A Fred Tomaselli Lecture

January 23rd, 2011 § 0 comments

Artists, with a few exceptions, don’t tend to have the type of cult following that various celebrities and rock stars have, outside of a few insular groups comprising mostly of other artists. While we know movie stars by their faces and names and not necessarily by their filmography, the artwork of artists is usually more recognizable than their name, let alone their face. It was therefore surprising to find such a dedicated turnout at the Brooklyn Museum on a cold Saturday night in November, for Fred Tomaselli’s explanatory gallery tour of his mid-career survey exhibited at the museum. Wandering through the show a few weeks prior to Tomaselli’s guided tour, I found as I typically do when looking at his paintings, that while his process is engaging, unique, and visually simulating, his subject matter remains boring, bizarre, and baffling with its birds, flowers, astrological designs, and neo-classical looking nude figures.

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A Bedraggled Angel–Women & Rock

January 10th, 2011 § 1 comment

“It wasn’t pretty, but I was with you all the way,” Patti Smith said as she concluded the first of her annual New Year’s performances at the Bowery Ballroom Wednesday night. In Just Kids, Patti wrote that whatever you’re doing on the new year will be a premonition of what you do that year, which is perhaps why it makes perfect sense for her to play three shows in the final days of December, and to bring in the new year with music. Her opening night is apparently more a “rehearsal” than anything else—“I don’t know why you come tonight”, she said Wednesday, calling us insane—the second performance is Patti Smith’s birthday—she turned sixty four this year—and the closing night is of course New Year’s Eve.

My first time taking part in her tradition, and I unknowingly picked the rehearsal performance. Surrounded by an aging crowd who sees her year after year, listening to Patti tell me about the changes in her work that have transpired between last year’s show and this year’s, (apparently all she had to share of Just Kids last year was the finished cover of the unpublished book), I felt like I had unintentionally picked the worst show for the same reason that the first camera you buy isn’t the best one you will ever own: you have to earn the right to buy a better one. Next year I will see the birthday show, and the year after that perhaps I will brave the crowd and share the new year with Patti Smith. As entertaining and inspiring as I think it would be to spend the last hours of the year listening to Patti ramble and rock, I’m happy that this year I got my feet wet slowly: she seems to require a certain amount of getting used to.

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A Small Sense of Community

December 30th, 2010 § 0 comments

Most artists are trespassers at heart, and most of us want to explore the places we are unable to see, to go inside, or to photograph at all. If I could somehow break into strange houses and apartments to photograph the interiors without going to jail afterward, I would. Having spent a great deal of my childhood in the backseat of various cars, watching images pass by the car window almost like I was inside the camera frame of Lee Friedlander, I dream of one day being able to shut down portions of the Los Angeles freeway system in order to capture those fleeting images. I’ve tried to use the camera as a means of time travel, and I’ve tried to photograph ways of life that no longer exist, or that might never have existed at all. It seems photographs can be about our denied fantasies as much as they can be a documentation of our immediate reality.

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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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