Saturday Night Art Seen

March 14, 2009 · Print This Article

Someone alerted me to this photo they saw of me in the gossip column of ArtForum (better known as “Scene and Herd”) and I thought I would use it to illustrate the magic of cropping:

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There I am standing in front of that photograph at the opening of Walead Beshty’s show at Wallspace just on the other side of that wall that cuts into the left of the picture…

S and H uncropped

Psych, actually I’m standing behind that other more important looking guy (happens to be the Director of White Columns) at the edge of the photograph.

I found this mildly entertaining in the context of conceptual photography, a popular brand in which Beshty always has one foot.    This show where I happened to be “scene” follows two veins of Beshty’s work, although I imagine they are meant to be taken together as a record of the process.  The first is the prominently featured abstract photograms.  These large sheets of color photo paper are somehow folded or rolled in the exposure process.  This is only gleaned from looking at them, so I’m not sure what the process is actually, but it seems sufficient to take away that these colors and shapes are not chosen but rather arbitrarily arrived at through a photographic process.  In the other works — black and white portraits of the people, places, and machines that have helped Besthy along the way to producing his work — he likewise lets his process do all the decision making. Notice here the photogram that actually hangs off of the center wall.

Beshty at Wallspace

This placement was arrived at again by some system of finding the center of walls… I don’t think the point is actually to understand the system in place, but rather to see that there is a system, and recognize it as arbitrarily imposed… After all I think that is the underlying critique even found in this rhyming press release:

Whatever Marxist schadenfreude might be gleaned from black-and-white
Effectively reclaims the found object as a multivalent political site

Of the show’s relaxed attitude toward lines of demarcation
which, sexy as it sounded, felt like little more than rhetorical lubrication

Among the most special is Walead Beshty’s photo-slide meditation
Here flashy surface need not come at the cost of art historical, conceptual, and
socio-political elaboration

After my brush with the art world paparazzi I’ve decided to lay low, but I will be venturing out tonight to see two openings that look promising.  First, “It’s You. Not me” at Andrew Kreps in Chelsea.  Second, and honestly more exciting, is the first solo show in four years for the painter Richard Phillips at Gagosian uptown.  I’ll leave you with some enticing words from Phillips himself and follow up later with my conclusions on the show:

“At its core, this show is the conflict between capitalism, fascism, and communism. It looks into the nature of representation, propaganda, and misinformation, and how they redirect the ideologies of institutions.”

Re: Should Bad At Sports Twitter Art Reviews?

March 13, 2009 · Print This Article

Remember the days of the email love letter? I do. They were lovely–you could secretly compose long screeds to your beloved while at work and pretend it was just business. I’ll bet a lot of you kids are nodding your heads right now and saying, well, yeah…but for me textual flirtation was all about instant messaging. Perish the thought, I say. A proper love letter should be lengthy, sometimes even ridiculously so, filling pages of loose-leaf paper, scrolls of screen, however long it takes to come even an iota closer to capturing in words that ineffable feeling that you’re shyly, determinedly, bursting to convey.

To me, writing about art is a lot like writing a love letter. I’m sure many of you are snorting with derision at that statement, but I don’t care; I really mean it. Why else would those of us who still bother to write about art keep doing it, if not for the sheer stupid pleasure of using exorbitant language to capture that which words can never adequately convey?

That’s why I’m kind of aghast at the rise of Twitter and Facebook as a growing forum for art criticism these days. Now, I totally get the social aspects and benefits of these applications, and to the way they provide increased and enriched  opportunities for argument and back-talk, along with a gossipy sort of zing to art discourse in general, I say right on. But I mourn the passage of long-form art criticism (can we please just call it art writing? The term ‘criticism’ always feels much too, well, critical to me). The blogosphere still allows people to write about an artwork or a show at some length, but even that is changing: some bloggers who’ve held their fingers to the wind for far longer than I are noting (in decidedly hopeful tones, I should add) the drastic streamlining of  the blog form, or even, as Deanna Isaacs surmised a few weeks ago in the Reader, the death of text itself.

Art, like any object of affection, deserves extravagant prose devoted to it, damn the word count. Even work that may not be all that great is worthy of elaboration in my book. Do we really want Peter Schjeldahl and the museum curators to be the only ones given the space and opportunity to write about art at length? Personally, I think that would be a fucking shame.

That being said, I’m not against Twittering art reviews at Bad At Sports–I  think we should try it. I’m well aware that blogs are not the place to try and resuscitate long-form criticism, and I’m continually fascinated with the different ways people use words to grapple with art. The — what is it — 140 words? — that Twitter allows can provide a good exercise in summing up a work of art or an exhibition concisely and with, as the genre seems to require, just the right amount of deadpan irony. I myself possess none of the pith required to Twitter well, but I genuinely look forward to seeing what those who have a knack for it will do with this emerging form.

Openings at He Said/She Said and The Suburban This Weekend

March 13, 2009 · Print This Article

There’s some good stuff happening in my ‘hood this weekend, starting with tonight’s opening for Michael Stickrod’s project over at Pamela Fraser and Randall Szott’s space He Said/She Said, in Oak Park.

Michael Stickrod

Michael Stickrod

A quick blurb on Stickrod, from the He Said/She Said website and via The New Museum:

“Michael Stickrod addresses the psychology of human ties by cutting to the center of his familial circle. He uses scanned photographs and found audio to create nearly abstract sequences embedded between incising confessions and footage of his family. The videos on view take his mother and father as his subject matter, painting a landscape of Middle America that oscillates between bleak and hopeful” (New Museum website).

Stickrod will screen films, play sound works, and show related objects. The opening is from 6-9, with the film screening at 8pm. On Sunday afternoon from 2-4pm, The Suburban opens its exhibitions of Cameron Martin and Dave Hullfish Bailey. Of Martin, The New York Times has said,

“Formally, Cameron Martin’s sleekly distilled, medium-large landscapes have a flattened, hard-edged cyber-Pop snap. The young Brooklynite’s satiny smooth, subtly hued paintings of placid, reflective water; snaky, slightly rounded trees mottled black and white; or seashore rocks surrounded by metallic fields are not descriptions of perceptual experience — not like the paintings of Alex Katz or Neil Welliver. They are, rather, what the professors call cultural signifiers, contemporary icons that stand for deep-running collective urges, like the fantasy of an intimate connection with nature.”

Critic Michael Darling says of Bailey,

“Just as theologians attempt to read scripture every which way in order to discern the intentions and directives of religious tracts, Bailey homes in on relatively innocuous words that when prodded and pulled, prove to be extraordinarily supple. Not averse to strategic mis-readings, or at the very least, possessed of an openness to explore interpretive avenues that don’t readily spring from looking at words in their most familiar context, the artist has generated fascinating strands of discourse just by examining common language in a different light.”

Martin and Bailey will be in attendance, and as usual you can pick up a free copy of X-TRA. Hey, if you go, come on over and say hi to me. I’ll be the one standing in the corner by myself, as is my wont at these sorts of things.

He Said/She Said, 831 South Grove Avenue, Oak Park, IL 60304, 708-310-2607

The Suburban, 125 North Harvey Avenue, Oak Park, Illinois 60302,  708-763-8554

Art Institute Raises Price of Admission: “Cannibalism,” or Just “Keeping Up”?

March 13, 2009 · Print This Article

There’s been some commentary on other art and culture blogs about this, so maybe we should get into it too: The Art Institute has raised its price of admission by 50%. Now, the general public will pay $18, seniors and students pay $12, up from the $7 it was previously.

There have been a few good pieces on this issue written elsewhere over the past couple of days; in particular I liked  Tyler Green’s post over at Modern Art Notes, Museum cannibalism: pricing out visitors. Green points out that Chicago museums are more reliant on  admissions revenue than are institutions in other cities, but nevertheless decisions like this make it much harder for average folks, especially younger demographics, to make museum-going a regular thing. Salient quote:

“Museums could do lots of things to avoid pricing out visitors. Trustees could give more. Foundations could give more. Museums could cut more staff. But the last thing they should do is raise admissions charges and inhibit public access to art at a time when we need it most.”

Green then followed up with this post about the Seattle Art Museum’s “pay if you can” admissions policy, with accompanying grey-skies ad campaign. What think you?

Seattle Art Museum Ad, via Modern Art Notes blog

Seattle Art Museum Ad, via Modern Art Notes blog

EDITED TO ADD: Someone rightly pointed out that there’s more to the admissions story: free days! Here they are, straight from the Art Institute’s web site:

  • One late evening per week (Thursdays after 5:00 p.m.) throughout the year
  • Two late evenings per week (Thursdays and Fridays after 5:00 p.m.) during the summer (May 31 to August 31)
  • The entire month of February
  • The week of the opening of the Modern Wing, from May 16 to May 22, 2009

Go directly to the Art Institute’s visitor page for even more details. Plus, children under 12 will continue to get in free of charge, and there will no longer be a charge for special exhibitions or coat check.

Chicago Public Library Poster Design Competition

March 12, 2009 · Print This Article

Those of you who were inspired by Mike Benedetto’s interview with Steve Walters and Jay Ryan last week — the Chicago Public Library has announced that it’s holding a poster design competition inspired by the library and using the URL chipublib.org. The idea is to “bring attention to a hip, shortened version of the library’s official website address.”

Ryan is one of the esteemed judges for this event, along with award-winning photographer Brian Willette, Creative Director at All Terrain/Chicago, and Chicago Public Library Commissioner Mary Dempsey. The winners will be announced at a free public event on April 23, 2009, at the Harold Washington Library Center in downtown Chicago.

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The contest runs from March 5th to April 9th, so if you’re interested in participating, chop chop! For more info and rules, visit the library’s website (you’ll need to scroll down just a bit to get to the contest info).