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August 2005, 21 posts, 520 lines


That recent post by erik, presumably incorporating bits by jno, is a great example of why artists shouldn't write. Erik and jno are wonderful, smart people, but that post was (even for someone who has wasted too many hours on both sides of the desk at graduate seminars) indigestible.

If you want to move product, you need an agent who can lube it up the way the customer likes it.


I'm moving (only two blocks, but still purging). Does anyone want my collection of New Art Examiners, World Art, other misc. art mags? Other chicagoartworld ephemera. jno - I have some beige boxes. Phone is better than email. 773 227-6225 Michael


Of course artists should write, but they should put as much care and thought into their writing as they would apply to any other aspect of their work. Most texts by artists read like they were written in a hurry and treated as an after-thought. It need not be this way. Writing can be as creative and playful as any other aspect of the work. Getting editorial help from others never hurt either.

If you are an artist and you can't write about your ideas articulately, there are precious few critics out there who are going to do this for you in any substantive sort of way. Even good writers like Anthony Elms have word count limits. Gallery show essays by hired guns or invited guests can be nice but I won't read them if it is obvious they were just created as a tool to try to sell the work. These texts rarely have any critical substance. They sure keep people like Donald Kuspit from starving to death, however.

If you are fortunate enough to have your work reviewed or included in an article, odds are that the write-up will be: too short, minimally useful, factually inaccurate in at least one place (even if the writer consulted you) and not a very good representation of your ideas and intentions. A lot of writing in reviews and articles is thoroughly lazy and depends heavily on press releases for information and descriptions; you better make sure you like what those say. Anything you say in your press release can and will be used against you. Many gallerists and curators are equally poor writers so depending on them to do this for you isn't always going to yield good results either.

I'm not so keen on artist statements that attempt to sum up all an artist does in a couple paragraphs. Almost any art that I find interesting can't be summed up this easily so I find these things pretty futile. Artists can always say 'No' to writing them. It's your art - do whatever the hell ya want.

I prefer reading and writing texts that are created specifically for a particular project. I generally find those artist texts more helpful and I like to see what kind of context an artist creates for the work. My own preference is to write, borrow, request, or steal texts to supplement each project as an extension of the work. Then I (or We - if it's a collaborative thing, like it usually is) put these texts in a free booklet or poster that people can take away. Leaving a paper trail ensures that there will be some kind of record of the work for anyone who cares. You can mail these things to people, use them in place of slides, hang them on a wall (the posters that is), etc. etc. For me, the booklets or posters just become another thing I make. When you have ten or twenty of them, it's fun to just hand a stack to friends and they get an instant archive of your stuff. Postcards, press releases and photocopies of paragraph-long reviews or mutli-page articles with loads of factual errors are never as fun to recirculate in this way.

Bulka wrote: "If you want to move product, you need an agent who can lube it up the way the customer likes it."

This just conjures up horrifying images of people fucking works of art. Not what I was hoping to think about on a hot sticky morning.



"May/ December Art"

The Gallery

The Johnsonese Gallery is a fine arts gallery located in Chicago's Bucktown neighborhood. We specialize in progressive contemporary art.

The Show

It's a pattern that repeats itself over and over: a younger woman falls for an older man. Sometimes, though not as often, it's reversed and the man is the junior partner. Gay/ December couples are even more common. Stories of attraction across the generations have always fascinated people, from Sunset Boulevard to The Graduate to Lost in Translation. Can we recreate this fascination in the art world? This show will feature collaborative works by trans-generational (read at least 15 years difference in age) artist teams. Do May/ December romances really work? Can great art result from May/ December collaborations?

This show will coincide with Chicago Artists' Month which has as its theme, "Chicago Artists' Month at 10: Looking Back, Leaping Forward". "May/ December Art" is our way of simultaneously looking at two generations of artists.

Aug 26 Application deadline


US-based artist teams (2 or more artists) with at least 15 years age difference between 2 team members.


All original media are acceptable; 2- and 3-dimensional. Photographs and artist prints must be numbered (of an edition) to be considered. No mechanical reproduction prints will be accepted. Installations will be considered if the artist agrees to install the work on site.

Submission Format

Slides or digital images on CDs and artist statement are acceptable. Include a SASE for return requests. For Email submissions, images must be JPEG or GIF format ONLY and an image list (saved as a Word document) must include; title, medium, size, year, and price.


Johnsonese Gallery LLC

2149 W Armitage

Chicago, IL 60647

info at



First, artist statements can be fantastic, if the person really puts thought into it. Regardless what you think of his art, Richard Prince writes some of the best texts ever for his art. But then again they are short stories more than statements, and are oblique as hell. William Pope L. and Glenn Ligon are both smart in presenting themselves, again, regardless what you think of their art. The aside over, thought I would share some good advice with all you folks.

Now usually, I think Coagula is sometimes funny but terrible, with a shitty mindset and the wrong solutions for half the right problems, or half-right problems. But last year they had a mostly on the ball (I'm more forgiving of technical language) article about the artist statement. There is some shit in it (he could have used the advice about an editor), most can be taken and allow any ole dummy to make an all right text. The meatiest stuff is toward the second half, the bullet points are the real sweet, close to the bone, meaty good stuff. Sorry for the metaphor, vegetarians, and ignore the copyright theft here, at least I give Coagula credit. And remember, it is about statements, not the art itself:

Turning Pro by Alan Bamberger

Artist statements are not stupid; they're more like essential. And you don't have to be a writer to write one. And people already look at your art and take away whatever experiences they will. Your artist statement is about facts, a basic introduction to your art; it's not directives on what to experience, what to think, how to feel, how to act, or where to stand, and if it is, you'd better do a rewrite.

On this planet, people communicate through language, and your artist statement introduces and communicates the language component of your art. people who experience your art and want to know more will have questions. When you're there, they ask you and you answer. When you're not there, your artist statement answers for you. Or when you're there, but you don't like to answer questions, or you're too busy to answer questions, or someone's too embarrassed to ask you questions, then you pal, you artist statement, does the job. So let's get busy and write the damn thing.

Just about all artists want as many people as possible to appreciate their art. A good artist statement works to towards this end, and the most important ingredient of a good statement is its language. Write your statement in language that anyone can understand, not language that you understand, not language that you and your friends understand, not language that you learn I art school, but everyday language that you use with everyday people to accomplish everyday things. An effective statement reaches out and welcomes people to your art, no matter how little or how much they know about art to begin with; it never excludes.

Rest assured that those who read your statement and want to know more will christen you with ample opportunities to get technical, metaphysical, philosophical, personal, emotional, moralistic, socially relevant, historical, environmentally responsible, political, autobiographical, anecdotal, or twisty with jargon, later, not now.

Like an introduction to a book, your statement presents the fundamental underpinnings of your art; write it for people who are about to read "your book,' not those who've already read it. In three to five paragraphs of three to five sentences each, provide basic information like why you make your art, how you make it, what it's made out of, and perhaps briefly, what your art means to you. Don't bog readers down, but rather entice them to want to know more. As with any good first impression, your statement should hook and invite further inquiry, like a really good story is about to be told. Give too little, not too much. People have short attention spans. When you front-load the details, you risk drowning readers in minutia, readers who might otherwise persevere if you keep it simple. Address and answer commonly asked questions about your art. Save the complicated stuff for those who progress to the next level. Don't worry about pleasing your fans; you won't bore them and you won't lose them. They have ways to get their questions answered.

remember: Your statement is about broadening your audience, not keeping it static. You'll have plenty of time to give the grand tour, later, not now. Your statement is about you, so personalize it. Infuse it with your unique perspective. Whenever possible, make it conversational, like you're talking to the readers (Note: A good editor can work wonders here). The more complex, theoretical, intangible, or impersonal your statement, the more trouble people have trying to get through it and connecting with your art on meaningful levels. Few readers want to burn energy trying to decipher abstractions; they burn energy all day long. For now, they just want to see your art, take it easy, and enjoy themselves.

There are other considerations: * Make "I" statements, rather than "you" statements. Talk about what your art does for you, not what it's supposed to do for the readers. This doesn't mean that you start every sentence with "I," but rather that you respect people's autonomy and allow them to respond to your art as they wish. * At all times, give readers the option to agree or disagree with you. Never pressure them or dictate outcomes. * Avoid comparative or evaluative statements that have been made about your art by third parties such as gallery owners, critics, collectors, or curators. These belong in your curriculum vitae. In your statement, they're name-dropping; in your curriculum vitae, they're testimonials. * Connect what your art expresses with the medium that you're expressing it in. For example, if your art is about world peace, and it consists of twigs protruding from pieces of clay, explain the connection. Arbitrarily stating that twig/clay protrusions represent world peace leaves people wondering. If, of course, the object of your art or your statement is to leave people wondering, then that's O.K. In art, everything is O.K., but in order to succeed as an artist, someone beside yourself generally has to get the point of what you're doing. * Be specific, not vague. For example, if your art is "inspired by assessments of the fundamentals of the natural world," tell which fundamentals you're assessing and how they inspire you. * Avoid obscure references to music, art, literature, history, or anything else that requires detailed explanation. If you have to make such a reference, explain it fast so that people know what you're talking about. If you can't do it fast, do it later. * Tell the story about what led up to your art only if it's short, compelling, and really really relevant. People are generally not interested in progressions of antecedent events. Something leads up to everything: we all know that. * Avoid comparing yourself to other artists. If other artists influence you, fine, but don't say, "Like Picasso, I do this" or "Like Judd, I do that." Instead, say something like "Picasso's Blue and Rose paintings influence how I use yellow." But better yet, leave other artists out of your statement altogether, let the critics decide who you're like. * Don't instruct people on how to see, feel, behave, respond, or otherwise relate to your art. Nobody likes being told what to do. Instead of saying "You will experience angst when you see my art," say "This expresses my angst" or "I express my angst through my art." Or go see a therapist and get rid of your angst.

Before you go public with your statement, get feedback. Show your art and statement to friends, friends' friends, and maybe even a stranger or two. Make sure they understand what you want them to understand. When they don't, or you have to explain yourself, do a rewrite and eliminate confusion. If you need help, find someone who writes or edits and have them fix the problem. Many times, a little rearranging is all that's necessary to make your statement a clean clear read. No matter how good your statement is, know up front that most people will read it and move on; only a few will want to know more, and fewer yet will ultimately progress to the point where they buy your art. that's simply the nature of art and personal taste.

Having said that, never underestimate the power of an effective statement to intensify and enhance the experience of your art.




I just moved and have 3BR's worth of moving boxes, big and small, if anyone needs boxes you can have them. I also have a desk/hutch and huge coffee table. If you want it, you can have it.



On Mon, 1 Aug 2005, //jonCates wrote:

I dont know what that was, but I embargoed the address. /jno


jno wrote: "(A) r4wB!t5 micro.Fest call ][]P3|\|.|=r at /\/\3.\/\/()r|<][

I dont know what that was, but I embargoed the address. "

I think it was the crappiest artist statement ever.


I feel a bit responsible for killing the last discussion with my over-zealousness, so please accept my apologies. In any case, I have to say I was pleased to see Alan Artner review Deb Sokolow's 12x12, but it doesn't seem he makes any judgment on the work (I personally dislike descriptive reviews and think they should be used only for advertisements).

I loved the installation, and I'm not just saying that hoping Scott will give me some free artwork.... No, it was great, one of the best 12x12s in recent memory. Saw it on a Sunday and there were more people in the room intently reading and looking than there were in the entire Flavin show. It was the most people I have ever seen take their time in a 12x12, and I don't think it was only because there was a plot line with text.

Her stories remind me of Ilya Kabakov's, probably because I wrote a qualifying paper on him (shameless plug), but also because her use of humor and fantastic/paranoid plots. It helped to know recent Chicago events, as I had to explain to my mother-in-law the "X's" in Meigs Field, but I don't think it detracted from the work.

The only downside is that I didn't see any pirates that looked like Scott. I did come up with an idea that visitors should get free entrance to the museum if they dressed like a pirate...a take on the Vienna Museum that allowed free entrance to people in the buff.

Oh, and I read the wall text, but still haven't read the letters from Flavin.

That's all I've got.


I found this interesting.

Artists Who Actually Went Too Far The Thames Water company succeeded in pressuring artist Mark McGowan to abandon his project at the House Gallery in south London in July in which, to protest society's profligate use of water, he turned on House's faucet and planned not to turn it off for a year (wasting an estimated 3.9 million gallons). And in Chicago, it was only a couple of days after photographer Kerry Skarbakka announced his "Falling" project that he was pressured into abandoning it. Skarbakka said he was awed by the sight of people falling or jumping from the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 and said he would, in tribute, repeatedly plunge four stories from Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art (but was quickly excoriated for poor taste). [New York Times, 7-28-05] [Chicago Sun-Times, 6-15-05]


Mark Williams writes:

Bull. On all counts. Where is this from?

a) The performance/documentation went ahead as planned at the MCA on June 14, b) Skarbakka hasn't abandoned it, but rather expanded the project to cover the ensuing sensationalist media fury (mostly on the part of the New York Daily News) as well, c) the project was not a "tribute" or response to those frightful images from 9/11 and the press accounts that quoted Skarbakka saying such were apparently straight-up fabrications.

Here's the artist's statement regarding the project as it now stands [ [] ]:

Also see Fred Camper's piece on it from New York Newsday, July 10 [ [] ]:


"Where is this from?"

To answer my own question, it looks like it came from Chuck Shepherd's widely syndicated "News of the Weird" (e.g., [] )


Thank you for the clarification Dan. However, it brings up an interesting topic.. How far really IS "too far" when it comes to art. Should there be any limits, morally or ethically (not to mention legally). As an artist, are there any 'taboo' areas that are generally avoided and if so, why?

Dan Hopewell dan at wrote:Mark Williams writes:

Bull. On all counts. Where is this from?

a) The performance/documentation went ahead as planned at the MCA on June 14, b) Skarbakka hasn't abandoned it, but rather expanded the project to cover the ensuing sensationalist media fury (mostly on the part of the New York Daily News) as well, c) the project was not a "tribute" or response to those frightful images from 9/11 and the press accounts that quoted Skarbakka saying such were apparently straight-up fabrications.

Here's the artist's statement regarding the project as it now stands [ [] ]:

Also see Fred Camper's piece on it from New York Newsday, July 10 [ [] ]:



I am fixing up my website (a website building tutorial for artists), which has included a page of blogs, indexes and link-sharing sites that one could look into for getting more online exposure for a portfolio website. But I only know of a couple dozen. Can anyone recommend any sites to add to the pile?


(The page above is a frame within a frameset, so [] will give you the whole context).

I know I asked this same question a year or two ago, but I'm still hoping to really pad this page up.


Erik b


I don't know about any tutorials, but I use Frontpage to build ours: Frontpage, like most MS products, is made for idiots like myself so it is s-i-m-p-l-e. I would love to learn flash but I don't have the patience or the need. If you can use Word you can play around and learn Frontpage. Even better, it's less than $200.


On Mon, 22 Aug 2005, Erik wrote:

QUOTE I am fixing up my website (a website building tutorial for artists),
QUOTE which has included a page of blogs, indexes and link-sharing sites
QUOTE that one could look into for getting more online exposure for a
QUOTE portfolio website. But I only know of a couple dozen. Can anyone
QUOTE recommend any sites to add to the pile?

At [] I read, in part..

No, I just let things ride and take their own course. But I love your efforts, and will point to your page. Great stuff. I often run into lists of links, but the only ones worth while are annotated pages.



Erik - There are local blog lists that direct a bit of traffic.

In Chicago: [] (though they might not be updating anymore.) []

Another important free website directory is [] ...your site has to be non-commercial. They list a bit faster than the ODP.

You can also apply to the yahoo directory for free but there is no promise that you will ever be listed if you don't pay. I have heard they are a bit more responsive to good blogsites.

Having audio content has been getting me a lot of traffic lately as well.

erik (f)

-- Erik Fabian erikfabian at


Dear all,

I'm going to New York City for the weekend, staying in Lower East Manhattan. I'm a big Fluxus fan and Yoko Ono fan. I can only negotiate one artsy side trip, outside of the Guggenheim. (Or should we see the new MoMA?) Where should we go? Any thoughts? And theatre too! My boyfriend is mainstream and without your help, we will be seeing "Wicked."

Help me Dear Abby!



Dammit; I think I just deleted my response. I'll try this again... REgarding "going too far", it's really a subjective issue, isn't it? I mean, a tiger shark slaughtered for the SOLE purpose of floating it in a glass vat of formaldehyde? I find this unnecessarily barbaric, megalomaniacal, and borderline poaching. Or an entire hotel room systematically destroyed, packed-up, and stolen under the very nose of the ( let's assume ) hardworking and unsuspecting proprietor? What did your mother teach you about other people's stuff? Although this blatant victimization of others offends me, I realize this is my own baggage. The real problem here is a pedagogical one; "go too far" and you risk losing your audience to shock. You also risk looking desperate.