Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Funny and true!

The 20 Most Powerless People in the Art World: 2012 Edition
by The Editors on October 25, 2012

It’s that time of year again. Art Review just had their fun bringing the art world their directory of the rich and powerful, and now it’s our turn to flip the script and point out that not everyone is rich, famous, or powerful in our beloved community. Here is our infamous Hyperallergic Powerless 20!

The art world can suck, but for these people it sucks just a little bit more.

1 — Gallery Girls, the Bravo TV reality show of the same name set you and feminism back at least 30 years.

2 — Trained Curators, everyone’s a curator (which means no one actually is, but never mind), so maybe you should all be asking for a refund from Bard College or wherever you learned to do what everyone is doing on Tumblr “naturally.” Honestly, couldn’t LA’s MOCA just hire some all-star Pinterester to replace Paul Schimmel or something?

3 — Progressives in the Art World, Manhattan gallerists Larry Gagosian, William Acquavella, Susan Aberbach, and Nathan Bernstein are all Republican donors, and we’re sure there are tons of super-collectors who also give to the GOP, not to mention some artists (you know who you are). So, where is that mythic liberal, progressive art world? Not in the top 1%, that’s for sure. And how about the politically engaged progressives, like the Indian cartoonist, the Syrian filmmaker or the progressive cause célèbre, Pussy Riot? Not much hope.

4 — New media artists who try to sell their work to anyone not backed by Intel. And you internet artists whose work only exists on Twitter and Tumblr? LOL.

5 — Manifesto writers, you guys want to change the world, but no one cares. Why not try it in GIF form instead?

6 — Cecilia Gimenez, she created the Beast Jesus viral sensation after fucking up a conservation (we think that’s what she was doing) job, and then cried foul when the church, which had started to charge admission in an effort to reap the benefits of the Beast Jesus tourist boom, wouldn’t share the wealth. She goes against the grain, doesn’t care what other people think, creates an icon, becomes famous as a result, and doesn’t get paid… Hell, she’s starting to sound like a real artist.

7 — Occupy Wall Street, one year later income inequality is up in NYC.

8 — Appropriationists, losing ground in court, and being attacked by purists. The courts are creating the perception that you’re stealing, and it’s a little frightening that lots of people in the art community agree with the courts.

9 — Clarity, which has taken a real beating from International Art English.

10 — Young art critics who are instructed that a critical reviews can ruin them for life. They learn that flattery is the best policy, which completely crushes whatever idealism they might have been secretly harboring.

11 — The “democratized” art market is something everyone wants to do: art for less, more multiples, make art free… Anyway, the problem is that this new wave of democratization, or whatever you want to call it, means we’re all drowning in cheap kitsch.

12 — Big Bird, he’s not strictly an artist, but he is a performance artist in our hearts, and Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney wants to fire him … umm, even though our big feathered yellow friend doesn’t get federal funding (oops, Mittens!). We’ll soon find out if a Big Bird in the crosshairs of the GOP is worth millions of votes in the ballot box.

13 — The poor suckers who post regularly on Jerry Saltz’s Facebook’s page. We understand the appeal of the social media cult, but we don’t understand what people get out of it. Jerry’s not going to review your show, even though I’m sure he’d love to do you the favor.

14 — Thomas Kinkade, the “painter of light” died tragically in April of ”acute intoxication” from alcohol and Valium. Then people started to question the claim that he was “America’s most-collected living artist,” with some outrageous estimates suggesting 1 in every 20 American homes owned a copy of one of his paintings. Then his ex-wife and girlfriend began to fight over his legacy (i.e. money). As in life, Kinkade’s idealized universe is a mess.

15 — Odd Nerdrum, the outspoken Norwegian artist, considers himself a political prisoner (few others do), but when he appealed his sentence over tax charges and then received a LONGER sentence as a result, we felt a little bad for him. But the real injustice is that the painter will be banned from creating art when he’s locked away because it would be considered a commercial activity.

16 — Charles Saatchi, oh, how the mighty have fallen. Once the reputed kingmaker of the Young British Art scene, Saatchi is having trouble giving away his vast art collection. When he entered into talks with the UK’s Arts Council, they asked if they could pick only what they wanted. Saatchi thought that was rude. Dude, maybe they’re just not that into you.

17 — Re-performers, performance art guru Marina Abramović often treats you badly, no one really seems to respect you (i.e. pay you much), but you’re still going at it. Good luck.

18 — Art Unions, they’re crumbling. Sotheby’s did rather well in their hardball negotiations with their art handlers union, the San Francisco museum unions has their troubles as well, and only the most diehard optimist will say that unions in the art world are ascendant when in reality they are anything but.

19 — Christo, once the king of “I can do anything I want to nature.” He has been rather humbled with his latest Colorado project on federal lands. Maybe the world has changed (we know we have) and the idea of overtaking pristine natural vistas for the purpose of art and drawing hundreds of thousands of temporary tourists isn’t as appetizing as it used to be. Then again, maybe projects like Christo’s are the art/nature version of gentrification and we’ve finally admitted that to ourselves.

20 — Getty Art Educators, once renowned for their art education department, the future of art educators at the billionaire Getty is more uncertain than ever before as the institution has chopped $4.3 million from their education budget in favor of more art acquisitions. What’s the point of more objects if there is no one there to educate a young generation about them?

Monday, October 29, 2012

I Quit......hmmmmm....

Doyen of American critics turns his back on the 'nasty, stupid' world of modern art and
The Observer

Dave Hickey condemns world he says has become calcified by too much money, celebrity and self-reverence
Dave Hickey says he is quitting the art world. Photograph: Nasher Museum Of Art

One of America's foremost art critics has launched a fierce attack on the contemporary art world, saying anyone who has "read a Batman comic" would qualify for a career in the industry.

Dave Hickey, a curator, professor and author known for a passionate defence of beauty in his collection of essays The Invisible Dragon and his wide-ranging cultural criticism, is walking away from a world he says is calcified, self-reverential and a hostage to rich collectors who have no respect for what they are doing.

"They're in the hedge fund business, so they drop their windfall profits into art. It's just not serious," he told the Observer. "Art editors and critics – people like me – have become a courtier class. All we do is wander around the palace and advise very rich people. It's not worth my time."

Hickey says the art world has acquired the mentality of a tourist. "If I go to London, everyone wants to talk about Damien Hirst. I'm just not interested in him. Never have been. But I'm interested in Gary Hume and written about him quite a few times."

If it's a matter of buying long and selling short, then the artists he would sell now include Jenny Holzer, Richard Prince and Maurizio Cattelan. "It's time to start shorting some of this shit," he added.
Hickey's outburst comes as a number of contemporary art curators at world famous museums and galleries have complained that works by artists such as Tracey Emin, Antony Gormley and Marc Quinn are the result of "too much fame, too much success and too little critical sifting" and are "greatly overrated".

Speaking on condition of anonymity to Will Gompertz, the BBC's arts editor, one curator described Emin's work as "empty", adding that because of the huge sums of money involved "one always has to defend it".

Gompertz, who recently wrote What Are You Looking At? 150 Years of Modern Art, sympathised with Hickey's frustration.

"Money and celebrity has cast a shadow over the art world which is prohibiting ideas and debate from coming to the fore," he said yesterday, adding that the current system of collectors, galleries, museums and art dealers colluding to maintain the value and status of artists quashed open debate on art.

"I hope this is the start of something that breaks the system. At the moment it feels like the Paris salon of the 19th century, where bureaucrats and conservatives combined to stifle the field of work. It was the Impressionists who forced a new system, led by the artists themselves. It created modern art and a whole new way of looking at things.

"Lord knows we need that now more than anything. We need artists to work outside the establishment and start looking at the world in a different way – to start challenging preconceptions instead of reinforcing them."

Gompertz said Hickey was not a man who ever regretted a decision but that he did not agree with the American that the whole contemporary art world was moribund. "There are important artists like Ai Weiwei and Peter Doig, who produces beautiful and haunting paintings in similar ways to Edward Hopper," he said.

As a former dealer, Hickey is not above considering art in terms of relative valuation. But his objections stem from his belief that the art world has become too large, too unfriendly and lacks discretion. "Is that elitist? Yes. Winners win, losers lose. Shoot the wounded, save yourself. Those are the rules," Hickey said.

His comments come ahead of the autumn art auctions. With Europe in recession and a slowdown in the Chinese and Latin American economies, vendors are hoping American collectors, buoyed by a 2% growth in the US economy, andnew collectors, such as those coming to the market from oil-rich Azerbaijan, will boost sales.

At 71, Hickey has long been regarded as the enfant terrible of art criticism, respected for his intellectual range as well as his lucidity and style. He once said: "The art world is divided into those people who look at Raphael as if it's graffiti, and those who look at graffiti as if it's Raphael, and I prefer the latter."

Hickey, who also rates British artist Bridget Riley, says he did not realise when he came to the art world in the 1960s that making art was a "bourgeois" activity.

"I used to sell hippy art to collectors and these artists now live like the collectors I used to sell to. They have a house, a place in the country and a BMW."

Hickey says he came into art because of sex, drugs and artists like Robert Smithson, Richard Serra and Roy Lichtenstein who were "ferocious" about their work. "I don't think you get that anymore. When I asked students at Yale what they planned to do, they all say move to Brooklyn – not make the greatest art ever."

He also believes art consultants have reduced the need for collectors to form opinions. "It used to be that if you stood in front of a painting you didn't understand, you'd have some obligation to guess. Now you don't," he says. "If you stood in front of a Bridget Riley you have to look at it and it would start to do interesting things. Now you wouldn't look at it. You ask a consultant."

Hickey says his change of heart came when he was asked to sign a 10-page contract before he could sit on a panel discussion at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

Laura Cumming, the Observer's art critic, said it would be a real loss if Hickey stopped writing commentary. "The palace Hickey's describing, with its lackeys and viziers, its dealers and advisers, is more of an American phenomenon. It's true that we too have wilfully bad art made for hedge fund managers, but the British art scene is not yet so thick with subservient museum directors and preening philanthropists that nothing is freely done and we can't see the best contemporary art in our public museums because it doesn't suit the dealers.And that will be true, I hope, until we run out of integrity and public money."

Hickey's retirement may only be partial. He plans to complete a book, Pagan America — "a long commentary of the pagan roots of America and snarky diatribe on Christianity" — and a second book of essays titled "Pirates and Framers."

It is the job of a cultural commentator to make waves but Hickey is adamant he wants out of the business. "What can I tell you? It's nasty and it's stupid. I'm an intellectual and I don't care if I'm not invited to the party. I quit."

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Louis Vuitton celebrates Muhammad Ali

My son-in-law turned me onto these series of commercials. They are a stunning tribute to what may have been the most hated and now loved man of the 20th century. I feel sorry for youth of today who have no real reference for who he was in his prime. These are just a couple - go to YouTube to see more:

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Book Review

I was recently asked by Adam Parker to read and review a book for the Post & Courier. This is the first time I have ever reviewed a book for a publication. It was a fascinating read and a book that I highly recommend. I guess I'll have to come up with my own rating system now!

Book reviewed by Colin Quashie:

The oft maligned, misunderstood and/or misinterpreted history of minstrelsy is explored in Darkest America: Black Minstrelsy from Slavery to Hip-Hop by Yuval Taylor and Jake Austen. This superbly researched text is presented in scholarly detail and offers surprising anecdotes and insights into the birthright of the dark art, the rise and fall of blackface and the subsequent fallout of both art forms with contemporary audiences. It presents a thesis of the practical means, and speculates on the debatable motives of practitioners of what many consider to be ‘the only completely original contribution America has made to the theater.’

The book covers a huge swath of territory. It theorizes how early survival-based acts of coonish buffoonery by plantation slaves to ‘feign stupidity and sloth to trick and lower overseers expectations’, provided the comic framework on which highly structured and staged performances would be fashioned. Barnstorming troupes of innovative actors and transcendent personalities ignited a popular explosion of minstrelsy that reached its zenith (some shows were on the enormous scale of modern day traveling fairs), shortly after the reconstruction era. The contentious transfer of blackface from nineteenth century stagecraft to twentieth century tool of ridicule and racial divisiveness eventually lead to the demise of minstrelsy and sped its absorption into vaudeville.

The combination of a renaissance of black cultural expression and the development of radio and television converged to not only challenge and redefine the historic relevancy of black minstrel sensibilities, but fuel public clashes amongst detractors and aficionados. Black literati, the likes of W.E.B. DuBois, Richard Wright and Zora Neale Hurston, publicly weighed in on both sides of the cultural divide and forecast future conflict (Bill Cosby vs. Stepin Fetchit, Stanley Crouch vs. Tupac and more recently, Spike Lee vs. Tyler Perry). The controversial broadcast of Amos ‘n’ Andy, which capitalized on the best while projecting the worst, would ultimately become the epicenter of discussion for generations to come. However, it would be the rise of the black power and civil rights movements along with the cinematic projection of dignified ‘super negroes’ that would forever denounce and stigmatize the minstrel legacy.

The book comes full circle with the alleged adaptation and reintegration of minstrel motifs by black musical acts and contemporary comics. The curious case of Dave Chappelle’s ‘awakening’ is eye opening and emblematic of the emotional toll exacted by past and current handlers of race based material. Sitcoms, from Good Times to Sanford and Son and Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns, which were and are heavily dependent upon actual characters and characterizations rebooted from the minstrel era, are exposed and questioned, while hip-hop’s and rap’s minstrel tag is rebuffed. An entire chapter is dedicated to the effectiveness of Bamboozled, Spike Lee’s magnum opus, which satirized the minstrel movement on every level from producer to performer to viewer.

Darkest America provides a comprehensive narrative into the factual aspects of minstrelsy’s improvisational genius and beguiling legacy while offering commentary on the myriad complexities of racial antics. It will not end the debate, but rather provide both critic and advocate a well-researched platform to support their argument.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Undefined Magazine

It's amazing that I have to find out about press about me from other people. You would think that I would get a heads up from the editor(s) that they are publishing an article on my art. Either way - thanks! Mary Bentz Gilkerson is a wonderful artist and terrific critic and arts writer. Thanks for the article Mary!

If you're expecting a subtle, tasteful discussion of social justice issues in contemporary American culture, then Colin Quashie is not the artist for you. But if you are moved by engaged visual criticism and see its potential to have an immediate impact on viewers then you'll love Quashie's unflinching examination of the lingering effects of racism in contemporary American culture.

The artist uses humor and satire, mixing wit and irony, to convey a message that needs to be seen. The recent events in Florida make it painfully obvious that the conversation about race needs to continue.

Quashie doesn't exhibit his work that often, but over the last eighteen months there have been several opportunities for viewers to participate in that dialog, two in Columbia and one in Charleston. Subjective Perceptions, the first solo exhibition of Quashie's work in Columbia was on view at Benedict's Ponder Fine Arts Gallery in the fall of 2010, and the artist was selected for 701 Center for Contemporary Art's first Biennial this past fall.

Just this past April he had a major solo show, "Plantation (plan-ta-shun)" at Redux Contemporary Art Center in Charleston. The title of the exhibition gives a clue that while Quashie lives in Charleston, he does not in any way fit the stereotype of the "Charleston artist". In fact, turning that stereotype on its head is one of his most effective strategies.

Born in London in 1963 and raised in the West Indies, Quashie immigrated to the US with his parents at age six and grew up in Florida. He attended college for a couple of years, but left to join the Navy working on submarines. After his discharge in 1987 he began actively pursuing his art career.

Quashie's demanding content challenges cultural gatekeepers, sometimes leading to censorship. The first instance back in 1995 devastated the artist, and he stopped making art for two years. In a move that ultimately served to sharpen his commentary, he moved to the West Coast and started writing comedy for Mad-TV. His hiatus from art making was short-lived, and although he continues writing for the film and television industry, Quashie has been an active part of the state cultural scene ever since.

The artist pulls imagery from wide variety of sources that range from contemporary pop culture to 19th century historical photographs. He packages these images in familiar formats, ones that use both the visual and verbal language of the media to address issues of race, gender and social equality, or rather, inequality. Real estate advertisements, product and package designs, billboards and coloring books become the framework for his witty and satirical dissection of our lingering cultural stereotypes.

His seductive use of the familiar makes his work very accessible. The viewer is lured in by images associated with comfort, ease and even style that are then revealed to be cultural inconsistencies that create a sense of unease and discomfort.

Quashie's ability to manipulate the allure of the familiar is exactly what makes his work so challenging to both the average viewer and art insiders as well.

Quashie has used the metaphor of a children's coloring book many times and the most recent version, Plantation Coloring and Activity Book, uses the commonplace motif to present images that appear neutral and naïve until a closer examination reveals images of brutality and horror. The jarring quality of the combination only adds to the power of the images.

The cover shows a smiling Aunt Jemima, her face wreathed in a pattern of cotton bolls. But inside are "activities" like "Connect the Dots" where the tag line reads, "Help Master whip the uppity slave and show him who's boss!" The dots connect to form scar lines on the back of the simplified outline of an African-American man. The image is derived from a mid-19th century photograph - which appears in "Plantation Digest" – now in the collection of the Library of Congress.

"Plantation Digest" is a series of large acrylic and gel transfers on board, fairly dripping with bitingly dark satire. Using the format and slick presentation of the magazine and advertising world, Quashie reconfigures a series of images pulled from contemporary media with 19th century period images and text to point out the continuing systems of gateways and gatekeepers, just as powerful now as 200 years ago.

The plantation gates on the "Cover" served to mark a boundary, the outer limit beyond which the most of the inhabitants were not allowed to pass. Similar gates are still used, marking boundaries that are just as clearly defined by race as before. With the headlines, Quashie makes a clear connection between the overt racism of the 19th century and the covert racism that remains in the 21st. The goal of plantation management was to maintain a quiet, compliant workforce. His choice of contemporary images and text points to the degree to which that is still true

Colin Quashie speaks openly about the two ton elephant in the living room of American culture, pulling it from the corner and placing it squarely in front of the TV where we all have to look at it and acknowledge its presence. What happens from there is up to the rest of us.