Amazing people are always sneaking into town and talking at the Smithsonian American Art Museum without my knowing. Last October it was Arthur Jafa and Ja’Tovia Gary, who spoke about their work, Black music, and the conception of a Black Cinema.
At least I’m not the only one out of the loop; until the audience questions, neither Jafa nor Gary seemed to know Kanye West had rolled up that morning on Howard University with his Sunday Service tour. [Gary was not. Having. Immmmmmt, either, and criticized West’s appropriation of gospel church practice as self-promoting spectacle, as well as his alignment with fascism and the forces of state violence. Jafa was taught.]
Anyway, point is, video of the event turns out to include Jafa’s epic Love is the message, the message is death and Gary’s 2015 short film The Ecstatic Experience, neither of which I’d seen in the wild. [Gary has an excerpt on her own Vimeo.]
Jafa’s piece was acquired jointly by SAAM and the Hirshhorn.
The first work of Arthur Jafa’s is to appear at public auction*. Screen Shot (2017) will be sold next month by Chicago auction house Wright. The estimate is $10-15,000. Printed in 2019 and mounted between plexi and aluminum, it is no. 2 in an edition of 5, plus two artist proofs.
They did not discuss Abloh’s exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, which was on at the time, and which included Screen Shot in the final gallery.
Wright does not give any provenance or exhibition information, so we do not know if this example of Screen Shot was the one shown, but we do know it was included included in a silent auction on artsy, to be sold to benefit the MCA Chicago. The MCA’s page for the benefit auction on November 16th, 2019 shows the donor of the work was Jafa’s gallery, Gavin Brown Enterprises. With a $55,000 estimated value, Jafa’s work was the most expensive in the silent auction portion of the event. (With an estimate of $50,000, a unique “print on chrome” of a blown out Newport ad by Abloh himself was second.** )
If there’s an ed. 2/5, there is presumably at least an ed. 1/5, which perhaps belongs to Abloh. Or maybe it belongs to the person actually depicted in Screen Shot, rapper and Abloh collaborator Theophilus London. Did Jafa call Abloh and London got on, in which case, this was a screenshot of Jafa’s phone? Or is this a London selfie? It’s easier to imagine the former; the latter would have a different credit–or even mention London at all.
*It is also the second to appear at benefit auction. The first one has so far managed to stay put.
** “If I hadn’t sat on Illustrator and gone to the screen printers to make it a reality, then it wouldn’t have happened – everything else is a domino effect,” Abloh said to i-D in 2015, in an article that called him “Yeezus’s most trusted disciple and a prophet to the talent of today and tomorrow.”
Late last October I saw an exhibition of George W. Bush’s paintings of veterans at the Reach, the new Kennedy Center annex designed by Stephen Holl. With all due respect to Verrocchio, it was the most significant painting exhibition in town last fall.
I have not yet heard from anyone who declined to participate in Desert X Al Ula, but I’ve started seeing reports from people who did. I would have said that the exhibition and all the spectacular work in spectacular scenery was taking place right where it had been planned all along: in the #desertxalula hashtag. But then I saw a slideshow of the artworks from a new instagram account, saudiarabianholiday, which promotes the same as a hashtag, but their link-in-bio is to an unfinished website registered two weeks ago to an anonymous tour packager run out of an Irish coworking space. The point of Desert X Al Ula is to turn Saudi Arabia into an international tourist destination.
While scrolling and marveling at the budget for the Desert X installations, I idly considered what project I would execute [sic] in the stark sandstone cliffs. I decided I would recreate the Buddhas of Bamiyan. Tinted shotcrete over foam block, how hard could it be?
Then I saw the post from @colinjr, a California real estate photographer who was attending the Desert X press/influencer junket. He captured fellow Desert X photographer Lance Gerber and their Saudi driver sharing a moment swinging on a tandem swing. It was Superflex’s contribution to the show, a multilevel swingset sculpture titled, One, Two, Three, Swing!, one of several elements from the group’s 2017 project that began in the Tate Turbine Hall and have since expanded to sites around the world.
I imagined MBS and Neville Wakefield sharing a similar moment, sitting next to each other, working together, in sync, on a common goal of an experience, toward a common spectacular end. And I marveled at the simplicity of the gesture, and the symbolic power with which Superflex captured the spirit of the entire exhibition enterprise. Superflex told people that by using the three-seat swings, they would set the orange line over their heads in motion and potentially change the trajectory of the planet. And it must be working; I do feel like a shift is happening. I apologize for ever doubting them.
I confess I have never seen Weekend at Bernie’s 1 OR 2, but I knew the general concept from the trailer. What I did not know was that it was supposed to be based in a fictional Hampton called Hamptons Island.
And that the beach house of Bernie Lomax, the corrupt insurance CEO of the title, was actually built for the shoot in North Carolina, near a state park on Bald Head Island, a golf cart-based village south of Wilmington, and that it was torn down after production ended.
And if the commenter at retro styleblog Mirror80 is to be believed, Bernie Lomax’s house was DESIGNED FOR THE FILM BY GWATHMEY SIEGEL.
Now that I mention it, the freestanding wall holding up that giant brise-soleil (does this have a name?) on Bernie’s house does look like it’s made of 4×8 plywood sheets. I’d be surprised if the house was much more complete than an actual set. How did this making of story not get told before now?
Commenter Evan says Bernie’s house was based on the 1970-2 Cogan House (above), but there are similarities as well to the François de Menil House (1979) (below), both in East Hampton. The de Menil house is now owned, of course, by Larry Gagosian.
I’ve scanned the production credits and cannot find any obvious explanation for Gwathmey-Siegel’s involvement. [There are other puzzles in the movie’s production design, which were the impetus for discovering the architecture, that will be addressed later.] One seemingly clear inspo, though, is Oliver Stone’s Wall Street, which came out two years before. The crooked villain in that film, Gordon Gekko, also famously lived in an oceanfront Gwathmey-Siegel house in the Hamptons. The location for that was the Steel House II (1968) in Bridgehampton, which by then had been significantly remodeled.
At first I thought Wall Street might have put a chill on the Gwathmey villain’s lair location scouting business, but it’s more likely that building a temporary Gwathmey set in North Carolina was still cheaper than shooting an entire film in the Hamptons.
[MORNING AFTER UPDATE: OK, I have seen scrubbed through the movie which is–and I cannot emphasize this enough–wacked out garbage from beginning to end. The house has basically the one finished interior space. There is a two-second shot of a Roy Lichtenstein painting which has nothing to do with anything else, artistically or spatially. And Lichtenstein is thanked in the credits. (This was the original hook for even thinking about this movie, btw.) If Gwathmey Siegel were actually involved in this, it has to be because someone on the production’s cousin worked there one summer. Nevertheless, I’ve put out some queries.]
I am struggling to understand the Desert X Al Ula collaboration with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and am interested to hear from people who have direct contact or experience with the organizers.
Did you visit Al Ula on that 2018 junket that was organized before Jamal Khashoggi was murdered, but which took place after it? Did you originally agree to visit, but then did not?
Did Neville Wakefield discuss or invite you to propose a project for Desert X Al Ula? Did he or someone else sound you out? Did you consider it? Did you take the meeting, then decline? Do you know of people who had this experience?
I’m not gonna lie, I am profoundly troubled and disappointed that Desert X, Wakefield, and the artists of Superflex, who I have long admired, are all involved in this exhibition.
I’m not sure whether I will write anything about what I learn. I’m happy to talk to anyone in confidence, off the record, or whatever you need to reach out. Text me at 1-34-SOUVENIR or reach me via email or twitter DM. Thanks in advance.
The psychopath is rarely suicidal. Although he would pretend to play the game to the last, and he would viciously press a peer to take on genuinely life-threatening risks, the psychopath always saves his own skin. The psychopath may court death, but it is someone else’s. The psychopath leaves a trail littered with the broken, discarded bodies and lives of others, he trashes them, leaving them as rotten matter as he proceeds to his next site. Where he gave the impression of being deeply involved in the life and death struggles he creates around the last victim, he was always vacuous and remote.
Barriers, gates, and fences are physical and symbolic manifestations that generate publicity and rule out participation. For those unable to comply with the pressure to perform, prostheses such as walkers, picker arms, or canes for the blind are the only means of participating in public life. Celebrities, on the other hand, simply have no choice but to participate.
Everything we encounter in public space can and must be regarded as public sculpture; for every object is the product of a process of material composition and formal design. All objects influence our perceptions, our movements, our feelings, and our thoughts. Public space is not designed by human beings alone, but is instead shaped by the boundaries between public and private, institutional and commercial.
X may fashion an artifact called ‘the mirror device’ with which to manipulate Y. Using this device, X cynically fashions his tastes and judgments to accord with those of Y, thus winning Y’s trust and approbation. An alignment is formed under false pretenses, but Y, hopefully is none the wiser. Even while X is saying in effect, ‘me too, brother…’ X’s actual feelings are secreted from the interaction. X may not always mirror Y, but may instead mirror a role which is acceptable to Y. For example, X goes to Y’s door in the guise of an electrician come to fix some faulty wiring, when X is not, in fact an electrician. A fictive example of this occurs in LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD. Conning devices are tools. The degree of harm that they do, if any, depends upon the purpose for which they are instrumented. Where ‘the mirror device’ might be used by a parent to encourage a child, or by a psychiatrist as a therapeutic device, it is also used by ambitious students, known otherwise as ‘brown-nosers’ or ‘ass kissers’, who cynically reword the opinions of their teachers in their written and oral work. People also use the ‘mirror device’ to ‘pass’, as Erving Goffman points out. A high school girl may try to hide her intelligence and approximate a bubbly persona instead of going dateless. Goffman details many other versions of ‘passing’ in his book, STIGMA. ‘The mirror device’ is a tool with which to modify Y, and render him more pliable to X’s manipulations. Malignant use of ‘the mirror device’ abounded in Nazi Germany. According to Hannah Arendt, one of the sights that struck Adolph Eichmann as being the most horrific was a perfect imitation of the Treblinka railway station. This imitation had been constructed for the express purpose of lulling prisoners into the mistaken impression that they had arrived at a safe and benign destination. The station had been built with patient attention to detail, with contrivances like signs and installations.
2/24 update: the psychopath was convicted on two counts of rape and sexual assault.
In the spring the folks at ARTnews asked if I wanted to write about a paper coming out in a legal journal about art donations and tax policy, and I was like, uh sure? But then I read it, and I was hooked. Michael Maizels and William Foster took a long-overlooked reference to Robert and Ethel Scull’s donation of a major Jasper Johns painting to MoMA, and began an expanded view of the appraisal, donation, and tax evading practices of the early 1960s, when the top US marginal tax rate was around 77%. A different world, but one that helped create the world we live in now.
Anyway, it quickly became apparent that there was a lot more to the story they found, and Andrew and Sarah at ARTnews were amazingly supportive of my suggestion to dive deeper into the archives of the Castelli Gallery, and to turn to the larger story of Leo Castelli’s relationships with his biggest collectors, and how Jasper Johns’s protean work became the object of such intense discussion and competitive collecting. (If Andrew and Sarah were around, they would have suggested cutting that into several sentences, I’m sure.) From that beginning emerged the possibility of using Johns’s early works as they passed from the most adventurous collectors to the richest and, occasionally, into museums.
The resulting article came out in print in the (newly redesigned) Fall issue of ARTnews, and is now available on the (newly redesigned) website as well. There was so much amazing material, and so many intriguing threads, so many incomplete stories that could be added and expanded upon, so much that was locked in MoMA’s archives, which were inaccessible for the entire time I was working on this. But 4000 words feels like plenty to start with.
And now those copies don’t travel, either. And there are other copies, but they’re non-conforme, I guess. So when the Hirshhorn Museum wanted to show the Large Glass in the context of related works from a large promised gift from Barbara and Aaron Levine, they faced a challenge.
Which was solved by an exhibition designer, who suggested printing a photo of the work at scale, and suspending it in the gallery. Acetate didn’t work. A free-floating polyester scrim didn’t work. But a scrim held taut with discrete cables and clamps worked just great. Evelyn Hankins, who curated the show, as well as the Hirshhorn’s recent Bob Irwin retrospective, which sent a giant, site-specific, taut scrim wall through the gallery, could only laugh.
I love it, so much that I want it. Unfortunately, the Association Marcel Duchamp does not want me to have it. Or anyone, for that matter. The Association, run by Duchamp’s (step-)grandchildren approved the Hirshhorn’s production of a banner (not a replica, and not, it turns out, full-size, but a couple of inches smaller) from the Philadelphia Museum’s (two-part, not entirely aligned) photodocumentation of the work, if they get it when the show’s over. The Hirshhorn, which will soon house one of the world’s major collections of minor Duchamps, prefers to be on good terms with the Duchamp estate rather than let me run out of the museum with the banner under my coat. Go figure.
Deadstock is one thing, but these uncut tops from the Geoffrey Beene Archive are something else. And they feel like something else again (something that gets stretched and hung on a wall).
It all reminds me of that time Marc Jacobs said Elizabeth Peyton was all, “Don’t be intimidated; fashion is art, too,” and he was like, “so I got a little bit of confidence from that conversation.” And I guess it’s contagious, because here we are!
In 2013-16, Camille and Bill Cosby paid $700,000 to have their art collection, including Alma Thomas’s superlative 1970 painting A Fantastic Sunset, exhibited at the Smithsonian. The museum and its Cosby-funded director bravely left the show up amidst a swirling storm of criticism as reports of decades of sexual assault and lawsuits piled up and criminal charges loomed. Cosby went to jail last year, and he and Camille put up two Thomas Hart Benton paintings for sale, and as collateral for a loan.
Around the same time, or at least at some point between the close of the Smithsonian show and this week, title for A Fantastic Sunset was transferred to “A Distinguished Collector of American Art” in St. Louis. A collection that will soon be distinguished by the large, Alma Thomas-shaped hole in the middle of it. And, hopefully, by a large, fresh, untainted pile of money.
Amy Sillman talked to Artforum about curating “The Shape of Shape,” a gallery stuffed with art about form > shape > shadow at The Museum of Modern Art, and it is riveting:
The instinct to keep wanting to make things is partly recuperative. You find a way to make an object that holds together your sense of self in crisis. Tenderness and intimacy are required for this, as well as a bristling diagram of wild unrestricted visual intelligence, one thing leading to the next chaotically. But in this room I didn’t want to “recuperate” some idea of greatness or modernism: I just wanted you to come out fucking LOVING painting and modern art, to recognize it as a form of wrestling with content, grief, justice, to recognize the complexity of our current situation in it, to love the art both in spite of and in addition to having politics, problems, and questions. I want these things to be posed within modern art. My show is about love and it’s also about trembling with anxiety.
My initial impression of the Kennedy Center’s The Reach is obliqueness. It is in a triangle of land carved by a parkway and on-ramps and a bridge, from which it is hard to see. I finally made a visit this morning after multiple failed, drive-by attempts to photograph this new installation of Untitled (Trudeau Trump Brushstroke). This perfectly framed and backdropped view is the only one, and it is in the intersection of a The Reach sidewalk and a commuter bike path.
Boeing also sponsored the exhibition of George W. Bush’s paintings of Iraq War veterans, the billboard for which is not easily visible from the nearby roads. Maybe if you’re stuck in traffic. I did see the show, and will write about it separately.
Other thoughts of The Reach: I felt some spatial echoes with Holl’s ICA at VCU, especially in some peekaboo vistas and the dramatic staircase.
Perhaps this awning rainspout is designed to arc perfectly into the pond and not splash onto the ledge instead?
You blog about stuff long enough, and it comes back around. 13 years after they created it for Mute Records, Jeremy Deller and Nick Abrahams have released their fandom documentary, My Hobby Is Depeche Mode.
The film was screened several times beginning in 2009, when it was known as The Posters Came From The Walls, but has not been seen much since. The revised title comes from one of the film’s iconic characters, whose son is pictured above.
It is wonderful. And I am fascinated and a bit wary to watch it now, in the contorted political landscape of 2019. That German kid is an adult now, though, and it might be interesting to check in with him, see how it turned out.
[I’ve just started watching it again, and the HD aesthetic already feels like a lost era. Also, the politics is less jarring than the evolution of fandom. This now feels like an artifact of a pre-tumblr, pre-social media, pre-ao3 era. Oh my heck, I forgot about the guy with 500 vintage concert t-shirts. Does he have an etsy?
OK, there is a thread of liberation, of freedom, of music that becomes associated with or gives license to standing apart from the strictures of whatever the local status quo, from Eastern Bloc and Iranian religious authoritarianism, to the heteronormative Valley teenagerdom, to nerd vs. jock rivalry. It’s not entirely clear where Kedrick the concert shirt collector fits, but there does seem to be a respect of peoples’ DM on the DL.]