From the Archives

From the Archives – Help Desk: On Being “Discovered”

Help Desk is where I answer your queries about making, exhibiting, finding, marketing, buying, selling–or any other activity related to contemporary art. Submit your questions anonymously here. All submissions become the property of Daily Serving.

I’m just about to finish my first really serious series of paintings, and I’m curious about which approach is the best for self-promotion. Is it better to go all out and submit art to blogs, magazines, postcards, business cards, etc., or is it better to play it subtly, try and meet the right people, and become that hidden gem that someone finds and then shows to the world? Is it possible that being overexposed on blogs can be a turn-off to galleries, like they don’t have the pleasure of being able to say, “Look what I found!”? (I’m talking about the galleries that like to showcase new talent rather than blue chips, the kind you get your foot in the door with as an artist.)

Apparently you missed that day in Catholic school when they taught us Matthew 5:15-16: “Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works.” Notice that this verse doesn’t advise, “Get thine light discovered by cunning means” or “Have another man lighteth thine candle for thee.”

Philippe Parreno with Rirkrit Tiravanija. La Batalla de los Patos, 2013; screenprint, phosphorescent ink; 39.5 x 55.5 in.; edition of 6.

Where are all these imaginary people who have ample time and inclination to discover you? I can’t imagine a single gallerist who, after curating, framing, installing, promoting, and selling a show—in addition to managing a staff, courting new collectors and arts patrons, and maybe even having a home life in the odd moment outside of work—is going to be able to wade through the deep seas of information put out there by artists who are promoting their work, in order to find you. I hope I am making this point clear for artists who sit in their studios hoping to be “discovered”: When you hear the phone not ringing, it will be the galleries not calling.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. I wrote to several arts professionals about being found and they all said the same thing: It doesn’t work like that. One gallerist from Boston said, “I would agree with you on the ‘discovery’ idea. With all the ‘noise’ in our contemporary culture, subtlety when it comes to self-promotion is a losing idea. Years ago, before social media, [another] gallerist told me he had a rule of three: If he heard the same name from three different people, he would check out the work. The more ‘buzz’ around the work, the more attention it is going to get.” A gallerist in San Francisco told me, “I couldn’t agree more. An emerging artist should be doing as much as he/she can to connect with others and find exhibition opportunities. So much can be learned from showing and working with others. This is how an artist builds his/her community within the art world and an important audience for their work. From a marketing or sales perspective, it’s of course far easier for a gallery to work with an artist who has already established a positive reputation.”

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Shotgun Reviews

From Two Arises Three at the Asian Art Museum

Shotgun Reviews are an open forum where we invite the international art community to contribute timely, short-format responses to an exhibition or event. If you are interested in submitting a Shotgun Review, please click this link for more information. In this Shotgun Review, Jing Cao reviews FromTwo Arises Three: The Collaborative Works of Arnold Chang and Michael Cherney at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.

Michael Cherney and Arnold Chang. After Huang Gongwong 4, 2009 (detail); photographic inkjet print and ink on paper. From the collection of Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang. Courtesy of the Artist and Asian Art Museum. Photo: Jing Cao.

Michael Cherney and Arnold Chang. After Huang Gongwong 4, 2009 (detail); photographic inkjet print and ink on paper. From the collection of Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang. Courtesy of the Artist and Asian Art Museum. Photo: Jing Cao.

Chinese landscape painting is notoriously inaccessible—the format is foreign, the subject deep in historicity, the materiality unassuming. Photography, on the other hand, is eminently familiar—a daily practice for many in the digital age. Enter From Two Arises Three, an exhibition of painter Arnold Chang and photographer Michael Cherney’s collaborative works at the Asian Art Museum.

At first blush, From Two Arises Three resembles a traditional landscape exhibition. Black-and-white hanging scrolls line the gallery walls; paper fans and album leaves fill cases in the center. But look closer and a genuinely contemporary collaboration begins to unfold. Many images are actually composites, with Cherney’s grainy, out-of-focus photographs bleeding into Chang’s traditional landscape painting. In a video interview that accompanies the show, Chang and Cherney describe their process: Cherney travels across China, taking photographs. He mails these to Chang’s studio in New Jersey. Chang pastes Cherney’s photos onto paper and extends the imagery with ink and brush. Like an exquisite corpse, Chang’s paintings grow out of Cherney’s photographs.

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San Francisco

Jessamyn Lovell: Dear Erin Hart at SF Camerawork

From our sister publication Art Practical, today we bring you a review of artist Jessamyn Lovell’s surveillance photography—artwork that has an incredible backstory. Author Genevieve Quick notes, “By leaving the project open-ended, Lovell smartly expands the work beyond revenge and allows viewers to consider its complexities through their own moral codes.” This article was originally published on September 25, 2014.

Jessamyn Lovell. Following 6 (Fence), 2014; digital print on vinyl; 96 x 133 in. Courtesy of the Artist and SF Camerawork, San Francisco.

Jessamyn Lovell. Following 6 (Fence), 2014; digital print on vinyl; 96 x 133 in. Courtesy of the Artist and SF Camerawork, San Francisco.

 

In Jessamyn Lovell’s exhibition Dear Erin Hart, the artist returns to SF Camerawork, where in 2009 her purse containing her identification and credit card was stolen. While it is unclear if Erin Hart was the initial thief, she accumulated unpaid parking tickets and bridge tolls, damaged rental cars, and ran a small drug operation in Lovell’s name. After being summoned to court, Lovell located Hart and began surveilling her. Lovell’s provocative project explores the ways that second-party documentation, both in image and text, constructs identity while treading uncomfortably between vigilantism and a possible reconciliation.

In the exhibition, Lovell presents telephoto images and video of Hart walking down the street. Typical of surveillance photos, the imagery is sometimes grainy, partially obscured, and generally banal; its distant vantages and documentary quality illustrate the impersonal relationship between the women. It is the exhibition’s wall text, written from Lovell’s perspective, that provides a compelling overview of the events and transforms these rather ordinary images into a powerful work.

Read the full article here.

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San Francisco

Misako Inaoka: Fractured Fauna at Johansson Projects

Our partners at Art Practical are celebrating their sixth annual Shotgun! issue, so today we bring you Monica Westin’s review of Misako Inaoka: Fractured Fauna at Johansson Projects. This article was originally published on September 25, 2014.

Misako Inaoka. Bird Man, 2014; mixed media; 19 x 20 x 10 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Johansson Projects, Oakland.

Misako Inaoka. Bird Man, 2014; mixed media; 19 x 20 x 10 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Johansson Projects, Oakland.

Misako Inaoka’s menagerie of upholstered animal sculptures, exquisite quasi-taxidermy, and delicate collage works is immediately alluring. It only becomes clear after spending time with the objects that their beguiling quality critiques our own desires for a benign version of nature, made safe and decorative for our aesthetic consumption. Even when not using the direct, visual language of taxidermy, the show evokes feelings of suspended animation and unnaturalness.

The most striking work is a set of anthropomorphic, almost life-size animal sculptures covered in upholstery, sequins, and other heavily wrought textures. Depicting wildlife such as bears and deer, the figures bow or stand in graceful gestures, and the contrast between form and texture is visually interesting enough to delay a visitor’s reaction, just long enough to be seduced by their elegant design. Only after a double take does the curve of a neck connected to a form on the ground give rise to a quiet kind of horror: the animals are horribly disfigured, leaning beautifully against the gallery floors because they lack front legs, and oversized barnacles or smooth fabric stumps appear where their heads should be. The most disturbing are sculptural hybrids, like a headless bear teetering on piano legs, and uncanny kinetic sculptures, like an automaton bird struggling endlessly in the mouth of a carved wooden cat.

Read the full article here.

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New York

Philippe Decrauzat: Pour Tout Diviser at Elizabeth Dee

Elizabeth Dee presents Pour Tout Diviser, an exhibition of work by Swiss artist Philippe Decrauzat, as “a two-sided exhibition in three acts.” The first and second apparently occurred in Madrid and Paris, so New Yorkers experience the show’s conclusion. (There is no indication at the Chelsea gallery of what the European displays were like.) Without speculating as to what exactly makes the exhibition “two-sided,” the notion of a spatio-temporally divided exhibition itself puts a critic in an awkward position. One hesitates to pass judgment on a fragment; at the same time, one cannot but wonder if the exhibition is being presented as such for this very reason: to evade rigorous criticism. The approach here will be to give Decrauzat the benefit of the doubt on this point and progress through Act Three with a nonetheless critical eye.

Philippe Decrauzat. Installation shot of "Pour Tout Diviser." Courtesy the Artist and Elizabeth Dee, New York. Photograph by Etienne Frossard.

Philippe Decrauzat. Pour Tout Diviser; installation view. Courtesy of the Artist and Elizabeth Dee, New York. Photograph by Etienne Frossard.

The exhibition consists of fourteen paintings of various widths, featuring vibrating moiré patterns in magenta and cyan. They are mounted on seven freshly erected, freestanding walls—one canvas per side—that exactly match the widths of the paintings they support. These horizontal dimensions, it turns out, derive from the fenestration pattern of the gallery’s façade, which alternates between brick and glass in seven corresponding sections. The optically entrancing rhythm of overlapping lines on Decrauzat’s canvases mirrors both the distribution of new walls in the gallery’s interior and the artist’s sensitivity to the sequence of verticals fronting the gallery’s existing architectural space. Meanwhile, in an adjacent gallery, a silent 16mm film further inflects this mode of perceptual engagement. In it, double-exposed footage of a spinning object (described only as “a scientific object of light wave research”) yields an abstract and hypnotic interplay of light and shadow.

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Los Angeles

Alex Becerra: Las Putas Problematicas at ltd los angeles

Alex Becerra recently made his solo debut at ltd los angeles gallery with eleven icing-thick paintings that would fit nicely in the company of Werner Büttner, Philip Guston, or Willem de Kooning. Immense quantities of paint are brushed, squeezed, and caked together to form images that are as much mark and material as they are figure and object. Each piece offers itself up to the viewer like a freshly roasted pig, and the skin of the outrageously thick dried paint only serves to elevate the supple flesh beneath. The complexity of the work belies the artist’s mere twenty-five years of existence and his recent graduation from the Otis College of Art and Design.

Alex Becerra. Brookstone Woman, 2014; oil on canvas; 72 x 63 in. Courtesy of the Artist and ltd los angeles.

Alex Becerra. Brookstone Woman, 2014; oil on canvas; 72 x 63 in. Courtesy of the Artist and ltd los angeles.

In an obvious homage to The Greeting (2003; a collaborative painting between Albert Oehlen and Jonathan Meese), Strictly for the CADDY Lovers (2014) depicts a female figure naked from the waist down and standing on a mirror. As unceremonious as her pose may be, the painting does not come off as pornographic in nature—the work functions as a moment of self-discovery and the newfound awareness such a realization creates. This piece is also an image strongly rooted in the language of drawing, and it actively addresses its relationship with paint as a physical material and an ideological tool.

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Wichita

Bruce Conner: Somebody Else’s Prints at the Ulrich Museum of Art

Sympathetic magic—the use of a surrogate object to magically influence the person or circumstance it represents—has long been one of my favorite subjects. The Ulrich Museum of Art’s current exhibition, Bruce Conner: Somebody Else’s Prints, is an impressive collection of prints, etchings, and lithographs, a number of which Conner attributed to pseudonyms. The show inventively chronicles the artist’s use of surrogate figures for a variety of political and conceptual gains. In the exhibition are works produced during his brief time as a student at Wichita State University[1], and also during his initial years in the Bay Area at Magnolia Editions, Kaiser Graphics, and Collectors Press. The result is a mix of fine art and commercially printed work that cheekily micromanages art-historical expectation.

Bruce Conner, Bombhead, 2002. Pigmented inkjet print on paper, 32 x 25 in. Courtesy Magnolia Editions, Oakland, CA. © 2014 Conner Family Trust, San Francisco / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Bruce Conner. Bombhead, 2002; pigmented inkjet print on paper; 32 x 25 in. Courtesy of Magnolia Editions, Oakland, CA. © 2014 Conner Family Trust, San Francisco / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Conservators and historians have always been fascinated by matters of provenance, from potentially inauthentic signatures like the one on Rembrandt’s Self Portrait as a Young Man to underlays of handprints in Jackson Pollock paintings. Bruce Conner, consistently aware of these issues, used pseudonyms and editions to manipulate his place in that system. Conner’s style of sympathetic magic makes a metaphorical voodoo doll of artist-attributed prnts, ultimately inflicting pain on those who trade on the conventional practice of the lower-right-hand corner signature. His refusal to be “marketed” under his own name effectively stuck a pin of uncertainty in the value of his works as salable commodities. Curator Jodi Throckmorton focuses this show on Conner’s many dalliances with markers of authenticity and compiles them into one of the most comprehensive retrospectives to take place outside the Bay Area.

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