Marketing Mondays: The Pinnacle

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Alexandre Masino, Brumes lumineuses 1, 2010, encaustic monotype on Kozo paper, 13 x 12 inches (33 x 51 cm)

I’ve been thinking about the idea of career success. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about the idea of the artists who are placed at the pinnacle—the very few ones on top. The very distinction of top assumes that something has to be underneath it, supporting it in the case of a structure, or more existentially, part of a larger mass that’s not and may never be the pinnacle. Given the structure of the art world—in which there are just so many galleries, art fairs, grants, art magazines, museums—most artists (and gallerists, curators, critics) are somewhere in the middle, perhaps even at the bottom, of the pile.

In a culture of Top-Ten, One-Hundred Most, best-selling, most famous, newest, youngest, greatest living, and other superlatives, if you’re not on top you have failed. (Who's generating these lists and doling out the superlatives is another issue.)

Art in America, for instance, publishes 10 issues a year. That’s 10 covers. Ten artists. How many artists are there in the United States right now? How many artists each year join their ranks, churned out by art schools? So by conventional standards—the art magazine cover, or other such pinnacles as the Whitney Biennial, the McArthur Grant, the solo show at a blue chip gallery—failure is the default mode.  

But nothing could be farther from the truth. 

Look at the resume of the “average” unsung artist in New York City or elsewhere. There are solo exhibitions, museum shows, grants and awards, residencies, travel abroad with international exhibitions, private collectors and good collections, sales, perhaps even enough sales to support one’s studio or actually pay the bills. Perhaps support oneself entirely. Perhaps even support a family. And some very good work as well. 

So I’d like to suggest a geographical way of thinking about the art world and our place in it: the mountain range. The topography of the mountain range allows for many pinnacles. Among the peaks there are varying degrees of elevation. Over the course of a career there are languid paths and steep grades, broad mesas and narrow ledges. And a fair amount of movement up and down the slopes.  

This concept doesn't make one richer or more well known, of course, but it gives all of us greater latitude to consider and appreciate the talents and achievements of more than the few who are annointed at any one time.


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A Peek at "Lush Geometry"

From Left: Carole Freyz Gutierrez, Richard Bottwin, Louise P. Sloane, Joanne Mattera, Bottwin, Freyz Gutierrez
Ok, well, I'm not too busy to post one panoramic installation shot of Lush Geometry at DM Contemporary in New York City . I'll have more pics next week, including individual works and another gallery full of work by Steven Baris. Now it's back to the studio . . .




I've been busy. Jammed. Crunched. Pressed. Let me meet a few deadlines and then I'll be back to regular blogging next week.


Marketing Mondays: In a Word

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Screen Grab from Google

I've talked about this topic before. And like many such duplicated topics, I try to approach the second time (or the third) in a different way. Today's word is No. If you wish to be more polite about it, you may say “No, thank you” or “I’m sorry, I’m unable to accommodate your request at this time.” If you’ve tossed politeness to the wind you may have a stronger negative response. But if you don't learn to use it, you're going to feel like this doormat:

I’m talking, of course, about requests for donations of art, for invitations to teach or demonstrate that come with no payment or with an honorarium that doesn't honor your abilities in any way, or for requests from non artists to give up hard-won studio time. No is particularly important when your artwork would otherwise be devalued in donation (typically it sells for lower than market rate) and when your time is viewed as so worthless that you should be expected to give it to everyone who requests it (“We’ll, it’s not like you have to leave work”).

You don’t have to say No to everything—indeed it feels good to give, and it’s important to be able to support good causes—but you want to do so on your own terms, in a way that feels right to you.

When the “be-nice” person inside you is saying should, should, should, even though every muscle in your body is poised to run in the other direction, that’s when to say No.

Over to you: Do you have difficulty saying No? Or have you learned to be negative in a positive way? Please share your stories and advice.

Related posts:

Don't say No: If you have found this or other Marketing Mondays posts useful, please consider supporting this blog with a donation. A PayPal Donate button is located on the Sidebar at right. Thank you. (Or click here and scroll down the sidebar.)


Join me at "Lush Geometry" Tonight


At dm contemporary: Diamond Life 18, 2012, encaustic on panel, 22.5 x 22.5 inches

Where 39 E. 29th Street, NYC
When   April 20 - June 1
Opening  Friday, April 20, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. I'll be there

From the gallery: dm contemporary is pleased to present Lush Geometry, an exhibition featuring five artists--Steven Baris, Richard Bottwin, Carole Freysz Gutierrez, Joanne Mattera, and Louise P. Sloane--whose works embrace the visual language of minimalism and geometric abstraction in a manner that is more sensuous than austere. Click sidebar image for more info.

Diamond Life 17, 2012, encaustic on panel, 22.5 x 22.5 inches

Diamond Life 19, 2012, encaustic on panel, 22,5 x 22.5 inches


Not About Textiles: Apfelbaum, Burr, Sandback

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Polly Apfelbaum at D'Amelio Gallery

Tom Burr at Bortolami Gallery

Fred Sandback at David Zwirner Gallery
I’m being perverse with this post, because the only thing these three artists have in common is the textile material they use: cotton velvet for Polly Apfelbaum, wool blankets for Tom Burr, and acrylic thread for Fred Sandback. For “textile artists” this would be reason enough to show together. I’m doing the opposite: showing them together to make the point about how different they are.  
Apfelbaum is by now so well known for her “fallen paintings”—floor installations of hand dyed and cut pieces of cotton velvet—that they hardly need explanation. She is something of the matron saint of self-described fiber artists because in dyeing and cutting fabric, she manipulates textiles in familiar ways. Yet in taking the medium and intent out of the textile arena, she has a larger, non-adjectival career.

Two views of Apfelbaum's installation, Flatterland Funkytown

Above: As you enter the gallery
Below: From the back of the gallery, looking diagonally across the space

In her show, Flatterland Funkytown, at the newly name-shortened D’Amelio Gallery, Apfelbaum places hundreds of textile elements around the gallery’s two support columns. Painting and sculpture, intent and chance, flatness in a dimensional space: all of these things come together in a visual feast of color and pattern that’s visually volumetric. You'll have to control your urge to dive in.  Funkytown is up through April 28.

I don’t know if Tom Burr would describe his work as painting, but his tacked blankets at Bortolami Gallery certainly read as gestural abstractions. The gallery press release describes Burr’s “visual exploration of the physical and psychological dimension of objects.” His blankets take the comfort of a familiar object and make the viewing experience compellingly uncomfortable. I love that.

Installation view of Burr's show, Deep Wood Drive

Below: Untitled Pink Piece, 2012, Wool blanket and upholstery tacks on plywood, 72 x 72 x 3 inches

Burr has been having a moment lately, both in New York and Miami (see here, here,and here). Deep Wood Drive is at Bortolami Gallery through April 26.

Fred Sandback defines space with the merest hint of linearity. In Decades: Works 1968-2000 at the David Zwirner Gallery, we see installations that represent each of the decdes in the sculptor’s career. Of all the minimalists, Sandback offers poetry and stringency in equal measure. In defining space in a way that’s sometimes barely visible, he offers a through-the-looking glass experience, putting you there but not there, and changing scale by the taut stretch of a thread. In addition to the installations I found interesting a vitrine of his notebooks,which offered a peek at the conceptualization of his work. I photographed one open page below.
I wrote a long blog post about Sandback's 2009 show at Zwirner, so here I'll just show you some installation shots.

16 Variations of 2 Diagonal Lines, 1972, yellow acrylic yarn

In vitrine: one of several drawings relating to the the 16 Variations installation

Another view of the 16 Variations installation

Through the doorway you look into the large gallery that holds the installation below . . .

Untitled (Sculptural Study, Four-part Mikado Construction), 1991/2011, aqua acrylic yarn

Detail below.

Untitled (Sculptural Study, Twelve-part Vertical Construction), 1987/2012; black, blue and light yellow acrylic yarn
All dimensions are situational.

Decades is at David Zwirner Gallery through April 21. If you don't get to the gallery, definitely check out the exhibition online; the gallery's pictures are much better than what could take with my little point-and-shoot, and there's much more information as well.


Marketing Mondays: The Artist's Agent

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Recently I got several emails asking about artists' agents, a topic with which I am unfamiliar.  One was from a Midwest artist who was represented by local and regional galleries but who, being unfamiliar with New York City, felt she needed an agent to get her work seen by gallerists here. I've edited her query to its essence:

 "How do I find an agent to sell my work?"

I remembered that Ed Winkleman had written a post in 2007 on the topic (Double Agents and Secret Tools of the Trade) so I recommended it to her. Ed's take: "I've never once encountered any gallerist who was even remotely interested in talking with an emerging artist's "agent." This is primarily because the gallerist sees it as their job to serve as the person or business authorized to act on the artist's behalf (or in other words, the "agent") . . ."

I know of one artist who is very pleased to be represented by an agent. He's had shows in Europe as a result of his agent's efforts, but I couldn't vouch for the quality of the venues. Here, for instance, the agent has booked him into showrooms, hotel lobbies and cultural institutions rather than in conventional art world venues. And I heard anecdotally about another such agent who arranges art exhibitions for the hospitality industry--i.e. hotel lobbies, cruise lines, even yachts. None of these venues has anything to do with the New York City art scene as we know it, though I understand sales were made.

Based on my limited knowledge, it would seem that having an agent and being gallery represented are two entirely, and not particularly compatible, scenarios. So I wonder if we might do a little crowd sourcing today.

. Is anyone represented by an agent?
. Is anyone represented by an agent and a gallery?
. If so, what does an agent do for you that a gallery doesn't?
. Does having an agent interfere with finding a gallery?
. How does the commission work? What percentage does the agent take versus the gallery?
. Do you get the artist's 50 percent, or  is the pie sliced up differently?
. Does anyone use an agent for non-gallery sales such as print designs, or licensing images?
. If you're a dealer, have you worked with an artist's agent in showing the work of an artist?
. If you're an agent, would you tell us how you work with galleries on behlf of your artist client?

As always, anonymous comments are welcome if they add to the discussion, but I won't empower hit-and-run attackers.


Sticky Business

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I’ve been aware of Marietta Hoferer’s elegant tape-on-paper abstractions for some time. Indeed, I’ve posted about them here, and included them in Textility, a show I co-curated with Mary Birmingham at the Visual Art Center of New Jersey recently. But seeing in a period of several days works by three other artists who use tape, this post took shape.

Hoferer's work is so subtle, it’s hard to see it in photographs, which is why I’ve pulled images from her website. This detail shows the mosaic of reinforced plastic tape that forms a pattern

 Marietta Hoferer, C3, pencil and tape on paper, 36 x 36 inches
Detail below

Here, all the artists use some version of plastic tape—reinforced packing tape or the clear or brown stuff that’s used to keep the contents of boxes from spilling out. What appeals to me about the work done by each of these artists is that the material is handled differently and well, suggesting that it’s more than a gimmick. Hoferer remains the gold standard—or the tape standard—for me, but here's a look at what else I saw and liked.

At the Independent Art Fair in March: Rob Pruitt at Gavin Brown, New York City. Everything is painted silver and wrapped with tape, or covered with aluminum foil

 Detail below

 At the Volta art fair in March: Mark Khaisman at Pentimenti Gallery, Philadelphia. The artist did portraits, too (visible in the background, above) but it was the chair I found compelling

Brown plastic packing tape with a light source behind the image
Detail below

 Charles Spurrier, Pink Bombs the Moon,  tape, pigment, paper photographs, steel; at Thatcher Projects, New York City

Detail below

I’m afraid to look too far for artists who use duct tape, but they’re out there.


Marketing Mondays: "Helping Artists Become Artists"

Image by LiminalMike, from the Internet

Agnes Gund, a force in the art world, wrote a piece for the Huffington Post recently: Helping Artists Become Artists. I like the sentiment, but there’s a bit of the noblesse oblige in her tone, understandable in that she’s a wealthy woman who has supported the arts. Don’t get me wrong; I appreciate everything she has done. We don’t have that many allies, after all.

In her article Gund talks about institutional opportunities aimed at artists on a local level, of public art opportunities, and of what she calls “artist-to-artist” initiatives in which “wise and rewarded artists are mounting innovative projects to find future talent.” While none of those ideas is new, they are all good. And welcome.  

Without being adversarial—because, let me say this again, we can use many more people like Agnes Gund in the world—I think the majority of "helping" comes from artists themselves. Because, really, how many of the thousands of artists out there are helped by a benefactor or charitable institution? Here's what I wrote in response to the article:

Due respect to Ms. Gund, but the biggest help to artists is what we do for ourselves. There is no place at the table for anyone in the art world; you have to carve it out for yourself. Become entreprene­urial: Create a pop-up show; write a book, a zine, a blog; figure out what other artists need and offer that service at a reasonable price. Don't be limited by "rules" since there are none, but be respectful of the people who have helped you, and be realistic about the businesses and institutio­ns that exist, because most of them are not all that well funded either. One other thing: As in fashion and entertainm­ent, the media loves to tout the "most famous," the "Top 10" and the flavor of the moment, but that's an unhelpful construct for 99 percent of us (maybe more). Create a support structure around you where everyone has a flavor.
So, let me ask all of you:
. How have you been helped--have you gotten grants and institutional support, or have you been pulling yourself up the ladder one rung at a time?
. Where do you, or would you, go for help?
. What advice would you offer all of us about finding and receiving help? 
. Equally important: How are you offering help to other artists?

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Some Sculpture

Armory: Esther Klas sculpture at Peter Blum Gallery, New York City .
The four sculptors whose work you see here are all working in a human scale. Three had work on exhibition during Armory week; one is included in the Whitney Biennial.
Esther Klas’s roughhewn forms combine the geometric and the organic in roughly equal measure. They feel monumental despite their relatable size.  Peter Blum showed this one work, above and below, at the Armory fair but featured an installation of Klas’s sculptures in Miami.

Another view of Esther Klas sculpture

Volta: Rachel Beach at Blackston Gallery, New York City

I’ve been a fan of Rachel Beach’s work ever since I saw it at a small art fair in Manhattan a couple of years ago during Armory week. Then Beach was showing her complex carved wood forms suggestive of architectural moulding, but doing so in a reductive way: by isolating and presenting one element in each work. The work has gotten more geometric over time, so that now it’s more about the architectural structure and less about the decorative aspect of it. (Not that “decorative” was or is a bad thing.) Beach's balance of form and surface, color and natural wood, and the complement of works on paper, made for one of the most compelling single-artist exhibitions at the Volta fair.
Two more views of Rachel Beach sculptures at Volta

Whitney Biennial: Vincent Fecteau sculpture against the complement of Andrew Masullo paintings

Vincent Fecteau has several sculptures in the Whitney Biennial, up now. When I first saw his work at Matthew Marks Gallery a few years ago, I was smitten. How to describe them? If Frank Geary designed car engines, Fecteau’s sculpture is what they’d look like. As with the other sculpture shown in this post, the scale is approachably human. The Whitney info tells us that Fecteau made clay models of these works, then cast them in gypsum cement, reworked the surface with resin clay and then painted it.

Above: Closer view of the green sculpture
Below: Opposite-side view of the blue

Armory: Arlene Shechet sculptures on integral pedestals, with cast paper sculpture on wall, at the Jack Shainman Gallery, New York City

Arlene Shechet is having a major moment right now. Good! It’s much deserved. Working primarily in clay, but also in cast crystal (see Textility) and cast cotton pulp, she is creating formidable forms. I showed the installation of her work in Some Armory Week Installations, as Jack Shainman did a beautiful job of displaying it, but here I’ve singled out a few sculptures.

Below: Another view with a detail of the surface


Marketing Mondays: Getting From A to B


The anonymous little cartoon, above, made the rounds on Facebook a while ago. Then recently I saw a post by my friend, Bernard Klevickas, which contained the image you see below (and which I reproduce with his permission). Both feature a desirable area separated from where the viewer is. What I love about Klevickas's third schematic is that he has created a bridge. See how he ripped up a little flap from the visual chaos and used it to cross over to success? Sure it's a metaphor, but the self reliance it expresses is very real.

Since I’ve been producing some rather long posts for Marketing Mondays lately, I thought I’d let these twin images get the point across with a minimum of words and then ask you to comment on these ideas:

1. Professionally speaking, what do you want that’s outside your comfort zone?

2. How are you going get it?