Category:art

Jessie Pettway's 1950's quilt, image: corcoran.org

One of the most rewarding shows last year in New York was The Quilts of Gee's Bend at the Whitney. For generations, the descendants of former slaves in an isolated Alabama town developed quilt designs that stand alongside--and frequently prefigure by decades--some of the best modern art of the 20th century. The reminded me of Stuart Davis, 80's Sol Lewitt, and most of all, Ellsworth Kelly.

Anyway, as of yesterday, that show is at the Corcoran in DC. I understand if you're still boycotting because of that embarassing Seward Johnson exhibit, but you'll only be hurting yourself if you miss this. But if you insist, you can approximate the Gee's Bend experience by buying the catalog and the more expansive Gee's Bend: The Women and their Quilts, or with a handtufted, quilt-patterned carpet, made under exclusive license by the Classic Rug Collection.

Over 600 quilts are now owned by the non-profit Tinwood Alliance, which was established by Peter Arnett, an Atlanta collector who began amassing them in the 1980's.

February 10, 2004

Anne Truitt Week

Since moving Modern Art Notes to Arts Journal, Tyler Green's been demonstrating his critic-as-advocate chops, sometimes with a degree of acid that'd make even professional bee-atch Charlie Finch blush. He makes nice nice this week, though, by publishing brief excerpts daily from Anne Truitt's Daybook. On top of simultaneously being a pioneer and stalwart contrarian of Minimalism, Truitt's published journals are an unsurpassed window into the artistic process. Only Daybook is in print, but you can get the other volumes from ABEbooks.

Related: Truitt and Agnes Martin showing across the street from each other in Jan. 2003.

12/04 update: Mourning the loss of Anne Truitt.

For an artist who's only shown a couple of times and whose most well-known work --a 22-minute, reconceived-for-network-TV version of Cremaster 4--has only been seen by a handful of people, Jon Routson sure gets a lot of press. Baltimore City Paper's Bret McCabe gives Routson the full feature treatment this week, a 5,000-word cover story, complete with inflammatory comments by [at least one] wannabe playah with a weblog.

greg.org's Greg and John Waters' John viewed askew by David O. RussellWith pleasant symmetry, another Baltimore artist, the indie filmgod John Waters, opens an exhibition of his work--thematic collages of images cribbed from 60's and 70's movies--at the New Museum Feb. 7. Read Artnet's recent interview with Waters.

Related: my previous post about Routson, and my NYT article on bootlegging video art

Well, not yet. But after years of drought, Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty is so visible (and walkable), it's getting so many visitors, the Dia Center is thinking: upgrades. Making the bone-jarring road more accessible; maybe adding some rocks here and there; getting it up out of the water so those pesky salt crystals don't form on it anymore. As Michael Govan, the Dia's director, notes, "The spiral is not as dramatic as when it was first built. The Jetty is being submerged in a sea of salt."

"What we're conceiving is an exciting, interactive, immersive Spiral Jetty experience. It'll be educational, and entertaining. With the lake's salt level where it is right now, you just float. You can't actually immerse. We're talking to some of the governor's economic development folks about fixing that, though. They're in Salt Lake. And IMAX. Can you imagine Smithson's movie in IMAX? Oh, and we gotta fix that fence over there."

Okay, I made that last paragraph up. Basically, all that's happening is, they've surveyed the site, and they realize the Jetty won't survive if 2,000 people walk across it every year. One potential benefit of rebuilding Spiral Jetty: Journalists might stop pretending it's missing.

Related: Dia, the Baedeker for the Contemporary Art Grand Tour [bonus non sequitur: post includes the sole remaining excerpts from Plum Sykes' outline for Bergdorf Blondes]

Update: check out John Perrault's commentary at ArtsJournal In 25-words or less: "I knew Smithson. Smithson was kinda a friend of mine. A reconstituted Jetty, sir, is no Robert Smithson."

December 12, 2003

Artist Books for the Holidays

If you're still looking for just the right gift for your Jewish (you better hustle) or Christian friend (you have a little more time), try an artist book from Printed Matter. Here are my, ahem, suggestions:

  • David Hammons, The Holy Bible: Old Testament. The complete works of Marcel Duchamp, rebound as a bible.
  • On Kawara's CD, One Million Years (Past), which covers the years 998,031 BC to 997,400 BC.
  • Erin Cosgrove's take on romantic fiction as conceptual art project, The Baader-Meinhof Affair, which sounds like The Rules of Attraction if Bret Easton Ellis had gone to Williams instead of Bennington.
  • J. Meejin Yoon's Absence, a simple, remarkable "portable memorial" of the World Trade Center. It consists of diecuts on 127 pages (one per floor, including the radio mast), which create sculptural voids in the shape of the towers when the book is closed. The perfect gift for the nonfinalist memorial competition entrant in your life.

  • December 11, 2003

    Barnes Storm

    Over at Modern Art Notes, Tyler's on a roll, posting frequently and furiously about the current court proceedings to decide the fate of The Barnes Collection, the greatest assemblage of modern art in the country. Tyler does his gadfly best, providing some very useful context (and a bit of foaming at the mouth) for this big, somewhat under-/mis-reported story.

    some cheesy Renoir pinup from the Barnes Foundation, image: abcgallery.com

    Barnes was a new moneyed crank with a voracious appetite for once-unpopular art (Cezanne, Matisse, Renoir, Soutine, etc.), which he frequently bought in bulk, out of the artists' studios. He had an unparalleled--but not unbiased--eye; by cornering the market on cheesy Renoir nudes, for example, he forced generations of Third World dictators to decorate their palaces with much less desirable, generic soft porn. His collection, foundation, and vision were all mercilessly mocked by Philadelphia society the art establishment of his day, and he took great glee in their eventual comeuppance; he knew the world would have to come groveling back to his art someday.

    Now, though, after a couple of generations of pathetic mismanagement ("hundreds of items," including a Matisse and a Renoir gone missing. Did you check the bathroom for the Renoir, your honor?); a feckless board; the inept defensiveness of Lincoln University (the historically black institution Barnes's will put in charge of his legacy), and an utterly clueless-sounding judge, it looks like that same Philadelphia Establishment's shameless attempt to take control of the collection may succeed. It's all pretty ghetto.

    I haven't thought it all the way through yet, but Barnes comes to mind when I see the sometimes clumsy, always entertaining, mega-collecting arms race in Miami right now. I doubt that Marty Margulies or his competitors are the Alfred Barnes of the 22nd century, but I know that there are enough snotty art worlders who try to proclaim their own insiderness by mocking them behind their backs.

    December 6, 2003

    V(S)IP at Art Basel Miami

    The S is for Self, as in Self-Important. And I wasn't alone. Far from it. The most unnecessary question of the day was the endearing, "Do you know who I am?" It wasn't unnecessary because the Swiss minions running the art fair were so gracious, but because people were always telling you how fabulous they and their taste are anyway. My VIP card didn't score me an early private screening of the only piece I wanted to see in the video program; fortunately, though, the snow conspired to keep me in town one more night. I saw Amar Kanwar's 2002 A Night of Prophecy, which he produced for last year's Documenta XI.

    Amar Kanwar's A Night of Prophecy production still, image: rennaisancesociety.org

    I left the tawdry spectacle of NY art dealers singing karaoke for what turned out to be basically a series of subcontinental music videos. Kanwar filmed people singing calls for caste revolution and protests of various ethnic conflicts. It was alternately moving and didactic, always poetic, but hopelessly at odds with the shiny-as-a-C-print materialist, money-soaked, elitistriving artfest that hosted it. The thirty people at the start of the screening dwindled to less than half that, with only about 8-10 of us pinko Gandhi-ists watching the entire thing. Why some people wouldn't want to spend their Friday night in South Beach being called (in melodic Hindi) an exploitative thief living off the sweat of the poor is beyond me.

    (Of course, I'm writing this from the Delta Crown Room at the airport...the sweaty sunburned masses are already too much for me to deal with apparently...)

    November 24, 2003

    Art Roundup

    Spums Stream, 2003, Gabriel Orozco, image: mariangoodman.com

    You should feel horrible for missing Gabriel Orozco's latest show at Marian Goodman. His elegant, biomorphic sculptural shapes are recognizable at first as found objects: bones, husks, driftwood. In the rear gallery, though, less finished "sketches" of polyurethane foam extruding through fine wire mesh point to Orozco's material process. Gradually, it dawns on you that the artist didn't find the previous shapes; he created them by manipulating quick-drying foam on sheets of latex with a hard-to-fathom series of gestures and pauses. What looked so familiar becomes perplexing and unknown. At least it did until Saturday.

    Start making it up by going to Sargent's Women at Adelson Galleries. It's a museum-quality exhibition of portraits, scenes, and studies by an artist whose paintings I like for their photographic influences, which I discovered at the giant National Gallery show in 1999 (which rocked). [via About Last Night]

    Then, if you go to Feigen for the Joseph Cornell show, and then buy Robert Lehrman's unprecedented, awesome-looking catalog/DVD-ROM tour of the boxes, you'll be just fine.

    Protesters laying out in Olafur's The Weather Project, image: ananova.com

    If not their effectiveness. One more picture of Olafur Eliasson's The Weather Project at the Tate in London.

    Raphael's Madonna of the Pinks, image: nationalgallery.co.ukI wonder if it's this amusing from the outside when New York acts as if its concerns are the most important in the whole wide world.

    The British art crowd's all worked up over a speech by Nicholas Serota, director of the Tate (and "the most powerful man in the museum world" WTF??), where he criticized the country's policy of "saving" art treasures (i.e., buying them so the Getty doesn't get them).

    Serota, with total disinterested objectivity, I'm sure, suggests using the £25 Million earmarked for saving Raphael's Madonna of the Pinks to buy modern and contemporary work instead.

    The Guardian polls a variety of BritArt grandees to see what they'd do with the money. The only one I can agree with is the Ikon Gallery's Jonathan Watkins, who wants to buy some On Kawara works. [Ikon had a highly praised On Kawara show last year. Coincidence?]

    My, er, two pence: Set up an endowment, which, if it threw off £1.25 million/year, would be plenty to commission and purchase a steady stream of projects by emerging artists all over the world. Rather than keep a crusty old Madonna in the country (as if there's any other kind in the UK these days), get works early by the Raphaels of the 23rd century.

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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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