06 November, 2010

6 Nov - We will miss you, Chuck Ramirez

LAUNCHPROJECTS - This morning Ben and I awoke to tremendously sad news. San Antonio-based Photographer Chuck Ramirez had a biking accident last night sustaining severe head trauma. He was taken off life support this morning and passed away at 47.

Ramirez processed and deconstructed everyday objects in large-scale photography, isolating and re-contextualizing otherwise discarded, dying, and overlooked materials such as filled garbage bags (pictured above), dying flowers, and battered, empty piƱatas. As described by artist Franco Mondini-Ruiz, biennialist and Rome Prize winner, “he had a profound and tender sensitivity for special things that were overlooked in San Antonio by others, like his mother's kitchen,” he said. “He turned Tex-Mex grandmother's kitchen into international exhibits, and he did appreciate the vulnerability of life and the ephemeral nature of it” (quoted from mysanantonionews.com).

Bill FitzGibbons of the Blue Star Contemporary Art Center described Chuck as "one of the most innovative artists that I've ever known. His medium was photography and he brought a creativeness to photography that I've never really seen before, and feel that he was just in the midst of his career. He had great things ahead, and obviously (his life) was cut too short.”

Chuck's work was included in LAUNCHPROJECTS' debut exhibition, VIVID, in May of 2009 and was scheduled for a two-person exhibition this August with close friend and fellow photographer Rodolfo Choperena (the two pictured above, Chuck on the left). His work abstracted the mundane and overlooked in celebration and homage to the fleeting nature of human existence - and to the exquisite fragility of every moment. Chuck will be remembered by the joy and beauty he found in the broken, abandoned, and neglected and the unique lens though which he gave our world a bit more beauty, a bit more compassion.

02 November, 2010

2 November - Lives of the Artists

LAUNCHPROJECTS - I just read Calvin Tomkin's Lives of the Artists. This collection of artists profiles, originally published in the New Yorker over the span of a decade, is basically the the E! True Hollywood Story of some of the most famous (and incidentally rich) artists living and working today. It describes the quirks and fixations of Damien Hirst, Cindy Sherman, Julian Schnabel, Richard Serra, James Turrell, Matthew Barney, Maurizio Cattelan, Jasper Johns, Jeff Koons, and John Currin.

This book was panned in a 2008 Bookforum review by Martha Schwender. After she accurately points out that Cindy Sherman is the sole female profiled amidst a "depressingly narrow, predictable bunch...many are the spiritual heirs of Tenth Street—heroic white males—remade for the market/ media age" she goes on to assert that "it’s hard to imagine that an average working artist will actually feel good after reading Tomkins’s volume. I kept thinking of the psychologist I know who won’t put People magazine in her waiting room for fear of discouraging her clients, since its celebrity-obsessed message is that you’re a loser simply because you’re not famous".

Lives of the Artists is unquestionably the People Magazine of art books and is not a collection of art criticism. What the book does provide, however, is a uniquely intimate and honest look at some of the most iconic stars of today's art world. Yes, it details what they wore, how much they drank, and which stars have been seen at their openings and in their bedrooms. But the artists profiled have each in their own way fundamentally changed the way we view and discuss art. Tomkins provides an intimacy that is exciting, juicy, and occasionally insightful.

In the preface Tomkins remarks that "biography has informed our understanding of art. In my experience, the lives of contemporary artists are so integral to what they make that the two cannot be considered in isolation. If the work is interesting, the life probably is too." When I teach Art History, I incorporate some of the juiciness and scandal of artists' lives (of any era) to help the work come alive to students. Even the most famous works of art were not made in a vacuum, and the drama of every day life informs each and every work of art - whether it be Cindy Sherman or Leonardo da Vinci. This book provides exactly that context - the texture and shape of the lives of some of the most iconic artists of our times.