January 2017 Archives

January 31, 2017

Richard Serra Copped Circles

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Google Street View image of an AWSS cistern at 14th & Castro, via 99pi

After water systems broke down during aftermath of the 1906 earthquake, San Francisco created the Auxiliary Water Supply System (AWSS). It includes over 170 giant cisterns beneath streets all over town. Large circles of bricks set into the street mark the outlines of the cisterns, hinting at hidden systems. In the words of 99 Percent Invisible's Kurt Kohlstedt, the circles are a "surface expression of something much larger below."

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To Encircle Base Plate Hexagram, Right Angles Inverted, 1970

Richard Serra grew up in San Francisco. His first public sculpture was a pair of 26-foot diameter arcs of L-shaped steel, like a manhole collar, set into the middle of a soon-to-be-razed-and-redeveloped block of 183rd Street in the Bronx. One arc pointed up, the other down. To Encircle Base Plate Hexagram, Right Angles Inverted (1970) was included in the Whitney Annual, though Serra complained that no one in the art world went to see it. It was later purchased and given to the St Louis Museum. It's installed in their driveway.

I'm sure Serra would say there is absolutely no relationship between these two structures. But they're there in the street nonetheless.

Decoding Rings: Beneath the Mysterious Brick Circles on San Francisco Streets [99percentinvisible.org]
Hunting for a Richard Serra sculpture in the Bronx [16miles]

January 26, 2017

Sforzian Resistance

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I confess, when I heard parts of downtown DC were blocked off yesterday morning, my first thought was how this might affect my driving to the National Gallery.

But the composition and placement of this RESIST banner by Greenpeace makes this the most masterful work of art of our new era. Better even than the styrofoam copy cake. Scott Sforza could not have done it better himself.

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Forrest Bess, The Asteroids #3, 1946, oil on canvas board, via Phillips Collection

In 2014 the Phillips Collection received eight works by Forrest Bess from Miriam Shapiro Grosof, including a set of four paintings titled, The Asteroids (1946). They depict a dream Bess had, and the ceramist Arlene Shechet has put them on view for the first time as part of her museum-wide project, From Here On Now. [The other Bess paintings can be seen in the (Part 2) video here.] Shechet has made work in response to particular works and spaces at the Phillips, and has reinstalled at least five spaces, to absolutely riveting effect.

Shechet's ceramic and cast paper sculptures are variously abstract and referential, and are accomplished on their own, but as catalysts for and participants in dialogue with works from the collection, they appear essential. Shechet has chosen and placed extraordinary works, which should be familiar, but which all feel like revelations, in a way that makes the Phillips spring to life. I'd say she should curate the entire museum, but many of the galleries Shechet did not curate also vibrate with unexpected and fascinating paintings of all eras, from Bonnard, to Ryder, to Robert Natkin? Somehow, yes. With a tribute show of the late William Christenberry's work and Jacob Lawrence's Toussaint L'Ouverture prints, I'd say the Phillips is the most unexpectedly awesome show in town right now.

Now on to Bess.

Download Better_Read_011_Forrest_Bess_The_Asteroids_1946.mp3 [dropbox, 3:10, 4.5mb]
From Here On Now, by Arlene Shechet, runs through March 7, 2017 [phillipscollection.org]

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I've recently enjoyed and been enlightened by Martin Herbert's new collection of essays, Tell Them I Said No published by Sternberg Press. Herbert considers ten artists who have left the "art world" and how. I put that in scare quotes because some artists stop making work, while others stop showing it, and others refuse to perform as public figures discussing or representing their work.

It's a very thoughtful group of essays about a fascinating and challenging group of artists who, it turns out, are engaging with art and artistic practice entirely on their own terms. The artists are Agnes Martin, Albert York, Charlotte Posenenske, Stanley Brouwn, David Hammons, Lutz Bacher, Christopher D'Arcangelo, Laurie Parsons, Cady Noland, and Trisha Donnelly.

A couple of excerpts from Herbert's introduction:

As performed today, [self-detachment] pushes against the current in an epoch of celebrity worship and its related feedback loop, increasingly universal visibility and access. A big part of the artist's role now, in a massively professionalized art world, is showing up to self-market, being present. On all channels, ideally: see how, aside from all the photo opportunities, far-from-digital-native figures take to social media or splash themselves when possible across magazines (which grander galleries now produce themselves) or collaborate with fashion designers, all gates open.

...

In such a context of hectic short-termism and multiple types of oversharing, some kind of voluntary retreat, some respect for the Joycean triumvirate of silence, exile, and cunning, might constitute a vanguard, if a difficult and apparently suicidal one to countenance today since it seemingly requires earning the right to leave.

...

None of this, meanwhile, has transpired in a steady-state art world. Rather, the urge to pull back, where felt, echoes changing conditions over decades, from the swing toward dematerialization and its intersection with critique, to art's transmogrification into a backcloth for the power plays of the prosperous.

Each case Herbert examines is particular; he does not try to force artists' experiences and choices into an over-arching historical analysis. But as I found myself nodding along in recognition and admiration for these artists, I came to feel a case being made against the structures of the market- and celebrity-centered art world we're soaking in.

This multi-faceted questioning reminded me of another paradigmatic challenge, posed by Helen Molesworth in the Dec. 2016 issue of Artforum. Molesworth asks why shock, countering shock with shock, and a strategy of épater le bourgeoisie persists as the dominant mode of modernism and the avant-garde:

Must meaning be predicated on shock? Why was a cut or a break always required for something to be historically serious or significant? Why couldn't continuity or gentleness, even, be imagined as a hermeneutic of radicality? As someone with a nascent interest in domesticity and the quotidian, I felt that shock didn't help me understand much of anything.
Molesworth goes on to discuss powerful examples of engagement, listening, connection and self-reflection as alternatives to the received models of attention-grabbing spectacle and an ever-intensifying cycle of shock and desensitization. In a similar way, while the artists Herbert discusses don't show a singular path out of the current hall of mirrors, they remind us of the overlooked potential of engaging art with questioning, silence, and refusal.

Who could refuse to buy Tell Them I Said No at Amazon for like $24? [amazon]

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Pat Lasch cake sculpture for MoMA, 1979, destroyed, image: Pat Lasch via nyt

Feminist sculptor Pat Lasch only discovered that MoMA had thrown out an elaborate cake sculpture it commissioned from her in 1979 when a curator tried to borrow the piece for an upcoming retrospective. Randy Kennedy has the sad, baffling story in the NY Times.

Lasch made the sculpture at the invitation of MoMA's longtime curator Kynaston McShine, but it was displayed at a gala for The Modern's 50th anniversary, not in an exhibition. And though it was apparently kept for 20 years, it was never formally accessioned. So when its condition deteriorated, it was tossed out instead of conserved. Another, much smaller work was acquired by Prints and Drawings as a gift in 1979. But at 5'2", the cake sculpture was not only monumental, it was more important to Lasch's work at the time and since. Oh well.

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Joep van Lieshout, MoMA Bussing Station & Carts, 1995, presumed destroyed, image: Atelier van Lieshout: A Manual [pdf]

The incident reminds me of another blurry situation that began in 1995, when MoMA remade its cafe with all Dutch design in conjunction with a huge Mondrian retrospective. Along with product from folks like Piet Hein Eek [gratingly noisy sheet aluminum chairs] and Tejo Remy [those lights], the cafe included a huge commission from Joep van Lieshout: two fiberglass-wrapped bussing stations, some carts, and some garbage cans. They were basically giant functional sculptures riffing on minimalism and product.

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Joep van Lieshout, MoMA Bussing Station & Garbage Cans, 1995, presumed destroyed, image: Atelier van Lieshout: A Manual [pdf]

As with Pat Lasch's gala, the cafe commission was all overseen by a curator--two, actually, Terry Riley and Paola Antonelli, from Architecture & Design. In 2009 I tried to find out the fate of van Lieshout's objects, which disappeared from view along with the rest of the cafe in 2004, when the Taniguchi renovation started. Though chairs and lights went into storage, the hulking, 3-meter long turquoise and lime green bussing stations were nowhere to be found.

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via Visiting Artist [sic], Part 6/8


[I talked about the bussing stations for the first and only time so far in 2007, at Visiting Artist (sic), a lecture-turned-performance at the University of Utah, which may be one of the first artworks I ever made. Or rather, it was the first time I really contemplated myself acting as an artist. It was a very ambivalent moment, about some ambivalent art world gestures and conundrums, from an era when YouTube encoded things inexplicably green, and wouldn't let you upload anything longer than like 10 minutes. Maybe gotta work on that.]

Anyway, for these objects by Lasch and van Lieshout, it mattered less that they were commissions, by curators, or that their creators were artists who considered them works. What ultimately determined their fate was that the museum did not process the works into the collection. It turns out accessions matter.

On the bright side, as destroyed works, these pieces have a chance at being re-created. If I had a place to put them. Or show them.

Ars Longa, Except When MoMA Throws It Out [nyt]

Previously, related, but disorganized: Visiting Artist [sic] starts with parts 2 & 3.
Start here tho; there is no 1/8: Visiting Artist [sic], Part 2/8, Dan Flavin I [youtube]

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Untitled (Republican Years), 2017, nine empty jumbo frames, installation photo: @davidnakamura

Pleased is not the right word, but I will announce the installation of a site-specific work, Untitled (Republican Years), in the West Wing of the White House this afternoon.

The title is a reference to a 1992 stack piece by Felix Gonzalez-Torres, "Untitled" (Republican Years) (below), to which it bears a resemblance.

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Felix's is, of course, an endless number of prints.

This work consists of nine empty frames for the large, official photos known as "jumbos", lining a staircase north of the Oval Office. The wall normally contains ten jumbo frames, but one has been removed. Personally, nine still feels like too many. One feels like too many. In any case, tomorrow the work will no longer be on view.

Monday Update:
Indeed, the work is gone. [via @davidnakamura]

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installation shot, 2017, image via @juddlegum

Just when I thought Sforzianism was obsolete, and my ambivalence about designating politically charged stacks as works was abating, a cadre of Trump Organization staffers dressed the set of Donald's press conference with six stacks of manila folders containing paper.

The folders were unlabeled; some, if not all, papers appeared to be blank; no reporters were permitted access to any of it. Trump described the tableful of paper in folders as a portion of the many, many documents he'd had to sign to create the trust that would hold his companies when he becomes president. His sons would manage the trust. That is about all. It is unprecedented, unaccountable, and almost certainly unconstitutional, and yet the existence of these stacks of unviewable, unknowable, possibly entirely blank paper furthers the likelihood that this trust fiction will proceed, with all the entirely foreseeable outcomes. This is an extraordinary effect for such an abject object as manila folders.

If this were a work, a Felix Gonzalez-Torres-style stack, I'd imagine it would be shown on a black-draped table. There'd be an ideal height, or number of paper and folders as seen here. But as the paper would be symbolically linked to Trump's businesses and addressing the conflicts his businesses pose, I guess the supply could be infinite. Felix used the word endless, but I think that word is one of the reasons I'm not really sanguine about designating this right now.

UPDATE: Oh wow, more stacks. A stack of that Time magazine. Or, a stack and a bundle. This one falls somewhere between Felix and Robert Gober. via @mattmfm

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Previously, mentioned: On Study for Untitled (Thick List)

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Untitled (30.06 & 30.07), 2017, screen printed text on enamel on wood, est. 48 x 36 in., installation image via @soulellis

I'm psyched to announce the exhibition of new paintings at the Menil Collection in Houston. Untitled (30.06 & 30.07) (2017) are silk screened text on enamel on wood and on glass, and are installed at the entrances to the public buildings on the Menil's campus.

untitled-3006-3007-2_soulellis.jpgUntitled (30.06 & 30.07), 2017, screen printed text on enamel on wood, est. 48 x 36 in., installation image via @soulellis

The works were documented for the first time this morning by Paul Soulellis who, not coincidentally, probably, was also one of the first people to document Untitled (Andiron Attributed To Paul Revere, Jr.) back in the day.

The parenthetical in the title, text, appearance, and dimensions of these paintings are derived from the Texas Penal Code sections 30.06 and 30.07, which went into effect January 1, 2016:

(i) includes the language described by Paragraph (A) in both English and Spanish;
(ii) appears in contrasting colors with block letters at least one inch in height;  and
(iii) is displayed in a conspicuous manner clearly visible to the public.

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Untitled (30.06 & 30.07), 2017, screen printed text on glass in aluminum frame, est. 86 x 76 in., installation view via google maps

In accordance with Sections 30.06 and 30.07 these works may also be realized in an alternate format, specifically "a card or other document" containing the same text. While these are not believed to be currently available at the Menil, interested viewers can watch this space for news of future editions.

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 January 2017, in reverse chronological order

Older: December 2016

Newer February 2017

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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