Sunday, May 30, 2010

painting is dead (or was killed)

after spending the last month or so visiting a variety of exhibitions in the Detroit metro area and meeting/talking with many artists, curators and the likes in town, and a day before leaving the country for 30 days, I decided to finally finish what would be the longest entry on this blog.

my goal was to cover the following exhibitions and artists:

- Dick Goody's paintings in The Decay of Lying at The Butcher's Daughter gallery;
- Ian Swanson's and Adrian Hatfield's in I don't believe in art. I believe in artists, curated by Cedric Tai at the Whitdell gallery;
- Donald Baechler's, Ed Fraga's, and Susan Campbell's in Black & Blue at the Lemberg gallery;
- Clinton Snider's, Andy Krieger's, and Faina Lerman's in Nocturnal Translations at the Public Pool gallery;
- Petrova Giberson's in who loves the sun at the Susanne Hilberry gallery.

that blog entry, titled "painting the town...", was divided into the following sections: red; blue; black and blue; everything in between; with controversy. while most of the argument existed inside my head, there were specific images I planned on using to anchor each section.

as luck would have it, while transferring all the photo documentations I had carefully collected with my iPhone to my laptop, the application froze and subsequently crashed. I thought that a simple restart would put me back at the place where I started, but then noticed that most images were simultaneously gone from my phone and my desktop, with the exception of somewhat unrelated images I photographed today.

this saddened me because, in addition to completely destroying the structure for my writing, those images documented beautiful instances of contemporary painting here. and unfortunately most of these shows are either closed, or will be closing very soon.

how could I write about Goody's brilliant excess of color painted with humor and lightness (a departure for him from previous works that were dark, heavy-handed and somewhat bitter)? like Goody himself, who brilliantly combined fetish objects with cartoonish representations of his youth with text quotations on what he is/was "interested in" (or taking a jab at such statements) I felt the need to also connect my words here to his images there and, dare I say it, let them together speak for themselves, my role becoming that of a guide rather than a translator.

I also wanted to write about being engulfed in Hatfield's ocean of blueness, magic and mystery - his painting so hypnotic that I had to refrain myself from trying to jump right in for a swim (with my phone in my pocket nonetheless)... or attempt to drink from it... or steal it.

without images it would also be difficult to explain the relationships of materials, architecture and structure Swanson produced and processed, which in my view is the strongest work to date, by this extremely dedicated but at time discouraged young artist (don't stop believing!).

needless to say, the multiple and wonderful collaborations Tai undertook with his selected artists would go unrepresented, though not completely unmentioned. a squid will never be the same to me.

Fraga's implication of a three-dimensional space within a gallery (his paintings arranged as an "L" on the corner of the space, creating two of four sides of a rectangle), had a nice resonant but disagreeable dialogue with the two dimensional space within each work's frame, that effaced the maps and floor-plans used as ground for his whimsical, dream-like escapes.

similarly, the dots/holes that Campbell punched off her works, which denied the painterly and fluid aspect of the underlaying colors she first applied to the surface of the paper, resembling braille markings, would go unheard.

and what can I say, I learned a new term "flocking," while looking at Baechler's work (which must be seen in person anyway, as even my lost pictures, after many attempts from so many angles and vantage points, had failed to capture a grasp of lushness of their surface).

like a good dream you never want to end, Snider, Krieger, and Lerman captivated my attention with their wandering and meandering forms and figures in the popular and crowded collaborative concept exhibition during its opening reception. you will have to take my word for it.

last but not least, the poetry of Giberson's run in sentences - as far as I remember, they were the only text-based paintings in a group show that ironically was also poetically and fittingly titled (as many exhibitions in that venue are named after the featured artist) - will have to remain in my memory (as it was also erased from my computers' memories).


I should have concluded this blog entry with my brief summary, an exploration-that-never-was, on these artists' paintings.

but perhaps a better fit should include the only images that survived the mostly failed file transfer, shot a few hours ago. in hindsight an art blog about contemporary painting in Detroit during the spring of 2010 could not go about without a reference to Banksy, even if his paint comes from a spray can.

this infamously famous artist made his mark in the greater Detroit urban and decayed landscape (no lying); four of his pieces were discovered, documented, discussed, and argued over in the last few weeks. as it is (somewhat) known, and wonderfully written about on the weekly Metrotimes, one of Banksy's piece, from the dilapidated Packard Plant, was removed, without permission, by gallery 555. little has been written about them since (rumor has it that the piece has been hidden, as it's been threatened by unknown or unmentionable persons), also partially because local tragedy has taken central and national stage in the media, deservingly so.

my view on the matter (aside from the controversy of Banksy himself - a non issue really), is that the removed/destroyed piece would live best under the conservancy of the Detroit Institute of Arts, because they have the facilities and know-how to properly preserve this art work for posterity (and that might heal some wounds opened by the Packard and 555 folks with each other, as well as the community at large).

out of the four site-specific pieces created by Banksy here, as per said Metrotimes article, and if we consider the Packard/555 his first, the second piece was washed off by an overzealous property owner (whose property is up for sale for a price under Banksy's supposed market-value for a similar piece), and the third was irreparably damaged by another local group while attempting a second removal. only the last forth piece survived in the façade of an abandoned warehouse south of 12 Mile Road, on Van Dyke Road. before leaving Detroit for a month I wanted to go see, in person, the surviving Banksy, of the little mouse wearing star-shaped sunglasses, holding a pole and balancing itself on a real-life chain, that stood for a tight-rope. this cute and most expressive mouse, a recurring character from Banksy's extensive cast, symbolically depicted my journey here.

here being art. here as art

here being blog. here as blog.

here being site. here as sight.

here being Detroit. left and right.

the mouse is now gone, gone before I could meet him/her in person. like so much around here, it is gone before you know, and yet it leaves a mark, a mark that fails to erase what was once there. a mark like a scar, a reminder of what is sometimes forgotten. look around!

the mouse is now gone, and it wasn't me... or was it? did the mouse leave, because it knew I would photograph it, and then later lose the photograph?

the mouse is now gone.... as of 12:30 pm Eastern, on May 30, 2010. mouse being art. mouse as art. mouse depart.

this mouse is now gone... and soon so will I.

not being here. not being art. not being site, not as sight. not as here. not as art. not left, nor right.

UPDATE #1: it seems another Banksy piece has been found in Detroit after all. let's see how long this one will last.

UPDATE #2: someone comes forward as being Banksy, according to The Onion ;-)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

dear anonymous...

similar words were used in an open Facebook newsfeed by Jerry Saltz in relation to the recent $106 million Picasso purchase in auction. his post so far has garnered over 840 "likes" and 396 comments, two of which are mine (the first a response to his original statement, the second a response to a response to my comment). in case you were out of the loop, here is what Jerry wrote and shared:

Dear imbecilic anonymous telephone bidder who paid a record $106 million for a 1932 Picasso @ Christie’s. You think you’re an art lover. Sorry. Had
you taken $106 mill. & bought a gigantic building in the West 40s in NYC: 500,000 sq. ft.; & simply rented space
ONLY AT COST to 100 good galleries & 100 artist studios you’d have changed American
art & the American art world, forever.

Enjoy the painting.

- Jerry

I will not comment on his statement here because the proper forum, at this time, is Facebook itself. but I will write about what this situation made me think, which I find oddly inspiring (much like good works of art, where you end up wiser after experiencing it, almost surprisingly so).

you see, Jerry is not a "friend" of mine on Facebook. but, for some reason, his post appeared on my newsfeed. I imagine that a while back I sent him a friend request, which he was not able to deny or accept because he simply had already too many friends already (this is what the social network told me this morning during my second attempt to "friend" him). this might actually be a glitch, but sometimes Facebook incorporates someone's threads onto one's newsfeed while one waits for a friend request response (I got the same from Bravo's Andy Cohen, though he actually replied to my request with a personal "I am sorry" email, very touching in so many different ways; coincidentally enough, Jerry is a judge for Bravo's upcoming "Work of Art" reality competition show, a Project Runway with visual artists).

what has been great about Jerry's comment is the discussion it has engendered, which has been varied in tone, opinion, and depth. I only read a portion of the comments (less than 100), but really enjoyed the way in which people openly and simultaneously criticized the subject matter and the author's stance. what I also enjoyed was what I perceived as being the generosity of the author himself as well, of not setting limits to whom has access to his account and its contents. this is a similar spirit to what I want to happen in ART-SIGHT. my goal has been to create a forum for lively discussion among everyone who encounters this blog, with my entries serving as points of provocation.

in these past six months I have experimented with many approaches and formats for writing (mainly divided into re-views and e-terviews). I have already discussed the difficulties of writing about the community one exists from within. and the verdict is still not out as far as what method will be the one chosen by me, or most prevalent.

a few months ago I decided that I would not respond to comments posted on the blog. I felt that there was the possibility for creating the impression that I always wanted to have the last word on any given discussion (which has actually never been my intention). this choice was pretty much cemented until I read some of Jerry's responses to the comments to his thread. it was great to read how he actually considered what was posted, and, in more than one instance, how he reformulated his original writing to expand and focus the discussion, or shift his perspective. his approach has made me reconsider my position. from here on, if the response to any given blog of mine is extensive and enlightening, I might throw in some post scripts. I do hope that more people read and feel comfortable with sharing their thoughts.

one other aspect of this blog in relation to comments posted by readers is the notion of anonymity. a dear friend of mine told me that, as a rule, she was against the ability for anonymous comments and replies. what she meant was that if someone had something to say, they should own it and not hide under the mask or disguise of being "no one". in theory I find that appropriate, but in practice that would leave a lot of people out of this blog's loop. of course, if one considers the fact that this blog has only 19 official followers, who might have better things to do with their time, adding more restrictions (such as the need for a gmail account) may further limit its potential audience.

but so far the anonymous replies have been the most unsettling of all, because they have seemed to be almost completely off topic, or rather, focusing on me or my formal choices, rather than on the content and/or the subject of my writing. the beauty of Jerry's Facebook thread was being able to see who wrote what, and the possibility to find out more about that person by clicking on their names (and even "friending" them). in the next few months I will turn on commenting restrictions (one that will ask for people to have some sort of identification to post comments) and watch what happens.

in the past I have received, via email, some great responses to this blog that were not made public. sending an email directly to me is an option for the ones who wish not to create an official access to this blog, should someone not have already the proper verifications for posting a comment. if/when that happens, I will respectfully ask if it is okay to nominally quote their emails on the thread.

sometimes figuring out what something is, much like looking at great art or making art, becomes in and of itself the point of it all, rather than getting to a point of complete and clear certainty on something. this quest should be ongoing and fluid. I believe this approach, of simultaneous critique and wonderment, from within and without, is one I aim to bring forth and maintain with ART-SIGHT, and in this process, learn more about myself, my community, blogging, and contemporary art. content-wise, I will attempt to create a balance between blogging on local/regional art activities with national/international events I have the opportunity to personally attend, with the intermittent exchange with an artist/scholar. my goal is to write from a place of honesty and humility, with a dash of humor and the occasionally loving poke (to use another Facebook-speak terminology).

I hope to hear and learn from you.

don't be a stranger!