from the editor
Coffee in hand it’s time to wade into the rising tide of discussion surrounding Ph.D’s for artists. Reading through some of the relevant literature on the topic did nothing to assuage my sense that I’m ill-prepared—and, with a mere M.F.A., woefully undereducated—to broach the topic with any skill.1 However, the broader issue of education, its head again on the budgetary chopping block in California and throughout the U.S, has forced my hand. Our choice to cut education while taking to the political pulpit to evangelize creativity, competition and American exceptionalism, is irony at its most mind-boggling. Art education, at the bottom rung of the ladder, has always occupied an uneasy relationship within the broader academic world. Its methodological markers and qualitative rubrics are slippery and variable, neither of which gel all that well with the standardized form of evaluation that make Universities go ‘round. An institution passing out Ph.D’s to artists only complicates this scenario as it adopts academia’s stalwart degree with all of its implied qualifications, and applies it to a set of practices that by their very nature resist verbal explanation and explicit standardization. ‘Art isn’t here to explain things,’ said Beuys.
It’s not hard to imagine a world wherein art will become even more academic, more professionalized and as a result less engaged with the world and a general public; its ability to be ‘radical’ or ‘critical’ neutered by over-institutionalization. This is not a scenario unique to Universities. After Frieze New York refused to allow Occupy protestors on the ‘island’ a brief uproar ensued. I couldn’t help but think that maybe the exclusion was a good thing. Museum’s are only one amongst a growing list of outlets co-opting the critical language and protests of the Occupy movement—divorcing it of its power and slowly converting it into another art world commodity. What good is antagonism and institutional critique when it’s let in through the front door? With Deutsche Bank as its major sponsor Frieze certainly deserved the criticism, yet art fairs and the art world strike me as an all too easy, and ultimately inconsequential target for the movement. Resisting absorption into the ‘system’ ensures at least a small degree of power and criticality is retained, though should be done while paying heed to sliding too far down the populist slope.
By its very nature a Ph.D privileges the written and verbal form of knowledge (quantifiable and easily deployed) over the aesthetic one (messy and often unanswerable). The art historian’s pen planted this seed long ago, and the demand that all artists be eloquent verbal tacticians—implied by the Ph.D—denies art practice its own set of operating procedures.2 (We should be mindful of John Berger’s assertion that ‘seeing comes before words.”)3 This complicates the equation between artist and art historian. Wherein once the artist/object preceded the scholarship, now the artist/object generates its own scholarship in accordance to the formalized rules set forth by scholars. Tricky. Education is never a bad thing, but I wonder if over-institutionalization and specialization is, especially for artists. In the most simplistic terms: are artists better served in the classroom or out in the world, by writing a dissertation or shooting their next video? To think that the future of artistic production will be steered solely by education is silly, but to deny its prominent role and unintended effects is equally foolish. The M.F.A. proves that.
We’re thrilled to lead off our issue this week with the launch of Artists’ Words, a feature that lets you hear directly from an artist about a piece, exhibition or project they’re thinking about. Austin-based artist Barry Stone leads the charge and writes thoughtfully about memory, photography, personal narrative and nostalgia through the lens of his photograph, Homecoming (Nabokov’s Rainbow). Filmmaker and writer Caroline Koebel examines the context and narrative of the fairy tale in her review of Aurora Picture Show's program, Big Bad Wolf presented by AMOA-Arthouse at the end of April. Institutionalization, and its effect on ones ability to be radical, is the subtext of Chicago-based artist and writer Patrick Bobilin’s engaging review of Rashid Johnson’s exhibition, Message to Our Folks, at the M.C.A. Chicago. From coast to coast, Los Angeles-based artist and writer Travis Diehl writes critically about well-Rolodexed artist Alex Israel’s exhibition, As It LAys, at Reena Spaulings Fine Art in New York. The rolodex is also the jumping off point for Mexico City-based artist Alex Dorfsman’s images for our Project Space organized with the help of writer and curator Leslie Moody Castro.
Do you think we should head back to school for a Ph.D? Let us know by emailing us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eric Zimmerman is an artist and Editor of ...might be good.
1. Issue #26 of e-flux Journal: http://www.e-flux.com/journal/editorial—“artistic-thinking”/. takes up the idea of artistic thinking while Texte Zur Kunst #82 (http://www.textezurkunst.de/82/) artistic research. James Elkin’s addresses the Ph.D. more directly in his 2009 book, Artists With Ph.D.’s: On The New Doctoral Degree In Studio Art. (http://www.jameselkins.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=211:artists-with-phds&catid=1:academic-books&Itemid=8)
2. This verbal lucidity is not without its drawbacks. See #6 in James Elkin’s series on why we shouldn’t trust the new Ph.D. for artists: https://www.facebook.com/jamesprestonelkins/posts/428866557126445.
3. John Berger. Ways Of Seeing (London: BBC and Penguin Books, 1972): 7.
Big Bad Wolf
Laguna Gloria, Austin
April 29, 2012
By Caroline Koebel
The program of moving image shorts curated by Mary Magsamen of the Aurora Picture Show was presented by AMOA-Arthouse and Fusebox Festival on April 29, 2012.
If the folk tale ranges over generations first orally and then beginning in the 17th c. with the advent of the fairy tale as a literary genre, key to its very being is its contingency upon each “author” and that teller’s positioning in place and time (or history). In devising innovative forms by which to tell tales, both familiar and novel, the titles included in Aurora Picture Show’s program Big Bad Wolf invoke this centuries-old performative spirit so imbued with a sense of the need to create in order to re-create.
This the curators could know in advance of the event. While they also could know to some extent the screening’s setting (i.e., outdoors on the lush estate of Laguna Gloria in a leafy Austin neighborhood, part of Fusebox, etc.), only until experiencing the evening in the process of its unfolding could they fully grasp—in consort with the invited audience—their presentation in its context-specificity. Their gander that the confluence of night, site and moving image program would be dynamic did not disappoint.
Who could have scripted that peacocks’ cries (from next door at Mayfield Park) would add an otherworldly layer to the evening’s soundtrack, or that a family of swans would glide by just beyond the screen on the Colorado River shortly before the sun sank and the program began? Seemingly glowing in their stark whiteness against the darkening water, the scene foreshadowed the black-and-whiteness of the first film, Hansel and Gretel (1955)1 by Lotte Reiniger. While the director places black on top of white in her silhouette animation and the inverse relation of light to dark is witnessed in the swan scene, their chance juxtaposition results in an exciting formal interplay between the known of the film and the unknown of the event site.
Although the viewer is awed by Reiniger’s dexterity with making shape and motion by cutting and arranging paper as well as by the experimental ethos necessary to arrive at such a signature style, there is a nagging feeling that the cinema pioneer is somehow restrained by narrative. Just as Hansel and Gretel seek refuge from the witch (who we hear to say in a deliciously scary voice, “little mouse who crawled away, come you back with me to stay”2), why shouldn’t the filmmaker straddle her broomstick and grant herself a joy ride from the onus of moving the plot forward? For Reiniger’s animation magic to be fully realized it must break free of the need to be a constant stream of information. This sense of formal enterprise being usurped by narrative gives potency to the screening’s extra-filmic composition (sky, river, breeze, animals), amidst which it is curious to note that Hansel and Gretel find their home again but—joined by the squirrel, goose and deer—are wilder than before.
Beyond Reiniger, I found the two works humblest in production terms the most gratifying formally and conceptually. Putting Situationist teachings—Debord’s theory of détournement—to practice in Cinderella +++ (2002), Eileen Maxson disrupts the hegemony of the Disney classic through uncanny sound and image recombinations. The stunning cel (hand-drawn) animation of first Cinderella and then Lady and the Tramp is given afterlife by the voices of love interests (gone sour) appropriated from the soundtracks of the TV series 90210 and “Jack Nicholson in the film Carnal Knowledge”3 (left unidentified in the program notes). While the Disney images convey a (false) sense of security—the world’s the way it ought to be—the re-purposed dialog underscores how the unknown is all around us.
In Atalanta: 32 Years Later (2006) Lynne Sachs4 takes as source material the 1974 TV show Free To Be You and Me—already an update on the classic tale of the “beautiful princess in search of the perfect prince”5—and re-edits it. She turns the image sideways, pairs different parts of the original through the use of split-screen, and plays both image and sound in reverse—providing “subtitles” for the resulting garbled voices. “The maiden from across the forest cut her hair, put on a mustache....” and the lesbian union strides onto the stage of collective imagination (and commands its role in history). Reading at the film’s tail, “for Barbara Hammer,” this retelling became all the more alive for me. In ways too manifold to express here, Hammer, legendary “pioneer of queer cinema,”6 has—like a fairy tale protagonist—found her way home time and again through many a tangled path.
Caroline Koebel is a filmmaker and writer in Austin.
1. The program gives 1954 as the film’s year. The interested reader can easily find Hansel and Gretel for viewing on the Web.
2. Quotations are from the respective films unless otherwise stated.
3. McIntosh, Jonathan. 2012. "A History of Subversive Remix Video before YouTube: Thirty Political Video Mashups Made between World War II and 2005." In "Fan/Remix Video," edited by Francesca Coppa and Julie Levin Russo, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 9. http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/371/299 Note that Cinderella +++ can be viewed here in its entirety—for an unknown reason, the Sleeping Beauty-Dawson’s Creek section was omitted in the Big Bad Wolf program, and also does not appear to be included in Eileen Maxson’s own postings online.
4. Note that the program mistakenly uses “36” in the title and omits the “e” on the filmmaker’s first name. For correct info and to view the film, visit Sachs’ website http://www.lynnesachs.com/medium/atalanta-32-years-later-28042006/?fcat=18
5. Program notes.
6. As Hammer herself states in her bio http://barbarahammer.com/bio
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
Through August 5
By Patrick Bobilin
Installation view, Rashid Johnson: Message to Our Folks, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, April 14, 2012 - August 5, 2012. Photo: Nathan Keay, © Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.
If, as Hamza Walker put it earlier this year1, Chicago is “having a moment,” then perhaps Rashid Johnson is, however ironically, our “great white hope,” an artist embracing the term “post-black” as he interlopes through the annals of affluent white culture, middle-class black history and afrofuturism with the possibility of breaking open the demographic and socio-political stalemate of contemporary, predominantly white institutions.
Message to Our Folks at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago is a retrospective of the last 10 years of Johnson’s work. Including his more well-known spray-painted mirrors, a salon style display of The New Negro Escapist Social and Athletic Club and his newer sculptural installations, the exhibition unapologetically takes blackness as a literal material, oozing, branding, implying and signifying. The implications are overt but never didactic. Each stroke holds a handful of personal and pop cultural associations, from How Ya Like Me Now with its central logo appropriated from a Public Enemy album cover on a Persian Rug or the implications of a black man running through the streets of New York in Johnson’s homage to a Melvin Van Peebles film in Sweet Sweet Runner. Johnson’s works are directive verbs in a period when there are few stances; artists in his position more often offer colorful sedatives and gentle musings about contemporary art and the culture wars, sometimes landing themselves on the oppressive side of the conflict. Post-blackness2 is on Johnson’s side by allowing him the ability to embrace and divert without the ideological motives and earnest intentionality of earlier black artists. These works invite audiences to question, snicker, exalt and explore without being forced inside the policed boundaries of much work dealing with race issues.
Johnson uses a local canon that connects Chicago street culture and international style architecture to more recently accessible African history, embodied through afrocentrism of the 70s and its resurgence in the 90s. Johnson’s work reveals his perspective as an inside outsider with meticulously constructed glass shrines struck by baseballs and scratched with the kind of graffiti one finds on the windows of subway trains, and the sense of urgency spray painted and marking the carpet of Black Yoga. Johnson draws from a genealogy that includes Chicago’s history, its cultural production (whether graffiti or architecture) and a broader critical perspective which he consumed hand-in-hand with black intellectual and pop culture of his youth—marking a possible beginning of not only a post-black narrative for American artists but also for Chicago artists, with a bridge connecting the high modern and vernacular modes of cultural production in the city.
The simplicity of his materials and abstraction often belie the autobiographical and historical layers, threatening to leave casual viewers with only one-liners and bizarrely constructed representations of wealth. The liberation through objects, the black metaphysics that are derived by exalting objects from a “real” to a “divine” order3 comes at the price of cultural privilege. Having been raised in a household with a library full of writing by black intellectuals and parents who brought African heritage into view for the artist, Johnson relies on popular music (Sun Ra, Al Green, Public Enemy) to bridge the referential gap between Debra Dickerson, Jack Johnson and Frederick Douglass. While Johnson may undoubtedly lose some audience members in the shuffle, there is a rich enough discourse in his more formal elements to render the work engaging at any level.
Johnson and his work are in conversation at the moment and the show is set to travel to Miami, Atlanta and St. Louis. Despite this author’s desire for radicalism, to be hip and relevant may necessitate being inert. To redefine contemporary art’s relationship to popular culture and the stranglehold of the white upper middle class narrative, in any living way, is to also be slick and monolithic. While a 700 pound, 9 foot steel target (Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos) may seem ham-fisted, it may fill a need to describe the black experience, from every socio-economic position, through a set of references shared by black and white audiences.4
But what is the "Promised Land" suggested by the eponymously titled work solemnly placed near the exit of the exhibition? Is it the museum itself, the contemporary art institution which is the subject of Johnson’s conquest? Is it the aforementioned “our folks”—whether they be young artists, black Americans, home-grown cultural producers—who have now, through entry and admittance into the institution, half-heartedly allowed themselves to be accepted, on their own terms? Should this moment pass and a critical dialectic liberation remain, and we see this prognostication and mysticism not pursued in vain, then the purpose and definition of this promised land may reveal itself to us.
Patrick Bobilin is a Chicago-based artist, educator and director of Noble & Superior Projects.
2. “Postblackness is about being rooted in blackness but not constrained by it. It's about the freedom to be black however you want to be. ...not cowed by the burden of representation. An artist who's speaking for a community is at the risk of being a propagandist.” Touré. “The Rashid Gaze.”
3. “Religion…is always a matter of detaching from the real order, from the poverty of things, and of restoring the divine order. The animal or plant that man uses (as if they only had value for him and none for themselves) is restored to the truth of the intimate world; he receives a sacred communication from it, which restores him in turn to interior freedom” Bataille, Georges. The Accursed Share. Pg 58. 1967
4. In this case, a logo ripped from Public Enemy, both one of the most militant rap groups in history, and perhaps the first to have the double (self-)consciousness of being supported in large part by a white, suburban, middle-class audience
Reena Spaulings, New York
Closed April 8
By Travis Diehl
Alex Israel, As It Lays (film still), 2012. Image courtesy of Reena Spaulings Fine Art, New York.
The set is the color of an L.A. sunset filtered through two decades of bad TV: a pair of airbrushed pink tombstones behind a couple of bland chairs atop a beige carpeted stage. Towards the front of the Reena Spaulings showroom, which is itself a low plywood platform, are two couches, two more chairs, two fake potted palms, a wedge-shaped table, a crystal jar of Andes mints and a flatscreen television suspended from the ceiling, As It LAys on repeat. Nested in this simulacrum, Israel's subject is no real city, but a fantastic montage of palm trees, cars and surfers—not Los Angeles, but a veritable “L.A.” Similarly, artist and gallery would love for this to be “portraiture,” but who are they kidding? This is itself a ploy for some requisite art-historical relevance, as transparent as any of the rest.
According to Art in America columnist Chris Kraus, Israel prepared for his role as talk show host by obsessively watching Oprah Winfrey. This is as revealing a statement as any. His episodes are not so much interviews, far from conversations, but rather a stream of twenty unrelated questions chosen at random and read from cards—more quiz show than talk show. Israel just sits there, in his suit, green tie and ever-present sunglasses (from his own Freeway line of designer (artist) eyewear); he might as well sleep through their answers—and what would be the difference? But maybe this is the way TV instructs you to converse—that is, unburdened by engagement. Each new question is like a listless jab at a remote control. Questions and answers pass each other by, fluttering to the sand-colored carpet, as they “LAy,” like golf balls sprinkled on a rooftop driving range. The interview with Rick Rubin, for example, barely lasts five minutes; his longest answer is three words. This corpselike passiveness is this show's most striking aspect. That, and the fact that seemingly anyone with enough “connections” (apparently the cliché currency of this most superficial of cities) can arrange to sit across from just about anybody for ten minutes. And ask them just about anything. So long as it means nothing.
Restauranteur Michael Chow opines on milkshakes. Former Lakers MVP James Worthy talks baked chicken. Guests and questions are interchangeable—because what does it matter how former ex-supermodel Cheryl Tiegs eats her ice cream any more than it matters how Israel eats his? Either way, you would be foolish to care. The interview lies there like a spotlight segment in a teen magazine or the copy of a Penthouse spread. It's really the erotic image (if anything), the seduction of media, that holds our interest: the sheer facts of celebrity, desire, sex, consumption. Except this isn't television; it's one better: the self-reflexive, post-Marxist, artworld-savvy meta-media of “a crap Reena Spaulings show.”
“L.A.” (meaning Hollywood) is made of iconoclasts and celebrities, here providing a somewhat demythologized texture. Foregrounded is the kind of “insider access” that Israel, a well-Rolodexed L.A. native, can provide. The guests are what the gallery calls “crepuscular” figures—icons, perhaps, of the L.A. of 30-year-old Israel's youth. “Today's subject is” so-and-so, each segment begins; but this question should be turned around. Today's subject is always Alex Israel. Over its thirty episodes, the show spreads out the essential cliché of Israel's character: a dilettante artist invested in a self-perpetuating, all-expenses-paid, packaged vision of an endlessly complex city. Yet this in itself isn't especially challenging. This subjective portrait, rather than revealing, is ambiguously bound to a mythic L.A.—one that the (stereotypical) New Yorker might find reassuringly vapid. Significant, then, that this body of work, though filmed in a subsidized studio in the Pacific Design Center, debuts at Reena Spaulings in New York. As it LAys reproduces, then gleefully dwells within, a groomed and sheltered criticality that is content with calling a screen a screen. Maybe if life were like television, formulaic and essentializing, it would make more sense. But it isn't, and it doesn't. And, so there is no confusion: life is life, art art, product product, and TV TV.
Travis Diehl is an artist and writer based in Los Angeles.
Barry Stone, Homecoming (Nabokov’s Rainbow), 2012, Inkjet print, 24 x 36 inches, 34 x 51 inches. Courtesy of the artist.
“Looks like a quick puff of colored smoke.”
“It’s a good bitter smell.”
John Steinback, The Chrysanthemums, 1934
I commissioned a mum. Mums are short-hand for chrysanthemums. Known (in Europe) as the “flower of death,” chrysanthemums typically bloom in autumn, which corresponds (in The United States) with the ritual of homecoming football games, where the flowers play a vital role. In Texas, women, including the one I escorted on such an occasion during my high school years in Spring, wear large flower arrangements not unlike the prize ribbons awarded to show ponies. These trophies of affection feature a cluster of typically artificial chrysanthemums festooned with a myriad of ribbons, cowbells, noisemakers and stuffed animals. These arrangements make a hell of lot of noise clanking down the high school halls and sometimes are so large they require a harness to wear properly. This is a mum.
Stephanie Walker made the mum for me. I went to high school with Stephanie. She was a grade or two ahead of me and, at the time, seemed to be the queen of the alternative scene. She now lives near Dallas and is a mother of four. We are friends on Facebook, where I saw the pictures she posted of the mums she was making for her son’s date and their friends. I was always intrigued by the semiotics of flower arrangements, from FTD to the intense rigor of Ikebana. Hers were perfect. I thought I would ask Stephanie if she would make one for me, as she really understood the grammar of mums, and I thought she would come up with something I would never have dreamed of. She included a white rabbit foot, a mini black cow-bell and a disco-ball.
* * *
When does personal history collapse into navel gazing nostalgia? To what extent does one’s personal experience inform one’s work and at what point is it pointless anecdote? As a part of my research into this idea, I read Nabakov’s famous autobiography, Speak, Memory. This is a work that simultaneously functions as an idiosyncratic memoir and epic poem about Russian revolutionary history and lepidopterology. I came across this passage, in which he describes a kind of synesthesia he experienced between colors and letters of the alphabet:
“In the green group, there are alder-lead f, the unripe apple of p, and pistachio t. Dull green, combined somehow with violet, is the best I can do for w. The yellows comprise various e’s and i’s creamy d, bright-golden y and u, whose alphabetical value I can express only by “brassy with olive sheen.” In the brown group, there are the rich rubbery tone of soft g, paler j, and the drab shoelace of h. Finally, among the reds, b has the tone called burnt sienna by painters, m is a fold of pink flannel, and today I have at least perfectly matched v with “Rose Quartz” in Maerz and Paul’s Dictionary of Color. The word for rainbow, a primary, but decidedly muddy, rainbow, is in my private language the hardly pronounceable: kzspygv.”1
“kzspygv,” became the text for my mum. The letters form a conceptual rainbow rendered only through memory and the translation of a personal language depicted in sharp contrast to the black flowers and monochromatic ribbons and effects. Traditionally, the ribbons of a mum consist of one’s school colors and the text usually spells out the word “homecoming” or immortalizes the couples’ names. Rather than using a vibrant color scheme reminiscent of typical high schools, I wanted this mum to be black and white. Devoid of hue, the object becomes more generic, but also takes on a more melancholy tone. When I show this piece, I am thinking of including the above quote as part of the materials list. That way Nabokov’s rainbow would be more accessible to viewers and less of a hipster’s sly riddle.
I am drawn to complex narratives and contradictory ideas read through divergent media, i.e photography, painting, collage and sculpture. This is how I fashion my own brand of synesthesia. As it is now, the mum is fodder for a photograph. Photographs are the perfect vehicles for distorted memories and fantasy. Coloring our remembrances, photographs inform the vision of our future. To me, the expression of a Nabokov’s rainbow through the mum is an ephemeral phantom, which functions as a cynic’s after-image of hope. Yet the mum also offers insight into how the perception of images and objects conspire with our memories to form evanescent possible histories. In so doing, the “rainbowed” mum acts like a hallucinogenic Proustian Madeline moving us simultaneously backwards and forwards in time and thus confirming Lewis Carroll’s Queen famous declaration, “It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards.”
Barry Stone is an artist and Assistant Professor in the School of Art and Design at Texas State University-San Marcos.
1. Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited, by Vladimir Nabokov, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 1966, Revised Edition, p.35.
Alex Dorfsman: Rolodex
By Leslie Moody Castro
I was recently struck by an overwhelming sense of awe when I visited the studio of photographer Alex Dorfsman. As one of the foremost and youngest photographers that has come from Mexico City, Dorfsman's work has continually astonished me. It's always beautiful and breathtaking. The formal elements are balanced with the intricacies of whatever is on the other side of his lens, and his commitment to beauty and nature results in photographs that are impossible to imagine as real places.
That day, however, Dorfsman was almost giddy to show me his latest project.
Titled Rolodex, the project was conceived when Dorfsman stumbled upon an antique Rolodex in a market. The Rolodex was still full of phone numbers, contact information, address and notes from the owner who obviously cherished it enough to keep everything contained in such an organized fashion. In our current fashion we are all accustomed to the digitization of our contacts and information, and the contrast of the antiquated item made it all the more precious. Indeed, as Dorfsman was describing the object, it was clear that he was seeing this Rolodex as something that had once been imbued with a life of its own: it was a tangible object that served as a metaphor for personal connections, associations and how these things are archived. This is where the project began.
Dorfsman embarked on a research process that is dizzying. He began to research the main influences in his work, life and the references that were important to his development as a human being. He relied heavily on the internet to provide images that he would normally not have access to, he mixed these images with his own, printed them and filed them away in a democratic alphabetical order, where Madonna was among the same classification of "M" as his mother. Naturally one influence would weave its way to many more, and the list began to grow as Dorfsman's archive of visual references grew. Suddenly the lines of authorship began to blur. The printed images from the internet imbibed with the same sense of authorship as the ones he had taken himself. Indeed, this process was natural, as both sets of photos were associations taken from his own life, history, relationships and memories.
But this was only phase one.
After amassing the information and images associated with this information the artist began to remove the images from the alphabetical classification which he had originally given them, and instead began to recognize their formal associations, pairing them in classifications that are endless. What remains is a large, endless crossword puzzle of visual associations. It extends, meticulously and beautifully, one image leading to the next in a gorgeous web of visual associations that the artist has created, and that map his own personal history. For the viewer, the personal references are lost and unimportant as the overwhelming amount of images extends in every direction, allowing the eye to focus on the beauty of the photos themselves.
Rolodex still remains a work in process, and after my conversation with the artist I realize that it may never be finished considering his list of references continues to grow daily. His process of documentation and research is exciting, and the project is ambitious. After all, when was the last time you made a list of all the references you've had that shaped and molded the direction of your life and career?
Leslie Moody Castro is an independent writer and curator living in Mexico City.
Tom Sachs, Space Program: Mars
Creative Time, Park Avenue Armory, New York
May 16 - June 17, 2012
Installation view of Nick Doyle and Pat McCarthy at Mission Control Center (MCC) in SPACE PROGRAM: MARS by Tom Sachs at Park Avenue Armory. Landing Excursion Module (LEM) in background. Photo by Genevieve Hanson, NYC.
Grounded NASA space shuttles, austerity measures, no return trip to the moon; just where are our human psyches supposed to find a little excitement these days? Realists acknowledge that the age of our collective imagination coalescing around a single task—landing on the moon for example—has indeed come to an end. Manned space travel, at least departing from the U.S. of A., is sadly a thing of the past. As a lens through which to view our past, present and future however, space travel is a rich topic. Tom Sach’s large-scale project Space Program: Mars does just that by turning the Park Avenue Armory’s 55,000 square-foot drill hall into an ‘immersive space odyssey.’ A Mars landscape, Mission Control, sculpture and an elaborate spacecraft are just a few of the objects and environments that will play host to Sach’s and his crew throughout the run of the exhibition. Events abound as they perform mission tasks, deploy a rover, prepare red beans and rice and ‘lift off’ to Mars several times. The simulation on display is certainly humorous, yet Sachs has a knack for saturating that humor with serious issues. Space travel has essentially been privatized—a reflection of our inherent commercial impulses—and this melancholic undertone pervades Sach’s project. If the abstract reality of the cosmos has been commodified and outfitted for consumption is there anything immune to global capitalism’s warm embrace? These Dystopian realities combined with the Utopianism of space travel, Sach’s humor and the scale of the project, make a journey to the Park Avenue Armory well worth your time, and yes, money. Tickets start at $10.
Eric Zimmerman is an artist and Editor of ...might be good.
Julia Oschatz: Odds and Ends: Venus
May 2 – June 17, 2012
The Texas Prize is at the forefront of AMOA-Arthouse news, but on your next visit to peruse the work of the finalists make sure to check out the great video work also on view. In the Film & Video Gallery is Amie Siegel’s cinematic, Black Moon, a partial remake of Louis Malle’s 1975 film of the same name which portrays the silent account of a troop of armed women surviving in a post-apocalyptic suburban environment. Accompanying the film are a set of photographs and, the standout, a canny two-channel video piece in which Siegel assumes the role of Malle and recreates an interview of him speaking about his film. Shot-for-shot with a word-for-word translation, both videos are shown simultaneously and address issues of ownership, appropriation and chronology. However, what takes the cake is the current LIFT Project—yes, the short video piece located in the elevator. Julia Oschatz’s work is the dark comedy of the art world, utterly transcendent and ingeniously witty. In her videos Oschatz takes on the character of “Wesen” (German for “essence”), an awkward, genderless being with cartoonish features who finds itself in bizarre and minimal environments and works to accomplish goals unknown to the viewer. Wesen interacts with the part-drawn, part-real, part-nothingness worlds with a senseless confidence, exceeding dimensionality and creating a feeling of pity and amusement as well as a radical existentialism, as if this character, who knows nothing, knows something you don’t know. Odds and Ends: Venus depicts Wesen endlessly jumping from one prop-like moon down to another in a seamless video loop. Much like the mouse in the maze—minus any hope of finding the cheese—Wesen finds itself in purgatory, while you the viewer can do nothing but watch. Brilliantly set within the slow-moving elevator of the Jones Center, the viewer mimics the vertical journey and with every landing thud, you almost expect the elevator to rock with the weight of Wesen above you.
Emily Ng is an artist and Production Associate at Fluent~Collaborative.
Houston Fine Art Fair
September 9 - 16
HFAF ARTWEEK, running from September 9th through the 16th, provides the unique opportunity for art fair attendees not only from Houston but also from out of town to become better acquainted with Houston’s burgeoning art scene. During the week of the fair, various cultural institutions will offer a wide selection of events and exhibitions to make this a citywide event.
October 18 - 21
Taking place in Houston, The Texas Contemporary art fair features presentations from 60 galleries showcasing contemporary work from the most innovative, progressive and driven artists from around the world.
Austin on View
This Is It With It As It Is
Lora Reynolds Gallery
Through June 16
Lora Reynolds Gallery is pleased to announce the group exhibition This Is It With It As It Is. We are excited to be exhibiting new work by four Los Angeles-based artists: Math Bass, Eve Fowler, Dashiell Manley, and Barry MacGregor Johnston. In addition, Bass, Manley and Johnston will give performances in conjunction with the Fusebox Festival.
Austin on View
Through June 17
Julia Oschatz’s video Venus explores the odyssey undertaken by a lone figure in the process of an infinite, Sisyphean journey. A strange hybrid creature, the “Wesen,” serves as an alternate identity for the artist and a manifestation of the futility of some tasks. Without eyes, the gray wolf/man travels through a cosmic void filled with a single planet from and to which it jumps. While on an infinite and circular loop, the creature displays common human expressions of confusion and humility.
Women and Their Work
Through June 21
Ana Fernandez re-contextualizes her San Antonio neighborhood, weaving elements of romanticism and the paranormal into large scale paintings. Each mysterious home portrait is strewn with clues that decorate each home’s exterior.
Through July 22
The Texas Prize celebrates talented Texas-based artists who have made significant, innovative contributions to the state’s contemporary art scene. Eligible artists must have resided in Texas for the past three years and not had a solo show at a major museum. An internationally-respected jury selects three finalists for each Texas Prize exhibition, which involves publication of a full-color catalogue and the chance to win the $30,000 AMOA-Arthouse Texas Prize, the largest regional visual arts award for emerging artists in the country. In the fall of 2010, AMOA-Arthouse announced the three finalists for the 2012 edition of Texas Prize: Jamal Cyrus (Houston), Will Henry (Houston), and Jeff Williams (Austin).
Through July 22
In the exhibition Black Moon, Amie Siegel combines her study of cinematic devices with that of remaking and simultaneity. The centerpiece of the exhibition, Black Moon (2010) partially remakes Louis Malle’s 1975 film of the same title. Malle’s film focused on an ambiguous civil war in France as the background to a woman’s delusions. Siegel’s film depicts a troop of armed women trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic landscape of foreclosed and abandoned gated communities.
2012 Drawing Annual
Through May 20
The 2012 Tiny Park Drawing Annual is a group exhibition focused on drawings and the concept of drawing, in the widest terms. The show includes 3-D work that incorporates drawing; drawings made by drilling holes in paper and drywall; and photographs of line drawings made with string. As the name indicates, we hope to have a similar show once a year.
San Antonio on View
Cathy Cunningham-Little continues her exploration of light. You are invited to recall her 2011 Blue Star Contemporary Art Space project, Breathing Light, and come by for further reflection.
Linda Pace Foundation
Through June 30
TEN THOUSAND WAVES was filmed on location in China and poetically weaves together stories linking China’s ancient past and present. The work explores the movement of people across countries and continents and meditates on unfinished journeys. Conceived and created over four years, Julien collaborated with some of China’s leading artistic voices.
New Works Now
New Works Now in our Hudson (Show) Room features five former International Artists-in-Residence from Texas: Alex de Leon (1996), Katrina Moorhead (2005), Katie Pell (2006), Juan Miguel Ramos (2002), and Lordy Rodriguez (2001). These Artpace Alumni will present recent work inspired by the importance of place and its relationship to nostalgia, identity, and our evolving sense of community.
Linda Pace Foundation
Through December 15
The Linda Pace Foundation presents an exhibition of new photographs, Flanagan - Tiravanija, by Chicago based artist Adam Schreiber. Using collections, warehouses, and archives as his subject matter, Schreiber’s work examines the effects of time, history, and physical context on our civilization’s evolving understanding of particular objects.
San Antonio Closings
Through May 20
Artpace’s 12.1 International Artists-in-Residence with Adam Pendleton (Germantown, New York), James Sham (Houston, Texas), Florian Slotawa (Berlin, Germany), and Guest curator Jeffrey Grove.
Houston on View
Lawndale Art Center
Through June 16
The Lawndale Artist Studio Program Exhibition featuring Seth Mittag, David Politzer & Anne J. Regan.
Lawndale Art Center
Through June 16
Isometric Solutions to Contemporary Economic Dilemmas will be a full scale installation populated with 2D and 3D representations of economic data. It will show how vulnerable graphics are to unwelcome interpretation based on misguided geometry, Masonic lore and common sense.
Travis McCarra & Michael Gonzales
Lawndale Art Center
Through June 16
#everyoneisanartist uses Twitter to create an installation allowing the audience to simultaneously act as generator and spectator to this constantly changing piece. Online and physical visitors will be encouraged to “tweet” works in various media formats via hyperlink containing the Twitter hash-tag #everyoneisanartist within Twitter’s 140 character limit. The received message will be processed, stored, and linked via a custom coded application.
Lawndale Art Center
Through June 16
TrendFACTORY is a community driven, multi-participatory installation. Artist, Leslie Mutchler, will be exploring issues related to hand(craft), the physicality of labor, and the repetition of memes in the virtual world through hand-manufactured objects.
Dallas/Ft. Worth on View
Heyd Fontenot Margaret Meehan, and Stephen Knapp
Through June 16
For his second solo exhibition at Conduit Gallery, Heyd Fontenot will
incorporate his trademark figurative portraits into a more complex pastiche of images. With images of Victoriana, pugilism, medical anomalies and barren landscapes, Hystrionics and the Forgotten Arm proposes a choreographed fight outside the circled square. Margaret Meehan’s drawings, photographs and sculpture-based installation lets innocence collide with the monstrous, evoking race, gender, and empathy for otherness. In conjunction with Master Glass 2012, Massachusetts based sculptor Stephen Knapp will install one of his well known Light Paintings in the Conduit Gallery Project Room.
The Nasher Sculpture Center
Through September 9
The Nasher Sculpture Center has invited internationally-renowned
Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto to create a new work for one of the large,
Renzo Piano-designed galleries at the Nasher Sculpture Center.
The Nasher Sculpture Center
Through July 8
Rendered with a naturalist’s sensitivity and incredible precision, the works often present fantastic vignettes of animals ensnared in strange, sometimes devastating circumstances, or quietly poetic scenes that evoke the beauty and tragedy of nature, as well as our own human condition. Often shocking in their realism and precise details, the works take months, sometimes years, for the artist to fabricate, making new work by Swenson incredibly rare. For Sightings, Swenson is creating an installation of new work for the Lower Level Gallery, a space which the artist can tightly control to create the appropriate theatrical setting for experiencing his work.
Holly Johnson Gallery
Through August 4
Jackie Tileston continues to bring a global sensibility to her work by drawing from many different cultures. Her cosmopolitan background lends authority to her painterly affirmations of the medium’s innate capacity to absorb, transform and interpret the global nature of contemporary society.
Houston on View
Brian Dupont and Chris Rusak
Through June 16
Skydive is pleased to present a two-person exhibition featuring the work of Brian Dupont (Brooklyn, NY) and Chris Rusak (San Francisco, CA). Although they work on separate coasts, both artists share an interest in the aesthetic possibilities for language and text in contemporary painting.
Opening Reception: Saturday, May 19, 2012, 7-11PM
All_Over is a contemporary iteration of an ancient form, the grotto. Ambiguous in its definition owing to various uses, both artificial and manmade grottos are caves that have served as oracle temples and garden decorations. Generally, manmade grottos are created to represent their natural counterpart, sculpted environments that are embellished with statuary and artificial geological formations.
Red Space Gallery
Opening Reception: June 2, 7-10pm
LIFE QUESTIONS HERSELF SO AT ME>>> draws from ethnographic, psychoanalytic, art historical, and poetic thinking, presenting a series of documents, correspondence, and text generated from a word game played between the artist and her ex-lovers. The work takes its central, generative source from both E.E. Cummings’ erotic poems and the children’s game of Mad Libs.
Call for Entries
Art Fag City
This week Art Fag City makes a call for pitches. If you’ve got a burning idea that needs to be written down, we want to help you make that happen. In particular we’re looking for interviews and news stories from around the country. We’re also looking for submissions from those with a particular fondness for pixels. Net art nerds, we’re looking at you.
Call for Proposals
Austin-Bergstrom International Airport Art
Deadline May 21, 5:00PM
Austin,Texas – The City of Austin Art in Public Places (AIPP) program seeks to commission an experienced public artist to participate as part of the design team for the Consolidated Rental Car Facility (CONRAC) Art in Public Places project at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. The selected artist will collaborate with the design team to create integrated artwork for the new facility and add an artistic perspective to the overall design.
Linda Pace Foundation
Deadline May 31
The Linda Pace Foundation is seeking an intern eager to gain knowledge and experience in a private non-profit art foundation environment. The internship is offered during the summer and/or fall months (July–December 2012) and is ideal for beginning professionals or graduate students. The internship is compensated, and requires a commitment of 8-16 hours per week. Students need not receive credit if they do not wish to do so. To apply for this internship please submit via email (email@example.com) a cover letter with address and contact information; college transcripts; and written recommendations from two
professors or collections professionals.
Linda Pace Foundation
Deadline May 31
The curatorial intern will work with the Linda Pace Foundation staff on
the collection, exhibitions, and programs. Applicants should possess an
undergraduate degree in art history or a related field, have excellent
written and oral communication skills, computer proficiency, and
research skills. Candidates should possess knowledge of business
protocol; excellent organizational and interpersonal skills; and a
proven track record of prioritizing and completing multiple assignments.
To apply for this internship please submit via email
(firstname.lastname@example.org) a cover letter with address and contact
information; college transcripts; and written recommendations from two
professors or collections professionals.