I have not clicked on the video in the Shell Loyalty Lab ad that is appearing at the moment on my twitter feed. So I cannot say for certain whether the mirror-finished truncated cube structure perched on pylons in an ostentatiously “undisclosed location” is by Doug Aitken, was curated by Desert X, or is in Saudi Arabia.
But the aesthetic and conceptual and spectacularizing fact pattern that makes any or all of these things possible, if not downright plausible, in some combination, should give everyone involved in those ventures pause. If I was making work that quickly co-opted by the fossil fuel companies destroying our planet, would I cash the check in the name of critical engagement? is another question I don’t have a lot of confidence in the answer to.
Of course, the same thing could be said, and has been, about Desert X Al Ula, and the entire tranche of advisers, dealers, and museum directors involved in the KSA’s artwashing and cultural complicity, and yet it persists.
The best case scenario, of course, is that this is all a reference to the monolith, and will thus soon disappear from our consciousness. A worse case is that the monolith was some kind of prequel sponcon, which got temporarily hijacked by its own virality, and Shell’s campaign is now back on track. I guess if there’s a Shell Loyalty Lab at Burning Man, we’ll have our answer.
Oh wait, but it was Bjarke Ingels who took the mirrored monument to Black Rock City in 2018. Now it all makes sense, unfortunately. I will prepare my apologies to Mr. Aitken, just in case.
I absolutely love this tiny Cy Twombly painting from 1957, which is being sold from the collection of Margo Leavin, iconic LA gallerist.
Leavin’s label says it’s oil on canvas, but it does seem to be on a panel. The scrawl on the back, declaring this to be an “Opera authentico/ di Cy Twombly/ esposti alla Tartaruga/ (nell 1956-1957)/ Césare Vivaldi” by Twombly’s Roman dealer, is almost as perfect as Twombly’s marks on the front.
1957 was the year Twombly moved to Rome. The possibly early date makes this feel like something he brought with him. Or did he make it there? Was it a gift to his new dealer?,
From Galeria la Tartaruga, the provenance shifts to a couple of galleries in Milan, then London, where it was included in a group show at the Royal College of Art in early 1974. By late 1974, it was in Los Angeles, where Leavin showed it in a Small Paintings show. And there it apparently stayed, until now, where it is poised to possibly enter non-trade hands for the first time. If you’re buying it for me, please dm for shipping details. Or if it’s more convenient, I’ll gladly come to you to pick it up.
UPDATE: OK, since it sold for $819,000, I will definitely include a Facsimile Object and Certificate of Authenticity in the trade for this little Twombly. HMU.
I remember the experience of walking into Matthew Marks and seeing one stunning work: the 1957 Sculpture for a Large Wall, which Marks had basically rescued from the Philadelphia Transit Building for which it had been commissioned. (The Lauders bought it for MoMA in 1998.) Anyway, now there will be another, though it seems like this time, seeing won’t be enough.
Red Floor Panel (1992) is one of five floor paintings Kelly made, beginning in 1990. [Glenstone got the first, but how can this not be the best?] It is being shown for the first time since its original appearance at the Westfälischer Kunstverein in Münster.
How does this object exist? And how is it possible that each of these pictures is of the same object? I mean, it’s at once the most obvious and confounding thing. [update: I’ve learned the answer to the first question, and it will astound you. It did me.]
Anne Truitt’s 1962 sculpture Catawba got its name from a street in North Carolina where she had appendicitis as a child. For Truitt color and form was connected to experience, to the evocation of a memory or a place.
For me, this absolute unit of an azalea bush I passed on a road I don’t take very often reminded me of Catawba.
It’s been a minute since I’ve gone deep into Dan Flavin’s work, but a tweet exchange with Joshua Caleb Weibley the other day really got me thinking. Joshua mentioned seeing crates of Flavin replacement bulbs during a museum install, and how visitors to the Guggenheim would accidentally break the fluorescent light bulbs with shocking regularity.
I’ve never seen that–and without inciting it, would low-key kind of like to, to be quite honest. The issue of constant replacement was acutely felt, because, as Joshua had pointed out, Flavin’s signature medium, fluorescent lights in various colors in union-made, commercial grade fixtures, had become obsolete, and the studio/estate had decided it needed to be propped up with their own hand-formulated replacements.
Which made me think of a Flavin that had been turned off. Or actually, a Flavin that had burned out. That’s it, that’s the piece. The history, the legacy, the ephemerality, the [absence of] light.
In another timeline, it’s happened: Flavin insisted that when the lights went out of production, that was it. People turned the pink ones off first, to make them last the longest. They’d crowd galleries on the special day when they got turned on. Flavin Day. Over the years they went out and were mourned as lost icons of their time, like demolished Paul Rudolph houses. People began to appreciate them as relics, not environments. Everyone contemplating them became Buddhists. Or Quakers. They became sites of meditation, where people manifested the light. Can you see it?
After a few decades, instead of half a dozen virtual Van Gogh shows, tourists flocked to Flavin Experiences, where simulations of his work alight were projection mapped onto the walls and floor. Critics complained, of course, about the physical difference between projected light and emanating light, and maybe a joker made some facsimile objects to simulate the lost fluorescent effect through tubes stuffed with LEDs.
And then there’s the rarity. It occurred to me how hard it might be to make a Flavin out of burned out lights. Properly burned out lights, not just turned off or disabled. How long might it take? When the qualities of desirability and dismissal are inverted, it really does change a lot. [Flavin’s work already has similar dichotomies built into it, though: in our timeline, there’s an existential link between the glowing, manufactured fixture/object and the mundane hand-drawn certificate. Both are required to comprise the work.]
But it did remind me of a visit to MoMA once where I saw, not only a crate of Flavin replacement bulbs, but another crate–of Flavin replaced bulbs. They kept the burned out bulbs. MoMA has five Flavin sculptures [and twelve diagram/drawings of sculptures, including one straight-up certificate that’s registered as a separate object, but that’s another blog post.] They’ve had Flavins since at least 1969. Just think of all the burned out bulbs they’ve accumulated. If other institutions do the same, then maybe rarity is not really a factor, so much as access, rarity by another name.
Though a couple we included in his Guggenheim retrospective in 1996, most of Kelly’s 400 or so postcards made between 1949 and 2005 have never been shown or published. Each venue will show a distinct selection of 150 of the works, and the catalogue reproduces 216 postcards at full scale. It is a veritable facsimile object blockbuster–but I still want to see the real things in person.
Some might say this warrior president Golden Roommise-en-scène feels like a very special Continental episode of Black Mirror come to life. Me, I say, that’s no black mirror: it’s a Proposte Monocrome Macron! Srsly, though, the Struth fan who took this photo deserves a Légion d’Honneur.
UPDATE WTF: I just zoomed in to make myself an Ellsworth Kelly-style rhomboid crop, and it appears that is not a flatscsreen TV with a reflective image on it at all, but an image? Non, but it is a picture. It is a Soulages.
Artist Jamie Eisenstein posted this image from Home Depot on her instagram a minute ago. She doesn’t say how she found it, but she did mention that she burned a few more hours looking –without success– for more.
Why this 1988 Guerrilla Girls poster turned up in a product shot is a mystery. All it’d take, though, is one woman artist doing styling or shooting non-garage furniture for a hardware megastore as one or two of her 4 free-lance jobs.
It’s been a year since the 2.1 day appearance of a never-before-exhibited Manet painting at a far-away auction house during a pandemic set me down a facsimile object path. In that time I made around 25 FOs, give or take. For the ones that went public, I made certificates of authenticity that involved techniques and materials directly associated with art objects–not that high-res photoreproduction on metal panel is not, of course. But I liked the combination of two objects that looked like artworks while purporting to be different, in different ways.
Facsimile Objects are very much of their specific time and circumstances. They were conceptualized as proxies for artworks you couldn’t see for a moment. I imagine them–I experience them myself–as approximating a physical experience with the artwork they depict, a different, kinaesthetic mode of reproduction. In this, they relate to the Destroyed works I’ve made, which re-create as best they can a physical engagement with a lost artwork. They all call to question or throw into relief the default assumptions of how we consume and experience art on a page or screen.
But by being inexpensive and rapidly produced, the Facsimile Objects also engender a sense of shared experience. The idea was to create a distributed community communing with their identical FOs, as if in the same gallery, or at least in front of the same artwork. What could these multiple, discrete, small-scale, shared engagements with art in a pandemic be? I wondered. Obviously it could only be an approximation of IRL, and on those terms, it’s doomed to fail, but I still wanted to see what it was on its own. And so, it turned out, did many others.
“The spectacle is capital accumulated to the point that it becomes images,” Guy Debord tweeted in 1967.
And when @wasathatawolf tweeted, “I can’t shake the thought that NFTs are the truest manifestation of the spectacle,” yesterday,
Debord Ape Yacht Club was minted in my brain.
And so now here we are, at the intersection of détournement and commodification, selling t-shirts.
This exclusive one-of-one Debord Ape will be silkscreened in grayscale on a white Hanes Authentic [of course] T-shirt in 100% cotton. Because of the multiple screens required to mint this, and because I still just lost money on the last supposedly breakeven shirt stunt, this shirt is $25, shipped worldwide.
Debord Ape will be available til the end of Febrary [Monday2/28]. If fewer than 15 people order, I will burn the project, refund the enlightened dozen or whatever people’s money, and console them with some kind of tasty swag. The ape will live on as a jpg, free for right clicking. [Next day update: Everyone should feel free to right-click if they want, but the mob has spoken, and project will go ahead!]
So if you’re looking for a way to expose the spectacle’s alienating financialization while mirroring capitalist recuperation through détournement and self-critical commodification, hopefully, you order your Debord Ape T-shirt while you could.
Thank you all for your engagement.
UPDATE: Meanwhile, Geraldine Juárez, who’s been really smart in her analysis of NFTs for a while already, and who also made the Debord connection almost a year ago, just tweeted about an even deeper Debord/Apes connection. From a 1957 column fragging Alain Robbe-Grillet’s timid clinging to the present, Debord declares for the revolutionary power of ape art:
Last June witnessed a scandal when a film I had made in 1952 [Hurlements en faveur de Sade] was screened in London. It was not a hoax and still less a Situationist achievement, but one that depended on complex literary motivations of that time (works on the cinema of Isou, Marco, Wolman), and thus fully participated in the phase of decay, precisely in its most extreme form, without even having — except for a few programmatic allusions — the wish for positive developments that characterized the works to which I have alluded. Afterward, the same London audience (Institute of Contemporary Arts) was treated to some paintings executed by chimpanzees, which bear comparison with respectable action painting. This proximity seems to me instructive. Passive consumers of culture (one can well understand why we count on the possibility of active participation in a world in which “aesthetes” will be forgotten) can love any manifestation of decomposition (they would be right in the sense that these manifestations are precisely those that best express their period of crisis and decline, but one can see that they prefer those that slightly disguise this state). I believe that in another five or six years they will come to love my film and the paintings of apes, just as they already love Robbe-Grillet. The only real difference between the paintings of apes and my complete cinematographic work to date is its possible threatening meaning for the culture around us, namely, a wager on certain formations of the future.
[Meanwhile, Juárez’s original quote that referenced this was not from Debord directly, but from Esther Leslie’s 2004 book Hollywood Flatlands: Animation, Critical Theory, and the Avant Garde. Credit where it’s due, thanks Geraldine!]
I went to the Philadelphia Museum today to see the Jasper Johns exhibition before it closes. There’s a lot to like, and a few things to love. The absolute winner for me was a little painting, rarely shown, which Johns has kept for himself since making it in 1959. Small Numbers In Color is extraordinary, one of two superlative works in the gallery devoted to Johns’ use of numbers.
It’s small, around 10 x 7 inches, and painted in encaustic on wood. The catalogue raisonné (P74, btw) says the wood is “the reverse side of a printer’s block with metal type.” [Which, a block would have cast metal affixed in a permanent way. A case would hold the sorted metal type, and a frame would hold type that has been set. Even though the metal type is not listed as part of the work, it does make me wonder what it says. Or looks like.]
None of that is evident from looking at the front; all you see is a tiny riot of color with an over-all grid, and then, the shapes of individual numbers coalescing into a whole. It looks to me like it replicates the basic color composition of Numbers In Color, a large (67 x 49.5 in.) painting from 1958-59 which went into the Albright Knox Museum collection soon after it was completed. Given the CR chronology (P58 vs P74), Small Numbers is presumably a documentation, or a memorialization, of Numbers, maybe made before the large painting shipped off to Buffalo. [In Roberta Bernstein’s 1975 dissertation that was the first published catalogue of all Johns’ paintings & sculpture to that point, Numbers in Color comes first in the 1959 works list, and Small Numbers comes almost at the end.] Who knows? There is almost no discussion of the work online. Actually, Johns Friend Craig Starr might know; the last time it was exhibited publicly was at the inaugural show of his gallery, in 2004.
The other standout from the same gallery is even smaller. Figure 3 (P84), from 1960, is Johns’ only double-sided painting. The 9×6 painting is framed so that both sides are visible. The verso is an approximation of the front, reversed, as if it were painted on a transparent ground, not canvas. The precise-enough brushstrokes of the back make their simulating point in the same way Small Numbers echoes Numbers.
Which is interesting, but is only a part of the fascinating intimacy of the very small artworks Johns created (creates?). The Whitney had a whole gallery of them, miniature examples of some of Johns’ most relevant motifs. In addition to the tiny silk flag encased in wax Johns made for Merce Cunningham, barely the size of a credit card, my favorite was the 3-inch encaustic Figure 2 (1959) made for Astrid and David Myers to celebrate the birth of their second child.
Besides the major concerns of Johns’ practice, these instantly recognizable works come with bonus content–like 2 for the second–and bonus context, marking the artist’s social network, his community of supporters and interlocutors. [Philadelphia has a vitrine filled with small artworks he received as gifts from Japanese contemporary artists he met while visiting in 1964. The so-called “hermit of Sharon” in fact trades art with his colleagues, and makes art for his friends.
Part of the appeal of these works is that they exist outside the market–or at least they were created and first exchanged that way. Their miniature size is still determined by the market, though; even by the end of 1958, it would feel a bit much for someone to give a full-scale, “real” [sic] artwork, one that could be seen as having “real” market value. [Or worse, one that doesn’t, in which case, you’re assuming and asking a lot if you give a whole-ass painting to someone as a gift.] So they have to function on an emotional, personal level, as a gift, a gesture, but also as something the mind already knows–in this case, a Johns painting.
And of course, like the question, “Is it a flag or a painting of a flag?” these gift works are both gifts and works: Figure 2 has traded hands seven times and been auctioned twice since little Coco Myers turned 18.
In late 2020 A24 Films dropped this aspect ratio blanket. It is part of the film studio’s unusually extensive swag collection, and was designed by Actual Work, of Provo, Utah. It is great, and not only to the extent it makes me think of Liz Deschenes’ photos and Derek Jarman prints.
In 2003 Deschenes made a series of monochrome photographs in the dimensions of various screens, analog and (emergent) digital, which helped to forefront the usually unseen technological systems used to produce the images we consume. They don’t get as much attention as the saturated awesomeness of her green screen photos of the same era. I saw them first at Andrew Kreps, and she showed them again in London at Campoli Presti.
But maybe it’s exactly those too-close encounters with aspect ratios that made me wonder what’s going on in A24’s blanket? Why does it have the seven aspect ratios it does? 1.33:1 and 2.39:1 are pretty standard (standard TV and anamorphic/widescreen theater, respectively), but 1.66:1? That’s a European theatrical format. 2:1 was originally launched in the ’50s as SuperScope, but it’s more likely that its promotion by Red, the digital camera company, as an optimal format for phone & flatscreen display is a more likely explanation. 2.76:1 is Panavision, and an auteur-y choice only a Tarantino would make (or, apparently Gareth Edwards, who used it for Rogue One. Neither film was an A24 joint.) 1:1 is…Instagram? Josef Albers? I have no idea.
1.19:1, though, is an ancient ratio that does have a direct A24 connection. Originally used in the 1920s during the transition to sound, Robert Eggers used it on his 2019 film, The Lighthouse, which was an A24 joint. The ratio was a deliberately, constricted, archaic choice that evoked imagery of the 19th century of Edgar Allan Poe’s unfinished story that inspired the film. So in a way, it makes the most sense of all.
But I think the blanket is not meant for overthinking, and these ratios were chosen to look good when stacked. Which, I guess it’s good that they do look good. If they also connected to something about the self-consciously quirky studio that made them, that’d be even better.
I know we all got distracted for a minute by the Ruth Asawa knock-off hype, but let’s remember what’s really important about Architectural Digest’s glorious visit to Gwyneth Paltrow’s new house in Montecito: they decided not to get video rights for the John Baldessari diptych over the fireplace, and so they blurred out the painting. Well, technically, they only blurred out half of it. The monochrome, apparently, can slide.
To celebrate this moment in the history of artist rights management in the multiplatform digital content era, greg.org is issuing this t-shirt. What does it say? NO ONE KNOWS. What is it referencing? NO IDEA. The meaning will remain an eternal mystery that will baffle your friends, families, and Zoom counterparts, but at least it will always remind you of the fun we all shared this week.
The rendering above shows the concept, which is, to paraphrase John Baldessari, to try to make it very simple, so that the blurred and the face are equal. The shirts will be silkscreened in color (well, black and grey) on white, 100% cotton, Hanes Perfect Tees, and will ship shipped worldwide for $US22.
Like the celebration for the auction in Italy of a someone’s Twombly bunny drawing, these shirts will only be available for a minute–through the weekend, Sunday night, Feb. 6–and will only be made on a break-even basis. Can you imagine losing money on a conceptual digital rights management apparel stunt? I cannot. So if 10 or more folks don’t jump in, I’ll call it off, return the money, and recognize the 9 or fewer true avant garde pioneers with something else. Wow, OK then, less than an hour in, so this is happening!
Many thanks to everyone who made the moment of conceptualization possible. It is now the moment of realization, and this is the only new order being accepted:
Yesterday morning, I joined in Alexandra Lange’s consternation at Gwyneth Paltrow’s non-optimal installation of a Ruth Asawa sculpture in front of a window–worse, a patio door–and behind a sofa. I made my peace with it in context–and by focusing on the blurry Baldessari instead.
By yesterday afternoon, we’d all been on a quite journey, because it turns out Paltrow’s Asawa is NOT an Asawa after all. Architectural Digest cropped the sculpture out of their slideshow, and removed all mention of it from the credits. INCLUDING, I’d point out, the image licensing by Artists Rights Society on behalf of the Asawa Lanier Estate.
Part of me is morbidly fascinated with how the Asawa attribution and credit ended up in the piece, and I fully expect Architectural Digest will never tell us. Did Paltrow claim it? Did the writer and editor assume, but not factcheck? Or did they factcheck, and an assistant or the decorator friend claim it? Did ARS not do anything besides send an invoice? Did the Estate know and intervene? Or know and roll with it? What did the Zwirners do? Is there even a way to tell if an Asawa is real, besides the provenance–and the price?
Did the woman who pivoted from selling fake health products to shilling for crypto somehow mislead people about the authenticity of the wire sculptures in her sponcon features? Did the self-described online auction-scouring furniture obsessive forget who made a 10-foot tall sculpture, and whether she paid $9,000 or $900,000 for it? Did she forget it twice? Because there are at least two. In Lange’s thread, Warren James linked to a different Asawa-looking sculpture in the Restoration Hardware-designed waiting room at Goop, from an A/D feature from 2017. Gwyn.eth done knew.
And her design obsession is the tell. Because various regional auctioneers, including the now-merged design auction houses of Rago, Wright 20, and LA Modern, and modernist design fairs in Palm Springs all regularly feature knockoff Asawa wire sculptures for sale. The ones in Oakland, who knows, but most of the others seem to be consigned directly by their maker, D’lisa Creager. Her own website shows a variety of bodies of sculptural works, but the ones that appear publicly, like clockwork, two per auction, are her Asawa knockoffs. She’s sold 20 at Rago since 2016, when Asawa’s own prices were on the rise. (Zwirner began representing the Estate in 2017, and prices have jumped from five to seven figures as collectors and museums have been playing catch up.)
As a guy who makes facsimiles of artworks, I feel acutely aware of the lowkey wildness of calling out someone for making knockoffs, but it’s not just a question of honor among appropriationists. Creager is filling a demand–for cheap and plentiful Asawas–for which there is no supply. But she’s doing it by claiming to have been taught by Asawa and her family, when in reality, she attended a lecture Asawa’s daughter gave at the Japanese American Museum in LA. It’s this phony, implied lineage, just vague enough to avert a statement from the Asawa camp, that really bugs me. That, and the design/auction world’s willful trafficking in obvious knockoffs, whatever the market will bear.
Fortunately, if the editor’s letter is any indication, Gwyneth’s false attribution will live forever in print. Subscribe now.
lol UPDATE: A/D now credits the work as by D’Lisa Creager. Congratulations on your first Architectural Digest appearance[s that we know of]!