Fan Mail

Fan Mail: Rachel Granofsky

Rachel Granofsky’s approach to photography is akin to puzzle making, a balancing act between meticulously connecting individual parts while holding an unwavering attention to the whole. She creates her photographs at her Bushwick studio, which is set up as a miniature stage for building life-size installations. Granofsky constructs, frames, and captures; this labor-intensive process is her way of subverting the immediacy of digital photography. In return, her photographs demand a slowness in viewing that is necessary for an appreciation of detail.

Rachel Granofsky. Ghost Sex, 2014; pigment print; 42 x 56 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Rachel Granofsky. Ghost Sex, 2014; pigment print; 42 x 56 in. Courtesy of the Artist.

Teeming with the uncanny, Granofsky’s photographs are spatially ambiguous and conceptually disarming. Ghost Sex (2014) was inspired by a conversation around the idea of consensual sex with a ghost. It took six weeks to construct; most of the labor involved drawing lines parallel to the camera frame onto the space of the installation—Granofsky is resolute about honoring the preset parameters dictated by the position and vantage point of the camera. She employs the deception inherent to photography by playing with layering and depth, and blurring the lines between foreground and background through trompe l’oeil techniques of painting onto various surfaces. As a result, the composition of Ghost Sex makes sense only from one angle: that of the camera.

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St. Louis

Make Your Mother at G-CADD

The Granite City Art and Design District (also known as G-CADD) is an art compound of galleries and outdoor exhibition spaces along one block of Granite City, Illinois, located across the river from downtown St. Louis. Their exhibition, Make Your Mother, is a multifaceted grouping of works that investigate mother/child relationships.

Lauren Cardenas. Case Study 001, Mother 001, 2011 (detail); full color perfect bound artist book; 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 x 1/4 inches. Courtesy of The Granite Cite Art and Design District.

Lauren Cardenas. Case Study 001, Mother 001, 2011 (detail); full-color perfect-bound artist book; 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 x 1/4 in. Courtesy of the Granite City Art and Design District.

Curated by JE Baker, the exhibition at the gallery named Insurance features the artists Lauren Cardenas, Nic King Ruley, Karol Shewmaker, and Caitlin Metz. Three digital prints by Cardenas are arranged in a row on one wall. Case Study 001, Family Portrait (2011) depicts five clusters of prescription pills; each cluster is labeled with a letter and represents a member of Cardenas’ family, while a lone pill represents the artist. Solid and dashed lines trail back and forth between members, mapping the relationships of both actualized and potential inheritance. The other two prints are visually similar, but one is focused on Cardenas and the other on her mother. These images are sparser, with fewer pills and no lines. Text in the top-right corner of each print provides data that partially decodes the ambiguity of the portraits. Below these, two books rest on a cart, representing—as with the portraits—the artist and her mother. Inside both, names and additional information are provided about the pills; back pages are left ominously blank—a space for potential additions. Because of their clinical aesthetic, the books and prints appear to be impersonal, but as their content slowly emerges, they reveal highly personal information, unabashedly showcasing a medical genealogy for all to see.

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Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks at the High Museum of Art

The High Museum of Art’s current exhibition, Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks, presents the viewer with a “portrait of the artist as a poet.” Although the art world has been well aware of the importance and influence of language, writing, poetry, and experimental literary tactics on Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work for some time (the artist’s notebooks are hardly “unknown”), the presentation of his notebooks as the main focus of an exhibition on the artist has not been done before. Positioned as the archival source and space of research for many of his paintings, the notebooks function as a key to the intertextual cosmos of his personal iconography, and allow the viewer intimate access to the great expanse of Basquiat’s intellect, his extensive knowledge of poetic methods and global art histories, and his endless appetite for accumulating, consuming, and transforming fragments of contemporary culture.

Jean-Michel Basquiat. Untitled Notebook Page, 1980-1981. Ink on ruled notebooks paper. 9 5/8 x 7 5/8 inches. Collection of Larry Warsh. Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat, all rights reserved. Licensed by Artestar, New York. Photo courtesy of Sarah DeSantis, Brooklyn Museum.

Jean-Michel Basquiat. Untitled Notebook Page, 1980-1981; ink on ruled notebook paper; 9 5/8 x 7 5/8 in. Collection of Larry Warsh. Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat, all rights reserved. Licensed by Artestar, New York. Courtesy of Sarah DeSantis, Brooklyn Museum.

Moreover, while the notebooks offer—on the surface—a warm welcome into the ecology of Basquiat’s creative practice and lay the foundation for a closeness to the content and character of his work in important ways, these notebooks also resist the accommodation of his practice into the mainstream of canonical white male artists that form the generational parameters of appropriation art and American Neo-Expressionist painting that Basquiat is often associated with (Andy Warhol, Julian Schnabel, and David Salle, to name a few). Resisting categorization, these notebooks act as testimony to the artist’s pointed critique of the representational politics of the Black artist and his “voice” in Western, Eurocentric culture.

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Buenos Aires

Jorge Macchi: Perspectiva at Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires

Maps, clocks, dictionaries, music sheets, signals, and words are all different resources we have to decode our reality. By living under a unified structure, we can rest assured that our messages will be understood. A sense of normality is reinforced. But what lies underneath these layers of language? Can we realize how reality is built around us? Do we know how to dismantle the rules of this daily game we play?

Jorge Macchi. Still Song, 2005; mirrored sphere, durlock walls, and fluorescent lights. Courtesy of MALBA.

Jorge Macchi. Still Song, 2005; mirrored sphere, durlock walls, and fluorescent lights. Courtesy of MALBA.

Perspectiva [“Perspective”] is a polysemic word that can refer to issues of representation, points of view, optical phenomena, and misleading or deceptive appearances of things. It is also the title of Jorge Macchi’s first retrospective show in his home country of Argentina at Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA). The word “perspective” and its many meanings exemplify Macchi’s varied body of works, produced between 1990 and 2016. Instead of following chronological order, the exhibition is constructed around glimpses, recurrent topics, and tools that the artist has worked with. The intersection of visual, verbal, and musical language is pivotal in understanding Macchi’s artistic production, which is characterized by a constant disruptive feeling that energetically exercises a critique toward manipulated communication structures and daily stagnation.

Buenos Aires Tour (2004) is the piece that welcomes visitors into the exhibition. On the wall, a vinyl map of the city with anecdotes and photographs of various routes allows viewers to interact with the different experiences of this city. In a display case by the map lies an artist book made in collaboration with Edgardo Rudnitzky (sound) and María Negroni (text). There is a reconsideration of urban and public spaces by its users, where collective memory acquires an important value for creatively reshaping the past, as well as forging their identities. Apart from exploring the cartography of Buenos Aires, the artist creates new world orders by altering mappa mundi representations. In Missing Points (2007), Macchi has cut out rectangles from a paper map, creating a loose geometrical reticle. The representation of the world is barely visible, torn apart by the simplest gesture.

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Help Desk

Help Desk: Quid Pro Quo

Help Desk is where I answer your queries about making, exhibiting, finding, marketing, buying, selling–or any other activity related to contemporary art. Submit your questions anonymously here. All submissions become the property of Daily Serving.

I wear many hats in the art world, one of them as an art critic. Until recently, I have only accepted offers to attend press previews and other pre-public opening events at large-scale institutions when I knew I was actually going to write about a show. Increasingly, I realize I cannot predict whether I will want to write (or should write) about a show until I see it. Also, as someone who covers a huge metropolitan region, I need to stay abreast of the local art scene, but also schedule my own writing time with care. I want to keep track of shows, but I can’t cover it all. Is it okay—ethically, journalistically—to accept these invitations, attend press previews, and NOT write about the exhibition? I’m not trying to run a scam, but I do feel slightly dishonest. Should I even be worried about this? Thanks for your continued sagacity.

John Baldessari. Pictures & Scripts: Honey - what words come to mind?, 2015; Diptych: varnished inkjet print on canvas with acrylic paint;108 x 67 1/2 x 1 1/2 in.

John Baldessari. Pictures & Scripts: Honey – What Words Come to Mind?, 2015; diptych: varnished inkjet print on canvas with acrylic paint; 108 x 67 1/2 x 1 1/2 in.

In brief: Yes, you can and should go to press previews; no, you shouldn’t worry that you’re violating some ethical or journalistic code. Instead of wrapping it up with the short answer, perhaps we should talk about why you might feel uncomfortable, and what you can do about it in the future.

A press preview is an industry event that critics attend in order to determine whether they’ll be able and willing to invest their time in a conversation about the artworks. It can be very difficult to predict if you’ll want to write about a show before you’ve seen it, even if you’re already familiar with the artist’s oeuvre—and woe betide the critic who has already sent a pitch to her editor and then makes everyone’s life difficult by backing out a few days before the deadline. No critic can cover every show, even in a small city, so she must determine which of the exhibitions on offer will be the beneficiary of her attentions. In order to do this, she must possess a modicum of facts about the work, and attending press previews and seeing a lot of artwork as it is best seen (in person, without needing to elbow through a crowd of selfie-taking nitwits) is a great way to get the facts.

Some of the anxiety you feel might be attributable to the press officers who organize such events. Having eaten my share of mini-quiches at preview breakfasts, I can attest to the subsequent pressure that press officers sometimes bring to bear on the situation. I’ve had my hand pumped, been flirted with, had exhibition catalogs pressed into my arms, fielded aggressive appeals to interview artists and curators, and indeed been asked outright, “Are you going to write about this show?” before even being led into the galleries.

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Shotgun Reviews

Art of Prehistoric Times: Rock Paintings from the Frobenius Collection at the Martin-Gropius-Bau

Shotgun Reviews are an open forum where we invite the international art community to contribute timely, short-format responses to an exhibition or event. If you are interested in submitting a Shotgun Review, please click this link for more information. In this Shotgun Review, Robert J. Kett reviews Art of Prehistoric Times: Rock Paintings from the Frobenius Collection at the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin.

Albert Hahn. Hand Silhouettes, Fish and Moon, 1937; watercolor; 26 x 37 in. Courtesy of Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin. © Frobenius-Institut Frankfurt am Main.

Albert Hahn. Hand Silhouettes, Fish and Moon, 1937; watercolor; 26 x 37 in. Courtesy of the Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin. © Frobenius-Institut Frankfurt am Main.

In a 1955 lecture on the ancient cave paintings at Lascaux, Georges Bataille worried, “But what if the present-day world follows us in our exploration? […] Do we not risk remaining in our present-day world? And only rather indirectly glimpsing from afar the reflection of a world that has vanished, a world which I said had become inaccessible.”[1]

On display at the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin is a singular collection where present and lost worlds meet: a group of painted facsimiles of prehistoric rock art from the archive of German ethnologist and archaeologist Leo Frobenius. The result of a maniacal effort of scientific archive-building in the early 20th century, the collection was subsequently recruited as a resource for the elaboration of a new modern art in exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art (1937), ICA London (1948), and elsewhere.

These massive canvases have the power to envelop, offering a phenomenological approximation of what it might be like to sit in a remote cave looking at some of the oldest “art” in the world. (Indeed, the galleries provide a near global tour.) However, the impression of being in the cave quickly yields to observing pencil marks, the distinct wash of watercolor on paper, and painstakingly constructed stone surfaces. The vibrant red of hand silhouettes was not blown onto stone in prehistory but minutely applied much more recently—a reproduction of ancient effect far removed from the performative inscriptions so admired in prehistoric art. The works index an exacting attempt to recapture prehistoric art’s “feeling of unlimited richness,” the loss of which Bataille so lamented in reflecting on our contemporary distance from prehistory.[2]

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Deana Lawson & Henry Lawson

Today from our friends at BOMB Magazine, we bring you a conversation between artists Deana Lawson and Henry Lawson. They speak about the commonalities of their practices, their travels, and the importance of color in their work. Lawson says of her photographs, “I often think of Carrie Mae Weems’s titles in the Colored People series, in which she names the nuances of black and brown bodies and undertones, titles like Blue Black Boy, Golden Yella Girl, and Magenta Colored Girl. I try to glorify brown skin within the print and bend toward specificity of skin tones.” This article was originally published in BOMB 133, Fall 2015.

Henry Taylor. 
Where Thoughts Provoke, Getting Deep In Shallow Water, 2015; acrylic on canvas; 36 × 36 inches. Courtesy of the Artist and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/New York/Tokyo.

Henry Taylor. 
Where Thoughts Provoke, Getting Deep in Shallow Water, 2015; acrylic on canvas; 36 × 36 in. Courtesy of the Artist and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/New York/Tokyo.

Henry Taylor and I were introduced by our mutual friend and collector, AC Hudgins, at a MoMA PS1 function in 2012. When we met I was about to depart on my first trip to Haiti to do my photographic work. The following year I asked Henry to accompany me to Port-au-Prince. That trip was a key moment in our friendship as well as in our artistic practices—the influence of Haiti can be seen in both of our bodies of work. It also gave us insight into each other’s process and the methods that aren’t necessarily visible in the final paintings or photographs.

I’ve sat for portraits for Henry in various locations, including the Hudgins’s homes in Harlem and Sag Harbor; Henry’s studio in Los Angeles; and my apartment in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. Henry no longer needs to ask me to sit for him; I now ask him to paint (document) me, because, as a photographer, it is fascinating to experience up close an artist’s process that is quite different 
than mine.

Our dialogues have been mutually inspiring and have informed my focus and my photographs in subtle ways. What comes out of Henry’s mouth in conversation is completely unpredictable, and it is our meandering exchanges that keep the friendship alive and fresh.

Read the full article here.