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HOT COMMODITIES Six
Mid-Summer 2001
By Scott Speh

These columns are coming fast and furious now. With the upcoming demise of the 16 Beaver Space, I've got nothing better to do than look at art and report back you, gentle reader. I might even go out and get a temp job just to keep busy (the money won't hurt either). don't worry, I'll devote plenty of time to my beloved readers (all 7 of you).

There are some decent gallery group shows out there, some mediocre museum shows (with one incredible exception), and I've even seen some movies recently, so sit back, relax and let yourself go (yet another Tribe Called Quest quote).

WAYNE THEIBAUD
Whitney Museum

The first three rooms of this retrospective provides such a giddy rush of visual splendor that the rest of the show couldn't possibly measure up. Maybe there are too many land and streetscapes and figure paintings. Or maybe it's because he stopped painting pies. Oh what pies though! Damn fine pies, and cakes, and cookies and hot dogs and soup and salads and candy. Theibaud's almost sculptural applications of paint provide a most perfect form/function relationship in his food paintings: the lush, thick shimmering swaths of paint mimicking the icing, frosting and meringues of his subject matter. His approach is almost clinical and systematic as he presents his subjects frontally, matter of factly against a white ground, using serial repitition again and again. But the sexiness of his sumptuous color and paint texture provides a needed tension and buzz (as does his ubiquitous blue halo).

When he paints non-food objects (yo-yos excepted), the effect is almost too illustrational. The colors are too garish, the paint handling, while still luscious, seems superfluous. The next room of drawings shows off his incredible draftsmanship, but so what. Then there are 2 rooms of figurative paintings, a few of which, if they didnıt have the aforementioned have the blue halo, could be mistaken for Mel Ramos. The show finishes with an interminable number of streetscapes and landscapes. There are frankly too many ­ they all look the same. Sure, the food paintings look the same, but try not to drool in front of them. The landscapes don't make my mouth water.

So go look just after dinner and get your just desserts.

DIGITAL PRINTMAKING: NOW
Brooklyn Museum of Art
Talk about a mediocre show. Do we have too? Well I do, being a former printmaker; I suppose I must add my two cents in.
(Must you?
Yes, I must.
Just who do you think you are?
I'm a Hot Commodities columnist.
Well who appointed you?
Hey, you can go read the crap over at artnet.com if you don't like this)

Well, being a former printmaker, I should be happy to see a show featuring real, live actual artist-printmakers. You know, artists whose main output is prints. When you see a print in most museum shows, it's undoubtedly a famous (famous by art world standards) painter, sculptor, conceptual artist etc. who made the thing at a workshop like Tamarind, ULAE, Crown Point Press or Graphicstudio. I usually hate these kinds of prints (full disclosure: I volunteered at Tandem Press, a university press ­supposedly a research facility ­ in the mid-90s) ­ they're soulless, hollow shells of commerce masquerading as artwork. Pure marketplace motives often precipitate the production of these prints ­ Chuck Close only paints two or three canvases a year and the waiting list is unfathomable, but he churns our countless editions of crappy iris prints that collectors and small art centers can snap up for a fraction of the cost of his paintings. DIGITAL PRINTMAKING: NOW did have many workshop produced print prints, including a crappy Chuck Close iris print, but ... there is a surprising amount of artists, even younger, non-New York and "emerging" artists (what an awful term) who are primarily printmakers in this show ­ folks like Sally Minker, Adriane Herman, Lane Hall, Oli Watt ... this is good.

What's not good is the actual work. The problem is that Photoshop is too easy and iris printing is too easy and collectors and curators and museums are too easily seduced by technology. Just because a work comes out of a "printer" and is a piece of paper with ink on it doesn't necessarily make it a print. Where, dare I ask, is the matrix? Iris prints are merely nothing more than easily reproducible photography and Photoshop (Claire Corey and Ellen Birrell excepted) is nothing more than photo collage or Hollywood special f/x. Whoopee. There is nothing intrinsic to printmaking about it. In fact Chuck Close rightly considers his iris prints to be photographs.

Now, none of this really matters. Who cares but printmakers about what is what? Should the medium really matter this much? Isn't it the art that matters ­ the ideas at plays, the visuals that stimulate? Shows like this and "Bitstreams" again hurt artists by forcing viewers to consider the technological gee-gaws without necessarily dissecting the implications of gee-gaws and the ideas the artists are trying portray. Sure process can be important, especially if process is central to the understanding of the piece ­ Sol Lewit or early Frank Stella for example.

This is why I got out of printmaking ­ process was the be all and end all. Go to a printmaking show and see a bunch of squinting printers wondering "How'd they do that?" Go to a print conference and go to demo after demo to glean new print techniques (new techniques for an antiquated medium ­ how quaint). Printmaking is so anal, so obsessed with fine paper, perfectly ground limestone, expertly beveled edges, the sublime amount of plate tone, archival matting, and acid-free everything that ideas and imagery get lost. Name a famous (fame, again, being what is in the art world) artist who is primarily a printmaker. You can't. There aren't any. Printmakers are seemingly content to stay in their studio, classroom, ivory tower, ghetto ­ this academic, navel gazing world, rarely peeking their heads out of that ivory tower to listen and perhaps participate in the larger contemporary art discussion.

Let's talk about me now (surprise!). I entered grad school at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to study printmaking, primarily etching. I quickly tired of the overly precious world of etching and switched to screen-printing (not silkscreen ­ another precious print dealers word. Itıs called screen-printing). I stopped editioning and got my mess on ­ making paintings basically ­ ultimately leaving UW as a painter. (Funny, after all my ranting about printmaker's obsession about process, that my current paintings are all about process). This procedure of printmakers switching into other media was prevalent at UW in the mid-90s. At this time, the best artists at UW were printmakers as UW had a solid reputation in printmaking (US News & World Reports #2, behind Iowa). Invariably, these students would see the limitations of the print ghetto and would start making paintings, sculptures, videos, performances along with their prints. This situation has so alarmed the myopic UW print faculty that they are now going against the trend ­ mainly breaking down hierarchical walls between mediums, encouraging freedom and exploration of ideas and techniques - of every other US art school program. The UW print faculty is forcing their students to take a minimum number of print courses a semester and to have at least two print faculty on their graduate committees. You could call this self-preservation. You could also call this fear. Not surprisingly, many promising students promptly switched into other, less narrow-minded departments. A prime example of academic printmaking for you: I had to get out.

Back to DIGITAL PRINTMAKING: NOW. Maybe this show will signal a rebirth and re-interest in the print medium. I found it dreary and deflating. I'm tired of Photoshop collages, tired of inkjet and iris prints masquerading as photos, frankly tired of the computer, tired of technological wizardry. DP:N started out with old school prints, positioned as an educational introduction into the print process. I whined to my viewing partner, "I don't want to look at old prints." But after all that techno-crap, I think I'll go home and stare at my Robert Gomez woodcut, my Amy Fincke and Marcy Collins etchings, my Chris Uhl monotypes for a while. Old school prints aren't so bad after all.

MORE SUMMER GROUP SHOWS
Chelsea

Gagosian:
Panasonic presents "MONITOR: VOLUME 1" the Gagosian summer show. Imagine this, a Gagosian show I actually like: Susan Hiller's "Psi Girls" rocked with Grrl Power in the back gallery, while videos of simple gestures inhabited the main space; I could watch Michel Francois' "Chaise" video of a chair breaking and tumbling down a set of stairs all day long; you can choose between Knut Asdam's video of a man pissing his pants (more compelling than Tony Tasset's "I Peed my Pants" down at Feigen's summer show) or turn around get all offended by that crapmeister Vanessa Beecroft's video, of what, you might ask? Naked Girls! Surprise, surprise; I also much enjoyed Grazia Toderi's "Diamond" a continuous loop video of a packed baseball stadium with a droning soundtrack of muffled crowd noises and Douglas Gordon's "Magic Newspapers" which had Gordon performing magic with, well, uh, newspapers.
Ten-in-One:
Chelsea Arts Building (This building is where it's at in Chelsea. The big box galleries are mausoleums. These smaller galleries have more energy and edgier art)
A whimsical and challenging summer show: David Altmejd contributes the ugliest, most hideous sculpture that I just couldn't look away from. Two sets of conjoined, Werewolves-in-London-looking heads, crystals poking out from everywhere, paint splattered and crusty. Pretty gruesome! All on a lovely artist designed bi-planar pedestal more suited for Kate Spade Bags. Lovely! Peter Krieder's "House Tornado" at first glance looks like an inverted of house of cards, but is yeah, a tornado made out of a house of cards. Impressive and witty. Also witty is Sarah Conaway's video where she and her brother dress like Wegman's dogs, heads bobbing back and forth as if watching a tennis match. One of my favorite artists, Jessica Jackson Hutchins, has a killer installation in the project room centered on Daryl Strawberry. Crappily poignant, and I mean crappily in all the best connotations.
Neil Farber at Clementine:
Chelsea Arts Building
Initially I thought his work was dangerously close to Marcel Dzama's: simple pen and watercolors of stiffly drawn people and animals. After reading Farber's bio, I learned he's in a collaborative group with Dzama. So they share an aesthetic ­ all is forgiven. Farber is a little cuter and less surreal than Dzama but shares a not-so-underlying creepiness. Farber's obsessions include kids drinking poison, cats, soldiers, adults mind-fucking little kids, arrows, ditches, lots of death, ghosts and the savages and ravages of love. Plus the drawing are cheap ­ starting at $50, most are $100 and $200, plus a few at $600. I'd have been out $100 if my favorite drawing wasn't already snapped up: a man discussing his failed marriage with a sentry guard to an unauthorized area ­ bittersweet - it hit a little close to home.
Caren Goldman
Chelsea Arts Building
Superimposition is curated by art critic David Hunt. Joan Linden's large, simple, ballpoint pen drawings of cheesy architectural forms made me smile as did the title of Jay Davis' sexy painting ­ "Untitled (2 Things Fighting, 22 Pinstripes and Three Striped Pedestals)." Jeffrey Reed's "No Future" looked like a futuristic drum riser - a wooden star for a base, plexi glass, fluorescent lights and Tecate beer cans as load bearing columns ­ rock on! Jim Lambie's collage rocked on ­ thousands of collaged eyes in a hide-like shape of a guitar player.

Quick hitters:
Stephan Stux
I desperately wanted to touch Stephanie Campos's shiny abstract Oldenburg-esque, soft-scultpure-y geometric forms made of polyurethane and enamel over vinyl and wood. Ellie Pyle funks up cheesily simple images of flowers, palm trees, and cacti with haphazardly applied paint, vinyl and colored masking tape. Cheezy, breezy summer fun.
Feature
Another typically quirky Feature show, the stand-out here being Stephen Aljian who uses construction paper, masking tape and staples to create meandering, snake and cloud-like abstractions. Am I just too much of a sucker for humble materials?
Derek Eller
The best piece in this group shows belongs to Carl D'Alvia ­ a resin cast pedestal that appears to have cartoonily carved hair all over it.
Jeff Dick at Lyons Wier
Chelsea Arts Building
A Chicago figurative painting gallery opened up a branch here and promises to diversify. A decent start with Jeff Dick's show of gauzy abstractions ­ think soft edged, patterned Georgia O'Keefe mixed with Emil Nolde with a hazy surface that proved to be crushed glass.
Marianne Boesky
"Camera Works" is an impressive survey of artists who aren't primarily photographers. With 31 artists, there are almost too many quality pieces to mention ­Jessica Stockholder and Rachel Whiteread's photos left the strongest impression on me.

So what do you want to know about pop culture this week?

Startup.com
Gripping verite film documenting the rise and fall of a dot.com birthed by two best friends. Hit a little too close to home considering what's going on at the Beaver.
A.I.
3 movies for the price of one- some awesome visuals and intriguing ideas are soured by a Spielbergian ending of mushy sentimentality. Ick.
Recent video rentals
My roommate Claudine has indoctrinated us into her bad movie club. 2 weeks ago was the gut-wrenchingly horrid "Gone in Sixty Seconds." Utter, fucking garbage. No kitsch value whatso-fucking-ever. Last week we endured "Duets" the Huey Lewis-Gwyneth Paltrow vehicle about the karaoke scene. THE KARAOKE SCENE for chrissakes. Talk about kitsch value. Veteran character actor Paul Giammatti turns in a devastating performance as a hack business man who transforms himself into a killer karaoke performer. Andre Braugher sings an awesome a cappella version of Freebird. And Huey Lewis ­ he sucked.
Recent CDs
The last two purchases contains a total of five good songs: Ja Rule's "Between You and Me" and the boombastic "Put It On Me" and Destiny's Child's "Survivor," "Bootylicious," and "Independent Women." Why are rap and R&B albums so full of filler?
Summer Deliciosity
Do you know what's not full of filler? My turkey burgers (with a recipe stolen from Colin Beatty) flavored with fresh ginger, garlic, kosher salt, pepper and Tabasco. Cook them either on the grill or the George Foreman lean, mean, fat reducing grilling machine. Slap some American cheese (not any of that fancy cheddar shit) on 'em, and savor the love.
Stadium Nosh
I went to Yankee Stadium last week and saw my beloved Cleveland Indians get destroyed 15-5. It would have been more palatable had I been able to find some god-damned nachos. I LOVE stadium nachos. Stale, salty corn chips, rubbery jalapenos, and that mystery yellow melted cheese-like sauce. What is the dilly-yo? No nachos at Yankee Stadium! I'm calling Giuliani.

August is a dead month for art, so hopefully I can find something to write about next time.

Love ya - Scott

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HC12
Valentine's Day 2002
Way too much info on my TV watching habits, plus Daniell Tegeder, Brad Tucker and art in Boston and much, much more...

HC11
Best of 2001
Moulin Rouge, Mulholland Drive, Missy Elliot, Jay-Z, James Ensor, Wayne Thiebaud, Radiohead, System of a Down redux

HC10
Thanksgiving from Hawaii
Serra, Pardo, Katz, Coen Brothers all suck. Grabner, Sienna, Prekop, Jay-Z all rock

HC9
Early Fall 2001
The Onion, Rodney Graham, Jim Lambie, Larry King, Music Movie Sundays, sucking up to Jerry Saltz and stuff...

HC8
Early Fall 2001
Skinny actresses, Fall Previews, Hair metal (again), and some other crap...

HC7
Late-Summer 2001
Chicago Art, Radiohead, Tony Kornheiser, another David E. Kelley rip and more...

HC6
Summer 2001
Wane Thiebaud, Printmaking, movies, more summer shows and more...

HC5
Summer 2001
Summer Shows, Paul McCarthy, Me, My Sister and more...

HC4
Spring 2001
James Ensor, Ennui, Journey, New Art Examiner and more...

HC3
Late Winter 2001
Dawson's Creek, Jessica Stockholder, David Salle, Albums of the Year and more...

HC2
Early Winter 2000
riffs on rock-Roll Singles, the West Wing, Bernard Frieze and more...

HC1
Fall 2000
The dirt on Damien Hirst, Jibangus, Cable TV and more...

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