Fan Mail

Fan Mail: Alexander Heffesse

With a background in architecture, it’s no surprise that Brooklyn-based artist Alexander Heffesse works so well with space. Heffesse engages with installation as a construction site, his point of departure being the idea of the construction worker as an artisan figure engaged in the act of creating. Noticing the proliferation of empty Gatorade bottles at construction sites, Heffesse drew a connection between social economics and the chemical makeup of the popular energy drink, which lead him to explore topics such as sanitation, synthetics, and the simulation of nature. The convergence of these issues can be seen in the artist’s composite installations.

Alexander Heffesse. Work Hard (Feel Great), 2015; Albuterol cartridges, clay, tubing, Gatorade, hardware; variable spacing. Photo by Adele Schelling.

Alexander Heffesse. Work Hard (Feel Great), 2015; Albuterol cartridges, clay, tubing, Gatorade, hardware; variable spacing. Photo: Adele Schelling.

As well as a popular energy drink for construction workers, Gatorade is also a prominent advertising giant in the world of athletics. And while athletes may be seen consuming Gatorade for branding purposes, for construction workers it is less a luxury than a way to energize within their means. Heffesse initially began looking into the FDA’s regulations on color additives. Extracted from petroleum, the dyes found in food coloring are used to enhance the appearance of a food item and increase its marketability and sales; particular food colorings such as Blues 1 and 10, which Gatorade uses to create the stark blue Blueberry Pomegranate flavor, are said to cause allergic reactions in people who have asthma. Heffesse references these findings in Work Hard (Feel Great) (2015), a minimalist installation showcasing a series of Albuterol cartridges typically used by asthma patients, filled with various Gatorade flavors. The vibrant colors of the energy drink are an uncomfortable reminder of the chemicals that go into manufacturing.

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Los Angeles

Carmen Argote: Mansión Magnolia at Shulamit Nazarian

Expressions of both individual psychology and grand family histories are easily found in the architecture of a past home. These two narratives are counterintuitive yet closely related. When a family invests in a house, apartment, or some shared space, its interiors, like one’s mind, can feel simultaneously claustrophobic and inexhaustibly complex, and revisiting a former home can bring up fraught confrontations with descendants and sentimentality.

Carmen Argote. Tías, 2016; archival inkjet print; 45 x 60 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Shulamit Nazarian.

Carmen Argote. Tias, 2016; archival inkjet print; 45 x 60 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Shulamit Nazarian.

The Los Angeles–based artist Carmen Argote has generated an immense body of work based on her return to her ancestral family mansion in Guadalajara, Mexico. From this oeuvre, she and curator Seth Curcio selected just over a dozen photographs, currently on view at Shulamit Nazarian. Her family’s stately neoclassical manor, Mansión Magnolia, was built in the late 1890s; it now primarily serves as a rental space for events, as well as law offices for one of her cousins, and contains no permanent residents. In the building, remnants of las tias, Argote’s grandmother’s aunts, the last people who lived in there, commingle with the incongruous leftovers of weddings, quinceañeras, and raves.

Only one photograph depicts the exterior of the building; the rest of the images give the sense of an unending interior, like Jay Gatsby’s Long Island mansion. Room after room contain the ad hoc constructions and structural improvisations from generations of repairs and additions. Plaster walls bisect huge spaces and fit snugly against preexisting columns. Mismatched tiles bear the residue of decades of leaks. Faded shadows of bygone furniture remain next to recently installed bathroom sinks. Ancient-looking vending machines sit beside older refrigerators, in front of dumbwaiters. Argote has captured the mansion in a state of never-ending transition. Like the house in One Hundred Years of Solitude, the building seems like it’s constantly expanding and receding in a struggle against the vagaries of time.

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Washington, D.C.

Robert Irwin: All the Rules Will Change at the Hirshhorn Museum

Robert Irwin has had a number of distinct careers as an artist, each with a distinct group of peers and beliefs. All the Rules Will Change presents the best known but least seen of these careers: the studio painter of the 1960s, who began the decade as a conventional Abstract Expressionist, and ended it by closing his studio and abandoning a practice of painting that had, he claimed, become too familiar.

Robert Irwin. Untitled, 1959–60; ©2016 Robert Irwin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo © 2007 Philipp Scholz Rittermann.

Robert Irwin. Untitled, 1959–60. © 2016 Robert Irwin/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: © 2007 Philipp Scholz Rittermann.

Of this transformation, Irwin has said, “From about 1960 to 1970 [… ] I used my painting as a step-by-step process, each new series of works acting in direct response to those questions raised by the previous series. I first questioned the mark (the image) as meaning and then even as focus; I then questioned the frame as containment, the edge as the beginning and end of what I see. In this way I slowly dismantled the act of painting to consider the possibility that nothing ever really transcends its immediate environment.” [1]

Each step in the process yielded a new body of work, and the Hirshhorn presents these bodies in sequence. First, one encounters the Handhelds, austere miniature AbEx paintings set into heavy, crafted panels, each roughly the size of a laptop computer. Both their scale and name suggest a cargo-cult appropriation of digital tech, despite having been made at a time when computers were still room-sized and programmed with punch cards.

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“The Accursed Share” at Artspeak

The first thing I encounter upon entering “The Accursed Share” at Artspeak is a scent. “A fancy grandma’s house,” my gallery companion assesses. The scent emits from Aleesa Cohene’s You, Dear (2014), in which a large bunch of faux grapes is placed on the floor. Upon closer inspection, the decorative fruit is something much more elegant—in fact, it’s opulent.

Aleesa Cohene. You, Dear, 2014; onyx, galvanized wire, thread, diffused scent. Courtesy of Artspeak. Photo: Blaine Campbell

Aleesa Cohene. You, Dear, 2014; onyx, galvanized wire, thread, diffused scent. Courtesy of Artspeak. Photo: Blaine Campbell.

Each grape is made from the semi-precious stone onyx—and more likely to be a jewel on the neckline of that fancy grandma. Together, the bunches form a palette of milk, pale green, and bands of auburn that obscure a device diffusing the indistinct scent. As a talisman, onyx is considered a protective stone that absorbs and transforms negative energy (specifically, melancholy) to preserve your personal energy, providing both stability and security. Given grapes, we are presented with a symbol of antiquated hedonism—a theatrical form of relaxation or indulgence. Instead of a soft bulb, the hardened onyx begs to be swallowed to metabolize negativity. Fancy grandma is now New Age grandma; either way, they’re both wealthy and need the stones to sustain their passions.

Deborah Edmeades’ curriculum of invented mysticism contains titles that sound right out of the esoterica section of a used bookstore. Divination, Chance & Character: Tools for the Extension of Sensibility (Index) (2016) is a series of works on paper that includes eight illustrations against soft pink blobs. The composition is divided into panels like a set of arcane motivational posters. Depicting epistemic subjects like books, color wheels (one drawn in the place of Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel), an artist, and spiritual teacher, each illustration is accompanied by a cryptic phrase like, “THE FOUNTAIN/GOD IS WET/(OH MY GOD!)” and “YEARNING/MEDIEVALISMS, LANDSCAPE/FOLKLORE & PROPAGANDA.”

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Help Desk

Help Desk: Getting Paid for Curatorial Work

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 a professional curator with over a decade of experience, mostly as a salaried professional. I’d like to be doing more freelance curatorial work, but curators seem to either get paid nothing, absurdly little, or astronomical sums. How can I actually get paid for the work I do?

Kerry James Marshall. Portrait of a Curator (In Memory of Beryl Wright), 2009; acrylic on PVC, 30 7/8 x 24 7/8 x 1 7/8 in.

Kerry James Marshall. Portrait of a Curator (In Memory of Beryl Wright), 2009; acrylic on PVC; 30 7/8 x 24 7/8 x 1 7/8 in.

Whether you’re a curator, an artist, or a critic, there’s one thing we can say for certain about the arts: Experience, skills, and hard work don’t necessarily equate to a decent paycheck. Unfortunately, there is no secret that I could whisper in your ear that would guarantee you a fair wage for your labor. Instead, you could consider what it is about curating independently that appeals to you, and ask yourself what kind of bargain you might be willing to strike in order to meet your goals. You could also think about setting a minimum wage for yourself, a baseline amount that you won’t go under no matter what.

I reached out to two independent curators to get their perspective on this issue. Kuba Szreder said, “This is the question that many of us ask ourselves every day. I am afraid that no one has found a silver bullet to resolve this problem. Speaking from a systemic perspective, the art economy is a cruel economy in which the winner takes all. The distribution of resources and prestige is skewed to the top of hierarchy; there are hundreds of people who aspire to be in the spotlight, but only a few will ever find themselves there. From an individual perspective, one might need to ask whether competing in such a market is really desirable.

“There are several advantages to being a freelancer, but stability is not one of them. In fact, the majority of ‘independents’ experience self-precarization and other related professional ills. If one thinks about top curators, they usually have an institutional anchorage that provides a stable basis for ‘independent’ exploits. Some of them had episodes of freelancing, true enough, but these were episodes rather than long-term strategies.

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From the Archives

From the Archives – Weaving, Not Cloth: Mark Bradford at SFMOMA

We always like to see artist Mark Bradford’s name pop up in the press. Of course, there’s the fantastic news that Bradford will be representing the U.S. in this year’s Venice Biennale, in addition to last week’s cheekily delivered critique of art auctions (while onsite at Christie’s). Today, we’re republishing Bean Gilsdorf’s meditations on the tactility of Bradford’s work in relation to textiles. This article was originally published on March 6, 2012.

Mark Bradford. Potable Water, 2005; billboard paper, photomechanical reproductions, acrylic gel medium, and additional mixed media; 130 x 196 in. Collection of Hunter Gray. © Mark Bradford. Photo: Bruce M. White.

The difficulty in viewing photographs of artwork is that the camera flattens the object in its focus, relinquishing subtleties in order to capture a whole. Because his oeuvre is very subtle indeed, Mark Bradford’s work requires a viewer’s presence to be fully appreciated. Very little of the slender lines of collage, delicate papers built up in thin layers or washes of paint almost completely sanded away is apparent in reproduction. Each of the more than forty of Bradford’s works now on view at SFMOMA calls out to be felt, if not by the hand of the viewer then by the eye. They elicit a state of tactile vision, a reminder that visual perception is also connected to the faculty of touch.

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Ghazel: Mea Culpa at Carbon 12

Today, from our friends at REORIENT, we bring you a review of Ghazel’s latest solo exhibition, Mea Culpa, on view at Carbon 12 in Dubai through May 9. Author Sayantan Mukhopadhyay says of the artist, “Her interventions—which start with materials and symbols inherently laden with meaning—speak about the itinerant lives in a manner that is refreshing when placed in conversation with the many other contemporaneous works dealing with identity crises posed by global nomadism.”

Ghazel. Phoenix IV (detail), 2015; acrylic and Ballpoint pen on 2 printed Maps of Iran; 39 x 55 in.

Ghazel. Phoenix IV (detail), 2015; acrylic and ballpoint pen on two printed maps of Iran; 39 x 55 in.

Walking into a gallery space punctuated with works subject to viewers’ experiences and possessing the ability to be read through those experiences: an exhilarating sensation. “Global contemporary” is a moniker that commonly encompasses a tradition of obscurity for obscurity’s sake, a fearful label that connotes unapproachability for the masses. It speaks to the elitism of a world of characters that effortlessly transmigrate, hopping from one biennial to another, with other art fairs scheduled in between. Ghazel’s work, however, is explicit in democratizing thematic enterprise, and it is this plainspoken and sensitive treatment of diaspora and exile that has made her latest solo exhibition, Mea Culpa (Latin for “my fault”), so successful.

Ghazel, most commonly known by her first name alone, is an Iranian artist who has been living in France since the 1980s. She pursued a formal education in visual art, completing an MFA at the École Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Nimes. The decades following her departure from her native Iran have been devoted to developing a language that addresses processes of rupture and the growth of a set of peripheral relationships between experiences in Iran and France. Ghazel’s work has largely used performance as a conduit to understand post-revolution Iran as viewed from a distance, although her more recent bodies of work have spanned a broad array of media.

Read the full article here.