ArtStack and the social dimension of art

September 13, 2013 · Print This Article


Guest Post by Mark Sheerin

Art needs networks, and the 20th century testifies to that. There could never have been a lone fauvist, a solitary cubist, an isolated futurist, etc, etc. The avant garde loves company, and, without it, could never have made the great strides which came along with modernity.

Now we live in a different landscape. Cafes have become corporate part-time creches and third place venues for business meetings. Cigarettes and pipes, both intellectual props, are banned. And just try paying for your triple shot latte with a sketch, it can’t be done.

The avant garde have been in retreat everywhere for decades now. So it is good news to have some networking technology which might serve as a focal point for new visual ideas. So brew your own coffee, and read on, then redirect your browser to ArtStack here.

“How do these groups of people come together?” asks Co-Founder Ezra Konvitz. “What do they come together around, what was the particular moment where you have a group of people who have all converged around an idea?”

Some journals and meeting places may still exist, but these days many artists find it just as easy to share works, inspiration and ideas online. Like any social network worth its salt, Konvitz says his project hopes to replicate the social dimension of the real world.

For those new to ArtStack, the beta-stage website is a minimal, intuitive platform on which you can post images of your favorite art and browse those pertaining to other avant garde spirits. But I jest; the site is not at all elitist.

It is instead a space where you might find super-curator Hans Ulrich Obrist’s profile along with those of well-known artists from around the globe and emerging names from the most far flung parts.

“What’s really cool now is you’ve got people from Australia talking to people who are in New York and collaborating on shows. It’s so quick now,” says thirty-something Konvitz, whose democratic start-up is the fruits of a Masters in Art History and a timely enthusiasm for new and social media.

He talks of providing young people and other outsiders with, “the inspiration to go and be an artist, to go and be a curator, to get involved with art”. You don’t need a residence in a capital of culture to participate; ArtStack brings together people from 198 countries.

Konvitz is under no illusion that his site will replace the first-hand experience of a gallery. “Of course, real world interaction is always stronger,” he says. “Being able to have a conversation with somebody, or to see something in real life, is always going to trump an online interaction.”

And yet research has shown that some 60 percent of visitors to a show at Tate Liverpool, previewed online, said that seeing the displays online made them more likely make a visit.

At a later point in our conversation, Konvitz compares visiting an exhibition to experiencing live music. Jpegs and mp3s can help make you familiar with the work, but a live experience is always something special.

Perhaps it is inevitable, but the musical comparison brings to mind the rapid rise of band Arctic Monkeys, thanks to a page on music networking site MySpace. Anecdotal evidence suggests ArtStack has hooked up artists with curators, but the art world is still waiting for the meteoric artist without gallery representation.

However, interested parties might still learn something from a check-in with the website’s trending page. Major exhibitions in major cities tend to drive traffic to certain artists. “It’s a good way to keep tabs on what’s going on in the world,” says Konvitz.

It also offers the chance to see much loved works in new contexts – 3D pieces and video are both well served. “You can see a sculpture from the front, from the back, during daylight, at night, when it was in France, when it was in New York,” says Konvitz,

“It’s nice to get more of a rounded experience of a work or to view video art in your living room.” Indeed, to visit a page on which Giotto could rub  shoulders with a 21st century art student is the most rounded of experiences.

“Finding the way in which artists can have that success and connect with the people who will make a difference to them is a really important thing”, Konvitz says. Avant garde movements may be a thing of the past. But, all the same, you might watch this virtual space and hope.

Mark Sheerin is an art writer from Brighton, UK. He can also be found on Culture24, Hyperallergic, Frame & Reference and his own blog

Changing Ecosystems: One View of Twin Cities

September 12, 2013 · Print This Article

With Venice still in the air and the anticipation of the Whitney hanging over us, the world is changing around me, and I cannot help but draw analogies to the art ecosystem. The squash in my neighbor’s garden is swelling. The layers of crushed acorns are growing, and I have seen the first abandoned leaves start to fall. It is the imminent bursting of milkweed pods and the reminder of the larvae they fed, however, that provides the visual catalyst for ,,, the third Minnesota Biennial that opened at The Soap Factory last weekend. A Nabokovian menagerie, ,,, is a series of butterflies.


Andrew Mazorol and Tynan Kerr, 7-Sided Room with Painted Floor (interior detail)

The flashiest, brightest butterflies do not need to fly past us to catch our attention. They overwhelm all of our senses. The Basketball Team‘s Sgt. Moore wafts the smell of whiskey throughout the gallery. The looping, Reichian patterns of Nate Young‘s Untitled (Soul Clap no. 1) echo in the silence of the distant companion video Untitled (Soul Clap no. 2). The shuttering of the 16mm projector pulls us into Stefanie Motta‘s Seeing. The drone of the prepared keyboard inside 7-Sided Room with Painted Floor by Andrew Mazorol and Tynan Kerr permeates the galleries and intensifies the rarefied air inside the room.


RO/LU, Here There Then, Here There Now

Some of the butterflies stun us visually. The mountain of fabric of RO/LU‘s Here There Then, Here There Now is inescapable, and Broc Blegen‘s larger than life cut outs of Scrooge McDuck comics, from Allen Ruppersberg, Big Trouble, highlight the bleak portrayal of ego and money in the public art world in the cutout prints on the walls behind them. If taste and touch feel left out, the popcorn from Jess Hirsch‘s reikiwave makes its way throughout the biennial in the greasy hands of visitors, and Adam Caillier and Michael Mott gently enfold us in the absences and presences of Negative Air Room.


The Basketball Team, Sgt. Moore and Jess Hirsch, reikiwave

Other butterflies are camouflaged, hiding right in front of us, disguising themselves or only revealing their beauty on closer inspection. Allen Brewer and Pamela Valfer‘s mediations of each other’s work are subtle; the twin pieces of The Two Darrins flicker between paintings and the moire of screen mesh. The seemingly static shots of Scott Nedrelow‘s three and a half hour Leaving the Atocha Station invite long-term, real-time reading of the novel’s pages. Infinite Field, Peter Happel Christian‘s collection of altered photographs, stacks of glass, carefully placed tools, is a layered reflection of the interiority of image making. The most obviously camouflaged moth is Ben Moren and Daniel Dean‘s Untitled (Selections From the Permanent Collection), a walking video tour through an alternate exhibition, a second exhibition that reveals itself on top of the biennial.


Peter Happel Christian, Infinite Field

Some of the butterflies are still nestled within their cocoons. The ongoing dance, music, and other performances are as integral to the biennial as any of the static work, revealing themselves slowly, the chrysalis growing transparent before freeing the fully formed winged creature we anticipate seeing. The opening was full of anticipation as those first butterflies opened their wings, taking flight before a full house, continuously beating their wings in the vinyl LP catalog supplement.


Broc Blegen, Allen Ruppersberg, Big Trouble

Thinking of all of these butterflies and the weight in the air, I cannot help but wonder about all of the other insects I am missing. Mosquitoes and mayflies have come and gone; earthworms continue to transform the soil beneath our feet. The plants and rocks are as necessary as the rain and sun. When we venture out into the wilds, we can bring our butterfly nets, but what other tools do we need to help us see what is there? Do we need a microscope or a rain coat? Does the art ecosystem change as the external world does? Squirrels begin their annual collections, and geese call to us from their veeing south.  There will be a tiger in town tonight with its promise of warmer climes. As it passes, will we understand the beauty that surrounds us more clearly?

,,, is on view at The Soap Factory until November 3rd.

Wandering SF: Union Square

September 11, 2013 · Print This Article



Last Saturday turned out to be one of the hottest days of the year in San Francisco.  For anyone who doesn’t know, summer doesn’t arrive in this city until after Labor Day.  Cashmere scarves and knit sweaters are all the rage in July, and by September the temperature and trends shift to hot days filled with sangria, tank tops and maxi dresses.  I enjoyed the weather with a stroll through the galleries in downtown Union Square.


Gallery Paule Anglim

Gallery Paule Anglim


A couple months ago I wrote about the 49 Geary building in San Francisco’s Union Square, but the neighborhood is home to other galleries in separate buildings.  After living in this city for several years, I realized that this would be my first time to some of these spaces.  Passing through the hoards of tourists and a peaceful protest for Syria, I arrived at Gallery Paule Anglim.  And what luck I had walking in and up the stairs, as Ms. Anglim herself was walking down the stairs and out, clearly in a rush to get away from the uncomfortable indoor heat this climate change has caused.



Pamela Wilson-Ryckman, Geppetto's Jacket, 2013. Oil on linen. 40" x 30".

Pamela Wilson-Ryckman, Geppetto’s Jacket, 2013. Oil on linen. 40″ x 30″.


Regardless of the weather, which is never a topic of conversation in SF until this very month, it was a delight to see paintings by Pamela Wilson-Ryckman in an exhibition titled GPS.  From the exhibition statement: “Precise knowledge of location gives one the illusion of control but knowing exactly where you are doesn’t necessarily mean you are in a good place. Rather than location it is often the experience of place that matters.  How much information does one need to reconstruct a memory or sense of place?  The answer is — not that much, imagination fills the gap”.   I was most interested in Geppetto’s Jacket (2013) and it’s glaring painterly techniques, creating so much dimension of space for that “imagination”.

Dolby Chadwick Gallery

Dolby Chadwick Gallery

Guy Diehl, Still Life with Bill Traylor & Robert Johnson, 2012. Acrylic on canvas. 30? x 34?.

Guy Diehl, Still Life with Bill Traylor & Robert Johnson, 2012. Acrylic on canvas. 30? x 34?.

Out the door and on to the next, I visited for the first time Dolby Chadwick Gallery.  As soon as I walked in, the speakers on the gallery desk were playing fun reggae music that fit perfectly with the tropical feeling in the air.  It was a relaxing Saturday in the gallery — if I had to work I would be playing the same music!  Guy Diehl’s awesome exhibition A Dialogue with Tradition sported realist paintings of still lifes that any art nerd could really appreciate.  Some objects include books and postcards of historical works of art.  From the exhibition statement: “his work is first and foremost ‘art about art,’ the lynchpin of his paintings is their references to other artworks”.  After taking the postcard for the exhibition, I realized that my new favorite thing would be taking pictures of art and its exhibition postcard.

John Berggruen Gallery

John Berggruen Gallery



Linda Ridgway, But the secret sits in the middle and knows, 2011. Bronze. 24? x 28? x 7 1/2?.

Linda Ridgway, But the secret sits in the middle and knows, 2011. Bronze. 24? x 28? x 7 1/2?.

And once again, I was off to the next space I had never been to before until that day, the lovely two-story John Berggruen Gallery.  Two shows were up: The Grand Anonymous by Linda Ridgway and the other of Important Works on Paper from the Past Forty Years by Chuck Close.  I fell in love with Ridgway’s But the secret sits in the middle and knows (2011) — a bronze wall sculpture of blackened flowers —  for its transcendence above kitsch.  Sadly, it was already sold.

Watercolors by Chuck Close

Watercolors by Chuck Close

Chuck Close, Study for “Keith”/4 times, 1975 (detail). Four gelatin silver prints with ink, graphite and tape mounted to foam core. 24 1/8? x 19 5/8?.

Chuck Close, Study for “Keith”/4 times, 1975 (detail). Four gelatin silver prints with ink, graphite and tape mounted to foam core. 24 1/8? x 19 5/8?.

When I walked down to the main gallery level, I felt like I had walked into an old world Soho: 4 giant Chuck Close watercolors.  But I’m a sucker for mixed media collage, so Study for “Keith”/4 times (1975) got me all riled up with excitement.

Caldwell Snyder Gallery

Caldwell Snyder Gallery


Marta Penter, NY FASHION WEEK – BLUE JEANS. Oil on canvas. 31? x 75?.

Marta Penter, NY FASHION WEEK – BLUE JEANS. Oil on canvas. 31? x 75?.

Finally, I stopped into Caldwell Synder Gallery and its ridiculously hip show by Marta Penter.  The space itself goes on for days and it perfectly compliments Penter’s muted paintings of American culture just being alive and chillin’ and laughin’ and lovin’ and wearin’ jeans and listen’ to tunes.  I’m reminded of Levi’s and Gap and wonder if she’s collaborated with either company, as they’ve been headquartered in San Francisco forever.

Like I had mentioned in my 49 Geary post, it’s hard to disassociate the art from the status of Union Square as the high-end shopping district of San Francisco.  Several galleries in the city started off in the downtown area only to later move out to other less commercial areas.  I, for one, love the play between art and commerce and luxury brands and cultural demand.  I don’t mind that my art stroll can be stopped by seeing a fabulous abstract work of art in a window, or a fabulous contemporary Bang & Olufsen sound system.  In the end, they’re both going to end up sharing space in someone’s living room.

Our Tom Sanford.

September 10, 2013 · Print This Article

Something we don’t do enough of here at Bad at Sports is trumpet the successes of our various contributors.  It sort of happens piece meal, sometimes, but considering that the project is and always will be an artist run type thing – our collaborators are more then just the deep thinkers, aesthetes, and vulgarians you know them to be! Such is the case with our Tom Sanford and his new show at Kravets|Wehby in NYC.

“Café des Artistes” consists of 13 paintings. 10 paintings are images of notable New Yorkers and help define the cultural milieu of the city.

The show includes new portraits of Marcus Samuelsson, Diane Von Furstenberg, Walt Fraizer, Bill T Jones, Tina Fey, Woody Allen, Nicole Eisenman, Michael Bloomberg, The RZA,  & Jonathan Lethem, and they are featured along side three “New York Genre Paintings.”

(left) “The Writer (Jonathan Lethem)” 2013, oil on board, 36” x 24”. (right) “The Clarinettist (Woody Allen)” 2013, oil on board, 36” x 24”
(left) “The Mayor (Michael Bloomberg)” 2013, oil on board, 36” x 24”. (right) “The Painter (Nicole Eisenman)” 2013, oil on board, 36” x 24”

Maybe you should go see them?

Fountain Art Fair in Chicago: An Interview with Elizabeth Tully

September 10, 2013 · Print This Article


Fountain New York 2013, photo by Kendra Heisler

In about a week the city of Chicago will be upturned with contemporary art fervor. The art fair, EXPO Chicago, returns for its second year, along with a satellite, Fountain Art Fair. Already the city is buzzing with preparations. In the midst of all this I had a chance to email with Elizabeth Tully, Fountain Art Fair’s official Producer, about the history and aesthetic of the organization along with what we might expect at Fountain.

Caroline Picard: Can you talk a little bit about the history of Fountain Art Fair? What is Fountain’s ideology?

Elizabeth Tully: Fountain was started in 2006 as a platform for three galleries (Capla Kesting Fine Art, McCaig Welles Gallery and Front Room Gallery) to access collectors, curators and critics during the New York Armory weekend.  We have grown to represent over 100 international galleries, artists and collectives.  Our model is “alternative” because we give free-reign to our exhibitors, and are not exclusive to just galleries, or just independent artists.  Our mission is for people to come to Fountain and connect with whats happening inside through installations and performances that engage visitors and push boundaries.  Of course, people want to sell art, and they do.  But the overall vibe is one of community and goodwill as opposed to commercial frenzy.

CP: How do you facilitate a community vibe? 

ET: There is something special that happens when the Fountain Team gets together, and all the exhibitors show up.  I’m sure part of it is the type of art we showcase tends to bring in exhibitors that are open-minded and down for adventure (and the Fountain Team certainly personifies that as well) People start installing their art, checking out their neighbors, borrowing ladders, lending drills, etc.  The energy is palpable and really starts to build, by opening day its reached a fever pitch.  That sense of “we’re all in this together” is really what Fountain is all about.  For Chicago especially, we are working with Johalla Projects as our partner out there.  They have been incredible, making connections and fostering relationships to help get this show off the ground and build a new Fountain community in Chicago. I think visitors can feel that goodwill when they come, and its something we take a lot of pride in.


David Kesting Presents: Brian Leo, Fountain New York 2013, photo by Kendra Heisler

CP: What was it like shifting the fair from something created as a satellite to the Armory, in NY, to a fair that travelled? 

ET: Fountain has always operated as a satellite to these larger fairs (Armory, Art Basel Miami Beach, Art Platform Los Angeles).  Our purpose is to provide a platform for these alternative spaces to showcase their work during these major weekends, but as an affordable art fair, our budget is always tight. The challenge is to keep the show affordable while still creating an environment that is going to be conducive to our clients selling art. Working as a satellite allows us to take advantage of opportunities created by the large shows and the audience they attract.  It also gives us the freedom to explore new markets in new cities, and bring Fountain’s particular brand of art + vibes around the world. CP: This is related, I think, to the last question — but your name, Fountain and logo, point back to the infamous Duchampian urinal. Is that a moment in art history that the fair is particularly inspired by? And what bearing does it have on the contemporary art fair model? ET: Just as people were shocked by Duchamp’s Fountain, we aim to bring that refreshing spirit into everything we do.  We want visitors to engage with art they wouldn’t normally be open to, and break from the things they have seen at all the other fairs.  This spirit of “art for art’s sake” is at the heart of the Duchamp/DADA paradigm.


Russell Young silkscreening at Fountain Miami 2009, photo by Rachel Esterday

CP: Do you have an example of a work or a couple of works from Fountain that managed to turn your audience’s heads? 

ET: Where do I even start??!  Over the years there have been some amazing moments that have happened at Fountain.  Many of them center around the performance programming, which has been curated by Bushwick-based Grace Exhibition Space for the past few years. They invited a world-renowned group of artists from Estonia called Non Grata to Miami in 2010 that resulted in a car almost being blown up!  Non Grata returned to Miami this past December with incredible programming involving live branding. (See photos attached). During my first Miami show in 2009, I remember Russell Young pulling silkscreens live using viles of his own blood.  I remember watching him, disturbed but so intrigued.  It was a defining Fountain moment for me. New York 2012 exhibitors Creamhotel also brought in an amazing performance involving aerialist Seanna Sharpe and her team suspended from the ceiling of the Armory, 130′ above the crowd.  Watching that with a couple of thousand people on the floor was breathtaking, we were all just looking up with our mouths hanging open. Performance art for this show will be curated by chicago-based performance space and I’m really excited to see what they bring! We will be announcing the lineup next week.


Non Grata burns a car at Fountain Miami 2010, photo by Beached Miami

CP: How do you encourage your galleries to be experimental? Is it simply the result of the ecology you have developed over the years — for instance do you all try and work exclusively with galleries prized for their experimentation — or do galleries apply with specific projects in mind, projects that you vet from your end? 

ET: I think its a little bit of both.  Fountain has a reputation for showcasing progressive, sometimes challenging work, so we do attract exhibitors who like to think outside the box.  I love when potential exhibitors reach out to us with a wild idea(examples above), bringing all the elements together to help them realize that vision is, for me, one of the best parts of producing a show like this.

CP: What brings Fountain to Chicago? 

ET: Fountain staged an exhibition in Chicago back in 2007, and we have been waiting for the right time to return.  We were very excited to see EXPO Chicago launch in 2012, signaling a renaissance in the Chicago market.  Then this spring, our now-partners at Johalla Projects reached out to us about organizing an alternative fair during EXPO week.  There were so many amazing, progressive spaces in Chicago who were interested in participating in a fair, but there was no fair to represent them.  The timing was finally right and everything has been clicking into place. We are excited to showcase our unique take on whats happening in Chicago, Brooklyn and beyond!


Seanna Sharpe aerial performance, Fountain New York 2012, photo by Morgan Reede.

CP: Often I feel like fairs inadvertently reflect a trending icon or strategy — like a deer’s head cropped up repeatedly at the last Chicago Merchandise Mart fair, for instance, last year several galleries at EXPO featured paintings with holes or tears in the canvas — are there any trends you anticipate this year at Fountain?

ET:  I suppose there may be a trend towards accessibility in art.  If that’s the case, I’m glad we’re on the front lines! I think more and more people are realizing that it is possible to have fun with art, and that they can bring amazing, original work into their home or office without breaking the bank.  That’s a beautiful thing, for both the artists and art-lovers.

CP: You all are planning a benefit for the DIA, I believe. Can you talk about how that decision came about? 

ET: We were alarmed by reports of Christie’s valuing the DIA’s collection and the possibility of these works being hawked to pay off the city’s debt.  Fountain co-Founder David Kesting has a long-time affinity towards the City of Detroit and the DIA.  We believe that these works have been given in trust to the people of the Detroit and that legacy must be upheld.  By pledging to funds from our VIP Preview day, we hope to ensure that this conversation continues, and that support builds momentum.