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Visual Diary of the Arts: New Ideas

In honor of our respective anniversaries (10th for Independent, 5th for Red Bull Arts), we've teamed up with Red Bull Arts to create a visual diary of the art world that assesses the forces shaping the cultural landscape of today by asking the questions of tomorrow. This collaborative, month-long editorial series will be organized into four distinct themes: New Ideas, New Politics, New Spaces, and New Media.

Each week we will feature six diverse art-world personalities under the “theme” of that week. Each subject will answer the same two questions on the week’s topic and have a portrait taken by internationally recognized photographer Laurel Golio. Follow Independent and Red Bull Arts on Instagram to see this project come to life.

Starting off with New Ideas, we asked Matthew Higgs, Javier Peres, Lucia Hierro, Chris Dorland, Rema and Peter Hort, and Zoe Dictrow where new ideas originate, how they are supported, and what they will mean for our future.

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Hort

Rema & Peter Hort
Art Collectors and Supporters in New York City

RBA: Now more than ever we need ideas that respond to the present and incite a positive future. How or where do these ideas originate? What methods of collaboration and creativity foster the advancement of relevant, notable, and necessary idea generation?

Ideas are found all over the place – one thought leads to another and that flow gives life to new ideas.  The evidence of human creativity throughout the course of history is overwhelming. It is in our cities, our ruins, our languages. It is in our culture and our communities. We do not lack ideas or creativity, especially in the art field. But now, in this digital/information age when an idea is born, now, there are so many ways to bring forth the idea to life.  There are so many ways to document it; there are so many ways to nurture it; so many ways to elevate it into a thing in and of itself. There are so many ways to collaborate, or in my opinion to avail yourself to different cultures and experiences. Ideas have been born as long as humans walked the earth; now, my daughter tells me sharing ideas and experiences are as easy as ever.

Independent: The future is moving so quickly, how is visual culture responding? What are some of the more interesting ways of connecting with art, and can we best experience these ideas in galleries and institutions? Talk about some ways in which we can reflect these new paths in what we do (gallery, artist, etc). Question, is there enough room in today’s visual culture for the ideas that artist are asking? How has that changed?

Horts: I happen to be very positive about the future.  We live in a world where if one person can dream it can become real.  Walls, boundaries, and limitations are slowly becoming things in the past.  I do feel that artists, galleries and institutions are leading the way. The digitalization of the art world is, like everything else, both bad and good. Younger galleries can get unprecedented exposure through platforms like Instagram (the same goes for young artists). Art world “outsiders” can have access to a range of information from SeeSaw and other platforms. It makes art accessible to everyone, thus ever expanding the reaches of visual artists and their messages while, also, losing the specialness of experiencing art in person. It's a give and take. On one hand, you get exposed to art around the world and back without ever leaving the comfort of home, on the other, you never leave the comforts of home. I think, it gives us a false comfort, as though once we've seen a picture of a piece of art we immediately understand it. We forget how valuable real experience is, how beautiful the texture of paint is up close, when the alternative is so convenient. As long as we remember the value of being in person, of going around galleries, then I think we can balance the positive attributes of our great digital age. The point is that there is a democratization of culture.  I am not the consumer of all this change, but there are consumers out there. The horizons are expanding. It is all good.

Dictrow

Zoe Dictrow
Collector based in New York City

RBA: Now more than ever we need ideas that respond to the present and incite a positive future. How or where do these ideas originate? What methods of collaboration and creativity foster the advancement of relevant, notable, and necessary idea generation?

IND: The future is moving so quickly, how is visual culture responding? What are some of the more interesting ways of connecting with art, and can we best experience these ideas in galleries and institutions? Talk about some ways in which we can reflect these new paths in what we do (gallery, artist, etc). Question, is there enough room in today’s visual culture for the ideas that artist are asking? How has that changed?

Dictrow in response to both questions:

I live in hope that there will be a positive future. Mostly I feel my way forward. I ask for help. Inspiration happens. I try something new. I put aside my fear of making mistakes. I do my best to answer these questions that puzzle me.

It seems premature for visual culture to respond to a future that hasn’t happened yet. We are here now. Visual culture is all around us. It’s on the street, in our homes, parks, theaters, restaurants and stores, on the internet as well as in galleries and institutions.  Artists are bringing their cultural concerns into their artworks in all the many contemporary art forms that exist and are invented.

 

Chris Dorland

CHRIS DORLAND
Artist living and working in New York City, Co-director of Magenta Plains.

RBA​:​ ​Now more than ever we need ideas that respond to the present and incite a positive future. How or where do these ideas originate? What methods of collaboration and creativity foster the advancement of relevant, notable, and necessary idea generation?

Dorland: Ideas originate out of necessity–one’s desire to solve a given problem whether it be practical or poetic. I find this to be true in any given field.

I’m not sure that I have the answer as to what methods of collaboration are better or more productive than others, but I do think of collaboration, in general, as a productive model. At base, the desire to collaborate is a generous and open minded impulse and often yields new, and often unexpected ideas. Although, just like with ideas themselves, collaborations aren’t created equally. Some collaborations are obviously more dynamic and protean such as artists collaborating with scientists or engineers; and some are less interesting, like Jeff Koons collaborating with big brands like LVMH to create luxury handbags. However, Jeff Koons collaborating with incredibly skilled stone workers has yielded stunning results.  

In many ways, the idea of the artist as “lone genius” that has been so crucial to the crafting of the 19th and 20th Century model of “the Artist” is changing and we are beginning to think of the artist, and their role in society, slightly differently and, in my opinion, with more nuance. The artworld in general seems to be moving towards a greater understanding of the importance of collaboration and this is something I view as a fantastic development. It’s a more generative and more accurate way of imagining creativity. I try to embrace the collaborative spirit as much as possible, both as an artist as well as in my role at Magenta Plains.

Independent​:​ ​The future is moving so quickly, how is visual culture responding? What are some of the more interesting ways of connecting with art, and can we best experience these ideas in galleries and institutions? Talk about some ways in which we can reflect these new paths in what we do (gallery, artist, etc). Question, is there enough room in today’s visual culture for the ideas that artist are asking? How has that changed?                        

Dorland: I’m old fashioned in the sense that I’m still a firm believer in the vitality of the face to face IRL experience of art. I find it incredibly gratifying and meaningful to come into contact with the singular art object. I love the experience of a well designed gallery show or a well curated museum exhibition. It’s a truly priceless experience: temporary and rare. That said, there is no question that physical exhibitions are no longer the only ways of experiencing art. And that’s equally exciting. New platforms are emerging that are still in their absolute infancy. I have little doubt that as the technology develops, and as artists, galleries and museums learn to use these new tools with more efficiency and creativity; truly incredible new ways of experiencing art awaits us. For instance, I can’t wait to see Daniel Birnbaum’s first VR presentation with Acute Art in NY in May during Frieze this year.

Is there enough room in today’s visual culture for the ideas that artists are asking? I think the answer is yes and no. Artists are continually coming up with amazing ideas. There is no shortage of brilliant, engaging and forward thinking visions. The artist’s job is to dream and I think that is happening at no less a rate than it ever was. When thinking of art and technology, the problem increasingly becomes one of education, production and access. Art schools, for instance, are not currently designed to properly educate the next generation of artists precisely because they are still modeled on a relatively antiquated idea of what an artist is. And I think this goes back to the first question: one of collaboration. If artists are increasingly wanting to think big and outside the confines of relatively simple artisanal art making practices–sculpture, painting, drawing (models that artisans have done for millenia), the problem becomes one of access. Are there enough platforms and means available to assist artists with the goal of thinking on a more complex stage: one that necessitates greater access to cutting edge tools and expensive technologies that can allow them dream and imagine new ways of addressing and articulating the future, the answer is no.

Javier Peres

Javier Peres
Founder Peres Projects

RBA: Now more than ever we need ideas that respond to the present and incite a positive future. How or where do these ideas originate? What methods of collaboration and creativity foster the advancement of relevant, notable, and necessary idea generation?

Javier Peres: Artists and art have been at the center of every great, and even not so great, civilization. When we reflect on history one of the things we consider are the arts of that time. Our reflection often leads us to determine whether a period in time was interesting by assessing the contribution of the arts. We are living in incredibly dynamic times, with great fluctuations in virtually every aspect of human activity. Artists are responding in new and vital ways as they aim to make sense of life firstly for themselves and as a result for us as well.

Independent: The future is moving so quickly, how is visual culture responding? What are some of the more interesting ways of connecting with art, and can we best experience these ideas in galleries and institutions? Talk about some ways in which we can reflect these new paths in what we do (gallery, artist, etc). Question, is there enough room in today’s visual culture for the ideas that artist are asking? How has that changed?

This year at Independent we are presenting 2 artists, Manuel Solano and Steffen Bunte thus taking a slightly different approach from our recent past presentations where we have shown young female artists. Steffen Bunte is a German artist whose work is helping us understand the intersection between humans and technology. Technological singularity is defined as the point after which humans begin serving the very technologies which we initially created and developed to serve our aims. In some aspects we have already reached this point, seeking new experiences largely in order to digitize and upload them to servers. Bunte’s work explores the question of what makes us human and at what point does technology become sentience? Will we finally find ourselves in this future of convergence?

Manuel Solano’s* work similarly approaches the impossible problem of what makes us human. Autobiographical works are inherently vulnerable, intimate, and proximate. They demand a double vision, which overlay the artwork with the experiences of the artist themselves. In Manuel Solano’s practice, the personal is the work, as the artist allows us tremendous access to their experiences in exploring the shifting and flexible position of their identity. Their paintings explore  the relationship that memory and the imaginary share, how sincerity and camp operate together, and how popular culture is a container for our personal and shared histories. Whereas Manuel Solano is known for their portraiture of pop-cultural icons to express facets of their identity, these new works do an act of translation – using the form of portraiture to depict a place. Again we are asked to perform this double vision, to see the artist in the intimate spaces they have depicted.

(*Solano identifies as non-binary, meaning they don’t see themselves are either male or female in gender)

Lucia

Lucia Hierro
Lucia Hierro is a New York born artist who currently works in the Bronx.

RBA: Now more than ever we need ideas that respond to the present and incite a positive future. How or where do these ideas originate? What methods of collaboration and creativity foster the advancement of relevant, notable, and necessary idea generation?

Hierro: In my own practice, I tend to draw from issues that are close to my everyday experience and that of my friends and family. Most of the important conversations happen in and around my studio life. I share a studio building with some incredible artist and we tend to have conversations that I find to be crucial to the growth of the work. I also have a broad network of people in a variety of fields that add new and insightful conversations into the studio space. I highly encourage artists to diversify their circles, this usually happens in artist residencies in which many disciplines come together, specifically those that bring together not just artists but the community that surrounds them.

IND: The future is moving so quickly, how is visual culture responding? What are some of the more interesting ways of connecting with art, and can we best experience these ideas in galleries and institutions? Talk about some ways in which we can reflect these new paths in what we do (gallery, artist, etc). Question, is there enough room in today’s visual culture for the ideas that artist are asking? How has that changed?

Visual culture, as it relates to marketing/advertising, has always tried to tap into the public's wants- using the visual- to sell something to the viewer as a need. I think art has learned from those tactics and found ways to utilize those tools in order to engage a viewer but for the purposes of pausing, reflecting on where we are and where we’re going. Public art projects, installations, art incubators are all interesting ways of connecting with art-especially when these move past instagrammable moments and actually engage the viewer more critically. I still believe institutions can serve their communities. I've always said if you want members of the community to take part in these often times insular conversations, institutions should reflect their communities - from board members to curatorial staff and the artists they exhibit - for example with a Dominican curator comes their Dominican family, their Dominican neighbors and the ideas/concerns from within that group.

I think more than ever now there's room for artist inquiries within a larger cultural conversation. Celebrities and music moguls have come forward as art supporters/collectors-often times collaborating with artist in advocacy work. Artist names and contributions are becoming recognized in a very public way-as is the case with Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sheralds portraits of the Obamas or Hank Willis Thomas “For Freedoms” project. It’s tempting and more profitable to cater to the audience member that wants a good social media story. What's changed is that along with a restless, fickle viewer- there is a more diverse and better informed audience who is now finally feeling welcome and engaged in an art context.

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MATTHEW HIGGS
Director & Chief Curator of White Columns

RBA: Now more than ever we need ideas that respond to the present and incite a positive future. How or where do these ideas originate? What methods of collaboration and creativity foster the advancement of relevant, notable, and necessary idea generation?

Higgs: Artists remain central to any conversations we might hope to have going forward. I've always been interested in the figure of the 'hyphenated' artist, i.e. the 'artist-writer', the 'artist-curator', the 'artist-musician', the 'artist-activist', etc. This model still seems to me to be the most relevant, and perhaps even 'useful' for the times that we currently operate in: i.e. an inter- or cross-disciplinary approach to practice, with the potential for dialog between practitioners with often very different backgrounds, perspectives and intentions. I think we pay lip-service to the idea of "inter-disciplinary" practice, but we could do with more of it. All shifts in our culture - historically - have emerged from how artists, of all kinds, have responded to their immediate social, political or cultural circumstances. Such 'ruptures' act as a necessary counter-point to the prevailing status quo and ultimately disrupt the formation of consensus, which can only be a good thing.  

Independent: The future is moving so quickly, how is visual culture responding? What are some of the more interesting ways of connecting with art, and can we best experience these ideas in galleries and institutions? Talk about some ways in which we can reflect these new paths in what we do (gallery, artist, etc). Question, is there enough room in today’s visual culture for the ideas that artist are asking? How has that changed?

Higgs: One of the things that I appreciate most about 'art' is that it invariably operates slowly: i.e. its potential unfolds in unexpected and unanticipated ways, and often over extended periods of time (i.e. sometimes years, or decades even.) This aspect of art - i.e. its 'slowness' - is one of its most important and durable characteristics, as it provides us with a necessary 'space' outside of and beyond the ebb-and-flow of our daily lives. We need to defend the 'durational' nature of art.