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