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.

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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