Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Recapping New Yorker Fiction / Real Photography at Steven Kesher

Demystifying. Fun. Ostentatiously high-brow. Too short. Still a show worth seeing. 

As for how the relationships between narratives and pictures evolve, while art work is generally chosen to accompany a story, the process sometimes occurs in reverse. For example, art critic and fiction writer A.M. Homes based her story “Raft in Water, Floating” on Malerie Marder’s photograph “Untitled” (1998).
When the two appeared side by side in the June 21, 1999 issue, I recall liking the picture so much that I thought of mounting it on the wall. I’m not sure how common this impulse is, but the fact that a show based on this very idea exists suggests I might not have been alone. Though disappointingly short (just under an hour) the panel gave me a little more insight on an editorial process that so frequently evokes such reactions.
The full post is up on Art Fag City.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Ai Weiwei Released

Man oh man. Do a google image search of yourself, and you know funny's on the way.
Welcome news. A statement released by Xinhua, the PROC's official news agency, didn't offer a lot of details (citing "his good attitude in confessing his crimes as well as a chronic disease he suffers from"), but it's still worth reading about on HyperallergicArt Fag City, and the Guardian


Sylvia Plachy. Lola, 1992. 14 x 11 inches. Archival pigment print. Appeared with "The Albanian Writer's Union...," in December 2005.
Steven Kasher has up an exhibition of photographs that have accompanied short stories in The New Yorker since 1998. Tomorrow (June 23rd) from 6 to 8, a panel discussion will be taking place at the gallery with A.M. Homes (a fiction contributor), Malerie Marder (a contributing photographer), Elisabeth Biondi (a former Visuals editor), and Deborah Treisman (TNY's Fiction editor).

The gallery is located at 521 West 23 Street. You should go.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Check This Out, White Liberal

Again unable to choose a more appropriate photo for this post, I've included this portrait of author John McPhee. A prize of $10 will be awarded (again, no joke) to anyone who can suggest a fitting caption. Email me at
Whenever There is Doubt by Reidsinger

Track listings are available on request. Enjoy.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Kevin Curran Interview: Part II

Lacking an appropriate photo for this installment, I've instead included this still from the film Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo. A prize of $10 will be awarded to anyone who can suggest a caption relating the content of the interview to the choreographic stylings of Adolfo Quinones. No joke. Email me.

Click here to read the first installment of my interview with Kevin Curran, Bushwick-based artist and curatorial director of The Laundromat.

Reid Singer: What parallels are there, if any, between your curating style and your own work?

Kevin Curran: Well, it’s interesting that you brought up this whole identity issue thing, because when I went to grad school, I found myself sitting in the studio, a straight white dude, from upstate New York. There’s nothing special about that. No angle there. Then I started thinking: “What is that all about, the culture that’s at least unique to my own life?” I guess I used to think (and I was also a philosophy major), “An artist should be making these big philosophical statements.” Or I should be, somehow, really serious. The experience in grad school was that it allowed me to let go of that. It’s like, “I don’t have to cure AIDS. I don’t have to make one big piece.” I certainly don’t want to point out the obvious. I don’t want to preach to the choir. I don’t want to make work that’s like: “Yeah. Killing kittens is bad.”

RS: You mean, explicitly political work?

KC: Yeah. I feel like a lot of that of the work that artists make like that doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t make anything better for anybody. I don’t see myself doing that.

RS: Either in your work as an exhibitor or in what you’re making?

KC: No. I don’t want it to be like that. I don’t want art to be a cudgel. I don’t want it to be like that at all. I think it should be something you think about, or connect with, or have some connection with, and a lot of times it’s nice when it’s something you haven’t imagined yourself. With some of my favorite artists, when I look at their work, I think: “I could never make that work. I would never make that. I could never imagine that thing.” That surprise, for me, is the nice thing.

I guess it’s easier to talk about work that you don’t like. It’s more satisfying a lot of the time to find work that you don’t like. It’s the same process of defining the positive while you’re doing it in a negative way, like, “This is not what looks good.”
I think we all live in a time where sincerity is particularly...people think you’re kind of cheesy if you’re really sincere. To be sophisticated, you’re more like, cynical, and ironic, and blah blah blah. I guess that’s a caricature of it, but...

RS: Of the stuff that I’ve seen here, a lot of it can have an ironic bent, not an ironic reading, but...

KC: Well, if you think about Alexa’s show...

RS: I’m thinking of that in particular.

KC: I think that there’s a weird thing that happened there. There’s two parts to this thing. There’s Alexa, who in my mind, is just really interested in observing people, ‘cause she’s from Germany. She’s not from here. I don’t see her picking people because, “Oh, it’s going to be funny to record these two old Jewish ladies talking, because they’re old and Jewish, and they talk like that.” To me she’s interested in everybody’s personal life, as beyond what you see when you see them in the subway.

RS: She was extra deliberate, I couldn’t help but notice, about filtering that through people who didn’t look anything like the people [whose conversations had been transcribed].

KC: Those were her moves. If you read her transcripts, she seemed to be going for a variety. She would also try to take out the information on the transcript. They wouldn’t say ethnicity or anything. It would just say, roughly, the age, male or female, ‘cause she doesn’t want to get into that stuff. But then she gets these improv guys in here, and they get out of control.
We talked about that a lot afterward. For me, it was interesting to see the contrast between when I read it, the experience of myself reading it, and what happens in my own mind, my own imagination. It was like reading a book as opposed to watching a TV program. You fill in more information on your own. Then, these improv people, they just wanted to go for laughs. 

They just were trying to blow it up. They were exaggerating everything. They couldn’t help themselves. And Alexa, she really tried to get them to just stick with the program and not embellish, nothing too crazy. It was just: “Be a vessel from these people.” Not to use these people, somehow, as leverage for laughs.

She was a little disappointed in how they really just went for laughs and how they just sort of lapsed into improv-actor-mode comedy-hour-mode. Like I said before, she wasn’t trying to make these people like the butt of a joke, or somehow, “This is funny ‘cause it’s making fun of these people for being what they are.”

For her, she’s actually interested in what they are, ‘cause they’re different, and it’s a new place for her. I mean, she’s been living here for a long time, but still, her kind of mode is a very observational. A lot of her photography is like that, too. It’s like, “I’m going to show you the thing that you didn’t see yourself. This is something that you missed.” And that’s an old trope of photography, but she’s got kind of a quirkiness to what she selects to photograph, like gum on the sidewalk, or bird shit. And it is kind of boring in the sense of having seen that move a million times with photography, but she’s got a pretty unique voice.

RS: As far as a personal politics or a personal “take,” or agenda, that’s acceptable to you?

KC: Yeah. And I think it actually helps that she’s not American, dude.

RS: She can objectify things in a way?

KC: I guess so. Maybe if she was doing the same work in Germany it would be much easier to fall into this trap of commentary. I feel like, at least my sense of it, she’s not trying to make a commentary. She’s just more collecting.

RS: Could you talk a little bit about Naturaleza Muerta?

KC: Here we are in Bushwick. It’s like a microcosm, and it’s pretty cool. It’s kind of exotic and it’s cool, and a lot of the galleries in our neighborhood, similar to me, are not gallerists professionally. They’re just kind of doing their own thing. Also, most of their programming is from Brooklyn. From here.

RS: From nearby.

KC: Yeah. I think part of what I’m trying to do that’s a little different is to connect this location with other places, which is a good segue into this thing I mentioned earlier, which is this gallery I work with in Tokyo. This guy is named Taka Masuzawa. He basically runs an antiques store.

He’s a young guy. He’s in his late 30s. I met him because I had a show in his space. He clears out all the antiques and he also uses that space as a provisional gallery, similar to what I do. It’s a little bit different setup. We sort of have the same philosophy. We want to do this kind of program where we’re bridging from there to here. So I’m picking these young artists, and I wanted him to guest curate a show here, and I’m going to curate a show there.

RS: And you feel a certain unity with gallerists like him in Tokyo, or Mexico City, or Denmark?

KC: Well, yeah. The sort of do-it-yourself, and doing it with your own funds, out of your own pocket, and not waiting for somebody to give you a grant or something like that. I’ve never gone to some committee with my hand out, maybe because I’m too afraid to actually seek that kind of affirmation. Or I maybe just don’t want to wait for some place to be like, “Oh, you’re good. You’re good enough.” I don’t have to wait for that. I can just do it.
I have this flat file project that I do here, which is thirty drawers of drawings. I’ve loaned it to Storefront. I’m starting one in Tokyo with my friend Taka Ehorta. There are nine drawers there. Here we have thirty. And then with my friend in Copenhagen, we’re talking about maybe starting one there. Hopefully, we could just be shipping the work around this kind of circuit of all these little tiny venues that are really temporary and provisional, and also, again, very much organized on a shoestring budget, with just people who want to do it.

Monday, June 13, 2011


On Sunday, the Milwaukee Art Museum opened to the public The Emperor’s Private Paradise: Treasures from the Forbidden City, the first in a five-part series of exhibitions dedicated to  Chinese art. It is the first exhibition to appear in a major American museum in direct cooperation with the Chinese government since the arrest of Ai Weiwei in April.

The Journal Sentinel's art blogger Mary Louise Schumacher has chimed in, but not editorialized. A lukewarm piece run by the local news (WISN Milwaukee) has several shots of the protestors back to show them barely forming a crowd. In two minutes, they still had time to show Milwaukee-based artist Mike Brenner shaving his head in an act of solidarity with Weiwei. Though the police were alerted and Brenner was escorted from the premises, Dan Keegan, the MAM's director, later said attributed this to a lapse in administrative communication, going so far as to call Brenner "cool" to have expressed himself in this way. 

I've thought of moving to Wisconsin many times. It is, first of all, a beautiful place, and visits to Milwaukee or Devil's Lake have been full of encounters with friendly, soft-spoken, unassuming people. Yet it seems the people of Wisconsin are just as capable of making noise as not. The righteous zeal of the Madison protests last spring over collective bargaining rights stands in definite contrast to the local reaction has been to what the rest of the art world (and main stream media) have insisted is a big deal.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Kevin Curran Interview: Part I

Last month, I was able to speak with Kevin Curran, a Bushwick-based artist and curatorial director of The Laundromat. Kevin is currently teaching Art History and 3-D Design to summer session students at Temple University's campus in Tokyo. Here's how it went:

Reid Singer: What was your background in curating before you started The Laundromat?

Kevin Curran: At Tyler, where I went to school, you can get full funding for both years of graduate school if you get the exhibitions graduate assistantship. I’d  organized exhibitions during undergrad,  and also during the four years after that when I worked at Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, so I put that on my application.
At Tyler, part of my job was to supervise or act as the director of the undergraduate exhibitions club, and the other part of it was managing the building of installations in the gallery for the Tyler Exhibitions program. The logistics: moving stuff around, getting the U-Haul, hanging the art. I was not usually on the writing side of things at that point. It was more like the actual physical part.

RS: Did you get to choose any of the art for the students’ exhibition program?

Omar Rodriguez-Graham. Sebastian Sendado, 2009. 180 x 200 cm. Oil on cotton canvas and linen.

KC: Well, no, because ideally the students choose the artists, but I had to help them come up with a structure to do that. So, the one show we came up with was “First Year Out.” It was curated from artists that were in their first year out of undergraduate. The idea was just to get the students a sense of what could come next. I was more interested in helping the students see what they could do after they graduated. Other people, like the guy who preceded me, he was better at getting big-name people involved, and doing really exciting stuff with that.

RS: Who was that?

KC: Omar Rodriguez-Graham. It’s actually the guy who’s guest-curating the next show at the Laundromat, artists from Mexico City [Naturaleza Muerta]. But my focus was more: “What’s attainable for you? What’s the next step? What’s the next thing that’s going to happen when you leave here? How can you make something happen?”

RS: Did you do anything significant between then and when you started the Laundromat?

KC: Well, I thought I was going to work in a gallery when I moved to NY. I thought I was going to be an art handler or something. I interviewed at a bunch of places, but nobody would hire me, because you have to have experience in NY to get a job in NY. There was that paradox. Or you had to know somebody. The director of exhibitions at Tyler knew a few people, but nothing happened that way. So I ended up working at this furniture store for a few months, and then I bailed out. I was on NYFA [New York Foundation for the Arts] classifieds every day looking for a new job, and I got a job art installing for a company called ILevel. We worked for Art Consultants, Interior Designers, some galleries and also private collectors. This was great because I installed art in a lot of different contexts: fabulous and modest apartments and homes, corporate offices, art fairs, retail stores, medical offices, etc. Pretty much everywhere.
At that time I was still living in Sunset Park, in Brooklyn. I didn’t have a studio. It was a really weird situation. Have you been to that neighborhood before? In Sunset Park?

RS: Yeah. It’s pretty.

KC: I mean, it’s pretty cool. It’s not like Bushwick at all. It’s different. There’s just no young artists’ scene there besides the warehouses down by the water. So luckily we got this studio, my old Bushwick space, on Melrose, 238 Melrose, which was above this laundromat, that’s how we ended up with the moniker, “The Laundromat,” and my studio initially was huge. It was twenty by twenty, which for me was awesome, but I wasn’t always making a ton of work in there. I was making work, but it would be kind of fitful. Also, I would be leaving the country, going to Japan every summer. So I started thinking: “OK, how can I use this space in another way that’s creative? I need to take advantage of this space.”
First I thought I would maybe do a residency. When I would go to Japan, I could have a residency program in my studio. Then I thought, maybe the thing to do would be to have a show in there. Then I was like, “Oh. I’ll just do shows in there.” So that’s how it got off the ground. It just sort of progressed. I wasn’t like, “Oh. I’m going to be a curator,” or anything. I just sort of felt like I was under-utilizing my studio a little bit, or I wanted to find another way to use it.

RS: What were you doing in Japan?

KC: Part of Tyler is they have a campus in Rome and a campus in Tokyo. After my first year I went to the Rome campus for the summer program, then after my second year I went to the Tokyo campus for the summer program, to finish, and then it just happened that someone was leaving for like a hiatus, so they asked me to apply for that position, to teach 3-D design over there, so I started teaching there in the summers. I’ve been doing that since 2007. I’m leaving in three weeks to go over there again.

RS: How would generally describe your curating style since you started The Laundromat?

KC: I guess I would put it this way: you have a group of friends, another group of friends, and they don’t know each other, and then you have a party, to make everybody meet each other? That’s basically what I do with it.

RS: You talked a second ago about difficulties with respect to finding work, a lot of that depends on knowing the right people. Have you felt like a good middle man?

KC: I guess. It’s like, you have your cohort that you go to school with. Some of them move to NY when school ends. Then you get jobs that are random, and if you’re an artist then a lot of your jobs are art-related, and those people are all artists, and so you’re starting to build this community, and you already have this other community going, so for me the beginning of it was that.
That was maybe the first year of the program: the Tyler people, plus these other kind of art-handlers, or people I was meeting, secondary, through New York. The second year was a lot of people from Japan that I met through teaching over there, young artists from the program that I hadn’t taught myself, but I had known, who were graduating.

Takayuki Kuboda. Vincent Van Gogh, Shoes, 2009. Oil on canvas.
RS: Who was the one with the wall placards?

KC: You’re thinking of Takayuki Kubota. He was the last one. Takayuki is actually a great example because he had a review in Flash Art when he was a sophomore in college. His work is killer. And he worked for the Asian Art Archive, so what his job was in Tokyo was to go around and keep track of what’s happening, and as a result he knows everybody now. And then we had Maiko Shioda and Joe Protheroe, and then we did Takashi Matsumoto and Liz Atzberger, sort of in backwards order. That season was the idea of bridging that place and this place. Takayuki had a solo show, too, because he was ready for that.

RS: How would you define the Bushwick audience?

KC: Well, here, it’s more like art made by artists for other artists, whereas in Chelsea it’s more made by business people for other business people to consume these things that are proven commodities, or speculative commodities. There’s a whole business side of it.
I mean, I love selling work. I’d love to sell everything. I’d love to get that Porsche. But I’m not running myself ragged to also make the sale. I want the show to look awesome. For me, that’s the goal. Part of it is connections. I guess I don’t have people who collect.

RS: Are you ambitious about that?

KC: I haven’t been so far. When people come I always have the price list. I tend to sell work in the $450 range, all ready-to-hang. Usually these are framed. It’s like, put a nail up, and you got it.
We’ve sold a fair amount of work. And we did this other show this year that was more intended to get people to buy stuff. Everything we sold we sold for $100, which is not aiming at that guy who’s showing up in his car service or his limo. Again, it’s intended for people like you and me to begin collecting. The idea is more, in 10 years, who knows?
Right now, we’re all kind of speculating about each other. We all don’t know where we’re going to go, what’s going to happen with it, who’s going to end up becoming somehow recognized or important, but right now, it’s all on the same level.

RS: How have you envisioned your goals, as far as wanting to keep doing this, the kind of curating that you want to try to do at the Laundromat?

KC: I guess it’s not really defined by economic imperatives. It’s more a community-oriented kind of thing. Not in that warm and fuzzy way. I want to make realistic shows. It’s not like, “Oh, you’re my friend, you’re going to be in my show.” and that’s one of the hardest things to do is to tell somebody: “No.” Actually the best thing to do is say: “Oh, I’ll think about it. I’ll get back to you.”

It’s surprising. Especially now that I’m in the third year or fourth year that we’re doing this, I get a lot cold calls and emails from people saying: “Hey. I’m this artist in Yugoslavia. I’m really excited to do a show.” It’s crazy. I really don’t ever respond to that. Well, sometimes. I used to write back to people just ‘cause I felt like it’s nice to write back. I haven’t been doing it as much lately.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tronik Youth June

If anything sounds too Jersey Shore-ish, then skip through to the Lindstrom remix of Locussolus' "I Want It"). That's what the cursor is for. 

Tronik Youth's November mix included such tracks as Laidback's decorously-titled "Cocaine Cool" and Herr Styler's Caribbean goofball remix of Supermen Lovers' "Take a Chance." 
Now that he's released a June mix has a Blade Runner polaroid on the cover, this guy is definitely on my good side.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Robert Mapplethorpe: 50 Americans at Sean Kelly

Art Fag City just ran my review of Robert Mapplethorpe: 50 Americans.

"Surprise: not everyone has something insightful to say about Robert Mapplethorpe.That’s the lesson from Robert Mapplethorpe: 50 Americans, for which Sean Kelly asked fifty volunteers from outside the art world (one from each state in the Union) to each choose a photograph from the Mapplethorpe Foundation’s archive. There are some clear museological pretentions at work here: the volunteers’ comments – both on each work and on Mapplethorpe as an artist – appear on wall-mounted placards, while a room at the front of the gallery is given over entirely to wall text and a self-portrait. Most strikingly, a broad stripe of burgundy paint circles the gallery walls, a display tactic more at home with war or travel photography than Mapplethorpe’s thoroughly contemporary work. The tone is emphatically welcoming and warm, and clearly aimed at the same broader public that make up the volunteers. This is a show that depends on the wisdom of crowds with a striking (and probably excessive) degree of faith..."

Read the full review here.

The show is on view at Sean Kelly Gallery528 West 29th Street, now through June 18th.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


Image via LA Times
A book about the Getty Villa and corruption in the antiquities market has been published, and the New York Review of Books has a review. Contrasting the moralistic tone of the book itself, it follows the vein of the New Yorker article that ran before charges against the museum's then-curator, Marion True, were dropped. 
Villa - Beats of Love (The C90s Remix) by TheC90s

For the earlier article, the New Yorker included a portrait of True photographed by Steven Pyke, which I'd love to include here if I could only find a full-page-sized version like the one I saw. At any rate, the book is called Chasing Aphrodite: The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the World’s Richest Museum

Friday, June 3, 2011

Polaroids From Blade Runner

Try your darndest to figure out which ones are actually from a cache of Polaroids taken by the actress Sean Young from the set of Blade Runner. Some of them might just have been fabricated to support the memories implanted in your mind.

Images via HUH. Magazine.