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.
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.
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.
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.