Thursday, December 11, 2008

One Night Only

I'm interested in hearing what people thought about this show. I'm only
familiar with two of the artists.

Friday, October 3, 2008

A new year, a new season.

I'm not sure why this Summer brought that infinitely wise man to our blog, but he was not relevant and has been removed. If "he" decides to actually write about Cooper, we'll welcome him back with open arms.

It's the show season again and there is always something to say about what's hanging on the walls. Any thoughts about "Mystic Touch", the work from Prague? Sophomores making revelations about studio practice, Juniors getting used to LIC?

This blog is not just show reviews, it's for Cooper students to speak about anything happening in the art school, anonymously or otherwise, and promote discussion about these things. We may even glimpse the unity and debate seen nearly two years ago when the student body had to stand up to the administration. Apathy is not attractive or productive; whatever you have to say is welcomed.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Re: Relational Aesthetics

The social 'linking' function of art? (I clearly don't share any hesitancy to write on a blog about art, whether written in Microsoft Word first or not. And don't see why one would.)

I don't believe that a critical response to art must derive pleasure in correcting the opinions of others. People have ideas that differ and clash, and that's both good and inevitable. (Contributing to this blog is one manifestation of my interest in that clash of ideas.) That isn't necessarily a pleasure in correcting other people—I don't think it is—but if it were, that isn't entirely relevant. The point as I see it is not to say that there can't be a pleasure found in correcting someone (the conceit being, one could actually set "right" another person) it's to argue that hopefully a pleasure can be found elsewhere.

You hit on what's nice (for me) about Woolf's conception of a common reader, which is the necessarily non-social pleasure of reading. I'm skeptical of the contention that art has a social mission—it can, and the conversation around it certainly can have a "social linking function"—but like reading, making art and often looking at it (my favorite museum trips tend to be alone) fulfills a very solitary and personal need. The idea that there can be a pleasure in art that is found in solitude runs alongside the idea of art for arts sake, or reading for the sake of reading, both of which I agree with.


Relational Aesthetics: a response to The Common Viewer

With every post on I sit down with Microsoft word and write a page or two, but then discard them having decided that my thinking is pretentious and/or grandiose. I often write a clipped, shortened version that misses whatever it was that got me excited in the first place, but at least I look like slightly less of a douchebag, right? One way or the other, I always feel ill-at-ease copy and pasting 2-3 Microsoft word pages worth of thoughts into a roughly 2.5x3 inch comment text field. It becomes painfully obvious (and very embarrassing to me) how far I tend to let my thoughts run away with me, 'but damn the torpedoes!' I say (this time):


The distinction between the common reader/viewer and the un-common(?) one seems vague to me. I understand that quite a few people read (and write) in order to correct the opinions of others, but it's important not to forget, too, that this activity is its own sort of pleasure and is its own way of creating for one's self 'a portrait of a man, a sketch of an age' or 'a theory of the art of writing.' In the same way I would say that even the most critically engaged (non-common[?]) viewer has pleasure at the root of his or her desire to look at art. I would even go as far as to say that a vast majority of those who view art do so for the same kind of pleasure, though the pleasure is exercised and manifested in different ways.


You're right that museums are spaces removed from the everyday (olafur eliasson's 'take your time' at ps1 and moma comments on this by transplanting naturally-occurring phenomena like waterfalls and rainbows into the 'un-natural' modernist setting that the white cube of museum/gallery spaces is); it is this schism that is imposed between the viewer and the space one must enter in order to view art that encourages the pleasure in imparting and correcting, I think.


In my second year of high school I had a humanities professor (whose teaching style was not unlike litia perta's, actually, now that I think of it) who said she was only teaching the class and me the things she did so that we would be 'interesting at dinner parties,' and, though I generally dismiss the sentiment of her statement, the social attributes of learning/art shouldn't be underestimated either. I tend to side with Nicolas Bourriaud when he posits 'the work of art as social interstice' in his book 'relational aesthetics;' this social 'linking' function (as he calls it) of art combined with its spatial inaccessibility (when it's in a museum or gallery) lends support to the indisputably most common art experience in tourism: the viewing of things in order to add such experiences to a resume-like personal history cache, often with photographic documentation (which also often features the tourist in question, verifying for others a proximity they had to the work of art pictured). I think that the inaccessibility of museums—that a special trip or tourist journey/pilgrimage is necessary to enter them—in this way makes the vast majority of art experiences an exercise in preparing one's self to converse with others, 'impart information,' 'correct their opinions' and glean the pleasure of each from these activities.


In looking back over what I've written now, I see that I've mentioned a museum show I've been to ('take your time') and a book I've read ('relational aesthetics') and, though I did receive some enjoyment solely from the localized elements of both experiences, I think that it would be critically irresponsible to exclude the prospective pleasure of talking to others about them later from my decision to read the book and see the show. The theory of tourism that I'm laying out here and implicating myself in comes as a failure on the part of the viewer (and me), but I think that it is a failure facilitated by what it is to go somewhere to look at art. It might even be an inescapable failure, but I should be careful of applying my personal failures to the rest of humanity (as I'm certainly doing here).


I guess I would conclude that an art experience can't or shouldn't be forced into the binary of enjoying experience or experiencing academically and, even if I don't excitedly chat up someone at a museum, I've never been alone in one.





(p.s. I highly recommend 'take your time' if it's still up and you're in the city)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Common Viewer

Saturday night and I'm watching the formidable John Updike (wondering, how many things are younger than John Updike?) on C-Span talk about the colonial New England painter, John Singleton Copley. Updike describes Copley shortly before the Revolution in romantic longing for what he imagines to be the bold and free painting of England, and cites a letter in which Copley complains that his new world compatriots consider painting to be as useful a craft as say, carpentry or shoe-making, but not to be, as Copley believed, one of the noblest pursuits. My first thought was, is painting even as useful a craft as carpentry or shoe-making? Or as useful a field as say, biochemistry or mechanical engineering? (Not craftsman, but autoCADsman). Maybe that's a slightly ridiculous question. And "useful" is a tricky word here. But as someone who cares about painting, and also as someone who asks myself fairly regularly, "why care about painting?" it's interesting to consider Copley's complaint. What is so noble about making art?

What kind of audience for painting existed in the pre-Revolutionary colonies? I'm not sure. (I'm also not sure what kind of audience Copley had in militant Boston as a pro- English Tory sympathizer.) It does make a certain amount of sense, though, to believe that art in general held a similar position that it does now—as something somewhat esoteric and something very, very important within an extremely small niche of people.

In a small book I read recently, Anne Fadiman talks about The Common Reader, and quotes Virginia Woolf, who writes, "The common reader… reads for his own pleasure rather than to impart knowledge or correct the opinions of others. Above all, he is guided by an instinct to create for himself, out of whatever odds and ends he can come by, some kind of whole—a portrait of a man, a sketch of an age, a theory of the art of writing." Art certainly commands a following, and certainly has an audience that is not scholarly, an audience that looks at art because it's pleasurable. But I'm not sure to what extent there can be a common viewer under the definition Woolf lays out for the common reader. This is in part because art is simply not engaged as readily and as easily as a book. To see art usually means going to the museum, or to a gallery, or looking at reproductions in print or online. Books are everywhere, and collecting them is not necessarily for a select few.

Still, I very much like the idea of a common viewer in the terms Woolf lays out for reading. And this idea of the reader gleaning different pieces to create some kind of whole makes a lot of sense in my formulation of approaching text, but also art, and in my formulation of learning in general.


Saturday, May 31, 2008

Why Care About Art?

Two nights ago on my friend's roof the question came up: why care
about making art? And last night, sitting at a table in another
friend's backyard, the conversation picked up again.

My friend said that the best reason he's heard yet for making art, or
music, is that it's a messy, crowded world, and the only way to live
in it, to coexist, is to practice an understanding for what is foreign
and uncomfortable to you. Art asks for that understanding. I think
what he was saying is that to practice making art or to practice
looking at it is a kind of learning that asks you to exist in what is
uncomfortable, to be able to stand on ground that is unfamiliar, or to
be able to exist without any ground to stand on at all. This kind of
learning practices floating.

Or, learning at all practices floating. This makes sense to me as a
reason to learn, and as a reason to care about art in that it's one
way of learning. At some point in addressing the question of why I
should care about making art there has to be, it seems to me, a moment
where I ascribe a value to making art. That's a tricky moment, though,
and underlies the difficulty of the question. Each justification slips
away when I go to claim it, leaving me with the tautology, it's
important because it's important. My friend's reason to care about art
is nice in one way because it ascribes value not necessarily to art
but to learning, which by its definition is something that is moving,
growing, changing.

It's important because it's important betrays what I really want to
say, though, and what I feel, however much it seems to dodge the
question. It seems to me that I call art important and it has to be
important or else it is nothing. I've heard people say, "I think
making art is important," or "I think painting matters," as though
these were the reasons why it's important or why it matters. This
feels like a moral to me, and I've accepted it that way recently. It
matters and so it matters to do it well, to do it a lot, to practice
at it.


Sunday, May 18, 2008


This morning everybody's paintings were taken out of the racks for the End
of the Year Show. Luke Jansen submitted his entire senior show. Carlos's
big black and gold painting was surprisingly tacky on the sides; I had to
scrub really hard to get it off my left index finger and thumb. Some
little crappo abandoned paintings were stepped on and no-one cares. Is
Tom's long painting even finished? It is the longest painting. Some oil
paint bled through to the back; this once pleased me, to see a doomed
painting, but it seems a little sad now. Three typical crude paintings on
metal sheets with chicken wire were sharp and heavy. There were a few good
paintings that I liked, but they were by girls.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Narrative Review of Sentimental Photographs of Canada

Thomas Gardiner's photographs of rural Canada were pleasant. As I
followed them around the room the theme of New replacing Old was gently
shown with dirty construction covering lush landscapes, fresh buildings
near worn ones. There was a subtle but perceptible preference for the
old, though the new wasn't too evil, and both were always well composed.
People appeared as I strolled, mostly inconsequential and fairly
typical. I settled in near the end of the line with an old man by his
ham radio. Obviously clinging to the past, with pictures of old jets and
Air Command memorabilia covering his walls – this was a melancholy
portrait of a generation nearly gone. There were two or three photos
after the old man, but I only remember the first, immediately following
him. A boy lying on some sort of couch outside, a girl sitting on him in
a bathing suit, another boy (young man?) standing, shirtless. Each
fellow grasped each of the girl's breasts with one hand, one per boy.
All were smiling ecstatic, drunken, exhibiting smiles. I hated these
kids. The old man and I hated these kids. We sat in his living room,
turned the radio dial, lamented the state of the world, and hated these

These photographs were sentimental, unexciting, and none too
spectacular. The portraits of the old man and the fondlers were, on
their own, compelling, but too standard in their method. Gardiner's
journalistic skill was revealed in the curation, the lead-up with
humdrum treetops and forlorn gazes; the sudden and singular shot of
those terrible children, the rapid denouement. In a very traditional way
the photographs were emotionally stirring, and I cannot denounce them
for that.

Will Schneider-White

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A handful of thoughts from the studio: maxims, mess-ups

Something I didn't realize about Milo Carney until recently, even though it was right in front of my face, is that he collects and invents maxims all the time. I was eating a green curry lunch on the sixth floor near his studio a few weeks ago when he came up with, "It's still foam core to me." He wrote that line in sharpie on a nearby wall, underlined "me," then decided it was better without the underline and tried smudging it out. For Milo, anything is a potential proverb, even, or especially, seemingly inane sentences. 

My interest in maxims began to develop just before realizing what Milo's project is. One saying that can be read as a maxim is the sentence Herman Melville had pinned next to his desk, "Keep true to thy dreams of youth." Or what Will has written in his studio, "If not a thought does your mind elicit/ make not your speech too explicit." Which, as he pointed out to me, is a variation of Lincoln's, "Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt."  Or the simple mantra I have nailed above my studio, "Be stronger! Be stronger! Be stronger!"

Maxims have to do with rules for how one should live. This is in part why I find Milo's sense of humor so sharp. It's funny to me to be constantly picking up little sentences and claiming them as rules for how one should live and it's funny exactly because it's simply a more exaggerated version of what I actually do in life, and what most people probably do too.

This idea of moral art making has been rolling around my head this year as I become more and more of a "moral" artist. This can go off now in a different direction, and maybe I'll take it there sometime soon, as this blog begins to transition into summer time. But I do want to talk about one other statement with a moral, which is the clichéd or platitudinous version of what Alexis was telling me the other day, which I collected, and which I'll pin up here. Failure is a good teacher. Alexis was telling me that it doesn't matter if my work is no good because I'm only a sophomore. And while I don't agree with the sentiment that it doesn't matter—it matters to me, of course— I think the meat of what she was saying is that if you aren't willing to make a lot of ultimately weak art, you're not getting a very good education. That's right, I think, but it doesn't stop at being a sophomore or a student in school. It seems to me that you always have to be willing to make bad work and that's just one of the potential obstacles when you make art for a living.



Saturday, May 10, 2008

Paint Drips Pictures

Tuesday night on the seventh floor I flipped through a big binder of
funny pictures, many of them vintage advertisements. I don't really know
why they were all funny, but they sure were old! On one wall there was a
big collage of kitschy images like the binder but with paint drips all
over. It looked really cool! There were other paintings too, hung on top
of the collage, full of art-historical and pop-culture jokes. Stonehenge
stenciled teal on a maroon background, for instance. I thought it would
make a nice t-shirt. Featured as well were some appropriated snapshots
of art made into kitsch. A papier-mâché Campbell's soup can with
matching Jif jar (Warhol's lost masterpiece?), Matisse's La Danse
re-done with aliens. An admirable effort all around. There was also a
cute photo of kittens, but there were those paint drips in the way and I
couldn't see the fuzzy wuzzy kitten-coos. I like kittens and there were
many in this show. Near the binder was a computer playing a Youtube
video of a painting in the show. I mean it was just a movie of the
painting, like, just filming the painting. Get it? I've always had that
idea too, but I thought someone had done it already. I guess not! It was
about a minute long and nothing happened. After that I went and stared
at the real painting for about a minute. It wasn't the same. While
waiting for the elevator going to the second floor for those sweet
sandwiches I looked at the big collage. Everyone agreed it was awesome.
I saw some guy looking at it and frowning. I don't know what his problem

In conclusion, I thought the show was super sarcastic and really funny.
It was just like I'm gonna drip paint all over famous art! Yeah! And
like, it really showed how funny anachronisms can be. Did you see that
picture of the old guy with the beard? It was so good. Some of the more
serious seeming paintings made me look harder, which I liked. They were
more like I'm gonna paint in these certain styles and mock them with
context! Like the shape ones. Altogether really good and I look forward
to seeing what this young artist produces in the future.

Oh yeah, and there was pizza!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

"Paint Drips Pictures"- 7th floor lobby

The first thought I had when I saw Erin Ikeler's "Paint Drips Pictures" on the 7th floor lobby was that she's turned paintings into discreet objects that can so easily be dispersed in an infinite number of directions. I'm beginning with this first thought because Erin's show invites the viewer's attention span to flit from place to place and I thought it might be appropriate to begin with the first place mine alighted.


The paintings in the show are mainly spread across the larger wall of the 7th floor lobby against a ground of magazine cuttings and pictures splattered with paint. I don't see a strong path my eyes are meant to take between the paintings and that's perfectly fine; I like the extraordinary number of narratives and relationships I can build between the paintings and the elements present in the ground they're sitting on. This reading lends itself to the understanding, also, that Erin's paintings are completely autonomous objects to be shuffled and re-shuffled, split up and spread throughout the world in whatever order and direction they (or Erin) please.


In fact, if I had to pick a theme of the show it would, indeed, be the flexible and (sometimes) subversive means Erin can use to turn a viewer's attention to a painting.


Take, for example, the two potted plants and the single splattered canvas sitting in one of the windows of the 7th floor lobby: in some ways the drips running down the face of the canvas are non-specific, leading one to simply register its materials as paint and canvas and then take the piece itself as a painting of painting; a stand-in for an artistic tradition sitting innocuously next to two innocuous houseplants. How easy it is for this piece to slip into one's periphery along with these common objects, but how subversive a place for it to be as well!


Many of the paintings in the show, like this one, want to be broadly recognized as paintings about painting (most obviously the pieces which feature diagrammatic palettes which each also include references to brushstrokes as well as meditations on color theory and on figuration) but there are also some broad gestures in the direction of life outside of painting. I sometimes think of this as a question of the artist's engagement with art history set opposed to engagement with the world, but I recognize that this is a somewhat lazy reading of the dichotomy present (for which I apologize). The one thing I'm certain of is that a shift in subject-matter away from painting is a welcome one in that it stops the show's themes from being completely homogenous. My favorite thing about the show was not the themes and subjects of each individual canvas, but the demonstrations and illustrations of how many ways paintings can seep into one's perception.


The most interesting example of these was only on view in the lobby on the show's opening night, but you can see it for yourself from the comfort of your own home: Erin created a one-minute video of one of her paintings (present at the show hanging above her show cards and visitor book) and uploaded it to youtube. Though there are some unidentifiable slapping sounds in the background and the image shakes indicating that it is video from a handheld camera, this is, otherwise, not a narrative video. You look at the painting, see it and keep watching to 'see what happens,' but nothing does. Perhaps you are disappointed or annoyed that nothing happened or perhaps you are disappointed and annoyed because you weren't done looking yet and your gaze has been interrupted. You're just going to have to play it again. Either way, Erin's piece finds a way to make you look longer than six seconds and she finds a place for her painting that you wouldn't ordinarily expect to look at paintings in.

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Original New Addition, 6th floor lobby

Here are a few thoughts I wrote down about The Original New Addition while sitting on that comfortable purple lawn chair in front of the Super Mario Bros piece.

-The larger than life cut out of a soccer player celebrating a goal
captures the tone of the show. Or the balloons do.

-I think this is what Andrew Francis meant when he told me that people
didn't want senior shows to be engaged critically, they wanted senior
shows to be a celebration, a sort of last hurrah. That's not to take the
work in the show lightly, or to see the exhibition negatively, but it just
seems like the celebratory and collective mood of the show sort of escapes
intense scrutiny. (Or maybe someone will counter with a more in depth

-Is this the authentic "integrated curriculum"? The 6th floor lobby is
juggling video game art, painting, books, drawings, sculptures, made
paper, prints, a Nietzsche quote.

-(SPOILER ALERT!) The plaster blocks in black cloth spells out "My hands
evoke sight and sound out of feeling." This kind of work really connects to video games,
which are full of little secrets like this.

-Which makes me think, this is a very, very interactive show.

-This is the only show I can think of that credits the writing center.
Which is a good contribution—Max's artist statement fits in nicely. And
he's right, infinity is a really weird idea.



I want to begin my critique of "Transcendentalisme" with a word on art that wasn't hung by any of the individuals who contributed to the show:


Though not a fan of Louise Nevelson's work, I have often seen other, very similar examples of it sitting more comfortably in spaces than that piece of hers normally does in its home on the seventh floor. It's not difficult to help make Nevelson's work feel more at home in its surroundings; the key is just giving it some company. Either put it with other big ugly pieces of hers or make something else in the room look remotely similar to the piece in question. Here is where "Transcendentalisme" comes into play.

Welcome to seventh floor as it is now: a pitch-black claustrophobic dungeon where Louise Nevelson's work holds court over a small cast of misfit-toy art pieces that know current art world trends backwards and forwards and who, in general, don't particularly like the viewer or, at least, don't readily want to be seen by the viewer. These pieces are pouty graduate-student gutter punks playing hard-to-get.

As I understand it, the in-joke title loosely tying the show's work together refers to two tiers of transcendentalism(e): the work of ascendancy and the thrill of emergence/revelation within the sublime experience of viewing art. With this in mind, the show's organizer Allie Miller has arranged for heavy objects in the space (a derelict photocopier, paint cans, cinder blocks, etc.) to be outfitted with an array of small flashlights attached to them by bungee cords: if viewers want to see the pieces on display in this darkened room with any clarity, they may do this with the provided flashlights, dragging the heavy objects they're attached to behind them as they peruse the show. When one attempts a transcendent state by struggling to rise above one's self one also, in so doing one would hope, eventually appears elsewhere and, by using these weights and flashlights, the viewer performs a struggle to ascend (by dragging the weights) and a supposed emergence into the sublime following that (revealing pieces of art with the beam of a flashlight).

The conceit is funny in its mechanics though one strongly suspects that the system of transcendentalism described is being described with tongue held firmly in cheek. Even so, one also suspects that on some level the artists in the show really do want to give viewers a kind of sublime experience. Do they do it? Sometimes. Much of the work is very good, though some of it benefits greatly from explanation in the same way that Warhol's piss-paintings ("oxidations") don't need to have their methods explained to be beautiful but suddenly receive new dimensions of interest when explanations are given. The back-story to Taylor Shields' twin prints is fascinating (parental portraiture/tribute based, in part, on the very personal sensory experience of smelling found-lotion from a hotel) but, without that, the prints are merely inexplicable aesthetic objects.

Somehow Joe Kay's work manages to tip the scale of oddness and satisfy viewers with its insolubly cryptic and enjoyably goofy nature. This may be because his materials are not art materials (common objects like books, a traffic cone, a triple-decker shopping cart, a yard sale); viewers have experience with practical uses of his materials as a point of entry.

The least compelling pieces of the show are Ben Seltzer's postcard and air-freshener constructions which seem to lead nowhere, but even these offer enough scattered clues for a viewer to engage with them. I couldn't tell whether his works' hanging method was intended to call to mind the packaging for action figures that obsessive collectors couldn't help but break open to play with the toy within before duct taping everything back together again, but that is the effect they had on me one way or the other.

Allie Miller's work is three-fold: she is first a curator (having corralled the participating artists), second a liaison and third a draftswoman. As far as I'm concerned, this is almost too bad because her drawings are quite good. I would go as far as to say that the one drawing she has framed in metal next to her two highlighter-yellow screen prints actually does, by itself, begin to hint at a struggle toward transcendence with the obscurity of its subject's form. But even if this is disappointing, it isn't too much so because her work orchestrating the opening night lecture series this show was built to hold was a great treat. I missed out on two of the speakers, but those I was present for were spectacular and I strongly suggest that anyone who can attend the closing party with a performance from Screaming Dinosaur Fire today (Friday) at 6 pm. It's sure to be a grand spectacle.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Re: An observation on a line for me

To the now unnamed observer: I'll think about that edge.

As a side note, if anyone cares to talk to me about my work or about other things I can be reached more directly at



Wednesday, April 30, 2008

An observation on a line for
Henry Chapman

The now untitled piece, as it stands in front of the
studio, looks as if a moment of self-awareness took a
toll on the organic nature of the mark. The space
within the painting has been modify countless of times
since its beginning stage; as it stands now the
texture of the piece, its viscosity and its color make
a harmonious play with the various planes in the
composition. What I notice to be a visual problem is
the top side of the purple-gray plane on the left. The
edge, in this painting being one of the most important
qualities, has been modified in a way unprecedented to
any other mark. The patterns of the wavy brushstrokes,
that are neither sharp nor translucent, have an
attitude in the painting that appears foreign. The
lack of conviction in the sharpness of the line fails
to make the space move or recede, while the more
organic and natural lines of the right contradict its
Whether it is a matter of opinion, I suggest a close
consideration of the purple-gray form. There is a
constant through out the piece and the playfully
fabricated edge is not outrageous enough to make an
impact or modest enough to harmonize.

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Retrospective

What should a senior show be? This is a common question that has many correct answers, all with legitimate arguments. What causes this question to be brought up so often, then, comes down to the execution, the curation and presentation of the work.

SOFIAPORIA, Sofia Berenstein's show (2nd floor lobby, April 21-26), is an example of the less common Retrospective. She has hung all of her work, from film and digital photography to paintings and etchings, in a novel format involving constructed walls that turn the uncomfortable 2nd floor lobby into a more traditional white-walled corridor. Though some of the construction details are sloppy, for temporary structures the walls work very well, and Berenstein's taking control of the space is admirable and well done. Entering the space by walking up the stairs, one sees that she has even used the walls around the staircase. Guided by the new walls, one then passes through a pleasant hallway gallery of her cleanly presented analog photography. Once the hallway ends the curation becomes immediately suspect. The Retrospective is suddenly thrust upon the unsuspecting observer; an odd etching here, a painting there, a dash of photogravure and a nice large digital photo for garnish. There is a door in the wall – do we open it? I did, and discovered another painting unrelated to the first. Is the door part of the painting? Was that just a convenient place to hang it? Are these recycled walls with a door left in them? Oh, Sofia, what have you done?

Berenstein's exhibit is stuck between two intents, unable to happily compromise. Had she gone with a more focused photography show, the paintings and etchings could go, the photos given a little more room, and it would have been a strong, functional whole. Had she been able to accept her retrospective, the photos could have been edited down and the other work organized a little more carefully, and it would be a successful survey. Even more separation may have worked, to make the analog photos completely and obviously severed from the rest, to save the viewer the confusion of trying to understand their connection. As it is, the confusion remains. 

The Moral

Whether you decide to have a show of recent work, thematic work, single-medium work, violet work, collaborative work, or all your work, remember to consider the exhibit as a whole and resist the urgings of pride.


Note – I'm not sure if the photogravures were in fact photogravures, but they were definitely a different type of work. Please excuse any ignorant mislabeling.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

about one of next week's show


I'm Ben(jamin Santiago) I'm part (1/3) of the show on the 6th Floor
opening on Tuesday (The ORIGINAL NEW ADDITION). I have been following
the show reviews on this site, and I'm interested in what you guys(Will
and Henry) would have to say about our show, especially since I don't
know you guys.


Luke Janson - So Good?

Cooper's house style is made up of things that are "great" for their
absurdity, their outrageous colors, or their vintage pop culture. Giant
Doritos, odes to Michael Jordan, fluorescent 3D paintings, and other
seemingly random things have been exhibited for their "Oh man!" factor -
a combination of "Isn't this silly?" and "That's so funny!" Beyond a
nostalgic giggle, these works have little to give.

Luke Janson superficially seems to fall into this trap as well;
rainbows, cartoons, and joints populate the gallery, various oversized
phalluses humorously interrupt the viewer's space. The first clue to his
ascension over the "Oh man!" mold is that each piece is excellently
crafted: the arm sculptures are very clean; the barber-pole-man could be
from Toys-R-Us, if they stocked that sort of thing; each painting is
fully worked with apparent intention.

The paintings, in fact, are the simplest way to find the complexity in
Janson. He has developed a vocabulary of styles, each alluding to
specific parts of art history, and collages them in each large canvas to
meet different ends.

There is the "Picture in Picture" canvas, the image shown layered on top
of scale-up versions of itself. Among its historical references are
Holbein's famous skull transformed into a soccer ball, a dripping
Dali-esque appendage, and a pointillist field and figure. These are
mixed with video game details such as the gun-toting hand of a
first-person shooter and floating power-up icons. The other three
paintings might be "Graffiti Interfering With Color-Field/Hard-Edge
Abstractions", "Picasso Gets Metaphysical With Monty Python and Nintendo Basketball", and "Bonnard's Dog Abused By Dali".

The most interesting detail, in three of these four works, is the
sparing placement of colorful globs of paint along the edges of the
canvas. This tiny addition changes the paintings enormously; they are
suddenly active, living, pooling up at the edges and nearly escaping
into the world, to scuttle away or even to capture something new to
bring back. Janson's ability to activate his work (apparent in
everything but "Bonnard's Dog") is the key to this show's success.

Unlike the paintings, which have their allusions to fall back on, the
sculptures in the show rely completely on being somehow infused with
life, so that they are not only observed, but watched. The Great
Galloping Tongue is immediately noticed for its fan and rapid inflation,
but the real interest is at the very tip. Following the gently curved
body we find this curious, wagging end, so eagerly wagging that we fear
it escaping its leash. Opposite is the Nose, the big, rough, drunkard's
nose, gently blurred by its own vibration. Again, this piece feels
restrained, as if it were captured rather than created. Standing near
these works for too long creates a growing sense of foreboding in the
viewer, though it is unimaginable what might happen.

Is Janson's show funny? Yes, but this is only the beginning of its
appeal. He proves that the absurd is not necessarily ridiculous, that
there are greater rewards than a chuckle. Underclassmen, please take
note, everything may not be "so good!"


Friday, April 25, 2008

Leslie Martinez, "Give Us This Day, Our Daily Bread," 7th Floor

I can't offer a credible interpretation of these words from the book of Matthew, "give us this day, our daily bread," from which Leslie Martinez extracts the title of her exhibition. But I did spend a lot of time looking at the painting on the wall opposite from the other work, at the top of which sits a watermelon—a watermelon which is not one, because it is also teeth, or a hole, or a shiny unnamable prize. And it seems like a plausible reading of the work to see this shiny prize metaphorically, to see it as both the daily bread and the daily work in which Ms. Martinez is engaged. In this way, her work speaks of a kind of commitment, attention and care that is hard to ignore.

You get what I mean? 

I doubt very many artists at Cooper would find the source of their exhibition title in the bible, and I know I would find enough reasons not to go there. (First of all, my only copy of the bible is called the "Student Edition.")  But she goes there. And the work goes there, too. Fearlessly. To throw a few adjectives at it, the work is narrative, elaborate, painstaking. It's illustrative. Compositionally, much of the work reminds me of Mark Alan Stamaty's "Who Needs Donuts?" in its cluttered masses of figures and shapes. I don't mean that negatively, as to lower it to the level of a children's book—as if the "level of a children's book" or of "Donut's" were lower— but some might see it as such, and see the work as such.

I don't think it can be ignored that the 7th floor lobby poses a few problems as an exhibition space, in part because the artist has to battle with John Hejduk's columns and Louise Nevelson's anniversary present, but also because of windows, outlets, strange lighting, size, and other irritating distractions. I think those distractions really take away from the work here but I also can't think of where else the work might go in this building. Certainly the show would feel sparse in the Houghton Gallery, and I've heard the argument about this work that it needs to be very tightly packed. I may just like sparse shows (see: La Mama Gallery) but I'm also skeptical of that argument. How tightly packed do they need to be? Space, and less distractions, might allow the work to breathe in a way that the 7th floor lobby doesn't afford.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Portrait of the Artist as a Rejection of Existing Values and Types: Thomas Witschonke and Cassandra Guan "In the Lubalin Center"

To make something already is a problem. 

For, Tom and Cassandra contend, we should be past the myth of "the creative genius," past the myth of the artist as visionary, past the myth of the individual. An identity is the sum of a thousand biased and meaningless parts, from birth certificates to high school diplomas, from awards and prizes to testimonials and flattering photographs. You are your context.

Either that's the simplistic message of the show, or that's my simplistic reading of it.

I enjoyed Tom and Cassandra's show, and the first few times I walked through it I thought it was hilarious. But I don't think I agree with its central premise, if I'm reading it right. How useful and how true is it that you are your context? That idea has been around, and it comes around again now, asserting that the role of the artist is as curator, as collector, as archivist.

To make a mark on a canvas suddenly seems to betray your naïve subservience to the myth of your individuality.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Regarding Titles, Again

Artwork must somehow "arriving" in order to earn a title is incorrect. That galleries and the market deem value and thus titles on work is far too subjective and limiting a notion. A title (or any textual counterpart, though I am only discussing image-based work) is a functional part of any work and exists as a part, or doesn't, as a result of the artist's choice and not the viewer's. One can look at a piece like Damien Hirst's "The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living" and see the title as equal to the visual, guiding the viewer to where Hirst wants them to go. Something like de Kooning's "Woman I" (or II or III or IV) is a nearly non-existent (though one could argue that the painting may not be of a woman, but this is negligible) title, purely functional, and the viewer is completely concentrated on the visual. A title being a necessary aspect of the work is therefore also incorrect, as far as thinking of a good one goes, because a "good one" will either be trivial and point only to itself or will unnecessarily complicate the visual piece.

Titles do serve purely functional, non-artistic purposes as discussed with de Kooning. Generic and numeral titles often are used simply for cataloguing and identification; they do not affect the artwork's purpose or meaning. Functionality is also where I go against the case for anonymity. Names should be attached to work and should be accessible to the viewer unless there is explicit artistic reason to exclude it. Unlike having a textual counterpart, having a creator is inherent and does not need intention to exist.

When reviewers ask for labels in the student shows, we are asking only for names and a means to refer to specific pieces, not necessarily for something extra to chew on while evaluating the work. I do maintain that we have every right to add that chew if we want. We are artists, not just students.


Sunday, April 13, 2008

Re: The Case for Anonymity

Can an artist holding an exhibition claim that they haven't titled the work in the exhibition because the work isn't worthy of being titled? The premise in choosing to make one's work public seems to be that the work is worth making public.

I don't think that titles always make work better, but they make work more communicable to the viewer and unless it is integral to the piece to not communicate that element, leaving it out seems like a sloppy omission. Think of a good title! This goes for the names of the artists in group shows, too. Why not let the viewer know what's going on?


The Case for Anonymity

As much as it's not supposed to be beneficial to the work when one relinquishes all power of presenting it to the institution it's being presented in, I think that this (the presentation of a piece in a gallery for immediate sale or in a museum for view) is the only occasion when employing labels and binders can consistently work.


When I think about labels, my first thought is of 'Entropy,' the sixth floor show a month or two ago of work by Esteban Cabeza De Baca and some SVA alums. It is true that the amateurish way they executed the production of those labels contributed to how genuinely awful the whole experience was, but it's also true that the labels' basic functionality worked against the paintings on view: though they (in some ways) acted to protect Esteban in that they separated his work from the others' predominately inferior work, they also revealed the immaturity of a bunch of young art students not yet in possession of the responsibility necessary to title a piece of art. The titles given to the pieces and listed on labels next to them made the worst of the work very literally even worse than it had to be and I think that something very similar would happen in any other student show, even if the labels are made more professionally (I should mention Sonia Finley's excellent museum-quality labels in the basement of the Integrated Curriculum show as a contrary exemplary instance of label-making). I just don't think that we, as developing artists, are yet applying titles to things that deserve or can withstand the scrutiny a labeling system brings.


When a piece is put into a gallery it is put there because it is expected to sell and it is expected to sell (one would hope) because there is something about it that it is worth being bought for beyond it's allegiance to a market trend; that there is a reason one would want the work. When a piece is put into a museum it is put there because (one would hope) it is worthy of being preserved in antiquity for future generations to see; that there is a strong reason one would want the piece to be available for viewing past its current age. In both institutional instances there is a sense of unimpeachability that attends the work on display: it is work from artists who have arrived and are now making work strong enough to withstand or benefit from a title, even if that title is simply 'Untitled 1'.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Integrated Curriculum, 6th Floor Lobby and Great Hall

What happens when the School of Art cherry picks artists for an exhibition meant to represent the loftiest ambitions of the institution? A couple of things, it turns out. The first thing that happens is that art suddenly has artists, titles and intentions—with a neat, organized exhibition binder to prove it. Maybe this seems childish (or as I hear around from time to time, maybe it seems "high school") but it's also incredibly useful. All ye artists with weekly shows and no labels, maybe you could compromise and make some kind of index of the work available—binder or not.

Another thing that happens when the institution organizes the show is that no one goes to it. That's not entirely true, I suppose. As I write this, Pam Lins' 3D class is in the corner talking about Jenna Dublin's Untitled piece. Or, they're standing next to it, which is kind of like talking about it. The unsurprising lesson is that shows organized by the institution (excluding, as Sam reminds me, the great collaborative End of Year Show) don't have the same sort of enthusiasm from the students in it, or from the friends/family of those students.

I find it hard to muster enthusiasm myself when the work is tethered to the tired, self-congratulatory philosophies and clichés of the School of Art. Are these works truly meant to "initiate critical responses and alternative models in relation to the prevailing forms of institutions?" Maybe: someone give me an argument. But for me, that inflated sense of purpose does not resonate with the work in this show. The work does not represent an education "in the broadest sense," it's a microcosm of a very particular kind of education. All that's fine. Let the show be what it is, a (fairly arbitrary) sampler with some occasional really good samples.

Andrew Francis' Studio Cart—more democratically authored by "Community"—stands as an island in the lobby, reminding the viewer of the mostly unrealized potential of student involvement and voice in the direction this school takes. This isn't a finished piece, it's a piece in progress, and one that communicates directly with the institution it was born in and those who work in it.

Luke Janson drags a little bit of the fourth floor energy (and pomp) up to the otherwise quiet sixth floor. His paintings are deceptively well made and engaging, while his video, Y2K5 (the video game-video) is surprisingly boring. Still the atmosphere doesn't suffer from a little extra noise and life.

Henry Chapman

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Dancing with Myself- Caitlin Macqueen in the Houghton Gallery

I've already used dancing as a metaphor for art in this blog, so I feel all the more incredibly uncreative using a dancing metaphor to describe a painting show of dancers and singers, but here goes anyway:


On the night of Caitlin MacQueen's opening (the excellently titled 'Scratch Back Daub-Shebang!') I wandered the school for a few hours after the crowds had disappeared, opening beverages and snacks gone with them, eventually coming to a stop and lingering in the Houghton Gallery pacing languidly in circles.

Maybe dancing is more like what I was doing than pacing; I would take several long, swinging, enervated (perhaps inebriated) steps in one direction, find myself face to face with a smiling pair of women dancing, spin on my heels and move toward other painted dance partners, passing the faces of their painted musical accompanists on the way, before turning to see more. Flitting from one painting to another felt like slowly spinning around a small dimly lit club or bar on an off-night. It was Tuesday, though, so an uncomfortably large crowd couldn't really be expected, could it? As the night grew long, the faces of these other people at the club with me would become familiar and I would zero in on which of them I wanted to take home (given the opportunity).

The pair I most often returned to was a large grey painting at the center of the wall facing the Houghton Gallery's windows. A sketch for it happens to adorn the show cards for 'Scratch Back Daub-Shebang!' and I would be strongly tempted to assume the painting is named that, if it does have a name: as far as I'm concerned, this painting is the show's key and its best (if not my favorite) painting.

The painting's two figures are in mid-step of dance moves that are almost comically awkward, one striking a mock Egyptian pose with a knee raised in the air and the other with arms half vogue-ing, half flailing. No matter how uncomfortable the dance, both wear pleasant expressions and it's hard not to be glad they're having fun together tonight.


One strange thing about the dance hall they're dancing in is how amorphous it is; they seem to be dancing in a curved grey non-place and, for this reason, I take the piece to be less a narrative than a meditation on the idea of dancing. It's not about where they are or who they are (there are other dance-partners on view who could just as easily be them... the dances on view in this show aren't specific to a dancer or dancers), it's just important that they're dancing.


The other strange thing about the dance hall (and about the dancers themselves) is how grim the colors are that they're painted with. As much as the painting comes across as a general celebration of the idea of dancing, this is a celebration set to the tune of a funerary dirge. I begin to wonder if this is all the talk I've heard recently about "mourning the death of painting" gradually turning on its head, sadly shaking its hips in protest of sadness and step by step casting its veil aside while cautiously adopting a guarded, perhaps cynical, grin. You've come a long way, baby.


I highlight this painting instead of the other dancers on display primarily because I did return to it the most during my private dance party, but also because it's the one painting most like the rest of them. There are elements of each of the other paintings' mannerisms in this one and, I think, it's the one painting in which each of those mannerisms 'click.' The use of line is there, the muddy colors are there and the figures are there. They look good dancing there together.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Lander Burton- 6th floor lobby and 'Hope, Pray and Don't Worry'- 7th floor lobby

I first saw Lander Burton's work in Cooper Union's annual end-of-year show and I am an avowed fan. I like all of the artists her paintings bring to mind and there is composure in her pursuit of the abstract vein her work sit in that I like and don't often see. It's almost a kind of formality that I miss, but not formality in the sense of 'formalism;' formality that one would apply to formal wear when one plans to go out dancing in the evening. Even if an artist's job is sometimes to let it all hang out, a certain respect for the audience watching your spectacle (in the form of appropriate attire) is admirable. This formality is apparent in the mannered borders of Lander's colors and shapes and the carefully even surfaces of her canvases.
This brings me to the work on the floor above. Mark Nerys and Ye Qin Zhu, as far as I'm concerned, sit on either side of Lander and are, additionally, good complements to each other: surface is a key point of discussion in the work of each of these three individuals.
Lander's mannered surfaces give way to Ye's violent, blooming, sensuous paint masses as well as to Mark's sheer, toothless planes. I'd go as far as to say that Mark's work sits in or near some kind of 'ground zero' of painting; in many ways he's pared the elements of his paintings down to something less, even, than essence. That sounds bad, scary even, but even if it is scary it's far from being bad territory to cover. It's nihilistic at times, sure, but it's also pretty damn funny too (albeit in a consciously low-brow way).
Compare and contrast Mark's minimal marks on his shining clean surfaces with Ye's maximal paintwork; it might be an unfairly simple cop to say that Ye's work can be similarly scary to look at (the rotting dog carcass?), but I think that it holds; Ye's work is, at the least, uncomfortable in a menacing sort of way from time to time. Both Ye and Mark manage to achieve similar results with entirely opposite strategies as far as the surfaces they work with are concerned. This is part of what makes pieces from both of them sit together so surprisingly well.
So where does this leave Lander? Though I like Lander's approach to a canvas, her style and her show in general, I think that comparison to the show above her sets her work in an uncomfortable middle ground. Its formality, the paint neither piled on nor sparingly applied, can leave her work with a loose neutrality, but neutrality is as difficult to maintain as are uncompromising stringency and uncompromising excess. It will be interesting to watch each of these painters waver between this middle ground and these extremes.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Grayson Revoir - 2nd Floor Lobby

Grayson Revoir does not like Americans. At least, he plays off America's
insecurities and the stereotypes of Americans in Leisure Time, a tiny
exhibit in the 2nd floor lobby space. Six pieces make up the show, four
photos, a beaded curtain, and an immense ball of sloths. Entering from
the round elevator doors, the viewer passes through the beaded curtain
(think Native Americans, not hippies) to find that the tangled mass of
fake fur and wooden claws is the centerpiece, a fairly direct jab at the
orgiastic, masturbatory slothfulness that seems to pervade perception of
our country. What is it to be American if not fat and lazy? The flailing
faux-fauna has matted fur, dirty grey and green, and initially seems to
be a giant, disgusting hairball rather than the interlocked and
well-made animals it is actually composed of. Now, the curtain becomes
mocking. We pass through anticipating exoticism to entertain us and find
only criticism.

Moving to the walls, there are two pairs of photos. The first includes a
picture of a eighteen-wheeler parked on a snowy road and a picture of a
large young man in a small doorway. These take another stereotype of
Americans, their belligerent ignorance, and embodies it in typically
American images. The semi with its huge, white trailer, takes up most of
the frame. It blocks out the landscape and the gas station, and whatever
else it may be in front of, blocks it all out with absolutely nothing
except the vast blank space of the trailer. It is an obnoxious
nothingness. The man in the doorway has the same insistence on being
seen. He fills the door, shoulder to shoulder and head to toe, allowing
nothing to distract from his big, selfish body.

The second pair of photos is the weakest element in the show, and works
least well with the other pieces. Two close-ups of wrapping paper, one
interesting for its reflection and the other a repeating optical
pattern, are more concerned with their formal properties and aesthetics
than any underlying message. Not necessarily bad photos, they simply do
not fit the theme.

Will Schneider-White

Friday, March 28, 2008

Nickola Pottinger and Gabriel Smith in the Houghton Gallery, March 25-29

A few days after Nickola Pottinger and Gabriel Smith's untitled exhibition opened I came back to sit in the Houghton Gallery, that one genuinely nice gallery space in the building. Some other students had come, too, six or seven elementary school students being chaperoned by a woman who asked in front of one drawing the simple and important question, "do you know what's happening in this drawing?" I realized that I hadn't even asked myself that question, and that maybe this was because for me the drawing had been lost in a jumble of other hectic drawings. I had looked over the drawing on an earlier visit but it wasn't until the children had moved that I asked myself for the first time, does that drawing really need glitter on it?

The two artists each democratically occupy fifty percent of the wall space—ceding all floor space to the viewer— and with so many drawings placed so closely to one another the show can sometimes feel like more like a show and tell than an exhibition. But a coherent and interesting conversation emerges from the two sides of the room, that face each other from different ends of the aesthetic and emotional universe. Pottinger's drawings dwell in the delicate and the perishable (do those drawing really need to be on newsprint?) and in a quirky sort of sexuality. Most of her forms come in doubles and many resemble testicles. Gabriel's drawings stare back with two terrifying eyeballs at the center of a colorful and energetic storm.

Some questions came up for me in this show. First, and I ask this all the time now, and other people should, too, why aren't these drawings labeled? Not indicating names, titles, or a show title outside the gallery space isn't just sloppy, it makes the viewing more difficult. I also kept wondering what the importance of a coherent message in a show is, and maybe specifically in a "student" show. There are formal and conceptual threads through each set of work, and I think the conversation between those two bodies is interesting, but I keep coming back to that "show and tell" feeling. It sounds like: Okay, here are my drawings, take a look. And I keep reaching the question, "so what?" What are these drawings saying? Smith's drawings are frail, sexual, maybe, sometimes beautiful. Does that mean they are speaking about frailty, about sexuality? They feel too ambiguous. For me, Nikola's drawings feel like they are working through some interesting problems and questions—pulling back from an order into something more emotional, and then wiping away some of that emotion to reveal another kind of order.

Henry Chapman

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Craft and Afterlife - BFF on the 2nd floor

A trio of friends put on a surprisingly comprehensive show with BFF –Best Friends For now. Katrina Myers, Karen Sawicki, and Alexandra Shaver hardly use more than a single wall to construct a linear and thematically unified exhibit, their varied styles meshing well.

Reading left to right, we find an ascending journey: from the underworld to our world, then above. First is Myers' drawing of a ringed mountain mimicking Dante's circles of hell, from which we move to a vertical triptych of photos paralleling a painting by Sawicki, both depicting the
falling of the damned. Then we move to our own world, Myers contributing earthy drawings and beadings seemingly imported from islands unheard of, representing the uncivilized and savage, Shaver showing a psychedelic utopia, saturated and swirling paintings, inhabited by a few deer, a lot of minute detail, and much fluorescence. A Catholic in this crowd of heathens and hippies, Sawicki completes our living plane with her strange and melodramatic paintings in subdued near monochrome. An altarpiece and a few shrine-like displays contrast luxurious furs and fabrics with scrimshawed portraits, the scratched bone functioning more to make these vanitas than as sailors' mementos. Finally, Sawicki has a wall of scratchboard idols, shining gold and silver, a yearbook of the risen (and of her classmates).

The narrative that can be read through the work is fun, and the BFFs choice to avoid montage and present an edited and clean show is admirable, but the strongest point is the sincere investment visible in nearly everything hung. None of these artists are self-consciously trying to create something new or original, and therefore avoid contrived novelty. And though they wear their influence proudly, the work does not look derivative. The beadings and scrimshaw are carefully done, learned and practiced craft rather than token unusual materials. The work is created first for the love of creation, then for whatever else it carries.

Will Schneider-White/

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

"News From the World" in the Houghton Gallery, March 11-15

The young King in Lola Schnabel's video, "Le Bal des Ardents" looks bored with the entertainment. His eyes flutter around the room, unable to focus on one thing, only perking up when he greedily bites into a big chocolate chip cookie. Maybe the King appears as a reflection of the opening night audience, which comes for the beer and brownies (or, in some cases, cabernet and quiche) but has little to say or think about the work itself. Maybe. I felt that the show asked of me a little bit of time, (at least) a second visit.

"News From the World," a show by Alexander Haring, Patrick Roberts, and Lola Schnabel, looks like it could have been made by any number of people, offering an eclectic jumble of different kinds of work in varying mediums. In keeping with the long, irritating tradition of weekly show openings, this exhibition leaves the work without labels and without titles, keeping the work—unless you know the artist, or the pieces beforehand—anonymous. Maybe that anonymity serves the theme suggested by the title, and maybe the work is supposed to be shown anonymously, as artifacts from the world. But if that is the intention, it isn't executed with enough conviction, and without titles or names, I felt farther away from the work, that the work was not communicating to me, or that the jumble of work in the show was not anchored.

What is the news from the world? The most consistent fascination in the exhibition is bodies, their beauty and their strangeness. Almost every piece engages directly with the figure. Two exceptions include photographs that tell a story of human ruins—architectural decay in one, an atomic mushroom cloud in another. This violence is present in the other work, as in the busts of a female human torso and a cushion, which have flashing, sexual imagery projected onto them. Or the looping projection set at floor level, which shows a man trying without success to get closer to the viewer, and being pushed back by some invisible force. Both of these projections have a fast, frantic quality that succeeds in conveying a sense of aggression on the bodies they depict.

The questions concern the body or maybe the body in pain, maybe most explicitly imagined in the three photographs with lush colors that frame snapshots of police detainment, or maybe, as with the severed fingernail, the effects of torture techniques.

The work here is thoughtful, and the curation for the most part lives up to that. The use of the gallery space is creative and while the show does not feel too sparse, it also feels like the work has room to breath. If you only went for the opening night snacks, it's worth a second trip.

Henry Chapman

Monday, March 10, 2008


An unusually sinister looking second floor hallway amid preparations for tomorrow night's show openings. Two new shows tomorrow night: Katrina Myers, Karen Sawicki & Ali Shaver on the second floor lobby, and Alexander Haring, Patrick Roberts & Lola Shnabel in the Houghton Gallery. 

Friday, March 7, 2008

Aurora Pellizzi on the 7th Floor

            I did not know Aurora Pellizzi or her work before the show from March 3-8 in the 7th floor lobby. I did not go to the opening, did not talk to anyone about the show before seeing it. Hanging are a few large print-outs with multiple digital photo collages featuring Ms. Pellizzi (I assume) crudely inserted into touristy photographs of real and absurd locations, often in multiple. Looking at the show's postcard, I see the title is "Alter Ego, ό Mirame y No Me Toques".

            The immediate impression these collages give is equivalent to the tourist photos they parody: I'm sure they are funny to whoever took them. They look like jokes, they are jokes, what else could they be? Are they commenting on the tourist trade or just pointing at it with an obnoxious grin and not saying anything? Aurora in Damien Hirst's diamond-studded skull makes me think of art as tourism, but my thought stops there. The images are rotated and fit on the pages to save room, not to be presented, which brings up the possibility that they're not about tourism or cultural disregard, maybe the subject is the medium. False naïveté has never been charming and when it is so obviously false, when the pixelated cut and paste with her curtains still there between her arm and body is printed large-format and high quality on a big glossy piece of paper, it just looks lazy. Anyway, not knowing how to use Photoshop is not yet social commentary.

So, they're jokes. Sometimes she wears a funny dress, or makes a funny face, or has a cake on her head like a funny hat. I can appreciate humor in art, but these have no punch-line, they are ironic without an end to meet. Do I create that end? These are purposeless images, escaped e-mail attachments, kidding between friends. As an artist, am I allowed to disregard these images as unsuccessful and uninteresting, or must I create a comfortable excuse to leave them on before I can admit appreciative dislike?

Will Schneider-White

Tommy Coleman on the 6th Floor, "Portraits of My Domesticity"

When I circled the sixth floor on Tuesday night I carried a memory of Dennis Adams' voice—who was voicing Mies van der Rohe, or whoever—saying, "God is in the details." In a room full of well-made things, the joke in Tommy Coleman's exhibit, "Portraits of My Domesticity," comes in the details, in the little cracks and in the slight inconsistencies. Yes, I laughed, looking at the Laugh Now/ Stop Laughing signs, which gave the green light for stop and the red light for go. A drawing dented or ripped. A word mispelled. And what about that bed of growing grass with a corresponding picture of a different bed of growing grass? Maybe this isn't an entirely new joke, but Tommy's show does a good job of telling it.

But the title, "Portraits of My Domesticity," feels false. What does that narrative intend to say? Or add to the work? What joke is it trying to tell? It may not be hard to plug the imagery of lawns, marital beds and household notes into a strange story of domesticity, but that action feels just like that—a plugging in. Perhaps each individual piece would have benefited from having its own title. I always wonder why the standard for show openings on Tuesdays is to show work without titles, and I think here especially the work may have deserved names of their own, designations of their own, if only to survive being eaten by that nagging Domestic narrative.

Still, context matters, and coming after a week of unbearable visual noise, Tommy's thoughtful show, complete with its own mysterious and insistent sound, made refreshing use of the 6th floor.  

Henry Chapman