Archive for October, 2009

More Gallery Observations

Posted in Art, Artists, Contemorary Art, Criticism, Gallery Talk, Technique with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 25 October, 2009 by endlessslug

Again, I hark back to the Fall Openings in the Chicago galleries this year.

One of the most consistent issues I observed while sweeping the new shows was a distinct reliance on store-bought materials.  Of course, it is relentlessly difficult to procure more pure materials these days, but even simple things are being skipped over simply for the ease of production or more probably, simply because the artist is ignorant or following other seemingly less-ignorant peers.   I should specify a bit.  By store-bought materials, I am referring to the use of tube pigment, synthetic oils, pre-stretched canvas, pre-mixed gesso, and pre-cut stretcher bars.  I, of course, have used most of this as well while being a student learning to paint and in the more student-oriented galleries, I expected little else.  However, the more I learn about painting – as we all do our entire lives – the more I understand that anyone can make strikingly good paintings if they only used the right materials and understood the act of creating a surface as a carpentry construction is necessary as a first step towards a great painting.  Proper materials allows not only richness of the work, but longevity, value, and most importantly – the ability to more quickly, cleanly, and efficiently get your point across.  For American painters especially, I cannot fathom why anyone would walk into the corner Blicks and pick up pre-made materials.  We all know that artists are not as broke as the urban folklore tells the general public.  I can only attribute this behavior to a combination of poor instruction and laziness with a seeding of contemporary distraction.  A painting surface built from ground up gives the most individualism to a work.  Mixing your own color from dry pigment using the right type of oil that you want is the next step.  Do you even know the effect that certain oil has in certain pigments?  Is there any point of control?  Art is a science!

Well, the other side of this materials issue is the viewer, whether me or anyone.  It takes a painter all of a few tenths of a second to notice the use of store-bought materials.  I can walk through a gallery of 50 artists and identify the Winton Payne’s Gray and Gamblin Galkyd medium in every one.   This makes going to a gallery less exciting than it once was.  When I see everyone using the same materials in the same way with no care as to the content of the work, the construction of the work, nor the placement of the work, then I just don’t care about the work in any way shape and form finding them all to be mediocre to crappy student work that ought not to be up in the gallery.  But we have so many galleries lately too and these galleries must be filled.  Right?

And a final general note to painters out there…

Learn these two skills, please:  Fat over Lean & Layers

Oh and don’t research how to paint on the internet.  Find a human being in person and ask them.

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New Work and Days Lost to Video Games

Posted in Art, Pop-culture, Studio Work, Technique, Video Games with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 21 October, 2009 by endlessslug

I decided to begin a new series of about 10-15 new pastel drawings over the weekend.  I cleaned up the dusty studio a bit but then decided to move a tarp to my bedroom/livingroom and work like I used to when I was in college.  It was pretty sweet.  I was able to churn out one nice new drawing in a few hours – at least to a done but not quite finished state – and fix up an old drawing that was sitting in my studio for a couple of years.  The older drawing still needs to be finished, but I completely re-did the thing and it looks much better than the one before.  I was also able to check out a new medium I was experimenting with on oil paintings about two months ago.  I wanted to see what this mixture looked like after drying for a time.  It looks pretty good.  Now I just need to finish the painting.  So many works unfinished these days…

Once I locate a means to take new images, I will post some of this new work on the blog and on my artspan and possibly zatista sites.  I have a large amount of work to add to these sites, and I need to invert a number of the images too since my slides were backwards when I scanned them.  I didn’t realize they were backwards until I went through the original works last month and re-boxed them.  I had the originals stored in a very nasty spot which caused a bit more damage than I would have liked to the drawings.  They are still fine, just not “as” fine as they were when first completed.  The impermanence of pastel is unforgiving.

I’ve lost a few days of working from being addicted to Civilization IV.  I have loved these games since the first one many many years ago.  I should note, however, that by “lost” I refer to losing days of working on art directly.  I never really feel a day has been “wasted” which “lost” usually implies, while playing Civ.  This game has brought me endless ideas and understandings of systems and processes, even if the newer games are falling quickly to an inane multi-player, speed-gaming, pro-combat world.  The games, to me, are engaging and refreshing (of my mind).  Once, I tried scheduling days just for civ, followed by days of working on paintings or drawings.  Wow, that was a mistake.  Now I let my mood guide me like I should have from the start.  If I wake up today and want to draw, I will draw.  If I wake up and want to finish that war with Montezuma of the French, I will end him.

Yesterday, I lost a day to Grand Theft Auto 3.  I bought this game when I bought my PS2 back in 2004.  I played it a couple times but never really got into it very much and had trouble with a couple of early missions.  So, with nothing really else to do, I decided to try it again but this time just run around the city and not do the missions right away.  Much better.  A whole day lost to the island.  But then the rest of my night I spent sending destroyers against triremes.  Awesome.  Tomorrow, I am sure to hit the oils.

Missing the Gallery Opening (but really, that’s fine)

Posted in Art, Contemorary Art, Criticism, Technique with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 16 October, 2009 by endlessslug

Today, a number of galleries are opening in Chicago.  I’ve been hitting the gallery openings for years – well ok, I took a few years (10) off, but I’ve been going back more regularly lately – and this week, I’ll have to miss the openings.  The weather was questionable, but seems ok, except my gallery-mate must work at her crap job, so I’ll be staying in today and going to the fencing salle later this evening to work with some new fencers.

The point of this post is in criticism.  I went to the new gallery openings during the big Fall Opening event, and wow was it all crap.  It was nice to see so many young artists getting gallery space and showing work, but I was left somewhat hollow.  The artists of today seem to be competing over demonstrating their use as corporate advertisers instead of doing anything more traditionally constructive.  It is true that most artists in history were craftsmen and women who illustrated nobles and the otherwise wealthy who wanted paintings of themselves, or landscapes for government and civic use, but did we not learn anything from the Modernists?  We are now firmly in the post-modern.  All the “paintings” I saw during the Fall Opening were very self-centered and really unappealing to anyone.  I’ll hopefully get some specifics posted with some criticism when I get home (I am elsewhere at the moment, house-sitting).  As usual, it was more about the galleries as installations than the work on the wall.  Ths is why I left the art scene a decade ago.  Sure the space work is in is important, after all, what is a painting but part of a wall?  But the paintings used to do something more to me than the gallery itself.  I almost miss the salon style presentation of cramming paintings relentlessly into a tiny space so that only the ceiling was visible.  Honestly, I really don’t care whether or not your gallery has wood pillars, antique-looking chairs, cool stairs, or a coffe shop inside – I came for the work you decided to present to me (and the rest of the public).  Instead I received a constant barrage of ignorance and disinterest in painting – only an interest in getting a job, most likely in marketing.  I do wish all the artists luck in maintaining a steady and healthy income, preferably from the work, or possibly in their forthcoming marketing futures, but let’s refocus a bit – ok?

We live in an artistic world where we must get utterances out as fast as possible in order to compete.  Quality has given way to quantity.  You must produce to sell to survive.  This has always been the case, but now students are not even taught basics.  There is some sort of honor given to the self-taught, whose work is complete shit.  Listen here young artists and art school admins: I can count the number of successful, self-taught artists in all human history on my left hand, and these artists are only marginally successful.  Learn art from the thousands of years of historical refinement before arrogantly assuming that your magic eye sees something no one else does.  It might! Sure! But you need to know how to re-communicate that to others efficiently and economically, preferably without mystery or narrative.  Learn about the academy before you attack it.  I’d like to emphasize the previous sentence.  Many great artists broke with the academy over the years, especially most of, if not all of the Impressionists.  But they all started painting there.  Learn the rules before you go breaking them so you can learn how to best break them and when it is ok.

My Fall Opening experience in Chicago was still a good time.  Lots of free booze and people.  Although I was unsure who was aware of the shitty art all around us.  I believe the gallery owners linked a ‘good time’ with ‘good art’.  Thus, people come away (I fear, no data to support this) believing that the aesthetic disasters they just experienced were somehow what art “is” and what they should strive to do or to seek out due to their very good experience at the show.  This is the Art Show Polka (thanks Johnny Socko).

So, missing the openings this weekend is not a terrible thing.  I’m fairly certain all I’d be doing is going to the city to see a bunch of people trying to get jobs designing Starbucks and when not in a gallery full of fancy walls, I’d be seeing a lot of complete inane shit.  We nod now to the gallery which showcased illustrations of dogs last month.  What a sad, sad thing.  It was like opening my aunt’s scrapbooking closet, stoned.