September 2010 Archives

September 30, 2010

How To Make 4-Color Halftones

So after posting about Four-Color Process, I was looking around to see who is working to preserve this masterful, cheap, laborious-looking halftone printing process. I mean, we brought letterpress back, right?

Well. So far, on the printing front, I'm not quite seeing it; if there are artisanal small-press folks keeping true to the art and technique of old school, cheap, slightly sloppy, pulpy, CYMK, halftone/Ben-Day printing, I haven't found them.

But it looks like there are book artists--some say illustrators, others hate the term graphic novels, and anyway, they're not making comic books--who do use halftone techniques. [The only thing they have in common is a love of old dots and a bitterness toward Roy Lichtenstein.]


Just last month, in fact, artist Brian Fies published two lengthy tutorials on using Photoshop for creating halftone images. Having come up using halftone dots, and after skilfully deploying the consciously retro technique in his award-winning book, Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow, Fies is able to provide good historical info on how comic illustrations used to be created, and to show how he approximates the original feel using digital tools.

Fies' technique successfully recreates the halftone style of vintage comics, but only up to the point of printing. One characteristic of crappy 4-color printing is the slight bleed or misalignment of color fields; with his digital perfection, Fies always 4-colors inside the lines.


The other veteran artist, Eddie Campbell, uses halftone sheets very expressively the way they were originally designed, within his analog drawing process. While the results still print up perfectly, Campbell's conscious, persistent exploration of a seemingly obsolete medium is pretty sweet.

UPDATE: Here's where I confess my "search" for 4cp didn't yet actually involve asking any people who I thought might actually know about it. To wit, Andy from Reference Library informs me that the 15th issue of Dot Dot Dot, whose uncracked spine is looking at me right now from my shelf over there, even, apparently set off a bit of a print-on-demand lovewave towards the Risograph V8000 stencil printing machine, which "gives tumblr kids a way to experience registration, moiré, and the good old dot pattern."

Also, Rollo Press and Ditto both do great Riso work. Below, a beautiful Riso spread from Ditto's Why Shapes What, with artwork by Vanessa Billy.


Dots, Part 1; Dots, Part 2 [brianfies]
Zipatone-related posts from Eddie Campbell [eddiecampbell]

September 30, 2010

Some Nude Paik

UbuWeb's tweet about Nam June Paik's music reminds me it's long past time to post this hilarious story of Paik's 1965 Fluxus-style performance in Reykjavik, where he and Charlotte Moorman nearly capsized Iceland's nascent new music movement. quotes a morning-after review of the scandalous concert:

"The Korean played the piano with a pacifier in his mouth, smeared himself in foam, splashed around in a washtub full of water and drank water from his shoe ... The woman played the cello and then climbed up into an barrel and disappeared into it. A while later she came out of the barrel, soaking wet, and started playing the piano again. At that point the Korean dropped his pants on stage...
And then things really got out of hand.

Nam June Paik Shocks Icelandic Audience in 1965 []


Sure, you can get it for free right here, in all its original jpeg glory, but if you want to see the velvety printed goodness of Untitled (300x404) in person, you should head to 20x200's booth at the Affordable Art Fair, which opens in Manhattan tonight through the weekend.

Jen Bekman's got a couple of print and collecting discussions scheduled, and there's a framing primer--and a few spots left to reserve in the pop-up framing shop. Check the 20x200 blog for all the details.

Visit 20x200 THIS Weekend at the Affordable Art Fair in NYC! []
Previously: Untitled (300x404) the making of
300x404 @ 20x200!

As longer-term readers of know, I am slowly trying to locate an original copy of the National Geographic Society-Palomar Observatory Sky Survey, an 1870-plate portrait/catalogue of the visible universe [or the universe visible from the Palomar Observatory, anyway] taken at Caltech in the early 1950s. Then I will also print one. There are also loose vintage prints to be found.

Anyway, in the process, I've been documenting bits of the history of the making of the NGS-POSS I. [A second sky survey, the POSS-II, was made beginning in the late 1980s.] It's almost embarrassing that it's taken me this long to look into who actually made it, took the pictures, checked them, made the prints.

After the jump, then, a brief history of the making of POSS-I, as presented by Neill Reid and S. Djorgovski in the proceedings of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific's 1992 conference, Sky Surveys, Protostars to Protogalaxies:

September 28, 2010

Model Dome Home


This is so awesome, a dome home that doesn't leak:

Lot: 207 R. Buckminster Fuller
Geodesic Home model

Pease Woodworking Company
USA, c. 1960
mixed media
13 dia x 7 h inches
Pease Woodworking Company was licensed by Fuller to manufacture prefabricated geodesic dome buildings. This model was a salesman sample for a structure marketed as a home.

Estimate: $1,000-1,500It's at Wright20's Design auction Oct. 12. [wright20 via an ambitious project collapsing, who has been en fuego lately]

September 28, 2010

New Original Sunshine Clubhouse


In order to prove how much less torture&abusey the new Parwan detention center is from the Bagram prison it's replacing, US military officials let AP photographer David Guttenfelder take a picture of the new Original Sunshine Clubhouse playground at the visitors building. Like the one installed at the White House for the Obama girls, it's made with pride in the USA by Rainbow Play Systems. I hope that's eco-friendly recycled rubber mulch under there, too.


Meanwhile, unless this it's some sort of retro iPhone app--which Guttenfelder has been known to use for faux-historicizing effect--it looks like the military's photo review process involves rephotographing approved images as they are projected on a bedsheet.

Parwan prison playground by AP Photo/David Guttenfelder [ via @demilit]
Original Sunshine Clubhouse Package II [rainbowplay]


Holy smokes, Gary Beydler. A Los Angeles experimental filmmaker whose 1974 time-lapse silent short, Hand Held Day, was just mentioned by Steve Roden. It's incredible.

Youtube user austinstein posted this version in 2007, before Beydler's too-small body of work was restored, so the color is awful, but you can get the idea. Over the course of a day, Beydler shot two rolls of Kodachrome film in the Arizona desert, with the camera pointed east, and the mirror pointed west. The sun and sky did the rest.

On his blog Preservation Insanity, Mark T told the story of taking a leap of faith and restoring Beydler's last film, Venice Pier, sight unseen in 2007. It's an journey down the pier, shot in out-of-sync time lapse over the course of a year. It sounds beautiful. Unfortunately, Mark's blog post was prompted by news of Beydler's death in January 2010.

To Gary Beydler [preservation insanity]
four of Gary Beydler's films are available for rent via Canyon Cinema []

September 26, 2010

Four Color Process


Trying to clear some browser tabs. From John Hilgart, the guy who brought the world Comic Book Cartography, comes his next foray into the overlooked, undersung details of comics history, Four Color Process. It's an incredibly beautiful collection of vintage comic book scans made with an eye to the unique aesthetic qualities of the cheap, obsolete, half-tone printing process.


For a while, I'd always considered it more an exercise in artful magnifying and cropping, but a post a couple of weeks ago changed my mind. In discussing some psychedelic examples from 1968 of Jim Steranko's groundbreaking work on Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., Hilgart writes:

Perhaps a great artist, but not a realistic illustrator, Steranko tended to emphasize the flatness of comics even when he piled on the detail. It is design not illusion, dynamic yet inorganic.

All of these factors make Steranko a fascinating case when considering four-color process in the history of comic books. He clearly had an interest in solid colors, embracing rather than running from the limited building blocks of the process. He also freely acknowledged the divide (and the arbitrary yet essential relationship) between the line art and the lurid color that process printing smacked down on top of it. Many of his panels use color as an illustrative element, completely separate from the black ink beneath it. His art was only "finished" in the printed comic book itself.

Steranko's early work systematically exploits the same aesthetic forces that the 4CP gallery foregrounds as defining elements of mid-Century comic books generally. In 2010, when vintage comic book art is reproduced in crisp, acid-free, book format, the original reproduction of Steranko's art begins to look and feel closer to fine art lithography. Forty-year-old pulpy reproductions may in fact be the definitive editions, anything else being a cheap approximation. [emphasis added]

This resonated with something a friend said to me about my recent looks into early Lichtenstein paintings and the unusual seascapes collaged from reflective materials. And not because dots is dots. Just the opposite. He mentioned seeing a bunch of early, large Lichtenstein paintings recently and being struck by how "Op" they are, in that they induce all sorts of optical effects of moire-like shimmering, etc. He noted that because this aspect of the work is dependent on experiencing the painting in person, and is totally lost in reproduction, that it's rarely discussed or acknowledged by critics and historians. [Which makes right now a good time to take Roberta Smith's advice and see the wealth of Lichtensteins on view in New York right now, especially the early drawings show at the Morgan Library, which is a tour de force of Ben-Day dotsmanship.]

In case anyone needs more convincing, Hilgart went on to post a pair of images, one vintage and 4cp, and the other contemporary and digitally remastered. The differences are alarming. And though I could see an artist's point who preferred a higher-resolution, more refined reproduction, the lost historical accuracy is undeniable.

This morning, the kid was trying to memorize a phone number, and I found myself explaining area codes to her. How they're linked to a city or a whole state, even, and how you can tell where a phone number's from. And then I stopped short trying to explain why New York City got 212, because I realized that without a rotary phone handy, there's no way she'd get that it was the quickest number to dial. And of course, then there's number portability, and overlays, and speed dial, and is she even ever going to need to memorize a phone number anyway? But that doesn't negate the real history and context behind them.

Jim Steranko and Four-Color Process, 1968 [ via khoi]

So I just got Odd Man In, Suzanne Muchnic's 1998 bio of Norton Simon, and yeah, the Pasadena Art Museum was a mess, and Simon's takeover of it was pretty stunning. But Muchnic portrays it as of a piece with Simon's bold, intense dealmaking style. Fine.

And while much is made of Simon's art churning, his passion comes through most clearly on the work of Edgar Degas. Odd Man In tells the gripping tale of Simon's 1976 purchase of an entire set of 72 unique Degas bronzes, which had been forgotten and ignored in the foundry owner's basement for over half a century. [Is this a commonly known story? Hmm, now that I mention it, I think I have seen Gary Arseneau's extraordinary and incendiary condemnation of all Degas bronzes as fakes being foisted on an ignorant, taxpaying, museum-going public by a massive art world conspiracy before.]

Around 150 wax and plastiline figures--dancers, nudes, and horses--were found in Degas' studio after his death. 74, plus that one with the tutu, were approved for casting. Two of those were lost. Degas' heirs authorized 22 casts of each figure, made between 1919-1932, which included one complete set for the family, and one for Adrien Hebrard, the foundry owner. But there was another:

Degas' waxes were too fragile to be used repeatedly to create an edition, so [master craftsman] Albino Palazzolo carefully made gelatine molds of the sculptures and used each mold to make one very fine wax cast. The wax casts in turn were used to produce the master set of bronze, or modèles. All subsequent casts were made from the modèles.

Although Degas' modèles are marked as such, there are other ways to distinguish them from second-generation casts [i.e., the ones everyone knew until that point.] The modèles have more surface detail and evidence of the artist's hand, and there is a difference in size: They are between 1.5 to 3 percent larger than later edditions, an effect of the contraction of metal during hte casting process Degas' modèles also have marks where gelatin molds were cut away, which can be seen under magnification, and traces of gelatin and clay can sometimes be found in the crevices of the sculptures and under the base.

You know, talk about the age of mechanical reproduction. This is where I have to marvel at the layers of translation and intermediation in making something like a bronze cast--and of their inevitable impact on what we see. I've looked at those Degas bronzes at the Met a hundred times, at least, without the slightest notion of this process or its implications. And I've toggled almost without thinking between Giacometti's bronzes and a painted plaster original like, say, the one in the Menil. Anyway.

The modèles were immediately recognized as authentic; it turned out that they had actually been mentioned exactly once in print. Palazzolo discussed them in 1955 in an Art News interview, but after that, "the possibility of their existence had apparently been forgotten."

Grande Arabesque, First Time, No. 18 modèle, via]

The London dealer Martin Summers gave Simon first crack at the modèles for a price of $2 million. Summers wanted Simon to come to London to see the works, then as the dealer's deadline approached, Simon called him at home before dawn and grilled him one last time:

"You have bronze No. 18?" Simon persisted, referring to a 19 1/4-inch-tall figure, Grande Arabesque, First Time, one of which he already owned.

"If you go to the airport now, you can catch the 8:15 flight to Los Angeles," Simon said. "Bring No. 18 with you. I'll meet you in the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel at 8 o'clock tonight."

Grabbing his passport and packing the sculpture with a change of clothes in a carry-on bag, Summers headed toward the airport. His flight was delayed, but he reached the hotel only about five minutes late. He found Simon waiting with [curator Darryl] Isley. They were sitting in a booth with Simon's No. 18 on the table. Simon ordered a round of drinks and guacamole, and got down to business.

When Summers lifted the statue out of his bag, Simon grabbed it and thrust his bronze at Summers. "They don't even compare," Simon said derisively, insisting his was better.

But he was only being contrary. When Summers called his bluff and said, "No, they don't compare at all because yours is a fake," Simon soon backed down. He could see that his own sculpture lacked detail that gave the modèle a far greater sense of life. Indeed, as he learned later, the figure he owned wasn't even a second-generation cast. It was an unauthorized cast of a second-generation sculpture and thus of little or no value.

Needless to say, Simon bought the set, plus that ballerina with a tutu, which turned out not to be the modèle after all, but that's a whole other story.

And of course, when they turned up in 1955, so they're in the National Gallery. But that's another story, too, and since my copy of Mellon's memoir is in New York, it'll have to wait.

September 23, 2010

Teeny Tiny Kelly


Tyler thought the inadvertent awesomeness of this Hirshhorn photo of Ellsworth Kelly's Red Yellow Blue V (1968) was right up my alley. And he's right. It is awesome enough to make me think the photographer might have been especially advertent when placing that color key.

Also nice: somehow I never noticed that when you load a jpg in Firefox, it uses the image itself as the favicon in the tab.

Ed Ruscha is the most handsome 'cowboy' artist I've ever seen. I think his paintings are not only beautiful to look at but also have a sad, poetic and painfully truthful commentary on America... He is a true American hero: the lonesome cowboy pointing a finger at our consumerist greed.
That's Jerry Hall talking to British Vogue last year on the occasion of Ruscha's first painting UK retrospective at Southbank Centre.


It's not clear to me when she met Ruscha, though the current issue of Sotheby's At Auction says she "often hangs out with" him in LA. And on October 23, 2003, at least, she was close enough to the artist for him to put this ol' General Tools 837 6-inch contour gauge against her lips. And she was wise enough to get him to sign it.

EDWARD RUSCHA, est. 25,000-35,000 GBP

The movement predates his arrival, but on a sunny Sunday in September, with the wave of relational aesthetics breaking against the rocky Malibu cliffs beneath his feet, the director of the Museum of Contemporary Art powerfully proclaimed his institution's support for the Gala-as-Art.

For the benefit of those who are too poor, cheap, uninfluential, or uninvitable, here is a brief look at the genre. But first a little context:

moca_aitken_deitch_salon.jpgAitken was speaking at MoCA's "Salons by the Shore," a brunch series conceived and organized by trustee [and Gala co-chair] Lilly Tartikoff Karatz, which was held in a location that saves trustees from having to schlep all the way downtown on the weekend: the 5-acre Malibu home of [fellow co-chair] Nancy and Howard Marks. The artist presented a history of his work, which Jeffrey Deitch bracketed with discussions about Aitken's plans for his "commission" to create a "social sculpture," i.e., the 31st Annual Gala. On their blog, MoCA calls this work, The Artist's Museum Happening, but The Art Newspaper reports it "will be an immersive project called We."

Galas. The conventions and codes of the charity gala are long-established and provide many occasions for reflection and interpretation: committees; giant tents; decorations; hors d'oeuvres and cocktails; ten-person tables positioned according to price; elaborate centerpieces; agonized-over food; a chain of congratulatory speeches; entertainment; dancing; favors and gift bags; armies of temporary staff.

These elements become familiar to regular galagoers. [I confess, I'm an inveterate museum gala attendee and sometime committee member, primarily in New York.] Sometimes that familiarity can breed, if not contempt, then perhaps a little disappointment, weariness, or sniffy ennui. Or it can provide comfort, a sense of stability, and continuity. The calendar is full of galas, and any number of worthy causes must compete, not necessarily for money, but for the time, attention, and enthusiasm of the donor population. And so benefit committees and event chairs are deeply attuned to the nuances and details of their gala. From long experience, they know what works, what doesn't, what sticks in the memory, and what loosens the pursestrings even further.

It's an elaborate social ritual where very rich people gather to celebrate their success, their status, their society, their taste, their generosity--and their passion for whatever deeply important and worthy endeavor is being supported that evening. Because the underlying, overarching justification of these events, remember, is to raise the money.

As such, it is an entirely valid set of subjects for artists who are interested in issues of social discourse, performance and spectacle [Jessica Craig-Martin's photos of invisible gala awkwardness are classics, for example] as well as those who investigate or critique institutions, their influence, and their biases. Gala culture serves as a mode of creative expression for those within it. It is influenced by and affects art. And it has crossed the conceptual threshold and become art itself.

Eraser, 1998, production still

Some artists attune their practice to the world around themselves. In describing his transformative visit to the volcanic ash-covered capital of Montserrat [which resulted in his incredible, 7-channel installation Eraser, 1998] Aitken said, "it just became this kind of journey into minimalism for me, and in that sense, I was interested in working in a very proactive way, of going to different parts of the world, and really kind of putting yourself in a situation that was outside of the studio, that was outside of traditional artmaking. And of allowing the landscape and whatever you'd found to try and create something." When that world is full of billionaires, house-and-art collectors, philanthropy professionals, a globeful of biennials and art fairs, and elaborate museum parties, is it at all surprising that an artist's work can invariably begin to reflect his luxurious situation? A number of artists' practices come immediately to mind:

Rirkrit Tiravanija's meals and transformations of gallery space into gathering space. Tom Marioni's 40-years project, Drinking Beer with Friends Is the Highest Form of Art, the latest iteration of which took place at the Hammer, just a few days before MoCA's Salon. Andrea Fraser's docent tours, but especially her 2001 piece Official Welcome [a private commission, btw], where she performs all the characters in a string of introductions to an art event, and then strips down to a thong and heels to declare her art work.


Carsten Höller's $800/night Revolving Hotel Room in the Guggenheim rotunda which was booked solid by museum donors and insiders before it was ever announced to the public.

Besides getting Jeff Koons to decorate his yacht, Dakis Joannou, through his Deste Foundation, commissioned what amounted to a private gala; a collaborative project by Matthew Barney and Elizabeth Peyton that culminated in a four-day happening on Hydra with 300 art world friends in dinner and procession, a herd of goats, and a shark in an undersea glass coffin.

Takashi Murakami's collection for Louis Vuitton is a watermark of sorts. And of a piece with his inclusion of a Vuitton boutique in his MoCA retrospective.

murakami_moca_nigo_bbc.jpgMurakami is an example of an artist engaging directly with elements of the gala. In addition to decorating the tent with the same flowered wallpaper used in the galleries, each place setting had a matching Kaikai Kiki placemat for a gift/party favor. [right, image of TM, Pharrell, Kanye, Nigo and placemat, and white guy, via bbc] When, during the dancing, Naomi Campbell, egged on by Tom Ford, began gathering up a set of twelve from unattended seats, a black-tie placemat riot broke out. [The frenzy was repeated at the show's Brooklyn Museum incarnation, with the role of placemat-hoarding diva played by Borough president Marty Markowitz's wife.]

For the closing gala for The Artist Is Present, Marina Abramovic provided both a participatory/performative experience and an object/edition. For dessert, guests received edible gold leaf to apply to their lips, so they'd match their little replica of Marina's lips, cast in dark chocolate & gold leaf by the "food-as-art" specialists at Kreemart.

[image, one among many at]

And performance is an important vector here. In 2006, Lali [now Spartacus] Chetwynd restaged the 1931 Beaux Arts Ball as a costumed conversation within Rem Koolhaas's inflatable Serpentine Pavilion [below].


Any Hamptons summerer will know, or at least now of, Robert Wilson's annual Watermill Arts Center Gala, an art event which has been critically overlooked for years, either because it's summer, and critics are off the clock, or because it's just theater, or just Wilson's eccentricity, or just whimsy or a sideshow, and why bother?


But Wilson is an old hand. If there's a leading gala art artist, at least until Aitken's arrival, it's probably Francesco Vezzoli. In 2007 Vezzoli infuriatingly upended museum VIP convention when he taped--with Doug Aitken's DP, apparently--a reading of a Pirandello play in the Guggenheim. Not that anyone paid attention to the play, of course; accounts of the event almost all focused on the interminable delays, the impatient walkouts, and the seemingly arbitrary door policy that left boldface names standing in line for hours. It's still not clear whether that was all intentional--or even the entire point. And if it was, it's not clear that the audience was sufficiently appreciative of the brutal experiential buzzkill that Vezzoli's work induced. Or maybe it's just a New York thing.

New York's gala art does seem to have more of an edge. Consider the work by gala art's rising star, Jennifer Rubell. It's worth noting that, while they are extremely active as collectors, the Rubells have never been voracious gala-goers. So the gluttonous orgies of food and drink Rubell has staged for Performa 09 and the Brooklyn Museum's Late Warhol show have a bit of a joke's-on-them, catering-as-institutional-critique feel about them.


Last year Vezzoli produced the entertainment portion of MoCA's Gala. The Bolshoi danced while a masked Vezzoli sat mime-embroidering in front of Lada Gaga, wearing a Frank Gehry hat, playing a Damien Hirst butterfly piano. Which certainly looked enough like art to bring $450,000 at the Gala's auction. And all this before Deitch came to town.

So what's different now? I see three things that alter the context of MoCA's Gala this year: Aitken's intervening in the entire event, and he's demanded there be "no compromise to his artistic integrity." And Aitken is not calling the Gala a gala, but a Happening, which, wow. And for his part, Deitch pulls out the rhetorical stops, describing the project as the pinnacle of Aitken's career, "not just a Happening, but an artwork that pulls together elements of everything you've done."

Besides Aitken's seeming ambivalence at Deitch's showman's patter, I think my favorite moment in his Malibu speech is when he tries to rally his polite, checkwriting crowd to his cause: "We're hijacking the Gala," he cries, "and turning it into a Happening."


"And I hope everyone in this room is with us."


"No more galas! "Let's bring it back. Let's bring it back--someplace."

And so on the one hand, we have a Happening being staged as a $4 million gathering of celebrities and billionaires, with the intent, it seems, to create some "moments that are filled with content," and "the immediacy of pure conversation." With Devendra Banhart. And possibly Franz West on the drum table. Also an artist's book. Perhaps it's a return to the art-for-and-with-artists ethos of the Happenings as they were conceived by folks like Allan Kaprow.

But Deitch sees a bigger picture:

JD: maybe you should talk about the Happening, because it has become.

Not just a Happening, but an artwork that pulls together elements of everything you've done.

DA: Yeah, yeah.

JD: So the film work, the music work, operatic work,

DA: Yeah i do think--I'm glad Jeffrey reined me in a bit here, so we can--

JD: First, this has been just. Extraordinary.


JD: What a remarkable body of work. You told me once about how it started in this windowless loft on Broadway New York. [? -ed.]

DA: Yeah, yeah.

JD: And this is an amazing artistic journey from that windowless loft, where you were making sculpture,

to a whole new way to make a work of art.

This key word is "immersive," where the viewer is really part of the experience, and doesn't just look at the work, but FEELS the work, is INSIDE the work.

And that's a good way to get into what we're talking about with the Happening.

Because there'll be one thousand of us.

Inside this work.

Now that's a journey. Someplace, it seems, is right inside, with us.

A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from Hal Laessig, a Newark architect, developer, and artist who was a graduate student of Daniel Libeskind's at Cranbrook, and who came back to build three fantastical, fantasy machines for LIbeskind's contribution to the 1986 Venice Architecture Biennale, curated by Aldo Rossi. Titled "Three Lessons of Architecture," the show was an argument-by-metaphorical-object about the post-structuralist concept of architecture-as-text. But the three machines were anything but fantasies: they were incredibly complex, and laboriously and meticulously designed and constructed from the barest possible historical references.


The Reading Machine [l] and The Memory Machine [c] were both based on the 16th century proposals: the former, a design for a multi-book "Reading Wheel" by Agostino Ramelli, and the latter a complete reimagining of the backstage apparatus for Giulio Camillo's "Memory Theatre." The machine Laessig worked on, The Writing Machine [r], is commonly described as a realization of an early 20th century concept by Raymond Roussel, but Laessig explained that the actual design originated with a satirical auto-writing machine in Jonathan Swift's 18th-century classic, Gulliver's Travels. [See this earlier post for more discussion of the Swift reference.]

Anyway, here is the rest of my conversation with Laessig, which I found to be awesome and hilarious, probably because I didn't go to architecture school. The tales of Cranbrook in the 80s and Libeskind as a teacher are almost as interesting as the crazy story of the machines themselves--and the indentured servant grad students who built them. [An editorial note: I didn't take notes during my own talking, so I've paraphrased and compiled Laessig's comments a bit to help the chronological flow.]

G.O: How did you get involved with making these machines for Libeskind in the first place?
H.L: I went to Cranbrook to get my masters in architecture when Daniel Libeskind was there. After I graduated in '84, he called to say he'd been invited by Aldo Rossi to do an entry for the Biennale.

The first idea was to get all his past grad students to come to Cranbook to charrette and figure out what to do. But nobody besides me wanted to come back, so we didn't do that. Then he said he'd already figured out what to do, and that he'd have the students build it.

Jerry, Jerry Jerry:

Once upon a time in the nineties, art that wanted to be complicit with the system, that tried to lure collectors as it criticized the artist-dealer-buyer complex, had an edgy Trojan-horse coerciveness. A lot of people got rich creating a gigantic industry of artists, dealers, and curators who'd do almost anything for the limelight. By now, Colen's high/low art--paintings made of cheesy materials; kicked-over tricked-out motorcycles; those skateboard ramps--is not only lazy thinking. It is old-fashioned art about old-fashioned ideas about commodity-art-about-art that no one cares about anymore. At this point, continuing to follow in the footsteps of Warhol, Richard Prince, Takashi Murakami, and Jeff Koons appears derivative, completely mechanical, and possibly corrupt. Colen fetishizes a moment that no longer exists, and behaves like nothing's changed. People seem scared to say a lot of this art is bad; it's as if they fear being uninvited, cast out from the circle of social light.
Actually, the 90s was when Deitch went bankrupt trying to fabricate Koons's balloon dogs and got bought by Sotheby's. When Prince couldn't sell a joke painting for a dollar. And when Murakami and I would stand around speaking Japanese at Marianne's nearly empty openings in SoHo. [Actually, that was 1999.]

The period you're describing was in 2007: "To his credit, Murakami's eagerness to outmarket everyone makes artists like Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons seem decorous by comparison."

And 2008: "Money has made more art possible, but it has not make art better. It made some artists -- notably Hirst, Takashi Murakami, Richard Prince, and maybe Piotr Uklanski -- shallower."

And 2009: "Most of Pinault's art is about the market, and is made by market darlings: Richard Prince, Mike Kelley, Rudolf Stingel, Marlene Dumas, Luc Tuymans, Takashi Murakami."

From about 44 minutes into John Ruth's 1975 TV documentary, The Amish: A People of Preservation comes this picture of a horse-drawn, single-row corn picker in what looks like galvanized steel:


It's about right here that the sculptural beauty of this machine--I do believe it's a Dearborn-Wood Bros. single-row corn picker, perhaps a precursor to those designed by Clarence Richey and John O'Donnell in 1956 after Ford bought in the company--starts to sink in:


And as soon as you're caught up in the unexpectedly futuristic, asymmetrical, jet wing-like, origami-like form,


it's gone.


On another note, the Amish in 1975 appear to have been a lot less self-conscious about cameras in their midst. I blame Witness.

The Amish: A People of Preservation []

God bless the Internet and all who surf upon her. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about what I thought was an esoteric topic, even for the fantastical lost machines from "Three Lessons of Architecture," Daniel Libeskind's exhibition at the 1986 Venice Architecture Biennale.


And yet, within hours of posting about them, I got an email from one of the guys who had been Libeskind's grad student at Cranbrook and who had built and installed the machines. Hal Laessig is now artist/architect/developer in Newark, and he was gracious enough to share his stories from the "Three Lessons" project, and from Libeskind-era Cranbrook. They range from insightful to hilarious to outrageous, and I'm working on putting our interview together right now.

In the mean time, here's a clarification about the references for the machine Laessig oversaw, the Writing Machine, which I had incorrectly described as being inspired by Raymond Roussel's Reading Machine.

As it's described here, at the very bottom of this ancient article on hypertext, the Reading Machine Roussel exhibited in 1937 was basically a book on a Rolodex. Color-coded tabs helped the reader navigate through multiple layers of cross-references and footnotes. Interesting, but nothing at all to do with the form of Libeskind's version, which took its inspiration from somewhere else entirely.

September 17, 2010

Must Credit!!

Hey you people, with your dying print venues, muscling in on my action!

"A visit to the show might end with a broad smile at three paintings by Arcimboldo (pronounced Arch-im-BOLD-o)" - Blake Gopnik, Washington Post
"In the current show Mr. Colen (pronounced CO-lin) has made the mistake of ignoring..." - Roberta Smith, NY Times

Nonetheless, they've been added to the list.

September 16, 2010

La Dolce Book Trailer

Wow, if I didn't worry the ghost of Fellini would come back and smack me upside the head, I'd say the book trailer for Chris Lehmann's Rich People Things is the The Bicycle Thief of book trailers.

Instead, let's go with, "It'll make you say, 'Hitler in a bunker who?'" That'll fit on a marquee, won't it?

September 15, 2010

The Unoriginal Copy

Dear Art World,

Please arrange the following on a 2x2 grid for me? Or maybe a spectrum? Because I cannot:

Eve Sussman's 89 Seconds at Alcazar (2004), which I quite like, but:

Peter Greenaway's Nightwatching (2007) and his cinematic projections on the Last Supper.

Philip Haas's 2009 filmic re-creations of five paintings from the Kimbell Museum:


The Laguna Beach Festival of the Arts' Pageant of the Masters tableaux vivants (1933-present):


Seward Johnson's bronze re-creations of well-known paintings (1994- too long), such as those shown at the Corcoran in 2003:


And his blown-up re-creation of Grant Woods' American Gothic (2009):


And the gigantic fiberglass WTF of Philip Haas's Arcimboldo-ish sculpture that was being installed at the National Gallery the other day?


Having recently made some copies of someone else's art myself, I really want to know. Because if this is where it leads, I'll just go back to finance right now.

And so far, I can't find it anywhere:

UEZ: when your work first started to appear and was classified as Conceptual art, did you have a secure visual language which you knew would be viable over time? Or could you have arrived at completely different forms of presentation, or made your photographs the basis for videos?

BB: We did make a film once, on the Hannover mine.

HB: Actually, there's no need at all to talk about failures.

BB: Because that was such an enormous complex. We made a film about it because we wanted to show the atmosphere. Then we looked at the shots, still uncut, and were totally disappointed.

UEZ: How did you make the film?

HB: We borrowed a 16mm camera from Sigmar Polke. The advisor was Gary Schum, in part, who has made a load of beautiful artist films, with Gilbert and George, for example. The idea was that this colliery was not a tightly knit conglomerate, as is usually the case, but rather a diffuse structure held together by belts, by roads.

BB: The atmospheric element was important. On top of that, we were in a hurry. We thought that if we photographed our way through the whole plant, it would take years. Then we made the film in two or three days.

HB: The thought was to drive through this very extensive industrial estate, to show the connections among preparation plant, winding tower, power plant and cokery. But as it turned out, there was so little movement there that the only movement in the film was provided by the camera.

UEZ: Because the colliery was already shut down?

HB: No. Strictly speaking, if you look at a mine like this, the only thing that moves is the wheel of the winding tower. I was thinking at the time of the early Charlie Chaplin films, where the camera sits on the tripod and everything else moves in front of it. Or Hitchcock's film Rope, which takes place in one room.

UEZ: How strange that you give us these examples, as in fact you didn't let the camera stay still.

HB: But panning the camera, up and down, right and left--that was no good.

UEZ: When did this experiment take place?

BB: 1973-74.

UEZ: Did you destroy the film in the end?

BB: No.

UEZ: We're talking about a black-and-white film?

BB: No, it was in color.

That's from an interview the Bechers did with Ulf Erdmann Ziegler in 2000. It was originally published in Art in America in 2002.

The Hannover Coal Mine was one of ten mining sites the Bechers photographed as early as 1966, but with a concentration in 1971-74, and presented in an "un-Becheresque" way: by site, not by typology. The Van Abbemuseum acquired one portfolio, 85 prints of the Hannibal Mine in Bochum, in 1976, but most of the hundreds of images from each site were unpublished negatives.

And at the time of the interview, the SK-Stiftung in Cologne [which houses the couple's portfolio archive], began working to process and print images. They did a show, which traveled to the Huis Marseille in the Netherlands. And a catalogue, Zeche Hannibal (Coal Mine Hannibal), which sounds rather interesting.

Hannover Mine 1/2/5, Bochum-Hordel, Ruhr Region, Germany, 1973, Bernd & Hilla Becher [via moma]

As it happens, 200 of over 600 photos the Bechers made at Hannover have just been published in their own book. Zeche Hannover (Hannover Coal Mine) came out in Germany in July.

And it looks like MoMA acquired a selection of the Bechers' mine landscapes in 2008. When seen together, they end up forming a higher-level series, a typology, not of structure, but of site. So they're looking more Becheresque all the time. I'd still like to see that film, though.

It's funny how I think I know the history of the Pasadena Art Museum, when all I'm doing is projecting back and assuming a bunch of stuff based on a bunch of great-sounding anecdotes:

Common_objects_poster.jpgFirst museum shows for Duchamp, Lichtenstein, Warhol; Walter Hopps and the ur-Pop Art show; great posters [Ruscha, Duchamp, Warhol]; Pasadena Brillo Boxes; Serra's massive 1970 fir tree installation; the increasingly intrafamily-related theft of Norton Simon's nephew's Warhols; Lichtenstein signing his Pasadena billboard.

But then I read through Paul Cummings' 1975 AAA interview with John Coplans, artist, Artforum co-founder & editor, and former Pasadena curator and director, and it sounds like the place was a total shitshow:

ladies' auxiliaries overruling curators to keep buying local artists' crap; architects calling the fire department on curators for hanging shows; firemen ripping lights and cords off of Rauschenbergs; trustees scheduling Warhol shows with Castellis behind their curators' and directors' backs; trustees not putting up a dime, or asking their friends to donate; trustees demanding shows that include work they own who then sell that work without notice a few weeks before the opening; and people freaking the hell out when some crazy East Coast guy with a Jewfro drops a dozen fir trees in their precious museum and calls it art.

And on and on. There are definitely some additional sides to the stories I'd love to hear: trustee/collector Robert Rowan, for one. He's the guy who was apparently running the show during the late 60s, and who plotted the Warhol show with Castelli. And whose Temple of Apollo painting was featured so prominently on Lichtenstein's billboard.

Also, Norton Simon, who apparently refused to lend all kinds of stuff as a trustee, but who obviously made a deal at some point, otherwise it'd still be called the Pasadena Art Museum.

Hopps, of course. Irving Blum, who drove around LA with a bottle rack in his trunk, waiting to get Duchamp to sign it. Even though a lot of folks have died, there are still plenty who are alive and perhaps willing to talk.

UPDATE: Well this sounds like a start. Tyler points to Susan Muchnic's 1998 biography Odd Man In: Norton Simon and the Pursuit of Culture, which apparently "comes alive" with accounts of "the bizarrely bitter politics of Los Angeles museums."

September 14, 2010

I Rumori Dell'Arte


That's Futurist painter Luigi Russolo on the left being helped by his friend Ugo Piatti, probably around 1913 or 1914. They stand amidst Russolo's musical instruments, intonarumori, noise-intoners, which were designed in accordance with the principles laid out in Russolo's Futurist music manifesto, l'Arte dei Rumori, The Art of Noise.

Though the trajectory of his ideas and influence is not quite as clear as The Hydra's otherwise excellent recounting of his legacy imputes, Russolo was an innovator and visionary in the use of noise, found sound, in musical composition.

In The Art of Noise, Russolo makes a bold, lucid argument for music of the future to adopt the sounds of the world, especially the sounds of the machine, which had irrevocably changed the world's aural landscape:

Ancient life was all silence. In the nineteenth century, with the invention of the machine, Noise was born. Today, Noise triumphs and reigns supreme over the sensibility of men. For many centuries life went by in silence, or at most in muted tones. The strongest noises which interrupted this silence were not intense or prolonged or varied. If we overlook such exceptional movements as earthquakes, hurricanes, storms, avalanches and waterfalls, nature is silent.


In the pounding atmosphere of great cities as well as in the formerly silent countryside, machines create today such a large number of varied noises that pure sound with its littleness and its monotony, now fails to arouse any emotion.

Then there's this, the source noise for his Intonarumori, the sounds of the modern world:
the gurglings of water, air and gas inside metallic pipes, the rumblings and rattlings of engines breathing with obvious animal spirits, the rising and falling of pistons, the stridency of mechanical saws, teh loud jumping of trolleys on their rails, the snapping of whips, the whipping of flags. We will have fun imagining our orchestration of department stores' sliding doors, the hubbub of the crowds, the different roars of railroad stations, iron foundries, textile mills, printing houses, power plants and subways. And we must not forget the very new noises of Modern Warfare.
Indeed. Russolo's first public demonstration of Intonarumori was in Modena in April 1913. An instrument called the scoppiatore variously called the exploder or crackler, it replicated the sound of an internal combustion engine, not, actual explosions. That would be the detonatore, which came soon after.

I realize that it was not mentioned specifically in Russolo's list of noises, but how can you not think of hail cannon when you see that photo up there? Russolo was born in 1885 in the formerly silent countryside of the Veneto, which was at the heart of the hail cannon boom [sorry] at the turn of the century. Thousands of hail cannon were installed across the region in 1901-02; in 1904, the Veneto was the site of the first official scientific study of hail cannon's effectiveness. [They failed, and once-enthusiastic farmers turned against them en masse and sold their hail cannon for scrap.]

Did Luigi perhaps recall a pastoral orchestra of hail cannonfire from his youth when he wrote his manifesto? I have no idea, but it's interesting to think about. None of the intonarumori recordings on Ubu sound like the modern hail cannon these guys try to throw their Barack Obama basketballs into.

On an object note, Russolo's original Intonarumori were destroyed or scrapped, but his nephew Bruno Boccato has refabricated some following his uncle's original plans. I think these are they.

Good grief, it was only a couple of hours ago, and I can't even remember what took me to this three-year-old link roundup on BLDGBLOG that mentions hail cannons. I mean, hail cannon.


Turns out they still make'em, they just don't make'em like they used to. It's something that the Wikipedia entry on hail cannon calls them "pseudoscientific" devices. Because whatever scientific data exists for them now--and it's not at all clear that there is much/any--it's pretty obvious that hail cannon are technotheoretical holdovers from the turn of the 20th century.

The promise of vintners being able to their crops by creating and channeling explosive shockwaves to pulverize hail in the hyperlocal atmosphere had been shooting around Europe since at least the days of Benvenuto Cellini, the Mannerist goldsmith & sculptor who claimed to have stopped the rain and hail with artillery fire.

Between 1896 and 1899, Austrian inventor Albert Stiger tested his design for a giant, megaphone-shaped mortar cannon that fired a smoke ring 300 meters into the air--and spared his village fields from hail damage. The Italians seized upon the hail shooting technology with incredible fervor, and within a year, there were 10,000 hail cannon protecting the vineyards of Northern Italy.

The first two International Congresses on Hail Shooting were held in Italy [Casale in 1899, and Padua in 1900], by which point at least 60 different models of hail cannon were on the market. So far, though, neither event was as extensively documented as the Troisième Congres international de defense contre la grêle, [the Third International Congress on Hail Shooting,] held in Lyon in 1901 [below, via]


For three days, the streets, parks, and plazas of the cities were filled with hail cannon. Were there live demos scheduled? Did people lay out picnics [well, it was Novembre] and listen to the big finish of the 1812 Overture over and over? Did the vineyards of Europe, laid out with a grid of hail cannon--an anti-Lightning Field--echo with rhythmic explosions during the most vulnerable months of the growing season? [Did I suddenly start speculating as if were auditioning for the guestblogging slot at BLDGBLOG?]

Eh, if they did, it didn't last. Governments and scientists began questioning the data behind hail shooting, and by the time the Fourth conference rolled around in Graz, Austria, hail cannon salesmen were prohibited from attending. Suddenly sober and facing the facts--that hail shooting couldn't be demonstrated to actually have any effect--the European hail cannon industry all but disappeared by 1905.

And so it is that refilling our cities' public spaces with several orchestrasful of hail cannon would be a powerful, performative tribute to man's indomitable urge to control the weather using military technology.

Q: Why is this Romanian Wikipedia page on Hail Cannon so darn good? []

My list of incredible objects and machines from the past that need to be refabricated as art objects continues to grow.


Actually, I guess the acoustic mirrors, built in the 1920s and early 30s as part of a sound ranging air defense network along the British coast, still exist, most spectacularly at Dungeness, above. So there's really no need to rebuild them, only to preserve then. And admire them for their undeniable Serrawesomeness and Kapooriosity.


With the acoustic locators, however, the real question is where to start? Because, holy smokes, Dr. Seuss was basically a combat photographer.

Do I go with the first one I saw, a US Signal Corps Exponential Sound Locator T-3 from 1927? Which looks an awful lot like the one Frank House patented in 1929, which was assigned to Sperry Gyroscope, the US' leading manufacturer of anti-aircraft sound locators? Yet which was developed beginning in 1924 at Fort Monroe, VA? And which, even when its breakthrough "ear" designs appeared in the popular press in 1931, was still compared to "antiquated phonograph horns"?

Or maybe go for decorative superlatives, such as the Hector Guimardian rarity of the télésitemètre designed by French Nobelist Jean-Baptiste Perrin? [via]


Or perhaps begin with a bit of the absurd, thanks to the Czech Mickey Mouse thing going on here? [via]


Frankly, the Japanese War Tuba is a little too Seussian Steampunk for even me to take it seriously, no offense to the emperor there. [via]


Surfing up information on these things, I'm well aware that I'm late to the sound locator game. But I didn't think I was so far behind the Maker Faire/Burning Man crowd. Hmm. And hmmm.

Oh what the hell, maybe just throw this one on Governors Island and be done with it? The stethoscope to the stars.


But then there's this highly portable German model--the awesome wheels and lowslung platform are typical among acoustic locators--which, wow. Stick your head in.



It's like a real world precursor to other man-media interface devices, such as Walter Pichler's Portable Living Room and Joep van Lieshout's various fiberglass helmets, including the Orgone Helmet and the Sensory Deprivation Helmet [below].


Of course, it's also a pretty short trip to a beer hat, so you gotta be careful.

Also of course, as a friend predicted when I started my giddy sound locator rant, it IS all about the satelloons. Specifically, the 50-foot horn-shaped radio antenna which Bell Labs used in Holmdel, New Jersey to track the epically faint radio signals reflected off of Echo IA's mylar surface.


And which was later crucial to the inadvertent discovery of microwave background radiation, the first evidence of the Big Bang.

Earlier this morning, I tweeted half-seriously about the Bechers not working their way into The Original Copy, MoMA's show about photography of sculpture. For all their conceptual sophistication, and their typological aestheticization to the industrial forms and structures they photographed, I don't believe the Bechers saw their work in terms of, say, a readymade. Their art is their photos, not their subjects.

With their built-in obsolescence and anachronism, none of these objects could function as they originally did. Or were intended to do. And they don't, really, remain as artifacts [except, as in the sound mirrors' case, when they do]. So the only context in which they could plausibly exist--or credibly, since it's plausible that they could be recreated by an enthusiast, a WWI re-enactor, or a nerded out...who is that guy in that refabricated sound locator, anyway?--is as an art object. And that's the whole point, because they are these fantastic objects that surpass the presence and sophistication and beauty and...aura of so much intentional art, that it almost feels wrong not to appropriate or recontextualize or readymake them in somehow.

LATER THAT DAY UPDATE: Never mind. Going into my boxes, I see that, in fact, the title of the Bechers' first book is Anonyme Skulpturen. Should've gotten the English edition after all. Stay tuned.

Yeah, well, in this 2000 interview with the Bechers, they talk about the beginnings of their work, which was considered "inartistic" by the art world of the day, the early 1960s. Bernd Becher: "To say, 'This winding tower is an object, and it is just as interesting on its own terms'--that was not possible." And then he talked about the urgency of photographing buildings they "didn't like" which were slated for demolition, and explained not like them in terms of them not having "an aura." So really, really, never mind.

September 11, 2010

Keeping Up With The Laurens


Good grief, The Hilfigers? Is anyone else old enough to remember the ads launching Tommy Hilfiger in the 80s? Just full page text:

Ralph Lauren
Calvin Klein
Perry Ellis
Tommy Hilfiger
Glad to see he's returning to his desperate, striving, unoriginal roots.

September 11, 2010

Cretto Street View


Christopher Knight took the occasion of an Alberto Burri retrospective in Santa Monica to tweet about Cretto, the artist's absolutely incredible 20-acre memorial/earthwork, in which the earthquake ruins of the Sicilian town of Gibellina were encased in a grid of concrete. I'd mentioned Cretto in 2006, including a basic Google Map image.


Well, Street View has come to Gibellina. At some point, I suspect no one will marvel at the idea of using your laptop to drive around the backroads of Sicily, or to dive into geotagged photos of remote land artworks. But that point is not yet. The Street View images in particular have a great, desaturated feel that makes me imagine I'm right there for the ribboncutting. The future and the past is now.

Cretto, Alberto Burri/Ruins of Gibellina [google maps]
Related: finding Double Negative has never been easier

September 11, 2010

'We Who Change The World'

"My cover would go right here." [image via]

Just like the Wallace Sayre quip about academic politics being so vicious because the stakes are so low, maybe the hubris and self-regard are so extraordinary because it's the Venice Architecture Biennale. Anyway, let's call it out quickly, and then look at what Rem Koolhaas has to say about modernism and preservation, because there may be some interesting things there.

[The text, by the way, is Designboom's exhaustive 4-part guided tour (II, III, IV, pending) of "Chronocaos," the OMA/AMO installation of research and history-related projects within Kazuyo Sejima's exhibition.]

So. Hubris. Well, for starters, there's the introductory wall text, which, wow:

Architects--we who change the world--have been oblivious or hostile to the manifestations of preservation the past. Since 1981, in Portoghesi's "Presence of the Past," there has been almost no attention paid to preservation in successive architecture Biennales.
I mean, I'm sure the visitors to the exhibition just ate that up, but should I even be reading it, much less commenting on it? Not being either an architect OR one who changes the world and all?

Then there's the photo above, and its associated text:

The rise of the market economy has meant the end of the architect as a credible public figure.

Since Philip Johnson in 1979, no architect has appeared on the cover of TIME magazine.

Starchitects accepted a faustian bargain where they became more prominent, but their role less significant ...

We'll get to that public/market economy stuff in a minute; first let's look at this Cover of TIME [CoTIME] business, which is as alluring as it is non-credible. [I was about to say "useless," but really, it's quite useful; it just illustrates something other than what I think Koolhaas intends.]

As it happens, Jonathan Franzen's CoTIME this week gave Craig Ferhman the chance to do a similar CoTIME analysis for writers:

Time put 14 authors on its cover in the 1920s, 23 in the 1930s, seven in the 1940s, 11 in the 1950s, 10 in the 1960s, eight in the 1970s, four in the 1980s, four in the 1990s, one in the 2000s, and, now, Franzen in 2010.
Ferhman finds that behind the cover, TIME's profiles of writers are truncated, shallow, reductivist, or otherwise nearly empty of actual content. He cites multiple examples of writers resisting the--what else to call it?-- "faustian bargain" of a CoTIME, which was long considered uncritical, low-brow, and hypey. The cover becomes a thing in [and of] itself, a distillation of the magazine's--and by direct extension, its owner's--desire to assert authority and control over a cultural agenda.

In this light, and given the close tracking between architects' and writers' presence on the cover, one might be led to wonder if it's not architecture [or literature] which has changed in the last 20-30 years, but TIME and its own role or strategy as a megaphone for culture. Or to question the suitability for a democratic society of monolithic, top-down annointing of public figures' credibility. That one would not be Rem Koolhaas, though.

In any case, CoTIME reveals as little about the reported "end of the architect as a public figure" as it does about the ego-driven architect's desire to, well, to appear on the cover of TIME.

And yet. You know, this is right where I was going to acknowledge and explore OMA/AMO's more salient points, about how, as Designboom puts it,

...this year represents the perfect friction point between two directions: the world's ambition to rescue larger and larger territories of the planet, and the global rage to eliminate the evidence of the post-war period of architecture as a social project. both tendencies--preservation and destruction--are seen to slowly destroy any sense of a linear evolution of time.
But I think I'll take those up later. Because I just clicked through to see the CoTIME of the architect I thought would be the least likely candidate for a credible public figure in his day: a January 1963 story on Minoru Yamasaki.


1963. Which turned out to be pegged to his recent selection to design a 15-acre site for the Port Authority in downtown Manhattan:

What form the project may be taking in Yamasaki's inventive mind is his secret, but simple arithmetic shows that the vast space needs and limited site could force him to record heights or bulk. One thing the center will not be is harsh or cold. In taking the road to Xanadu, Yamasaki has turned office buildings, schools, churches and banks into gentle pleasure palaces that are marvelously generous in spirit. He shuns monuments. He is suspicious even of masterpieces, which he feels often better serve the ego of their creators than the well-being of those who use them. He may have committed some architectural heresies, but if he has, it is largely because he is a humanist with enormously appealing aspirations. He wants his buildings to be more than imposing settings for assorted clusters of humanity; they should also recall to man the "gentility of men." should inspire "man to live a humanitarian, inquisitive, progressive life, beautifully and happily." However the Trade Center turns out, it will have that ideal-- and it will be built with the ultimate degree of loving care.
It's hard or impolitic to remember how reviled Yamasaki's buildings were as architecture and as part of the city. But I don't think anyone would dare argue about the World Trade Center that it was their architect who changed the world.

September 10, 2010

Keep Calm, Arts, And Carry On

Here [via COS] is David Shrigley's animated short for Save The Arts, which is trying to help arts organizations in the UK avoid debilitating budget cuts.

At first, I thought WTF?? The Arts are so screwed! Then I thought, well, maybe they should've just gotten Nizlopi to do it. And then I thought for the whole "think of the children!" angle to work, it'd be nice if the kid--who HAS the arts right now, mind you--wasn't an inert loser with less than three lines to string together. And then I saw, in my related videos selection, and I mellowed the heck right out.

Because Shrigley being Shrigley had previously saved Pringle of Scotland from being shuttered. Not only did he save Pringle, he helped get all the other jumpermakers bombed back to the sockmaking age.

And what did he save Pringle to do, you ask? Why, to commission Ryan McGinley to film Tilda Swinton's exploration of the moody Highlands in Pringle eveningwear for the Spring/Summer 2010 collection:

And then it all came together when I saw the credit: Creative Director - Neville Wakefield, the great roving-so-as-not-to-have-to-give-up-too-many-side-gigs curator at PS1. I think the Arts will be just fine.

update: And a good thing, too, because Shrigley's right: Tracy Emin's not going to come put out your housefire. [via @bhoggard]

September 10, 2010

Take Ivy That


Ah, September 10th, an inadvertently trenchant date for unloading on the trendchasers' seemingly complete lack of historical self-awareness.

And I'm not talking about that perfect, frivolous Marc Jacobs afterparty on that nearly perfect late summer evening which only acquired its poignancy the next morning when, well.

I just found this incredible wool twill authentic made in USA Ivy prep revival classic trad artisanal manly tweed outdoor ruling class WASP vintage Woolrich shirt jacket, which I'm rocking right now because it's kind of chilly typing with the windows open.


See, I'd gone up to Connecticut Berkshires Brimfield North Adams Darien New Haven over the weekend. But since I had the car, I also stopped in Long Island City at our storage unit. And pulled a bunch of stuff out of a cedar-filled sweater suitcase I'd packed in 1995. I do believe it was vintage when I bought it in 1989.

It starts to feel like freakin' Groundhog Day around here sometimes, but fortunately, I'm ready.

last year: authenticity vs. realness

Seascape I, 1964, screenprint on Rowlux, ed. 200, from New York Ten portfolio [via]

You know how you just think you'll blog about one thing, and then you want to get a little context, so you dig a bit, and then a bit more, and a bit more, and.. anyway, even though I rather obsessively collected out a bunch of his source comic books in the early 1990's, I haven't been a close follower of Lichtenstein's work. Or rather, I think I've been lulled into a sense of familiarity by Lichtenstein's almost immediate recognizability, and I never paid too much attention to when he made what and why or how. It just was.

Seascape I, 1964, printer's proof, Rowlux, different horizon, no Benday [via]

Which is why these early landscapes and seascapes are so fascinating. They're so odd, so resolutely unfamiliar, almost unrecognizable as Lichtensteins, and yet they're from 1964-68, a period when Lichtenstein's career specifically and Pop Art generally were both gaining global recognition. They seem like experiments, avenues of persistent research. They account for some milestones: Lichtenstein's first use of his own subject matter, inclusion in his first museum show. They have clear--or at least compellingly arguable--influence on later, major work. But they still somehow feel atypical, marginal, minor, dead-ends, even failed. But are they? Could they just be underseen or underappreciated? Undervalued by the market because they don't "look" like Lichtensteins [yet]?

Black and White Sunrise, 1964, oil on magna on canvas [via]

According to the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation's official chronology, the artist began making landscapes in early 1964. Some were painted rather spectacularly, like the black and white sunrise [above]. And with others:

Begins to incorporate plastic, Plexiglas, and metal into some of his landscapes.
And near the end of '64, there's this [images top]:
Rosa Esman begins Tanglewood Press with the portfolio, New York Ten which includes Seascape, 1964, a color screenprint on clear Rowlux by R.L.
Rowlux is a wavy, prismatic plastic sheeting material which Lichtenstein apparently discovered at a novelty store. Its moire pattern can simulate reflections on water. [Hmm, novelty shop? The Rowland brothers were trying to market Rowlux for use in highway signs, and according to Ron Abbe's 1976 paper, "Experiment with Rowlux," Salvador Dali was the first artist to use the material, in 1962. Dali decked some models out in Rowlux collages for a "couture" show in 1965. What a mess.]

Moonscape, 1965, silkscreen on Rowlux, ed. 200 [image]

In 1965, Lichtenstein made painting collages using Rowlux and other materials. The dealer Mark Borghi, which is selling Littoral [below], lists some more. Littoral was purchased from Castelli by Larry Aldrich and made its way to his museum, which apparently deaccessioned it at some point.

Littoral, 1965, Metalized polyester foil, aluminum and magna on board, [via]

1965 was also when Lichtenstein began experimenting with adding backlights and motors to his Rowlux painting collages, making them a hybrid of kinetic art, light art, and moving picture. Examples of these Electric Seascapes were included in the artist's one-man show at the Pasadena Art Museum in 1967.

Electric Seascape #1, 1966, Rowlux, paper, light, electric motor, formerly Collection Guggenheim Museum [via]

I think two statements Lichtenstein made about his explosion paintings, which he began around the same time, are also relevant to these landscapes. First, from his interview with John Coplans for the 1967 Pasadena show catalogue, there's a conscious technical distancing from painting: "I wanted the subject matter to be opposite to the removed and deliberate painting techniques." And in Aspen No. 3, published in December 1966:

Explosions give me a perfect opportunity to do a completely abstract painting which seems, on the surface to he realistic.
Electric Seascape #2, 1966, Rowlux, wood, light, motor [via]

While Moonscape is pretty strongly representational, many of these landscapes are as abstracted as Rothkos or Sugimoto photographs. Sometimes the only representational element is the hint of a Benday horizon contour--or the light playing on rippling water, which is, of course, an illusion intrinsic to the material itself.

Landscape 2, 1967, silkscreen on Rowlux overlay, ed. 100 [via]

Lichtenstein kept on making these Rowlux collages and editions at least through 1967, when they were reduced to almost nothing but a horizon line. The two 1967 works here were from Ten Landscapes, Lichtenstein's first solo print portfolio, published by Castelli.

Landscape 5, 1967, silkscreen on Rowlux on board, ed. 100 [via]

When they were made, then, Lichtenstein's hotness and Castelli's marketing magic helped these trippy landscapes into major collections like the Guggenheim's and Larry Aldrich's. They were what's available, and they got snapped up. And then at some point, those institutions decided they were expendable, or outside the Lichtenstein narrative, and they ended up back out into the market. Assuming it's still available, Borghi's Littoral has been on the market for at least two years.

Besides their intentional distance from the painting process--a major concern of almost all Lichtenstein's work--these shimmery landscapes and seascapes are almost nakedly direct explorations of the characteristics of light, sight and visual perception. The play of light and reflectivity would become significant subjects for Lichtenstein going forward--his first painting of a mirror [below] was made in 1969. In 2000, an entire show of Lichtenstein's light-related works, titled "Reflection/Reflessi," was organized in Rome. The inclusion of Electric Seascape #1 only highlights the extent of Lichtenstein's investigations.

Mirror #1, 1969, oil on magna on canvas, [via]

But these landscapes also related directly to another series of unusual works, the ones that started me on this whole researching jag: Lichtenstein's only films. Which are coming soon to a blog near you.

September 9, 2010

Now That's A Fire!


This is why readers earn the big bucks, people. GF-R spotted this hilarious/sublime juxtaposition of ad and content from the LIFE Magazine report on the 1958 fire at the Museum of Modern Art and asks,:

coincidence? Or the work of the advertising and layout guys at LIFE? I'd love to know. The color image of the grilled cheese sandwich even looks like a proto pop art piece. (although I know there is no way of that being intentional and is only the result of my own retrospective anachronism).
Oh, I don't know, someone check Claes Oldenburg's resume for suspiciously ad agency internship-sized gaps. Meanwhile, add whoever designed that frying pan to the list of random cranks suing Damien Hirst for plagiarism.

Over the weekend, I hit the road to interview some people I've wanted to meet and talk with for months now. I'll be publishing the results soon here on One of the artists whose work I've been interested in is Roy Lichtenstein. This wasn't where I had planned to start my Lichtenstein story, but the beginning just keeps getting pushed back. And the Manitoba Museum of Finds Arts' archive of Frank J. Thomas's photos from the Pasadena Art Museum are just too awesome to ignore:


John Coplans gave Lichtenstein his first solo museum show in 1967, and while the artist was in Pasadena, the Museum organized a little excursion, which involved some old-timey outfits, and an old bus. And a ladder.


And a casual yet elegant affair in a Sears parking lot. A Sears promoting the--yes, you read that right--the "Vincent Price Art Collection."


Roy climbed the ladder onto a Foster and Kleiser billboard.

Roy Lichtenstein 1967

And unveiled a giant billboard for his show, with what looks to be a life-sized reproduction of his 1964 painting, Temple of Apollo.

Roy Lichtenstein, billboard, 1967

Which he promptly signed.

Roy Lichtenstein, billboard, 1967

The Temple of Apollo was [is?] in a local Pasadena collection. The Billboard Temple of Apollo's fate and whereabouts are unknown, but I would start looking in either the Foster's or the Kleiser's garage.

update: Robert Rowan, a Pasadena trustee, bought the Temple. It's mistranscribed in Castelli's AAA interview as "tempo".

Roy Lichtenstein, billboard, 1967

September 6, 2010

Space Race

And in other Just Cold Stealin' My Satelloon Idea Before The Fact News:


This has been stuck on my iPad for way too long. At a space flight conference a couple of months ago, the Global Aerospace Corporation announced their GOLD program, the Gossamer Orbit Lowering Device for controlled satellite de-orbiting.

GOLD is a commercial venture designed as a solution for managing the clutter in low-earth orbit [LEO]. It'd be available as an option for future missions, or as its own mission for dealing with space junk that's already out there.

The idea is to attach a satelloon-style inflatable sphere up to 100 meters [!] in diameter to a satellite, thereby degrading its orbit much more quickly, and letting you steer it to a fiery death in the atmosphere. Though Global only just announced it publicly, they received a patent for the GOLD system it in 2004.

Conceptually, it couldn't be more different than my satelloon idea; Global Aerospace is pushing hardcore utility and cost-effectiveness, while I'm going for art's utter uselessness for anything but sheer experiential and aesthetic benefit.

But from the ground, I suspect it'll be pretty hard to tell the art satelloons from the functional satellite killers. I will need to keep an eye on these people.

Global Aerospace Corporation | GOLD []
Balloon device for lowering space object orbits [google patents]


So there I am, just driving to the Berkshires for an interview, minding my own business, when suddenly I come around the bend into Springfield, MA, and there's Charles Gwathmey throwing a 100-foot silver sphere in my face!

And I'm all, fine, you and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame win this round, but I will be bringing my satelloon game in the playoffs, my dearly departed friend.

Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (2002) []

I can't quite figure out how it ties to the rest of the story, but I still think Sean O'Toole just shortlisted himself for arts lede of the year:

For every Joseph Beuys and Yves Klein there is a fascist doppelgänger who also believes in the transformative potential of paint on the human body.
Alright, I am listening:
In 1999, shortly after trespassing onto a white farmer's property southeast of Johannesburg, Moses Nkosi, 21, was stripped, his naked body painted silver by the landowner and his black assistant. An anomalous brand of vigilantism, this was repeated again a year later when a 14-year-old girl accused of shoplifting underwear was similarly stripped and painted by a white store manager and her black assistant.
Don't Show That! []

People meet in architecture
via la_biennale

So Venice is not a total bust. Raumlaborberlin have installed their 2006 mobile inflatospace sculpture, „Das Küchenmonument," in the Giardini.


And next to it is The Generator, an on-site workshop for knocking together "sedia veneziana," which are not just autoprogettazione-style chairs...

12. Mostra Internazionale di Architettura - La Biennale
via br1dotcom

they're "future particles of the generator-space-structure," modular building elements of both social space and structure. autoprogettazione stacking chairs. Awesome.


Which, of course, is related to their exhibition for Arc en Reve in Bordeaux last year, "Chaise Bordelaise."


"Chaise Bordelaise" consisted of a 3x3x1m pile of pre-cut, reclaimed lumber, instructions, and some tools. Visitors made some chaises, then took them home.


It's basically an Enzo Mari x Felix Gonzalez-Torres mashup. If had tags, this post would be giving me a tagasm right now.

Raumlaborberlin: what's up? exhibitions [ via archinect]
Chaise Bordelaise []
related: proposta per un' auraprogettazione

September 2, 2010

Venetian Mirror

via tsaaby

Yeah, so I'd been poking around flickr for a while, looking to see how MOS's project for the US Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale turned out. Because well, because.

via Erika-Milite

And hmm. What is it about it? The green straps? Should the weather balloons have been upside-down, so gnarly knots and straps take a backseat, and the smoother, more reflective surface is visible instead of pointing to the sky? Maybe instead of straps, string a net across the courtyard, and attach the balloons from above, or maybe let the balloons float up against it to find their own structure?

12. Mostra Internazionale di Architettura - La Biennale

Do the balloons just not have enough gas, or enough gores?

Because right now, I'm rethinking my entire satelloony look.

September 2, 2010

It's Reagan Men! Hallelujah!

This is where Nightcrawler 'ports in and shouts, "Ausgezeichnet!"

Here is Joseph Beuys, pop singer, performing his greatest anti-US, anti-nuclear hit from 1982, "Sonne statt Reagan, [Sun not Reagan]." Reagan, remember, is a German homonym for rain [Regen], so it makes perfect sense.

As Ubu explains it, "Beuys tried his luck as a pop singer as part of his political commitment." Sure.

To throw one more tidbit in there, here's one section of the lyrics that jumped out at me:

Er sagt als Präsident von USA
Atomkrieg ? - Ja bitte dort und da
ob Polen, Mittler Osten, Nicaragua
er will den Endsieg, das ist doch klar.

He says as President of USA
Nuclear war? - Yes please here and there
whether Poland, Middle East, Nicaragua
he wants the final victory, that much is clear.

Endsieg: perhaps Reagan used a loaded term in German, one that turns out to be associated with Jews in Mein Kampf and inevitable civilian casualties in the Third Reich. But translation can be a bitch that way. Just ask the guy who came up with "enhanced interrogation" ["Verschärfte Vernehmung"].

Thanks reader frank for the felt hat tip.

September 2, 2010

MoMA On Fire


The fire at the Phillips Collection in Washington DC this morning reminded me of the incredible story of another museum fire, at The Museum of Modern Art in 1958. Before my time, I know, but I'd only learned of it last year, when Ann Temkin staged a show of Monet's Water Lilies [Here's Roberta Smith's review, and a tangent I went on about Pollock] and mentioned the fire.

Mentioned the fire because it destroyed a giant, 18-foot-long Water Lilies painting the Museum had acquired just a couple of years before. [The current 3-panel Water Lilies was the replacement.]

UPDATE: LIFE published a 2-page color spread of the painting with the announcement of The Modern's acquisition in 1957:


So what happened? The New York TImes' report from the scene [purchase required] is riveting. [one image above] Director Rene d'Harnoncourt "trudging out" onto the street in tears. One worker dead, two visitors injured, and dozens of firefighters treated for smoke inhalation. Visitors and staff trapped on the penthouse terrace being evacuated by Alfred Barr, who throws a chair through a window and catches women and children on the roof of the neighboring townhouse. The fire chief marveling "at how women employees, soaked by dripping water, kept helping save the pictures."

Like the Phillips fire [apparently], the MoMA fire was triggered by construction. In the Modern's case, contractors installing air conditioning on the second floor were smoking near open paint cans, sawdust, and a canvas dropcloth. The work meant that except for the largest paintings, all the other art had been cleared from the second floor.

Art on the third and fourth floors was undamaged, and was evacuated to the garden, and to the Whitney Museum, which abutted MoMA on 54th St. Among those works? Hello, Seurat's Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, which was on its one and only loan from the Art Institute of Chicago. Close call.


Meanwhile, besides the Monets--the large Water Lilies was apparently hanging on the 53rd St wall and had been "hacked" fighting the fire--the Museum initially reported that four works had been damaged or lost. The other Monet, another, smaller, late work hanging in the Bauhaus Staircase, was supposedly restorable, despite, as the Times put it, having "its oil flowed and blistered," and "looking like a toasted marshmallow." I guess I'll have to check, but the Giverny painting known as The Japanese Footbridge [above] came into the collection in 1956, so unless MoMA had three late Monets at the time, that's the toasted one.

[UPDATE: They did. Temkin's essay about the Water Lilies makes it clear that the stairway painting was a smaller, but still big, Water Lilies. The Museum tried for three years to restore it, but in 1961, it was declared to be damaged beyond repair. Jackson Pollock's No 1A, 1948. was also in the staircase and also damaged, but it was conserved.

Of the fate of the largest Water Lilies, Temkin wrote, "After the fire, Museum officials returned to find the painting buried under a pile of debris on the ground; firefighters had unknowingly destroyed it breaking through the windows into the building." There's a photo of the aftermath in LIFE Magazine's April 28, 1958 issue. It is unreal.]


Boccioni's The City Rises is still around, as is Pawel Tchelitchew's Cache-cache [Hide and Seek], which was described as "probably the most popular [painting] in the museum." [More on that in a second. The controversial original 1953 version of Larry Rivers' Washington Crossing The Delaware [below] was damaged, though for some reason, it's not listed in MoMA's collection. Which means the only other total loss besides Water Lilies was a World's Fair mural by the Brazilian artist Candido Portinari.


In a Times sidebar on April 16 detailing the art losses, Sanka Knox was reassured by a Museum "spokesman" that "none of the damaged pictures, including the two Monets, are among the most valuable of the museum's paintings," and then an unnamed "staff member" said that, "apparently none of the museum's most valuable holdings" were damaged." Which begs the question, right? Right:

Among these "most valuable" works, according to a staff ember, are Rousseau's The Dream, Picasso's Three Musicians, Van Gogh's The Starry Night and Gaugin's Still Life with Three Puppies."
I'm sure it means nothing, but the only museum official quoted by name in Knox's piece was Barr himself. Now about that most-popular Tchelitchew.

In 2007 FIT art history professor Richard Turnbull gave a Brown Bag Lecture at the Museum about the divergence of curatorial and popular opinion titled, "From Pavel Tchelitchew's Hide-and-Seek to Andrew Wyeth's Christina's World" [mp3 available]. He said the museum education staff gets asked about Hide-and-Seek all the time by teachers; apparently it's been in the NYC public school curriculum for decades, and they always want to walk kids through the painting's cycle of life allegories. [Actually, I just finished listening to the whole lecture; it's more like Tchelitchew hid so many faces and figures in the painting, you can stare at it for hours. It's like a psychosurrealist Where's Waldo?] It hasn't been on view since around 1999 when the Museum closed for renovations.

Is it just me, or do all these paintings still look burnt? What a palette.

[images: top, nyt; the rest:]

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 September 2010, in reverse chronological order

Older: August 2010

Newer October 2010

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
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
Selected Court Documents
from Cariou v. Prince (2011)
about | buy now, 376pp, $17.99