London-based artist and PhD candidate John Walter talks about:
From the U.K, his romanticized version of the U.S. vis-à-vis New York and its high-'80s art boom; and he tries to reconcile the work of some of his early heroes, particularly Julian Schnabel, vs. their oversized egos and macho bluster, while dismissing most of his countrymen (Freud, Auerbach, etc.) for being 'bad' for the wrong reasons; his PhD thesis, relating to HIV/AIDS in relation to visual art and 'maximalism,' and as manifested through his interactive installation Alien Sex Club, which looked at the social aspects of 'cruising' in both analog (gay bath houses, cruise mazes) and digital (Grindr, etc.) forms, through his maximal aesthetic applications; his former apartment Tandoori Cottage, which took on a maximal aesthetic along the lines of some of his work, and how it was something of an experiment in collapsing the divide between work and life; his PhD program, which was in architecture, and which allowed him to produce Alien Sex Club as well as a book of symbiotic writings, and how getting the PhD has been part of his need to diversify to get by as an artist, an artist as "nomadic jester"; how after returning from Skowhegan in 2012 he was completely broke, had to swallow his pride and take a job at a book shop as part of that recovery, a big wake-up call that led him to the PhD program, part of his new era of strategic decision-making; the flat he and his partner bought in London to get out of market rent; how he's leveraged grant opportunities to help support himself largely by accessing subject matter outside of visual art (mainly virology); his being an 'interloper' in virology, as part of his Alien Sex Club project and his Capsid project, which forces him to acquire a whole new knowledge-base in science; how he takes a very often dry sensibility (virology, science-as-art) and makes it 'wet' for an art audience; how despite making a lot of 'gear' (artworks), the commercial galleries he's worked with haven't worked for him, and how he's taken the reins for his work as opposed to waiting for his work to be 'ordained'…and so the market will come later; that galleries tend to trade on the artist's credentials, rather than their own credentials; the logistics of running his studio/office space, which is just five minutes from his flat, by wearing multiple hats in the same space; how he uses 'telly' (TV) as a way to switch off his brain; and we discuss art openings and forming relationships in the art world, in the context of the 'hospitality' component of his many installations/performances, promoting a form of welcoming interaction that tends to run counter to what actually goes on at an opening, and how he advocates finding ways into the community through folks that you 'get on with.'
In the 2nd half of our conversation with Los Angeles-based provocateur Mat Gleason of Coagula and Coagula Curatorial, he talks about:
The benefits of having interns, and people he didn't hire because he knew they'd graduate too quickly to even have them start; how he 'punches up, not down,' meaning going attacking bigger fish, not smaller ones (MFA shows); why gallery staff at the desk act the way they do, and how Mat trains his staff to act towards visitors, while Deb argues that it's a service to their community, but that visitors have misconceptions about what gallery staff are doing (not just greeting), and Mat refers to the 'bozos' and 'yahoos' who come into the gallery and how inappropriately they act; he talks about his litmus for leverage (at openings/parties), the 'Peter Frank' point; the obscurity of artists in relation to celebrities (and which Mat put in context of the pyramidal hierarchy); speaking of celebrities, Mat shares a great anecdote eavesdropping on Loni Anderson talking to Burt Reynolds at an art opening (at maybe Ace gallery); his most recent episode of getting in trouble for writing in a recent Coagula issue, and how he needs to report significant episodes even though now that he's known he's more likely to be heard from by his subjects; who he's against in the art world, in particular those who are pretentious, social 'practicers,' people who speak to you as a child, and academia; how he taught at Claremont Graduate School not having a college degree himself, to many students' chagrin, and yet years later students told him how much he told them how it is in the art world; how he realized he was a Foucault-ian after years railing against him; the controversy around the Kelley Walker show at Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, which Mat has very strong opinions about, including his analysis of the repercussions of the botched artist talk, his hope for change in a private club-culture art world as well as his vehement disapproval of the artist and curator in question; and lastly we discuss the gentrification scenario in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, particularly the area where galleries have moved into commercial spaces (around Mission and Anderson Streets)…Mat, having been a lifelong Angeleno and having friends who have galleries in the neighborhood, offers various provocative but thoughtful angles on the situation, including that the protesters won't go after the government entities that have brought on the gentrification –that would be biting the hand that feeds them – or big businesses like Warner Bros., which is moving into a big building nearby, so they go after galleries, the easiest target, and how the protesters started getting media attention by doing so, what Mat calls 'gold' for their cause.
Mat Gleason, Los Angeles-based creator of the infamous zine Coagula, and owner of Chinatown gallery Coagula Curatorial, speaks in quintessentially outspoken fashion about:
How people in the art world are so committed to being neutral, and unwilling to speak their mind frankly out of a fear of going on the record and being tied to that position; his position not to be jaded manifesting as, "if I'm going to trash something, I'm going to trash it…"; how Coagula started as a "punk zine for the art world," in 1992, and which became his entry into the art world; how as he became more enmeshed in the art world over time, he found himself having to be more careful about whom he trashed in print (or otherwise); how he and his friends decided to try and loot MOCA during the L.A. riots; one of his most illustrious and hated writers for Coagula, Charlie Finch, based in New York, who was(is) the ultimate character; the lawsuit for libel against Coagula, one year into its run, that he had to face and endure, from a former employee of Threadwaxing Space who Coagula had written about regarding alleged embezzlement (though 'alleged' was missing from the article), taking eight years to go to trial…though it cost him 30K in legal fees, he got a lot of media attention for Coagula out of it; why he decided to fight the lawsuit, which helped him decide that Coagula was his most important and successful endeavor after numerous failures, and that he needed to fight for it; how and why he started his gallery Coagula Curatorial (print was dead, information was free…); how there really isn't any purity in the art world, and every relationship worth its mettle is a conflict of interest to some degree; how to sign artists to your program who aren't flakes (and what the definition of "flake" is in L.A. vs. New York); and how if his interns were in his place of running a gallery, "they would never hire me…"
Manhattan-based collector and real estate attorney Stacey Fabrikant talks about:
The work she's done as an attorney, working pro bono for several years - when she was married -with artists, galleries and non-profit art organizations (including non-art ones) on contracts of various types (she now has barter rates, start-up rates and non-profit rates among others so people can work with her), and the satisfaction she got from the thank-yous in lieu of payments; her work ranging from assisting artists in rent stabilized situations settle for buyouts from developers, to artists in contract disputes with galleries; contract scenarios that artists are faced with, and their tendency not to spend money on a lawyer for negotiating, rushing into signing; what she wants artists to understand about the contracts they're signing, if she works with them; the rather counterintuitive reality, from her experience in real estate, that there are numerous artists setting up group studios in Manhattan, or as little as about $2/square foot, while she worries that in Brooklyn, in the buildings and neighborhoods where artists are inhabiting spaces, the developers are right on their heels, meaning the artists only get a year or two before they're forced out and have to move deeper and further out; her history as a collector, from her roots via what her mom collected (racy David Salle and Robert Morris pieces) to her first pieces 20-odd years ago, starting with a Sugimoto photo and an Alan McCollum surrogate, through her connection with the artist scene in New Haven and the artists that she's supported there (and who come stay with her when they're in town), and local artists, some of whom she'd like to support in even greater depth were it possible; how she's educated herself about art (she didn't study art history) through multiple trips through Chelsea (at one time she was doing galleries there 3-4 days/week) seeing the work and talking to the artists and/or gallerists, and how she's found the Lower East Side gallery community even more approachable and relaxed; how highly she prioritizes her own collection, to the extent that for her new place she's about to move into, she doesn't care about the furniture- it's all about being able to curate and re-curate her collection throughout the space; how much she loves to show off her collection, particularly to get into the backstories of the work, and also as a way to gradually infuse a level of appreciation into her otherwise art-skeptical friends; how her ex-husband laughed at our complained about all the art she bought when they were together, but since the split has caught the bug and is becoming a pretty obsessive collector himself; how she'll go to art fairs, and enjoy them, but won't buy there so as not to get caught up in the frenzy; and how she'll always be the collector who will remain happy with a given artist's piece and grateful that they're still alive, which she believes is important to a lot of artists, and that's what makes it fun for her.