Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Art 40 Basel

Two weeks ago, Valerie and I flew back from Basel, Switzerland where we spent twelve days at the Art Basel fair, where Crown Point had a booth. Crown Point Press has participated in fair for the past seven consecutive years; we had a booth there previously, during the late ‘70s, when the fair was a more modest event. Now Art Basel is one of the preeminent art fairs and the oldest one. This year there were 300 galleries showing 2,000 artists, and 65,000 visitors came over a five-day period.

This year most gallerists were not sure what to expect because of the downturn in the world’s economies, and so the positive headlines after the first day of the fair (in The Art Newspaper) were a relief to many-the general take from gallerists was that though there was not the same sort of buying as in previous years, the market was not completely depressed. We noticed after walking through the fair that many galleries had brought work by their tried and true artists, there was not much experimentation with installations, and most booths were very elegant and low key. Per usual there were many European collectors and visitors to the fair though noticeably not very many Americans, at least this was our estimation based on those who visited our booth.

Valerie Wade, Crown Point’s gallery director, designed a beautiful booth this year-the configuration of walls and entry ways made the booth feel open and airy. We debuted new prints by Chris Ofili, Mamma Andersson and Susan Middleton, and we hung some early prints by Sol LeWitt, Barry LeVa, Jannis Kounellis, and Robert Ryman all together on one wall. Vito Acconci’s 20 Foot Ladder for Any Size Wall, 1979-81 climbed a central pillar in the booth, inviting passers by to stop in, curious to see perhaps where the ladder led. (The print is a photoetching of an aluminum ladder, and is comprised of eight sheets, each sheet individually framed and the whole piece hung vertically.) Included also in the booth, among others, were prints by Mary Heilmann, Edgar Bryan, Julie Mehretu, and Jockum Nordström.

During the five-day long fair, the Art Basel organizers host special evenings for collectors and exhibitors. A highlight this year was the theatre production Il Tempo del Postino, curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Philippe Parreno. The curators's intention was to present a group show of work by artists that would occupy time rather than space and they wanted to bring the exhibit to the viewer, rather than the usual, where the viewer goes to the exhibit. Artists were invited to each create a work that was time-based, and each work was displayed sequentially onstage. The piece debuted in 2007 in Manchester, England. The artists who contributed to the production were Anri Sala, Doug Aitken, Matthew Barney and Jonathan Bepler, Tacita Dean, Trisha Donnelly, Olafur Eliasson, Liam Gilick, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Douglas Gordan, Carsten Holler, Pierre Huyghe, Koo Jeong-A, Philippe Parreno, Tino Sehgal, and Rirkrit Tiravanija with Arto Lindsay. The production in Basel was directed by Obrist, Parreno, Anri Sala and Rirkrit Tiravanija.

In Basel the production was presented for two nights, and Valerie and I went the second night. We were admittedly tired from a long day at the booth, and we had rushed over earlier in the evening to the Kunstmuseum to see the Van Gogh show, which we unfortunately had to rush through. At the front entrance to the theatre, I wondered whether I could manage a 2-1/2 hour production. When we got our seats, a greater measure of insecurity and panic set in, because though we had wonderful seats, they were dead center in a row of chairs that stretched without an opening to either side of us for what seemed a quarter of a mile in each direction. There was no escape! We were committed to the entire evening. I scanned the playbill and noticed there would be an intermission. I breathed a sigh of relief and settled. I cannot possibly explain each piece in this blog though though I will share with you a few of my favorites. Tacita Dean’s film was titled Merce Cunningham, First Performance of Stillness (in three movements) to John Cage’s composition 4’ 33"- with Trevor Carlson, New York City, 28 April 2007. In the movie, we see Merce Cunningham sitting in a chair in a dance studio that is empty. His back is to the long wall mirror and in the reflection we see the camera man, Trevor Carlson. The only sound we hear are the ambient ones in the dance studio: the city street noises coming through the windows, the faint piano from another dance studio. Cunningham sits quietly, not moving except for three different moments, when he shifts his weight in his chair. The film was very moving and intimate, and I felt that really in essence it was a love story.

Carsten Holler made a very funny movie called Upside Down People. He had found an old film from the ‘30s of an experiment where a man wore a device over his eyes that made him see the world upside down; he lived for two weeks with the upside down world, and the documentary followed his progress at adaptability. Holler edited in his own film, of contemporary young (Swiss?) people wearing new devices, and their management of their upside down world contrasted with the older film. (There was not much difference between the two, so I didn’t see much of a point of the newer film.) There were very funny moments of physical comedy, though it stopped there for me. Pierre Huyghe’s piece, Hola Zombies, was presented in three acts, interspersed throughout the entire evening’s production. Two characters were on stage, one a tall Snufalufagus-type creature, with long, yellow hair, and the other was a rat-like creature. The stage was dark, and the rat-like creature and the yellow fellow sat around a small cake with one candle in it. The rat-like creature sang happy birthday and blew out the candle, though the candle kept relighting and the creature would sing the song again. After about three times, he gave up, and both creatures fell over and that was it. The other two parts of the piece were similar, a dark stage, and the two creatures, though the large yellow creature died in the final act, and the rat-like creature cried by its side with a bouquet of white flowers. Initially I wasn’t sure if I liked looking at the creatures, and it all seemed creepy but then they became familiar and the end was comical though also tragic since it too was a love story.

I also liked Rirkrit Tiravanija’s piece with Arto Lindsay; the former prepared a dinner onstage while the dinner guests sat at a long table, talking quietly, and Arto Lindsay played loud and cacophonic though strangely melodic electric guitar. I did like the guitar though it was a little abrasive, and it seemed to all make sense--to have music drown out the dinner guests conversations; the music acted like a mask, distorting the evening while simultaneously making the dinner party and its conceit mundane in contrast. (Tiravanija’s preparation and presentation of the food was secondary to the guitar piece.)

Doug Aitken’s piece, The Handle Comes Up the Hammer Comes Down was a big hit, with me and with the audience. There were about eight Mid-Western animal auctioneers in the audience, and they alternately and then simultaneously called out numbers, and eventually the calling out became a song, and the rhythm of their voices crescendoed and reverberated throughout the theatre space. That piece of course was very tongue in cheek. I could mention a few other pieces that I enjoyed very much though this blog very well might never end. I will not take the opportunity to say which ones I didn’t like suffice it to say two were by very Big Name Artists, and neither of their pieces were particularly interesting. At intermission we drank Moet Chandon champagne out of small bottles with funny plastic things attached to the mouth of the bottle so no one needed a glass. It was a funny sight, to see very well-heeled art people drinking out of bottles. After the performance, I walked back to my hotel, following the tram line, passing blooming roses and ancient homes. It was an evening well worth spent.

The next few days in Basel we busily spent at the booth. There were many new people we met at the fair, and great interest in the prints that we showed. On our last day, after packing up the booth, Val and I walked along the Rhine to find a restaurant a fellow exhibitor had told us about. As we walked, we finally saw how swimming in the Rhine was accomplished. Since the river flows so quickly, it is not possible to swim upstream but only to float downstream. Along the bank was a low sloping brick bank, and on it chains. It seemed that this was a spot for getting out of the river, where you would drift to the bank, and grab the chain and pull yourself out of the current. There were a couple of small beaches were one could easily walk into the water; some swimmers had their clothing in water-tight bags that floated alongside them. It looked wonderful to be in the water. The day was nearing its end, the air was still balmy and a few thunderclouds loomed dark east of us. Val and I pledged that the next time we were in Basel, we would make sure to swim in the Rhine. In order to get to our restaurant (Veronica it is called) we took a ferry across the Rhine, and the ferry was in fact a small boat with a wire attached to another wire that stretched across the river. The ferryman charged us 1 franc each, and we sat down and drifted across. It was lovely, quiet and perfect. (There was one other passenger.) Our restaurant had dining outside only, with a roof over our heads and no walls. The place jutted out over the Rhine, the whole edifice was a giant deck, with steps leading down to the water. At Veronica you could eat, drink beer, and rent out lockers to stow your stuff while swimming! There were even showers. As we ate the thunder clouds burst above us and the rained poured down, sheets of it falling into the Rhine all around us. The rain stopped just as we were leaving, and we waited for the tram across from a magnificently green park. Basel the city is an idyll, and the fair is an exciting, invigorating experience, one that is hard to forget.
-Sasha Baguskas

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Global Implications: Southern Graphics Council Conference 2009

Early last Wednesday morning, Crown Point master printer Emily York, and I headed out to the airport to catch our flight to Chicago for the annual Southern Graphics Council conference. This year’s theme was global implications, and Kathan Brown, founding director of Crown Point Press, had been invited to give a keynote address. The talk, “Go with All Your Heart”, was given on the first morning of the conference, to a full-house at the Hilton Hotel’s ballroom, and it was about Kathan’s travels with artists to China and Japan during the Press’ woodcut projects, and to the island of Ponape, where artists’ talks were recorded (and which later became a three-record set, Vision 4: Word of Mouth, published by Crown Point.) Kathan’s talk was a success, with many conference participants remarking on it throughout the next few days.

At each SGC conference, Crown Point sets up a booth during the Product Fair, to promote the Press and our summer workshops, and to sell books which include our Magical Secrets series, and printmaking supplies. This time around we debuted the most recent addition to the Magical Secrets series, Magical Secrets about Chine Collé, by Brian Shure. Brian is a former Crown Point printer, and luckily for us, he was attending the conference to be part of a panel discussion, so we were able to have him hang around the booth to take Q & A’s about his new book, and to help Emily out with her chine collé demonstration, which was being presented during one day of the conference.

Emily and Brian’s chine collé demonstrations were a highlight, in addition to Kathan’s keynote talk. Originally there were two demos scheduled, but the demand was so great that Emily had to add a third, though abbreviated, demo. She worked tremendously hard that day, talking and printing and collé-ing to an audience of over three hundred people, for five hours (nearly straight!) I held down the booth at the Product Fair, selling books and supplies, and meeting new and interesting printmakers from all over the country. During these conferences, it is invigorating to be surrounded by so many who are devoted to, and passionate about, printmaking, and it is always wonderful to be reminded of how many people there are out in the world who love etching as much as we do here at Crown Point.

Emily came and helped out at the booth on the second day of the Product Fair. She is a great help, and fun to be with. During our nights out, we explored a bit of Chicago, visiting the neighborhoods of Wicker Park, Ukrainian Village, and Lincoln Park. One day, the sunniest and warmest, I was able to visit the Art Institute, and to see the amazingly blue Lake Michigan. We were staying at the Hilton on Michigan Avenue, so were lucky to have the park in front of us, and we caught a glimpse of Agora, Magdalena Abakanowicz’s sculpture, (once at night, the other time layered in snow!) Unfortunately, we missed seeing Cloud Gate, Anish Kapoor’s sculpture in Millennium Park, because of our ignorance to the proximity of it!

The last day, Sunday, our travel day, it snowed. There was a funny sort of marathon out on the avenue, people running in the cold, wet slosh of snow, their legs burning red in the cold. We marveled at their endurance and commitment. I suppose one could say the same sort of thing about printmakers and the process of printmaking: it does take commitment, and endurance of mind and body to succeed.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Crown Point Weekend Workshops: Alumni Special

Master printer Ianne Kjorlie prints with workshop participant Roberta.

On a recent Saturday, six alumnus of Crown Point's summer etching workshops gathered in the Crown Point studio. They were participants in the first of a series of weekend workshops the Press if now offering. Because the alumni were already familiar with the etching studio, they were ready for action the minute they walked through the door. There was experimentation with a string and sugar lift aquatint. One participant honed her skill at drypoint and another produced a four-plate etching. It was remarkable how much was accomplished during the day, said Emily York, Crown Point master printer and one of the teacher-printers for the day. Chine collé was also experimented with, and master printer Ianne Kjorlie (the other printer/teacher for the day) remarked that it was nice to see that all of the workshoppers were working on their skills learned during past workshops.

Workshop participant Kate experimenting with string and sugar lift aquatint.

One of our goals as an etching studio and gallery is to pass on what we know to the world outside our walls. Through education we hope to keep the medium of intaglio alive and appreciated and loved and used. We offer these workshops so that a range of people can experience first-hand how etching works, and what it has to offer the artist, the printmaker, the novice. Our next workshop in our weekend series is called the Process Diary Workshop, on February 28. This is the perfect workshop for those new to the etching medium, who have either done a bit or none at all, and would like to learn about each of the processes. Check it out on our workshop page of this website…. To learn is to live, and to live is to learn.

-Sasha Baguskas

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

Friday, October 24, 2008

Read the New York Times

Acid Line Up, Mary Heilmann 2006

This is just a little poke to read Ken Johnson's review of Mary Heilmann at the New Museum .

In Memory of Terry Fox

Pendulum Spit Bite, 1977

We are very sad that Terry Fox (1943-2008) died in Cologne on October 14.

Fox made works for many years related to the form and idea of the Labyrinth. He first visited the Labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral as a young man. An essay by Constance Lewallen (which you can read in its entirety here) discusses Fox's sincere and persistent exploration of the sacred maze.

"The labyrinth, which Fox encountered in the summer of 1972, was to dominate his thoughts until 1978.

The labyrinth is made of blue and white paving stones set onto the stone floor of the cathedral. It is a unicursal path winding in thirty-four turns through eleven concentric rings to the center. It is 12.87 meters in diameter and has 552 steps following its course from the entrance to the center: Although it exists physically, on the floor of the cathedral, it is not really an object at all; it is a metaphor (Terry Fox: Metaphorical Instruments, 1982).

The unicursal labyrinth dates from ancient times and, unlike a puzzle maze, which has dead ends, it is undeviating: The center is reached inevitably. Medieval worshippers are presumed to have traced the 180-foot path of the Chartres labyrinth on their hands and knees until they reached the center, thus symbolizing the difficult progress along the path to Heaven. For Fox, the labyrinth’s metaphorical implications were stunning:

This labyrinth was a revelation to me in many ways. I had undergone cycles of health, sickness, health, sickness, with attendant hospitalization, release, hospitalization for eleven years. The thirty-four turns leading to the center of the labyrinth also corresponded to these cycles. I had just gone through a major operation that finished once and for all these cycles, and seemed to have reached the center of the labyrinth. My energies up to this point had been involved in reaching this center; and I decided to reverse this process and work my way out by basing all my future work on the labyrinth at Chartres (Terry Fox: Metaphorical Instruments, 1982)."

Listen to Fox's sound piece: The Labyrinth Scored for the Purrs of 11 Different Cats.

You can see more of his works at Ronald Feldman Gallery, MOMA, and Gallery Paule Anglim.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Crown Point Benefit Brings in 10K for Obama

Last night, Crown Point Press held a debate party to benefit the Obama Campaign. We moved some couches and the giant TV into the gallery, we even ordered cable. We brought up delicious food from Two. It is much better to hoot, cheer and scowl at the screen as a group rather than home alone, and this way we raised $10,000.

We raffled off a print (winner's choice) from our current show, Abstract Mash-Up. Gary Garrels, senior curator of painting and sculpture at SFMOMA was the winner. He picked Amy Sillman's sweet/tart triangle composition, R&E. Garrels is the curator of Oranges and Sardines: Conversations on Abstraction at the Hammer Museum in L.A., which includes Sillman and will open in November, so he's glad he came. This may have been the super-bargain of his collecting career, at $300 a ticket.

Amy Sillman: R & E, 2007

The event was hosted by Kathan Brown, Connie Lewallen, Tom Marioni, Susan Middleton, Gay Outlaw, Valerie Wade, Angela Williams and Griff Williams. Thank you to everybody who came out to support the campaign. It's not over yet. Call your relatives in swing states tonight. If you missed out, you can
plan your own event!