I enjoy writing reviews of particular shows about particular artists, but I’ve been interested in branching out into writing essays for a while now, and just haven’t found a good place to publish them. While everything written in a review is stuck within the context of that particular show or artist, an art essay is idea driven, and can therefore include a more diverse list of artists, examples, and references. I have many more ideas about broad topics, trends, or problems that I’d like to discuss than I do about current shows I want to cover. I’m interested in a variety of artists, how certain groups of artists relate to each other, and how they relate to current events, and writing about one particular show or artist doesn’t allow me to expand upon my other ideas—it does, however, force me to focus. Struggling through my latest Whitehot review on Kara Walker’s new work, I find myself more interested in how people react to her artwork than I am in her artwork itself. I enjoy the challenge of trying to bring larger ideas or observations into a review, and it seems I’m also going to enjoy the challenge of fitting artists into a compelling, concise argument in my essays. My first art essay and my first essay for a new publication, the arts and culture blog The Times Quotidian, and I can already see the problem I always face: how not to ramble. The longer the essay becomes, and the more ideas I try to compound, the greater the risk I run of turning it all into a muddle of ideas, words, and art. I recently discovered a new magazine published in London called Frieze, and unlike our art magazines (A in A and Art Forum), it has real essays about real issues. I think it’s a good magazine to learn from and aspire to.
May 18th, 2011 § 1 comment
March 6th, 2011 § 0 comments
It was the lovely and overlooked film by Sofia Coppola, Somewhere (2010), that started me thinking differently about a trend I have been seeing in too many art shows over the past few months. The catalyst for my latest review is the shocking realization that Andy Warhol’s Motion Pictures, exhibited now at MoMA, feels fresher, newer, and more thought provoking than anything else I’ve recently seen. That I would want to write about Andy Warhol had never occurred to me, and that I would find some aspect of his work new seemed impossible. All I have been seeing from young artists this year, however, has consisted of clever remakes of older artwork, and it’s been one Cindy Sherman (to use a popular candidate) reference after another. A critic friend of mine said he was going to start writing more “negative reviews” simply because he was finding it impossible to find something he actually liked. I was glad to know other people were having a similar problem, but this doesn’t explain why new art seems determined to reference old work. Perhaps in trying to avoid the term “derivative” artists have started making exact replicas of other artists. Watching Somewhere put a different spin on the idea of remaking in an older tradition. Coppola’s film, so simple and fresh, reminded me of the films I was seeing reshown in galleries, such as Warhol’s Screen Tests and Larry Clark’s Tulsa. Though Coppola seemed to be drawing from older styles of filmmaking, her reasons for doing so were tied directly to filmmaking today. In an NPR interview Coppola talked about the decision to make her film so spare:
I hope it’s refreshing for audiences. I just feel like in movies today we are so bombarded with fast editing and song after song, that I wanted to have more breathing room, to just have a pause. Even modern life, with everyone in contact and on BlackBerrys, I feel like it’s nice to have a break from that, and to be alone with the characters.
December 2nd, 2010 § 0 comments
I’m almost glad that my first interview was with an artist who was unfamiliar to me as it made interviewing Roxy Paine seem almost easy. I spent weeks researching Viola, reading his book and anything else I could get my hands on, trying to commit to memory his extensive body of work. Roxy, in his early forties, is a familiar artist with a familiar story. Still young by art world standards, there has not been too much written about his work, and having written about him before I had already read most of what has been published. Gregory Volk wrote with a new article on Paine in last months Art in America, where Roxy seemed be to the flavor of the month. Being familiar with the artist’s work makes you less reliant on what other people have said about it in the past. Paine was easygoing and easy to talk to, sipping a cappuccino as we spoke. Learning from npr I know now to let my subjects simply talk, to let them answer my questions in their own way and at their own pace, which oddly gives you more control of the conversation instead of less. I have also found out that you don’t have to affirm everything they might say. This interview was less planned, but I still knew what I wanted to ask, and what I hoped to sneak in before the end. I think it went well, and I know I felt much better about it afterward.
September 9th, 2010 § 0 comments
While it was a wonderfully warm summer, perfect for lazy beach days and long bike rides around the city, it was a dull summer for art. The usual museum blockbusters were not interesting, and the gallery scene was even worse. Judging from the number of guest hosts we were subjected to this summer on NPR, everyone either left the city or stayed home and deliberately forgot about their daily obligations. I certainly didn’t feel obligated to do much in the way of research, which opened up a lot of time for recreation, but left my writing in the lurch. Whitehot began publishing book reviews this year around the same time I began working my way through Patti Smith’s Just Kids, one train trip at a time. Impressed by the book, enamored with Patti Smith, and unable to find any gallery show worth writing about, I undertook my first book review. Books, I found out, are hard to summarize while elaborating on and analyzing their content. It’s easy to get lost in them, as there is so much you could say, so many different directions you could go in. With the new gallery season revving up, with openings beginning this week and going into the next, and with the first glimmer of interest returning to the museums—Lee Friedlander’s America by Car opening at the Whitney and Fred Tomaselli’s paintings opening at the Brooklyn Museum—I am glad I took the opportunity to write about an artist rather than art.
February 17th, 2010 § 0 comments
I will always be surprised by how well we remember our early influences. While I have a hard time recalling some of the artists I studied in grad school, I vividly remember those I was exposed to as an enthusiastic teenager. I remember these early artists badly in the sense that I didn’t yet grasp what they were about or why, but on a purely visual level I remember them to this day: Man Ray, Adrian Piper, John Baldessari, Sophie Calle. I recall how long it took to find a Man Ray book at the local library, trying to spell his name with a group of elderly librarians. I remember diligently watching The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari because of a piece I had made with shadows and masks, and I could not for the life of me see the connection between the two. All of them, however, settled somewhere deep in my visual memory next to those I had discovered myself: Sharon Lockhart, David Hockney, Roni Horn. I remember learning about Roni Horn at an LA museum where she had installed her Still Water images in unpredictable places. I kept running across images of dark and murky water in the stairways, elevators, hallways, and balconies. I wondered what they were, and if they were art or not. I can picture myself, fifteen or sixteen with pencil and pad in hand, determinedly demanding the name of the artist. I know I succeed in finding out her name because I have remembered it ever since.