Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hans Haacke -- google search

Tara Donavan -- Google Search

organic, biomorph

Jesus Rafael Soto (Google Images)

linear, horizontal, vertical, semi-penetrable?

Sigh, and more on accumulation/conglomeration.

Sigh. Feeling passed and disconcerted today. A few years ago, I sent out proposals for a fishing line web piece that was about interfering with and framing perception of drawing in space. Unfortunately, the proposals were not successful.

Material World, at MassMoca, features seven artists using accumulation and other strategies with non-art materials to occupy and take over space/environment. Looks like an excellent show, though I probably will not get to Boston to see it.

One of the artists, Tobias Putrih, uses monofilament to occupy the space with finely tuned reflectivity and optics bordering on invisibility. The optics aspect reminded me of a piece I saw by Jesus Rafael Soto ages ago in Paris. The near invisibility of this piece (at least from the photo and description) strikes me as the most intriguing of the work because it's subtle. From the Catalogue link (black and white, unfortunately), most of the artists seems to take over through shear scale -- monumentally and literally occupying the space -- a not so surprising tactic.

One can accumulate any object/set of objects and scale up; one can string anything, including the "strings" themselves. Work through these means and methods has varying degrees of success, from little or none to a lot to arresting to unforgettable, same as any media.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Post Lintel

Two Distinct Lines, Two Distinct Scales

This is only formal. The same language works for some artists and not for others. Sigh.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Failure and Success

So much from learning from failure... Sci. America Article: success

Naturally success has a tendency to breed success -- it builds confidence and has a tendency to open up more opportunities.

It also carries expectations.

Mixed issue, as always.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Collecting more notes on Rauschenberg: Elemental Scuptures

From SFMOMA , Untitled (Elemental Sculpture), ca 1953:

I appreciate the juxtaposition of the pointed "screw" and the chained stone, the apparent fragility of a steel object, and the narrative and visual flow of the piece. I also think of Flintstone characters chiseling words on a slab, which is unfair and not all that connected except for the implied chiseling motion, but cannot be helped.

Rauschenberg included audience interaction as part of the piece, for example, with one piece, inviting audience members to rearrange the pieces of the work (block and stones) into different configurations in "ways that were not interesting." B. Joseph, Random, Robert Rauschenberg and the Neo-Avant-Garde Order, p. 88, 2003. [It's all been done, hasn't it?]

Assemblage and Digression

I did not see and admittedly did not pay much attention to “Unmonumental: The Object in the 21st Century,” show at the New Museum a couple years back. I did not see my work as non-monumental, particularly "object" focused or "assemblage" based in intention, even if I used non-art materials like dry wall, window screen, newspaper, etc.. along with traditional art materials to create elements that were arrayed in spaces.

I cared for what the identity of materials lent to artwork, though I may not always have thought in quite those precise terms. Dry wall has function and connotation and that which it can simulate - broken wall, artifact. I started using it because of that simulated and potential for actual artifact quality, and because it could be dilapidated. I stopped using it because it was too easily dilapidated and difficult to port. Likewise, window screen and newspaper have functions and connotations and that which each can simulate.

Materials can be played with subverted. Whatever material in use (usually a single or confined number of related materials) I explored drawing/painting conventions with the material in space - arrangement of elements into wholes in the context of the physical space/site. I focused less per se on the "objects" that the "drawings" with the materials become, except literally as an artifact of the process and as elements for extending the process.

An artifact is an object, a drawing is an object. Even as it remains drawing based, my work has moving further toward what cannot be denied to be assemblage, even if it came from drawing. Classifications are hard; I'm inclined to try to straddle them and stay in between. One ends up circling back, which has me looking back at "assemblage" historically as an art strategy.

Today, I came across Roberta Smith's NYTimes review of Unmonumental. She writes, among other observations:
  • "The thesis here is that assemblage-type sculpture, rampant at the moment, may also be today’s most viable art form. Why? It tends to be low-tech, modest in scale, made with found objects and materials and structured in ways that are fragmented if not actually disintegrating. Its ugly-duckling looks, rough edges, disparate parts and weird juxtapositions help stave off easy art-market absorption while also reflecting our fearful, fractured, materially excessive times back at us."
What happens, then, when "assemblage" doesn't have ugly duckling looks, rough edges, disparate parts, etc. -- none of which have to be part and parcel with assemblage. The assemblage of pieces adds up to an object, solid or fragile, beautiful or ugly, etc., either way, but to a different narrative.

Smith also writes:
  • "The main idea here seems to be to make art that looks like art only on careful examination, guided by the assumption that everything, every detail, is intentional and meaningful. The disheveled surfaces may often say Rauschenberg, but Joseph Cornell’s delicate precision is frequently the more useful analogy.
Note, she focuses her characterization as one of guidance on "the assumption" that each detail matters, rather than one in which each detail actually matters or was considered, intentional or meaningful.

Though not using words about what is assumed in seeing art as art, Steven Stern in Frieze, reviewing the same show, seemed to observe no assumed intentionality and deliberateness, other than perhaps packaging and mockery:
  • "Industrial fabrication, precious materials, the well-made object – all these were obviously jettisoned. But so too were inherited signifiers of anti-aesthetic value. That is to say, there was no ‘specialness’ conferred by the use of vernacular material: the bits of pop-cultural detritus weren’t glorified as ‘ready-mades’, the adoption of borrowed images didn’t feel like ‘appropriation’. For the artists in the show all this was business as usual, a simple matter of using all the crap that’s around."
  • "There is a sense that the New Museum is adopting a similar winking, referential, faux denial: the message ‘This is not a museum’ seems to hover behind their recent moves. Whatever else ‘Unmonumental’ was, it was a canny exercise in marketing, an advertisement for the spirit of the organization. However much one wants to believe in that spirit, it is slightly alarming how slickly they are promoting their unslickness."
Use of "all the crap available" hardly seems an unnatural expansive end point for "intention" defining "ready mades" as art, though not a necessary one, since "intention" would seem to imply a means of selection. Making work out of what is available does not have to denigrate art or amount only to an ironic statement on art or preciousness of art. There are times and frames of mind when I have stopped, looked around, and become acutely aware that every random thing seen looks like "art." Also, what does it mean to feel borrowed: does appropriation have to be selective to feel borrowed or appropriated? Is a "feeling" of borrowing even necessary to appropriation as a strategy?

I've digressed. A use "all the crap" sentiment, however precisely or legitimate, is not what my work is about, as the identity of the materials used matters.

Coming back to assemblage, all the same questions one has for painting, sculpture, and so forth apply: formal or conceptual, traditional or experimental, cohesive or disjunctive.... Installation work is a conglomeration of assemblages, which are a conglomeration of materials, which rely on 2-D and 3-D perceptions and conventions.

Place in Context

I hope -- expect -- that art work itself succeeds in reaching the audience without the need for words to explain or place it.

Submission for opportunities, however, often is by jpeg and not all artwork is jpeg friendly. Some is more jpeg friendly than the artwork itself, although I have never seen "accepted" work rejected when delivered. The submission process also usually asks for explanatory words - an artist statement and/or an exhibition proposal beyond "I make and propose to show the work shown in the attached images").

Perhaps I should try "I propose to show the type of work reflected in the attached images" as a proposal.

Many likely use some combination of intention and hindsight reflection when presenting art work. Intention and hindsight can but do not often merge seamlessly: discovery lies in between.

One way to deal with the question of where one's art sits in the larger Art, cultural, etc., context, is to ignore it. How persuasive will that be in a proposal, in which one usually is expected to concisely place the proposed work?

Some are great at talking in circles. One can go ahead and illustrate (accepted?) jargon, however convoluted, nonsensical, contradictory, circular, dressed-up it may be. The work ends up pretentious even when successful (accepted?), unless the work manages in the discovery phase to move beyond illustration (in which case, intention and hindsight are not merged).

Hindsight reflection is unhelpful when writing proposals for work that has yet to be made: the verbiage has to come before the work. A continuous body of work in the middle of development can be examined with hindsight intermittently and proposals written with plenty of hindsight.

I resort to containment. Discourse and how past and current work and ideas fit or do not fit within it is something to consider and think about before and after, and to forget when making the work... forget, as in excise from the front of the mind and the tips of the fingers (or production tool). Or the work only illustrates discourse and does not move beyond it or all that well within it, as least not in any way that differs from a verbal discussion. Visual interplay should not be simply a platform for verbal discussion or a diagram of it.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Meaning of Stumbling

Proverb: “A stumble may prevent a fall.” Done a fair bit of industrious stumbling. All must be well, then,

A really awful stumble is when pieces work amazingly well for the artist, and yet, seem unable to catch on with an audience. The artist is left to ponder the disconnect, to dissect it imaginary reason by imaginary reason, fault or no fault based, and to shrug for while.

More pieces/efforts than one cares to count don't work for one reason or another; a few serendipitous pieces come out surprisingly well with less effort than that of all those failures put together, probably because of all those failures. And most "good" work is in between: lots of effort, works.

As for stumbling in distribution -- how easy is that!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Space as context

Another thought runs frequently through my mind, since context of the installation space is a variable. There is an option to amass and fill a space, literally come up to or over the line of taking over the space, verging or crossing over into suffocating. There is an option to become a part of the space, literally coming to the line of hiding in and among it to be discovered or missed, unnoticed or irrelevant, entirely. And then, there is what lies between. Every strategy/device has two ends and a vast in-between ... probably sitting on a normal bell shaped curve, which incidentally could both fill the space when enlarged (as a solid volume) and go missed (as a line beneath with area is defined or as a transparent volume) to the scale of the space.

Retread? Looking back...

A link to a bunch of assemblages by Raucschenberg....

I have not previously spent a lot of time studying Rauschenberg's work. Years ago, when I was in school, I spent some time looking at his silkscreens and mirrored surfaces when I was playing with paint and marks on mirrors and obsessing with the narrow space between a mark and its reflection in the mirror. I had put aside my mirrored work because of the very real and incredibly annoying fragility of the mirrors -- and yet, ironically, it seems a sense of fragility wants to be part of my work, regardless of the material used.

While I've known about Rauschenberg's Combines as a point of departure, I paid little attention to them until now. With the direction my work has taken, I've become more and more concerned about the line between strategy/device and gimmick and am spending time looking back at what others have done. The concern is more in the nature of differentiating from a mere retread across well-covered ground, even where a different path has brought one to that already covered ground.

My look back has taken me to Rauschenberg's assemblages, a very, very good reminder that "new" never seems to be so "new." There's a lot to study here. I have to spend more time thinking about the conceptual and visual space between and around these and Tuttle.

Today, I ran across this interesting critique by John Perreault on the Combines. The success or failure of combines, much like the success or failure of paintings, rests on the visual/conceptual integration producing something uniquely resonant and memorable, whatever media, device, strategy -- and, okay, let's degrade that to gimmick -- which includes conceptual reasons for the materials and device used and successful integration of the materials and device.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Photography in making work

Thinking of the widening gyre today.

I went back to some I-phone photos from a few months ago to do some tweaking and some thinking about parts to isolate or not to isolate.

I'm not a photographer per se, but I use photography as a strategy and element in my work. I am interested in the translation of an image as a photo is taken and interfering with that translation while taking the picture and messing with it after the photo is taken.

I like the pictures my I-Phone takes -- they are relatively low quality (I have an excuse when they are shaky) and always on the dark side particularly because I tend to take them in poor light with no light enhancements beyond the ambient light available in the space or physical area in which I am taking the photo. They usually need a degree of tweeking, which leaves a lot of room for playing with the image. They are not "precious" as I take them either, which allows more freedom.

With higher quality images to start with (when shooting with an SLR camera), I am less inclined to correct them (though, I do correct for light). Most of the time, I don't shoot raw. I should -- every once in a while, I think that there's an image I finished that I would really like to be able to produce bigger but can't enlarge as much as I would like because it started out as a jpeg. Still, mostly I am playing, and for some reason, I feel freer to do so with the smaller files I know are going to degrade a little each time they are saved. (I do keep the originals; it's the copies I play with).

Aspects of degradation are in all my work. It's one of the issues I must work on balancing against. With the current work, I start with degraded or used materials that nonetheless are materials that themselves should last a long time (a lot of plastic!), which means the work has longevity and a degree of permanence equal or near the materials. At least it isn't floating as part of the plastic garbage island in the Pacific.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pic-a-day: TD cockatoo

Here is the Cockatoo... I won't be able to leave him up for long because he is a large file and I want to save space. This is as big as I can post him on this blog site -- he's about 4 x 5.