I’ve been thinking for some time of proposing a new art history course to Tom, and I woke up this morning all ready to go and write it up. And then I hit a wall. If you have thoughts or suggestions, please let me know.
My thought was to do a class that is basically “15 Weeks/15 Artists,” where we’d be spending a full class period (three hours) discussing one particular artist, their influence, where the work came from, etc. The idea would be to basically say, “Don’t leave art school without knowing about these people!” and give students a pretty serious introduction into some of the most influential artists from recent history. The important words to focus on here are some of, as there is no way that such a class could ever make everyone happy, all the time.
I think – and I could be wrong here (this is one of the things that I could use your help on, SVA-ers) that the way that our school does art history classes, the survey classes stop after WWII. (Right? Or am I wrong?) Meaning that there is this huge need to talk about art post-war and then up until contemporary, but the assumption is that pre-WWII, we have our bases covered. (Ok, I mention all of this because it seems so horribly wrong to propose a course of the most influential 20th century artists and leave out Picasso, Duchamp, Kandinsky, Malevich, etc., but my assumption would be that they would have been covered somewhat in earlier classes that the students had already taken and the point of my course would be to cover stuff that’s going completely undiscussed elsewhere.)
The challenge in putting together this list is a lot more daunting than I originally thought. Basically, not only do these have to be incredibly influential artists that the students at SVA would connect with, but they have to have left behind enough of a legacy that I can talk about them for three hours. (The ghosts of Rudolf Schwartzkogler and Francesca Woodman obviously haunt the halls of SVA and it would be great to talk about them… but for three hours? I mean, it’s possible. Honestly, I could talk about what I ate for breakfast for three hours. But it might get a little thin. The ideal model here is someone like Smithson who left behind not only a fair amount of images I can put up and we can talk about, but also writings by the artist and about the artist – tons and tons and tons of them.)
The first six names were super-easy:
Ok, I don’t see how you do a class like this and not talk about those six people.
The next five names I came up with were a little… weirder:
Bernd and Hilla Becher
The Bechers seem pretty concretely like they would make the cut, no problem. The inclusion of Vito Acconci seems to knock off someone like Bruce Nauman from the list, which I’m not sure I’m ok with. I think Richard Tuttle is sort of the dark horse here; his work is not well-understood or even well-known among the young artists of SVA and yet it clearly pervades the work that they’re doing, so I think he has to be on the list. Mary Kelly and George Maciunas might keep me up at night. Actually, maybe just Mary Kelly. Does she somehow knock the inclusion of other feminist/conceptual artists off the list? I dunno.
Remember here that the criteria is:
2. Influential on contemporary art
3. Not already talked to death about at SVA (so, for instance, no Matthew Barney since everyone seems to be pretty familar with him; Nauman may also be in this category)
4. Relevant to the students at SVA (meaning: that we can see the influence of the artist reflected in the work of our students even if they aren’t totally aware of it)
5. Not already represented on the list in some way.
6. I can talk about them for three hours without everyone going to sleep. (I think this, sadly, may knock Agnes Martin/Robert Ryman off the list. I’m just trying to be very honest about undergraduate attention span and thinking about how horribly their work looks in reproduction.)
David Wojnarowicz???? (I KNOW!!! Don’t give me shit for this one. One of the things I notice about the students at SVA is that they don’t get – in a deep and serious way – the affect of the AIDS epidemic on the art world, which makes sense given their age. So more and more, I think DW needs to be on the list to at least represent that.)
I’m hitting a brick wall. Ideas? And yes, I’ve noticed that the whole list is white and almost entirely male. I would like to change that. Suggestions? Anything?
I just realized I forgot Rauschenberg. Ok, he’s on the list. I think.
(Later in the day…)
Maya Deren?? (Sort of random, but nice to have a film person there?)
Ed and Nancy Kienholz ???(swap out Pistoletto and put in the Kienholzes? Maybe??)
Remember that oil painting I blogged about oh, several months ago back when this blog was first getting started?
It’s almost ready!! YAY! Not that it took me several months to physically do it, so much as it took me several months to overcome all the weird associations I have about oil paint and canvas vs. my work and etc., blah. But now that it’s almost done, I’m really happy with it. So happy, in fact, that I’m buying two more 40 x 30 canvases tomorrow to start work on some more.
Now I just have to figure out how to photograph it so that the pic doesn’t look like crap. I tried to take a midway snapshot and… wow. Taking a snapshot of an oil painting is just a hugely different thing than putting a watercolor drawing on a scanner. The colors get all muddy and it just doesn’t work. Hmm. Anyway, I’ll figure it out somehow and post it as soon as I have a decent image.
Still digging through the summer backlog of new work. Here’s one I forgot to post:
Oh, the new catalogs are here!! YAY!! I still have to make the cool homemade covers (which I haven’t made and/or even designed yet, but I am certain they will be cool!), but I am very excited.
Wow. I must be awfully naive, but I really never thought the Christoph Büchel vs MassMOCA lawsuit would go in this direction:
Here’s one thing I know as someone who’s been kicking around the art world for a little bit:
As an artist, you expect that museums will play fair and be nice. You take in stride that you might get jerked around by critics, commercial galleries, collectors, other artists, and so on. But somehow you expect more from museums. And then something like this happens.
I’m really curious to see how Jenny Holzer reacts to all this. She is certainly a big enough art name that she could pull out of her upcoming show with no damage to her career, but will she? She must have been working on this exhibit for months if not years; as miserable a situation as all this has turned out to be, there is a tiny corner of myself that can understand if she doesn’t cancel. Artists make all sorts of sacrifices in order to show their work… right? This is just another one of the indignities that artists face in the long road that is exhibiting… … right? In a situation like this, you just take a deep breath and go through the show like a trooper – the professional artist that you are…
Ugh, dear god. This whole situation makes me want to vomit. I am really keeping my fingers crossed that Holzer either cancels her show or is rushing off to the neon fabricator right now to have new huge text pieces that read THIS IS THE WORST MUSEUM EVER or DEMAND YOUR ADMISSION MONEY BACK so she can install them for the show.
Be thankful, at least, that it is Holzer coming up next. Someone with the kind of art world collateral that she has does have the actual option of cancelling or putting together a protest show. What would be even more heartbreaking is if there was a younger, less established artist scheduled in the next slot. Stuck between a gallery screaming at you to go ahead with the show, the museum screaming at you to be done already and whatever your own feelings are on the Büchel case… well, that’s a horrible situation to be in. Ugh. Good lord.
Quick update… thanks to Anaba for this link…
In one of the grossest/strangest distortions of Web 2.0 that I’ve seen in a while, MassMOCA now has a blog about the court case. Don’t let the format fool you; it may look like a blog and the great new day of the internet dawning in which readers collaborate (collaborate!!) with the creator of the site in order to create content… but it’s not. Instead, it’s an authoritarian FAQ about the court case (ok, understandable to a certain extent) followed by a very creepy comment section (ok, totally NOT understandable!! alarms blaring!!) to “discuss” the case. Suspiciously, there are only three comments and all are pro-MassMOCA.
The easy thing to do in this situation is to post a pro-Büchel comment and see if MassMOCA pulls it. I’m wondering if it would just be way more fun to do something like have 50 of us all hit the site and put really intense, well-thought-out arguments up there all at once and make an archive of what those comments are and… do something with them. I don’t know. I’m open for suggestions.
Oh wow, the last week was a blur… and next week’s not going to be any better. One of the main things that’s really devouring my time is this print I’m making for Diane Villani Editions. It’s awesome – I get to go to Brooklyn and work with master printer Jennifer Melby, who seems to know absolutely everything under the sun about etching and aquatint. But it’s a steep learning curve for me, since I have literally never made an etching before. Jennifer’s there to help me and talk me through the process, but she can’t make the print for me – anytime anything needs to be done on the plate, she’ll explain to me what needs to be done but I’m the one to do it. So I’m sort of learning on my feet; a crash course in etching. Luckily I have the image totally worked out, so that part is easy. The print (or at least a proof of it) has to be ready by early November.
On another topic entirely…
There is this awesome bodega in JC where, if you give them $2, a man with a bandaged hand will come out from the back and take a large green coconut outside and put it on a tree stump they have conveniently placed in front of the store, and then hack away at it with a machete til it’s carved down enough that you can either just drink the juice or crack it open and get to the meat. I discovered a few months ago, much to my delight, that Whole Foods and other natural food stores have started carrying neatly packaged containers of coconut water (no cool guy with a machete, but it’ll do in a pinch). The stuff is delicious and I always get some energy out of it.
But it is of course my lot in life to feel at least a tiny bit guilty about everything, and so I found myself on line at Whole Foods recently wondering where the hell all these coconuts were coming from. Meaning, it seems that coconut water is the hot new food and so production of the stuff must be through the roof, but coconuts don’t grow overnight. What the hell?
Likewise, I found myself happily sipping a smoothie from One Lucky Duck (holy GOD – if you haven’t been there, you must go immediately… it’s incredible), wondering what exactly a Goji berry is. I’m sure it’s really good for you and it’s completely definitely delicious (One Lucky Duck is one of those places where even if you told me all the food was made from lard and preservatives, I would continue to eat there because it’s just that damn good). But it’s some rare Himalayan berry, right? And it’s another one of these “hot” foods. So how do you suddenly 20x the production of something like a rare Himalayan berry?
Ok, so these are all basic sustainable argiculture questions, but it leads me to this: I think I’m going to make my 22′ drawing for the JC Museum more or less about food. I’ve become totally fascinated in how obsessed we are all about food – how in NYC in particular, what you eat is your identity. No one in NYC eats simply because they like a particular food. Everyone eats to make a statement and to draw a line in the sand about what they believe in. I can’t help but find this practice to be futile and ridiculous, and yet I do it too.
So… yeah. So the drawing is going to be something about food and politics, food and the environment, food and personal experience, food and me. I’ll have to see where it goes (I really don’t believe in narrowing down what a piece is about too much before I’ve been working on it for a while) but this seems like a good way to start.
UPDATE:…. I’m looking for volunteers to help me work on the drawing this coming Friday somewhere at SVA (exact location TBA). I need you, your wrist muscles, and a pair of scissors to come and help me cut the 39480283409288 collaged elements that will be needed to finish this damn thing. Bring all of these on Friday at 7pm and I will feed you pizza! YES! Get in touch with me and I’ll send you details.
Actually, I did this one a few weeks ago, but I’m so behind in updating this thing. And also, I’m about to lose my mind working on a 22′ drawing for the Jersey City Museum, so it’s good to have this cache of work I did but never posted…
School is underway and going really well. If you want to find me, Wednesdays are usually a little crazy but Thursdays I’m in the 142 W 21st Street building and Fridays I’m in the E 22nd Street building. Note that second one isn’t the same thing as the Second Ave building (I made that mistake on the first day). It’s odd. I never even knew that SVA had space over there. Hm.
Oh and ps… I’m also working on a new oil painting!! YES!!! I’m very excited. Woo hoo!
Here’s an image from that stop-motion animation that is devouring my life:
Ok, doesn’t tell you too much, but at least you know I’m not a liar.
Back to work!
Here’s another drawing from the forth-coming book…
Oh and I’m hoping to have my main site all updated by the end of the first week in September. I’m hoping! I tend to underestimate the amount of time these projects take. But I will try…!
So if you know me personally, you know that this summer has not been the easiest or the best. There’s just been a lot of things floating around and making me a bit crazy and, well, I’m glad the summer has now passed. One side effect of all this is that I’ve had a serious uptick in my levels of personal anxiety – moreso than I’ve really had in years – and while I wouldn’t advice crying a river for me, it hasn’t been a walk in the park either.
Ah, whatever. Point is, I found myself a few weeks ago holed up in a Days Inn in CT, doing my little residency at the Aldrich and slowly but steadily freaking out. Not really fun, but I got through it. One of the things that got me through it was making these obsessive little drawings. I’d come “home” from the museum, quickly drink a bunch of wine, turn on the cable TV, and sit and draw. I’d finish each drawing by writing lightly over the pattern I’d made the name of something I love – I did this to make the drawing more of a hopeful act and less about my drunkenness and paranoid desperation. I was thinking of them as drawings to protect me from nightmares (I have a lot of nightmares) and they definitely did go the distance in terms of comforting me and keeping me together.
For a few years now, I’ve been making little homemade books to give away at art fairs and other occasions, and it has been a really great experience. With September starting, I’m just gearing up to make some more of these projects and I’m constantly astounded at all the great new possibilities that are becoming available through publishing on the web. Time was, if you wanted to get postcards (for example) printed up, you needed to get at least a 1,000 of them. Now it’s possible to only order a hundred or to even order a pack where each card is different. And you can now get just about anything printed on… well, just about anything, in any quantity. The possibilities are unlimited for artists to do really cool things with these services. Here are some cool ones that I have found:
Self-published books: For an incredibly small investment, you can publish your own catalog of works! I’ve worked with Lulu before, when I did a run of photobooks which featured my drawings (I also just ordered a “proof” of a new book a few days ago). I’ll be perfectly blunt: The quality is not incredible (good by not amazing, if you get my drift) but Lulu is VERY cheap. To get a 40 page catalog of full-color reproductions will cost you around $10 a book and, since this is print-on-demand, you can order as many as you want whenever you want. Yes, that means you can order one book, wait a year, and then order ten more. You couldn’t ask for more flexibility.
Blurb is rumored to have incredible quality, but they are slightly more expensive (not that much more, but I am counting every penny and like to make my projects cheap enough that I can just give them away half the time, so a couple of dollars makes a pretty big difference to me). I haven’t tried MyPublisher yet, but I did take the leap to download their software and it’s very easy to use; prices are comparable to Blurb. AsukaBook is very expensive and you have to prove that you’re a professional artist (it was easy to do even if I can’t exactly recall how I did that – a link to my website, perhaps?) but their quality is said to be the absolute best in the field.
Fun stuff: By far the most obsessed-over new printed product out there is the fabulous Moo card – little mini photocards with your pictures on them; $20 gets you 100 cards (and each one can have a different picture on it!) with contact info on the back. I’ve made these and the quality is really good – akin to what you’d get for a well-reproduced postcard image of your work. And now, Moo has introduced possibly the coolest addition to this whole field… get ready… STICKERS!!! Oh yes! I can’t wait til I order some! You can make perfectly amazingly cool stickers of your photos/drawings/paintings and get 90 of them for $10! Very exciting indeed.
Qoop (yes, I’ve shouted them out before) makes really great minibooks and I notice that they now offer stickers as well – along with puzzles, posters, calendars, cards, you name it. But it’s their minibooks that I think are really special and cool – tiny little books with full-bleed images and the print quality is good too. What’s not so great is the covers – which is a complaint of mine for all the book printers I’ve mentioned here (I just find that their covers are, overall, clunky and unattractive). But hey: You’re an artist, come up with a great solution! I’m making handmade bookcovers for my latest Lulu book. There’s other solutions available too. Don’t be deterred by the covers, because once you open them up the books themselves are good. Maybe you can cover your covers with some photostickers?
And that’s really the point of this whole post: Not that you should necessarily be running out and buying a gazillion reproductions of your work, but what can you do with this new technology that’s really incredible? Moo cards and Qoop’s minibooks are just really cool objects to have around. Dumping your images into their templates is the easy part; coming up with really new innovative ways to wring the most out of the possibilities presented by them is actually the fun part.
So woo! Go make stuff! And let me know when you do!