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Friday, January 25, 2013

Museum Review: The New Museum

The New Museum on the Lower East Side New York NY

Museum Review
The New Museum
L.E.S. New York, New York

Rosemarie Trockel: A Cosmos (closed)

Prime Age, photograph by Rosemarie Trockel

  I'm not sure there is much value in reviewing a now closed museum exhibit, but the same could be said for this entire blog so.  First thing about the New Museum: No permanent collection so it's a very WYSIWYG kind of scenario.  The exhibit on display while I was visiting was Rosemarie Trockel, a German Artist who is notable for her refusal to stay in a single media or discipline.  The exhibit contained everything from punk style Zines, to knitted "paintings", to sculptural assemblages with a sprinkling of non-Rosemarie Trockel outsider Art/non-art "pieces" selected by the Artist.

Rosemarie Trockel

  Trockel's refusal to "settle down" and pick a studio art discipline is a primary reason that her collected output deserves a career retrospective at an NYC museum.  It also places the question of "what is art?" into a sharp focus- both by the width and breadth of "things" that Trockel has transformed into art through her vision, but also by the "non-art" objects that Trockel selected to stand along aside her artwork.  One "non-art" object is an amazing botanical illustration made by a woman in the 17th century- the woman was long overlooked because it was thought that a woman "couldn't" make such an accurate drawing of a living thing.

Rosemarie Trockel portrait

  There was an unexpected overlap between the Trockel retrospective and recent conversations I've had about the business of music, where people have emphasized the transformative aspect of digital reproduction in freeing specific Artists from formerly difficult to cross artistic boundaries.  For example, a Musician publishes a book instead of a record.  Such cross-marketing has always been an integral part of the upper layer of the Art-Industrial Complex, but digital distribution extends this layer downward to the very floor.

  What's lacking in that realm is the existence of Artists who are sufficiently keen enough to grasp this new freedom AND make Art products that people want to buy/put in museums to look at.

Rosemarie Trockel: A Cosmos exhibition lay-out

  I'm sure that Trockel has had people asking her for her entire career, "But what kind of Artist are you?"  Are you a painter? A sculptor?" etc.   Young Artists would be smart to a take a cue from the diversity of Trockel's output- and imitate her- not the specific artworks obviously, but the practice.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Museum Review: The Rubin Museum of Art (of the Himalayas)

Rubin Museum Interior

Museum Review
The Rubin Museum of Art (of the Himalayas)
New York City
150 17th st. New York, NY.

   I am a big, big fan of museums.  Everything about museums.  And although I would say New York City is only the third best city for Museum-going in the world (Paris, London)- New York City has still got an amazing number of museums.

  Staying in Greenwich Village I decided to choose my museum visits by proximity.   The Rubin Museum is located between NYU and Chelsea.  Housed in an ex Bloomingdale's ladies store, The Rubin Museum specializes in the art of the Himalayan region.  A more accurate description would probably be "Tibetan Art Etc." but I'll stick with their preferred nomenclature.

  Unbelievably the permanent collection was closed for my visit- the museum-goers equivalent to flying to NYC for a Broadway show and finding out that the understudy is playing the lead instead of the Hollywood star you came to see.  However, I'm just going to assume, based on the quality of what I did see that the permanent collection is amazing- because everything else was.

Collection of Nyingjei Lam (HAR 68323).

 I don't fancy myself an expert in the area of Tibetan art, but I've been to the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco a good half dozen times and could do ten minutes of party material on the wonders of Tibetan art- namely tons of scary looking demons derived from the Tantric Buddhist tradition and elaborate, detailed wall paintings of Buddhist themes and personages.

  My visit to the Rubin Museum of Art expanded that thin familiarity with two excellent exhibits:  Casting The Divine- a collection of 104 miniature sculptures Nyingjei Lam Collection.  The sculptures were quite a revelation- demonstrating a level of sophistication and quality that equalled any comparable European work from the same time period.  The subject matter is repetitive- Buddha/High Level Monk/Wandering Holy Man- though there were some interesting subjects- like a real-life famous wandering Ascetic who was depicted with dense curly hair that reflected his south Indian upbringing.

  Certainly these exquisite sculptures were something I had never seen before and I was impressed.

  The other interesting exhibit was The Place of Provenance- about regional variation of Tibetan painting.  Again- the subject matter was repetitive- you can tell the difference in regions by the way they paint the clouds- but the workmanship was really high quality.

   And while the Rubin Museum didn't alert me to the existence of high level Tibetan Art Products, it did expand my knowledge of the kinds and varieties of artifacts and their high level of quality.  It's worth a stop if you are in the area- though fyi it costs ten bucks to get in.  The Permanent Collection re-opens the first week of February 2013.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Slumberland Leaves Revolver/Midheaven for The Orchard

  I was in New York for music business stuff this past week (and going to museums) and I heard that Slumberland Records had left Revolver/Midheaven Distribution for The Orchard.  That is some big news in my world.  First of all, I've never heard of any label leaving Revolver/Midheaven EVER.  Second of all, the Orchard has been making indie moves all over the place- they bought IODA and made a deal to distribute the French Kiss Label Group all within the last 12 months.  The Orchard, of course, is owned by Sony.

  The major distributors for indie labels in the USA right now are  Revolver/Midheaven, Ingrooves/Fontana, The Orchard, Red (formerly Red Eye), Secretly Canadian and the Alternative Distribution Alliance.

  It's a measure of the current state of the music industry that there are more profitable distributors for indie labels then there are profitable chains of shops that actually sell indie label music: five vs. zero.

  No matter which distributor you talk to the best scenario is one where the distributor agrees to manufacture your physical products in exchange for the digital rights.  The theory is that the physical side of the business is basically a money losing favor to the indie label, and all the money is made on the digital side.

 Not all of the distributors offer production AND distribution- some labels simply have a distribution agreement and produce their own music.

  Anyway this news is interesting because it is the first case I know of a Revolver/Midheaven label has moved to a different distributor and I'm interested to see how it turns out for Slumberland- whether they are happier at The Orchard, etc.  I say this as someone who works with Revolver/Midheaven and is very, very, very happy with how I've been treated AND as someone who at various times has had contact with every single one of the distributors listed above except ADA.

  I've learned that there is no knight in shining armor for a would-be indie trying to move up in weight class- the deal is the same everywhere- excited about digital, morose about physical music products.   You are going to lose 10-20% of your gross sales and hopefully in exchange you will obtain people who have an interest in promoting your records in physical and digital environments but all that is hit or miss at best no matter who you are working with.

   To be clear I'm talking about the spectrum of music that is available new in independent record stores ranging from Amoeba to M Theory-- there is tons of music that would never be available in an indie record store that simply doesn't require the sort of physical distribution that the above named distributors provide.   As long as you don't want your records/cds in an actual record store you can use any number of self service providers: Tunecore, for example can get your records on Itunes etc and you can sell cds or records on Amazon or anywhere.

   To give you a concrete example of what I'm talking about- I got a picture from a friend who was at Amoeba Records in Los Angeles and saw the CD of the recent Plateaus record on the main end-cap in Amoeba.  That happens because Amoeba buys tons of CDs from Revolver and because the people at Revolver listen to the music they sell to Amoeba and tell them about it.  These are actual people who work in San Francisco and don't get their music taste from music blogs.

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