Anodyne
Friday, February 20, 2009
 

Alison Yip: Drawings 2002-7

Alison Yip's new exhibition at CSA Space records her ongoing engagement with the act of drawing. Stylistic variety is the exhibition’s hallmark. Two paintings are hung on one wall. (These are properly considered drawings made with brushes and pigment, that emphasize contour and the “edginess” of their subjects.) But the exhibition largely consists of a swarm of paper drawings culled from a much larger image archive made from 2002 to 2007, which speaks to Yip's careful observation of the world around her, the people, animals, and objects occupying it, and her sensitivity to the subtleties of dress and gesture that define her human subjects.

Yip’s drawings are made in many different styles. Some are very tightly detailed, and are reminiscent of the carbon transfer drawings of haystacks and palm trees that she previously exhibited at Monte Clark Gallery, whose densely hatched lines achieve an effect akin to etching. Some are much looser, and executed in pastel, or crayon, or colored chalk. Some are on sheets of fine white art paper. Others are executed on hotel stationery, or yellow Post-Its, or torn out notebook pages.

By exhibiting these images side by side -- loose alongside rough, colorful next to black and white, “finished” beside hesitant and provisional – Yip asks us to focus not only on each drawing’s materiality, but on the thinking that animates her work process. Her democratic attention to the world is a kind of realism, one that does not attempt to pre-categorize experience.

Yip’s refusal to winnow down her drawings into just a few highly finished “works of art” asks us to look beyond the blunt facility of each individual drawing’s marks and gestures. Her art practice is informed and shaped by the daily encounters between her observing consciousness and the world.

Christopher Brayshaw
Vancouver
February 2009
Thursday, February 19, 2009
 

Dear Peter Schjeldahl,

This is a three-part question with a wind-up. I'm an independent (read: self-marginalizing) Canadian critic-curator-gallery owner-bookseller-photographer and lately this stuff has been preying on my mind.

In the early 1960s, Dan Graham ran an independent exhibition space, the John Daniels Gallery, where he showed his friends: Carl Andre, Sol LeWitt, Dan Flavin, Robert Smithson & etc. Reflecting on the experience later, long after the gallery had closed, Graham said that the process of running the space had shown him what art was: something that was reproduced and/or written up in an art magazine. Maybe this was a tongue-in-cheek answer but Graham had a point: only a limited number of people would ever see an art object installed in an obscure New York gallery. Reproduction, on the other hand, facilitated a work's exposure to a much broader audience, and also reassured potential patrons that the work was good enough to have made it out of the gallery and into the "virtual space" of the art magazine distribution system. Graham claimed that this insight led to his creation of his first "magazine pieces," works that disposed with the gallery all together, existing only as texts and/or photo-text hybrids published in art magazines.

Artists nowadays can access any number of distribution tools that weren't available to Graham. (Personal websites; Flickr; Facebook; blogs; "curated" blogs and webpages; Lulu.com; various other online services permitting them to self-publish and distribute texts, books, prints, photographs & etc). In Graham's time, reproduction and publication in an art magazine signified that some kind of aesthetic judgment had taken place. Someone, even if only a lowly art magazine writer or editor, had judged the reproduced work to be "art." My admittedly shaky grasp of aesthetics (Baudelaire; Greenberg; Thierry de Duve) suggests that art only gets to be art via aesthetic judgment. Art isn't art until it submits itself to judgment. Whose judgment? Everyone's. (Art doesn't know who its audience is going to be in advance). So: question #1: what does it mean for art to "submit itself to judgment" today? I understand what that means in the context of exhibiting an art object in a public museum, commercial gallery, or even as part of an MFA studio crit. But what constitutes judgment of, for example, a digital photograph presented on the Web?

Question 2: Are objects "art" even if they show no inclination to enter the standard art distribution channels? I have friends who make digital photographs, which they present on blogs. The photos only exist as digital images; there are no prints. I think that my friends' photographs are art, because they are self-reflexively involved with their medium (eg., are modern) and because they are presented in a public context. But some of my artist friends think that these images are not art, because they have not appeared in an "art context," eg., curated presentation in a gallery. My readings of Duchamp and Greenberg make me think that you can't discriminate against art on morphological grounds: "anything and everything" is potentially art. Even images that deliberately -- some would say willfully -- circumvent art's established distribution systems. Do you agree?

Question 3: What criteria would you use to differentiate between digital images that want to be judged as "art" and digital images presented in non-art contexts? Aesthetic judgments are only as good as the criteria supporting them. Intent doesn't work -- you can't judge intent, only the physical fact of the work. So what criteria do you use?

Thierry de Duve once said -- I'm paraphrasing -- that good artists should feel the presence of dead artists they admire in their studios, gazing over their shoulders as they work and asking questions. I'm writing to you because I feel Kant and Greenberg gazing over mine, and I don't know how to answer.

Best regards,

Christopher Brayshaw
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
 

Forum Addendum -- cut 'n paste! The text in question will be ready to go shortly as a typeset PDF meant for interpolation into the official programme.

CHRISTOPHER BRAYSHAW is a Vancouver-based critic, curator, bookseller and photographer. His writings on conceptual art, photography, and aesthetic judgment have appeared in Canadian Art, Border Crossings, fillip, Pyramid Power, Doppelganger, CV Photo, and many other publications. He is currently co-curator and co-director of CSA Space, an independent Vancouver project space.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
 

Thinking About Tomorrow

Today's second customer wants to know why "Vancouver bookstores suck." She's buying books, and says, "Don't get me wrong, I like your store. I buy stuff here all the time. But other than that I'll save my money and go to the States." She says, "I live in Vancouver, and I buy thousands of dollars of books a year, but I spend most of my money in Seattle or Portland. Why is that? Any thoughts?"

Well, yes, a few:

1. There are exactly two good new bookstores in town (Duthies on 4th Avenue and the Book Warehouse ably managed by my pal Elinor on Davie Street). Hager Books on 41st Avenue is good but tiny, and Banyen Books has an amazing collection of Eastern Studies, esoteria and self-sufficiency titles hidden off among the scarves, Nag Champa, whale music CDs and crystals. None of these stores matches the selection available at Powell's, Third Place Books, the Elliott Bay Book Company, or the University of Washington bookstore. Fewer good new bookstores in town equals comparatively fewer good new books with a hope of becoming equally good used books.

2. Canadian new book distributors make me want to light my face on fire. One local distributor has a habit of ordering interesting new titles, then arbitrarily de-listing them the moment they start to sell. They also make a habit of carrying a single backlist title by a major author, apparently picked at random, but none of their other titles. So I can order Haruki Murakami's Kafka on the Shore, which I sell one or two copies of a month, but not his Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which reliably sells four or five copies a week.

3. "Canadian rights." The US has nice mass market paperback editions of desirable science fiction and fantasy (Terry Pratchett; Scott Lynch; Steve Erickson; M. John Harrison). All of these are NCR: No Canadian Rights. Lucky Canadians get to order expensive UK trade paperbacks -- at approximately time-and-a-half to double the cost of the US titles -- from flaky Ontario distributors who seem to order the books from the UK two or three at a time. Thus the UK edition of Pratchett and Gaiman's Good Omens, one of Pulpfiction's best-selling titles ever since we started carrying new books, has been backordered at Random House since the 29th of December. When is Good Omens coming? "When we receive backstock from the UK," says Random House customer service. When might that be? Don't ask; they don't know and apparently don't care.

4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, etc. Coming soon. Right after I special-order Kafka on the Shore.
 



Bear Removers

Via the internets:

A man wakes up one morning to find a bear on his roof. So he looks in the yellow pages and sure enough, there's an ad for "Bear Removers."

He calls the number, and the bear remover says he will be over in 30 minutes. Soon the bear remover arrives and gets out of his van. He's got a cage in the van plus a ladder, a baseball bat, a shotgun and a mean old pit bull.

"What are you going to do?" the homeowner asks.

"I'm going to put this ladder up against the roof, then I'm going to go up there and knock the bear off the roof with this baseball bat. When the bear falls off, the pit bull is trained to grab his testicles and not let go. The bear will then be subdued enough for me to put him in the cage in the back of the van."

The bear remover hands the shotgun to the homeowner.

"What's the shotgun for?" asks the homeowner.

"If the bear knocks me off the roof, shoot the dog."
Monday, February 16, 2009
 

Dictionary.com Word of the Day
- interminable: seeming to have no end
Sunday, February 15, 2009
 
My My, Hey Hey

"[W]here is art in all of this? Proliferating but languishing. 'Quality,' primarily defined as formal skill, is back in vogue, part and parcel of a conservative, some would say retrogressive, painting and drawing revival. And it has given us a flood of well-schooled pictures, ingenious sculptures, fastidious photographs and carefully staged spectacles, each based on the same basic elements: a single idea, embedded in the work and expounded in an artist’s statement, and a look or style geared to be as catchy as the hook in a rock song."

[Excellent article by the NYT's Holland Cotter, reprising numerous themes on high repeat at Anodyne HQ, including canny D.I.Y., the creation of autonomous parallel structures, self-distribution, and the refusal of academic/art-school careerism]

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