Though to a guy making something called Atlas in his spare time it still probably feels pretty empty and limited, Gerhard Richter's website is pretty expansive. Via Twitter, we learn that his web elves have just added a quotes section, most of which is taken from Gerhard Richter: Text. Writing, Interviews and Letters 1961-2007 (2009), the UK edition of the artist's second collection of writings, both of which were edited by Hans Ulrich Obrist.

I was about to bit the bullet and buy the expensive, out-of-print The Daily Practice of Painting: Writings 1962-1993 when the new edition came out, and I've hesitated, waiting to see how or if the two volumes overlap. So far, I've seen nothing; I guess I'll have to pigeonhole Hans-Ulrich at the next global 24-hr art lecture marathon.

Meanwhile, I went ahead and bought Gerhard Richter: Writings 1961 - 2007, the US edition, so I'm just a couple of days away from seeing whether this awesome quote about blurring from 1964-5 [!] is, in fact, on page 33:

I blur things to make everything equally important and equally unimportant. I blur things so that they do not look artistic or craftsmanlike but technological, smooth and perfect. I blur things to make all the parts a closer fit. Perhaps I also blur out the excess of unimportant information.


Nice, someone on the Google Art Project has a sense of art historical awareness, or at least a sense of humor. The gallery included in the British National Gallery contains Hans Holbein the Younger's painting The Ambassadors, which is famous for containing an anamorphically distorted skull in the foreground.

Which is similar to the distorting effects created by stitching panos together in Google Street View. They can launch pictures of paintings in virtual museums all they want, but the truth is, we've been living in Google's Art Project for quite a while now.


Previously: "Google's Cubist-meets-Robert Lazzarini-meets-Julia Scher-meets Hans Holbein the Younger portrait style."

UPDATE: Oh boy, it looks like I could surf this all day. The Rijksmuseum's selection for Google Art Project is the gallery with Rembrandt's Night Watch, which is like the National Painting of The Netherlands or whatever--and the museumshop. Where Google's distortive effects only enhance the absurdist tableau. I half expect to see Dali and some flying cats.


Alright, getting creepy now. Tate Britain's gallery shows an installation about "Art and The Sublime." It's like Google's stalking me. Is this some hypertargeted web content 3.0 beta? Can anyone else actually see this Google Art Project, or is it just me?

February 1, 2011

Les Blurmoiselles d'Avignon


Alright, this is kind of killing me right now, not just with its awesomeness, but because I have been planning to do a very similar project, and also because like half my blog these days could be called Google Art Project, and well...

But let me agonize in private while we first praise the awesome. Google has released Street View-style navigation for galleries in seventeen major museums around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art. MoMA's only got the lobby and one room on there, the first gallery on the fifth floor, which contains Cezanne's Bather and Starry Night.

The resolution and color look awful, frankly, but who cares? It's Starry Night as you've never seen it before--in an empty gallery. But still. Check out the background, what they had to do to all the artwork in the adjacent galleries, the stuff they didn't clear the rights for:


That's Les Demoiselles d'Avignon there in the middle:


Which makes this, Picasso's Boy Leading A Horse:


What's crazy is that whatever's hanging next to Rousseau's Sleeping Gypsy is blurred out, too. By definition, it has to be in the public domain, right? 19th century? What is it?


The shoot for The Googlecam Was Present seems to have taken place almost a year ago; in the lobby, Marina's still listed as "coming soon." And they've rehung Gallery 1, there, so it'll take a little flickrdiving to figure out what that was.

UPDATE: Thanks to MoMA scout Dan Phiffer, the work is identified as Edward Munch's 1893 painting, The Storm.. [Munch died in 1944, so depending on which copyright regime applies, it may not enter the public domain until 2014. The image of the painting on MoMA's website is rather boldly claimed to be copyright 2010 by the Munch Museum.]

But meanwhile, I'm prowling the other 16 museums for more blurred material. Richter must be so pissed right now.

Previously: Blurmany and the pixelated sublime
Sherrie Levine's Meltdown series

You know what, it's been too long since we had a good, old-fashioned photomuralin' around these parts.

And one that combines a bit of Google Maps-ready, roof-as-facade architecture? And camo? Even better.

I only go to the Museum of the City of New York for their gala, and I'm the loser for it: because I missed "Shaping the Future," curator Donald Albrecht's Fall 2009 exhibition of Eero Saarinen.

The show included the 1939 model for the unrealized Smithsonian Gallery of Art, which he designed with his father Eliel, and which would have sat across the Mall from John Russell Pope's just-finished neo-classical National Gallery.

But it also included some sweet, giant photos, as the NY Times' slideshow shows. Check out the big CBS-eye view of Saarinen's model for Black Rock:


The Google Maps reality is, alas, not so clean. Saarinen's CBS HQ has the usual skyscraper cruft on the roof.

But fortunately, it's right across the street from MoMA, where landscape architect Ken Smith's 2005 Roof Garden is clearly visible. As the American Society of Landscape Architects noted when it gave Smith an award in 2009, the design is rooted in historic concepts of camouflage and the abstracted simulation of natural forms.


And speaking of simulation, check out this giant color photomural from the MCNY exhibition, which almost makes you feel like you're right there in the living room of Saarinen's 1953-7 Miller House [which the family recently donated to the Indianapolis Museum of Art].


Weird, the angle of the Times photo really exaggerates the sense of perspectival space in ways that a straight-on shot like the one arthag took does not.

Review | Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future [nytimes, for full-size images: Librado Romero/NYT]

January 14, 2011


This just in from the Department of Stunningly Beautiful Digitized Maps of The Netherlands:


Bibliodyssey has some highlights from the National Library of the Netherlands' fresh upload one of the rarest and most beautiful atlases in history, mid-17th century Dutch cartographer Frederik de Wit's Stedenboek, or Book of Cities.


Who knew that the Dutch had such a long, rich, aesthetically awesome history of defense-related polygonal alterations of the urban landscape?


At least maybe now we have some idea where that crazy camo blob in Nordwijk came from:


Stedenboek []
Dutch City Atlas [bibliodyssey]

January 11, 2011

Matrix Or Minecraft?


Via one of my Senior Street View Scouts John comes this eerie shot from Simple Ranger's Street View essay of Macau. [Here's the live link.]

Seriously, is that building real? Even if I wander over to look at it up close, my doubts only increase.

And frankly, looking up at the sky and seeing the Google Street View car reflected in the curved, mirrored underside of the Grand Lisboa Casino's elevated pedestrian walkway is not helping.


January 10, 2011

Bondeno Street View

Compared to Germany's digital scrim effect, the Italian Google Street View opt-out regime is extraordinarily, even romantically, naturalistic.


Haha, no. It's a photo from Elmar Haardt's careful and unassuming project documenting Bondeno, a seemingly unremarkable small town in Ferrara. [via the incomparable mrs deane]


Holy smokes, it's been 15 months since I found the Dutch Camo Landscapes on Google Maps; just over a year since I started systematically screengrabbing them; a little less than a year since Google's particularly beautiful Delaunay triangulation distortion was replaced by a more typical pixelation algorithm; and about the same time since I last posted one of the "What I Looked At" installments, where I tried to figure out how to approach painting these things by studying the techniques of other hybrid, found, hard-edge, geometric digital, photographic, reductivist, surveillant, abstract, or Dutch Landscapes. Folks from Albert Cuyp and Picabia to Arthur Dove and Sheeler to Mondrian to Sherrie Levine [below].


The longer I take to think about how to paint without actually trying to paint, the more I keep accumulating and questioning potentially resonant work. And I wonder: what would it mean to consciously appropriate someone else's technique? if I taped my edges, would there be more of a connection to Odili Donald Odita? If I made little polygonal stencils and squeegeed, would it be too Brillo? Is there an implication in the kind of precise painterly edges of Mondrian as opposed to the surprisingly tentative edges of Sheeler, or the just-fill-it-in forms of Dove? Should I skip the paint, and just blow those bad boys up and print the hell out of'em on the biggest canvas/paper I can find?


It [basically, obviously] boils down to some ongoing uncertainty or doubt or skepticism or insecurity or whatever over whether these things should exist. Emphasis on things and should. Does everyone who makes stuff feel that? It's like Baldessari's classic fortune cookie of a painting, "I will not make any more boring art," but with the make in flux as much as the boring. I just remained unconvinced about the justification for these images as objects. [On the "bright" side, like the unshot film in the director's mind, the unmade artwork does remain perfect--for me, anyway.]


Anyway, all this comes to the fore because last summer, I saw images of some polygonal abstracted landscape paintings by Douglas Coupland, which were part of, or inspiration for, or somehow connected to, the Fall/Winter clothing and home furnishings colabo he designed for the Canadian retailer Roots. They were exhibited and for sale in Coupland X Roots pop-up stores in Vancouver and Toronto.


There was zero info online, so last summer and fall, but I deduced that they were digital reductions of iconic paintings by the Group of Seven, the early 20th century landscape painters who rather self-consciously set out to create a national cultural and visual identity for Canada via its landscape. Coupland's Roots collection was an extension of that national branding project, only he referenced the unifying forces of electrification, television, and moose logos.

At least that's what I gleaned from the web and press releases. I tried in vain to get any information on the paintings from Roots, Coupland, or his galleries, but it was total radio silence. So I ignored them back. Only now, as I check back, do I find that "culture guru" Coupland has a show up of the paintings, through this week, at Monte Clark Gallery in Vancouver. Faux-encrypically titled G72K10, the paintings turn out to be exactly what I thought they were.

"Thomson (Sunset), 2010, Oil on canvas, 58 x 72 inches" image:

To a point. Because though the captions say things like "oil on canvas" and "acrylic and latex" and "unique pigment print" it is completely unclear whether the images on the dealer's website are of the objects themselves or of their digital sources. Maybe it doesn't matter to Coupland. Here's how the gallery describes them:

By digitizing the likeness of specific works, Coupland has produced large-scale hard-edged paintings on canvas, presenting his own vision of the Group of Seven in 2010.
Doesn't sound like he'd use something as retardataire as a paintbrush for a forward-looking project like that. Though it's hard to tell from the jpg, the date on this unidentified type of limited edition print being auctioned next month by the Writers' Trust looks earlier than 2010. Or not.

So while I still can't decide if my painterly obsession is a vice, Coupland's project is at least makes clear that materialist indifference in the pursuit of digitized aestheticism and conceptual slickness is no virtue.

December 20, 2010

Browser Tab Cut Or Run

So much to blog, so little time. I may have to institute a new practice of dumping my interesting-looking browser tabs if I don't write about or use them within a month, or blogging about them.


For example, ever since seeing a Le Corbusier manhole cover from Chandigarh sell for almost EUR18,000, I've been meaning to take this list of locations for Lawrence Weiner's 2000 Public Art Fund project, and see which of his 19 downtown manhole covers looks the most lootable. But you know how it is with scheduling, holidays, pangs of conscience, snow, &c. &c...


So via Zelkova's long essay on interactivity and digitization, I find this intriguing 2003 project, C & C, from the Lyon design studio Trafik. Joel, Pierre, and Julien all responded [merci, fellas!] to explain that C & C began as an exploration for a method to create designs for a handmade carpet. So they created a program in C that used the 3D coordinates of shapes created in Autodesk 3ds Max [above] to generate a 2D vector graphic [below].


Needless to say, I like the translational aspects of the project almost as much as I do the Dutch camo landscape-like polys.

One nice consequence of my recent Short Circuit research is seeing and reading up on Sturtevant. From Bruce Hainley's Aug 2000 essay in Frieze:

As Sturtevant puts it: 'Warhol was very Warhol'.

This is a complicated statement. How did Warhol get to be 'very Warhol'? How does one come to recognise - see, consider - a painting, film , or anything by Warhol once he and everything he's done are slated only to be 'a Warhol'? It is Sturtevant who knows how to make a Warhol, not Warhol. It is Sturtevant who allows a Warhol to be a Warhol, by repeating him. Copy, replica, mimesis, simulacra, fake, digital virtuality, clone - Sturtevant's work has been for more than 40 years a meditation on these concepts by decidedly not being any of them.

I'm kind of disheartened by how interesting Chris Burden's post-minimalist undergraduate work sounds in this fully illustrated repro of Robert Horvitz's Artforum cover story from May 1976 []


Via the awesome comes Toy-Pet Plexi-Ball a the 1968 artist/engineer colabo sculpture by Robin Parkinson and Eric Martin, which was included in Pontus Hulten's MoMA show, "The Machine: As Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age." The light-and-sound-activated Toy-Pet rolled around the gallery following viewers, until you put it in its fake fur bag. Which made it look like a tribble. Which can't be a coincidence, can it, Pontus? If you have an engineer collaborating with an artist a year after the Star Trek episode airs?

Awesome kinetic/robotic artist James Seawright was one of the six artists--along with Aldo Tambellini, Thomas Tadlock, Allan Kaprow, Otto Piene, and Nam June Paik--who contributed to WGBH's groundbreaking TV show/happening The Medium Is The Medium. Which is right in front of my face. And I've been staring at everyone but Seawright and Tadlock for a year. At this rate, I'll be fawning over Tadlock sometime next summer.

Since my Google Street View Trike book project is entirely about the subject, I suspect I'll keep Olivier Lugon's November 2000 Etudes Photographiques essay, "Le marcheur: Piétons et photographes au sein des avant-gardes," open a little longer. Along with the Google translation.

December 11, 2010

Italian Line, Farm Journal

Italian Line ad, 1964

The New Yorker obsoleted my old New Yorker Magazine Database by finally letting Google index their website and adding a search function, and making their archive available online, and that's as it should be.

But whenever I browse the DVD facsimile of the magazine's archive, I am reminded of how much content remains unindexed and invisible. So maybe it's time to liberate the vintage ads of the world from their back issue prisons. Because if I can find ads this awesome completely at random, don't you wonder what else is out there?

Farm Journal ad, 1964


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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.

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

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