SFMOMA Stories from the Evacuation from Jonn Herschend on Vimeo.

San Francisco-based artist and filmmaker Jonn Herschend talks about:

The Thing Quarterly, a 10-year-old, subscription-based project of customized book-inspired artworks/objects he co-runs with Will Rogan; it was launched with Miranda July’s pull-down window shade, which read, “If the shade is down, I’m not who you think I am;” The Thing has been so successful that there are two full-time and one part-time staff; Herschend describes it as an alternative route for art to be disseminated into the world, that it comes directly to your house (or office), which was perhaps the main ingredient that has brought so much attention to the project over the years; Dave Eggers’ project, a custom essay he wrote for a shower curtain; how he self-identifies (if he has to), and the dynamics of having a good conversation with a stranger; the lack of art education in describing the wide gap between contemporary art (& the arts in general) to the mainstream; his time living in S.F. (since ’93), from the Bohemian days of The Mission, through two tech booms and the rise of the ‘tech bro,’ entitlement, and how he resolves to remind himself that he was part of an earlier phase of gentrification of The Mission, and now he’s just experiencing another, later phase…and how he’s sympathetic because it’s the only way to not become pissed all the time; how his biggest problem now is Uber drivers (he’s been hit twice), who are actually people who live out of the city but come in to pick up rides; how he grew up with a front-of-house/back-of-house perspective in terms of entertainment and attractions, which led him to a documentary on the move/renovation of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art – Stories from the Evacuation – which features a surprise twist; where he is with his filmmaking: he’s self-taught, and used a real casting director for the first time (instead of Craigslist) for the SFMoMA film, and he may or may not make a feature-length film at some point in the future, since there are obvious benefits to making films for an art audience as opposed to making more marketable films for a much wider audience, and how for now he’s happy to be in the in-between space of the art and film worlds.

Milwaukee-based artist and multi-hyphenate (curator, professor, art reviewer, artist-run gallerist) Michelle Grabner talks about:

Being essentially a life-long Midwesterner, and how for her Chicago was her big-city experience, and she appreciates that city much more now that she no longer lives there, and yet she recommends that all young artists get out of the cities, and certainly towns, that they’re from to experience different cultural environs; the scripts that young artists (including her students) are given for when they move to X new city out of grad school (and I offer to doctor the script she gives to her students heading to L.A., suggesting that they head to Milwaukee or Cleveland or NY instead); the way that, post-9/11, the ‘Hot Mess’ sensibility has been playing out in art, and what that says about the state of the art world and its surroundings; how her survey exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland, combined with her curating the 2014 Whitney Biennial, led to a bit of a gold rush on her work, particularly in being picked up by the James Cohan Gallery in NYC; her co-curating of the 2014 Whitney Biennial, from soup to nuts: how institutions, including the Whitney in particular, don’t like to be declarative, as in saying that Michelle was ‘the first artist-curator of a major museum exhibition,’ though in fact she essentially was; the steps leading up to her getting the job; the process of selecting artists, including doing 130 studio visits in preparation (from which 53 artists were included), and how weird and freaked out artists got, compared to prior visits, because it was a ‘Biennial studio visit’; how transparent she was with artists about the studio visits, in saying that she was ‘doing research’ for the Whitney Biennial; the richness of that one-hour studio visit as an exchange of ideas rather than just a ‘you’re in or you’re out’; the controversy around her inclusion of Donelle Wooldford, the fictional African-American artist – invented by artist Joe Scanlon and played/acted by Jennifer Kidwell – and how that played out, particularly with the departure of the artist collective HowDoYouSayYamInAfrican? that Michelle had curated into the video portion of the show; how the importance of representation in the art world, through that piece, is a conversation that both stirred up a lot of heat but remains a difficult conversation to have and especially to maintain having; on the back end of the show, how frustrating it was that there were hardly any critical reviews that addressed the work in the show, but instead were about the biennial as a whole, the politics around it, etc.; her current preparation for curating the Portland Biennial, opening this July 9th; and finally, she attempts to answer the admittedly charged question: does she have it all?

Ben Davis, National Critic for ArtNet News and author of 9.5 Theses on Art and Class, talks about:

His time in Australia at the Art & The Connected Future Symposium, and meetings with Aussie artist Ben Quilty (who also does  social activist work); art and activism, and art & politics; the mutually incompatible art tribes that exist among the different ‘art worlds;’ the fact that the different complaints from various factions of the art world(s) can all be true at once, and how disorienting that can be (for Ben); how outside of the cities where there’s a market, the conversation is almost always about social aesthetics (what Ben calls “social practice”) instead, and how that’s where government arts support tends to gravitate; how some of the most interesting art – art that’s ‘underground and weird’ – is being made outside of the art world bubble, including that of Fee Plumley, an artist based in Adelaide; sections from his book “9.5 Theses on Art and Class” — the title and also a specific chapter of his book, which was originally written as a pamphlet and intervention of an art show in NY on art and class – including trickle-down theories of both economics and art, and art education, particularly what for Ben was a profoundly moving article: A Eulogy for Hope: The Silent Murder of Gallery 37 ; what explains the fact that grad schools are made up of 2/3 women, but galleries represent only 1/3 women…what happened in between?; what the mechanisms are that make up the art world/how it works; his piece “Do you have to be rich to make it as an artist?”; how the conversation about the art market is a complete dead end; how cities with much smaller art markets, but much cheaper housing, are better for artists; and how without the writing, without the intellectual circulation around the production of art that comes via art blogs and art writing in print, art’s just an overpriced piece of decoration.

Los Angeles-based painter and sculptor Sarah Cain talks about:

living in Highland Park, and the trials and tribulations she went through in buying a house (with a studio) there; moving to France as a foreign exchange student at 15, with only a year of French under her belt; going to grad school at UC Berkeley, as opposed to the Cooper Union-to-Yale dual track that she thought was the ticket at the time; being a woman who goes after what she wants, and, as a woman in the art world who’s been accused of being too forthright with certain museum curators; her ambition, and how that’s informed her career, including getting out of her Upstate New York hometown; the lack of discovery and experimentation in some art; her reputation while in San Francisco and how it’s changed since moving to L.A. in 2007; the many routes to success in the art world, whether through the work and NOT being an immense socialite, or the ‘fake it till you make it’ approach; her relationship to class, having come from a lower-middle class background, to now frequently being in the company of the 1%; how she works in the studio vs. how she works onsite when doing over-the-top installations; and what she thinks about abstraction in its different forms, including her thoughts on having made it when it was very unpopular, vs. now when it’s become so popular.


Carolina Miranda covers art both high and low, as well as writing the occasional piece about architecture or music.
We talk about: her Latina heritage; her philosophy and approach as an arts journalist; the issues around race brought up in her piece on the Donelle Woolford/Joe Scanlon Whitney Biennial scandal; her posts that went viral, including breaking the story that Hello Kitty is not a cat; as well as stories on a velvet painting museum, and a pool in the middle of the desert.
Carolina also makes her world debut reading of “A Shiny Poem for Jeff Koons,” culled from the many flowery-worded reviews of his retrospective.