Saturday, March 27, 2010

ALT X Flower _The art of discovery.

_Viewing area for Thorns in the Garden

_ In conversation with Cathy Nolan Vincevic and her husband, the topic of how much of a lead in is needed for the viewer came up. Many artists prefer to say as little as possible, others provide clues; perhaps a leading title or brief description next to the piece. This approach for me seems best, as I always am a bit annoyed when viewing a work and take away something meaningful and find out from the little card on the wall that I wasn’t close in my thinking as to the artists’ intention. 'Less is more' is something that works for me. Save the critique for later. I would rather confront a work on it's own terms instead of being lead. Although I do confess that if a description of the work is available I'll read it every time. It's probably a left brain right brain thing.
_Perhaps there is an art in itself to writing these little cards such that the viewer has some latitude. I don’t want to walk away from the work with my last impression being one of disconnect. The disconnect such as when the description solely focuses on technique or seems to describe connections that must be only in the artists mind.
_Spending time in the gallery over the past several days and thinking about my piece, Thorns in the Garden, has left me with two contradictory feelings about it. One impulse is to lead and put viewers in touch with the piece. “Come over, look through the telescope…look what you can see!” Which is actually a tiny monitor screen mounted close to the ceiling that plays a loop of clips interspersing distant galaxies, time-lapse plant growth and war. Equally strong is a feeling that people need to discover the piece on their own; they need to chance taking a peek at what the telescope is aimed at. I'll probably err on the subtle side.

Deborah Bohnert rolls out red string connecting her art to the audience

_Artist Deborah Bohnert's performance piece describes itself during its execution. Upon entering Mobius you encounter Deborah's installation. One audience member described it as a Coney Island explosion. Actually the large assemblage is made up of altered objects from flea markets, antique stores and I suspect found objects. Cones of red string emanate from the center of the installation and in the performance of the work, Deborah unravels the string and encourages an audience member to take the end. If the offer is accepted she then asks them if they would like free art. A positive response gains the viewer a portion of the tableau.
_A very smart work as the audience discovers the joy of participating and receiving.

_Dance was part of the Flower Show with a piece choreographed by Marsha Parrilla. Marsha and her dance partner Fran de Paula perform the work Harina in this five minute video. Graceful and full of tender intimacy as well as the very creative use of flour for a play on the exhibitions title.

Unforced Variations

_And a surprising last minute addition, Sandy Kautz of the Camellia Society set up a display titled "Unforced Variations" I found this interesting on several levels. At first glance one might assume that these would be more at home at Boston's Flower Show down at the World Trade Center. I think Sandy actually liked the idea that these flowers personalities fit in with "alternative flower show' better. The title comes from the idea that at the spring flower show we view plants forced into unnatural bloom to coincide with the timing of the flower shows.

Friday, March 26, 2010

ALT X Flower Show

_View of Mobius from Harrison Ave.
_Mobius is not a typical gallery space; it is not a white box. In fact there is very little blank white wall space to be found. The most striking feature of Mobius is the window walls. The perception as one walks by is a glass rectangle. Difficult to stage art that depends on the wall as background, yet perfectly suited to art of an experimental nature. Mobius is also the name of the group of artists that both exhibit in the space and collaborate or curate the space to bring a variety of local, national and international artists to Boston. Not surprisingly much of the work centers on performance art, installation pieces and generally looks to a multi-disciplinary artistry. This is my second time showing here; the first was this past January during their Work in Progress series. I had a chance to work out some ideas surrounding performance with my Ox and O’s game boxes. This time my work is part of the Alternative Experimental Flower Show. Perfect timing since this show is running the same weekend of Boston’s Flower and Garden Show at the Seaport World Trade Center. The Mobius show set in Boston’s South End was introduced in the recent Stuff magazine as the “alternative to quality time with grandma”. A backhanded compliment indicating these flower works were liable to be a bit more edgy.
A total of ten artists are presenting their interpretations of a flower show exhibit. As I sit and blog from the gallery, Ursula Ziegler is working on "banana ariera ecfloresco".

Ursula Ziegler's "banana ariera ecfloresco"

Ursula's performance piece unfolds daily as she creates banana flowers and elaborate banana flower arrangements. Ursela involves audience in the experience, encouraging them to make flowers and contribute to the ongoing process of arrangement and decay. The piece is an exploration of perception of an aesthetic act from its creation through to its decay.

Aithne with her Future Flower Installation

_Future Flower 2210 is an installation piece by artist Aithne Sheng-Ying Pao. The piece resembles a booth with a curtain doorway. Panels on the exterior show pictures that record forms of flowers through history. As we have progress from merely introducing new varieties by cultivation and cross pollination to genetically engineering plants, Aithne takes us to the future where we imagine the combination of human and flower traits.

Cathy Nolan Vincevic (right) plants people

_Our host and curator, Cathy Nolan Vincevic, a long time Mobius member, performs a multi-layed piece. Sometimes simply seated and cutting paper flowers from seed catalogues; at times burying dead flowers; Cathy builds a gardener persona and tableau as our show progresses.

Friday night was time to plant people. Cathy invites participants to become buried in dirt to their calfs and then gives them options of different ferns to wear.

One of Cathy Nolan Vincevic's planted people

_Two more days of the show to go... so some more from the fertile minds of the Alt X artists tomorrow.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

What We Sow

_Thorns in the Garden - photocollage original 17' x 22'

_When I look at the pictures the Hubble telescope has returned to earth I have always been struck by the organic look of the imagery. Huge gas clouds and nebula that seem to be growing, living organisms. Of course, given the almost infinite number of galaxies, the probability for life also exists. With these thoughts in the back of my head, I began to work through my piece for the Alternative Experimental Flower Show. This exhibit opens at Mobius in Boston on March 25 and runs through the weekend. (March 28th) A small group show that as Cathy Nolan Vincevic our curator and resident gardener put it, is “A collection of responses to the idea of the flower in a flower show setting.” The exhibit combines both installations and performances that provide an alternative to the usual spring flower shows.

Seed Packs - ©evertson2010
_The piece I’m presenting is an installation work designed to incorporate the idea of the distant star formations as flowers with a video of Hubble shots. The video is only viewable through a telescope to remove the viewer from the close intimacy of a monitor; as well as provide that Hubble reference. Interspersed in the video are images that all too easily escape out into space via our radio and television transmissions. For better or worse, for over a century our signals have escaped the earth and are making their way to distant worlds. I named this installation Thorns in the Garden. The video isn’t really a narrative and is simply meant to be fragments of our “thorny” nature in contrast to the majesty on view every evening in the stars overhead.
_ I’ll also be exhibiting the seed pack collages I’ve worked up over the last few days. (photo above)

This video will play as a loop from a tiny monitor suspended from the Mobius gallery ceiling.

Around the Studio:
Not everything you see around a studio is what it seems. Several friends have on occasion worked with me on some art during an evening of food and drink. Our third time for this "art night" was pizza night. We made pizza that was edible and made pizza that only appeared edible. The non- edible pizza sculpture was a collaboration with our friends the Prestashs and Abrahams. We constructed a pizza from paper maché, clay and paint. At the end of the evening everyone went home with a slice of art.

Art Night Collaboration - our ingredients and pizza sculptures - ©Abraham-Evertson-Prestash 2010

In the last but not least category is some noteworthy art received by mail. I love to see what my artist friends are up to. This past week I received surprises from Bibiana Padilla Maltos (postcard of a collage)(Bibiana is also curating the ABAD exhibit at San Diego State University, Ria Vanden Eynde (postcard of one of her paintings)(Ria has a new blog to check out and contribute to) and a small collage by Mara Thompson (this link will take you to Mara's mail art call "Note to Self" - she'll send a return art work - lets keep her busy ;-)

Maltos (top left) - Vanden Eynde (top right) - Thompson (center)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Thorns in the Garden

_Still image from video for The Alternative Experimental Flower Show
Opening March 25th at Mobius, Boston
Video and installation on view through the 28th

_Something is a bit prickly here. Although Thorns in the Garden is the title of a video installation I'm working on for next weeks exhibit at Mobius in Boston, it might also describe the thorn in the art garden that the recession has uncovered. Or maybe the shaking of a paradigm. The way we view the structure of the art world seems on uncertain footing. Whether brought to light by the recession or by the shifting vantage of our perceptions, artists are again commenting on the system, making works about the system or calling for the outright destruction of the system. I say again, because just as soon as art paradigms are in place they are knocked down; with many art careers built on the premise of turning the academy on its head. Most often changes can be seen as self-reflective as art re-evaluates its own nature. Lately, I wonder if this change may have more to do with the artist role in society than leading the next -ism.
_In my last post I pointed to a Roberta Smith critique becoming a call to arms for many disenfranchised artists. The Peter Schejeldahl review of the Skin Fruit exhibit at the New Museum also calls out an art system as fragile as the financial institutions deemed too large to fail. “…the posturing of “Skin Fruit”—roughly, noblesse oblige, laced with a left-libertarian raciness—cannot long deflect the mounting potency of class resentment.”
_The art world will receive no bail out but instead face a 'sort out'. The New Museum’s tack of mounting a trustee’s collection is probably a reflexive ‘make do with less’ approach to mounting a major show. The Burton exhibit at MoMA doesn’t seem to be taxing its bottom line either while providing entertainment. The sort out may not be a mirror world version of Wall Street, where the players immediately return to awarding each other giant bonus packages shortly after bringing the world economy to a grinding halt, but instead may have to face a ground up reassessment starting with the actual producers; the artists.
From personal experience, social networking on blogs and Facebook has provided me with more insight into sorting and categorizing the arts than all my years of art school. I am getting recommendations filtered through the eyes of fellow artists. Granted there is plenty of self promotion (most of us don’t have the luxury of not promoting) but aside from a few artists spamming their work, over the last several years I have found quite a few artists who make great recommendations of other artists to watch and shows to view. While they aren’t usurping a critic or curator role they are providing an educated eye.

This article caught my eye. The Coming Barbarism. I'm always up for a bit of culture jamming mischief although I fear the pendulum is so far into corporate control that it may never return. Still, this is interesting in light of the mildly subversive art that became a serious type of commodity in the latest economic bubble. I think some collectors want to be celebrity artists themselves. Humm?

Another example of artists working on their universe is the #class taking place at the Winkleman Gallery. Starting with the premise of an ongoing discussion into art and its discontents, Jen Dalton and William Powhida have created a freewheeling overview of our collective anxieties.

_Food for thought for all of us, but this does seem to be a time of retrenching and rethinking our roles. Howling sansculottes may not wish a return to the superstar system.

The Alternative Experimental Flower Show is open from March 25th through the 28th at Mobius, located at 725 Harrison Avenue in Boston. Stop by if you are in the area. Mobius is a premier artist group that has provided experimental artists a venue for over thirty years. The exhibit is curated by the Mobius green thumb Cathy Nolan Vincevic.

Monday, March 8, 2010


_With so much to choose from how do we make distinctions?
_Distinctions or Dichotomy: the panel topic at the Verge Art Fair last Saturday (3/6/10) came about to further the discussion that arose in the wake of critic Roberta Smith’s “Post Minimal to the Max” article in the February 14th 2010, New York Times. The panel, organized by artist and writer Camilla Fallon, sought to take on two sentences that have sparked a great deal of discussion in blogs and most especially Facebook.
“What's missing is art that seems made by one person out of intense personal necessity, often by hand. A lot but not all of this kind of work is painting.” – Roberta Smith
Smith’s article seemed to strike a chord with many who feel overlooked by art world institutions built on blockbuster shows by a handful of superstar artists. I think the undercurrent sentiment is that these shows lack a vitality, the art is phoned in, and… move over because I have some really good work that would look just as good given the chance.
Overall my reaction was a feeling that given the brevity of the topic sentences there is much more to be said here. The panel could only begin to un-spool a few of the threads that are contained in Smith’s thought. Not the least of which is the observation that Roberta Smith has herself written positively about some ‘big box’ shows and bad boy artists.
The panel had some internal debate concerning corporate art; also an onion of many layers. In simply trying to define this big box feeling we have to decide if we are referring to the ubiquitous stainless sculpture in front of a corporate headquarters, the way in which artists are selected by major institutions or the way in which certain big name artists manage their careers. (brand might be a term that applies here as well) On the latter point Jeff Koons was held to be the current poster boy.
Panelist Peter Reginato made a point of describing that the opposite of good art could be great art. Perhaps that point being that the acceleration of college arts programs is funneling plenty of good artists into the system with nowhere to go. Plenty of good art is being made but the dearth of opportunity makes great art the true pearl in a sea of oysters. My experience of the NYC art fairs this past weekend seemed to bear this out. While my NY colleagues seem found plenty to dislike (the art was by turns either boring, derivative, too crude, too polished etc) for me it all seemed ok – not to much standing head and shoulders above any other. So, essentially an ocean miles wide and inches deep.
Yet the panel seemed in agreement that perhaps we are taking to much away from the statement concerning intense personal necessity. All of us present; and most were artists, seemed inclined to believe that this is probably true of most artists despite differing amounts of talent or resources.
Writer and critic, John Haber, provided an invaluable historical record concerning the hand made rubric that certainly calls into question the very notion of why handmade is the banner we should all be following. Just as well, speaking for myself as I don’t consider myself a painter but rather work in a variety of media depending on the idea I’m concerned with at the moment. Thus my personal work can alternately go through extremes of total digital assembly to intense handcrafting.
Another topic that surfaced was the role of museums, with discussions ranging from the explanation card hanging next to many works to institutional survival strategy during the recession. Actually Lisa Becks comments on the tendency of these little cards to focus on process actually detracting from our appreciation later hit home as I attended the art fairs and gallery representatives would “sell’ me by turns on the either incredibly tedious, or inventive, or traditional methods the artist employed.

Matthew Rose collages at Red Dot Art Fair
So for all the fervor witnessed on the Internet this may not signal a return to the lone artist laboring on blank canvas. There are institutional concerns, money concerns and concern with the role of the critic’s ability to sort through the multiplicity of art venues. While we may well get a shot at the 15 minutes on the stage for many even that may be pushing the envelope. Judging from my own reaction to visiting six of the twelve art fairs concurrently running I felt like I was speed dating artists. I wouldn’t be making art, writing about art and viewing art if it wasn’t out of intense personal necessity, but after two days of nonstop viewing even I could only spare artists 20 – 30 seconds to make an impression. Such is the nature of the beast.
Distinctions or Dichotomy was moderated by artist and writer Camilla Fallon with panelists Jill Connor, John Haber, Lisa Beck, Peter Reginato and Dennis Kardon. Thanks to all for the enjoyable discussion!

Friday, March 5, 2010

In the Studio

_Verso of A Million Little Choices artist book _ ©evertson2010

_After getting a look at my A Million Little Choices at 303 Grand St. during the Sketchbook Library opening, I decided that I really should make a hardcover version of it. That's what sketchbooks are; sketches for some future work or a nascent idea in need of development. This sketchbook being another tangent in the context of choice and identity that I've been working on deserved a face lift. The sketchbook version is accordion folded but only worked on one side.

Cover plus view of both front and rear _ ©evertson2010

_The images are readable either forward or back to construct a "journey" narrative as various tic tac toe grids are encountered. For the verso I started with some night photography of Times Square signage. Working with the negatives of these photographs, I constructed a 90" collage of the logos and signs that are part of the night world of NYC that scream "buy... choose!" In the context of our lives and choices; we're confronted with many choices that are subtle yet far reaching; a partner, a religion, a politic, a career, compassion or indifference. Yet, the world is presenting an elevated sense of essentially consumer choice in a way that competes as an agenda. The original sketchbook lacked an image for the back cover, so I created a small collage to compliment the more simple premise of the front. Now my book reads forward and back and front to rear.

Kali vs Time _ artist game box _ ©evertson2010

_My other project this week was a new game box. This one titled Kali vs Time contains the same elements as my Ox and O's box: the hand stamps, grids, instructions, and various collages. The box is handmade using standard bookbinding techniques. I do create unique collages to line each box; each forming a commentary (both visual and literal) concerning the "choices" I've presented in the game. Here the exploration concerns the Hindu goddess Kali and her manifestation as a devourer of time.

Interior of Kali box _ ©evertson2010

The stamps themselves are cast plaster that have images carved on the bottoms. The stamped images are visible in the left and right compartments. Kali is simply carved as a wild visage grasping a spiral. The "time" piece is a simple hourglass.

This picture to the right shows the copper mesh cradles I make to support the hand stamps in the box. These are formed over the same cast iron mold I use to make the blank hands. The mesh is flexible but holds its shape well enough for this use. I simply cut the cradles slightly oversize and friction fit them in the compartments.
The photo to the right is the interior cover art.
A small face of Kali is visible on the lower right; devouring the wheel I hold.