a sculptor turned entirely to public commissions and it changed his career in a very positive way. He still makes sculpture, but public commissions have since become an important part of what he does.

Ed Winkleman: I have two collectors who've been collecting art for 35 years. When the downturn hit in 2008 they said: we just don't know the real price of anything right now, and we're going to hold off buying until we can determine which prices have been inflated. So, one thing artists can do in response to such a situation is to put out a new body of work with lower prices -- if you are a painter, you might create a new series of drawings, for example -- and get those out and into the market, rather than having to lower the prices of your existing body of work.

Sharon Butler: As an artist I want to remind people -- I think many people forget -- that artists have a lot of skills. In the last downturn, I decided to go to graduate school. I managed to get a scholarship and a stipend, and I treated it like a residency.

Peter Drake: If you're in this room you are already proactive -- artists and creative people taking control of their lives. I think of Jeffrey Lew and Gordon Matta-Clark and what they did when they established 112 Green Street....

Sharon L: Artists come to me and they ask: how do you get a dealer? But is having a dealer the answer? Is it key? Why is that perceived need there?

Sharon B: Having a dealer is only part of the puzzle of being an artist. Don't put all your eggs in that basket. Even with gallery representation, you have to do things yourself. The reality is, THERE AREN'T ENOUGH GALLERIES to accommodate all the artists [and, it's intimated, not enough collectors - not enough demand].

Bill: You are ALWAYS responsible for your own career. A smaller gallery especially cannot be working on your career all the time. Most of the people I now who make a living off their work have several galleries -- you need to look for galleries in other cities outside New York City.

Ed: There's a sense you get, looking at submissions, that many artists think getting a gallery is an end-goal. Also, artists need to think in terms of working with a team -- with their gallery. Especially during a downturn.

Bill: Many artists come into a gallery and think they've found parents (laughter).

Peter: There are many different "art worlds'... in any case it really is a partnership you enter into with your dealer. You have to adjust to make sure your partnership stays whole. You also have to help them extend their reach. To reciprocate, many dealers will ask their artists to curate shows.

Sharon Louden: Once you’ve done your homework and figured out which galleries are appropriate for your work, how do you get their attention? Is it just about the work?

Ed Winkleman: Yes, it’s just about the work. Believe it or not. The best way to approach a gallery is through one of their artists, or through curators associated with that gallery. But it’s not just about finding the gallery that’s right for you, because the galleries also have to think in terms of balancing their programs.

Bill Carroll: Actually, it wasn’t just about the work. I wanted to know whether younger artists were real go-getters. Also, whether an older artist has a great reputation. And [things that matter]: teamwork, personalities, sharing strategies, collector lists, etc.

Sharon Butler: You need to get the gallery to notice you, not by sending them your work, but by creating a SCENE. By making your voice heard. Any effort you put into building the community will be rewarded. So: rather than trying to bust into someone else’s scene, make your own.

Peter Drake: Put yourself in the galleries’ shoes, behave professionally. Don’t send out “shot-gun” packages. It’s insulting. Do the research.

Sharon L: How do I do all these things? It’s too much! Teaching/working/self-promoting/developing community/working with my dealer: this is all under the umbrella of being an artist.

Sharon B: The key to having an active, creative life is to connect the things you want to do. Find the things you want to do, and do them.

Bill: I’m REALLY social — running a gallery was really about connecting the artists to the world. …Find ways to integrate the various creative things you do — it’s part of the deal.

Ed: Artists today have a HUGE advantage over previous generations because they can do much of these things at home, online, in their pajamas. … Regarding the idea of ‘artistic purity’ — being in your studio all the time — having a conversation about your art, that too is something artists really want, and it requires social skills.

Peter: Diversify what you do creatively. Any time your life changes, it will change your studio practice. You will need to adjust. Think of socially engaged models such as Hallwalls…

Sharon L: I’m going to talk about New York. Is New York City IT? What is your opinion about that?? And if you want a gallery in NY but live out of town, how do you do that? How do NY galleries deal with, or do they work with artists from out of town?

Ed: We work with two artists who actually live in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan (laughter). The art world is decentralizing more and more. New York is not what it was just a few years ago. Take, for example, the VIP Art Fair — it was entirely online. 139 of some of the world’s major galleries participated. We connected with collectors in Italy and elsewhere. We normally wouldn’t have. In terms of the art marketplace, this change is coming like a tidal wave.

Bill: Okay, but Chelsea has over 300 galleries — where else can you find that? Soho at its height had only ~150 galleries. Artists must connect and make a name for themselves in their own locales and territory. If you do that, ultimately some New York gallery WILL want to show you.

Sharon B: I want to go back to on of Ed’s earlier comments about having a gallery’s artist refer you: you NEED to work with the community around you. Create an exchange, make connections with artist communities in other cities and towns, rather than badger galleries.

Peter: If you’re going to be part of a global community you have to be proactive.

Ed: I’m with Bill on loving NYC — but if you look at some of the larger galleries, they are opening up spaces in other cities. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Sharon Louden: What does “representation” mean these days?

Bill: When the art world was smaller, the relationships were much more personal. There were stipends. Dealers like Betty Parsons were situated somewhere between collectors and dealers [like patrons]. This is long over. As is the idea of a ‘life-long’ relationship.

Sharon L: That goes back to the idea of ‘parents’.

Ed: The stipend was an act of faith… also, there are so many galleries now, and so many of them run on a shoe-string budget. Forty or fifty years ago, this wasn’t the case. We have different models now.

Sharon L: What should the expectations be between artists and dealers?

Ed: That is a conversation you must have before you enter into the relationship. It’s really a case-by-case thing, depending on the artist and what kind of career they have.


February 4, 2011

College Art Association's 99th Annual Conference: Free events for artists, open to the public

Services to Artists Committee members Sharon Louden and Brian Bishop stopped by to check out "The Promotion Project, " my presentation at the CAA ArtExchange last year in Chicago.

This week in NYC, as the 99th College Art Association Annual Conference convenes, art students from across the country will be taking the week off while their professors, seated behind folding conference tables, drinking pitchers of ice water, hold forth during hundreds of presentations and panel  discussions on topics as diverse as Tibetan stylistic taxonomies and the art of pranks. Attendance at most of the talks requires conference registration ($400 for non-members, $270 for members)--except for the ArtSpace events. Organized by the Services to Artists Committee, the ArtSpace events, located in the Murray Hill Suite, Second Floor, at the Hilton New York, are free and open to the public.

On Thursday at 12:30 Sharon Louden, Ed Winkleman, Peter Drake, William Carroll and I will be discussing how artists should be thinking beyond traditional gallery representation, so please stop in and say hello.

The following is a complete list of CAA's ArtSpace presentations. Note that blogger Tyler Green will be discussing public space on Saturday at noon. As a new member of the Services To Artists Committee, I'll be hosting several events, which I've highlighted in red. Follow my Twitter feed for some live coverage throughout the conference.

Wednesday, February 9

9:30 AM–NOON
The Aesthetics of Sonic Spaces
Chairs: China Blue, The Engine Institute; and Jill Conner, Parsons The New School for Design

Spectral Temporal Aesthetics and Human Perception
China Blue, The Engine Institute, Inc.

Sound as Sculptural Sensation
Michael Brewster, Claremont Graduate University

Witnessing Space
Andrea Polli, University of New Mexico

Developing an Aesthetic: Soundwalking as a Tool for Understanding Urban Sonic Spaces
Jonathan Farrow, City College of New York, City University of New York

Looking at Sound: The Exhibition Iannis Xenakis: Composer, Architect, Visionary
Carey Lovelace, International Art Critics Association

12:30 PM–2:00 PM
CAA Services to Artists Committee
[Meta] Mentors: Great Art Cities

Chairs: Reni Gower, Virginia Commonwealth University; Melissa Potter, Columbia College Chicago; and Vesna Pavlovic, Vanderbilt University

Dublin, Ireland/London, England
Nigel Rolfe, Royal College of Art

Tehran, Iran
Morehshin Allahyari, IRUS Art: Intercultural Collaborative

Cleveland, Ohio
Holly Morrison, Virginia Commonwealth University

Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Peter Dykhuis, Dalhousie Art Gallery, Dalhousie University

Seattle, Washington
Rebecca Cummins, University of Washington

Sao Paulo, Brazil
Ana Maria Tavares, University of Sao Paulo

2:30–5:00 PM
CAA Services to Artists Committee
Health and Safety in the Artist Studio

Chairs: Mark Gottsegen, AMIEN and ICA Art Conservation; and Brian Bishop, Framingham State University

Considerations for Dim and Dark Rooms
Jennifer Steensma Hoag, Calvin College

A Twenty-First Century Ceramics Shop and the Safety Retrofit
Brian Gillis, University of Oregon

Greening the Studio
Claudia Sbrissa, St. John’s University

The New Color of Art Is Green
David Zenk, Gund Partnership; and Monona Rossol, Arts, Crafts and Theater Safety, Inc.

Thirty-Five Years of Health and Safety
Mark Gottsegen, AMIEN and ICA Art Conservation

Thursday, February 10

9:30 AM–NOON
Data as Art Medium
Chair: Jeff Thompson, University of Nebraska, Lincoln

Data and Its Expression
George Legrady, University of California, Santa Barbara

From Kandinsky to the Database (Point, Line, Plane: Variable, Array, Table)
Brian Evans, University of Alabama

Web as Index and Archive
Penelope Umbrico, Bard College and School of Visual Arts

Art that Decodes: Making Sense of Data Process
Heidi May, Emily Carr University of Art and Design and University of British Columbia

12:30 PM–2:00 PM
CAA Services to Artists Committee
Making a Living as an Artist: With or Without a Gallery

Chair: Sharon Louden, Louden Studio

Sharon Butler, Eastern Connecticut State University
William Carroll, The Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts
Peter Drake, New York Academy of Art
Ed Winkleman, Winkleman Gallery

2:30–5:00 PM
CAA Services to Artists Committee
Be Our Guest: Time and Space to Create at Artist Residencies

Chair: Caitlin Strokosch, Alliance of Artists Communities

Kathy Black, Vermont Studio Center
Linda Marston-Reid, Bellagio Center
Margaret Murphy, Fine Arts Work Center
Mario Caro, Res Artis

Friday, February 11

9:30 AM–NOON
Painting: Practice as Strategy
Chair: Thomas Berding, Michigan State University

Painting and Vigilance
Shona Macdonald, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Painting as Artifact
Sue E. Hettmansperger, University of Iowa

Neither Pure nor Flat: Developing Frameworks for Painting
Mariangeles Soto-Diaz, Abstraction at Work

Caught in Flux
Matthew Kolodziej, University of Akron

Serious Pleasure: The Stockholm Syndrome, or Learning to Love My Captors
Su Baker, University of Melbourne

Discussant: Thomas Berding, Michigan State University

12:30 PM–2:00 PM
CAA Services to Artists Committee
[Meta] Mentors: Global Networks that Connect Artists, Curators, and New Audiences Internationally

Chairs: Reni Gower, Virginia Commonwealth University; Melissa Potter, Columbia College Chicago; and Vesna Pavlovic, Vanderbilt University

International Collaboration (US, Russia, Asia, Eastern/Central Europe)
Fritzie Brown, CEC ArtsLink

Alternative Models of Access
Julieta Aranda, e-flux

Artist Opportunities in the UK
Sue Gollifer, ISEA International and University of Brighton

International Critique
Gregory Volk, Virginia Commonwealth University

Art, Activism, and Ideas
Marisa Jahn, Pond and REV

2:30–5:00 PM
Annual Artists’ Interviews

Krzysztof Wodiczko will be interviewed by Patricia Phillips, Rhode Island School of Design. Mel Chin will be interviewed by Miranda Lash, New Orleans Museum of Art.

7:00–9:00 PM

The Services to Artists Committee sponsors ARTexchange, an open forum for sharing work at the Annual Conference. The event is free and open to the public; a cash bar is available.  The space on, above, and beneath a six-foot table is available for each artist’s exhibition of prints, paintings, drawings, photographs, sculptures, and small installations; performance, sound, and spoken word are also welcome.

Saturday, February 12

9:30–11:00 AM
Public Art Dialogue
Agency/Agencies for Public Art
Chairs: Eli Robb, Lake Forest College; and Mary Tinti, New England Foundation for the Arts

Wendy Feuer, New York City Department of Transportation
Anne Pasternak, Creative Time
Sarah Reisman, Percent for Art, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs

11:15–11:45 AM
Artist Presentations

Su Stockwell, independent artist, London; and Robert Ransick, Bennington College

NOON–2:00 PM
Public Art World vs. the Art World

Chairs: Sharon Louden, Louden Studio; and Norie Sato, Sato Service

Richard Griggs, Public Art Fund
Jack Becker, Forecast Public Art and Public Art Review
Jennifer McGregor, Wave Hill
Lester Burg, MTA Arts for Transit
Brian Tolle, independent artist, New York

2:15–2:45 PM
Artist Presentations

Ethan Greenbaum, independent artist, Brooklyn; and Timothy Nolan, independent artist, Los Angeles

3:00–5:00 PM
Is Public Space Museum Space?

Chairs: Sharon Louden, Louden Studio; and Norie Sato, Sato Service

Glenn Weiss, Times Square Alliance
Porter Arneill, Kansas City Municipal Art Commission
Richard Klein, Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum
Tyler Green, Modern Art Notes and Artinfo.com
Holly Block, Bronx Museum

Related posts:
Ed Winkleman: Get Your Intelligent Art Conversations Here
Artnet: CAA Takes Manhattan By Storm 


Deborah Brown: An artist grows in Brooklyn

Deborah Brown telling stories about her neighborhood.

Deborah Brown, "Hybrid #1," 2010, oil on canvas , 36" x 36"

On the occasion of "The Bushwick Paintings," her exhibition at Lesley Heller, I met with Deborah Brown in her studio where we discussed painting and her love of Bushwick, Brooklyn's rising art community.

Sharon Butler:
Let's talk about location. You moved to Manhattan in 1982. How has the art world changed since you arrived?
Deborah Brown: Well, now there's Brooklyn. When I moved to NYC there were artist communities in Soho, Tribecca...the East Village was just beginning, but they were all in Manhattan. That's completely changed.

SB: Before you moved to the city, you had a tenure-track position teaching painting at a liberal arts college in Minnesota.
DB: I'd been teaching at Carleton College during the academic year, and in the summer program at Yale. The Yale job in the summer was what got me to New York. I rented a loft in the West 20's near Danceteria. When I got tenure at Carleton, I took a leave of absence for a year to stay here, and I never went back. To support myself, I got a job at the MLA--the Modern Language Association. The MLA represents college English and foreign language professors, much like the College Art Association represents art faculty. I was the Assistant to the Executive Director, which was a secretarial job, but it was a really interesting place because the professors were always in and out-- there was a lot of intellectual activity. I thought it was pretty good for a day job. I did that for quite a while and painted at night.
Deborah Brown, "Shoe Tree," 2010, oil on canvas, 48" x 60"

SB: What were your paintings like back then?
DB: I painted expressionistic landscapes and buildings. It was rare to get an exhibition right out of school, but when I moved to NYC, I'd been painting for over five years. I submitted my stuff cold to Tibor de Nagy Gallery.  The director, John Post Lee, had seen my work and liked it. The gallery decided to represent me, and I had four shows at there from 1986--1992. I knew fellow Yalies like Peter Halley, who had figured out ways of marketing their work by starting  galleries like International with Monument. They showed their own work and produced their own art magazines. People forget that DIY is an old model that has deep roots in New York. Artists wrote about their own work and their friends' work--But it was all in Manhattan and it was a much smaller scene than it is now. At some point, many artists moved to Williamsburg but I completely missed that because I stayed in Manhattan. I came out for Four Walls, but I didn't hang out in Brooklyn until I moved my studio here five years ago.

Deborah Brown, "Dick Chicken #3," 2010, oil on canvas, 48" x 48"

SB: What brought you out to Bushwick?
DB: My niece, who was living with us in Manhattan after graduating from college, had decided to sublet a place in Bushwick for three weeks. We moved her to her new place and took her to dinner at the Northeast Kingdom. I'd been to other places in Brooklyn, but I'd never been out to Bushwick...or anywhere near Bushwick(laughs). While we were having dinner at the Northeast Kingdom, artists kept appearing out of the mist to eat there--because there was nowhere else to go. And I had an idea that one of the garages I had seen as we drove around the neighborhood would make a good studio. The neighborhood gripped me immediately and a month later I bought a vacant factory building to use as my studio. I was so sure that this was going to be a fantastic place for artists. I've never felt so strongly about anything in terms of a location. I came to Bushwick with a desire to meet everyone I could. I wanted to know about the community--not just the art community, but my neighbors on the block. I started taking Spanish lessons so I could talk with my neighbors.

Deborah Brown, "Dream, 2010, oil on canvas, 48" x 60"

SB: What was happening back in your Manhattan art community?
DB: When artists get older, they tend to loose touch with each other. I had been involved with a couple of artist-run discussion groups--a philosophy reading group and a women's artist discussion group--since the early nineties when the commercial art world imploded. Artists banded together and created support groups. I knew a lot of people from those groups, especially women artists, and I loved that, but you become busy with your own lives, and Manhattan is a big place. The scene diversified and moved around--Soho, the East Village, Chelsea, but in Bushwick it is much more concentrated. The small DIY communities in Manhattan had been absorbed into larger commercial communities as the artists gained success. In contrast, almost everyone who was moving to Bushwick was young, which was intriguing, and I felt I could help build a new community. It seemed like a chance to work with others to start something new.

Deborah Brown, "Yard," 2010, oil on masonite, 18" x 24"

SB: Last year you and Jason Andrew (Director of Norte Maar) opened STOREFRONT, a gallery on Wilson Avenue. Has operating the gallery been a good experience?
DB: It's been a fantastic experience and it's led me on a wild goose chase of other things. First of all, being a curator and organizing shows is a fantastic thing for an artist. We all have ideas how we want to show our own work, show our friends' work, and discover new artists.And the artists whom Jason and I have worked with have been wonderful. Many have been helpful getting the shows up and down. Well-known artists have agreed to show their work in small group shows in the project space in the backroom, next to less well-known artists. It's a great spirit, and you don't get that in Manhattan. In Chelsea, everyone is concerned with their reputation, the context of their work. But at STOREFRONT I've never had anyone ask, "Who else is in the show?" Artists trust that we aren't going to embarrass them. Jason Andrew is the best partner in a gallery whom one could hope to have. He is a consummate professional who has wonderful taste and great ideas about everything--programming, installation, presentation. STOREFRONT is a little off the grid, but the gallery has a good reputation among artists, both young and old. And for more established artists, showing at STOREFRONT is a good way to introduce their work to younger artists.

STOREFRONT isn't the only thing going on in the neighborhood. There's Arts in Bushwick. This group really got things going before any of the galleries had opened. They organized events like Bushwick Open Studios in a non-hierarchical way. And now everyone participates in their events, not just the young artists, but the more established artists, too.  Chris Harding opened English Kills, Austin Thomas started Pocket Utopia, Kevin Regan and Ellen Letcher opened Famous Accountants, Gwendolyn Skaggs with Sugar, and Factory Fresh--all of these people opened their own galleries. And being involved with STOREFRONT has led to my involvement in non-profit art spaces in Brooklyn. I'm on the board of NURTUREart and Momenta, which involves looking at real estate, raising money, putting on benefits--it's a lot of work, but it's been very satisfying.

SB: Talk about "The Bushwick Paintings" that are on display at Lesley Heller. How has being part of this neighborhood affected your work?
DB: In my earlier work I painted animals in their urban habitats, with the backdrop of the city. I was interested in how those two ecologies interact, not always to the advantage of the animals. I've always painted what's around me. My first response to Bushwick was that this is a visually blighted area, and it IS ugly (laughs). Let's face it, the neighborhood is poor and there's a lot of neglect and trash, and graffiti. But then the way nature is entwined, on the margins, had a resonant chord with me, and related to what I had been painting. I started to see new forms that I really liked--the barbed wire, the satellite dishes, the branches with trash bags stuck on them, the graffiti, dilapidated houses with all kinds of wires coming out of them. It was kind of a crazy area--a little bit like a Tim Burton movie, really wild, and I started painting it. I embraced it quickly and I've been working on this subject matter for the past few years. The new work is completely inspired by my love of this place.  I'm very involved with Bushwick--I started STOREFRONT with Jason, I'm on the local community board, my husband and I have a business here. I jog around the neighborhood everyday and see all these things I want to paint.

SB: The interesting thing about your work is how it combines this old-master sense of light and use of materials with these gritty urban scenes, so that there's a sense of the city's resilience, art history, the vitality and creativity in the community, as well as the history of New York. In this new one, you added an image of the Empire State Building.
DB: When you're in Bushwick, you can see the city, it's like Oz but it's surrounded by the architecture of cement factories, water towers, and prosaic urban things that are much more modest. And yet, the two worlds are only twenty minutes away from each other! The two different landscapes are hard to combine, but that's what I'm trying to do in this new painting. I'm trying to paint the space between the two without being too literal or illustrative.

SB: Debbie, you're involved in so many projects. Do you look wistfully back to the days when you simply worked in the studio?
DB: Sometimes, but I think that when artists get older they can become too isolated. It's better to move yourself out of your comfort zone and try new things. Maybe I've gone too far (laughs), but I am having a blast!

Related posts:
A Bushwick painter
A new space opens in Bushwick
Deborah Brown loves animals


This post was also published at The Huffington Post.


February 2, 2011

IMAGES: Cathy Nan Quinlan's studio

Cathy Nan Quinlan in her Bed-Stuy studio with Lucy. December 2010. 


IMAGES is a weekly feature devoted to work by painters who deserve more love.


Alan Uglow dies of lung cancer

Alan Uglow, "Hanging Standard # 4 (Green Gold)," 2006, acrylic on cotton, 48 x 60"

Alan Uglow, Untitled, 2008, acrylic on fiberglass, 45 x 60"

Alan Uglow, "Standard # 2 (Red Oxide)," 2002, acrylic on cotton

Installation shot, 2006, Galerie Nordenhake in Berlin

Roberta Smith reports in the NY Times: "Alan Uglow, an abstract painter of light-filled geometries whose expansive fields, bordered with notched lines, reflected in part his passion for soccer, died on Jan. 20 in Manhattan, where he lived. He was 69. The cause was complications of lung cancer, said his wife, Elena Alexander. Mr. Uglow was what is often called a painter’s painter, respected within the art world’s precincts but not well known beyond them."

From the Galerie Nordenhake web page for Uglow:
"One major influence for Uglow's paintings comes from his lifelong fascination with football. It led to sculptures and photographs related to the spatial structure of the stadium, like his constructions "Sudcurve" (1993) or "Coach's Bench" (1997/98). On a few occasions this type of work has been exhibited together with a roaring soundtrack recorded in the stands of a crowded football stadium. But there are also clear links between the beautiful game and his paintings, for example in the stripes of his 1992 work "Stadium II" that evoke the white marking lines on the football field.

"He is interested in paintings ability to be timeless - there is no difference between a recent stadium painting and an early one. His paintings are pristine but do not lose their touch with reality. Their seriality and uniformity does in fact relate to the ordinary and the mundane, and also the choice of titles and colours point in this direction. Hotels and football stadiums are generic in their functions and general layout, colours chosen might relate to the colour of a passing car or to be taken off a colour chart. His spare, elegantly proportioned abstractions are not strictly minimal or formal, they do misbehave and are not painted with proclaimed primary colours such as in the recent work "Hanging Standard # 2 (Blue)" where white fields are bisected by light blue iridescent bands. In Uglow's practice the exploration of the essentials of painting is not an end in itself but a means to generate the sense of discovery and psychological confrontation. "

Related articles:
2010 Joan Waltemath review of Uglow's work in The Brooklyn Rail
1991 Uglow interview with Alain Kirili in Bomb