Will Work Off Jpegs: Destroyed Richter Paintings

Destroyed Richter Painting #03
First off, a huge thanks to everyone who came to the opening of Richteriana Saturday, and a high five to Magda, Postmasters and the artists in the show. It really does look great, and interesting, and provocative. If you can, you should definitely see it in person.
Destroyed Richter Painting #04
Which is actually one reason I debated not posting images of the Destroyed Richter Paintings paintings I put into the show. One of the real drivers of making the paintings was to approximate the experience of standing in front of paintings that could now only be seen through photos. Or transparencies. Or JPGs. And to measure what the difference is between these different modes of mediated perception.
Destroyed Richter Painting #02
I did not have access to the actual dimensions of Richter’s original works, but I worked hard to deduce the size as well as to approximate the image, so as to make the feeling of seeing a picture in person as authentic [sic] as possible, even while acknowledging that Richter made such an experience impossible.
Destroyed Richter Painting #05
But looking at jpgs of paintings [of jpgs of paintings of photos] obviously falls short of this idealized encounter. As so much of our art encounter/consumption does. It’s a distinction that most people miss or gloss over, but which is not lost on Tyler Green, who recently addressed the subject of critics reviewing shows they haven’t seen by tweeting, “I never ‘work’ off JPEG.”
Richter actually showed most or all of the paintings depicted here between 1964-67, so in a way, there’s an aspect of going back in time, to encounter Richter and his work at the beginning of his Western career. A time when the context of the work wasn’t hype and adulation and skyrocketing prices, but bafflement, resistance, and indignation. There are early photo paintings that survive only because someone bought them or kept them; so these works, which were once good enough to be exhibited or put on sale, were rejected by the market before they were ultimately rejected by the artist himself.
Destroyed Richter Painting #01
The one exception/mystery is Grau. This is one of the 70+ paintings that did make it into the catalogue raisonne, but which are now listed as destroyed. And if there’s a surviving image of the three destroyed grey monochromes [CR395-1-3], I couldn’t find it. So all that’s known publicly is the dimensions, and the unusual support [wood panel]. But that’s part of the beauty of the grey paintings, I thought, that you could think you could credibly extrapolate an actual painting from such minimal information. And seeing it in person really makes me miss Richter’s version–and to wonder what happened to it.

Andy Warhol Painting His BMW Art Car

At first I was thinking this is odd seeing Warhol himself going at something with a big ol’ brush. But then I figured the bloctchy paint scheme for the 1979 BMW M1 was similar to the underpaintings on his portraits, and to the Shadows paintings from the same time, so maybe it wasn’t that unusual after all. At least for him.
Though it was for BMW. Warhol was the first artist to paint directly on his art car rather than have the company execute his maquette, which according to Art Car Project responsable Herve Poulain, was done with “exaggerated gestures, like a dancer.” Combine that with his signature pit crew jumpsuit, and all the cameras, and it seems clear that Warhol was performing.
Poulain describes Warhol’s concept as camouflage, and a critique of the “war-like” aspect of racing, a reference neither he nor BMW apparently cared for.
commentary-free version of Warhol painting a BMW M1 [via warholstars]
Chattier, bouncier, talking head version of the making of Warhol’s BMW Art Car [via bmwdrives.com]

Philip Glass, Gandhi And The Peoples’ Mic

New Yorker music critic Alex Ross posted this extraordinary video of Philip Glass and the Occupy Wall Street General Assembly outside Lincoln Center, where the Metropolitan Opera performed Satyagraha, the composer’s 2008 production of his 1980 telling of the early life of Gandhi.
Starting at about 3:00, Glass and the peoples’ mic recite the closing lines of the opera:

When righteousness
withers away
and evil
rules the land,
we come into being,
age after age,
and take visible shape,
and move,
a man among men,
for the protection of good,
thrusting back evil
and setting virtue on her seat again.

As operagoers begin to realize what’s going on, and that Glass is there, they start ignoring the police cordon trying to direct them away from the protest, and start drifting down the stairs. It’s pretty extraordinary.
The Satyagraha Protest [therestisnoise]

Close Encounters Jam Session

I’m sure the original’s long gone, but I want the Moog synthesizer-equipped lightboard from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
The idea of communicating with extraterrestrials via “a basic tonal vocabulary” synched to a gridded light show is like the lovechild of Carl Sagan and Ellsworth Kelly, conceived at an outdoor Pink Floyd concert. In a good way.
Sculpture for a Large Wall, 1957, image: moma.org
[Just an aside, the story of Kelly’s Sculpture for a Large Wall is utterly fantastic. I’m glad that it’s safe and at MoMA, but the utter failure of Philadelphia to keep it should be discussed every time the Eakins or Barnes stories are told.]
Spencer Finch, The River That Flows Both Ways, image by iwan bann via thehighline
I would have expected Spencer Finch or Leo Villareal to have made one of these already. Or any one of a number of early Silicon Valley IPO nerds. But I can’t find any record of replicas anywhere. So I will step in where I must.
My first guess was that Douglas Trumbull gets the credit for the board; and maybe he designed and executed it. But according to Ray Morton’s definitive-sounding 2007 book on the making of Close Encounters, it was Spielberg’s idea to have a colored lights that correspond to each Moog tone. John Williams composed and recorded the music in advance, so it could be played back on set for filming what was called “the jam session.” I’ll gladly overlook this somewhat Milli Vanillistic approach to jamming in exchange for the score and the rig’s schematics.
Rirkrit Tiravanija, Untitled (Rehearsal Studio No. 6, Silent Version), 1996, installed at MCA Chicago, image via artforum
Because obviously, when you exhibit this, you’ll expect the first thing everyone will play is that iconic five-note greeting. Then they’ll get into a jam session of their own. You’d probably want to make it possible, via the web or USB stick or something, for people to execute their own compositions, to let the computer “take over the conversation” once in a while. And you’d probably stream the piece over the web, too, give it its own channel. Maybe schedule some performers to come in and use it.
Then for good measure, put the whole thing on a golden CD and launch it into space, and wait for a response.
Off the Golden Record

Point Break

Untitled (Point Break), 2010, Roe Ethridge, via andrewkreps
This is in Le Luxe, Roe Ethridge’s awesome show at Kreps, through July 3rd.
Related: Crafting Genre: Kathryn Bigelow, a retrospective of the director’s film titles, combined with her early videos, paintings and conceptual artworks, opens at MoMA at the end of May. Point Break will be screening twice in early June, and once in August. [see the complete schedule.]

The Satelloons Of Buckminster Fuller

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

The Global Puppy On Terror

In reviewing Johan Grimonperez’ 1997 film, Dial H.I.S.T.O.R.Y., which was exhibited at Deitch, Ronald Jones underscores artists’ failure to, well, to matter very much in contemporary culture. And he reminded me of this, which I had completely forgotten:

Paul Goldberger’s piece in the New Yorker on Frank Gehry’s Bilbao museum made an important claim: ‘The politics of the Guggenheim Bilbao’, Goldberger writes, ‘are evident in a single word, “MUSEOA”, that is plastered onto the building’s facade in enormous letters’. Goldberger’s point is that, ‘museoa’ is not Spanish but means ‘museum’ in the language of the Basques. We take from the Goldberger essay that a collision between art and politics was inevitable in Bilbao. As a part of the Bilbao Pageantry Jeff Koons’ well known Puppy (1992), the floral sculpture that made its magnificent debut in Kassel a few years ago, was to be erected and brought to life with local flowers. Languidly watching workmen hang pots of flowers over the gigantic pup, the police ran a casual check on the license plate of the truck which had been used to deliver the flowers. The truck and plate did not belong together and that’s how the terrorists were found out. When the police began nosing around they discovered that the ‘gardeners’ were arming the adorable puppy with flower pots containing remote-controlled grenades. After the shoot out, in which one policeman was killed, the florist-bombers, members of the Basque group ETA, escaped. Several have since been arrested.

[via frieze]
Related: Felix Gonzalez-Torres on politics and art

At The Movies With Mao Zedong

Tom Scocca posted about the story just before Christmas, but apparently, Mao Zedong was a Bruce Lee fan.
That’s how the Chinese press is reporting the story of Liu Qingtang, [刘庆棠], a ballet dancer and close ally of Mao’s wife Jiang Qing, who, as the deputy minister, was put in charge of films at the Ministry of Culture.
Mao was encouraged because of cataracts to cut down on his reading, and to switch to film. Liu was charged with programming and procuring prints for Mao’s private screenings.
Scocca picked the story up from Raymond Zhou in China Daily, but Liu’s account was first published in November in the Yangcheng Evening News, a major daily out of Guangzhou. It was posted online a few weeks later. Here’s the Chinese, “毛泽东有多迷李小龙?”, and a choppy Google translation, “Mao Was a Bruce Lee Fan?” [It’s remarkable how far Chinese-English autotranslation still has to go. We’re barely at Babelfish levels here.]
Liu says his story is from 1974:

Mao Zedong’s like to watch movies there are several categories: first, the international award-winning film; second film biography, “Abraham Lincoln”, “Napoleon,” he loves; third is like watching garden scenery film, like most British films. Often, Mao heard good movie, the file will be down to watch, watch movies right away, very happy.

. At some point, then, Liu traveled to Guangzhou, and on to Hong Kong, where he had not a little bit of trouble getting prints of Lee’s films, The Big Boss, Fist of Fury and The Way of the Dragon, from the wary movie mogul Sir Run Run Shaw.
Where Mao would watch only a few minutes at a time, taking up to ten days to finish another film, he apparently sat straight through Lee’s movies, and even demanded repeat viewings. Liu was afraid to send the prints back to HK, in case Mao asked to see them again.
The incorporation of Mao into the Bruce Lee fan club, the American-born, Hong Kong-raised, one-quarter German Lee [who is known by his given Cantonese name, Li Jun-fan (李振藩)] was timed with the premiere on CCTV6 of a documentary, “Legend of Bruce Lee,” which debuted at Beijing University. It all serves to retroactively position Lee as an inspiring, nationalistic hero of all Chinese, including the Mainland, where he was unknown during his lifetime.
And it all makes me wonder what was actually going on film-wise in the PRC during the tumultuous waning days of Mao’s rule. Because there are some contradictions and gaps in Liu’s story as it’s reported:
Wikipedia, which has the only actual date I can find so far, says Liu was installed as Deputy Culture Minister in February 1976.
Jonathan Clements’ 2006 biography of Mao dates the cataracts to 1974, but also says that Mao was nearly blind, and his slurred speech could only be decoded by his nurse.
As Reeve Wong pointed out to China Daily, Bruce Lee’s films were actually produced by Shaw’s rival studio, Golden Harvest. It’s not clear how or where, but Liu still insists that he got the prints from Shaw.
Given the difficulty in tracking down prints of Hong Kong’s most popular films, I have to wonder what “international award-winning films” and biopics Liu was able to get his hands on. I mean, was there a copy of John Ford’s 1939 film Young Mister Lincoln laying around a cinema after the Revolution?
And the big question, did he watch Michelangelo Antonioni’s epic 1972 documentary Chung Kuo? Antonioni originally shot Chung Kuo/ Cina as a left-to-left cultural gift, with Communist Party participation and supervision. After it came out, though, Madame Mao & her cinematic comrades denounced spectacularly as a capitalist reactionary insult to the Motherland.
A lengthy bio of Liu Qingtang at hudong.com says that in 1976 as the Gang of Four maneuvered for post-Mao power, Minister Liu personally oversaw the production of three “hit films,” Back [反击]、Grand Festival, [盛大的节日], and Fight [搏斗] which attacked Deng Xiaopeng.
After Deng regained and consolidated power and began undoing the effects of the Cultural Revolution, Liu followed the Gang of Four into public disgrace, trial and jail. But he’s apparently out now, and doing fine, if not quite keeping his dates and titles straight.

The Ultimate Collector’s Book Of The Millennium

We go to History with the culture we have, not the culture you want, or might wish to have at a later time.
316 pages. 136 Mb PDF download. Not including the copyright notices, well under 1,000 words.
I can’t quite put my finger on why, but I feel that, at least when The Future looks back on us, here, in this moment, in this culture, in the–as the flight attendant unexpectedly put it when he announced our arrival at Schiphol–in this, the 2,010th Year of Our Lord,
the instruction manual for the 5,000+piece Lego Set 10179-1: The Ultimate Collector’s Millennium Falcon may just end up as the touchstone, the most meaningful book, the best we managed to do. It is certainly the pinnacle of something.
During the unboxing, a giddy Amazon customer notes: “The bound instruction book weighs almost as much as the completed model! Almost. It’s huge!!!”
Seriously, I’m thinking it should be sold as a stand-alone. On the shelf next to The 9/11 Commission Report. And published in a limited edition art book version, on archival paper. Or at least given a fighting chance by being uploaded onto blurb.com.
I mean, it’s allowed, right?

If you plan to print the building instruction, please be sure to download the correct version:
# Building instructions labeled “NA” or “V39” may be printed on US standard letter size paper (8½ in × 11 in, 215.9 mm × 279.4 mm).
# Building instructions labeled “IN” or “V29” may be printed on EU standard A4 paper (210 mm × 297mm, 8.3 in × 11.7 in.)

http://cache.lego.com/bigdownloads/buildinginstructions/4525430.pdf [via things magazine, so this might be the A4 formatted file, fyi]
UPDATE: Lego does have the Instruction Manual available for sale separately. It is $53, plus shipping. [lego.com]

So What Are You Up To Thursday Night?

While I’ve mentioned it on my Twitter feed–the 500 people who read this blog are the same 500 who follow me there, right? @CheapDrugs4U?–I should say here, too, that I have been invited by the folks at 24|7 Creative, a Facebook group sponsored by HP and Intel, to guestpost some of my favorite art, video, and video art picks on their wall.
This is in a run-up to the Big Event this Thursday, some live coverage of the [also HP and Intel-sponsored] YouTube Play blockbuster/extravaganza/show/event at the Guggenheim. So stay tuned, because while my mother did raise me to be a gracious guest, the 24|7 Creative folks are certainly not paying me enough to sway my opinions on anything.
If you haven’t decided whether or not you’ll be attending the YouTube Play gig, and your current lack of tickets is a factor in your decision, then hop on over to this comment contest, where you can win a free pair of tickets to this sure-to-be-landmark spectacle.
I tell you, though, it’s not a slam dunk. Because holy smokes, Thursday at 6:30 is the only scheduled screening so far at the Film Society at Lincoln Center for Sasha Waters Freyer’s new documentary, Chekhov for Children, which tells the incredible-sounding story of Phillip Lopate’s 1979 quest to to a Broadway staging of “Uncle Vanya” with a cast made up entirely of New York City 5th and 6th-graders. Including the filmmaker herself. :

Using incredibly rare archival video and super 8mm student-made films and videos, Chekhov for Children explores the interplay between art and life for a group of students across 30 years–including the filmmaker. It is a rare document of its time that meditates upon the reckoning that comes with middle age through the very moving lens of universal themes: first love, mentoring, and parenting.

I’m getting a little verklempt just typing about it.

The Enlarged Pictures Generation: Alvar Aalto’s 1939 Finnish Pavilion

image: vintage silver gelatin print, signed, Ezra Stoller, 1939, via morehousegallery
Do turning back another chapter or two in the history of enlarged pictures, photomurals, and photomontages, where do they turn up the most [besides/before the Museum of Modern Art]? Expos and World’s Fairs. Even more than dioramas, and like the grand cyclorama paintings of earlier eras, giant photos were used by architects–in the service of governments and companies–as modernist, machine age, marketing, mass communication, and propaganda. They were basically highly credible-looking billboards.
None of which is necessarily a bad thing in itself, of course. It’s interesting to note, though, who was creating and using them, because for the most part, it was not artists.
Alvar Aalto’s Finnish Pavilion at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York turns out to have been a stunning and especially instructive example of enlarged photos integrated with modernist architecture. That’s it up top in a photo by –let’s just say I could just as easily title this whole series, “Everything I Know About Photomurals, I Learned From Ezra Stoller.”
In a plain, rectangular building, Aalto wrapped a second floor exhibition space with an undulating wood-slatted wall, inset with three rows of giant photos [Aalto’s section plan above, via domus, I think] to create a dramatic, infotaining, 52-foot high atrium. A mezzanine restaurant [below] allowed for closer viewing of the photos, which showed, from top down, “Country,” “People,” and “Work,” which culminated, naturally, in the bazaar of real Finnish products underneath.
And what’s that box up there hanging dramatically off the wall, besides the key to the photomurals’ media context and appeal? It’s a projection booth. Films, presumably on the subject of Finland’s awesomeness, were projected onto the atrium wall above the exit. I can’t help but see the effectiveness and popularity of large-scale photos as inextricably driven by architects’ attempt to harness the modern media magic of the cinematic experience. And as antecedents for the now-ubiquitous, immersive projection and installation art works. Like steampunk Pipilotti Rist.
1939 Finnish Pavilion info [designboom]

This Horse-Drawn Corn Picker Is A Thing Of Beauty

From about 44 minutes into John Ruth’s 1975 TV documentary, The Amish: A People of Preservation comes this picture of a horse-drawn, single-row corn picker in what looks like galvanized steel:
It’s about right here that the sculptural beauty of this machine–I do believe it’s a Dearborn-Wood Bros. single-row corn picker, perhaps a precursor to those designed by Clarence Richey and John O’Donnell in 1956 after Ford bought in the company–starts to sink in:
And as soon as you’re caught up in the unexpectedly futuristic, asymmetrical, jet wing-like, origami-like form,
it’s gone.
On another note, the Amish in 1975 appear to have been a lot less self-conscious about cameras in their midst. I blame Witness.
The Amish: A People of Preservation [folkstreams.net]