Thursday, September 07, 2006

Nolan Simon @ Motor City

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If you were fortunate to have visited the temporary gallery/project space RichRichRich, then you are one step ahead of knowing what makes Nolan Simon tick. The risk taking space curated by Simon and a couple other detroit artists transformed from a mess of debris into a white-walled gallery. Simon, a walking encyclopedia of contemporary art, uses the conversations he has with artists in his work. Sometimes they are evident to the viewer like in this last piece he created coping an image of another artist's studio from the internet and making it into a game for the viewer to figure out or his reactionary piece inspired by the Josh Smith show. Simon is able to make what seems to be nothing into something. I have heard others disagree that there isn't anything there but a blank canvas but I have never spent so much time looking at a series of canvases, not even pulled out of the wrappers, before!
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"Ghost As A White" reads on the drawing on the right. Playing with the structure of common sayings like "white as a ghost" changes the meaning and context of this phrase. The word association is altered and now one associates the white paper with a white ghost and then places it also in context with the black paper without text beside it. It is the small details of the colorless work that makes for every area to be analyzed just as in thefirst show at RRR.
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The scattered canvases in plastic packaging and minimal drawings at Motor City felt very reflective to the art placement at RRR. I almost missed a canvas sitting on top of a couple wall circuit boxes which I suspect was intentionally dirtied in its wrap.

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This piece reminds me of Ben Kiehl's hand drawn graffiti spray drawings.
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Part of looking at art is about pushing the limits with what you are familiar with. I come in contact with many people throughout the day that only like looking at pretty images and colors but Simon pushes the viewer to exercise their eyes and brain and  look beyond a simple image. It is important to think about what makes art - art. Remember, it is healthy to not like everything you see but at least know and understand why you don't like it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

i remember seeing a shrink-wrapped canvas that was dragged around the streets of nyc like a pet for a day hung at mona around 98 when it was housed in a walk-in closet. scuffed dirty and some shrink wrap still hanging on surprisinly. that was the only piece hung except opposite was an unscathed fresh wrapped canvas and then there was a video too showing the artist taking the blank canvas for a walk and going in and out of big-name galleries. now that made the ticker work.

12:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I noticed the Michael's tag. In a similar tack, there was a great show several years ago. I think it was a London artist. Her entire exhibition was made up of receipts from an art supply store. So you'd approach the sales receipt tacked to the wall instead of a painting and read down the list of purchases:
(in americanese here)

1 canvas 40x60 inches....$70
1 tube cadmium red...... $6
and so on with the total at the bottom

A receipt for every painting's materials without the paintings.

It was fantastic.

12:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i remember mamma. no. wait. it was a martin creed piece. just a ball of tickytacky pressed on the wall.

somehow it seemed brilliant.

1:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

since artschwager did it i've seen a bunch of artists fill a gallery with just the shipping crates while the paintings remained safely hidden from view inside.

1:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The nephew of Dennis Oppenheim/I can't remember his first name/did a show in the 90's where he invited all the current trendiest artists to exhibit. The artists all sent one piece and one slide/presumably for pr.

Anyway the night of the opening all the artists arrive to bask and this nephew kid has walled off the entrance to the main gallery. And instead simply projects the artist slides on the white barrier/wall.

Well a lot of the artists threw diva hissies and caused a lot of trouble. And i remember that the wall was taken down by the gallery and I haven't really heard about this nephew since/well that isn't really true cause i think i read a few years back he was doing something with a truck and art/but not as abusive to the system.

1:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Part of art is pushing limits not going over old territory. This is reducing conceptual art to one idea, not remapping and expanding the territory.

1:17 AM  
Blogger John Azoni said...

I wonder if that ben keihl-esc drawing was purposefully referencing ben's work, as was the josh smith pallette painting?

12:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If an artist wants me to investigate their work, they need to provide something to prompt further investigation. I have spent a lot of time investigating things in my life, even seemingly simple things, but because there was enough to spark a curiousity. This bores me to the point of avoidance. Im sure it is the product of a smart person with an encylopedic knowlege of contemporary art (or i will assume so) but it holds no real interest for me. It seems like a rehashing of conceptual art stuff i have seen a million times. I usually find art like this much more interesting in a review, which makes me wonder. . . why not just write to begin with?

3:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i areally am agreeing with the previous comment, thinking and being smart(clever) isn't really enough for me to engage the work. it is only my personal bias but i want to feel something from the work, not just think about it.

6:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...



7:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

minimal art: from painting to installation

whichever way you go, it should engage you. some of the previous examples written here do (the nephew's).

a lot of Ceal Foyer's work does. a show in 95 didn't engage. again, it reads better. it was her play on the empty gallery (yves klein's is still my favorite (handing out klein blue drinks at the empty show in the 60s that made people piss klein blue for days)).

but then there's martin creed's recent version which won him the Turner prize, where the visitor walks into an empty gallery and a timer turns the lights off then on periodically. that doesn't even read as well conceptually as Foyer's: you walk into the gallery and nothing - except there's a mechanical counter counting visitors silently.

maybe nolan should take his canvas for a walk and give some muscle to its ulta-lean concept.

11:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I usually find art like this much more interesting in a review, which makes me wonder. . . why not just write to begin with?"

This is a really good point. However I think it also often applies to reviews of more traditional art forms. Have you ever read a wonderful, mouth-watering description of a painting, but were then disappointed upon seeing the painting? This raises questions about the relationship of language to perception and reality. It also makes me wonder if art simply can’t do all that we want it to do.

12:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i wanted to say something about Pae White, but her pic's gone. other than cesar in 66 and benglis in 67 the early 90s seemed to be a hot time for latex poured on the floor.
Thomas Grunfeld did his pourings in 92 "gummus" (later got into switching heads/bodies on stuffed animals: a cow's head on an ostrich body. yek).
Jean-Marc Bustamente did his pouring (Leda) in 92 too.
Even Elsworth Kelly did a large yellow floor piece in 90 "Portikus".
even if i missed pae's pic, still fits into this conversation -- if it's already been done, perhaps if you do it again you should do it better. or at least different enough.

12:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

... much deference to all previous comments. I do know of his encyclopedic knowledge and ok. So what. I know people who can recite the Bible word for word but wouldn’t know a good-deed if it ‘bit them in the ass’. And art is faith, as much as religion is to some. Knowledge is not necessarily a precondition or predicate of or for…shall we say goodness.

I am inclined to agree with the 'douchebags' (sic) as Anon has labeled…us.
(By the way it's spelled Gesundheit)

It’s a bit of sophistry I think. It attempts perhaps to mimic the, “hyper self-aware its all been done quality doesn’t matter and neither do viewers” aspects of our culture. Cleverness as God-on-high. I think it may be the official visual art equivalent of writing, “perception is an illusion” on a bathroom wall.

These works may have been 1> taken form someone’s studio, 2> actually bought from Michaels and dragged about 3> whatever who knows 4> other bland possibilities. But what remains to be said is that he leaves it open and flexible, and can also provide infinite references (on the spot) stating, “why they jumped off a cliff so I can too” in support of the work. Explanations inhabit only a small and humble place in relation to art.

It’s amazing, really, how this ‘absence of work’ can yield so many words. I was also taken by that trend on the post of Darcy and Marty’s work. Bloodletting.

All things said. Art is nice and good anyway you slice it, and I like it when people share it. So right on Nolan.

10:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So Bummed I missed the show Nolan! Looked really interesting -- and visual - people seem to forget about the aesthetic part of it when they are shocked with simple white and scraps, etc... very intriguing.

2:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It’s amazing, really, how this ‘absence of work’ can yield so many words."

What about art that leaves you speechless?

9:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the work is a dead end. it doesn't make you think. it kills thought. and gives art a bad name.

11:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steven; Please don't (sic) my "douchebag!" comment when you can't even copy it correctly. It was meant to be singular, in reference to Mr Simon's inflated view of himself, but if you want to expand that to include the rest of the Detroit Arts Clique it's fine. I mean, if the shoe fits...

As far as my misspelling of the German blessing, I have no defense other than being too disinterested to Google for it, but I think you knew what was meant.

8:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am sorry baconcrisp I don not understand your question.

Jim has touched on the point of a concept or forms terminus. We all think about that everyday when we question originality and authenticity. Robert Irwin stopped making art because minimalism was an intellectual AND aesthetic pursuit. He stated that he reached what he felt to be a quite natural dead end in his pursuits and stopped. He only reentered when he felt there was content and concept and form to explore and possibly synthesize into new work. Also I think he was motivated by the fact that the world had to catch up to him, and that it had moved far enough for him to find new cultural cues.

So Ryman keeps working and is rich and Irwin gets the Genius Grant. Seems they both got what they were after.

But I don’t think Nolan’s work here is minimalist in its intentions. It smartly co-opts much of the language of formal and methodological minimalism but I am not sure that in the context of his other work (white sculptures at Meadowbrook included) that he intends to reduce, refine, or distill. So it’s unclear to me. But I’d love to know more. It’s difficult to extend critical good faith again and again toward clear on white, white on white, etc. without hearing what’s up.


9:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am about to comment as though I know exactly what is going on w/ this piece, which of course I don’t, but that is also what everyone else here is doing except that they aren’t admitting it, so at least I’m putting a disclaimer on the front end:

Ann said that Nolan “uses the conversations he has with artists in his work.” which is par to my own limited experience with him/his work on a recent visit to MI that included stopping by the RRR gallery. It seems as though this personal interaction is requisite to “getting” the installation. So, in that context it’s pretty superfluous trying to gauge this show via this board (unless Nolan deigns to participate) because the experiential interaction is de facto part of the art. Once you’ve stripped that away the installation ceases to have meaning (or, at least, the same level of meaning) and, in some ways, ceases to be (the same type of) artistic expression.

That’s my take, at least. As I said, based on humble assumptions and limited experience. It just seems as though everyone is commenting off of the assumption that this art/art stands independent of the artist, whereas I think that part of the point was to make the opposite statement: that the art does not in fact exist in context away from the creator. That’s what I took away from Nolan’s piece at the final RRR show where I think I said (very profoundly) “Oh, that’s not a real door?” and it wasn’t until about 10 minutes into the ensuing conversation that he did the “reveal” of the photo of the strangers’ space that he was recreating. That conversation, the timing of the reveal, my companions’ responses and questions were all part of that work (for me), and so I am left wondering about the temporal components that are missing by displaying this show via just a string of images. Of course, part of the charm of such an approach is that it can’t be represented in photos and has to be experienced individually.

So, along those lines, to Scuffer who said “I usually find art like this much more interesting in a review, which makes me wonder. . . why not just write to begin with?” I would like to point out that if you paint a bridge it ceases to be a work of architecture and becomes a painting, same as if you write to describe an installation of art, it ceases to become an installation of art and becomes a work of descriptive creative writing. A little respect for the realm of the written word, please. “This raises questions about the relationship of language to perception and reality.” (corndog, excellent point that I’d love to see some others’ takes on).

5:46 PM  
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