On Friday, December 2, 2011, I visited five satellite fairs at Art Basel Miami Beach 2011. This marks my sixth year at ABMB. Here are my quick impressions:
Art Miami — Fresh, progressive and well-organized as usual. Art Miami gets it right every year. The venue is all about white walls and dark floors which show off the edgy art to full effect. The dealers are approachable and the show feels truly contemporary and really good. www.art-miami.com
NADA — Of course, NADA celebrates often ignored and up and coming artists. For the most part, this is evident in some of the artists' work which tends to have an art school flavor, but that's the venue and it's important to support unsung artists. The Deauville Hotel is a fantastic venue for art and the display spaces are always well done. www.nadaartfair.org
Pulse — Pulse kicked ass this year. The art is forward-thinking, the spaces were easy to move through and the dealers were helpful. I can always tell when an art fair is good because much of what I see makes me smile ... to myself at least. I did a lot of smiling at Pulse this year. Well done. www.pulse-art.com/miami
Scope — I'm must say that I'm disappointed by Scope this year. I saw too many craft-like items that made me feel like I was visiting a craft fair ... nothing against craft fairs mind you. Also, there was so much work that seemed so crammed in together. At times, I felt like I was visiting a consignment shop. I like consignment shops, but this was not one of them. Also, the wood-plank floors made me feel like I was in a barn. Exposed wood floors really do distract from the art. This should never happen at a venue of this magnitude. Of course, this is not the first time Scope has used exposed wood floors, but it is the first time I've spoken out about them. www.scope-art.com
Red Dot — It was good, but like Scope, the wood-plank floors distracted from the art. Also, there seemed to be a climate control issue inside the tent. This seems so shallow, but issues like this can make potential buyers flee for more hospitable environs, taking their money with them. I would also like to see Red Dot choose a few more cutting edge galleries. www.reddotfair.com
This is just my very unscientific opinion. I'm sure you have your own opinion. Please support these fairs, the galleries and the artists by paying them a visit and maybe buying some art.
-Artist Jeff Roland
Ahh ... Isn't this the lament of practically every emerging artist? It's certainly one of the main themes of the conversations I have with artist friends.
It's always something ... and there's always something to do ... and there's always something that doesn't get done ... or at least done the way we'd like.
I'm totally feeling Jeff's frustration, but again, I don't think I've had a conversation with a single artist who doesn't bring this up. Being an artist or a creative person is VERY hard. Society claims to respect artists, creativity, creative people and innovation, but it doesn't really walk the talk.
There's just no denying that we're living during a time when you have to do it all. How many times have you listened to a super-successful pop star on the radio and thought, "What the hell? They're not even THAT talented!"
Maybe it's me, but I've come to realize that talent isn't enough. I don't care how talented you are. If you're not willing to work very hard and do the seemingly unrewarding things, you probably won't make it. Basically, you have to do everything and believe in yourself and hopefully, something higher than yourself. Could that be the difference between a marginally-talented pop star who makes it and a super-talented individual who doesn't? And what IS "making it" anyway? We have to define success for ourselves. If we constantly seek out the world's definition of success, we're always going to end up feeling like failures.
I say if you're finding time to create AND BARELY do everything else, you're NOT failing ... you're striving ... you're keeping your head above water and hanging in there. Congratulations! You're STILL in the game. You're painting success on the canvas of your life. Isn't that the art that matters most?
But let me go back to the talent thing for a moment. Talent is like a flower. It's this beautiful, wondrous thing, but it can't thrive alone. A flower needs its keeper to tend to it. It needs water, sunlight, fertilizer and proper climate. The same holds true for art. Art, no matter how strong or brutal, is a delicate creation. It also needs to be nurtured, cleaned, properly displayed and stored out of sunlight and humidity. Most importantly though, art like flower seeds, needs to be marketed, promoted, sold, shipped and supported.
Just like a gardener cultivates a flower, an artist manages a painting from conception to sale ... to delivery. It comes with the gig guys. Who better to do all of this than the artist? If I need a doctor, I don't call a plumber, I call my doctor. No one cares about a flower more than the gardener who planted it. Likewise (in theory anyway), no one cares more about art than the artist.
I know, I know. This sounds like a shlocky pep-talk. That's because it IS a pep talk.
That's partly what ArtBookGuy is all about. With my own efforts, I keep reminding myself that no one believes in what I'm doing more than me. Even on my worst day, no one can promote ArtBookGuy better than I can ... it's exhausting and lonely at times, but at least I don't have any naysayers around charging me outrageous money to do things that bear no fruit. I chose this path. I always have the option of quitting, but I've come SO far. If I quit now, I feel that means I've wasted all of the time I've invested. I can get more money, but not more time. And so, I stay the course.
In short, I can either quit ... or take the bad with the good. Oh and yes, there is a difference between quitting and turning a corner. Turning a corner or changing course should feel good. Changing your mind can feel good, but quitting almost always feels bad. It means you've failed yourself.
Sometimes I feel like life is failing me, but I've made myself a promise. I won't fail myself. I'm determined to be a WARRIOR. Being a warrior is a choice ... everyday ... in the face of frustration, pain and overwhelming odds. Being a warrior is NEVER clean or cut and dry. It's grimy, messy, bloody and a big fat pain in the ass, but just like everything else ... it IS a choice ... a decision to get out of bed and do battle once again.
With that dear art friend, let's say it together ...
I AM A WARRIOR.
P.S... Jeff and his wife just had a baby. I think he's just tired. Don't worry about him. He's a warrior.
To learn more about Jeff's work, check out his website at www.jeffroland.org.
The Illuminated Mess
I had the great pleasure of writing a short introduction for a book produced by Portland, Oregon based artist Joseph Kucinski. I own about ten of his paintings and when he asked me to write something, I just looked around at his work in my home and got inspired. The essay will also appear in my next book. However, Joseph's book, full of some of his fantastic work inspired by E.E. Cummings, has just been released. It's called, "The Illuminated Mess." It's really a great model for any artist producing a book. Check it out. http://theilluminatedmess.blogspot.com/2010/05/illuminated-mess-now-available-all-1st.html
Art Chicago 2010
Well, another Art Chicago has come and gone and I'm glad that I attended again this year. I'm tempted to say that Art Chicago is the best art fair that I visit all year, but I won't go that far. However, it's very well executed, the people are nice and of course, the art is great. From the moment you approach the elevators in the Merchandise Mart, security guards guide you on your trip to the 12th floor. Also the gallery layout plan is easy to follow and I never get lost when I'm there, which is way more than I can say for some other top international art fairs. On the downside, Art Chicago tends to be more conservative; less risky. I didn't see anything this year that challenged me. I'm not talking about "shock value." I was looking for something that "pushed the envelope" or pushed art forward. I didn't see it. Believe me ... I combed every aisle and every gallery. I also didn't see it downstairs on the 7th floor at the Next Art Fair for emerging artists. Next tends to be sophomoric and "art school confidential," if you will. Obviously, the work of these up and coming artists isn't as polished as their counterparts upstairs, but the energy and optimism is undeniable. However, I must say that I think Next needs to be tightened up a bit. I love the fact that Next is very approachable and the intimidation factor is indeed five notches lower than the lofty Art Chicago. However, Next needs to remind the students that it's an important venue and presentation and professionalism are just as important as the art itself. Trust me, I attend these fairs every year and I see how they work. Ultimately, I think it's important that people attend. They're trade shows for living art. They give people a chance to see the wide variety of talent and price points out there. Also, a few dealers told me that sales are picking up. That's good news for the economy, but they say this coming summer will be the true test. In short, if you love art, you shouldn't miss Art Chicago. Next!
While the artworld seems to be constantly seeking out the next hot young thing, here's my "shout out" for Merv Slotnick, an artist with an actual track record. Merv, who lives in Maine, is a sure and steady abstract expressionist. I have 57 of his works on paper. Most are in cherry wood framed document holders. Love his work. Take a look. http://www.ecbart.com/
Are you a fan of tv reality shows? Many people are. I like the ones that are inspirational, however, most of them are beyond trashy. Here's why. They're teaching an entirely new generation of people out there that it's okay to behave badly. Reality television is giving kids and immature adults license to be combative, constantly competitive, mean and selfish. I see this behavior permeating our society every day. The sad part about it all is people watch some of these shows and they believe that it's okay to be in a constant state of "high drama" where they're backstabbing their way to "the top." This kind of behavior is contributing to the unraveling of society. It's unfortunate because we gleefully watch some of these shows that exploit the downfall of others. Ultimately, this kills inspiration and creativity in the world. Reality shows often give us a skewed view of reality. Shouldn't we wake up and smell the stench?
Picasso at the Met
Have you heard? Picasso is coming to the Met. Yes again. What is it about this guy? He's clearly the most prolific, most famous artist ever. I see his work at every single big art fair and museum I visit. I love his work. Yes, Pablo is the man. He's the only dead man around who can sell out a show. He's the gold standard for artistic fame. Rock on Pablo! http://www.artbookguy.com/index.php?page_id=290
9 By Design
Have you seen the new Bravo-TV show called, "9 By Design"? I'm sitting here watching it again right now. I absolutely love it. It's about NYC designers Robert and Cortney Novogratz, their six kids (with another on the way) and their renovation business called, "Sixx Design." The couple renovates buildings, mainly in New York and turns them into fantastic homes. I cannot say enough about this show. It's like art, architecture and The Brady Bunch all rolled into one great show. New York Magazine did a great write up on them awhile back. What I love most about this couple is their bohemian, visionary lifestyle and their work ethic that backs it all up. I wish them huge, continued success and happiness. Here's a link to the show ... http://www.bravotv.com/9-by-design
Los Angeles Art Book
Is Los Angeles one of the world's top art capitals? A not so new book makes a strong case. I just got the book from the bargain pile at Borders. It's called, "Catalog L.A. Birth of an Art Capital. 1955-1985" by Catherine Grenier. It was published by Chronicle Books in 2007, but it's new to me. I'm still flipping through the book which has both full color and black & white photos. Los Angeles really is a very cool art town. Like New York City, you tend to feel art in the air there ... even if you're nowhere near a gallery or museum. It's the landscape and the attitude. Wealthy art collector Eli Broad is trying to turn L.A. into THE art capital of the world. I must disagree. I think the WORLD should be the art capital of the world. That's how much I love art. Anyway, here's a link for the book on amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Catalog-L-Birth-Capital-1955-1985/dp/0811859347/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1271419053&sr=1-1
How successful has the whole design online movement been? Well, the Financial Times just took a stab at the issue. In short, the article talks about how the web has really revolutionized design and made it much more available to the masses, which I think is great. Isn't this what Charles and Ray Eames would've wanted? However, getting those Jacobsen egg chairs shipped from wherever remains a big challenge. They're BIG and shipping ain't cheap. Still, I think it's great that there are all of these great design websites out there and more are on the way. I may never be able to afford a prefab home designed by architects Marmol & Radziner, but I can check out their website http://marmol-radziner.com/ and dream away. Anyway, here's the Financial Times article link. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/28e491bc-429f-11df-91d6-00144feabdc0.html
Another great international art fair is coming up. Which one is it? Art Chicago, of course. If you love art and you love Chicago, you'll love this great fair. It's more reserved than Art Basel Miami Beach and the Armory Show, but it's still fun and just like those bigger fairs, it also has a few satellite fairs as well. I always encourage people to attend art fairs in their own towns, but I think it's even more important to attend international art fairs. Nothing opens your mind quicker or gives you a broader perspective on life than international art fairs. Yes, they're primarily about money, but art fairs like Art Chicago are fantastic displays of creative talent and humanity represented by galleries from all over the world. I always leave feeling like I've been baptized. Hey, but that's just me. Art Chicago kicks off on April 30th at the Merchandise Mart. Here's a link. http://www.artchicago.com/
One of my absolute favorite things to do is visit art museums/galleries with artists. It's easier for me to find things to write about when I'm alone with my own thoughts, but with artists, I get a whole new perspective. Recently in New York, I visited MOMA and did some gallery visits with artist-friend Wolfgang Stiller. He's extremely insightful and brilliant. He's got a show going on right now in Berlin. Check out his "Matchstick Men." Very cool. His work right now is mainly installation work. He also has a super website. Check it out. I'm really glad he's a friend. http://www.wolfgangstiller.com/
I was struck by the Sunday New York Times obituary that called him, "one of the last living members of the New York school of Abstract Expressionists." Artist and sculptor David Slivka died last Sunday at the age of 95. I'm sorry to say that I had never heard of him, but I felt the need to write these words. It's always especially sad when an artist dies, isn't it? The obit makes it sound as if Slivka's death also signals the end of a great period in art history. I feel a little sad about this because I'll never get to meet Slivka or hear directly from him about what inspired his work. I don't know. I just wanted to pay my respects. Hopefully, we'll all live to be 95 and leave behind a great body of work to show that like Slivka, we were productive and made positive contributions while we walked this earth. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/04/arts/design/04slivka.html?ref=obituaries
Recently, I bought this really cool book called, "L.A. Lofts," by Barbara Thornburg. Even though I don't live in one, I love lofts and the freedom of expression that they represent. Thornburg's book is full of fantastic, full color pages of some great Los Angeles lofts. The overall vibe isn't about home design, but rather a great, artistic way to live your life ... whether you're at home or not. I love supporting art books. This one is worth checking out. Here's a link ... http://www.amazon.com/L-Lofts-Barbara-Thornburg/dp/0811851729/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1270301091&sr=1-1
Can a guy who is a family man and huge football fan also be a great, still-life painter? You bet. I'm talking about Tennessee based artist John Clapp. He's a big, macho guy who creates some of the finest, most academic and delicate still lifes and landscapes around. He's an everyday, working guy who is without pretense nor does he fit the stereotype of the egotistical artist. Of course, many artists are NOT egotistical, but Clapp REALLY isn't. I just wanted to give him a little "shout out." Take a look at his simple, elegant website. http://www.jclappart.com/index.htm
How important is it for artists, designers and writers to have their own style? I think it's very important, but the issue becomes what is your style? For me as a writer, style refers to my own specific, unique way of writing. Ultimately, it means that I'm being true to my own process and voice. If you're practicing that, then your style will be apparent even if it's eclectic. Through the eclecticism, your style will still shine through ... if you're not trying to emulate someone else. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I totally disagree. I think it's a form of thievery and murder, but that's just me. Style is a big benefit of standing in your own truth, but another benefit is confidence. Despite what critics say, if you're being true to your own voice, you're living your highest calling and the opinions of others won't ultimately matter. I think that being true to your own voice can even trump education and artistic training. On that note, here's an artist who definitely has his own voice. Massachusetts based Michael Bailey. I think I have eight of his paintings ... so far. His work has appeared in all of my books. I wrote an essay about him in my first book, "Art In King Size Beds." The essay is called, "The Johnny Depp of Artists." Take a look at his website and you'll see what I mean. http://www.baileyartstudio.com/
Joseph Kucinski's Book
What do you do when an artist asks you to write something for his or her new book? Well, in the case of Portland, Oregon based artist Joseph Kucinski, I didn't even think about it, I just did it. One day after he asked me, I emailed him an essay that I wrote. It came with the greatest of ease. Surprise. Even more gratifying, he loved it. I think he's going to use it as the introduction for the book. Kucinski is an abstract expressionist inspired by jazz. I have about nine of his works, so I just put on some jazz, looked at my Kucinski pieces and out came an essay. Great. Personal history makes this possible. The essay will also appear in my next book. Here's a link to Etsy where Kucinski sells some of his work. http://www.etsy.com/shop/josephkucinski?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=PageTools&utm_campaign=Share
In case you haven't heard of this very cool shoe company, I thought I'd give you a heads up. I just got a new pair of "sneakers" that I love. They're made by a Los Angeles brand called, "Creative Recreation." The firm really seems bent on living "down" to their name ... reinventing sneakers. They're so cool. Their mission encompasses art, travel and high design. Whenever I see something like this, I must support it. It makes me feel like I'm more than just a consumer. This is yet another way to apply art to your everyday life. Art isn't just about hanging a painting on your wall. So, here's a link to their site. Perhaps you'll hop on board. http://www.cr8tiverecreation.com/
Ellen Fisch Photography: Harlem
My friend Ellen Fisch recently opened a new exhibition at Jadite Galleries in NYC called, "Ellen Fisch Photography: Harlem." It's a tribute to the historic section of upper Manhattan that's known to the world as a mecca for African-American artists, musicians, writers, etc. Harlem is currently going through a gentrification as more professionals search for more affordable housing in a district rich in architectural history. I missed Ellen's opening, but I love her dearly and want to support her work. She's a wonderful artist and lovely woman. She also has a great sense of humor and is a fantastic storyteller. Take a look at her short youtube video... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LS-1dA7i-pY
If you're in New York City any time soon, do yourself a favor and go see the Marina Abramovic exhibition, "The Artist Is Present" at MOMA. It's basically a retrospective of this daring and provocative artist. Yes, there is nudity and plenty of it. In fact, as you enter one of the exhibition spaces, you must walk between a live, nude man and woman who are standing and facing one another. You have maybe about six inches (sorry) to spare as you pass between them. There's also a nude woman lying on a table with a skeleton on top of her and a live, nude participant literally mounted high on a wall with a spotlight shining right on them. I attended on Day Two of the show and Abramovic herself did a performance piece, sitting at a table with participants from the audience. I was dying to take part, but the line was too long. I cannot say enough about this exhibition. Yes, nudity is a theme here, but it's about SO much more. It's about confrontation, violence, relationships, love, courage, religion and much more. Here's what I love ... the exhibition isn't so much about nudity as it is about OUR REACTION to nudity. Just brilliant. Abramovic totally "goes there" and in the process, shines the light ON US. By the way, Abramovic must be in her sixties now and I think she's still smokin' hot!