April 2011 Archives

April 30, 2011

And Furnish It With Love

I want to buy this world of chairs, but this signed, dated, handmade Judd ur-chair, from Flavin's stash in Marfa, even, sold in 2003 for $60,000--and in 2007 for $29,000. At that rate, I figure by 2012, I'll be able to just pick it up from the curb.


And then this unsigned, undated, handcarved teak chair from who knows where, the knuckleheads at Rago didn't call me back about it--twice--and it ended at just $465.


Holy smokes, a Juddy stack of Coke and Pepsi cases? Is this for real, anonymous objects? Anonymous in that we don't know the name of The Master of the Atlantic City Bottling Co. $300 at Kamelot. That hurts.


Which, I guess I could make my own for less--five Coke crates at $10-30 each--autoprogettazione x Coke. Sorry, no Pepsi.

I've been so focused on generating enough empty plastic Diet Coke bottles to be recycled into a dining roomful of Emeco With Coke 111 Navy Chairs, I haven't even thought about the crates.


But seriously, I'm kind of kidding. Because as much as I'd like to close the loop and save the planet and all by turning my empties into chairs, the fact that normal Emeco chairs--recycled from cans--last 150 years, and this rPET one has a 5-year structural guarantee makes me a little uneasy. How long would one cast out of recycled glass bottles last?

April 29, 2011

The greg.org Evening Sale

Flipping through the lots for Christie's upcoming contemporary sale feels like diving into the greg.org archives. Besides the Rauschenberg combine coming out of the Ganz's closet, there's also:


a great Johns White Numbers painting (1991) by Sturtevant. This text is nice, too:

To create her paintings, Sturtevant does not copy. She does not employ grids, squares, tracing paper or cameras. She summons her memory of images to recreate and reinvent them. By obsessively utilizing the identical materials and techniques as those who came before her, Sturtevant asserts her work is not about copying or appropriation, rather, the power and autonomy of originality.
Love that, so Pierre Menard.


Tom Wesselmann's Great American Nude #21 (1961) is up for sale again, too. In her biography of DC artist and JFK mistress Mary Pinchot Meyer, author Nina Burleigh mixed up #21 with #44. It was the former, not the latter, which was the subject of some controversy in Washington when it got yanked before the opening of the 1963 Gallery of Modern Art exhibit, "The Popular Image." Burleigh said Meyer whispered about it to JFK, who laughed and kept it in. The painting in the show. But I looked it up, and no. The painting stayed out, probably because it included a nude next to an image of the sitting president. Or something. Anyway, censorship! Scandal! Sale!


And speaking of scandal and mystery, Los Angeles collector Richard Weisman is apparently selling one of his remaining sets of Warhol Athlete Series paintings, which he commissioned en masse back in the day.

They're like the set that was reported stolen from his dining room a couple of years ago. The disappearance of which prompted LAPD's art theft unit to release the awesomest wanted poster ever. Which I tried to Kickstart into production as the Find The Warhols Project, only Kickstarter and I had apparently not developed our audiences sufficiently to accept the idea of a project-as-critique. And the reward for which was discontinued anyway when Weisman decided to drop his insurance claim, because of the investigative hassle. Which art theft experts read as a sign that the theft was an interfamily job, and not the kind of thing that one likes to have reported out in all the papers if one can help it.

But it's not that set; I checked. Instead, it's the set Weisman tried to sell in China during the Olympics for $28 million. Now priced to move, with an estimate of just $4-6 million. Also, too bad the Warhols don't need finding anymore; that poster looks really sweet. Guess I'll save it for the retrospective.


rauschenberg_tower.jpgChristie's is selling The Tower, a 1957 combine by Robert Rauschenberg which Victor and Sally Ganz bought from Betty Parsons in 1976. The work is a double portrait assembled from found, painted objects and light bulbs, and was originally part of the set for a Paul Taylor Dance Company production based on the myth of Adonis. The costumes for the production were designed by Rauschenberg's partner Jasper Johns.

Did I say partner? I guess I meant neighbor. Here's Christie's quoting Paul Schimmel from his 2005 Combines exhibition catalogue:

While Rauschenberg's work does respond to the painterly traditions of the 1950s, it does so in a manner that isolates the act of painting from the complete composition. For him, painting became a thing, an object treated similarly to Assemblage in which elements were organized on a non-hierarchical surface. Rauschenberg took aspects of Picasso and the Cubist collage, Kurt Schwitters, and the Surrealism of Joseph Cornell and created a three-dimensional, collage-based art. Together with Jasper Johns, Rauschenberg defined the American art of the 1950s; Pop art would have been inconceivable without their respective breakthroughs. Incidentally, many of their most important advancements were devised when they were most closely associated, living as neighbors, during the second half of the 1950s-the period during which The Tower (1957) was created.
[emphasis added for salient points regarding Short Circuit and for WTF, respective? Incidentally? Neighbors??, respectively.]

Schimmel goes on to note that the appearance here of a broom "anticipates Jasper Johns's use of the broom in Fool's House (1962), at a time when they were no longer neighbors." Yet while he notes that "Lights and bulbs," one of the defining elements of The Tower, "recur in numerous works"--of Rauschenberg--the fact that just months later, while they were still, uh, neighborly, Johns chose a light bulb as the subject of his first sculpture goes completely unmentioned.

Light Bulb (I), 1958, Jasper Johns, image: mcasd.org

Here is Post-War & Contemporary Deputy Co-Chair Laura Paulson in a gallery talk video,

The Tower is very autobiographical, using found imagery, found objects that would give you clues to aspects of Rauschenberg's life. Rauschenberg was a gregarious, outgoing, very generous person, but he spoke often in sort of cryptic, very defined ways. And in Tower you have this sort of personage, which to me is just so perfectly Rauschenberg, you really feel this inside/outside aspect of it. And to me, that really defines how his art was: very autobiographical, giving you clues, but not necessarily the full story.
You don't say.

It's a little bit funny. One reason I've stayed so interested in Short Circuit has been the implications of finding the original Jasper Johns Flag on the creation myth of Flag itself. Because really, what would it mean if Johns' first flag painting was actually shown inside his boyfriend's combine? And he didn't even get credited for it? What if Johns' idea to paint the flag came from the same place as his idea to paint the map, Rauschenberg?

But what if it goes both ways? The Tower, Schimmel writes, dates from "the middle of Rauschenberg's Combine period, which extends roughly from 1954 to 1962." Which is, incidentally, also the period Johns and Rauschenberg were a couple. What if combines came from Johns? Or silk screening?

Or maybe it's not so simplistic or binary. Maybe "their respective breakthroughs" were collaborative? Maybe they talked through and worked through "their most important advancements" together? How does Target with Plaster Casts relate to the combines of 1955? Or how do the combines relate to Johns' object-laden paintings of the post-breakup era? What do the famously autobiographical, emotionally-charged-yet-obdurate works of these two artists reveal about each other, their life together, their production, and the culture in which they lived?

For three generations now, the art and art history worlds have been arguing for the separation of these two artists and the distinct, unknowable power of their "respective" achievements. Some day maybe we can tell the full story.

Lot 28, The Tower, 1957, est. $12,000,000-18,000,000 [christies.com]

In 1989, a group of veteran activists organized the Berkeley Art Project to create a monument marking the 25th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement. Mark Brest van Kempen's conceptual proposal won the elaborate national competition and dialogue. It is a 6-inch diameter circle of earth surrounded by a granite circle that reads, "This soil and the air space extending above it shall not be a part of any nation and shall not be subject to any entity's jurisdiction."

Remarkably, the Berkeley University administration only accepted the monument on the condition that any reference at all to the Free Speech Movement be stricken from the work and any surrounding publicity.

A podcast I'd never heard of but really like now, 99% Invisible, has the story of the Free Speech Monument, and an interview with the artist.

For added perspective, check out the 1992 statement by FSM leader Michael Rossman, who opposed the selection of a conceptualist monument--until Berkeley's president added to its conceptual power by censoring it:

If this story be remembered as part of the work, it will stand for the ages, or until a censorious jackhammer erases it from the Plaza. A century hence, our descendants may read the truth written in stone: What happened here in 1964 was so significant and so deeply contested that nearly thirty years later the university administration still would not permit faculty and students to honor its name, but instead insisted on censoring their political expression. In this perversely perfect monument to the FSM, they may read a larger truth applying far beyond the campus: that the issues opened in that conflict and era, of civil liberties and rights, had still not been resolved, but continued deeply contested.
The Invisible Monument To Free Speech [99percentinvisible.org via someone awesome I can't remember who, but probably Geoff Manaugh, since he's the subject of the previous episode]
The Berkeley Art Project, by Michael Rossman [mrossman.org]

April 27, 2011

Pass It On

In 1969, Rene Block in Berlin published Blaues Dreiecken, Blue Triangle, an instruction-based edition by Blinky Palermo. It includes a large triangular stencil, a tube of blue paint, a brush, and a print made with same.

The instruction sheet reads, "Malen Sie mit Hilfe der Schablone ein blaues Dreieck über eine Tür. Verschenken Sie dann das Original Blatt." ["With the help of the template, paint a blue triangle over a door. Then give away the original sheet."]

image: editionblockberlin.de

I wonder how often that has happened. The example shown at the Hirshhorn's Blinky Palermo retrospective still includes the original print; the tube of paint looks undepleted, and that stencil doesn't look like it was used to paint anything, including the triangle over the gallery doorway. [UPDATE: alright, I happened by the Hirshhorn again today, and took a closer look; the stencil does seem fresh, but the brush has been used at some point. And maybe the paint, too? Maybe Blinky painted each triangle print with the set itself? I hate ending everything with a question mark. This was 46/50, from Block, btw.]

All of which should surprise no one, I guess, conservators and exhibition practices being what they are.

Does anyone ever actually execute these things? Complete the artist's instructions and realize, presumably, their intentions? Or have market forces condemned these kinds of works to permanent potentiality?

A Blue Triangle sold in Berlin for EUR34,000, and though it still contained the original, giveaway print, at least it did "contain traces of use."

In 2009, artist Pierre Leguillon translated Palermo's instruction to mean "give away the stencil," and so he started just paintin' Blue Triangles over doors all over the place. [Though it doesn't appear that he used a Palermo edition, or even a stencil at all; he just taped them off. C'est complique.]

Do It Yourself (Target), 1960, Sonnabend Collection, image: MADRE

In 1960, Jasper Johns created Do It Yourself (Target), a framed drawing/diagram and collage of paint pots and brush. Given the artist, date, and that it's a unique work under glass in his dealer's collection, I would suspect that the denial of the invitation to collaborate is central to the work.


And yet, what happened to Target 1970, a mass-produced multiple similar to Do It Yourself (Target), which was included in MoMA's catalogue for a 1971 Gemini G.E.L. retrospective? Those books are occasionally misdescribed as signed Johns editions [the signature is part of the offset print], and they're offered for between $2500 and $75. Yet, even so, I've never seen one executed.

Does that mean the contingency of the void has been successfully translated to a different market segment? Or just that no one ever bothers to try to resell the "used" copies? Maybe it'd be interesting to buy a few of these Johns things, and give them to folks to execute.


Mr. Kenyon Cox expresses the views of a sound artist and a rational human being in relation to the so-called art of the cubists and the futurists in an interview reported in the Magazine Section of THE SUNDAY TIMES. The cant of these people already fills the air. We all know too well that judgment of their silliness by common-sense methods will not avail to silence them. They may all be arrant humbugs, or some of them may be weak-minded persons who really believe their unintelligible markings and scratches signify something. Mr. Cox. well says:

This is not a sudden disruption or eruption in the history of art. It is the inevitable result of a tendency which has grown stronger and stronger during the last fifty years.
We need not dwell upon this branch of a particularly painful subject. Mr. Cox really says all there is to say about cubist "art." But it should be borne in mind that this movement is surely a part of the general movement, discernible all over the world, to disrupt and degrade, if not to destroy, not only art, but literature and society, too. There is a kind of insanity extant which had its remote origin, it must be said, in the earlier developments of the democratic spirit. Its kinship to true democracy and to real freedom in thought, action, or expression, however, is slight and indefinite, but the cubists and futurists are own cousins to the anarchists in politics, the poets who defy syntax and decency, and all the would-be destroyers who with the pretense of trying to regenerate the world are really trying to block the wheels of progress in every direction.

There have been cubists and futurists in religion who have made of faith a mockery, that have their counterparts not only in politics but in all forms of art, including music, in the industrial movements and in philanthropy as well. Their only need seems to be that all that is old is bad, all that has been proved is false, all that has been cherished should be destroyed, all that is beautiful should be despised, all that is obvious should be ignored. Their power is wholly negative, they have nothing to replace the things they would exterminate.

They have no true message to impart, but there is no room, nevertheless, to doubt the potency of their appeal to many of the disheartened, embittered, and discontented, as well as the mentally ill-balanced. Of course, they will not destroy art, supplant literature with ribald nonsense, abolish economic law, or permanently retard the growth of nations. But we have no present hope that their influence will not grow and produce evil results. The mirth they cause encourages them, the ridicule they receive actually strengthens them. The only influence that can overcome them is sound education. What the cubist artists show is false art. The reasoning of their brothers in other fields is false. In fighting cubists of all sorts the trustworthy weapon is the truth. [Emphasis added.]

- A New York Times editorial, published March 16, 1913 condemning, among others, Brancusi, Duchamp, Matisse, and Rodin [nytimes.com]
Related: CUBISTS AND FUTURISTS ARE MAKING INSANITY PAY, by Kenyon Cox, National Academy of Art, March 16, 1913 [nyt]

john_r_pierce_port.jpgEveryone [sic] probably has the story tucked away in their head that science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke was the father of the communications satellite. I only recently realized, though, that satellites have, if not a thousand, then at least two fathers.

Dr. John R. Pierce
was Executive Director of Bell Labs' Research Communications Principles Division. He coined the word "transistor." And in 1955, independent of Clarke's 1945 conception of manned, geostationary satellites, Pierce published a proposal for an unmanned communications satellite.

"Orbital Radio Relays" was published in April 1955 in Jet Propulsion, by the American Rocket Society. Pierce calculated that relays in space would be useful for transoceanic communication and proposed three types:

(a) 100-foot reflecting spheres at an altitude of around 2,200 miles; (b) a 100-foot oriented plane mirror in a 24-hour orbit, at an altitude of 22,000 miles; (c) an active repeater in a 24-hour orbit.
He was concerned with maintaining proper orientation in cases (b) and (c), the geostationary orbits, and so concluded that (a), a 100-foot inflatable sphere, was the easiest, most feasible starting point.

So yes, Pierce's proposal triggered NASA's early work on Project Echo, and NASA teamed with Pierce's Bell Labs to operate it. Meanwhile, by 1960, Pierce was already well along on developing the first commercial satellite, Telstar I, which launched in 1962.

I'm kind of blown away by how much major work Pierce was involved in, but also at the breadth of his contributions and interest. And yet I'd basically never heard of him [or, rather, made the connection.] He wrote regularly for a non-expert audience on the role of technology in art, music, and literature. His 1968 collected essays is titled, Science, Art, and Communication.

But he was no technological evangelist, no Marshall McLuhan-style pop guru. And certainly not even remotely avant-garde. As far as I can tell, there were no Billy Kluver-style artist collabos for John Pierce.

Pierce opened a speech about Echo I at the Economic Club of Chicago on Dec. 8, 1960 by quoting Milton:

Sweet Echo, Sweetest nymph--
Sweet Queen of Parley, Daughter of the Sphere!
So may'st thou be translated to the skies
And give resounding grace to all Heaven's harmonies!
So even as he zeroed in on the cost and technical calcuations needed to realize them, Pierce had to have been conscious of the beauty, the aesthetic perfection, even, of the satelloons he conceived.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across an insane collection of photo negatives relating to Project Echo, including this image, of Pierce at the Palmer House hotel for the Economic Club dinner, prepping a fully functioning demo how Echo I works. Fully functioning. They are not miming; there are actual vacuum tubes and whatnot underneath that transmitter dish and the horn antenna. And of course, there's a chandelier-sized satelloon hanging from the ceiling. Dr. John R. Pierce is now my favorite performance artist, and I must collect the ephemera from his most important work.


April 26, 2011

Thomas Hirschhorn Stamps


I ♥ the fact that Switzerland had Thomas Hirschhorn make a series of stamps to mark his involvemente in the 2011 Venice Biennale almost as much as I ♥ Thomas Hirschhorn's stamps.

Stamp | Crystal of Resistance [crystalofresistance.com]

Oh, RO/LU, you are so awesome for posting this.


9 Artists/ 9 Spaces was a public art exhibit organized in 1970 for the Minnesota States Art Council, while the Walker Art Center's new building was under construction. The concept of creating temporary, site-specific works was almost unheard-of, but it's since become an international norm of public art practice. The show was organized by none other than Richard Koshalek, who was assistant curator at the Walker at the time, but who is now the director of the Hirshhorn Museum.

From a purely practical standpoint, I'm afraid Peter Eeley is right, 9 Artists/ 9 Spaces "proved in many ways a disaster." If anything, Eeley's list of problems--"works were vandalized; damaged by accident; and shut down by the police for reasons of safety, fear, and improper permitting"--completely undersells the near-total mayhem surrounding the show.

Fortunately, Peggy Weil published what is apparently the first extended history of 9 Artists/ 9 Spaces as part of a larger exploration of public art. It is truly incredible.

Just one incident: William Wegman wanted a large vertical image to be rendered in horizontal format, so he proposed a large billboard painting of Minneapolis's Foshay Tower on its side. The work, unfortunately titled What Goes Up Must Come Down, was installed on the U of M campus. Only no one notified the campus police of the project, and they freaked and called the FBI, who "showed up at Koshelek's office the next morning to inform him that they'd read it as a bomb threat and dismantled it."

Wegman himself posted about the 40-year-old show on his blog
a couple of weeks ago, after being contacted by the Walker; the billboard is apparently featured in a new tapestry created for the museum by Goshka Macuga. In fact, digging around a bit, almost the only info online about 9 Artists/ 9 Spaces seems to come from Weil and this Macuga project.

Whatever happened on the ground at the time now seems frankly awesome and entertaining; the very idea that public art could instantly provoke a wide range of heated responses seems almost quaint. But of course, such bemused hindsight requires an idealized, incomplete grasp of the political and cultural context of the show; the idea of bombings and long-term occupations of parks in St. Paul sounds positively surreal, but it happened.

The failure, really, is ours, for not remembering, knowing, studying, and learning from this rather spectacular-sounding show. Someone get me Koshalek on the horn!

Peggy Weil's history of 9 Artists/ 9 Spaces, 1970-71, organized by Martin Friedman and Richard Koshalek [linkall.com, via RO/LU, who has other links and pictures]
What Goes Up Must Come Down [wegmansworld (!!)]

Then please email me if you haven't already.

greg at greg dot org

Electronic or print, either one. Because I have something for you.

Revs & Cost in le Louvre !

Good grief. When McDonald's in the Louvre made a giant photomural wallpaper from a Jake Dobkin photo of REVS & COST tags, which was included in a Hugo Martinez book, did they bother to ask either REVS or COST or Hugo or Jake for permission? No, of course not.

They just licensed the images from the French publisher, which actually didn't have reprint rights to license. And the whole thing appears to have been settled for $800, or approximately two hours of Patrick Cariou's lawyer's time.

Revs & Cost in le Louvre [ekosystem's flickr via c-monster]

I've seen a million and one lawn ornaments without ever noticing any connection to satelloons. And then I saw this odd ball self-portrait of Edwaerd Muybridge last spring at the Corcoran [detail below], and I"m like, big shiny Victorian garden balls and satelloons!


Actually, I see it was the other way around: Muybridge was in May, and tricky photographs using mirrored balls that happened to be satellites was in March.


Anyway, that's when I realize I have no idea what they're actually called, or how to find them, because they're called something besides "those+glass+lawn+balls" or whatever. And so I start trying to figure out when I might accidentally run into our neighbor who has one, so I can ask.

Then last fall, on a trip to Amsterdam, we were walking through the antique scientific instrument district, we went into Staetshuys Antiquairs, which had some incredible and odd-looking globes and orreries in the window. And there on the edge of the mezzanine:


Big [and small] shiny balls. Thick-looking, silvered glass globes, but hanging on chains, not sitting on grass. Staetshuys's Stephan Meulendijks explained that they are called witch balls, and they served to deflect evil spirits from the windows of your house in 18th century England. Most witch balls I see discussed online, though, seem to date from the late 19th and early 20th century.

Wikipedia's entry for witch balls shows hand-sized globes, but a couple at Staetshuys measured at least 30-40cm. [Actually, the one pictured, from the V&A, which was originally "acquired as a 'Witches ball,'" and is now labeled a "bauble," is "almost certainly a Christmas tree decoration."

Anyway, the garden variety, are known as gazing balls, which is pretty close to a satelloon after all.

Thomas Lawson's 2010 interview with Andrea Bowers is like five kinds of great. It concerns the works in her show at Susan Vielmetter in Los Angeles, "The Political Landscape." Bowers' story of making a video piece about activist and Bush-era public land auction-saboteur Tim deChristoph has some nice critiques of the Earth Art Boys. And it's surprising how surprising so many of the reactions were to her immigration- and border-related drawings.


But I can't not post a bit of the discussion of the centerpiece of the show. Titled No Olvidado - Not Forgotten, the 10-foot-high, 23-panel mural/drawing contains the names of several thousand people known to have died crossing the Mexican-US border:

AB: Yes, it's a hundred-foot drawing.

TL: And it is set up as a memorial, it's a very grand piece. Let's talk about it. Since it is monumental, it presumably required a different way of working?

AB: Right. I worked with a graphic designer and several assistants. It resulted from a conversation with an activist, Enrique Morones. He founded an organization called Border Angels. They started off in I think '86, providing water and blankets to people crossing the border.

TL: And many die in the attempt--are they killed out there in the desert, or do they die from exposure and thirst?

AB: It's both, but in many cases nobody knows. A lot of people die from dehydration or temperature, but there are also people who are killed. So Enrique collects names of anyone who dies migrating from Mexico to America. He actually has about ten thousand names. He finally admitted that the group of names he provided to me, a list of four or five thousand, is only up to the year 2000.

I've always been making memorials in one way or another, but memorials that I thought would never be made, or memorials that were kind of impossible to make. I'm fascinated by the Vietnam Memorial in DC, and how listing names functions in general. An important part of what I do concerns this documentary-type collection of information.

A Story about Civil Disobedience and Landscape: Interview with Andrea Bowers [eastofborneo.org]

April 22, 2011

Ghetto Busted Street View


Just when I start to worry that maybe it's wrong to care how sculpturally sweet the Google Street View's camera ball is, I see this [scroll way down], a photo of the ramshackle, zip-tied, off-the-shelf mess that is the Tele Atlas street mapping van.

Seriously, people, if you're not gonna suit up, why even come to the game? [image: sfcitizen.com]


You stumble upon something that Google doesn't know anything about, and you post about it, and then a while later, the other handful of people wondering about the same thing eventually email you, and you try to figure this stuff out together.

Thus it is that the Verne Blosum Fan Club is proud to welcome the Greensboro Chapter to the table.

The other day, a curator from the Weatherspoon Art Museum contacted me after seeing my 2010 posts about the pioneering Pop Art painter Vern Blosum. Because it turns out the museum which is affiliated with UNC-Greensboro, has a Verne Blossum painting, Twin Expiration, above, from 1962.


I first found out about Blossum when his parking meter painting, Violation was illustrated alongside Andy Warhol in a 1963 Washington Post article about Alice Denney's foundational Pop Art show at the Washington Gallery of Modern Art.

Then it turned out MoMA has a Blosum parking meter as well, Time Expired, purchased for them in 1964 by Larry Aldrich. [No, I'm not typing it wrong, his name shows up in contemporary sources with both one s and two, with an e and without.]


The Weatherspoon discovery [for whatever reason, their collection database has not been indexed by Google] comes on the heels of another out-of-the-blue email from some folks in California. Seems they'd come across Vern Blosum in the catalogue for Pop Art USA, a 1963 exhibition curated by the Pasadena Art Museum's own John Coplans. That Blosum, titled 25 Minutes.


Clearly, there's a theme, and I'm not just talking about parking meters. 25 Minutes was apparently lent by the L.M. Asher family. Betty Asher was one of the major collectors and supporters and curators at LACMA for many years. Just phenomenal. And her son is Michael Asher.

The Weatherspoon's Blossum turns out to have been donated in 1981 by Robert Scull, probably the most famous [or infamous, depending] Pop Art collector of them all, in honor of Virginia Dwan, who has had a long, generous relationship to the museum.

For an artist who seems to have mysteriously disappeared from the art world, Vern[e] Blos[s]um sure left behind, not just an intriguing body of work, but also an incredible body of collectors.

The work continues.


I've been meaning to post more about this for months, but now I'm glad I waited. In January curator/writer Pablo Leon de la Barra posted Google Street View photos of the Hotel Palenque on his blog, Centre For The Aesthetic Revolution.

I need to put a [sic] after basically every word in this sentence, but it's pretty jarring to see a place you know only from an old artwork alive and well and part of the real world. Hotel Palenque was supposed to be a white man's fictional, archeological non-site, not an actual site, where people stay when they come to town, and certainly not a real, surfable place on Google Street View.


But this is all precisely de la Barra's point, too. He originally Googled the hotel because he was preparing a text on Jonathan Monk's Color Reversal Nonsite with Ensuite Bathroom [2009, above] for the Museo Rufino Tamayo in Mexico City. Monk's work is a mirrored replica of the Hotel Palenque sign, only upside down and backwards, as it would be loaded in a slide projector.

Just as the entropy of development means that once-remote earthworks are now tourist attractions on the GPS grid, de la Barra lays out how Smithson's exoticized, Yucatan jungle ruin/playground is now more fully recognized as someone else's [sic] home turf. And while it may be surprising to hear that Smithson's Hotel Palenque was only presented for the first time in Mexico in 2005, it should surprise no one to learn that Smithson sounded like a drunken gringo.

REVISITING HOTEL PALENQUE THANKS TO GOOGLE MAPS [centre for the aesthetic revolution]
Hotel Palenque, 15 Avenida 4 de Mayo on Google Maps [google maps]
Previously: non-site non-art, Smithson's Hotel Palenque
Visiting Artist: U of U lecture on Smithson


Andrew Russeth has a great post about the making of Robert Irwin's Black Plane. As part of the Whitney's 1977 survey of the artist's work, Irwin had the museum staff paint the intersection of 42nd St & Fifth Avenue, a certain heart of the city, with blacktop sealer. The image above is an aerial photo from the Chinati Foundation newsletter, 2001, which accompanied an interview of Irwin by Marianne Stockebrand.

It, along with the date of the Chinati publication, December 2001, reminds me of a proposal for the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site that Ellsworth Kelly made in October. In early 2003, after seeing an aerial photo of the site in the Times, Kelly painted a green trapezoid as a stand-in for the large grass mound he envisioned, and sent his collage to Herbert Muschamp. The artist also noted that other artists he'd spoken to, including Joel Shapiro and John Baldessari, also thought that nothing should be rebuilt on the WTC site.


Muschamp arranged for Kelly's collage to be donated to the Whitney.

palomar_sky_survey_cabinet.jpgDear pwn0,

How are you? I would like to discuss with you the Palomar Sky Survey prints you bought on publicsurplus.com in 2010.

I know it was a POSS-I set of prints, but from the size of the file cabinet, it looks like it was an early or partial version. And I hear from the folks at the planetarium who sold it that it might have been incomplete.

I have attempted to relay a message via publicsurplus.com itself, but the company does not respond to any non-automated communication attempts.

pwn0. Are those your initials? Perhaps someone knows you, and might relay this message to you? From the other, large, shop-related items you have purchased recently on publicsurplus.com, I am assuming you live in Utah. Which is awesome. My mom lives there, and we'll be visiting in a few weeks.

Anyway, I'm interested in hearing about that old file cabinet full of obsolete astronomy photos--and then I'm interested in buying it from you. So please drop me an email at greg at greg dot org. Thanks!

April 18, 2011

On Size Matters

And speaking of Richard Serra. I can't figure out how James Meyer's 2004 Artforum essay on the problematics of size in contemporary sculpture got by me until now. It ends too soon, but it's pretty great.

Beginning with the overwhelming Tate Turbine Hall pieces by Olafur Eliasson and Anish Kapoor, Meyer retraces the history of sculptural size and scale, and how minimalism's supposedly non-anthropic form was still keyed to the human viewer's presence. And how post-minimalist folks like Tony Smith and Richard Serra got into, basically, a size arms race, which manipulated the spatial power and experience of the institution instead of critiquing it or fostering self-aware perception. [I'm collapsing a whole lot here. It's really worth a read.]

Anyway, I mention it now for two reasons, the first being that Meyer begins his history with the 1940s and Abstract Expressionist murals:

SCALE ENTERS THE DISCUSSION of postwar art within the context of Abstract Expressionism. The development of the mural canvas by the late 1940s introduced a bodily scale into painting--a scale that was variously described as one sustained between the painter and the work and between the viewer and the work; on one hand, a phenomenology of making, and on the other, one of perception. Jackson Pollock famously spoke of his drip method as a means to "literally be in the painting." Mark Rothko noted that he painted "large pictures ... precisely because I want to be very intimate and human." Mural scale was seen as an antidote to the easel scale of Cubism and Surrealism and the illusionism this embodied. As Pollock observed in the same statement. "The tendency of modern feeling is towards the wall picture or mural."
Which means postwar sculpture and space becomes yet another aspect of the photomural's history and influence I have to look into.

The other, bigger [sic] reason, though, is Meyer's articulation of size-ism and awe-based exhibition experience. His is one of the few strongly argued critiques of otherwise-sacrosanct subjects like Richard Serra's giant torqued sculptures and the museums that fit it, particularly Dia:Beacon and the Guggenheim Bilbao:

Having demanded and inspired the enlarged spaces that museum directors and trustees find it so necessary to proffer, Serra's sculpture has become the contemporary museum's major draw, an attraction of sufficient size and impact.
satelloon in the grand palais, mockup with serras

This challenge to the pervasive art world conflation of size, significance, and permanence is basically the context out of which I hatched my own idea to exhibit a Project Echo satelloon in an art space. The problem being, of course, that since all the world's biggest, newest museums were built to accommodate Richard Serra sculptures, there are less than five venues that could actually show a 100-foot diameter spherical balloon sculpture. They're just as prone to stylistic and functional obsolescence as a 19th century, fabric-walled salon.

Of course, the real problem is I hadn't read it, and I really should have.

No more scale: the experience of size in contemporary sculpture, James Meyer, Artforum Summer 2004 [findarticles]

Richars Serra's work, and especially his drawings and sketches, have a pretty foundational place in my art worldview. So I'm stoked to see the Met's drawings retrospective, especially after Brian Dupont's process-oriented perspective on the work and the show.

I get really wonked out thinking about Serra's process and have tried to imagine how to capture the conception and fabrication of his steel sculptures in a show--or in as visceral a way as his corner splash pieces do. Besides the rare chance of seeing Serra's sketchbooks, I think Brian makes a good case that the large oilstick drawings embody their own making as much as anything Serra's ever done.

Intent or Artifact: Richard Serra's Drawings. [briandupont]

April 18, 2011

One Foot Scale


The curators of NIST's collection of historical and scientific artifacts have thrown open the racks in hopes of crowdsourcing the origins of some unknown pieces.

On top of the list: this brass one foot scale, in a handy, fitted, velvet-lined travel case, which is obviously the inspiration for Walter de Maria's High Energy Unit [also here]. Love that thing.


Anyway, case closed. What else ya got, NIST?

One Foot Scales: NIST Digital Collections crowdsourcing initiative [nistdigitalarchives]

April 18, 2011

Yes Rasta Indeed.


Another book report just came in, this one from Andy: "Bonus: ups driver was smoking in the truck. Box smells like weed."

Thanks for partaking!

April 17, 2011

Allied To The Human Form


Can I just tell you how awesome the Contra Mundum I - VII lecture compilation is? How did I not buy this before? How did I not fly out to LA in 2009 for these talks, each one of which is greater than the next, and the first was pretty damn near perfect?

Rupert Deese kicked off the lecture series at the Mandrake with his incredible tales of building and documenting and investigating furniture for and by the likes of Donald Judd, Josef Albers, and Gerald Summers.

Oh, how I totally remember seeing those incredible 1929 Gerald Summers single-sheet molded ply chairs at Bergdorf's in 1990 [above] and having my furniture mind blown. Only I didn't realize those were the first and only good knock-offs, and I didn't snap them up for a song when they were changing the display.


But enough about me. The story I have to put here is not mine, or even Deese's:

When I was at the information desk at the Met, Norma, one of the people there, told me a funny story about Charles and Ray Eames. They were doing a show at the Met and they showed up; it was about two years before Charles died. Ray died ten years later to the day. So the information desk, most of you know, is round, in the middle of the main hall there, and when people come to visit they come up and they say, "The Eameses are here." So you call up to the department and you say, "The Eameses are here," and then you politely ask, "While you are waiting for the curator to come down can you please step away from the desk?" So, as the Eameses stepped away from the desk Ray dropped something. So, she did not bend her knees, she just reached down and picked the thing up. And Norma saw her rear end and said, "Oh, my god, that is the plywood seat!" And so she told me that. And, well, the Eames furniture is allied to the human form, I'd say--quickly I would say that--but Judd's furniture is allied to this. [gesturing to the room] It's all about the structure around it.

Contra Mundum I - VII, published in Nov. 2010 by Oslo Editions [osloeditions.com via ro/lu]
Alex Klein and Mark Owens explain Contra Mundum in 500 words [artforum.com]
Buy Contra Mundum I-VII online via textfield, $18 [textfield.org]

April 17, 2011

1,000 Or 1 Chairs

Though there was some buzz about the "Chinese Embassy" on 42nd Street, which is actually the UN Mission, I wasn't seeing anything in the twitterstream about the protesting the arrest and detention of Ai Weiwei by restaging a global version of his installation, 1,001 Chairs at the actual Chinese Embassy in Washington DC.

So we set out, with a toy high chair, just in case. Good thing.


We rounded the corner, and the street in front of I.M. Pei's imposing limestone structure was as empty as the rest of the closed-off, empty embassy loop. We took a picture.

Then we decided to head closer, and a good thing, too. Because there was another chair after all.


And a couple being sat in, by five protestors, including two in Free Ai Weiwei t-shirts and two in funny hats. We stopped, added our chair, checked in on the protest ["there've been a few"], took some pictures, and took off. A few minutes later on the walk home, the t-shirted pair passed us on their bikes and waved.


So Dan Hill's posted another of his typically incisive analysis of an urban situation. This time it's his extended and engrossing account of visiting Linked Hybrid, the massive urban development in Beijing, designed by Steven Holl Architects, which was just opening at the time [late 2009].

above and top via cityofsound

After being repeatedly shooed away by gun-toting guards from what Holl had pitched as "an open and porous public space," Hill found his way in, and eventually ended up in the marketing office where there's this poster of--what to call it without sounding utterly inappropriate? A bombshell? A landmine? A plane flying into a tower?:

More incredibly again, the adjacent wall features another poster of exaggerated Hybrid-like building on an urban skyline, under the phrase:

"Let citizens all over the world gather under the banner of the United States with the spirit of freedom."

What can this possibly mean in this context? The absorption of the brand of 'starchitecture' is easy to see in a culture shifting through the gears of consumer culture, but of the brand of the United States?

That's no moon. It's the proposal for Memorial Square, the World Trade Center site put forward in 2002 by Holl, Charles Gwathmey, RIchard Meier, and Peter Eisenman, or as they called themselves at the time, the Dream Team.

Memorial Square, 2002, "Dream Team," image via renewnyc.org

At the time--the day after the unveiling, actually, at a screening of my short film, Souvenir (November 2001), which was followed by Etienne Sauret's incredible documentary short, The First 24 Hours--I recognized the form the Dream Team was proposing as a gargantuan evocation of the fragments of the World Trade Center's facade.

They denied the reference, even as they awkwardly argued and edited around it on the Charlie Rose Show. But I think it's self-evident. Anyone wanting to argue otherwise to me should read those two posts and the links within first. Then I'll tell you my story about asking Eisenman about it face-to-face.


What's fascinating now, though, in rewatching that Charlie Rose episode, is not the Dream Team proposal's basis in the wreckage of the World Trade Center, but its multiple similarities to Holl's Linked Hybrid.


Holl and Meier especially discussed the Memorial Square proposal as primarily a public space, one which is entered from the city by "multiple portals." Holl even calls the structure a "hybrid."

While the Team took great pains to deny the proposal had any "signature" style, I would speculate otherwise. The overall concept of structure capturing "a moment" in history and memory comes from Eisenman's proposal [above] for Herbert Muschamp's WTC charette.


Meanwhile, the form is Holl's, as is the idea that its entire surface would glow at night on one face. The rendering resembles nothing so much as the skyscraper cousin to Holl's residence for the Swiss ambassador to Washington.

Dan Hill makes a persuasive critique of the simultaneous successes of Linked Hybrid as a structure and its failure as the open urban experience Holl envisioned. And it's tempting to take comfort from afar and tut-tut the clunky shortcomings of Chinese modernization. But
are the urban and sociological failures of Linked Hybrid really any better or worse than the manipulated politicized mess that Daniel Libeskind's World Trade Center plan has wrought?

I think the more sobering path is to recognize the remarkable extent to which Holl succeeded in realizing his Dream Team's proposal for downtown Manhattan in Beijing--and to acknowledge that, there but for the grace of George Pataki go we.

Linked Hybrid's marketers invite "citizens all over the world [to] gather under the banner of the United States with the spirit of freedom." But on this day, when citizens all over the world gather to protest the continued imprisonment of Ai Weiwei, the co-creator [with Swiss architects Herzog & deMeuron] of the China's most famous public building, the Bird's Nest Olympic stadium, can we really say "our" public sphere is superior, or even free?

Architecturally speaking, at least, we are all New Yorkers now, and Beijingers, too.

April 16, 2011

Source Material

What is the point of books if you're just going to store them out of sight?


I mean, just look at the back cover of A.R.T. Press's 1992 interview of Vija Celmins by Chuck Close. If only I'd had this book somewhere besides my storage unit all these years, I might've realized sooner that what I've been doing, basically, is reconstructing the pile of photos on Vija Celmin's desk.

I know what it is, and what it's for, and where it is, and what what. But still.

In a year when politicians' considerations of art have had considerable impact on art, artists, and the art world, it is fascinating to consider the official guidelines [pdf] for the Congressional Art Competition.

Founded in 1982, the Congressional Art Competition offers high school-age artists in each congressional district the chance to have their work exhibited on Capitol Hill, or in their representative's offices, for an entire year.

Each entry must be original in concept, design, and execution and may not violate any U.S. copyright laws. Any entry that has been copied from an existing photo (other than the student's own), painting, graphic, advertisement, or any other work produced by another person is a violation of the competition rules and will not be accepted. Work entered must be in the original medium (that is, not a scanned reproduction of a painting or drawing).


Artwork must adhere to the policy of the House Office Building Commission. In accordance with this policy, exhibits depicting subjects of contemporary political controversy or a sensationalistic or gruesome nature are not allowed. It is necessary that all artwork be reviewed by the panel chaired by the Architect of the Capitol and any portion not in consonance with the Commission's policy will be omitted from the exhibit. The panel will make the final decision regarding the suitability of all artwork for the Congressional Art Competition exhibition in the Capitol.

a href="http://www.house.gov/house/ArtGuidelines.shtml">An Artistic Discovery: The Congressional Art Competition [house.gov via patch.com, thx @artisphere]

April 14, 2011

Powhida Street View

You know how at the end of The Player, Griffin is talking on the car phone to his erstwhile rival-colleague Larry Levy, who's driving through Century City, on his way to an AA meeting? And Griffin says, "Gee, Larry, I didn't realize you had a drinking problem?" And Larry admits, "Well I don't really, but that's where all the deals are being made these days."? You know that scene?

Maybe that's how it was with orgies in the New York art world of the 1960s. They're just where all the deals were being made.

Here's an entry from Gary Comenas' exhaustive and ever-growing timeline on warholstars.org:



"I was at an orgy, and he [Warhol] was, ah, this great presence in the back of the room. And this orgy was run by a friend of mine, and, so, I said to this person, 'Would you please mind throwing that thing [Warhol] out of here?' And that thing was thrown out of there, and when he came up to me the next time, he said to me, 'Nobody has ever thrown me out of a party.' He said, 'You know? don't you know who I am?' And I said, 'Well, I don't give a good flying f**k who you are. You just weren't there. You weren't involved...'" (PS423)


According to Pop: The Genius of Andy Warhol, published in 2009, it was at this exhibition that Warhol first met Johns.

Oh, whoops, it looks like I accidentally cut and pasted part of the next entry in the timeline.

PS423 is Comenas' own annotation system, a reference to Patrick S. Smith's 1986 dissertation, Andy Warhol's Art and Films (Michigan: UMI Research Press, 1986)

Thumbnail image for johns_gray_map_orgy.jpg

Barbara Rose called this partially obscured page of text "The most tantalizing fragment" visible in Jasper Johns' 1962 painting, Map, and speculated that it was "probably ripped from a paperback book Johns had in his studio." The visible word "rebel" resonated with Rose's idea that Map is akin to a battlefield map, and relates to the Civil War, the centennial of which was being commemorated when Johns, who had recently decamped for his native South Carolina, made the painting.


It turns out the page is from the short, 2-page preface to a hardcover, the 1960 US edition of Burgo Partridge's 1958 book, A History of Orgies. I bought this book, which is basically one Oxford student's quick tour through the dirty parts of the classics, followed by a brief history of sexual excesses and hypocritical moralizing in Europe, ending with a call to keep pushing modern society toward a Greek ideal of a sensible, guilt-free sexual culture.

A History of Orgies was apparently a good-, if not best-, seller, both in the UK and the US. After buying a copy online--strictly for research purposes, you understand--I skimmed through it. What I don't know about orgies could fill several books, but its argument, even its thesis, frankly, seems a bit scattershot. Perhaps more lucid syntheses of orgies have followed Partridge's? I'll wait for the orgiast literati to chime in. But it was impossible for me to read the preface without thinking of it in terms of Johns' work, and also his life in 1960-62, and the culture around him.

Rose calls the visible phrases "chosen and deliberately revealed," and says they "participate in Johns's game of peekaboo, which he plays with his audience, much as a stripper suggests that more will be revealed with each succeeding fan flutter," which is a kind of hilarious image, given the actual source of the text.

And just as the brushstrokes teasingly obscure some of the text, I also can't help wondering what's behind, what we can never see: the other side of the page. There are at least three Johns works from this period--Canvas (1956), Fool's House (1962), and Souvenir 2 (1964, below)--where the artist affixes smaller canvases face down on his larger work, depriving the viewer of knowing what lies underneath. I have no idea if there's anything in the first page of Partridge's preface that Johns wanted to not-show, but the full text of what he ended up not-showing is below.

Souvenir 2, 1964, which was in the Ganz collection until 1997 excellent discussion at Christie's

In the previous post, I referenced the skepticism, voiced by Yve-Alain Bois, of the usefulness of identifying [and thus being tempted to interpret] all the raw materials in Rauschenberg's combines. It's not like there's a unifying, hidden message, a Rauschenberg Code, waiting to be deciphered by some future Tom Hanks. But technology is rapidly making the once-impossible trivial, and art from the past is going to have to deal with it. It took me only a couple of Googling minutes to identify a text that Rose could only speculate on--and which Johns, if he ever meant for it to be identified, has certainly not discussed.

But this impact of instant, ubiquitous information reminds me of how Land Art, once intended to be remote and highly inaccessible, if not impossible to find, ends up on GPS systems and Google Maps. The times, they're a-changing.

Anyway, ladies and gentlemen, the preface to Burgo Partridge's A History of Orgies with pagination intact, and the texts visible in Johns' Map in italics:

Map, 1962, Jasper Johns, via moca.org

For her contribution to the Jasper Johns Gray (2007) catalogue, Barbara Rose writes about the history and significance of Map, 1962, the artist's first big, gray masterpiece. Johns made it to raise money for his new Foundation for Contemporary Arts, which was founded to stage some performances of Merce Cunningham. Marcia Weisman bought it out of Johns' studio and ended up leaving it to MoCA.

Rose suggests that Johns' Map paintings are akin to battlefield maps, and that the gray one, in fact, resonates with a particular Civil War battle, the Battle of Antietam. She cites Johns' own South Carolina upbringing, the centennial commemoration of the Civil War that was in the news in 1960-2, and a series of paintings by Frank Stella which drew some of their titles from Civil War battlefields. [Rose was married to Stella at the time, of course, and also refers to one diptych from the series titled Jasper's Dilemma.] Also, Rose writes, "The difficult realities of Johns's personal life coincide with the idea that this map pictures a battlefield."

After recounting some formalist skirmishes with General Clement Greenberg's troops, Rose zooms in on the surface of the painting and on some of the collaged elements in Map that Johns intentionally left visible:

Topographically, the hills, ridges, and ravines of Johns's gray Map suggest geological strata bursting. Paint washes over the surface like sea spume or waves eroding coastlines. Known borders are changed or blurred. This transgression of boundaries is a physical fact of art historical as well as personal significance. The surface is scarred and scraped in areas so that the printed matter sealed into it with adhesive encaustic is visible. The most tantalizing fragment is not newsprint but part of a page, probably ripped from a paperback book Johns had in his studio. One can make out the words "intense feelings of guilt and self-disgust," as well as "rebel" and "orgiast." These chosen and deliberately revealed phrases participate in Johns's game of peekaboo, which he plays with his audience, much as a stripper suggests that more will be revealed with each succeeding fan flutter.
Map detail, via Jasper Johns Gray

Lots of interesting stuff, but I am most fascinated by the overall strategy Rose adopts, of floating the connection to "the difficult realities of Johns's personal life," and then going both wide and deep about everything but.


I think Jason's tuning that one a bit, but still.

I've had this one sitting on my desktop for a little while, actually.



I kid about Jon Rafman, but it's out of love. Just check out this incredible pano of BF wherever stitched together from different CMYK separations. It could be a Rauschenberg or something. By which I mean it'd make a great painting or print.

And which is kind of what caught me up about it; I'm sure it's just some automatic step in the Street View imaging process, but I always associate CMYK with print output, not screen. Maybe someone who knows this stuff better can explain the advantages of converting RGB to CMYK for images that are presumably never intended to leave the digital world.

2/12 update: thanks to a Guardian slideshow of 9-eyes, we now know this was shot on CM-4009, north of Polan, Spain. It also appears to be the effect of a wonky rear-facing camera. Similar spectral striations appear all along the road, interspersed with a patch of b/w or desaturated imagery knitted into the pano, which I assume isolates the effect to a single camera. The CCD striations contrast nicely though with the occasional appearance of their optical equivalents: old-school lens flares from the sun. Ironically, the particularly awesome glitch Rafnan highlighted seems to have been removed or reprocessed. Another reminder that Google is watching the watchers.

Google Street View's shiny balls
Google Lens Cap View
Walking Men, or the Google Street View Trike has a posse--who delete images of themselves when they're published on blogs


You know, every once in a while, I think that it's crazy to be considering satelloons as art instead of what they really were--aestheticized objects designed to be seen and exhibited.

And then I'll catch a glimpse of Expo 67 somewhere, and realize I'm still well inside the bubble.

A still from The World of Buckminster Fuller, which is on DVD, available at Amazon, not ubu.com, why would it be?

Previous Expo67 posts:
not that anyone asked, but here's Fuller's own idea for the US Pavilion
on the American Painting Now show, organized by Alan Solomon
the Canadian fracas over Barnett Newman's Voice of Fire
Forgot how much I loved writing this post on art protestor/greenhouse owner John Czupryniak's Newman knockoff, Voice of the Taxpayer
Expo 70 design finding the Expo 67 Pavilion hard to beat

This is basically the funniest Oskar Fischinger post you will ever read.

Oskar Fischinger's Love Machine [lacmonfire]

I went to the groundbreaking ceremony for MoMA's new building. It was held in a large tent in the Sculpture Garden. The time came when all the VIPs were supposed to don ceremonial hardhats, and take their ceremonial shovels, and then take their first ceremonial photo-op scoops in the sandbox in front of the dais.

I was sitting on the far edge, and Mayor Giuliani's security detail was standing next to me.

When a MoMA operative began putting the helmets on the VIPs' heads, they tightened into a panic. "Oh, shit, not the hair," they stage whispered. "NOT the hair." Maybe they were praying, because no one could hear them but the Good Lord and myself, and I was actually praying for the helmet.

I was reminded of that extreme combover encounter as I watched this clip of Donald Trump nuzzling his mug into Giuliani's drag queen cleavage. Trump's part is somewhere on the back of his neck, just high enough that the rest of his hair looks like those stubby, shaving brush ponytails that were all too common in the early 1990s [insert mea culpa here].

I just point this out because at least Giuliani lost the combover before he went on his own ego- and business-prospect inflation tour by pretending to run for President.

This LACMA interview with Vija Celmins about her show there of early work is just great. [The show itself is great, too; it was first at the Menil.]

No sooner did I watch it, than Celmins' name came up in the Jasper Johns Gray catalogue. And I decided that what's needed is more Vija Celmins interviews.

And that's when I realized that my expectation that there weren't enough Celmins interviews was based on my reading of her work as so quiet and self-contained. In fact, Celmins herself is quite open, and gives lots of great, thoughtful interviews.

Here's another from 2008, the Carnegie International:

Art21 did one, of course, but this clip's only a minute long.

Simon Grant did a pretty long career-related interview with Celmins for Tate in 2007, which used the Pompidou's drawings retrospective as its hook.

I started going through my photographs and newspaper clippings that I had collected -images of Second World War planes, a nuclear explosion at Bikini Atoll, an airship - and I made drawings of those.
Reading that, and thinking of the Menil/LACMA show, my being reminded of Joy Garnett's paintings doesn't seem that far afield after all.


Phong Bui's 2010 interview is classic Brooklyn Rail: deep and specific on history and the work. Ah, see? Here's the word I was looking for, the one that threw me off of Celmins' interview path:

Rail: Guston also loved Morandi, whom I know you admire, and Morandi's most admired painter was Chardin.

Celmins: I like Chardin, too.

Rail: Especially the late Chardins, depicting the modest interiors, which include kitchen maids in moments of reflection. They were generally painted with muted lighting and therefore created a quiet ambiance, which also is reinforced by the subdued color scheme. The series that made the depiction.

Celmins: You know that muteness exists in Vermeer, Chardin, and Morandi. I don't know who else you would say, in contemporary art. Would you say Ryman? It's hard to say.

Rail: It'd be hard to talk about silence or quietude.

But you know where THE Celmins interview is? In a book. Chuck Close interviewed Celmins, at Bill Bartman's behest, and A.R.T. Press published it in 1992. I think I may even have that somewhere. I certainly thought about buying that etching of Saturn often enough. Gotta track that down.


I'm trying to remember what made me think of this. I'm coming up blank.

In 1995, Geert van de Camp, Andre Dekker and Ruud Reutelingsperger decided to work together to create space which facilitated longer-term contemplation. They called their collaborative Observatorium.


In 1997, they set up their second Observatorium structure-- in this case, a small, modernist house-like space made mostly of plywood bookshelves--at Snug Harbor Cultural Center on Staten Island. You could arrange to stay in it for 24 hours, a day and a night. It was like Rirkrit's apartment replica at Passerby, but only for one person at a time. Like De Maria's Lightning Field, only turned inward, for communing with an interior landscape.


Somewhere over the years, I'd gotten it in my head that the Observatorium was by another Rotterdam-based collective, Atelier van Lieshout, and I'd periodically try unsuccessfully to find it again.

Here is the Observatorium website [observatorium.org]
And their blog. [observatoriumrotterdam.blogspot.com]
Look, they're at the Marin Headlands now, organizing a residency/workshop to address the use of the old Fort Barry Gymnasium building. [opentotheelements.wordpress.com]
They have a new book: Observatorium: Big Pieces Of Time [6 to 9 weeks?]

So I try to create a book with as little creative alteration as possible, to hew as closely as I can to the court documents themselves, without changing, editing, or annotating them at all.

OK, so I weave images from the exhibits they're discussing into the sections of the transcript where they're discussing them. And--NO design--I only use Preview's default annotation settings--giant, red Helvetica--to create the headings, and the table of contents, and the cover.

OK, so I have to cheat a little to get the cover to work, so I do end up re-keying the cover in the cover wizard, so that it matches the annotation typeface. But that is IT.

And what happens when you are aggressive about not trying to create an aestheticized object--or rather, to create an aestheticized object that looks like you did nothing aesthetic to create it? When you try to write less than a hundred words total, including your self-consciously long title?

Well, we can ask Brett in Miami. He's the first one who spotted three--three!--typos on the back cover of the softcover edition. Well, he's the first one to let me know he spotted them, anyway. And for that I thank him.

I corrected two immediately, and I'm still pondering about the third: "...it is intended to serve as an art historical and critical resource, filtering relevant primary information about Prince's biography, practice and wok..."

I mean, couldn't it stay? "Oh, Richard Prince, I love your wok!" Maybe it's the t-shirt.

update: here's the link to the new printer, where you can buy the expanded edition in softcover.

April 5, 2011

Quote Of The Day

Italics in original:

Nan Rosenthal: Does the color gray carry for you a suggestion of ambiguity?

Jasper Johns: Everything carries for me a suggestion of ambiguity.

From the q&a in Jasper Johns Gray

The Execution of Maximilian, Edouard Manet, image via national gallery

Edouard Manet made three large paintings in 1867-8 on The Execution of Maximilian, a subject torn from the day's headlines, but which, because they were critical of Napoleon III's policies, were never exhibited in France in his lifetime. [Maximilian was a Hapsburg who Napoleon had installed as a puppet emperor in Mexico. He was executed when the French army abandoned him and deposed Mexican president Benito Juarez regained power. A lithograph stone Manet was creating on the same subject was apparently confiscated, and only returned after the artist publicly protested.] Their composition all relate to Goya's Third of May, which Manet saw in 1865.

The second painting, above, was cut into pieces after Manet's death in 1883, and sold separately by his heirs. In the 1890s, Degas repurchased the fragments and remounted them on a single canvas the size of the original painting. The National Gallery in London acquired the piece[s] in 1918, and had them disassembled and framed separately until 1992, when they were once again reconstituted on a single canvas.

I'm kind of fascinated by all this history--the history of Manet's painting itself, that is, not just the charged history he depicted. I think I will look into it some more, probably starting with John Elderfield's catalogue for MoMA's 2006 exhibition which brought all of Manet's Execution of Maximilian works together for the first time.

I mention it now because the circumstances of Manet's painting are discussed several times in Jasper Johns Gray, the catalogue of that incredible show at the Met in 2008 [and at the Art Institute before that. Good morning, Chicago!]. Johns had been invited by the National Gallery to make a work "in dialogue" with a work in the collection, and he chose this collaged, fragmented Manet.

Near The Lagoon via metmuseum

Johns took the composition of the Manet fragments as a formal element in several of his Catenary works, including Near The Lagoon (2002-3). As RIchard Schiff put it,

The "picture," as a collage, is something of an "object." Each fragment maintains a strong material presence, for its external shape is unrelated to (alienated from) the pictorial composition within it. Johns treated the shapes themselves as comprising an abstract image, a composition. He mimicked their placement and proportions with his own collaged pieces, then rotated the entire configuration clockwise 90 degrees so that it assumed a vertical orientation.
Schiff goes on to discuss pictures' freedom from gravity as compared to a catenary's dependence on it.

Johns' paintings are interesting for the directness of their engagement with other artists--not just Manet, but Degas, and even Goya. There are other spots in the Gray catalogue where Johns' Catenary paintings are considered to be in dialogue with Rauschenberg's 1955 combine painting Untitled, which has a parachute affixed to the surface. [Johns owned the work for years, having bought it out of Bob's 1963 Castelli show. Which, hmm, complicated? Also, I can't find an image of it online.]

I guess I'm most interested, though, in trying to get a better sense of how collage and this picture/object relationship play out across Johns' work, particularly with regard to canvas. There are examples reaching way back to the Short Circuit era where Johns affixes canvas on canvas, pictures [sic] on pictures [sic], or where he builds up a single work from multiple stretched canvases attached together.

[There are also many works where Johns uses hinges and doors in his work, both of which appear in Short Circuit. So far, I can't find anyone who has taken a look at these elements specifically in Johns' work. One thing I'm finding, though, is how this single, early combine--which has been largely unseen and unstudied since its creation, and never in the context of Johns' work--casts a different light on much of the established critical discussion. It's like a trigger to question the assumptions and the interpretations and inferences which have accreted over the decades.

If Short Circuit is an anomaly, a work wholly isolated from both Rauschenberg's and Johns' other works of the time and since, then it probably doesn't matter; it's just an art historical oddity. I'm kind of testing the hypothesis, though, that Short Circuit and the Flag Johns put in it, have a direct, possibly even foundational, relationship to the artists' work. If that's true, then it seems like it would ripple through their careers and upend much of the received understanding of these two artists. At least that's the theory.

April 4, 2011

What Books May Come


Looks like Monday is Unboxing Day. Whether UPS or USPS, be sure to thank the union members who worked through the weekend to bring you your art nerdy books.


The hardback with the current cover design [updated link, see below] arrived in Mondo Blogoland. I really do like this cover, too. Patrick thinks I should change it back to the softcover version, though, so that his is more collectible. Which is a very generous and slightly hilarious thing to say.

I was also thinking of making a 2-color silkscreen print out of this cover image. Or maybe even a whole portfolio of the Prince v. Cariou exhibits. I tell you, look at Rauschenberg too long, and you'll want to start silkscreening everything that's not pinned down.

Oh ho, at Joy Garnett's studio [below], they staged an impromptu reading of my "conceptual piece." And now I'm thinking that staging a dramatic re-enactment of portions of the transcript some night could be a lot of fun. Hmm.


Meanwhile, back at Canal Zone Richard Prince YES RASTA: Selected Court Documents &c., &c. HQ, the champagne mangoes have a new, romantically exotic friend:


Cariou's book was apparently supposed to be available as a limited edition, with a signed print. Did not know that. It says it right there on the colophon, though: "A slipcased, limited edition of this book with a signed and numbered artwork by the artist is available upon inquiry; please contact the publisher."

There's also a credit to The Small Darkroom, New York for "gelatin-silver prints," a reference, presumably, to the edition. And there's a separate ISBN number, 1-57687-074-X, which goes basically nowhere. Which means that Cariou and/or powerHouse had planned to do a limited edition, but it never happened. Wonder why that was? I guess if I were an attorney for someone getting sued for damaging someone's book and photography market, I might care a little more.

Apr 2011 update: At the moment, the hardcover copy is not available. Here's a new link to order a softcover copy of the new, expanded edition, which includes Prince's entire deposition, and additional legal documents.

image via Morioka Yoshitomo's online syllabus of Art & Technology

I don't collect posters, I really don't. I just buy some. And then some more.

But when I saw the description of this poster in the Getty's E.A.T. archive finding aid, I knew I had to add it to the list:

Pepsi Pavilion
printed in Japan, Shunk-Kender photograph of interior of the mirror dome. It shows a rehearsal of the work by Remy Charlip, "Homage to Loie Fuller," performed at the opening ceremonies. The photograph is printed upside down to emphasize the three-dimensionality of the real image the concave mirror dome produced. Signed by all artist/engineer participants, unnumbered.
Signed or not, I have to track it down.

E.A.T.'s Pepsi Pavilion still kind of blows my mind, several years after I first fixated on it. And it only belatedly occurs to me that though the project was officially a failure, which E.A.T., Kluever, and Whitman were left trying to make the best of, there is a Japanese domestic perspective on it that remains largely unexplored, at least in the English-speaking world. I will have to look into that.

Meanwhile, it's almost enough to know that the Japanese term for Pepsi Pavilion is ペプシ館, pronounced Pepsi-kan.

Also, Remy Charlip's "Homage to Loie Fuller"? Do we even have a complete list of all the artists, happenings, programs, and performances that went unrealized when Pepsi cut off the cash?

Also, Shunk-Kender? Those guys really, really got around. Have we already done shows or books or something on them? Art History, I'm talking to you.

UPDATE WHOA, and I have heard back from Art History. At least I got her voicemail. Stay tuned.

Previously: E.A.T. it up: the Pepsi Pavilion at Expo 70 in Osaka
Q. was the Pepsi Pavilion art?

People often ask me, "What is it that makes your Google Street View Art so different, so appealing?"

Actually, no one asks me that, they just send me "Hey, look!" emails with links to Jon Rafman and Michael Wolf. But if they did ask me, I'd probably go off about Bergson and the flaneur's gaze and Deleuzian notions of cinematic time and the panoptic surveil--

"Hey, look! Shiny object! Want that!"


Seriously, chrome that bad boy in an edition of 5, please. I'll keep the AP.

via Behind The Scenes with Street View [youtube]

April 3, 2011

Merz van der Rohe


When Kurt Schwitters died in 1948, his lawyer inherited the art the artist had held onto. After his death in 1956, it was dispersed. Sidney Janis bought this 1922 Kurt Schwitters Merz collage, titled er, and then promptly sold it to Schwitter's friend Mies van der Rohe, whose family held onto it until 2003, when they sold it for £105,650. [christies.com]

Wow, can I just say that, when combined with the rapid production power of our digitized present, appropriation art is just awesome?


I just got the first hardcover copies of the first version of the book I conceived of a week ago today, Canal Zone Richard Prince YES RASTA: Selected Court Documents from Cariou v. Prince et al, including Excerpts from The Videotaped Deposition of Richard Prince, The Affidavit of Richard Prince, Competing Memoranda of Law in Support of Summary Judgment, Exhibits Pertaining to Paintings and Collages of Richard Prince and the Use of Reproductions of Patrick Cariou's YES RASTA Photographs Therein, and The Summary Ass Whooping Dealt to Richard Prince by the Hon. Judge Deborah A. Batts, as compiled by Greg Allen for greg.org in March 2011, and it looks rather sweet.

I'm waiting to see a paperback version [updated link info below], and to see the other cover design in person, the one reproducing the court exhibit featuring the photocopied covers of the two dueling books. I like the graphic punch of that one. But I had a hunch, and I'm seeming right, that the original un-design, the full title, laid out in giant red letters [the default setting for the annotate function in Preview, the only software I used to produce the thing] is kind of awesome. So there may be some version tweaking to be done.


Anyway, the inside is pretty nice, too. The 2x2 deposition transcript pages turn out to read just fine in a trade-size book. Which makes it perfect for the beach or wherever. And it is much thinner than I expected. 290 pages is a lot of content, but it is a pretty manageable-sized book. Also, a little sluttier, frankly. Some of those photocopied PDF's of Prince's paintings turn out to be pretty legible after all.

Publishing a book to serve as an indispensable art history reference--and which consists entirely of someone else's work--should really not feel this fun. But I guess that's why appropriation's so hot these days.

UPDATE: Here's a link to buy the new, expanded softcover edition, which now includes Prince's entire deposition transcript, plus several other key legal documents. It's a bit higher quality, too. New printer.

You know what, in my six days as a published author, out there flogging his book, I find myself thinking, again, of Cervantes and Don Quixote. I mean, I it really feels like I'm living in the Quixotian name I gave my film production company, First Sally.

The cover on the paperback edition of Canal Zone Richard Prince Yes Rasta: Selected Court Documents, &c., &c., 290 pages, $16.99

And so as I was reading Jonathan Gharraie's post in The Paris Review, I couldn't help but but note all the striking similarities between Canal Zone Richard Prince Yes Rasta: Selected Court Documents, &c., &c., my critically considered selection of Richard Prince's deposition transcripts and legal filings, and Cervantes' work. I mean just think about it:

  • Both Prince and Quixote mildly shock their guests at exhibits on the Upper East SIde.

  • Quixote was recently republished in a carefully crafted illustrated version by a legendary artist press; I carefully assembled the Canal Zone... PDF by hand before uploading it to lulu.com.

  • Quixote's idealistic fantasies are enabled and indulged by an all-powerful Duke for his own bemusement and enrichment; Prince shows--and goes to court with--Larry Gagosian, on whose gallery the sun never sets.

  • Cervantes gave his book one of those funny, old-timey, super-long titles; I, well, just look at the cover of the paperback edition.

I could go on and on, to the point I stop debating whether I'm Quixote or Cervantes, and begin wondering whether I'm Pierre Menard or Borges. I assume all authors go through this.

Canal Zone Richard Prince Yes Rasta: Selected Court Documents, &c., &c. in hardcover, 290 pages, $24.99 [updated link, see below]

More info on Canal Zone Richard Prince Yes Rasta in the original post.
See a couple of sample spreads from the electronic edition.

Anyway, Gharraie sums up nicely the digital future where artisanal books still thrive in a tablet world:

If anything, I would rather have it both ways: the book and the blog; the lavish endeavor of the lovingly prepared new edition and the take-out convenience of the virtual text.
And I humbly announce that the future of both art and literature is here. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get to work on my book trailer.

APR 2011 UPDATE: The hardcover is temporarily unavailable, but there is a new, expanded softcover edition, which now contains Prince's entire deposition transcript, an additional 101 pages, plus other key legal documents. Also, it's from a new, nicer printer.

tatlin_tower_1920.jpgSo I'm slowly making my way through the 35-page press release [!! those were the days, right?] for MoMA's 1968-9 exhibition, "The Machine As Seen At The End Of The Mechanical Age," which included a long-lost, recently stumbled-upon in a Tempe, Arizona shed, Dymaxion Car, and curator Pontus Hulten's freshly researched and replicated magnum opus, a life-size model of Vladimir Tatlin's 1920 Monument To The Third International. Some choice excerpts on the remaking of:

Work was based on only four photographs (a crucial one was discovered during the process), a few drawings, some written descriptions and information from the sole living assistant of Tatlin. Troels Andersen, Ulf Linde and Per Olof Ultvedt of the Stockholm Academy of Art prepared a small wooden working model. From this, carpenters Arne Holm and Eskil Nandorf built the reconstruction, which is 15 feet 5 inches high, about the same size as Tatlin's.

The research and reconstruction took about a year. The tower was first exhibited in the Tatlin show at Moderna Museet in Stockholm last summer. It was shipped to the United States in nine crates and reassembled by Mr. Nandorf in the Museum Garden.

So many interesting things here. Andersen had been working with T.M. Shapiro, part of a group called the "Creative Collective," which included Tatlin, who made the first Monument in 1919-20, to document and resuscitate [to use Nathalie Leleu's term] the neglected/suppressed history of the Russian Avant-Garde. In the catalogue, Hulten wrote, "For the first time, it seemed possible that an artist-engineer materializes the synthesis of architecture and sculpture."

Leleu took a detailed look at contemporary curators' use of refabrications and replicas; the excerpt dealing with reconstructions of Tatlin's Monument was published in 2007 by Tate Papers.

She notes how Hulten was "a major protagonist in at least two of these reconstructions," the first at Moderna Museet in 1968, and then at the Pompidou in 1979 for his historic show, Paris-Moscow. The Paris model was substantially different from the Stockholm model, Leleu writes, in part because Shapiro had recovered additional notes and rebuilt a Monument himself in 1975, but also because by 1979, Hulten was able to access original Tatlin materials in Russian museums and archives which had previously been blocked.


In fact, because of last-minute denials of key loans by Soviet officials, Hulten's show in 1968 consisted entirely of reconstructions, which led Hulten to dub his show "conceptual." As it happens, this whole Tatlin saga and the fabrication of the Monument, was unfolding while the Moderna Museet was showing Andy Warhol's work--including the Brillo Boxes, which would eventually become the subject of their own refabrication controversy.

It's almost as if, while showing the dominant, if controversial, figure in American art, Hulten was simultaneously constructing an alternative to the arc of modernist and postwar art history. With an emphasis on the constructing, I guess.

Anyway, after an insurance dispute, the Parisian fabricators ended up making a new, Paris-style Monument for the Moderna Museet, and then consulting, along with Hulten, on the fabrication of additional Monuments in Moscow, one in London, and one in Los Angeles.

Maybe it's clearer in her fuller paper, but in the Tate excerpt, Leleu refers to a "reconstruction project...in Washington," which I think is actually the model built by USC Architecture School students for Maurice Tuchman's LACMA 1980 exhibit, "The Avant-Garde in Russia," which later traveled to the Hirshhorn.

The Model of Vladimir Tatlin's Monument to the Third International: Reconstruction as an Instrument of Research and States of Knowledge [tate papers 2007]

I recently found a poster for a Pontus Hulten exhibition at Moderna Museet called "Utopier & Visioner, 1871-1981," which I think may have come from Billy Kluver's own collection.

There's not much information online about the show with that title, but the Getty mentions it; they hold the archives for E.A.T., the art & technology collaborative Kluver founded with Rauschenberg and Robert Whitman.

Turns out "Utopier & Visioner" was the site of one node in E.A.T.'s project, Telex: Q&A, an early attempt at networked communication. E.A.T. set up public telex machines in Stockholm, Tokyo, New York [at MoMA] and Ahmedabad, India, and invited people to ask each other questions. Hulten's show provided the theme; the dates in the title referred to the Communards and to imagining what the world would be like ten years into the future.
Questions about the future would be daisy-chained along to the different venues to give people a chance to read and respond. [The connections were not real-time; data was only transferred 10 minutes/day.] And to prime the pump, "wise men" in each city were invited to offer their answers as well.

E.A.T. was planning to publish the resulting conversations, but I can't see that they ever did. The Getty has several folders stuffed full of telex strips collated into roughly chronological order. It might be interesting to look through them.


Or maybe, uh, not. The Daniel Langlois Foundation in Quebec has digitized some materials from E.A.T.'s archives, including the original press release for Telex: Q&A, which contains sample questions:

1. What will the rents be like?
2. Will pot replace alcohol?
3. What will replace pot?
4. What will the ratio be between liquid & dry foods?
6. Will food be more natural (raw meat and vegetables) or more artificial (pills)?
20. Will men wear neckties?
24. What nature will bureaucracy have?
29. Where will solutions to problems lie--technology, sociology, politics?
49. Will there be a difference between work and leisure?
Maybe I do want to know Kenzo Tange's opinion on neckties, but frankly, it's almost interesting enough to think that in 1971, people were seriously expecting dramatic changes would sweep through society. I mean, sure, Twitter and all, but still. Pills!


Telex: Q&A was closely related to another E.A.T. project in 1971, Children and Communications. Led by Robert Whitman, E.A.T. set up kid-sized labs in the various boroughs of New York, and connected them via fax and telex, and let kids loose in them to communicate with each other.

Langlois has some of those documents up, too; it's kind of hilarious, in that except for a tictactoe game, and an attempt at an exquisite corpse-style story, most of the interaction is about the interaction itself. Just like Thaddeus S.C. Lowe's first telegram from a balloon to like 90% of cell phone calls today ["I'm calling from the train."] My favorite is this drawing, which pretty much sums it up, a screen asking the kid, "Who do you love?":


Related, interesting: Tokyo Terminal documentation for Telex: Q & A [fondation-langlois.org]

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

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about this archive

Posts from April 2011, in reverse chronological order

Older: March 2011

Newer May 2011

recent projects, &c.

Our Guernica Cycle, 2017 –
about/kickstarter | exhibit, 2017

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

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

Chop Shop
curated by Magda Sawon
1-7 March 2016

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

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

TheRealHennessy Tweets Paintings, 2014 -

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

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

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

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

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

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