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A scrapbook of stuff I'm reading / looking at / listening to / thinking about...



Posts tagged "art"

Aug 19, 2014
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This is the argument that I always feel like never gets as much traction as the ‘tortured artist’ argument, [which] is that artists actually have it a little easier because everybody fucking suffers but artists have something to do with it.

Aug 17, 2014
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A Vivian Maier Primer

I’ve yet to watch the the BBC’s The Vivian Maier Mystery or Finding Vivian Maier, but, of course, since she’s an artist who didn’t show her work during her lifetime and has now been built into a kind of mythical figure, she’s of great interest to me. (I’m a little embarrassed to look and see the only thing of hers I’ve posted here are her selfies.)

This morning artist Dmitry Samarov sent me a nice piece he wrote for Spolia Magazine, called “The Vivian Mire”:

Because Maier left no will or instructions on what she wanted done with her work, her intentions—and the image of her presented to the outside world—are in the hands of anyone that takes an interest in her story…

….There has never been a discovery quite like Vivian Maier and there may never be one quite like her again. Everyone who happens upon it can find a piece or an angle that appeals or that they can identify with. The kind of privacy she kept to do her work may never be possible again in our over-surveilled age. To make a lifetime’s body of work and not share it with anyone is anathema to our times and that makes it that much more attractive. Why didn’t she show someone what she spent every free waking moment doing?

Dmitry brings up lots of interesting issues. For example: her prints. Maier seemed to be less interested in printing or showing her work, than actually doing the work. (“By all accounts, she spent every spare cent on the next roll of film, chasing the next shot rather than reveling in what she already had.”) Here’s a comparison between one of her original prints and an uncropped print done posthumously:

As he was researching, Dmitry also collected links to piece on Maier, which can be found here. Spolia also has collected a bunch of perspectives in this post.

Thanks again to Dmitry for sending me down this rabbit hole!

FIled under: show your work

Aug 11, 2014
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Ray Johnson, NOT NOTHING: Selected Writings by Ray Johnson, 1954-1994

NYTimes:

Because Johnson’s mail art is epistolary, and likely considered more of a reading than a looking experience, its visibility in museums is fairly low, which makes the arrival of “Not Nothing: Selected Writings by Ray Johnson, 1954-1994,” from Siglio Press, a real boon. But more than filling a gap, the book crackles with intellectual energy, with enough drawings and mini-collages embedded in its reproduced texts to hold even a nonreader’s attention. Most important, it fills out the picture of what and who Johnson was: a brilliant, uncontainable polymath, an artist-poet, the genuine item.

Born in working-class Detroit in 1927, he was turning out elaborately illustrated letters to friends even in high school. From 1945 to 1948, he studied abstract painting with Josef Albers at Black Mountain College in Asheville, N.C. There he met John Cage, who nudged his interest in Zen Buddhism, and the sculptor Richard Lippold, who became his lover. By 1949, Johnson was in New York City. Slight, bright and wired, he networked through the art world; Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol became his friends.

Thanks to Roberto Greco, who has a great tag of Ray Johnson posts on his Tumblr. See also: The Ray Johnson Estate Tumblr

Aug 06, 2014
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theparisreview:

“His recollection of an abandoned prospector’s shack, which he discovered as child, aptly describes his own studio: ‘a little palace assembled from … almost any type of found object you can imagine.’”
Remembering artist and collagist Jess, who was born today in 1923.

Really amazing work. Do click through.

Filed under: collage

theparisreview:

“His recollection of an abandoned prospector’s shack, which he discovered as child, aptly describes his own studio: ‘a little palace assembled from … almost any type of found object you can imagine.’”

Remembering artist and collagist Jess, who was born today in 1923.

Really amazing work. Do click through.

Filed under: collage

Aug 05, 2014
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Don’t give people what they want. Give them what they never knew they wanted.

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Painting by Numbers: Komar and Melamid’s Scientific Guide to Art

In December 1993, the Russian emigre art collaborators Komar and Melamid began a statistical market research poll to determine America’s “most wanted” and “most unwanted” paintings. Since then, the whimsical project has spread around the world. Polls in the United States, Ukraine, France, Iceland, Turkey, Denmark, Finland, Kenya, and China revealed that people wanted portraits of their families and always “blue landscapes.” After conducting research, the pair paint made-to-order works that meet the wanted (landscape) and unwanted (abstract) criteria; they follow up with town meetings as virtual performance pieces. This intriguing and serious volume documents issues raised by the conflict between high art and popular taste.

I read this after devouring Carl Wilson’s Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey To The End of Taste, which quoted several bits.

The book was published in 1997, so it’s almost 20 years old, but, in this age of Instagram likes and Tumblr reblogs, I read it mostly as a cautionary tale about artists looking to their audiences for direction as to what they should produce for them. As Diana Vreeland said, ”You’re not supposed to give people what they want, you’re supposed to give them what they don’t know they want yet.”

The best part of the book is the beginning interview with Komar and Melamid. I’ve quoted some of my own favorite bits, below.

On collaboration:

Everyone works collaboratively. That is why society exists. Even artist who imagines himself to be like God, a solitary creator, is working in collaboration with his teachers, his predecessors, craftsmen who created his canvas and paints, and so on—just as God created world with help of angels. Old romantic view of artist is a travesty of monotheism.

How modern artists have lost their way:

We have lost even our belief that we are the minority which knows. We believed ten years ago, twenty years ago, that we knew the secret. Now we have lost this belief. We are a minority with no power and no belief, no faith. I feel myself, as an artist and as a citizen, just totally obsolete. I don’t know why I am here, what I am doing. What is so good about me doing this, or any other artist?

The difference between European and American culture:

I’m stunned by the differences between the European culture and the American culture. In America, the best which has been produced in culture came from the bottom of society. Like music—the greatest musicians of the twentieth century were illiterate; they couldn’t read music.

Why artists should look to hip-hop for inspiration:

People really want art, but we, the elite artists, we don’t serve them… What we need is to create a real pop art, a real art of the people, like the music… And the hip-hop, rock, that’s the greatest thing in the world. We need to make art like these people. We have to learn how they work. That’s what is an artist.

How, in Russia, “Sunday painter” was actually a good thing:

In Russia, “Sunday painter” had a very pure, simple dissident flavor, because to paint on Sunday meant to paint for yourself, not for government. I knew a few very professional artists who made a living painting socialist realism for money all week and painted abstract art.

But how that changed when they moved to America:

Now we paint differently. You know the propaganda cliche: we emigrate and become free, and now we can paint all week, without interuption, without weekends. Every day became Sunday, but you’re working every day. No free time, that’s because you’re free.

And whether their work is serious or not:

No one would ask of life, “Is it all serious or all a joke?” because tragedy and comedy coexist in one life. You cannot separate and say it is all one or all the other. It is same with this work, with all our work: it is serious and humorous at the same time.

Thanks to @mulegirl for the recommendation. Here’s a website with some more of the paintings.

Filed under: my reading year 2014

Aug 03, 2014
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Jul 29, 2014
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You see, part of me is a monk and part of me is a performing flea.

Jul 27, 2014
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Saul Steinberg and Kurt Vonnegut

In A Man Without A Country, Vonnegut called Steinberg “the wisest person I ever met in my entire life”:

I could ask him anything, and six seconds would pass, and then he would give me a perfect answer, gruffly, almost a growl. He was born in Romania, in a house where, according to him, “the geese looked in the windows.”
I said, “Saul, how should I feel about Picasso?”
Six seconds passed, and then he said, “God put him on Earth to show us what it’s like to be really rich.” I said, “Saul, I am a novelist, and many of my friends are novelists and good ones, but when we talk I keep feeling we are in a very different businesses. What makes me feel that way?”
Six seconds passed, and then he said, “It’s very simple. There are two sorts of artists, one not being in the least superior to the other. But one responds to the history of his or her art so far, and the other responds to life itself.”
I said, “Saul, are you gifted?”
Six seconds passed, and then he growled, “No. But what you respond to in any work of art is the artist’s struggle against his or her limitations.’

Filed under: Steinberg, Vonnegut

Saul Steinberg and Kurt Vonnegut

In A Man Without A Country, Vonnegut called Steinberg “the wisest person I ever met in my entire life”:

I could ask him anything, and six seconds would pass, and then he would give me a perfect answer, gruffly, almost a growl. He was born in Romania, in a house where, according to him, “the geese looked in the windows.”

I said, “Saul, how should I feel about Picasso?”

Six seconds passed, and then he said, “God put him on Earth to show us what it’s like to be really rich.” I said, “Saul, I am a novelist, and many of my friends are novelists and good ones, but when we talk I keep feeling we are in a very different businesses. What makes me feel that way?”

Six seconds passed, and then he said, “It’s very simple. There are two sorts of artists, one not being in the least superior to the other. But one responds to the history of his or her art so far, and the other responds to life itself.”

I said, “Saul, are you gifted?

Six seconds passed, and then he growled, “No. But what you respond to in any work of art is the artist’s struggle against his or her limitations.’

Filed under: Steinberg, Vonnegut

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