The Return of Photographs

January 15th, 2012 § 0 comments

The final months of 2011 were good for writing, and good for my photography. Prolifically shooting while in South America, switching between lenses I borrowed that allowed me much more freedom than my own kit lens, I finally had a reason to edit and publish my images—I’d promised my editor a few art related photo essays while on vacation. It was an excuse, really, to do what I would have done anyway, and that extra motivation I need to get the images edited and published. I’m thinking of turning all my vacations into business ventures, or things I can get paid to write about later, and have my sights set on the upcoming art biennale in Havana, Cuba this May—with four weeks of paid vacation this year, travel options are much less restrictive than in the past.

Though I am very detailed in my research while writing here at home, I found I was much less committed to getting the necessary information while away, perhaps understandably, though it’s something I’ll have to work on in the future to save myself hours of Google time later. While in South America I covered street art in Rio de JaneiroBuenos Aries, and a show about India at the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil. My piece on street art in BA was tweeted by MoMA as a “great read,” and as a result was read, looked at, liked, reposted, and retweeted by more people than have looked at anything I’ve done, ever. That particular piece is also going to be republished by the online magazine Global Graffiti sometime in February.

As usual 2011 was brought to a close by Patti Smith, who gave one of the least impressive performances I’ve ever seen her give, leaving me to think perhaps her 65 birthday was too much for her to handle. I wrote a piece about the show nonetheless, and I’ve got a good feeling about 2012—it’s going to be a damn productive year.

Personal Libraries & Pawel Althamer

October 13th, 2011 § 0 comments

The nice thing about being a book critic, aside from getting to read books that you normally wouldn’t read (or wouldn’t want to read), is that you get to keep them, and therefore build a library. I’ve been getting spoiled lately, wishing I had more books than I actually have, while moving the ones I’ve amassed between several different bookshelves. A while back we created a dedicated book area that now seems to be expanding to other walls and shelves, and I’m already dreaming of the day when one whole area is filled only with art books. The appeal is not just to have them, however, though some are pretty, but to also use them. Currently researching for a review on Eva Hesse, I keep wishing that I had a good collection of writing by the minimalists or Judd, who wrote highly and often about her work. A somewhat forgotten woman in a generation of male sculptors, I keep finding archived articles in the New York Times with titles like “Eva Who?”

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Published—Van Gogh and Vampires

August 4th, 2011 § 1 comment

A part of me wishes that Centerpieces, the latest book by the author Penelope Przekop, and the subject of my latest book review, had actually been what it promised: a historical fiction about Van Gogh. I would have enjoyed it more if it had even reminded me of Van Gogh, his art or life. A cliché artist now as part of the Impressionist/Post-Impressionist pack, he is always an appealing painter. I still remember the old portfolio of Van Gogh prints I discovered during my childhood, hidden away in my mother’s closet. I don’t know where they came from, but finding a whole collection of poster size prints was like finding gold. She let me take them, and for a large part of my childhood colorful, swirling portraits in careful rotation filled my bedroom walls. I’d lie in bed staring at them when I’d take breaks from doing schoolwork. When I started dancing my mother bought me a beautiful Degas print of a little dancer tying her shoe, and framed it on my wall. It’s not terribly surprising that I found myself taking both Impressionism and Post-Impressionism in undergrad, where I learned about the dark personalities that made such colorful and seemingly cheery paintings. Both movements were full of moody, brooding men with devoted families they didn’t love. Instead of any of this, however, Przekop gave us vampires, pharmaceuticals, and awkward writing.

Editors & MFA’s

July 10th, 2011 § 4 comments

Editors are a blessing and a curse. They are like the teachers who told us the things we really didn’t want to hear, the ones who said edit, or reshoot, or who asked, why those images? Like teachers, editors promote their own perspective, one that is dependent on what they want their publication to be, or what they want it to sound like. Noah, the editor of Whitehot Magazine, is a self-declared “voiceless” editor. He didn’t design Whitehot to represent a particular point of view, but based it instead on a simple mission: he wanted to create a place where the voiceless could congregate and write about art. He wanted good writing from artists, art historians, and art critics without having to tell them what to write about or how. I never think about who the Whitehot reader is when I write for the magazine, which probably makes it my most selfish, self-indulgent, and satisfying place to write. Nancy, editing for the Times Quotidian, comes from another perspective entirely, where the voice of TQ is dominated by her voice. She has a good sense of order and concise writing, and gives in completely to her own perspective, tastes, and interests. She reminds me of the weaving teacher I had in undergrad who proudly admitted that she had no interest in books, music, or movies. Nancy is good for me the way all vested professors are. For example, my department chair in grad school, having a vested interest in my success, gave me the type of feedback I needed to be “successful.” Nancy is the practical voice that stresses coherence, and the limiting voice that says, I doubt you really need to write about that like this.

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Published—Reviewing Art Books

June 9th, 2011 § 0 comments

My new job with a second new publisher, the sassy and opinionated art blog called Hyerallergic, is to be a weekly (or bi-weekly) art book critic. Starting out with a review of a very accessible, short essay in the exhibition catalog for a rather dull show at MoMA on South African prints, I realized two things very quickly: reading takes far, far long than writing, and 800 words, when you are regurgitating (or assessing) another writer’s essay, is a lot longer than you think. My inability to keep within a certain word count is a constant struggle, but is only a struggle when I actually have a lot to say. Working on this new project I could feel myself sometimes fighting that schoolgirl desire to expand and elaborate for the sake of making something longer. It’s a different format for me, as talking about art through books, a visual medium described in glossy pictures and obtuse words, is not what artists, I included, do best. I welcome the challenge, however, and hope I can learn how scholarly critics write through reading their essays.

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