Fair Play: Peekin' In

See Gearing Up for Miami for a list of who, what and where, plus freebies and comps

Tomorrow morning at the Press Preview and later at the vernissage, Art Basel Miami Beach will be ready for visitors. But this afternoon many of the 260 exhibitors were still pulling on the Spanx and putting on the makeup.



See Gearing Up for Miami for a list of who, what and where, plus freebies and comps

Fair Play, my reportage from Miami will start in a couple of days. For the next month I'm going to be showing the work of hundreds, maybe thousands, of artists whose work I see there. Before I do, permit me to take this post to talk about my own work and projects in and out of Miami.


I'll have paintings at Aqua Art, in Room 222, where you'll find the Tucson-based Conrad Wilde Gallery. There's a strong material bent--fabric, paper, resin, wax--to this installation of largely abstract work iinstalled by gallery director Miles Conrad and hs associate Elizabeth McDonnell. There's a peek at two of my paintings below. The opening reception is Wednesday, November 30, 8:00 to 11:00 pm. I'll be there. Click here for comp tickets to the opening and the fair.

Silk Road 147
Both encaustic on panel, 16x16 inches
Silk Road 146

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Bloggers' Guide to the Fair

Franklin Einspruch and I will take you on a walk-and-talk around Art Miami on Friday, December 2. Meet us at the VIP desk. We'll depart there at 11:00 on the dot for an hourlong stroll, followed by coffee and conversation.  And if we run over time? I won't tell if you won't. Reserve your spot at . (Would you cc me at  me so that I know to expect you?)

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A Seaside Resort (but not Miami):
Waxing Enthusiastic in Provincetown

The International Encaustic Conference is the only event of its kind--by professionals, for professionals--devoted to encaustic painting and sculpture. I founded it in 2007, and last year partnered with Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill and its director, Cherie Mittenthal, to produce the annual event in Provincetown, Massachusetts. The Conference draws from an international roster of exhibiting artists who are fully engaged with the medium of pigmented wax, as well as art historians, critics, curators and gallerists who come in to share their expertise. The Provincetown galleries get involved, too. The Conference has grown every year since its founding. Registration is limited to 300. Read more here and register here.


Gearing Up for Miami

So begins my annual series of posts about the art fairs in Miami. I'm starting early to offer a few links and lay out some of the schedule I hope to follow.
If You're Going to Miami
Let's start with the lineup, The Essential Map and Guide for Art Basel Miami Beach. This two-page document in PDF form comes courtesy of Boyd Level, a curatorial and consulting firm in New York City. Thank you, Franklin Boyd, for a listing of 25 venues, organized by area: 12 in Miami Beach, 13 across the causeway in Wynwood. Added 11.26.11: Artlog has organized the info, too. (I don't need particulars to the Donna Karan Urban Zen Pop Up Store, but someone might.)
. At Art Miami: Franklin Einspruch and I will offer a free Bloggers' Guide to the Fair on Friday, December 2. Meet us at the VIP desk. We'll depart from there at 11:00 sharp for an hourlong walk-and-talk, stopping to chat with dealers at a few booths. (I will reconnoiter the day before.) Then we'll convene for coffee and a discussion. I'm told the cafe will be set up for us. Reserve your spot at . (Would you cc me so that I know to expect you?) Click here for additional events.

Complimentary passes are making the rounds online. Click on this one to enlarge and print it out; it's good for two. This pass is courtesy Denise Bibro Fine Art, New York City

. Going to Art Basel Miami Beach? Tickets are pricy ($40 for one day; $85 for  the duration), but there are some price breaks: the evening ticket (4:00 pm to 8:00) is $28; just know that Sunday closing is 6:00 pm. If you're 62 or over you get in as a Senior Citizen for $23 (fake ID's, anyone?).  Or organize a group of 10 and get in for $23 apiece. Adult-accompanied kids under 16 get in free.

. Going to Aqua Art? You don't want to miss the gem with the laid-back vibe and lovely courtyard. Print out a pass for yourself. Try printing the one below (click image to enlarge for printing) or download a PDF from the Aqua website.

I'll have work at the Conrad Wilde Gallery, Room 222--image and additional info on sidebar, right (scroll up a tad)--and will be there for the VIP opening on Wednesday, November 30, from 8:00 to 11:00 pm. I'll be making the rounds like everyone else, but Conrad Wilde will be my home base. See you there?

Complimentary pass to Aqua Art. Click to enlarge and print out

. Fairs with FREE entry: Art Now, Fountain, Ink, NADA, Sculpt Miami, Seven, and Zones. Other free events: Art Public, a collection of sculptures in Collins Park, Collins at 21st; and the Rubell Family Collection.

Covering the Fairs
Though I couldn't possibly attend events at all 25 venues (that would be five a day!), I do plan to cover the following venues thoroughly: Aqua Art, Art Basel Miami Beach, Art Miami, Ink, NADA, Pulse, Seven
. Maybe: If the body allows and these venues are convenient to my route, I'll pop into Art Now (under new management), Scope, Red Dot, Burst (a new emerging-artist event), along with Fountain, Verge and Zones
. One or two of the private collections: Rubell for sure and possibly one of these others: Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation or Margulies Warehouse

. I'd also like to stop in at the Square Foot show at Projects Gallery in Wynwood, an outpost of the Philadelphia gallery. I'll say Hi my friends Helen Meyerick and Frank Hyder, the dealers, and take some pics of this installation.
. It Ain't Fair:  This year's exhibition, produced by a group called OHWOW, is Materialism, a show about contemporary art made with or about fiber and cloth. I can't wait to see it, because I have just finished co-curating Textility, with Mary Birmingham for her institution, the Visual Art Center of New Jersey, in Summit, which offers a 28-artist look at a very similar slice of contemporary art (It opens January 13; I'll have more info after Miami). I love when the zeitgeist offers up a coincidence like this. 

. Parties? I may be the only person who couldn't care less. At the end of the day all I want is a good meal with friends followed by a couple of hours to download pictures and review what I've seen. 

Look for my reportage under the rubric this year of Fair Play. I hope to post a few short takes while I'm in the middle of things, but the real work starts when I return, with venue-by-venue reporting and edited pics (lots of them), along with some thematic posts and everyone's favorite feature, Art or Trash?  I'll start the serious writing on December 5 and continue through the month.

. If you need a fix before my posts start, check out Paddy Johnson's Art Fag City; Hrag Vartanian's Hyperallergic; The Art Newspaper, which publishes daily print editions and PDFs them onto their website; and The Miami Herald, which takes a local view of the international event

. If you'll be blogging about the fairs yourself, let me know ( and I'll post your link here

Finally, enormous thank-yous to everyone who has supported my Send Me To Miami campaign. (Not to worry if you haven't donated. I'll be soliciting your support for this blog throughout the year.) And may we have a collective prayer that sciatica comes nowhere near my 12-hour work days.


Marketing Mondays: Are You Ready for Your Retrospective?

.Installation of Lynda Benglis's 40-year retrospective at the New Museum, February 9-June 9, 2011 
(Image courtesy of The New Museum)

Earlier this year I went to the New Museum to see the Lynda Benglis retrospective. The work ranges from about 1970 to 2009, almost 40 years. While some of the poured latex pieces have settled into structural decline, they are an integral part of the artist's oeuvre and an essential milepost on her esthetic journey. I can't imagine a retrospective of her work without them.
I was thinking about this when I ran into my buddy Shane, who was also visiting the exhibition. Standing before one of those latex piecesthe Fallen Painting you see in the foreground of the image abovewe chatted about the whereabouts of our own work. Shane confessed that he has no idea where his pre-MFA work is, aside from a few pieces that he gave to friends. I admitted that I have nothing from my art school years save for one small abstraction in encaustic that my father put up in his tool room behind the garage. (My mother returned it to me after he'd passed away, which is how I have it now.) I also retain virtually nothing from the first 10 years of my careerwhen, frankly, it was not so much a "career" as a hand-to-mouth-existence marked by the moving and hauling I did with my pickup truck while collecting food stamps. I moved around so much that I left much of my stuff for "safekeeping" with friends. Considering that they also moved around, that early work has surely passed through portals into other quadrants of the universe.

The only painting I have from art school: Untitled, 1970, encaustic on panel, 14 x 12

OK, so most of that early work wasn't worth keeping. But when I look at this little abstraction in encaustic, I see all the seeds of what I do now: reductive field, repetitive elements, saturated color, and some of the same combinations of hue. Even the medium, which I promptly relinquished after the Painting Materials class requirement, came back into my life and is now the one in which I work most frequently.

My conversation with Shane prompted me to ask myself:

Do I have a record of my work?
Yes I do. I don't necessarily know where the work itself is but I have slides, and now digital images, of everything from the first few years after art school. I used to take the work outdoors on an overcast day
the cloud cover acting as the world's largest diffuserand shoot it against a light-colored wall (or, if it was small, against a larger gessoed canvas). 

Do I know where my recent work is?
Yes and no. I know what work each gallery has and what they have sold. But I don't have a complete record of whom the work was sold to. One gallery is scrupulous about including the name and address of the collector on the copy of the invoice she sends to me. Another has the information in her head and will share it; indeed, she often brings her artists and their collectors together for events in the gallery, but there's no written list. Others haven't provided the information and I, to my chagrin, haven't asked. It's not that I'm shy about inquiring; I'm just too freaking overworked to handle every administrative chore. And even if I had all the names of all those collectors, they more around, too, which means that the collector list would have to be updated regularly. (Yes, I need an assistant.)

How are the images archived?
I have slides of the early work. Every couple of years I move them into newer, more archival sleeves. The color has remained remarkably true. When I have a momentha!or when I get that assistant, I will scan the slides so that I have the images in digital form as well. The more recent work work I've shot digitally is organized in e-folders by series, by year, and by gallery. Here redundant redundancy is my motto. Some of you are using digital inventory systems, and I'd like to hear what they are.

How is the work maintained?
I can't speak for the condition of the work that's in private collections, but I'm going to trust that the work in institutional and museum collections is being monitored and maintained. As for the work in my possession, it's stored securely in a room that I try to maintain at 50% humidity.

Really, a retrospective?
OK, for most of us, the big retrospective will likely remain a moot issue. If and when MoMA comes calling for any one of us, I suspect their administration will track down the work they want to include and their conservation department will take the necessary steps to prepare it for exhibition. But given that we have spent most of our lives making arteven though we are willing to relinquish it after it's completed—it's just stupid of us to lose track of where it is.

Are you ready for your retrospective? How do YOU keep track of your work?

This will be the last Marketing Mondays for the year. Insciala I'll be reporting from Miami and then back at my desk posting about the fair for the entire month of December. It's not too late to Send Me to Miami. Covering the fairs is costly, and I write for three solid weeks after I return, posting features almost every day. Your contributions will provide much needed support.


A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of Facebook . . .

. . . I came across this

Sunday in the Park with the Legacy of George

This image is from Laura Moriarty's FB page. I went for the quick and easy visual, while Nancy Natale, on her Art in the Studio blog, writes a longer piece that includes the original photo of Officer Pepper Spray and includes background to the story of his spewing at UC Davis. Natale is outraged and she'll tell you why. Who can blame her? Please read it.

11.23.11: I added pics to the Political Stuff page here on the blog, with a link to a Tumblr site that is gathering all the Sgt. Pepper memes in one place.


Graces Received

One of the great pleasures of traveling through southern Italy is coming across the small objects made and offered in thanks for an answered prayer. One of my favorite places is the church of Santa Maria del Soccorso, in the town of Forio on the Island of Ischia (my paternal hometown) in the Bay of Naples. The tiny whitewashed church, set on an enormous rampart that faces the ocean, is filled with small models of fishing boats and paintings of storms at sea—offerings to the Madonna for her miraculous assistance in bringing home the fishermen and boat-bound travelers who set sail, fought an almost certain watery fate, and yet returned safely to port.

The church of Santa Maria del Soccorso (Madonna of Assistance), in Forio, Ischia, houses a collection of ex votos
Two ex votos from Santa Maria del Soccorso: a model ship (there are hundreds in the church) depicting an actual ship that was saved from disaster, and a depiction of one such disaster, below. Upon the safe return of the travelers, an ex voto was offered to the Madonna. Both images from the Internet; below, from the Forio Culture website
.The V.F.G.A. you see in the painting below is Latin for Voto Made. Graces Accepted

In Napoli there is an amazing sight in La Cappella della Visitazione, which is tucked into the fortress-like church of Gesu Nuovo. In the Visitation chapel, the walls are paved with ex votos offered to San Giuseppe Moscati for his intervention in healing supplicants suffering from disease or illness. The chased metal objects depicting arms and torsos, knees and eyes, breasts and lungs—or whatever body part has been restored to health—are set onto red felt and framed. Sometimes a photograph is tucked into the frame. 

The Cappella della Visitazione in the church of Gesu Nuovo in Naples
Both images from the Internet; above, from twiga_swala

Ex Voto, the Latin term Italians use, indicates that each object is the result of a vow made to commemorate the answered prayer. In Latin America, ex votos are known as milagros, miracles. Whatever you call them, they are a marvelous bit of Roman Catholic Voodoo. I rejected the religion decades ago but fully embrace the emotion and craft of these intimate expressions of gratitude.

Ex votos for sale in a shop in Naples. Image from a website promoting the region of Campania
You can see a lovely display of many such objects, Graces Received: Painted and Metal Ex Votos from Italy, at the Calandra Institute in New York City through January 6, 2012. These ex votos. dating from 1865 to 1959, are from the collection of Leonard Norman Primiano, a professor at Cabrini College. Here the majority of works are not chased metal but small painted panels, tavolette, depicting an accident or illness for which a miraculous intercession was requested and received. It’s clear that the tavolette  were not painted by professional artists, but their narrative is nonethless compelling and their compositional naivete is beautifully expressive.

Here, take a look:

Looking into the gallery at the Calandra Institute

Professor Primiano (speaking to an interviewer) with a panel of metal ex votos at his back

Below: a detail of some of the objects. Most are silver-plated metal or copper, some quite detailed 

Above: another view of the exhibition. The painting in the foreground is shown in larger view below

Sometimes you have to guess the narrative: Is this woman praying to the Madonna, depicted aloft in a yolky chariot of a cloud, to heal her sick baby, or is she giving thanks for the delivery of a child?

I love these two. Extraneous details are stripped away, and each story is told with an economy of means. A hot liquid has fallen onto a child as his mother looks on in horror, her hands to her head

Even more succinctly, below, a swimmer dives headlong onto a submerged rock.
P.G.R. is Per grazie ricevute, for graces received

Here the intercessor is not  the Virgin Mary but Saint Anthony. Someone was gravely ill and got better. Grazie ricevute 

These two tavolette, with their roadside accidents, span more than half a century: the overturned cart in 1892, above, and the the automobile headed off the road, in 1957
I love the celestial illumination in these paintings and, below, the headlights illuminating the darkness where the auto did not go

The John D. Calandra Italian American Institute, part of Queens College in the CUNY system, is located at 25 West 43rd Street, just west of Fifth Avenue, on the 17th floor.  Gallery hours are 9:00 to 5:00, Monday through Friday. Be prepared to show a photo ID when you enter the lobby.


Marketing Mondays: Working Too Many Hours?

Image from the Internet

Just before my recent bout with back pain, I was working from 9:00 am to 3:00 am, with a few hours out of that total for non-art errands and activities. The rest of my time was some combination of studio practice, blogging, administrative work, and going out to look at art. And it went by fast!  Didn't I just get up to start the day? Oh, wait that was yesterday. My job is interesting but 15 hours a day, seven days a week, is two full-time jobs and and a part-time job. And like most of you, I have no perks like vacation, holidays off or company-paid health insurance.

So recently when the sciatica hit, I was forced to spend the better part of a month semi-drugged on the couch. Talk about a screeching halt.  Let me tell you: Time goes by really slowly when you're just lying there (even if you've gotten hooked on NCIS, which seems to have its own channel).

Now that I'm more or less better and back to work, time has speeded up again. I'm fortunate that my "outside jobs" are art related and that most of what I do can be done from an office in my studio, but I'm back to putting in too many hours. If the sciatica has taught me one thing it's that I have to slow down.

I'm trying.

No, I'm not giving up this blog, and I'm certainly not going to stop painting and exhibiting, and I'm not giving up the painting conference that I founded and run. But I am going to think twice about the other ways I have used my time. I've cut way back on Facebook, for instance. E-mail too. Delete, delete, delete. Do I have to participate in every exhibition that comes along? Noespecially if it requires packing and shipping, paying for the shipping, and has no catalog or web presence. I figured this out a long time ago but, you know, the siren call to show is strong. 

There's more. I've stopped writing letters of reference for friends and colleagues. I wish them well, and I hope they receive the grants and residencies they apply for, but I don't have the time to get pulled into their efforts. (As I wrote in a MM post a while back, Enough with the Reference Letters, I don't apply for any grant that requires letters of reference because they're a time suck for others. Hell, I hardly ever apply for grants, period, because they're a time suck for me.)

And more. Do I have to accept every speaking engagement that offers a "small honorarium"? No. If an institution can't meet my established fee, I can't work for them. I'm sorry to say that I've contributed to your low honorarium by having accepted pittances in the past. (Honorarium = minimum wage for your invaluable professional expertise.)  I have found that the preparation, time and travel involved in a speaking or teaching engagement has sometimes cost me more than what I was being paid. One thing is for sure: the folks who are inviting me or you to speak all have wage-paying jobs with benefits. Let's not let them nickel and dime us.

There are some exceptions.
. If you're early in your career, you're probably trying to get your work out there as much as possible. Go ahead, show. But it's still smart to be discriminating about exhibition opportunities (Coffee shops? Restaurants? Community centers? Be choosy.)
. And even as you progress in your career, you may agree to speak or demo or participate on a panel for free. I have organized and/or participated in a number of blogger panels and events over the past few years, finding that outreach--to work with colleagues I admire, to promote my blog, or just because the topic is interesting--was a worthwhile tradeoff. My colleagues, established artists and bloggers all, must have felt the same, too, because we've all given our time for free.

But back to cutting back on activities. I'm not sure how much my cutbacks will help. I am still a Type A who likes to work. But I'm really, really going to try. My well-being depends on it.

Of course there's a larger point to this post, and it's about you:
. How many hours a week do you work?
. Do you feel it's too much?
. Have you experienced work-related stress or illness?
. Have you been able to cut back?
. Have you accepted too many low-wage jobs?
. Do you still?
. When was the last time you took a vacation?

I'm not asking you to respond specifically to these questions, but as you consider them, please tell us a bit about your work habitsor, more likely, your overwork habits.


The Big Woozy

Richard Serra at Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea through November 29, where two massive works are on exhibition: Junction, 2011, and Cycle, 2010

On the heels of a spectacular retrospective drawing show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art this past spring/summer (shown left, photo by Ozier Muhammed for the New York Times), comes this equally spectacular sculpture show at Gagosian Gallery, up through the end of the month. Size is the issue—as in big, as in huge, as in gargantuan—both in the oilstick-on-paper drawings assembled at the Met, and in the vertiginous double-walled maze in nearly three-inch-thick rolled steel at Gagosian.

Space is also the issue, of course. “I consider space to be a material,” says the artist, who manipulates his physical material so that you make your way vertiginously through torqued and tilted walls, unsure whether the floor is giving way under you, the walls are closing in, or you’re somehow unable to maintain your previous relationship to gravity.

Aerial view of Junction from the gallery website. This image was on a $20 poster that sold out in a flash

Installation views from the gallery website, above and below

As a decidedly non-spatial person, I couldn’t fathom the shape of what I was seeing at ground level, even with a poster showing an aerial view of Junction and installation shots from the gallery's website (three b/w images above). Where did Junction end and Cycle begin? I don't know. So I just followed my nose through the maze and made my way around the works. Here's some of what I saw:

Above: View from the gallery entrance
Below: view from the other side of the gallery

A panoramic shot

To my painter’s eye, the color is as compelling as the forms. You have a new appreciation of the color “rust” after seeing the oxidized surfaces of the works, with their warm, almost velvety surfaces. (Want to read more about Serra's surfaces? Type in "Richard Serra at MoMa" in the internal Google search bar, right, and links to few previous posts of mine will appear at the top of this post.)

I felt a little drunk walking through some of these passages. I had the same feeling climbing the steps inside the Tower of Pisa years ago, when you could still enter the structure. When your relationship to perpendicularity changes, wooze ensues.

The work is so massive that you don't think about the thickness of the steel until you see a visible edge. That's my hand below to give you a sense of the thickness of the rolled plates, about three inches

Another unexpected quality to the work is the "pattern" in the rust, which must be a result of the forging and rolling process. To my eye there are waterfalls and wood grains. My favorite, below, is almost art nouveau in its pattern