December 2016 Archives

December 31, 2016

Thank You

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It's been a hard season to think of positive things, and sometimes looking back, it's been difficult to see how or if things mattered at all. But I also look back at the year with immense gratitude, both for the opportunities I've had, but also for the people who helped make them possible. I'd probably still be doing a lot of what I'm doing here if no one else was paying attention; that's how it often feels, actually. But I've come to know that sometimes people do take an interest in what I'm doing, whether writing, research, criticism, or artmaking, and they respond to it, react to it, challenge it, run with it, join in on it. And it makes it interesting, better, and more meaningful, and it is nice to feel that. But there are also things, some of my greatest, favorite things, that would not have existed at all without the interest, effort, and support of others.

So I'd like to give some specific thanks to some of the many people who engaged with and supported my work in 2016. Without them, these things I am so proud of would literally not have happened.


Magda Sawon suggested we do a proposal for SPRING/BREAK. "Chop Shop" began as a glib sendup of Simchowitzian cash&carry speculecting. But in the last few weeks before the show, it grew exponentially in scale, which forced some real thinking about its meaning and ambition. With Ambre & Andrew's flexibility, and the extraordinary efforts of Magda's posse, Chop Shop somehow became what supposed to not be: a Basel-ian boothful of investment-grade masterpieces. [Some of which are still available, btw. Get in now at 2016, pre-boom prices.]


Book deals come and go, but Jennifer Liese and her colleagues at Paper Monument offered what bloggers need most: a good editing. When PM first asked to include my 2+ years of posts about the history of Erased deKooning Drawing in their anthology Social Medium, I frankly thought they were nuts. But Jen's vision and thoughtful editing helped me see my own writing and ideas anew, and she enabled them to reach people in an amazing, new context. I've never felt prouder of my writing than to have it included among the great work of so many artists who influence and inspire me already.

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Mark Leckey and John Garcia included my work in shows that were totally fascinating and different from anything I could have imagined, which let me think about it and the world it inhabits in a new way. Having my satelloon sculpture be subsumed into Leckey's autobiographically inspired installation at MoMA PS1 turns out to be a rare privilege, to be able to help realize, almost literally, someone's memory.


And Garcia's inclusion of the Madoff Provenance Project in his show about context's impact on art at To___Bridges___ not only gave it a challenging context, it pushed me to figure out ways to make the project visible and understandable beyond its datalayer. This in turn helped me see how my work connects to, and was informed by, artists of earlier generations. [In this case, there's an obvious shoutout due to Mel Bochner and his Working drawings and other visible things on paper not necessarily meant to be viewed as art, a project whose title has long resonated with my own ambivalence about calling myself an artist or what I do art.]

Sarah Douglas and Andrew Russeth at ArtNews invited me to write about one of my favorite, all-consuming blogtopics: the disappearance of the Johns flag in Short Circuit. And recently Eric Doeringer and I had a great public conversation about his work, and the early Johns/Rauschenberg era that I continue to find engrossing and misunderstood.

Collectors and supporters who engage in the oddball, time- and space-limited art projects I proposed around here literally made them happen. In the crazy-skewed art world of the moment, lowering the stakes and making and trading art for two figures feels refreshing. And most awesomely, these projects have been a catalyst for connecting with some inspiring people who share some interests, and who introduce me to their passions and practices, too. [I hope 2017 lasts long enough for me to do a book version of eBay Test Prints, btw.]

Most of all, I have to thank my wife, who is my smartest, most skeptical, yet most tireless supporter. She is so deeply disapproving of my #andiron-style art designation practice it is not even funny, but she also sees me wrestling with it myself and taking it seriously, so she does, too. And anyway, at the very least, when I'm dead and gone, and she doesn't have to deal with a storing or tossing a studio or warehouseful of objects, she'll come around. So thank you, and thank you all. I hope we all get through 2017 and beyond to do this again.

Destroyed Gerhard Richter paintings come in a variety of flavors.

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Destroyed Richter Grid 004, 2016, it me

Some just get destroyed out there in the rough and tumble world. They're usually the ones listed as "[DESTROYED]" in Richter's Catalogue Raisonné. [I remade a couple this year, including Destroyed Richter Grid 004, above, which was based on a 2009 squeegee painting that's currently the last painting listed as destroyed.]

Others he destroyed himself. For the most part, I think they're not in the CR. Like the batch of super-early Informel-inspired paintings he did when he first arrived in the West, which he burned publicly. And then there's the 60+ early works he destroyed in the late 1960s, either because 1) they were painted with cheap materials, 2) he moved studios and didn't have anywhere to put them, and/or 3) he just grew dissatisfied with them. Richter documented them in his archive, but not in the CR, so I guess they've been destroyed twice.

At some point around the 1980s, when he was developing his signature abstract series, Richter seems to have stopped destroying paintings; instead he overpaints them. A work's never unacceptable, just unfinished, Which I guess is a kind of optimism; nothing is irredeemable.

Zwei Kerze [ÜBERMALT]/ Two Candles [OVERPAINTED], 1982, CR 497-2, image: gerhard-richter

I've been looking at and thinking about these exceptional, destroyed Richters for several years now, but until today, I hadn't really noticed this unusual case of how "[OVERPAINTED]" plays out in the CR. In particular, two early Kerze/Candle paintings are listed as "[OVERPAINTED]" on their original entries, and then again as new works, with new listings, in their overpainted states. Zwei Kerze (1982) starts as CR 497-2 [above], but a year later, it's back as Abstraktes Bild [ÜBERMALT] (1983), CR 536 [below].

Abstraktes Bild [ÜBERMALT]/ Abstract Painting [OVERPAINTED], 1983, CR 536, image: gerhard-richter

CR numbers are not necessarily chronology for Richter, but this painting is bracketed by a series of identically sized abstract paintings he showed (and thus presumably created) together at Konrad Fischer Galerie in Dusseldorf in the summer of 1983. Maybe it was an inspiration or a catalyst, or maybe it was a foil. Or maybe it just got in the way, abstract collateral damage. [It was not included in the show, but another two candles painting was.]

Zwei Kerze [ÜBERMALT]/ Two Candles [OVERPAINTED], 1982, CR 497-3, image: gerhard-richter

Then in 1989, the other, very similar Zwei Kerze, CR 497-3 [above], got a big, old black squeegeeful across the face, and became Abstraktes Bild CR 687-1.

Abstraktes Bild (1989) CR 687-1, the painting formerly known as CR 497-3. image: gerhard-richter

And then CR 536 got a black/white/grey squeegee veil and became Abstraktes Bild CR 687-2. Forget the candles, the bright abstract passages barely make it through to the surface.

Abstraktes Bild (1989) CR 687-2, the painting formerly known as CR 536, f/k/a CR 497-2. image: gerhard-richter

With just a couple of earlier exceptions, 1988-89 is when Richter stepped up his practice of overpainting snapshots and offset prints, including prints of candles. So something was in the air, or rather, the studio.


top: 1982 and 1989. bottom: 1982, 1983, and 1989. images all from you know where

Ever since he constructed his Catalogue Raisonné, Richter has been actively shaping the narrative it tells, editing the list of works included, and the order they appear, using the authoritative construct as a medium in itself. And for whatever reason, as these particular pictures got hit with whatever fresh treatments or gestures were in play at some moment, Richter considered them new works, reborn, and reborn again, while retaining their traces in the history.


It's funny how a work changes when the world changes around it.

Rob Pruitt's The Obama Paintings had felt a little sentimental to me a couple of years ago, but now, well.

The resonance with On Kawara's Today Series interests me, in the way that like Kawara's painting practice, had a meditative ritualism. But Kawara's was inflected with Buddhism, while Pruitt's is very secular, mediated, informational. I find Kawara's paintings mark the passage of time, or rather, his passage of time, but Pruitts' accumulate into a history that is not (only) his own.

Rob Pruitt The Obama Paintings closed yesterday at Gavin Brown [, image above too]
The Obama Paintings: using art to examine a presidential legacy [guardian]


I'm psyched for but slow to hype the discussion Eric Doeringer and I will have tomorrow, Saturday, Dec. 17, at 4pm, on the occasion of Eric's show at Mulherin Gallery.

Titled "Matson Jones & Co.", Eric is showing work he's made based on early artworks by Robert Rauschenberg & Jasper Johns. So tomorrow we'll probably talk about their collaborations, both as commercial artists, doing window displays under the name "Matson Jones," but also the artworks they made together, including such foundational "Rauschenbergs" as Short Circuit and Erased deKooning Drawing, and foundational Johns works like, well, like Flag and Map. Can you even imagine?

Anyway, it should be a blast, so I hope you'll come by.

"Eric Doeringer: Matson Jones & Co." runs through Dec. 31 at Mulherin, 124 Forsyth St (Delancey) [mulherinnewyork]


I saw this picture by Rey Baniquet in a "best photos of the day" roundup at The Guardian yesterday. The caption read, "MANILA, PHILIPPINES/ President Rodrigo Duterte shows a list of police and government officials allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade during a forum with local and foreign businessmen". The original photo's actually wider.

Two things that struck me about the photo. One is the framing, which turned out to be taken from amid a tableful of glasses, and which reminded me of the video of Mitt Romney dissing the 47%, which was made surreptitiously from atop a catering bar. The other, more important thing is the list itself.

Googling around for more information, I kept coming across what the Philippine press called a "thick list" that Duterte had been circulating to the army, the legislature, the judiciary, implicating an untold number of people in the drug industry.

This event involved the Wallace Business Forum, a private business consulting group that advises international companies on doing business in the Philippines. Duterte spoke for two-plus hours at a dinner at the Malacañan Palace on December 12. The transcript and video of his speech are available online.

Duterte discussed the illegal drug industry, including three or four, let's go with four million, "drug addicts," as a national security threat. Then he mentioned the reported killings by his government:

You know, this is the drug industry. Sabi ko nga eh [I said, eh] you worry about the 3,000? Dead? A third of them during police encounters, I don't know about the rest. And you do not worry the drug industry?

"You want a visual thing? Okay. This is the drug industry of the Philippines," he said, as he had the list brought to him. This occurs at around 36:30.

The top of the stack is filled with a grid of headshots, like a yearbook. And like the Time magazine issue listing a week of US gun fatalities which Felix Gonzalez-Torres used to create his 1990 stack work, "Untitled" (Death By Gun) [below]. That list included 460 people.

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Duterte says the list in his hand contains 6,000 people. While flipping through the list, he tosses of names and titles, mayors, judges, generals, in a way that makes it sound like he and everyone in the room knows them.


Duterte's stack turns out not to be all photos, though. That is only the first deck. Several binder clips appear to break out the drug industry roster by region. The stack looks to be about 1000+ pages, more than two reams, for sure, maybe the clips throw it off a bit. Let's say the ideal height [sic] is 15 cm.

I am wrestling with how, and whether, to make a work out of what is apparently an active kill list being circulated by a government. The visual, formal, even content reference is immediately clear, but the parameters are not. And neither are the possible implications.

On just a formal level, is the stack a single work, with no takeaways, or is the deck the data, which gets laid out into a larger grid, then turned into a stack? I feel like Duterte's grasp on the entire stack gives me that answer [one work], even though it contradicts the typical Felix stack format. But of course, so did Felix, who created one stack, "Untitled" (Implosion), 1991, as a single unit comprised of 200 screenprinted sheets. So it'd be a single work. Maybe it'd be a publication. Maybe you print it out and save me the hassle.


And maybe it's not the kind of thing that you do casually, or at least while the killings are ongoing. Or maybe not the kind of thing I should do as a white guy. Duterte's mention of 3-4 million more reminds me of Chris Burden's The Other Vietnam Memorial, 1991 [above], which mashed up names from a Vietnamese phone book into 3 million anonymized stand-ins for the real, unheralded dead. The people in the Philippines are real, and they have their own names.

It also reminds me of the million-who-knows people on the US' no-fly list, about whom we know almost nothing except some part of the government deemed them a national security risk. And there are lists of known communists in the State Department, suspected homosexuals in the US Government, climate change scientists in the Energy Department, Muslim Registries, the list of lists goes on.

I tweeted yesterday that I don't really know why I do these works; that ambivalence and uncertainty was brought to the fore by this photo. So until I think it through a bit more, I am really not comfortable right now with enshrining or recontextualizing Duterte's "thick list" as an artwork. Even though it is, as the president himself said, a very important "visual thing."

previously, somewhat related: Better Read #008: Death By Gun

Study for Untitled (Boris Johnson Water Cannon), 2016, ed. 3, est. £35,000-£43,000. installation image from Longmoor Army Camp: Andrew Matthews/PA via Guardian

I am pleased to announce that three works will be coming up for sale in London. Details will be forthcoming from the Greater London Authority, who may have some particular requirements for bidding, but I am confident that seasoned art collectors will be welcome. So watch this space.

The work, Untitled (Boris Johnson Water Cannon) (2016), comprises a c. 1990 Ziegler Wasserwerfer 9000, or "WaWe 9" water cannon, with 9,000-liter capacity, originally owned by the German federal police, converted to UK specifications, and modified at considerable expense with: CCTV, warning equipment, 999 sirens, and stereo/CD player. It exists in an edition of three.


The Wasserwerfer 9000s shown here are two of the six operated by the Police Service of Northern Ireland, and are not necessarily representative of the livery or accessories of the water cannons which comprise this work. They were used for training Metropolitan Police. So perhaps they should be considered studies. image: Stephen Barnes/Alamy via Guardian


Oh, here's one of the actual pieces, as seen in a tweet from former Deputy Mayor for Policing Stephen Greenhalgh. They were unannounced and hidden, but the BBC located two of the three editions in Gravesend and filmed them via drone.

Untitled (Boris Johnson Water Cannon) and unidentified paintings by Lucien Smith (?) installed at Gravesend, 2016. image: bbc

It looks like they were installed alongside some fire extinguisher paintings by Lucien Smith, which seems appropriate. Definitely putting that group show on the CV.

Rain Painting, Lucien Smith, via moranbondaroff

While Untitled (Boris Johnson Water Cannon) may be exhibited publicly or privately, it is the artist's intention that it not be deployed in any capacity against any living thing. They may be used for painting, though. Any resulting works, installations, performances, video, or other materials will be evaluated and certified in consultation with the U(BJWC) owner and/or curator on a case-by-case basis.

cf., Purple Rain Protest, Cape Town, South Africa, 1989, image: via

Boris Johnson's unused water cannon had £1,000 stereos fitted [theguardian]
Water cannon bought by Boris Johnson to be sold off without being used [theguardian]

Previously, related:
Police Action Painting
Protestors' Folding Item, 2014

Marcel Duchamp, The Bride Stripped Bare by her Batchelors, Even (The Large Glass) 1915-23, reconstruction by Richard Hamilton 1965-6, lower panel remade 1985" image:tate

The new issue of Tate Papers is out, and it includes a great article [actually a dissertation chapter] by Bryony Bery detailing the creation, authorship, history, and conservation of Richard Hamilton's 1965-6 reconstruction of Duchamp's Large Glass.

The task of organising a Duchamp retrospective outside America posed many problems for Hamilton. A high proportion of the artist's extant work was fragile, lost, broken or unable to travel, making them, in one sense, prime candidates for replication. Reconstructing Duchamp's Large Glass was, according to critic Michael Bracewell, 'a technical and intellectual operation of staggering complexity - at once devoutly, almost perversely concerned with the practicalities of decipherment and craft, yet at the same time inhabiting empyrean realms of psychology, aesthetic philosophy and enacted myth'. Hamilton's work remains a great accomplishment within twentieth-century art history. As a case study it is also an exceptional example of how replicas have been understood more recently in museums and the implications for conservation treatments today. It represents a prime example of the problems regarding the ethics and transparency of replicas, partly because it has been deemed more successful than other comparable examples. Indeed, as well as offering a new way of looking at or through the Large Glass, this paper has sought to demonstrate that replication itself is an historical problem, and that historical objects pose problems for and in replication.
I've been as beguiled by the recreations of Large Glass as I am by Duchamp's original, not least because Duchamp signed and "certified" the first two-by Ulf Linde and Hamilton-as "copies conformes." There are others out there, of course, and "as Duchamp expert Michael R. Taylor acknowledged in 1994, 'there is nothing to suggest that this figure will not increase in the future'."

Typo/Typography of Marcel Duchamp's Large Glass, 2001-2, but really 2003, ed. 5. image cropped from ag nsw

But Hamilton's effort is singular, I think, for his long involvement with the artist, the work, the process, and the materials surrounding it. Hamilton translated The Green Box, created collaborative glass editions with Duchamp as part of the Large Glass production project. Also, Hamilton's reproductions of Large Glass were used to create Jasper Johns & Duchamp's props for the 1968 Merce Cunningham dance, Walkaround Time. And he went on to make full-scale, annotated diagram of Large Glass mounted on aluminum, which are just gorgeous, and which, since the edition of five [plus one, oh wait, there were two more editions of nine and five? what the] was snapped up by museums, I've been meaning to recreate myself someday somehow. Heads up, Michael R. Taylor.

Through The Large Glass: Richard Hamilton's Reframing of Marcel Duchamp []
Typo Typography A Collaborative Print Studio Project [justpressp]
Previously, related:
Pour Copie Conforme
Johns, Merce, Duchamp: Walkaround Time
On Googling Richard Hamilton's Map of Palestine


Top: screencap from "Putain d'epoque", with people standing in mylar ponchos. Bottom: Ghost, 2007, molds of kneeling family members made of aluminum foil, installed at Saatchi in 2009. via

Kader Attia has filed a plagiarism lawsuit against French rappers Dosseh and Nekfeu over visual similarities between the music video for "Putain d'epoque" and Attia's 2007 installation Ghost. I'm a non-expert in French intellectual property law, so I can't say whether the visual echo legally outweighs the differences in material, execution, setting, content, and concept. [Attia discussed the genesis of Ghost in AiA in 2009.] But I know mylar when I see it, and when I don't. The works are utterly different, even though there is a one-second dronecam shot in the video that shows the men kneeling face down, as if in prayer. Is that really what this is about? Because it does not feel like plagiarism. The effect is apparently that the just-released song is stripped from the video while it's being litigated.


Attia's complaint is based on artists' rights, and the resistance to "non-consensual use" of artists' work: "Everyone is plundering us, whether it's advertising or the cultural industry."

That quote comes from Kendell Geers, who wrote an open letter to Attia defending quoting and plagiarism and the freedom all artists rely on to use and interpret the world around them as they make their work.

Since 1988 I have developed a body of work and a language around the very subject of plagiarism, taking my cue from Lautréamont, the French poet born in Uruguay, who said "Plagiarism is necessary. Progress implies it. It holds tight an author's phrase, uses his expressions, eliminates a false idea, and replaces it with just the right idea." His revolutionary text Poésies was the Holy Water that baptised the Surrealists, a text written between the lines of words plagiarised from other authors. I have always wondered if Paul Gauguin was inspired by Lautréamont when he said that "Art is either plagiarism or revolution," but there can be no doubt who inspired Guy Debord when he wrote his revolutionary book the "Society of the Spectacle" in 1967. He said that "Ideas improve. The meaning of words participates in the improvement. Plagiarism is necessary. Progress implies it. It embraces an author's phrase, makes use of his expressions, erases a false idea, and replaces it with the right idea."
Well played, Guy.

Geers calls for all artists and "every human being who believes in changing the present for a better future" to defend artists' freedom to express themselves, and especially for artists with power and presence in the marketplace to defend those without. As Powhida tweeted about Geers' statement, "It's amazing. Collectively we have to stand up for individualism. This is the hardest thing in this star fucked market."

As I always say, I replace melancholy by courage, doubt by certainty, despair by hope, malice by good, complaints by duty, scepticism by faith, sophisms by cool equanimity and pride by modesty.

Or maybe I should say it again this way: 'Poetry is for everyone.' Poetry is a place and it is free to all cut up Rimbaud and you are in Rimbaud's place.

Un clip de Dosseh et Nekfeu accusé de plagiat par l'artiste Kader Attia []
Putain d'époque ! Lettre ouverte de Kendell Geers à Kader Attia à propos de son action en justice pour plagiat contre Dosseh et Nekfeu [ via @frieze]

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 December 2016, in reverse chronological order

Older: November 2016

Newer January 2017

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