Category Archives: On Making

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.

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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.

 

On Making

Articulate: Call for Submissions

DEADLINE EXTENDED TO JULY 30TH

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 articulate.exhibitions@gmail.com 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.

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.

On Making Studio Visits

Scheherazade is Leaving the Building

Alex C Moore, Scheherazade, 2012

Alex C Moore, Scheherazade, 2012

I have been working on the same painting for all of 2012.

For some artists a slow birthing period is standard, but I usually move rapidly through canvases. The large amount of empty space in my paintings, though it had a concrete reason to begin with, is probably a symptom of my devolving attention span nuzzling up against my desires for silence and speed.

I named the painting Scheherazade before it was complete, which should have alerted me to the fact that it would drag on for a thousand and one painful days. Considered in a certain light, this unfinished/finished painting might be my most successful piece to date: it feels unresolved, yet it somehow holds together; I have only a tentative idea of why I made it but it continues to intrigue me. Like Scheherazade herself, it tantalizingly keeps my attention, without letting me kill it and move on.

In another light it is just plain confused.

But I can’t completely blame Scheherazade. During the 9 months that I have spent not painting this painting, life has gotten in the way and painting has felt less important. A couple of days into the piece, I received an email that my grandfather was sick. A week later he died and I headed to England for his funeral. That was February.

Two months later, I became a U.S. citizen. Rather than joining my fellow Americans in joyful plastic flag waving, I not-so-quietly sobbed through the ceremony. Most people looked somewhere between thrilled and bored.  I probably looked like I did at Grandpa’s funeral. After the ceremony, my fellow Americans swarmed out into the sun, to be greeted by proud family members with flowers in their arms. Feeling ungrateful and alone, I biked home.

In June I managed to come into the studio and worked on this piece for a number of hours. But what happened in July, August and September? In July I visited New York and talked a lot about both portraiture and painting, but returned to L.A. and didn’t do much of either. In August a lovely muse of mine posed patiently for photographs meant to inform a new piece, but I can’t quite get excited about editing them. In September….nothing much.

Pinned to my studio wall during my long absence was a piece of paper with two typed quotes:

Dance begins when a moment of hurt combines with a moment of boredom.–Lorrie Moore, Dance in America

Art is a method of opening up areas of feeling…A picture should be a recreation of an event rather than an illustration of an object.–Francis Bacon

At a time when some people would have found refuge in the studio, I am avoiding it. I am aware that if art making is my “job”, I should just be showing up every day and making it happen. But as much as artists like to emphasize that our job is very serious and real, I am going to publicly admit that it isn’t the same as showing up at the office. Art practices come in all shapes and sizes, varying from the traditional solitary figure in the messy attic  to the “post-studio” network of collaborators, with an array of hybrids in between. My focus has tended towards painting alone, with occasional forays into collaboration. Most of my paintings are personal and they are at their best when they are honest.

Maybe I’ve just had enough of honest alone time.

Scheharazade is a confused painting. If one thing is certain, it is that I am confused. So the painting that looks like a nice young lady doing yoga got stuck in a tumble drier and then hung from the ceiling, is probably the most honest painting I could make right now.

Perhaps I will stride my way back into an active relationship with my paint brushes, but I’m also ok if I don’t–if it turns out that other methods and mediums are a better way to get at the world beyond my own boundaries and feed my curiosity. Either way, this painting needs to get out of my studio, so i’m sending her off into cyberspace.

Hopefully  that will open up the space I need for something new to happen.

Los Angeles On Making

The Imagined Landscape of Success

Discussing success in front of Kelly Poe’s idealized landscapes.

This Saturday, I  went to The Success Question, a panel moderated and organanized by LA Times critic Holly Myers. According to the email announcement, this panel was going to discuss questions such as:

How do we conceive of success in the art world? Who sets the terms? Who should set the terms? What is the role of the market? How does the press figure in? Have art schools shifted expectations of success? Is a coherent notion of success even possible in a world defined by such a pluralistic array of practices? How has the rising profile of the LA art scene changed the way that success is understood here? What is the difference between successful and popular? Is success satisfying? What is it that really matters in the end?

Those are some big questions. And to answer these questions Myers brought in some big players: Mark BradfordEileen CowinAnna Sew HoyPaul Schimmel and Susanne Vielmetter. Yes, Myers was aware of this irony, and the panel did a good job of giving balanced and interesting answers despite the glaring handicap that all the participants are traditionally successful. Next time I would like to see a panel that includes a 28-year-old who holds down three jobs to pay for her studio -which gallerists rarely visit; a 60-year-old who has never had a single solo show but really likes what she makes, and a mid-career artist who went straight to the Whitney Biennial from graduate school and has only shown a handful of times –and only in the Pacific Northwest– ever since. Then we could have the kind of raw and uncomfortable conversation that the topic of success really deserves. But until then, this panel was a good start.

Distilled into easy-to-remember sound bite form, the ideas from this event were:

  • Success is an ever receding point.
  • Staying afloat means staying fluid.
  • Nurture and participate in dialogue.
  • Don’t chase the market; wait until the market comes back to you.
  • LA is a friendlier art scene than NY.
  • LA needs more writing about art. Which means we need publications to pay writers. So we need a market that will fund these publications. But it is our perceived distance from the market that keeps us friendly. Hmm.
  • Financial success, critical success and actually making good work have very little to do with each other.
  • Make the work. Accept when you have no ideas: don’t embarrass yourself by making crap. But do risk making crap because otherwise you won’t do anything new.
  • Make the work.

Eileen Cowen brought up the infamous orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally. It ends with a woman in the deli saying “I’ll have what she’s having,” ordering what she believes will give her the same experience as Ryan, though of course the irony of the scene is that Ryan was faking it. Cowen’s point was that many of us are chasing a fake orgasm, and that what we think will make us happy, might not. This is probably true for every profession, but artists –who, let’s face it, are much less likely to have a pragmatic outlook– might have a particularly idealized view of “making it.”

The panel took place at LAX art, surrounded by Kelly Poe’s For the Wild. To create this series of photographs, Poe befriended a group of jailed environmental activists and asked them to describe the image of the wilderness that they turn to for solace. She then traveled to these same spots and attempted to capture each location as it had been described by the prisoner. In the photos, each landscape sings as an untouched paradise, lush and vivid and personal –embodying a pristine fantasy. And, as the title suggests, the activists Poe interviewed have all sacrificed their freedom for this idea of the wild.

As I listened to the speakers, I couldn’t help but draw the parallel between Poe’s images and the discussion of success underway. As anyone who has ventured off the beaten path knows, the wilderness, though exhilarating and beautiful, is usually also messy and uncomfortable, involving some combination of bugs, shitting in holes and sweat soaked clothing. Some people disappear into it forever, but most are happy to return to a solid roof and a hot shower at some point.

The art world, to those who venture in, was probably once a fantasy. My particular fantasy, was that “The Art World” was populated by supremely intelligent, sensitive beings who cared more about ideas and beauty, then money and facts. These mystical beings would respect my desire to be left alone in my studio –a large, light filled attic in a Victorian building in London– but when I wanted, would appear, ready to discuss philosophy, poetry, theatre… And of course, surrounded by that earnest brilliance, I would make paintings that shot straight to the root of the human experience.

Gustave Courbet, The Artist’s Studio; A real allegory summing up seven years of my artistic and moral life, oil on canvas, 1854-55 (Musée d’Orsay, Paris)

Needless to say, that is not the world that I currently inhabit. But, in the right light, from one particular spot, on the right day, if you squint a little bit, some aspect of that absurd fantasy is my life. I do know a circle of people who value aesthetics and ideas, with whom I can meander through literature, art, politics etc. I do have a small drywall box to call my own, and, when I make a painting, there are a couple of people who will happily discuss my technical choices. I set my own hours, I follow my nose, and I can justify spending my Monday reading Guston’s collected writings…or whatever else I want. But I absolutely couldn’t do it alone. It takes people to push you on (or maybe even carry you for a little while) when your strength of will fails. Also luck.

So I would like to add the following to the list of success sound bites:

  • Just keep swimming.
  • Get comfortable with contradictions.
  • Find a good therapist, preferably one who will trade sessions for artwork.
  • Establish good karma and be generous with what you have.
  • Focus on the process and its by-products.
  • Remember that there is no art world, other than the one that you inhabit.