Further questions about Hard Knocks.

The summer issue of Cincinnati's online arts journal Aeqai contains a review of Thunder-Sky Inc.'s current exhibition "Hard Knocks." It's been exciting to see how the exhibition and Maria's text have spurred debate and discussion.

You can see the original article and a few comments that have gone live on the page here.

Details about the artist talk on Friday can be found here.

I'm disappointed then that more than a week has passed since I wrote a series of questions I posed Maria + the journal. Not only have they gone unanswered, but they have not even been posted.So I'm posting them here in the hopes that those locally, who are interested in the discussion and the topic of "outsiderness" in contemporary art can consider them. In particular, I wanted to bring these thoughts into a public space before the artist talk for the exhibition this Friday at the gallery.

Please see below.

Matt Morris says: Your comment is awaiting moderation.

July 26th, 2011at 2:35 pm(#)

Maria, whether or not I’m a firm supporter of a project has nothing to do with whether or not I feel it is above criticism. On the contrary, if my friendship with Thunder-Sky does not come into my critique of how they execute exhibitions, my friendship with you also does not place your writing outside of my need for clarification or my desire to engage in a critique of the criticism. I’d like to think that my desire/demand for precision in efforts, both curatorial or critical, would extend in the same way into projects that I am not directly associated with (if Malton or Manifest attempted an exhibition in this vein for example).

I don’t think I’ve jumped to conclusions or interpretations in these questions. That it seems possible to read your ideas differently than you intended them is precisely why I think they need clarification. To that end, I must also have been unclear in my questions, because the driving points of what you are trying to say in this text continue to allude me.

Thank you for clarifying that you think the exhibition ignores the ways in which these artists are connected to the art world, whether or not they have degrees.

I don’t think I understand why that matters though.

Wouldn’t it stand to reason that if we are aware of any living artist who is a supposed ‘outsider’ then they are no longer living outside of mainstream contemporary culture or uninvolved with the art world? It’s why I brought up exhibitions like Gee’s Bend and Thorton Dial. In terms of art history, what is more “outsider art” than these people? And yet, they are in nationally touring exhibitions, selling work in Chelsea, and in the case of the quilts, public enough to have USPS postage stamps made of them. An “outsider artist” Cher Shaffer who I’ve collected work from in the past year has a credit card swipe at her art booth in fairs, and has sold to the rich and famous like Whoopi Goldberg. Are her mounted mainstream associations making her less of the ‘outsider’ she was when she got started? At a point when schools, public libraries, pay-by-the-month cellphones and internet cafes are all democratic access points to participating in the Internet (i.e., mainstream culture), who does still fit into the Grove definition you used?

Perhaps the only one I can readily think of is Henry Darger, since we did not know about his art until after he had died, and as a culture, we aren’t very interested in whether or not he would have wanted his work to be experienced in museums, coffee table books and documentaries.

If the artists at Thunder-Sky aren’t outsiders, then bring some to my attention who are (and my conjecture is that if you or I know about them, then they are no more outsider than anyone in the “Hard Knocks” exhibition). Or perhaps better, the term itself—no matter where we source its definition—may have lasted, as Keith said about the constructed narrative around Kevin White, beyond its usefulness.

It seems to me that this wasn’t a case of ignorance, as much as focusing on one lens. My experience of the work—and admittedly, I’ve read very little of the supporting texts related to the exhibition—suggests that there isn’t a claim of there being no involvement in mainstream or arts cultures, but more, it inquires into how these differences in involvement can be mapped outside of degree earning art academia. How does the art historian’s artmaking in private differ or bear similarities to the art hobbyist who runs a hair salon and runs with the elite jet set? What does an artist with no formal training in England have in common with or digress from someone from the American south?

I’m not asking that you “agree with every creative decision a gallery has made just because one might agree full heartedly with that gallery’s mission,” and projecting that kind of extremity onto my questions is unhelpful. My questions are not intended to drive you into agreement with what the gallery did. Truthfully, I have my own challenges with experiencing the exhibition. But if I bring them into this public space, I would hope to be as exacting in my critique as possible.

I am not struggling with your text because it could bruise some alliances I have in the arts or some precious definitions or curatorial inquiries I am invested in. I am following up in hopes that you’ll be as specific as possible about the issues you find in the exhibition, and ultimately what the problems the artists have addressed, the gallery has addressed or you have addressed MEAN. I mentioned a lack of resolution because beyond pointing out inconsistencies and problems in an exhibition, I hope that criticism will actually attempt to articulate those meanings so that we can collectively assess what has been accomplished. I have particular hopes in regards to the subject of “outsiderness” because I am completely skeptical that it exists beyond the language and scholarship that prolongs its supposed relevance.


weekend periphery.

Last night I visited one of the senior thesis exhibitions at the Art Academy of Cincinnati (which I attended from 03-07). I enjoyed a decent half of the work on display, but I got particularly involved in the video works of Rian Hunter.

Rian was an intern at U·turn last year. She is very quiet and was shy--at least around me--and her statement accompanying these works mentioned that these and other personal characteristics were involved in this work's conception.

The format--human figure performing action squared to a camera recording the action--continues a kind of displaced performance art that early John Baldessari and more recently Kate Gilmore have explored. Or as one of Hunter's faculty mentioned last night, Bruce Nauman and Vito Acconci. Basically it is a simple form of video performance art. And like Acconci, Hunter puts her own body and personal space through the paces of physical actions, sometimes exposing herself to duress, or at least aggravation.

I've no problem saying that her thesis work struck me as much stronger than where I was in my own studio/post-studio practice when I were her age.

The videos varied in length, some only a few minutes long, and other more involved activities taking nearly an hour to cycle through. The [conceptual] flicker of these different time spans sharing a darkened gallery space is of interest to me.

Another aspect of her installation that I noted was her resourcefulness of using very disparate technology to present the five or so videos, and how cohesive the presentation felt. The arrangement of various TVs, projectors and gallery ottomans had a order like a manicured garden. on obstacle for young artists working with video (or really any artists without a lot of funding) is the technology needed to present a set of their works. Often, it is a gumbo of borrowed televisions, monitors, projectors, etc. And in Hunter's case, it was no different. But I believe she struck upon some poetic balance in what she exhibited and how.

the simplicity and strangeness of the tasks Hunter set for herself gave me the uncanny sense that she had extended her inner life just enough beyond her skin to make it onto her body through repeated (sometimes excruciating) gestures.

on so there we are. thanks to everyone who stopped by Brighton last night. Suzanne Silver's installation Broken English is a marvel. And I couldn't be happier with how our project with Matthew Deleget and Ellen Nagel came together. Both shows up through April 30, with gallery hours on Saturdays from 12-4.

love your sunday because at least so far there is sunshine,


best of cincinnati, jimmy baker, drag.

this week's issue of CityBeat is our annual Best of Cincinnati issue. It is a witty guide to Cincinnati's great food and drinks, shops, galleries, artists, music venues + etc etc etc. i was involved in a lot of different picks about realist painters, vintage shopping, gay brunch, drag queens, video art + etc. Read through all of the staff picks (and the perhaps less reliable readers' picks) here. Or pick up a copy and use it as your locavore bible.

And a could not be more excited to take a break from preparing for Brighton's art openings this Saturday to take part in the grand opening celebrations for The Cabaret, a drag performance venue opening in OTR tomorrow night. Thursday is for VIPs, but there are three more nights of shows with amazing guest stars and the local creme de la creme. Bring your high spirits and wads of dollars for tipping.

in the meantime, i plan on continuing to feel grumpy that snow keeps falling. i am working towards making a decision about where i will be moving to in the fall. i cannot wait for yoga tonight at You Do Yoga.


keith, carmel, brighton and thunder-sky

okay, so there was a lapse. in the meantime, U.turn's supporters have generously given us upwards of $1000 to help cover operating costs, and i have been writing, dreaming, spring cleaning and what-have-you.

the largest of these written projects are these: Keith Haring at the CAC. This was a cover story at CityBeat. And a good exhibition.

The other big project I can't show you quite yet. It is the catalogue essay for Carmel Buckley + Joel Fisher's exhibition Nature's Stain, that was at Aisle last fall. The essay, titled "Making Suggestions," considers the two artists as cultural excavators, and how these new works continue and in some ways radically shift both of their practices.

Other small bits of words that have run in CityBeat recently:

Amanda Checco at Park + Vine. This show has ended, but you can still visit the mural she has made in the general store, as well as the much larger outdoor mural at the corner of 12th and Jackson that she supervised last year.

The Weston Art Gallery's new exhibitions. Fibercations by Cynthia Lockhart and Narrative Figuration, a group exhibition curated by Daniel Brown. Among the artists featured in Narrative Figuration is the inimitable Emil Robinson. Along with several paintings, the exhibition contains a few of Emil's pastel works, which I had never seen in person before. They are entirely different experiences than anything else on view.

What comes next for me? well, I am TOO EXCITED that Brighton will be bustling with three great shows this Saturday. At U.turn, we are presenting Pared: Matthew Deleget and Ellen Nagel (click on the title for more info at our blog). At semantics, we are showing a solo project by Suzanne Silver. I have written about Suzanne, curated her into a project previously, and followed her work enthusiastically for several years. Because her work often deals with the abstraction and deconstruction of language, an exhibition at a gallery called semantics is very appropriate. Her exhibition, along with U.turn's and the first of the season's shows at our neighbor Synthetica M Gallery will all open with reception from 7-10 pm, on Saturday April 2nd.

Eric Ruschman and I are collaborating on a project for Thunder-Sky Inc.'s upcoming exhibition 2 + 2 = 5. Exhibition opens on April 29th. More details at their site.

i hope you are enjoying this saturday as much as i am!


U·turn's Literati Glitterati Fundraiser + CS13's Today Show

hello bright beacons,

Watch for my small piece about CS13's Today Show in this week's CityBeat. Here are a few details about it now: Our friends at the alternative arts space CS13 will be presenting a 24-hour long exhibition called The Today Show that begins at 5 pm on Friday, February 18th and culminates in a reception on the evening of Saturday, February 19th, from 5-7 pm. A number of the artists included in their exhibition have shown or will be showing at U·turn in the coming months. The artists will mount an exhibition in which all of the work is conceived, created, installed, documented, written about and presented to the public in a 24 hour period. CS13 is located at 1420 Main Street in Over-the-Rhine. Make it an evening all about alternative spaces in the city: start at CS13 at 5 pm and then join us for dinner and a poem or two at 7 pm.

What that last part is referring to is U·turn's Fundraiser event on Saturday night. Here are some details for the event:

Literati Glitterati: A U·turn Fundraiser
February 19th, 2011, 7:00 – 10:00 pm
$10 suggested donation at the door

Cincinnati, OH—In little more than a year and a half of consistent monthly programming, U·turn Art Space is proud to have exhibited sixty artists from our region and from around the world. Now we are asking for your help. But don’t worry; we put the ‘fun’ in fundraiser. On the evening of the 19th, there will be books, buffets and beauty. Along with a delicious homemade meal, we will be offering beer for sale, live poetry readings and intermissions filled with a playlist designed especially for the event.

The evening will double as a book release night. Here are a few of the exciting releases planned:

-Brighton Approach Gold Edition- A special edition of Brighton Approach, U·turn’s art and literature periodical, will be available for sale. A number of the writers included in the book will be reading their work throughout the evening, including Keith Banner, Jennifer Glaser, Michael Hennessey, Meg Prichard, Nick Story and Dana Ward. These books have been printed full color, with art and writing contributions from Cincinnati and all across the country. As a Gold Edition, the book has been themed around alchemy, the pursuit of transforming the mundane into something precious. As an alternative arts space, we readily identify with such a goal.

-The U·turn Folios- The gallery has created four sets of full color digital prints, featuring work by the collective, as well as over twenty other artists that have exhibited with the space since October 2009. Three small folios have been curated and each will be available for $15. A larger folio that includes all of the prints from the smaller collections will available for $30. All folios will include a certificate of authenticity from the gallery. These will be printed in a limited run for the event.

-Exhibition Catalogues- Since the beginning of 2010, the gallery has been designing print-to-order catalogues for every exhibition. A full run of these books will be unveiled, with information about how to order them from our online store (if you’d like to preview some of these books, visit the web address: http://stores.lulu.com/UturnArtSpace). This run of catalogues include essays and poems by Christopher Backs, Keith Banner, Shawnee Barton, Craig Damrauer, Micah Freeman, Hollis Hammonds, Isaac Hand, Justine Ludwig, Matt Morris, Patricia Murphy, Zachary Rawe, Eric Ruschman and Dana Ward.

A little about the cost of running the space:

U·turn is comprised of five members, all working artists with day jobs. The gallery takes no commission off of the sale of artwork in the space, wishing instead to pass all profits back to the artists. So far, we have financed the space with our own incomes.

It costs an estimated $585 a month to operate the gallery. This includes rent and energy as well as costs for producing an exhibition, such as wall paint, lights, reception refreshments, postcards and the cost to ship work back to artists. For a professional art gallery, this is amazingly economical. In the winter, our heating bills are much higher. We hope that this fundraiser will help us offset these expenses and make our spring exhibitions easier to produce.This event coincides with our remarkable current exhibition, Marcia Hafif: Glaze Paintings. The renowned Hafif has designed a spacious installation of 8 small monochrome paintings that activate the entire room.

Steve Rosen reviewed this exhibition recently in CityBeat: http://www.citybeat.com/cincinnati/article-22668-marcia-hafif-finds-sanctuary-at-u-turn.html

For more information about the exhibitions U·turn has presented for over a year and a half, please visit our blog: http://www.uturnartspace.blogspot.com/

We hope you'll join us on Saturday to support U·turn and the exhibition programming we bring to the city!


birdwatching, hafif watching, catalogue crushing

hi dreamers,

this week in CityBeat I plugged the freshly opened For the Birds, an invitational exhibition at NKU's Galleries. I was speaking with an aspiring young curator last Sunday (and I hope that at least some of my subjective experiences were useful to be retooled into strategies), and considered aloud that there may be (at least) two or three loose catagories on how to approach curating an exhibition. A first and most common is to detect a trend, a train of thought running through a number of artists, and bring them together under that heading. A second is to begin with a line of inquiry, and to use the curating experience to either seek answers or modify the questions. A third is working on a solo exhibition. Now these can be especially interesting, because there are still questions driving the exhibitions, but they come from within the work, the artist's practice.

For the Birds is definitely the first type I described. We made it to the opening at the very end (and I might complain that while the press release promised free parking, we were charged b/c some kind of sports event was taking place). When you draw together all kinds of work on the basis of it all containing birds, there is going to be stronger and weaker work. There's a mixture here. There is one sculpture, and while I wasn't interested in the birdcage shaped as a church or the seed mixture shaped into Saint Francis, the actual proximity to small happy/cranky little live birds (finches?) really held all of the other works in place.

I also want to direct readers to Steve Rosen's really spectacular review of Marcia Hafif's exhibition currently on view at U.turn. Marcia's work has been a sublime, stunning, moving experience to work with. We are so pleased that Rosen shared in some of that profundity. Thank you Steve!

I will note that we are not a non-profit, nor do we think we are (the mention of this in the article will only first aggravate critics who have touched on this distinction. We are a not for profit alternative space. U.turn is not a registered 501(c)(3), nor does it plan on becoming one. We are very happy with how things are running.

My big work of this week has been on finalizing all of U.turn's catalogues. Since the beginning of 2010, the gallery has been designing print-to-order catalogues for every exhibition. A full run of these books will be unveiled, with information about how to order them from our online store . We're gearing up for a fundraiser on February 19th at the space starting at 7 pm.