August 21, 2013

On Peter Coffin At The Hirshhorn

I'm surprised to not be hearing or reading more about "Here and There," Peter Coffin's show at the Hirshhorn, curated by Kelly Gordon.

coffin_colby_hh_chagall.jpg
Hirshhorn installation view via @bluelikechagall

Maybe it's the show's unusual format; with seven works, it's bigger than a project, but smaller than a mid-career retrospective, and Coffin's works are dispersed throughout the museum (and one online). Jane Holzer's copy of the eyecatching Untitled (Spiral Staircase) is in the courtyard. And my absolute favorite of Peter's work, Untitled (Designs for Colby Poster Company), is on view, all 80 posters, in the elevator landing. [The Hirshhorn apparently bought Colby Poster in 2008, which was definitely the right time to get it, but the checklist and walltext says these particular examples are Collection of the Artist. I hope there's a trivial explanation for this, especially now that Colby Poster Company is gone. (RIP). Also, has it ever been shown in the museum before? I don't think so. I would've put that thing up at the end of Warhol's Shadows instead of that Estate Edition Flavin wall. Just sayin'.]

moffett_alum_whitehouse.jpg
Donald Moffett, Aluminum/White House Unmoored, 2004, image via marianneboeskygallery

Anyway, the big news is the center of the show, a [commissioned?] project, Untitled (Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum), 2013, a 12-minute animated projection/installation on a dozen or so works from the collection. It's not so much site-specific as institution-specific and work-specific; each projection is timed and tailored for a particular painting or drawing.

When Donald Moffett first showed projected still video landscapes on paintings in 2003 (above), his silver and gold monochrome canvases served as uneasy, even dubious screens. Coffin, though, has selected a wide mix of figurative and abstract work onto which he projects Jeremy Blake-like animations that overlay their own representational/abstract painterly arguments.

sargent_vlasto_hirshhorn.jpg
For Jasper Johns' pastel 0-9 (1962), for example, Coffin articulates each collapsed digit in turn, rendering the illegible temporarily legible. For Sargent's portrait of random London shipping heiress Catherine Vlasto (1897) [left], Coffin highlights different elements of the picture, including the piano keys, her décolletage, and the gilt frame, referencing the viewer's own reading process, the very museum experience that has been digitally usurped.

I've watched the program through several times, and I got to where I can identify and anticipate favorite passages, moments where the original artwork and Coffin's projected images work well together (or against each other.) The last 5 seconds or so of the video clip above, for example, where Coffin makes de Kooning's painting seem to blur in and out of focus, is a standout that deftly addresses the painting's abstraction.

Overall, though, Coffin's various animations don't seem designed for contemplation. Instead they fall under the rubric Gordon calls, "serious fun," a new, different, and "subversive" way of looking at traditional artworks. I imagine that for many viewers, especially those who wander in from Air & Space, Coffin's 12 minute loop will be several times longer than they'll spend strolling through galleries where they can actually see the paintings. In that sense, they're the apotheosis of a certain kind of entertainment-centric museum-going experience, just what the curator ordered.

Peter Coffin: Here & There runs through Oct. 6, 2013 [hirshhorn.si.edu]

posted by greg | permanent link

August 14, 2013

Day For Detroit: Aphrodite

permanent link | posted in: art

dia_aphrodite.jpg
Torso of Aphrodite, 1st c. BC Roman copy, collection Detroit Institute of the Arts, acquired 1924 by the Founders Society.

Tyler asked me to join the Day for Detroit, and show support for the Detroit Institute for the Arts by highlighting works from its incredible collection. The museum and its artworks, donated and acquired by generations of Detroit's residents, are now apparently under threat from the bankruptcy proceedings instigated by the city's unelected emergency manager.

Which is not a new situation for art. Here's Pliny the Elder, writing in the 1st century AD about Greece's most famous sculptor, Praxiteles, who lived in the 4th century BC:

Praxiteles...outdid even himself by the fame of his works in marble. Statues by his hand exist at Athens in the Kerameikos, while famous not among the works of Praxiteles, but throughout the whole world, is the Aphrodite which multitudes have sailed to Knidos to look upon. He had offered two statues of Aphrodite for sale at same time, the second being a draped figure which for that reason was preferred by the people of Kos with whom lay first choice; the price of the two figures was the same, but they flattered themselves they were giving proof of a severe modesty. The rejected statue, which was bought by the people of Knidos, enjoys an immeasurably greater reputation.
The Aphrodite of Knidos became one of the most famous and most visited statues in the ancient world. Knidos installed it in an open temple in the center of town, so it could be viewed from all sides. Pliny continues the tale centuries later:
King Nikomedes subsequently wished to buy it from them, offering to discharge the whole of their public debt, which was enormous. They, however, preferred to suffer the worst that could befall, and they showed their wisdom for, by this statue Praxiteles made Knidos illustrious.
In 1924, in anticipation of the new Woodward Avenue building, conceived as a "temple of art," the Founders Society used general membership funds to acquire the torso of Aphrodite above, a Roman copy of a Greek original, made in Nikomedes' day, the 1st century BC.

50 years later, Christina and Henry Ford II donated funds for the DIA to acquire a later Roman copy of a lost Greek draped Aphrodite, too.

dia_draped_aphrodite.jpg
Romany copy of Torso of Aphrodite, Venus Genetrix type, 1st century AD, collection the Detroit Institute of the Arts, acquired 1974

Art doesn't exist for itself. Art doesn't exist in a vacuum. Art is evidence of the culture we build and the history we write. It will tell the stories of our time to the generations to come. The attempts of Detroit's itinerant would-be kings to use art as a bargaining chip, or to loot the city's public trust for private benefit will stand as testimony against our country and our culture for centuries to come.

See other great works from the DIA by following #DayDetroit on Twitter. And join me and many others by becoming a member of the DIA or donating to support the Museum today.

posted by greg | permanent link

August 13, 2013

Mao Hope

fahlstrom_mao-hope_march.jpg

I shouldn't have to explain, but it's just really important that this photo get out there even a little bit more. That it should be here. Because seriously, it's a 1966 march through New York City by people carrying giant head shots of Bob Hope, and one of Mao Zedong.

I've been kind of fascinated by different aspects of Öyvind Fahlström's work lately, so seeing this photo, a still or documentation from Mao-Hope March, on grupa ok reminds me of how few dots I've connected yet.

Fahlström was a contributor to 9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering, the ambitious-but-mixed-but-historic series of happenings, performances, music, and events organized by Experiments in Art and Technology. Folks like Rauschenberg, Whitman, and Billy Klüver kind of soak up much of the E.A.T. limelight, and John Cage and Bob loom especially large, in the remembering of 9 Evenings.

Which is all a way to say that I've never really paid attention to Fahlström's contributions to the program. The Langlois Foundation has a fairly detailed account of the 100-minute performance, titled, Kisses Sweeter Than Wine, which strikes me as one of the most politically charged elements in 9 Evenings.

Performers in Kisses carried Mao and Hope placards live, but Fahlström also showed a short film of a Mao-Hope March shot on Fifth Avenue. No explanation for the demonstration was given to passersby, and none was made in Kisses. But New Yorkers were interviewed by a popular WBAI radio announcer on the scene about whether they were happy. That's it. [Fahlstrom.com has a complete transcript.]

Mao, of course, was the Communist hegemon looming over Vietnam, while USO veteran Bob Hope was the aw shucks face of the US military. Both, then, stood in for but were at least one degree removed from the actual war. But the associations and allegiances were clear enough that, even if the demonstration's agenda was not clear, people could easily, reflexively take sides. Me, I am mostly just in awe of the bold and gripping and ambiguous content of those placards.

Some years later Fahlström showed Mao-Hope March as an independent work. MoMA acquired the film in 2009.

Mao-Hope March,1966 [fahlstrom.com]

Öyvind Fahlström | Kisses Sweeter than Wine (performance)
[fondation-langlois.org]
A 20-second clip of Mao-Hope March playing at the Pompidou [youtube]

posted by greg | permanent link

August 7, 2013

All The World's A Stage Set By Piet Mondrian

permanent link | posted in: architecture | art | dc

mondrian_ephemeral_werner.jpg
Model for set design, "L'Ephemere est eternel," 1926, recreated in 1964, photographed in 2008 at Vanabbemuseum by Jeff Werner

After reading Michel Seuphor's Dada play "L'Ephemere est eternel" in 1926, Piet Mondrian surprised his friend by designing sets for each of the three acts. The little models were photographed amidst Mondrian's paintings in his studio, a nice parallel to the play's denouement, in which a model of a theater is destroyed by an executioner. It also resonates with a play Mondrian himself wrote in 1919, which ends in his studio. For someone trying to change all the world, the stage was a nice place for a dry run.

mondrian_studio_model.jpg

Susanne Deicher noted that Mondrian refused to be photographed painting in his studio.

Mondrian often said that "new life" could be found in the free space opened up by reason and thought. The empty plane at the centre of the small painting on the easel reflects the absence of the artist.
During this period Mondrian frequently spoke of the end of the subject in the new age to come. He designed his studio as an imaginary setting for a theory without an author, where the "new" appears to evolve in the non-space of the empty center of his abstract paintings.
This absence to Mondrian's ideas for the staging of "L'Ephemere" as well. He really wanted sets that concealed the actors as they delivered their lines. To what extent Seuphor was on board with Mondrian's creative involvement, I don't know.

I also don't know in what form it circulated at the time, or how widely it was read or known, but Seuphor's play was not actually ever performed until 1968. By then Mondrian's original models had been lost; someone--perhaps Seuphor himself--had refabricated one in 1964. It's in the collection of the Vanabbemuseum in Eindhoven. [That's where Vancouver designer/blogger Jeff Werner photographed it in 2008.. I first saw it a few months ago in "Inventing Abstraction" at MoMA.]

Remarkably, the US premiere of "L'Ephemere est eternel" took place in 1982, at the Hirshhorn Museum. It was one of several ambitious elements of Judith Zilczer's exhibition, "de Stijl: Visions of Utopia: 1917-1931." The show also included a large-scale recreation of Theo van Doesburg's lost interior of the cinema/cafe in the Aubette in Strasbourg. The opening was attended by Queen Beatrix, who, on a state visit, discussed nuclear proliferation and anti-NATO protests with Ronald Reagan.

Georgetown University theater professor Donn B. Murphy directed his and Zilczer's 60-minute adaptation of Seuphor's absurdist, plotless, and wordplay-filled script, which ran for at least seven public performances during the weekend of June 25-27. The show was in the museum's auditorium, which barely has a stage, more of a podium, but which was apparently able to accommodate a full-scale version of Mondrian's spare, shallow set.

The Washington Post hated it. In his review David Richards summed up the play's Dadaist, traumatized historical context as "the intellectual's version of 'Hellzapoppin,' music-hall for the nihilists born of World War I." Which, well, I guess it could be worse. Whatever could Dada tell the world of Washington during the throes of the Culture and Cold Wars and at the onset of the AIDS pandemic? [On the same page, the Post hated on John Carpenter's remake of The Thing, starring Kurt Russell, even more.]

In the Dada spirit of non sequitur, and to add one more datapoint to calibrate the Post's critical settings, I can't not quote from the their review of a local stand-up performance by one Jay Leno:

Leno's nasal delivery, which resembled Andy Rooney's, expanded to a colorful palette of characters as he worked through subject matter including the Phil Donahue show, photo stores ("How come they can transmit pictures 80,000 miles through space, and you walk across the street to Fotomat and they can't find yours?"), male strip shows, Steven Spielberg movies, video games, and even local deejay Howard Stern.
Anyway, the Hirshhorn has a [VHS!] videotape of the performance in their archive. I will be making my appointment pronto.

posted by greg | permanent link

August 6, 2013

Stop And Piss: David Hammons' Pissed Off

permanent link | posted in: art

Serra_TWU_PAF_Svennevik.jpg
T.W.U., 1980-81, photo by Donna Svennevik, via publicartfund.org

Richard Serra was on a roll in NYC in 1980. In the run-up to the debut of Tilted Arc, he had two Cor-Ten sculptures installed in Tribeca: St John's Rotary Arc was in the exit plaza of the Holland Tunnel, and T.W.U. (above) was in front of the Franklin St. entrance for the IND subway. It was named for the Transport Workers Union, which had just gone on an 11-day strike as the sculpture was being installed.

david_hammons_dawoud_bey_twu_1.jpg

By 1981, T.W.U. was looking a little beat, strewn with empties, and covered with wheatpasted flyers and graffiti. That's when Dawoud Bey shot a series of photos, posted recently on Black Contemporary Art's tumblr, of David Hammons pissing on the sculpture.

The sequence apparently begins with Hammons in khakis, Pumas, and a dashiki, with a matching shoulder bag, just standing there in the south-facing space of Serra's sculpture. In the next photo, he's turned away from the camera, doing his business.

david_hammons_dawoud_bey_twu.jpg

Then we see Hammons, talking with an NYPD officer, presenting papers, maybe a passport? The caption reads, "David Hammons receiving a citation from a police officer." Which might have happened! But really, we don't know.

david_hammons_dawoud_bey_twu_3.jpg

These photos are not journalism; they're documentation of a performance Hammons titled Pissed Off. I don't know when or how the title emerged; it's hard to trace the historic trajectory of Hammons' practice apart from the art world's later embrace/interpretation of it.

But considering that other tellings of the story say that Hammons was "arrested" or "almost arrested," I feel more comfortable in just saying we don't know.

What happened, and what's in the photos, are not the same thing. There were actions and interactions here beyond the frames and before, after, and in between the clicks of the shutter. Like, where'd the white shopping bag and folder Hammons is holding in the first photo go? Is Bey holding them? It makes me think of one of the best pieces I've ever read on Hammons' work, by Christian Haye and Coco Fusco, from Frieze, May 1995:

[Hammons] is, in actuality, a masterful investigator of how an oppositional black cultural identity can be generated through a dialogue with 'high' culture, particularly as it is articulated through standard English. His method relies on punning and other kinds of word games that short-circuit the dominant cultural interpretation of any given object or term to be redirected for his own purpose.
This practice, which Haye discusses using Henry Louis Gates' concept of signifyin', applies as much to Bey's photos as to Serra's sculpture. The art world can think it's funny and transgressive to see Hammons pissing on Serra, but do they even notice that he's splashing onto their shoes, too? That everyone assumes or accepts the retributive outcome of Hammons' encounter with the cop may just be the most critically damning aspect of Pissed Off.

david_hammons_bey_serra_shoetree.jpg
David Hammons, Shoe Tree, 1981, on Richard Serra's T.W.U., 1980, image via grupa ok, (who rightly call it an assemblage)

Speaking of shoes, Hammons did another performance at T.W.U.. For Shoe Tree (1981), Hammons threw 25 pairs of sneakers over the top of Serra's 36-foot tall steel plates. Some call it a performance, but unlike his documentation for Pissed Off, Bey's photo shows no artist, no action, no street, no building, even, just the stark angles of the top of Serra's paint-splattered sculpture against an empty afternoon sky.

posted by greg | permanent link

August 5, 2013

Read Between The Lines: Visiting Walter De Maria's Las Vegas Piece

permanent link | posted in: art

clui_las_vegas_piece.jpg

The question is not whether you can visit Walter De Maria's Leaving Las Vegas; the question is, does it still exist?

Already in 1972 when discussing the land art project with Paul Cummings, Walter de Maria seemed to emphasize the difficulty of actually experiencing Las Vegas Piece as part of the actual experience of Las Vegas Piece. He'd graded a mile-long square onto a barren desert valley north of the city, and you'd have little chance of even finding it, much less seeing it, much less seeing it all:

it takes you about 2 or 3 hours to drive out to the valley and there is nothing in this valley except a cattle corral somewhere in the back of the valley. Then it takes you 20 minutes to walk off the road to get to the sculpture, so some people have missed it, have lost it. Then, when you hit this sculpture which is a mile long line cut with a bulldozer, at that point you have a choice of walking either east or west. If you walk east you hit a dead end; if you walk west you hit another road, at another point, you hit another line and you actually have a choice.
And on and on for several hours, until your choices and backtracking end in some combination of experiencing the entire sculpture on the ground; declaring victory or defeat partway through; and dying of exposure in the desert because you can't find your car.

In a 2003 NYT interview, Virginia Dwan and Michael Kimmelman got a little myst-y eyed about being alone. They made Las Vegas Piece sound like an emotion machine that manipulates art world people into contemplating their solitude by losing themselves in the desert landscape. [It was also, De Maria acknowledged, a way to grab a viewer's attention for hours, a whole day, not just the minutes or seconds it took to circle a sculpture in a gallery.]

In both those ways, Las Vegas Piece is still functioning perfectly, whether it actually exists or not. In 2008, the Center for Land Use Interpretation had listed Las Vegas Piece as "apparently, no longer visible." And their map was uselessly vague.

But today, CLUI's entry for the work has more information, if not more answers:

The piece is visible on online satellite maps, and there apparently are some discernable fragments of the lines on the ground.
Yes, well. here is their latlong marker for Las Vegas Piece on Google Maps, [above] and I'll be the first to admit I don't see a thing. So I plugged the coordinates into the USGS' database of historical satellite photographs and still came up empty. Maybe a better mapsearcher than I will find it.

And in early 2012, in the run-up to "Ends of The Earth," her landmark land art show at MoCA, UCLA art historian Miwon Kwon engaged CLUI to lead her and her grad students on a road trip to visit Las Vegas Piece. UCLA Today reports that Kwon's SUV had a blowout on the way:

Instead of giving up, they stuck it out. Eventually the first car did return, the expedition guide helped replace the tire, and Kwon was able to give her students an experience that, she hoped, would transform the way they thought about art and art history.
What was that experience, exactly? Was it just like the MOCA show itself, that of not seeing a De Maria? We who weren't there will never know.

But check out CLUI's own account from their Winter 2013 report, and I think we can read between the lines:

Some would argue that it isn't there at all, that the piece is gone. Certainly, as originally intended by De Maria, the piece no longer exists, just as "none" of Heizer's dry lake pieces exist, even if traces can be found. Of course these are ruins of land art, not land art. But for a group of art historians, the interest in going there was not to experience the piece, but to experience the place where the piece was. To understand it better forensically, and archeologically. And to ground truth the land art that usually exists to us only in photographs-to verify its historic existence heuristically.

Only the faintest sense of the lines of Las Vegas Piece is discernable, and barely so enough to leave some unconvinced that they saw it at all-its existence is a matter of interpretation. It's on the limits of perception, conjured up in the mind's eye and space by lining up mountain ranges in the background of photographs in art history books with those in the distance of the actual site. In a paralaxed overlay, when the alignment lines up, the viewer descends into the photo at the same time the piece in the photo emerges into the viewer's live view. You are there, even if it is not.
Yes, well. To the extent archeological interpretation and three SUVs full of grad students excitedly pacing off every bald spot in the desert has supplanted the evocation of existential solitude and man's lonely movement through time, then yes, Las Vegas Piece no longer exists. This is an important takeaway for land art pilgrims whether they're in Kwon's seminar or not.

But it still makes me wonder what De Maria was actually intending for his work. He rejected the gallery rendition, the groundlevel photodocumentation, and the all-seeing satellite/aerial photograph. But how did the people who went to see it actually find it? Did he tell them? Did he give them elaborate directions? Did he draw them a map? Did he plot it on a map? Did he give people bad directions just for fun? Does it matter if he actually ever bulldozed it in the first place? Why would we be inclined to want to walk exactly along De Maria's paths, but not, say, Richard Long's?

demaria_las_vegas_piece_det.jpg

And if we're going to be in an archaeological mode, why not just use lidar to pinpoint the exact location? But the more interesting question, I think, is what's stopping someone from just driving a bulldozer out across the desert one morning and redrawing it? Just do it, stick it out there somewhere in the general area, and let someone MFA stumble across it after the next Google Earth update?

posted by greg | permanent link

August 1, 2013

'The Fine Art Of Banking'

permanent link | posted in: art | projects

nga_kelly_orange.jpg

I've mentioned Ellsworth Kelly's Color Panels for a Large Wall before; though they were hard to see up close, the 18-canvases were the only monochromes at the National Gallery that have that tasty, gestureless surface I was craving when I started plotting the Rijksoverheid paintings.

kelly_18_panels_nga.jpg

The panels, made in 1978, look so at home there on the giant wall of the East Wing atrium that even though I knew they were a fairly recent acquisition (2005), I somehow never considered they lived anywhere else. So just take a look at that provenance [on the NGA's newly upgraded website? Congratulations]. They have really been around the block:

Commissioned 1978 by the Central Trust Company, Cincinnati, and installed 1979; gift 1992 to the Cincinnati Art Museum; de-accessioned 1996 and returned to the artist; purchased 30 September 2005 by NGA.
Central Trust Bank's building in downtown Cincinnati had a 140-foot long wall, where Color Panels were originally installed in two rows of nine. There's a long, skinny Gemini lithograph from 1979-82 titled 18 Colors (Cincinnati) that gives a flavor for the original configuration:

kelly_18_colors_cinc_gemini.jpg

Reports at the time praised Central Trust's investment savvy and connoisseurship, joked about color coding the teller windows, and mocked the idea of loaning Kelly's "paint chips" to an exhibition in Amsterdam. My favorite attempt to explain Kelly's abstract canvases is this uncredited illustration from Cincinnati Magazine's coverage of the work's unveiling, which consisted of three one-dollar bills, each cut into six parts:

kelly_cinc_fineart_banking.jpg

So awesome. I'm getting some uncirculated bills first thing in the morning to start working on the edition.

But back to that provenance. Central Trust was bought by PNC Bank in like 1988, which then sold parts of it to Banc One in 1991, which probably explains the gift of Color Panels to the Cincinnati Art Museum in 1992. But what baffles me is the deaccession of such a major work by such a major artist just four years later. Was there just not a wall large enough, not even in the Great Hall, which had been freshly renovated in 1993? I guess not.

kelly_marks_sculpture_wall.jpg
image via matthew marks' artnet page

1996 was a big year for big Kellys. It was when the artist and his dealer Matthew Marks began working to save Kelly's 1957 anodized aluminum Sculpture For A Large Wall from demolition when Philadelphia's Penn Center was being remodeled. [Herbert Muschamp rhapsodized about the piece in 1998. Then the Lauders bought it for MoMA. Amusingly, it's back in Philadelphia right now, for a show at The Barnes.]

It found its way to the East Wing's 25th anniversary in 2001 as a 2-year loan, reconfigured into three rows of six. "Kelly believes that this incarnation of the piece is preferable to the original.", the press release said, which probably assuaged Glenstone's acqisition of it for the museum, which the press release did not say. Anyway, I like it very much and miss it, and wonder what the story is, and why they're not quite the 4x6 feet they were originally said to be.

Previously: What I looked at today: NGA Monochromes

posted by greg | permanent link

July 25, 2013

Dome Half Full

You know what? It's the little differences.

When Americans think of Buckminster Fuller's Geodesic dome, they probably remember the eternal, benevolent optimism of the US Pavilion at the 1967 World's Fair in Montreal. Oh yes, good times.

If only Europe could look back to these days, and past the array of geodesic domes dotting the continent, the ones in which NATO radar dishes and surveillance equipment have been cloaked, then everything would be awesome once again.

der_spiegel_bundesdome.jpg

Looks like Der Spiegel didn't get the memo.

posted by greg | permanent link

On The Lens of Cultural Histories And The CIA's Otherwise Concealed Bonds

What spate of unfortunate public disclosures and Oscar losses could ever have precipitated the CIA's decision to allow coverage of its "museum"? Or maybe what beat needed to be freshly greased by NBC, that it would propose a tour of the awesome, closed-to-the-public historical exhibition spaces at Langley?

cia_ak47_display_makelynbc.jpg
image: John Makely/NBC News

We'll never really know, but the day before military prosecutors made their closing arguments against Pfc Bradley Manning, we were somehow lucky enough to see the AK-47 that belonged to Osama bin Laden himself, or at least the one that was found, in undiscussed circumstances, near him in the Abottabad room where he was killed.

I am most impressed by its presentation, on a simple painted grey shelf, with a bullet-riddled book of some kind, which is mounted against a tumultuous photomural of, of what, exactly? A massive explosion ripping apart a heavily forested hillside? I'm sure that's not an image from the botched attack on the caves of Tora Bora, where the US, already chomping at the Iraqi bit, let bin Laden get away in 2002. The CIA would not have such self-criticality [on unclassified display].

steinbach_bard_inst_1979.jpg
Haim Steinbach, installation, 1979, image via bard.edu

But one thing we do know: at least one operative in Langley is a fan of Haim Steinbach.

'Secret' CIA museum features Osama bin Laden's AK-47 [nbcnews]
Haim Steinbach: Once Again The World Is Flat, runs through Dec. 20, 2013 at CCS Bard [bard.edu]

posted by greg | permanent link

The Notorious J.D.

permanent link | posted in: art

So this is it, the end of the East Coast/West Coast, dealer/museum director rivalry going on within Jeffrey Deitch himself.

tupac_hologram.jpg

And yet the illest news comes from way back in April 2012, the height [or nadir] of Deitch's drive-by MOCA leadership. How did I miss these things? In his incisive post-mortem, William Poundstone notes that Jeffrey and his guest curator-in-marketing Mike D had wanted to include Tupac Hologram in their Mercedes-Benz Avant/Garde Diaries show, "Transmission LA: A/V Club" but that they "couldn't swing the loan."

Which, what??

Sure enough, in an interview with Isabel Wilkinson published on Apr. 20, 2012 in the Daily Beast [which might explain why I didn't see it], Mike D said, "We wanted to see if we could bring the Tupac hologram here, but it has to be at Coachella again next weekend."

Yes, well, I guess it was just one of those last minute things. Tupac Hologram appeared at Coachella on Sunday, April 15, and Transmission LA: A/V Club opened on April 20th. And the Beastie Boys only had pull with Doctor Dré the Hot 97 DJ, who had previously been a DJ for their performances, not Dr. Dre the rapper/producer who orchestrated the entire digital reincarnation project for Coachella in the first place.

And maybe it would have been odd for Tupac to participate, even posthumously--especially posthumously--in a Mercedes promotional event, seeing as how he was gunned down in the passenger seat of a BMW 7-Series. Gotta say I'm with Team Dre on this one.

deitch_house_nyt_minton.jpg

And another PR piece timed to the opening of the Mercedes show, the April 22 NYT Magazine tour of "Jeffrey Deitch's Party House". Which leads with this brilliant photo by Jeff Minton of JD posing as just another wacky element of his Gaetano Pesce Gli amici sofa. I didn't realize it at the time, but when Stacey Allan tweeted this picture this morning, I knew what we needed all along was some Yo Gabba Gabba!-style action figures. Maybe it's not too late for one more indie vinyl toy exhibit before he blows town? Deitch & Friends! Collect'em all!

posted by greg | permanent link

July 22, 2013

Henry Codax at Shoot the Lobster at Gavin Brown

permanent link | posted in: art

codax_lobster_gavin_brown.jpg

Gavin Brown's enterprise has a show of Henry Codax paintings organized by Shoot the Lobster.

The press release quotes an interview Codax did with Peter Scott, which ran in Grey Magazine in March. Scott runs Carriage Trade, where Codax's paintings were shown for the first time in Summer 2011.

codax_ct_blue_green_yellow.jpg
Henry Codax, installation view, 2011, Carriage Trade

Shoot the Lobster is the projects program/backroom of Jose Martos' gallery on 29th Street.

codax_martos_nada_2012.jpg
Henry Codax, NADA NYC 2012 installation view, Martos Gallery

Martos showed Codax's paintings twice in 2012: first at NADA NYC in May, then in the gallery from June through August.

codax_martos_2012.jpg
Henry Codax, "Long Suffering," installation view, Summer 2012, Martos Gallery

Martos Gallery's current summer show is No Place Like You, works by Peter Scott. Shoot the Lobster's current summer show is No Place Like You (continued), a related group show with works by Dan Graham, Servane Mary, Heidi Schlatter and Jaques Tati.

Last year, I wrote of Codax's practice:

What little we know of Codax comes from fiction, but his paintings are real, physical facts. As the ambiguities about the artist persist, even multiply, the paintings remain unchanged. When I first saw Codax's work last summer, it intrigued me. I liked it, but worried that it might be a stunt, a one-liner in the form of a show. But Codax keeps making and showing work. And selling it, sometimes to people who try to flip it. And getting reviewed and written about. At some point, it's possible that the persistence of Codax's paintings may overcome the uncertainties of their origins. We'll just accept them--and buy and sell and show them--for what they are: Henry Codax paintings.
Which seems both truer and wronger today. Codax's paintings certainly persist. After three Summer shows in New York, it may be time to consider Henry Codax paintings a fixture, a tradition. A Codax show holds the gallery walls while the nonfictional art world is out of town. They're the painting equivalent of a lamp timer, set up to convince the passerby that someone's home.

They're a housesitter that doesn't water your plants And won't cover your bills. Because is it just me, or are these some of the same actual paintings? Why doesn't anyone want the yellow one? Are Codax paintings like Hirst Spots, no two colors alike, or are people still just not getting it?

From the Grey interview:

Scott:...Though the idea of a pseudonym may not be new, if this was a recent example, it entered it into a system of valuation and exchange, which is dependent upon a traceable identification between the maker and the object. This identification was never made publicly, nor offered contractually, which created problems when the work came up for auction. The speculation around the authorship dovetailed with the market speculation around the work until they were indistinguishable to some.
Codax: Until the auction.
Scott: The irony is that the market speculation was hindered by "Henry's" rumored origins being asserted as fact. As long as you remained an artist that "might have been" created by actual, living artists, there was no "true" identity to be lost. The moment that any living person either claimed or disclaimed you, you were subject to verification to establish your "actual" worth.
Codax: So you're now saying I no longer exist.
Scott: I'm saying you exist through all the paintings out there attributed to the artist Henry Codax.
Lights are on. I believe.

Henry Codax Shoot the Lobster at Gavin Brown's enterprise, through 10 Aug 2013 [gavinbrown.biz]
An interview with Henry Codax [grey-magazine]

Previous Codaxplanations on greg.org:
Henry Codax at Auction; Speculation, on the Codax auction aftermath

posted by greg | permanent link

July 21, 2013

Standard Operating Procedure Is Here

Thumbnail image for sop_red_gregorg.jpg

OK, It's hard to complain about your day-to-day when you're doing a project on people being held in indefinite detention for a decade, even after being cleared for release, and then being force fed with nasal tubes when you go on a hunger strike in a last ditch effort to get attention for your existence.

So anyway, Standard Operating Procedure is out, and it is rather amazing.

2. When the Nurse is satisfied that the detainee is secured and a safe environment exists, they shall insert the EF tube ias SOP NO:JTF-JMT #001 and secure it as dsecribed in (A).
3. The guard may then release their hold on the detainee's head

E. If a particular detainee displays repeated attempts to bite the tube, a weighted 10f tube shall be used for all subsequent EF.

F. If the detainee is able to gain the tube between his teeth, the nurse will:
1. Simultaneously turn off feed and, immediately stabilize the distal end of the tube and pull the tube from the detainee's nose.
2. Maintain traction on the proximal portion of the tube until the detainee releases the tube from between his teeth. This may take considerable time. [p. 281]

These documents--these words, in this order--are extraordinary. They have been written this way.

Buy Standard Operating Procedure in unsigned, unnumbered edition, 6x9x1.5, $15.99 plus shipping [createspace]
Previously: Standard Operating Procedure

posted by greg | permanent link

July 20, 2013

Niépce's View From The Window, The Making Of

permanent link | posted in: etc.

View from the window at Le Gras, 1826, Joseph Nicephore Niepce

The world's first photograph, a persistent image made by exposing chemicals to light, was taken in 1826 by Joseph-Nicéphore Niépce. [NEES-uh-fore NYEHps]

It's the view from a window of his house in Le Gras. It was made by projecting the view through a camera obscura onto a small pewter plate coated with bitumen and developed with lavender oil. The exposure took several days [The sun can be seen hitting opposite sides of the buildings.] Niépce called it a heliograph.

Niépce eventually partnered with Louis Daguerre who was also working to fix images chemically, but Niépce died, his less inventive son stepped into the partnership, and thanks to some branding jiujitsu, Daguerre basically crossed the history finish line alone in 1839 as the inventor of photography. [Niépce son did write a pamphlet in 1841 titled, Historique de la Découverte Improprement Nomée Daguerreotype, procédé d'une notice sur son véritable inventeur feu, M. Joseph Nicéphore Niépce (History of the discovery improperly misnamed daguerreotype, preceded by a note from its real inventor Joseph Nicéphore Niépce.) So there's that.]

niecpe_view_flipped.jpg
An enhanced view of Niepce's View, flipped to match the actual view

View from the window at Le Gras, known as Point de vue de Gras in French, was lost until 1952, when the historian/collector Helmut Gernsheim tracked it down. It's now in the collection of the Ransom Center at UT Austin.

Niépce's house, in a village called Saint-Loup-de-Varennes, is now a museum, open for visitors in July and August [and other times of the year for a flat EUR150 get out of bed fee.]

The property was divided in the mid-19th century, but the house is largely intact. Yet it was unclear exactly from which window the image had been made. Gernsheim thought it was from the attic. This French site discusses all sorts of details about maps, lenses, exposure times, focal lengths, angles, and suggests it was on the 1st floor.

Or maybe that window's not even there anymore. A restoration project at the house in 1999 found evidence of a remodeling that moved the window on the 1st floor sideways by 70cm. Here's a short video about the investigation, trapped inside a tiny Flash window.

Alas, you can't try to recreate Niépce's photo yourself, because photos are not allowed in the photography museum. The operators have sold exclusive rights to some agency. Here's the sign on StreetView.

niepce_street_view.jpg

View from the Window at le Gras [wikipedia]
Niepce house museum [niepce.org]

posted by greg | permanent link

film.factory and Satantango: The Making Of

Jonathan Rosenbaum taught a seminar on American independent film at Bela Tarr's film.factory, the 3-year graduate film/filmmaking program he's begun in Sarajevo. How's that going?

I soon discovered that one of the main reasons why film.factory wasn't a school was that it was much closer to a film shoot, something Béla knew and understood a lot better. This meant that everything, my screenings and lectures included, was subject to last-minute revisions due to weather, equipment, health, sudden inspirations and other variables. And bearing in mind Orson Welles' definition of a film director as someone who presides over accidents - along with the dawning realisation that the same vicissitudes might even apply to film historians, and therefore to what we all know as film history - an important part of my own education over my 18 days in Sarajevo was learning how to roll with all the punches.
One good thing about being Bela Tarr is you're never at a loss for ways to fill a sudden gap in the schedule:
a screening of Béla's 450-minute Sátántangó one Saturday (the first time [f.f program mgr] Sunčica and nearly all the others saw it), introduced by me. This was followed the next day by Béla lecturing for four-and-a-half hours about how he made it, shot by shot and take by take, using a sort of post-it storyboard as his narrative thread. (As with the film itself, there were two intermissions.)
The workshop before Rosenbaum's was led by Carlos Reygadas. The one after was by Tilda Swinton, a Socratic dialogue about performers, and it sounds fascinating. Seriously.

a personal report on an adventure called film.factory [bfi via keyframe daily]

posted by greg | permanent link

July 19, 2013

Standard Operating Procedure

permanent link | posted in: art | dc | etc. | writing

In Japan, I woke up a couple of nights angry from dreams about having dinner at the White House, and sitting across from Pres. Obama, and arguing with him about hunger striking prisoners at Guantanamo.

We talked--I talked at him, because, I guess my mind was incapable of imagining a viable retort, really, what could he say?--about Yasiin Bey's video demonstrating the standard procedure the military uses to force feed hunger strikers through their noses. And I asked if the Constitution was now as quaint as the Geneva Conventions, a reference to Bush era torture theorist John Yoo's position on following the rule of law and international treaties the US had nominally upheld for decades.

It was the kind of dream where I felt that surge of adrenaline, that this moment, this conversation, was going to be what opened the President's eyes to the awful urgency of this situation our country is in. These people are in.

I had seen the reports by investigative journalist Jason Leopold which revealed JTF-GTMO's recent, extraordinary revisions to the prison hospital's forced feeding procedures. But it wasn't until a couple of days ago that, with Jason's assistance, I found the actual military manuals and memos themselves. They are in an archive of documents produced in response to Freedom of Information Act requests maintained byThe Department of Defense's FOIA Service Center.

sop_red_gregorg.jpg

I can't not do something, so I have published the three sets of detainee treatment regulations, known as Standard Operating Procedures, as a book. Which, believe me, I know. I feel a bit like an outraged @Powhida jamming @BarackObama into all his tweets, until the non-effect wore him out.

It's weird feeling compelled to do something that you recognize is irrational and irrelevant. But again, I can't not do something, and this is one thing I do. Andwith all due respect to Richard Prince, this text, as it is, and as it drives the world, is the kind of thing I feel must be propagated and put examined and contextualized if appropriation, or art, or attention, really, is going to mean anything at all.

Standard Operating Procedure includes the SOP Manual for Camp Delta, the prison side of GTMO, which was implemented in 2003. It's 240-some pages, not including the various classified appendices for detainee transport and adjudication, which have not, apparently, been released. It also contains the 2003 version of SOP for the detention hospital for "Voluntary and Non-Voluntary Total Fasting and Re-Feeding," which has several p.ages completely redacted. And then there's the May 2013 revision to those procedures, which are contained in an SOP for the Joint Medical Group for the "Medical Management of Detainees on Hunger Strike." That's the regime the detainees are currently under.

Of course, as Leopold and others continue to report, the situation of detainees is even worse than what these SOP prescribe. There are indications that regulations are extensively, if not routinely ignored by guards and prison commanders. These primary documents embody the best case scenario for people who have been cleared for release for years, but who remain in harsh, indefinite, imprisonment.

So whether youbuy the book [which should be is finally available to order this weekend, I think; I've been experiencing some friction from the printer/publisher, which is kind of annoying, and it's been going on all week.] or read the regulations in electronic format, read them, and know that they exist.

Buy Standard Operating Procedure, 284pp, unsigned edition, $15.99 +s/h [createspace]

posted by greg | permanent link