Why would an artist change his signature style after proven success?
Walking the graffiti-filled streets of his Greenpoint neighborhood and working in his nearby Williamsburg studio, Brooklyn-based artist Eddie Martinez discusses the motivation to shift his paintings from Pop-like figurations to pared down abstractions. An active graffiti artist in his teens and twenties, Martinez describes both the allure and difficulty of graffiti’s inherent riskiness, and reveals how his work now is an equally risky endeavor, artistically and professionally. A montage of Martinez’s previous paintings—brightly colored and unabashedly representational paintings of flowerpots and cartoonish characters—exemplifies the prodigious output that brought him commercial attention and success, but now represents a style he “feels wholly committed to abandoning.” Despite the expectations of his gallery and collectors, Martinez says, “It’s just impossible for me to keep making the same image I made six years ago.” He describes how he’s both excited and frightened to forge a fully abstract style, to paint without easy reliance on old imagery. Months afterwards the results of Martinez’s stylistic shift—near mural-sized canvases of primary colored forms set against open white backgrounds—are shown on exhibition at The Journal Gallery in Brooklyn. For Martinez, the change was a necessary leap of faith, one he hopes his followers will continue to support.
Eddie Martinez (b. 1977, Groton, Connecticut) lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
Watch the full film, Eddie Martinez’s Risky Business, below.
Teaching about scale and its importance in a work of art is a tricky thing for art educators. Let’s face it: most teachers with 25 or 30 kids in the room are often not creating much large-scale work, even life-size work, unless its modular (where each student only “owns” a piece of the whole). Students rarely see large-scale works in person and only if they are lucky see them on a computer screen.
At the same time it can’t be ignored that so much of contemporary art incorporates scale as an integral part of the work. I think about some recent blockbusters (literally) by Paul McCarthy, Ann Hamilton and even El Anatsui, and have come to realize that my students are really intrigued by these kinds of works and simultaneously assume that they are basically created by and for rich people. Complicating the matter further, there always seems to be a steady stream of large-scale work- bizarre inflatables and underwhelming waterfalls, for example- that seem to use scale as a crutch for some other deficiencies in the piece. How can teachers meaningfully and effectively teach about this aspect of contemporary art and still make it relevant in a classroom context?
The vast majority of artist-run project spaces in Los Angeles tend to be casual and open-ended in nature, their raison d’être generally being to provide an alternative exhibition venue and gathering place for artists and their networks of friends. Standing out amongst this laid-back crowd is Public Fiction, a meticulously conceptualized venture launched in 2010 by curator and designer Lauren Mackler. Existing as both an exhibition/event space and a journal, Public Fiction energetically utilizes a variety of interrelated formats to explore themes and ideas that capture Mackler’s attention; over the last three years, these have included alternative spirituality, manifest destiny, and theatricality and sets, among others.
Rather than the typical setup of the journal acting as documentation or support for the live programming, Mackler has said that the programming initially existed in order to generate content for the journals, which are inspired by influential artists’ publications such as Wallace Berman’s Semina and Tom Marioni’s Vision. Both of those projects essentially collected original, not reproduced, artwork in print form; in the same way, Mackler, who designs the Public Fiction journals herself, attempts to translate live phenomena into print ephemera. The journals reference and collage events that have taken place in the physical space, but they also add other materials to make them into something new.
100 Artists is a yearlong celebration of the 100 artists who have appeared to date in Art21′s award-winning film series Art in the Twenty-First Century. Throughout 2013, we are dedicating two to three days to each artist on our social media platforms—Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and here on the Art21 Blog. Our current featured artist is James Turrell.
Maurice Tuchman, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s first modern art curator, went down to Torrance, California one day in July of 1969. Associate curator Jane Livingston and assistant curator Gail Scott came with him, and all three underwent “alpha conditioning.”
Artists James Turrell and Robert Irwin had designed alpha conditioning and a series of other experiments with Dr. Ed Wortz of the Garrett Corporation as part of LACMA’s Art and Technology Program (1967-1971). The initiative and resulting exhibition—”this hair-raising idea,” Livingston called it in retrospect —involved pairing artists with corporations and asking artists to collaborate with company scientists or engineers. At the time, Tuchman said he imagined artists moving around corporations as if in their own studios.
“I believed it was the process of interchange between artist and company that was most significant, rather than whatever tangible results might quickly occur,” Tuchman wrote in 1970 . But a later interview with Irwin, as well as early reports on the processes of other artists in the program, suggest Tuchman may have eased into this belief—maybe when he began to realize that only 15 or so of the 76 artist-participants would make something tangible enough to show. It’s this intangibility that makes the Art and Technology show persistently interesting: Why did corporate settings and an expanded range of hi-tech resources push artists, even those who decidedly made objects in their usual practices, toward indeterminate, impossibly conceptual projects?
For alpha conditioning, Wortz hooked the curators up, one at a time, for thirty minutes each, to an electroencephalography machine, also known as an EEG. They sat in a reclining chair—a comfortable one, as Turrell, Irwin and Wortz specify in their notes—and put on glasses with a white light attached to the rim. Then they closed their eyes. Through their eyelids, they could see the light go on each time their alpha rhythms, or brain waves, went down to 8-12 cycles per second, putting them in meditative states. The best photo from this day shows Livingston, reclining and half-smiling while Wortz puts electrodes on her forehead. She looks relaxed. But would she still be a few moments later with a machine constantly informing her how relaxed or not she was? After returning to the museum, all three curators “experienced inexplicable sensations of anxiety or a sense of mental dislocation or dissociation,” says the report Livingston later wrote.
Spring is that time of year when anyone in school, students and teachers alike, are in a frenzied countdown, holding their collective breath until they are officially out for the summer.
Art21 is excited to announce that soon after the big exhale, an exceptional group of teachers will join us in New York City for the fifth year of Art21 Educators.
Art21 Educators is a program for practicing teachers, museum educators, artists, and university faculty from a wide range of disciplines. Our alumni and new participants comprise a dynamic community (75 and growing) who are curious and passionate about contemporary art, and committed to transforming education through the work of living artists.
All educators are required to apply with a partner who can provide additional support and feedback, as well as opportunities for collaborative and interdisciplinary teaching. Six pairs are selected annually. Our 2013-2014 Art21 Educators are:
Renee Bareno + Sara Fromboluti, The Aaron School, New York, NY
Carol Barker + Anna Grimes, Turquoise Trail Charter School, Santa Fe, NM
Thomas Dareneau + Domenic Frunzi, Boyertown Area High School, Boyertown, PA
Rebecca Belleville + Eric Pugh, Maritime Industries Academy, and Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, Baltimore, MD, respectively
Ryan Schmidt + Erin Shafkind, South Shore PreK-8, and Nathan Hale High School, Seattle, WA, respectively
Alyssa Greenberg + Rebecca Mir, Jane Addams Hull House Museum, Chicago, IL, and Voelker Orth Museum, Bird Sanctuary and Victorian Garden, Queens, NY, respectively
This July, the group will meet for the first time to participate in eight intense days of workshops and discussions about Art21’s films and curricular resources, which includes visits to galleries, museums, and artists’ studios for intimate conversations with curators and Art21-featured artists. After the summer, we’ll continue working as a group (though virtually) to share the different ways that we are introducing contemporary art and artists in classrooms throughout the country.
Congratulations to this year’s participants!
Editor’s Note: In the coming weeks, we’ll post in-depth profiles of our 2013-2014 Art21 Educators, telling you more about their interests and lives as teachers.
Santiago Sierra’s third solo exhibition at Team Gallery, Veterans, displays nine photographs of war veterans standing in corners. All that is visible are the backs of their bodies; their hands are clasped either behind or in front of them. Some are in uniform, and some are not. Some are accessorized, wearing for example, a watch or cowboy hat. One veteran in particular stands in plain clothes holding a cane, signifying a possible combat wound.
In Veterans, the concept of retrospection, not only in terms of combat, but also in terms of showing the hindside of the body, reveals an acute relevance to the Art21 Blog’s current theme, hindsight. Then, there is the relevance of these bodies to this column: Sierra’s photographs are documents of performances.
For the past two years, Sierra has solicited veterans living in the cities where his shows are located to pose for thirty minutes in the corners of galleries and museums. As is the customary exchange, Sierra remunerated the veterans with an amount equivalent to their wages as soldiers.
The exhibition both serves and negates performance as the experience of live bodies in front of an audience. By way of virtual bodies, as seen in photographs and thus as records of memory, Veterans disturbs the idea of performance as a live act. A double hindsight reveals itself in the performance-document; the first is from the perspective of the viewer looking at the veterans’ backs, and the second is from the perspective of the veterans. Although the viewer cannot know where the veterans’ gazes are directed, it is possible to imagine that they are not looking at the floor or the wall but inward, remembering their experiences of war.
In 1958, two years after the death of Jackson Pollock, the artist Allan Kaprow mused about what it means to produce art after the achievements of the late, great Abstract Expressionist. “I am convinced,” Kaprow wrote in his famous essay The Legacy of Jackson Pollock, “that to grasp a Pollock’s impact properly, we must be acrobats, constantly shuttling between identification with the hands and body that flung the paint.” He continues: “This instability [of identification] is indeed far from the idea of a “complete” painting. The artist, the spectator, and the outer world are much too interchangeably involved here.” Kaprow absorbed lessons from Pollock about the expansive possibilities of art making, seeing how as Pollock rhythmically moved around his canvases laid on the floor flinging and pouring paint the act can become equal to or even greater than the product. Kaprow would incorporate this new sensibility into his Happenings: short-lived performance pieces beginning in the late 1950s in which the artist and the audience became the artistic medium in partly staged, partly improvisational actions.
By the mid-1960s, at a time when the previous generation’s abstract ideas were increasingly out of fashion, artists were pushing the artistic envelope with radically new materials, approaches and processes. Richard Serra, a young, relatively unknown artist at the time, began to create works from unconventional materials that emphasized gravity and process. Serra, who would become best known for his colossal steel sculptures, began his career making less monumental, though no less significant, process-oriented works. An important new exhibition, Richard Serra: Early Works, at David Zwirner Gallery in New York, brings together an impressive selection of the artist’s work from 1966 to 1971, showcasing Serra’s early explorations with industrial materials and chronicling his interest in how action can become form.
100 Artists is a yearlong celebration of the 100 artists who have appeared to date in Art21′s award-winning film series Art in the Twenty-First Century. Throughout 2013, we are dedicating two to three days to each artist on our social media platforms—Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and here on the Art21 Blog. Our current featured artist is Paul Pfeiffer.
If dachshunds were the Internet sensation a few years ago, today the spotlight belongs to kittens. Everywhere it seems that someone is posting about kittens. Here I am writing about kittens. My screensaver is full of kittens. And I don’t even like cats.
The screensaver shown above is the brainchild of Paul Pfeiffer and Giphy.com creator Alex Chung, both participants in last week’s Seven on Seven Conference. Organized annually by Rhizome, the conference pairs seven artists with seven technologists, giving the teams a single day to meet and develop a collaborative project. The following day the teams present to a room full of art-tech enthusiasts. As moderator John Michael Boling pointed out, limitations can result in the most interesting projects. However, “blind dates are often not fun.”
Judging from Pfeiffer and Chung’s chemistry on stage, Rhizome is pretty good at setting people up, certainly better at it than any of my friends but I digress. Pfeiffer and Chung made a rather gushy pair, doting on each other as they explained their process. Pfeiffer expressed respect for Chung’s interest in philosophy, namely Wittgenstein. Chung said of Pfeiffer, ”He’s like the Michael Jordan of video art.”
“There’s something that happens when you swing. I’m sure there’s a neurological explanation for the sense of pleasure that you feel and I think people are giving over to that.”
Filmed in 2012 at Manhattan’s Park Avenue Armory, artist Ann Hamilton discusses her installation the event of a thread, which occupied the Armory’s cavernous drill hall. Hamilton, whose artwork often deals with the connection between text and textiles, was on site every day during the installation’s one-month run. During that time she was able to witness the various ways that visitors engaged with the different though interconnected elements of the artwork.
If you were lucky enough to have visited the event of a thread, your foremost memory of it is probably the undulating white silk curtain that divided the space. Next you might remember the sensations you felt while swinging, or perhaps the odd sight of pigeons sitting calmly in nesting cages. Or maybe you remember the different sounds. There were the sounds of things you could see—people laughing as they whooshed past you on swings or the fluttering of pigeon wings. And then there were stranger sounds—distant bells and muffled voices coming from a series of paper bags randomly positioned throughout the space—whose sources were harder to locate.
Although this new Exclusive begins with footage of Hamilton’s paper bag “speakers,” the film doesn’t go into detail about what they meant or the sounds that emanated from them. Inside of each bag was a radio transmitting the voice of a “reader,” an individual who sat at the entrance of the drill hall reciting concordance texts to the pigeons.
After our interview with Hamilton, she asked us to speak with Gian-Murray Gianino, one of the readers and a professional actor with the SITI Company. Hamilton ended up interviewing him herself while we recorded. Their conversation, excerpted below, explains what a concordance text is and sheds light on their role in the installation.
Ann Hamilton: Could you start by saying what you’re doing in the piece the event of a thread?
Gian-Murray Gianino: There are always two readers sitting at a table reading a scroll and there are cages of pigeons on the table. So we’re communicating these texts to the pigeons. The texts are glorious and fabulous and rich—Aristotle, Darwin, William James, Emerson. They’re in something called a concordance, which actually I’m still trying to figure out. But it has a spinal word and it connects two different fragments of the text and puts them together with different spinal words like “in, the, breath, or” so that the actual thing we’re reading is non-linear, although we could find a linear thread in it. There are guidelines to how we read but there are no rules.
In January 2011, John Baldessari launched a public art project called Your Name in Lights. Consisting of a glittery, Broadway-style LED display installed on the front of a participating museum, the project enabled up to 100,000 participants to register their name to be lit up on the marquee for 15 seconds. The marquee, which ran continuously for a period of about three weeks at each venue, was livestreamed over the internet. Participants were notified of the day and time when their names would appear, so they could watch for it and even document it.
In announcements for the project, Baldessari jauntily claimed it as a continuation of Andy Warhol’s dictate that in the future, everyone would be famous for 15 minutes; in the Internet age, that shelf life has been reduced to 15 seconds. The project was lauded as a huge success. It met with much fanfare when it premiered as part of the 2011 Sydney Festival, appearing on the front of the Australian Museum. Later that year, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, which was then still under re-construction, giddily seized their display of Your Name in Lights as an opportunity to announce itself a forthcoming and notable arts destination.
Those who would be more critical of the work might venture to say that Your Name in Lights is an easy, derivative crowd-pleaser that states the obvious while doing nothing to advance or complicate an idea that was way ahead of its time when first uttered. Indeed, the fact that its popular reception rests so squarely on how much pleasure and excitement it gives to people might make it more complicit with celebrity culture than critical of it. Regardless, both the project’s conception and its execution are lacking in nuance, sounding only one note as it lands, and not a very compelling note at that.