Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Some Worthwhile Reading

By Charles Kessler
It's good to know that I'm not the only writer to go over the top for an artist I love. Jonathan Jones of the Guardian, one of my favorite art writers, waxes eloquent here about Douglas Gordon:
Douglas Gordon is as profound, serious, imaginative and stylistically bold as anyone could wish an artist to be. He has matured in richer, more surprising ways than any of his contemporaries. He is the best British artist of my generation and I am glad his sublime exhibition now on at London's Gagosian Gallery gives me an opportunity to say so.
 Art organizations are putting more of their archives and publications on the web. Rhizome, the main organization that presents and preserves technology-oriented art, especially web-art, has at last created an invaluable online archive. And The Los Angeles County Museum of Art has so far put 28 of its past exhibition catalogs online and intends to publish more. Included are famous ones like: Art and Technology, 1971, by Maurice Tuchman; The New York School, 1965, by Maurice Tuchman; Billy Al Bengston, 1968, by James Monte (the one with the sandpaper cover); Ed Keinholz, 1966, by Maurice Tuchman; German Expressionist Sculpture, 1989, by Stephanie Barron; and Chaim Soutine, 1968, by Maurice Tuchman. I hope other organizations will follow their example.
Edward Keinholz, Back Seat Dodge '38, 1964 (LACMA)
Will Brand, guest blogging on Art Fag City, has posted on "Terrible" and "Great" gallery websites. He makes several good points that apply equally to artists' websites. Criticizing Pace Gallery's website, which I have also complained about, Brand says:
...the problem here isn’t a lack of information but its absolute uselessness.
...Having a creative site structure doesn’t do you any good in most businesses: if I’ve been looking at gallery after gallery arranged around the same Artists/Exhibitions/News/Publications/About menu, I start to categorize my desires according to that menu; any other structure becomes disorienting and takes longer to navigate. There’s a reason why grocery stores all have the sugar next to the tea, and the butter next to the milk – these systems help people get things done faster.
Features he likes:
Lots of exhibition archives go way back – Gagosian begins at 1989, and Luhring Augustine offers invitation cards dating to 1985 – but how much useful information is made available? Matthew Marks does an excellent job – in particular, artist CVs link to past exhibitions outside Matthew Marks.
... Friedrich Petzel‘s website is clean and functional, but the highlight is the PDF press packages the gallery makes for artists which includes otherwise hard-to-find stuff from journals like Parkett.
...Photographs: Big ones, please, and ones I can use without taking a screenshot and mucking about in Photoshop – which means less Flash.
Bushwick artist Jon Rafman has compiled an impressive collection of surreal, bizarre or just plain beautiful images from Google Street View.
To celebrate their 15th anniversary, artnet, one of the first internet sites to cover art business, news and reviews, has posted a selection of articles from their archives. Included are articles by Lee Rosenbaum (CultureGrrl blog); Eleanor Heartney (art critic and author); and John Good (now director of the Gagosian Gallery). The articles give a sense of the scene in those years, but they're still relevant today.

Finally, the cocky young hotshot Peter Plagens, now approaching 70 (WHAT??), looks back at how the art world has changed. In his typically funny, cynical, insightful, infuriating, brilliant and glib manner, he nails it. Here's a taste:
...There’s no such thing as a “vanguardist” because there’s no such thing as an avant-garde. True, some artists still push the envelope of what’s permissible in sexual and political content, or what’s legal in terms of doing things on public property, or what’s doable in terms of technological sophistication and complexity, or what galleries and museums will put up with in the way of physical risk, inconvenience and insurance liability. But artists doing those sorts of things is so expected it’s almost academic.


Jeffrey said...

Thanks for letting me know about the best of and worst of gallery websites pages. I was speaking with a friend who does website design a few days ago about how so many gallery sites are just terrible and now look at this. For companies that rely so much on image, you'd think they would wanna make slick and very insightful websites to go along with everything else.

Charles Kessler said...

I think the problem is because they're art galleries they want to be creative. In the case of websites, though, it's a bad idea. Same goes for artists' sites -- creative sites are just annoying.

Jeffrey Collins said...

VERY much agreed. I have always tried to make my website as easy to navigate and as plain as a gallery wall. Just the art, that's the most important thing for the artist and should still be in a website.

Jeffrey Collins said...

Hey Charles, how about we do an entry on BAD MUSEUM websites, as this is a terrible one. What is up with the T over all the pages. Is that supposed to be someones idea of web art?

Charles Kessler said...

I agree the Stedelijk site is a mess, but the worst, in my opinion, is the Modern's. There's no easy way from their home page to get at basic information like what's showing currently. Everything takes four or five clicks, if you can find what you're looking for at all. Their iPhone app is better, fortunately. I just use that.