San Francisco

How to Read with Other People

Today from our partner site Art Practical, we bring you an excerpt of Orit Gat’s essay on the art-magazine reading group she co-founded. The members of the group meet each month to evaluate every part of a single magazine, from cover to cover; Gat notes: “art magazines play a role in the way we all assess our place and opinions in regard to the art world.” This article was originally published on May 27, 2015.

Contemporary Art Magazines Critical Reading Group meeting, April 27, 2015. Courtesy of Triangle, New York. Photo: Elena Levi.

Contemporary Art Magazines Critical Reading Group meeting, April 27, 2015. Courtesy of Triangle, New York. Photo: Elena Levi.

A year and a half ago, my friend Clara and I emailed most people we knew in New York to see who may be interested in joining us in reading art magazines cover to cover. We called it the “Contemporary Art Magazines Critical Reading Group” (in hindsight, we should have named it something shorter, or at least have a better acronym than CAMCRG) and organized it via the Public School New York. The idea was to focus on a different art magazine at every session, and talk about the overall composition of any given issue, as well as specific articles, and the larger contribution a magazine makes or could make. We started with Artforum. It seemed like it would fit this methodology perfectly, since we all came to reading it cover to cover (for the first time, because really, who does that?) with a particular knowledge or opinion of the magazine, its history, its current status, and its style, and we all had certain expectations from it.

“Any surprises?” was the first thing we discussed in that initial meeting. I remember presuming that Artforum would be much more unequal and—sorry—boring than it was. The conversation very quickly veered from the lovely discovery that reading cover-to-cover is much more engaging than selective reading, to discussing the tone of writing in Artforum, the feeling that the magazine emphasizes a style and language that generates a sense of authority. Which brought about a discussion of how Artforum is actively writing the history of contemporary art—or at least, believes that’s what it does. That’s why the magazine opens with the obituaries, we laughed.

Read the full article here.

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London

Theaster Gates: Freedom of Assembly at White Cube Gallery

Freedom of Assembly is Theaster Gates’ second solo exhibition with London’s White Cube Gallery. Having won the Artes Mundi prize in January, Gates is currently receiving praise for his installation at this year’s Venice Biennale. Freedom of Assembly comes at a high point in the artist’s career, showing a new tendency to reflect and reconfigure, though by way of a comparatively conventional sculpture and painting show with several telling absences.

Ground Rules (Scrimmage), 2015; wood flooring; 100 3/16 x 147 2/16 in. Courtesy of White Cube. Photo: Ben Westoby.

Theaster Gates. Ground Rules (Scrimmage), 2015; wood flooring; 100 3/16 x 147 2/16 in. Courtesy of White Cube. Photo: Ben Westoby.

Gates makes excellent use of language to push otherwise familiar formal constructions toward a heavier kind of political poetry, and the title of the exhibition works on political, personal, and formal levels. In the most obvious sense, the exhibition speaks to the right of citizens to come together as a body, an element of political freedom enshrined in many declarations of human rights, including the First Amendment of the American Constitution. Freedom of Assembly also addresses a defining element of Gates’ practice: his freedom to compose new meanings using materials that, like ready-mades, bring embedded meanings and histories of their own. The title further references the artist’s creative freedom, after six years of aggressive accomplishment, to experiment with his own traditions as he consolidates his place as an artist.

The thirty-six works spread among White Cube’s three galleries could function as separate exhibitions. In South Gallery I, the artist presents materials harvested from a recently closed hardware store on Chicago’s south side, reassembled into explicit formal homages to artists of the contemporary canon. Atlas (2015) is a series of ascending forklift arms that make a clear reference to Donald Judd. Shrug (2015) is a micro-installation of bricks stacked on a well-made pallet that looks like a Carl Andre sculpture ready for transport. On the opposite wall, Tiki Teak (2014), a shingled roof missing a rectangular notch, is very Gordon Matta-Clark. Freedom of Assembly (2015) is a wood-and-pegboard re-creation of Brancusi’s Endless Column (1918) that penetrates the gallery’s ceiling to continue upward, perhaps infinitely. While tasteful and excellently composed, few exceed their references. Cabinet Work (2015), a line of ten mostly emptied display cases, is the least specific in its reference (Mark Dion), yet best sustains imagination and interpretation.

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Shotgun Reviews

Graffiti and Pictorial Actions for Ricardo Cadena

Shotgun Reviews are an open forum where we invite the international art community to contribute timely, short-format responses to an exhibition or event. For the next three Sundays, our Shotgun Reviews will come from the finalists for the Daily Serving/Kadist Art Foundation Writing Fellowship in Mexico City. In today’s edition, author Jorge Gomez del Campo reviews the Graffiti and Pictorial Actions for Ricardo Cadena on June 9, 2015, in Mexico City.

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Acciones Pictóricas Grafiteras por Ricardo Cadena, May 9th, 2015; Mexico City.

The sun in the center of Mexico City was unbearable; an assorted gathering of rappers, artists, hip-hoppers, and activists crowded into the shade in front of Metro Sevilla. They were there for an event called “Acciones Pictóricas Grafiteras por Ricardo Cadena.” A few people were tagging on butcher paper taped to the walls. Curious commuters pushed their way in between the large banners commemorating and denouncing the murder of Ricardo Cadena in the city of Puebla, Mexico, by the police. Initial reports suggested an accidental shooting. Later, eyewitness testimony said that the graffiti artist had been shot while face down on the ground, at point blank range.

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San Francisco

Dying of Exposure

From our partners at Art Practical, today we bring you an essay from their new issue, “Free Speech in the Art World.” Author Aruna D’Souza discusses “the challenge of being a writer in an age when we are all content providers, the difficulty of separating one kind of free labor from another kind, of weighing one type of exposure against another, of what we are willing to offer as a gift and what we insist should be paid for.” This essay was originally published on May 27, 2015.

Dawn Kasper. THIS COULD BE SOMETHING IF I LET IT, 2012; installation view Whitney Biennial, 2012. Courtesy of the artist and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

Dawn Kasper. THIS COULD BE SOMETHING IF I LET IT, 2012; installation view, Whitney Biennial, 2012. Courtesy of the Artist and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

At some point, two years ago, maybe, I stopped doing things for free: no free writing, no free talks, no free critiques with artists or art students, nothing. I didn’t make the decision out of avarice; I made it as a matter of survival.

I used to accept all kinds of invitations to do such things, paid or not, when I was a tenured professor. I used to feel that it was sort of crass to think about my economic needs when there were important intellectual ideas to discuss. But, of course, the privilege of not having to think about my intellectual labor in those terms was predicated on the very fact that I was being paid, by my university, if not by the publishers, colleges, students, or artists who hosted the events to which I was invited.

When I decided to leave academia, things changed for me. It wasn’t just going from having my salary deposited in my bank account every two weeks to the feast-or-famine-but-mostly-famine pay schedule of a freelance writer. It was rather that, for the first time since I was a college student filling out a time card for a menial job, I was intensely aware of what my time was worth. And even more aware of what my time should be worth. Those two numbers were suddenly almost never the same.

Read the full article here.

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Fan Mail

Fan Mail: Rachel Foster

Rachel Foster’s work inhabits an enigmatic territory in which image and object merge. Her screen prints are composed with subtle colors, unexpectedly cropped images, and positive and negative space. Her prints float at the edge of representation, showing just enough detail to be recognizable while retaining a sense of mystery.

Rachel Foster. Smoke Signals, 2015; screen-print; 12.5 x 19 inches. Courtesy of the Artist.

Rachel Foster. Smoke Signals, 2015; screen print; 12.5 x 19 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Smoke Signals (2015) achieves a ghostly afterimage effect by leaving space for the viewer to re-create portions of the picture. Where most censored documents and images are redacted with thick black ink, Foster uses the pure, indefinable blankness of white. This technique, particularly striking in Smoke Signals, asks viewers to ponder the missing content; after all, erasure is not only enigmatic, but also more powerful than covering up. The juxtaposition of complementary and rhythmic triangular shapes—the smoke, the roof pitch, the chimney support—lead the eye in multiple directions at once, creating a desire to see the rest of the building.

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San Francisco

Jacob Lawrence: Promised Land at the Cantor Arts Center

From our partners at Art Practical, today we bring you Lea Feinstein’s review of Jacob Lawrence: Promised Land at the Cantor Arts Center of Stanford University. Feinstein notes: “In drawing inspiration from iconic works of art history, Lawrence indicated that the stories he painted were part of the larger human context, not just specific to the African American experience.” This article was originally published on May 26, 2015.

Jacob Lawrence. Ordeal of Alice, 1963; egg tempera on hardboard; 24 x 20 in. Gift of Dr. Herbert J. Kayden and Family in memory of Dr. Gabrielle H. Reem, 2013.98. © 2015 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation, Seattle/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy of the Cantor Arts Center, Palo Alto.

Jacob Lawrence. Ordeal of Alice, 1963; egg tempera on hardboard; 24 x 20 in. Gift of Dr. Herbert J. Kayden and Family in memory of Dr. Gabrielle H. Reem, 2013.98. © 2015 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation, Seattle/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy of the Cantor Arts Center, Palo Alto.

Jacob Lawrence’s contribution to the history of American art is invaluable, and Promised Land, on view now at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University, is a fine introduction to his work. The Kayden family’s gift of fifty-six works—including paintings, silkscreen prints, and a commissioned artist’s book—constitutes one of the largest collections of Lawrence’s work in a single museum, and it is the largest on the West Coast, exhibited here in its entirety for the first time. The taut and brightly colored works span Lawrence’s creative life from the 1940s to the 1990s. Concurrent Lawrence exhibitions are on view at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. Another large retrospective is planned for the Phillips in 2016.

As a young man in the 1930s in New York, Lawrence studied with Charles Alston, a prominent painter with the Harlem Art Workshop. The pulsing cultural scene in Harlem included writers and musicians such as Langston Hughes and Duke Ellington, and fellow artists Romare Bearden and Augusta Savage (Bearden and Lawrence played pool together). Alston introduced Lawrence to Arthur Wesley Dow’s precepts of color harmony, simplicity of line and shape, and abstract pattern. But the young artist’s frequent trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art were his real education, and his attentive study of the Old Masters of the Italian Renaissance is evident in his work.

Read the full article here.

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New York

Jaime Davidovich: Adventures of the Avant-Garde at the Bronx Museum

Spread about a large rear gallery at the Bronx Museum, this exhibition surveys various bodies of work by the Argentine American artist Jaime Davidovich. At the entrance of the show, alongside the explanatory wall text, a small monitor atop a pedestal plays the video that lends the exhibition its title, Adventures of the Avant-Garde. In this 1981 short loop, Davidovich takes on a role that was familiar to him: the quasi-documentarian, the ad hoc journalist, the inquisitive artist with a camcorder. We see Davidovich, clad in a private investigator’s tan trench coat and holding a wired microphone, foray into the world, in search of the meaning of the aspirational term avant-garde. Taking his quest for knowledge to the streets of Iowa City (of all unlikely places), Davidovich speaks with an artist, a professor, a museum security guard, and people on the street. At the end of the roughly ten-minute video clip, Davidovich admits to being “more confused now than ever.”

Jaime Davidovich. Blue/Red/Yellow, 1974; three video installations; dimensions variable. Courtesy of the Artist and Henrique Faria, New York.

Jaime Davidovich. Blue/Red/Yellow, 1974; three video installations; dimensions variable. Courtesy of the Artist and Henrique Faria, New York.

Adventures of the Avant-Garde provides an apt title for this survey of Davidovich’s work. Taken primarily from the 1970s and ’80s, the works in the exhibition offer a portrait of the artist: an adventurer with an idiosyncratic vision, a quick sense of irony, and a populist approach to artistic practice. Davidovich is also remembered as Dr. Videovich, his mad-scientist, television-obsessed alter ego, who anchored the long-running public-access TV show The Live! Show. In terms of the art world, Davidovich was an early and eager adopter of the televisual, capturing The Live! Show weekly between 1977 and 1984 and helping to form both Cable SoHo and the Artists’ Television Network. Hosting his half-hour variety show while seated behind the red nameplate of Dr. Videovich—“a specialist curing TV addiction”—Davidovich hosted artists, performers, and comedians; sold television-related trinkets (“videokitsch”); took viewers’ phone calls; and discussed everything from art to contemporary politics, all through the same speculative, somewhat distorted point of view.

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