June 12, 2018

Trading Studio Visits: Loren Munk

Had a great time visiting Loren Munk at his studio in Cobble Hill today! I had the impulse to record the conversation but all the better to have let it flow as naturally and bountifully as it did. (The problem of catching butterflies is that you kill the creatures you so admire.) The conversation: Where are we / where are we going? Art history / our histories / NYC/LA art stories & fairy tales. Influences / who he/we have influenced. Courage under fire. Material tech. Internet tech (YouTube spontaneous combustion & the viability of Instagram)... The images: a panorama in 3parts / Loren's living room wall spanning past (the trencadís frame, 2003) and present / 2 closeups. Hours flew by, and we merely scratched the surface. @lorenmunk #painting #arthistory #nycartist

A post shared by Dennis Hollingsworth (@pacificohollingsworth) on


A few notes:
Loren Munk (his website, a must-see).

Loren has created an online persona by the stage name James Kalm whose production is over 11 years in the making and over 140 videos of the New York art scene deep. There is no one like him. There are thousands of young artists from all around the world, who, for generations now have relied on his eye witness documentation of art making in NYC for an education that cannot be found anywhere else.

I'm beginning to think of him like those storied folk ethnographers that had documented lost music and languages, creating archives that no one had valued until they were nearly lost. Or better yet, think of James Kalm as a Bill Cunningham of the New York art scene. Both captured butterflies and archived them... but... what if you found out that Cunningham never stopped making hats and even had expanded his scope?*

And finally, here is an important note to underscore, Loren Munk has produced a deep body of painting of his own -in his own painterly language that commands its own authority- that is simultaneously organically integrated with his art historical documentation. Call it another variety of conceptual art grounded in fleshy paint. No small feat, that.

A few days after seeing Loren's studio, he visited mine and our conversation went deeper and farther still. Such a shame not to have recorded it, but pinning butterflies is a brutal act. Picking a few shards from memory, I can testify that we had drilled deeper into the prime question(s) that drove me into visiting him in the first place: where are we in art history and where are we going?

We both agreed that a pat answer would be foolish but the character of our conversation compelled a sense that we could together paint a preparatory sketch: 1) That we are, in this point in history, lost in a hall of mirrors (an era of fake news, an interminable internecine civil war everywhere you look, a noumenon nowhere to be found much less an existence thereof suspected) and 2) That if there was a seed, a faint outline of a succeeding 21st century, it would lie in the direction of solving the riddle of the 20th.. and perhaps that could be something like the task of orienting oneself after you find yourself lost in a wilderness. Orientation by any means necessary, in other words. A needle rubbed into magnetism, floated in water... Time of day and where the sun is in the sky... Salient features of the surrounding landscape... Tracing the path of the ecliptic...

Oh, we went deep.

And after hours of a conversation that didn't want to end, Loren whipped out a camera and asked me if I minded a quick interview to share with his vast YouTube community.

Well, why not?

At least we got to pin at least one butterfly into the album:

Note*: Incidentally, but yet also as a simple matter of fact, both Cunningham and Munk do get around the boroughs solely by bicycle to do their work.

Posted by Dennis at June 12, 2018 5:21 PM


i couldn't agree more that loren munk aka james kalm is a national treasure and his countless hours documenting emerging art and gallery exhibitions warrants millions of thank yous and bows of appreciation. i found rough cuts on youtube and was never the same. and i have to say his memory is astounding and the best part of the videos is the fact he brings the history of the artist into the present.

thank you kate !!! big time.

Yes! I've heard many testimonials from artists and art professors about Loren's influence in their lives. Perhaps the more we voice this in public, the faster he can gain recognition.

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