Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Discussion: Why do you collect art?

I’ve returned from a trip to New York, where I attended a Pixar Artists Masterclass; hit up as many art events as possible, such as Bronx Calling: The First AIM Biennial (my good friend and fellow Columbia alumnus with whom I was staying curates at Wave Hill), which showcases experimental work by 72 emerging artists and runs through September 5; and got into oddly heavy late-night discussions that included questions like “Would you resort to murder if not doing so meant you could no longer create art?” with the aforementioned friend. I also may or may not have gone tagging with said friend. (You have no proof!) (I type this with unpredictably permanent paint still encrusting my fingernails.) It’s always good to be back in NYC.

ARTnews recently published their Top 200 and Top Ten Collectors lists. Accompanying the latter was an article that detailed the art market’s recovery over the past couple of years, a shift in collectors’ interest from Impressionist and Modern to contemporary, and reasons for collecting art:

The late art historian Kenneth Clark probably said it best: "It's like asking why we fall in love, the reasons are so various."
Some of the reasons: social climbing; the work will increase in value; and, as a dealer said, it "provides you with feelings or sensations that you cannot get from anything else—visceral rewards, emotional satisfaction, the fact that you can look at the work in your home every day and continue to get renewed pleasure. It doesn't wear off."

Why do you collect? Whose work would you most want to collect, barring any and all financial and political limitations?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

CALL FOR ARTISTS: Exquisite Corpse

“Exquisite corpse” is a method by which a collage of words or images is collectively assembled. Each collaborator adds to a composition in a sequence, either by following a rule or by being allowed to see the end of what the previous person contributed.

corpse (n.) – 1. archaic: a human or animal body, whether living or dead; 2. a dead body, especially of a human being

exquisite (adj.) – 1. carefully selected; 2. archaic: accurate; 3. marked by flawless craftsmanship or by beautiful, ingenious, delicate, or elaborate execution; 4. accomplished, perfected; 5. pleasing through beauty, fitness, or perfection

The body is paradox incarnate; it is one’s most personal possession, yet it is also the most universal. Art, too, embodies a dichotomy: the creation of art is customarily a private endeavor, yet art thrives in a public forum; no matter how hermetic or misanthropic its creator, art feeds off of its viewer—art enjoys adoration, delights in disgust, revels in revulsion. The interplay between private and public, between self and other, sits on a tenuous scale. What happens, then, when we subvert the private completely? When artists collaborate—when the body is bared—we breach the solipsistic citadel into which so many artists retreat; we reject that insular conviction in which one’s own reality is the only truth. Indeed, this world is filled not by one, but many. Sabotage the solitary artist’s secluded cell. Desecrate the supposedly sacred sanctuary designated as the body. This destruction results in the death of a self—the corpse—but there lies a certain beauty in uniting seemingly disparate parts to build a whole, making that death, truthfully, exquisite.

Exquisite Corpse is a curated show that asks artists to kill comfort and convention for a chance to step into the new. Those selected for the exhibition will be arranged into small groups, with no more than three artists per group. Each group will collaborate on one work of art.* This means that new work will be created specifically for this show; artists are not submitting pre-existing works. Collaborations can be anything and everything from sculptural to sonic to performative to cinematic—there are no restrictions on medium or dimensions. Each group will decide whether to have its artists work separately and pass on the piece from one artist to another, have all artists meet and work together at once, have the artists engage in a back-and-forth exchange, or any other means through which a collaborative piece can be created.

*If the artists choose, they may collaborate on multiple works of smaller size.

Visit this page for application instructions and guidelines.

Artist application deadline: Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Exhibition opening: Friday, September 2, 2011 at the Fulton Street Collective, Chicago

Thursday, June 16, 2011

It's Coming: Exquisite Corpse

First, an announcement: This blog has garnered over 2,200 pageviews from over 40 countries within its first week live. That is incredible. Thank you all, especially overseas readers! Keep spreading the word and keep visiting. There will be many new developments coming soon, including artist profiles and galleries, so check back often.

And a teaser: I will be curating a group exhibition titled Exquisite Corpse, opening at summer’s end.

Check back for the official statement and call for artist submissions.

For now, to give you a sense of my curatorial oeuvre thus far, here’s a look into a few of the shows I’ve spearheaded in the past, prior and unrelated to this business:

Somnambulist national group show at the Zhou B Art Center, Chicago, 2010:

Photo by Robin Rios, 2010.

Collision underground music and multimedia festival in Bushwick, New York City, 2009:

Photo by Julia Alekseyeva, 2009.

The Naked Show
at Postcrypt Art Gallery, Columbia University, New York City, 2007:

Photo and crudely Photoshopped emoticon (so as not to violate the terms of service on Facebook, where this was originally uploaded) by Jenny Lam, 2007.

Et cetera. In other words, look forward to Exquisite Corpse.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Discussion: Art as political weapon, artist as social instigator // This painting would look nice in my foyer

TED posted a talk by Shirin Neshat in which she illustrates the challenges she faces—as well as the stimuli from which she draws empowerment and inspiration—as “an Iranian woman artist living in exile”:

What strikes me most from Neshat’s talk is her characterization of the Iranian artist as the voice of the people:

We are considered, as artists, central to the cultural, political, social discourse in Iran. We are there to inspire, to provoke, to mobilize, to bring hope to our people. We are the reporters of our people and are communicators to the outside world. Art is our weapon. Culture is a form of resistance. I envy sometimes the artists of the West for their freedom of expression, for the fact that they can distance themselves from the question of politics, from the fact that they are only serving one audience, mainly the Western culture. But also I worry about the West, because often, in this country, in this Western world, culture risks to be a form of entertainment.

Western art, as Neshat sees it, is able to function outside of a political context, but does that mean it should? Does the artist bear a certain social responsibility to challenge the status quo? Or is it enough for the artist to entertain? What, exactly, is the role of the artist?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Discussion: Shit just got real

David LaChapelle recently made his Hong Kong debut, which coincided with ART HK 11. According to Art Radar Asia, here’s what the photographer had to say regarding the New York and Hong Kong art scenes:

Coming back from Asia, going to America, going to Europe, it feels almost sleepy when you get back. I don’t want to say ‘simple’, but there’s a certain enthusiasm [in Asia] that’s no longer in New York… I find that spirit more in Beijing and more in places like Hong Kong than you would in New York City, where it seems like a dullness of, ‘Oh, I’ve seen it all, done it all.’

OK, his words weren’t particularly incendiary. Although the title of the article, “Asian art scene buzzing while New York’s stagnates,” and the idea that the city that deems itself “the cultural capital of the world” is losing its energy, do stir up an interesting debate.

LaChapelle’s observations are consistent with my personal history and experience; my parents were born and raised in Hong Kong (Mom lived above a store, Dad in the now-demolished Shek Kip Mei housing projects), and when they immigrated to the States, they found the Western pace to be agonizingly slow. And that was decades ago; since their youth, their home city’s changed and grown exponentially, something I’ve seen each time I visit. This rapid growth is most evident in its cultural manifestation—we are witnessing a cultural shift. Chinese art is in increasingly high demand, while Chinese collectors are making more and more investments in art. Want to make it big in the art world? If you haven’t already, it’s time to turn your attention to the East.

And as for the West… New Yorkers, can you defend yourselves? Or are you nodding in agreement as you yawn your way down the streets of Chelsea? What about other art hubs like L.A., Berlin, and Venice, whose Bienniale just concluded? Regardless, we can view this as a call to the Western world to step its game up.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Discussion: So, did Banksy make this, or some art student who actually preferred cash over a résumé line referencing an unpaid internship?

(Disclaimer about the source: WSJ totally sucks sometimes—I’m looking at you, sensationalist and racial stereotype-perpetuating1 Tiger Mom article—but the article excerpted below is too topical to pass up.)

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article about the rising trend of artists turning to assistants for help creating work:

It's a phenomenon that's rarely discussed in the art world: The new work on a gallery wall wasn't necessarily painted by the artist who signed it. Some well-known artists, such as Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons, openly employ small armies of assistants to do their paintings and sculptures. Others hire help more quietly.
Art-market insiders say soaring prices and demand for contemporary art is spurring the use of apprentices by more artists. The art world is divided on the practice: While some collectors and dealers put a premium on paintings and sculptures executed by an artist's own hand, others say that assistants are a necessity in the contemporary market.
"An artist has a choice to make," says Mark Moore, owner of Mark Moore Gallery in Santa Monica, Calif. "They either hire assistants or they risk not being able to meet their obligations to their dealers. Then the art market, which is fickle and sensitive, gets the impression that the artist has disappeared from the art world."

(Along that vein, here’s an interesting Flavorpill feature about copy artists in China.)

The Renaissance masters did it. The Impressionists dropped it. And the art stars of the 20th Century brought it back.

Collectors and art appreciators, does it matter to you whether the name attached to a piece had a direct hand in its production?

Artists, would you ever hire assistants to produce your work for you? As with Sol LeWitt’s conceptual installations, is the idea behind a piece—rather than its execution—what matters the most? Or does the act of employing others for fabrication undermine the notion of “the artist” as the independent, the dissident, the outsider? Or is that notion purely Romantic?

1Racial stereotype buster: My parents let me2 be an artist.

2Not only let me, but also fully support and encourage: My dad was the one who mailed my stories and drawings to the Disney film director. And this was before IMDB and Wikipedia and before relying on Internet search engines became habit; he jotted down animators’ names by watching the end credits of my VHS tapes. Yep, we had to actually use a little effort in my day3, whippersnappers.

3Which was not even close to being that long ago, really. So I’m kidding. Or am I.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Reversible Eyes

Unlike over a blank canvas, I can’t wash oil paint and turpentine over an empty blog to make the whiteness less intimidating. Bear with the semi-bareness for now. In the meantime, you can:

Check out some of the articles I’ve written for Sixty Inches From Center, an arts archive that documents Chicago’s peripheral art scene, by either clicking on my author link or my tag. My latest piece, an interview with the Puterbaugh Sisters and review of their Art It Out show at Humboldt Park’s Reversible Eye Gallery, may look long, but I swear it’s a quick read and half of it’s comprised of [laughter] brackets. An excerpt of the review:

In anticipation of their Art It Out show, I sat down and chatted with Danielle and Tiffany Puterbaugh, sisters whose brand of comedy is “experimental ridiculousness.” Before I hit “record,” we talked about how someone broke into their Humboldt Park apartment and stole their 11-year-old computer and their weed; how I heard about El Circo Cheapo Cabaret, where I first saw the duo perform as pill-popping ‘50s housewives locked in a nuclear bunker; our mutual friends, who are all, as Danielle put it, radical females in the Chicago comedy scene; the Exquisite Corpse show I’m curating; drunken/stoned exquisite corpse rounds; and gummy worms combined with society. We also talked about art.
The show—a combination of art, comedy, and performance, with the requisite dance party thrown in—descended upon the world last Thursday night at Reversible Eye Gallery, an interdisciplinary arts space committed to experimental art and performance, outsider art, art from the surrounding Humboldt Park community, and folk art from around the world.
The Puterbaugh Sisters hosted and, in their opening, remarked of the painted-on-jeans- and questionable-facial-hair-sporting masses congregating in the ethnic neighborhood, “This is the part where the Puerto Ricans meet the hipsters. The ripsters.” They continued to rip on the audience through a song with On the Road mentions and lyrics that included “I just cut my bangs in my bathroom” and “My dad’s paying off my college debt.” They were equally self-deprecating: “Artists do art. Performance artists do… whatever they want. And comedians are broken and sad.”
First up were Chris Condren, who played/”played” the keyboard and did stand-up, and Think Tank, who relayed fashion parables and commandments as the Fashion Police. Aptly voted Chicago’s Best Stand-up Comic of 2010 by the Chicago ReaderBeth Stelling followed with impressions that included “the longest drink order ever by a drunk girl.” She and the sisters then launched into The Go Gals, a routine that can be seen at their weekly Entertaining Julia show.

Headlining was DAAN, whom Tiffany insisted I would love, an assumption probably based on my Aladdin Sane necklace and the fact that I’m perpetually cloaked in sequins and glitter (the latter may or may not true). Judging a book by its cover has never been so accurate. The group’s official bio reads, “Imagine a world where Focus on the Family, Westboro Baptist Church, and Fox News were correct in their accusations of an epic homosexual agenda hell-bent on world domination.” That is a world I want to live in. Rapping over abrasive electro beats, crawling around on the floor, and shoving bananas down their throats, the boys got the guests dancing—or, at least, off-rhythmically bopping along to 80s synths.
The night concluded with Danielle as the Industry, who interrupted DAAN in an attempt to compromise their art, and Tiffany as Katy Perry, who somehow managed to avoid setting alight her hair as “Firework” blared in the background. “That was the most amazingly gay thing I’ve ever seen,” said Caitlin Bergh, who has an unwavering affinity for spandex and frequents Berlin so often she’s memorized the playlist and can tell you what song/video comes after Cazwell’s “Ice Cream Truck.”

Read the rest, including the interview itself, here.

I also tweet.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Greetings, blogosphere

Is there a Blagojevich blog? A Blogojevich, if you will? If not, someone needs to get on that.

Being here almost feels like updating my high school LiveJournal again. I haven’t changed much since those innocent teen years. Except I’ve forgotten how to conjugate modal verbs to the past subjunctive in German and I can probably no longer link any opponent’s assertion to nuclear war while speed reading at a policy debate competition and my air guitar and lip-syncing routine to the last two minutes and fifteen seconds of “Geek USA” is probably a bit rusty. Gottverdammt.

Well, at least I have an Ivy League education. Much of which was spent rummaging through a basement art gallery closet, trying to find room to store cases of Three-Buck Chuck from Trader Joe’s. Take that, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed teenaged self!

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