(This post was originally published on May 4, 2014.)
Today we are happy to share some thoughts from Alex Paik, artist and Director of Tiger Strikes Asteroid New York, the gracious hosts of DELVE Networking: Collaboratives + Art on May 22. During the event, Alex will be speaking about his path as well as the forming of TSA, so you are all in for an inspiring talk. Below, he writes about the ways he invigorated his own studio practice through collaboration and creating new opportunities.
Thanks for sharing with us, Alex.
During grad school, Alfred Leslie worked with us as one of the senior critics. He liked to say that artists are like these giants that are standing in shallow water and critics, gallerists, and art historians are like little guppies nibbling at your feet. When he first told me this I kind of rolled my eyes and thought to myself that of course Al, a 2nd generation Ab-Ex painter, would say something so macho and grandiose. But over the years I’ve found that even though his statement might not be true, taking this posture as a kind of blueprint for how much thought/worry I put into things has helped me tremendously. What critics, gallerists, and art historians think is less important to me than sustaining my studio practice and the studio practices of my friends and peers. (Ironically, as I started focusing on creating opportunities for artists to meet each other and to show, I found that gallerists and critics started noticing my work!)
For the first few years out of grad school, I was making work and trying to show. Most of my classmates had moved to NY so I felt fairly isolated in Philadelphia. It was slow going and I was frustrated by the lack of opportunities I had.
Eventually I got a few artists together and started Tiger Strikes Asteroid in Philadelphia as a way to connect artists from around the country and as a way to create my own community. What surprised me the most during that first very busy year was how inspired I was to go back into my studio. This strange thing happened where the more time I put into the gallery, the more I was driven right back into my studio. Giving other artists a slight push in their studios by offering them shows ended up also invigorating my own studio practice.
I felt empowered by the whole process of doing studio visits, planning shows, meeting with the membership, and finally seeing the work of my friends and peers at Tiger Strikes Asteroid. Even though I had less time, my productivity in the studio shot through the roof. By taking control of my “career” and by focusing on creating opportunities for myself and for my peers I started to feel more balanced in my artistic life. Of course galleries, critics, and art historians are important and have their place but sustaining my own studio practice and that of others is what I want to take up the bulk of my thought and time.
It’s easy to bash the mega-galleries, critics, and art fairs but I find that this constant negativity quickly leads to my own studio practice withering and losing my connection with other artists and their work. Do you feel like you aren’t seeing the work that you want to see in shows? Curate your own show! Start a space! Are you sick of reading reviews of James Franco's and George W. Bush’s work? Write your own reviews! Start a publication! Make your studio practice the giant in your life. Everything else is just guppies.