Sunday, January 31, 2010

Another Non Shitty Quote By An Artist

Odd Nerdrum

With a recent setback concerning a certain Art Award which will remain nameless, I once again feel like I'm living in the wrong century. Must I put on a diaper, run around with a shopping cart while be videotaped, paint a canvas hot pick accented with chicken feathers and then write some nonsense art -speak- about how my work is " a metaphor for my inner Judeo-Christian love child and how that inner child fights for its independence in a post modern feminine utopia bla bla bla bla..." to get somewhere?

I know a lot of you feel the same way I do when you see what gets chosen and what doesn't and you ask yourself, "who did this person sleep with to get here?" I know art is in the eye of the beholder and it's subjective, but when will b.s theory work that says nothing about the human condition, that has no sense of craft or technique finally die off? 

I love good solid theory work (Stephen Kaltenbach and before he was about the cash, Damien Hirst) but really, what's the point of having your assistants create work that only 2% of the population or people who have advanced art degrees can understand?

While I was feeling sorry for myself, I found another quote that gave me comfort, allowed me to take a deep breath, and realize I just need to stay on my path and be honest with what I want to do. It is similar to the Hoffman quote a couple post below. I hope it gives you comfort as well.

From The Odd Nerdrum Website:

A greeting to you, gifted one, you who want to attain sincerity in your work.
You are a stranger to your time, but do not loose heart!
I know Art feels unpleasant to you; you have become a slave beneath an aristocracy of incompetents.
Art was never meant for people like you.
Art has its justification - the untalented need comfort - 
but so do you.
You have been ashamed of your ability too long.
So long as the skillful craftsman can only aspire to defeat, a great injustice is done.
Know this: without you as a subjugated guarantor, the incompetence of Art becomes worthless.
The money and honour obtained by artists rightfully belong to you, so take them back!
Put an end to the humiliation, withdraw from Art and let it complete its fall into worthlessness.
The 19th century was the twilight of talent; take part in its dawn.
Through Kitsch the talented one can save himself.
It is a new discipline in which skill finds a superstructure.
A superstructure serving the genius of ability.
Do not allow Art to retain its moral authority over ability.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sacramento Bee Write Up!

Similar approaches, different feelings illuminate two exhibits.
A great way to wake up ona Friday morning is to have your mother call you and tell you about the write you got in the Ticket section of The Sacramento Bee! Score one for me and The Verge Gallery!

By Victoria Dalkey Bee Art Correspondent Published: Friday, Jan. 15, 2010.
Vernacular subject matter and photographically precise rendering characterize the works of Max Bechtle and Jeff Musser. While they share a penchant for the banal and a photorealist approach to their images, their works are markedly different in feeling.
Bechtle's watercolors of pickup trucks and rundown buildings at b. sakata garo are cool and delicate, almost tentative, while Musser's oil paintings of tattooed bodies are hot and aggressive, capturing the tawdriness once associated with tattoos before they became so commonplace.

Bechtle takes us down familiar territory – down-at-the-heels towns in California, Nevada and Utah. In place of the tumbledown barns that once were fodder for American Scene painters, Bechtle gives us stripped- down deco gas stations and bars with American cars and trucks parked in front of them. It's a more recent world than the landscape of "The Last Picture Show" and one that still exists, but it has the same feeling of being rooted in the past rather than the present.

Bechtle is a competent watercolorist and he works in the tradition of Edward Hopper, Ralph Goings and his father, Robert Bechtle, capturing lonesome buildings from a train, old airplanes and beached cabin cruisers, cold-blooded images of car dealerships and garages. He's prolific and includes some plein air scenes, which seem a little more lively though at times less resolved than his studio productions.

In "Tonopah Pick-Up" he focuses on a bleached-out scene of a garage in a desert town in Nevada. The shiny pickup parked in front and the functional but ugly architecture of the garage make it a scene that might be anywhere in the West of open roads and lonesome distances. Like most of Bechtle's works, it casts a cool, yet affectionate eye on a typical American scene.

In "Warm Springs Bar," a guy with a motorcycle is stuck in the middle of nowhere in a sun blasted landscape. "Utah Gas Pumps" is an essentially nostalgic view of an old car parked in weeds near antiquated gas pumps. Life on the road gives us looks at a big rig on a Utah highway, a hardware store in Angel's Camp, a junk filled back yard in Tuolumne.

An image of a San Francisco house from the '50s is a Hopperesque arrangement of geometric blocks but lacks Hopper's voyeuristic glimpses into the lives of lonely Americans. With the exception of "Warm Springs Bar," people are missing from Bechtle's landscape and it is cars that stand in for the human presence.
Bechtle is best at capturing the architecture of old towns, as in "Tuolumne Corner," "Sonora Corner" and "San Andreas Fire Escape" – quintessential California foothills scenes. His is a hard-boiled, yet loving, vision of a past that still haunts our present.

There's a nostalgic edge, too, to Musser's in-your-face paintings of tattooed body parts at Verge Gallery. The tattoos are old-fashioned and tough, not the kind of butterfly on the small of the back that has become de riguer for women young and old.

In "Melissa (aka Tattooed Foot)," he gives us a woman's feet entwined, one tattooed with a rose and a cross. Placed against a black background it resembles a foot fetishist's dream of a black velvet painting.

"This Too Shall Pass" is a more complex image of a man who holds his hands over his face as if in shame or sorrow. His arms and torso are tattooed with images of hands holding guns. It's a complex and disorienting image that very effectively conveys the sense that the man himself is the gunner's hands, his identity submerged in a violent overlay.

"I Got It as a Tribute to Her" is a startling image of a man's arms and hands wrapped around each other in a knot with a tattoo of a woman's face on one of the arms. Over the face is a cross and below it a rose. The fingers of one hand are tattooed with the letters W, I, and T. It's an eerie, hellish vision that might have come from a noir comic book.

Musser's display is rounded out with a series of ink and pencil sketches of a woman with a bird and flowers running down her side, a man with the elephant god Ganesh on his shoulders and back, and a pair of arms, one with an image of Frida Kahlo and another with Diego Rivera. Presumably studies for more finished works, they fail to hold up as independent works.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Great Write Up On Me & 2 Local Artists!

This so far is the best, and my favorite write up on me. Sounds very narcissistic, but that's ok. It also mentions other local kick ass artist Britton McFetridge and Ezra McCabe.

From by: Susan Raines

Not that long ago it was the drunken sailor that society stereotyped as the typical person likely to be found getting inked. Girls with tattoos were unheard of and young men might get a little piece of skin art on a dare or as a romantic testimony. Tattoos were for the tough, the dangerous, the outcasts, and the warriors who weren’t often invited to dine with pretty girls in white dresses and diamonds. While this limited view of tattoo patrons may have been an uninformed and prejudiced view, it did reflect a large part of society’s general stance of intolerance and disapproval of the art of tattooing.
In 2010 a walk down the streets of Sacramento and its surrounding communities reveals a new reality in the world of tattoos. Successfully established ink shops can be found populating the storefronts and drawing new as well as repeat customers to have their feelings painted with permanence. Tattoo artists put their craft to work on shoulders, arms, backs, legs, and all manner of visible and hidden locations upon their patrons’ bodies. These are the bodies of the young, the old, the sweet and the tough. The tattooed are defiant, shy, bold and conservative. The image of the drunken sailor or group of rebellious young men has disappeared behind the reality that tattoos have become the new jewelry and the new mode of expression for people of many ages, ethnicities and backgrounds.

Popular Sacramento artist, Jeff Musser, puts this new era of art on flesh into the headlights of social commentary with his interpretations on canvas. His tattooed portrayals contain a socially relevant focus that addresses the new generation of dressed flesh and the moods, statements, and ideas it reflects. Musser’s works flood the eye with patterns, shapes, and color while remaining calm and often sensuous as well as disturbing and mysterious in the middle of their statements of exposure. 

The images that fill his canvases seem to have a depth of life with messages beyond mere design and intricate patterns. They reflect the current social state of pain and joy, depression and desperate ecstasy, intelligent reflection and courage mixed with abandon and recklessness. Musser states, “No longer are tattoos the ink splotches of the damned; I believe, tattooing is one of the defining languages of my generation. In some of my paintings I tattoo myself, incorporating existing symbols, with my own iconography, to create a world that only exists on canvas. On these canvases, ugliness and sorrow can be methodically realized, contained and expunged through body art. It’s a catharsis, of sorts, that when achieved reveals the beauty and social relevance tattoos can possess.”

After graduating with a BFA from the Art Institute of Chicago in 2000, Musser sacrificed his deepest inner resources for the sake of survival while designing McDonald’s Happy Meals. While struggling to paint between hours of work and sleep, the artist suddenly found himself without a job and thrown into the teaching medium of a life of hunger, food stamps, and a body weight diminished twenty to thirty pounds below its norm. Jeff states that “You could have played my ribs like a xylophone I was so skinny. But, that's how you appreciate what you have accomplished; you have to suffer mentally and physically to gain understanding and knowledge."

Musser no longer looks like he needs a plate of beef and potatoes and has since been recognized in numerous local Sacramento publications. His public works include two tattooed images on the Midtown Alley Project mural found on 23rd between K and L Streets as well as a wall painting in the Franklin Blvd Plein Air Art project with his piece located at 2901 30th Street. He recently moved his working studio out of his cramped apartment into Verge Gallery on V Street, Sacramento. Prior to the move, Jeff says that his living space was so consumed with his work in progress that he barely had room to occupy his own furniture. For the first time he now has space to lay down in his living room and do a snow-angel spread without being inhibited by his extensive tools of the trade.

Jeff is not a simple artist. Neither his subjects nor his manner of creation are likely to be a quick answer. Musser describes his task by saying “I work much like the old masters … I make my canvas the way Velasquez did, but without assistants. I cut the wood … construct the frame … hand stretch the canvas … apply the scolding hot rabbit skin glue …[and] apply multiple layers of gesso.” And in his reflective and deeply introspective manner, he states that he sits “motionless in front of the canvas for hours, hoping and praying that what I create will succeed.” 

His finished Adam by Jeff Musser - photo courtesy of Jeff Musser-pieces leave little doubt in the minds of those who view his work that he does often succeed with a power to strongly sway the thoughts and feelings of any attentive viewer. Regardless of one’s affinity for his tattoo themes, his work evokes mixed and strong responses in the public eye in much the same way as does the living tattooed flesh.

An interesting fact about Jeff Musser is that his own skin is currently void of ink. However, he has visited numbers of local tattoo shops and become familiar with their work. His artistic skill is accompanied by a talent of introspective as well as investigative comprehension. Perhaps each new canvas reflects another mood of the man while painting parallel social statements of how we define ourselves. The little boy who amazed his parents with his drawings has grown into a young master of oil and canvas currently focused on the social popularity of body ink art.

Among the collection of Musser’s painted subjects you will find a local tattoo artist, (pictured above) Britton McFetridge, who owns and operates the Royal Peacock Tattoo Parlor . McFetridge states that there has been “an explosion of tattooing in the past ten years” and that “different classes, different people that would not be getting tattoos 15 to 20 years ago … now find it socially acceptable.” His personal interest led him to not only become heavily tattooed but to pursue it as a career after looking for different artistic fields while he was attending the San Francisco Art Institute.

McFetridge’s love for the art on flesh does not overpower common sense and those who come into his shop seeking tattoos on neck, hands or other readily visible locations are deterred with his persuasive wisdom. He speaks to clients about the reality that although the art of body inking is on the rise and more accepted in mainstream society, there are still many jobs that are nearly impossible to get with visible tattoos. Despite the increase in numbers of business people, mothers, and individuals from new social classes who are now donning the ink, the power of the collective social attitude still continues at times to arouse fear, disapproval, and distrust of the visibly tattooed. Therefore, as a rule, the Royal Peacock only applies highly visible tattoos to individuals who are already heavily tattooed and familiar with the repercussions that might ensue.

Another midtown tattoo shop that Musser has frequented in his research is Timeless. The owner, Ezra McCabe, says that over the past seven years he has seen the rise in tattooing as “increases in the number, size and extent of tattooing an individual gets.” A person formerly inclined to get one small design in an inconspicuous spot is now more likely to return for multiple tattoos. He states that he has also noticed that those with a more “conservative background are less hesitant … particularly since the appearance of television shows about tattoo like Miami Ink.”

In Ezra’s thirteen years experience and a lifelong familiarity with the art, he has seen tattooing begin to be “viewed as a more legitimate art form” and states that “the quality of the art has grown exponentially …and some of it is really impressive.” McCabe sees tattoo as a place where “rebellion and art come together in the counterculture phenomenon.” Perhaps that counterculture is now becoming a greater part of the American mainstream and will someday no longer be considered counter or rebellion. The art of skin design is likely to stay with us for many years to come. The craze will grow and fade, draw its fans and its opponents, while it runs its life and perhaps phases out or explodes further into the mainstream of our culture. Jeff Musser sees it all around him and sees his own struggle to express meaning and emotion in a way that speaks of more than self indulgence. In the years to come, Musser’s paintings are likely to stand out as an important contribution to the artistic and social documentation of an era in its prime.

You can see more of Jeff Musser’s work at his website or at Verge Gallery in midtown Sacramento. Upon occasion you may meet the artist, you might find him both friendly and sardonic and, while happy to be recognized for his artistic efforts, also a reserved and private person not taken with lavish elitism. He has been commissioned by celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and gained exposure through his contributions to We Are The Future which landed him a trip to Rome to work on the project with Quincy Jones. 

Musser’s work currently hangs in both public and private galleries primarily in California and Chicago, Illinois. While financial success is a major and hopeful part of his ultimate goals as an artist, he remains slightly irreverent and skeptical with a mixture of love, passion, and yearning that lays the foundation for the depth found in his most accomplished pieces as seen here.