See Something Say Something

In Belated Advance: Jan Verwoert’s, ‘Cookie!’

June 16, 2014 |

By Calvin Siegel

Another mode of performing the ‘I Can’t’ in the key of the ‘I Can’ that art and poetry have always used to great effect is to create moments in which meaning remains provocatively latent. To embrace latency goes against the grain of the logic of high performance. The appraisal of latency  restores dignity to the unsaid, the unshown, and everything that can’t be dragged out into the open in the rush of high performance when the value of all our potentials appears to depend entirely on our capacity to actualize them right here, right now.

-Jan Verwoert, Exhaustion And Exuberance-Ways to Defy the Pressure to Perform, 2008


In today’s high-performance society it has become too easy to not only exchange the big picture for the necessities of the moment, but to use the caustic tools of irony and skepticism to mock its scope in general. In many of our art-related dialogues, we have become our own little islands, firing on all cylinders toward a goal that, perhaps we have misunderstood from the get-go.

Enter Jan Verwoert, the fresh faced, young scholar hailing from The Netherlands’ Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam. Verwoert applies a surgeons analytics to such fundamental topics as the pressure to perform, love and relationships, and why criticism hurts.  His self-inspective style of writing and broad choice of themes serve as both a magnifying glass and a telescope, focusing intensely on basic, overlooked moments while connecting them to a bigger, more thorough picture than we have yet seen.

Jan Verwoert has a new collection of essays out called, Cookie! published by the Piet Zwart Institute and Sternberg Press, who also published his previous collection from 2007 titled, Tell Me What You Want, What You Really, Really Want.


The Subjective Nepotist: Shanna Waddel

April 1, 2014 |

The Subjective Nepotist is a bi-weekly column where I am going to write about the art/artists that move me. It is in no way attempting to be objective or democratic, but it will be thoughtful and hopefully direct. I don’t think I am alone in saying that I am deeply moved by my friends’ artwork. Nor do I think it is a stretch to think that this is a factor in why I am friends with these people.  I am writing this preface as a way of absolving myself of any journalistic responsibilities because I am not a journalist, I am an artist. I am going to do my best to convey what excites me and why it does so. And don’t worry- I have a lot of friends and am always making more. -Dustin Metz


Untitled (Kurt Cobain) 2013. collage

Imaginations are usually based or at least birthed via reality- like when you are daydreaming your mental wanderings jump off from solid ground to the fantastical. Maybe it’s what surrounds you at the moment, or a news story, or some kernel of pop culture you’ve been rolling around in your head- What would Kurt Cobain look like as a fairy/nymph? How do you think Susan Atkins sees herself right now? What does Satan see when he looks at Nude Descending A Staircase? Holy shit- WHAT IF HEAVEN’S GATE WAS RIGHT!?! Shanna Waddell wonders theses things aloud- and then onto a canvas.

Death Bed (Heaven's Gate).2012.Oil and Acrylic on Canvas

Yes, all of these daydreams and rabbit holes are pretty grim, but you wouldn’t know it when you look at Shanna’s paintings. She is taking these subjects, deemed ‘heavy’ in tone by the media, and has fun with them. Well, maybe fun is the wrong word- because art and death and religion are serious stuff. But then again, fun seems to be the perfect word. These paintings revel in material exploration, (paint, glitter, wrapping paper, etc.), while simultaneously unleashing a wild imagination to run amok with the subject’s logic. And that does sound sort of fun! Shanna does this by embracing the possibilities that paint allows her to invent and depict the impossible.

Susan Atkins As Angel (Susan Atkins)2013. oil, gift warp, spray paint, paper, canvas on cloth

When I look at Shanna’s paintings I am usually both smiling and hitting myself upside the head, thinking “Of course! You can do whatever you want to whatever you want in a painting!” It’s one thing to make up a painterly logic inside a decidedly abstract painting, it’s a whole other can of worms to depict an interaction between recognizable images and abstract ideas. And what’s most exciting about this is the sense that the artist herself doesn’t know what this interaction would look like until she is in the painting!

The paintings are built as you look at them, shapes appear and dissolve just as quickly as you find them. At her last show (“Misshapen Chaos of Well-seeming Forms” @Thomas Erben Gallery 2/17/11-3/19/11) I wrote the following in a sketch book planning to send it to Shanna in an email that was never actualized:

The form is not dictated or held back by the subject matter- hands are hinted at but not drilled into being, this give room to what a “hand” can be or rather the shape of the hand is now another space (yet it still retains the integrity of both ‘hand’ and ‘window’). This permission of use of form/content allows the paintings to take a life of their own – they forcefully dictate their presence and give you the rules in which to view them, rules that may not be verbal or even literal but maybe visually guttural.

Untitled (Prince of the Air) 2010. oil on canvas

Sometimes forms just need to come into being.

The paintings Shanna has made since that show are similar in their forceful dictation of presence but have smoothed out any hesitation of the viewer by well earned confidence. Confidence in Shanna’s case does not have the pacification effect that has plagued many artists before her, but rather acts as a turbo boost past dilly-dallying uncertainty into the stratosphere of the unknown.

See more of Shanna’s work here. Dustin Metz is an artist currently living and working in Los Angeles, see his work here.

Opinion: Toward a Better Understanding of High Auction Prices for Young Artists

March 17, 2014 |

By Calvin Siegel

A strange man walks into a bar. He knows no one. No one knows him. He approaches the bar and the bartender acknowledges him. The man orders a drink, and the bartender initiates conversation, “I don’t recognize you from anywhere, do I?” asks the bartender. “No, no,” says the man, “I’m in town on business.” “What kind of business is it that you are here for?” asks the bartender. “Well,” the man says, “it’s kind of hard to believe, but I earn a living traveling around and making crazy bets.” This piques the bartender’s interest; “what kind of bets are we talking about here?” The strange man looks around the bar aimlessly before answering, “Ok. For instance, I bet you ten dollars that I can drink ten shots of whiskey in ten seconds.”

Knowing full well that no one could accomplish this task, the bartender agrees and lines the shot glasses up on the bar, looking at the man as he pours them out. The bartender then lays ten dollars on the table to which the strange man reciprocates. They both look at the clock and the bartender says, “GO!” The man, looking all of a sudden uninterested, drinks three of the shots, wipes his mouth off and gives up. The bartender is a little perplexed by the situation, but collects his money and shakes the man’s hand.

The night goes on. The strange man stays for a long time and talks to all of the various people at the bar until it is time to close. After the bartender makes his last call, the man approaches the bar. “I have one more bet for you, if you are at all interested” says the strange man to the bartender. Charmed in a strange way by the strange man, the bartender agrees to hear him out. “I bet you,” says the man, “one hundred dollars that if you line up another ten shot glasses in the same formation as before, that I can stand at the other end of the bar and piss into every one of those glasses until each is filled perfectly to the brim without spilling one single drop, anywhere.” The bartender weighs this for a moment; one hundred dollars is the most money he has ever made at one time, but what has this man got up his sleeve? Deciding that the man, although strangely cool, must be a little bit off, the bartender nods his head and begins to set up the glasses, again.

high auction prices (opt 1)

The strange man walks across the bar, and as the bartender finishes setting up the glasses and steps aside, he turns around, drops his pants down to his ankles and begins to piss all over the bartender’s entire establishment. This goes on for about thirty seconds as all of the people in the bar stare in amazement. Ecstatic at his grand new acquisition, the bartender leaps into action with rag in hand and starts wiping the mess up. The strange man slowly pulls his pants up, zips his fly and buckles his belt. “So,” the bartender asks the man with a smile, “What was that about?” “Well”, the man says calmly, “I just bet everyone else in this place one hundred dollars each that I could piss all over your bar and you would just smile and wipe it up.”

Going to the Whitney Biennial and the Brucennial: A Tale of Two Lines

March 8, 2014 |

By Kati Gegenheimer

I was really excited to see the Whitney Biennial this past week. I got lucky enough to go on one of the opening nights via my beyond intelligent, handsome and talented boyfriend Mark Thomas Gibson (thanks honey)! We had been advised by sources in the know that the line the night before had been rather brutal, and therefore perhaps we might have more luck arriving fashionably late? It was not so. While I don’t intend to write an entire article about waiting in line, I think it is, conceptually, a thread that wove the Whitney Biennial and the Brucennial together in my mind.

The line was long and winding. It would’ve been better for us to claim our spot not by following the line around the museum from front to back, but to circle around the block away from the line…because the end was just that far around. The Whitney staffers were graciously offering coupons for complimentary hot coffee/tea/hot chocolate to be obtained on the final turn, which was necessary and a morale booster.

Typically, I have not been a fan of the Whitney Biennials. In practice, I love the idea of a cross-section of American artists being shown- the freshness and appeal of widening an audience in a museum setting, and building a conversation between artists to mark time and a cultural moment is a great opportunity. However, it always falls flat- and maybe it is because this venture is just too impossible!? But we are artists- impossibility is not…possible! So we try again. Curators believe, we believe, and on it goes.

The Whitney promised me so many of my favorite artists! Laura Owens! Dona Nelson! Rebecca Morris! Charline Von Heyl! Louise Fishman! Sterling Ruby! It felt so right! Yet, I probably set my expectations too high, because the ambition of the curators to include so many important artists overrode the art- the space was cramped-not just with people on an opening night- but the art felt so tight that it felt impossible to grasp the depth of the work. It felt difficult to get a sense for the artists because of the way the show was installed. Each piece, individually- was good- a painting did not disappoint. But as someone who spends nearly all of her time looking when she’s not writing- it was hard for me to even look.

This general sentiment of disappointment, slapping myself on the wrist of my unrealistic over-enthusiasm, was only coupled with the distain of openings. At least museum openings. Schmoozing…everyone being in the way! It might have been the cold, but I felt an overwhelming wave of sadness. Is anyone even looking? How many of us care? How many of us are REALLY looking, and in turn, REALLY LOVING? I love art- sometimes talking about or listening to people talk about art brings me to tears- tears of LOVE. I stay up at night thinking about art in bed. This questioning feeling, a general jaded feeling stuck with me in response to the Whitney.


Later in the week, the Brucennial opened in the meatpacking district. Talk about trendy. Full disclosure: I have a small painting in the Brucennial. Full disclosure: I am so happy to have a small painting in the Brucennial. Why? Because even though I arrived at the Brucennial and was immediately in another winter night’s line, I felt excited. I said to my companions- “This feels like Christmas Eve!” I felt like I was eagerly awaiting being surprised and delighted at what treasures might await me.

Artists exhibiting ran the gamut from internationally known to unknown. For an open call show, (I received the information forwarded from a friend), the space wasn’t a nightmare, but rather a celebration. It was all-inclusive; it felt like now- it didn’t pretend to be curated. The elephant in the room, a very silent elephant, was that the show was composed of all women.   This was not to be advertised which made me feel proud. Let’s backtrack. I’m proud to be a woman- I’m by no means hiding it- trust me. Yet, I appreciate the fact that the show wasn’t dumbed down by it. It wasn’t pigeonholed as an all women’s show- it was a huge collective effort of New York artists. And it worked.

Thanks Brucennial, for restoring my faith that people care, that people love looking at and making art. And in a silent moment at the Whitney- I’ll bring it back there on my own.