From the Archives

From the Archives – Help Desk: To Apply Oneself

It’s application season, and today’s Help Desk column contains some advice about making strategic decisions when applying—again—to various opportunities. This article was originally published on June 23, 2014. You can submit your question to Help Desk anonymously here. All submissions become the property of Daily Serving.

Should there be a limit on the number of times you apply for the same opportunity before you come to the realization that they just aren’t buying what you’re selling? The application process for many residencies, fellowships, and publishing opportunities is annual, and it’s tough not to continually try your luck. While obviously submitting the same materials every year would be a fool’s errand, does there come a time when (even with diversified submissions) it’s reasonable to assume they aren’t interested in your practice and you need to move on? Is there a risk of being viewed as oblivious to when you’re being told “no”? Or is it more valuable to demonstrate a little fortitude?

Jim Lambie. Strychnine Seven and Seven, 2004; Record covers, tape, photocopies; 125 x 190 cm

Jim Lambie. Strychnine Seven and Seven, 2004; record covers, tape, photocopies; 125 x 190 cm.

There’s no doubt that one of the easiest ways to get your work out into the world is by applying for exhibitions and residencies/fellowships. (See my prior advice on this subject here.) Ridiculous application fees notwithstanding, the process is fairly low-risk: You mail the envelope or hit “submit” on a web page, dust off your palms, and head to the bar for a celebratory drink with the other hopefuls. Yet despite the overall simplicity, it’s just not worth it—emotionally or economically—to approach this process haphazardly. It helps to have a strategy, so let’s discuss the options.

To start, most competitions are juried by a different person (or persons) every year, so it’s not exactly “the same opportunity.” Some years might present better odds because the juror is someone who is specifically interested in practices like yours; other years, you may want to skip the application after discovering that the jury is primarily sympathetic to new-media work, when you make ceramic sculptures. So the first strategy is: consider your audience and apply only when it would be an advantage to present your work.

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Shotgun Reviews

Josh Greene: Bound to Be Held at the Contemporary Jewish Museum

From our partners at Art Practical, today we bring you a Shotgun Review of Josh Greene’s Bound to Be Held at the Contemporary Jewish Museum. Author Adriana Rabinovitch notes that the exhibition “allows for visitors to grasp, and possibly reciprocate, a relationship that a stranger has with a literary work.” This review was originally published on April 18, 2015.

Josh Greene. Bound to Be Held: A Book Show, 2015; installation view. Courtesy of the Artist and the Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco. Photo: Johnna Arnold.

Josh Greene. Bound to Be Held: A Book Show, 2015; installation view. Courtesy of the Artist and the Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco. Photo: Johnna Arnold.

Josh Greene’s Bound to Be Held: A Book Show presents a classic hands-off viewing experience paired with a very hands-on encounter. This two-part exhibition focuses on the value individuals give to literary texts, and invites museum visitors to share in this relationship. The two installations, while related, do not succeed equally.

The first part of the exhibition, Read by Famous (2013–ongoing), is an earlier project by Greene. The project collects books that have been read by people of note (Sterling Ruby, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Isiah Thomas, to name a few) and auctions them off via its website, with all proceeds benefiting literacy-focused nonprofit organizations. A selection of these books, along with enlarged scans of humorous and revelatory personal notes left by their celebrity readers, line two walls of the gallery. However, the process of selling to the highest bidder objects once belonging to the famous keeps the whole endeavor separate from the general public. Its inaccessibility forces visitors to remain viewers instead of allowing them to become participants. Read by Famous functions well in its origin as an online project, but as an aspect of a physical exhibition, it seems an unnecessary method of coping with empty wall space, and falls flat in comparison to its participatory sister project,The Library of Particular Significance (2015).

Read the full article here.


From the Archives

From the Archives – David Schutter: What Is Not Clear Is Not French at Rhona Hoffman Gallery

The 2015 Rome Prize winners include artists Mark Boulos, Emily Jacir, Senam Okudzeto, and David Schutter, and today from our archives we bring you a review of Schutter’s last show at Rhona Hoffman Gallery in Chicago. Author Steve Ruiz notes, “The strongest tension in David Schutter’s paintings is between their historical referents and their contemporary interpretation.” This article was originally published on May 28, 2014.

David Schutter, AIC G, 2014; oil on linen; 16 x 14.5 inches. Courtesy Rhona Hoffman Gallery.

David Schutter. AIC G, 2014; oil on linen; 16 x 14.5 in. Courtesy of Rhona Hoffman Gallery.

At first appearance, David Schutter’s paintings appear almost blank, somewhere between painterly gray monochromes, awfully dry and dead, and overwrought images obliterated into neutral tones. Closer up, the grays separate into more grays—a brighter golden, a deeper charcoal, a greenish dead-moss, and so on—while the seemingly uniform surface opens into a surprising depth of layered brushwork. Like his drawings, Schutter’s paintings are intense accumulations of curling touches, brushy attacks, and bits and clips of painting’s language of flourish. Describing only space, these expressive marks convey meaning abstractly, like gray and black nods without context.

Appreciating these somber works requires a little knowledge of their history. The title of this exhibition, What Is Not Clear Is Not French, is drawn from an essay written by the royalist writer Antoine de Rivarol (1753–1801). His famous essay, The Universality of the French Language, proudly presented French as a language epitomizing Enlightenment values while avoiding the pitfalls of other European languages: It lacked the hardness of German, the weakness of a polluted Italian, and the baseness and superfluity of English. The infallible French, meanwhile, embodied clarity, structure, and order, while yet preserving a lyrical grace. Typically of the time, and parallel to developments in French academic painting, de Rivarol was anxious to rationalize the beauty and effect of the French language, to measure and describe the logic of its romance, and to celebrate it within the charged arena of competing nationalisms.

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Todd McDonald: Visual Feedback at Redux Contemporary Art Center

The gesture which we would reproduce on canvas shall no longer be a fixed moment in universal dynamism. It shall simply be the dynamic sensation itself. — Umberto Boccioni, et al, 1910

Todd McDonald’s Visual Feedback at Redux Contemporary Art Center addresses new modes of processing and viewing digital images as part of a painting practice. McDonald collects photographs of architectural elements and urban landscapes in order to change them with digital filtering, mirroring, and layering. These manipulation techniques are not novel; rather, they have become the prevalent tools for modifying images. But McDonald’s populist choice of image manipulation is deliberate, and is fascinating when viewed in the context of abstract art—particularly of the avant-garde of the early 20th century.

Todd McDonald. Go In to Get Out, 2014; oil on panel; 48 x 72 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Todd McDonald. Go In to Get Out, 2014; oil on panel; 48 x 72 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Take McDonald’s Go In to Get Out (2014), for instance. On its own, the painting appears as a scintillating abstract work that uses scale, strong lines, and vivid color contrasts to enthrall the viewer. Semblances of everyday life appear here and there, with parts of columns and doors becoming subtly recognizable. The painting also has a strong symmetry, both horizontally and vertically. McDonald carefully mirrored and layered a series of images, and then used the digitally manipulated image to create an abstracted composition on canvas with oil paint.

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San Francisco

The Secession Sessions at Kadist Art Foundation

Today from our friends at Kadist Art Foundation, we bring you a video excerpt from The Secession Sessions, “an exhibition and series of related public programs exploring a place caught in a contested narrative.” In this session, art historian Julia Bryan-Wilson gives a brief history of artists re-creating political systems within their practices, artist Aaron Gach talks about his work at the Center for Tactical Magic, and poet David Buuck lectures on the refusal of state apparatus. 


New Orleans

Mark Steinmetz: South at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art

Mark Steinmetz’s current exhibition at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art has narrative ambition, but also asks difficult questions about the meaning of “straight photography” and its relationship to the documentary tradition. In what sense are documentary photographs social records, deadpan descriptions, or allegorical explications of the artist’s worldview? Are they a series of facile maneuvers, or as critic Garry Badger once claimed, “an existential form of jerking off”?[1] Steinmetz’s photographs confront these questions by burying themselves in a fault line where the unthinking camera and artistic intent seem to meet and blur, and the dramatic poetry of the South struggles to spill over the subjects, spaces, and social tensions laying quietly but assertively within the space of the picture.

Mark Steinmetz. Off I-40, Knoxville, TN. 1993. Silver gelatin print. Image: Courtesy of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans.

Mark Steinmetz. Off I-40, Knoxville, TN, 1993; silver gelatin print. Courtesy of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans.

Steinmetz is a lover of tradition and the interconnected stylistic lineages that make up the 150-year history of photography. His use of black-and-white photography makes visible his investment in the early history of the medium, as does his masterful execution of the silver gelatin process, which, unlike digital color printing, opens the surface of the picture to flaws, textures, aberrations, and the artist’s hand. Emphasis on the purity of details and rich contrasts of lights and darks continues the aesthetic of early 20th-century East Coast Pictorialism, while his penchant for the neglected margins of cities and their inhabitants resonates with the countercultural aesthetic and ethics of the West Coast Photographic Movement of the 1930s. Oscillating between portraits and landscapes, the selection of photographs at the Ogden establishes a rhythm where face and landscape correspond and converse with one another, asking the viewer to notice formal and emotional similarities between nature and man—a curatorial decision that begs association with the aesthetic and intellectual practices of modernist master Alfred Stieglitz. Throughout the galleries, Stieglitz’s emphasis on the interiority of his subjects resonate in Steinmetz’s photographs, as does Stieglitz’s transcendental aesthetic philosophy of “embodied formalism,” where aesthetic harmony depends on the corporeal synchronization between the artist, subject, and nature.[2]

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Los Angeles

The Unmooring of Jibade-Khalil Huffman

Today from our partners at Art Practical, we bring you Anna Martine Whitehead’s consideration of the work of artist Jibade-Khalil Huffman. The author notes, “For Huffman, poetry is a means to shape-shift and mistranslate, reforming meaning by first dissolving it.” This article was originally published on April 16, 2015. 

Jibade-Khalil Huffman. Untitled (Cake), 2015. Archival inkjet print, 8 x 10 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Jibade-Khalil Huffman. Untitled (Cake), 2015; archival inkjet print, 8 x 10 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

In her pivotal essay “Poetry Is Not a Luxury,” Audre Lorde writes of the “places of possibility within ourselves [which] are dark because they are ancient and hidden.” She demands we consider the radical and formative potential of “poetry as illumination.” For artist Jibade-Khalil Huffman, too, poetry is no luxury; it is a means to disentangle language from ontology, assembling new compositions suggestive of other ways of being. In Huffman’s video and slideshow-based installations, everything is subject to deconstruction—from subtitles to karaoke to slide presentations—making the viewer aware of their agency in forming meaning out of words, light, and composition.

Huffman’s interest in the expansiveness of language extends across mediums and genres, its trajectory following those traced by poets such as Lorde and Claudia Rankine. In fact, Huffman has been collaborating with the latter poet for an upcoming show at Mars Gallery. In Huffman’s poetry, words are collaged into combinations of sentences and delivered to the reader as fragments. In James Brown Is Dead and Other Poems, for example, the passage, “an awkward/silence by/DW Griffith,” is followed by a series of blank pages, an image of the Warner Bros. Pictures logo, and more blank pages. This collage of linguistic snippets and yawning gaps of silence creates a feeling of being perpetually unmoored. The uncertainty opened up by Huffman’s poetry also generates a space for him to address the cognitive dissonances that come with being an artist of color in a predominantly white art world. “In some ways I don’t deal in big subjects… I’m thinking of Race with a capital ‘R’—certainly that stuff slips in. But it’s embedded in a life. And that’s what I’m interested in,” he says. “The main thing is thinking through modes of text that already exist and employing poetry to deal with absurdity. Instead of writing an essay about misreading and how, for example, whenever I see an ‘applause’ sign I always see ‘applesauce’—there’s no word for this misreading. I just wanted to make a piece that shows this.”

Read the full article here.