In this OLD NEWS-oriented episode of the show, I talk about:
Immersive art exhibits, which are booming, much to my chagrin; a follow-up on the art world’s ‘ponzi-like scheme' involving a new participant, “Rich-Kid art,” effects on the art market in both the UK and the U.S. through new laws and regulations, a union formed at Pasadena’s Art Center, reconciling NFT’s with their environmental footprint (and their financial decline), and a painting of a polar bear in the Royal Academy’s Open Call.
In the 2nd part of our conversation, James and I talk about: working as an assistant for various artists, including making large-scale paintings for other artists, and wanting to be credited for his work, with a title such as “lead painter,” something that officially acknowledges his contributions; and meanwhile, how important the process of the making is to his own work; the things that keep James up at night, from the climate crisis to worldwide political bifurcation…basically, “human tragedy is running deep…;” further connecting collectors to his work through his artist talk at his recent show; a story he accidentally left out from his talk, that has to do with searching for enlightenment; buying a piece of land in the canyons of Malibu, which became an education in native plants and paying attention to the landscape (his wife is now a landscape designer emphasizing native plants); and how the person he’d like to emulate is not an artist but rather a zen master or the like, someone who lives as fully as possible.
Altadena (in L.A. County)-based artist James Griffith talks about:
Discovering the town of Altadena, where they first bought a house, and then a studio building, formerly Altadena’s fire house, back in 1999, and fixing them both up from tear-down conditions; being connected to nature while also being in the city, and not ever buying into owning a cell/mobile phone (although he does use an iPod, which he can text with); having renters in both the converted garage at their home, and in a section of their studio building, providing he and his wife with more freedom to make their art without needing ‘the monthly nut;’ working with tar as his primary medium, which he’s done for well over a decade and gotten a lot of mileage from one 5-gallon bucket of the stuff; and his and his wife’s decorative/faux finish painting business, which his wife launched in the 80s, and allowed them to buy their fixer upper house and studio building.
San Francisco-based artist Sarah Thibault talks about:
How she’s the last artist in S.F., or at least so it seems; a ghost encounter she experienced in Edinburgh (Scotland), as well as her engaging in Tarot cards and other new-age spiritual pursuits, largely as a byproduct of the pandemic; her experiences going to a range of artist residencies, from remote ones with just a couple fellow residents in Portugal, to a more professionalized one at Plop in London; the Minnesota Street Project, a subsidized artist studio and gallery complex in SF where Sarah has a long-term lease at ‘below-market rate,’ and the barriers for entry there; her transition from working in executive assistant jobs to becoming a recruiter; and we talk about my concerns about Sarah’s giving me a tarot reading (and spoiler: we eventually do one in a bonus episode to come).
Freelance art writer (often for the New York Times) and past guest royalty Andrew Russeth talks about:
Why he moved to Seoul, South Korea, where he’s expanded his freelance writing opportunities; a book on Chris Burden’s unrealized sculpture projects, which he wrote about for the New York Times- the book includes a one-stop pneumatic subway under the Gagosian gallery; artists using assistants, and the optics that go along with the various levels of production that certain artists employ, for us as viewers of their work; the art scene(s) and community in greater Seoul, which has a metropolitan population of 25 million, nearly half that of the whole country of South Korea; the vast artist-run gallery scene in Seoul; how some of the trends in Korean contemporary art overlap with international contemporary art, including airbrushed figuration, humor, and meme culture; and last but not least, Andrew holds forth on South Korea’s incredible food and drink culture (including Bibimbap and soju), which has been heaven for him.
with Fernando Domínguez Rubio, author of Still Life: Ecologies of the Modern Imagination at the Art Museum, he talks about: Storage- how much it takes to maintain it; how museum curators put the longevity of artworks in the context of geological time, when thinking about ‘eternity,’ and how exhibition rooms in museums are effectively ICUs for the art- conditions must be monitored and controlled carefully, because humans, just by their organic natures, are an immediate threat to artworks’ longevity; how exhibition rooms in museums are highly mediated spaces by exhibition designers to control viewers’ experiences; the complex logistics and mimeographic labor that goes into the maintenance of artworks within the museum- where and whether they get loaned, get exhibited, etc.; Fernando’s own experience of violence when he first encountered contemporary art, because, as is the case for most individuals, he didn’t have the grammar for reading the exhibition room; how his working class background, and change in classes as an adult, has informed his focus on the invisible labor at the museum, as opposed to its ‘celebrities;’ and how exhibition spaces have been “conquered for a suspension of common sense.”
In part 2 with Fernando Domínguez Rubio, a professor of communications at UCSD and author of Still Life: Ecologies of the Modern Imagination at the Art Museum, he talks about:
The astonishing resources that go into some museum artworks, starting with David Lamelas’s conceptual installation “Office,” which MoMA bought and decided to reproduce, but were reproducing an installation that no longer existed, and yet they did everything they could to be true to the original piece, based only off photographs; the ‘modern aesthetic regime of art,’ and how art that once rebelled against museums and museum inclusion – was anti-institution – is now embracing as many angles of commodification as it (via the artist) can; the savvy machinations of the artist Tino Seghal; and, as part of our discussion of art words and conservation-based artist interviews, we play out a MoMA interview with the artist James Rosenquist, which raises one of Rubio’s big questions: “what is a museum-- is it not a necessary absurdity?”
In the first of several parts with Fernando Domínguez Rubio, a professor of communications at UCSD and author of Still Life: Ecologies of the Modern Imagination at the Art Museum, he talks about:
How he got started with the massive eight-year project of this book, beginning with his post-doctoral thesis interviewing numerous people who work at the Museum of Modern Art; how he gained entry into the museum (hint: via the Conservation dept.); the hidden labor that’s done at the museum, as part of something he calls “mimeographic labor,” a process to make objects of ‘the same;’ how most art in the world is in storage – it isn’t seen art – which is definitively the case for museums; how much invisible labor goes into what visitors see in a museum, and to what extent that labor, spread around various parts of the museum and its numerous artworks, is sustainable.
In this guest-less episode, we ( that is to say 'I') talk about: a new OPEN CALL for future guests of this podcast; the opening reception and the show 'It's My House!,' a group show in Ojai that I'm in; and numerous recent excerpts from Jeff Weiss's OLD NEWS, including stories about the Sacklers' name being taken off institutions, the Waste Museum in Nigeria, the indictment of the (former) sales director for Superblue, and the recently passed auteur Nick Zedd, among other recent art news. It's all capped with a very short story about the Pearlfish, which can be seen here: https://tinyurl.com/yatcyrdq
Settles into his compound at West Channel Road in Santa Monica, and became the big-man-on-campus of the young (1960s) L.A. art scene; his relative absence as a father, his kids being left to run wild or spend time with Sam’s assistants; Sam’s self-empowered and grandiose painting process which included his mantra, “I am an Original” as he began to paint; the profound impact that his fifth (and final) wife, Margaret, had on Sam’s life, because of the way she corralled Sam off from the large and freely flowing group of friends who came in and out of the house(s), as well as how she enabled Sam’s adherence to bogus alternative medicine when he was suffering from cancer; the Dream Machines of his studios in the works, including many compounds simultaneously in development in northern California towards the end of his life; the resolution of his complicated Estate, including a contested will by his last wife; and where one might find Sam Francis paintings these days.
about: the important first phase of Sam’s long art career, in Paris, where he started working on a big painting from his bed in a tiny hotel room he shared with his girlfriend Muriel; how he was a shrewd businessman and cocky self-promoter, a sort of Orson Welles of the art world; how his first patron, Franz Meyer Sr., told Sam he would buy anything he made, thus freeing Sam and bolstering his confidence and security; how Sam wasn’t tied to place (he was constantly traveling and living in different countries), nor to style; and how lucrative Sam’s career was, including having bank accounts (including Swiss) all over the world, and his philosophy that money flowed through you, and that you should spend it.
In part 2 of 2 with Los Angeles-based painter Sydney Croskery, she talks about:
connecting with a gallerist -- who has come to represent her – on Instagram, synchronistically; the benefits and travails of her day job as a server, which can be very intense, and could make for a whole other episode; her “Failure CV,” which accompanies the traditional CV on her website, and how in addition to being self-deprecating, has also been empowering; and as a final grab bag topic, Sydney wonders why there are a number of artists who want their work to have no meaning whatsoever (if you know of an example of such work, please reach out and let me know; Sydney didn’t want to call anyone out).
In part 1 of 2 with Los Angeles-based painter Sydney Croskery, she talks about:
transitioning from representation to abstraction during pandemic lockdown; transitional imagery which included using buffering Instagram screen shots as a source for her painting; making it OK when things are ‘wrong’ in the painting, part of a mandate of being nice to herself; her ambivalent relationship with abstract painting and being an abstract painter, and how she’s navigating that conflict; and her effectiveness telling stories and connecting with artists and other art world folks on Instagram.
Working through an art-like writing phase, in which he does a mix of automatic writing and poetry, as a counterpoint to his existential crises; NohWave, the gallery in Little Tokyo that he ran with fellow multi-hyphenate Justin Hopkins, and how he saw it as a way of giving back to the community by creating community, citing Sir Isaac Newton’s “I see further because I stand on the shoulder of giants…;” letting go of a competitive mindset as an artist, podcaster and even gallerist- his approach to running NohWave was experimental, thanks largely to a sweet deal given by their landlord; why he stopped doing commercial cinematography; and how for now he’s able to work on his art, his podcast and related projects thanks to a little cryptocurrency investment and a lower cost of living in Joshua Tree.
In the 1st of two episodes, visual artist, writer, entrepreneur and host of the Artist Decoded podcast, Yoshino talks about: how he shortened his name to the iconic ‘Yoshino,’ thanks to an existential crisis involving leaving the commercial and fashion photography world for the fine art world; doing Brazilian Ju jitsu, Muay Thai, and boxing on a professional level; how he identifies himself, and what being an ‘artist’ means in his case, how as an artist you want to be fluid, which runs counter to capitalist realities; growing up Christian, and his current spiritual place (a spiritually open-minded individual who doesn't have any answers (!)); his move to Joshua Tree, partially due to the spiritual wokeness of LA, and his desire to process information outside of the noisy machinations of Los Angeles.
Antonio Murado, a New York City-based painter originally from Spain, talks about:
His background in Spain, including several years in the Madrid art scene, before moving to NYC, which he began with a Spanish grant; the commissions that he’s done- how they function as competitions, and then if he gets one, a collaboration with the client, rather than the sort of top-down dynamic that came across in his depiction in Hannah Wohl’s ‘Bound by Creativity;’ the importance of the art agent in setting up a commission; how competing for a commission is like an actor casting for a role; how the sales of his work rise and fall, not only by year but by month, which means there’s no stability; and his time in the studio (around 65-70 hours/week)- how he spends his days there, and how he takes an old-school craftsman approach, from sizing canvas with rabbit-skin glue to building his own stretchers.
In the final episode with Hannah Wohl (Bound by Creativity), we talk about: her experiences with mega-collector couple Sherry and Joel Mallin, who have an impressive collection and are known as being philanthropic in their approach to helping artists, including having some of them live in their homes; a purchase the Mallins made that entailed their flying from New York to London just so they could see the (six-figure) work they were considering in person before committing fully to the purchase, and how people’s reactions to this anecdote are something of a Rorschach test for where they’re coming from; the issues of inequality that being around collectors inevitably brings up; her brief history of being a (modest) art collector herself; and finally, in comparing contemporary art with the arts at large (the culinary arts, musicians, actors, etc.), she describes the ‘radical uncertainty’ that goes along with it, how the artists and the art world make decisions within this uncertainty, and the narratives that artists bound themselves within.
In my penultimate conversation with sociologist Hannah Wohl (author of Bound by Creativity) she talks about: the cynicism of sociologists, particularly when theorizing about art (and in relation to the sculptor St. Clair Cemin in particular); the emergence of the artist Ginny Casey, through her show at Half Gallery; how she describes her own contemporary art sensibility (like most of us: with difficulty), including her appreciation of Wong Ping’s show at the New Museum, and in turn demonstrates the challenges of talking, and writing about art, even for a sociologist who’s written a book about contemporary art; and she begins recounting her experience ‘playing’ a gallery assistant at an art fair (as an unpaid volunteer) for the purpose of her sociological research).
In The Conversation’s latest Virtual Café (which took place on 9/24/21, on Zoom), special guest Rose Bricetti and participants talked about: how memes break down institutional critique; the Instagram account Jerry Gogosian, which was revealed to be run by Hilde (former guest of the podcast); The Dirtbag Left, defined, as well as their use of memes; how the image and meaning of Pepe the frog has changed over time, depending on who appropriates it and how the media covers those appropriations; Rose’s art-making process, which has been influenced both by memes and her prior work as a museum designer at a natural history museum; her consumption of Tik Tok vs. her consumption of Instagram, and how the two compare content-wise; and how the leisurely and the political are so intertwined in memes that they’re inseparable.
In part 4 of my conversations with sociologist Hannah Wohl (author of Bound by Creativity), we discuss:
Competing claims to expertise between artists and gallerists; the fiduciary responsibilities that some art advisors take on, which involves a very pointed analysis of artists’ pedigrees when choosing work for their clients; how art advisors and collectors operate in such a way that perpetuates systems of value based on status signals; how Hannah tries to strike a good balance as an ethnographer, in between being an objective, invisible researcher on one hand, vs. it being too much about the ethnographer’s ego on the other hand (and that balanced approach also applies to her take on the art world); and Antonio Murado, a painter who has produced highly-paid commissions for corporate banks, and in the process grappled with issues around selling out and compromising his work, or, in Hannah’s research terms, he was willing to trod on his creative vision and in the process potentially relegate his work to a lower status level, based on the perception of doing the commissions.
In digging into Hannah’s book, ‘Bound by Creativity,’ we talk about: the continued existence of the artist as bohemian (even as ‘enfant terrible’), as personified by the pseudonymous Simon Moser, whose gallerist and collectors affectionately boast about how crazy he is, and yet who occasionally goes to far, even with his cultural clout; the collector-artist dynamic in studio visits, where a power imbalance is the norm, and collectors are often hesitant to buy work by an artist who they haven’t already invested in; collectors’ light-hearted competition with each other, not unlike a catty teenager style of play; trust-fund kids, and how artists often adopt bohemian lifestyles (or at least appearances) so as not to be seen as having or coming from wealth, whereas collectors coming from wealth tend not to hide that fact; and the uneasiness artists often feel in their direct relations with collectors.
Here is a related discussion, about ‘the Anxieties of Affluence,’ with sociologist Rachel Sherman, from my other podcast How I Get By.
In part 2 with sociologist Hannah Wohl, we continue our conversation by talking about whether the terms ‘Creative Vision,’ or ‘Signature Style,’ are euphemisms for ‘brand’; how there was resistance (from artists in the book and others) to the prospect of Hannah using a sociological model to analyze patterns of creativity, something that struck them as anathema to their unique visions and processes; the relative importance of the art world, in that it moves the conversation(s) forward, even as an admittedly collector-supported system; how cultural consumption tends to reinforce the status of the elites, rather than undercut it; and what the big difference is between trust-fund baby collectors and trust-fund artists (hint: one gets to be more transparent, the other has to hide their background).
In the first part of a multi-part series, Hannah Wohl, sociologist and author of Bound by Creativity talks about: her general studies of the creative industries more broadly, in addition to her focus, for this book, on the contemporary art market in particular; her two-year ethnography of a ‘sensual figure drawing’ class at an erotic arts club in Chicago; how she earned entry into some of the inner sanctums of the art world, starting with artists but then eventually through the support and generosity of one legendary gallerist; the process of artists developing a signature style for which they become known; and the challenges for artists with a recognizable ‘creative vision’ who try to transition into another style and/or medium, largely because collectors want to buy the work that represents a given artist’s creative vision.
New York artist and writer Melissa Stern talks about:
Living in a large Chelsea co-op apartment where also has her studio, in a building she calls ‘a community in a box’; her joining an all-women-artist text group during the pandemic, which has been a great source of support and community; her shows that got canceled because of the pandemic, one of which got re-scheduled, and disappeared by ghosting; going down a dark rabbit hole with a couple of bogus dealers – one of whom was a meth-head – and how that led to, among other things, a great experience among a wide assortment of New Yorkers at Small Claims Court (it also led to a great article on Hyperallergic); her piece ‘The Talking Cure,’ which is a collaboration with 12 writers, 12 actors and 12 sculptors (and will be shown at the Fuller Museum in 2022), and has presented great opportunities to both interact and connect with audience members in parts of the country outside of her New York area bubble.
In addition to being a replay of episode 138, from May of 2021, art writer Ben Davis also provides an update on what he thinks about art and activism today, in conjunction with his new book, 'Culture Collapse.'
In this episode, Ben talks about:
His time in Australia at the (x) conference, and his meetings with artist Ben Quilty (also a social activist work); art and activism, and art & politics; the mutually incompatible art tribes that exist among the different 'art worlds;' how the fact that all the different complaints from various factions of the art world(s) can all be true at once, and how disorienting that can be (for Ben); how outside of the cities where there's a market, the conversation is almost always about social aesthetics (what Ben calls "social practice") instead, and how that's where government arts support tends to gravitate; how some of the most interesting art – art that's 'underground and weird' - is being made outside of the art world bubble, among them Fee Plumley, an artist based in Adelaide; sections from his book "9.5 Theses on Art and Class" -- the title and also a specific chapter of his book which was originally written as a pamphlet and intervention of an art show in NY on art and class – including trickle-down theories of both economics and art; and art education, and particularly what for Ben was a profoundly moving article: A Eulogy for Hope: The Silent Murder of Gallery 37 ; what explains the fact that grad schools are made up of 2/3 women, but galleries represent 1/3 women…what happened in between?; what the mechanisms are that make up the art world/how it works; his piece "Do you have to be rich to make it as an artist?"; how the conversation about the art market is a complete dead end; how cities with much smaller art markets, but much cheaper housing, are better for artists; and how without the writing, without the intellectual circulation around the production of art, art's just an overpriced piece of decoration.