November 2008 Archives

Have you seen me?


I'm fascinated by this house, though I can't figure out if it ever even existed. It's a "mountain week-end house" in the Adirondacks made with "tree trunk posts, slab sides, native stone, and 75% of walls glass." Its architect, A. James Speyer, was at the time Mies van der Rohe's first graduate student. Which makes the house sound like the strangely beautiful product of a one-night stand between the Barcelona Pavilion and a log cabin.

The house, like the Museum of Modern Art Guide to Modern Architecture: Northeast States it was published in, are both dated 1940, which could explain why there was only a drawing, not a photograph, available.

And yet I can't find any mention anywhere of the house or its client/owner, one "Miss 'Bird' Sunstein." Normally, I'd say that's a sure sign the house was never built, but the guidebook contains detailed directions for visiting it. It's several miles outside Warrensburg, NY, in the direction of the southwestern shore of Friends Lake. [Though they've upgraded some of the Earth Art locations recently, the Google Maps around Warrensburg are still unhelpfully low-res.]

Speyer would have been around 27 years old when the house was built. There are records of his architecture practice from as early as 1946, but his archives make no mention of any pre-war activities. [Speyer taught for many years at IIT, the Illinois Institute of Technology that was Mies's American base. But he is probably best remembered as the longtime modern and contemporary curator at the Art Institute of Chicago. He passed away in 1986.]

In the last few weeks, I've cold-called a few promising-sounding Sunsteins and Speyers, hoping they're related--and waiting to finally be asked to share their childhood tales of summers at Aunt Bird's rustic modernist masterpiece. But so far, none of it rings the slightest bell.

Next up: contact the archivists at the Art Institute to see if there's anything that may have fallen through the digitized cracks. Also, post about it online and hope that "Bird" Sunstein's relatives are Googling during the holidays.


If you shop at only one blogger-curated pop-up store this holiday season, make it Andy Beach's Reference Library Mini-Exhibition at Kiosk in SoHo.

Despite his fame as a retail artist/design guru/dad/ex-DT guest blogger is probably best known for his invention of the "things I didn't win on eBay" tag.

Among the dozens of items on sale starting tonight through Dec. 7th: select vintage finds that Andy did win; stuff for kids; union-printed posters; art; and custom manufactured limited editions by artisans around the world.

Kiosk Mini-Exhibition #8: Reference Library [referencelibrary]
Kiosk main page []

November 26, 2008

An Alaskan Place Called Could

"She could be the most natural, visionary poet since William Blake."

I would lose the comma; isn't "visionary poet" a job title all its own? [via TMN]

November 26, 2008

On Land Art Growing Up/Old

As much as I love it, Brian Sholis's new blog reminds me how little I actually read and think these days. Here's a quote from an excellent essay he points to by Lucy Lippard on the changing context for the Land Art that was built in the 1960's and early 1970's:

I've lived in the New West--urban and rural--for twenty-one years now, and my sense of the earthworks I knew and touted in the 1960s has changed quite drastically. In 1995, I gave a talk in Marfa, Texas, called "Land Art in the Rearview Mirror," in which I discussed having "gone on down the road" to preferring an art that was "place specific" rather than "site specific." Arguing for a microview of land and art, and for grassroots connections, I realized that monumental land art takes much of its power from distance--distance from people, from places, and from issues--while my own interests had come to focus almost entirely on the nearby, on "specific places as they reflect the interactions between people and what we call 'nature,' which includes people." My views of land art have changed not because I have less respect for the older work, but because the better I know the New West, the more my attention is claimed by the sideshows, or the side-of-the-road shows.

In the 1960s, when land art was new, the expansion of consciousness offered was visual and aesthetic, perhaps even social, since it brought provincial New Yorkers out of their cocoons and into the West. It would have seemed crass to demand more of an art that prided itself on isolation. Artists were thinking on a grand (sometimes grandiose) scale. There were even religious undertones along the lines of the nineteenth-century "sublime." (James Turrell spoke eloquently at the 1995 Marfa symposium about "directing vision toward a larger sort of space" and "making spaces that see.") Forty years later, climate change, shrinking resources, and an administration bent on destroying the environment for corporate gain have changed the rules of the game. There is a point at which artists too have to take some responsibility for the things they love, a point at which the overview of magnificent scenery gives way to a more painfully focused vision of a fragile landscape and its bewildered inhabitants.

Funny, or not, that as recently as 2002, Nico Israel was still writing in Artforum as the provincial New Yorker braving the truck stop and strip mall savages of the New West as he made his Land Art pilgrimages.

Peripheral Vision by Lucy Lippard, in the 10/29/08 issue of NYFA Current [, reg req]
Lucy Lippard's changing views of Land art [The Search Was the Thing]

We were driving back from the storage unit Sunday morning, when we saw this spectacular and impossible-seeming scene on E 63rd St & Park:

A taxi, slammed full force, backwards and against traffic, into a tree in front of the townhouse Paul Rudolph created for Halston.

Apparently, a carjacker came flying off the bridge, hit the taxi, sent it spinning, and then backed back up 63rd to flee down Lexingon. And all before 8 in the morning. According to the super of a nearby building, the whole incident was captured on security cameras, so I should be checking the local evening news.

November 24, 2008

White Cube Of Surrender?

Am I the only one who's heard rumours of bankruptcies in diamond-encrusted skull-showing places?

update: apparently so. Last major financial transactions reported for Jay Jopling include buying £7.2 million worth of his own artist's work at Sotheby's in September. This, after leaking news before the auction that the gallery still had £100 million or so worth of Hirsts in inventory, no waiting. And that, before it was reported that in fact, Damien Hirst sold his £50 million [asking] diamond skull to himself, his manager Frank Dunphy, and his dealer, Jay Jopling.

So it would be interesting to speculate, perhaps, that one of White Cube's biggest creditors could be Hirst. It would be ironic to say the least if the artist ended up owning the gallery.

previously: the making of Hirst's diamond skull; the costing out of Hirst's diamond skull

November 20, 2008

The Saddest Photo-Op

a friendless GWB at last week's G20 summit, set to sad music. [via gawker]

Interesting. Vanity Fair published the 16-point memo painter Thomas Kinkade distributed to the crew before they began shooting Thomas Kinkade's Christmas Cottage, a film telling Kinkade's own creation myth, how he became an artist to save his mom's house from foreclosure.

The memo is pretty facile, all sunsets and shadows, and there are multiple instructions to the crew to, when in doubt, add more Barry Lyndon. Also, . And hidden references to reward what, "[i]n the realm of fine art we refer 'second reading, third reading, etc.'"

...References to my children (from youngest to oldest as follows): Evie, Winsor, Chandler and Merritt. References to my anniversary date, the number 52, the number 82, and the number 5282 (for fun, notice how many times this appears in my major published works). Hidden N's throughout -- preferably thirty N's, commemorating one N for each year since the events happened.
Hmm, sounds like fun.

Vanity Fair has a softly illuminated fish in a careworn barrel, and they still can't shoot it. The set is snobby and misinformed at best. The movie is not "based on one of his paintings," but on Kinkade's own youth. His paintings are probably all based on his fantasy/memories of his youth, then, but still. This single sentence is shot through with lazy inaccuracies:

The art world has never exactly embraced Kinkade, though in the last 16 years his company and its partners have reportedly made more than $4 billion selling his signature renderings of idyllic settings, which employ diffuse light sources, aggressive pastels, and a domineering religious worldview.
The art world has never embraced Kinkade. His once-publicly traded company's topline revenues are easily researchable, and there's no mention of its implosion and the collapse of his over-merchandised, over-franchised house of cards. And on and on.

He's been reduced to a licensing hack, but there has to be a better analysis--or even a more thoughtful takedown--to be made about the willfully escapist nostalgia that drives people to make--and consume--art like Kinkade's.


As if the caliber of the actors weren't enough--from Marcia Gay Harden and Peter O'Toole, to Ed Asner and Chris "Cabin Boy" Elliott--to warrant some attention, there's the film's timely-yet-impossibly fanciful story itself. I mean which aspect is sounds more fairy tale-ish to you? That making art is the obvious, instant path to financial security, that a small, white town would be brought together by a random mural painting, or that the unimaginable crisis they rally to solve is an impending foreclosure?

Though Kinkade's memo is shot through with references to creating mood and emotion, there is essentially no mention of character, performance, motivation, even the story. It's like all that evocation happens regardless of the actors, or what happens in these candlelit scenes. But his paintings never have actual people in them, just hints of people. Kinkade's memo's unstated goal seems to be the faithful re-creation of the experience of viewing one of his paintings. Whatever joy or nausea that entails depends on the viewer.

Thomas Kinkade's 16 Guidelines for Making Stuff Suck [ via kottke]
Hmm, title change, implausible date: Thomas Kinkade's Home for Christmas (2008) (V) [imdb]


I know there's really no other way for Lucas & co to justify the existence of a Darth Vader Toaster than to just embrace the idiocy and hang on for dear life, but still. Holy smokes:

If there's something every Sith Lord knows how to do it's make a balanced breakfast. While the Jedi have to live off of Jawa juice and fried nerfsteak, the Dark Lord of the Sith prefers to have a reminder of his fiery Mustafar defeat at his breakfast table. Every morning he burns that moment into a slice of bread with the Darth Vader Toaster. This black, ominous kitchen appliance easily leaves the mark of Vader's helmet in every yummy piece of toast. Slather some Bantha butter on top, or make two pieces for an extra-Sithy BLT. Force power not required to operate toaster.
I imagine the $48/toaster gross margin helps ease the conscience as well.

Darth Vader Toaster, $54.99, pre-order for Jan. 2009 delivery [ via c-monster]

"Writing fiction takes me out of time," he explains. "I sit down and the clock will not exist for me for a few hours. That's probably as close to immortal as we'll ever get. I'm scared of sounding pretentious because anyone who writes fiction is saying, 'Look at this thing I've written.'"
from Bill Katovsky's 1987 profile of University of Arizona Teaching Assistant of the Year, David Foster Wallace, republished by McSweeney's [via tmn]

Though with their combination of Ikean sculpture, reconstituted Cold War satellites, and geodesic dome playthings, I'm now not sure I'm not actually just a random projection of their collaborative imagination.


Daniel Young and Christian Giroux began making work together in 2004. The first collaboration was Fullerene, a giant, but light mobile structure of aluminum and bicycle tires that the duo rolled around Scope Miami in 2004.


Then in 2006, they showed a trio of sculptures that took the forms [and names] of US, Canadian, and Soviet spy satellites from the 1960's. [Quirky Canada has own laws, spy satellites!] Both the spherical Fullerene, and the satellite shapes, which were originally designed for gravity-free orbit, are pleasantly disorienting riffs on the Minimalist sculptural challenges of Judd & others, who rejected a base, thereby launching objects into [gallery/viewer] space.


And then this past summer, the duo's show at Diaz Contemporary in Toronto consisted of sculptures made from custom-fabricated aluminum boxes and Ikea tables. They're like narrower, harder-edged, and Juddier echos of Rachel Harrison's and Isa Genzken's sophisticated pastiches. And I mean that in the best possible way.

Daniel Young & Christian Giroux - Work [ via tagbanger]

Before Jonathan Lethem could call 2666, Roberto Bolano's novel, recently translated into English, a masterpiece, he referenced a Philip K. Dick story titled "The Preserving Machine," so we knew he wasn't taking the term lightly:

Dick's parable evokes the absurd yearning embedded in our reverence toward art, and the tragicomic paradoxes "masterpieces" embody in the human realm that brings them forth and gives them their only value. If we fear ourselves unworthy of the sublimities glimpsed at the summit of art, what relevance does such exalted stuff have to our grubby lives? Con­versely, if on investigation such works, and their makers, are revealed as ordinary, subject to the same provisions and defects as the rest of what we've plopped onto the planet -- all these cities, nations, languages, histories -- then why get worked up in the first place? Perfect or, more likely, imperfect, we may suspect art of being useless in either case.
Both Lethem's problematic outcomes presuppose a reflectiveness that may not be as widespread as he'd like. Masterpieces are a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts, and most reader/viewer/listeners dutifully feel the ecstasy they've been pre-programmed to expect by the canonizing culture at large. When I see mobs standing in awe in front of the Mona Lisa or dutifully thronging the Sistine Chapel, the work itself is almost just a catalyst for the experience of consuming Important Culture. I mean, if people were really paying attention, they'd notice what an unpleasant experience it usually is.

Meanwhile, 2666 sounds absolutely engrossing and fantastic. Now if only I could find a way to read a 912-page novel right now. [nyt book review]

In 1988, a police riot broke out at Tompkins Square Park in the East Village. Police beat, among others, people defying a 1 AM curfew imposed by Mayor Ed Koch in an attempt to curtail, among other things, late night music performances.

Last night, twenty years later, the residents of St. Marks and Avenue A had their sleep disrupted once again by an impromptu performance at 2 in the freakin' morning. Fortunately, the incident was caught on tape. [via sullivan]

Palin screenwriters take note: the industrious reporters at Newsweek have spotted you an easy 100 points on your Scene and Dialogue Plausibility Test. Also, bonus shower scene!:

  • "At the GOP convention in St. Paul, Palin was completely unfazed by the boys' club fraternity she had just joined. One night, Steve Schmidt and Mark Salter went to her hotel room to brief her. After a minute, Palin sailed into the room wearing nothing but a towel, with another on her wet hair. She told them to chat with her laconic husband, Todd. 'I'll be just a minute,' she said."
  • McCain aides say the reported $150,000 figure was only the beginning of the Palin family's GOP-funded shopping spree: "An angry aide characterized the shopping spree as 'Wasilla hillbillies looting Neiman Marcus from coast to coast.'"

    Hackers and Spending Sprees [newsweek]

  • migration_panel59.jpg

    Last week, I took my 4-yo daughter to the Phillips Collection to see Jacob Lawrence's masterpiece, The Migration of the Negro. It turned out to be the last day of the exhibition where the entire 60-panel series was on view. [MoMA owns the even-numbered paintings, the Phillips owns the odd-numbered ones.]

    We've grown familiar seeing it all together this summer, but in the crowded gallery, as I read the caption on each panel and held the kid up so she could see, I couldn't help but choke up when I got to the end, the culmination of The Great Migration, where millions of citizens fled the vestiges of the Civil War--poverty, discrimination, injustice, and violence--for an opportunity to work, go to school, raise their families--and to vote.

    Not since we programmed it into the navigation system of my in-laws' car, anyway.

    The car also has an offroad navigation feature that logs virtual GPS breadcrumbs at preset intervals along the way, but it proved unnecessary. The nearly featureless mesa where Heizer's land artwork is sited turns out to be a road with a name: Carp Elgin Rd.

    In fact, there it is on Google Maps, one of the tightest satellite shots I've ever seen of Double Negative. Crazy.


    Update: OK, not to get all George Bush and the Grocery Scanner about it, but I just typed "Spiral Jetty" into Google Maps, and it came right up. With an upgraded photograph--and a label.


    In fact, here are complete driving directions to the Jetty from 213 Park Avenue South, the former location of Max's Kansas City. [note: there is a weird little, unnecessary jog at the very end that I couldn't fix, but I'm not worried. Given the rate at which technology is iterating and altering the way once-isolated land artworks are experienced and perceived, I expect a realtime Google Streetview of the Jetty is already being planned on a whiteboard somewhere in Mountain View.]

    Clearly, Google has been augmenting its map search with information found on the rest of the web. An otherwise seemingly Googleproof project like Michael Heizer's City, which he sited as remotely as he could, is pinpointed by latitude and longitude coordinates published on a Land Art site. City also has newer photos.

    Roden Crater's there, under "Roden Crater, AZ," but it still has the quaint, old-timey satellite photo from 2005 or whatever. I hope they'll get around to upgrading it by the time Turrell finishes.


    Steve Rosen found a 1981 interview with Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray at the flea market. He transcribed a bit onto Airform Archive, starting with an encounter Ray had with the 1913 Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore:

    Satyajit Ray: I'll tell you a story here. In 1928, when I was seven, I went with my mother to Tagore's university. I had my little autograph book, newly bought, and my mother gave the book to Tagore and said, "My son would like a few lines of verse from you." And he said, "Leave the book with me." Next day I went to collect it, and he brought it out and said: "I have written something for you, which you won't understand now, but when you grow up you will understand it." It's one of the best things he ever wrote in a small manner, and what it means is this: "I have travelled all around the world to see the rivers and the mountains, and I've spent a lot of money. I have gone to great lengths, I have seen everything, but I have forgotten to see just outside of my house a dewdrop on a little blade of grass, a dewdrop which reflects in its convexity the whole universe around you."
    At first, I thought this sounded incredibly ballsy, but Tagore's and Ray's Brahmin families were close.

    From the dewdrop, Ray and the interviewer continue in a discussion of the microscopic, but the power of the quote seems to me to be about ignoring the beauty and profundity of the world right in front of us.

    Ray would go on to study with Tagore, and in 1961, Nehru commissioned him to direct a documentary of the writer's life.

    ...the essence as a dewdrop on a little blade of grass... [airform archives]
    Satyajit Ray [wikipedia]

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

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

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

    find me on twitter: @gregorg

    about this archive

    Posts from November 2008, in reverse chronological order

    Older: October 2008

    Newer December 2008

    recent projects, &c.

    Our Guernica Cycle, 2017 –
    about/kickstarter | exhibit, 2017

    Social Medium:
    artists writing, 2000-2015
    Paper Monument, Oct. 2016
    ed. by Jennifer Liese
    buy, $28

    Madoff Provenance Project in
    'Tell Me What I Mean' at
    To__Bridges__, The Bronx
    11 Sept - Oct 23 2016
    show | beginnings

    Chop Shop
    at SPRING/BREAK Art Show
    curated by Magda Sawon
    1-7 March 2016

    eBay Test Listings
    Armory – ABMB 2015
    about | proposte monocrome, rose

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

    TheRealHennessy Tweets Paintings, 2014 -

    Standard Operating Procedure
    about | buy now, 284pp, $15.99

    CZRPYR2: The Illustrated Appendix
    Canal Zone Richard Prince
    YES RASTA 2:The Appeals Court
    Decision, plus the Court's
    Complete Illustrated Appendix (2013)
    about | buy now, 142pp, $12.99

    "Exhibition Space" @ apexart, NYC
    Mar 20 - May 8, 2013
    about, brochure | installation shots

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

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

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