‘That’s The Real [Gramsci] Monument’

The idea that 10 years from now–10 months from now–people will keep talking about an artist from Switzerland who landed in the middle of Forest Houses and for 77 days brought a different image of reality, that’s the real monument. It may not trigger a vocation, but it might trigger new ways of seeing reality and thinking that might not have been imaginable before. And maybe it’ll give us all, residents and non-residents of Forest Houses, the confidence that we can have an idea, have a project of our own, have a mission in life.

From Paul Schmelzer’s great q&a with Dia’s Philippe Vergne about Thomas Hirschhorn’s Gramsci Monument.
Vergne has interesting things to say about Dia, too, and how a seemingly temporary project like Gramsci fits into its core tradition of commissioning and exhibiting ambitious artist projects.
The Momentary Monument | Philippe Vergne on Thomas Hirschhorn’s Ode to Gramsci [walkerart.org]

Hot Favela Messe: Basel Riot Police Raid Protest Party In Tadashi Kawamata Cafe

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How is Tadashi Kawamata’s Art Basel Favela like a real favela? It’s built on public land, gets inhabited by people who don’t have legal permission to be there, who are tolerated or ignored for a while, and who then get attacked and dispersed by riot police when someone with power decides it’s time for them to go.
The details are still not clear to me, but Tages Woche reports that on Friday night, Basel police raided an outlaw party that had occupied Kawamata’s Favela cafe, firing tear gas and rubber bullets into the small crowd.
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It appears that an event organizer had erected a favela DJ booth of their own, and were presumably protesting Kawamata’s use of favelas to serve luxury falafel [at “reassuringly exclusive prices”] to visitors at Art Basel last week.
The event, or happening, or protest, seems to have been low-key. According to Tages Woche, Kawamata’s collaborating architect Christophe Scheidegger met with the protestors, and they were allowed to stay for a while. Police and Art Basel officials decided to clear them out at 10pm, declaring the noise levels illegal, and that continued occupation of the favela–in the public platz, which had been rented by Art Basel–would be considered trespassing.
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And that’s when, holy shit, it looks like they sent an assault force straight to the DJ favela to end the music and scatter the crowds with pepper spray and rubber bullets. Police established a perimeter, ended the party, kicked a few people on the ground, and then retreated back into the new Herzog & deMeuron Messe [above].

Tages Woche has a video of the attack shot from the parking garage [The embed above is from LiveLeak, but it’s on Vimeo, which won’t embed, and on YouTube, which, honestly, someone put an age-related content warning on? Is this an anti-viral video tactic?], though it’s edited in a way that does not make it so clear what exactly preceded, and may have precipitated, the use of violent crowd control tactics. [The editors and reporters wrote a followup post addressing the circumstances of shooting the video.]

But this unedited YouTube video posted by Gab Kae tracks around the entire platz, and captures the police raid from within Kawamata’s own favela. [It comes at around 2:20.] If there’s anything at all that justifies such an attack, I can’t see it. For these people hanging out in front of Art Basel, abuse of power came as a baffling surprise.
UPDATE greg.org reader Arthur points to another Tages Woche video, uploaded yesterday, which was taken on the ground, right next to the police, and which shows preparations for their assault on the party/protest.
In addition to the donkey, which had been part of the initial protest, the video features this nice, white-haired lady drinking a tallboy who, upon consultation with the officers, decides it best to move her chair out of the way.

After literally receiving their marching orders the Basel police head straight for their target. Which, this video makes clear, is the thumping sound system. Just watch that amp skittering out across the platz at 1:40. Obviously, the music demanded a forceful response, and any human casualties, injuries, or abuses, must be considered collateral damage and entirely unintentional. You know how it can be when techno dirtbags crash your party and won’t leave.
Video: Gewaltsame Polizeiräumung am Messeplatz [tageswoche.ch]
Basel Favela Occupation [artreview]

Organizer-Artist vs Artist-Organizer

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The new Frieze begins its series of artists talking about curating and being curated [sub req] with Daniel Buren’s classic 1972/1992 statement in Harald Szeeman’s Documenta 5, “Exhibitions of an Exhibition.”
I never registered it before, but Buren uses the term “organizer” for curator. Which is ironic, because at apexart several years ago, at the thin wedge of the emerging trend/abuse, they moved away from using the term “curator”–in favor of “organizer.” And the sense I’ve gotten while working on Exhibition Space is that they were seeking to get away from exactly the curator-as-artist/exhibition-as-art pretensions or associations that Buren was kvetching about in 1972.
In any case, now that I’m an organizer, and apparently the worst of Buren’s fears realized, here are some excerpts from his 1992 English translation of “Exhibitions of an Exhibition”:

Exhibitions of an exhibition
More and more, the subject of an exhibition tends not be the display of artworks, but the exhibition of the exhibition as a work of art….
The works presented are carefully chosen touches of color in the tableau that composes each section (room) as a whole.
There is even an order to these colors, these being defined and arranged according to the drawn design of the section (selection) in which they are spread out/presented.
These sections (castrations), themselves carefully chosen “touches of color” in the tableau that makes up the exhibition as a whole and in its very principle, only appear by placing themselves under the wing of the organizer, who reunifies art by rendering it equivalent everywhere in the case/screen that he prepares for it.
The organizer assumes the contradictions; it is he who safeguards them.
It is true, then, that the exhibition establishes itself as its own subject, and its own subject as a work of art. The exhibition is the “valorizing receptacle” in which art is played out and founders, because even if the artwork was formerly revealed thanks to the museum, it now serves as nothing more than a decorative gimmick for the survival of the museum as tableau, a tableau whose author is none other than the exhibition organizer.

Which, in 2003, prefaced his response to the idea, proposed by e-flux and Jens Hoffman, that “The Next Documenta Should Be Curated By an Artist.”:

Could a large-scale exhibition like Documenta be entrusted to an artist? If the tendency remarked upon here continues to hold, my response would undoubtedly be “yes.” For the artist-organizer would erase the faults inherent in the organizer-artist. For example, it would be worth betting that the announcement of an artist-organizer, whoever he or she might be, would cause an immense outcry of lamentations from the choir of the majority of all the other panic-stricken and destabilized artists.
This will be a varied and serious song. Its reasons for being will be intelligent, stupid, and revealing at the same time. They will be founded on jealousy, on the one hand, and fear of the artist-organizer’s positions, on the other. Artists, exacerbated individualists if ever they existed, would show that their corporatist spirit is not as remote as it may seem. One would notice, then, that the critiques suddenly raised by the announcement of the name of an artist-organizer had never been raised by the announcement of any organizer-artist. This a priori predictable reaction already bears within itself the fruits of extremely positive debates, for they reveal a state of fact that has been occulted for over thirty years.

John Cage’s Europeras 1 & 2, On Stage Now At The Ruhr Triennial

I’m done waiting. This Europera 1 & 2 post is apparently not going to write itself.
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The Ruhr Triennial opened last weekend with what is only the third [production and fourth -ed.] staging of John Cage’s grandest* composition, the 1987 Europeras 1 & 2. It’s basically a chance operations tour de force that runs the entirety of the European opera canon–arias, stories, costumes, props, sets, lighting, libretti, staging, orchestra–through the I Ching wringer, which performance is conducted, so to speak, by the cues of a 2.75-hour clock. As Cage put it, “For 200 years the Europeans have sent us their operas. Now I’m returning all of them.”
All six performances in the Triennial’s home venue, the vast, repurposed industrial Centennial Hall Bochum sold out immediately. So far three have happened, directed by the director of the entire Triennial, avant-garde composer Heiner Goebbels.
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So I’ve been monitoring the reviews jealously, and with some indignance. The scale and ambition and significance of the work is being respected–the work has only ever been performed in Germany–but it seems that both critics and directors alike still struggle with the vocabulary and the very concept of Cage’s chance-driven work.
In the only English-language review I’ve found so far, The Financial Times’ Shirley Apthorp describes Europeras’ “extravagant evening of associative nonsense” as both “chaos” and “minutely choreographed absurdity.” Writing for FAZ Eleonore Buening criticized Goebbels for putting the “chaos Cage conceived a quarter century ago back in a Museumsvitrine.” If I read my German correctly, “The director placed too little confidence,” Buening writes, “in the expiration of the clock, the will of the participants, or even Comrade Chance.” And did Cage ever have a better comrade?
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I have never seen Europera 1 & 2, but I’ve been studying up on them for the last year or so. The original staging, commissioned in 1985 by the Frankfurt Opera, was the dissertation subject of Laura Kuhn, who was involved in the production, and who has since become the director of the John Cage Trust.
Europera 1 & 2 strikes me as a simultaneous negation and celebration of opera as an art/theatrical form, but also as a cultural and historical institution. His chance-based composition removes narrative, character arcs, literary and stage conventions, and authorial intentions from the experience of a performance. Chance is not chaos or absurdity; it’s a different syntax. How does any opera performance seem if you don’t know the story or speak the language? Would you ever call it chaos or nonsense?
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An opera diehard may want to identify the source of every passing prop, aria, or orchestral passage in Europera–did the Stump The Operahead trivia quiz during the intermission of the Met’s weekly radio broadcast ever tackle Cage? Just like a moviehound might try to flag the source of every clip in Christian Marclay’s The Clock. But that risks missing Cage’s point [which is not Marclay’s]: that the experience of the montage has quality and meaning and value in itself, apart from the original content and its juxtapositions, not because of them.
And maybe critics actually are better attuned to this now, and the problem [sic] is just/still the directors. In FAZ, discussing the “Children’s Jury” who Goebbels convened to award unconventional prizes during the Triennial, Buening found a new twist on the classic MTV Crisis when she worried that the media-saturated, “Multi-tasken” Kids These Days might be bored by Cage’s 1980s jump cut revolution. After watching a rehearsal of Europera Ruhr Nachtrichten writer Julia Gass said Cage foreshadowed the “TV Zapp Era”; actually, he was soaking in it. Cage’s vision of the future was surfing the 400-operatic channels of the past.
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Europera may be Cage’s most ambitious and explicit appropriationist work. According to Kuhn’s firsthand account of the making of, Cage, relying on the collection of Lincoln Center’s library, determined to include only operas that were in the public domain. For the flats and sets, he had researchers in Germany compile engravings and illustrations of composers, architecture, and animals from pre-20th century books. With these copyright-free source sets established, Cage used chance operations and a time log to generate the content of the opera.
And this, apparently, is where Goebbels’ otherwise extraordinary production falls short. I’ll try to account for the differences–or more precisely, the changes–between Goebbels’ version and Cage’s, the immediately apparent one is his replacement of simple, graphic flats with actual operatic sets. Buening sees this as too deterministic, too willfully absurdist [in the mold of Robert Wilson, who, inexplicably, is the Triennial’s English talking head for Europera], and stuck to the cliches and oneliners of operatic theatricality. And too much of the director’s own indulgences, which runs diametrically counter to Cage’s purging intentions.
It’s a perennial problem with Cage’s interpreters, who take the indeterminacy of his compositions as license to do whatever they want. Not coincidentally, that sounds like exactly the criticism voiced in OMM by Sebastian Hanusa over the previous production of Europeras 1 & 2 at the Hannover State Opera. [It opened in October 2001, and I confess, I was not paying much attention to German opera gossip at the time.] According to Hanusa, Lowery kept the aria singers offstage, and instead of the chance-derived staging, he created various storytelling set pieces. It sounds almost as bad as Cage’s sabotaged NY Phil debut in 1964.
But it’s better than nothing? I don’t know. Is it the kind of thing you can watch on DVD? Will Europeras ever be staged in the US? [YES, SEE BELOW.] Frankly, we may still not be ready for it. Or maybe we’ve superseded it; with the right code and a few browser tabs on YouTube, we can generate our own Europera anytime we want. Man Bartlett’s #12hPoint, I’m looking at you.
UPDATE/CORRECTION: Thanks to DJW for correcting me; Europeras 1 & 2 was staged in the US. Christopher Hunt brought the original Frankfurt production to Summerfare at SUNY Purchase in 1988. According to John Rockwell’s bemused NY Times’ review, the New York version, which took place on a grander stage, was actually closer to Cage’s original vision, which the Frankfurt Opera had to rework after its main theater was damaged by arson just before the Europeras‘ premiere. Anyway, more to come on that.
* OK, the 639-year-long organ performance of As Slow As Possible, also from 1987, at St. Burchardi church in Halberstadt is also pretty grand. But I’d argue its grandeur is more the performance, not necessarily the composition.

On Thomas Hirschhorn’s Chains

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I fell for the first one ever saw, which was CNN, but in 2002 Thomas Hirschhorn started a whole series of gigantic, bling-inspired sculptures out of his signature, cheap-ass materials: foil, cardboard, mylar, and packing tape.
CNN was an edition of 50, published by Schellmann for Okwui Enwezor’s documenta 11, and it quickly sold out–and started getting flipped, as Pedro Velez’ artnet photo from c.2003 Art Chicago shows.
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But the tricky thing is that though they were produced from the same crap as his mass edition, Hirschhorn’s other chains were unique sculptures. And that might have hurt them in the market. Phillips couldn’t sell Opel Chain (2002) for $60-80,000 in 2008, even though that was a bargain for a large-ish Hirschhorn at the time.
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And though I’ll be forever grateful for introducing me to Hirschhorn’s work in the 90s, I could never ask what Chantal Crousel Galerie wanted for Toyota Chain (2002), but it was still hanging around in 2009.
I love Alison Gingeras’ quote from Parkett 57 (1999), for which Hirschhorn made an edition, Swiss Made, a giant, aluminum foil, cardboard, and packing tape watch:

Thomas Hirschhorn–an artist easily recognized for his persistent use of low-grade materials such as tinfoil, cardboard, plywood, plastic, and masking tape in his sculptural assemblages–perfectly illustrates cheapness in all of its senses. From the connotation of poor quality or shoddy standing to appearing easily made, despicable, or having little value, Hirschhorn has cultivated more than aesthetic consistency in his oeuvre. Underlying the objects that he fashions out of these meager materials is a sophisticated machine whose inner workings produce affects and interpretations that extend beyond mere formal statement. Cheap is no longer just an adjective; Hirschhorn makes it a procedure.

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Wood Chain VII, Great Wall of China image: stephenfriedman
By 2004, Hirschhorn was making his large chain pieces out slightly more durable, more upscale wood, but I was not feeling it. I’m still not. So mylar and foam and aluminum tape it will be, simultaneously filling the Hirschhornian gap while saluting the three M’s: MOCA, Mercedes, and Mike D. Cheapness in all of its senses.

Study For Untitled (MOCA Mercedes, After Mike D), 2012

Mike D has traded up
OK, people, who has not been telling me about this? In Transmission LA, the very important exhibition Mike D just curated at MOCA, sponsored by Mercedes Benz?
Fortunately, Tyler Green used flickr user Eli Carrico’s image, above, for a MOCAWTF roundup, or I might have missed it for even longer.]
Here are a couple of other views, from sadjeans, who reports that “this Mercedes emblem was six feet wide,” which, really?
Untitled
And these from Nicolas Arias:
Untitled
Untitled
Oops, sorry, that one’s from inside the show.
Besides its own self-evident awesomeness, it reminds me of one of my favorite artworks from Documenta 11, by Thomas Hirschhorn. Hirschhorn installed his Bataille Monument in a Turkish housing complex out of Kassel’s city center.
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To get to it, he’d come pick you up in a worked-over, old Mercedes, which I can’t believe I can’t find a photo of? Really, Internet? But that’s not important now.
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Because the work I’m talking about his contribution to the Documenta Collection by Edition Schellmann, sold exclusively at the show. CNN is a 2.5meter-wide piece of gold chain bling with the once-relevant news network logo dangling from it. An edition of 50, the original price was just EUR1200. And when it’s come up for sale it’s been just $5,000. So it’s an awesome–and inexpensive–way to fill a wall.
Obviously, if I can’t track down this original–do we know who the artist is? Mike D? Or the edition size? Did it enter MOCA’s collection?–I will be making my own edition in the Hirschhorn-ian style to celebrate MOCA’s and Mercedes Benz’s unwavering support and incisive relevance to contemporary art.
FIVE MINUTES LATER UPDATE:
OK, then, it’s a go. Notcot has these hardhitting photos from the opening. The artist is indeed Mike D. His subversive appropriation of the Mercedes logo and his deployment of it as a readymade were not limited to the patio. He had at least two more, one leaning against a fence, and one inside, tucked into a corner.
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I assume they’re from dealerships. No idea how he got a hold of them. But that does not look like six feet across; more like four. Okay, that one may be six feet. And the chains are gold[en].
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Also from Notcot: this gripping firsthand report:

So it’s only natural that when curating this art festival (which they gave him carte blanche on!) he created a HUGE Mercedes emblem hanging on a large chain in the central pavillion of the exhibition… as well as a few huge emblems tucked around the space… and then around 25 special chain necklaces with authentic Mercedes-Benz emblems for the artists and key brand folks…

Which was enthusiastic enough [“Here’s Anders-Sundt Jensen, Head Of Brand Communications, modeling one of the necklaces!”] for Anders-Sundt Jensen, Head of Brand Communications, to give said necklace to said blogger at the end of the night.
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Hmm, do we have a photo of Deitch wearing a Mercedes chain necklace?

Our Man In Venice

I’ve liked this explanation Gerhard Richter gave in 1972 to Rolf Schön about the relationship in his work between photography and painting for a long time, but it’s been particularly awesome lately:

RS: How do you stand in relation to illusion? Is imitating photographs a distancing device, or does it create the appearance of reality?
Illusion in the trompe-l’oeil sense is not one of my techniques, and the effect isn’t illusionistic. I’m not trying to imitate a photograph; I’m trying to make one. And if I disregard the assumption that a photograph is a piece of paper exposed to light, then I am practising photography by other means: I’m not producing paintings that remind you of a photograph but producing photographs. And, seen in this way, those of my paintings that have no photographic source (the abstracts, etc.) are also photographs.
How objective, in the documentary sense, is your photographic painting?
It isn’t. First of all, only photographs can be objective, because they relate to an object without themselves being objects. [hmm, well. -ed.] However, I can also see them as objects and even make them into objects–by painting them, for instance. From that point onwards they cannot be, and art not meant to be, objective any more–nor are they meant to document anything whatever, whether reality or a view of reality. They are the reality, the view, the object. They can only be documented.

Richter’s interview with Schoen was first published under the headline, “Unser Mann in Venedig [Our Man In Venice],” in Deutsche Zeitung, on April 14, 1972, exactly 40 years ago. It was included that summer in the catalogues for both the German Pavilion and the Venice Biennale.
It’s also included in both The Daily Practice of Painting and the reboot edition, Gerhard Richter: Writings 1961 – 2007 [pp. 59-60].

The Complete Spot Challenge

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Oh, man, just last night I was goof-tweeting about this, and it turns out it’s already a thing. Registration for The Complete Spot Challenge starts tomorrow:

Visit all eleven Gagosian Gallery locations during the exhibition Damien Hirst: The Complete Spot Paintings 1986-2011 and receive a signed spot print by Damien Hirst, dedicated personally to you.
Registration begins on January 6 and ends on February 10, 2012.

Via Two Coats comes a link to a Carol Vogel story in the Times from last month [whoops, from Jan. 6. Note to self: 12 is the year now, not the month. -ed.] with a few details on the challenge:

To apply, they give their names, the dates their journeys begin and photo identification, like a passport or driver’s license.
Each registrant will then be issued a special “Spot challenge registration card,” with 11 empty circles. At each location the person shows identification and has the card specially stamped (each gallery has its own color) by one of the designated gallery officials. The contestant’s presence will be noted on a gallery database.
Asked how he came up with the idea, Mr. Hirst responded in an e-mail: “I figured it would be pretty difficult to visit all the galleries, and totally admirable if anyone managed it, so admirable in fact that I thought they would deserve a work of art, so we came up with the idea to do the challenge. I’d love it if people manage it. I remember the golden tickets in Willy Wonka, maybe it’s a bit like that.”

How awesome that he invokes the utterly deranged Willy Wonka for this thing, which goes beyond difficult; I think it’d positively hellish. Which is really perfect.
It’s not an overstatement to say that the art pilgrimage has been a key organizing principle of mine for most of my adult life. I’ve considered the personal experience of art, visiting it, going out of my way for it, making special trips for it, sacrificing for it, as a form of collecting, equal to or greater than actually buying works. There have been plenty of times too, when I’ve chosen to travel to see some art rather than buy some.
And I’ve done compleatist tours in the past. I traveled to the various locations of John Cage’s Rolywholyover and Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ retrospective, and visited works I love when they’re installed in different locations. And let’s not even start on biennials and art fairs.
And now, Damien Hirst is turning the idea of a transformative art pilgrimage into a grueling, round-the-world race, with a “free” five-figure print at the finish line. It’s kind of despicably brilliant, really. Like a Black Friday riot for billionaires. Fantastic.
Obviously, I’ll be registering immediately.
UPDATE FROM THE REGISTRATION: the “Personal Spot Print”:

Acceptance and use of the Personal Spot Print constitutes permission (except where prohibited by law) to use your name, image, likeness and photograph (all at the discretion of the Sponsor) for future advertising, publicity in any and all media now or hereafter devised throughout the world in perpetuity, without additional compensation, notification or permission.

Damien Hirst Spot Challenge [gagosian.com/spotchallenge]

Kim Schoenstadt At–Whoa, UMOCA

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A little while ago, I got an email from LA-based artist Kim Schoenstadt, asking if it was alright to reference some photos I took a few years ago of unusually awesome modernist houses in Salt Lake City. She planned to incorporate drawings based on parts of the photos into a larger landscape/installation at her Doctorow Prize exhibition at the Salt Lake Art Center.
Obviously, yeah, fire it up, I said.
And then just now, I popped on over to the SLAC website to see how it all turned out, and it looks great. There’s a participatory drawing/paint-by-numbers/vinyl sticker reveal component of the show I’m not quite grasping, but it should make sense when we see it in person in a couple of weeks.
Meanwhile, holy smokes, the Art Center announced today that it has changed its name to the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art. Which is a thing I can barely imagine exists, but there it is. And to think it was once called the Art Barn. Mazeltovs all around out there.
Utah MOCA Doctorow Prize – Inaugural Exhibition, Kim Schoenstadt [utahmoca.org, which domain name was registered in Aug 2010, so maybe I’m just the last to know]
Kim Schoenstadt [kimschoenstadt.com]

Coke Slab By Sebastian Errazuriz

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Sebastian Errazuriz came up with the idea for his coke slab when he saw friends scratching out lines on a coffee table. The indentations make it so easy, a child could do it!
It’s so functional and brilliant, I’m surprised someone hasn’t invented it already. It’s also gorgeous to look at, though it also appears that the actual production version available for sale on Grey Area’s website is matte finish, not mirror-finish stainless steel. Too bad.
Maybe better to wait for Rirkrit‘s version.
[Other things I just thoguht of: Painting Bitten By A Man, 1961, Jasper Johns; Table, also 1961, Yves Klein.]
COKE SLAB
Sebastian Errazuriz, 16 x 9 x 0.75 inches, $2,100
[shopgreyarea.com via museumnerd]

Marina Knows What She Is Doing.

At the invitation of Jeffrey Deitch, Yvonne Rainer has seen a rehearsal of Marina Abramovic’s performance art project for this year’s MoCA Los Angeles gala. And in a new letter to Deitch, she has refined and reiterated her condemnation of it as an exploitative and “grotesque spectacle [that] promises to be truly embarrassing.”
Would that it were actually embarrassing to the people involved, and to Marina herself. Rainer goes to great, cordial lengths in her open letter to Deitch [reproduced below] to separate her criticism of the gala from Abramovic’s work. While generous, I believe this is incorrect; the only context in which a revolving human head centerpiece on a $100,000 table could be realized is as an artwork. I mean, Abramovic’s certainly not claiming this is just edgy party decoration, is she?
If that were so, the case for embarrassment would be easily made. No, I think the reason this rankles so much is precisely because the gala does take on the mantle of art–and the stamp and stature of the artist. It’s not possible to say that this gala is not art; it is art you cannot afford to experience. It is art that you find humanly, ethically, and socially objectionable. And it is being produced and shown for money in one of our [sic] most reputable museums, by an artist who shows and is celebrated in similar institutions.
That’s a reality of the art world as it’s currently constructed.

Last year between the blog post where I declared the Gala as Art Movement and my presentation on it at #rank, I found two things: 1) Abramovic was deeply engaged in the luxury/sensual/sensory spectacle that is the gala experience’s stock in trade. And 2) Doug Aitken’s MoCA gala Happening was, on one level, a critique of the real estate and cultural forces which used art and museums to shape Los Angeles to serve their own needs. And that critique was utterly and completely subsumed by those very forces, probably without Aitken realizing it.
The Gala is bigger than any artist’s attempt to subvert it from inside the party tent. Aitken tried and failed, but I think Abramovic is just fine with it.
Yvonne Rainer Blasts Marina Abramović and MOCA LA [theperformanceclub.org]
Previously: An Incomplete History of The Gala-as-Art Movement [greg.org]
“Relational Aesthetics for the Rich, or A Brief History of the Gala as Art” [vimeo]
Yvonne Rainer’s revised letter to Jeffrey Deitch, along with its growing list of signatories, is after the jump.

Continue reading “Marina Knows What She Is Doing.”

Creative America

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This interior shot of Fuller/Sadao’s US Pavilion at Expo67 almost has it all: installation view of the giant paintings Lichtenstein, Newman, Warhol and Johns made for Alan Solomon’s American Painting Now; plus a giant photomural of the moon, perfect for posing in front of.
There’s another photomural, earthrise from the moon, on the other side, which was a backdrop for the lunar landscape diorama. You can see it in Carl Harstad’s photo:
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And the satelloon-like weather balloons were just out of both pictures’ edge. Fortunately, Bob Charlton’s mother captured them below:
American Pavilion - Expo '67
The underside approach for the lunar platform has this awesome installation [image from fan train’s flickr], a series of panels or canvases with abstracted elements of the American flag. It’s a little Ellsworth Kelly, a little Helio Oiticica, and a little Richard Lippold at Lincoln Center, all rolled into one piece of exhibition filler created, I assume, by Cambridge Seven.
American Pavilion
This other photo from Carl Harstad of the Hollywood section of Cambridge Seven’s exhibit features, what? I don’t know. I’d guess it’s left over from Joseph Manciewicz’s disastrous Cleopatra shoot, in front of a giant, multipanel headshot of Humphrey Bogart.
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Cambridge’s exhibition carried the overall title, Creative America, and I think it very successfully steamrolled everything–paintings, photomurals, dioramas, film props, spaceships, cultural effluvia–into a single, unified, spectacularized drive-by aesthetic experience. And it was all done by and for the US Government. As I go on about reconsidering ‘non-art’ things like photomurals and satelloons in an art context, I keep coming back to the Expo67 pavilion. At one point, it was all art, or something like it. And vice versa.
[note: I’ve seen it elsewhere, but I took that top photo from former USIA design director Jack Masey’s powerpoint deck on the history of postwar World’s Fairs, which he presented last October at the National Building Museum. I’m about to listen to his archived talk now.]

What I Look At Many Days: Gerhard Richter Colour Charts

I am aware of the work of Pablo Neruda Gerhard Richter.
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I have not been reading Gerhard Richter: Writings 1961-2007 straight through, of course, but it’s been with me a lot lately. And it’s kind of annoyed me that there is not really anything about this incredible photo, showing part of the installation of Demonstrative 1967, Galerie Heiner Friedrich’s weeklong exhibition at DuMont Publishers, down the street from the inaugural Cologne Art Fair, from which he had been excluded.
In addition to Richter, the display included works by his Capitalist Realist cofounders Sigmar Polke [I think that’s a raster bild there on the left] and Konrad Lueg [the inflatable cube structures], as well as by Blinky Palermo, Reiner Ruthenbeck, the British painter John Hoyland–and Cy Twombly.
Now about that Richter. That giant color chart painting which looks like a folding screen. For a while, it threw me off precisely because it looked like a folding screen. Considering 1967 was also the year Richter started working with glass panes and doors and other materials that related to a painting plane but were not, I was wondering if this painted, free-standing panel object embodied some lost chapter in the color charts’ “pop meets abstraction, quietly upends both” story.
Orrrr maybe, the painting was just too big to go on that wall, and Blinky needed that other wall, and Lueg’s balloons block everything anyway, and what the hell, it’s a week, and an art fair.
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Ten Large Colour Charts/ Zehn große Farbtafeln, 1966, via gerhard-richter.com
Because there is no color chart folding screen. That work is Ten Large Colour Charts (1966), a ten-panel painting in the K20 collection in Dusseldorf. It is one of the earliest color chart paintings Richter ever showed, but it’s probably the first that many German art worlders ever saw. [Eighteen Colour Charts was the first first shown, in Richter’s one-person show at Friedrich’s Munich gallery in May 1967.]
Anyway, point is, or one point is, I think, that looking at Richter’s color chart paintings, and his 4900 Colours grids before that, and his Cologne Cathedral stained glass window before that, and so on, changes the way you look at the world. And by you, I mean, of course, me. It changes the way you look at color samples, whether in the paint store, or at the moment, in a grid laid out on a governmental stylebook website.
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And it’s not just a matter of this looks like that, or not entirely. Because there’s also the context in which Richter painted his color charts–and the larger biographical/political context that shoots through Richter’s entire practice. That Demonstrative 67 photo is in a spread with what may be my favorite snapshot in the Writings book: on the right there, not Table, 1962, CR-1 [!]–which, if Christopher Wool can take up painting with that thing already in the world, color charts are not gonna hold me back–the one on top, with the caption, “Polke and Richter families, 1965.”
Oh, just drinking some tea with the kids and Uncle Rudi.

On Robert Breer, Floats, Rugs & Flags

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I’ve had Michelle Kuo’s interview with Robert Breer [artforum, nov 2010] open in my browser tabs for months now, ever since Steve Roden posted about his incredible little toy Float, which was sold at MoMA’s gift shop in 1970, at the same time one of Breer’s original Pepsi Pavilion Floats had been liberated from Expo’70 in Osaka and set loose in the Abby Aldrich Sculpture Garden. [A PDF of The Modern’s Aug. 25 press release for the piece, titled Osaka I, said the toy Floats would be sold for $7.95, or two for $15,” in the Museum’s Christmas Shop.]
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Kuo’s is one of the best interviews I’ve seen with Breer; most never got past the basic, “how did you get into animation?” “So you lived in Paris on the GI Bill?” chestnuts. With what is now a terrible lack of urgency, I’d made a few attempts to track down Breer this year, in hopes of following up with him about what he’d probably consider the least important aspects of his creative practice: the commercial work and product design and TV animation [including still unidentified segments on The Electric Company] he would bring up–and then insist be kept separate.
Because Breer’s consistently innovative filmmaking and playfully minimalistic/animalistic sculptures–and the fact that he did his most monumentally awesome art work for Pepsi–hinted at the potential relevance of the work he kept in his commercial closet.
Which, amusingly, is not really the point, except to say I want to find a Float of my own, please.
No, the immediate point is, wow, how awesome is Breer’s 1966 sculpture, Rug? This was the work that introduced Breer’s sculpture to me, at a show that also opened my eyes to the revelatory breadth of his filmmaking. It was recreated for the first time in decades in 1999 at AC Projects. Their small second floor space in off-Chelsea was creeping and crawling with little Breer sculptures, while the Mylar Rug slowly shifted around in place. The other works felt alive, droid-like. Rug‘s movements were creepier, more ominous, like something was alive underneath it.

Good for the Walker, it looks like they acquired the mylar Rug [there are others, in other colors/materials] just this year.
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Anyway, while poking around GB Agency, Breer’s Paris gallery, I came across this sketch, dated 8/71, which includes an incredible proposal for a Rug piece made from an American flag. [The text underneath reads, “float flat on floor (flags) + motors”.] The storyboard-like drawing not only ties Breer’s sculptural and animation projects together nicely; the other three sequences–“cloud in sun,” “bushes in breeze,” and “daisies”–help site Breer’s work in observation, duration, and the natural world. Which may have mitigated the political implications in 1971 of something lurking under a crumpled US flag.
In any case, I expect, if not exactly look forward to the day when, this work will be realized for a future Breer retrospective.