The Art World

by Travis Jeppesen on December 9, 2008

There’s been a lot of talk lately about “the art world.” The art world is in trouble. This is what the future of the art world will look like. I spent a week in the art world and lived to tell the tale.

In pondering the fate of “the art world” amidst the global economic crisis, how come not a singular writer or journalist (that I’m aware of) has stopped to consider the fate of artists – particularly those who aren’t rich and successful enough to not worry?

We’ve really reached a point where all art journalism is completely market-based – there is no art criticism whatsoever, at least none that I can discern. There is no interest in artists or individual works beyond the price they fetch and how “well” they’re doing (and it is apparently now a given that wellness is strictly quantifiable.)

At least Dave Hickey has the gall to call these people out on their lack of integrity.

People seem to be oblivious to the fact that art will continue to be made, no matter what the economic reality happens to be.

Maybe one day we can start talking about art again. Wake me up when that happens.


by Travis Jeppesen on December 6, 2008

Melissa Mann’s Beat the Dust is not just an excellent online literary magazine — it’s also a bookshop stocking a range of interesting titles. You can now order Disorientations through the site.

And if you’re in the States, I recommend you order through these guys, who also happen to carry all BLATT titles.

Update, Personal

by Travis Jeppesen on December 1, 2008

Complete and utter chaos in my life right now – some good, some bad, but we’ll pull through (mehopes.) Finished a novel, now writing a play, seeing lots of art but no time to sort my thoughts out on paper. Meanwhile, I wanted to thank everyone who made the Disorientations launches in London and Berlin so much fun in the last month. And to everyone who has bought the book so far, who is planning on buying it in the near future, or is hoping someone will buy it for them. Thankyou thankyou thankyou.

It’s been quite a year, and I’m taking December off. I’ll be in North Carolina visiting family, decompressing, sorting through the detritus of my life, searching for gold… In January I plan on re-vamping this whole thing. In the meantime, I’ll be doing what I’m meant to do, plus thinking lots about my friends, my family, love…

Cocksucker Blues

by Travis Jeppesen on November 25, 2008

Where do I get my cock sucked?

Where do I get my ass fucked?

Here, seems. (Shhh…. quiet!)


by Travis Jeppesen on November 23, 2008

The first print issue of WhiteHot Contemporary Art magazine is now available for purchase.


by Travis Jeppesen on November 22, 2008

The book launch for my collection of art criticism, DISORIENTATIONS, will be on November 29th at 19:00

at a new gallery/bar space at Kronenstra├če 71, 10117 Berlin

Please contact me if you want to come, I will put your name at the door + any guests you want to bring…


Barry Schwabsky

by Travis Jeppesen on November 18, 2008

Barry Schwabsky on the art world:

At a time when art still makes headlines mostly for the absurd prices people are willing to pay for it, it may sound surprising to say that the ethic of the art world entails a deep ambivalence about its financial basis–the “umbilical cord of gold” that, as Clement Greenberg once observed, has always tied it to the ruling class. Although the art world is filled with people who possess an incredible talent for moneymaking, my observation is that for most of them–dealers and collectors included–there is little economic rationality to their behavior, or anyway what economic rationality is there is a facade for more obscure motives. This is not to say that those motives are somehow “pure” but rather that even art that seems totally fixated on commercial culture is fixated on it in the mode of fantasy, of image.

Without a Name: Jon Campbell

by Travis Jeppesen on November 12, 2008

Below is my catalog essay for Jon Campbell’s exhibition in Paris, which opens on Saturday, November 15th at Galerie Jeanroch Dard.

Faced with the difficulty of writing about Jon Campbell’s work, I can only try and identify the source of that complexity and get through it that way. Because we’re not talking about a simple formal dichotomy here that can be readily broken down – the abstraction is figurative and the figuration is abstract. Nor can I imply that we are witnessing a rendering of the artist’s innermost thoughts without inadvertently digging up the exquisite corpse of surrealism, soliciting the ghost of psychoanalysis. There is nothing gimmicky in these pictures to lend itself to a crude definition – they are without affectation – and there is certainly nothing “cool” about them. None of the blatant infatuation with irony that burdened so much of the painting done late in the last century. We’re in a new century now, and the truth is, I’m writing this during a time when art writing – writing about art – has run out of steam, having bogged itself down in heady conceptual paradigms and didacticism, losing most of its audience in the process. Language, when not directly employed by an artwork, has effectively abandoned us. Jon Campbell feels this abandonment – this lack of language – but on a deeper level, beyond the mere literary. Now artists are expected to become indoctrinated via a multitude of (visual, etc.) languages from a young age. Jon, still at a young age though past his apprenticeship, has already chosen to reject all received languages. This is a daring move to make at any age in our era of mixing-and-matching, “sampling,” whatever you want to call it. It means going at it all alone, without a safety net to fall back on. And this is painful, not just for the artist, but for us, who must contend with the work.

Yet there are also others, present in a series of portraits, executed in an extremely intimate manner in the artist’s cramped studio in a delicate span of some ninety minutes each. They are portraits, and yet there is a sameness to them that effectively obliterates their subjects’ uniqueness. It could be the artist himself we see projected. Lined up together, it is the sum of their expressionlessness that unites these men. They all become the same No One. By Campbell’s own admission, the surfaces of his subjects are far less important than the situation that produces their rigid vulnerability. But this situation is absent – there is no background here to contextualize their placement.

In the accompanying works, what we find is pure situation – but again, without a clear context that lends itself to interpretation. Occasionally a figure may emerge, but it is always accidental – a shape designating a pole of thought, one that is necessarily private. So firm is the artist’s belief in the autonomy of these images that he refuses to name them – for to name is to force an interpretation and to again rely on a fixed referential language as agent.

Campbell’s situations, then, force me to contend with my own battles in the realm of language. Campbell tells me that his grand theme is identity, and what is language but a projection of identity. But identity, in Campbell’s paintings, is always masked. He has no interest in painting a particular personality. If he is evasive, then it branches from the same evasion that ultimately coats all human perception. Painting as a negative act in which the negative loses its value in a sea of specificity. The painter becomes a host of possibilities in this retrospective denial of arrival. What we are left with are the raw recordings, and the invigorating opportunity to explore them without a guide.

Social Disease

by Travis Jeppesen on November 11, 2008

Social Disease, publisher of Disorientations: Art on the Margins of the “Contemporary”, has a new website.

Richard Serra at Gagosian Britannia

by Travis Jeppesen on November 8, 2008

The philosophical rigidity of Richard Serra’s sculptures stands for raw endurance. They last, they extend themselves past momentary interpretations, and yet they are not momentous; rather they nearly pass as organic forms. One at Gagosian is a vaginal maze that you can readily get lost in, its walls narrow and claustrophobic — a metallic birth canal. Visitors express their concern aloud to one another as they move through it — they want to get out as fast as possible, but the further you move, the longer it lasts. There are no easy exits here: once you make the decision to enter, you’re caught. A lot of people won’t make this decision. Too much of a risk. I remember hearing a story, and I don’t know whether it’s true or not, about a Serra sculpture falling on someone and killing them. His work includes this threat, a masculine apology of interruptive force. And yet the wholeness of the shape that’s created, the enclosure it forms, is a nod to classic eternal beauty and all its paradoxes. I think Richard Serra laughs at attempts like these to sum up his work in words. Perfection contains its own criticism, and maybe Serra’s work isn’t quite perfect because it contains nothing but that criticism. The ineffable power of wordless thought; a static intrusion in the zero realm.

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