Exploring the Lives of Contemporary Artists

21st-century Hockney
At age 72, David Hockney is residing in a quiet town on the northeastern coast of England, but shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Not only is he actively working on a series of large landscape paintings for an exhibition at London's Royal Academy of Arts in 2012, he has wholeheartedly embraced technology and integrates it into his creative process on a regular basis.


From The New York Times

It was immediately clear that — his new passion for plein-air painting aside — Mr. Hockney has a new love: digital technology. Around the room hung multiple photographs by Jonathan Wilkinson, his full-time technology assistant, of artworks that were also hanging on the walls. They were so exact that it was often hard to tell the originals from the photographs.

The confusion was intensified because some of the originals actually began life as photographs — like the two 27-foot-long friezes depicting a group of trees Mr. Hockney noticed at the edge of town, which he photographed individually, then collaged together and detailed in Photoshop. Others were made at home on a Macintosh, including portraits he painted earlier this year using Photoshop and a Wacom tablet. (A selection will be at Pace Prints.) Near a table covered with video cameras, someone had tacked up printouts of Mr. Hockney’s iPhone paintings.

Mr. Hockney also uses the computer to compose his paintings, either to help him step back and regard the whole of a multipanel work or to refine individual canvases. He often tries out colors and ideas on a photograph of an unfinished painting, or plays around with a JPEG of the image in Photoshop. Afterward he returns to the studio to put his ideas on canvas...

Click here to read the article

New Homeowners
Artistic partners for nearly fifteen years and long-term roommates, Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset invested in a property just outside of Berlin which is now their home and studio. They approached renovation of the former water-pumping station as they would an art venture. As Dragset put it, "...we love spatial challenges — so we were looking for somewhere we could apply the concepts we had been working with in our art."

Now that their project is complete, the space is exquisite. It does, however, seem to have greater potential as upscale gallery space than what I would consider a comfortable home setting. Having said that... I would still move-in in a heartbeat if given the opportunity.

From The New York Times

There’s no clutter: just white walls, glacial light streaming in through old warehouse-style windows, trees silently waving at visitors from the outside and what feels like acres of floor space.

The farther up and back one goes, the more private the space becomes. The back boasts five levels, including two private areas for the artists, a kitchen, an attic living room and four bathrooms. And the renovated attic space is reminiscent of a playboy’s penthouse. In this upper section, a window in the roof slides back at the push of a button like something out of Dr. Evil’s lair.

“We deliberately made the borders between the work and living spaces fleeting,” Mr. Dragset said. “The combination of vast floor space and the small, quirky nooks means you can be very hidden here, or very exposed depending on your moods or needs.”

Click here to read the article

Frank Stella's Fluorescence
In honor of an exhibition of his recent work, which opened on October 1, 2009 at the Paul Kasmin Gallery, Frank Stella gave an interview with Time Out New York. I love to hear and read what artists have to say about their work, creative process, career, etc. Stella is a particular favorite!

From Time Out

You’ve taken a lot of risks in your work over the years. Do you agree?
Other people talk about risk taking. I mean, I don’t see it as much of an issue, honestly, because this is what I want to do. In order to see something that you haven’t seen, which probably will never happen, but you’re looking all the time, and you are looking for things—in order to find something that holds your attention and you can work with and everything—what can the risk be? That it fails? And, I mean, failure is relative. And I don’t worry about taking risk. If something is not beautiful, then I’m unhappy with it, and there are some things that are certainly not so beautiful, but they get by. But you’re still striving for the ones that really feel beautiful in the end. And so that’s what it’s about. The risk is committing yourself to try to make art. It’s just one risk, and after that there’s no risk. You know, that’s what you are going to do: The die is cast.

When you said that the goal is “to see something that you haven’t seen,” have you ever done that?
Well, I’ve probably never really had it. I’ve had some things that, for a while, I thought I hadn’t seen before. I painted this painting in 1958 called Delta. I made a painting, and then I got mad at it and I painted it out, and then I went to sleep. And the next day I looked at it and I said, “Oh, that’s just a terrible mess, just like it was last night.” And then, I don’t know, it was just around and a couple days later I started to look at it and it was a kind of mess, in a way, but it seemed like there was something there, like something was coming through it. And then I really started to get interested in it. So, I hadn’t really seen it before. But then things always come back to you, like there’s a version of it out there somewhere.

Can you talk about the first time you used fluorescent colors?
I think the first time I used fluorescent colors was kind of deliberate in the paintings. But I don’t know what year it was: 1962 or ’63? I had an idea to make these paintings about Morocco—the heat, the desert and all of that. They were basically two-color paintings, but fluorescent yellow was one of the colors. There were stripes, which alternated colors: a color and yellow. So, red and yellow, blue and yellow, green and yellow, and they were all fluorescent. Fluorescent paint had been around—I just wanted to make paintings that had no other reference except the fact of them being fluorescent, and to see how they would look. What resulted is that they didn’t really seem that fluorescent, since fluorescence usually shows up better in relief against a color like black. That’s what nightclubs do; for effect, they put their fluorescents against black...

Jeff Koons, Guest Curator
Established, contemporary American artist, Jeff Koons, is employed by New York City's New Museum to assist in organizing an exhibition scheduled for the spring of 2010. Last week it was reported by the New York Times that "A white foam-core model of the New Museum’s gallery spaces arrived at Jeff Koons’s Chelsea studio on Wednesday morning."

The exhibition will be dedicated exclusively to Dakis Joannou’s collection of artwork, which includes a number of pieces Koons's. This show will be the first in the museum's series, The Imaginary Museum, devoted to the public display of international private art collections.

I can just picture Koons in his studio, surrounded by works in progress, staring at the blank model of the museum's galleries as he waits for the flow of creativity to begin. I also look forward to seeing what he comes up with!

Read the New York Times article online: 
Jeff Koons Tries Hand as Guest Curator

Klaus Haus
 The January 2009 issue of W Magazine featured an article on the New York City apartment of Klaus Biesenbach, a curator at the Museum of Modern Art.  While the article is somewhat interesting, I couldn't help but get really fired up and annoyed at his way of living.  I know that it's none of my business how people want to decorate (or not) their homes, and there are far more important things in this world, but the images of his house really upset me.  At first glance, it seems like Biesenbach is living a calm, serene, monk-like existence, but I think the underlying tones are far from that.  First, the apartment alone had to cost a FORTUNE, so presenting the space as a simple peasant-like abode is a farce.  I understand the beauty of simplicity, and I know that minimalism is a really special quality to have in homes, but this extreme seems really elitist to me.  After all, people collect things out of instinct.  As humans, we want to surround ourselves with things today in case there is scarcity tomorrow.  While I'm not advocating clutter, or wasteful consumption, having the ability to "live for today" only is a rather high-class privilege.  See for yourself:

See the Klaus Haus slideshow

Gormley's project gets a guy a job
 This summer, the sculptor Antony Gormley has organized an ongoing piece on the Fourth Plinth of Trafalgar Square.  He has asked for volunteers to schedule an hour to stand on the empty plinth, and do whatever they like.  For 100 days, every hour on the hour, a new person takes over the space and acts as a kind of "living monument".  Well, the piece has certainly garnered a lot of press, and just this week, the piece helped a young man land employment.  

From the Daily Mail Online

After applying for scores of jobs, but winning none, Alex Kearns decided he needed to make his CV stand out.

So he unfurled a giant version of it in Trafalgar Square.

The 23-year-old, who graduated with a French and Italian degree from Swansea University, won an hour's slot on the fourth plinth in sculptor Antony Gormley's One & Other Project.

While many use their hour to promote a cause, Mr Kearns brought his CV scrawled on a 10ft-high piece of wallpaper.

For good measure he added a placard which read: 'Save a graduate. Give me a job.'

And it worked. Soon after his appearance in July he was contacted by a manager at the International Business Development Group.

After a telephone interview, he was invited to an assessment day with 16 other hopefuls and was one of three offered a job.

He has now begun working as a sales executive at their London offices, selling consultancy services to companies in the UK and abroad.

His stunt also brought offers of an interview with another company and work experience in an advertising firm.

Mr Kearns, who lives with his parents in Kingston-upon-Thames, South-West London, said: 'I saw it as a golden opportunity to sell myself.

'I had applied for hundreds of jobs but nobody was giving me a chance. And it worked, my new boss said he was impressed that I had some get-up-and-go.'

Mr Kearns, who graduated with a high 2.2 earlier this year, is now happily settling in to the world of work.

He said: 'I know I'm really lucky. Lots of young people who are just out of university are totally stuck, there just aren't any jobs out there.

Under-25s have been hit hardest by the employment slump.

Nearly 200,000 of the 573,000 people made jobless last year were aged 18 to 24.

Alex's success comes amid Gordon Brown's pledge today to provide a job to everyone in that age group who has been out of work for 10 months or more. 

An additional 300,000 graduates and 400,000 school-leavers join the jobs market this year.

Gormley's installation involves 2,400 people each spending an hour on the fourth plinth over a 100-day period, which started on July 6.


I just saw this link (@MutualArt) on Twitter, and I was pretty struck by the piece - the CATcerto with the "soloist", Nora the cat. On the surface, it's silly and funny and has all of the makings of a perfect viral video. However, the composer Mindaugus Piecaitis seems to me more akin to sound and performance artists, and I must say, I haven't seen anything this good in a long time. It reminded me of Charlemagne Palestine's motorcycle piece, Island Song, in which he hums, murmurs and replicates the sound of his motorcycle while riding it around an island. The CATcerto, besides being sweet and cute, has every mark of my favorite sound art pieces - it makes me more in tune with sounds and who/what makes them, when they happen, and how I interpret them.

From the CATcerto website:

Speaking about the history of this unique project, the conductor said that the idea arose completely by chance, when he received an e-mail from some friends with a link to a piano-playing cat on YouTube.

"I was enchanted by her abilities and started some further research. I reviewed everything I could find on the Internet and it just intrigued me more", remembered M.Piečaitis.

Mindaugas got in touch with Nora`s owners and told them about his idea to write a piece for their famous soloist and an orchestra. Within a few days they had prepared the needed visual material.

"I wrote down all of Nora`s improvisations in music (notes), happily remembering my time at the M.K.Čiurlionis art school, when we used to write musical dictations. It never crossed my mind that some time in my life, my teacher could ever be a cat«, – M.Piečaitis said with a smile.
Never having composed music before, the conductor approached composer Loreta Narvilaite, offering her to work with his prepared and meticulously selected material. »However, the more I became involved in this process, the more I felt an inner desire to compose something myself. I am very grateful to Loreta that, having accepted my offer, she had the patience and tolerance to wait until a final decision to compose the orchestral music myself matured in me," recounted Mindaugas.

Army Vets Become Artists in Self-Healing Process
We all know quite well how therapeutic art can be. Especially when it involves tearing, ripping, cutting, and pounding stuff to a sappy pulp.

A group of army vets based out of Vermont started a collective called the Combat Paper Project to help soldiers recover from the trauma of duty in Iraq by turning their army fatigues into art work. For the past year they've been holding workshops around the country, where the soldiers break down the memories of combat into paper and canvas on which to paint, draw or write. The Associated Press quoted a 29-year-old soldier who found the art-making as a cathartic release from the imposing culture and expectations of the military lifestyle. The vet hasn't shaved or cut his hair since leaving the National Guard two years ago.

"When you hold these strips in your hand, you think about all the times you ironed it and spit polished your boots — all that was something the Army made you do," Hurd said. "This is my uniform now. I'm not Army property anymore, and neither is it."

One young vet embedded his paper with Topps Desert Storm trading cards with photos of tanks, planes and military vehicles from the first Gulf War. He bought them as a child, and now bitterly adds them to his art to criticize children's games and toys that glorify and glamorize war. He plans to turn his paper into a journal.

For the full story from the Associated Press, click here

A Pleasant Surprise in the Quiet Room in the Back...
This weekend I visited the art fair ART Santa Fe--it was my first time seeing a non-New York art fair, and I was interested to see how the art fair of a sleepy southwestern town compared to the showcases of the Big Apple. Overall, I found the quality of work to be quite a mixed bag (click here to read my full review of the art fair). The art fair was also quite small--accustomed to the vast sea of booths at Armory shows, I was certain I must have missed a second room of gallery booths, and set off in search of it.

Instead, my friend and I happened upon a quiet, nearly empty one room photography exhibition. We didn't see any introduction, title, exhibition name--no wall text of any kind. But we started looking at the large gelatin silver prints before us--they were stunning. All candid street photographs with a raw beauty, capturing the characters of dozens of world locales: Havana, St. Petersburg, the deep South, Vietnam.

While we were perusing the photographs, a woman came up to us and said "the photographer is sitting right over there." We turned to the only other person in the gallery: an old man, in jeans, a blue t-shirt and thick, black suspenders, sitting quietly at one of a few chairs set up around a table. A cane subtly leaned against the table. He looked somewhat bored.

We ventured over to shake the hand of the excellent artist--his name is Sam Adams (good luck with that google search), he's 82, and to our amazement, he self-identifies as an amateur photographer. As soon as we sat down to talk to Sam Adams, we could tell his is a life lived: he started taking photographs at age 9 at summer camp. Before being drafted into the army, he was a messenger boy at Warner Brothers, where he returned after the war to try to be a cameraman. He was rejected for being, well, a little guy. "The cameras back then were the size of refrigerators, you really needed muscle to operate them, and I weighed 120 pounds."

Mr. Adams did manage to make a living in The Biz, and kept his passion for photography and cinema as a hobby. But he was no Sunday photographer, so to speak: he received a grant to finish a photography project called "Growing Old in America," a powerful series of photographs of our culture's (mal)treatment of the elderly. When he heard I studied art history, he excitedly told me about dragging his kids around Europe while he snapped thousands of photographs of his favorite Gothic cathedrals and Romanesque Basilicas, and poo-pooed me for not having a better appreciation for Piero della Francesca. 

After an hour of answering our questions about his art, and regaling us with the stories behind the photographs, I asked him if I may take a photograph. He allowed it, but insisted "NO FLASH!" (Real photographers never use a flash). Well, he was backlit, so I am sorry I don't have a better snapshot, but I hope dear Sam is pleased enough. His exhibition is called "CLICK: Sam Adams, A Fifty Year Retrospective," at the Museo Cultural's main gallery (the opening is this Friday, July 31, 5-8 pm).

If you find yourself in Santa Fe in the next week or two, get to the Railyard to check out the photographs of Sam Adams, one of the humblest, interesting, and pleasant artists I've had the pleasure of chatting with.


ArtistExplorer Off to Explore Artists at ART Santa Fe!

So I haven't gotten out of New York much yet this summer, but I am making up for it now with a long weekend in sunny Santa Fe! (Or should I say, thunderstormy Santa Fe--I just checked out weather.com and it seems New England sent it's crappy June weather to the Southeast of the country. Dammit.)

Other than the excitement of seeing a good friend of mine, this visit is extra special because I will be there during ART Santa Fe, the internationally acclaimed art fair (July 23-26). I have never been to ART Santa Fe, and I'm excited to see what's in store. According to information on the fair from MutualArt.com, collectors had nothing but good things to say about the fair last year:

Joel and Ann Berson of New York had this to say about ART Santa Fe: “It was very positive for us to meet dealers in person. It’s part of the whole process of collecting. There was a universal quality, a sense of being part of the global art world. We will certainly be returning next year.” Collector Keith Fallis found “a wonderfully diverse and truly remarkable assemblage of exquisite work running the gamut of styles” at ART Santa Fe. Continues Fallis, “With unique representation from Thailand to Argentina, one was hard-pressed to leave without finding an ideal match for his or her personal tastes and esthetics.” 

For 2009, while a healthy portion of the galleries hail from California and the South and Southeast of the U.S., there will also be representation from Romania, Germany, Japan, and Puerto Rico, among a few others (for a full list of 2009 exhibitors, click here.)

I will definitely have some good artists to report on next week--hopefully the Artist Explorer find that diamond in the rough! Click here for the ART Santa Fe website.


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