The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH) currently has a temporary installation up that belongs to their permanent collection. The Penetrable, 2004-2014, is a large installation by Jesus Rafael Soto, born in Venezuela, that was actually designed about 10 years ago, and finally realized this year. He passed away shortly after designing this installation. This required a collaboration with Atelier Soto, Paris, to create such a massive project without the artist.
Not familiar with the work of Soto, there is much information on him available in the museum and online. He is considered a pioneer of the kinetic art movement and is internationally recognized in Europe and Asia for his work, but not in the US. Creating only 25-30 Penetrables in his lifetime, this is the largest and only site specific installation, created for the museum’s Cullinan Hall, a large open mezzanine. The 1st Penetrable was created in 1967, however, many no longer exist because they were only temporary installations. This specific piece is composed of 24,000 plastic tubes weighing 7.5 tons with the hanging system, it is 28′ high and suspended from a reinforced ceiling. This piece also required that each tube be hand painted to exact measurements to create the perfect ellipse, making it also the 1st Penetrable to have an “image” included, and not be monochromatic.
The most obvious difference from the normal museum experience is that you are encouraged to touch the work. It becomes kinetic and is completed by the participation of the viewer. Soto created his pieces to enjoy by being able to move through and be touched and pulled. Children are encouraged to participate as well. When I arrive, there are plenty of people already immersed in the piece with several children running around. The tubes are soft and flexible, moving with me as I walk through the installation. Even with lots of people there, due to the scale, it was easy to still be alone for a little bit. At 2600 sf, this piece is actually larger than my entire house (1450 sf), so there is plenty of room to explore and feel some solitude. It actually feels endless, that I will never come out and walk through the tubes forever, in a forest of plastic. I have never had an art experience like this, something I was fully immersed in, almost part of it. I suppose I was, by activating the space, I became part of the installation. Artwork that involves the viewer is always an original experience, which is why I think it is important to travel to see art in person. Contemporary art in particular, is a genre that requires the participation of the viewer to complete the piece, whether by thoughts or action.
“For Soto, space was a perceptual field that had to be experienced, not just with the eyes but with the entire body and senses. He designed the Penetrable to make viewers more cognizant of their spatial surroundings, imagining the work as scalable and situated to both indoor and outdoor settings.”
It is the 2nd large scale installation commissioned in Houston that became the final projects of the artists that I am aware of. The other is the Dan Flavin installation at Richmond Hall commissioned by the Menil, According to their website, ” Just two days before his death in November 1996 Flavin completed the design for the space.” Completed by Flavin’s studio, it is a beautiful, large scale installation taking over the entire front hall. I have visited this building many times, writing about my previous experiences.
Designer Carolina Herrera’s line for NYFW (New York Fashion Week) 2014 was inspired by the kinetic art of Jesus Raphael Soto and Carlos Cruz-Diez. Watch the collection go down the runway in action here. I definitely see the inspiration of both of these artists. Many patterns remind me of the work of Cruz-Diez, but the clothing mostly seems to be inspired by the fact that the work of both artists must be completed by the viewer, from visual participation to actually entering the work, as in Penetrable. The design of the clothing is only complete once it is worn and actively moving. The movement in the clothing is visually beautiful to watch. Coincidentally, the MFAH also showcased the work of Cruz-Diez: Color in Space and Time in 2011, which I was able to experience for myself. His work requires the participation to view the work from different angles, otherwise you will never see the complete work. It was engaging and visually stimulating, being full of movement. This is a great video tour of the exhibition, giving you the experience of how to view a Cruz-Diez, something a static photo cannot do.
On the second floor of the museum Europe 1900-1975 Selections from the Museum’s Collection is being exhibited. I am able to see work from recognized masters that I always appreciate viewing. This included Pablo Picasso, which I had the pleasure of viewing Picasso: Black and White at the MFAH last year, Joan Miro, Anselm Kiefer, Henri Matisse, and Georg Baselitz,
whom I also viewed a solo exhibition in New York a few years ago. This just names just a few of the incredible artists on display here, but they all offer inspiration when it come to pushing boundaries, which is something that refreshes my art sensibilities.
It’s that time of year again for me, the end of Contemporary Art Month. Like last year, it is an intense period. This year, I had to leave before the month was over. Seven Minutes in Heaven is my biggest curatorial project of the year and then two weeks later I had a solo exhibition of my new body of work, Practice Makes Perfect, at Plazmo contemporary. As if that wasn’t already enough, there are the tons of exhibits open for Contemporary Art Month. Every gallery and most artists try to exhibit, it’s an important month. Of course I had to go to as many as I could fit in. It is about exposing myself to what people are doing and offering my support for their projects. I also made a major change in my life and left Ruiz-Healy Art. Before determining my next direction, I needed some breathing room.
After my exhibit at Plazmo, there were still shows, including the CAM Perennial 2014 Untitled (Public Display) at the Guadelupe Cultural Center. This was a two-person show of Mark Menjivar and Christie Blizzard. I was one of a few selected for a studio tour by visiting curator Leslie Moody Castro in April. While I wasn’t chosen, I always am glad to have a curator look at my personal work. I may not be right for this particular project, but I may be for something in the future. As a curator myself, I know a studio visit can open up working with different people and offer new opportunities. My friend Alex was also invited to participate in a smaller group exhibition in the Perennial where they took their work off of the walls and walked it around the neighborhood, bring art to the people of the West Side of San Antonio. Blizard gave away pieces of her artwork for free, I took home this pixilated photograph. Menjivar “fixed” candles individually for good luck, wealth, and love, adding a piece of art completed by Blizard. I know Menjivar from when I worked at the Southwest School of Art, so I am always excited to see more of his work. It turns out he only fixed 40 candles, so I was lucky to get one.
One piece I was eager to see was The Lovers, 1928. It is romantic and haunting at the same time. Nearby on display was a photo titled Amor, 1928 that was of two people standing together with their heads covered. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find an image of that on the internet. The image of what was real was beautiful.
However, when I was searching images, I came across this other painting by Magritte and a photo credited as being of Magritte that reminded me of the Amor photograph. I’m not entirely sure of the title, it has been coming up just as Lovers, and I can’t find a date to this particular piece. Sometime, I’m sure I can find some kind of raisonne and get the details.
One reason I’m drawn to these particular images is because I have always been impressed when a photograph captures a surreal moment without digital manipulation. My particular fascination in art is with reality. The last couple of years I have been working with found objects because they are what exists, discarded remnants of peoples lives. During this period exhibited here, Magritte plays with reality in many different ways, including a frame within a frame within a frame, what is (or isn’t) an object, or as in the piece Representation, 1937. Another piece I dedicated some time to, this realistically painted female torso in a shaped canvas entranced me.
This exhibition was amazing. I spent a long time going through, slowly digesting the imagery in front of me. When I was done, I walked through again. There was also a smaller exhibit of his later works where Magritte played with reality through visual texture and patterns, but I was not drawn to them, not like his early works. When I was done at the main building, I decided to head to my favorite building, to see Cy Twombly. Spending time surrounded by the work of Twombly is very contemplative for me. I have written about a previous experience I had at the Twombly Gallery.
This time around I was able to get some images from one of my favorite bodies of work by Twombly, a set of five paintings, Untitled (Analysis of the Rose as Sentimental Despair), 1985. This is another body of his work that consists of one title but are made up of several paintings.
In his despair he drew the colours from his own heart
In drawing, and drawing you his pains are delectable his flames are like water
While I didn’t go to the Dan Flavin installation located in another building by the Menil this time, I did go to the James Turrell on the Rice Campus, Twilight Epiphany. Unfortunately, I lost the photos I took during the the light show. But these two photos from before it began show on a low scale the color theory that Turrell applies.
This was another quick, yet inspiring trip to Houston. Art keeps my thoughts processing and clears my head. I am very fortunate that Houston is so close and regularly has fantastic temporary, as well as permanent exhibits that I love to visit. Being able to just take in the beauty of it instead of having to organize or explain it is such a different experience. At the end of it all, I am able to focus and be calm again.
2013 was an interesting year for me. I made many life changes and forged on with invisible gallery. Accepting a job at a gallery, Ruiz-Healy Art, for half of the year, I have spent my time primarily fluctuating between working on RHA or invisible. It has been a fascinating experience, learning from a commercial gallery many lessons I can apply to my artist run gallery. While my schedule was a little more stable, I have tried to continue travelling as much as time and my finances would allow. It felt like my travel had decreased dramatically, but after trying to recall my trips writing now, it seems I still traveled frequently. While that also seems to be repeatedly to the same locations, I had a unique trip every time. Since I mainly plan my travel around exhibits, art fairs, and temporary installations, it is easy for a fresh experience.
Places I traveled to see art in 2013:
Houston: Picasso Black and White at MFAH in March, James Turrell at the MFAH in July, Houston Fine Art Fair in September, and the Texas Contemporary Art Fair in October, Luc Tuymans’ Nice. at the Menil , and Houston Artcrawl Studio Tours in November
Ann Arbor, MI: UMMA (University of Michigan Museum of Art) in June
This year was primarily spent travelling around Texas, Houston being where I traveled the most. While most of my travel this year has been much closer to home, the art I experienced was fantastic. Not leaving the country this year did not lower the quality of art I saw. The diversity in what I went to see was pretty extreme. This year included many large scale installation and pieces from the James Turrell Retrospective and the permanent installation of Dan Flavin, Cindy Sherman’s huge photography, Louise Bourgeois and her large spider sculpture…the list goes on. While none of these pieces were created this year, size seems to be the theme in what was being exhibited, either touring or displayed from a permanent collection. Working on a large scale with my sculptures as well, it is always interesting to see art that influences your work. I will always expose myself to as many different medias of art as is available to me. Inspirations and ideas should come from all sources. I am also interested in learning about themes or ideas that are different than my own, including the use of materials. Art is a thought intensive process that I appreciate and enjoy experiencing greatly. I am very fortunate that I have many friends that support this and often are the reason I can travel as much as I do.
The top 5 posts read this year:
- 1 Seeking Refuge: Twombly, Flavin, and Picasso
- 2 Cindy Sherman at MOMA
- 3 Banksy hits NYC by Jonathon A. Sims
- 4 Cindy Sherman Comes to Texas
- 5 Heading to the Big Easy: New Orleans
My 2nd year documenting my art experiences has continued to remind me of all the wonderful and exciting things that are waiting to be explored. By continually exposing myself to new thoughts and ideas is how I keep growing. As I open myself up to new experiences, I find many new opportunities arise. At the end of this year I find myself in a much different place. I am (currently) more stable, slowly pulling invisible together in a more secure direction, while trying to continue making my own art. Personally, I have also been going through a divorce this year, another major change in my life. Art has affected my life in various ways and I feel fortunate to feel so passionately about something. My life takes a lot of planning and patience, as well as unpredictability and chance. It’s a slightly crazy balance I don’t think everyone can handle, although I know plenty of people who happily do. It is very difficult to juggle everything, but I feel a little lost when I don’t have several project going on. Sometimes I wonder if I have a short attention span or just really that many ideas. Although finishing several major projects to completion every year, I will go with I have that many ideas. As I visual person, I work best with constantly new imagery to stimulate me. As an artist that likes to discuss ideas of repetition and multiplicity, I notice people patterns everyday. New environments are just as exciting to me as new ideas. This was another unpredictable year. Only so much can be planned, the rest I figure out as I go along.
For the second time this year I head to New Orleans. This time I was on a vacation, I finally took some time where I didn’t have to be anywhere, so I didn’t have an art agenda. However, my one priority was to find Banksy from when he did a “residency” there. I had also been following his month in New York and am interested in the messages that he wants to leave with his graffiti.
It wasn’t hard to find. I just googled Banksy in New Orleans and found out that he was in New Orleans three years after the Hurricane Katrina, in 2008. I easily found Umbrella Girl still existed in Marigny neighborhood. Considered to be one of his most poignant pieces from this series, the umbrella is supposed to protect her but instead is the source. It had plexi glass over it that was broken through, left with a note PLEASE DO NOT COVER written in marker.
It was in an lower class neighborhood, in fact on the corner on an empty building, at a bus stop. This is an important factor for me, it really shows Banksy is trying to bring art to the people, trying to discuss their struggle.
Photos taken of the guy. Apparently he covered up the area to be in private.
I’m lucky she still exists. A total of fourteen pieces were made but only a couple remain today.
Just as recently as July 2013, A Girl Frightened by Rat was covered up by graffiti. The tag obviously intentional, bearing the words “real graffiti”.
Yet someone began documenting the removal of some of the pieces as early as July 2009, about 9 months after they went up. This piece “Bush” was also intentionally covered up. Besides the threat of vandalism by taggers, Banksy had a war with the Gray Ghost. A man committed to the removal of graffiti in New Orleans, his name comes from the uniform gray paint he uses to cover up the walls.
In response, he became a subject of some of Banksy’s work, depicted as removing the color from the landscape.
While my intention in New Orleans wasn’t art related, but as usual, I couldn’t help but find images relating to one of my on going bodies of work. Salvation Everywhere is a project I have been working on for the last year. It is about being bombarded with religion everywhere you turn. Everyone wants to save you. If you perform certain rituals, such as prayer, confession, or attending mass, you will be cleansed. My ideas primarily form around this concept of ritual and repetition that drives people’s behavior. My second multi media series, it will be composed of sculpture, installation, sound, and photography. The images are what I found everywhere in New Orleans. Religion seemed to be embedded everywhere, including in and around the debauchery on Bourbon Street. I have been randomly capturing images of religion that exists everyday, everywhere. It has been a very interesting project to work on, However, to collect the amount of found items and images I would like to present will take quite a while longer. Many of my projects take a year or two to complete. They are normally larger in scale and generally require much contemplation, Working on my art has really taught me the virtue of patience.
New Orleans is a city of mystery and beauty. There is much to explore, from art to the streets. Any visit here has left me with unique experiences. Hopefully next time I visit I can dedicate a little more time to art. Although with all the inspiration I found, I consider this trip to be very successful art wise.
This is the third year the Texas Contemporary Art Fair has been in Houston, but my first time attending. The art displayed here differs greatly from what is exhibited at the Fine Art Fair. It’s less traditional, more experimental, and as I would expect, pushes the boundaries further. Contemporary Art is one of my favorite types of art to experience. Sometimes I want to experience art that makes me think and is relevant to the world today. While there is beauty in more traditional ideas of art, I’m not sure all of those ideals still apply today. To be able to view art from recognized artists such as Damien Hirst, Robert Rauschenberg, Nam June Paik, Ann Hamilton, and Andy Warhol is always a fun experience for me. Immediately walking in, there was a huge pink sculpture looming in the entrance created by Ann Wood. A small structure with animals on the roof, everything was covered in layers of pink rubbery goo oozing down the sides. Also covered in flowers, this piece was very tactile, alternating between tacky and smooth plastic. It was pink, girly, shiny, and attractive, yet grotesque all at the same time. The animals are very skinny, showing ribs, and covered in this goo as well. When something is entirely covered, I always think of suffocation and being restricted. I have previously discussed this particular feeling regarding a sculpture by Cy Twombly and a photograph by David LaChapelle. My thoughts are also about the objects being merged together, bound by this goo like substance. The structure itself may be a shelter for hunting, but I’m not entirely sure. With no other explanation but the title, One More Reason to be Good, I am left to decipher what this piece is about. Walking further into the entrance, was another building, a laundromat covered in graffiti. A familiar place to most people, the inside is lined with brightly colored bottles of detergents that extend to the playful and colorful imagery taking over the walls, spilling out from within. This has a more welcoming environment that’s well lit, inviting the viewer to enter. The ritual of doing laundry is something the average person would experience on a regular basis, going to a laundromat to perform this cleansing. Created by the Clayton Brothers, this piece is titled Wishy Washy. I get the sense that something should be cleansed, all the components are there to do a load of dirty laundry. This idea of a structure, a familiar place, a shelter, domesticity were strong concepts presented in these two very different installations. The 1st is a sticky, layered mess, while the latter is a clean, organized location that serves a specific purpose. The 1st structure is a curious type of place, not existing prior to it’s creation while the other represents a familiar place where you would clean your clothing. The choice to juxtapose these two different structures as you enter is an interesting choice that I hoped was the beginning of an engaging display of art throughout the fair. There were many major art dealers here. The Kristy Stubbs Gallery from Dallas had an impressive roster of artists that included Damien Hirst and Robert Rauschenberg. The Hirst butterfly pieces were priced at $225,000 each. Well known artists with familiar pieces at serious prices. This is only the 2nd time I have seen his butterfly pieces in person, the other time in a small gallery in New York that represented more modest pieces by Hirst and Jeff Koons. In contrast with my 1st experience, these pieces were more intricate. One of my new favorite light artist was presented here, Chul Hyun Ahn. I had included his work when I wrote about last year’s Houston Fine Art Fair. His work appears endless, creating repetition with the use of lighting and mirrors. A new element existed that I don’t recall seeing last year, was the lighting changed through a spectrum of colors. His work is now ever changing, both in color and depth, each view point offering a slighting shifting perspective. Every time I have seen his work, people are always drawn to it, enjoying the illusion created, looking into infinity. Another great neon piece is by Tim Etchells. I have written several times about light pieces, including art I have experienced by James Turrell and Dan Flavin. I am very drawn to them and will take every opportunity to view them. The contemporary use of a message is something I am particularly interested in. Bruce Nauman is one of my favorite pioneers, smartly displaying similar words or shifting text, changing the original context. Neon has traditionally been used to give information, such as open/closed, enter, XXX, etc. Now it is often used to express a sentiment, another type of information that is now documented. With so much intriguing art, it is difficult to just discuss a few pieces. One thing that did stand out was the amount of art that sold. Many limited edition pieces sold out. Red dots seemed to be everywhere. It is always a good sign to see many pieces of art being sold. The fact that it is contemporary art also says the art market is currently playful and open minded. Art fairs are an experience. The opportunity to visit with many galleries from different locations is a rare opportunity. However, it is just a sample, as most are small spaces displaying a quick view of their most sell-able artists. My goal is to get to Art Basel (Basel Switzerland or Miami), Pulse (New York), and Frieze (London) someday. All of these fairs exclusively exhibit contemporary art. This is just one way to experience art. I recommend mixing art fairs in with studio visits, as well as regular visits to the museums of any city you are in or visit. The more art that I experience, I find I am able to have a better understanding of contemporary art, a better idea of topics being discussed, and often am introduced to new ideas I have not come across before.
Since I really enjoy art using light, of course I went to see the work of James Turrell as part of a unique retrospective that is consecutively taking place in three different locations. The largest installation is at the Guggenheim in New York. I also read an article about the installations at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Much closer to home, I went to the part taking place at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH). As the press was coming out, I kept reading about the installations at the Guggenheim and LACMA, but nothing about Houston. The star piece of the entire exhibition is the light piece that takes over the main rotunda at the Guggenheim. The images of it look amazing, and I know photos never give light installations justice. Since I couldn’t find much on Houston, I really didn’t know what to expect. I greatly admire and draw inspiration from experiencing contemporary art. The concepts and contemplation that it takes to create some of these pieces amazes me. Contemporary art fascinates me because it challenges preconceived notions in an intellectual way. I enjoy thinking about an art piece and seeing an idea in a new way. Large installations, light pieces, and sculptures are some of my favorite medias to experience. Another light artist I have been following is Dan Flavin. I have seen some of his large installations in Marfa and in Houston.
I have always been amazed at the permanent installation there by Turrell, The Light Inside, 1999, which I briefly wrote about when I was at the MFAH last, in March. This piece takes over a long underground hallway connecting two buildings. The tunnel is composed of a walkway maybe just a foot off the ground. On either side of the walkway is a few feet to the wall, in a light wash of color. However, the way the light is presented makes it seem endless, like an abyss. The more you focus on the environment, the more the illusion takes over. I get a little distorted, it feels like I would fall forever. Art21 did a great interview with Turrell that focuses on The Light Inside in Houston and the Roden Crater in Flagstaff, Arizona. The volcano has been his most ambitious project that he has been working on since the 70’s.
Hands down, my favorite installation here is the Ganzfeld, the only piece in this exhibit that you can actually walk into. No photos, of course. It is meant to simulate a white out, something that occurs during blizzard, where there is no perception of the space. Experiencing this condition for an extended amount of time has been known to cause hallucinations. This was created with curved walls, making the room seem endless. There are people inside to keep you from going over the “edge”. As with the other pieces, the lights are completely hidden, just casting a glow of slowly changing colors. LACMA has a Perceptual Cell that costs an additional $45 entry fee and requires a waiver be signed before entering. That specific piece really may cause hallucinations, being in an isolated cell, just the experience of light.
What is amazing about experiencing work by Turrell is the illusion that is created in the space. He creates an environment, many of his pieces require their own room. Some pieces seemed to occupy both negative and positive space at the same time. This was particularly true of the wall cut outs. The light seemed to be cubes floating in the air, or breaking up the floor. The entire time seeming to fluctuate between a physical object in front of you, and a recessed object within the wall.
Going a few blocks away from the MFAH, we walk onto the Rice University Campus. They have an outdoor permanent installation, Twilight Epiphany, 2012, that sits upon a hill. However, it is actually a man made area, the grass is actually camouflaging the interior seating for the piece. There are two levels to sit on. The bottom space is made of marble seating, with tall slanted backs, on the inside of the cube like installation. The upstairs has the same type of seating but made of concrete, also slanted for you to be at an angle looking upwards. The upstairs chairs are on the outside of the open cube, so both levels can view above. The entire structure is covered by a flat roof, with a cut out facing the sky. This is where the art takes place. Even before the sunset show began, you can begin to see how the piece subtly changes, with the use of both natural and artificial light. I have seen the sunset many times, sometimes able to stop and view this beautiful natural occurrence. But this particular piece utilizes color theory to create or isolate colors. A forty minute light “show” unfolds as the sun sets. The staff requests silence and no photos. As in the main exhibit, outside light will affect the piece. It was a very meditative experience. The sky changed through many different colors – light blue, teal, gray, black, a brilliant colbalt blue. While the light is progressively getting darker, Turrell then uses the artificial lights projecting onto the roof, bringing the colors from light to dark, and back to light again. It was a very interesting experience and experiment. This show also takes place at sunrise. I think I will have to experience that as well, at some point.
A statement was made by the Guggenheim stating the large installation piece in the Rotunda is not a Skyspace, as at Rice. The specific difference is a Skyspace has an opening to the outside, while the Guggenheim’s opening is covered in glass.
Leaving Houston, in the paper was a story about a woman in Florida that realized she had a Turrell in her home and had been using it for storage. Disappointing, the new owner is trying to sell the piece. The bottom of the article has a nice slide show of a few Turrell pieces.
Yes, I am currently dreaming of seeing the Guggenheim exhibit. Unfortunately, there is no way I could make that happen by the closing September 25. It would be amazing if I could make a trip for my birthday on September 23….but that will not happen with my current work schedule and financial situation. However, the show in Los Angeles runs through April 6, 2014. There is a possibility I could make it there before the closing. And save an additional $45 for the Perception Cell. Yes, I would. I already would like to visit this exhibit at the MFAH again before it comes down. I will definitely also be revisiting Twilight Epiphany at Rice, as it is a permanent installation. This exhibit really expanded my mind. The possibilities of what a media like light can create is endless and ever changing. Perceptions of color, space, and what is tangible where all pushed and questioned. I find that exhilarating and the entire reason why I continue to seek new experiences with art. Of course, my pictures do not do this exhibit justice. It is something to experience in person.
A stop in Austin led me to Roadhouse Relics. Passing by on the way to End of an Ear, the neon lights in the window called to me. I always enjoy experiencing light installations or how lighting can be used to change the way a piece is viewed. However, these pieces are different, vintage signs updated with neon mixed in with original signs referencing pop culture. The work is fun and whimsical, I would love to have one of these pieces. The front is the gallery houses the work of Todd Sanders, the back and outside of the building house his studio. Looking out the window, there are many more vintage signs waiting to be revived back to life with light.
Enjoying seeing Cindy Sherman so much in New York, I was excited to be able to view her Retrospective again because it was coming to the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA). Of course, I did write about my experience with Sherman at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). It had opened in Dallas in mid March, but I was way too busy to go then. Although, having said that, I did make time to see Cy Twombly and Picasso in Houston in March. Since I had known in advance, I was able to plan a good time to get out of town, get cheap bus tickets on Megabus, and my friend was able to get a free hotel room for a couple of nights. I always want to get out of town to see art. Finally arriving at the exhibit, well, was not quite as exciting. Not because I had already seen it, but the display didn’t seem as dynamic. It was not a very dramatic display, in fact, it was a extremely safe. Walking up, was an open room with a piece taken from different series, then that was mixed within a series of large photographic murals from 2011-2012. This particular series is very different to me because Sherman doesn’t seem to be portraying a “type” here, she seems to be creating these characters out of her imagination. I don’t find these personas particularly relate-able, but they are the most curious. A juggler with short blond hair, wearing a nude body suit under a decorative leotard performing outfit, with knee socks and tennis shoes. This gives Sherman a very boy-like, flat chested appearance. Yet another image is also sporting the nude body suit, but this time a white corset costume made up with layers of fringe, reminding me of feathers, gold gloves going up to her elbows and maybe tap shoes. This is a more feminine depiction than the previous, emphasizing the body, complete with a red bob cut. Eventually, Sherman is “nude” in similar clothing, with breasts and pubic hair. Still a different piece is created from an odd, almost knight/warrior looking outfit, with some type of made up looking crest, then is strangely paired with velour tiger striped pants with footies or socks. This is the most of androgynous of the figures, with curly short hair and oversized baggy clothing. These misfits seem like they don’t belong anywhere, maybe roaming around as a band of gypsies or with a carnival. The background of these images are black and cream imagery of nature, I assume extremely photo-shopped photographs, as some have been altered to have a painterly quality while others remain more photographic looking. The background imagery reminds me of the pattern in toile, or some other traditional image. These pieces also differ from her other series as they are presented as site specific photographic murals that stick directly to the wall. MOMA had them displayed as you walk to the exhibit as well, however, they were eighteen feet tall. At the DMA, it was hard to tell the size, but approximately half that. The scale changes the presentation greatly. These fictitious characters should be much larger than life , their imaginary world should be an environment. Combined with the generic decision to make a compilation of her work in the front room and place them among the murals was not a successful layout. My other concern with the display was that fact that it did not flow. This was mainly due to the each gallery only having one door. You walk in, you walk out, you walk past the same art in the hall again, you go to the next room. I do hate directly comparing to MOMA, but the eleven galleries there led you to the next in a chronological experience through Sherman’s work, creating a continuity in the exhibit. Discussing this after with my friend Jim, he said I am spoiled working with such a great Exhibition Director, Kathy Armstrong, at the Southwest School of Art. It is true, I have learned a lot from her. Paying close attention to the display of the work, I have seen walls built and removed, even creating a room when necessary. I have experience from building a twelve foot wall in my studio, the DMA could have easily made some adjustments, as simple as adding an additional doorway to some of the rooms. Despite how I felt by the display of the work, ultimately, I was still pulled in by Sherman’s pieces. Her work stands on it own, captivating me. Most of the work on display is large scale, contrasting her first landmark series, Untitled Film Stills, 1977-1980, which is a collection of eight by ten inch black and white photos. Immediately, I am drawn to Untitled #153, 1985. Or as I refer to it, Dead. The image is haunting, her lifeless body staring off with empty, open eyes. Of course, this is my narrative. As it stands untitled, there is no indication that this is a dead body. It obviously isn’t, Sherman is alive and well. But these are the implications of a wet body, covered in debris, laying on the muddy ground. This piece in particular makes me want to know more. What happened? Who is she? Is she dead? Traumatized? I want to know how this body ended up laying on the ground in some non-descrip location, very anonymous. Even if this body is not supposed to be dead, this person certainly is not mentally present, looking far off into the distance, trying to think past what is happening now, possibly already empty and emotionally dead. Engaging pieces like this are what is great about Sherman’s work and leaves you with more questions than answers. The description on the wall discusses how Sherman’s construction of the feminine is far from desirable. This is notable in pieces such as Untitled #175, that I simply call Bulimic. One of her many images she refers to as Grotesque, this work is composed mainly of half eaten food and a pile of vomit. The food is strewn around, as if hastily eaten and discarded, in a frenzy, as if on a binge. In this series, Sherman begins to remove herself from the work, leaving only a glimpse or piece of herself, until ultimately removing herself for a period. The only reference to Sherman in this piece is the look of self loathing on her face as it is reflected in a pair of sunglasses, also haphazardly thrown down in the middle of this moment of excess. The piece still refers to feminine issues from a female perspective, even without the female form being the center of this image. The Grotesque Series is unappealing, experimental, and often disgusting. And I am very much drawn to them. A glimpse, to an eye, then just a shadow, until Sherman is completely removed from the image. Reading about this, Sherman felt she may be too dependent on her image and wanted to see if she could create the same type of narrative removing herself. The results are a body of work that discusses what lies beyond the surface in a very physical, almost aggressive manner, creating what I would consider her more shocking work. I have watched many people dismiss this work, barely glancing at it, possibly because it is so raw. In these pieces, there is not the illusion of being fake or uncomfortable, as many of her subjects take on. These take on a seemingly more honest approach as she confronts private, taboo topics. Changing her props to vomit and a shit looking substance covering all but her eye, this series is not for the faint of heart. While Sherman herself becomes absent, the use of her costumes such as wigs take over and the use of body parts from a medical catalog are used very sexual ways. The Centerfold Series is another controversial body of work by Sherman. I did discuss this when I originally saw this exhibition in New York. The work was commissioned, then rejected by Artforum, because it appeared too controversial. The issue surrounding these works stemmed from the emotional states portrayed and were seen as women about to or that have already been victimized. These women are all exposed in many ways. Physically, they are laying down and closely cropped, confined into a tight box of charged mental states. Emotionally, these women are staring off into the distance, not directly acknowledging the camera, as seen in other series such as the Head Shots or Socialites. They are contemplating, daydreaming, or possibly scared. The viewer becomes a voyeur to an intimate, vulnerable moment. I find them haunting and chilling, the emotions feel so real to me. Attracted by their displayed vulnerability as well as the fact that they are oblivious to the camera, the gaze, as they are caught up in their private thoughts with a public display of emotion. Greatly differing from the often straight on look from a naked woman normally in this same position. The format of the two page centerfold spread has long been associated with seduction, and displayed to be viewed by men. While the imagery Sherman provides is a contradiction to that, they are still exposed, but in a much different way than the stereotypical centerfold tart. As a series, this was the one I spent the most time with. Despite the original controversy, Untitled #96, 1981 was sold in 2011 for $3.89 million, breaking records for the sale a single photograph. That image displays a great use of color, with a young girl lost in thought staring off into the distance, holding a newspaper ad.
Sherman’s fashion series are parodies of the superficial world of clothing, name brands, and looks as a job. Untitled #137, 1984 or Fashion Junky, to me touches upon well known drug use in these circles, both as a model to stay thin, but also to have a good time, the night life. This “model” takes this further, looking strung out on heroin in expensive clothing. Another reference I read was she looked like a victim of domestic violence, hair disheveled, with a blank look on her face. Many critiques of Sherman’s work often and quickly discusses how many of the women seem to be victims. Other images in this series are stiff and aggressive, or display very over done women, and include many variations of beauty. As unflattering as these depictions are, quite a few designers and magazines have worked with Sherman, allowing her artistic vision to control the images. So why am I such a huge fan of Cindy Sherman? Yes, it begins with her imagery, but goes much deeper than that. It is impressive that she is the artist, model, stylist, makeup and hair artist, and photographer. I can appreciate the hard work and vision of an auteur. I talked earlier about a particular series of work I found unrelate-able. Discussing this with someone, they laughed, and said they couldn’t relate to any of her characters. I didn’t understand that. We have all seen the femme fatale, the housewife, the model, the socialite, a clown, etc… In fact, that is the relate-able part to me, these figures exist in our lives. Sherman is commenting on the plasticity and how malleable a persona actually is. Often, I believe she is talking about what lies beneath the facade. Most fairy tales are creepy. While I didn’t discuss any imagery from that series (or several others), Sherman is capturing the essence of what is there, not just glossing over what is on the surface, often our only type of experiences and encounters with these women. Ultimately, she is proving a person can be whom ever they choose. None of these personas are her alter ego. They are a compilation of the saturation of media Sherman has been exposed to all her life. In fact, since her work doesn’t refer to anyone specific, they are “representations of representations” (Respini, Eva, Cindy Sherman. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2012)
The stress of Contemporary Art Month has been creeping up on me. It has been a fantastic, crazy, last few weeks. Beginning with a successful Seven Minutes in Heaven 2013 and continuing with a great inaugural opening of PS102, a new gallery space located inside a business, where I am now curating exhibitions monthly. In between all of this, I have been working on some new work for my open studio tour coming up in a few days, as well as slowly thinking of what I want to exhibit for another upcoming show I will be having in July. If I can get my work together. There is always something to work on, always something to think about. Since March is Contemporary Art Month, it has been my busiest time of the year for the last couple of years. But this year, I have never taken on this many projects. It’s enough to drive a girl mad. Despite the fact that I have a huge load of work, I decide to get out of town. There’s a lot on my mind and I feel like I need a change of scenery. I haven’t left town for no reason in quite a while. Well, isn’t my sanity the best reason? Looking up something to do, there is a Picasso exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH) that looks amazing. Surprisingly, there is a second major exhibit touring there as well, Portraits of Spain: Masterpieces from the Prado, that will be closing soon. These exhibits are normally $20 each to get into, but I find on one particular night this week, they are letting you in for $10 FOR BOTH. I think I have found a place to escape and clear my brain from the now. Luckily, my friend in Houston takes me in, so that is where I head, on the Megabus. The first few hours in town are spent by myself. This is refreshing and fantastic. I ignore my email, facebook, and texts, to just breathe for a while. I decide to just stroll around downtown. I’ve mentioned how I love the city. Yes, there is a lot going on around me, but it feels much different when it’s not me rushing around. I am the one in slow motion as everything is running around me. People watching, architecture, just observing life. As usual, I see art everywhere, as I think of Richard Estes, staring at these huge store windows. While I have always loved and photographed reflections, Estes gave me an appreciation for layered realities.
I hop on a bus to the Menil. Instead of heading straight inside, I turn to go to the little park there. This new route took me on a side of the Menil that I had never noticed before. Enjoying the outdoor sculptures is something I don’t always take advantage of when I am here. There are three negative sculptures by Michael Heizer on the lawn of the museum, created from 1968-1972. Known for creating land art, these sculptures are small scale replicas of three pieces from his “Nine Nevada Depressions” series of work, made in 1967. These pieces laid the groundwork for one of his major works, Double Negative, created in 1969-70. Studying DN in school, the scale of land art fascinates me. The design of Rift reminded me of the Jewish Museum in Berlin, designed by Daniel Libeskind. It is such a beautiful day, just relaxing under a tree is exactly what I needed. I sketched a little and worked on some of my titles for my current pieces, but nothing pressing, nothing that had to be done now. Just thinking and brainstorming. The stress was beginning to melt away. When I finally got up (probably after about an hour), I decided to head to the Cy Twombly Gallery. The Menil is fantastic, the way it has several additional buildings in the immediate area, dedicated to a particular artist or specific type of art. I will openly admit I used to never appreciate Twombly. While not being exposed to many images of his work in school, I had still seen several of his pieces in different museums, but only one or two together. They never really said anything to me, there was not enough of a discussion. Then I went to the Cy Twombly Gallery in Houston for the first time. Getting to see so many different bodies of his work let me appreciate the gestures and lines, an important element of many of his works. One of my favorite series here is Untitled (A Painting in Nine Parts), 1988. The deep, gestural greens seem to lead into the abyss. These pieces are full of emotion and gesture. Using a limited color pallet, the work is expressive of something much deeper. Staring into them, I feel a sadness, as if I were Ophelia, letting the weight of everything pull me down. The heaviness keeps me exploring further. Even in this series, Twombly adds lines in the form of text, a poem to Rilke, enforcing the mood he has created in this room, with this painting, in nine parts.
(Ponds) to Rilke
and in the ponds
broken off from the sky
my feeling sinks
as if standing on
For the first time, I fall in love with a new series of Twombly’s work, Analysis of the Rose as Sentimental Despair, a set of five paintings, 1985. Viewing them before, I apparently never appreciated the depth these paintings offer. While these large pieces are composed on white backgrounds, the feelings of despair, continue to hang in the air in this room also. This is an interesting combination using this color. White normally represent things such as youth, purity, and innocence, yet here is in juxtaposition with mature perceptions. The emotional gestures in a seemingly chaotic mess exude complicated passions. The “rose” seems to display a bleeding heart – messy, dripping, and coming out of the canvas. Amid the abstract imagery, the pieces also incorporate text, forming characteristic scribbles. It’s interesting when Twombly uses “legible” text, he creates a distinction from the imagery. Where as in many of his most recognizable works, the scribbles are the work, presented as indecipherable and repetitive gestures. In this instant, quotes from Rilke, Rumi, and Giacomo Leopardi are crammed into a compartmental space above the imagery, shaping the panel. Each series I encounter offers more to the conversation with Twombly. As each room houses a different body of work, more of his thoughts and gestures are revealed. Extending past the canvas, his work also includes sculptural pieces. While not a huge fan of his sculptural work, there has always been one piece in particular that has always drawn me in, Thicket (Jupiter Island), 1992. Made of wood, plastic leaves, plaster, and paint, the media differs greatly from his more characteristic work. I always return to this piece. Something about the way the plant looks like it’s suffocating, drowning in the paint, fascinates me. It is completely covered, yet the plant doesn’t seem weighed down, it is still springing up. Any life is blocked by the plaster, coming or going, yet it has this tenacity, aiding it’s survival. Previously, I discussed an exhibit of huge still life photography by David LaChapelle, referring to a particular piece as “the Suffocating Bouquet”. In both pieces, the “life” is restrained by an outside force. But I never get the sense of something being dead, the life has not been removed, somehow these piece are still breathing. They are both the color white, the color of life. It is captivating to look at. Twombly’s work culminates in Untitled (Say Goodbye Catullus, to the Shores of Asia Minor), 1994. This enormous triptych takes up an entire room, at 53′ wide and 13′ high, showcasing the range of mark making he utilized throughout his many bodies of work. This particular piece is both minimal and yet very expressive at the same time. Completed over a span of twenty years, this is the full discussion Twombly wanted to exhibit. While the most complete, this may be the piece I discuss the least. It is something to be viewed and contemplated in person. See this piece after you have viewed the rest of the gallery and don’t underestimate it. There is a bench. Just sit down for a while. Untitled (Say Goodbye Catullus, to the Shores of Asia Minor), 1994, Detail In an entirely separate building a few block away is Dan Flavin. Richmond Hall is yet another building exclusive to one artist, by the Menil. Flavin is one of my favorite artists that works with light and this is one of my favorite pieces. I have been fortunate enough to see quite a few of his works, such as in New York, Berlin, and Munich. But my other favorite Flavin installation I have written about is in Marfa, Texas, at Chinati. His individual pieces don’t compare to the way the light works together when combined to create these massive works. Using a characteristic limited color pallet, this piece incorporates pink, yellow, green, and blue, and uses one additional color I have never seen utilized in another work of his, purple, in the form of a fluorescent light splitting down the middle of the entire length of the piece, anchoring them together. The lights reflect on the floor, extending the work from the walls into the space. While there are the physical components of a light piece, it is about what is radiating and how it works with the environment it’s in, that is the most interesting part of experiencing light pieces. It is about the space, a much different viewing experience than looking at a two dimensional piece of art. When I first walk in, there is actually a contemporary dance troupe performing amid the installation. Their body movements were mesmerizing, I kept thinking how exceptional it is to be able to perform in the midst of such an amazing environment. The piece highlighted motion and gestures using only their bodies, in a space where the art was exuding from the walls. This was indeed a unique experience. The performance was by the MFAH Core Residency Program at the Glassell School of Art and I talk to the choreographer. I tell her about Luminaria, a huge city art event in San Antonio that is about light, but encompasses all arts, including literature, performance, and dance. I have worked with Luminaria, on a couple of occasions, most recently this year as Site Manager for a fringe location. They give out grants to perform. I write down the info for her and she gives me her card. It really was a special piece, I would love to see it travel. Isn’t that what I do as a curator? Make sure art is seen? While not curating now, I have to share info with this spectacular program. This signified the end of my introspective time alone, this is where my friend met me. After dinner, we head to the MFAH. The special entrance doesn’t start for another hour, so we decide to enjoy the permanent collection, it is free today. The Abstract Impulse: Selections from the Modern and Contemporary Collections is one of the exhibits they have out. A large imposing Soundsuit, 2011, by Nick Cave towers over you at the entrance. Cave makes these suits out of different materials, this one composed of various rugs. The feet are the only reference to a person, yet there is a major presence as you walk around the piece. The suits are meant to be worn and performed in. He will be performing in Grand Central Terminal in a few days. I was very disappointed that I missed his exhibit of these suits at the Austin Museum of Art (AMoA) last year, I heard that was an amazing show. Another exceptional piece is Calavera 4, created by Grupo Mondongo, an Argentinian Collective of three artists. This huge piece is approximately 6′ x 6′, demanding my attention. Made of plasticine and wood, this piece is entirely carved, revealing a rich history, mythology, as well as leading to up to current pop culture. The detail is pristine, as the imagery comes alive from panel on the wall. The depiction of evolution expresses the continuing changes, crammed among each other, as if occurring in a short period of time. Maybe it has, we just assume our lifetime is an eternity. The piece is exhibited along with a touch screen tv, describing in detail all of the intricately carved imagery. There were plenty of other pieces to discuss in this exhibit, but this was not my primary reason for being here today. However, this show is an excellent example of the modern and contemporary artwork in the permanent collection. As a former registrar, I would love to be able to get my hands on these pieces. I promise I’ll wear gloves. MFAH also has an amazing light installation. The James Turrell piece, The Light Inside, takes up an entire underground hallway, connecting one part of the museum to another, the dimensions are 11′ x 20.5′ x 118′. The media is neon and ambient light. The entrance is blocked by a large wall of light, which you have to walk around to enter or exit. There is a solid walkway, while the entire room is filled with light. It is a little disorienting to walk through at first. Even though the walkway is only a few feet above the ground, the color makes it seem endless, as if walking over water. This light piece definitely utilizes the space, creating it’s own environment. And then onto the main attraction: Picasso Black and White. While Picasso is known for experimenting with color in phases throughout his life, this show focuses on his monochromatic work, stripping the color to focus on the subject, something he continued to do throughout his career. Unfortunately, since I didn’t purchase a catalog and the security was extremely tight (as to be expected), I have no photos. It was quite an amazing, as well as ambitious exhibit. With over one hundred works, his subjects varied from everyday life to the horrors of war. While Picasso is of course a master and ground breaking artist, his most powerful work is where he is working with a theme, such as Guernica. The broken fragments of cubism can be used to express emotions of chaos and violation. Of course, that piece is not included in the exhibition, however, many of the studies and precursor imagery were. An artwork so monumental, in both scale and concept, may be worked on for quite a while before realizing the potential of what it is to become. But there are plenty of beautiful pieces every direction you turn. One of my favorites is Woman Ironing, depicting working class daily life. Another is a still life, Cock and a Jar, where the broken imagery brings an incredible energy to an otherwise static display. Yes, Picasso’s work is amazing. On another floor is the other stunning exhibit, Portraits of Spain: Masterpieces from the Prado. The polar opposite of Picasso, this exhibit displays the opulence of the ruling class in Spain. Jewels, ornate clothing, and lavish households of the ruling class are the main subject of these paintings. In fact, included were several pieces showcasing their amusement, little people. The wealthy class did not think too much of the commoners they ruled over. Showcasing several major artists, including Titian, Rubens, and Velasquez, the show would not be complete without Goya. Goya’s body of work ranges from the elaborate portraits commissioned by the Spanish ruling class, to his raw and expressive still lifes, reminiscent of Dutch still life paintings, and his emotional work portraying war. The highlight of the entire Prado exhibit was his prints. The subject matter, the details, the emotion. None of Goya’s other works compare to the profound imagery he depicts in his printmaking. The amount of art therapy I had was just what the doctor ordered. Sometimes life is crazy and seems to throw unending curve balls at you. But the art today did exactly what it is meant to do – allow me to contemplate, offer inspiration, and add an incredible amount of beauty and skill to my day.
Purity Ring is an amazing electronic band from Canada. Their debut album, Shrines, is amazing. Their show sold out in Austin before I could buy tickets! However, they were also playing in Dallas, so my friend and I decided to go. We took the five hour trip on the Megabus for less than $5 roundtrip for both of us. Since my friend works at the Hyatt, we also got a free hotel room. The current exhibit at the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) looks like an interesting show. This should be a good trip. I set up a meeting with Erin Stafford, one of the artists in Seven Minutes in Heaven (SMIH), currently living in Dallas. I have known her for a few years, however, this is the first time I will be working with her. Although, I have seen her work exhibited several times and wrote about one of her recent San Antonio shows in Seduction and Private Moments. We meet at bar belmont at the Belmont Hotel. It’s a cute bar up on a hill with a fantastic view of downtown Dallas that apparently used to be a crack house. Interesting. Sounds like something I would move into with a bunch of other artists. I have always been attracted to the raw, gritty, real aesthetics of dilapidated, old buildings. I always want to move in and turn it into something I can use. We discuss several different projects she is working on and all of Stafford’s ideas are fantastic and fit right into SMIH. She has a couple of great pieces already completed that I love. That is great for press, as well, being able to make the deadline to include in our press kit and any additional requests for images. Best of all, it relates to her paintings, but is an entirely different medium. I really want the artists in this show to push what they normally would create for an exhibit.
After drinks, we head back to the hotel to get ready for the show that evening. We are staying in the middle of Downtown Dallas, and it is nice to stroll through, well lit up. I love neon and it is everywhere! I know I have previously written about light pieces from various artists, particularly my favorite, Dan Flavin and several pieces at The Houston Fine Art Fair. The vintage Greyhound sign is my favorite. The way the area is lit up makes it fun to walk around and explore. It’s definitely a different feel from Downtown Houston, where it seems to become a ghost town at night. I will always be a City Girl, a Downtown City Girl. Never growing up quite so metropolitan, it all changed when I went to high school in the middle of downtown. I had so much fun…I never looked back. It’s the center, where everything and everyone meets. When I was in high school, I couldn’t realize that my life would be wrapped around a ten mile radius of that school – where I work, where I live, and my studio. The show is great! Purity Ring sounds amazing in person. It is electronic music, with the experimentation being the best part. I am really amazed this is their first album, I hope they can continue making music without losing what they have captured here. Although their stage presence could use a make over, they were still fantastic to see live. It was their first tour, after all. Check them out: Purity Ring: Fineshrine Purity Ring: Amenamy The Granada was a nice location, I had never been there before. One thing that highly interested me was their social media. On both sides of the stage were huge projection screens. In between the two bands, they projected their twitter feed. This caused people to twitter just to see it up on the screen. Genius! I think we may have to do this for SMIH. We haven’t started a twitter account yet, but plan to have that up and running by the show. It was just a fun way to promote the event. The comments did get a little “adult” but I would expect no less for SMIH… Of course, I have to fit in art before we leave and head to the Dallas Museum of Art. I already have plans to visit in May to see the Cindy Sherman Exhibit. I made a special point to go to New York to see it before, of course I will travel 5 hours to see it in Texas. It was that amazing. But today is another show, Cindy Sherman has not yet entered Texas. One of the current exhibits is presenting all women artists, Difference?. Encompassing various media and themes, the fact that the work was all created by females in the past fifty years is the only connection between the artists in this exhibit, an interesting choice. Yes, I feel women have a point of view that needs to be expressed. No, I don’t think it should be exclusive. Art is in your soul, not your sex. What I do believe is that both sexes have a different message and have had different experiences. Art would not be complete if one side was missing, as it was for centuries. Without these pioneers, my work today might not be taken as seriously. Louise Bourgeois is a great example. Seeing her Small Spider sculpture in New Orleans was amazing. The works exhibited here, at the DMA today, seem so simple, yet carry complex ideas. Of course, feminist work is included, such as a fantastic piece made out of snaps and latex by Hannah Wilke. It would be ignorant to ignore such a strong point of view. But this show encompassed so much more than that one viewpoint that is often associated or blindly labeled with female artwork. Feminist work was a small part of this exhibit, in no way highlighted or called attention to. Square Tubes (Vierkantrohre), 1967/2009 by Charlotte Posenenske is intriguing and amusing. Removing the artists’ hand completely, this piece is made of six industrial geometric hollow tubes. Though Posenenske was in Germany, Donald Judd was working on his minimal pieces fabricated with industrial materials in the US during this same time. Also removing his hand from the work, his work differs because it is not interactive, he has made all of the decisions. Posenenske’s work is to be put together by the installer/owner, taking the removal of the artists’ touch even further, while using a considerably masculine material, removing any possible feminine qualities. In stark contrast to the smooth polished metal, is a piece by Tara Donovan. Untitled (Toothpicks), 2004, this work is anything but inviting. Created by possibly thousands of toothpicks, this speaks to my love of ritual and repetition. It is rough, sharp looking, and full of chaos, yet is neatly compartmentalized in a square, uniform shape. Also in contrast to Posenenske’s work, Donovan uses common daily items, not industrial, specific materials. This inspires my current series of work greatly. I have been choosing to work with common items with history and re appropriate them with a different, emotional meaning, expanding them from their strictly utilitarian use. So, if I didn’t know the title of this exhibition and just viewed the pieces independently, no, I would not have assumed this was an all female show. It wasn’t all pink and made of roses. Point made. Thank you. Another show on exhibit is Variations on Theme: Contemporary Art 1950’s to the Present. Themes included Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, and the Figure. Composed primarily from pieces in the DMA collection, This included work from quite a few of my favorite artists. There is a huge Donald Judd that looks like it goes a couple of stories high and also a Gerhard Richter that differs greatly from his stylistic blurry paintings. This piece was a mirror. A blank canvas for the viewer to interact with. What was interesting to me was that Richter was displayed near the piece by Michaelangelo Pisoletto, which varied greatly from the last pieces I viewed by him in New York, which were paintings on mirrors. Again, interacting with the viewer, but putting them in an specific environment. Today, Pistelleto’s piece is a box on the floor, I believe made out of mirrors, but turned backwards, revealing no reflections, just the coated backside. Paintings by Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock also grace the walls. There is a fantastic neon piece by Bruce Nauman. Again, I find what people do with light is compelling. Besides this neon piece, I have seen Nauman create in many different mediums, including sculpture, video, and also a sound installation, Days, at MOMA a few years ago. This exhibit is displayed in the Barrel Vault, a huge and open gallery space, allowing plenty of room to view or interact with the art.
This was a fun, quick trip where I feel I got a lot accomplished. Meeting with Erin, an artist in Seven Minutes, seeing Purity Ring, a great show at the Granada, and the fabulous art at the Dallas Museum of Art is a lot to pack into an overnight trip! If I’m going to travel five hours, apparently I will make it worth my while. Now that the DMA offers free general admission, hopefully more people will get exposed to this fantastic collection and amazing travelling exhibits.
- Figuring Out 2013 – Whatever That Means (hownottomakealivingasanartist.com)
- Heading to the Big Easy: New Orleans (hownottomakealivingasanartist.com)
With the new year ahead of me, or maybe I just got the itch to travel, I planned an impromptu trip to New Orleans. I was planning a regular trip to Houston to visit a friend, when I decided to go to New Orleans for a relaxing time. There is also the New Orleans Museum of Art, which I have never visited before. So I rented an apartment, headed to Houston for free on the Megabus (there is a promotion for free travel if seats are available, through Feb 29! Promo code: TRYMEGABUS), where a friend picked us up, and we drove about five more hours, into New Orleans. Although, quickly, some (fun) work is added. On the way there, I get an email confirming Antonio Diaz from Austin is still in Seven Minutes in Heaven II. It has been a while since I invited him, so I am glad he will still be joining the group. I found his prints insinuating and erotic, a perfect fit for SMIH II. I also get a text from the Southwest School Gallery Shop, my now former job. I have been on the list to purchase some of the display pedestals. Everything from the store is for sale, since it closed. Of course, I would be out of town, and unable to go in and pick them out now. Lucky for me, I already know what’s there and what I want. Making some quick decisions, I make some purchases through text, calling after we arrived to pay by credit card. Since Vanessa Centeno, one of the Seven Minutes in Heaven II artists, is living there, working on her MFA at the University of New Orleans, I set up a little more work, meeting her at a local spot. It is great to see her, it has been since last April, when I originally invited her. Already known in San Antonio for her paintings, she presented her idea for video for SMIH II, which I am excited about. My curating style of working with solid, intelligent artists makes it easier to encourage experimentation. I want to work with artists pushing limits and that often involves unpredictable results. A lot of risk taking is involved in making and exhibiting provocative, thought-provoking art. Unfortunately, the weather was anything but ideal. It was chillier than we would prefer and it is foggy as hell. Standing at the water, you can only see about a hundred feet into the Mighty Mississippi. That was a little disappointing. However, everything else was absolutely fabulous! Our two bedroom apartment was cute and walking distance to everything. There was plenty of amazing art, beautiful cemeteries, fantastic buildings, great food, and definitely interesting people! NOLA never disappoints! Visiting the New Orleans Museum of Art is high priority for me. The building that it is located in is beautiful. My friend, Katherine Marquette, worked here prior to moving to San Antonio. How amazing would that be to come here every morning? Is that too much to ask, to work in a historical building surrounded by world-class art? Sigh. That is
the goal one day. They had an amazing exhibition up, “Lifelike,” that I really enjoyed. The exhibit focused on contemporary realism, comprised of objects that were distorted by their scale. Spanning from the 1960’s to the present, the work discussed various ideas from over fifty artists. Unfortunately, there were no photos allowed and the gift shop was currently sold out of the catalog right then, but said I could buy a copy on Amazon. I will have to do that. Their permanent contemporary collection was also impressive, including Yves Kline, John Chamberlain, Joan Mitchell, Richard Diebenkorn, John McCracken, Basquiat, and Warhol. These artists are always incredibly inspiring to me, I have previously posted about most of them already. Mitchell is an artist I wish I had an opportunity to see more of in person. Her bold, gestural work is beautiful to look at up close. I think this may only be the third piece I have had the pleasure of viewing. I was fortunate to see Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park Series in Fort Worth last year. The layered, worked over, and revealing subtractions are what I find the most interesting about his work. John McCracken always reminds me of a contemporary art class I took in college. One student looked at photos just like this one and kept asking “what color is it?”, because of the light reflecting on it. Even this photo shows light and dark gradations due to the lighting. Isn’t that the point of using such a highly reflective surface? I’m so glad to be out of school. But I guess I do have some affection towards McCracken, I did also post a photo of his beautiful red piece at SAMA. The slick, polished Minimalist planks are perfectly crafted, made using industrial materials. I enjoy the simplistic expression of Minimalism. I could never explain anything that basic, my layered work relates to what a complicated person I am. As with Donald Judd, I am particularly attracted to the simplicity of the presentation, perfect aesthetics, and exploration of space. The space these pieces occupy interests me because they simultaneously engage two spaces, placed on the floor like a sculpture, but also positioned on the wall, a place normally reserved for paintings. This is characteristic of this particular series, his other work is comprised of free-standing pieces. A surprise for me was the largest collection of Joseph Cornell I have been able to view together. Considered a pioneer of assemblage, Cornell’s pieces interest me because he has assembled objects once considered precious, often still recognizable, invoking feelings of nostalgia, while at the same time, their original beauty, and sometimes use, has been lost. The raw, real, everyday objects discuss collecting and time, while creating enigmatic narratives. The format of assemblage put together in boxes is also very inviting. I want to further investigate these collections of things. His work extends also into collages, which I consider 2-D assemblages, or assemblages as 3-D collages, connecting by creating new thoughts out of existing remnants. They are fun to view, placed in a room on their own. Since Marfa, I appreciate a little more when a larger collection of an artist is kept in context of their own work to contemplate together.
The most fantastic discovery of all was the Sculpture Garden. I finally got to see one of Louise Bourgeois’s “Small” Spiders. There are quite a few of them displayed throughout the world. While a small one, it stands above me as I walked in and out of her long, elegant legs. I have seen many of her pieces, however, this is the first outdoor, large-scale piece I have seen. She is represented in most collections, considered an important artist, discussing fears, anxiety, confusion, and sexual desires in her works. Of course, it is always exciting to see Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. Their massive sculptures of common, everyday objects are elevated by being increased to a monumental scale. At 21’, Safety Pin towers over the park, demanding your attention, one of my favorite characteristics of Pop Art. It’s always fun to see their pieces, I love their Horseshoe in Marfa. It is not clear in the photo, but the Ladder piece by Leandro Erlich is not held up by anything in the back. It is amazing to look at. There are so many pieces I could discuss. This fantastic Sculpture Garden was so fun to explore. There were many other great sculptures, including pieces by Rene Margritte and Fernando Botero. Nearby the museum, we randomly find St. Louis Cemetary #3. New Orleans cemeteries are beautiful. There are graves, as well as places where ashes of families are together that range from boxes to buildings. French influenced, many of the above ground structures remind me of the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. There are still many differences that make it unique to NOLA, which is what I want to capture. When I go to cemeteries in different regions or a different country, I am searching for how that culture celebrates death and those who have passed. Marble, sculptures of Saints and Angels adorn many sites. It doesn’t take long to discover some rituals that you would only find in New Orleans. One site has Mardi Gras beads strewn around. I bet during Mardi Gras the grave sites will be covered with them. That would make some nice photos. Another has simply a bottle of oil, something I have never seen before, and I wonder if it has something to do with Voodoo. One site has a jar of some kind of food. It looks odd, and may be aged, rotting food left a while ago, or something else possibly related to Voodoo. I am excited to find new customs that I have not seen before.
At this point, I have been working on this large cemetery photo project for about twelve years, possibly towards an exhibit or book or, hopefully, both. My fascination with cemeteries has been since I was in high school. It’s interesting to think how something cultivates and captures your attention for that long. I have always found them beautiful. When I was in Munich a few years ago, there was an exhibit on Hermann Obrist at the Neue Pinakothek. An accomplished Art Nouveau sculptor and designer in Germany, this exhibition focused on his sculptures and “funerary monuments.” Unaware of who Obrist was, running into that show was purely coincidental. I squeezed in the Modern and Contemporary Art by myself on a day off. It was nice to see I wasn’t the only one who appreciates the beauty that lies inside the cemetery gates.
This was a quick few days during the week, but that didn’t stop it from being a fun, inspiring, and productive trip. It’s been about ten years since I was here last and it was just as fun as I remember. There is definitely still a lot to explore – gallery spaces, plenty more cemeteries, architecture, and the vibe that the entire city gives off. I will definitely be back.
This past weekend I headed to Houston to do more studio tours. This is only my 2nd time going to the Artcrawl, but I really enjoyed it last year, so my friend and I decided to head north. There are almost 200 artists participating, but this event is very different from the Austin studio tours. The biggest difference is that the Artcrawl only takes place in one day, where as the Austin tours are over two weekends. Last year I was a little disappointed in having such a short time to explore so many artists and spaces, but this year I was much more prepared. The fact that all of these artists are all in only about nine spaces really helped, other studio tours are much more spread out with less artists in more locations. In Houston, there seems to be a preference for renting studio spaces in large warehouses, or maybe that is just what is primarily available. While it is always great to work around or be associated with other artists, renting a studio with so many other people usually means there is a lot more bad art than good. But I will continue to look for artists that I want to work with, even though most of the time it does mean sifting through a lot of other art I’m not interested in. That’s ok. I try to prepare as much as I can by going through the artist list first. I still need to see what people are working on, what materials are used, topics being discuss, and how the work is presented. I always have a lot to learn from other artists. Meeting with another friend in Houston, the three of us begin the Artcrawl at Mother Dog Studios, a huge warehouse comprised of easily over fifty artists. Immediately walking in, there is a huge wall filled with the work of Kelly Alison. She is an artist I had previously worked with in Unconscious Desires, an exhibit I curated in 2009. Her colorful depictions of birds are engaging. The works exhibited here are all oil on paper, each measuring 28″ x 22″. There is always so much going on in her imagery, it’s hard not to get pulled in. These pieces are part of a series Tweet, 2011, in which Alison completed a piece every day for 365 days. On display she has 24 out of the 365 pieces. Based on current world events, she presents serious topics in her distinct style, discussing everything from the Japanese nuclear meltdown, local homelessness, to the economy. The work was then tweeted, resulting in this body of work being recognized and published in various sources. A couple have already sold today, which is always great during studio tours. However, she is not here. Since I have already gone through the artist list, I know she will be at her studio at Box 13. It is great to be able to view artists’ work through several different series, especially when it continues to evolve into new concepts. Walking into the studio of Katie Wynne, it is filled with assemblage type sculptures. Random items put together, initially, I’m not sure what to make of them. Then I see this beautiful piece of satin on the ground. It is slowly moving, very sensually, into itself. It is so simple, composed of two items, the satin and a motor in the middle creating the movement. She has a fantastic video of Untitled (Satin) on her website. I also find a massager with knitted covers over the moving parts. Again, creating a mesmerizing movement that draws me in. Both of these pieces are composed of a tactile element using a specific type of material and movement. Meeting Wynne, I discover these more sensual pieces are relatively new, compared to her other works. I discuss Seven Minutes in Heaven (SMIH) with her, these two particular pieces would fit well in the rooms of the Fox Motel. She seems interested and I get her business card. I would love to have her in the show. This is the second year in a row I have been to the studio of John Runnels and he is not there. His vulgar work using the word fuck in various media is very amusing. Creating these works with materials such as dictionaries, letterman jacket letters, money, and other assorted items, I like the variation in media used. He has another series of work on display as well, vintage looking nude photos that are displayed in oven doors. I prefer the Fuck Series much more. Literal and in your face, I think that is what I enjoy about these pieces. I would really like to talk to him about SMIH, I knew that as soon as I saw his work last year. Apparently, he is part of the duo that started the Houston Artcrawl. I’m sure he must be very busy. Unfortunately, I can find no business cards either. Well, I know where to find him. Clint Stone is another elusive artist I have yet to meet. His landscapes have this moody atmosphere that attract me, revealing another reality, a more emotive view of what is there. Finding artists that create something deeper than what is on the surface is always the goal. When I am trying to create a show, my focus is to present art that is not homogeneous. Maybe I am specifically taking on this challenge by curating shows that have strong connotations already associated with them. Currently, the group exhibitions I have been trying to put together include landscape, portraiture, and women and fabric. Those are very traditional topics that I hope to change expectations of. Ana Fernandez is another artist I would love to include in the landscape exhibit. I have written about her large scale oil paintings of homes reflecting the culture of San Antonio, when she exhibited in Austin, at Women and Their Work and also when she gave a lecture of her work in San Antonio, at the McNay Art Museum. The photography of Ken Frederick also catches my attention. His portraits of mannequins are done in a way that gives these lifeless bodies a persona. Staring at the pieces, I feel like it is a portrait of an actual person. Unfortunately, it is a little difficult to get a good photo, the frames are highly reflective. But I think even in this photo there is a sense of emotion. I get to speak with the artist for a little bit about this, discussing how much life I get from these images. This definitely works into my theme of untraditional portraiture. Finding artists with a unique perspective on such a traditional style with a rich history is going to take a while, but will be worth the effort. Box 13 is a gallery that also houses studios. I’ve never made it out here before, so I’m glad I was able to check it out. This is where Kelly Alison has her studio. It is great to talk to her. She shows me her current work, says she would love to show in San Antonio and would be happy to work with me again. That is always the highest compliment – when someone will return to work with you. She is an accomplished artist, exhibiting as far as in China and Peru, as well as extensively in Houston, including two permanent public art pieces. Unfortunately, I am not working specifically on anything that her work would fit into, but I am always coming up with new shows, so I make sure I have her updated contact information. Alison was in the first show I ever worked on as curator with out of town artists. It would be great to work with her again. Maybe I can work on getting her a solo show in San Antonio. Another artist I meet at Box 13 is Elaine Bradford. Her studio is brimming with transformed taxidermied animals that vary in size from birds and ducks to sheep. Bradford gives them new perspective, with a crocheted skin around the figures, creating a colorful outer layer. Completely concealing the original figure, the only revealed parts are the eyes of the animal. Bradford even constructs her own species of animals, complete with their own legends. There is a great description of these on her website, from her exhibit The Museum of Unnatural History. This includes a two headed sheep and another species that fuse their tales in a mating ritual when they have found their partner with the same pattern. While presenting those animals in a traditional setting of taxidermy, as you can see in this photo, other animals are exhibited in new and unusual ways, continuing to surprise in the display, as well as what constitutes as an “animal”, as she merges natural elements with the figures. Women and fabric? Maybe another artist that pushes the boundaries and expectations of a traditional medium that I could work with in the future. I have to admit I am pleasantly surprised with the variation of media I found being presented in this Artcrawl. While I found traditional media such as painting, drawing, sculpture, and photography being used, that was the extend of what was predictable. Their concepts pushed the media and what it means. Assemblage and crochet were additional methods I saw used to convey their ideas in interesting and engaging ways. This was a great studio tour. If I can find one artist to work with, I consider that a successful studio tour. But I may have found quite a number of different artists for several different projects. These are the things I get really excited about.
November means it’s time for studio tours! The East Austin Studio Tours takes place this month annually, in fact this is the 11th annual E.A.S.T. I have been going for quite awhile now and have always enjoyed visiting artist’s studios. At the time, I didn’t realize how important these tours would become for me or even that they would become something I would do to work. I just knew I liked it, so I kept doing it. Now, there are several objectives I have when doing studio tours. First, I want to see what is out there – what ideas other artists are working on now, the media, their surfaces. Second, I am curating. This began by keeping track of artists I was interested in working with, yes, just in my head. Then I finally started to see enough artists I liked working on similar ideas. The exhibitions I am currently piecing together include nontraditional contemporary portraiture, nontraditional landscape, and experimental process or media. And, of course, my main and largest project by far, Seven Minutes in Heaven 2013. However, a new priority is really observing these studio spaces for, well, their space. I want to compare how they store their work and supplies, divide their work space, display their art, or find new ways to use the space. Yes, I have always noticed, lusting after these large studios. But now it’s all possible. If I want it, I now have a place to make it happen. A little low on funds, I decided to experiment with how I could make this work. The tours take place over two weekends, with over 200 locations on the map, this included hundreds of artists. I could only attend the first weekend, next weekend is the Houston Artcrawl. I meant to rent a room, but I waited to long and couldn’t afford that. So I booked two roundtrip tickets on Megabus to go both Saturday and Sunday. My total was $12 – for both days. That is less than gas for one trip. That is why I love Megabus. The only drawback is that you can’t bring a bike. Luckily, since all the studios are fairly close in proximity, walking is a great option. Day 1 of the tour is very disorganized for me. I forgot how important it is for me to plan ahead and nothing was really going according to my loose plan anyway. Due to an accident on the freeway, I arrived an hour and a half later than expected. A friend from school and her husband met me and we drove not too far into the East Side of Austin. I had been so busy, I did not print a map, I figured I would just pick one up at one of the locations, I knew the general area. Yes, we got to the general area, no, there were no maps or catalogs available. They were all gone, this is a very popular tour. I was disappointed, the catalogs are actually a beautiful highlight of the tour, the one for the West Austin Studio Tours earlier in the year was very impressive. In fact, I feel the Austin Tours are a great model for artist studio visits, one of the largest and best organized. After what seemed like an eternity, I printed a map at the library and we were on our way. By not going through the list to edit, this caused major mistake #2. With a couple hundred of artists to view, I will probably only be interested in 25 – 35% of the art, and only about 10% will I seriously be interested in working with. While exploring is fun, with so much, there needs to be some organization. So a lot of Day 1 was spent trying to gain my bearings. I saw a lot of art, but not really anything that I would seriously consider. So I began to prepare for Day 2 on the ride home. I began to comb through the artist list. This begins by identifying the locations with the most artists there. If I had a catalog, each artist or location gets a page with an image of their work and their website. But no such luck and the catalog is not listed online yet either. That makes trying to form a strategic plan a little difficult. Day 2 was a million times better! First, I arrived on time. Armed with my map, I jumped in a cab and got dropped off at the furthest point away that I wanted to visit. And just spent the day walking back, hitting as many studios as I could. This included Big Medium, Pump Project Art Complex, and ARTPOST. Those three spaces alone had over fifty artists. A major highlight was finding Industry Print Shop. Immediately, I recognized the style of prints by the artist I saw at the Mexi-Arte Museum Graffiti Exhibit. There his work opened the show, overtaking the entire first wall. He has some work up, as well as some smaller prints on a table for sale. The works are sensual advertisements using sex for promotion. To promote what? These pieces don’t have a product to sell, just imagery and catchy slogans. These prints feel nostalgic, designed like vintage signs, but I begin to realize it’s also in the attitude. The sexy tart can always get what she wants. But how do those attitudes work today? Sex sells more than ever. Are these women being taken advantage of or in control of the situation? How have these attitudes changed in the last 50 years? Can a woman embrace her sexuality? While sex sells, there still remains the stigma of being a whore. Sex will make money but the woman better act like she doesn’t know anything about that. I pick a print to purchase, how can not? I also buy an awesome shirt for a gift. All I had to do was ask for more info. The artist is Antonio Diaz, and he is (one of?) the owner(s) of Industry. I let him know I am a fan of his work. Mentioning seeing their work somewhere else is always a great way to begin a conversation with an artists I want to meet. They are interested when you know their work or have seen their other shows. We go into his office and he shows me some more prints. I discuss Seven Minutes in Heaven 2013, inviting him. He would make a great addition to the show. Interested, he gives me his card, I will definitely be in touch. I have just begun to finally organize things for Seven Minutes in Heaven 2012. Working on the Invisible Gallery website for several months now, I have organized SMIH 2012 page with the artists and press. I would love for this to work out. I love that during his open studio tour, Mark Johnson sits facing the corner of his studio, clacking away on a vintage typewriter, not paying attention to the crests of people in and out. His mixed media works include various typography, referencing the home and domesticity. There is a sense of longing, a void was left from all the chaos. I find his work compelling and would possibly like to work with him in the future, although I have no idea right now where he would fit in. Nothing I am currently working on. But that doesn’t mean something won’t come up. I can’t find any cards and I feel awkward trying to talk to him as he is typing away. But I ask if him for his card, he politely stops, hands me the top piece of paper from a pile, each piece freshly typed as I was there. The little piece of art with his most recent words was his card. Yes, it had his contact information. Back to typing. Discovering the Pump Project Art Complex for the first time was cool. There are a couple of collective studios there, such as MAKEatx and Women Printmakers of Austin. There are also quite a few individual artists studios there, as well. I find the ceramic work of Debra Broz. Her manipulation of decorative kitsch is playful. They are incredibly well crafted. Taking these items from thrift shops, she alters them in an amazing way, where you cannot tell that it was not originally like that. But you know it wasn’t. This is her skill, her trade is a porcelain restorer. A multi talented woman, she is also the director of Pump Project. The photography of Jon Oldag catches my interest. Stitching together photos physically versus digitally doing this in Photoshop is a lost craft he is continuing. This gives the image a soul, some motion, in contrast to the flattened quality a computer can often produce. There is always an attraction to the handmade, something exhibiting the artists’ touch. He is actually selling his work for whatever you would like to offer him. As much as I would love a piece, I have no cash and he is not taking credit cards. And then I found a free catalog at a little gallery. I was so excited! It really is a nice book, a great reference for Austin artists, and advertised as the companion book to the West Austin Studio Tours catalog from earlier in the year, which I have. They were for sale at Big Medium, but free at all the other galleries in limited quantity. As usual, I was on limited on funds. What I do have I will spend on art. It’s really good. This was such a productive day, I am extremely pleased with the amount of work I got done. Finding one artist for SMIH is a huge accomplishment. The Austin Studio Tours always have intriguing art, I always find new artists to work with, get explore new spaces, and return to favorite spots. I think this may have been the very first large studio tour that I ever went on, who knows how long ago. Finding diversity in media is always welcome. I really chose to discuss these artists randomly based on how much I like their work. Afterwards is when I noticed I was discussing screen printing, mixed media, ceramics, and photography. Obviously, I feel it still delivers fresh artwork every year.
This weekend I went on a road trip to have a reunion and see fantastic art. I headed west to Marfa, TX. About six hours from San Antonio, the main part of this trip is desert. You must fill up your gas tank when you stop, there may not be another one in time to save you. This tiny town remains largely unknown, except to artists. Then it is recognized internationally. In the 70’s, Donald Judd, a minimalist sculptor, discovered this Texas town in the middle of nowhere. From then on, he worked in both Marfa and New York City and, I believe, truly began his legacy. Judd’s vision was to display the work of the artists that inspired him in permanent, large scale installations, unlike the short, rotating exhibitions he disliked in New York. Also, he didn’t feel these artists were properly represented in permanent collections. With help from huge organizations like the DIA, he was able to purchase large, former military buildings, and in 1986, opened the Chinati Foundation. It has now expanded to an incredible 340 acres. He also began the Judd Foundation, that focuses on the preservation of his own work. The collection features large scale work from Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, and John Chamberlain, to name a few. That is an incredible collection of art. From the massive amounts of art he created, to the expansive project Chinati has become, I respect his ambition and can see he created an art community here. When I was in college I went to Marfa for the first time. It was an amazing experience. Seeing what Donald Judd has created is inspiring. With an art compound that large, it is normally only able to be viewed through a guided tour. Except for one weekend a year, the Chinati Open House. During this time, you are free to wander through the extensive displays of art on your own. So far, during this open house is the only time I have ever visited Marfa. There are also normally plenty of free events that coincide with the weekend. The first year I went in 2007, my husband and I bought a tent, hopped in the car and headed West. Not knowing what to expect, we found an amazing community, fantastic art, and a pretty unique experience. The city had a free barbeque in the evening, after which Sonic Youth played a free show, and ended the next morning with the Chinati Foundation hosting a free breakfast. Did I mention the word free enough times? It was such a fantastic experience, the next year, 2008, I organized a trip with some classmates. There were ten of us on that original trip. Since then, eight of us have remained friends, artists, and a support system for each other. Beginning that year with everyone, the event began to change. No more dinners from the city. Still a free music event, but nothing as legendary as Sonic Youth. This has changed the number of people dramatically that attend this weekend. But that doesn’t detract from the real reason for going – amazing art. There are still lectures, screenings and readings that relate to the artist or project featured for the weekend. And of course, there will be the huge permanent installations, always amazing to contemplate in person. While a few other said they were going to come this year, ultimately, it was the eight of us that returned. We enjoy experiencing this unique adventure together.
The road to the Chinati entrance is dotted with a few older houses. We find that one of them belongs to the artists Julie Speed. Having seen her included in many shows, as well as seen books of her work at various museum shops, I am familiar with her art. We go in and find what an incredible studio she has. Wonderfully spacious, each room leads to another body of her work. There are three rooms, then a huge additional room, the largest in the house. Prints, paintings, and collages line the walls and shelves, displaying her extensive collections of work. As if that already wasn’t enough, her backyard view is of the huge concrete sculptures created by Judd, made up of fifteen displays of various cement blocks.
I recently had the privilege of seeing a huge portfolio of her prints at the Southwest School of Art (work in addition to what I was seeing here). Speed will be showing there next year and Kathy Armstrong, the Director of Exhibitions, had picked up her work. Speed was very friendly, as I discussed seeing her portfolio. She willingly shared her techniques on pieces there on display, as well as how she printed her own catalogs for some smaller exhibitions. The information was very helpful and it was nice that she was easy to talk to. I always love going to visit people’s studios. It is, of course, much more revealing than at a gallery space exhibiting only one body of the artist’s work. Arriving at Chianti, it looks like a few old buildings and a lot of desert. However, enter, and you find a world class collection of Contemporary Art displayed unlike any other museum. Donald Judd displays his permanent collection of metal boxes in two huge former airplane hangars. This is a personal highlight of the trip for me. Jim, a friend of mine, jokes that the hundred boxes no longer
make Judd a Minimalist. While there were one hundred works in the two buildings, they way they worked with the environment made it feel as if the room was empty. We discuss how important the environment is to minimalism. He said the way they are displayed here “cleanses the pallet,” and I absolutely agree. Placing minimalist pieces alongside artwork from other genres does interfere and take the piece out of context. This could be argued for almost any artwork, but I believe it is an important element for minimalism. The slick, fabricated metal boxes played with the reflection from the floor to ceiling windows. Sometimes where the piece ended and the environment began was blurred. I think that is what I find mesmerizing about these pieces. No matter where you are standing, the effect is the same. I had a difficult time choosing these photos in particular, so many were easily great examples of Judd’s intentions. Each I time I experience them, I understand a little more. Making this pilgrimage several times, I still continue to learn learn something new, each experience evolving my feelings about these permanent installations. On display in another building was a temporary exhibit of some more of Judd’s work, seeing his concepts realized smaller, in a third medium of wood. They have similar patterns to the
fabricated metal boxes, but are much smaller in scale, displayed on the wall, and have a much different feel. These pieces do not react with the environment. I’m not sure if these are considered studies or completed works, and I also contemplate the huge cement blocks. I have never considered those to be studies. Is it just the size that I am thinking about? Judd does tend to work on a massive scale. It’s interesting to see an artist work on a particular concept over such a long period of time. The original thoughts and ideas evolve, as all art should. It is just more obvious how they evolved on similar series of works. With Minimalism concerned with the formal elements, you can understand from these pieces that the scale and material are an integral part of his work.
Besides Judd’s metal boxes, my other absolute favorite permanent exhibit here is Dan Flavin. I have posted seeing his work in New York and Berlin, but this is one of my top two Flavin installations I have ever seen. The other is the fantastic piece at the Menil in Houston, taking up an entire building. This installation is much larger in comparison. Displayed in the center of six different U-shaped buildings, there are two pieces on each side, a total of four physical pieces in each building. Then there is the way they work together, expanding this installation further. This unique piece must be viewed from both sides to fully appreciate what he has created. Each side exposes a different color, working with elements of light and color theory. Like Judd, Flavin’s work is best displayed without interaction from any other art. The scale and concepts are enough to stand on their own. In fact, they thrive that way. The color pallet alternates buildings from pink and green to yellow and blue, eventually bringing all four colors to the last two remaining buildings. Flavin’s pieces also play with displaying the light from both an interior and exterior fixed location within the building, changing the perception in each installation. These pictures are not a very good example of how these pieces are experienced. Some things really cannot be captured on a camera. But I had to at least try to show you what I had experienced here.
We then headed a few blocks into town for the lectures. The main exhibition on focus this Open House is John Chamberlain’s huge collection there. Housed in a large separate building from the Chinati Complex, I had actually never been there. Both huge in terms of the scale of the work, as well as the number of pieces that were displayed, it was yet another impressive collection put together by Donald Judd. Saturday, there were two lectures and Sunday, there were three film screenings with or about Chamberlain. The lecture by Lynne Cook on his process was very insightful. Her introduction was very impressive, having an extensive resume that included working with world class artists at world class galleries and museums. It is a dream job to co-curate the Venice Biennale or an exhibit of Richard Serra at the MOMA. Definitely someone I should be looking to model my career after. When I think of working behind the scenes of an exhibition with big names, my thoughts always go to touching the work. That’s all I want to do. Be able to pick up a Cindy Sherman photograph or hang a Jasper Johns print. Really. I am getting chills thinking about that right now. And it’s a real job. Someone gets to unpack each piece of work for all these travelling exhibits and personally look over it for anything that may have happened when it was shipped. Of course, the curator has full access to the pieces without actually having to do the physical labor of installation. Cook discussed Chamberlain’s process, how when working, he was looking for pieces to “fit”. He visually knew when it was right. This is how most artists intuitively work, regardless of the medium. I don’t think anyone that is not an artist can really understand what that means. It sounds so flighty, maybe even a little poetic. Showing clips of a film on his work also allowed us to see his incredible studio! A massive warehouse stored huge piles of auto parts, sectioned by what type of part it was. It was pretty insane to look at. Occasionally, I get accused of being a hoarder when people see my collection of materials. However, it is a tiny pile compared to the enormous stockpile Chamberlain was working from. What a fantastic studio that must have been to work in!
Another reason for my excitement to visit Marfa: Prada Marfa. This installation by Elmgreen and Dragset was funded by Ballroom Marfa, but actually exists about 35 miles outside of Marfa, in
Valentine, TX. Completed in 2005, the non functioning store houses Prada shoes and purses from the 2005 Fall Collection. The non function is reinforced by the absence of a door handle. While housing these valuable commodities, the store itself will eventually deteriorate, decaying back into the landscape, I imagine looking like many of the tiny towns and houses in the area that only now exist as a remnant of the past. I saw this sculpture two years after it went up, in 2007. Now returning five years later , I begin to see the wear and tear the building is taking. Cracks have begun to appear on the facade. The transformation has begun. One of my goals is to see this building at sunrise or sunset. Having only seen photos online, it looks beautiful. This visit, however, had some disappointment for me. I had been wanting to do a photoshoot here for a while, so I found a camera and arranged for model months ago. Unfortunately, the week before the trip, she cancelled, leaving me without enough time to find someone else. This will have to happen another time. A few people don’t understand why I try to return here annually. It is the art, but it’s much more than that. Maybe I am cleansing my own art pallet, clearing my mind from racing imagery and over processed thoughts. The six hour drive (really 5.40) is a serene coast through the desert, removing yourself from the realities of everyday life. I can just be here. Even anonymous in other destinations, there is still an urgency rushing around you. That is all removed here, where life moves much slower and the art is such an important part of the community.
One of my favorite jobs is working for the Southwest School of Art Gala. For the last three years, I have handled the drop off and pick up of the artwork for the annual benefit Gala. This is one of my favorite jobs because I get to talk with so many artists, gallerists, or assistants. In general, 55-65 artists generously participate. While I always know a few of the artists already, I still get to meet so many new people. This is what I do best, work with the art and artists. Yes, anybody could probably figure out how to do this, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. Do you know how much paperwork there is for 65 artists? And more if they have multiple works. It is mostly bureaucratic work, just making sure the t’s are crossed and the i’s are dotted, it’s part of the job. That is the easy part. The more difficult part can come with actually dealing with artists (and sometimes their egos). Yes, I have also been treated badly on occasion, although, never for the Gala. Luckily, I have a wonderful boss that listens and takes care of problems like that. Being able to deal with artists and issues that may arise diplomatically may possibly be the most important part of this job. When they are dropping off their work, I am representing the Southwest School of Art. A bad experience could affect future relationships with the school. It’s amazing how loving your job keeps you in a great mind set and dealing with people becomes much less difficult than if I were already stressed by my job. The other major benefit of working to set up this event is attending the Preview Cocktail Party and the Gala itself. The cocktail party is a fabulous event I always enjoy. It’s great to see the work displayed in the Chapel of the school, it’s a really beautiful location. At the Cocktail Party I am a guest and enjoy mingling with the artists in a social setting. I get to view the art unwrapped and installed. Occasionally I help with installations, but not for this event. It’s nice not to have to do physical labor. Although, I do always accept those jobs as well! The Gala is a black tie formal event the following night. Here, I did volunteer, working at the sales desk, again with a different set of paperwork. Is this a common theme? I don’t think artists really consider everything that goes on behind the art shows – before, during, and after. Keeps me working! There were many fabulous pieces of art. I love the work by Jennifer Ling Datchuk. Her ceramics always look so delicate and feminine. When I saw her, I discussed a piece of her work I had seen years ago in another show. Choke was a beautiful set of hands protruding from the wall grasping a cloth. These pieces are porcelain plates mixed with embroidery, something I haven’t seen in her work before that I enjoy very much. Another favorite of mine is Sarah Roberts. I recently wrote about her work when I had visited her shared studio space for a show at Clamp Light Gallery. I specifically enjoy the way she manipulates something as cold as aluminum into something so feminine and soft looking. The way the shadows cast from the light is also a lovely detail of this art. In fact, I believe the title of this piece, Her Body is My Body, makes the shadows an integral part of her concept. At the Gala, I got to try on Roberts’ second piece, a beautiful necklace. It matched my dress and fit me perfectly. It was for a really great price at $250 and half would go to the school. Unfortunately, I still cannot afford it today, although I fingered my credit card several times. Maybe in the future I can have one custom made for me, in red? William Carrington’s bronze rabbit has a very haunting face that I am in love with. Even the piece of wood it is set on is beautiful. Another piece I admire is by Ruth Buentello. I was just at an opening at Artpace recently where the artists collective that Buentello is a part of, Mas Rudas, did the Window Works. That installation as well as this piece both show a strong connection to family (or the absence of it). Working for the Gala is always a great experience. As usual, combining work and art is exactly what I want to be doing. I really could care less if my desk was a folding table for today. I am in a gorgeous historic building with a beautiful view – no cubicle for me! The last part of the job is being there the morning after the Gala for the pick up of the artwork by the artists and buyers. It’s so simple, but thanking each artist for participating is extremely important. It’s a benefit event and they donated their art. We have to express our gratitude for helping the school at our largest benefit event each year.
There is a huge Lucian Freud exhibit at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. Over ninety pieces are included in this exhibit. It is also the only US stop for this show that was put together by the National Portrait Gallery London. A large number of these pieces were painted in his studio, portraying life – the studio as the background with many subjects vulnerable, yet comfortable, posing nude, seeming to just be hanging out. There are so many things to take in when looking at his work, composed largely of portraits and nudes. The scale is immense, making these figures larger than life. Painting his subjects as they “posed” for him, full of emotion and intensity. The permanent collection at the Modern is always fantastic to wander through. There is a wonderful selection of Modern and Contemporary art, including Joseph Cornell, Richard Hamilton, Robert Rauschenberg, Robert Motherwell, and some huge pieces by Anselm Kiefer. The Greeting, 1995, by video artist Bill Viola is a provocative piece to watch. The video is of two women talking, when a third woman walks up and joins the conversation. While this is an ordinary occurrence, Viola captures human emotion as he plays the interaction in slow motion. This changes the entire way this encounter is viewed. SFMOMA has a great video of Viola discussing this piece, and how the composition of the figures are based on an image of The Visitation. This makes me think of Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests. He would film people for the length of the film, a couple of minutes, but would slow it down and extend it to four minutes. Warhol felt a person either had a presence or they didn’t. Warhol was also interested in capturing real life and human emotions, as in his early art films Sleep, Eat, and Blow. I was fortunate enough to see several of the screen tests played at the McNay, when they exhibited Andy Warhol: Fame and Misfortune. Another highlight in the collection is the Minimal art. This particular type of art is clean and simplistic. It is interesting that next month I will be heading to Marfa, Texas for my annual pilgrimage to Chinati, and here in Fort Worth many of the artists I will see there are on display, such as Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, and Carl Andre. This large piece by Judd is from the floor to the ceiling. Even in this image, you can begin to see how the translucent plastic or glass material bathes the work in a soft haze of orange, extending from the piece to the surrounding environment.
However, I do prefer to view these artists in the setting that Chinati presents. One or two pieces from an artist doesn’t seem like enough. Even though that is primarily how art is viewed. Well, that’s not entirely true, maybe just regarding permanent collections. I make a huge effort to see an artist’s solo exhibitions. It is important for me to see a large body of work from the artist or experience several series, such as in a major exhibition or retrospective. Since viewing the huge installations that are presented in Marfa, I think I am spoiled. Maybe Judd was onto something. I think I do prefer his isolated, large permanent exhibits of an artist’s work. In that context, I can get an idea of what they are trying to convey through their work. If you are drawn to a particular artist, it is also logical to want to see more. Installations on such a large scale are also an experience in itself. That cannot be expressed in one or two pieces.
Richard Serra also has a small piece, however, his amazing work here is a massive outdoor sculpture. Rusting metal overtakes several stories, towering over you. As with many of Serra’s outdoor sculptures, I was able to walk around and inside. With an opening at the top, the light shined in. The size, material, and tall shape also made the piece bounce echoes of any noise or yelling from inside. That was an interesting experience. I have always found it interesting that Serra is one if the few artists that has had his work rejected by the public. Having to walk around the large structure in a plaza proved too much for some New Yorkers to appreciate, and Tiled Arc was dismantled, apparently still sitting in a warehouse. Another public work by Serra that has caused some controversy is the outdoor piece, Shift, located in Canada. Although the issues surrounding that piece have to do with land rights being sold, with the new owners trying to remove the work. The highlight, however, may be the actual building itself. Built fairly recently in 2002, it was designed by Japanese architect, Tadao Ando. This modern building is a brilliant extension of the art collection within. The forty foot glass windows allow an incredible natural light to enter, while outside it reflects the serene pond, outdoor sculptures, and an amazing view of downtown Fort Worth. With plenty of space to walk around, it is easy to enjoy the view. The unique design places the building within the 1.5 acre pond, the water coming right up to the large glass panes, creating the illusion that the building is effortlessly floating.
Deciding to go to the Houston Fine Art Fair, I was excited to see what all the galleries had to offer. This is the 2nd annual fair in Houston. I wasn’t able to attend last year, so I was eager to go this time around. Only three hours away, my friend and I hopped on the Megabus for about $10 round trip for the both of us and arrived into town. One of my employers, The Southwest School of Art is hosting a booth there, so I stumble upon a free passes as well. With 80 galleries in attendance, over 500 artists were represented, displaying a diverse amount of mediums in this huge space. Fine art fairs are interesting. You get to see so many galleries in a single space, yet they have a limited area to show in and represent themselves with one to maybe five artists. It is a fun, yet exhausting experience. Once you sort through the ‘bad’ art, there are still plenty of great artists trying to sell their work and share their ideas. I need to believe that galleries will show great art from great artists, not just be a showcase for people with connections or money. There was a combination of both, luckily, still with plenty of interesting artworks to explore. Walking into the huge arena, we find the art fair and immediately see this fantastic huge light piece by Matthew Schreiber in the front ticket area of the show. One of my favorite mediums to view is light, I love the way it works with the environment. By deciding to use untraditional materials, I feel an artist needs to use push it to react or engage with the viewer in a different way than traditional mediums, and using the environment is a good way to do this. This should be a particularly important issue for light artists. This piece is maybe five or six feet tall, the same in width, exuding a simplistic, beautiful light. There were other light artists being shown as well. The pieces by Chul Hyun Ahn were amazing. Even though they were bound to the wall, it still felt like they went on forever. The piece on the floor, again, gave the illusion of a bottomless well. The materials were listed as plywood, lights, and mirrors. That seems so uncomplicated for something that looks so complex. Another fascinating use of light was an installation by Jay Schinn. His media was listed a latex paint and light projection. It was much more luminescent in person. Cheech Marin was there in association with Thomas Paul Fine Art. He was actually just sitting at the booth, talking to who ever wanted to have a conversation. The work the gallery was promoting was Carlos DonJuan. I am familiar with his work, most recently having seen him in a graffiti group show in Austin, but originally as a grad student at UTSA when I was there. Since then, I have see his work around, always with a different names – Carlos DonJuan, Carlos Sour Grapes, Miguel DonJuan. That doesn’t really matter, but I wonder if he will ever eventually choose one name to show under or if he is differentiating between different bodies of work. If he is, it is not clear to me. I can always recognize his style before I even see the wall label. I did attend a lecture by Marin, discussing his collection of Chicano art and why it was important to him. While not having an education in art, he was always attracted to art and studied it in books at the library as a child in East LA. By the time he started to make money, he felt he was able to distinguish the good art from the bad, and not just like something. His collection took a particular focus as he started purchasing Chicano Art. Marin goes on to discuss how you can not be born Chicano, it is something you claim, a culture to connect with. This is when he directly hit the stigma attached to the word Chicano. Nobody wanted to show his collection. However, his tenacity paid off and he finally got a major corporate sponsor. His collection then did a huge fifteen city international tour. The story was very inspiring. Art is so subjective, it can be very tricky trying to negotiate unknown or experimental projects if people can’t, or won’t understand the vision. But great artists won’t back down from their ideas and the persistence can be greatly rewarded. Marin was funny and very insightful to listen to. The work of Laura Ortiz Vega catches my eye immediately. This past year my interest in street art has really peaked. I began to realize urban artists are far more visible in the public eye in everyday life than fine artists. Not to mention street art has slowly been creeping into galleries begging the question is it still street art if it’s in a gallery. But looking at the fine detail of Ortiz Vega’s work, there is no question this is fine art. While small in size, the detail of her embroidery is amazing. If I ever put together a graffiti show, I would love to work with her in the future. Always a fan of great hyperrealism, I was excited to see the work of Luciano Ventrone, represented by Hollis Taggart Galleries in New York. I was mesmerized by how this artist could accomplish turning paint into a image that looks so real, like a photograph. I have always been a fan of Richard Estes and other photorealist painters. The watermelon was so visceral, smashed up, referencing the decaying and used items of food in Dutch Realism paintings. The only sign that it is a painting is the weave of the canvas when reflected in the light. This installation by the Art Guys is great! Their art is always witty and fun. Beginning their collaboration at The University of Houston, they continue to work in Houston in many different mediums, including sculpture, performance, and installation. They also gave a great lecture at UTSA when I was a student there. With over 500 artists being shown, I could obviously go on forever. These were just a few of the highlights of this art fair for me. Much more commercial than studio tours, this was an interesting experience. Finding great artists, ideas for shows to curate, as well as new galleries to add to my list was the objective of this trip. It is my ambition to get to the Pulse Fair in New York and eventually Frieze in London. I’ve been to both locations before, so it’s not too crazy of a goal, however, the main obstacle is financial. But this is my Catch 22. I can get a full time desk job and have money for all of these trips but I would not have the freedom to actually go. I think I’m doing ok right now. Besides, I may be in New York soon enough.
As an artist and curator, I am always searching for new artists to work with. I have attended the East Austin Studio Tours for a few years, but for the first time, they are hosting the West Austin Studio Tours. Only about an hour drive from San Antonio, I will always try to take advantage of an opportunity to meet a lot of artists and see their work all at once. Huge open studios like these often have over one hundred artists participating. Another perfect day for exploring art! My first stop is to see Ana Fernandez at Women and Their Work. Real Estate and Other Fictions, is a show of her large scale paintings. Fernandez is a native Texan from Corpus Christi, currently living and working in San Antonio. Depicting common San Antonio scenes, one starts to realize it may not be so common after all. It is a unique city that creates its own culture, with a strong past.
While being a top ten city in the country for population, it often feels much smaller, with all its eccentricities. Fernandez captures these moments, reminding me these scenes probably only exist here. She was able to make it up to Austin for the open studio, and besides her paintings, she was running her Botanica. Selling powders and potions to ward off controlling people and more modern bruharia to have someone unblock you on facebook, I love Fernandez’s sense of humor and how she embraces the culture I grew up in and sometimes take for granted. While botanicas don’t seem to be around anymore, they still exist, low key and hidden in the neighborhoods, much like the scenes she finds dispersed throughout the city. Fernandez is giving these beliefs a make over, refusing to let old traditions die. Looking at her paintings is like driving around in the neighborhood. Even if you haven’t seen the exact house she has decided to paint, you know you’ve still seen this house, know these people. Some of them are in my family. Women and Their Work was a fantastic, huge space. It was a great location to showcase such large paintings. They also had a fantastic gallery shop with interesting books and art.
One of the best studios visited belonged to Adreon Henry and Jennifer Bradley. Both living quarters and art studio for the couple, it was quintessential Austin. Their unique space had a living room floor covered in laminated book pages, while art, books, and collectibles were displayed everywhere. The printing equipment was an impressive set up in the side room. Henry was an interesting guy, into experimental music, books, and seriously making art. His house was a bed of creativity and inspiration. A drink was offered as we talk about the Bruce Haack vinyl playing. We discussed putting on shows in alternative locations. He had held one in an abandoned convenience store and I talked about Seven Minutes in Heaven at the Fox Motel. Artists are the most interesting people. Henry worked in many types of media, including painting, drawing, music, and mixed media. His sense of humor comes out as he draws alien figures on found art.
There were a number of portrait painters that I was surprised drew me in. I felt these artists took something as traditional as a portrait and kept it
interesting, which is often hard to do. I love the moments that Karen Offutt chose to depict, one invading a private moment as this girl sneaks some food while she cooks. The expressive look on her
face as she is caught is what makes this painting stand out for me. Painting everyday scenes of everyday people can be a tiresome subject if there is not some kind of excitement behind it. I came upon H. Chase Seal’s work by accident. I don’t believe it was listed on the tour, running into it as I stopped in an interesting looking store. The large, closely cropped portraits drew my attention. Also included was a pastel drawing I liked. While much more minimal in medium, it was just as expressive. My head was already starting to curate, a contemporary portrait show would be nice. Portraits can often be over looked as a contemporary subject matter, but these artists were proving otherwise. I always enjoy seeing artists who love what they do. That should always come across clearly in their work. But the most fun and interactive piece was by far the Quick Draw Photo Booth by Aron Taylor at Big Medium. Dealing again in portraiture, this was definitely a new concept. Just a loud voice coming from a speaker on this home made photo booth was inviting you in for a fun time. Not knowing what to expect, my friend and I decided to participate. I didn’t realize until after I was in the booth, that we were not alone. Hidden behind the camera wall, we could not see the artist as he directed our “photo shoot”. A cowboy with a Texas draw talked to us the entire time, making this such an engaging experience. This guy was hilarious! Combining art and comedy, photography and drawing, this was quite a memorable booth. Everyone’s experience was completely unique, as each participant was given different instructions.
For our shoot, we were playing the role of celebrities, expressing moments with paparazzi hounding us, and ending with the death of the celebrity.
I laughed the entire time and enjoyed that this was something I had never experienced before. Still not knowing what to expect, he told us it took about three minutes to develop the photos and didn’t want to burn himself with chemicals. We continued to walk around the gallery space until he loudly announced they were done. This original drawing on the right is what the photo booth spit out, in traditional fashion. If I ever curate this portrait exhibit, I would love to include Taylor. Someone like this definitely shakes up the typical perceived notion of portraiture. On my way out of Austin, I made a final stop at Art on 5th, to see the art work of Dr. Suess. While I have known this gallery has been representing his work for a while, this was the first time I ever paid a visit. I have always liked his art and have a book, The Secret Art of Dr. Seuss, that included images of most of the work on display. He has always been a
playful illustrator and I find his other works just as whimsical. Unmistakably his work, these are entirely new worlds Seuss has created, often exposing a much darker side. There are no rhymes to happily bring a conclusion to these works. Yet, these creatures live in this colorful, fantastic existence. Dr. Seuss will always be a childhood favorite of most people. It’s great to connect with his “secret” art work, not intended for children’s books. It is always a pleasure to lose yourself in these exotic places that only exist in the mind of Dr. Seuss.
Amid the many pieces from Dr. Seuss, other artists are represented by Art on 5th. One landscape painter in particular caught my attention, Debbie Mosely. I was drawn to the atmospheric mood she was creating with her paint brush and drips. Looking at her pieces, I felt that I had often been there, in that desolate place, even if just in my mind. The West Austin Studio Tours were a fantastic experience. A little different from East Austin with more gallery spaces, but the creativity continues to flow on the other side of IH-35. Austin is greatly known for their music scene, but this weekend I got to take a closer look at the expanding art community and it was a great experience I hope I get to enjoy again. I am already waiting for the East Austin Studio Tours in November.
A few months ago I was in Houston, picking up art work from the Moody Gallery to take back to the Southwest School of Art. Fortunately, I also got to go back to drop it off. This was in question since my boss needed to head up to Houston also. For a while it looked like I may not get this job. Thankfully (for me), she was too busy for the trip. I always love travelling to Houston, leaving the city is always relaxing. My favorite stops always include The Menil, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), and the Contemporary Art Museum of Houston (CAMH). The permanent collections are stellar and the temporary exhibits bring amazing artworks to Houston. Getting to include seeing art and visiting good friends is always a bonus of any job I do. This time, it wasn’t a Monday, which meant all the art was open. Art and artists have a bad relationship with Mondays. Or should I say the perfect relationship, as I have just always considered this a benefit.
I was really excited to see the large sculptures by Ai Weiwei at Hermann Park. They have been up for a while, but are finally being taken down to travel to another location. Weiwei is a well known controversial Chinese artist. His art often comments on the current state in communist China. This does not sit well there, as seen last year, when he was arrested and detained for almost three months, being released only due to public outcry. The scale of these figures are immense, in typical Weiwei fashion.
The individual heads are incredible to look at and are beautifully crafted pieces of bronze towering over you. Based on the original Zodiac Heads that graced Yaunmin Yuan, the originals were looted in 1860 with two pieces eventually ending up in an auction house in 2009 and sold to an anonymous buyer. This caused an outrage, Chinese citizens felt they had now been ravaged twice. While those two piece may have ended up in private hands, the Chinese Poly Art Museum was donated a total of five of the original twelve heads, from 2000 through 2007. It is interesting that Weiwei is striving to preserve Chinese history on such a large scale, while he is in the middle of a fight with the current Chinese Government on the changing the future. The Contemporary Art Museum of Houston (CAMH) is a favorite of mine. This museum encourages experimental and avant guard art. I have seen fabulous exhibitions here including Pipilotti Rist and Stan VanderBeek. It is what it is. Or is it? was the readymade art show currently up. Readymade art has always been interesting to me, the concepts that DuChamp embodied inspire art to be found in many untraditional places. This changes the perception of what art is as well as what can be used to create art. Transforming an existing object into something to view and contemplate in a new way is exhilarating. It reiterates that the world, our lives, are never static and fosters thoughts of change and creativity. Readymade art has the chance to be pretentious, but if it is done thoughtfully, it can be elevated to an art form. This show was intelligent and invigorating to look at. Artists in the show included Felix Gonzalez-Torres, William Cordova and Claire Fontaine. The last few years I have been contemplating many found objects as art. In school I had a found art piece that was in a student show and invited to be in a found art show, The DuChampions of the Ready Made at Lonestar Studios. It was a broken, dirty window simply suspended from the ceiling. For the DuChampion show, it was requested to somehow alter the found piece. So I boarded it up and titled it Perseverance. Soon after that I began working a lot, of course, cutting away my time to paint. Instead of feeling I was wasting my time, I began to realize that’s when I can work on conceptual pieces. Most of the work for a conceptual piece is the thought. This process can be done anywhere, for any amount of time. This had a dramatic affect on how I began to see things and my artwork. I began a lot of exciting projects that I still continue to work on today.
Located right across the street is The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH). The main exhibition today showcased the work of Latin American artists from Argentina, Brazil, and Chile, among others. Mexican painters, Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, were included as well. This was part of the collection of the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA). They have been putting together this collection since 2001 and are now exhibiting fifty pieces from the collection of over two hundred. This was a well put together exhibit,
introducing me to a number of painters I had not previously heard of before, including Antonio Berni, Roberto Matta, and Raphael Barradas. It is always refreshing not to have museums show the same major artists over and over again. It is also great to have Latin American art recognized. While collecting contemporary art is not their priority as a museum, there are several pieces I enjoy viewing when I visit. I always love the Damien Hirst there. I am a little surprised this piece has not been loaned to the Tate Modern in London for his current retrospective, but I heard he has an entire room of medical cabinets there, something I wish I could get to see and may not be together again. I also always go through the tunnel of light, or The Light Inside (1999), as it’s officially titled, by James Turrell. The colored light always makes me feel disoriented, like I’m walking in the negative space as I head down the walkway, through the length of the room, to get through and out on the other side.
I did also visit the MFAH Sculpture Garden, which is a serene outdoor area that I had not visited in a few years. I walked through beautiful, large sculptures by Auguste Rodin, Henri Matisse, and Louise Bourgeois. Another stop included the Richard Serra drawing exhibit at the Menil. This consisted of large solid planes painted onto the wall and drawn on large pieces of paper, much like the sheets of metal he prefers to work with. I have to admit, I haven’t been too inspired by the last couple of major shows at the Menil, Richard Serra, and Walter De Maria, a few months prior. These have been known to be cutting edge artists and I was a little disappointed not to see new work with transformative ideas. Both are still working artists and these were both new bodies of work, but both shows seemed lacking. Maybe I am expecting too much. Both times, however, the people I was with were not particularly impressed either. I guess it goes back to my earlier of assessment that bigger names do not necessarily mean better art. Don’t get me wrong, I highly respect these artists and really do enjoy their work, just not every piece or series. I love going to see De Maria’s New York Earth Room, 1977, when I have time in New York. One day I may even pay the $250 per person price to go to the remote location of his lightning rods in New Mexico with a no guaranteed possibility to see them in action. I have also seen many pieces of Serra’s in both a museum setting and as public sculpture that I enjoyed very much. Just apparently not today. This was a great trip, even though it was only a quick two days visit. Working with the Moody Gallery went smooth as usual. I appreciate these jobs that take me out of an office setting and into any place where I can continue to experience different ideas of art.
I compared all the huge names showing, now I want to talk about the less famous artists I saw exhibiting in Chelsea. I laugh at this thought, less famous. Of course showing in Chelsea means you are known, someone has already recognized you. You cannot be a nobody and get a show in Chelsea, that’s not the way it works anymore. As I wander through the different galleries, I notice Yale is plastered all over the CVs I care to look over. I think of my friend, Linda, who completed her MFA at Yale also, but is much more low key, not making it a habit to submit work to galleries or throw Yale around. So I represent her and do that for her.
I do have some favorite spots in Chelsea I like to visit, and this pays off as I discover one of my new favorite artists, Frank Yamrus at Clampart Gallery. I seem to always like the work exhibited here and today is no exception. Yarmus is exhibiting some very unique self portraits that I absolutely adore in his show titled I Feel Lucky. I have never seen self portraits as revealing as these. More than capturing his image, each photo exposes a very intimate side of this man. It’s amazing to see how imagery can say so much. Yamrus muses topics such as life, death, sexuality, and perversion as he talks about himself. I found myself drawn deeper into this intimate conversation, wanting to continue. While not all of his imagery is sexually related, I look around, wishing he would be in Seven Minutes. Though a far-fetched dream, as I look at his prices, they are in line with other artists I currently work with. Maybe I am heading in the right direction, towards the path of curating and expanding the list of artists I work with.
Stricoff Fine Art has quite a few great artists put together, but my favorite is discovering the work of Rimi Yang. Painting images of prim and proper women of different cultures, she does anything but present a perfect appearance. These women seem to exist in some chaotic world. Depicting them in fine, traditional clothing, the blurred environment they occupy recontexualizes their lives, forcing me to confront the women themselves. As they emerge from these expressive environments, the women are lacking expression. Not a hint of a smile, not the revelation of anger, these women seem ambivalent to their situations, of their lives, at least for this one fleeting, captured moment. Yang discusses in her artist statement how beauty exists as a comparison to the ugliness. She refers to a William Blake poem where all the people are rich and happy, and heaven sunk.
Paul Graham’s photography also caught my interest at the Pace Gallery, with his show, The Present. His main concept was to photograph different circumstances of people in the same location, finding parallels with a basic premise that we are all not so different after all and that we share the places we live our lives. I am reminded of the work of JR, a photographer that enlarges and posters his images all over the world, often of Israelis and Palestinians, proving that if you place them next to each other, you can not tell what they believe in.
Graham chose to display his large photos in sets of two at various heights on the wall, including some pieces a few inches off the floor, an interesting choice. While the photos where shot at mostly eye level, this particular displays forced the viewer to look down as they consider the art. I always want to see new ideas to display art. Although, I am still deciding how I feel about the contribution this particular display adds to this body of work.
Piet van den Boog at Mike Weiss Gallery has done amazing, huge, haunting portraits. Staring at you dead on, you are confronted by the subject, feeling an uneasy gaze. Bruised and Battered, van den Booge depicts them with bright blue and green shades of patina, interspersed with rusted tones, hinting at a much deeper age, discussing their emotional history. Looking worn and weathered, these confrontational portraits are capturing a much more raw side of his subjects, exposing a vulnerability normally not seen. He pushes these ideas literally, as he chemically etched into the lead surfaces he has chosen to work on.
Exhibiting at Luhring Augustine is Michelangelo Pistoletto. He is a contemporary painter I remember reading about and looking up further. It was probably a review of one of his previous shows. Pistoletto’s interactive paintings are referred to as mirror paintings, however, they are actually photo silk screened images on steel. This instantly places the viewer in the painting plane. The imagery primarily shifts between people working, talking with their back to you, and objects of construction. When he could place the viewer anywhere, in any exotic locale, he chooses construction sites, wood pallets, and behind orange plastic fencing for this particular series. Unusual choices to converse with. I enjoy that he involves the viewer in such a simplistic way. That is a concept for me to consider. These pieces force the viewer to contemplate themselves and reality. These works combine both conceptual and figurative concepts. I think of my friend, Kelly Reid Walls, ‘ is perfect for these works. She finds a way to interact with most art pieces, most do not involve viewer participation. I would love to see what she would come up with for these pieces.
Chelsea, as usual, was amazing and did not disappoint. While the area has changed considerably from its inception, thankfully, the mission of art is still strong. Experimentation and inspiration was rampant. While these were some of my personal favorites, I had a hard time just discussing five. I literally spend two days in and out of these warehouses full of galleries. I left with a ton of photos, lots of notes, plenty to contemplate, and so much inspiration.
The last few days had cool weather, perfect to stroll through the galleries in Chelsea. I always love Chelsea, the original art area of New York. Even though it is very different now (try unaffordable for artists), there is still something special about this area. It’s still a dream of most artists to show here. If you have never been here, it may be accurate to describe this area as gallery stacked upon gallery. Huge warehouses and office buildings are clustered together, each housing normally several galleries. As I walk into gallery after gallery without ever being acknowledged, I remind myself, You’re in New York. The pretension makes me laugh. There were some big names showing in the galleries this month. I decided to see what they had to offer and to see if they were worth the price I know these galleries paid to have them there. Of course, not out right payment, but after promotions, catalog printing, shipping, huge opening reception, flying in the artist, etc. It adds up very quickly.
David Lynch had a show at the Tilton Gallery. His work was as crazy and deranged as I was hoping. The desolation seeped off the walls of the posh gallery space. With phrases such as I don’t love you and
everything is fucking broke, there was no perfect art here. Most pieces were made on cardboard using charcoal, found objects, and other unidentifiable mediums to create the grotesque figures that reside in Lynch’s head. I have been a huge David Lynch fan since watching the Twin Peaks series and immersing myself in his films. The dissension he draws you into is like walking into an unknown dark alley. You will meet seedy people, get into a complicated situation, and before you know it, you’re in deep. The show had just opened the previous week.
David LaChapelle also had a show up of his large scale still life photography at Fred Torres Collaborative. Known for creating over the top celebrity fantasy worlds, these
pieces were much more subdued, although still had his characteristic absurdity imbedded in each photo. The still life began with a traditional flower motif, but quickly updates the idea of what should be documented. His color palate starts with the flowers and extended into the modern items placed in the composition. Mylar balloons, a child’s toy, the uneaten half of fruit, candles, a burning American flag, plastic items, lots of plastic…and this is all in one photo. In fact, so many plastic items were used, I questioned if it was a direct commentary or just pure coincidence, a documentation of real life, as no items were completely unknown or unusual. I am immediately drawn to the suffocating bouquet, wrapped in plastic, surrounded by medicine bottles, plastic tubing and other familiar, yet out of place objects.
I was very excited to hear that Georg Baselitz had work up at the Gagosian Gallery (number one). He is a German painter considered a pioneer of Neo-Expressionism. I have only seen large exhibits of his work in Germany, never in the US.
The scale of his work was so immense! The main image on most of his pieces are people, but what the eye immediately recognizes is just the surface of Baselitzs work. His paintings confront what is reality through rough, expressionistic depictions. The emotion and chaos take over, ruling the twelve foot canvases.
The show at the (second) Gagosian Gallery was Roy Lichtenstein. They were exhibiting the Chinese Landscape series he did apparently the year before he died. While the pieces are done in Lichtenstein’s stylistic benday printing dots, the subject has changed from moments of biting wit to serene landscapes. This was the only photo I was able to take before I was told no photos were allowed. I felt this was a little silly – you can take pictures at one Gagosian location, but not the other? But working in galleries, I’m sure it had to do with artist stipulations or who lent the work, etc. I know how this works.
There was a lot of interesting art spread out in the galleries. How did the big name artists compare? David LaChapelle and Roy Lichtenstein both displayed worked that differs from their normal repertoire and I found this exciting to look at, not to see the same work over and over, just in different colors. David Lynch, well, his work was exactly as I had expected yet still there was never a dull moment. The creepy world of Lynch will always intrigue me. Georg Baselitzs work was done in his traditional style, yet the scale is what was captivating to me. Anything smaller would have undermined what he was trying to do. While I made a point to see these shows, by no means would I ever pretend to like the art because someone famous made it. There was not one of these shows where I loved every piece, but it was definitely an interesting day.
Although just coming off a long trip, I could not pass an opportunity to stop in New York City to see amazing art. The Cindy Sherman Retrospective at MOMA was my main goal and first stop. It was amazing. Her body of work is very extensive. Each room led you through a new series that explored a different set of characters, discussing different ideas. There was a great audio guide that included interviews with Sherman as well as the Curator of the show. Displayed chronologically, Sherman’s work began as smaller pieces, all done on film. As she trades this in for a digital format, her works increases in size. Her last series of Society Portraits were larger than lifesize. I have admired her work for a while, enjoying how Sherman is a chameleon of disguise.
I did not know that ARTFORUM had commissioned work from Sherman, but decided against printing the Centerfold series. Shot in a typical centerfold magazine size and fashion, all of the women are shot from above, revealing vulnerability. Apparently the editor felt the women had just gotten raped, to which Sherman responded that all of her pieces are Untitled because she does not label them in any category.
Yet, French Vogue had no problem printing her series for them of over done, over partied satirical models in couture clothing. I love the French attitude! She also did another designer shoot for Pop Magazine. Here she is stiff and uncomfortable, playing a slave to fashion in Chanel.
She has the talent to create female characters that are women you can identify with and yet so over the top, you know you have never seen a woman like that before. It feels awkward using the word “character” because these women all exist on their own. I never once moved onto the next piece and thought “Here’s Cindy Sherman, now in a mullet.”
Entering the Historical Portrait room, I am immediately struck by the image of Cindy Sherman as Caravaggio’s Sick Bacchus. It is interesting that just a few months earlier I was viewing the original in Fort Worth. I already know that this is a self portrait of Caravaggio as Bacchus, the Roman name for the Greek God Dionysus, the god of wine, drunkenness, and ritual madness. This is a portrait of Sherman as Caravaggio as Bacchus. Sherman is placing herself in the male role of a god as well as turning an oil painting into the current medium of photography.
Her series of portraits that all looked like they were done at Sears was fantastic! It is her attention to the tiny details that make each woman an individual.
The originality that Sherman puts forth is fresh and exciting to look at. As I continued through her immense show, every room left me wanting to know who she was going to become next. I spent several hours wandering through this exhibit as well as the rest of the amazing permanent collection until I was kicked out at closing.
All photos were taken by me, from the Cindy Sherman MOMA Catalog. Courtesy of J Maldonado.
The second leg of my trip is to Budapest, Hungary. This is a new country I have never visited before and was very excited. While I try to return to Berlin as often as possible, I think it is very important to visit new places as well. I never know which trip will be my last, and there are still a million places I need to experience. So I’ll try to tackle them one at a time.
To be able to afford this additional trip, taking the train was the best option. The drawback is that it is 12 hours! This seemed insane. Many, many years ago I backpacked through Europe for a month, hopping from country to country by train. I’m sure some trips were very long, but I think they were reserved for overnight trips. This lovely train left at 6:30 am, arriving in Budapest at 6:30 pm. Armed with German pastries and coffee, as well as sandwiches and water to make it through the day, we made our way in the barely light of the day to the Haupt Bahnhof, the main train station in Berlin. Despite my lack of energy, the station was fully alive, shipping off to many different countries.
Arriving in Prague, I want to jump out and stay. I was here about 10 years ago and remember the magic of this medieval town. But the promise of a new adventure is far too tempting! Here a cool Czech guy joins our cabin, wearing a shirt from California. We begin to talk, just about everyone speaks English. He is from Prague heading to Bratislava. He likes to print and bought a letterpress but doesn’t have any room to work. We talk about my art. He invited us to get off with him, but unfortunately, we have to get to Budapest, otherwise this would be a welcome detour. We did exchange emails. I have a picture of us, but I will not post a picture of me after traveling over six hours (so far). He invites us to come back and stay in Prague with him. Yes, we would love to do that. As he gets out of our compartment, a young couple in love replace him. They are 18, German students that met in their program in Budapest, and just finished a weekend trip in Bratislava. They tell us all about how they love living in Budapest and take many weekend trips together.
In Budapest, I have rented an apartment to stay in. The internet makes it so easy to book a place across the world. This is great because it is normally cheaper than a hotel, is much more private, and located in a regular neighborhood, not surrounded by tourist traps. The local restaurants are delicious and being surrounded by original buildings of Budapest is amazing. We are also located only a few blocks away from Andrassy Avenue, lined with expensive shops and gorgeous architecture. This avenue is apparently listed as a world heritage site. It is incredible exploring this new city. It has been quite a while since I have been in a country where I didn’t understand any of their language. Not even the slightest clue. The signs are no help at all. But the world is so global now, it really doesn’t matter. Everyone seems to speak at least a little English. If they are younger than me, then yes, they have already learned English in school and speak fluently.
I was surprised to find out that the subway system is the 2nd oldest atin the world, the oldest in the continental europe. Although when I got in the aged car, it wasn’t hard to believe. But as old and rickety as it may have seemed, it was just as functional as any other subway I have ever been on. Besides the subway, there is a tram going through the city. But most of the time was spent walking around this amazing city. There is just too much too take in speeding by on a bus or tram. Andrassy Avenue actually was a straight path, connecting you to other parts of the city, almost all the way to the Chain Bridge, and was a beautiful stroll. Beautiful architecture framed the expensive items housed inside.
Arriving in Hero’s Square, there is no other word than magnificent. It is one of the largest squares in Budapest with a beautiful adjoining park. The huge open area has been an important location in Budapest history. It was built to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of the Magyar conquest of Hungary in 895. The statues are the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars.
To the right is the Kunsthalle, where the Marina Abramovic exhibit, Eight Lessons on Emptiness with a Happy End, is on display. “The title of the work refers to the traditional Buddhist notion of emptiness – emptying the mind to allow transformation to a different state, in this case to achieve purification through the viewing process.” While a small exhibit, the multi media installation was large scale. Consisting of a five channel video installation and large scale photography, Abramovic discusses how cultures filled with excessive violence affect children. Depicted by imagery of children playing or posing with toy weapons, it is referencing imagery shown in the media. The video alternates this with serene images of the local landscape of Laos, waterfalls, trees, and the wind blowing. I appreciated how minimal and clean the presentation was while using five screens and giving the viewer so much imagery at once. The representation of the children in the video was calm and familiar, almost like it seemed there was nothing wrong with what is being depicted. At one point the children calmly tie up Abramovic, then drag her away. This type of imagery is often shown on the news in the US, but it often seems so far removed. There are many countries where this footage comes from and is a reality. It’s impossible now to say what the long term affect from excessively violent cultures will have on children, but in such a grim environment, it doesn’t seem that it will be a positive outcome, Beginning with the initial horror, then desensitization, where will that ultimately lead? It was all a game. While I responded to her imagery, this was not my favorite piece by Abramovic. Her more visceral pieces, such as washing the blood off hundreds of bones or laying naked with a skeleton on her, are the ones that inspire me. She did not participate as much here, which is what I most admire in her work. I suppose what I really mean is she was not the main vehicle for her ideas. Of course she participated by creating and directing her vision. However I would rank this piece, as usual Abramovic’s work gives me plenty of ideas to consider.
Being a huge fan of her work since I did a paper on female performance artists in school, this was an exciting opportunity. I was also fortunate enough to see her retrospective at MOMA in 2010, where she was also filming her current performance piece, The Artist is Present. Seeing her pieces be recreated and watching her as she was in the middle of her current performance piece was one of the best art experiences I have ever had.
However, she has been in the middle of controversy since last November, when she was creative director for the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art’s (LAMOCA) annual benefit gala. Issues with the artists payment and exploitation arose. While some of the complaints are legitimate (I felt typical mistreatment of artists by the Art World), others seemed a far stretch. Personally, I felt it boiled down to what would an artist do for an incredible opportunity to work with a major artist? Is the experience worth practically volunteering? While you can’t pay the bills from this job, what does having it on your CV really mean? Will it get you other fantastic opportunities? The Art World can be as slimy and self serving as Wall Street, but ethics occasionally come up, discussing what is right, not necessarily what is popular. Would I have laid down naked with a skeleton on top of me for $150 to get the chance to work Abramovic? Probably. Unfortunately, I have done much more for less.
A review of the actual event: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/culturemonster/2011/11/marina-abramovi%C4%87s-silent-performers-speak-out.html
Either way, I’ve noticed a lack of internet love for Abramovic since this incident. But I still greatly respect her ideas and work and am happy to have an opportunity to view one of her recent projects.
Crossing the beautiful Chain Bridge to the Buda side is breathtaking. The Danube is a huge and powerful river, crossing over it reminds me how life is delicate and can be consumed in a second. Surrounded by beauty that has been here for centuries, I can barely comprehend that I am here. It is so inspiring. But no matter how many pictures I take, I can only capture the size of the river, not the power it is exuding. In all of my pictures it seems quiet and calm, but that is far from the reality. It is an incredible force.
Meandering through the beautiful park to the top ended at the Citadella with a breathtaking view of the city. Overlooking the Danube and looking out to the rooftops. Walking through the historical neighborhoods is inspiring. These building have been here far longer than I have, they have withstood so much. Seeing churches, bridges, a castle, and many gorgeous buildings makes me incredibly jealous of those here that experience this beautiful, European life everyday.
The Citadella at sunset.
Spending more time in Budapest is something I would love to do. I would also love to explore more of Eastern Europe. This is the farthest I have been East so far. Each city further in is just as wonderful as the last. The culture is incredibly rich, the architecture is beautiful, and the local cuisine is always something to experience. I am very fortunate to even come here once in my lifetime.
Stenciling is an extremely popular method because it can be completed in seconds while having the time to design the image. With graffiti, time is always of the essence.
Papering on the walls is one the quickest methods that allows the most details, since the piece is ready in advance. The paper piece, glue, brush, and some darkness is all that is required for a rapid installation.
The wall murals were truly amazing! Several stories high, I can’t even begin to imagine how a piece that large is completed. I saw several pieces that have been included in graffiti books but found so many more than I had never seen referenced in pictures before. I love that I just kept stumbling upon these amazing, huge art works as I explored further into this hidden world. I wonder how many artists it took to create such a monumental piece and how long they spent making it. I’m assuming to complete a project that large they must have the cooperation of the building owner, or at least the residents.
These artists really earned my respect. While there were a few pieces done on store fronts, the majority of the graffiti pieces were done to spread their ideas and love of art. It is common knowledge most artists don’t receive any regular type of compensation for the creation of art and this stands even more so for the artists of the street. This brings up another issue, the anonymity
of the artist, typically hiding behind an alias. Yes, it is illegal in Berlin to vandalize public property. But obviously ignored in certain parts of the city, such as Kreuzberg. Some artists are recognized by their style without a tag. Though in the UK, Banksy comes to mind. He may be the most anonymous public figure, making a “documentary” that was nominated for an Academy Award, “Exit the Gift Shop”, where he blurred his face the entire time. However, there is also Good Ol’ Texas boy, Ron English, an important, preceding figure to Banksy. English differs greatly in the fact that it is very easy to find an image of his face just by googling his name. Yet both artists leave their tongue in cheek opinions in the public, for all to see, comment on, and sometimes add to or alter their art.
But none of these issues have put a cap on the expression that explodes from the neighborhood of Kreuzberg. Paint, paper, glue, stickers, doilies, fake fur…if you can make it stick or paint it, anything goes, anything becomes a canvas. This excursion was very inspirational to me. I am constantly trying to get fresh ideas and renew my thoughts on art. I left with a lot to think about, which directions I can take my art. My head is still trying to process everything I saw and experienced there. This will definitely be a regular stop for me anytime I am in Berlin from now on.