Monday, July 30, 2007

Sacred Art reception @BoxHeart in Pittsburgh

The Sacred Art opening reception was wonderful. It is so nice to see new faces on the walls of the galleries here and since this is an international show, there were several opportunities. There was a nice range of expressions, but I do tend to favor the less traditional pieces, so that is what I concentrated on here. There were several iconogrphic and traditional works on display, so don't let my slanted view keep you from going and enjoying the exhibit.

July 24 - August 18
The Sacred Art Exhibition
BoxHeart Gallery
4523 Liberty Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
P. 412 687 8858
F. 412 687 6338

George Kollar
Thad Ricker
Elin Waterson
Marian Siepian
Cory Bonnet
Susan Constanse
Susan Constanse

Posts On The Metroblog On The Power Of Blogging

I put up two posts on the Pittsburgh Metroblog on the emerging power of blogging. It's not a medium that has come close to using all it's potential.

Post One

Post Two

For the time being it kind of looks like I have taken over the Pittsburgh Metroblog.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Pittsburgh Center For The Arts Video

OK, It's kind of hokey, but here's a video that I assume the PCA, put up on You Tube about itself. Not many places have a place like this on this kind of scale or at least very few smaller cities.

Art and 'Tique - Call for Artists

Art & Tique originated last year when 3 art galleries opened up within one block of each other on Hatfield Street in Lawrenceville. This year it has been expanded to include live performance and music. There is still space for more artists, so take advantage of the opportunity. This was a lot of fun last year, with tables and displays set up by several local galleries, artists and even a restaurant. It seems that there were several sales during the event, so it could be well worth it.

Date: Saturday, August 18, 2007
Time: Booth-table-display setup begins at 9AM. Street Fair opens to public at 11AM and closes at 5PM.
Where: Hatfield Street between 47th and 48th streets
Cost: $14 payable to Dan Gaser: Mail to: 4747 Hatfield Street, Pittsburgh, Pa, 15201.

Any questions, please call Dan Gaser, Trinity Gallery, at 412-352-2905.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Moving Party for Future Tennant

Future Tenant, the free form art space run by the Institute For the Management Of Creative Enterprises at CMU will be having to move out of it's current space. It will be having a big moving out party on August 2nd.

Name: Future Tenant Moving Out Party
Tagline: It's going to freaking ROCK
Host: Future Tenant
Type: Party - Goodbye Party
Time and Place Date: Thursday, August 2, 2007
Time: 7:00pm - 10:00pm
Location: Future Tenant
Street: 801 Liberty Avenue
City/Town: Pittsburgh, PA


View Map

Future Tenant is an idea, not a location

"This fall, Future Tenant will be moving to a new location in Pittsburgh's Cultural District. After six years at 801 Liberty Avenue, Future Tenant will be fulfilling a vital part of its mission, that of the mobile laboratory. On August 2, 2007, Future Tenant will be shutting the doors of 801 Liberty Avenue and opening the doors to new opportunities. As our name suggests, Future Tenant has always believed that our presence could attract new tenants (local businesses) to the vacant spaces of Downtown Pittsburgh and serve as a tool for revitalization. That time has come and as one previously empty venue is filled, we will move onto another.

Future Tenant will never be tied to any one physical venue, but will take up its work wherever there is access to suitable space. While it may not have a specific address in hand, the Pittsburgh audience will know that wherever Future Tenant gathers a group of artists, there will be found a constantly changing menu of vibrant, provocative new work.."

I will try to do some posts on the history of the place and all the past events-- but, like Artists Upstairs-- they failed to do a great job of documenting things. For the most part, the place has been run very sincerly by the students, with very little support from either CMU as a major institution or the wider community. Or at least it seems that way.

They promise to cary on.

Pierogi Gallery Opening On You Tube

America : The World's Biggest Credit Risk

Yes -- We Are Likely Now The World's Biggest Financial Problem. That's the general warning from the vice chairman of Goldman Sachs,one that our Zombie Media would prefer not talk about.



"America's new faith-based guns-and-butter policy is hurting both guns and butter. The war is costing us $12 billion a month. Hormats examined the Congressional Budget Office's projections for domestic costs: "In 2006, spending on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and interest on the federal debt amounted to just under 60% of government revenues" and "if they continue on their current path, they will account for two-thirds by 2015." Social security from $550 billion to $960 billion

Medicare from $372 billion to over $900 billion
Medicaid from $181 billion to $390 billion

Worse yet, these commitments will continue skyrocketing in later decades. The CBO projects the federal debt rising from 40% of GDP to 100% in the next 25 years: "Continuing on this unsustainable path will gradually erode, if not suddenly damage, our economy, our standard of living, and ultimately our national security."

Of course these numbers don't include or to quantify or off the books debt and the government, unlike companies doesn't even try to report that number.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Of striking a balance on the road.

One of the things that I was very conscious of in Chicago was wanting to make sure that it didn't feel altogether like a "work" trip. Ever since I started taking my photography seriously (i.e. when I began to exhibit and sell it) I have been compelled to make travel first and foremost about taking images home with me. Taking that approach has (at times) had a substantial payoff, both in practical terms and in lending an extra dimension of depth to my experience. I'm glad I've been involved in that type of "work". But it can become obsessive and intrusive as well.

Truthfully, I have always felt the need to run around and see as much as I can whenever I visit a new place. I get a nagging sense that I might never return, and I don't want to "miss out". At times this has been an issue for my companions on such trips. Having researched a place to come up with an itinerary, I get frustrated if I encounter competing agendas. This isn't generally a problem with M., as she understands and respects my priorities. She's perfectly happy for us to go our own ways whenever we disagree about what we individually desire. But others have interpreted my vacation-approach as a slight against their own values, or a commentary on my friendship with them. I've become more diligent about explaining this issue beforehand, and trying to monitor situations that might elicit inner or outer conflict. I feel like I negotiated that well this summer, in both NYC and Chicago. Of course you'd probably have to consult L. or JM to get the whole story.

L. and I actually had an interesting, protracted discussion about individual strategies for engaging art museums. He told me that he had been affected by a suggestion he read in a Jeanette Winterson book. Her contention is that so many people file through the halls of great art collections, and give cursory glances at so many great works of art. They have only a set amount of time to spend, and so they move quickly through, and often get overwhelmed and overstimulated long before they have seen everything. Winterson suggests finding one work that is particularly interesting, and sitting down in front of it for a long time- perhaps even an hour. She says that, in this way, one can have a deep fulfilling experience, and therefore get closer to the true spirit and intention of art appreciation. After all the artist took hours and/or days to create the work... is it so much to ask that we invest a substantial amount in considering its values and meaning?

My initial reaction was that this approach didn't seem like a particularly useful way to manage the finite resource of time. If I am in a new city, I want to get a broad range of experiences in order to synthesize my thoughts and feelings about the place. I can't imagine traveling for many hours for a single shot at seeing what the Metropolitan Museum (or MOMA or the Smithsonian, etc.) has to offer, only to spend the bulk of my visit contemplating a single image. There's no way I could keep myself from feeling some vague sense of dissatisfaction and regret because of a perception of missed opportunity.

Yet at the same time, I think it's important for me to give fair consideration to Winterson's idea. I do see how it could be useful to devote one's attention to certain works that appear particularly appealing (for whatever subjective reason). This seems like the natural way humans process information anyway. I have no problem making choices about what I believe I can pass up, and what things I should invest time in. I do think it's important to empower ourselves to make such discriminations. There is no rational way we can give equal time to each and every piece we encounter. And in order to reach any true measure of depth with something, we have to be willing to pause and give into an interactive introspection.

Somewhere there is an ideal balance of quantity and quality. If we confine ourselves to committing all of our resources to the things that already appeal to us, then we risk the repression of our own growth and evolution. But on the other hand, if we try to pack too much in- we face the danger of shutting off completely to the very meaningful ways in which it is possible to experience an individual piece of art (or anything else for that matter).

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Sacred Art @BoxHeart in Pittsburgh


July 24 - August 18
The Sacred Art Exhibition
BoxHeart Gallery
4523 Liberty Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
P. 412 687 8858
F. 412 687 6338

Exhibition exploring "the sacred."

Public Reception: Saturday, July 28th: 6 PM - 9 PM, free and open to the public.

The Sacred Art Exhibition is an Annual Event in the Bloomfield Community. The arts enable contact with The Sacred on an intimate level. By creating, The Sacred is manifested by the hands and a new life is brought into existence. Selection for this exhibition required that artists submit pieces that explore their personal interpretation of The Sacred. All interpretations, both traditional and nontraditional, are considered. The Sacred Art Exhibition is looking forward to a successful 11th year. Come to our community and explore this intriguing cultural event!
More information

Juried Participants:
Bonnet, Cory - Painting - United States (PA)
Broderick, Donna - Textile - United States (PA)
Catale, Sharon - Textile, Mixed Media - United States (PA)
Chaison, Emily - Painting - United States (OR)
Clancy, Rose - Sculpture - United States (PA)
Constanse, Susan - Mixed Media- United States (PA)
Donnelly, Carol - Painting - United States (PA)
DiFalco, Gerard - Mixed Media - United States (PA)
Fleisch-Hughes, Diane - Painting - United States (OH)
Grant, Tatiana - Iconography - United States (CA)
Hughes-Saurina, Donna - Painting - United States (PA)
Kukic, Jasmine - Collage - Canada
Lawrence, Dhira - Painting - United States (OR)
Magalhaes, Nzuji de- Textile, Mixed Media - United States (CA)
Marze, Fran - Painting - United States (PA)
Montanaro, Marina - Drawing - Switzerland
Neapolitan, Cella - Photography - United States (TN)
Noe, Rita - Digital Photography- United States (IA)
O'Brien, Lynn - Painting - United States (OH)
Petrea, Rick - Sculpture - United States (GA)
Redmond, Jamie - Photography - United States (CA)
Ricker, Thad - Digital Painting - United States (OH)
Slepian, Marian - Sculpture - United States (NJ)
Sobye, Reinhardt - Film - Norway
Staub, Cassie - Photography - United States (PA)
Voegtle, Petra - Textile - Germany
Waterston, Elin - Textile - United States (NY)
Zinicola, Jr, Tony - Mosaic - United States (OR)

Susan Constanse
Oranje
MySpace


Addendum: Read Kurt Shaw's review here.

The luscious Moira


The luscious Moira was the model for Drink and Draw on July 24. She was amazing! I hope that, at some point, we can have her back. Everybody seemed to enjoy drawing her, as you can see --




Next up, Sus and Alix on August 7. See you then --

brillobox Drink and Draw

Chicago: The Museum of Contemporary Art.

This was my last day in Chicago, and I had some decisions to make. I had a list of museums to consider, and I knew i wouldn't have time to see more than one (we got moving late this morning). I was certainly tempted by the description of the Museum of Surgical Science. Who wouldn't want to see a display of the torture devices doctors have used to pry open the various parts of the human body? But to be honest, that's more the type of thing you'd see if you had a full week in the city. The same goes for the Museum of Holography- it's sure to please even the most jaundiced eye. Indeed I don't know anyone that wouldn't enjoy watching a 3D rendering of Dr. Jekyl's transition into Mr. Hyde. But if I can only see one, I have to consider the major players. So the real choice was between the Art Institute or the Museum of Contemporary Art. I asked myself if I should see the established classics, or be adventurous and sift through the possible additions to the canon. Now I have to say that one of my favorite paintings is actually housed at the Art Institute- Edward Hopper's "Nighthawks". Yet my desire to research the work of living artists ultimately won out, and I chose the MCA.

Upon entrance to the art museum, I almost immediately questioned my decision. I discovered that this institution doesn't allow patrons to photograph anything at all. Of course the prohibition has to do with copyright concerns. Hey... I understand that artists have to get paid. But it certainly makes remembering the highlights difficult. To make matters worse, I didn't bring anything to write with. So it's awfully difficult to come up with a substantial recap of the work I saw. Even remembering specific artists is difficult. This means that the viewer is likely to mention only the artists he/she was already familiar with before the visit, and that likelihood does a disservice to lesser-known creators. It would be one thing if you could take home brochures for every exhibit on display. But that's not the case with the MCA. I felt only a bit better when I learned the admission price was "only" $10.

Nevertheless I ventured into the 2nd Floor (which was the level on which I entered). It featured "Escultura Social: A New Generation of Art from Mexico City". Sadly, I can't recommend this show. There was little that I found even remotely interesting. I almost busted my head open walking into a wall while trying to see a video installation that turned out to be footage of a big cat's roaring, glow-in-the-dark teeth. I saw sculpture made with "found materials"- flags protruding from empty 40oz. beer bottles. There were posters and paintings of iconic media personas tattooed with Mexican gangsta markings (by a certain Dr. Lakra). And there was a series of photo comparisons juxtaposing stills from the cult movie "The Warriors" with newspaper images of Mexico City gang members. I gave that the benefit of the doubt, since 'The Warriors" is a sentimental favorite of mine. Mind you, i am only mentioning the things that I wasn't bored by. There's got to be more art of value in such a large city... especially considering its people appreciate snuff magazines as much as the Japanese are fascinated by Michael jackson. I honestly expected better.

Fortunately my experience improved as I ascended the staircase. On the third floor there was another video installation. This one depicted the artist (Pipliotti Rist) swimming, alternatively besuited and naked, in clear sea-like waters. That footage was comlimented by a cloudscpe. It was all presented on two screens on adjacent walls, joined together and resulting in a symmetrical image. Rist accompanied the visuals with her version of Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game". For much of the song's length, she sang in a sultry manner. But for its latter part, she added a backing track of herself screaming the lyrics. This may sound ridiculous, but it worked. I was entranced and stayed for enough time to hear the song several times through.

On the top floor there was a collection of photographs called "MCA Exposed: 1967-2007". This was an extraordinarily well-curated selection of some of the most compelling works created in the medium. I generally make it a point not to look too hard at other people's photo-work. I'd like to retain my (purely self-held) image as a true "outsider artist". If I remain ignorant of the tradition I'm working within, I can continue to claim this trendily goofy appellation. So what the hell was I doing looking at that stuff? I was feeling pretty damned humbled. I'd like to be able to point you toward the many outstanding artists represented in this show. But I can't for the reasons I've already mentioned above. I can say that I got to see the work of Cindy Sherman and Larry Clark (co-director of "Kids") in person. I've been curious about the output of both of them for awhile. Having been satisfied by their photos, as well as the many other fine examples in "MCA Exposed", I can truly say that my decision to go to the MCA was ultimately validated. Once we were done looking, we took another long drive about town in search of our own photo subjects. If I thought that an account of our exploration warranted exposition, I'd stay up too late and contnue this post. But I don't, and I have a long drive tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Chicago: Quimby's, Bars and more.

My host had to work last night, so I made my first solo foray by car into the heart of North Chicago. I stuck to the few roads I could identify and made my way to Quimby's in Bucktown. This bookstore constituted a geeky sort of pilgrimage for me, as I first became aware of its legendary status from reading comments on the Comics Journal Message Board. Its relatively small size belies the broad range of treasures contained within. Their selection of underground zines and minicomics is unlike anything I've ever seen. They stock a wide selection of the best alt-comix graphic novels, and many pamphlet-format books. Look further and you'll find books on conspiracies, magik, "lowbrow" art, esoteric sociology, tattoos, carnival life, prison literature, and just about everything the urban hipster could possibly covet. Shopping there is serious business too- they clearly post a D.I.Y. sign on the front door advising patrons to turn their cellphones off before entering. I have no idea how long I was actually there. It could have been hours. I escaped with remarkable restraint. I came out with work by Ivan Brunetti, Martin Cendreda, Rick Geary and the new MOME.

When I got back to Andersonville, we decided to go grab a drink. "The Duke of Perth" in Wrigleyille is a solid Irish pub with what I'm told is an excellent range of quality whiskies. I took advantage of the 50 cent wing special. I was so hungry that I would have gladly savored sushi. Fortunately that wasn't necessary. Actually I might have had to dig a bit if I had anything approximating a sophisticated pallet. The neighborhood itself is largely frequented by yahoos, as it hosts Wrigley Park- home of the Chicago Cubs. Although it's not the type of place I'd typically be drawn toward, I was impressed to see a sports stadium smack dab in the middle of a functional mix of residences and dense commercial development. Of course it's a bit like a postcard from a time long past, but it doesn't feel like a museum. Despite myself and my aesthetic, I admired the place just a bit.

We finished the night at Delilah's in Lincoln Park. Ian at Brillo Box had suggested that I would like this bar. He was right. Just as he had described it, thisw joint is a mix of the Brillo and Gooski's. I don't know what it is about Chicago and bourbon... but if you are a fan of that particular spirit, you will find many who share your enthusiasm. If you are into post-punk and slightky seedy dives, then Delilah's is a natural choice. It's dark, intimate and loud enough to keep you awake- even if you choose the comfortable leather couch in the back corner. And they stock both 60 and 90-minute Dogfish IPA. Nuff said.

My agenda for today was to set off by car in search of "authentic" Chicago. After a bit of a late start we headed in a roundabout way toward the Baha'i Temple in Wilmette. I don't know a whole lot about this faith, other than to say that it is syncretic with pretensions of universalism. The physical structure is an ornate behemoth, with an impossibly high ceiling and a variety of religious iconography carved into its outer exterior. From what I gathered from our short run around the visitor's center, its a bit like an Eastern Unitarianism with delusions of grandeur. I plan on doing some internet research about this religion when I get some downtime back in the Burgh. I was warned not to accept any offers fron adherents to view the explanatory film, and so we got back on the road.

I really wanted to locate unique photo opportunities, and so when the prospect of trying to find Louis Farrakhan's house was brought up, I embraced the idea. Unfortunately we couldn't find it, and we ended up in an industrial section where I took a couple of shots of a working steel mill. Imagine that. I had to drive seven and a half hours from Pittsburgh, only to photograph the steel industry. What was especially unusual about this site was the length to which the mill company went to encourage tourists to loiter about. There was a permanent placard explaining the philosophy of welcome. And there were several benches flanked by trees for the weary travele to take a load off. Apparently the 9-11 terrorist paranoia isn't running rampant in Chi-town. No one looked askance at me as I leisurely took photos of the men at work, and the scrapyard nearby.

This evening L. and I went down to Old Town to rendezvous with one of his buddies. We wanted to have our drinks outside on the sidewalk, so we ended up at a bar we wouldn't have otherwise chosen. The conversation was good, and so we extended our evening with a visit to the Old Town Ale House. Apparently this cozy neighborhood dive is a traditional haunt of the Second City players- many of which have found fame on Saturday Night Live. What really distinguished the place for me was the incredible collection of bawdy art and portraits occupying every available space of the walls. The paintings are executed in a flat, but colorfully naive style. They depict women and men caught in various stages of undress and occupied in various kinky sex acts. Perhaps tellingly, the artist included himself, peering out in a creepily voyueristic manner, in the background of each piece. Simply unforgettable. I wanted to buy a t-shirt with a particularly choice image, but they didn't have the right size. I intend to follow up online. If I see nothing else of value the rest of this trip, I will still consider myself lucky to have been exposed to this wondrous place.

Cleveland Artists On Cleveland Art Scene



From this Youtube video, it looks like Cleveland has a lot of the same problems and issues that Pittsburgh has with it's art scene. A few fairly well funded big institutions, a number of well known art collectors (um we don't have that) but almost no glue in between so that people feel alone or at least the artists feel alone.

Chicago Trip: Arrival.

The drive to Chi-town was carefree, but monotonous. I took Route 80 across both Ohio and Indiana. In both states Rte. 80 is the turnpike, and there's not a whole lot to look at. The OH stretch at least has regular Starbucks joints- so you can get all hyped up on caffeine and watch the cornfields passing by. I played with the radio until it sickened me, and then resorted to the CDs I had brought along. Until I actually hit Chicago, the only "city" I caught a glimpse of was Gary, Indiana. That place looks like a rotten shithole (my apologies to its residents). Other than that it was mostly sky and crumbling farms. At least I moved through it quickly. I didn't hit much traffic until I could see the Chicago skyline, and then I sat for 45 minutes in the throes of rush hour. It was an overcast day, and the pallor of the clouds gave the city an especially industrial look.

My friend L. lives on a pleasantly tree-lined street in the neighborhood of Andersonville. I was surprised to find street parking almost immediately outside his apartment. The place is spacious, with hardwood floors and lots of windows. The rent is quite affordable, considering its proximity to a few vital business districts and the safety of its streets. I got a good impression of the North End of Chicago right away. From what I've seen, it's city living on a very human scale. many of the neighborhoods have retained an authenticity of character. Although it is clear that city planners are pushing for rapid gentrification or the inner city, they seem to be doin a half-assed job of it. Last night L's co-worker gave us the lowdown on Mayor Daley's corrupt approach to governance. With it's old-school Democrat approach to politics, it has a lot in common with Pittsburgh.

After getting settled in last night, L. and I went for grub. We landed at a small bar/eatery in the Bucktown section. "Handlebars" has that hipster-cum-anarchic-bike-culture vibe that would make the clientele of the Quiet Storm (back in the Burgh) quite happy. I was a bit dismayed to open the menu and realize L. had brought me to a vegetarian restaurant. I sat baffled and tried to figure out what I might order. I ended up with black bean tostadas and smoked gouda mac-and-cheese. And you know what? It really wasn't half bad. The rather feeble-looking patrons surrounding us looked happy and natural in their element. If you aren't much of a carnivore, then I can recommend the place without reservation. I do have one disclaimer- You have to dig a bit through the drink menu to find a "real" beer as the place caters to the wheat beer crowd. After we were done there, we went to L.'s workplace and told stories at the bar as the restaurant shut down for the night.

Today L. had to tqake care of some business downtown, so I walked around for a bit among the tall buildings. I was shocked at the relative absence of hustle-and-bustle. And I was saddened to see a Hard Rock Cafe and Disney-fied Rainforest Restaurant in the center of the city. i guess that sort of thing is inevitable now in the big cities- especially in the wake of the castration of Times Square, NYC. If they are going to offer a de-fanged hyper-commercialized version of nightlife for the whole family, then they might as well come up with something particular to the history of Chicago. I don't understand the people who want to travel to a new place merely to experience a homogenized cartoon of somewher altogether different. Why can't they keep crap like that out in the suburbs, and at least make a suitable mockery of whatever authenticity the specific city truly offers? Wait a second... was the first Hard Rock in Chcago? If so, I take it all back.

Before departing for this trip, I had made a list of museums that I was interested in checking out. So we set off for the Museum of Science and Industry. I had read that they had a display of cross-section cuts of actual human beings (predating the recent Body Works traveling sideshow). That sounded compelling. We should have known better as soon as we pulled into the attached parking garage, and were asked to pay $12 just to keep our car there. They rope people in by enticing kids to badger their parents to see the OMNIMAX movie on dinosaurs (or whatever), and each and every disgruntled father has to shell out this exorbitant parking fee before he even gets to pay the $27 adult admission. When we got inside we saw the huge banners for the CSI (the TV show) spectacle, and the mass of sheeple, and we decided to just at the $12 and get the hell out of there. I swear that every science center in every American city offers the exact same slick-modern-day-tourist-trap diversion. We drove to the National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum instead.

The NVVAM offers three floors of artwork by veterans. They have both permanent collections and temporary exhibits. I have always been drawn to "outsider art", and considering my long-held fascination with the Vietnam War, this was a natural destination. Today they had a "Works on Paper" show, which contained a variety of autobiographical visual pieces by artists across a range of skill levels. The curators give the creators a chance to write something to accompany each piece, and many of them included anecdotes about the terms they served incountry. As one might expect, the totality of the work contains a lot of emotional confusion, violence, pain and loss. But unlike what I'm used to seeing in canonical modern art exhibits, there is an extraordinarily personal depth of feeling that transcends technique.

I've always believed that the the American involvement in Vietnam taught many people lessons about the moral ambiguities and entrenched complexity of war. For awhile it was almost a cliche that the Vietnam War forever changed our nation's psyche. The recent conflict in the Middle East has made me question whether or not anybody still remembers the 1960's and 70's. I was pleased to see that the curators of NVVAM see very strong parallels between what is happening now in Iraq and what happened in Vietnam. They have included several sections in the museum dedicated to the work of Iraqi War veterans. I think it would be great for our current "leaders" to take a tour of the NVAAM. Perhaps our president and VP could gain a little insight into an essential part of our history- a place and time that they avoided because they had more "pressing concerns".


*Note: I apologize for the lack of links in these posts. I'm writing on a MAC laptop, and Blogger.com has a much more limited interface on this system, and thus a lot of the tools I rely on are unavailable.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Merge In Chicago



Of course, Merge is on another trip in pursuit of his "art".

Monday, July 23, 2007

Gritty Brits Video



Why am I publishing all these Youtube video's, partly because they are "low hanging fruit", easy and often interesting posts ready to go. Sadly, for Pittsburgh-- you just don't find as much stuff online like this in terms of local documentation of shows and I don't have the time, energy, knowledge or technical equipment to do all this stuff for the city for free. There has been a lot of improvement, since last year, I would have been happy if places even had a website.

Anyway here is video on the just past show at the Carnegie of Contemporary British architecture

Flatland @ Sculpture Center in NY





Ward Shelley, an artist who shows at Pierogi had perhaps the most humanitarian show I have seen for a long time. It's really a gift to the artist's of New York-- A realistic plan for artist housing in the city. Please feed the artists.

Me and Merge, saw this work at the Sculpture Center after the artists had already left but before the upscale tenants came in.

Road Trip at La Vie

Road Trip at La Vie
3609 Butler Street
Pittsburgh PA 15201
Paul Roden - The History of the World II: Confluence
An installation of Jennifer Howison's puppens.
Jennifer Howison
Deborah Hosking - Telephone Wires
Deborah Hosking's Road trip from LA - Pittsburgh (Spoiler: the snow scenes are Pittsburgh)
Josh Bonnett - White Out

Tuning up is one of the members of F*ck Telecorps Lite

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Polly Apfelbaum on You Tube



Here's a You Tube Video that I think MOMA posted that shows her installing her work in the Comic Abstraction show at MOMA. I actually haven't found many online stuff that gives an idea of the intensity and sensitivity of most of her works.She will be here for at least a few days to jury the upcoming AAP show at the Warhol.

James Kalm with The Dinner Party @ The Brooklyn Museum



Thanks to James Kalm, and You Tube we can see the work by Judy Chicago (and many other artists) that Jim Shaw's Donner party plays off of. One a perhaps absurdly heavy handed attempt to make something sacred and the other a play on the profane.

Jim Shaw @ P.S.1 on You Tube



Someone named James Kalm, seems to have posted a number of DYI you tube videos of NY art openings, happenings and events. He happens to have posted extensive one of Jim Shaw's show at PS1 which Merge was such a big fan of. I have a more mixed opinion, but thanks to stuff like this, I can take a few peeks at details, I might have missed and think about the work again. For the record, I love his "thrift store paintings" and most of the other work and had never seen such a large display of them. I had mixed opinions about the "Donner Party" (many art world gags make me gag)but I have to think about it.

Posting this creates the classic internet age questions-- A) that the person who shot and posted is ok with it being reposted and B) that PS1, the artist and owners of anyworks are ok with it.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Jerry Saltz On Curating

Thankfully, I saw a number of very well curated shows in NY. Jerry Saltz has some great thoughts on this subject that seem to be in sinc with mine. Sadly it seems to be the rare curator these days that is adding rather than subtracting from the work they are showing.

"It’s also rare these days, partly because curating is becoming less of a dark art and more of a science or profession. Curators are curating shows to death. They’ve either been trained about what type of thing should go with what type of thing and they do that robotically or without insight; they make the same points that their teachers made two generations ago; they have a bad eye and whatever they do doesn’t matter; or they try to make everything make sense when one of the first rules of curating should be "Stop Making Sense."

My general rules would be (and it ain't easy)

#1. Find and show great or interesting work. Having an eye is #1

#2 Find and show a certain amount of new or under recognized work. You must look at a lot of work. It's a job--take it seriously. Jerry is the ultimate role model here, unlike what seems to be the typical writer, curator or critic--he sees shows.

#3 Leave enough room for the viewer to make new connections between the works. A show has to trancend being a thesis/history lesson.

For the record, I don't curate well and see my primary purpose as leaving a lot of room to make their own decisions.

Here's Jerry with a great paragraph on what happens when a show is well curated.

"The alchemy of good curating amounts to this: sometimes placing one work of art near another makes one and one equal three. Two artworks arranged alchemically leave each intact, transform both and create a third thing. This third thing and the two original things then trigger cascades of thought and reaction; you know things you didn’t know you needed to know until you know them; then you can’t imagine ever not knowing them again. Then these things transform all the other things and thoughts you’ve had. This chain-reaction is thrilling and uncanny."

The Associated Artists of Pittsburgh Annual


The due date for submission for the Associated Artists of Pittsburgh is coming up.

Attention Artists! The Associated Artists of Pittsburgh (AAP) is screening art for the 97th Annual Exhibition at the Carnegie Museum of Art. All media are welcome. You do not have to be an AAP member to apply, all artists are welcome. Artists working in any media and living within a 150 mile radius of Pittsburgh are eligible to apply.

Digital and slide entries by August 3 and drop off for physical work is August 12. You will need a prospectus that has all of the details. You can find more information about this and past exhibits on their site. You can download the prospectus here.

The juror

Polly Apfelbaum, noted New York artist, was born in 1955 in Abington, Pennsylvania. She received a BFA from Tyler School of Art in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, and also attended SUNY at Purchase, Purchase, New York.

An artist of wide-ranging styles from Pop Art to Minimalism, Polly Abfelbaum has been exhibiting in New York since the early 1980s. Many of her installations are dyed fabric laid on the floor, wall works with strips of velvet applied to bed sheets or collages of cut-up photographs and cloth. Her subjects deal with the relativity of time, feminist issues and complexity in what appears to be simplicity.opp

Her early shows had works with found and fabricated objects, and in the 1990s, she began working with fabric. In 1999, her work was exhibited at Site Sante Fe in New Mexico and she has major Solo shows around the world, including The Whitney Museum In NY, the ICA in Philly. She currently is having a solo at Frith Street Gallery in London.

Polly and me were for a number of Years represented by the same New York gallery. Honestly, my work never got to her level.

On Tap @the Brew House


On Tap: Brew House Cabaret
The Brew House is bringing together diverse performing artists from New York City and the Pittsburgh area in an
exciting and eclectic evening of dance, music, and theatre. Featuring --

Smokifantastic

Rage of the Stage Players

Zafira Dance Company

July 20 and 21, 2007 at 8 pm both nights. Admission is $10.
The Brew House
2100 Mary Street
Pittsburgh PA 15201
412-381-7767

Thursday, July 19, 2007

True Faith @ Greenberg Van Doren

Tracy Miller
Ben Matthews
Gina Magid

I made a special trip to see the show file artist, Paul Brainard put together at Greenberg Van Doren, a gallery that amazingly, I think I have never been in. The show put together a lot of stuff that didn't at first glance seem to have a lot in common and left a lot of space to make connections. The first common link was that almost all the work was visually stunning or interesting. Almost all the work fell into the general realm of painting and or drawing.

"In selecting artists for this show I chose work that encompasses visual ambiguity as the dominant aesthetic. The title ‘True Faith’ presupposes the viewer believes in the uncertainty of organic growth and the enigmatic openness this allows. I also wanted to concentrate on work that has a direct relationship to the touch of the hand. Throughout the process of painting and drawing many decisions are made that can lead the artist into new and unexpected territory. Much of the artwork allows a hybrid organic growth that complements disciplined thought and execution".

The gallery website seems to miss the full scope of the show which included Pittsburgh artist, Ben Matthews. Of course, Art Cal had this show as a pick !!

NY Trip: Red Hook and Chelsea.

When I woke up this morning I only had one more must-see on my checklist. So we drove down to Red Hook- a little Brooklyn neighhborhood on the banks of the Long Island Sound. I had read that the waterfront in the area was one of the last few uncongested and industrial places in NYC. I though I could get some shots of a community that was lost in time. JM had never actually been there, so we had to improvise our route. We ended up finding it fairly easily.

As advertised, Red Hook was indeed a unique area. Although being flanked by what used to be some pretty rough housing projects, it really did have the feeling of a traditional, non-gentrified neighhborhood. There were a few examples of post-apocalyptic, degraded buildings at its very edge. A couple of these physical plants were still being used for some ostensible workmanlike function. I took several representative photos of the graffiti and debris of the wastelands. There was also a rusting old subway car along a promenade in the back of a fancy groccery store that made for a compelling (and maybe symbolic) image. I suppose we could have lingered there and sought out more odd sights, but I was aware that JM wanted to make a trip to the Chelsea galleries, and I was looking forward to joining him. I'm glad I got to see Red Hook before the inevitable change that is coming to transform it into the next condo-enclave or "big box" store supercenter.

Before our trip into Manhattan via subway, we needed to find a secure place to stash the car. JM thought that maybe Park Slope would be a good idea, but we ended up on an extended search for parking that finally ended on 3rd Avenue, by 62nd Street in Brooklyn. A pleasant subway ride landed us on 23rd Street, and a walk across the City brought us to the central repository for art in the United States. If you've never been to Chelsea before, you should know that you could never visit all the galleries in a single day. It's easy after an hour or two to start taking the work for granted. We saw a lot of great stuff. A few highlights among many worth mentioning:

-Humberto Duque, "Revenge of the Lawn" @ Galeria Ramis Barquet - A magical world of colorful drawings, vibrant clay sculpture, paper cut=outs and sculptures. Certainly playful, but not without a bit of gristle.

-"A House is Not a Home" @ Carin Golden Fine Art (curated by Beth Rudin DeWoody) - Just an excellent example of curatorial excellence applied to a fairly broad theme. Photos by Kevin Cooley were a particular standout.

-Souther Salazar, @ Jonathan Levine Gallery - I ran all the way down to 20th Street to catch this fifteen minutes before the close of the gallery. It was totally worth it. I knew his comics work and expected to be pleased, yet this solo exceeded my expectations. Miniature worlds of self-contained dreams. More candy for the eyes. Sure... they had Shepard Fairey there too. So what?!

-Marnie Weber "Variations on a Western Song", @ Fredericks & Freiser - Wow. First you see the collages in the front room. Eerie... a bit disturbing maybe... carnivalesque certainly. There's humor there, but the imagery is transcendently transfixing. But you need to go through the curtain in the back of the gallery and watch her 25-minute video meditation on spiritualism, the feminine voice and the mythos of the American frontier. A truly great work that I'll never be able to purchase on DVD to show all you good people... though you definitely deserve it.


Of course there's plenty more to tell you about. But I have to admit that I am now truly overstimulated by this trip. I'm actually seriously considering driving home tomorrow- a day earlier than I expected. I have packed such an inordinately huge dose of activity and information into a relatively small window of time, and I am reeling from it. Maybe I'll feel like I cheated myself later, but I don't think I can process anymore without a break of quiet reflection. Unless the oceans rise a few feet, NYC will be there some distant day, awaiting my return. And I'll be refreshed with a brand new itinerary in hand.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

New Novel Features Fictional Ohio Garage Band



The Underground Literary Alliance is on the road. The Philadephia Weekly asks, “Is the ULA a subversive prank? Or a genuine revolution in American literature? One suspects a bit of both.” (St. John Barned-Smith)

This month, ULA author and Cleveland native, Wred Fright, is dragging Crazy Carl Robinson around on a six-city reading tour, including our fair Steel City. Says Wright, “In this revolutionary month of July, we'd like to make this declaration of literary independence because American literature, like American democracy, is not in the healthiest of shapes at the moment.”

Fright’s semi-autobiographical “The Pornographic Flabbergasted Emus” is a humorous look at the life of a hapless Ohio garage band. Robinson will be reading from his latest novel, “Fat on the Vine,” and the Pittsburgh-based Karen Lillis [me] reads at this stop from her forthcoming novel, “The Second Elizabeth.”

UNDERGROUND LITERARY AMERICA TOUR
featuring WRED FRIGHT, CRAZY CARL ROBINSON & KAREN LILLIS
Monday, July 23 at 7:00 PM
Joseph-Beth Booksellers
2705 East Carson Street
Southside, Pittsburgh
FREE
Also, see this week’s City Paper for an interview with Wred Fright and a review of “The Second Elizabeth.”

Sunday, July 15, 2007

NY Studio Visit With Nikki Schiro









One purpose of my NY trips is to do studio visits which I would be doing a lot more of if I was able to be selling more work or at least getting more people to care enough to look. I came across Nikki's work at the Hunter MFA show where she was a studio mate of Emily Noelle Lambert. Her portraits somehow combine extreme honesty and emotional clarity and a lot of dignity. I have a small amount of her work now in my gallery but you get a fuller idea of what she is doing on her website.

Friday, July 13, 2007

NY Trip: Long Island City.

Our agenda for today was mostly determined by the wide range of competing alternatives within the NYC art scene. Because every organization in this city needs to scream for attention, certain neighborhoods are forced to open their destinations during the off days of the major players. Therefore while a lot of the museums in Manhattan are closed, those in Long Island City welcome visitors on Mondays. So our choice was an easy one. We decided to check out P.S.1 and the Fisher-Landau Museum.


We arrived in LIC before noon, so we had time to get coffee drinks and walk around 5 Pointz before we headed to P.S.1. This is a large warehouse (on Crane St. ) converted into artist studios and covered with "wildstyle" graffiti. Because the owner of the building encourages this commonly maligned art-form, it is constantly morphing with the work of both famous and novice graffiti artists. So people who care about such things are likely to return several times to check out the new stuff. Despite JM's contention that "they" are a bit uptight about photographs being taken, I figured public art is fair game. We walked around the perimeter of the building and had a thorough look. It was worth a few minutes of our time.

P.S.1, on the other hand, is a trip worth a significant investment of time and thought. This MOMA-affilated museum is housed in a former public school. It's dedicated to the presentation of work created primarily by "emerging" and contemporary artists. As such it is an impressive facility. It has several floors and a large outdoor sculpture area. We were fairly unimpressed by the John Cage sound installations in the Organizing Chaos exhibition, but enjoyed the highly atmospheric and grainy footage of soap bubbles depicted in a video by Rivane Neuenshwander and Cao Guimarães. While JM liked Tunga's large sculpture of a reclining headless skeleton on a hammock, I enjoyed the same artist's installation wherein the shadows of a horde of contained, live flies were projected by lamplight onto the walls of a small, narrow room. I also liked Jim Shaw's The Donner Party- a panorama of scuptures loosely based on the historical event, as well as his collection of paintings "found" in thrift stores. There was so much good stuff to see at P.S.1. that it would have justified the entire day had I not seen anything else. For $5, you couldn't possibly find a better value.

Next we took a sweaty walk to the Sculpure Center. Unfortunately we didn't find much inspiring in the happiness of objects show on the gound floor. But we ultimately got our money's worth with Christian Tomaszewski's On Chapels, Caves, and Erotic Mystery. This walkthrough series of interior spaces was inspired by David Lynch's Blue Velvet. I have a penchant for dark rides, and the experience of wending through Tomaszewski's creation was satisfyingly eerie and unsettling. It's all in the lovingly-created creepiness of the details. If you have any possibility of engaging this work, I heartily recommend it.

JM was leary about following up with a visit to the Fisher Landau Center for Art. Although he'd never been there, he wasn't excited about having to invest the admission price and time to go to an out-of-the-way contemporary art museum founded by a single collector. He ended up being pleasantly surprised by the quality of the work. There are a lot of ultra successful artists represented in the clean, air conditioned space on 30th Street. JM entertained himself by trying to identify the artists without consulting the gallery guide, while I mostly puzzled over why these selections are considered to be the best of what the last 47 years have had to offer. It reminded me that there was once a time when my bullshit meter was constantly abuzz when viewing modern art. Anyway we both liked the paintings by Zachary Wollard, and we were quite pleased to discover that the Center charges no admission fees.

We rounded out the day with trips to D.U.M.B.O and Brooklyn Heights. JM thought I'd appreciate these areas, but they really weren't at all what I'm looking for in NYC. The Heights is a typical brownstone community of ample means, and D.U.M.B.O is a sadly gentrified place that was obviously once quite interesting from an aesthetic standpoint. Any particular character that once distinguished these riverside communities has succumbed to "urban renewal". While this transition is probably good for NYC from an economic standpoint, it is nonetheless lamentable.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

NY Trip: The Giglio.

Today was a sweltering hot day in the Big City, and it's a steamy night that follows. We followed our plans this morning, and erred on the side of caution by getting to Williamsburg early. There was no way of knowing how many people would show up for the Dance of the Giglio, and likewise we didn't know how fast any crowd would congregate. Unfortunately that meant a lot of standing around in the midday sun, trying to figure out where the best position was from which to get quality photos. I decided that I wanted to get up in close to the men who would actually lift the behemoth tower. I had seen shots in the documentary with the strain and camaraderie evident in the faces of the Paranzas. JM thought that he'd prefer shots of the the entire procession. So we ended up claiming separate pieces of ground. It's a good thing that we picked a time and meeting place for rendezvous, because as lift-off time approached it got jam-packed.

I've never seen so many old-school Italian faces in one place in my entire life. The pride and spirit in evidence was actually uplifting in itself. I got awfully tired of waiting for the ceremonies, and actually considered leaving. But then it started and I'm glad I stayed. First the parish father and the local bishop ascended to the platform at the base of the Giglio, and they were followed by the brass band and a traditional folk singer. They started with a prayer,and then sang the national anthem to a lukewarm reception. Next they played the Italian anthem, and the crowd came alive. After another song the capo called for the crowd to pull back so they could begin a march of the Giglio. It took them several attempts before the excited people stepped back to make room. Then it happened, and I got caught up in the excitement. I happened to be in a spot that allowed me to get some of the shots I had envisioned. Shooting in a roving mob proved to be a unique challenge, but I was pleased with the results. I was impressed by the feats of crowd control which kept anyone from getting injured. In the space of about fifteen minutes, my optimal opportunity for a view had passed, and JM caught up with me at our prearranged meeting place.

Afterward we walked many blocks to meet up with one of JM's artist friends for coffee. My ass was absolutley dragging by this point, and it was great to sit down and get into a rambling discussion about faith and alternative spirituality. Our trio walked over to the Pierogi Gallery for a look-see. Both of my companions have had work there over the years, so they have a special connection to the place. It's a flat-file gallery, and its concept was a source of inspiration for JM when he opened up the Digging Pitt in Pittsburgh. I liked the stuff on the walls- we mused on the puzzle aspect of many of the pieces. After a bit I had a look at David Byrne's (yes...that one) work from the file cabinets. They were fairly compelling photographic prints, a few of which were collages. Good evocative stuff.

Then JM decided he wanted to take the subway into Manhattan's financial district to make a connection with Brent Burkett who writes the Heart as Arena blog (check it out here). We left my car in Brooklyn. Brent was so kind as to give us a walking tour of public art in lower Manhattan. Highlights included work by Jean Dubuffet and Jeff Koons. We also walked by Ground Zero, and I couldn't help being offended by all the low-rent vendors who were selling knock-off purses along the nearby walkways. Despite all the damn sloganeering that has made it virtually impossible for me to have an authentic emotional reaction to the site, I was still kinda bothered by these freakin' vultures. We ended our walkabout along the slim park that overlooks the Hudson River. Do you believe I got my very first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty??

You really couldn't do better than Brent for a tour guide. But by the time we were done I was exhausted, and even a bit cranky from lack of food. We rode back into Brooklyn, and then had to get off at a stop that was still a long way from where we thought we had left the car. Fortunately there was a public transit bus shuttle waiting on us, and we had the amazing luck of ending up on the very block where I had parked. Back at the house, I ate wings and we "discussed" politics for a couple of hours. It was a good way to (almost) end the night.

NY Trip: My Introduction to Queens.

It's been a long day of driving, most of it very intense. Route 80 is a good enough road- not much different than the turnpike, except that it is perhaps in better shape. The downside is that it's not nearly as scenic as I thought it would be. Plus the rest stops are very basic. There are bathrooms and vending machines, but no Starbucks or chain restaurants. You have to get off at an exit if you need gas or food. Anyway, we rolled along smoothly until we got into Northern New Jersey, and then we poked along the rest of the way to the Forest Hills section of Queens. There are some pleasant residential streets in this area that don't necessarily fit my expectations of NYC. But Queens is the most sprawling of the boroughs, and there are many types of neighborhoods within it.

I've read a lot about Queens being the only part of NYC that resembles the old-time traditional image of the City. Supposedly there are still alot of working class folks living here. The ethnic diversity is obvious. Despite the fact that I've only explored a small portion of this town (and much of that in the dark), I've already noticed influences from Eastern Europe, Latin America, and several regions of Asia. There are hispanics, jews, white people, blacks, etc. It's certainly not entirely gentrified yet. But to hear JM talk, a large portion of it has already changed during the relatively short time he's been away. I was impressed to find an actual grocery store, albeit one with compacted shelves. I didn't know such things existed anymore in the "Big Apple". I bought drinkable yogurt!

We decided to take a drive into Williamsburg (Brooklyn) this evening. Right away we spotted a "community museum". It had a charming collection of souvenirs and artifacts. We got pulled in to watching a documentary about the Giglio (giglio means "lily" in Italian) in the backroom. I found it useful background information for something we intend to see tomorrow. The Giglio Feast is meant to honor St. Paolino, a baron in the ancient Italian city of Nola. It is said that he sacrificed himself by working in the fields and providing offerings for a North African Sultan. He did this so the autocratic ruler would spare the lives of the youth in his city. People have been celebrating this deed since it occurred in 409AD. In Brooklyn, the feast is held by Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church. They emulate their ancestors by building a five-story tower, weighing several tons and embroidered with saintly imagery by traditional artisans. Then a team of 120 men carry the thing, with a 12-piece brass band perched atop its base, through the streets. The bearers of this object are called Paranzas and they are led by a cadre of Lieutenants and overseen by the Capo. Of course there's lots of hot sausage and dancing, too.

So that's the plan for Sunday. We'll try to find parking and see the "first lift" in the afternoon. And I'll strain to get close enough to take some pictures. Anyway... we watched the film (which was made for PBS and featured John Turturro as narrator) and then it was back to the streets once again. As we checked out the scene in Williamsburg, JM was increasingly dismayed by the scenesters who have apparently robbed the place of any authenticity it once had. The people didn't bother me, but that may be because I never saw the way it used to be- when artists first moved into the neighborhood. I won't lament the loss of any viable environment for a struggling artist in NYC. There are always other places to move.

We ate a late dinner at a Taqueria in Astoria. I got a chicken chimichanga- a delicious meal served up by a waitress that could barely speak English. It was some of the best Mexican food I have ever had. I'm exhausted, but I'm suffering for my art by staying up an extra hour- just so I can share my account of my day with you.

Drink and Draw with Richard Gartner

Yesterday evening was really intense. Richard did a series of thirty 5-15 second poses with a 5-10 minute pose to finish. This is from the first set--



Steve drawing Richard during the second set --



We had a really good turn out, considering that it was such an unbearably hot night. There wer quite a few of us and we were unusually quiet during the session. Excpet for some sympathy groans for the extreme poses.





Next session is July 24. for more information join us on MySpace.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Architecture of Loss


Digging Pitt artist Jessica Fenlon is a woman of many talents--video artist, violinist, still photographer,
printmaker, graphic designer, and a poet with a book due out on Six Gallery Press later this year. Currently she has a lovely show up at the Te Cafe on Murray Avenue in Squirrel Hill. In addition to the prints on the walls, the closing party this Sunday night will feature a three hour loop of her newest video project, "VIGIL: Miro Street: Ninth Ward: New Orleans: June 16 & 17" shot last month in the Crescent City's most devastated section. Don't miss it. (Pictured here, a video still, shot in the lower 9th Ward.)

Jessica Fenlon
"Body and Soul"
Closing Party and Video Premier of "VIGIL"
Sunday, July 15th 6:00-9:00pm
Té Cafe
2000 Murray Avenue at Beacon Street
Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh

Monday, July 09, 2007

Detroit Arts On The 50/50 Split

Ann Gordon at Detroit Arts has great post and discussion on her blog about the 50/50 split. she has not only done the insane amount of work on her blog but is now experiencing first hand the amount of work it takes to run a gallery. Very few of the people criticize the "exploitive role of comercial galleries seem to want to try a hand at it themselves with their own time and money.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Disaster? what disaster?

If an artist creates work that nobody sees, does it have an effect? Probably not, huh?

Why the art world is a disaster - by Roger Kimball

You can read the entire article yourself. I found a lot of merit in what Roger Kimball says in his article. What I didn't see was a solution or a perceived direction. He isn't the first to say what he has about the current directions in the arts. But this is a very succinct statement, clearly argued.

If there is a solution, it certainly isn't addressed in this article. But it looks like I'm a little late to the table with this one. Edward Winkleman has a post up with a note to look at the discussion on Artblog.net. Happy reading.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

We Are All Proud

Pride

Defeat

A Book For July 4TH

I've been reading a great book called Rough Crossings, which is really a kick in the head. It sort of helps explain for me, why I somehow never have been too interested in the American Revolution or at least the myth of it that is currently known. What was born in 1776 was the possibility of a great free country but one that so deeply flawed and corrupt that it took a much more terrible war to start to set it right.

One little fact that tells the story is that If you were a black American, you would have gained your freedom faster if England had won the Revolution!! In fact, thousands of American slaves fought for England with the hopes of being free-- including many owned by the founding fathers.

"Lord Mansfield, Chief Justice of the Court of King's Bench, had to judge whether the abduction was legal or not under English Common Law as there was no legislation for slavery in England. In his judgement of 22 June 1772 he declared: "Whatever inconveniences, therefore, may follow from a decision, I cannot say this case is allowed or approved by the law of England; and therefore the black must be discharged." It was thus declared that the condition of slavery did not exist under English law. This judgement emancipated the 10 to 14 thousand slaves in England and also laid down that slavery contracted in other jurisdictions (such as the American colonies) could not be enforced in England.[1]"

England was in fact the birthplace of the serious abolitionist movement which by 1807 had outlawed the slave trade in the British Empire and unleashed the power of the Royal Navy to stop it. In 1834 all slavery was ended in all of England's colonies.

These are the words of Frederick Douglass.

"What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sound of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants brass fronted impudence; your shout of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanks-givings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy -- a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour."

Here is a great review of the book printed in The Guardian in London which rightly question's our "cartoonish", simplistic knowledge of history.

"For the New York of 1776 that Schama describes is under temporary British control, a safe haven for tens of thousands of fleeing blacks who see a far better hope of salvation in Britain's King George than a nascent American republic. And who, having fought for the British in uniforms bearing the insignia 'Liberty to slaves', will risk death in the water attempting to reach their army's disappearing evacuation ships rather than return to the mercy of their former masters."

The Zero Sum Art Project


Zero Sum #16


In 1999 I created the first online incarnation of my studio, the Fiji Island Mermaid Press. Since then I have become increasingly interested in finding ways for my studio practice to explore and connect with the ever-expanding online world.

The Zero Sum Art Project (ZSAP) is my latest attempt to combine the objects I make here in the "real world" with the interesting possibilities of the wide open expanses of cyberspace.

Before any artwork was made, ZSAP existed as 4 rules, which are the following:

1. Artwork can be made only with free/found materials or materials purchased with proceeds from the sale of Zero Sum artworks.
2. Zero Sum artwork will be sold on eBay, with the opening bid based solely on the costs of the materials and the auction fees related to the artwork being sold.
3. If the artwork sells for a greater amount than the opening bid, any "profit" must go directly back in to the Zero Sum studio. The Zero Sum Art Project may not keep a balance of more than $10 for longer than 2 weeks - all funds must be directed back into the studio.
4. If the Zero Sum Art Project is in the red with a balance of negative $5.00 for longer than 2 weeks, the studio collapses and the project is over.

The target balance at all times is Zero.


One of my goals for the project was to create an online window into my studio, allowing an interested viewer to watch a body of work grow over time. Towards that end, ZSAP consists of:

1. an online gallery space, where you can find all of the artwork produced to date, a summation of the sales and spending that has kept the project alive and following its "rules", and a list of the studio contents - those items purchased from the "profit" gained from ZSAP sales.
2. a blog, in which new pieces are presented, photos of works in progress are found, and anything of interest to the project is documented. This also allows, of course, for more interaction with the audience than the more static website.
3. the eBay auctions, which allow the viewer to track the actual sale of the work, and often provide bits of commentary about the content of the piece that is up for sale. The auctions are also, most importantly, the mechanism through which the "rules" are engaged.
4. the artwork itself, which exists as a virtual online portfolio, and is physically scattered across the country.

So, there you have the mechanics of the project. The "how" of the thing. But why?

For the viewer, I'm interested in both the window this project can create into my studio practice, and the answers that it can only pretend to give. Profits from sales which must be returned to the studio result in the purchase of still life objects, the introduction of collage materials, the rental of studio time or hiring of a photographer, all of which affect the subsequent artwork. A sense of continuity and growth from one piece to the next is created. But the obsessive documentation can also create a false impression that some sort of "scientific process" is at work here. To state the obvious, anyone else given the same rules, and even making the same purchases, would produce radically different images. ZSAP provides one type of answer to the question of what can be explained and what remains a mystery in the creative process.

As an artist, I'm interested in how wrestling with an inherently absurd collection of rules has pushed me to make artwork that I wouldn't have made otherwise. The growth of a sort of still-life dime museum in my studio, and attempting to tease meaning from these dumb objects, has become very compelling to me.

The upcoming exhibition of the Zero Sum Art Project at the Digging Pitt gallery provides a new assortment of complications and issues to be dealt with, that I hope will prove interesting. Artwork shown in the gallery will be sold through eBay, contrasting the idea that a commercial gallery adds value to the work through the curatorial process and the idea that the wide-open unjuried space that is eBay diminishes the value of the artwork. All of the challenges of stockpiling work for the exhibition while maintaining the project through ongoing sales will be explored and documented for the online viewer.

Larryville Artist Studio Tour



The Lawrenceville Artists’ Studio Tour kicks off this Saturday, July 7, as eight artists open up their space for a behind-the-scenes look into the creative process that leads to a finished artwork. This self-guided walking tour is free and open to the public. Maps of participating studios can be found at coffee shops on Butler Street (Perk Me Up, Coca Café, Crazy Mocha), or downloaded from their site.

Alexandra Etschmaier, Sculpture • 218 39th Street
Ron Donoughe, Paintings of Our Region, 208 Main Street
Tugboat Printshop, Art Woodcut Prints and Etchings • 298 Main Street
Mary Coleman, Weaving • 187 43rd Street
Tracie Yorke Dance, Performing Arts: Dance • 100 43rd Street
Margaret Meinzer/Ben Gregory, Painting/Metalsmithing • 179 43½ Street
Digging Pitt Gallery, Various Artists • 4417 Butler Street
Jay Design Soaps and Gifts, Soapmaking • 4603 Butler Street

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Barbara Weissberger: Muscle-Licious







Here's a Pittsburgh artist, I really like who's work really relates to our American culture which manages to be both deeply attractive and deeply disturbing at the same time. I meant to put up this post during her Center For The Arts show.

A New Birth Of Freedom



What Does Freedom Mean To Me?