Gerhard_Richter_Tisch_1962.jpg
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.

erased_dekooning_sfmoma.jpg

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."

cleveland_park_tag_erasure_gregorg.jpg

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.

rothko_harvard_murals_off.jpg also copyright maximalism smh

I'm slow to take a closer look at the conservation project to restore the coloration to Mark Rothko's badly faded Harvard Murals (1963) using computer-calibrated light projections. The project has been going for several years, but the last winter the lit paintings went on view for the first time in decades, and remain up until July 24th. Which was the trigger for the roundtable discussion in Artforum that piqued my interest. It's fascinating all around, but I really liked that it included artists Rebecca Quaytman, David Reed, and Ken Okiishi, who ended discussing the fate of paintings and the use of projection on painting as a creative medium in itself.

rothko_harvard_murals_on.jpg copyright maximalism ars please just

Even before the conservator Carol Mancusi-Ungaro explained that the projection was tuned pixel by pixel to approximate Rothko's intended colors, I found myself jonesing to get my hands on the image, and turn it into a work of its own. Called a compensation image, it's made by calculating the chromatic differences between the paintings' current state and the target state. It's a map of everything the painting has lost, an accounting of how far it's fallen from its (hypothetical) historical potential.

It's the color that might have been. In the case of Rothko's Harvard Murals, Mancusi-Ungaro explained that they weren't seeking to return the paintings' appearance to a new, "original" state, but simply to erase the damage caused by Harvard leaving the works to bake in the sun for 15 years. The target state was determined using color-corrected Ektachrome slides from 1964 and a sixth painting, excluded from the set, which has been in dark storage in the Rothko estate.

The images above showing three of the paintings with and without the corrective projection come from a TEDx talk given by Harvard conservator Narayan Khandekar. The dramatic reveal, when the museum turns off the projection, happens every day at 4 o'clock, and is by all accounts dramatic.

rothko_harvard_murals_khandekar_demo.jpg

What is not shown is the compensation image itself. Here is a photo of part of it, when Khandekar holds some foamcore in front of the painting. I would like to see and use the entire thing. There may be a way.

In 2011 other Harvard conservator Jens Stenger published a report on the project at the International Committee of Museums triennial in Lisbon, which is circulating as an ICOM-CC newsletter pdf. In it, Stenger discloses that the team confected a small scale test of the light correction process by using identical materials (egg and pigment) to paint another Rothko and superfade and correct it.1, 2

rothko_mockup_compensation_image_icom-cc.jpg

A is the Conservators' Rothko. B is the painting after a few weeks under some tungsten lamps. C is the interpolated compensation image (A - B). D is the lit painting (A + C).

In an incisive essay last April, John Pyper likened the compensation image's duplicative relationship to the painting as a similar to a print and a plate. Seeing it now makes me think of a color photo negative.

Which makes me think of Alma Thomas, who painted Watusi (Hard Edge) in 1963 [!] using the form from Matisse's giant cutout, L'Escargot, but in the inverse colors. For Thomas the colors signaled a reversal of direction for cultural appropriation. What does the color of a compensation image represent? Here it is loss, a loss caused, let's face it, by Harvard's years of neglect, mishandling, and occasional abuse. [Actually, the projector project does not address the physical damage, dents, scratches and graffiti the paintings received in what was, after all, a campus dining room.] At least in this case, compensation feels too diplomatic; maybe we should call it a restitution image, or a reparations image.

niepce_positive_print_uta.jpg

Now that I look at it a bit, the particular colors of the Rothko compensation image remind me of not just any photo negative, but the first photo/negative, made by Joseph-Nicéphore Niépce in 1826. And just because a projection is used to index and compensate for loss or aging now doesn't mean that's all it's capable of. It turns out photography could do more than capture a view out a window.

1 I don't think it's a spoiler to say this outcome is literally the kicker from the Artforum discussion.
2 This is the second instance I've heard of conservators making post-war painting simulacra, and now I want some.

Stenger, J. et al., "Non-invasive Color Restoration of Faded Paintings Using Light from a Digital Projector" [icom-cc.org, pdf]
After Mark Rothko, American [printeresting.org]

Previously, and very much related: On Peter Coffin at the Hirshhorn, also Donald Moffett
other early Donald Moffett projections on paintings

on_kawara_gugg_gregorg.jpg

On Kawara's One Million Years readings have always had a profound effect on me. From the first time I saw it at the Dia, to the resonance of One Million Years in Okwui Enwezor's Documenta 11 in 2002; to an installation at David Zwirner, to the reopening Stedelijk. It was Brian Sholis's moving account of reading with his then-fiancee Julia Ault at Zwirner that cemented my determination to read one day, too.

That day was April 5th, Easter Sunday. I had booked my wife and myself to read in the first shift, just as the Guggenheim opened. I'd already seen the museum's On Kawara retrospective, but on a day when there was no reading. These are some recollections and thoughts of the experience with the piece.

One Million Years and an unannounced roaming exhibition of one week's worth of date paintings in kindergarten classes are the two projects Kawara authorized to continue after his death last summer at age 29,771 days. Mary, who was coordinating production of One Million Years and prepping volunteers, took our picture when we sat down on the dais. She said the artist used to listen to recordings of One Million Years as he worked in his studio, and that the liked to have photos of the readers.

I had not anticipated such a thing, but now the entire project felt extremely personal. It was not just a performance, but a communication, a communion, with the artist himself. But not anymore, not for us. It turns out the Guggenheim was recording the reading, but only for exhibition documentation. Posthumous recordings like ours would not end up contributing to a "complete" recording. That aspect of the work, too, ended with the artist's death.

Still, as I'd expected, reading itself was a wonderful experience. I found it somehow meditative and exciting at the same time. I found myself thinking of the dates we were reading, long before modern humans, and their history, existed. Yet narrative was there; the numbers became their own narrative. There was suspense as we counted down to an even hundred. Symmetrical numbers, or pairs or trios of digits, or chains of multi-syllabics, felt momentous, like a winning poker hand. These numbers, these years, with literally no significance of their own had significance thrust upon them, at least for a few seconds, by being read aloud. It turns out long numbers are not usually read aloud.

The greatest thrill was the echo of the Guggenheim's rotunda. We sat on the ground floor, backs to the window, with loudspeakers flanking us, and our numbers seemed to ring out through the show. We took it slow and serious. We intoned, and I imagined how we must affect the reception of the rest of Kawara's works up the ramp. We contributed our small part to everyone else's enlightenment.

After we ended, we went through the show. We stopped on the way out to watch our replacements. Mary had said it's easy to tell when the readers are a couple. Inversely, it was immediately obvious that the two jokers after us were either breaking up, or didn't know each other and could not be bothered. Even on the rare numbers they didn't mumble away into nothing, you could barely hear them standing right in front of the dais.

But how was this really any different from our experience? In fact the sound from One Million Years never left the ground floor, and sometimes it hardly left the little stage. In the hard-surfaced cacophony of the rotunda, One Million Years was essentially lost. I felt very acutely the gap between our rewarding personal experience of performing and the empty opacity the being in the audience. Or of not even noticing the piece existed.

on_kawara_twelve_dates.jpg

In glass half-full mode I considered this divergence alongside the rest of Kawara's practice, where dates and times and lists barely hint at the complexities of the artist's daily experience.

Did I say half-full? This comparison, along with some of Kawara's lesser known series [60s word diagrams, the coded letters, and of course, all the newspaper clippings in all the Today series boxes] made me wonder what there actually is to know? Frankly, I've begun to fear that under it all lurks an actual Message, hidden by Kawara, just waiting to be cracked. And that the profundity, the interpretation, the significance, will turn out to be all in our heads.

May 26, 2015

Recitation

While I knew the basics of its origins, I did not know that qur'an means "recitation". From Oxford Islamic Studies:

Most members of the early Islamic community, including Muhammad, were illiterate. The new scripture was known as the qur'an (recitation) because believers learned it by listening to public readings and recitations. Many of Muhammad's followers committed the passages to memory. But the Prophet also commissioned many scribes to preserve the messages in writing. They recorded the words on a variety of available materials, including paper, stones, palm leaves, and pieces of leather.

...

By the time of Muhammad's death, several of his followers had memorized the entire Qur'an. Many of them, however, were killed in battle. Fearing that knowledge of the Qur'an might be lost, the leaders of the Islamic community decided to collect all the revelations, from both written and oral sources, and to compile an official version of the sacred text.

I was looking this up because several religious traditions include the public reading of sacred texts. When Okwui Enwezor introduced the concept behind the public reading of Karl Marx's Das Kapital at the Venice Biennale, he chose Sikhism:
Taking the concept of the Sikh event, the Akhand Path (a recitation of the Sikh holy book read continuously over several days by a relay of readers), Das Kapital will be read as a dramatic text by trained actors, directed by artist and filmmaker Isaac Julien, during the entire duration of this year Art Biennale.
This reading, Okwui explained, was the center of the center of the Biennale, and was inspired by the 1974 Biennale's condemnation of the [US-backed] coup in Chile on Sept 11, 1973 and its oppressive aftermath:
The dedication of the program of events to Chile and against fascism remains one of the most explicit attempts, in recent memory, by which an exhibition of the stature of the Art Biennale not only responds to, but courageously steps forward to share the historical stage with the political and social contexts of its time. It goes without saying that, in view of the current turmoil around the world, that the Biennale's Eventi del 1974 has been a curatorial inspiration."

"In response to this remarkable episode and the rich documentation it generated, the 56th International Art Exhibition: All the World's Futures, will introduce the ARENA, an active space dedicated to continuous live programming across disciplines and located within the Central Pavilion in the Giardini. The linchpin of this program will be the epic live reading of all three volumes of Karl Marx's Das Kapital (Capital). Here, Das Kapital will serve as a kind of Oratorio that will be continuously read live, throughout the exhibition's seven months' duration."

"Designed by award-winning Ghanaian/British architect David Adjaye, the ARENA will serve as a gathering-place of the spoken word, the art of the song, recitals, film projections, and a forum for public discussions.
And so the linchpin of the Biennale's central programming space dedicated to the Biennale that courageously stepped forward to explicitly attempt to share the stage with the political and social context of the time is a religiously inspired recitation of a venerated text.

I had barely finished watching Enwezor say these words at the Biennale Press Preview when it was reported that Venetian government officials had ordered the Icelandic Pavilion to close immediately, because they disapproved of Christoph Büchel's artwork, The Mosque. The full title is The Mosque: The First Mosque in the Historic City of Venice, but the website for The Mosque, which was created in collaboration with the Islamic Communities of Venice and Iceland, calls it Misericordia Mosque & Islamic Cultural Centre Venice, after the deconsecrated Catholic church Iceland rented for their pavilion.

The Mosque was contested before it opened, for the two weeks it was open, and for the several days it has been closed. Icelandic Art Center officials say the city kept changing the terms and throwing up successive obstacles beforehand, and were determined to shut it down. In the face of this resolve, it seems almost irrelevant to debate whatever pretexts were finally used. Büchel saw this coming when others did not. A sympathetic local law professor told the NYT:

Venice is without a doubt the most tolerant city in Italy and proud of it, and so I think it's the wrong place to make this kind of statement."

Mr. Büchel said he had seen little evidence of such tolerance in his dealings with the city over the mosque.

Similarly predictable and irrelevant: answering the moralistic scoldings and second-guessings of art world critics eager to disapprove of Büchel's confrontational hyper-realities.

Büchel's art didn't float an argument or evoke a narrative; he made a real situation. The Mosque posed a non-hypothetical moral test, which politicians and pundits alike are lining up to spectacularly fail.

The worst failure of all, though, would be the Biennale itself. Would be, or already is. Eiríkur Thorláksson, the Chairman of the Icelandic Art Center, said:

Most disappointingly, the administration of La Biennale di Venezia, an institution within the City of Venice, has not supported this artistic endeavor in the way that would have been expected for an organization of its stature and proclaimed advocacy of contemporary art.
The Times reported that neither Enwezor nor Biennale president Paolo Barrata had made any public statements of support for Büchel or The Mosque, even though the Icelandic Pavilion is part of the official Biennale program.

If Biennale officials are indifferent, they are complicit in The Mosque's unjust and unwise censorship. If they are actively maneuvering to thwart The Mosque and keep it closed, they are betraying the very mission Enwezor announced for himself and his exhibition, and hollowing out its lofty pretensions. If they are constrained by some unseen political situations, they should call it out.

But what Enwezor could really do is embrace The Mosque, and make its successful realization the center of his Biennale. I don't presume to know how to achieve this. My first impulse was to move The Mosque to the ARENA somehow. But the actual Venetian Muslims attending and operating The Mosque are not actors or props performing their prayers for an art world audience. They have autonomy. So ask them. Have Büchel ask. Maybe it'd work somehow. Or maybe the pavilion could reopen without the spectators. Why does The Mosque have to be a spectacle? The important thing now is that it's there. And it is the political and social context of our time.

UPDATE: After I posted this, Cristina Ruiz from The Art Newspaper tweeted about another Venice Biennale work I've been thinking of, and which didn't quite fit here: Gregor Schneider's Venice Cube, a large, draped sculpture inspired by the Kaba'a, which was to be installed in the Piazza San Marco in 2005. Gareth Harris's July 2005 TAN article on its fate is very relevant [pdf via gregor-schneider.deVenice Cube was rejected. Harris reports that Rosa Martinez, the co-curator who commissioned Venice Cube, "was not permitted to argue her case directly with the city authorities and later with the Ministry of Culture"; these discussions were held by the Biennale president, then Davide Croff. Today the president is Paolo Baratta, whose decision, actions, inactions, and present silence shame the principles and the institution of the Biennale.

May 21, 2015

Due Diecimila

chris_burden_diecimila_crownpoint.jpg
Diecimila, 1977, Chris Burden, 1977, ed. 35, Crown Point Press, image: contemporaryartnow

In 1977 Chris Burden made his first print with Crown Point Press. Turning the intensive printmaking process into what David Platzker called, "hands-off performative activity," Burden asked Crown Point to perfectly replicate an Italian 10,000-lira note.

The 10,000-lira note had Michelangelo's portrait on it, and required seven-color photoetching front and back, plus handmade paper that included the security watermark. Diecimila was printed life-size, but on a much larger sheet of paper. Most images of the print don't show the sheet, but it feels like an important element.

Thumbnail image for untitled_tanya_ap_pic.jpg

I hadn't known of Diecimila before, but beyond the recreation, this sheet size caught my eye. It was similar to the way I made Untitled (Tanya), the photocopy & graphite edition of Cady Noland's photocopied drawing Tanya. If I find out I've inadvertently repeated a Chris Burden joint, I swear, I'm going to get into my handmade bike-car and drive away.

And speaking of repeating, Diecimila was repeated in a digitally produced facsimile sequel in 2010 by none other than Jonathan Monk, who never met a 1960s or 70s-era artwork he didn't like enough to repeat it.

Monk's Diecimila was published by MFC Michele Didier in the same edition size, same, portfolio--and with Chris Burden's signature. Monk signed a separate certificate.

Besides the printing technique, the one sure way you can tell Burden's Diecimila from Monk's Diecimila is that Monk's are available, and Burden's are sold out.

Diecimila, 1977, Chris Burden [crownpoint]
Diecimila, 2010, Jonathan Monk, EUR3000 [micheledidier.com]

printed_web3_chinatown_edition.jpg

The third edition of Paul Soulellis's Library of the Printed Web is out, and it looks fantastic in many forms. What started as a tabloid zine is now, with Printed Web 3, a sprawling, multi-platform, medium-jamming festival of publishing. 147 people responded to Paul's invitation by submitting 329 files, which are now being released in a variety of print and digital formats, at prices ranging from free to entirely justified. Each one looks as interesting as the next.

I've already scraped rhizome.org, which is presenting all the files in one giant Apache directory, in the order they came in. And I've ordered the full set of sorted print-on-demand zines. And I'm thinking of pulling the trigger on the limited edition, full-color hardcover Chinatown Edition, a handbound/POD hybrid which comes wrapped in a digitally printed neoprene book blanket.

A what?

printed_web3_neoprene_andiron.jpg

Yes, and in fact, there are digitally printed neoprene book blankets available separately, too, which feature a small selection of the images. I'm stoked to find that my submission, Untitled (Andiron Attributed To Paul Revere, Jr.) is one of the ten neoprene options. And the only reason I might not get that one is because doing so might deprive the lonely andiron of the company of a(nother) sympathetic steward. Won't you help?

There's even a 5.5mb, 147-frame GIF. Printed Web 3 is dropping IRL this weekend at Offprint London. Everything else is below. Congratulations and thanks!

Check out all the instances of Printed Web 3, by Paul Soulellis [newhive.com]
Previously, related: Untitled (Andiron Attributed To Paul Revere, Jr.), 2015

We'll talk about this in the morning.

chris-burden_modified-moon-piece-2010.jpg
Chris Burden, Modified Moon Piece, 2010 image: manpodcast

MORNING UPDATE A WEEK LATER, BECAUSE APPARENTLY IT TAKES LONGER THAN ONE NIGHT TO PROCESS THIS

November 2011: This was sitting right there in the first episode of Modern Art Notes Podcast, waiting. And even though he wouldn't tell me who the guest was, Tyler had been goading me before the launch, that I better listen, there is a surprise. Because he knew about the satelloons.

And I did not know about Chris Burden's unrealized 1986 proposal for The Moon Piece, which is basically to launch the biggest possible spherical inflatable mylar balloon satellite into orbit.

Which was basically the same idea I'd had four years earlier. Or nineteen years later, depending on who's counting.

Or was it? Maybe it's fine? Maybe it's different? Relationship status: it's complicated. Green teed the question about Burden wanting to build something like the Eiffel Tower. And in discussing The Moon Piece Burden said it could be a giant spherical balloon or an even more "giant parabolic mirror you could control." Which, if you made it about "the size of Lake Havasu," [78 km2, btw. -ed.], you could use to "light [all of] New York from above."

So maybe it's not a satelloon at all, then. And he's talking about something permanent, and big enough to light cities from space. This sounds like the Russian thing. Except it can't be, at least not originally. Green cited a 1988 interview with Paul Schimmel as the source for this proposal. And solar mirrors didn't really show up until the 90s. Russia ran a proof-of-concept solar mirror program called Znamya from 1992-99 which, it was hoped, would boost solar power production and bring light to darkest Siberia. But it only had one success: a 20-meter-diameter mirror launched in 1992 which produced a 5km-wide beam as bright as the full moon. Later, scientists at Livermore Lab proposed massive solar mirrors as one extreme technological approach to geo-engineering humanity's way out of the climate change crisis. So this solar mirror aspect is different, maybe an adaptation, an addition, and it shows the artist was keeping tabs on things. But Burden's original The Moon Piece idea is/was a satelloon.

It turns out Burden first pitched The Moon Piece in a letter to Edward Fry, who was co-curating Documenta 8 (1987) The letter was [first?] published in the appendix of the amazing 2005 monograph, Chris Burden. [Which I bought in 2008, but didn't read all the way, even after getting more into his work in 2009.]:

[The satellite's] "only function and purpose would be to reflect light back to earth. This special satellite would function much in the same manner that our present moon reflects sunlight. I foresee that this huge satellite could be manufactured out of fairly inexpensive, highly reflective Mylar film and be carried into outer space in a deflated state (like an uninflated balloon).

...

The Moon Piece will be highly visible to the naked eye and appear, in relation to the pin points of starlight, as a bright automobile headlamp moving rapidly across the night sky, one-fifth to one-tenth the size of the moon. The most sophisticated and the most primitive of cultures will be aware that something has changed in the heavens.

...

This is not simply a conceptual project. This project is technically feasible and to function as a work of art it must be actualized.

...

Obviously more research and information needs to be done on the specifics of the Mylar balloon such as size, thickness of Mylar, weight, etc., but I believe that The Moon Piece is physically and financially feasible given enough energy. If this idea, of putting into orbit a highly reflective satellite that would light up the heavens, could come to fruition I believe it would well be worth the effort.

On the one hand, it's nice to feel like you're on the same wavelength with someone whose work and career you admire. On the other hand, damn.

echo_satelloon_color1.JPG

But some things stood out. Like Burden "foreseeing" the possibility of the satellite's existence, and not knowing any of "the specifics." Is it possible that Burden really did not know that these exact objects had already been created and deployed in the 1960s, when he was a teenager? I can't believe it. Was it not important to his concept, or his pitch, to reference their historical sources, or their current non-art uses? Apparently.

And he adapted The Moon Piece, which began with the assumption that after 20 years, an inflatable satellite could be bigger, and after 30 years it could be bigger still. Or it could use future-state-of-the-art technology and be a mirror as big as a lake. Burden's constants were big, reflective, and in space. But other than that, the 2010-11 version didn't sound any further along than 1986's.

Thumbnail image for exhib_space_install_01.jpg

A few months later (in 2012) I was working on making and showing a satelloon at apexart in New York, and I uncovered aspects of satelloons and their history that mattered. The concept had originated with none other than Wernher von Braun, who proposed, not a new moon, but a new, "American Star" which would awe the lesser nations into supporting the US in the Korean War. Von Braun wrote that in a widely published Time | Life book on space travel. Burden's language about "primitive cultures" knowing "something has changed in the heavens is straight from von Braun's pitch. The NASA engineer who had claimed the most credit for Project Echo came up with the idea at von Braun's V-2 rocket conference. It was OK'd after Sputnik because US military leaders wanted a visible satellite would normalize people to the presence of spy satellites and surveillance.

This is context I only pieced together after five years of researching. Burden missed or omitted not just this, but the very existence of Project Echo, when he proposed Moon Piece for Documenta1. Would it have turned up in Kassel? How would that've gone over? I can't even imagine.

Except that I did, and I still do. My apexart experience has made me very wary of satelloons, which are seductive, but also politically problematic. Their beauty and surface make them impossible to ignore, which makes it worse. I've also found that where I once felt daunted and insecure about having the same idea as a major artist I admired, I am OK with it. Partly because I realized my project is better.

And that, plus a $25,000 Marquis Jet card, can get you to Basel. Burden nailed it the first time: this is not a conceptual project, destined merely for Hans Ulrich's files. It must be actualized. And so it's especially unfortunate that Burden, whose genius was superlative physicality, can't see The Moon Piece in the sky himself.

After hearing about The Moon Piece, Green's follow-up question was whether Burden would be OK with people "mining his files" to produce his unrealized projects "after you're no longer with us." It's a conversation that obviously sounds very different now than it did in 2011, which is just one reason it's taken me more than a week to write this blog post. "if somebody wanted to do that after I'm not around, that'd be fantastic," Burden said. "I think that's why people become artists, you know. To have a life beyond them. I mean, it's a way to become immortal."

echos_sandia_life64.jpg

The Project Echo satellites stayed in orbit for five and eight years before gravity pulled them into the earth's atmosphere. It's not quite immortality, but it's a start.

Related, devastatingly: Chris Burden dies at 69 [latimes]
2007: If I were a sculptor, but then again
2013: Exhibition Space [apexart.org]
Listen to the entire discussion between Chris Burden and Tyler Green on Episode 1 of MANPodcast [manpodcast]
Or listen to the 3:00 MANPodcast excerpt where Burden & Green talk about The Moon Piece [dropbox, 4.6Mb mp3]

[1] What did Burden end up showing in Documenta 8, anyway? I have found him listed in the participating artists on Documenta's own site, as showing "audio". Of Burden's four pre-1987 audio works, only The Atomic Alphabet and Send Me Your Money, both 1979, seem likely. For his part, the artist's official CV only mentions Documenta 6, in 1977. Fry was the American co-curator on both.

ANDR TEST ITEM - DO NOT BID OR BUY - SPEED TEST DO NOT TOUCH - BH001.JPG

When I asked a recent buyer of some eBay Test Listings prints how he'd found them, he explained he had been searching for some items to boost his feedback ratings. I marveled how, within their own context, these dollar photos functioned just like more expensive transferring social capital to their collectors.

[It also made me wonder about monetizing this mediated reputational currency; maybe each cash-flow-negative transaction should be viewed through a customer acquisition cost lens, and the whole project reconceptualized as a startup. Old habits die hard.]

This unanticipated parallel to IRL art practice was fresh in my mind when I read Mike Pepi's review of the situation of Surround Audience, the New Museum's current triennial exhibition. Pepi argues that the solipsistic, theory- and commodity-driven artmaking context, and the exhibition form itself, are as poorly suited to presenting ideas and discourse as the single-voiced descriptive magazine review is at interpreting them.

Something like the Triennial deserves to be interpreted using methods that at first might contradict the delivery vessel of the exhibition.

What future are we creating when we double down on the hollow notion of singular judgment spreading forth, unidirectional and divorced from the connections now forged by a pervasive exchange of information? Our critical tools are just as responsible for art's caboosed condition.

Then I read David Salle talking to Michael H. Miller about the current art world's numbers games:
And now we're in a situation of measuring the success of something by the audience size. Which is for me, personally, the beginning of the end, because that was always the thing that set art apart from other areas of culture, there was no equation between quality and audience size.
And quantification and the interpretive value of data and its manipulation, and, as I think about the takeaways from these eBay Test Listings--and the point, frankly--it suddenly occurs to me that I've overlooked one crucial aspect of the project: the feedback. Which constitutes a very medium-specific form of review for the images, the objects, the project, the experience.

So I've collected it here:

Jacob_Lawrence_Embarkation_pose_USCG.jpg

UPDATE/CORRECTIONS

One benefit of MoMA's historically grounded exhibition of The Migration Series is a broader look at Jacob Lawrence's work and the context in which he made it. Which includes floating this picture to the surface: Lawrence and fellow sailors posing with one of the paintings he made while serving in the US Coast Guard during WWII. [via @rebeccaonion and @thebenstreet]

There sure is a lot going on in that photo, and given the racial segregation and discrimination that still held sway in the US military during WWII, it feels frankly fake. But there it is. And it turns out Lawrence served on the USS Sea Cloud (IX-99), the first integrated ship in the Navy (and Coast Guard, obv) since the Civil War. IX-99 had once been the world's largest private yacht, the Hussar, and was designed by & built for Marjorie Merriweather Post and her husband EF Hutton, and later rechristened the Sea Cloud when Post married Joseph Davies. [The Sea Cloud is still in service as a crazy-luxe, old-school masted cruise ship, and every yacht-flaunting collector who hasn't ridden this thing up the Grand Canal for the Biennale should hang his head in rubber dinghy shame.]

Jacob_Lawrence_Landing_Craft.jpg
Well, OK, this one's not lost: Embarkation or possibly Landing Craft, gouache and watercolor on board, Collection USCG Museum

Lawrence was already well-known as an artist when he was drafted in 1943, and his commanding officers recognized this, and made painting part of his official duties, first as a public relations specialist on the Sea Cloud, and then as a combat artist on the USS Gen. Richardson. Lawrence returned to civilian life in late 1945. His War Series paintings, created on a Guggenheim grant in 1946-7, are in the Whitney collection, and are on view right now on the 7th floor. But almost all the paintings he made during the war itself are missing.

3_Lawrence_controlpanel.jpg
This one, either. Also, it is amazing:No. 2 Control Panel, Nerve Center of Ship, gouache and watercolor on board, Collection USCG Museum

Numbers vary, but it appears Lawrence completed at least 48 paintings while in the Coast Guard. Eight were exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in October-November 1944, alongside the complete Migration Series. [This was the museum's first solo show for an African American artist.UPDATE: Actually, not. See note at bottom of the post.] The Coast Guard now has only two [above]. Another painting, signed "Jacob Lawrence, USCG," was donated to the Albright-Knox by dealer Martha Jackson's family in 1974. And I think that's where we are right now/the last 40 years.

A history written in the early 90s by Lt Commander Carlton Skinner [pdf], who conceived of the Sea Cloud crew integration experiment, mentions 17 paintings, with one surviving. Milton Brown's catalogue for the Whitney's 1974 Jacob Lawrence retrospective says Coast Guard records put the number at 48 paintings, with almost none of the titles or descriptions matching up to any of the photo documentation.

jacob_lawrence_seamans_belt_albright_knox.jpg
Seaman's Belt, 1945, was probably painted on the Gen Richardson, not the Sea Cloud. Martha Jackson Collection, Albright Knox Gallery

Skinner says the artwork got lost in the great demobilization shuffle after the war, when paintings just never came back or got tracked after the Coast Guard's traveling exhibitions. Brown says records for the works stop at 1961, though, and hypothesizes that they were scattered, uncatalogued, to be hung in various Coast Guard facilities. They could also have walked or been tossed out; Lawrence's intentionally flat style doesn't read as traditional, high-end Art, and his gouache on paper and panel might not hold up in a non-museum setting. I find it unlikely that no one has researched the paintings or tried to track them down in over 50 years, but so far, I'm coming up empty.

In any case, I'm posting the known images and titles on Lawrence's wartime paintings after the jump. Let's find these things, hm?

[CORRECTION Thanks to Anna Monahan of the Phillips Collection for pointing me to the actual first solo exhibition of an African American artist at MoMA: the 1937 show of sculptures by William Edmondson, a self-taught artist in Nashville. As it turns out, Edmondson's show was held at Rockefeller Center, in a temporary space during the construction of the Goodwin-Durell Stone building. It's amazing to me that I'd never heard of this period, or this space, even though I just now found a photo of it in Art in Our Time, a history of itself MoMA published in 2004. Will look into it.]

The Lost Wartime Paintings of Jacob Lawrence, by Capt. Carlton Skinner [uscg.mil, pdf]
1974 Whitney catalogue for Jacob Lawrence [archive.org]

rank_gift_bag_lips_detail.jpg

This post is for the archivists out there, and is inspired by putting away sweaters and Paul Soulellis's Rhizome post about zip files.

In September 2010 I wrote about what I called the Gala-as-Art Movement.

gregallen-lecture-MED_hyperallergic.jpg
installation image of Untitled (#rank Gift Bag) via hyperallergic

In December I presented an expanded history of Relational Aesthetics For The Rich at #rank, Jen Dalton and William Powhida's Art Basel Miami Beach follow-up to #class. Both #rank and #class were done for Ed Winkleman Gallery. #rank was actually part of Seven, the independent satellite exhibition. I later put a poorly edited audio/slideshow version of the Gala As Art on Vimeo. I expect I will edit the transcript and images into book form as well.

rank-gregallen-schwag_hyperallergic.jpg

I decided at the last minute to create an edition for the #rank event, and that the most appropriate form was a gift bag. I was reminded of how, staying true to its gift bag nature, I had not explained the edition, and had not identified it as an edition per se, even though, if you looked, there were clues. Up until now, this Hyperallergic photo of Veken and Jesse Lambert was the only public documentation of this edition.

Then I was putting some sweaters away this weekend, and I found a bag of leftover parts from editions that had gone uncollected after the event. I will now describe the edition, its elements, and its development.

The impetus for an edition was the gold-leaf chocolate lips dessert edition created by Kreemart for Marina Abramovic's The Artist Is Present after-gala. I put edible silver leaf on red wax lips, and repackaged them. I also bought edible gold leaf, which, having never bought it before, I found unexpectedly expensive. I tested with the silver and found it satisfying, but I did not return the gold.

rank_gift_bag_contents.jpg

The lips alone were insufficient, however, and thus the gift bag idea was reached. The color theme came from the silvered lips, which, as the colors of a Diet Coke can, also evoked the autobiographical. I wanted to add a tchotchke, like a LIVESTRONG bracelet, but the lead time was killing me.

rank_gift_bag_contents_detail.jpg

I decided to publish the supporting media for the project the way Doug Aitken had made an artist book for his MOCA Happening. I thought of burning a bunch of DVDs, but I didn't want to get all designy. I thought of a customized USB stick, but again, I had too little lead time. These two objects merged into one, though, when I found a silicone bracelet with USB memory embedded. I signed and numbered the band, and named each drive with its edition number. I remember after the event, hearing people not realizing it was a USB stick, and thinking oh well, no one gets it, and no one will ever see it.

gala_art_art_gift_bag_usb_scr.jpg

In the few minutes between finding these USB bracelets and opening one again, I imagined publishing the whole thing as an e-book, or a PDF. I'd remembered more texts and fewer videos. Which is why Soulellis's zip file art publishing stuck in my mind. But that's the beauty of zip-based publishing: it can take anything. And so they're here, as Gala-as-Art_Gift_Bag.zip. The contents are as seen in the screenshot above.

The bag also contained a card, in the format of a gala invitation, in which all the artists mentioned were listed as benefit committee members. I have not found the leftover stack of these cards, which were hastily and unsatisfyingly produced on the ground at some Kinko's in Miami Beach. But when I do, I will document it here.

The bags are similarly suboptimal, looking nothing like their pictures in the Oriental Trading Co. catalog. The silver mylar, however, is just right, and should be properly considered by future historians of the exhibition history of satelloons.

Untitled (#rank Gift Bag) is the second time I've introduced an artwork in the context of a presentation. Instead of site-specific, they're situation-specific. In each case, I took Cary Leibowitz's practice to heart, and signed something "so you won't throw it away." And yet even considering fluxus and James Lee Byars and the stuff I've got socked away in storage, I expect that few if any examples of either piece have survived in the wild. I also expect that it doesn't matter.

So while this doesn't reconstitute the works, and I'm not inclined to do anything with the leftovers, when it comes to ever discussing the works and their experience, I have changed my position on whether you really had to be there.

Gala-as-Art_Gift_Bag.zip [dropbox]

Previously: An Incomplete History of The Gala-as-Art Movement [greg.org]
The Gala As Art As Slideshow [ibid.]
The Gala As Art, greg.org, at #rank 2010 [vimeo]
Why Ed Winkleman did #rank at the Seven Miami Art Fair [hyperallergic]

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 ... 187 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: art

recent projects, &c.


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

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

therealhennessy_tweet_sidebar.jpg
TheRealHennessy Tweets Paintings, 2014 -
about

sop_red_gregorg.jpg
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

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


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


drp_04_gregorg_sidebar.jpg
Destroyed Richter Paintings, 2012-
background | making of
"Richteriana," Postmasters Gallery, NYC

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

archives