FAILURE: Error and Incompetence

I’m moving right along this lovely book and this section has been my favorite so far.

Brian Dillon
Eternal Return//2003

This essay begins with repetition, how no experience can truly be replicated, and what subtle differences occur when repetition is attempted.
“Repetition, as Gilles Deleuze wrote, has both its tragic and its comic aspects: nothing is more appalling, and at the same time ludicrous, then the individual condemned to the same action over and over again. But repetition, says Deleuze, is also a kind of freedom: without its regular framing and punctuating insistence we would never be able to experience difference, to relish the new, at all. In the simple repetition of a clock’s ticking is already the possibility of movement, of a narrative ( we hear the actual and meaningless ‘tick, tick’ as ‘tick, tock’: a tiny story).”
This example of the narrative we create through the simple repetition of the second hand of a clock illustrates the potential for meaning when using repetition as a strategy for making art. I love how concise this notion is and the potential for especially subtle differences, though I’ve always been a fan of subtlety.
“Perhaps we only believe in repetition ( as something interesting, engaging, even moving) by claiming that it’s not repetition at all. Which is in turn a way of claiming that our lives - all our habits, routines, obsessions, mistakes unrecognized and pattens unbroken - are really, despite all evidence to the contrary, not repetitive. And so we watch, listen, read, and live, all the time intoning the same mantra. There is repetition. There is no repetition. Repeat to fade...”
If you know me, you know that I enjoy a good spectrum and this end to the essay paints a great one. To imagine painting the same image over and over, only to discover in your repetition that each time the terms are different. Your approach is different, your mood is different, the way you hold your brush is different. In repetition it becomes clear how unique each separate iteration is.

Julian Schnabel

“I want my life to be embedded in my work, crushed into my painting like a pressed car. If it’s not, my work is just some stuff. When I’m away from it, I’m crippled. Without my relationship to what may seem like these inanimate objects, I am just an indulgent misfit. If the spirit of being isn’t present in the face of this work, it should be destroyed because it’s meaningless. I am not making some things. I am making a synonym for the truth with all its falsehoods, oblique as it is. I am making icons that present life in terms of our death. A bouquet of mistakes.”

Yes, and me too! Ha, but really, I enjoy how he talks about his relationship to the idea of making objects and am empathetic to the idea of feeling crippled without my work.

Fischli & Weiss
How to Work Better//1991











I can’t express how much good advice this is, really. Any great accomplishment is the product of a series of single small events that you do one by one. I also agree with the order in which this list is given.


Spending Time..

My future roommate Jillian works at the International Center of Photography here in NY. Lucky me, I got to see Ruth Gruber and her amazing work.

I've also been sharing space with a lot of great gelatin silver prints and photos by Vik Muniz.

Fun! Hurricane Irene should be here by tomorrow night, and that is the opposite of fun. But who knows? Maybe a hurricane party will ensue... Time to go buy supplies! Since everything is shutting down...

FAILURE: Idealism and Doubt

I’m happy to say that this post is brought to you from New York City. Here I am and there I go, looking for places to live, and reading on the subway...

So here are my picks from the second section of FAILURE: Documents of Contemporary Art.

Paul Watzlawick
On the Nonsense of Sense and the Sense of Nonsense//1995

This small excerpt accurately portrays a primary theme of Failure. That more is known, perceived, and gained from the absence of having a specific successful goal.
Ernst Von Glasersfeld writes in his introduction to Radical Constructivism:
“Somewhat more metaphorical would be the following analogy: the captain of a ship has to cross straits that he does not know and does not have a chart for nor navigational help such as a beacon, etc. on a stormy, dark night. In the circumstances only two things are possible: Either he sails into a cliff and loses his ship and his life; in the last moment of his life he realizes that the reality of the straits was not as he imagined and his course did not correspond with the actuality of the straits. Or he reaches the open sea; then he knows only that his course was accurate but no more. He does not know whether there could have been easier, shorter crossings than the one he blindly chose. And he does not know what the real condition of the strait was.”
Glasersfeld creates a metaphor that paints perfectly that it is impossible to know the true reality of the straits, to assume a single successful way through is impossible.
I like imagining art this way, that you sail through projects without a specific end in sight, that openness leads you to the open sea, making it clear how much more is gained from dropping a specific notion of success.

Now you know and it doesn't change anything., 2011, oil on canvas, 72 x 60 inches

Jennifer Higgie
The Embarrassing Truth: Matthew Brannon//1995

I really enjoyed the style of this essay. Higgie focuses on how Brannon’s non sequiturs play a unique role in his work. “Brannon also mines non sequiturs within an inch of their baffling lives: for example, the words ‘Steak dinner’ underline an image of bananas, while another picture of what appears to be a pot of fish is captioned “Compliance & Resentment’. A silhouette of a blackbird, some pencils, an ipod, paper clips and a coffee stain is accompanied by the words ‘Pigs Like Amazing what they found. Among the arugula, watercress, blue fin tuna, age dried steak. There it is. Your heart. And Look... a bunch of razor blades. Little Light bulbs. Cocaine. Little travel bottles. Anti-depressants. Your old untouched job application’. Fun right?


FAILURE: Documents of Contemporary Art

This collection of essays is broken into parts. Dissatisfaction and rejection, idealism and doubt, error and incompetence, and experiment and progress. Clearly there are many facets to failure. Here are a couple essays from the first section that caught my eye.

Marcus Verhagen
There’s No Success Like Failure:
Martin Kippenberger//2006
"...a vastly restive and energetic figure who tipped everything he touched into a bilge of crude sentiment and doubtful humour, never missing a chance to rubbish a lofty view and always preferring the infantile to the measured and the pointless to the productive. He has chutzpah even in his self-doubt, in his endless parade of comically abject self-images. His work was a counterpoint to the Neo-Expressionist grandstanding of older German artists like Kiefer and Georg Baselitz, its trashy quality serving as a way of recognizing that various artistic projects, including painting and self portraiture, had reached a point of possibly terminal crisis while still using them as vehicles for passages of hammy, delinquent brilliance."

Emma Dexter
Authenticity and Forgery: Luc Tuymans//2004
"We need to view Tuymans' entire oeuvre as an act of remembrance, flitting as it does in its subject matter from the significant and collective to the incidental and absurd. And somehow because of this heterodox, over-arching schema, each painting becomes a space for remembering, while the space outside the painting, the empty gap between the canvases, represents all the stuff of the world that Tuymans does not depict, so becoming the space of forgetting or oblivion."

I would be happy to elaborate my enjoyment for these essays, but I'm on vacation in Florida, which means that high speed internet (if any) is difficult to find. I'll be driving back up the east coast to Connecticut and finally making my way to NY. More frequent posts to come when I've returned from tanning and collecting postcard worthy photos of scenery.


PAINTING: Documents of Contemporary Art

Magdalena, Marlene Dumas 1996

"Painting doesn't freeze time. It circulates and recycles time like a wheel that turns. Those who were first might well be last."-Marlene Dumas, Woman and Painting, 1993

This book is one of reading and re-reading. Some essays stand out more than others, and all bring something relevant for every painter to consider. Painting begins in 1981 with "The End of Painting" by Douglas Crimp and concludes in 2009 with "Painting Beside Itself" by David Joselit. I'll elaborate on some of my favorites.

Michael Corris and Robert Nickas
Punishment and Decoration: Art in the Age of Militant Superficiality//1993
This conversation is about the relationship between ‘figure’ and ‘ground’ and the harm in reading a work in complete formal terms. Corris makes the point, “A painting of quality is a picture that uses abuse, embellishment, degradation and decoration to generate complex visual malapropisms out of erasure, cancellation, acts of outright destruction of the surface of the picture, the scotomization of vision, unabashed scenarios of seductive plasticity, patterning and colour, or outright displays of incompetence - intended and otherwise. The picture/surface dialectic is not the same frame of reference as the figure/ground opposition.” Duly noted.
If I forgot to mention earlier, PAINTING is full of 5 dollar words. Like Malapropism (The grotesque or inappropriate use of a word) and scotomization (The development of figurative blind spots resulting in the suppression of certain items of information and knowledge).

Seismographic Negligee, Nancy Haynes 1992
Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe
Cabbages, Raspberries and Video’s Thin Brightness//1996
I’ll give you one guess to what this is about and a quote to make it obvious. “Video cannot ever be matte; it is bright and shiny, like a varnished painting where depth is in part achieved by glazing. Glazing means colour suspended in varnish, pigment magnified by oxidized and clarified oil, glowing from within like a television.” Gilbert-Rolfe discusses matte after analyzing Nancy Haynes painting as “protracted instantaneity, a surface organized less around incident than around formlessness.”

Yoshitomo Nara
Midori Matsui
New Openings in Japanese Painting: Three Faces of Minor-ity//2001
This essay is incredibly helpful in understanding contemporary Japanese painting through the discussion of the history of Japanese painting, Takashi Murakami, Yoshitomo Nara, and Hiroshi Sugito & Tam Ochiai. “The peripheral relationship to modernity and modernism that once afflicted Japanese painters now provides them with the resources of cultural hybridity: neither conforming to historically sanctioned styles of modernist invention, nor forming a tight-knit group, these artists pursue their individual paths of innovation.” The longest essay in the book, but well worth the time.

Ulrike Groos
On Paul McCarthy: Painter (1995)//2003
About the relationship between artist (the painter) and those working around him/her in the art world, Groos states clearly: “The video sketches a stereotype of the artist genius as a backward, behaviourally-disturbed, infantile eccentric incapable of normal human interaction, who disregards norms and rules since his only means of expression is in the obsessive, impulsive pursuit of his art. However, even the gallery owner fails to take him seriously as a human being, to say nothing of the collectors, who take advantage of his ‘wildness’ to amuse themselves at his expense.” Again, incredibly interesting ideas to consider.

After it all, I can't help but agree with Marlene Dumas' idea about time and painting. Art and painting do not exist to make work that is better than the last, but work that continually reiterates definitions of existence.

Florida tomorrow.


The Phillips

Today Will and I went to The Phillips Collection. Headlining exhibitions featured work by Wassily Kandinsky and Frank Stella which were very enjoyable.

These wall sculptures, by A. Balasubramaniam, were in the Phillips Project space. I really enjoyed how well these pieces were crafted into the wall. So subtle yet prominent.

Of course I spent some quiet time with the Rothko room, which got me in the mood for this painting:
By Helen Frankenthaler, 1928. Great shapes and color, so little paint. Which then reminded me of this artist (also very little paint):
Michael Krebber!

So then I was in an Abstract Expressionist mood (Though Krebber is not exactly AbEx...) and took some time at a local coffee shop to read about the contemporary Ab-Ex trend in Artforum.
"Such a re-rereading of Abstract Expressionism finds its echoes in work that pulls the gesture, the painted mark, and the viewing of images into performances or sprawling installations that upend ideas of agency and presence." —Michelle Kuo

Interesting day!
Then we came home and Will and I made mac&cheese (sharp white cheddar & gruyere), sauteed mushrooms with pearl onions, and watermelon honeydew blackberry salad with sugar and a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. Kill me, dinner was too good.