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Dominique Nahas


Recently we had the pleasure of listening to a lecture from the director of the NYSRP Dominique. I have to say that his talk was nothing short of inspiring. From language games, to empathy, avoiding cynicism, and finding a practice that truly allows one to make constantly, I can hardly begin to touch upon everything that was said. It was as if he had condensed everything I’ve learned, found out, and happened upon in the past four years here at Ringling, and abroad, into an articulate 45 minute epilogue for the whole experience. The point I’m trying to make is that I feel that it was well timed and could not have been more comforting to hear. He is, without a doubt, one of the most compassionate people I’ve met thus far and not without an amazing eye and ability to understand the artist’s role. My studio visit with him was just as productive and at an opportune moment because I’m in the beginning stages of a new body of work with new processes in addition to the old, and he gave me quite a bit of insight to hold on to while these paintings (etc) are carried out. 

Well here we are again. Ignorance is Bliss was a strange twist to the general theme of the readings. I feel like a healthy practice should constantly question its competence, and better yet, sending this reading out to a bunch of Fine Art thesis students is hilarious in itself since, as cultural producers, we are probably the least competent yet most confident in our competence of any group of individuals. 
The birth of the contemporary art fair was entertaining and informative, but I found myself reading a bunch of names I’m only faintly familiar with and it seemed to lack the kind of gusto I would want in such a long list of names and places. I think it was important for us to read this since contemporary art fairs are responsible for such a substantial chunk of sales yet we hardly consider them when we imagine our future livelihood as exhibiting artists. Oddly enough, these fairs will probably be most of our first entries into the world of sales, dealers and collectors - be it some call for submissions or a contest, friends with a booth, etc. 
Dave Hickey creates a very nice parallel between lowrider culture, the automotive industry, and the art market in The Birth of the Big, Beautiful Art Market - but what else, really? I appreciate how clever he must be to draw the parallel but he makes no attempt to draw any conclusions from the analogy (with the exception of a faint, nostalgic whisper in the last sentence). It is, however, a very useful tool in examining how the post-war, American market emerged, shifted, and exploded, creating one of the most efficient monetary-mechanisms in history. One could note that in this light, art could be viewed as the ultimate form of capitalism in the sense that the 40 or 50 dollars spent in creating a painting is generally returned in the form of 40 or 50 thousand dollars after your gallery takes it’s cut, creating a profit margin to the tune of say one thousand percent. However despite the efficiency of the market itself, art making circumvents capital completely in the Marx-sense of the word because labor is rarely exploited in order for an artist to create a profit (galleries on the other hand hardly fall into the ‘utopian’ bracket). The best part of my response to this particular article is the fact that, immediately prior to writing this particular sentence, Kyle called me over to his computer to show me a video of Jim Carey at an auction house, baffled because he couldn’t afford to bid on the Picasso that he wanted, which sold for 110 million dollars. (I have little left to say)
Who needs a white cube these days? I do. I appreciate this article’s function as a working document of all the gallery alternatives the author could think of off hand, but as a painter, I find myself having a tough time caring. I understand my position as a fairly conservative art maker/patron/viewer/enthusiast/collector/critic, so I tend to add the alternative gallery space to the laundry list of ready-made and installation art love-children that have emerged since the 80’s. You see, everyone’s practice and belief structure within the art world stems from their own definition of art, and hardly anything else. This makes things like writing artist statements and buying art very difficult for those who are involved passionately in the arts, because one sees themselves making art the only way their perception of what art really is allows them to. I don’t care how democratic you’ve made yourself appear to be, you fall into this category. So lets see what my immediate, intuitive definition of art is at this very second (which makes this process even more fun, because even our own definition of art is slippery until we wake up one day and realize we’ve been making the same work for twenty-five years so there’s no sense in changing now). Art, in my opinion, is the crystallization of cultural intensities and flows into a theoretically infinite and formless material. So yeah, I guess ready-mades are a square peg that fit into a round hole, but they fit nonetheless, as do alternative galleries, relational aesthetics, and new media. However, I’d like to point out one essential point: I’ve never gone fucking bonkers when I found out a painting was in, say, acrylic instead of oil. Sure art should be aware of its medium and even have a dialogue with it but lets face the facts - bad art is bad art. This negation has been canonized over the last forty years (mainly and especially in institutions) and I think its time to quit tracing our own footsteps for golden turds.

Well here we are again. Ignorance is Bliss was a strange twist to the general theme of the readings. I feel like a healthy practice should constantly question its competence, and better yet, sending this reading out to a bunch of Fine Art thesis students is hilarious in itself since, as cultural producers, we are probably the least competent yet most confident in our competence of any group of individuals. 

The birth of the contemporary art fair was entertaining and informative, but I found myself reading a bunch of names I’m only faintly familiar with and it seemed to lack the kind of gusto I would want in such a long list of names and places. I think it was important for us to read this since contemporary art fairs are responsible for such a substantial chunk of sales yet we hardly consider them when we imagine our future livelihood as exhibiting artists. Oddly enough, these fairs will probably be most of our first entries into the world of sales, dealers and collectors - be it some call for submissions or a contest, friends with a booth, etc. 

Dave Hickey creates a very nice parallel between lowrider culture, the automotive industry, and the art market in The Birth of the Big, Beautiful Art Market - but what else, really? I appreciate how clever he must be to draw the parallel but he makes no attempt to draw any conclusions from the analogy (with the exception of a faint, nostalgic whisper in the last sentence). It is, however, a very useful tool in examining how the post-war, American market emerged, shifted, and exploded, creating one of the most efficient monetary-mechanisms in history. One could note that in this light, art could be viewed as the ultimate form of capitalism in the sense that the 40 or 50 dollars spent in creating a painting is generally returned in the form of 40 or 50 thousand dollars after your gallery takes it’s cut, creating a profit margin to the tune of say one thousand percent. However despite the efficiency of the market itself, art making circumvents capital completely in the Marx-sense of the word because labor is rarely exploited in order for an artist to create a profit (galleries on the other hand hardly fall into the ‘utopian’ bracket). The best part of my response to this particular article is the fact that, immediately prior to writing this particular sentence, Kyle called me over to his computer to show me a video of Jim Carey at an auction house, baffled because he couldn’t afford to bid on the Picasso that he wanted, which sold for 110 million dollars. (I have little left to say)

Who needs a white cube these days? I do. I appreciate this article’s function as a working document of all the gallery alternatives the author could think of off hand, but as a painter, I find myself having a tough time caring. I understand my position as a fairly conservative art maker/patron/viewer/enthusiast/collector/critic, so I tend to add the alternative gallery space to the laundry list of ready-made and installation art love-children that have emerged since the 80’s. You see, everyone’s practice and belief structure within the art world stems from their own definition of art, and hardly anything else. This makes things like writing artist statements and buying art very difficult for those who are involved passionately in the arts, because one sees themselves making art the only way their perception of what art really is allows them to. I don’t care how democratic you’ve made yourself appear to be, you fall into this category. So lets see what my immediate, intuitive definition of art is at this very second (which makes this process even more fun, because even our own definition of art is slippery until we wake up one day and realize we’ve been making the same work for twenty-five years so there’s no sense in changing now). Art, in my opinion, is the crystallization of cultural intensities and flows into a theoretically infinite and formless material. So yeah, I guess ready-mades are a square peg that fit into a round hole, but they fit nonetheless, as do alternative galleries, relational aesthetics, and new media. However, I’d like to point out one essential point: I’ve never gone fucking bonkers when I found out a painting was in, say, acrylic instead of oil. Sure art should be aware of its medium and even have a dialogue with it but lets face the facts - bad art is bad art. This negation has been canonized over the last forty years (mainly and especially in institutions) and I think its time to quit tracing our own footsteps for golden turds.

2nd Studio Visit (Uncle Ted)

For this visit, I brought in my friend Jeffrey Rose, a photographer. We had begun the conversation the day before and continued talking until after the class, so we covered quite a bit of ground. Since he is an educated and practicing artist, I felt that it somewhat defeated the purpose of the exercise yet, nonetheless, we engaged in a dialogue that attempted to bring us outside of context usual context of critique. Due to our differences in media, we began discussing the common denominators of painting and photography, and the larger realm of image making in general. We discussed the relationship of my work to the lens, as well as differences between optical and synthetic abstraction. This conversation lead to a larger question as to the role of the artist, and what validates my work within that role, as well as my general set of rules when it comes to making a piece and what I really believe in (my) art as a function. 

1st Studio Visit (Groups)

During this studio visit, our group discussed a variety of different things. We began with a general outlook of what my work needed to be this semester, and what would and would not be incorporated in my practice. Also, we discussed the work from my last show and what its relationship would be to the new work/how it would be a continuation and a departure. We spoke briefly on what I liked and didn’t like in the painting I was working on at the time, which I eventually scrapped upon realizing the series I would eventually begin. Some key points were spatial manipulation, visual puns, explosiveness, merging multiple layers of very different types of information, etc. 

Readings Group 3 Response

I did not proofread this.

I am pleased that two of these three texts were selected for this response, namely Challenging the Literal and Relational Aesthetics. I found Transaesthetics informative at best, but not really conducive to the dialogue between the other two readings. A lot of things have been published on the account of relational aesthetics, and despite the movement itself - if one could refer to it as such – being in its early twenties and rooted in an even older tradition, I have seen it emerging in institutions and defended as a valuable new entity multiple times. From an internet platform I saw in an NYU grad’s studio to Rikrit Tiravanija stealing Gavin Brown’s car the question stands, as in all art practices: Why the hell do I care? No matter how ‘educated’ I may be in terms of contemporary practices, historical context, or political implications, I still find myself in the presence of relational art saying ‘where’s the beef’? The problem here seems so obvious to me that I have a hard time understanding what has validated so many practices for so long. This is not to say that a great work of art cannot be made within the scope of relational art but it really just hasn’t. I mean I feel like I’m the crazy one here. The relational work of art is not a political implication and is not emancipatory in effect. I find myself wondering whether or not this has to do with the generation of artists responsible for the propagation of the movement were the first to grow up with video games or something. The problem itself is that when art becomes too close to life, it becomes indistinguishable from it. When I attend one of these relational affairs, or any event that borrows from its logic, I feel an uneasy obligation similar to having to hug an aunt or write a thank you letter; I find myself having to remind myself that this is art.The ideology may require that you not be let it and instead emerge from within but frankly I just have to agree with Bishop’s implication that these practices simply haven’t done much of anything. “In such a cozy situation, art does not feel the need to defend itself, and it collapses into compensatory (and self-congratulatory) entertainment.” I think that really is the case, and it is only strangely augmented by the fact that its so easy to write about. The ideas that have emerged between curators, critics and specifically Nicolas Bourriaud, have been wonderful dialogues that really get at the core of emancipatory ideas but when it comes down to the event itself I have to bring back the character of video game brats, because it seems to me like every time an artist knowingly tries to step outside of art and drag it over to him/herself, that this radicality is merely a huge, ignorant shortcut to emancipation; an extremely addictive placebo. The audience that these projects have in mind does not exist and I find this work, ironically given its materials, extremely selfish. Challenging the Literal was kind of a dues ex machina in disguise, because upon reading this afterward, I found myself realizing that emancipation is still possible, and that art is a language. Operating within this language isn’t dead, and in fact I believe it is that much more powerful. Instead of the fascism of relational art screaming, ‘This is art, even though you clearly don’t understand why this is art’. The emancipatory vistas that the artist has, for centuries, carved from a network of tropes and diligently assembled for the viewer to exist in for as long as they’d like only to climb back out, their mental landscape changed if only an imperceptible amount, have been trumped by a moment of reactionary logic tailored only to the failed ideological utopia of a very few, white, curators and theorists. 

Readings Group 2 Response

‘Work of art…’ is one of those essays that we’re asked to read and write responses to so many times that it becomes hard to find new material. So, at the risk of stating a genuine thought process in place of a series of calculated reactions, I’d like to share the thoughts that distract me while reading both of these passages.

            My common concern throughout is the role of painting, and where my role exists within the history, economy, and politics of images and reproduction, artmaking, etc. Beginning with the role of painting in its origin and tracing its trajectory throughout history, one will find dramatic shifts around the advents of photography and film and more recently digital photography/manipulation, vector graphics, 3-d animation, etc. What I’m concerned with is what paintings cannot be anymore; paintings in the ream of contemporary art can no longer be a product of mimesis – for that belongs to photography. It can no longer be sequential, for film’s sake; it cannot be perfectly slick or hard edged, because of printing processes and graphics generators; it cannot be surreal because of digital photography and manipulation, ad infinitum.

This seems completely absurd, since one can paint whatever one wants and no one will ever be prevented from doing so, and one can even make a career of making paintings that ignore this logic, however what Contemporary art requires of paintings is that phenomenological aspect that can be loosely related to what Benjamin describes as aura (as well as a variety of themes that dance around this subject within both of the passages). I think that consumers, critics, and makers of contemporary paintings are looking for, and the same can be said throughout the entire history of painting, a kind of new experience with every painting or body of work. At the very least the kind of experience that, respective of a temporal context, only a painting can achieve.  The avenues and possibilities for such an experience from paintings specifically, unfortunately, appears to be diminishing in a parabolic fashion.

I wouldn’t want to give the impression that I hold a pessimistic outlook for the future of painting, however I think that a fundamental understanding of the specificity it demands requires of us to focus our aims at risk of reinventing the wheel. I would like to think that in an era characterized by shifting experience and multiplicity that we would still be able to create new avenues through which painting itself can thrive. 

Readings Group 1 Response

These selections work nicely together, besides the simple act of transposing ‘author’ to artist to suit our purpose throughout. I find myself supporting the positions of Barthes and then on to Sontag, as this has been an issue I’ve dealt with recently in my own practice. I’ve come to the conclusion that the act of interpretation renders the work of art illustrative of an idea or ‘concept’ (thanks art school), thus belonging to the realm of science or worse trivial information or ephemera. If I were expecting to change the world with narratives, ideas, or inventions I would not have been an artist. The distinction that Barthes’s essay forms furthers my position, in the sense that while the author or artist remains anonymous or at least out of frame during the consumption of his/her work, and a typical viewer or reader makes an inference such as “this reminds me of my grandmother” or “this is an attempt to depict unconditional love”, it is perfectly natural and encouraged. However, when another viewer walks up and explains some biographic anecdote, which demystifies the entire experience of the piece, something sacred is lost from both of their experiences. I identify with Sontag’s implication that art is a much more phenomenological practice (and group of objects), where our relationship to form is the route which makes work timeless, not its content (Picasso/Cezanne/Matisse). In my work, anyhow, I’m concerned with the content of the form and the form of content, if that makes any sense.

            Something I’ve been thinking a lot about, which shapes my departure from these articles, is actually the importance of the author as a tool, not as a person. To assume that X happens therefore I paint it or write about it is barbaric, however the personal aspect is perhaps the most phenomenological or experiential when utilized correctly. The most useful tool an artist, author, poet, musician, or anyone whose role is involved in the production of fiction(s) has is their own manner of description. Authors will sit around and write to describe regular noises they hear or scenes they can see, painters will sketch, musicians will listen to birds, etc. These means of developing a manner of description, I think, is the defining characteristic of modern fiction. As Barthes stated, “the writer can only imitate a gesture that is always anterior, never original. His only power is to mix writings, to counter the ones with the others, in such a way as never to rest on any one of them.” I will never be the greatest painter of accuracy, nor would I want to be, I will never be remembered for some grand concept that changes the way concepts are made; the greatest area for potential I have as a visual artist is to see things and describe them with increasing ease in complexity in a way that is, hopefully one-day, truly groundbreaking and the result of exhausting a potential that was only mine. 

Day 1 in the new studio.

Day 1 in the new studio.

Selection from an impulsive stop at “South of the Border” in South Carolina 

May 17th, 2011 

 
“Exploration of the Gaze (House is not a Home): Amy Dorian” 2011; 
Oil on Canvas ;
60” x 54”. 

“Exploration of the Gaze (House is not a Home): Amy Dorian” 2011; 

Oil on Canvas ;

60” x 54”. 

 
“Exploration of the Gaze (House is not a Home): Tara Stone” 2011; 
Oil on Canvas ;
75” x 75”. 

Exploration of the Gaze (House is not a Home): Tara Stone” 2011; 

Oil on Canvas ;

75” x 75”. 

“Exploration of the Gaze (House is not a Home): William Ball IV” 2011; 
Oil on Canvas ;
75” x 58”. 

Exploration of the Gaze (House is not a Home): William Ball IV” 2011; 

Oil on Canvas ;

75” x 58”. 

“Exploration of the Gaze (House is not a Home): Portrait of the Artist’s Parents” 2011; 
Oil on Canvas ;
115” x 81”. 

Exploration of the Gaze (House is not a Home): Portrait of the Artist’s Parents” 2011; 

Oil on Canvas ;

115” x 81”.