September 11th, 2008 § 2 comments

The Escape Artist is spreading like Kudzu. My first review has been published, and I am on the cover page as well. Critique is quite welcome.

William christenberry

Searching for the Small

September 9th, 2008 § 0 comments

When Gregory used to say, “think big” he did not always mean literally, generally he was referring to a concept, idea, or initial interest, but most often it was accompanied by an expectation that as the idea grew so would the image—great ideas are looming in stature, he seemed to say. Though being forced away from a comfortable size was a necessary conclusion to my thesis, I still look for the place of small work in the contemporary art museums and the various galleries that now surround me. I wonder who manages to make small work and how they get away with it. Partly from a deep attachment to, and a convinced importance of, smaller images, and partly because they are so scarce. While at the art fairs in Miami Beach last December I noticed, at Basel most of all, there were very few images that spanned less than two feet. Though there is a relation between monetary value and size, there also seems to be an aesthetic and intellectual shift away from smaller works. Money and technology must be prominently responsible, but I would still argue that a different source of dislike for the small exists—one I feel is more significant as a viewer, and not as a buyer, of images. It goes back to the idea that grand ideas are grandly scaled, one that is almost as archaic as containing a painting within a gaudy, gold frame. With art institutions favoring “ambitious” ideas, and with the art market catering to large photographs of ambitious ideas, it is no wonder small images of “ordinary” things are far less popular.

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“Highly Sophisticated Insiders”

August 23rd, 2008 § 0 comments

A good deal of the artistic/gallery conversation last November in SoHo concerned what I assumed to be a new museum building in the area that was not yet open. Gallery owners talked about a possible shift in the epicenter of the art scene, leaving Chelsea or Williamsburg, and migrating toward Chinatown—an idea that seemed distasteful to everyone who did not already own a gallery in the area.

We stayed in Chinatown while looking at apartments this July, and after about four days we noticed a building incongruous enough to be something. With a bright steal exterior, a stacked sort of appearance, and a rainbow sign reading “hell, yes!” stuck to the framework, it turned out to be the “new museum” artists were talking about—now open and bustling. The last piece of the puzzle was finding out that The New Museum is not in fact new, (every time I say the Fossil studies at NSSR a similar mistake is made) but opened in the late 1970’s; “new” is confined in this case to the location on Bowery and the building.

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Private Maps

August 18th, 2008 § 1 comment

Those of us with a terrible sense of direction have a reliance on habit and visual recognition to know which way is up, down, east or west, making maps essential to learning a new city. Like understanding a network of subway lines, made up of colors, numbers, letters, and destinations, maps are not as difficult to read as I always supposed. The hardest part has always been the transition from understanding streets connecting on a two-dimensional map, to streets connecting from the street itself. Being underground is like being spun around with a blindfold, every time I emerge from the subway I find myself looking up and turning in circles as though seeing something new. The most difficult aspect in mapping Gotham, however, seems to be in creating a mental map of neighborhoods that connects together. Areas in the city are so diverse and separated from one another they feel like cities within cities. It was Joe who said that one block can make no difference or all the difference.

For the present it is not necessary to know why this is, it is overwhelming enough just to observe the separations. Richmond broke down into manageable pieces, downtown was the business heart, the fan residential, the outskirts commercial, and the rest suburban. Gotham neighborhoods require what feels like an insanely specific map, neighborhoods cannot be grouped together, only connected by strands of similarity. Neighborhoods also don’t feel like they have delineated lines, like looking for state lines they draw strange shapes in the cities landscape. They don’t feel flat and orderly, instead junctions pile upwards onto each other, as though fighting for space. It seems impossible to make the flowing and coherent document of the city that was appropriate in Richmond, instead images blend together only through the unlikely nature of their existing side by side. Very little here feels private or hidden within residential buildings or even people, and yet their exterior is so trampled it is hard to get a clean look at anything; apartments don’t feel like homes, they exist as a place to sleep.

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The Pajama Clad Director

August 10th, 2008 § 3 comments

julian schnabel

Consistency in directors, or expecting consistency, has become such a problem of late that I am beginning to think I simply shouldn’t expect it. There are some men of whom I could forgive just about anything, I sat through Don’t Come Knocking in France, yet I don’t think Julian Schnabel is one of them. For the painter he was hyped to be in the 1980’s, introducing himself as the “greatest American painter”, I don’t think I have knowingly seen his works in person. I might have passed by one in the past, missing the name or ignorant of it, and admittedly my knowledge of painters, especially hotshot, pajama personalities showing at Mary Boone, is deliberately faulty. Word in art jargon seems to be that as his reputation waned he turned to other mediums, including film. The Diving Bell’s success I credited to the director himself, and not to those who wrote and photographed the film—I say those two aspects now because the glaring problems with his previous films stems from the writing and the filming. Having recently watched Before Night Falls and Basquiat I am thinking a bit of “luck” was involved with his third film. His French cast was good, with characters flawed enough to be human, and the photography interesting enough to keep the film from wallowing in self-pity.

A fellow grad once made fun of the student body at VCU, saying with sarcasm, “it must be so hard to be white and middle class.” Both Before Night Falls and Basquiat dwell on the injustices of society, seen through the self-centered expectation that life should be fair. Avoiding plot specifics, Schnabel’s interest in biographies, and sadly mangled ones at that, runs through all three films. The protagonists are all men, all artists (of sorts), all were successful, and all created around them the myth of artistic tragedy. Perhaps Diving Bell is captivating only because its protagonist narrates a self-reflective story of a life well lived, shot through with mistakes, carelessness, and selfishness. Being “locked-in” almost seems to have woken the Elle editor up, or so the film states, as to the truth…

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