Friday, July 30, 2010

Gladstone Brings a Dash of Minneapolis to Chelsea

Matias Faldbakken, Untitled (Locker Sculpture #01), 2010. Metal lockers and lever straps, 72 1/4 x 122 3/4 x 23 in. Photos: 16 Miles [more]

One of this summer’s most enjoyable group shows is, without question, Gladstone Gallery’s “The Mass Ornament,” curated by John Rasmussen, the executive director of Midway Contemporary Art, a nonprofit gallery he founded in 2001 in Minneapolis. The show features work by a fair number of artists that Rasmussen showed at Midway over the past decade, including Maha Saab, Ned Vena, Patricia Esquivias, Matias Faldbakken, Lisa Lapinski, Patrick Hill, Gedi Sibony, Jay Heikes, and Michaela Meise. Those aren’t exactly unknown names on the New York art scene (many are represented by galleries in the city and some live there, though Heikes lives in Minneapolis), but it’s still a fairly unconventional group to find assembled together in a single Chelsea gallery.

I’ve reviewed “The Mass Ornament” for Modern Painters' Weekend Reviews section and included some photographs of the show below. However, the truly exciting bit of news is that I am in Minneapolis right now and will be visiting Midway today to see its current show, Pennacchio Argentato’s “The New Boring,” completing an imaginary cultural exchange program. (As always, I ask that you please refrain from burgling my home while I am away.)

If you have recommendations for galleries or museums I should visit while in Minneapolis, please drop me an email or let me know on Twitter!

Installation view of "The Mass Ornament." Front, Patrick Hill, Bloom, 2010. White Carrara marble, glass, rubber, polished steel, dye, and glue, 36 x 51 x 49 1/4 in.

David Zink Yi, Kopffüsser VII ("Cephalopod VII"), 2009. Porcelain, dimensions variable.

John Williams, Cosmic Ass Wrinkle, 2003. Oyster shell, acrylic bowl, wire, clay, and overhead projector, dimensions variable. Michaela Meise, Tour de Corps, 2010. Wood, Plexiglas, and mixed media, 95 1/2 x 59 x 59 in.

Gedi Sibony, The Predicament (What It Is That Ceases) 2006-2010, 2010. Canvas dropcloth, foamcore, shelf bracket, and plywood shelf, 120 x 67 x 37 1/4 in.

Nick Mauss, Untitled (Inversions/L'Amitie), 2010. Wood, lacquer, and stain, 29 x 56 x 29 in.

"The Mass Ornament," curated by John Rasmussen
Gladstone Gallery
515 West 24th Street
New York, New York
Through August 13, 2010

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Daniel Turner Is Also Having a Great Summer

Daniel Turner's site-specific wall drawing in "Saturn Return" at Wallspace, New York. Photo: 16 Miles

Yesterday, in the first part of a series devoted to artists with work in more than one New York group show this summer, we took a look at painter Ned Vena’s smart, tightly lined paintings. Today, let’s take a peek at the work of Daniel Turner, which is featured in a trio of shows: “Saturn Return,” curated by Elizabeth Lovero at Wallspace; “Other Spaces,” curated by Jayne Drost at Center 548 (the new name of the Dia Chelsea/X Initiative building); and “Over Before It Started” at West Street Gallery, curated by Alex Gartenfeld and Matt Moravec.

Turner has a wide range that includes long, rolled sheets of silver paper that nod toward Walter De Maria and beautiful, glossy, richly textured paintings that look like Robert Morris felt pieces shrunken down and shellacked by Steven Parrino. However the pieces on view at Wallspace, Center 548, and West Street are all similar: wall drawings made with various substances. When I first saw one, at West Street, I thought that proprietors Gartenfeld and Moravec had damaged their wall when moving in Grayson Revoir’s wonderful nail- and screw-filled picnic table.

According to West Street, Turner worked as a security guard at the New Museum and wasn’t allowed to lean on the walls while working, spawning his interest in bodily contact with walls. It’s pretty remarkable that no one thought of the trick before — they look weird, unsettling, and just a little bit sexy, three traits that come together these days.

Daniel Turner's site-specific wall drawing in "Other Spaces" at Center 548, New York.

Installation view of "Other Spaces" at Center 548, New York

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ned Vena Is Having a Great Summer

Ned Vena, Untitled, 2010. Rubber on linen, 82 1/8 x 58 1/8 in., in "The Mass Ornament" at Gladstone Gallery, New York. Photos: 16 Miles [more]

It can be awkward when two people show up at a party wearing the same outfit. However, when two New York galleries happen to show work by the same artist in their summer group shows, there is no need for embarrassment: gallery visitors get the opportunity to see similar art in different contexts — and they get to learn whose work has been earning supporters. In “Having a Great Summer,” we’ll take a look at a few of the artists with work in two or more New York group shows right now.

First up in the series is New York-based Ned Vena, whose large, untitled abstractions are on view in two of the season’s most pleasurable group shows, Gladstone’s “The Mass Ornament,” curated by Midway executive director John Rasmussen, and Nicole Klagsbrun’s “Shape Language,” curated by the gallery’s Natalie Campbell. Vena made the smart decision to make work by taking Frank Stella’s early, very spare paintings, tighten their lines and apply those lines (just a little bit off balance) with a vinyl stencil: great stuff, worth showing in two (or three or four) galleries.

Rasmussen exhibited Vena’s work at Midway in 2009 and explained Vena’s process as follows:
These works are constructed through a multi-stage process in which gesso is brushed onto the surface of the linen, followed by a layer of rolled on white rustoleum, an application of vinyl stenciling, the rolling of additional layers of enamel onto the surface, and finally the removal of the vinyl.

Ned Vena, Untitled, 2010. Rubber on linen, 60 x 48 in., in "Shape Language" at Nicole Klagsbrun, New York. [more]

Detail view of Ned Vena, Untitled, 2010. Rubber on linen, 60 x 48 in., in "Shape Language."

Detail view of Ned Vena, Untitled, 2010. Rubber on linen, 60 x 48 in., in "Shape Language."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Times Restaurant Critic Sam Sifton's 21 Best Art References [Updated July 6, 2011]

Two thousand pounds of ribs at the Performa 09 opening dinner, October 29, 2010. Photo: 16 Miles [more]

Should New York Times restaurant critic Sam Sifton be writing about art? Sifton been on the job for a little less than a year and has spent that time dropping lines that suggest he has a thorough knowledge of the sociology, history, and current playing field of the New York art world. Also, he is a former deputy culture editor and written favorably of the Trustees Dining Room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Can someone convince him to jump to the art section? There's less glamor there, but he'd be more likely to win a Pulitzer (only Jonathan Gold has earned one for food writing), and art blogs don't stalk critics as they try to enjoy a delicious lunch at KFC.

Enough lobbying. Here are, in my humble opinion, are Sifton's five 21 best references to art in his reviews, in no particular order:

21. The Dutch
"Mr. Carmellini’s rabbit potpie, the size and shape of a football, holds amazing richness beneath its Christopher Wren-like dome: butter, rabbit and divinity in equal measure."
July 5, 2011

20. The Dutch
"But for dinner you should endeavor to be seated in back, along Sullivan Street, where the lights hang low in shades that might be pencil tops as rendered by Claes Oldenburg."
July 5, 2011

19. Nectar
"There are a few diners within walking distance of the Met, one of them quite close: the Nectar, on Madison Avenue at 82nd Street. I would not order a corned beef sandwich there, but a cheeseburger deluxe with well-done fries, some mayonnaise on the side and a Coke. To eat this meal while wearing a good suit, with a brimmed hat sitting on the seat beside you, while thinking vaguely about the Georg Friedrich Kersting paintings you saw at the Met’s “Open Window” exhibition just a few minutes before? It is to experience precisely what makes New York the greatest city in the world."
July 1, 2011, Hey Mr. Critic

18. Desmond's
"Only the art on the walls distracts: paintings of the limp Euro-pop variety and, across from them, a large square of pastel fabric that hangs with a kind of pregnancy on the restaurant’s large western wall. If you knew there was a Lucian Freud hanging behind it, it might be interesting. There is not. You may be on the Upper East Side, but not at the Met or a private home."
June 21, 2011

17. Barbecoa (London)
"Better to come here at lunch for the ribs alone, or a steak, and for a look at the artist Gavin Turk’s towering new work just outside the front door: a 40-foot bronze nail seemingly driven into the concrete at the foot of the building. Take a brisk walk across the Wobbly Bridge to the Tate Modern afterward."
May 24, 2011

16. St. John Hotel (London)
"Tom Harris ... cooks lamb sweetbreads with butter beans and wild garlic that can set off an episode of synesthesia if you are so inclined: a Constable landscape of flavors and textures, of menacing clouds and plump trees and soft grass for the lamb, Britain on a plate."
May 24, 2011

15. The National Bar and Dining Rooms
"But I also make mention of 'New York — Night,' a painting by Georgia O’Keeffe that takes as its subject the hotel in which the National makes its home, the Benjamin. (It was the Beverly, then.) I did so because I thought about that painting a lot, coming and going from the National, thinking about O’Keeffe up in her hotel room a couple blocks south, where she lived with her husband, Alfred Stieglitz. I thought of her looking out the window into the inky black, trying to make sense of this vast city laid out before her, and I was very glad that all these years later I could have a hamburger in the lobby of the building she stared at and made into art.

"Which leads to this week’s question: What’s your favorite painting of New York City? Do you favor Childe Hassam or George Bellows, maybe Pamela Talese or Henry Farrer? How about Gordon Matta-Clark? (Not paintings, maybe, but still!) Share your thoughts in the space below. Include links. And explanations. Then we can all go get dinner."
May 10, 2011, Diner's Journal

14. The National Bar and Dining Rooms
"The National is on the ground floor of the Benjamin Hotel, which limber-necked art history students may look up to recognize as the subject of a painting Georgia O’Keeffe made in the mid-1920s, when she was living a block south, in the Shelton, with her new husband, Alfred Stieglitz. the painting is called “New York — Night.” It depicts a dark, forbidding city of skyscrapers, the Benjamin at the center, dotted with warm yellow light of office desk lamps twinkling 30 stories up, and glowing at its bottom with a hearthlike orange that promises warmth and fellowship, and the city at its loveliest.

"Mr. Rockwell captures the quality of this light and uses it to animate the warm colors of the restaurant’s floor and burnished treads on his beautiful stairs, and to soften what might otherwise be a transitory, hotel-lobby feel."
May 10, 2011

13. The Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare
"The restaurant opened two years ago. For much of the time since, the reservation line was attached to the mobile phone of Heidi Issa, whose husband, Moe Issa, owns Brooklyn Fare. (He plays Medici to Mr. Ramirez’s Donatello.)"
- April 26, 2011

12. Graffit
"Entrees offer a return to whimsy, with platings that owe something to Kandinsky. They are brightly colored, severely abstract, occasionally Bauhaus."
- April 19, 2011

11. Graffit
"The food at Graffit, Jesús Núñez’s new modernist restaurant on West 69th Street, is carefully designed and plated, the sort of food you could spray with lacquer and put in an art show as sculpture — three-dimensional Kandinskys."
- April 19, 2011, Diner's Journal

10. Graffit
"'Not your average egg,' says the menu. If Graffit were French, the better title might have been, 'Ceci n’est pas un oeuf!'"
- April 19, 2011, in a Diner's Journal caption

9. Vandaag
"A stroopwafel is probably best, though, with a cup of coffee, the thin waffle warming in the steam. Eating it in this room is to be thrilled by the unfamiliar, and to experience what the art critic Robert Hughes called the shock of the new. That’s what good design is for, too."
- September 21, 2010

8. La Petite Maison
"But as such, if you are, for instance, gearing up to see the German expressionism show at MoMA when it opens on Sunday, La Petite Maison may serve as a perfect place to allow the mistral to push away the darkness, and to eat zucchini-flower beignets with a glass of rosé."
- March 22, 2011

7. M. Wells
"Back on that night in the rain, as the smoke drifted down, M. Wells took on some of the aspects of an animated hipster version of Hopper’s 'Nighthawks,' a Paul Thomas Anderson pilot for HBO."
- April 6, 2011

6. M. Wells
"You know those biographies where the great artist first moves to New York, has a cold-water flat in a desolate part of town?"
- April 6, 2011

5. Pulino's Bar & Pizzeria
"In McNallyworld, everyone sits in the catbird seat. We are all Julian Schnabel here."
- May 4, 2010

4. Recette
"As in Chelsea galleries, though, perhaps so too in West Village kitchens: The artists who make the work are rarely the people who ought to explain it."
- March 31, 2010

3. Má Pêche
"Eating there is a little like visiting your formerly bohemian artist friend, whom you haven’t seen since he signed with Deitch and bought a double loft in TriBeCa."
- July 12, 2010

2. Recette
"A deconstructed s’more that looks like an Elizabeth Peyton canvas is another, with graham-cracker ice cream, toasted marshmallow cream and a knife-cut of cayenne-hyped milk-chocolate ganache."
- March 31, 2010

1. Novitá
"And a small plate of hand-cut prosciutto with airlifted melon slices tastes like Manhattan’s past made living, like a delicious early dinner at Mezzogiorno, in fact, with Marlboro smoke drifting out through the open windows on Spring Street and people arguing about Mary Boone."
- February 10, 2010

Monday, July 26, 2010

"Victorian Worthies," Bathroom Art, CalArts, etc. [Collected]

Detail view of Wopo Holup, Cast Nature III, 1991. Cast cement. Marble Hill stop on the 1 Line of the NYC subway. Photo: 16 Miles
  • "It's a knockout!" Adrian Searle declares of the newly renovated South London Gallery. He also shared a bit of history about its founders: "Lots of old Victorian worthies!" Best art-critic podcast in the business. [Guardian]
  • Photographs of the South London Gallery, complete with Sam Dargan's history of the Paris Commune in the museum's bathroom and text pieces by Barry, Weiner, and more. [this is tomorrow]
  • Disney's video to support the creation of the California Institute of Arts. [24700]
  • John Baldessari's CalArts students recall their "very low key, very gentle" teacher. [Unframed]
  • Did homophobia help LACMA land Thomas Eakins' The Wrestlers? [LACMA on Fire]
  • Digging through Gerhard Richter's voluminous website in search of answers. And almost finding them. []
  • "[P]hysical possession of an object as a requirement for an acquisition is no longer necessary..." The dematerialization of museum acquisition. [ArtNews via The Art Law Blog]
  • Ireland's 2011 Venice Biennale entrant, Corban Walker, is showing in Chelsea at the Winkleman Curatorial Research Lab in a show curated by painter and blogger Joy Garnett. [Edward Winkleman and NEWSgrist]
  • A brief guide to the letter Ø, in honor of Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta. [Open Space via C-Monster]

Friday, July 23, 2010

David Bourdon's Complete New York Art Season, 1976-77

Excerpt of October and November 1976 from David Bourdon, "A Critic's Diary: The New York Art Year," in Art in America, Summer 1977
"Mr. Bourdon wrote for many art magazines and was a frequent contributor to Art in America, for whose 1977 summer issue he produced a memorable diary-style, show-by-show review of the entire New York art season, a marathon task he never attempted again."

Holland Cotter, "David Bourdon, 63, Art Critic With Expertise in Modern Genres,"
The New York Times, April 3, 1998

I'm tempted to post art critic David Bourdon's entire diary of the 1976-77 New York art season, but I suspect that "fair use" doesn't quite cover eleven pages of text and photographs. It's worth a trip to your nearest research library to read, though: it's filled with enough anecdotes and mysteries to launch a thousand blog posts. Above, I've put up my favorite section, a tiny excerpt from October and November 1976, which includes Australian art critic Robert Hughes, collectors Herb and Dorothy Vogel, artist Carl Andre, museum director Pontus Hulten, and more.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Trip to the 31st Floor of the Chrysler Building

The Chrysler Building, July 16, 2010. Photos: 16 Miles [more]

A view of Midtown Manhattan from the 31st floor of the Chrysler building

Alex Waterman performing

Back in April 2009, I saw Paul Morris, the former New York art dealer who helped start the Armory Show and now works for the art-fair conglomerate Merchandise Mart in Chicago, speak at the Fashion Institute of Technology on the future of the art industry. Asked to offer advice to aspiring gallery owners, he suggested a tantalizing idea: rent a space in the Empire State Building. There are rooms to spare there, rent is surprisingly affordable, and everyone will want to visit a space opening in the iconic building, he argued.

Sometimes, great ideas are floating around in the air. Roughly a year after that talk, a regular art series has been initiated in a borrowed office on the 31st floor of another landmark Midtown skyscraper, the Chrysler Building, under the careful direction of enterprising curator Summer Guthery. Last Friday night, a few dozen guests entered the building’s warm Art Deco lobby, boarded a wood-paneled elevator, and shot upstairs. Behind an open door, down an anonymous white hallway, a crowd of about thirty had gathered. They stared at a hypnotic video by Becca Albee showing a city street (a sort of reversal of Warhol's Empire), and — glancing at an Yves Klein image smartly commandeered by Kevin Regan — leapt gingerly out one window onto a small balcony, surveying the view as they waited for the evening’s performances.

At around nine, artist Robert Snowden presented the night’s first piece, reading a short story in the corner office. Onlookers perched on windowsills and sat on the thinly carpeted floor. A few closed their eyes, leaning their heads on the walls, as the sun set behind the neighboring buildings. Snowden described the unexpected arrival of a strange balloon in a town. “Some people claimed that they felt sheltered, warmed as never before,” he read, energetic but deadpan. “While enemies of the balloon felt, or reported feeling, constrained. A very heavy feeling.” Then silence. There would be no applause between movements.

Cellist Alex Waterman was up next, his instrument in his lap and a computer and mixer on a empty desk in front of him. The clatter of people walking came through his speakers, then some gentle ringing appeared, elevators perhaps. Had he recorded the day's activity down below? He began bowing his cello, playing double, triple, and quadruple stops in long, shifting drones for about twenty minutes. Occasionally he switched between bows, from the flexible version that facilitated those two-, three-, and four-note expanses to a tauter French bow, which allowed a more precise attack. Then he ended, to applause this time. The evening was over.

Descending that elevator to the grand lobby below, there was a sense that something momentous had taken place. It was, at least, unusual. Historically, these youthful, heady art happenings are supposed to occur on the edge of poverty, serving as harbingers of an impending wave of gentrification. Instead, we were leaving a building that defines a certain era of American ingenuity that seems to be reaching its end. The economy is still shaky, and New York remains as expensive as ever, a difficult place for artists to live. All of which is to say that things are a bit topsy-turvy in the city at the moment, culturally and otherwise. Or, as one dealer put it to me recently: “There is some sort of sadness here. Something is missing.” That may be true, but events like the Chrysler Series suggest that is changing.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

MoMA P.S.1's Carrot Cake [16 Miles of Sweets]

Carrot cake at MoMA P.S.1 Photo: 16 Miles [more]

16 Miles of Sweets is an irregularly appearing column that searches for the best desserts in and around art destinations. Previously, baklava in the East Village.

Steven Spielberg supposedly once said that watching Stanley Kubrick’s period film Barry Lyndon was like “walking through the Louvre without lunch”: beautiful but exhausting. The idea of getting through the messy, sprawling “Greater New York” at MoMA P.S.1 without the aid of a hearty meal is even more daunting. Thankfully, the art center’s Le Rosier Cafe never fails to provide the sustenance necessary to endure even the most video-art-heavy shows.

While the cafe's encyclopedic beer menu and homemade sorbets have major supporters, its carrot cake is equally worthy of a fan club: two moist layers adorned with a thick coat of cream-cheese frosting. Flecks of rich orange carrot are scattered throughout the amber cake, muting the potent sweetness of the frosting. It’s a model dessert and easily deserves 6 out of 7 taste points. However, aesthetically, it's a rather typical cake, and while $5.96 is slightly pricey for a slim slice, that is a quibble: good art is expensive (16 Miles of Sweets does not award points based on value), and MoMA P.S.1’s carrot cake is a solid investment.

Taste: 6 out of 7
Look: 1.5 out of 3
Total: 7.5
out of 10

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dan Flavin's Guggenheim Wedding, High Heels, etc.

John Wesley, Anglo-Saxon Water Fowl Lamp, 1967. Acrylic on found lamp, 18 1/2 x 19 1/2 x 19 1/2 in. In "Jo and Jack: Jo Baer and John Wesley in the Sixties," at Matthew Marks Gallery, New York. Photo: 16 Miles
  • Dan Flavin married his second wife at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 1992. [@TheArtHistory]

  • "With This Spiral": Georgia Dullea's vintage report from Flavin wedding, which includes broken lights ("It's those damn high heels that do it," says Flavin) and a trip "downtown for the opening of the new Guggenheim Museum SoHo." [NYT]
  • "It's very good for the stage": Chicks on Speed show off their electronic, wireless guitar shoes. [Strange Messenger]

  • Lots of great photos of art (and slightly less advanced heels) at Cottage Home and LAXART. [TRYHARDER 1 & 2]
  • "Will the horrors of deaccessioning never stop?" Donn Zaretsky writes sarcastically, of the recent unveiling of the newly restored Thomas Eakins' The Gross Clinic, which was purchased from Thomas Jefferson University by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts for $68 million, fending off an attempt by Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton to acquire the painting for her Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. [The Art Law Blog]

  • Heads: Thomas Schutte, Mari Sunna, Glenn Brown, George Condo. [Amy Goodwin]

  • From octopus pornography to Mad Men to Katsushika Hokusai to Takashi Murakami. [LACMA on Fire]

  • What's that hiding under the curtain at LACMA? Pure pleasure. [Unframed]

  • Alec Soth goes treasure hunting with some experts. [NYT via Ms. Jen Bekman]

  • A smart and succinct profile of photographer Harvey Finkle. [The Artblog]

Monday, July 19, 2010

Andy Warhol's Peculiar 100-Part Group Portrait

Andy Warhol, Portraits of the Artists, 1967. Screenprints on 100 polystyrene boxes, each box 50 x 50 mm, overall 696 x 696 mm including frame. On view at the Wadsworth Atheneum, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Burton Tremaine. Photo: 16 Miles

In 1967, New York dealer Leo Castelli hosted an exhibition to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his Upper East Side gallery. Each of his artists contributed work to the show, and Andy Warhol (who came to the gallery late, after having two shows at Eleanor Ward’s Stable Gallery), put together a series of portraits, in a variety of sizes, of 12 Castelli artists: Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, Frank Stella, Donald Judd, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Morris, Cy Twombly, Lee Bontecou, Larry Poons, John Chamberlain, and Warhol himself.

Some of the works in the show were quite small, which turns out to have been an bit unfortunate. Explaining the works, Volume 2 of the Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné notes: “According to the Castelli inventory, several were stolen from the exhibit.” Thankfully for collectors, Warhol also made a rather unusual multiple of 10 of the portraits on polystyrene boxes. Each set of 100 boxes, featuring 10 portraits of each artist, were sold in a numbered edition of 200, plus 25 lettered copies.

I know that it’s been a bit Wadsworth Atheneum-heavy around here recently, but it turns out that it has one of the Portraits of the Artists multiples on display, which is easily one of the strangest pieces that Warhol ever produced and is worth a post. I'd never seen the work before, so when I returned home, I did a lot of Internet-searching and discovered something odd: every edition appeared to be configured differently. The Wadsworth's has the artists in horizontal rows; elsewhere, they are arranged vertically or even scattered about. Here are a sampling. (Note: If you want to try to identify each of the Castelli artists in the Wadsworth’s Atheneum piece, above, I have included the list, top to bottom, at the end of this post.)

Photo: Alan Brown Gallery

Photo: Christie's

Photo: Honolulu Academy of Arts

Photo: Christie's

Perplexed, I contacted Patricia Hickson, the Emily Hall Tremaine Curator of Contemporary Art at the Wadsworth Atheneum, who consulted the work's object file. One of the notes in the file read: "Curiously, although Portraits in part of an edition of 200, the order and direction of the artists' images and the color bands vary among the serigraphs in the edition." But here is where things get especially interesting. Hickson explained that the work's frame can be opened, and the boxes can be rearranged, accounting for the differences in all of the images online. The work at the Wadsworth, though, has not been reconfigured since it was donated by super collectors (and serious Castelli clients) Mr. and Mrs. Burton Tremaine in 1977.

Earlier this month, I was going on and on about the mutability of Warhol's sculptures, about the fact that, if you happen to own a set of Brillo boxes, you can arrange the pieces any way you like. Here, Warhol has taken that idea to the next level. When the Brillo boxes are sold or moved, they lose their previous arrangement. But in Portrait of the Artists, the work itself records how collectors chose to configure the work. Which leads to a few questions: did the Tremaines rearrange their copy, or does the work they donated to the Wadsworth show how Warhol originally displayed the work? (Or was was each copy sold in a different configuration?) Does it even matter what the original layout looked like?

Photo: Phillips de Pury & Company

A final question: who was cut from the 12 artists whose portraits were featured in the Castelli anniversary show in order to make a group of 10 plastic boxes? This, at least, we have an answer to, thanks to the Catalogue. It turns out that Warhol removed Twombly and Chamberlain. Which is interesting: Chamberlain was one of his favorite artists (Warhol collected his work), but he may have been a bit tired of Chamberlian’s portrait, having traded 316 — yes, 316 — copies of it to Chamberlain in exchange for a metal sculpture called Jackpot. (Chamberlain assembled 315 of the portraits into a single rectangular work that he called 315 Johns.) As for what is going on with the wood frame of one of the examples sold at Christie's, I don't even want to think about it.

Key: The artists in the Wadsworth Atheneum’s piece (shown at top), in order from top to bottom: Robert Morris, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Larry Poons, James Rosenquist, Frank Stella, Lee Bontecou, Donald Judd, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Genesis Breyer P-Orridge Can Kill at a Distance of One Mile

New Museum senior curator Laura Hoptman and Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, at the New Museum, New York, July 15, 2010. Photo 16 Miles

At the New Museum last night, senior curator Laura Hoptman introduced Genesis Breyer P-Orridge to a crowd in the museum's theater by listing P-Orridge’s myriad accomplishments. She was a founder of British performance-art group COUM Transmissions, which evolved into the legendary industrial band Throbbing Gristle, Hoptman explained, and she has served as an unrelenting provocateur for almost four decades. But P-Orridge, sporting a black shirt emblazoned with the word “Womanizer” in white block letters, was having none of it. “I didn’t do anything!” she protested to Hoptman. “Nothing!”

This was more than false modesty. As P-Orridge’s career has progressed, she has increasingly refused to distinguish between her art and her life, undergoing surgical operations with her second wife, Lady Jaye Breyer, in pursuit of what the two termed pandrogyny, a genderless state. Breyer died in 2007, but P-Orridge has forged on. In order to match Breyer’s appearance, P-Orridge has undergone additional operations and had cosmetic tattoos added to her face to match Breyer's eyebrows and beauty marks. She has announced that she and Breyer have become a single physical being. (P-Orridge refers to herself in the plural. For clarity, I am using singular feminine pronouns, as Hoptman did.)

But back to the occasion of the chat: Hoptman’s latest New Museum show, “Brion Gysin: Dream Machine,” has just opened, and P-Orridge happens to have been an old friend and admirer of Gysin. The crowd had gathered to hear P-Orridge talk about her late friend and, as the invitation promised, discuss “other matters.” She did not disappoint, providing a freewheeling series of anecdotes about Gysin, her life, and the art scene that once surrounded their mutual friend Williams S. Burroughs in downtown New York.

Here are some of the highlights from the talk:
  • At public school in the U.K., a teacher nicknamed "Bob Brush" by the students — “As in toilet brush, for his mustache,” P-Orridge explained — told Porridge, “You obviously live in a completely different cultural universe than me,” and recommended she read Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. That experience led P-Orridge to the books of Burroughs (stolen from porn shops in London), and then Burroughs himself. Eventually, he met Gysin, who was a friend of Burroughs.
  • P-Orridge attended a military school, she revealed, listing off to the audience a variety of the weaponry that was usually on hand: mortars, rifles, machine guns, artillery, and so forth. P-Orridge explained that she was trained as a first-class sniper while in school. “They taught me to kill at one mile!” she said, a glimmer in her eye. “Also, we began to start smoking hash at that time.”
  • Many rare Gysin films exist today only because of P-Orridge. Burroughs apparently phoned P-Orridge frantically one day, telling him to call Gysin, who explained that a numbers of films kept in storage were going to be thrown in the garbage since the person paying the rent had died. P-Orridge explained that she cashed her welfare check, hopped in a taxi, and picked up the large, 35 mm reels just as workmen were carrying them to a Dumpster.
  • “I realized that real lives were a lot more interesting than aesthetics,” P-Orridge said, describing what she learned early in her career by falling into the world of Burroughs and Gysin. Asked by Hoptman to describe pandrogyny, the state that P-Orridge is working to attain, the artist succinctly outlined her beliefs. Humans have transformed their world, she noted, but they have not changed themselves. They must rethink who they are as physical and spiritual things since they are currently out of touch with the world they have created, which has led to the tremendous destruction and violence that occurs today. (I’m describing this with considerably less eloquence than P-Orridge offered.) “We have to destroy all binary systems,” she said.
  • Also, we have to colonize space. This would be easier if we could hibernate, like bears, P-Orridge noted. If we were cold-blooded, she continued, we wouldn’t even have to heat spaceships carrying space explorers. And, since there would be no gravity, we could even get rid of our legs. “Once you let go of the human body as a sacred thing, anything is possible,” she said.
  • Describing a visit to Hoptman’s Gysin exhibition upstairs, P-Orridge mentioned standing in front of one of the artist's works, which was blue work and features a psychic cross. “He was going to give that to me, but we couldn’t take it because it was too precious,” she told Hoptman. “We regret that.”

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Eli Broad's Rent, Len Lye's Wind Wands, etc. [Collected]

Adam Pendleton, Collected (Flamingo George), 2009, at the Studio Museum in Harlem, July 14, 2010. Photo: 16 Miles
  • Eli Broad's Proposed Rent: $347 a month. But: "$1 rents are standard for museums. Pasadena rents the site of the Norton Simon Museum for $1 a year. Thirty-six years into the deal, how many Pasadenans regret that giveaway?" [LACMA on Fire]

  • The Wind Wand sculptures that stopped Robert Moses and saved the West Village. []

  • A comprehensive look at SFMOMA's Fisher Collection — and the museum's formidable art-themed cake offerings. [C-Monster]

  • MOCA takes a peek at the trippy, surreal photographs of Max Yavno, just donated to the museum by his estate. [The Curve]

  • After a visit to "Close Examination: Fakes, Mistakes and Discoveries" at the National Gallery, London, Michael Kimmelman writes one of his best pieces in years. [NYT]

  • Smithson's Wildman of Chelsea: Unrealized performance piece whose time has finally come? []

  • LACMA's head of painting conversation looks at works by Rembrandt and Picasso, "extensively reworked but still ... unresolved." [Unframed]

  • Does the Guggenheim's partnership with YouTube amount to pay-for-play? [Modern Art Notes]

  • 958 Words: Thoughts on what may be the longest sentence in modern literature, from Proust's Sodom and Gomorrah. [Theory Now]

  • "Really! That's wonderful. I don't think I want to drip." – Andy Warhol via Ivan Karp, in the first posthumous documentary of the artist. [The Artblog]

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Roofs of MoMA — and SoHo

View of the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Photos: 16 Miles

There is art hiding in these photos of the Museum of Modern Art's sculpture garden.

Rachel Whiteread, Water Tower, 1998. Translucent resin and painted steel, 12 ft. 2 in. high x 9 ft. in diameter.

Yes! It's up there on the roof: Rachel Whiteread's Water Tower. The work was first installed in SoHo, in June 1998, by the Public Art Fund, which described it as "its most ambitious project to date." A year later, the Freedman Family donated it to MoMA in honor of Doris C. and Alan J. Freedman. According to a vintage Charlie Finch column (filled with all sorts of uncomfortable artifacts from a bygone art world), the work was made of "9,000 pounds of resin so toxic" that "Whiteread's team had to wear spacesuits." (MoMA has a nice little multimedia feature on the work, and it owns a preparatory drawing that Whiteread made on a photograph of SoHo, which is the real reason for this post.)

The piece was on the roof of 60 Grand Street, at the northeast corner of Grand Street and West Broadway. Curious to see if there was still any trace of the project, I stopped by the intersection on the way to the office this morning. It turns out that the platform for the tower is still there, still serving as a quiet memorial to — as Finch put it in 1998 — "the dead and gone SoHo art scene." (Which, it turns out, was not quite so dead after all.) The Coca-Cola ad that is visible in the photo that MoMA owns has faded with time, though a bright and brilliant mural advertising Coors' faux craft beer Blue Moon has been painted onto the building.

The northeast corner of Grand Street and West Broadway, SoHo, New York, July 14, 2010

Also, MoMA's placard for the sculpture features this fun depiction of it.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

"The Pencil Show" at Foxy Production, New York

Dick Evans, Pencil on a D String, 2010. Pencil, paper, wire, and guitar string, 15 1/2 x 12 1/2 in. Photos: 16 Miles [more]

Chelsea gallery Foxy Production has done a fine job of titling its group shows with honest, straightforward titles this year. Its season-opener back in September, “Abstract Abstract,” featured a choice selection of, yes, abstract artists, and April’s law-firm-styled “Baker, Braunig, Gokita, Hopkins” included work by those four artists. (Even Sterling Ruby’s recent solo show there, “The Masturbators,” was refreshingly literal.)

The gallery’s current exhibition is called “The Pencil Show,” a name that completely baffled me: the naming streak seemed to be over. It turns out that I’m a little out of it: it’s a show of art made (at least in part) with pencils. And it’s wonderful, filled with everything from the sophisticated diagrams of Louise Despont to a playful Ruby to a weird and wonderful Robert Gober drawing of a hand. This Dick Evans (above and below), hidden in Foxy's back room, is a highlight, looking a bit like a lo-fi Jesús Rafael Soto wall piece.

Recent Cooper Union grad Travess Smalley offers up this inexplicably alluring collage, which owes a tiny debt to Hanne Darboven’s scrawled notes (not a claim I ever thought I’d make).

Travess Smalley, Untitled Collage II, 2010. Graphite, photocopied paper, and tape, 11 x 13 7/8 in.

Kon Trubkovich, Untitled, 2009. Graphite on paper, 12 1/4 x 9 in.

Kon Trubkovich’s two drawings — tiny pieces, heavy with graphite — deserve a close look as well. He’s leavened his thick abstractions with delicate erasures — pin pricks and thin lines of the paper appear within the layered pencil markings. They look a bit like cityscapes, metropolises seen from airplanes, but he's said to craft them from surveillance camera footage. If you're impressed, take a trip to the West Street Gallery, which is showing a few more of them.

Olga Chernysheva, Untitled, 2010. Graphite on paper, 8 1/2 x 11 3/4 in.

"The Pencil Show"
Foxy Production
623 West 27th Street
New York, New York
Through August 7, 2010

Monday, July 12, 2010

Three Gifts on View at the Wadsworth Atheneum

Sol LeWitt, Untitled, 1989. Wood and paint. Wadsworth Atheneum, gift of Coosje can Bruggen and Claes Oldenburg. Photos: 16 Miles [more]

One of the few things that is better than coming across a great, strange work of art (like the Wadsworth Atheneum’s untitled Sol LeWitt stalactite shown above), is discovering that the work happens to have been donated by someone rather exciting. It turns out that the LeWitt was given to the museum by none other than Claes Oldenburg and his wife and collaborator Coosje van Bruggen. Though the Minimalism of LeWitt occupies an aesthetic space far removed from the Pop splendor of Oldenburg and van Bruggen, it’s possible to see a shared sensibility in their practices.

As art historian Rosalind Krauss has written, it is tempting to see LeWitt’s work as a product or representation of cold, clear rationality, a tribute to human reason. But, Krauss has argued, that position does not withstand close scrutiny. “His math is far too simple; his solutions are far too inelegant,” she writes in her 1977 essay “LeWitt in Progress. “[T]he formal conditions of his work are far too scattered and obsessional to produce anything like … [a] diagram of human reason.” Writing of the 1960s, Krauss continues, “It was an extraordinary decade in which objects proliferated in a seemingly endless and obsessional chain, each one answering the other…” That is a thesis that seems to apply equally well to LeWitt's cubic outgrowths and Oldenburg's absurd sculptures of everyday objects.



But wait. There are other works with fascinating provenances at the Wadsworth. For instance, Barnett Newman’s 1948 Onement II, the sequel to his pivotal Onement I and the prequel to Onement III (both in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art), was donated by sculptor Tony Smith. (The color is terrible in the photograph that I took of it, so I will spare you that image.)

Florine Stettheimer, Beauty Contest: To the Memory of P.T. Barnum, 1924. Oil on canvas. Wadsworth Atheneum, gift of Ettie Stettheimer.

There’s also a particularly nice Florine Stettheimer painting, the 1924 Beauty Contest: To the Memory of P.T. Barnum, donated by her sister Ettie Stettheimer. Ettie also gave one of Florine’s paintings to MoMA and, in a rather unfortunate decision, 50 painting to my alma mater, Columbia Unviersity, in 1967, when the school was planning to build an arts center. That building was never constructed, and most of the paintings are reportedly sitting in storage. This is especially unfortunate because Stettheimer’s works are typically displayed with wonderfully bizarre frames. Thankfully, the Wadsworth is showing the one it owns. (The Stettheimers moved in a rarefied artistic circle. Look in the upper-left corner of the painting above. Thanks to the very helpful placard posted next to the work, I can inform you that is the photographer Edward Steichen!)


Friday, July 9, 2010

Infinite Donald Judd, the CalArts MFA Show, etc. [Collected]

Gallery for European Old Master paintings at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Photo: 16 Miles [more]
  • Minimalism that stretches on forever. [, via Rhizome]

  • Six Chinatown galleries, one mysterious name: photographs from this year's brilliantly marketed CalArts MFA show, which I wish I was able to see. [TRYHARDER]

  • Artemisa Clark's review of the CalArts MFA show. [Modern Painters/Artinfo]

  • Speaking of great marketing, Michael Govan is hosting one-day-only shows in LACMA's new Resnick Pavilion. Catherine Wagley has penned a smart, moving essay on the first show, devoted to Walter De Maria's The 2,000 Sculpture. [Art21]

  • It is in your self-interest to find a way to be very tender. [Ms. Jen Bekman]

  • The greatest photograph of Steven Spielberg of all time. [Eyelevel]

  • Will Cotton, paintings, pastries, ladies. [Amy Goodwin]

  • Vintage Obrist: The Secret Files of Gilbert & George, 2000 [UBU via]

  • Let the record show that Holland Cotter ran — and wrote — the nine-gallery "Lush Life" gauntlet first. He even read Richard Price's book. [NYT]

  • My review of Justin Lowe's remarkably great show at the Wadsworth Atheneum. [Modern Painters/Artinfo]

  • Lowe's show is part of the Wadsworth's "MATRIX" contemporary-art program, which the museum has carefully and gloriously archived. [Wadsworth]

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Mutability of Warhol's Brillo Boxes

Mike Bidlo, installation views of Not Warhol (Brillo Boxes, 1964), 2005, at Lever House, New York. Photos: 16 Miles [more]
“The things I make are / variable / as simple as possible / reproducible. / They are components of a space, since they are like building elements, / they can always be rearranged into new combinations or positions, thus, they alter the space. / I leave this alteration to the consumer who thereby again and anew participates in the creation.”

Charlotte Posenenske, in Offenbach, Germany, published in Art International 12 (May 1968)

It’s too bad that German sculptor Charlotte Posenenske and Andy Warhol never collaborated. Reading the 1968 manifesto that is published in the pamphlet accompanying Artists Space’s smart show of Posenenske's work, it just about perfectly describes Warhol’s Brillo Box sculptures. Explaining her own sculptures, Posenenske writes that they are “reproducible,” that “they can always be rearranged into new combinations or positions,” and that she has left “this alteration to the consumer.”

Having only seen Warhol’s sculptures displayed in regular grids, their mutability only occurred to me after a trip to the Lever House, where collector Aby Rosen has put Mike Bidlo’s faux Warhol Brillo Boxes on display. Check out the three pieces that are turned on their sides! (There’s even one that is upside down.) I also hadn’t realized that some sets of the boxes were sold (or at least authorized) in complete editions of ten or more. Single boxes, like this one, which was once in the collection of Swiss dealer Bruno Bischofberger, turn up at auction occasionally.

A catalogue writer at Christie’s nicely summarizes the mutability of the works in an entry about a set of 10 boxes, breathlessly explaining that this is “an art that is open to all, that we can arrange and rearrange like building bricks at our own discretion…” The Pop artist, the writer says, “insist[ed] that we have the right as much as he does to take part in an artistic process that, as we can see from the subject matter, has been democratised and made open for all.”

For a thorough look at the various editions of the Brillo Boxes, Greg Allen is the key source. He also links to The Moment’s interview with Bidlo, who briefly describes the various versions of the work, proving that appropriation artists tend to be the most discerning connoisseurs. Charlie Finch has also weighed in, detailing Rosen’s “champagne vernissage” for the lobby show, which was attended by philosopher and Brillo Box expert Arthur Danto. Finch calls for a reevaluation of Bidlo’s work, and asks, “Is Mike Bidlo ready for his auction moment?” This much is clear: if a Bidlo Brillo Box ever beats the price of a Warhol Brillo Box in an auction room, it is going to be a very special day.

A real Brillo Box is securely enclosed in glass in the Lever House lobby.

Mike Bidlo, "Not Warhol (Brillo Boxes, 1964)"
Lever House Art Collection
New York, New York
Through September 11, 2010