William Kentridge – Artist / Animator

This is William Kentridge – Very cool. It’s over 8 minutes but you can watch a few minutes to get the flavor.

‘Kentridge gradually refined his own personal animation technique. Each of his short films is based on a series of some 20 to 40 charcoal drawings, mostly in large sizes with some enhancements in pastels. Each of these drawings is like a storyboard sketch, often filmed with no camera moves. Kentridge modifies his composition little by little between each frame shot by erasing certain parts and re-drawing them.  In a desire for a chromatic simplicity with symbolic values, only colors, such as blue to represent water, and red, are used, glaring against the subtlety of gray.’

Sobriety, Obesity & Growing Old (1991)

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The Supermarket

At the supermarket today, I observed a new weird quirk with the shoppers that was pervasive and I figured that this must be a symptom of the bad economy.  Now, I’ve always had run-ins with shoppers parked in the middle of the aisles studying the ingredients of some product as if they were working on their PHD on Skippy peanut butter additives, but this is different. Almost on every aisle I landed on, there were people taking items off the shelves, tenderly holding them, squeezing them gently (not just the fruit – everything), gazing longingly at the product and then restocking them back on the shelf.  There was no label reading involved.  Very sad.

Famous Actors & Musicians As Fine Artists

Years ago, I was wandering around West Broadway in Soho, (this, before the West Broadway became a big fancy shopping mall and the galleries moved West), and I saw a big to-do around one gallery entrance.  Getting to know me better, you will find that my interest is always piqued by any kind of hub-bub.  I’ll rubber neck and gawk toward any anomaly of the usual.

Anyway, I squeezed past the smokers, lingerers, pre-hipsters*, artsy types, and into the crowded, claustrophobic refrigerator sized New York City elevator.  Someone was able to slide their finger past two bodies to hit the button and up and up we jerked to the 4th floor where the doors opened up right onto the gallery floor.

None (or few) of the hundreds of patrons were actually looking at the artwork, which is pretty typical of art openings, but I decided to give the artwork a once over before landing at the bar for a free white wine and snacks.

The artwork, mostly paintings as I remember was OK, better than student work, but nothing to write home about.  Diminutive work with kind of blurry smoothed over images, one painting I remember of a wooden chair on a lawn near a tree.  A lot of cadmium green light.

Martin Mull

After a bit of art appreciation as it were, I decide to glance up to see how close I had gotten to the bar.  As I gazed through the throng of people I saw someone familiar standing in the middle of the gallery, Martin Mull, the actor/comedian.   It only took one more turn of my head to see his name written above the front desk of the gallery to have that ‘ahhhh’ moment.

I casually walked up to him and he seemed very accessible.  I shook his hand and not really knowing what to say, I blurted out, “Wow, I didn’t know you painted.”  Martin (Mr. Mull) stared at me and with the straightest face possible, said, “Well, I just took some art lessons this summer.” **

There was no smile, complete serious poker face.  I wasn’t sure how to take it without him smiling.  Was he fishing for a compliment?  Like, “oh, your work is so beautiful, how can that be?”  Was he just being a dick?

We stared at each other for another few seconds, and I, not knowing how to respond, did not say another word, turned away and headed to the bar to drink his wine.

Up until recently – now this has been at least 10-15 years – I just racked it up to being the fact that Martin Mull is a fucking dick.  After seeing him at this opening, I had a difficult time watching him on TV or seeing reruns of Fernwood Tonight which I previously loved. But Martin taught me a lesson that day.   I don’t think that was his intention, I’m sure he just wanted to be a dick.  And I know why.  I’ll bet that at least a hundred people asked him the same question that day as I had, “oh, I didn’t realize you painted…”  And, in some way, he was sharing the same frustration that I experience every day being an artist, which is: Fuck! I went to art school for 6 years, no body really gives a shit, I may as well just be jerking off in the corner somewhere. Martin Mull was able to get a beautiful gallery to give him a show because he was famous for being a comedian and actor not an artist.  No one attending the opening necessarily gave a shit about his art, no body cared that he struggled with his craft, no body really knew that he was an artist.  So the lesson learned is… I’m not really sure now, is the lesson to become famous in some way – any way – to then be able to get a gallery show? Or is the lesson just to make art and be happy making art and if a gallery show at a great gallery comes along appreciate it?  Hmmm.

So to Anthony Hopkins, Sylvester Stallone, Tony Curtis (I think you’re dead?), Viggo Mortenson, etc, have fun and make your art and in return I’ll try not to make too much fun of you.

* Pre-hipster: Previously thought of as Euro-Trash but not necessarily from Europe.  Really anyone who wore too much leather.  More recently, we are aware of the huge emigration of the now known ‘hipsters’ to Williamsburg and Greenpoint, this huge migration is rivaled only by Zionism and the creation of the Jewish State of Israel.

** As it turns out Martin Mull graduated from RISD with both a Bachelor’s and Master’s, which frankly means nothing to me anyway, artwork has to stand on it’s own.  You can see some of his newer paintings that are actually pretty good at : http://www.renabranstengallery.com/mull.html

Art as a Commodity

I know that my view of the art world is a bit skewed and jaded, but as of today, I am saddened by the thought that there are really no more Leo Castellis* or Mary Boones** who are actively looking for new artists to promote.

I get the feeling that of the biggest galleries in the city – Larry Gagosian, etc. – actually resist finding and grooming any new artists.  These now powerful galleries and directors deal in well established or dead artists.  Adding and grooming new artists would actually dilute their commodity.  It is as if gold is worth $500 an ounce.  Then a mining company finds a new vein where there are thousands of pounds of  ‘new’ gold. Would this not make the price of gold decrease?  In an economy where there are only so many people buying art is there really any reason to start bringing new artists into the mix.

Now I know that there are many galleries in the city, and many are showing emerging artists, plus the New Museum, the Whitney with the Biennial, cooperative galleries and so forth.  Not to mention every local arts’ center showing watercolors of barns and such, but will any of these artists’ work get into any catalog where it can be given some kind of objective value?

Is the only way for an artist to become famous is for them to create some kind of artwork with such a shock value that it would rise outside of the art world to be noticed.  Is there a way for a fine artist to become established now?

* Click Here for more on Leo Castelli

** Click Here for more on Mary Boone

Bravo’s Work-Of-Art

Work of Art Cast

I’ve been watching Bravo TV’s, Work of Art – The Next Great Artist. (The Project Runway for fine artists).

First of all, don’t you think that it’s presumptuous calling it ‘The Next Great Artist’. Shouldn’t the winner of this game be vetted by some amount of time and at least a gallery show outside of the prize?

• I do like Miles, he does know how to make art, although his wood objects look clunky to me.  Plus the idea of seeing a big exhibition of his artwork may make me end up falling asleep, [as Miles did on his second project (It was a bed)].  I’m worried that all of his work in context would end up a bit dull.

• Jamie Lynn wasn’t really up to the challenge of Work-of-Art.  She is a good draftsman but maybe better suited for book illustration or something like that.  The New York art world would eat her alive.

• On the public sculpture project unfortunately the team with the large rock won by default, neither of the groups’ public works were that exciting, but props to both teams to be able to actually develop anything worth looking at in two days.

"Rainbow," Peregrine Honig. Courtesy NBC Universal / Credit: Barbara Nitke

• Episode-7 called “Child’s Play”, Peregrine’s piece was brilliant and unexpected for me. Especially from a reality show like this. Just the simplicity to create adult vices from children’s art supplies (as the cigarettes made from children’s chalk) was extraordinary and inspired.

• About the final installment of Work-Of-Art… I could go over the last few challenges leading up to the finale, but at this point it’s not too necessary.  One can  easily watch the episodes at the website below and catch-up.

I was actually surprised that it worked as well as it did considering the different strengths of each artist struggling to meet the current challenge.

Although, I wonder, who else watched except me and a few of the other artists who stood on line for 8 hours with their artwork in hand to audition for Work-of-Art.  If I stood online and didn’t become one of the cast, I’d definitely want to see the artwork of artists ‘chosen’.

Plus the fact that Gawker.com only had a blurb or two about the prospective show and not much more, which is a good indication of little buzz and probably a doomed second season.

As my epilogue for Work-of-Art, I think Peregrine should of won.  I really like Abdi but I think his work is a bit too self conscious, he’s thinking too much about the viewer.  Miles is two steps away from his work (sometimes, this is his process) but it does make the work appear a bit too cold. He would do good to look at Robert Motherwell and Willem de Kooning. Peregrine is the real thing, and I think the sophistication in her work can be easily overlooked because on the surface it appears childlike.

Whether there is another season of Work-of-Art or not, it was a valiant effort and a pretty good experiment.  Can this competition/reality show rise up to have any interest outside of a few fine art buffs with a yen for mass culture?  I guess we’ll see.

http://www.bravotv.com/work-of-art