Hot Topic Alert: Do Art Bloggers Deserve “More Love”?

December 16, 2009 · Print This Article

Picture 1Writing for the Los Angeles Times’ arts blog Culture Monster on December 14th, art critic Christopher Knight wondered why more arts bloggers did not receive Creative Capital Grants from the Warhol Foundation this year. “As writers on art, bloggers just don’t seem to measure up,” he notes (a bit smugly, I thought, although I may just be reading between the lines there).

While it isn’t possible to know which blogs and bloggers applied for grants (or how many of those got tossed out as ineligible because they didn’t fit entry criteria), a Creative Capital spokesman tells me that, for 2009, the blog category had 153 applicants. Yikes. Maybe art blogs are generally a waste or only really bad bloggers submit applications or the jury doesn’t like the form.

The bad news doesn’t stop there. Two successful applicants this year got grants to start blogs. That’s a nice vote of confidence in those established writers’ abilities, but it also suggests the jury’s rather sizable degree of dismay with existing bloggers who applied for assistance.

“Is art blogging really that bad?” Knight asks in conclusion, leaving the answer open to comments. Weighing in on the issue are art bloggers such as C-Monster and Culturegrrl as well as Donald Frazell who I’d not heard of nor read before, but he commented at least three times.

There’s some bitchy snarkery about past winners as well one or two musings on why the awards were awarded mostly to those planning projects in traditional print (“dead tree”) media. But there’s nothing that speaks to what makes art blogging valuable, what purpose art bloggers may serve within a larger art community, or why those contributions are worthy of any foundation’s support (the fact that independent art bloggers can’t make enough money off ads or other forms of revenue to support themselves is not, to my mind, a good enough reason to receive grant money. Just because you can’t support yourself through the work you do doesn’t automatically mean you *deserve* support for it).

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Obscure Records | Jan Steele / John Cage

December 15, 2009 · Print This Article

Photobucket I seriously love WFMU’s Beware of the Blog. I often find awesome tracks and albums that I would never have found on my own. While trolling their site for more info on the Masked Man and the Agents (check out their song Roaches)  I came across John Steele and John Cage’s 1976 album Voices and Instruments.

via Beware of the Blog:

“Brian Eno’s Obscure Records label released only 10 albums during its existence from 1975 through 1978. Some of these have been reissued on CD (among them Eno’s own 1975 masterpiece Discreet Music), but for some reason the album Voices and Instruments (Obscure No. 5, 1976) only exists on out-of-print vinyl. It is a very quiet and beautiful record, featuring three compositions by Jan Steele on one side, and five compositions by John Cage on the other side. Lyrics are by James Joyce and E. E. Cummings, performers include Jan Steele, Richard Bernas, Steve Beresford, Fred Frith, Robert Wyatt, and Carla Bley. It is not just mellow, it is avant-mellow…”

You can download the album via WFMU’s site. If you do not already check them out you should add them to your list.

Tuesday’s Video Pick | The Plague Song

December 15, 2009 · Print This Article

On this week’s pick we bring you The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack’s “The Plague Song”.

Photographer Larry Sultan Dies at 63

December 14, 2009 · Print This Article

Photographer Larry Sultan has died at the age of 63. The New York Times reports that the cause was cancer. From his obituary:

Larry Sultan, a highly influential California photographer whose 1977 collaboration, “Evidence” — a book made up solely of pictures culled from vast industrial and government archives — became a watershed in the history of art photography, died on Sunday at his home in Greenbrae, Calif. He was 63.

The cause was cancer, said his wife, Katherine, who is known as Kelly.

In the mid 1970s using a grant and a letter of introduction from the National Endowment for the Arts, Mr. Sultan and Mike Mandel, who had met as students at the San Francisco Art Institute, somehow managed to persuade several large companies, agencies and research institutions like the Bechtel Corporation, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the San Jose Police Department and the United States Department of the Interior to let them rummage through their documentary photo files.

Highly influenced by the West Coast brand of Conceptualism then percolating out of places like the California Institute of the Arts, both men were interested, as Mr. Mandel later said, in exploring photography as “more than just the modernist practice of fine-tuning your style and way of seeing.” The pictures they chose from the archives, out of the hundreds of thousands they examined, were a strange, stark, sometimes disturbing vision of a late-industrial world: a space-suited figure sprawled face down on a carpeted floor; a car consumed in flames; a man holding up a tangle of weeds like a trophy; a shaved monkey being held down by a gloved hand.

Some of the images seemed to have been picked for their uncanny resemblance to installation art being made at the time. But the 59 photos published, with no captions to explain what they showed or where they came from, pursued a much broader, Duchampian agenda of harnessing found photographs for the purposes of art while using them as a way to examine the society that produced them. The critic Kenneth Baker of The San Francisco Chronicle wrote that the project demonstrated brilliantly the degree to which “we have no calculus to unravel relations between what a picture shows and what it explains.”

You can read more about Sultan’s Pictures from Home, a photographic series on his parents’ lives post-retirement, here, as well as an essay that Sultan wrote about his photographic series The Valley for the L.A. Weekly here.

Larry Sultan, from the Pictures from Home series

Larry Sultan, from the Pictures from Home series

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Liz Nielsen on Chicago Apartment Galleries

December 14, 2009 · Print This Article

Editors’ Note: Liz Nielsen’s is the last post in our week-long series on Apartment Galleries in Chicago, all of which were originally written for Floor Length and Tux’s “Untitled Circus” event a few weeks ago. A number of essays on Chicago’s thriving domestic/apartment gallery art space scene were solicited from local writers/artists/curators involved in the running of such spaces, and we posted some of them here on Bad at Sports as a way to extend the discussion. I’ll be posting some summarizing thoughts on this series later on, along with links to where you can find a .pdf file containing additional essays on Chicago’s Apartment Galleries written for the Untitled Circus event. Please feel free to email us with your comments at, or if you’d like to contact the folks at FLAT directly, you can email Erik at erik@

Guest Post by Liz Nielsen

A few thoughts

Erik Brown and Michael Thomas invited me to write down my thoughts regarding the recent spurt of apartment/domestic/project spaces in Chicago with the intent of pushing forth a few waves of constructive criticism that might consequently enable some of these spaces to re-calibrate their homegrown efforts. Now, I run my own space too, the Swimming Pool Project Space in Albany Park, and so I began by looking at my own reflection in the mirror and asking myself why I do what I do, and why I am where I am.

I am a Chicago artist. I have seen my reflection many times but this time I saw something, a stark reality, with more clarity than I had seen in the past.  Louder than ever before I heard a resonating sentence echoing inside my head: If Chicago’s art scene is second or third tier then naturally it produces second or third tier artists.

But if Chicago’s art scene is second or third tier, does it follow that it would naturally produce second or third tier artists? I am better than that.  I know that we are better than that.

So the question becomes: can Chicago raise the bar? Can it rise above the standards set by third tier expectations? Do we ourselves want honorable mentions, or gold medals? The artists who do make it into the top tier usually leave Chicago shortly before or immediately after their success starts to happen. So this leads me to wonder, if Chicago artists want to be gold medal-winners and recipients of national and international recognition, must we leave Chicago?

I’ve been running circles in my mind trying to figure out why we are where we are, and why we don’t, apparently, have the means to get the gold.  We obviously have the energy.  The innumerable independent spaces are one indication of this.  I have come up with several reasons but there is one that I continually spiral back to, and that is that Chicago has very few “parent galleries”, relative to the number of artists. At risk of being cutesy, parent galleries are the commercial venues that give us artist children shelter, that help us with our homework, hang our work on the refrigerator, talk us up like crazy, send us to art camps/residencies, and above all help us grow into the artists that we are capable of becoming. As it stands, hundreds of art students are pumped out of our schools in Chicago every year — and these are great schools — only to be orphaned with nowhere to show, nowhere to go.

So we parent ourselves.

We build our own tree-houses and clubhouses in the backyard or in our living rooms.  We start our own spaces and exhibit our own work. We share our own ideas and show our friends. But to a certain extent, the pragmatic facts of “being an orphan” wear us down: the fact that the challenge of making work increases when we’re also completely responsible for ourselves, for promoting our art, and paying the bills through other means. In the end, these tree-house projects, no matter how exciting and productive in certain instances, don’t bring in much money, and don’t get enough support from the city or its institutions, and eventually most of us run out of gas without even making it onto any sort of global art map. [Read more]