Friday November 24, 2006

Bert Rodriguez photo installation on Herald building


Bert Rodriguez, You’re only mad at yourself, photo installation on the east side of the Miami Herald building, 2006.

Bert Rodriguez, previously known for buying and returning picture frames with his picture in them, was awarded a $15,000 grant to complete this installation on the outside of the Herald building. It’s a photo of the view from inside the building, flipped horizontally for a mirror effect for westbound drivers. From an interview:

From inside the Herald building I took a photograph through windows of the outside view, and I took the picture from the part of the building where the banner hangs. From inside the building, the banner, which is 60-feet-by-40-feet, will reflect the same view employees always see. From outside — for people on the other side of the bay and driving toward downtown on the causeway — it will look like a reflection.

For a (Snitzer!) artist who operates on the boundary between the obvious and the sublime, this is pretty damn good. He resisted the urge to do something more obvious (say, on the building’s oft-bannered south wall), and nods subtly to the previous Herald-based installation, Wendy Wischer’s fantastic moon projection. But couldn’t $15,000 bought a bigger banner? Maybe three of these next to each other (60’ x 120’), which would also have resulted in a more pleasing horizontally-oriented image.

And yes, it’s up just in time for Art Basel.

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  1. Franklin    Fri Nov 24, 01:30 PM #  

    An artist typically includes a fee to support himself in the grant, so one would not expect the whole amount to go to materials. On the other hand, one might hope for more of a return on investment here, but that has more to do with the artist selected than the materials expenditure. If he operates on the boundary between the obvious and the sublime, the sublime has never had to worry about him trespassing on its side.

  2. jordan    Sun Nov 26, 02:09 AM #  

    Whom ever sits in the offices where the banner is covering the windows doesn’t get to see the sunrise. Now thats not very sublime is it.

  3. It's Funny    Sun Nov 26, 08:57 AM #  

    Leave it to Franklin, who like a flea, will hop from a great distance just to bite Bert on the butt with his acidic comments.

    How do you feel Franklin writing acidic sentences about Bert’s work?
    More Talented?
    Franklin is beginning to sound like the Stephen Colbert of the art writing community.

    I personally find Mr. Rodriguez’s work thought provoking and poetic.

    Mr. Jordon I’m pretty sure the banner has a “see through” quality like the banners on bus windows…

    I’m curious if Mr. Snitzer gets a bite of Bert’s $15,000….do galleries normally get a % of a commission from an artist they represent?

  4. alesh    Sun Nov 26, 01:37 PM #  

    Franklin~ The cost of making a 60 × 40 mesh banner is, last time I checked, in the general neighborhood of of a thousand bucks. So I think he could have afforded three and still had enough money left over for his troubles. (But point taken — my original statement was crude.)

    Jordan~ He intentionally used mesh, so they can still see out the window, though it’s dimmer (kind of like being on a bus that has the big vinyl picture on the side)(duh — i just saw that that’s the same thing Funny said). That’s actually sort of the point — that people inside the building and people outside see the same thing.

    Plus if you’ve ever worked in an office with east-facing windows you know that you keep the shades firmly drawn in the AM. Plus it’s only for a month(?), so I’d think it was an interesting change, personally.

    Funny~ Franklin has his particular point of view. Damned if it isn’t internally consistent and well expressed, though. Though “Franklin is beginning to sound like the Stephen Colbert of the art writing community.” is pretty good.

    Snitzer gets a commission on the work he sells. The most he gets out of this project is maybe a “courtesy of Fredrick Snitzer Gallery” printed somewhere.

  5. kellerkalt    Sun Nov 26, 11:05 PM #  

    The banner costs are significantly higher…. since Dade County is involved… somewhere in the $5000-$7000 range, maybe more, since installation costs are also very high (thanks to the union).

    I think its a good piece. Is it up yet?

  6. alesh    Sun Nov 26, 11:37 PM #  

    no, it’s not up yet — that’s a downgraded rendered image (DRI — a patented technology i’m developing) of what it might look like when it goes up.

    ps. what union?

  7. cohen    Mon Nov 27, 12:26 AM #  

    yep,,,, i also think it to be a good piece,,,, id like to see what other ideas where floating around with this project

  8. It's Funny    Mon Nov 27, 06:29 AM #  

    There are most likely Dade County Permit Costs too.
    Public Art projects are NEVER inexpensive to produce or simple to install.

  9. Franklin    Mon Nov 27, 09:05 AM #  

    I have never heard of a gallery getting a percentage of grant winnings. That would be despicable, and it would be safe to assume that Snitzer requires no such thing. However, it does count as taxable income, and I’ve learned the hard way to list taxation on the grant as a line item in the budget. At $15,000, you could reasonably expect a tax bill for $3,000. If the project cost $4K (averaging Alesh’s and Kellerkalt’s high estimates), that leaves $8K for the artist, which is nice. If Kellerkalt is right that could be more like $5K, which is less nice.

    I have studied Colbert at great length and with much admiration. To argue with people improvisationally as a character that holds the opposite views of your own is a supreme feat of acting. I write as myself, though, so I must decline such a flattering comparison. Funny, as soon as I see any virtue in Rodriguez’s work that I’ve seen claimed for it, I will say so. I have not. Writing critically of it gives me no special thrill – no more than the gratification I get from art criticism in general. But eliciting responses like yours is priceless. It is a great joy to skewer the unexamined pieties of the art world, especially the primitive ones clouding the heads of Miamians.

  10. Jonathan    Mon Nov 27, 11:55 AM #  

    Cool installation. I initially misread the post and thought the banner was going to be on the West side of the building, to provide a faux-see-through rather than faux-reflective view. I like the see-through idea better but it’s fine the way they’re doing it. Maybe they should consider leaving it up indefinitely. Or add more banners, some reflective and some see-through. It’s kind of a dumpy-looking part of town and this kind of playful artwork can only improve it.

  11. It's Funny    Mon Nov 27, 04:55 PM #  

    Franklin, don’t kid yourself.
    You are skewing nothing.
    But you certainly do have your dick in a knot when it comes to Bert Rodriguez and his work. Its as if you have your computer set to alert you to whenever Bert is blogged so you can work up a lather and spurt some silly acidic sentences. Keep up the good work. Your venom is always good for a chuckle.

    Cloud headed.

  12. Franklin    Mon Nov 27, 10:30 PM #  

    I keep up with the old neighborhood on CM. Sometimes it reminds me why I lived there for so long. Sometimes it reminds me why I left.

  13. Jv727    Tue Nov 28, 04:57 PM #  

    I grew up across the street from Bert. Nice to see a hometown boy get some praise at Basel.

  14. I was there    Tue Nov 28, 05:13 PM #  


    It matters not where you are.
    Miami or Boston
    You are still the same….
    odious and vituperative

    But let’s praise Bert and the Cloud Headed Miamians. Who relish nothing of quality and understand less of art, criticism, life, models, fake breasts, cuban coffee, the Miami River Cops, Scarface, Romero Britto, Art Basel.

    Let’s praise Boston
    baked beans
    funny accents
    and what else?

  15. Franklin    Tue Nov 28, 08:53 PM #  

    What else.

    Vituperative? Sure. Odious? Maybe. Anonymous? Never. Feel free to let us all know your real name.

  16. It's Funny    Tue Nov 28, 09:39 PM #  

    and what else?


    according to wikipedia “In contrast to what might be considered the more “refined” aspects of Boston’s culture, the city is also one of the birthplaces of the hardcore punk genre of music. “

    Gimme a break.

    New York and LA are the mother and father of hardcore. Boston maybe is the retarded third cousin of hardcore punk rock, or the slutty step sister of 1980s ska revival.

    I’m not anonymous. I prefer ambiguous.

  17. alesh    Tue Nov 28, 09:51 PM #  

    Are we getting into a fight here about whether Boston is a legit city? That strikes me as a touch silly, no?

    Personally, I thought DC was the home of hardcore, but I don’t claim to know shit. Oh, and Lond— nevermind.

    But we're also getting horribly off-topic here. As for Bert's piece, all I can say is that my photo fails to do it justice.

  18. Franklin    Tue Nov 28, 11:11 PM #  

    No defense of art this bad is possible, and Ambiguous isn’t the person to mount one anyway. That leaves attacking the critic. You know the drill: You’re ugly, your mother dresses you funny, and your city’s Wikipedia entry has debatable content. Distractions and bullshit. If the work was any good, such things wouldn’t be necessary.

    The fault does not lie with your photo, Alesh.

  19. jordan    Wed Nov 29, 12:19 AM #  

    I applied, (as I have for the past few years for grants in this city) and wasn’t sellected. Sure, I would have liked to have recieved some dough and put my own ideas up. I do respect the clever nature of this piece regardless of it’s un aesthetic nature and wish Bert well. I hope that he makes his 20-60k during Basel.

  20. Bert Rodriguez    Wed Nov 29, 03:48 AM #  

    Hi, I saw this last night and thought I had posted something but, I guess it didn’t post. It was kind of long and I don’t remember everything but, I did say thanks Alesh, for the review. And I tried ot clear up some of the details about the process of getting the thing. It was by invitation as faras I knew and, the project called for a proposal for a 60’ x 40’ mesh banner that would go on the east side of the building. I would have loved to do more with it but those were the rules they had set-up. I proposed like 5 different ideas as well and this is the one they chose so, that’s what I did. I agree it would have been really cool if I could have covered up the entire side of the building or something but no go. I also tried to get them to let me do it horizontaly but, again, no. I like the piece though, I am grateful I was chosen, (sorry Jordan), I got to pay some of my debt off, and help out a friend who was hurting, so, all in all I’m satisifed I spent about half of it on the printing, installation, permits, etc., so kellerkalt was right. Sorry I’m sure the other post was much more articulate but, I guess I didn’t know what I was doing and it didn’t post.

    Franklin, Please. I sincerely ask you, since you don’t like my work, or think it has absolutely no redeemable qualities then, just leave it and me alone. Don’t waste your energy arguing with people who will just turn the conversation to insults toward you or the city you live in. I am extremely proud of what I do and extremely grateful to have been able to do it for this long. If you have criticism then I’d be honored to hear it. But to say things like “the sublime has nothing to worry about” or “No defense of art this bad is possible” , however elegantly phrased just sounds like an insult towards me, not an attemp to sincerely scrutinize some artifact or gesture I’ve placed in the world. You haven’t even seen the thing everybody here is disscussing. bad how? What qualities is it missing? What qualities does it have? If it’s not art then what is it? It’s certainly not like like there isn’t historical precendence for work like mine. Anyway, I’m sure you’ve got some really good insights and given your ability to articulate them well it’d be great to hear more than what you usually say which is useless to everyone. If you have no insight then, let it go. I’m certainly not gonna stop making it and it seems as though people will still like it want to talk about it as long as I do.

  21. alesh    Wed Nov 29, 07:45 AM #  

    Hi Bert!

    First of all, sorry you had problems with the comment system. You’re not the first — I’ve even had a comment disappear (though I think it was something goofy I did with the preview/submit). If I could change it I would. Whatever.

    Thanks for your insights into the process, they DO shed some interesting light, esp the fact that the Committee picked the concept(!) and that you considered some of the same changes I suggested.

    I have a lot of respect for Franklin, but I wouldn’t worry too much about his criticism if I were you: although he will claim to approach conceptual work with an open mind, he has a very very consistent record of finding it to fail.

    Check out a review of a show at MIT he just did for one example. And maybe check out his work. I respect Franklin. Heck, I like Franklin, and I appreciate his perspective on art. But when it comes to his criticism of work like yours, I’ve learned to take his opinion with big heaping tablespoons of salt.

    The same is true for many many people, to which the comment archives of Artblog are a testament (and yet I still read — I didn’t just stumble onto that MIT review looking for proof — I read it yesterday even though I’ll never see the show; it’s fun to hear him going off on stuff when it’s not your own).

    Anyway, thanks again for dropping by and filling in a few of the blanks.


    Your mother sometimes dressed you pretty funny when you lived down here, but I’m sure you have an all-new wardrobe and everything’s fine. But don’t kid yourself — you’re one handsome devil.

  22. Franklin    Wed Nov 29, 08:27 AM #  

    The interesting thing about the “people who will just turn the conversation to insults toward [me] or the city [I] live in” is how dependably they crawl out of the woodwork, pick a pseudonym or two or three, and start slinging shit as soon as your work comes under serious critical fire. Hell, even the current NT critic couldn’t get through his latest piece on you without a wholesale caricature of something I’d written. While I wish no ill against your person (and I hope I adequately challenged Alesh’s doubts about the price tag on the project), my criticism is a lone voice in a steady din of ovine, hyperbolic admiration, and your person will just have to suffer it.

    As for the specifics, your shtick is a non-art aesthetic. If art is meant meant to be transformative in some respect, you make things that aren’t, or so barely so that they require a lot of squinting to see what the point is – “obvious,” as Alesh put it in his generous characterization. Yes, there’s precedent. That precedent has to get dragged out in defense of your work, along with any available backstory, because the objects themselves are so poor. They’re meant to be poor, I realize, and that’s what people latch on to as a mark of sophistication. I simply don’t fall for this.

    Alesh – ;)

  23. skipvancel    Wed Nov 29, 08:51 AM #  

    Wow, this is intense. The only crack in either defense here that I read is Bert defending his work as “having precedence”. Quite frankly, I believe, “precedence” tends to inhibit the artisitic process. See you at “Bedtime Story.”

    art does not need precednce to be art, although the opposite can be true, however, art could use a spell checker.

  24. It's Not Funny Anymore    Wed Nov 29, 09:43 AM #  

    I apologize for baiting Franklin. It has turned into a silly and twisted sanitized cyber blood sport.

    I know Franklin likens himself to some sort of enlightened zen dude and art criticism ninja. He is entitled to his opinions and I applaud his outspokeness.

    I’m sorry that he can’t “see” the virtue in Bert’s work.
    I’m surprised as I personally think Bert’s work has an eastern zen like Koan-esque sensibility. Anything that encourages the viewer /participant to ask questions and wonder, has merit.

    More so than a silly framed painting of cat or a chicken in a rowboat. Although these have merit too.

    Perhaps I’m too too too openminded.
    Like a 7-11 open 24-7.

    I like art brut and high minded art about nothing.

  25. Bert Rodriguez    Thu Nov 30, 11:38 PM #  

    Hi everybody,

    Thanks Alesh.

    The precendence comment was never meant as a justifier for my work as in: well they did it so it’s ok for me to, etc. I simply meant that this isn’t the first time work like this has shown up and there has been some incredibly great writing about it over the years and just saying “it’s terrible art” is not it, which is how you (franklin) seem to come off. Now, of course, it could be the object’s fault but, more can be said about an un-sharpened pencil other than “it’s a bad pencil” given a considerate investment and openness to let these things speak for themselves (however subtley or slowly). I assure you are not a lone voice, if there was a “down with bert club”, you might be the chosen president but, you’re not the only one believe me :) Most of the time you seem to come off as a bitter asshole with a nice vocabulary, which, I know (hope) is not the case, and that pisses people off inlcuding me and starts all kinds of un-informed ass-ness. I have never invested much stock in weather people like my work or not, what I do care about is the why. I see too little of that in the case of all work (not just mine)

    I agree completely with skipvancel that that “precedence” kind of thinking inhibits the process and closes the door on the possibilities of a great discovery, art or otherwise. The less you worry about weather it’s art or not, the better off you probably are. Of course once something is out there, go nuts. But, when you’re in the process of making it the worst thing you can do is try to quantify it or place somewhere historically or something. I think Motherwell said something similar to that in an interview that I read when I was a wee lass. I can’t remember now so…

    I have never meant any ill toward anyone. In fact, I really do feel a kinship with Franklin and people that don’t tollerate bullshit. The few people that I have any good critical conversations with will tell you. I see alot more similarities between us than differences whatever that might be worth. That NT article BTW, we all know what happens in the hands of editors. They took my words and turned them into some drama about me wanting to burn history books or something and anyone who learned from them. At the same time making out to be some kind of indie art hero which I’m not. I just make stuff that people with a lot of jewelry call art.

    Here’s where it get’s kinda sticky. I’m really interested in the talk about non-aesthetics, the transformative thingy, Alesh’s comment about the sublime, Funny’s koanesque-ness, cat paintings, etc. This is the good stuff. But for me to have a conversation about these sort of things is hard in this context because it’s generally about me, which can easily be seen as being defensive or worse which is not the case. So, I can keep going, or people can e-mail me, or you can come by my house and I’ll make some desserts, whatever you like. I could fed-ex you a pie Franklin, since you’re not actually close by. You might want to give a bit to someone else to try first in case it’s poisoned. Buahahahaha

  26. Man, Woman, and Child    Fri Dec 1, 09:25 AM #  

    We totally are in the retro-avant gardist period, jesus christ!!

  27. It's Not Funny Anymore    Fri Dec 1, 10:30 AM #  

    Is this retro-avant gardist period bad?

    if so, why?

    And how does your statment relate to this thread of conversation?

    just curious.

  28. Harlan Erskine    Fri Dec 1, 11:27 AM #  

    its my birthday on Sunday. Can I have some pie?

  29. KH    Fri Dec 1, 11:29 AM #  

    In an alternate universe, Franklin and Bert are best friends, it’s true.

  30. Mr. Arrow    Fri Dec 1, 11:52 AM #  

    ...and it’s my birthday on December 4th and I want a cupcake.

  31. China    Fri Dec 1, 11:57 AM #  

    Never seen Bert so loquacious about his work. Keep up the hate!

  32. Bert Rodriguez    Fri Dec 1, 01:28 PM #  

    morning everyone,

    I’m starting to like this blog thing. it’s nice. It works sort of like a 24 hour roundtable discussion with the best part being that anyone can chime in regardless of expertise or background. Sorry that sounded dorky. Oh, before anyone points it out, no I can’t spell. I hope you won’t hold that against me. I’m trying. I’m not sure how I feel about this retro-avant gardist comment. Like Funny, I would like more specs. It maybe suggests that there is some new rebellion in the works? I would really disagree. I think that sort of thing is very difficult to create at this point. Culture assimiltes ideas and then drops them too quickly for anything to have a lasting and tranformative effect. At least it seems that way. It’s not hopeless, it just takes a lot more time and attention than most people are willing to invest. I’m talking about artists mostly but, It could apply to anything really. This is a little off topic but, yes everyone can have cakes and/or pies on their respective b-days. Sunday is very short notice but, I’ll see what I can do.

  33. jordan    Fri Dec 1, 09:35 PM #  

    I am a dork too Bert, (and have allways been), only I’ve tried not to be in order to get what I need from all the cool guys. This has been my game of past to some degree, however I’m rather shy, overly self critical and insecure. Again, good luck during Basel.

  34. I'm curious    Sat Dec 2, 07:01 AM #  

    IF Bert states “I just make stuff that people with a lot of jewelry call art.”

    and your dealer probably states Bert makes stuff that helps put my kids through college…

    I’m curious What do you call what you do?

  35. Franklin    Sun Dec 3, 09:43 AM #  

    Bert: I’m really interested in the talk about non-aesthetics, the transformative thingy, Alesh’s comment about the sublime, Funny’s koanesque-ness, cat paintings, etc.

    And it’s not necessarily the artist’s job to handle these things in writing; I’m an unusual specimen, as is KH. Many people feel that a discussion of sufficient depth will eventually justify its related object. My take is that the object has to justify a discussion – that it must succeed visually for a discussion about it to qualify as a fruitful exercise. This view opposes the hell out of the larger art world, especially its commercial aspect, but since I’ve decided it’s right, I’m obliged to stand by it in public, despite what people may conclude about my motivations or state of mind.

    Happy birthday Harlan and Kevin! Many more to both of you.

  36. alesh    Tue Dec 5, 01:00 AM #  

    Franklin~ It depends on what you mean by ‘discussion.’ Franklin. Pieces of the sort you’re skeptical of often tend to resonate more as someone thinks about them. But to put art of that sort on some sort of PoMo probation, as you so often seem to do, is to miss that what happens when you look at art you really love is very much the same thing — you’re thinking about it. It may not feel like it, but modern cognitive science tells us that we’re bad at interpreting our own internal states. Looking at art and thinking about art are exactly the same thing, as far as any of us know.

    Curious~ I was tempted to say this: "Snitzer is one of the few Miami art dealers who makes a cushy living off his gallery (Porche SUV, etc.), but the truth is that Bert hasn't had a show there in years; his ties to the gallery seem, from out here, to be tenuous. So it's quite possible that the dealer's word for the work may be one thing, and the artist is free to think of it simply as his 'practice.' That is, something that he does in life which is as natural and essential to his life as the proverbial taking a shit.

    BUT Bert's claimed acceptance of negative criticism seems to contradict that analysis. So as far as I'm concerned the question stands.

  37. Harlan Erskine    Tue Dec 5, 01:59 AM #  

    wtf i came over, no pies. Just some seriously cute puppies and an offer of whiskey. I have a sweet tooth and all I could to was read about LIKE HOT CAKES and think about them in my mind’s eye. We’ll let me tell you my mind’s eye shed a tear that night.

  38. Franklin    Tue Dec 5, 01:18 PM #  

    Alesh: To the limited extent that I know modern cognitive science, you’ve made two incorrect assertions there. One, looking at art and thinking about art are distinguishable. The cognitive activity that goes along with perception and the cognitive activity that follows from earlier congnitive activity take place at different levels of, and times within, the neocortex. There is what Jeff Hawkins calls the common neocortical algorithm, but that doesn’t make all the activity completely uniform and certainly not simultaneous. Two, since all we have are internal representations of external reality, we are not “bad at interpreting our internal states,” but on the contrary, are expert at doing so. Survival requires it.

    I’m doing the opposite of putting a class of objects on probation. I’m asking art to function according to the same criteria I apply to music, cuisine, and every other creative effort put forth for my delectation – that the thing succeed as form. Any experience becomes richer if you mull it over. I don’t need art for that. I need art to do the thing that art does best – to manifest good form. If an object does, I’ll consider other aspects of it. If it doesn’t, why bother with it?

  39. Park    Tue Dec 5, 05:19 PM #  

    Bert, congratulations! and I hope your dog is happy and confident, too.