Saturday, March 31, 2012

Technical Difficulties

I was asked by Billy Schmidt of the band Forman to contribute some visuals at his bi-monthly music performance at Olive's in Nyack, NY.  This was my second time being a VJ... the first time was at SUNY Fredonia for a classical orchestral performance.  At the Forman show this past Thursday my projector had technical difficulties... none of the colors were correct (they were mostly inverted, but I could only use shades of green, pink, and black), and the projection flashed on and off each time inverting the colors in flickers.  Anyway, I loved the weird effect and went with it... the audience thought it was great!  Also, below are all the drawings I did that night.  Some are drawn from life, some are imagined.

And I almost forgot... Forman is an excellent band (check them out on Facebook).  They're versatile, groovy, and know how to control volume levels... but their greatest asset is their ability to create a homey and welcoming vibe through the use of lighting, artwork, and video projection.  The other band that night, Fire Quartet, played one of the most exciting sets I've heard in awhile... they featured a very psychedelic electric violin.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Oh Henry!

Henry Taylor is one of those artists that seems to occupy a space between art world insider and art world outsider.  He has attended art school but prefers his work to look like he hadn't.  The only problem with this, in his case, is that he tries too hard to make his work look "naive" and instead it just looks bad.  In order for the audience to enter into a work of art it has to be believable.  Henry Taylor obviously has a lot to say about being black in America, but his work isn't believable.  I don't care to listen to what he has to say because he's boring to listen to.

I went to see his solo exhibition before it ended at MoMA PS1 in Queens.  A few months ago I read a review from somewhere that had explained that although many people consider Henry to be an untrained artist they shouldn't be fooled because he did in fact attend art school at California Institute of the Arts, albeit later in life.  This brings us to an interesting topic... the outsider artist and their supposed purity/uncorrupted raw vision.  Craig Garrett wrote an excellent article on the professional outsider, which might be the correct label for Henry Taylor, titled "Art and Artlessness: The Rise of the Professional Naive" (  In it he says...
"When the category of outsider art first gained widespread acceptance in the 1960's and 70's, it did so primarily as an opposition to the elite modernism that dominated Western art at the time. Outsider art was billed as an antidote to high culture, a challenge to modernism's exclusive claim to an institutionalized narrative of progress. In the 1980's, as this narrative came under widespread scrutiny within those same institutions, the category of outsider art also underwent a subsequent paradigm shift. Amid the erosion of concepts like authorship, uniqueness and the sublime, outsider art no longer billed itself as an alternative to modernism. Instead, it became a sanctuary for those threatened ideals.  [...]  Apart from artists whose work was discovered only after their deaths or whose mental impairment precludes an awareness of an objective reality beyond themselves, outsider artists and their dealers walk a fine line between professionalism and amateurism, staking their claim in the precipitous territory between art and artlessness." 
It seems that Henry Taylor walks the line between art and artlessness... being in opposition to the elite while being part of their inner sanctum.  But unlike artists like Chris Johanson, which Garrett's article focuses on, Henry is a fiction.  It seems to me that dealers and collectors choose Henry to fit the bill of the working-class urban artist who's "raw vision" can give us a glimpse into urban America.  Am I being cynical... sure.  But Henry's story and background are more interesting than his art.

To give Henry some credit there were a few pieces in the exhibition that really turned me on.  His sculpture excited me.  I loved his "Rock It" piece made of rocking chair parts, Cobra beer boxes and a mannequin head.  The reason why this sculpture is one of the only few successful pieces in the show is its not a painting.  Almost every painting in the show is either too obvious in its message leaving little for the audience to use his or her imagination, or is too concerned with an unfinished look consisting of drips, blank white canvas, and half finished forms.  It Henry would forget about trying to be raw and just paint the way that comes instinctively to him his work would be less trendy looking and more authentic feeling.  His sculpture is free of all those hinderances and has a freshness to them that invites the viewer into the piece.

I think Henry's success comes back to the marketability of a so-called "mythic raw genius".  Like Garrett says in his article... there's been a lot of money to be made off outsider artists in the art market since the 1960's and 70's.  But this market trend has made many of us mistake the artist's image for his or her art.  In some cases we've become duped into believing what we want to believe, that another "mythic raw genius" has been discovered.  As consequence we become blinded to the not so interesting truth about their work.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Scope and Fountain NYC Art Fairs

Art Fair madness in New York has ended.  I visited two fairs yesterday, both of which are lesser know compared to The Armory Show and Volta.  Scope was very clean and professional looking while Fountain Art Fair raw, "do it yourself" feel.  Both shows exhibited a variety of work from home and abroad.  Yet in my opinion neither show was worth the entrance fee.

Pop-Street-Art was the big winner at both shows.  There were many galleries exhibiting work in this vein.    The Corey Helford Gallery is the epitome of this trend.  I'll be honest here... I detest art like this.  It's not creative, instead it's "totally cool dude".  Simply combine images of Pop culture with a traditional fine art theme or medium, add some perversion and passive aggressiveness, and pronto!  But hey, I suppose someone has to do this kind of work... and I don't know, maybe they feel sincerely compelled to do so.

Eric Joyner
Corey Helford Gallery
Chad Wys
The other big winner at Scope was Video Art.  You could see a lot of paintings and/or framed 2-d wall pieces with moving images.  Marck and Gregory Scott lead the way.... Troy Abbott's work also used the combination of small video screens in his art.  At first I was enthralled with the work, like a kid in a candy store.  But after awhile I didn't care so much for being entertained and instead wanted to "feel" something and contemplate simple, "nothing-special" kind of work.

Gregory Scott


 Troy Abbott

In no particular order the art I found most interesting came from these artists... 

Ralf Kaspers
Jacqueline Sferra
Agustina Woodgate
Julie Torres
Valerie Brennan
Evo Love

Charlie Engman
UFO and Doyle

Sunday, March 11, 2012

My Band... The Fusioneers

Three things you should know... 

1)  I'm in a Jazz Fusion band that plays original music composed by myself and Kyle Neidig.

2)  Indian Road Cafe at 218 Street and Inwood Park in Manhattan is not only my favorite place to play live music but is also my favorite place for expresso drinks, lunch and dinner, quality beers, and chill social environment.

3)  This great video that I posted of us playing was made by my new best friend Simon Feldman of Hudson Valley Music Channel TV... 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Parallax Art Fair

David Welch

Several months ago I received an email from Chris Barlow of London, England who I’d never met or heard of before.  He said he found my art off the White Columns Artist Registry (by the way, all artists should submit their work to on-line registries for exposure) and he thought that I might be interested in exhibiting my work in London at an art fair he organizes called Parallax AF.  The submission was free so I submitted my work and was accepted into the show.  Now normally I refuse to exhibit my work for a fee because I’d be broke if I accepted every opportunity that had a price tag on it (artists beware… there is a huge industry out there that preys on artist’s desperation for recognition), but in this case the price seemed totally reasonable.  For approximately $400 I was able to exhibit one 22” x 30” drawing, two 18” x 24” drawings, five 11” x 14” drawings, and forty 5 ½” x 8” drawings.  Moreover, by choosing to exhibit drawings that I was able to roll up work I was able to bring it for free on the airplane as a carry-on.  Anyway, I flew to London for the duration of the four day show a couple weeks ago.

Fabian Busdraghi
Now to the art.  There were about two hundred artists from thirty countries or so.  People were exhibiting anywhere from one small drawing to several large paintings.  Out of the two hundred artist I estimate about half of them were of a decorative nature.  Of the other one hundred there was no one artist that stood above all the rest… instead there were fifteen or so that I thought were producing work of interest.  The work of Paul Taylor, Fabiano Busdraghi, David Welch, Julia Weck, Grehard Stephanus de Groot, and Bastian Preussager was of the highest quality and depth.  Other notable mentions were the photographers Carmen Spitznagel, Svein Traserud (whose work I’d like to see more of), Elena Duff, Marta Valls, and Irina Quintela, along with the 2-dimensional work of artists Bente Christensen Ernst, Edmund Wyss, Hendrik Moses, Vladimir Titov, and Urszula Sliz (whom only exhibited a single piece).

If only David Welch’s photographs in his totem series were larger, or better yet if he had shown some of the sculptures in person, he would’ve had my favorite pieces in the show.  Regardless what his concept was for making these totems and taking photos of them they have a charm to them just as Paul Taylor’s photographs do.  Both of these artists have created art rich in metaphor and they’ve done so in such a way as to draw the viewer in and participate in the creative process.  What I mean is that both artists have given the audience just enough wiggle room to fill in the missing blank and complete the meaning of the piece.  Art that is too open to interpretation reads as chaos to the audience… art that is too obvious shuts the audience out of the interpretive process… but art that has just the right balance sets the stage for the audience to play a small role in the action that can determine the ultimate meaning of the piece.  I liken this concept to Chinese and Japanese ink brush paintings that suggest entire landscapes with minimal brushwork.  This allows the audiences mind to fill in the gaps and engage in the creative act.

David Welch
David Welch
Paul Taylor
Paul Taylor

What I gather about the German artist Julia Weck is that she has an affinity for the handmade.  The subject matter of her work is simple which I find refreshing at a time when you see more fecal matter represented in art than you do of someone's face.  But above and beyond all else I thought her work was illustrative of what I call "punching through the target".  In martial arts the fighter derives much more strength to their punch when aiming just beyond the surface of the target.  The same principle is true for artists.  You can tell when a painter or drawer is creating their work with the finished product in mind as opposed to arriving at a finished product by consequences of their exploration of the subject or idea.  I find this most explicit in Julia's portraits.

Julia Weck
Julia Weck 

In closing I thank Gerhard Stephanus de Groot for showing his excellent little drawings which were much needed at Parallax to represent the rude and the crude and the humorous.  Bastian Presugger's works were very enjoyable to look at... I love the texture, caricature, and subject matter in what I believe were prints.  If you like my charcoal portraits you'll love Fabiano Busdraghi's photographs (  I wish Isidora Ficovic would have shown some of her paintings, I wish Chris Barlow would've introduced himself to the artists (when you're in New York lets meet up), and I thank Chris and Rebecca Marcus-Monks and all the other folks that put together this exciting and enjoyable art fair.

Isidora Ficovic