Blog featuring artwork of Wes Freese

Archive for the ‘Contemporary Art’ Category

Poor Information

leave a comment »

2004-4 Abstract Painting 4

“Poor Information”, Oil on Canvas, 24″ X 24″, 2004


Written by Wes Freese

March 11, 2013 at 6:11 pm


leave a comment »


“Esperanto”, Oil on Canvas, 20″ X 20″, 2010

Written by Wes Freese

March 6, 2013 at 8:42 pm

A Positive Squandering of Energy

leave a comment »


Video from the fantastic video blog Gorky’s Granddaughter, talking with artist and teacher Megan Craig.  The discussion touches on a wealth of issues concerning contemporary painting, and many thoughts occuring to me as I try to maintain a painting practice and operate the world’s suckiest blog.  Wonderful paintings by Megan!  I’ve linked to Megan’s website to the right of this page, which you should also check out.

Written by Wes Freese

January 30, 2013 at 9:34 pm


leave a comment »


“Rhizome”, Oil on Canvas, 20″ X 20″, 2013

Written by Wes Freese

January 27, 2013 at 7:57 pm

Art Bubble – Price and Value

leave a comment »


Wade Guyton, “Untitled”, Epson UltraChrome Inkjet on Linen, 85 1/4″ X 69″, 2006

I came across an excellent article by Shane Ferro at Blouin Artinfo entitled “In the Debate About the Art Bubble, the Dealer Is the Missing Piece”.  The article reviews many of the public lamentations about the sale prices from the most recent Art Basel Miami Beach, contributing to what is being termed an art bubble, and focusses on two important aspects to the current art market.  The first is the primary reason why recent sales are booming, particularly within the primary art market.  The second aspect engages Felix Salmon’s suggestion that the most salient question is whether or not the current market is stable or unhealthy.

Many of the people writing about the sale prices from ABMB are conflating the price of an artwork with its perceived [historical] value.  Sale prices, quite distinct from the perceived cultural or aesthetic value, are most determined by a small group of top-tier dealers.  Sale prices, not the perceived value, create the “art market”.  Ferro writes that market prices have almost nothing to do with critical reception, or “hype” about the artwork, which is an interesting observation and does seem to have some merit with regard to the top-tier market.  (I don’t think the same can be said of artworks sold within the second tier galleries, or up and coming artists’ work.)

Ferro summarily concludes that “[h]igh prices for contemporary artists are entirely dependent on the ability of the best dealers to continue to convince their wealthy clients that higher prices are worth paying”  But what exactly does the “convincing” entail?  Ferro all too briefly writes that sales prices have a lot to do with capitalism, but then choses not to discuss specific persuasions, monetary or tax benefits, or perceived profits the dealer is convincing the buyers with.  The article does mention “cultural cache” as being part of what a buyer pays for when purchasing top-tier work, but I don’t think that can account for the majority of a purchase price.  I’m sure the article had a word limit and did not allow for a discussion of this substantial subject, but some investigation into that would be valuable.  Although, as Sarah Thornton wrote ““tightknit cabals of dealers and speculative collectors count on the fact that you will report record prices without being able to reveal the collusion behind how they were achieved”.  See “Top Ten Reasons NOT to Write About the Art Market.”

Ferro also references Felix Salmon’s blog post “The Contemporary Art Bubble”, which calls the recent sale prices evidence of an unhealthy market bubble.  Felix writes “what is uniquely troubling about today’s contemporary art market are two things: absolute values and relative values.”  By “values” he means to say prices.  The relative value of contemporary sale prices is well argued, but his contention that the artworks ‘absolute value’ (sale price) is scarily high is, as far as I can tell, simply conjecture on his part.  As others have pointed out, a piece’s recent sale price is not a reflection of its value but rather of the buyers themselves.  “An auction is an event about the buyers, not the art.” Salmon quotes Marion Maneker of Art Market Monitor.  How much money do the buyers have?  An incredibly large amount apparently.  Fiscal policies sustaining high income inequalities should sustain the supply of buyers’ money.  Global demand (the amount of buyers) around the world continues to increase.  The world can change but as it is today it seems unlikely the market will go down because of some inherent instability of its own.

To say that the sale prices are “qualitatively…bonkers” is unpersuasive, but a familiar refrain.  Many people have been saying that since the 80’s.  Of course, there may be some isolated examples that might support that perception.  (Salmon’s example of the high prices for Christopher Wool’s work being unsustainable given that the supply of them in the market is high seems rational.)  But on the whole the sale prices don’t seem so egregiously varied from the past couple of years.  In support of his claim that the current market is out of whack, Salmon cites one well-respected gallery’s owner statements, which Salmon presents as evidence of overconfidence.  “Spectacular busts are born of overconfidence”, he says.  The thing about claiming the art market is unhealthy is that eventually, one day, that claim will be proven to be correct.  As Salmon quotes Herb Stein, “if something can’t go on forever, it won’t.”  Sage wisdom, I guess, but it does little to specifically tell us the current state of the market.

Written by Wes Freese

January 10, 2013 at 9:31 pm

2012 Summary – A Fantastic Year

leave a comment »

2012 was one of the most artistically productive years for me.  One of my resolutions at the beginning of this year was to be more productive.  My paintings and collages incorporated a similar, unifying idea: to blend figuration and flat decoration within a single picture.  Here are what I consider a few highlights from 2012:

Intractable Reverie    Dogtooth Aphorism

“Intractible Reverie”, 2012                                          “Dogtooth Aphorism”, 2012

The two paintings above were outgrowths from collage work. These were the two pieces that I invested the most time and labor in.  Very satisfying creatively.  More of these in 2013.

The Laura B    "Fish Beach"

“The Laura B”, 2012                                                    “Fish Beach”, 2012

I started a project this year with a working title “I Built You A House”.  These paintings are a personal revisiting of the works I created on Monhegan Island as an artist in residence in 1990.  I’m working to simplify the abstract imagery in my paintings so that the works are more in line with what I conceptually think a painting is in contemporary culture.

Assemblage 16 (Bargain Basement)    Assemblage 17 (Junk Sail)

“Bargain Basement”, 2012                                “Junk Sail”, 2012

Two of the final collages from the Wicked Problems! series of collages.  Turning shit to gold, but the world is still hopeless.

"Little Sebago By Moped"    "Front Lawn Skirmish"

“Little Sebago By Moped”, 2012                       “Front Lawn Skirmishes”, 2012

"Grifter's Delight"    HPIM6551

“Grifter’s Delight”, 2012                                   “Your Favorite Direction”, 2012

After completing the Wicked Problems! collages I wanted to dial back on the preciousness and complexity and work up some simpler, flatter and more pleasant abstract pictures.  These are a few of the results from the series entitled “A Short Distance”.

HPIM6543    HPIM6544

“Outside-Inside No. 4”, 2012                           “Outside-Inside No. 3”, 2012

For some fun I did some pattern paintings on digital prints of vacant apartments.  I’m still processing how to incorporate some of these elements into more finished work.

Written by Wes Freese

December 31, 2012 at 5:22 pm

Artist Watch: Josephine Halvorson

leave a comment »

I have been an enthusiastic fan of Josephine Halvorson’s paintings for a couple of years.  There’s a link to her website on the right side of this blog (see “Artists”) if you’d like to view some of her work.  Below is a short video of Josephine describing her approach to painting as being one in which she doesn’t try to illustrate things in her paintings, but rather she’s trying to make the things with paint that she observes over extended periods of time.  That’s a delightful way of understanding.  I’ve always found her choice of subject matter fascinatingly odd, and her orderly, yet unfussy paint handling is uniquely attractive. 


Written by Wes Freese

December 28, 2012 at 5:18 pm

%d bloggers like this: