February 28, 2008

The Moon Museum

kalpakjian_moonworks-3.jpgHoly ^%$&! Man Smuggles Art To The &%#$ing Moon!
In 2003, Craig Kalpakjian proposed a series of Earthworks-style drawings that would be executed on the surface of the moon, like the Nazca Lines or 60's bad boys Michael Heizer's and Dennis Oppenheim's desert drawings. He called them Moonworks.

Now I find out there was already an entire Moon Museum, with drawings by six leading contemporary artists of the day: Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, David Novros, Forrest "Frosty" Myers, Claes Oldenburg, and John Chamberlain. The Moon Museum was supposedly installed on the moon in 1969 as part of the Apollo 12 mission.

I say supposedly, because NASA has no official record of it; according to Frosty Myers, the artist who initiated the project, the Moon Museum was secretly installed on a hatch on a leg of the Intrepid landing module with the help of an unnamed engineer at the Grumman Corporation after attempts to move the project forward through NASA's official channels were unsuccessful.

Myers revealed the exhibition's existence to the New York Times, which published the story Nov. 22, 1969, two days after the Apollo 12 crew had left the moon--and the Intrepid--and two days before they arrived back on earth. Here's the photo from the story:

moon_museum_nyt.jpg


According to Myers, who was involved with E.A.T. on the Pepsi Pavilion project at the time, the six drawings were miniaturized and baked onto an iridium-plated ceramic wafer measuring just 3/4" x 1/2" x 1/40", with the assistance of engineers at Bell Labs.

According to the Times, the artworks are, clockwise from the top center: Rauschenberg's wavy line; Novros' black square bisected by thin white lines [in 1969, Novros also created the incredibly rich, minimalist fresco on the second floor of Judd's 101 Spring St]; a computer-generated drawing by Myers; a geometric mouse by Oldenburg, "the subject of a sculpture in his current show at the Museum of Modern Art" [a sculpture which is in MoMA's permanent collection, btw]; and a template pattern by Chamberlain, "similar to one he used to produce paintings done with automobile lacquer." Warhol's contribution, which is obscured by the thumb above, is described as "a calligraphic squiggle made up of the initials of his signature."

Actually, it's a drawing of a penis. Here are some other photos by Frosty Myers, published, I believe, with a 1985 Omni Magazine article by the arts writer Phoebe Hoban. That would be the Warhol Penis there in the upper right.

MoonMuseum.jpg

As the NASA spokesman told the Times when asked about the Museum infiltration, "I don't know about it. If we had been asked, it sounds like something we'd have very much interested in [sic]. If it is true that they've succeeded in doing it by some clandestine means, I hope that the work represents the best in contemporary American art."
[emphasis added for ironic amusement, though to Myers' credit, it turned out to be a pretty good grouping of artists to have involved.]

But is it conceivable that someone could have smuggled dirty pictures onto a mission to the moon? Actually, yes. Even if Warhol hadn't sent that penis to the moon, Apollo 12 would still have achieved the first known incident of lunar nudity.

The back-up crew for the A12 mission surreptitiously inserted reduced photos of Playboy centerfolds into the flight crew's fireproof plastic cuff checklists which were only discovered about 2.5 hours into their first moon walk. [if you're at work, that first link is to nasa.gov, and the second is to playboy.com. The same scans are available at both sites, though NASA has conveniently embedded theirs in a PDF.]

Apollo12_centerfold.jpg

In addition to the six drawings, the Moon Museum also acquired a large collection of photographs; astronaut Alan Bean accidentally left several rolls of undeveloped film behind on the lunar surface. The checklists came back with the astronauts.

Related: Frosty Myers, the SoHo pioneer, had a retrospective exhibition last November-December at Friedman Benda Gallery in Chelsea. [friedmanbenda.com]
Also, he had a sitdown with my favorite crazy at The Grey Lady, design/home writer Joyce Wadler. [nyt]

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.

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first published: February 28, 2008.

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