Friday, February 23, 2007

Zero Sum #9. . .and #10?

If you were to visit ZSAP's current eBay auction, you would see that Zero Sum #10 was being sold.

Now, if you've been following ZSAP closely, you might have noticed that we jumped from auction #8 to auction #10. The rules for the project say that all of the sales must occur on eBay, so why the jump? Zero Sum #9 is being held back, to be sold at a later date. One of the interesting things about setting yourself up with a set of strict rules to follow when it comes to art is that you often are lead in directions that you wouldn't have predicted when you set up the rules. As I've been making the work and selling it piece by piece, I started thinking about the possibility of the Zero Sum Art Project finding a brave, forward-thinking gallery space that is willing to mount an exhibition of ZSAP artworks, while following all of the ZSAP rules, including conducting all of the sales through eBay. The exhibition would be an overview of the evolution of the imagery in the project, as influenced by the rules under which the artwork was made. It would have the unique quality of being an exhibition that exists in a specific commercial gallery, but was also available to anyone, anywhere, who is willing to bid. This will further our exploration of the mysterious alchemy that creates value in art. Ebay is a value-neutral environment, or even one which removes value from art, as it is completely unfiltered critically. Anyone with 35 cents can try to sell their work. A commercial gallery adds value to the artwork, as it represents a juried situation where time and resources have been invested in presenting artwork that is presumed to be valuable and will bring a good return for the risk taken by the gallery. By giving the artwork the cachet of a gallery setting or the uncritical setting of the eBay auction, you will change its perceived value. An exhibition that brings BOTH of these things together will be an interesting experiment.

But how did this new goal spring from those initial rules? Basically, when I started this project, I envisioned a very slow start, sort of nursing a seedling along until it became a hopefully robust plant. As the seedling was a tiny drawing made from the most mundane of materials, I imagined that the resources I would have to work with would continue to be somewhat meager. As it turns out, every auction has produced enough profit that the studio has far more supplies in "art materials" than are needed to simply replace those used by the previous piece, and I am slowly beginning to purchase my own 19th century dime museum of props from which to draw and collage. So the project logo, meant to suggest an empty money sack, may be empty of funds but it is filling with resources. I did not imagine at the outset the luxury of being able to make more work than was necessary to keep the project alive according to its strict rules of selling and spending. So, hopefully, an exhibition of works that will chronicle the growth and evolution of the imagery of the ZSAP artworks will be possible. To see whether the exhibition can exist in a bricks and mortar gallery, and simultaneously sell on eBay, will be an interesting experiment in and of itself.

There you have it. If you surf your way to the Zero Sum Art Gallery you'll find #9, in its rightful place in the sequence. The mundane titles are designed to allow a viewer to see how the artwork in the project has evolved. As of #9, they will no longer be an accurate indicator of the sequence in which the artwork was sold.

It wouldn't be any fun if ZSAP didn't just get more and more complicated, would it?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

From the ZSAP Reading List. . .

", , ,the economic context in which art was and is produced, distributed and consumed becomes part of the works themselves. The art historian Michael Baxandall has demonstrated, for intstance, that the way in which painters were rewarded during the Italian Renaissance directly influenced the execution of the painting. Patrons of art paid for each depiction of an individual and for the pigment used. The most expensive pigment that existed at that time, lapis-lazuli blue, thereby became a symbol of distinction. That is why the Virgin Mary can be identified in paintings from this time by way of the color of her gown."

both the quote and the suggested illustration, a detail from Piero della Francesca"s "Nativity", are from
Olav Velthuis' "Imaginary Economics: Contemporary Artists and the World of Big Money"

Monday, February 12, 2007

So, what are the stamps all about, anyway?

So far with the Zero Sum Art Project, I've done a pretty thorough job explaining the rules of the project (see the boxed section in the middle of this page for those rules). The rules are, of course, completely arbitrary, but the experiment is only really interesting if I stick to those rules as closely as I can. But why would that be "interesting"? That points to the goals of the project, as opposed to the rules. The rules are fixed, as long as the project runs. Part of the fun is seeing what can happen within those rules - what exactly is allowed? The goals, on the other hand, may shift around a bit as I explore this terrain and see what the possibilities are. So I thought I would take a few posts over the next week or so, and explain the goals of the project as I see them at this point.

One of the goals is to create a studio environment that is as open as possible. The working process, the financial process, the progression from one image to another - all of these things will be made visible to the viewer, unlike a gallery exhibition where the selected work for view, if successful, seems to suddenly spring together as a coherent exhibition when the viewer enters the gallery. With ZSAP, you'll see all of the tangents and false starts and interesting digressions as the body of work evolves.

So, transparency, both in the pragmatic dollars and cents and the more ephemeral evolution of the artwork, is one of the projects goals. There are others that we will talk about later, but transparency is a good start. With that in mind, I thought I'd tell you about one tiny aspect of these images I've been making: the postage stamps.

You may have noticed that old postage stamps are a favorite collage element of mine. I thought I might tell you a few of the reasons I like to use them so much.

I'm a printmaker. Stamps are prints. I like the way they look, as tiny engravings, especially when they've been cancelled. A cancelled stamp is a combination of a relief print and an engraving. They are beautiful little collections of marks that add richness to an image made with pencils and brushes.

I like the color of them. The older stamps tend to be monochromatic, which make them very potent as little spots of color in a composition.

I like the fact that they are confusing in their sense of value. This echoes the whole nature of the Zero Sum Art Project - what is a thing worth? Stamps had an initial monetary value, like a piece of currency. They are cancelled, which negates their value. But people have decided that they are an interesting thing to collect, so they regain their value, perhaps many times more than their "face value", as they age and become desirable. When I insert them into an artwork, I destroy this accumulated value as a collectible, but perhaps add value to the artwork due to the visual interest of the stamps. A nice little series of additions and subtractions, mirroring the idea of taking materials that cost a certain amount of money, and using them to make "art", which, based on the "success" of the artwork, either increases or decreases the value of the materials.

I like the numbers. The postage due stamps are particularly useful here, as they are typically just a number - kind of little Jasper Johns paintings. Numbers imply sequences, and I like to use the stamps to imply a series of instructions or directions, a sense of order. One recurring theme in all of my artwork is how we make sense of things, how we create order from chaos. Eventually I'll talk about the idea of "models" as structures we use to understand the world, but suffice it to say that sequences refer to order and logic, even if that order is artificially forced on an unruly situation.

And finally, they hold a lot of nostalgic value for me, as I was a nerdy little stamp-collector as a kid. That's not an element that shows up in the artwork, but it probably is a factor in determining how they ended up being a part of the art.

So, as far as I can tell so far, that's what the postage stamps are about.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Zero Sum #8

It's Zero Sum #8! Get all the vital stats, and even consider buying the thing, by visiting the Zero Sum auction on eBay!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Zero Sum #8 is close to hatching

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