Visiting Artist Talk: Jim Lee: notes



Here are a few notes we wrote down during last Thursday’s talk by the New York painter Jim Lee. Tonight at seven in the auditorium we’ll hear from UNLV’s most recent Visiting Artist, Corin Hewitt.

  • “I’m a studio rat. That’s basically it.”
  • as a teenager in a small town (Berrien Springs, Michigan) he wanted to be an artist and live in New York City when he grew up, like Larry Rivers. He remembers having this thought very clearly when he was fourteen. The local library stocked a book about Rivers.
  • His work (he says) is about randomness, about chance – ideas from multiple sources coming together and working “just once.” He carries out the lecture by letting his website bring up images at random. Then he talks about them.
  • a photograph of his favorite bar, the Montero.
  • a photograph of someone else’s handmade sign, Yard + Knife Sale.
  • a photograph of a sign above the toilet in an apartment he rented: Please be Clean When You Do It. He used the same phrase as the title of a show at Nicelle Beauchene in 2013.
  • “I don’t know if I even believe in art school, because I don’t believe you can teach it.”
  • as an undergraduate at Southwestern Michigan College he didn’t like working in a studio with other people around him. He would go outside.  He read about big city artists in magazines. “So what’s going on with this cat in Chicago, Julian Schnabel?” he muses, showing us an old photograph of Schnabel in swimming briefs striding through a garden.
  • Schnabel. Martin Kippenberger. Markus Lüpertz. Tommy White: “one of the most wonderful painters you’ll ever meet, and he’s nasty.”
  • a curator, admiring one of his student paintings, mistook a picture of a moose for a butterfly. At this point he says he decided to take more control of his imagery.
  • “The only thing I can control is getting into that studio every day and making work.”
  • he works on 17 + things at once “because I want to deprogram myself.” Says he hates the color yellow. Says he makes a yellow painting every day. Painting with yellow is another way to deprogram himself. The work he makes “has to be relevant to me.” He doesn’t set agendas, he says: he makes the work he feels he has to make.
  • “I try to create a studio for myself where I’m sort of angry.” It needs to be messy and disruptive. Disruption loosens him up. He plays music, typically lo-fi rock. The Dirtbombs. Led Zeppelin. Sonic Youth. “I’ll listen to anything on repeat for hours, for days, it’s like a hostage situation.”
  • has multiple studios. Sometimes he’ll rent a place for a few months, just to be in a new space.
  • “As a dumb painter I don’t want to know things.” Someone in the audience asks what he means by “dumb.” He tells them that it means he wants to be surprised. He doesn’t want to be guessing at the possibilities of the work.
  • he recommends residencies. To be surrounded by knowledgeable, likeminded people.
  • he believes drawing is important. “Because I like to make things I don’t understand.”
  • he doesn’t have a hierarchy of materials. Dirt or paint, both are valuable.
  • he wonders if he was a better painter 10 – 15 years ago, when he wasn’t represented by a gallery.  He was “meaner, rougher.” He didn’t have to speculate about other people’s expectations. (Words like mean, rough, and nasty, are terms of praise throughout Lee’s talk.)
  • “The studio is where the work works.” Removing a painting from the studio and hanging it in a gallery makes it look unnatural.
  • Being in a room with paintings “is always agitating to me. I want them [his works] barely alive. I’m always trying to slow the paintings down.”
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Las Vegas in OIL


Image credit: UNLV Photo Services/R. Marsh Starks.

Edward Burtynsky: OIL showcases a vast display of photographs that examine the role fossil fuels play in the evolution of culture and environments. Presented within the thematic context of Motor Culture, four of these images are set in Las Vegas. Arial views of expansive residential and industrial neighborhoods of the Las Vegas Valley are included in order to illuminate the effect oil has had on the development of the city’s architecture and urban planning.  Situated among other photographs pertaining to the cultural aspects of oil, these images challenge viewers to consider how the use of fossil fuels impact urban growth and societal norms. Please join us on November 2nd at 7:30pm as Edward Burtynsky will be speaking at the Marjorie Barrick Museum, providing the Las Vegas community with an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of his work and the chance to discuss the difficult themes touched on by the OIL exhibition, currently on display through January 14, 2017.

Geographical Coordinates for the LAS VEGAS photographs included in Edward Burtynksy: OIL.  

“Industrial Park, Las Vegas, NV.”               36°04’35.4”N           115°11’17.7”W

“Suburbs #1”                                                     36°09’23.9”N           115°18’41.3”W

“Suburbs #2”                                                     36°08’10.6”N           115°17’10.4”W

“Suburbs #3, with Quarry”                            36°07’25.5”N           115°15’14.6”W

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Visiting Artist Talk: Mads Lynnerup: notes


Here are the notes from last week’s talk by Mads Lynnerup. Visit the Barrick tonight at seven to hear from the painter Jim Lee.

  • “I have a hard time labelling myself or being labelled.”
  • he went to UCLA thinking that he would become a sculptor. The school had recently introduced a New Genres field to its curriculum. He looked at New Genres, tried it, didn’t understand it at first; eventually realized that it was where he “felt at home.” He wanted to interact with his sculptures, not leave them static. (N.b., the definition of ‘New Genres’ on the UCLA website looks like this: “The New Genres curriculum includes installation, video, film, audio, performance, digital, hybrid and emerging art forms. New Genres is a practice which begins with ideas and then moves to the appropriate form or media for that particular idea, sometimes inventing entirely new sites of cultural production, new methodologies, technologies, or genres in the process.”)
  • an early work: unrolling a long strip of aluminum across a hillside. He wouldn’t have made this work back in Denmark, he says, but American aluminum foil is unusually thick and robust, “really amazing sculptural material.”
  • he made a photo work in the shape of a small, labelled plastic bag, then copied the bar code from a Walgreens product, added the bar code to each copy of this bag, and placed his objects in a store. Held an opening in the store. “Nobody seemed to care.” Came back to check on the works afterwards. Walgreens sold out of them several times and he had to restock.
  • had to return to Denmark for compulsory military service. Saw it as a chance to connect with the Danish arts community. Participated in a group engagement with a public park. Was inspired by a specific duck at this park. Built a wooden duck platform that fitted over his head. The idea came “out of a very intuitive place.” Eyes and top of cranium emerging through an oval hole. Got into lake. Mostly submerged. Body hidden in the water. Walked around in the lake wearing the duck platform. He shows us a photograph.
  • David Hammons.
  • Jens Haaning “opened up my eyes to what else art could do.”
  • when he carries out an idea several times and gets to know it too well, then he retires it.
  • Yoko Ono. Her Grapefruit. Was invited to take part in performances to accompany the Y E S YOKO ONO exhibition at SFMOMA in 2002. Sat on the stage with a guitar, but instead of playing music he squeezed a grapefruit into his cowboy boot and drank the juice. Fluxus. Disrupting your expectations.
  • Videos. A rope is tied to his leg. He ties the other end of the rope to a tree. Then he runs and falls over. A car is wearing a tank costume. He drives it around San Francisco.
  • as you continue to make art it becomes harder to do what it seems in the moment is the right thing to do, he says.
  • wondering how he could combat people who say that art has no function, he created his Clock, 2008. One of his gallerists bought a Clock for her kitchen, where it functions as a clock.
  • mulling over San Francisco — a fascinating place, “a weird city” — he created his Flip-Flop Floor, 2003, at a gallery in the middle of the metropolis so that people would feel encouraged to take a walk around the streets near the gallery.
  • in 2004 he moved to Berlin for a while
  • in grad school he tried painting
  • “finding art to be so static” he made artworks that changed when you moved them
  • reacting to the stereotypes of artists (unathletic) and athletes (nonartistic) he made artworks that could be used as athletic equipment.
  • he says he wonders if he is dyslexic, or if English just still seems unfamiliar enough to generate an uncommonly literal reactions in him when he sees an advertisement with the words “massage” and “chair.” (He shows another video: a chair is receiving a firm massage. We laugh.)
  • he worries that video art is too passive – people stand still and stare at the screen. So he makes moving screens.
  • you strive as an artist to do something different, but there is a feeling that “everything has been done.” It depresses him. He makes a work using the phrase “Everything has been done.” It is an edition of fifty books. Every page is a flyer, each one is done in a different style, each page says, “Everything has been done.” Ten copies of the book have been rigged to catch fire when opened.
  • (Video of a rigged book being opened. Fire.)
  • is the fear of doing the same thing as everyone else particular to artists, he wonders? Do surgeons ever worry that they’re conducting an operation in the style of someone else?
  • “I’m really fascinated with the everyday and how I could shed new light on it.”
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Visiting Artist Talk: Jim Shaw: notes


Our thanks to Jim Shaw for his talk last week, and further thanks to everyone who attended. Here are our quick notes. Tonight at seven we have Mads Lynnerup.


  • Shaw, looking around and noting that he was on the UNLV faculty in the late 1980s: “It feels like coming back to a school I went to, rather than taught at.”
  • growing up in a small town, the art he saw when he was a child was always in magazines and books. Art itself – as a practice – seemed to naturally end with the shape of a book. Books were “the final form for the things I was working on.”
  • young, he felt nostalgic for things that had happened before he existed (b. 1952). He was drawn to advertisements from the 1940s and ’50s. The Surrealism of them. A woman sleeping on a mattress filled with tiny strongmen. The mattress manufacturer wants to show you the interior power of the product, but Shaw borrows the image for its succinct strangeness. He uses it in politically-minded works to suggest dominant forces resting comfortably on top of crowds.
  • his college art teachers in the 1970s were older Abstract Expressionists and Pop artists. Abstraction didn’t make an impact on him, “so I had to do something else.” Invented an imaginary religion called Oism (pron. oh-ism).
  • from the start he preferred to work on a small or medium scale. Showing us a photograph of an early large-canvas show (distorted realist-cartoon portraits), he described it as “my idea of a joke version of heroic scale.” Still likes doing middle-sized drawings but laments that nobody buys them.
  • he began to record his dreams. Drew them for years. The best way to capture your dreams, he says, is to sleep without a scheduled wake-up time, and use a voice recorder. Don’t try to write things down in the middle of the night. “As I was working on these dreams I began to see the language of puns.” He exhibited some of the dream drawings at the Donna Beam while he was teaching at UNLV.
  • he constructed 3-D dream objects. He shows us a photograph of a textile shape with curves.”I had a dream where it was OK for me to do things I hadn’t dreamt of and somehow this ear couch came out of that.” Shows us photographs of fake legs “that had been caught in animal traps.” The toes and thighs raggedly sliced off. More pictures. “I did a whole body of vacuum cleaner musical instruments.”
  • stopped making dream drawings in 1999.
  • photographs of work he made for art fairs. The work incorporates realistic black and white drawings. “This was a piece of toilet paper that looked to me like a cross between Ronald Reagan and South America.”
  • he is a collector & a packrat. Thrift store paintings. An overflowing basement. He buys large, old, painted canvas backdrops to work on – flaking theater scenes of streets, trees, fields, trains, etc. “I’m getting to work on some Masonic backdrops in my next big show.” “It’s going to be basically like a big Hieronymus Bosch you can walk through.” Religious illustration as American Surrealism.
  • from the audience (apropos of nothing) someone’s mechanical Siri-voice says loudly, “I didn’t quite get that.” Shaw, laconically: “I apologize.”
  • “The man-machine era I think we’re entering.” The iPhone unites us with the machine world more completely than anything else.
  • The 5, 000 Fingers of Dr. T. The Bible. Wagner’s Ring Cycle. Wigs; women’s sculptural 1950s hair. “Anything I can riff off of.”
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