Saturday, February 28, 2009

A place to be from

So, obviously most of what I write here will relate to the goings-on in Chicago. But occasionally I'll travel around to NY or Miami or wherever and I'm sure I'll be finding artwork there too. So while I probably won't get around to seeing it, if you have the means then you must see the Tara Donovan exhibit at the CAC in Cincinnati.

From the CAC's website: "This exhibition is the first major museum survey of the American sculptor Tara Donovan. With sensitivity to texture, volume and the inherent physical properties of materials, Donovan transforms large quantities of mass-produced items [such as] toothpicks, adhesive tape, straws, buttons, pins, plastic cups and Mylar, into stunning sculptural objects and installations." And, "Her methodology of building sculpture through accumulation and meticulous assembly of quantities and amounts of identical items offers the viewer the experience of complexity and infinity."

Tara Donovan, Untitled, plastic cups

We are proud, at David Weinberg Gallery, to have been introduced to Tara through Ren Weschler and were overjoyed at the opportunity to show her work in our space. She is a humble and approachable young woman with talent like a halo. She walks around and sees things differently than you and I and makes sure we rethink the simple ideas of mass and structure. Often interested in objects with no inherent color, i.e.. clear or white, Donovan likes to explore the latent color of that object en masse. Where several million clear straws become a yellow beehive. Where millions of near-clear plastic cups become icebergs. Where reflective mylar tape becomes a kaleidoscope. She's great. Don't miss it if you have the chance to see it.

Tara Donovan, Untitled, toothpicks

Tara Donovan, Untitled, styrofoam cups

The CAC has an amazing history. When I was in Cincinnati, it was always a great space to see artwork. Thoughtfully curated and expertly managed, it was by far the best space to see contemporary works - even if it was above a Walgreens in an ugly box building in Downtown Cincy. It is now an incredible piece of architecture designed by Zaha Hadid as well as one of the premier houses of art in America.

Back in 1990, the curator Dennis Barrie was thrown in jail for obscenity charges for displaying the works of Robert Mapplethorpe. He was, thankfully, found not guilty of those charges and the acquittal of the Mapplethorpe defendants was a major reaffirmation of First Amendment freedom of speech. And Kudos to my mother for taking me (all of age 11) and my sister to see the show and talk to us in an open manner about what the artwork was and what it was supposed to do or say.

Probably the one show I wish I could have seen and didn't get to at the old CAC was Pat Renick's 2068 series. It was a series of fiberglass boat / coffin structures that were reflections on states of consciousness during an episode of her hospitalization in the 1950's. Pat had been given a prescription for what is essentially speed and because of the ingestion of that prescribed drug (which was intended for weight-loss) Pat began to exhibit symptoms that resembled schizophrenia. She was hospitalized unnecessarily and given shock treatment for her "disorder." Her case number was 2068. After more than a year of these painful and needless "treatments" she was finally properly diagnosed and released.

These haunting figures, which are exhibited in an arch, become less human as you progress across the curve of the installation and grow more and more mechanical and suffocating in nature. I have only ever seen photographs of the installation, but let me tell you, when Pat was around to tell her story, everyone listed with their hearts and minds as open as they could manage and you got a vivid sense of what she was trying to say. Remarkable stuff. She'll be loved forever by innumerable beautiful souls.

Pat Renick, from installation of 2068

Friday, February 27, 2009

walk the walk

Google maps is fun, right? Well, one day, not too long ago, I was trying to find my way to an artist's studio and I noticed that google maps offers driving directions, public transportation directions and walking direrctions. Now, I'd never noticed the walking directions and I had no intention of walking the however-many-miles it would have been to walk, but I clicked anyway. And instantly I had walking directions.

Well, far be it for me to stop there, so I said to myself, I wonder how far this thing will tell me to walk if I ask it. So I typed in "destination a" as Los Angeles and "destination b" as New York City and, click, instantly I was fed 795 distinct directions for walking from LA to NY. Suffice it to say, I was a little surprised by the quickness and the scale of the answer. There were directions for walking 16 feet before the next direction. It took you through Bagdad, Arizona. Yes, my spelling is correct and yes, there is a Bagdad, Arizona. It even takes you on Yellow Brick Road. It's in Pennsylvania. The amount of data made me more and more curious about the whole thing, walking from one side of our country to another, and so I started thinking of projects to do inspired by it.

But damn it if someone hasn't already done it. As in, walked it!

From his website: "In January of 2002 Aaron Huey and his dog Cosmo walked from Encinitas, CA to Coney Island, NY. The journey, which totaled 3,349 miles, took 154 days. There was no press, no cell phone, and no support team. Just the great unknown."

Now don't get me wrong. I wasn't ever planning on walking it. I was thinking of more, like, works on paper about it. But Huey is not like the rest of us. Not only has he walked across America, but he has also documented poppy eradication in Nangarhar Province, East of Jalalabad and also outside Tarin Kowt, in Oruzgan Province. He has shot in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. He has photographed high in the mountains of the Georgian Republic, between the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Oh yeah, and he hitchhiked across Siberia.

I am extremely grateful that people like Huey exist. He lets us in on things that most of us can only abstractly think about. He goes out and does them. Both insane and great.

from his walk across America, self-portrait

from his walk across America, self-portrait with Cosmo

from the front lines of the Afghanistan drug war

from Pakistan after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto

from the Los Angeles fires in late 2008

Sunday, February 22, 2009

On one of my more meandering type strolls through the internet (from facebook to Rachel Bank to Helsinki Biennale to Erin Jane Nelson) I came upon the works of a young student in New York. Nelson's blog is odd and charming in that sort of very young way that seems not to have particular thoughts about ego. It just exists in that nice way that things can just be done quietly.

While going through her images I came across several series that I liked but the ones that struck me were her photographs of rainbows, or more particularly, refracted light through glass, on the faces of what I assume are friends or close acquaintances. They have a lightness and looseness that suggests a keen awareness of the moment. They seem to be composed entirely of the moment, like, 'hey, wait a minute, there's a rainbow on your face. Let me take a picture of that.' You can almost hear the silence in One Way I Could Never Touch You - which I desperately hope is the title of the work (it is at least the title of the jpg.) But just as you can feel that calm during the instant click, you can almost imagine the young girl turning towards you, eyes fluttering open and giggling back into whatever everyday conversation she was having.

Erin Jane Nelson, One Way I Could Never Touch You

It is extremely hazardous to shoot your friends as a photographer, because you often fall into one of two camps. One, you're not as unique and special as you think and neither are your friends, which makes for dull and empty pictures, or, two, you end up exposing some sort of shallow self reflection in the vein of early Tillmans work or Elizabeth Peyton's recent foray into photography. Nelson's thankfully skirt both these pitfalls, and in the end, feel honest and not amateur.

Erin Jane Nelson, from continuing (I hope) series of photographs of "Valerie"

They reminded me of Tracey Baran's work. I first came across Baran's Suck and Blow image a long time ago. In doing some research on it, I feel like I must have picked up something from the MoCP back in 2002 when I was interning at flatfile. Karen Irvine, Associate Curator at MoCP said of Baran's work, that she "creates visual journals, using color photography to record and refine her experiences into images that reference fundamental themes such as love, death, and regeneration. Rarely preconceiving her pictures, Baran works in an intuitive manner, casting her photographer’s eye on the world until something sticks."

Tracey Baran, Suck and Blow, 2002

Her images are at once beautiful and sad. They feel like when you can't remember the details of a dream but you can remember the emotional content. You feel like you have lost something, but the visual exchange gives you something back. Its rare than an image will stick so hard in my head but that I can't hold onto the information. The image was seared into my mind the second I saw it, but I was too involved with other things to really pay attention. I never saw the show at the museum. I remembered the image and had thought about it often until last year's Volta fair where a gallery from Berlin was highlighting her works. I was very excited to see someone commit to her creations that way.

So I was very sad to find out today that on November 11, 2008 Baran passed away at the age of 33 due to complications from seizures. I felt like I was just rediscovering her works and now the feel lost again. She will be missed.

Tracey Baran, I Miss You Already, 2004

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Conger at Boyd

Hey Kids.

I know. You're thinking, hey, why all the doom and gloom over the economy, Aaron? And you're right.

So today I'm going to highlight Roy Boyd. Roy exemplifies how I hope to do business and he's the very definition of honesty. I really love him. I walked over to his gallery the other day to do some brain-picking and he said, "It's been a while, hasn't it."

It had been and I'm going to do my best to remedy that situation. He is one of the most valuable piece of the Chicago art puzzle and I'm going to make it a real habit of walking through his doors on a regular basis.

Right now he's got William Conger up. Will is a guy who's been around for a while. In fact the Cultural Center has a congruent show of his that spans 50 years of his career. Roy's numbers are pretty impressive as well, having represented Will for 25 years. And oh, my, the red dots. They make me happy. They prove that people are buying. That's what I like to see.

Conger's works are not the kind of abstraction that beat you over the head. In fact, I've seen people walk far too fast by them, thinking they've managed to deconstruct them in stride. They are unassuming, but there's a lot of thought put towards those marks. There are large sections of skillfully blended values buttressing sharp curving lines that look like negative-space flowers or modern stained glass. There are works that feel like you mixed Calder with Mondrian and threw some mathematics at it. They are fun. And that's nice. Easy on the eyes.

My advise. Go to Roy Boyd every chance you get. Make chances. And say hi to Roy.

Cuba, oil on canvas, 60x60, 2008

Bandit, oil on canvas, 60x60, 2008

Little Clara, oil on wood, 16.75x12.75, 2008

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

It's bad but the art is still good

I know people. Bad news just gets worse with the economy. The dow is down. The S&P may crash. Capitalism isn't making much sense, if it ever did. People getting bailed out and yet things get worse. A stimulus package signed, but its still all partisan and no relief.

And here I am, in my little corner of the internet telling you to buy art. Well, no, maybe not you, but some of you. Listen, galleries are closing. We read today in an article by Alan Artner that quoted no less an authority than Catherine Edelman that even more closings are to be expected. It's bad.

Bartlow, Adams Fine Art, Trowbridge, Gescheidle, Navta Schulz, 50/50, 40,000, Garden Fresh, Rowland Contemporary, Wendy Cooper, Lisa Boyle, Skestos, Caro d'Offay, Alfedena, Belloc Lowndes, Kraft Lieberman . . . . The list goes on. All of these galleries have closed their doors in Chicago and most, if not all, are not expected to return. It's a huge loss. And there will be more.

Galleries need the support of collectors. And while some major collectors are suffering, in very real ways, monetarily speaking, others are not. Some are still getting their bonuses in good paying jobs. Some are going to have a down year or two, but still make quite a lot. Quite enough to buy art. And Chicago galleries need that support.

Well, this friday you have the chance to get out there and see some work, and if you have the means, to buy it. I know I'm not the only one saying this. Paul Klein says it all the time. Get out there.

Both Aron Packer and Flatfile will have openings and you'll be able to find me at both throughout the evening.

Flatfile will do what Flatfile does best. That is; show way way too many artists at once. But that's what you do with a massive space. And I'll admit, I'm curious to see Shawn Stucky's work and Jennifer Mannebach's new work. I hope Carrie Iverson's work is stuff I haven't seen.

But easily, I'm most excited to see Stephanie Dean's new series, Modern Groceries. Aside from being really funny, which is hard to do, these things are strikingly georgeous. Dean has always had a way with light, but much of her work prior to this series relied on her skilled sense of the moment. One of my all-time favorite images that anyone has ever taken is her Man Asleep, Beside the Chicago River, Afternoon.

A piece like this exmplifies that click - that awareness and ability to see in the moment and have utter confidence in your ability to capture it. She's a great photographer. And it comes through in a very different way in the new works. Much quieter than her previous bodies, the quality of light is astonishing. I really can't wait to see them in person. I doubt they'll get the space they deserve, but they'll be seen. And aside from that, the only other thing left to do is buy.

The Cheese Plate, With Beer, 2008

Breakfast, 2 for $3, 2009

Monday, February 16, 2009

I'll buy that

So if you scroll down, you'll find that I'm often a well intentioned idiot. You'll see that the last update was well over a year ago and that nothing has been done since (despite the promise in the first entry.)

But, well, darn it if Facebook hasn't got me excited about talking to people who might actually care about art. This blog, of course, by no means, will do anything like what Bad at Sports is doing or even the newly expanded and eminently readable Newcity blog. I'm just gonna talk to you kids openly and honestly about artwork.

And darn it all, if what I was going to write about was essentially preempted by the Times over the weekend. Funny though, as I agree with some of this article and sharply disagree with other parts of it. My whole contention was that we do need voices out there, of critical means, that urge buyers on. Many critics I have spoken with over the years seem to wish to distance themselves from sales with the argument that it ensures ethical independence. The Times suggests (not positively) that the archetype of the critic who influences (or creates) sales would be someone like Greenberg. And that reflection may be arguably accurate, but Greenberg meant it that way. Ethics aside, he actively manipulated careers as he saw fit. It wasn't always insight, but sometimes just influence.

I'd argue we need more like critics like Lippard. Champions of the art they like, but essentially letting galleries and artists do what they do. Infusing aesthetic arguments in ways that suggest personal views of interpretation, not some didactic statement of presumed higher truth (or self aggrandizement.) We need critics with the intelligence to honor the fact that the economics of art are real. More real than they many wish to acknowledge. The parable of the starving artist is one we learn early, but scoff off as not part of our personal narrative as we grow older.

Well I'm here to tell you that you need to buy art. How about this; buy art if you have the means. I'll allow for that distinction, as I know first hand about not having enough to buy the pieces I'd love to buy. No less an important thing than our culture relies on the production of fine art. It's not like I fool myself into an argument that all good things come from art, but I do know that all good things are connected to art. The success of our scientific endeavors, the relevance of our politics, our understanding of spirituality, love and humanity are all expanded buy the presence of and support of creative art.

I know people. Times are rough. I know. I've lost money this year too. I know. We need to find a way to help our homeless and our hungry. I know. We need to better understand mental illness and our jail system. I know. We need to fix our economy and become more responsible individuals and members of society. I know. The list goes on. I also know that our american artists need us. They need us to buy their art. They need our support.

Here's what would happen if I walked out of our gallery with a wad of cash and didn't go more than a couple of blocks.

Kelli Connell, The Valley, 2006 at Edelman

Ben Butler, Furrow, red and yellow cedar, 44x74x7 at Zg

Barbara Cooper, Peel, wood veneer, glue, 44 x 56 x 12 2008 the now defunct Alfedena

Paul D'Amato, Girl In Rain 1991, Archival inkjet print, 38x46 at Daiter

Tony Fitzpatrick, K, 2000. Color etching. Edition of 50, Plate: 8" x 6". Sheet: 13" x 11" at Printworks

Caleb O'Connor, Focus, oil on linen, 84 x 68 at Ann Nathan

Dan Devening, Baggy Luxe, Oil on Canvas, 68x 48, 2001 at Roy Boyd

Anthony Sorce, The Sirens, Acrylic/Dry Pigment/Gel on Board
20.75 x 16.75 framed, 2005 at Roy Boyd

David Lozano, Interior #6, 2006,Acrylic, resin, sequins, and glue on canvas
47 x 47 at Zolla Lieberman

Constanza Piaggio, Suicide, 2006, Lambda Print
73 x 48 at Scheider

Candida Hoffer, Théâtre royal de la Monnaie at Bowman