It’s Armory Week in New York City. With many art fairs to see, Open House has been making the rounds. Here I focus on SPRING/BREAK Art Show 2017, taking on the task of viewing the spaces of over 150 Curators and 350 artists. Taking place in the former Condé Nast Building in Times Square, politically charged work made a big dent in the fair this year. While there was plenty of the experimental, playful atmosphere that SPRING/BREAK has come to be known for, it was clear that there has been a shift from previous years. The current political climate brought an influx of profound, contemporary work to this year’s event, themed “Black Mirror“. With so much to take in, and an incredible line up of work this year, it was hard to pick just a few to talk about. Below is a peek into three wonderful curations from this year’s event.
We were lucky to snag a few words with Brooklyn Based artist Tirtzah Bassel at Volta NY. She has four large works on display with Slag Gallery in booth C22, on view through Sunday. Last year, Bassel participated in the exhibition Homeland Security hosted by the For-Site Foundation
Listen to the full interview here:
TILL WILL: This is Open House, we are here at Volta New York, Pier 90. We’re here with Tirtzah Bassel and we are sitting in the booth looking at some big paintings. Do you want to tell us a little more about Tirtzah, Debbi?
DEBBI KENOTE: Yea. Tirtzah Bassel is an Israeli artist based in New York City. Her drawings, paintings and site-specific installations explore the relationships between power and space and the permeable borders between public and private domains. We are sitting here looking at the large paintings around us. There’s one to the right of us that has some pinks and blues, there’s a crowd that’s apparent, a lot of brush strokes, kind of pastely with some cobalt mixed in, and there’s some other works around us. Do you want to follow up on that [Til]?
Painting? I ask myself, as I sit across from Zoë Frederick, taking in her sculptural-concoctions that fill her small studio at the School of Visual Arts (SVA). I have seen the soon-to-be MFA graduate’s work online via social media and her website, but never in person. When I ask Frederick if she still sees herself as a figurative painter (as her site suggests), she explains that while she still gravitates towards painting and the mindset that comes along with, she has recently ventured into other territories. I look around further. A tennis ball sits in a pair of fleece-lined boots (toes touching) and large red X’s sit on a shirt made of linen hanging on a mannequin. There are more curiosities: a large, charming blob plopped in a corner and a strange sacramental suit of some sort made out of what looks to be a beach floaty. Although I come up short in the search for painting, I find myself in a much more interactive and amusing world.
I have long held the belief that it is the job of the artist to get under our skin. I enjoy work that is un-apologetically honest and that arrives at a place of synergy, work in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Frederick’s work certainly falls into this category. A subtle humor peeks out from each creation, as if to offer a quick wink or a slight smirk. Her departure from painting, diving into the deep end of zines, soft sculpture, and video, appears to be a natural fit. Traditional tools are not forgotten, as is evident in the building up of texture, color, and line through sewing and manipulation of surface. I would argue, however, that the unusual use of traditional craft materials and technique is born out of a place of necessity. After all, these are not traditional times. Frederick’s attention given to the body, ranging from wearable amorphous shapes to the appropriation of clothing and mannequins, evokes a history of femininity that is certainly in need of re-visitation in 2017. One need look no further than the streets of Washington DC, New York City, Los Angeles, or any other city in the country this last weekend, to understand why. The punchy-pop-reality-tv narrative used by Frederick highlights many all-to-real and immediate social concerns.
“I’m writing about this relationship between Trump’s non-reality, or altered-sense of reality, and the truth. And trying to connect it also to reality television, and lumps.” (laughter) “Still working on it.” -Zoë Frederick
From Taos, to Bellingham, to Richmond to New York City, Open House corralled some of the most interesting contemporary emerging artists of 2017. They were kind enough to share with us some of their secrets to navigating the powerful social media path and their insights on how they use social media. Along the way they put some of our mounting suspicions to rest, discussing the make-or-break reaction to likes, and what kind of benefits they are really seeking–and getting–from Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.It is safe to say a few things are certain and that while not everyone needs the help of the internet to survive in the art world, it does seem that most believe it is a valuable tool. From researching artists to posting homemade cat gifs, these artists are not only creative with their posting, but also personal. In the age of social media, where all images, as Jake Reller says “are not fit for mass consumption,” perhaps it is this personal touch that keeps us interested in what these photos on small screens have to offer.
WHAT MEDIUM DO YOU WORK IN AND WHERE DO YOU LIVE?
ON AVERAGE, HOW OFTEN DO YOU POST IMAGE OF YOUR WORK OR PROCESS O SOCIAL MEDIA? DO YOU PREFER INSTAGRAM, TWITTER, OR FACEBOOK?
WHAT DO YOU DO TO ACTIVELY ENGAGE OR INCLUDE YOUR FOLLOWERS, OR DO YOUR POSTS FUNCTION MORE AS GLIMPSES INTO YOUR ART PRACTICE?
DO YOU USE SOCIAL MEDIA FOR RESEARCH PURPOSES, OR TO MEET/ LEARN ABOUT OTHER ARTISTS? ARE THERE PEOPLE IN YOUR LIFE YOU WOULDN’T HAVE MET WITHOUT SOCIAL MEDIA? HAS SOCIAL MEDIA EVER LED TO A SALE OR OTHER OPPORTUNITY?
DO RECEIVED ‘LIKES’ AFFECT HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT THE CONTENT YOU POST?HOW DO YOU THINK THE ONLINE RESPONSE AFFECTS YOUR WORK?
CAN ARTISTS COUNT ON PEOPLE SEEING THEIR WORK WITHOUT USING SOCIAL MEDIA? DO YOU KNOW AN ARTIST WHO DOESN’T USE SOCIAL MEDIA?
The results are in; the people have spoken. Thanks to you, we’ve been injected with our dose of adrenaline to keep digging, to keep that pickaxe swinging. There’s gold out there.
I am fascinated by the origins of ideas, especially half-finished or unfulfilled ideas. As part of our New Year’s Ring-In, we put out a call for submissions to our readers. We prompted folks to think of a photo that they took as a reference for an art idea in 2016. This could be a snapshot of an interesting texture that might look good in a painting, or a sketch, or just a snapshot of something that they thought would kickstart an idea. Maybe this is an idea that was abandoned completely.
With so many great submissions, we couldn’t narrow it down to 5 as we said we would. So here’s our top 6.
“I see myself as a figure painter,” says Kate Liebman, as I sit in her studio, absorbing her large dynamic paintings in front of me. I see for the first time a repeating pair of eyes in an abstracted painting behind where she is sitting. As I spend more time sitting and talking with the artist, the large well-executed paintings seem to become something more unexpected. Liebman begins walking me through her process, her sources, and her perspective on her own history. Paint tubes and splatters cover the floor almost completely. Her studio is located in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and she has agreed to an interview with me, after having met me at Bushwick Open Studios this past fall. As our conversation progresses, topics of distance, viewer insight, and political responsibility are tackled, and I learn that this body of work has been sourced from a drawing she made of a photograph — taken during the Holocaust, showing prisoners lined up for a daily count in Buchenwald, Germany. In the time spent in her studio, she also shares with me her perspective on the current painting discourse, including artists she considers to be inspirational and her process of setting productive goals in the studio. In addition to maintaining a studio practice in Brooklyn, Liebman also writes for the Brooklyn Rail.
According to Angela Heisch, only the person who begins a painting can decide how to finish it. I arrived to a room full of decisive paintings; iconic, hard-edge abstractions seeming to have rolled effortlessly out of the last. She knew what the next painting would be. She appeared to have reached absolute freedom from the anxieties of critique, depending solely on instinct.
I begin writing this in the days following the election. A heaviness fills the air. It’s palpable-the collective despair of everyone around me. This weight is something that Agnes Martin dealt with throughout her life. Battling schizophrenia, she found solace and comfort in making art, which is something I think many artists can relate to.Continue reading “Moving Within: An Emerging Artist’s Thoughts on Agnes Martin”→