artists with vaginas

Every time I see a headline or an exhibition with “Female Artists” or “Women Artists” or “Black Artists” or “Latin American Artists” or “[Whatever People Segmentation Word] Artists” I die a little.

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To think that, in 2017, with all the progress we had, the arts community — which, in theory, is (or should be) forward-thinking and avant-garde and liberal — still classifies and box in artists is, at least, sad.

Yes, unfortunately, the word ‘artist’ is still a synonym of white-male. From Cézanne to Picasso, to Van Gogh, to Matisse, to Pollock, to Andy Warhol, to David Hockney, to Jeff Koons and Damien Hirst: all the blockbusters, show-stoppers, headliners are caucasian dudes. But isn’t it time that we at least try to change that?

By adding [women] or [female] title, you help to corroborate that establishment, to differentiate people amongst the same group. A “woman” *cringe* artist is AN ARTIST as much as her male counterpart. The same goes for “black” artist. And if you happen to be a woman, and black, you automatically earn three extra last names: Jane Doe, Black Women Artist.

Enough with the categorizing. With the condescending bullshit. With the whole “we discovered this great group of women artists.” They were always there, doing fucking awesome work, and the misogynists at the time overlooked them just because they had vaginas instead of penises — and now they want to pretend that it was just an ‘oversight.’

While major institutions don’t step up to try changing the game, we will still be showered with ridiculous (and hard to digest) articles like these:

art market(ing)

You know when you are in the shower and, out of the blue, a drop of shampoo falls in your eye and you have an insight about an excellent title, but that it doesn’t have any context whatsoever? Like when you have this great idea, but there isn’t necessarily a job or a client behind it? You just had this speck of inspiration, and pencil in the idea in your Moleskine (or Evernote, or on the back of a receipt) ‘just in case’? 

Yeah. I think that Contemporary Art (and by ‘contemporary’ I mean post-internet-art) is more and more like that. With a great insight (or just a boring one), translated into “art.” There isn’t research, blood, sweat or tears – trial or error behind it. There is no planning (pun intended) behind it. “Artists” (who are as much as “artists” as I am a marketeer) have a funny idea, put into paper (or on canvas, or on the wall, or –) and wait for someone (an “emerging gallery” or a “curator”) to validate it, and monetize that. But where is the juice? Where is the essence? Where is the “inner beauty”? Is art for Kanye West curate it and Kim Kardashian balance in her ass. Enough with paintings that look good with the couch; that is a great selfie background; that is full of mirror surfaces for narcissus see. 

I want a Kiefer, and his works that look like dirt. I want Beuys and his craziness of living with a coyote. I want Richard Serra and his massive copper walls that don't fit an Instagram square. Yes, art is nice. Art is cool, is hipster. Art is a bunch of hashtags that will bring you hundreds of new followers. But art is also thought, process, work. Artwork – it is work. Is not about having a cool idea and delegating it to assistants/slaves to execute it, nor is a free ticket to Art Basel Miami Beach. It is to educate. To take responsibility about what you are birthing into the world. 

My eyes are precious. And time is money. And I don’t want to spend a minute nor a cent having to walk around your golden balloon dog statue. The “visual arts” are now plastified. Full of botox, liposuction, of taking ass fat and putting on the lips. Where are the Mad Men to fix that? Where is Dove ad campaign, for the “real beauty” in the arts? Give me something real, something raw, something ugly. Give me the truth, for christ sake. 

Thank you, Koons, but I don’t want my art gift-wrapped. 

 

Sacred Heart (Red & Gold) by Jeff Koons

Sacred Heart (Red & Gold) by Jeff Koons

LA goes to Art Basel Miami Beach

 

Over three hundred galleries from all across the globe came together under one (giant) roof to present its more valuable assets. If you managed to wait in line for a considerable amount of time, and zig-zagged between masses of thousands of people, you could have stood inches away from modern and contemporary masterpieces, like the $35M Calder mobile, right by the entrance, at Nahmad Gallery; or one of its dozen of Picassos. Among hundreds of different cities, Los Angeles was fairly good represented with over 15 of its more prominent galleries, spread around the 8 main hallways of the fair. 

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On the Edition section of the fair (12 leading publishers of editioned works, prints and multiples exhibit the results of their collaboration with renowned artists), Gemini G.E.L. showcased a ‘sample sale’ of its main artists, in a very traditionally set booth. Roy Lichtenstein, Sophie Calle, Chuck Close and Richard Serra are just a few of their big-names artists with editions for sale. In the same hallway, Gavlak struggled to keep its black vinyl punch-bag intact while a sea of tourists felt ‘compelled’ to touch the work. On the third day of the fair, they had to put a tape and an improvised ‘do not touch’ handwritten sign to keep hands away. On the back wall, a very selfie-inviting piece by Rob Wynne attracted vain visitors.

Susanne Vielmetter gallery had a very prominent booth space featuring a selection of a number of artists they represent, with no apparent coherence among them. Just as Gemini, and many others, they used the space almost as a sample sale of its more popular artists. A couple of Whitney Bedford’s seascapes canvas shared the space with Dan Levenson’s stacked canvas on the corner; Stanya Kahn’s “Fuck this shit up”; a large Raffi Kalenderian canvas; and several Ryan Mosley pieces. Even though they were showcased with adequate wall space between them, you could clearly see the total lack of connection among styles.

 

team gallery, on the other hand, opted to fill its corner both with a  very clever Miami-like show; bringing together large-scale colourful works by Robert Janitz, Stanley Whitney, a Ryan McGinley photograph and a video installation by Tabor Robak. Cory Arcangel’s works where displayed in vertical television screens spread throughout the booth, in a similar choice of Cherry and Martin’s artist, Brian Bress. Placed in the Nova sector of the fair (34 galleries present works created by one, two or three of their artists. This sector often features pieces fresh from the artist’s studio and strongly curatorial juxtapositions) , by the crazy-and-loud booth of São Paulo-based Mendes Wood DM, they brought nine tv-screens with Bress’ work. Overall, the display was very simple, yet aesthetically impeccable - definitely one of my favorites.


David Kordansky played safe at this ABMB and ended up with a pretty boring booth. Even though they had some very contemporary (and stunning) mixed-medium pieces - like Mary Weatherford Canyon and Elad Lassary’s Untitled (Tea Set),  they opted for a very traditional display, with plinths and few works hanging, that was a completely turn-off for visitors.

Kohn Gallery also preferred to stick with what they know, and presented immaculate pieces by Lita Albuquerque and Simmons & Burke, in a pristine (but easily forgettable) setting.


Kordansky’s fair-neighbours, Blum & Poe, left everybody unimpressed too. With dull pieces that didn’t really worked together, and the predictable white-cube look, the best thing to see at the booth was definitely their furniture.


A nice surprise - and a great contrast to B&P - was Gavin Brown, placed right across the corridor. The color-scheme of the booth resembled the Miami-look chosen by team, but the pieces were nothing alike. Featured in one of the special The Art Newspaper’s edition distributed throughout the fair, Bjarne Melgaard large, loud and bright canvas were balanced down by  Martin Creed’s geometrical abstract canvas. On the corner of the booth, the Creed’s Instagram-sensation neon-sculpture kept tiresly turning, painting the white corner green.

 

Regen Projects had it’s ‘Instragrammable’ gems too: Doug Aitken’s EXIT, and Walead Beshty’s shiny copper piece, in a corner. In the show-room style, the gallery opted for bringing a-little-bit-of-everything. Visually, they didn’t quite work as a ‘group show’, but pieces like Gabriel Kuri’s self portrait as symmetrical ripple effect in distribution loop, 2014 and Tillmans’ selection of photographs were absolutely worth the visit.

Talking about stars, Gagosian did what they do best: brag. A Jeff Koons lobster, a Basquiat canvas, some Andy Warhol pieces… No news there. If you wanted novelty, though, the booths on the Positions (16 galleries spotlight a single artist with one exciting project, allowing visitors to discover ambitious new talents from all over the globe) sector of ABMB stole the show - that is, if you actually managed to reach the corner they were located, which was not at all an easy task. Freedman Fitzpatrick  brought a series of Lucie Stahl’s photographs - surely beautiful, but not really a show-stopper. Honor Fraser, on the other hand, even with one of the tiniest booths of the whole fair, managed to squeeze two amazing large scale paintings by Botswana-born artist Meleko Mokgosi, being hands-down one of my favorites from ABMB.

Overall, we could divide the galleries into two main categories: curatorial projects vs. sample-sales. While some thought it was best to use the fair  as a show-room of their best artists - and install the works randomly across their booths - others, cleverly, brought ‘curated’ shows, presenting visually-stimulating and educative narratives. Kuddos for Cherry and Martin, Honor Fraser, team and Gavin Brown for being daring enough to try something new and thoughtful, rather than the same-old dull shopping-mall experience.



I went to jim hodges exhibition at the hammer, and I hated it

 

 

There, I said it. In big, bold letters. Without trying to get around it, or making amends. I went to Jim Hodges exhibition at the Hammer, last Saturday, and I hated it. Those who know me can testify: I don’t hate many things. I dislike tons of it - figs, blowing my nose when I step on a wet puddle in the bathroom while wearing socks - and am not a fan of many people - but hate, well, I can count on one hand things I hate. Currently, Jim Hodges works are one of them.

 

Dear Jim, please don’t take it personally. I don’t know you and (hope my MA professors don’t listen to me, but) quite frankly, I have never heard about you before stepping foot at the Hammer last Saturday. So, it’s not you. It’s just what you do. Cracked mirrors, curtains of flowers and butterflies, a tapestry made of denim? Seriously? 

American artist Jim Hodges is known for his singular ability to infuse emotion and narrative into the objects of daily life, creating poignant studies based in temporality, life, and love.
— http://hammer.ucla.edu/exhibitions/2014/jim-hodges-give-more-than-you-take/


 

 

And the museum’s website doesn't help -- at all. They are not showing ‘studies’ (let alone ‘poignant’). It is all a ton of (I-can’t-believe-I’m-actually-paraphrasing-Greenberg) kitschy, wonderland, junk. All I want to do is throw-up buckets of rainbows and ride on my glittery purple unicorn far far away from all of it. Jim Hodges works are layer upon layer of cafona. (‘Cafona’ is a Portuguese word that can loosely be translated as ‘tacky’ - but tacky doesn’t convey the precise meaning I’m aiming for. If you’re Brazilian, you know what I mean by ‘cafona’).

 

 

To be fair, I've ‘googled’ Jim Hodges and saw a piece (three rocks in a circle, half-painted with shiny/metallic colors à la Koons) that it’s quite cool. To be fair, there can be many Hodges pieces that are good and, because they weren’t exhibited at the Hammer (nor in the first page of Google Image search) I am unaware of. But, I’m sorry. This is not about the artist's oeuvre, in general, or about his persona. It is about Jim Hodges exhibition at the Hammer. And, from what I saw, I hated it.



connecting the dots

It is Los Angeles. Probably 80 degrees outside, nothing much going on  (and no one seems actually to work around here) so what better thing to do than going for a swim?  David Hockney, A Bigger Splash, is a snapshot of one of these ordinary Californian days. His canvas works like a window; an aperture to a scene that we arrived a few seconds too late. Who is the diver in the pool is the 1 million dollar question. Its colors don’t give us any hint - on the contrary: they add to the banality of the image. An empty chair, closed doors modernist suburban house, two typical palm trees and a splash. The diving board juts out of the margin into the painting’s foreground – its positioning coming at a diagonal out of the corner – giving perspective as well as cutting across the predominantly horizontals. The yellow makes the diving board stands out dramatically against the turquoise water of the pool, echoed in the intense turquoise of the sky. Hockney has explained: ‘When you photograph a splash, you’re freezing a moment and it becomes something else. I realize that a splash could never be seen this way in real life, it happens too quickly. And I was amused by this, so I painted it in a very, very slow way.’ Overall, it seems like, if it weren't for that stir in the water, disrupting the calm,  nothing would have moved for days.

David Hockney,   A Bigger Splash,   1967

David Hockney, A Bigger Splash, 1967

Strand is a semi-abstract painting of another seemingly common subject (a beach full of holiday-makers), drawn from the German media, made by Sigmar Polke in 1966. With its polka dots technique, Polke seems to question - and, at the same time, mock - the validity of media-spread images. He magnifies, distorts and reverts black with white dots that, in newspapers, are close to seamless. This picture, like Hockney’s, uses the banality of everyday scenes to raise questions. Strand is not about what the people are doing, and how is the weather on that particular day: he creates a distance between the subject matter and the viewer. While many ‘nature scenes’ transport us to a new reality (the way we feel ‘inside’ one of Monet’s garden scenes when we stand in front of it), Polke puts an extra layer,  blurs the window, and make sure that we don’t connect with what is happening at that beach. The closer you get to the image, the less you see the action. This deliberate upsetting of the clarity and stability of the picture, unlike Andy Warhol or Lichtenstein, who celebrated the mass media, elevating its imagery and means of reproduction to the status and the realm of 'high art,' Polke's work is more of a critique. It is cynical.

Sigmar Polke,   Strand (Beach)  , 1966

Sigmar Polke, Strand (Beach), 1966

When talking about polka dots and Pop art, inevitably – and almost instantly –  Kusama comes to mind. Her obsessive repetition of the pattern in some different mediums (canvas, installations, clothes, pumpkins) made her work universally recognizable. One of her installations, Infinity Mirror Room - Phalli’s Field (Floor Show), done in 1965, is a tiny squared space, covered with mirrors and, yes, red dots. The compulsiveness is said to be Kusama’s means of dealing with the hallucinations that began tormenting her as a child – but what does that do to the viewer? A claustrophobic, mirror-lined hallway leads into a massive room, whose four walls have been filled with several mirrors, set amidst dozens of textile bean bags. These amorphous objects that cover many of Kusama's works recall tumors; a strange mass that doesn’t belong in that space. That is until we step in that area. Suddenly, we turn into tumors; we are the ones that don’t belong. Even if the room is covered with reflections of ourselves, in a matter of seconds, we begin to feel uncomfortable, and much like an outsider. Kusama’s works are the world within a world – and if, in some way, the artist doesn’t quite ‘fit in’ in our world, she makes us feel like we are not a part of her world.

Yayoi Kusama,   Infinity Mirror Room - Phalli’s Field (Floor Show),   1965

Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Mirror Room - Phalli’s Field (Floor Show), 1965

Even though Hockney, Polke, and Kusama use very distinct techniques in their pieces, the three works have one thing in common: they shut the viewer off. In Hockney, that is made clear by the splash: he doesn’t allow us to witness the action, just the nanoseconds after it - and emphasize that by freezing an action that otherwise could not be grasped. Polke barely lets us see anything. He blurs and distorts his dots to make the scene almost abstract. He doesn’t want us to connect with the beach-goers, and make us purposely feel left out. Finally, Kusama, even with her room filled with mirrors, finds a way to shut off the viewer – with irony: nevermind that it is an odd room filled with polka dots, bean bags, floor to ceiling. It is a perfect, closed, world – and all of a sudden the strange element in it is us. We, the viewers, are the ones that stand out.

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 



 

for sale: goat heads, toilets, cheeseburgers and other gooey stuff

The time is 1915s - Zurich, Switzerland: disillusioned by the social values that led to the war and sought to expose accepted and often repressive conventions of order and logic by shocking people into self-awareness, Dadaists prized the nonsense, irrationality, and intuition. Its father? No one is less than Marcel Duchamp. In the years immediately preceding the war, Duchamp found success as a painter in Paris - but soon gave up, explaining: “I was interested in ideas—not merely in visual products.”

The time is the 1950s - New York, USA: After roughly 40 years, Neo-Dada rises as a minor art movement that has similarities in method or intent of the earlier Dada artwork. While it revived some of the objectives of Dada, it puts "emphasis on the importance of the work of art produced rather than on the concept generating the work." Robert Rauschenberg ushered in this new era of postwar American art, rejecting the Greenbergian formalism. His approach was sometimes termed “Neo-Dada” due to its relation to both European forebears and the physical gestures of American Abstract Expressionists.

Rauschenberg’s first pieces were somewhat “anti-art,” as a form of protest about what was happening in the world - and especially in the art world. Rauschenberg’s Erased de Kooning Drawing (1953) and This is a Portrait of Iris Clert if I Say So (1953) were filled with cynicism, as a strategy of provocation against the dominant bourgeois culture. His most famous pieces, though, came a few years later: Bed (1955) and Monogram (1955) are what the artist called “combines” - pieces that blurred the distinctions between painting and sculpture, as their flat surfaces were augmented with discarded materials and appropriated images. In his combines, everyday objects (garbage on the street, comics, newspapers, pieces of woodwork, posters, fabrics, drawings, mirrors) took the space of the painting. Rauschenberg once said ‘I always wanted my works-whatever happened in the studio- to look more like what was going on outside the window.' While other artists considered his work a way out of abstract expressionism, Greenberg spitefully called it ‘novelty art.'

Robert Rauschenberg   Bed   1955   mixed mediums, ca. 75 x 32 x 8 in.   Museum of Modern Art

Robert Rauschenberg
Bed
1955
mixed mediums, ca. 75 x 32 x 8 in.
Museum of Modern Art

By the end of the 1950s, Marcel Duchamp came back into the picture. His retrospective in North Carolina in 1963 contributed to the public dissemination of his works around the States, turning him into a very influential artist to pop and, later, conceptual art. With his famous ready-mades, Duchamp questioned the boundaries of the work of art, posting questions like “what constitutes the work of art?”, “what are the parameters?” and, also, examining the influence of ‘the artist's hand.'

With its roots in Dadaism, Pop Art started to take form when artists began making the symbols and products of the world of advertising and propaganda the main subject of their artistic work. Pop artists used the iconography of television, photography, comics, cinema and publicity to create works that were critical of the high culture in the name of mass culture. Riding this wave - but against the current - Claes Oldenburg mixed the gestural and messy combines of Rauschenberg with its contemporary influences (like Warhol and Duchamp) to create his gooey and nasty works.

In his (in)famous The Store (1961), Oldenburg occupied an actual store front, in Manhattan, and filled it with grotesque plaster food and clothing made out of paper mache, making a claim at the pathologies of the commodity culture. In that scenario, the artist was the salesman and the spectator the consumer. Later, his giant soft sculptures took inspiration in barely anything - clothing, fast food, urban decay - generating a new awareness of the environment through strategies of estrangement (with their large scale and soft materials) and displacement. Oldenburg transformed familiar objects (like a toilet or a cheeseburger) into uncanny. What had he to say about it? “I am for an art that is political – erotic – mystical, that does something other than sitting on its ass in a museum.”

Claes Oldenburg, Two Cheeseburgers, with Everything (Dual Hamburgers), 1962

Claes Oldenburg, Two Cheeseburgers, with Everything (Dual Hamburgers), 1962

Looking at the works of Rauschenberg, Duchamp, and Oldenburg we can see the influence that the everyday, urban, life had in the arts. It was not about representing their emotions, or even ‘art for art's sake’ anymore. Artists from the 1950s and 1960s had something more to say. Regardless of the ‘artistic movement’ they are classified under (Dada, neo-Dada or pop), they found distinct ways to criticize the canons of the art world and high culture by elevating urban debris into art; placing trash in pedestals inside galleries; being rebels with a noble cause.


found poetry in soho

In a timid building in the middle of hectic SoHo, a green door and a very steep staircase lead to the home and studio of the artist Erica Baum: A loft packed with high bookshelves, newspapers, magazines, and dozens of boxes filled with different toys (her son’s). On the white walls, few pieces of her body of work hang in very simple frames.

Forget all those preconceived thoughts about crazy-genius-drunk artists, messy spaces, and lots of assistants frenetically running around. Baum, a very humble, good-humored and bright artist, works alone – and in a very sane and methodical way.

In the early nineties, during her MFA at Yale, Baum started taking pictures of desktops details and notes left on blackboards after classes. She was drawn to human ‘ephemeral’ forms of expressions – as it related to her love of langue, Anthropology, and photography.  

Erica Baum, 2009,   Differently.

Erica Baum, 2009, Differently.

Only a few years ago, after her catalog and index card series, Erica replaced her old large-format camera for a digital one – “only for practical reasons” -, since she still insists on not digitally manipulating the images. Each one of her pieces preserves the color and texture of the materials pictured – books, newspapers, or even piano rows – and the words and expressions found in them.

The beauty of Baum’s work, which she explains in a very lyrical way, lies in her search for ‘hidden poetry’ in day-to-day objects.  Her series of index cards and Dog Ears pieces shows us exactly that: there are poems hidden everywhere, in plain sight. The artist specifically selects the words to create her poetic work; ‘writing’ poetry through the lenses of a camera.

Unlike many other artists, while working, Erica doesn’t listen to music – but to the news: “I don’t know why I do that, it’s just a habit.” Currently, her artworks are in Berlin, Paris and at the Met; but she doesn’t make a big deal of it. Concerning the selection of images on the shows, sometimes she chooses the works, sometimes someone else does it: “I think it’s interesting knowing what other people like.”

After a couple of hours of talk, she has to send us away, because she must pick up her son at school. Surrounded by all this lyricism, what Erica doesn’t seem to notice is that she is a found poem in the middle of a frenzied art world. 

PHILIP JOHNSON’S GLASS HOUSE

What’s one to say about the Glass House? It can be stated that it is a house made of glass, but that seems beyond obvious; or perhaps that is an iconic architectural piece, but considering it was designed by and to Philip Johnson, again, too obvious. There seems to be no way to describe the land and the collection that it houses in a way that lives up to being there and taking in its appearance and meaning, but one can try:

Photo: Thomas Loof/Trunk Archive

Photo: Thomas Loof/Trunk Archive

I have very expensive wallpaper
— (P. Johnson)

Built in 1949, where once was a dairy farm, the 1728 sq. Ft house is, in Johnson’s words, a ‘pavilion to viewing nature.' To him, the main feature is not the (spectacular) constructions in the property, or the (fabulous) collection it holds, but the landscape that surround them. 

The plants in the vestibule, the stone walls with its teasing height, and Donald Judd’s circular sculpture invites guests to play a game of hiding and seek when entering the premises. Though, once you finally set your eyes on the house’s interior and its surroundings, it is pure magic. Hundreds of trees cover the 49-acre land, carefully trimmed to enhance the light and enrich the view.

Inside the house, the objects are minimal, merely functional, but naturally, beautifully designed. Two artworks are permanent residents of the living room: the Poussin painting, displayed on a metal board; and Elie Nadelman’s sculpture – a smaller version of a marble one, designed by Johnson himself in Lincoln Center. In the middle of the room, an ashtray and a malachite box currently share the tabletop with Jason Dodge’s A tourmaline and a ruby inside of an owl. The artwork is part of a sculpture-in-residence program, called Night (1947 – 2015), in tribute to a Giacometti’s piece owned by Johnson.

I like to see only one picture at a time
— (P. Johnson)

A few feet away, after crossing the great lawn garden and the slightly unstable bridge (designed to ‘shake people up, and create awareness of what they were about to experience’), you arrive at the grass-covered mound Painting Gallery. In its interior, three circular room houses rotating ‘poster-racks’ which allowed Johnson to display different combinations of pictures, in a very convenient way. These devices have the capacity to store 42 pieces at a time. Hidden behind those huge panels, there are Stellas, Warhols, Rauschenbergs, Schnabels, Shermans, and Salles.

As if it weren’t enough, the Glass House property also has a Sculpture Pavilion (with Stella, Nauman, Rauschenberg, Schnabel, Lord, Segal, Chamberlain, Morris and Lassaw pieces), the Lake Pavilion, a Brick House, a Library, and the Kirstein Tower (aka ‘staircase to nowhere’).

Although one might think that the place is just a mausoleum of his former owner’s life, this unfortunate one is wrong. Glass House is a living, breathing, contemporary collection. Through Night (1947 – 2015) – the program which displays one contemporary artwork at a time; and Da Monsta – which now hosts its first site-specific exhibition by E.V. DAY, the collection continues to be extremely relevant in our present time.

The items of Philip’s collection are, first of all, personal. The Warhol portrait, Frank Stella’s paintings, Michael Heizer massive sculpture. It all speaks directly to his history, and personal relationships. David Whitney, for instance, is a key-element to understand this exquisite collection. As Philip often referred to his lifelong partner, “David is my eyes and ears to buy/sell/trade art.”

It was through his relationships, and ability to gather artists, collectors, curators and attractive people in general, that Philip helped develop many artists’ careers – and MoMA’s permanent collection. Although Philip Johnson passed away years ago, he is still very much alive in his Glass House. And now, we are all welcome to be guests in his properties.