Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

A river runs through it

riverbed

“Riverbed” at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art

The drama of the work is unleashed only by the viewer’s interaction with it. When, at the official unveiling last week, I spotted two small children gleefully trundling a boulder into the middle of the artificial stream I felt a lurch of horror – and not just because the children happened to be my own. So ingrained is our expectation of the imperative to look but not touch when encountering an artwork, that there is something disorienting about a piece that so openly invites intervention. Indeed, Riverbed demands it; every visitor who walks across the unstable surface of this artificial landscape necessarily effects a transformation in it, causes damage of some kind.”    –The Telegraph

 

 

Embrace at Burning Man

embrance

“Embrace” at Burning Man on August 26, 2014. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart)

 

Now it’s gone, up in flames at the end of the Burning Man festival, but it looked wonderful while it was still standing, at least judging from this shot. Read more about it here.

Beautiful bonus

photo (5)

 

A nice bonus of participating in the Tallahassee International turned out to be the first-rate catalog they published of the exhibit. Each artist was given equal space with a full-color plate and the opportunity for an artist’s statement about the work. In the back, they’ve offered a brief profile of each artist with a listing of awards. Outside of the marvelous catalogs Manifest produces for each of its shows, this is the highest-quality catalog I’ve gotten for any show I’ve participated in over the past seven or eight years.

Perceptual painters at Manifest

David Campbell's contribution to Perceptual Painters at Manifest

David Campbell, in Perceptual Painters at Manifest

A show I’d love to see, if Cincinnati were any closer.

From the Manifest website:

This exhibition of paintings by two groups of artists sharing a common approach to their art making is one of six selected from among 165 proposals submitted for consideration for Manifest’s tenth season. Manifest is proud to showcase this tour de force of perceptual painting, and to welcome thirteen artists from the Perceptual Painters collective to Cincinnati. The exhibit, proposed by David Campbell, was conceived to explore and celebrate the common ground shared between the Perceptual Painters group, all from outside the Cincinnati area with many either from, or having crossed paths in, Philadelphia, with a group of five artists currently or originally from the Cincinnati area. Furthermore, it pleases us to share that the five artists in the ‘Cincinnati Group’ are Manifest alum, having exhibited at the gallery or instructed courses or led life drawing sessions in our Drawing Center program over many years. Most continue to be involved in our programming today. The outreach of the Perceptual Painters to invite these artists in our own community to share in this exhibition suggests Cincinnati has a part in this important contemporary movement, and that Manifest has fostered a rich environment in which this can happen.

Berkshire landscape

landscape
©7/14 r potak
Berkshire Landscape
11 x 14″ 
acrylic on treated canvas paper
 

Art is an ark

photo (3)There’s Spoon and then there’s everything else in contemporary music. When Parquet Courts released Light Up Gold, after a few listens, I thought: hm, look out, Spoon. I emailed the hosts of Sound Opinions praising them for ranking the Parquet Courts debut as one of the brightest moments in music last year. Yet I regret to confess that I actually ended that email with the something like the following words, knowing Jim and Greg love Spoon: “Move over, Spoon. There’s a new sheriff in town.” (Me with my giddy crush on “Master of My Craft”.) Though the second effort from Parquet Courts has a few tracks that rank with the best from Light Up Gold, in general it left me a little crestfallen. It sounded as if they were being petulantly difficult, upping the noise and monotony—which worked on their first album. Now they sound as if they’re daring you to not to like them—just to prove they didn’t care if anybody would pay to hear them assert their defiant low-fi integrity. I still love them on principle, but I’m not as in love with them now, if you know what I’m saying. (I once had a pet theory that Sinead O’Conner shaved her head because she was too beautiful to get taken seriously with a full head of hair.) In other words, PC seems to be pushing back against the risks of popularity they know they might achieve if they upped the production quality to Spoon level—which they do perfectly, just to show you they can, on one or two tracks from Sunbathing Animals. If Parquet Courts would just relax and make the irresistibly gut-punching music they know how to make, pop-punk songs offset by complex, poetic lyrics, in such a seemingly effortless way, imagine a concert where they would open for Spoon. Who could top that?

That’s a long way to say They Want My Soul may have already become my favorite Spoon album. Better than anyone recording music right now, Continue reading ‘Art is an ark’

Selling without selling out

An inventory of Gertrude Stein's favorite objects

An inventory of Gertrude Stein’s favorite objects

Interesting post from Brain Pickings on how to succeed–in the sense of making money (in my book, Van Gogh succeeded even though he wasn’t a “success”)–without lowering your standards:

 . . . for many working artists, who straddle the balance between creativity and commerce, art swells into a form of uncomfortable self-consciousness . . . cartoonist Hugh MacLeod captured this perfectly in proclaiming that “art suffers the moment other people start paying for it.” Such sentiments, argues artist Lisa Congdon in Art, Inc.: The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist (public library), are among the most toxic myths we subscribe to as a culture and reflect a mentality immeasurably limiting for creative people.

It includes a nice compare-and-contrast guide to the “Starving Artist Mindset” and the “Thriving Artist Mindset.”

Never give up

make your bedmake your bedThis is one of the best commencement addresses I’ve ever heard, and though it isn’t addressed to artists, it certainly applies to anyone who struggles in obscurity with few tangible rewards. From Admiral William H. McRaven, who has been a Navy SEAL for 36 years. “Every morning in SEAL training our instructors would show up in our barracks room and the first thing they would do was inspect my bed. Every morning we were required to make our beds to perfection. It seemed ridiculous at the time since we were aspiring to be real warriors. But if you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day and will encourage you to do another task and another and another, and by the end of the day that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. The little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you’ll never be able to do the big things right. If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed. If you come home from a miserable day you will come home to a made bed. A bed you made.”

It applies to painting as well. What you make is what makes you.

Bricksy

Bansky pastiche, done with Lego blocks

Banksy pastiche, done with Lego blocks

A Banksy re-imagined (in a Lego medium) at thebrickfantastic.com.

I’m shamelessly stealing this link from Heather Armstrong’s blog, Dooce, which is worthwhile simply for her fantastic photographs of her kids and dog. The frisson of her potty-mouthed Mormonism is cool and occasionally she lists a ton of odd/fun/interesting things she’s finds while maundering around the Internet. She’s like Kottke; she must spend half her life surfing the Web, she comes up with such randomly good stuff. Or she’s got Snowden on retainer, combing through his archives for her.

 

Humans of New York

 

Unidentified NY painter on Instagram

Unidentified NY painter on Instagram

“It seems that the more I tried to make my life about the pursuit of art, the more money controlled my life: collecting unemployment insurance, the humiliation of borrowing money from friends and family, tossing and turning at night while trying to figure out how to pay the rent. To survive I had to work hard jobs and afterwards I’d feel too tired and too stressed to paint. It’s very hard to create under those circumstances. Creativity is a delicate process. Often times I wonder if I should have just pursued a career for the first half of my life, obtained some degree of financial security, and then transitioned into art.” from Humans of New York instagram feed

If you wait to make money and then paint, you’ll never paint. Gotta juggle.

Signature style

albrecht_durer_signature_monogram_necktie-rece9d3580b2244b9bf08dd07899ac993_v9whb_8byvr_324Business Insider ranks Albrecht Durer as having the fourth coolest signature in human history. For some reason, it always looks kind of samurai to me. Go Al. Ahead of Picasso, but behind Banksy. (That’s just wrong.) Somebody needs to unseat John Hancock.

Current exhibitions

Baboon, detail

Baboon, detail

I have work in several exhibitions this month and into September:

Next April I’ll be showing new work in a two-artist exhibition at Oxford Gallery.

 

Stalled, but still looking

 

Rochester, from the roof of the Genessee Brew House

So it isn’t Niagara Falls, but it’s our falls.

After a few months of either scrambling to put together and then take down the solo show in Chelsea, as well as working feverishly on a book proposal with Peter Georgescu, I’ve got a little down time between writing sessions. I haven’t painted in weeks, and my batteries are recharged, which is good, because I have a two-artist show at Oxford Gallery in April, and I need to do more than a dozen new paintings for it, but at the moment I can’t. Soon though.

I did a little yard work this weekend. On Saturday afternoon, after a brief thunder shower, I sat under our cherry tree that drops one or two butterscotch-colored leaves every day, as it always does starting in late July, getting a head start on autumn mid-way through the summer. It’s been especially cool for about a week here in the eye of the polar vortex, but aside from a little too much rain for a few days, I’m loving the weather. I think our cherry, which serves as a huge beach umbrella over our brick patio, has been fooled, at night, into believing it’s October already.

It’s been a summer of fulfillment in our yard, bushes and trees and plants I put in back in 2004 have matured, fully grown or at least as large as I’d like them to be. Everything in the garden and lawn seems developed now, after all these years of tending, feeding, pruning. In the spring, I raised the beds around the patio and wheelbarrowed half a yard of topsoil into the boxes I built with pressure-treated lumber and anodized door hinges, so that the lengths will form a half-circle around the back of the bed. As a result, the dahlias are nearly seven feet tall already in some places, because of the new soil and the excellent drainage, and everything else is thriving in these intermittent showers we’re getting, along with plenty of sun: rudbeckia, phlox, begonias, campanula, shasta daisies, nasturtiums and a few petunias here and there. Nothing exotic or labor intensive, but I’m looking at all of this growth now Continue reading ‘Stalled, but still looking’

Butler Midyear: see it if you can

Miracles of Modern Science, John Younger, oil, 68" x 48"

Miracles of Modern Science, John Younger, oil, 68″ x 48″

I was pleased to be included in the 78th Midyear Exhibition at the Butler Institute, and to have been awarded an Honorable Mention for Carpe Diem: Autumn’s Last Flowers, which was one of the works in my solo show at Viridian Artists this summer. The catalog for the show arrived today, and it was heartening to see so much great work in the exhibition. I made it into last year’s Midyear as well, yet the work in that show I found a little discouraging, though chalked it up to the fact that I was looking at thumbnail reproductions. This year, though, even at such a small scale, the bulk of the art looks great. There’s a marked emphasis on the human figure and portraiture, and some of my favorites in the show depict people set in unexpected settings, or presented in surprising ways, all rendered with amazing skill: Miracles of Modern Science, by John Younger, Brooklyn, by Marc Winnat, and Earth Angels, by Allan Charles Orr. It’s cheering to see so much representational art, many of them beautiful in a way that isn’t cloying. Plenty of abstract work got into the show. Even without the award, I was honored to be included.

Sex, fighting, art and gambling

freud

In that order? From today’s Book Review:

“Freud’s early works were strongly marked by Morris’s influence, with an exquisitely linear style, brittle and subtly exaggerated. What you remember about them — and they are mostly portraits — are the subjects’ wide, haunted eyes. One sitter later recalled how “he always started with an eyeball, then he imprisoned the eye and then an eyebrow, then a nostril.” Freud hadn’t much money in those days, but he never lacked for patrons or for opportunities to pursue his “violently closely held belief to carry on with lords and ladies,” as one of his daughters put it. He enjoyed the lowlife just as much. By the mid-’50s, though, his art dissatisfied him. “I was getting approval for something that wasn’t of great account,” he felt, and he found his way toward the more painterly, rather clotted and lugubrious style that made him rich and famous. Freud recalled how Kenneth Clark, the former director of the National Gallery, “wrote a card saying that I had deliberately suppressed everything that made my work remarkable . . . and ended, ‘I admire your courage.’ I never saw him again.”

Clark was fundamentally right, I think, and yet Freud remains a fascinating artistic oddity, his work unlike anyone else’s. This brief biography by Phoebe Hoban — the author of full-length lives of Alice Neel and Jean-Michel Basquiat — negotiates with equanimity a life that seems a disorderly maelstrom of sex, fighting, art, gambling, all obsessively pursued and so mixed up it’s sometimes hard to tell one from the other.”

Going too far

vonnegutAs a follow-up to my last post, a friend sent me this:

Kurt Vonnegut:  “…my father, who struggled to become a painter after he was forced into early and unwelcome retirement by the Great Depression. He had reason to be optimistic about his new career, since the early stages of his pictures, whether still lifes or portraits or landscapes, were full of pow. Mother, meaning to be helpful, would say of each one: “That’s really wonderful, Kurt. Now all you have to do is finishit.” He would then ruin it.”

Improving on mastery

answers for aristotle

This is interesting, from Brain Pickings, a quote from a book on intuition, Answers for Aristotle:

Research on acquiring skills shows that, roughly speaking, and pretty much independently of whether we are talking about a physical activity or an intellectual one, people tend to go through three phases while they improve their performance. During the first phase, the beginner focuses her attention simply on understanding what it is that the task requires and on not making mistakes. In phase two, such conscious attention to the basics of the task is no longer needed, and the individual performs quasi-automatically and with reasonable proficiency. Then comes the difficult part. Most people get stuck in phase two: they can do whatever it is they set out to do decently, but stop short of the level of accomplishment that provides the self-gratification that makes one’s outlook significantly more positive or purchases the external validation that results in raises and promotions. Phase three often remains elusive because while the initial improvement was aided by switching control from conscious thought to intuition—as the task became automatic and faster—further improvement requires mindful attention to the areas where mistakes are still being made and intense focus to correct them. Referred to as ‘deliberate practice,’ this phase is quite distinct from mindless or playful practice.

This reminds me of a point in painting where the painting is good enough, or at least as good as one’s work has been up to this point in my life, and there’s a fork in the road: either you consider it finished or you keep investing time in the areas where it seems to fall short, upon close inspection, but in ways that only I would probably notice. That seems like a self-indulgent or risky investment of time, since it isn’t clear that more work will make the painting more effective in the eyes of anyone else. Knowing what’s “good enough” is, in fact, part of what makes certain quickly executed paintings great. They do their work so economically that more effort would drain the life out of the marks already applied to the surface. I find myself at that fork in the road while doing a lot of paintings now. This passage from Answers for Aristotle also seems to point toward a period of mastery when you realize you can reliably do whatever you have chosen to do, up to that point in your painting life, but then you find yourself asking the question “This is what I can do. What it is I most deeply want to do with all these acquired skills?”

Art’s permission to stare

wallace shawn 2

Wallace Shawn

“I have an enormous appetite to see life as I know it presented in front of my eyes.

That seems strange—after all, why don’t I just walk out into the street? But the thing is that you can’t really look at things out in the street, much less in your own apartment or in your friends’ apartments. You can look in the theater in a completely different way from the way you can look in life. You’re allowed to really look at a play—even stare.

In life, you are a character in the scene. When you’re a character in the scene, you can’t really look at the scene. If someone’s talking to you, you must respond appropriately. You can’t just stare at the person. You can’t look at life with the degree of attention and focus that you can employ when you look at a play, because you have to participate. And the people you’re staring at would find it rude. But if you’re sitting in an audience watching a scene, you can focus your entire being on looking at that scene. It’s a very special privilege.

In . . .  Les Éphémères, they had a scene where a fisherman and his wife and some other people have taken their children on an outing, and they come home, and they put the kids to bed. The kids are already asleep—they’re very young children—and they carry them in asleep, and they put them to bed. It takes probably fifteen minutes, or at least ten. No talking. Now, I have very little interest in family life, in children, et cetera. If you said, We’re now going to do a ten-minute scene about putting children to bed, I would be bored before you even finished the sentence. But it was so true and so real and so interesting. It was beautiful, and I was moved by it.”

–Wallace Shawn, The Paris Review

Leonardo was a loser

 

difficult yearsGreat short video on working in obscurity. Leonardo: fail, fail, fail, fail, fail . . . success. “John Coltrane practiced the saxophone feverishly every single day for seventeen years before he got his first big hit . . . ” A previous video shows you a whole rogue’s gallery of losers in their twenties who eventually quit losing. “Leonardo got his big break when he was 46.”

Simple hearts

flaubert's parrot“Works of art . . . (create) about them a confluence of simple hearts, a community united not in what they are . . . but in the collective mystery of what they are not and now find embodied before them. Unfortunately, the democracy of simple hearts is founded on the dangerous assumption that gorgeous parrots, hewn from what we lack . . . will continue to make themselves visible and available to us. But this is not necessarily so. Flaubert is dead, and the disciplines of desire have lost their urgency in the grand salons of comfort and privilege we have created for the arts. The self-congratulatory rhetoric of sensibilite continues to perpetuate itself, and in place of gorgeous parrots, we now content ourselves with the ghostly successors of Marie Antoinette’s peasant village, tastefully installed within the walls of Versailles.”

–Dave Hickey, Air Guitar, “Simple Hearts”