Thursday, May 28, 2015

Lennon: Celebrating the Music of John Lennon

Let's be clear: the Lennon show wasn't really my idea.

In fact, it was already in creation long before I showed up to the scene; several sculptors, headed by Tim Bruckner, collaborated together to create small pieces of resin-cast sculptures of John Lennon, with the intention of travelling overseas with May Pang on her newest book tour through Germany in 2014. Problems arose, however, and the promoter decided it was not prudent to ship and travel the pieces, and the sculpture segment of the tour was dead in the water.
May Pang and John Lennon
Then I got the call... would Krab Jab Studio be interested in hosting a John Lennon-inspired art show?

Had these artists been anyone else, I would have passed. However, I had worked with Tim in the past, and all the sculptors involved were professionals in the toy and entertainment industry, many of which did sculpts for things like DC Comics, Marvel Comics, or character development for movies (like Michael Defeo, for example).  They fulfilled the "publication and entertainment industry" spectrum of the gallery (check!), and all of them were top notch in their field of expertise. Tim Bruckner, a master of sculpture in his own right, also had a strong backstory: he knew May Pang personally, had met John Lennon "back in the day",  and had designed Ringo Starr's first solo album cover (among other things). This wasn't an average, run-of-the-mill tribute show being handed to me.
Designs for Ringo Starr and Harry Nilsson, Tim Bruckner
Problem was, as I explained to Tim in our initial conversation, I had already booked out my 2015 year. He kept insisting I double check my calendar, and I finally did....huh! Seemed, strangely, I had booked out everything but skipped the month of May. Would he want that month? He enthusiastically said yes, and went back to his fellow sculptors to give them the news.

I was still on the fence about the show, though. Tribute shows are hard sells to the public, quite frankly. As I wrapped up work for that particular day, I decided that if a John Lennon song came on the radio when I hopped into my car, I would do it. Knowing that was kind of a crap shot, I locked up and jumped into the car to head home.

Imagine was playing on the radio. Done deal.
Imagine, #1/6 resin cast lamp, Tim Bruckner
Tim recruited four more artists (Conny Valentina, Dan Chudzinski and duo Colin and Kristine Poole). We lost a couple folks due to obligation issues, but we had a nice solid eight: Tim, Dan, Conny, Colin and Kristine, Michael Defeo, Alfred Paredes, and James Shoop. Tim looped May Pang in, since she was a photographer and took many photos of John during her time with him (coined "The Lost Weekend"). May was somewhat stand offish, however. After a month of spotty emails, she finally called me to explain to me why she wasn't really feeling the show - she just didn't think she was a good fit. She did the "it's not you, it's me" explanation, which I took fairly well, I think. Except... well, except we actually enjoyed talking. And talking. And talking... and over an hour later, she sighed and said, "okay, I'll send you nine photographs. Nine was his number, you know."

I made a tiny squee inside. You see, I actually am a John Lennon fan, I actually knew exactly who May was (I even read her book when it came out in 1983 - a bit inappropriate for a 13 year old, but hey, we all grow up sometime). I was just a wee bit star struck.

The whole group had about 6 months to prepare, and the original four sculptors of James, Alfred, Michael and Tim decided to do another piece for the show. All the artists decided to pick their favorite John Lennon song and run with that, and the results were quite marvelous.
Tomorrow Never Knows, Michael Defeo
Yellow Submarine, Dan Chudzinski
Nothing is Real, Alfred Paredes
The Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes, Colin and Kristine Poole 
Two Spirits (verso), James Shoop
A Little Help from My Friends, Conny Valentina
I Am the Walrus, Tim Bruckner
May did come through and sent her nine photographs which depicted a very intimate portrayal of John Lennon. Most of the photos were taken in their house in LA.
Here's Looking at You, May Pang
It was no surprise at this point that the number nine would pop up yet again, as the show was to open May 9th. For the opening, both Tim and May were able to attend, which was an absolute treat to our visitors. We were hooked up with Steve Roseta and the members of the local Beatles tribute band, Apple Jam, and graciously Josh Jones and Rick Lovrovich provided an acoustical set to the evening, which included all the songs that inspired the show. They even got to serenade May to both "#9 Dream" (she provided the original female vocals to the song) and "Surprise, Surprise".

As an addition, we had a memorabilia wall during the opening, which included a set of John's sunglasses (yes, really), a very rare dye transfer print of the Sgt Peppers album cover (only four known in the world - knowing the actual value of it ranged in the six digits, I was sweating all night in fear something might happen to it), a limited edition John Lennon litho, and a lovely Chris Hopkins ink drawing of John.
John Lennon, Chris Hopkins, courtesy Steve Roseta

John Lennon lithograph, courtesy Steve Roseta
Sgt Peppers album cover photo, one of four, courtesy Allen Goldblatt
Need I say that the show was a hit with our opening night visitors? Many of them hung out for nearly the whole night to listen to the music, take in the artwork, and chat with both Tim and May. Interactive pieces were played with: Alfred's little strawberries are magnetic and move about the green field, and James' bronze tree revolves on a base, revealing a sleepy eyed John on one side and a smiling awake John on another. People squealed with delight over the lamp within Tim's "Imagine" piece, which displayed logos of various John songs inside the spectacles. Sunlight played off the gold on Colin and Kristine's figure as the sun set lazily, glinting through our windows and throwing long, sad shadows on the concrete floor, reminding us all that the night would eventually have to end.

It's almost a shame that this show is only a month long - with it being the 50th Anniversary of the Beatles first performance and John's 75th birthday, it's like we have this super secret awesome show of fantastic art and photography devoted to one of the most charismatic songwriters of the 20th century. Those who've seen the show have been wowed and hushed and moved all at once, and to stand among the work, in the room, with "In My Life" quietly playing in the background, you feel a deep, nostalgic ache inside, and you know someone really special was taken away from us way too soon. These artists beautifully narrate the soul of his music with humor, sadness, curiosity, and most of all, respect.

"Lennon" will run through June 6th, 2015.

Demystifying the Gallery World: Things an Artist Should Know

So this last weekend I attended the Spectrum Fantastic Art Live convention, which is a medium sized convention located in Kansas City, MO. It's about three years old and spun off of the juried annual Spectrum Fantastic Art. I went mostly to lurk around, see some kickass art, meet amazing artists and run a workshop called "Demystifying the Gallery World".

The gallery world isn't all that mystical, really. It's just a business. Granted, it can be volatile, unpredictable, baffling, but it's really not all that much from any other business in that there are protocols, contracts, agreements and mostly, relationships. Curator, artist, visitor, collector...

I only had 30 minutes to cover an insane amount of information, so I tried my best to hit as many points as I could, using simple slide shows to bullet point. As requested, I am going to list my slides here, in all their glory.

(Want to See the Actual Workshop? Here it is!)

Developing a show with your curator

  •  Working relationship (key word: “relationship”)
  • — Size of show, size of work(s)
  • — Theme or series
  • — Curatorial vision
  • — Communication! Keep it open, even if there is a problem

Contracted obligations for You and the Curator/Gallery

  • — Written agreement stating terms of show
  • Average retail gallery commission: 40 – 50%
  • Exclusivity clause?
  • Artist usually pays for shipping fees to/from gallery
  • Amendments must be discussed, written and signed by both parties to be legal
  • — Insurance, security, damage or loss of art
  • Marketing obligations, if any

Managing the workload between Confirmation and Delivery

  • Mindful of deadlines vs your own work ethic
  • “Buffer days”/”work days”/”potential sick days”/”FAIL days”
  • Last month is devoted to press releases, marketing, documentation, cataloging
  • Unlike some publishing scenarios, gallery openings are “hard openings”!

Preparing to document your work: Photography, Statement

  • WIP photos are great, especially for a unique process 
  • Traditional 2D: good lighting, clear images, true colors (ie, get a professional if you need to) 
  • 3D: multiple angles, detail shots (video is okay too) 
  • DON’T: use cell phone, photograph a piece under glass (unless you have no choice), or overly Photoshop an image 
  • OIL, metallics, and high gloss mediums: mindful of reflections, blowout, moiré 
  • Statement: reflect the theme of your piece/show. Be heartfelt (visitors can read through bullcrap). First person statements are best. If your medium is unique, you may need to explain what it is or why you used it 
  • DON’T: copy from your website

Framing and Display

  • Ask about weight/size limitations, as well as wall hanging options and amount of wall space 
  • Wall space: ask about “usable” vs “total” wall space 
  • 3D: Ask about types displays, surface type, if pieces can be anchored, height of displays 
  • Use framing material that is archival – if it is not, alert gallery owner 
  • Ask about frame options on the gallery end, if you are shipping. Many galleries have inhouse framing or framers that are economical. 
  • Use chipped, broken, scuffed frames 
  • Use glass if you plan to ship the piece. Use plexi or matte acrylic 
  • Use a cheap frame (that clearly looks cheap) for expensive pieces. Customers complain about that. 
  • Use odd colors for mats or frames, they’re a harder sell. Use neutral colors such as white, cream, gray, black, beige. 
  • Use toothed hardware. It tends to come out. Use appropriate d-rings, wire.

Shipping your work

When packing 2D art:
  • Ask gallery if they have packing material requirements (such as “no peanuts”) 
  • Don’t pack glass if at all possible 
  • Use foamcore, hardboard or rigid material to protect front of piece 
  • Don’t tape anything directly to your piece or frame 
  • Paper corners, bubble wrap, paper on corners 
  • Don’t overpack a box. Also, make sure pieces will not shift in transit 
  • Don’t use packing tubes for original art 
  • Insure your package! 
When packing 3D art:
  • Crate larger pieces (have one built or buy one at places like Uline
  • “box in a box”, floated 
  • Complex pieces should be broken down into smaller pieces, boxed individually 
  • Send along assembly information and images, including a repair kit 
  • Insure your package!

Pricing your work

  • Materials, time as a factor (adjust if you tend to work slow or fast) 
  • Take in consideration commission rate 
  • Market value: speak to gallery owner about local retail averages vs global averages (example: Grand Rapids may have a higher price point than Anchorage for art) 
  • You may need to make some adjustment to your pricing (or piece choice) to reflect your new locale 
  • Don’t undervalue: your humble $300 price point for your detailed oil painting may say “there is something wrong with this” or “I’m not worth collecting” to a collector. You don’t want to brand yourself as naïve or desperate. 
  • Don’t flux: Collectors get very frustrated with art that’s re-priced from show to show or month to month. If a piece isn’t moving at a current price, RESEARCH WHY. The results may surprise you. Never drop a price…

Market your show: marketing, opening receptions, and review

  • Branding the Art and Show: from Objects to Experience 
  • Social media/Mailing Lists/Preview Lists 
  • Press Releases and advertising 
  • Opening and Closing receptions 
  • Press and collector parties 
  • Reviews: the Good, the Bad, and the Nothing At All