After writing 6 NYFA grants in a row for clients, I sat down and wrote my own.

NYFA asks artists to submit a 200-word artist statement in application for their Fellowships. Here’s mine:

Three years ago, after working as a professional art critic for 20 years (Art in America, TimeOut New York, the NYPost), I returned to my artmaking roots and began this steady notebook practice. Each book is titled differently, albeit absurdly (Wagu Beef; I don’t want to believe everything I think); maintains a standard Moleskin size of 8.25” x 5”; and is limned only with a Pentel 007 Fine Point office pen. Working chiefly on the subway and in transit, I concern myself with aural and visual “frottage” in the surround—stuff I overhear other passengers say; the jumpy movement of the train as it jars my hand; lots and lots of graffiti (I love the way it ‘ruins’ the landscape). William Anastasi and his ‘cab’ drawings inspire me, as does Leonardo daVinci and his famously drawn scientific discoveries. Part draftswoman, part savvy girl reporter, I record all the news that’s not-yet-fit to print. My Unconscious draws it now, my mind understands it later. Now that’s true “journal-ism.” I later photograph my notebooks as casual “selfies” against a backdrop of my own past paintings, thus creating ‘real’ art. Personal graffiti for art market consumption.

That’s 200 words exactly.

Here are a few images, for context.

It is a highly competitive environment here in NYC, and I know many people submitting in the ‘same’ categories this year. All have been very gracious about their chances of winning. Many said to me, “Why don’t you apply?.” I thought: “Well, what if I challenged myself to write the same succinct text for my own work?” I also figured that it’s only fair that I be willing to roll up my sleeves, too. So that’s my quickie, above.

Okay, let’s get into writing mode for a sec:

Suppose NYFA was 225 words and not 200? That would be extra luxurious! I would use that real estate to make two more very necessary points, inserting a parenthetical phrase into my pre-existing text:

1)… I later photograph my notebooks as casual “selfies” against a backdrop of my own past paintings (as well as others in my collection), thus creating ‘real’ art. (7 words)


2) And an extra sentence: “I also take “selfies” in my bedroom and other personal spaces in my family’s one-bedroom, Brooklyn apartment. (17 words)

An artist statement can’t say everything. But it can say something worth saying. 

Thanks for reading my extra 24 words.

“Ted Might Have Said”—a solo show of my notebook/art—up now.

Finally, a clear shot at showing my art, unencumbered. Unless you consider a bustling coffee shop in Carroll Gardens an encumbrance. I don’t. I made a lot of the work thanks to inspiration I received there, and installing it, in situ, makes perfect sense. I put some of the notebooks in Ziplock bags; others are hung out to dry with binder clips. My intention was to keep it local — use materials that anyone might find in the shop (people bring office supplies when they work on their laptop, right? plastic food storage bags are in kitchens!), and use only local businesses for my printing needs.

The above is a ‘zine I made, here stuck to the brick of the cafe wall. And here are folks enjoying coffee near my (bagged) notebooks:

Likewise, pages from “Ted Might Have Said” on clips:

And a couple of images, close up and closer up:

Hudson: gone. The river of fine art is flowing out to the tide.

This man, over my shoulder: he was the contemporary art dealer whom I most respected. Artists would often tell me that Hudson would look over their art for years,  decades — come to their studios, dialogue with them — and that they were honored simply to be a part of his visionary world, to be on his radar. He decided when and how and what he’d show. And that was all you ever needed to know. If what was on the walls wasn’t exactly your cup of tea, it was always, somehow, perfect.

I took many a selfie in his space. Went to many an opening. Had beautiful encounters with this beautiful Human Being, knowing full well that they were more than what they seemed to the naked eye: “conversations.” If you were there, you know what I mean. People always aspire to being a part of the ‘Conversation’ in the art world. My Privilege Was to Talk With Hudson.


Every conversation around him was somehow charged with meaning. This photo, above, of a typical opening night at Feature (taken by Alejandro Loureiro Lorenzo, who worked so closely with him!)– I can remember it. Just being in the room with the art he chose made us better at encountering each other.
I need to process my loss. I want to babble on and on about him.
I think we all need to make a show, write an essay, say what’s in our hearts and make it into material cultural reality.
Go.
Flow out. Hudson…..! You’re a part of it all now!

Studio Visits: mid-careers bloom at EFA. Wishing others would get that memo.

Marietta Hoferer and Dannielle Tegeder couldn’t be more different as artists. The former uses little more than reinforced packing tape and scissors, pencil and paper. Her compositions are grid based, Minimal, yet they welcome entropy (the tape gets yellow with time, and Hoferer likes that).

Tegeder makes large- and small-scale abstract compositions in all sorts of colors and configurations. There’s a lot of ‘hand,’ but there’s also a lot of concept behind them.

So I go from one studio to the next and what do I see? Two women with strong work ethics, and impressive oeuvres behind them. Mid-career artist just begging for their closeup. Look at their work tables. Hoferer:

Tegeder:

Tegeder recently had a large solo retrospective at the Wellin Museum. Hoferer said, at the end of our studio visit, that she would push a little harder in following up a good lead for a show she wanted.
Why must studio visitors like myself, without brick and mortar galleries, push? Isn’t this obvious?
I wonder what curators and dealers are thinking when they go to EFA.

Time Stands Still at the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts

The Elizabeth Foundation on W. 39th St. in Hell’s Kitchen is a place where time stops for an art critic: so many studios to visit, so many interesting conversations to have, and then suddenly, six hours have passed.
Take this chair sculpture in JC Lenochan‘s studio, for instance. It flies in the face of authority: you can’t sit in it, you can only regard it. The artist told me that I could only take the two dollars resting on its arm if I could sit in the chair. I tried.

I failed. (I mean, I’m not that thin!) Other works in his studio were chair based, and I gave him a hard time about them, saying, in effect, ‘If you’re so against pedagogy and authority, why do you expect me to conform and sit on those darned school-/classroom-like seats? I just want to smash them.
I told him about how I had recently visited the DIA Foundation with a friend, and found a chair-based work there to be the weakest in the whole place. These chairs arranged in a circle were supposed to be about ‘conversation,’ but no one conversed with me while I was sitting there.
People asked me if I ‘worked there.’ And that goes to show you how proscribed and expected your average conceptual-art-attending audience’s actions have become. They wait to find out how they are ‘supposed’ to transgress.
Here’s the cool thing: Lenochan loved it. He loved my anger and my frustration. He wanted some honest responses. He even admitted his own anger at his own work. And that’s pretty cool.

Sometime later he sent me an image of a smashed chair.

Is Gabriel Shuldiner the Hardest Working Artist in Show Business?

Judging from my recent studio visit(s) with him, the answer is yes.

The Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts sponsors all sorts of professionally savvy programs, and that includes working with ‘industry’ types like Yours Truly. I’m in the midst of doing a slew of visits there, and am enjoying them all. Let me tell you that the learning flows both ways.

Guilty pleasure moment: I arrived at the EFA in the wake of their Open Studio Weekend which means that most all the studios were spanking clean and neatened up for visitors (the great Unwashed) to come in seeking wine and cheese — and clear, pat explanations. I, however, seek grit and workbenches covered with materials, and I got these at Shuldiner’s space in spades.

So, while some artists gave me mini galleries, ready for a close up of their work, I got, with Shuldiner, a close up of a working Process. Shuldiner employs a proprietary material he calls Post Apocalyptic Black (it may even be TradeMarked), a mix of sumi ink and polymers and paints and who-knows-what. It takes on many guises, and can be called upon to give a high-gloss smooth surface, or raked-through glop sculpture-stuff at will.

The above is a close up of a painting. And below, a functional if tongue-in-cheek ‘shelf’ made of stacked polystyrene.

Black isn’t just a color (or lack of it, or all of it); it’s a state of mind; it’s glamour; it’s many things. By working so hard at one, ostensibly dark, goal, Shuldiner is painting a pretty optimistic picture for making art today. Keep doing it. Whatever works. No matter what.

This all black studio was one of the most Optimistic ones I’ve visited in a while. Shuldiner is like the Energizer Bunny, he won’t stop going. Oh, and there’s also swaths of bright pink in his work.

Studio Visit to/Harlem/The edge of perception/ with Asia Ingalls


Artists like to inspire themselves with quotes, and I liked this one, in particular, in the Harlem studio of abstract painter Asia Ingalls. Her work is full of circles, but even more importantly, a blankness inside the circles. She likes to delineate space — all the better to allude to the sorts of metaphysical things we can’t delineate. And, though often precise and brightly colored, her work is in fact about blurry and indefinable things like perception, and the way it differs from person to person.
Sorry these photos are blurry — but you might see what I mean.


I asked Ingalls to pick out some other quotes that inspire her. Here are a few, all from physicist and writer Alan Lightman:
“Suppose time is a circle, bending back on itself. The world repeats itself, precisely, endlessly.”

“For light is diminished almost to nothing at the center of time, its vibrations slowed to echoes in vast canyons, its intensity reduced to the faint glow of fireflies.”

“Planets caught in space, oceans, silence.”

All the works pictured above are on paper; in her acrylic paintings, Ingalls leaves the centers blank, only filling them with quiet text/messages — like Magic 8 balls, only far more inspiring.

You can’t see them in the above photo, but they are there. She etches them into the surface, rather than writes them, so they can be hard to perceive, even in person. They say things like:
BE IN THE UNKNOWN
ENLIGHTEN ME
TELL ME THE TRUTH

‘Before’ and ‘After’ Artist Statements — Workshop ‘works’

Daniel Vasquez, who attended an artist-statement writing workshop at the LESPrintshop I conducted last Spring, just did me a real service: he gave me feedback. Here are two of his artist statements, graciously shared, ‘before’ and ‘after.’ One he wrote before he took the 2-hour workshop (a lecture that just covered general points; 30 people in attendance; we didn’t look at any art). The second, he wrote after. Come to think of it, I will share them backwards. The second is far shorter. : ) Thanks so much, DV, for this.

AFTER, ARTIST STATEMENT
My art draws constantly from the basis of my insecure and failed relationship with my mother. My process explores different forms and needs for relationships and or attachments with another person, item or other creatures as surrogates for previous failed relationships.

BEFORE: ARTIST STATEMENT

 My drawings manipulate, borrow and hybridize aspects of our visual vocabulary and lexicon; in so doing, I intend to create a unique and personal language as a visual identity. In exploring the space where text and images form a language to communicate ideas, and reflect a set of sensibilities and values, I produce abstract icons and drawings reflecting my own dispositions and visual aesthetics. The initial gestures of my line drawing in charcoal begin intuitively to create the encapsulating and sectional composition. Additional bright accents of pastel are added as spatial fill-ins, resembling child-like coloration and playfulness. The immediacy in application of the wet oil brush communicates the primacy and fluidity essential in creating my images. The results are gestural expressive earth-colored icons hinting at representation formed by my application of charcoal and the scrawl of the brush. Although bred American, my aesthetic disposition is that of Salvadoran and Mayan descent. Influenced by my ethnic disposition  and  Henri  Michaux’s  philosophy  of  application,  subliminal  expressions   surface in my drawings and paintings, creating a distinct and personal work. Specifically, my paintings and drawings are partly influenced by my appreciation of Mayan iconography and its use of images to communicate in a modular and calligraphic style of writing.

Daniel is a Keyholder at LESP, and he told me this when he attended the 8-person session we held there a couple of nights ago. That’s how I finally got to see his work. True, the AFTER one is simple, and doesn’t take on the scope of the BEFORE statement, but we can always tackle that. I appreciate his condor and honesty.

Check out his website here.