Sunday, March 13, 2011

Artists for presentation

For Graduate Seminar in Metal, we've been asked to prepare a twenty minute presentation that focuses on three artists whose work we admire. I've chosen Monika Sosnowska, Susan Collis, and Los Carpinteros. Below are some of the images I plan on using.

Value systems
the creation of artwork is an assertion of value
In the case of Susan Collis' work, perhaps she is using a shared value system to validate a personal value system.


Quote: "Artists orient themselves not to objects but to their predecessors. And if we can still conceive of an artistic programme of 'imitatio' or 'realism', it will have to be pursued very differently, and more successfully, than it was in the past. But the programme of does not represent an autonomous autopoietic system either, but is merely a misunderstanding of the latter. For simply attempts to turn the system itself into a programme within the system and thereby fails to grasp the elementary fact that autonomy, far from undermining all relations to the external environment, precisely presupposes and governs them. The autopoiesis of art is actually destroyed if dependency is effectively interpreted as the negation of dependency." (Art in theory, 1080).
-to cut off art's access to the world is to ensure its eventual demise; art is part of the world
-doesn't that mean that everything is art? because if autopoiesis is self-sustaining creation, then it could exsis

For a discussion of value in the art world, there is no better place to begin than the post office.

As artists, we negotiate the question of value every day in our studios. We encounter this again in the dispersion of our work. Apart from gallery and market considerations, even shipping artwork is problematic. For many shipping companies, in order to send artwork, it must be insured, and in order to insure it, the value of the piece must be declared. The question how much is it? versus how much is it worth? becomes a problematic difference.

So how do we assess value in a work of art? Value in art is tricky to define, because it relies on reified value and conceptual value, both of which are important considerations in a work of art. I would answer that value in a work of art is constantly changing, and is a negotiation between the reified value and conceptual value of a work. The mediation between these two hinges on a common theme: rareity

rareitey, that which cannot be replaced, that on which we are willing to spend our time, our lives

But then again, maybe value can be assessed in a point of view, a reorientation towards the world, a change in perspective, that, as adults, we experience very rarely.

Some threads of connection between the work:

-value is explored through their choice of materials

-value is placed on: the everyday, the discarded, the intimate object, the architectural fragment, using conventions we are familiar with to encourage us to see the world anew

-All concerned with interior space, objects that are commonly seen in domestic space while not overly nostalgic

-The artists all approach their subjects with the detached fascination one would expect to see from an anthropologist interpreting an ancient culture

-all exhibit a flare towards the fantastic (especially in the work of Sosnowska and Los Carpinteros (compare to Damien Ortega)


Susan Collis

"Visitors stop being viewers and become associates, intimately linked to the artist by a shared secret." (, 1)

Collis' work is marked by its obsessive attention to detail; the amount of time and effort devoted to the creation of these banal objects becomes devotional- it is proof of a belief system. Belief in what? Her relationship to material is a defining quality in her work. She recreates construction scenes with precious materials, using the finest hardwoods in the place of pine, silk embroidery thread in the place of house paint splotches, and white gold in the place of stainless steel screws. Collis' courage to submit to the possibility of being misunderstood is admirable. Despite the deft use of materials, her work is not flashy, nor is it particularly eye catching-- her work demands stillness, time, and contemplation. Only the dedicated viewer who leans in for a closer look or one who reads the list of materials from the wall tags will benefit from Collis' work. She runs the risk of being seen as another unmonumental sculptor, working with the discards of a consumer society.

Collis is a maker not only of individual pieces, but of situations. The gallery is a perfect location for these closely composed still lives; they are a naturally occuring part of building repair that is carefully kept behind closed doors; they expose the fragility and transience of the gallery. Collis valorizes these brief, individual moments of banality, and by proxy, she invites us to contemplate the quiet, quotidian still lives that surround us. Her work exists in a state of post-function, as if we are happening upon a scene where someone has just finished working.

While her work is enticing, her use of materials is not innovative or even surprising, once we are accustomed to her formula. A screw made of white gold and set with a diamond works within a well established value system; Collis uses our expectations of screws and contrasts them with our expectations of gold. This is not at all a novel strategy; jeweler and artist Caroline Gore, as well as Lisa Gralnick both use this strategy in their work. While adding gold and diamonds to a piece obviously increases its market value, the more elusive question that comes to mind when viewing this work is whether or not it increases its artistic value. Is there a correlation between artistic and market value?

In the case of Susan Collis' work, perhaps she is using a shared value system to validate a personal value system.

The concentration Collis' approach to materiality is in many ways antithetical to Tara Donovan, who monumentalizes everyday materials through repetition, creating a sense of wonder through disassociation from their context of use. Donovan's creations have an epic sensibility to them; although the are made from glue and buttons in the case of "Bluffs," or of a sea of disposable plastic cups as in "Untitled (Plastic cups)," our attention is drawn to qualities of these banal objects of which we were formerly unaware. The clear plastic cups, once cheap, and utilitarian, becomes luminous, ethereal,.and otherworldly.

Chief curator of the ICA Boston, Nicholas Baume says of Donovan,"Tara's work isn't ironic. It actually takes up the discourse of Minimalism. It's about creating a system, using a structure, and repeating incremental units that can go from the finite to the seemingly infinite." (Kino 2). Perhaps it is the sense of the infinite, the loss of connection to everyday things that Susan Collis' work so conspicuously lacks.

Susan Collis, Untitled
2010, Dustsheet, embroidery thread, Variable dimensions, Unique
© Cedrick Eymenier, Courtesy Seventeen Gallery
London & galerie frank elbaz, Paris

Susan Collis, Decent International
2010, Pencil on fabriano paper construction, 40 x 50 x 50 cm, Unique
© Cedrick Eymenier, Courtesy Seventeen Gallery, London & galerie frank elbaz, Paris

Susan Collis, Continue Whispering
2010, Walnut (wood), lapis, Cigar box cedar, macassar ebony, Iroko, white holly, oxidized silver (hallmarked), sterling silver, mother of pearl, pearl, white gold, aluminium, gold leaf...
Variable dimensions, in six parts, Unique
© Cedrick Eymenier, Courtesy Seventeen Gallery, London & galerie frank elbaz, Paris

Monika Sosnowska

Dream like quality to her work, engenders a suspension of disbelief (similar to los carpinteros) Also similar to Los Carpinteros is her material choices; she chooses materials that closely emulate her source material-- she does not rely on material transformation as subject matter.

What I'm most drawn to in Sosnowska's work is the gestural quality of the iron structures. This gestural quality runs contrary to the intended function of the architectural fragments. The curves and crumples she creates speaks to a material that is either under pressure from an exterior force such as gravity or is obeying its own mysterious logic-- in either case, the material looks as though it i

Monika Sosnowska
The Entrance
steel, MDF, paint, light

Monika Sosnowska
The Staircase
Installation view: K21 Dusseldorf

Monika Sosnowska
The Staircase
Installation view: K21 Dusseldorf

Monika Sosnowska
The Stairway
Herzliya Museum for Contemporary Art

Monika Sosnowska
Maquette for The Hole

Los Carpinteros

Los Caprinteros is a decades long collaboration between two Cuban artists Marco Antonio Castillo Valdés and Dagoberto Rodríguez Sánchez

Feels familiar and unfamiliar at the same time

The forms are familiar; a bed, a rack of men's suits, a pool, but each piece seems to freeze an object in a state of transformation, cutting open the proverbial chrysalis to reveal a liminal subject. When is a bed not a bed? What basic features must an object have in order to be considered a roller coaster?

They create a dream world where the tightness of their craftsmanship allows for the suspension of disbelief.

Work many times is overcome by its own cleverness, reduced to a pithy one liner that prevents the any deeper contemplation.

Like Collis' work, Los Carpinteros relies on our understanding of the signifiers placed in each piece; without this understanding, the meaning is lost. Collis relies on our collective cultural agreement that diamonds, gold, and ebony are signifiers of wealth. In La Montana Rusa, Los Carpinteros relies on our understanding of a roller coaster as a signifier of childhood and innocent fun.

Los Carpinteros
La Montana Rusa

Los Carpinteros
Piscina Casa

Los Carpinteros

So perhaps the most successful work has an ambiguous relationship to value; it keeps us guessing, defies our expectations


Kino, Carol. "The Genius of Little Things." The New York Times 23 Sept. 2008.

Milliard, Coline. "In the Studio: Susan Collis." Art+Auction March, 2010. 52-53. Print.

Niklas Luhmann "The Work of Art and the Self-Reproduction of Art"

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