Thursday, January 31, 2008

Public vs. Private

Sometimes the things you say in private, to friends over drinks, aren’t the things that you bring to public discourse. Over at Jaxcal, Byron King recently posted a rant saying that in all of Jacksonville, there is no arts writer; no-one whose insight and commentary should appear any other place than that august institution that is Jaxcal.


Jaxcal is a blog. Jaxcal is ostensibly a community effort. Jaxcal is King’s baby and the place he is wont to post whiney and mean-spirited tirades before getting the whole story, then pull them down in a fit of regret. Perhaps King hasn’t realized that it isn’t that there are no art critics in Jacksonville, merely none that care to be associated with the pet project of a tactless cannon.

Good luck finding “your” art critic Jaxcal.

Monday, January 28, 2008


Just a few brief words on the Peter Max madhouse this weekend at R. Roberts Gallery: Incidentally, the above two pictures were shot while the cops weren’t looking, and right afterwards I was told, “no pictures please.”

But moving on, for my day job, I write at a local arts magazine, and this time around, one of my assignments was to interview Peter Max. He is, I am happy to say, one of the nicest men it’s even been my pleasure to speak with. The impact of his work aside (which one may or may not like), he truly believes in the tenant of compassion, living and working within a framework of belief that calls for him to honor his own body and contribute to the community as a whole.

So it was with curiosity and a little bit of trepidation that I headed up to the gallery on Sunday (even at the museum opening I overheard people talking about Peter Max). The place was packed; there was a line out the door for people who wanted to get things signed, and there was another line of people who’d just purchased things and were getting them signed, along with a photo of the artist (I guess that’s why there was a “no pictures” policy…silly and a little capitalist, but perhaps necessary to control the crowd…draw your own conclusions).

It was an interesting intersection of fine art and commerce, of celebrity and artist, and the approapriatness of it all. Yet perhaps this is just the organic outcome of a lifetime spent hanging out with celebrities and celebrity artists (one imagines Warhol would embrace it as the natural order), and of a culture that seeks to validuate itself through contact with these notables, even if it is only fleeting and peripheral. The only time I’ve seen something similar was when Frank Stella came to town. People mobbed him and asked him to pose for pictures too.

As to the aesthetic value of Max's work, unarguably it evokes a specific time and mindset, which, although I can’t relate to, seemed certainly to heighten the spirits of a certain generation…I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve ever been to an opening where more people were smiling.

At that point, whether or not one bitter scribe aesthetically agrees with the work at hand becomes a moot point. Time to relax and be happy for everyone else.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Optimism Shines

I love hip hop music, one of the things I love most about it though, is that like jazz, it can be stretched in so many directions.

This summer, I met and had the good fortune to hear the band Zullo. Recently, the collective (and that they truly are, there's like ten people up on stage), released their first EP, (appropriately) entitled Bricolage.

Though clearly a fledgling band, Zullo has wed their talent to funk, jazz, soul and blues with a little post-Tribe-esque hip hop thrown in to round it all out. The result? A sound whose roots are clearly traceable, yet unique: a little deconstructed jam band, mixed with a little Wu Tang that makes heads bob and bottoms shake (and hippies do whatever it is they do).

Perhaps the best part though, is their youthful unjaded approach to the material, clearly, the band loves the music just as much as the audience does. That in and of itself is a nice break from the “uber cool” techno/pop/electronica crowding out airspace and clubs in recent years.

Check them out at:

Friday, January 25, 2008

Last Night

Last night, in addition to the pinched faces and over-arched eyebrows of guests fastidiously turning up their noses–until mightily lubricated that is–at canapés, MOCA Jaksonville played host to two new shows: Continental Shifts: The Art of Edouard Duval-Carrié (paintings) and Contemporary Visions: A focus on Jacksonville Collections.

The museum also presented their newest acquisitions, three resin sculptures by Duval-Carrié (two pictured). The sculptures see their antecedents in the elaborate garden statuary of the Greeks and Romans. However, unlike the measured and stately vessels and ornaments that might dot ancient gardens, Duval-Carrié’s orange, glowing statues have more in common with artists like Jaume Plensa, Warhol, and (to a lesser extent) Beatriz Milhaze and Keith Haring. Haring is cited because the scuttlebutt about the museum says that originally, the works were created for a Miami nightclub (Haring used to paint nightclubs like the Tunnel in NYC back in its heyday), but were actually too big. So its important to consider the works in the light of their original mission…and in this case not take them too terribly seriously. But enjoy them nonetheless.

The collectors’ show was, at first glance an interesting glimpse into the holdings–and by extension–the artistic and aesthetic values of the city’s ruling class. Some pieces were labeled as a part of this collection or that, and others were simply labeled “private collection,” among these a suite of photographs that keen-eyed gallery goers might have seen before; included in this suite? A Diane Arbus and a Henri Cartier-Bresson. Well played private collector.

There were works that were instructive as well, a surprisingly delicate Hans Hoffman (pictured), which–when mounted on a wall en diagonale from a Helen Frankenthaler–makes a succinct art historical summation. Incidentally, though I am a huge Frankenthaler champion, the Hoffman is sublime.

And of course, it was refreshing not only to see works not often exhibited but to be introduced to Leonard Baskin via his “Hydrogen Man.” A woodcut (pictured), the figure is defined by a critical mass of lines and markmaking; disjointed and unhappy, "Man" seems to be a statement on humanity’s fragility, filtered through inevitable death and decay. As a study in restraint and technical proficiency, he merits a return visit.

Contemporary Visions: A focus on Jacksonville Collections, was also smart on the part of the museum in that it provided a showcase for collectors who might get swept aside in favor of the Haskell collection, which enjoys such a prominent friendship with the museum. By essentially endorsing these collector’s selections, the museum provides provenance for the works exhibited, while building relationships with those that can insure the museum’s future. Yes, its been a much-debated practice as of late, but to the defense of the museum, these are hard times...and no artist was really shown whose body of work could be argued to be outside the modern/contemporary canon.

Though many of the works aren’t in and of themselves masterpieces, it is pleasant to wander about peering at things…perhaps a bit like pawing through a scaled-down version of Ali-Baba’s treasure cave; maybe his cousin, Ali-Junebug’s stuff. And the perpetually surprised faces with over-red mouths? All a part of the show, canapé or not.

*Editor’s note: the images that accompany this post were snapped on a camera phone so ArtIsn’tRocketScience apologizes for their poor quality. We’re working on getting a new camera.

Tomorrow AIRS will talk about Duval-Carrié’s paintings, and take a peek at Sang-Wook Lee's work, Ramen Noodles 2008.

Monday, January 21, 2008

So Hard to Say No

Recently, controversy erupted over one of the Village Voice’s critics: Christian Viveros-Faune, who was once a gallery owner and is now an organizer of two commercial art fairs.

Conflict of interest much? Since the problem really blew up last week, Viveros-Faune has severed his ties with the Voice…or the Voice has severed their ties with him (for the whole story check out Tyler Green’s blog: Modern Art Notes). But his tackling of duel roles addresses a distinct problem in the artistic community, that is the collusion between institutions and publications.

Of course, it is unrealistic to expect that the two be entirely divorced from one another. In addition to a limited pool of resources—both museums and publications—there are the personal connections. So yes, as a critic or writer, it can be hard to remain objective. It can be even harder to say no. But there is a point where, in a position of power like that of the art critic of Village Voice, one must decide.

In a part of the interview that Green conducted with him, Viveros-Faune said, “ the art world, because success is so based on inside information and insider relations, I find very few people tell you what they really do think.”

And to a certain extent, I must agree with him; there have been many times, when, for the sake of politeness or professionalism, I have bitten my tongue about the success of a given piece of work, and instead inquired about the technique.

However, on the other hand, one assumes that the Voice (and to a larger extent art publications and regular newspapers) operate within a framework of objectivity and honorability. Art Papers, based in Atlanta, goes so far as to say that even the reviewers whose opinions appear in the back of the magazine cannot own a piece of work, nor have connections to the gallery, or a vested interest in promoting the work of an artist that they are looking at. So to assume a leadership role in an art fair, while at the same time acting as a reviewer, it simply smacks of impropriety.

While it may too be difficult to make a living as an art critic (another point Viveros-Faune brings up to Green), especially on a freelance basis, it brings up the entire question of earning a living in this most diaphanous of fields. Really, what the now-deposed critic was hoping to do was to have his cake and eat it too. While we shouldn’t judge him too hard for trying, we should consider the implications of whom our institutions bed down with and how that shapes the scene.

Now he’s free—just like the rest of us—to start his own blog, perhaps:

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Ride de Riddim

images thanks to Urban Art Warfare and 74 Soundsystem

I remember when I learned how to dance. Specifically, I remember when all the things my best friend and her brother taught me came together, when I let the music lift me up, and out of myself. *No longer so painfully self-concious that I assumed everyone within my sightline was discussing my various shortcomings, not just as a dancer, but as a person, I became “that white girl who could dance.”

I still am. Maybe less so, maybe with a little more jiggle in my jiggy, more bottom in my windin’, and less hot in my drop. But dancing is still that one thing that I love, and what’s better to dance to than dancehall and hip hop--when you can feel the bass in your chest and in order to talk to people you need to lean in close? Not many things.

So I exhort you to come out and check out 74 Soundsystem, Jacksonville’s best reggae crew, and ride de riddim.

TSI, tomorrow night.

*Incidentally, I can still remember dancing with a group of girls at my 8th grade dance, that’s where it came together for me. The song? “Atomic Dog.”


Monday, January 14, 2008

Changing of the Guard

Philippe de Montebello, the much-vaunted director of the Met announced last week that he will be stepping down at the end of 2008, after thirty years with the museum. “After three decades, to stay much further would be to skirt decency,” he said. “This has not been an easy decision — it’s wrenching for me, it’s been my entire life. But it’s time.”

Montebello’s decision to step down comes at time when the very role of a director is being revised. The pool from which to choose is quite small, and, one imagines that it would be very hard to fill Montebello’s shoes. It is interesting to note though, that the director did not have a PhD in art history just a specialty in northern French painting. In fact, the Times reports that “He arrived at the Met in 1963 as a curatorial assistant in the department of European paintings and except for four years — from 1969 to 1974, when he served as director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston — he spent his entire career there.”

For many people, he is the personification of the Met experience itself, a charge that he dismisses. But, it will be interesting to wait and watch and see what happens next with NYC’s biggest tourist attraction, and by extension, museums around the world.

A list of those presumed to be in the running:

Monday, January 7, 2008

Back in the saddle?

Andrehn-Schiptjenko 2006

I keep saying that I’m going to get back on the blogging horse and I seem to keep avoiding it like the plague. There are lots of reasons for this I’m sure, but I won’t bore you with a list of my laziness-inducing neuroses here. Instead, I’ll offer up this list of things overheard at last year’s (read ’07) Art Basel Miami…which I did not attend.

But I enjoyed this list as a snapshot of the fair nonetheless.

From the blog

Miami v(o)ice: Overheard at the fair…
Tuesday December 11, 2007 | 00:25 by The Transom in Miami Beach
This just in from Pablo Helguera, who had his anthropologist’s notebook with him over the past few days in Miami:

My threshold is $25,000.
This year the fair is better… the gallerinas are hotter this time.
Tom Krens said that I was his son.
In Dollars, Euros, or Pounds?
The AC in Scope broke down.
How is it possible that they don’t have black tea?
I tried to sit by the pool at the Delano, but you have to buy a $400 bottle.
Too bad that you came with your girlfriend.
The painting with the circles in White Cube was $200,000, but there are six hundred more in the series, my dear.
I can’t get rid of this Korean dealer.
I have socialized enough in my life to have to sweat in a corner with a watered-down drink and having my eardrums shattered.
Twenty-two fairs? Really?
This work of yours is identical to this other artist’s work I saw at Pulse, but I don’t mean it in a bad way.
They gave the keys of the city to Sam Keller.
I don’t feel like hanging out with the Boston crowd.
She arrived totally drunk demanding her painting.
The party of the Russians at the Raleigh is awesome.
I can’t talk now because this collector is going to walk away.
So the elevator door opens and everyone sees my bra sticking out.
So, did you decide if you are getting the metal junk piece?
That artist is young but bad.
You know that you don’t need an invitation.
I prefer that you invite me.
I am standing here in front of an installation with pinkish balls, and you?
Please don’t introduce him to me.
I would have sworn that it was a real baby!
They haven’t even let me go to the bathroom in three days.
I don’t care- he is so good-looking that I want to do an exhibition with him.
Knight Landisman knows everybody.
One would think with so many millionaires here the food would be half-decent.
I don’t have any business cards left.
I bought it because I think that every work that takes Joseph Beuys as a subject is important.
I don’t price works by the square foot.
I haven’t been able to move from this corner in two hours.
The U.S. government can’t do anything about the housing bubble.
I love those colors: white and black.
Hi, have you met Hans Ulrich Obrist?
You get all this sand into your shoes.
When I told her that I was an artist she turned away.
I loved it but I didn’t understand anything.
According to her, they sold everything.
You can do this fair in five minutes.
If the director of the Brooklyn museum says so, it must be true.
How is it possible that Julio Galan’s works haven’t gone up?
Supposedly I am working.
Now that I saw the work again I didn’t like it so much.
There’s Joan Jonas. I missed her talk.
I had a blast spending their money.
I drove them around all over Miami for hours, but they never found a hotel room.
He is a mediocre millionaire loser artist who has impregnated all the women in Paris.
What are we doing in this party?
I can’t afford Sam Taylor Wood.
Next time I won’t even tell my family that I came.
Cab rides are more expensive here than in New York.
And now we have to pack to take everything back.
Let’s go to Marlborough to see the Boteros.
I sat with her for two hours and in the end she didn’t buy anything.
They didn’t deliver the works until Saturday and they didn’t even apologize.
I am so sick of Facebook.
It’s Russell Simmons!
I am looking for the next El Lissitsky.
It’s impossible to get a reservation at this restaurant.
Aqua is more relaxed, but the work is less good.
They don’t know how to make good mojitos here.
This year they didn’t bring anything political.
There aren’t any good moderators anywhere.
She makes them in three different sizes.
I had no idea that you were the same artist!
You are better off going to Gagosian and buying a Nan Goldin.
It was a one-by-one inch gouache, and it was four thousand dollars.
I am sleeping on the floor of my dealer’s hotel room, but please don’t tell anybody.
It works when you make a VIP face.
To say that he gained weight is an understatement.
When is your art convention going to be over?