The Nudist, The Chemist and Artist Ethan Murrow

March 21, 2008

As an artist, I consider art on a sort of spectrum in my mind by the manner in which it is rendered. I picture two opposing ends: one a chemist, who has a pristine lab and measures everything in the most precise manner, conducting experiments in a white coat with the thinnest of pipette, a Bunsen burner, and a notepad to meticulously record results. On the other end is the nudist, someone completely of the body who paints without a trace of inhibition, who never decides what to put on the canvas in advance but just instinctually slathers it on with a huge brush or spatula, perhaps even while sipping a glass of wine with the other hand, all while naked. In my mind I call the two types of artists “The Nudist and The Chemist.” With every painting, I fall somewhere in between–with “The Nudist” being my ultimate goal as an artist, like Howard Hodgkin or perhaps the elder Matisse, working in bed into his eighties with yards of fabric, sunglasses and a big pair of scissors.

2008-03-14-1.jpg
LEFT: Ethan Murrow, “Lava Collection – Well I definitely heard something” graphite on paper 54″x54″ 2005.

When I first saw the works of Ethan Murrow, I thought they were photographs. I loved the subject matter, the adventures of the people, often the portraits of the artist himself, in the midst of an unknown experiment. Upon second glance, however, when I realized that these are in fact extraordinarily large graphite drawings done with such precision, such sensuality, with a subject matter that deals directly with fear, ambition, and humility, I decided that, nay, he is both a nudist and a chemist and that one can very much be both.Murrow and his wife Vita Weinstein develop plots and film their stories, and then Murrow searches for frames worth portraying by hand. His upcoming show “Dust Mining” debuts March 15th and is his most ambitious to date.

Kimberly Brooks: One of the elements that I find so intriguing about your work is the difference between content and medium. Your medium is highly controlled and photorealistic. Yet the subject is highly dynamic, people are doing strange things with ropes in holes, water and air. How does Marshall MacLuhan’s aphorism “The Medium is the Message” apply to your work?

Ethan Murrow: I think media effects and often controls the message more than most would like to admit, but I don’t think you can say that it always does. That said, media IS often the overarching structure and also the motivation so it’s influence probably outweighs content and concept a lot of the time. For instance, I began these drawing projects in part because of my pure satisfaction with paper, graphite, the atmospheric effect I can create with it, the meditative plodding process, the obsession required and the raw endless simplicity of this approach. But, those things are also very important to me because they relate to my content. Ideas of obsession, perseverance and pig headed-ness are key elements in both media and concept. I like to think the process/media and the content are integrally linked but I do not think one can exist purely without the other and maintain the same effect. In my work content also brought about the media. I aimed to create work that referenced historical documents, black and white photography, monumental glorification and so on. Large scale graphite drawings fit that bill. So the media is at the mercy of the concept too.
2008-03-14-2.jpg
RIGHT: Ethan Murrow, “John McCarty, promoter of the mines and professional middleman” graphite on paper 74″x74″ 2007

KB: What was the inspiration behind the way you approached this series, creating a back story in the first place?
EM: In The spring of 2004 I had a chance to do a three-month residency at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art in Omaha, Nebraska. When I arrived there I was in the midst of projects that dealt with landscape painting and, truth be told, I was somewhat bored with the direction of my work. I spent a lot of time talking with and watching some performance Artists who were also in residence at the Bemis at the same time, particularly the group Bushwick Farms whose work revolves around an extended fictitious genealogy. The simple truth was that they were having a blast, using stories from their own lives to help construct scenarios, events and narratives that engrossed both them and their viewers and participants.
2008-03-14-3.jpg
LEFT: Ethan Murrow at Pinto Brothers shoot in Manzanita Oregon 2005.

KB: What led you to the subject of experimentation?I have always been obsessed by flight and that became my first subject. I began jumping off of cars fences, ladders and chairs, flying through the air in Nebraska wheat fields in front of cameras, embarrassing myself in front of some local farmers as I documented the body in motion. I then brought this imagery back to my traditional processes and used it to create drawings and paintings. The new work was exhilarating because it was chaotic and unknown. At the beginning, I wanted to create pieces that documented my prowess at flying through the air. It took me a good year of fits and starts and mistakes before I realized that the work was at its best when it captured my weaknesses, mistakes and innocent moments, instead of fictitiously glorifying what I could not achieve. I began to create narratives that dealt more with failure and the overpowering and blinding need to succeed rather than success itself. Many could have told me this from day one, but it took me a long time to realize that I am at my best as a performer and storyteller when I am making fun of my own ego. At the core, my characters are self-portraits, craving glory, yet eternally doomed to make mistakes.
2008-03-14-4.jpg
Ethan Murrow, “Off of Gaspé, ready to dive for the elusive whale”, graphite on paper 60″ x 96″, 2007.


KB: I am a big fan of mistakes. It’s the most exciting and critical part of making art. What is the story within this particular film and how does it illuminate these themes for you?
EM: The Freshwater Narwhal Hoax documents the exploits and downfall of the fictitious marine biologists Banvard and Barnum Orson. Banished from the scientific community due to fraudulent methods and suspect motivations, they are determined to rebuild their reputations and achieve the fame they have always desired. The brothers delve into highly suspect whale research and begin to weave a complicated and fraudulent tale for the press. They focus their attention on Narwhal whales and assert to anyone who will listen that they have located a pod on the St. Lawrence River. Hefting gear of unknown provenance the Orson brothers attempt to prove their bald assertions. Their story is one of obstinence and drive in partnership with chicanery. Like many of my characters their insistence on success at all costs becomes their ultimate downfall.
The things I keep returning to are failure and obsession. It seems to me that there is a fragile line between reckless obsession and brilliant success. My work resides in this area, applauding ridiculous pursuits and cringing at ill-fated experimentation. To examine these issues I have created fictional narratives rooted in the historical fact that humans will attempt anything. I attempt to give credibility to the ridiculous pursuits of my characters by creating a pseudo documentary world full of black and white photo-realism and fake documentary films about their exploits. I want the work to be believable, insane and humorous all at once.
KB: How did this particular story arise?
EM: Working with my wife, Vita Weinstein Murrow, a frequent collaborator, a story began to arise from our discussions in early 2006 about two people who had been driven to the edge of their profession and so turned to desperate measures. The characters we had dealt with up to this point were obsessed by fame and glory but rarely had this caused them to swindle anyone. We wanted to dig deeper into failure and investigate what happened to people who had nowhere to turn. The Orson’s aren’t horrible people, they just use their drive and grit in inappropriate ways.
2008-03-14-5.jpg
Ethan Murrow, “Cloud Collecting with the Pinto Brothers: at the moment of launch, the quick release jammed and Huffaker lost his cool.” graphite on paper 72″x144″ 2006.

KB: What is your process and how do you collaborate with Vita to create your work?EM: Half of my time is spent on project development, reading, thinking, researching and planning. Much of this process includes discussions between Vita and me about different story lines, scenarios and logistics, all leading up to performances. The performances are planned yet disorganized. When we began they were two person affairs with Vita shooting video and stills of myself in a variety of costumes. We usually shoot in remote and difficult settings. The entire Cloud Collecting With The Pinto Brothers for example was shot on the Oregon coast over five weekends in 2004 and 2005. Four of those five weekends it was pouring and windy, the fifth it hailed. For that one Vita was in a tent to protect the technology while I tromped around in the sand with various props getting hammered by the hail. I have always felt like these moments of ridiculousness connect me directly with the characters, who all are depicted in equally problematic scenarios. Once the performance imagery has been collected I begin to cull through it on the computer and think about which images connect best to one another to help tell a full story. I then use the collected imagery to create large-scale graphite drawings and short video pieces.
2008-03-14-6.jpg
RIGHT: Vita Weinstein Murrow directs two actors for Dust Mining shoot in Dorset, Vermont 2007.
Now some of this process is changing. Working with Vita and Harvest Films we have crafted a new storyline about a group of miners harvesting dust for profit. We are working with a wide array of actors and media professionals to craft a short film with Harvest for my March show at Obsolete in Venice. This piece will be shot over the next few weeks. It is a big jump, forcing us to more carefully consider every step in story development and opening doors to tools and collaborators we have never had access to before.KB: Indeed, has there been an artist who has inspired you in both your interest in film and drawings?
William Kentridge, who creates stop frame animation films about the history, politics and culture he grew up amongst in segregated South Africa, has probably had the biggest effect on my career. His haunting depictions of characters struggling between dream and reality and cause and effect are all rooted in his own experience and figure (meaning he loosely depicts himself as the protagonist in his films). I admire the way he examines his own role in history through his work and formally I can never get enough of his crude yet completely full and confident drawings. Kentridge collaborates with puppeteers, actors, musicians etc etc. and he has served as a model to me in that realm as I have worked to create healthy collaborations with my wife, Vita, and others in different projects.
2008-03-14-7.jpg
William Kentridge, Drawings from Mine charcoal on paper 120x150cm each, 1991.

Ethan Murrow was born in Greenfield, Massachusetts in 1975 and is presently based in New York City. He received his B.A. in Studio Art from Carleton College in 1998, and his M.F.A from The University of Chapel Hill in North Carolina in 2002. Ethan’s upcoming solo exhibition will be at Obsolete in Venice, California, opening on March 15th 2008 www.obsoleteinc.com or Ethan’s website at www.bigpaperairplane.com).Selected recent solo exhibitions include: Winston Wachter Fine Art in Seattle, Washington, Bucheon Gallery in San Francisco, Obsolete in Venice, California, Youngblood Gallery in Atlanta and Reeves Contemporary in New York City. Ethan has participated in residencies and fellowships at the Tamarind Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art in Omaha, Nebraska, the Burren College of Art in Ballyvaughn, Ireland and the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vermont. Ethan teaching experience includes: Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon, Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Ethan’s awards include an emerging artist grant from Spaces in Cleveland, OH and an Outstanding Student Achievement Award for Sculpture from the International Sculpture Center in Hamilton, NJ. Recent reviews and publications include Time Out New York, The Seattle Times, The Los Angeles Times, Harper’s Magazine, Art New England, Sculpture Magazine and New American Paintings. Ethan’s work is in many public and private collections, including, the Guggenheim Foundation, Twentieth Century Fox, The Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, Liberty Media and the Burj Dubai, EMAAR.

First Person Artist is a weekly column by artist Kimberly Brooks in which she provides commentary on the creative process and showcases artists’ work from around the world. Come back every Saturday for more Kimberly Brooks. You can view more columns and essays at www.firstpersonartist.com

Why Artists Shouldn't Have Blackberries

March 8, 2008

A few months ago, after an unfortunate incident involving a melted chocolate bar and my cel phone in my car’s console which rendered the latter useless, I decided to try a Blackberry. It was something I’d been debating with friends, family and myself for years. I was extremely hesitant. I would regularly interrogate the people I knew who had them as if they’d just casually used the Orgasmatron in Woody Allen’s Sleeper.

 

2008-03-07-1.jpg
Woody Allen in Sleeper
“What’s it like? Is it weird? Is it really that great?”

“Oh, yes!” They’d always exclaim. “Can’t live without it. It’s saves me so much time. I could be waiting in line at Starbucks and get so much done!”
I broke down at the cell phone store. I was so ashamed that I didn’t even tell my sister when she was the first one to call and I held the thing up to my head.
I am not a Luddite nor a technophobe. Au contraire, I have always been an early adopter– the first to have email, a website, etc. After all, painting is a technology. The very root “techne” derives from the Greek “art” or “skill.” But when I go to the studio I leave all the gadgets at home. I figure that the people who must reach me will have my cell number. Other than that, I had avoided the Blackberry until that moment.
Around the same time, I watched this year’s Super Bowl. During a break, there was an ad for a Bank–I think Chase Manhattan– which showed a couple rock climbing near the top of a dangerous, devastatingly beautiful mountain that resembled Half Dome in Yosemite. In the commercial, as she dangles from the edge of a sheared cliff, her blackberry buzzes and she cheerily checks it and tells her boyfriend that it was her bank letting her know that her checking was overdrawn, but they fixed it. Blech! Did the ad executives really think that would be enticing? But yet, that was me, checking email after every conversation and at every stop light. Me and everyone I know, constantly in touch all the time.
I returned it two days later.
**
Although I have pondered the effects of technology’s impact on daily life before, I do so now within the specific context of how it effects one’s ability to be creative. I have come of age as an artist during the most accelerated period of connectivity our species has ever known. We have all been drunk on technology and only some of us are emerging from our collective haze. Last week, Mark Bittman of the New York Times extolled the virtue of taking an electronic Sabbath; The Dangerous Books for Boys and Girls fly off Amazon’s shelves because young kids are so wired they forgot how to play; Tim Ferris’ Four Hour Work Week is on the desk of every executive and Frontline’s “Growing up Online” chilling account of the first generation of children to literally be connected all the time where texting is a right, and online exhibitionism is second nature. It’s been a little more than a decade since it started in full force. But alas, it appears that we are finally starting to sober up and reacquaint ourselves with the Here and Now. Rules to navigate are being offered for all walks of life. I’m making one now: Artists shouldn’t have Blackberries and here are four reasons why:
#1 Artists Need to Daydream
When I divided the creative process into eight stages (a la Kubler Ross’ five stages of death), I started with Vision, which happens in an instant and sets an artist on the path of creation. But in hindsight, this was a mistake. The real first stage, the most important, doesn’t have a name. It is silent. It’s when the filaments of thoughts, the subatomic particles of ideas, are just lying around in the primordial ooze of your mind. It looks like a daydream or nothing at all, but this is the first real stage of the creative process.
When I studied biology, I remembered a curious anecdote about cell division. When a cell divides it also goes through five phases — Interphase, Prophase, Meta Phase, Anaphase and Telophase. The first phase is “Interphase” and for years, scientists thought that this was when the cell was sleeping. All the visible action happens from Prophase onward– the nuclei divides within the cell and eventually splits apart to form two. Eventually, when microscopes improved, scientists learned that this first phase was actually the most important part of the process when the DNA replicates. Even when I looked up Mitosis on Wikipedia (to provide you with a snazzy picture), they show imagery of all the phases but don’t bother showing “Interphase” because there’s simply not much to look at.

2008-03-07-2.jpg

Whether within a day or a year or a lifespan, moments and periods of apparent inactivity are critical. We’re always processing and receiving. We can’t do this with constant chatter and interruptions. Like a “rest” in music we can’t make music, or art, without it.
#2 Artists Tend to Be Compulsive
I use myself as an example, but before I create I need to have certain things in my own kind of order. I play certain music, I burn incense, get my materials together. Often I’ll go for a walk. If I want to procrastinate, I’ll clean and won’t start until everything is perfect. One more thing to procrastinate or get off my plate before I begin is a BAD thing. I’ve interviewed a lot of artists here and they all have rituals they go through before they get into their “zones.” Counter to our occasional reputation, artists are generally not mentally slovenly people who get to be flakey because they’re “creative types.” Instead, we have to exhibit fierce discipline and this is a crucial part of the process. When I had the Blackberry, I was corresponding with people all day long and more often even. By not compartmentalizing my accessibility, it became yet one more thing that either prevented me from starting or interfering with the zone that I worked so hard to create.
2008-03-07-3.jpg
Kimberly Brooks’ Studio

#3 Being Slightly Unreachable is CoolOkay, I realize this is facetious but really, must we be available all the time? Whatever happened to the artists’ mystique?#4 Real Artists Would Have an iPhone
Let’s face it, any self-respecting artist wouldn’t be caught dead with a Blackberry. If you have any sense of aesthetics, you lust the iPhone instead. Just dismantle the email function and you’ll be fine.

First Person Artist is a weekly column by artist Kimberly Brooks in which she provides commentary on the creative process and showcases artists’ work from around the world. Come back every Saturday for more Kimberly Brooks. You can view more columns and essays at www.firstpersonartist.com

The Macho Art World

February 14, 2008

I considered writing a piece this week relating relationships and art to Valentine’s Day, but found myself struggling with it. This was not because I knew that papers and the Internet would already be dripping with pink and chocolate, nor because there’s any lack of artists who make love with their subject. Rather, I struggled because I find the art world so inherently macho.
That is not to say that artists themselves are necessarily macho: artists are dreamers and essentially romantic, aspirational people- to even call yourself one and place yourself near the canon of artists before you- is a lofty enterprise. An artist’s relationship to his or her ultimate realized self is often just as essential as it is to other people.

Be the First to Submit
This Story to Digg
Buzz up!

2008-02-15-1.jpg
David Hockney imagining himself being drawn by Picasso, whom he never met.
Artist and Model, 1973-74. Etching, 22 5/8 x 17 1/4 in., Courtesy of the artist. ©David Hockney. All rights reserved. Courtesy of LACMA

It is also not macho because art prices are soaring and it is still so male-dominated. Even this Thursday the feminist group called “The Guerrilla Girls” called on its members to send a letter to BCAM demanding that the museum reconsider the curation of it’s predominantly white male collection.
No, I find being an artist in the art world macho for other reasons. There’s a required toughness to stick it out, get to work and put it “out there” — more exhibitions, more galleries, more museums — constantly pushing to get on the radar. And the most macho part of all is the need to reach thirty feet inside your own guts for content. Picture young medical students eating pastrami sandwiches around the cadaver they’re studying to show it doesn’t phase them.
2008-02-15-3.jpg
Photographic Painting of Gerhard Richter’s daughter Betty
Certainly there are other spheres of the art world that are different. There are painters who paint flowers and sunsets on the weekends. But even within that sphere there are ardent realists who seek to recreate reality down to the molecule. This is especially prevalent in the water color world where first prize winners are often indistinguishable from the photograph it was copied from. Realism is very macho. When my artist friends and I swoon over one of Gerhard Richter’s photo paintings, we undoubtedly stalk and make the same noises as young men admiring a red muscle car.
Combine all this machismo with the feminine sensuality of working with paint and color, then the act of being an artist itself forms the ultimate couple.

The Painter Directs: Julian Schnabel And The Diving Bell and The Butterfly

December 29, 2007

I watched The Diving Bell and the Butterfly the other night. I couldn’t wait to sink my eyes into what I knew would be a visual extravaganza by painter Julian Schnabel. Film is a great medium. It’s such a new art form, still licking the placenta off its ears, compared to others. But I’m a tough audience — after most movies I just want my money back. But to have someone already established in the Grande Dame of painting, and Julian Schnabel no less, I just knew I was going to be in for a ride.

2007-12-28-1.jpg

Installation of Paintings by Julian Schnabel

And I was. It was touching, frightening, gorgeous and exhilarating. He creates a billowing parachute of visuals and delicately holds it down with the pins of narrative and physical transformation. The movie is about Jean-Dominique Bauby, AKA “Jean-Do,” a high-flying editor of French Elle, who– in a freak health catastrophe– finds himself paralyzed but for his brain and a single blinking eye which he uses to communicate. The entire story is told from the eye and brain, what it sees, what it says (spelling letters by blinking) and what it imagines.
2007-12-28-3.jpg

“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” Movie Still

As a painter, I recognized his aesthetic finger prints all over the celluloid. The way his beautiful nurses, Henriette and Marie (Marie-Josée Croze and Olatz Lopez Garamendia, respectively), repeatedly said the letters of the alphabet for the “locked in” Jean-Do to spell by blinking. Another director might have shown it once as an expository device, but Schnabel weaves it throughout and becomes a mesmerizing leitmotif both visually and auditorially. In between relearning how to communicate are surreal visual escapades where Jean-Do leaps out of his body and the former bon vivant‘s past appears even less prominently than the imaginary world he has been forced to create for himself.
Artists especially owe it to themselves to see the movie. And people who see the movie should familiarize themselves with his work as a painter if they are not already.
2007-12-28-4.jpg

“Amor Misericor” Oil on Linen Julian Schnabel

This is Julian’s third film after Basquiat and Before Night Falls. At which point did he cross from being a painter who made films or a filmmaker who paints or was he always both? I believe the film world is finally giving him is due recognition as a director. My painter friends and I whisper that it’s about time.
2007-12-28-5.jpg

“The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” Movie Still

It’s a difficult dance, being taken seriously as an artist in more than one medium if the medium’s are not exactly related to each other (e.g: writer/director). When I was a kid, my father, a surgeon, used to tell me that if you met someone at a party and they couldn’t answer what they did for a living in one sentence, then they were probably full of it. Since he told me that he’s become a best-selling author on topics totally unrelated to surgery. I guess what he meant was that if you have to use more than one sentence, you better be damn good at both.
2007-12-28-6.jpg

“Allen – Cordial Love” Julian Schnabel

The Wonderful World of Kirsten Hassenfeld

December 15, 2007

First Person Artist is a weekly column by artist Kimberly Brooks in which she provides commentary on the creative process and showcases artists’ work from around the world. This week’s artist in the first person is New York’s Kirsten Hassenfeld.
It’s “Christmas Time” here in America and there is such an intoxicating burst of creative energy from so many people at the same time you’d think the earth might flip on its axis. We get out our scissors and paper, make decorations, spontaneously burst into song, string colorful lights all over our trees and houses, strange sculptures sprout on our lawns, drink too much and stay up too late trying to get it all done– gosh, it’s like finals at art school!

2007-12-14-1.jpg

Untitled (Branch), 2007 [detail], Kirsten Hassenfeld, Paper, polystyrene board, acrylic, pipecleaners, light fixture, Approx. 88 x 53 x 53 inches. Commissioned by Rice University Art Gallery, Houston, Texas
Photograph by Nash Baker, nashbaker.com, Courtesy of the artist and Bellwether, New York

I myself love the neo-pagan ritualism of winter festivals, so you can imagine my rapture when I discovered the work of New York artist Kirsten Hassenfeld. With her magical paper sculptures, she takes the idea of decorating to a whole new level, something that might occur if you handed the task of decorating the Christmas tree to the offspring of Mandelbrot and Glinda, the Good Witch of the North.
Kimberly Brooks: I bet you have the most insane Christmas tree in New York City.
Kirsten Hassenfeld: I don’t have a tree! I think also that all my decorative energy is poured into my work, I think non-artists usually have much better Christmas trees etc because they are using all their creative juices for that. We don’t even have pictures on the walls in our house!
KB: You’re not the first artist to say that to me. How do you see the relationship between the holidays and your work?
Well, the most recent installation incorporates imagery that connotes archetypes of femininity, and ideas of chivalry. I keep coming back to these Ye Olde gender roles and the primary stories (myths, fairytales) that inform western identities. I think I am fascinated by all this because I am surprised by the grip it all still has on my psyche, in my assumptions about roles in relationships, physical appearance, etc. It’s all so fragmented at this point, there are bits of the traditional DNA scattered throughout the work, amongst other, stranger forms and parts of thoughts. In the end, I hope it comes across as a unified whole, maybe a snapshot of the confusion inside me.
2007-12-14-2.jpg

Installation view, Dans la Lune, Kirsten Hassenfeld, Rice University Art Gallery, Houston, Texas, 2007.
Commissioned by Rice University Art Gallery, Houston, Texas
Photograph by Nash Baker, nashbaker.com, Courtesy of the artist and Bellwether, New York

KB: In some ways, your sculptures remind me of fantastical fractal jelly fish, because they have a weightless quality… Do you ever get inspiration from jelly fish?
KH: Yes, I do look at some sea-life, in the book Art Forms in Nature, an amazing book of drawings of all kinds of primitive life forms from the 19th century by Ernst Haeckel. I think it’s so amazing that symmetry, so essential to natural structures, also informs much of what we regard as beautiful in buildings, design and people. I use this overlap between the structures that exist in the natural world and the highly abstracted/aestheticized version of nature found in design.
2007-12-14-3.jpg

Installation view, Dans la Lune, Kirsten Hassenfeld, Rice University Art Gallery, Houston, Texas, 2007. Commissioned by Rice University Art Gallery, Houston, Texas
Photograph by Nash Baker, nashbaker.com, Courtesy of the artist and Bellwether, New York

KB: What inspired this series in the first place?
KH: I moved into a loft in downtown Brooklyn in 1999 across from a strip of pawnshops and check-cashing stores. They made me think about how many New Yorkers are living in the “second economy,” and the desperation these storefronts represented. It was a depressing reality. In response to the view out my window and the incredible noise from the traffic, I made “Viewing Screen,” my first paper sculpture. I was “solving” the problems I saw out my window by decorating them.
KB: I think a lot people are trying to do that with their Christmas trees right now. Tell us about your work’s latest evolution.
KH: My most recent body of work, Dans La Lune, is the articulation of an interior landscape. I have been attempting for the past seven years to allow the decorative to run amok and overtake whatever I am building, resulting in the effect that decoration is being decorated. The result is a constantly shifting sense of scale, an onion dome might be an earring, a cluster of crystals might also be a building. This work is almost entirely translucent paper (except for the armatures) which makes the work appear ghostly.
2007-12-14-4.jpg

Horn of Plenty, Kirsten Hassenfeld, 2004, Paper with mixed media, 60 x 24 x 24 inches.
Courtesy of the artist and Bellwether, New York.
KB: How do you go about making them? Do you have to plan much of what you create?
KH: I make a lot of really intricate bits, and then assemble them in a really unplanned way. Many people assume that my work is very mapped out, and that I must measure and cut meticulously, but its really not the case. I find ways to avoid taking the surprise out of the process.
I am really not thinking about the end effect when I am working. I have a set of forms I am interested in working with, like a vocabulary that is constantly shifting, and materials that I typically use, and I might have some vague goal like “horn of plenty”, but I try not to think so specifically about the end impact. That said, I do enjoy when my work is evocative of over-the-top-excess and of a certain kind of decay, or culture crumbling back into nature.
2007-12-14-5.jpg

Peter the Great Fabergé Egg

KB: What work of art or object has most inspired your work?
KH: I take most of my inspiration from decorative arts, 18th and 19th century ceramics and glass for instance (Meissen figures, essentially the precursors to Hummel figures are a big source for ideas). Fabergé eggs were hugely important to me when I first began to make this work in, as icons of the most ludicrously luxurious objects imaginable, toiled on by countless workers and enjoyed by very, very few.
Kirsten Hassenfeld’s work has been the subject of three solo exhibitions since 2000, most recently in Dans la Lune at the Rice University Art Gallery, Houston. Her work has been included in numerous prestigious group exhibitions at locations such as PS1/MoMA, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, White Columns, and an exhibition organized by the Public Art Fund in Brooklyn. She has received grants from The Pollock-Krasner Foundation, Dieu Donne Papermill, and The Marie Walsh Sharpe Foundation. Her most ambitious set of installations to date are on view at the Rice University Art Gallery in Houston through December 9th. View more of Kirsten’s Work at The Bellwether Gallery.
Come back every Saturday for more from Kimberly Brooks. Read all First Person Artist interviews and essays at www.firstpersonartist.com.

From Miami Basel with Love

December 8, 2007

Right now, there is a giant pulsing orb of a fair going on known as Miami Basel singeing most artists’ arm hairs. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, it was started only five years ago as a sister fair to Art Basel Switzerland and has since mushroomed into an extravaganza with over 20 satellite fairs and numerous insane parties and festivities to go along with it. I’m not there, but some of my paintings are, and I have no arm hairs left to speak of.
2007-12-07-19.jpg
A Sculpture by Uri Nir who has a film at the Pulse Fair in Miami. ABS and Stainless steel.
Image Courtesy of Braverman Art Projects.

During the life of this column I’ve been asked how I select artists to interview. I’m not an art critic and I don’t view that as my role. Rather, I’m an artist sitting on a hill with a megaphone. Sometimes, as an artist/creative spirit/thinker, I have something to say–the editors here tell me they wish I had more things to say– but most of the time I hand it to another artist. Artists, in my opinion, should be interviewed more about their own work. And it should be everywhere not just the art magazines. Since at any given time there are only, say, a couple gazillion artists with a show to promote, I pass the megaphone around. (The contradictory nature of making art and promoting oneself is a whole other subject.) So, in addition to being a part of the art community and frequent midnight art expeditions on the web looking at other artists’ work, I also ask every artist I interview to suggest artists that they think should be featured.
One of our recent featured artists who is at the fairs is painter Liat Yossifor. She turned me onto some artists that I wanted to share with you:
Roni Horn at Miami Basel Fair
2007-12-07-1.jpg
Roni Horn. Cabinet Of 2001 36 C-prints. Image Courtesy of Hauser Wirth .
2007-12-07-2.jpg
Roni Horn. Puff (1) 2002 C-Prints / cymbolic light jet. Image Courtesy of Hauser Wirth.
Uri Nir at the Pulse Fair
I heard about this from other artist friends, too. He had a dark room with three projections that looked like film noir, all black and white; one video was of an injection of blood to a jellyfish– it was very abstract, like an underwater flower, something between extreme beauty and pain.
2007-12-07-17.jpg
2007-12-07-18.jpg
Stills from the Installation at the Pulse Fair. Uri Nir Image Courtesy of Braverman Art Projects
Keren Cytter at Pulse
These are film stills from a film about relationships and gender– a modern update of a Greek drama with a European twist. It does not suffer the fate of some art films which look like it should be done better and on TV. It actually works as a complex and visually layered works of art.
2007-12-07-20.jpg
Keren Cytter, French Film, 2002 12′ digital video, color-b/w
Image Courtesy of Noga Gallery, Israel.

Bari Ziperstein at the Pulse Fair
He makes sculptures that look like modern furniture with an artists’ intervention.
2007-12-07-21.jpg
Bari Ziperstein. Untitled (Chandelier). 2007 Chandelier, plaster over foamcore. Studio Installation View
2007-12-07-9.jpg
Bari Ziperstein. Untitled (Bathroom) 2006 Light jet print (edition of 5) 30 in. x 40 in.
Images Courtesy of Bank Art Gallery.


Liat Yossifor herself exhibited at Pulse

Liat turns the surface of the paint into fine sculpture and light on it subtly changes was you change the viewing angle.
2007-12-08-liatnew.jpg
Liat Yossifor 15 x 18 in. Oil on Panel.
2007-12-07-10.jpg
Liat Yossifor Installation paintings Oil on Panel. Images Courtesy of Noga Gallery, Israel.
Laurent Grasso from Nada Fair
Video that was digitally manipulated entitled “Palaiv”. In lieu of that image which we don’t have we show an installation of his creating sun in the night.
2007-12-07-12.jpg
Du Soleil dans la Nuit 2006 Vue de l’installation Nuit Blanche
Image Courtesy of Galerie Chez Valentin

Kimberly Brooks at Aqua
This is what happened to the canvas I wrote about in my column about the creative process. My gallery saw it half-complete and insisted I finish so they could take it with them– it was still wet when it left the studio.
2007-12-08-kbrooksaquasmall.jpg
Kimberly Brooks “No 7” 32 x 46 in. Oil on Linen.
2007-12-07-13.jpg
Kimberly Brooks “No 7” 32 x 46 in. Oil on Linen. Detail.
Image Courtesy Taylor De Cordoba

Ara Peterson at the Nada Fair
She makes paintings that seem like sculputre and are based on music. She also experiments with retinal mixing where her use of color mixes in the eye and changes depending upon the viewers angle of viewing.
2007-12-07-15.jpg
Ara Peterson. Impervious Vibes, 2006. Latex and acrylic on pine slats 60 x 85 1/2 x 1 1/2 inches
2007-12-07-16.jpg
Ara Peterson. Impervious Vibes (details), 2006. Latex and acrylic on pine slats.
Image Courtesy Ratio3 Gallery.

If you’re at the fair, please turn us onto some of the artists or observations that struck you in the comments section of the post.

First Person Artist- New Column by Kimberly Brooks

December 1, 2007

I was walking down Rose Avenue in Venice the other day and the sky sparkled a fantastic shade of blue above a row of rumpled clouds and faded buildings. I rushed to get my camera to take a picture of the way it was playing out. But you just can’t capture that sort of thing on film. As a painter, light and instinct are the currency of my work. I work on many paintings at once and face the ones that are drying against the wall. When I turn them around I look at them afresh and try and let my gut guide the next move.
2007-09-27-kb0.jpg
read more ›