Lot 247: Jacob Kassay, Untitled, 2010, two 14×10 silver on acrylic (not gesso?) canvases, est $10-15,000 [image via christies]
Scanning the catalogue for this month’s Christie’s sale turned up something unexpected: an affordable Jacob Kassay painting. Two of them, in fact. After his ominously seductive debut show opened at Eleven Rivington in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, Kassay’s silvered gesso canvases were transmuted into auction gold. Shiny objects reflecting distorted images of their viewers, Kassay’s paintings were the first to get churned and flipped in a frenzied art market obsessed with declaring-and cashing in on-a steady stream of new stars.
It’s the kind of limelight that can wreck a girl’s practice, if not her complexion, and Kassay has been reticent, even diffident sometimes, of the hype. He’s generally refused to engage the art market star process, at least on anything other than his own terms. For a while he refused to have his picture taken. His website, a kaleidoscope of semi-transparent images, would kick you off after a few seconds, presumably when you’re just tryna do some research for an upcoming auction.
Kassay has also always been fairly specific about images of his shows, especially photos of his silvered paintings. So it should make all the sense in the world that he’d care about the proliferation of auction-related reproductions of his work. What was more surprising, though, was the apparent removal of all images of his work from Phillips’ website.
Sotheby’s has done this for a while now, removing images of works shortly after the sale is completed, but this is the first time I’ve seen all of an artist’s images removed from a site. Or should I say, replaced. If you thought Kassays all looked the same before, well, brother, you’re in for a treat. I’d like to see these in mirror finish, please.
[FWIW, this particular pair, from 2010, was flipped at Phillips in 2011 for $104,500. If there’s anything more alluring than a shiny object, it’s two. And if there’s anything more seductive than that, it’s a 90% discount. [Update: indeed, they sold for $8,000 bid, $10,000 with premium. That is some Cady Noland-level collector anxiety inducement and value erasure. Well played.]
Sept 28, 2017, Lot 247: Jacob Kassay diptych, 2010, est. $10-15,000 [christies]
8 Nov 2011, Lot 205: Jacob Kassay, Untitled diptych, est. $30-40,000, sold for $104,500 [phillips]
Ruth Asawa, Untitled (BMC.76, BMC laundry stamp), 1948-49, image via: hyperallergic
You rarely get to see more than one Ruth Asawa wire lobe sculpture, and you almost never get to see works on paper. So get to David Zwirner’s place, because they have it all right now. It is probably the biggest assemblage of Asawa’s work since the 2006 show at the de Young Museum in San Francisco.
And I guess I wasn’t attuned to it at the time, but Asawa’s rubber stamp drawings from Black Mountain College are extraordinary. Here’s one made with the BMC laundry stamp. Her sculptures have always felt like line drawings in space, and these feel like word sculptures on paper.
Another thing I was not paying enough attention to in 2007: one of Asawa’s BMC laundry stamp drawings was used as the basis for a mattress ticking? How did that happen?
Ruth Asawa, thru Oct 21, 2017 [davidzwirner]
Ruth Asawa, a Pioneer of Necessity, by John Yau [hyperallergic]
Ruth Asawa’s Black Mountain Work [ruthasawa]
Laurie Lambrecht, Explosion, Slam, photo composition of Roy Lichtenstein’s Hand Written Word List and comic book clipping source material, made in the artist’s studio between 1990 and 1992. image via lensculture
Why did Roy Lichtenstein make word lists is not really my question. How did Roy Lichtenstein’s word lists end up in the list of his artworks catalogued by the Lichtenstein Foundation?
Both lists date from 1990. The first Handwritten Word List, feels like it fits right in. It appears to be a compilation, or a selection, of the onomatopoetic word graphics Lichtenstein famously adapted from comic books for his paintings. This list appears in at least two pictures taken between 1990 and 1992 by Laurie Lambrecht, a photographer who worked as an assistant to Lichtenstein in his studio. In the composition above, titled Explosion, Slam, it is surrounded by comics clippings. Her account of this time, inventorying Lichtenstein’s studio in preparation for his 1993 Guggenheim retrospective, mentions Polaroids, “bulging notebooks,” and a “scrapbook full of ‘Crying Girls,'” none of which apparently made the leap from archive to corpus that these lists did.
The second, Typed Word List, are all adjectives “of praise,” in an alphabetical order. Did he create it for a work? A series? A lecture? Would he consult the list when artist friends asked his opinion about their show? I mean, you could probably get away with it on the phone, but it could get awkward to use such a prompt in person. [“What’d you think?” (Pulls out list.) “Neato.”]
Or maybe he came up with the list after a heated conversation with Richard Serra, who was like, “You can’t have the verbs, Roy, they’re mine!” And Roy was like, “Fine!”
In any case, they’re both pretty beat up, well-used, and have no discernible aesthetic embellishment. I won’t say they’re not aesthetic, because they are what they are.
Download Better_Read_016_Roy_Lichtenstein_Word_Lists.mp3 [2:25, 1.3mb, greg.org]
Hand Written Word List, 1990 [imageduplicator.com]
Typed Word List, 1990 [imageduplicator.com]
Inside Roy Lichtenstein’s Studio, photos by Laurie Lambrecht [lensculture]
Kara Walker, Detail of U.S.A. Idioms, 2017, image via sikkema jenkins & co
It feels unusual to feature a current text on Better Read, but then, these are unusual times.
It strikes me that Kara Walker’s artist’s statement for her current show at Sikkema Jenkins & Co. has not been considered in an expanded context. An artist’s statement, in a press release, is already fighting with two critical hands behind its back. Yet the press release is actually the artist’s title for her show. The impetus for writing any of this is presumably well understood, but here, the specific circumstances of Walker’s work, her practice, and the shitshow of a world we’re living in right now should, I believe, upend our complacent expectations.
I myself found it too easy to make quick judgments about these texts and their implications when I saw the ad for Walker’s show in Artforum, which contained the show’s title, which I’d previously ignored, because I’d taken it for a glib press release. I let the order of reception, my own subjectivity, influence my judgment, in ways that I might not have noticed without further, in-depth consideration. And yet Walker had anticipated it all.
Download Better_Read_015_Kara_Walker_20170914.mp3 [6:57, 3.3mb, via greg.org]
Kara Walker exhibition page [sikkemajenkinsco.com]
Sikkema Jenkins’ press release with Kara Walker’s texts [pdf, sikkemajenkinsco.com]
You may know Beach Packaging Design from such seemingly random-but-incredible blog posts as The Weirdly Banal Canadian Marlboro Man Ad Was Created To Stymie Philip Morris’s Marlboro Man Campaign, Because PM Doesn’t Own The Marlboro Trademark In Canada.
Now BPD’s tracked down the source image for one of Cady Noland’s silkscreened aluminum panel works. Clip-On Man (1989), features a guy with a beer hack: two six-pack loops attached to his belt, with one can of Budweiser left [yeah, packaging!]
Turns out it was from Charles Gatewood’s 1975 photobook of the American underbelly, Sidetripping, with a text by William Burroughs. Gatewood had been taking surreal, wacked out photos of the counter-culture since 1964. And in 1972, when he went to shoot Burroughs [sic, heh] in London for Rolling Stone, Gatewood pitched his own project, a dummy of his book, and asked Burroughs to write a text for it. From Gatewood’s memoir:
Burroughs moved to London in 1965. Despite the success of Junky (over 100,000 copies were sold) and the notoriety of Naked Lunch (banned in Boston), Burroughs was not especially well known in America. His “cut-up” novels — including The Soft Machine, Nova Express, The Ticket That Exploded — were non-linear in structure and difficult to understand. Bob Palmer hoped our Rolling Stone story would “give Burroughs the mainstream exposure he deserved.”
Our first surprise was Burroughs’ modest one-bedroom apartment. The walls were almost bare, and the place looked way too neat and clean. The only hint of weirdness was the life-size cut-out of Mick Jagger standing next to a Uher tape recorder (and the faint smell of hash smoke perfuming the room).
[bold added on the part that also sounds like Cady Noland. I don’t believe it for a second, she does so much more, but what if-just what if-Cady Noland’s project got its start in the gonzo [sic] image/cultural stylings of peak Rolling Stone magazine? When Sidetripping dropped, she was 19. And 18 when Patty Hearst went down.] I have not, as yet, found a picture of a life-sized cutout of Mick Jagger, Burroughs’s or anyone else’s. But when I do, you know I’ll post it here. And probably print it on aluminum.
Cady Noland’s 1989 Clip-On Man [beachpackagingdesign, s/o @br_tton]
William S. Burroughs, Charles Gatewood, and Sidetripping [realitystudio]
While their art historical value remains under-appreciated, copies of Sidetripping are egregiously low-priced [amazon]
Previously: Namess (Cowboy) 2016
Henri Cartier-Bresson, In front of a painting by Henri Matisse at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1964, “Fotografien auf Holz,” print mounted on [painted] wood panel, 1967, collection Museum Ludwig
One thing I’ve been thinking about since visiting the Museum Ludwig a couple of weeks ago is their photography collection. A new, dedicated photography space had a show of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Heinz Held, who met through Photokina curator and collector L. Fritz Gruber. The 200+ prints from Gruber’s 1967 exhibition of Cartier-Bresson at Kunsthalle Köln are now in the Ludwig’s collection. And they’re all mounted on wood panels.
This shifts the perception from image to object, not just by the material, dimensional difference between paper and panel, but by averring the connoisseurial paradigm of darkroom artistry and editioning, and the painterly tradition of framing. These photographs were purpose-built for public display, not exchange. I’d imagine they felt important, but not precious. Now, of course, they’re older and a bit rough, which, for me anyway, made them feel rare and interesting.
Because we don’t do this anymore. I mean we don’t do this anymore. Photos are mounted on aluminum, printed on aluminum, and facemounted on acrylic. Every Wal-mart and Costco will print a photo on canvas an “gallery wrap” it into a thick slab.
But the Ludwig’s style of mounting, which is probably Gruber’s style, has been superseded. It reminds me of the exhibition design of Family of Man, Edward Steichen, Wayne Miller, and Paul Rudolph’s show that traveled the world in the 1950s. Gerhard Richter saw it in West Berlin in 1955. The last remaining traveling copy of Family of Man, with its giant, mounted prints, is on permanent view in Luxembourg.
I’d like to see some exploration of this. It feels like just the thing Christopher Williams would be into. Hey, doesn’t he live in Cologne?
Also related: Peter Bunnell’s 1970 MoMA exhibition “Photography Into Sculpture”, which was revisited in 2014 Hauser & Wirth in a show called “The Photographic Object, 1970”, by Olivier Renaud-Clément.
Isa Genzken, Kinder Filmen, 2005, image: Lee M. via globe-m.de
The first thing I always want when I go to the Museum Ludwig is the floors. Their endless end grain tiles are my 2nd favorite museum floor after the Menil.
This visit, the first work we saw was Isa Genzken’s 2005 sculpture Kinder Filmen, which neatly subsumed the crew deinstalling a giant, wall-mounted Charlotte Posenenske next to it in the main hall.
It put me in a frame of mind such that when we came upon this extraordinary doorway next to Cy Twombly’s Crimes of Passion II, I had to have it. It’s weird and uncomfortable to think that way, that declaring a work, seeing a work, realizing a work, is somehow possessing it. Really, it’s the opposite. I like this idea of realizing a work, though; it involves awareness and recognition. Even declaring feels a little suspect right now.
Untitled (after Genzken), 2017, installed in Museum Ludwig, Köln next to Cy Twombly’s Crimes of Passion II, 1960
In any case, the situation of this plastic and tape and lathing, these stanchions, the translucency and the layers, the sheer provisionality of these gestures, and next to this gorgeously worked over Twombly, it just felt all of a piece. And I have to think it was because of seeing that Genzken first.
The realization was immediate and obvious, and it only got complicated after we left the gallery. In the next space there were two more blocked off doorways, far more elaborate and functional than this one. And it posed a problem. Would I really just wander through the museum realizing works when there are already plenty of works to see? Maybe it’s a little foolish, or maybe that self-consciousness is just part of the process. The daily practice of realizing.
These doorway installations were more elaborate, with airlock-like zipper passages in them; they were used as doors to a construction space, where the first one I’d seen was just to seal it off. In terms of indexing the operations of the museum as space and institution, they were all equal. If it mattered to realize all three, or to realize one + a diptych, to see them in series, they’re there, but in the moment it felt unnecessary, if not superfluous. It also felt salient that they were next to a late Pollock and a late deKooning. It’s a grouping you’d never turn down, of course, but it didn’t resonate like the Twombly. [I decided it was best not to crop it out, but I’m very deliberately not mentioning the Arnulf Rainer; just let me have this moment, please, don’t ruin it.]
Insult to Injury, 2003
I did not like Jake & Dinos Chapman’s work to begin with, so I was not inclined to like their project Insult to Injury, where they drew animal and clown faces on a suite of actual Goya etchings, when it debuted in 2003. And I haven’t thought much about it, or looked at it since.
But I have come around. Working on the Our Guernica Cycle project has sent me looking back at Goya’s big Fifth of May paintings, and their influence on Guernica, and that inevitably brings the Disasters of War prints back into the mix.
Plate 39 – Grande hazaña! Con muertos! (A heroic feat! With dead men!)
Things I didn’t really pay attention to stand out now. Like Goya making prints during a war and a famine when materials were so scarce, and the situation so uncertain, that he had to reuse and destroy the copper plates from other prints. And making a series of 80+ prints over the course of years, which he finally expected to never publish in his lifetime. And which were only published decades after his death. And which were then republished over and over again, in seven editions, over 70 years, including a “final” edition in 1937 to support the Republic in the Spanish Civil War, nearly 1,000 sets in total, plus hundreds of proofs. [That’s the one the Chapmans bought to use.]
Plate. 37 – Esto es peor. (This is worse.)
Things like Goya drawing such devastating connections between revered fragments of classical sculpture, like the Belvedere Torso, and the tortured and dismembered bodies of the war’s victims. Neo-classicism was hot at the time, in the Napoleonic era, and Goya impaled it on a tree.
And then there’s the Chapmans, whose project was sparked by the Bush/Blair Iraq war machine which marched in front of their already Goya-soaked practice. Here is Fiachra Gibbons writing about Insult to Injury in The Guardian:
Although they are both against the current war, the Chapmans say they are not making a statement about it. Insult to Injury is more about the inadequacy of art as a protest against war. Art can’t stop wars, they insist, just as Picasso’s Guernica was a “pathetic” statement in the face of the oncoming second world war.
“Not to be too glib, but there’s something quite interesting in the fact that the war of the peninsula saw Napoleonic forces bringing rationality and enlightenment to a region that was marked by superstition and irrationality,” Jake Chapman said. “Then you hear George Bush and Tony Blair talking about democracy as though it has some kind of natural harmony with nature; as though it’s not an ideology.”
I was not this pessimistic in 2003; maybe I just needed some time.
And now to look at Disasters of War again, and Insult to Injury again, and more closely, and as I “embellish” my own prints I’d once expected were “finished,” I realize the Chapmans were right. The reflexive disapproval of their alteration of another artist’s work is specifically misplaced and unnecessary. Even Jonathan Jones is right about something. It’s all a pretty big shock, tbh. And even when it feels necessary, art still doesn’t make these disasters any better.
Insult to Injury, 2003 [jakeanddinoschapman.com]
The 2004 Steidl edition of Insult to Injury is pretty remarkable, actually [amazon]
While driving along the autobahn yesterday near Stuttgart, we passed many wind turbines. Some of them have been painted at the base with a gradient of various greens or browns. This is an attempt to minimize their visual intrusiveness on the landscape.
It was only by the time we passed the second installation that a clear enough photo could be taken. Then I realized that not all turbines were painted, and each painted turbine was painted differently.
By the third cluster of turbines it was clear that each painted turbine was painted in an approximation of its own site, as viewed, fleetingly, from the vantage point of the freeway itself. The gradient is a representation of the landscape, in the landscape.
Grand Duc Jean loaned his Palermo, Untitled (1968), to MoMA’s Color Chart show in 2008. image: jens ziehe via x-traonline
They recalled to me at the time the textile works of Blinky Palermo, but as I see the photos now, their similarity to Gursky’s Rhein seems more direct. In any case, so far I have found little discussion of these word, or the principles of their production. When I get back to a computer, though, I will update this post with some coordinates so you can hurtle past them, too.
UPDATE: they’re a corporate trademark. See below.
It’s an accident of timing that I’ve kept thinking of Derek Jarman as a filmmaker with a painting hobby. He was still alive when I saw my first Jarman film, Edward II, and when Blue blew me away. And I felt I knew his story, so I’ve been slow to read his early autobiography, or other books about him; my job was to just catch up and see all his earlier films. It didn’t help that I didn’t really like the paintings shown after his death. His notebooks were more relevant.
But I just saw this photo which changed all that. I wasn’t 100% wrong, but I was close: Jarman’s painting was more formative and influential-and interesting-than I realized. The photo’s from 1971, and it is captioned in Jarman’s dramatic hand:
“The Skycapes 1971 blue pigment on canvas
destroyed in the fire in 1979”
Skycapes has been a Google dead end, or rather a cul de sac for this caption. But capes, capes is where it’s at. In his 1999 biography of Jarman Tony Peake traced the form and concept of the cape to Jarman’s theatrical work, particularly his ideas for a production of The Tempest:
Capes are both practical and sensual, especially when cloaking nakedness. They are geometric: if hung on the wall, they form a half circle. They have mythic overtones: by donning a cape, the wearer can effect a transformation. These qualities, particularly the latter, had considerable potency for Jarman, who now set about working and reworking this new possibility until the capes he produced-and began to hang on the walls of his studio-no longer resembled design, but approached the condition of painting or sculpture.
Now the timing’s a little confusing, because Jarman made a film version of The Tempest in 1979. But Peake notes the project had interested Jarman for years. And Jarman made a clear, laminated cape scattered with dollar bills [or pound notes, maybe?] for the 1969 production of Peter Tegel’s surrealist play Poet of the Anemones. Peake said the two met at Lisson Gallery.
And the walls of Jarman’s riverside loft were lined with extraordinary capes when filmmaker Ken Russell visited and asked him to design the sets for The Devils, a project that consumed most of Jarman’s waking hours in 1970. Exhausted and dissatisfied by the film project and wary of commercial film industry entanglements, Peake wrote, Jarman “chose to concentrate on his capes, some of which he now began to paint, in two main colours, black and blue, but mainly blue: ‘simple sky pieces to mirror the calm.'”
That quote’s from Jarman’s own 1984 memoir, Queerlife, which was published in the US with the title Dancing Ledge in 1993:
1971. The Oasis
The intervening year was spent painting a series of blue capes, which hung on the walls at Bankside. They were simple sky pieces to mirror the calm that returned after the frenzied year of The Devils. That summer was an idyll, spent sitting lazily on the balcony watching the sun sparkle on the Thames. When I wasn’t painting I worked on the room and slowly transformed it into paradise. I built the greenhouse bedroom, and a flower bed which blossomed with blue Morning Glories and ornamental gourds with big yellow flowers. On Saturdays we gave film shows, where we scrambled Hollywood with the films John du Can brought from the Film Co-op- The Wizard of Oz and A Midsummer Night’s Dream crossed with Structuralism. There were open poetry readings organized by Michael Pinney and his Bettiscombe Press. Peter Logan perfected his mechanical ballet, and MIchael Ginsborg painted large and complicated geometrical abstracts.
An oasis paradise indeed, replete with all the essential elements of Jarman’s subsequent accomplishments. Which is, at least, how he himself saw it when he looked back from 1984.
Here is a 1971 photo by Oberto Gili of Jarman’s amazing Bankside loft, the top floor of a 19th century wheat warehouse. Which had the floors, the ceiling, the views, the space, but not the plumbing or the heat (thus the greenhouse bedroom). There’s the hammock from the first photo, and a laminated cape which had tools, weeds, and detritus retrieved from the abandoned waterfront. [How far do the similarities go between Jarman and other gay pioneer artists like Robert Rauschenberg? Jarman would’ve spit at the comparison; in a 1984 interview at the ICA he slammed Jasper Johns for being a tool of the CIA. #freequeerstudiesdissertationtopics]
Henri Matisse cutout designs for priests’ chasubles for Vence Chapel, 1951, photographed in his studio surrounding a Picasso painting, by Helene Adant. image: tate.org.uk
In Ken Russell’s telling of their first cape-filled visit, Jarman “was getting ready for an exhibition called “Cardinal’s Capes.” It’s a phrase which turns up nowhere else, but which makes me think of Henri Matisse, who designed amazing chasubles for priests to wear in his chapel at Vence. They began as cut-outs, and were translated into fabric, and changed with the seasons.
In 1970-71 Jarman had two solo shows, including capes, at the then-new Lisson Gallery, but he grew to disdain the gallery system. He also hated Pop and bristled at working in the long shadow David Hockney cast over the London art scene. He opened his studio for his own damn show in 1972, which Peake says was disappointing [though he sold some work and celebrities turned up for the opening, so what greater success could art hope for?]
He included new capes made from black lacquered newsprint [Rauschenberg?] in a 1984 mid-career exhibition at the ICA. [He was 42.] And in that public talk, he described funding his early features by selling paintings and raising money from his painting collectors.
Anyway, are there any Jarman capes left to be seen? I can’t find any. In 2015, the ICA screened Jarman’s super8 documentation of his 1984 show for the first time, but there’s no visual trace online. And as the caption to the original photo mentions, his earlier capes, including what he called his Skycapes, were destroyed along with Jarman’s and others’ studios in 1979.
By retrospectively titling them with the sky, and using the term “blue pigment” instead of paint, Jarman also seems to be linking the capes to one of his clearest references, Yves Klein. Klein the outrager who said his first artwork was signing the sky. Whose International Klein Blue appeared throughout Jarman’s notebooks in the 80s. Jarman filmed an IKB monochrome painting and projected a loop of it for a 1987 live poetry/music performance event he called Bliss, which became his last, greatest film, Blue, in 1991-3.
Here is Klein at his wedding on January 21, 1962. Rotraut Uecker is wearing an IKB crown, and he is wearing a cape emblazoned with a Maltese cross. They are processing through the raised swords of the Chevaliers of the Order of St. Sebastian. So at least I know what my dissertation will be about. But first we have to solve the problems that there are almost no Jarman Super-8s online; that Klein’s wedding was filmed, and that’s not around, either. And then, of course, all these destroyed capes. There is a lot of work to do.
Previously, 2013: International Jarman Blue
2004: It’s not just Derek Jarman’s Blue
As I lay typing
Close, but not quite: Study for Untitled (Koch Block), image by @sailingfanblues
First conceived in September 2014 in response to a tweet by Zachary Kaplan, Untitled (Koch Block) is a collaborative public artwork situated permanently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
It comprises an endless succession of volunteers who sit on the edges of the fountains in front of the museum in a manner that obscures the engraved name of the museum trustee, David Koch. The work includes the engravings on both fountains, and so is ideally performed by two or more individuals at any time. While a sitter’s personal items such as a stroller, wheelchair, shopping cart, or backpack might be placed in front of the engraving for extra-wide impact, no permanent alteration, damage, or obscuring of any kind should take place, and certainly not as part of this artwork.
Any one individual or group should feel free to sit and block public view of the name for as long as they wish, but all should be mindful of others who might also wish to participate. The Artist Is Present-style marathons are discouraged. Instead, try taking turns, coordinating, and/or making arrangements onsite to continue the work. Formalized schedules or shifts should also be avoided, even if this means the work is not persistently instantiated.
It’s true that awareness of the work could be facilitated by people posting photos on social media using a hashtag like #KochBlock. My concern, though, is that viral messaging might run counter to the essential nature of the work, which is to deplete the mindshare and social capital that typically accrue from such purportedly eleemosynary naming opportunities. Still, such efforts are obviously beyond my control, and if the 7 million visitors to the Met each year decide they all have to post #KochBlock selfies, well, we’ll re-evaluate.
The ideal state of the work is for the names to be permanently blocked from view through uncoordinated but widespread acculturation. At any moment in which a sitter finishes blocking and rises from her spot, another individual naturally and un-self-consciously takes her place. Some folks will undoubtedly make a point of visiting the fountains to participate. Some might make it a routine. People might come to recognize the faces of other regulars. Eventually, Koch blocking should become an ingrained behavior common to sharing civil, public space, as obvious and natural as dodging slow-moving tourists or jaywalking. [s/o @man for reminding me this needed to be formally auraticized.]
UPDATE: Just realized this is my third piece at the Met. Thanks for the support!
Well, after 4 years of occasional rumination, my eternally unsolvable mystery of people drawing frames around Old Master drawings has been flipped on its head. And now I wonder how any drawing could have survived the centuries undoodled.
Reader/artist/hero Peter Huestis pointed me to this full page from Giorgio Vasari’s Libro de Disegni (Book of Drawings), which is in the National Gallery.
As I mentioned last night, Vasari drew the architectural elements around the Getty’s newly acquired del Sarto when the sketch was part of the Libro. The book contained at least 536 drawings, collected by Vasari either as reference material or a supplement for his biographies of great artists, or as significant examples of art in their own right. Most are mounted on larger sheets and are surrounded by frames and plaques and architectural elements in ink and gouache.
Study for Vasari’s Botticelli, 2017- , 200x146cm, ink and gouache on oil on linen? inkjet on aluminum? I have no idea rn [image: nga.gov]
The NGA’s example is one of a very few intact pages: 10 drawings attributed to three artists, some trimmed to shape almost like paper dolls, and collaged into imagined spaces. Vasari places these sketches in the same privileged architectural contexts as paintings. Except the scale is so wild, the drawings become a startlingly contemporary genre of their own. Can you imagine Botticelli painting a 6-by-4 foot mauve head floating above two unmatched, disembodied hands? Hanging over a fireplace or, as he envisioned it here, above a ghostly parade of phantom limbs by Filippino Lippi? You’d have to print it [Or I would, anyway. Could you imagine making these marks at that scale?] Has no one created these installations before?
[Practical but somehow disheartening update: The existence of a Vasari X Botticelli colabo bib on Zazzle makes me think, the whole sheet’s just going to end up as a 3×2.5m vinyl photomural.]
Giorgio Vasari with drawings by Filippino Lippi, Botticelli, and Raffaellino del Garbo, Page from “Libro de’ Disegni” (1480-1504, mounted after 1524) [nga, thanks peter]
Libro de’ Disegni [fr.wikipedia.org]
Previously, related: A proposal for a Prina-style series of monochrome Dürer frame drawings (2013)
A proposal to re-create at scale the six or so historical installation situations of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa (2009)
When the Albertina’s Dürer show came to the National Gallery a few years ago, I got very interested in the way the drawings were framed. Inside their matting, each work on paper also featured an outline, one or two lines, drawn right on the sheet. Who did these and why, no one at the NGA could say. [UPDATE I HAVE BEEN FOUND OUT I DID NOT ASK THE CURATORS STAY TUNED] The accompanying catalogue had zero mentions, and reproductions all excluded these drawn frames. Photography was prohibited in the show, and the Albertina’s website images are worse than anything, so these marks made right on the face of these important artworks are treated as invisible or irrelevant.
[UPDATE: Oh hey, I found a bunch of photos I took anyway. Since the statute of limitations for not taking photos of 400-yo artworks is 3 years, and the rule of law is crumbling around us anyway, they’re after the jump.]
Obviously, drawings have been handled differently as art objects across the centuries. There’s probably at least one dissertation to be written about collectors and dealers and institutions marking up old drawings. Maybe it already has been, and just need to be unearthed.
Anyway, I thought of this practice when I saw William Poundstone’s report of the Getty Museum’s acquisition of a major collection of Old Master drawings. The haul includes a Michelangelo, and this Head of St. Joseph (1526-27) by Andrea del Sarto. Which is great, but check out the double-line frame drawn around it, the spandrels to hint at a round arch, and the nameplate added to the bottom.
When this drawing traveled to the Getty and Frick as part of a 2015-16 del Sarto show, the careful framing was attributed to none other than Giorgio Vasari, who had collected this work by his former teacher into Libro de’ Disegni, a drawings album. As Ingrid Rowland wrote:
In part because of his connection with Michelangelo, and in part because of his own ravenous curiosity, Giorgio Vasari was one of the first collectors to value drawings as legitimate works of art. He had taken to studying old master drawings as an aspiring artist, and when he gathered information about colleagues as an aspiring biographer for his Lives, he also sought out their drawings, binding them into a series of books. The books, unfortunately, have been lost, though isolated pieces survive.
So maybe there is something to be learned from these invisible framing devices after all.
The Getty’s Big Buy [lacmaonfire]
Sublime, Exhilarating del Sarto, review by Ingrid Rowland [nybooks]
Previously, related: Borderline
details of Albrecht Dürer St. Pauls by [l. to r.] Albrecht Dürer (1514), Johannes Wierix (c.1566), and Andrew Rafferty (2012), image: artinprint
My tabs are srsly a mess. I’ve had this 2012 Art in Print account of replicating Albrecht Dürer’s engraving plates in there for months, ever since seeing a copy of one of Dürer’s greatest prints, Melencolia I (1514). Conservator Angela Campbell and contemporary engraver Andrew Raftery were studying how Dürer made his plates and his prints, and how they changed over the life of an edition. Rafferty made a copy of St. Paul [above, right], and geeks out on the differences of wiping, crosshatching, and hammered vs. rolled copperplate. For her part, Campbell’s larger goal is to put the world’s existing impressions into chronological order by tracking changes in micro marks and surface scratches. Which, more power to them.
What redlines my geekmeter, though, is learning that of the 105 he made, there is only one Dürer plate left in existence. It is in Gotha, Germany, and it is a 1526 portrait of reformist theologian Philip Melancthon.
The Schloss Friedenstein Foundation was understandably excited to add a deep, high quality print taken from their plate. I wonder when the last impression was taken from this plate, and if the Stiftungvolk would ever entertain printing another one.
[Related: Woodblocks are more durable, and so more survive. The Met has two of five that Junius S. Morgan acquired, including: Samson Rending the Lion (1497-98), and The Martyrdom of St. Catherine (c. 1498), which, amusingly, is catalogued as “Black ink on pearwood”.]
Remaking Dürer: Investigating the Master Engravings by Masterful Engraving [artinprint.org]
Bild und Gegenbild [kulturestiftung.de]