AO On Site – NYC: “Salad days” at The Journal Gallery Through December 15th, 2010 (with Video Interview and Editorial by Patrick Meagher)

December 14th, 2010

Salad Days at The Journal Gallery, courtesy the journal

Michael Nevin‘s the journal is akin to an unfolding art project, a published collaborative diary of art, photography, fashion, music, zines and pop culture that converge and merge in a mix of commercial, art, and DIY creatives. While a range of art-historical precedents—of multi-disciplinary explorations by artists working in print, fashion, music, and collaborating with photographers and contemporary dance—are increasingly visible today, the journal stands out with its 10+ year history, adding to New York City’s fine tradition of artist-run projects of magazines, printed matter, and periodicals: Interview, Index, Zing, et al.

AO on site: Interview with Michael Nevin

More story after the jump…

The Journal Gallery. Courtesy the journal

The artist-edition supplements that are published in association with the magazine (most recently by William Eggleston, Urs Fischer and Nate Lowman), often in coordination with the magazine’s gallery—a show space for paired art exhibitions—complete a three-way conversation and presentation, which is remarkable in conceit, or at least ambition. However, the recent group show at the gallery—over a decade’s worth of fifty of the people in and around the magazine and gallery from its inception in 1999 in Michael’s dorm room in Beverly, Massachusetts to it’s days in the East Village to the present location in Williamsburg—shows another aspect of the project at large. What follows here is an editorial/review and partial digestion of the current show at The Journal Gallery, Salad Days, on view through December 15th.

At the opening: Writer Patrick Meagher and Curator Michael Nevin

To note: Initially, this feature was just going to be an easy going video chat with Michael Nevin giving a tour of the show to Deborah Heuberger and me, but further interesting off-camera conversations prompted the essay here. I wanted to talk about the art in the show somehow as a whole, and to attempt at parsing of a few links in the past decade. Bearing in mind that a real definitive gesture to a summation of this show, or drawing connections amongst a relatively diverse set of works, would be premature or prescient at best (as a show of this size would be better assayed in a full catalog), here goes:

Jason Osborne, Better/ Best, 2010. Courtesy the journal

The title of the show, Salad Days, remarks on the roots of the magazine and the early days of artists cutting their chops without the steak or pork on the plate just yet. It’s a classic title, and almost anyone who showed up in NYC in the last few hundred years or since around the first Thanksgiving, knows what this title is about—the skinny days of starting with all heart (hopefully…) and if that means a limited menu along the way, sometimes or most of the time, it doesn’t seem to matter at the time at all. Love. Salad Days is a milestone, a snapshot, a slice, a memento-vivi, and, overall, the works are beautiful and lithe, and have a light and fun touch. Moreover, it’s refreshing to see less of the gloom and doom, glam and damn, or cram and crumb, post-modern nihilism that seemed so focused-on in the pre-millennial-tension to the post-millennial-depression negative-rainbow that seemed to touch down into a pot of black gold just a few years ago. Even if that ‘neo-zeroism’ now looks more like a constructive active-nihilism that Nietzsche also spoke of when he found his enlightenment near the end of his life, a certain veil has lifted on the millennial shift, and emerging rays of light can be seen here.

At the opening: Behind: Roe Etheridge, Holly at Marlow and Sons, 2004

As background, the era of this show is the Naughts, and there is an of-the-time ‘naught-ness’ with the marked and intentional informality of the most of the work in the show. Off the cuff, even Roe Etheridge, a virtuoso photographer whose art dialogs with his photos for/in magazines, plays with a snap-shot quality in a framed portrait. And, not to bring up a ‘content versus form’ thing, but the priority in many works in this show seems to be a feeling, or feeling as a verb, versus just visual thinking. There is an intimate image texture here, or an attempt towards channeling ‘raw’ or intellectually ‘unfettered’ intuition. (Thanks to the C.S. Jung revival of late, are both words ‘intuition’ and ‘community’ more or less ‘good’ again?) Carefully casual, many of the works exude a carefree unstudied affect, and/or come from seemingly amateur-inspired or apparently un-academic arms, cradling either film, music or photo-photo as parallel lines or mainstays, but the look has a look, and is a look, for pose or purpose. Versatile cross-medium artists such as Spencer Sweeney, Harmony Korine, Lizzi Bougatsos, Mark Gonzales, and Leo Fitzpatrick, speak for themselves as their reputations precede them. Such hybridized work has long shaken off, thankfully ignoring and remaining unaware of expired Modernist notions of virtuosity=linearity plus variations on a theme within limited careerist boxing of one’s politics or branding contrivances. The work in Salad Days overall is generally fast and fresh, retaining the immediacy and apparent authenticity of a painted gesture (as with Josh Smith, and Bill Saylor and painterly illustration, cartoon or doodle (e.g., Andrew Kuo, Joe Bradley, Michael Williams, Eddie Martinez and Chris Johanson)). Obvious craft, in a traditional sense of the word, isn’t a central consideration here either. Rather, the rendering of many drawings of late, (inside and outside of this show) are ironically crafty, matter-of-fact, or earnest in their arts-and-crafts-ness. Whether stylized, honest or thankfully provisional, sans extraneous flourish—there is plenty of work to be done beyond belabored time-fetishizing industrialist exercises of work based on merely valuing expenditures of labor. The overused adage of ‘time is money’ is inflected by ‘knowledge is power,’ of the information age and ‘intuition trumps logic’ in the broadening creative-class culture in the blossoming of multi-directional media. If, when, (or now) a 2012 flowering of the Aquarian Age goes hand in hand with this technological growth, a renewed psychedelic surrealism movement is part of this show as well: David Dupuis, even Chris Martin.

At the opening: Rob Pruitt, Ice (The Morning After), 2010

Everyone knows the 20th century’s party is over… Rob Pruitt’s clever melted bag of ice, sitting in the corner, which somehow seems a little tragic or pathetic, even if it is a one bag, one-liner. Yet this ‘slacker’ concept art, literally hands-off, dropping-the-bag, in a seemingly off-hand way, puts a nice spin off and amongst the dime-store poetic irony of that genre of ‘easy cool’ work, which gives an appropriationist perspective, if often at a safe apolitical distance. As it goes, it seems to be a kind of back-to-basics with most of the work in the early 21st century by the emerging generations, (online or off). As with most of the work in this show, beside the fact that some coffers are colder, there is a sense of something larger and looming on the horizon, or that we are generally conceptually still in the woods of the era shift, in the buzzing digital countryside, marshy blogs, howling awareness wolves and all. If fears of this vast new social wilderness don’t kill the mood, there is still a ‘stillness’ for reflection, getting in touch with the heart and soul, beyond the cranial-centric Modern mindset of yore.

B. Wurtz, Untitled, 2006. Courtesy the journal

Scott Lenhardt’s adroit, if illustrative, pensive ink-penned idyllic creates a still moment of self-nurture nature in the cluster of activity on the wall. Chris Johanson, and pieces by Sam Moyer, Jason Osborne and Julia Dippelhofer seem to contribute to and indicate an emerging ‘know-wave’ art, where philosophy in text hits the paper or canvas. It’s like ‘love, with knowledge’ and exercises a kind of generosity in its approach and sensibility that comes from earlier text-in-art movements that were both political, randomized or non-sensical (DaDa, Letterist, Conceptual Art) or dryly humorous (Ruscha, Baldessari) and a later wave of critical humorists like David Shrigley and Dan Perjovschi.  Humor has seeds of wisdom, as care or pain wrapped in a blanket of comforting and perhaps illuminating wry ‘truths.’ In this aspect, 21st century parties are steadily underway.

Know-Wave’, coined by A-ron (Aaron Bondaroff,) is perhaps the urban cousin of the early new Millennium’s ‘New Sincerity’ – an alternative movement in music and literature espousing the avoidance of cynicism, but not necessarily of irony (to lift from Wikipedia), that was and is a music and literary movement. In light of late-late mono-dimensional-corporationalism, the ‘New Sincerity’ ostensibly has ‘greater goals than making money as its end-all motivation,’ which could also express that making art and making money together doesn’t have to be a cynical or an un-spiritual combination. Damien Hirst already sweetly and cynically covered that previous golden ground quite thoroughly, up to his near death diamond skull experience, and came-to-in-the-hospital work he recently exhibited; but this is also medicine for an era that we now wave goodbye to in some sense. And by the way we can probably thank other Gen-X’ers like Morrissey and other irregulars who smithed the path to the cures of the slits, to rosier new and post-new-sincerities. Golden Era Hip-Hop paved part the know-wave path stateside, from slim and shadier shades of newer ‘leaders of the new school’ (Pick up the new Rap Anthology).

Know-Wave, in its music and its art, is also a similarly loosely defined amalgam of styles, both non-genre specific, and genre-blending. A post-information-art (of the 70s), it can be related to the knowledge-is-power tenet of Hip-Hop, as well as the less esoteric and more viable aspects of post-or-late-Hippy, New Age and Green Movements, and other progressive social movements centered around consciousness, communal process, and community.

If ‘Moment by Moment’ is verily the definition of contemporary, as in con (with) temp (time) which is where we are now with time – but we are now also with each other more and more and more. A future phase of this conflagration is a step away from time itself, a place of peace off the clock, off the dock, swimmingly swirled perspectives meeting in unlikely places and hybridizing like the digitally accelerated amateur-professional media fuckfest to be called the post-contemporary, or maybe even eventually, the vaunted ‘aperspectival’ (look this term up too, it’s more than interesting, it’s integral to the near future).

Bill Saylor, Untitled, 2010. Courtesy the journal

You certainly no longer need to go back to the old bunker to ask Josh Harris how We Live in Public, – as that visionary fun and crazy experiment became practically true to life. People are trying to get back to life now after running the rat race, abiding in student loan purgatories, or avoiding either of those potential traps altogether. You even might not need to go to art school now either; Mark Gonzales, Chris Johanson, and others have other training and experiences, and make great work. Some similar-looking work in this show is accessible, fun, and still rigorous, like that of Dan McCarthy, Jason Osborne and many more of the artists in Salad Days who perhaps occupy a more intuitive ‘third space’ if you will, between formal painting’s mental/social bookends of either “problematising a canvas or canvassing a problem” as I liked to say when attempting to describe a generality of Western academic art to friends in Asia.

Michael Williams, Garden of Eatin, 2010. Courtesy the journal

Somewhere in that mind/body dichotomy, the spirit seems bereft, and here it seems to take a new stand, or at least a stand-in, for the spiritual. And as Illustration was a bit of a dying art with the advent of digital media, so it seems apropos that these styles, mining both vernacular and nostalgic imagery, get fair play in the visual dialogue. Commercial photography, illustration and graphic design-inspired works show strength in this show too (Andew Kuo, Martynka Wawrzyniak, Maciek Kobielski, Carlos Valencia), which is a reminder that art exists at the top of any field, and that we make art with the things we consume, or the fields through which we make some or most of our bread and butter with. Considering that when art’s adjacent fields flood with economic boom capital, these visuals and sculptural forms flow nicely together until the land drains out and people can picnic again in their different professional careers or just continue to walk the occupational line, and find fulfillment in those zones. It’s also a good reminder that art isn’t just another career in the nuts-and-bolts careerist sense; at its best, art is a life that gets supported by a community. All levels and zones of the creative sphere, commercial or ‘Commercial,’ can be equally esteemed at some point despite the chosen or adopted forum, and its consequent potential income levels. Whether on a global, national, state, local, or street level, there are so many avenues for the sharing, caring, and cultivation of art and culture, that the 21st century outlook on the myriad of discussions around art can take a new look at itself as valid in many different ways, especially when leveraging additional options like the Internet or e-commerce, corporate sponsorship or other cross commercial avenues, that may have seemed anathema before. Yet keep in mind, as it is well known, that Warhol, Rauschenberg, and Johns in their early years, alongside many well-known and less-known artists before and after, also gave us a form of public art in the window galleries of Barneys, Bergdorf, Saks, and up and down Madison Avenue, uptown, as well as downtown fashion and sporting companies which later broke off some revenue for their own art concerns and constituencies.

Some of the work in Salad Days seems like it is floating in time, and on some level, could have been made (technically) at any point in time in the past few decades—is that saying something to you too? Are the works here biding their time or working out a new value system of sorts, or is that implicitly built into any equation that keeps apace with its time? This is coming close to being ‘our’ time (generationally for late gen x and early y), and part of that time, seems to include more or less, many aspects of a range of eras and ways of approaching the page—and that is part of the con-temp-orary con-temporary contemporaneity as reflected above. Or perhaps reverberating on the contributions of the tsunami of amateur content and imagery that floats on the web and the walls of a global city, bearing in mind that this is an unprecedented volume of input and feedback.

Michael Nevin, Untitled, 2010. Courtesy the journal

And yet, current C-Prints aside, Michael Nevin’s piece seems to be the only digitally-unafraid work, he himself being well-accustomed to page layouts, which drove the elegant pairings of work in the installation of 50 pieces in nearly 500 square feet of floor space. Nevin’s iPhone photo of an MTA subway worker’s smiley graffiti, comes to being as an appealing and charmingly effortless self-evident inkjet painting that could remind one to stop toiling in studio or foiling otherwise, and just look for the simple joy around us. There is an exploratory-ness in a lot of the work in this show that may indicate the importance of failure as a means to reflect on the status quo and move forward. So, in the mean time of the seeming hang-time of the era shift, a simple gesture suffices, one does not have to accomplish everything on a single page, print or canvas. Perhaps in the multitude of images there lies a larger perspective of different assessments of values, and takes, on perceptions of reality.

In a public dialogue held by ‘proactivist’ author Daniel Pinchbeck, at Collective Hardware with Abel Ferrara (one of New York’s finest filmmakers), Pinchbeck spoke of changes in ways of thinking into critical action. To quote his book Notes from Edge Times:

“Ferrara sees that our society has become untenable and unsustainable. Yet he seemed unable to recognize that this situation might require an active rather than reactive response—that we actually need to build the scaffold of the new society and value system while the old one melts down. I find that most people share this blind spot. Many artists embrace the culture’s destructive tendencies, even glamorizing the dysfunctional characters who emerge from our cynical doom-spiral state. We tend to dwell on the muck, rather than use art to envision and inspire the way out of it.”

While people got down in the muck for good reason, perhaps as an eventual path to some form of eventual enlightenment, and some chose to revisit that as a type of ‘authentic’ existence, others can reflect on that and then move on at some point. But this point isn’t a polemic here—in the emerging aperspectival philosophy, there are always multiple co-existing angles and approaches, all ostensibly good in their own way, and addressing various constituencies, relating and developing various takes on reality, as seen from many and varied subjectivities.

Far left: Maciek Kobielsk, Coco, 2010. Center above: Harmony Korine, Handy Mandy, 2010. Center below: Spencer Sweeny, The Beast, 2010. Far right: Dan McCarthy, Untitled, 2010. Courtesy the journal

In relation to the access-to-knowledge-and-resources factor that the post-punk movement raised, in this show (considering that the works are generally smaller in size for the sake of the scale of the show and the exhibition space), art production capital is minimal, minimized or nearly invisible. This is in high contrast to the ‘80s  and ‘90s slick and expensive high-production-value fabrication (which interestingly was championed by self-proclaimed working and middle class artists like Hirst, Koons, Murakami, et al., and maybe are a vanguard of putting your money (in your work) where your mouth is, in some way. But seriously, can you fault any artist for shying away from grandiose production or just that look, or not wanting to overexpose or represent unabashed or overstated commercialistic lux these days? Blatant gloss is practically déclassé now. Obvious excess or over-presentation looks kind of bad or off-base alongside the tales of today’s extraordinarily low (or just more blatant) high-finance malfeasance, mortgage rate high-jackers, creditor criminals, devious-derivative-dealer banker-robbers and other all too common corporate atrocities and other woes of late-20th century bottom-line-basis greed worship. Looking at the past decade in light of those economic turns makes it plainly clear why Vampires and Zombies were so en vogue as cultural metaphors of societal behavior around the Millennium, as the Klepto-Capitalist side of the big-business world slowly wrangles and ambles to its inevitable non-greenwashed version of a Triple Bottom Line satori (e.g. People, Planet, Profit, all with capital P’s in some form or fashion, sorting out the order of those priorities to one’s choice, free from a fear-of-lack, as there are many other ways to get there and still be here).

At the opening

How does this emerging consciousness translate in art? At the very least, there are other distribution models to explore, such as ubiquity vs. scarcity. As simple and complex as that dynamic can be, it already functions in the amateur or pre-professional content of the web. Part of the bottom line is the New Economy, and seeing how that interfaces with the art world at large; remember ‘the slackers’? The slackers dropped out when the economy went slack, and said, ‘fuck it,’ and then were later more able to embark upon the new digital paradigms. Like the hippies prior, who, shaking off the ‘50s of appliances and canned goods, largely said, ‘I don’t want to live in a metal can, I don’t want to be a soup can, and we can do better for ourselves and the world at large,’ and went at it, for better or worse. The ‘60s generation now runs the world, and the smallest generation yet, Gen X, started the Internet Revolution. So, remember the New Economy credo, in brief: 1. Lets start a company with our friends and do what we want to do in a way we feel is right; 2. Everyone is helping, so everyone gets paid and and is vested somehow financially and no one gets treated poorly; 3. Considering that the peace of mind of the Maslow-ian human bases are covered by 1 & 2 (food, water, shelter, clothing, family security, protection, belonging, friendship, love, esteem) we evolve to exploring further potential, and get beyond the work or useless struggle to enjoy more of the abundant fun and joy in city life.

the journal, No. 29. Courtesy the journal

Back to the magazine, the recent issue, entry no. 29, has some gorgeous shots of sculpture by Sarah Braman, a great east-meets-west Salon curated by Roni Horn, and, what I love to look at repeatedly—the cover photo—beaming happy faces, amazed by the magic of David Blaine, shot at home by day-time photo-vérité meister Juergen Teller. It’s a good reminder of joy, fun, family, friends, and ‘doing it for the kids’… and the kids are more than alright.

Above: Patrick Griffin, Untitled “Thank You,” 2010. Below: Darren Bader, Kiehl’s facial moisturizer, sweet potatoes, 2010. Courtesy the journal

5,000 words later, a blog article can’t do this show justice; go see it for yourself. And sincerely, ‘Thank You’ too, Patrick Griffin.

At the opening

Related Links:

Salad Days at The Journal [Opening Ceremony]
The Journal [Official Site]