Posts Tagged ‘David Levine’

Homily Post

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Why should anybody in the art world(s) care about etiquette? Artists should be busy pursuing their visions and mystic truths. Dealers should have their hands full scoring their artists money and premier placement. Should we expect any serious participant to patiently learn a constructed code of behaviors designed and imposed by people in power who just want another way to alienate the uninitiated? A creative genius should be immune to etiquette, free to carry his or her generative capacity out of the studio and into the real world, free to transform and transcend interpersonal relations as he or she will do Painting.

Bad etiquette

Etiquette might be for squares, but social codes are inevitable when people come together, just like language and babies. If you want to join in, then you have to surrender and learn these codes. Otherwise, just try to approach Larry Gagosian to tell him about your work, show up at Gladstone with slides, or add Robert Storr to your newsletter mailing list without asking first. Try handing out postcards for your group show while at someone else’s opening. You’d fare better with bad breath or an NRA hunter’s cap. Self-preservation compels you to study and trace the invisible mechanics between people; this improves your chances of survival. (It’s a lot like the awesome spy who can spot enemy, incognito spies mingled in the crowds: the man at the payphone, the woman with a stroller, the bike messenger riding around the block over and over.)

For your survival alone, it’s worth spending your last $8 on I like your work: art and etiquette, edited by Paper Monument.  This month brought the third reprinting of the pamphlet, which originally debuted in August 2009.  Paper Monument includes Naomi Fry, I-Huei Go, Prem Krishnamurthy, Dushko Petrovich, Jessica Slaven, and Roger White. For this pamphlet, Paper Monument sought from art professionals of varied stature their thoughts on art world etiquette. The contributors include artists, critics, curators, bloggers, dealers, and publishers. Most of them respond to a scripted list of questions, others write essays or produce do-and-don’t lists for art world navigation.

Read the book

The book offers valuable tips. On chatting, Anonymous adivses, “When conversation flags, introduce new topics in alphabetical order.” On studio visits, Jay Batlle: “Try to be on time/ Don’t cancel at the last minute.” On restraint, Ethan Greenbaum: “You can’t act like you want anything too bad” and Anonymous: “Don’t let on that you want something from someone- this makes the person who is wanted from uncomfortable – better to let them suggest it.”

Some recurring concerns arise. For example, three writers prescribe ways to handle your own negative opinions. Andrew Berardini; “If the dealer or artist(s) ask how you like the show during the opening, try to find something polite to say. If they insist on a real opinion, they’ve got whatever you have to say coming.” For Anonymous: “Wait until you are at least six blocks away from a show before expressing a negative opinion about the show – this is known as the ‘six block rule.'” Ryan Steadman: “Negative comments about the artist’s work at their opening is the equivalent of taking a shit on someone’s birthday cake at their fortieth birthday party.”

Image from flickr user Christopher DeCaro

Ripping a show at the opening is proof that you shouldn’t be there in the first place. (Bob Nickas: “Only go to openings if you’re invited.”) If you really belonged, you would have had a studio visit with the artist well before the show opened, and there voiced your concerns about his or her work. If you actually did that, then you’d probably care enough about the person to hush up, or at least find a satisfying compromise, such as, “Not the choice I would have made, but I know so-and-so thought lots about it/ had a good reason/ made a difficult choice.”

On the other hand, phony compliments and endorsements can be just as bad. (Again, Nickas: “The only reason to tell someone you liked his or her show is if you did.”) Insincerity can be surprisingly apparent , and anyway, devaluing genuine compliments is like counterfeiting money. For me, I try to share something – anything – I like: “One really cool thing was the glistening patina on that bronze/ the pasty texture on that big painting/ the spongy tongue on the Gene Simmons sculpture.”

One touchy issue is surprisingly absent: comparing an artist’s work to another artist. Artists generally dislike hearing that their work is similar to another artist, especially when that other artist is a living artist. What the artist hears is: “Your work isn’t original.” You should never say, “Your work looks like so-and-so artist,” even if you mean it as a compliment.  On this topic, Artist and SVA alum Delia Gable Facebook’d me the following candid, yet moderate view: “It’s one thing when a person says, ‘Oh, have you ever seen (so-and-so)’s work? I think you would really like it,’ because I love learning about new works to look at. But I get SO pissed when someone says that my stuff ‘looks just like’ some random dude who, say, also does line drawings, or uses ink, or drew a woman once. It IS lazy, to say the very least!!!”

It doesn’t matter if that “other artist” is indisputably great. “Your work looks like Tintoretto” would never occur, because nobody actually makes work like that, and if they did, you probably wouldn’t get to talk to them, anyway. One thing that is permissible is to cross media. Tell a painter that his sense of light reminds you of Antonioni, or a photographer that there’s something Borges about the way she handles time. (On the other hand, this could make you sound pretentious.)

"Nice, but let's see something original!"

Ultimately, the book is more of a time capsule or survey than authoritative guide. The dynamic art worlds are small and unregulated, and can be hideously nepotistic, fickle, and inscrutable. The paradigm always shifts, so no rule can be absolute. Amanda Trager nails it, observing that etiquette is “Impossible to sum up because the art world is a place “where worlds collide” kind of place – people from different social strata, of different generations and countries, etcetera, make etiquette a constantly shifting and constantly negotiated thing. Which is good.”

2 close for com4t

And no infraction has to be your last. The art world is filled with so many insecure and troubled adults that it ends up being merciful on the etiquette deficient. Even well established artists can be uncouth or tactless. It isn’t necessarily malicious or even unschooled; it’s just that everybody is nervous. Or as David Levine writes, “Everyone is totally freaked out all the time.”

The Birth of Quill

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Your "Peace" in the Show: Joe Flood with Keith Mayerson

Curated by artists’ artist Keith Mayerson, the neo-NeoIntegrity (or post-NeoIntegrity) migrates from Chelsea to SoHo, where, 15-20 years ago, it would have been in the capitol of the art world.  The first incarnation at Derek Eller Gallery in 2007 felt like the Justice League Satellite, a zero-gravity chamber of unimpeachable art that surely anticipated Reporta Smith’s recent summoning for “art that seems made by one person out of intense personal necessity, often by hand.”  And this show does, too.

Inside the gallery at MoCCA (the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art), the show seems as far from Chelsea as Narnia, Gotham City, or Krypton, despite the presence of the Chelsea canonized Mike Kelley, Jim Shaw, Ellen Berkenblitt, Carroll Dunham, and Peter Halley.  And has the Whitney been by to see the Ad Reinhardt collages?

Big balls in a square-paneled world: Keith Mayerson's shout-out

Visitors to NeoIntegrity: Comics Edition might recall recent “visitations” in Chelsea from this alien planet: Basil Wolverton at Gladstone Gallery (2009), R. Crumb at David Zwirner (now), Thomas Woodruff at P.P.O.W. (2008), David Shrigley at Anton Kern (2008) and many other shows of artists working in sequential imagery, grotesque countenance and figuration, and mostly pencil and ink.  Keith Mayerson’s own mini-retrospective and end-of-empire narrative Both Sides Now at Paul Kasmin Gallery (2009) shuttled back and forth between these worlds.

(l) MoCCA Chairwoman Ellen S. Abramowitz, youngsters, MoCCA Director Karl Erickson

Generously funded by School of Visual Arts, a longtime fount of cartooning and illustration talent, Keith’s massive project includes over 200 artists and four or five times as many drawings, paintings, sculptures, and videos.  Hot!  The tiny gallery is packed from floor to ceiling, and you really have to watch your step, too.

Krazy Kats: (l-r) Artists Michael Magnan and TM Davy, muse Liam O'Malley, and artist Scott Hug

The bifocals crowd might struggle with the abundance of 10-pt handwritten text extruded throughout the paneled pages, and there is enough black-and-white action to make any newspaper’s editorial page see red.  But that just means that it’s even more of a knockout to see full-color from chromo sapiens such as Dana Schutz, David Sandlin, and John Wesley.  An “Adults Only” section designed by artist TM Davy includes grown-up material ranging from suggestive homoeroticism and explicit T&A to downright  obscenity – more, please!  Here, you’ll find a really beautiful and moody package from James Siena and a multivalent Shel Silverstein that gazes inward, outward, and downward, all at once.

Gold-Medal winning illustrator Yuko Shimizu, SVA MFA '03

More pictures to come after the rain subsides, but the photos today are from the opening reception last week.

IMAGES: Michael Bilsborough