Thursday, October 29, 2009

dear artists everywhere...

Re: Artists with no web presence.

If your gallerist has a website, and a portfolio of your images, and your cv, and I can talk to your gallerist about you, hey, that's OK. You're covered.

But if your gallery's website kinda blows...or you don't have commercial gallery representation...and you're actually making art, and looking to show that art in some kind of venue or really oughta have something searchable up somewhere.

Go ahead: Google yourself right now. Did anything appear that might lead a curator, or a writer, or a collector to your doorstep, or at least to your e-mail address?


Let me guess: You found a jpeg of your name on a postcard for some group show you did in Ohio three years ago. Boy, that'll help.

Or maybe there's a YouTube video of a performance you did in grad school...except it's been removed for Terms of Service violations.

Or maybe you found a newspaper listing for some community center show you did that nobody actually reviewed...and the listing doesn't have a jpeg...and the community center's website is down, or under construction, or their exhibition archives don't go back that far.

Dear artists everywhere: I'm a curator who's trying to figure out what your stuff looks like, and how I might want to think about it, and whether or not it would fit in an upcoming show I'm putting together...and right now, if you're not on the web somewhere, in some meaningful capacity, I can't even figure out if you're still alive.

Word of mouth brought you to my attention...but absent anything else, you're dead to me.

Please, please, puh-leeze, for the sake of my sanity and your career: Get a goddamn website already.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

video art wednesday

Speaking of afrofuturism: Below is a clip from Cauleen Smith's 2007 film, The Fullness of Time. Produced by Creative Time, and created with Paul Chan's Waiting for Godot in New Orleans project, the film imagines a visit to post-hurricane Katrina New Orleans by an extra-terrestrial black woman who must report back on the devastation she witnesses.

charm in the charm city

Coming up on November 7 in Baltimore at The Creative Alliance, it's a show by two terrific artists who've worked with me at the AAC: Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum and Torkwase Dyson.

Right now, Pamela has works on paper and an installation featuring large wall drawings, video, and sound on the view at the AAC in FALL SOLOS 2009. (The show is up through November 7--an odd coincidence.) Pamela's work follows the dreamlike nonlinear narrative of her alter ego, Asme, as she ventures through a fantastic Jules Verne-esque underworld.

Torkwase was featured at the AAC last summer in She's So Articulate; she installed a mural made from upcycled materials--earring cards, rhinestone sweatshirt and jacket appliques, and sensors and solar panels from outdoor lighting. With these types of unusual consumer cast-offs, Torkwase typically creates elaborate afrofuturist scenarios.

There will be a performance by both artists at the Alliance on December 3. More info here.

Friday, October 23, 2009

can't be helped

Deadlines, studio visits, and a new art building dedication at George Mason will keep me busy today--so you'll get nothing from me here. Nothing!

Come back Monday. Enjoy your weekend. Sleep!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

pfaff and the world pfaffs with you

Installation artist Judy Pfaff will be delivering a free lecture this evening at The University of Maryland, College Park--in room 2309 in the Art Sociology building. Pfaff is a U of M artist in residence, and is being featured in an exhibition titled Unlimited Impressions...which is offered in conjuntion with a printmaking symposium titled Limited Edition. (Which suggests to me that there must be a very finite pool of title ideas for shows involving reproduction.)

Lecture begins @ 5:00 pm.

Read more about Pfaff's residency here; watch the episode of Art:21 from Season Four--Romance--that features Pfaff's work here.

(You can also read a 2003 AiA review of Pfaff's work by Janet Koplos here...including some odd typos that I have to assume weren't in the print edition: "Gaff" was inspired "by her Victorian horse"??)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

a steady diet of syllables

Curators: If you're writing an essay, and you need to explain something involving phenomenology, or epistemology, or ontology—or any other of the popular –ologies—there’s probably no avoiding throwing some syllables around. I can dig it.

But there’s a difference between shedding light on the stickier points of theoretical discourse and straining for an elevated style through verbiage.

If, for example, you’re trying to tell me that Bob drove his car up the street, you could certainly do worse than type: “Bob drove his car up the street.”

“Bob operated his automotive conveyance across the asphalt boulevard” is not an improvement on that sentence.

Now some people have turned weirdly over-elaborated prose into an art form. I love my friend Mark's blog, for example, but sometimes his sentences do make my eyes hurt—as does his "tendency" to put certain "terms" in "quotes". That's his shtick, though, and I get it.

Other folks show every indication of being fine writers, but fall prey nonetheless to trying to make their prose sound sorta rarefied. Example: I'm working on a piece for the CP about Kristen Hileman's Anne Truitt show at the Hirshhorn. Now do not get me wrong here: I'm a big Kristen fan; I've enjoyed seeing and thinking about the show and reading the catalogue essay, too. But every now and again, I stumble over a stray sentence that strikes me as a little fussy.

Example, from page 15: “The latter part of Truitt’s convalescence included exercise courses at Highland Hospital, where interactions with patients heightened her interest in her undergraduate concentration.”

That's sort of like saying: Truitt’s recovery included physical therapy at Highland Hospital, where talking with patients fed her interest in psychology.

Sort of.

Mostly I think it's "undergraduate concentration" that grates on me here, and seems like an example of elegant variation.

Of course, I’ve been brow-beaten by editors over this sort of thing for years—I’ve definitely been guilty of EV. And I know I have loosed some truly pretentious sentences on the world. I may even relapse now and again. I'm not making promises.

But, man, I’m penitent, and trying to spread the gospel.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

speaking of art:21... can get a preview of Episode 1 of Season 5 tonight at Hamiltonian Gallery. Show starts at 7:00. Titled Compassion, the episode features William Kentridge, Carrie Mae Weems, and Doris Salcedo.

RSVP Jacqueline Ionita at Hamiltonian here.

things you've already read about somewhere else

Artist Nancy Spero died this past Sunday. She was 83--not a bad run. You can read about Michael Kimmelman's 1996 walk around the Met with Nancy and her husband and collaborator Leon Golub (he passed away in 2004) here; you can find that same article in the 1998 compilation of the NYT critic's various museum tours with artists, Portraits. See the episode of Art:21 from season four that features Spero's work below.

Also: Richard Lacayo talks about what a disappointment Shepard Fairey's turned out to be. I'm a big proponent of fair use, and assumed Fairey would prevail...but given the revelations about his douche-y behavior (yes, I'll have to go with douche-y here), I'm beginning to think this case will be lost--and will become an example for all of the wrong reasons.

Friday, October 16, 2009

directed studies

Back in March, I posted about, a wiki site devoted to helping artists connect with informal residency on Glasstire, Andrea Grover has this entertaining roundup of informal or unaccredited art schools--many of which are really just extensions of exhibitions or art projects in disguise.

Since I like to think about how being a contemporary artist essentially can be a social activity, dependent on building relationships and exchanging information, these sorts of ventures--with no promise of generating professional credentials; just the opportunity to trade knowledge with peers--strike me as pretty cool.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

one last link

Last week's Anne Truitt panel moderated by Tim Gunn is now available as a podcast--you can listen to it on the Hirshhorn website here.

random bits + links

Things to do this weekend: You have through Saturday to see Isabel Manalo's current show at Addison Ripley, Once, Upon. Isabel is a painter and local art blogger; in her most recent Studio Visit post, she spends some time with DC artist and alt-crafter Kristina Bilonick.

In that post, Kristina says that she's wanted to be famous since she was five years old. When I was five, I wanted to be Count Dracula. Maybe one day both of our dreams will come true!

Also on Saturday, from 3:00 to 4:30, you can hear WPA Options curator Anne Goodyear talk about her selections. Options is installed just upstairs from Conner Contemporary, and includes work from fine DC metro area artists like Ding Ren and Jenny Mullins.

On Sunday, of course, it's AAC Open Studios, which I plugged yesterday.

Things to read: On Tuesday, DCist ran this fabulous piece on the legendary Arlington, VA band, Unrest, and the making of their nearly perfect 1993 album, Perfect Teeth.

Also in DCist, Heather Goss reported yesterday on Civilian's upcoming move to the old Warehouse spot, and reflected on the string of closures and dislocations we've experienced in the last year or so. Galleries are on the march! One might even be your neighbor soon.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

aac open studios this sunday

If you're a practicing artist in the DC metropolitan area, and you're looking for studio space and a strong peer group, then you should drop by AAC this Sunday, October 18. We'll be having Open Studios here from noon to 3 pm.

AAC has thirteen artists in residence who maintain studios on the top floor of our building, and who show their work in our Wyatt Gallery. Come meet our residents on a day when we're usually closed to the public. Have some food and drink, and see work by recent additions to the AAC family, like Jenny Mullins and Bridget Sue Lambert.

AAC studio rents are way below market rates, and include utilities; artists have 24 hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year access to their spaces--which range in size from shared four-person studios at 600 square feet, to solo studios at app. 300 square feet.

We do not keep a waiting list. Artists sign two year leases that can be renewed twice--meaning folks can stay for a maximum of six years. Turnover keeps things interesting...and as it turns out: Around this time next year, a number of our current crop of studio artists will be pulling up stakes as they hit their term limits.

Hint, hint.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

columbus day leftovers

I meant to post something appropriate to the holiday yesterday, but spent the whole day taking care of my young son. (Most places of work may not take Columbus Day seriously as a holiday, but our day care center certainly does.)

Anyway, thinking about Columbus to me means thinking about the collision of worlds, old and new. Below is a quote from V.S. Naipaul's The Loss of El Dorado, a 1969 book chronicling the exploits of Spain and Britain around the author's native Trinidad, and the creation of a slave colony there.

El Dorado, of course, was a city that didn't exist. Stories about mines, or crystal mountains, or cities of gold somewhere in the jungle fired the imaginations of adventurers in the 16th century, but typically led to very bad behavior, disillusionment, and death:

El Dorado, which had begun as a search for gold, was becoming something more. It was becoming a New World romance, a dream of Shangri-la, the complete, unviolated world. Such a world had existed and the Spaniards had violated it. Now, with a sense of loss that quickened their imagination, the Spaniards wished to have the adventure again. The story grew subtler with Spanish failure. It took the Spaniards beyond the realities of their life in the bush; it teased every deprived sense.

In the first part of the book, during the 16th century, whenever Europeans ask natives about El Dorado, the city of gold, it turns out it's just over the mountains, or just a few miles downstream, always tantalizingly just out of reach somewhere in the jungle. But, of course, the natives are simply playing along: El Dorado is really just a story the Europeans tell themselves about a civilization they've already wiped out.

Sir Walter Raleigh went looking for crystal mountains and gold mines in Guiana twice, first in 1594, then again in 1616. He never found any. During the second attempt, men under his command attacked the Spanish outpost of San Thomé and killed its governor. Raleigh lost his son in the raid, too. His adventure ended a ridiculous, bloody failure, with Raleigh executed in London in 1618 for piracy.

The ships from Europe came and went. The plantations grew. The brazil-wood, felled by slaves in the New World, was rasped by criminals in the rasp-houses of Amsterdam. The New World as medieval adventure had ended; it had become a cynical extension of the developing old world, its commercial underside. No one would look at Trinidad and Guiana again with the eye of Raleigh or Robert Dudley or Captain Wyatt.

Friday, October 09, 2009

post post

Jessica says good things in the Post today about two great shows by three of my favorite area artists: Jefferson Pinder, José Ruiz, and Nekisha Durrett. (Okay, José doesn't live around here, but Annie represents know what I mean.)

Read all about Colossus and El Museo Del Ghetto here.

Pictured: José Ruiz, Picasso Wore Mascara, 2009, acrylic on canvas

light entertainment

Conner Contemporary announces today that The National Gallery has acquired Leo Villareal's installation, Multiverse.

The piece was installed late last year in the concourse walkway between the East and West buildings, and was scheduled to remain on view through this November.

So: Bold move to acquire contemporary work by a locally represented artist? Or simple fatigue at the thought of having to take down 41,000 individual LED lights? Let's assume it's the former.

documents and artifacts

You can hear last night's Dinosaur Jr. concert from the 9:30 club in its entirety on NPR's All Songs Considered--or see the player below.

This is admittedly not quite the same experience as being in the club, face to face with J. Mascis's three Marshall stacks.

Which begs the question: Who on earth needs twenty-four 12" speakers on stage with them when not playing a venue the size of a soccer stadium? That would be J. Mascis.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

things to do

So what are you going to do tomorrow night? Will you go see the opening of Andrew Wodzianski’s new horror movie-themed show at Flashpoint, House? It’s a tribute to director William Castle and his audience participation gimmicks; gallerygoers can participate in a scavenger hunt via twitter, and will be treated to a haunting performance by the artist himself. Oh, and I hear there will be some paintings on view, too.

Or maybe you’ll go to the Anne Truitt panel discussion moderated by…Tim Gunn? Yes, that Tim Gunn. Who knew he studied under Truitt? Well, I didn't. The show opens to the public tomorrow; the panel discussion follows at 7:00 pm. Tickets are free, and are available first-come-first-serve starting at 5:45. Featuring sculptor Martin Puryear, filmmaker Jem Cohen, and soon-to-be-former (but still fabulous) Hirshhorn curator Kristen Hileman.

Or maybe you’ll say to heck with the art and go see the reconstituted indie band with the Very Loud Guitarist--Dinosaur, Jr.--play at the 9:30 club.

I’ve been really excited about former bassist Lou Barlow’s return to the band—an unlikely turn of events, given the ill will surrounding his firing back in 1989:

Toward the end of the original trio's time together, bassist Lou Barlow and lead singer-guitarist J Mascis had stopped talking. To make matters worse, Mascis hit Barlow with his guitar during a live show. (Barlow later admitted to having fantasies of returning the act on Saturday Night Live, had the band ever been invited to play.) And then, just as grunge was about to explode, Mascis and drummer Murph informed Barlow that the band was breaking up, only to re-form the group the next day with a new bass player—Barlow found out the truth while watching MTV News.

Ouch. J Mascis continued through the ‘90s with a band that was called Dinosaur Jr., and that occasionally included his drummer, Murph…but that more often, on records, was basically just him playing all the instruments, overdubbing the occasional timpani and/or church bells, and mumbling the same ten or twelve words in various combinations, over and over again. (I could be wrong, but it seems like the number of Mascis tunes that prominently feature the line “I don’t know why,” or rhyme “make it” with “fake it” must be staggering.)

My one disappointment with Barlow’s return: Dinosaur’s latest album, Farm—the second since 2005 to include the original rhythm section--has been praised by a bunch of folks, but seems crippled by bad production decisions.

Great, Lou Barlow is back on bass! Wait…where is the bass? Oh, it’s that mass of buzzing, undefined murk floating somewhere in the margins of the stereo field.

Maybe it’s just my speakers, but the bass guitar on this record sounds to me like it’s been completely squashed by compression and distortion, until it’s basically just a mid-range-y wash with no dynamics. If I strain and pay very close attention, I can make out individual notes being played…but it certainly requires an effort. At least Barlow is doing some singing again…on two of the twelve tracks, anyway.

Below: Lou’s great 1991 song about getting fired.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

because this is (not) thriller

Re: my post on Josh Azzarella's show at DCKT. It turns out that you can actually preview his Thriller-sans-MJ project here.

Visit The Funk of 40,000 Years and see what you're not missing--or maybe what you will be missing? Confusing.

welcome our new cyborg overlords

I initially missed this post somehow: Back on September 16, the Berlin-based art duo AIDS-3D wrote a fascinating guest IMG-MGMT essay for AFC.

Hubris/Nemesis/Whatever may read a bit like a cut-and-paste job, but it's definitely entertaining, and manages to shed light on a lot of the issues I've been examining lately for Transhuman Conditions, a show that will open at AAC in January.

The piece is definitely worth your attention...and makes me think differently about a pair of artists about whom, based on their website, I couldn't decide: Are they just generating exploitative spectacle, or are they actually clever? I'm leaning more toward clever now.

Below: A little transhuman dance party for you, courtesy of Toronto artist Jeremy Bailey:

Friday, October 02, 2009

it's a miracle!

Tonight: Go bask in the presence of Carolina Mayorga as she takes over the WPA headquarters at 2023 Mass Ave. Bring your troubles; consult with The Miraculous Artist. Leave with helpful solutions printed on laminated cards. Art has the answers you seek.

Read the press release here; visit Carolina's website here.

(Say, what happened to the color in the jpeg above? Not sure. Something miraculous, no doubt!)

Thursday, October 01, 2009

i moon-walked with a zombie

Now on view through October 11 at DCKT Contemporary in New York, it's Josh Azzarella's first foray into pop culture, and away from iconic images of our violent recent history. Josh, of course, was featured in Paradox Now! at the AAC this summer. For his newest piece, instead of showing Abu Ghraib sans prisoners, or Kent State sans Mary Ann Vecchio, the artist with an erasing fetish offers Untitled #100 (Fantasia)--Thriller sans Michael Jackson.

The video is a painstaking frame-by-frame reconstruction of the most popular music video of all time. Azzarella has subtracted every human image, as well as every human sound--and every note of the original soundtrack. What remains are a collection of shots tracking across a series of fully realized but fairly generic horror movie sets, provided, of course, by An American Werewolf in London's director John Landis.

The illusion is pretty seamless, except for when the camera pans back and forth or zooms quickly; at these moments, the shots begin to look like composites: part found footage, part computer generated first-person shooter environment. Suddenly the set from Thriller appears to be an empty virtual container in which any number of unreal acts could be performed.

Azzarella has brought the background noise squarely into the foreground; stray reverberated artifacts appear here and there--of a scream, or of something like a zombie moan--but otherwise, the video is a progression of howling wind or cricket sounds at various pitches. When the edits become faster and closer together during what once were either dramatic moments or dance scenes, the pitch of the background noise rises and falls, rises and falls, almost like a piece of experimental electronic music.

It's a little startling to be reminded how this hugely popular moment in pop culture relied on zombie movie tropes. The main two sets--the graveyard where the zombies rise, and the dilapidated urban backdrop/warehouse in front of which they dance--remind me an awful lot of (bear with me here) Resurrection Cemetary and the Uneeda medical supply warehouse from Dan O'Bannon's Return of the Living Dead. Of course, that film was released in 1985, two years after Thriller, so I've got the flow of influence backwards.

And to follow this train of thought to its unnecessary conclusion: Below, from the completely forgettable follow-up, Return of the Living Dead, Part II--one of those sequels where the producers attempt to do a remake of the previous movie, complete with some of the same actors from the original now playing different roles--is a certain red-jacketed zombie being jolted by electricity.

Apologies for the very blurry YouTube footage, but by the time those little white socks pop into the frame at the end of the nine second snippet below, you'll have no doubt that the undead King of Pop has just been dispatched.