Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I agree wholeheartedly!

Saatchi's scathing portrait of the art world: 'Vulgar, Eurotrashy, masturbatory'

Leading British collector launches surprise attack saying buyers and dealers 'can't tell good artists from bad'
, arts correspondent

Charles Saatchi has launched an incendiary attack on the buyers and
dealers who populate the art world. Photograph: James King for the Observer
Charles Saatchi, the most important British art collector of his generation, has launched an incendiary attack on the buyers, dealers and curators who populate the contemporary art world and concluded that many of them have little feeling for art and cannot tell a good artist from a bad one.

Writing in today's Guardian, Saatchi paints a scathing picture of the contemporary art world and says that being a buyer these days "is comprehensively and indisputably vulgar".

He says: "It is the sport of the Eurotrashy, hedgefundy, Hamptonites; of trendy oligarchs and oiligarchs; and of art dealers with masturbatory levels of self-regard." Saatchi described the Venice Biennale, scene of the world's biggest contemporary art jamboree, as a place where these people circulate "in a giddy round of glamour-filled socialising, from one swanky party to another".

"Do any of these people actually enjoy looking at art?" asks Saatchi. "Do they simply enjoy having easily recognised big-brand-name pictures, bought ostentatiously in auction rooms at eye-catching prices, to decorate their several homes, floating and otherwise, in an instant demonstration of drop-dead coolth and wealth? Their pleasure is to be found in having their lovely friends measuring the weight of their baubles, and being awestruck."

His comments will unquestionably cause waves in a world in which Saatchi has taken a pivotal role.

For some he is the less famous husband of Nigella Lawson but for the art world he is of immense importance. For 30 years he has been a voracious buyer of new art and was instrumental in the success of the Young British Artists movement, buying up the best of the likes of Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin and exhibiting it at the groundbreaking Sensation show at the Royal Academy in 1997.

But Saatchi says he finds the new art world toe-curling. "My little dark secret is that I don't actually believe many people in the art world have much feeling for art and cannot tell a good artist from a weak one, until the artist has enjoyed the validation of others.

"Few people in contemporary art demonstrate much curiosity, and spend their days blathering on, rather than trying to work out why one artist is more interesting than another."

Many will be surprised at the ferocity of his opinions. The Turner-nominated artist Louise Wilson – half of the Wilson twins – said she did not recognise his characterisation of collectors. "Maybe Charles is upset because he is not longer the chief proponent of the vulgarity," she said. "There are more collectors out there as opposed to the late 80s and 90s when there was just one which is a good thing."

But she added: "Many artists and art works have now definitely become a brand in a sense and some people may well go 'I'll have a Koons and a Gucci.' You can see that happening in certain contexts so in a way he does raise some interesting observations."

The curator Norman Rosenthal said it was impossible to generalise.

"It is very difficult to make a good exhibition," he said, "and the real problem is the art world has become so huge. When Charles and I were younger and doing the world of art it used to be much easier to sort it all out."

Rosenthal said Saatchi had put on extremely good shows but also shows that were not so good "and I speak as a dear friend of Charles."

Rosenthal was speaking from Miami where most of the people Saatchi is talking about have gathered for the latest fair on the contemporary art calendar. Rosenthal admitted that if 95% of the art there were destroyed then it would be no great loss.

What effect Saatchi's intervention will have on a buoyant contemporary art market remains to be seen but Sarah Thornton, the author of Seven Days in the Art World, predicted it would change little.

"This is so disingenuous of Charles Saatchi because he is selling art to these people and he is their role model. I find it shocking that he would come out and say this because his gallery has become a showroom for upcoming auction lots."

Thornton said Saatchi had made many millions selling on much of his collection. "He is feeding the people he is condemning." She put his comments down to "misanthropy".
Saatchi has had a London gallery for contemporary art since 1985 in different locations including St John's Wood, County Hall and since 2008 the former Duke of York's HQ in Chelsea.

According to the Art Newspaper's survey, in 2009 and 2010 the most visited UK show was Van Gogh at the Royal Academy followed by five shows at the Saatchi.

In 2010, Saatchi said he wanted to leave the gallery and part of his collection to the nation. A spokeswoman said negotiations to make that happen were continuing.

Expert view: Saatchi's Robert Hughes moment

The first thing to be recognised about Charles Saatchi's Swiftian explosion of rage against the art world is that he is uniquely qualified to say it. The second is that broadly speaking, he is right.

Saatchi is so synonymous with contemporary art that some readers may be baffled by his anger at the current state of it. Surely he is Mr Modern Art? Absolutely, but Saatchi has always been a collector who took risks for artists he loves. His championing of Damien Hirst two decades ago was not an attempt to follow fashion but a genuine act of enthusiasm for an artist widely attacked by critics (then as now) and mocked by the tabloids: he was right.

For me, the moment I first saw Hirst's shark seemingly swim through green formaldehyde at the Saatchi Gallery was when I knew the art of my time had teeth.

Saatchi's brand of provocative art collecting, daring the public to like what he likes, made him the natural patron of artists likesuch as Hirst and Sarah Lucas who, in the punk tradition, did not care what the public wanted and grew great on irritation. Everything is different now because, as he says, there are many collectors, and it's hard to see how they have individual taste or a sense of mission. Mega-dealers such as Hauser & Wirth and Gagosian happily "educate" the tastes of these collectors. Art fairs popularise the idea of art as cool shopping even with those who cannot afford to shop.

Here is the one weakness in his argument. While it is undoubtedly the moneyed global elite and their suck-ups who dominate the art world, there is no revolution at the gates, for art fans from much wider social spheres are sucked into this uncontroversial, irrelevant neophilia.

A broad swathe of the middle class, not just collectors, lap up the videos and pretentious installations he lambasts (he has never collected video), and dismiss any skepticism as "conservative". The art world has taken a lot of innocent people with it on the road to mindless corporate fashionability. It needs an honest critic, and maybe Saatchi's Robert Hughes moment has come. No one can accuse him of being a stick-in-the-mud.

Jonathan Jones

Friday, December 2, 2011

New Art

The 'Faces of Color' series adds another image to the growing list. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

'Malcom X - A Life of Reinvention' Review

A Man for Many Seasons
by Darryl Lorenzo Wellington
Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention
by Manning Marable
Viking Adult, 2001, 608 pp.

Manning Marable’s Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention hit the book stands last spring with considerable buzz, given the allure that accompanied Malcolm X’s life story, as well as the drama of Marable’s personal tragedy. Marable died of complications resulting from pneumonia at age sixty a few days before the publication of his magnum opus. His sudden demise heightened the impression that his Malcolm—the product of ten years of work— would be definitive.

The man euphemistically known as “the Brother X” has become iconic. He has been the subject of a major Hollywood biopic. But his legacy remains contested. Critics and admirers alike pick and choose from among the images of Malcolm X. There is the majestic freedom fighter, admired by Spike Lee and Barack Obama. There is the Brother X associated with parochial-minded anti- Americanism; the race-baiting Malcolm X recently denounced by Stanley Crouch as “a maskmaker from his days as a hustler to the moment at which he was shot to death”; Malcolm the global humanitarian, the symbol of world brotherhood; Malcolm the sectarian, the divisive influence. There is the religious Malcolm, potentially the new face of Black Islamic America.

But there is another Malcolm, the male chauvinist, who bragged in his autobiography of never having trusted a woman, and whose image reified ugly strains of Islamic sexism, as well as its capacity for radical violence. Marable notes, “An al-Qaeda video released following the election of Barack Obama described the president as a ‘race traitor’ and ‘hypocrite’ when compared to Malcolm X.”

Martin Luther King’s career fits easily into the mold of a martyred civil rights hero. He promoted social integrationism and was murdered by a white racist. For most of his public life, Malcolm X belittled social integrationism and was murdered by other blacks in a sectarian feud. Malcolm X’s break with the Nation of Islam defined the final period of his career. But after he put aside the NOI’s half-baked philosophy of “white devils” he still extolled the power behind a collective racial identity. He ultimately “changed,” but to what? There is not a clear version of what the final Malcolm X represented.

Malcolm’s legacy has been interpreted to be culturally black nationalist or capitalist (in the Marcus Garvey tradition of black entrepreneurship) or socialist. His last phase coincided with the period of anticolonialist socialist revolutions in Africa. He identified strongly with Pan-Africanism. But Pan-Africanism has come and gone; where does this leave Malcolm X in history?

A Life of Reinvention is heavy on particulars, or minutiae—a narrative retelling by a zealous researcher. Isn’t this a biographer’s task? Yes, and yet for all that Marable accomplishes, a certain disappointment haunts the reader. A Life of Reinvention may fill in certain blanks and provide salacious details (a normative practice in this day and age of tell-all biographies); it may “humanize” Malcolm X, if you will, but its struggle with the Brother X’s political legacy is perfunctory, while it could have been Olympian.

The primary source behind the multiple constructions of Malcolm X’s legacy is The Autobiography of Malcolm X, compiled over a two-year period from interviews conducted with journalist Alex Haley. The Autobiography has sold millions, its popularity driven by the charismatic power of Malcolm X’s story of sin and redemption, and his conversion from a life of crime to one of political and religious commitment. Haley’s narrative has made Malcolm X hip, threatening, or cool, and promulgated many of the alternative Malcolms. Marable clearly has a bone to pick with The Autobiography, averring that “Malcolm X had no opportunity to revise major elements of what would become known as his political testament.” Furthermore, “A deeper reading [of The Autobiography of Malcolm X] also reveals numerous inconsistencies in names, dates, and facts. [After years of teaching the Autobiography] I was fascinated. How much it true, and how much hasn’t been told?” ponders Marable. But both books relate basically the same story.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

New Art - Faces of Color Series

As many of you may know by now, I tend to paint in spurts and change my style of art and ideas about as often as I change my underwear. Well, here's another pair to try on. These next few images that I will be delivering over the coming weeks were actually inspired by my good friend Tyrone Geter. Tyrone is a master with charcoal and often uses them on dark backgrounds. I love the effect he was achieving but charcoal is a medium I have zero love and tolerance for - way too messy for me to fool with. I decided to do my version of the charcoal look with oil which I call 'charcoil'. (Use that and I will sue!) Each of the images will be on a different background color to mimic the various color papers that charcoal is often used on. 

I recently was working on the Plantashun series that included some realistic images of actual slaves. I loved the look of despair and strength on the faces and wanted to continue with them. Unfortunately, I couldn't get a lot of detail out of the faces in many of the century old photos, so I decided to start using live models. The lady below is actually my long time neighbor, Ms. Margaret Sass. I love her face and asked if I could take her picture months ago, but didn't know what to do with the image afterwards and stored it away. When this idea came to me I knew she was the perfect start. The next image is that of another neighbor who lives across the street. I'll have that one ready sometime next week.


Monday, October 24, 2011

New Commissioned Art

The portrait of his lovely wife, Gina Torres, was commissioned by Laurence Fishburne earlier this year. It was supposed to be presented to her on their anniversary (Sept. 22), but alas, they are both successful actors and as such have overlapping schedules. He finally presented it to her yesterday and thank goodness, she loved it. Whew! Portraits are difficult business. The margin for error is great and a high profile commission like this keeps the artist on pins and needles until you get the thumbs up from commissioner and recipient. I'm not well known as a portrait artist but I do enjoy the challenge.

"Portrait of Gina Torres"
Oil on Linen
54" x 42"
(select to enlarge)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Article - Biennial Showcases Contemporary S.C. Art

Issue #24.40 :: 10/05/2011 - 10/11/2011 
Biennial Showcases Contemporary S.C. Art

701 CCA Aims to Fill Void Left By Demise of Triennial

When the Triennial was done away with several years ago, an outcry arose in the arts community. No one was louder about the demise of the every-three-year South Carolina contemporary art show than Wim Roefs, a Columbia gallery owner. When the 701 Center for Contemporary Art opened in 2008 and Roefs became its board president (and de facto director), he stated the center’s commitment to creating a show to replace the Triennial.
The first one of those — a biennial rather than a triennial — opens this week. The exhibition by 24 artists will be broken into two parts, the first opening Friday, Oct. 7, from 7 to 9 p.m. and the second starting Nov. 17.

“It was really a great loss,” says Roefs of the Triennial’s demise. “They were great shows and a place to discuss what was going on in the arts.”

Biennial 2011 includes artists from Hilton Head to Spartanburg, painters and potters and sculptors, the latter working with everything from found objects to cut-up blue jeans to books. Each artist will show two to five pieces. Participants range from such well-established and familiar artists as Mary Edna Fraser and Jim Connell to others who are young and mostly unknown. They range in age from 23 to 76.

“This is better than a solid list,” Roefs says. “There are established artists, but the younger ones are nothing to sneeze at — these are artists with great potential.”

He’s not tooting his own horn, because he didn’t select the artists. The contemporary art center asked a dozen curators, educators and artists from throughout the state to nominate two artists for the Biennial. Among the nominators were Brian Lang, decorative arts curator at the Columbia Museum of Art; Leo Twiggs, an artist and retired professor and museum director at S.C. State University; Tom Stanley, artist and chairman of the Winthrop University Art Department; and Tyrone Geter, artist and director of the Benedict College art gallery. Midlands artists in the show are James Busby, Peter Lenzo, JRenee, Lucy Bailey and Jim Arendt (who recently moved to Conway.) Three artists are from the Upstate, two from Orangeburg, five from Charleston, six from Rock Hill and three from other places in the state

Several of the artists were in one or more of the five Triennial exhibitions held from 1992 to 2004, including mixed media artist Aldwyth from Hilton Head; ceramic artists Jim Connell of Rock Hill, Alice Ballard of Greenville and Peter Lenzo of Columbia; and Charleston resident Colin Quashie, who explores political and social issues with bite and humor and a wide range of mediums. Others who have long been working in the state, such as Shaun Cassidy of Rock Hill and Winston Wingo of Spartanburg, will be in the Biennial. Among the lesser known artists are several who have solid careers, including James Busby of Irmo, who has had several exhibitions at the Stux Gallery in New York, and Stacey Davidson, who just began teaching at Winthrop University and who shows at the Marlborough Gallery in New York and London.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

New Art - Plantation Digest

I decided to combine what were stand alone panels into one cohesive piece. The initial idea was to create a faux magazine that would have been read by plantation owners had it existed. After looking at a few 'lifestyle' magazines, I noticed that many had advertisements up front followed by table of contents, editor's note, etc. Since I had already created the advertisements (all of the J. CROW pages), I decided to redo them on thinner panels and hinge them together to resemble a magazine layout. I'm quite happy with the outcome and who knows, I may just continue to expand upon the piece by the time it makes it to the exhibition at REDUX in March.

I needed to submit work for the Biennial that was newer than 3 years old. Since I had been working on the UNC Mural much of that time and then went headlong into the plantation pieces, I decided to preview one of the pieces in the Biennial. It will interesting to see what kind of a response it garners.

Plantation Digest
32" x 44" (each panel)
Gel Transfer and Acrylic on Birch Plywood



Fine Art Reproductions Sale

For a limited time (maybe until Christmas), buy three prints at a reduced price. Click here to order.


Biennial 2011 Essay

A Shift Of Consciousness
By Mary Bentz Gilkerson

Statewide art exhibitions like the TRIENNIAL, produced by the South Carolina Arts Commission and the South Carolina State Museum between 1992 and 2004, refl ect more than current trends in the state’s contemporary art community. They reveal deeper shifts in how the culture of the area perceives itself. Even as recently as the TRIENNIAL 2004 there was degree of self-consciousness about the way that both the curators and artists approached their regional position. The result was the selection of work that for the most part focused on the universal and mainstream rather than a regional sense of place.

In the intervening seven years the South Carolina art community has become much more comfortable with a greater postmodern sense of regionalism: a strong connection to place revealed in the way that artists freely mine themes and media that have been considered traditional for the area – landscape and figurative narration, clay and craft traditions – combined with an awareness of the national and international art dialogue. This initial Biennial, produced by 701 Center for Contemporary Art, reflects that shift of consciousness.

At its most fundamental level, place is topographic landscape, a mapping of geographical features that illustrates a culture’s relationship to the space it inhabits. Working from aerial photographs, Mary Edna Fraser maps the South Carolina coastline from great perspective distance, using traditional batik processes on oversized silk panels. Jarod Charzewski explores landscape topographically as well, creating installations that use precisely folded and stacked clothing or books to mimic the undulations of the earth and its interaction with man-made structures. Kim LeDee creates sculptural installations from carefully woven constructions that move from the flat surface of the wall into the gallery. Small plastic toys fill her miniature environments revealing the absurdities of communal conflict.

Landscape and place extends beyond topography in the multimedia installations of Gwylene Gallimard and Jean-Marie Mauclet. Their work is deeply rooted in the particularities of a community, going beyond simple documentary or social commentary to explore the complex intersections of place with traditions, histories, stories and spirit. Their process of working intimately within a community gives their work insightful depth regarding the paradoxical nature of human relationships.

Figuration and narration go hand-in-hand to invoke personal memory, trauma and history as well as direct challenges to examine our communal relationships to issues of race and sexuality. Winston Wingo’s sculptures use combinations of organic and geometric shapes to address the relationship of humanity to nature and technology. But they also address the dehumanizing factors that have effectively “erased” minorities from the broader dialogue within the culture.

What is subtle in Wingo’s work is exquisitely direct in Damond Howard’s and Colin Quashie’s.

With wit and passion Quashie uses the language of media marketing to dissect stereotypical views of cultural relationships and expose them as separatist constructs. He uses the seduction promised by contemporary advertising to lure the viewer into a conversation that can be haunting in the depth of the issues raised.

Howard incorporates some of the most heinous examples of 19th century illustrations and caricatures into self-portraits that reflect on the conflicted sense of identity and self that dominant culture imposes on minorities – in his case, an African-American man from South Carolina. Like Quashie, he uses humor to leaven the harshness of the commentary without diluting his message.

The narrative is also very personal in the work of Aldwyth and Peter Lenzo. While the literal figure is absent from many of Aldwyth’s works, it is implied through the multiple narratives she creates in her collages and sculptures. Although she resists categorization and rejects labels outright, the many little biographies that fill any one of her works form larger statements that are certainly astute social observation if not commentary. Lenzo’s clay sculptures are heavily embellished reliquaries of triumph over suffering. Building on the South Carolina craft tradition of the face jug, Lenzo creates self-portraits that contain all the pathos of the human condition.

Jim Arendt, JRenée, Stacey Davidson, Karen Ann Myers, Jon Prichard and Lucy Bailey pursue shared communal narratives, both traditional ones and those created by the disjunctions of contemporary culture. Arendt uses multiple layers of faded denim, the very fabric of the working class, collage together to explore connections to work and place. Using a similar narrative tradition, JRenee’s vivid paintings on glass contain echoes of Romare Bearden’s collages and cutouts and pull from the shared myths and traditions of the African-American community of New Orleans. Lucy Bailey’s figurative work is a quiet counterpoint, exploring the human body using forms that have an archetypal, archaic quality.

Davidson sculpts dolls that she then arranges in scenarios. These fictional narratives become the subjects of her subsequent paintings. There is an uncanny quality to the painted dolls, a level of fiction within fiction, both innocent and vaguely disturbing. Myers’ subjects inhabit a similarly charged psychological space, one that focuses on our cultural obsession with youth, beauty and glamour. The stories she tells of cocktail parties and power games are off set by a deep sense of loneliness. That absence is filled in Prichard’s drawings and performances by the ceremony and ritual of the fictitious society he creates his work around.

Thomas Whichard and Marshall Thomas create very ambiguous, loosely defined narratives based on the dialogue between artist and model. The stories are potential fictions, slices or moments, removed from their contexts.

Chris Todd’s sculptures imply a human presence through her use of exaggerated and distorted chair forms as surrogates. There is a whimsical quality to the sculptures that is off-set by the precarious nature of the predicaments that she places them in.

Abstraction, the modernist ideal, has become one of the many genres available to contemporary artists. Alice Ballard and Jim Connell both reference ceramic craft traditions in creating organic, abstracted works that move beyond traditional vessels to function as sculptural objects.

Shaun Cassidy, James Busby and Katie Walker pursue an art of pure abstraction where the subtle relationships of shape, surface and color invite contemplation. Busby and Cassidy reduce or eliminate many of the formal elements to focus our attention on the remaining ones. Mike Gentry’s grid-based collages give an aesthetic order to the jumbled visual bombardment of junk mail advertising and transform these fragments of media culture into relatively benign colors and textures.

The South Carolina Biennial 2011 reflects a shift in consciousness and perspective, a step away from the mainstream/regional dialectic. The sense of regional inferiority seems to be giving way to a synthesis of regional concerns – landscape and figurative narration, clay and craft traditions – with a more global awareness of the interconnection of all places to each other.


Mary Bentz Gilkerson is an artist, critic and curator. Her reviews regularly appear
in the Free Times weekly in her hometown of Columbia, S.C., where she teaches art at Columbia College.

Joe Norman at Benedict College

My wonderful friend Tyrone Geter is curator of the art gallery on Benedict College in Columbia, SC. I really hope the students understand the depth and uniqueness of the exhibits he seeks out and brings there. His upcoming show with the printmaker Joe Norman is such an exhibit. Here is an overview:

Joseph Norman and the Middle Passage Doc Promo from Leasa Fortune on Vimeo.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Invite to the inaugural SC Biennial 2011

"With wit and passion Quashie uses the language of media marketing to dissect
stereotypical views of cultural relationships and expose them as separatist constructs.
He uses the seduction promised by contemporary advertising to lure the viewer into
a conversation that can be haunting in the depth of the issues raised."
- Mary Bentz Gilkerson
The Post Modern Sense of Regionalism
A Shift of Consciousness

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

First A La Carte event at the studio

This has been a dream of mine for quite some time; to have a lecture series of African-American artists in my studio presenting their art to the public. With the help of Sandra Campbell, Brenda Lauderback-Wright and Garcia Williams, we are about to pull off the first one.

I met Michaela via facebook and later met her in person at the opening of the Triennial Revisited exhibition. I absolutely love this woman and her art. Very provocative and informative. She is the perfect artist to set the tone and pace for the artists I want to bring to Charleston. I hope the audience is ready for her!

Charleston City Paper Article

Many local black artists struggle to fit in at MOJA
This Ain't My FestivalMy original intent was to write an article about the MOJA Festival and its impact on the African-American arts scene in Charleston. Makes sense. MOJA is atop us, I am an artist, and I like talking to other folks in the arts. Easy, right? Wrong. I've had more off-the-record conversations in the last week than I ever anticipated. There is disenchantment with the lack of local performing artists being featured. There is a sense, as one anonymous source put it, that "This ain't my festival." And according to a number of people — from musicians to thespians to technicians — the local buy-in from our community of African-American artists is about as flat as the economy.

But let me start with the easy, non-confrontational stuff. This is the 28th year that the festival is celebrating African-American and Caribbean arts. Those of you who have been in Charleston for any amount of time at least know that during MOJA, the culture and history of African-American and Caribbean people is celebrated through art, music, theater, dance, and literature. There are loads of free things to do, including the popular Caribbean Street Parade and the Reggae Block Party.

Brooklyn transplant and Mt. Pleasant resident Marlene Gaillard, an avid arts fan and longtime MOJA supporter, is torn about the festival this year. News of the 2011 schedule wasn't announced until just a few weeks ago, and Gaillard is disappointed with the seeming lack of organization. "First and foremost, could you explain to me why I just received my program booklet yesterday?" she says. "September 20 for a large event that begins nine days later? How does one plan for that? And there are enough 'TBAs' in this booklet that I had to ask myself if it was the name of a group I'd never heard of but was increasingly popular from the amount of times it's listed." The major R&B concert that's usually a highlight of MOJA was one of the TBA casualties.

The Office of Cultural Affair's Ellen Dressler Moryl explained that a number of factors, including a diminished staff, promoters backing out, and other events like the 9/11 commemorations, got in the way of planning. Perhaps most significantly, the MOJA program coordinator position was vacant this year, and a programming committee was tasked with the planning. Elease Amos-Goodwin, who formerly held the position and recently retired, served on the committee. "This year it has just been an occupational hazard that things didn't happen as one might want," Moryl said.

Gaillard also bemoans the lack of local talent represented at MOJA. "Why aren't there things in local venues with local musicians? Happens all the time during the big festival," she says. Moryl responded that she'll address that concern next year. "That's an interesting perspective," Moryl said. "I'll address it with the committee. As you know, we don't dictate from this office what should or shouldn't be in MOJA. We offer advice, give input, and support."

Colin Quashie is one local artist that has had some negative experiences with the festival. He's been a screenwriter, sketch comedy writer for television (MAD TV), a filmmaker, novelist, and contemporary artist. He's a bit of a provocateur, both in his work and his thought process. From the moment I met him in 1996 at my first MOJA, in which I performed with a San Francisco theater company, he has intrigued me. There he was at the end of the table, angry and loud and ready to spar with anybody crazy enough to challenge him.

Monday, September 5, 2011

New Art - Plantation Digest

I have been in the process of using a 3D architectural program to put together the Plantation exhibition at REDUX Studios. I wanted to include the J. CROW Advertisements but somehow they didn't seem to fit within the overall context. After staring at all of the pieces with a couple glasses of wine for clarity (in vivo, veritas!), I understood what was wrong and what needed to be done. Needless to say - 1 piece was destroyed (Black Tie Affair) and another modified (Blaccessories). The logic behind the destruction and rebirth was simple: if the stand alone panels were to be combined as one piece they needed to support an overall narrative which was missing. They needed two other pieces in support. If these were indeed intended to be ads in a fictional magazine that may have existed in that era - then what was the magazine? Enter ---> Plantation Digest!

Plantation Digest
36" x 48"
Gel and acrylic on board

As you can see - one of the teaser articles on the cover is 'J. CROW - Dressing for Succession' - which relates directly to the fake ads. The overall piece will have five panels with the cover going first, followed by 'Look Solid With Stripes'. It is meant to represent the first five pages of the Digest as though you were actually reading it. The next missing piece is being planned as I write and will be a letter from the editor. The corresponding text will help to shed some insight into the piece (not too much - let the viewer bring something to the piece!). I am finally happy with the display and can't wait to see it completed! Now I just have to figure out where it should be hung in the exhibition.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Plantation Coloring and Activity Book

I went by REDUX Studio's today and met with Karen Myers (Director) and showed her my proposed layout for the upcoming exhibition. I used a wonderful program - Live Interior 3D Pro - to draw a schematic of the gallery and place many of the paintings on the wall. It allows you do a virtual walk thru of the exhibition and see everything. I highly recommend it to anyone. Here's what a screenshot looks like:

With this program I can place work on the walls in their actual sizes so I can see how the flow will work. Karen is basically allowing me to curate my own exhibit so I want to keep her up to date with everything. I should have everything completed by Thanksgiving - unless I decide to change - which will probably happen.  I'm about 4 works short right now and made a couple changes to the Plantation Coloring Book. I wasn't happy with a couple of the panels so I painted over and redesigned them. Here are the two newest panels:

I dumped the Jim Crow and Draw the Aunt Jemima panel. They were a bit soft my taste - this is supposed to be a very cynical piece and I needed every panel to hold it's own.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Another Triennial Revisited article / review

I had the pleasure of meeting the writer from USC's Daily Gamecock at the opening reception. Quite an impressive newspaper for a college paper. Certainly better arts coverage than we get here at the Post & Courier.

Gallery patrons view the work of local artists, displayed in 701 Center for Contemporary Art’s “Triennial Revisited” exhibit. The work will be on display until Sept. 25.

Art tackles social issues in ‘Triennial Revisited’

Local gallery gives community creative retrospective with new exhibit
Mikelle Street

Tom Stanley’s uncertain, halting prose sets the tone for several pieces shown in the “Triennial Revisited” exhibit which opened Thursday at the 701 Center for Contemporary Art gallery of 701 Whaley St.

“Is this not deep enough for art. I mean that real high intellectual art. That art that is hard to understand. Is this too obvious. Is this not deep enough. WHAT IS DEEP ENOUGH. How deep is deep.”

These words comprised Stanley’s piece entitled “En Route to Hamlet,” one work among pieces from 18 different artists in the exhibit.

Dealing with healing, inadequacies and religion, Stanley’s piece is personal, as is evident in the handwritten, flowing script and small doodles scattered throughout. While most viewers didn’t take the time to actually read the long blocks of text, those who did found a stream of consciousness that seemed to constantly relapse on itself.

“Triennial Revisited” is a juried exhibition of pieces from the five South Carolina “Triennial” exhibitions organized by the South Carolina Arts Commission and South Carolina State Museum between 1992 and 2004. During those years, the “Triennial” was considered one of South Carolina’s most prestigious surveys of contemporary art. This exhibition was created to expose a new generation of artist patrons and admirers to the work of proven artists South Carolina artists.

“It’s a wonderful show, and part of the reason it is so wonderful is because it is a reprise of the ‘Triennials,’” said Brad Collins, chair of USC’s art department. “There’s a lot of quality artists showing who haven’t shown in a long time in Columbia.”

Collins was one of seven on the curatorial committee, composed of individuals who were involved with one or more of the five “Triennials.”

Stanley’s piece was not the only one from the 1998 “Triennial” that was revisited. John Acorn’s “As a Lure No. 1” was presented as well. A part of a series of pieces created from a 3-inch image of a camouflage suite in the newspaper that the artist blew up into a 7-foot, three-dimensional figure, the piece is made of wood, metal and cloth and features the figure with enlarged fishing lures hanging like scales off its body.

Envisioned by the artist to be presented at much higher than possible at the 701 CCA gallery (Acorn prefers the piece to hang above the heads of viewers as though the piece were a lure floating above a fish in the ocean), the piece certainly makes a powerful impact in the space.

One of the more political pieces was Colin Quashie’s, which was presented in the 1992 “Triennial.” A mixed media piece entitled “Blackbored” read, “ALL COURSES CANCELED DUE TO LOW ENROLLMENT — NONCREDIT COURSES AVAILABLE AT THE DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS,” written by Professor P. Rolle for his African American Studies class.

Quashie said that he frequently changes what’s written on the blackboard of his piece.

“My last one was about ‘racialgebra,’” Quashie said. “‘What’s the value of a
n------?’ was the question.”

The question caused some to answer via the notepad set on the lone desk that comprises one component of the pieces.

With more than 250 guests coming out for the opening reception, “Triennial Revisited” provides an educational look back to some of the forgotten artists of our state while prompting the art scene to get ready for 701’s South Carolina Biennial set to debut on Oct. 6.

The “Triennial Revisited” exhibit will run through Sept. 25.

Pieces currently featured in the exhibit were in previous “Triennial” exhibitions between 1992 and 2004. The work powerfully represents various social issues in Columbia.

Photos by Mikelle Street / THE DAILY GAMECOCK
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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Reproductions Now Available

'Out of Bondage I - Richard Toler'

'Out of Bondage II - The Domestics'

'Aaron and Moses'

All Reproductions:
Edition Size - 250
Price: $400 / All 3: $1,000.00
Image sizes on all - appx. "23" x 30"

Plantation Series - Aaron and Moses

"Aaron and Moses"
53" x 67"
Oil on Canvas

Some paintings drain you to your emotional core. 

Reproductions Available:
Image Size 24" x 30"
Edition size - 250
Price: $400

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

FreeTimes Triennial Revisited Article

Issue #24.33 :: 08/16/2011 - 08/22/2011

Triennial, a recurring exhibition of contemporary South Carolina art, has returned — sort of.

Triennial: Revisited, opening at the 701 Center for Contemporary Art on Thursday, takes a look back at the exhibition held every three years from 1992 to 2004.

Triennial exhibitions were held at the S.C. State Museum and organized by the museum and the S.C. Arts Commission. The museum and commission cited cuts in staffing and budgets and changing priorities for doing away with the Triennial, but many artists and curators were dismayed at the move.

Triennial: Revisited is a small, selective slice of those exhibitions, with only 18 artists. Revisited marks not only a look back at contemporary South Carolina art, but also sets the stage for a two-part biennial exhibition at 701 CCA opening this fall.

The artists in Revisited were drawn from the 120 or so who were in previous Triennial exhibits. One juror from each of the five Triennial exhibitions plucked three artists from the original show they were involved in. 

Colin Quashie

“We asked them to select artists who they felt best represented the spirit of the ‘Triennial’ during that time,” says Harriett Green, visual arts coordinator of the Arts Commission, who helped organize Revisited along with State Museum art curator Paul Matheny. Green and Matheny then picked three more artists, mostly trying to make sure no areas were overlooked. (Although the Arts Commission and the State Museum assisted with Revisited, they will not be involved with the upcoming biennial exhibitions.)

The parameters for picking were wide: Artists who had died, were no longer active, had left the state or could not be located were not considered, but otherwise the selection process was wide open. Where possible, the art will be what was in the original show or from the same time period.

“It’s amazing how many of those pieces are still available,” Green says.

In many cases, artists made works specifically for the Triennial, often exploring new areas, increasing the scale and scope of their art.

“This will be a really cool project,” Matheny says. “It goes all the way back —so it is almost 20 years since it started. The museum had not considered doing a show like this, but I’m glad the [art center] is organizing it.”

Artists in Revisted are Clay Burnette, Stephen Chesley, Tyrone Geter, Peter Lenzo and Lee Sipe (Columbia); John Acorn, Pendleton; Herb Parker, Colin Quashie, Jocelyn Chateauvert and Bruno Civitico (Charleston); Aldwyth (Hilton Head Island); Michael Brodeur and Debbie Cooke (Greenville); Jim Connell, Beth Melton, Phil Moody and Tom Stanley (Rock Hill); and Jane Nodine (Spartanburg).

The artists not only represent many areas of the state, they also produced many sorts of art.

Chesley, Brodeur and Civitico do representational paintings. Chateauvert, Nodine and Melton often use fabric and fiber in installation-oriented pieces. Quashie mines pop culture, then mines it with social commentary. Burnette and Sipe do basketry, taking a traditional craft to new places. Debi Cooke’s work from the time she was in Triennial was done in a medium that has disappeared — Polaroid photos.

The Triennial was often aimed at showcasing emerging artists, but it was open to anyone who wanted to enter (usually a couple hundred artists each time, with between 20 and 35 picked), and displayed a wide variety of works by artists at many career stages. The artists in Revisited are all far along in their careers and nearly all are over 50. Many of the younger artists in previous Triennial shows were graduate students or recent grads who have since moved away from the state, so they couldn’t be included as South Carolina artists.

Phil Moody, In Memoriam, 1994

“This exhibition is a reminder of the way things were and how the art scene has changed, who is present and who is not,” Green says. “Some of these names will mean nothing to many people because there are a whole new set of players.”

Some of the names that might mean something are also missing. Among those not selected are some of the state’s most well-known and accomplished artists: Russell Biles, Leo Twiggs, Tarleton Blackwell, Philip Mullen, Edward Rice, Virginia Scotchie and Mike Vatalaro. The job of the curators was to pick the best three representatives from each of the five previous Triennial shows, a limitation necessitated by the small size of 701 CCA.

Like the original Triennial exhibitions, this Revisited version is likely to generate much discussion and disagreement about who got in and who didn’t. Criticism leveled at the Triennial exhibitions in the past was that some of the best artists weren’t included because they didn’t enter (many established artists don’t enter shows); that older, established artists should have quit entering to make way for younger emerging artists; that the selections were too skewed toward the academic; and that the trendy trumped the traditional.

All of these observations were valid to various degrees, but the shows did give a decent view of what was going on in the state on many levels. They provided younger artists with a high-profile, prestigious forum and provided an all-too-rare outlet for the state’s most established artists who are too big for local galleries, but who don’t fit into most of the bigger museums.

“One a scale of one to 10, I’d give it a nine or 10 in terms of importance,” Martha Severens, former chief curator of the Greenville County Museum of Art, said a few years ago of the Triennial exhibitions. “It’s a must-see exhibition.”

When it was unceremoniously eliminated, there was an outcry among artists and curators.

“It was looked forward to by all, and it produced a very strong representation of the great work done by South Carolina artists,” says artist Jim Connell. “I was proud to be in two of the shows. And, I was always impressed by the work my fellow artists had in these shows.”

Connell and other artists who were included in Triennial exhibitions and who are in
the Revisited show are looking forward to the new biennial shows.

“The new biennial will be great,” Connell says, “but if I had my way, I wish we had the Triennial back. It was bigger and grander. It was staged in a great, big space — in a museum setting. It had status. It was respected.  It was growing.”

Colin Quashie says of the upcoming biennial: “I only hope that the jurying process is stiff and strenuous — the artists braving the process should be able to hurdle a bar set as high as possible, for everyone’s sake.”

When the Center for Contemporary Art opened in 2008, its leaders indicated they wanted to create a show that filled the gap left by demise of the Triennial.  What the biennial will be, however  — let alone evolve into — is hard to determine just yet; as of press time, the exhibition was not listed on the Center for Contemporary Art website.

What is known is that the biennial will be mounted in two stages, with the first opening Oct. 6 and the second Nov. 17.

Center for Contemporary Art board president Wim Roefs, owner of if ART Gallery, said via email that several “curatorial sorts” from around the state would be asked to nominate artists and then a juror would select artists for the shows; no one involved has yet been announced.

“We don’t know yet how many artists or the number of works, but it’s going to be a two-part exhibition with most likely several dozen pieces per exhibition,” Roefs said.

Triennial: Revisited runs Aug. 18 through Sept. 25 at the 701 Center for Contemporary Art. An opening reception will be held on Thursday, Aug. 18, from 7 to 9 p.m. Reception admission is free for members, $5 for others. The 701 Center for Contemporary Art is at 701 Whaley St. Call 779-4571 or visit for more information.