To Endure

It’s a week where there has been much examination locally of what it is to live here as an artist with no actual art coverage. If a tree falls is there even any one left to get wood chips out of the situation? Yet most of us live a life where we are lucky to have any notoriety at all.

I have gone to Laetitia Sadier tonight. She of Stereolab and now the incredibly subtle Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble. I saw her a summer ago and was blown away. She of the heart-stopping voice and off-hand videos, I get she is making stuff probably as she has to. I feel her desire to stay the course of her own even though you  (she) are French, making obscure music and are middle-aged. Who cares.

This is a larger conversation of why try and again why try here. I feel I’ve had this discussion many times over the years. If you stay here you need to come to grips with the answer. If you can’t you will be dissatisfied. I’m pretty okay with it. Yet tonight, a piece of wanderlust is carrying me away to another world of people making videos of themselves walking deserts. Their accents are more enticing than mine.

Off to walk the desert and to contemplate why I am too tired to do anything but watch videos and drink wine tonight.

Georgetown Galleries – November

Visiting art galleries is usually a means to inspiration for me and today was a good one in Georgetown.

I wasn’t going to miss the closing of Kim Van Someren’s exhibit and artist talk at Bridge Productions and I’m really glad I made it there. Kim’s discussion was facilitated by her friend and fellow artist Emily Gherard, a pair who have a long history together. Both are artists who place an importance on mark-making in their work, executed in very different manners though.

A few takeaways from Kim’s talk:
She has a deeply entrenched respect for printmaking that she feels she will always be with her. She emphasized it is important to her to have a skill that involves using her hands if electricity goes away. I’m paraphrasing poorly, but that is something I absolutely think about all the time. What endures in our culture if electricity and our digital world go away, essentially collapse? Our reliance on something so fragile as the electric grid seems tenuous at best. She asterisked her comment saying well she would be able to do printmaking in daylight hours at least.

Double Half Hitch, sugarlift, aquatint, 18″ x 15″2018

The topic I most appreciated hearing them discuss was about the planning her studio time. She is now a Mom to twins (three years olds) and has a printmaking job at the University of Washington. How does one find the ability (and energy) to put together a show like the one that was installed around us in the gallery one wonders.

She stated she found she has to really hone in and take advantage of any quiet time (a rarity) and to be very disciplined. She spends 2-3 hours every day after teaching running prints in the studio at the University. Then from 10-1p every night she intricately assembles her pieces. Cutting collages, looking at compositions of different parts of her work from photos she takes, downloading and rearranging imagery on her computer and making micro decisions about what belongs where is all part of her practice She is currently learning how to weld as it was mentioned her work feels like it is growing off of the paper. I personally think artists need to challenge themselves with new materials to keep their internal search mechanisms and curiosity sharp, so that was exciting to hear. I hope we (the public) are privy to the results.

It was lovely to be privy to the back and forth between Kim and Emily, both whose work I heavily admire. I appreciated hearing the contemplative nature of what is behind the artwork, how humor seeps into the imagery and the query of did her midwest background have anything to do with her execution (yes).

The funniest thing Kim said was that printmakers are the serial killers of the art world as they are always strategizing, a hilarious aside.

As I mentioned this was the closing for Kim’s exhibit. Follow Bridge Productions at their website and on Instagram. Kim is here and here.

A snippet of her gorgeous work:

 


The Alice across the hall from Bridge Productions has a fiber-cross-pollination-one-person-show up of Jeanne Medina. I always appreciate seeing fiber arts creep into galleries and being taken seriously. She also uses performance heavily in her final work. There was a video example in the Alice of her wearing one of the pieces on the wall.

Here is a video example I found on her website appropriately titled for this weekend Daylight Savings Project that utilizes Laurie Anderson’s Walking and Falling (from Big Science) as a backdrop.

Daylight Savings Project from John Lui on Vimeo.

Here are installation shots of the show:

  The exhibit is up through November 17th. The Alice is here and Jeanne is here.

 

Finally I ended my day by driving five minutes and stopping by Studio E Gallery where I happened upon the closing of Molly Magai’s painting exhibit (which I liked and was too busy absorbing to document).

Her work, which I was unfamiliar with, has a certain kinship with Portland’s Michael Brophy whose landscapes I have admired for many years. I’m a sucker for painterly execution and her work demonstrates that beautifully while sitting on that fine line between representation and abstraction. She states, “I paint the landscape in motion, as we usually see it, from our cars“.  Sadly that’s how I witness most nature these days. I should add she works on somewhat tiny rectangles of canvas which I was pretty drawn to for the amount of visual information she managed to insert into each one. I’m glad I stopped in to see the show.

Molly Magai, Playground Cedar, 12 x 12 in., Oil on panel, 2018

Upstairs there was a one day pop-up of Michael Doyle’s work. If I use the word whimsical you’re going to groan and after saying it I think it is possibly inaccurate but that’s the first thing that popped into my head when I entered the room. I also was said out loud “I love it”, so make what you want of that. I thoroughly enjoyed the portraits and head cut-outs on display.

Studio E is here, Molly Magai is here and Michael Doyle is here.

Studio E. lived true to their welcoming offering of coffee, nice conversation and a warm reprieve from the traffic and rain outside before I got back on 99 and headed home. A good day was had.

Being Nauman


[27-year old Nauman’s contortions…..]

A continued meditation on Bruce Nauman while it is still in my head.

Waking up with my coffee and reading the handful of articles on Nauman this morning gave me pause. The coverage is in support of the current retrospective of his work up at The Museum of Modern Art right now. Nauman’s art has always been thought provoking and sometimes way too much. Example A as noted in one of the reviews would be his Clown Torture video, which is far too freighted with annoyance for my own personal taste.

What I am parsing out though is an example how aging and physical limitations have impacted the work, which has always explored the plight of being human.

I know I am just regurgitating the NYT article here but I think this passage is worth noting:

 A 16-millimeter masterwork from 1968, “Walking in an Exaggerated Manner Around the Perimeter of a Square,” shows the artist in a white T-shirt and dark pants toeing the line of a square in an empty studio, stopping to strike an exaggerated Renaissance-style contrapposto.

Now 76 years old, Nauman’s hair has thinned and his abdomen has filled out, and his recent work accentuates these facts to the same degree that his older works highlighted his balletic grace within arbitrarily delineated confines. He recently survived bowel cancer — “Now I have a bag,” he said, patting where it was on his stomach — and in recent video works such as “Contrapposto Studies, i through vii” (2015-16), he walks gingerly, his body split across multiple screens.

It came to him when, following chemotherapy treatments, he found that he had lost feeling in his feet and legs, which his doctors feared might be the result of nerve damage. In physical therapy, one of the things his therapist had him do was walk a line. “And at first, I could hardly even stand up,” he said, “and he had to hold me to be able to walk. And if I would fall on the floor, I couldn’t get up; I had to get a chair and pull myself up.” Eventually, he managed to do it. Nauman had planned to recreate six videos from the 1960s. He was only able to do one, and only in a strained manner.

Reading that turns my thoughts to how the limitations of illness and getting older can recalibrate the most ambitious of people. How it spares no one. I find it admirable he still wants or possibly needs to make work in his mid-70s.

Bruce Nauman’s video “Contrapposto Studies, i through vii” (2015-16).Credit2016 Bruce Nauman/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, via Sperone Westwater, New York

Nauman and his parter painter Susan Rothenberg have continued to live in a fairly isolated part of the country (New Mexico), a place which seems to have granted them a place to make work on their own terms. I think most of us who chose to live in environments that are away from the “quote-unquote” urban centers ponder our decision on that matter, at least occasionally.  The freedom can be glorious but can be simultaneously paired with an inevitable sense of alienation. I suppose it depends on how much of each you need to feel true to yourself. Working in a place with few distractions and the importance of allowing boredom into your life is something that is becoming less appreciated in our culture and sits heavily in my mind as something to move toward.

Nauman’s art can be held up as an argument as to why it is important to experience the work in person as opposed to online (on the internets). I know by being unable to travel to the show I’ll be missing the central experience of completely submerging myself in the sprawling noise and visual assault his art work creates, an environment that is not duplicated by just watching a video as posted above. I’ll also be missing the ability to witness the culmination of someone’s life work all at once in a retrospective, to view first hand how their ideas have morphed or possibly endured through the years with the passage of time.

I was lucky to see the last early Nauman retrospective twice, in 1994 at The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and again the following year when it came to New York to MoMa. Nauman was then what I’d like to think of as a young fifty-four year old person. I would be curious to see how the the following twenty-three years have muted some of the intensity of his life as the current exhibit is supposed to be more ruminative.


Footage from the show which originated at the Schaulager in Basel,Switzerland

If you’re in New York between now and February and give the exhibit a visit please let me know what you think.

 

 

 

Lois Dodd

JS: There is a confidence and singularity that characterizes your path, especially your choice of subject matter. How have you been able to maintain this?

LD: Well, you are always influenced by the people around you. How do you find out who you are if it isn’t from other people? But painting may be the only thing in life that I’ve been confident about.

You have to have something that you don’t ask anybody else about. I’ve always been aware of that with painting. No one else can really help you, or say whether it’s good or bad. It’s just you and it, and that’s great. You can handle everything else in your life much more easily, because you have that place where you are on your own.

From an refreshingly unpretentious interview between painter Lois Dodd and Jennifer Samet on Beer With A Painter.

The Flag

I always think to Diane Arbus when I consider the American flag. Maybe due to the era of when they were taken they seem more authentic to me. Maybe the earnestness in the portraits gets to me.

Yes thinking about the flag today when our political landscape is changing rapidly.

 

This one by photographer Mary Ellen Mark is perhaps more poignant.

Dennis Hopper plays with an American flag, “Apocalypse Now”, Pagsanjan, Philippines, 1976

As I felt inclined to record in the post math of 9/11, “Nostalgia is undoubtedly more comforting to the mind than reality.”

Was Sherrie Levine an Inochrome Abuser ???

My friend Chris asked me this evening if I’d seen the Humans of New York GREAT ART MYSTERY POST (I had not).

Seems to have riled up a bunch of people. Panties in super tight wads. Without reading the comments on the HONY site I wrote her back my thoughts and then since I’m lazy thought I’d plop it here too.

(Dear Chris)….Just a few thoughts. So this is a whole kettle of fish. First of all, bully for Dwight for getting out there every day to do that. There are many people who sit and sketch at the MET and well I would think it would be kind of a grind, although I wish I had done it at least just once. But then I hate talking to strangers and people in general.

So I believe the issue here revolves around the authenticity of his work. It made me immediately think of an art movement in the late 80s called Appropriation Art, where people* were basically becoming infamous by copying or reframing other people’s (famous) art. That is not this guys intent but it gives me pause because art can be interpreted on so many levels, in so many ways. I’ve never heard the terminology inochrome that he uses, but then I am not a printmaker.

Apparently Dwight is basically starting with a coloring book. But then he adds his own thing. And he is sitting and making an art work of something that is already in the MET I assume. So we have various levels of copying going on here. So what.

There have been many uses of blow-up projectors and other mechanical devices to initiate art work. One of the most renown and meticulous painters Vermeer ( 17th Century) allegedly used optics, a camera lucida to assist his paintings….so this is not by any means a new argument.

vermeer

(above is a Vermeer)

I going to put myself in Dwight’s camp. So be it if it’s not original. People sketching in the MET are not sitting there to be original. They are making representations of something that already exists. I’ll eventually have to go read the comments that the HONY readers left, but I’m thinking give the old guy a break.

On a side note I wish I had two to three days to sit in the MET adding details to things.

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Footnote 1: From the MET on policy: 

Sketching and Copying

Sketching, in pencil only, is permitted in all the permanent collection galleries of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Sketching is also permitted in most special exhibitions; please inquire at the Information Desk in the Great Hall about current exhibitions and guidelines.

The use of ballpoint pens, ink, markers, fountain pens, or watercolors is not permitted at any time. Crayon, pastel, and charcoal are permitted only on Museum-supervised tours that specifically authorize their use.

While sketching, please do not hinder visitor traffic flow in the galleries.

During periods of high attendance, the Museum reserves the right to make any necessary adjustments to this sketching policy.

Footnote 2 *

Sherrie Levine is the most famous example of an Appropriation Artist that comes to my brain.

For the record her art still annoys me because I am not sure after all this time what the point of it is, besides to get a lot of attention. Clearly I could be talking out of both sides of my mouth, as I think what Dwight is doing is innocuous and what Levine demonstrated was obnoxious. Or worse yet plain boring.

Sherrie_Levine_combo

Footnote 3 

Just attempted some of the HONY comments on Facebook, a veritable troll-about-free-for-all. Don’t read the comments.

Ten Questions…..About Painting

bonnard1

In compliance with Flash Arts somewhat recent questionnaire (here are the others):

1. Q: What is painting? A: Mark making with oil laced pigments. My interpretation any way.

2. Q: What is your favorite color? A: Chartreuse.

3. Q: Which artist or painter has influenced you? A: I keep thinking about Bonnard. For someone recent, I can’t help but admire Amy Sillman’s work.

4. Q: Is there a work of art you would like to have in your home next to your own work? A: Sure, how about Matisse’s “Interior with Goldfish”.

5. Q: What is the best way to exhibit a painting? A: A nice wall with no competing details. Thanks. Please keep away from the wood paneling.

6. Q: What are the limits of painting? A: Only the one’s the artist puts on them self. Okay, and what ever surface support that can reasonably fit through your studio door frame.

7. Q: How do you start a work — do you have any rituals? A: Lots of puttering, reading, doodling, throwing darts and then it happens.

8. Q: Is there a future for painting or you are one of the last survivors? Q: Never underestimate what drives humanity. We still have books. We still have paintings. We’ll continue to have both.

9. Q: If you were about to be reborn, what would you like to be — still a painter? Q: I guess I found that out by starting and stopping and missing it, so yes, still a painter.

10. Q: Do you think painting is under-appreciated today? A: It certainly isn’t front and center in the mainstream world like it might have been in prior decades. I think it depends on what kind of company you keep. I don’t know if most people actually think much about painting on a daily basis, but during my lifetime I don’t know if they ever did. That being said, it seems like everyone wants to be an artist these days, which of course is open to interpretation.

AsideThe Modern Arts Podcast this week starring the above mentioned Amy Sillman is superb. I literally, like Bonnard’s wife lay in my bathtub Thursday night with my eyes closed and listened to it. Sillman is funny, thoughtful and not shy of commenting on things in her work that some other painters might not own up to. For instance she pokes fun of herself for having a skill set that would allow her to paint cute quite well if need be. She tasked herself with an assignment to paint only adorable subject matter for an extended bit of time (which she discusses in the exchange with Tyler). She stresses (as she has in other interviews) that drawing is central to her work. I’m already a large fan but it is always a delight to hear people talk about their work so candidly.

ES_2006_Dec_ElleDecor001post

I’m particularity fond of a painting that’s in the catalog  One Lump or Two  from her current survey show at the Institute of Contemporary Art / Boston. Sadly no cross country flights planned for this one in the near future. In that parallel universe of a perfect life I  would very much choose to see the show with my own eyes, up close and personal.  At any rate, the painting is titled Them, 2006 (pg. 79). It would go nicely with the Bonnard at the top of the post. The catalog is beautiful and I’m still working my way through the essays.

Amy_Sillman_them_

More things about Amy. Her website also gives you access to some of her non-painting projects such as her spot on zine Visiting Artist and video shorts made on her iPhone.

Garden of Earthly Bytes

I know I have been beating this drum to death, but this whole 35mm vs. digital situation continues to intrigue me. Last week somebody told me that Kodak has stopped making 35mm slides. Perhaps they meant slide projectors, which they discontinued last fall. So I came across this little story about a gardening club lectures and how it appears people are embracing the bells and whistles of PowerPoint and leaving their clunky projectors in the dust bin.

First of all there is still the argument invariably by the experts that the digital specimen just doesn’t hold a candle to the venerable slide. At a grant workshop a few weeks ago, again it was stressed that you can utilize digital images to represent your work, but a projected 35mm slide is going to win quality wise every time. I guess we are now looking at our watches and biding our time when this too becomes arcane information.

Back to the gardeners:

In large auditoriums, where duplicate digital projections can be made, and in rooms that cannot be fully darkened, digital images are on a par with or better than slide film, said Rick Darke, a landscape photographer, writer and speaker based in Landenberg, Pa. Darke, with a library of 75,000 slides, plunged into digital photography five years ago and sold off all his film equipment on eBay two years ago.
His early digital equipment included a then-$4,000 digital projector, knowing that the venues where he would speak may not be geared for PowerPoint. Now, he says, it is the speaker arriving with a carousel of 80 slides who has to worry. “They’re scrambling around to find a slide projector and often it doesn’t work very well: the gate jams, the bulb has got a crack in it. What’s out there is quickly getting old and obsolete. The average venue isn’t going to be putting money into repairing that.”

By the way according to the article, Fuji and Kodak continue to make slide film, and have no current plans to end production.

Speaking of digital, fun (are you allowed to use that word?) to see Ivan embracing Flickr, I must confess I like it. The possibilities of what could be done with that software seem large.

What to do with old work?

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I have been sifting through the stacks that have piled of old work. What to do with it?

I have some really large drawings that I did in after living in NYC for 3 or 4 years. I had become obsessed with nature, feeling particularly deprived. I did these large charcoal drawings of bird houses- at human scale. I only showed them once, at the Soap Factory in Minneapolis. So I think I still like them-they’ve been rolled up in a tube since- moved from one storage place to another.
After that wall space or floor space to produce work at that scale was non-existent as I closed that studio making tiny panel paintings in a small corner of the apartment.
Should the drawings languish?

Sometimes I hold on to old work just as a reminder of what the hell was I thinking or on the flip side the piles of life drawings from this era remind me I wasn’t totally stagnant. Other times I just get rid of stuff I really hate-or in practical moments I’ve turned large panels (actually hollow doors) over and used them as worktables.

Cleaning up the studio-these are the times I envy writers or those that follow less “thing oriented”, conceptual work. To those that can place their entire life’s work on a CD or just cart around a laptop, I am envious. Us painters and drummers hauling around all that stuff- then just add a little turpentine to the responsibility. For gods sake, I won’t even go into the needs of sculptors. I live with one who hung up his sculpture hat and always threatens to take a load to the dump. No! I say.
Still one wonders the burden of these things we make.

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Things to not think of in the studio:

Artists are often concerned with the archival quality of their work, yet museum storerooms continue fill up with unseen works and landfills pile high with discarded work. As a young retail clerk in an art supply store I remember being pointedly amused by people buying shopping carts of acrylic paint and stacks of foam core only to tell me at check out to “save the bag— to save a tree”.