Category:art

February 21, 2003

On Museums On eBay


This AP story [via the cool Scrubbles.net] from Indianapolis sounds like the tip of the iceberg: museum curators using ebay to add to their collections.

My conversations about eBay with various curator friends all follow a predictable a trajectory: surprise that we're both eBay whores; polite envy over what the other scored; caginess over what we're looking for now; relief when we find out we're looking for different stuff; quick detente and an exchange of usernames when we find out we're buying the same stuff.

Of course, now eBay's gonna turn my butt in to the Feds, as the EFF reports they're all too eager to do.

February 21, 2003

On Wooster Collective

As I arrived at Gawker's launch party last week, I ran into some friends from my old consulting days. (I guess it's Nick's job to know everybody, and he does.) Anyway, their shoutout just before the elevator door closed, "we have a weblog, Wooster Collective" should be nominated for Undersell Of The Year.

Gucci sidewalk photo, artist unknown, image: woostercollective.com

Wooster Collective is a hoppin' arena of grafitti, stickers, stencil art and other street art, with updates coming more frequently than the 4-5-6 train at rush hour. In a remarkably short time, they've tapped into a sprawling network of artists and fans who contribute great stuff from far beyond Wooster.

Some highlights: Posters of sidewalks by Gucci, et al; Peter Coffin's barcode stickers [Peter, you gotta tell me about this stuff...]; and Dan Witz interview, whose trompe l'oeil graf works are stunning.

Matthew Barney as Gary Gilmore, but it's about that belt buckle, image:guggenheim.org
Yeah, I want a Cremaster belt buckle, but not if it means
getting executed in a salt arena... image: guggenheim.org

'cuz it's gonna be all we talk and hear about for months (at least until Matrix Reloaded comes out). We're just suckers for an entirely fabricated, all-encompassing, and disturbing worldview. (What, the imagined world of Wolfowitz ain't scary enough?)

Anyway, in the Times, Michael Kimmelman gets all sticky for the Cremaster show, which opens today at the Guggenheim. Note to all: Fridays through June 6, are hereby set aside for watching the entire 5-film Cycle, in order. You will be graded on this.

Note to MB: If Prada teaches the world anything, it's to actually have a site up when you go wide with a marquee URL.

February 12, 2003

On Thomas Struth On Art

struth_alte_pinatotek.jpg
Alte Pinakothek, Selftportrait, Munich, 2000, Thomas Struth

The other night, I heard the photographer Thomas Struth talk about his work. A friend (who has a far more serious art habit than even I do) hosted a reception for the artist in his office. Extra Struths, brought out of storage for the evening, rested on stacks of printer paper, an installation technique you don't see at the artist's current one-man show at the Met.

Struth spoke very quietly, but determinedly, about his work and the ideas and process behind it. He's clearly contemplative, and some of his most well-known works are unabashedly about contemplation (his Paradise junglescapes and his photos of museumgoers). He described his decades-long relationship with the 1500 self-portrait of Albrecht Durer (above) and his fascination with its unusual gaze. By putting himself in the photo (that's Struth's shoulder), he wanted to capture a moment of a conversation, while readily allowing that the two figures may not be saying anything to each other.

He caught me off guard, though, by referring to the photo's cinematic character; but sure enough, the framing, blocking and "sightlines" are from one half of a shot/reverse-shot, the continuity editing staple for depicting a two-person conversation. Struth wanted to portray a conversation that crosses 500 years (he shot it in 2000), a long-term perspective Struth finds shamefully absent today.

"No one [in the current political situation] looks forward even 50 years; they only look to their next election." Struth then ruminated on art worlders and what they could do to pull the real world back from the brink of war. "We're here, in the office of [one of the wealthiest men in the world], there are so many influential people in the art world. Why don't people use this powerful social network" to avert this global disaster?

Nervous silence, nervous chatter, and then a spurt of panged/defensive hands, as a few people tried to explain how our "standing here sipping champagne" was actually alright. An older guy with a Palm Beach tan leaned over and murmured to me, "I think we're going in the wrong direction." "That's exactly what he's talking about," I deadpanned, "Oh, you mean the conversation." Soon, we returned, quickly, safely, and completely, to discussions of how, exactly, he was able to get that amazing shot of the Parthenon. ("Because I've tried to shoot it every time I go, and it's just so dark!")

One implication in Struth's photo, which cannot be avoided, of course, is our own responsibility. Shot/reverse-shot technique uses two components to establish the shared space; a reverse shot is needed. It would be a shot of Struth (and all of us, in the present day, standing in museums and galleries and private collections) from the perspective of Durer's painted space, maybe over the 16th-century artist's shoulder, a shot looking far into the future.

Video Quartet, Christian Marclay, image:artnet.com

Last night I heard the artist Christian Marclay talk about Video Quartet, his enchanting, mind-boggling music/film work at Paula Cooper Gallery. It's a 13-minute musical composition of nearly 600 separate film clips, on four simultaneous channels, projected onto a 40'-long screen. It was commissioned by a friend, Benjamin Weil, a curator at SFMOMA, where it was shown last summer to wide acclaim. [Naturally, Jason Kottke wrote about it then; so did Wired.com.] Rather than parrot or try to outdo other reviews, or gush about my own experience (I've now seen Quartet ten+ times), I think it's worthwhile to look at how Marclay actually made the piece.

Video Quartet owes its existence to the recent emergence of real desktop editing software, and the artist's highly unconventional use of it. Amazingly, Marclay learned and used Final Cut Pro: "I sat in front of a computer for almost a full year," he said. With the concept and an abstracted narrative structure in mind and starting with the films he knew, Marclay gathered scenes with music, performance, or sounds. He made bins for various categories (e.g., piano playing, singing, gongs, violins, tapdancing), hand-building a database of clips to work from.

Then he started constructing passages or scenes and built "bridges" between them. (One thing he said he'd wished he'd done differently: start at the beginning and build it sequentially. Hey, no complaints from me.) Along the way, Marclay would search out additional films and pull from them "the right combination of music and image." (Musical strike two for Richard Gere: Marclay wanted to use Gere playing trumpet from The Cotton Club, but the combo just didn't work.)

But how can you edit four video+audio channels in FCP, which plays multiple audio channels, (but only one video channel) at a time? By ear, apparently. He'd layer the four video+audio channels, set sound levels, and then adjust the timing of edits by outputting tiny animated versions, side by side. The result is exquisitely composed sound throughout, with absorbing images choreographed across four screens, flecked with just a touch of visual chance.

Knowing the basics of Marclay's method adds a layer of complexity to Quartet, a layer that deepens with even a little hands-on experience in Final Cut. The last time I watched it, I began seeing the clips on a timeline, picturing a. What had seemed impossible or magic before was now revealing itself as a complex creation, the product of arduous, inspired effort.


Anne Truitt, image:danesegallery.com
Installation view, Anne Truitt, Danese Gallery (image:artnet.com)

Two shows of evocative new work by unrepentant minimalists are on 57th street at the moment, a moment when a pair of artists over 80 demonstrate the power and relevance of the minimalist mode, as well as the potential benefits of being in it for the long haul.

  • Agnes Martin is showing luminous new paintings at PaceWildenstein, (who doesn't have a freakin' website, hello, 2003).

  • Anne Truitt is showing several square column sculptures which give form and physical presence to color at Danese Gallery. [See installation views on artnet.com.]

  • Richter 858 Cover Also at Slate Joshua Clover writes a clever essay (very or too, depending on if those are exhibition posters or actual paintings on your wall) about Richter 858, a luxuriantly produced ode-- in book form, with specially commissioned poems and a CD (of Richtermusik, I guess) -- to a suite of Gerhard Richter squeegee paintings. Retailing at $125 and co-published by SFMOMA (who have been promised the paintings from an anonymous donor), Richter 858 is a "classic fetish item, beautiful enough that everyone might want it but priced beyond the reach of the great unfunded." And that's not the worst of it.

    Clover reveals that 858's editor, David Breskin, is an SFMOMA Trustee and "almost certainly" the donor of the paintings, facts which--despite a year of SEC reforms and disclosure scandals--go unmentioned in the book. "Whatever a given Richter painting, or a particular poem, might be about, Richter 858 is about checkbooks and culture--that is, it's a book perfect for decadent modernism, where the art of consumption has replaced the art of production; it's a book, finally, about collecting, that individualist art overseen by the twin muses 'Dollars' and 'Indulge.'"

    "Dollar": Last time I checked, what a Richter painting's about, is $400,000 - 1 million, depending on the size and the date. A suite of eight, then, is about, well, you do the math. By making the paintings a "fractional and promised gift" to the museum, our benefactor (let's call him "DB") gives a percentage of the title each year for a fixed term ( ex. 10%/year, 10 years), until they belong 100% to the museum. Why do this, O Muse?. "DB" spreads a large tax deduction out over several years, which is useful if his gifts exceed 30% of his adjusted gross income. "Indulge": "DB" is able to keep the art for a period of time each year in proportion to his percentage ownership.

    But there's another muse's fingerprints on this one. 858's not a catalog, it's an experience Compared to the essay- and information-packed Richter exhibition catalog written by "The Brain," (aka, former MoMA curator Robert Storr), Richter 858's multimedia melange is a work of the Heart.

    "Heart": SFMOMA says Breskin was "compelled by these works" to create this book. Talking about the project and his interactions with Richter, Breskin's giddiness ("As a sequence, these hung together and swung in a musical sense," "I wanted to create an alternative way of engaging with pictures.") sounds less like a trustee and more like a groupie.

    Trust me, that's what some of the most passionate collectors are, art groupies. Going to concerts (openings), getting backstage (in the studio), obsessing over some lyric (work) and asking arcane questions that betray how powerfully a it inhabits your mind. Groupie? Check out Breskin's 2-day interview with the Richter of 1987 rock-n-roll, Bono, for Rolling Stone. Breskin seems like the kind of guy--indulgent, clearly, but in a necessary way--who's trying to live an art-centered life, not just an "art-owning" one. And by placing the Richters at SFMOMA, "DB" seems like the kind of donor who believes that indulgent art experience should always be available to the public (but who agonizes over letting the paintings go too soon).

    And besides, 858's 30% off at Amazon. A serious collector looks for a discount.

    Background image from powerpointart.com Bright Glow Tube (all images, powerpointart.com)
    Slide 1 - Background:
  • Powerpoint invention and evolution (ref. Ian Parker's May 28, 2001 New Yorker article)
  • Powerpoint taking over human thought. 30 million presentations made daily. (ref. Julia Keller's Chicago Tribune article today) [via Romenesko's ObscureStore.com]
  • Career spent making/giving Powerpoint presentations (ref. "where I worked)
    Background image from powerpointart.com Hay Theme
    Slide 2 - What this will be used for:
  • As-Yet Unannounced Animated Musical (AYAUM)
  • Wrest Human Creativity From Jaws of Monopolist Technology (TBD)
  • Obligatory 3rd bullet point
    Background image from powerpointart.com WTC Memorial Wall, US Flag with Decorations
    Slide 3 - Examples:
  • RTMark
  • Powerpoint Gettysburg Address
  • Relationship: An Analysis
  • TBD
    Background image from powerpointart.com Chrome Cross w/Text Area
    Slide 4 - Action Items:
  • Collect examples of Powerpoint as Medium
  • Ask WWSD? (What Would Slate Do?)
  • Adapt spychedelic Willie Wonka & The Chocolate Factory Oompa-Loompa text interludes into Powerpoint
  • Yinka Shonibare, 2nd Floor, Norton Christmas Project 2002, image:greg.org

    Yinka Shonibare, 2nd Floor, Norton Christmas Project 2002, image:greg.org

    Dollhouse, Interior views, Yinka Shonibare
    for the Norton Christmas Project 2002

    In lieu of Christmas cards, the art collector Peter Norton and his family began sending out specially commissioned works. [Inspired by the Nortons' example, we began commissioning artist editions--albeit at a much smaller scale--to send to family and friends as a commemmoration of various births and anniversaries.]

    In 2002, the British/Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare created a toy Victorian rowhouse, outfitted with his trademark Dutch batik fabrics, a photo of his own, and, for good measure, a Fragonard in the bedroom. Shonibare exhibited a sculptural installation based on Fragonard in 2001 and was in Documenta 11 last year.

    Wink, Takashi Murakami, 2000, Norton Family Christmas Project, 2000, image:Toyboxdx.com
    Wink, Takashi Murakami, 2000 for the Norton Family Christmas Project 2000, image: Toyboxdx.com

    For the 2000 Project, Jap-pop artist Takashi Murakami made a Wink doll, which contains a happy little CD in its base. Read about it on Alan Yen's ToyboxDX. And in 1996, Norton asked Brian Eno to publish an updated edition of Oblique Strategies, his highly sought after collection of question and idea cards, originally made in collaboration with the late Peter Schmidt. Gregory Taylor's OS site includes Norton's description of the Project and soliciting Eno's participation.

    My favorite Strategy (as I attempt to write and edit in public): "Give the game away."

    November 18, 2002

    On Illegal Art


    Superstar still, 1987, Todd Haynes
    Superstar, 1987, Todd Haynes

    Last night we (finally) saw Todd Haynes' Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story last night. After years of being snubbed by the clerks at Kim's Video when I'd ask for it, and half-hearted attempts to get a bootleg copy from someone or other, we just walked over to Anthology and there it was, showing as part of Illegal Art!.

    (The first time I went to Kim's, a Suit workin' for the Mouse but livin' in Chinatown and yearning for street cred, I cannily asked if Bladerunner wasn't in the Ridley Scott section. The scornful reply: "Noo, the Douglas Trumbull section.")

    Anyway, Superstar turned out to be both better and worse than I imagined. Definitely worthy of its reputation, it's a canny film; it's a little eerie how well the Barbie doll concept works. The bootleg copy they showed, though, sucked. If only there were a medium you could copy without generational degradation... [If you don't have connections to the video underground either, you can watch Superstar in even lower-res online.]

    Giant Steps, 2001, Michal Levy Giant Steps, stills, 2001, Michal Levy

    Other films screened with Superstar, all using unauthorized/illegal footage or music in some way. For my money, the best ones were not about appropriation per se; Michal Levy's Giant Steps, for example, is a fun, beautiful CG interpretation of John Coltrane's canonical (and surely impossible to clear) recording.

    A slightly unrelated note: Apparently, my new haircut is something of a proto-mullet, not unlike Todd Haynes'.

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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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