Wednesday, December 25, 2013

end of year madness

Today is Christmas Day, a day for family and friends. I'm off to a movie along with scads of other people, but first a round up of news. The Art Miami Context fair was very successful for my gallery. They sold two of my New York Times pieces and lots of other artists' work. I was in Miami for the fairs and got to see old friends, a bunch of art, and enjoy my home town.

And that means: STONE CRABS. Anyone who has been to Miami Beach knows Joe's. It's been renovated and is a lot bigger than the old days. Back then you waited two hours stuffed into a narrow bar. Now you wait maybe an hour in a couple of anterooms and a bar. But if you go all the time, you get in right away. You have to know the trick.

Joe's has a little takeaway cafe now. I recommend you try it for lunch when things aren't as insane. Stone crabs are supposedly eco-friendly, because the crab grows another claw. I'm not positive this is the case and anyway it must hurt the crab to have his arm torn off, but please: they are divine and I don't want to think about it.

Since returning from Miami I've hit the ground running. Along with Erin Elder I'm co-curating an exhibition called "All the News That's Fit to Print," art that uses the New York Times, at the Center for Contemporary Art here. The artists use the newspaper in varied ways. Some use the paper itself for sculptural and wall based works, like I do. One artist whose work I recently discovered is Elissa Levy, from Brooklyn. Here is one of her works that will be in the show, "Expected to Rise."
Other artists highlight and collect bits of content from the paper- here is a work by Pat Boas, of Portland, Oregon, in which she has traced heads from photos on the front page, each drawing consisting of tracings from a full month, with a total of 12 drawings in the series, representing one year:
Everyone bemoans the sad fate of daily newspapers. With Jeff Bezos buying the Washington Post, it should be interesting to see what new ideas he comes up with. I know the Times has invested in more multi-media reporting, trying to keep up the subscriber base. Personally, I still read the print version of the Times every day and have been for maybe forty years, but I like to read it online occasionally when one of those multi-media stories runs. There was recently a series on a homeless child in New York that was heartbreaking- what is now referred to as "long form" journalism at its best in my opinion. To be continued. Meanwhile, the front page with its compelling above the fold photograph continues my morning ritual.

Monday, August 12, 2013

the desert

Growing up in Miami Beach, then living in New York and Connecticut for so many years, I was used to humidity and green-ness. The desert has neither, but this is the monsoon season, meaning that we get rain fairly often, sometimes a bit every day, sometimes a heavy rainstorm that sends water rushing into the arroyos with great force. I live near the Santa Fe River bed, which used to actually be a river, but is an arroyo now. Arroyos are dry stream beds that fill with water occasionally, during heavy rains. They can be dangerous actually, because if anyone is in there and the water starts to flow, it can cause drownings. We get flash flood warnings here when that's about to happen, but maybe the kids playing didn't get the alert.

Anyway, during monsoon season, the desert starts to grow grasses and things and it actually looks green around here. Also, flowers bloom. It's interesting that the landscape here is at its most beautiful in September. I've posted about the aspen trees in the past. Today I'm posting a photo of a plant I'm kind of obsessed with, jimsonweed. The bush we walk by is pretty large and the flowers are large-ish too so I can see from afar when it's in bloom. For a while it was so dry, no flowers to be seen, but lately every morning it's got lots of them. They bloom at night so by noon they're closed. They don't last long at all. I'm pretty convinced that they only bloom once, but a friend says that's not so. This plant is very poisonous, which makes it more exotic seeming and a little sinister.

Georgia O'Keeffe painted them often. Here's just one example. 

The plants in the desert are very sculptural and seem almost prehistoric. I try to capture them when they are in bloom but it seems like I never have my phone with me at the right time and the next time I walk by them the flowers are gone. The plant life can be very ephemeral. One day a cactus will look all brown and gnarly, and the next day a beautiful pink flower will have appeared.

Friday, July 26, 2013


The artist Walter de Maria died yesterday. 

I saw this wonderful work at LACMA last year. It took up the entire Resnick Pavilion there and was meant to catch the light in different ways. I always enjoyed de Maria's work- the Broken Kilometer and Earth Room in Soho in NYC were like art touchstones. They were just There, through the years, supported by the Dia Foundation, which also supports Lightning Field here in New Mexico. I have yet to see it- you have to make an appointment, then they pick you up and take you to a little cabin, where you stay overnight and are free to wander the landscape and enjoy the de Maria piece. 400 polished stainless steel poles, set in the ground in such a way that they are perfectly aligned at the top. An incredible feat of planning and engineering. Maybe not like the Great Pyramids, but something that inspires awe. 

De Maria's work was about the finite and the infinite at the same time. The work was strictly delineated by imagined or built borders, or it was titled by its size (as in "Broken Kilometer.") But the scale was such that you almost couldn't see its end. A horizon would form and you would be aware that yes, there is an end, but the view seems limitless and overwhelming. He was a singular artist- I can't think of anyone who has created work that is quite like that, and he will be missed.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

where does inspiration come from?

Someone posted this on Facebook the other day and I saved it. With all the controversy and discussion about appropriating images, it's easy to feel caught on one side or other of a bright line of so-called originality.

I remember one time hearing Chuck Close speak. He said that he, like all artists, stood on the shoulders of all who had gone before him. To me that was not just about clearing a path, though that's a part of it, not just about being a mentor, though that's a part of it too; but also that we look at other work, we digest, we ponder. Maybe those guys who painted on the walls in Lascaux didn't have any other art to look at, but since then, we have.

The internet has given us a great gift here, but it's a bit of a hot coal, and it also requires some responsibility. I live in Santa Fe. I get to New York, to California, and other places that have some terrific museums and galleries, but for me scrolling through tumblr is great fun and sometimes I come across something that really hits me. (Often, actually.) I say it requires responsibility because sliding an image onto your desktop is one thing; reposting it somewhere, such as pinterest or tumblr, is another, and I would never post something without a link to its author's website. (There is software that allows you to embed this information, invisibly, into your image. See digimarc.)

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I came across the work of Marisa Merz. I can't link you to a website because she has none. I think she may be in her 80's- she is the widow of Mario Merz, and both of them are part of the Italian group of artists engaged in what they called arte povera. She has been honored this year at the Venice Biennale. She shows with Barbara Gladstone in New York. I wish I had seen that show!

So here is a piece of hers, a small one. There are so many things I love about this little piece. I love the apparent casualness of it- almost like she found a bunch of wood and piled it up together. Notice how the image and the wood that extends beyond it is all pushed to the left and the use of gold on such a humble work. She used the wood (all bits of found wood, as I understand) to extend the diagonal in the image- or maybe it was the other way around. There's not a lot of color. Then it's just put on this funny base of sorts, and being placed on a fancy shmancy marble lintel adds a bit of humor and contrast.

Looking at images of hers made me think about how I might work with paper and wood in a less polished way. I really love the nature of paper, and paper comes from wood. Why not combine them? And then ink and gold leaf have their own materiality. Also, I just had a framer possibly destroy a piece by stupid accident- why have to deal with framers at all? Now you might ask, how do you protect and dust a paper piece that isn't framed? And I say: carefully. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013


Before posting today, I was trying to remember the first time I saw El Anatsui's work. I think it was at Jack Shainman gallery, where he has been showing for many years; or it may have been at a museum show. It had an immediate resonance for me. When I was in New York in April I visited his wonderful retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum.
The sheer magnitude of the work is what strikes you first- I want to say it's magisterial, because the large pieces seem like robes, or tapestries, and their scale requires interiors that might be seen in a cathedral, or a castle. They sparkle and glisten like jewels and gold leaf. But close inspection reveals that they are made of millions of bits of metal- bottle caps and the little metal sleeve which is wrapped around the neck of liquor bottles and that breaks away from the cap when it's twisted off. Each of them is punched, and wired to its neighbor, and the colors are collected in discrete areas that are then woven together. 
Some years ago I went to South Africa, and I knew that there was a tradition of making things with bits of metal, as well as wood, plastic, and whatever was around. El Anatsui is a professor at the University of Nigeria, and his work speaks to so much that is good and not as good in Africa. The continent represents all of the cultural influences of a colonialized area, along with the beauty of traditional tribal forms. El Anatsui's materials come from a distillery in Nsukka. A video being screened at the museum shows huge piles of bottle caps- representing a lot of liquor consumption. The videos also show the artist with his team of artisans, creating portions of the works, then arranging them to be wired together. Now that he is world famous, he has the means to make a lot of work. The retrospective was enormous, and one could mutter that some of the work could have been left out. But some of the pieces were so beautiful, overwhelming really. If the purpose of art is to create a sublime experience, this work is exemplary. 
I've shown his work to my students on many occasions. To me, it represents not just the beauty that can be found in mundane, even discarded, materials; how accretion of a unit creates something that transcends its original form; and how work can be made in a collaborative way, forming community among its makers.

There are many other images of El Anatsui's work in the links above, and on other online sites.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

off the radar

This past week the New York art fairs took place and normally I'd try to be there. Not because I saw amazing and wonderful art, because that's not what art fairs are about. The amazing and wonderful art, when it's shown in that context, becomes not so amazing and wonderful. Too much stuff, too big, too much visual shouting for attention, in the midst of white cubicle after white cubicle, or in the case of some fairs, all in the same room begging for attention, which doesn't do anything much good. For me, going to New York for the fairs is to reconnect with friends, and sometimes I don't go to the big Armory show at all, preferring the smaller fairs like Volta, which is organized as solo shows in each booth. I did feel a little out of it though, reading about them and hearing people talk about them on Facebook.

Today I read a blog post called "Resisting Pier Pressure,"which is a good read, by one of my favorite artists, Mira Schor. Her blog, A Year of Positive Thinking, is thoughtful and informative, as Mira has a long history of critical writing. I recommend you add her to your list of blogs to follow. I have one of Mira's works on paper that I bought at a benefit for AIR, the feminist women's cooperative gallery, still going strong after 40 years.

Here is one of Mira's works, from her website:

The truth is, as much as people bemoan the demise of galleries, I often find amazing and wonderful work when I'm in Chelsea, or the Lower East Side, or wherever there is a gallery space that has a thoughtful and well-run program. Without the pressure of having to see everything, throwing down an espresso to keep moving up and down the art fair aisles. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

there went that resolution

Really ridiculous. What kind of a self-promoter am I? First of all, after resolving to post more often, here it is the end of February and I have not posted since the day after Christmas. Not great at following through, obviously. But there are extenuating circumstances. This semester I'm teaching three classes and am curating the Al-Mutanabbi Starts Here book exhibition at school. I've hardly gotten to the studio at all, which always makes me a little crazy. If only I didn't have a dog to take care of, too. But you dog owners know it's worth it to take their needs into account. It's just sometimes I feel she's running my life instead of the other way around.

Anyway, today I noticed a whole lot of traffic to my website from  a blog called If you're reading this, you may very well have gotten here from there. Well, thanks Lana, whoever you are, and the other wonderful blogs who have featured me in the last months- jealous curator, youme&charlie, designtaxi, and others, besides the big Kahuna, It's been exciting and gratifying! In fact, the year has started off fantastically so far.

My work is in an exhibition at the New Mexico Museum of Art called "Art on the Edge," and it was curated by Toby Kamps, who is the curator at the Menil Collection in Houston. Very prestigious. It opened in January and I was thrilled to find out that the museum has chosen my work for their permanent collection! Here is a snapshot of the installed work taken with my phone. I hope to have better photos provided by the museum at some point.

And as for other news, a new gallery, Fitzroy Knox, which will be based in NYC, has added me to their program. For now they're doing the art fairs, but they intend to look for space in the city next year. A new venture, very exciting. And I'll be in a group show of works on paper in CB1 gallery in Los Angeles at the end of June. 

And now, I have to get back to real life. The dog needs walking.