Cedar Lewisohn

Cedar Lewisohn opened up his talk with an introduction to his new website (www.cedarlewisohn.com) where upon it took him quite a while to formulate the presentation. He did not quite know beforehand that his works could be separated between ‘artwork’, ‘curating’ and ‘writing’.
Some of his first works, that are displayed in the website, was from working in the Netherlands. The Netherlands was a different experience as he was able to comfortably be booth a curator and an artist – something that it not quite agreed with back in the UK. In Norway, he worked with the cult of Rammellzee, who he works with often in order to take street art into a different realm that what is culturally the norm, or even culturally acceptable.
In college, Lewisohn was obsessed with the art world. He wanted to be “just like Jeff Koons.” (He was asked afterwards whether he aspired to anyone else and without reeling off hundreds of names, it was a no.) Through this fascination, he looked at art magazines for much of his time (this was a point in time when they were a lot more powerful as the internet was not as influential as it is today). His belief was that if you got into an art magazine, you had made it, and it was therefore his dream of  being in one. [He side comments that this was tragic, however it is good to be tragic.] Due to this dream wanting to become reality, he took out an advert in Frieze magazine for his degree show. In this, he simply pictured his mum in black and white and placed in bold, red writing underneath – “Isn’t my mum the greatest?”. This posed a vague political point as there were not many black women photographed for Frieze magazine, and even fewer were printed.
This project led Lewisohn onto the topic of his dissertation – A 10 step guide to succeeding in contemporary art. One of his inspirations for this, and someone that he interviewed for his dissertation was Martin Maloney, who was infamous for running a gallery in his house. As a gratitiude for being part of this, Lewisohn gave a copy of the dissertation to Maloney, whereupon he replied that he should be able to become a writer if he so wished.
A step from there and Lewisohn was writing small articles for Flash Art magazine. He found that he always wanted to write pieces that were slightly submersed in things, or to respond, or write at things. Lewisohn often put lies into his work – not large ones that would change the overall meaning of the text, but rather smaller ones that would highlight parts. One of these included getting into a fake argument with an artist in an interview. Although he wrote about it, this event never happened and the interview was very smooth.
Lewisohn was also inspired by Simon Edges and the Underwood Audio, for whom he curated the show. Many curators are very picky and decisive as to whom is allowed in the show, and where exactly their pieces are going to be. In this show, however, they let anyone in as an open house. This was a very new experience for Lewisohn, and he has taken this forward into his further practice.
Around this time, ‘hybrid’ street art was becoming noticeable around London, especially in the East. Through his curiosity, he began work experience with one of these artists. Many artists in this time were working with, or moving towards working with graffiti, because it was becoming ‘the thing’. If you followed the crowd, and you make your own out of it, you were often to find success. Lewisohn wrote an article about this art movement back in 2001, and this is where he started to write plentiful about the music and art crossover. This is where Tate Liverpool picked him up and asked if he could write a catalogue article on contemporary art and pop (2002). [Lewisohn added that he felt like he could retire because he was so happy.]
Unfortunately, he could not retire as him and his partner needed money. Due to the new-found job by his partner, they both moved to Glasgow. Lewisohn adds that he was broke and had a crappy job, but money was money at this point in time and he needed it. Here, he was able to complete some small scale exhibitions with friends of work he liked. He wrote all the pieces to these including press releases, as their budgets were only around £300 for the whole show. It is at this point, Lewisohn admits that writing to him is like doing a piece for an exhibition. He felt like he was the bridge between Glasgow and London, by bringing his friends to Glasgow to exhibit.
As a side note, Frozen Tears, a book by one of the lecturers in the University, John, was partially edited by Lewisohn, and as more books came out, the more he was asked to edit.
In 2005, Lewisohn found that he was getting a little desperate and disappointed, as all the work and grants and schemes he signed up for, he simply was not getting. And yet, he carried on trying, and that is how he got his place on the curatorial scheme at Tate Modern for ethnic minorities. Through this work, he created a pitch to have a graffiti project in the Turbine Hall, and this pitch was accepted. This was his first project at Tate Modern but it was met with irresistible force. There were those who were there, who did not think that this was an appropriate show to have. Lewisohn also found that he was unable to get on with the other curators, and split off from them exclaiming that he was to get his part of the budget, a space and the availability to work. From this, he found that he was producing a publication for the event, which bought in a lot of different artists and commissions, and was handed out free at the event. He used this publication as a show within itself.
Lewisohn found that he was unable to make any serious work outside of the Tate because much of his time and energy was spent there. During this time, he was able to publish a book, however exclaims that he was not, and is still not happy with it. While still at the Tate, he produced some small scale publication pieces that he did enjoy, and found it nice to be able to do small, quick shows because people were not able to judge quickly.
Towards the end of his contracted time at the Tate, Lewisohn was able to curate and publish a book on street and graffiti art. This was the first book that tried to put this artwork into a historical context, and was therefore a one of a kind. Through this, he was able to look and find artists who were making and documenting artwork illegally.
Throughout his work at the Tate, Lewisohn wasn’t doing the ‘norm’, and excluded himself from the other curators by doing things such as getting Harry Hill to do a talk. The story told was that Lewisohn was then approached by one of the directors with the proposal of doing an exhibition on street art. This is the exhibition in which he had control, and he knew that he shouldn’t do this inside the building. The rooms were booked up for the next few months and it would be a long process to not only set up, but also take down the exhibition. It was therefore decided that it would be done on the outside walls of the Tate Modern, which made it a very controversial show – many of those working in the Tate tried to stop the show from happening, especially those who worked inside the Tate.
From this, his work is now based around curating and bringing together street art projects. He moved from the Tate Modern to the Tate Britain, even though they did not quite know what to do with him. Rude Britain, a show that Lewisohn helped to curate, was one of the most political shows that he has curated. At this time, there was a swap of directors of the Tate Britain and once again, many people were trying to stop the exhibition, or kick out certain artists in order to bring others in. Also in the Tate Britain, the marketing department would often get shows where they are unsure of how to draw people in. Lewisohn would draw them in with publications and started working with distribution companies to get the work out. The marketing department were all doing things online, which isn’t always the way forward (2013).
After the Tate Britain, Lewisohn moved onto freelancing projects. One of these included the Nerve Meter where homeless people and artists were writing for a homeless magazine. Those who were homeless, could then pick up a load of these magazines for free in order to sell them for a profit. This is like the Big Issue, however the big issue does not have articles about making money through money laundering, puppy farming, begging and prostitution.

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