Monday, December 12, 2005

Artist of the Week (12/12/05)

This happens to me about five times a year it seems. I'll see the work of an artist for the first time and immediately recognize the combination of zeitgeist and freshness that's gonna get them fast widespread attention. The problem is that only three times a year am I right. The other two, for some reason (often biographical complications in the artist's life I'd have no way of knowing about), the artists seem to disappear, so I usually keep such thoughts to myself.

Still, the very first time I saw a video by Jen DeNike, I knew she was one to watch. She was in a group exhibition at White Box entitled domesticArrivals: Miami - New York Connection and even though my peeps were on a tight gallery-hopping schedule, I kept coming back to her video, eventually having to catch up later to watch it. Yes, there's the inescapable homoerotic element of any work which depicts young men without shirts, but in "Dumb-bells" (see still above), there was this almost unbearable combination of vulnerability and assertion that this one particular act (at least for teenagers dealing with the host of insecurities, especially about body issues) respresented for me. I have very strong memories of being in my parents basement trying so desperately to pack some muscle on my tiny frame when I was about that age. I knew it was vainglorious. I knew it most certainly made me look ridiculous, but the societal pressure to be more of a jock was suffocating. "Dumb-bells" captured all of that determination and silliness.

At this point, clearly, I wasn't the only one who had noticed the strenght of her work. DeNike went on to be included in a string of international group exhibitions, culminating in her inclusion in PS1's Greater New York show, where she was singled out by New York Magazine as one of ten "
Artists on the Verge of a Breakthrough." Currently she has her first solo New York show at Oliver Kamm/5BE Gallery in Chelsea, where she's exhibiting an ambitious seven-channel video installation. Here are a few stills:

Jen DeNike, Wrestling (video still), 2003, Single Channel Video Loop, 3:09, Edition of 3 with 2 AP (image from
Oliver Kamm/5BE Gallery website)

Jen DeNike, Dead Man's Float (video still), 2005, Single Channel Video Loop, 2:10, Edition of 5 with 1 AP (image from
Oliver Kamm/5BE Gallery website)

Titled "Seasons in the Sun," the installation is described as follows in the gallery press release:

DeNike uses the 1970’s song “Seasons in the Sun” as a vernacular to tap into the viewer’s subconscious. The song works as a vehicle to trigger the cognitive memory, thus subjecting the viewer to a type of ‘laboratory experiment’. Each video follows a set of rules and employs the same formal composition, the only variable being each individual performance, making one video slightly longer or shorter than the next. The videos work together to expose the raw quality of the performance and a sense of the subject’s vulnerability, creating a sense of chaos and claustrophobia.

Vulnerability seems to be a thread running through most of DeNike's work. Earlier on she garnered attention for her photography series of "vampire victims." Ambrosino Gallery in Miami exhibited these in 2004. Here's an example from their website:

Personally, I'm still just getting to know DeNike's work so I'll keep this short and sweet, but what I've seen so far has been very compelling. Certainly one to watch.


Anonymous Susan Gescheidle said...

Hey Ed. Great meeting you at Aqua! Nice comments about Jen's work. You're definitely not alone in feeling she has talent and is going places. I had the good fortune of meeting her last year when I first participated in frisbee (miami) - she is a co-founder - and I have the utmost respect for her artistic talent, on all levels. When people encounter her work, they truly embrace it, whether it's her beautifully disturbing Vampire Portraits or her captivating videos. I hope to get to NY to see the exhibition at Oliver Kamm Gallery. It sounds like she and Oliver put together a very ambitious installation, which I hear is amazing. Jen definitely appears to be "one to watch", so good call!

12/12/2005 09:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Mike @ ModernArtObsession said...

Ed, Great Pick of the week!
I thought Jen DeNike's work was a major standout of the 2005 Miami NADA fair. Her new video installation "Seasons in the Sun" is mesmerizing, I've been back to see it twice already!

Now, just one question??
As a collector, who buys Video? I heard a gallery owner once say.. "Yea.. Video is the new Ceramics, they never appreciate!"

12/12/2005 11:08:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Nice to meet you too Susan!

As a collector, who buys Video? I heard a gallery owner once say.. "Yea.. Video is the new Ceramics, they never appreciate!"

Good question. Institutions lead the way, with a handful of collectors dedicated to the medium. Some collectors of photography are branching out a bit it seems. But too often video work ends up in a cabinet and rarely viewed, unlike a photograph or painting which are seen daily, so the medium has a few issues yet. I see from O's site though, that Jen's selling pretty well.

Artists have begun selling video with the equipment as part of the piece. That's one route (although I shudder to think that a gallery is selling electronics and debate about the technology becomes part of the selling discussion...yuck).

Love that line re: ceramics, though...Video will have to wait its turn I suspect, although, clearly a few artists are getting great prices for their pieces.

12/12/2005 12:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

video is the new ceramics....
I don't get it. please explain.
there is an artist, I think,
who recently got an big award in the UK who wrote
"ceramics is the new video" trying to jokingly push his own
work since 2000 most show (like the first ps1 greater new york)
video has been all the rage. ceramics is so not the rage it was

12/12/2005 07:07:00 PM  
Blogger Fabio Rojas said...

As a collector with modest means, I have found this discussion of video art interesting. Video art has forced me think about the basic practice and economics of collecting. After much thought about video art, I have come to a conclusion about collecting this medium (though I own not a single video work): I simply can't afford to spend a great deal of money on art that I rarely see. Simply put, I want the art to start paying its investment right now - by me appreciating the work everyday. Even if the market value is $0, I still got a great deal from great art if I can see it and love it everyday.

A few times, I have seriously considered video art, but I often pull back because I think to myself, "I can't really see this work everyday. I can't leave a TV running in my house all day. Even if I did, it would be distracting and odd." So at best, the DVD would be pulled out a few times a year for limited viewing. I am willing to deal with that for a $15 CD or $30 DVD, but not for something that costs thousands of dollars. In contrast, most other art can be enjoyed any time of the day quite easily. As I type this, I am enjoying my collection. A video peice would likely be unseen, in the shelf in front of me.

Now don't get me wrong. I am a huge fan of video art and I love a lot of it. But what I think the market is collectively saying to artists and dealers is: "This is neat but most of us can't live with it at home. The cost/benefit ratio is out of whack for most of us."

It's ideal for museums. They can collect a nice library of the stuff and they have a staff that can rotate the material. They can have multiple televisions with good lighting and support the technology needed to play the video art. Also, soon as your viewers get tired of one batch of videos, just put in some more. My guess is that it is easier than installing gigantic paintings or sculptures. For museums, video is no different than any other art work that gets seen every once in a while.

While I think video is fantastic, my guess is that only the wealthiest collectors (who can afford art they rarely see) or people with a strong taste in video will consistently collect this medium. Other folks would probably invest in art that has a more immediate payback. Am I wrong in this fundamental assesment? I am totally open on this issue.

I'd be interested in knowing more about people (other than institutions) who buy video art. How often do they see it? How did they come to appreciate it? How do dealers persuaded non-believers to take a chance?

12/13/2005 01:03:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

This is neat but most of us can't live with it at home.

That is a valid concern for most collectors. Collectors who do live with video work must often turn down the volume or tend to purchase works with no sound. No matter how much you enjoy a piece, eventually you must listen carefully to something else in that space, unless you're lucky enough to have a huge home.

How often do they see it? How did they come to appreciate it? How do dealers persuaded non-believers to take a chance?

Like any new medium, one acquires an appreciation for video as art through repeated exposure, I believe. Most folks feel narrative-based video is immediately accessible because as a culture we spend so much time watching TV or seeing movies, but we have expectations with regard to being rewarded every so often for doing so (slow, plodding films rarely do as well as quickly paced ones with lots of action, for this very reason), and so even with narrative-based video art, I believe there's an appreciation learning curve. Like any work, if you can't get it out of your mind, go back and see/watch it again.

A collector should probably be somewhat naturally intrigued by the medium before it makes sense for a dealer to encourage them to make the leap, because the collector will need to invest some time in learning the video artist's vocabulary (just as one would with an abstract painter). After that, it's all a matter of taste, I believe. One abstract painting will appeal to you more than another, and one video piece will speak to you more than another.

Fabio, this is a great question, but I got to run...I'll be back in a few hours and give it some more thought in the meanwhile. Other ideas from other folks?

12/13/2005 08:35:00 AM  
Anonymous josh said...

NYTimes had a great story a while ago about people who are big video art collectors and the sacrifices they make. Interestingly enough a lot of them were in san francisco.

NYTimes: Art That Has to Sleep in the Garage

12/13/2005 11:21:00 AM  
Blogger Fabio Rojas said...

Thanks for your thoughtful response, Edward. Seems like the issue of medium and collector deserves serious thought, especially wrt to video. And thanks for bringing a great artist to my attention!

12/13/2005 11:50:00 PM  
Blogger small A said...

Wanted to weigh in on the video thing - i have a fledgling project space out in Portland, OR (Small A Projects) and tend to have a soft spot for video. Strange thing is that I've sold more video than any other medium - though I don't expect this will always be the case. Some thoughts about this: on the one hand, interest in video and new media work seems to be fairly strong here in the NW (something about the tech economy?) and some of the most visible collector's and collections (The Kramlichs and the Trues for example) have really focused on video. Check out the Trues' space - Additionally for voracious collectors who have run out of space, video is an easier thing to collect. Also, most emerging artists' videos sell for around $1000 - $2000 in an edition of 5-10. so the work tends to be even more affordable that photography . . . .

On another note, one of my initiatives at Small A, is a video library. Video is simultaneously one of the most and least accessible mediums. It is easily reproduced and stored, however as has been discussed it is much more difficult to display or to see via documentation (books, magazines, web, etc). The library will be a resource for artists, curators, educators, collectors and the public-at-large. For more infor please visit

12/17/2005 03:54:00 PM  

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