Critical Mass., Part 6: Swoon at Boston's ICA

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Before this series: The Chain Letter Show
Part 1: Jennifer Riley, Damian Hoar de Galvan, Nancy Natale
Part 2: Cape Cod Museum of Art
Part 3: New England Collective
Part 4: Not About Paint at Steven Zevitas
Part 5: Strand at Boston Sculptors

 Swoon installing Anthropocene Extinction

BOSTON--The Institute of Contemporary Art here, aka The ICA, is one of the city's architectural eye-poppers. I can't call it a gem because it's not precious; it's handsome, a well-dressed stranger with great broad shoulders (and an excellent Wolfgang Puck cafe). In good weather the ICA is a springboard for perambulating the waterfront, which has been outfitted with walkways that take you along the perimeter of what appears to be a good part of Boston Harbor. 

The ICA with its cantilevered face looking out to the hah-bah

Indoors its fourth-floor glassed-in loggia gives you a theatrical view of the harbor, from the cluster of historic downtown buildings at your left sweeping broadly over to Logan Airport on your right (which you cannot see in the photo below). In bad weather--like an electrical storm I viewed there once--that loggia thrusts you almost into the harbor, so that as the clouds roll in, the thunder claps and lighting spears the roiling water, you are in the middle of it separated by a pane of glass THIS thick.

I'm getting to the art.

Splendid view of Boston Harbor from the fourth-floor loggia

Among several exhibitions there now, two stand out: Swoon's site-specific installation in the lobby, Anthropocene Extinction, in progress, and Eva Hesse Studiowork in one of the fourth-floor galleries. I'll have a long post on Eva Hesse next week, both the show here and some images I've shot elsewhere, as well as links to previous posts on her work, so for now let me give you a peek at what's going on in the lobby.

Swoon installing a mural in the atrium
What you're seeing are cut-paper patterns being affixed to the wall

The work area was cordoned off, but I found that by putting my camera lens right up to the window outside, I was able to get a glare-free shot looking in

Here I squeezed the camera between the vestibule and a privacy wall to get a better view of the mural and the process. The artist is at far right

Swoon is the Brooklyn street artist turned respectable museum artist. As a street artist, she created large print plates in her kitchen using a router on plywood, inking them, and then laying sheets of paper onto the plywood, using her feet and the pressure of her own weight, as a "press." The resulting prints, trimmed of excess paper, were wheatpasted onto walls in Brooklyn and elsewhere around town. Finding them is always a surprise and a delight. (You can glimpse the process at the ICA here.) 

Her work has lost nothing in the translation to museum installation. Indeed, under institutional auspices, with many hands helping, she seems better able to ply, and pile, layers of images representing people, cultures and beliefs into a gargantuan cultural collage. This installation is dominated by the image of an indigenous Australian woman. By the way "anthropocene" means, according to National Geographic, "a new geologic epoch--one defined by our own massive impact on the planet." Her own environmental impact appears to be pretty light: paper, paste and some paint.

In the four-story space near the elevator, she is installing, with the help of a small staff, a lantern-like structure (or maybe a giant shuttlecock) that's viewable from the glass elevator as it travels from the lobby to the fourth-floor galleries. You can see just how low-tech she's working. The structure is lashed from bamboo poles, and much of the rest of the piece appears to be paper, cardboard, and maybe some foamcore. Here the prints address flora and fauna--leaves and wings, maybe--and fittingly for its location, marine life, like seahorses with their arabesque lines, and  horseshoe crabs, with their Darth-Vader outline.

Above: Looking at the structure from the elevator on the fourth floor

Below: Descending, there's a better view of what appear to be wings, petals and leaves

Above: Another view, with a small staff for help

Below: The Exhibition opens September 3. If I can get back before I return to New York, I'll shoot and post; otherwise I'll swipe and post, with credit of course

Additional links
. ICA press release here, with links to the artist's recent work
. Colette Randall's posts on the ICA blog, Currents, here and here, which show the process


Marketing Mondays: Do You Think of Giving Up?

Image from the Internet

When I first moved to Manhattan I was without a studio for three years. In some ways, they were the happiest three years of my life. SoHo was the center of the universe then, and Saturdays were full of artists like myself making the rounds of galleries on Thompson, West Broadway, Wooster, Greene, Mercer, Broadway, and up and down the "ladder" of streets from Houston to Canal. On Sundays I went to the museums. Best of all, I was freed from the routine of sending out those packages with $50 worth of slides that rarely came back to me. I didn't miss that ongoing exercise in rejection. No, I didn't miss that at all.
Though I was tethered to a nine-to-five job, I loved having evenings, weekends, and vacations to myself, with the freedom to spend art supply money on things like taxis and dinner out. And with the money I wasn't spending on studio rent, I went to Italy. Three times in those three years.
I was aware I was living the artist's version of the Rumspringa, that time when Amish youth leave home to explore the world. But while I was livin' large, a tiny twinge of displacement was busy growing into a very big sense ofhow to describe it?feeling not fully myself. I was looking at a lot of art but I wasn't making any. I wasn't quite me. Yeah, yeah, I kept a sketchbook, did some life drawing, and took a lot of photographs, but I wasn't filling the hole.
When I finally got my studio in Union Square and set to painting, I returned to myself. I never felt better! You know that feeling: working alone in the studio, conjuring images out of nothing but firing neurons and some pigmented goo.

At the same time, I never felt worse. That Rumspringa freedom flew out my fifth-floor studio window, just as money angst and rejection came skulking back in through the door. With the lease I'd signed, I knew that tens of thousands of dollars would be plowed into a 450-square-foot space over the ensuing years, with weekends, evenings and vacations spent not in Italy, or at the beach or sleeping late at home on Sunday morning, but in the studio making the most of a second 40-hour work week. La croce e la delizia, the burden and the pleasure, rolled into one.
With few exceptions, the material life of an artist is all uphill. You know what I mean. So, these are some questions for you today:
. Do you ever think about giving up artmaking?
. What keeps you from doing so?
. Have you ever gone for a long period without making art?
. What made you come back?

. Have you given it up and not looked back?
. Or do you look back with longing?

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That Was Then. This is Now

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A friend sent me the retro images you see here. While I was cringe/laughing, I was struck by the deja vu politics of the current crop of repugnicans--and other 12th Century thinkers.

The Role of Women


“The Lord says: 'Be submissive, wives. You are to be submissive to your husbands.'" Michelle Backwardwoman (via HuffPo)

Under the taliban:
Complete ban on women's activity outside the home unless accompanied by a mahram (close male relative such as a father, brother or husband);  whipping of women in public for having non-covered ankles;  ban on women laughing loudly (no stranger should hear a woman's voice);  modification of all place names including the word "women, " for example, "women's garden" has been renamed "spring garden"; public stoning of women accused of having sex outside marriage (and anyone can accuse a woman). More here

Bearing Arms

(P)rick Perry shooting blanks (again)

Sarah Palin-By-Comparison
Note to Palin: Even if you had a penis, which is clearly what that thing is supposed to symbolize, you would not get elected

Jared Lee Loughner, shooter of Rep. Gabriele Giffords and killer of a 9-year-old girl


Yes, language (and mores) are changing. But some folks have never learned to spell, see below,  and others have never learned to think, click here

Health Care

 "We used to hustle over the border for health care we received in Canada. And I think now, isn't that ironic?"
--Sarah Palin, admitting that her family used to get treatment in Canada's single-payer health care system, despite having demonized such government-run programs as socialized medicine that will lead to death-panel-like rationing, March 6, 2010


Critical Mass., Part 5: Strand at Boston Sculptors

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Before this series: The Chain Letter Show
Part 1: Jennifer Riley, Damian Hoar de Galvan, Nancy Natale
Part 2: Cape Cod Museum of Art
Part 3: New England Collective
Part 4: Not About Paint at Steven Zevitas

Installation view at Boston Sculptors: Michelle Lougee;  Laura Evans, Drawn Up; Marilu Swett

BOSTON--Over at Boston Sculptors at 486 Harrison Avenue—two buildings away from the complex that houses Carroll and Sons, Galatea Fine Art, Anthony Greaney, Samson Projects, Kingston Gallery and Steven Zevitas, among other galleries—the show Strand was up (through August 14).  I’d assumed the theme had something to do with the beach, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that the concept focused not on sand or water but on thread, string and strips, and of the structures made from them. These are not materials you typically think of when you think of sculpture, and Strand was not a “fiber show,” so it was an interesting intersection of content and intent.

Now for the bad news: The gallery website has nothing on the show except for a press release, so you can't visit in online and I couldn't go back to find information about the artists for whom I didn't make notes—but if you click onto the names of the invididual artists, you will find some other images of their work.

Here are a few installation shots.

View of the front gallery as you walk in

On pedestal at left in the previous photo:  Sarah Hutt, Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, 2011, cheesecloth, beeswax, paper, glass

In the second gallery (a view of which opened this post), from left:
Michelle Lougee, Polyvertebrate, 2011, crocheted plastic bags (the more I look at it, the more I think it was my favorite, but I don't have a good image of it and the website doesn't show it); Donna Dodson, Untitled, fabric, shellac, wood; barely visible, but shown in opener and in detail below: Marilu Swett. Plain Woven, 2011, cast, dyed urethane rubber

Detail of Swett's Plain Woven
At the Galerie Renate Bender booth at Art Miami this past December, Regine Schumann created a multicolor cloth knitted out of plastic tubing, black lit so as to virually pop out of its darkened space. This woven grid is more formal and contemplative—I like it—but show me one more black-lit macro textile and we’ll have a trend

B. Amore, Mirror Mondi, 1997, photo on silk, silk bundles, mirror fabric

Leslie Wilcox, Bellows, 2009, screen, staples


Marketing Mondays: The Art Consultant

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Q: Would you devote some time to discussing art consultants? I've been contacted by one who came into a recent open studio. It's an interesting opportunity but a completely new market for me. Do you have any experiences that you could relate regarding benefits or pitfalls that you'd be willing to share?

A: Art consultants play an integral part in how art gets placed in private homes, in corporate collections, and in public and private institutions. Unlike dealers who typically focus on placing the work of artists from their own galleries, consultants move freely to acquire art for their various clients, taking work on consignment from a range of galleries in different cities, for instance, buying directly from artists or art fairs, or sometimes commissioning artwork.

Some consultants work freelance, while others may be hired as independent contractors for specific private or institutional jobs. From this point of view, they are unique in the way they are able to see a lot of art and to connect the dots widely.

A Few Scenarios
. One does not need a degree or license to be an art consultant, just an interest in selling art and some people to sell it to. So for many women particularly, art consulting is something that can be done from home while the kids are in school. This consultant may have gone to art school and then stopped making art to raise a family, or she may be well connected socially and see a way to “do something” with her passion for art and design. I’m not dissing the woman who finds a way to be entrepreneurial within the parameters of familial obligations—indeed, a smart and ambitious woman may develop quite a nice business for herself. But . . .
Beware: There are many dilettantes in this category. If something else more important comes up, art consulting will become as passé for them as last season’s Gucci bag.

. The art consultants who are making a serious business of it have a dedicated office space (even if it's in the home), regular hours, and a more developed clientele because of their greater focus. Sometimes art consultants maintain a space that’s open by appointment. These are the consultants who are likely to look beyond the sofa, to work more in the way art dealers do--to help a client assemble a collection that's about the art, and not about the way it goes with the decor.
Interesting gray areas: The consultant with a gallery space and regularly mounted, if unadvertised, exhibitions; the private dealer with a small clientele and a space that’s open by appointment.  And, of course, many bona fide dealers consult on all kinds of projects with individuals and corporations. There are many ways to show, sell and acquire art.

. Some art consultants work more with interior designers than with the clients themselves--or with clients accustomed to thinking about art as an accessory. Here acquisition seems to be less about art than about decoration. The search is often to match artwork to color schemes or swatches, and to “find something” that "goes with" a particular spot in the fuchsia hallway. Everyone approaches art differently, but this is the approach that drives serious artists and dealers up that hallway wall.
Beware: This is often the scenario in which the artist will be asked, "Can you make it in chartreuse?" or alter an existing artwork. In a difficult economy such as this, you may say yes and then hate yourself in the morning.
. Effective art consultants develop a roster of clients—private and corporate—and a roster of artists. And they develop courteous and professional relationships with galleries as well. You’ll see them where art and artists are: at open studios and at art fairs, as well as at gallery openings and exhibitions. You’ll also see them where potential clients are: at benefits and fundraisers, the sky-box parties at sports events, and at the numerous private parties where conversation may be about the suburban home that’s being built, renovations to the East Side townhouse, the newly acquired beach house, or the pied a terre in Chelsea.
Nice: A consultant who is one of them has easy access to them, which can translate into placing your work in a number of collections.

. Some art consultants vet the options and then bring clients to specific booths at specific art fairs, to specific galleries to look at particular works, even to particular artists' studios. Others may bring artwork directly to the client. For clients used to being served, this kind of personal service may get your work on someone’s wall.
Note: If your work is fragile, develop a way for the work to be easily transported. And make sure the consultant insures the work from the time it leaves your studio to the time it is either sold or returned to you.

Due Diligence
How do you find a good art consultant? Ask around at openings. Artists are your single best source of information. The consultants who act professionally, place work well and pay promptly are always noted with pleasure and respect, while the bad apples—and certain names invariably come up again and again—are noted with disgust. If you’re approached by a consultant (many use the Internet to search for artists by category or region), carry out your due diligence with a web search of your own. And don’t be afraid to ask for the names of a few clients and artists they’ve worked with. In the Comment section of my Red Flags post, one artist suggested running a credit check on the business. Smart.

Speaking of red flags, one such for me has been the contract (see here and here). While I think it’s smart to work with a contract that spells out expectations for artist and dealer, or artist and commission client, or artist and art consultant, beware the document that goes on for five pages with paragraphs and sub paragraphs limiting your opportunities while giving the other party carte blanche. You’re not buying a corporation; you’re looking to have a consultant sell your art. They need to agree to be financially responsible for the work from the time they take if from you to the time it is either sold or returned to you. They need to pay you promptly. And they do not have excusive dibs on your ability show show and sell elsewhere, even in their region, because they are not a gallery. See? That didn’t take five pages.

The Downside
. Unlike a dealer, who develops an esthetic program and has a working relationship with each artist represented by the gallery, the consultant has no such program or relationship. Yes, consultants may have favorite artists they like to work with, but ultimately, they are serving the client. An art consultant, then, is not looking to develop your career but simply to sell what you make. And what s/he is selling may not actually be about the art but about how well it goes with the sofa.  

. If the consultant wants 50 percent of the sale out of an artist’s studio—and some have come to expect that—the artist may getting little in the way of visibility. Ask: Do you have a website? Do you identify the work of artists in the installations? Do you publish a brochure of recent projects, and are the works identified by artist? These features will give you some of the visibility you need. And if you are visibly represented elsewhere, having an art consultant working on your behalf can be a bonus. (It’s dicey to work with a gallery and an art consultant based in the same city, because they may be going after the same clients, so broaden your geographical scope.)

. Also, as I mentioned in The Art Consultant Who Doesn’t Pay, it’s harder to get paid from a rogue consultant. You are not so desperate that you need to enter into a relationship with a person who has a record of not paying on tme, or at all. You will not be the exception.

The Upside
. If you are not gallery represented, working with a consultant—who typically works with a number of artists on an ad hoc basis—is a great way to make some sales. You may also find your work placed in a variety of venues. If you have a good working relationship with the consultant, and your work fits the bill for her clients, you may find yourself with plenty of commissions, too. (If you’re going to work on a commission, read this.)

In the best scenario, you have someone who’s passionate about art, respectful of the artist who made it, and eager to make a connection between artist and client. This is the person who places work well, gets paid by the client and then pays the artist quickly. Win/win/win.

If you have found this or other Marketing Mondays posts useful, please consider supporting this blog with a donation. A PayPal Donate button is located on the Sidebar at right. Thank you


In Your Face(Book)

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Facebook surfing turned up interesting topics this week. Take a look:

Two Faces of Information
Yeah, but Assange didn't create the world's largest timesuck

Two Faced
This one is from a project called Split Family Faces that shows just how similar families can be, crossing boundaries of gender and age. Genetically logical? Yes. But it's right up there on the Creep-o-Meter

About Face
After a relatively steady climb, there was the plunge in the Dow

Apparently it was not the only thing going down this week:

Stuffing Their Face
Repugnican candidates Michelle Backwardwoman (above) and (P)rick Perry demonstrate their technique on a  corndog at the Iowa State Fair.

When Backwardwoman wasn't stuffing her face with that corndog, she was busy putting her foot in her mouth. Case in point: Her dire warning about the "rise of the Soviet Union." Corndog, Nikita?

Perry just kept his mouth full. Click here for the animated version

Truck Face
Meanwhile a driver in Perry's home state of Texas affixed a photo of the Governor to the the back of a pickup with this sign:

Or, I might might ask: does that ass make my country look small?

And apparently even somebody's higher power has a comment about the governor's politics (thank you

Happy Face
A website called Smart-Ass Responses to Completely Well-Meaning Signs moved the needle all the way over on my Guffaw-o-Meter, appealing to a slightly more complex part of my brain than People of Walmart, my usual guilty pleasure

Here's a sample:

And how was your week?


Critical Mass., Part 4: Not About Paint at Zevitas

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Before this series: The Chain Letter Show
Part 1: Jennifer Riley, Damian Hoar de Galvan, Nancy Natale
Part 2: Cape Cod Museum of Art
Part 3: New England Collective

Installation view of Not About Paint at the Steven Zevitas Gallery

BOSTON--Boston is a great town to view painting, but a show like Not About Paint at the Steven Zevitas Gallery really pushes the envelope. Good!

Curator Evan Garza has assembled six artists who use means other than conventional paint to create “paintings” in their most free-ranging sense—mostly flat-ish compositions with color, form, proportion, and space—while at the same time remaining aligned to sculpture, assemblage or video. You have until this Saturday, August 20, to see the show.

Wide view from the doorway. From left: Cordy Ryman, corner and center wall; Sarah Braman on right wall; Alex Da Corte on floor

Panning to the right: Braman and Da Corte, James Hyde, Alex Hubbard video

Panning to the left: Jessica Stockholder, Ryman, Da Corte

It takes a particular skill to transform junk into something more than just junk in a new form. For art viewers in New York City or those who attend the big art fairs, Jessica Stockholder is something of an eminence grise. Her piece is this show is modestly scaled; elsewhere Stockholder has created room-size installations of stuff (read caption below), trippy Home Depot fantasies through the eyes of one particularly gifted in handling materiality and space. I’d call her esthetic material maximalism, the very opposite of Cordy Ryman, who is doing material minimalism. Ryman—yes, son of—is doing formalist takes reminiscent of hard-edge abstraction, or even Amish quilts, with building castoffs like moulding, dowels and two-by-fours, all put together with staples, Velcro or Gorilla Glue and a sublime sense of less-is-just-right.

Jessica Stockholder,  Untitled, 2010; carpet, framed leather, yarn, plastic parts, placemat, shelving unit part, hardware, plaster, fabric, push pins, acrylic, coffee grinder, fan, lighting fixture; 80 x 56 x 24 inches. Image from the gallery website

Sarah Braman made a mark at the Armory Fair in 2009, and I see she has continued her alchemical work, which is to take a few simple elements, probably found on the street, and transform them into dimensional paintings of formal beauty of the sort the French call jolie laide—beautiful but not conventionally so. I particularly like the juxtaposition of her geometric structure with the chromatic floor piece by Alex Da Corte which uses soda—grape, orange, cherry—in a kind of puddled homage to Jackson Pollock. I’m not even going to think about the archival issues inherent in Da Corte's work, just enjoy it in the here and now.

Sarah Braman, Window, 2011, wood and paint, 60 x 60 x 2 inches

James Hyde, 2010, Swimmer, nylon webbing, 76 x 60 x 10 inches

With his wall work of nylon webbing, James Hyde deconstucts the backyard chaise longue into a dimensional drawing, a material evocation of Brice Marden’s loops—or perhaps the Lower East Side version of a Bourgeoisian web.

Alex Hubbard is the artist with whom I was not familiar. His video, shown on a small monitor, creates a kinetic painting of an actual automobile. But you have to see it to get it.

Alex Hubbard, Annotated Plans for Evacuation, 2010, video still from gallery website

You've got four days. Go!