Summer Session

Summer Session – On Kawara: Pure Consciousness at 19 Kindergartens

This month, our Back to School session addresses topics ranging from self-directed learning to formal pedagogy to the intersections of art and academics. Today from our sister publication Art Practical we bring you a review by Jessica Brier of On Kawaras project Pure Consciousness. Brier draws connections between the malleability of Kawaras conceptualist exploration of time and how the placing of his works within kindergartens across the globe challenges the standardization of education. This review was originally published on June 30, 2010.

 

Pure Consciousness booklet image of kindergarteners in Bethlehem, Palestine, with seven Kawara date paintings from the Today series in background, laid over other booklets. Image courtesy of Walter and McBean Galleries, San Francisco Art Institute.

Pure Consciousness booklet image of kindergarteners in Bethlehem, Palestine, with seven Kawara date paintings from the Today series in background, laid over other booklets. Courtesy of Walter and McBean Galleries, San Francisco Art Institute.

It’s pretty safe to say that Conceptual Art’s moment has come and gone. Now that we are living in a period in which virtually all art is expected to be “conceptual” in some way or another, it’s refreshing to look back at the origins of Conceptual practice. On Kawara is one of the leading figures of this movement; he is particularly known for his ongoing Today series―iconic canvases painted black, each bearing the date of its own particular creation in bold white block letters. In 1997, Kawara recontextualized seven of these austere works by placing them in kindergarten classrooms across the globe, a social project he titled Pure Consciousness. Since this project existed strictly as a social experiment, the current exhibition in the small overlook gallery of San Francisco Art Institute’s Walter and McBean Galleries modestly showcases the project’s associated ephemera, including a collection of booklets created to document it and the seven paintings themselves.

Kawara is largely known for his sweeping but understated gestures that mark the passage of time. Sometimes these marks are diaristic, other times matter-of-fact. The Today paintings strike me as both―they are personal, in the sense that each is reminiscent of the artist’s hand and reflective of the way he spent a particular day of his life (following his own self-imposed requirement that each one be finished on that given day). But they are also universal, in the sense that anyone can imbue them with his or her own personal associations with that particular date. Aesthetically, they are stark and exact, appearing more like prints than paintings. In this way, Kawara flirts with Minimalism, as well as with the basic principles of graphic design.

Read the full review here.

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Summer Session

Summer Session – #Hashtags: Education on Contingency

For this months Summer Session were going Back to School, and today we bring you Anuradha Vikrams #Hashtags column addressing adjunct labor. Higher education in the United States has become increasingly dependent upon this contingent and precarious workforce, and Vikram argues that its inherent instability is particularly jarring given the Marxian configuration of labor that underpins much of contemporary art rhetoric. This article was originally published on May 5, 2014.

Christian Nagler. Yoga for Adjuncts, 2014. Workshop at  Valuing Labor in the Arts: A Practicum. Photo by Joanna Fuller. Courtesy of Arts Research Center, UC Berkeley.

Christian Nagler. Yoga for Adjuncts, 2014. Workshop at Valuing Labor in the Arts: A Practicum. Courtesy of Arts Research Center, UC Berkeley. Photo by Joanna Fuller.

This past May Day week, there has been much chatter about the decision by adjunct faculty at the San Francisco Art Institute to file for a union election. This comes on the heels of a similar decision to file for union election by Mills College adjuncts and the formation of a union to represent adjuncts at the Maryland Institute College of Art. The ubiquity of adjuncts in college teaching is not new, but the conversation around unions for part-time faculty has emerged more recently. Meanwhile, tensions regarding low pay and lack of job security and benefits for instructors, and rising tuition costs for students, are finally converging to invigorate a public conversation about the substandard working conditions of the majority of American college faculty.

In the arts, this overreliance on a precarious labor force is doubly appalling, given that much contemporary art rhetoric draws heavily on a Marxist construction of labor that resists and opposes alienation of workers in the interests of capital. For such intellectual constructs to be transmitted to new generations of artists and students by a fundamentally alienated workforce of adjuncts is a genuine scandal. The renewed emphasis on collectivity in art that coincides with the emergence of social and pedagogical post-conceptual practices seems not to be reflected in the values of academic institutions such as SFAI. This is evident in President Charles Desmarais’ appeal to adjunct faculty to reject SEIU’s efforts to unionize them, which was criticized by longtime Visiting Faculty (aka adjunct) Dale Carrico in a cogent blog post that called out the school for touting its Diego Rivera mural while discouraging contingent employees from organizing. Rivera’s famously working-class politics may seem a historical footnote to administrators, but for faculty and students, they are again relevant. Consider, after all, that the newly minted MFAs graduating from these non-unionized, adjunct-heavy art schools will face the same enormous pressure to comply with an unfair system that the adjuncts who teach them contend with currently.

Read the full article here.

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Summer Session

Summer Session – The Rülek Scrolls

This Summer Session we’re going Back to School, and thinking as much about learning in the arts as the codification of certain types of learning; this includes learned expectations about the proper forms of engagement with artworks. Today we bring you a piece from the collaboration between artist Sal Randolph and historian D. Graham Burnett, The Esthetical Society for Transcendental & Applied Realization (Society for Esthetic Realizers), or ESTAR(SER), a fictional historical society that frames aesthetic appreciation as a form of ritual. Below is one page of the Rülek Scrolls from ESTAR(SER)’s archives, which “outline a remarkable and exigent technique for attaining psychosomatic/metempsychotic union with a material, human-made object.”

from The Rülek Scrolls.

From the Rülek Scrolls.

Download the Rülek Scrolls here.

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Summer Session

Summer Session – Resources for Women of Color Faculty

Augusts Summer Session topic is Back to School, which includes arts education, pedagogy, and all types of learning, formal or otherwise. Today we direct our readers to a list of resources for women of color faculty in academia, put together by Professors Robyn Magalit Rodriguez and Zaire Dinzey Flores. Rodriguez and Flores successfully used these works to support their argument for funding a women of color faculty group at Rutgers University in 2009. While not specific to the arts, we hope that these resources will help women of color educators face the challenges that are common across disciplines. This list was originally published in 2013.  

Tina Takemoto. Looking for Jiro, 2011. Film; 5:45. Production still by Maxwell Leung. Courtesy of the Artist.

Tina Takemoto. Looking for Jiro, 2011; film; 5:45. Production still by Maxwell Leung. Courtesy of the Artist.

Rodriguez introduces the resources as follows:

In the fall of 2009 while I was still on the faculty of Rutgers University, New Brunswick, my good friend and colleague, Prof. Zaire Dinzey Flores, successfully applied for funds to form a women of color faculty group to, enhance the experience of women of color in academia and open institutional spaces supportive of women of color to… carve out a lasting intellectual space for women of color at Rutgers.” The first year of the project, we committed ourselves to community building. It was important for us to simply be able to break bread with one another and have a safe space to commiserate about our shared experiences of racism and sexism from the aggressive hostility of conservative white students to the subtle, patronizing treatment by our “color-blind,” “progressive” white colleagues. The project continues to live on and has grown in many ways.

While some of the resources here may be dated, I thought it would be important to post the references we used to make the argument for getting our project funded. The Women of Color Scholars Initiative at Rutgers’ website also offers some good resources as well. 

See the full list here.

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Summer Session

Summer Session – Help Desk: Getting Schooled

For this Summer Session we’re going Back to School, but that doesn’t necessarily mean formal education—today well be taking a look at a question submitted to our arts-advice column Help Desk, wherein Bean Gilsdorf breaks down the components of an MFA program for the autodidact looking to challenge their practice without taking on the financial burden of art school. This article was originally published on June 24, 2013. 

Rudolf Stingel. Rudolf Stingel, 2013; installation view, Palazzo Grassi, Venice.

Rudolf Stingel. Rudolf Stingel, 2013; installation view, Palazzo Grassi, Venice.

I’m an artist in my mid-twenties who has absolutely no formal education. So far I’ve managed to be fairly happy with small but very meaningful visibility, knowing that art making is about process and that it takes time to find one’s self. But I’m starting to hit a wall when it comes to the growth of my practice, and I’m worried that my lack of “training” might be my problem, so I’m slowly starting to consider going to an art school, with great fear, mainly because I haven’t been in an educational institution for a long time. So my question is: How important do you think education (art school) is in order for someone to be or to become a professional artist? Do you see it as absolutely necessary, or do you think that one can do without?

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you could toil your whole life and make profound work and still remain nearly invisible, so let’s separate the notions of visibility and making. Visibility—that is to say, participating in group exhibitions, exhibiting your work in solo shows, receiving press, and all the ancillary duties that come with and reinforce it (such as giving artist lectures)—has shockingly little to do with art making. Instead, visibility is often correlated with how much money you’re born with, who you know, where you went to school, where you work, and other social factors, but in the long run it is not directly related to the quality or process of your work. This is why Josh Smith is a famous painter.

We also need to set aside the notion of how you become a “professional” artist. There’s a wide range of what can be considered professional, so figure out what it means to you. Does it mean that you make enough sales to support yourself (and possibly a family)? Does it mean that a gallery represents you? Or is it enough to be able to scrawl artist on your tax forms and write off your studio rent and materials? If you can find a copy of Frieze Magazine, Issue 121 from March 2009, read Dan Fox’s beautiful essay A Serious Business: What does it mean to be a professional artist? and explore your assumptions about what makes one a “professional.”[1]

Read the full article here.

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Summer Session

Summer Session – Pissarro’s People

For this Summer Session we’re thinking about going Back to School, musing on art education, pedagogy, and learning. From our sister publication Art Practical we bring you John Zarobells review of the San Francisco Legion of Honors 2011 Camille Pissarro exhibition. Zarobell finds that the show reveals a radical politic of Impressionism that is often overlooked in the works of some of the more famous artists. The author demonstrates the value of returning to historicized works, and articulates how thoughtful curation can uncover new meanings in older movements. This review was originally published on November 2, 2011. 

Apple Harvest, 1888; oil on canvas; 24 x 29.13 in. Courtesy of the Artist and the Dallas Museum of Art.

Camille Pissarro. Apple Harvest, 1888; oil on canvas; 24 x 29.13 in. Courtesy of the Artist and the Dallas Museum of Art.

Take away the more iconic images of Impressionism, whether sylvan glades or water lily umbrellas, and you might find something entirely new under the teeming surfaces of colorful brushstrokes. Organized by inveterate Impressionism scholar Richard Brettell and coordinated here by James Ganz of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Pissarro’s People at the Legion of Honor reconsiders an essential figure of the Impressionist movement whose name is not as familiar as Monet’s or Renoir’s. Even the most astute students of art history may be surprised by this exhibition; at last we have an Impressionist’s vision of domestic life, agricultural work, and radical politics joined in a single presentation. Those who think that the best lessons on anarchism can be found at Occupy Wall Street are bound to discover that artists have been there long before.

Read the full review here.

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Summer Session

Summer Session – Denise Gray: MOCA Education Department

For this Summer Session were going Back to School, and today we bring you Sasha Lees interview with Denise Gray of the MOCA Education Department. Here Gray talks about her work as an educator and her role in MOCAs apprenticeship program, which is designed to encourage high-school students to engage with the local art community by attending talks, visiting exhibitions, and curating their own events. This interview was originally published on January 9, 2009.

Image courtesy of The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Photo: Sean MacGillivray.

Courtesy of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Photo: Sean MacGillivray.

Sasha Lee: Can you talk a little bit about your position at the MOCA and the various projects you oversee, maybe your favorites?

Denise Gray: There’s one particularly that comes to mind, and that is the high-school apprenticeship program. The program has been around since the ’90s, it started out because we originally had a high-school program for students interested in having conversations about art with their peers. It ended up being successful and students wanted to continue the dialogue, so MOCA decided to formalize that program, resulting in the MOCA apprenticeship program. We conduct a pretty vigorous interview process–with anywhere from eighty applicants for twelve spots, usually. It’s highly competitive, consisting of students who have identified themselves as interested in pursuing a career in the arts, whether as a curator or as an artist or educator. The program is great because it’s very hands-on. We use downtown as a resource, so for example today we’re going to the art walk. We use the library at REDCAT and visit exhibitions and attend events related to art, so as to compare and contrast the different kinds of art that’s out there. Sometimes we’ll even have artists who are exhibiting at the MOCA or invite other artists to do special programs with MOCA apprentices.

The apprentices also host events. In 2009, we’re going to have our seventh annual teen night. It’s an amazing opportunity for the apprentices to take the lead and create events for their peers. Usually there’s a student art exhibition that they curate, they bring out live entertainment, along with other activities. It’s like this big art party for teens; we don’t turn away the adults but it’s definitely designed for teens–creating a real ownership for them over the event. Last year, related to the Takashi Murakami exhibition, we collaborated with TOKYOPOP [publishers and distributors of Manga] to hone in on the Japanese pop culture connection–we had a photo booth, young performers, etc. The event was called Eye Candy.

Last year they actually had a slumber party at MOCA! This group had bonded so much that they wanted to have a sleepover at the MOCA. They were hanging out at 2 a.m. in the gallery–and the challenge was intentional insomnia–so to stay awake, we hung out with security and explored behind the scenes of MOCA.

Read the full interview here.

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