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Sexy Librarians, Secret Service, and Tangents: With “The Book Lovers”

July 18, 2013 | by

EFA-Julia-01 

Part I: “The Book Lovers”

On a Sunday afternoon in March, when the rest of New York’s art world was swarming through the Armory’s annual art fair, I found myself lurking among the stacks at St. Mark’s Bookstore, thumbing through literary reviews and scanning the crowd for a familiar face. I was waiting to meet with David Maroto, a Spanish artist who recently cocurated an exhibition of artist novels—“The Book Lovers”—at the Elizabeth Foundation. Once I found him, nose deep in a book, we meandered to an empty bar and talked about art, novels, experimentation, and engaging the public.

David is an artist with strong, creative convictions and a healthy distrust for art institutions. We met five or so years ago at an artist residency, and it is serendipitous that he should be one of the curators of this show. Or perhaps it is just a demonstration of how small our circle is—a tribe within a tribe, the small overlapping area of the Venn diagram where visual art and writing intersect. David thinks this is a growing field, that the novel has run its historical course and is an empty vessel for artists to pick up. I disagree that the novel is defunct, but it does seem that the book form is full of potential for artists and becoming an increasingly popular choice of medium.

“Artist novels” is a vague genre, so David and his cocurator, Joanna Zielińska, define it as any work 20,000 words or longer in which the narrative is moved primarily by text rather than images, and written by someone with an active visual art practice. Some of the results could simply be novels with art-world insider lines such as Sexy Librarian’s “he could make her more emotional than a Félix Gonzáles-Torres retrospective,” but David and I are both most intrigued by the books that are a critique of the form or an active expansion of the artist’s studio practice. It can provide a path into the art for the uninitiated and build additional layers of insight and complexity. Read More »

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Sometimes Still, Sometimes Full of Tears: A Studio Visit with Jayoung Yoon, or a Strange Eulogy for William Francis

March 18, 2013 | by

"Cleansing the Memories"

Cleansing the Memories

In Jayoung Yoon’s Brooklyn studio, a postcard reproduction of a Duccio alterpiece (Jesus holding a fishing net out to his disciples) hangs next to a photo of the artist, head shaved, standing in a lake. Floating off the opposite wall are a net and a shirt, both made of the artist’s hair, and two pictures of lotus flowers. Religious references abound. Read More »

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Wild Cats and Meadowlarks: Creating in L.A.

October 24, 2012 | by

Hollywood was then a small town, quiet though excited. Just across our meadow, and across one more open lot, was a movie studio where they were using a troop of lions in pictures. The dreamlike romance of the place came vividly to mind in the mornings when we would be wakened by lions and meadowlarks roaring and singing.

Beth Gates Warren’s Artful Lives tells the story of a group of artists living in Los Angeles at the beginning of the twentieth century. It focuses on the artistic and personal growth of photographers Margrethe Mather and Edward Weston over the course of ten years, from their meeting in 1913, until Weston’s departure for Mexico in 1923. Mather, though a talented photographer with an undeniably rigorous and progressive vision, has remained in relative obscurity, and this book attempts to correct her omission from the history of photography. In doing so it also sheds light on the group of artists, actors, activists, and socialites who were a part of dreaming Los Angeles into existence.

In one tantalizing vignette, a pair of lovers—an artist and an actress—relate hearing the roars of the on-set lions from a local picture company blending with the song of meadowlarks in their backyard, painting a bizarre and idyllic picture of 1920s Los Angeles—a land of wild and exotic ambition, fueled by deep pockets and artistic dreamers. The romantic vision of a young Hollywood, with animals roaming the lot and artists frolicking in their rural studios, may feel far from the contemporary urban landscape, but the tension between fast-paced ambition and sun-drenched creative freedom still holds Los Angeles’s sprawl precariously together. We are both the home of the mainstream—a city decorated with strip malls and billboards—and a renegade network of backyard studios, converted garages, and performance artists out on the frontier.

One of the trail-blazing studios was the Selig Polyscope Company. Founded by William Selig, the studio made a host of jungle movies and in order to populate those movies, Selig needed a menagerie of lions, tigers, elephants, and apes. To house—and presumably profit from—these animals, Selig built an ambitious zoo. Read More »

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