Art:21′s new “Calling from Canada” blogger Raji Sohal has written a great piece on the curatorial decisions made by the Vancouver Art Gallery‘s director Kathleen S. Bartels and artist Jeff Wall in organizing Kerry James Marshall‘s first solo exhibition in Canada, which runs from May 8, 2010 to January 3, 2011. Sohal’s piece is well-worth perusing; I’ve included a brief excerpt below to entice you to read the entire post. (Kerry James Marshall was interviewed in Episode 61 of Bad at Sports’ podcast and Jeff Wall in Episode 96).
“So how does this exhibition get framed within Vancouver? As a transplanted Vancouverite, Marshall’s paintings got me thinking about representations of blackness but also about my own identity as an Indo-Canadian person in Canada. More than fifty percent of Vancouver’s population speaks English as a second language. British Columbia is now considered Canada’s most ethnically diverse province, and the city is home to a relatively large population of Indo-Canadians and one of the largest diasporas of Punjabis in particular. So where is our experience represented in art? The most prominent representations are found instead in and by dominant media culture. Moreover, historical incidents involving new immigrant groups have transpired without the kind of acknowledgment or monumentalizing of atrocities (i.e. erecting monuments or holding services) that we have seen occur in the U.S. or in Western Europe. In British Columbia, this includes Japanese internment camps, Chinese railway worker exploitation, and the Komagata Maru incident, which prompted the Canadian government to enact exclusion laws preventing Indians from immigrating.
So while seeing Marshall’s large-scale figurative paintings at VAG provide an access point for thinking about black representation in America, framed in Vancouver, the exhibition also provokes questions about representation on home soil too. The adversity faced by the city’s ethnic groups is unique, of course, and not to be homogenized under one large minority umbrella. However, seeing this show in multicultural Vancouver is curious in light of Marshall’s comments in past interviews about how when he was a kid, he didn’t see blacks in pictoral space. Recently, Marshall told Vancouver newspaper The Georgia Straight that part of his own project has been to “figure out how to make paintings that could get to be part of the story.” (Read the full post at art21:blog).
Our bi-weekly column, Center Field | Art in the Middle with Bad at Sports on Art21′s blog has its latest post with an interview with Polyester’s Dirctor Bill Eiseman. Check the teaser below and go read the entire article over on Art21′s site.
Like many people, my girlfriend and I set out on a road trip this summer. Our trip took us from Chicago to Portland, following most of the Lewis and Clark Trail. After officially starting in St Charles, MO, where Louis and Clark initially met for their historic journey, we headed west, hitting not only typical locations like Yellowstone, The Badlands, and Mount Rushmore, but also a few random towns along the way, like Mitchell, SD (home of the only Corn Palace in the world). I had not planned for our trip to include many museums or galleries, but while driving downtown in Omaha, NE, I spotted the word ‘Polyester’ painted in orange on a building’s facade. We drove back around the block and to my surprise, it was a bookstore and gallery specializing in contemporary and vintage photographs.
Founded in 2006 by Bill Eiseman in downtown Los Angeles, Polyester has established itself as a unique voice within photography. In 2010, Eiseman moved shop to Omaha, where he has been able to expand his gallery to include screenings. In the spirit of the final days of summer, I asked Bill a few questions about my find in Omaha.
Meg Onli: What prompted a move from such a large scene (Los Angeles) to a place such as Omaha?
Bill Eiseman: It was a decision I spent six months deliberating. The downtown artwalk in Los Angeles brought anywhere from 500 to 1500 people into my gallery on the second Thursday of every month. The crowd at our last monthly artwalk here in downtown Omaha numbered roughly 50. From an economic standpoint, it probably wasn’t the wisest of choices, at least in the short term. But as a gallerist, since I am now the only contemporary photography gallery in the region, suddenly I have the creative freedom to exhibit known, represented artists and works that were previously unavailable to me and in a space that is more than four times the size as its L.A. predecessor (for less rent). [It] also allows me to have both a main gallery and annex, a dedicated video room, present live performances and film screenings — pretty much everything I ever wanted to do but never had the space to make a reality. There is also a certain amount of notoriety that comes with being new and unique, which I must admit to enjoying. And I spend (at most) fifteen minutes per day in my car, which is something that Los Angelenos can only dream about.
Read the entire article on art21
September 3, 2010 · Print This Article
Review of the Art documentary “William Kentridge: Anything is Possible”
I love Art documentaries, I have watched almost every one that I could get my hands on over the years much to the displeasure of my wallet (they are always more expensive then the average film) and anyone I share a Netflix account with (watch enough art films and Netflix will make all sorts of assumptions about you in it’s recommended films algorithm).
Art docs have always been for me a great way to survey the work, personality, and tone of any artist. Its rare that the average person can get one on one time with an Artist of interest and when you do it’s more often after they have talked to 40 people before you and are 8 cups deep into the free beer or wine the gallery/school/institution/art fair put out. So in effect you get less then stellar conversations (not always mind you, the exceptions are often amazing) or and this is the truth for anyone artist, politician, scientist, what have you; that its hard to always be “on” and be able to talk extemporaneously and with give and take about your work. Art professors the world over try to beat the need for this skill into their students but the dirty secret is the professors often times are no better and have been no better for 20+ years. Fact is it’s a hard skill to learn for anyone and Art docs help with the magic of editing to give you the best moments of conversation possible.
Thats why its so saddening when you often times see artists speak vaugly, paradoxically, or with a straight faced serious non sequitur, much as the case with Art:21′s first feature length, solo artist film outside of the biennial Art in the Twenty-First Century series. Art:21′s “William Kentridge: Anything is Possible” is a well directed film with good production values. “Anything is Possible” has everything I look for in a good Art doc except William Kentridge is the typical “say nothing by saying much” artist in the film and this is after the director/editor has worked to make it as structured, poignant & narratively focused as possible since it is in their best interest to do so.
It’s kind of painful to watch after a while since it is clear with how Kentridge’s monologues are woven into the tapestry of the film as intros or outros to scenes and quickly cut that the production team didn’t really know how to make use of statements like “making art was a way of arriving at knowledge that was not subject to cross examination” and treated his narration more like a soundtrack to pop a scene or set a tone, not to make a statement to be followed by the audience. Very little of what William Kentridge says in the film sheds light on his youth, early career, family, later career or deeper intent other then then the very basic themes of a piece or style.
Having said this his skill as a stop motion filmaker, animator & stylized puppeteer is very facinating. His highly graphic, russian constructivism style of working has great impact and the director of “Anything is Possible” made strong use of this fact. The film by and large is a visual symphony of the various components that Kentridge uses in his practice, introducing them one at a time and then at the last movement bringing them all together in one operatic scene with as much scope as possible. Where the end of the film centers around the Artists collaboration with the Metropolitan Opera in a performance of Shostakovitch’s 1928 work “The Nose”. Then you see the shadow puppets, the animated drawing, the mix of 3d & 2d interaction, the projections that swallow the entire stage making humans look like ants & the political pageantry that winds it’s way through much of Kentridge’s work. Then and saddly only then does the film start to pay off.
I love the series Art:21 and know how difficult it is to organize, finance and execute interviews, artists, performances & such but I walk away from this first long form solo film wishing they had picked someone else to showcase and the feeling it was actually a behind the scenes for a yet to be released Met Opera DVD. Kentridge’s work and in many ways the man himself is so esoteric that few will be able to really sink their teeth into this or even care to try? I am not saying make the first film on anything as extreme as the out of favor Chapman brothers or zeitgeist Shepard Fairey but something more accessible and of interest to the twenty first century might be apropos.
The first line of the film is “My job is to make drawings not sense” which I realize he says to elicit a response from the audience of 60-70 year olds that are in attendance (watch the film and like Where’s Waldo find someone born after Tang was invented) but it is sadly true of his general take on this opportunity to speak to a larger audience, an occasion that he drops and never picks up. You see when I said earlier that the average person rarely gets a one on one with an Artist they are interested in it is doubly so for an artist to get the opportunity to broadly speak to a captive audience in such a way as this and when you do: teach us, illuminate us, speak to us, move us for sadly in life you get one or two chances at most and we move on to someone who will.
The broadcast premiere of “William Kentridge: Anything Is Possible” takes place this October 21 at 10:00 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings). Susan Sollins, Art:21′s Executive Director & director of this documentary made a good film out of a poor subject choice, hopefully next time a more fitting and engaging person will be showcased.
Check out our latest post on art21:blog! This time, we talk to School of the Art Institute professor Frances Whitehead about a range of subjects, including redirective practice, the Embedded Artist project, Slow Cleanup in Chicago, and ‘what artists know.’ An excerpt below; read the full post at art21.
What do artists know? A few weeks ago, I spent an afternoon at the Chicago home of Frances Whitehead talking about the philosophical and pragmatic underpinnings of this question. To be sure, the notion that artists have a specialized knowledge — a quantifiable skill set of processes, methodologies, and approaches that they carry with them into the world — makes some people, even artists themselves, a little uncomfortable. But for Whitehead — a sculptor, gardener, professor (she has been on the faculty of The School of the Art Institute of Chicago since 1985), and self-identified “designist” (a linguistic mashup of the terms artist and designer) — it’s a liberating idea that has allowed her to situate her own practice within an expanded field of inquiry that engages sustainability, public works, and the future of design. (Read full post).
Our bi-weekly column, Center Field | Art in the Middle with Bad at Sports on Art21′s blog has its latest post with an interview I did with Ken Shipley of Numero Group. Check the teaser below and go read the entire article over on Art21′s site.
While sitting in his office listening to some soon to be released albums, Ken Shipley quickly noted, “we have found a way as a record label to be like a band.” Founded in 2003 by Shipley, Tom Lunt, and Rob Sevier, Numero Group has done just that. With almost 60 releases to date, the company has garnered a devoted fan base and established itself as a leading archival record label. Similar to the alternative apartment spaces within Chicago, Numero Group has set up shop on the first floor of a three-story brick home here in town. With series like Eccentric Soul, Good God!, and Cult Cargo, it has traveled far and wide in search of records that share not only a distinct sound but also a unique story.
Meg Onli: You have spoken before about building your compilations based on not only your (and everyone else in Numero Group’s) collection, but also that of retired DJs, performers, and fans. Could you talk about how you would typically go about making a compilation?
Ken Shipley: I think there is a misnomer about what it is that we actually do. The amount of time that we spend in the crates is really minimal. Most of the projects that we are working on we found through other research or development or work that we have already done. Like in the case of this Lowlands record that we just made, digging for the records are almost impossible. Two records came out of the entire studio, but we ended up buying the entire contents of the studio. I think people get the impression that we are crazy crate diggers that are running around the world looking for records.
Read the entire article over on Art21