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:

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:

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 []
Helen Torr Dove and Arthur Dove diary, 1936 []

Untitled (ANDR Test Auction - DO NOT BID OR BUY - Ship DSCT 2),
2015, 5x7 in. digital inkjet print, ed. 15+2AP, of which
10 are available, $3+6 s/h

3/16 UPDATE: New images are listed at the bottom of the post, check them out.

Yesterday @yunginstitution turned me on to the Test Auction section of eBay, which is amazing. Test listings are for eBay developers to debug different features and settings, or for Power Users to preview and QA their regular listings. These auction listings have esoteric acronyms and abbreviations for titles, and images that range from stock to baffling to perfect. And they are full of warnings like TEST ITEM DO NOT BUY OR BID, and NO ITEM EXISTS NO FEEDBACK GIVEN

Well, these items exist now. And you can bid, and you can buy, and feedback will be given.

I have taken a selection of eBay test listings and recreated them to sell digital inkjet prints. The availability and pricing is determined entirely by the original listing. These 5 x 7 inch prints will be signed, stamped and numbered, and would obviously look best in groups.

Because they have "test" in the lot title, eBay won't allow the prints to be listed in the regular, searchable categories. But the customer service person I spoke with said they'll function just fine in the Testing category. They only look unbuyable.

Untitled (Andr test auction do not bid do not buy carrier 2)
2015, 5x7 in digital inkjet print, ed. 15+2ap, of which
one is available in this listing, $1 + 5.32 s/h, $15.32 intl [note: updated link to current relisted item

After I created the first several print listings, which are all quite cheap for what they aspire to be, I realized I could sort the thousands of test listings by price. And oh hey, it turns out some were quite expensive for what they are. So I added a few of those to the mix, too. To hit all the price points.

2015, 5x7 in. digital inkjet print, ed. 50+6 aps,
34 of which are available in this listing, $3+5s/h, $15 intl

Right now there are 18 19 images in the series, including a monochrome, one suite of eight prints, one pair, and two that could really work as a pair. Plus a picture of an actual pear.

Shop the entire series on my eBay seller page, or after the jump.

This tweet from artist Nayland Blake, who heads ICP-Bard's advanced photography MFA program, has been sticking with me all day. Blake's participating in a symposium Friday at Pratt with some other folks I know and respect a lot, on the nature and challenges of art school.

At first Blake's panel topic, "What is the role of art school in a market driven art world?" sounds like appropriate self-flagellation, and since William Powhida's also participating, I could imagine who's wielding the whip. But Bill's not just an iconoclast, and Blake's tweet gives hope for a constructive panel, if not quite yet hope for a better world.

Davdi Ross is in the morning, and BHQFU is in the afternoon, so it sounds like a full day. I hope it's streaming.

Situation: Art School symposium at Pratt, March 6, 2015 []

February 27, 2015

Black Boxes, White Cubes


This tweet from Tina Rivers Ryan's visit to the Portland Art Museum caught my attention tonight like an eBay alert. Everything about McCracken's 1965 Black Box, starting with the camera angle and the installation itself, felt very familiar.


Because it looks almost identical to the most common image of Caleb Larsen's 2009 sculpture, A Tool To Deceive And Slaughter. McCracken's cube is 16 inches, while Larsen's is only 8 inches on a side. The Box is resin- and fiberglass-coated wood, while the Tool is acrylic. Also Larsen's has a computer and an ethernet connecton, and automatically tries to resell itself on eBay. It's the little differences.

Black Box, John McCracken, 1965 []
A Tool To Deceive and Slaughter, 2009 []


Realtors and developers pay several thousand dollars/month to stage properties for sale. Staging companies move out the seller's accumulated lifetime of crap and move in a whole array of tastefully bland furniture and accessories to make the place look or feel bigger or nicer. Remember that aristo hobo couple in Charleston in the Times a few years ago who basically live for free by moving themselves and their heirlooms into the plantations and spec homes they stage?


Wow, that was 2011, too. Which turns out to have been peak staging? Because I just found this bonkers story from Curbed in 2011 about InFormed Space, a staging startup that provides gatorboard ghosts of high end furniture, starting with a $14 million townhouse gutjob in Chelsea. From a NYDN story:

it's easy to move the ultra-lightweight prop furniture in and out of spaces and it minimizes the pitfall of turning off potential buyers because of questionable dĂŠcor choices.

"This helps you understand the space without confounding you with design," [InFormed Space founder Douglas] Pinter said. "This shows you scale and volume in a way that doesn't get in the way of your thinking."


The "cool and minimalist" design of Pinter's creations - many which are modeled after real pieces but aren't legally copyright infringements because they are faux - may turn off diehard fans of, say, Queen Anne furniture. [emphasis added for awesomeness]

But wait, there's more. There is art. Or as InFormed Space's website [tagline: "A Stylish QuickieÂŽ"] calls them, "art panels."


After Ad Reinhardt's last paintings, after the monochrome, after the final declaration of the death of painting--for good this time, really, stake in the heart--the ghosts of paintings remain to haunt the walls of the living, until they are released by the exorcism known as the closing.

$14 million Chelsea townhouse gets decked out with fake furniture [nydn via curbed]

February 26, 2015

Sturtevant's Relâche

Relâche, 1967, via Christie's

Sturtevant's Relâche poster, from her canceled reperformance of a Picabia original. Or rather, a reperformance of Picabia's original cancelation.

Either way, I'm kind of reluctant to draw any attention to this silk screened edition before the sale, it seems so approachable.

If you do end up buying it out from under me, let me know, and I'll trade you a painting or something for it. Nah, it's got too many condition issues, maybe we trade it for a clean drawing or print instead.

Mar 6, 2015, Lot 197, Sturtevant, Relâche, ed. 7/10, 1967, silkscreen on paper, est. $5-7,000 update:, sold for $12,500, so a $10k final bid, not bad. [christies]

Thumbnail image for therealhennessy_tweet_dilf.jpg
@TheRealHennessy Tweet Painting, DILF, 2014, 14x11 in., acrylic and screenprint on canvas

Monochromatic with a sharply contrasting silk-screened text, @TheRealHennessy Tweet Painting, DILF belongs to one of's most iconic series--the @TheRealHennessy Tweet Paintings.

Distilling his canvases in a humorous simplicity, he has disassembled the process of artistic representation and its interpretive demands. Placing his control over the viewer, we read the tweet, laughing or groaning in response. Echoing the uncluttered monochromes of an esteemed range of artists form Kazimir Malevich to Yves Klein and Ad Reinhardt to Brice Marden, @TheRealHennessy Tweet Painting, DILF has the emphatic simplicity of Minimalism. And yet, deliberately puncturing the seriousness of art history's great monochromes, he has printed a classic pick up line at its center. Recalling the zips of Barnett Newman's paintings,'s selection of a deliberately unobtrusive font places the canvases serious and authoritative appearance in strange tension with the flippant content. "The subject comes first. Then the medium I guess," he has explained. "Like the tweets. They needed a traditional medium. Stretchers, canvas, paint. The most traditional. Nothing fancy or clever or loud. The subject was already that. So the medium had to cut into the craziness. Make it more normal. Normalize the subject. Normality as the next special effect" (, quoted in R. Rian, 'Interview', pp. 6-24, in R. Brooks, J. Rian & L. Sante, London,, 2003, p. 20)

Minimal in composition and lacking the painterly presence of the artist's hand,'s @TheRealHennessy Tweet Paintings parallel the "rephotography" that he became so well known for in his photographic works. Surreptitiously borrowing, appropriating, or as he refers to it, "stealing" is a trademark of his work. Even the location from which he draws his content has become a staple to his oeuvre. "Tweets are part of any mainstream magazine," he explains. "Especially magazines like the New Yorker or Playboy. They're right up there with the editorial and advertisements and table of contents and letters to the editors. They're part of the layout, part of the 'sights' and 'gags.' Sometimes they're political, sometimes they just make fun of everyday life. Once in a while they drive people to protest and storm foreign embassies and kill people." ( quoted in B. Ruf (ed.) Tweets, n.p.)

Previously: @TheRealHennessy Tweet Paintings
@TheRealHennessy Tweet Paintings, Cont'd.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

find me on twitter: @gregorg

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