Monday, January 14, 2008

The Power of the Web

One of the things that good art blogs can do, provided that the blogger is not lazy or seduced by the power of disseminating information, is to tell readers about good art shows that take place in alternative art venues that are usually ignored by the printed media.

And I have been hearing good things about the exhibition that Boston Properties, Inc., and Jean Efron Art Consultants LLC, have mounted in the lobby of 505 9th Street, NW in DC. The exhibition is open to the public during building lobby hours, Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 7:00 pm. now through April 10, 2008

On exhibition are new encaustic paintings by West Coast artist Betsy Eby. Encaustic painting is a really harsh and difficult process that usually brings to my mind the works of the very talented DC area artist Pat Goslee, whose works I once regrettably described as "vaginalism."

Silent Voice Speaking: Hey! Look at this!

By the way... Goslee has an ass-kicking website that's an example to artists everywhere.

Phil Nesmith - My Baghdad: Photographs

Someone whose opinion I respect very much called me the other day to chat about things and then he told me that had attended the opening at Irvine Contemporary in DC for Phil Nesmith - My Baghdad: Photographs.

"Lenny," he said, "this is an amazing show, you gotta write something about it!"

The exhibition is a series of photographs shot in Baghdad and produced on glass plates using a dry plate ambrotype process. A set of editioned C-print enlargements from the glass plates accompanies the unique images in the exhibition, which goes through Feb. 17, 2008.

Phil Nesmith, MH47, 2007. Dryplate ambrotype
(sandarac varnished silver emulsion on black glass). 8 X 12 inches

This is what the photographer wrote about the works:
In 2003, soon after the fall of Baghdad, I began a year long stint in Iraq. The novelty of the experience wore off soon after arrival, and my days in Baghdad seemed to repeat themselves, like a film looped to play continuously, returning to the start the moment after it ends. The repetition created routine, the routine normalizing what would otherwise be extraordinary.

This normative process was one that I was both aware of and oblivious to, and was one that I realized was itself a repetition of what my father had gone through as a soldier in Vietnam. I started to become conscious that the daily existence of the soldiers around me, while surrounded by different, new technologies and capabilities, still maintained a surprising similarity to the life of soldiers on the battlefield in Vietnam or anywhere, going back centuries. The routine of life in a war zone this week would be recognized by soldiers from World War II, from the Spanish American War, or from the American Civil War.

Since returning from Iraq I have sought to find a way to evoke this sense of historical telescoping and the echoes of social memory in my work. I became interested in early photographic processes, and saw within them a way of creating a visceral connection between the contemporary and the historic, utilizing an old process to capture a new conflict. These images also blur the boundaries of photographic processes as well by mixing the cutting edge digital technology used to capture the image and a combination of nineteenth century techniques to bring the image to life.
Having served in several war zones during my time in the US Navy, I know what he means. And seeing that helicopter brought back memories of a helicopter crash at sea on a flight from Beirut to Larnaca, Cyprus that is a story for another day and reminded me what a lucky man I am.

See the photographs here

Muffled thoughts on grants

In the years that I served in the advisory panels for the District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities, I confirmed an interesting paradox that exists in the world of grant-giving when it comes to individual artists.

Arts organizations are usually registered as non-profit status organizations, and they rely on philanthropy and grants in order to operate - some gather a few thousand dollars each year, other millions.

Meanwhile, individual artists usually have to rely on their paychecks from their non-arts related day jobs, or teach in order to get a reliable source of income, since they are mostly ineligible to get direct financial support from grant-giving organizations because they are not incorporated with the state, city or federal government as a not-for-profit organization.

Although there are notable exceptions, a quick scan of the Foundation Center database reveals that most visual arts focused foundations in the US restrict their arts funding to not-for-profits.

That immediately also reveals a paradoxical disparity in grant giving to the people who create art and the people who put it on walls.

Around the area, DCCAH, the Maryland State Arts Council, the Heinz Endowments and others do offer individual financial grants for artists, but they are some others are the exception, rather than the rule.

And certainly missing is the individual donor, who may hand out millions at once to a museum or arts organization, but seldom sets up an organization (such as Andy Warhol did with Creative Capital) to hand out financial support directly to artists.

Update: As if to underscore my point, I am told that Heinz Endowments no longer gives grants to indovidual artists.

Tony Podesta's Favorite Artwork

Tony and Heather Podesta are two of the top rare ubercollectors from the DC area, and Tony responds to my request for readers' favorite artworks.

Tony writes that his favorite work is an oil painting by Julie Roberts called Teenage Suicide.

Teenage Suicide by Julie Roberts

Teenage Suicide by Julie Roberts