I love street art. Something about the freedom of working without traditional materials in an often unlimited canvas captivates me. Those are some of the ideas that first attracted me to art. I have long followed the career of Banksy, one of the most infamous street artists around. Controversial for his messages, as well as the fact that his art is technically done illegally, his career has spanned across the world on walls, in books, and in film. For the month of October, Banksy took up residency in New York City, a place long known for avant-garde art. While I am fortunate enough to visit NYC fairly often, I was not able to be there when as part of his residency, Banksy was putting out a piece of work a day. However, I do have friends there, just as curiously wondering what he would do there. Since this was such a major event in the art world, I wanted to know more and get a first hand account of what exactly went on there. So I introduce to you my first guest writer, artist Jonathan A. Sims and new resident to Brooklyn, and his thoughts on the phenomenon that is Banksy.
Reflections on “Better Out Than In,” the Banksy NY Residency
Banksy’s New York “residency” started on October 1, 2013, approximately six weeks after I unloaded a Penske truck with my fiancée into our Brooklyn apartment. It was easy to be excited about it.
There is no denying that New York City has an irrepressible reputation for being the epicenter of the arts in the United States. And once you get here, and you start to pay attention, this fact slowly cements itself into the brains of newcomers. It’s the names. The names of the biggest American and international artists. The names of the best-funded galleries. The names of the biggest museums, with the names of some of the most famous masterworks. And it quickly becomes apparent that in New York City, apart from anywhere else in the U.S., all of these names from books and blogs and documentaries are suddenly very, very, accessible.
For the month of October in New York, Banksy was the most accessible of them all. The arts media started to drum up anticipation, and the blogs began to speculate. I didn’t pay too much attention until the first piece dropped. It seemed like the whole city was caught up in the scavenger hunt. Anyone could see images and location clues of the artwork du jour by simply checking Banksy’s Instagram or banksyny.com. The arts blogs ran posts that quickly filled with “updates” before you even reached the lede, crediting the first lucky searcher who found the work, or noting the dramatic crowds, or posting photos of the work after it had been vandalized by others. A friend of mine Instagrammed a photo with the October 1 stencil, but not before the “Graffiti is a Crime” street sign had been swiped, “not five minutes!” before he got there.
There was a local phone number stenciled nearby, and calling it greeted the listener with Muzak and a calming voice (you can still hear this “gallery description” on the website). A clever parody of the audio guides you can hear on rented audio players in museums, the narrator proceeds to mispronounce Banksy’s name and make fun of the typical artist statement verbiage before throwing up his hands and pronouncing “You decide. Really. I have no idea.” The narrator also mentions that the piece has “probably been painted over by now.”
This transience was a major part of the experience with Banksy NY. For anyone else in the world unable to see these works firsthand, the first image taken by Banksy or his assistants is the way they encounter the work– in pristine condition, fully in line with the artist’s intentions. When we finally got a chance to see his October 2 stencil, “This is my New York Accent,” you could see the hands of at least four or five other vandals. Graffiti begets graffiti, and Banksy is a magnet for spray paint, markers, and thieves.
Viewers are so used to seeing artwork as inviolable. Spend enough time in museums, and most of us will at some point be firmly chastised by a docent or guard for getting too close to a piece, or forgetting to turn off a flash, or some other minor gallery crime. These institutions work hard to create an atmosphere where visitors maintain an assiduous self-consciousness. With public art, there is something exciting about having no restrictions with the art. And there is also offensiveness in seeing that same art molested by others.
Banksy was very careful and very smart about where he chose to display his art. Walking past the Bedford stop on the L train in Williamsburg (the epicenter of the tragically hip neighborhood), we stumbled upon is first mobile piece. “A New York delivery truck converted into a mobile garden (includes rainbow, waterfall and butterflies),” was driven and left at local hot spots chosen to reach maximum promotional visibility. It attracted crowds and cellphone lenses. Shortly after we found it, inexplicably, a young man decided to climb into the truck and walk around its cramped interior. Once he got in there, I think he realized that he had no idea why he did it, and soon climbed back out. It was a mindless decision. It is easy to guess that most of the vandalism of the Banksy artwork was driven by the same mindset.
I couldn’t get upset about the destruction of the public work for very long. With few exceptions, these were illegal canvasses to begin with. The choice of Banksy to continue to work as a rebel artist invites that same kind of behavior. But the early culture that emerged around working in stencil and spraypaint demands that authenticity as a street artist be accompanied with risk and disobedience.
Maintaining street rep normally also includes an apparent indifference for the material gain that would accompany being an international art star, a disingenuous myth that continues to celebrate the “starving artist” as the most pure form of the professional. Banksy is now extremely wealthy, but he has carefully choreographed the impression that he is still giving his art away. Perhaps the most notorious and humorous day of “Better Out Than In” was a video of an old man in Central Park selling authentic and signed Banksy canvases for $60 each. The punch line? Only eight paintings sold for a total of $420, though some media outlets inflated the value to $225,000 in total.
Everyone was talking about the payday. How if we had been there, we could have raked it in. Of course, it isn’t funny to remind people that the paintings themselves were pretty boring, and if any name besides Banksy was attached to them, it would be hard to value them at $60 each. In the end, it was, like everything else produced in October by Banksy, a feat of amazing marketing. A clever promotional event, in which every part serves to increase the value of the artistic artifacts.
If there is a single argument that can be made in justifying Banksy as a meaningful contemporary artist, it is in the fact that the market price of his work continues to confront us with the dilemma of defining what is valuable as “art.” Property owners who had never heard of Banksy before were suddenly confronted with a totally new situation. In a closet somewhere nearby, or in the trucks of professional vandalism remediators, sit buckets of thick paint ready to erase graffiti. These buckets get employed hundreds of times a week all over New York City. If you walk up to the wall you own and find a crowd of people ready to attack you for painting on your wall, it can be pretty stunning. If art has enough cultural or material value to challenge the accepted notion that vandalism is inherently wrong, then the word’s definition has to be expanded again for the millionth time.
But in that same fact rests the anger and resentment that I was surprised to find in New York against Banksy. It is no surprise to find that many established members of the arts community judge the work as banal, as they are wont to do, and scoff at its popularity amongst the youth. Rebellion is the leitmotif that constantly follows Banksy. His refusal to come out of the shadows of anonymity and work in a more traditional capacity as an artist rankles more than a few people, an irritation even more grating by his inarguable success. Articles appeared in New York papers telling Banksy that he was unwelcome here— a recurring theme among them centered around the cosmic injustice that Banksy could elicit such a popular response when New York’s own resident graffiti artists, such as 5 POINTZ in Queens, are languishing.
In the last week of October, in the buildup to Halloween, Banksy unveiled an absurd and timely performance piece in the Bowery, which was to remain up from dusk to midnight from Friday to Sunday. A friend of mine texted me on Sunday asking if I had seen it yet, and we were compelled by the deadline to grab a train into Manhattan. There, behind a large fenced area on a concrete slab, a humongous mannequin of Death himself crouched in a remote-control bumper car and zipped back and forth, his battle-worn scythe extended above him in homage to the sparking electrical contact typical to the carnival ride. Musicians took turns playing continental accordion music as interludes between the real show: disco lights flashed and a machine pumped smoke as “Don’t Fear the Reaper” blared into the cool night. The Grim Reaper zipped into overdrive at these moments, and the bobbed to and fro on springed joints in the cramped space and occasionally slammed into a wall with stunning force. The whole thing was utterly ridiculous. View video here
In that ridiculousness is the joy of Banksy. Almost all of his work hinges on humor in some way—be it the general silliness of stuffed animals going to slaughter, or the observational jokes at the expense of capitalism or the political establishment, or the situational comedy of his site-specific gags involving children and beavers. A lot of the jokes are clever, and viewers enjoy his ironic juxtaposition of the beautiful and the decrepit (butlers and geisha girls), or the political and entertainment (Syrian fighters and Dumbo), and this alone probably goes a long way in explaining his popularity. But like anything that relies on joke-telling, some of the jokes aren’t that funny, and work built on facetiousness will always risk being seen as trivial.
But seeing the Grim Reaper riding a bumper car and slam into a wall with a Blue Oyster Cult soundtrack? That just makes me happy.
Jonathan Sims is a painter living in Brooklyn, New York. His work can be seen at www.chromadetic.com.
Last year was crazy, unpredictable, and exciting! All that without a full plan. Well, that’s not entirely true. I work pretty hard at what I do, whatever that is, put myself out there , and accept most opportunities that I’m lucky enough to have come my way. A new year to me means new opportunities and adventures. I do not return to the same boring desk job after Christmas. I get to plan my year out however I would like. I am very lucky.
With that in mind, how do I begin to plan for the new year? Some things are already on my calendar, such as Seven Minutes in Heaven (SMIH) 2013, which will be March 2, 2013, my first CAM studio tour on March 24, 2013, and the show I am curating at Alex Rubio’s gallery, R Gallery, of my five artists July 13, 2013. That’s a lot to be excited about already, but doesn’t take up nearly enough of my calendar. That means work to do and new opportunities to find.
Beginning January 1, Megabus put up travel through April, so travel is my next stage of planning. My husband and I are heading to New Orleans in a week with friend, although we will be driving there. Then I head to Dallas before the month is over for a music show with a friend. Both trips include meetings with artists in SMIH and visits to the Museums of Art. Technically “pleasure” trips, work and art are, as usual, always included. I know I will be in Austin for a music show in March, a few days after SMIH. I know the West Austin Studio Tours are in April this year, and last year was so much fun, I won’t be missing that! In May I will be heading back to Dallas for the Cindy Sherman exhibit. That will be such an exciting trip! I spent several hours in the exhibit at MOMA last March and look forward to doing that again.
I will also be in Detroit visiting someone very dear to me, I think in the beginning of June, but I will be flying there. However, it would be really easy to hop on the Megabus to Chicago. I have visited both cities before, although not in quite a while. I was lucky enough to see Throbbing Gristle perform in Chicago a few years ago. That was a pretty legendary show I was lucky enough to attend. Detroit has some great art to visit such as the DIA, Detroit Museum of Contemporary Art, and cool galleries like CPOP. In Chicago, there is the Art Institute, Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, and I wouldn’t miss an opportunity to visit my friend, artist, Grayson Bagwell, currently attending Grad School at Columbia. He is in SMIH this year. I keep dragging him back to San Antonio to exhibit. And I keep visiting him. He used to live in Brooklyn, so of course I would pop up there. When he attended Pratt he was fantastic enough to take me on a tour and to the Grad office. It is the school with my dream program, a dual masters program in Art History and Information Sciences (Library Sciences). They offer a summer program to study in Venice and do internships with the Met. Their main campus is in Brooklyn, but their Art History campus is on Manhattan. It would be perfect since my husband is also interested in attending Grad School in New York, at the New School. He is an experimental writer looking for an untraditional program. Although with his high GPA and great references, I’m pretty sure he could get in anywhere. It’s me I’m a little worried about. My GPA is slightly lower due to not dropping a one class in time. Really. That killed my GPA for a few semesters. I am now just thrown in the average pool. Which is why I am hustling everyday, trying to build my resume and get my name out there so I stand out when I do apply. I need scholarship money to live in New York. Oh yes, please let me learn all about curating in New York!
And what about “work?” I mean, I am always working, always glued to my phone or laptop, always attending art exhibits and meeting people. What I really mean is paying work. Regularly. Money is a funny thing. I swear I don’t live by it, but it sure does make my plans come together much more smoothly. As of now, I don’t have anything scheduled until February. January is always the slowest month for me work wise. Everyone has already taken their vacations during December and won’t take time again until the summer. It’s a little tough financially, but I always have a lot to do. Last year I learned I better focus on SMIH or it definitely catches up with me all at once. Not to mention I need to organize my life again. Spring cleaning is serious business to me, after the whirlwind of my first open studio, the holidays, art events, and parties, I am completely disorganized. My house and studio are normally a wreck. So is my brain. I will set up my calendar and travel, begin to work on my house so it no longer looks like a war zone, clean my studio, go back to yoga to relax my mind, oh, and breathe. I have to be able to clear through some of these things before I can focus on my art again.
Being self employed is not for everyone. You have to be a go-with-the-flow kind of person, which I am only sometimes, and have lots of confidence, which I do most of the time. Inviting people you’ve never met before to work with you at a place/event they have never heard of (mainly out of town artists), you have to sound like you know what you’re doing, or they’re not interested. Sometimes they’re not interested even when they do know you and what your doing. Marketing to strangers. Yes, I have definitely built up this skill in the last year. Also fundraising. I could not possibly afford everything I want to do, so I do need help. I’m very fortunate to have people believe in me. I have produced a few events now, worked with quite a few artists, and have had a good track record by showing up and supporting many artists and art events. Believing I will make enough money by the end of the month to pay for my studio rent, my art supplies, and any art events/parties I am throwing. That is the most go-with-the-flow-part. Sometimes that gives me a huge headache, but again, I am learning to breathe and take it one day at a time.
I am excited to work on my art again. I have several big projects that I am working on and now have the space to begin to put them together. I have to be ready with my work for the studio tour in March. Both displaying my older work and really putting in some time on my newer projects. The studio tour is in about eleven weeks and I want to have something to show. I have been fortunate to receive so many opportunities when I have shown I am serious about curating. Who knows what will come up when I show I am interested in showing my art again. The last few shows I have been in were invitational group shows, but I will be ready this year to exhibit some of the major projects I have been working on.
So I begin to prepare for the new year. Whatever that means.
This year has been exceptionally crazy and ambitious for me! I began 2012 by starting to write this blog. Not too sure what I was doing, my purpose was to document my self employment endeavors, encouraged by a friend. Looking back, the things I did this year amaze me. Five years ago, two years ago, or even just this past year, I could not have predicted the directions in which my career has been expanding. It’s an incredible feeling and I love the unexpected opportunities that constantly come up and having the ability to accept them.
Places I traveled to see art in 2012:
- Fort Worth: Caravaggio and his followers in Rome at The Kimbell, Jan; Lucian Freud at The Modern, September
- Houston: Moody Gallery, CAMH, Jan; Ai Weiwei Zodiac Heads at Hermann Park, MFAH, CAMH, May; Houston Fine Art Fair, Silence at The Menil, September; Houston Artcrawl, November
- Berlin: Gerhard Richter Panorama at Neue Nationalgalerie, Hamburger Bahnhof (Museum of Contemporary Art), Berlinische Galerie, Judische Museum, March
- Budapest: Marina Abramovich Eight Lessons On Emptiness, March
- New York: Cindy Sherman Retrospective at MOMA; Georg Baselitz, David Lynch, David LaChapelle, & Frank Yamrus in Chelsea; March
- Austin: West Austin Studio Tours, May; Hybrid Forms, Austin Museum of Art (AMOA), East Austin Studio Tours, November;
- Marfa: Chinati Open House, October
I had a hard time listing them without going through my blog! That is the most travel I think I have ever completed in one year, ever in my entire life. But I hope it’s just the beginning. All of these trips have introduced me to new artists, new spaces, what is going on in the regional, national, and international art world, and best of all, amazing art. Ranging from major shows that have been written about to discovering many new wonderful artists that are local, I have spent the majority of this year seeing and absorbing as much art as possible. It has brought me much insight and inspiration.
However, I didn’t always have to travel out of town to see amazing art.
- Andy Warhol, Fame and Misfortune at The McNay in April
- Agosto Cuellar at Artpace in May
- San Antonio Collects at SAMA in June
- Governing Bodies at Gallery Nord in October
- Franc-tober Fest at Bismark Gallery in October
Those are just a few of the highlights and a tiny portion of art that I viewed this year. I attended, as well, the majority of First Thursdays/Fridays, Second Fridays, and Second Saturdays. I would say 8-10 out of 12 monthly events of each. Then there are the additional shows at the numerous artist run spaces in San Antonio, I seem to meet new people/artists on a weekly basis. At least my pile of business cards, that I swear I will organize soon, keeps growing. The exhibitions I am hired to work at have not even been included. This year, that primarily consisted of the Southwest School of Art.
The end of the year brought a lot of mixed feelings for me. With my only regular part time job disappearing, I started to feel depression sinking in. Rejection is always difficult, and I am facing the fact that I don’t have another job lined up. The way I know I felt depressed was because when I would start to discuss all my ongoing projects (as I learned in my online class – never answer with just ‘I’ve been so busy’, be specific), it always ended with “and I don’t get paid for any of that.” I can’t say why I decided to be so revealing, I think some of the stress was starting to unnerve me. Apparently, I needed to vent and I’m glad that I did. The responses were amazing, such as being told that I’m doing a fantastic job, I’m doing things that nobody else is doing, and if I can financially afford to keep going, then do it. Overall, I received a positive response and people telling me they admire what I’m doing. I will always be the first to admit that I fall apart sometimes. The stress can be overwhelming, always believing in what you are doing and feeling confident you are heading in the right direction is not always easy. The trick is to learn how to deal with it, because it will not be ignored.
But I would not trade any of this for anything in the world. While those moods set in occasionally, I know I am the girl in the car dancing and singing as I drive to work most mornings. I have also had a few personal career triumphs this year as well. Seven Minutes in Heaven was quite an accomplishment for my first huge public event, I couldn’t have been happier. Getting my own studio space outside of my house for the first time is something I have been dreaming about for quite awhile now. Biding my time and being patient really paid off – a 1000 sf studio space is pretty fantastic! Shortly after getting my space, I went to the East Austin Studio Tours and the Houston Artcrawl. I couldn’t help notice that I had a larger space to work in than 80% of the studios I visited. Of course, you don’t need to have a huge space to create great art, but it sure is nice to have it! So, do I have anything to complain about? Absolutely not!! The more I think about getting depressed about not making money, I laugh. Who am I kidding? I have been working on installation art pieces that are NFS (not for sale). I really haven’t spent too much time or effort job searching or applying, I have too many projects that I have created on my own to work on. I work on my own terms, and for 70% of the work year, I answer only to myself. I get told regularly that I could do portraits when people see the graphite drawing I did of myself as a student. Yes, I could make some money doing that, but it doesn’t interest me. I am a very lucky girl to have the support of my husband for all of my crazy dreams.
I have also realized I have an interesting audience for my blog. Every single day I have readers from around the world. Of course, the US has the most views, but the list of other countries that have viewed my blog is pretty large, 73 different countries, in fact, since I have begun publishing. I started writing my blog in January, but officially publishing it just 6 months ago in June. My most viewed blog entry this year was about Cindy Sherman in New York, followed by Kreuzberg, Berlin, Chelsea, New York, and Agosto Cuellar, San Antonio.
- 1 Cindy Sherman at MOMA March 2012
- 2 Kreuzberg, Berlin: Street Art March 2012
- 3 Exploring Chelsea – Do Bigger Names Mean Better Art? March 2012
- 4 Artpace – Agosto Cuellar taking over May 2012
- 5 Seduction & Private Moments July 2012
Concluding my first year of trying to document, well, at least, something about what I do, has been quite interesting. Many things get easily forgotten when trying to write a self employed resume. Am I any closer to creating a good, representational resume? Probably not. But do I have a better grasp on what I am doing and getting better at setting my future goals? Absolutely! I still have no idea where I will end up, and that is half of the excitement. If life where all planned out for you, what would be the point of living it? I will enjoy where the ride leads me, trying to take in all I can. This year has lead me on some great adventures. I just try to take advantage of the opportunities presented to me that fit and so far, that has led me to a pretty happy life. The main lessons I have learned this year are planning ahead and just going for it. My instincts have led me to an interesting place that I know I have just begun to explore. I am so excited for the upcoming year!
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.