Nope this isn’t a post about some amazing achievement or that I have somehow have a bank account in the black. Its more of a reflection on what success is for me, and specifically in my art practice. Whilst teaching here in Saas Fee (means to fund my art practice) I get asked a lot by my guests whether my artwork/practice is successful. The two means for validation lie mainly on me telling them whether I sell my work regularly or am I famous. I guess in this day and age you know one unless you are on some list of success even if you are Z list Celeb…
I am honest with my guests, I am not known however like most emerging artists we are labeled so for that very reason. As for selling, it has not been a focus within my practice to make specifically objects. Commodifying an art practice is something we all contemplate throughout our years. However at present I rely on my snowboard coaching as a source of income whilst I develop my voice and direction in my practice.
Success for me is nothing to do with money or notoriety and its something I feel is harder to gain. It is purely one thing for me and the works I make which is conversation or discussion (discourse if you want art-speak 2.0). This very basic element within the art world and beyond is not that easy to gain. Yes in the era of social media it is easy to put work out there for more to see but to hear back is not so simple. There is very little echo from the majority of not just my work but my peers. The little that does come back is more of support from fellow creatives who spur you on. However for me I seek success in the form of something more in the conversation that good art creates. Don’t get me wrong this is not purely about adulation or people describing works as life changing its the chat surrounding how it engages and interacts on different levels and people. This discussion is not always sought from those that like or get the work but rather negative and constructive response is just as valid. I come from a belief that good work is so when you have a response to it this can be in the form or negative: repulsion, hate or anger. Whilst also the positive: resonates, refreshes perspective or challenges existence. Work that sits in the middle is what just fades.
Following on from my previous post about being adrift, the reason to currently make work whilst not be located within a place or group. I see this isolation as a hard time to know where to exhibit or present work when I barely exist. For me the motivation of making work when I deep down know that the rational for the work being successful is this conversation adds to stalling of making. The works are still there in my head and whilst I navigate the next few years I will create. However finding a means to connect with networks or environments where I can gage the validity of the work is part of the process and for me right now is the biggest challenge.
Since arriving here in Stockton my time has been spent exploring not just the local landscape but also my current limits of my practice. I came here looking to examine how I install current workings of sonic works and how I can develop or bridge the gap that I find between what I am making and what I am trying to offer.
The first few weeks were spent contemplating speaker architecture and how installing speaker drivers within a form that dissolved or collapsed whilst it functioned worked. Drawing on the inspiration of the local area and its regeneration hopes/plans. I have been thinking heavily about addition and reduction as methods of creation both in sound and process works. Glitch process that I have been known to use is a perfect example of how regeneration seems to operate, existing ideology is rehashed the result is urban planning that though clearly considered it is not until it is implemented you realise the functional errors of such planning.
The focus on heritage and community, the life and death of generations that have called a place home. The time that passes by and the marks those leave on a place last longer than structures in many cases. Replacing old is not something that should be done without consideration and awareness for those that live within it. The Auxiliary residency is based within a community that is exposed to many different social factors. It is an opportunity to live within a place that is struggling to come to terms with how it should function. The oddity is that with all the trials and time that it takes to rejuvenate a place it somehow still continues, functions without much thought. Time will change the nature of a community however daily this is not something that is really brought to your attention as each day was like the last.
Mid way through this residency my father has a stroke which alongside my research here at the Auxiliary has given me a new perspective. Seeing a parent go through a life changing moment in their existence brings reality home. I have recently been back and forth between the residency and my parents to see how my father has progressed with his recovery. Even though I have not been making as much as I would of hoped it has provided much needed reflection, thinking more about the sound works that have been started yet not finished. The last few weeks here in Stockton I hope to realise some new works with little or no focus on completion yet more or presenting something that is mobile/fluid and evolving.
DIP YOUR TOE
Preview: Thursday 16th June 6:00 – 9:00pm
Open: 17th – 25th June (Thurs – Sat each week)
Weekdays: 12:00noon – 6:00pm
Saturday: 10:00 – 1:00pm
This exhibition, which is part of Print Festival Scotland, showcases 5 artists who share a contemporary and diverse approach to printmaking. For this show the artists have taken over the Slipper Baths within The Govanhill Baths, adorning each cubicle with a selection of work that reacts to the space through an array of styles, techniques and materials.
Nicola Massie (b. Aberdeen) currently lives and works in Glasgow specialising in printmaking and sculpture. Since graduating from Painting and Printmaking at The Glasgow School of Art, she has received the Glasgow Print Studio Prize, RGI New Graduate Award and was nominated for the Saatchi New Sensations Prize.
Andreas Behn-Eschenburg (b. Zürich) graduated from Painting and Printmaking at the Glasgow School of Art (2014), and continues to live and work in Glasgow. Andreas investigates the artist’s agency and deconstructs the traditions of painting into elements that are then reassembled in other media as installations within a space.
Fionnuala McGowan (b. Belfast) is another Glasgow based artist, who explores the boundaries of printmaking through creating sculptural prints. She was a recipient of the Glasgow Print Studio prize (2014), was featured in the summer 2015 edition of Printmaking Today and completed a residency in Frans Masereel Centrum, (Belgium, 2014).
Dickie Webb (b. Oxford) migrates between North and Southern Hemispheres, operating from a nomadic studio and artist residencies – SNEHTA, ACSL, Edinburgh Sculpture Workshops and Chisenhale Art Place. Recent exhibitions include Early Warning – & Model, PNEM, Netherlands, Things Are Different Now – Art Athina and Beyond Tinted – MAMY, Armenia.
David Farrar (b. Oxford) is a Glasgow based artist whose work focuses on the relationship between form and function. He has exhibited internationally, most recently in The National Original Print Exhibition (London) and has attended residencies at Frans Masereel Centrum (Belgium), The Artist House in St. Mary’s College (USA) and VCCA (USA).
My work “Concept Of Since – 24 Options”, is currently part of an exhibition curated by Robert Montgomery. The exhibition is at the Lights of Soho gallery in London.
London’s home of creative neon and light art formats is opening its doors for its inaugural open submission show entitled “Signs that Say What You Want Them to Say…” Lights of Soho will be accepting submissions from new and established light artists for a show that will be guest curated by artist Robert Montgomery.
Taking inspiration from the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, Lights of Soho is inviting young artists who use light as a medium in their work to exhibit alongside established names in light art. Lights of Soho curator Hamish Jenkinson states, “Lights of Soho is more than an art gallery – it is a window of opportunity for young artists to get involved in the art scene. With this show, I’m hoping that we can reach artists who are well into their craft or just discovering it. I’d like to show young artists that art is a democratic experience and that they too can be featured in a London gallery.”
Having started his career off by vandalising billboards and bus stops with his poetry, Robert Montgomery directly communicates with his audience through text and light. Inspired by Roland Barthes and Guy Debord, Montgomery has paved the way for young artists to write their own story. Creating large LED light pieces with his poetry, Montgomery has seen his works showcased around the world including the Kochi-Muziris Biennale in India and a current project which hijacks an entire city block in Seattle.
Montgomery says, “When Bruce Nauman made his seminal artwork in neon “The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths” in 1967 it represented the beginning of a kind of democracy. Artists, for the first time could now hijack a medium previously only the domain of commercial and corporate voices, and begin to say much more interesting things. When I was a teenager I was obsessed with the pure form of commercial signs. I would fill rolls of film on the family holiday camera photographing the neon signs on abandoned petrol stations in France, and endure the blank looks of my father as he returned from Boots later with far fewer smiling family portraits than he expected, “why would you take so many pictures with no one in them son?…. Jeez, what a waste of money.” I knew that as soon as I had any money of my own I would make my own signs saying the most whimsical things possible. Perhaps even something as whimsical and useless as poetry.
In 1992 Gillian Wearing made the important piece, “Signs that Say What You Want Them To Say and Not Signs that Say What Someone Else Wants You To Say”. This was a lovely and delicate artwork about democracy, and the idea of an open exhibition of light art takes its inspiration from Wearing as much as from Nauman. In an ideal world we would give the billboards back to the people and everyone could write their dreams in neon. “
City Among Nations: Los Angeles at the Venice Biennale
What’s notable about “We Must Risk Delight” is precisely that none of the artists included are international luminaries, of which Los Angeles undoubtedly has its share. Rather, the exhibition presents the city’s immeasurably talented working-artists, ranging in age from 30-70 and representing a broad range of ethnicities, as well as a slight majority of female artists. “Our participation in art conversations on an international level can not be reserved only for superstar names: not if our interests as a community are to keep growing and keep relevant,” curator Elizabeta Betinski explains. “Too few of us get the kind of opportunity we just experienced at the Venice Biennale and I truly hope to see that change for Los Angeles artists within my lifetime. ‘We Must Risk Delight’ was created in an effort to affect that change.” The exhibition has been a labor of love for the curator and the artists, who continue to seek financial support for their endeavor. “Democratization is, to me, an issue that needs to be addressed,” says Betinski. “We can either complain about — and thus contend with — the ‘art market’ and its inherent elitism, or we can give effort to expanding the playing field and creating opportunities for more than just a select few.” She continues, “L.A. has one of the most vibrant and exciting contemporary art scenes in the world — yet, our perspective on being a part of a larger world is still very myopic and out-of-sync with the amount of creative talent and diversity L.A. has to offer.” Such diversity, while not the cause of the show’s success, is important because it reflects the progressive values of a city that is increasingly hailed as a crucible for working artists, as well as being notable for its multicultural and gender-balanced community and presence of multiple generations of artists all supporting one another.
Thematically, the exhibition’s focus is transcendence of real-world limitations, and the art on view speaks to the possibilities of fantasy and imagination to lift us above our daily challenges. That utopian spirit is also typical of Los Angeles, a city that is in many ways an impossibility, wrested from the desert that perpetually threatens to reclaim it. The artworks on view take a variety of forms, from Tanya Batura’s surreal ceramics suggesting organic growths made of eyes, to Robbie Conal‘s nostalgic portraits of 1960s pop icons Bob Marley, John Lennon, and Jimi Hendrix. Kenturah Davis’ contribution, four large-scale drawings depicting African-American subjects whose images are comprised of written text describing their aspirations, speaks to both the challenges and the ambitions of L.A.’s creative class.
Painting is everywhere, most of it boldly colorful. Amir H. Fallah exhibits two paintings from a recent series in which he reconstructed the lives of a married couple based on diaries and objects procured from an estate sale in East Los Angeles. Alexandra Grant and Sherin Gurguis, two artists currently featured in the COLA award exhibition at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, are represented with exuberant works on paper that dazzle against the brick walls of the magazzini space. Grant shows two works from her “Century of the Self”series, proclaiming “I was born to love not to hate,” and Gurguis contributes intricately patterned cut-paper works that riff on traditional Islamic screen work. Gurguis also contributes a large, ornamental cut-out sculpture alongside sculptural works by Ben Jackel, Margaret Griffith, Rebecca Niederlander, and Jamison Carter. Carole Silverstein, Mark Licari, and Shizu Saldamando also dazzle with color, though on a smaller scale. These three artists each embody a distinct Los Angeles vernacular in their very different bodies of work: Silverstein working with pattern and landscape, Saldamando in figuration to describe local archetypes, and Licari bringing the psychedelic perspective.
Despite L.A.’s international stature as a film capital, the moving image is less prominent in the show, although animations by Stas Orlovski and Carolyn Castaño, and Natasha Prosenc Stearns’ sculpture and video installation, ensure it is not left out of the discussion. Photography is also less visible, though well-represented by Brandy Eve Allen’s intimate portraits. Alexis Zoto is the only artist to respond directly to Venice as a site, creating an installation in dazzling gold around a large chandelier that evokes the ersatz Baroque aesthetic of Venice’s many palazzos, while incorporating pre-Columbian geometries that speak to the contemporary hybridization of culture across place.
Reflecting that hybrid reality and the broadest possible scope of geographies, the 2015 Biennale encompasses pavilions from 87 countries as well as 42 collateral exhibitions. Still, no other city occupies a footprint comparable to L.A.’s this time around. In addition to “We Must Risk Delight,” L.A. artists figure prominently in Okwui Enwezor’s main exhibition. The Giardini’s Central Pavilion features legendary Angeleno artist and CalArts faculty mainstay, Charles Gaines, with an installation of his recent “Notes on Social Justice” and plexiglas ‘Librettos’ works (the latter also on view at Leimert Park’s Art + Practice until May 30). The Biennale’s live program – one of three key thematic areas or “filters” – also features monthly live performances of Gaines’ master composition based on five “Notes on Social Justice” texts. The first of these featured a male and female vocalist in duet, accompanied by a string quartet. Future performances over the course of the exhibition will layer and multiply texts and compositions from the five source texts. Both the installation and the live performance use canonical documents from the history of social justice movements as their basis, building on a body of work that has incorporated the words of Susan B. Anthony, Stokely Carmichael, and Malcolm X. By appropriating these texts whole and treating them with visual and auditory lyricism, Gaines defuses the oft-leveled criticism of political art as aggressive or alienating, instead drawing viewers in with beauty and warmth while allowing the eloquence and commitment of the original speakers to come through with clarity.
Adjacent to the Gaines installation is a gallery of recent works by L.A.-based Walead Beshty, whose works include a number of “Aggregate” sculptures (2013) constructed from production discards from Guadalajara’s Cerámica Suro, a long-established industrial ceramics producer and exporter. The sculptures, covered in thick, drippy paint, are as vulgar and chaotic as Cerámica Suro’s wares are precise. These works, accompanied by collaged sculptures made from cut-up Guadalajara tabloid newspapers draped over metal poles, respond to the official and unofficial economies of globalization by foregrounding the commoditization of human bodies and folk cultural traditions for casual consumption by Mexico’s elites and their wealthier neighbors to the north.
Additionally, CalArts graduates Matt Lucero and Tuan Andrew Nguyen are included at the Arsenale with their collective, The Propeller Group, whom Angelenos may remember from their humorous video installation commenting on global corporate culture at 2012’s Made in L.A. Biennial at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery. In Venice, they are represented by a block of ballistic gel containing an AK-47 bullet and an M-16 bullet shot at one another, which upon fusing come to represent a merger of American and Soviet military histories in the aftermath of the Cold War — think Afghanistan or Syria for some real-world examples of how this plays out. The AK-47 vs M16 (2015) also includes a slow-motion animation of the bullets passing through the gel, which creates an abstracted forensic map of contemporary global conflict.
Another notable Angeleno at the Biennale is Vanessa Beecroft, an Italian-born artist whose installation “phantom limb stone garden” at the Italian Pavilion made up of figurative sculptures in bronze and shades of stone reminiscent of the range of human skin tones. One of her most ambitious and successful sculptural installations, the work cannot be viewed in its entirety as it is intentionally blockaded by large, rough-sided marble slabs. The fragmented viewpoint of the observer and the truncated female bodies within make reference to Marcel Duchamp’s final work, Étant Donnés (1946-66), a Surrealist-inspired tableau referencing both theater and early cinema, which prefigures Beecroft’s more than twenty years of work responding to the tropes of contemporary high fashion.
Los Angeles’ emergence within the international contemporary art landscape speaks to the city’s position at the forefront of worldwide trends. While the Biennale’s pavilions appear to celebrate nationalism, increasingly one finds within them artists from many countries (Spain and Belgium being notable examples this time). Los Angeles exemplifies a future in which metropolitan areas are in direct dialogue with one another, around the globe, through cultural as well as commercial exchange. Comprised of residents from all parts of the planet, Los Angeles boasts a majority-minority demographic that other European and American cities are destined to share. The city is shaped by its national context, but also shapes it, and acts as a hub for international cultural exchange. L.A. is uniquely positioned to serve as a model for the world’s cities going forward, being already invested in seeking ways to develop more equitable, sustainable, and liveable conditions for its citizens. Given how the city’s contemporary artists reflect and promote those concerns, it’s no surprise that they are so prominently represented at a global exhibition focused on the future.
Top Image: Walead Beshty, 56th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia, All the World’s Futures. | Photo: Alessandra Chemollo.
Robert Henke aka Monolake delves into granular synthesis with his Max for Live Granulator.