Copyright Albert Wang, 2010
All rights reserved.
This is a work of non-fiction and fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales can be interpreted as being entirely coincidential.
Why qi peng? Or rather, who is qi peng?
As an investigative reporter in the New New New Journalism, a literary movement that combines the postmodern new media techniques of Twitter and MySpace and Facebook with the old school subjective reporting of New Journalism that was popular in the 1960’s and 1970’s and the New New Journalism which was prevalent during the 1990’s, I decided to figure out why New York City and Los Angeles was the loci for the most prestigious contemporary art, particularly in the gallery scene that was reviewed by major art magazines such as Artforum and Art in America. In other words, why was the city that I was living in, Salt Lake City, being overlooked by these well-respected magazines? After all, popularly acclaimed writer Stephanie Meyer was living in Arizona, NOT in New York City.
Premise: invent a fictional character qi peng (who may have appeared in other Albert Wang novels) who would be a solely Utah conceptual artist that would borrow many autobiographical elements from Albert Wang’s life and have leading contemporary art professionals believe that they are being interviewed by a real-life conceptual art or art writer or art critic. Whatever confusion that may ensue from this tireless mess.
Goal: attempt to get qi peng further support and respect within the New York or Los Angeles contemporary art world without having to move to either venue. Land a solo exhibition in either city for this well-invented character resulting from Albert Wang’s double entendre as a performance artist gone undercover for a writer. Can one pretend that he has an art school degree? Possibly procure gallery representation for qi peng despite the odds by testing whether any galleries will accept his portfolio after a mass mailing of artist submissions.
Another desire was to open up the channels for having conceptual art reflect on its own methodology, particularly in the growth of an artist from a pure nobody to someone that was partly recognizable in the art world while attaining friendships with other artists who would be willing to become characters in the larger fabric of this driven narrative. The dialogue about how famous, particularly blue-chip, artists become where they are now remains rather elusive and perhaps non-existent even after a few years of this artistic experiment.
Expectations: mostly failure due the contemporary art world’s essentially conservative approach. Most museum curators and art dealers tend to believe that the critical dialogue and highest number of sales occur within the New York City and Los Angeles premises. Too bad for those other conceptual artists being crowded (or screwed over) out of the multilingual chatter of what the essential issues in the art world. It must be assumed that conceptual artists in Denver or even Dallas must not have a clue about what the hot topics are in any given issue of the high gloss art magazines must entail.
In other words, peng will suffer a rise and fall within the contemporary art world not due to his lack of critical engagement but an inability to secure gallery representation and thus art reviews. He remains a continued unknown factor of the whole art equation.
Results: in July 2010, peng has managed a single solo show that lasted only a single day at a raw New York City space but not much else. Lots of safely respectable shows in Salt Lake City, Utah which I have assumed to be good enough. Perhaps more to disclose before the artist’s untimely death within a few years that gets reported within the New York Times. Apparently his obsession with the overtones of 9/11 would have carried him too far. I, Albert Wang, as his executor must remain mum about his forthcoming adventures due to the twisted surprise within the conceptual artist’s failed life like a postmodern Henry Darger awaiting rediscovery by the blue-chip galleries in New York City or Los Angeles.
I would report here on the misadventures of my fictional alter-ego within this hybrid photographic text similar to that of a Sebald novel. A true journalist must fail to distinguish between fact and fiction because they are mutually dependent on each other’s value systems. To lie in thirty words per second must be impressive.
The underground artists really relished the self-referential solo show at envoy enterprises as a way of reflecting on their stymied attempts to straddle the commercial world of the gallery system and non-profit while entertaining self-created raw spaces, typically in apartments or abandoned warehouses, while refusing to compromise their philosophical or psychological breadth and edgy presentation.
And who would be looking out of the window from the white box galleries? Surprisingly, for all of the contemporary art world’s faith in an endlessly open dialogue, the saturation of experimental (and traditional) artists within the marketplace seems to have killed further interest with artists from obscure cities outside the safe confines of these two metropolises.
“Owning the gallery for over ten years has been my great joy and honor. It was never easy but always thrilling to ride the waves of change that have washed over the artworld since the gallery opened. The name of the gallery has always been its intention, to be a leading indicator of future trends and movements in the artworld. I was proud to have been a part of the Williamsburg scene, the exodus to Chelsea, the dawn of the e-commerce era, the boom of the emerging market, the rise of the art fair imperative and the NADA generation. I always tried to have a distinct voice and point of view, represent as many women as possible, curate from my values and not my taste and get behind artists who’s brilliance and concepts were apparent in their craft. I aimed to be known among my peers for having an eye for painting, photography and installation. I have enjoyed curating and was very proud of the many group shows the gallery has presented over the years and the critical attention they attracted.
As the current financial climate forces shifts in business and culture I feel strongly that it is time for Bellwether to embrace change and open itself up to what’s to come. For the foreseeable future I will continue to represent the gallery’s artists privately and I am working on several shows with them in a Bellwether-at-large capacity. Details to follow in the fall,” said Becky Smith, the former director at the now defunct Bellwether Gallery.
qi peng speaks up that this shift in the values of contemporary art from the commercial to the conceptual could signal the death of contemporary art as a single-value commodity. Unfortunately, he relates to investigative journalist Albert Wang that nothing much will have changed and that New York City and Los Angeles will continue to be the focus of the contemporary art world which has become less democratic since Reaganomics.
As New York Times journalist Sheelah Kolhatkar once related about the character of Becky, he mentioned that “Becky, 43, is not one of the blonde wisps usually seen working at chic Manhattan art spaces — she has a big head of curly black hair and chunky eyeglasses.” The same could not have been said of qi peng, the model failure of this fictional Salt Lake City conceptual artist who failed continually to break into the contemporary New York gallery scene.
Jerry Hardesty at The Art at the Main Gallery. Courtesy Jerry Hardesty.
So what defines an interview from THE ART ASSASSIN? It’s called a hit, or assassination. My close friend, Jerry Hardesty, was the first victim of my “sharpshooting” skills. Bang. Bang.
Hardesty is represented by Art at the Main Gallery which is located at 210 East 400 South inside the Salt Lake Main Library complex. Even though his work, which has been specifically figurative until his recent foray into more abstract work, seems to be traditional and post-impressionist with its signature impasto, rich handling of colors, and slashing brushstrokes, Hardesty’s abstract work has begun to explore a more happy medium between the color field painting style of Frankenthaler and the heavy-dosed expressionism of Soutine. His approach also reminds one of the rather controversial Howard Hodgkin in terms of casual observers thinking that either Hodgkin or Hardesty “lack technique” because of the “messy brushwork.” I would counter with the argument that if you are pouring your emotions onto canvas, should people object to the personal aspects triumphing over the polished look?
So I had a chance this weekend to let off a few rounds towards Hardesty’s direction and here we have the director’s cut of our little conversation in cyberspace.
If you have any questions about Hardesty’s artwork, feel free to contact his gallery at (801) 363-4088.
Details of the “assassination”:
qi peng: How did you get interested in art when you were younger?
Jerry Hardesty: Art was not part of the curriculum in the public schools I attended; I should rephrase that – while in elementary school, an art teacher would come to our class perhaps once every six weeks and direct us to do a project which was more craft- based. In spite of that, I was always interested in drawing. I took one class in college. When I was teaching in the public schools of Missouri, the art teacher and I were friends, and I took a workshop from her.
qi peng: Considering that you had a long hiatus from art during the 70’s to 90’s, do you notice that your style has changed from the past into the recent work? What about the conceptual idea?
Jerry Hardesty: My style has definitely changed, and I believe is still developing and growing. When I finally began painting in the 70’s, I wanted to paint nothing but clowns. I did not really know what I was doing. I was pretty much self-taught. Now, rather than painting from pictures, I would rather paint from life, en plein air; and most recently from concepts.
qi peng: You have been notorious with use of heavy impasto and rather abstracted brushstrokes to create what seems to be impressionistic representational artwork. Why do you think that viewers and some other artists object to this?
Jerry Hardesty: I was unaware that artists and other viewers have objected to my impasto, abstracted brushstrokes; however, I would be interested to know why myself. But to address the issue, if it is in fact an issue, I have to like what I paint – no, I have to be passionate about what I paint, and if that means heavy impasto and abstracted brushstrokes then that is what I shall paint. One artist with whom I have studied, stated that I should paint like a rich man and paint even thicker.
qi peng: How has your training through Steven Sheffield helped the arc of your art education?
Jerry Hardesty: Since I have not studied that long with Steven, it would be unfair of me to give him sole credit for my art education. I have studied landscape painting with Susan Gallacher of King’s Cottage Gallery; portraiture and drawing with Rob Adamson of Salt Lake Community College; a week-end landscape workshop with Elio Camacho; landscape painting with John Hughes; and finally abstract painting with Steven Sheffield. In the short time that I have studied with Steven, my creativity has been broadened with ideas of conceptual art.
qi peng: What directions do you see your artwork heading into? As a lifelong student, will your technique and conceptual drive shift?
Jerry Hardesty: My conceptual drive has already shifted into right-brain mode. As I study with various artists and practice almost daily, my technique can do nothing but improve. As to new directions, I hope to exhibit in galleries outside the Salt Lake City area.
qi peng: What are some things that you envision yourself experimenting with?
Jerry Hardesty: Certainly more experimentation with conceptual art, with abstractions, perhaps multi-media, figurative painting. In addition to landscapes, I enjoy urban scapes – real industrial type urban scapes.
qi peng: Who are some of your influences, both artistically and culturally? How do they influence your philosophy of art?
Jerry Hardesty: I have already mentioned the people with whom I have studied. In addition, I give credit to my Mother – she was always a positive influence in my life and encouraged me as a singer/performer. My wife and my children also deserve credit. My wife has been very supportive since my illness in 2006; as have my daughter and two sons. My wife and children are my most devoted fans. I paint with a group weekly that I call “Thursday’s Painters” who have been very supportive – my friend Jude, from that group, has been my mentor. Toastmasters International has profoundly improved my ability as a public speaker – I am a motivational-speaker- wannabe. My art is influenced by many people and many things, especially by life experience.
I love the Impressionists as well as the Expressionists, and have considered myself an Impressionistic Painter.
qi peng: You are represented by Art at the Main Gallery at the downtown public library in Salt Lake. What are some advantages being in a central location? How has your gallery helped in your art career?
Jerry Hardesty: Art at the Main is a wonderful little gallery (www.ArtattheMain.com). Its location is a benefit due to the high amount of foot traffic in that area. Being part of that gallery, has given me a great deal of exposure I otherwise would not have had. Rapport with other artists in the gallery has been very helpful. Periodically, the gallery sponsors ‘Studio Window,’ the room next to the gallery where the gallery artists set up their easels and paint so the public can see the creation of art live. I love being able to paint and talk with patrons and answer their questions.
qi peng: How do you visualize the art world in New York City and Los Angeles (or any larger art market)?
Jerry Hardesty: I would love to be a part of the New York art scene, or any large city for that matter. That would be the ultimate goal at this point.
qi peng: What impact will the economic recession have on concerns within your artwork or artistic practice?
Jerry Hardesty: The economic recession is having an impact on all artists and many galleries. Would-be collectors may be reluctant to purchase a piece when they are uncertain if their paychecks will cover all the bills. The recession highlights the term “starving artist.” In spite of this, I shall continue to study, practice, and paint daily so that when the economy strengthens, I am ready.