Panorama view of exhibition in Jedlitschka Gallery, Zurich.

Panorama view of exhibition in Jedlitschka Gallery, Zurich.

24 January 2014

Chicago in the Big Artworld, a Roundtable on Bad at Sports

First published May 31, 2008

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I want to post ---as a blog --- a comment I put up over on Bad at Sports. I know most, yet not ALL of our two publics overlap. I was very enthused by the roundtable discussion Duncan MacKenzie and Lori Waxman had with Kathryn Hixson and James Yood.

They brought up some very important points, as did several commenters including Pedro Velez and our own Shark. ...


Also, in case the discussion discontinues there, due to the next podcast going up late tomorrow, I hope that we either continue it here, or encourage people to continue it on that podcast at BaS.

I want to commend Duncan on this podcast! Do MORE like this! I think this format is a great idea. I listened to it twice.

Lori is really a fabulous addition to their team! (Well, "our" team, but I have not been so productive as a BaSer -- but Lamis and I will be doing Basel Kunstmesse Tuesday). Highlander was stupid anyway.

It was great to hear Jim again. We worked together when he edited and I wrote for the New Art Examiner back in the Jurassic Age. He is truly intriguing. Kathryn too, although I never really got to know her, having "on her Watch" long abandoned NAE for Art in America and elsewhere and Chicago for Europe. (So I am one of the nasty "abandoners" I guess -- not having enough sense of identity through place. Sorry Jim! I think you are RIGHT. I just don't seem to feel it. But I have a special soft place in my heart --and probably in my head too -- for Chicago).

I found both their conceptions of Chicago's position in the artworld well thought out and articulated. I had heard good things about Kathryn (from Wesley ! and others) even though I am an opponent of a chunk of the art she apparently championed. (I saw it as copyist work and felt the clique behind it actually killed, not widened, the horizon of a then burgeoning Chicago scene. Under that Neo-Con stuff, Chicago was firmly provincialized into a receptor fiefdom under a small oligarchy, soon proven fact when LA vastly overtook it. Believe me. I was there, showing at Lockett, who actually told me about the whole "arrangement" going on.)

While I appreciate Pedro's comment, (I think he wanted more specifics), I think art, and Chi-art, in a broader albeit not particular sense, was very well discussed.

A few important points struck me, though.

First, being a professor doesn't advance your ART (necessarily), it advances your CAREER in the artworld. This is a fine, yet important, distinction; one that I feel was elided. Also, not all artists besides Tony and Wesley are or even were teachers. I never taught till I got to Europe, -- as Switzerland is even MORE expensive, and as I was re-building my career, in effect, I needed some additional support at first. I continue now because I like it, especially proving that art history isn't boring and setting young artists on the path of questioning the Consensus version (and even my version and others) of art history. I hope I am placing interesting time bombs in the future. But back to my point -- when I was in Chicago, I, Mike Paha, Jeff Wrona, Jeff Hoke, Raoul Deal and several other artists, all promising and selling and winning grants etc., were working at the Field Museum building dioramas and such stuff. Now THAT really advanced my art, I believe, but not my career, better than most teaching could.

I really agree with the Shark that BaS and Sharkforum (with some other websites, blogs and some periodicals) have, as a group, replaced the NAE. And as their quality increases this will be even more evident.

That brings up another point. Chicago as a scene generally suffers from something no one mentioned, something London had (it is fading a bit, I go there frequently), Berlin has and LA has: Reciprocity. A healthy over-valuing of themselves. An ability to work together even when and while arguing. That is, for a real "presence" in the artworld at large, locations don't really need an NAE -- in fact that may brand it, like Arts Southwest or whatever, as regional.

You need:

1. Great artists (you've got them)
2. Curators of important institutions who SHOW them (and not only Top o' the Pops, get-the-curator-a-better-job-and-or-fame international Consensus artists) (international-consensus curators are actively a negative influence)
3. Critics who write A LOT about local artists, especially in "big" international publications
4. And NOT only descriptively or supportively (artists don't like that, I know)
5. Collectors who buy the art from local artists, especially out of local galleries (it is even as much fun as doing it in NYC or Basel!)
6. Local galleries who show the artists and artists from elsewhere. (You have these, but they are kept carefully segregated from the "real" galleries, who are good, but followers, often).

Chicago has a few of these things I listed, but is woefully absent in others. Local artists don't get shown much in important shows, if not a member of a small clique of copyists; galleries are not supported enough by big shot collectors, unless they are showing mostly already-long-approved blue-chip stuff or Consensus Hits. The "larger" art scene is never trumped up to visiting "heavies" (only preferred students), which is also typically provincial. And the big glossies don't do you ANY favors. I'll bet Jim has talked to Artforum, I sure have talked to Art in America and several others about getting more coverage for Chicago. But I'm not there. And due to editorial disinterest (often itself due to the lack of their feeling of a scene existing in Chicago because of the cliquey provincial fiefdom I described), and some frankly rather lackadaisical writing, you don't get any more coverage than, say, Houston. You've got the great artists and the great range. You need the rest. I despair though, hence my abandonment of my hometown, as it always seem to fade away as it starts to appear, mostly because of backstabbing.

And now Chicago curators, critics, gallerists, academics and artists are all probably pissed at me, but then maybe that proves my point ...

Anyway, I LOVED the show!
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Comments (2)

some nice points here - chicago definately needs to 'talk itself up' a bit - there is a midwestern modesty, almost to a fault, with creative types here. anybody who raises their voice to make a point , or just to point, (wesley is a pretty good example) are usually not taken well by the larger chicago art community.



artist friend after friend leave this city out of frustration and the lack of a supportive infrastructure. there are maybe maybe two pages in the chicago reader about art every week. maybe maybe one article in the sun times. while i agree that the web forum is the future, i think maybe the art collecting public isnt quite all there yet, and still needs that newsprint recommendation.


i do mourn the loss of NAE surely, and it would be nice to see a decent print substitute. yes, the coasts wont be doing us any favours - what for? chicago needs to take the DIY mentality to the next level.

I agree James. Especially after a big discussion I had with a major NYC mag. I do NOT know what can be done about critics or curation or collectors. Maybe you need a really in-your-face anti-academic (non-Neo-Con) "Senasation" show --- but then again it would ahve to be covered in the press and be sold out to really get the attention. Who knows.

Eugene J. Martin, Video About the Painter

First published May 22, 2008



This is Part I of a 2-part series showing abstract paintings (acrylics on canvas) created by visual artist Eugene James Martin in 1995 in Washington D.C. Video clip montage by S. Fredericq, filmed in Lafayette, Louisiana (LA).

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Martin, (b. Washington, D.C., July 24, 1938 - d. Lafayette, Louisiana, January 1, 2005) was a prolific African American visual artist, who is best known for his imaginative, complex mixed media collages on paper, his often gently humorous pencil and pen and ink drawings, and his paintings on paper and canvas that may incorporate whimsical allusions to animal, machine and structural imagery among areas of "pure", constructed, biomorphic or lyrical abstraction.

More about the artist can be found here and here.

Post-Event Artworld Arising (Slowly?); C. Knight on Matthew Barney's 'REN'

First published May 22, 2008

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Finally, an important critic takes a clear stance on "Event Art." Will the Consensus Curatorial World that feeds on such events be analyzed soon too?

Christopher Knight of the LA Times dissected Matthew Barney's 'REN' in a recent article.

"The first mistake Matthew Barney made in his corny two-hour performance, "REN," at a Santa Fe Springs car lot Sunday night, was in the choice of starring automobile. The 1967 Chrysler Imperial had obvious meanings."

Read the rest here.


The year is the artist's birth date. The make is Manhattan's iconic skyscraper, a star of Barney's five-part film, "The Cremaster Cycle." Lastly, the journey from Vietnam to Iraq in America's imperialist adventures abroad was spelled out on the car's front grille.

It was that kind of night. Clichés were practically announced via bullhorn to several hundred invitation-only guests. So provincial was the vision of the West that a better headline star would have been a 1967 Chrysler New Yorker.

Read the rest here.

Meta-Toons, Details O' De Tales

Meta-Toons: Details O' De Tales, Mark Staff Brandl
 

A series of four abstract cartoons.
Originally made in 2001, in collaboration with Mustafa Kocabeyoglu.

Gene Colan, Health and Help

First published May 18, 2008
 
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As many of you know who read my posts and articles, or have heard me speak, I was greatly influenced by a remarkable, painterly adventure comic artist, Gene Colan. I am saddened to announce that at age 85 he has liver failure.

Gene is not only my Master, but has become my friend over the last years. His wonderful wife Adrienne as well. She writes, "My darling, sweet, handsome and brilliantly gifted husband's liver is failing. The complications are very nasty. This week it's fluid retention and encephalitis. He's on powerful meds now to diminish the symptoms. He sleeps a lot and has very little energy."

The author and all around great guy Clifford Meth is organizing assistance for the family, as they have zero pharmaceutical coverage and are paying crippling prices for meds. God bless the no-health-care-third-world- US health system.

Due to Meth, Marvel and DC, Gene's ex-employers are pitching in a bit to help. Which well they should do, for as the major artist on Daredevil, Iron Man and creator of blade and many other "properties" he has received not a penny from the multi-millions made by the movies (which have even featured scenes and designs liberally "borrowed" from his art). Likewise many many famous comic artists and illustrators are giving artwork to be auctioned off on-line. Likewise Meth is donating proceeds of a book he did with Colan.

You can keep up with developments, the auction, and the book here:
http://thecliffordmethod.blogspot.com/;
you can donate directly to the Colans via their Paypal account: genecolan@optonline.net;
you can send a card or money here:
Gene Colan
2 Sea Cliff Avenue
Sea Cliff, NY 11579
USA


Check out his art here: www.genecolan.com/

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Comments (3)

The Hero Initiative in conjunction with Marvel Comics is launching a series of Gene Colan-themed products, starting with a limited edition print of Gene’s cover art to Invincible Iron Man #1, available at Wizard World Philadelphia, May 30-June 1. Only 200 prints will be available at the show at a cost of $25 each. Net proceeds from sales of these prints by The Hero Initiative will benefit Gene Colan. Another 50 prints will be available at a later date, with plans to have them autographed by both Gene Colan and Stan Lee.
http://pwbeat.publishersweekly.com/blog/2008/05/22/hero-initiative-and-marvel-team-up-for-gene-cola

News update on Gene' health from his wife Adrienne:
> Gene's sleeping way less. a good thing. how he's feeling is harder
> to define. Basically, he's feeling pretty miserable mostly because
> he's tired and very weak. most days we do nothing but focus on what
> he eats, taking his meds, what he eliminates or doesn't, reporting to
> his hepatologist, reporting to and talking with our children,
> applying linament to back pain. neck spasms and leg cramps have
> abated somewhat and that's a relief. most days we're off to one
> medical appt. or another. he generally gets out and walks to the park
> across the street with Benny Blanco our dog. He attempts to do some
> work but most days doesn't. then about once or twice a week, he's
> able to focus on Captain America and the 11 commissions he accepted a
> couple of months ago. Yesterday he was able to polish off all the
> 'remarked prints' that were ordered (about ten). so that was very good.
> He gets huge pleasure from talking with our kids. he loves hearing
> from them. He enjoys phone calls from fans and colleagues that he
> knows well.
>
> eating and watching: his appetite is poor. and very picky. most
> times, it's salads, bean salads, pasta w butter and tomatoes and
> fruit. He watches old westerns with Gary Cooper and news shows,
> cnn, msnbc, cnbc. He watches high def art shows like GALHD, programs
> with doggies, the dog whisperer, nature/travel shows especially of the
> West and Ireland where he still longs to go.
> and he suffers through some mindless game shows with me like Deal or
> No Deal. When we watch the guests on some news shows, he sometimes
> talks to the tv and tells them to shut up. :)
>
> He weighs 143 lbs. he's very slender and always gorgeous handsome. :)
> thank you for asking.
> Love to all!
> Adrienne

The news has been encouraging in the Colan home with the addition of a new doctor.
Adrienne Colan, Gene's wife, shares her recent letter to Dr. Nancy Bach at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York:
I'm generally so focused on and attending to what is wrong with Gene that it just occured to me I can share one thing positive for sure with you tonight: There is no question since under your care that Gene has made a 1000% return to better stamina than I've seen on him for a very, very long time. Even a year ago, he was falling asleep in the middle of conversations, in the middle of dinner, even if it was at a restaurant. We didn't know what was wrong. This week, it is so evident that he is awake and alert and even back to drawing his beloved comic books (he's currently drawing Captain America). So tonight, Dr. Bach, you are the superhero. I can't thank you enough for your remarkable devotion to trying the best you can to restore quality to Gene's life.

Dawoud Bey's Blog: Racing Art, Racing Chicago

First Published May 8, 2008
 
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Dawoud Bey has an excellent blog here. I particularly recopmmend a recent article addressing a great unspoken sin of the Chicago artworld --- racism. As the feminist theorist from the Netherlands, Anna Meulenbelt, expressed it so well, the destructive agents in our cultures at present are like the skin of an onion: racism, sexism and classism. We will not be able to detroy any of these without also attacking the others. Let's start, as best as always, at home in our "little artworld."

Continue reading this post here.

Image: Carl Pope, "The Bad Air Smelled of Roses" (detail)
"I'm from New York, so I can't say I was entirely ready for the level of racial segregation I found here in Chicago upon moving here some ten years ago. Don't get me wrong, it's not like I hadn't been here before. I've had family here for twenty-one years,..."

Modern Art Obsession Talks about Art Chicago - The Private Art Collection of Richard And Ellen Sandor

First published May 9, 2008
 
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Modern Art Obsession, a blog well worth visiting and reading, is written by a dedicated collector of photography (Mike, a "youngish NYC Art Collector, working on Wall Street by day, and a total art fanatic by night and weekend" as he describes himself). It does, however, occasionally feature other media as well. He recently wrote about visiting Art Chicago

"Possibly the best thing about going to Art Chicago this year for MAO, was the VIP program, and getting to see the Richard and Ellen Sandor Art Collection. These events were mostly very well organized drinking events, but they also included several amazing collection visits. By total luck.. MAO got to visit possibly the nations most impressive historic photography collection..at the Chicago gold coast home of Ellen and Richard Sandor. (Yes .. we know, it's hard to believe this collection is actually West of the Hudson River !) ..."


Not only was the photography collection a total knock your socks off MAO WoW.. but Richard and Ellen could not have been more gracious hosts. These walls were filled to the brim with Cindy Sherman, Arbus, Curtis, Prince, Man Ray, Vik Muniz, Penn, Burke-White, Kertesz, Steichen..etc.. they have 2000+ images (and it's almost all on the walls..like how obsessive is that!).. you probably couldn't name an important photographer who wasn't well represented in the collection.

It was also amazing to see such bright, obsessive, and generous art collectors being so nice.. like how Non-New York City is that ?? Just, think.. rich, important collectors being nice to the little people... Who would have guessed it was possible? Only in Chicago! ..."

Read the rest of the post here, and his blog in general, here.

21 January 2014

Curators' World, Artists' World, Artworld

Curators' World, Artists' World, Artworld

The latest issue of Schweizer Kunst concerns itself with curators. I wrote one article in it, which was published in German. Here is the English Version.
Summary:
This article is an antisophistic analysis of the current artist-curator interface. "You only get what the system allows." The contemporary artworld is a surprisingly rigid structure, determining what gets seen. It is divided into two differing, dominant power blocs which mirror the Cold War, a time before our current artworld. Both serve as gatekeepers. First, we have the mega-galleries and auction houses working with speculators, a form of hyper-Capitalism resembling the approaches of hedge fund bankers. Second, we have the "international jet-set-curator" dominated circumstances. Exhibition-makers in bureaucratic positions create events wherein they are more important that the "Consensus Correct" artworks they show in grant-funded spaces or international biennials. This makes us all apparatchiks in a benign form of quasi-Stalinism. This results in an academicist, mannerist situation that both artists and curators should evaluate. Whereas we probably cannot affect the first, we can rethink the second situation. Now would be an excellent time to change the support structure of the artworld to encourage self-reliance and the acceptance of responsibility on the part of both artists and curators.

Curators' World, Artists' World, Artworld
Looking at the Larger Picture; Can We Change?
This issue of Schweizer Kunst concerns contemporary issues of curation. In addition to closely studying specific examples, we need to clearly look at the larger picture, which is my goal in this article. Such analysis is important now in particular as our current system, in our very historically amnesiac period, is often taken to be a given, a state which has always existed, when it fact it is a rather recent development, one existing since the advent of Postmodernism in the 1980s. And it is the often unacknowledged stage upon which most other discussions of curator-artist relations transpire.
"You only get what the system allows to exist," an old folk adage that is more true than ever. In fact, one might go so far as to claim that the power structure of any system determines exactly what output occurs. And the artworld is indeed a system, a surprisingly rigid set of interacting components and relationships, determining what gets seen, supported and discussed. The contemporary, Postmodern artworld is clearly divided into two dominant systems. (There are other alternatives and options, but these largely are only tolerated and ineffective, often even self-ghettoization.) The two dominant power blocs express their clout in opposing fashions, ones which oddly enough, mirror the two power blocs of the Cold War, a time when our current artworld system did not yet exist.
On the one side, we have the extensive and atrocious amounts of money spent on art at the top the "trade," as it is called. Mega-galleries such as Gagosian, David Zwirner, Pace and Hauser & Wirth  --- and moreover the auction houses --- are working far more with what could be called speculators rather than what was earlier envisioned as collectors. The "middle," the traditional smaller galleries who do the work of discovering and developing artists are fading. This is a form of hyper-Capitalism resembling the approaches of those bankers who recently crashed our western economies. There is much to scrutinize and critique in this approach, but that is for another article.
On the other side, we have the "Kunsthalle" and contemporary art museum artworld (as most art museums now behave more like Kunsthallen than like traditional museums). This is the "international jet-set-curator" dominated state of affairs where exhibition-makers in somewhat bureaucratic positions create events wherein they themselves generally are more important that the artists and artworks they show. This is usually accomplished in grant and government-funded exhibition spaces and/or international biennials and the like. The defenders of this half of our model often proclaim that they are inherently more ethical as they do not sell objects. This is blatantly untrue. The economy at large has not been based exclusively on retailing concrete commodities. For example 'futures' are bought and sold, wherein one simply purchases the opportunity to buy farm products later. And there are the myriad "financial instruments" that occupy finance investors, all far more abstract and theoretical than any Conceptual Art work. Kunsthallen and the like are doing something similar when they package and "sell" an idea of art, a trendy theory of production or even simply a name. When Neo-Conceptual or Event Artists write extensive plans and grant applications to get funding, that is known in marketing as "selling yourself," and in fact one is doing that. The idea and the artist are also commodities. In this half of the artworld, official bureaucrats work with art and artists who already fit their preconceived notions or are willing to bend to them, thus making them in essence apparatchiks. It is a benign form of quasi-Stalinist organization. Something I have termed being "Consensus Correct."
This is the situation that I think both artists and curators have to look directly in the eye and decide if we indeed want it, for now would be an excellent time to change it, as I believe the other half, the hyper-speculator artworld, is beyond our control and will probably crash of its own accord. Serious reconsideration requires some soul-searching; artists must take back self-responsibility and a sense of agency beyond simple career-building, curators must let go of their gatekeeping power and retrieve a sense of responsibility to art beyond their careers (which I am certain most had when they found their interest in art). 
How this half of the artworld came into being is a process I dub "The Artworld Pyramid Shift." There has been a shift in the functions of the various strata in the artworld since the end of Modernism. Something far stranger than a power realignment alone has happened in the art world. Earlier, historical changes were relatively transparent transpositions of domination. Novel now is the seeming shift of interest, of focus --- almost of aesthetic object.
In the history of art, the weight of influence and determining power has often shifted this way or that. Predominance has transferred from church to patron to galleries, sometimes to museums, in some places to collectors, every once in a while to artists themselves (as in early Modernism). There have been short-term moguls, such as John Ruskin in the late 1800s, or Clement Greenberg in the 40s, 50s and early 60s of this century. At times these people may be powerful enough, such as in the case of Greenberg, not only to draw attention to specific artists and away from others, but even to determine what is accepted as art at all.
If one envisions the art world as a layered pyramid, there is a slip of levels and their roles. Let us delineate a possible pyramidal illustration. The (1) artists make (2) aesthetic objects in their (3) manner (4) exhibition curators (institutional or not) put these in (5) exhibitions they organize. These artworks, and artists, may or may not -but usually at some point must be - taken on by (6) gallerists in their (7) galleries. where they are hopefully bought by (8) collectors and put in their (9) collections. Ultimately with enough acceptance the art works wind up being put by (10) museum directors in (11) museums. At least that is the diagram most of us have in our minds. Independent of the fact that this model itself was relatively new and rather specifically so-called late-capitalistic (from around circa 1945), that it has mutated so drastically since the creation of the "exhibition-maker" notion of curation in the 1980s is intriguing. In the Renaissance artists of genius in general and Michelangelo in particular were referred to as "god-like;" in the most recent Basel Art Fair there was a café bar titled "God is a Curator." 
This change may have been happening slowly over quite a length of time. With Picasso, Duchamp, Warhol and later Beuys, however important their art, the focus tended to shift to the person, or rather to an image of each that had more to do with the drives of publicity and fashion than with humanism. Within our current pyramid or hierarchy of artworld functions. it seems that the true stars are the exhibition organizers. The Harald Szeemanns, Hans-Ulrich Obrists, Jean-Christophe Ammanns etc. I do not intend to plaintively deplore their success. I am in fact a fan of the work of several of the exhibition-maker superstars, and an admirer of all those curators struggling at the lower levels. The influence of the Curator Stars has often been refreshing. and is certainly preferable to a narrow thralldom under someone like Greenberg. My design is to comment on our general cultural context. The point is not only that these exhibition curators have the spotlight, or even that they have become more original and creative than earlier organizers, or that this has reified into a power elite, but that all tiers of my hypothetical diagram sketched above have clearly slipped a notch or two.
The exhibition curators have in effect now appropriated the position of the artists. Their exhibitions are the works of art, populated by artists who assume the position previously held by periods or styles or movements. The artist becomes merely an aspect of the work. This continues across the board. Museums often act like galleries. Gallerists seem uncertain as to what it is they do --- having functions stolen from them on both sides and by the mega-galleries. Most disconcerting is that although visitor numbers are increasing, the number of collectors is certainly not vastly growing. This makes one wonder what kind of effect the experience of blockbuster shows actually has on the viewers. In the 60s and 70s at the expanded exhibition's birth. It was thought such exposure to good art would be enough alone to enlarge the understanding public. If anything, Event Art has shrunk the serious public and developed a new more superficial one based on spectacle.
Once again, this is a new situation. A little history lesson. The words curator and curation do not even occur yet in our current senses in our major dictionaries. Originally a curator (from Latin: curare meaning "take care") was a keeper of a cultural institution such as a museum, taking care of the collected works. Not exhibition organizers, which is closer to being A&R men for their own careers.
Gianni Jetzer took exception to my portrayal of curators when I first published part of this discussion. He felt personally offended and pointed out that curators are underpaid generally and even have to write grants to drum up their own salaries. That is certainly true, difficult, and admirable. We artists should appreciate them for their often very financially unrewarded long hours and hard work. But my point is that they have become gatekeepers, albeit without much compensation beyond a bit of power in a not extremely world-shattering field of endeavor, which probably will make it even more difficult for them to accept the responsibility to change. Similarly, the egotistical and childish tendencies of most of us artists will make it difficult for us to accept responsibility for our own agency. Most important, though, let us ask the big question. Do we artists and we curators want the situation as it lays: academicist, mannerist and in general of less and less importance to the world beyond our little enclave?
This exigency raises the question of what is to be done within it, through it, after it, or even against it. How can this situation be enlisted into the service of art? As in any situation. its "use value" is important, to use a William James' idea. That is, what good is it, what can be done with it? Let us consider our state pragmatically. In the real world, no situation has been ideal for art or the artist. Whether working for the king, church, state, merchants, whatever. How do art aficionados react, given the new hierarchy?
One choice has been to ignore the circumstances, practicing the old tried and true ostrich tact, denying history, saying it was ever thus so. Mapping culture as nature is a popular approach of atavistic style mimics. Or alternately one can cynically get on the bandwagon, a prevalent stance in much Neo-Conceptual art today. A careerist achievement of success as its own and only goal has even been promoted by some theorists. This amounts simply to sophistry, to train to win with no concern for why. True thinkers such as Socrates have criticized this know-nothing stance since 400 B.C. Wanting to convince people, without caring what you speak or paint about, or where you are going, seems to be an historically repeating infirmity of weak wills. A third reaction, and perhaps the most effective one, is to simply live in conditions as given, but to pry a little content in whenever possible. Not blatantly heroic perhaps, but nonetheless admirable. This has been a tenable option at many times and in many locations. Goya, for example can be seen in this light. The final and best reaction of all is to strive to make a very material itself of the situation, to incorporate it and force it to be creative by using art's ontological and metaphoric expansiveness. This should not, however; be the only material. Creative interpolation is called for, doorways of opportunity for new and necessary experiences of art. If we have no positive comprehension, then we will simply be the blind purposefully misleading the blind.
How does this concretely apply to us now? What shall be done? I have only a very few suggestions. For one, there is a collapse of roles? Well then, collapse your own roles, define yourself. In fact probably ones varied plural selves, "each of those creatures called one's self," in E. E. Cummings' words. Be "multiapplicable," depending on and following the nature of your thought. Be an artist, curator, writer, thinker, activator and more. But stay clear-sighted about this. Do not use muddy overlapping simply to avoid facing criticism ,to evade the utmost (and most dodged) question--- that of quality. Namely, do not use slipperiness merely in order to be intellectually lame. When proper interpretation is valued, a more dialectical relationship with experience results. Mikhail Bakhtin has stressed the way that expressions not only reflect controlling interests but more importantly can be made disruptive, thereby unshackling alternative views. This comes about, he states, by developing a "polyphonic"' or "dialogic" form, utilizing varied and not subordinated points of view. A concern for context and meaning permits one as well to allow multiple approaches to retain their quirky individuality.
In addition, we need to reinstate a positive historical memory, yet one without a melodramatic "burden of the past." As Elaine A. King rightly points out, "an acute case of historical amnesia is one of the factors killing art today."  A historical consciousness operating against the amnesiac academy, rather than promoting it as history painting did. Plainly, the lack of any real acknowledgement of the past serves now chiefly to allow the continuous re-sale of the same few, stale notions as "cutting edge." Furthermore, stop yer whinin', but increase yer criticizin'. Yes, all artworld denizens have a tendency to whimper about their difficulties. It is hard, for almost all of us, not just artists and curators. However, not all critique is bellyaching. In our Prozac-framed culture, very often even justified analysis and protest are immediately condemned. Have the gumption to speak openly and clearly about what you perceive of as objectionable. As my father Earl Brandl said, "if you have no enemies, then you have never spoken clearly enough." Not everyone needs to, or can, be fond of you and your ideas. Consensus is the death of creativity.
Now is the time to change. Up until now there have been tons of artists with only a limited number of curators (and very very few international ones, the true power). But art schools are turning out as many curators or "Kunstvermittler" as they are graduating artists nowadays, if not more. There will be increasing competition and this could be a window of opportunity for curators to become ever more self-sufficient and artists ever more self-reliant.

What can we artists do to improve the situation? First of all, make extremely high quality art. Particularly with well-honed technical abilities. If you do not now have these skills, this is no surprise as they are infrequently taught in art schools any more. This is known as "deskilling" --- so re-skill. Ability can not be denied nor taken away from us and will outlive many an overblown justification. Second, openly criticize the situation. Step on toes. Stop kissing butt. Third, offer and create constructive alternatives, even perhaps to the point of creating your own artworlds, venues and so on. Attempt to add a positive answer to every correct criticism you level. Fourth, encourage others who do the same. Help build critics and curators and especially other artists who pay attention to what is around them, who have independent minds, who are more than simply careerist toadies. Even support your "enemies" (to an extent) if they finally seem to see the light. Just don't trust them behind your back. Fifth, network in a POSITIVE sense, even internationally. Sixth, leave doors open. Tell the truth, be upset about hypocrisy, but be willing to "let it go" if they improve, if the purveyors of pedantry and their groupies gain a conscience or make overtures toward reparation.
What can curators do? First of all, make extremely high quality shows based in your own unique perceptions and ideas, not trendy repeats of consensus notions. Second, openly criticize the situation. Use some of your power for good. Third, offer and create constructive alternatives, by going out to studios and the world to see what artists are doing before you make theories. Do not seek out ways to make already famous artists fit some exhibition conceit. Fourth, encourage others who do the same. Help encourage curators who pay attention to artists outside the small consensus correct clique, who have independent minds, who are more than simply careerists. Fifth, stop networking as an end in itself. Be an individualist. Do less "apero-ing," more looking and contemplating. Be more than dedicated followers of temporary fashion. Sixth, let artists retain their position as creators. Work with us, but do not usurp our one small realm of competence. Your realm is equally important, but different.
Can we do this together?
Mark Staff Brandl (1955 Chicago) has lived primarily in Switzerland since 1988. Studied art, art history, literature and theory at the University of Illinois, Illinois State University, Columbia Pac University, and received his Ph.D. in Art History magna cum laude from the University of Zurich. Brandl is active internationally as an artist and art historian since 1980, has won various awards, had many publications and had numerous exhibitions.

Joanne Mattera on Paintings She Likes in the New York Fairs

First published April 17, 2008

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"I went into the New York fairs knowing that I couldn't do the same kind of reporting I'd done in Miami. In fact, I really wanted to view rather than report. But as I started to see work that interested me, the camera came out. Perhaps not surprisingly, ..."

Read more at her blog.

"...some of the same artists whose work I've liked in the past were the ones whose work I was liking at these fairs, and at the same galleries. "

Adrian Ellis: Museums should beware of being used as marketing tools

First published April 16, 2008

The Art Newspaper presents a very sensible article on the topic of ethics concerning museums' frequent role in increasing the financial value of art work through their exhibitions. The piece is written by Adrian Ellis, the director of AEA Consulting. Link here.

Edward Winkleman has a post about it, which will probably generate a very interesting discussion in the comments, as his posts usually do. Link here.


"Decisions made by art museums about what objects to acquire and what to exhibit affect the prices that those works of art and others related to them can command in the market. In the case of "related" works of art, the mechanics are very straightforward..." Continue reading.

Praise: Dawoud Bey

First published April 15, 2008

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Yes, we can also point out and extol the virtues of artists we admire.

One of the greatest treasures Chicago has is the photographer Dawoud Bey.

Bey was one of my surprise discoveries last year when I was in the Chicago Art Fair. He came to my booth, we talked, I found him very interesting. Back at Wesley's where I was staying, I googled him, my favorite spy tactic. I was amazed at how outstanding his photos were! I had suspected that he would be a good artist, but here I was presented with a great one. His works unite a strong humanism (that disgraced word) with striking formal qualities in service of an art at once aesthetically challenging, sociological (in the best sense) and personal. And all that depth is carried lightly, under a mantel of (seemingly) direct image making.

His most recent works feature pictures ...
of teenagers. On his site, texts taken from statements made by those portrayed are presented under the images. This is one of the most difficult groups of people to portray. Bey carries it off without falling into any cliché: the photos are not formalist misuse, not illustrations of a neo-conceptual stunt, not "stolen" images taken without the subjects knowlege, ... what they are is even better: real portraiture evoking the inner conflicts of the subjects, their societal positions, their awkward hopes --- in short their humanity. Bey has courage as well as ability.

On another note, his essay "The Black Artist as Invisible (Wo)Man" is erudite and historically important. It was published in the catalogue for the important exhibition "High Times, Hard Times: New York Painting, 1967-1975" (organized by Katy Siegel and David Reed and discussed on Sharkforum in several past posts).

Check out his website. Go see his shows. This is a great artist to be extolled, supported and presented. http://www.dawoudbey.net/

Some facts about him stolen from his bio:

Dawoud Bey began his career as a photographer in 1975 with a series of photographs, "Harlem, USA," that were later exhibited in his first one-person exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1979. He has since had numerous exhibitions worldwide, at such institutions as The Art Institute of Chicago, The Barbican Centre in London, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, GA, the National Portrait Gallery in London, the Wadsworth Atheneum in Hartford, CT, the Walker Art Center, the Yale Art Gallery in New Haven, CT, the Wexner Center for the Arts, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, where his works were also included in the 2000 Whitney Biennial

The Walker Art Center organized a mid-career survey of his work in 1995 that traveled to institutions throughout the United States and Europe. A major publication, Dawoud Bey: Portraits, 1975-1995 was published in conjunction with the exhibition. Aperture has just published his latest project Class Pictures.

Dawoud Bey's works are included in the permanent collections of numerous museums, both here in America and in Europe, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Brooklyn Museum, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the High Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, National Portrait Gallery in London, Whitney Museum of American Art, Yale Art Gallery and many others.

He has received numerous awards and fellowships over the course of his career including fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Since 1992 he has completed a number of collaborative projects working with young people and museums. These projects have involved young people, museums and cultural institutions together in a broad dialogue that seeks to create an engaging space for art making and institutional interrogation. These projects have also been aimed at broadening the participation of various communities in these institutions.

His critical writings on contemporary art have appeared in a range of catalogues and critical journals throughout the United States and Europe. He is the author of several groundbreaking essays, including the recent essay, "The Black Artist as Invisible (Wo)Man" in 'High Times, Hard Times: New York Painting, 1967-1975,' which places the work of African American artists Al Loving, Joe Overstreet, Howardena Pindell, and Jack Whitten within this important moment in art history. He is also the author of "David Hammons: In the Spirit of Minkisi," which was the first essay to place this important African American artist within the tradition of Black Atlantic cosmological tradition. This essay appeared as the catalogue essay for Hammon's survery exhibition at the Salzburger Kunstverein in Vienna. "Authoring the Black Image" appeared in the Art Institute of Chicago's book, The Van Der Zee Studio, accompanying the exhibition of the same title. Dawoud Bey has taught at colleges, universities, and other institutions for the past thirty years, and is currently professor of photography at Columbia College Chicago. He received his Master of Fine Arts degree from Yale University School of Art, and is presently represented in the United States by Rhona Hoffman Gallery, Chicago.

Neoteric Art E-Zine

First published April 10, 2008

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Sharkforum contributor Norbert Marszalek and frequent Sharkforum commenter William Dolan have delightfully announced the launch of a new blog e-zine about art: www.neotericart.com. Titled "Neoteric Art," the two painters say it has been created to encourage open dialogue between painters concerning work, issues and the art world.

Neoteric is a pleasing adjective meaning "modern; new; recent." It would be a wonderful term to replace the currently overused "contemporary" and the now-historically placed "modern," as well as to get around the politically loaded "postmodern." Sharkforum wishes them well, and wishes Bill in his Artists' Project booth good luck too. Visit the site here.
Check the site out.

Significant Article, Link; Problems with Trendy Arttalk

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Time Magazine, and website, writer Richard Lacayo has had it with curatorial dialectic syntax, as exemplified in the Whitney Biennial. Link.
"I know this is a small gesture, but deprived of this tiny arsenal [of jargon], half the bad writers in the artworld would be disarmed."

Comic Book Talk Radio Interview with Mark Staff Brandl

From March 2008

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(click image to view enlarged)

Hot Links:
http://www.comicbooktalkradio.com/
Archive

Link to play immediately, streaming: here.


Names dropped include:

Th. Emil Homerin
Gary Scoles
C Hill
Gene Colan
Roy Lichtenstein
Andy Warhol
Frank King
Gasoline Alley
Will Eisner
The Spirit
Daredevil
Dracula
Tom Field
Secrets in the Shadows
Jack Kirby
Steve Ditko
Earl Brandl
Ruth Brandl
David Carrier
Art in America
Universität Zürich
The Kirby Collector
Comics Interpreter
Comic Journal
Wesley Kimler
Sharkforum
Kunstraum Kreuzlingen
Krannert Art Museum
Damian Duffy
John Jennings
Contemporary Art Center Peoria
William Butler
Architrove Gallery
Werk2 Gallery
Kunstmuseum Thurgau
Art Spiegelman
Chris Ware
Beatles
Superman
The Flash

Alex Meszmer: So That is Art? Und das ist Kunst?

First published Match 16, 2008

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Cartoon by Moogee the Art Dog, Nottingham UK

Art is booming and the auction houses are rubbing their hands with glee. After the short dry spell, one is allowed to hype again. And the transition within the art academies from the European system to a modified Anglo Bachelor and Masters system will certainly contribute to the cause of manifesting and solidifying the new Academicism.

The development, or progression, of art no longer(?) lies in the hands of artists, who would now much rather insert themselves comfortably into the system, having little desire to concentrate on the development of personal ideas, much preferring to ask for simple survival strategies. Thus exhibitions are filled with a new form of fickle superficiality, the obligation for which is equally borne by artists as well when we play along on every level as Class Clowns.

Every little village and every office building enjoys garnishing itself with art, without ever considering quality or the criteria for it. And on every corner waits a "hungry" artist who is only too eager to grasp any opportunity to place his or her art.

Exaggerated or too assertively formulated?

Let's rub our eyes and then look clearly at reality, for it does not look all that rosy. Once upon a time (O God, now I sound like my own grandmother!), as the daily newspapers still contained a tiny niche for art criticism, art was fervently discussed, controversies were carried out, and it was possible for one still to feel misunderstood as an artist. Now the only feeling left to less successful or ignored artists is resignation.

In his book Und ist das Kunst?, Hanno Rautenberg describes how the power of the marketplace has made an impact on art and does not shy away from applying unsparing criticism and analysis of the situation --- so clearly that as an artist one would rather stop creating (so that one does come under contract with an international Super-Gallery). Rautenberg names 10 Errors of Contemporary Art which have creeped into our artworld through this development:

1. The Lack of Criterion for What Distinguishes Ostensibly Good Art

2. The Continuous Seach for the New in Art, i.e. the Avant-Garde Notion

3. The Belief that Provocation must Arise from Good Art

4. That Good Art must be Truthful

5. That Craft and Ability is Not Necessary for Good Art

6. The Attitude of Ritual Rejection Dominating Art

7. The Belief that Anything Can Be Art

8. The Belief that a Good Artist Will Be Misunderstood, Will Have to Struggle

9. The Belief that Art must be Critical in Order to be Good

10. That Without Good Ideas There is No Good Art

The Situation appears so tricky or dodgy that there seems to be no exit. Rautenberg finds one in the consumers, the perceivers of art, who each must develop his or her own quality- consciousness which then can, perhaps, finally have an effect on the marketplace. Then an individual awareness of and attentiveness to evaluation can be built which could make the perceiver into a mature, responsible and empowered viewer.

Extended Face Video

First published March 8, 2008



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(Click to view enlarged)




Inspired by the famous LP "Extended Voice," in 1979 in the US I did a video-monitor "performance," although I am primarily a painter, mimicking all the faces in a book on the history of silent film. I never finished the video. This year, 2008, 29 years later in Switzerland, I finished it with hand-painted titles in cartoon fashion, an appearance by my "older" self and a soundtrack by Davyd Johnson, Roar Schaad and me, also from 1979 and finished in 2008.


Tags:

Steve Lisios: Demonstrating Water With Stones

First published March 8, 2008


Steve Lisios: Demonstrating Water With Stones
A documentation of Demonstrating Water With Stones: a 35 feet long, 6 feet wide and 10 feet high installation by artist Steve Litsios. First presented in Geneva Switzerland it is composed of 500 sheets of 30 x 20 inch paper each containing a multitude of images and words that like a watermark, can only be seen against the light.

The soundtrack is Giacinto Scelsi's 1st Song of Capricorn used by permission of Hat Hut Records Ltd. from the CD VOXNOVA, hatART 6148.

International Journal of Comic Art Features Gallery Comics Symposium

First published March 1, 2008

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Editor John Lent opened the pages of his remarkable academic journal, The International Journal of Comic Art to several essays on gallery comics grouped as a symposium. The latest issue (Fall 2007, vol. 9 no. 2) combines perspectives on gallery comics from artists, art historians, collectors and curators including essays discussing the art of Mark Staff Brandl, Andrei Molotiu, and C Hill.
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(For large image of this gallery comic work by C Hill go here: http://www.kameleo.com/Comics/StarsCrossesStripes.html)

This latest issue of The International Journal of Comic Art also includes articles on 9/11 comics, comics in Egypt and the Middle-East, Hergé's legacy (real and fabricated), and the relationship of comics and cinema when both media were just beginning (1890s-1910s). And, to the risk of sounding like an ad (!), you can subscribe to two yearly issues of this great journal (more than 1000 pages of expert knowledge from worldwide comics experts) for $30/year ($40/year for libraries and institutions). Professor Lent's labor-of-love is a truly astounding bargain and noble edification of our favorite art form. (Note: the journal's website, http://www.ijoca.com/, is a bit behind though -- don't let that confuse you!).

Also of interest may be: http://gallerycomics.blogspot.com/

Feeding Frenzy Funnies: Hamann and Brandl and Ad Reinhardt

First published February 29, 2008

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Sharkforum OpEd Cartoons and Comics by Steve Hamann and Mark Staff Brandl

Steve Hamann and I will be doing an irregular series of cartoons and short comics on art for Sharkforum. They will primarily be collaborations between us, yet also individual pieces as well. All will be presented here in the future under the rubric Feeding Frenzy Funnies.

The first was actually already featured before the new site organization took place, as we jumped the gun in excited anticipation, in order to lampoon the Dominic Molon Sympathy show. Additionally, I did a handful of cartoons and comics as Sharkforum Funnies and certain illustrations in the past. The last several of which were also collaborations with Steve, a truly talented cartoonist and painter. However, in the future look for them under our new title.

A new one on the Consensus Academy will appear shortly, but first I want to give a quick reminder of a likeminded soul in art history's past: Ad Reinhardt.

Actually, Reinhardt is not the inspiration for our work, as both Steve and I truly came to comics out of comics. We individually grew up with, appreciated and even published comics and cartoons before we each became "fine" artists. Yet Ad can serve as an excellent Patron Art Saint to our project.

Ad Reinhardt, originally an Abstract Expressionist Painter, is an artist whose work became progressively reductivist and mystical. He is best known for his all black paintings of the 1960s. Yet Reinhardt was also a prolific illustrator, designer and cartoonist. His cartoons expound many of his artistic doctrines in a livid, yet delightfully amusing fashion. This is one of them titled "How to Look at an Artist." Several others can be found on the web, although the central website repository for them at silversteingallery.com is apparently temporary gone, due to redesign. Use Google Image Search and you can still find several of the works on this website indirectly until they make an organized reappearance. Click on this image for a much larger pop up that you can navigate with your arrow keys.

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More Reinhardt cartoons should be here, and may soon reappear: http://www.silversteingallery.com/Pop_Ad.html

However, by way of the WayBackMachine (http://web.archive.org/; a GREAT resource, by the way), I found these images still on the web, but hidden:

http://silversteingallery.com/MuseumRacingForm.jpg

http://silversteingallery.com/APageByAdReinhardt.jpg

http://silversteingallery.com/HowToLookAtMoreThanMeetsThe.jpg

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Peter Schjeldahl asserts: Chicago is Now a Mere Receptor Art-City

First published December 19, 2007

schjeldahl_p.jpg New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl said in a recent speech given there, that Chicago is a “receptor city.”

Let’s face it, he’s right.

We all know WHY and WHEN this transition occurred from a modest-but-improving “Transmitter” art-city to a “Receptor” one. And WHO was behind it.

As our own Shark wrote, “what Schjeldahl is saying – don’t take umbrage with it – He’s right! Lets act upon it! Question the authority of this small group of collectors/dealers/curators that have so failed the art world here. Off with their Consensoriat conformist heads!”

Schjeldahl also very accurately analyzed and criticized the current international (so-called global, better termed art-fair consensus) artworld.

As Deanna Isaacs at the Chicago Reader so succinctly described his thoughts, Schjeldahl declared that the founding of contemporary museums, Kunsthallen and the like, “brought institutionalism, professionalism, and academicism to something that had been ‘wild and woolly,’ while the prestige of specific art objects, like paintings, took a dive. Since then, the institutions have been more ‘consequential’ than any of the art shown in them, and have, in fact, generated that art ...and spawning the likes of (Neo-)Conceptualism and installation art. Art was created for the spaces available to show it; the public existed to be educated.” This has been exacerbated in recent years by “great heaps of money... which has gone off on its own track.”

This has given rise, I would like to add, to an ever more tightly wound, spiraling descent into crass stupidity, making international art fairs, biennials, inflated auctions and institutional exhibitions into hardly discernibly different venues filled with prescribed, Consensus Correct, fashionable, Top o’ the Pops art.

Let’s face it, Schjeldahl’s right. Both about Chicago and the artworld at large. But particularly about Chicago.

What are you, what are we, going to do about it?

But I'm Thinking, This Ship is Sinking

First published December 11, 2007

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What's next? Kinkade? This was the fare of Flash Art, "Stupid Trends R Us," until now.

Pedro Velez on "Sympathy for the Devil," POSERS AND ROCKERS

First published December 9, 2007

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Excerpts: "In art it is important to remember that the most substantial, meaningful, honest, spiritual, cultural rituals, forms and esthetics come from the underground."

"So you know that Dominic Molon, the curator of "Sympathy for the Devil: Art and Rock and Roll since 1967," is in deep trouble..."

"Another big problem was that the MCA seems to have scorned one of the most influential and rich rock ‘n’ roll scenes in America ...Chicago..."

Read on ...

(After his fine comments at Bad At Sports concerning this show, Velez's review appeared on artnet here. With his kind permission, we are re-presenting it on Sharkforum. Be sure to check in on artnet as well, particularly for Velez and Donald Kuspit articles and reviews.)

POSERS AND ROCKERS

"Sympathy for the Devil: Art and Rock and Roll since 1967," Sept. 29, 2007-Jan. 6, 2008, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, 220 East Chicago Avenue, Chicago, Ill. 60611

In art it is important to remember that the most substantial, meaningful, honest, spiritual, cultural rituals, forms and esthetics come from the underground. In rock music the experience of aggressiveness and surprise, the hymns to the forbidden, the raw and vulgar pleasures of sex and drugs, and the frustration and fear of life are the kind of thing a museum can’t pretend to recreate.

So you know that Dominic Molon, the curator of "Sympathy for the Devil: Art and Rock and Roll since 1967," is in deep trouble when he claims that the show is "the most serious and comprehensive look at the intimate and inspired relationship between the visual arts and rock-and-roll culture to date." Now, here’s a question for the more than capable curator: How do you tame counterculture into the prepackaged pretext of High Art?

Before the show opened, Molon’s efforts already had detractors sufficient to rival the Spanish Inquisition. The reason is obvious -- we all know art exhibitions about rock music suck. Another big problem was that the MCA seems to have scorned one of the most influential and rich rock ‘n’ roll scenes in America by stressing that "the exhibition addresses the importance of specific cities such as London, New York, Los Angeles. . . ."

What about Chicago?

Chicago’s angry new-music mob reports no sightings of the curator at any of the dingy clubs where trends are hatched and passed along to the rest of the country. I can testify I never saw him at the Empty Bottle, The Metro, Fireside Bowl, Hyde Out or Double Door. Talking to the local podcast Bad at Sports, Molon had a good answer for the "poseur" accusation -- he doesn’t go to live shows because he can’t stand drunks. But even if Molon’s admiration for rock is limited to record covers, VH-1 and glossy magazines, he knows he needs the heritage of the city to legitimize his exhibition. Sadly, for "Sympathy," Chicago is a great opening act but not the main attraction.

Very weird, especially since in Chi-town musicians are treated like royalty for their contributions to culture and art at large. The Windy City was key in the development of Electric Blues, Jazz and Rock ‘n Roll, thanks in part to the legendary Chess Records (1950-1972), located at 2120 S. Michigan Avenue. The Rolling Stones even have a song titled 2120 South Michigan Avenue that is an homage to the legendary studios. Also from Chi are Howling Wolf, Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker. The town is the birthplace of House music, Dust Traxx Records, Industrial music, art-country rockers Wilco, record labels Drag City and Touch and Go, and one-time stadium fillers like the Smashing Pumpkins. It is home base for iconic figures like Steve Albini, founder of the punk band Big Black and producer of acts like Nirvana and High on Fire; the experimental musician Jim ‘O Rourke, who has scored films by Werner Herzog and worked with Sonic Youth; and Wicker Park’s staple schizophrenic poet, artist and musician, the late Wesley Willis. This is the city where hundreds of disco records where burned in the name of rock at a bonfire in Comiskey Park in ’79 -- a truly transcendent example of the perfect juxtaposition between social protest, art and sports. And the list, like the music, could go on and on.

I do believe that Dominic Molon had the best intentions and even a good vision, but the end result can be described as a white man’s suburban teen rock fantasy journey into nostalgia. Tourists may embrace the exhibition, but they won’t catch that close relationship of art and music that’s born from the underground, the outcasts and the sidelines. This is the kind of show where criticism is all about one question -- what about X?

There’s not much to think about in "Sympathy for the Devil." Starting from the hackneyed title, the show’s got no angst, no violence and no irony. Even interesting documents and fanzines are placed in vitrines that suck the life out of them, or hidden in the exhibition catalogue. Record covers are rendered as generic blow-ups and there’s way too much painting referencing photo documentation.

Installations take a big chunk of space, too, like Douglas Gordon’s Bootleg (Cramped), a video projection of grainy slow-motion close-ups of the bodies and facial expressions of the crowds and performers at live music shows. Cramped is a typically hermetic high-art view of musical delirium, and nothing new when compared to the campy documentation of the 1980s glam scene by photojournalist Neil Zlozower, or Penelope Spheeris’ multiple documentaries, The Decline of Western Civilization (1981) and The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years (1988), where fans, groupies and musicians are interviewed sarcastically in their natural habitats.

Suspicious in the mix are trendy art world tricksters like Assume Astro Vivid Focus, who is good and exotic but definitely can’t rock, and whose inclusion might be directed by market trends rather than any real interest. Nicely framed is Robert Longo, with his fashionable drawings of Republican yuppies from the 1980s, here reinterpreted as some kind of violent seizure to a rock soundtrack.

Also included are the now-overused Mike Kelley, Destroy All Monsters, Sonic Youth and Raymond Pettibon, some of whom looked much better at the Whitney Biennial. One of the biggest mistakes is the inclusion of Rirkrit Tiravanija’s Untitled 1996, a transparent and portable rehearsal studio-cum-cage that looks totally out of place, not to mention inessential, given today’s technology. How anti-rock would it be for a band to go to a museum to play on a piece of valuable art made by the favorite pet of curators around the globe?

Not all is problematic, however. My favorite piece in the show is Peter Saville’s sketches, notes and designs for New Order’s Power, Corruption and Lies record. My appreciation is based in nostalgia and process. I also enjoyed Jim Lambie’s homage to The Who. Titled Pinball Wizard, the humongous installation, specially commissioned for the show, features his habitual colorful stripes and swirls on the floor along with sticks covered with thin thread that revolve around a life-sized sculptural eagle.

A great surprise is to see works by the Chicago-based artist Pedro Bell, whose paintings illustrate the freaky, raw, sci-fi sexual imagery from Parliament Funkadelick. This reminded me of the absence in the show of things by African Americans and other "minorities," which would include the Black Punk era, Bad Brains and the art-packed magazine Rocktober. Not to mention ‘70s Latino psychedelic rock and the New Wave Argentinean scene from the late ‘80s, and the contemporary Mexican Puerto Rican Hardcore and Noise music that relies heavily on collaborations with visual artists. During the late ‘90s, 7/3 Split Gallery in Chicago would open its exhibition space to weekend shows organized by Traschcore kids, mostly from Mexican and Latino neighborhoods, demonstrating that the multicultural pot assembled for artistic collaborations easily extends beyond the established art centers.

Unsatisfied, I keep looking and thinking of the "what about" factor. What about Peter Hujar, Torbjørn Rodland, David Wojnarowicz, Punk Planet or H.R. Giger? And what about the Chicagoans? Hardcore Histories series at Mess Hall, Crosshair Printing, Screaming in Music projects organized by Marc Fischer, Academy Records, Wesley Kilmer, Terence Hannum, Chuck Jones, Artloinz, Siebren Veersteg, Matt Hanner, Rob and Zena Zakowski, E.C. Brown, and Phillip Von Zweck.

And after a couple of fast rounds around the MCA’s tunnel vision, I felt sick, angry and ready to find a real club, a real show, and a real cold cheap beer. And finally, I left.

PEDRO VÉLEZ is an artist and writer living in Puerto Rico and Chicago.

John Haber, " A Question of Painting"

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What Is Painting? at MOMA

The call came in the middle of the night, and the voice on the line sounded hoarse and afraid. "John, it's MOMA. You have to tell us. What is painting?"

I reached for the light. "Go on."

"We have this show, 'What Is Painting.' We have to know." ...

Read the rest of the article here.