Sunday, February 28, 2010

Calm before the storm....

The New York art world is gearing up for the gallery tsunami known as Armory Week. There are at least 9 fairs happening next week with 2 more major fairs (ADAA and AIPAD) happening in the succeeding weeks through March. Bill Mindlin of Photograph Magazine created a special broadside issue featuring the myriad events coming to New York in the coming weeks. I'm honored that he highlighted Fugitive Vision in this issue as one of two blogs mentioned to be covering the fairs. You can see the special issue online here:

I've been moving Fugitive Vision more towards an essay blog and away from daily small posts about current shows. But, in light of Mr. Mindlin's support, I will try to report daily on what I'm seeing at the fairs. Expect less in-depth commentary (perhaps to be supplemented at a later date for truly memorable work), and a focus on photographic finds. I'll be thinking of myself as an advance scout sending back dispatches for those with less time to scour every booth at every fair. As usual with Fugitive Vision, I will concentrate on the positive. Check in daily for highlighted favorites and recommendations rather than ranting about pet-peeves or disappointing work.

As always, I welcome comments, additions, and corrections. Below please find a list of the fairs with URLs for each so you can begin to explore your options virtually before the madness of the week begins. See you on the other side.....

The Armory Show March 4-7. Pier 92, 94 at 55th St, Thur-Sat noon-8pm, Sun noon-7pm,
Pulse NYC March 4-7. 330 West St at W Houston St, Thur-Sat noon-8pm, Sun noon-5pm,
Scope New York March 4-7. Lincoln Center Damrosch Park, 62nd St and Amsterdam Ave, Thur-Sat noon-8pm, Sun noon-7pm,
Volta NY March 4-7. 7 W 34th St, Thur 2-8pm, Fri-Sun 11am-7pm,
Independent March 4-7. 548 W 22nd St, Thur 4-9pm, Fri-Sat 11am-8pm, Sun noon-4pm,
Red Dot New york March 4-7. 500 W 36th St, Thur noon-6pm, Fri-Sat 11am-8pm, Sun 11am-6pm,
Verge Art Fair March 4-7. Dylan Hotel, 52 E 41st St, Fri-Sat noon-8pm, Sun noon-6pm,
Fountain art fair March 5-7. Pier 66 at 26th St, Fri-Sun 11am-7pm, 
Pool art fair March 5-7. Gershwin Hotel, 7 E 27th St, Fri-Sun 3-10pm,
The ADAA art Show March 3-7. Park Avenue Armory, Park Ave at 67th St, Wed-Sat noon-8pm, Sun noon-6pm,
THE AIPAD Photography Show New York March 18-21. Park Avenue Armory at 67th St, Thur-Sat 11am-8pm, Sun 11am-6pm,

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The cheapest word in an expensive business

I recently read the article/interview you see below and was struck by the word "curator". In what way was Shaq the curator for the show at Flag Art Foundation? Perhaps the pass/fail multiple-choice parlor game that was the basis for his curatorial debut makes for interesting locker room chat, but it devalues the term when compared to the actual hard work and long hours done by the scholars museums call curators. While some curators I know would be no stranger to the kind of self-aggrandizing, auto-hagiocracy that Mr. O'Neal seems to enjoy, I think most of them would agree that, whatever noun you might want to use to describe his involvement in the Flag Foundation show, curator would not be the word that comes to mind.

Now despite the fact that this article made my snob gland swell, I'm actually all for a big, inclusive tent in the art world. I think that having celebrities like Mr, O'Neal become part of the art process is at worst harmless, and at best good PR which shines more light on a business that can be seen as only for the intellectual elite. He's certainly entitled to his taste, opinions, and all the access that his wealth brings him. I would never for a moment suggest that he should be excluded, and, on the contrary, I respect his eagerness to explore areas outside of the usual wealthy athlete stereotype. But I wonder if the respect is a two way street. What if David Rockefeller, by virtue of his wealth, decided not only to buy a sports team, but to coach it on a daily basis? His players would be forced to call him "coach", but he would not be a real coach for lack of knowledge, experience, and training. He would get lots of help, suggestions, and support, of course, but then he'd fail in every way possible because he's just not qualified. And Shaq would be the first to cry foul.

So how come some rich athlete gets to walk in a gallery, point his finger at 20 art works, and get called "curator"? Isn't there another word that fills the void more accurately? It seems to me that, considering the incredible amount of wealth at play in the art world, some things come cheap.

Art Curator Shaq Is His Own Masterpiece 

By Linda Yablonsky 

Published Feb 7, 2010

Despite holding down a demanding day job, Cleveland Cavaliers center Shaquille O’Neal has published two memoirs, cut six records, acted in seven movies, starred in a reality show, served as a reserve police officer, and studied for a doctorate in “human resource development.” Now he’s curating “Size DOES Matter,” an exhibition opening February 19 at the Flag Art Foundation in Chelsea. Shaq made 66 selections for the show—which features works ranging from the ginormous (Andreas Gursky’s billboard-size photograph Madonna I) to the microscopic (a Shaq portrait by Willard Wigan)—out of over 200 images that founder Glenn Fuhrman and director Stephanie Roach showed him over dinner after a game.

How did you make your choices?
Art is a process of delivering or arranging elements that appeal to the emotions of a person looking at it. It’s what you feel. I picked those things because they were beautiful. The thing about size—if it’s big or small you have to look at it. Because I’m so big you have to look at me. I think of myself as a monument. But sometimes I like to feel small.

Do you ever get time to visit museums?
I used to go a lot with my kids. Donald Trump is a great friend, and he has four or five Picassos on his plane. And that’s where I would look at them. One time, I was at a museum and tried touching a Picasso. You break it, you buy it, they said. I was told it would cost $2 million.

Have you ever tried painting?
No, but I’ve met a lot of artists who wanted to paint me. LeRoy Neiman was one. He did it from a photograph. He made 20,000 copies, and we sold them all. Now I’m working with the greatest artist in the world, Peter Max.

Do you buy art?
I have six kids, and if they ripped something, I’d be devastated. Maybe when they grow up, I’ll buy. I’d like Ron Mueck [whose Untitled: Big Man appears in the show] to do a sculpture of me. I would like to make it twenty feet tall and put it in the middle of a residential neighborhood—make it two stories high and in the head I’d have my office.

You like people looking at you.
Yeah. When I go to New York I like to stand in the street and see what happens. When you look at a painting and try to figure it out—you look at me [the same way]. Everything in the world is art.

Including basketball?
To me, it’s ballet, hip-hop, and kung fu. The ballet is grace, the hip-hop is cool, and the kung fu is kill the opponent.

Read more: Shaquille O’Neal on Curating the 'Size DOES Matter' Exhibit

Monday, February 22, 2010

New edition + new blog

 I was just made aware of a blog which highlights books, editions, and budget-minded prints written by Andrew Phelps called Buffet. I'm adding a link under "blogs I like". The reason I heard about it is because he wrote about a new edition done by my friend Raphael Dallaporta's Domestic Slavery series. Follow the link here for the specific post. Raphael is a fabulous artist, certainly one to watch, and will be the recipient of an Infinity Award from ICP this year in the artist under 30 category. His website: Check it out.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


I've written about newcomer gallery Baer Ridgway before in reference to their excellent nascent editions program. Well, they've come up with a super work on paper show that runs the gamut of work form talented MFAs to well established artists. With more than 100 artists in the show, it's hard to single out any one contributor, but the online exhibit is well worth combing through for pleasure and bargains. Also note that they'll be in NYC in 2 weeks for the Pulse fair. Here's their mini press release for the show and a hyperlink to their site. Check 'em out:

February 20 - March 27, 2010

Baer Ridgway Exhibitions is pleased to present PAPER!AWESOME!, a group exhibition of new works on paper by over 100 artists. Curated by gallery artist Brion Nuda Rosch, this exhibition contains over 300 8.5 x 11 inch brand new works on paper by an incredibly varied group of artists. Works by internationally recognized artists will hang side-by-side with those by artists just emerging, all of whom have been asked to work with the most basic of canvases, an 8.5 x 11 inch piece of paper.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

(In)Visible Export

I recently got an email from Risa Needleman of Invisible Exports Gallery. I like everything about it: it's a direct, honest approach, the art is interesting, and it's a win/win for the artist and the collector. Invisible Exports has been getting solid, consistent reviews for their editions program including their Artist of the Month program. This is a great way to start checking them out. Recommended. Here's the email:

The filmmaker Marie Losier has been filming Genesis for the past four years, working towards her first feature film, a portrait of Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, and h/er band Psychic TV. The film, in its current form, was presented at both The Centre George Pompidou in April, and at the Cinemathèque Francaise this past September.  

We are trying to help Marie raise the last bit of money she needs to complete the film, so we are offering a limited edition print from her OUTTAKES series created in collaboration with Bernard Yenelouis.  
The photograph is an edition of 50, and is available for only $200. All the money from this print goes directly to the completion of the film. You can buy it directly from our website here: 

The other works from the OUTTAKES series are available in an edition of 5 and will also go to help Marie. You can view them at this special link here: 

We are offering them first exclusively to friends of the gallery who have expressed interest in Genesis and h/er work, and to people who we think might be interested in adding this wonderful photograph to their collection.

PS_If you have not seen the new BREYER P-ORRIDGE works at Renwick Gallery, please do. They are absolutely terrific. And mark your calendars: Genesis will be lecturing at MoMA on Monday, March 22, 2010.

Invisible-Exports, 14a Orchard Street
New York, NY 10002
(212) 226-5447

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Parallel development: the process of creating multiple versions of the same object (or set of objects) concurrently. Typically, multiple users work independently on the same project, or a single user develops multiple, concurrent versions of a project. The parallel development cycle ends when you merge the work together.
Parallel evolution: the development of a similar trait in different not closely related species, but descending from the same ancestor.

A thought has been banging around in my head for a long time now. I've made notes about it so I could write a blog post though it never seemed to coalesce into a sentient form. But other writers seemed to be having similar thoughts, and reading them has pushed me to do some thinking aloud (or at least as "aloud" as a blog will allow). The thought has to do with originality. When is an idea original? What does plagiarism mean in an artistic context?  Where is the border between the collective unconscious and downright cribbing? This blog is certifiably NOT an original idea as I will show. Many others before me have ruminated, debated, and argued similar or identical points. Am I plagiarizing them? Well...

My first push to actually put this post online came from reading Jorg Colberg in his blog, Conscientious. Three years ago, he had written an essay called "When does similar become too similar?", which was followed by a recent update, "On Plagiarism and Similarities". He writes,

"And I think we might want to be a bit careful with the word plagiarism. Even though I realize that it has become very popular to throw around big words and accuse someone of this and that (stealing elections or files online are just obvious examples), proving plagiarism is actually a very tricky business, and given the severeness of the accusation, it does not hurt to be a bit careful. Also, if something is quite similar, that's not already plagiarism - especially if the methods are the same, but not the results. For example, compare the work of Idris Khan and Jason Salavon. Both have used digital superimpositions of images to create new work, with different subject matters. The methods are similar, the results and intentions aren't."

Idris Khan is a name that seems to come up often when I hear discussions about originality. His signature work involving multiple layers of superimposed images taken from a canon of visual information is neither a new idea nor newly presented. But he is by far the most celebrated and remunerated artist practicing the idea.  Doug Keyes work from the late 90s, Krzysztof Pruszkowski's work from the early 90s, and the previously mentioned Jason Salavon all easily predate Khan's work. 
Photography of Krzysztof Pruszkowski: Photosynthesis
Doug Keyes, Collective Memory
Idris Khan
I don't have an answer for the question of whether Khan's work is a rip-off of Keyes or whether Keyes work is a rip-off of Pruszkowski, and I certainly don't understand why Khan's work is valued at many multiples of the other two, but I do wonder whether it is even the right question. Art that bears more than a surface resemblance to other art is an old, old problem. If it weren't, we wouldn't need experts, authenticators, and appraisers in the way that we do. I remember the 1996 show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art called "Rembrandt/Not Rembrandt" which explored works by the master, his pupils, his imitators, and works previously thought to be by one or the other. The exhibit was posed as a question: who painted these works and why do we care? If a painting was thought for centuries to be a masterpiece, why would the attribution of the artist change our opinion? Of course, photography is a slightly different question. The mechanical nature of the medium blurs and even erases stylistic differences. Suddenly it is possible (not even on purpose!) to make a work startlingly similar to another without any knowledge of the previous work. In the past, imitators acknowledged a master or progenitor. Now, attribution is dubious, slippery, or arcane. And that doesn't even begin to ask the question of whether the "copyist" is aware of the work it's suggested he's copying. I call this Parallel development(PD).

My favorite example of PD is between Vik Muniz and French artist Phillipe Gronon. Mr. Muniz was working on his series "Verso" at exactly the same moment Mr. Gronon was working on his series "Versos". One was in Paris, the other was in New York and Brazil. Mr. Muniz' show opened on EXACTLY the same day in New York as Mr. Gronon's opened in Paris. There is no potential plagiarism here -- both artists were working at the same time in different places -- yet the works are strikingly similar. But despite the fact that they're remarkably alike seen as jpegs on a computer screen, in reality they are divergent works. One is a sculptural exploration and the other is a photographic exploration. But even if they were identical, we see that extremely similar work can be created independently of each other.

Vik Muniz, Verso
  Philippe Gronon, Versos

And many other PD examples exist. My second push to get going to write on this topic was in rereading "The Ongoing Moment" by Geoff Dyer. As Dyer brilliantly espouses in his book, photographers have always riffed on certain visual tropes: hats, beggars, signs, fences, blind people, benches, barbershops, hands, roads, and on and on (and this doesn't even begin to address the classic themes like landscape or nudes). Some of the pictures he references look alarmingly alike, others just share a common visual element. It strikes me as a continuing dialog more than replicated model. And yet another example from the PD idea: Tim Davis, Jorma Puranen, Yuji Ono, and Madeline Djerejian. All of these artists created a series that examined the effect of light on a painting when interpreted by a camera. None of these artists invented the idea. It goes back at least as far as Eliott Erwitt's famous photograph of a gallery in Venice from the 60s. Many of you will not have heard of Ms Djerejian. She told me she had worked on a series of photos of paintings in a museum. Just as she was about to show the work, Tim Davis' "Permanent Collection" series was unveiled at a major gallery. She shelved the completed project believing that she would never be able to counter the belief that she had "copied" the work of a more well-known artist. (I don't have reproductions of that series.) Are these works more similar or different? Would we interpret them identically were we to see them together? Does their context change by reading the artist statement?:

Jorma Puranen
Shadows, Reflections and All That Sort of Thing #40

Jorma Puranen
Shadows, Reflections and All That Sort of Thing #37

Tim Davis, Permanent Collection

Tim Davis, Permanent Collection

Yuji Ono, Tableaux from 1999

Yuji Ono, Tableaux from 1999

Or consider the architectural studies of Matthias Hoch, Frank van der Salm, Michael Wolf, and Ola Kolehmainen. I confess that, even though I know the work of each of these artists, I frequently confuse them when I see them in succession at art fairs. Does this negate or degrade each artist's work in any way? I used to think so, but now I'm not so sure. Does it matter which came first? Curators have told me that this is the primary question. So why do we see a museum choose Khan over Keyes? Lalla Essaydi is frequently chided for being "exactly like" Shirin Neshat. Aside from the fact that both artists use some form of Arabic text written across the photo, it seems to me that the art is fundamentally different; they only share a common visual trope. Or consider Silvio Wolf and ZHENG Nong. Mr. Wolf is clearly the more famous artist, and his work predates Mr. Zheng's. Does this automatically make the Chinese work a copy? 
© Silvio Wolf, 2006, HORIZON 14 - YELLOW, 2002
ZHENG Nong, Chemical Landscape 化学风景, (2006-07)

There are many factors to consider --process, meaning, context, intent -- but I'm beginning to think that the least of them is who came first. Which leads me to an essay a friend gave to me recently which really forced me to reconsider my thinking on the subject. Titled "The Ecstasy of Influence: a plagiarism" by Jonathan Lethem, first published in Harper's Magazine, February 2007. As I should have realized, the question is not confined to my little corner of the art world, but is a general, pervasive conversation in every creative universe. Mr. Lethem's text it is so cogent and on the money, I find it hard to excerpt, (please do click the hyperlink and read the whole thing), but in a nutshell, he shows how all of the arts have cribbed, borrowed, derived, and been influenced by previous work. Not only is it unavoidable, it's essential. Speaking of Bob Dylan:

Appropriation has always played a key role in Dylan's music. The songwriter has grabbed not only from a panoply of vintage Hollywood films but from Shakespeare and F. Scott Fitzgerald and Junichi Saga's Confessions of a Yakuza. He also nabbed the title of Eric Lott's study of minstrelsy for his 2001 album Love and Theft. One imagines Dylan liked the general resonance of the title, in which emotional misdemeanors stalk the sweetness of love, as they do so often in Dylan's songs. Lott's title is, of course, itself a riff on Leslie Fiedler's Love and Death in the American Novel, which famously identifies the literary motif of the interdependence of a white man and a dark man, like Huck and Jim or Ishmael and Queequeg—a series of nested references to Dylan's own appropriating, minstrel-boy self. Dylan's art offers a paradox: while it famously urges us not to look back, it also encodes a knowledge of past sources that might otherwise have little home in contemporary culture, like the Civil War poetry of the Confederate bard Henry Timrod, resuscitated in lyrics on Dylan's newest record, Modern Times. Dylan's originality and his appropriations are as one......The same might be said of all art.

Would any of us  wish to be without the contribution of Dylan based on a copyright dispute? From my own past, I think of all the classical music compositions that have been used to create popular songs. "Full Moon and Open Arms" was taken from Rachmaninoff's 2nd piano concerto, "Kismet" themes were cribbed from the works of Borodin, and "Never Gonna Fall in Love Again" was "inspired" by the 3rd movement of Rachmaninoff's 2nd symphony (Eric Carmen reached an agreement with the Rachmaninoff estate to share royalties on that one). There are hundreds of other examples. Whether you're afan of these songs or not, would you really argue they shouldn't exist? Again from Mr. Lethem:

Visual, sound, and text collage—which for many centuries were relatively fugitive traditions (a cento here, a folk pastiche there)—became explosively central to a series of movements in the twentieth century: futurism, cubism, Dada, musique concrète, situationism, pop art, and appropriationism. In fact, collage, the common denominator in that list, might be called the art form of the twentieth century, never mind the twenty-first. But forget, for the moment, chronologies, schools, or even centuries. As examples accumulate—Igor Stravinsky's music and Daniel Johnston's, Francis Bacon's paintings and Henry Darger's, the novels of the Oulipo group and of Hannah Crafts (the author who pillaged Dickens's Bleak House to write The Bondwoman's Narrative), as well as cherished texts that become troubling to their admirers after the discovery of their “plagiarized” elements, like Richard Condon's novels or Martin Luther King Jr.'s sermons—it becomes apparent that appropriation, mimicry, quotation, allusion, and sublimated collaboration consist of a kind of sine qua non of the creative act, cutting across all forms and genres in the realm of cultural production. 

Any text is woven entirely with citations, references, echoes, cultural languages, which cut across it through and through in a vast stereophony. The citations that go to make up a text are anonymous, untraceable, and yet already read; they are quotations without inverted commas. The kernel, the soul—let us go further and say the substance, the bulk, the actual and valuable material of all human utterances—is plagiarism. For substantially all ideas are secondhand, consciously and unconsciously drawn from a million outside sources, and daily used by the garnerer with a pride and satisfaction born of the superstition that he originated them; whereas there is not a rag of originality about them anywhere except the little discoloration they get from his mental and moral caliber and his temperament, and which is revealed in characteristics of phrasing. Old and new make the warp and woof of every moment. There is no thread that is not a twist of these two strands. By necessity, by proclivity, and by delight, we all quote. Neurological study has lately shown that memory, imagination, and consciousness itself is stitched, quilted, pastiched. If we cut-and-paste our selves, might we not forgive it of our artworks?  

There are, without doubt, cheaters and copiers in our midst. There are now and there have ever been. But absent a device that can glean the deepest intentions from every single creative act, I'm more comfortable with the concept of innocent until proven guilty.  As with capital punishment, better that a hundred copyists go free so that one Dylan can emerge. Inspiration and creativity are messy processes with no clear form or gestation. Though I've taken a much more hostile and militant stance in the past, I think Lethem's policy of forgiveness makes much more sense. I empathize with artists, not wealthy to begin with, who may feel that food has been taken out of their mouths by a rapacious copier. If it were studied, I suspect that is rarely the case in fact. Just as artists may have PD, collectors and curators, too are likely to be unaware of the parallel art. Is it possible that someone who wanted an Idris Khan but "settled" for a Doug Keyes? Sure, it could happen. Did someone who really wanted a Doug Keyes get seduced by an Idris Khan? Yeah, that could happen, too. But I bet in a vast majority of cases the market for one artist acted independently of the market for the other. 

I'm pretty sure this post won't end the discussion on this topic. Perhaps it will even stir up the hornet's nest (I encourage your comments). But I'm completely sure that I haven't said anything that hasn't been said before. Maybe I changed a few things here or a word or two there, but I can't plant a flag on the island of originality. My best hope is that it reaches some new ears or has a slight switch of perspective that makes it look a little new. Or at least, when seen in raking light, I can hope it's different enough to be mine.