February 2009 Archives

February 26, 2009

The Ur-Grey Gardens

I discovered the Maysles brothers' 1975 documentary Grey Gardens in my first semester of busines school. My marketing professor showed us Salesman, and it floored me, leaving me to track down the rest of the Maysles' work.

So I can't believe that it's taken me this long to finally read Gail Sheehy's 1972 New York article on Grey Gardens and the Edie Beales. I wish I'd found it when I was living in East Hampton; would've made those winter nights that much crazier.

scan: The Secret of Grey Gardens, by Gail Sheehy [grey gardens news (!!) via choire]


The Metropolitan Museum will get its first painting by Gustave Caillebotte, courtesy of collector/patron Iris Cantor, who made a promised gift of the painting, Femme nue étendue sur un divan, "as a tribute to former museum director Philippe de Montebello."


Who was the guy who let their last Caillebotte get away. The museum had been showing Caillebotte's Un Soldat [above] from 1983 until 2002, when the actual owner, Sam Josefowitz, the Swiss book & record club magnate whose son Paul publishes Apollo magazine, sold it at Christie's for $6.4 million.

While Femme nue has its undeniable charms, multiple viewings of it as an impressionable art history student didn't make me want a pair of red pants. The vintage military jacket, on the other hand, was Adam Ant's fault.

I can't believe it. New Yorker Films is closing after 43 years in the independent and foreign film distribution business. In the business? They were the business for decades.

When I was working the projection booth at International Cinema at BYU, it was New Yorker's library I was soaking in. When I moved to New York, it was Dan Talbot's Lincoln Plaza Theater [and the Angelika, which I discovered on its inaugural weekend during a senior year road trip] where I saw most everything since.

New Yorker was sold to Madstone Films in 2002, and that company pledged New Yorker's library as collateral and then defaulted on the loan. The creditor, which may be Technicolor, initiated foreclosure proceedings last week. For the sake of the 500+ classic title library, at least, I hope it'll get acquired by someone who knows Ozu from Oshima. For the sake of Dan Talbot and his colleagues, I can only hope for a soft landing and many thanks.

End of the Road for New Yorker Films [indiewire]

February 24, 2009

Ely Kim

If Laurel Nakadate ever got knocked up by one of her video subjects, and then sent the kid to Yale for his MFA, too...

BOOMBOX from Ely Kim on Vimeo.

Awesome, I just read through the announcement of the 2008 Arts Writers Grant recipients, and I have to give a huge shoutout to Paddy Johnson whose Art Fag City is one of the first two blogs to be recognized by Creative Capital and the Warhol Foundation [the other is Guerrilla Glass, a "post-glass art" blog project by Anjali Srinivasan and Yuka Otani.]

The Arts Writers program has danced around the new media for three grant cycles now, but this is the first time their solicitation explicitly mentioned blogs. Needless to say, it's about time, and Paddy's project is highly deserving and should lend the Arts Writers program some nice publicity and online cred.

Which is ironic, since the reason I applied for a grant last cycle was to leverage CC's and the Warhol Foundation's credibility for what would otherwise have to be seen as a cockamamie scheme. I had proposed a blog about the art history of satelloons. The idea was to consider NASA's Project Echo inflatable satellites--instantly obsolete but spectacularly beautiful mylar spheres which were visible to the naked eye--as an exhibition, a propagandistic and aesthetic exercise akin to the US government's better-known Cold War-era promotion of Abstract Expressionism abroad.

That would give me the impetus to research and document the development and history of the satelloons from primary source material. But it would also be a stepping-off point to explore the history of art and politics in the Space Age, Pop and Minimalist contexts; the history of art and technology collaborations, including the artists who worked with Bell Labs, a key Project Echo participant. [I especially wanted to see if I could trace the use of mylar balloons from Project Echo through Bell Labs' black box to Andy Warhol.] By looking at scientifically driven production from an art world vantage point, the satelloon blog would question the defining premises of art, especially intentionality and the aesthetic experience of the viewer. It's all stuff I will probably pursue here with slightly less urgency over the next year or so.

Just as it was reassuring to see Paddy's excellent writing recognized, it made me feel slightly less marginal that at least two other grant recipients have projects that resonate with my satelloon idea, if not quite overlap. Art historian Douglas Kahn was awarded a grant for Arts of the Spectrum: In the Nature of Electromagnetism, a book about an intriguing vein of art&science interplay. And Annette Leddy, from the Getty Institute, is writing an article on Robert Watts' "Space Age Home," an artist in the 1960's who apparently "extensively re-imagined the home, its furnishings, and its gardens in terms of an ironic Space Age aesthetic." No idea, but it sounds like the future to me. Or at least the history of the future.

see the full list of Arts Writer grant recipients and their projects [artswriters.org]


Or was it Blake Gopnik? Because Johnson's review titled "From China, Iraq and Beyond, but Is It Art?" of the New Museum's current show is so embarrassingly obtuse, it could almost be in the Washington Post.

At first, I assumed the headline was a fluke, the flip result of a lazy copy editor falling back on the most overrated, anti-intellectual straw man of the last hundred years of art world production.

And I was wrong. It's the core of Johnson's argument. The show, which I haven't seen, is a series of works commissioned by three contemporary art museums--the New Museum, the MCA in Chicago, and the Hammer Museum in LA--under the Deutsche Bank-sponsored rubric of The Three M Project.

Here's how it starts:

In recent years, museums have been getting into commissioning artists to create new works. It is a controversial practice. Some critics think that museums have enough to do just sorting out what already exists. Curators may argue that they are in the best position to identify promising artists and to make possible the creation of important works that might otherwise never be realized.

The problem is that you cannot know for sure what you're going to get.

Johnson's premise, false on its face, isn't even the worst of it. Is he referring to any kind of site-specific installation or work created by an artist for a museum? Does Dan Flavin's rotunda-filling installation that reopened the Guggenheim count? Siah Armajani's bridge to the Walker Center? Calder's mobile in the National Gallery? SFMoMA et al's sponsorship of Christian Marclay's Video Quartet? More than half of MoMA's longrunning Projects series? I'm literally pulling examples out of the air right now. But in ten seconds, it feels like I've disproved Johnson's claims of "recent" and "controversial," and shown that the odds of "what you're going to get" are not that terrible.

Again, having not seen the show, I have no opinion on the works myself. If Johnson's point was that the works commissioned and seen there were bad, and that museums should leave the commissioning to corporations and collectors who know these things much better, that'd be fine. Idiotic and still demonstrably wrong, but fine. Instead, Johnson pulls out the big guns, the art critic's WMD: saying that something is "not art."

Of an installation about Urban China, a magazine edited by Jiang Jun which was included in the last Documenta, and which has been praised as "visionary" and which revolutionizes the perception of urbanism in China [a redundancy if ever there was one] through its innovative use of "raw graphic power", Johnson sniffs: "All this is mildly informative but superficial. You won't gain any very deep or revelatory insights about Chinese modernity. It isn't really art, after all; it's more like an overblown advertisement for the magazine." [emphasis added on the wtf parts.]


But the biggest critical bomb gets dropped, ironically, on the project by Turner Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller, in which a stream of "guest experts" on the Iraq war--including veterans and Iraqis--are hosted in the gallery, which also contains the wreckage of car destroyed by a roadside bomb, to discuss their areas of expertise with museum visitors.

What Mr. Deller is doing may be useful therapy for our national post-traumatic stress. Is it art? You can call it an exercise in Relational Aesthetics, the conceptual art movement that takes social interaction as its medium and sociability as its goal. Otherwise there is no way to make any critical or evaluative judgment about it in artistic terms.

Mr. Deller's project is not nothing. Its potential for doing good and raising consciousness is great. If it isn't art, that is not a bad thing. It is what it is, as the title says, and what it is is an educational program. To call it art is to pretend it is something it isn't.


I don't even know where to begin. Maybe I should feel sorry for Mr. Deller, who has clearly been misled by scurrilous legions of museum no-goodniks to think about something as irrelevant as the experience of visitors to his exhibition, and what they might take away from encountering his work. If only he'd painstakingly recreated that burned out car in fiberglass; if only he'd depicted the disasters of war in a series of aquatints, or perhaps a nice, moody painting; if only he'd interviewed his "experts" on camera, so he could project their giant, talking heads on the wall, or put them on a bunch of televisions in front of a bunch of chairs; or maybe he should have instructed his experts to read something, anything, maybe see if they can count to a million. He might have been onto something.

As for Mr. Johnson, I would suggest that if you're an art critic who finds himself with "no way to make any critical or evaluative judgment" about a work by an artist awarded his country's top art prize by its top art museum, which was commissioned and shown by three museums, which is compared to one of the most prominent art movements of the last fifteen years, a movement which was just the subject of a giant exhibition at another not insignificant museum in town, you might consider finding another beat.


So naturally, I was intrigued by the folks in Festus, Missouri, who are forced, by their inability to refinance the note on Caveland, the 15,000-sf sandstone cave they spent five years and all their money and time transforming from an abandoned roller rink/concert venue into a house, and so have listed it on eBay. [via]

And I don't know where Festus is, but maybe it'd be a nice place to get away to? Doesn't TWA have a hub in St. Louis? Even though it's double the price of most every other listing in town, $300,000 still seems like a bargain. I mean did Ike and Tina and Bob Seger play in your cave house?

And then I see this big open space in front of the cave, a box canyon, and I think, "You know, that looks like a nice place to put down one of them Buckminster Fuller Fly's Eye domes..."


So imagine my [non] surprise to find a GeoDome listed first among the Caveland owner's plans. :

Long enamored with geodesic domes, we envisioned starting with one multi-purpose dome in front of the cave, and later adding a second to separate our office from our living space. We looked at the cave as primarily recreational space and office expansion, with a few commercial possibilities retaining potential.
The evolution from GeoDome to Guinea Dome will be a familiar one to anyone who has endured the never-ending argument between his big dreams and his budget.

February 17, 2009

A Serra Named Bellamy

11/09 UPDATE: Or not. Writing about her visit to the stored Serra for the journal Afterall, Mary Walling Blackburn reports that it is not Bellamy after all. Bellamy is currently in England. There is, in fact, an I-beam on-site spray-painted "Bellamy," [visible in Nathan's photos below], but that is apparently not a nametag or some such. [In fact, the beams are used for stabilizing the pieces during transport. They can be seen in use in Art21's series of installation photos for Joe at the Pulitzer Foundation in St. Louis.] So that begs the question: what Torqued Spiral is it, then? Inquiring minds might want to ask the artist next time they see him. I know I will.

The story of the Richard Serra sculptures stored along the Bronx waterfront is filling out, thanks to Nathan Kensinger, who went with Jake "The Dobster" Dobkin on their recent photoblogging expedition. A couple of highlights:

  • Now we know which torqued spiral ellipse this is: Bellamy, named after Serra's late friend and early dealer, Richard Bellamy. Bellamy founded the Green Gallery, though he only started showing Serra's work in the late 1960's after the gallery closed. Bellamy passed away in 1998, just as Serra had begun making his torqued ellipse and spiral sculptures.
  • Apparently, there's a nameplate welded inside the sculpture. Can't say I've noticed that before.
  • Turns out we'd seen Bellamy before, at Gagosian in 2002 and the Venice Biennale in 2001. Considering we had to walk to the end of the Arsenale in the August heat, and then brave a horrible Vanessa Beecroft installation to see it, Nathan and Jake's Port Morris fencehopping adventure doesn't sound all that rough anymore.
  • And the biggest piece of news from Nathan's post, is that the Serras parked there are Serra's. Which, given the storer's acknowledged love of rust and industrial grit, and now knowing the personal resonance of the particular sculpture, seems obvious. Or maybe not so much.

Anyway, Nathan's got much more to reveal, and some sweet photos to accompany it. Previously: Serra from the block

February 17, 2009

Art & Fear by Bayles & Orland

Whether it's right or not, this book sounds fantastic:

Making art provides uncomfortably accurate feedback about the gap that inevitably exists between what you intended to do, and what you did. In fact, if artmaking did not tell you (the maker) so enormously much about yourself, then making art that matters to you would be impossible. To all viewers but yourself, what matters is the product; the finished artwork. To you, and you alone, what matters is the process: the experience of shaping that artwork.
Art & Fear, by Peter Bayles and Ted Orland [via kottke and kk]

February 15, 2009

"Calder on the Roof"


In 1967 Henry Geldzahler, while lecturing the Women's Group at the Grand Rapids Art Museum, suggested to Mrs LeVant Mulnix III that the city might do well to install a public sculpture on the plaza in front of city and county buildings being designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Mrs Mulnix promptly wrote to Congressman Gerald Ford to ask for assistance in obtaining a grant from the newly established National Endowment for the Arts for the commission.

SOM senior partner William Hartmann, who was at that time completing the installation of Picasso's monumental sculpture in front of the firm's Chicago Civic Center, came in to consult on the project. Alexander Calder was chosen, and La Grande Vitesse which sits on Calder Plaza, has been the symbol of the city for decades.

Grand Rapids was the beneficiary of the friendship forged between Calder and Mulnix, and in 1974, the artist made a gift to the city of Calder on the Roof, a giant red, black and white mural executed on the roof of the Kent County Administration Building.

The work was intended to be seen from the surrounding buildings, which basically means the adjacent City Hall. Of course, it looks pretty sweet on Google Maps, too.

February 13, 2009

Musical Commentary Track

I caught a few minutes of Joss Whedon on Fresh Air yesterday; for the first half of the show, he was talking about the making of Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, and the awesome-sounding DVD, which includes Commentary! The Musical! the world's first singing DVD commentary track.

Joss Whedon on Fresh Air, 2/11/2009 [npr.org]
Buy the Dr Horrible DVD at Amazon [amazon]

February 13, 2009

Misconceptual Misappropriation

Tyler Green Twittered the following from the ICA Philadelphia panel discussion on the 20th anniversary of the Mapplethorpe NEA implosion:

[Rob] Storr coins 'misconceptual' art: artists who shortcut to the now via conceptual art without understanding history of conceptualism.
tight, tasty, and much-needed, I like Storr's definition, but I'm afraid he didn't coin the term.

Instead, he probably probably got it where I did, from Madelon Vriesendorp, the "playground surrealist" Dutch artist who co-founded OMA with her former husband, Rem Koolhaas. Art Review profiled Vriesendorp last year when her retrospective opened at London's Architectural Association--the show is at the Swiss Architecture Museum - Basel through June 2009:

In Vriesendorp's "city" of objects upstairs at the AA, you're confronted, stared-down, and overwhelmed by a vast army of touristy trinkets: nuns, skeletons, plastic food, multiple iterations of the Statue of Liberty, aliens, snowglobes, robots, cowboys, hindus, buddhas (on phones and with headphones), body parts - especially feet, hands, tongues and eyeballs - monkeys, flies, lady birds, centipedes, snakes, and buildings, buildings, buildings caricatured and reduced to their essence in little cute models meant for the mantelpiece back home. Vriesendorp has said that she's only interested in failed objects, and that in her global city she feels like a tourist who has been given the wrong directions, misheard them and ended up in the right place anyway. She calls this practice "misconceptual art".
Misconceptual art: The World of Madelon Vriesendorp [artreview.com via things]

February 12, 2009

Justin Cooper's Lines


Just discovered Chicago artist Justin Cooper's work [thanks bevel & boss]. Some of his sculptures are these fantastic lines that have a life of their own, which is all the more awesome because it's obviously impossible. It's like he drew them in space, out of banal minimalist materials. Fred Sandback meets Calder by way of Mark Handforth.

Above: Giant Leis, 2008, made out of plastic leis on steel armature. Below: Thread, a half mile of garden hose over steel, which was installed at 400 Gallery last April-May.


The drawing connection is slightly ironic, because the lines in Cooper's equally interesting drawings turn out not to be lines at all. Upon close inspection, they disappear and dematerialize, like Lichtenstein's Benday dots, or more like ur-Chinese ideographs or doodles, which teeter right on the edge of symbol and meaning, but which ultimately only function as part of the larger whole.

Justin Cooper's site [nessiecoop.com]

February 12, 2009

Foster Bananas

The Las Vegas Sun reports [via tmn] that because of faulty rebar--and, maybe just a little bit, because the real estate and financial markets collapsed--MGM Grand is lopping off the top half of Norman Foster's still-under-construction skyscraper at CityCenter on The Strip. That's the part that would hae contained the luxury condominiums. Construction on the bottom half, where the hotel will be, will continue.

Which reminds me of a story Alvaro Siza told at Columbia. He'd apparently been commissioned to design a building in Guangzhou or someplace, and when he went to the ribbon-cutting, he found out the developer had doubled the number of floors without telling him. Am I remembering that right? Because I can't find any mention of it online.

February 11, 2009

All We Are Is Hope In The Wind


Google Earthworks-meets-Sforzian Backgrounds? This is Jorge Rodriguez Gerada's Expectation, a 650-ton sand painting of Barack Obama on the beach in Barcelona.

Here's the site, just next to the Forum de les Cultures. Not only was the mockup done in Google Map [below],


check out the project's Technical Specifications:

d. Visibility
Google Earth visualization agreement
Documentation from adjacent buildings
Set up of a temporary viewing tower
Bridge for control of access and delivery.
The work was executed Oct. 27, 2008. So I don't know if its not appearing in Google Maps right now is because it doesn't exist anymore, or it was gone by the time the satellite made its latest pass, or the system just hasn't refreshed yet.

Expectation photos and artist statement [artjammer via coudal]

February 9, 2009

Koolhaas Hothaas


Sparks from Lantern Festival fireworks apparently lit construction debris on the roof of Rem Koolhaas' Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Beijing a few hours ago, and the whole thing went up in flames. The hotel is part of Koolhaas' CCTV headquarters complex. [image detail from reuters/daylife]

The NY Times reports that spectators noted that the timing of the fire was "inauspicious," to which I'd say, "No freakin' kidding."

The first time I finally dared go into Kim's video, I thought I was ready, so I asked why Blade Runner wasn't in the Ridley Scott section. [Yes, son, back when I was a boy, we had to go all the way to St Marks to rent Blade Runner. Uptown both ways.] Anyway, the clerk scoffed, "Because it's in the Douglas Trumbull section."

Now the Times has an awesome story about how it came to pass that Kim's entire collection of 50,000 films, passionately collected from around the world, will become the centerpiece of an art town being organized in an abandoned hilltop village in Sicily.

I count this as a huge win. I will go to Kim's Salemi ten times before I ever even think of heading to the Village to rent a VHS tape.

La Dolce Video [nyt]

February 8, 2009


Explain to me how Shephard Fairey can still be a sellout if he got arrested for tagging on the way to his museum show.

It's not even a participatory artwork, just a single parenthetical, but Brian Sholis hits the nail on the head in his review of Nancy Spector's theanyspacewhatever "relational aesthetics" show at the Guggenheim:

(To be clear, I myself am sympathetic to the art's ends, skeptical of many of the means employed by the artists, largely disappointed by the art's effects and suspicious of the ongoing credibility afforded several of them despite this gap between rhetoric and accomplishment.)
Since I couldn't get a reservation in the hotel room, my favorite part of the show was Pierre Huyghe's iron-on transfer book, which I plan to use to make a baby blanket.

'theanyspacewhatever', Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, ended 7 January [afterall.org]

David Galbraith's title is [un?]fortunately not a joke.

McMansions are Built With Paper and Staples

From a Boston Globe article, "Stimulus funding for arts hits nerve":

Representative Jack Kingston, a Georgia Republican, wants to transfer the proposed NEA funding to highway construction. He failed to get the House to vote on his proposal, so he is now trying to get on the conference committee that will determine the fate of the funding. "We have real people out of work right now and putting $50 million in the NEA and pretending that's going to save jobs as opposed to putting $50 million in a road project is disingenuous," Kingston said in an interview yesterday, adding the time has come to examine all of NEA's funding.
It's funny how, a few months ago, a city's economic viability was measured by its ability to attract and keep workers in the "creative economy," a definition which has the arts as a core, but extends far beyond the narrowestm, NEA definition of the term. And museums and other cultural institutions always made the case for themselves by demonstrating the high ROI that every dollar spent on culture generated for the local economy.

And where is any of this analysis and advocacy now, when at least one congressman says arts workers aren't even "real people," and shouldn't be subsidized by the government at all? This from a politician who defines his district by its [government-funded] military base and its relevance to cultural production? [Fourth of four points: "The First District has also a been a background for top films including Academy Award Winning Best Picture Forrest Gump..."]?

I thought the $50 million stimulus proposed for the NEA was embarrassingly low, and I expected arts institutions to be contacting their congressional delegations to explain their supposedly dire financial situations, and umbrella organizations would make the case for emergency stopgap funding to keep performing arts organizations alive until the economy improves. Where has that been?

Dana Gioia, a poet who was NEA chairman until last month, recalled that when top Roosevelt aide Harry Hopkins was asked why the government wanted to hire so many artists and writers, he replied, "Hell, they've got to eat just like other people."

Gioia, reflecting on that comment, said, "As far as I've heard, nothing has changed about the dietary needs of artists."

Gee, with powerful, articulate advocacy like that, I guess I needn't have worried.


There's nothing specific on the horizon, but the way things are going, what with all the domes and mirrored domes and Buckminster Fuller and movies and all around here...

I mean, you never really know--and by you, I obviously mean me--so I thought I'd just go ahead and put this link to Paul Bourke's patented system for projecting onto a dome using a spherical mirror, which he developed in 2003.

Actually, it seems to use a hemispherical mirror, and there are apparently inflatable domes for all your portable indoor planetarium needs--according to the FAQ, a 3m inflatable dome is ideal for half a dozen adults or a dozen children--and seamless works better than paneled.


Another note to self: I don't care what they call them in Wollongong, but I will not be calling them Sphemirs. And probably not Mirrordomes, though that is much better.

Dome projection using a spherical mirror
Variously referred to as "sphemir" or "mirrordome",
Conceived by the author in 2003
[uwa.edu.au via city of sound]


Well that didn't take long. From the always awesome Wooster Collective comes word of a new work by the underground artist JR, Projet Women of Kibera, part of his ongoing 28 millimetres series he has been working on since 2004.

JR shot portraits of women in Kibera, a poor neighborhood alongside the train tracks in Nairobi, Kenya, and printed them on roof-sized vinyl, which was installed on the womens' roofs. The photos are visible from the train--and from Google Earth--and the vinyl also helps keep the rain out.


And when Google Maps takes a higher-resolution pass over the slums of Nairobi, it'll be visible there, too.

JR Finishes His Most Ambitious Project Yet [woostercollective]
JR's portfolio site [jr-art.net]
See a whole slew of Kibera photos as the 28 Millimetres site [28millimetres.com]


"I have a strange and unpleasant announcement to make," host Dave Hill, a comedian...announced. "There are too many women and not enough men. We're not sure what to make of this, but we have to close the registration to women."


"Is this for real?" our female friend wrote in a text after being denied a spot. "The girl with the Smiths tattoos got turned away from Smiths speed dating?"

- from Adam Martin's coverage of Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now, a Smiths fan speed dating event in Greenpoint last week, for New York Magazine. [nymag via tmn]

February 2, 2009

Heads Up: Roof As nth Facade


The first place I remember hearing the idea of the roof as a "fifth facade" was Peter Eisenman talking about his Columbus Convention Center, from 1989, but completed in 1993.

With an awkward, constrained site sandwiched between downtown and a tangle of freeways, Eisenman recognized that the most important vantage points for the building were from the air--from passing motorists, conventioneers' hotel rooms, and arriving airplanes. So he translated his program of entry lanes and loading bays sculpturally across the building.

You'd think the triumph of the rendering and virtual formmaking software and the whole, architecture as sculpture/object era would have heightened sensitivity to 360-degree design. But Google Maps makes it immediately clear that architects can be divided into those who consider the roof, and those who consider the roof an easy place to hide the air conditioner. Well, it ain't hidden any more, folks.


I was reminded of this while surfing through pmoore66's vast collection of aerial views of modern and contemporary architecture. While there are definitely wholly considered designs that look good on Google Maps, there are a very few--like Toyo Ito's 2002 pavilion for the Serpentine--which seem to give special attention to the bird's eye view.

On the one hand, it seems obvious that this vast, global audience should be factored into the creation of architecture. But on the other, it seems absolutely insane to design a structure, a space, for people who won't be anywhere near it, but sitting in front of some screen on the other side of the world.

Maybe the next Bilbao Effect, sure to appeal to striving cities in these difficult budgetary times, will be to commission grand architectural designs purely for the benefit of the Google Maps audience. Like the rural streetscape camouflage which was applied to the roof of the Lockheed airplane factory in Burbank to thwart Japanese bombers during WWII, cheap, easy, flexible Potemkin roof structures could really put a town on the map, so to speak.



The whole thing about the only human construct you can see from space is the Great Wall of China will be amusing to people growing up in the Google Maps era, where you can't hide anything from the satellite's surveilling eye. It's the geospatial equivalent of explaining TV before remotes and cable: it'll just make you sound old.

So kudos to Richard Serra for being ahead of the curve [no pun intended] on making work that turns out to be well-suited for viewing from our new conveniently God-like vantage point.

I started to make a list with the Torqued Ellipse in front of Glenstone, Mitch Rales' foundation in Potomac, and the suggestion from Guthrie of T.E.U.C.L.A., a torqued ellipse in the Murphy Sculpture Garden behind the Broad Art Center at UCLA, described at its installation in 2006 as "the first public work by sculptor Richard Serra installed in Southern California."

And that reminded me that the Broads have had a Serra titled No Problem in their backyard for a while, which, thanks to Google Maps, is now public. Searching for that image led me to pmoore66's collection of bird's eye view Serras around the world at Virtual Globetrotting. If you count Robert Smithson's Amarillo Ramp, which he helped complete after Serra Smithson's death [!], pmoore66 has sighted 44 Serras around the world using either Google Maps, or Microsoft's Bird's Eye View, plus another four shots on Google Streetview. [Here are the search results on Virtual Globetrotting for "Richard Serra", but that link looks a little unstable.]


With more than 1,700 entries so far, pmoore66 appears to be almost single-handedly pinning down the modernist canon for architecture and outdoor sculpture. This warrants some looking into. Stay tuned.

The more oblique angles of birds-eye-view seems to suit Serra's sculptures better, and they remind me of a series of little desk tchotchke-sized versions of monumental sculptures called minuments that I saw in the ICA London bookshop a few years ago. As soon as I can figure out how to get Google to stop spellchecking for me, I'll get the artist's name.

February 1, 2009

Serra From The Block


Someone is storing his Richard Serra sculptures along the East River in the Bronx. As massive, vertiginously curved steel plates are wont to do, they tend to stand out, and so they get noticed or discovered periodically.

Jake Dobkin spotted them recently, and posted pictures of one of the Serra sculptures behind a barbecue and a busted fence. It's a Torqued Ellipse [1] with the steel plates curled in a bit tighter than normal. Jan included a shot of the works on Google Maps, where they look nice sitting next to a collection of steel gas tanks. It appears that the other sculpture, a collection of six arced slabs in graduated sizes, is the disassembled--and ironically titled--Blindspot, presumably purchased from the artist's 2003 show at Gagosian.


[Note to self and/or someone else: figure out how many Serras are visible on Google Maps? Former Dia chairman Leonard Riggio's got one parked on his front lawn in Bridgehampton; Wave is installed at the Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle; Joe, the first Torqued Ellipse, is in the courtyard at the Pulitzer Foundation; St Louis also has Mark Twain, a much earlier Serra downtown; I'm sure the list goes on.]

The first mention I can find of these ersatz Bronx Serras is from a 2005 NY Sun story about redeveloping public park space along the waterfront in Port Morris. The lot owner, Curtis Eispert, whose main business is storing cranes, quotes the sculptures' owner: "He says, 'I love the way it rusts in the salt air.'" [Hmm, it also says, "One piece, a wide band of curved and rusting iron that sold for $2 million, sat on a flatbed truck waiting delivery." Could Serra be the "someone" storing his Serras in the city?]


Eispert also mentioned an "'artists' loft'" [the Sun's scare quotes, btw] across the street, so "artists" must be aware of the Serras, too. Sure enough, In August 2006, a group of artists put on a show inside the Torqued Ellipse. Lan Tuazon and Marie Lorenz curated Invisible Graffiti Magnet Show, which consisted of magnetic works attached to the Serra for one Sunday morning. The exhibit persists, of course, as a press announcement and a flickr photoset. Above: works by the collective Dearraindrop and Matt Lorenz. Below: an LED throwie constellation by Virginia Poundstone.


Actually, ignore the "artists' loft"; after reading up on Marie Lorenz' fascinating Tide and Current Taxi project, I'm sure she spotted the Serras from the water, not the land.

Port Morris, scroll down for the Serra links [bluejake via x-ref]
Bomb the Serra! [triplediesel]
richardlovesmagnets' photoset [flickr]

[1] 2/17 update: OK, now we know it's a torqued spiral, not a torqued ellipse. photographer/filmmaker/Jake Dobkin accompanier Nathan Kensinger revealed that the sculpture is Bellamy, a spiral first shown in 2001.

Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

comments? questions? tips? pitches? email
greg [at] greg [dot ] org

find me on twitter: @gregorg

about this archive

Posts from February 2009, in reverse chronological order

Older: January 2009

Newer March 2009

recent projects, &c.

Social Medium:
artists writing, 2000-2015
Paper Monument, Oct. 2016
ed. by Jennifer Liese
buy, $28

Madoff Provenance Project in
'Tell Me What I Mean' at
To__Bridges__, The Bronx
11 Sept - Oct 23 2016
show | beginnings

Chop Shop
curated by Magda Sawon
1-7 March 2016

eBay Test Listings
Armory – ABMB 2015
about | proposte monocrome, rose

It Narratives, incl.
Shanzhai Gursky & Destroyed Richter
Franklin Street Works, Stamford
Sept 5 - Nov 9, 2014
about | link

TheRealHennessy Tweets Paintings, 2014 -

Standard Operating Procedure
about | buy now, 284pp, $15.99

CZRPYR2: The Illustrated Appendix
Canal Zone Richard Prince
YES RASTA 2:The Appeals Court
Decision, plus the Court's
Complete Illustrated Appendix (2013)
about | buy now, 142pp, $12.99

"Exhibition Space" @ apexart, NYC
Mar 20 - May 8, 2013
about, brochure | installation shots

HELP/LESS Curated by Chris Habib
Printed Matter, NYC
Summer 2012
panel &c.

Destroyed Richter Paintings, 2012-
background | making of
"Richteriana," Postmasters Gallery, NYC

Canal Zone Richard
Selected Court Documents
from Cariou v. Prince (2011)
about | buy now, 376pp, $17.99