Here’s a detail of the outside that might be a little easier to read…
Holy cow… I never thought building a dollhouse would be so hard.
I’m building this kind of intricate dollhouse completely out of paper and white glue for an upcoming (upcoming = we install next week) show at the Hunterdon Museum and it’s only now starting to come together and show some progress, weeks into its making.
I’ll probably be done with it tomorrow. This is, as I have learned, one of the sucky things about sculpture – it’s sort of grueling, grueling, grueling, fail fail fail, giving up hope, grueling, sucks, grueling, then REALLY FUN AND CREATIVE AND GREAT AND ALL COMING TOGETHER! and then it’s done and you want to make another one. I find that drawing and animation are more of an even process, with the fun parts and the shitty parts much more neatly balanced. But I do like the potential of sculpture, what it looks like in the space, and the way that the viewer interacts with it… so I’m a little stuck for now.
Hopefully more photos soon, although it’s a bitch to photograph. Once it’s in the space, it’ll look good (I can’t even fully install it at home):
Ok, so – this is a shot of one room of seven in the house (not counting the attic, which will be filled with boxes). The whole house has this yellow wallpaper (the stripes and crisscrosses) covering the interior. The house is actually split in two lengthwise and the stripes are what holds it together. This is all an allusion to The Yellow Wallpaper, a short story about a woman who thinks her wallpaper is coming to life (which is eerily similar to nightmares I used to have as a kid). In this room (the image is shot through one of the windows), one of the girls casts a shadow that is covered by the wallpaper… in other rooms, plants mingle with the wallpaper, the wallpaper makes its way down stairs, and so on. There is text on the outside of the house (which, other than it being split in two, looks like a normal dollhouse – it’s blue with shingles) that relates to what’s going on, and you have to peep through the windows (with homemade curtains made on my new sewing machine!) to see what’s going on. The strips of wallpaper will wind their way through the windows and doors of the house and onto the floor of the museum, where they will look like a pretty, abstract mass (my vision is to have them trail out for some distance, like most of the gallery).
Good lord, this is hard to capture in a photograph. But trust me – it’s coming along…
(The alternative title for this post was “Art takes a really long time.”)
These are some vines that I’m making for my upcoming show – my idea is to have them creeping across the ceiling of the gallery, intermixing with the really cool beams that are part of the museum. It’s taking me forever though – I start by watercoloring green a sheet of computer paper, it dries, then I put walnut ink all over it, that dries, then flip it over and do the same to the back, dries, then slowly make each branch (by twirling a bit of the paper around a bamboo spear and then gluing it) and leaf.
I’m getting faster at it and I have to keep reminding myself it’s only Tuesday.
Ok, gotta hang in there… I’m eager to get to work on an animation and some other more “exciting” projects I have planned, but this will look so great (and fit in really well with the show) once it’s done… I just have to keep the faith…
Ahhh… grades are in, the paperwork is done, I’ve just written my last letter of recommendation for the year… and so winter break is about to officially begin for me. Of course, winter break = lots of work, primarily finishing up stuff for the January show and (hopefully, finally) doing a stop-motion animation (this time I have it all scripted out!!) but I’m psyched for it – it’s my work which I’ve been neglecting to really do for the last few weeks.
But one last little school tidbit before I embark on all that. I won’t be doing any course planning for next semester til January, but a question that has been nagging at me is this: For my “15 Artists/15 Weeks” class, should one of the weeks be spent talking about Andy Warhol or Jack Smith? (I can’t discuss both in depth; there just isn’t time.)
Here are the various pros and cons…
Andy Warhol’s influence on contemporary art is without question. Students at SVA are likely to be familiar with his work to a point (the soup cans and Marilyn pieces are ubiquitous, but I doubt many of them have seen any of his films or really have an understanding of what he was up to in his work). What’s more, I’ve noticed a distinct re-examination of his work by the students I encounter; whereas when I was a student, Warhol’s genius was unquestioned, this generation doesn’t really seem to buy it.
(Not that “likeability” should have that much to do with whether or not I should include him in this course, but this is an interesting trend that I don’t think I can really ignore.)
Jack Smith, meanwhile, is largely unfamiliar to SVA students and the public at large, despite his work having a profound effect on many different artists. His films deeply influenced Warhol’s work – but, and this is where I break from the Smith Fandom – only to a point (I don’t personally buy the argument that Warhol somehow “ripped off” Smith). Still, when I show Smith’s work to students, I can’t help but notice that they adore it – they love what he was up to in the work and also the entire lifestyle he embodied, which they relate to and also romanticize. The enthusiasm with which they greet his work is profoundly different than the sort of dull response I get to teaching Warhol’s work. (I chalk a lot of this up to the excitement of learning a history that is somehow “hidden” or “mysterious” versus just learning a deeper version of a history most people are familiar with. At the same time, it is what it is – it’s excitement over boredom, which is a really big difference.)
So… which is it? Surely there will be a discussion of both of their work, but I do need to pick one to primarily focus upon. Class is only so long, and especially if I’ll be showing films I’ll have to make the distinction of privileging one over the other.
I’ve gone back and forth with this in my mind a thousand times. I really don’t know.
Something I forgot about with sculpture (which is what I technically studied in school, after all): it is made at a very different pace than drawing. As a result, this “house” project that I estimated would take me all of an afternoon to finish has now dragged on for more than a month and is still not even halfway there:
Each little shingle is painted, cut, and then glued on; ditto with the roof tiles and the interior. I was modeling it after a dollhouse my uncle made me when I was a kid that – I forgot! – took him something like five years to build (by the time it was done, I was basically too old to play with it).
I really do think that this will be done by the weekend – at least the part that I can do in my studio. It’s eventually going to be installed at the Hunterdon Museum as part of my show there, but much of it is going to have to be constructed on-site just since it’s all paper and it’ll be very fragile.
And after that… it’s back to the ship in the bottle… yikes!
I think I’m ready to make a pronouncement: That the fairs this year have been fantastic from a spectator’s point of view; that not only has the selection of works in booths been stronger than the past, but the smaller crowds make it a lot more pleasant to experience the work. As for sales, how the market is doing, and all that sort of thing? I have no idea. I’m not actually sure anybody knows. We’ll just have to see what shakes out over the next couple of weeks and months.
Today I’m off to Aqua MB and Bridge, and then tomorrow I get to be home in my comfy bed with the pillows just the way I like them and my attention-starved cats laying on top of me. I can’t wait.
Art Positions – the weird name given to the cluster of shipping containers turned into temporary art galleries during Art Basel Miami Beach – is usually one of my favorite things about the fair. Incorporating an experimental lounge area/environment created by an artist, surrounded by galleries most of which I’ve never heard of, and with a DJ and film projections playing constantly, it’s a pretty cool place to hang out. It’s open til 10pm at least, and there’s a bar. Good times.
Except that this year, I don’t feel like Art Positions is really working. One part is totally out of control of the fair organizers hands – the weather, which is surprisingly chilly, doesn’t really make you want to linger outside for hours and hours. But then there are things that could have been done a lot better, like the environment I mentioned (created by Federico Diaz and E-Area), which is described in the official literature as:
“A deformed topography of polyethylene layers cut by CNC robotic technology [...] blanket[s] the container courtyard. The lounge, cafe, and Art Radio broadcast booth will be transformed by undulating waves, extrusions, and futuristic furniture all awash in a bed of soothing psychedelic sound, light, and video.”
Ok, it *sounds* fucking awesome, but in practice it winds up to be more of like a melting asylum lockdown room. With about zero in the way of comfort (the “benches” such as they are, are few and far between, which means that if you want to “lounge,” you’re stuck standing; oh, and is that material flammable? what about all the Europeans and their cigarettes?) the lounge doesn’t really encourage you to stick around very much. You just sort of look at it, “get it,” and then don’t really want to touch or sit on it.
This is a shame because the containers themselves look much better than in years past. Usually I wander in and out without really understanding what on earth I’ve just seen or what the point was (unlike every square inch of the rest of ABMB, the containers usually look like they’re denying the whole reason why everyone is here: to sell artwork), but there were at least half a dozen containers I especially liked this time out. Top of the list was Newman Popiashvii Gallery, filled with colorful doodads; another gallery (which I have to go back to check the name – signage is always tricky at the containers) covered the space with tin foil. But beyond neat installation strategies, what impressed me is that there were actually objects in the containers – objects to sell of course, but also things that someone made and that I could look at. This is (again) a welcome improvement over previous years where it was completely unclear why the galleries had shelled out all that money for the space, if all they were trying to do is one-up their neighbors by showing as little art as possible.
Meanwhile, we were there in time to see Jordan Wolfson’s Dear Clem performance, which sounded so promising in the brochure (actors reading Barnett Newman’s letter to Clement Greenberg, just perfect for us art nerds) but wound up being a weirdly one-note, pathetic-aesthetic apology for ever having been an art nerd. The artist read – totally deadpan and in a monotone voice – a written statement about how he *wasn’t* going to do the performance that was publicized, while two actors made strangely choreographed movements (flapping their arms, falling on their knees, etc). It was super art-school-y; the friend we were visiting with said, “I feel like if I spend one more minute talking about this…” and then his voice trailed off and we all gave up. Right, exactly.
The more time I spend here, the more I realize that I have no clue what’s going on.
I’d like to think that part of this is just because of the sheer scale of the fairs and that it’s really impossible for anyone – especially a spectator like me – to know what is happening by just observing what people are saying and doing, but I also admit that some of the deficiency may be purely me.
Here’s where the frustration is coming from: talk to (or listen in on) three dealers with booths here, and one will tell you that they have never had such a miserable experience at a fair, another will tell you that their booth sold out in a matter of hours, and the last will say that things are better than expected. So… what does that mean? Are collectors being highly selective, skipping some galleries entirely and spending their fortunes on others? Are some of the dealers being melodramatic (or maybe lying, when they say the whole booth is sold)? What – exactly – gives?
I have no clue whatsoever.
Anyway. I’m just back from the main fair and here’s what I saw that I really liked:
There’s a collection of Duchamp ephemera at Francis M. Naumann Fine Art that’s worth checking out, even if there are no “major” works there (hell, it’s still Duchamp after all). I’m nutty for ephemera and so I liked seeing all the weird little invitations and such that the artist made.
Over at Barbara Mathes Gallery, there is a little exhibit that was billed as “Kusama and her contemporaries” but really winds up to be Kusama and Joseph Cornell, which is… odd. Still, it was an interesting juxtaposition, even if I’m not totally sure it did Kusama any favors. I’ve long been a fan of hers, but together with Cornell I found that his work brought out the cuteness of hers and her work brought out the edginess of his – meaning, in the end, that I think he fared better than she did.
There was a sculpture by Elliot Hundley at Andrea Rosen that basically rocked my world – hard for me to articulate what exactly what did it for me with this piece. Something about the intricate assemblege of all these little parts, plus laid over them what basically amounts to a collaged drawing… ok, I’m never going to do a good job at this. The same artist had a painting at that booth which I liked, although not nearly as much as the sculpture which I am now officially in love with.
And speaking of being in love… two people dressed in matching bigfoot costumes were roaming around a bit – the only piece of actual theater/performance I saw this afternoon (while there’s something in the atmosphere at the hotel fairs that seems to encourage this sort of thing, that sort of energy simply doesn’t exist at Art Basel). Upon seeing them, I did the only reasonable thing one can do when one happens across a pair of bigfoots: I reached for my camera phone. As I was attempting to take a shot, one of them came over to me and hugged me, placing his head on my chest and calling me “mom” in a falsetto, and we stood there cuddling for a moment in the middle of this huge fair. It was kind of…. awesome. Really. And the best part is that I got this wonderfully blurry bigfoot-sighting photo which is now (sadly) trapped on my cell phone… if I can get it off of there, I’ll post it here.
More in a bit…
Excuse me, what’s the name of this band?
Oh, they’re… French?
Yeah, I think so. Uh huh.
And are they the uh, “headliner” for tonight?
Ok, so, first things first: They weren’t Iggy Pop and the Stooges, nor were they Gang Gang Dance. The audience gathered for Art Loves Music seemed mired in these points, to the extent where people around us seemed entirely engaged at either snickering at the band or repeatedly rolling their eyes (there were a fair amount of dancers around, but it was hard to ignore the naysayers).
But Yelle was actually really good and put on a great performance; soon as I get home, I’m downloading some music from them for sure. It was nice to hear band I wasn’t familiar with, and they certainly seemed up for commanding the stage and doing the gig they were hired for. And probably what annoyed me the absolute most about all this is the voice in my head that just wanted to scream, “People!! Iggy Pop IS NOT COOL!!! Like 30+ years ago he was… now? Not so much! There’s a fucking article on CNN this morning about how cool he is… don’t you understand that that’s the antithesis of cool right there?!?”
Iggy’s performance last year was robotic and lifeless; Yelle’s pop-py, silly, and fun performance was… pop-py, silly, and fun – a nice way to top off the evening. I wanted to be cool and roll my eyes at them too, but I just couldn’t – I genuinely enjoyed them.
Earlier that evening, we checked out the Aqua Miami Beach opening. The fair here looks much more adventurous and interesting than their outpost in Winwood – while I don’t think I’ll be making a return trip to the Winwood version, I’m definitely going back to their version on Collins Ave.
Probably one of our favorite things there was running into artist/poet Zach Houston who sat around, writing poems on demand for donations, right near the hot tub. At first glance, I sort of dismissed Zach (the poetry thing seemed a little cute to me, jaded NYer that I am – you also have to bear in mind that during this week there are an awful lot of artists walking around in weird costumes, doing “performances” that go nowhere, etc.,) but after flipping through a book of his drawings and chatting with him, it became pretty clear to me that he’s really genuine; a good soul with something to say and man, his drawings are great to boot.
So, I requested a poem about Godzilla and got:
the thrill, in
hollywwood [sic] is
made in japans
amplified made more
powerful by it figures
cloud the japanese
mushroom and action
Not bad for a five minute turnaround. I’m definitely going back to stare at those drawings for a little while longer, though.
Today we’re actually going to look at art, which I’m psyched about. The last two days have been mostly about socializing and getting a lay of the land; today we get down to business.
It’s impossible, I think, to come to something like Art Basel Miami Beach and not compare one year to the past, even if some of those comparisons are a little unfair. And that’s exactly what everyone I’ve run into here is doing (some to almost an obsessive extent), probably even more than looking at art and drinking, which are the other things that ABMB offers in spades.
But to back up – every year, it seems like the fairs open a little earlier. This is in part due to a tacit acceptance by the satellite fair planners that there’s no way the Bridge Fair or the Aqua Fair or any of the others will compete with the main star over at the convention center. So the question remains: if they can’t open on the same day as the main fair, do they open before (which seems like jumping the gun) or do they open after (which runs the risk of getting to collectors once they’re all pretty partied out).
Most seem to be rolling their openings back earlier and earlier; NADA started their VIP opening at 4pm yesterday, and Aqua Winwood and Pulse followed at 5pm. I skipped NADA, but went to both Aqua and Pulse; I managed a peek out of the cab window at the Feldman/Pierogi space and at Bridge, but they didn’t seem open yet.
Last year’s Aqua Winwood opening seemed sparsely attended and felt weirdly clinical, sort of the antithesis to the funky version that the fair sets up in Miami Beach. This year, AW seemed better – more people, more energy, the booths looked better. I got lucky in that their liquor sponsor was my favorite brand ever(!!! – Campari!!) but, while it was all a definite improvement over last year, it still looked like the place could use a shot in the arm.
Over at Pulse, things were much more rocking – there was actual energy in the audience and I saw a few sales happen here and there. I also overheard a dealer grumbling that “by this time two years ago, the whole booth was sold out” – which is probably true, but also a little unreasonable to expect that you’re going to get that every single year forever. Oh – and I have to say this – the food was weird… first it was nonstop meat-things and then it was nonstop tiramisu, both options being served on plastic spoons that seemed incredibly wasteful and really stupid. But they had absinthe at the bar, so who’s complaining?
The work at both fairs looked more conservative than in years past. There was a heavy emphasis on painting and drawing, and an awful lot of abstraction – all of which is fine by me, but interesting to note that there was far fewer photography than I’ve seen before, a lot less video (like, a LOT less video – I’m used to being overwhelmed by video at these things, but not this year in the least), almost zilch in the way of new media, and very little in the way of work with the intent to shock. It was much more sedate than I’ve seen it before; more attention to craft, color, beauty, formal concerns, less about being brand-new. Not that I’m complaining about any of this.
This morning I took a walk on the beach and poked my nose into where they’re setting up for Art Positions, which opens tonight. It seemed a little behind schedule, to put it mildly – actually, they looked this morning more like what I would have thought it would have looked like a week ago. There’s the PS1 booth as usual, some sort of artist’s installation that looked very unfinished, and those damned containers, which a few dealers seem to have taken some liberties with this year and allowed their installations to spill out a bit.
Walking further on the beach, I came across a gigantic sand sculpture designed by Olaf Breuning:
Anyway. More soon.