Monday, December 12, 2011

The Artist as Institution

I wrote a short review for Printeresting, on institutional critique and Natasha Pestich's poster show (at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts) documenting the fictional career of Jan Xylander: 

The Artist as Institution: Natasha Pestich is Jan Xylander’s Personal PR Machine.

Proud to be involved with the Printeresting guys—they recently were awarded an arts writing Creative Capital grant from the Warhol Foundation!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Easing In

There are these things about which you should probably know.

1.) Ash, London, is what we find inside wood, inside buildings, inside each of us, is the thing revealed by heat, is (as you noted) the secret heart of gray.

2.) ::: ::: ::: ::: ::: ::: ::: ::: ::: ::: ::: ::: :::  [Red Lightbulbs #5

3.) "Your Personal Panopticon: An Interview with Christopher Meerdo" [The California Printeresting Printmaker]

4.) Oxford once, Cambridge twice. Venice for the Biennale. Paris next week (mainly for this). Then Ohio. Then, further secret adventures with compatriots await.

5.) It has been collage. Newspaper. Yet. Lately, my thoughts tend toward wallpaper.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Thoughts on Cubist collage

Working on the first term paper at the Courtauld, on Cubist collage and the use of newspaper, and thinking a lot about Picasso's beautiful, spare, three-material collages from November–December 1912. I love all of those early collage pieces, but I just got the MoMA catalog for the show Picasso's Guitars: 1912-14 that was up earlier this year, and the gorgeous reproductions and studio shots positioning the collage in series with the sculptural assemblage of the guitar have got me thinking in all different directions. Even more than the 1913-14 works, its almost as if the spareness of the image, just using line, newspaper, and the substrate of the paper, is an indication of three-materials in three-dimensions. Of holding an object like a newspaper and seeing it, seeing through it, and seeing beyond it.

More to come.

Pablo Picasso, Bottle and wine glass on a table, 1912.

Pablo Picasso. Installation in the artist's studio at 242, boulevard Raspail Paris, December 9, 1912, or later. Gelatin silver print, 3 3/8 x 4 1/2" (8.6 x 11.5 cm). Private collection. Photo: Objectif 31. © 2011 Estate of Pablo Picasso/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Pablo Picasso, studio composition, photograph, 1913.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Thoughts from London: On time zones, waves, Richter, and Cubism

I am an hour closer to you now.

I never thought about how Daylight Savings would be different in another country. It makes sense, sure, but I never thought about it. It's weird that for this week only I am only 4 hours away from Ohio, 5 from Illinois. Our time zones are practically buzzing they're getting so close. Being in the future from a past you've always known is a shaky-ground place.

Does Flava Flav care about time zones?

I've been reading a lot, which is good. Not enough to feel like I'm making a difference on the void-in-my brain-representing-all-that-I-don't-know-about-modern-art-history, but the act of reading itself is a nice thing to remember how to do. I have begun a French artist-writer-collector-printer-publisher timeline in post-its on my wall above my desk, hoping to find some kind of sense in these overlapping lives. I've been thinking about waves and movements and wondering if feminist political theory can/does apply to the eternal debate about modernism and postmodernism in art history. That the idea of a wave rising up and sucking everything that came before back into it seems really nice for postmodernism. I like waves, too, because they correspond with life cycles. 

This timeline on my wall reminds me to think about when these 19th and 20th century artists actually started thinking about the world in an adult fashion (probably around age 18-20), and that the contemporaneous context was probably really important to a sense of identity and development. You surface into the world slowly from the depths and the things that make the most sense are the ones nearest your gaze. So, Manet born in 1832 'matures' at 20 in 1852 (opens his studio in Paris in 1856). Then artists and writers like Redon (b.1840) and Mallarmé (b.1842), when they 'mature' at 20 in 1860 and 1862 cannot help but be influenced by Manet's place in the world (e.g. Olympia, above, is 1863). It's an oversimplification, I realize, but one to work with. 

  • Stadtbild Paris (Townscape Paris), 1968, 200 cm x 200 cm, Oil on canvas

    Went to see the Richter show at the Tate Modern last week (although I apparently missed a room). Mixed feelings about it, but I was glad to see so much of his work in one place. As usual the wall texts were disappointing in how much they dumbed-down everything. Richer's movement between monochrome faux-photorealism and garish abstraction is certainly a jarring one. This particular painting, Stadtbild Paris (1968) stood out to me as entirely different from the rest of the exhibition. We've been talking about walking the city (e.g. Paris) as a modernist practice in my course lately, so I was drawn to this bird's eye view depiction of a 'postmodern' Paris. Here Richer is merging his two brains, pulling the photographic monochrome as a layer over his abstract sensibility. It's Richter channeling Johns through the eye of a camera, which I like very much. 
The other Richter component I'm still thinking about is his visual relationship with Marcel Duchamp. I thought the textual justification in the exhibition was a little wishy-washy, but I like the idea, and there's definitely a conversation between this:

L: Gerhard Richter, Ema (Akt auf einer Treppe) [Ema (Nude on a Staircase)], 1966, 200 cm x 130 cm, Oil on canvas 
R: Marcel Duchamp, Nude Descending a Staircase, 1912

This 1965 Descending Richter that the Art Institute has shows the fractal play of light and movement a little better, though, I think. But, still, Richter seems to care more about the figure (e.g. reclaiming the nude body and the portrait for painting) than he does about the movement and perception of objects in space. 

Thinking about Cubism a lot lately, too and the very formulaic way it was applied by artists other than Picasso/Braque/Gris in the early 20th century. It seems like most major artists had to make at least one 'Cubist' painting (e.g. this 1914 Reservist of the First Division painting/ collage by Malevich seems very weird for him). Duchamp painted Nude Descending a Staircase in 1912 and then moved on to everything else except painting. What was behind this need to mimic Cubism? Why was it used in such a formulaic way by so many artists, when the intention was anything but formulaic? Is it photography (e.g. the question What images do we make now that photography exists?) or is it collage (e.g. the three-dimensional expansion coupled with the act of reading) that solves the problem of the grounding for Cubism, gives us the framework behind when a 'Cubist' painting works or does not work?

Sunday, October 2, 2011


A few days ago I stopped by the Hayward Gallery in the Southbank Centre to see the new Pipilotti Rist (Swiss, b. 1962) retrospective that opened September 28. Wow. I watched a video installation of hers at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago last month, and really enjoyed the purposeful plush carpeting, bean bag chairs, and low lighting that were part of the experience of her video work. That conceit was used again a number of times in Rist's installations at the Hayward Gallery (which, by the way, managed to make very good use of the space, with tiny cubbyholes to discover and videos projected in very unlikely places: a stall in the women's restroom and the inside of a conch shell). Rist provided cushions (some as stuffed shirts and pants meant to look like cartoonish disembodied people) that forced you down on the floor and on a new visual plane in order to experience and visually interact with the viewers around you. Body (especially the female body) and forcing the viewer to become conscious of body in space and in relation to a projected image plays a huge role in her work. There are lovely video glitches, too, and a use of the machine in unexpected and often startlingly or strangely familiar ways.

(Apparently she's also made a feature-length film, Pepperminta, which looks completely and insanely wonderful). She's represented by Luhring Augustine in New York, and Hauser & Wirth internationally.

Today I've been reading an essay by T. J. Clark today, Modernism, Postmodernism, and Steam (published in October, Vol. 100, Obsolescence, Spring 2002, pp.154-174), in which Clark brought up Tony Oursler (b. 1957, American) and his Robert Morris-influenced projections of faces onto steam (and trees, apparently). The visual connection to Ristprojections into darknessis clearly there in my mind, and both are equally bizarre image-makers.

Here are some excerpts from Clark's essay that I found to be particularly interesting:

"[...] ghosts that the internet itself dreams up" (156)

"a new form of visuality spreading like a virus through the culture at large — a new machinery of visualization, a tipping of the social balance from a previous regime of the word to a present regime of the image" (161)

"Modernism's motto was the great phrase from the young Marx's critique of Hegel: Modernists believed it was necessary for any art, any Realism, to take the forms of the present deeply inside itself, at the risk of mimicry, almost ventriloquism; but that out of that might come the possibility of critique, of true destabilization — they would 'teach the petrified forms how to dance by singing them their own song.'" (161) [Clark quoting Marx at the end]

"[...] the two great principles that gave modernity its character — on the one hand the reality of the machine's regularity and uniformity, on the other that of a profound social randomness and evacuation. You could say of the purest products of modernism [...] that in them an excess of order interacts with an excess of contingency." (164)

On Malevich's Peasant in the Fields (c. 1928-32), there is "the will to put the fragments back into some sort of order" (172).

"Our present fictions of the now" just happen to be "virtuality and visuality" (174).

Cate Marvin on being a poet.

"I like to think of poets as moving through the world with their minds poised like nets, intent on capturing scraps of language, resonant images. Thinking as a poet means viewing the world as a poem; thus, the poet is prone to existing in real space and time in a most vulnerable manner. This means being super-observant wherever your physical self takes your mind, as it requires being terribly receptive to light, images, movement, conversations between others, oddities many might be inclined to overlook in newspaper headlines, heatedly intimate conflicts overheard in public places, disingenuous directions offered by advertisements and street signs, etc." [From the BOMB Magazine Blog]. 

Cate's website is here.

Read the excellent poems "Fragment of the Head of a Queen" here and "Scenes from the Battle of Us" here.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Film: Two Brothers Brewing (Warrenville, IL)

I liked this neat little documentary about Two Brothers Brewing, a local (to Chicago) craft beer company in Warrenville, Illinois. There are actually two brothers. It's a fun inside look at a brew pub.

The Brothers Brew from Jamie Gallant on Vimeo.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Glenn Brown on language.

You can’t look at anything without the knowledge that other people have looked at it and thought about it. We are made of other people’s opinions whether we like it or not, because we are surrounded by language. That’s what language is—a sharing of ideas that allows us to make up what seem like our own ideas but are in fact just an accumulation of other peoples’ thoughts. The only free will we have is to decide which ideas to agree or disagree with. We exist within language; we can’t escape it.

Glenn Brown
April 3, 2009

NYC Wall Street Protests

Here are a few of the more powerful statements I've found on police and protester action in New York City over the last few weeks.


n+1 Mag: Notes from an Occupation by Astra Taylor and Mark Greif (27 September 2011).

Friday, September 23rd:
Astra: It’s a very youthful event, and perhaps naive in a lot of ways, but I’m happy they’re doing it. That said, I’m always a bit irritated by the incessant emphasis on the youthfulness of the demonstrators, which is a way of infantilizing and dismissing them (silly kids, they’ll grow up and get over this dumb protesting stuff!) and also lets older people off the hook. Shouldn’t we all be out there, railing against the vampire squid? The fact is there are plenty of older people at “Liberty Plaza,” a good number of retirees mingling with the recent graduates. Our society, and the left especially, has this strange idea that young people are the revolutionary vanguard (In his famous “Letter to the New Left” C. Wright Mills made the case that youth had replaced the working class as the “historic agency”; Theodore Roszak calls this shift the “adolescentization of dissent”) but of course, being young, they don’t have all the answers (not that old people do either, obviously).
Sunday, September 25th:
Mark: Nine days is nothing to sneeze at. I know people keep complaining that the occupiers don’t have a platform, but any real deliberative convention takes time, and these folks were strangers nine days ago. The idea of the occupation, to me, is to remind everyone that Wall Street belongs to the City of New York, the banks’ money belongs to the American citizens and people worldwide who have temporarily parked some of it with them (hoping they’ll do some good with it), and the rules they play by ultimately come from us. I wish the NYPD didn’t feel obliged to pen the protesters in away from Wall Street, though, and I hope Burger King on the northwest corner continues to be generous with its bathroom.
     I made it to the General Assembly tonight. Weird for me, after so much suspicion in universities and professional groups, all my life, of order and parliamentary procedure and quick-running meetings, laughed away by saying, “Oh, since the Sixties we’ve forgotten all that stuff!”—to see an efficient assembly managed by kids, democratically, inclusively, and good-humoredly. I wish n+1 meetings ran like this. The left knows more than we think it does, as always. Noam Chomsky had sent a personal message by email. It was predictably long-winded; I wished people would make the “get to your point” sign. I was sitting close to the aisle of waiting speakers and I was surprised to watch participants whom I assumed knew each other well—since they were working together smoothly—whisper to ask each other’s names. They’re the most easygoing bunch I’ve seen at a protest, and the most calmly confident. Very gentle and not rattled by disruptors. Presumably that’s the confidence of nine days. Also the multiple confrontations that they’ve won nonviolently.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bonjour. Au revoir.

Tremendously excited about projects in London. Writing a lot. Working on a new poetry/prose collaboration using found and re-edited text, and very much enjoying the freedom and time to read books at my leisure and think about thesis-related ideas. It's nice to allow myself thoughts that evolve into new creatures after hours and days, rather than only having the headspace for short bursts of activity quickly forgotten. I am still myself, I will always have one too many things to do, but for now, for here, in London, in one of the most bustling cities in the world, I've managed to slow down a little. 

Mostly I've just been noticing how otherworldily-similar this city is to Chicago. Life seems to be the same, it's in the same language, except every third thing is just a little bit different, just that much more removed from what I expect. It's like Amelie changing her neighbor's shoes to a size smaller, or his lightbulb to be a bit dimmer. It's deja vu but not quite. It's a dream lived only in the corners of your eyes when you're trying to test your peripheral vision.

Today I visited Christie's South Kensington and had the treat of seeing an upcoming auction lot on display from the mysterious "Travel, Science, and Natural History" department. Loads of very strange and wonderful things.

Three taxidermied hummingbirds, c. 1850.

A Huntley & Palmers biscuit from the stores of the British Antarctic Expedition, 1908-1909, Cape Royds.

British National Antarctic Expedition, 1901-1904.  42 contact prints, the majority by Reginald Skelton, the subjects including Discovery in Winter Quarters at Ross Island, Mount Erebus and the scenery around Hut Point, sledging scenes and camps on the Barrier, and the return of the Southern Party.

A THREE-ROTOR ENIGMA CIPHER MACHINE, circa 1939. Number A-1206, with electric core, three aluminium rotors each stamped WaA618, raised 'QWERTZ' keyboard with crackle black painted metal case, plugboard in the front with ten patch leads, carrying case with spare bulbs, and green night-time filter.

A FRENCH TREPANNING SET, Leseur, late 18th century. Signed on the drill LESEUR also with a punched maker's mark of a crown over an A, drill-heads, perforators, elevators, lenticulars with turned wooden handles, in fitted case. 13.5in. (34.5cm.) long in case.

A MODEL OF THE 1784 GÉRARD FLYING MACHINE, FRENCH, LATE 19TH CENTURY. Painted wood and metal model with two wings on model engine mechanism, the tail feather and forward rudder operated by two interior handles, two opening doors, on three wheels. 21in. (54cm.) long.

Gah! It has feathers and a tiny door and tiny wheels!

Wonderful. From the larger poster, below.

TABLEAU D'AVIATION , French, Circa 1880. Lithographed poster illustrating mechanical flying machines from 1500-1880, by E. DIEUAIDE, 18, Rue de la Banque -- Paris, backed on linen. 21½ x 27in.

A BOXED AMERICAN ORRERY AND TELLURIAN SET. Josiah or Dwight Holbrook, mid-19th century. [With an accompanying awesome book: The teachers guide to illustration... 12th ed. (Chicago: Andrews, 1873).]

Monday, September 26, 2011

Donald Barthelme "Snow White" (1965/67)

These are two wonderful passages (almost short stories in themselves) from a Barthelme book I recently finished reading.

" Paul sat in his baff, wondering what to do next. "Well, what shall I do next? What is the next thing demanded of me by history?" If you know who it is they are whispering around, then you usually don't like it. If Paul wants to become a monk, that's his affair entirely. Of course we had hoped that he would take up his sword as part of the President's war on poetry. The time is ripe for that. The root causes of poetry have been studied and studied. And now that we know that pockets of poetry still exist in our great country, especially in the large urban centers, we ought to be able to wash it out totally in one generation, if we put our backs into it. But we were prepared to hide our disappointment. The decision is Paul's, finally. "Are those broken veins in my left cheek, above the cheekbone there? No, thank God, they are only tiny whiskers not yet whisked away. Missed in yesterday's scrape, but vulnerable to the scrape of today." Besides, most people are not very well informed about the cloistered life. Certainly they can have light bulbs if they want them, and their rivers and mountains are not inferior to our own. "They make interesting jam," Hank said. "But it's his choice, in the final analysis. Anyhow we have his typewriter. That much of him is ours, now." People were caressing each other under Paul's window. "Why are all these people existing under my window? It is as if they were as palpable as me--as bloody, as firm, as well-read." Monkish business will carry him to town sometimes; perhaps we will be able to see him then. " 

Donald Barthelme, Snow White, Scribner Paperback Fiction: New York, 1965, 1967. p.61-62
" We were sitting at a sidewalk café talking about the old days. The days before. Then the proprietor came. He had a policeman with him. A policeman wearing a black leather blackjack and a book by Rafael Sabatini. "You are too far out on the sidewalk," the policeman said. "You must stay behind the potted plants. You must not be more than ten feet from the building line." We moved back behind the building line then. We could talk about the old days on either side of the potted plants, we decided. We were friendly and accommodating, as is our wont. But in moving the table we spilled the drinks. "There will be an additional charge for the stained tablecloth," the proprietor said. Then we poured the rest of the drinks over the rest of the tablecloth, until it was all the same color, rose-red. "Show us the stain," we said. "Where is the stain? Show us the stain and we will pay. And while you are looking for it, more drinks." We looked fondly back over the inches to where we had been. The policeman looked back over the inches with us. "I realize it was better there," the policeman said. "But the law is the law. You don't mind if I have just a taste of your stain?" The policeman wrung out our tablecover and tossed it off with a flourish of brass. "That's a good stain. And now, if you'll excuse me, I intuit a felony, over on Pleat Street." The policeman flew away to attend to his felony, the proprietor returned with more stain. "Who has wrinkled my tablecover?" We regarded the tablecover, a distressed area it was true. "Someone will pay for the ironing of that." Then we rose up and wrinkled the entire sidewalk café, with our bare hands. It was impossible to tell who was wrong, when we had finished."

Donald Barthelme, Snow White, Scribner Paperback Fiction: New York, 1965, 1967. p.178-179.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A story of friendship in print.

     In the summer of 2008, after just graduating from college, I made plans to move to Madison, Wisconsin to begin a printmaking internship at Tandem Press. Needing a roommate and friends in this new city, I asked for the phone numbers of my soon-to-be fellow interns, and called Elizabeth Stoutamire in Georgia. I still have a very vivid memory of that phone call; we did not become roommates, but found an instant affinity with each other, working happily together in the print shop over the summer. Printmaking has served as a thread throughout our friendship, and has brought us together for many collaborations. We have made a tradition of visiting each other every few months, always brainstorming a new project, and excitedly making plans for the future.

     In May 2009 during the opening for a print exchange and exhibition Elizabeth had organized in Madison, she mentioned something about a guy named Gabriel who had stopped by. She was unusually excited to see the fellow, and breathless when we hung out with him later that night. Something was afoot!

     That August Elizabeth visited Chicago and we made our first collaborative print together, a combination of etching and non-toxic photo-etching. In October of 2009 we printed together again, this time producing the screen printed show posters for an exhibition I'd curated. Gabriel drove Elizabeth to Chicago to attend the opening. A year later, in the fall of 2010 we collaborated for a third time on a series of screen prints and an etching, working into a plate with cotton blooms from Elizabeth's Southern childhood and trillium flowers from my youth in Eastern Ohio; flowers that both bloom white and decay to purple, marking the passage of time. By then, Gabriel had proposed to Elizabeth, and she was already talking about screen printing her invitations.

     Another year has passed since then, and my life points from Chicago toward London for grad school. Elizabeth and Gabriel are getting married on October 15th, a few weeks after I move, and they've asked me to be in the wedding party. I very much want to return to Wisconsin to help them celebrate, and to give them my wedding gift---a photo-etching of Elizabeth and Gabriel, a hand-made print to commemorate three years of friendship and printmaking---but I can't do it without your help. 

I've started a fundraiser on to raise money to get Elizabeth's wedding present to her wedding. Help me do it!

UPDATE!!! A very generous donor has offered me her frequent flier miles, bringing the cost of the plane ticket down to $200. So now I only need to raise $600 to get Elizabeth's print to her wedding! 
Note: Since I won't need to meet my initial goal of $1,200, the site charges a 9% cut on funds raised. So since I need to raise $550 more, I actually need to raise $600 to cover the IndieGoGo fees.

June 2008: Within a few weeks of knowing me, Elizabeth made me a lemon birthday cake.

June 2008: Birthday in Madison at Memorial Union.

January 2009: New Year's in Chicago.

March 2009: Southern Graphics Council (printmaking conference) in Chicago.

 May 2009: Places of Origin print exhibition in Madison, Wisconsin, curated by Elizabeth.

 August 2009: Collaborative print (copper plate etching and photopolymer etching).

 August 2009: Elizabeth mixing inks in Julia's former studio in Chicago.

 August 2009: Julia running her press in Chicago.

 August 2009: Pulling the first proof of our collaborative print.

 August 2009: Julia and Elizabeth, sleepy from so much printmaking and hard work.

 October 2009: Collaborative screen printed show posters, printed by Julia and Elizabeth, designed by the Museum of Contemporary Art's Scott Reinhard.

 October 2009: Elizabeth screen printing in Madison at Mess Hall Press.

 October 2009: Julia screen printing in Madison at Mess Hall Press.

 October 2009: Trunk Show at Barbara & Barbara Gallery, Chicago, curated by Julia.

 February 2010: Elizabeth's birthday in Madison.

 September 2010: Boating on the lakes in Madison.

 September 2010: Boating on the lakes in Madison.

 November 2010: Collaborative copper plate etching, Chicago.

 November 2010: Two collaborative etchings.

 November 2010: Collaborative screen print, Chicago.

 November 2010: Collaborative screen print, Chicago.

 November 2010: Collaborative screen print, Chicago.

June 2011: Julia's birthday in Chicago.

 June 2011: Julia's print exhibition at Spudnik Press. Photo by Maureen Sill.

Elizabeth and Gabriel in Wisconsin.