Untitled (unnamed.jpg), 2019

unnamed.jpg, 930x1212px jpg displayed at 786x1024px, press release for David Hammons’ show at Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles, 18 May – 11 August 2019, via email

David Hammons is having a show. And the gallery, Hauser & Wirth in Los Angeles, sent out a press release. I marveled at it this morning, but it wasn’t until Powhida tweeted [d’oh, deleted!] about framing it that I realized it needed realizing.

The press release is a jpg titled, unnamed.jpg. It is 1212 x 930 pixels and 72px/inch resolution. In order to print it at that size, I converted it to a pdf 12.92 x 16.83 inches. I haven’t figured out quite how to print that yet, but it has only been a few minutes, so maybe chill or take care of it yourself? I’ll take a crack at it tomorrow.

untitled_unnamed_jpg.pdf (2019) [greg.org]

Where He Sat

Cy Twombly, Alessandro Twombly [via di Monserrato, Roma], 1965, 43.2 x 28 cm, ed. 5, image via artblart
In his biography Chalk, Joshua Rivkin includes a Cy Twombly story he heard in Lexington, Virginia, where the artist spent much of his later years:

One night the artist came over for dinner and after they sat together on the front porch of the house as lightning bugs flashed under a canopy of sycamores. The host’s small child, three or four years old, came out to the porch to say goodnight to all. The father gathered his son in his arms and took him upstairs, his bedroom just above the porch, and tucked him into bed. When he returned to his drink and their conversation, Twombly pointed up to the boy’s bedroom and said, of his own son, of Alessandro, “I don’t know where he slept.”

This anecdote came to mind when I saw this haunting 1965 photo of a young Alessandro, because at least Twombly knew where the kid sat.

Cy Twombly, Alessandro Twombly [via di Monserrato, Roma], 1965, 28.9 x 19.2 cm, ed. 6, photographed at the Centre Pompidou by Florence Briat Soulié
The photo, published at a date I can’t determine, in an apparent edition of five, was included in the Pompidou’s Twombly retrospective in 2016. Another, smaller version of the scene, which crops out the dark hallway entirely, was also included. It was apparently an edition of six. Florence Briat Soulié photographed it for her lyrical review of the exhibition. Alessandro has extricated his arm from the chairback, and has one leg up on the seat, but he maintains his gaze into the unlit hallway of the palazzo, where his father was snapping away.

Horst’s 1965 photo of Cy Twombly & Tatianna Franchetti’s bust of Nero and Gerhard Richter, Frau Marlow (1964)

The photos, and the setting, and the timing, immediately call to mind Horst P. Horst’s iconic Vogue photoshoot of la Famiglia Franchetti-Twombly. Except nothing so plain as that Thonet chair is to be found in Horst’s images. And neither is that fluted column. That bust of Nero, and the simple diamond patterned floor do appear, though, along with Twombly’s Richter leaning against a steel shelf.

Those locks, those umbrellas, it looks like the ingresso. But that floor and that doorway don’t match, and there’s no steps. And that bust sure moves around. And it looks slightly less like Trump in the light.

Horst’s 1965 photo of what appears to be Cy Twombly’s foyer, via mondo-blogo

I sat on these photos and this post for a couple of months, ngl, wondering if I wanted to deal with the possible blowback that might arise from the Fondazione Nicola del Roscio’s assertion of copyright over these and all of Twombly’s photos. Part of me wanted to just make a point by linking to them only on pinterest.

Buy Joshua Rivkin’s Chalk: The Art and Erasure of Cy Twombly from Amazon [amazon]
Previously, related:
Cy Twombly Rip
Cy Twombly’s Gerhard Richter

Make Me Two, Church

 

Frederick Ediwn Church, Drawing, Katahdin Lake, Maine, 12×20 in. or so, before 1878, collection: Cooper Hewitt Museum

Come for the sketch Frederick Edwin Church made of Mount Katahdin, but stay for the sketch Frederick Edwin Church made of Katahdin Lake.

When he tweeted it today, Tyler Green said that was one blue brushstroke, and the beach was one white one. Staring at the zoomed in jpg, I am not sure. The white could be one deftly twisted stroke, but the blue looks like it it probably a few. In any case, it is just beautiful, and not the kind of thing you [I] expect from Church.

Frederick Edwin Church, cut-out stencil of Mount Katahdin, 3×17 1/2 in. or so, c 1856-60, collection: Cooper Hewitt Museum

Inspired by Thoreau, Church made several trips to Katahdin between the 1850s and 1880. This sketch was likely painted before 1878, but after 1856-60, which is when Church made a stencil of Katahdin and the surrounding landscape as seen from across the lake. Because the mountain was outlined with the stencil.

The Cooper-Hewitt acquired over 500 paintings and 1500 drawings from Church’s son in 1917, including at least two made from the stencil, plus the stencil. Which is fantastic, but not as great as that lake or that beach.

Object of the Day: Cut Out Katahdin [cooperhewitt.org]
Church, Drawing, Katahdin Lake, Maine
Drawing, Cut-Out of Mount Katahdin, 1856-60

Previously, somewhat related:
Ellsworth Kelly postcards, especially the St. Marten Landscape
Roy Lichtenstein’s Prop For A Film

ELMDRAG X HUO X POWERLESS STRUCTURES

I was looking for information on an early Elmgreen & Dragset piece where they laid pristine, white carpet at the entrance to their gallery. But the only Google result was for an interview with Hans Ulrich Obrist for their 1998 “Powerless Structures” catalogue. It had been hosted on Nicolai Wallner’s website, but seems to have been taken down after 2016, when they stopped working with him. So I have reproduced it here, for Google’s sake.

The installation I had in mind was for Nuit Blanche 1998, at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la ville de Paris. I came for the quick debunking of J freaking R acting all, tant pis, his paper artwork unfurled across the entrance to the Louvre got trampled on, and I stayed for Michael’s story of meeting Felix Gonzalez-Torres and discussing the infiltrative power of Minimalism.

Anyway, it’s wild how not online that 1998 catalogue is. I may have to do a photocopy bootleg version a la Wade Guyton’s Avalanche.

Continue reading “ELMDRAG X HUO X POWERLESS STRUCTURES”

Better Read No. 028: KAWS

Takashi Murakami, Pharrell, Nigo, Kanye, and white guy at ©MURAKAMI at MOCA, img: greg.org via bbc, (now gone)

Before Tico Mugrabi, Emmanuel Perrotin, Per Skarstedt, and Francesco Bonami, there was Nigo. Nigo tagged KAWS. Nigo collabo’d with KAWS. Nigo collected KAWS. Nigo commissioned KAWS. And now Nigo has sold KAWS. Some of them. At a Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong named after himself.

These texts by Virgil Abloh and W. David Marx are from the print catalogue for the auction, NIGOLDENEYE®. [Nigo also started putting a registered trademark sign after his name.]

The texts seem relevant only because the main KAWS painting sold for $14.7 million, and because they articulate with unabashed uncriticality the ultimate ambition of art as a tool of capital.

But KAWS and NIGO® were just playing on the field marked out by Takashi Murakami and Marc Jacobs. Maybe if NIGO® had any Murakamis to hype this week, the ©MURAKAMI Vuitton show at MOCA would have been given its due.

Listen to or download Better Read No. 028: KAWS, 03 Apr 2019 [greg.org, 20:13, 9.7mb mp3]

NIGOLDENEYE®, Vol. 1, 01 April 2019 [sothebys.com]
Millennials in Hoodies Spend $28 Million on Simpsons-Themed Art [bloomberg]
Previously, related: An Incomplete History of the Gala-As-Art Movement

Destroyed Andy Warhol Fences

Warhol Museum’s 1997 re-creation of Miss Dior window display for Bonwit Teller, as seen in Adman: Warhol Before Pop, at Art Gallery NSW in 2017

Gene Moore was the creative director for Bonwit Teller, and then from 1955, after Bonwit’s owner Walter Hoving bought it, for Tiffany & Co. next door. Moore hired Andy Warhol, among others, to create window displays along Fifth Avenue. Moore’s book was quoted by warholstars.org:

[Warhol] never pretended a difference between what he did to survive and what he called his art. To his credit, I think it was all the same to him. He was a very busy young man. I used Warhol’s art in several of my perfume windows at Bonwit’s. In July 1955, just before my work began at Tiffany’s, I made some wooden fences, and he covered them with graffiti for a series of windows. They were fun, full of a childish playfulness.”

re-fabricated Warhol perfume fence for Bonwit Teller, also from Adman at Art Gallery NSW

I haven’t given two thoughts to those Warhol Fences in 20+ years, since seeing one at a Warhol fashion flotsam show at the Whitney. Which turned out to be a refabrication cooked up by Warhol Museum director Mark Francis? And which turned up again, alongside another one, in Adman, a 2017-18 show of Warhol’s commercial work.

Bonwit’s loves Mistigri, a Warhol window display from Jun 1955, photographed by Virginia Roehl, from the Dan Arje collection at The New School

Which, now I am actually kind of interested in bringing back destroyed artworks. And in Gene Moore and his artist colabos. And in the amazing vintage photos a reader just sent me of several more of Warhol’s window display perfume fences, which are awesome?

lmao Arpège feels like such a grandma fragrance, so perfect. image: Virginia Roehl in the Dan Arje papers at The New School

I can’t find it now, but someone, either Moore, or Dan Arje, the Bonwit’s assistant art director whose archive is now at the New School, said how easy it was to work on windows with Warhol. He never froze, never panicked, never stalled, but got right to work and cranked out that art. And these fences show it. They feel instant, sprung fully formed from the artist’s head–and pen–like a Keith Haring glowing baby.

Ma Griffe Birds, 1955 image by Viriginia Roehl for Bonwit Teller’s Dan Arje, via The New School

Which isn’t the same as improvised or conceived on the spot. Installation views of the Adman show include sketches for the Miss Dior fence, so a lot of it was clearly worked out in advance. Credibly repeating one of these wall-sized drawings seems like it would be very hard. But I want to see those birds so bad I can taste it.

Bonwit’s Loves Ma Griffe [birds] [newschool.edu]
Bonwit’s Loves Mistigri [cats]
Bonwit’s Summer Sorcery…Ma Griffe [boats]
Bonwit’s summer sorcery… Arpège by Lanvin

Previously, very much related: The Tiffany’s Windows of Matson Jones

Felix Gonzalez-Torres Hot Tub

Felix Gonzales-Torres, “Untitled”, 1992-95, Carrara marble, water, fabricated 2007, installed at Glenstone [Ellsworth Kelly photobomb]. image: Carolina Miranda/LATimes
The Raleses bought Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ “Untitled”, which was made for the 2007 Venice Biennale. It was based on an unrealized sketch the artist made while considering a public art commission. I believe it was for a university. The posthumous thing bothered me at the time, and Nancy Spector and I went around a bit on it, but I decided to roll with it, and it turns out to be fine. Art world shenanigan-wise, it could have been much, much worse.

It was a rainy autumn evening when I first saw it reinstalled at Glenstone. The shallow pools of water on the surface of the concave discs of white Carrara  marble splashed and glistened with rain.

Randy Kennedy reported on the pools’ unveiling in front of the US Pavilion:

“They’re beautiful, and I think people will probably throw coins in them, or might actually get into them if it’s hot,” Ms. Spector said, smiling. “I wouldn’t mind.”

Andrea Rosen, the dealer who represented Mr. Gonzalez-Torres from 1990 until his death and who now oversees his estate, said she did not think he would mind either. He would probably jump in himself.

I did not back then, nor in the two visits since the new building opened, ever once get the sense that the Raleses would be chill with people frolicking in their Felix pools. But the fact that they have custom-fitted hot tub covers does make me wonder if the amount of frolicking is not actually zero.

Felix Gonzalez-Torres “Untitled” is under there.

Walter De Maria Said What Now?

I cannot even with this caption on this photo of Walter De Maria’s 1969 work, Good Fuck, at Cornell. image: Ithaca Journal via grupaok

Some day I will learn to visit grupa o.k. more frequently in order to better time my awe to their discoveries, but that day is not yet. And so I just saw their January post of Walter de Maria’s contribution to Willoughby Sharp’s foundational exhibition Earth Art, staged in 1969 at Cornell’s White Museum.

Here is how that piece went down, and the Ithaca Journal’s image of it, as told by Amanda Dalla Villa Adams in a 2015 essay on De Maria’s sound works at the Archives of American Art. Did I mention the title of the piece yet?

When Sharp asked De Maria to participate in the show, the artist wrote back a letter outlining his project. Proposing to exhibit a mattress and an audiotape of crickets in the room (presumably Cricket Music), Sharp promptly rejected the work, stating, “in no uncertain words that each artist in the show had to touch dirt.” In the wake of Sharp’s decision, an alternative proposal was submitted according to the curator’s requirements. Sharp later described De Maria’s installation of the accepted work:

[De Maria flew in and during the opening—and there were hundreds of people going through the museum—he had the cartons of earth emptied into the center of the floor, and then he got his only tool, which was a push broom, with bristles and a long handle, and he pushed the earth into a carpet that was about two inches high. And when that was done to his satisfaction—he did it very meticulously—he took the broom and turned it so that the end of the broom handle became a marker and very slowly, across this tablet of earth, he wrote G-O-O-D, and then F-U-C-K…As soon as Tom Leavitt (then director of the Andrew Dickson White Museum of Art at Cornell University) saw that, and realized that there were kids at the opening as well as the president of Cornell, they cordoned off the room, put up Sheetrock, and the next day the piece was swept up and dispersed.]

This long retelling of Sharp’s story is important for reassessing De Maria’s earth-based projects and reinserting the foundation of sound to his overall career. According to Sharp, the earth carpet was Plan B; dirt became essential because of curatorial limitation. More akin to his much earlier ironic game pieces, such as Boxes for Meaningless Work (1961), where the viewer is constantly reminded that what he or she is doing is meaningless, Good Fuck is an irreverent jab at the art community.

The title itself is a gimme, obv, but it’s the idea of dirt as De Maria’s Plan B and curatorial imperative that sticks with me. Also as Adams’ footnotes point out, Sharp’s timeline doesn’t quite compute. In her 2013 review of MOCA’s Land Art show, Suzaan Boettger notes that De Maria’s piece stayed on view for several days, but when the university came after it, he and MIchael Heizer both pulled their works in protest. [Boettger brings it up because they both refused to participate, officially, in the MOCA show, too, thus sucking up all the attention by their absence.]

UPDATE: Is there any discussion of earth art that cannot be improved by a little digging? [I am so sorry.]

After thanking me for the mention, Suzaan Boettger pointed out that in fact, she discovered Good Fuck, and Heizer’s work at Cornell, Depression, in the course of researching her 2002 book, Earthworks: Art and the Landscape of the Sixties [UC Press]. As soon as I saw the cover in my shopping cart, I recognized Boettger’s book, but I am pretty sure I had not read it, because I would have remembered this:

De Maria had arrived at the museum during the opening and, while visitors watched from behind the closed glass doors of the gallery assigned to him, raked the earth that student assistants had provided into a smooth shallow rectangle. He then used the tip of the rake handle to inscribe in capitals on a diagonal across this earthen rug’s surface the words GOOD FUCK. Considering the earth is traditionally coded female, this recalls the archaic practice by a male farmer of copulating with a virgin on a newly furrowed field to insure its fertility. [p.165]

Well. we will never see wall-to-wall carpet of Earth Room or the rows of poles piercing the Lightning Field the same way again, will we?

Boettger’s version also has the work on view for at least “a few days” before White Museum director Thomas Leavitt told the artist he would close the work off in advance of an elementary school group visit. De Maria and Heizer pulled out, so to speak, together.

There should probably be a limit on the number of curatorial WTFs in a single post, but the fact that neither artist nor their work were mentioned in the exhibition catalogue, and that Heizer’s participation in a related symposium was edited out of the published version  of it, seems like pure institutional malpractice. Boettger found documentation of the works, her footnotes reveal, in a Cornell archive separate from the museum’s own exhibition archives. And Sharp’s account only came out years later. It really should not have taken until 2002 for information on these artists and their works to surface.

On the bright side, Heizer’s withdrawal of his work seems to have been a major pain in the ass for Cornell; the dirt excavated from his 8-ft deep, 75-ft long trench had been repurposed for other artists’ works, so it couldn’t be swept away so easily. But by then, all the critics and VIPs had been flown back to Manhattan on Cornell’s private plane. #junkets

“Draw a Straight Line and Follow It (Repeat): Walter De Maria’s Cricket Music and Ocean Music, 1964–1968 [aaa.si.edu, 2015]
This Land is Their Land [caa journal, 2013]

The Mondrian Room Collection

 

Piet Mondrian, Colour Design for the Salon of Ida Bienert, 1926, image via e-flux for albertinum

As soon as the e-flux header gif started flashing I knew what Heimo Zobernig was up to in Dresden:

In the Albertinum he is presenting a selection of recent paintings from this series as well as a new spatial installation in the atrium. The basis for this work consists of design drawings produced by Piet Mondrian in 1926 for a room in the home of the Dresden art collector Ida Bienert, which are on view in the exhibition entitled “Visionary Spaces” in the Albertinum. Whereas Mondrian’s design was never actually implemented, Zobernig’s installation in the original dimensions of that room can be entered and experienced as a cubic sculpture.

Yes, but what? Never realized? Never realized in Frau Bienert’s Haus, maybe.

In 1970, Pace Gallery produced a full-scale version what was then known as Salon for Madame B. based on the sketch above, which they purchased from Mondrian’s friend and heir Harry Holtzman. The room was constructed in spectroscopically color-matched Formica by the American Cyanamid Corporation, which simultaneously launched “The Mondrian Collection” of Formica. After its commercial debut in New York, Mondrian’s Formica Room traveled to Chicago, where it went on view at the Art Institute.

1970 photo of Piet Mondrian’s Salon for Madame B., as realized by Pace Gallery and the Formica Corporation

Six years ago I found a vintage photo of Mondrian’s Room, and I tried tracking it down, to see if it still existed. Pace was singularly unhelpful with even the most basic information, so I dropped it. But it has be out there somewhere; Formica is plastic, and we know how long that sticks around. In the mean time, there’s a new version in Dresden, so project usurped, if not mystery solved.

installation view of Heimo Zobernig’s Piet Mondrian: a spatial appropriation, 2019, at the Albertinum in Dresden, image: @mariahuberpod

Heimo Zobernig: Piet Mondrian, a spatial appropritation, Mar 2 – Jun 2 2019 [albertinum.skd.museum]
@mariahuberpod’s are about the first images of the room to appear on IG [instagram]
Related: Mondrian’s View With A Room, NYT May 10, 1970 [nyt]

Better Read, No. 027: Jenny Holzer’s Arno, As Grammed By Helmut Lang

Jenny Holzer projection for the Biennale di Firenze, 1996, photo: Attilio Maranzano via jennyholzer.com

Jenny Holzer made her first xenon projection in 1996 as part of a collaboration with Helmut Lang for the Biennale di Firenze. As Lang would describe it, the text, Arno, was projected from a canoe club across the river onto the facade of a brothel. [The 19th/20th c. Palazzo Bargagli held the offices of Corierre della Serra, at least. That’s all I’ve found.]

In 1998 Jenny Holzer told Joan Simon that the text for Arno originated in a music video for Red, Hot + Dance, which was a 1992 AIDS/HIV fundraiser concert/album. Mark Pellington, the MTV producer/director she mentioned, had done an MTV segment on Holzer, but he was also involved in producing U2’s ZOO TV, which had a video wall full of Truism-like texts that kind of pissed Holzer off. Anyway, there are no Arno-esque texts in the Red, Hot video.

“The texts involve all the reasons to be naked or clothed — from sex to humiliation and murder,” said co-curator Ingrid Sischy to Amy Spindler. The Florence projection only ran for a few days in September, during the opening of the Biennale–and Pitti–but the text remained as LED columns in a Lucky Charms marshmallowy pavilion by Arata Isozaki, which was also where visitors could experience the fragrance Lang and Holzer developed together, that smelled, as they said often, like cigarettes, starch, and sperm.

Arata Isozaki pavilions at the Forte Belvedere, Biennale di Firenze, 1996, image: gabbelini sheppard

[The six other pairings of artists & designers were: Tony Cragg & Karl Lagerfeld (lmao); Roy Lichtenstein & Gianni Versace; Julian Schnabel & Azzedine Alaia (which wut?); Mario Merz & Jil Sander (which, same, wtf); Oliver Herring & Rei Kawakubo (hmm); and Damien Hirst & Miuccia Prada (chef kissing fingers emoji).]

Holzer adapted the Arno text again for her 1998 nine-LED column permanent installation at the Guggenheim Bilbao. Catalan excerpts of it are also engraved in two large benches there now.

As we all know by now, a scrolling LED is a helluva way to take in a text, so it was interesting when Helmut Lang posted an image of the complete [English] text for Holzer’s Arno to Instagram last night. It turns out embedding it in a stream of emoji-filled comments read by a computer is also a helluva way to take in a text, but here we are.

On Shaker Gift Drawings

Semantha Fairbanks & Mary Wicks, A Sacred Sheet Sent from Holy Mother Wisdom by Her Angel of Many Signs, c. 1843, collection: NGA

I can only be grateful to Léonie Guyer for writing about her transformative encounter with Shaker gift drawings, even though she’s been sleeping on this info for twenty two years.

Shaker gift drawing exhibited in Heavenly Visions, Nov 2011, The Drawing Center

It’s not her fault The Drawing Center held its exhibition of Shaker gift drawings and gift songs in November 2011–wasn’t everyone downtown a bit preoccupied?

Shaker gift drawing attributed to Sister Sarah Bates, Mount Lebanon, NY, collection: Philadelphia Museum of Art

And there are enough conflicting, self-serving accounts of its creation that it’s understandable, I guess, if it’s not yet universally recognized graphic design history that the CBS logo came from a detail of a Shaker gift drawing, an all-seeing eye spotted in 1950 by William Golden in Alexey Brodovich’s  magazine.

Anonymous tantric painting, c. 1970, “Energy traveling through, and regulating the colors of the world”; Udaïpur, Rajasthan, image via archive/featureinc

Shaker furniture, via Sheeler, was my bridge from American antiques to modernism. I practice a religion founded in the same mid-19th century hothouse of spiritualism that had Shaker “instruments” seeing visions and dreams and visitations and translating them to “makers,” who drew them on paper. I made my Father Couturier pilgrimages early at Dominique de Menil’s urging at the Rothko Chapel. I swooned over Hudson’s tantric paintings [which were meditative objects, not products, but still]. I MEAN, HILMA AF KLINT, PEOPLE.

And I still can’t help feel that the world has somehow conspired to keep me from ever hearing about Shaker gift drawings. And I am shook.

In The Place Just RIght [openspace.sfmoma.org]

Cy Twombly Rip

Cy Twombly, Fifty Days at Iliam: Achaeans in Battle, 1978, collection: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 200px jpg displayed 800px wide.

Two weeks ago on the 378th episode of Modern Art Notes Podcast, Tyler Green discussed Cy Twombly: 50 Days at Iliam, a monograph published by Yale University Press and the Philadelphia Museum, which has the 10-painting series permanently installed in its own gallery. Green’s guest was Richard Fletcher, a classics professor and one of six contributors to the book, alongside PMA curator Carlos Basualdo and Nicola Del Roscio, who heads the Cy Twombly Foundation.

I’d anticipated an episode on Twombly, because Green had recently tweeted about the extremely small and useless images of Twombly’s paintings on the Philadelphia Museum’s website, which, word. I promptly tweeted back an unhelpful joke, by upsizing the jpeg of one of the paintings, Achaeans in Battle, into a uselessly pixelated mess [above].

This is something that has occupied my mind and work for more than ten years, when I first turned a tiny jpeg of a Richard Prince Cowboy photo into my own work as a critique of MoMA/Gagosian/Prince’s refusal to provide images for an exhibition review at Slate. A related concept was articulated a little later by Hito Steyerl as the “poor image,” a low-res image optimized for networked circulation by being stripped of information. A crappy, digital simulacrum of an original [sic], complete [sic], physical and visual experience with an artwork.

Not knowing about the Iliam book, I assumed Tyler was going to be talking to Joshua Rivkin, who has a new biography of Twombly called Chalk: The Art and Erasure of Cy Twombly, which I’d recently finished. Rivkin’s book is a labor of love and pilgrimage; inspired by his regular presence in front of Twomblys at the Menil as a teacher and guide, the book documents his attempts to gain insights into Twombly’s life and work from the places he lived and worked: Rome, Gaeta, and Lexington. What Rivkin finds is the thwarting presence of Del Roscio, who disapproves of the biography project, silences sources, and denies Rivkin access to Twombly’s archive, as well as use of his images.

But no, it was Iliam. Green talked with Fletcher about details of Twombly’s marks and texts; his use of a Greek delta instead of an A to write Achilles and the Achaeans; the symbological vocabulary of the series’ colors; what’s going on with all those phalluses; and Twombly’s relationship to his literary source, Alexander Pope’s translation of the Iliad. [Fletcher also discussed a discovery he’d made, of a different source for some of Twombly’s texts. It’s hot, academic stuff.]

I mention all this scholarly and critical detail because of the sheer bafflement at learning, a few days after the episode was released, that the Twombly Foundation had sent Green a cease & desist letter demanding that images of the Iliam paintings be removed from the MAN Podcast webpage. Those would be the images of the 50 Days at Iliam works whose details were being studied and discussed. By an author of the book. Published by the museum and Yale. It’s an extremely impoverished attempt to exert control over consideration and discussion of Twombly’s work by an extremely interested party, using an extremely wealthy foundation. That it is being done in the name of one of the most important and formative artists in my own life is extremely disappointing.

As soon as I saw Green’s tweet about the C&D, and his removal of the Iliam images, I looked for it on Internet Archive. No luck. But I ripped a screenshot of the page from Google’s cache. In a couple of days, it had been replaced by the stripped down version. So except for anything Green might have archived himself, I think this screenshot is the only record of the original page. I printed it as Untitled (Foundation), an artist book in an edition of 10. The widest printer I could find was 36 inches, so it came out 3 inches wide and barely legible. The images are smaller than even the Philadelphia Museum’s website.

I am sending this artwork to people who appreciate the importance of fair use to progress of Science and the useful Arts; to the freedom of the press and expression; to the transformational creation of new art; and to the accountability to the public good that is expected of tax-exempt foundations and those who control and benefit from them.

Continue reading “Cy Twombly Rip”

On Sam Gilliam For Art In America

I’m slow to realize I’ve only been hyping this on Twitter, but I’m psyched that my essay on Sam Gilliam and his decades-long investigations of abstraction is out now in Art in America magazine.

When the editors asked me all the way back in June, the assignment was to interview the artist in his studio, a regular feature of the magazine. Gilliam had just opened a retrospective in Basel, and was working on a show in LA in the fall. When that show got pushed back, the interview request process got drawn out, and finally, I ended up going to Gilliam’s studio to talk about interviewing him, but very purposefully not interviewing.

He was a gracious and fascinating guy in the middle of a great deal of activity, and we figured it would be best to talk more at length after the show got pinned down. And then the show preparations intensified, and my deadline loomed, and I ended up writing a full-on essay rather than interviewing Gilliam. Which was the culmination of a months-long journey through his work, his career, and his life, digging through archives and clippings files and hours of earlier interview recordings.

My takeaway is utter respect for Gilliam’s work and his practice, which evinces the kind of fierce independence required to sustain six-plus decades of experimentation, only some of which happened in the spotlight of the mainstream art world. I find myself rewriting the essay right now, so just go ahead and read it; I left it all on the page.

Color in Landscape [artinamericamagazine]

Hommage à Caïssa

Marcel Duchamp, Hommage à Caïssa, 48 x 48cm, wood and printed vinyl, or what the Israel Museum calls “artificial leather,” image:sothebys

For a guy who’d supposedly gave up making art to play chess, Marcel Duchamp made an awful lot of art. Maybe making a readymade edition of a chessboard for a chess-themed fundaiser group show somehow didn’t count. It definitely sounds like it didn’t sell.

Asked in 1965 to help raise money for the American Chess Foundation, Duchamp organized “Hommage à Caïssa,” after the fictional patron wood nymph of chess, which opened at the Cordier & Eckstrom Gallery in New York in February 1966. [A year earlier, Cordier & Eckstrom had staged the largest Duchamp exhibition to date, a 90-object show, most from a single collection, that toured 16 cities in four countries over four years.]

“More than any other artist of his generation,” Francis Naumann wrote, “Duchamp was aware that his signature carried the magical power to transform an object of relatively little value into a work of art.” He was constantly dodging or finessing people at openings who approached him with things to sign–including the non-deluxe editions of his exhibition catalogues. For the chess show, Duchamp created a readymade chessboard in an edition of 30. I’ve seen it called just Chessboard, but mostly it’s titled Hommage à Caïssa, which is what Duchamp wrote on the frame.

On the frame of at least one. Though an edition of 30 was designated, Arturo Schwarz says “fewer than 10” were actually issued. Only two turn up online: one, 3/30, was Schwarz’s, and it went to the Israel Museum. The other is 2/30, which has a dedication to Maria. Could that be Maria Martins, Duchamp’s mistress, and the body model for Étant donnés? Who else would get a lower edition number than the artist’s most important dealer?

Anyway, it’s coming to auction for the second time in a decade. Presumably there was a 1/30, too, and 3 is less than 10, so Schwarz isn’t wrong. But either way, it doesn’t sound like Duchamp’s magical powers to transform  chessboards into art transformed any into money. For Chess. But if two dealer flips in seven years can take this piece from EUR 42,000 to EUR 200,000, I guess we’ll know where the real magic lies.

26 Feb 2019, Lot 47, Marcel Duchamp, Hommage à Caïssa, est. 180-250,000 GBP [sothebys]

Previously, kind of related:
Chip of Fools, or How Many Fountains Are There? And Another One. And Another One. And