L.A.-based artist and recent S.F. resident Maysha Mohamedi talks about:
What she likes to listen to in the studio (over and over) while she's working on a body of paintings; her time in SF, where she started her art career, met her husband and had two kids before leaving for L.A. (where she's been since August '16); her switch from a PhD in neuroscience at UC Davis to art; her aversion to critical conversations about her work, which started in grad school and didn't end until after she was showing; we have a long exchange about abstraction (mostly thanks to my taking so long to ask the question I wanted to ask), and she clearly articulates her objective- of getting her viewers to feel emotions, to be moved,when they see her work—and she uses the analogy of music, specifically Nina Simone, that she aspires to move her viewers the way Nina Simone's music moves her; how her parents have been supportive of her as an artist in their own ways, such as her dad making a custom studio-sitting bench for her; her origin story of when she decided to become a mother, something she's 'always' wanted to do, and why; she weighs in as a parent on those who aren't parents, and (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) how she'd like to lord her superiority of being a parents over non-parents, for the time-being at least; and she explains how when she's in the studio, the only thing she's thinking about his her work—no exceptions.
San Francisco-based artist, Chief Attorney of San Francisco's Public Defender office and former Green Party politician Matt Gonzalez talks about:
His beginnings as an artist, after having been a lawyer and in politics for many years, which originated when he was an undergrad at Columbia and was exposed to NYC's museums; transitioning from collecting art to making art, mainly through the conversations he had in artist's studios; the painters he's had collage sessions with, which occasionally included the consumption of Scotch and oysters; how his brain keeps working while collaging, enabling him to resolve problems in his court cases while he's working; what led him to run for District Attorney of San Francisco, and then later Mayor, and how, even as recently as 1999 in S.F., if you supported gay marriage and were against the death penalty you wouldn't be taken seriously as a candidate; how he was heartened by how well he did in his run for Mayor as a Green Party candidate- that even though he lost in a close race, it still meant that they raised awareness of the Green Party's politics and values; how he came to run as Ralph Nader's running mate in the 2008 presidential campaign; while he hasn't had any personal issues with the newer (tech) tenants of San Francisco per se, he has noticed a general lack of consideration for longtime residents, and is aware of that lacking particularly in regards to displacing existing residents; and his representation of Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, the murder suspect who has been a punching bag/case study for the right on the major problems with immigration/immigrants from Mexico…but as Matt notes, Lopez-Sanchez has no history of violence or weapons, and has no motive; that trial is still to come, when the case, and possibly Matt, will move into the spotlight.
San Francisco-based artist and filmmaker Jonn Herschend talks about:
The Thing Quarterly, a 10-year-old, subscription-based project of customized book-inspired artworks/objects he co-runs with Will Rogan; it was launched with Miranda July's pull-down window shade, which read, "If the shade is down, I'm not who you think I am;" The Thing has been so successful that there are two full-time and one part-time staff; Herschend describes it as an alternative route for art to be disseminated into the world, that it comes directly to your house (or office), which was perhaps the main ingredient that has brought so much attention to the project over the years; Dave Eggers' project, a custom essay he wrote for a shower curtain; how he self-identifies (if he has to), and the dynamics of having a good conversation with a stranger; the lack of art education in describing the wide gap between contemporary art (& the arts in general) to the mainstream; his time living in S.F. (since '93), from the Bohemian days of The Mission, through two tech booms and the rise of the 'tech bro,' entitlement, and how he resolves to remind himself that he was part of an earlier phase of gentrification of The Mission, and now he's just experiencing another, later phase…and how he's sympathetic because it's the only way to not become pissed all the time; how his biggest problem now is Uber drivers (he's been hit twice), who are actually people who live out of the city but come in to pick up rides; how he grew up with a front-of-house/back-of-house perspective in terms of entertainment and attractions, which led him to a documentary on the move/renovation of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art – Stories from the Evacuation – which features a surprise twist; where he is with his filmmaking: he's self-taught, and used a real casting director for the first time (instead of Craigslist) for the SFMoMA film, and he may or may not make a feature-length film at some point in the future, since there are obvious benefits to making films for an art audience as opposed to making more marketable films for a much wider audience, and how for now he's happy to be in the in-between space of the art and film worlds.
Las Vegas artist and podcaster Justin Favela talks about:
As a kid, watching the Dunes (where his relatives were employed), being imploded to make way for the Bellagio; working as a roller-coaster operator at New York, New York; how he's the first in his extended family to go into art and move away from the hospitality industry, which so many of his family members are in, and how sometimes he feels he has to lie by saying he's "an art teacher," just so they think he has a 'legitimate' job with a regular paycheck, and he goes in-depth about family dynamics when your family doesn't quite get what you're doing (as an artist) and why; his Family Fiesta picnic blowout he hosted/'performed' in front of the Crystal Bridges Museum in Arkansas (founded by Walmart heir Alice Walton); what it's like being an artist in Vegas, where it's a small community, but the art-going public is thirsty for it, and how he finds himself having to be careful not to be in every local art show because people will get sick of him; doing his Family Fiesta within the canyons of Michael Heizer's legendary Double Negative in the desert; his own podcast, Latinos Who Lunch, which takes food as its entry point/icebreaker that gets things rolling into a wide range of topics, including art; his project Taco Takeover, which was inspired by Taco Bell's 'Doritos Locos' taco and the globalization of Mexican food, and led him to start documenting every taco he ate as a way of 'taking the taco back;' the art of the taco, and what makes great tacos great; the labor intensity of his works, esp. his large-scale installations (including on the whole façade of a motel), and how he's a nice boss to his helpers; and how he's getting (and gotten) to know himself through his identity because he's always getting asked about it, making him aware that when it comes to his identity and culture, as well as politics, that he really needs to know his shit.
De Nichols, a St. Louis-based multidisciplinary designer, civic leader and "artivist," talks about:
Getting her job as the community engagement manager at Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, which evolved into a position dedicated to determining how an institution becomes a better neighbor to its community; the controversy(ies) around Kelley Walker's show "Direct Drive" at CAM St. Louis, which opened in early Sept. 2016---everything from De's take on the artworks beforehand and what she liked vs. what she found distasteful, and how she felt offended by the notion to come from how pieces featuring black women were going to be displayed, which she shared with the curator; to the climactic event of the artist lecture Walker gave alongside the curator, which in the Q&A session went remarkably wrong, and included gaslighting which left many in audience cold, disconcerted, and/or upset…and in De's case, livid; how the curator, rather than helping Walker to communicate what he was unable to in response to various questions about race and misogyny, instead protected the artist and in turn shut the conversation down; how after the talk, De felt ashamed for being somehow complicit – as a museum educator – in a toxic experience; how as a community engagement person on staff, she got flak from both sides: the museum people and the people in the audience who wanted her to apologize for things getting so tense; how, through the fallout from that event she faced an internal crisis which led to her eventually leaving her post at the museum, and the thought process that led her to finally resign; the positive aspect of the effect on CAM, in the form of greater sensitivity and strategy going forward in a period where it's going to be needed even more; she offers both advice and suggestions for artists to be culturally sensitive about the work they make and where they show it, and how they can become active in this changing political climate, including 100 Days of Action, the artist-run PAC For Freedoms, and The U.S. Department of Arts and Culture (which is not a government organization despite what it sounds like). While a video of the Kelley Walker artist talk and Q&A is not available, you can view a panel discussion response to that event, which took place at CAM as part of the series Critical Conversations, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dhFClenTaL4
Jennifer Dalton, Williamsburg, Brooklyn artist and co-founder of Auxiliary Projects talks about:
Her Williamsburg neighborhood from numerous perspectives, including a breakdown of some of its sections, the re-zoning that has enabled high-rise development and exceptionally high-priced real estate, the fact that she's been there 20 years, and with her husband owns a row house since 2003 (which she feels privileged to have), from which she's seen the neighborhood go through numerous changes, where artists are moving-whether out of Brooklyn or out of New York altogether-and what, if anything, can be done in response to the intense gentrification; the project Month2Month, which she co-organized and was a lottery-based 'guest living' arrangement in which people temporarily lived in housing deemed either 'affordable' or 'luxury,' and open-to-the-public dinners and the like were hosted there; how by co-running a progressive gallery in Bushwick, she's both part of the solution and part of the problem simultaneously as a culture provider and gentrifier; the 'smoke & mirrors' element of living in NYC: people living large, and possibly living beyond their means in the process; how she's continued to keep a day job over her career, even though there have been periods of a few years where she could have made a living from her work, which turned into a conversation about which artists make a living from their work, and the smoke & mirrors once again applies to artists who she may have thought were making a living, but had some side gig, or family assistance, sustaining them; how she'd rather be a "day job artist" than a "housewife artist;" art fairs, and how she (and we) can alternate between feeling alienated and inspired walking around one, which inspired her "Hello, I'm" piece, stickers with various comments about one's art fair state that Chicago Expo goers wore in great numbers in 2015; how in the moment, art fair presenters always say it's going great, and only admit to it going badly the next year; how the one year she and her partner did Untitled at Miami, they broke even, which is great for a young gallery, but if you count time invested they figured they made 12 cents an hour; "elitism" in its various forms, an exchange inspired one of her images; the 'confidence' game, in terms of selling yourself in studio visits, and how in Jen's experience men are more confident in women in those situations; and we have a spirited debate/concurrence about the use of sales-y words in the studio and in relation to one's art, and because she refrained from using it, we talk about the "P" word at great length, and why she likes it (and I don't).
Provo, Utah-based artist Casey Smith talks about:
Living in Provo, which is also where he went to college at BYU, and how the market there is 3X as expensive as Columbus, Ohio, where he and his family had lived previously; his crisis of faith with Mormonism in its many facets; how his wife has left the church, but he has remained a Mormon for the moment, and how he hasn't been to church in a while (since the Nov. election), primarily because he doesn't want to have to confront fellow churchgoers whom he knows to be Trump supporters, but how he's still well-connected to an active Mormon community (his mother still attends church, though his father left the church years ago), and he at this point he feels like he doesn't belong there; some of the finer points of his observance of Mormonism, including never having smoked a cigarette, done drugs, or drank a single drop of alcohol or coffee, and how in that context, drinking Dr. Pepper or Mountain Dew makes you seem like a hard-ass; how South Park's take on Mormonism is surprisingly accurate; his experience at the San Francisco Art Institute, which he was excited about and hopeful for initially, but was marred by his being somewhat blacklisted by some fellow students and even professors, because his Mormonism 'bothered them' (this was in the couple years leading up to Proposition 8, the anti-gay marriage prop backed heavily by Mormons); how a number of galleries that he was working with or in conversation with about shows, once they established that he was still a practicing Mormon (and Prop 8 was now in people's social consciousness), stopped communicating with him, and yet meanwhile, the farther his work got away from California, the better he did in terms of shows; his stint in the Midwest, where he got teaching jobs at Bowling Green University, where his wife was also teaching, and then having to leave when the school couldn't renew his year-long full-time contract due to lack of enrollment from the recession; his family's subsequent struggles to get by in the midst of the recession after moving to Columbus, on his very modest adjunct teaching earnings combined with a little bit of family inheritance and how that led him to decide that he had to find "real work," and to change careers from art teaching into a whole other industry; how the "leveling up" in Mormonism is parallel with most role-playing games, including Dungeons & Dragons, which he's been a long-time player of, and merges the two (Mormonism and D&D) in his art; how his wife, Amanda Smith, also an artist, had her career going very well with galleries in San Francisco and New York representing her, but when they had kids she had to put it all on hold; and how he and his family have managed to get by through it all, including, briefly, food stamps.
For the final episode of 2016, we bring back the May, 2012 conversation with Eric Yahnker, followed by a portion of our follow-up conversation recorded Dec. 23rd, in which we talk about Eric's approach to the incoming regime vis-a-vis his work, and how he and his work fit into the greater scheme of things in terms of culture and activism.
Here is the description of that original conversation from 2012:
Eric talks about his elegant slapstick sensibility, vis-a-vis his cultural Judaism; working for South Park; his business acumen roots courtesy of his Amway-selling parents; and his background in animation and journalism/political cartooning.
Los Angeles-based artist Claire Colette talks about:
Leaving San Francisco (the Mission neighborhood) after 10 years by essentially being priced out; her various perceptions about SF, including the fact that she still has friends who live there and goes back to visit and insists that not everything is over--that it will take a lot to beat the arts community there--it's not just going to go away; how she has supported herself, including thru grad school, bartending as well as working at art galleries and non-profits, and the pros and cons to each job; her grad school education (Mills College in Oakland), which she chose with intent, and her undergrad, the for-profit Art Institute of Los Angeles, which she chose on her own naively because she didn't know enough about the school/quality art institutions generally, until she got there, and wound up making the most of it despite its critical limitations (including rounding out her education by taking more classes before going to grad school); the benefits of what more "sophisticated" schooling has been for her, having also taken classes at the SF Art Institute; her bartending, both in SF and L.A., how she prefers to work at bars that are more connected to artists/the art scene so she can be herself, the difference between bars during the week vs. over the weekend (which applies to 'every bar ever'), and the pros and cons of it (pays well, but it's a service job), and how ultimately neither bartending nor gallery work appears to be sustainable long-term (of course, a classic dilemma for most artists); how she believes that every artist should work in a gallery for at least six months, to see how it's run on the other side; how she's managed to sell her work both through shows and directly to collectors out of her studio, esp. out of grad school, even more recently--having been in L.A. for just two years; her arrival at abstraction, which is sourced from thought experiments and is rooted in everything from the existentialist philosophy and religion of her Catholic French early-upbringing, to science fiction, specifically Ursula Le Guin; and how she's come to realize that, even having worked in activism, that her artwork in poetics and thought experiments through abstraction is still very important to her--she recognizes the futility in each, and yet that there needs to be room for each as well (we both acknowledge that it – activism, abstraction and the market, anti-capitalism, art as object – is, as a whole, problematic), and that the solution is not to stop painting/making art.
Adriane Herman, Maine-based artist and Associate Professor at Maine College of Art talks about:
Living and working in Maine – Portland in particular – and what the school and scene are like there, and what grads tend to do after they're out of school; the housing crisis in Portland, and where artists are moving; how she's lived all over the Midwest and Northeast, and how she came to move from the idyllic art community of Kansas City to Portland, and the pros and cons of each of those places and lifestyles; how an art critic in Kansas City reached out to her and the gallery she was involved with to ask what was coming next, giving an idea of the intimacy and openness of the art community—she also attempts to sell us Kansas City as a great art community that grads should consider moving to; how in Kansas City the community came to her, essentially, whereas in Maine she's had to be much more proactive to find and cultivate it…in Kansas City, she feels like she's "surfing synchronicity"; reciprocity in the art world, and how she tries to activate it, including engagement while ignoring hierarchies; getting Hrag Vartanian of Hyperallergic to her studio; her artwork and thoughts around letting go (both of events and of stuff), purging and downsizing, including the parishioners at a church in Kansas City she inspired to let go of some of their stuff, all while willing admitting to being a "Do as I say, not as I Do" person; she shares one of her personal 'letting go' stories—the humiliation and humbling in being rejected for a professorial job promotion, which floored her, but was able to recover from in part because it led her to apply for and win an extensive residency back in Kansas City; and she offers that her sharing and willing to be vulnerable in this conversation will lead others listening to write in about their own experiences- fingers crossed!
Los Angeles-based artist Hilary Pecis talks about:
Her exodus from San Francisco to L.A. in 2013, when many other artists and creative types left SF because of its skyrocketing, prohibitive cost of living; the 'perfect storm' (even though she doesn't like that term) that led to the massive change the city has gone thru that led to so much exodus,; her gradual welcoming of the more home-bound lifestyle of L.A. as compared with her and her husband's life in SF, when they ate out and went to bars often, a lifestyle that had them out of their apt. much of the time; Mt. Shasta, where her dad and stepmom live and she visits regularly, which is also home to Lemuria, an occult-associated 'lost continent' whose legend is kept alive in the area and prompts visits from spiritual questers; her role as a registrar at a major Los Angeles gallery: what it entails (logistics of shipping, storage, condition reports and client communique re: artworks) and its biggest challenges, including when works arrive damaged; one complicated scenario that had to do with assessing blame -- for a painting with a puncture through the canvas -- among the person sending the work, the shipping company, and Hilary's gallery…a scenario that's still unresolved since around the time she started at the gallery three years ago; how 80% of her job is arranging artworks' shipping to clients, and the irony that no matter how expensive the artwork they've purchased, they don't want to pay for shipping at all, so wind up going cheap as possible (FedExing a $100,000 painting, for example); her stress-relievers for work (audiobooks and running); the complex sentiment of an artist's 'entitlement' when working in an environment that is so supportive of its artists; the conversations she has with her husband (a full-time artist) and how they inform her perspective as an artist in relation to having what she refers to as a "real grown-up job;" the dramatic change she experienced at Art Basel Miami between 2007, her first time, to 2009, post-crash; her current, work-related dynamic with Art Basel, and the significant sums her gallery has at stake in the fair since it's such an immense financial commitment to participate on that level; and her studio time, including the pros and cons of having an in-home studio, and how her son Apollo may not have become her perfect studio assistant yet, but occasionally his own (Lego) projects can allow her a couple extra hours of studio time.
Art historian and art tour guide Lauren Kaplan talks about:
Her start in giving tour guides at venues from the Met and the Guggenheim to galleries around Chelsea; the pros of giving tours at the Met- open and flexible access, liberal policies towards guides, and cons- some of the other tour leaders aren't properly educated and give misinformation to their groups, which Lauren says isn't her problem though it obviously doesn't make it an ideal context for her business; how she organizes her largest tours, which can be up to 40 people, by dividing the group in half and leading a tour for each half while the other looks around on their own; a particularly memorable encounter with a star actor while doing a slightly compromised tour at The Frick Museum; how small tours (families of four) are more conversational that big tours (30-40) which are more lecture-based; teaching people on her tours to feel comfortable not knowing what they're looking at, and how she regularly takes Chelsea gallery tour groups to shows she knows they won't like or get (and sometimes that she doesn't like), which invariably lead to the most interesting conversations; some of her memorable gallery show tours, including Thomas Schutte, Terence Koh and Carrie Mae Weems; the "ven diagram of people" living in brownstone Brooklyn and commuting to the museums on the Upper East Side, and she compares the two neighborhoods in ways you might find surprising; how she came to learn who the core demographic for her tours is (hint: she's a modernist); and she shares some memorable anecdotes from her tours featuring both kids and adults.
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.
David Prince, artist, girls private school teacher and owner of Adjunct Positions gallery in Highland Park talks about:
Teaching at a private school in Pasadena, which gives him financial stability, an art community of teachers and even some facilities he can access if needed; the impressive tools the school has, including C & C and 3D printing; how the school, while having expensive tuition (though fairly normal by private school standards), is progressive in its teaching the students to be aware of and even take part in social issues; how he counsels students getting undergrad educations to study something other than art, even if they're going to become artists, because that background in a non-art education will make them more rounded in the long run; Snapchat, which along with Instagram is the social media of choice for his students, and why he himself likes it as the anti-social media app, free of the pretensions of the curated, manufactured image we use on other platforms; his 2 ½-year stint in NY after grad school at Art Institute of Chicago…he left New York through a combination of his business partner (in a furniture biz) left town, he lost his loft in Williamsburg to condos, and he got a residency out of town; how when he and his sister were looking for a house to buy, he had in mind one with a street-facing garage so he could start a space, which became his Adjunct Positions gallery; the open-ended approach of the gallery, including splitting install costs with artists, which they know going in, showing work throughout the house (the living room, the patio) in addition to the garage-gallery, and the exhibitions not being about showing 'a body of work' but a more conceptual bent, and including work that's been produced specifically for the show; how he focuses on local artists to both support a local community as well as to grow his own network; the scarcity of opportunities in the art world, and how almost all the Adjunct Positions artist are involved in some kind of hustle; how the conversation among younger artists has shifted to include more practical questions, especially how to make a living (while being an artist); how David is more interested in showing artists than in showing "work," which comes through meeting artists, doing studio visits with them and starting conversations that evolve into a collaborative process; and among other fellow high school art teachers, he appreciates that he has something of a dream job, while speculating that education will be one of the last casualties of the zombie robot apocalypse.
Brooklyn-based artist and gallerist Ryan Wallace talks about:
Living and working in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and how it's changed over the 17 years he's been there, and the precarious rental situation he's in with his apartment building's future, and a rapidly rising studio rent; how is exhibition is doing (open for another several days at the time we spoke) at Susan Inglett Gallery- about half sold; art that rises quickly in popularity with certain movements, and the many casualties that result amid just a few artists that stick around; the 'art fund' collectors who are looking for the quick score, and how their stock-based buying affects the good collectors, and how collecting is not a get-rich-quick scheme; the gallery in East Hampton that he co-owns with Hilary Schaffner- their program, their schedule (full-time during June-July-August, tapered to appointment only in the winter), his role in the gallery (he goes into a different mode at art fairs), how much that he had to put up to get the gallery up and running initially (about 17k), etc.; how he wound up in the Hamptons in the first place, and decided to set up shop there; the difference for Ryan being a dealer at the gallery in East Hampton, where it's low pressure, very educational about the work, and so on, whereas at the fairs it's all about commerce, which has taught him that you can't tailor work to fit the market, because 'commerce and work cross on their own agenda;' how some local collectors who have come to 50% of their shows in East Hampton haven't bought a piece until they were in their booth at a fair; the one time representing at a fair was soul-crushing, when he had to do it alone (which was only at one fair so far); and we have a spirited debate about potential conflicts of interest, as an artist and/or a gallerist, including how Ryan, being an outsider for so long, is now pro-nepotism because he wants to support the artist friends in the scene he's built around his gallery, and how it's a case-by-case basis in which, as a business, you ultimately make decisions; and yet how as an artist and a gallerist, he tries to stay away from cross-pollinating directly; and we talk about the Hamptons vs. Montauk, the latter of which has had problems with entitlement mixed with 'vacation behavior' which has led to a level of revelry that has had the locals up in arms.
Deborah Fisher, New York-based artist and co-founder/executive director of A Blade of Grass talks about:
Her project Cityspeaks, which started as an Instagram account and has become her way of making art during downtimes—waiting for the elevator, while commuting, etc.—since those limited parameters are what she can afford time-wise with her demanding arts administrator job; how it also started by asking herself the question: "what's the riskiest thing I can do," since as an arts administrator, she saw herself as never being taking seriously as an artist by the art world again…so how am I going to take advantage of that freedom?; how A Blade of Grass happened to her while she was being an artist; the 'scarcity art world,' in which artists do anything they want except value their work, because that 'value' comes from gatekeepers and stakeholders, which leads to a huge crisis in worth and validation all the time; how to be an "un-artist," as described by one of her great influences, Allan Kaprow; how her conversations with her employer, Shelly Rubin of the Rubin Foundation, who had a lot of questions about contemporary art, led to conversations about context, and how art is integrated into everyday life, and ultimately that led to the creation of A Blade of Grass; ABOG's mission for its fellows, in a sense, as 'rehearsing for the revolution;' the realities of participating in change, and how even when accepting funding from less-than-ideal entities, grantees can engage in conversations with them about their objectives, and in so doing, ideally move the needle at least a little bit in the right direction; the analogy between politicians selling message thru stories and artists (or art and ideas people like Deborah) selling projects through their own story concepts; how the sexiness of socially-engaged art is its "selling tomorrow," something especially appealing to people how get invited to art fairs but feel excluded by the art world….and what if the conversation around cultural production was making the world a better place?; how the types of artists ABOG works with are collaborative, even cultural stakeholders; and how, while on a retreat at a Zen monastery with an alternative approach, she transitioned from "me" to "we," honoring what she came to realize was her social contract, just as she was transitioning from being a traditional artist to becoming an arts administrator and an artist who doesn't make things but sees things, as encapsulated in her Cityspeaks project.
Manhattan-based art writer and budding curator Emily Colucci talks about:
Her place on Avenue C in the East Village, and how she's managed to live in a Manhattan that's now cheaper in many cases than Brooklyn; the C Squat next door to her place, which has existed since the '70s and the city allowed them to permanently inhabit if they brought it up to code (which they did), and which also runs the Museum of Unclaimed Urban Space, which does walking tours of former squats and community gardens and non-profit art spaces in the neighborhood; the heydays of St. Marks Place and the East Village, and how each generation looks down on newer generations' scenes as not having the same level of artistic relevance; her cultural blog Filthy Dreams, which she founded as a place for "minorities who don't even fit into our own minorities," inspired by John Waters' quote, and for the queer and LGBT communities; writing about (and taking down) James Franco's show at Pace gallery, which was his attempted version of re-creating Cindy Sherman's iconic Untitled Film Stills series…why Pace had the show in the first place, what Cindy Sherman's reaction to it was, plus Emily brings Filthy Dreams' take on Franco's history of appropriating Queer culture while simultaneously publicly declaring that he's not gay; her curatorial projects, including a past show Nightlife as Activism (which was about nightclubs, activism and AIDS), and an upcoming show on Disco's legacy, and the two years of work that goes into each show, including relying on oral histories from eras where many of its notable participants have passed away; how exhibitions, unlike articles on art, can actually make a tiny difference in exposing people to things and even changing minds; how it's terrifying at times being a freelance writer, but because she's allergic to office work, she wouldn't trade it for anything, and she always has Filthy Dreams to write for when the other gigs aren't happening, and how even though she knows there are more readers, she always assumes there are two people reading her blog: her mom and her best friend (though she did get to experience what it's like for your article to get some serious attention, after her piece on James Franco was picked up by Live Journal).
Brooklyn-based artist and activist Ann Lewis talks about:
Her recent move to Greenpoint from Bushwick, where she was kicked out of her live/work loft when the building was bought by two hedge-fund entities; the realities of living in an ever-increasingly expensive New York City, gentrification, and Ann's experience with it both as a tenant – including negotiating with the owners for a modest settlement that helped with her move out – and as an activist (she was actually protesting at an anti-gentrification rally at the time she received a 30-day-notice warning under her loft door); her concern that New York, Brooklyn in particular, will just continue developing into a mass of suburban sprawl, with nothing that can be done from the ground to stop it, leaving only the hope of the bubble bursting; a deconstruction of New York City government's complicity in maintaining a corrupt system that fosters unbridled development, to a large extent a system put in place during Bloomberg's administration; how, with artists being the canaries in the coal mine, we can learn from the past problems of neighborhoods being unstably gentrified by moving into homeowner-dense neighborhoods and collectively investing in them for the very long-term, in hopes of diverting the gentrification train; how she feels we're seeing change coming out of social activism very quickly now, through social media and greater attention being paid to issues, and how there's been a big increase in the # of artistically minded people being more regularly engaged in social and political issues via FB and beyond; how her activist work started with street art (stencils) because she felt so strongly about certain issues (Abu Gharib, mass incarceration, etc.) that she needed to start having conversations with anyone who would listen; one of her performance pieces, a protest piece from 2014, in which she spent a month wearing a prison-issue orange jump suit in public, engaging with both strangers and people she knew in conversations about mass incarceration; how when she pushes herself out of her comfort zone, which she does in her performances, learning new things and providing ever more meaningful experiences for those experiencing her pieces; her maze wall paintings, which include subliminal messages contained within them; and she entertains the potential of Detroit as a future home and artist community, should living and working in New York become untenable, though we hope it won't.
Her home neighborhood of Crown Heights, which has an interesting history of race tensions and more recently of gentrification, both of which she's aware of, and in her specific section which has many older residents – including those born-and-raised in Crown Heights – she's always saying 'hello' to her neighbors, and how her Southern roots (she's from Virginia) prepared her to be both respectful of her neighbors and take pride in her neighborhood; her coming into being as an 'art critic,' embracing the challenge of filling the void of black art critics initially by latching onto bell hooks as a model, and then by establishing her art journal Arts.Black, which she co-created with friend Taylor Renee Aldridge; how she started having so much more fun on the internet by taking advantage of its open-source nature, transitioning from lurking around certain peers she admired to becoming collaborators and even intimate friends with some of them, a route of connection that social media is now routinely providing; her extremely close friendship with her Arts.Black partner Taylor Renee Aldridge, despite Aldridge living in Detroit, and the way they maintain an intimate connection despite the distance through multiple communication platforms (Lynne's favorite emoji is the eye roll); the Black Art Incubator project, which she co-organized with Aldridge along with Jessica Bell Brown and Kimberly Drew, and which took place at Recess Arts in SoHo during July and August of '16, it offered several invaluable workshops (including 'Art + Money') and was free and open to the public; and ways that Lynne and Aldridge are working on various ways to bring Arts.Black some income, including Patreon (they're also currently among the finalists of Knight Arts Challenge Detroit).
Australia-based Social Activist, nomad and technoevangelist Fee Plumley talks about:
Her strange relationship to place, how wherever she is she's home; the difference in the funding models for the arts in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia; the Tyrany of Distance in Australia, and how difficult it is to bring audiences to your work in remote areas, which are common throughout the country; how she defines herself as an artist, in the context of a non-traditional artistic life that has involved theater set design, designing early mobile phone applications and interactive performances; what her definition of being an artist is, from creating mobile platforms for aps to guided meditation, and how she views her engineering, platform-based work as an exploration of the creative process; how she is admittedly a nomad who has "dropped out": she's not an artist trying to build personal wealth and not trying to become part of the hierarchy of the arts/technology world, but enjoy her relationship to this (Australia) lovely country and the planet in general, meet diverse people in diverse places, etc.; the realities of being a bus-traveling nomad, in terms of food (whether it's generously given to her, or dumpster diving), being both independent, and yet dependent on infrastructures to survive, and the question of safety, which she beautifully articulates in reading a piece from her blog; "how everything in my world at the moment is about how can creative processes and technology contribute towards constructive social change;" how she finds that nomadacy relies on technology, especially for finding relatively safe camp-out spots for homeJames (her bus); her tech consulting for grassroots causes and the people that lead them, which she doesn't want to charge for, because not only do they not have money to pay her but she also doesn't believe in the capitalist system; the "Commons" model (particularly active in Norway), in which the land is accessible to the public, something Fee takes advantage of when possibly, but so rarely is; her ongoing project "Hammocktime," which involves guiding participants through meditations sessions on a hammock, set up wherever, though ideally between two trees, and how it's a project exemplary of the type of art she makes, which are big projects that are very process driven, which she dubs "the traveling minstrel of interactive immersion/social change arts practice*;" (*her word) and lastly, she reads from her profound opus to life on the road, "5 things I learned from living life as a solo, bus-dwelling, nomadic woman."
London-based artist and critic Sherman Sam talks about:
His circuitous geographic history, from Singapore to Parsons in Paris to Otis College of Art in Los Angeles, to Oxford to do a history of art degree, finally to London, where he's been since the late-'90s, and which he moved to because it was the biggest art world he could move to at the time because that's where he knew the most people; Singapore, where he's from and still goes back to visit family once or twice a year- it's laws around gum and drug dealing, its rather modest size (for a country), that it's one of the fastest growing in the world, and how it's probably not the ideal place for creative types; characteristics of South Asian (in particular Singaporean) art, which he sees as identity politics-based and morally concerned to the exclusion of object (art) concerns; we talk extensively about Artforum, which he writes reviews for (and is still baffled that he's able to); how when he writes a review he believes the only people who will read are the artist, the artist's parents and the artist's dealer, and the next person who's going to write a review of that artist's work; how to test how good a writer you are: by reading it on public transport; how he fell into art criticism accidentally, but feels that all voices – professional writers, historians, curators, artists, fans – should be heard, because there's so much out there that it needs it; how he was reviewed in Artforum himself, before he began writing for them; how he goes and sees shows in person because he doesn't trust what he sees online, and that can mean eating up a whole day to see something way across town; how what he does as a critic, by bringing attention to artists and shows, is akin to being a 'social worker;' how he favors following galleries' programs over the course of a year over art fairs, and how he favors art fairs over biennials, because he doesn't trust curators, who, he says, have an agenda; and how when it comes to his own sensibility, he favors the intuitive in art, and he sees the small abstract paintings he makes as being anti-corporate, in opposition to the neo-Expressionist work being collected by large corporations, which were going on when he first started making abstractions.
Artspace editor-in-chief Andrew Goldstein talks about:
His work as e-i-c of Artspace and, since the publisher Phaidon purchased Artspace, his additional role as chief digital content office of both Phaidon and Artspace; how Artspace emerged within months of both Paddle 8 (online auction house) and Artsy (discovery platform), with the emergence of a high luxury commerce space, and how this ecommerce model is in its toddler-hood in terms of growth; and how the art market is lagging behind the audience growth in art; the landscape of Artspace and how its editorial content is the primary source for bringing users to the site; how the big perk of his job is the opportunity to go around the world to art fairs and biennials, being on the ground so he can stay on top of what's happening in contemporary art; the difference between being a collector going to an art fair (hint: everyone treats you like it's your birthday) and being a writer at an art fair (when it becomes a trade show); how he convers art fairs, which is like a starting gun going off as soon as you get there, and so he needs to cover, cover, cover, maximizing every single second without really getting a chance to breathe…it was more the "you can sleep when you're dead" approach when he first started out on the scene; the merits of Belgian collector Alain Servais, who Goldstein describes as an art advisor and a collector combined; how he sees the same people at art fairs over and over and over again, and yet such a large profusion of them that it's hard to keep straight who many of them are…there are the friends, the sources, the dealers and artist you respect and admire, and then the people you don't know who they are, but they say hello to him and he says: "hello, nice to see you again;" the art "market" (small) vs. the art "audience" (immense); how his approach to covering art fairs is to actually cover the art itself, by really diving in and wrestling with each given work (as compared with most coverage which talks about who's buying what and for how much, etc.); how for many collectors, it's about the works they buy and what association(s) it gives them access to, including a certain social milieu, as compared with the exceptional collectors who are passionate and uniquely quirky in their own ways; and we talk about his interview with Stefan Simchowitz, the often provocative collector and art world interventionist, who Andrew describes as having a totally worked-out worldview, his business built around addressing the industry's inefficiencies, and what the fall-out from Andrew's article was (hint: it was an interesting phenomenon).