Category:art

August 25, 2016

Untitled (redbox), 2016

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Untitled (redbox), 2016, altered redbox dvd rental kiosk, ratchet nylon web straps, chain, padlock, aluminum tape. installation view via @rgay

Can you claim a work if you have no idea where it is? Writer Roxane Gay snapped this great piece and posted it to Twitter this morning. The web straps immediately made me think of the straps on the previous, Untitled (Shenanigans) piece. There's menace and violence, but it's less political here. More Hollywood. The chains are what really make it for me.

Gay is a professor at Purdue, and that brown brick looks familiar, so maybe this was outside a McDonald's in West Lafayette somewhere. I don't think it'll be up for long, but it's enough for the CV, at least.

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Untitled (Shenanigans), 2016, chainlink fencing, US flags, ratchet tie-down straps, LED strips, Ford F-250 Crew Cab. Installation view: Palm Beach

It seemed so much funnier when Cady Noland did it.

Maybe not funny, but at least it didn't freak you out. Noland's artworks drew from the raw aesthetic landscape of late 20th century built America to shed light on uncomfortable truths about patriotism, violence, commercialism, waste, the American psyche.

But it did it in an art context. Whatever it was, or however dark or unsettling, it was still [just] art. You could walk away from it. Or wake up from it, like a bad dream.

Now there's a white nationalist bigot in Florida trolling Muslims, and protesting Hillary Clinton and her treasonous supporter citizens by building a lock-em-up protest cage in the back of his pickup truck. No voter shenanigans, he says on Twitter: Trump landslide or in the cage ya go.

My instant impulse, or maybe it was a coping mechanism, was to make a Noland reference. Then as I got ready to post this thing here, and declare it a work [as one does around here], I got cold feet. The reality of this person and his anger and hatred and poisonous rhetoric and not-idle threats piled up, and I reconsidered. This is literally not-helping, I feared, it is making-worse.

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But after a couple of days of looking, and thinking, and seeing this guy's gesture/threat circulate, I came to see this as important. Or at least real. Relevant. This bigot's sculptural move was atypical, even perhaps unique, but it is a datapoint in a network, a churning system of political hate. These images are of a physical object manifesting the digital flow of right-wing ideas and imagery across Twitter and Facebook. It's a post-Internet avatar of Trumpist America.

Looking at it, now I wonder: is this how Noland saw, how she read, how she felt, when she made her works? Did she dream of making toxic, dystopian, American flag-draped cages, only to wake up and find the dream was still there? And wasn't even a dream?

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Untitled (Gerda Taro Leipzig Monochromes), 2016, Gerda Taro photos, painted wood supports, tar. image: Anne König and Jan Wenzel

On the night of August 3rd, an outdoor installation of 18 photos by Gerda Taro in Leipzig, Germany, was vandalized, painted over with tar? Or aniline black dye? The photos were part of f/stop Leipzig, an annual photography festival, held in early July. Some of the public space components of the festival apparently continued beyond that date.

f/stop curators Anne König and Jan Wenzel included Taro, a pioneering war photographer, because of the confluence of her life, her work, and the city itself. She lived in Leipzig until 1933, when she fled as a Jewish refugee. She met up with another refugee, Robert Capa, in Paris, and they documented the Spanish Civil War together until Taro was killed in 1937. Leipzig is hosting many refugees from the Syrian war right now.

The curators note that effacing the images of refugees by a Jewish photographer with tar is inherently a political act, and they are calling on the city to discuss the implications. The Taro estate, in the form of the International Center for Photography, wants her images back on view in Leipzig.

I agree with all of that, but also wish to recognize the damning bluntness of the blacked out panels. Sometimes redactions and monochromes cannot be let off the hook. Declaring them an artwork of my own is no way of assuring anything, but It feels important that they will be preserved.

The 21 panels include three texts and at least five layouts from LIFE magazine. The bottom eleven were completely blacked out, while the tops of the five tallest appear to have been beyond the easy reach of the unknown redacter. In the event this work does get destroyed, I will try to identify the Taro images under the tar.

update: I'm still thinking this one through a bit.

Pioneering war photographer Gerda Taro's images vandalised in Leipzig [theartnewspaper]
09. August 2016 Auch Gewalt gegen Fotografien ist Gewalt [f-stop-leipzig.de]

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In 1983 Keith Haring painted his [?] Land Rover. He was the first artist-in-residence for the Montreux Jazz Festival, for which he designed a well-known poster.

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One of those Keith Haring Montreux posters, image: galartis.ch

The snaky figures from the poster, along with the words MONTREUX JAZZ, appear on the rear of the military-lookin' 1971 Land Rover Series IIa 109.

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the Haring Land Rover on display at a press event of some kind at Petersen's Auto Museum, with the CH sticker, but minus the Swiss license plate.

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The Swiss license plate above is visible in the photo of Haring mid-way through the painting process.

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The curator at the Petersen does not appear able to process this seemingly basic information. The owner of the car, so far unidentified in the press, offered to show it at the museum through the end of the year. That Kenny Scharf showed up to talk about Haring's car is, I hope, a coincidence.

[UPDATE A COUPLE OF DAYS LATER: I have my guess, based on Haring's account of his later travels to Switzerland. And now I expect the Land Rover was never his to begin with, but a friend/collaborator's.]

Anyway, this is now officially the second coolest art Land Rover in the world, after Donald Judd's. [Thanks Steve for the heads up]

One of a Kind Keith Haring Land Rover Revealed [roverparts.com]
See the 1971 Land Rover painted by Keith Haring at the Petersen Automotive Museum now [scpr.org]

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This is a necklace by Louise Bourgeois. Based on a 1948 design, it was realized in collaboration with Madrid jeweler Chus Burés in 1998, and was produced in silver in an edition of 39. It weighs 374 grams, more than 13 ounces, which is pretty heavy.

It caught my eye this morning when artist Linda Hubbard tweeted about it, partly because it's going around tumblr as a project Bourgeois did for Helmut Lang. And I thought I knew my late 90s Helmut Lang. The necklace itself's only stamped LB, though, and none of the auction listings over the years credit Lang, even in the provenance. A 2008 sale at Tajan in Paris said the necklace is "due to" Lang, and links it to Lang's, Bourgeois' and Jenny Holzer's three-person show in Vienna in 1998. It also compared it to a slave collar.

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acquired in 2010. image: toledo museum

When the Toledo Museum wrote about it this spring, they gave it a title, Shackle Necklace, and slightly earlier dates (1947-48):

Louise Bourgeois designed this necklace in the 1940s as a personal statement against the violence she had witnessed against prisoners during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), who were asphyxiated by shackles of this shape. It was also designed as a comment about the female state, a metaphor for the social, political, and legal constraints of women before the feminist movement.
Which, wow, there is a lot going on there.

Did Bourgeois go to Spain during the war? I don't think so. She was studying at the Beaux Arts and selling Picasso prints to Robert Goldwater, the NYU art historian she'd marry and move to New York with. The war in Spain was obviously hot news, even more so if Bourgeois was working with Picasso. And there was the World's Fair in Paris, of course.

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Here are some antique Spanish shackles from a classified ad site. I see a resemblance. Except these are for feet. This set says it's for horses. Which would technically make these hobbles, right?

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And they're asphyxiating no one. In the absence of more concrete examples or info, the asphyxiation reference makes me think of the garrota or garrote. Is that what Bourgeois's referring to? A prisoner is chained to the seat, and the executioner stands behind him, tightening a flat metal band around his neck-and/or releasing a spring-loaded spike into the base of his skull-until he's dead. The garrote was pretty much the standard method of execution in Spain, around since the Inquisition, and official for 150 years until the Second Republic, when it was abolished. Then Franco reinstated it in 1940. Is this what Mrs Goldwater was protesting? 8-10 years later? By making a necklace which, frankly, doesn't look anything like a garrote?

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Spanish garrote, image from this Italian medieval torture site

In 1947-48, Bourgeois did not have an art career. She'd had one solo show, but she was, as her obit put it, "known to the New York glitterati merely as the charming French lady who appeared at private views on the arm of her American husband" the art historian. If she even got out of the house then. In 1939, thinking she could not get pregnant, the Goldwaters returned to France briefly to adopt a French orphan. Back in the States, they promptly had two more sons in two years. So maybe a necklace patterned after a prisoner's collar or a garotte is just the kind of sculpture a mom trying to work with three boys under foot would make.

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Louise Bourgeois rocking the original necklace in New York in 1948, at lunch with her father Louis. image: LB Studio

So I called the man who made them, Chus Burés. He said the necklace turned up during the preparations for Memoria y Arquitectura, Bourgeois' 1999 exhibition at the Reina Sofia in Madrid, curated by Danielle Tilkin and Jerry Gorovoy. She'd made it for herself, and she wore it.

The curators brought the original to Burés; it was a darkened metal, he said, round and matte. He created the squared shape, in silver, with a satin finish, which Bourgeois liked very much. There was an idea to do a gold version, but it was too expensive.

The five small holes drilled in the piece were for attaching strings (originally) or crystals; Burés designed a set of 14 various crystals that could be swapped out and arranged on the necklace. Despite being Spanish, a Catalan, and having intensive conversations about Spanish culture and literature with Bourgeois, Burés never heard the artist reference the war, or shackles. A couple of years later, Burés made a spider brooch for Bourgeois, in both silver and gold.

As for Helmut Lang, Burés explained that Bourgeois had given a necklace to Lang, and that at some point, several years later, the designer wanted to include it in a runway show. Lang's people asked permission, Burés agreed, there was a press release with proper credits, it was all wonderful. Later a friend spotted the necklace for sale in Lang's boutique in Paris.

There is no way Bourgeois' necklace does not evoke a shackle. But unless something turns up from the artist, any more specific interpretation is just weighing it down.

via @DukeToddIsAlive & @LindaHubbardArt
Nov 2012, Lot 70 Louise Bourgeois, Choker (1999-2003), sold $20,000 [bonhams]

It is not clear how the Oracle at Delphi worked. One day a month, except in winter, the priestess, known as Pythia, entered a sacred chamber, perched on a gilded tripod, peered into a bowl of water from an enchanted spring and, imbued by mystical vapors with the enthusiasmos, or divine spirit, of Apollo, she answered the urgent questions of the faithful. The Oracle was the most powerful public figure in the Ancient Greek world. No military or public policy decision was made without consulting her, and she was always right; any unwanted outcomes were attributed to mortals' failure to properly interpret or follow the Oracle's predictions. Centuries of Pythian pronouncements are recorded. For a long time they were in iambic pentameter. Then they switched to prose. Some accounts had a lucid, forceful Pythia dropping these pure rhymes herself. In others, the possessed priestess' utterings seemed incomprehensible to all but her handlers, a coterie of priests known as the hosioi who, one would say, translated the prophecies.

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Elephant Child is a book about Camille Henrot's 2014-15 exhibition "The Pale Fox". Very much like Grosse Fatigue, Henrot's extraordinary video from the 2013 Venice Biennale, it explores humans' attempts to understand the universe, and it marvels at the structures this inevitably impossible effort yields. It here can refer to either the book, or the exhibition. Henrot suggested thinking of Grosse Fatigue as a history and "The Pale Fox" as a geography, which I guess makes Elephant Child a map. They are three incarnations of Henrot's universal narrative, all in one, one in all, a trinity.

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Literally. Many screenshots from Grosse Fatigue are woven throughout the book, as is the video's lyrical poem by Jacob Bromberg. Ideas and references from Grosse Fatigue also abound, particularly Henrot's foundational experience as an artist fellow at the Smithsonian, where she captured traces of the museum's conflicted histories through taxonomy, evolution, colonialism, anthropology, and religion.

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Elephant Child begins by holding up a compelling example of what we should be more cautious of calling an origin myth. The Dogon people of Western Africa tell of Amma, who created the universe, his twin, by drawing. The chaotic eighth of their four pairs of twin offspring rebelled, bringing disorder to the universe, but also creativity. He was Ogo, The Pale Fox. Henrot eagerly mined this cosmology for motifs that recur across origin myths-eggs, twins, recursion, primordial drawings-even as she acknowledges its credulous source: a blind Dogon hunter named Ogotemmeli, who reportedly wound out the tale during a long conversation with two white French anthropologists, Marcel Griaule and Germaine Dieterlen, who published it as a book in 1965. The book was called The Pale Fox.

In its function as an exhibition map, Elephant Child traces Henrot's process of identifying structures, and then translating them into schema. The intersection, or collision, of various schema produce the conditions under which the exhibition takes shape. As Henrot said in an interview, that is mentioned in, but does not appear in, Elephant Child,

I found it interesting to liken the elements related to the different phylogenies of living beings to the organizational systems of James Joyce's Ulysses. When Joyce wrote Ulysses, he had organized systems in which a literary style corresponded to a color corresponded to a theme corresponded to a bodily organ. This over-systematization creates freedom, as categories can be understood together as a group or structure that permits arbitrariness. I wanted my exhibition to have this same freedom.
henrot_pale_fox_doge.jpg Dogon meets Doge

And so Henrot lays four chronological stages intuited from Leibniz onto the cardinal points of a compass in a rectangular gallery-a shape representing man, for God is a circle. The walls and floor are painted chromakey blue and encircled by an undulating, sculptural shelf, suggesting a timeline, of polished aluminum, which is piled with metaphorically resonant objects and images:

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There are photos of my family and photos I bought on ebay...and there are different kinds of magazines, advertisements, leaflets, things I picked up in the street, things I bought. The images and the objects have very different statuses...I chose lots of embarrassing objects, because I wanted to focus on clutter-all the objects that you don't know what to do with, but you don't dare throw out.
What did not occur to me until I got to the very end of the book, and only then because I'd just seen one appear at auction, is that among these hundreds of objects are Henrot's own works of art. This category is mentioned once in Scepanski's intro, and nowhere else, until you get to a checklist of works, which turn out to be the only objects mapped onto the show's schema. Rather than a gesamtkunstwerk, then, Henrot's show, and its elaborate conceptual confabulations, are a context, a framing, for the production and presentation of her own art. Which here includes dozens of Zen-ish ink drawings that approximate Amma's generative marks, and bronzes that echo either exoticized artifacts or postwar desktop abstraction. None of which is ever discussed.

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Or maybe it is.

Maybe this book not only maps the arbitrary folly of inevitably subjective systematization that gave the show its premise; it instantiates it. It's its own recursive cautionary tale, a Gödel, Escher, Bach of Henrotian Systems Theory, and turtles all the way down as practice. And the art is the result.

Henrot is trying to be the fun, free, arbitrary elegance she wants to see in the chaotic world she consciously over-systematized to the point of collapse.

The only place I've seen Henrot discussing her art per se is an interview with Rachael Vance last winter during the fifth and final installation of "The Pale Fox".

[CH] I spend a lot of time looking at the objects on my desk. Also, when I go to the doctor I am fascinated by what they have in their waiting rooms, on their desks, and the way these things are placed. The objects are supposed to represent power but they are also ridiculous. More often than not, the doctor will have one of those huge tape dispensers, which just look so silly. Every time I see them, I always think:

"Why would you have a tape holder that takes up all this room? Wouldn't it be more elegant to have a small tape in your drawer? And wouldn't it be even more elegant to just do everything on your iPad?" One day perhaps things like that won't exist anymore, who knows. Most of the bronzes in "The Pale Fox" were conceived out of this process in which we try to introduce rationality to something that is fundamentally irrational.

...

[RV] Compared to the rest of your material in "The Pale Fox", your sculptures stand alone as very substantial yet quiet pieces. Do they represent some sort of therapy for you?

[CH] It's true that they have a very different energy from the rest of my work. When I think about the exhibition, I think that energy came from a sense of anxiety. However, the sculptures came from a more playful and distant part of myself. When I start making a sculpture and stop having fun, I stop making the sculpture and move onto another one. In a way, there is this part of my work that is very disciplined and almost masochistic. The whole process of buying five hundred items on eBay and doing these charts and maps and studying them is a little mad. Just making the list for the exhibition was a headache. It was the same with Grosse Fatigue, writing the voice-over was such a long process. Editing the images was a nightmare and my assistant and I became really sick. There was a super-long list of different footage lines because there were more than 25 images running simultaneously. It was really crazy, but I guess I'm driven by this idea of going mad by trying to produce the impossible project.

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The actual genesis of "The Pale Fox" is not clear, but it appears to follow (from) Grosse Fatigue and its success. The screenshots in the book show most of the ebay photos shipping in November 2013. Most of the sculptures date from 2014. So this kind of object making seems relatively new for Henrot, who previously favored film and had been skeptical of the artist label.

It is probably speciously late of me to note Michael Connor's explanation from the preface that the main text of Elephant Child was "initially narrated by Camille to curator Clara Meister over a period of several days." It is an "intellectual framework," a "set of ideas as carefully crafted as any of her works," that also comprised, on Connors' part, "a certain amount of panic" and "scissors and tape." In her introduction Westphälischer Kunstverein curator Kristina Scepanski credits Meister and Connor as co-authors of Henrot's text. All three, along with Bromberg, are also the book's co-editors.

I did not see any installations of "The Pale Fox" in person, but like so many others, I was utterly transfixed by Grosse Fatigue and remain so. It remains a remarkable, ambitious, challenging, and beautiful work, and I continue to marvel at its making. Elephant Child communicates that essence-and much of the content-in book form. But it also captures the multitude of overlapping systems and the many talented people assembling in the wake of Henrot's triumphant Venice debut. It documents at least a part of the structure that grows around an artist to sustain a career, or a practice, that might, one hopes, survive the chaos that yields such works again. And if a crowd of hosioi decrypting Henrot's pronouncements and wan ink drawings and elegant bronze pleasure objects are what it takes, then so be it.

Buy Elephant Child from Inventory Press, or on Amazon [inventorypress.com] Order from Chaos: Interview with Camille Henrot [sleek-mag]

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Untitled (The Four Seasons), 2016, four bronze Philip Johnson planters an 16 trees, in seasonal rotation. image: Paul Goldberger

Paul Goldberger tweeted this photo of an emptied out Four Seasons, and now I want those potted palm trees more than anything in the 14-hour auction I sat through the other day&night [online, obv, but I stayed until the checks arrived].

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The Pool Room in spring, via wright20

Those planters canNOT be landmarked, can they? The trees certainly can't be; they change(d) with the seasons. OTOH, given the merch they unloaded, the only way they wouldn't have sold the planters is if they were landmarked. So Selldorf, Rosen & those food guys will keep them. Will they rotate their trees too, keeping a signature of the restaurant they booted planted squarely in the center of their new joint? We shall see.

July 24, 2016

Tantas Sombras

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Teresa Margolles' La Sombra, installed at Echo Park Lake, photo: Carolina Miranda/LAT

Teresa Margolles has contributed a memorial to Current: LA Water, the "public art biennial," which started last week. La Sombra (The Shade) is near Echo Park Lake and looks to be the most significant and prominent work in the program, which runs, incredibly, for less than a month.

La Sombra is a six meter-high...pavilion? Awning? Structure? In her onsite report for the LA Times, Carolina Miranda calls it an installation, a memorial, and a monument. It looks like it's made of concrete, but if it's going to disappear in a couple of weeks, I suspect it's gunnite or stucco sprayed on a plywood box.

Which hurts. Margolles created La Sombra as a memorial to 100 Los Angelenos murdered with guns in the last 18 months. The sites of these killings were visited, washed, and the water re-collected for use in mixing the concrete. This circulatory element echoes Margolles' previous works which incorporate the water used to wash corpses in the morgue in her home city of Juarez.

La Sombra is a stark, powerful form that draws people to it, especially on a hot, sunny day. In this way, perhaps, the deaths of these hundred people might yield some comfort to the living. Maybe family and friends can come sit under it. Maybe people will be motivated to act against gun-related violence.

"I wanted [La Sombra] to be on the scale of what has happened," says Margolles in the Times. "I wanted it to have presence."

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Donald Judd, One of 15 Untitled Works in Concrete, 1980-84, 2.5m x 2.5m x 5m, Chinati Foundation, image via wiki

The scale and presence of La Sombra are indeed notable. It seems quite large. It looks like it could be concrete-Judd-in-Marfa-fields-size, but it is actually 4x that. It has an architectural presence and is not slight. It feels like about the right scale for 100 people. Maybe it is even the size of 100 people standing within it, I don't know.

Memorials use scale to convey their meaning. Some memorials, like for the people killed in the Oklahoma City bombing and the AA77 crash at the Pentagon, use a cemetery-like field of individual-scale objects-chairs and benches, respectively-to represent the dead. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the World Trade Center Memorial, meanwhile, incorporate individual names into a larger, holistic experience of loss. nodding to a larger, shared sense of mourning, of a community, a nation. It really depends on the scale of death, whether it is thousands (58,195 or 2,977), hundreds (168 or 184), or one.

By remembering 100 otherwise unrelated deaths with one La Sombra, Margolles appears to have found a new scale for memorialization: a memorial unit that modulates between societal tragedy and individual loss. [I just remembered that the Pentagon Memorial actually called the benches "memorial units".]

There were not just 100 people killed in LA with guns in the 18 months Margolles bracketed; there were 975. Even if it was just because of the prohibitive the logistics of washing down all those murder sites, the artist knew her temporary memorial alone could not account for that "scale of what has happened." She'd need nine more La Sombras, just in LA. With an average of 55 people being killed each month, that's another La Sombras every two months.

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Imagine these 3-meter tall Judd concrete sculptures at Chinati are actually 6-meter tall Margolles La Sombras, each commemorating 100 people killed with guns. image: chinati.org

And now scale them up. There are 30,000 gun deaths in the US-half a Vietnam War or ten September 11ths-each year. Margolles' La Sombra could be the optimal form and size for memorializing the people killed by gun violence across the country. But some details would need to be worked out. How far back in time do we go? We could need thousands of La Sombras right from the start. Seems impractical, at least at first.

Where should they be placed? Do we combine them all into one sprawling site, like an AIDS Quilt of concrete, an ever-growing Holocaust Memorial for a slaughter we refuse to stop? I think a La Sombra site could take into account the hundred people it memorializes within a city or perhaps a state, without getting too granular with your data; you wouldn't want them to pile up and stigmatize a neighborhood, though having a few together could totally work.

Spread them out at least a bit. Though maybe a city or state could decide to stack them up in a public space, magnify their presence, so the absence of the dead can't be ignored. Of course, you'd also want to avoid gamifying them, having them treated as kills to be racked up by violent forces in society, or even just a run-of-the-mill gun-toting psychokiller. They need to stay present in the landscape, but also just ominous and uncomfortable enough to prick the consciences of we who remain.

An artist's imposing new monument at Echo Park Lake honors Angelenos killed in violent crimes [latimes]
Current: LA Water, LA's Public Art Biennial, runs through August 14. [currentla.org]

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Luanda, Encyclopedic City, installation view, 2013, via beyond entropy

In 2013, Luanda, Encyclopedia City, an exhibition by Edson Chagas at the Angola Pavilion, won the Golden Lion for National Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. It was the first time Angola had participated in the Biennale, and the first time an African country had won. It was Chagas's first solo exhibition in Europe.

The exhibition comprised images from Chagas' ongoing series, Found, Not Taken (2009 - ), in which he photographed an object from various cities' streets in front of a carefully selected background. The curators of the pavilion, Paula Nascimento and Stefano Rabolli Pansera of the firm Beyond Entropy Ltd, selected 23 images of Luanda.

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Luanda, Encyclopedic City, installation view via tankboys.biz

The commissioned title, Luanda, Encyclopedic City, is an unabashedly direct callout to the main Biennale exhibition, Encyclopedic Palace, curated by Masimiliano Gioni. The pavilion was the Palazzo Cini, a private museum of Venetian painting just off the Grand Canal.

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From Found Not Taken, installation of inkjet prints on pallets, title via moma.org, image via beyond entropy

Chagas's images are appealing, but not groundbreaking. They feel like painterly Gabriel Orozco photos where journalism replaces self-conscious lyricism. What was most striking about the exhibition was its sculptural and spatial qualities. Offset prints of the images were placed in large stacks on pallet-like plinths, providing a stark contrast of both content and form with the palazzo's ornate galleries and collection.

While I've found no mention of Orozco's work in discussions of the show, the references to Felix Gonzalez-Torres were clear, broad, and abundant. Indeed, it felt like Chagas's works were the most powerful and effective use of the replenishable stack since Felix put the form on the contemporary map 25 years ago. Beside the bases, one innovation was a large, printed folder, which turned visitors' sheafs of free prints into a tidy, transport-friendly exhibition publication.

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Ocean of Images installation shot with Edson Chagas's Found, Not Taken, Luanda, 2013, image: moma via aperture

When MoMA included five images from Chagas' Found, Not Taken series in last year's Ocean of Images show, they showed the stacks, minus the folder, with the pallets. Or again, pallet-shaped plinths, since the stacks involved actual, non-sculptural pallets, too. The works were now credited as coming from the Founding Collection of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa. [You know what collectors say: biennials before Basel.]

The stacks' appeal, as Felix knew, is their distributive power. As MoMA's Kristen Gaylord put it, "they require the interaction of our thousands of visitors, who take them away to hang on a wall, toss in the garbage, or give away, distributing Chagas's work throughout the world."

So it's kind of amazing to find out that the stacks weren't Chagas's idea; they came from the graphic designers' for the Angolan Pavilion, a two-person firm in Venice called Tankboys. In the official press release, the curators were described as collaborating withsomeone called Thankboys on "design and art direction," but almost no other mention of a Thankboys can be found online. Tankboys, however, Lorenzo Mason & Marco Campardo, lists the pavilion on their un-Googled website:

Our role as designers was to find an adequate setting for the contemporary artworks while also creating a dialectic relationship with the permanent collection present on the site. While observing the space, we have decided to create a physical and imaginary landscape, adding another layer to the location by creating 23 towers with posters of the 23 photographs selected by the curators. The physical structure of the exhibition has allowed us to obtain two goals: we have been able to give shape and structure to the photographs while also creating a physical encyclopedia (as the title suggests) of the artworks displayed. Twenty-three posters scattered around the room, 70 x 100 cm large, can be collected from the piles and bound together using a red cover especially designed (the chosen typeface was our interpretation of Aldo Novarese's Forma) to hold the prints together.
This is how your Venetian sausage is made. Other of the firm's projects include finely crafted wood tables, so I assume they created the plinths, too.

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Ibrahim Mahama and Edson Chagas installation view at Palazzo Gallery, 2015

Chagas' other exhibitions of Found, Not Taken included c-prints of images from the cities where he lived-London and Newport as well as Luanda-framed, editioned, and hung on the wall. For example, in a victory lap after Venice, he had a two-person show with Ibrahim Mahama at Palazzo Gallery where things are framed. The stacks appear to be a direct product of the exhibition conditions in the Palazzo Cini. Which were then bought by the Zeitz and repeated at MoMA. With no mention of Tankboys' formative contributions at all.

I don't mean to denigrate Chagas' images, or to assert he has any less than total claim to authorship of his works. I'm sure Chagas had ample opportunity to consider the options and proposals for presenting his work. But I can't shake the feeling that I misunderstood the works in Luanda, Encyclopedic Pavilion, and my misperceptions were reinforced at MoMA.

Megan Eardley wrote about Luanda, Encyclopedic City for Africa Is A Country:

Enter Africa, the expert in European fantasies. At the Angolan pavilion, Edson Chagas has crafted an elegant response to the encyclopedic project, which begins with the title of his photographic series. "Found Not Taken," thumbs its nose at the Europeans who cannot stop carting off the world's knowledge to its curio shops, laboratories, and museums.
And yet I can't help but feel it's the opposite now, that the western art system has safely processed and subsumed another African artist for consumption. Independent curators took a particular, localized tranche of a little-known African artist's work, and poured it into an instantly recognizable form, one long associated with a canonical contemporary artist, whose work deals with identity and power, and optimized it for propagation at the art world's greatest curatorial circus, where it wins top prize and spawns hours-long lines. It's like Venice gave the Golden Lion to itself.

But what about the stack? Can we have stacks now that nod to Felix without being necessarily and only an appropriation? Can they work outside of the high-traffic, souvenir-hunting environment of a biennial or a museum? Maybe when Tankboys grafted Felix's concepts of print-as-sculpture and the endlessly free, devalued original onto Chagas's work, they helped create a place for the stack apart from Felix's legacy. For Chagas's otherwise unrelated images, the stack functioned as an exhibition device and a publishing & distribution strategy. Maybe the stack can now begin to function as a platform, not just an object, like how Seth Siegelaub's Xerox Book was at once a book and a show. Maybe. We'll have to see. [h/t to Paul Soulellis for the impetus to revisit the stack]

July 16, 2016

Sforzian Boardwalk

hrc_trump_plaza_philly_tom_gralsh.JPG
Hillary Clinton speaking at the closed Trump Plaza in Atlantic City July 6, 2016, image: philly.com/Tom Gralsh

I missed this while I was out of town, but Hillary Clinton hit a Sforzian jackpot when she gave a campaign speech on the boardwalk in Atlantic City, in front of the closed and failed Trump Plaza Casino.

Carl Icahn owns the building now, and the vestiges of Trump's failure are literally written on the wall, providing a readymade Sforzian backdrop.

Or two. According to Amy Rosenberg's report at philly.com, the Clinton campaign had originally wanted to stage their event a block inland, with the casino's de-Trumped tower in the background, but it would have blocked traffic to Caesar's. So they wedged in to a less optimal but still effective corner of the boardwalk, the ghosts of T-R-U-M-P lingered on the classy, glassy marquee.

hrc_trump_atlcity_app_tcostello_.jpg
same, this time via Asbury Park Press/USAT/Tom Costello

If you don't count his kneejerk tweets blaming anyone else for his business's failures while crowing about skating out of bankruptcy with a wad of investors' dough, Trump's reaction came Thursday. The Press of Atlantic City reports that the traces of Trump's name were removed "for good" from the boardwalk facade. "Black paint has been applied to cover up any mention to Donald Trump."

trump_plaza_monochrome_pofac_blk.jpg
Untitled (Trump Plaza Black) Nos. 1-3, 2016, paint on panel, collection: Trump Entertainment Resorts/Carl Icahn, installation photo via Press of Atlantic City

Actually, from Jack Tomczuk's (or Michael Ein's, I can't tell) photos, the traces of Trump's name were not painted over, but were covered by painted panels. Five black monochromes were affixed to Hillary's Sforzian corner, and to the fenced off boardwalk entrance, where the ghost of Trump's made up crest remains visible but illegible.

The exhibition will remain on view at least through November. I would be stoked if you visit it and post photos.

trump_plaza_monochrome_pofac_blk-3.jpg
Untitled (Trump Plaza Black) Nos. 4 & 5, 2016, paint on panel, each in two parts, collection: Trump Entertainment Resorts/Carl Icahn, installation photo via Press of Atlantic City

Hillary Clinton takes on Trump in A.C. [philly.com]
Faded 'Trump Plaza' removed after Clinton appearance [pressofatlanticcity.com]

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Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

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Chop Shop
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1-7 March 2016

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eBay Test Listings
Mar – Dec 2015
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It Narratives, incl.
Shanzhai Gursky & Destroyed Richter
Franklin Street Works, Stamford
Sept 5 - Nov 9, 2014
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TheRealHennessy Tweets Paintings, 2014 -
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Standard Operating Procedure
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CZRPYR2: The Illustrated Appendix
Canal Zone Richard Prince
YES RASTA 2:The Appeals Court
Decision, plus the Court's
Complete Illustrated Appendix (2013)
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"Exhibition Space"
Mar 20 - May 8 @apexart, NYC


HELP/LESS Curated by Chris Habib
Printed Matter, NYC
Summer 2012
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Destroyed Richter Paintings, 2012-
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Canal Zone Richard
Prince YES RASTA:
Selected Court Documents
from Cariou v. Prince (2011)
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