Portrait of the Artist as Correspondent [Placement Archives]

By November 23, 2016Placement, Uncategorized
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Originally published – JULY 04, 2005

The Summer issue of “Art on Paper” displays the fruit of a simple experiment. A young staffer (either real or fictive) sends a letter to a bunch of artists explaining the problem of being young and new to New York, with many of the problems that come to bear on that condition with the added issue of being a young artist. A number of letters are sent out and they publish a dozen of them.

“My advice? Don’t go into art for fame and fortune. Do it because you cannot not do it. Being an artist is a combination of talent and obsession. Live in New York, L.A., Koln, or London.” – John Baldessari

Peter Nesbett’s “Art on Paper” focuses on prints, photography and works on paper. It is niche enough that they take chances on content. It’s one of the few art publications that I’ve been a constant supporter of.
“Young Artist” writes to people who, “seem to me to have approached their careers with passion and integrity.” The list of selected artists seems a bit orchestrated, and that’s just the people that participated – it would be interesting to know who didn’t respond to this waif’s plaintive wail? To follow are a few of the highlights.

Jimmie Durham: “It’s money that makes you ask about integrity. Don’t ask me, but ask yourself; ‘how can I join the world I live in?’ ‘How can I speak with people who are smarter than me?’ (and those peole can be anywhere, any street-corner.)

Adrian Piper, re integrity v. participation: “They don’t always conflict, so you can have both to some extent. But you won’t be able to participate in the art world as fully as possible, unless you ‘re willing to sacrifice your integrity and freedom of thought in order to do so. And you won’t be able to maintain your integrity and freedom of thought unless you’re willing to sacrifice whatever degree of art world success is necessary in order to do that.”

“…On the other hand, choose personal integrity and freedom of thought instead, and you ensure your personal equanimity and contentment no matter how much art world recognition, success, money or power you must relinquish in order to protect them.”

William Pope. L: “So enjoy your hateful day job. It is probably giving you much more than your dreamed of gallery will ever provide. And if you ever get a gallery, don’t come running to me when they cheat you or make you feel like crap. We artists deserve the art world we create.”

Cai Guo-Qiang: “Whether you are working in a restaurant, washing dishes, painting portraits on the street for money, or showing in some gallery in order to sell is not so important. These are means to make a living. As long as you have a goal and find your path to reach this goal artistically, maintain your creative power…”

Jo Baer: “Further: anyone employing the word “tainted” in regard to the artworld should either grow up or else content themselves with amateur productions. If you intend to make work which you want others to enjoy or appreciate, the [commercial] artworld will be part and parcel of your universe: best art must always be grounded in its contemporary reality – both in its production and in its distribution. Ivory towers are only for the very young, the menopausal of both sexes, or the dissatisfied or disgruntled. Best art seldom resides there.”

Howardena Pindel: “I worked for a museum for 12 years (5 days a week or more) before I could find a teaching job. Some artists work in construction, some work on Wall Street, some waiter or work for other artists. Some teach and some are librarians. Whatever works for you.”

Most of the letters are rewarding in their entirety. The article ends with a three page long tirade from Richard Tuttle effectively compressing art history between Louis XIV to Williamsburg. They follow-up this editorial with the publication of a Sol LeWitt letter in support of Eva Hesse.

Having worked at a major gallery for the better part of a very profitable decade, I could find nothing untrue or wrong with any of the feedback above. It’s difficult finding creative ways to turn people down and encourage them to keep trying. It’s difficult pursuing any dream and maybe more difficult for the young. Being kicked around by life a little has the unfortunate effect of defacing some of your optimism but it also inures you to the easy grace of high expectations. Art, design, and love… such things can seem to be easily met on the first date. Realizing that these things you pursue in life are there because they help define you will help you bear the burden of those eventual upsets and hopefully give you perspective to retain the joy of trying.

Placement was a website that turned a critical eye on culture, with an emphasis on the importance of integrity in process over product. It published frequently from 2005 through 2006, as an online critique of art and design within contemporary culture. Placement provided original content by independent voices – something the internet is particularly good at offering but which blogs don’t seem to be very good at maintaining.

In order to save some of that work from the sands of time, I’ve archived selections from that work here: PLACEMENT Archive

E. Tage Larsen

E. Tage Larsen is an artist, designer and dog robber. You may encounter him as an art gallery director, branding designer or illustrator. His work has received awards from "Society of Illustrators", "American Illustration", 'Print' magazine annual as well as the LogoLounge and LogoLounge 'Master Series' annuals. Essays on design and fine art have appeared in numerous magazines and web sites.

Among his less savory qualities, he's a poor sport, a sore loser and ill fitted for honest labor. He makes bad friends and worse decisions. Animals avoid him and children despise him. He's been known to drink to excess, carry on with seditious talk and leer at women. He's a coward, a card cheat and a known liar.

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