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2.27.2012

Marketing Mondays: Generosities Received

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Consider this a P.S. from last week's Marketing Mondays. In that post I talked about Giving and Taking--how much can you give professionally without feeling ripped off, and how much can you take without ripping off--but this week I'd like to focus on the positive.

What  advice or opportunity have you  received from another  art professional that has  helped you  immeasurably in your  career?   Sometimes   you   don't   realize   until   time  has  passed  just  how  much  that good turn   has  done   for   you;   other   times   you   know   immediately   that   you   have  been given  a  treasure.

I'll tell you my story. I hope to hear yours.

In the early eighties I had been contributing articles to Fiberarts Magazine. I'd developed a good working relationship with the editor, Jane Luddecke, and when she decided to leave the position to focus more deeply on her creative activities, she urged me to apply for the job. She could have recommended a working editor--she knew plenty of them in New York City where she had worked previously--but she recommended me. Though I didn't know anything about editing, I had some writing skills and a ton of ideas, and was (even then) nothing if not organized. Long story short, the publisher and owner, Rob Pulleyn, hired me, and I moved to Asheville, North Carolina, to learn to be an editor. It was on-the-job training. The magazine was a staff of one (moi) with in-house clerical help and a network of freelancers--a huge job of 12-hour days, seven days a week. Pretty much the only other thing I remember doing besides working was my laundry. But it was a gift, that job, because it allowed me to focus on a topic I love, textiles and the artists who make them, and it gave me a skill that would get me to New York. Twelve solid bimonthly issues later I moved to Manhattan--working first at Women's Wear Daily, then for Conde Nast Publications--and I was able to support myself and my art editorially until art was able to take over and do the heavy lifting. 

Luddecke's kindness in suggesting to me, a financially strapped young artist--emphasis on financially strapped and young artist--that I had a skill worth using in a larger way,made a huge difference in my career, one I continue to realize over time. And her gift to me is one of the reasons I have been able to produce Marketing Mondays each week for you.

Tell me about a generosity you have received.

A reminder: Anonymous comments are OK if they add to the conversation. But if you have something negative to say—to me, about the topic, to a commenter—have the courage of your convictions and identify yourself. I’m not providing a forum to cowards.
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If you have found this or other Marketing Mondays posts useful, please consider supporting this blog with a donation. A PayPal Donate button is located on the Sidebar at right. Thank you. (Or click here and scroll down the sidebar.)

2.23.2012

Hold the Color

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Harry Roseman, Enfold at Nancy Margolis Gallery, Chelsea; ended January 14


Continuing with the black-and-white theme from last week’s story on the photographs of  Vivian Maier, I’d like to show you work from several recent and current exhibitions. The unifying element is their achromatic palette.
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We start with an installation at Nancy Margolis Gallery in Chelsea by Harry Roseman. His show, Enfold, touched on themes of particular interest to me right now: the illusion of cloth, or the use textiles to create painting and sculpture. (This is the theme of Textility, my current curatorial effort, and when I saw Roseman’s work, all I could think was, “Damn, I wish I’d known about this work for the show.”) Roseman created a theatrical site-specific wall drawing, which is what you see in the opening photo above and from a different angle below, as well as a plywood sheet carved to suggest draped fabric, and draped fabric printed to look like plywood.
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Another view of Enfold

Next, in Dialogue with Light, we have what look to be large-scale photographs by the Norwegian artist Anne-Karin Furunes at Barry Friedman Ltd., also in Chelsea. They’re not photographs. Nor are they paintings, drawings, prints or tapestries in any conventional sense, though perhaps they touch on each of these disciplines. Furunes perforates black canvas with holes of various sizes. What’s not there creates the images as much as what is. So if anything, they’re like reverse rotogravure or halftone printing, with the white wall becoming part of the image. Their darkness, and the direct gaze of her subjects are compelling in equal measure.

Anne-Karin Furunes, Dialogue with Light, at Barry Friedman Ltd., Chelsea; ended January 14

Detail below


Extreme closeup: This geometry of dots creates a small section where hair meets cheek in the full image below
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 More installation views .
Below: Portraits of Archive Pictures IV/V, 2011, acrylic-painted canvas, perforated; 78 x 63 inches and 78 x 44 inches, respectively


I'm going to continue now without narrative, just showing you a range of work I found interesting:

Matt Duffin, Bright Ideas, 2010, encaustic on panel, 22 x 20 inches; at Arden Gallery, Boston; through February 28

Connie Goldman at OK Harris, SoHo; ended January 21
The small middle gallery provided a meditative space for this is quiet show of reductive paintings, geometrically shaped with planar dimension

Arena XIV, 26 x 26 x two depths
Detail of top right, below.


Margaret Evangeline, Cry Baby,  2011, oil on canvas, 90 x 114 inches, at Kim Foster Gallery, Chelsea; ended February 4. Click here for gallery info about the show

Detail below


Tom Burr, Sentimental Suture, 2011, wool blankets and steel tacks on wood, 71.5 x 71.5 inches; in December, group show organized by Howie Chen for Mitchell-Innes and Nach; ended January 21. Click here for images from the show

Detail below


Nancy Natale, The Black One, 2011; tar paper, book parts, treated aluminum, oilstick, tacks, encaustic on panel; 36 x 36 x 1.75 inches; at the Bing Arts Center, Springfield, Mass., through April 7

Installation view below


Gerald Ferguson, Work, a career survey, at Canada, Lower East Side; ended February 19. Click here for gallery images of the show

Above: Untitled, 1969, enamel on canvas, 57 x 68 inches
Detail below

Peter Liversidge, Where We Begin, at Sean Kelly Gallery, Chelsea; through January 28

Ai Weiwei, Sunflower Seeds, at Mary Boone Gallery, Chelsea; ended February 5

Related to the exhibition at the Tate modern in 2010, Sunflower Seeds was a five-ton field of tiny porcelain sculptures, each hand painted. There was no walking on the seeds here, however; it was strictly view-from-the-perimeter. As with most of Ai's work, this installation was political in nature. Let me quote from the press release:
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"The sunflower, with its destiny to follow the sun, became a common metaphor for The People during China’s Cultural Revolution. At the same time, the seeds of the flower provided sustenance at all levels of society, and the ubiquitous discarded husks provided evidence of an individual’s existence. Ai Weiwei demonstrates that a staggering quantity of individual seeds may produce a deceptively unified field. The work is a commentary on social, political and economic issues pertinent to contemporary China: the role of the individual versus the masses, and China’s long history of labor-intensive production and export."  Click here for additional info about the show.

Detail below

2.20.2012

Marketing Mondays: Giving and Taking

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It’s a poetic truism that as we climb up the career ladder we stand on the shoulders of those who have come before us. So what happens when the metaphorical shoulders belong to people who are still climbing themselves?
Clip art image from clickr.com

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I’ve been hearing a lot lately from art-world folks who feel ripped off by their colleagues or students. Maybe coveting is just the human condition, but I suspect there's something more at work: the desperation so many have for attention, for success, for a little piece of a shrunken art pie. You know, "I'll have what he's having, even if I have to take it out of his mouth." I've been affected by some of the actions I describe but make no mistake, this post is not a rant. The examples I'm sharing come from all corners of the various art worlds. Today I'd like to consider how we give and take.
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Exhibit A
This first one comes from Independent Curator X. He says, "In conversation at an opening I discussed a few ideas with [Y, another independent curator] about a show I was beginning to put together. He [Y] asked some questions, and I answered; I offered some observations and he responded. It was a brief but interesting exchange. The next thing I knew, he'd announced plans for a show suspiciously like the one we'd discussed." Curator X's voice rose as he told the story. “I guess I don’t need to tell you that I’m not sharing much with my colleagues these days."
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Exhibit B
Don't I know it. I helped an artist who was writing a book on the same topic as one I’d published. There should be room on an artist's bookshelf for more than one volume on a topic, so I said, “I’ll help you, if you promise you won’t take your book to the same publisher.” We had a verbal agreement. To be honest, the little voice within me kept emitting a warning beep, but I answered her questions, made referrals for her and more. Some time later I got an email telling me she'd sold the book. Where do you think she took it? 
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Exhibit C
Artists who teach independently, particularly classes focused on technique and process, see this kind of behavior all the time from the adults they teach. I have heard some version of this story over and over again: Someone takes a workshop. Suddenly that student starts offering the same workshop—with the same outline, the same tips, and in one instance recounted to me, even the same conversational patter of the original workshop teacher, who had developed her engaging style, to say nothing of an original syllabus, over decades of teaching. One come-lately instructor started teaching almost literally down the street from her teacher and for a lower fee. You can call this Capitalism. I call it cannibalism. 

"I had a private student who didn't even know what the primary colors were. The next thing I know, she's teaching!" says a longtime artist well versed in color theory and much more. 

Of course teaching is not just techniques. It's concept, information, inspiration, and it's the instructor's history of experience as well as her experience with art history that is brought to bear in each class. Independent teachers are typically working artists who have found an entrepreneurial way to pay the bills by opening their studios and sharing some of what they know. Theirs is a very different situation from career educators who, working within an institution, are protected either by tenure or by institutional policies that don't typically allow the hiring of recent students. (Adjunct instructors are more vulnerable, alas.)
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Exhibit D
Artists who open their studios, whether to students or to friends, leave themselves open to another kind of cannibalism. An artist with a significant exhibition history recounts this story: "Every time I let a particular artist into my studio, I felt like she was casing the joint. She would pick things up and ask a lot of questions about materials and techniques. It felt so odd that after a few visits, if I saw her through the peephole, I didn't answer her knock." Some time later the artist understood what that feeling was: "When I passed by her open door one day, I looked in and saw what appeared to be my work! She'd been ripping off my ideas. Not only that, I learned she'd been sending submission packages to the same galleries I'd shown at." Eww, isn't this the plot line of All About Eve?
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Exhibit E
A community art center, around which a sizeable number of artists gathered, was known for its annual juried show, an event that brought in a lot of entries, made money for the center's projects, and provided great visibility via advertising and outreach to its exhibiting artists. The community became factionalized when a second juried exhibition, with a slightly lower entry fee but none of the cachet, sprang into existence at the exact same time. The ersatz entrepreneurs drafted behind the art center's advertising and visibility. We're not talking David and Goliath, here. These were two Davids, each of which suffered as a result. (The come-lately exhibiton ceased after a couple of years, leaving divided loyalties in its wake.)
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"There is lots of room in the world for artists to be successful," says one artist. Fair enough. But what is that pathological need you have to occupy the very spot where a teacher, mentor or colleague is standing and then whine, “Why can’t you be happy for my success?”

Exhibit F
On the other side of the coin, there are those who know of exhibitions, grants and other opportunities who never share that information, as if by hoarding they will secure one of the coveted prizes. I remember this from art school, when there were fewer opportunities and the (male) teachers clung ferociously to their art-world crumbs. You’d think that kind of mindset would be outdated, but just recently I learned of a colleague who intentionally gave an artist peer the wrong grant deadline, even as the real deadline was fast approaching. I called him on it (as did several others). "Less competition,” he said with a smirk. What an arrogant a-hole.
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The Mini-Me Mentality
It’s my observation that the folks who have the least to offer are the ones who are most vocal in crying, Nothing is original. We should all share. Art is for everyone.Tell me, show me, give me everything you know. You can try to limit the drain by sticking with colleagues at your own professional level, but as Exhibit A suggests, that doesn't always work. Retreating into a tower isn't a viable option, especially given the ubiquity of cyberspace.
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So . . . How can we share without being ripped off? And how can we take without ripping off? This post offers no answers, just examples and questions. I realize the irony here, but I hope you will share your own experiences with regard to giving and taking--and the dangers of doing too much of either.
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A reminder: Anonymous comments are OK if they add to the conversation. But if you have something negative to say—to me, about the topic, to a commenter—have the courage of your convictions and identify yourself. I’m not providing a forum to cowards.
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If you have found this or other Marketing Mondays posts useful, please consider supporting this blog with a donation. A PayPal Donate button is located on the Sidebar at right. Thank you. (Or click here and scroll down the sidebar.)

2.16.2012

Vivian Maier, Photographer

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Self Portrait (Full Length Checkered Dress), 1955; from the Steven Kasher Gallery website
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I had planned to do a post showing a number of works in black and white from recent and current exhibitions in Manhattan, but then I found the website of Vivian Maier, the photographer whose work was going to be part of the roundup, and I decided to focus this post completely on her.
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 Above: Self Portrait (Window, Mirror Reflection), 1960s
Below: Untitled (Black Man's Hands Behind Back), 1960s
Both from the Steven Kasher Gallery website
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Image from the Vivian Maier website: 1955, New York City


Egypt: Image from the Vivian Maier blog


Digne, France: 1959 image from the Vivian Maier website


Location not stated: Image from the Vivian Maier blog


Image from the Vivian Maier website: 1954, New York City
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Vivian Maier (1926-2009) lived in Europe as a young woman and then, to support herself when she returned to the United States, went to work as a nanny in households in New York City and Chicago. She spent her free time photographing.
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Working with what looks to be a twin lens Rollei, Maier captured the world around her with an observant, nuanced, photojournalistic eye that was tempered with empathy for the humanness of her subjects. Unlike the sensationalist Weegee, with whom she is paired at the Steven Kasher Gallery (through February 25); less sentimental than Helen Leavitt, and light years away from the creepiness of Diane Arbus, Maier created a place for herself in photography. 

The only problem is that no one knew about it it until 2007.  

Cobbling together information about Maier from the website about her, vivianmaier.com, I can tell you that while she photographed for much of her life, working for families took up most of her time. Then, when she was older and no longer employed, poverty forced her to put decades' worth of prints, negatives and rolls of undeveloped film into a storage locker. The well-dressed young woman in the self portraits became a homeless old woman. One of the families she’d worked for helped her pay for an apartment, but the storage locker was unknown to them and rent on it didn’t get paid. The contents were sold off.

The story might have ended there, except that in 2007 a man named John Maloof purchased many of the boxes at auction. Maloof is now the owner and curator of Maier's life's work, now called The Maloof Collection, which is dedicated to preserving her work and name. (Maloof is the owner of the informative website, as well as a more personal blog, both annotated links below), and from what I can tell, the Howard Greenberg Gallery  on 57th Street is the primary dealer. 

I saw Maier's work  at the Steven Kasher Gallery on 23rd Street, the downtown half of a two-gallery exhibition. (Howard Greenberg had a show up concurrently, though only Kasher's is still up at this writing). It was the first time I'd seen Maier's work--indeed, it was where I learned of her--and I felt as if I were privy to a discovery, a sensation heightened by the back-room installation of the work. I didn't photograph in the gallery, but I did pull images from various websites, all noted in their captions here. 

Installation shots of the Vivian Maier exhibition at the Steven Kasher Gallery, up through February 25. Image from the gallery website

We'll be learning more about Vivian Maier and her work as more images are scanned and they are released for exhibition. I suspect much of the work will go right to the museums. 
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So for now, let me close this post with a description from the website: “The personal accounts from people who knew Vivian are all very similar. She was eccentric, strong, heavily opinionated, highly intellectual, and intensely private. She wore a floppy hat, a long dress, wool coat, and men’s shoes and walked with a powerful stride. With a camera around her neck whenever she left the house, she would obsessively take pictures, but never showed her photos to anyone. An unabashed and unapologetic original.” 

Couldn’t you just see her in New York? 

Image from the Vivian Maier website: Self Portrait, New York City, 1955


More info
. Website: www.vivianmaier.com --informative, with photographs, biography, and links to exhibitions, the book, and an upcoming video
. John Maloof’s blog: VivianMaier—Her Discovered Work --a more personal account of the collection

2.13.2012

Marketing Mondays: Under a Dealer's Thumb?

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An artist emailed  recently to say: “Your Marketing Mondays posts have given me the courage to walk away from a gallery that was taking 50% but not marketing me, not even putting me on the gallery website, even while demanding an exclusive on everything I did, including collaborations with other artists and projects that had nothing to do with the gallery. It didn't dawn on me that the owner was taking advantage of me. I thought all artists started like this.”

Another artist I know works with a gallery in a small city that demands a 30% commission if she shows with another gallery anywhere. This makes it tricky for the artist to get her work shown, even when other dealers want to include her work in group shows, or possibly represent her.

The Pressure is On
“I understand my dealer’s point of view," says this artist. "She doesn’t want to promote me only to have me sell elsewhere. I'm not going to sell out of my studio or behind her back, but this is a small town, and I want to be able to show around the country, maybe even in New York. I am not the only artist she represents. She shouldn’t have to be the only gallery to represent me. I’m feeling oppressed.” Needless to say, our artist friend has one foot out the door.
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New York galleries tend to function as an artist's primary gallery (the one that has the big shows, makes the big sales, produces the catalogs and generally promotes the artists is the biggest way), so they may ask for and receive a 20% commission from the sale of a gallery artist's work that is shown and sold in another show. That is, the two dealers split the sale 20 percent and 30 percent respectively, with the artist receiving the usual 50 percent. Many dealers know one another and routinely work under these terms, which might be for a fixed period, such as a year, or forever; it depends on what the artist and dealers work work out. It's a good deal for the "lending" gallery, which ideally has been promoting its artists and getting them placed in museum shows and collections of all types and at all levels. It's also a reasonable deal for a second gallery, which gets to show the work of an artist who is well promoted and has a visible presence. But 30 percent to the primary gallery? Not likely. 
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There are many shades of gray here. Some dealers don't ask for a percentage. “It’s a big art world out there. I love when my artists create a place for themselves in it. The visibility my artists have out in the world will ultimately benefit my gallery, says a dealer I've been with for well over a decade. On the other hand, another dealer with whom I have a relatively newer relationship, wanted “exclusivity” in a large region, an impossibility given the network I’ve cultivated for many years and now enjoy. We're working out a respectful and reasonable d├ętente.
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Do You Trust Your Dealer?
I've heard this situation before, many times: An artist finds that while the dealer claims to have offered a sustantial discount to collectors, there is no discount. The dealer sells the work for full price and pockets the extra money. It's a shocking abuse of the artist-dealer relationship.

One artist found out about the discount scam when she was talking with her collectors and, by chance, the conversation got around to price. "I guess this is why my dealer likes to keep his artists and collectors apart,"  she says.

So what happened? The artist asked to see the dealer's records on the sale. The dealer said they were not available. "Thinking back over our conversations about discounts, and reviewing a number of small checks I've received on a retail price that was considerably higher, I came to suspect there was a pattern of cheating me," said the artist. "I couldn't prove it, but the one confirmed discrepancy made me feel I couldn't trust him."

Knowing she was going to leave the gallery, the artist said to the dealer: "I will contact every single artist you represent and tell them my story. I suspect you'll have many such inquiries." Without admitting anything other than "a bookkeeping error," the dealer produced a check for the percentage in dispute. The artist retrieved her work and left the gallery. (Fearing the same for her friends still with the gallery, she quietly recounted the story to several of them.)
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Let me say clearly that I am not anti-dealer. I don’t subscribe to the idea that the average dealer is out to screw artists. Artists and dealers are—or should be—natural allies, contributing equally to the equation of make + sell = income for maker and seller.
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But it's not a perfect world. So today I'd like to ask you:
. Has a dealer made an unreasonable demand on you?
. What was it?
. Have you ever suspected unethical behavior
. How did you deal with it? 
. How did things turn out?

In the interest of fairness, next week we'll look at some of the ways artists and others in our community treat each other.

As always, it's fine to leave an anonymous comment if it adds to the conversation--and particularly on a topic such as this, where anonymity may be the more prudent route--but I won't publish hit-and-run remarks that insult me, the commenters, or the topic. If you don't have the courage of your convictions, don't post.

If you have found this or other Marketing Mondays posts useful, please consider supporting this blog with a donation. A PayPal Donate button is located on the Sidebar at right. Thank you. (Or click here and scroll down the sidebar.)

2.08.2012

Transcendence Times Two: Lori Ellison at

McKenzie Fine Art, Tantric Paintings at Feature Inc.
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Lori Ellison, Untitled, 2011, gouache on wood panel, 10 x 8 inches.
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In description, two current exhibitions of small works couldn’t sound more different: One, eye-bendingly complex, is idiosyncratic and personal, the work of a New Yorker, made over the past several years. The other, quietly reductive, is traditional and codified, the work of anonymous painters in Rajasthan, India, over the past several years. Yet both are utterly transcendent.

At Feature Inc., Anonymous tantric painting; Legend: The spiral of energy in the sky of consciousness inside a Shiva linga; Bikaner, Rajasthan, 2007
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Panoramic view of two walls of the exhibition at Feature Inc., which gives you a sense of the scale of the paintings.
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Feature Inc. on the Lower East Side is showing Anonymous Tantra Paintings, up through Sunday. I wrote about a previous show of Tantra paintings here, so in this post let me say that these images are meant to enhance meditation. The images, refined over the centuries to a system of colors and symbols, are abstract depictions of the union of opposites—yin and yang, positive and negative—but to a gallerygoer’s eye they are satisfyingly contemporary. Since most viewers are unlikely to be Tantra practitioners, it is the minimal esthetic that appeals. Simple geometric shapes with an admittedly mysterious aura are painted in velvety tempera or gouache on what is described as “found paper.” The result is another union of opposites: rich and poor. I could look at them all day.
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Legend: Energy traveling through and regulating the colors of the world; Udaipur, Rajasthan, 2008
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Legend: Shiva Linga; Bikaner, Rajasthan, 2002
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Legend: Kali's tongues; near Udaipur, Rajasthan, 1999
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Legend: The three gunas: matter, energy, essence; Jaipur, Rajasthan, 1990.
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Legend: The world's two poles united; Jodhpur, Rajasthan, 1997
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Meanwhile, McKenzie Fine Art in Chelsea is showing a solo exhibition of ballpoint-pen-on-paper drawings and gouache-on-panel paintings by Lori Ellison, up through this Saturday. Ellison’s images are complex compositions, each one consisting of one repeated geometric or organic element. Yes, they're obsessive; that's what makes them so compelling. Their great gift is the way they require you to slow down to observe each permutation of each element. A field of  meandering triangles in dark green ink, for instance, is more than just pattern; different sizes and angles fracture the plane into a woozy crystalline field. In another, blue ovals assemble perspectivally into a beckoning portal. A flatter image contains the infinite convolutions of a lobed drawing which, constrained by the blue perimeter of the paper, fairly vibrates with energy.

While the paintings have some of this same vibrational presence—the vertiginous work that opens this post seems every bit as tantric as the Tantric painting below it—it is the drawings, especially, that hum. It seems clich├ęd to call them mesmerizing, and yet, you find yourself in their thrall. Let me clarify: you realize this when you come back from wherever it is they've sent you. .
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Corner view in the large exhibition space of Ellison's show at McKenzie Fine Art, which gives you a sense of the scale of the work
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Untitled, 1999, ink on paper, 11 x 8.5 inches
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Untitled, 2008, ink on paper, 11 x 8.5 inches
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Untitled, 2000, ink on paper, 11 x 8.5 inches
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Continuing clockwise around the large gallery; a wall of paintings, many on shaped panels, is at right. The large painting in the center of the wall is below.
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Frondly, 1998, oil on wood panel, 31.5 x 21 inches.
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Below are works installed on other walls around the gallery. Click here to see the gallery's installation shots

Untitled, 1998, ink on paper, 11 x 8.5 inches
(Reader, I bought it)
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Untitled, 2005, ink on paper, 11 x 8.5 inches
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Untitled, 2002, ink on paper, 11 x 8.5 inches
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Untitled, 2009, gouache on wood panel, 14 x 11 inches