January 14, 2015


January 11, 2015

To [Art School Name Deleted], Office of Admissions:

I have been an Adjunct Professor of Art at Corcoran College of Art + Design for 11 years and during those years I have often wondered why I teach art. Adjunct faculty salary is subsistence level at best, there are no benefits and we have virtually no voice in how our school is run. But there are those rare students now and then who can sometimes provide a revelation to us teachers of how empowering and rewarding arts education can be. Whenever I do encounter such a student as X-X, with sheer creative verve and intellectual ability, I am glad that I keep coming back to these studios and lecture halls.

X was a former student of mine in two of my art theory courses at the Corcoran, Art as Social Practice in Fall 2013 and Postconceptualism in Spring 2014. Clearly, X has a passion and boundless curiosity for contemporary art and artists. During this time, I came to know X as a student with an inquisitive mind who was receptive to complex theoretical concepts such as appropriation, site-specific sculpture and relational aesthetics. In the often-intimidating classroom discussions, X’s energetic and productive contributions were most welcome. Moreover, X wasn’t opposed to listening with an open mind to differing points of view, which is invaluable for promoting enlightening discourse. He also displayed strong academic writing and research skills in equal measure in his essay assignments for both of my art theory courses.

In his senior year at Corcoran, X developed an intelligent body of work involving installation and sculpture. It was immediately apparent to me that he had clearly combined his understanding of complex art theoretical issues he had studied with his own practical application of the multiple media of object making. I was also present during X’s “BFA Thesis Project” critique and his piece was a highlight of the 2014 “NEXT” exhibition at Corcoran Gallery. Later that same year, I was able to curate one of X's works into my Readymade@100 show at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center.

In conclusion, I would like to include a couple of quotes from X’s email request to me for a recommendation because what he says about art education and what my courses meant to him exactly express why I am recommending him to you:

“In my years at The Corcoran I experienced the joy of learning under many professors, almost all of which made lasting impressions on how I approach my practice and how I understand works which I observe. Out of all of those professors and instructors I believe that you and the courses I took under your instruction have made most of the strongest impressions of all. The concepts which we discussed and explored in both ‘ASP’ and ‘PostConceptualism’ have really helped me to understand how I can manipulate materials beyond their physical nature and provide them with a new identity, given the context of the presentation.”

What strikes me about the connection that X makes between what he learned and how he uses it is his comprehension of the essential relationship between theory and practice. To read such thoughts, articulately expressed at such an age by a student, is nothing short of remarkable and this is why I continue to teach. X then further described his current work and this even more accurately conveys his grasp of the association between theory and practice:

“My objective is to re-contextualize certain objects, ones which truly fascinate and intrigue me, and place them in scenarios which provide the viewer with a newly found recognition of the object's potential, identity, and presence through the notion of desire. I believe that much of my intrigue and inspiration is built on a foundation of the practices and concepts we discussed in both courses you instructed.”

As such, I feel that it is of paramount importance that [Art School Name Deleted] accept students like X into your program: he will be a beneficial and rewarding educational experience for your professors as well as a valued peer to his fellow students. X-X would be an exemplary addition to the MFA program in Sculpture at [Art School Name Deleted]  for Fall 2015 and I strongly endorse his application.

Should you require further information or conversation, please feel free to contact me via [Cell Number Deleted].

Mark Cameron Boyd
Adjunct Professor of Art

December 3, 2014

R.I.P. Bobby Keys.

Today the soul, the gut, the frisson of Rock 'n’ Roll died; Bobby Keys has passed at 70.

What does this mean? Of course, the Rolling Stones were captivating; Mick mesmerizing, Keith raw, and Charlie…if you want to know the truth about the lure of the Stones just listen to Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts live circa ’69 to ’73. Their interplay, without the lyrics and glamour of Mick ‘n’ Keef, without the open G chords and the pouts, that still-riveting belly-punch of electric-sexual-energies of bass and drums.

Recalling “Brown Sugar,” with Mick’s voice and that lyric-range of misogyny to addiction to rage, and back again, through ennui, melancholy and loss, those long-ago words don't punch as mean as that Bobby Keys’ sax solo, dropping a blistering hot-wax that peppers down “Brown Sugar” with the spice and swagger Mick barely registers.

That sexual saxophone is undeniable – you can go back to Yardbird Parker, then trace down through the Chicago R&B bands, to Muscle Shoals, New Orleans and back to Detroit. But it was Bobby Keys who would cut loose with those memorable staccato instrumental sax breaks that strip the Stones’ latent 3 minute pop lust to an essential blustering strut.

IMAGE: Bobby Keys on 1973 Stones tour; photo by Michael Putland.

October 10, 2014

And not to forget…Objet trouvé (Part 6)

An object that may have indeterminate function, origin and/or conscious recognition for us but is “irreplaceable” for the one who found it.

Allow me to briefly address the distinctions of the found object. Contradictions have ensued in an artist’s selection of, or as Duchamp would have it, their “indifference” to, an object as a readymade. Certain art historians, scholars, critics and curators throughout the 20th century have exasperatingly continued to classify artists’ found objects as readymades, and conversely, confuse readymades with found objects. A cursory Internet search of objet trouvé produces 22 million hits but a quick glance at MOMA’s site reveals: “With the exception of the Ready-made, in which a manufactured object is generally presented on its own without mediation, the objet trouvé is most often used as raw material in an assemblage with juxtaposition as a guiding principle.”(1)

One may easily see the complications, as “the found object shares with the readymade a lack of obvious aesthetic quality and little intervention on the part of the artist beyond putting the object in circulation.” However, we must recognize that “while the readymade is essentially indifferent, multiple, and mass-produced, the found object is essentially singular or irreplaceable.”(2) I might add, that that irreplaceability is specific to the artist who found it and that we must remain open to the possibility that a mass-produced, commodity object, whether new or “used,” may fulfill an artist’s “singular or irreplaceable” need.

During the final weeks before the open call deadline, American University Museum staff and I had received numerous queries as to “what” a readymade was and “how” a readymade was defined. As I explained on my Theory Now blog, I declined to answer because to do so would be tantamount to prescribing the kinds of submissions that artists should submit. In our exhibition of these works, we now know the “who,” “when” and “where” of this mystery but the “why” may forever elude us.

It has been my fervent hope that my Readymade@100 exhibition would attract an audience ready to engage in new debate and discourse on Duchamp’s readymade and its contemporary manifestations. I believe that it is the continuous give-and-take of discourse, the assertion and counter-assertion of argument, that will compel us, if not to a position of understanding, at least to a better grasp of the subject. Finally, whether these “new readymades” meet your measure of authenticity, or you find yourself merely “indifferent,” I trust that this exhibition is a transformative experience.

IMAGE: Rebecca Hirsh, The Rake’s Progress; 2012; steel; 18x18x11 inches; © Copyright by the artist; photo by MCB.


2. Iversen, Margaret. “Found Object, Readymade, Photograph;” Art Journal, Vol. 63, No. 2; Summer 2004; p. 48-50.