Summer Session

Summer Session – Teach 4 Amerika

Our new Summer Session topic is Back to School, and today we bring you an article from our sister publication Art Practical. Here, Patricia Maloney reviews the Bruce High Quality Foundation’s tour Teach 4 Amerika, the collaboratives 2011 performative critique of the art academy. Though BHQF foregrounds its significant arguments against the economic art-school model with a healthy dose of irony, Maloney finds that the most ironic aspect of the tour is its dependency on the very academic structures it critiques. This article was originally published on May 4, 2011.

Teach 4 Amerika, 2011; poster. Courtesy of the Bruce High Quality Foundation and Creative Time, New York.

Teach 4 Amerika, 2011; poster. Courtesy of the Bruce High Quality Foundation and Creative Time, New York.

On April 27, the pranksterish collaborative the Bruce High Quality Foundation (BHQF) arrived at my alma mater, the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI), in a limousine painted to resemble a yellow school bus for their tenth stop on a five-week, eleven-city tour across the United States. At each destination of Teach 4 Amerika, which is sponsored by the New York–based nonprofit public-art program Creative Time, BHQF has challenged art students to reconsider the terms, methods, and purpose of their educations. They posit that the proliferation of BFA and MFA degree programs in this country—over 900 at last count—has led neither to a corresponding increase in contemporary art’s reception in the broader culture nor to an expanded market in which more artists can sustain themselves by sales of their work. Instead, according to BHQF, it supports a self-perpetuating, peripheral industry around art and contributes to the increasing professionalization of the contemporary art world.

All these conditions—the glut of academic programs, artists’ narrowing access to the art market as their numbers rapidly increase, the progressive isolation of contemporary art within a sphere of similarly educated participants—have been pressing topics of conversation for several years and urgent ones since the 2008 economic collapse. They’ve also been the impetus for the rise of alternative pedagogical models by which artists self-direct their research and curricula. So the precept behind Teach 4 Amerika—that aspiring artists should eschew formalized art education in favor of such alternative models in order to reclaim their artistic agency—has much traction and would have resonated more strongly in the rally if it hadn’t been grounded in the outmoded premise of the artist as an autodidactic bohemian.

Read the full article here.

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Summer Session

Summer Session – “Little Chance to Advance”: Why Women Artists in Academia Are Left Behind

Welcome to the first installment of our Summer Session topic “Back to School.” For this session we will be talking about art and the academy, exploring the unique opportunities, challenges, and problematics specific to academia. Today we bring you an article by Bean Gilsdorf reporting on the Katarzyna Kozyra Foundation’s study on the lack of women in positions of power within the Polish art academy. The foundation finds that the significant schism between the female-dominated student population and the male-dominated teaching population is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the result of both systemic and individual cultural gender bias. This article was originally published on April 7, 2016.

Karolina Melnica. Celujacy (Excellent), n.d.; performance documentation.

Karolina Melnica. Celujacy (Excellent), n.d.; performance documentation.

If you are currently attending or working in an academic arts institution, look around. What is the ratio of women to men in the student body? What proportion of the faculty is female? How many female faculty members are tenured? How many department chairs or deans are women? At many institutions, there is a visible disproportion between the number of women who are students versus the number who make it to ranked, tenured faculty or senior administration. This conspicuous lack of women in positions of power is the impetus for the groundbreaking 2015 study “Little Chance to Advance? An Inquiry into the Presence of Women at Art Academies in Poland,” published by the Katarzyna Kozyra Foundation.

Though the data portion of the study concentrates on Poland, it would be easy to extrapolate the majority of the philosophical findings to art departments, colleges, and universities around the world. “Little Chance to Advance” illustrates the cultural, psychological, and environmental factors that operate on individual and systemic levels to disenfranchise women, both within and beyond the academy. Currently, across the nine Polish visual art academies, women constitute 77 percent of the student body, but only 34 percent of assistant professors, 25 percent of associate professors, and 17 percent of full professors. In essence, the higher the level in the visual arts academy, the more women disappear. Are they opting out? If not, at which points in their trajectory are they being pushed out of the system?

Read the full article here.

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Summer Session

Summer Session – Clint Mario and ME, @me_newyork

It’s the last day of July—and with it, our final look at the theme of celebrity! We examined the complex intersections of fame, money, desire, and artistic practice this past month, and for our final installment we bring you an ongoing project in New York City by pseudonymic street artists Clint Mario and ME, whose self-reflexive ad takeovers speak to the inherent absurdity of celebrity’s constant jockeying for cultural ubiquity. Tomorrow our Summer Session continues with Back to School.

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Summer Session

Summer Session – The Artist Who Inspired Kanye West’s “Famous” Visuals Responds to the Video

This Summer Session we’re thinking about celebrity, and today we bring you an excerpt from an article by Erica Gonzales about Kanye Wests re-creation of artist Vincent Desiderios work for his music video “Famous.” Desiderio was neither consulted nor compensated before West made the video, yet he asserts that he was honored by West, exemplifying the social, economic, and artistic realities of what it means to have “star power.” This article was originally posted by Elle Magazine on July 3, 2016. 

 

 
When Kanye West’s “Famous” video released last weekend, many pointed out its likeness to Vincent Desiderio’s “Sleep,” which similarly shows naked figures slumbering side by side.

Soon after the premiere, it was revealed that West not only aimed to re-create Desiderio’s famed piece, he personally collaborated with the artist too. Since the weekend, Desiderio has spoken out about getting discovered by Kanye and helping to create “Famous.”

The artist apparently didn’t know the rapper was re-creating his work until the morning of the video’s premiere at the Forum last week, according to the New York Times. He only found out West wanted to meet him the night before, when he received an urgent call at his studio. He was then flown out by the rapper’s team to meet with West in Los Angeles for a confidential project. When West finally showed him the piece he was working on, Desiderio nearly broke down.

“I was almost in tears,” he told NYT. “We just hugged each other.”

Read the full article here.

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Summer Session

Summer Session – The Mohn Games

For this Summer Session we’re thinking about celebrity, and one of the key ways in which celebrity status is produced in the art world is through the winning of prestigious awards. While these awards spotlight contemporary art, they often come at the cost of reducing the conversation around works to their marketability, and introduce the artists themselves to a number of ceaseless public media inquiries. Today we bring an excerpt from East of Borneo, in which author Carol Cheh examines the creation and reception of the Mohn Award. This article was originally published on August 9, 2012.

Meg Cranston, Made in L.A. 2012 installation view at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. Photo by Brian Forrest.

Meg Cranston, Made in L.A., 2012; installation view at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. Photo: Brian Forrest.

In March of this year, the Hammer Museum introduced the Mohn Award—a $100,000 art prize offered in conjunction with their new “Made in LA” biennial—to some fanfare. Blending elements of the Whitney Biennial’s Bucksbaum Award and Britain’s controversial Turner Prize, the Mohn Award will recognize a single biennial artist, selected from among sixty participants, with a hefty cash sum and the publication of a monographic book on the artist’s work. A jury of four professional curators chose five finalists shortly after the exhibition opened on June 2 and now, in a unique and attention-grabbing twist on the classic art prize format, the winner will be selected by public vote.

The Mohn Award is the latest in a series of flag-planting, publicity-generating spectacles that have altered the fabric of LA’s art landscape. If the Getty’s “Pacific Standard Time” initiative offered corrective histories, and Michael Govan’s upgrading of the LACMA campus with monumental, crowd-pleasing installations by Chris Burden and Michael Heizer provided iconic visual references, the Mohn Award could be said to add some serious bling to the mix. Money talks and, as many have noted, this award puts Los Angeles and the Hammer Museum on par with the biggest global players in the art prize market.

Read the full article here.

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Summer Session

Summer Session – @Large: Ai Weiwei at Alcatraz

Our current Summer Session topic is celebrity, and today from our sister publication Art Practical we bring you a review by Heidi Rabben of artist Ai Wei Wei’s controversial show @Large. Rabben takes Ai’s position as an artist–activistprovocateur to task, suggesting that the show relies too heavily on his reputation without delivering the content to match. This review was originally published on November 24, 2014.

Ai Wei Wei. With Wind, 2014; installation detail, New Industries Building, Alcatraz. Courtesy of FOR-SITE Foundation. Photo: Jan Stürmann.

Ai Wei Wei. With Wind, 2014; installation detail, New Industries Building, Alcatraz. Courtesy of FOR-SITE Foundation. Photo: Jan Stürmann.

This text is likely neither the first nor the last thing you will read about @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz. Substantial coverage began far in advance of the insurgent artist’s opening in late September, and the hype has continued steadily since. So it is not without reservation that I contribute another drop in the bucket. But for a project that professes to be predicated entirely on freedom—of thought and of speech in particular—the vast majority of the @Large analysis is, at best, cautiously complimentary, and, at worst, reductive and descriptive. A number of factors may be contributing to this reserved reception, including the scale and budget of the project, the number of volunteers and assistants who assembled and help maintain it, the exhibition’s lengthy duration, and the nuance of its touristic setting. A section of the project website is even dedicated to these statistics, stressing the impressiveness of the undertaking. While surely significant, these elements overwhelmingly eclipse criticism about the artworks themselves. And beyond the stats looms an implicit hesitation about evaluating such socially conscious intentions, or perhaps further, of critiquing an artist–activist–celebrity like Ai Weiwei—a figure who, ironically, professes to invite and value serious critique. So in the spirit of one of the exhibition’s taglines, “Liberty is about our rights to question everything—Ai Weiwei” (which literally appears on the commemorative luggage tag), this review will question some of the core works and motivations in @Large.

Read the full review here.

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Summer Session

Summer Session – ART THOUGHTZ: Damien Hirst

As we wrap up our month-long consideration of celebrity, we bring you this video from Hennessy Youngman’s web series Art Thoughtz. One of the most infamous celebrity figures of the art world is Damien Hirst, and while Youngman has no real problem with Hirst’s status as an art-market darling, he does take issue with his presentation. This video was originally uploaded on January 10, 2012. 

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