We are very excited that we will be reading our next book, Since ’45: America and the Making of Contemporary Art by Katy Siegel in conjunction with the show You, Me, We, She at Fleisher/Ollman Gallery in Philadelphia. We will be hosting a conversation about the book at the closing of the show on March 31st at 3pm. If you are in the area, come join us!


Wow, this is a cool book. For those uninitiated in the language of poetry (like me) Mark Doty’s The Art of Description is a great book to get you started on a love of the art form. I felt a little lost through the first half, but the second half taught me so much, by the end I wanted to go back and read the first section again with my gained knowledge.

The first half is analysis of several poems that particularly exemplify the use of description and asks, why describe at all? To that Doty answers: ‘The Poet seems to proceed from a faith that the refinement of observation is an inherently satisfying activity.’ (17)

And in this activity, in its highest form, Doty finds, ‘such imagery comes closer to being commensurate with reality than ordinary speech’ (44)

He is often toggling between writer and reader and what each is trying to do and/or understand.  In this vein, he quotes Elizabeth Bishop in a letter to Anne Stevenson: “what one seems to want in art, in experiencing it, is the same thing that is necessary for its creation, a self-forgetful, perfectly useless concentration.” (23)

Doty includes another angle on this idea, with Emily Dickinson’s words that describe the labor of writing or reading as being, “without the date, like Conciousness or Immortality”(23)

The second half of the book focuses on an alphabet of descriptive devices and is where the book really takes off. Listing the ‘Descriptions Alphabet’ gives no hint of the richness or skill that Doty uses to weave these ideas together into a fascinating and affirming read. A few of these words are key words in influential poems and others lead to discussions so unforeseen, that they are seriously wondrous:

  • Art
  • Beauty
  • Color
  • Desire
  • Economy
  • Figures
  • Gesture Drawings
  • Hunger
  • Incomplete
  • Juxtaposition
  • Knowing
  • Language
  • Morality
  • Names
  • Opposition
  • Projection
  • Qualifiers
  • Real
  • Sonic
  • Synesthesia
  • Tone
  • Uncertainty
  • Verb
  • West wind
  • X-ray
  • Yield
  • Z to make the world real

A couple of highlights: On color, Doty wonders: ‘How does color get onto the page, into the reader’s internal eye?’ and struggles with such a fundamental truth about color (!) ‘since we can never experience written color so–well, wordlessly.’ (68)

On desire: ‘the urge to merge shouldn’t just be the icing on the cake . It should be the icing, the cake, the plate it’s on, your eating of the cake, your feeding of the cake to others, and all the stories you tell yourself about your encounter with the cake.’ (73)

On uncertainty in a description and an writer looking for the right word in plain sight: ‘ the power of this strategy is partly a function of the humility of the speaker, who does not presume knowledge, but involves us in his active quest for it…'(89)

We read this book for different reasons, one was that it might help us with our own writing about our work, another was a desire to read something completely different. It ended up leaving me with a greater insight which is that poetry, and the art of description, is what is left in visual art when you strip away all references to the literary history of art–that desire to reflect or describe the seeing of a human experience that has affected the artist.

A great, great book.

-Gina Beavers

Carolyn is currently a resident in the AIR Program at the Abrons Art Center, Henry Street Settlement. She is developing an amazing new body work. Working in varied materials and methods, this new body of work is a purposeful oscillation between control and chance. Plaster, pigment, mirrors and scarves are molded and placed into gravity defying contortions. We are really excited to watch where Carolyn goes with this new work!

Check it out!


You, Me, We, She

February 23 – March 31, 2012
Reception February 23 6-8 pm

Fleisher/Ollman Gallery is excited to announce the exhibition You, Me, We, She featuring contemporary female artists working with or responding to community or collective identity in their practices. You, Me, We, She will be on view from February 23 to March 31 with a reception on February 23 from 6-8 pm.

The exhibition features nineteen artists and artist groups who work in a variety of media and with a range of methods. Select artists in You, Me, We, She take the public or groups of people as their subjects and investigate social and relational concerns; others create work that conceptually speaks to communal identity. Additional artists in the exhibition are engaged in a practice that is defined by a performative, process-based, or site-specific approach. While the level of finish or output varies between artists, all share a concern with the idea of exchange and exploration of quotidian experience – artworks act as social interstices and attempts to redefine community revolve around the complex forms of identification that exist between individuals and larger collective entities, identities that are in re-negotiation through encounters with others.

Artists in the exhibition:

Becca Albee & Kathleen Hanna, Art Book Club, Anna Banana, Johanna Billling, Tammy Rae Carland, Stephanie Diamond, DISBAND, Annika Eriksson, Kara Hearn, Donna Henes, Corita Kent, Fawn Krieger, Justine Kurland, Jennifer Levonian, Shani Peters, Mika Rottenberg, Julia Sherman, Francine Spiegel, Martha Wilson

Events in conjunction with the exhibition:

DISBAND performs at AUX Performance Space
Wednesday March 14 at 9 pm

DISBAND was active in the downtown art scene in Manhattan from 1978 to 1982. Members Ilona Granet, Donna Henes, Diane Torr and Martha Wilson reunited in 2008, and continue to blur the line between performance and live music with their feminist acappella songs.

AUX Performance Space, 319 North 11th Street, Philadelphia, PA

Community of Community at Fleisher/Ollman
Friday March 16 – Saturday March 17 during gallery hours

Stephanie Diamond gathers with collaborating artists for Community of Community, a retreat wherein participants and visitors interact, share and support each other in a variety of ad hoc activities.

The Art Book Club at Fleisher/Ollman
Saturday March 31 at 3 pm

The Art Book Club-a group of artists based in New York City that meets regularly to discuss an assigned reading-invites the public to take part in a conversation about Katy Siegel’s book, Since ’45: America and the Making of Contemporary Art.


Saira McLaren, Procession, mixed media on canvas, 60 x 90, 2011

Saira McLaren is on fire in her studio! We had a great studio visit with her, it was awesome to see her new work. Her intense color sense and explorations with bleach and fiber are truly exciting, check out her website on the link page on our homepage. We also discussed the Joan Mitchell book, read one member’s take below. And we selected our next book for our January meeting, The Art of Description: Word into World by Mark Doty. It’s more of an exploration of poetry, but several of us felt it could enrich our own understanding of our work. Check back in January to see what we think!

Joan Mitchell in the studio, photo by Loomis Dean

Okay, let’s be real. I had a little extra pep in my step about selecting this Joan Mitchell biography, because it’s a profile of an artist who also happens to be a woman. I’ve read the De Kooning, the Picasso, what else?  I feel like a lot!

This book had other things going for it though, it just came out last year, it looked definitive (as in over 4oo pages) AND  the book jacket was yellow, just like the Pulitzer Prize-winning De Kooning biography.

Well, I love Joan Mitchell’s paintings, but found this biography of her not on par with her work. Doubtless it takes a lot of work to compile the information and write an account like this but that’s probably the greatest feeling I get from the book, the old critique that it ‘feels like a lot of work.’ Which in the end means it feels like a lot of work to read.

When I sit back and reflect on what I learned about Joan Mitchell as an artist and a person, there is no doubt I have a clearer image of her. In fact, I felt exhausted by Mitchell by the end, as probably many of the people who were subjected to her incisive jibes and inquisitions felt. All the same, I couldn’t help but feeling that as in the case of the therapist who is out-smarted by the patient, Albers was simply not up to the task of writing a compelling memoir of such a complex character.

There are tons of metaphors to describe the difference between doing everything right, and creating something artful, the most appropriate for this book is probably playing all the right notes, without creating a piece that is moving and powerful. Having read the fabulous De Kooning biography, picking up this curiously similar yellow book jacket, I was expecting a read that would be enlightening as well as riveting, as his biography was. Sadly, this was not the case.

But hey, lots of smart people had good things to say about this book, including the reviewers in the New York Times and the New Yorker. However, if you’re interested you should probably see if you can get it at your local library and save yourself the money and shelf space.

-Gina Beavers

Oh wow. Yes, this is what happens when you can’t find your camera cord for three months, AND in a larger sense is why dedicated cameras, unattached to phones and e-mail devices are going to become extinct I’m sure! So here are some pics from the Book Fair, where we sold cool editions, met cool folks and had an all around great time hanging out!

The table features zines and editions by Book Club Members. Bottom left is Saira McLaren manning the table and bottom right Carolyn Salas’ concrete bookends.

It has been a busy fall for ABC.  Here is what we are all up to:

Amanda B. Friedman

      Oct. 14 – Nov. 5, 2011
      513 East 5th St., 1B
      New York, NY 10009
      BYP & VIS-A-VIA Closing Halloween Party Oct. 29
Carolyn Salas
2011 Abrons Airspace residency recipient
2011 Rema Hort Mann Grant Nominee

Torrance Art Museum

The Unseen

Curated by Adela Leibowitz
Sept 17 – Oct 29

Franconia Sculpture Park

2011 Jerome Grant Recipiant
(outdoor installation on view until 2012)

Fran Holstrom
      The Death of Affect curated by Fran Holstrom and Jeffrey Scott Mathews.
      ART BLOG ART BLOG, 508 West 26th St., 11th Fl. New York, NY,
Fri. Oct 14–Oct-29
Gina Beavers
      Go Figure, curated by Eddie Martinez, Dodge Gallery,
15 Rivington, New York, NY Oct 6–Nov 13th
       The Death of Affect, curated by Francis Holstrom and Jeffrey Scott Mathews,
ART BLOG ART BLOG 508 West 26th St., 11th Fl. New York, NY, Fri. Oct 14–Oct-29
Letha Wilson

       Work Hard  Daily Operation at Wildlife, organized by Jon Lutz. November 5, 7-11pmJ.J. Holdings and Friends, Prince and Mercer (above Fanelli’s), NYC. Oct. 28 – Nov. 20th.

BAM Next Wave Art at Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn, NY. Curated by Dan Cameron. September 13 – December 18, 2011.

So Different, So Appealing at Gramercy Park Hotel, Penthouse. NYC. Organized by Rachel Churner and Ryan Steadman. Sept. 27 – Dec. 17, 2011.

Imprecise Geometry, organized by Wendy Olsoff (P.P.O.W.) at 308at156 project space, 156 5th Avenue, NYC. Sept. 21 – Dec. 1, 2011.

Nature Unframed at The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL (outisde Chicago), May 20 – November 27, 2011

Saira McLaren

       The Death of Affect, curated by Francis Holstrom and Jeffrey Scott Mathews,

ART  BLOG ART BLOG  508 West 26th St., 11th Fl. New York, NY, Fri. Oct 14–Oct-29

Stacy Fisher
      So Different, So Appealing – exhibition at 50 Gramery Park North, Gramery Park Hotel

      Norfolk – this is the inaugural exhibition at Thierry Goldberg Project’s new space.

103  Norfolk Street, New York, NY 10002 212.967.2260 | info@thierrygoldberg.com.

Gallery Hours: Wednesday-Sunday 11-6.


Inna Bavaeva

New work!

The Art Book Club is excited to announce our participation in the upcoming NY Art Book Fair!

Table SY26, the courtyard
MoMA PS1, Sept. 30th-Oct. 2nd
Special Preview:
Thurs. Sept. 29th, 6-9
On view and for sale will be an assortment of zines and editions, including:

Gina Beavers and Denise Kupfershmidt poster books and t-shirts.

Inna Babaeva’s notebook print.

Stacy Fisher engraved pencils.

Collaborative zines made by Amanda Friedman and Elizabeth Hirsch, and Saira McLaren and Mike Hein.

Fran Holstrom collages.

Saira McLaren posters.

Letha Wilson and Carolyn Salas paperweights.

Unauthorized Artist Biographies by Carrie Pollack, Fran Holstrom and JR Larson, Gina Beavers, Jaime Gecker, Jesse Hamerman, Melissa Brown, Saira McLaren.

We’ve had our eye on this for a while, since it was reviewed in the New York Times. We will meet about it sometime in late October. Not a short book, but it should be interesting. Pick it up and check back with us in October to discuss!