1. Interview with Patrick Berran

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    Jamison Brosseau, Spider (Red and White), acrylic on panel, 40 x 30 in. 

    I’ve known the artist Patrick Berran for a while and have really enjoyed seeing his work move along. He’s doing some curating now and he’s put together a really nice show called Hello, Darling at Southfirst in Williamsburg with Tamara Gonzales, Amy Feldman, Jamison Brosseau, Brook Moyse, John Szlasa and himself.  

    It closes today! Check it out NOW and see his website here. Also see my interview with him below:

    JL: How did you develop this show at SouthFirst? As an artist, I’m curious how you might view the role of curating today.  

    PB: This show was a year in the making-It originally started with a friend asking me to curate a show at their alternative space—-that didn’t pan out and Maika at SouthFirst was excited about it and in the end it really gelled with their space. I couldn’t be happier with the final outcome. It terms of the work- I was interested in a show that showcased painting that had different approaches to abstraction and I wanted the show to highlight works that come from artists with a vigorous studio practice. The title and press release is in relation to this. Hello, Darling is the idea of creation in the studio, the time allotted that allows for multiple viewings (with respect to the viewer as well) to leave something with the anticipation and excitement of seeing it the following day…the next time you approach the studio. The hand is important, and I feel abstraction lends an amazing hand toward those virtues of art making. There is risk and excitement about the creation, the push pull of failure and success in an image/work of art.

    In terms of curating, I love it, I think it is great. I wish I had more time to commit to it. Similar to DJs, everyone seems to be a curator today—-but that is great too! I feel the role of curating is to present worthwhile ideas and I honestly feel I presented artists that deserved to be presented in a context that suited them well. Their works look amazing together and to me that is important.

    JL: You were in the first show that I curated in 2005 and not surprisingly, your work and gotten increasingly strong since then. From what I remember, “abstract” painting was kind of uncool at the time. Is that how you remember it?

    PB: I remember that show fondly, can’t believe that was 2005. From 2002-2005 Within my circles (I was finishing grad school at the time), painting in general had a hard time. Abstract painting was definitely uncool. You had to have a defense, had to have all your ducks in a line. I actually had a professor in my final tutorial jokingly tell me that no one cares about abstraction at the moment and to “have fun.”  Describing myself as an abstract painter-I felt I always had to add a disclaimer so people would not write me off and shudder at the notion.

    However, I would also add that in 2005 I feel it was slightly turning a positive tide at that point. I am not sure what turned the tide, but somewhere during 2006-8 abstract painting became hugely popular—even some artists that were not abstract painters-suddenly were. I also feel that animosity toward painting lessened.

    JL: How do you think its changed since then?

    PB:  I feel that options are more open these days—-I feel that people gravitate toward painting in a very responsive way and I do find that refreshing. But I also feel that the criticality (is that a word?) is soft. You know, style over substance. Or maybe people don’t have an allegiance to something in particular.

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    Amy Feldman, Seeing is Believing, 2013, acrylic on canvas, 75 x 85 in. 

    JL: There’s also this compulsion by previous generations to put a name to it, which I don’t see as much with people who emerged in the 2000s, who seem to prefer to call it painting rather than even “abstraction.” I’ve also heard it called both “crappy” and “casual.” What would you say?

    PB: People relate to life that way. They feel that they understand it once it is labeled. Personally I would prefer not to be labeled as part of a movement. The crappy/casual aesthetic… I call it the faux naïve aesthetic and I feel it is conflicting. It simultaneously tries to incorporate irony or a rebellious nature with having a privileged knowledge of art history. Sometimes it is successful but I am just not interested in it. I am not quite sure what I am to experience with the work. What am I supposed to come away with? I don’t make painting to talk about painting all the time.

    JL: So what else are you working on now?

    PB: I am painting and making some bigger works at the moment. Exhibition wise, I curated a show coming up March 16th at WILDLIFE in Brooklyn called “Ears. Nose. Throat” - a presentation of sculpture, painting and installation. I am very excited about this show. I have a two person show at Storefront Bushwick w/ Jack Henry in May and I am giving a talk at Virginia Commonwealth University in April.

  2. Erik den Breejen on SMiLE (+ more)

    Erik den Breejen, Smile III, 2011, acrylic on canvas, 72 x 86 in.

    I’ve followed Erik den Breejen’s work for a while and have watched him become more focused and succinct, without being boring. I think this is really hard for some artists who really delve into a specific subject matter and he really pulls it off. As a painter, musician, and music enthusiast, all of these aspects are now soaked onto the canvas in a really nice synthesis. He’s also had a really fascinating real-life interaction with one of his heroes, Van Dyke Parks. For more, see my interview with him below.

    JL: To say that music is an influence on your paintings would be a misstatement. It’s more aptly an essential element that’s integrated into the work from start to finish. How did this come about?  

    EdB: I had been interested in using text for a very long time, but whenever I’d use it, it would come off like labeling, and wouldn’t integrate into the picture.  About seven years ago, I started making drawings using a block for each word, with the letters occupying the negative space.  I like that you call it an essential element, because I see the word block as a kind of cell that makes up the body of the painting.  And of course, the origin of these words is song lyrics, which I’ve now started forming into images that have to do with the music in various ways.  

    JL: When did it start?  

    EdB: I was making drawings of Kiss when I was five or six, then fantastical drum sets and stage setups in middle school.  I started transcribing lyrics around then too, copying album covers, making images derived from lyrics.  I think a lot of artists around my age have early work along these lines.  Art school kind of taught me that these things weren’t serious art; that I should learn to respect things I didn’t understand, like Rothko, for instance.  So I did.  And for some time now I’ve been trying to merge the two.

    JL: How much do you think about this notion of seriousness now?

    EdB: I often wonder how my paintings relate to fan art and how I feel about that.  I got especially close to that when I did the Dylan portrait because it was such a recognizable image.   I think art world context can help “legitimate” something as serious art, and there’s always the whole high/low thing, but for me, I am concerned with the history of painting and in dealing with space and color in a serious way.  In the Neil painting, I’m trying to create atmosphere or space through shifts of color, rather than surface, which is kept relatively even.  In others, the more thickly painted, opaque text sits on top of a very washy background to create space.  I’m fascinated by the phenomenology of different material combinations like that.  Once I’ve figured out the text I’m using, it becomes very much about all the painting decisions, and that’s what carries the process and keeps it interesting, because it can be pretty labor intensive. 

    JL: Is there a particular musical era that is relevant or is it more about various individuals or groups? 

    EdB: The word “obsessive” tends to come up regarding both the way in which I make my paintings and my passion for what inspires them, and I don’t have too much control over the latter, but it tends to be artists from the past.  Music was changing so fast in the mid to late 60s that it continues to fascinate me the more I study it.  But the 70s too — the hangover, the downer years — and the great stuff that came out of that, like Neil Young.  My feeling, with music as well as art, is that there was once an illusion of linear time, and each new movement was embraced as The Next Big Thing, and this started happening faster and faster, to the point where a “generation” of artists could be separated by three years, or even overlap.  

    Now, it feels like we’re swimming and circling in this Sargasso Sea of culture.  Maybe that’s just the nature of the present, but I think about some of the new bands who I like, and they put out an album every three years.  So in six or seven years’ time, you’ve heard three works, displaying mostly the same aesthetic.  In less than that amount of time, The Beach Boys scaled Mount Olympus AND came crashing down.  Maybe that’s not a healthy artistic ambition, but it sure makes for interesting subject matter.  

    JL: How would you explain this innovation of the Beach Boys to someone who knows very little about them?  What makes their position in musical history unique?

    EdB: Well, their hits from ‘62 to ‘66 do a great job demonstrating this on their own, but to break it down very briefly, the initial innovation of The Beach Boys is to take rock n’ roll and surf music and put jazz vocal harmonies on top.  I think that alone would have secured their place in history, but very quickly, composer/producer/singer Brian Wilson was pushing beyond this style, looking to one of the leading American hitmakers of the day, Phil Spector.  Brian then began incorporating some of Spector’s grandiose techniques, and even his studio musicians, but he took these influences and made them into something else entirely. 

    Then, right after that, this group from England called The Beatles, who are on the same record label as The Beach Boys, comes over and quickly eclipses them in terms of popularity.  Brian feels the need to keep up, and he does, with “I Get Around,” which goes over very well in Britain as well as the States, and the two groups influence each other and continue to grow at an alarming rate.  But on an emotional level, I think one thing that’s so special about The Beach Boys’ music, even back in the early stuff, is its ability to make a person feel alive, because the music itself is so alive.  In a song like “Be True to Your School,” the subject matter might have been repugnant to me in high school, but the music transcends this and is so overwhelmingly beautiful that you even start to buy into the narrative.  By Pet Sounds, that “alive” quality is pervasive — relentless, even — and the use of different instruments and sounds has exploded.  It’s like the music is just churning, and all the elements are in conversation with one another. 

    JL: In 2010, you began a series of paintings on their album SMiLE, the original recordings of which went unreleased in cohesive form until 2011. Was this the first time you devoted a whole series of works to an album? 

    EdB: Most of my paintings had explored single songs, or even portions of songs.  I made one rather large painting that used the entire lyrics of Pink Floyd’s The Wall a few years ago, but SMiLE was the first time I’d tried to do a whole series around one album.  There are so many aspects to the music and the myth that it was a little overwhelming to deal with.  I feel like I could have made multiple shows out of it, really. 

    JL: From an esthetic point of view, how did this allow you to explore your visual language?

    EdB: I started on the project thinking that I was going to try and do something to reflect the vastness of the music itself and the surreal wordplay of the lyrics.  But I also wanted to deal with the stories surrounding it, which kept the music alive for so long through the passion of the fans and scholars, the caretakers of this “lost” music.  As I delved into the mystery, it became unclear what the definitive versions of some songs were, or if some songs even existed, or ever had, and there were hours of different takes and plenty of conflicting information.  I wanted to somehow get that into the paintings.  I’ve done a fair amount of work involving visual appropriation, usually pretty mundane stuff like a series I did of 45 record labels. 

    In the SMiLE series, I did things like reproduce the paperwork for recording sessions, or various texts from magazine and newspaper articles from the time.  These works ended up providing some context to the main event, which were the big word paintings, mostly derived from SMiLE lyrics.  The first two of these took the entire lyrics of the album, evenly spaced, and made color changes based on when the music was changing.  I would intuitively pick a color based on my feeling towards a given musical passage.  I was very pleased with the way that this created a pattern whose parameters were set by something that wasn’t initially visual.  It also formed a kind of map of the album.  The third large canvas featuring all of the SMiLE lyrics was a key painting in that it was the first time I colored the different word blocks to create an image, and I’ve been exploring the possibilities of this ever since.

    JL: Van Dyke Parks, the lyricist for SMiLE, came across this series and surprisingly, had an issue with your using the lyrics from the album. What was his core issue or concern?

    EdB: He claimed copyright violation — piracy, even — and felt that I was exploiting his work and compromising his ability to profit from it. 

    JL: What is your rebuttal?

    EdB: I wanted to refer to another artwork, not make a forgery of it.  The fact that I am working in a completely different medium and have transformed words that were originally sung into images makes it seem like a clear case of transformative fair use.  I’ve always felt that the use of appropriated text in my work raised questions of authorship, which was interesting to me philosophically, but I didn’t expect to see it play out in a non-theoretical way.  I suppose the work was more effective in asking those questions than I had imagined.  But it did hurt. 

    JL: As a devoted Beach Boys and Van Dyke Parks fan, how did this effect you? 

    EdB: I had a picture of Van Dyke and Brian writing together on my wall the whole time I made the SMiLE paintings, and it was an inspiration, as were all the stories of them working together.  So that was a letdown, but maybe he was hurt as well.  I feel that if the roles were reversed, I’d be flattered that someone was so inspired by my work.

    JL: Do you have a different view now of people who are considered heroes or legends? Why/why not?

    EdB: Ever since I was a kid, I would hear stories about how rock starts were “assholes” in real life, and it always seemed like an inevitable consequence of fame to me.  “I can’t pretend a stranger is a long awaited friend,” as Neil Peart put it. I’ve never seen Brian Wilson in concert because I think it would be hard for me to reconcile the difference between who he is now and who he is in my mind when I listen to recordings of him when he was young and at the peak of his powers.  For me, it’s a very personal, fantastical world I get into with music.  I did have the impression that Van Dyke was more of an “artist’s artist,” and that he’d appreciate my work, but that clearly wasn’t the case. 

    JL: How has this interaction manifested itself in the works that followed?

    EdB: Well, I initially made a painting that commented on it in a subtle way.  It used text from a Yeats poem that had haunted me for years.  Beautiful writing, and not under copyright control.  But other than that, I haven’t stopped using text from song lyrics and have no intention of doing so.

    JL: What’s next?

    EdB: I’m doing a solo booth of paintings with DNA gallery at the Untitled fair in Miami next week, so I’m super excited about that.  I also have a two-person show in January with Jeremy Couillard at this great new gallery called One River in Englewood, New Jersey.  As far as inspiration for future paintings is concerned, there are a lot of things cooking, but I will tell you this: his first name is Harry.

    ALSO SEE his blog for more. 

    Erik den Breejen, Neil Young (Thrasher), 2012, acrylic on canvas, 54 x 74 in.

  3. Miriam Katz - “The Art of Stand-Up”

    (Photo credits: Images: (The Art of Stand-Up, from top left:)  Chelsea Peretti, photo by Evan Sung. Jerrod Carmichael, photo by Mandee Johnson. Morgan Murphy, photo by Bradley Meinz. Eugene Mirman, photo by Brian Tamborello.)

    I’ve been seeing a lot of live comedy over the past few years and am excited to see that others have been tapping into the especially vibrant stand-up that’s happening right now. In that vein, this Sunday, curator and writer Miriam Katz presents The Art of Stand-Up at PS1. The show starts at 4PM and features Eugene Mirman, Chelsea Peretti, Jerrod Carmichael, and Morgan Murphy. Get your tickets here.

    ALSO look out for her new podcast, Breakdown, which will feature both artists and stand-ups.

    SEE my interview with her below:
     

    JL: From what I can tell, there is not a lot of overlap between the art audience and the comedy audience. For the most part they are very separate and sometimes even skeptical of each other. How do you take this into consideration in presenting a stand-up show like The Art of Stand-Up in an art venue?

    MK: I’m still figuring out the differences between art and comedy audiences, and whether or not they are actually fundamentally distinct. I’d say it is especially difficult to take the pulse of the comedy audience because it is so huge. Are we talking about people who like improv, sketch, stand-up? People who read The Onion? People who watch 30 Rock? People who like Will Ferrell movies? You get into mass numbers pretty quickly and I would certainly not make an overarching assessment of the people in the world who like funny things.

    But if we are comparing, say, the visual art world and a group of people who regularly watch live comedy, I could at least hazard a guess that the mediums themselves say something about the types of audiences. Visual art requires time and often information. In order to fully grasp it viewers will frequently engage in a dialogue about the work— whether with friends, teachers, or professional colleagues. On some level contemporary art demands, or at least, is prone to, contemplation. And so its audience consists of people who like to reflect and probe and dissect.

    Comedy, on the other hand, does not require, or at least, has not engendered a great deal of critical discourse. When a comedian is good, you’re laughing before you have time to mentally assess the merits of the work. Comedy can have a harsh message or mode of delivery, so I’d say that die-hard comedy-goers tend to be able to withstand a bit of abrasiveness in the service of exposing truths.

    Although we may make some general distinctions between art and comedy audiences, I think at core both are interested in encountering new ways of seeing the world. Part of the endeavor of my podcast is to introduce audiences of both mediums to work they may never have seen before. In terms of the MoMA PS1 launch event, I love the idea that I am exposing the visual art audience to some of the best comedians I know, and the comedy audience to one of the best contemporary art centers I know.

    JL: Is it important to make a distinction between art and comedy? Why is it valuable to bring them together?

    MK: It’s hard to answer this question because there is a distinction between art and comedy, at least at the structural, institutional level. I’m not sure if there should be distinctions between anything in terms of medium. Overall I’m less interested in categorizations than I am in great work, whether it be dance, music, comedy, literature, or art.  

    JL: Do you think there is a lack of sense of humor in the art world? What can stand-up offer it that it is perhaps missing?

    MK: I do think there is a lack of a sense of humor in the art world, but more importantly, I think there is a lack of cross-pollination. The art world tends be somewhat insulated. This makes sense because, as I said earlier, art often requires a kind of expertise and immersion in order to experience it fully. So of course people devoted to making and supporting art would want to become connoisseurs in their field. But at the same time, other non-art worlds that I have delved into have richly informed my understanding of art. They are essential touchstones to my experiences in galleries and studio visits. So I guess in general I am in favor of showcasing interesting work of whatever type to audiences that may not have seen it.

    While there are plenty of artists, curators, and critics who have a sense of humor, overall the contemporary art world is rather serious and polite. This might in part be due to its financial structure. Extremely wealthy collectors keep the market afloat, so members of the art world need to constantly negotiate their branding and behavior to please a certain class of benefactors. What impresses me about comics is that nothing is sacred or untouchable in their jokes—not the high-level industry executives nor even fellow comedians. Comics can remind the art world that work needn’t be serious or academic in order to instigate change. At the same time, there are aspects of the much more “serious” art world that are incredibly fruitful. Thinking carefully about work is a great joy, and comedy could certainly benefit from contemporary art’s model of rumination and reflection.

    JL: Your podcast, Breakdown, will feature interviews with comics and artists. What kind of programming do your listeners have to look forward to?

    Each episode features individuals who identify as either visual artists or comedians, but whose work possesses characteristics common to both. In episode four, Cory Arcangel and I discuss the distinctions between art and comedy audiences, since he’s performed for both. And during my Montreal Comedy Festival edition of Breakdown, I talk to podcasters/comedians Marc Maron and Pete Holmes about whether or not stand-up is art.  Every episode is unique but I think there is a through line of genuine exploration in each.  

    JL: If you had to name one comic that artists should know about (besides Louis CK), who would it be?

    The comedians I feature on my podcast as well as those on the lineup for the MoMA PS1 show can definitely serve as a starting point. Jenny Slate, Jeffrey Joseph, and John Mulaney all totally blow my mind as well. For those who live in New York, you can have a pretty solid (and free) weekly comedy experience at Big Terrific at Cameo on Wednesdays and Comedy as a Second Language at Kabin on Thursdays. People can check the podcast website or email me at miriam@breakdownshow.com for further information/suggestions.

  4. Photo credit: Lizzie Wright
THIS WEEKEND, check out WATER FEATURE curated by Shaun Krupa and Lizzie Wright. Artists include: Lucky DeBellevue, Johnathon Wright, Nick Earhart, Rob Ager, Marcela Gonzalez, Mike Hein, Saira Mclaren, Matt Kenny, Kristie Dabbs, John Bianchi, Giant Steps, Rachel Howe, and Owen Roberts.            
It opens this Friday, October 26 from 7-10pm, WILDLIFE, 245 Varet St Brooklyn, NY. Also on view Saturday the 27th and Sunday the 28th from 11-5pm.
See my interview with the curators below:
JL: Can you describe Water Feature in one word?
SK/LW: pre-rich 
JL: Can you describe Water Feature in two words?
SK/LW: haunted house
JL: How did this show come about?
SK/LW: We got tired of waiting for Ghostbusters III to come out. 
JL: Should people bring anything to Water Feature?
SK/LW: NO 
JL: What’s the best thing about the NY art scene right now? What’s the worst?
SK/LW: Best: There are so many artists in close proximity that a good discourse is available if you desire it. Worst: The rent is too damn high! 
JL: What have you learned from curating that has been incorporated into your own work?
SK/LW: Looking at work as a viewer rather than as an artist and being open to surprising new ideas artists threw our way that we weren’t expecting has broadened our practices. 
JL: Is curating an art?
SK/LW: Sure! 

    Photo credit: Lizzie Wright

    THIS WEEKEND, check out WATER FEATURE curated by Shaun Krupa and Lizzie Wright. Artists include: Lucky DeBellevue, Johnathon Wright, Nick Earhart, Rob Ager, Marcela Gonzalez, Mike Hein, Saira Mclaren, Matt Kenny, Kristie Dabbs, John Bianchi, Giant Steps, Rachel Howe, and Owen Roberts.           

    It opens this Friday, October 26 from 7-10pm, WILDLIFE, 245 Varet St Brooklyn, NY. Also on view Saturday the 27th and Sunday the 28th from 11-5pm.

    See my interview with the curators below:

    JL: Can you describe Water Feature in one word?

    SK/LW: pre-rich 

    JL: Can you describe Water Feature in two words?

    SK/LW: haunted house

    JL: How did this show come about?

    SK/LW: We got tired of waiting for Ghostbusters III to come out. 

    JL: Should people bring anything to Water Feature?

    SK/LW: NO 

    JL: What’s the best thing about the NY art scene right now? What’s the worst?

    SK/LW: Best: There are so many artists in close proximity that a good discourse is available if you desire it. Worst: The rent is too damn high! 

    JL: What have you learned from curating that has been incorporated into your own work?

    SK/LW: Looking at work as a viewer rather than as an artist and being open to surprising new ideas artists threw our way that we weren’t expecting has broadened our practices. 

    JL: Is curating an art?

    SK/LW: Sure! 

  5. Ethan Greenbaum

     

    Untitled, 2012, direct to substrate print on 3 acrylic panels, 44 x 228 in.

    Ethan Greenbaum is an artist that I’ve really enjoyed working with in the past. He did an amazing edition for Daily Operation and also participated in my faux private collection show. Wherever they’re installed, there is something unique about the way his works address subject matter and the space they’re in.

    Make sure to check out his show Cultured Stone at Thierry Goldberg before it closes on June 3. Also see his work as part of FOUND Outside at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum

    See my interview with him below:

    JL: What is the most surprising thing that someone has said to you about your work?

    EG: Maybe useful more than surprising: Carroll Dunham was in my studio a couple of times in grad school. I had some really bad paintings up and these weird models and constructions I made as preparatory studies. He would walk around and look at all these bad paintings and sigh or say ‘meh.’ Then he would point to the models. ‘I’m interested in your shitty carpentry.’

    JL: Do you think that you’d make the same kind of work if you lived in a different city?

    EG: Yes, but only in the sense that it would still be made in response to the landscape and architecture of the place where I was.

    Untitled, 2012 (detail)


    JL: What role does walking play?

    EG: I get a lot of ideas when I’m walking. Walking is basically the slowest and least structured way to move your body around. The slowness and physicality of it always reminds me of how my perceptions are grounded in my body. It gives a tactile sense of the landscape that I can’t find when looking at something onscreen or through a vehicle window.

    JL: It seems that you’re always seeking out new ways to tweak things through using very specific material combinations. Why not just photograph these walls, tiles, sidewalks etc. and exhibit them in large format?

    EG: It’s a good question and there’s probably a way to do this that I would like, but at the moment it’s not so appealing. My background is in painting, and although I was never much of a painter in the media specific sense, I am really interested in the idea of a materially grounded image. This image/object dualism is a paradox at the core of painting that accounts for much of its continuing power over time. From that perspective, to make something that downplayed surface or material the way traditional photography does would be to lose out on one half of a dialectic that animates the whole thing.

    JL: How do you feel about accidents? Where do they come into play?  

    EG: Accidents are what happen when you’re busy making small talk with the fabricator. They are an inevitable and often tragic source of self-reproach for me, but on the balance they’re a good thing. Because they go beyond my control, I get surprises.

    JL: How does the exhibition environment change or inform the work?

    EG: I always liked the idea of a site sensitive rather than a site specific object. Site specific feels like a fussy plant that can only live in one isolated region. In contrast, site sensitive resonates as a very human way of being in the world: You move from NY to Miami and start wearing pastels. Another way to put it: A materially based image can’t take for granted the materials (like the wall, the floors or the institutions) that support it. It inevitably engages all these things and it’s just a question of how successfully it does so. When I did the install of Paneling
    at Socrates, I used the billboard out front with an eye on the industrial supply stores in the surrounding neighborhood. I liked the way they would display marble or other materials as a form of signage and I wanted to play with that convention by using the space of the billboard in a similar way. When the piece was reinstalled at the Aldrich, which is deep in the heart of wealthy, rural Connecticut, I wanted to see how it could be reconfigured in response to that landscape. Everything out there is militantly and elegantly New England clapboard and so I decided to install the piece in the spirit of that architecture. The panels are interspersed between windows of The Aldrich and are framed to echo the white clapboard they sit on, so that it really does become a part of the building in a new way.


    Paneling, 2011, (Installation at The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art) direct to substrate print  on seven vacuum formed plastic panels, 10’ x 4’ each panel

    JL: Can you tell me a little about your curatorial ventures and your views on the relationship between curating and making art?

    EG: I did a residency in a rural area shortly after grad school and although I developed some sweet co-dependencies with the local squirrels, it didn’t help much with making art. I’ve found that being an artist makes the most sense for me in a social context. 

    The curating I’ve done comes from a similar urge-a need to connect with people, to find meaning through relationships and juxtaposition. When I’ve curated it’s often been in response to specific artists and locations like a residential home or a converted grain mill. Like art, it’s a way to try something I haven’t seen before, but would like to.

    JL: Why do you think this line between artist and curator is drawn sometimes? For instance, it is perfectly reasonable for an artist to curate but if the other way around, a curator might be regarded with suspicion. Maybe you don’t agree…

    EG: Artists are given the space to be dilettantes because that is essentially their job description. Everyone else is expected to conform to more conservative ideas of specialization. I don’t know that I have a strong opinion on the divide between curator and artist, but I do know that there are already too many artists.

    JL: What is the state of press releases today?

    EG: People are uncomfortable about it. Everyone is trying to game the press release. 

    JL: I hear you like cookies, but are you on board with the cupcake craze?

    EG: In New York, cupcakes are the fruit of gentrifying overlords. I eat them only occasionally.

      







  6. ONE QUESTION MARK with Will Oldham

    Jon Lutz: Who is your favorite artist and why?

    Will Oldham: My favorite artist is Bonny Billy, because Bonny allows me to participate.

    More on Will Oldham here.

  7. ONE QUESTION MARK with comedian Doug Benson

    Wayne White, NO

    Jon Lutz: Who is your favorite artist and why?

    Doug Benson: Wayne White because his stuff is fun and he designed stuff for the PEE WEE HERMAN SHOW. New documentary about him - BEAUTY IS EMBARRASSING is awesome.

    Check out more from Doug Benson @ Doug Loves Movies

  8. March 2 - Giulio Paolini

    Giulio Paolini interviewed by Andrea Bellini, Sept. 2007, Flash Art.

    AB: What is something that you cannot accept, that you detest more than anything?

    GP: Big numbers, big meetings, high circulation numbers, high audience ratings, majorities, minorities, leading forces, referendums, political campaigns, spontaneous expressions (like graffiti and street posters), the strategies employed to achieve a result and the belief that you have fulfilled your aims.

  9. -

    Ridley Howard, Nudes, 2011, oil on linen, 24 x 30 in., courtesy Leo Koenig

    I was really surprised when I first walked into Howard’s current show, Slows, at Leo Koenig. I lazily assumed that he would be presenting a new and improved version of the lush, large scale paintings that were in the last show. With Slows, things are still lush, but there’s an expanded and complex banter between the portraits, landscapes, and direct abstractions. It seems as though Howard is doing something that many established painters aren’t doing right now… second guessing, taking a step back and not becoming repetitive.

    This is the last week to check out Slows @ Leo Koenig which closes Feb. 25. See my interview with him below:

    JL: Perhaps the most immediately apparent aspect of your new show, “Slows” is the comparable scale of the paintings. Is this use of relative scale is a way to make the different works communicate to each other in a more active way?

    RH: It started as a way to work through ideas, and to think about how smaller scale paintings work… the kind of experience they create. But as I started to accumulate groups of them, I became really interested in how they related and how they reflected one another. I started to think about how they intertwined and overlapped…and I think scale became a way to lead from one painting to another, and so on. They were less fixed. And I do like how the smallest abstractions sort of approximate in size parts of the larger paintings that they might reflect.

    JL: In your last show, many of the works were larger-scale. I’m curious about how this shift developed. Did this happen naturally or was there more of a deliberate conceptual approach? Was there a psychological or philosophical shift as well?

    RH: Well, at the time of my last show it seemed really important for me to make those big singular paintings out of fractured parts, to piece together these seemingly whole images that played with cinematic language and painting. But that gesture, the kind of focused energy required and the grandness of it, started to become less interesting to me. I had also been making smaller paintings, and the intimacy of that scale and the way the painting happens at that scale just started to feel more direct and succinct. I remember going through the Uffizi last year, and while I love the theater of grand Italian painting, there was this tiny Holbein that really blew me away. It was the highlight of the day…so understated and complex in simple ways. Just a small quiet portrait that promised less and delivered more. I’ve always kind of been interested in that idea, but at a smaller scale it just made more sense. Working small also let me have a more open process in the studio…I could meander a bit, work on more than one thing at a time, and not feel locked into finishing one large painting. I started to play paintings off of one another, think about connections between pieces…which I guess lead to a more deliberate conceptual thread running through the show…but the small scale just allows for a bit more levity. It’s almost like I was taking apart those larger paintings and thinking more directly about the components.

    JL: I get the impression that a lot of research and contemplation goes into your work. For instance, I imagine that you may have stumbled across last years Bauhaus show at MOMA (or something of the like) and felt challenged by that language. Did something like this trigger your foray into abstraction? If so, could you point to some decisive examples?

    RH: It was a couple of things. In 2010-11, I made almost exclusively small paintings of nudes and couples and the spaces they were in became increasingly more abstract. They suggested hotel rooms or bedrooms, but really they became soft-focus geometric abstractions. I started to look at a lot of early modernism for clues, Bauhaus, De Stijl, even Albers and Barnett Newman. Sometimes I was more invested in areas of paintings than I was in the whole thing and it started to seem ridiculous not to make abstract paintings when I felt inclined. So, it had been on my mind for a while. But when I went to Italy last year, I visited a number of modern museums with the work of lesser known Italian modernists that ranged from Neoclassical portraiture, to proto-cubism, to futurism, to landscape, and so on…and the work is often displayed side by side, spanning decades. Unexpected and interesting connections start to show up between stylistically different work, often by the same artist, when seen all together. I know it’s not a revolutionary idea but the thought that I could paint a portrait on Tuesday, and a small abstraction on Wednesday, and so on, and let the connections work themselves out, started to makes sense for my work.

    Ridley Howard, Mint Green, 2011, oil on linen, 20 x 22 in., courtesy Leo Koenig

    JL: I am seeing an agnostic comment upon about the well-worn “abstraction” vs. “representation” debate. What are your thoughts on this issue? Is it still relevant?

    RH: Ha. Yeah, agnostic. Even when my work was more exclusively figurative, I was always thinking about how they functioned on an abstract level. Space was really important even in my early work, and I was always aware of how abstract visual rhythm, color, pattern, etc affected the images. I think this is a pretty common concern, but a real emphasis with a number of my heroes like Piero and Hockney…Antonioni perhaps. When areas of the paintings started to become entirely about abstraction, and then when I started to consider only abstraction… it didn’t really seem like a different thing. Not to sound flippant, but in my mind it’s all painting. Not in a Greenberg/ aesthetic-essentialist sort of way but in a contemporary post-internet way. I look at tons of paintings, thousands of images of all types, have access to countless visual resources.

    So, when I go to make a painting, the process and thinking really isn’t different. I also wanted to deal with the play between the two differently than it exists in the neo-expressive tradition where image is ultimately overtaken or obliterated by heavy material and process, i.e. Rothenberg or Baselitz. The connections for me were more cerebral maybe…finding a way to merge languages that appear to be disparate. Sometimes I think that feeling attached to that age-old debate is just nostalgic. I don’t know, maybe it’s generational.

    JL: You have spent a fair amount of time teaching art on the college level. What do you think is the most important thing for a student to know? What is the most important thing that you’ve learned from them?

    RH: It’s really easy to say something like, students shouldn’t be too enamored with the art world and quick superficial successes, and realize that being an artist is a life-long pursuit with many layers of ebb and flow. I think that’s all true, especially the closer you get to New York. I’ve started to think that learning how to navigate the sea of visual information and influence is really important… finding a way to maintain or locate your own interests in all of it. When I was in school, only the most serious students knew anything about contemporary art. You had to really work to be aware of what was going on. Now it’s so easy. Most semi-serious art students are checking blogs and keeping up with a few online magazines.

    And for me, I think it’s that students see every day as a new adventure in the studio. For most of them, anything is possible and they’re always just trying to figure it out. I think that has probably had an effect on me of late.

    JL: What’s the best thing to listen to while painting forlorn lovers?

    RH: Usually it’s sports radio or Diane Rehm in the morning…a twangy, shoe-gazer Pandora mix in the afternoon. Random hip-hop if I need a lift.

    JL: I am asking everyone…how do you feel about the state of press releases today?

    RH: Press releases are better than artist statements, which were more common when I was coming through school. Everybody had to learn how to write an artist statement. They’re just awkward and didactic most of the time and better maybe that it is in the 3rd person gallery voice. I mean, writing a p.r. is a tough task and I’m glad I don’t have to wrestle with it too much. How to create some context for the work…and frame it for writers and collectors. It’s one part sales pitch, one part intellectual plea.. tough to strike the right tone. To be honest, I never read them…usually only a quick skim. And only really think about them when I have a show, or maybe I’ll read a friend’s. Usually if the work requires reading the press release, I don’t really spend much time with the show. There are exceptions of course.

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    Gina Beavers, Mondrian, 2012, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 40 in.

    I’ve been really impressed with Gina’s work throughout the years and the way she has made so many bold and surprising moves. There’s a lot going on in her work and she’s got a lot going on lately in general.This Friday night (the 10th) she’ll be in “First Truth” at Camel Art Space, this Saturday night (the 11th) she opens “Le Sigh”, a solo show at the great Nudashank in Baltimore, and towards the end of the month, she’ll be at Fleisher/Ollman with The Art Book Club. See my interview with her below (scroll over for links):

    JL: I first saw your work probably five years ago… there have been really dramatic changes. How have you challenged yourself to break new ground in this way

    GB: The changes in my work are a result of a deal I made with myself like five years ago, to make every idea that occurred to me and not pre-judge it. I guess you could call it more of an intuitive or democratic process. That meant if I could see it or envision it, I could paint it. So I ended up drawing from a variety of sources, background shots from movies, a Google search, images from books, from life, from an inch in front of my face, all weighted equally, and this led to a lot of diversity and upheaval in my work. I was also pretty relentless about making tons of stuff and then hiding it all, so I was always starting with a clean slate. While one of my rules was to finish a painting to the nth degree, sticking slavishly to the original idea, another rule was a complete open-door policy for ideas. At the same time, other painters may do the opposite, and have more conscious ideas and then allow things to happen in the process of painting. 

    JL: You started the Art Book Club a couple of years back. What are you guys reading lately?

    GB: Well, we try to keep it all over the board, a little theory, a little fiction, biography, all relating to art. Our current read is Since ‘45: America and the Making of Contemporary Art by Katy Siegel who teaches at Hunter College. The cool thing about this read is that we’re doing it in conjunction with a show at Fleisher/Ollman Gallery in Philadephia called You, Me, We, She, opening Feb 23rd, focused on women’s collectives. We’re going to be represented in the show by a shelf of the books we’ve read, which is so cool! We will be, in a sense, ‘assigning’ the Siegel book for people to read when the show opens and then discussing it with the community at the closing. Here’s our blog where you can read reviews of the books we’ve read and see who’s involved.

    JL: How do you think this dialogue has affected your work?

    GB: I did a performance and a video this past summer, influenced by the Nauman book we read! It’s funny, cause I started the club thinking about really needing to talk to people about the art books I was reading, mostly about painting, and in the process I’ve ended up being exposed to other peoples’ interests, because we have a diverse mix of artists in the club.

    JL: You are an art teacher. How do you think your students view the art world?

    GB: Well, the only thing my students (mostly 11-14) care about is Valentines Day right now. I can’t wait for it to be over, they’ve been getting ready for weeks, and it’s just mating mayhem! But when they do see through their hormone-fueled mist to the ‘Art World’ I think it’s pretty abstract to them. The number of times I mention something, like a ‘palette’ and I get a Disney or Naruto reference back is completely off the hook. Like, ‘oh I saw that on Zach and Cody, Cody decided to be an artist, and had a palette and a beret…’ something like that. I do know that they see drawing/painting realistically as some kind of magic power. So this year I’ve been pushing them hard to develop the ability to see, and almost all of them are doing it!

    JL: Your parents are both artists of sorts. How does this play in your work?

    GB: Well, one of my earliest memories is of my Mom having a ‘One-Woman Show’ of her Chinese Brush paintings when we lived in Malaysia. She sold most of them, it was covered in the newspaper and that picture of her with her work is just burned in my brain. A huge scroll painting from that show hung in our house my whole life and I remember it being my favorite thing, just total perfection in my eyes, I had such awe for my Mom for having created something so unbelievable. She always had a studio in the house and is now an active painter in Hilton Head, South Carolina now. Her paintings range from landscapes to abstractions, so I definitely think I picked up some of the ranginess in my work from her. I think also going to her shows and seeing the artists working on the island keep me really open to the ‘other’ art world, the one outside major cities, which often inspires a lot of work and questioning in me. My Mom is also a retired teacher, so yeah, I’m basically her clone.

    My Dad on the other hand was a faithful public servant and worked for the State Department for 30 years, which took us overseas. He only began his creative life when he retired 10 years ago, but man has he made up for lost time! He makes model soldiers and their environments and is completely obsessed and expansive. He’s done everything from the 300 Spartans (he cast and painted every single one, and joked the hardest part was the 600 testicles!:0) to Buckingham palace and the changing of the guard. He pours all the lead himself and the soldiers cover EVERY surface of my parent’s house. He also sells them on E-bay and goes to Conventions. But the coolest thing is he told me once that he wakes up every day so excited about all the soldiers he’s going to make that day—a true artist. I think his obsessiveness and wide view of history and culture is definitely a thread in my work too.

    JL: Can you talk about fashion and it’s role in your work?

    GB: I mean there’s fashion, like high fashion, there’s what’s in fashion in the art world, street fashion, fashion in advertising and pop culture which cycles so fast, it’s more of a kind of trendiness. That I can speak to, I have been the biggest trend-freak since I can remember. Other kids kept journals or sketchbooks, or diaries. I had a book of cut out Swatch, Benetton and Esprit ads.  I remember I was obsessed with one particularly inspired Esprit campaign for their bedding line, so I had pages and pages of birds-eye-views of beds in my book. Those are kind of cool abstractions looking back. There is no question that is an element in my work. I pick things up and put them down almost immediately.

    JL: And lastly, a question that I am probably going to be asking many people… What’s the state of press releases today?

    GB: Well, I don’t think much of them or think of them much! Har har;)) No, I might read the first line, see if it’s BS-sounding and then give up. I always assume they are there for the Press, to write reviews or mentions. Peter Schjeldahl had some really funny comments about them in his lecture last year at SVA—I’m with him, so many of them are waay too tortured! Having said that though, I have seen some good ones lately. I’m thinking of writings that employ a more abstract or poetic form in order to reflect a sense of the work or its’ process, rather than trying to interpret it. I feel like a lot of artist-run or emerging spaces are veering onto this path.

    See Gina’s work in past Daily Operation shows FOLKSMUSIC and I WANNA BE SOMEWHERE. Also see her website here