Sunday, November 20, 2005

Hilberry review part II: Blank Canvas reports

Although many might guess that "Blank Canvas" is just an alter ego of myself that provides reviews that I do not want my name attached to, you are wrong. I sometimes like a different art that isn't jaded by art school, art hype, or fancy art speak. I enjoyed the Hilberry show: again I am a sucker for a painting show, but here are a few questions I asked Blank Canvas about the show:

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So, would you pay $65,000 for this? (assuming you were rich)

I frequently like to assume I'm rich. I book meals at fancy restaurants and take dates there so I can impress them. It's always a good time and we really enjoy ourselves - until the bill comes. All the assuming in the world won't pay those bills! Anyway, yes, I would pay $65,000 for that piece if I was rich. Reasons: 1) In person, the face is sort of holographic and haunting, though the overall composition is a tad boring. (i.e. I like the piece) 2) Ellen has a good resume (i.e. investment potential)

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Do you think Susanne is taking a risk at showing such expensive works? What makes her gallery successful? (if you agree)

If this was any major city but Detroit, this would't even be a question! Sadly, it is here in Motown, where people regularly buy cars that are the size of my house (and cost as much!) but then buy "art" at the ann arbor art fair or target. If I see one more "nice" house with those f-ing "vino" posters "from Italy" I will scream! Buy real art. If you like this and can afford it, buy it. If you like something cheaper and can afford that, go with it. Just don't buy a poster or giclee.

Susanne's gallery is successful because she shows high quality art and has a network of collectors, I think. It's the one place in Detroit that does anything to slow the art drain in this town. By "art drain," I mean rich people and collectors who live in Detroit but`go to New York to buy art.

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Is Clint the one who escapes Detroit and makes it...or just gets trapped into the "Detroit painter" title?

Clint can make it, if Clint decides to make it. Otherwise, he will be an "underappreciated painter from the Detroit-in-ruins school."

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On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best, what is this?

2, on a good day, when I'm drunk and feeling generous.

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Art and Humor: good or bad? When the joke isn't funny anymore are you left with just bad art?

This joke will never get old! Look at all those rings on his hands - that is comedy!

I like to laugh. Why should art be exempted from that?

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What is the first word that pops into your head?


The next words: How did I end up at primary space?

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This reminds me of those self-esteem/corporate motivational stores that were popular in the mid-'90s. Like those stores, I hope this painting goes away.

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Does an all over composition bother you?

Nope. Did it bother God when He made leopards?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dammit - was hoping to meet up with you guys at the opening. Mrs dFUNK and I were there to cheer on the Sniderman and lookit some art, we musta just missed you.

We'll catch you guys next time around fo sure.

Blank Canvas ROCKS !

Blank Canvas for Mayor !

7:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Ann,

If only we all had the balls of Blank Canvas to stay anonymous, we'd still never say anything.

Will the real Elizabeth Peyton please stand up?!

What's up with Blank Canvas?! He go blank on this show? Blindsided by the pricetags?

Price doesn't equal quality. Quite the opposite, it demands a more rigorous scrutiny as to such inflated art's intrinsic value. And none was to be found at this exhibition, neither value nor scrutiny.

Although I can and will quote at least two people at the opening I overheard using the term "shit." And it wasn't through the bathroom door.

As for a "daring" show: it dared to be bad, albeit with a good price attached. That's all. Sometimes a critique need not wallow in the work. Bad is bad. Sometimes that's enough said.

"Just because we're not in school anymore doesn't mean critical discussion of art stops. It's everyone's responsibility to elevate the level of dialog in this city." (NS truly said.)

Like it or not, it's also the responsibility of the last of the "respected" galleries to elevate the level of the art on view in this city.

Ann, you were in Chicago the same week I was. And even the smallest, youngest of the galleries were showing more engaging work.

God save us all,

11:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh jef - If only you had the balls to not make art under 40 different names.

anyway, price doesn't equal quality. those billy sullivans at hilberry are expensive and total crap. or "shit" as you prefer. same for Anna Schachte. that stuff almost made me puke all over my blank canvas.

as for the good/expensive stuff - the Phelan, some Deutsch - are you anti-expensive art? not interested in compensating artists for sticking it out and finally being able to cash in on their work some 40 years into their careers?

where's all this detroit art critical dialog that people talk about but never participate in? this blog gets like one comment a week. where are you people? let's talk critically and intelligently about this stuff. you claim it's your passion ...

for me, it's just an enjoyment. I'm not painted canvas — I'm BLANK, bitches!

4:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

BLANK writes:
If only you had the balls to not make art under 40 different names.
...this blog gets like one comment a week. where are you people? let's talk critically and intelligently about this stuff. you claim it's your passion ...
for me, it's just an enjoyment. I'm not painted canvas — I'm BLANK, bitches!

Jef writes:
As for forty artists, that may be an overstatement -- besides, what's that got to do with anything here?!

At least I don't hide behind any one of them. Anyone who has an opinion should have the courage to stand behind it. Otherwise, shut up.

Okay, here's some dialogue:

The art world is like an imaginary road where everything keeps moving. But there's too much gravity here. Artists either get buried alive or burst free and fly away. Here, you are not really expected to debate such realities of place. Or even whether it is good or bad art that you make or view. The dialogue always returns to mere survival until you're strong enough to migrate on. Or grow complacent running in place.

...The big talk should be about peripheries. About outskirts like Detroit, and understanding the real challenge of bringing such peripheries into the greater art world. Such places will someday decide art. If only to rebuke the ongoing tragedy of place.

...There are at least two linchpins to force such a rebuke: a contemporary museum and a professional art mag with total bragging rights. One to present the best of current art. The other to boast about it to the world. One presents, the other disseminates pride in the presentation. But both have to be world class. Or, at the least, able to boldly shatter the status quo. After all, the loudest is always the first to be heard.

...Chicago was animated by such a combo, the MCA and the New Art Examiner.
And now London challenges New York with its Tate Modern and two art journals, Frieze and the reanimated Modern Painters.

5:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think that blank canvas was overly praising the exhibit. I think "canvas" humorously responded to questions that were sometimes silly.
And as far as the prices go...I think that it was more of a statement that the prices were high: the debate wasn't if the phelan was worth $70,000. Prices are arbitrary. Doesn't it seem ridiculous to see paintings priced so high and selling at auction while still really great art works are so affordable because of undiscovered talent.
I still wouldn't say it was a bad show! Jef were you at the last hilberry show? That was much more boring. I have been to A LOT of art shows and I still would disagree to say that this wasn't a bad show.
Look at the dialogue it has created!

6:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

dear anon,
i guess i was just responding to the fresh frustration of detroit's losing galleries like revolution and district. and being complacent about what's showing at what's left -- when it becomes the only real game in town.
putting art in a museum - or on a gallery wall with a hefty pricetag demands the viewer look at the art with a more, not less, critical eye. and ask why? why is it there and not something else? if there isn't a satisfactory answer, then ...
and perhaps it was a preemptory outburst against the coming press the show will undoubtably get -- loaded with unqualified praise by critics cowed by the diminishing art scene here; and so - the fear of any true critique.
as for blank canvas, his/her personal attacks on artists (such as niagra, whom i don't know)are at the low end of any real art dialogue. and lower when such a person is too afraid to sign his/her own true identity to such slurs.
- jef

8:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


are we reading the same posts? I re-read my niagara post you seem so offended by and I think we may be reading different blogs.

personal attacks on niagara? there were none. I would not even consider it. this section:

"Wow, that 50 year old woman with the bad blond dye job really is wearing all black with leopard skin accents - crazy! I thought people like this only existed in parody."

is not about niagara. it's a composite character sketch - an amalgamation of a number of characters in attendance at the opening. an opening whose census would look a lot like that of a bon jovi concert.

I like humor, jef. I would not laugh at a person's expense. that's not funny. their gallery-hung art work - which they display before the public - is fair game for funny criticism. the community that follows a type of work is also up for laughs. but the individuals, no, not my style.

my other niagara opening comment that included people:

"If by "Detroit artists" you mean "washed up old rockers" and "art scene" you mean "retirement home for the trying too hard," then yes."

was again, not about niagara. it was about a certain community/scene in detroit that I think is mostly a joke. it's static, silly, sad and almost entirely trapped in it's "legacy" and an idealized, half-remembered past.

as for anonimity, blank canvas is a creation, jef. blank canvas is not real, but blank canvas creates work and that work may or may not be just as valid as signed work. that's something you should know plenty about. anyway, he's meant to make people laugh while hopefully sparking/provoking an art dialog in the city.

-Blank Canvas (not ann/not ann pretending to be someonelse)

10:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yo yo. Read in original context, Blank's Niagra comments are too cruel trying to play at hip and cool. And all the time "not making fun of people" while making total fun of people (a number of those in attendance). Aptly named: Blank. The Blank Meister. I agree Blank is too scared to take responsibility for penned slams. Hides behind some bullshit of "not real" and "a creation" but still wants the attacks to be considered "valid". And somehow funny. Yeah, for me to poop on!
If Blank Canvas "is not real" then we can only assume this character must be the "creation" of Blogger Ann to hide behind.

2:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I assure you that Blank Canvas is not Ann and I will stop doing him if people refuse to believe this. Perhaps this is what most of you want anyway.

-Blank Canvas (NOT ann/NOT a creation of ann's)

8:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

blank canvas also wishes he had used the proper "its" in his post two above this one. damn my copy editors!

8:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It should be no big deal that Ann Gordon is Blank Canvas. Such a clever creation has allowed her to take down two local poseurs like Niagra & Hilberry. Sometimes it feels like there are more poseurs than artists.
Scratch two less for Blank Canvas/Ann. Her blog is bringing the power back to the artists.

12:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Blank Canvas isn't real why did Ann Blog have to make him up as a guy anyway! He, he, he... SOunds like my asthmatic cat trying to laugh in the middle of a hairball experience. Speaking of which Blank is just too catty from the get-go to be invented as a guy. Maybe gender challenged. But not another male on the art scene. Not enough female voices to be had?! Come on. Hillberry only had 2 female artists in the show. And a bad Elisabeth Peyton cover named Billy. I love Peyton's Kurt Cobain. And all her People magazine pictures. She's the best. Why settle for seconds in the form of a guy? And this Jeff guy rambling on about Detroit getting museums and art magazines. Cut back on his thorezene and welcome this dude back to the real world.
That's all,

1:54 PM  
Blogger lissycakes said...

I am not going to comment on jeff or blank canvas. I would like to comment on the show itself. I was at the opening, and have to say, that I was incredibly dissappointed at the quality of the work at the show. I felt there were maybe only 3-4 paintings that had any artistic merit at all. the rest were utter shite. I may have been the person who someone overheard using the word 'shit'. I was with 2 of my friends, who are both artists as well. we don't claim to be 'good' artist, or critically acclaimed artists, or even 'recognized' artists. But, I think we know what we like and don't like. I did not like the majority of the work at the show. It saddens me that the SHgallery would even put on a show like that. It is such a beautiful space, and it seems that there should be work shown there that would be at least on par with the space itself. Also, I would like to make note of the fact that all the artists with the exception of clinton are now from nyc. is this why their work was chosen? was there some nyc 'cred' thing going on at this show? also, who actually curated the show? is it susanne herself? or perhaps one of her assistants?

Either way, I do wish I would've had an opportunity to speak with the curator to find out the thinking behind choosing some of the artists and peices.

I think there is alot of untapped talent here in the motor city, and maybe part of the problem, is that it is hard to get your work noticed by anyone, much less shown. I would hope in the future, the curators of shows would start looking around more for unknown talents, maybe even having a special show for unknowns or something.... just an idea.

Its frustrating when you go to a show, see horrible work, and inflated prices, and you know your own mother could do better than that.

I'm not meaning to upset anyone with this post, just putting my 2 cents in. I love the idea of an art "community". I think this blog maybe a good way to start bringing the art community together again, and start thinking of better shows to put together.

thanks for your time in reading-

1:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i agree. why don't we just throw shite to the wind and stop looking in all the old spaces for new and great work and do our own thing as artists. clint and mitch were talking to real detroit a while back about how easy and affordable it is to open an art space here. why doesn't someone do it on the scale damien hirst did back in 1989 with his freeze exhibit with a bunch of great detroit artists in an empty warehouse or factory space and put together a once-in-a-lifetime event with a catalogue. make our own waves. i'll bring the dip. --ed

2:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoa everyone...let's all take a deep breath!

It's much too easy to jump on calling foul without ever having to commit to any real criticism. "Prices are too high, art is shitty and I hate New York..." get over it or get a new job. Art is expensive. If Ellen Phelan sells 4 ptgs in a year at $70,000 she makes $35,000 each (maybe less given that the NY gallery will take a cut on top of Susanne's cut) 35,000 X 4 = $140,000...a handsome sum no doubt, but hardly a killing in NY. And, that's as a moderately well known, successful artist. With that in mind the 7-10 thousand dollar price tags don't feel so steep.

Moving on.

If the current show at Susanne's is bad by your standards, what makes it so?? Can you do better? Do other, smaller galleries do better? Do 101, 555, 4731, DAM, C-Pop or Pr1mary Space do better? Sometimes...rarely.

It's important to position local artists within the framework of national and international art. Every time a show comes around featuring primarily out of town talent (or even discussion of such a show) someone starts weeping about a lack of local artists (i.e. "I would like to make note of the fact that all the artists with the exception of Clinton are now from nyc. Is this why their work was chosen? Was there some nyc 'cred' thing going on at this show?"). I would like to make a note that the vast majority of exhibitions in Detroit are of Detroit artists. In fact, a vast majority of galleries in the city show exclusively Detroit art. If anything we should be excited to see what's going on outside our borders. It's important for everyone to see as much work as possible. All of the work in the show (with the exception of Clint) is not only made by artists working in NY, but by artists succeeding in NY. Maybe we need to take our tastes to task and ask why we don't see what others see in the work. Are our tastes underdeveloped due to our location, or is the work genuinely bad? I tend to think that it's primarily a matter of a deficiency in visual vocabulary.

Jef is right about our need for a Contemporary Museum and national press, but it’s equally important to show local talent WITH out of town work in order to forge comparisons. We can’t make it on our own...that is our first mistake. We should look for any opportunity to bring new work in and get our work out (for a great example of this, go check out the show I curated at CCS featuring work of John Beech, Jeremy Boyle, Jeff Carter and Courtney Smith, all hailing from out of town. It closes Dec 17th.).

So, my opinions of the show.

I liked Anna Schachte, Ryan McLaughlin, and David Deutsch's paintings. I felt the show overall was mixed. I was interested in seeing Josh Smith's work, though I felt ultimately disappointed with the 2 paintings in this show. They were too muddy, though David Deutsch's muddy was nice. Billy Sullivan is definitely much too much like Elizabeth Peyton for me to handle...and Peyton doesn't do it for me. Holly Coulis was a split with the white bearded guy being funny and quirky, and the other boring. Clint's work is starting to feel safe. I wish he'd push himself farther into unfamiliar territory. The Phelan's were nicely handled, but I still haven't formed an opinion of them. They definitely didn't bowl me over or anything. The whole show didn’t bowl me over, but even in its mediocre-ness, I was still happy to see all the work in person (if only to move beyond it).

I also think it’s unfair to attack Susanne personally. This is a tough town, and I think she’s going out on a limb with this show. The fact that it’s sparked this dialog should not be overlooked.

I’m really glad a discussion is brewing, though I wish there was more substance and criticism. And as for anonymous posts, have the courage to put your name with your words. If you’re worried about your career, fear have no career to damage. No one will hold it against you.

Oh, and for those who didn’t like the Drawing all need to look again at William Anastasi and Alan Saret. Their work is amazing (!!!) and it was worth all the jewelry and pottery just to see their work.


11:48 AM  
Blogger art blogs are fun said...

Thanks for all the comments everyone! I hope that we can continue the art dialogue and keep detroitarts a great place to vent, argue, and talk about what we!

12:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you brought this discussion to an end too soon. there's a lot more to be said. you need to keep it going.

8:59 AM  
Blogger art blogs are fun said...

I didn't intend on ending the talk...I said "let's continue the dialogue!" I think this post is just starting to get buried in past posts...comment on a newer post and maybe more people will see it.

10:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

there's got to be a blog-way to keep a "chat" going without being disengaged and started all over at another posting.
anyway, i wanted to say more to what nolan talked about -- but will just say that word today was that mocad will put on a show in spring and bring out an art magazine as well: with mitch cope and lynn crawford involved. watch what you wish for.
also on the inside - paul kotula is opening his own gallery.
- jef

10:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

probably should keep your gossip to yourselves, Ann you need to get friggin clue.

12:05 AM  

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