Summer Session

Summer Session – Too Cool for the Cool School

This Summer Session we’re going Back to School, and in addition to providing pedagogical resources and investigating the state of arts education, we are also looking at work that is informed by the idea of “school.” Today we bring you a review from Catherine Wagleys column L.A. Expanded, wherein Wagley reviews separate gallery exhibitions by Craig Kauffman and Liz Craft. Wagleys analysis pivots around the notion of “school” as a particular aesthetic within an artistic movement and “school” as a craft aesthetic, drawing an intriguing connection between the obsession with materiality seen in both Kauffmans “Cool School” sleekness and the disheveled aggression of Crafts sculptures. This article was originally published on April 30, 2010. 

Craig Kauffman, "Untitled," 2009. Drape-formed plastic with acrylic lacquer & glitter.

Craig Kauffman. Untitled, 2009; drape-formed plastic with acrylic lacquer & glitter.

Craig Kauffman has a shoe fetish. He’s had it since he was a child. “My mom wore high heels,” Kauffman explained in a 2008 interview, the same interview in which he talked about the affect campy lingerie ads from Frederick’s of Hollywood had on his adolescent mind. (“Blow-up bras, stuffed padded bras, rear ends,” Kauffman recalled. “[Frederick] was a genius.”) The work that stems directly from Kauffman’s fetish—dumb-fisted, transparent paintings that L.A. Times critic Christopher Knight recently referred to as “rather tepid”—is far from compelling. But the fact that the artist known for sleek, vacuum-formed abstractions lusts after stilettos and patent leather pumps? That is compelling, especially since freshly lacquered custom car parts are more often assumed to be Kauffman’s main muse.

New Work, Kauffman’s soon-to-close exhibition at Frank Lloyd Gallery, features two paintings of shoes, but these hang on an unobtrusive side wall. The central attraction, a series of delicate, drape-formed plastic shells that look like glitter-filled candy dishes, hang in the main gallery. The glitter is real and, like the acrylic wall reliefs Kauffman began making back in the 1960s, each shell has a perfectly smooth surface. The hot pink, aqua, Astroturf green, and lavender that color these sculptures have the manicured gloss suited to a Prada showroom.

Read the full review here.

Share

Summer Session

Summer Session – Five Tips for Teaching with Works of Art

For our countdown to September we’re going Back to School, which means examining works concerned with teaching and learning, revisiting the state of education in the arts, and providing pedagogical resources for teachers and students. Today we bring you a video from our friends at the Museum of Modern Art that offers strategies for teaching with works of art. While the video is geared toward teaching younger children, the tips provided can also be useful for any audience that is not familiar with thinking through artwork. This video was originally uploaded on December 30, 2013.

Share

Summer Session

Summer Session – Syllabus: Black Lives (Don’t) Matter

In addition to examining pedagogy and learning in the arts as part of this Summer Session’s topic of Back to School, we are excited to provide resources for both teachers and students alike that could inform and enrich their art and pedagogical practices. Today we bring you a syllabus by scholar M. Shadee Malaklou from her Jesus Fucking Christ Blog. An assistant professor and Mellon Faculty Fellow at Beloit College, Malaklou’s open-source visual studies syllabus investigates whether, given the epistemological limits of Western philosophy, Black lives can ever matter. This syllabus was originally published on July 18, 2016.   

Left: WWI propoganda poster. Right: LeBron James and Gisele Bundchen on the April 2008 cover of Vogue Magazine.

Left: WWI propaganda poster. Right: LeBron James and Gisele Bundchen on the April 2008 cover of Vogue.

Course description: If the movement Black Lives Matter indexes the precarity of black life, then this course interrogates how and why Black lives don’t matter or, better yet, how and why Black lives, categorically excluded from human protections, can’t (epistemologically) matter. Course topics and themes examine how new media platforms like Facebook and Twitter and old media platforms like broadcast and print journalism reproduce racial spectacle and cultivate anti-Black viscera, gut, and instinct in viewer-consumers. Students will learn how to read for anti-Blackness in global contexts but the focus will be on media production and consumption in American contexts. Born at the hour of another Black Lives Matter movement—to abolish chattel slavery—and tasked with cohering the imagined community of a broken nation, American media in the 19th century made blackface minstrelsy the first mass-produced popular entertainment in the United States. In minstrel shows, Negroes are excluded from the species of Man; theirs is concurrently a genre of sub- and supra-humanity in which blacks are vulnerable like chattel but dangerous like demons, and regardless, gratuitously open to receive violence. Blackface caricatures evidence racial slavery as a social good and justify anti-Black violence at the precise moment in which Blacks might qualify as human, or at the precise moment in which Black lives might matter.

Students will consider how blackface, an alibi for routine anti-Black violence, survives today to inform American media production and consumption, including its new media variations, ensuring that, irrespective of advances by Black Twitter to “say her name” (and his name, and their names, and hir name), black bodies are counted in new media “without counting.”

Read the full syllabus here.

Share

Summer Session

Summer Session – Sole Student in USC Roski School’s Struggling MFA Program Drops Out

Today for this Summer Session’s topic Back to School we bring you an article from our friends at artnet News, where Brian Boucher reports on USC Roski School’s dwindling admissions. With the notoriously high tuition of MFA programs and their insecure guarantee of success in the art world, the accusations of mismanagement levied against the Roski School by its sole MFA student highlight the political and economic issues that hover around higher arts education. This article was originally published on June 21, 2016.

University of Southern California's Roski School campus.

University of Southern California Roski School’s campus.

HaeAhn Kwon, the one student who accepted an offer of admission to the MFA program at the beleaguered Roski School of Art and Design at the University of Southern California last year, has now dropped out.

Kwon, who came to USC on an International Artist Fellowship from Seoul, received a BFA from the Cooper Union in 2009, according to LinkedIn. She distributed an open letter to provost Michael Quick that explains her decision, based on what she calls the school’s “downward spiral of predatory, wrongheaded, and woefully oblivious decision making,” and calls the administration “delusional.”

The news comes as the latest blow to a program that has been at the center of controversy over the last year.

An entire class of MFA students dropped out of the school in May 2015. Among other complaints about faculty and curriculum changes, students maintained that the school had rescinded financial offers (the dean denied the students’ claims). Many observers see the school’s problems as intimately bound up with its formation of the Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology, and the Business of Innovation, a program funded by a $70 million gift from record producer Iovine and rapper Dr. Dre. The school appointed composer Erica Muhl as founding executive director of the Iovine Academy and dean of the Roski School in 2013. The students who dropped out in 2015 pointed out that she has no experience with the visual arts.

Read the full article here.

Share

Summer Session

Summer Session: How We Read: Close, Hyper, Machine—Part 1

As part of our Back to School Summer Session we are exploring pedagogy and the state of learning in the arts. Today we bring you an article from our sister publication Art Practical by cultural scholar and author of How We Became Posthuman N. Katherine Hayles. Considering national studies observing a decline in general reading abilities across the United States, Hayles differentiates between key reading techniques employed by print versus digital texts. Her explication of these different patterns offers up new pedagogical strategies for reading that suggest that digital and print reading could inform one another rather than work in opposition. This article was excerpted with permission from the ADE Bulletin No. 150 (2010) and republished December 4, 2013. 

Catherine Wagner. Beloved, Toni Morrison from the series trans/literate, 2011; archival pigment print with braille; edition of five; 21.75 in. x 49.13 in. diptych. Courtesy of the Artist and Stephen Wirtz Gallery, San Francisco.

Catherine Wagner. Beloved, Toni Morrison from the series trans/literate, 2011; archival pigment print with braille; edition of five; 21.75 in. x 49.13 in. diptych. Courtesy of the Artist and Stephen Wirtz Gallery, San Francisco.

The evidence is mounting: people in general, and young people in particular, are doing more screen reading of digital materials than ever before. Meanwhile, the reading of print books and of literary genres (novels, plays, and poems) has been declining over the last twenty years. Worse, reading skills (as measured by the ability to identify themes, draw inferences, etc.) have been declining in junior high, high school, college, and even graduate schools for the same period. Two flagship reports from the National Endowment for the Arts, Reading at Risk, reporting the results of their own surveys, and To Read or Not to Read, drawing together other large-scale surveys, show that over a wide range of data-gathering instruments the results are consistent: people read less print, and they read print less well. This leads the NEA chairman, Dana Gioia, to suggest that the correlation between decreased literary reading and poorer reading ability is indeed a causal connection. The NEA argues (and I of course agree) that literary reading is a good in itself, insofar as it opens the portals of a rich literary heritage (see Griswold, McDonnell, and Wright for the continued high cultural value placed on reading). When decreased print reading, already a cultural concern, is linked with reading problems, it carries a double whammy.

Fortunately, the news is not all bad. A newer NEA report, Reading on the Rise, shows for the first time in more than two decades an uptick in novel reading (but not plays or poems), including among the digitally native young adult cohort (ages 18–24). The uptick may be a result of the Big Read initiative by the NEA and similar programs by other organizations; whatever the reason, it shows that print can still be an alluring medium. At the same time, reading scores among fourth and eighth graders remain flat, despite the No Child Left Behind initiative. Notwithstanding the complexities of the national picture, it seems clear that a critical nexus occurs in the juncture of digital reading (exponentially increasing among all but the oldest cohort) and print reading (downward trending with a slight uptick recently). The crucial questions are these: how to convert the increased digital reading into increased reading ability and how to make effective bridges between digital reading and the literacy traditionally associated with print.

Read the full article here.

Share

Summer Session

Summer Session – Help Desk: Group Crit

This Summer Session we’re going Back to School, and today we bring you a question from our arts-advice column Help Desk about how to get the most out of an MFA program. Group crits can be the most nerve-wracking and rewarding aspects of an MFA, and here Bean Gilsdorf, Whitney Lynn, and Rhonda Holberton weigh in on the best ways to make sure yours are both challenging and enriching. This article was originally published on July 21, 2014.

Beatriz Milhazes. Sinfonia Nordestina, 2008; Acrylic on canvas, 96 7/8 X 144 7/8 inches

Beatriz Milhazes. Sinfonia Nordestina, 2008; acrylic on canvas; 96 7/8 X 144 7/8 inches

I’ve been accepted to an MFA program that begins this September. As the month approaches, I find myself getting increasingly nervous and anxious (as I always do on the first day of school). It’s been a few years since I’ve participated in group critiques, and while I’m excited about this program, I also feel very vulnerable right now. Can you offer any advice to new MFA students? I wonder what former students “wish they’d known” before going into a program.

There are so many things I wish I’d known before I started my graduate program that I could answer your question with a book. Work hard, show up for everything, and say thank you are timeless tips, of course, but you’re looking for other suggestions calibrated to the specifics of the MFA. First, make friends with the Graduate Program Manager (or whatever they call the initial line of defense in your grad office). This individual will be your conduit to advisor selection, the assignment of teaching assistantships, and much more; woe betide the student who cops an attitude and treats the manager rudely. Second (and this is related to the above), the most bureaucratic rules only apply to students who don’t apply themselves. I’m not suggesting that you engage in risky behavior, but all fences have gates. If you are kind and polite and work diligently, someone may show you where they are. Also, if you are moving to attend school, consider staying in that city for a few years after graduation. You will make a lot of friends and contacts in two years, but if you move away immediately, you will lose them. (This last piece of advice was given to me by a colleague who still regrets that he moved away a week after receiving his degree.) Finally, stay away from drama queens, bastards, and bullies, even the ones who are powerful and who seem to hold the potential for your future professional advancement. If I were dying right now and had to give counsel with my last breath, it would be this: Assholes only ever help themselves.

Read the full article here.

Share

Summer Session

Summer Session – I Reviewed Art Grants for 3 Days & Here’s What I Learned

This Summer Session we’re going Back to School, focusing on the intersections of artistic practice, education, and the roles of various institutions. Today we bring you an excerpt from an article by Sarah Brin, who volunteered with the California Arts Council to review art grant proposals. Brin offers some advice and general findings based on her experience to help future artists find success when they submit grant proposals to the state for their projects. This article was originally published on Medium on April 10, 2016.

Nick Cave. Heard, 2015 (performance still); Detroit, MI. Courtesy of the Artist and ArtNews.

Nick Cave. Heard, 2015 (performance still); Detroit, MI. Courtesy of the Artist and ArtNews.

I just spent three days in a conference room in Sacramento reviewing grants for the California Arts Council. I spent this time with four other arts professionals working in different fields. I stayed in a weird hotel and had a modest per diem for eating meals by myself, after which I would take long, aimless walks around the state capitol and think about stuff. I learned a lot during this process, so I’m sharing a few takeaways for artists and would-be grant writers.

• Our group was responsible for reading a little under fifty applications. Each application has an assigned “main reader” who steers the conversation of each proposal. This person has the floor to set the tone for the discussion of a project. I wouldn’t use a term like “make or break” here, but something less dramatic and slightly less tangible happens.

• I noticed three big themes popping up within the applications we read. I’m simplifying here, but they were: (1) collaborative instrument making, (2) art parades, (3) support for transgender creatives.

• Jargon is the worst. Don’t say something like “our collaborative process has innovative impact around groundbreaking community discourse” unless you take time to unpack what that really means. Terminology does not make you seem fancy, at least not to the people willing to take three days off from work because they really care about which projects get funded by the state.

Share