A Guide to Navigating the Art World

Almost everyone’s initial understanding of art is that it is intimidating. Though I am an Art History major, I still struggle with feeling like I don’t know enough to intelligently talk about art. When discussing art with my peers or colleagues, the conversation is usually initiated with some sort of disclosure: “I really like this piece but I’m not really an art person” or “I just don’t think I know enough to state my opinion.” While knowledge is valuable, this sort of reluctant approach should instead be a confident one. We all talk about our favorite books and movies without hesitancy. We should be able to discuss art in the same way.

Bottom line: regardless of one’s exposure to the art world, anyone is entitled to and perfectly capable of understanding and discovering the joys of art. While there is always something new to learn, art is for everyone to appreciate! In order to navigate a seemingly intimidating space, here are some helpful tips to consider when appreciating or even purchasing art.

Doors I by whitespace artist Amy Pleasant, 26 x 34 inches, ink and lino cut on paper

  1. Do your Research: Everyone has personal taste when it comes to the creative realm, but taste is also something to cultivate. You may not know that you enjoy large abstract images, expressionist photography or geometric drawings until you’ve exposed yourself to a range of artistic movements. It’s important to expose yourself to as much as possible before determining what you do or do not like. Consider visiting museums, art fairs or local galleries to cultivate your taste. Give yourself enough time to understand what you truly enjoy visually, especially if you are considering buying art for your home or office space.
  2. Explore your Options: There are many places to buy art, but consider your local options before looking elsewhere. Every major city is teeming with passionate artists ready to show their work. Look to galleries who work closely with and support artists of all types. Look to passionate art dealers who know their artists’ work inside and out. They will be able to provide support for the artists’ future credibility and knowledge to you as you search for the right pieces to enjoy.
  3. Maintain Perspective: Just because you are interested in “buying art” doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune! Depending on the artist and gallery, you can find works ranging from a couple hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. Whether you are an art collector or someone just looking to buy something to enjoy, affordable pieces are more than within the realm of possibility. Maintain the right perspective in terms of what works for you financially and you’ll find something for the right price.
  4. Discover New Things: Art is not just painting or drawing! The art world encompasses everything from public art, design, photography, sculpture and installation to mixed media and painting. You may discover that you enjoy conceptual art as much as black and white photography. Don’t limit yourself based on just one facet of art! Be open to discovering new creative preferences.
  5. Remember what you Love: Pay attention to how certain pieces make you feel; especially when considering purchasing a piece for your residence or office space. It is also important to know things about the artist such as: their previous work, who is writing about them, what they have accomplished and where they started from. These facts are not only interesting to learn but also smart to note so you can determine the future value of a piece. Regardless of whether a work will increase in monetary value, if you simply love seeing a piece of art hanging above your kitchen table every day then that is enough value as well!

Sources: CNN, The non-millionaire’s guide to buying art by Kate Bryan

Written by: Hilleary Gramling

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Causa Sui

Ann Stewart’s opening for Causa Sui drew a delightful crowd to whitespace gallery this past Friday. The weather was warm and as the temperature cooled, the heat of the day faded into a comfortable summer evening for all who attended. Guests flowed from room to room to gaze upon Stewart’s three-dimensional objects and graphite etchings and the conversation hummed as visitors observed her work. Stewart’s collection is entirely enthralling; the geometric forms of both styles of her work visibly inform one another creating a beautiful cohesiveness to the space.

Her 3D objects are suspended in transparent cubes in each room of the gallery so guests are able to closely examine them from all angles, an interaction that pulls the viewer into the installation, informing a more detailed understanding of the work. This kind of interaction is necessary in order to fully appreciate Stewart’s objects: their intricate facets, incisions, slices, edges and protruding planes are incredibly small and exact. Stewart creates her objects with a 3D printer. A unique process (see detailed explanation here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCThfUhVftw) involving computerized images of the objects before they are printed. This process also mirrors the title of the show, Causa Sui. The term causa sui is Latin for “cause of itself.” Once Stewarts prints an object, it creates itself.

Her objects and drawings all operate employing a centrifugal force, gaining their momentum from central forms. Her objects coil or protrude outward in complex patterns and her drawings employ a similar format, utilizing negative space in tangent with their faux symmetric geometry. The largest piece in the center of the main room of whitespace, entitled “Oscillator” is beautifully drawn and shaded, maze-like in its geometric imagery. All her drawings are black and white and collapse the distance between figure and ground resulting in an illusionistic experience for the viewer. The drawings come to fruition through their nearly 3D appearances. Oscillator inhabits the same room as three of the largest 3D objects entitled “Sight Path,” “Sui Genesis,” and “Big Bang Baby.” One can see the influence of Stewart’s particular style upon these four large pieces.

Stewart’s practice of pattern recognition and pattern generation in the creation of the objects and etchings is an effort to negotiate the relationship between randomness and structure and investigate the visualization of perception. As viewers flanked the objects, leaning in to get a closer look examining the pieces’ precarious and convoluted forms, this negotiation was facilitated in a physical space and a deeper understanding of how the objects operated was fostered.

Along with Stewart’s work, whitespec featured a new artist as well, Geewon Ahn. Her body of work titled Between Absence and Presence drew the crowd’s attention as well. Made from cable ties entirely, Ahn’s work extended beyond the space of whitespec into the courtyard. Three of her sculptures inhabited the space along with the evening’s visitors. Otherworldly in their forms, Ahn’s work complemented Stewart’s objects quite beautifully. In an examination of loss and memory, Ahn navigates the relationship between form and negative space as well, creating pieces that necessitate close inspection and interaction. Her pieces are rounded in nature, some of which made up of components that protrude into the space of the viewer. Balanced by the work of Stewart, Ahn’s pieces created an engaging and invigorating experience for all who attended.

Written by: Hilleary Gramling

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Eyes Open Slowly

This past weekend, Constance Thalken’s artist talk proved to be engaging, thoughtful and thorough as she explained her latest body of work, “Eyes Open Slowly.” The show consists of photographs of taxidermies mounted on archival print and framed; many of them appear to be almost three dimensional in their incredible detail. Thalken explained that she spent two years visiting the taxidermy shop where the images were captured. The shop provides taxidermy pieces for a nearby Longhorn restaurant and is often busy, running on a very disciplined schedule in order to complete the many tasks at hand. Thalken came to start photographing the animals at the location after she had taken a class to visit on a field trip. She said that after this initial excursion she knew she needed to go back. Something about the shop’s environment sparked her interest and creative eye. Thalken came to admire and appreciate the care the shop owners paid to the animals that came into the shop. As a result she formed a very close bond with the shop owners and the relationship that blossomed became key in her creation of the works.

When one listens to Thalken elaborate on a piece, it is easily discerned that respect is of the utmost importance for her as an artist. Her relationship with the shop owners serves to indicate the level of carefulness Thalken exemplifies when entering and visiting another’s space in order to photograph it. She is quite knowledgeable when it comes to taxidermy as well, describing for the audience some of the practices that go into the preservation of the animals.

But beyond the scientific details of the works, Thalken explains that the premise of “Eyes Open Slowly” stems in part from her intrinsic interest in animals in terms of the drives they share with humans, as well as her admiration for nature and its creatures. While she is interested in examining the preservation of the animals’ lives, her exploration of death, as a common destiny between all living things, is also key. Her works reference sacrifice, love and closeness while ultimately and simultaneously citing death. That is what is most interesting about Thalken’s show, there is an intimacy between viewer and photograph, one that forces an examination of beauty and fabrication, respect and admiration and yet, there is also an inherent reference to death: one that is almost inescapable when viewing her works.

Despite the morbidity of this reference to death, there is a kind of reverence to her work, not only in terms of the taxidermy practice, with its delicate treatment and preservation of the animals, but also in terms of Thalken’s photographic practices. Her photographs highlight the gentle manner in which the animals are treated and act as relics of the animals’ sacrifice found in death. The animals in her pieces are posed in noble positions and become subjects of admiration and wonder, in spite of the deaths that had to occur in order for them to exist in the taxidermy shop.

Ultimately, the pieces invite viewers to confront their own ideals about taxidermy and what it means to preserve the nature and life around us. The animals are reconstructed in ways that adhere to human needs. They are made to look soft or regal, and yet the works are embedded with death; an aspect that forces the viewer to also come into contact with ideals about mortality and what it means to be alive. This oscillation between life and death, respect and sacrifice and finally the process of preservation, is what allows Thalken’s pieces to achieve their power. The viewer is placed in a position to appreciate, the animals and their sacrifices and also deeply contemplate, on a spiritual and transformative level, what it means to observe death, loss, life and conservation.

Written by: Hilleary Gramling

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Whitespace Reflections

Today is my last day interning for whitespace and as I sit in the gallery surrounded by Matt Haffner’s work I find great appreciation in the wide range of art I have been introduced to over the past few months.  I first encountered whitespace this past January when Beth Lilly’s photographs were on display.  The opportunity to attend Lilly’s artist talk and speak with her individually broadened my understanding of photography.  The following exhibit, Build a Fire by Pete Schulte, spoke to my interest in architecture and design.  Schulte intended for each work displayed to function as a complement to whitespace’s structure and interior.  PATH by Nicole Livieratos, currently on display in whitespec, has opened up the world of installation art to me.  Livieratos, inspired by dance, has created a space that engages visitors with text and motion.  After spending time with such a variety of exhibits, I feel confident about confronting a form of art I am less familiar with.

Reflecting on the shows and artists I have encountered over the past few months emphasizes the amazing quality and breadth of work that whitespace displays.  It was an incredible experience to survey each show on my own and then have the opportunity to pick each artist’s brain.  I found myself beginning conversations with artists with a lot of very specific questions about the purpose and meaning of every little detail of their work.  Over the course of many conversations I began to understand that while these artists do have specific inspirations and intentions there is not necessarily a right or wrong interpretation of each work.  Whitespace is meant to facilitate discussion about the art on display in order for individuals to come to their own unique conclusions.

Coming to this understanding about whitespace leaves me with an enhanced curiosity for all forms of art.  As I wrap up my internship with whitespace, I am preparing to begin architecture school.  I think my time at whitespace has served as a nice transitional period between my undergraduate liberal arts experience to a more focused, design-intensive graduate program.  My experiences at whitespace give me confidence that I will be able to engage with any form of art or design I encounter in my future endeavors.

 

Thank you whitespace!

–Margaret Gregg

Photo Courtesy of Erin Branch

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The Old Gods and Their Crumbling City

Matt Haffner’s eccentric new show drew a big crowd to the whitespace opening reception of The Old Gods and Their Crumbling City.  The warm night created the perfect atmosphere for families and friends to gather around the grounds outside whitespace and enjoy food and drinks.  Some of Haffner’s black aluminum crows were even able to join the outside crowd since they are exhibited on the exterior patio outside whitespace.  The exterior crows create instantaneous intrigue for anyone who notices their presence.  The gatherings of crows cluster outside one of the large window walls and seamlessly continue to the other side of the glass inside the gallery space.  Each crow is unique: some seem enthralled by a specimen on the ground while others are frozen in the midst of what should be a wild motion.  Ultimately, these sixty-two crows have chosen their gathering space because of its close proximity to “The Banshee and Her Conspiracy”, a large painted plywood installation of a reclining nude that takes over an entire wall in the gallery.  The sight in its entirety is mesmerizing, disorienting but also strangely logical.  The placement of the crows and their relationship with the wall installation make sense and the viewer is pulled into the scene.

Both large glass doors were left open on Friday night so visitors could wander from outdoors into either room of whitespace.  If the clustering crows did not entice you to enter the Carriage Room, then the massive portrait covered with crawling cockroaches was enough to draw you into the Stable Room.  Entitled “Cockroach Shepherd”, this large plywood wall installation depicts a rather serious man with large black paper cockroaches crawling up his shoulders and onto his face.  Some cockroaches have fallen from the installation wall and lay haphazardly along the gallery floor.

Adjacent to “Cockroach Shepard”, visitors will encounter the aluminum silhouettes of three large black dogs.  These figures have a confident stature and seem to survey the gallery space from their installation spot.

Haffner intends for the crows, cockroaches, and dogs to act as three main characters in his exhibition.  These animals embody important characteristics of deities from mythology and oral narratives that drive the inspiration of the show:  crows can be equated to the messengers, guides, and watchmen of the world, cockroaches suggest everlasting life, and dogs are considered guardians.

In addition to presenting these three characters, The Old Gods and Their Crumbling City also aims to incorporate salvaged urban materials in mixed-media works.  Haffner has strategically spray painted the surfaces of scavenged signs, panels, and rusted steel to create various compositions found in an urban environment.  The large wall installations, individualized crows and cockroaches, and engaging compositions displayed have left whitespace buzzing with activity.

 

Written by: Margaret Gregg

Photo Courtesy of: Erin Branch

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The First Fifteen Minutes of the Third Hour


In addition to his installation of new objects, wall drawings and works on paper, most created specifically for whitespace, Pete Schulte has introduced a unique soundtrack to accompany viewers during their visit to whitespace.

The First Fifteen Minutes of the Third Hour is excerpted from a three-hour live sound installation originally performed by Andrew Raffo Dewar (soprano saxophone, electronics) and Brad Davis (electronics) in conjunction with Schulte’s exhibition A Letter Edged In Black, which took place at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2013.  That performance was recorded and subsequently pressed on a 12-inch vinyl record that plays continuously as part of a new sculpture in Schulte’s current exhibition (on view until March 28th).

The dissonant and varied sounds produced in The First Fifteen Minutes of the Third Hour create a surreal experience for visitors as they negotiate the unique gallery area of whitespace. In addition to the noises being produced by the musicians, one hears footsteps and faint chatter from the previous exhibition, which in combination serves to effectively and eerily meld the two experiences together.

A Letter Edged In Black – the record – is a collaboration between Schulte, Dewar, Davis and Jessica Peterson of The Southern Letterpress. Peterson helped to design and expertly print the beautiful envelope that holds the screen-printed vinyl. The project, which more closely occupies the terrain of a limited edition print rather than a typical record, has been a labor of love – two years in the making.  Please contact whitespace for additional information.

Photo Courtesy of: Virginia Jackson

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Opening Reception of “Build A Fire” by Pete Schulte

Below freezing temperatures couldn’t keep the crowd away this past Thursday evening at whitespace gallery for the opening reception of Build A Fire. Pete Schulte’s newly installed exhibition incorporates graphite drawings, large wall drawings, three-dimensional pieces, and a music component.  Schulte created all of these works with the particular gallery spaces of whitespec and whitespace in mind.  Visual and conceptual themes carry from one piece to the next in a subtle and pleasing manner.  Schulte intends for his work to suggest varying meanings and encourages viewers to actively discuss their thoughts and ideas during their visit.

Discussion is exactly what ensued Thursday night.  Both main rooms in whitespace were filled with people experiencing Build A Fire for their first time.  Everyone had the luxury to openly converse with Schulte about his work and inspirations.  If they weren’t picking Schulte’s brain, groups were speculating amongst one another: What is the significance of the instrumental music?  How does “The Clock” tell time?  Are the grooves in “The Clock” related to the grooves on the vinyl record featured in “A Letter Edged In Black”?

A steady flow of people braved the cold to venture over to whitespec, a small project space, to view an additional two pieces featured in Build A Fire.  The pieces in whitespec nicely demonstrate Schulte’s thoughtfulness throughout his creation and installation process.  The first piece, “X”, confronts the viewer as they enter whitespec.  The stark white form of the X wraps around its dark graphite counterpart to create the illusion that the drawing is receding in space.  “X”, located on the wall facing the entrance, draws the visitor into the physical space of whitespec.  Next, one encounters “Lying In State”, a 144 inch-long three-dimensional rectangular aluminum piece.  “Lying In State” rests peacefully in the middle of the brick floor and is surround by bare brick walls that have been painted white.  The expanse of the piece invites the viewer to circumnavigate the entire space and view the object from all angles.

Every other work featured in whitespace was designed and installed with just as much intention and thought as the two pieces in whitespec.  “Broken Line Drawing”, another aluminum piece, is installed in a main room of whitespace.  Many visual similarities can be noticed when comparing “Lying In State” and “Broken Line Drawing”.  It is thought provoking to consider each aluminum object with the other in mind.  Visitors will find themselves revisiting certain works and drawing new connections after they encounter other pieces later on in the exhibit.  The deliberate attention given to the placement of each piece within whitespace creates a unique, introspective experience for every visitor.

Written by: Margaret Gregg

Photo Courtesy of: Erin Branch

Installation photos of the show: here

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