44 America: David Hammons’ House Of The Future & America Street, 2007-2017, 2018

David Hammons & Albert Alston, House of the Future, 1991, photographed in 2006 by ksenia_n

In 1991 the artist David Hammons was invited by Mary Jane Jacobs to create a site-specific work in Charleston, South Carolina for a new, visual arts program linked to the Spoleto Festival. Jacobs had patterned the exhibition, “Places With A Past”, after the Skulptur Projekt Münster. Spoleto founder Gian Carlo Menotti hated the whole thing; the exhibition divided the board and got the director fired (he came back a couple of years later, after Menotti quit), but the show’s art historical reputation has only grown.

That said, Hammons’ is the only one of 61 installations left standing, thanks in large part to his early decision to collaborate with Albert Alston, a local builder, who seems to have maintained and championed the work over the ensuing 27 years.

Hammons and Alston built House Of The Future on a vacant, city-owned lot on Charleston’s segregated East Side using architectural fragments and materials from renovation and demolition projects nearby. It is a 6×20-foot teaching model of Charleston’s signature style, with labels for each component. At some point, a young, local artist used the ground floor as studio space, and Alston oversaw other public programmatic uses. On the back of the House, Hammons painted a quote from African American writer Ishmael Reed:

The Afro-American has become heir to the myths that it is better to be poor than rich, lower class than middle or upper, easy going rather than industrious, extravagant rather than thrifty, and athletic rather than academic.

[Though Reed gets–and takes–credit for the quote, it seems that it actually originates with musician/composer/sociologist Ortiz Walton. Reed quoted Walton’s critical history of cultural exploitation, Music: Black, White & Blue in a 1973 review for Black World Magazine. Reed & Walton seem to have been frequent collaborators and interlocutors, so maybe this is one more of those Hammons/Alston situations. In any case, the quote itself was criticized by some in the community, and it has disappeared and reappeared from the wall of House Of The Future with various repaintings. According to an unrelated 1995 lawsuit by a disgruntled muralist, though, it was integral to the community’s embrace of the installation that helped preserve it after the Spoleto Festival ended.]

Oh, say, can you see?

At some point after the May 1991 opening of “Places With A Past”, Hammons’ second element was realized kitty corner from House of The Future. America Street is a small, grassy bump of a park on another vacant lot, where Hammons’ iconic African American Flag flies from atop a 40-foot pole. A black and white photo of a group of children looking up, as if at the flag, filled a sidewalk-scale billboard that had previously featured ads for liquor and Newports. From this 1996 account of the Spoleto fallout over “Places With A Past”, it sounds like the works survived some entropy, if not straightup neglect. But both the flag and the picture have been replaced over the years.

Hammons’ America Street, January 2017
Detail of David Hammons’ America Street, 1991, a billboard photo of local kids looking up, img: gsv, jan 2017

I have not visited Hammons’ piece(s), except in Google Street View. The first thing I noticed was they differed in appearance from the historical photos. I realized GSV’s own decade of historical imagery is useful here, for marking the changes this tiny house and its neighborhood have undergone.

Clicking through the changes wrought by time on a piece of Southern vernacular architecture, I immediately thought of the work of my late neighbor, the photographer William Christenberry. He would travel back to his native Alabama year after year for decades, photographing the same houses, churches, and stores, usually documenting their deterioration and subsumption by kudzu.

William Christenberry, Red Building in Forest, Hale County, Alabama, 1983, image: Hemphill

What I was seeing in Hammons’ and Alston’s piece was the opposite: a structure built from the castoffs of renovation and gentrification, surviving thanks to a small but persistent maintenance effort. And through it all, year in and year out, no matter the storms or racial strife that battered some other flags in South Carolina, Hammons’ star-spangled banner is still there.

In the spirit of Christenberry, I decided to make some historic GSV printsets [prints of screenshots; GSV is a screen medium] of Hammons’ and Alston’s House Of The Future and America Street. I’ve followed Christenberry’s format, but I’m skipping the traditional photographer’s approach of making editions of a bajillion in a thousand sizes. Each set of 7-9 images is printed small (8×10 in.), in an edition of 2, plus 1 AP: one for you, one for the museum, one for me. Because srsly, why overthink it? If anyone actually wants to buy them, I turn into some kind of crazed Amazon artworker pick&packing prints all day? Hard pass right now, thanks. If you don’t move in time to get it, just make your own.

All the pics are after the jump.

Continue reading “44 America: David Hammons’ House Of The Future & America Street, 2007-2017, 2018”

Revisiting Works At The Metropolitan Museum

On a visit to the Met this week to see Michelangelo, I also surveyed the status of three works there. As I approached, I figured I’d better perform Untitled (Koch Block) myself, in case no one else did.

I needn’t have worried. The kids are alright.

The #andiron is standing strong. I put in a request to view the photographs in the collection by Mrs. Flora Whiting, the donor of the andiron and many more objects; the appointment is not for several weeks.

After visiting Anne Truitt sculptures so much lately, I can’t stop staring at the little climate control stele. Maybe I’ll sneak a new coat of paint for it.

Speaking of painting, the Proposte monocrome, gris has been accepted. I’m not sure I agree with the choice, but it was really out of my hands.

I am now doubly intrigued by the stele again, which in this light seems to have been painted a different grey than the wall or the moulding.

Previously, related: :
Untitled (Koch Block), 2014 –
Untitled (Andiron Attributed To Paul Revere, Jr.), 2014
Proposte monocrome, gris, 2017, as photographed by @bshaykin

Untitled (Painted Wall), 2018

greg.org, untitled (painted wall), 2018, installation view
Untitled (Painted Wall), 2018, enamel paint and rubber on limestone, diptych, est. 48 x 144 in., installation view, Jan. 16, 2018, Arlington, Virginia

Once again I am able to take comfort, of a sort, in at least knowing how I am different from Jasper Johns, who, when he once caught a glimpse out the window of a car of a wall painted red and black, did not pull over immediately, and photograph it. We stand on the shoulders of giants in the middle of the street.

previously, related: Untitled (Unpainted Wall), 2017

Our Guernica Cycle – EB-5, 05.06.2017

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Our Guernica Cycle – EB-5, 05.06.2017, in the style of George W. Bush, 2017, oil on canvas, 50x80cm (20×28 in.)
On May 6, 2017, The New York Times reported, Jared Kushner’s sister met with potential investors in Beijing, trying to raise $150 million for the family’s Jersey City real estate project. She was promoting the EB-5 visa program, which essentially sells US green cards for making a $500,000 investment. Her PowerPoint slide showed photos of “EB-5 Visa Key Decision Makers,” including Senators Grassley and Leahy; DHS Secretaries Jeh Johnson (ex-, obv.) and Gen. John Kelly (now ex-, too, obv., and White House chief of staff); -and her brother’s father-in-law (and boss) Donald Trump.
Jared Kushner still owned major stakes in his family’s business at the time, having transferred only some of his holdings to his other family members when he became a White House employee. He would subsequently revise and refile his financial disclosure forms repeatedly to include previously undisclosed conflicts, contacts, and investments.
Kushner had tried mightily during the transition to secure Chinese investment in his company’s overleveraged flagship property, 666 Fifth Avenue. His efforts failed, and his partner, Vornado, has since declared that their ambitious plan to redevelop the office building into a multi-use megatower-and refinance it at a much higher valuation-was no longer feasible. The property is on track to go bankrupt as early as 2018, putting the Kushner’s equity at risk.
Our Guernica Cycle – EB-5, 05.06.2017 is the second painting in an ongoing series. I now see the Our Guernica Cycle as proceeding in roughly chronological order. It is November, and the outrageous Guernica moments since May are obviously piling up like leaves in the gutter. But the pace of disaster puts us all at risk of forgetting or acquiescing to the obvious wrongs of just a couple of months ago. If painting can do anything at all, it should be able to recalibrate our narrative clocks a bit.
So here is a painting, and a pyramid of prints, of the US president’s family hyping his political power to sell visas in exchange for investing in their private real estate company.
While it is similarly painted in China, in the attempted style of our still-most-relevant painter,
George W. Bush, EB-5, 05.06.2017 obviously differs from the Ivanka / Merkel 03.17.2017 work in several ways. For one thing, it’s done before you decide to buy it. I honestly cannot imagine how this helps. But then, given what we all knew going into it, I could not imagine why anyone, including me, would want to have an awful painting of Ivanka & Merkel in my life, either. Even more than before, this is a case of urgency, of feeling the need for an image of a moment of a crisis to be produced, disseminated, and preserved, even while the crisis continues. To bear witness, to #neverforget.
This work is further complicated by having the actual picture of Trump in it. Could it be any tougher of a sell? On the bright side [sic], the execution of the image is, I believe, more skillfully Bushian than ever. So at least it’s a good bad painting of a corrupt cabal. Right? And anyway, the gradient is probably the best part.
The Modified Kinkade Pyramid is in effect, and all prints will be available in the identical sizes and editions as the first work. However, blighting the image by hand will only take place upon request. So please make a note if you want more blight. The print was made available first to original Kickstarter backers, and now it is available generally, for a limited time. It is discounted 10% because y’all are all VIPs to me, but also to take into account a better sense of actual production and shipping costs. As before, any surplus will be turned back into producing the next images in the Cycle.
Literally no one has asked, but it is possible that the first print, Ivanka / Merkel 03.17.2017 could be made available as well.
Thank you again for your engagement during this ongoing disaster.

Select Print/Edition Size

[via paypal]
Previously: UPDATED: Our Guernica Cycle – Ivanka / Merkel 03.17.2017

UPDATE: Our Guernica Cycle – Ivanka / Merkel 03.17.2017

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Our Guernica Cycle – Ivanka / Merkel 03.17.2017, 2017, 50x80cm, oil on canvas and associated print editions, greg.org
Happy apparent Birthday, Ivanka!
I’ve been staring at her distorted portrait for so long, it took the shock of the news yesterday to make me realize I have not actually, officially, gone public with the results of the first picture I Kickstarted. “Our Guernica, by Our Picasso,” an historic painting to mark the moment last March when Ivanka Trump turned up in a White House meeting with the leader of the free world, Angela Merkel, executed in the style of George W. Bush.
In the course of production of the pyramidful of print editions, plus some canvases, the project became Our Guernica Cycle, and Ivanka/Merkel 03.17.2017 became the first image, unfortunately, and not the last. I’ve now lived with these images for almost six months. All but two of the project backers have received their merch [the last two canvases are staring at me right now, set to be shipped before the opioid crisis is solved.]
And a new image is complete. It is a moment for reflection. Also a moment to celebrate getting these things out of the house. And I’m still asking the question I started with: what is art supposed to do? What is a painting for? The image I ended up with is terrible. In the process of applying the Kinkade-ian custom “highlights,” I realized they could only and ever make things worse. I started calling them “highblights,” or just “blight.” I gave backers the choice between “more blight!” and “it’s bad enough!” and they split almost evenly. With the last works going out the door, I am still undecided.
What does it mean, too, for an artwork to be experienced only [or largely] privately, by its purchasers? It is the antithesis of a Guernica; it’s My Own Private Guernica. Our Guernica.
The greatest outcome from this project has to be the show of support, the collective, shared outrage combined with an open-eyed engagement with art, even knowing it will not solve the horrible problems looming all around us. 59 people bought prints that didn’t exist of an image that hadn’t been created yet, in order to see it happen. And that is amazing, and I am very grateful. Maybe the real Our Guernica is the friends we make along the way.
Six months later, though, we’re obviously not through this. The world has not ended [I’m writing this at 11:39 on Monday night. Oh, I’m just about to publish it at 1PM on Tuesday.] The world has not ended, but our town square is still being strafed by Nazis. So Our Guernica is Our Guernica Cycle. What does that mean?
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In the spirit of #thisisnotnormal, I’ve been working my way through images and possibilities, with the goal of accurately witnessing and capturing the political horrors and threats that surround us. Even more than Guernica, I’ve been thinking of Goya, whose Disasters of War series, 80+ prints whose creation occupied decades, and which Goya did not anticipate publishing in full in his own atrocity-rattled lifetime. I’ve especially come to appreciate the Chapman brothers’ Insult to Injury project, [above] where their clownish embellishments of a Goya Disasters of War portfolio condemned the folly of Bush & Blair’s Iraq War. [Called it, obv.]
So I expect this series will go on a while. After the backers were taken care of, I used the rest of the Kickstarter project funds to commission the next painting. It, too, has arrived. I think I will invite the original backers to order one first, but it should be available soon. It, too, was created with instructions to look like George Bush had painted it. The Chinese painters I’m working with seem to have gotten a little better at this bad style. Perhaps that will be when we know the Cycle is complete: when the #ChinesePaintMill system designed to industrialize Gerhard Richter’s paint-from-photo tactics can successfully reproduce the clumsy expressionist facture of the man who is still, alas, America’s most relevant painter. So stay tuned.
Our Guernica, After Our Picasso [kickstarter]
Previously, related: On Coming Around on Insult to Injury

On Coming Around On Insult to Injury

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Insult to Injury, 2003
I did not like Jake & Dinos Chapman’s work to begin with, so I was not inclined to like their project Insult to Injury, where they drew animal and clown faces on a suite of actual Goya etchings, when it debuted in 2003. And I haven’t thought much about it, or looked at it since.
But I have come around. Working on the Our Guernica Cycle project has sent me looking back at Goya’s big Fifth of May paintings, and their influence on Guernica, and that inevitably brings the Disasters of War prints back into the mix.
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Plate 39 – Grande hazaña! Con muertos! (A heroic feat! With dead men!)
Things I didn’t really pay attention to stand out now. Like Goya making prints during a war and a famine when materials were so scarce, and the situation so uncertain, that he had to reuse and destroy the copper plates from other prints. And making a series of 80+ prints over the course of years, which he finally expected to never publish in his lifetime. And which were only published decades after his death. And which were then republished over and over again, in seven editions, over 70 years, including a “final” edition in 1937 to support the Republic in the Spanish Civil War, nearly 1,000 sets in total, plus hundreds of proofs. [That’s the one the Chapmans bought to use.]
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Plate. 37 – Esto es peor. (This is worse.)
Things like Goya drawing such devastating connections between revered fragments of classical sculpture, like the Belvedere Torso, and the tortured and dismembered bodies of the war’s victims. Neo-classicism was hot at the time, in the Napoleonic era, and Goya impaled it on a tree.
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And then there’s the Chapmans, whose project was sparked by the Bush/Blair Iraq war machine which marched in front of their already Goya-soaked practice. Here is Fiachra Gibbons writing about Insult to Injury in The Guardian:

Although they are both against the current war, the Chapmans say they are not making a statement about it. Insult to Injury is more about the inadequacy of art as a protest against war. Art can’t stop wars, they insist, just as Picasso’s Guernica was a “pathetic” statement in the face of the oncoming second world war.
“Not to be too glib, but there’s something quite interesting in the fact that the war of the peninsula saw Napoleonic forces bringing rationality and enlightenment to a region that was marked by superstition and irrationality,” Jake Chapman said. “Then you hear George Bush and Tony Blair talking about democracy as though it has some kind of natural harmony with nature; as though it’s not an ideology.”

I was not this pessimistic in 2003; maybe I just needed some time.
And now to look at Disasters of War again, and Insult to Injury again, and more closely, and as I “embellish” my own prints I’d once expected were “finished,” I realize the Chapmans were right. The reflexive disapproval of their alteration of another artist’s work is specifically misplaced and unnecessary. Even Jonathan Jones is right about something. It’s all a pretty big shock, tbh. And even when it feels necessary, art still doesn’t make these disasters any better.
Insult to Injury, 2003 [jakeanddinoschapman.com]
The 2004 Steidl edition of Insult to Injury is pretty remarkable, actually [amazon]

Untitled (Koch Block), 2014 –

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Close, but not quite: Study for Untitled (Koch Block), image by @sailingfanblues
First conceived in September 2014 in response to a tweet by Zachary Kaplan, Untitled (Koch Block) is a collaborative public artwork situated permanently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
It comprises an endless succession of volunteers who sit on the edges of the fountains in front of the museum in a manner that obscures the engraved name of the museum trustee, David Koch. The work includes the engravings on both fountains, and so is ideally performed by two or more individuals at any time. While a sitter’s personal items such as a stroller, wheelchair, shopping cart, or backpack might be placed in front of the engraving for extra-wide impact, no permanent alteration, damage, or obscuring of any kind should take place, and certainly not as part of this artwork.
Any one individual or group should feel free to sit and block public view of the name for as long as they wish, but all should be mindful of others who might also wish to participate. The Artist Is Present-style marathons are discouraged. Instead, try taking turns, coordinating, and/or making arrangements onsite to continue the work. Formalized schedules or shifts should also be avoided, even if this means the work is not persistently instantiated.
It’s true that awareness of the work could be facilitated by people posting photos on social media using a hashtag like #KochBlock. My concern, though, is that viral messaging might run counter to the essential nature of the work, which is to deplete the mindshare and social capital that typically accrue from such purportedly eleemosynary naming opportunities. Still, such efforts are obviously beyond my control, and if the 7 million visitors to the Met each year decide they all have to post #KochBlock selfies, well, we’ll re-evaluate.
The ideal state of the work is for the names to be permanently blocked from view through uncoordinated but widespread acculturation. At any moment in which a sitter finishes blocking and rises from her spot, another individual naturally and un-self-consciously takes her place. Some folks will undoubtedly make a point of visiting the fountains to participate. Some might make it a routine. People might come to recognize the faces of other regulars. Eventually, Koch blocking should become an ingrained behavior common to sharing civil, public space, as obvious and natural as dodging slow-moving tourists or jaywalking. [s/o @man for reminding me this needed to be formally auraticized.]
UPDATE: Just realized this is my third piece at the Met. Thanks for the support!

Untitled (Adidas Art Basel), #001, 2017

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Study for Untitled (Adidas Art Basel), 2017, nylon and ink on Adidas EQT shoe, image: ebay seller miadrian10
Art Basel is suing Adidas for trademark infringement over these kicks. A thousand pairs were given away at a string of branded flashmobs in Miami on November 30th, two days before the opening of the art fair they had no official marketing agreement with. Is there a term for astroturfed flashmobs? Is there any other kind these days? Did you know Adidas been hypin’ kicks at #ABMB since at least 2010? Does a viral flash mob still count if you have to Google it?
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image: taetalentagency
Anyway, 2016. According to hype groupies like high snobiety and World Red Eye, a mirror-wrapped school bus drove 48 performance artist/brand ambassador/whatevers around town. Stops included a high school in the Design District, HdM’s parking garage, and some millennial-branded Hilton in South Beach.
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screencap from @britneyc0807
They were decked out in #monochromatic reflective gear. They stood in formation, Vanessa Beecroft-style. They did some dance moves. Ideally, their gear did its retroreflective blast out thing when it was photographed.
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image: worldredeye
Then they unloaded their loot, lined it up like a freakin’ Eleanor Antin street team, and, I guess, handed it out to the ‘gramming masses like rations off the back of a UN truck. Then everyone started flipping their swag on eBay. It’s hard to say where the stunt’s brand impact actually landed the hardest: on the 1st-to-know sneaker chasers, the day-of hashtaggers, the eBay resale remoras, or now, on the so-DGAF lawsuit bad bois.
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images: ebayseller sorry, lost it
Art Basel is suing over the tongue tags on these free sneakers, and in addition to brand damages, is demanding Adidas destroy all the infringey sneakers it still has. If you budget for ex-post trademark settlements, is it actually a bootleg?
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Study for Untitled (Adidas Art Basel), 2017, retroreflective paint and ink on panel, 50x50cm
Untitled (Adidas Art Basel) is a series of 1,000 numbered paintings based on this tongue tag composition, made in various sizes. Or should I say they will be made. Might be. Conceived to be.
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Study for Untitled (Adidas Art Basel) photographed, 2017, retroreflective paint and ink on panel, 50x50cm
I know what I’ve written about artists having a successful system, but honestly, it’s debatable whether the world needs 10 more paintings at all right now, much less 1,000. Of these. Can you even imagine having a thousand of these paintings lying around? You literally could not give them away, lawyers or no. Or maybe you can? Just put a few hundred super-shiny posters in a stack and BAM, you’re in Venice.
Ima get to work on one, see if it delivers that retroflective kick the study’s promising. Then I’ll let my estate sort out the rest.
Art Basel is Suing adidas Over its Limited Edition ‘Art Basel’ Shoes [thefashionlaw via artforum, thanks @kyle_petreycik]
Here’s How You Can Get 1 of Only 1,000 Pairs of adidas’s “Art Basel” Limited Edition EQT ADV [highsnobiety]
Adidas Flash Mob in the Miami Design District [worldredeye]
Previously, related: Webdriver Torso as Found Painting System
When Form Becomes Content, or Luanda, Encyclopedic City

Untitled (Unpainted Wall), 2017

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Untitled (Unpainted Wall), 2017, brick, concrete, 18 lag shields, exterior latex paint. Installation view, Chevy Chase, Maryland
In his 1977 Whitney catalogue, Michael Crichton wrote about the origin of Jasper Johns’ 1967 painting Harlem Light:

It has a peculiar background. Johns was taking a taxi to the airport, traveling through Harlem, when he passed a small store which had a wall painted to resemble flagstones. He decided it would appear in his next painting. Some weeks later when he began the painting, he asked David Whitney to find the flagstone wall, and photograph it. Whitney returned to say he could not find the wall anywhere. Johns himself then looked for the wall, driving back and forth across Harlem, searching for what he had briefly seen. He never found it, and finally had to conclude that it had been painted over or demolished. Thus he was obliged to re-create the flagstone wall from emory. This distressed him, “What I had hoped to do was an exact copy of the wall. It was red, black, and gray, but I’m sure that it didn’t look like what I did. But I did my best.”
Explaining further, he said: “Whatever I do seems artificial and false, to me. They-whoever painted the wall-had an idea; I doubt that whatever they did had to conform to anything except their own pleasure. I wanted to use that design. The trouble is that when you start to work, you can’t eliminate your own sophistication. If I could have traced it I would have felt secure that I had it right. Because what’s interesting to me is the fact that it isn’t designed, but taken. It’s not mine.” [p. 54-55]

And that, my friends, is how I am different from Jasper Johns: I got the picture.

Erased Twombly Drawing

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Untitled (Delian Ode), 1960/61, pencil, ballpoint pen, and grease crayon on paper, image: peter freeman
I mean, can you even imagine doing it? I admit it, I can, and I just cannot. De Kooning said he wanted to give away one he’d miss. And one that’d be hard for Rauschenberg to erase. If there’s any other kind of Twombly drawing, I haven’t seen it.
We’ll put this one in the “Think about it”/”Unrealized” category.
Previously, related, badly titled: Ghetto Erased de Kooning Drawing

Untitled (I Can See Russia From My House), 2017

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Installation shot: Untitled (I Can See Russia From My House), 2017, 15′ x 10′ x 6′, dye sublimation printed carpet, bolts, washers, lumber.
I’m psyched to announce the public installation of a new work, Untitled (I Can See Russia From My House), in Warrenton, Virginia. It is a dye sublimation print on carpet, mounted on a wood support.
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I suppose it could also be installed indoors, but it would lose a lot of the impact; it really is a piece that is best come upon in the course of daily life.
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Untitled (I Can See Russia From My House), 2017, washer and bolt installation detail
The carpet is affixed to the support using bolts and washers [above]. Longtime Kremlin watchers will note that the image, of the south facade of St. Basil’s Cathedral, is here reversed.
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Although an installation shot from December 2016 shows unrelated works installed nearby. It is the artist’s intention that this piece be viewed and appreciated on its own. Despite what you might assume, it is currently not for sale.

Remember, Remember, The Grift Of November

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The first draft of history. History written by the victors What even is it? The barrage of nonsense comes so fast and thick and is so full of bullshit that the very notion of history feels out of date. Which is probably someone’s point. Or at the very least, in someone’s immediate interest.
Do you even remember the outrage when the Japanese Prime Minister’s Press Office released publicity photos of Shinzo Abe meeting Donald Trump at Trump Tower on November 17th, which revealed that Ivanka and Jared were sitting in on the meeting?
And then like two weeks later, the Times kind of buried the lede that at that very moment, Ivanka’s fashion label was negotiating a licensing deal with a Japanese apparel conglomerate whose majority shareholder is a development bank owned by the Japanese government.
Oh, hands were wrung, potential conflicts of interest were ruminated upon, denials and assurances were floated. And it all turned out to be bullshit, and that was also the same time Jared and Ivanka were in fact preparing to take up offices and jobs in the White House.
So maybe that’s a power of a painting: the ability to slow things down, even just long enough to have an impact, to make something stick, to give some context. It rewards the exercise of looking, looking longer, and looking back.
Campaign Ends April 26th: Our Guernica, After Our Picasso: A Kickstarter

Our Guernica, After Our Picasso: A Kickstarter


I swear, I tried not to do it, but the image was too strong. In the days since I started drafting this Kickstarter campaign, I quit several times. And then history kept catching up to this image. In fact, history started lapping it.
So yes, we need to mark this moment, this look on Chancellor Merkel’s face, on all our faces, when it was still possible to not believe what was happening before our eyes. And there’s only one painter who can do this moment justice. Unfortunately, he and justice are not really in a great spot right now, so we’re gonna use #chinesepaintmill and the Thomas Kinkade Editions Pyramid.
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Our Guernica, After Our Picasso: collaged details from Michael Kappe/dpa photo, George W. Bush painting, and Picasso’s Guernica
In my darker moods, I imagine a series of paintings of such moments will come- Angelus Novus looking back and piling JPG upon JPG at his feet as the storm irresistibly propels us into the future. Can our brush-wielding Chinese allies capture the essence of Trumpian corruption with authentic Bushian flourish? Can we spread the resulting image(s) to the four corners of the warming, flooding earth to bear adequate witness? Let’s start with one and see.
Back “Our Guernica, After Our Picasso on Kickstarter now
UPDATE #1 After just a couple of days the project has gotten over halfway to its funding goal, thanks!
It has also been the subject of reportage by Will Fenstermaker at Artspace [who is also a backer, write what you know!] and AFC [“that’s a lot of layers to unpack for what’s essentially a meme” I do not disagree!]
On the more depressing news front, today, Day 3, might pass without a single new backer. Perhaps everyone’s too stunned at the floating of #Ivanka2024 by The Daily Caller [not linkin’, look it up], and worrying how a painting can somehow head off this meta-disaster. It probably can’t, but there’s a lot to be done in the mean time.
I’ve also noticed that backers are a savvy bunch. Folks seem to prefer the lower-priced, smaller prints at this stage. Possibly, I thought, because you’re reluctant to put up larger amounts of money for an artwork that you’ve 1) not seen because 2) it doesn’t exist yet.
It might be useful to reframe the entire project as a single conceptual piece, in which case, the physical manifestations are secondary to its core expression. But it’s still natural to wonder how it’ll look, especially if you’re contemplating getting a big one. I’m trying to think up a solution for this. Any advice or thoughts are welcome. And thanks again for spreading the word!
UPDATE #2 WHOA IT IS HAPPENING, THANKS! THE BALL IS ROLLING, THE CAMPAIGN IS CONTINUING. LET’S BUILD THAT PYRAMID AND LAUNCH A WHOLE BUSHMASTER CYCLE OF PAINTINGS TO DOCUMENT THIS THING!

Untitled (Picture Light), 2017

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Untitled (Picture Light), 2017, picture light, gilt frame, Picasso, installation view, 1989. image: Chema Conesa via The Art Newspaper
In 1989 Baron and Baroness von Thyssen-Bornemisza brought a dining chair out to the terrace of Villa Favorita to sit for a portrait by photographer Chema Conesa. The Baroness sat. The Baron stood, with his right hand on his wife’s shoulder. Someone seems to have had the idea to add Picasso’s Harlequin with a Mirror to the composition.
It it not clear where the 1923 painting was hanging, but it was. A white-gloved manservant apparently took it off the wall and marched it outside. He holds it on the right corner as it rests on the bare brick ground. The Baron stabilizes the other corner by resting his left forearm on the frame. The brass picture light is still attached.
The Baron bought Harlequin with a Mirror in 1979. X-rays show that Picasso originally painted a self-portrait, possibly as a Cupid/Eros combo, before replacing his face with the mask-like stare of the harlequin. William Rubin and Pierre Daix linked the early state of the harlequin to Picasso’s 1923 frustrated infatuation with Sara Murphy, of the Cap d’Antibes Murphys. The series marked the end of Picasso’s so-called Classical phase. It is currently unclear when, where, or why the Baron bought it, though.
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The Thyssen-Bornemiszas at home in Madrid with Harlequin with a Mirror and possible picture light detail, 1992, image via NYT
By 1992, the Thyssen-Bornemiszas had decamped to Madrid, anticipating the opening of the Museo Thyssen-Bornemizsa across the street from the Prado and Reina Sofia, to which they had loaned (or rather, rented) more than 800 works, not yet including Harlequin. From the opening of a NY Times Magazine profile:

Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza is pouring himself another drink in front of a Picasso on the living room wall of his Madrid mansion. He is making the point that he has always been a tough businessman, the kind who won’t let anything get in the way of a good deal.

From the Baroness’s posture to the Baron’s hand, to the Harlequin photobomb, the Times’ image lacks only an art handler to complete its homage. A tiny black spot at the edge of the page gives me hope that the Harlequin made the trip from Lugano to Madrid with his picture light intact. It did not, however, survive the trip into the Museo.
So whether it overlooks Lake Lugano or the Paseo del Prado, this sculptural situation of a picture light on a Picasso sitting nonchalantly and unmediated on a terrace is exceptional, and will likely never occur again. So this work probably exists only in retrorsum im memoriam. Still gives me chills, though.
Pablo Picasso, Harlequin with a Mirror, 1923 [museothyssen.org]
Playing The Art Game For High Stakes [nyt mag, 04 Oct 1992]