6 Must-See Discussions at Expo Chicago
byÂ PADDY JOHNSONÂ onÂ SEPTEMBER 13, 2013
Joel Sternfeld | McLean, Virginia, December 1978 | 1978. via participating gallery Luhring Augustine
Expo ChicagoÂ launches next week and Iâ€™m already preparing. So far that means reading the website schedule and mentally preparing myself for reporting on the fair. Iâ€™ll be heading out to Chicago next Thursday to check out Expo and participate in â€œDialoguesâ€, a series of panel discussions on contemporary art launched in partnership with The School of The Art Institute of Chicago.Â Contemporary Art Dailyâ€™s Forrest Nash,Â The Baer Faxtâ€™s Josh Baer, and myself will speak on a panel about digital publication moderated byÂ Bad at SportsÂ Founders Richard Holland and Duncan MacKenzie.
Perhaps thanks to the fairâ€™s partnership with the institute, the panel discussions look a lot more interesting than the normal gamut of collector centric talks fairs normally launch. As such, Iâ€™ve put together a list of the discussions Iâ€™d most like to see.Â Check out Johnson’s list here.
This week on the Podcast! BAS goes west coast! We talk to Adriana Salazar and John Spiak, director and chief curator of the Grand Central Art Center, which has an exhibition of Adrianaâ€™s work up currently. Also, we talk to Sabina Ott about The Terrain Exhibitions Biennial which just happened. Plan your life around seeing us at EXPO!!! You know you want to.
Edition no. 17 kicked everything off last week with a reminder a) that fall is here and b) an account of fall’s gallery opening festivities:
Itâ€™s official, Chicago artists are back from their residencies and vision quests and it is time for the fall gallery season. Inaugurated this weekend with about a million openings from River North to the â€˜burbs and back again, weâ€™re still reeling.
On the subject of filmic experience, Jesse Malmed discusses durational works, specifically that of James Benning, with a later dash of Empire:
James Benningâ€˜s Nightfall is a curious piece. His works are often challenging structurally, but saying the logic of this one is simple is like saying the simple logic of this is one. We watch the trees and they are still. We watch the light and it changes slowly. It would change more slowly, but the camera is doing what it can to keep up. Fauna haunts the aural space and I thought I even heard what sounded like human sounds. Mostly I floated in and out of the cinematic space (the seats, the people around me, my thirst, someone else quenching theirs, the size of the rectangle, the quality of this light) the represented space (the trees are so beautiful, there are fourteen main trees, there are an additional dozen supporting trees, the light coming through the branches looks like someone I know, the light through these branches looks like a stranger) and the space between (could I sit on the stump Iâ€™m imagining for this long?, when was the last time I spent this long seated with my head facing one direction?, when was the last time I spent this long seated with my head facing one direction outside?, how much better must this be to be there instead of here?, how has the concept of nature become so abstracted from [my own, at least] daily life?, what is that phrase about seeing forests and trees?, is this based on that?).
I posted an interview with Elizabeth Tully about the upcoming Fountain Art Fair, coming o so soon to a Chicago near you. In describing its origins, she says:
“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 â€œalternativeâ€ 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.”
Duncan MacKenzie gave a shout out to one of our own this week, as Tom Sanford’s show just opened in NYC:
Something we donâ€™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 â€“ 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.
Adventures in Union Square courtesy of SF resident, Jeffrey Songco:
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: â€œPrecise knowledge of location gives one the illusion of control but knowing exactly where you are doesnâ€™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 â€“ not that much, imagination fills the gapâ€. I was most interested in Geppettoâ€™s Jacket (2013) and itâ€™s glaring painterly techniques, creating so much dimension of space for that â€œimaginationâ€.
The third Minnesota Biennial opened at The Soap Factory this last weekend and Eric Asboe writes about it, and each work is a butterfly:
The flashiest, brightest butterflies do not need to fly past us to catch our attention. They overwhelm all of our senses. The Basketball Teamâ€˜s Sgt. Moore wafts the smell of whiskey throughout the gallery. The looping, Reichian patterns of Nate Youngâ€˜sUntitled (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 Mottaâ€˜sSeeing. The drone of the prepared keyboard inside 7-Sided Room with Painted Floorby Andrew Mazorol and Tynan Kerr permeates the galleries and intensifies the rarefied air inside the room.
Dispatch from Brighton, UK this week, where Mark Sheerin talks (social) networks, contemporary art, and Artstack.com:
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 canâ€™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.
Shane McAdams boldly begins with a nod to Kevin Costner’s performance in Field of Dreams as he goes on to describe the Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts and the “two moving and exceedingly complementary exhibitions” it contains by Novie Tremp and Hap Tivey:
In Fond du Lac last week the Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts opened to the public. A hybrid of contemporary architecture and a Masonic temple that had previously housed the Windhover Art Center, the Sadoff Center is an impressive specimen: granite topped bars; a spacious terrace for live music; two large and gloriously lit art galleries, classrooms, workshops and a hall for lectures and performances. Itâ€™s a cultural diamond in the heart of a pragmatic industrial town â€“ an only slightly less quixotic enterprise than trying to lure the ghost of shoeless Joe Jackson out of a cornfield.
Terri Griffith talks MOOCS! (and how they affect the world of contemporary art):
Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are the future of education. I feel as certain of this as I am certain that one day cars will fly and that ironing will become obsolete. Thereâ€™s a Ted Talk with the co-founder of Coursera Daphne Koller and an episode of Charlie Rose with the CEO of EdEx Anant Agarwal that addresses this new way of teaching and learning. To summarize Agarwal on Charlie Rose, the thing that is fundamentally different about MOOCs versus the way traditional college works is that with traditional college all of the gatekeeping is at the front end. You have to apply. You have to be accepted. You have to have tuition. Sometimes you need to have prerequisites or test into the courses you want. With MOOCs it is different, at least for now. The gatekeeping occurs at the backend. Anyone can register for a course, but not everyone will finish. And for those who do, there is often the option of a certificate. With some courses there is even the option of creditâ€¦for a fee. This allows all kinds of learners to participate in a course. For example, some might only be interested in part of the courseâ€™s curriculum. That student can participate in just that portion of the lectures, readings, and discussion, and ignore the rest. Of course, they will not receive a certificate, but then again, So what? Others might successfully complete all of the assignments for the entire sequence and receive a certificate. Both students got what they wanted from the course, but they dictated their level of involvement, not the instructor or the institution.
Speaking of the future:
Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are the future of education. I feel as certain of this as I am certain that one day cars will fly and that ironing will become obsolete. Thereâ€™s a Ted Talk with the co-founder of Coursera Daphne Koller and an episode of Charlie Rose with the CEO of EdEx Anant Agarwal that addresses this new way of teaching and learning. To summarize Agarwal on Charlie Rose, the thing that is fundamentally different about MOOCs versus the way traditional college works is that with traditional college all of the gatekeeping is at the front end. You have to apply. You have to be accepted. You have to have tuition. Sometimes you need to have prerequisites or test into the courses you want. With MOOCs it is different, at least for now. The gatekeeping occurs at the backend. Anyone can register for a course, but not everyone will finish. And for those who do, there is often the option of a certificate. With some courses there is even the option of credit…for a fee. This allows all kinds of learners to participate in a course. For example, some might only be interested in part of the course’s curriculum. That student can participate in just that portion of the lectures, readings, and discussion, and ignore the rest. Of course, they will not receive a certificate, but then again, So what? Others might successfully complete all of the assignments for the entire sequence and receive a certificate. Both students got what they wanted from the course, but they dictated their level of involvement, not the instructor or the institution.
But how does this relate to contemporary art? Glad you asked. In the US, our contemporary art world is deeply shaped by academia. It’s hard to imagine a curator with anything less than a Masters Degree. The same with visual artists. I would love to see some statistics on this, but I would guess that many of today’s working artists are also employed as teachers. Academia and contemporary art are so bound together, that changing one, will clearly change the other. I chose to be optimistic about this. While it is true that the majority of MOOCs are in the sciences, there are some art related courses out there and I expect this will grow over time.
This summer I took my first MOOC, from Coursera. The course was entitled Art and Inquiry: Museum Teaching Strategies for Your Classroom, offered by The Museum of Modern Art, taught by Lisa Mazzola. The course focused on using the inquiry method with object-based learning, specifically within a museum environment. This course was an amazing experience for me. First of all, I got to take a course from MoMA. I never thought I would have this opportunity, but the beauty of an online course is that location isn’t an issue. This had the consequence of the course being very international. 60 percent of Courseraâ€™s students are from outside the United States. In this course, we were required to participate in the discussion forums. Our final project was to write a lesson plan within our discipline using the inquiry method and a work of contemporary. Clearly, it was instructive to troll The Art Institute of Chicago for just the right artwork and write my own lesson plan, but what might have been more instructive was peer grading my classmates’ assignments. There were 32,000 students in the course. I graded a student from Spain and two from Columbia. It was interesting to see the curriculum requirements of other countries.
I am currently taking a class called Exploring Beethovenâ€™s Piano Sonatas. It’s very challenging, maybe too challenging for me. But Iâ€™m having a good time and Iâ€™m learning more than I ever could on my own. The course is taught through The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, by professor Jonathan Biss. This course demonstrates the beauty of gatekeeping at the end of the educational experience instead of at the beginning. If the course proves too difficult, I can always select the â€œno assignmentsâ€ option, continue with the video lectures and the class discussion, but at the end I will not receive my certificate. Like I said earlier, So what? People should be able to attempt things that are difficult or out of their realm of experience without penalty. These MOOCs are showing the possibilities of our educational future. The courses are fun. Iâ€™m learning a lot, and I get to â€œmeetâ€ people from all over the world, artists, musicians, even other people who teach English at an art school. MOOCs have the potential to make the study of any of the arts, more global and, most importantly, accessible to anyone with a smartphone. Maybe that’s good, maybe not, but it’s the future.
â€œIf you build it, they will come,â€ lows a voice to Ray Kinsella in the film â€œField of Dreams.â€ Incredulous but faithful, Ray, played by Kevin Costner, obeys, carving a baseball diamond out of his Iowa cornfield and,after some plot twists and life lessons, they do in fact come.
In Fond du Lac last week the Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts opened to the public. A hybrid of contemporary architecture and a Masonic temple that had previously housed the Windhover Art Center, the Sadoff Center is an impressive specimen: granite topped bars; a spacious terrace for live music; two large and gloriously lit art galleries, classrooms, workshops and a hall for lectures and performances. Itâ€™s a cultural diamond in the heart of a pragmatic industrial town â€“ an only slightly less quixotic enterprise than trying to lure the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson out of a cornfield.
Its opening was marked by two moving and exceedingly complementary exhibitions.
The title of sculptor/ceramicist Novie Trumpâ€™s show â€œthe Weight of Airâ€ perfectly captures the dreamy intimacy evoked by the delicate objects comprising it. Her work is somewhat insistent at first, but ultimately lets us find our own way through the mysterious and meditative imagery.
A row of gentle white bird nests cast crisp shadows on the floor; a series of white branches dangle lightly from filament; a wall of black ceramic butterflies elevates toward the skylights. All incredibly suggestive, literally and visually, but, in the end, just out of reach. As intangible as air itself. The most exquisite and suggestive of these airy sculptural vignettes are two small white reliquaries filled with fragile artifacts. Her work recalls Christian Boltanski, but where he chooses to reveal the painful truth, Trump conceals, and lets us sift through our own memories and associations.
Trumpâ€™s quiet theater is enhanced by the ample light that pours into the third floor gallery. Cast shadows in the show become as much a part of the works as the ceramic objects themselves.
Equally dependent on light and shadow but to entirely different effect is the work of Hap Tivey. The impact of his work is most profound when descending the stairs directly from Trumpâ€™s show upstairs. Her blue-tinged natural light scheme is interrupted by the sour yellow haze of his work â€œSodium Exchange.” It’s a relatively abrupt transition, but still Tivey’s work is light and quiet.
At the opening I overheard several viewers questioning what â€œto doâ€ with the â€œSodium Exchangeâ€. At one point Hap came in and told them to â€œnot to do anythingâ€ and to â€œlet go.â€ Indeed they did, and the environment overcame them.
â€œSodium Exchangeâ€ essentially creates two experiences on either side of a Â fabric membrane. The south side offers a trip through a spectrum of diffuse atmospheric light. Soft, tonal shadows cast by the viewer dance almost imperceptibly on the scrim bisecting the room. The north side bathed in harsh sodium light, reveals a more distinct cast shadow of the viewers on the opposite side, setting up an anxious, jarring and voyeuristic experience.
Tivey is a veteran light-and-space artist whose aim, as he mentioned in a lecture Wednesday night, is to â€œcreate experiences that an individual canâ€™t not have anywhere else.â€ Itâ€™s a simple but profound conceit that his work lives up to, especially when the viewer yields control.
Though experience is primary for Tivey, the interactivity in â€œSodium Exchangeâ€ happens to be a living metaphor for how human nerve cells transmit information, and by extension, how one perceives the very light that is functioning as the metaphor in the work itself.
The relationship between the works and the new space is exceptional. A literally brilliant way to inaugurate the Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts.
Today at the Center theyâ€™re having a screening of Baz Luhrmannâ€™s â€œGreat Gatsbyâ€ down the hall from Trumpâ€™s and Tiveyâ€™s wonderful environments. It seems an almost perfectly cheeky choice by comparison. I canâ€™t imagine anything less slow and subtle than Luhrmannâ€™s movies. Maybe an actual car crash. I hope everyone who attends the screening goes from the green light beyond Gatsbyâ€™s dock, toward the sodium and sunlight in the galleries. Their minds just might get blown.
Blown minds or not, my guess would be that such outrageous variety will be a necessary recipe for the Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts in Fond du Lac. So far itâ€™s an ambitious and well-executed endeavor, especially the delicately curated art work. With a smashing public opening on Thursday, it seems the public is on board so far.
If you build it, they just might come.
GuestÂ PostÂ 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 canâ€™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.
â€œHow do these groups of people come together?â€ asks Co-Founder Ezra Konvitz. â€œWhat do they come together around, what was the particular moment where you have a group of people who have all converged around an idea?â€
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 Obristâ€™s profile along with those of well-known artists from around the globe and emerging names from the most far flung parts.
â€œWhatâ€™s really cool now is youâ€™ve got people from Australia talking to people who are in New York and collaborating on shows. Itâ€™s so quick now,â€ 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, â€œthe inspiration to go and be an artist, to go and be a curator, to get involved with artâ€. You donâ€™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. â€œOf course, real world interaction is always stronger,â€ he says. â€œBeing able to have a conversation with somebody, or to see something in real life, is always going to trump an online interaction.â€
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 websiteâ€™s trending page. Major exhibitions in major cities tend to drive traffic to certain artists. â€œItâ€™s a good way to keep tabs on whatâ€™s going on in the world,â€ says Konvitz.
It also offers the chance to see much loved works in new contexts â€“ 3D pieces and video are both well served. â€œYou 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,â€ says Konvitz,
â€œItâ€™s nice to get more of a rounded experience of a work or to view video art in your living room.â€ Indeed, to visit a page on which Giotto could rubÂ shoulders with a 21st century art student is the most rounded of experiences.
â€œFinding 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 thingâ€, 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 criticismism.com