I’ve been making a very conscious effort lately to inspire myself. I’ve been attending events, curator’s talks, reading books I wouldn’t normally read (book list coming up), and making a point to look and understand art I would normally discredit before even looking at it. In the process I’ve been feeling like I have a new brain.
For starters, my taste in art is very different from the art I make. A lot of my most favorite artists are not even photographers. I’m often asked what kind of art I like, and my answer has always been “Anything that is a little fucked up.” It took me a while to get to that answer. I’m a collector of images, information, and thoughts. I love to make lists, give myself “action steps,” and organize pretty much anything into categories that make its understanding more clear to me. For a long time I collected images I liked into folders and kept going back to them until I understood what they all had in common.
Two of my most favorite artists are Sophie Calle and Louise Bourgeois. Ironically they both happen to be French women, both making some pretty fucked up work, in the most wonderful sense. Calle’s work is just so damn dark and honest, the beautiful way in which she weaves very relatable experiences with bizarre self-assigned guidelines, presented -always- in the most flawless of ways just gets me every time. I recently visited the Seattle Art Museum to see their Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou, Paris. To say that there was a bunch of very good work in a room is probably a good way to describe it, because otherwise the exhibition was very poorly curated. There was no flow, the thematic breakdown was weak and the whole thing was very difficult to navigate. I left feeling like I wanted to jump out the window. However, the very last piece in the show is Sophie Calle’s Exquisite Pain, a long time favorite of mine and certainly what saved this show for me, it was my first time seeing it in person.
The exhibition also featured Andrea Fraser’s Museum Highlights: A Gallery Talk, a video tour in which she adopted the fictional persona of a docent named Jane Castleton. She led unsuspecting visitors on tours of not only the galleries, but also the restrooms, Museum Store, and cafeteria.This piece has always seem to be a favorite of minem I have a bit of a weird obsession with The Institution, unfortunately it was installed in a strange place, with the volume too low so it went unnoticed by most people. I loved seeing this piece again. Speaking of videos, it was interesting to see that most people were drawn to Martha Rosler’s Semiotics of the Kitchen, a piece I hadn’t seen since school, but it seemed to make an impact a lot of visitors.
Last week I couldn’t get Louise Bourgeois out of my head. Back in 2006 The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore invited Bourgeois to juxtapose over forty existing and new works against its permanent collection. I had never heard of Bourgeois at the time, and as I walked through the museum big-breasted plush female figures were appearing inside glass cases with other objects, hanging from the ceiling and obscuring paintings, resting next to Islamic manuscripts. I was confused as to why these random objects, seemingly done by the same artist, were scattered throughout the entire museum but I found myself so very attracted to them. They were morbid and fleshy but they felt so real, their bloody pink hue stirred all kinds of strange feelings inside me. It was one of the first times I felt like that about any art. From that point on I have continued to see her work in person anytime I have the opportunity to; it that sick feeling always comes back. This last week I went online to look at some of her work again and I had this overwhelming urge to cry. Bourgeois is perhaps one of the greatest artists ever to live, in my opinion.
In addition to all of the above, as of late I’ve been looking a lot at Richard Tuttle, Robert Mangold, Brancusi, Sol LeWitt, Matt Ducklo, James Welling and Matisse.
PS- if you’re in the Seattle area, go to the Frye Art Museum and see the Nicolai Fechin show, it’s really remarkable!