Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Act of Drinking Beer with Friends is the Highest Form of Art

I attended The Act of Drinking Beer with Friends Is the Highest Form of Art, a social gathering hosted by Tom Marioni at SFMOMA. The gathering is an artwork that is part of a current exhibition The Art of Participation: 1950 to Now.

Tom Marioni, a Bay Area conceptual artist, pioneered using social situations as art and has hosted free beer salons as social artworks at his studio, in museums, and in alternative spaces for over 35 years. A sculptural installation related to Marioni's 1979 salon at SFMOMA is also on view as part of the exhibition.

The current Act of Drinking Beer with Friends Is the Highest Form of Art is taking place at the SFMOMA Koret Visitor Center every Thursday through February 05, 2009 (except December 25, 2008, and January 01, 2009) 5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. The beer salon features guest bartenders and readers- artists, writers and friends of the artist. Marioni kicked-off the series reading from his book, Beer, Art and Philosophy.

I had a lot of fun. The gathering was lively and there was free beer! Afterward, I walked upstairs to view The Art of Participation: 1950 to Now. The exhibition was engaging because unlike many other museum shows, it invites you to directly participate in the art-making process. It highlights the historical context of direct participation in art, covering nearly 60 years across a wide spectrum of genres and media: restagings of important installations, as well as new commissions that change as you and others participate.

Come drink, meet people, hang out with friends and be part of a social artwork. Then walk up to the fourth floor and participate in the exhibition, it's great.

-Javier Briones

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Chatting with Torrie Groening, Print Collector & Fan of "The Morandi Effect"

I sat down with San Francisco artist and printer Torrie Groening to talk about her print collection. She is a Crown Point Press fan, and has been since the late 80's. Her husband Stephen Melvin shares her enthusiasm for prints and all kinds of art.

Q: How did you first hear of Crown Point Press?

A: It was back when I started my own printshop, Prior Editions in Vancouver, that I heard Kathan Brown speak at a Tamarind Institute conference (filled with huge-armed lithographers.) This was in the late 80's. I was interested in her way of bringing out the best in artists. I did think about Crown Point during that time ...there is a lot to be said for giving an artist and their work total respect and attention. I remembered and reminded the printers to fully focus on one artist at a time, and to please not mention another artists work. "We love all the artists equally!" was our mantra.Link
Q: How did you begin collecting art?

A: I started acquiring art by trading with other artists in art school and later at the co-op print studios I worked at in Vancouver and Toronto. I should have kept that Janet Cardiff!

Q: Do you and your husband agree on everything?

A: I’d have to say that Stephen is more interested in conceptual work than I am. I find myself most attracted to objects, images of objects. Something solid.

Q: Like still life?

A: Like Morandi. So, I love William Bailey, and Wayne Thiebaud. If I could have anything it would be either the Thiebaud Eight Lipsticks or Cherries. The one thing I'm still kicking myself for is not buying another Marcel Dzama way back when. I do have a a collaborative drawing by Marcel Dzama and Neil Farber (of the Royal Art Lodge) called "Animal Hospital" that I bought in Vancouver in 1999. It was two hundred dollars!! It doesn't matter if it has gone up anyway - I've never sold anything, or bought on speculation. We do this for love and these are things we live with. We have donated quite a few pieces to museums in Canada, a lot of those were prints from Prior, and we were glad to be able to do that.

Q: Do you have a philosophy of collecting?

A: With almost everything in our collection, there is a personal connection there, either we know the artist, or it was something I printed, or a work I traded for.

A little while ago we had a group from the Achenbach Society come to our home. That was a good opportunity to get some things framed, and really go through and see what we have. It’s so expensive to do framing that it gives you a chance to think hard about what you want to put up and how everything relates.

Stephen actually bought me a print as an engagement present. That made me say, "I think I should marry this guy!" There were other reasons, but that was my big rock. It was a print by a Canadian artist, Tom Hopkins. It was something we had seen together but he contacted the gallery on his own and bought it while I was out of town. I bought him a Tom Hopkins print as a gift too. We have those two displayed together in a special recessed space in our dining room. It’s something we share. When I was working in the gallery myself, selling prints, I’d always cringe when someone would say, “I have to talk to my husband," or "I have to talk to my wife.” I’d think, well, there goes that sale! But it really is something you do together.

I'm finding now, collecting art with my husband brings a different appreciation and possibility of discovery. I'm more emotional, he's more analytical and inclined to research the artist. We will see something together and by the time I get to my computer, he has sent me links to the artists work. For instance, today he sent me a link to Tom Marioni.

Wayne Thiebaud Eight Lipsticks, 1988
Published by Crown Point Press
Wayne Thiebaud Cherries, 1983
Published by Crown Point Press

Q: What do you want absolutely the most for your collection?

Any Morandi, of course, and Thiebaud's Eight Lipsticks. When you look at those paintings (Giorgio Morandi's) there is nothing you would add or take away. I call it the Morandi effect. I wish that happened more often. I never know what I'm going to be taken by, though. I fell for a a piece this year, A Deborah Oropallo that was out of my usual area of interest. It's a portrait, but the piece is dead on. Sometimes it is love at first sight.

William Bailey, Urbino, 1998
Published by Crown Point Press