February 2011 Archives

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Looking through the installation photos for Road To Victory, Edward Steichen's 1942 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, I find myself asking two things:

Who took these photos, and how did they make them? [Of course, my real question is usually, Where are they now, which really means, where can I get some? But anyway.]

The first question turns out to be harder to answer than I thought. The MoMA Bulletin for the show states that over 90% of the images are from government agencies, military sources, or wire service/news agencies, but they lack any credit line. It's slightly amusing that most of the photocredits in the Bulletin turn out to be for the installation photos, not the subject photo murals themselves. If Edward Steichen and Carl Sandburg are the creators of Road To Victory: The Propaganda Artwork, then Samuel H. Gottscho is a rephotographing appropriation artist 40 years ahead of Richard Prince. I'll have to do some digging for an image checklist in the exhibition's archives.

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As for how these things were made, though, there is actually a footnote for that. And the answer is surprisingly painterly:

To make the large murals, the negatives were enlarged in sections upon strips of photographic paper forty inches wide. The museum wall was first sized, then covered with a layer of wallpaper, next with one of cloth, and then the photographs were pasted on the cloth by paper hangers. The seams were lightly airbrushed, imperfections were retouched by hand, and finally the whole mural was painted with dull varnish to eliminate the glaring reflections rendered by the surface of photographic paper.
Fascinating. Photo wallpaper? Overpainted photomurals?

While large prints in the show were mounted on boards, and some murals were affixed to freestanding walls and panels, others were applied straight to the museum's walls. Given the anonymity of the images, I'm going to guess that approximately none of these prints or murals survived the exhibition, much less the war.

February 24, 2011

The Road To Victory And Beyond

moma_road_to_victory_2.jpg

So in my ersatz zigzagging through the history of photomurals, I kind of skipped from Edward Steichen's landmark Family of Man exhibition in 1955, where Paul Rudolph deployed enlarged photo prints for content and experience, as well as architectural elements in his exhibition design; to Capt. Steichen's 1945 exhibition Power in the Pacific, which featured the work of the US Navy photography unit he commanded; to Steichen's participation in MoMA's first photography exhibition ever, a 1932 photomural invitational, which was intended to serve as a showroom for American artists, who faced stiff mural competition during the Depression from south of the border.

Sensing a trend here? Wondering what I missed? Wow. Michael from Stopping Off Place just forwarded me the link to MoMA's bulletin for Road To Victory, a stunning 1942 photo exhibition that rolls up so many greg.org interests, it is kind of freaking me out right now. And the man who is bringing it to me? Lt. Comm. Edward Steichen.

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I mean, I kind of stumbled onto the photomural trail last October, when a vintage exhibition print of Mies' Barcelona Pavilion came up at auction. Its size, scale, and iconic modernist subject suddenly made the photomural seem like a missing link in the contemporary development of both photography and painting. And yet it's also seeming like not many of these pictures survived, because they were merely exhibition collateral, functional propaganda material, no more an artwork than the brochure or the press release.

And yet these things existed. Is it possible at all that any of these prints still exist in some art handler's garage?

Anyway, it'll take me time to process this Road To Victory show, so I'm just going to skip across the most stunning parts: the show's awesome, explicit propagandistic objectives; the utterly fresh painterly abstraction of these giant prints; the spatial, experiential design of Herber Bayer's installation; the texts surrounding the exhibit, which traveled around the country in 1942 to apparently wild, patriotic acclaim; and the ironic, complicating aspects of authorship of the show and the work in it.

[Hint: they barely identify, much less mention the actual photographers at all. I, meanwhile, am happy and grateful to credit PhotoEphemera for these small versions of much larger scans of MoMA's 1942 documentation of the show. Definitely worth diving into.]

February 22, 2011

Bloghdad.com/Issues

April 7, 2003 11:46 AM


TO: Doug Feith

FROM: Donald Rumsfeld

SUBJECT: Issues w/Various Countries

We need more coercive diplomacy with respect to Syria and LIbya, and we need it fast. If they mess up Iraq, it will delay bringing our troops home.

We also need to solve the Pakistan problem.

And Korea doesn't seem to be going well.

Are you coming up with proposals for me to send around?

Thanks.

The release of this memo by warrior/wrestler/poet Donald Rumsfeld made me wonder what I was writing about in early April 2003, when the Iraq War was just underway.

And it turns out I was writing about the devastating poetry of Donald Rumsfeld.

February 22, 2011

Know Hope

Producer Ted Hope is at least three installments into his solid post-Sundance, post-Toronto explication of what he's calling "The New Model of Indie Film Finance." It's a pretty clear-eyed look at the challenges even a celebrated, experienced filmmaker faces in realizing a project--and a profit.

Clearly we are at a point in US film culture where the infrastructure is not serving either the investors, the creators, or the audiences. Good films are getting made but not being delivered to their audience. Last year I went to a film investor conference. Several other producers were invited and we all asked to pitch projects. None of us left with funding, but the investors said to me that I was the only one that addressed how we would deal with the reality of not just getting our film to market, but bringing it to the ultimate end-users -- the audience. As artists build communities around their projects in advance of actual production, they are developing a plan to give domestic value to their films. It is hard to imagine that any artist will be able to do enough pre-orders to predict 20% of negative costs from the USA -- unless they are working on microbudgets -- but taking a step forward is still a better plan than surrender to the unknown.

With uncertain economic conditions, shifting revenue streams, and a continued reliance on admittedly outmoded valuation metrics, Hope describes indie finance as being in "an era of risk mitigation."

Twas ever thus, though, no? Frankly, if 7500 features were actually made in 2010, the vast majority of which will never make back their production cost, much less turn a profit, it sounds like the film financing business could use more risk mitigation, not less. But I'd guess that exponential increase in production volume over the last decade correlates to the drop in digital/HD production costs. It's just that those losses are distributed across many more microbudget filmmakers' uncles than ever before.

Hope hasn't gotten to the profit part yet, but I expect it has something to do with microbudgets, non-theatrical distribution, and filmmaker audience/community-building. And that the answer has something to do with scrappy, groupie-friendly directors like Ed Burns and Kevin Smith. Stay tuned.

Part 3: The New Model Of Indie Film Finance, v2011.1 Domestic Value & Funding [hopeforfilm.com]

February 20, 2011

La Tour Eiffel Vu En Ballon

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In 1909, balloonist/photographers André Schelcher and Albert Omer-Décugis took this picture from about 50m above the top of the Eiffel Tower. It is one of 40 images they published that year in a book titled, Paris vu en ballon et ses environs.

I just found it in my new Leon Gimpel catalogue, but it turns out to be included in Thierry Gervais' 2001 article on the beginnings of aerial photography, which I posted about before.

With that angle, I would've said Schelcher's photo looks more Bing than Google Maps, but Google's got it.

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Previously: Le début du point de vue Google Mappienne

February 20, 2011

Gerhard Richter Subway Station

It's hard enough for me to wrap my head around the fact that Gerhard Richter and Isa Genzken were married for 13 years. Now I find out they made a subway station together. A subway station about their relationship.

In a 1993 interview, Hans Ulrich casually asks Richter, "What works of yours exist in public spaces? The Underground station in Duisburg; the Hypo-Bank in Dusseldorf?"

And at first, I'm like, "Oh, right, besides the underground station in Duisburg." But then when I looked it up, I see that it was only completed in 1992, so the Duisburg Metrocard in Hans Ulrich's suit pocket probably still had two weeks left on it.

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Anyway, the work seems remarkably undocumented. These are about the only pictures I could find. Genzken and Richter received the commissioned for the König-Heinrich-Platz U-bahn station in 1980. All the pieces of the project seem to be enamel on steel wall panels installed throughout the station.

Genzken made two murals facing each other on the train platform, with arcs from circles with radii of 3 and 5km, which relate to scaled down diameters of certain planets," according to the Google cache of one mobile travel site.

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Dietmar Elgar's bio of Richter quotes Genzken's project statement: "One curve corresponds to the curvature of Mars on a scale of 1:1,000, another curve to VEnus on a scale of 1:30,000." Elgar then notes these references were "no coincidence. She was alluding to her romance with Richter." [Richter apparently painted two abstracts, titled Juno and Janus, in response. Which is adorable.]

As for the station, Richter's abstract mural adorns the west lobby, while in the east station entrance, the couple installed 24 enamel signs with historical facts about Duisburg. Frankly, I'm not feeling it. Maybe if someone were to go to Duisburg and shoot a flickr photoset of the station, we could get a better sense? Bitte-schoen?

Or maybe the thing to do is to stop looking for art, then you can see it. Here are some photos of the station from the web which happen to show some of Richter or Genzken's works:

duisburg_genzken_raino.jpg by Raino Gellenthin, via fotocommunity.de


duisburg_genzken_rg_team.jpg
by R + G Team Dülmen, via fotocommunity.de

colourful subway
by ati sun via flickr

U-Bahn Kunst [duisburg.de]
Previously: giant Richter triptych commissioned by BMW

February 19, 2011

I've Got Mail

I order so many random books, usually from random independent or used booksellers on Abebooks, that don't arrive with anything like the robotic precision and up-to-the-minute email notification of Amazon, that I never know what's come in the mail until I open it. And sometimes I've forgotten what I even ordered.

Today's haul was exceptional, though:

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Centerbeam is the 1980 report/documentation for a project that, as far as I can tell, was the largest contemporary public art event ever undertaken on the National Mall: Centerbeam and Icarus, a collaborative experiment/performance organized by MIT's Center for Advanced Visual Studies, under the direction of Otto Piene.

Centerbeam was unveiled at documenta 6 in 1977, and restaged on the Mall in the summer of 1978. It involved video, lasers, giant inflatable sculptures, smoke machines, sound art, a technotopian extravaganza that was apparently a raging success, but also, from the pictures, might have been a hot mess. Not that those are mutually exclusive. Anyway, I thought I'd bought this book a year and a half ago when I first wrote about Centerbeam, but I had not.

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The catalogue for the Musee d'Orsay's Leon Gimpel exhibition arrived, from Italy, and wow, it's beautifully produced. The images that get widely reproduced are some of the most arresting, but just a quick look makes me very excited to study Gimpel's work more closely. The text is only in French, which probably means it won't get the US distribution presence it deserves. [It looks so easy to buy on Amazon.fr, though.]

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And last, whoa, what an incredible surprise: Enclosure 3: Harry Partch? What the hell is this? Experimental composer Philip Blackburn is the last in a series of Partch devotees who labored to publish the visionary composer/ex-hobo's archive. Most of the Enclosure series is video and audio of performances of Partch's music, but Enclosure 3 is a dense, daunting, but engrossing facsimile edition of the notes, drawings, clippings, photos, manuscripts, and correspondence Partch kept for himself. It looks utterly fantastic.

I think my version was published in 2005, but the copyright is also from 1997, and there's only the barest hint at the process of putting the book together. It's pretty raw. But gorgeous. I'd seen it mentioned on some hip curation webshop, one of those Nieves-type outfits, but when I couldn't figure out which one it was [turns out it was collectionof.net], I ended up ordering it [much more cheaply] via some Amazon merchant.

Well, my copy arrived, it's awesome, and it turns out to have come from Squidco, an "improvised, composed experimental music" specialty shop based in, of all places, Wilmington, NC. Who knew, right? Squidco publishes a lot of writing and reviews of experimental music on Squid's Ear, wow, reaching back to 2003. I had no idea, but now I do, and I'm glad.

Oh no! I mean, oh yeah!

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Gerhard Richter did do other steel balls. At the end of his 1973 interview with Irmeline Lebeer, he complains about my favorites of his series, the grey monochromes:

the only problem with them is that they are so beautiful.

And that bothers you?

No, but it's like a blank canvas. A blank canvas is the most beautiful thing, and yet you can't just leave it like that. You have to add other elements to it. If it were only a question of perfection, we wouldn't do anything any more.

You need dynamics and a certain tension.

Without those, everything would be dead. We would all come to an agreement, once and for all, on the sphere. At home, I have these particularly beautiful steel balls.4 But it's impossible to get any closer to perfection. But we start down that path, it's all over.

Which is an odd place to put a footnote saying that "Indeed in 1989 and 1992 Richter produced three editions of balls made of gleaming stainless steel."

The largest was the last, Sphere III [above, via g-r], which was done in an edition of 11. In addition to the title, signature, number and date, each ball is engraved with the name of a Swiss mountain.

Spheres I and II are 8cm [ed. 25] and 5cm [ed. 11], respectively, with no mountains involved. According to the Dallas Museum of Art, which has all of Richter's balls, they were all published by Anthony d'Offay and fabricated by FAG Kugelfischer, which I will assume is a company. Indeed, under the Schaeffler Group's guidance, FAG has been a leading German manufacturer of ball bearings for over 120 years.

search results: kugel [gerhard-richter.com]
Previously: Richter's Balls, Regrets

February 19, 2011

Art Poster

Honestly, I don't know why I didn't see it before. The answer's staring me right in the face. And I was so close with the Serra, too.

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Annunciation After Titian, 343-1, 1973, Gerhard Richter [image via g-r]

This morning I just cracked open my Richter Bible, and started reading a 1974 interview of the bemused Richter by an insistent Gislind Nabakowski, who pressed the artist for his reasons for implicating himself in the "hackneyed language of symbols" of "the power of the hypocritical Renaissance," and "sexual domination," of the painting he'd recently copied, Titian's Annunciation:

With regard to your approach to painting, you seem willing to encumber yourself with the concept of traditional symbolism, but you don't illustrate it; you seem to be searching for your own symbolic references. Can you elaborate on this 'illustrative realism'? Does it represent what the painter sees, or does it reveal his 'reflections on what he has seen' i.e., are his paintings platforms for the production of reality?
It certainly doesn't show what one sees, because everyone sees something different, and what one sees isn't a painting; it can only remind us of a painting. But, on the other hand, I don't accept the principal difference between 'pure' pictures that only represent themselves and others that just illustrate something. If you take Ryman, Palermo or Marden, for example, in a away their paintings are also illusionistic, and you can only just identify the actual paint or the material if you have the eyes of a paint salesman.

Why did you paint over Titian's motif and dissolve it?
Oh, I'm sure I didn't initially plan it that way; I wanted to trace him as precisely as possible, maybe because I wanted to own such a beautiful Titian... [laughs].

That can't be true. Not even the very first painting is a copy; you intended something else.
Sure. I only copied it from a postcard and not from the original as such. Although I must say that it is indeed possible to reproduce a painting from a postcard that is almost as beautiful as the original. Those few little details that would have been different really don't matter--but that's another issue.

Maybe for Richter.

Because when it comes to posters, what do people want to see more than beautiful works of art? The art poster has developed into a genre all its own. A genre and, as every museum shop, dorm quad, and Upper West Side laundry room can attest, a market.

Here is a poster I saw yesterday, Lot 270: Jasper Johns Flag I, which LA Modern is auctioning next month, with a description, "Poster based on the print," a signature [!], a provenance, and an estimate of $1000-1500:

johns_flag_poster_lama.jpg

We demand a lot from our art posters. Posters signal our tastes and aesthetic identifications even more purely than the originals, which, by their scarcity, can only be possessed by a few, and thus can't escape the aura of investment. Posters can also embody a history. You were there in Greenville in 1974, and Jasper signed your poster. That's how it could look, anyway. We like our posters to faithfully approximate the experience and presence of the original.

And they must also have a significant, authentic presence--poster qua poster--of their own. Which can limit the works available to those that best fit the poster format. So you can blow up Matisse Jazz cutouts, or shrink a Rothko.

moma_gursky_poster_99c.jpg
Gursky: 99 Cent, $24.95 [via momastore.org]

Like this powerful work," Gursky: 99 Cent, a "MoMA Favorite" which pushes up against the dimensional limits of the poster medium [56" x 34"] just as Gursky's 207x337cm original tested the most advanced photo printing technology of its day [1999].

But that, as Richter says, is another issue. Just as you can paint a beautiful painting from a postcard, you could use a photo, tiled and transferred to silkscreens at life-size, then taped and folded into a box, to provide the authentic, transformative experience of being in the presence of the original. Assuming you open the box, that is. And that you have enough wallspace. Or maybe that's what museums and exhibition copies are for. And your copy stays MIB.

So what'd work at that scale? Gursky, of course. But if you're gonna do Gursky, do the 99 Cent II Diptychon, which unfurls to a positively Bus-like 207 x 682 cm:

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99 Cent II Diptychon, 2001, at Philips de Pury in 2006 [image via thecityreview]

Or:

February 18, 2011

On Frieze At 20

Frieze has been around 20 years? That's crazy. I feel so old.

I'm really liking the dips into the archives by invited Big Thinkers. Jens Hoffmann's picks focus on biennials and such. My favorite has to be Jenny Liu's firsthand report of the Sixth Caribbean Biennial, a giant critique-in-a-boondoggle-in-a-biennial organized by Maurizio Catteland--and Jens Hoffmann:

The idea of a biennial without art could have been cool in a marvellously vacuous sort of a way, puncturing the self-importance of the art world by grotesquely aping it. What we got was a furtive and ungenerous gesture, a covert V-sign flipped at the art world behind its back, when more balls could have made it a divinely impudent mooning in its face. As a critique, the Caribbean Biennial was neutered when the organisers and some of the artists felt the need to prescribe the biennial's public perception and hide the vacation at its heart. The art was so profoundly and deafeningly absent that some artists took to thinking of themselves as both art stars (whose reputations needed protecting) and art civilians (with commensurate expectations of privacy), while curators took on the role of embarrassed publicists and the spectators of poor cousins at a wedding. There's something sad about so cynical and ambivalent a gesture as the Caribbean Biennial: one would think that a critique of one's own practices would be ethical, even idealistic. Here, the humour was both a performance of aggression and a weapon of despair, another cheerless rehearsal of irony and parody.
I still talk to people about the Caribbean Biennial all the time, though as time passes, I have to keep reassuring myself that it actually happened. Or didn't, as the case may be.

But I still remember it as a sly, subversive prank, and Liu's obviously generous but disappointed review reminds me that it was less romantic than I want it to be. Seriously, guys, how could you let Jenny down like that?

Trouble in Paradise [frieze]
frieze.com/20/ [frieze.com]

williams_bus_moca_install.jpgIt's true, I like Mason Williams' 1967 Bus for what it is.

But right now I love it for how it was made, the whole ridiculous, unanticipated, dogged, improvised, and ultimately successful process: the 4x5 negative; the 16x20 print; the 16-tile silkscreened billboard; the one-ton palletful of paper on the driveway; the cases of Scotch tape on the borrowed dance hall floor, the giant folding by hand; the warning not to open the box in the wind; the realization that after all that, most people are never gonna open the box in the first place.

That last point should negate the question I've been pondering, then, which is, if you were to make a giant photomural poster this way today, what image would you use? Assuming--or asserting--that it mattered, and that even though you're doing it for the process, you're not just going to use random image noise. [Though that is one option.]

Anyway, a bus is obviously out; you might as well do a reissue of Williams' original. And though a whole host of large vehicles would be interesting--a dump truck, a train, a plane, perhaps a collector's G5 as a commission--it might also be a little derivative.

Mondo-Blogo suggested "the 'dirtbergs' all over the city now. Facinating how the snow gets so black, and so filled with the most disgusting things." And I do like their scale, ephemerality and banality, and the combination of abstraction and landscape.

anastasi_site.jpgYou can't go too architectural without treading on William Anastasi's toes, or without aping Urs Fischer's totalizing wallpaper. But an interesting structure or storefront does have its appeal, even though the idea is a print that feels more like a picture of something, and not an environment or space. It's objectification through photography, and in turn, turning that photo into an [ultimately, probably] unseen object in a box.

Cheyney Thompson's epic lifesize painting makes me want to do a newsstand, though.

And since these are objects, why not a large sculpture? Like the gilded Gen. Grant at Grand Army Plaza? Or Simone Bolivar on Sixth Avenue, for that matter? Why not a Torqued Ellipse? Imagine all the ink that silkscreen'd take.

Or maybe a rock or a tree.

What am I not thinking of? I'd be interested to know. What would you like to see? If I make one of them, I'll be glad to send you a copy. Though if involves a shipping pallet, I may ask for your FedEx account number first.

February 18, 2011

Warhol Invented Twitter?

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My Twitter feed is so complicated right now.

February 17, 2011

Bus, 1967, Mason WIlliams

mason_williams_bus_moca.jpg

A 1968 NY Times review of Robert Rauschenberg's giant Autobiography edition by Hilton Kramer was titled "Art: Over 53 Feet of Wall Decoration." And the abstract mentioned simultaneous installations at the Whitney and MoMA, so I was interested to see what else Kramer hated. Turns out it wasn't a Rauschenberg or a Broadside Art project at all: it was Mason Williams' Bus.

Mason Williams' Bus is one of the most awesome photomural/artist book/oddball objects of the Los Angeles 1960s. I love it. It is a life-size photo of a Greyhound bus, folded up and put into a box. It was made in an edition of 200, but existed primarily as a joke, or a poster, or a decoration, and only rarely has it been perceived as an art object.

Which is hilarious--and hilariously wrong--because Williams is a childhood friend and longtime collaborator/co-conspirator with Ed Ruscha, whose deadpan artist books were busy not being recognized as art--or as proper books--at the same time.

This lack of critical appreciation may have something to do with Williams' primary occupation, which was TV writing and composition; he was the head writer for The Smothers Brothers and wrote "Classical Gas." Bus was an irreverent stunt, though he took it very seriously.

[For a rare, serious look at Bus, there's no place better than Design Observer, where Lorraine Wild wrote about it in 2008; Michael Asher had donated his copy of Bus to MOCA, and the museum had just installed it. Wild has Williams' making of story, the hilarity of which is only hinted at in the parodic text Williams included with each numbered edition:

Actual size photograph of an Actual bus.
10 ft. 3 1/2 in. x 36 ft. 2 in.)
Weighs 10 pounds, 7 ounces.
Conceived by Mason Williams.
Photograph by Max Yavno.

Enlargement made from a 16x20 print of a 4x5 negative. Printed on billboard stock in 16 sections by silk screen process. Printed by The Benline Process Color Company of Deland, Florida and Pacific Display of Los Angeles, Califfornia. [sic] Hand collated, rolled and transported early in the morning by three people (two men and one woman) in one car over a period of several days. Each copy individually hand assembled by three people, using hands, feet, tape sissors [sic] and a Barlow knife. Assembled with 120 ft. (per copy) of Scotch Brand double-faced tape (No. 666).

Folded by hand and foot by three people.

Assembled and folded quietly on television sound stages on Saturday mornings in Los Angeles, Califfornia [sic]. Assembly time, nine man hours per copy.

Cover concept by Bob Willis. Designed from a box found under his bed by his wife. Cover constructed of corrugated fiberboard, 200 lb. test, #1 white. Printed and fabricated by Nehms Company of Los Angeles, California.

Published on the 24th of February, 1967 in a limited edition of 200 copies.

Love that so much, I want to start silkscreening and double-taping life-size photos of things.

Anyway, MoMA installed a copy of Bus in the lobby in Jan. 1968, and then invited graphic designers participating in the Museum's upcoming poster show to tag the bus with graffiti. Here's a photo of the result, as seen on the cover of Go Greyhound magazine.

mason_williams_bus_moma.jpg

100%, Lorraine Wild [designobserver]
Art Projects by Mason Williams [masonwilliams-online]
Awesome LIFE Magazine photo of Bus at Reference Library

February 17, 2011

Recognition Models

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Air Training Corps cadets building recognition models, via CollectAir

Looking for the "Plaster of Paris Aircraft Corp." and coming up empty [stay tuned], I did find plenty of aircraft made from Plaster of Paris: WWII-era recognition models used to train military personnel and civilian planespotters to distinguish between friendly and enemy aircraft. Though recognition models and plane silhouette posters and such were used as early as planes themselves, planespotting efforts surged during World War II.

Models were needed to train millions of soldiers, for whom distinguishing planes was a matter of survival and victory on the battlefield, and to train millions of volunteers in the Ground Observer Corps, who were manning towers and outposts all along America's coasts. [British planespotters actually ended up having much more to do.]

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Official StromBecKer model kit of the Boeing Flying Fortress, via CollectAir

To source all these models, manufacturers developed injection-molded cellulose plastic technologies to crank them out, and schoolchildren were enlisted to build them from kits of wood, or to carve them to spec from other non-strategic materials. Like Plaster of Paris.

Like the Civilian Camouflage Council mobilized by New York artists and art directors in 1942, and these insane canvas-and-stilts bomber trainers, these recognition models are an awesome melding of militarism and craft, cutting edge technology and ad hoc bricolage.

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Walt Disney with reconition models, and the diagram for a Naval flight training film on the wall, from LIFE, via Collectair


They're interesting and novel to me, but also esoteric and esthetic. For the folks who grew up during the war, they were life and death, vital, formative to their world.

And they're apparently being forgotten. The images here [and the information, basically everything I know about recognition models that didn't come from the opening of Empire of the Sun] come from Steve Remington's CollectAir Friend or Foe? Museum, an extraordinary collection of recognition models and related training material located in Santa Barbara. There's much, much more on the website, including the planespotting training kites, gorgeous shipspotting models, including one British Razzle Dazzle model, on and on.

Friend or Foe? Museum [collectair.com]

February 17, 2011

Provenance

waxman_nymag_1982.jpgWow, so I'm just throwing Jasper Johns' name into the archives of New York Magazine, and up pops this wild story from 1982 about Frank Waxman, a Philadelphia doctor who amassed a blue chip collection of tiny artworks by stealing them from galleries.

He was on the Friends of the Philadelphia Museum committee, hosted collection visits, and basically stole 170 artworks in four cities before he was caught.

Waxman got a Johns Flashlight sculpture from Irving Blum's desk in SoHo; a couple of Joseph Cornell boxes; an Agnes Martin from Robert Elkon Gallery; here's Herbert Palmer's 2004 account of having a Picasso bronze stolen from his Los Angeles gallery:

MR. PALMER: And one Christmas, I left a few days early to go skiing. And I get a phone call from the young lady who was working here then; she said, Mr. Palmer, did you put the Picasso away for safekeeping? I said, I don't think so. She says, well, it isn't there.

DR. EHRLICH: [Laughs] Oops.

MR. PALMER: I said, do you think someone might have taken it? She says, no the case is screwed down. I [She] went back there and after 10 minutes on the telephone, she comes back; the screws are not in the case. She says, I know who took it. I said, do you know his name? She said, no. The man with the trench coat, he came in twice. Once he came in, and he looked around. The second time he came in, he asked me to show him a picture, and I had to go to the back of the gallery to get the picture.

DR. EHRLICH: Oh.

MR. PALMER: And at that time, he took the Picasso and slipped it into his coat, which was designed specifically for stealing small sculpture. It had big pockets.

DR. EHRLICH: Wow.

MR. PALMER: Big, padded pockets. She says, he took it. I said, you have no clue as to his name or anything? No. I said, call the insurance company, call the police, and don't you leave - Christmas Eve - don't you leave until the police come. They came and they wrote it up - you know, the paperwork.

While they're writing up my case, the police get a phone call. A woman is screaming. He took my Rodin, she said; some crazy woman is yelling, hey, somebody took her Rodin. I said, I know who it is. If you're quick, you can catch him. It was Feingarten, Mrs. Feingarten. She had a gallery on Melrose, and this guy - same guy who stole from me, went down there and did the same thing - sent her to the back; while she was in the back, he took this Rodin hand she had, and put it in his coat, and walked out with - and she saw him do it. And she screamed at him, put that down. He said, don't come close - threatened her, so she didn't; she called the police.

And she said, wait a minute - I have a clue. He left a phone number, because it was Saturday, and I had to open the gallery for him out of hours.

Cops finally cracked the caper, Waxman was eventually arrested, got the psychiatric help he needed, all the artwork was returned, and now people get to tell fun stories about how their stolen Picasso was on the cover of New York magazine. It's win-win. The only loser here--since Waxman didn't get started until the late 1970s, and was thus too young to have been involved in the Johns Flag caper--is me.

Oral history interview with Herbert Palmer, 2004 Dec. 6-22 [aaa.si.edu]

February 16, 2011

Calm Center, By Ray Johnson

ray_johnson_calm_center.jpg

I've been focusing so much time on Johns, I fear I've been neglecting Johnson. But I wonder if he's alright with that. Maybe Ray Johnson's collage blends so seamlessly into Rauschenberg's Short Circuit because collaboration, transformation, and subsumption were so central to Johnson's own highly advanced, collaging practice. It's enough to make me wonder what, if any, influence Johnson had on Rauschenberg during those early Black Mountain and combine days. Hopefully, there are theses on this already, or at least already in the works.

Meanwhile, I've had Johnson's remarkable 1951 painting, Calm Center, open on my desktop for a couple of weeks now. It's just beautiful. And the seriality, the grid, the geometry, the pixels, in 1951! I mean, wow. This what he dropped to start his correspondence and pop? Johnson could have been any major artist he wanted to be, and I think he was.

I'm gonna rewatch How To Draw A Bunny right now.

Previously: Ray Johnson on greg.org

February 16, 2011

Flags And Flags And Flags

Andy sent along this great ffffffound fffffflag picture, posted today on thekingof.tumblr.

kingof_flags.jpg

which reminds me of one of my favorite Johns riffs, the 2005 work by Jonathan Horowitz, Three Rainbow American Flags for Jasper in the Style of the Artist's Boyfriend:

horowitz_rainbow_flags.jpg

cornell_collages_constr_58.jpg

I think Robert Rauschenberg's Short Circuit was exhibited only twice in its original state: once in the Spring of 1955, in the Stable Gallery annual exhibition for which it was created, and once at the White Art Museum at Cornell University, in 1958.

So far, I haven't found a mention of the title, Short Circuit before at least 1967, when Rauschenberg exhibited the combine [with the doors nailed shut, to hide the space where the Johns Flag had been, but also hiding his ex-wife Susan Weil's painting in the process] in a Finch College Museum traveling exhibition.

As mentioned here, Rauschenberg's earliest registry [which is in the Castelli Gallery archives at the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art] has the work listed as Construction with Jasper Johns Flag. Which would be an unusual title for the work to be shown with at Stable Gallery, where the whole point was for Bob to smuggle in works by Weil and Ray Johnson as well as Johns.

But thanks to the help of Liz Emrich, curatorial assistant at Cornell's Johnson Museum, we now know more about the 1958 exhibition, which was curated by Alan Solomon. And though there's no works list, the list of participating artists makes me wonder if this combine was exhibited as a collaboration, or as a joint/hybrid work.

The show was titled "Collages and Constructions," and it ran as part of the Festival of Contemporary Arts. Paul Schimmel's Combines catalogue lists the dates for the show as running from March 13 to May 20th, but it seems that information is from the artist's registry, and probably pertains to loans of the work. The press release says it ran from April 10 to May 6, 1958. But yet there's also an invite to hear Rauschenberg speak on April 8, fresh off his Castelli debut. So maybe the show was open sooner.

Anyway, Short Circuit, or Construction with Jasper Johns Flag, as the artist called it, was one of at least three Rauschenbergs in Solomon's show. According to Schimmel's Combines, the other two were Gloria and Small Rebus, [both 1956].

The show also included works by: Alberto Burri, Joseph Cornell, Jean Follett, Sue Fuller, Ilse Getz, Robert Goodnough, Grace Hartigan, John Hultberg, Jasper Johns, Allan Kaprow, Alfred Leslie, Corrado Marca-Relli, Anne Ryan, Richard Stankiewicz, "and others." The press release mentions everyone but Getz and Follett. No word on who those "others" might have been.

I was surprised to find Solomon left his own 1958 show out of Rauschenberg's exhibition history in his 1963 catalogue. I was not as surprised, though, to see the show not mentioned at all in MoMA's otherwise definitive-seeming exhibition history for Johns.

I cannot believe this has under 1,000 views. I'm only about 8:00 into this YouTube video, and already, Viktor Pinchuk is my hero. While anyone with a yacht or a palazzo could assemble a tranche of the art world powerful on the Grand Canal, only Pinchuk's inspiring artistic vision can bring them all to Kiev. Well, I'm pretty sure it's his vision they're coming for.

Come for the vision, stay for the historic chance to have Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, Andreas Gursky, and Takashi Murakami together on stage, answering incisive questions from Ryan Seacrest's Ukrainian doppelganger. And the pitch for free Prada.

Ah, yes, I just got to the end: "Thank you to the thousands, the hundreds of thousands watching online!" It Gets Better!

Cinthia Marcelle receives Main Prize on FGAP Award Ceremony [ThePinchukArtCentre's YouTube channel, via Gavin Brown's GBlogÉ, pronounced like the French, Blo-ZHAY]

February 16, 2011

Friends Of Alan Solomon

jasper_johns_flag_wh.jpg
Johns, Flag: "American artist Jasper Johns has produced a distinguished body of work dealing with themes of perception and identity since the mid-1950s." -whitehouse.gov

I've been trying to get a better sense of the first decade for Rauschenberg's Short Circuit, from the mid-1950s, when it was made and first shown, until 1965, when the Jasper Johns Flag was removed from the work which had originally been titled, Construction with Jasper Johns Flag. It happens to be the time when both artists' careers skyrocketed; when their intense personal relationship flourished, then fell apart; and when they were creating arguably their most significant works. And one of the people who was there for all of it was Alan Solomon.

Solomon was a curator and friend of Leo Castelli; he showed both Johns and Rauschenberg--including Short Circuit--in March 1958 at Cornell University's White Art Museum. More on that later.

After he moved from Ithaca to the big city to run the Jewish Museum, Solomon gave Rauschenberg his first solo museum show in 1963. And he did the same for Johns in 1964. And he curated both artists into the US exhibition at the Venice Biennale in 1964, which erupted into controversy when Rauschenberg won. [The controversy was nominally about the eligibility of the US show, which was mostly installed in the former American consulate next to the Guggenheim, and only partly in the US Pavilion. But basically, it boiled down to Europeans being pissed at the American bad boy winning. I think.]

Long story short, Solomon was a key, early supporter of both artists' work, and throughout the 1960s, he regularly made the argument that Pop, which he was also instrumental in promoting, was born directly from the work of this pair of "germinal artists" Rauschenberg and Johns.

Which is funny, because reading through Solomon's texts, speeches, and interviews, you wouldn't know Johns and Rauschenberg were even dating, much less spawning heirs. Though he showed the collaborative combine painting itself in 1958, Short Circuit is completely absent from Solomon's exhibitions, texts, and interviews in 1963, '64, and '66.

What is present, in catalogue essays for both artists, is Solomon's repeated and unequivocal rejection of the personal, the emotional, the biographical, the expressive, almost any type of subject or subjectivity at all, in fact, in their revolutionary work.

Looking back at the critical content closet Solomon constructs around these artists and their work--constructed with, you have to assume, their blessing and even active involvement--it's tempting to take everything he says and simply invert it, and feel like you're getting a clearer picture of what's going on.

When Solomon writes of the importance of "other possibilities" to appreciating Johns' Flags, while explicitly excluding the possibility of any personal associations, it almost seems like an invitation, a demand to consider them in an autobiographical light, as a kind of silent self-portrait. Which becomes very complex very quickly when the germinal Short Circuit re-enters the mix.

But I still have to figure out how, what, or whether to write about that head-on.

For right now, here are a couple of excerpts from Solomon's catalogues for each artist. Johns first:

During some recent archive dives, I've come across a ton of different letterheads. Apparently, people used to write letters to each other all the time, can you imagine? Must've taken forEVER.

Anyway, one I particularly ilke is the United States Information Agency, which used to organize international tours for art exhibitions. [The USIA also took over sponsorship of the Venice Biennale from MoMA in 1964, the year Alan Solomon curated a group of Pop and abstract painters, including Rauschenberg.] Anyway, there are variations for USIA offices in embassies, but the basic format is the one seen below. This is actually from a 1965 American filmmaker-related memorandum, something to do with the secret plan to enlist Stanley Kubrick to fake the moon landing. Anyway:

usia_letterhead_kubrick65.jpg

That's it, just the agency name, and WASHINGTON, with a pared down version of the Great Seal of the United States there on the left. It's a basic, agency-wide format used by many government agencies. So clean and presumptively powerful.

I had absolutely no idea, though, about the Great Seal, its history, and how it is still used today. Between Wikipedia and the State Department [pdf], though, there's a fascinating tale. The current die is the fourth version of the original text description--or blazon, to use the heraldic term--approved by the Continental Congress in 1782. It was designed by James Horton Whitehouse of Tiffany & Co. in 1885, and replicated by Bailey Banks & Biddle in 1904. In 1986, the Bureau of Printing & Engraving made a master die from which the current and future operational dies will be created.

great_seal_press.jpg

The die is for the front of the Great Seal, the eagle side; there has never been a die made for the back, the pyramid side. The setup since 1904 has the Great Seal affixed to a giant, counter-weighted, brass and mahogany press in the State Department. The Seal is used 2000-3000 times/year, for treaties, ambassadorial appointments, and a bunch of other official, ceremonial communications.

great_seal_counter-die.jpg

Here's how it works:

Sealing of Documents
In the Department of State, the term "Great Seal" has come to include not just the die, but the counter-die, the press, and the cover, or cabinet in which it is housed, as well. These stand in the Exhibit Hall of the Department, inside a glass enclosure which is kept locked at all times, even during the sealing of a document. The mahogany cabinet's doors also are kept locked, and the press is bolted and padlocked in position except when in use. The seal can be affixed only by an officer of the Department of State, under the authority of its custodian, the Secretary of State. When there are documents ready for sealing, one of the officers carries them to the enclosure where the Great Seal is kept and prepares them for impressing.
great_seal_wafer_bef.jpg
First, a 3 3/4-inch, scalloped, blank paper wafer of off-white linen stock is glued in the space provided for it to the left of the document's dating clause. If ribbons are used in binding the document, they are run under the paper wafer and glued fast. Second, the document is inserted between the counter-die, with the wafer carefully lined up between them. Third, the document is held in place with the left hand and the weighted arm of the press is pulled sharply forward with the right hand, from right to left. This drives the die down onto the wafer, document, and counter-die, which impresses the seal in relief. The die is then raised, releasing the document and allowing for its removal. When an envelope containing letters of credence or recall is to be sealed, the wafer is impressed first, and then glued to the sealed envelope, leaving the envelope itself unmarked.
In other words, letterpress.

great_seal_wafer_after.jpg

Great Seal of the United States [wikipedia]
The Great Seal of the United States [state.gov, pdf]
Related/who knew?: Historically, great seals are signs of sovereignty, while seals and the deliberate ritual of making them have had added legal significance.

February 14, 2011

Richter's Balls, Regrets

So I'm reading along in my new copy of Gerhard Richter: Writings 1961-2007--which is pretty awesome, and which does appear to supersede the artist's previous collected writings, The Daily Practice of Painting, which is good to know, but really, what to do with all this information?--and I come across this discussion of glass and mirrors and readymades in a 1993 interview with Hans Ulrich Obrist, and I'm like, holy crap!

When did you first use mirrors?
In 1981, I think, for the Kunsthalle in Dusseldorf. Before that I designed a mirror room for Kasper Koenig's Westkunst show, but it was never built. All that exists is the design--four mirrors for one room.

The Steel Balls were also declared to be mirrors
It's strange about those Steel Balls, because I once said that a ball was the most ridiculous sculpture that I could imagine.

If one makes it oneself.
Perhaps even as an object, because a sphere has this idiotic perfection. I don't know why I now like it.

Richter's mirror Steel Balls? Whew, never mind, they turn out--I think--to be Kugelobjekt, 1970, these odd, little postcard-sized objects, three steel ball bearings suspended in plexiglass in a shadowboxed photo of a staircase.

richter_steel_balls_1970.jpg
Kugelobjekt I, 1970, image: gerhard-richter.com

And anyway, on the next page, Richter explains how all the work on the dimensions and framing and installation of 4 Panes of Glass meant it's "not a readymade, any more than Duchamp's Large Glass is," when he goes,

At one point I nearly bought a readymade. It was a motor-driven clown doll, about 1.5 metres tall, which stood up and then collapsed into itself. It cost over 600 DM at that time, and I couldn't afford it. Sometimes I regret not having bought that clown.

You would have exhibited it just like that, as an uncorrected readymade?
Just like that. There are just a few rare cases when one regrets not having done a thing, and that's one of them. Otherwise, I would have forgotten it long ago.

And I'm like, the clown! the clown! I swear, I'd written about it before, but I can't find it anywhere. And then I realize I'd written about it for the NY Times in 2005.

Previous most ridiculous sculptures I could imagine: The International Prototype Kilogram or Le Grand K, and the Avogadro Project

UPDATE:, uh, no. Richter has more balls than I thought.

michael_wolf_world_press.jpg

Michael Wolf thought he would be provoking a heated response when he entered four of his series of Google Street View photos in the World Press Photo competition, and he was right. The "A Series of Unfortunate Events" project was awarded honorable mention in the Contemporary Issues category, and some folks are kind of freaking out about it.

At least that's how the issue is being framed by the British Journal of Photography, who spoke with Wolf:

The work, he tells BJP, is his own. "I use a tripod and mount the camera, photographing a virtual reality that I see on the screen. It's a real file that I have, I'm not taking a screenshot. I move the camera forward and backward in order to make an exact crop, and that's what makes it my picture. It doesn't belong to Google, because I'm interpreting Google; I'm appropriating Google. If you look at the history of art, there's a long history of appropriation."
I love that: "The work, he tells BJP, is his own."

wolf_worldpress_copyright.jpg

Appropriation's all well and good, but the art history of rephotography is hardly controversy-free: folks like Sherrie Levine and Richard Prince have both faced the IP wrath of their subjects' original photographers.

But it's interesting that Wolf finds his ownership and authenticity in such a contested process as rephotography, though, considering that it was not previously stated or clear.

And when he praises the World Press jury for making "such a conceptual leap," he's not referring to this appropriation strategy, but to recognizing "someone that photographs virtually." Except that he's so emphatic about not photographing virtually.

I'm sure it's bold, and I'm sure it is a lot of conceptualism for the photojournalism system to handle, but it sounds like Wolf wants it both ways. He insists his finger on the button preserves his photojournalistic credibility, and there's no doubt that the Series of Unfortunate Events images he submitted have powerful composition, content, and emotion. As I said before, they look

like archetypal on-the-scene photojournalism, only stripped by any news or context other than place. Though Wolf himself eliminates any place specifics or links, leaving each image to stand on its own.
By completely decoupling these images from their context, from their most basic metadata, even, Wolf is not creating photojournalism, he's subverting it. He's finding the images photographers would die to shoot, and then tossing out even the incomplete scraps of geospatial information Google provides for them. Even as he delivers the compelling visual goods, Wolf has obliterated not just the idea that these photographs "mean" something; he's undermined the photographer's traditional authoritative role as a witness to the events in his images.

What Wolf is doing is not photojournalism, it is art, art that calls the whole construct of photojournalism into question. No wonder the shutterbugs are pissed.

I'm still surprised to not hear more critical awareness of Google's role here. If anything, Matt Lutton's defense of Wolf's photographic chops seems to wilfully ignore the aesthetic and conceptual implications of Google's project:

Since everything is photographed in Google Street View, nothing is. It's a mirror with no intention, art, journalism, or perspective. The photographer, by choosing what he makes a screenshot of (and we'd be fine with this winning if he only made screenshots, by the way) is making the photographs, framing them, choosing what to show. Google did none of those things. Even a screen-grab, if you are composing and choosing a moment, is a photograph.
Anyway, kudos to Wolf, sympathies to the photojournalists, I'll just be on my way.

World Press Photo: Is Google Street View photojournalism? [bjp-online.com]
Some thoughts on Google Street View and World Press Photo [dvafoto.com via @nancyproctor]

Michael Wolf's website [photomichaelwolf.com]
my Google Art Project, part 1

Previously: Michael Wolf, Street View Photographer
White House News Photographers Upset At Staged Photos They Don't Take

rauschenberg_broadside.jpg

A couple of weeks ago, while stopping by the symposium attached to the National Portrait Gallery's "Hide/Seek" exhibition, I saw a huge, intriguing Robert Rauschenberg work, Visual Autobiography, in the lobby of the Patent Building auditorium.

rr_broadside_ladder.jpg

I noticed it immediately because, hello, there was Bob rollerskating with the parachute/umbrella contraption on his back, just like he'd done at the Pop Art Festival in Washington in 1963.

But I'd also recognized the project from mentions in the various Rauschenberg-related archives I've been diving into lately; Visual Autobiography was made in 1968 by Broadside Art, Inc., a company the artist co-founded with Marian Javits [wife of Sen. Jacob Javits] to bring big, billboard-sized print technology into the service of artists.

rr_broadside_at_home.jpg

The brochure for Visual Autobiography, which consists of three 4x5' offset lithographs, shows them installed in various, improbable ways that might have pointed out the limitations of the market: vertically, with Bob, dressed like The Music Man, standing next to them on a ladder; vertically, in a pre-war apartment, where they obviously don't fit, crawling up the wall and onto the ceiing; and horizontally, likely the only way they'd ever make it out of the tube.

The prints were published in a signed edition of 2000 [!] for just $150/set, $50 more for canvas backing "so it can be hung just as it was at the Whitney Museum," and sold via direct mail by Rand McNally. [Even today, they provide a lot of Rauschenberg bang for your buck; a full set sold at Christie's last December for just $5,000.]

rr_broadside_jj_flag.jpg

Anyway, though it's called Visual, the center panel consists of a textual bio of the artist, spiraling out from a family snapshot. To read it through requires an odd/amusing bobbing and swaying that must have pleased Bob the Dancer. But right in the center, top of the circle, as easy to read as it's gonna get, it says, "Jasper Johns lived in the same building and had just painted his first flag."

UPDATE: The Broadside Art venture's debut at the Whitney, which is the ladder photo above, was covered in the New York Times; Hilton Kramer hated it. He also predicted that the market-baiting stunt would succeed wildly. As in so many other things, though, Kramer was mistaken. If Broadside ever did another edition, I can't find it. And Mrs Javits still had copies of the print to give away in 1977, almost a decade later. For all that, though, it turns out Milton Glaser and Clay Felker were also partners in the company. So much light, so little heat.

Here's a detailed writeup of Autobiography from a 2009 exhibition at Kean University [kean.edu]

February 11, 2011

Goodbye Janette Laverrière

I'd say, "Adieu" or "Au revoir," but Janette Laverrière was as fierce an atheist as she was a communist, designer, and artist. So I'll just say I'm slow and sad to learn that Laverrière died last month at the age of, what, 101?

laverriere_rockers_rago.jpg

I first learned of Laverrière's work way too late, too; I saw some wrought iron furniture she'd designed in the 1930s at auction about six years ago. She was a remarkable, politically committed designer in an antagonistic, elitist French decorating world, where men and the richest clients set the agenda.

laverriere_commune.jpg
La commune (hommage à Louise Michel), 2001

The 2001 work, La commune (hommage à Louise Michel), includes a cherry-shaped mirror fragment in a rosewood box, with an iron lid peppered with what appear to be bullet holes.

As Laverriere plumbs history for her references, history is catching up, slowly, with her legacy. In 2008, the Iranian artist Nairy Baghramian collaborated with Laverrière on a very subtle exhibition at the 5th Berlin Biennial, where Laverrière's sculptures were installed in Baghramian's carefully calibrated architectural space. Baghramanian also included Laverriere's mirrored sculptural works in a 2008 exhibition at the Kunstverein in Aachen.

Laverrière discussed the switch from design to sculpture in a 2009 interview with Vivian Rehberg in Frieze:

VR Is there a link between utility and uselessness?
JL Of course. It's useful to have useless things.
VR Precisely - I agree.
JL So, I started anew by thinking about the oldest thing I could remember being inspired by. When I was 17, I really loved Jean Cocteau; I read a lot of his works. In 1989, I wanted to pay homage to him on the centenary of his birthday. So there I was in bed, thinking: I am not going to do anything useful anymore, I do not want to, I cannot, so I will do useless things. All of sudden, a new world opened up for me
And the Pompidou has acquired an interesting piece from 1952, a suspended secretary, made from steel and Formica, which is currently on view in Elles, an exhibition of work in the collection by female artists.

Centre Pompidou /// Univers Industriel /// Janette Laverrière
Secretaire suspendue, 1952, image via batir au feminin's flickr


Bhagramian's obituary for Laverriere [frieze.com]
Rooms No One Lives In, Katarina Burin's review of the Biennial show [thehighlights.org]
Use Value | Laverriere talks to Frieze [frieze.com]
short video: Portraits de Femmes Artistes - Janette Laverriere [ina.fr]

February 11, 2011

Exodus, 1997, Steve McQueen

exodus_steve_mcqueen.jpg

One of my absolute favorite Steve McQueen films is one of the first ones I saw, a one-minute super-8 called Exodus.

But until now, I'd never heard the making of story of this found scene. According to Carol Kino's profile of the artist last winter, McQueen became interested in film at Goldsmith's:

On the advice of a teacher he took to carrying around a Super 8 camera. But because film was so expensive, he rarely used it; he only shot a single, three-minute piece, part of which showed two black men carrying potted palms along a crowded East London street.
The Times incorrectly dates the piece to 2007, but it was included in McQueen's first US show at Marian Goodman in 1997.

Just a beautiful piece of seeing.

February 10, 2011

Any Ignoramus In The Universe

bryanthepainter_picasso.jpg
Wall Text from MoMA's Picasso Guitars show, via @bryanthepainter

I've been loving Bryan's tweets of the various pullquotes in MoMA's incredible Picasso Guitars show, but none more than this one from Andre Salmon in 1919, where Picasso apparently invented and ignored the kind of instruction-based art that Moholy Nagy's Telephone Paintings--and Judd's outsourced fabrications--would later become famous for.

Here's the full quote:

I have seen what no man has seen before. When Pablo Picasso, leaving aside painting for a moment, was constructing this immense guitar out of sheet metal whose plans could be dispatched to any ignoramus in the universe who could put it together as well as him, I saw PIcasso's studio. [It was] more chimerical than Faust's laboratory. This studio, which certain people may claim contained no work of art in the old sense, was furnished with the newest of objects. All the discernible forms surrounding me appeared absolutely new. I had never seen such new things before. [Before that] I did not know what a new subject could be.
Picasso Guitars: 1912-1914 opens this weekend at MoMA [moma.org]

Related: "Idiots can do what I do." - Gerhard Richter

February 10, 2011

Spies Like Us

SimonMenner_Stasi.jpg
Demonstration from a STASI disguise workshop, via Simon Menner

If Germany's a little touchy about Google's Street View panopticon, maybe it has something to do with how, for the last half of the last century, half the country was obsessively spying on each other.

At Conscientious, Simon Menner writes about his utterly fascinating look at the visual and photographic legacy of the STASI.

Things Magazine on Menner's project: "The aesthetic appreciation of banality is very much a luxury of free democracy." Ouch.

Simon Menner | Images from the secret STASI Archives [jmcolberg via c-monster]

johns_flag_moma.jpg
Flag, 1954-55, via moma

The creation myth for Jasper Johns' Flag is well-known, and well-told. Like Leo Castelli's story of discovering Johns' groundbreaking oeuvre, fully formed, while he and Rauschenberg were raiding the icebox, and how Johns' first show in 1958 got on magazine covers, sold out to MoMA, destroyed Abstract Expressionism and ushered in Pop Art. MoMA's wall text for Flag [which Alfred H. Barr had Philip Johnson purchase from that show] begins:

"One night I dreamed that I painted a large American flag," Johns said, "and the next morning I got up and I went out and bought the materials to begin it."
It came in a dream. It's a protean story, quintessentially American, slightly romantic, and beyond the reach of anyone but [Freudians, Jungians, and] the artist himself. And that's the key: because unfalsifiable is not the same thing as definitive, or even true.

In the opening of her 1975 dissertation, published in 1985 as Jasper Johns' Paintings and Sculptures, 1954-1974, Roberta Bernstein takes a researcher's step back:

When asked about the sources of Flag, 1954-55, Johns answers that he dreamt one night of painting a large American flag and then proceeded to do so. He has said this several times and will offer no other explanation for the appearance of this remarkable painting.
In the footnotes, Bernstein cites Alan R. Solomon's catalogue for Johns' 1964 Jewish Museum show, as well as several personal retellings.

But check out this transcript of Solomon interviewing Johns in 1966 for National Educational Television's USA Artists Series. Then tell me if it doesn't sound like there could be another story--or several--for the origin of the flags?

February 8, 2011

Mientras Tanto En Mexico,

While poking around online about Tate Modern's version of the Gabriel Orozco retrospective, I found this rather incredible letter from 2009, written, apparently by Orozco himself, to his dealer Jose Kuri. The letter is an ostensibily-but-not-really private round in an ongoing, public, critical battle for some kind of primacy within the Mexican art world.

Orozco defends and praises his own success and innovation--to his own dealer--while slamming both other artists [cough, Santiago Sierra, Francis Alys] and their critic/curatorial champions [Cuauhtémoc Medina, who I will be adding to the greg.org art pronunciation list shortly.]

Anyway, this kind of veiled subtexts with an apparent academic impartiality and a deficient documentation, derive from a cheap historicism, where the talent of the individual to understand his/her moment, and to do the things that he feels like it and with it finding new art for life and for the work, will never be the reason for his success. If anything, it can seem incredible to those Mexicans, that a co-national has innovated and influenced other artists in the world, which, although is not mentioned -in the breakdown of the ingredients for my success-, is a measure and perhaps the main reason for the success of my work in this years. Novelty, not exoticism, is what makes fortune. And the one that makes something before the others becomes an essential reference point. Success came after the creation of something new... which was successful.
Wow, OK. I have been a diehard fan of Orozco's work for almost 20 years now; I still see him as having a formative influence on my eye, and on the whole way I see the world in relation to art. Or to his art. And maybe I just don't/can't appreciate the nationalist/politicized context in which this debate is occurring.

But I'm trying to come up with examples of other artists who aren't Julian Schnabel who take such on the record personal affront. I guess Rob Storr loves to deal out the smackdowns, too. Anyway, the Centre For The Aesthetic Revolution has the whole thing. Definitely check it out.

GABRIEL OROZCO 'THE SECRET OF HIS MIRACULOUS SUCCESS' A LETTER TO HIS GALLERIST IN DEFENSE OF SOME OF HIS CRITICS [centrefortheaestheticrevolution]

Also from the Centre For The Aesthetic Revolution, word that the Hotel Palenque has finished the renovations, and is open for business. This apparently happened some time between Robert Smithson's drunken slide lecture about it in 1972 and the arrival of the Google Street View coche.

klein_ex-voto_cascia.jpg
Sister Andreina holding Yves Klein's ex-voto for Santa Rita di Cascia in 1999, photo: David Bordes

I get the sense that in the contemporary art world, an artist's religiosity or spirituality is often perceived as an obstacle, an eccentricity to be indulged when they're around, but to be politely ignored in serious discussion. That goes for John McCracken, Anne Truitt, Marina Abramovic, a bunch of others, I'm sure, and the one who made me think of it just now: Yves Klein. When the artist's widow Rotraut Klein-Moquay spoke at the Hirshhorn Museum's retrospective last spring, it was clear that she was operating on a different, more spiritually attuned plane than the show's clearly uncomfortable curator, Kerry Brougher. [Though watching Brougher, his co-curator Philippe Vergne, and the Klein Archive's David Moquay at the Walker a few months later, exasperated interruption may be the only way to get a word in edgewise with the rambling Moquays.]

Anyway, Vergne takes it all in stride. In an interview with the Walker's Julie Caniglia, he tells about securing the loan of one of the most interesting and unusual pieces in the retrospective, a 1961 ex-voto which Klein left at the monastery of Santa Rita di Cascia. It's like a little retrospective in a box, a boite en valise.

Julie Caniglia

Speaking of striving, you literally went out of your way so that Ex-Voto would be a part of the exhibition. Can you talk about how this loan was carried out?

Vergne

Klein made an extraordinary gesture with this artwork and that's reflected in how it's treated by the monastery. I don't think the Mother Superior would have allowed it to leave the convent without a meeting with one of the exhibition organizers. She was basically saying to us curators, "If you really want this work of art, you're going to have to come and tell me why. It cannot be treated as one more object. You're not going to just send a loan form, you're going to have to come and sweat a little bit because this object is extremely important."

On the other hand, she was kind enough to meet me at a cloistered convent in Rome so I wouldn't have to make the long drive to her convent at Cascia. We were in a little room accessible to visitors, but divided wall-to-wall by a table: one side for guests and the other for nuns. They brought me coffee and cookies. Through a translator, we entered this conversation talking about Klein's work and how important it was to have the Ex-Voto in the exhibition. Then we read the entire loan document word for word, all of the details about insurance and transport, everything. It was really like a ritual. Then we had a conversation about immaterial sensibility.

I also got to tell her a story about the well-known Leap into the Void photo--how the house that Klein leapt from outside Paris later became a church dedicated to Saint Rita, through absolutely no relationship with Klein. I thought this was extraordinary, but she said, "No, it's normal." I thought she meant for Klein, but she said, "No, for him," pointing her finger to the sky.

Before I met with the Mother Superior I got to see a part of the convent closed off to the public where some absolutely gorgeous 13th-century frescoes were being restored. That, too, became part of the Yves Klein exhibition for me. I see it as an example of Klein's immaterial sensibility: I am made of all these little layers of experience, which came together in the making of the exhibition.

Saint Rita is known as the patron saint of lost causes, and was a favorite object of Klein's devotion and ritualistic interest. He apparently made the ex-voto while experiencing something like painter's block, and he left it during one of several pilgrimages to Cascia. It was only discovered in 1980, during a renovation at the monastery following an earthquake. It was included in the Centre Pompidou's 2006 retrospective, but it will return to Cascia after the Klein exhibition closes at the Walker this weekend. Pilgrims, your time is running out.

Yves Klein and the patron saint of lost causes [walkerart.org, thanks to Matt at RO/LU]

tate_google_art_cctv.jpg

Now we're getting somewhere. James Davis was Tate Britain's pointman for the Google Art Project, and he gives an interesting behind-the-scenes account of getting locked in the museum with the Street View Cart overnight:

[It] seemed to me to be a marvellous combination of garden-shed and cutting-edge.

The trolley was not simple. It had lasers and cameras and GPS and all sorts. You could not stand in its view, for fear of being captured. Yet it could see you, left right, up down, back and forth and everywhere in between. So it must be operated by a squirrel (a trained man with a perfectly shaped back) who hides in its visual wake and guides it through the rooms.

Of course, Davis accidentally [sic] found his way into a shot. He's the one with the blurred head.

Google Art Project: Behind the Scenes
Trolleys in the Gallery
[blog.tate.org.uk]
Previously: Street View and "accidental" self-portraiture

Isamu Noguchi's Akari lamps have been manufactured at the Ozeki Lantern Company in Gifu, Japan since 1951. They are contructed from paper and bamboo using the traditional techniques for which Gifu's lanternmakers are famous. In Japan. [via @freduarte via @langealexandra]

This is so awesome, watching this process makes me want to use it somehow.

Also, I lived in Gifu for a while, just after Noguchi exhibited his Akari lamps in the US Pavilion at the 1986 Venice Biennale. Not that I knew what a Biennale was at the time, of course. The Noguchi Museum re-created the Venice installation in 2009.

From the Ozeki site, it looks like there was a massive, room-filling Akari sphere at Venice? I can't tell, but none of the other photos I can find seem to show such a thing. The largest size for sale these days is the 120A, which is around 4' [or 120cm?] in diameter. Which looks smaller than the Akari in the stairwell of the Noguchi Museum, right?

noguchi_apt_akari.jpg

And smaller than the one in Noguchi's own apartment, which he set up across the street from the museum, an interesting-sounding private space that was mostly dismantled, but not irreparably destroyed, when Fred Bernstein called for its restoration in 2004. Waitaminnit, Jonathan Marvel of Rogers Marvel is Buckminster Fuller's grandnephew?

Noguchi's Unknown Home [interiordesign.net]

February 6, 2011

Frog Design X Louis Vuitton?

My German--including my German retyping into Google Translate--is not good enough for me to tell if they ever actually came to market, but it sure sounds like Frog Design created these Kevlar and leather luggage pieces for Louis Vuitton in 1983:

frog_vuitton_form1983.jpg

Frogdesign profile, in Form 104 [form.de]

Thumbnail image for greg_binnenhof-40.jpg

Sometimes I can't tell when something is obvious, or when it's just obvious to me.

But whichever this was, the idea came to me as soon as I figured out that the unidentified guy who was photographed at least 62 times in Google Street View's mapping of the Binnenhof in The Hague was almost certainly a Google employee and not, in fact, a tourist who happened upon the Google Trike, figured out what it was up to, and followed along, quietly but persistently inserting himself into the company's massively ambitious effort to map, photograph, and simulate the entire world.

Obviously, someone should quietly but persistently insert himself into the company's massively ambitious effort to map, photograph, and simulate the entire world. And if the algorithms that stitch those panoramas together are going to erase everything but the top of that guy's head, it might as well be me.

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Google Trike and Google Guide at Kasteeltuinen, the Netherlands

Not to say that the Binnenhof Walking Man didn't plan and execute his awesome portrait series--an inside job--but just to make sure, it's important to re-create it by following a Google Trike somewhere. But where? Google's been using the Trike as a non-threatening promotional tool, running contests to gin up excitement about where it should roll next. So anywhere the company would be likely to go on its own is already, by definition, a somewhat compromised artistic context.

And just angling to get your picture on Street View's no good, either. There are plenty of people who ambush the Street View camera, or who react to or engage it, whether as an act of protest or "Look, ma, I'm on TV!" giddiness.

streetview_wave_smh.jpg
man with panda puppet, others waving at the Street View car in Sydney [via smh]

So it would need to be an art context. That's a Google Trike no-brainer, or at least Google Trike-compatible. Ideally, it's interesting in its own right, spatially, architecturally. If it had some spiraling and doubleback elements that could help replicate the atemporal incongruities of Walking Man's walk around the Binnenhof. Is it obvious yet?

brant_orbits_gugg_nyt.jpg
Henry Brant's "Orbits" performed in the Guggenheim rotunda in 2009 [via nyt]

The real problem I saw for taking the Google Trike into the Guggenheim and up the ramp was neither logistics nor permissions. The Google Trike's first outing was offroad, on far rougher, steeper terrain than Frank Lloyd Wright's rotunda would offer. And the Guggenheim has obviously made itself available for artists' productions, from Matthew Barney to Vanessa Beecroft to Francesco Vezzoli.

guggenheim_blurred.jpg
via newyorkinfrench.net

Even curatorially, the obstacles did not seem insurmountable. In 2010 Nancy Spector launched Intervals, a site-specific projects series that was inspired by, among other programs, Hans Ulrich Obrist's Migrateurs projects at the Musee d'Art Moderne in Paris. In a 2009 interview Spector did with Sarah Hromack, she tapped one of my formative memories of the Museum:

SH: It's a compelling space. Frank Lloyd Wright tucked many interesting details into the museum's tertiary areas; they are so easily overlooked.

NS: The triangular staircase, for instance, is a beautiful space. It has been rarely used by artists-in fact only twice if I recall correctly: in theanyspacewhatever exhibition Douglas Gordon installed his phrases in the stairwell. And Felix Gonzalez-Torres installed one of his light strings in 1995.

She went on to describe Intervals as interesting artistic responses to "situations that could be perceived as marginal." Forget marginal; there's nothing more marginal than not appearing in the museum in the first place. I figured that the best way to execute Walking Man was to not exhibit it at all, but just to let it appear, and be found organically on Street View itself. No announcement, no press release, no opening; one day it's just there to be discovered.

And that is where I was confounded. The biggest obstacle I saw was persuading Google to ever be interested in adding the interior of any building--even one as awesome and iconic as the Guggenheim--to Street View.

guggenheim slope
via keithbradley's flickr

When I went to the YouTube Play event at the Guggenheim last fall, I'd discussed a bit of this with Spector, and later, when talking about the Binnenhof series with a Google PR, I floated the idea of bringing the Trike up the ramp. In retrospect, now that I know the Google Art Project was well under way, and Street View images from 17 museums were already in the can, her bemused and slightly cagey responses make more sense.

Guggenheim Museum
via rhino8888's flickr

So now the idea's out there, but the context is somewhat changed. Seeing the Guggenheim's rotunda on Street View would now generate less surprise than it would have a couple of weeks ago. But the modernist, curved abstractions and planes would still make for the most spectacular interior on Street View. Better than Versailles, you ask? Well, let's put the Gugg on there and find out!

streetview_versailles.jpg
Oh look, there's the guy pushing the Street View camera through the Hall of Mirrors!

And it really is and should be about the space. The other idea that seemed crucial to me was shooting the rotunda empty, focusing on the architecture [and avoiding the rights clearance issues that blurred half the artworks on MoMA's Street View foray.] That means mapping while the rotunda is closed for deinstallation of a show. Have it full of crates, or workers--populate the panos with the staff themselves, make it a [blurred out] portrait of the Museum as an organization and a network as much as a space.

Anyway, that's the idea.

walking man - a self-portrait collaboration with Google Street View

Here's the introductory text I wrote last Spring for Walking Man - A Collaborative Self-Portrait With Google Street View. I made some proofs, but I'm still figuring out the best size. If I do decide to publish it, I may polish up the title a bit.

And I'll probably revise it. Street View's imagery and technique seems to me to turn a lot of critical thinking about photography on its head, but as much as the theoretical implications fascinate me, every time I start writing about them, I feel like a poseur.

As ongoing enhancements and even promotional stunts like Google Art Project affirm, Google executives are working to make Street View the primary tool for us "visual animals," a browser for the physical world. Robert Smithson wrote about studying massive infrastructures like dams to discover "unexpected aesthetic information." Google is creating the most massive visual infrastructure project right now, and it is chock full of unexpected visual information.

mauritshuis_portrait1.jpg

Last February, I realized that the subject of this awesome, distorted Google Street View portrait was not just a random pedestrian. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people around the world have been photographed once by Google's roving, robotic cameras. This guy appears at least 63 times.

greg_binnenhof-01.jpg
binnenhof 01, all images 2010

your_cairo_project.jpg
Hannibal Hanschke/dpa/picture-alliance/newscom via tpm

Believe me, I've tried, but I can't look at this photo of protestors under a sodium streetlamp in Cairo and not see Olafur Eliasson's 2003 Turbine Hall installation, The Weather Project.

the weather project 2 2003
image via mark barkaway's flickr

I don't often hear Olafur's work discussed in political or ideological terms. After all, there's plenty else to say about it, whether its about aesthetics, perception, experimentalism, geometry, decorativeness, even the market. When his work's theoretical underpinnings are mentioned, it's pretty easy to nod them away as curatorial rationalization or as quaint indulgence that's somehow dissonant with the work's beauty.

It's probably indicative of art's debased compartmentalization in the public sphere: art is a commodity, a luxury good, a genteel entertainment, a diversion, anything but a valid or viable or even important or vital participant in matters of power, politics, and culture. [The fact that half the presentations at the College Art Association conference next week will be about art in relation to precisely these forces confirms the larger-scale marginalization of art as much as the live TV broadcast of the Turner Prize announcement.]

But there's a deep, critical aspect to Olafur's practice--I hesitate to call it a foundation, because it seems more intertwined, more pervasive. His exploration of the constructs nature and culture, of the function of institutions, and of subjectivity and individual responsibility are almost radically democratic.

Though I haven't finished it yet, I took the title for this post from Olafur's 2006 exhibition catalogue Your Engagement Has Consequences, where he argues that time and individual autonomy, a combination he rolls up as "Your Engagement Sequence," are largely missing from but central to the discourse of art and modernity--and to the construction of reality itself. I guess I'll read up and report back.

On a more fundamental level, though, I think of how crucial context is to underscoring, altering, or neutering a work's political implications. I try to imagine restaging earlier [i.e., pre-Sept. 11] Olafur works like Green River, where the non-famous artist dumped, unannounced, fluorescent dye tracer into various urban rivers. It just seems impossible. [The Cleveland-based blogger at Critic Under The Influence writes very nicely about Green River and its context of uncertainty. Can you even imagine the firestorm if you staged Green River on the Cuyahoga? Maybe firestorm is not the best word.]

Previously: Olafur & Dada: What he really wants to do is not direct

rauschenberg_no1_cage.jpg

I took the kid to see Merce Cunningham Dance Company's Legacy Tour the other night. And as I'm reading up on the funding of the Trust that will oversee Merce's choreography after the company disbands, I found a mention of Robert Rauschenberg's No. 1, a 1951 black painting which was sold after Merce's death in 2009. Fascinating and, as I look at Bob's unusual collaborative combine from a few years later, newly complex.

No. 1 was a gift to John Cage, which sounds simpler than it was. Cage had seen Rauschenberg's first one-man show at Betty Parson's Gallery in May 1951, and had asked for a work. As Christie's catalogue entry put it, "The price, he said, was unimportant as he couldn't pay anything. It was in this way and in this form that this painting first entered Cage's possession." As Carol Vogel put it in writing about the auction, Rauschenberg didn't give the painting to Cage until "some years later." But that can't be right, as we'll see below.

What No. 1 looked like at that point, no one is able to recall. Whatever it was, Rauschenberg had actually painted it onto a painting by his wife, Susan Weil. Vogel notes that Weil's signature, and the date, 1951, are on the back of the painting, as is Rauschenberg's. [Christie's catalogue description only mentions the latter.]

This may have been an economic move as much as, if not more than, a collaborative or negating one. At the time, Rauschenberg and Weil were broke, using cheap blueprint paper to make photograms in the bathtub of their basement apartment on the Upper West Side. Here's his recollection of the situation from his 1976 Smithsonian catalogue:

This period was exciting and prolific even if quality was erratic. We were both doing a minimum of five works a day. Clyfford Still came to the house to select a show with Betty Parsons. I was so naive and excited that by the time of the opening several months later, the selected show had been painted over dozens of times, and was a completely different concept. Betty was surprised.
Surprise became the operative mode for No. 1. After Cage got it, Rauschenberg was staying at Cage's apartment while his loft was being fumigated for bedbugs, and he surprised/thanked the composer by painting over No. 1 with black enamel and collaging it with black-painted newspaper. According to Michael Kimmelman's obit for Rauschenberg, "When Cage returned, he was not amused."

Christie's says this happened "a year or so later," but Kimmelman says "As Mr. Rauschenberg liked to tell the story," it was right after the Parsons show, which closed June 2nd. Rauschenberg and Weil's son Christopher was born in July. And according to his 1976 chronology, he/they went to Black Mountain College in the "early part of the fall."

But the Black Paintings, which seem to have followed the White Paintings, are dated as late 1951-1952. [Kimmelman reverses them, but Hopps's catalogue quotes an October 1951 letter from Bob to Parsons talking about them as faits accomplis. I thought Kenneth Silverman's John Cage bio Begin Again might help, but it is hopelessly inaccurate about dates for Rauschenberg's works, and he doesn't seem that interested in chronologies, either. He jumbles events from several years into single paragraphs, or omits dates altogether. And he doesn't mention the bedbug thing at all. But anyway. I think the Black Paintings come to a hard stop in 1952. Rauschenberg was back at BMC in the summer when his white paintings were included in Cage's formative Theater Piece #1 and subsequently contributed to Cage's composition of 4'33". Then he left for Europe that fall with Cy Twombly, leaving his soon-to-be-ex-wife and son behind.]

And so, perhaps unsurprisingly, the details and reported dates and circumstances of paintings created during this rather complicated time are themselves rather complicated.
A comment the artist made to Calvin Tomkins in 1980 about the Black Paintings seems apt:

"I was interested in getting complexity without their revealing much. In the fact that there was much to see but not much shown."
But wait, there's more!
This famous painting was subsequently again modified in 1985, when, it had become in need of some restoration. Rauschenberg chose to paint it completely all over in black again and bestowed upon it an accompanying note referring to the, by this time, historic and continuing dialogue that Cage and Rauschenberg had then enjoyed in both their art and their lives for over thirty years. The note reads: "This is part of the history of this single canvas - I hope the dialogue continues for many more years. I will if John dares, love Bob Rauschenberg."
While it's tough for the collector--or the auction house--who wants their 1951 painting to look old, the conception of a canvas as a constant site of activity, dialogue, and collaboration is pretty fascinating.

As Rauschenberg said of Short Circuit in 1967, when he showed it for the first time in over a decade:

This collage is a documentation of a particular event at a particular time and is still being affected. It is a double document.
Double and then some. Short Circuit, of course, included a program from an early Cage concert [which I'm trying to identify, btw] and a painting by Weil, though in 1967-8, the painting was hidden behind a nailed-shut cabinet door. [There was also that Ray Johnson collage, which contains a reproduction of a Renaissance nude.]

Anyway, I would think that with current imaging technologies, it would be possible, if not trivial, to examine Rauschenberg's No. 1 for traces of the three paintings it used to be. Perhaps such an investigation could be combined with a closer reconstruction of the pivotal period in which it was created. As Rauschenberg himself put it, there is much to see, but not much shown.

Though to a guy making something called Atlas in his spare time it still probably feels pretty empty and limited, Gerhard Richter's website is pretty expansive. Via Twitter, we learn that his web elves have just added a quotes section, most of which is taken from Gerhard Richter: Text. Writing, Interviews and Letters 1961-2007 (2009), the UK edition of the artist's second collection of writings, both of which were edited by Hans Ulrich Obrist.

I was about to bit the bullet and buy the expensive, out-of-print The Daily Practice of Painting: Writings 1962-1993 when the new edition came out, and I've hesitated, waiting to see how or if the two volumes overlap. So far, I've seen nothing; I guess I'll have to pigeonhole Hans-Ulrich at the next global 24-hr art lecture marathon.

Meanwhile, I went ahead and bought Gerhard Richter: Writings 1961 - 2007, the US edition, so I'm just a couple of days away from seeing whether this awesome quote about blurring from 1964-5 [!] is, in fact, on page 33:

I blur things to make everything equally important and equally unimportant. I blur things so that they do not look artistic or craftsmanlike but technological, smooth and perfect. I blur things to make all the parts a closer fit. Perhaps I also blur out the excess of unimportant information.

google_holbein_natgal.jpg

Nice, someone on the Google Art Project has a sense of art historical awareness, or at least a sense of humor. The gallery included in the British National Gallery contains Hans Holbein the Younger's painting The Ambassadors, which is famous for containing an anamorphically distorted skull in the foreground.

Which is similar to the distorting effects created by stitching panos together in Google Street View. They can launch pictures of paintings in virtual museums all they want, but the truth is, we've been living in Google's Art Project for quite a while now.

mauritshuis_portrait1.jpg

Previously: "Google's Cubist-meets-Robert Lazzarini-meets-Julia Scher-meets Hans Holbein the Younger portrait style."

UPDATE: Oh boy, it looks like I could surf this all day. The Rijksmuseum's selection for Google Art Project is the gallery with Rembrandt's Night Watch, which is like the National Painting of The Netherlands or whatever--and the museumshop. Where Google's distortive effects only enhance the absurdist tableau. I half expect to see Dali and some flying cats.

google_rijksmuseumshop.jpg

Alright, getting creepy now. Tate Britain's gallery shows an installation about "Art and The Sublime." It's like Google's stalking me. Is this some hypertargeted web content 3.0 beta? Can anyone else actually see this Google Art Project, or is it just me?

February 1, 2011

Les Blurmoiselles d'Avignon

cezanne_moma_google.jpg

Alright, this is kind of killing me right now, not just with its awesomeness, but because I have been planning to do a very similar project, and also because like half my blog these days could be called Google Art Project, and well...

But let me agonize in private while we first praise the awesome. Google has released Street View-style navigation for galleries in seventeen major museums around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art. MoMA's only got the lobby and one room on there, the first gallery on the fifth floor, which contains Cezanne's Bather and Starry Night.

The resolution and color look awful, frankly, but who cares? It's Starry Night as you've never seen it before--in an empty gallery. But still. Check out the background, what they had to do to all the artwork in the adjacent galleries, the stuff they didn't clear the rights for:

moma_google_art_dem.jpg

That's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon there in the middle:

blurmoiselles_moma_goog.jpg

Which makes this, Picasso's Boy Leading A Horse:

picasso_boy_moma_goog.jpg

What's crazy is that whatever's hanging next to Rousseau's Sleeping Gypsy is blurred out, too. By definition, it has to be in the public domain, right? 19th century? What is it?

rousseau_moma_goog.jpg

The shoot for The Googlecam Was Present seems to have taken place almost a year ago; in the lobby, Marina's still listed as "coming soon." And they've rehung Gallery 1, there, so it'll take a little flickrdiving to figure out what that was.

UPDATE: Thanks to MoMA scout Dan Phiffer, the work is identified as Edward Munch's 1893 painting, The Storm.. [Munch died in 1944, so depending on which copyright regime applies, it may not enter the public domain until 2014. The image of the painting on MoMA's website is rather boldly claimed to be copyright 2010 by the Munch Museum.]

But meanwhile, I'm prowling the other 16 museums for more blurred material. Richter must be so pissed right now.

Previously: Blurmany and the pixelated sublime
Sherrie Levine's Meltdown series

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 2011, in reverse chronological order

Older: January 2011

Newer March 2011

recent projects, &c.


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

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

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Chop Shop
at SPRING/BREAK Art Show
curated by Magda Sawon
1-7 March 2016

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

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

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TheRealHennessy Tweets Paintings, 2014 -
about

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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

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"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.


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

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

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