Online Canvas Printing Review:

September 5, 2012 · Print This Article

Over the last decade the growth in quality and value of on demand printing has never ceased to amaze me. What only companies could afford 10+ years ago for major events can now be purchased by an independent art gallery at a fraction of the price. For a while now when it came to printing it wasn’t a question of if something could be afford-ably printed but more who do you trust to print it.

Having worked with companies that either printed overseas and you had long delays, color matching issues or just general customer services issues or ones that printed locally but quality was highly questionable at a 20% markup it was hard to have a good printer for long.

Then there is a company like which is not only a Chicago based company but also has a drive to promote and expand contemporary art awareness. When I heard that they were selling high quality Banksy canvas prints and recently licesed Space Invader (now just Invader) prints I was even more interested.

Founded in 1999 by Leon Oks and Eugene Kharon in Chicago the business has grown and expanded all around the world and the quality hasn’t diminished. I had to check out what they do and personally got a museum streached canvas print of Banksy’s “Hirst spot painting with roller rat”.

First off I can not express how fast the turnaround was having the company print and ship out of Chicago. Comunication and tracking was top shelf and packaging when it arrived was secure and very liberal in its padding.

The canvas was properly streached without being too tight or the more often trait of so loose as to be unimaginable to hang. The entire purchasing process was fast, easy and almost without note which is what you want really in a transaction.

I say almost without note in that there were two comments:

  1. The Banksy prints obviously are derived from photos taken onsite and have been highly cleaned up in photoshop and I might assume vectored. Which is great when printing large scale images to keep the sharpness of line and richness of colors without noise or artifacts. The slight down side is the image has little gradient. Which with Banksy isn’t that much of an issue but could be in other vectored images where it is more human and less like a stencil. Easy way to solve this is give a cropped zoom in function to show what a few sections of the image would look at printed size. Then the buyer can be informed and aware to make the decision that is right for them.
  2. The image gets cropped based on the canvas size you pick. Which is honestly both great and horrible. Its is great considering that the image when shipped is properly filling the canvas regardless of the size you pick, it looks great at any dimension. Horrible in that I hate croping pictures just as I hate Pan & Scan movies and was a tad caught by suprise by this when it arrived. This could be easily fixed by having the thumbnail actually reflect the final cropping that would happen at the selected dimension and have a gold highlighted (ideal dimention) canvas size highlighted. So the buyer could know if they want the full image at the correct dimension, the gold one would be the best choice.

Those two comments aside is a welcome addition to my list of online suppliers that can get the job done right the first time at a reasonable price. I am currious what other contempoary artists they can line up knowing how difficult that can be but also how important.

REVIEW: Wave Int’l Issue 01

November 17, 2010 · Print This Article

Wave Int'l: Issue 01

Wave Int’l isn’t like any of the publications I’ve previously reviewed. Wave is a network that is documented in a quarterly exhibition and journal. Wave Int’l is co-directed by Brian Khek and Jasmine Lee, two students at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In Issue 01 artists Ida Lehtonen, Micah Schippa and Bret Scheider were commissioned to tackle “office iconography.” I chatted with Jasmine Lee about the relationship between publishing and curating and she explained how Wave seeks to innovate in both areas.

Martine Syms: How did you and Brian [Khek] meet and why did you decide to start working together?

Jasmine Lee: I had just moved to Chicago last summer from San Francisco for the VCS program at SAIC and I wanted to start a publication. Brian and I met in the fall. We went to school together and he lived down the street from me.We started cooking together. Brian makes the best Pad Thai. We would cook, talk art and we’d look at publications together. It was a nice welcome to Chicago.

MS: A friend of mine thinks that every artist/designer should be  an adept cook. He puts it on the same level as technical or communication skills. Would you agree?

JL: Yes, absolutely. We talk about this a lot. Cooking or creating anything for consumption requires a prior knowledge which isn’t unlike art. It’s funny to us that art and food are still sort of in their own fields. We look at lot of different fields for fodder, like science or technology. What we like about food and technology is their ability to bring people together.

MS: Do you see Wave Int’l functioning in a similar way?

JL: Yes, we love to invite people over for food. The conversations we have are a lot of fun. We’re obsessed with the idea of connectivity

Wave Int'l: Issue 01, installation view at Co-Prosperity Sphere

MS: So why a publication?

JL: A lot of our work is done online.

MS: What do you mean by work? Artwork, homework, client work?

JL: Yes, all of it. Life work. When you work this way, there’s this feeling of fluidity. We wanted a publication because it’s more tangible. It’s less abstract than say a blog.

MS: When you work on a computer each activity blends into the next. A publication is more discrete, more representative of a specific moment/event.

JL: The publication and exhibitions are meant to be meeting points. A moment for us to gather our thoughts, reflect and move on. It’s meant to be transient, like a network.

MS: Tell me about your curatorial process. How did you find the artists in the show? Was there a particular narrative you and Brian were trying to express with the exhibition?

JL: We’re interested in bringing together people who’s work reflects ideas we’ve been contemplating. We’re not so interested in regionalism. Because of how we all experience a lot of the same things, regardless of where we live we have a starting point.

It’s kind of crazy how many people are making work. Bookmarks help. Brian and I exchange readings and work we like. As with most things, we wanted to work with people whose work we’d admired and respected, and most importantly, were curious about. As connected as we are with each other [online], a lot of this critical discourse that’s engaged by the visual work is often overlooked. Wave wants to welcome everyone to the conversation.

Wave Int'l: Issue 01, installation view at Co-Prosperity Sphere

MS: On your website you use the term “network” and call yourselves the directors. Do you see Wave operating in the tradition of the gallery or the magazine?

JL: We see ourselves as facilitators. Wave Int’l is a platform for critical discourse. We’re not so much concerned with the tradition of the gallery or magazine. We’re concerned with the responsibility that goes along with putting work out there, the push and pull of things that last and don’t last. We don’t just want to talk about something and throw it out there into space. We’re thinking about what happens after a show or even after the opening.

MS: In using the term director you’re acknowledging your responsibility, but in using network, you reconcile what happens afterwards, once the work is up, or the show is taken down.

JL: Yes. We’re interested in the potential of the ephemeral.

MS: Tell me about Ida Lehtonen and Micah Schippa, the artists in the show/issue.

JL: Micah is graduating from SAIC this fall. He’s from Holland, Michigan. He’s one of our cooking buddies! He makes the best soups and is awesome at baking. He’s someone we talk with a lot. We met Ida for the first time this week, after being in contact with her online for a year. Ida attends the School of Photography at the University of Göteburg in Sweden. Her work is very playful. Both Ida and Micah deal a lot with iconography in their work. Which is inherent in the medium [internet art]. I think there’s a lot of “net art” out there that’s really unapproachable, because of how esoteric it tends to be. It’s intimidating, but their work isn’t like that.

MS: What’s next for Wave Int’l?

JL: We want to travel. It’s another part of the practice, geographic diversity. Kind of like a tour. We’re currently building an ongoing program, which involves a library of visual, audio and literary appropriations from our own archives and that of our peers. We also have a printed version of the PDF, edition of 25, very very slick. Email for more info.

Download a copy of Wave Int’l: Issue 01 featuring Ida Lehtonen, Micah Schippa and Bret Schneider at The printed version can also be purchased at Golden Age, where you’ll find Jasmine Lee working hard each Thursday!

REVIEW: Can I Come Over to Your House?

September 15, 2010 · Print This Article

Can I Come Over to Your House?
, the anthology commemorating the first ten years of The Suburban, has a strange power to make its beholders confess to their unwavering love of co-founder Michelle Grabner. “I know I’m impulse buying, but I have to get this because Michelle Grabner is my hero,” a buyer admitted before purchasing a copy. A few days earlier another artist had disclosed that she “wanted to impress Michelle Grabner” while she fondled the stout red volume. Some visitors have taken to staring deeply into the cover and clasping their hands around the book. I try not to interrupt them.

I was surprised to hear this outpouring of devotion to Grabner from so many artists. I thought I was the only who dreamed of being her best friend. Everyone loves Michelle, especially those who “hate” her, and this little book reminds us why. The encyclopedic publication features contributions from the art world’s heaviest hitters from James Welling to Olivier Mosset to Wade Guyton to the Midwest’s patron saint of art David Robbins. Anyone who had ever exhibited under the umbrella of The Suburban was asked to submit four to six images and a brief text that “would best represent” their practice.

Karl Haendel’s provocative text, Questions For My Father begins, “Why did you decide to have children? What if I came out retard? How close did you come to hitting me?” Amy Granat opts for the traditional artist statement, while David Hullfish Bailey provides two (three?) artist statements AND an essay by Danish curator Jacob Fabricius. Novelist Jonathan Safran Foer gives us no words and only images. If an exhibition at The Suburban is “more closely related to what happens in your studio” as Grabner said in a recent interview, then Can I Come Over to Your House? successfully translates that practice to print in this thousand page guestbook-cum-sketchbook.

Can I Come Over to Your House? is available at Golden Age in Chicago. Visit The Suburban this Sunday for the opening reception of Jeff Gibson and Geoff Kleem and come to Golden Age on September 25th for the launch party of Can I Come Over to Your House?.

In Art “Anything is Possible” But Not Always A Good Move

September 3, 2010 · Print This Article

Review of the Art documentary “William Kentridge: Anything is Possible”

Anything-is-possible-1I 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.

Anything-is-possible-2Having 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.

Review: Manystuff #1, One Possible Catalyst

June 16, 2010 · Print This Article

Photo by Charlotte Cheetham © Manystuff

Manystuff is a blog, edited by the mostly anonymous Charlotte Cheetham, that offers a “daily selection” of graphic design. Manystuff has a devout, international following of 5,000+ visitors a day, they regularly organize design exhibitions and recently began publishing a magazine. Manystuff #1 is actually the second issue. Manystuff #0, More Real Than Fiction was released in 2008, but I wasn’t able to get my hands on it, so it remains less real to me.

Manystuff #1, One Possible Catalyst states its case modestly. The objective is to “fix a laboratory of experiments and meditations released from formal and theoretical prejudices.” One Possible Catalyst is not for those seeking a practical treatise about running your own studio or how to do-it-yourself, nor those looking for a barrage of striking images to consume. It comes as a refreshing counterpoint to the glut of design thinking, design within reach, and design sponging that currently abounds. One Possible Catalyst is for serious thinking about Design. Read it when you’re feeling cynical, but not when you’re feeling sleepy.

(Contributors were asked to diverge from the following three themes:)

Photo by Charlotte Cheetham © Manystuff

Less is more
This way of life has become a cliché and/or vice versa. Less is More is an argument for minimal graphic design that features an essay on the public notice by Rob Giampietro, a collection of business cards from Christian Brandt and a historical survey by Olivier Marcellin. Succinctly, “Use of a sans-serif and a uniform background.”

Support Graphic Design
Support Graphic Design is a catalog of structures used to hold posters and other designed objects, including outdoor benches from EventArchitectuur, billboards from Experimental Jetset, and a mobile bookshop from Robin Gadde. I was struck by the beauty and economy of the mobile bookshop, a succession of plywood sheets with rectangle cut outs for shelves.

© Gadde & Warwo

The headline asks “What about intergenerational relations between designers?” I often wonder if it’s even possible to establish intergenerational relationships outside of an institution. Sometimes I lament that the only way I’ll be able to meet so-and-so is to go to X school or secure another internship with no pay but lots of prestige. Although One Possible Catalyst provides no alternatives, it does offer a series of texts pairing educators with students and employers with interns that contemplate the role of generational exchange within the field.

Manystuff #1, One Possible Catalyst features contributions from Christian Brandt, Lorena Cardenas, Change is good, David Conte, Pinar Demirdag, Neil Donnelly, Laurent Fétis, Kees de Klein, Wayne Daly, Bear Demen, EventArchitectuur, Experimental Jetset, Robin Gadde &team, Rob Giampietro, Hannes Gloor & Stefan Jandl, Catherine Guiral & David Cluzeau, Arnaud Daffos, Vincent Lalanne, Aurélie Guérinet, Rikard Heberling, Hey Ho, Hyoun Youl Joe, Julia, Konst & Teknik, Sacha Leopold, Olivier Marcellin, Fanette Mellier, Pipi Parade, Please Let Me Design, Thibaut Robin, Grégoire Romanet, Mathias Schweizer, Maki Suzuki (Åbäke), Pierre Vanni, Karen Willey, and Ivor Williams.

It is available now at Manystuff.