posts dedicated to general musings on art: theories, practices, education, exhibition and review.
posts dedicated to general musings on art: theories, practices, education, exhibition and review.
Ralph Gibson studied photography while in the United States Navy before attending the San Francisco Art Institute and working as an assistant to both FSA photographer Dorothea Lange from 1961 to 1962 and filmmaker Robert Frank on two separate films. Working primarily with the Leica camera, Gibson is most recognized for overlaying elements of film narrative and mystery onto the Surrealist subject of the female body. Fascinated with books, Gibson started the publishing house Lustrum Press in 1970 and has since published over 40 books, including Somnambulist and State of the Axe. Gibson is a Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France only given to those who have made significant contribution to the arts and his work has been displayed in more than 150 venues worldwide. He lives and works in New York.
When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
I grew up in Hollywood and my father worked at Warner Bros. As a boy, I would visit him on the set and eventually became an extra and bit player. This experience, the camera, the bright lights and the highly charged dramatic atmosphere impacted me in ways I am still discovering. Later when I entered the US Navy, they sent me to photography school. I was very drawn to the medium but thought it meant being a commercial photographer. Upon my discharge from the service at age 21, I decided to attend the San Francisco Art Institute and the die was cast. But I don’t believe that art is a choice. I believe one is born with a destiny that impels one in a single, solitary direction: art.
What inspires you?
I study a lot of critical theory, music theory and art history…..with all this going on in my mind, I get easily inspired. Museums, travel, looking at architecture are all great sources of stimulation and make me want to work. Long talks with my artist friends always give me impetus to create, find a way to see something previously unknown.
If you could own any work of modern or contemporary art, what would it be?
If there was a single work that I most covet it would be The Piano Lesson (1916) by Matisse. I saw it at the MoMA in the ’50s when I was a sailor on leave in New York City. It was the first painting I understood, and his work continues to harbor great importance for me.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am currently working on a project of music and video for a dance performance to be realized at the Burchfield Penny Art Center in the spring of 2015. I am also making a series of photographs entitled “Political Abstraction.” These images are both in color and black and white and are extremely minimal and exigent.
When not making art, what do you like to do?
When not making art I play tennis…..tennis and more tennis……
By Holly Stuart Hughes
When book publishers ask photographers to pay the cost of producing and printing a photography book, the artists often raise the money by selling prints or offering them as incentives in crowdfunding campaigns. Some book publishers pay for a trade edition by selling a more expensive “collector’s edition,” packaged with a signed and numbered print. There are several strategies to ensure these print offers don’t affect the perceived value of the prints that galleries are selling.
For Lori Nix’s book The City, publishing house Decode Books sold 20 signed and numbered prints in a size smaller than Nix’s smallest gallery edition. The image, “Library,” had sold out in 2008. All of Nix’s galleries approved the selection, she says. “One, though, did voice some concern that those who had bought the image when it was available may be upset to see such a discounted, though smaller, version. The thought was that since it was out of edition, this smaller-size image would not actively compete with larger versions.”
To accompany the collector’s edition of his new book, Horizons (Hatje Cantz), photographer Sze Tsung Leong chose two images that he had not released before. These images, he says, “are not included in the book itself, and are a special size.”
Before publishing her book, Eleven Years, Jen Davis raised some of the funding by selling a 5×7-inch print in an edition of 200 for $100. Davis and her dealer, Lee Marks, chose an image that was representative of the project but had not yet sold. Then, Marks says, “I pulled it from my inventory.”
Robert Klein of Robert Klein Gallery, however, says it makes sense to choose a popular image for a collector’s edition: “You want the book to do well.” In addition to printing the image in a smaller size, he recommends using a different medium or paper for the print—an artist who makes silver gelatin prints, for example, could make an inkjet print. The goal is to make a print that represents you well, but won’t leave buyers confused by the discounted print you’re selling.
via PDN Online: Selling Prints to Fund Books: It’s Complicated.
Thirty years ago, when the newly renovated Museum of Modern Art hosted a massive showcase of international contemporary art featuring 169 artists, just 13 of them were women. The unequal representation spawned the anonymous Guerilla Girls group, which began a campaign exposing the gender inequality in the art world. This week at Anderson Ranch, the acclaimed photographer Catherine Opie will address how gender equality has improved — and not improved — since then.
On Wednesday, Opie will join Eleanor Heartney, Helaine Posner, Nancy Princenthal and Sue Scott, authors of “The Reckoning: Women Artists in the New Millennium,” in a panel discussion on the topic. On Thursday, Opie will make a solo presentation as part of the Ranch’s ongoing Featured Artists series.
The art world has come a long way, Opie argued in an interview, since the Guerilla Girls and art historian Linda Nochlin’s watershed 1971 essay, “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” But it still has a ways to go toward equal representation, and sales of art made by women still lag far behind men’s work.
“The question is still one of inequality in terms of gender, which certainly happens in the marketplace as well as in numbers of exhibitions,” she said. “So I imagine we’ll explore all those themes.”
Artist Micol Hebron’s Gallery Tally project has taken the Guerilla Girls’ lead, and today is exposing the ongoing unequal representation of women artists in leading galleries around the world by printing online the percentages of male and female artists exhibited.
“There is still this bizarre mythology about the male artists in relationship to genius,” said Opie. “I very rarely hear a woman being called a genius — and I don’t necessarily believe in the term — but there is this kind of mythos about the male artist, (and) the male writer, that people hold on to.”
Opie is best known for her groundbreaking portraits of men and women in the queer community in the early 1990s, and her politically charged self-portraits. Her 1993 “Self Portrait/Cutting” featured Opie with a picture carved into her back of two women and a house — a bracing representation of the LGBT community’s hope for equal rights and marriage rights.
She pointed to a few artists, like Andrea Bowers, who make feminist and politically charged work today. But her students at the University of California Los Angeles, where she is a professor of photography, and emerging artists aren’t making such charged work today, she said. Her own photos since the “Portraits” series have ranged into subjects like Wall Street, surfing and high school football.
“The younger generation of artists are not as politically active in relationship to those ideas,” Opie said. “They’re not as angry and feverish as some of the earlier artists were.”
Looking back, Opie said, her intense portraits were intertwined with what activist groups like ACT UP and Queer Nation were doing at the time in response to the AIDS crisis, pushing the gay and lesbian community from the shadows and into a vocal political constituency and part of the fabric of American society.
“Everything that was being done was because of the AIDS epidemic and that crisis,” Opie said. “That’s really what shifted things, in terms of a community that was invisible becoming visible. I was certainly playing off of that visibility in my own work, but that was co-existing with other artists and a part of the cultural revolution that was happening at the time.”
Today, she noted, her portraits of tattooed and pierced men and women don’t have the shock value they did 20 years ago.
“It doesn’t feel like, ‘Wow, what’s going on here,’” she said. “At the time they were made, people hadn’t seen images that way. Also, it’s a very different time, in which so many more people are pierced and tattooed. That manner of playing with the body, that was very much a part of the queer identity, has shifted to seeming straight.”
Though her photography has moved into other areas, including cityscapes and winter landscapes, she chimed in on the fight for marriage rights in 2011, when she and filmmaker Lisa Udelson made the documentary “Same Difference,” about the children of parents whose marriages were challenged by California’s Proposition 8.
“That’s about all I’ve done for gay marriage, except for planning my own wedding,” she laughed.
By Holly Stuart Hughes
The fine-art market is based on scarcity. Although a photograph can be reproduced endlessly, artists limit their editions, giving buyers a guarantee that they will release a finite number of prints at a given size. “The collectors have to believe there’s integrity to what you’re selling, and the edition numbers have to mean something,” says Robert Klein, owner of Robert Klein Gallery. “That confidence is vital to sustaining a career in the fine-art photography world.”
Limiting editions, however, means photographers have less inventory to sell. How should photographers balance the short-term goal of selling as many prints as possible against the long-term goals of preserving the value of their archives and creating a legacy for the future? Once an edition of prints sells out, “You can’t just print one for posterity,” says private dealer Lee Marks of Lee Marks Fine Art.
Many photographers are reluctant to forego sales now when the vagaries of the market, and their own future prospects, are so unpredictable. “Am I keeping one or two prints for my retirement? I wish, but I’m usually so in need of money in the present, that I sell every print I can,” says Lori Nix, who has had several editions sell out. “I’m also hopeful, perhaps naively, that I will continue to make strong work when I’m in my 50s and 60s and so on.”
The decision to sell or save is highly personal. “You have to take into account who the artist is, what their level of productivity is, what their financial needs are,” says Klein.
We asked gallerists and photographers about their long-term strategy for print sales and learned the steps photographers can take to make informed decisions.
The Importance of Record Keeping
It’s essential for artists to track how many prints they’ve sold or given away. That way, “If someone calls and says, ‘I like this image. Where is it in the edition?’ we know,” says Michael Foley of Foley Gallery. Whenever he signs new artists, Foley asks about the numbers and sizes of prints of each work that they’ve already sold or given to friends or family. “If we edition the work at the same size as the prints that are out there, we have to consider those part of the editions.”
Photographer Jessica Todd Harper recorded her first sales in a notebook, then switched to an Excel spreadsheet. Although she is now represented by two galleries, she still keeps records herself. “The buck stops with the photographer—the gallery could go out of business, you could leave the gallery, but it’s your brand. It’s up to you.”
When Nix updates her records, she shares them with her seven galleries. She believes that Excel is most efficient for “keeping track of prices, especially price increments.”
All of the photographers and dealers interviewed for this story use stepped pricing: In an edition of ten, for example, prints 1 through 3 sell for the lowest price and numbers 4 through 6 cost more, up through the last print, which is “priced on request,” says Marks. Keeping accurate records about the status of a print—if it’s reserved for a prospective buyer, for example, or on loan for an exhibition—prevents mistakes, such as selling the third print in an edition for the price of the fourth.
Foley says record keeping is simple. “Just make an Excel spreadsheet for the body of work, then next to each image, list the sizes and number.” The list could also be organized by year: “These are all the prints I made in 2014.” He recommends adding thumbnail images because “titles are hard to keep track of.” When he sells a print, he checks off the number or writes in the buyer’s name and shares the revised chart with other galleries representing the artist. If artists keep records “from the get-go,” he says, “it becomes habit.”
What’s Yours to Give
In addition to the numbered prints in an edition, photographers make one or two “artist’s proofs.” The term comes from lithography, and in photography it originally referred to the final tests made after a photographer refined a print of a negative, Marks explains. Although artists have to disclose to buyers how many artist’s proofs (APs) exist, they are for the artist’s personal use and are traditionally not sold at the same time as the edition prints. Marks notes, “The French expression is hors de commerce, meaning ‘outside of business,’” (often abbreviated “HC”).
“I think the artist’s proof should be hands off,” says Foley. “It goes in the safety deposit box to be used by the artist at a future date.” If a museum comes looking someday for an artist’s early work, Foley says, “I don’t want to say the editions are all sold out—and that the artist’s proofs are sold, too.”
He offers a caveat, however. Once an edition sells out, the APs can sell for whatever the market will bear. “If an artist has a book project coming up or really needs funding and can sell this print for $8,000, maybe that’s a good investment.”
Artists sometimes donate APs to charity auctions, too. “In a perfect world, you’d give your best work,” says photographer Julie Blackmon, but artists should consider how many prints of the image they have left.
Photographer Jen Davis says that early in her career she often donated APs, some for images “that were already highly sold.” In hindsight, she says, “Perhaps I should have chosen a lesser-known photograph to give, or a smaller print.” Now, she checks first with Marks, her dealer, and chooses the causes and events she wants to support with care. (For information on how Davis and other photographers arranged for the sale of a particular print to help fund the publication of photo books, see “Selling Prints to Fund Books: It’s Complicated.”)
Marks says that charity auctions are “tricky”: “I don’t like to have things go for a third of what I’m selling them for.” Klein recommends making a separate “donation print” at a different size, so as not to “pollute the price structure of the market,” he says.
Before the Last Print Sells
For the last print in an edition, a photographer can negotiate the current market value. But there are other considerations besides price. How photographers think about their equity or legacy is often a reflection of their career goals or their age.
For new photographers, selling out an edition can build buyers’ confidence in their work, Klein says. For some more established artists in his gallery stable, however, the last print in an edition is reserved for “museums and prestigious collections,” he says.
Photographer Sze Tsung Leong says he decides on an image-by-image basis what prints to keep for himself. “It’s extremely important to me that my work be part of public collections and that it be accessible to the public.” He adds, “Museums are also interested in a wider and more challenging range of images than collectors generally are.”
Harper’s 2001 image “Self Portrait with Christopher and my Future In-Laws” is nearly sold out of its 16×20-inch edition of ten prints. Her APs are gone, too: “I traded one with an artist and gave the other to my gracious in-laws.” She has no regrets about letting it go. “I’m so over it. I don’t see it as my most interesting picture.” Her more recent work will be in an exhibition at Rick Wester Fine Art in New York City to coincide with the publication of her second book, The Home Stage (Damiani). “My main concern is always to make good work, and I assumed I’d continue making new work, and even better work.”
“Photographers who have depth to their work will continue to make good work,” says Marks, but adds, “You’re going to make good work in the future, but it’ll be different.”
Marks says that when photographer Davis first began her self-portrait series over a decade ago, “The last thing she was thinking about was her legacy.” She has now published the work in her first book, Eleven Years (Kehrer Verlag), has photos from the series in 20 museums and is making new work. Marks recently counseled Davis to consider saving some prints from the series: “The material is so brave and gutsy, I think it’s important to hang onto those.” Marks explains, “She might not come across an idea that resonates with as many people as that. The work may be just as good, but it might not sell as well. It may sell better, but who knows?”
The market can be fickle. Nix says she has seen photography careers wax and wane. “Only time will tell if my work will rise in equity. Fingers crossed,” she says. “I think if I can continue to make work that is thought- provoking, relevant and desirable, then I am master of my equity.”
via PDN Online: Managing Your Inventory of Limited-Edition Prints.
by Amelia Rina
Photography’s initial accomplishment was to allow for the instantaneous transformation of a four-dimensional object or event into a static, two-dimensional representation. However, in the catalogue for the 1970 exhibition Photography into Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, Peter C. Burnell — the museum’s then curator of photography — insisted that the medium could be pushed to even greater creative possibilities:
Photography into Sculpture embraces concerns beyond those of the traditional print, or what may be termed ‘flat’ work, and in so doing seeks to engender a heightened realization that art in photography has to do with interpretation and craftsmanship rather than mere record making.
Forty-four years later, Hauser & Wirth has compiled a selection of works from Photography into Sculpture in the exhibition The Photographic Object, 1970. It offers an enlightening counterpoint to photographers testing the boundaries of the medium today.
All of the artists in The Photographic Object, 1970 pushed the conventions of the time period’s dominant street- and documentary-style photography to astonishing heights. It was as if each artist worked out a definition of photography, then systematically subverted it, point by point. The largest and perhaps most sensational piece, Ellen Brooks’s “Untitled (Lawn Couple)”(1970), is a room-sized installation of a slightly distended Astroturf field; a black-and-white photograph of a nude couple relaxed in supine intimacy lies embedded in the neatly manicured green fibers. The photograph is entirely one with the landscape, its surface following the uneven swatch of fake grass and warping like mercurial fluid when viewed from different angles. In this way, Brooks adds new elements of time and materiality to the traditionally flat, paper-based medium.
Dale Quarterman and Jack Dale continue the photographic reconsideration of the body in two very different ways. For “Untitled”(1968), Quarterman layered four portraits of a woman, with each silhouette-shaped image decreasing in size toward the center of her torso and in each the woman losing a layer of clothing until she’s fully nude. In the outermost portrait, the woman looks confidently ahead, but with each denudation her eyes become more downcast, until she adopts a posture of modesty or shame — a poignant exposition of the male gaze.
In his two sculptures “Cubed Woman #3 a-b” (1970) and “Untitled Cubed Woman” (1970), Jack Dale also presents a multifaceted portrait of a woman: positive and negative black-and-white images of her sitting fill a three-dimensional grid inside cuboid Plexiglas. With photographs printed on every side of the grid, the overall image transforms when viewed from its five visible sides. Like a four-dimensional collage of frozen moments, the piece updates a Cubist treatment of time and space with modern materials. Michael de Courcy’s untitled multilevel tower of one hundred photo-silkscreen printed boxes (1970–71) is aesthetically similar to Dale’s cubes, but also antithetical. The boxes’ lack of transparency and stacked arrangement obstruct a view of all but the outermost sides, allowing de Courcy to expand and obscure while Dale contains and reveals.
All of the 62 works on view at Hasuer & Wirth warrant further in-depth investigation, for example Robert Watts’s funny optical manipulations: in “BLT”(1965), a photo transparency of bacon, lettuce, and tomato sits sandwiched between two colorless, bread-slice-shaped pieces of Lucite; in “Table with Two Wine Glasses” (1965), a photograph of two glasses on a table mounted on the surface of an actual table creates a disorienting illusion. The tongue-in-cheek straightforwardness contradicts their lack of verisimilitude, toying with the viewer’s expectations of how to interact with these pieces.
Beyond the historical significance of the artists’ works here, though, the relationships between the 1970 MoMA exhibition, its current reconsideration at Hauser & Wirth, and recent exhibitions of artists challenging the materiality of photography at Hauser & Wirth (Fixed Variable) and the International Center for Photography (What Is a Photograph?) provide insights into the development of the medium. Some things are the same: all shows have significantly more male artists than female. One change is the way photographers address space and substance. Working long before the omnipresence of digital technology, the artists in the 1970s seem to have tried making everything but the kitchen sink into a photographic object (though I wouldn’t be surprised to learn someone did, at some point, incorporate a sink). Now artists increasingly layer within their photographs, using digital media and the depths of the internet to extend their explorations; for instance, Lucas Blalock’s digital photographs in Fixed Variable, “Cactus Action”(2014) and “Big Bear”(2012), look realistic at first, but their oddities slowly reveal his alterations through digital collage and cloning. In this way, though, not much really has changed: the artist’s drive to challenge the objectivity of a photograph continues unabated.
The Photographic Object, 1970 continues at Hauser & Wirth (32 E 69th Street, Upper East Side, Manhattan) through July 25.
via Stretching the Truth of Photography… Hyperallergic
By reducing all elements in his composition to their essential geometries and treating light as a palpable presence, Edward Hopper imbued his images of everyday life with what the American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson called an “alienated majesty.” One of two permanent collection displays on the Museum’s fifth-floor mezzanine, Edward Hopper and Photography pairs Hopper paintings from the Whitney’s permanent collection with the work of contemporary photographers who share an interest in elevating everyday subject matter by manipulating light. The six photographers represented in this presentation, Gregory Crewdson, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, William Eggleston, Steve Fitch, Todd Hido, and Stephen Shore, record mundane subjects but endow their photographs with emotional poignancy and mystery similar to that in Hopper’s art.
Edward Hopper and Photography is organized by Barbara Haskell, Curator.
The historic Domino Sugar Refinery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, is about to be converted into a plush abode for yuppie gentrifiers. But before it gets hipsterized, it will serve as a lair for a different sort of beast, a giant sphinx sculpted from white sugar by Kara Walker. The monumental work, with the body of a feline and the bust of a stylized, racist stereotype of a black woman, will be surrounded by more than a dozen statues of a young boy, some of them made of hard candy. The calorie-rich installation was commissioned by Creative Time and aims to explore the ways in which the trans-Atlantic slave and sugar trades overlapped, and their shared, enduring legacies. It is a startling departure for an artist best known for her silhouette cut-outs, paintings, and animated videos.
Walker spoke to artnet News about the exhibition—officially titled A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant (2014)—which opens May 10 and continues through July 6.
When did you begin working on this project?
It’s really been a short period of time. They approached me either last April or May. I think I did a site visit in May of last year. And I had lots of ideas right away because it’s the kind of space that makes you aware of a lot of different pasts and presents and futures. So it wasn’t a problem of not having ideas, it was a matter of finding ones that felt right and not completely stupid, or stupid in the right sorts of ways. It’s only been a year. And building out the sphinx and its attendants has been two or three months, a little bit longer with the sketches and models.
How much of the project did you plan out ahead of time and how much of it was generated in response to the locale?
Pretty much all of it. Nato Thompson and Anne Pasternak came to me with this site, this location, and we did a site visit, and any skepticism that I might have had disappeared because the space is just amazing. It’s already this weird cathedral to some bygone era, and the walls are encrusted with molasses, and there’s caked-up sugar and brown sugar and molasses stuck to everything way high up, so it’s a really powerful space. I wanted to take it on, but it also meant trying to challenge and tease out what was relevant in my work and my interests with this kind of space. The space is doing more than 50 percent of the work.
It took a couple of months to figure out how I was going to engage with the space. There are all kinds of ways that one could—performative, filmic—but it dawned on me after a time that we’d have to go this route. It’s a daunting space to do anything in, and I didn’t know I was going to do sculpture, because I haven’t done sculpture. I’ve been in this mode of trying to challenge myself—well, it’s not even a mode, it’s just always there. I said yes immediately because I felt that I could do it, but then I had to take a look at the whole hubristic, “I can do it!” attitude, which is one part naïve and one part opportunistic. It was fear-inducing on many levels.
Why did you choose to make the sculptures out of sugar?
It’s not a stable material, for sure. The thing that made the most sense about working with sugar was its temporality, that it’s here and then it’s gone, usually ingested or dissolved in some other way. Even the sugar boys, the candy ones, they’re changing every day. There’s little drips, things coming from the interior, they leak. The sphinx is weeping right now, and then it dries, so it sort of lives and breathes in a way; it is very temporary. I’ve been thinking a lot about ruins, things like that.
What attracted you to the figure of the sphinx?
For a while I was trying to do a piece that could embrace the sugar trade, the slave trade, the various meanings that are put upon sugar, as an industry, and then the byproducts of industry, like the molasses, byproducts not just of industry but of slavery. I have this, not exactly a Ven diagram, but this spider-web of references and material that was getting so far out of my reach, there was so much connected to this one substance, past and present, to sugar. There’s the whole spice trade that gets brought in, and sugar as this most precious commodity that maybe is responsible for the rise of the slave trade, and the slave trade is responsible for the presence of Africans and African religions in America—there are so many things going into this piece! We don’t even realize how much we ritualize sugar every day. For the most part people who use sugar use it a lot, and there’s sugar all around us, and it’s sort of built this world. It’s this empire that we pay homage to every day.
And why a sphinx? Who knows. It’s the guardian of the temple, it’s the guardian of the city, it’s the possessor of the secret of the riddle, it’s a thing that will devour you if you don’t understand it. It came to me when I realized that I needed to make a thing, when I realized that I needed to make a monument to this substance. A monument that’s kind of easily digestible, in a way, and kind of loaded. But she’s not just a sphinx; she’s in the position of the sphinx but she’s another woman, an African woman figure.
I read this quote somewhere in my research, I don’t remember his name, but he was a Jesuit priest in Brazil somewhere, and he wrote a book and one of the first lines was: “Brazil is sugar and sugar is the black man.” And it was clear in the 17th century that sugar was equated with African bodies who were producing sugar. And since I’m a woman, I made her a woman.
In addition to the sphinx, what will visitors encounter at the sugar plant?
There are—or there will be, god willing—about 15 attendants. There are five, or four-and-a-half at the moment, and there will be 15 of these little boy figures in all. They’re just under five feet tall and appropriated from a much smaller gift sculpture that you find in Hallmarks and what have you. The ones that we’re making here on-site are made of candy. They’re basically big, blown-up Jolly Ranchers made from a solution that’s sugar, corn syrup, and water boiled to a candy, “hardball” consistency. It’s called the hardball stage, when you boil candy to 300 degrees, so they’re solid-ish, but they’re like 300 pounds each of pure sugar, which is kind of insane. The other ones will be made of another material, but treated in the same way.
How do you think people will react to this monument that seems both ancient and very contemporary?
I’m anticipating a number of different responses to the piece, and I think because it’s so large and domineering that it’s impressive in that sense. Nudity is a thing, apparently, that people have a problem with; not slavery, or racism, but female bodies, or bottoms.
Is that type of response something you’re used to by now, given your previous work?
I don’t think I can ever get used to it, because I’m kind of reserved but I have this inner six-year-old, so there’s a moment where I completely forget. Working on this project has been goofy and messy and sticky and enjoyable with the team and everybody putting it together. But there’s a moment when you have to step back and take it all in, and ask, what all am I being responsible for, in reality?
What’s it like being there every day?
It’s really beautiful. It’s a like a cathedral. There are these high factory windows all around, and some of them have been smashed and some of them have molasses on them, and some of them are brown, so there’s this amazing mosaic pattern up on the windows. And the light comes streaming down in these ridiculous layers in the morning, it’s like, come on! And then you have the presence of this colossus that’s being built, and it’s both kind of abstract and kind of weirdly personified and has a kind of vitality in it that’s slightly terrifying.
Why did you choose to use white sugar for your sculpture?
I was playing with other sugars for a while. I was either in my kitchen or in my studio boiling different sugars, playing with brown sugar, playing with Turbinado sugar, cooking it, making candy with it. I sort of liked them all, I would have used them all. But I liked the contrast between the dark interior of the space and this white, crystalline thing that happens when you pack that much sugar onto a surface—it’s really striking. And then the light streaming in through the windows at all these ridiculously romantic angles, coming in through the skylights. Her head is pretty much just under the skylights, so at certain times of the day, like at noon, it’s kind of blinding.
Kara Walker’s “A Subtlety” runs May 10–July 6 at the Domino Sugar Refinery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
James Welling is an American artist based in Los Angeles whose diverse body of work has influenced a generation of artists and photographers. Making both representational and abstract images, Welling brings an experimental sensibility to photography.
His work has been in numerous solo and group exhibitions, including a mid-career retrospective at the Cincinnati Art Museum which traveled to the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and the Fotomuseum in Winterthur. His work was exhibited in documenta IX, the 2008 Whitney Biennial, the 2009 exhibition The Pictures Generation at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and in 2014, What Is a Photograph? at the International Center of Photography. His work is in the collections of major museums such as Centre Georges Pompidou, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography. His books include The Mind on Fire (2014), Monograph (2013), Glass House (2010), and Flowers (2007). Welling teaches in the art department at UCLA and was a visiting professor at Princeton University in 2012. He is represented by David Zwirner, New York/London, Regen Projects, Los Angeles, and Peter Freeman, Paris.
Artist Talk by James Welling: http://mediastorm.com/clients/2014-icp-infinity-awards-art-james-welling
by Allison Meier on April 17, 2014
Artists are often deemed “right-brained” thinkers, but new research suggests it may be the actual structure of the brain that lends creative talent.
“Drawing on the right side of the brain: A voxel-based morphometry analysis of observational drawing” was published last month in the peer-reviewed neuroimaging journal NeuroImage. As the study states, ”structural brain differences in relation to expertise have been demonstrated in a number of domains including visual perception, spatial navigation, complex motor skills, and musical ability. However no studies have assessed the structural differences associated with representational skills in visual art.”
Taking a rather small group of participants — 21 art students (graduates and undergraduates attending art and design courses in London at Camberwell College of Art and The Royal College of Art) and 23 non-artists, the research team, with members from the University of Leuven, University College London, Middlesex University, Royal College of Art, University of Wales, and University of Sussex used voxel-based morphometry scanning — a type of neuroimaging tuned for the focal differences in white and grey matter — as well as drawing exercises to examine the brain’s response when practicing art. This was the result:
An increase in grey matter density in the left anterior cerebellum and the right medial frontal gyrus was observed in relation to observational drawing ability, whereas artistic training (art students vs. non-art students) was correlated with increased grey matter density in the right precuneus. This suggests that observational drawing ability relates to changes in structures pertaining to fine motor control and procedural memory, and that artistic training in addition is associated with enhancement of structures pertaining to visual imagery.
In simpler terms, if you have more grey matter (the brain stuff composed primarily of nerve cells which is linked to other grey matter through the brain’s communicative white matter) in certain parts of your brain, that may represent artistic talents. However, it’s through practice that these grey matter areas of visual imagery and motor skills can be strengthened.
Or as leader author Rebecca Chamberlain of the University of Leuven told the BBC in its report published today, those “who are better at drawing really seem to have more developed structures in regions of the brain that control for fine motor performance and what we call procedural memory.” (You can hear more of Chamberlain’s interview on their Inside Science radio program.)
The study’s comprehensive focus “on visuomotor processing and procedural memory” as opposed to prior investigations of “visual perception in isolation from interaction with motor processes” ties the definition of artistry here to the physical experience of drawing, which means the structural differences discovered in the brain attributable to drawing are independent of artistic training. The paper’s conclusions offers some important caveats on the causal relationship between art schooling and changes in brain structure:
[E]xperience with drawing confers structural changes to the anterior cerebellum and SMA [supplementary motor area] and is independent of structural differences associated with artistic training. Artistic training in a more general sense appears to be related to increased GM [grey matter] volume in regions of the precuneus, potentially relating to the ability to create internal visual imagery, however further measures of the various components of artistic ability would help to clarify the link between structural differences in the precuneus and artistic training. Finally, these correlations between grey and white matter and drawing proficiency appear to be independent of the degree of visual arts training and therefore may be diagnostic of proficiency in representational media.
To get a better idea of how brain structure might play a role in art, a broader group of artists from different age groups and practices beyond drawing aptitude would have to be tested, and the researchers acknowledge that this is just one part of the whole, where environment and training is often as important. The research follows other studies on the impact of the differences in grey and white matter on creativity and how differences in the inhibitions of the prefrontal cortex can also impact your ability to tackle creative tasks. While much of the act of creation may stay a neural mystery, these studies help to shed light on how the brain mediates artistic processes.
“Drawing on the right side of the brain: A voxel-based morphometry analysis of observational drawing” is available online at NeuroImage (subscription needed).
With additional reporting by Mostafa Heddaya.