Tuesday, May 23, 2006

RICH RICH RICH: is this art?

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"Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is manifested in a variety of forms, but is most commonly characterized by a subject's obsessive thoughts and related compulsions which attempt to neutralize the obsessions." (Wikipedia)

At first glance RICHRICHRICH (RRR) is a disregarded room of left over construction materials but after careful consideration and observation the room comes alive and reveals that it is a controlled art installation site where every fragment, additive and subtractive is well thought out and meticulously placed. Blue coolers are stacked on the ground, leftover plaster drywall is scattered in deliberate piles, a print is hidden in the ceiling tiles, necklaces sit on the ground like jewels and many other treasures appear before your eyes like in Highlights Magazine's hidden pictures from your childhood. Your mind starts to spin out of control as you see each mark on the wall and small fragment on the floor. To escape the planned mess is impossible. While entering the bathroom, a smashed bowling ball with drywall pieces sits in one corner while a trashcan with empty bottles and beer cans sits in the other corner. The bowling ball is intentional but is the trashcan? Did they put the trashcan there for a reason? What is a trashcan? Is it art? This is an example of the trail of thoughts that go through the viewer's head while in this gallery space.

The three collaborators, Mike Smith, Nolan Simon and Ed Brown - all very different in their craft - come together for this project to pose an interesting question to viewers that is no more original than Duchamp's ready-mades: what is art and should it be aesthetically pleasing? Duchamp states, "When I discovered the ready-mades I sought to discourage aesthetics-[the neo-dadaists] have taken my ready-mades and found aesthetic beauty in them, I threw the bottle-rack and the urinal into their faces as a challenge and now they admire them for their aesthetic beauty." The three very modest yet deserving artists are not claiming to rock the art world with a new never before seen idea but they are throwing some very different ideas in the faces of us Detroiters.

If you are looking for a gallery where oil paintings are hung straight on the wall and sculptures sit on pedestals on the floor then RRR is not your gallery. RRR is a conceptual space that breeds ideas, collaboration and, most importantly, takes risks. Not only is the exhibition a fun house of "what is art" but the location also plays into the show. Would you think to find a gallery next to a pizza joint and a tanning salon in a strip mall in Shelby Township? The aesthetics may be misleading but I can assure you the content is there in full force!

RRR will have ongoing shows until August, a new one every three weeks. So, be sure to check it out before RRR - like other Detroit treasures - disappears with no signs except memories and pictures.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

at first blush it looks a little like Nolan's CCS 5$ show. Or at least the end of it when everything was cleaned up and unsold items were in trash bags.
strip mall is a new medium.

11:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is anybody else as tired of Nolan Simon as I am? Maybe I'm just old, but entertaining some kid two years away from an entry level degree from a second tier trade school as he rattles on about theory just makes me want to take a nap. Duchamp got tired of all this almost a hundred years ago, but at least his notoriety was based on something.

Bored with your games.

9:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

MMM...What kind of cheese do you like with your bitter wine?

Come on, i like Nolan's work (Although i like his cleaner works investigating packaging and not the trashy dirt stuff). He is a pretty bright guy that I as an older person will happily listen to. Be nice it's ok what they are doing.
Although, if there was an unflushed dump in the john of that show, it would have been a nice cap off.

11:49 AM  
Blogger craigpaulnowak said...

Unfortunately, I wasn't and probably won't be able to make it to this show, so if anything that I say is off base, I apologize. What I'm wondering while looking at Ann's images of the show is, "Who's work is who's?"

If I were to guess, I would say that the prints and wall pieces are Ed's and that the rest of the show is Mike's. I don't see Nolan's hand in this show. Of course, that means nothing because I'm only going off what I see in these pics.

Now, in regards to the Duchamp comments, I have to strongly disagree. There is something very different happening here. I don't believe that Ed or Mike's work (I'm leaving Nolan's work out because I have no idea where it is even though I assume that it is intended to be a collaboration where no hand is seen in the finished piece, but that didn't happen) is trying to ask "what is art and should it be aesthetically pleasing?" I think that this association with Duchamp is somewhat premature, and here is why:

All of Duchamp's works, while being ready-mades, were still singular, as in, they were shown as "one" work of art like a sculpture, or as groupings of singular objects. Mike on the other hand (except in his senior thesis show, very Duchamp Mike), I associate with artists such as Jessica Stockholder, whose work doesn't ask questions like "what is art?" but focuses more on, as Barry Schwabsky explains it in his essay on Stockholder, The magic Of Sobriety, "its orderliness, its discipline, its sense of reality...a deployment of materials that neither insists on nor denies the intentionality involved.", or Mark Dion and Fred Wilsonwho are concerned with museum practices (how objcts are arranged, what objects are used, and what those objects communicate as a group). I would even go to the extent of associating Mike's work with some of Saarah Lucas's work, namely works like Au Natural and Year Of The Rooster.

All of these artists could care less whether somebody thinks that their materials when used the way that they use them are considered art or not. They know that what they make is art. Ed on the other hand, I might reference Duchamp, but in doing so, I would ask, "why not Robert Rauschenberg or Ellen Gallagher for that matter," because Ed's work is as similar to Rauschenberg's or Gallagher's as it is to Duchamp's. I think that the main difference between Ed's work and these other artists is that his is playful and sometimes even cryptic. This is why I found it hard to pin down his work in these images. If I could, I would guess that Ed was responsible for the stencil letters on the ground as well.

Maybe I'm speeking as their peer, who has already gone through the "I don't get it?" phase of understanding Mike and Ed's, but more so Mike's than Ed's work. It's possible that I may still not understand it, but take a look at some of these artists works and tell me if you would still go straight to the "what is art?" Duchamp question.

Think of it as paint, that all these objects are, is an unconventional medium for art making.

2:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think a more appropriate question than "Is it art?" would be, "Why should I care". Nothing seen here makes me even want to engage in a dialogue with any type of questions being asked. I am a little bored with art that comments on art or references previous comments on art. This is not new, shocking, challenging or contorversial, and has not been for 30 years or more. I don't care if you are painting with oil on canvas hung directly on the wall or engaging in new media,instalation work, video, etc; what matters is that the work is engaging and somehow evident of the artists dedication to their personal questions and challenges. I don't have any problems with this work or any of these artists, I am just annoyed with the fact that we are still having this discussion. "Duchamp" this and "Aesthetics" that. THis is an old conversation and no new ideas are being circulated, we are just impressing ourselves with our collective theory and art history knowledge. Maybe I sat through too many grad school crits and theory classes in the past, but all this is tired. If we are artists, lets make art and have the discussions through the objects, images and ideas we create.

2:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i couldn't agree more with the last statement. I'm sure there will be responses negativeley towards the last comment, and maybe this one too, but i can't stand art that is for art's sake, I almost can't stand work that even says something, what I want is work that has a n effect on me. Even if the work has a negative effect it has some meaning, but watching artists rummage through old ideas though it may have merit leaves me wondering why i should care? ASlso I don't need a responsse that tells me why i should care, I'm familiar with these responses.

3:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't believe I'm responding to this but aanyways, the idea of aesthetic as a question or discussion is well tired and absolutely a worthless discussion, sometimes i wonder whT IS WRONG WITH US AS ARTISTS WHEN THAT BECOMES A TOPIC, OLD AND BORING. lIKE SOMEONE MENTIONED THESE TOPICS HAVE BEEN COVERED

3:15 PM  
Blogger art blogs are fun said...

Just wondering what the reactions are for the people who actually attended the show?

3:18 PM  
Blogger DABNOSE said...

Did you write this text, Ann? It reads like a press release written by the artists.

3:33 PM  
Blogger art blogs are fun said...

no, I wrote it.

4:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

look, these guys took a space in a strip mall and made art, whatever you think of it - give them some credit for taking it all out of the box.

they're not selling it or an idea of it. they want it to be experienced in person, as you would any installation. so don't attack it unless you've gone to see it.

on the other hand, i know these guys and they think too much about what they're doing.

everyone should just experience it. and leave the diatribes to those who haven't.

4:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry MATT, not all of us are able to make it to the show, but there are other issues being dicussed here than simply this particular show. Diatribes or not, we are entitled to have a dialogue about them. That is after all the purpose of blogging eh?

5:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, like many, I was not able to make it to the show so I'm not going to directly comment on the work inside. I will however, extend some sincere respect to the guys involved in this project. The idea of locating a gallery in a strip mall is indeed very clever.

We often take for granted that galleries are in urban settings, but given the dominant development patterns of southeast Michigan, the placement of this show says a lot.

Rather than bickering over what's inside, I prefer to read this whole endeavor (renting space in a strip mall) as the work (think Gordon Matta-Clark).

I think this (intentional or not) says a lot about land use and the movement of wealth in our region. How hilarious is a strip mall anyway?

How do you get there w/o a car? You don't. Its the motor city. If you dont' own a car, your worth nothing.

What a funny and ironic idea.

I don't know, but I think this plays off of commodity culture and the pseudo-utilitarian planning of metro-Detroit quite well.

good job.

p.s. knocking someones work based off of what degree they have or are working on is hilarious too, though probably not in the way that anon. intended it.

Way to be elietist!!

6:12 PM  
Blogger cmcgraw said...

brilliant interior decorators in my opinion

7:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this seems to be such a bitter crowd - it's very simple - we have no rhetoric concerning this show and have given very little in the way of reference. we made/moved things that excited us - we wanted you to move - movearound - look - hang out and help us get to it. it was for you - a party in some respects and a celebration honoring the birth of richard the 3rd. rodney king.

next month - june 10th richrichrich will be hosting the work of Kate Levant from Boston - come out and share words/time.

thanks again to all who came and supported.

11:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really appreciate and respect what these guys are doing. It's very ambitious and exciting at the same time. I feel like the fact that it's in a strip mall is as much a part of the installation as the art inside.

As for the art, I haven't seen the show but based on the photos, and the general idea I have of the artist's work, mainly mike smith, as I haven't seen too much of Nolan Simon or Ed Brown's work, I am also left wondering "why should I care?" But then again, I do a lot of work that only makes sense to me, and often times doesn't even make sense to me, but it just feels right at the time. I get the feeling that the viewer really isn't supposed to grasp what is going on in the space, but rather it's more for the artist to relate to and have a connection with. Personally, it doesn't interest me, but I emphasize the word "personally". I'm not a huge fan of art for art sake. I don't get it, and it doesn't make me want to care or converse about it. I feel like if I were to see the show, I would just walk around and be like "ok great.." and want to leave. Maybe the effect would be better during the opening when there are lots of people there to discuss the work with.

But I'm just rambling. Dont' take what I say to heart because I haven't actually experienced the show and pictures don't do anything justice.

But that stuff about Nolan Simon's degree is a bunch of crap. Who cares? I could be just as good of an artist as you are fresh out of high school. A piece of paper isn't going to make you a good artist any more than eating breakfast in the morning will make you have a good day.

12:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the show was excellent.
Smart kids doing interesting work.
I spoke personally with two of them at the opening and they seemed very in touch with what they where doing. None of it had anything to do with "whats art" or "Duchamp". Lets not put words in their mouth.

I believe they are worth our attention and support. they must be doing something right, one of them got into Yale.

12:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

there are other issues being dicussed here than simply this particular show. -anon

picking on nolan isn't an issue --with anyone other than you.

so keep such keen slander to yourself or take it to another thread, i.e.: i'm tired of nolan simon and nobody gives a damn.

12:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think eating breakfast gives you a chance at a better day

8:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

they must be doing something right, one of them got into Yale. So did George Bush but I doubt if many of you have anything nice to say about him.

10:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! Great discussion! I just love it all - someone said - lets talk about what the actual art says what's in it~ and look at this, all this is what's in it-- the discussion. The pure mentallity of it I love, but I think its about the space. The actual space, how you feel in it with all this societal 'junk', objects so delicately set up- what's the feeling / the energy? It's the same as any other art~one could be interested in-it has to start there. Everything's subjective- but this art installation is dynamic because at the same time of having a controlled, deliberate, and delicate peace in the space, it asks questions. There's a great tension that affects me like a calm and essentially that questioning calm-not a force-only if you want to~ provokes my mind to churn. Why are these objects so carefully chosen and endowed with respect and presence? Or maybe the particular objects don't matter at all, it's the community of them and the meaning they are apart of which the artists bestowed on them... To feel in the space. I have the yearning to go and sit there in the fluorescently lit broken down, empty, loved, and cultivated room of that strip mall and just sit and feel in the space. That's an inspiring impact, even if an unconventional one, yet many people love to just be in the presence and mood of great art. And even if there is essentially nothing concrete gotten out of the art~ it is just the feeling.

Nice work guys. I am so intrigued by its presence and surrounding discussions.

2:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I might be a little late coming in on this discussion, but after reading 21 posts I just can’t abstain from putting down a thought or two. Namely, you wouldn’t see this here (where I am currently, Seattle) which, to me, makes this work interesting. From the pictures, of course, because I obviously didn’t attend. I browse sites like this one to keep a finger on the tempo (or pulse as it were) of the city (while I am on hiatus). I think it’s more important now that I am submerged in the Seattle scene: that is, I have a better appreciation for seeing the larger variety.

While you can argue whether it is or isn’t Duchamp-esq, and the value in that, you have to appreciate the paradigm of the location / content (and the unspoken suburban fear that Detroit (I.E. Detroit-ers) are someday, somehow going to “infiltrate” the suburbs and make them dirty, dangerous, etc. And so, I would argue that there is more going on here than art for arts sake: a very interesting economical and social comment.

What is less appealing is that this social comment has boiled back into art-for-arts sake, not due to a lack of it’s own merit, but due to the audience, and only due to the audience. Almost all of these 21 posts involve “I am an artist”, and at another point it was suggested that the purpose of this space was to elicit a live dialogue about “what is art?” That is what makes this piece/project “art for arts sake”, and that is disappointing.

There is a poem, I think that it’s by William Carlos William (but I’m not 100% sure) that warns writers of the risk and pitfalls of letting their creativity slip into an “art for arts sake” situation. He describes poetry readings where people read “for and to each other” only, and refrains “please, anything but this!” Not a perfect citation, because it’s coming out of my head, however the point is simply that any type of artist has a habit when “writing what they know” to describe their craft, and stop there. Great artists are the ones who move beyond this pitfall (many others languish at this point for their fallow careers). Great audiences also must move beyond this pitfall. I can’t help but wonder if the fault is in the audience (who can’t see the art for the art, perhaps) in this case?

And, along those lines, do you blame the artist for that? It is easy, compelling, for artists to stay within the small circle of their own kind, and scary to present ones aesthetic to the larger world—a world full of people who didn’t go to art school and who may not have the “skills” to “appreciate” what they’ve done. But if artists create art only for other artists (which is different than art for arts sake) what are they accomplishing? If only other artists know where/when to find this gallery (I hear it’s very underground on purpose)… ?

Furthermore, there is an obvious undercurrent: a who’s who of recent CCS grads, if you will, that fits my William Carlos Williams theory. To claim to be “familiar” with another’s work from ones school days, does not justify or dispel the work! I would challenge the curators to ban their friends and schoolmates from the new exhibit, and invite 14 strangers. School teachers and lawyers and mathematicians. One could argue that they’re the ones that need to see the art, not other artists.

However, not having attended, I can’t really speak to the mix in attendance. I can only make an assumption based on what I have read. And this was less of a point than a thought.

5:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd like to take a moment to make a couple points. First of all, I hear Seattle is very nice. Some friends of mine moved to Portland (my closest reference) and they love it. 2386 miles...

We never in any way made any attempts to obstruct people from finding out about this exhibition. Cards were made available well before the opening. Every opportunity was taken to give people all necessary information to get to and from the space. Everyone was invited. A phone number posted on the back of the card was provided for additional assistance if needed. But, understanding the makeup of your audience is an asset, not a liability. We made ourselves available in as much as we could during the night of the opening and thereafter to talk with anyone about what we had put together. In a number of cases we sought out those who were having trouble and helped them through.

During the installation of this show we were concerned much more with arrangement, proximity, and placement along with the deliberate consideration of every decision (including those ones made unintentionally) as they related to the character of the space and, of course, to previous decisions. Given the restraints of having to work in collaboration, we felt it necessary to stick to the basics of exhibition viewing, i.e. repetition of form and color, composition and presentation. Though there are infinitesimal narratives throughout the space, they lead most often back to themselves. We never concerned ourselves with whether or not we were making art. As far as we're concerned that goes without saying.

I can only speak for myself when it comes to references outside this exhibition, and I'll list only a few: Kai Althoff, Mai 68, Michael Krebber, Reena Spaulings, Erin Somerville and Joshua Smith, Jutta Koether and Skee-Lo.

Each exhibition at RICHRICHRICH will reveal the others.

The next is Kate Levant and opens next Saturday, June 10th from 8pm - 12am.

Kate is a friend from Boston.


12:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thanks for your points. Yes, Seattle is nice. (like vanilla ice cream, if you like vanilla ice cream). There is also a large contingency of CCS grads here which creates a group with an instant frame of reference – which is also nice.

With regards to my comment : I apologize if you took me the wrong way. I was commenting more on the abysmal response you’ve had on this board, which I felt was unfortunate and more of a response that speaks of the viewer than the art.

The juxtaposition between regions can be fascinating. In Detroit the population tends to be oblivious to art (at best) and downright hostile toward the concept (at worst). I believe the hostility comes from a socio-economic pattern: there is a certain segment who have been told (directly or indirectly) that art is “not for them”, or implied that it is “above them” and as a result they are hostile toward anything that considers it’s self “art”: no matter how accessible it is or is not. (I’ll admit that it has been a whole five months since I moved away, and two weeks since I last flew back for a visit, so I suppose that things could have changed in that time!) In contract, Seattle is a city that’s built on art: everywhere, from downtown to the suburbs it is pervasive (I’ve seen sculpture gardens in the back of the mall where the trucks load and unload, where almost no one will ever see them, and yet someone hired several artists to compose a garden to hide an air conditioning unit). Interestingly, the socio-economic pattern here is one of privilege and as a result there is this assumption by many of the Seattle-ites that they “deserve” art all around them, at all times, and it’s really--- obnoxious. I have seen brilliant street performers with skill far beyond anything I witnessed in Detroit, and the sidewalk crowd walks right on by without so much of a glance (or a quarter in the bucket), as if they are listening to nothing more unique than elevator music, or as if the street performer owed it to them to play. It’s fascinating: if a little sad, that art can be so revered and still so taken for granted.

A diatribe that is a bit off-topic. I’m glad to hear that your invites are widely circulated (I’d heard to the contrary, but I am, as you noted, nearly 3,000 miles away). I think what you are doing is thoroughly interesting: as I said in my original post it is not something you would see in Seattle, which makes your project unique in the greater realm. I find it really unfortunate that your project isn’t receiving its due credit by those on this board (and in the microcosm).

Of course, your statement that “We never concerned ourselves with whether or not we were making art. As far as we're concerned that goes without saying.” is a bit of a risk. In my opinion, that question should never go without saying--- or at least, not for too long at a time, lest you run the risk of making a pretension, instead of art.

It’s too bad that this discussion has fallen off the main board. --- M.

1:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

PS - if you ever do a show like this again, after the close you should crate up all the "contents" and ship them to a gallery somewhere like Seattle (or SanFran, or LA) where a different collaboration can assemble them / show them. No one could ever say THAT had been done before!

1:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shoot me an email and maybe we can set something like that up...nolansimon@gmail.com

10:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nolan’s "we were never concerned with whether or not we were making art. As far as we're concerned that goes without saying," is worthy of further thought. It ignites a discussion about artistic intentions. Not necessarily visual or dialectic intentions, as in what you make and what you say about it, but principals and values—why you make it.
I have a suspicion that all three artists are capable of having very mixed intentions (that statement is intended as complimentary as well as critical). Meaning, that falsely projected principals and values could potentially dilute the purity of their concepts. If the artists’ intentions are as they’ve stated, and ever so eloquently I might add, than their mode of thought and action will be consistent and for the most part unchanging. A mission statement, if you will.
Of course, you can always fool some of the people some of the time. Meaning, you will always have an audience and might never have a reason to evaluate your intentions. I hope that is not the case here.
The possible accuracy of RRR’s artistic formula, in this day, could be necessarily great. As the cyclical nature of art history projects, it is not what, but when and whom.
It is certainly not moot whether or not other artists take to your formula. While their perceptions will always be shaded by nepotistic bias and theoretical practicality, they are generally a pretty good bull shit-meter.
The others, on the other hand, are easier to fool. That is why so many people believe they can’t understand art and that it's above them. They’ve been manipulated into a position of inferiority and passive acceptance.
Art does exist in a vacuum, mostly in the form of art schools and underground galleries. But it doesn’t have to.
My intention with all this circular drivel, is to implore the artists to ask themselves why, as not many other people will. I don’t want to get into a discussion about ethics, but this kind of art forces the issue. As this kind of art is about nothing more than why.

3:24 AM  

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