Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Skipping Stones Reflection on Text & Art Discussion

On Sunday I participated in a roundtable discussion about using text in art. Hopefully the entire conversation will be published, not only because I was part of it, because it was a comprehensive overview of the different ways text is being used in paintings. Co-moderated by Bert Stabler and Noah Berlatsky, the talk was much more academic and theoretical than I anticipated. However when the discussion would get too heady, a gentleman in the audience who initially admitted that this kind of work was new to him and this was an educational experience for him, and would kindly ask for definitions and information about the artists names we were tossing around. Noah provided the expertise on the history of concrete poetry, and even touched on early political cartoons in relation to text and art. Bert did an excellent job providing a historical framework of text-based artwork, as well as effortlessly summing up modern theoretical issues. I suspect he is planning to write an article on the subject and used this roundtable for research. The other participants involved were Carol Jackson and Diana Guerrero-Macia, both of who are artists in the middle of their career and teach at SAIC. Instead of recapping the entire conversation (waiting for the recording to be transcribed) I want to jump to the last topic we discussed. Without getting too into it, we started talking about meta strategies in contemporary art and punk rock. Mostly because the composition in Diana's work sometimes resembles early zines and punk rock cover art. Soon hereafter, I was asked two questions that threw me for a loop. I wish I could quote Bert's question verbatim, but a paraphrase will have to do. He asked me whether or not I sided with the Ramones' flickering spirit of hope, or with the defeatist coopting Ikea capitalists. What kind of question is that? Of course I side with the Ramones. I think this question also deals with the general attitude shift toward earnestness. People are tired of irony, and now artists are either sincerely optimistic or sincerely pessimistic. Carol then asked me if I considered myself part of the avant-garde. I said yes, then changed my answer to 'I don't think about avant-garde while I'm working, I just investigate my interests and focus on what makes my art interesting'. This is true, but the question seems to highlight the generational difference between artists who studied in the 80's and my contemporaries who studied in the past decade. If you think about 80's art, there was a clear us vs. them thing going on, a bifurcation, zines vs. mass media. Identity politics had a clear enemy, and artists who wanted to see change directed their aggression succinctly. Everything was cut and dry, you either were part of the avant-garde or you weren't. But now we've seen every counter-culture style and tactic become co-opted into a market strategy for H&M or a leaked viral video for Miller High Life. Now we get the Yes Men hijacking corporate conferences, infiltrating and impersonating The Man. And we get artists like Allora & Callzadilla who use conventional gallery type art along with public interventions. As for an avant-garde meta strategy, this would be a blending or chameleon strategy. No more us vs. them. With all the pluralism in the 90's, the inter-disciplinary practices, considering everything in the past century that has expanded art, along with irony being unfashionable, artists are now more free to hack away at their elusive thesis. An upside of the pending market collapse is that it may allow more freedom to artists, to create work without the pressure of the market. This recession could be a long one, but once it is over who knows what those artists are going to drag out of their studios.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Text & Art Reading & Discussion

Old Gold and MAKE Literary Productions present

A special reading and discussion with Noah Berlatsky, Diana Guerrero-Macia,
Carol Jackson, Cole Pierce, and Bert Stabler

Sunday November 16th at 4:30 in the afternoon

Please join us for this unique event, which will include brief readings, a slideshow, and roundtable discussion.

This event will double as closing reception for Cole Pierce's Piano Clockworks, a painting and sound installation that meditates upon repetition, the mystery of infinity, and the rendered line. The exhibition will be on view from 1-4 o'clock, as well as during the discussion.

Old Gold
2022 North Humboldt Boulevard
Chicago, Illinois 60647

Basement Entrance
Sundays 1-4PM
By Appointment 773.653.9956

California Blue Line (towards O'Hare),
Walk west on Palmer Boulevard,
South on Humboldt Boulevard to 2022

Monday, November 3, 2008


I was recently featured in a Gen Art Pulse article, where I was interviewed about my (at the time upcoming) show at Old Gold as well as compiling a list of my Chicago hotspots. I put most of my energy into writing about my work, and rushed through my 'guide to chicago'. However, it is amazing how well Meredith Chamberlain, the editor condensed my lengthy reply into one catchy short paragraph.

"Cole Pierce's "Piano Clockworks" is a medley of sound installation and painting, inspired and comprised of Victorian piano innards and everyday objects. And while neither project resembles or sounds like a piano, Pierce's work promises to arouse your ears, eyes, and get you lost in a state of reverie. Basically just prepare yourself for sensory overload." - Meredith Chamberlain, Gen Art Pulse, 10/27/08

And here is my response to: What is the focus of your show? What about this particular opportunity at Old Gold excites you? What draws you to found objects?

"The first time I visited Old Gold I wanted to exhibit work there. I had heard it was a weird space with wood paneled walls, something like your best friends basement when you were a kid. What I didn’t expect was to feel such a strong sense of history. There are engravings on a post that date back to 1940, and its easy to assume that its been an underground bar for decades, maybe even a speakeasy in the 30's. It is well hidden in the basement of a nondescript apartment complex. Whatever Old Gold’s specific history, what remains is a mysterious context. My previous exhibition was a video installation where the audio played a prominent role and Old Gold seemed like the perfect place for a sound installation. My practice is centered around an effort to test or locate the limits of cognition, and I want to build on Old Gold's mysterious context, enhance it with sound and paintings.

Piano Clockworks is equally as mysterious as Old Gold. Part of the show is environmental, a visceral experience of mystery. The sound installation is a formless ambient soundscape, made out of improvised piano sets, a ticking clock, faulty recording equipment, and endless experimentation with analog and digital manipulations. I printed an edition of 50 CD’s which are available for purchase. And, like any former speakeasy, Chresten Sorenson will be serving his Kitchen Ale homebrew.

My recent paintings vary from ethereal monochromes to playful text to mind boggling op art. I favor techniques that are meant for repetition like screen printing and stencils. In one series, an image of a piano hammer is repeated and layered in a haphazard pattern. The piano hammer paintings as well as the sound installation are deconstructed pianos. Neither of the two projects resemble the look or sound of a piano. Notes of this Victorian instrument have been stretched, chopped up and repeated. And part of the mechanism which creates a note, is the image that has been repeated to fill up a series of canvases. The source material has been mediated beyond recognition, and what remains is a visceral, flickering moment. My work provides two types of flickering experiences, one that is haptic and environmental, and one that is cerebral.

I am drawn to found objects because they have a direct relationship with the everyday. The experiences I create with my artwork can be found in everyday pragmatic life, and I use found objects to point this out. Sometimes found objects are the impetus for my work. However, even when it is not apparent in my work, my affinity for found objects is important to my practice. I keep collections of obsolete items like floppy discs and dead batteries in my studio that currently do nothing but provide the creative atmosphere I need. I like to keep rooted to the mundane materials, because I don’t believe that the experiences I create are transcendental, they are not epiphanies. The experience remains immanent, and the flicker is only the limit of cognition. "

I wrote that before installing the show. I don't think I knew what I was up against. It was a struggle to find a balance between the space and my paintings. I knew that the sound installation would be a good fit, that the creepy storage room and my ambient soundscape would teeter between alienating and comforting. As for the paintings, I had to ignore my metanarrative or overarching reasons for making paintings, and just respond to the rich context. My editing process shifted, so I favored paintings that were more autonomous than others and choosing a location that let the painting fit into the architecture, or achieve a harmony within the space.

You are invited to visit, this show runs until November 16th and is open on Sundays from 1 - 4, and by appointment. View photos the show in my flickr set. Video documentation of the sound installation will be up soon, and Piano Clockworks the album is now on last.fm. Promises promises.

Old Gold Exhibitions & Events
2022 North Humboldt Boulevard
Chicago, Illinois 60647

South Entrance, Basement

California Blue Line (towards O'Hare)
Walk West on Palmer Street
South on Humboldt Boulevard to 2022

Hours: Sundays, 1 - 4 pm
By appointment 773.653.9956
Directors: Kathryn Scanlan and Caleb Lyons
Here I am in Time Out Chicago
and Gen Art Pulse
f News previewed Piano Clockworks, but I havent seen it.
same with Chicago Tribune