Thursday, July 21, 2016

Announcing Jane's New Blog

After a two-year absence I'm happy to announce I've launched a new blog, Jane Chafin: Offramp. The content is much the same as this blog. I hope you'll check it out! Thanks, Jane

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Artists' Statements: Can't Live With Them, Can't Live Without Them

There's a phenomenon in the art world I like to call the "metamorphosis of crap." It happens in that instant when, after having been initially bored, confused or repelled by a completely artless pile of crap, you stop to read the artist's statement. Now you are in familiar territory. Your art-schooled-MFA brain kicks in, deciphering the elitist, codified language before you. You smile, you get it, and in that moment, the artless pile of crap magically becomes Art. The metamorphosis is complete. You are no longer bored, confused or repelled. You are a wise, self-satisfied cognoscente, dashing off to transform the next artless pile of crap.

Too harsh? Maybe, but artists' statements are a gold mine for someone like me who loves to make fun of the art world. (Note To Self: You should really consider the consequences of biting the hand that feeds you.)

Let's look at the actual process of writing an artist's statement. The two videos below by Jörg Colberg and Charlotte Young, respectively, should take any of the mystery out of it. 

Got writer's block? Never fear, anyone can generate their own artist's statement by clicking here. You don't even have to be an artist. Just fill out a form, click a button et voilà, you too can turn crap into art! Here's a paragraph from my generated statement:

" Her paintings demonstrate how life extends beyond its own subjective limits and often tells a story about the effects of global cultural interaction over the latter half of the twentieth century. It challenges the binaries we continually reconstruct between Self and Other, between our own ‘cannibal’ and ‘civilized’ selves. By studying sign processes, signification and communication, she makes works that can be seen as self-portraits. Sometimes they appear idiosyncratic and quirky, at other times, they seem typical by-products of American superabundance and marketing."

To end my rant, I would like to turn to artist William Powhida and his 2009 polemic, Artists Statement (No One Here Gets Out Alive), (see below)  in which he brilliantly sums up what all artists are really trying to say:

"Lacking any other means for social mobility, I have embraced the COMPETITIVE ethos of CAPITALISM and make art to DESTROY my competition so that I can LIVE forever, make MILLION$, drive an expensive EUROPEAN sedan with leather seats, FLY FIRST-CLASS, eat at fucking 5-star restaurants, marry an Italian porn star, design Louis Vuitton handbags, make 3-hour movies with NO PLOT, edition diamond encrusted GOLD dildos, and have a retrospective that TRAVELS THE GLOBE to become the GREATEST ARTIST to EVER exist PERIOD"


William Powhida, “Artists Statement (No One Here Gets Out Alive)” (2009), graphite and colored pencil on paper, 18″x15″ (Image courtesy the artist and Charlie James Gallery)

Upcoming at Offramp Gallery

Sunday, April 20, 2-5pm
Susan Sironi: Forget Me Not
Closing Reception & Artist's Talk (3pm)

May 4 - June 1, 2014
Myron Kaufman: That's Life

May 4 - June 1, 2014
Skip Snow's Pity Party

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Videos: Let it Rain!

All anyone is talking about here in Southern California is the forecast for much needed drought-busting rain. Sandbags are in place for mudslides, newsrooms are on storm watch, gardeners are crossing their fingers, and roofers are starting to count their money.

Let it rain!

I've found a few videos to get you in the mood.

Let's crank it up and start with the Beatles singing Rain. (Sorry for the fuzzy video quality, but if you look hard enough, you can see Paul McCartney's chipped tooth from a moped accident.)

How do you walk through the rain without getting wet? Leave it to artists, in this case a group of artists, rAndom International, who created Rain Room, an interactive installation originally installed at the Barbican in London. Sensors detect and track visitors allowing them to move through the downpour in dry clothes surrounded by falling rain.

This mesmerizing "rainfall" is actually a kinetic sculpture, Kinetic Rain, made up of 1,216 bronze rain droplets at the Changi Airport Singapore's Terminal 1. 

Infinity Water - Case Study by director Rimantas Lukavicius and VFX / Design company: KORB, is not about rain per se, but a short, fascinating journey through the physical properties of water. 

I'll end with this dreamy snippet, Lights and Water, by James Adamson ( It was shot from his car in downtown San Francisco in one take with no cuts. 

Upcoming at Offramp Gallery

March 14, 6-10pm
Spring 2014 ArtNight Pasadena
Special Preview of Susan Sironi: Forget Me Not 
Music by Unpopable

March 16 - April 20, 2014
Susan Sironi: Forget Me Not
Opening Reception: Sunday, March 16, 2-5pm
Closing Reception:

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Two Art World Pet Peeves Collide and Break My Writer’s Block

You may have noticed I haven’t been blogging much recently. Let’s call it a case of writer’s block that took being sent into apoplectic shock by a recent outbreak of artspeak to cure.

As you know, MOCA has hired Phillipe Vergne as its new director. In the LA Times article announcing the hire, the writers chose the following quote to introduce us to Vergne:

"My vision is to commit to the most experimental artists of our time, but also to contextualize their work within a broader context," Vergne said in an interview. "And I think Moca's collection is one of the best to contextualize that kind of experimentation." [emphases mine]

Really? Are we expected to blindly accept this drivel? 
Once again no one seems to notice that the emperor is naked. Can we raise the bar an inch or two? This isn’t even good artspeak (an oxymoron if ever there were one)! It reminds me of trying to fake answers on essay questions when I didn’t have a clue. 

I decided to investigate and see just who this Phillipe Vergne character really is. And OMG! I found a video of an hour-long lecture by Vergne defending one of my other all-time pet peeves, the work of artist Gedi Sibony.

Quoting from my own blog, here is my one and I hope only experience of Sibony’s work:

"A couple years ago I was at MOMA in New York looking at an exhibition of conceptual works from the museum's permanent collection. One piece consisted of an ordinary vertical window shade laid out on the floor. There was some explanatory text saying that the artist had had an epiphany of sorts as he removed the blind from an empty studio and carried it across the hall to his studio and placed it on the floor exactly like it was displayed at MOMA. The piece was titled "The Middle of the World." Really? I suspect marijuana was involved." Click here to see an image of "The Middle of the World." Your reaction?

So I watched as much of the Vergne/Sibony video as I could stand, (I'm inserting it below with apologies) probably about 10 minutes, and here is my take-away: Vergne is charming, has great hair and appropriate art world eyewear, a French accent [note to self: consider changing name of gallery to “La Galerie de L’Offramp.”], a self-deprecating sense of humor, and is passionate about dry, conceptual art. I have no doubt rich people will throw money at him. Good for MOCA. But what about the rest of us?

Vergne has since publicly stated he will not do much curating but will hire curators and let them do what they do. I’ll try to keep an open mind, but the forecast from here seems to mirror our current Southern California drought.

Prove me wrong Phillipe Vergne!

Upcoming at Offramp Gallery

March 14, 6-10pm
Spring 2014 ArtNight Pasadena
Special Preview of Susan Sironi: Forget Me Not
Music by Unpopable

March 16 - April 20, 2014
Susan Sironi: Forget Me Not
Opening Reception: Sunday, March 16, 2-5pm
Closing Reception: Sunday, April 20, 2-5pm

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Watch Out for Falling Coconuts! Sacatar: An Artists' Residency in Paradise

The sun begins to set after a long day in the studio. The colors of the sky and water soften as the panoramic view of the ocean begins to dissolve into night. Once again you hear the primitive drumming that stirs something deep inside you. Visions of the ritual are burned into memory -- the hypnotic dancing of the Candomblé priestesses, deep in trance after invoking the Orixás. As you walk back to your suite in the Casa Grande, monkeys scatter up palm trees and you wonder what magic tonight will bring.

View from one of the studios at Instituto Sacatar. Photo by Mark Steven Greenfield
Sound like the opening of a Hollywood movie? It's not. This is the Instituto Sacatar, an artists' residency on an island off the coast of northeastern Brazil.

Taylor Van Horne and Mitch Loch first dreamed of creating an artists' residency, not in Brazil, but near their solar-powered, straw bale house in Sacatar Canyon, high in the Sierra Nevada. The area was remote and there would be difficulties, such as access to water and transportation.

It didn't take long to decide on a second, more exotic location. Years earlier Taylor had done a year abroad as a foreign exchange student in Brazil, in the state of Rio Grande do Norte on the northeast coast. Even though he left after a year, his heart never did and he returned many times, to see his Brazilian family and eventually to practice architecture in Salvador, Bahia, the former capital of Brazil.

So Brazil was the obvious choice, and in 1999 when Sacatar was first conceived, there were no internationally recognized artists' residencies in South America, let alone in Brazil.

Taylor returned to Bahia once again to begin the search for a location to turn his and Mitch's dream into a reality. Finally, after several dead ends, Mitch learned of a property through an unlikely avenue: a party conversation with the widow of a successful film director whose daughter had gotten pregnant by the nephew of a Brazilian property owner's lover!

The property was not just in Brazil, but on the Island of Itaparica in the Bay of All Saints, across from the city of Salvador were Taylor had worked as an architect. The owner, who had been running a small hotel on the property, wanted to sell.

NO TURDUCKEN IN BLACK ROME (docu-short, 9:00, color, 2013) is a mini-documentary chronicling Matt Sheridan's artist residency at Instituto Sacatar in Itaparica, Bahia, Brazil

The main house on the property was originally built in 1950 as a vacation house and spiritual retreat for the Instituto Feminino, a Catholic girl's school. Located in the center of the 2 1/2 acre property, the large house has a central courtyard, surrounded by a library, several large living rooms, a substantial kitchen and five bedroom suites. Generous verandahs wrap around the house. Monkeys still live in the surrounding trees. A narrow strip of restinga, a native salt water scrub forest, screens the property from 175 meters of secluded white sand beach.

Taylor and Mitch immediately followed up on the conversation and the Instituto Sacatar began to become a reality. They purchased the property in 2000, and the first Fellows arrived in September, 2001 (the week of 9/11).

They managed that first year with somewhat inadequate facilities, but soon after built a support building with a laundry room, pantry, staff kitchen and employee bathrooms. They eventually added five small buildings clustered around the coconut grove facing the ocean, including an administration building, a wood-working shop, two studios with internal gardens and a raised studio with panoramic ocean views. Two more studios -- for dance and music -- were added in 2010. There are plans to add four more studios and to renovate a second, existing house to include four additional artist apartments.

The Casa Grande, home to the Sacatar Fellows. Photo by Taylor Van Horne

Sacatar is an international residency, open to artists of all nationalities and disciplines. There are several avenues to apply, including Sacatar's open selection process, as well as more specific Fellowships in partnership with various organizations.

There's an October 14, 2013 application deadline fast approaching for the Cultural Exchange International Program of the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs. Applicants may work in any creative discipline, but they must live in Los Angeles County. The CEI Fellowships to Sacatar provide airfare, studio, room and board plus logistical support for an eight-week residency session, along with a two thousand dollar stipend for personal expenses. 

If you don’t live in Los Angeles County, check the website for other upcoming opportunities.

Click here for more information about Sacatar and how to apply for a Fellowship.

And watch out for falling coconuts!

Upcoming Events at Offramp Gallery

September 8 - October 13, 2013
Offramp Gallery Fifth Anniversary Group Exhibition
Opening Reception: Sunday September 8, 2-5pm
Lou Beach, Quinton Bemiller, Anita Bunn, Elaine Carhartt, Chuck Feesago, Mark Steven Greenfield, James Griffith, Edith Hillinger, Myron Kaufman, Nicholette Kominos, Susan Sironi, Patssi Valdez

Monday, March 11, 2013

Popup Books Meet Animation. Magic Ensues.

It should come as no surprise to anyone who regularly reads this blog that I love popup books. While researching them recently, I stumbled onto a new genre, animated popup books. I've selected four videos for you. Prepare yourself for magic.

In this enchanting video, produced as a trailer for a  popup book, Il étais une fois [Once upon a time] by Benjamin Lacombe, a white rabbit guides us through many of our favorite childhood stories. I checked to see if the book itself is still available. All I found were used copies with price tags from $49.99 to $643.27! So enjoy the video.

Artists Davy & Kristin McGuire had a dream of creating a full scale, life-size theatre performance that opened up like a pop-up book, a show that would mix video projections with live actors to create a totally immersive experience. They created a miniature maquette to show to producers and possible funders. The maquette, called The Icebook, has since taken on a life of its own and become a miniature touring show. Click here for a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of The Icebook.

Superstitious is an animated popup book created by David Magnier as the final piece of his masters course in Screen Design for Film and Television at Kingston University, London. It is a story about the perils of having faith in nonsensical beliefs. Ted, a lonely and isolated man, becomes obsessed with changing his luck. Click here to learn more about David Magnier and his work.

Digitally-enhanced magician Marco Tempest tells the story of Nikola Tesla, celebrating the scientist's accomplishments in electricity and thinking. Tempest also gives us a behind-the-scenes look at how carefully-calibrated projection mapping brings a pop-up book to life. 

Upcoming at Offramp Gallery

Mark Steven Greenfield: Animalicious
March 3 - April 14, 2013
  • Saturday, March 30: Wine Tasting with Mark Steven Greenfield & the Colorado Wine Company. Tickets $20. Click here to purchase tickets
  • Sunday, April 14: Closing reception with artist's talk at 3pm
Nicholette Kominos: Wandering Boundaries
April 28 - June 2, 2013
  • Sunday, April 28: Opening reception, 2-5pm
  • Sunday, June 2: Closing reception, 2-5 with artist's talk at 3pm
Edith Hillinger: A Collision of Cultures
June 23 - July 28, 2013
  • Sunday, June 23: Opening reception, 2-5pm
  • Sunday, July 28: Cloing reception, 2-5pm with artist's talk at 3pm

Thursday, December 13, 2012

2012 Holiday Gift Guide for the Art Lover on Your List

I am the proverbial kid at Christmas every time a shipment of art books arrives here at Offramp. Writing about art books and stocking them for the bookstore makes it seem like the holidays year round. I've compiled this list of our best-selling titles hoping some of my enthusiasm rubs off to help you with your holiday shopping. Some are old, some are new, but all are guaranteed to satisfy the art lover on your list.

Not in the holiday spirit yet? Check out this stunning time-lapse video of one of the world's oldest Christmas markets.


Natural Fashion by Hans Silvester

The images are a magical portal to childhood fantasy and play, to a lost world of unfettered, unfiltered imagination and creativity. I found it hard to believe that there weren't stylists and make-up artists off camera staging this fantasy fashion show -- beautiful brown faces and bodies vibrantly painted with abstract motifs in ochre, red, yellow, green and white, and adorned with colorful headdresses of flowers, leaves, pods, mud, fruit and feathers. Click here for more.

Paris: Portrait of a City 

Taschen has had its way with me again. This time it's
Paris: Portrait of a City, a voluptuous oversized volume of photographs of the city of my dreams, a visual feast covering 150 years of Parisian history and culture that put me in a prolonged trance-like state. Glancing at my notebook afterwards, I saw that I had jotted down notes about so many events, artists, writers, photographers, entertainers and architecture that I had almost re-created the index -- that's how rich this book is. Click here for more. 

Joseph Cornell's Manual of Marvels

While rummaging through a second-hand bookstore in Manhattan in the early 1930's, Joseph Cornell came across a French agricultural manual full of black and white engravings and advice for farmers. He bought the volume and over time altered it -- adding collages, origami pockets and drawings, crossing out text to make puns, cutting through pages to reveal hidden images, inserting photos from magazines, hand-coloring images and even making a flip-book of page corners. Click here for more. 

The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art by Don Thompson

A fascinating look into the machinations of the high-end of the contemporary art world, this book is a real eye-opener. What exactly possesses someone to pay $12 million for a stuffed shark? It's all here, from the personality and ego-fed branding of gallerists, artists and auction houses, to the collectors who blindly follow them, competing for the right to pay millions for work they neither like nor understand. I highly recommend this book as a must-read for artists and art-lovers alike. Click here for more.

The Innocence of Obects by Orhan Pamuk

Nobel prize winning author Orhan Pamuk's 2009 novel about lost love and the obsessive collecting of objects, The Museum of Innocence,
was conceived simultaneously with the idea of creating a bricks-and-mortar museum to house the objects collected while writing and researching the novel. The museum, which opened to the public in Istanbul earlier this year is housed in a modest 19th century house. The Innocence of Objects beautifully catalogs the museum's collection and in Pamuk's own words, tells the story of how the museum came to be. Click here for more. 

Hiroshige: One Hundred Famous Views of Edo

As soon as I saw Taschen’s luscious volume
Hiroshige: One Hundred Famous Views of Edo in a museum gift shop, I knew I had to have it. I don't have a big budget for luxury items these days, so I was delighted to find how affordable it was. Released in 2010 as one of Taschen’s 30th birthday “Golden Books,” reprints of luxury books at affordable prices, this volume packs a lot of bang for the buck. Encased in a box depicting a detail of Hiroshige's iconic grey tree limbs and white plum blossoms against an organish-pink sky and fastened with faux ivory toggles, this book is a must-have for art lovers. Click here for more.

Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity by David Lynch

Have you ever wondered where the dark genius of filmmaker David Lynch comes from? Lynch's 2006 book, Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity gives rare insight into his creative process and how 35 years of Transcendental Meditation have helped him along the way. The book is comprised of 85 short chapters, some as short as a sentence, describing how Lynch captures ideas and turns them into reality through filmmaking, from Eraserhead, Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks to Inland Empire. Catching the Big Fish is a charming, easy read and gives us a refresher course in where our own creativity comes from and how to stay connected to it. Click here for more.

Upcoming at Offramp Gallery

Closing Reception & Artist's Talk with Elaine Carhartt & James Griffith
Sunday, December 23, 2-5pm

Offramp Gallery will be closed January & February 2013