Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Peter Ligon in Snow White at Barry Whistler, Dallas

Quotidian existence, banality, the mundane, whatever you want to call it, is there in all those other moments, the ones when the ecstatic eludes us. It is then that everyday life reveals itself clearly before our eyes.

This is the version of reality that Peter Ligon gazes on with persistence. His vision, one in which mundane frame structures rest on quiet landscapes, captures the subtle moments in which nothing much is really going on.

Like the Ashcan school artists before him, he uses a muted palette, and relates what is directly in front of his eyes. Sitting on the bed of his pickup truck, Ligon observes and paints experentially.

As the proprietor of the Shamrock Hotel artist studios in old east Dallas, the artist has ample opportunities to gaze out at just these kind of neighborhoods, the ones he is drawn to portray.

Peter Ligon Bivins Night 2007, oil on canvas, 20 x 16 in.

A veteran artist, he is just now receiving his first exposure in a high-profile gallery, as part of the current group show at Barry Whistler Gallery, entitled Snow White. As one of seven artists in the show, Ligon has five works on view, all of them aging wood structures on mundane landscapes.

Bivins Night, an oblique partial view of a home, presumably at dusk, is rendered in muted greys, with only a hint of eggshell white and indigo blue to spell the monochromatic palette. The artist makes use of an Hopper-esque device, as one lone light brightens the otherwise greyed out windows, alluding to the human presence in isolation.

Peter Ligon Garage on School Street 2007, oil on canvas, 20 x 24 in.

Garage on School Street makes the most of reflected light, with a white shiplap structure floating in the center of the composition. It becomes a huge void, an interesting example of the subject of a painting functioning as negative space, surrounded by lush greenery in full bloom.

Back of Kawalsky and White House, Three Trees both continue this theme of white-washed structures on verdant landscapes, and move to include direct unfiltered light and deep shadows.

Peter Ligon installation view Back of Kawalsky and White House, Three Trees both 2007, oil on canvas, 20 x 24 in.

While visiting the show, Barry Whistler related to me a story which demonstrates how wonderfully out of touch with the times Peter Ligon is as an artist. He had driven to a specific location to work, sat down on the tailgate of his truck, and began looking at the fence in front of him.

Shortly thereafter, a man came out from the house belonging to the fence, and asked him what he was doing. "I'm about to paint the fence," the artist replied. "You're about to paint graffiti on my fence?," the man interjected. "No, I'm about to make a painting of the fence," Ligon replied.

This dialogue speaks volumes about the artist's work and his experience of the everyday.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Armageddon porn 2012 style

Don't worry, this isn't a review of the soon to be released blockbuster 2012, as that pretty much seems unnecessary. Having sat through the trailer for the movie a couple of times now, I feel like I've already seen the whole thing. What interests me more is the current fascination we have with what I would call "Armageddon porn", that is images which fetishize the beauty of destruction, and not just your everyday garden variety catastrophe, but rather "it's the end of the world as we know it" type of destruction.

Director Roland Emmerich, now a veteran of the genre, shows us just how sexy world destruction can look through a Hollywood lens, giving us this interpretation of the end of the Mayan calendar, following his apocalyptic takes on a new ice age (The Day After Tomorrow - 2004) and alien invasion (Independence Day - 1996).

Each movie ups the ante visually, with the latest one pushing sequences that embody the complete annihilation of everything we as humans hold onto for meaning, comfort and security, that is the end of all civilization, through a complete overturning in the balance of the natural order.

Cities are upended through combined earthquake/tsunami forces, towers topple with more dramatic intensity than any memories conjured up by 9/11, St. Peter's Cathedral slams down onto praying hordes of pilgrims at the Vatican, tidal waves reach and demolish mountaintop Himalayan monasteries, all as an hyperactive camera follows John Cusack on the quest to save his family from this cataclysm.

So, just what is it that fascinates us so about this topic? There is a strong current of apocalyptic thinking in America, one that's been with us for a long time. It runs hand in hand with evangelical fundamentalism and it's belief in a linear historical timeline that's always in the last stages of its end game.

But, there's more to it than that. This genre seem to function as a cathartic way for us to confront a collective fear of death and dissolution. In our America, death as a subject of public discussion and experience is something that is continually avoided, or dealt with only in ritualized, symbolic terms.

What these movies present us with is a variation of this theme, that of the heroic death, or at least that of a hero facing the threat of death against impossible odds. And this is where it gets interesting: what if just once, we had a character who approached the imminent threat of death with acceptance as part of the natural order, rather than with abject terror (i.e. slasher genre) or bare-knuckled resistance (action hero style).

It's possible there are roles like that in the 2012 movie, though I won't know because I don't plan on spending the two hours of my life to sit through it. Maybe it's the solitary monk ringing the temple bell as the tidal wave engulfs his mountain. Or maybe John Cusack's character finally stops running and comforts his family as they face the inevitable.

Probably not, but who knows? The hope to see a role in which the lead actor recognizes and approaches the concept that death is a natural process which follows birth and life, something which eventually happens non-heroically to each one of us, would be a welcome departure from the standard fare Hollywood shovels our way.

Monday, November 23, 2009

"Essential Aesthetics" @ Institute of American Indian Arts

A panel discussion entitled "Essential Aesthetics": An Exploration of Contemporary Indigenous Art and Identity" took place at the new campus of the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe on November 19th. The program was the culmination of a weeklong research symposium held in conjunction with the School for Advanced Research, and included six panelists comprising artistic and curatorial practice, teaching and theory.

panelists (lt. to rt.): Mario Cara, Gerald McMaster, Nora Naranjo-Morse, Nancy Mithlo, Robert Jahnke, Mina Sakai

These included Mario Cara, who has served as lecturer, instructor and professor at numerous colleges and universities, most recently The College of Staten Island, CUNY, where he is lecturer in art history; Gerald McMaster, a Cree/Canadian artist who is curator of Canadian Art at the Art Gallery of Ontario; Nora Naranjo-Morse, a clay and installation artist from the Santa Clara Pueblo; Nancy Mithlo, who teaches art history and American Indian Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and has curated projects for the Venice Biennale; Robert Jahnke, Maori artist and Head of School at Massey University in New Zealand; and Mina Sakai, an artist and musician from the Ainu indigenous peoples of Japan.

Cara opened the program with a comparison between "essentialist" and "anti-essentialist" viewpoints. He noted that Essentialism, which developed out of 1960s Feminism, focuses on a core, inherited essence of being, often located in the body. Conversely, Anti-essentialism posits that identity is constructed, not inherited. According to Cara, "the cosmology of most native communities is based in essentialism".

James Luna, Artifact Piece (1987)

He mentioned influential works of native art that have addressed these topics, including James Luna's "Artifact Piece" (1987), in which the artist lay in a glass case on view among the other exhibits at the Museum of Man in San Diego. Artist Erica Lord reprised this work in "Artifact Piece, Revisited" (2008), adding gender onto the layers of meaning from the original. Both works critiqued the passivity inherent in museum displays of native cultures. Da-Ka-Xeen Mehner's "Blood Quantum" (2007) was also discussed, in regards to the scrupulous examination, even down to the DNA level, of native identity.

Gerald McMaster, a Canadian Cree artist and curator, spoke next, elaborating on his curatorial project "Remix: New Modernities in a Post-Indian World". He spoke with interest on how photography has been taken up by contemporary native artists, and on its difficulty as a native art form, due to the lack of history or tradition, contrary to other media, in particular craft forms. Traditional photography, such as that of Edward S. Curtis, involves indigenous participants as the subject in a fictionalized narrative. McMaster stated that "identity is grounded in seeing and looking," and "everything we take in makes us who we are."

Erica Lord Artifact Piece, Revisited (2008)

Nora Naranjo-Morse, who lives in Espanola, just north of Santa Fe, spoke on her experience creating "Always Becoming", a temporal site-specific installation at the National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall in Washington, DC. This work, consisting of five ephemeral forms built of rock, straw, wood, and clay was made by the artist in 2007, with the help of a number of assistants, mostly native and immigrant laborers. She noted the difference in how the indigenous craftspersons saw the work, as opposed to passing tourists and politicians.

Nancy Mithlos spoke on the difficulty for native artists in communicating beyond the "secondary narrative", i.e. "the problem in the other guy's mind", to a primary narrative which is geared toward one's community. She elaborated on oppression as being rooted in three forms, that of power, prestige, and wealth, and commented on an article by Duane Champagne on indigenous realities, speculating on a time in which we might see its continuity as "a line not interrupted by the colonial moment."

Da-ka-xeen Mehner Blood Quantum (2007)

Robert Jahnke opened with a passage in Maori, commented on the fact that no one in the audience could understand what he spoke, and then said this was being "essentialist". He spoke of his own heritage as one who was born in a small Northern Ireland village, with German, Samoan, Irish, Scottish, and Maori ancestry. To Jahnke, the danger essentialism can create is one of exclusivism, which can ignore the hybridity of bloodlines.

Lastly, Mina Sakai spoke of her experience living as one of the only thirty-thousand Ainu peoples in Japan, a small indigenous group who is just now in the beginning stages of their own cultural repatriation. She said that very few of her people, mostly elderly, still speak her language, and that it is in danger of disappearing. She told of the group of performers she works with to preserve Ainu art, dance and music forms.

The various participants brought a wealth of perspectives to the symposium, with their broad backgrounds in artmaking, curating, writing and instruction. They each pledged to continue the threads of this weeklong collaboration, through further research in their individual fields.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Rex Ray at Turner Carroll, Santa Fe

Cue up an Esquivel record, grab your slippers and a martini, and relax after a hard day's work at the office. That's right, the space age tinged work of Rex Ray has come to town. His solo exhibition of large scale works on linen is now on view at Turner Carroll on Canyon Road.

Born Michael Patterson in 1956, Rex Ray took his name from a Rexall Drugs appliance in the 1970s, and it has stuck. A logo design by that company grabbed his attention and became his new moniker while making mail art in the 1970s.

This retro futurism is a good jumping off point in reference to his work. It separates him from other artists doing large scale design-based art, such as Lari Pittman, whose work is narrative in form, or Fred Tomaselli, who explores psychedelic experience. Mr. Ray's fine art work comes directly out of his experience as a designer, and functions in a similar fashion, albeit as unique handmade eye candy on a large scale.

Rex Ray, installation view at Turner Carroll

After moving to the West Coast in 1981, briefly living out of his car, and enrolling at the San Francisco Art Institute, Ray's caught the eye of David Bowie, who hired him for web design and album cover art projects.

This led to a burgeoning design career, with big name corporate and music acts signing him on for work. After a day's labor at the design studio, Ray would go home and make small collages late into the night, just for himself. His break into the fine art world came when a curator from the Yerba Buena Art Center saw his collages pinned to the wall in the background of a magazine photo spread, and invited him to an influential group show, Bay Area Now 2, in 1999.

Acomycular collage and mixed media on linen, 76 x 76 in.

Ray's current output has evolved well beyond the small paper collages, into large scale, layered cut and printed paper on stretched linen pieces. At Turner Carroll, five of these new works are on display.

Ascomycular, a circular spoked design on square canvas, is the most symmetrical of the grouping. Evoking pinwheels and stained glass windows, this piece consists of richly complex layers radiating outward from a central axis. A cyan background moves forward into interlaced purple/maroon spokes, which rest just beneath a peach vaselike gradient with lime green blossoms.

Alectoria collage and mixed media on linen, 76 x 60 in.

Looking more closely, finely flecked elements of color coax out a fascinating aspect of this work. Flying in the face of today's digital aesthetic, Ray's work is made by hand. The paper that he hand cuts by scissor, has also been hand-printed in nuanced color gradations.

Alectoria consists of a criss-crossed deep space, squeegeed in vermillion. It is here that his more typical assymetrical design comes into play. Atop the background lies a clumped grouping of bulbous lamp forms, emitting elliptical multicolor flames. Phosphene haloes burst out of the larger flames, in contraposto.

Psoromasyl collage and mixed media on linen, 76 x 76 in.

Psoromasyl continues the vase motif, with eccentric floral blossoms sprouting atop antenna-like shafts. This lamplike arrangement glows over a burnt orange background, emitting warm pulses of light. An atomic pinwheel and phosphene discs reinforce this sense of space age radiant energy.

The most subdued work in the show, Amandinia, effectively utilizes chiaroscuro in its yellow and lilac pinwheels over a mudlike printed surface. Strangely enough, this piece evokes the age of western expansion, with its predominant mill wheel form and subtle wood pattern printing. Delicate beadwork completes the motif by connecting the spokes on each pinwheel.

Amandinia collage and mixed media on linen, 76 x 76 in.

Geometric complexity is perhaps the main feature of Ray's work, which in its cleanliness, calls to mind the retro futurism of space age design. His use of color is wildly varied, such that a single color rarely predominates. However, each work is color saturated and luminous, and tends toward the warm end of the spectrum. It is this radiant use of color and shape that give his work an energetic sense of radiance and vitality.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"Steve Huston: Contend" at Skotia

New media, the cyborg, high concept, disembodied artmaking...just when it seems the mind has gained supremacy, along comes a painter like Steve Huston. Flesh and blood, scar tissue, real bodies moving in space, all of these take the upper hand in Huston's work, where conceptual discourse takes a backseat to luscious, superficial paint.

The works on view in Steve Huston: Contend focus intently on material essence: the body, the physicality of paint, the sheen of light on a surface, the objectness of painting.

Save the oversize centerpiece Taut, each of the eleven works in the show zoom in close-up on pairs of fighters grappling in close proximity. They dance on uninterrupted prosceniums of modulated gray, the play of shadows and gestural zips of motion the only departure of attention from each figure.

In Whizzer the defender is backed up, as though on the ropes, to the edge of the canvas, absorbing a head butt to the torso from his aggressor. The lightning bolt stripes on each of their trunks, in burnt orange and turquoise respectively, make emphatic the intensity of the moment.

Whizzer (2009) 24 x 36 in., oil on panel

Those stripes, along with the clenched half-glove, parse clues to comic art and action cinema, both key influences to the artist's work. Huston began his career working in illustration for major Hollywood studios before moving on to teach life drawing and anatomy at Disney and Dreamworks studios. Thus, these two grasping figures become super heroes in action, battling for a subjective prize known only to themselves.

Going Down aptly demonstrates the artist's familiarity with anatomy. The fighter to the left is contorted, interestingly enough, into the crotch of his assailant, musculature and skeletal form in full tension. Thickly impastoed passages reveal layers into the bodies, from scar tissue to skin, and flecks of blood.

Going Down (2009) 36 x 48 in., oil on panel

These globs of paint, at times rendering the fighters as Bacon-esque slabs of meat, unfortunately function as the only distractions to an otherwise immaculate feast of surface gloss.

The sheen on his hotly lighted subjects coax out the second major influence in Huston's work, that of the proto-Baroque. Theatrical in staging, and minimal of composition, all attention is directed to the action itself.

The centerpiece of the show is Taut, a large canvas on which a single fighter pulls intently at a rope. His gloved hand could come directly from Caravaggio's The Cardsharps, though this time it is employed for honest work, rather than used as a mechanism of deceit.

Taut (detail) (2009) 60 x 72 in., oil on canvas

This canvas, the only departure in the show from the convention of two fighters, is also the one most directly tied to his earlier work, that which depicted manual laborers going about their tasks.

In The Clench, the pugilists grasp at the shoulders, forming an arc over the empty space behind them. The lighting in this work pushes straight through into Mannerist devices, turning them into cadaverous shades, not far removed from the "Laocoon" of El Greco.

The Clench (2009) 16 x 24 in., oil on panel

In each work of this series, Huston emphasizes anonymity through profile views and by frequently hiding the faces of the competitors completely. This effectively draws attention to the formal qualities of the work, and makes each of his modest fighters into universal emblems of material struggle.

Steve Huston: Contend is on view at Skotia, one block off the Plaza in Santa Fe through November 27th.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Sympathy for the Devil

He goes by many names: Satan, Lucifer, Beelzebub, the Great Deceiver, the Dragon, the Serpent. This spiritual persona remixed from many mythologies, the Devil stands as an enduring symbol of absolute evil in western culture. Yet, is it possible, that over the trajectory of his evolution, this much maligned character has been given short shrift? Perhaps we have misunderstood where he comes from, and what he really represents to us.

The emergence of homo sapiens occurred only some 130,000 years ago1. Conceptual knowledge, including that of good and evil, arose gradually during that time, accelarating within the last few thousand years. Merely the blink of an eye in the context of the natural processes that have been ongoing for the last 4.6 billion years on our planet.

This incredibly slow and deliberate evolutionary process saw the earliest forms of life emerge from the ocean, then on to land in the form of plants, amphibians, trees, dinosaurs, mammals, birds, primates, and only in the last 10 million years or so, the development of hominids, to which we owe our existence2.

It is from this gradual building of more complex forms that comes the development of personified consciousness. With the vanquishing of the Neanderthal species some 30,000 years ago, homo sapiens now occupies the sole position of such heightened awareness. The stage just prior to what we consider modern civilization, is that of the typhon, a level where humans begin to develop a vague notion of mind/body separation3. In typhonic consciousness, early humans existed in a dreamlike state, connected to nature, yet also beginning to gain awareness of an individual, separate existence from it.

This is the place, where magical images of the cave walls appear, in which drawings of human/animal hybrids mark the beginning of what is now thought of as art. The next great stage, when humans begin to develop agriculture and livestock, as the organization of villages and then cities lead to increased social interaction, and ultimately to the full emergence of the self. This is defined first, and most eloquently as "atman", the sense of an individual and eternal self, expounded in the Upanishads around 600 BCE4.

It is from this same point in history, in the middle east, we find the beginnings of what would eventually coalesce into the persona known as Satan. In the creation myths of the west, the Great Serpent, in the Garden of Eden prompts the "original sin" of increased awareness of self and separation from nature: "then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil5."

Here, the serpent is adapted from Ningishdiza, literally "lord of the good tree", a Mesopotamian deity who would go on to become the healing emblem of the caduceus. He is here inverted from an emblem of deep wisdom, to one of tempation and rebellion against the divine6.

Next he appears as Satan ("the accuser") in the book of Job, convincing Yahweh to let him destroy the life, wealth, and family of a mortal, all to prove the righteousness of this one human soul7. And again, sampling from earlier myths, as so much of the Bible does, in the book of Isaiah, the planet Venus is conflated with the character of Lucifer (Latin: lux-i-foros "light bearer"), who is being brought low for the sin of pride, in attempting to ascend the heavens8. Confusingly, Jesus is also referred to as the "morning star" in the book of Revelations, a title which persists to this day in the Exultet rite of the Easter Vigil.

And so, Satan, as the closely related al-Shaitan in Islam, one who is punished by Allah for not bowing down to the newly created humans9, becomes Lucifer in Christianity. And as Mick Jagger sings, pointing out the subjective nature of the duality which brought this entity into existence, "just as every cop is a criminal, and all the sinners saints, as heads is tails, just call me Lucifer, 'cause I'm in need of some restraint10."

So just who is this Devil, anyway? Depictions of him are pretty much a dead giveaway as to what we are up against. Mostly human, yet with horns and a tail, he is nothing more (and nothing less) than a far removed descendant of the Sorcerer image from the cave of Trois Freres in southern France, part human, with antlers and a tail, yet walking on two legs. The Sorcerer persists in the form of Katcina among the Neolithic tribes of the American Southwest11. Yet, as the modern typhonic Devil he is not integrated into contemporary consciousness, but rather is split apart from it.

It is important to understand, that with each new level of consciousness that arose in early humans, the prior levels of consciousness were not discarded, but rather were built upon, a macrocosmic duplicate of the process that human awareness builds onto and expands within the individual from birth to maturity. But, due to a deeply conflicted distrust of our animal nature, these earlier levels of consciousness, still buried deep within us, are no longer integrated here in the west.

Rather, we are split into an unreconciled dualism of mind and body. For indeed the devil represents that deep, earlier body consciousness of which we are still vaguely aware, and yet have lost the connection to, as our higher mind developed. Instead of hating and disavowing huge parts of ourselves, perhaps it is time for a reconciliation with the Devil. For instead of some eternal demigod counterpoint to divinity, more truly he is the body self connected to nature that we have been taught to deny.

In affecting such a reconciliation, many of the psychoses of the modern world may be let go of. On a societal scale, it could lead to a reinterpretation of manufactured enemies, from the fake "war on terror" to unnecessary "homeland security" with its obscene border fences and prison camps in the desert, that detain untold numbers of "illegal aliens"12. Gay bashing, race mongering, the "war on drugs", and many of the things done in the name of righteousness might be reexamined. For when the Devil is once again integrated into ourselves, there is no "other" that must be stood against.

Yet, as the recent conservative political protests sporting posters of President Obama in joker/minstrel face attest, there is still a significant group here wanting to vilify that "other"13. Yes, it is probably too much to ask for a change of heart in regard to the horned one, especially in these divisive times we live in. But, if nothing else, perhaps we can find a little "sympathy for the devil."

1 Smithsonian Institution

2 Origins, by Richard E. Leakey
1977, E.P. Dutton, pp. 12-15

3 Up from Eden, by Ken Wilber
1981, Anchor Press / Doubleday, pp. 40-41

4 "He who, dwelling in the earth, yet is other than the earth...He is your Soul." Brihadaranyaka Upanishad: III, 7
The Thirteen Principle Upanishads, Robert Ernest Hume translation
1921, Oxford University Press

5 the Bible, book of Genesis 3:1-5

6 Brittanica Online Encyclopedia, "Ningishzida (Sumerian deity)"

7 Job 1:6-12

8 the Bible, book of Isaiah 14:3-20

9 the Qur'an 7:11-12

10 The Rolling Stones, Sympathy for the Devil
1968, written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards

11 Rock Art Symbols of the Greater Southwest, by Alex Patterson
1992, Johnson Books, pg. 129

12 The Austin Chronicle, August 7, 2009
"Judge and OAS find T. Don Hutto Lacking" by Patricia J. Ruland

13 Politics Daily, November 6, 2009
"Is the Tea Party Gang Turning GOP into a Party of Hate?" by David Corn

Illustrations: 1. Chalcidian vessel, 6th c. BCE
2.. Ningishzida, Sumerian Deity (c. 2200 BCE)
3. Gustave Dore, Paradise Lost illustration, 1866
4. Sorcerer, Trois Frere Cave, France
5. Obama as the Joker, Tea Party protest, Washington DC, September 12, 2009
6. Cartoon by Greg Strid

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Eric Doeringer, "I Got Up"

Brooklyn-based artist and provocateur Eric Doeringer has been stirring things up for some time now. Beginning with bobblehead self-portraits in the late 1990s, he then broke through to a national following with his series of "Bootlegs", begun in 2001.

These small knockoff canvas copies of recognized contemporary artist works have garnered him the occasional "cease and desist" letter. Doeringer is as likely to be seen hawking his wares on New York sidewalks, and carting work around in suitcases to sell in front of art fairs, as he is to show in formal gallery spaces.

Other series he has created include fake museum ID badges, elaborate bongs that look like minimalist sculpture, and a Matthew Barney fan site that is both parody and homage. In other words, Doeringer's work thrives on multiple readings, and the capacity for misunderstanding.

Recently, we caught up with the artist on his current project of On Kawara inspired postcards, the "I Got Up" series.

Dancing Ganesha: So, what time did you get up this morning?
ED: I got up at 7:45 A.M.

DG: How much truth is there to the line from your "Grennan and Sperandio" bootleg: "I don't necessarily choose my favorite artists -- I'll copy anybody who's hot right now."?
ED: That quote is 100% true about the "Bootlegs". That series is all about the art market, so I chose artists whose work I thought would sell easily -- basically those with the most "hype". Some of them are artists I like, but definitely not all of them. Lately, I've been working on a series of works that are a little different -- I'm recreating iconic works of Conceptual Art by artists like Sol LeWitt, On Kawara, Lawrence Weiner, and Ed Ruscha. With this series, I'm choosing pieces I like (and that are, ironically, somewhat difficult to market).

DG: The subtle autobiographical elements in what at first glance appear to be only appropriated knockoffs are one of the most compelling aspects of your work. Any thoughts on that?
ED: A number of the "Bootlegs" are explicitly autobiographical: the date on the "On Kawara" Today paintings is my birthday, the "Julian Opie" is a self portrait done in the style of Julian Opie, various family members appear in some of the Bootleg photographs, etc; but it's been said that all art is autobiographical, and I think that's true. A few years ago I made an edition of counterfeit VIP cards for Art Basel Miami Beach. That project might not appear autobiographical, but I had attended the Miami fairs for the previous few years and spent a lot of time trying to talk my way into various parties, fairs, and other events. A VIP card seemed like a ticket into life among the high rollers of the art world, so that project was partly about me feeling like the "little fish" trying to sneak into the "big pond".

With the new "Conceptual Art" pieces, I'm basically following scores or directions that were laid out by the original artists 40 years ago. I'm interested in the extent to which the distance in time and space from the originals and the fact that I'm the one making the pieces affects the reception of the artwork. The "On Kawara - I Got Up" postcards are obviously autobiographical. On one hand they're cool and detached, but there is something oddly intimate about them, as well. I also like the way that the date and location indicated on the cards is "authenticated" by the postmark. I mail them to friends, collectors, and others to whom I want to send a little "thank you". It's kind of unusual to make a piece of art every day expressly for the purpose of giving it away.

DG: How does a new idea usually present itself to you?
ED: Ideas come to me all the time, and I try to write them down in my sketchbook so I don't forget them. Every now and then I go back through my notes and see which ideas still seem interesting. Sometimes I'll work on tweaking an idea over several months (or years); other times the original idea is pretty much fully-formed. A lot of ideas get thrown out, but sometimes elements reappear in later projects. Some of the long-term projects like the Bootlegs or (a "fan site" dedicated to Matthew Barney) grow organically once I start them.

The first time I sold the Bootlegs on the sidewalk in Chelsea, I had copied about 40 different artists. I continued adding artists (weeding out a few that didn't sell well) so that I would always have fresh "product", and have now copied more than 100 different works.

When I launched, I scoured the internet for anything I could find that was related to Matthew Barney. I still do web searches every month or so to look for new material, but now I frequently receive emails from Barney fans with links, artwork, news items, etc. I enjoy that the site appeals to both people who love Matthew Barney and to those who hate him, and that I've created (or at least identified) this weird online community.

DG: Your work seems to function best when it is misunderstood. Any recent experiences in that regard?
ED: A friend who received some of my "On Kawara - I Got Up" postcards but who wasn't familiar with the original piece asked me if it had something to do with Twitter. I like the idea that Kawara invented the "tweet" before the internet existed, using telegrams and the postal service. If he was a young artist today, would Kawara be a blogger?

DG: What's happening right now in your studio?
ED: I just finished making a "Sol LeWitt Wall Drawing" in my studio that consists of 10,000 4-inch long straight lines. LeWitt made a number of drawings involving permutations of "10,000 lines", and I wanted to get a sense of how long it would take to make one. I'm also finishing up a recreation of Ed Ruscha's "Stains" - a portfolio of 75 different stains (ketchup, urine, grass, motor oil, etc.) in a handmade box that mimics the original. I've made all of the stains except for gunpowder, which is somewhat difficult to obtain in New York City.

The worst one was "blood of the artist". I'm not particularly grossed out by blood, but it was hard to cut myself consciously -- I never went through a "self mutilation" phase as a teenager! The piece is an edition of 10, and I was totally afraid the wound would close before I squeezed enough blood out and I'd have to cut myself a second time.

Eric Doeringer's work can be viewed online at