Artistic Nostalgia & Longing

July 17th, 2011 § 0 comments

A musician friend of mine called Woody Allen’s latest film, Midnight in Paris (2011), “Woody Allen light,” a perfect way to describe a film of little substance but full of longing: artistic longing. The story follows a frustrated contemporary screenwriter named Gil Pender, who is engaged to a shockingly shallow woman Inez, as they vacation with her insipid parents in Paris. One of the most beautiful, wistful, and nostalgic cities in Europe, Allen’s Paris is one that makes anyone who has ever been miss it immediately. The opening credits capture still images of dreamy cobblestone alleys that recall old Paris, Atget’s Paris, as well as the comings and goings of modern day Parisians. The film’s protagonist, Pender, is hopelessly absent from his own stifling reality, and dreams of Paris in the 1920s, when it was brimming with expats, artists, intellectuals, and writers. Lost, drunk, and alone one night, Pender is greeted by a car full of drunken strangers, who happily drive him to the 1920s at the stroke of midnight.

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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.

Public Artworks Unveiled

May 20th, 2011 § 0 comments

With summer on the horizon public art has been popping up around the city, from the annual and much anticipated opening of the MET rooftop to individual sculptures placed throughout the city. Summer, or at least spring as our moody weather dictates, seems to begin when PS1 opens its courtyard once again for Saturday Sessions full of art, music, and general museum lounging. Most of the city’s public art is so scattered that to see it all would require a days worth of zigzagging through the city. One of the many nice things about public art, however, is that it isn’t in a gallery with restrictive hours and locations. Stumbling upon pieces as you head elsewhere reminds us of how pleasant our cities are when filled with beautiful, odd, historical, or experimental pieces of art. They reach everyone because they are surrounded by everything: retail, restaurants, nature, sidewalks, cars, and pedestrians. While public art is the most obvious kind of art we know, it’s also the kind we engage with the most. Unlike gallery shows that seem to open and close too quickly to accommodate our busy schedules, public art usually lasts through the summer, giving viewers enough time to actually see it. Covering the fashionable preview of Alexander McQueen’s posthumous exhibition at the MET, I wandered past Will Ryman’s Park Avenue flowers, and Urs Fischer’s giant yellow Untitled bear/lamp, conspicuously sagging in front of the Seagram building. While buying Heirloom vegetables in Union Square, I crossed paths with Rob Pruitt’s shiny Andy Warhol monument. In Madison Square Park lunching with Chicagoans, I walked by Jaume Plensa’s forty-four foot sculpture titled Echo.

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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.