In The Conversation’s first guest-featured Virtual Café – our once every few weeks gathering with fellow listeners on Zoom - former guest of the podcast (epis. 152 and 153) Nato Thompson talks about “the Indignation.” He riffs on how our emotional space, the space of the personal, becomes a political space... and how in that emotional space, the things that get the most traction are the things that provoke the most emotion. He points out that our biggest emotion- fear - is the modality of the internet, and how most internet chatter takes the form of social media- which has, ultimately, become our political discourse. He also talks his departure from the Philadelphia Contemporary (and nonprofits), and his new post directing the Alternative Art School, and ends with a great anecdote about his turning point towards becoming a curator.
In Part 2 with artist Steve Lambert, he discusses his most well-known artwork, Capitalism Works For Me, wherein he prompts participants to decide between “true” and “false” on whether capitalism really works for them on a personal level. Lambert himself says “false”, it doesn’t work for him, despite being in a better position than others and lists reasons why within the episode. He also weighs his career making more gallery-friendly art with his art for social change, and how he’s ultimately come down on the latter. His social change work thru the Center Artistic Activism was just featured on CBS News: https://c4aa.org/2020/10/cbs-this-morning-on-unstoppable-voters
Beacon, NY-based artist and professor Steve Lambert talks about the perils of working in ‘new media’ (as opposed to ‘old media’), particularly around scarcity and the market. He discusses the Center for Artistic Activism, the non-profit he co- founded, including a project in Macedonia that addressed the rampant corruption with a "Bribe Box," a clever workaround for illegal protesting in Barcelona, and training artist-activists in actually achieving ‘wins,’ unambivalently, and the complex relationships between art and activism and how they can come together.
Michelle Vaughan discusses her life as an artist in New York City, pre- and during the pandemic, including living and working out of her Chinatown apartment. She dives deep into her heavily research-based process as seen in projects including Generations, which examined inbreeding among the Habsurgs family of 16th and 17th century Europe. She also discusses at length her current show up in Bushwick, called A Movement of Women, which features a full gallery installation detailing the history of conservative women in America over the last 100 years, through a research nook and numerous portraits.
Los Angeles artist Alicia Piller talks about gradually moving westward, winding up at Cal Arts for her MFA after being charmed during her interview visit. Her time in grad school is described as being a close-knit community where she also was really able to push herself. She discusses her post-grad breakdown, being driven to create without choice, the lessons she learned from having a solo show with a shady gallerist, and selling a big sculpture to the Hammer Museum.
Senior Editor for Hyperallergic and New York Times regular contributor Seph Rodney talks about his long journey to becoming a full-time art critic. As an undergrad he was an English Major, before moving on to an MFA that would deepen his storytelling abilities, and then to his PhD. The road has been long and tumultuous with financial struggle much of the way, getting by with the help of friends, family, and, on one occasion, a tech billionaire. Rodney talks about his current place in the art world, the principles that guide his pen and his mind, “threading the needle,” elitism in the art world, American culture’s White Supremacist foundation, and winning the 2020 Rabkin Art Journalism Prize. Rodney says that when it comes to writing, he “does not aspire to be unbiased but, rather, aspires to be upfront and honest about his biases.”
Greg Allen expands on a thought from Part 1: “selling baubles of the anointed few to the billionaire class.” He proves this is true through what he calls the “naked stratification” of museum galas, the epitome of “art or art-like things done for a tiny audience that either bought their way in or control an institution.” Even with a global pandemic wreaking havoc throughout the United States, Galas are still taking place over Zoom with elaborate catering delivered to your door. Allen contemplates where to shift away from this, especially in light of upcoming museum closures. He also discusses moving from his adopted home of New York to D.C., his resistance to hyping up the “market darlings,” and his wish-list artists as a collector.
Host Michael Shaw reviews some of artist and cultural critic Greg Allen’s tweet history, providing the opportunity to deconstruct some of his cultural criticisms, including a defense of Cady Noland; Allen also talks about his ability to speak Japanese, thanks to his Mormon mission, leaving the corporate world for film-making and the art world, and becoming something of an art world (and contemporary art) expert without an MFA, but instead by simply putting in the time.
Artists Till Witwer and Netta Sadovsky discuss the art of creating, facilitating and executing a live action role-playing game--by artists, for artists. This isn’t your standard ogre-in-the-woods, dressing up as a knight with a sword in the middle of nowhere kind of LARP-ing, but rather a fully immersive investigation of the career-building workshop format. With alternately paralyzing, cathartic, and surprising outcomes, Witwer and Sadovsky are interested in discovering what stands between artists and “The Great Success Machine.”
Forrest Kirk is a figurative painter based in Los Angeles; as this episode releases, he has a sold-out show at Parrasch Heijnen gallery. In the Conversation, Kirk doesn’t back away from describing the pressure the art world has placed on Black creators to make “Black Art.” He also talks about his living room-studio setup; discusses collecting -- both as a collector and an artist being collected; his experience in the art world as a black man and a painter; and he lets us in on part of how he's risen to success in the art world within just four years.
Ayana Evans discusses her 7-year career as a fashion designer (between being a painter and a performance artist), her impressive endurance-based performances, being part of a community of performance artists who are all on the same playing field (unlike the hierarchical art worlds), her first experiment/performance, in which she walked around MoMA in her signature catsuit while a friend covertly filmed (mostly) white women taking pictures of her exploitatively, and her frustrations and struggles with justice for black artists and women of color at large.
Nomadic curator Kate Mothes of Young Space talks about the pros and cons of curating shows in pop-up spaces; how as a curator she's always wanted to be part of an artist's community, the bottleneck of younger artists trying to get their work out into the world, and how she's built Young Space into a major virtual gallery platform - especially on Instagram - that many galleries pay attention to, and sometimes even borrow from.
Joanne Greenbaum talks about her time in Berlin, being one of the few young artists of her time to have a full-time day job, showing up for friend’s art shows but intentionally not having an extensive art world network beyond that, being able to live off of her work, the exhausting parts of being an adjunct professor, the hellscape that is being a mid-career female artist, and her steadfast belief that not everything has been done, especially within Abstraction.
In part two, Brooklyn-based artist and activist William Powhida talks about the ivory tower syndrome that accompanies working at an ivy-league institution, his project Store-To-Own, which allows people to store his work in their home for free under contract, his exhibition After The Contemporary, which satirizes life after contemporary art, his ongoing critique of the art world and its service to and for the ultra wealthy, and the 'Dirtbag left,' which promotes left-wing politics through vulgarity and online attacks.
Brooklyn-based artist and co-host of the Explain Me podcast talks about the highs and lows of being the art world court jester (including alienating art world players along the way), what it’s like when your visibility as an artist dissipates, our various complicities in an art world that’s tied to tremendous wealth, and how activism, even in art, relies on activating the media to accomplish its objectives…
Central California artist and professor Elizabeth Folk discusses the pros and cons of online higher education during the boom of Zoom. Folk also touches on performance art, being able to access it virtually through Instagram Live, as well as performing a little piece live, here, on the podcast.
Danielle Baskin discusses how being an artist and app developer has, now more than ever, helped her create experiences and fulfill the needs of her patrons. Her latest projects include: a platform called ‘Quarantine Chat’ that pairs callers with random people all over the world, addressing facial recognition technology challenges via personalization, tarot readings and spells over the phone.
This episode of The Conversation we discuss the profile of artist Jordan Wolfson in the March 16 issue of The New Yorker magazine by Dana Goodyear, which in part follows a thread Deb and I talked about in a recent episode about social justice and censorship in contemporary art; because neither of us have actually experienced Wolfson’s work in person, we focus on the story arc of Wolfson’s career as portrayed in the piece, as well as the context in which the art has been received; in remarking on the way Wolfson’s work has been described as capturing certain sensibilities of the internet, Deb says that “so much of internet culture is like a different kind of internalized road rage;” Deb talks a bit about the Netflix movie Velvet Buzzsaw, in which Wolfson’s work is quoted; and we wrap things up by discussing the phenomenon of artists who are ‘cranking work out,’ including when they say ‘no’ when asked for greater production, when it makes sense to make that extra work for vital art fair opportunities, and being grateful for being on the ‘carousel’ (as Deb calls it) in the first place.
In this Covid-19 special of The Conversation, Deb Klowden Mann and I talk about:
Our respective experiences with the pandemic, including lots of cons but a few pros as well, and how she’s sheltering-in-place more strictly due to health vulnerabilities; Deb’s experience coming back from the Armory art fair in New York as a surgical-masked traveler, and bonding with another woman who was even more geared for the pandemic; our prescriptions for limiting/avoiding internet and especially TV news for health’s sake; our respective challenges with rent, especially Deb’s in light of her having not only a substantial commercial rent but payroll as well to maintain, all while sales having come to a halt; and some perspectives on moving through this new world as a community, and gracefully.
Brooklyn-based artist and adjunct professor Alex Strada talks about:
Why she makes specialized artist’s contracts even though her own work tends not to be object-oriented, which is a feminist-based approach to addressing inequities in the art market; her great admiration for Mark Dion, the artist and her former teacher who has always credited everyone that has worked for him; her various adjunct teaching gigs, at Columbia, Fordham, Cooper Union and Studio in a School; the socially engaged tendency of the work of her students, which she acknowledges comes out of her syllabi emphasizing diversity of all kinds; her film project “Save the Presidents:” how she and her collaborator were able to shoot these immense sculptural busts, which are eroding on a private field owned by the busts’ purveyor, how the screening of the film in Times Square, as part of the Midnight Moments project, was the most surreal experience of Strada’s life; and her life and citizenry as a native New Yorker who grew up in the West Village and still cherishes that neighborhood, but could never live there now – only Julianne Moore can, as she put it – and how the Chelsea gallery system, with rents so high, perpetuates an art world that has to play it safe in order to survive, and how we as individual artists need to fight for our opportunities and our space.
Bay Area co-director of Art+Action, head of AK Art Advisory and former Sotheby’s gatekeeper Amy Kisch talks about :
Her organizing work to bring awareness to the Census in the San Francisco Bay Area, through various partnerships with organizations and artists, as her favorite hybrid of art and social justice coming together; her time working at Sotheby’s auction house in New York, first in the proposals division, followed by running Sotheby’s Preferred, their VIP program for top clients, which put her in a sort of ‘bouncer’ role; why she thinks her friends who have stayed at Sotheby’s have chosen to do so, whereas for Amy, having come from a social work background, it just wasn’t going to be a long-term fit; differences she’s encountering living in the Bay Area compared with the much more market-centric New York, where there’s much more “drafting FOMO” guiding how people collect; her love for the Bay Area, and yet her significant awareness of both the housing crisis and the homeless crisis, which she calls ‘post-apocalyptic.'
Interim co-host Deb Klowden Mann, a gallerist based in Culver City, and I talk about:
Why I continue to do the show and the desire for and challenge of finding a permanent co-host; Gen-X, and how Gen-Xers and social media don’t mix well together; the Twitter storm that Deb got caught in after a high-profile individual came to her gallery and didn’t receive the glad-handing they thought they were entitled to; my ambition to make Hyperallergic’s “Least Powerful People in the Art World” list, and the relative power of a platform; Deb does a little business, with one of her colleagues, via text on air to give us a taste of a day in the life of a gallerist, and later she explains what it’s like working with a large roster of artists and how she and her team are engaged in addressing a range of needs depending on the artist; social justice today in terms of censorship; the difference between DJs who ‘curate’ music and curators who curate art; and L.A.’s mid-February art fair week, and what Deb’s activity (her gallery has a booth at Art Los Angeles Contemporary, aka ALAC) will look like, and what it’s like for her.
Painter and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo professor Sara Frantz talks about :
Photographing the landscape in Texas and in Iceland, and surprisingly what they have in common; her unusual marriage-divorce-remarriage scenario that coincided with her getting a teaching job at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo; how she’s juggling motherhood (with a toddler and baby on the way shortly) in relation to the studio, and navigating doing schematics for her future work while keeping it fresh and not overly tight; the various ‘sketchy’ things she’s been told, as a woman and an artist, including that you shouldn’t have kids if you want to be taken seriously/have a real career…a male professor even told her she shouldn’t wear makeup for her oral review presentation; she also worried about becoming too visibly pregnant would scare away potential gallery relationships; how the painter Alice Neel was the example of the artist who was an absent parent; what it meant to her, and to her parents, when she came home with her first tattoo; and she talks about the kinds of students in grad school (at U. Texas) who didn’t pass their orals, and the kinds – like her – who did, because they had the grit that it takes to be an artist. .
Moving to L.A. from Chicago, to get away from the cold but also to tap into a broader art scene; the kind of art scene he’s building through the TSA L.A. (and some of the other galleries in the Bendix building downtown), one that’s more socialist-oriented in style and tone, compared with the commercial model, and how he feels more connected to this model as a ‘human being;’ the various logistics around TSA including membership dues, budget, how they recruit members and how he’s trying to grow the collective through international exchanges; how he’s learned as much about himself in the last 5 years being part of TSA LA than his whole life prior to that, thanks to self-reflection and learning to see things from others’ points of view; how important ‘appreciation’ is in his model of gallery/artist’s space; and the history and origins of his last name, which not only means ‘inexpensive’ in Italian, there’s also a story about horses for sale.
The Conversation is seeking a co-host for the podcast- to switch gears and tweak the format. It is also the perfect opportunity to talk with several past and current contributors to the show: multiple-time co-host Deb Klowden Mann, and producers Amanda Roth, Chris Ford, Andy Davis, Adam Veil and Megan Bickle.
We hear what they all think about the co-host idea and also a little about them and what they're up to.