Takashi Murakami, Glenn Brown and Andreas Gursky all have shows up in NYC now and all have succeeded in removing all the excitement from their art. Works in all three shows were so slick, so completely over-thought and over-produced that one left feeling as if the three value polish over inspiration. All three suffer from the same problem although I can't completely explain it. Its sort of like when a young band loses some of their greatness because they become too good of singers and musicians. I love all three of these artists too. But not this time around. I'm glad that Jerry Saltz called out Gursky in his New Yorker review. Oddly enough, the New York Times has reviewed none of these shows. Their big story on Murakami
contained no critique of his paintings, just a celebration of their $1-million price tags.
Last week I had the pleasure of hearing Duane Micheals speak at the Strand in NYC. At 75, he pretty much calls it like it is. He has a new book out, Foto Follies, a biting satire on the money-fueled photography world.
Here are several of Michals' comments:
"I've always relied on the kindness of ideas"
"Everything you think makes sense doesn't. Get out of the fuckin' box."
"My gift to you is that I'm not you"
"As long as you believe in consensus reality, you will never experience true reality"
"What I cheap joint, I have to do my own slides" .... and .... "Jesus, what do I have to do to get fucked around here"
"You are the alpha, the omega. You are the event"
"You affect what you see through the participation of your observations"
"Have you ever thought about the not-nowness of now?"
"I love to photograph what cannot be seen"
"Reality is not a set of observable facts walking down the street."
"Photography is not about looking, its about feeling"
"Can you imagine defining your life so narrowly that Nirvana is sex with 72 virgins"
"Someone just paid $3 million for a Gursky. $2.5 million I can see, but 3?"
I remember several years ago reading about a prominent NY dealer who was gushing over Sparkle Glass Cleaner as if it were a long lost Picasso. I am nearly as excited about the Magic Eraser, a Mr. Clean product that works wonders on frames and walls. I'm sure many of you have plenty of white frames that get scuffed even if you look at them wrong. No need to fret anymore, Magic Eraser will make those scuffs disappear!. Or how about those marks on your beautiful white walls where a picture nicked the wall during installation. Keep the paint in the can! Magic Eraser will save the day! All kidding aside, this product rocks. Get the extra power version though.
Marcel Dzama has gone positively Willy Wonka with the "The Berlin Years". Although the publication been out for several years, the comparative value of 10 lucky copies has escalated significantly in that time. You see, just like Wonka, Dzama placed original drawings randomly into 10 of the copies. I came across the book at Powells and found the opportunity irresistible. I felt just like Charlie stepping out of the candy store, hurriedly unwrapping his purchase as I walked down Hawthorne tearing away at the wrapping. My end was the same as his though: no golden ticket. The second time was a charm for Charlie; maybe a should pick up another copy!
Since I've stepped to the other side of the desk and became a dealer, the word that constantly is ringing in my ears is editing.
Chris Verene: "Camera's don't take great pictures, cameras take faulty pictures. Its editing that makes pictures great."
Jason Fulford stated that editing comprises about half of his artistic practice.
And me, I've become one of the hundreds of gate keepers across the country. We're called art dealers. What collectors, museum types, etc. don't get to see are the hundreds and hundreds of submissions that a dealer receives, solicited or not. I have become another editor of sorts. Photography collectors may not realize is how massively edited the work is that makes it to their eyes. There are filters on top of filters, whittling down an enormous number of photographs vying to be called art. And as as often as not its the marketable ones that make it through. This is different than the best of the lot, although I will admit that despite the filters, I firmly believe that the great art still makes it through. What is unfortunate is just how many very good pictures get edited right out of art history because of one person's filter, valid or not.
As a result, I have put back on my collectors had and now look for the finest photos I can find, by famous people or not, rare or not. I just want the great images. A perfect example accompanies this post. The photo is by Joel Preston Smith and is a masterpiece of art-journalism. The piece is captioned "A US soldier swims in the south fork of the Euphrates River, Ar Ramadi." To start: the photo is both a portrait and a landscape. Plus the point of view shifts from looking down at the soldier to across the water at the landscape. The soldier is right a the location where the Euphrates splits and this is apparent in the flow of the water. Further, the water on either side of the soldier looks more like camouflage than water, reinforcing the subject matter of the image. There is also a cross-hair formed by the water directly in the middle of the soldier's head. Finally, the color change in the soldiers eyes matches the color change in the water. Its these elements, intentional or not, that make a photograph great. And this is a great one despite the fact that the artist is not well known (okay, he has a book published on this series) and will likely never see the walls of a museum (okay the Houston MFA owns a copy). And the best part: $325 framed from 23 Sandy in Portland.
A very odd thing happened to me recently. It is a kind of magical experience when you meet someone who is the subject of a well-known photograph. Imagine running into one of Rineke Dijkstra's swimmers... The photographer isn't famous yet, but 21-year-old Mike Brodie has certainly garnered a lot of attention as the Polaroid Kidd including a show at Bonni Benrubi and a review in the New Yorker. Brodie is a modern day hobo, a train rider armed with a camera, a cell phone and a laptop. I discovered his work at Get This! Gallery in Atlanta where owner Lloyd Benjamin met Brodie on the trains last year. The image at left "Anna & Horse Pony" was taken in 2006 near Pensacola Florida.
On Wednesday while walking the 5 blocks to my gallery, I was waiting with two young adults to cross the street. I looked. And looked again:
Volume is one facet of photography that few artists have recognized and capitalized on. Ever wonder how many photos are taken in a day? Over a million I bet. Blue Sky director Christopher Rauschenberg has used the idea of volume in his Portland Grid Project, part of which is now on view at the Portland Art Center.
The Project In October of 1995, local photographer Christopher Rauschenberg took a pair of scissors to a standard AAA map of Portland and cut that map into 98 pieces. A group of 12 of the city’s best photographers all photographed one randomly picked square each month, using a variety of films and formats.It took nine years for this group (which included 15 photographers by the end) to finish taking pictures in all 98 Grid Sections of the city, by which time they had shown each other over 20,000 images, taken in every part of Portland. The Exhibition The core of this exhibition combines 3000 work prints from the nine years of the first round and the first three years of the second round that will be displayed in the center of the gallery.
I have to admit that I was a little skeptical before seeing the exhibition. The randomness of it all had me a bit worried. But when you have 15 talented photographers, each with their own point of view and dedicated curators whittling down the images nearly by 90%, you end up with a very good and surprisingly insightful record of the city.
Today while surfing the web looking for special edition photos by Marilyn Minter, I came across Artware Editions a site full of objects for you home all made by noted artists. Interested in a Lisa Yuskavage shower curtain? No problem! How about a Marilyn Minter beach towel? Sorry Sold Out! You'll have to settle for some Fred Tomaselli wallpaper instead. Of course, the prices aren't Walmart cheap, but showering with a Yuskavage buxom blonde really shouldn't be.