Monday, April 30, 2012

Last April Links

by Robert Boyd

art garage
Art at 3210 Elmridge, Houston, TX

Who is this artist? Swamplot noticed this house for sale on HAR, where the garage had been turned into a nice studio. I love it when these realtor photos show art on the walls--it's fun to form opinions about the artistic tastes of the sellers. But in this case, these minimal geometric abstractions were presumably painted by the seller. So looking at them, Houston readers, so you have any idea who the artist might be? [HAR, "A Garage-Free Garden and Gallery Complex Near the Astrodome," Swamplot, April 30, 2012]

art gararge
The art garage at 3210 Elmridge

The best review I've read all month. A review of Avengers Versus X-Men: Versus [sic], which is apparently a comic book that has no story whatsoever--just fight scenes between Iron Man and Magneto and the Thing and the Submariner, four Marvel superheroes/supervillains. It was reviewed by a guy named Tucker Stone. Here's my favorite part:
Neither of the fights are poorly drawn. However, nor are they drawn in such a way that’ll make you jump out of your seat and screech CONFOUND IT, THIS BE THE KING’S OWN ENTERTAINMENT while spitting on that picture of Jack Kirby that everybody spits on whenever they read an Avengers comic, because fuck that dead guy and his shifty family, they keep trying to steal the pajama gang movies from the big company that makes all the best presents, and they’re gonna lose anyway, because justice is for douchebags and so is trying. ["Sometimes You Just Kick Back And Watch ‘Em Drown" by Tucker Stone, The Comics Journal, April 27, 2012]

Anish Kapoor, Leviathan, 2011, P.V.C and forced air, 33.6×99.89×72.23 meters

Why is art so damn big these days? Jillian Steinhauer wrote a nice piece on the trend to super-sized art for Hyperallergic. 
The problem with art as entertainment is that it privileges the “Wow” factor over everything else. Standing inside many an Olafur Eliasson installation, you’re delighted, you’re impressed, you take a picture of yourself looking yellow. But you don’t think about it all too much. Of course there’s a chance you might, when you go home, but the art itself doesn’t encourage thinking. Rather, it privileges emotional response — particularly the feeling of being impressed and awed — over understanding; in other words, passive consumption versus active.
She equates these super-large pieces with entertainment, which makes sense. But they could also be associated with Kant's idea of the mathematical sublime--another type of sensation that shuts down thinking. ["The Problem With Big Art," Jillian Steinhauer, Hyperallergic, April 30, 2012]

The Revenge of the Real
Pacolli, The Revenge of the Real, 2012

This art made me laugh uncomfortably. It's by an artist named Pacolli and is currently on view at Fecal Face Gallery [sic] in San Francisco. Here's a detail:

The Revenge of the Real
Pacolli, The Revenge of the Real detail, 2012


Sunday, April 29, 2012

Shifting Units in New York City

by Robert Boyd

Frieze Art Fair
Frieze Art Fair New York will be held in this snake-shaped temporary building on Randall Island

This quote in the Financial Times about the Frieze art fair in New York next weekend made me laugh.
“There is just too much being offered in a short period,” [art adviser Lisa] Schiff says. “The calendar is jam-packed: there are the auctions, then Frieze New York, then Hong Kong, then Art Basel, then the London sales. I know the collector base for art is growing, that the market is bullish, but there must be a limit to how much inventory can be absorbed in two months.” ["Breath of fresh air – or ill wind?" by Georgina Adam, The Financial Times, April 28, 2012]
Because you know what art that hasn't been sold is? Inventory. Merchandise. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, you silly artists with your "talent" and "expression," your "truth" and "beauty," your powerless "institutional critique" and "dematerialisation"! It's all about shifting units, making pape.

And by a bizarre coincidence, I will be there to watch this spectacle of the society of the spectacle in person. I have long planned to visit NYC for a few days in early May--a little birthday present for myself. See some friends. Visit some museums. Stroll on the High Line Park. So I called up a friend to say I would be in town, and he asked, "Oh, are you coming up for Frieze?" Huh. I had no idea.

So yes, of course I'm going. And I'll report it here.


UH MFA Thesis Exhibition part 1: Comic Con!

by Robert Boyd

Nighthawks at the Last Supper--a comic convention inside an art exhibit

The 2012 UH MFA thesis show included, as always, a variety of artists working in a variety of media. One perennial problem with this is that some kinds of art are not particularly conducive to being exhibited in a gallery. Because of the Blaffer Gallery's renovations, the thesis show this year is at Diverse Works, which I think is a smaller space, which made the exhibition challenges even greater.

Ted Closson manning his table

But new MFA Ted Closson threw a huge wrench in the works by deciding to hold an alternative comics convention on opening night within the space of the MFA Thesis exhibit. He called it Nighthawks at the Last Supper and invited a variety of cartoonist/self-publishers from Houston and other Texas locations to set up tables and hawk their wares. Closson himself is a cartoonist of high ambition. He's working on a graphic novel called The Lorica. His MFA was in service of his comics work, which is a little bizarre given that UH doesn't have a program for this.

Tedd Closson, The Lorica issue 2 cover, self-published comic

Since his work consists of comics pages that are, after all, meant to be read, how does he display them in a gallery? This is especially true given that his works are composed at least partially electronically, and the finished pages exist as computer files. Over the years, comics artists have developed a variety of display strategies to deal with this issue. But Closson ignored all that and decided to create a performance instead.

Another view of Nighthawks at the Last Supper

Specifically, he created a relational performance. I know all you au courant art lovers know that relational art is the most modern iteration of performance. But for comics fans who might have wandered over, let me explain. Relational art is performance that has nothing to do with shamanic practices, with shock, with endurance, or with theater. Relational aesthetics, according to the coiner of the term Nicolas Bourriard, is "a set of artistic practices which take as their theoretical and practical point of departure the whole of human relations and their social context, rather than an independent and private space." Perhaps the most prominent artist working in this mode is Rirkrit Tiravanija, and his best-known works have involved cooking meals in galleries where anyone could come in and help themselves. (I happen to like this kind of performance a lot, which is why I included Jorge Galvan's El Dinersito in Pan y Circos last year.)

Deon Robinson's table

You can see where I'm going here. In the world of comics, the comics convention is historically the most important way for comics creators, dealers, and readers to interact socially. It's so important that it has evolved into several types of conventions, ranging from big corporate commercial conventions like San Diego Comic-Con to a variety of small-scale festivals aimed at small presses and self-publishers, like MOCCA Fest, which is going on this weekend in New York. Closson has created his own self-publisher comics festival within the context of the gallery. And within this space, gallery goers had the opportunity to act like comics fans--perusing the tables, chatting with the artists, buying comics, etc. It was an audacious use of Diverse Works. My feeling was that it was a success for both the comics artists who came and set up tables and for the gallery visitors.

More of the crowd at Nighthawks at the Last Supper, including Bill Davenport in pink and white

Now I could probably write about the collapsing of high and low art, or the fraught relationship between comics art and contemporary fine art. But these issues, while interesting, seem pretty secondary to the relational performance here. Except for the location, the performance was more-or-less identical to a "real" comics convention. When you eat Tiravanija's curry or Jorge Galvan's tacos, you are not "performing" in the sense of acting--you are eating actual yummy food. Likewise, when you peruse and buy comics at Nighthawks at the Last Supper, an actual interaction is taking place.

So how did I participate in this performance? I bought comics, natch. Here's what I got.

Various artists, Houston Zinefest 2012 Compilation

Jarrod Perez, Screw Comics number 2, 2010, comic book

Jarrod Perez, center

Gabriel Deiter, Pscho-Plasmics Causes Cancer, comic book

Brendan Kiefer, Pissy Pants, comic book