August 16, 2003

On Preserving Ephemeral Art

[via ArtForum] An interesting article in the Financial Times on the conservation challenges posed by ephemeral art, especially color photography and video. C-Prints, by far the most popular format for contemporary art photography, have a very uncertain future. Video and film, in the mean time, require a transfer plan, making sure the medium and format stays current (and the work stays true to the artist's intent).

The article doesn't quite get it sometimes, though. Advocating for collectors to receive certificates? It's a dopey collector who doesn't get them already. And the last quote by Tony Oursler feels a bit too off-hand. Of an old video work he recently remastered for exhibition this fall, he says,"It looks better now than then." That's great, but that means that how it looked then is now lost.

The Variable Media Initiative, which sponsored a fascinating conference on this subject in 2001. (Fascinating if you're a conceptual art geek, that is.)
AXA's Ad Reinhardt Research Project, which focuses on the conservation of contemporary painting (and Reinhardt's work in particular).

August 14, 2003

On Christian Marclay

Tape Fall, 1989, Christian Marclay, image:

Christian Marclay's awesome Video Quartet is on view now at LA's Hammer Museum, as part of a mid-career retrospective of Marclay's art-meets-music work. [In the LA Times, Chris Knight reviews the show--and misses some major points--with nary a mention of the video. the CS Monitor has a better review.]

I remember MoMA exhibiting his 1989 piece, Tape Fall, where an audio tape of running water pools onto the floor. It was cool, but Video Quartet blew me away. Marclay brings his sampling and mixing experience from DJ'ing to his artmaking, "plumbing the deeper meanings of that intersection."

Telephones, Christian Marclay, image:

Of course, I found out about it one day too late, but it turns out the selling of Marclay's 1995 work, Telephones, perfectly encapsulates the challenges video poses to artists and dealers.

According to a curator/dealer I've known for years, Telephones was sold in two editions: a small, signed edition of 25, and a larger, unsigned edition of, say, 100. They were priced at $1,000 and $200, respectively. [While not Jayson Blairing these numbers, I should say I don't remember them exactly. They're directionally accurate, though.]

But several people who bought the unsigned edition apparently felt no compunction in copying it for friends. Without the signature, these dubs were essentially identical to the unsigned tapes. The result [with no offense to the Fab Five]: it queered the market for the larger edition.

Infinite reproduction is, theoretically, at least, inherent in video-based art. But in Marclay's case, the talismanic, even fetishistic, signature was enough to make some buyers think twice before dubbing. But it's a little finger-in-the-dike, though, as the unsigned, now-unlimited edition proves. I'll give Marclay a call about this some time.

Banksy's painted cow, a la Warhol's cow wallpaper, image:[via WoosterCollective] Banksy, a prominent London street artist, has moved his work into a gallery for the weekend, and some people are pissed (in the American, not British, English sense of the word). Banksy tagged some live barnyard animals, and an animal rights protestor chained herself to the pen, temporarily leaving the foxes of England defenseless.

Meanwhile, in the US, when artist Nathan Banks painted words on the sides of cows and transcribed the poems they produced as they wandered the fields, no one raised an eyebrow.

July 11, 2003

Well Hung

When our DC neighbors' rather inconsiderately left their wireless networks turned off this morning, I ran over to the Hirshhorn to see their new, temporary installation of the permanent collection. It's pretty fresh, with room to breathe. A lot of wall and floor space is devoted to newer work, which had always gotten short shrift in the Hirshhorn's rather staid, historical hang (like a history teacher in May, having to cover "WWII-to-present" in a week).

There are moments of real enjoyment, if not brilliance, but the limitations are the collections' (pretty good, with a few greats), not the curators'. Turning from the all-black wall (Ad Reinhart, Frank Stella, Richard Serra) to find a rarely seen Robert Smithson spiral sculpture perfectly framed in the doorway is awesome, even if it doesn't necessarily mean anything.

Maybe it's my skewed NYC perspective, but the installation takes a luxurious approach to space; Wolfgang Laib pollen carpet has a huge gallery to itself. In an equally giant Ann Hamilton room, ceiling robots periodically sent sheets of white paper fluttering to the floor. Some tourists frolicked in the resulting paperdrifts, flailing goofily to catch the falling sheets. Their photosnapping attempts to capture what is, essentially, an experience, didn't fare much better.

It's always good to see a Tobias Rehberger, even if it's taped off like a crime scene; and they thankfully purged a lot of the tchotchkes that made the sculpture hallways so avoidable.

One thing I don't understand, though, is the Hirshhorn's embarassing practice of selling its old mail. Seriously. There are two milkcrates in the giftshop, full of minor auction catalogues, reports, and obscure 1970's exhibition brochures from other museums. Priced are based solely, it seems, on binding type. It's enough to make me take a stand, Tyler Green-style: lose the trash bins. Or, at least, start throwing out more interesting stuff.

July 8, 2003

On the artist in Taos

Untitled 7, 1999, Agnes Martin, image:
Untitled #7, 1999, Agnes Martin

Lillian Ross makes nice as she hangs out with Agnes Martin, master of minimalistic painting, in Taos.

It sounds simple, but don't bother trying this at home: "You paint vertically, but the paintings hang horizontallyóthere are no drips that way.î

In April, Zwirner & Wirth had a small show spanning Martins' five decades of work.

July 5, 2003

On PS1

First, thanks to most of you for not coming today. It was kind of nervewracking, but my gallery talk went okay. There was a group of a dozen or so people who stuck through the whole thing, but a small mob would materialize whenever we'd stop to talk.

Two things that helped the crowd: Richie Hawtin didn't open the Warm Up Series, he headlined it. That, and many of the galleries were air-conditioned.

James Turrell Sky Room at PS1, image: ps1.orgAnyway, I hung out for the whole show, listening in the VIP room as a couple of dj's compared notes on musician-friendly daycare. Then, as Richie went on and the and dusk arrived, I joined an eager crowd in James Turrell's skyroom. [Actually, I jumped to help a friend move some pedestals out of the room, and I had it to myself for a few minutes while everyone else cooled it in line.]

Seventy-plus people, jammed, jabbering into the room. It took about twenty minutes, but peoples' energy changed, and the room grew quiet. For the rest of an hour, thirty or so people sat and watched the sky change color. To a scratchy techno beat.

I drove home. At a light near the 59th St Bridge, I glanced around, and saw the man in the car next to me, a very normal-looking guy in his thirties, crying to himself. He caught me looking, I furrowed my brow in some kind of concern, and he nodded once. When the light changed, he turned, and I got on the bridge, wondering.

If you're debating whether to join me at PS1 for my gallery tour among the selected exhibits, remember that many other things are going on at the same time:

  • at PS1: Richie Hawtin cracking open the Warm Up Series
  • at Film Forum: The Band Wagon, "the greatest of movie musicals" (it starts at 3:15)
  • at Anthology: La Commune (Paris, 1871), Part Two, "the Best Film of 2002" (3 hours, starting at 3)
  • Take this time to figure out Richard Linklater's Waking Life, then let me know what you come up with. I'm watching it right now, finally, on HBO6. The animation's interesting, but frankly, I there's no accounting for it.
  • The New York Times will be published and available throughout the day.
  • There's a rice pudding restaurant on Spring Street, too, which is open, but honestly, if you're debating between me and a bowl of friggin' rice pudding, do us both a favor and stay in Manhattan.

    Conclusion: unless you're a slave to movie musicals, documentaries or rice pudding, I'll see you there.

    [update: At GreenCine, David puts La Commune into annoyingly chilling perspective. If you're only going to see one 6-hour film this year, make it La Commune.]

  • I'd say "Come to my museum tour this Saturday," but I just realized they booked my talk against Detroit Techno-god Richie Hawtin (aka Plakstikman), who's performing in the Warm Up Series. I have no illusions.

    On the occasion of the exhibition Site and Insight: an Assemblage of Artists, P.S.1 offers a series of museum tours, each led by an emerging collector or a curator for a private collection. Site and Insight is curated by Agnes Gund, one of New York's most prominent collectors and patrons. Ms. Gund's curatorial selections are informed by her experience as a collector and thus reflect her unique relationship to art and to artists.

    These museum tours invite young collectors or curators of collections to present their views on works in P.S.1's summer exhibitions and to provide insight into the processes behind collecting contemporary art. Led through the galleries by a collector, participants are introduced to the issues, questions, concerns, and inspiration which face a collector when viewing new work. The "collector's eye" will be a new lens through which to experience contemporary art at P.S.1.

    All events take place at 3:30pm and are free with museum admission ($6)

    Sat., July 5th: Greg Allen (collector)
    Sat., July 19th: Emily Braun (curator of the Leonard Lauder Collection)
    Fri., August 1st: Agnes Gund (collector and Site and Insight curator)
    Sat., August 16th: Anne Ellegood (curator of the Peter Norton
    Sat., August 30th: Bill Previdi (collector)

    The Venice Biennale is opening right now, and the artworld (minus 1 or 2) is trying to crash each other's parties. Far from regretting not being there, I am getting a full Biennale experience, thanks to Frieze Magazine's, SMS reports. For the second morning in a row, we were repeatedly startled awake by my cell phone vibrating across the room.

    Here's one from yesterday: FriezeSMS Venice 03: Text message codes: Pav=Pavilion. Gia=Giardini. Ar=Arsenale. IO=Invite Only. Pa=Party.

    And this morning, a splash of a review: FriezeSMS: Not even the Op Art effect of the glittering lagoon prepares you for Ofili + Adjaye's luminescent rooms. Paradise is within reach. Sun Factor 40...

    Last Biennale, too, we waited until later in the summer, avoiding the art masses, at least. Here's my Sept. 7, 2001 post about the visit, from back when the weblog was young.

    Donald Judd,

    Mmmm? In Art Papers, the artist Evan Levy tells the story of visiting The Chinati Foundation, Donald Judd's minimalist mecca in Marfa, Texas. He found "a flaw, a missing corner, in one of the concrete sculptures," which Judd placed in the field beyond his converted army warehouses. Later, Levy discovered a meteorite nearby, and wondered if it's "the only intergalactic rock to have struck a work of modern art?" He built a show around it, apparently.

    It sounds implausible to me, and not just because he was supposedly forbidden to take any pictures of the sculpture. (I have all kinds of pictures from my trip to Marfa.) But ask him yourself next week. He's giving a promisingly titled artist's talk, ennui & asteroids, Sunday June 14th at 2pm at the Sandler Hudson Gallery in Atlanta.

    [Bonus alliterative update: Memories of Making Movies in Marfa]

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    Since 2001 here at, 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.

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