Art Books Los Angeles

My Fantasy Fair

Jeremy Deller, I'd rather be reading.

Jeremy Deller, I’d rather be reading.

The L.A. Art Book Fair would have been a lot more enjoyable if I had the money to purchase the objects I desired. In case you were wondering, here’s what I would have purchased:

Jeremy Deller, “I’d rather be reading,” fundraising edition: $200
Dave Eggers’ shower curtain, produced by The Thing: $65
Who Told You So?! The Collective Story v The Individual Narrative produced by Onomatopeia: $30
Bough Down by Karen Green, published by Siglio Press: $27
Local Edition by Louise Menzies, available at DDMMYY’s : $20
Emily Dickenson: The Gorgeous Nothings, published by Christine Burgin: $35
Llana Del Rio Collective‘s A Map for An Other L.A.: $8

Price of my fantasy L.A. Art Book Fair: $384

Being part of an absurdly hip, semi-intellectual, global network of over-educated and under earning liberals: priceless.

New York On Making

ARTICULATE II: What is an Exhibition-in-Print?

Liz Nurenberg, The Rape of Persopina, Self Portrait as Sculpture, 2013

Liz Nurenberg, The Rape of Persopina, Self Portrait as Sculpture, 2013

I am currently working with a group of artists on an exhibition-in-print. Because people don’t quite know what to expect, it warrants some further explanation. This is neither a regular gallery group show catalogue (essay and images, not a precious object) nor a traditional artist’s book (one artist, doing their thing within the book form, often very laborious and a small print run). It is close to a literary journal for art, but a smaller run and with even less money. Articulate II is the third project in a series of art books that I started with Emily Smith in graduate school. In a book artists are able to do things that wouldn’t make as much sense in a gallery setting—the format is more personal, less formal, and can ask for extended contemplation from the audience.  Plus, we love books and well crafted objects, so why not combine the two?

On a couple of occasions, creating work for one of our books has opened a new door in an artist’s practice and a fresh body of work has arisen as a result. A book can also act as a space for documentation or exploration of the process, hopefully allowing the reader/viewer something of a “behind the scenes” experience. (There has recently been a boom in books about creativity aimed at the non-artist, but probably one of the best ways to learn about creativity is to see it in action.) This particular edition centers on love.The original call asked artists to think about art and love together–how the two concepts relate and respond to one another–but also to address love as a focus for its own sake. One of the reasons for this was the number of exciting art works I saw talking about love, but where the artist felt embarrassed about taking this as subject matter– love was not conceptual or complex enough.

Dai Toyofuku with edits by Alex Moore, Haiku for Fall

Dai Toyofuku & Alex Moore, Dirty Writing: A Haiku for Fall, poetry, annotation and edits, 2013

In the finished work there is a broad range of interpretations and approaches but a recurring theme is the challenge of completely grasping or articulating a complex thought or emotion. A number of the pieces look explicitly at the relationships intertwined within the art making process: between artist and work, artist and subject, artist and editor, or artist and viewer. Our goals with this project are to facilitate creative exploration by the artists, encourage art viewing outside of the gallery setting and maybe even sneak original artwork into people’s lives. In this case, the expanded folio version will include original work by Sarah NewmanJayoung Yoon, and Michelle Carla Handel. For now, the only way to experience this exhibition and receive a copy of either the book or the folio is through our Kickstarter campaign, ending November 15th. More details about each of the contributors are below.


Alex C MooreI am an artist and writer. I am interested in art as a social phenomena–an action that humans undertake to attempt communication and connection. I am endlessly fascinated by our emotional quirks and our creative thought pathways. Articulate is one product of these explorations.

Azadeh Tajpour is currently the Artist in Residence at Boston Center for the Arts. Her work is about how our perception in regard to the “other” is shaped by the medium of representation. For Articulate II, her work is a digital print, which is part of a series of work based on images of women from the 19th or early 20th c. Iran. While examining the notion of representation and labeling, the work also reflects upon intimate relationships and gender ambiguity.

Carmine Iannoccone: In an old Craftsman Bungalow, I paint, draw, build things and compose the seminars that I teach. My wife and I spent twenty years restoring this structure; it’s where our children were born and grew up. It was always my ambition to have the house, the family, the marriage and the studio all be the same thing. I couldn’t make that work. But there were times when it happened anyway – by accident, by surprise, without my control, almost without my even knowing, or noticing. My drawing for this issue of Articulate is about one of those times.

Dai Toyofuku lives and works in Los Angeles. His work imagines and attempts to create an ongoing dialogue in which human culture and wild nature are intimately connected. Dirty Writing: Haiku for Fall expands these ideas through collaborative/editorial dialogue with Alex Moore.

Jayoung Yoon is a New York-based artist born in Korea. Her work represents a cleansing of personal and social memories. For Articulate II, she read current issues of the ‘New York Times’ dealing with conflicts, judgments, hatred, etc., and as a healing gesture, peeled away the destructive imagery and words with tape, leaving a purified thin remnant of paper. She then transformed the peeled layers of ink, negating it all, by creating a symbolic image of beauty, growth and harmony.

Lindsay Nevard is an industrial designer and design researcher. She focuses on asking the right questions to uncover people’s otherwise invisible motives. The Ghostface project was an interspecies collaborative effort between Lindsay Nevard, Dai Toyofuku and a cat named Ghostface.  After exhaustive research and testing, we prepared an afternoon meal for Ghostface and a handful of his closest human friends.

Liz Nurenberg: The Rape of Proserpina, Self Portrait as Sculpture, is one in a series of photographs that plays with the portrayal of the goddess in the history of sculpture, and the presence of an artist’s ego in their work. Through these photographs I am exploring intrigue, sensuality, vulnerability, absurdity, play and humor — all of which are key elements in a great love affair.

Melissa Zimmermann is an artist and mother based out of Los Angeles, CA.  As she negotiates between these two realms of selfishness and selflessness, she encounters a great deal of inner turmoil and tension. The goal of these artistic studies with her daughter is to alleviate this inner conflict through sharing her process. Through out this effort, her daughter, Eluisa Schulitz, is seen as an equal collaborator. She is expected to contribute to and guide the creative process as much as her mother. In this particular instance, Eluisa dictated the layout of the image as well as who would use which stencil shape.
Michael Carter: Los Angeles-based metaphysician, project-based artist, entrepreneur, and emergent capitalist.   #hansemelycrookston

Michael Haight is an artist based in Los Angeles, Ca. His work in Articulate II is an investigation of the accuracy and explanation of art (poetry) and relationships via astrological star charts. His video and sound work can be found on youtubevimeo and soundcloud.

Michelle Carla Handel was born in Las Vegas, Nevada. She received her MFA in Fine Art from Claremont Graduate University in 2011. Recent exhibitions include Shapeshifters at ACME; The Familiar Unfamiliar, curated by Manual History Machines; and Some Fine Women at VAST Space Projects in Las Vegas. She curated a group exhibition, Tête-à-Tête, at RAID Projects in September of 2013. Michelle Carla Handel lives and works in Los Angeles.

Sarah Newman’s photographic works engage ideas of physical and psychological spaces. She works in a combination of black and white and color, in analog and digital, and often incorporates pieces of found text into her work. She currently splits her time between San Francisco and Boston, where she is a fellow at metaLAB at Harvard University. Danger: Stay Back is an excerpt from a larger work-in-progress by the same title. Made on a beach in northern California, the work is comprised of black and white photographs and text that has been taken from warning signs on the beach.

Tatiane SchilaroI’m a Brazilian-born art writer and artist living in Bronx, NY. I’ve been working with translation and language to elicit an experience in-between understanding and irreconcilability. I work against written fluency to replicate to the reader a state of not being able to grasp meaning or to comprehend language.


Los Angeles

Tête à Tête: A Visual Conversation About Feminism

Installation shot of Tête à Tête

Installation shot of Tête à Tête, showing Marisa Williamson’s Quilt and Carmen Argote’s Mascara

During September, RAID projects in Los Angeles hosted Tête à Tête, an exhibition that re-examined the 1969 feminist assertion that “the personal is political.” The show of work by all female-identified artists ranged from video to painting, and included two series of performances.

The Critical Feminist Theory seminar I took in college was carefully organized to diffuse power and encourage conversation—we met in a sitting room rather than a classroom, discussion was led by a different individual each week, and we discussed the curriculum collectively at the beginning of the semester to ensure inclusion. Artist Michelle Carla Handel’s curation of Tête à Tête worked in a similarly decentered mode as she invited a broad selection of artists and gave each the leeway to include the work that she found most appropriate to the subject matter. It was thus not so much one woman’s vision of contemporary feminism as a loosely orchestrated conversation—a dinner party with Handel as the host.

The show created a space in which female artists raised a spectrum of concerns related to, but not bounded by, their femaleness. It provided a snapshot of a group of women’s concerns, interests and experiences inviting the viewer to draw connections. Among the many threads of conversation were sex, power, control of the body, communication, motherhood, and re-examining history.

Danielle McCullough, Anthropometries Series, 2013, Cyanotypes on archival watercolor paper

Danielle McCullough, Anthropometries Series, 2013, Cyanotypes on archival watercolor paper

One of the quieter and more enigmatic pieces were Danielle McCullough’s small cyanotypes that depicted average measurements of the human body according to the American government. The government uses these figures to establish safety regulations and provide ergonomic standards, but taken out of context the diagrams remind the viewer of a capitalist’s society’s need to control and police the body, and the high value of conformity.   One of the pieces in the show (not pictured here) depicted the average distance from fist to crotch, slyly suggesting the regulation of not just bodies, but sexual practices.

Gala Porras-Kim, an artist whose elegant conceptual work often involves language, chose to exhibit a drawing executed by the daughter of her partner. By presenting this piece, Porras-Kim generously and bravely revealed not only an element of her personal life, but her own trepidation and learning process in a semi-maternal role—admitting to doubts and ambivalence that it is still culturally inappropriate for women to voice. Also on the theme of motherhood, artist Jay Erker provided free childcare during the show’s opening reception, practically addressing the continued lack of support provided to working mothers.

Rachel Hecker, Marina, Business Card, 2006, Acrylic on canvas

Rachel Hecker, Marina, Business Card, 2006, Acrylic on canvas

Rachel Hecker’s  painting of her enlarged business card tells the story of the interaction between herself and the woman she eventually hired to clean her house. In the biographical information provided in the gallery, Hecker elaborated on how the woman, the wife of a man she had hired to do work in her attic, came to solicit employment:

We spoke for a while and I explained that I did not need help, but that we should keep in touch. I handed her my business card, and asked her for her contact info. She took a pen out of her purse, began writing her info on my card, then handed it back to me — effectively turning my card into hers.

Hecker’s piece subtly points out the complex social, economic, and political issues that are woven into our domestic space–the reliance of our economy on immigrant and under the table labor; the reliance of many working women on other women to clean their houses;  the personal branding and status manufacturing captured in a business card–and the shifting layers of power within which we operate–it is, after all, Marina who controls this interchange, not her future employer. That this whole story is captured within a small scrap of paper serves to enhance the sense that these complexities are often overlooked.

I regret that I did not see any of the performances, which included Marissa Williamson’s performance as Sally Hemings –Thomas Jefferson’s biracial slave and mistress of thirty years, Kim Ye & Veronique D’entremont ‘s question and answer podcast, and Molly Shea’s bra burning as a cave woman.

Susan Mogul, Novella Excerpts: Confessions of a…, 2013, Color digital print

Susan Mogul, Novella Excerpts: Confessions of a…, 2013, Color digital print

Bridging the gap between the contemporary look at feminism and the seventies feminism that provided Handel’s jumping off point, was Susan Mogul’s  Novella Excerpts: Confessions of a… This piece humorously responds to the increased interest in Mogul’s work thanks to Pacific Standard Time (PST) but cleverly points out the different cultural attitude to nudity and the perceived inappropriateness of a middle aged woman performing nude, as well as the persistent cultural attitude that feminism and feminist art are in the past. The exhibition also included a photograph of Mogul’s guerilla PST poster. This poster pointed to the gender imbalance of the Getty’s advertising campaign that used contemporary male media icons to draw attention to older male art stars. This piece also nudged at what made Tête à Tête unique and important: despite progress, gender disparity persists in the art world.

Walking through Tête à Tête was like witnessing the kind of conversation I might have with a group of my friends—intimate, using self-deprecating humor to mask complex emotions, seeking advice on an uncomfortable situation, admitting our failings and anxieties, sharing hair care advice.  Plenty of work by women would not fit this description and even the work within this show would not function quite the same in another context–but the whole point of this show was to look at that shared space and see if it still felt relevant. Answer: it does. Possibly uncomfortably so.

Los Angeles

Lost in the Work: Drafting Universes by Sara Schnadt

Sara Schnadt, Drafting Universes

Sara Schnadt, Drafting Universes, site specific installation and performance, Adjunct Positions

On Sunday night, in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, a small group of believers gathered to witness the creation (and subsequent destruction) of the universe. After two cycles of the cosmos returning to nothingness (which took approximately 45 minutes) the crowd chatted and dispersed. Some visitors gently walked on the remaining (though temporary) universe, the silver “stars” hard underfoot.

Drafting Universes is a performance piece created by artist Sara Schnadt. The performance was the inaugural show of Adjunct Positions, an artist space housed inside a residential garage, in collaboration with Craftswomen House Temporary Residence, a project which organizes feminist, site-specific installations in domestic settings.

In our cultural imagination, the garage (and before it the garden shed, the attic, or the basement) is the home of inventors and eccentrics, tinkering away on something obsessively and repetitively, often at the expense of family obligations. Though the home laboratory is the location of the amateur, it is also the incubator of potential innovation (think Jobs and Wozniak circa 1976). Like the artist who is considered a feckless dreamer until she writes a bestseller, the inventor may go from crazy to brilliant in one ecstatic moment of discovery.

Sara Schnadt, Drafting Universes, site specific installationa and performance, Adjunct Positions

Sara Schnadt, Drafting Universes, site specific installation and performance, Adjunct Positions

Schnadt’s performance explores this space where repetitive action and unsophisticated equipment may lead to revelation. Here, the earnest explorer is a woman with a broom, a measuring cup, some shiny pieces of metal, and a knack for installing mirrors. She creates her universes through a tedious and simple process: standing on a black floor surrounded on three sides by mirrors, she picks up a cup of metal nuts, walks to a spot on the floor and tosses the nuts into the air. She repeats this activity until the universe feels complete—about 10 to 15 times—at which point she puts down the measuring cup and gently perfects areas with her hands. Once completed, Schnadt documents the universe from a number of different angles, then sweeps it clean and starts over.

As a spectator, it is a pleasure to watch the artist in action: Schnadt’s sense of timing, control, and composure all reveal her early training in dance, and the mirrored walls heighten the sense of choreography as the artist sweeps in sync with her own personal team of cosmic cleaners. Within the limiting boundaries that the artist has created for herself there is still chance and freedom as the nuts fall differently each time. Transforming from dancer to painter, Schnadt carefully examines the end product and makes slight adjustments of density and composition to the swirling galaxies at her feet. The resulting installations are visually simple but compelling.

Sara Schnadt, Drafting Universes, site specific installation and performance, Adjunct Positions

Sara Schnadt, Drafting Universes, site specific installation and performance, Adjunct Positions

In this installation, science is handled crudely, aiming not to increase our knowledge about the actual rate of expansion of the universe or the number of stars in the Milky Way, but to give us a chance to contemplate the limits of our knowledge, the process of discovery, and the pleasure of looking at the night sky. The stars (when one can actually see them, a rarity in Los Angeles) are a reminder of our own smallness. To take on the creation of the universe in a garage is a gesture towards our self-importance but also an activity in perspective. To then sweep that universe away is a nod to our impermanence…and a reminder that one is definitely not supposed to sit around making universes all day long.

Schnadt’s piece is both gently laughing at our grandiose ambitions and quite seriously considering the potential for something moving and marvelous to take place in a studio, a laboratory, or wherever focused and curious individuals chose to get lost in their work.

On Making

Articulate: Call for Submissions


Articulate is a series of exhibitions-in-print organized by myself and artist Emily Smith. Please consider submitting work for our next limited edition book and pass this call on to any creatives you think may be interested. Thank you!


In her essay “Art Objects” Jeanette Winterson makes the comparison between experiencing a powerful work of art and falling in love:

Art, when it happens to us, challenges the ‘I’ that we are. A love-parallel would be just; falling in love challenges the reality to which we lay claim, part of the pleasure of love and part of its terror, is the world turned upside down.

That art challenges us to see the world from another’s perspective and to risk our own fixed understanding of reality is just one of the ways that the intangible and slippery concepts of art and love overlap. For this issue of Articulate, we want to explore this relationship further: where, how, and why do love and art intersect?

This question could be interpreted in any number of ways. How would you articulate this great intangible? What emotional risks are you willing to take in your practice? How, if at all, does love drive your work? Would you liken your art-making process to flirty foreplay, making love or a committed marriage? How does care and closeness play into your understanding of craft? Who or what is your muse? How can love distort or enhance perception? Have you ever just wanted to make the visual equivalent of a love song? This is your chance! Whether detached, bitter, longing, tender, bewitching, ugly, or banal, show us how you perceive the experience of love (and love the experience of perceiving). We are interested in artworks that take an honest and critical look at some aspect of love, whether the word, the experience, or the fantasy.

In addition to addressing the idea of love, all submissions should actively engage the book format. This will be a limited edition publication (we currently plan to produce 200 copies) and we encourage submissions that have handmade or online elements or that otherwise expand and explore the boundaries of a book. Text based pieces are also encouraged, but we ask that you consider the design aspects of the page. Please submit proposals to by July 30th. Accepted artwork will be due September 15th. Please contact us in advance with any questions.

Proposals should include a brief description (200 words max, could also include a jpeg) of the proposed artwork and an articulation of how this work engages the theme of love (200 words max). If your submission will involve a handmade element, please include an approximate budget for the materials needed for 200 copies. Please also submit a link to your website or one or two jpegs of previous work.

Articulate is a series of exhibitions-in-print organized by artists Alex C Moore and Emily Smith. The online components from the last edition can be seen on our vimeo channel.

New York On Viewing

Freelancers & Farm Animals

Lydia by Hope Gangloff

Lydia by Hope Gangloff by Hope Gangloff

I have not posted here for almost two months. This has not been for a lack of art viewing, but perhaps the opposite: the sheer volume of visual information I ingested in New York temporarily overwhelmed my mind’s receptors. I was exposed to a whole mess of contemplative puzzles that are still milling around my brain, waiting to be carefully extracted and examined. So while my analytic brain is recovering, I want to joyously wallow in the sensory pleasure of some pretty and brooding paintings.

That is not to say that Hope Gangloff‘s paintings are unintelligent–they are eloquent and articulate portraits of not just the individuals they portray but of a particular slice of life in the northeast that is furnished with outdoor showers and Adirondack chairs, and populated by freelancers and farm animals–but unlike much contemporary art, they require no further narrative or explanation. The pleasure in these paintings is immediate and unfolding.

Study of Olga Alexandrovskaya by Hope Gangloff

Study of Olga Alexandrovskaya by Hope Gangloff

Hope’s paintings are a little too hip–her subjects are beautiful thirty-somethings, living in rustic Americana, surrounded by delicate patterns and vintage clothing–but I don’t begrudge them that. The paint sings and pulses on her canvases. She creates whole individuals, teasing out their quirks and their inner life, noticing the little details that make a moment or a person specific.

According to the New York Times article, Why Music Makes Our Brain Sing, when listening to music our brain anticipates chords and climaxes based on our previous musical experiences. This sense of anticipation adds to the pleasure of listening, and our brain rewards us further for recognizing patterns and making accurate predictions. Is a similar mechanism at play when we view paintings…Is the brain rewarding us for successfully building a cohesive image out of a field of abstracts dabs? Is our mind so in love with patterns that the mere presence of a well painted stripped skirt sets off reward systems? I imagine that there must be an evolutionary advantage to being able to look at a human and hypothesize on their interior state of being, but why the hypnotic pleasure of staring at blue and pink snow?

I will research the neuroscience of  visual pleasure another day. For now, I just want to enjoy it.

May-December Romance

May-December Romance by Hope Gangloff


On Making

Make More Bad Art

Make more bad art.

My roommate and I scrawled this sentence on our living room wall on New Year’s Day 2008. This injunction from myself remains as pertinent today as it did then. Wise words Alex and Madeline of the past.


Sometime last year I turned against painting, the activity that has provided me with solace and satisfaction since I was old enough to hold a dried-out marker, dunk it in poster paint, and scrawl all over a piece of paper. I didn’t want to see a paint brush, let alone pick it up or think about what I might do with it. The strength of my revulsion mirrored the strength of my awe when, during college, I discovered the creative power I wielded with a small collection of colored tubes and a stick with animal hair at one end.

There are a whole collection of reasons why I took an extended hiatus from painting last year, (a hiatus that continues, though ideas are simmering and stirring) but one is the very simple factor that my critical inner voice drowned out my inner cheerleader.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s Late Bloomers, a lovely piece about the different speeds at which artists find their rhythm, Gladwell points out that not all successful artists storm out of the gate at the age of 23 and many don’t hit their stride until they are in their 40s, 50s or 60s. This is an encouraging truth for any living artist, but one of the unsettling conundrums of the article is that the failures that occur as part of the experimental process on the way to something great, look a lot like the failures of someone who just isn’t going to cut it. And how do you know the difference between the two?

When Robert Hughes died in August of last year, a number of newspapers published collections of this iconoclastic critic’s quotes. One quote in particular grabbed my attention:

“The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is given to the less talented as a consolation prize.”

This is a lovely thought, but I am immediately reminded of a character in Good Omens (a cult fantasy novel that served as fount of wisdom in my family) who believes she is anorexic because every time she looks in the mirror she does, indeed, see a fat woman. Though a cruel joke against this woman, the authors are making a very succinct point about humans’ capacity for self-delusion and the need for occasional harsh truths.

So, i’m back to the question of how does an artist know the difference between legitimate self-doubt and overly critical self-doubt?

Apparently it is fairly common to reach this point–a wall of exhaustion, self-recrimination and perhaps hopelessness–and possibly a lot of what separates the success stories from the failures is how you deal with this wall and the enshrouding doubt. Can you power through like a marathon runner, embracing the pain, and win through sheer determination? Or do you see the wall and think “I’ve already hit my head on a couple of things like that, and it really hurt. This time I will have a picnic in the shade and not worry too much about the other side.” In other words, do you continue to hustle and dream, or do you decide to go work in an office, get health benefits and take your weekends off? (Or is there a magical compromise? I hope to find it and report back from the land of creative and monetary fulfillment.)

I suspect that the difference between legitimate self-doubt and overly critical self-doubt is that the first one pushes the process deeper while the second one stops the work from happening at all. And I would like to think that the difference between bad art on the road to something good and bad art on the road to more failures is just a matter of time.  The only way to know is to make more art, bad or otherwise.

New York

Tell Me Something I Don’t Know, Give Me Something I Need

Robin Tewes in her studio.

Robin Tewes in her studio.

“You don’t choose art; you do it because you have to,” declares Robin Tewes, repeating the advice she gives her art students. Whenever I hear that sentiment I get nervous; could I have done something else or would all roads have led to the studio? In Robin’s case the answer seems clear; the paintings in her studio (which include a portrait of well-known performance artist Carollee Schneeman), the works from other established artists hanging throughout her apartment, and the gorilla mask tucked onto a shelf, demonstrate her long time commitment to New York and the art community here. And to her habit of saying exactly what she thinks.

two tewes

(L) Another Tasteful Discussion of Contemporary War
(R) Solitary Confinement

Robin paints in a flat, representational style that is reminiscent of Magritte. In an older work, Pink on Pink, a pink bedroom that is empty except for a woman’s handbag on the bed, Robin scratched text into the paint which included pronouncements by Suprematist painter Kazimir Malevich (who made a series of white on white paintings) interspersed with the more mundane concerns of every day life.  The painting suggests that abstraction based upon revolutionary theory is all very well and everything, but what about the real world of sex, money, and embarrassing personal problems?

Abstract Art #1

Abstract Art #1

In Abstract Painting I, Robin makes light of the serious, male-dominated tradition of Abstract Expressionism and its offspring. “I grew up admiring those guys, but now…I want some content. The form is just a bucket for me to pour my ideas into.” She looks at a painting of a graffiti covered wall and a trash can “or the waste paper basket in which I can throw my crumpled up pieces of thoughts.” Those thoughts meander between sharp critiques of New York and art world society, to the more personal experiences of relationships, motherhood, and loss. Like a seasoned New Yorker, the paintings have a tough, slick, and well put together exterior, which belie the neurosis and struggles contained within. At their most successful, the paintings manage to be direct, witty, and tenderly revealing.

combined moms


In recent years she has incorporated glitter, neon and iridescent paints into the compositions. “It is playful, for the joy of it; the opposite of what Malevich would ever approve of!” This attitude is particularly clear in a recent series that mourns the passing of Robin’s mother. The paintings aren’t without sadness, but they also let loose and celebrate her mother’s life, as she gradually fades into a world of bright and fragmented abstraction; a world that is aggressively flat and hard to absorb.

(L) I Want to be a Housewife, I Want to be a Widow. (R) Tell me Something I Don't Know, Give me Something I Need.

(L) I Want to be a Housewife, I Want to be a Widow.
(R) Tell me Something I Don’t Know, Give me Something I Don’t Have.

What makes Robin’s paintings particularly strong is her use of text that is both slyly observant and painfully honest. The picture of the waste paper basket is at first glance, merely empty and melancholy, but slowly the text reveals itself.  The graffiti reads: “All I want is my equal and then some. I want an adult unconditional love.”  Into the garden wall the artist has scratched: “Tell me something I don’t know, Give me something I don’t have,”  a demand that could be made of a partner or of a work of art. It really doesn’t seem like a lot to ask, but Robin’s work suggests that those desires are very often disappointed.

New York

Stars explode around you…

Ragnar Kjartansson, The Visitors, 2012 Nine channel HD video projection. Image courtesy of Luhring Augustine.

Ragnar Kjartansson, The Visitors, 2012
Nine channel HD video projection.
Image courtesy of Luhring Augustine.

Pulling back the black curtain and stepping into the darkness, we were quickly enveloped by a lulling, melancholy melody.  “Stars explode around you, and there’s nothing, no nothing you can do…” sang a chorus of voices. My friend and I turned to each other with broad smiles on our faces. After this brief moment of acknowledgement that we had happened upon something wonderful, we each slipped among the crowd and into The Visitors.

The installation of Ragnar Kjartansson’s piece at Luhring Augustine gallery in Chelsea, is comprised of ten large videos that are projected into the gallery walls and onto both sides of a screen that divides the space. In nine of the ten videos, a single musician is alone in a room, playing their part of a collective melody. In the tenth video, a group of people mill around on the porch of a large, Hudson Valley farmhouse, seemingly listening to the music and occasionally adding their voices to the chorus. This group provided context, an internal audience, and a little distance: the haunting sweetness of the melody, the mournful poetry (by artist Ásdis Sif Gunnarsdóttir) of the lyrics, and the intensity of the visuals were almost overwhelming, so a retreat to the porch provided a welcome break.

Installation View. Ragnar Kjartansson, The Visitors, 2012 Nine channel HD video projection. Image courtesy of Luhring Augustine.

Installation View. Ragnar Kjartansson, The Visitors, 2012
Nine channel HD video projection.
Image courtesy of Luhring Augustine.

Each musician infused the simple words and melody with their own sensibility, a detail that the artist retained by keeping the sound tracks separate. As a viewer, I was free to roam within the space, finding a sweet spot where I seemed to be in the room with both the emotionally raw accordion player and the grounded, bluesy pianist, or allowing myself the voyeuristic pleasure of watching the guitarist (who, it turns out, is the artist) forlornly strumming in the bath. The videos are carefully composed, full of interesting visual details (birds flocking across a bedroom wall, the curve of a wooden banister, the bright blue inside of full kitchen cabinets) that seem to echo the tone and body language of the separate room’s inhabitant, enhancing the sense that the musicians are in their own little worlds.

Ragnar Kjartansson, The Visitors, 2012 Nine channel HD video projection. Image courtesy of Luhring Augustine.

Ragnar Kjartansson, The Visitors, 2012
Nine channel HD video projection.
Image courtesy of Luhring Augustine.

Though the musicians played alone, they were all connected via headphones and wires that snaked around the wooden furniture and delicate antiques. At one moment, one guitar player set down his instrument to go share a cigarette and a drink with his buddy in the next room, where they then harmonized as the music swelled around us. The freedom of the performers, the “in-the-round” set-up,  and the single, unedited take, gave the video(s) a feeling similar to live theater–a living, breathing spectacle, rather than a video to speculate upon from a safe distance.

The choice of an upstate farmhouse was perfect, not only because of the warm, ramshackle decor, but because upstate is where so many New Yorkers (artists or otherwise) go to escape the city. This felt like a little slice of an artist’s retreat, smuggled back into the heart of New York’s gallery scene

The show closes March 9th. Go see it if you can.

New York

An Existential Survival Kit

First Work Set (1963–69)

First Work Set (1963–69)

This past Friday, the Museum of Modern Art presented a demonstration of First Work Set (1963–69) by Franz Erhard Walther. The piece is a collection of canvas bundles, suggestive of army tents or boat rigging, complete with an over sized life vest. The bundles are labeled with simple directives or descriptions such as “for two people,” or  “standard object.”  But as I looked carefully, I noticed that one is labeled “to forget” and another, more ominously, “to understand brutality.” What knowledge could be wrapped up in that deceptively simple package?

This is early “relational” art, in the best sense of the word. Franz was among the artists in the sixties who pioneered our current trend for art that examines the space between individuals or art that is “activated” by an interaction with the viewer. For some of the elements, the rules of engagement are clearly determined by the piece’s shape—such as the cloth covered masonite that hung from the neck of two intimately connected strangers (an early forebear of Liz Nurenberg’s wearable sculptures for two), or the long strip with a forearm shaped pocket—but some of the canvas shapes are more ambiguous, requiring invention from the viewer/audience.

The need for invention, and the viewer interactions that arose out of the demonstration exemplified why this kind of work is important–it jostles the brain, makes people feel a little silly, and presents very simple suggestions for seeing the world differently.

Though not technically a drawing ( a work on paper), this piece was in the Recent Acquisitions in Drawings exhibit because it is accompanied by a lengthy series of sketches. These pieces work symbiotically with the canvas objects, serving as a guide for use and a record of “the inner view” of the work–as Franz noted, “what happens within the person who experiences the piece, cannot be recorded by a camera.” The drawings were visually interesting and playful, giving an insight into Franz’s inner logic and mental meanderings.

For many artists the definition of drawing is less about the materials used and more about the intention: a drawing is an idea, an impetus in its most direct or basic form, or the process of seeing clearly. I have heard artist’s refer to a sound drawing, or been shown a drawing made of hair. By this definition, Franz’s canvas pieces were themselves drawings: activities for seeing clearly the elements of sculpture; actions that revealed their internal logic with no frills attached.

At the end of the two hour demonstration I approached the artist and asked him about the brutality bundle. He gave me an enigmatic smile but brushed my question aside saying that it “marked a moment in time” but really had nothing to do with the piece. I felt deflated, but not totally surprised–what sort of explanation or intimate revelation was I imagining I would receive during the rushed, post-performance hub-bub?

Since the performance, I find myself inventing canvas-bound scenarios which could potentially reveal the meaning of human cruelty, the mechanics of love or how to forget unwanted pain. And I try to imagine the circumstances of the brutality bundle’s creation. Did Franz experience brutality personally or was he at a safely contemplative distance? Is the sculpture dangerous? Or is the brutality totally abstracted? The art continues unfolding in my head, though the objects themselves are back somewhere in MoMA’s vast vaults.

This circling of thoughts, this potential for poetry, and possibility for answers that will always be just out of reach– that in itself is a survival kit.