Friday, February 29, 2008

anni albers

Last Sunday I attended a great lecture by Prudence Roberts on the exhibition Women’s Work, currently up at the Art Gym. From the moment I saw the work of Anni Albers on the lecture screen, and then followed up by checking it out at the exhibition, I knew this was another case in which I hung out with the husband and lost sight of the wife. Not good.

Because most people know I love Josef Albers and have had a long standing love affair with his Square Descending. I knew of them even in childhood, in the 1960s. His books I found dull and never really read them, but no matter; the squares were enough.

What was odd, though, was how many comments came my way about her, not him, when people saw my work. Well, sure, I thought, there’s the fabric connection. The Indian blankets of my granddad were my “initial image,” as Audrey Flack calls it. But the sorry fact is I never really thought much about Anni Albers until I saw this show, which only has a couple of her prints anyway. But at least the light finally went off.

She was incredibly smart and persistent – and begrudgingly went into weaving as a student at the Bauhaus, a school which regrettably denied female students all kinds of subjects. She knew from the start how difficult it would be to get respect. But she took every limitation and made it into a strength.

At the library I collected a stack of books and was fascinated with her colors and progression. Check out the piece above, made in the 1960s – not unrelated to my own 60s/80s. Perhaps we were just responding to the same things, save in different decades – to the aggressive and rhythmic optimism of orange, hot pink and red, found in fashion and textiles by entities like Marimekko or YSL.

I liked the entire show. The prints by Wangechi Mutu (see below), imagery based on collage technique, are dynamite.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Molly Vidor at PDX

“Sometimes I live in the country,
Sometimes I live in the town,
Sometimes I have a great notion
To jump in the river and drown."

- Huddie Ledbetter & John Lomax

The above is a classic blues lyric. It’s also the beginning of Ken Keseys’s Sometimes a Great Notion. It’s also the artist statement for Molly Vidor’s current show at PDX Contemporary Art, Destroyer. I really enjoyed the show. Five paintings, that’s all, each of them deep enough to drown in. We met yesterday for a short interview. (Actually the interview was longer, but Youtube rejected the longer efforts. I wish I could have included it all.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Lately I’ve been reading Writing Fiction. There appears to be no set formula outside of this: Read a lot. Write a lot.

Makes complete sense to me, but I was almost shocked to see it so plainly stated. In the world of fiction, there actually appears no set, rigid method to success. Some writers get a formal education. But more often than not, fiction writers become an expert of their own observations and this is what they write about, like a criminal who writes about crime.

It’s very much how I initially conceived of being an artist. Go out and see art, the best you can find. Come home and make it. At night, read about it. Repeat. But I think you will find fewer and fewer artists who actually “make it” coming out of this lifestyle.

In the world of books, the leverage is in your ability to tell a story. Mind, of course you have to write it and write it well but that questionnaire we discussed awhile back will never, ever give you a page turner.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

gilbert and george

When I first saw the Gilbert and George image on the Bay Area Art Quake review, I was excited. I will visit San Francisco soon – where I spent five fabulous and formative years – so I can check out this exhibition. Then I finished the rest of Anna Conti’s account and realized how strange G and G must come off to the uninitiated. Not just strange but downright old fashioned. It refreshed my view about the fellows, but I still have a perverse attachment....

True: balding men in suits, gazing often at each other, body parts and body fluids – not exactly my thing, at least as descriptive words on paper.

And yet when I look at a Gilbert and George, and I’ve been doing that since at least the 80s, I just see grids of bright colors, crisp outlines in black and graphic gyration. They married color and some concerns generally attributed to paint with black and white photomontage. I tend to forget all the narrow, self-absorbed, inbred and potentially sexist references. Is this bad or good? I'll still probably see the show.

While in NYC I saw a lot of G and G, at Sonnabend and also some gallery on 57th, which did a great postcard exhibition. Like me, they collect picture postcards. They did what I always wanted to do – montaged them in a bombarding, repeat fashion.
The name of my gallery came from a Gilbert and George. I’ve had this postcard (above) for years, long before the gallery was a glimmer in my eye.

Monday, February 18, 2008

the hook

Almost as soon as the question was posed and answered as to what I might do with the new targets, it became more difficult to make them. Making art is easier than pitching it and as long as I didn’t have to think about it, I could make away.

So I went into a lull on slow panic, just at the thought of pitching. The painting exhibition took almost everything I had in that area. And once I thought less of it, I could cut and paste a bit more.

The first draft on the novel on a woman artist is done and of course it needs pitching too. One must fashion the best query they can, which is an art form in itself. Agents say that if the query is poor, you know that the novel must be. And almost all of that hinges on “the Hook.”

The Hook is the first line you write in the query, which tells the basic story. In one sentence, you give the gist. This is followed by a synopsis – in one paragraph, you get to give some more of the gist.

How-to books about fiction give us great examples for a lot of contemporary fiction and their Hooks. However I find it very difficult, if not almost impossible, to wrap up the depth of Pride and Prejudice or On the Road or the Red and the Black in a single sentence.

You can write in a very authentic voice for a novel which has, in no way, nothing to do with pitching and hooking. I now recall a writer friend who took a screenplay writing class in New York. The whole class, as it turned out, was devoted to writing the log line. That was it. I don’t think she ever did write a screenplay.

Friday, February 8, 2008


SELLOUT has a post up on ambition. The post itself is a competition: whoever names and details the cleverest ambitious project gets a guest post, etc.

It’s odd because it came on the same day that I was writing in my private diary: “I’m sick of flogging, pitching, scheming, wanting.” Diametrically opposed, you might say.

In 1991 I was extremely sick. After having seen over twenty doctors, I got mercifully hit by a car and so left NYC for a couple of months to sort it all out in Ashland, Oregon. Here, I met this group who basically told me it was wrong to want anything, even good health. I had to give up all the want, they said.

I disagreed and good thing, because only active pursuit would cure me (and did). But this idea of extinguishing want has always been met with a love/hate embrace. Hate, because we deserve success. Love, because it’s almost the easy way out.

Not putting down SELLOUT, mind you, whose every post I have devoured since its launch, with a name that clearly tells you its intent. Artists need a game-plan that’s not just about dreams and aesthetics. We tend to spend more time in the cozy/freezing studio than working out business plans. It’s good to read how creative people interpret and act on ambition.

Every few years I tell someone that I might just quit painting. It’s not the paint itself - paint is good. It's the immense ambition and blind faith to keep at it, to maintain belief and that sense of self-importance. I guess this is just the post-exhibition come down.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Michael T. Hensley

Michael T. Hensley opened a show last night at Mark Woolley. It features his rust paintings and also some big juicy blue ones. We did a short video interview here. The show is called Loss/Control.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

collage in the news

Collage is all over the place these days. I just received the email newsletter of ArtKrush. Check out what they have to say about it.

Then Gagosian just had what looks to be a great show up called Fit to Print. The images by Fay Ray are especially delicious, as are the ones by Bjorn Copeland. Actually it all looks good....Charlie Finch wrote it up here.

Monday, February 4, 2008

alfred harris at froelick

While I was at the Desoto Building, I met Seattle artist Alfred Harris, who has a beautiful show up at Froelick called Drummer Hodge. Luckily I still had my godchild’s camera.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Maria T. D. Inocencio at Nine

When I first met Maria, she was working on a show called “The Tree.” The Big Leaf Maple in her small yard had to come down, so what she did was photograph it, save the seedlings and stumps and various parts and then exhibit the whole thing. Viewers could walk away with parts at the end of the show. Our backyard still has one of her seedlings.

One of the walls from that show had a huge photomontage of the tree. The show “Walking,” which just closed at the Nine Gallery, had a similar process going on. Each wall had a photomontage of a record of a walk – or in the case of one project, several walks.
In April she will have a big project up at the South Waterfront with Mark R. Smith.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

ethics and alfred steiglitz

The conflict of interest plight moves on. I personally prefer passion to objectivity. But then again, I do not really believe in the latter. Because everyone has favorites. Everyone has some semblance of style or taste running through their veins and character. Consistently taking no stand or no side is not only fairly impossible, it’s also really dull.

Not to say you can’t “report” things. But even when you do, don’t tell me you’re not ever hating or loving what you report on. Don’t tell me that sometimes, well, sure it’s your job but when it comes to this show/artist/venue, you really don’t give a shit. ‘Cause it shows.

- Unless of course you very much do. Maybe you’d even like to sleep with your subject! Shit happens!

I’m thinking about this as I just read another post about it, this time on Regina Hackett’s blog. She has, for 2008, some “simple guidelines” for critics:

1. Don't be a dealer or run an art fair.
2. Don't take gifts.
3. Don't sleep with artists.
4. Don't favor friends or snub enemies.

The first sounds reasonable, but the rest will never be all that well-policed, especially the last. People snub and favor all the time. Did someone say the art world was kind? I don’t even know if it is sane half the time.

The ultimate role model for me is still Alfred Steiglitz. He wrote about artists, curated artists, published artists, was an artist – a quadruple threat (at least). And he slept with artists. He even took photographs of artists he slept with naked - which he would show, sell, publish, promote. Not just the photographs but the work of the naked artist too.

It must have been extremely difficult and messy for everyone involved, but I’m so glad no one called him out to stop any of it. Of course you could say that there is more at stake now. Even so, I don’t know what’s bigger than Steiglitz.