Tag Archives: Mimi Gross

M/E/A/N/I/N/G: The Final Issue on A Year of Positive Thinking-9

The first issue of M/E/A/N/I/N/G: A Journal of Contemporary Art Issues, was published in December 1986. M/E/A/N/I/N/G is a collaboration between two artists, Susan Bee and Mira Schor, both painters with expanded interests in writing and politics, and an extended community of artists, art critics, historians, theorists, and poets, whom we sought to engage in discourse and to give a voice to.

For our 30th anniversary and final issue, we have asked some long-time contributors and some new friends to create images and write about where they place meaning today. As ever, we have encouraged artists and writers to feel free to speak to the concerns that have the most meaning to them right now.

We began on December 5 and every other day since we have posted a grouping of contributions will appear on A Year of Positive Thinking. We invite you to live through this time with all of us in a spirit of impromptu improvisation and passionate care for our futures.

We have more installment, of our own thoughts at this time. But today, we take a break for a scrapbook.

Susan Bee and Mira Schor

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From Susan Bee & Mira Schor, “Introduction,” M/E/A/N/I/N/G: An Anthology of Artists’ Writings, Theory, and Criticism (Duke University Press, 2000):

We felt, as we consider what we should name our publication, that meaning was the concept most discredited by the market-driven postmodernism that dominated art world discourse in the 1980s. While a journal such as October has staked out its title on the ground of a specific sense of history, M/E/A/N/I/N/G announced an ethical and philosophical dimension. But the slashes (technically, virgules) that separate M from E from A from N from I from N from G not only graphically indicate our connection to the influential contemporary poetry journal L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, they also break up the possibilities of an uninflected metaphysical belief in meaning. We put the concept back on the table of contemporary art discourse, but with a postmodern twist.

Some background details on how the first issue of M/E/A/N/I/N/G came into being provide an example of how interventions into art discourse emerge from serendipitous sparks between personal histories and historical moments, and also of how artists, can, on a very small budget and from a space of obscurity, achieve a voice in a large, noisy art world.

The two of us first met when we were children through the acquaintance of our parents, Miriam and Sigmund Laufer and Resia and Ilya Schor, all of whom were artists and Jewish refugees from Europe who arrived in New York City in the 1940s. We met again in the late 1970s, as artists living and working in New York City.

Bee had a great deal of experience in publishing and book design.  She has designed, edited, and produced many small press and commercial publications as well as having designed L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, which was co-edited by her husband Charles Bernstein. In the early 1980s, Schor had begun to write about gender representation. In the fall of 1986, our disgust with the increasingly overhyped art scene was the final spur to publishing a journal. Over lunch near our studios in Tribeca, we just said, “let’s do it,” not unlike Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, deciding “let’s put on a show.”

 

Mira and Susan in Provincetown, MA, at St. Mary of the Harbor's Beach, 1984.

Mira and Susan in Provincetown, MA, at St. Mary of the Harbor’s Beach, 1984.

Mira and Susan, with issue #5, spring 1990, in the apartment of Mira's mother Resia, New York City

Mira and Susan, with issue #5, spring 1990, in the apartment of Mira’s mother Resia, New York City

Susan and Mira, photo by Sarah Wells, 1991

Susan and Mira, photo by Sarah Wells, 1991

We held a party to celebrate our final print issue, it was on Mira’s birthday, June 1, 1996. Here are some of our friends and contributors from the first ten years of M/E/A/N/I/N/G.

l. to r., Martha Wilson, Carolee Schneemann, and Emma Amos, M/E/A/N/I/N/G party June 1996

l. to r., Martha Wilson, Carolee Schneemann, and Emma Amos, M/E/A/N/I/N/G party June 1996.

l. to r., NIna Felshin, Maureen Connor, and Emily Chen, M/E/A/N/I/N/G party June 1996

l. to r., Nina Felshin, Maureen Connor, and Emily Cheng, M/E/A/N/I/N/G party June 1996

Carolee Schneemann and David Humphrey, June 1996.

Carolee Schneemann and David Humphrey, June 1996.

Brad Freeman and Johanna Drucker, 1996.

Brad Freeman and Johanna Drucker, 1996.

Rudy Burckhardt and Charles Bernstein, M/E/A/N/I/N/G party June 1996

Rudy Burckhardt and Charles Bernstein, M/E/A/N/I/N/G party June 1996

David Diao and Mimi Gross, M/E/A/N/I/N/G party June 1996

David Diao and Mimi Gross, M/E/A/N/I/N/G party June 1996

Susan and Mira, M/E/A/N/I/N/G party June 1996

Susan and Mira, M/E/A/N/I/N/G party June 1996

We had a reception at Accola Griefen Gallery in New York December 15, 2011, to celebrate the 25th Anniversary issue of M/E/A/N/I/N/G:

Mira and Susan, photo ©)Lawrence Schwarzwald

Mira and Susan, photo © Lawrence Schwartzwald

l. to r.,Tom McEvilley, Jerry Rothenberg, and Charles Bernstein, M/E/A/N/I/N/G 25th Anniversary party at Accola Griefen Gallery, December 15, 2011

l. to r.,Thomas McEvilley, Jerome Rothenberg, and Charles Bernstein, M/E/A/N/I/N/G 25th Anniversary party at Accola Griefen Gallery, December 15, 2011, photo ©Lawrence Schwartzwald

Bradley Rubenstein and Joan Waltemath, M/E/A/N/I/N/G 25th Anniversary party at Accola Griefen Gallery December 15, 2011

Bradley Rubenstein and Joan Waltemath, M/E/A/N/I/N/G 25th Anniversary party at Accola Griefen Gallery December 15, 2011, photo ©Lawrence Schwartzwald

Reception for 25th anniversary issue of M/E/A/N/I/N/G, Accola Griefen Gallery, NYC, with Kat Griefen, Kriten Accola, Jackie Brookner, Bob Berlind, Toni Simon, Lenore Malen, Nancy Princenthal, and more, December 15, 2011

Reception for 25th anniversary issue of M/E/A/N/I/N/G, Accola Griefen Gallery, Susan Bee and Mira Schor, with Kat Griefen, Kristen Accola, Mary Lucier, Jackie Brookner, Bob Berlind, Judith Linhares, Nancy Princenthal, Lenore Malen, Bradley Rubenstein, Hermine Ford, and more, December 15, 2011, photo ©Lawrence Schwartzwald

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Time passes, but friendships and community continue.

From l. to r., Johanna Drucker, Susan Bee, Mimi Gross, and Mira Schor at the opening of "Views and Vignettes: The Work of Miriam Laufer," Susan's mother, at the Provincetown ARt Association and Museum, August 11, 2016

From l. to r., Johanna Drucker, Susan Bee, Mimi Gross, and Mira Schor at the opening of “Views and Vignettes: The Work of Miriam Laufer,” Susan’s mother, at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum, August 11, 2016.

from l. to r., Mimi Gross, Susan Bee, and Mira Schor, at the opening of their show "Three Friends," at Tim's Used Books, Provincetown, August 19, 2016.

from l. to r., Mimi Gross, Susan Bee, and Mira Schor, at the opening of their show “Three Friends,” at Tim’s Used Books, Provincetown, August 19, 2016.

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One more installment of M/E/A/N/I/N/G: The Final Issue on A Year of Positive Thinking will appear here this week with statements by Susan Bee and Mira Schor.

M/E/A/N/I/N/G: A History
We published 20 print issues biannually over ten years from 1986-1996. In 2000, M/E/A/N/I/N/G: An Anthology of Artists’ Writings, Theory, and Criticism was published by Duke University Press. In 2002 we began to publish M/E/A/N/I/N/G Online and have published six online issues. Issue #6 is a link to the digital reissue of all of the original twenty hard copy issues of the journal. The M/E/A/N/I/N/G archive from 1986 to 2002 is in the collection of the Beinecke Library at Yale University.

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M/E/A/N/I/N/G: The Final Issue on A Year of Positive Thinking-5

The first issue of M/E/A/N/I/N/G: A Journal of Contemporary Art Issues, was published in December 1986. M/E/A/N/I/N/G is a collaboration between two artists, Susan Bee and Mira Schor, both painters with expanded interests in writing and politics, and an extended community of artists, art critics, historians, theorists, and poets, whom we sought to engage in discourse and to give a voice to.

For our 30th anniversary and final issue, we have asked some long-time contributors and some new friends to create images and write about where they place meaning today. As ever, we have encouraged artists and writers to feel free to speak to the concerns that have the most meaning to them right now.

Every other day from December 5 until we are done, a grouping of contributions will appear on A Year of Positive Thinking. We invite you to live through this time with all of us in a spirit of impromptu improvisation and passionate care for our futures.

Susan Bee and Mira Schor

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Matthew Weinstein: American Dreamers, 2016, on the Precipice

Americans are dreamers. For us, the line between fact and fiction is one drawn in the sand. I can’t condemn this, as it goes hand in hand with our ability to create contemporary culture.

What has happened to our dreams?

Our dreams have been eaten up by a distraction-heavy media. Our imaginations are no longer the stars of our fictive universes, because they have been occupied by nonsense.

Celebrities. What they think. Who the fuck cares what they think? Cute endangered animals. They aren’t our fucking friends.

Celebrities getting the Congressional Medal Of Freedom. How about a school teacher. A nurse. How about an unsung activist? How about a damned struggling artist? How about attainability? No wonder most of the country thinks it’s all rigged. We don’t honor the nameless. We should. Not that anybody with an ant-sized amount of brains, or conscience, would accept an Iron Cross from the Nazi Elect.

For all the good that has happened in the last eight years, there has been an above average level of stupid.

High/low distinctions are idiotic. But useful and useless distinctions aren’t.

We have become mired in horizontal thinking. The Huffington Post tracking an actor’s political views, Trump, and an amazing cat that will amaze you, have become equally vital news. And this is linked directly to people blind to the radical horror of a Trump presidency. It is not all the fucking same.

Why does the left always think that revolutions are for us? Because we think and forget to see. Art is about both of these things: thinking and seeing. It can sort of help.

Our art world is mired in auction results, gigantism, art fairs as the places to see art rather than galleries and museums, and online art gossip sites with cute names. There is nothing inherently bad in any of these things. Got to make the donuts. But the problem is that we read them, and about them, when we should be connecting to what actually matters; art, politics, sex, napping, eating the wrong foods, quality nonsense and each other.

If you want to say that artists are just another form of entertainer, say it. But you’re wrong. We aren’t superior. But we offer something else; an alternative to mass experience, when we are doing our job. Just more mass experience when we are sucking up.

A work of art that opens up your mind and or heart, pisses you off, makes you actually laugh, makes you deliciously sour, makes you want to rush to your own studio, or makes you want to grab a friend and talk about it; these things are not protected. Art is as fragile as Democracy. Fight for it. It won’t take care of itself. We are responsible to protect it. Not museums; us.

Art needs to present a safe haven for the personal, the specific, the unpopular and for people who care about unjustifiable things; a safe haven for us to talk about art as if it matters deeply. Because it does. And criticality matters now more than ever. We are forgetting how to do it. It’s too often scorned. Which leads to art feeling like propaganda for art.

Anyone who uses the word ‘hater’ needs to put a dollar in my mistake box. I’ll buy cool stuff with it. Be a critical asshole. Lot’s of things completely suck. I mean within reason.

I love art. Always have. I’ll never go negative on the art world because it’s my brain home, and because it is always and has always been raw potential. Which is why I get upset when I see it squandered.

In this time, as artists, all of our opportunities and impulses have to be treated as if they are our last ones. We need to do and say exactly what we mean, without apology or fear. We may not know how to fix things, but we can demonstrate what urgency looks like.

Keep the dreams flowing. But let’s make sure that they are our own. Respect the animals. They are us.

Matthew Weinstein is an artist who lives in Brooklyn NY. He also writes for ARTnews and Artforum.

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Jennifer Bartlett

Jennifer Bartlett, A few days after the election a pop-up artist/therapy piece began growing in the Union Square subway station. Passersby were encouraged to write a message to the world [in response to the election] on a "sticky note."

A few days after the election a pop-up artist/therapy piece began growing in the Union Square subway station. Passersby were encouraged to write a message to the world [in response to the election] on a “sticky note.”

My note says: "I am not retarded." I have cerebral palsy, and I was frustrated that I could not get to a flat surface to write on. Ultimately, this became part of the effect because the writing "looks retarded" i.e. what Donald Trump and most abled people would construe as "retarded" or distasteful or stupid. The message was directly based on the fact that the US elected a man who called a Deaf actress "retarded" and coined the term "libtard." In reaction to Trump mocking a disabled reporter, in the way I have been mocked continuously throughout my life, Ann Coulter attested that he was just making fun of "general retards." Virtually no one responded in protest, and as Trump moves toward the White House, there is still not protesting of able-bodied people in defense of disabled people. That is the one line people won't cross. So be it.

My note says: “I am not retarded.” I have cerebral palsy, and I was frustrated that I could not get to a flat surface to write on. Ultimately, this became part of the effect because the writing “looks retarded,” i.e. what Donald Trump and most abled people would construe as “retarded” or distasteful or stupid. The message was directly based on the fact that the US elected a man who called a Deaf actress “retarded” and coined the term “libtard.” In reaction to Trump mocking a disabled reporter, in the way I have been mocked continuously throughout my life, Ann Coulter attested that he was just making fun of “general retards.” Virtually no one responded in protest, and as Trump moves toward the White House, there is still no protesting of able-bodied people in defense of disabled people. That is the one line people won’t cross. So be it.

Jennifer Bartlett is a poet, occasional writer for the New York Times, and working on a biography of Larry Eigner.

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Ann McCoy

Our country is in turmoil, and tomorrow seems uncertain. In this Saturnian winter, as we wait for the solstice and return of the light, it is ever harder to gather one’s resources—keep one’s spirit intact. During these months our ancestors lived indoors, huddled around fires. We have no such kinship and are disoriented by electric illumination and central heating. Experiencing the darkness seems harder without nature as our guide. During a winter much like this one in Berlin, I remember walking through the snow to a small Cranach museum on a lake in the middle of a forest. An advent wreath in a window led the way to a nativity scene by the Elder. I was moved to tears by the Bethlehem scene tucked in this dark hunting lodge. Today I lit my advent wreath, hoping for a similar miracle, a light bringer, a candle in the darkness. In my neighborhood a group of Coptic brothers and sisters invited me to their morning prayers. Most of them are from upper Egypt and are from the same village as the twenty men who were decapitated by ISIS in Libya. I am honored they have invited me, the singing in Coptic is transporting. I am grateful to have a place around their fire, as I light a beeswax candle in front of the Theotokos. Their optimism, charity, and kindness touch me deeply.

Ann MCoy, “Lunar Birth” with the artist, 2001. Pencil on paper on canvas, 9 by 14 ft.

Ann McCoy, “Lunar Birth” with the artist, 2001. Pencil on paper on canvas, 9 by 14 ft.

Ann McCoy, “Processional with Lightbringer,” 2005. Cast bronze with silver crown, 19 in. by 7 ft. 2 in.

Ann McCoy, “Processional with Lightbringer,” 2005. Cast bronze with silver crown, 19 in. by 7 ft. 2 in.

Ann McCoy is a New York-based sculptor and painter whose career began in 1972. She is a working artist as well as a curator and art critic who writes for the Brooklyn Rail. She lectures on art history, the history of projection, and mythology in the graduate design section of the Yale School of Drama. McCoy is a winner of the Prix de Rome, the D.A.A.D. Kunstler Award, and American Award in the Arts.

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Mimi Gross

On the election
Shadow of shadows
Caught, cut, & painted (black)

Present and future disasters
Goya could.

We are leaping into an abyss
Black air
Somehow, mid-air, breathless truth,
Calls out: the Arts will conquer!

Which
Blue sky
Is brighter
Than the sun itself
Or is it
A late moon?

We will challenge the falling columns.

*

30 years, Forums on:

Meaning: combining amazing and absurd. So many dreams broken, glued together
overhauled. Now a new generation will share the wide spectrum of “Meaning.”

Motherhood and art: Bathed in love. My daughter is long married and has two
wonderful daughters, now 17 and 13. Difficult to have imagined 30 years ago. The juggling of time before, has
become a privilege, without sharing responsibilities.

Racism: Confusion within the sphere of art matters. The attention to African
American and of mixed ethnicity artists is totally exciting. (A much longer
response is needed to recognize and discuss the great from the trendy.)
Highly recommend: the Kerry James Marshall exhibition at the Met Breuer.

Feminism: Will we be in danger of disappearing? I don’t think so. The younger
women artists (in all fields) have no concept of the difficulties
encountered by the invisible generations before them.

Resistance: This is our strongest positive hope.

“On art making over a lifetime, from youth to older age:”

(76!) What is Real?

Find forms,
Listen to history,
See more.

Time:
Wood, plastic, paint,
Cardboard, band saw, blades,
Hot glue.
Still:
Scaled for future details,
Depth, present, murky,
Let go!

Unlimited perspectives,
Counterpoint concepts,
(disparate images)
careful creation:
artifice
make a detail,
blow it up,
Let the scale go,
Without forgetting it
For a second.

Drawing all along the way.
Study by means of doing.

(Diaphanous)

A line,
A shape,
To do
The idea
Brightness of space, of light:
Integrate the white line,
Marry the line with paint.

Imposing,                     Or, vertical lines
Serious,                         Layers of thoughts
Things past                   Catching quickly,
Remember.                   Time passing.

Find personal (line).

Mimi Gross, design collaboration with Douglas Dunn: Aerobia, Choreography Douglas Dunn, 2001

Mimi Gross, design collaboration with Douglas Dunn: “Aerobia,” Choreography Douglas Dunn, 2001

Dance/ Collaboration, sets and costumes:
To fly: is it Dance?
Disjointed together
Chaos in place
Literal becomes abstract
Abstract becomes literal
Speed of images
Capture. Drawn out
Put together
The silhouette is
The darkest weight
Hear the dance.

Travel

Travel experiences transform, broaden perspectives, escape from “provincialism,”
accumulate new ideas.
Portraits become landscapes, landscapes become metaphors,
Psychology of place, of scale, of texture, of color.
(direct fun)
(breaking all the rules)
A form of sanity.

Mimi Gross, 4.Village outside of Gaoua, Ivory Coast, West Africa, 2013, watercolor and ink.

Mimi Gross, “Village outside of Gaoua, Ivory Coast, West Africa,” 2013, watercolor and ink.

Mimi Gross, Mercado Sonora, Mexico City, 2012. Watercolor and ink in sketchbook.

Mimi Gross, “Mercado Sonora, Mexico City,” 2012. Watercolor and ink in sketchbook.

Mimi Gross is a painter, set and costume designer, teacher, who lives and works in NYC. Recent group shows include: Brooklyn Museum of Art: “Stephen Powers, Coney Island is Still Dreamland”, 2016; Brattleboro Museum of Art, VT, “After Old Masters”, 2016. AMP Gallery, Provincetown, MA, 2016. In 2017, her mural for the University of Kentucky, Medical School, Louisville, will be installed; her work will be in a three-person exhibit at Derek Eller Gallery, NYC, and in a large group exhibit at Grey Gallery, NYU, “Inventing Downtown: Artist-Run Galleries in New York City, 1952-1965”, Jan.-April, 2017; she will have an “Art Project” in Art Journal, spring 2017. Mimi has worked with Douglas Dunn and Dancers since 1979, designing sets and costumes for over 25 different dances, including Antipodes at St. Mark’s Church, NYC, ” Feb 2, 3, 4, 2017.

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Myrel Chernick

Some questions I ask myself:
What does it mean to live an ethical life?
Does a creative life imply an ethical life?
Can I make art that is substantive, relevant, and meaningful, that makes a worthwhile contribution to the lives of others? And what does that entail?
What is my responsibility to those who have so much less than I do?

The problems seem insurmountable: poverty, climate disaster, bigotry, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, unmitigated greed. What is the best and most effective way to move forward?

I first encountered M/E/A/N/I/N/G with #12, Forum: on Motherhood, Art and Apple Pie (1992). There I learned that my difficulties with the art world that had increased after I decided to have children were by no means unique, and my subsequent exploration of maternal ambivalence became a group exhibition and then a book. Twenty-five years later, I know of no other American art periodical with an issue devoted to this topic. Thanks to Susan and Mira for their pioneering work on so many topics.

myrelchernickresist

Myrel Chernick is an artist and writer who lives in New York.

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Robin Mitchell

M/E/A/N/I/N/G has put forth questions of and about meaning in art for 30 years.

Meaning in art and culture has not changed in those years, but what has changed is how art has meaning. Critical thinking is propelling art rather than art generating critical thought.

When I was in school I was often confronted by the question “What does your art mean?” I have continually asked myself, “What does my art mean?” “What does it mean to me?” “What can it mean to others, other artists in an insular world, or to others in the wider culture and beyond?”

My experience as an artist has deep personal meaning. After a lifetime of artmaking, I feel that I making the best work that I have done and for me art making is a rich and rewarding process. I understand my artwork better and more completely as I continue making art. Artmaking for me has become personal reflective process, more of a world inward, and I find the richness of this experience deeply rewarding and gratifying. By exhibiting my artwork I am part of a dialogue with other artists and the larger art community. I would never expect for everyone or even many to make a connection to my work. What others find meaningful may be different than the meaning I intend. Yet when I exhibit the work, I am humbled by the connection that some people communicate to me that they can make to the artwork. This connection so often mirrors my own intentions.

I want to be counted for my stand and my beliefs. In light of the recent election I feel this even more vehemently. The act of being an artist is in some ways an act of defiance. I want my concerns and beliefs to be counted in the world, whether through my art or my actions. Marshall McLuhan said that he looked to artists to see where the rest of the culture was moving towards. “Art at its most significant is a distant early warning system that can always be relied on to tell the old culture what is beginning to happen.”

Robin Mitchell, Numinous, 2016. Gouache on paper, 24” x 18”

Robin Mitchell, “Numinous,” 2016. Gouache on paper, 24” x 18”

Robin Mitchell is an artist living and working in Santa Monica, California. Her paintings are represented by the Craig Krull Gallery also in Santa Monica. Her artwork has been recognized by a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, the Anonymous Was a Woman award, a City of Los Angeles grant, and a California Community Foundation mid-career fellowship. She holds a BFA and MFA from Cal Arts. While a participant of the Feminist Art Program at Cal Arts she was part of the historic Womanhouse project.

Judith Linhares

I am writing my account of what it is to be an artist and a feminist in very transitory times, not even two weeks after the election of Donald Trump. I do not know what the future holds what I do know is I have had a lifetime of political involvement. I would characterize that involvement as recognizing that other woman are struggling with finding their own agency struggling with the various rolls and fantasies placed on them by the dominant culture and like all of you I am looking for a way forward at a time when racism and misogyny are returning to the White House.

I believe my fate is connected to the circumstances of all other women. I have more energy and confidence when supported by others. I have been involved in feminist politics for a long time I owe a lot to the recognition and support of other woman I believe we share common cause. I have great respect for Mira Schor and Susan Bee for their decades long project M/E/A/N/I/N/G. This project has given legitimacy to woman’s ideas and opinions over the decades I am proud to be included in this valuable document.

I do not see clearly as yet what future challenges will look like. My plan is to keep working and try to see the truth as I experience it day by day. My hope is that I have the courage to speak out in opposition to injustice when I see it.

Judith Linhares, “Back Talk,” 2012. Gouache on paper, 29.5 x 44.25 inches

Judith Linhares, “Back Talk,” 2012. Gouache on paper, 29.5 x 44.25 inches

Judith Linhares’ paintings have been the subject of 40 one-person exhibitions. Her solo shows at the Edward Thorp Gallery, as well as a survey, “Dangerous Pleasures: 1973-1993,” received numerous reviews. Marcia Tucker’s inclusion of her paintings in “Bad Painting” and the Venice Biennale encouraged this fourth-generation Californian to ride the New Figuration wave to New York City. She has received many prestigious awards and was honored by the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

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Further installments of M/E/A/N/I/N/G: The Final Issue on A Year of Positive Thinking will appear here every other day. Contributors will include Alexandria Smith, Altoon Sultan, Aziz+Cucher, Aviva Rahmani, Erica Hunt, Felix Bernstein and Gabe Rubin, Hermine Ford, Jenny Perlin, Joy Garnett and Bill Jones, Joyce Kozloff, Julie Harrison, Kat Griefen, Legacy Russell, LigoranoReeese, Mary Garrard, Michelle Jaffé, Nancy K. Miller, Noah Dillon, Noah Fischer,  LigoranoReese, Robert C. Morgan, Roger Denson, Tamara Gonzalez and Chris Martin, Susan Bee, Mira Schor, and more. If you are interested in this series and don’t want to miss any of it, please subscribe to A Year of Positive Thinking during this period, by clicking on subscribe at the upper right of the blog online, making sure to verify your email when prompted.

M/E/A/N/I/N/G: A History
We published 20 print issues biannually over ten years from 1986-1996. In 2000, M/E/A/N/I/N/G: An Anthology of Artists’ Writings, Theory, and Criticism was published by Duke University Press. In 2002 we began to publish M/E/A/N/I/N/G Online and have published six online issues. Issue #6 is a link to the digital reissue of all of the original twenty hard copy issues of the journal. The M/E/A/N/I/N/G archive from 1986 to 2002 is in the collection of the Beinecke Library at Yale University.

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Day by Day in the Studio 13: August 15

Tomorrow August 16, the exhibition Abstract Marriage: Sculpture by Ilya Schor and Resia Schor opens at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum. This exhibition brings to fruition a project I first thought of about five years ago. People have suggested to me that this will be a very emotional experience for me. Of necessity, in order to function, I have tried to discount this and see it simply as work to be done, but, as the works are installed, I am overwhelmed.

I wonder if people who look at art or who look at the artworld, and that includes young artists at the beginning of their life as an artist, know how much, practically speaking, it takes to get anything, however modest, done as or for an artist, how much psychic energy it takes to believe in artworks and to make others believe in them, particularly the degree of intensity of belief that at least one person must feel for artwork in order for it to survive after an artist’s death.

It is hard enough to maintain that belief in yourself as an artist and to act upon it in the face of the many rejections that most artists encounter, but to maintain that belief in artists who have died is even more difficult. You have to surmount the stasis their oeuvre and reputation fall into: as in a game of musical chairs or spin the bottle, the person’s reputation at their death is set at a mark, and then, unless the artist was already world famous and iconic and even if that is the case, the oeuvre is as much a burden as it may be a joy to the heirs and the reputation generally begins to recede from that mark achieved in lifetime. If the mark is slight, no matter the quality of the work, the person left with the responsibility of the work must go against the tide of history and of the market to maintain the work and bring the reputation back to the mark or forward to transform the recognition of the work. It is very hard to do. You become the custodian not just of the artist’s qualities and talents but also of that artist’s doubts and even the verities of their reputation. It’s hard enough for the artists to do in their life and harder to do for those who continue.

Several of my friends are artists whose parents were artists: like me they carry the double burden of belief, in their own work and in their parents’ work. Mimi Gross has done an incredible job developing The Renee and Chaim Gross Foundation, Susan Bee has curated exhibitions of the work of her father Sigmund Laufer and her mother Miriam Laufer. I spent several years editing The Extreme of the Middle: Writings of Jack Tworkov. Tworkov’s wife Wally and then his daughters Hermine Ford and Helen Tworkov had worked for over twenty years to have these writings edited and published. Jack died in 1982. Selections from his writings were included in the catalogue of Jack Tworkov: Paintings, 1928-1982, held in 1987 at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. I began serious work on the texts in around 2003, The Extreme of the Middle was published by Yale University Press in June 2009. I did the work because I loved Jack and believed fiercely in his work and his writing.

My father died in 1961. My mother did everything she could to keep his work secure and his name in the world. She died in 2006. Included in Abstract Marriage are works by my father that were last exhibited in the retrospective of his work held at the Jewish Museum in New York in 1965 and that are unknown relative to other aspects of his work and works by my mother that have never been exhibited before.

In the next few days I hope to write a post about my parents’ show, but today I mark Jack’s memory with a drawing I did on his birthday, August 15, in the summer of 1982, as he lay dying at his home in Provincetown. The drawing is called For Jack’s Leaving. Jack loved the bay of Provincetown, the sand flats, the daily swim. In the drawing, I depicted that moment when the outgoing tide pulls water out of the bay through shallow channels, rivers two or three inches deep running out through the sand flats. The figure goes through a narrow channel towards the open sea, like a reverse of birth.

In his diaries, Jack wrote on his birthday August 15, 1953

August 15, 1953

Technically my birthday. The idea had crossed my mind today that I am in every way a self-made man. Even my name and my birthday are self-made. To be fair, I simply mean that my birthday was only a rough approximation like my name.

Typically scrupulous, he later corrected himself, he had written that entry into his journal a couple of days early. But then, on August 22, 1953, he reflected on the great cultural leap he and his sister Janice Biala made after they were brought to America as children.

Janice and I are the first in our line. Our parents are as distinct from us, as the American Indians. It is impossible to convey to a western mind what my mother is. The distance between her and me can only be counted in centuries. But not only time stands between us but differences in adaptation as vital as that between sea and land animals. In fact I think of Janice and me as having become land animals in one jump. As if our parents had been utterly sea animals. Yet we are only land animals of one generation with all the weaknesses that implies. I was brought up to regard timidity as if it were the first rule of life. And the cancer of indolence was planted in me in the cheder. I was brought up the first ten years of my life for another environment. My mother is to this day sealed in that environment, and she has no crack, no window, to look out upon the world. My own distinct situation, the inner break from my mother, did not become apparent to me till so late in life. Did I become aware too late? If I were willing to take all the risks could my life still become vigorous? Or is that question itself a sign of my still unsolved problem? Should a man dream to change the caste of his life when he is past fifty. Does maturity mean to live with one self whatever the self is?

The summer my father died, the Tworkovs invited my mother and me to spend a month with them in their house in Provincetown. Jack wrote in his journal of my father’s death but also of how the work of the artist lives on after his death:

August 8, 1961, P’town.

No place in this notebook have I so far noticed the death of my beloved friend Ilya. His image hovers in my mind. His lovely gayety, the sparkle, the aliveness of his eyes, the humor that played on his lips like honeybees on flowers. Now Resia is here and Mira. We sat long over our coffee this morning talking about people and gradually we drifted into talking about Ilya, each of us displaying our love for him as if he were alive and with us. Even through her unbearable grief her face suffuses with light when I praise Ilya. […] She said something remarkable recalling Ilya. She said, the test of a work is does it speak for the artist after he’s gone. In life the artist persuaded us by his personality, but after he’s gone only his work is left to persuade us.

 

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A Remembrance: Sarah Wells (June 6, 1950-June 6, 1998)

This post is inspired by two aspects of the life of the artist.

First, friendships are very important to artists, perhaps because the nature of being an artist often includes necessary aloneness in the making, the thinking, or the ideological position, within an atmosphere of bracing but sometimes corrosive competitiveness so that it is essential to survival as a practicing artist and as a human being to have a core of friends who know and understand your work from its roots and who can suspend their tendencies towards competition enough to support and advise you.

As a teacher, I see my students start their professional lives in little clusters: graduating classes of MFA students or Skowhegan participants from a particular year move into neighborhoods together, share studios, curate each others’ work into shows, get each other jobs, support each others’ achievements. After a while career paths, changing ideologies, and private lives sever some of these bonds, but some continue to sustain for a lifetime and are one of the most precious resources one can have. One may strive for historical importance but at the bottom line one’s practice rests on the shoulders of a few friends who know, understand, and believe.

Second, many of my friends are, like me, not only artists themselves but they are the children and sometimes also the parents of artists: we are all responsible not just for our own work, which is work enough, but also their work, their memory, their reputation. If running your own career is difficult, maintaining the career of a dead artist is even harder, whether the artist was famous or not. For us, there is an ironic tension, a valiant sense of quixotic absurdity, between the necessity we feel to produce our work (I don’t mean the commercial necessity, I mean the creative necessity) and our unique awareness of the burden that any artist’s productivity imposes on the maker and those who end up responsible for it–perhaps contemporary artists currently engaged in post-medium, post-object social practices will leave behind a minimum of stuff but even very successful artists who are lucky enough to sell the majority of their work still often leave their heirs with very problematic estates.

Among my friends, while working on their own art work: in the past decade Mimi Gross has led the development of the Renee & Chaim Gross Foundation, while Susan Bee has exhibited  her mother Miriam Laufer’s work, packed up her father Sigmund Laufer‘s work in printmaking, and supervised two exhibitions of the photography, and the publication of books and catalogs of her daughter Emma Bee Bernstein‘s photography and writing. Since 2001, I edited The Extreme of the Middle: Writings of Jack Tworkov, a project long nurtured by his daughters Helen Tworkov and Hermine Ford, I’ve begun archiving my parents Ilya Schor and Resia Schor‘s artwork, made The Tale of the Goldsmith’s Floor, a video documentary about their art produced for the conference “The Lure of the Detail,” in honor of my late sister Naomi Schor‘s signal 1987 book, Reading in Detail: Aesthetics and the Feminine, which with the help of many of my sister’s friends I was able to have brought back into print in 2007, all this while working on my own painting and writing as well as archiving it in order to create a comprehensive website.

I think also about all my parents’ friends in art school in Warsaw in the 1930s, a whole fertile world which perished, how my parents lost that initial loving context, and how much my mother tried to keep their names alive so that now I am the only one who remembers anything about them.

Art students at the Warsaw Academy of Fine Arts and friends, Warsaw c.1936: far left, a friend at whose house the group often gathered, last name Mackover (spelling uncertain); third from left with the burning blue eyes, Fishel Zylberberg (known also as Fiszel Zber, 1903-c.1942-43), a wood-engraver and from all accounts and appearance a magnetic and brilliant man. They all perished in the Shoa except for my father Ilya Schor, far right, leaning on the easel.

Young artists have fun in every generation, and perhaps young artists can imagine what it would mean if they suddenly lost those with whom they now share such companionship and joy. I think the artist Wermus is in the middle, bottom row but right this minute I'm not sure.

Etching from the 1930s by a friend of my parents, last name Wermus, Polish artist, killed in Russia before WWII

When I was packing this fall for my recent move, I found an etching upon which, sometime in the past for when I would find it in just this way, my mother had scrawled, “Wermus our best friend in Warsaw perished in Stalins cleaning of Jews in 1938-39 in Moscow.”  So there was once a Polish printmaker called Wermus who went to Russia to work with a master engraver and who perished in Stalin’s purges just before the beginning of the Second World War. As far as I know he and his wife, who also died, had no children, and perhaps now I am the one living being who knows he once lived. The least I can do is make a tiny place for the memory of this  artist here in the present.

I have unpacked every box that was moved from my loft on Lispenard Street and at the moment it looks like everything made it intact except for one group of, as luck would have it, absolutely crucial, irreplaceable archival material that for the present seems to have vanished, including all the black and white documentation of my work up until the 1990s, among which were many many photos and negatives by the sculptor and photographer Sarah Wells. I had scanned some of the pictures but that’s not the same as having her original prints and the negatives.

Sarah took this picture of me in 1993 at my studio at the Marie Walsh Sharpe Foundation Studios, then in Tribeca, with in the background some of my work, a segment of War Frieze in the wall, top,and some of my punctuation mark paintings.

The editors of M/E/A/N/I/N/G, Susan Bee and Mira Schor, 1991, photo: Sarah Wells

Sarah was a dear friend, a lovely person, a very talented artist, and she made her living as an excellent photographer of other artists’ work. She has been much on my mind these past few weeks because of my realization that this material is, I hope only temporarily, lost, and especially today: we were born the same year, 6 days apart, and often celebrated our birthdays together. Her tragic early death from cancer came thirteen years ago today, on her 48th birthday.

In another instance of trying to celebrate the work of an artist, Sarah’s friends, among them Medrie MacPhee and Judd Tully published Sarah Wells, a catalog for a retrospective exhibition of her work held at the Edward Hopper House Art Center in Nyack, New York in 2000. I wrote the following essay for the catalog. Indicative of the special problems in maintaining histories in the digital age, I can’t find my Word files from that period so I have scanned my essay and a few reproductions from the catalog. I hope the text is legible enough.

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Money can’t buy you love but art friendships can create joy

The most sustaining force in an artist’s life is supportive friendship with other artists. If at some crucial moments in your life you can form a group of close friendships with artists who share your aesthetic ideals or at least understand and enjoy them maybe even more than you do yourself, you can make it through the incredible difficulties of being an artist: financial peril, near constant rejection, fragility of success. If those friendships also are the basis for artistic collaboration, that is more marvelous still. And there is a particular kind of collaboration among artists who are friends that is special because it takes place outside of the frame of the art market, often before each individual’s path is fixed and their fate is determined, that is before some become rich and famous, while others struggle along, and still others die or vanish from the scene into another type of life than the one of the artist.  Such moments are nearly impossible to sustain, but it can be pretty conclusively proven that these are often the happiest times in the lives of these artists and often too those artworks that later are seen to have the greatest market value emerge from just these moments of friendships and creative projects undertaken in relative conditions of anonymity, for the sheer joy of making and the pleasure in shared ideas.

One such a web of creative friendships among visual artists and writers working in the mid-20th century in New York City, in a close yet liminal social and generational relationship to the New York School, is documented in a wonderful exhibition currently on view at Tibor de Nagy Gallery, Painters and Poets. This exhibition celebrates the 60th anniversary of  the gallery, founded in 1950 by two men with diverse backgrounds–Tibor de Nagy, a well-born but impoverished Hungarian-born refugee banker, and John Bernard Myers who had been the managing editor of the avant-garde art and literary quarterly View.

View, March 1945, cover by Marcel Duchamp

Tibor de Nagy Gallery, Inaugural Statement, 1950

The unique characteristics of the gallery were already marked by its prehistory: de Nagy and Myers had just founded a marionette company which failed when parents kept their children away from public spaces during the polio epidemic of the time. Both men were interested in poetry, the artists who quickly merged into the gallery’s stable were intimately connected with poets, and the gallery began publishing small illustrated chap books and other incunabulae, many of these on view in the current exhibition.

One such work is Joe Brainard and Ron Padgett’s series of small collages collected as the work S, included in the exhibition. In his marvelous book Joe: A Memoir of Joe Brainard, Padgett describes their daily life during the time they produced this work, in a small apartment on East 88th street where Padgett and Brainard, childhood friends from Tulsa who had come to New York around 1960 lived with Padgett’s wife Pat. At the time Padgett was in college at Columbia and Brainard was an unemployed artist.

Joe slept on our living-room couch. Neither he nor I cooked, and Pat was sketchy in the kitchen herself. Breakfast was coffee and, on good days, a Pop-Tart….While I was in class and Pat at work, Joe roamed the city, especially the art galleries, museums, and junk shops, usually alone, sometimes with Ted [Berrigan], and on weekends with Pat and me. There wasn’t enough room in our apartment for him to set up a work space…. It was on Eighty-Eighth Street that Joe and I did a series of small works that we called S. The name came from a flat, metallic gold s that one of us glued onto the lid of a small pasteboard box, the kind that greeting cards come in, and into which we placed the finished works. These were on pieces of cardstock, typing paper, and tracing paper–drawings, words, and collaged material, much of it rather cryptic and hysterical, some of it erotic, some of it with images from Dick Tracy, L’il Abner, and Nancy comic strips. Our working method was highly collaborative; that is, Joe provided some of the words and I provided some of the images. Using the limited media and materials at hand, we worked spontaneously at a table in the living room, passing the pieces back and forth, drinking coffee, and smoking. Joe and I were twenty-one and goofy. Pat was a few years older and far more pragmatic, but she joined in on a few pieces. Over four or five such sessions, we ended up with around seventy works, some good, some puerile, some good and puerile. (Padgett, 61)

Joe Brainard and Ron Padgett, cover of S, 1963 gallery installation snap shot, Tibor de Nagy

Joe Brainard and Ron Padgett, S, detail, 1963, collage

This may describe an archetypal young artist’s narrative, but it also outlines a situation rather different from the present: Padgett and Brainard moved into a New York artworld where the circles were smaller, more interconnected and accessible, they could survive safely on less money, relative to current economic conditions, and Brainard could become a respected even beloved artist with only the self-education of the city streets and of looking on his own at lots of art, with no institutional framework or timetable except deeply felt personal necessity.

“Painters and Poets” celebrates and tracks a number of crucial friendships from these interconnected circles of artists and poets, some of which were also love affairs, sometimes sexual sometimes not: Frank O’Hara and Larry Rivers, Frank O’Hara and Grace Hartigan, Joe Brainard and Ron Padgett, Joe Brainard and John Ashbery, John Ashbery and James Schuyler, James Schuyler and painter and writer Fairfield Porter, Rudy Burckhardt and Edwin Denby, Rudy Burckhardt and Red Grooms and Mimi Gross, with central figures also including painters such as Jane Freilicher, Rackstraw Downes, Neil Welliver, Yvonne Jacquette, and Alex Katz.

Each of these artists were ambitious and dedicated artists in their own right and could legitimately claim to be at the center of some aspect of the group, and yet the interplay and the productive collaborations were an important part of their creative life. The current exhibition covers this fertile dynamic, with the orbit of Frank O’Hara shifting to the orbit of Joe Brainard, to the orbit of Rudy Burckhardt.These interlinked circles of friendships have been the focus of a number of exhibitions in the past decade or so, all interesting and inspiring: “In Memory of My Feelings: Frank O’Hara and American Art,” initiated at LA MOCA in 1999; “Art and Friendship: Selections from the Roland F. Pease Collection,” (Tibor de Nagy, Summer 1997); “Rudy Burckhardt” (also at Tibor de Nagy, June 2000), “Rudy Burckhardt and Friends: New York Artists of the 1950s and 60s,” (New York University Grey Art Gallery, May 9-July 15, 2000); “Semina Culture: Wallace Berman & His Circle” (Grey Art Gallery, January 16-March 31, 2007), and “New York Cool: Painting and Sculpture from the NYU Art Collection” (Grey Art Gallery, April 22- July 19, 2008); and also in 2008, “Picturing New York: The Art of Yvonne Jacquette and Rudy Burckhardt” at the Museum of the City of New York.

Fairfield Porter, Jimmy and John, oil on canvas, 36 1/4" x 45 1/2", 1957-58

Larry Rivers, Frank O'Hara, c. 1955, detail, plaster, 15 1/2"x7 1/4"

Many of the artists represented in the show and many long represented by the gallery, including Fairfield Porter, Freilicher, Burckhardt and others, worked in a vein of representational painting that was intimate, almost awkward, diffident, yet done with knowledge and experience of the just waning movement of Abstract Expressionism. Their works are among those that led me to suggest a category of “Modest Painting,” where ambition for painting is not dependent on huge size or even oppressive ideological rhetoric. As noted by painter Rackstraw Downes, Tibor de Nagy was one of a group of galleries which offered an alternative to the rapidly consolidated official art world of the late 50s and 60s:

To see this, the official art of the 1960s, you tramped Madison Avenue beginning at Emmerich and ending with Castelli. But there was another route which some people took, it included Frumkin, de Nagy, Zabriskie, Schoelkopf, Peridot, Graham among others. In these galleries one saw an art which looked awkwardly inexplicable; like so much of the liveliest art of any time it eluded critical dialectic. By the official art world it was virtually dismissed. And so I would call it the “unofficial” art of the 1960s. This was the world which interested me. It was the only art of quality that did not seem stage-managed; it had no party platform, no campaign. It did not bully you into believing that it was “right,” a condition impossible to art and which, when claimed by a school or a critic, automatically makes the art seem slightly suspect. …In 1964 John Bernard Myers, in an article called “Junkdump Fair Surveyed,” called this art “private.” [Downes, “What the  Sixties Meant to Me,” (1973) 17]

Rudy Burckhardt, Money (1967), screen shot, Edwin Denby and Money Tree

Many of the individual and collaborative works reflect a casual, relaxed approach to creative life underscored by ambition for art and an understated perfectionism. They were serious yet playful and playfulness was not the unique property of youth but a cross-generational process, engaged in by artists who were 19-year old newcomers to New York and people in their 50s and 60s, sophisticated veterans of the New York artworld like Burckhardt and Denby. My favorite piece in the show at Tibor is Burckhardt’s Money, (1967), his first feature film of his 100 or so films, with script by Joe Brainard, about a money mad billionaire played by Edwin Denby, a film which combines a goofy, spontaneous home movie feeling (with actors including Grooms, Gross, Jacquette, Welliver, Downes, as well as these artists’ children, Jacob Burckhardt, Titus Welliver, and Tom Burckhardt–now all adult artists engaged in film, acting, and painting) with thrillingly beautiful scenes with the cinematic quality of Jean Renoir, the neorealism of Roberto Rossellini, sly riffs on the contemporaneous Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and Jean Luc Godard’s Week End (1967) — there are also cinematic parallels to the spirit and the style of scenes going back to the anarchic speed of early Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton or Hal Roach silent shorts and to films from the 1960s such as the one in Agnes Varda‘s Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962) in which a short comic slapstick silent film staring Godard and Anna Karina reenacting how they met (cute) interrupts Varda’s poetic reflection on mortality. There are so many scenes that stay in my mind from Money, not just the ones where I get a kick out of seeing people I knew when we were all young and younger, but just for their cinematic beauty: a boy running down a country road in Maine to recover a single penny he dropped, Denby planting a money tree, and floating up to the sky in a kind of dream of a death where you can perhaps take it with you. [Money has recently been preserved and digitally restored by the Anthology Film Archives in New York and will be screened February 25 and 26]. Of Money, Denby wrote: “The characters are all pretty bad, money is the root of evil, and they ought not to enjoy themselves, but they do anyway.” You will too.

Rudy Burckhardt, Money (1967), Jacob and Rudy, screen shot

[I should add that I am in some small way a member of the artworld family I’ve just described: my parents Ilya and Resia Schor were friends with Chaim Gross. I met Chaim’s daughter Mimi in my childhood and became friendly with her and her then husband Red Grooms when I was about 12.  As soon as I began to navigate the city on my own on the subway I made my way to their studio on Grand and Mulberry Street. One amazing evening in 1968 I met for the first time Rudy Burckhardt, Yvonne Jacquette, their small son Tom, Jacob Burckhardt, Rudy’s son from his previous marriage to painter Edith Schloss, and Edwin Denby — the first sight of these 5 very delicate, kind, and interesting looking people is one of those crisp snapshots that immediately are engraved in your mind as deeply significant–also that night I met the Kuchar brothers, George and Mike, and we watched their movies. A few months later I worked for Red and Rudy on a stop-motion animated film Tappy Toes (1969): incredible to me that I was paid generously (can’t remember what but it seemed very generous to me) basically to hang out with them and get to see how they worked, what they looked at, while doing a menial task of moving small paper cutout figures a fraction of a millimeter at a time frame by frame for Rudy to photograph. And many years later I still live within the ripples of this particular art world, it is not historicist, for many of its participants are still alive, and its influence continues in the work of new generations–my collaboration with Susan Bee on our journal M/E/A/N/I/N/G also connects me to her collaborations with poet Charles Bernstein, who in turn has collaborated with Mimi Gross, and so on. The connections are many and they are important because the values of this world, in important part because of the connection to poetry (less money in this branch of the creative world), are always a vital corrective to the international Art Industry of museums, art fairs, which is as it appears, a capital-oriented and generally impregnable fortress. Within it creative friendships still exist of course, though time, play, and friendship are monitored and monetized in such a way that it can constantly erase the parallel universe of the artworld that Painters and Poets celebrates. ]

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