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Valerie’s Long March 6/10

May 7th, 2014

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Liu Danhua’s Thumbtacks

In this “chapter” of our current series on Chinese contemporary art by Zhang “Valerie” Fang, we can observe that one step in China’s Long March is an exploratory one. The attached article is a case study of artist working sculpturally who both mimic mundane materials, and create with materials most immediately found around them.

Please enjoy this sixth of Valerie’s ten, “China’s Long March: Ten essays on Chinese contemporary art,” originally published in a Spanish lifestyle magazine, and shared with us by the permission of the author.


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Valerie’s Long March 5/10

April 23rd, 2014

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For the last several weeks we have been sharing the writings of Zhang “Valerie” Fang regarding contemporary art in China, and more specifically in Beijing where the author resides. This is the fifth article, in which she provides a comparison between the artists of an older generation with the current. Political, ideological, and societal influences come to bare on the content of each work, particularly through the seemingly objective medium of the camera.

Please enjoy this fifth of Valerie’s ten, (We’re half way through!) “China’s Long March: Ten essays on Chinese contemporary art,” with the English and Spanish translation side by side.

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Valerie’s Long March 4/10

April 16th, 2014

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Zhang “Valerie” Fang is an art historian and critic, based in Beijing, China. We have been presenting her writings on Chinese contemporary art, and this fourth installment directs out attention to the issue of Chinese family planning. In the article she includes her own experience as a mother of two (at the point of authorship, and now three children.)  Valerie illustrates a narrative of parental hopes and expectations from a very personal perspective.

Many emerging contemporary artists deal with their own psychology coming from one-child family homes, and question the implications on society. The Armory recently commissioned Xu Zhen for their 2014 expo, who is of this younger generation. A group that is said to speak a more “international” language, according to curator, Phil Tinari. Interestingly, there is also one French artist who addresses the particular impact of this policy, as a woman. Her name is Prune Noray, and she worked in collaboration with a Chinese craftsman, on Terracotta Daughters.

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Please enjoy this fourth of Valerie’s ten, “China’s Long March: Ten essays on Chinese contemporary art,” with the English and Spanish translation side by side.


A snapshot of Valerie with her family in Chelsea, NYC, c. 2012

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Valerie’s Long March 2/10

April 2nd, 2014


Han BingWalking the Cabbage in Tiananmen Square 2, 2006

This is the second installment (in as many weeks) of Zhang “Valerie” Fang’s series on Chinese contemporary art. Valerie is an art critic and historian, based in Beijing. She has lectured in New York and Switzerland on the topic of Chinese contemporary art, and shares the story of China’s Long March with us in this thread of articles – originally commissioned by art.es, published with permission from the author on SftPwr.

“Artists like […] Han Bing […] risked violating national laws to stage performances in TAM, […]  directed at returning the site to the people for fun and freedom.”

Here (linked) is the second of Valerie’s ten, “China’s Long March: Ten essays on Chinese contemporary art,” with the English and Spanish translation side by side.

Please follow along, and look for the rest of Valerie’s writings on future Women Wednesdays!

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Valerie’s Long March 1/10

March 26th, 2014


Zhang (Valerie) Fang presenting on the work of Wang Quingsong at NYCAMS in 2013

I first met Valerie at a studio visit in Cao Changdi village, Beijing. The tour of her husband’s studio was lead by curator and gallerist, James Elaine. Acting as Wang Quingsong’s translator and theoretical representative, she was articulate and expressive of his ideas as well as her own. I soon discovered how much her critical voice is truly valuable in the overall landscape of Chinese contemporary art.

In the following series of posts, Valerie shares with us a string of 10 articles that she has written on the contemporary artwork of China. Each was originally published in a Spanish magazine, and is published on our site with the author’s permission.

“I hope to present a holistic picture of the development of Chinese contemporary art from my own viewpoint, and I look forward to critical feedback from colleagues world-wide.” – Zhang Fang

Here (linked) is the first of the ten, “China’s Long March: Ten essays on Chinese contemporary art,” with the English and Spanish translation side by side.

Please follow along, and look for the rest of Valerie’s writings on future Women Wednesdays!

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Cynthia’s Technicolor Dream

December 10th, 2013

Process Video, by Cynthia Stanchak


My encounter with Cynthia Stanchak was a long time coming. We’d had some near misses with emails and friends recommending that we connect. Finally, in October 2013, we sat together in the 38|39 gallery space, which was filled with a collection of her paintings, both new and old.

Cynthia’s painting process was formatively developed around a collaboration with freelance photographer, Bill Daniels, on his farm property in Iowa. Their relationship was one of easy attraction. Their process naturally flowed from Cynthia’s artistic vision, balanced with Bill’s photographic know-how, and the physical inspiration at their fingertips. (Namely, a panoply of rusted metal tools and scraps.)


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Artist Intake

October 2nd, 2013
MARÍA ELENA ÁLVAREZ Marcalibro, 2013

Marcalibro, 2013

Over the last few months I’ve been working as a volunteer registrar alongside the incredible staff of Groundswell, a Brooklyn-based, female-directed non-profit whose work aims to bring together artists, youth, and community organizations while using art as a tool for social change.

My involvement with this organization began when two of my classmates from New York University’s Visual Arts Administration program found themselves working at the Groundswell studio. When my friends told me about the organization’s need I welcomed the opportunity to support the public art initiative. I was also excited to gain more hands-on experience working with an organization that would repay my efforts with a sense of agency along the way.

Throughout my experience with the staff I found myself feeling very fulfilled by such a well-defined role within the team. Wearing many hats is typical for creative work, so I was glad to have the unique opportunity to focus on one project, their annual benefit and the intake of artworks. I was able to dedicate a significant amount of time toward its success alongside the permanent staff, seeing the project through many stages of progress.

During this time, I have been impressed with Groundswell’s artistic merits as well as its dedication to socially impactful projects. Groundswell’s program includes public art (in the form of murals,) youth programs (under the headings of Leadership, Empowerment, and Development,) and other special initiatives within the community – including working with youth at all stages of involvement within the criminal justice continuum.

The people at Groundswell have provided me with renewed hope for the achievement of that zen-like balance required in community organizing between aesthetics and the notion of communal responsibility. Because of my positive experience working directly with their Development and Communications Director, Sharon Polli, I plan to investigate their organization further as an academic example of successful community arts organizational leadership.

As I have spent my time at the Groundswell headquarters, I felt welcomed by the entire range of staff and volunteers in a way that has moved me. Whether I was brainstorming with one of their youth interns at the studio or checking in with their director, Amy Sananman, there was a truly communal sense of shared responsibility, shared success; as well as creative and intellectual equality. I believe that this sense of dignity flows from the hearts of each supporter of the organization, from the board and committee members to the donating artists and volunteer art handlers.

I contemplated delaying the publication of this article, in order to report on concrete successes of the forthcoming benefit. However, I decided that it would be more fun to invite you readers to view a small curated selection of my favorite works donated for Groundswell’s 17th Annual Art Auction while they are still available for bidding!

Beginning with the above work by Maria Elena Alvarez, below are just a few more that I enjoy.

*To attend the benefit auction at Christie’s in New York City, this Monday October 7th

find full details here: www.groundswellmural.org/benefit


Tolstoy, 2012

SOFIA MALDONADO Un verano en Nueva York, 2013

Un verano en Nueva York, 2013


HANNAH COLE Tape #3, 2009

Tape #3, 2009

GROUNDSWELL YOUTH Beautifying Riverbank, 2013

Beautifying Riverbank, 2013

NICKY ENRIGHT What on Earth (Do you Mean?), 2010

What on Earth (Do you Mean?), 2010

GROUNDSWELL YOUTH You Can Take Our Homes But You Can't Take Our Hearts, 2013

You Can Take Our Homes But You Can’t Take Our Hearts, 2013


Honoree Artist, Swoon, has offered a studio visit experience…

SWOON Experience: Studio Tour and Lunch , 2013

Experience: Studio Tour and Lunch , 2013


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September 4th, 2013

Last night I watched a “feminist” parody of Robin Thicke’s video for Blurred Lines – a song which he performed at the VMAs with Miley Cyrus. A lot has been going around the web-o-sphere about their performances, which also included Kendrick Lamar2 Chainz, as well as a host of dancers from the Give it 2 U video. Every angle you could imagine, (and some you couldn’t,) has been spun off the VMAs – from Thicke’s mom shaming Cyrus, to a more elaborate criticism of Miley on a racial level for gesturing lewdly at another woman’s TWERK-machine.

But as the media avalanche has kept on going, I gave the whole thing some thought. Thicke was certainly less criticized – blown off as an obvious male chauvinist, or defended as a “married man,” while Miley got the brunt of the critique from those who still want to see her as a little girl, or were offended by her using another strand of culture to break into adulthood. But I tend to think of performers as merely that – performing reflections of our culture, whether it is really them, or whether we like it, or not.

After running through each of the artists’ videos again, I realized that both Thicke and Cyrus’ had been directed by the same person, and a woman at that. Diane Martel has directed a host of music videos dating all the way back to Mariah Carey’s Dreamlover

Martel commented on the chauvanist interpretation of Blurred Lines, “I respect women who are watching out for negative images in pop culture and who find the nudity offensive, but I find [the video] meta and playful.” She cites her main inspiration as coming from Helmut Newton who, she claims, depicted women as taking the sexual power from men, for themselves. Martel directed the female performers to look directly into the camera as an assertion of that power.

ml_helmut-newton_02_1100After brushing up on Newton, a lauded fashion photographer and artist, I realized that he does often push men to the periphery in exchange for a strong female subject. However, Newton’s photography tends toward the surreal and abstract – something also evident in Miley’s We Can’t Stop video – with illusions to contemporary art such as Maurizio Cattelan’s severed fingers, (featured in his Toiletpaper Magazine and on a billboard in the NYC Chelsea art district.)


Although, I might be able to “get” what Diane is going for here, I have to say that I do not think it trumps the concern over Miley’s approach to race, and it also doesn’t mean that Miley or Robin are truly party to her creative high-ground.

Here is what Thicke had to say about Blurred Lines, “People say, “Hey, do you think this is degrading to women?” I’m like, “Of course it is. What a pleasure it is to degrade a woman. I’ve never gotten to do that before. I’ve always respected women.” So we just wanted to turn it over on its head and make people go, “Women and their bodies are beautiful. Men are always gonna want to follow them around.” What a nice “break” he is getting from being such a nice guy!

And Cyrus’ response to the criticism of her VMA performance, “What’s amazing is I think now, we’re three days later and people are still talking about it. They’re over thinking it,” she says. “You’re thinking about it more than I thought about it when I did it. Like, I didn’t even think about it ’cause that’s just me.” So, because she hasn’t considered her actions – she gets more famous… that sounds about right.



In conclusion, in popular culture we’ve constructed these complex systems around celebrities – they employ dancers, costumers, directors, and PR agents. Not all of those people supporting a “star” will be represented in the end result. Not all of the collaborators will be on the same page, have the same goals, or views. The end result might be a great work of art, it might be a scandal, or it might be totally forgettable.

Both Thicke and Cyrus used props in their performance from videos directed by Martel, but I do not think it was a true artistic extension of those projects. That is because they are not the artists – they have employed artists, and were not able to maintain the artistic vision through a live performance.

The VMA’s this year did nothing for me in terms of “making history,” (as Miley claims,) but I am willing to let that go. I am also willing to let Miley’s childhood go, to let Thicke’s immaturity go, and just hope that we can stop reacting with equal and opposite judgement for those who get it wrong. Instead, let’s appreciate the ones who get it right.  For example, the winner of the VMA award for Best Art Direction, Janelle Monae, for Q.U.E.E.N. ft. Erykah Badu.

Please comment if you can think of a pop star who has real artistic vision.



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Alternative Narratives of Place w/ Rebecca Locke

August 28th, 2013

Meanderings on interdisciplinary work, Goldsmiths, Magnum Photography, and creating alternative narratives of place with Artist and curator Rebecca Locke

May 30-Locke ArticleIf the mark of a life well lived is a perpetual sense of adventure, then Rebecca lives well. If the mark of a talented artist is a propelling force towards new projects, and interesting forums in which to present such work, then yet again, she fits the bill.

An enthusiasm towards life and its potential for renewal characterizes and informs both her life and her work.

British-born, having moved to New York in the days when Williamsburg wasn’t so … ”Williamsburg”, Locke played drums in a Puerto Rican country music band, chased taxis on roller skates through Times Square in the night’s middle, sang in Sufjan Steven’s Michigan Militia in its early days, and, of course, took part in the flamboyant New York night scene of the early 2000’s: Electroclash! When I met her at an exhibit she’d curated last year, what appeared to be a zany core of her warm but no-nonsense demeanor struck me as intriguing. She was back from London, she’d said, after several years away pursuing an MFA in Photography at Goldsmiths, was making her own work, and involved with, among other things, a collaborative workshop project with City to Sea (for which she is curator), Goldsmiths, University of London, and Magnum Photo’s Peter Marlow. We have since become friends.

Recently, on one of the first of those days last month in which the whimsy gusts hinted at summer, we sat under an umbrella at Bryant Park to talk life and art, and to consider some of Rebecca’s recent projects. Here are snippets from our conversation. EXPAND POST

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“Plethora” Collaboration @Soapbox

August 21st, 2013

image-3PLETHORA is a collaborative performance work by three female artists: New York-based performance artist Lia Chavez; and Los Angeles-based painter Linnea Spransy and sculptor Maggie Hazen. “During the course of Plethora, vacant space will become a complex installation art piece via small repetitions, endurance performance and hidden activity.” The cumulative exhibit is on view August 15- 30, at Soapbox Gallery in Brooklyn. 

Plethora brings together the presence of three complex women and their artistic production. Throughout the duration of the exhibit objects will be added, illustrations will grow, and all three artists will spend significant time within the white cube and interior gallery space. Mingled together, the result of intertwined efforts is something akin to a fairy-tale pop-up book, a battle ground, and a kind of vigil.

I was so honored, this week, by the opportunity to glimpse their physical (and thoughtful) processes.

Like many women, their paths have been informed by the presence (and absence) of other women. Their models range from canonical artists, teachers, authors, philosophers, and bold political figures. Lia, Linnea, and Maggie have developed distinct practices through personal moments of curiosity, creative prowess, and through collaborative interactivity, such as Plethora.

Below are some of their own words. EXPAND POST

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