Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Art of Collaboration

Dearest K, 

You said it best, my dear. . . We ARE suckers for heart. Character, hard work, the element of surprise, an interactive component - these are all ways that you and I can get INSIDE a work of art. A perfectly museum-quality, Brancusi-esque work is so slick that it lacks any tooth to grasp onto, to get into, to move around. This motion, this playful dance adds heart. . . an element that you and I can relate to. S is always commenting on how much more I respect people who have worked hard for their success (and worked hard with an element of shyness and quiet contentment) than the showy, flashy, "let me show you my work within 5 seconds of meeting you" kinds of artists. I admit, Mark Messersmith, whom you and I always love, immediately comes to mind. 

The last few days I have been thinking alot about the art of collaboration and why we are drawn to it. I think that it has something to do with being in our post-grad school phase - we crave like-minded folks because we are not necessarily surrounded by them all the time anymore. Those questions that haunt the inside of our minds, (To Whom??) need to be answered! And I am so thankful that we have each other to bounce off of. Speaking of bounce houses, I'm beginning our initial research for our collaboration class and wanted to highlight a few dynamic duos. 

I just received a chapbook of lovely and multi-talented friend Esther Lee's poems.. they gave me goosebumps and made me remember that she did a collaboration through Born Magazine that I loved. See it here and be SURE to watch the whole thing. It fantastic! And I love the way that the poems exist on an entirely different level than in my personal chapbook. - See interactive content.. and therefore, heart.

At the book conference a few weeks ago, I heard about an interesting project called "The Tract House" from Lisa Anne Auerbach. Familiar with her work, this brings about another element to the concept of collaboration. Collaboration can not only be within artists, but between an artist and an institution, an artist and a curator, and artist and a town. (think publicly funded sculpture). "The Tract House" is a project with the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore as well as Printed Matter which distributes tracts (religious, political, socio-economical, pure comical based) to the public. Each selected tract was printed 1000 times and is now available online

This blurring of the "rules" seems important to us. We don't just want to be artists (although the defensive person in me says that there is nothing wrong with this!), we want to be curators, educators, critics, instigators, etc. 

The slash (/) on my resume keeps getting longer and longer... and I couldn't be happier.
Love you and sending warm/cozy thoughts, 

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Cardboard is beautiful...simply exquisite!

Hey K!
Heard the author of Bird by Bird on "This American Life" earlier today and thought of you. Thanks for the tip on that book---it's good stuff! The theme of the show this week, music, was perfectly timed, as I seem to be falling into a music-centered season. You know how I always sort of trade off?---arty conquests vs. musical ventures. If only I knew how to combine the two. Anyway. You wrote about my new rules of art judgment: "Structure, familiarity, character, drama and heart - all things that we crave in our lives and in our creations." I love the idea of applying OUR rules of music/art-making and viewing/experiencing to larger understanding of others, situations, life. We're curating our preferred world, wouldn't you say? Appreciating the details, whether high or low.

I know that word-feud that you speak of quite well. I'm always in this conversation with my students, and with myself (with the critical voices in my head that were planted in art school). Too many vague words to define: art, craft, beauty. "To whom?" is always the circular issue.

Well, to me--someone who still laughs at poo jokes, listens to sentimental love songs and appreciates childlike wonder--using whatever material you can get your hands on to do your thing = beauty! Monet, Rothko, Brancusi techniques = tired. I think Jeff Koons proves a point about "high art" material. And I've seen an amazingly crafted oil painting that had nothing to say. It had structure, and that's about all. K, let's face it, we're suckers for heart. We like the sappy truth, in whatever form it comes.Yesterday, it came in the form of cardboard, yet again. The Viaduct Theatre hosted The Exquisite City. Around 40 artists made Chicago city blocks and windows almost entirely out of cardboard, organized together to make a collective city including all the banal (although cute-ified!) aspects of city life: street lights, speed bumps, sewer hole covers (which btw, immediately reminded me of the teenage mutant ninja turtles), parking lots, corner bars, churches, run down buildings, and power lines--even the cardboard covered entrance way had pigeons perched in the cracks with corresponding white cardboard bird poop on the ground. Totally tubular, man!And winding things up nicely, C and I agreed that the best works in Exquisite were the off-kilter blocks. The perfectly scored and assembled satellite dish was a quick pass to the trash-made sideways tilting brownstone. I mean, I have to appreciate the great skill and effort that goes into attempting the look and texture of faux-stone on a miniature art deco movie theater, but it's character I'm looking for.

Quarrel on, my sweet! It's worth it, if only to fuel your passion.

Go visit the Exquisite City! It's awesome!
Read more about it: Chicago Journal article

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Lizards in storage...

Hey K, 

     Love your post about the makings of a country song... and new work inspired by simple materials promoting big ideas. Today I had a word-feud with a fellow artist about the validity of contemporary art. After a heated debate, we agreed to disagree on the merits of craft, "low" materials and attempt at conveying an emotion through unconventional means. He is in the school of only accepting traditionally aesthetically pleasing work as "art". Saying "art should always be beautiful." I remain unconvinced. 

     If art is always subjective, then art can be anything. Aforementioned acquaintance seems to have rules as to what is beautiful, and he leaves no room for other options. This makes me crazy! Maybe we should publish your rules for a good country song as being parameters with which we judge artistic work?? Instead of the principles of design and antiquated notions of "the academy" - Structure, familiarity, character, drama and heart - all things that we crave in our lives and in our creations. 
     I've posted a few pics from wanderings of the last week. A trip to the zoo with S, and an evening of art in a storage center. I love the idea of art being shown in storage centers... think of all of the exposure we could bring to suburbia! One (of the many issues) that I have with suburbia is the lack of cultural contact. If we change the definition of viewing artwork - instead of just in art centers, galleries, museums - storage centers seem ideal. Small cramped spaces leading to more small cramped spaces, the perfect container for creation. Each space was interpreted by different artists, creating "high" and contemporary installations amid the sterile environment of sheet metal cubes. 

Predictably, I responded to the installations using natural fibers and themes. I seem to be on a white kick - hence the porcelain mushrooms as well as the condoms filled with sand surrounding a clock. Our clocks are ticking.... I can feel them. - But that's another post entirely!
xo, K.

Monday, November 10, 2008

gimme some lip! + Work Site

yay! l-i-p is back! glad you had a book/art-filled weekend! i had some fun as well, and wanted to rave about one of my new fave artists. ;)

the show: Work Site
the artists: Chris Lin and Ben Brandt
the gallery: Estudiotres

There are a few key ingredients that go into making a good country song.
1. Structure: some sort of underlying form or loose system that holds it all together.
2. Familiarity: if the strange or absurd disrupts, often what we already know comforts.
3. Character: the personal, based on biography yet universalized (generalized) to relate on a larger scale.
4. Drama: exaggeration and elevation of everyday life--in an effort to make meaning, heighten, and slow those fast gone moments.
5. Heart: the sincerity and wisdom that only comes from someone who has truly hurt, lost, or failed.
And in this process, the writer finds purpose and release, romantically formalizing what might otherwise be a selfish tantrum.

This show is a good country song.

Lin and Brandt are both dealing with structure. More than the obvious architectural references, their work points to underlying surfaces, supports, and modular rhythm. The type of rectilinear plague we suffer daily (have you noticed?---everything is rectangle! ah!). The salvation comes in the imperfection of the system. The freedom lies in the cracks, the play is in the fissure. Brandt's scaffolds teeter with "almost balance", variable-sized canvases cluster together like loose communities or aerial shots of irregular plots of farmland. Lin's tenement blocks don't always match up, the chicken-wire foundation is exposed, and a city below is revealed.
An anthropological study would examine the layers, searching for clues of human life, the hand, the personal. In fact, the singular strange thing about this work is the feeling of people-less-ness. Talking to Lin about his work, he confided that several blocks are loosely based on places in Chicago where memory turned happy moments of the past into sad remembrances. His blues got to work, tediously constructing nondescript building after the next (he even lost sight of which was which soon after he made them). Tenements resting tenuously on a mountain of gray. The same gray of Brandt's textures. The same gray of the gallery utility doors. The city from the past is buried beneath, forgotten, and already purged.

This is a more serious play, wit is slight, less obvious. Yet there is humor in between. The sad homogeneity of the buildings (also goes for Brandt's surfaces) direct you to the "wonky" by contrast--holes, minute color details, dramatic peaks and valleys, scale, the tipping of blocks to extreme angles! They might just slide right off! Hee. Brandt jests, too, with a silly "walnut tongue" or tangled ball of string (noodles? worms? intestines?) protruding from the conservative tans, creams, browns, and grays (the colors of Eddie Bauer or maybe more poignantly, the working class uniform).
Both artists' work seem very much about material (low and high) and "boyness." Lin really knows his material. He should, he's been using it since he was little. It reminds me of one of my favorite students from Tally. Remember Jim Dolson, his cardboard space equipment, science experiments in the playground, and mission to the moon? lacks pretension. There is a curious innocence in the meanderings of a 9-year-old boy with constructs, an erector set, Lego's or even just household objects. Brandt's work carries that mentality as well. Although his schooling is obvious, inscribing his name in every painting, he leaves a mark of naivete.

The "work site" is a place of vulnerability, unfinished thoughts and plans. Process and production. Surface and support. Creation from destruction (dramatic, I know, but that's history, man!). And maybe a few mountains out of molehills.

xo, k

More on the artists: Chris Lin---
Ben Brandt---

The show will be up through Dec. 18---go see it! details---

Back at ya, Panza...

Dearest K, 

Hello, long lost friend. Don't fret, I never forget about you, even when I don't post. Things have been quiet and crazy at the same time. Sometimes life gets in the way of art... except this past weekend! I had a great time at the Pyramid Atlantic Book Arts Fair in Silver Springs, Md. It was great to see so many books and bookish people. It gave me a little kick and I came home wanting to feel the sweet tactility of paper, the smoothness of my bone folder, and the intricacies of hand-bound texts. I have many new things to post about! Before I post a few links to fellow friends and new contacts - in addition to going to the fair, I squeezed an hour out for myself to visit the Hirshorn Museum and their newest exhibit, "The Panza Collection". It was a quest in text, linguistics and a feat in vinyl lettering. After spending a few hours installing vinyl lettering at my job last week, I was quite impressed with their largely scaled fonts splashed onto walls and around corners. 

I particularly liked a work, Box, Cube, Empty, Clear, Glass- A Description by Joseph Kusuth and a wall drawing, Wall Drawing #3 of Sol Lewitt. (I'm a sucker for Lewitt's wall drawings that he famously sends directions to install, not even making the actual work itself... This brings up issues of ownership, the delicate nature of the artist vs. the artist assistant, the role of the museum and the curators.) Other artists displayed included Lawrence Weiner, Richard Long's rocks and the above blue-light installation of Doug Wheeler. 
Although it was one of my quickest in time-duration museum experiences, it was lovely to be in such a space. Every once in awhile, I crave those massive museum's to stroll around, it always makes me remember my semester of exploring art history in London.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's post on book arts and artists. Hope you enjoyed your weekend of fun and art!

Love ya, 

Sunday, November 9, 2008


we're slackin' (like Coco).
let's get back into it!