Category Archives: Sessions
Continued from Part 1, posted on Thursday, Feb 10, 2011: “Making a Living as an Artist: With or Without a Dealer,” was organized and chaired by artist Sharon Louden, with the artist and writer Sharon Butler, artist, former gallery director, curator and current Director of the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts Studio Program Bill Carroll; artist, curator and current Dean of The New York Academy of Art Peter Drake; and New York dealer, blogger and author of How to Start and Run a Commercial Art Gallery Ed Winkleman.
Sharon Louden: Once you’ve done your homework and figured out which galleries are appropriate for your work, how do you get their attention? Is it just about the work?
Ed Winkleman: Yes, it’s just about the work. Believe it or not. The best way to approach a gallery is through one of their artists, or through curators associated with that gallery. But it’s not just about finding the gallery that’s right for you, because the galleries also have to think in terms of balancing their programs.
Bill Carroll: Actually, it wasn’t just about the work. I wanted to know whether younger artists were real go-getters. Also, whether an older artist has a great reputation. And [things that matter]: teamwork, personalities, sharing strategies, collector lists, etc.
Sharon Butler: You need to get the gallery to notice you, not by sending them your work, but by creating a SCENE. By making your voice heard. Any effort you put into building the community will be rewarded. So: rather than trying to bust into someone else’s scene, make your own.
Peter Drake: Put yourself in the galleries’ shoes, behave professionally. Don’t send out “shot-gun” packages. It’s insulting. Do the research.
Sharon L: How do I do all these things? It’s too much! Teaching/working/self-promoting/developing community/working with my dealer: this is all under the umbrella of being an artist.
Sharon B: The key to having an active, creative life is to connect the things you want to do. Find the things you want to do, and do them.
Bill: I’m REALLY social — running a gallery was really about connecting the artists to the world. …Find ways to integrate the various creative things you do — it’s part of the deal.
Ed: Artists today have a HUGE advantage over previous generations because they can do much of these things at home, online, in their pajamas. … Regarding the idea of ‘artistic purity’ — being in your studio all the time — having a conversation about your art, that too is something artists really want, and it requires social skills.
Peter: Diversify what you do creatively. Any time your life changes, it will change your studio practice. You will need to adjust. Think of socially engaged models such as Hallwalls…
Sharon L: I’m going to talk about New York. Is New York City IT? What is your opinion about that?? And if you want a gallery in NY but live out of town, how do you do that? How do NY galleries deal with, or do they work with artists from out of town?
Ed: We work with two artists who actually live in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan (laughter). The art world is decentralizing more and more. New York is not what it was just a few years ago. Take, for example, the VIP Art Fair — it was entirely online. 139 of some of the world’s major galleries participated. We connected with collectors in Italy and elsewhere. We normally wouldn’t have. In terms of the art marketplace, this change is coming like a tidal wave.
Bill: Okay, but Chelsea has over 300 galleries — where else can you find that? Soho at its height had only ~150 galleries. Artists must connect and make a name for themselves in their own locales and territory. If you do that, ultimately some New York gallery WILL want to show you.
Sharon B: I want to go back to on of Ed’s earlier comments about having a gallery’s artist refer you: you NEED to work with the community around you. Create an exchange, make connections with artist communities in other cities and towns, rather than badger galleries.
Peter: If you’re going to be part of a global community you have to be proactive.
Ed: I’m with Bill on loving NYC — but if you look at some of the larger galleries, they are opening up spaces in other cities. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
Sharon Louden: What does “representation” mean these days?
Bill: When the art world was smaller, the relationships were much more personal. There were stipends. Dealers like Betty Parsons were situated somewhere between collectors and dealers [like patrons]. This is long over. As is the idea of a ‘life-long’ relationship.
Sharon L: That goes back to the idea of ‘parents’.
Ed: The stipend was an act of faith… also, there are so many galleries now, and so many of them run on a shoe-string budget. Forty or fifty years ago, this wasn’t the case. We have different models now.
Sharon L: What should the expectations be between artists and dealers?
Ed: That is a conversation you must have before you enter into the relationship. It’s really a case-by-case thing, depending on the artist an what kind of career they have.
William L. Coleman, Ph.D. Candidate in History of Art at University of California, Berkeley:
I got a lot out of the session I attended yesterday morning called Representing Gothic, convened by Stephen Murray of Columbia [University] and [Andrew J. Tallon], an associate from Vassar [College]. There were also several perspectives on architectural, historical and traditional inquiry on the forms of Gothic architecture and perceptions of it later.
That was the session I got the most out of. There were some really interesting perspectives from Matilde Mateo of Syracuse University and Matthew Reeve of Queen’s University in Ontario. Really interesting, out-of-the-box thinking about the afterlives of this style, what it has meant and what it continues to mean.
Attend William Coleman’s session, Music and Other Paradigms for Nineteenth-Century Art, Part II, where he will be presenting Sibelius, Gallen-Kallela, and the Musical Landscape. Saturday, February 12, 2011, 2:30-5pm, Madison Suite, 2nd Floor, Hilton New York.
This morning’s art star super panel of Petah Coyne, Philip Taaffe, Vija Celmins, Robert Gober, Janine Antoni and moderated by Albright-Knox’s Douglas Dreishpoon unfolded into a lively discussion on what happens when each artist isn’t in focused used on art. The instance in which an artist isn’t actively producing artwork is typically a taboo subject; just broaching the topic is considered an invitation for that nasty, creative-sucking spirit to befall whoever allows such blasphemy to pass through their lips. Thankfully this morning’s panel generously shared what their experiences are when things just art clicking in the studio. There was a collective sigh of relief; we are not alone in our days slogging through work that is so bad it should never see the light of day.
Dreishpoon opened the discussion by sharing the big question he asked each panelist to respond to: what happens when creativity is a struggle? Each artist responded in varying ways, some addressing the attempts to get back on course, others how these instances happen in the first place.
Petah Coyne shared three words that are scribed above the threshold of her studio door studio door: playful, present and wander. Not only was a strong curiosity of the world instilled within Coyne as a young child, but also “a habit of being.” Throughout her presentation, it became clear that Coyne allows her three words to pervade her artwork, imbuing the pieces with playful references to people and wandering stories that influence each piece, allowing those memories to always be present.
Coyne’s process of overcoming a block was noted by Philip Taaffe as one that is much more proactive than his own. Preferring to step back when creative projects aren’t going as planned, Taaffe advocates for establishing a “a contemplative habit of mind.” whenever these moments of artistic drought plague us, we should make ourselves open to being in a place and allowing something, anything to happen.
Celmins took a more direct approach in addressing Dreishpoon’s question, by creating a list of what she does when not working. Gardening and developing a little plot of land outside of a small cottage is Celmin’s remedy. She attributes this retreat to gardening to lack of open space living in urban areas for most of her life.
Three instances of extended time away from the studio were shared by Gober. The first, after his exhibition that was part of the 2002 Venice Biennale (coincidently he took up gardening at this time too). The next brief departure was for a road trip across the United States, filled with stops at artists’ homes and landmarks along with visits to New Orleans in the months after Katrina and to Laramie, North Dakota. Finally he spoke about his current curatorial projects. Each of these three instances have there own divergent reasons for why artwork proves impossible to complete; the utter exhaustion after a major exhibition and tight deadline, the breaks needed to connect to the world at large, and new creative projects that become jobs that take over.
Finally, Janine Antoni spoke about a parallel practice she maintains alongside her artwork, the endeavor to cultivate what Jung calls the “active imagination,” allowing the unconscious to come to the surface and to come to terms with what rises to the top. Antoni does this through dancing through the Five Rhythms, which Antoni demonstrated for the audience. The dance is developed by artist and dancer Gabrielle Roth is centered on five movements, dancing through all five movements allows Antoni to move into a transcendent state, giving visions and kinesthetic experiences that fuel her artwork.
Such a lengthy post I know, but so much to chew on from this two hour panel. Some of the common themes brought up were the importance of connection with memory and using it as a springboard to jump forward; and returning to more grounded states, physically and metaphorically.
Images of the panel to come this evening, including one of Antoni dancing…
In attempting to re-imagine the meanings and motivations behind artifacts whose provenances remain murky, the work of contextualizing objects of antiquity becomes a difficult task. To be sure, Precolumbian scholars are often charged with the job of tracing or deducing the situations in which the works they study once emerged. And, as is often the case, there are as many ways to recreate a context as there are ways to be bereaved of it. Nonetheless, it is the task of the connoisseur, student, and sometimes the scientist, to place an object within its “true” provenance – or to divest it of a false one. As presenter Khristin Landry astutely reminds us, every object has its own purpose, history, motivation and context, and the sensibilities and histories of each curator and museumgoer multiply these factors many times over. But how does the museum, student, or scientist maintain his or her ability to assign such provenances while at the same time realizing that those who have come before have always come up short? How do they know they are not flat-out wrong as well? After all, as panel chair Esther Pasztory has written, “We as scholars concoct our stories, assuming them to be the most reasonable given the current facts, assuming that our explanations are of the greatest elegance and simplicity . . . These interpretations are not necessarily wrong, but many others, similar or contradictory, can be concocted out of the same field of evidence. Such analyses verify the multivalent nature of the system but do not explain it” (Teotihuacan, pp. 66-72).
Just as there are myriad monuments that have been unearthed in strange and unexpected locations, many more objects have come to light thanks to the efforts of amateur archaeologists and looters. In either case, the places of origin of these object remains shrouded in mystery. And then there are other objects for whom ‘provenance’ has never been in doubt – that is, until forensic technology began calling some of these objects into question. Now, with the help of microscopic analysis of chipping methods and spectral analysis of mineral and pigment deposits, the eye of the connoisseur has been able to detect blatant fabrications in our midst. Outright fakes! Yes, these days, it seems, all bets are off.
Fortunately for art historians, the physical context of an object is not its only source of provenance. As Pasztory points out, every object has an intellectual context as well. And often this intellectual point of origin can be an incredibly satisfying and enlightening recourse when the physical eludes us. “Very often art is an idealized solution to intractable contradictions; a distraction from difficulties; an exhortation, threat, or seduction for culturally sanctioned behavior” (Teotihuacan, p. 72). As such, there is always a conceptual or cognitive root in every work of art, and this can tell us a great deal about shifting uses of space in the Olmec world (as in J. Mullenhauer’s talk), or the transformation of political rhetoric in the Epiclassic Period (A. Finegold’s presentation), or even the ways in which these motivations might jive in one museum but not in another (see K. Landry’s piece). Yes, the art historian of today has more histories and tools than ever before. True, sometimes they obfuscate the very things we try to make clear. But more often than not, we find ourselves equipped to tackle a greater level of nuance with alacrity and confidence. As long as we stay a bit self-effacing, we can genuinely proffer exciting new contexts that we never before imagined – contexts which, of course, may very well be upset in the near future. But we have to keep trying, because each little effort takes us a little further back in time.
Just as there are myriad monuments that have been unearthed in strange and unexpected locations, many more objects have come to light thanks to the efforts of amateur archaeologists and looters. Then there are other objects for whom ‘provenance’ has never been a question, but which are also occasionally found to be complete fakes – fabrications of the late-nineteenth century. Finally, untold numbers of other objects must still lie interred in undiscovered tombs and ancient reservoirs. If and when they are revealed, we cannot be certain that their sites of origin may ever be gleaned. All bets are off.
Technology and Collaboration in the Art History Classroom was an interesting – if slightly frustrating – session. It was good for me – a Brit – to hear about some of the tools art historians are using to teach art history in the US and the success rate they are having with them. I certainly made a note to look into VoiceThread as a way of getting my students to research and present their ideas in a different way. As I haven’t used it yet, I’m not clear what it brings to the table that is particularly new, but I could definitely see the benefit of getting students to collect information together and witness their own construction of critical data in this way.
What bothered me about this session, however, was the uncritical use of certain terms like ‘open source’ and ‘collaboration’. Open source is not quite a synonym for free. Rather, it is about giving people access to the working model in addition to materials and, importantly, what is implied is that they take these and rebuild/rework what’s there. Few if any of the platforms or tools cited as open source in this session actually were, and as an historian of New Media art this is an important sticking point for me.
One of the obstacles to the art historical representation of New Media art is that many of these terms have their own histories and cultures and what we’re often missing from art historians is their critical application (beyond the niche realm of New Media art history that is). We, as art historians, do need to understand these terms better. We need to know the difference between open and closed source just like we know the difference between oils and watercolour, not just so we can recognise New Media art, but because these concepts are a part of our everyday lives now.
Collaboration is another word liberally (mis-)used today. It can be found in the title of this session on teaching but not (for reasons I’m about to introduce) in the title of the session on Participation and Engagement: Curating Contemporary Art After New Media. The organisers of the latter session have written extensively about the subtle distinctions between ‘collaboration’ and ‘participation’ (and while we’re at it ‘interaction’) that are too often overlooked. (See their book Rethinking Curating: Art After New Media.)
I would argue that Technology and Collaboration in the Art History Classroom focused more on participation, because the tools discussed were predominantly about getting students to take part, to be more active in their learning. There was less about how these tools make students active co-producers of new material (VoiceThread, I believe, is an exception to this if used in the right way). And so it follows that Participation and Engagement emphasised curatorial projects where the audience was given a more active role but not entirely turned into a co-producer of the work.
The presenters in both these sessions raised a wealth of issues associated with the nature of teaching art history and curating art. They looked into the various possibilities of new technologies at our disposal as educators and curators. But, for me, what is often missing from sessions on art historical technologies is a New Media artist/curator/historian/theorist on the panel, who can provide valuable and, I’d say, necessary insight into how we can and should understand the type of knowledge construction fostered by proprietary software compared to something FOSS-based, for example. This is not the sole domain of the New Media artist/curator/historian/theorist but, right now at least, these are often the people best placed to help make these distinctions.