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Posts Tagged ‘art’

The Kitchen Show

December 18, 2014 | by

How to host an art exhibition in your kitchen.

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Photo: Gun Westholm

During my time at high school and university in Kreuzlingen and St. Gallen, I traveled around Europe looking at art, visiting artists, studios, galleries and museums. I knew that what I wanted to do in life was to work with artists, but I had yet to produce anything. I was searching for a way to make a contribution. What, in this art system, could be a first step, and above all, how could I be useful to artists? I began to think about all the innovative, large-scale museum shows I had seen and whether it was really possible to do something new, combining all the networks I had been enmeshed in, the entire European Thinkbelt. One conviction I had was that it could be interesting to do something smaller, after the gigantism of some of the 1980s art scene which seemed unsustainable after the crash of 1987.

Dependency on endless growth, as the end of each cyclical bull market always teaches us, is unrealistic. I studied political economy with a professor named H. C. Binswanger, who directed the University of St. Gallen’s Institute for Economics and Ecology. Binswanger was examining the historical relationship of economics and alchemy, which he made as interesting as it (at first) sounds outlandish. His goal was to investigate the similarities and differences between aesthetic and economic value, most famously in a book he later published called Money and Magic (1994). At the core of modern economics, Binswanger believed, is the concept of unlimited, eternal growth; he showed how this brash concept was inherited from the medieval discourse of alchemy, the search for a process that could turn lead into gold. Read More »

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Jane Freilicher, 1924–2014

December 15, 2014 | by

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Jane Freilicher, Untitled, 1965.

Jane Freilicher died last week at ninety; the New York Times’s obituary called her “a stubbornly independent painter whose brushy, light-saturated still lifes and luminous landscapes set in the marshes of eastern Long Island made her one of the more anomalous figures to emerge from the second generation of Abstract Expressionists.”

In 1965, Freilicher designed the print above for The Paris Review—it was made in an edition of 150 that has long since sold out, unfortunately. The next year, for our Spring 1966 issue, she contributed a portfolio of recent drawings, three of which we’ve reproduced below. (Pardon the absence of details—none of these were published with titles or any kind of metadata. Different times, different production values.)

“Although the complex temperament of her painting prevent its being assigned to a single movement or group, she has been associated the so-called New York School,” the editors wrote then, “particularly with the ‘second generation’ of abstract expressionists”:

It should be pointed out that while abstractionism has entered her work to varying degrees and influenced many aspects of it, she has never at any point abandoned subject matter entirely. The subjects she most frequently chooses are the traditional ones of nude, still life and landscape. Their treatment in these drawings is especially interesting in its illumination of the graphic quality of her art, something from which, in her paintings, attention is apt to be distracted by their sumptuous and subtle deployment of color.

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Art Amnesty

December 9, 2014 | by

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Why are some people artists while others are not? Was Joseph Beuys an idiot when he said everyone is an artist? Do artists think they are a cut above the rest of us? Are the arts a good in themselves, or is it much, much, more complicated than that?

Many artists delude themselves into believing that they are promising, productive artists when they would live much more fulfilled and useful lives engaged in proper employment. I PROMISE NEVER TO MAKE ART AGAIN provides a baptism of necessary real life and allows artists to “Get Real.” Ditch a life of poverty and precarious self-employment! Don't miss a life-changing opportunity.

Art: It’s had a good run.

You know, there was the Venus of Willendorf. And the Dutch Masters—remember them?—and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, all with some very nice work. And Picasso! Who could forget Picasso?

But we’ve come to the end of the line, more or less. The art world may continue apace, with its Jeff Koonses and its Damien Hirsts, but most artists know only suffering. And to these artists, Bob and Roberta Smith have issued a clear message: go home, clean off your paintbrushes, and do something meaningful with your lives.

“The personal journey for most artists starts with enthusiasm and joy,” Bob and Roberta have said, “and ends, if the artist does not have huge success, in embarrassed children taking their dead parents’ work to the dump.” Read More »

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Crop Circles (Not That Kind), and Other News

December 8, 2014 | by

Pivotal-2

Kendall McMinimy, Pivotal 2, 2013, acrylic, toner, and panel, 36" x 36" x 1". Image via Wired

  • “At moments like these prose is a brick through the poet’s window. The fate of the poet is to ignore the broken window and make good use of the brick, and of the draft.” Rowan Ricardo Phillips on being a poet.
  • Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye is enjoying a “cinematic convergence” in New York: “Altman’s comic, poetic, wacked-out adaptation of the Raymond Chandler detective novel will play at three of the city’s leading rep houses—the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Museum of Modern Art, and Film Forum—in a stretch of eighteen days.”
  • Lydia Davis interviews Dan Gunn, one of the editors of Samuel Beckett’s collected letters: “One of the questions in transforming rapidly produced handwriting into print is what to do with anomalies. Is it useful or interesting to show where Beckett makes typos, or where he crosses something out and amends it? Is it worthwhile to show where he misspells a name (as he regularly does, for instance, when he adds a circumflex to the second ‘e’ in the surname of Jean Genet), or confuses a French transliteration of a Russian name with an English one?”
  • The New Republic as we know it is dead—and everyone, suddenly, has an unshakably strong opinion about it. “[This] sort of response to the end of the old TNRthe reductive shouting, the polarized tribes, the narcissism of small differences in the progressive media world—provides perhaps the best reason to mourn what TNR once represented.”
  • Center-pivot irrigation systems: bad for the planet, good for abstract art.

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Staying Out of Trouble: An Interview with Julia Wertz

December 5, 2014 | by

I met Julia Wertz at a slightly rundown family diner she’d recommended deep in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. We drank coffee and ate waffles (hers, covered in bacon) and whole-wheat pancakes (mine, covered in syrup). We’d talked briefly before, but always amid the clamor of comics conventions, where Wertz hustles hard to sell her books but does not relish being on display. Yet she has been putting her life online for nearly a decade. Her new omnibus collection, Museum of Mistakes, brings together three volumes of her autobiographical Web series called Fart Party, written between 2005 and 2010; miscellanea, such as hate mail and guest sketches; and a handful of previously unpublished stories, including one that delves into her past and how children process grief.

As the cartoonist Tom Hart has noted, Wertz “makes self-destruction charming.” In comics gloriously full of curses and insider jokes, she catalogs love found and lost, family dysfunction, and a risky cross-country move; she suffers low-wage service jobs and the publishing industry’s rush after indie comics darlings. Though Wertz’s frustration is often palpable (she occasionally imagines pulling people who annoy her limb from limb), she employs a kind of innocent visual style—her figures are wide-eyed and jaunty—and she’s adept at developing a sense of intimacy between the reader and her antisocial persona on the page. In other words, she lets you in, then flips you off.

Wertz has published two graphic memoirs since most of the comics in Museum of Mistakes first appeared: Drinking at the Movies (2010) and The Infinite Wait and Other Stories (2012). The latter is partly concerned with her diagnosis with Lupus and the horrors of navigating the health care system as an uninsured artist. She also recently chronicled her journey to sobriety in an essay for Narratively about comedy, depression, and addiction. A few years ago, she began documenting her urban-exploring exploits, posting haunting photographs of modern ruins on her site Adventure Bible School.

This fall, Wertz made a much-anticipated return to publishing new online comics that, as Gary Panter puts it, “look cute and nice, but they aren’t.”

You’re back to making daily diary comics after a two-year break. Why have you started again—and why did you stop?

I stopped because I was sick of myself. I completed the The Infinite Wait in only six months by drawing autobio comics sixteen hours a day. And before that, I had drawn comics every day, nonstop, for six years.

Eleanor Davis took a year after she finished How to Be Happy where she said, I’m only going to draw what I want to draw, when I want to—not what I need to for work, not what I think I should be working on. I used her example as justification, but I would have stopped anyway. I had planned to take a two-week break, and then, two years later, I was just ready to start again. I had remembered why I liked drawing comics.

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Paper Trail

December 2, 2014 | by

The invitation card for Claes Oldenburg's Store, New York, 1961.

Three years ago, PPP Editions published a limited-edition book called 100 Fanzines / 10 Years of British Punk 1976–1985. I have a copy and keep intending to give it to any number of friends who know more about the Clash, the Mo-dettes, or Attila the Stockbroker than I do, but I haven’t yet handed it over. I certainly wasn’t a fixture of the Thatcher-era punk scene, but I nonetheless feel nostalgic when I look through the book. The cover of Verbal Warfare no. 1, from 1981, contains the line “Beware of the serpent that twines around the cross … his body, the living dead at their production lines,” and I notice that it’s written in a script that resembles my sister’s eighth-grade cursive. I’m transfixed by the the ratty hand-drawn graphics and raw, energetic designs, not to mention the silliness and badassery of titles like Ignorance of the Unborn, Terminal Illiteracy, Surrey Vomet, and Raisin ’ell (number 10 is the special “This issue sucks!” edition). I also love the zines’ materiality: the staples in the bindings, the softly foxed corners, the smudges, visible erasure marks, and toner streaks. The idea that these are at once mass-produced publications (you can almost feel a phantom photocopier heat coming off the page) and rare objects—always already ephemeral—is fascinating.

The very notion of ephemera is curious: objects of little value that weren’t meant to be preserved but whose vulnerability, I imagine, appealed to someone. Political buttons, business cards, seed packets, and train timetables—scrappy artifacts that otherwise would have been lost to the dustheap. Even ephemera’s subcategories—like “fugitive materials” and “gray literature”—are suitably mothy and eccentric. In the art world, potential ephemera is everywhere: small-edition artist books, exhibition posters, flyers, announcement cards, invitations, press releases. The Museum of Modern Art Library, in New York, houses an extensive archive populated by such materials. A photograph of the files at MoMA QNS shows reams of folders that resemble medical records, though a bit of feathery orange fluff peeping out from one folder suggests something less sober. Through its sheer volume, the archive offers a minihistory of art and of individual artists.

David Senior, a bibliographer at MoMA Library, curated an exhibition around the archive; “Please Come to the Show” was on view last year in New York and earlier this year at the Exhibition Research Centre in Liverpool. It must have been fun digging through all the files and (re)discovering canon-adjacent materials like Claes Oldenburg’s blue, slightly stained business card/invitation to The Store; Nancy Spero’s pugnacious, textual invitation to “Torture of Women”; and an announcement, addressed to Frank O’Hara, of the premier of Warhol’s film Empire (admission: two dollars). Read More »

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