I’m struggling to digest all of the art I’ve seen in the last week, much less regurgitate it on the blog. Looking for help, I’ve turned to the guru of American abundance, Pamela Anderson:
“I don’t really think about anything too much. I live in the present. I move on. I don’t think about what happened yesterday. If I think too much, it kind of freaks me out.” Pamela Anderson
It kind of freaks me out too. The gluttony started in the belly of the beast: Chelsea. There was a lot of caca on display, but the absolute worst was Sante D’Orazio at the Stellan Holm Gallery. D’Orazio showed thirty-two pictures of a young Latina model scantily clad in a Catholic schoolgirl uniform. The project is called Katlick School (the model’s name is Kat….get it). Does this all sound a little shallow. No way. Read what D’Orazio said about the project on Page 6 of the New York Post:
The book is about a young girl going into her own womanhood and the outfit is only a symbol of purity which is transformed into a symbol of the bad girl. It’s really all about symbolism and mythology. Every artist I’ve shown the book has been blown away.
(If you really want to be blown away, watch this cartoon about the project on Gawker)
I like the experience of being in a shoot, and I’m a total exhibitionist, but I don’t like to look at them. Sante sent me some on my computer, and I was kind of blown away. I can’t imagine them blown up.
D’Orazio isn’t the first to blow up pictures of Anderson for the galleries. Marilyn Minter currently has a photograph of Anderson in a group show at Smith-Stewart. Here Anderson talks about working with Minter on her online diary:
Anderson should be flattered. Minter is a thousand times more interesting than D’Orazio. She’s as interested in the freckles as the fantasy.
“I’ve always been interested in people with so-called flaws,” Minter says in this video interview with CreativeTime.
Unarmed (Pamela Anderson) by Marilyn Minter
After Chelsea I made a trip up to MOMA and saw the Jeff Wall retrospective. It was the perfect antidote to D’Orazio. I’ve always liked the work of Wall, but I’ve been skeptical of the lightboxes. Seeing them isolated in a collection, they always struck me as trying too hard. But with the brilliant installation at MOMA, I was able to forget the apparatus and enter the pictures. I even liked the size.
“Size does matter. There’s a lot of ways to make people feel good, but personally I think it does enhance things.” Pamela Anderson
In 1991, Vince Aletti wrote an excellent article on big photographs. “For too many photographers bigger is not better,” he said, “a weak image doesn’t suddenly look important when it’s blown up to the size of a store window.” Wall’s images aren’t weak, but they sometimes feign weakness. The size of the prints seems essential to understanding this dynamic.
I’ve probably seen Wall’s ‘Picture for Women’ reproduced a thousand times. But until seeing the 5×7 foot image at MOMA, I never really felt the presence of Wall’s bicep while he clicked the shutter. This detail seems essential:
After admiring Wall’s muscles, I visited the Taryn Simon show at the Whitney museum. I’d recently acquired Simon’s book, ‘An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar.’ The book is so good that it almost makes an exhibition unnecessary. But, like Wall, Simon leans toward the conceptually chilly. So her surprisingly sensual prints can be a relief. I was especially touched by the details in her print of Kenny the retarded Tiger:
White Tiger (Kenny) Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge Eureka Springs, AR. by Taryn Simon
I left New York surprising optimistic about photography. Wall and Simon had my head in the conceptual clouds. But I was quickly brought back down to earth after visiting Art Chicago. As usual, the toxic mix of money and decontextualized art was nearly devastating. For the record, I think these fairs have a lot of good work and I’m grateful for the business that gets done. I’m just not sure it is healthy for artists to spend much time watching this business get done.
“I’m not an actress. I don’t think I am an actress. I think I’ve created a brand and a business.” Pamela Anderson.
It is easy to become cynical. After too much time at the fair, you begin wondering if the successful artists are the ones who’ve devoted themselves to branding and business. So thank God for Chicagraphy. On Saturday night I attended the opening of an excellent exhibition curated by Brian Ulrich and Jon Gitelson. The organic mix of good art and MGD (in cans, of course) helped erase my art fair cynicism.
“I found I could be happy and throw up at the same time.” Pamela Anderson