April 11, 2015

Souza Over The Rainbow


Big up, Pete Souza, who got this shot of Pres. Obama shooting a rainbow from his hand as he boarded the plane back from Jamaica yesterday. I have not seen Sforzian mise-en-scene that tight since Karl Rove tried to put George Bush's head on Mt Rushmore.


[Which, like so many things from that era, turns out to have been not so slam dunk after all. The image that circulated at the time, which I'm not finding right off, had GWB's profile lined right up. But Google Image results now for that speech show a wide range of camera angles that miss or avoid the setup. Aesthetic resistance would have been more interesting at the time. Of course Souza's not just any hack, he's the White House hack, so he wouldn't miss.]

What's not shown in the photo will no doubt be added, the way people started sticking Hitler's and Sarah Palin's heads alongside Bush's. The White House that trolled Netanyahu's scary bomb poster in their infographic for the Iran nuclear talks had to know that anti-gay people people would be riled up by Obama shooting his rainbow laser everywhere.


But the callous calumny of this twitter ad still caught me by surprise.

President Obama Shoots a Rainbow From His Hand in Jamaica [pete souza via jezebel thx @magdasawon]

No one's really sending them to me, and so these are still not easy to collect. And this statement-as-question by Phong Bui at Hunter College's recent panel on painting maybe doesn't count, because The Brooklyn Rail co-sponsored the panel.

But it's still good. And the two tall uncomfortable guys asking questions after Bui are interesting to listen to, too, the latter mostly for his strained, uncomfortable language, but both kind of get shut down by Amei Wallach, who I ended up finding pretty disagreeable. Anyway, Bui starts around 1:04:00. As previously, line breaks in the transcriptions map to pauses by the speaker.

You know what the best show at MoMA recently?
that we tend to forget?
Is the Robert Gober retrospective.
That is--
And why do I say this?
Because years ago, I think it must have been in
early September
-6, actually,
Rob Storr and I came to interview Elizabeth Murray
for her retrospective there.
In the course of talking to Elizabeth
about the way in which she created her structure
and she emphatically said that it came from Ron Gorchov's
that she had, you know--
exposed to
in the early 70s when she first came to New York
Travel back to Bob Gober's show
He used to work for Elizabeth
building those structures but that's not the point the point is
that show was so great partly because he
who influenced him
who he admired
and I don't remember--
do you remember
not long ago
the previous Whitney
where the whole
was dedicated to Forrest Bess?
That was an amazing significant event
Because it brings back to the way why MoMA
have forgotten
I think the last show they ever
allowed to happen was Morris Hirshfield
Irving, could you correct me on the date?
'47, maybe?
Irving Sandler, everyone.

You're very close.

I was close. Well, alright. That was Alfred Barr, essentially being fired.

They fired him because of that

Yes, but, Outsider Art, or what you call Self-Taught Art
has been the essential
integrated with
Early Modernism
and you go back to Barr's chronology? It's all there
and you go back to Rousseau and other early Modernists like Kandinsky, Klee they collected children's art
mentally ill patients' art all kind of Outsider Art was being embraced
and integrated into their pictorial thinking
To mediate from the constraints of Western
you know
pictorial history I think that's exactly what it's about. Going further back about reproduction
I have a question about that. Well
maybe you provided an answer to?
On top of it?
It was uh
Francis Bacon
first saw the reproduction of
Velasquez's Pope Innocent
and he'd been
obsessed with that image
painted over
a series of several paintings
this is my humorous
sensibility came to play here
He finally came to the Prado
for the first time
he never saw the painting and you know
he died in Spain
He died soon after seeing the real Velasquez.
So reproduction has a certain resistance toward a certain romance it's like going to a date, someone you met two weeks ago
in a party
that you were delighted to have a great time talking and you go to a dinner
a kind of a
you take them out to a very fancy restaurant
and you start talking a while
and you realize not going anywhere.
So you go to the bathroom
and you
you don't want to come out.
Why? Because that person looks at you very seriously and, "I love you."
And I think that kind of romance can kill you.

A Panel on Painting: Presented by the Brooklyn Rail and Hunter College [vimeo, though @davidsurman also nicely loaded it onto ]
Previously:A Statement-As-Question From Fractures Of The Civilization
'I'm Going To Fail', or Protocols of Participation


A little over five years ago I stumbled across this distorted Street View photo from in front of the Mauritshuis in The Hague, and then discovered the same guy kept popping up in all the nearby Street View shots, too. Eventually I realized he was walking alongside the Google Trike on its maiden European voyage through the Binnenhof, the seat of the Dutch Parliament.


Sometimes only the top of his head would appear; in other panos, he'd appear in fragments; and in a few, a cobblestone lozenge would wipe him out completely. I called him "walking man," after the sculptures where Alberto Giacometti sought to capture that instant where a person comes into view.

At first I thought he was a tourist who'd happened upon the Google Trike and decided to follow it around, but several months later, and after other Google Trike images came online, I realized he was part of the mapping team. But the interesting tension between his persistent assertion of his presence and Google's algorithmic attempts to erase him did not require coincidence. By now we realize people are anomalies in the Street View datascape, whose appearance only diminishes the maps' utility. This was only becoming clear in 2009-10, though, when Google expanded its photomapping to Europe.


Anyway, I made a photobook of walking man's every appearance in the Binnenhof, but the book was never published, and remained trapped inside blurb's production software. While others trawled GSV for Cartier-Bressons, Crewdsons and Franks, I kept collecting these distorted self-portraits of the Google Grips, which blurred [sic] into [Google's] Google Art Project. But this first one is really the best. Plus, most of the panos have disappeared from Google itself. So I am releasing it into the wild as a pdf. I was briefly tempted to update the introduction, but I figure it's better as a souvenir of the time, and what GSV looked and seemed like way back in 2010.


walking man -- a self-portrait with Google Street View [10mb pdf via dropbox]

Previously: Walking Man, the photobook [apr 2010]
Google Street View Trike has a posse [apr 2010]
Oh right, Google started deleting walking man's panos after I posted about them [june 2010]
co-opting GSV as a self-portrait medium percolated from this Binnenhof photoset [feb 2011]
and got surpassed/swamped by the introduction of Google Art Project [feb 2011]
Oh right, here's the intro text from the then-still-unreleased book [feb 2011]
They're adapting: Man With A Pano Camera [june 2013]

Soon after her arrival at MoMA in the late 1990s, Laura Hoptman and I had [what I remember as] a heated discussion about the nature of art. She said that as part of the culture, all art was for the public. I tried to argue that there could be exceptions; she was unconvinced. Of course, to put it more bluntly than she ever did, part of her job was to instill in an eager young collector the instinct to steward his art and money toward the museum. Which, sure. But what I was unable to explain at the time was that I imagined an artist being able to make an artwork not for "the public," but for a person, that a work could be intended to be experienced solely by a particular person, and that would be enough.

[I didn't know about Ian Wilson's conversational works at the time, but that, along with James Lee Byars' fantastical ephemera, have given me plenty of reasons to recall our invigorating conversation. Also, the irony that it took place on the deck at the Rubell's hotel in Miami, after a visit to their still-raw DEA warehouse, means I get flashbacks every time I go to ABMB. But that's not the point right now.]


Anyway, last Fall, I wrote about Richard Prince's Instagram portraits show, and what I saw as the subtle mix of alteration and aspiration that went into them. Our social media personas are one fiction, and his comments and interactions are another, and the construction of the digital interface/frame is yet a third.

I framed Richard Prince: Study for Untitled (richardprince4), 2014

To illustrate the point, and to underscore what I saw as some of the more abject, exposed emotional elements of Prince's works, I created my own Instagram portrait "by" Prince, using a convoluted, regrammed image of James Franco as Cindy Sherman by Klaus Biesenbach.

I added a flatfooted quote from Prince at the bottom, rolled back the timestamp, and then made a Prince-like print of the screenshot. Which I used as an illustration in the blog post, fictionalized evidence that Prince's controversial Instagram works had been inspired by Franco's embarrassing Sherman reboots. I thought my conditionals and qualifiers would be obvious...

Did Prince recognize something of himself through Franco's[!] layers of mediated desperation [Klaus's (?) term], not just an artist, but a Shermanesque shapeshifting master? Did he see Franco's and these other kids' Instagram personas and want to get in on it? Did he want to be a Nightcore? Or worse, did he want to be a Franco? Is this the lifestyle envy that fuels the whole thing? Or is this just one more image, one more comment, one more layer of media we're supposed to question but probably won't?
...but even the satirical suggestion was still too much for Prince, who unfollowed me on Twitter soon afterward. Prince prefers to be in control of the fictions around his works, and I can dig that. But also he was the one who'd declared the unilateral appropriation and manipulation of someone else's social media presence as a tactic. And as Warhol said about Coca-cola, now everyone has an iPhone, from the president to the bum in the street.

Dawoud Bey be like, "Jerry..."

I bring this up now because just days after posting the Prince/Franco/Klaus pileup, I saw an announcement for the National Portrait Gallery's Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition. I've seen previous NPG Portrait Competition exhibitions, and they were numbing, like a state fair for art. And then I saw that this time, one of the jurors was Jerry Saltz. And I decided that it would be hilarious to plant this toxic matryoshka doll of a portrait in the competition, for an audience of one: Jerry.

Untitled (richardprince4), 2014, 72x48 in., inkjet on canvas, unrealized

So I entered it. The first round is judging by jpg and a brief explanatory text [below]. The work would be an inkjet, 4-ft wide, the same dimensions as Prince's, but I would print and stretch it only after it got selected for the in-person judging of the semi-finals. I called it Untitled (richardprince4). It was a portrait of Prince. And not a terribly good one. I didn't get his comment right; it turns out it takes a lot of effort to appear as awkward as Prince does on Instagram. My portrait of him feels about as successful as that dead-eyed painting of the Duchess of Cambridge a while back.

But that was secondary to its presence in the staid context of the National Portrait Gallery competition, where I imagined it sitting, waiting, like an IED of WTF, to blow up the ideas of portraiture and reality. I kept totally silent about the entry for seven months, because I liked the idea of Jerry stumbling across it in a weary jury slideshow and being momentarily entertained by it way more than I liked the idea of kiss-ass campaigning.

Which wouldn't help anyway. The nested art world personalities are too insidery, and the references are so contorted, and the text so clumsy, that I didn't think anyone besides Jerry would ever care about it, and even he was iffy. If he grabbed onto it, great, but I never imagined it would get past that first shock or bemusement in the competition. Maybe a whoopie cushion is a better analogy than an IED.

And sure enough, my rejection notice came today. Whatever reaction he had, I don't know--there were 2,500+ entries, so maybe he didn't even see it after all--but I found the months of secret possibility to be quite satisfying. This image has done its job. And the world is a better place without a 4x6 foot canvas version of it in it.

Or maybe...if I print it up and light it on fire, Richard Prince will start following me on Twitter again...

View Source: Richard Prince's Instagram Portraits
Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition 2016 [portraitcompetition.si.edu]

I generally stay out of public arguments about MoMA. I feel too close, yet I'm not an insider. MoMA doesn't need my apologia, and my firsthand experiences within the museum are not going to sway anyone. Everyone there is a grown-up who should be able to handle the responsibility for their decisions and actions.

Though I won't see it until next week, I am fully prepared to be disappointed by the Bjork show. The museum went to an extraordinary effort on the show, to some very specific ends, that turned out to be the wrong ones. I would like to find out how things went wrong, and what can be done about it. I'm certain I'm not alone.

But Christian Viveros-Fauné's artnet column yesterday, which purported to pull back the curtain on Klaus Biesenbach's reign of curatorial terror at MoMA, is not going to help; it is not only poisonous and pointlessly personal, it's inaccurate. I'll give CVF the benefit of the doubt that his outrage skewed his interpretation of every rumor and anecdote, and that he's not as reactionary or willfully ignorant as his errors make him seem. But it's a non-credible non-starter for an actual discussion of MoMA's situation.

Here's a drive-by of some of the things that made me wince, and then a factcheck on what strikes me as a disqualifying error: the claim that Klaus ruined Marina Abramovic's entire performance in The Artist Is Present.


What's that? #20 - Soyuz TMA-5 Flown Flag? Oh nothing, just a flag, like you'd see anywhere.

Next month RR Auction is selling a Confederate Flag that flew on the International Space Station. It is signed by Salizhan Sharipov, the Russian cosmonaut who brought at least five of the flags to the ISS in 2004-5, and by NASA's own Leroy Chiao, who was the commander of the pair's 6-month expedition.

The flags caused an uproar when they first started appearing on the flown souvenir market in 2006, and both Chiao and Sharipov acted like they had no idea how those flags might've--Confederate flags, you say? Well how'd that--who coulda--

Which seems like total crisis PR-driven bullshit, and a lot of needless racist hassle for a couple hundred bucks. But anyway, here one is.

#20 - Soyuz TMA-5 Flown Flag, est. [rrauction]

study for The Social Mirror, Recycled, 2015

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

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

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

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


Yves Klein had two shows in 1957 titled Proposte monocrome (Monochrome Proposition): the first was in January at Galerie Apollinaire in Milan [above], the second in October at Galerie Iris Clert in Paris.

In each case, Klein presented a group of eleven blue monochrome paintings of identical size, production, and appearance, but with different prices. Klein argued that despite initial appearances, each painting was in fact quite different:

Each painting's blue world, although all of the same color blue and treated in the same way, revealed itself to be of an entirely different essence and atmosphere; none resembled the other, not anymore than pictorial moments and poetic moments can resemble one another.
And the prices proved it.
The most sensational observation was that of the buyers. Each selected the one that pleased them the most among the displayed paintings, and paid its price. The prices were all different, of course.
These quotes are from a 1959 lecture Klein gave at the Sorbonne, which was released as a limited edition LP. Klein delivers the last sentence like a punchline, "Et les prix sont tous differents, bien sur," is followed by applause, gasps, and laughter. [It's in the first 2:00 on this ubu mp3 excerpt.]

Klein's Monochrome Propositions were intended as a spiritually enlightening alternative to the polychrome world, a gateway to the mystical energies of the universe. And the pricing, Sotheby's argued, was "an audacious ploy that demonstrates Klein's ingenious handling and overcoming of the disjuncture between art and commerce."

I have never been able to reconcile these two aspects of Klein's early monochrome shows. Until now.


While searching through thousands of eBay test listings, I found an eBay test store that followed Klein's strategy. The same monochrome image was used for two dozen separate items--which all had different prices. The only problem was that there could be no buyers with no items for sale. I have solved this by making prints of nine images available at eight different prices.

And now I understand the Monochrome's Retail Proposition. The visual cacophony of a typical eBay search result is replaced by soothing uniformity. In this Kleinian spiritual paradise, I am left free to focus on the differences, both those I imagine, like shading variations in the jpgs, and those of price. My decisions fall away, all I need to think about is the essence of the transaction: to decide how much I want to spend.

Untitled (Test Test Test Item 16 --DO NOT BUY, NO ITEM FOR SALE), 2015
5x7 in. digital inkjet print
signed and numbered from an edition of 15 plus 2 aps
with price and shipping terms set in the original test listing:
$30+20 freight

Sound familiar? You can try it at home: Why spend $50 when there's an identical one for $25? But the "freight shipping" is more than the photo itself. Oh, I might buy a photo, if they weren't so cheap. It really is whichever one pleases you most.

See all nine Test Test Test prints, plus others [ebay/nycgreg]
Previously: Untitled (Do Not Bid Or Buy)

March 11, 2015

The Tonight Series

Arthur Dove moon drawings, from Helen Torr Dove & Arthur Dove's diary, 1936, image: aaa.si.edu

In 1936 Arthur Dove and his wife Helen "Reds" Torr were living upstate, in Geneva. That fall Reds went to Hartford to take care of her injured mother, and was gone for what turned out to be more than two months. Alone and pining for his wife, Dove eventually began making sketches of the moon each night in the diary they kept together.

From Jennifer Stettler Parsons' 2012 essay on Dove and the moon:

In addition to recording the temperature and weather conditions, Dove began making drawings in his diary (1936 diary, p. 137). These sketches, with their shadings and mysterious markings, appear to be evidence of the artist tracking the moon. The moon drawings continue each day with notations of temperature and barometric pressure, until Reds returned home on 8 November 1936.13 (1936 diary, p.155, 160). They mysteriously cease for two days on 15 and 16 November, but recommence on 17 November. (1936 diary, p.164-165) Dove continues to draw the moon every day until the end of the year. The new 1937 diary contains no moon drawings.(1937 diary, p.2) The drawings do not directly correspond to any established system of astronomical recording. The lunar notations, with their symbolic shadows and arrows (which change and move in each drawing), might be said to represent an individual system that Dove invented to document his observations in a personal and meaningful way.
Dove and Torr's papers are at the AAA, which has digitized their diary.

Absence and Presence: Arthur Dove's Paintings "From the Radio" by Jennifer Parsons [aaa.si.edu]
Helen Torr Dove and Arthur Dove diary, 1936 [aaa.si.edu]

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Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

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

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

find me on twitter: @gregorg

about this archive

Category: projects

recent projects, &c.

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

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

TheRealHennessy Tweets Paintings, 2014 -

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

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

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

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

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