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Weekly Art #29 - The Armory Show (and other things) - Part Two

Last week I said "hey kids let's go to the fair," only I didn't just go to one, I went to three, and the best part of it all was a last minute visit to a painting exhibition I didn't think I'd have a chance to see that sparked a million thoughts in my head. Come with me on this journey and do please share your narratives of peril and triumph because ... it was ARMORY WEEK IN NYC!

My buddy Billy hooked me up with a ticket to the $1000 preview night. He didn't pay for it, don't worry. So I went and I took Jen because Jen and I go to things like this and I figured she'd class the joint up a bit.

We walked and walked and walked. We ran into my friend Noah Lyon and his lovely and pregnant wife. We ran into Peter Makebish and his awesome girlfriend Ying. We met Brendan Cass. I talked to a painting hero of mine Bill Saylor and he told me he read the entire Josh Smith IDP Weekly Art blog from two weeks ago and laughed at the battle between me and Jessica over the merit of Smith's exhibition. We ran into and talked at length with Stephen Truax, a man newly minted as an art journalist. He was stoked and amazed that English Kills had a booth at the Scope Art Fair (I later found out why: someone backed out last minute so Alex of Scope asked English Kills to set up shop and they did so free of charge). I never made it to the Scope Fair. After the one in Miami this past year I couldn't deal with that level of disappointment I anticipated.

Art Fairs are like other convention of nerds in many respects. They're Comic-Con. They're car shows. They're all that stuff. The 2011 Armory Show was like a sports memorabilia convention where the highlights of the whole expo were appearances of Warren Moon and Doug Drabek.

More rug-art. This time it's not by Anna Betbeze. If we see one rug/fabric based work with holes in it do we need to see more? What if instead of hundreds of years of oil painting history we had 100s of years of rug-art history? What if then someone painted in oils? And then someone ELSE painted in oils? Would we say "do we need to two oil painters"?

This Joe Bradley drawing is great. All of the Joe Bradley drawings in whichever booth this was were great.

Since seeing Billy Madison for the first time as a kid I've always laughed any time this joke is made (69).

So bummed out as I was about art and the garage sale-like atmosphere of the Armory, especially going there with pretty high hopes, I wasn't turned off to art in totality. After all I have a show coming up and I had work to do. I went beddy bye and woke up fresh, nearly forgetting what'd I'd experienced.

Friday I was convinced by sunlight and my good bud Kadar to ride bikes into the city to see the David Hammons show at L&M on its last day. I'd read about it. It sounded awesome. I rode from Williamsburg, picked Kadar up in Greenpoint at his girlfriend's house, and we rode over the Queensborough Bridge then up to 84th, doubling back down to 78th after Kadar realized he had the wrong address. Before I got yelled at by a gallery worker to stop taking photos (and informed that all the work is on their website as well as a panoramic quicktime of the installation) I took the following photos.

It was just after snapping this photo that I got yelled at. I apologized though I wasn't sorry. I wanted to take more photos.

These are Hammons' first paintings. He's known for other non-art art. Do some research on him, it's all very interesting. I asked the attendent if Hammons painted the canvases under the tarps and she said they did. Then I asked if he found the tarps or ripped the holes in them or what and she said the paintings came to the gallery as they are on the walls, wrapped for shipping like that, ready to go on the wall. I asked for a press release and she said the artist didn't want one.

The paintings are beautiful. They question all kinds of things I'm currently questioning in my own art practice. Most simply they question the nature of painting. What is painting? Why do we like it? Is this more rug-art? If so what does that question mean really? What am I really asking? As Kadar astutely put it, after seeing the Rauschenberg exhibition at Gagosian a few months back and witnessing all of the painting innovations he made and where he took painting, what else is there to do? Do we push painting further? Where IS further? Are we just jerking each other off while we're merely making decoration? Is Art really some trumped up version of baseball card collecting? Is there really any point to asking these kinds of questions? Is our job really to put our heads down and get to work, turn a blind eye to these issues, and hope for the best? Isn't hope just worry sprinkled with positivity (I liked saying that in some other blog comment so said it again here)?

On Saturday after I dropped some files off at Staples to have some large prints made, I rode my bike to the city again, this time to see the Independent Fair. The Independent Fair was three or four floors of the old Dia Building (Zach Feuer Gallery is recently relocated to the ground floor of the same building). Each floor was not-so-crammed with art. It reminded me of the Liste Fair I visited in Basel a few years ago when I had the amazing opportunity to go to the Art Basel fair (thanks to a very good friend of mine). I saw my friends Wayne Adams and Kris Chatterson here. They're very good painters.

The galleries seemed more with it, more focused, more willing to take risks. The fair had far greater energy than the Armory. It didn't feel like fall or winter, it felt like spring in there. I didn't love everything, there were some real flops, but it didn't really matter. The flops were out paced by the real energy. There weren't signs pointing in any coherent direction as to where art was going, what progressive was. It felt like one of those posts with the directions to different countries.

Art is going this way! And this way! AND THIS WAY!! All of it was very exciting. I left the Independent Fair and worked in my studio until 10pm (unusually late for me) and then played Marvel vs. Capcom 3 with Mark until almost 1am.

All of my photos from Armory Week are here: http://www.mattjonesrules.com/armory/ The two fairs I attended are separated by the Hammons exhibition.

I'll close by saying I'm definitely a fanboy. I love the fact that art is even MADE, but I have my taste and criticality. Any way I look at it my expectations for art in any context isn't that different from when I started writing this blog. Does the art enrich my life, does it fill me with energy and inspire me (does it make me want to make work)? Or does it suck the energy out of me leaving me in a kind of vacuous and lame state where I don't want to do much of anything? Art's responsibility is to be beautiful (as relative as this may be), timely (close to timeless but not alienating its own time), and inspirational (probably the most important).

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don't you wonder sometimes, about sound and vision?

Can't suppress a fantasy of compressing the whole of the fair into one thing - like a square foot of multitudinous ether.

I don't ever quite manage to relate to a single object in this kind of environment as something separate from the machine of its greater spectacle. The smell of new carpet, the chatting din, the vast and white-lit interiors, gossip, friends, sore feet. Aesthetic everywhere, beers, post-cards, red dots, iphones. I'm not a good multi-tasker! It's fun and all, but I don't know. I can't buy anything at a mall, either - too many choices. 

There's this cliche that contemporary art's gone fragmentary, right? It seems like an accurate enough assessment, but I wonder if we can't try & go true it - like a bicycle wheel. Hink with the spokes a bit, get a good spin. Fragments look like freedom for a while, but then invert into predictable shapes. If there's a whole to be sought,  can we look for it again? Is that all over? Might we sustain our attention as a community and put some of the pieces back together?

Do we need to look at a painting covered in a tarp to wonder what art's about? Hasn't that always been The Question? And if not, doesn't it come gratis w/ every painting by now, thanks to the last 100 years of art-making? What would it mean to try and answer it? There's like, a difference between sitting around saying, "What is death, man?" and the Book of the Dead. I know Guston was always locating the imagined plane as beyond the surface of work - almost as though it were some metaphysical labyrinth erected between perception and idea. I think that's such an exciting problem. 

When you hear "painting" do

When you hear "painting" do you think "art"? I use the two synonymously b/c I'm a trained painter, most of my art schooling was in painting both historically and materially/technique-wise, but I think I don't ever really want to talk about painting or painting-issues. Art is the deal that's interesting to me. Brushstrokes and color not so much. Content/ideas, so much.

I was thinking about Eric Spiegel (sp?) talking about freeing yourself of concepts and then how I think of myself as a sort of conceptual artist/drawer and whether or not that was a contradiction to my Buddhist practice. Also, isn't Buddhism a concept or collection of concepts? Do we then let go of the teachings b/c they're concepts? Or are they not concepts?

Painting is my own little

Painting is my own little wormhole to consciousness-studies,  so I think about it as a medium more often than the other ones. But as far I'm concerned with painting issues, it's naught 2 do with brushstrokes and color. With a little wiggling (and a willing conversation partner), I think the way I'm interested in painting (as a practice) could be drafted onto just about any creative act (if that creative act was interested).

When it comes to influence, I actually have a much more active mental relationship with literature, music, philosophy, linguistics, and history (esp. history of science) as disciplines. I'm interested in looking at art and learning about art history, but to a slightly lesser extent. I relate to art and painting Big-Time from the maker side, and only as a hobbyist when it comes to consumption. I just get a lot more psyched to be painting after mushroom-hunting around Forest Park (my brain is like OMG INTERDEPENDENCE!!!!)  than I do when I'm walking around Chelsea peeping "Art" (most of the time). That's just how I roll, I don't know what to say about it.

The concept conundrum is an interesting one. I think of Buddhism as this architecture of thought and practice that's built in order to fall away, like a house of cards. I think about painting (as it pertains to my own practice) and art (big picture), like this too. 

This probably goes without

This probably goes without saying but all of this is according to me at this moment and in no way am I speaking for anyone (though I do feel that what I say is true-ish and maliable).

There's no physics today without Newton, et al. Stephen Hawking and Leonard Susskind need each other as contemporary experimental physicists (or whatever they're called) to advance the ideas of physics. Their dialogue is imperitive to the advancement of our understanding of the nature of the universe (via physics).

Painting/Art is built on ancestors like the study of physics is built on ancestors (Leonardo, Goya, Polke, et al). It also, like physics, is advanced through the dialogue of contemporaries. This is the direct dialogue with one's peers (us talking now in person or on the web, etc.) and the dialogue of seeing and showing the works one is making and others are making right now. That's how it all goes forwards or spreads out, depending on the model of progress/not-progress you subscribe to.

I see looking at art up in Chelsea as a responsibility more than anything else. Sure I'm a fanboy and it's a total joy for me to participate, but really I see it as doing my homework, covering my bases, and really being a part of everything. Doing my research, contributing to the dialogue by witnessing it, by being present.

True -

But in  SCIENCE WORLD, you can't really publish or get research grants without a PhD in your field (or an affiliation with someone who has one) and accredited peer-reviews. Remember that dude who got roasted for publishing tweaked fake-y research about ESP a couple of months ago? You literally can't understand Susskind if you don't understand Newton. Nobody's sayin' Brush up on your Della Francesca, son, and then re-make this video installation. Haha, I wish there was some omniscient Art God, but there's not much policing. Blogs, I guess? That makes for a big difference between the two communities. 

It's not THAT disimilar

It's not THAT disimilar (physics vs. art). And anyway, if you're isolated and not in dialogue with your contemporaries and don't know what's happening out there or don't care you're choosing to more-or-less be an outsider artist. That's of course fine but not the same thing as what I'm interested in.

I didn't say I didn't care!

I just said it's not at the top of my interest list :) I'm a nerd dude,  I'm interested in everything. Not exactly locked in my apartment with a stack of vintage porno magazines and a case of orange soda. NOT YET

And, you know, that whole

And, you know, that whole scientific method thing.

Do you think of what's next

Do you think of what's next in painting? or do you think of art as progressive? moving towards a goal or a continually progressive and advancing thing? Do you view society this way? Headed towards more clarity, etc.?

I think about art and clarity a lot. Is the work being clear? I think the Hammons paintings are very clear. What they're clear about I can't really say.

I'm not sure I understand what you're getting at in your last paragraph.

Art is about the expression of the individual artist. This is a universal thing. How clearly can we express whatever it is about ourselves that we need to express in whichever form we're expressing it in? That's what I try to do, express myself in some kind of clarity-imagination combo. I don't want to hide my intentions or what I'm interested in. The work should inspire further research and more questions about life and experience. I look for this in other artists's work. How well do they know themselves, what kinds of questions are they asking, is their work simply a reflection of what they think art is or is it actually art?

I think painting and art

I think painting and art probably move in cycles and circles, like everything else seems to do. That's what I was trying to get at re: the future of fragments - that conception of art works for a while, but then eventually (now?) it's just a convention like anything else. How do we shake it up? How does one NOW make the leaf float upstream? People repurpose all the old "avant-gardes" by style, by appearance, but I think it's more interesting to repurpose the concepts with rigor. Conceptually, it's like the difference between tracing a table in the IKEA catalog and making one from trees. I certainly can't claim to be succeeding at this, but I'm just not interested in being a painter unless I'm trying.

I think that's what you're getting at in the last question above. 

I don't really understand your conception of clarity. What makes something clear? I don't think it's all about clarity. Well, in fact, I'm bored if I (think I) can see through to someone's intention. I think good art is a little more magic than that.

And art has only been the expression of the individual for the last four hundred years or so! I don't think that's universal ;) Philip Guston (he's been on my mind), said something like :  the painter either paints himself, or his world - but ideally one through the other.

I don't really understand

I don't really understand your conception of clarity. What makes something clear? I don't think it's all about clarity. Well, in fact, I'm bored if I (think I) can see through to someone's intention. I think good art is a little more magic than that.

Sure, magic and mystery I'm all for. But not confused extra information. There's a difference between magic and mystery done with clarity and precision and magic and mystery as distraction and confusion. It's a matter of working with something or working against something. Jasper Johns is incredibly clear and incredibly mysterious, for example. It's not about telling someone exactly what something is in my meaning of clarity - rather it's about setting up a situation where whatever the reading it's not a labyrinth filled with dead end after dead end. Each path leads to further inspiration and possibility, not less. Clarity leads to further communication, expression, and inspiration.

And art has only been the expression of the individual for the last four hundred years or so! I don't think that's universal

The mode of art I'm talking about is part of the art history and progression that follows along the path set up by the last 400 years (and the 100s of years prior). When I'm talking about the expression of the individual I mean that the work is a mirror onto the self of the creator. I feel that this is always true for art (as "always" as something can be, and I make a clear distinction between illustration/design, and art for the sake of focus and progress within a discipline/community). When I speak of individual expression I don't mean things like this:

Haha, I wasn't talking about

Haha, I wasn't talking about that kind of "individual expression" either - I was referring to the fetishism of the Artist. The multiplicitous art scenario we have on our hands right now is probs the end times of the Individual part of the ol cycle. I wonder about what a more universal conception of art would like this time around. Maybe it's not painting at all, who knows.

We can continue talking tomorrow night - must get back to work! :)

inter Independent ?

thanx for the post. I hit 3 shows myself and Independent was the best experience for me as well. not so gross as the Armory, I went on saturday and felt like lead going thru it. did see some really great stuff, Joe Bradley is awesome. but the Scope show was a wash. Artists Wanted was about the most memorable exhibit if that says anything.

Some Joe Bradley's I like

What was it that was so gross

What was it that was so gross about the Armory? I want to be able to put my finger on it. What do you like about Joe Bradley? I'm super interested in him out of the blue lately.

Alas and Shellac! slow

Alas and Shellac! slow getting back to your post. a little hard to think about the Armory Show in light of events in Japan. A lot of the show seemed aimed at amusement. Predictable as the fun house at Coney Island. so many pieces looked like interesting toys but so little enigma. Seeing the pandering of so many of the dealers, I had to wonder if they had any kind of values outside of commercial speculations.
Joe Bradley clearly aims to please himself first and let's it happen. he's an interesting colorist, quite simple and direct. there's a person in there.
in the midst of all the razzle dazzle at Scope, Opus fine arts showed some remarkably deep paintings by Linda Lencovic http://lindalencovic.com they're derived from photos of treatments in mental hospitals in the 30's. a certain kind of empathy... neil conrad

From the Art Fag City website

From the Art Fag City website if you want to read further on the fairs.


What’s Hot and What’s Not at The Armory
5 Easy Tips: How to Survive The Armory Show (Visitor Services Edition)
The Effects of a Leaner Armory Fair

The Dependent Fair As Seen Through the Crowds

Four Picks from the Independent Fair
Thoughts and Highlights from The Independent Fair

Will Great Viewing Experience Translate Into Sales at Moving Image?
BLNK: Images From The Moving Image Fair

Best Lemonade Made From Lemons: Gallerie Maria Veie + Elin Melberg at Pulse
Pulse Reduces Exhibitor Numbers and Produces a Stronger Fair

Volta Fair Offers a Catalogue, An iPhone App and Three Strong Booths

George Kuchar Wins AFC’s Golden Fag Award
FAIR PREVIEWS: These should be super useful now that the fair’s are done.

A Comprehensive List of This Week’s New York Art Fairs With Commentary
Priming for The Art Fairs With VOLTA: The Promo Video
The Hip and Practical: Attend Two New NYC Art Fairs

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