Monday, August 27, 2007

What is Painting?

Beatriz Milhazes

Cindy Sherman

Nikki S. Lee

*What is Painting* “is the fourth in a series of installations designed to show off the embarrassment of riches populating MoMA’s well-fed storage racks, a mythical utopia of hidden treasures,” writes the Village Voice. According to the Voice, it is also an exhibition that falls flat at the union of edgy and academic.

The article doesn’t just raise questions about the role of painting, the canon of painting and simple application of paint to canvas, but more specifically to the role of curators and the responsibility of museums with vast holdings under their stewardship. And though it might seem incredibly predictable, chronological organization of exhibits as championed by Alfred Barr is a tool that allows both the casual observer and the historian to have a more complete understanding of the work at hand...a little explanation might be in order here: According to the Voice, the exhibit was organized not according to chronology (perhaps because the works are created on within recent recollection?) but topic and approach.

*What is Painting* includes a Cindy Sherman photograph (pictured) and that alone raises the question of Sherman’s continued relevance: if her work will truly stand the test of time, let alone to include her in an exhibit ostensibly about painting. Of course Sherman is responsible for a generation of artists who don the trappings of cultures outside their own, like Nikki S. Lee (pictured). Though its not clear if these works are interesting as anthropological essays of subcultures, or truly function as art.

Either way, the Voice piece makes it glaringly clear that MoMA curator Anne Umland didn’t just drop the ball, but bounced it away with deliberate force…perhaps in a bid for her own art-historical footnote?,viverosfaune,77542,13.html

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Luxury at the Times

Luxury goods and the arts are not dissimilar. Both are ostensibly one-of-a-kind, or limited run objects catering to an exclusive clientele, or one (at least) with refined tastes, and distilled ideologies. So, I found this NY Times article on the demise of luxury goods/industry quite interesting.

That being said, though they're pretty ostentatious symbols of consumerism, given half a chance I'd rock a knock-off Birkin bag almost as hard as an original. The difference? I'd probably want to be cremated with the original...leave the knock-off to the kids...I jest, but it's true.

Saturday, August 18, 2007


Photo credit: Kristy Leibowitz (boys)

I thought that it would be appropriate to comment on the recent installation piece, “Nest” at Deitch Projects by Dan Colen and Dash Snow, on the day it closes.

The press release accompanying the work, declared it “[a] contemporary answer to a ‘happening’” and an affirmation of freedom of expression,” while the participants themselves see it as a tribute to counterculture heroics.

Indeed, the organized shredding and installation within gallery walls of 2,500 NYC city phone books is incredibility subversive…or is it?

The “Hamster Nest,” which is the culmination of “performances” in various hotel rooms across the world by Snow, Colen, photographer Ryan McGinley (who is not listed as a creative on this installation but runs with their crew) and their friends, started out as little more than the juvenile trashing of hotel rooms, while high on various drug cocktails.

The premise is simple: get a bunch of people together, shred some phone books, and then, “you do as many drugs as you can do within the Hamster’s Nest and you really try to be a hamster […] and then you get naked,” says Snow.

The work (which I admittedly haven’t seen except in pictures), seems like an interesting premise. In execution and display however, it seems to exist somewhere between a snuff-film-lite (hinting at violence and tragedy, but never really delivering) and an annual frat-house party for the art-set; staged for the still shots.

Perhaps more than that though, it really comments on the need to occupy oneself when fucked up. Because when looking at the pictures, that is what it really looks like: the obsessive need to move whilst on a mélange of mind-altering substances. And tearing up phone books and decorating walls with numbingly boring graffiti like “I might not go down in history, but I’ll go down on your sister,” is probably as much fun as anything else. Sprinkle it with a smattering of fame, and the legitimacy of an art pedigree (Colen and Dash both show with Saatchi; Colen has sold work for $500,000) and voila: sublime degradation. While exhibiting a “Nest” in a gallery space is nothing more than the articulation of a collective lust for the excesses of youth and the thrill of voyeurism.

It also bears mentioning that Dash Snow is genuine art-world royalty. His maternal grandmother is a De Menil. His mother made headlines a few years ago for charging what was then the highest rent ever asked on a house in the Hamptons: $750,000 a season. And his brother, Maxwell Snow, is a budding member of New York society who has dated Mary-Kate Olsen. Plus his aunt, founded the Dia Art Foundation…and his family endowed the Rothko Chapel in Texas.

That being said, it forces one to truly consider the context. Not to mention the underpaid gallery bitch that’ll be bagging up the “Nest,” or casting it in resin as artifacts of a lost age or some other delightful bullshit that will surely be available for aquisition.

But perhaps Snow says it best: “The point of the Hamster’s Nest...”“It’s not like you break anything. It’s just really a task.”

For more info on these artists follow these links:

Saatchi Interview with Dan Colen:

NY Magazine article about Dash Snow:

Slate article about Ryan McGinley:

Friday, August 17, 2007

Sunday Southern Arts Revival

Rob DePiazza down at Screen Arts mounts smart, funny shows that are a reflection of his personal taste. They're usually pretty great, complete with a glorious assortment of ghetto-snacks and good music.

This show: Vs. is a collaborative show of Jesse Cregar, Scott Pethia, George Long, Mario Schambon, and Tindel Michi. According to Rob, the gallery is pleased as punch to welcome all these fine young Atlantian omnivores to our fair state.

The artists will be in attendance at the opening to harrass the guests.

Friday September 7, 2007 - 6pm - Midnight
228 W. King Street,829-2838.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

E=MC D’Avignon?

Marian Anderson performing "Casta Diva"

I’ve been listening to a lot of opera lately. It started out with a few re-listens to Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” and since then has blossomed into an all out *iTunes hunt for the best recordings. It has been exhilarating and rewarding; and in my arrogance I imagine that I’m resurrecting these works for a younger ear.

It has also kept me thinking about Jame’s Green’s recent post over at JaxCAL, as well as his recent post on his own site, both of which deal with the role of the artist in society, as well as the intellectual (or lack thereof) ramifications of making art.

Ostensibly, opera is an outmoded art form, one where vocal acrobatics result in a series of unintelligible shrieks and growls aurally accessible to a comparatively elitist few. Yet it persists. Why? One might argue because of because of Western traditions that delight in the rarified atmosphere of the opera, or simply because it is beautiful.

Beauty as it’s own reward isn’t an original idea, but one that has gained recent purchase (with this writer anyway) as a result of the Charles Landry lecture I attended several months ago. Landry is often called upon by cities to help them re-imagine themselves. To capitalize on those assets that they have in an effort to make the city a more habitable place—often beauty plays a large role in his reconfigurations (for a more complete discussion of his ideas, check out my article in the September issue of Arbus). Of course for artists, the lure of aesthetization is one that must be balanced against the intent of the work.

Sharla Valeski’s recent post about artists as tastemakers also struck a chord, recalling “Picasso at the Lapin Agile,” a play written in 1993 by Steve Martin. The premise of the play is simple, but with a sort of resounding elegance that enjoys an endlessly faceted imagining within the mind’s eye.

It features Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso, who meet at a bar called the Lapin Agile (Nimble Rabbit) in Montmartre Paris. Set on October 8, 1904 when both men are on the verge of a transformational idea (Einstein will publish his special theory of relativity in 1905 and Picasso will paint “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” in 1907) they find themselves at the Lapin Agile, where a lengthy debate about the value of genius and talent ensues--while interacting with a host of other characters (who represent various things i.e. commercialism, savant-ism etc…).

It’s a piece that hints at Jung’s theory of a collective unconscious--when ideas are salient and ripe, they are shared by prescient few. It also addresses the idea of artist as tastemaker (scientist as ideamaker), while obliquely suggesting that the theory of relativity and “Les Demoiselles,” address the same thing: relative realities, and multiple points of view from the same perspective (this idea is more fully explored in a collection of short stories by Alan Lightman, entitled “Enstein’s Dreams”).

The prevailing idea though, is that the entire 20th century was shaped by these two geniuses who looked not to the fashionable ideas of the times, but to their own sense of curiosity and revolution. That is what makes art and ideas great, what helps them to transcend their own times and create a lasting dialogue, because in the long run, ideas seem to trump aesthetics.

*iTunes’ inherent insidiousness notwithstanding, there are few things more satisfying than finding an incredible piece of music and being able to listen to it in, say, 30 seconds at 3:00 a.m. Hoo-ray for immediate gratification.


James Green: and

Sharla Valeski:

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Persistence of Memory

"Leave the Capital"
Shaun Odell

My family owns a cabin in northern Michigan. We’ve owned it for about 100 years. In that time the cabin, has fallen into and been pulled out of various stages of disrepair and neglect.

Currently it is in need of updating and a little remodel--that plaid rug that was the height of cottage sophistication in the 50s just looks ugly and sad in the light of the 21st Century--not unlike Jacksonville’s art scene.

For the past several months, on various blogs and in various outlets, the state of Jacksonville’s art scene has been viciously, sometimes personally attacked. Several of the newer artists on the scene are loudly (and generally not without justification) proclaiming the need for a revolution, an upheaval, in short: drastic change. And they are right. The state of Jacksonville’s local art scene is often lamentable. Consistently we see our best and brightest leave for more fertile grounds.

However, that does not mean that there was nothing here before the current crop, and to consistently denigrate those how have held on for twenty-five years and more is an embarrassing tactic that serves no-one.

Recently, I got together with George Kinghorn to talk about how Jacksonville’s contemporary scene can evolve, as well as MOCA’s role in that evolution. First off, we talked about the perception that the museum doesn’t support local artists (expounded upon by commentators on Folio Weekly’s blog on June 12, 2007).

George said that the charge that MOCA--and by implication, Kinghorn himself--doesn’t support local artists simply isn’t true. He points to the uppermost gallery in the museum that primarily shows the works of emerging local artists. That is not to say that the museum space should be considered a venue that everyone is entitled to, however, it is a dedicated space. And the artists who have showed there do not include the so-called Jacksonville standards (and that changes depending on who you talk to); Tonya Lee, Ian Chase, Jay Shoots and currently, the works of five University of Florida MFA students have/are showing there.

In addition, George pointed to past workshops and portfolio reviews he’s coordinated “..teaching artists how to get their foot in the door, marketing essentials for artists; the nuts and bolts of it—the essential tools one needs to present to galleries and museums.”

He also said that in regards to submissions “the museum expects that things come in a unified theme, with a cohesive concept, and that it is polished.” Then George showed me a project that was left for him: a painted fruit crate, with a tacked together construction in the middle and a torn out sheet of notebook paper. Not exactly the stuff of art-historical legend.

Then we talked about the city’s need for a Contemporary Arts Center and the role that he is willing to, and excited about, playing.

“I am available for people to come an talk to. If a group has a unified theme, a mission…I will be happy to help them, to sit on a board, to offer practical advise,” he said. He also talked about the practical uses of a non-profit space, and how a group of 10 artists could band together and after one year, the group would be eligible for non-profit status.

George said that spaces like Eyedrum (in Atl.) the Dallas Center of Contemporary Art, serve as stepping-stones. Also a place to have classes and hold lectures…and mount juried shows, with an invited juror who could then explain his decision-making process. The “best in show” award could be a solo show in the space.

Lastly, we touched upon the recently stated urgent need for an MFA program here (an idea introduced over at JaxCal ). Which he wholeheartedly supported, echoing many of the thoughts expressed on JaxCal (i.e. intellectual growth, professionals vs. hobbiests…etc.).

All in all, it would seem that Jacksonville has been an “emerging art scene” for decades now. The question is how to move beyond our perennially fledgling stage. Maybe we should band together like my family is trying to…and at least paint the ideological walls white.


Times Union: