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Talks

Joey Orr and Greg Bloom at Elsewhere

Artist: Joey Orr
Artist: Joey Orr

A couple of fun trouble-makers gave artist talks at Elsewhere tonight.

Joey Orr led it off. The guy had me when he unveiled prints he made on gum wrappers. He does videos, prints, and multimedia work that involves his research into LGBT history. When I say it involves his research I mean just that — his involvement with his subjects becomes mixed up with his subject in a way that might make believers in clinical objectivity in research pop a gasket. Good.

Orr, who is from the South, recalled the process in his youth of trying to do away with his deep accent. As a mature artist reflecting on the past and the role of individuals reacting within a broad cultural/historical/etc environment, he decided to go to a speech therapist to try to regain his accent and return to that deep southern drawl that years of education and moving around the country managed to erase.  The end result of this project is funny, ya’ll. Bless his heart. (Check out the audio here.)

As the audio piece shows, Orr brings a sense of playfulness and engagement to his work while having the background of serious academic chops. His exploration of the 1950s letters between two gay lovers from Atlanta merits more attention than my smart aleck self can deliver right now.

After Orr, Greg Bloom jumped up with an energy that merged two things I love: Internet gung-ho can-do-ism and collectivist non-profit do-goodery. I am fairly certain most of those things aren’t words, but say them slowly and they’ll make sense. I promise.

Bloom gave an enthusiastic and optimistic talk about various social enterprises he’s been involved with, which culminated in a triumvirate of commons, cooperatives, and coproduction. He is interested in bringing the cooperative and collaborative successes from online to real-world scenarios. (Since today was the day I handed in my last check to my daughter’s cooperative daycare, I was less than receptive about the glories of coops.) But I’m a sucker for this stuff and it’s important for artists to lead the way to imagining new futures.

Nevertheless, I felt my optimism deflate when a question from the room was “So have you found a solution yet?”

The reason for my deflation is that the question itself is technocratic, as if solving social problems is like solving a math equation. Once it’s done it’s done. Right?

I think of these things more like getting your car fixed. The work is never done. You hope to keep the things rolling and sounding beautiful. But the one thing you can be guaranteed of is that problems will come back again. The most important thing isn’t solving the problem for good but in a constant engagement with the health and beauty of the thing.

I’d like to note that Bloom was the recipient of my Overheard Comment of the Week (OCOW!). On the way out I heard a guy explain to his date, “He was more like a communist than an artist.”

 

How to be an art star

Louise Bourgeois, Maman, 1999.
Louise Bourgeois, Maman, 1999.

Yesterday was the great panel discussion between Peter Plagens, Lilly Wei, and Miles Manning at Green Hill. Today they’ll be sitting in on Pecha Kucha presentations by North Carolina abstract artists (which I think I’m going to miss). Starts at 10am!

One of the funniest parts of last night was Peter Plagens’s step-by-step plan for taking over the art world — or at least become a famous artist. After saying that his advice to art graduates now is “Go to L.A.,” he ran down the Plagen plan:

1. Move to a major art center (which means Los Angeles or New York, says Plagens, because Chicago has “that school thing”)

2. Go to every opening and hang out with as many artists as you can

3. Work as an assistant for a major artist

4.  Do something big or controversial, like covering a building in tar or digging an enormous hole in the middle of something

5. Disappear for a year (this is the “counterintuitive part” of the plan)

6. Come back to the art world with marketable work that can sell

At this point everyone laughed and talked over each other.

Wei said “And if you’re a woman, just wait 50 years to be acknowledged.”

To which Manning rejoined, “Or divorce your husband like Louise Bourgeois.”

Louise Bourgeois’s own advice to young artists? “Tell your own story, and you will be interesting … Don’t get the green disease of envy. Don’t be fooled by success and money. Don’t let anything come between you and your work.”

Success is a job in Greensboro

Regionalism is dead. Long live regionalism! But seriously: if you are an artist you need to be in New York. Or LA.

So went the panel discussion with Lilly Wei, Peter Plagens, Miles Manning at Green Hill Center tonight. The three New Yorkers were brought in to talk about the art world and give a cosmopolitan take on what’s happening with artists, galleries, critics, and collectors.

Wei is a curator; Plagens an artist and critic for Newsweek; and Manning a gallery director (whose Elizabeth Harris gallery was always one of my favorite stops because they champion painting). They have come to town to meet with North Carolina artists.

The three surveyed the current show at Green Hill and approved. Plagens said “This seems like contemporary painting. Period.” Manning added that “Regionalism is over. This show could be in New York.” (It was understood by all that this is a good thing.)

The show, which includes work by Brett Baker, Mark Brown, Ashlynn Browning, Bonnie Melton and Philip Lopez, is full of good stuff (look for my blogging about it soon). I see what Plagens means; the work in Green Hill is in dialogue with work that a lot of Brooklyn abstraction is engaged with.

Wei kept it from being a sing-along of the Internationale by bringing the crowd back to earth, however. “It’s not the same art world,” she said. “If you want to be making work of its time, you do have to be at the center at some point.”

This argument permeates the presence of these three. It goes like this: The art world’s center is in New York. For artists in North Carolina to be relevant, they must have a relationship to the art world’s hub. These three are here to meet artists and make connections.

The panelists agreed that a lot of great art is being produced outside of New York, but how important is it for artists to live or go there?

Painting is “an in-the-flesh thing,” said Plagens. He explained that Manning’s gallery, Elizabeth Harris, which specializes in mid-career and mature painters, just couldn’t exist in Greensboro. But that doesn’t mean artists and galleries can’t use the internet to connect and share and use the digital world.

As a North Carolina success story, Manning pointed to Brett Baker. Artist-blogger Baker is in the group show currently at Green Hill and also shown by Manning’s gallery, which picked up on his work from a gallery-goer’s comment and followed the digital path to eventually see the work in person.

Tomorrow I will post Peter Plagens’s map to art world superstardom.

**Update: Here’s a link to the Plagens map on how to create an art career.

Success is a job in New York