From the Archives

From the Archives – Eugene Isabey: Fishing Village at the Legion of Honor

This week, the opening bustle of the fall art season has us thinking about exhibitions and art criticism, and since we often publish Shotgun Reviews on Sundays, it seems especially relevant to share a previous submission from our archives. Although all the Shotgun Reviews we have published are written with sensitivity and care, this one always stands out in our minds as exceptional—not just for the quality of the writing, but also because the author was just thirteen years old at the time of publication. Folks, it’s never too early—or too late—to write about art.

Caption: Eugene Isabey. Fishing Village, 1854–55; oil on canvas; 53.7 x 35.43 in. Collection of the Art Museum at the University of Kentucky. Courtesy of the Athenaeum.

Eugene Isabey. Fishing Village, 1854–55; oil on canvas; 53.7 x 35.43 in. Collection of the Art Museum at the University of Kentucky. Courtesy of the Athenaeum

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. This week’s Shotgun Review was written by Irene Gerenrot, who participated in Art Practical’s March 2012 Art Smarts writing workshop for middle-school students, produced in conjunction with 826 Valencia and Catharine Clark Gallery, San Francisco. You can read her review Skull of Santo Guerro (III) on Art Practical.

Fishing Village (1854–55), by Eugene Isabey, stands out from the rest of the paintings in the Legion of Honor’s Impressionists on the Water exhibition, on view through October 13, 2013.  Most of the paintings depict water in a very neat fashion and as being calm, as though all rivers are ideal for kayaking and God-created lakes only for races, fanfares, and general fun. Fishing Village illustrates the down-to-earth life of an average 19th-century fishing village: poor, difficult, busy, dirty, alive, and boisterous.

My eye first lit upon a bright spray of sea foam, then traveled down with the dirty brown water to the boats, docked and rocking. It continued on to the people working, the shoddy houses, a brown hill painted with thinner brushstrokes for the grass, and the murky sky.

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San Francisco

Finding Photography “Secondhand” at Pier 24

From our friends at KQED, today we bring you Matthew Harrison Tedford’s review of Secondhand, the new exhibition at Pier 24 Photography. Tedford notes, “[...] these works possess the power to convey a corporeal and emotional truth [...]” This article was originally published on August 14, 2014.

Maurizio Anzeri. Pierre, 2013; Courtesy of the artist.

Maurizio Anzeri. Pierre, 2013. Courtesy of the Artist.

Secondhand, the first new exhibition to open at Pier 24 Photography in San Francisco since July 2013, presents the work of over a dozen artists whose practice relies on the appropriation of preexisting photographs. Paired with vernacular photos from the Pilara Foundation collection (the folks behind Pier 24), Secondhand is more than a survey of a particular artistic technique; it offers a glimpse at the varied relationships between people and photographs.

The found photography collections of Amsterdam-based publisher Erik Kessels, which are given several large installations, set an important tone for the exhibition. The gallery devoted to Kessels’ ongoing series of books, in almost every picture, is particularly salient in light of critiques that younger generations’ relationship with photography is self-absorbed and obsessive.

Read the full article here.


Fan Mail

Fan Mail: Joe Penrod

Typically, the studio is where artists make their work, but Joe Penrod’s space for creative development exists anywhere a shadow falls. Armed with only a roll of cerulean painter’s tape, Penrod transforms once-mundane shadows (and the objects that cast them) into fecund sculptural compositions.

Joe Penrod. Tacoma Weed, 2010; painters tape; dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist.

Joe Penrod. Tacoma Weed, 2010; painter’s tape; dimensions variable. Courtesy of the Artist.

There are a few stages in Penrod’s process. First he finds an object that casts a particularly beautiful or striking shadow. Next, he makes a replica of that shadow with painter’s tape—essentially affixing it to the surface it darkens—to create a lasting but impermanent impression. It is difficult to explain precisely why an artist is attracted to a visual motif, and with Joe Penrod’s work this difficulty is heightened—almost everything could be turned into one of his blue shadows.

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New York

Mel Bochner: Strong Language at the Jewish Museum

Strong Language, currently on view at the Jewish Museum, chronicles Mel Bochner’s longstanding dedication to the critique of language. The exhibition features over seventy text pieces the artist made between 1966 and 2013. While linguistic examination remains the common thread throughout the forty-plus years of work on display, the exhibition also evidences a recent turn by Bochner toward creating more conventional and easily commercialized fine-art objects. Though the artist continues to mine his subject matter with great acuity, this shift necessarily provokes a strong ambivalence.


Mel Bochner. Voiceover, 2006-2012; oil on canvas; 36 x 28 in. Pergamont Collection. Artwork © Mel Bochner.

Many of the exhibition’s earlier works remind us of Bochner’s role as a formative player in the development of Conceptualism in New York City. Misunderstandings (A Theory of Photography) (1967–1970) consists of prints of nine note cards handwritten by the artist, each recording a statement about photography. Some of the statements are attributed to renowned figures like Marcel Duchamp or Emile Zola, another is a quote from the Encyclopedia Britannica, and three are revealed to be made by Bochner himself. This work epitomizes the artist’s preoccupation with language’s slippery hold on authenticity and its limitations in describing experience. Also from the ’60s is a series of verbal portraits of Bochner’s artist friends that center more on language’s representational abilities than its shortcomings. The 1966 Portrait of Eva Hesse features hand-drawn words in block lettering, laid out in concentric circles on a circular piece of paper, that effectively evoke Hesse’s art practice: “CLOAK,” “OBSCURE,” “ENSCONSE,” “SECRETE,” and “BURY.”

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Los Angeles

Neal Rock: Herm 0714 at Loudhailer Gallery

The latest exhibition of work by Los Angeles-based artist Neal Rock, currently on view at Culver City’s Loudhailer Gallery, asks viewers to consider artistic materials in a fresh and interesting way, but falls somewhat short conceptually. Rock’s abstract, sculptural works combine found components, such as insulation material, with layered experiments in oil paint, silicone, and printing. These idiosyncratic objects are tantalizingly ambiguous in tone but clearly delight in the possibilities of texture, color, and material combinations. At times, they are baffling: The silicone looks hefty, shiny, and dense, like glazed ceramic, yet the objects affixed to the wall seem to float weightlessly.

Installaton shot, "Neal Rock: Herm 0714," Loudhailer Gallery, July 19 - September 6, 2014. Photo courtesy Loudhailer Gallery and the artist.

Neal Rock: Herm 0714; installation view at Loudhailer Gallery, July 19 to September 6, 2014. Courtesy of the Artist and Loudhailer Gallery.

Most successful is Rock’s demonstration that the idea of an artistic medium is best understood as encompassing both material and process—as the intersection of inert substance and physical action. He achieves this by using paint as both a tool for mark making and as a material or armature on which to print, paint, and construct. It is not only used as paint in the traditional manner, but also as a canvas and a sculptural material to be molded and shaped. This contortion is a physical exertion as well as a visual experiment with color, abstraction, and patterning. Rock has, in this work, moved from applying paint directly onto silicone to using a screen for printing the pigment; this allows the artist to create tension between regular patterns and the natural contortion of the supple silicone. Examples of both techniques are present in the gallery, to great advantage.

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#Hashtags: Touching in Fleeting Contact

#JenniferAllen #SommerakademieSalzburg #cities #public #private #surveillance #circulation #socialmedia

Sommerakademie Salzburg, also historically known as the “school of vision,” opened its doors in 1959 to anyone interested in studying art. Now entering its 61st year, the academy attracts a broad range of practitioners to participate in courses taught by artists and cultural theorists. This year’s public program was entitled Cities—Spaces for Art and Living, and I was especially drawn to Jennifer Allen’s talk, “The End of Privacy and the Fate of the Public Sphere.” Although I recently relocated to Berlin, I spent the previous three years living in San Francisco—a city that has undergone tumultuous changes as a result of the third wave of tech gentrification. My response to Allen’s talk on privacy is certainly colored by interrelated topics like affective labor, the relationship between technology and the arts, and gentrification, all of which are ongoing conversations within the Bay Area arts community.

Jennifer Allen discusses the role that pilgrimage and cult value play in public art.

Jennifer Allen discusses the role that pilgrimage and cult value play in public art.

Allen began her presentation with the premise that she no longer believes in the divide between public and private space. “Sure, the traditional divisions between public and private still exist—from abstract laws to concrete fences,” she concedes, “but the virtual realm of digitization can permeate both abstract and concrete barriers, like magic dust or voodoo.” Allen’s argument extends claims made by artist Seth Price in his now-canonical text Dispersion—written “way back in 2002” before the age of YouTube, tablets, and smartphones. More than a decade later, when even my grandmother uses Facebook on a daily basis, it’s not only “digital natives” who prove Price’s assertion that “collective experience is now based on simultaneous private experiences, distributed across the field of media culture, knit together by ongoing debate, publicity, promotion, and discussion.”[1] Yet if our notion of collectivity has expanded—now extending from the town square to the deep web—Allen argues that our notion of public art largely has not. To support this claim, she sketches a line from the classical monument—linking the genealogy of public art to Abbé Henri Grégoire’s conception of the “national object[s],” which, he writes, “belonging to no one, are the property of everyone”[2]—to incursions of private, customized gestures into public space. One such gesture, a work by Swedish artist Lena Malm titled Have You Wondered How Many People Have the Same Name as You? I Did (1994–99), entailed the artist poring over the phone book and other public records in her native Stockholm, looking for other individuals with her name; her labors resulted in a lunch for fifty-five Lena Malms at the Moderna Museet, which Allen likened to the analog version of a Google (image) Search. Other examples, like the artist and architect Vasiliki-Maria Plavou’s work Locus Erectus (2013) treat the physical and digital public as “continuous” spaces. In this work Plavou feeds algorithms of her physical and virtual observations of a gay cruising zone outside of Athens into her computer to generate a digital design for a drilling machine that would enable her to penetrate this forbidden territory. Allen considers these works self-portraits executed in public, noting that they often extend beyond the realm of media into the virtual. Allen considers these works self-portraits executed in public, noting that they often extend beyond the realm of media into the virtual.

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Summer Reading

Happy Labor Day!

In honor of Labor Day, we’re taking the day off! See you tomorrow, when we kick off an impressive lineup of exhibition reviews, essays, and interviews from around the world.

Wish you were here! Love, DS

Wish you were here! Love, DS