A personal, curatorial & bilingual Blog about: Artistic Movements, my Art, Creativity, Innovation, Design, Leadership, Empowerment, Sustainability, Science, Jazz, Movies and other cool pursuits - Blog personal y curatorial bilingüe sobre: Movimentos Artísticos, mi Arte, Creatividad, Innovación, Diseño, Liderazgo, Empoderamiento, Sustentabilidad, Ciencia, Jazz, Películas y otros temas.
Murray Gell-Mann is an American physicist. A friend and colleague of Albert Einstein, he received the 1969 Nobel Prize in physics for his work on the theory of elementary particles.
He is now 86 and still going strong. He is obviously famous for his scientific studies and most importantly, he is basically known as the father of the “Quark”, which is the name he gave to a minute particle which is a fundamental building block of neutrons and protons, and which he found has very unusual properties.
He also loves delving in other subjects such as linguistics, archeology, and he even expands his views and opinions on the subject of creativity and innovation. During my seminars at the University I draw a great deal of inspiration from some of his very clever ideas. First and foremost, the fact that the Universe is one, and we are part of it. And as part of such a large event, we follow necessarily certain rules that are common to everything that exists within it.
Gell-Mann is not alone. It is not uncommon to hear physicists or mathematicians – even Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein, Sir Issac Newton before them, and even Aristotle way before all of us – refer to the beauty, simplicity or elegance of equations or theorems and how these characteristics tend to be a good omen that a correct formula is close by (Newton said, for example, that “Nature is pleased with simplicity” while Aristotle made a point in favor of simplicity by advocating as few as possible postulates).
Gell-Mann always tells the story about his 1957 theory on the weak force which he and his colleagues decided to publish. They did so even though it went against seven well know experiments which said something very different. According to him, they did it because they obviously thought they were correct, but the indication that this was so was just the fact that, to them, their answer was a simple one while the other, which was the accepted reasoning, was convoluted and ugly. In time it was shown that Gell-Mann and his friends were correct and all known experiments at the time were wrong.
I always tell my students that simplicity is at the core of all successful enterprises, while overly complex concepts tend to have a much lower success rate, and in the case of initial success, relatively low survival rate. By simplicity I also mean organic, natural, intuitive.
A common example for this, believe it or not, is Facebook.
The core architecture of Facebook is so simple that it almost shocks those who sit down to analyze it for the first time.
I don´t know if it is still going on, but a well-known fact happening at Facebook for a long time was that on the first day of work at the company, the VP of Product, Chris Cox, would give newcomers a remarkable introductory talk. In it he would focus, amongst other things, on explaining Facebook´s product architecture and how it relates to the mission of the company.
When we talk about a company´s architecture, we mean the building blocks of a company, its structure, and how these objects relate to each other and with each other.
Cox, moved by great minimalistic aptitude, describes it in the case of Facebook, as a directory of people, their friends, and their interests; plus a directory of businesses, from global brands all the way to small local businesses. Plus, on top of those directories, a thorough map which basically shows the relationships that exist between all those things. That´s it. No more or less. And that summarizes Facebook.
And it can´t be denied that it is a crystal clear formulation of the product, directly relevant to the mission the company has set, and above all, easily understood by anyone who sees it. It is “beautiful”, it is “elegant”, it is in line – within the corporate cosmos – with Albert Einstein’s famous remark about the fact that he had faith in that “the principle of the universe will be beautiful and simple.”
As far as company´s architectures go, it is beautifully simple, and it is organic to the extent that it is following our everyday interactions, which occur naturally in society, and in doing so it is also helping us to make them richer.
Now, to the big question. Is then the claim that beautiful and elegant answers, as proclaimed by scientists and partially concurred by many who deal in many diverse professions – including myself -, factual evidence or there may be more mundane explanations for this? Does apparent simplicity explain itself or does it hide something else within the underlying structure of reality? Or can it simply be explained by way of sociological, psychological or practical considerations?
Just from the above enumeration of possibilities one gets the distinct notion that things are not that “simple” in “simple answers”.
For a start, it is important to notice that the aesthetics of equations is quite deceiving. An answer may not be convoluted in terms of steps or length because many symbols, which make it look short and “elegant”, involve within their meaning, long and complex equations. What is hidden in all derivative operations is nothing less that long and complex definitions. Thus the “appearance” of simplicity may hide great deal of complexity, and it usually does.
But does this vitiate the argument that “simplicity and elegance” is a good sign in regards to proper and workable solutions?
While mathematicians compress very complex ideas in easily understood symbols, life itself does a bit of the same.
When I say someone is “good”, as opposed to someone who is “evil”, what am I really saying? The concept of “good” requires of a long, and usually difficult to agree, definition. Many philosophers and theologians have spent their lives looking for a formal demarcation without definite agreement. Yet it is one of the most used words, and therefore concepts, in any language.
What has happened is that common consensus has looked to “simplify” its meaning. It is probably an acceptable explanation that a good man
tends to be the sum of the specific interactions between the idea of a person who (generally speaking) does not act against his fellow men, with one who (mostly) acts in a responsible manner, and one who has a certain degree of solidarity, honesty, and social conscience. May also involve concepts such as being a respected and loving father, brother, son, husband, or friend. And so on.
The definition involves a series of terms which act in the same manner as arithmetical “derivatives”, and when put together, they come up with a symbolic word which makes a very intricate but widely acceptable concept into something “simple and elegant”.
The same can be said of anything. Our day to day life involves a constant oversimplification of complex concepts. The oversimplification factor can overlook many nuances but it also makes concepts easily understood and shared by all, and sharing is one of the key factors which make a society into a healthy and growing civilization.
So is simplicity merely the expression that intricate concepts acquire when consensus generates a commonly agreed, albeit limited, explanation? Everything seems to be pointing that way. A flower is a flower but depending on the level of complexity I wish to analyze it, it is a flower or it is something so complex that only a molecular physicist, biologist and botanist can muster.
If it is then a matter of socially acceptable definitions? Can then simplicity be merely described in sociological terms? Is it just a mirage in a wide desert of concepts as abundant as grains of sand? The answer may be resting somewhere in between.
In the same way that the concept of the Universe can be explained in fairly simple and elegant terms, it can also be described as the most complex conjunction of situations, equations, “random coincidences”, and an uncertain prequel and origin we have been able not to ever explain at this time.
Simple answers thus generally hide extremely complex definitions, equations or layered responses which no longer need to be probed as their terms are generally accepted, or because the general description is acceptable on its own terms even if one sees or intuits that a more complex situation lies beneath the surface.
“Simplicity and elegance” may be then a matter of communicating the commonly accepted “look and feel” of something in a terminology that is understood by most at a specific period of time.
As an artist I see this in my own work, and an example of this may be a good way of making graphic something that by now seems so philosophical.
The general perception of a painting may hide a complex underlying theme or pictorial development. Take for example Epistrophy, my painting from 2015.
On the surface it seems a conjunction of fairly geometrical forms in, mostly, 4 colors: blacks, ochres, blues and reds. Not that it can easily be understood, but the composition seems elegant and fairly simple. The shapes are fairly geometrical and providing an initial look of something urban, perhaps somewhat adjacent to a constructivism gone a little haywire.
After a longer period of study other things become obvious. There are also perspectives involved. In fact, there are more than 6 purposely conflicting perspectives, including 2 conflicting curvilinear perspectives implicated. The colors are also more than just 4. There are more than 45 colors involved plus their shades.
But even in each apparently “solid color”, which can seemingly be described as a red, or an ochre, or blue, there is an immense complexity of detail which gives to the eye the idea of one solid color. There is a minute, almost microscopic world of art, which lives beneath the apparent simplicity of one solid, elegant, simple description of color and which comes to life thanks to macro photography.
This is not a fluke. It is in fact by design. And this level of complexity and detail can be found, as I can demonstrate here below with some oher samples, in all of my paintings underneath the superficial explanation of its contents.
Thus, apparent simplicity hides a great deal of complexity that most, unless looking for it specifically, need not know. The simple answer exists and it is satisfying by itself. The complexity behind it also exists, and needs only to be known when the simple answer does not satisfy us.
So, having seen that simple and elegant may not be that simple or elegant beneath the surface, is the “simple and elegant answer” rule a good guide?
Even with all the questions still hanging around the subject, I would nevertheless venture to say “Yes”. It is a reasonable model to follow.
There are many reasons but I will just stick to these 4:
In my experience, the answer which simplifies the steps which need to be taken as well as the reasoning behind it, has a tendency to be more widely understood and therefore, more likely to be put into action. And an answer which is widely applied is, by its own definition, probably a correct answer at the time.
An explanation which simplifies a complex issue, and thus adds a certain elegance in a response, is very often the result of relating different occurrences to a single cause. Therefore eliminating unnecessary steps and making the response more widely applied as well.
Concurrently, longwinded, complex (“ugly”), and hard to understand answers or solutions will be more difficult to apply or prove, and thus less likely to be widely adopted, no matter their level of correctness.
This may be cheating, but many scientists and mathematicians have a rule of thumb. Known as Occam’s Razor (so named – or rather misnamed – for the English monk William of Ockham (or Occam), c.1285-c.1349 AD), this concept stands on the idea that if there are multiple plausible explanations for something, the simplest one will probably be the correct one. To avoid reductionism, one should add that this rule has a proviso that says “all things being equal”. In other words, it is mostly correct as long as you do not compare answers that put face to face bananas and apples.
So, is this becoming a dichotomist argument? Are we facing-off ugly vs elegant, or simple vs complex in an impossible battle? In reality, and as we have seen, what seems simple also hides intricacy. As a matter of fact, mothing in life is that easy, but almost everything should be approachable if explained in certain understandable terms. There is no battle here, but there is a probable winner nonetheless.
Whether in business, art, nature, mathematics or life itself, what we understand as answers that are, in relative terms, simple (ie: understandable, elegant, beautiful, non-repetitive, wider scoping, and so on) do run with an advantage over those seen as complex (difficult to fathom, convoluted, repetitive, ugly, non-organic, and so on).
“Simple” – elegant- answers hide within their nature the inherent complexity of life itself, but manage to show their results in a way that satisfy most. And as such, they tend to provide us with a healthy guide towards the right path. Furthermore, and coincidentally, being on the right path tends to also always be a beautiful experience.
I recently published one of my new paintings (Joy Spring) which is, somehow, also a tribute to the great musician Clifford Brown, particularly in his pairing with drummer Max Roach in the album titled Clifford Brown & Max Roach.
This new painting coincidentally pays homage to another fantastic horn player and musician, and one which many consider one of the finest hard bop trumpeters of the post-Clifford Brown era.
Science Funktion (2014) is a 65cm x 60 cm painting, made in acrylic, printing & Chinese inks, and oil based paints on wood. As you know my art is influenced by music, particularly jazz. While the translation process of rythms and sounds gets a helping hand from my synesthesia. In this case, it is loosely based on the song of the same title, which was made famous by none other than Donaldson Toussaint L’Ouverture Byrd II, or as everyone knew him, Donald Byrd.
Born in 1932, Donald Byrd was an American jazz and rhythm & blues trumpeter. A sideman and a band leader from the 1950´s until very late in his life (he sadly passed away in February 2013), he was regarded as an influential voice amongst jazz musicians. Not only did he manage to move effortlessly between bebop, hardbop, funk, soul, rhythm & blues and electronic fusion jazz (influenced by Miles Davis move in the late 60´s). He was also an important influence in the early career of such greats as keyboard player and composer Herbie Hancock.
Science Funktion is one of the best known tracks in his álbum Caricatures, which he recorded in 1976 for the Blue Note label. Jazz purists don´t particularly like this phase of Byrds career, as he moves into electronic and funk in a fusion with jazz. But Funk, Soul and R&B fans consider this period as magnificent, and his mastery of the instrument is maintained thoughout. His Jazz roots are always there to be heard and enjoyed, and his love for all musical languages cannot be denied.
So here are Science Funktion, the song and the painting (and a slide show with details of the same painting).
Argentine writer Julio Cortazar was born on a day like this, exactly 100 years ago. All over the world literary buffs and fans are celebrating this new anniversary of his birth with articles and mentions.
A prolific writer and a brilliant story teller, he left his mark in the minds and souls of the many millions who enjoyed his brilliance.
Stories like “Hopscotch” (published in 1963 and probably his most important novel), where the story can change according to the order in which the chapters of the book are read (hence the name), Cronopios and Famas, The final round, The Browl outside, and many more are highlights of his very entertaining, deeply complex, and fascinating works.
Even if you have never read him, you may have enjoyed some of his stories which have been made into movies.
The best known is, clearly, “Blow-up” (1966), a very successful adaptation of Cortazar´s short story “The Devil´s drool” (1959), directed by Michelangelo Antonioni, and starring David Hemmings, Vanessa Redgrave, and Sarah Miles. While Cortázar’s story “La autopista del sur” (“The Southern Thruway”) influenced another film of the 1960s, Jean-Luc Godard’s Week End (1967).
Cortazar´s love of boxing and Jazz is legendary. While I do not share his love of boxing, I do share his love for Jazz. One of the highlights of “Blow-up”, at least for Cortazar, was the fact that the music was written and performed by such a jazz genius as Herbie Hancock. While “The Pursuer” (1959), a short story that gives its name to a book, is losely based on the life of bebop saxofonist Charly Parker. And his constant musical references, particularly to Jazz, and in lesser extent to “Classical” music (a term that in fact he really detested), do mark his literary production.
Some years ago, a very brave journalist from the Clarin Newspaper in Argentina put me in a bind, when he compared my paintings and my passion for infusing them with the rhythm and musical cadences of Jazz, with what another Argentine, writer Julio Cortazar, had done with the literary presence of this beautiful and free form musical style in all of his writings.
I always felt almost “embarrassed” at this comparison. But on a day like this, I take it as an honor and an important legacy which in my own way, I wish to continue.
Cortazar passed away too early. It was 1984. He was buried in Paris (Montparnasse) where he lived. It was from illness, but many say that the man who always looked 20 years younger than his real age, had suddenly become old and frail from the emptiness that he felt after the passing of Carol Dunlop, from Leukemia, in 1982. She was his second wife and the love of his life.
Like many greatly creative people, all the toughness everyone saw on the outside, was just a shell which protected a highly sensitive and frail soul.
As a homage to this great mind, I would like to share with you this short video prepared by the Juan March Foundation in Spain, in which Cortazar himself talks about the relationship, almost the love affair, he had with Jazz and how it is brought forward in his works.
El artista plástico Ignacio Alperín ha ganado notoriedad a nivel nacional e internacional con su arte movedizo y rítmico, conectado fuertemente al Jazz y a una movida marcadamente personal.
Por Cecilia Tvrdoñ
Cuando uno lee los comentarios sobre la obra del artista plástico Ignacio Alperín, uno nota que expertos y no expertos coinciden en ciertas frases: movimiento, ritmo, cadencia, color. Son todas palabras que buscan relatar de lo que se trata su obra, la cual por su fuerza y estilo tan personal, es difícil de encajonar en referencias clásicas definidas. Es fresca, intuitiva, innovadora y desde ya, muy alejada de lo que uno supondría al escuchar su historia.
¿Cuánto tiempo viviste en el extranjero?
Nací en la Argentina. Pero parte de mi infancia, y toda mi adolescencia y juventud, la viví en Australia, donde también estudié. Los que más me conocen dicen que soy un poquito Aussie. Además de Australia, y por razones laborales de mis padres, pude viajar mucho, e inclusive residir temporariamente en países como Singapur, Malasia, Francia e Italia. Volví a la Argentina en 1990 por curiosidad más que necesidad, y duré poco tiempo. Me “bañé” de realidad y me fui tambaleando como esos boxeadores que entran al ring sin estar preparados. Di vueltas por Inglaterra, Francia, Italia y retorné al país en 1997.
Finalmente te adaptaste.
No realmente. Pero tal vez ahora estoy como esos boxeadores a los que les pegaron tanto que ya no le importa (risas). En serio, lo que sucede si uno viene de crecer en un país anglosajón y pasa a nuestra cultura, es que hay diferencias fundamentales que cuestan congeniar. Más allá de que cuando volví a la Argentina hablaba castellano con un poco de acento gringo, creo que lo que me pasa tiene que ver con los códigos. Estoy muy feliz en mi país, pero tal vez se entienda si te digo que afuera extrañaba nuestra calidez humana, eso de ser familieros a toda costa (muy tano) y nuestro sentido del humor; mientras que estando acá extraño el respeto por los demás, el sentido de justicia social, y las reglas claras y similares para todos, que son las pautas con las que crecí en Australia.
¿Tu formación es puramente artística?
Se podría decir que el arte me acompaña desde que nací, ya que vengo de una familia muy abierta al arte y al diseño. Mi madre es una excelente dibujante que dejó de lado su pasión para formar una familia, pero nunca dejó de enseñarnos todo lo que sabía. Mi padre es un ingeniero con una carrera internacional que ha tenido muchos contactos con movimientos de vanguardia, tanto arquitectónicos como artísticos. Por todo ello mi primera formación fue más cercana al dibujo. En Australia, como parte de mi formación general, estudié artes visuales, e hice cursos y talleres. Pero en algún momento decidí encaminar mi propia exploración y allí es donde todavía me encuentro hoy.
¿Te dedicaste siempre al arte?
Pese a que el arte es la gran constante de mi vida, como considero que el ser humano debe responder con acciones a todas las necesidades intelectuales que se presentan (hacer algo con los dones que Dios nos ha dado sería una frase que siempre me inculcaron y que se me viene a la mente ahora) también estudié, entre otras cosas, Derecho, Ciencias Políticas, Relaciones Internacionales, y algo de Economía y Marketing.
Nada que ver con el arte… Sos el abogado pintor.
(Sonríe) Mirá, pinto, en el sentido más formal del concepto, desde los 12 años. Es algo que me ha acompañado siempre. Vendí mi primer cuadro en Australia a los 20 años, lo que marcaría el comienzo de mi carrera profesional de artista. Como también estudié otras profesiones, mi arte debió competir con otras responsabilidades, muchas veces ocupando el lugar de acompañante permanente y bálsamo para el alma. Y desde hace ya más de 10 años, la de artista es mi profesión principal.
¿Nos contás un poco más de tu alter ego profesional?
Para los que me conocen por primera vez, siempre les pregunto si quieren que hable como Bruce Wayne o como Batman (se ríe nuevamente). A simple vista parecen ser actividades muy alejadas entre sí. Pero la realidad es que hay un hilo conductor, y es que en todos yo soy yo. La vida hoy es muy compleja y en términos objetivos, es más larga. Ya la idea de pertenecer a una empresa toda tu vida y retirarte con el reloj de oro, pese a ser muy admirable, es casi imposible. El dinamismo del mercado, los altibajos económicos, y las presiones emocionales ligadas a un mundo donde todo es “ya”, hacen que los cambios laborales y profesionales no sólo sean casi inevitables, sino que hasta podrían considerarse muy sanos porque son como brisas de aire fresco que renuevan el “ambiente interior”. Pero no todo es fantástico. Admitamos que los momentos en los que algo terminó y lo nuevo no termina de concretarse, son momentos duros para todos. Pero creo fervientemente que la solución está casi siempre en nosotros mismos.
Perfecto, pero ¿y tu vida como Bruce Wayne?
(Se endereza) Tengo que tener el phisique du role para contestar. Estudié y estudio siempre. Tanto profesiones clásicas como en lo relacionado al arte (inclusive estudié teatro). Tengo el extraño honor de ser el primer argentino en la historia de Australia en recibirse de abogado. Hice una práctica en un estudio internacional en Melbourne y de allí me fui directo a trabajar en una empresa. Me desarrollé laboralmente en diferentes empresas y en diferentes países. Llegué a ser Gerente General de una S.A. y de mi propia empresa, Director Ejecutivo del Colegio de Abogados de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires, y Socio Gerente de un estudio extranjero entre otras cosas. Y hoy, en paralelo a mi arte, sigo dando charlas y conferencias sobre los procesos creativos, el arte y la creatividad en general, enfocado a empresas, profesionales y artistas. En fin… Muy Bruce Wayne.
Y mientras tanto el arte acechaba…
Yo diría que el arte ha sido y es mi compañero fiel de toda la vida. Dónde iba, mi arte iba conmigo. Y hoy en día es un trabajo full time, de 7 días a la semana.
¿Cómo definirías tu arte?
Si queremos darle un nombre tradicional, mi arte podría encuadrarse dentro de lo expresionista y abstracto. Mis series son generalmente basadas en el jazz particularmente, y en la música en general. Lo de Jazz Visual, o Visual Jazz, que es como se le conoce más popularmente aquí y afuera, responde a la denominación que le dio a mi obra una periodista norteamericana la primera vez que expuse en New York. Y la verdad es que me gustó porque de manera muy sintética, plasma lo que yo trato de generar como artista.
¿Qué tiene de diferente tu trabajo con la música, comparado a lo que hacen otros artistas, muchos de los cuales escuchan música también mientras trabajan?
Yo tengo sinestesia. No es algo malo, y para los que no la conocen, es una condición tan benigna del lóbulo frontal del cerebro que hasta hace algunos años no se podía diagnosticar fehacientemente y a nadie le importaba.
Inclusive hay un porcentaje importante de la población mundial que lo tiene y, algún médico me corregirá, se produce durante el proceso de gestación, dónde cierta característica del lóbulo frontal no se desarrolla o se desarrolla tal vez de otra manera a lo que se consideraría “normal”.
El resultado es que se producen conexiones neuronales fuera de lo común. Por ejemplo, hay personas que cuando escuchan ciertos sonidos se les generan sabores específicos (do es chocolate, re es frutilla… por dar un ejemplo simplificado).
En mi caso, mi sinestesia es leve, pero me permite “ver” formas y colores cuando escucho ciertos sonidos, particularmente música. En particular, encuentro que el Jazz y la música denominada “Clásica” genera los resultados más importantes. Y como amo el Jazz desde pequeño, es mi inspiración principal.
Esta cualidad, ¿estuvo siempre presente en tu obra?
Cuando era un joven artista me resistía a estos impulsos y no los plasmaba en mi obra. Los ignoraba ya que mi educación era más formal, y deseaba lo que muchos deseamos, que es ser aceptado.
Pero con el tiempo me di cuenta que lo que me hacía diferente (no digo original) era el hecho de que mi cerebro pudiese “ver” cosas que otros no veían. La inspiración no llegaba solamente a través de impulsos visuales, o puramente emocionales, sino que también a través de ondas que producía mi cerebro al verse estimulado por el sonido.
Ahí comprendí, que el respetar la “formalidad” le quitaba a mi trabajo, por un lado, esa elusiva característica individual que todos buscamos, y a mi vida de artista el disfrute de crear de una manera que me hacía verdaderamente feliz.
Y así fue como comencé, de a poco, a experimentar lo que hoy ya es una característica de mi obra. Logré así unir mi impronta, y mi capacidad de trabajo, con las posibilidades que este don me genera, y encontré la manera de fusionarlos y aprovecharlos artísticamente.
Y se nota en la vitalidad, los movimientos y el ritmo que hay en tu obra.
Esa “visión” de movimientos, formas y colores creo que hoy se plasman claramente en mi trabajo pese a ser marcadamente abstracto. Si no me equivoco, el comentario que más he escuchado sobre mi obra, sea de expertos (artistas, curadores, etc) como del público en general, es que se ven plasmados los ritmos, los movimientos, y las cadencias de la música de manera muy clara.
Me ha llevado años, pero igualmente, me hace muy feliz escucharlo.
Tal vez la reputación de tu obra ya me esté dando la respuesta, pero ¿encontrás que la obra abstracta es aceptada y valorada en nuestro país como en el extranjero?
Creo que la obra abstracta tiene su mercado en todo el mundo. La abstracción pictórica existe desde principios del siglo XX y va a seguir existiendo. Y sinceramente, tampoco creo que sea un problema que haya personas a las que no les guste la abstracción. Es más, están en todo su derecho. Y creo que es un tema que no pasa necesariamente por la educación, aunque comprenderla seguramente allana el camino para disfrutarla. Más bien intuyo que en general es un tema de gustos.
Igualmente te cuento que en la Argentina las obras abstractas tienen muchos adeptos, particularmente entre los coleccionistas de mediana edad y jóvenes, y eso claramente es muy bueno.
¿Manejás tu obra de manera personal?
El mercado del arte es muy complejo. Creo haber tenido la suerte de que mi obra haya sido resaltada en medios nacionales y extranjeros. Eso es fantástico desde el punto de vista de la validación externa que necesita el público que se acerca a la obra. Algunos curadores recomiendan mi obra y eso también es muy bueno. Pero no lo es todo.
Participo de eventos y ferias, generalmente por invitación, y elijo dónde participar. La elección no se basa en la fama de la feria o muestra necesariamente, pero en lo que en el momento también pueda resultar beneficioso para mi arte. Eso sí, nunca le digo que no a los eventos a beneficio.
También mantengo mi presencia a través de mi Sitio personal; de mi Blog; de un grupo, una Fan Page y una página personal en Facebook; de presencia en LinkedIn donde contribuyo con artículos en 7 grupos de arte. Tengo una substancial masa de seguidores en Twitter también, y todo ello requiere de tiempo y planificación.
Siempre que uno habla de la Red pareciera ser que no requiere trabajo. Se publica y listo. Pero creo que con lo que acabo de contar queda claro que, por un lado, promocionarse por Internet es un trabajo como como cualquier otro y requiere de tiempo, constancia y cierta precisión. Y la pata tradicional también lleva tiempo y esfuerzos.
Recordemos que además de todo eso, pinto, planifico, trabajo en mis objetos y diseños, y coordino la representación de mis obras. Es realmente un trabajo full-time.
Proyectos y realidades siempre. Hoy, en paralelo a mi arte, sigo dando charlas y conferencias sobre los procesos creativos, el arte y la creatividad en general, enfocado a empresas, profesionales y artistas. No soy de los que anuncian sus proyectos futuros con asiduidad. Siento que la presión positiva que se genera al trabajar silenciosamente, pese a las ganas de contarlo a los cuatro vientos, es muy frágil. Se disipa fácilmente si uno genera expectativas y “desinfla” esa presión interior. Digamos simplemente que creo en el futuro, mío y en el del país, y estoy apostando para que podamos hacer grandes cosas juntos.
Si querés ver a Ignacio Alperín en acción, mirá la nota en YouTube, en el canal arteztvfull o bien en la fan page Artez Teve Programa de Televisión.
Pricing art is not an easy task. Everyone has a story to tell, an issue to contend with, or even an encounter with an unscrupulous individual to remember.
Emerging artists feel that is impossible to set a reasonable price. They are happy when they sell, but they also think it is unfair what they get for their art (more often than not, managing to barely cover the costs of materials but not their artistic work). When they go to fairs or those who are lucky enough to be contacted by galleries, they have to pay just to be there and if they sell, they can see that anywhere between 10% and 50% of the price will end-up elsewhere.
It is better for established artists. Even though costs remain high, and commissions more so. Yet the construction of a solid price for an artist´s work is, generally speaking, a complex and time consuming task even for someone with a history of good strong sales.
Serious galleries, curators, and a variety of experts, make appraisals. But appraisals can also be wrong. Particularly when an artist´s work is just beginning to see the light. The word appraisal in itself has a diffuse meaning. As it is based on past performance (if it exists), on objective and subjective values, and on projections of current and future value. Very difficult in itself, and even more so if the artist is not that well known.
I want to tell you a little bit about my own story, and what I have learned so far. Maybe my experience will be of use. I can happily say that prices for my art have grown exponentially in the last few years, and this has to do with a series of steps I have taken, added to a complex equation that I have worked out over time.
But before I get to that, it may be good to start by delving a little into the past, so we can set the scene.
As many of you may already be familiar with, I have been working for a long time on what I call “Visual Jazz”. This is a combination of my brain´s response to music (I am synesthetic, just like Kandinsky, another artist who also interlaced his art and his “gift”) and I work particularly with jazz. Thus the name.
I remember when I first started exhibiting my new work more openly, I came across a great deal of resistance, mostly because the infusion of color and movement that I constantly explore through my series was not the “in thing” at the time.
Not only was I not getting the prices I hoped, I was also getting the cold shoulder from many curators and critics as they found my art, and my way of expressing it, either unattractive or in some cases, not conceptual enough.
It was almost impossible to get a review, while art competitions would just shun me out, and people would look at it with an expression of “I just don’t understand it”.
Until one day a journalist decided fortuitously (the luck factor) that my work should be used as the “differential” in an article she wrote on the new artistic trends that were coming from South America. This was as part of a review she did on a group exhibition (I was just one of the artists) that was being held at a Gallery, in Chelsea, NY. A Gallery which happened to be, or at least that is how I felt, the only one prepared to open its walls to my art.
I never met the journalist. I still don’t know how she placed my “Visual Jazz” in the midst of a “trend” as I was mostly (truly) lonely and on my own, just trying to get my work noticed. But in any case, she noticed. And that is the important point.
I remember even feeling a little lost at the South American branding. I was born in Argentina and mostly reside there these days, but I grew up in Australia and lived in many countries before settling back, so I always felt a bit out of place. I even feel that my art is a little more universal than the general local art, which has a tendency to be more self-referential.
But in any case, I was obviously not going to argue with it. Quite the contrary, I embraced it.
This first validating article gave me a little push. Soon major newspapers started briefly mentioning my “Visual Jazz” as something different to see. As my work began to grow and the pieces started multiplying. The sheer volume and, hopefully, the quality of work began to change minds. One thing is to see 1 or 2 pieces, something else is to see 50.
When you have good volumen of work, the public and the critics hopefully begin to notice where you are going with your art. As with most abstractions, they may also find their brains slowly accommodating to the different paradigms which are being proposed. And suddenly, the fact that they did not understand it before, becomes less important than the fact that they unexpectedly seem to be enjoying the aesthetics of it. And out of the blue (or red, or yellow, or green), one day they do understand. One day they finally “see it”.
And so, as approval began to grow, prices also began to rise.
Even now I am at the threshold and not even close to my ceiling. Hopefully I will never know what my work’s value ceiling is, or at least that is what I hope.
Yet, as I look back and try to extract reasonable advice that can apply to everybody’s work, I see certain common threads related to all the work done to generate value. And I feel, and hope, that these simple points (and I mean simple, not easy) will take you far:
1. There is no replacing quality, ingenuity, emotion, and hard work.
2. Furthermore, there is no replacing YOU in your work. YOU are the original. It is just a matter of letting YOU into your art.
3. Luck is a factor in your success. But luck doesn’t walk around looking for your door. You have to be “out there” (whatever your “out there” may be) so luck can find you.
4. You may start with a price that reasonably represents the amount of work & artistic effort that went into your piece. But Price is value, and value is a construction. Put a brick at a time. Like my father used to say (he is an engineer), “You cannot start a beautiful building from the top floor. First you have to get your hands dirty and dig”.
5. Don´t expect a set value. Don´t expect your prices to be maintained if you don´t respect them. Be flexible & sensible, but defend the value you have created so far.
6. Price/Value is something that you build with your buyers. Make them part of your project. Get them to defend their investment as much as you defend your price. Then you may have something.
7. Be responsive to your public and let your art go. In other words, sell when the opportunity arises!
8. Your work is your best ad, but the ad must be published somewhere in order to work, so make sure that your art is hanging somewhere far away from you, & where it can keep getting YOU to new audiences.
9. Learn to be intellectually alert about your art. Study, become your art´s own encyclopedia, learn to explain your motivations in ways that engages those who listen to you. Explain the complexities of your work in terms that people can understand, but also admire. Read and explore the history of art. Look at those who came before you. Learn, learn, and learn. And above all, be sincere about your motivations. This simple exercise creates value.
10. Do not confuse being intellectually alert with conceptualizing your work. “Concept” in art has become very important because it is of great help to curators, critics, and agents. Amongst other things, because it helps them write and talk about your art. But it is not your art. At most, let the concept “explain” (for others) and “guide” (for you), but never “dictate”.
And now to my magic equation, which is:
(My end work) x (My effort) x (my time) x (My creativity) x (My costs) = $0 (zero)
Yes. It is that sad. But don´t lose hope. It is a stepping stone and I will explain why.
For a start. There is no better place to base your pricing strategy than in reality.
Getting the right price is understanding that your work is worth a lot to you. It may be beautiful, extraordinary, and it may even represent a brand new branch of the arts, but all that value is only felt by you and those who love you.
When you look at the market value (a different kettle of fish altogether), your work (my work for that matter) is worth zero, zilch, nada….until someone is prepared to pay something for it.
It is worth more when 2 or more are willing to do that, and the sky is the limit once people move in numbers to pay for your work. At that point you may increase what you ask for your work, and the market will probably respond (in my experience) positively because everybody loves a winner, and everybody wants to make a great deal (in art, the great deal is that your work is cheaper now than later). The best news is that the incrementals may be limitless.
When you pretend that your prices mimic your love for what you do, you will fall flat on your face. More so if you don’t do the “work” (I refer you back to my 10 points). Because the market is many things, but mostly, it is absolutely heartless.
But if you can engage your market both emotionally and intellectually, it may ultimately respond, and at that point, you may have a winner.
That is why it is so important to work towards increasing the value of your work by giving it meaning, by promotion, by your own intellectual attractiveness in describing what you do, how you do it, and why you do it. Basically letting your uniqueness come through your art.
The rest is up to your talent (and yes, a little bit of luck).
“Art is subjective. To each his or her own…”This was part of a comment someone wrote in response to a post I made on a social media platform some time ago.
My first reaction was…”God, how difficult! Another non-response”.
I usually call “non-responses” answers or comments which, on the one hand, cannot be answered or challenged in any possibly intelligent way –at least not without getting its proposer upset- as they are meant to be self-contained statements.
Secondly, they very often tend to veil a strict and rigid view of something under the guise of seemingly defending total freedom.
As I read it, the statement core meaning seems to be (punctuations are mine): “NO ONE can question what art is, and you MUST accept that each one can do whatever each one feels like doing, and it will be ALL art. OK?”.
But if we look at it in a different way, the statement touches on a few of the central concerns we all have.
Mind you, I do not question the fact that we are all free to do as we please, as long as we respect others and nature. Yet, whether we are artists, art lovers, curators, collectors or gallerists, we constantly ask ourselves, and question our responses, about what is the Art paradigm today, and whether we can accept that EVERYTHING anyone does and which is called “art”, can be art.
So here are some thoughts, examples, annecdotes and ideas which will hopefully spark some further debate on this subject.
1. Everything that is labelled as “Art”, is art. Now, is it?
We live in a world that criticizes criticism. As a result everything can be considered “artistic”, and seemingly it cannot be challenged, as challenging it gets catalogued as a restriction on freedom.
So, I can place a Bugatti in a museum and call it art. Is it beautiful? Sure it is.
Is it art? Well…it is beautiful. And as far as car design goes, it is probably as close to art as car design can get.
But the way I see it, it is not art.
Mind you, this discussion is not new. We have to thank Marcel Duchamp for the modern concept that everything can fall into “art” (the readymade as art is one of his noted contributions), as he looked to break from the rigidity of early XXth Century art dogma.
Thus, from Duchamp´s 1917´s urinal (Fountain) to Piero Manzoni´s feces in a can, passing by Picasso´s She-goat from 1950 (made from scrap metal he found in the garbage) and Damien Hirst´s dead animals in formaldehyde, it would seem almost anything can become art.
But the truth is that not everything is.
After almost a century, it cannot be denied that there has been change as a result of this new found freedom. But the outcome could be described as both, enriching and confusing.
The pendulum has gone full swing, and subjective reasoning has become something of a new dogma, while seemingly not leaving enough room to discuss the role of objective notions.
For example, I believe there must be an artistic intention, concept or idea, and a substantial endeavor (regardless of the fact that the end result manages to accomplish its initial objectives or not), behind something to be considered “Art”. But sometimes it is not clear how shared is that opinion today.
2. Concepts give non-artists (curators, experts, critics) the intellectual structure to write and sometimes, pontificate about art. But as far as artistic value goes, I feel “We may need a bit more than that from you! Thank you” (ah hum).
For example, when does a concept, idea or statement becomes more than just that. When does it have a chance to become “art”, and how much of a proper development is required before it can be considered art?
At the 2013 version of Buenos Aires´ArteBA (*), probably the country´s finest international art fair, the coveted ArteBA – Petrobras Award (which also carries a substantial monetary reward) was given to Argentine artist Enrique Jezik (*) for his work “Aguante”.
“Aguante”(Resistance) was a piece of performance art in which 5 rather strong men, amongst which was Mr. Jezik, held on to 5 flat pieces of rock sheet while a huge excavator tried to break them (the rock panels, not the men).
Besides the fact that this was a rather dangerous exercise, the piece was designed to show something like (I am condensing the whole concept here) “the resistance of the collective against the brute force of those with power, enlightening on the inequality that exists in the distribution of wealth”. It was so difficult to perform at the Fair that the artist simply showed a video of it.
The Jury made up of internationally respected curators, including Mexico´s Cuauhtémoc Medina and Argentina´s Jorge Macchi, found in his video performance a substantial rebellious social and artistic statement, and thus he was awarded the price of ARS$100,000 (close to US$20,000) ahead of everyone else.
Conceptual art is here to stay, but in this case, was the end product art? Was it conceptually new? And whether it was new or not, was it developed enough to become an artistic piece? Was it even inspiring? (Mind you, I am not even getting into the minefield that means comparing it to other work presented).
And I point out, I do not question Mr. Jezik´s quality as an artist. I do not even question the right of curators, critics and experts to do their work, which is of importance. And I admit those concepts are of great help to those who do not have the same sensibility that artists have (most critics, curators and experts are not artists). But if I were asked about this performance, I would feel it barely met any of those basic criteria.
Objectively, the concept was certainly nothing new, as the philosophy of resistance and revolution in art was pioneered by many, including Picasso, more than 70 years ago; the development of the idea was, to say the least, rudimentary; the performance ended up being a little more than a poorly executed video (maybe because it had to be made in a hurry as performance at the Fair was not possible), the performance seemed to leave some doubts about what was the original idea behind it (here is the link so you can judge for yourselves: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vo4HA7jAHYo); and the aesthetics of it, at the very least, questionable.
Although some said that the awarded price of close to US$20,000 may have shown, in this case at least, that in regards to the current “inequality in the distribution of wealth”, he may have had a point.
So was the price awarded more for his past accolades than for his current artistic “concept” and “performance”? Maybe. Or maybe not. And you can´t help but feel a bit sorry for Mr. Jezik and the criticism he recieved. He did not award the Price to himself. Others were responsible for that. But the fact is that it did generate (that is probably the good news) a great deal of controversy.
So much so that there was even a widely shared fake news item, which spread like wildfire amongst artists in the continent, and which said (photograph of the artists receiving the award included) that Mr. Jezik had been awarded the 2013 Price as a mistake since he had forgotten to attach his work to his award entry. It even went so far as to say that Jezik himself was surprised by the award and did not think he deserved it, as he thought he had presented nothing to the Jury (some people suspect that the fake report was initiated by disgruntled artists who also participated at that year´s award).
3. Money is evil!! (…don´t tell anyone but I love money). I tell you Money is evil!!! (…and yes, I think I would like more money).
This is an annex discussion, like a short detour, but the previous story is giving me the leeway to explore it for a minute.
And this is the issue of money, market, and the rhetoric the art world surrounds it with, so as to not sound too interested.
At the end, whether an artist likes to admit it or not, we are cogs in an economic system. And we all look forward to being able to make a nice living from our art. Yet there is this patina of revolution that “real artists” seem to need to lug on themselves since the early 1900s. And which Awards seem to love.
According to this view, art must be cutting-edge, novel, avant-garde, radical. Preferably showing some contempt for establishment, if it is to be considered “serious” art!
Yet, despite all the talk against money and the market, when we are offered good money for our work, we take it. And the more money, the better it is.
It is painful, particularly to those who really care, but the truth is that as artists we “sell-out” rather quickly. We become “establishment” and enjoy the limelight instantly, even though we may talk the talk and walk the walk of revolution.
Yet, if we think about it for a minute, it is not as contradictory as it would seem. After all, is there anything more laissez faire than saying that anybody can be an artist and everything can be art?
It was Pop art´s Andy Warhol who said “Art is what you can get away with”. And is there something more liberal, globalizing and representative of the process of offer & demand than that? Few things are, I imagine.
And even though many art elders may say “Don´t talk money, leave it to others” as a commandment to the young artist, supposedly benefiting artistic purity, it was the same revolutionary Warhol who also said that “Making money is art, and working is art, and good business is the best art.” While he went on to add later on in life: “I’ve decided something: Commercial things really do stink. As soon as it becomes commercial for a mass market it really stinks”.
Some may find inconsistency is these statements, but if I may unify both thoughts, he may have tried to simply say that art is a good business, but it is for the few and not for the masses, since when something becomes common place it loses that artistic quality that made it unique (Remember, he does not complain about it being commercial, only about the fact that it has become commercial for amass market).
This is very “revolutionary”, you may ironically think. But remember, being contradictory seems also to be “Art”.
4. It is art because I say so! Or because someone else said so? Ok, well, either way, as long as you buy it, it´s fine…
To most “normal” people (as compared to us, weird arty people), art to be art seems to commonly involve some kind of validation. It can be that a curator or critic has spoken about it, was shown at a gallery of some repute, the media has said something about it, it is being bought by collectors, or it has been bestowed with the golden appraisal of “Museum quality” work. Whatever the case, there is general expectation that something must happen before people will consider something to be “Art”, or even “artistic”.
Is this fair? No, it is not. The fact remains that there are artists creating something every second, every day. But even if it were completely subjective, as my interlocutor asserted in the phrase at the beginning of this article, is it still all art?
Maybe a great portion of it is art. Now, is it any good? Probably only 30% is of some reasonable quality, and a small percentage of that is what could be referred to as good art. And even then, some of what is good may also happen to be beautiful, intriguing, mesmerizing, and even “cool” (as you know, a word I love).
Amongst the art works which may qualify as beautiful, there may be some which have also gained public validation, and some which may have not.
Today, being in the “public eye”, in the old-fashioned artistic sense, is not a necessary condition for artists and for art. There are some circuits that we can create as artists and which do not require of the traditional gallery presence or show. There are private circuits of artists, admirers, investors and collectors, both real and virtual, that work mostly out of the limelight and do so very successfully.
Then, is validation a necessity? No, it is not. But If it is there, it does help. Is it a guarantee? No, it is not either. There is a lot of bad art being validated, and a lot of good art not receiving any of the accolades one expects. But that is just life. The truth is that not everyone gets what they deserve, whether good or bad.
I am one of those who have shun away from going full-on traditional. I have done gallery shows and fairs, but not necessarily in the expected fashion. Maybe it has been my way of managing my artistic timing, or simply that I have seen the advantages of mixing non-traditional marketing tools, like social media, the internet in general, word-of mouth and private gallery shows for collectors, with the more standard fare.
But validation is still important, even for those like me who have moved quite strongly into virtual promotional tools.
A work of mine was recently acquired by a local collector. He has a very impressive collection of works by some of the best 20th century Argentine masters. Usually, upon a sale, I don’t see where the painting will be ultimately hanged.
But in this case, I was asked if I could take it to his home. And when I delivered the painting I was asked if I could help hang it on a wall. A wall where a portrait painted by the great Argentine master Lino Eneas Spilimbergo (*) had been hanging minutes before (Spilimbergo´s piece was already on the floor and inclined on the wall).
I felt honored, and at the same time, it felt a little like the changing of the guard. It was a most humbling experience and a validation as to how my work is seen today.
Yet, does this validation guarantee the value of my work? No, it does not. It is a hint. It is a small arrow pointing the right way (and my way in this case) but that is all. Does it mean anything about the old master´s current monetary value or the quality of his work? It certainly does not.
5. Redoing what has already been done is not the same as rediscovering it. So the easy applause may soon die. There… it´s dead.
Well, we all strive for originality. We all dream of discovering something new, a new concept, a new way of doing things. But the fact is that very few will manage to do it. Ignorance (particularly in terms of the history of art) is the great ally of artists, both from an artistic perspective and from the perspective of the public.
I see, for example, artists who are currently on the limelight and who work on Junk Art (scrapped metal, garbage, discarded articles, recycled materials, and so on). People who have never seen this type of art are mesmerized, and its popularity grows.
In Buenos Aires, for example, there is a growing controversy amongst critics because of the amount of public space, particularly in centrally located parks, which local BA artist Carlos Regazzoni (*) has recently been allotted.
Mind you, I don´t know him. Both curators in his gallery are dear friends and I like them very much, and I find him an artistic force in certain respects.
But the argument which has become quite vocal in the local art world (including agitated exchanges by the artist with journalists on local radio), is in regards to the originality and quality of the work, and so the –substantial- amount of recreational areas which are now covered by his metallic structures has come under closer scrutiny.
Now, Regazzoni acquired certain popularity in the last few years because of his fringe gallery, which is placed in the middle of disused railway tracks. There people, enjoying the kind of reverse snobbism fringe galleries usually generate, eat in the tradition of the old fashioned “bodegones” (working class eateries of the 1930´s and 40´s). Simultaneously, he shows his work and that of up and coming artists, hanging on the typical tin walls of the railway work yards and lit by common light bulbs, while people stroll on the dirty broken floors.
The truth is that the fringe and factory gallery movement, where he finds inspiration for his own gallery and eatery, is more than 40 years old, at the very least. And what is commonly known as “junk art” can be traced back to the work of artists from the early 1900´s onwards. Great artists like the already mentioned Duchamp, Schwitters, Picasso, Tatlin, Archipenko, Laurens, Taebuer-Arp, Janco, Miró, Breton, Rauschemberg, Smith, Soto, Martin, Javacheff, Arman, Cesar, Chamberlain, Beuys, Kienholz, de Saint-Phalle and many more (this is just to mention the most famous which come to mind) who have, in many cases, done extraordinary things or opened up this field.
Furthermore, if one Googles the phrase “junk art”, the result is over 61 million links which cover from the masters to the tens of thousands of artists worldwide who currently practice this artistic style.
So, the originality argument will hardly stand.
The quality argument can also be questionable. Compared to past works in this field, and even current work around the globe, one could argue with certain objective backing, that Mr. Regazzoni´s current series (mind you, I do not question him as a sculptor) can unfortunately only be described as just average.
Yet he has achieved popularity as an artist and as an artistic host.
Someone said that “popularity” is the kiss of death to most artists. Popularity is very close to Warhol´s “massification”, and it does not necessarily imply quality or artistic merit. In many cases it could be said that it implies a combination of commercial mass market hysteria with certain outside factors, amongst which illiteracy from the public, or in this case, about the history of this type of sculptural work in particular, can add to the equation.
And unfamiliarity in art is a great equalizer.
When the public is not that aware of those who came before, it provides an artist with an openly fertile ground to grow. The old (and the repetitive) can feel new and that can be a fantastic environment for an individual. But I feel it is overall a bad thing. What is produced is soon unmasked, as it cannot stand to comparisons.
Ultimately, the creations may feel like mirages, rather than miracles.
And art, from my own perspective, should always aim to be a miracle.
So, is the public space justified?
Probably not in objective terms, but popularity is a great magnet to politicians, no matter the ideology or the nationality. And this is popular art, and it is accessible, although not that original. So it is easy to be tempted to give it a bigger stage, deservedly or not.
What is also happening is that the questioned artist seems to be demonstrably upset with those who have reservations about his current work. He feels like a “one off” and with a fairly long career behind him, he does not relish having to explain himself at his age.
The problem is that all artists, Regazzoni and myself included, dream with the moment when it can be said that we have generated some new paradigm, or that there is some novelty in what we do. That is the art equivalent to a genetically modified spider bite. It suddenly produces in us super power like changes. “Powers” that we need to learn to use correctly.
And as an added bonus to that, this kind of recognition not only should lower the level of resistance that our work may encounter, it also magically allows us to get the financial support that we need to get our larger projects done.
6. So, where is the originality? Where is the ground breaking? Where…? it’s here, it´s just me.
As I said before, we want to be remembered as an “original”, and thus beyond questioning. And even if we are lucky enough to briefly achieve it, it may not last, as everything “new” quickly becomes part of the collective unconscious.
The things that influence us are so many, that creating something new for an artist becomes a huge exercise in abstraction from the surrounding environment. So much so that it usually takes so many artists to the edge of something comparable to madness.
In my case, I have a slight synesthesia. It is a benign condition, so benign that until a few years ago it was impossible to diagnose correctly, and nobody cared!
Basically it is something that happens to some of us while still inside the womb, where a tiny section in the brain´s frontal lobe does not develop exactly as it should. Quite an important percentage of the world´s population has it, but most just don´t even know it. Again, it is nothing bad. Quite the contrary, I take is as a wonderful gift.
Synesthesia simply allows us to “feel” somehow the unusual resulting effects of certain neuronal connections (I apologize to any doctor for my very basic description). For example, some people may taste different flavors as a result of hearing singing. That´s just a simple example.
In my case, my slight case simply allows me to “see” shapes and colors when I hear certain sounds, particularly music. I have found that with Jazz, and then Classical music (may be the way they are structured is what helps) this works best.
While I was growing up as an artist, I would try to “control” these impulses. I did my best to keep them far away from my art. I guess I did not want to divert too much from my formal training. I wanted my art to be “understood” and “accepted”.
One day (I was barely 17), I went by to visit a little gallery close to the corner of Melbourne´s posh Toorak and Orrong Roads. I lived only a few blocks away on Toorak Road and I had walked by it several times going and returning from school.
Taking a leap of faith, I went in and asked the lady who owned it if I could show her some of my paintings, as I wanted an opinion.
She gladly said yes, and so breaming with joy I ran all the way home, picked-up some of my “best” paintings and took them back to her gallery. She saw me come in and said, with the serious tone of someone who knows, “Ok, show me what you have”.
As I started placing my paintings in front of her, I saw her from the corner of my eye as she stood up and, with her right index finger unequivocally showing me the door, she said in a very stern voice: “Please! Just take this out of my sight!”
Besides the fact that no one should do this to a young aspiring artist, the episode as traumatic as it was, taught me something.
As time went by, I realized that what made me different (I am not saying original) was the fact that my brain could see and transform sound, and allow me to express it pictorially.
My sources of inspiration were greatly enriched, as they were not only a response to standard visual, aural, and emotional stimulus like everyone else. Instead my brain kept adding abstract shapes and colors produced by its response to music. And the resulting combination was full of nuances that only I could interpret.
That is how I learned that my interest in being “formal” had deprived my work, until then, of that elusive spark that had been there all along. And that same decision had also kept my artistic practice from the sheer enjoyment, and the feeling of freedom, that taking advantage of all of life´s gifts could provide.
7. Another Short Detour Ahead (Just long enough to pick up the pieces of what made us artists)
Like with the point about money, this is also an annex discussion triggered by the previous point. Yet it is worth looking at it for a minute before finishing.
Sometimes, as artists, we tend to intellectualize our work too much. I have been known for making that mistake.
We get caught up in this web of validation. Out of logical interest, or sometimes out of simple fear, we tend to provide hooks and ladders all over the place so as to help those who must discuss our endeavors. That is all good and valid.
Yet sometimes, that conceptual exercise becomes conceptual madness, permeating into our real work. We become prisoners of complex concepts. They do not simply explain what we do, they tell us “what” to do.
As a result, we forget the essence of what has made us artists and our work something special.
Going back to basics is the rule there if we want to save our art. And once again, I am going to be (I apologize) self-referential.
Art involves, as we have seen, many issues. But in its essence, if I may be so blunt, it is basically a structure where we can place shapes and colors in a harmonious, individual, and unique manner.
My synesthesia has helped me in this regards. It allows me to incorporate shapes and colors in a very unusual fashion. Thus it has given be the chance to keep the “basics” very close to my work. The essence is not lost. Quite the contrary, it is always very much up front.
And then everything else must be put in the mix.
In my case, the intention that it be art was always there. The search for something visual that distinguished my work was always the preferred path. I did not stop there. I studied formally, and afterwards on my own, so I could learn on the shoulders of those geniuses I was trying to stand on. I looked at their triumphs and I particularly explored their failures.
Yet those steps, enhanced by life little gifts, allowed me to maintain the essential concepts within a complex cocktail of objective and subjective notions that accompany me in my everyday exploration.
The result is that my work may have become objectively richer over time (at least that is my hope), or maybe simply more exciting.
After all, originality does not necessarily require that something be broken. Instead, it can start from the modest and necessary step of allowing who we are, warts and all, to come through our artistic expression.
We are all unique, and letting that uniqueness show in our art, counts a long way into the originality stakes.
I am still learning as I keep moving forward. Our own Art is something that may last more than a lifetime. And if we are lucky enough, it may even become our legacy. The echo of our footsteps which may still resound for years after we are gone.
8. Viva la Revolución!!!!! Ouch!
As we looked at a few of the questions that are so common to the art world, I endeavored to challenge the concept that art is purely subjective. I think I have, at the very least, established the possibility that certain objective parameters must surround all the subjectivities that art does have as well.
Furthermore, I hope it is becoming patent that the purely subjective stance, very often, can also become something very close to a copout for us, artists. A subterfuge that allows us to put a stop to any questions regarding our artistic quality and, basically, to avoid what we may feel as judgment.
And I know personally how painful for us artists judgment feels. But I also know that from that pain we learn and grow.
Like the popular saying goes, we all learn from our mistakes. And if my goal is to keep learning, I know that what I should keep doing is to take risks, and thus make more mistakes.
Without objective judgment, there is very little to stop us from just conforming. And most of us may just end up doing “arty things” which we might feel deserve accolades they don´t. All this while we do not face the necessary inner questioning, and experience the intellectual insecurity, that can help us drive our art to new levels.
Maybe it all comes back to the fact that becoming true artist is really all about being revolutionaries. But the revolution must be, above all, about ourselves.
As artists, being revolutionaries means being non conformists. It means being prepared to challenge our own standardizations and attack our own artistic weaknesses. It implies resistance to the “average” and mediocre, and a continuous search to artistically exploit what makes us unique individuals and artists. It eventually means questioning our own limits all the time, and pushing the envelope at each turn.
In our own world, that may well be the ultimate objective, and subjective, artistic revolution.
In 2013 I had the pleasure of participating in the 20th anniversaty celebrations of Buenos Aires famous Buenos Aires Design Shopping Mall. As part of these events I took part in Art Deco, an exhibition of furniture intervened by artists, where I presented my “Crystal Coffee Table (a le crayons).
Yet it took me a whole year to return to it and prepare a short video showing the photographs I had taken as I built it. A behind the scenes look, if you wish, on the work I had done.
Even though it does not show the process that went into thinking of it, planning it and any of the other details, I think it shows the complexity and at the same time, simplicity, of preparing this piece.
It also shows how the artistic object changes dramatically as it gets introduced in the cristal table which if anything, is bland and quite non specific.
There is a before and an after on the piece, and the video makes it very clear how the combination of two apparently unconnected ítems generates something new and much more powerful. They generate a completely new object of design, useful and at the same time, artistic
The whole concept has become blurred by so many personal interpretations that to some, it may have even lost meaning.
I keep hoping, at the very least, that it maintains a certain conceptual dignity in true reference to its roots.
According to the Oxford dictionary, it was originally an African-American usage that became popular in the 1930´s as a general term of approval, meaning something akin to admirable or excellent, combined with certain aloofness that is meant to give it an aura of mystery.
Yet some have concurrently developed the idea that the concept of “cool” originally developed from the Swedish word for “fun”, kul, which sounds very much like cool.
When one thinks about it, it is a nice idea to join both competing interpretations, as “cool” was popularized among jazz musicians and enthusiasts in the late 1940s to describe the music, art and scene that evolved with the great American Jazz revolution.
Cool to me is still that.
Cool is excellence, aloofness, and fun. And all of these terms relate perfectly to Jazz.
What I try to do as an artist is also “cool” in its own way.
My light synesthesia has embraced my most creative instincts around jazz. I consider jazz to be the best example we have of a creative community. Forget about brain storming sessions. Just think of Miles Davis and his band in 1958/61.
This is the perfect combination of extremely creative individuals combining to make something sublime, without losing the characteristics of each musician. It is the perfect example of cool.
My art feeds on that brilliance. I admit my talent would not be able to show itself in the same way without musical creative geniuses like these.
And it is my hope that my art reflects that same aura of coolness.
Art that is fun, intellectually challenging, and aloof enough to make the path to its full discovery, something interesting and worth doing.
I leave you with a Miles Davis Quintet full concert, from 1967. Enjoy.