Thursday, March 01, 2007

Guest Column: Damon Crain

One of the most enjoyable parts of writing this blog is the amazing conversations it sparks in the real world. Artists, writers, curators, and increasingly collectors come up to me with wonderful insight into issues that were raised by us here, but that they didn't have time to put into words and share via comments. Sometimes their ideas are so exciting and fresh, that I beg them to start their own blog. And a few are thinking about it they tell me, but many can't make the time to support a blog in an ongoing sense.

So, I've asked several of those folks to consider contributing a guest column to this blog, and today I'll launch that series of essays by art world insiders who have been kind enough to take me up on the offer. There are no obligations that those invited discuss the artists in our gallery or even mention us at all, but (as you'll see in today's column) I see nothing wrong with publishing praise if they see fit to offer some (er, like, duh....). My only criteria here is that I'm inviting folks who have opened my eyes with their observations and made me rethink my stance on some issue or other.

Today I am thrilled to inaugurate the series with a column by Damon Crain. I just met Damon at the Pulse art fair, but we have had an amazing conversation and he opened my eyes about a few things. Besides, he's a truly gifted writer. Please extend him your warmest welcome (and, of course, your most insightful questions):

Damon Crain is the owner of Glasshouse, and a consultant for contemporary art & design collectors. He has worked at the New Museum and Marian Goodman and Matthew Marks galleries (among others).

Winkleman @ Pulse; a visitor's impression.

On my first round through Pulse, amongst the best of the fairs, two galleries stood out; Mark Moore and Winkleman. At Winkleman, Ivin Ballen's sculptural wall works benefited from being installed as a solo show.

Being in a fair frenzy, at first I didn't give Ivin's work much time, dismissing it as generic assemblage. On my second round, drawn in by the work's strong formal qualities, I took another look. But the tape-and-cardboard materials put me off and my impatience kicked in.

My second day at Pulse I found I was still interested and took a closer look. I was surprised to realize my mistake; the work was not assemblage but painted fiberglass cast from the assembled objects that they looked like. Realizing the work had some depth on top of the formal qualities I began to warm up to it. The heavy-handed Mondrian and Rauschenberg references started to feel like more than just air quotes and began to take on the weight of meaning. I enjoy work that reveals itself, surprises me, challenges my assumptions and upends my initial reading.

By the third day, after introducing myself to Edward, Ivin's work had me off on a tangent, wondering why I don't like Richard Tuttle but do like Jessica Stockholder, and why I never found Rauschenberg's work all that profound or moving outside of its historical context. More importantly, the Rauschenberg connection had me thinking comparatively about our current art-historical situation.

Foremost among what's hyped right now is a glamed-up grungy teenage angst goth/disco aesthetic and faux shamanism, clumsily and cloyingly epitomized by so many Nth generation artists propping their work up by emulating famous others. Mashing up & repackaging old work as one's own is apparently easy to pull off & sell; it was ubiquitous at the fairs. In its inherent vapidity this work seems akin to the "Pattern & Decoration" style. And I use the word "style" pointedly as concept is reduced to a "look".

The similarity to Pattern & Decoration extends beyond the physical and into parallels with the market and culture. At least Pattern & Decoration was up-front and sincere about what it was and genuinely advanced the cultural dialogue. Too much work now seems to have been put together by a focus group intent on referencing Andy & Beuys as if Mike Kelly and Jeff Koons never existed.

Ivin's work, with its transformative handling of references, thankfully brought me a refreshingly positivistic thought, without disavowing the post-historical "it's all been done before" sentiment that is in the air. The thought came to me in the form of a cliché; "one more time, but with feeling." Re-hashing is dumb, whereas re-visiting is healthy - particularly with its sober lack of "the shock of the new."

The last 100 years for art has been a crazy ride; new work should make better sense of it by examining how we got to where we are - in doing so it will take us to new places. While many artists are busy posing and pretending at stardom, a handful of others, like Ivin, take this as an opportunity to produce thoughtful new work with insightful meaning and depth to plumb.

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Blogger Sunil said...

I am glad you got the guest blogging piece up and running. The already good quality of this blog is sure to be increased this way. I liked Damon's article in the sense that it shone a light on the current trend towards rehashing/mash-ups and showed ways by which artists could possibly avoid this (and thus some insights into what goes on in dealer’s minds).

By the way, I loved the following sentence:
"Foremost among what's hyped right now is a glamed-up grungy teenage angst goth/disco aesthetic and faux shamanism, clumsily and cloyingly epitomized by so many Nth generation artists propping their work up by emulating famous others".

3/01/2007 09:34:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Thanks Sunil. The line that got me was

Too much work now seems to have been put together by a focus group intent on referencing Andy & Beuys

It's funny (and sad) because it's true.

3/01/2007 09:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Sick B said...

Thats nice to have a guest on your blog.

3/01/2007 10:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Karl Zipser said...


Interesting how it takes some days to begin to appreciate an artist's work. I've always thought of The Picture of Dorian Gray as an interesting reversal of appreciating a real artwork. Sometimes the work seems better when we get to know it better, other times it seems worse. It is a reminder of how much an artwork is a mirror of the viewer.

3/01/2007 11:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Karl Zipser said...


If I'm not going to be "busy posing and pretending at stardom," the alternative is to make thoughtful work to make sense of the last 100 years of art's "crazy ride"? What if I am interested in making art for the sake of studying some aspect of the real world, or my imaginary one, but not for studying art history? Why shouldn't I simply ignore the last 100 years? Our museum collections make this possible, of course.

3/01/2007 11:36:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


3/01/2007 01:05:00 PM  
Anonymous markcreegan said...

Nice post but I would be interested in some cited examples of these Andy emulators and nth gen goth artists. Not a gripe, just a suggestion for clarification of arguement. I have some images in my head but names escape me right now. (some help I am !;) anyone?

Regarding the issue of emulation, and i dont doubt one would see alot of that (especially at an art fair). How many times have we walked around the convention hall saying "That looks like..."? But I know as an artist and a teacher that emulation is a natural and acceptable path to follow for a young artist, and I wonder if what you are seeing are dozens of early 20 somethings who are at that referencing and emulating stage in their development and a few years away from distilling all of that influence into their own voice? Some will some wont of course, but I think it could be a matter of realizing that, in previous days, most of these artists would just not have been shown so soon. ?

I would like to hear also your stance on Tuttle, because my initial reaction was "Look again look harder" But taking my own advice I would like to hear your views so that I can look again also and perhaps reply with a (hopefully cogent) thought or two.

3/01/2007 01:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Karl, I didn't mean to propose an exclusive "either-or" scenario, rather I was just looking and isolating two related modes of working that seemed relevant to Ivin's work. The approach you propose is of course an intersting one, thank you for adding that.

3/01/2007 01:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting summation:
Foremost among what's hyped right now is a glamed-up grungy teenage angst goth/disco aesthetic and faux shamanism, clumsily and cloyingly epitomized by so many Nth generation artists propping their work up by emulating famous others

Need examples please! Thanks!!


3/01/2007 02:42:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

Damon originally wrote his text with very good examples of the sorts of artists he's referring to, but I requested that he edit them out. I don't like the idea of this blog being a forum for criticizing other galleries' programming or artists by name.

Sorry if that's not as helpful as if the names were there, but pleae understand that it's important to me that everyone feel welcome here, and singling people out, when there are plenty to choose from, doesn't work toward that end.

3/01/2007 02:48:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I understand completely Edward!
But just for my own curious edification, if you were so inclined to...oh I don't know..send it by e-mail my address is:

I wouldn't do anything with it except just to look at the artists work!

But I know you're busy, and I'm being pushy.
Inquiring minds want to know!!


3/01/2007 02:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like Marrk Creegan said above--as an artist I just want to know if my work could be summed up in that too, who wants to be part of a big trend unbeknownst to themselves? ugh!

3/01/2007 03:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Karl Zipser said...

Who's afraid of Edward Winkleman and Damon Crain?


I understand your idea about what you want to do and not do with your blog. At the same time, if you want to have guest posts, maybe should take the risk of letting the guests say what they want to say (and show), since they are expressing their own views and not yours. Let the readers judge if they agree with Damon's characterizations. The artist he singles out as the example of everything wrong with the art world might to your readers be a new star; the link might launch his or her career.

3/01/2007 03:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh sterling idea Mr Karl!

Just like the programs that have that little disclaimer:

"the opinions and viewpoints are not in any way affiliated or necessarily those of the broadcast station ___"

But the broadcasters don't necessarily have to edit anything as long as the disclaimer exists!

Pllleeeaaase Edward!


3/01/2007 04:34:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

I tend to side on Ed, the question is better addressed in the abstract.

Damon has an opinion, but it is one opinion among many.
We could agree or disagree, probably both, on whether or not artist A is grouped with artist B, all as part of a subgroup X which represents a temporal fashion in taste. I do not think it matters if this is the case. This type of categorizing, while handy, tends to overlook the details concerning the merits of the individual artists and their work. At any given moment in time, just about everything falls into one of these categorizations, if one is favorable towards a particular ‘group’, then one might say one likes the work, while at the same time one mentally dismissing the rest.

Everyone starts somewhere. If one finds themselves wondering if they fall into this ‘group’ what does this really mean? If one does not actually know what the ‘group’ is, then this question relates to an internal question one is asking oneself. I think the process of asking these internal questions is important because it brings to the forefront issues which one either has ignored, paid less attention to, or thought were not relevant at an earlier stage in the working process. I think it is this self questioning which allows one to get deeper into the issues in question, and this should be a positive in ones studio practice.

Just as there are books on all topics, written in many styles, we find that some books are ‘better’ than others, they touch us more deeply. Some may be easier or more recreational to read but they provide a fleeting gratification without persistence. Others, are capable of resonating with us on a deeper level, they expose both the author and the reader in a moment of truth or awareness about our existence in this world. Sometimes we are not ready for this type of writing, we need more time and exposure to life itself to fully comprehend what it is before us.

I think art functions the same way. We can have recreational experiences, "That was a fun show" and we can be moved and surprised where we may have expected it the least. Whatever reaction we may have as a viewer, it is a result of both the efforts of the artist and the effort we expend as a viewer.

3/01/2007 04:37:00 PM  
Anonymous markcreegan said...

First off, in no way was I, in asking the questions above, trying to figure out within what context my own work lies. I have that figured out (and it continues to change). I was just trying to propose a possible reason for the observation Damon made.

And,George, I agree with you that Ed has every right to set such policies for his blog. In asking for the examples I wasnt even thinking about that. I can understand the need to maintain relationships. However, I do not agree with you that talking about specific artists would necessarily result in quick categorization. I think that it could lead to a more indepth discussion of the nuanced aspects of the topic thus avoiding (as much as possible) hyperbole.

3/01/2007 05:28:00 PM  
Anonymous David said...

glamed-up grungy teenage angst goth/disco aesthetic and faux shamanism

Good description! It's time to give this movement a name and a set of dates (including an end date).

3/01/2007 05:51:00 PM  
Blogger George said...


I wasn't directing my response specifically to you. I was thinking about the question more abstractly, realizing that we all have these moments of self questioning, which I feel can be productive regardless of what prompts them.

3/01/2007 06:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

>>>>>>>wondering why I don't like Richard Tuttle but do like Jessica Stockholder

Me too, but I sort of know why. Jessica is interessted by the "decorative" aspect of her art, she does pay attention to the exercise of "matching and contrasting the right colors", and she mostly buy the objects that she needs and transform them, instead of working with junk and found objects like Tuttle does. Also, her work is thoroughfully concerned by linking and expanding realms of aesthetics, and she generally means to surprises her audience rather than meet with their expectations. On the other hand, Tuttle's art I find to be much more personal and introspective, like a one man's band research, and comparatively his art to me feels way more constrained and at worst "canvasish". It's important to remind that they both represent different generation, and when Tuttle try to do the most with the littlest means, an approach corresponding with minimalism and conceptual, Stockholder is radically attracted by exploding and expanding the formal terms of artistry. I think in fact she is a very important artist, very influential.

By the way HOW DARE YOU name Jessica and Tuttle !!!! That was sooooooooo impolite !!!!! Just kidding.....

>>>>>Foremost among what's hyped right now is a glamed-up grungy teenage angst goth/disco aesthetic and faux >>>>shamanism

Hang on... I actually enjoy much of that post-punk aesthetic you are referring about, but regardless, I do think many are quite conscious of their filiation with Mike Kelley.
About names...Sue De Beer? Banks Violette? Dario Robleto? Erick Swenson? Dash Snow? Aida Ruilova (whom I adore) ? Assume Vivid? ..... Sturtevant? (errrr...;-P) I'm so lame for only picking names from Whitney Biennials for lack of memory (and I totally forgot everyone from the last one!!)..but, There's no shame about names. If it's good art we can defend it and we will.

>>>>I never found Rauschenberg's work all that profound or moving
Have you seen the Mass Moca installation? For me that was hard to beat in its genre.
Rausch's art is inevitably baroque and overzealously complex (like most scrapbook art), but we all know he was a perfect response at the times he was in. Postwar meeting on a dissecting table of old dadaists and young abex.

Cedric Caspesyan

3/01/2007 06:13:00 PM  
Anonymous sally-go-round said...

Sorry, Ed. your first guest just reads like advertising to me. And like we are always reminded, good advertising is great. Bad is woeful!
I feel sorry for all those nameless nth artist people, and in a way I feel sorry for Ivin for getting his first bad, ill thought out, press.

3/01/2007 08:57:00 PM  
Blogger heidilolatheayatollah said...

Why all the sympathy-why do you think it is bad/ill thought out press? sounds pretty good to me..

3/01/2007 09:21:00 PM  
Anonymous sally-go-round said...

no context/ over censored/ propped up with props that don't exist except as a general 'nth' without regard for the troops, or troopers, who for sake keeping it all open 'shall remain nameless'. WE can't even support them. What a whopper!

And actually some of the reservations Damon had with the pieces heavy + cliché are the main problems with the work in general. The text that tries to redeem that reading sinks the work further into the problematic, especially regarding the heavy, the history, and the salute (I can live with cliché).
next time I'd think about it, that's all!
... if that helps heidi, grab a white wine!

3/01/2007 10:11:00 PM  
Anonymous eleventh hour said...

ed, i love the guest column idea, its great. but i wonder how you have made it so far by being so nice? it just seems so out of sync with the times.

i really don't think it's necessary to limit the specific examples, unless this is a purely political move- we're all adults here- if you are merely trying to stay in favor with your neighbors, i guess that’s business but- thinking critically is generally a positive thing.

3/01/2007 10:41:00 PM  
Anonymous tape&cardboard said...

The clamor for names reflects the the level of criticism in this piece,which is essentially a cheap shot of polarized criticism, which doesn't enlighten but distorts the discussion into 'who's good, who's not'. It's too easy. Do you think Ivin Ballin's work is worthy because the rest of the fair was so hyped? And what exactly constitutes the difference between a 're-hash' and a 're-visit'? It would seem that Ivin's 'transformative handling of references' functions only to reveal your (wrong) assumptions, because you were perhaps too busy categorizing the art you saw into neat catchphrases. I would bet that he has bigger fish to fry.

'While many artists are busy posing and pretending at stardom, a handful of others, like Ivin, take this as an opportunity to produce thoughtful new work with insightful meaning and depth to plumb.' ---

This is not thoughtful writing. And it's lazy thinking.

3/02/2007 12:54:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice response tape&cardboard. I thought the guest writers essay was interesting as an indicator of how people try to grapple with an artworks aesthetic value in the current fashion soaked market. In a months time he may completely reverse his judgements. I think the glue/glitter/goth thing was a breath of fresh air. And it may have produced 1 bonafide "really good artist" in David Altmej. But Ivins not at that level. Because theyre a bit boring. No Jason Rhoadeslike chaos or Stockholder unpredictability here. Too safe and bland. Like that incredibly overrated Parreno guy.

3/02/2007 06:40:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3/02/2007 08:25:00 AM  
Anonymous jason said...

As for the the open season assaults on Ivin's work... (E_'s comment disappeared? angrier than you intended?)

Not to excuse boorishness (at least, not in this instance), but I think the adverse reactions probably come from the fact that your first "guest post" reads too much like an advertisement for your gallery. For myself, the last sentence really stuck out as hyperbole. That is, Damon spends much of the post criticizing non-Winkleman art (which is fine), but then concludes that one of your artists is one of only a "handful" who produce "thoughtful new work with insightful meaning and depth."

Again, not defending boorishness, but such hyperbolic praise for one of your own artists seems like an odd choice for your first "guest post" -- however well-intended it may have been.

3/02/2007 08:52:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Donald Trump is opening a gallery in Chelsea.

Any details? Only that,

Ivanka is going to be the director. She has a blog. No black clothes for her.

Every week an artist is FIREd!

Previous Miss Universe (s) are the gallerinas.


3/02/2007 09:15:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

angrier than you intended

Yes. I've since posted an explanation.

such hyperbolic praise for one of your own artists seems like an odd choice for your first "guest post"

Damon and I had discussed that, actually, but in the end, the context would have changed too much to rework it. The fact that Damon returned to our booth to see Ivin's work repeatedly is central to the point he's making. The fact that he liked the work, well, that's just gravy for me.

I did consider whether the "advertising" aspect of the post was too much. I guess I misjudged. Call it a combination of exhaustion, appreciation, and distraction.

3/02/2007 09:16:00 AM  
Anonymous David said...

...Every week an artist is FIREd!

mls, that's a great idea, but I think it could be improved by a bit of American Idol. At the opening reception of every show, the artist is publicly subjected to ruthless and contradictory ctitique by a panel of experts. Kind of like grad school.

3/02/2007 11:56:00 AM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...

>>>>that incredibly overrated Parreno guy.

Oh: you're hard. Parreno has done some neat stuff.
I can see now the link between Parreno and Ivin, thanks for bringing.
I can't really critique Ivon or Damon as I wasn't at Pulse.
It wouldn't be fair and I've said enough already.

But i agree that "thoughtful new work with insightful meaning and depth." is an easy shot when no perticular work and title are described as to what they did to him. But he's entitled to his opinion.

The best is to write opinions here in the comment since they are less likely to be censored.



3/02/2007 12:30:00 PM  
Anonymous Cedric Caspesyan said...


I do have a question,

If I want to buy glasswork that fits with my Banks Violette, what do you suggest ?

Couldn't resist..;-P

Cedric Caspesyan

3/02/2007 04:36:00 PM  

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