Category:dc

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If I had to make a list of photo ops I could never imagine, Michael Heizer standing alongside Pres. Obama and Sen. Harry Reid would be right up there. And yet here we are.

Heizer, along with LACMA director Michael Govan and others, gathered to celebrate the designation of the Basin & Range National Monument, which protects 704,000 acres of Nevada wilderness, ranchland, and Heizer's decades-long project, City, from oil extraction or encroaching development.

Spiral Jetty's on 10 acres. Lightning Field's on a few thousand, plus DIA's bought up 9,000+ surrounding acres to protect the view. With 700K plus a high-powered entourage at the White House, it's as if Heizer has out-Earthworked all the Earthwork artists with the biggest Earthwork on Earth.

[via @RepDinaTitus]

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This is a great photo, btw. I love the edge, the space, the painting's objectness. I assume it's old, pre-frame, but I don't really know; and the site I ganked it from didn't seem to have any awareness, much less answers. Anyway, it's here on purpose.

I'm not sure when I knew that the blur in the center of Gerhard Richter's Tisch/Table (1962, CR:1) isn't a brushstroke, but a smear, but I didn't give it any thought until I started looking hard at Rauschenberg's work on Erased deKooning Drawing. Then it completely changed for me.

The first time I saw it in person was 2002. Richter told Rob Storr that he had "canceled the painting by blurring." I read Table's blob alongside the brushy blur of the early photopaintings. And those soupy loopy Vermalung paintings whose AbEx-style gestures preceded but didn't exactly prefigure the squeegees.

But that's not what's happening.

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In trying to understand what Jasper Johns did to Erased deKooning Drawing, I also had to figure out what Rauschenberg had done:

He was trying to make a mark with an eraser. It's the difference between erasing a drawing, and drawing with an eraser. And when he was done, the result was both an erased de Kooning and a drawing.
At just that moment I read John J. Curley's essay, "Richter's Cold War Vision," in Gerhard Richter: Early Work, which tied them together:
Richter's Informel-esque brushstroke was not painted over the image of the table (as some have suggested), but was the product of erasure. The artist attacked the canvas with a solvent (perhaps turpentine) after the initial image was already painted. The new mark has diminished the original painted surface, leaving traces of bare canvas showing through.
But as with Rauschenberg, this is not negation; cancelation is not rejection. [Richter would later designate Table as the first work in his Catalogue Raisonné, even though it is not.] As Curley wrote, the erasure "naturalizes a false realism" in Tisch; its abstract disruption provides cover and credibility for the table's "off-kilter" representation and "structural impossibility." Erasure becomes "the crux of both the table and the painted gesture."

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Well that blew my mind. I've ended up thinking about Tisch all the time, at first because of the blogging, and then the Destroyed Richter Paintings project. But then mostly because there's a lamp post near our place in DC that I pass almost every day on my way to the train or the store. It has a basic graffiti tag that someone tried to erase--I was about to say unsuccessfully, but I think it looks a hundred times better like this.

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study for The Social Mirror, Recycled, 2015

Recently I entered an open call for a public art commission. It was sponsored by the District of Columbia's Department of Public Works, which was looking for designs in which to vinyl wrap DC's single-stream recycling trucks.

I was compelled to enter for several reasons. One is my own long-standing interest in the highly under-utilized medium of vinyl wrapping vehicles. The other is a strong sense of responsibility and history surrounding any artistic endeavor involving garbage trucks.

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The Social Mirror, 1983, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, image: feldmangallery.com

The examples shown in the RFP of vinyl wrapped garbage trucks in other cities were, to put it mildly, atrocious. Maybe underwhelming is more politic. Whatever, it turns out there are jurisdictions in this country who have been putting art on garbage trucks without the slightest apparent regard for the alpha and omega of garbage truck art: Mierle Laderman Ukeles' 1983 The Social Mirror. It just didn't seem right. It didn't seem possible.

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Chapter 7: Pending Cipher for the Open Present, image: Daniel R. Smalls via hyperallergic

Daniel R. Small's contribution to LAND's land were installed in New Mexico, where they have upset the locals with their scary symbols and indecipherable glyphs. From an email Small sent to Hyperallergic's Kemy Lin:

There was also a very hostile reaction from a local neighborhood when the installers from Lamar were up the billboard ladder. A group of locals surrounded the base of the pole shouting obscenities and claiming that the billboards were either Satanic or Islamic.
Which sounds a lot like what happened when the Washington Project for the Arts installed David Hammons' How Ya Like Me Now? across from the National Portrait Gallery as part of Richard Powell's 1989 exhibition on Black Culture and Modernism:
But a billboard-size portrait of a pink-cheeked Jackson suddenly appearing on the streets of DC with no explanation and a Kool Mo Dee lyric for a title was bound to arouse controversy. And when WPA curator Powell, who is black, left three white staffers to finish installing the piece, a crowd of young black men formed, voiced their protest against the artwork--and then took a sledgehammer to it and tore it down.
On the bright side, that work ended up in Glenstone, so maybe Small should just ride it out.

Billboard Art Project Sets Off Terrorism Scare Near US/Mexico Border [hyperallergic]
previously: How Ya Like How Ya Like Me Now?

January 28, 2015

Richard Nixon's Last Look

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Ellsworth Kelly, Yellow over Dark Blue, 1964-5, from a suite of 27 color lithographs, ed. 29/75, loaned to Henry Kissinger for display in his White House office. Collection: SAAM

Who was Henry Kissinger's favorite artist? Ellsworth Kelly. But that's not important now.

While searching through the White House art loan records for the Nixon administration yesterday, I noticed that over the years, Kissinger borrowed several Kelly prints for his office, including the one above. It was a gift of the artist in 1966 to the National Collection of Fine Arts, which became the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

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Claes Oldenburg, Scissors Obelisk, aka Scissors as Monument (Scissors Obelisk, Washington, D.C.), 1967 or 1968, ed. 144. Collection: SAAM

I first started wondering about art in the Nixon White House a couple of months ago, after I stumbled across a NY Times article describing a 1978 NCFA White House Loan inventory that showed hundreds of artworks missing, mostly from the Nixon era:

More than 100 prints, including a Claes Oldenburg poster, "Scissors Obelisk," and an Andy Warhol "Flowers" poster, borrowed and displayed in the White House, at Camp David, and in the Presidential helicopter during the Nixon Administration, have not been found where they were supposed to be.
The reason I'm writing this should now be clear: Richard Nixon had art on his helicopter.

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I was doing some research in the Smithsonian Archives this afternoon, and I stumbled across this letterhead from the National Collection of Fine Arts, the precursor to the American Art Museum. That kaleidoscopic star is fantastic, and it still looked like it had been engraved yesterday.

I tried to find the designer, so far to no avail. But I did find this rather slapdash 1965 NCFA flag, where the design of the star outshines the star-eats-earth logo of the Smithsonian itself.

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National Collection of Fine Arts Flag, 1965, image: siarchives

That star-within-a-star reminds me of the US Bicentennial logo, which was created by Bruce Blackburn, the same guy at Chermayeff & Geismar who designed NASA's mod "worm" logotype.

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It also kind of reminds me of Gabriel Orozco's geometric drawings and paintings. Orozco, of course, shows with Marian Goodman.

It's just one word in one tweet, so it really shouldn't become the point, but those who follow me on Twitter know I have a thing for the language of art news sites, and their poetic idiocies of the market. This, however, just pissed me off.

It is as pure a sign as you'll find of the pathology of current money-fixated art world that last night a half dozen media outlets filed hundreds of bid-by-bid tweets from an Impressionism auction, yet the "bizarre news" is that artists are literally trying to save lives by drawing attention to one of Europe's existential political crises.

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I had never heard of the Center for Political Beauty before this morning. They are the artist collective whose mission is to engage "in the most innovative forms of political art: a type of art that hurts, provokes and rises in revolt in order to save human lives."

They removed crosses commemorating some of the East Germans killed while trying to cross the Berlin Wall, and have reinstalled them on what they're calling the European Wall. The Center for Political Beauty has announced that they will cut down portions of the EU's border fence on November 9th, during the official ceremonies surrounding the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

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">politicalbeauty.de: Keine Benutzung der Bilder ohne vorherige Genehmigung!

The photo above of a cross on a fence along the Bulgaria-Turkey border is circulating with the AFP wire service story that is the lone, primary source of English-language coverage of CPB's project. I'll never look at a Cy Twombly chalkboard painting the same way again.

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The images and details that don't circulate, though, are more damning: At least 136 people died or were killed trying to escape across the Berlin Wall between 1961 and 1989. The UNHCR says over 2,500 Africans trying to reach Europe have drowned or gone missing this year alone. The CPB says the number of people who have died trying to enter the EU since 1989 stands at over 30,000.

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Here is a photo by Massimo Sestini of a boatful of African and Syrian asylum seekers who were intercepted by the Italian navy last June. This situation is anything else--an outrage, a humanitarian crisis, a "rendering void of the legacy of the Holocaust," as the CPB puts it, but it is not bizarre.

And artnet should be shamed for their tendentious attempts to mock and marginalize artists pursuing something beyond the callow complacencies of the market.

UPDATE: I'm still not satisfied with this yet, or how or why it bothers me, but I'm reading Thierry du Duve's "Art in the Face of Radical Evil" [October, Summer 2008, pdf], about MoMA acquiring and showing photos of Khmer Rouge execution victims from Tuol Sleng, and about whether they're "art," and what are the implications if they are:

Sobriety in exhibition design, noncommittal wall texts, and clever avoidance of the word "art" in press releases won't succeed in hiding the fact that our aesthetic interest in photography is shot through with feelings, emotions, and projections of sympathy or antipathy that address the people in the photos beyond the photos themselves. I am convinced that something of that emotional response to the properly human ordeal of the subjects in the Tuol Sleng photos had a say in MoMA's decision to acquire them. To suppose otherwise would be to lend the acquisition committee undeserved cynicism.
This feels like it's inching closer.

November 4, 2014

Welcome Back, Gwenfritz

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[The] Gwenfritz is back where it belongs. The National Museum of American History has conserved Alexander Calder's site-specific stabile and reinstalled it in a reflecting pool on the building's west end, 30 years after it was displaced by a vintage band shell from a mental hospital.

The removal of Gwenfritz in violation of the artist's intentions was cited as a contributing precedent to attempts to move Richard Serra's Tilted Arc from its site in Federal Plaza a few months later.

Anyway, it all sounds good, and from the NMAH's flickr feed, it looks good. "It's always great when you're able to honor the artist's vision," said Smithsonian American Art Museum sculpture curator Karen Lemmey, in a way that unsettles me, perhaps because it reminds me of the offhandedly mercenary Lumbergh in Office Space.

Conservation of Alexander Calder's Gwenfritz [eyelevel.si.edu]
Previously, 2010: After 26 Years, The Smithsonian Will Put Alexander Calder's Gwenfritz Back Where It Belongs.

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About two weeks ago, artists from the Sage Coalition in Trenton, New Jersey, sought and obtained permission from the Trenton Downtown Association to paint a mural on the metal shutters of a vacant storefront. They decided to paint a large portrait of Michael Brown and the text, "Sagging pants...is not probable cause." The artists saw it as relevant to both the memory of Brown and his killing in Ferguson, Missouri, and to their own experience with racial profiling at the hands of the police in Trenton.

Yesterday, according to NJ.com, "The Trenton Downtown Association elected to remove the image after hearing concern from police officers that the mural sends a negative message about the relationship between police and the community." TDA director Christian Martin "said police said the painting did not promote peace in the community."

The image was buffed by a municipal graffiti blasting crew yesterday. Sage collaborator Byron Marshall shot and narrated the scene.

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David Hammons, How Ya Like Me Now?, reinstalled inside at WPA, 1988

The situation feels like an inversion of the destruction of How Ya Like Me Now?, a 1988 billboard-sized painting by David Hammons of a blonde, blue-eyed Jesse Jackson, which was momentarily installed across the street from the National Portrait Gallery in DC. It was almost immediately set upon by sledgehammer-wielding locals who did not care for its negative message.

'Sagging Pants is Not Probable Cause' Mural Removed After Concerns From Trenton Police [nj.com]
Previously: How Ya Like How Ya Like Me Now?

The Smithsonian has added the Hirshhorn Museum's audio archive to their digital library collection, and it's great. Too often in the art world, what happens in Washington not only stays in Washington, it's forgotten in Washington. So it's unsurprising that the Nation's Attic has interesting, even important stuff in it that really should be dusted off.

One of the first recordings I headed to this weekend was a lecture by Felix Gonzalez-Torres, in association with his Summer 1994 retrospective. I hadn't heard Felix's voice in almost 20 years, and I'd never heard him talk at length about his work. I was not prepared, either, to hear him say he was getting tired about an hour into the recording. After that, I couldn't not hear his exertion to complete what was clearly a difficult, but imperative task.

It turns out I was also not prepared for how unfamiliar his work sounded in his own words. And how different his practice was from the received, sort of calcified, canonical understanding of it. The things he emphasized vs the things we saw or now see as being elemental.

Felix read part of his 1993 interview with Tim Rollins, which we know. But he also talked along to a selection of slides, which I tried to follow along in my books. Easily half the works he discussed were not included in ostensibly definitive catalogues and anthologies. Many had different titles. Some weren't illustrated.

All of this is of a piece with Felix's work, though. He would change the titles of pieces. Works he showed and sold were, near the end of his life, recategorized as "additional materials" and "non-works." But some things, installations and site-specific projects in particular, seem to have been sorted out of his canon completely and/or ignored by critics.
We work with what we have, but we too often don't see what else there is. And when we find out we've been using incomplete or inaccurate info, we're slow to adapt.

So here's a single example. It's a piece Felix started his Hirshhorn talk with, and which he said "is a key to a lot of my work, and also the way I am." And it's piece I'd never heard of or seen, whose bare, incomplete, and contradictory references in the record so far I have completely overlooked. The artist called it "Untitled" (Quatrenium).

Here's what he had to say:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 ... 15 Next

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.

comments? questions? tips? pitches? email
greg [at] greg [dot ] org

find me on twitter: @gregorg

about this archive

Category: dc

recent projects, &c.


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eBay Test Listings
Mar 2015 —
about | proposte monocrome, rose
bid or buy available prints on ebay

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It Narratives, incl.
Shanzhai Gursky & Destroyed Richter
Franklin Street Works, Stamford
Sept 5 - Nov 9, 2014
about | link

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TheRealHennessy Tweets Paintings, 2014 -
about

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Standard Operating Procedure
about | buy now, 284pp, $15.99

CZRPYR2: The Illustrated Appendix
Canal Zone Richard Prince
YES RASTA 2:The Appeals Court
Decision, plus the Court's
Complete Illustrated Appendix (2013)
about | buy now, 142pp, $12.99

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"Exhibition Space"
Mar 20 - May 8 @apexart, NYC


HELP/LESS Curated by Chris Habib
Printed Matter, NYC
Summer 2012
panel &c.


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Destroyed Richter Paintings, 2012-
background | making of
"Richteriana," Postmasters Gallery, NYC

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Canal Zone Richard
Prince YES RASTA:
Selected Court Documents
from Cariou v. Prince (2011)
about | buy now, 376pp, $17.99

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