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.

Published—A New Publisher

May 18th, 2011 § 1 comment

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.

Published—Warhol’s Motion Pictures

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.

Published—Interviewing Roxy Paine

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.

A Crisis in Making

November 23rd, 2010 § 2 comments

“No one said you were an artist, you said you were an artist. You chose this, so no whining!”

I never know when it is productive to begin looking back on something, usually an event specific to myself (a death, a move, or a change as big as a death or move), to analyze it. In the past I never gave these events a chance to settle in before I started cracking away at them, trying to understand what they meant and how they had changed me even before they had; my own curiosity, especially about myself, often gets the best of me. I have since learned to let things rest, and to give myself the time needed to reconsider the recent past. Two years out of grad school and I’m slowly gearing up to embark on my analysis of education, institutions, and what role institutions should play in education. I’m planning to edit a book on the subject, but I’m not there yet. Instead, I am stuck in a no mans land between the world of academia that I somewhat recently left, and the art world (the commodification of art) that I apparently hope to enter. It’s a zone filled by recent grads, fresh new players, and hopeful gamers. There should be a term for your first few years out of school, for the crisis of faith we go through while floundering in deep waters, a term that gives you the sense that you are not alone. I’m going to call it the “post-grad school crisis.”

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