Saturday, March 31, 2012

Society for Photographic Education National Conference

This is the first time Amelia and I stayed at the conference hotel since Denver in 2008. This is our view from the fifth floor (we didn't have the spectacular balcony that all of our friends and Sally Mann had for their viewing pleasure).

Hyatt Regency reading material as displayed by Amelia Morris.

Staying near the Ferry Building on Embarcadero was very convenient as there was good food to be had relatively cheaply for a downtown SF location (hello Cowgirl Creamery). Here is the Vaillancourt Fountain view from the Hyatt.

I would imagine that this was the most photographed lobby at any SPE conference in recent memory. Amelia and I stood here for 20 minutes staring at the light show our first night (we learned that it changed colors and shapes every few days). Amelia and I didn't spot one burned out bulb either!

The Hyatt Regency light show as Las Vegas also from the 5th floor.

My portfolio box with Amelia's business card, Amelia's Photoshop extravaganza printed on Photo Tex adhesive paper (my first attempt at this material in preparation for cat wall paper) and my Ed Ruscha postcard from SFMOMA.

Overall, this year's lectures were hit and miss. Many of the ones I wanted to see took place in the middle of reviewing student portfolios or having my work reviewed for the first time in ten years. The dominant theme (much to our annoyance) was photographers not showing any images choosing instead to talk about their work with the lights off (= instant snooze fest).

Amelia, Alexis, Laurie and I (along with two of my students and one of Alexis's) crammed our work into one large table at the entry way of the open portfolio walk-through Friday night.

I spent a lot of time looking at Laurie Blakeslee's new work (I love this print - the image is from an old Montgomery Ward catalog).

Amelia getting ready to show her portfolio. The big disadvantage of the Hyatt lobby was very poor lighting!

Cass Fey listening to Matt Compton talk about his BFA thesis work Average American.

Kellie Kuratko and her thesis work Memory Distortion.

The next day I showed my work to Chuck from SF Camerawork. He was relatively speechless with the David C. Nolan / Marilyn Monroe photographs and kept referring to them as "strange." The highlight of his conversation was mentioning the "physicality and materiality" of photographs as something he is seeing a lot of now. Because photography is immaterial (primarily seen virtually), more and more photographers are gravitating to making photographs about photographs and that is where this work fits in.

I had a great review with Chris from the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center. He continually referred to the series as "strange." He had a number of ideas for presentation which I am seriously considering: it should exist as a book first and secondly in display case vitrines as an archive. He thought they were incredible from a design sense and liked cropping portions of the text. We ended our conversation with him telling me that the "photo's final resting place is as important as the photo itself" which I continue to think about regarding this work.

In any case, I promised both Chuck and Chris images of Aline's cat collection by the end of May. Self-imposed deadlines! No traveling in sight! Here's to getting some work DONE on this series!

Another one of my favorite memories of this conference was meeting fellow Postcard Collective participant Sheila Newbery who spent a very long time looking at my portfolio. She emphasized the need for the Marilyn photos to be seen in a book and presented the idea of it being poster size. That plan may be implemented soon!

Amelia and I also decided that Photo Lucida is in our future.


My second visit to SFMOMA in 2006 featured seeing Matthew Barney at a press review prior to the opening reception. He came down the main staircase into the foyer with a crowd of reporters, answering questions about his Drawing Restraint exhibition. I could not help but search the crowd for Bjork (who was not present). I always remember the remnants of this piece below that he created for that show and this time sought out the exhibition placard to read the details.

Matthew Barney, Drawing Restraint 14, 2006

From the wall card: "The remnants from Barney's performance inside the museum's turret. He scaled the wall and navigated a system of carabiners under the bridge until he reached the opposing wall and commenced drawing. He was dressed as General Douglas MacArthur, who oversaw the American Occupation of Japan after WWII... A plastic cast of the general's corncob pipe rests at the foot of the climbing wall; the pipe also figures in the drawing."

The 2012 visit to SFMOMA resulted in meeting Alexis Pike and some of her 27 students that she brought from Montana State - many of whom I had met during my visiting artist gig last November. Another surprise visitor was Laurie Blakeslee who I hadn't seen since 2008. Here's a BSU (as in Boise State University) portrait of the three of us in front of the Dijkstra exhibit by Amelia Morris.

One of my favorite works of video art ever: Rineke Dijkstra's Buzz Club. It is a two channel video installation depicting teenagers dancing in a make-shift studio at the back of the Buzz Club in Liverpool. It was utterly mesmerizing. Alexis, Amelia and I learned some new dance moves from this participant at the beginning of the video clip which were featured prominently during the last evening of the SPE conference.

Jim Campbell's Exploded Views in the foyer was an equally fascinating installation reflecting the traffic and pedestrians outside the museum onto a light show that resembled the decoration in the conference hotel (coming soon).

Yet another instance of old technology elevated to a higher status as previously seen in Luther Price's slide carousel installation at the Whitney Biennial. Needless to say, Alexis and I both wanted this device from Tris Vonna-Michell's GTO: hahn / huhn, variation 1.

I also fell in love with Colter Jacobsen's watercolors in the 2010 SECA Art Award Exhibition. Check out more of his work here (particularly the photo influenced drawings on book covers).

Colter Jacobsen, Bridal Veil Falls, 2007 [Image via.]

Upon returning to Indiana, I immediately purchased the Rineke Dijkstra catalog and The Elements of Style Illustrated so I will never forget when to use "whom" vs. "who" (and so on). Plus who could resist a book cover that looks like this?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Dessert Tour of San Francisco (while on the subject of "Real Cakes")

The nastiest cake of the trip on display in Chinatown. Any guesses how old this is?

The most beautiful breakfast appetizer: Pepple's Donuts in the Ferry Building at Embarcadero (see that blueberry one in the front row second from the left? Buy that one).

Stella's Pastry in North Beach was on Alexis's list. I caved to peer pressure and bought the dessert below that Amelia and I shared late one night after portfolio reviews.

It was a Mixed Berry Tart Slice. My dessert quota of the spring was met.

Because we haven't discussed chocolate yet: Amelia imitating Janine Antoni's Lick and Lather at SFMOMA. We were contemplating how (and why) on earth someone would want to bite off the nose of this artwork.

From a Bomb Magazine interview with Antoni: "The first time it happened was in Venice. Lick and Lather, self-portrait busts—seven in chocolate, seven in soap—were shown at the Venice Biennale. Halfway into the show, a young woman, a teenager from Czechoslovakia who was there with her parents on vacation, bit three noses off my chocolate heads! One after the other until the guards stopped her. The Italian newspapers went nuts, they had these funny little drawings of a very fat woman with a fork—with my nose on the tip. And they talked about the history of work being destroyed, like the Pieta. Another article talked about Stendahl’s Syndrome-how this teenager was so overcome by beauty she couldn’t help herself."

Needless to say, we were not compelled.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

SFMOMA's Blue Bottle Cafe

In addition to the trip to Berkeley, I really wanted to visit SFMOMA and more specifically, the Blue Bottle Cafe. Fortunately, everyone was equally excited and midday desserts were ordered and extensively photographed.

Alexis selected the Thiebaud Layer Cake (butter cake, buttercream and citrus curd) from Wayne Thiebaud's Display Cakes, 1971.

Eventually it turned into the Leaning Tower of Thiebaud (probably my favorite dessert of the ones I tried).

I purchased the Mondrian Cake after Composition in Red, Blue, and Yellow, 1930. It was a white, blue, red, and yellow velvet cake with chocolate ganache. Amelia ordered the Dijkstra Icebox Tower from the photograph De Panne, Belgium, August 7, 1992. It was a difficult to eat, black cocoa sable with whipped cream. Everyone wanted Amelia to get it so we could see what was on the coaster underneath.

Slight disappointment at not seeing a portrait but a souvenir nonetheless.

I was very tempted to get the portable "Build Your Own Barnett Newman" (chocolate sables with postcard and building instructions) and probably would have purchased it if it was the Richard Serra version instead. The Sculpture Garden Cookie plate was very pretty. Does one buy the dessert for the concept or for the taste? Oh difficult decisions!

"Stalking Artists: In Pursuit of Home" (working title & statement)

Stalking Artists: In Pursuit of Home exists as an action, a collection, and a curiosity. I am interested in the public vs. private domain in the era of the Internet. Vito Acconci’s Following Piece and Sophie Calle’s Suite VĂ©nitienne are inspirations. The art world’s acceptance of their acts of following random strangers in the general public until they disappear into a private location is an impetus behind my series.

It began in 2009 when a pilot from Sedona, Arizona heard me wonder out loud where James Turrell lived while guiding me to Roden Crater. He did a fly-by over Turrell’s compound and I started comparing the experience of seeing his house to my inability to name anywhere I have lived in the past five years “home.” In 2011, I wrote a letter to one of my favorite artists after finding his address online. A month later, while standing in front of Ed Ruscha’s house in Venice Beach tweeting about it, I realized that I wanted to see where famous artists lived and how their success is translated into the place they call home.

I have a set of rules that I adhere to when taking these photographs:

1) The artist must live there currently (preferably it is a single family dwelling).

2) I cannot trespass in any form, remaining on public property at all times.

3) The photographs are straightforward interpretations of the front of their house (almost like one would find on a realtor’s website). I will include details if I am comfortable enough that I will not be caught.

The artists that followed include: William Eggleston in Memphis, Tennessee (I requested to see it instead of Graceland); Arthur Tress in Cambria, California; and Julian Schnabel in Greenwich Village, New York. The failed attempts are also included in the series. I learned that Ann Hamilton lived one mile away from her studio location in Columbus, Ohio after the fact which produced a tangential introduction to my process. I am still waiting for Jeff Koons to move into his Manhattan palace and return to photograph it with every visit to New York.

I am interested in the Internet as a source for artistic pursuits. I map the land through sites like Google Street View as well as my actions through Twitter. It’s difficult to admit my curiosity in this subject to a public audience but when asked why I am doing this, the closest answer I can give is: If I keep searching for other artists’ homes, will I eventually come to find my own?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Richard Misrach Lives Here

Let me begin by saying that I love Richard Misrach. He was the very first visiting artist I ever encountered in my graduate (and undergraduate) career. My first week of my MFA studies, he critiqued my BFA thesis show. My photographs were manipulated negatives, oversaturated colors, scratched and painted portraits of my family. They had nothing to do with his artwork yet when I look back at all of the critiques I had, it was my favorite. He was supportive and genuinely interested. He asked me to keep in touch and I did for awhile. I kick myself for losing contact.

He is the reason why I would be interested in adding an artist correspondence element to this "artist stalking" business. Tangentially, I finally wrote an artist statement for this series. It's a work in progress but I should post it soon so people don't think I truly am a stalker.

Once upon a time last year when I gave an artist talk about my diversionary activity, I outlined how I researched Richard Misrach's residence. There were a number of addresses that popped up online but when I mapped out the satellite view, I noticed that this particular one faced the Golden Gate Bridge. Misrach made several photographs of the view from his back porch of this subject and I suspected this indeed, was the right one.

After verifying it a couple months later when I knew I was traveling to San Francisco, I was really excited to add another artist that I deeply admire to the series. Amelia and I arrived in San Francisco for the SPE conference a day early so we had time to take BART to Berkeley. I paid a taxi driver who was interested in taking a break from his normal activities to scale the hillside to the address I provided. Needless to say, the roads were a carsick induced nightmare so I may not have the best photographs due to feeling nauseous while taking them.

The cab driver parked off to the left, I hopped out of the car, took a dozen photographs and then we returned to the BART station. I never noticed on the Google Street View (because it was covered with the leaves), the extension off the back porch where I can imagine a tripod and 8x10 camera photographing the beautiful view of the San Francisco Bay.

Both Amelia and Alexis asked me who is next and I struggled to come up with an answer. John Baldessari perhaps... I'm still keeping an eye out for Jeff Koons to move into his palatial Manhattan residence. I will have to see where this summer takes me before I have a real answer.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Society for Photographic Education Conference: San Francisco! Voyeurism! Intimacy! Hooray!

Off to the photo conference with Amelia Morris!

Amelia with business cards.

Amelia also made me the most memorable photoshop image which I printed to differentiate my portfolio box from everyone else's.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Cindy Sherman & MoMA

I went to MoMA to see the Cindy Sherman retrospective but there were many other pleasant surprises along the way.

Cindy Sherman's sign through Sanja Ivekovic's installation.

Work from the Contemporary Galleries:

Always a fan of Robert Gober's Cat Litter

Ashley Bickerton's Tormented Self-Portrait (Susie at Arles), 1987-88. I learned once that this was important in contemporary art history and I never forgot that fact. It was far larger and more unwieldy in person that I expected. Still interesting though incredibly dated.

Doris Salcedo, Atrabiliarios (Atrabilious), 1992-93
[Wall installation with plywood, shoes, animal fiber, thread, & sheepskin] Even though it was animal skin, Salcedo's artwork hidden behind six niches won first prize in my book for unusual installation.

Dieter Roth's Solo Scenes, 1997-98 documenting the last two years of his life (working in his studio, sleeping, eating alone, etc.). This was only 1/3 of the installation which was emotionally moving. All the people that were posing for their portraits in front of it due to the sheer mass of televisions might not have read the wall text to know they were standing in front of one man's eventual demise.

A bag from the Design exhibition... here's where I wonder how often one would be asked to have it rescanned at the airport.

Eugene Atget's Documents pour artists (Above: Coin, Boulevard de la Chapelle et Rue Fleury 76, 18E, June 1921. So many Atget's to view at once...

Cindy Sherman's installation just like the Venice Biennale but even larger than life.

I've read several reviews of the retrospective this month. This was the most interesting. Overall, it was a well-thought out exhibition. The best moments include:

1) seeing all of the Untitled Film Stills together and realizing how much like student work some of them really were. There are many repeats that one doesn't see with the same characters with different expressions which was something I never noticed when seeing them individually.

2) Her giant wallpaper pieces are made from the same material that I planned on using for the cat scans! Yay! Happy that this will work after all.

3) I loved the History portrait room and the new work of rich women which is nearly as large as the wall paper pieces.

4) One of the funniest instances was watching a mother cover her ten year old daughter's eyes and herd her out of the room upon encountering Untitled 263 as represented here. There weren't enough of the grotesque photographs to round out Sherman's work but they are not necessarily the crowd pleasers that everyone wants to see either.

"Weegee: Murder is My Business" at ICP

I was excited to see Weegee's Murder is My Business at the International Center for Photography especially after visiting the MOCA exhibition of Weegee's work in Hollywood. The above is my only personal image of the visit photographed while drinking a limeade at the small cafe after viewing the show. All other photographs below were gleaned from the Internet. Directly behind the sign above was a reconstruction of Weegee's studio and living quarters. It was based off a photograph hanging nearby. Cigars were in the ashtrays, there was a tiny Corona typewriter, and Life magazines were spread over the twin bed.

Image via.

Weegee, Self-Portrait with Bomb
[Image via.]

Weegee liked to pose with raided loot and this picture made me laugh at the spectacle of this action. The bomb looked like a napkin dispenser with a flashlight adhered to it.

There was a beautiful display of his Speed Graphic camera with flash bulbs that I cannot find any photographic representation of online. Another favorite object was a check for "two murders" in 1939 in the amount of $35.

I was amazed at how many of the crimes that he photographed remained unsolved. Trunk in which slain man was found from 1939 was one of the most gruesome. William Hessler was "trussed in a self-strangulation knot and stabbed 48 times with an icepick" read the title card. It was displayed as a triptych: two images of the body in the trunk and one outside it (but still in the same general shape as the trunk).

Like MOCA in Los Angeles, there were large vinyl photographs displayed on the walls but they weren't as dominant as the Hollywood exhibition. The images of crowds remain a favorite as he managed to capture a full range of emotions including children witnessing their first murder, a Times Square group after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the return celebration of the kidnapped Jimmy DiMaggio in the Lower East Side.

I've seen more of Weegee than I ever have in my life. Hmm... time to purchase a catalog?

Whitney Biennial 2012

Let me start by revealing that I never went to New York City until moving to Indiana in 2007. Since then, I've visited as often as possible because it is an easy flight from Indianapolis and an excellent way to see artwork. I didn't have the opportunity to see any of the Whitney Biennial exhibitions until 2010 and this year's was only my second. In the week and half since, I am struggling with my opinion of it. It was my least favorite show viewed this month. In addition, the last Whitney Biennial was equally unimpressive. I don't know what I was expected but here are some works that were memorable (for better or for worse).

Werner Herzog's Hearsay of the Soul (Detail of installation)

“I’m not an artist,” Herzog said. “I’m a soldier." After reading this quote from a week before, Herzog was destined to live up to the first part (enter eye rolling at the second). I love Herzog's films (and will drive a whole state away to see one) but Hearsay of the Soul, an installation revolving around the small prints of Hercules Segers with the music of cellist Ernst Reijseger, came up empty. Herzog wanted to transform "images into music and music into images." Ultimately it was painfully boring.

Elaine Reichek's tapestries held my interest. She embroidered the ancient Greek myth of Ariadne (above) through hand-stitching and digital embroidery.

Sam Lewitt, Fluid Employment, 2012 [Ferromagnetic liquid poured bi-weekly over plastic magnetic elements, fans]

There was a steady crowd flocked around Lewitt's installation. Here's a video clip very much like mine (though less shaky) via youtube. The ferromagnetic liquid pulsated under the fans. It looked like a science experiment gone awry but was neatly contained on tarps protecting the floor.

Leonard Peltier, Horse Nation, 2011

I was floored by this painting by Leonard Peltier because it was, hands down, the least expected artwork in the Biennial (and therefore the best painting). According to the Whitney's website, it is part of Joanna Malinowska's installation: "...she has hung a painting by the imprisoned American Indian Movement activist Leonard Peltier, which she has 'smuggled' into the exhibition as an intervention. As a Polish-born artist, Malinowska is questioning both her inclusion in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Biennial and the absence of Native American art in the Museum’s collection and exhibitions."

It was displayed to the left of Malinowska's
This Project is not Going to Stop the War./Journey to the Beginning of Time.

Luther Price's manipulated 16-mm film was so old school and unanticipated, that it was most likely my favorite work in the museum. Various slide projectors were dispersed throughout the galleries. The technology is so archaic and for the Whitney to recognize this as a viable artwork in 2012, made the show.

From the Whitney website: "He re-edits the footage by hand, effaces the image through scraping, buries the films to rot and gather mold, and adds chaotic visual patterns using colored inks and permanent markers. For soundtracks, he frequently uses only the brutal electromechanical noise generated by sprocket holes running through the projector’s audio system. Each reel he produces is thereby a unique object, often altered to such an extent that it struggles through the projector, as if playing out the end of film itself..."

Sarah Michelson's much discussed dancers were doing nothing during my visit. Stretching here and there but most of the time the floor was empty = not that captivating.

Upon retrospect, I wish I had more time to visit Forrest Bess's installation (via Robert Gober) and Mike Kelley's Mobile Homestead. Too much art, too little time.