As If greg.org Needed Another Matthew Barney Reference…

Matthew Barney as Gary Gilmore, but it's about that belt buckle, image:guggenheim.org
Yeah, I want a Cremaster belt buckle, but not if it means
getting executed in a salt arena… image: guggenheim.org

‘cuz it’s gonna be all we talk and hear about for months (at least until Matrix Reloaded comes out). We’re just suckers for an entirely fabricated, all-encompassing, and disturbing worldview. (What, the imagined world of Wolfowitz ain’t scary enough?)
Anyway, in the Times, Michael Kimmelman gets all sticky for the Cremaster show, which opens today at the Guggenheim. Note to all: Fridays through June 6, are hereby set aside for watching the entire 5-film Cycle, in order. You will be graded on this.
Note to MB: If Prada teaches the world anything, it’s to actually have a site up when you go wide with a marquee URL.

On Thomas Struth On Art

struth_alte_pinatotek.jpg

Alte Pinakothek, Selftportrait, Munich, 2000, Thomas Struth

The other night, I heard the photographer Thomas Struth talk about his work. A friend (who has a far more serious art habit than even I do) hosted a reception for the artist in his office. Extra Struths, brought out of storage for the evening, rested on stacks of printer paper, an installation technique you don’t see at the artist’s current one-man show at the Met.
Struth spoke very quietly, but determinedly, about his work and the ideas and process behind it. He’s clearly contemplative, and some of his most well-known works are unabashedly about contemplation (his Paradise junglescapes and his photos of museumgoers). He described his decades-long relationship with the 1500 self-portrait of Albrecht Durer (above) and his fascination with its unusual gaze. By putting himself in the photo (that’s Struth’s shoulder), he wanted to capture a moment of a conversation, while readily allowing that the two figures may not be saying anything to each other.
He caught me off guard, though, by referring to the photo’s cinematic character; but sure enough, the framing, blocking and “sightlines” are from one half of a shot/reverse-shot, the continuity editing staple for depicting a two-person conversation. Struth wanted to portray a conversation that crosses 500 years (he shot it in 2000), a long-term perspective Struth finds shamefully absent today.
“No one [in the current political situation] looks forward even 50 years; they only look to their next election.” Struth then ruminated on art worlders and what they could do to pull the real world back from the brink of war. “We’re here, in the office of [one of the wealthiest men in the world], there are so many influential people in the art world. Why don’t people use this powerful social network” to avert this global disaster?
Nervous silence, nervous chatter, and then a spurt of panged/defensive hands, as a few people tried to explain how our “standing here sipping champagne” was actually alright. An older guy with a Palm Beach tan leaned over and murmured to me, “I think we’re going in the wrong direction.” “That’s exactly what he’s talking about,” I deadpanned, “Oh, you mean the conversation.” Soon, we returned, quickly, safely, and completely, to discussions of how, exactly, he was able to get that amazing shot of the Parthenon. (“Because I’ve tried to shoot it every time I go, and it’s just so dark!”)
One implication in Struth’s photo, which cannot be avoided, of course, is our own responsibility. Shot/reverse-shot technique uses two components to establish the shared space; a reverse shot is needed. It would be a shot of Struth (and all of us, in the present day, standing in museums and galleries and private collections) from the perspective of Durer’s painted space, maybe over the 16th-century artist’s shoulder, a shot looking far into the future.

See Christian Marclay’s Video Quartet at Paula Cooper By Saturday

Video Quartet, Christian Marclay, image:artnet.com

Last night I heard the artist Christian Marclay talk about Video Quartet, his enchanting, mind-boggling music/film work at Paula Cooper Gallery. It’s a 13-minute musical composition of nearly 600 separate film clips, on four simultaneous channels, projected onto a 40′-long screen. It was commissioned by a friend, Benjamin Weil, a curator at SFMOMA, where it was shown last summer to wide acclaim. [Naturally, Jason Kottke wrote about it then; so did Wired.com.] Rather than parrot or try to outdo other reviews, or gush about my own experience (I’ve now seen Quartet ten+ times), I think it’s worthwhile to look at how Marclay actually made the piece.
Video Quartet owes its existence to the recent emergence of real desktop editing software, and the artist’s highly unconventional use of it. Amazingly, Marclay learned and used Final Cut Pro: “I sat in front of a computer for almost a full year,” he said. With the concept and an abstracted narrative structure in mind and starting with the films he knew, Marclay gathered scenes with music, performance, or sounds. He made bins for various categories (e.g., piano playing, singing, gongs, violins, tapdancing), hand-building a database of clips to work from.
Then he started constructing passages or scenes and built “bridges” between them. (One thing he said he’d wished he’d done differently: start at the beginning and build it sequentially. Hey, no complaints from me.) Along the way, Marclay would search out additional films and pull from them “the right combination of music and image.” (Musical strike two for Richard Gere: Marclay wanted to use Gere playing trumpet from The Cotton Club, but the combo just didn’t work.)
But how can you edit four video+audio channels in FCP, which plays multiple audio channels, (but only one video channel) at a time? By ear, apparently. He’d layer the four video+audio channels, set sound levels, and then adjust the timing of edits by outputting tiny animated versions, side by side. The result is exquisitely composed sound throughout, with absorbing images choreographed across four screens, flecked with just a touch of visual chance.
Knowing the basics of Marclay’s method adds a layer of complexity to Quartet, a layer that deepens with even a little hands-on experience in Final Cut. The last time I watched it, I began seeing the clips on a timeline, picturing a. What had seemed impossible or magic before was now revealing itself as a complex creation, the product of arduous, inspired effort.

Art Worth Crossing The Street For


Anne Truitt, image:danesegallery.com
Installation view, Anne Truitt, Danese Gallery (image:artnet.com)

Two shows of evocative new work by unrepentant minimalists are on 57th street at the moment, a moment when a pair of artists over 80 demonstrate the power and relevance of the minimalist mode, as well as the potential benefits of being in it for the long haul.

  • Agnes Martin is showing luminous new paintings at PaceWildenstein, (who doesn’t have a freakin’ website, hello, 2003).
  • Anne Truitt is showing several square column sculptures which give form and physical presence to color at Danese Gallery. [See installation views on artnet.com.]
  • Yeah, Capitalism, or In Defense Of A Collector

    Richter 858 Cover Also at Slate Joshua Clover writes a clever essay (very or too, depending on if those are exhibition posters or actual paintings on your wall) about Richter 858, a luxuriantly produced ode– in book form, with specially commissioned poems and a CD (of Richtermusik, I guess) — to a suite of Gerhard Richter squeegee paintings. Retailing at $125 and co-published by SFMOMA (who have been promised the paintings from an anonymous donor), Richter 858 is a “classic fetish item, beautiful enough that everyone might want it but priced beyond the reach of the great unfunded.” And that’s not the worst of it.
    Clover reveals that 858‘s editor, David Breskin, is an SFMOMA Trustee and “almost certainly” the donor of the paintings, facts which–despite a year of SEC reforms and disclosure scandals–go unmentioned in the book. “Whatever a given Richter painting, or a particular poem, might be about, Richter 858 is about checkbooks and culture–that is, it’s a book perfect for decadent modernism, where the art of consumption has replaced the art of production; it’s a book, finally, about collecting, that individualist art overseen by the twin muses ‘Dollars’ and ‘Indulge.'”
    “Dollar”: Last time I checked, what a Richter painting’s about, is $400,000 – 1 million, depending on the size and the date. A suite of eight, then, is about, well, you do the math. By making the paintings a “fractional and promised gift” to the museum, our benefactor (let’s call him “DB”) gives a percentage of the title each year for a fixed term ( ex. 10%/year, 10 years), until they belong 100% to the museum. Why do this, O Muse?. “DB” spreads a large tax deduction out over several years, which is useful if his gifts exceed 30% of his adjusted gross income. “Indulge”: “DB” is able to keep the art for a period of time each year in proportion to his percentage ownership.
    But there’s another muse’s fingerprints on this one. 858‘s not a catalog, it’s an experience Compared to the essay- and information-packed Richter exhibition catalog written by “The Brain,” (aka, former MoMA curator Robert Storr), Richter 858‘s multimedia melange is a work of the Heart.
    “Heart”: SFMOMA says Breskin was “compelled by these works” to create this book. Talking about the project and his interactions with Richter, Breskin’s giddiness (“As a sequence, these hung together and swung in a musical sense,” “I wanted to create an alternative way of engaging with pictures.”) sounds less like a trustee and more like a groupie.
    Trust me, that’s what some of the most passionate collectors are, art groupies. Going to concerts (openings), getting backstage (in the studio), obsessing over some lyric (work) and asking arcane questions that betray how powerfully a it inhabits your mind. Groupie? Check out Breskin’s 2-day interview with the Richter of 1987 rock-n-roll, Bono, for Rolling Stone. Breskin seems like the kind of guy–indulgent, clearly, but in a necessary way–who’s trying to live an art-centered life, not just an “art-owning” one. And by placing the Richters at SFMOMA, “DB” seems like the kind of donor who believes that indulgent art experience should always be available to the public (but who agonizes over letting the paintings go too soon).
    And besides, 858‘s 30% off at Amazon. A serious collector looks for a discount.

    Overview: Powerpoint as Creative Medium

    Background image from powerpointart.com
    Bright Glow Tube (all images, powerpointart.com)

    Slide 1 – Background:

  • Powerpoint invention and evolution (ref. Ian Parker’s May 28, 2001 New Yorker article)
  • Powerpoint taking over human thought. 30 million presentations made daily. (ref. Julia Keller’s Chicago Tribune article today) [via Romenesko’s ObscureStore.com]
  • Career spent making/giving Powerpoint presentations (ref. “where I worked)
    Background image from powerpointart.com
    Hay Theme

    Slide 2 – What this will be used for:

  • As-Yet Unannounced Animated Musical (AYAUM)
  • Wrest Human Creativity From Jaws of Monopolist Technology (TBD)
  • Obligatory 3rd bullet point
    Background image from powerpointart.com
    WTC Memorial Wall, US Flag with Decorations

    Slide 3 – Examples:

  • RTMark
  • Powerpoint Gettysburg Address
  • Relationship: An Analysis
  • TBD
    Background image from powerpointart.com
    Chrome Cross w/Text Area

    Slide 4 – Action Items:

  • Collect examples of Powerpoint as Medium
  • Ask WWSD? (What Would Slate Do?)
  • Adapt spychedelic Willie Wonka & The Chocolate Factory Oompa-Loompa text interludes into Powerpoint
  • Yinka Shonibare, Norton Christmas Project 2003

    Yinka Shonibare, 2nd Floor, Norton Christmas Project 2002, image:greg.org
    Yinka Shonibare, 2nd Floor, Norton Christmas Project 2002, image:greg.org
    Dollhouse, Interior views, Yinka Shonibare
    for the Norton Christmas Project 2002

    In lieu of Christmas cards, the art collector Peter Norton and his family began sending out specially commissioned works. [Inspired by the Nortons’ example, we began commissioning artist editions–albeit at a much smaller scale–to send to family and friends as a commemmoration of various births and anniversaries.]
    In 2002, the British/Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare created a toy Victorian rowhouse, outfitted with his trademark Dutch batik fabrics, a photo of his own, and, for good measure, a Fragonard in the bedroom. Shonibare exhibited a sculptural installation based on Fragonard in 2001 and was in Documenta 11 last year.
    Wink, Takashi Murakami, 2000, Norton Family Christmas Project, 2000, image:Toyboxdx.com

    Wink, Takashi Murakami, 2000
    for the Norton Family Christmas Project 2000, image: Toyboxdx.com

    For the 2000 Project, Jap-pop artist Takashi Murakami made a Wink doll, which contains a happy little CD in its base. Read about it on Alan Yen’s ToyboxDX. And in 1996, Norton asked Brian Eno to publish an updated edition of Oblique Strategies, his highly sought after collection of question and idea cards, originally made in collaboration with the late Peter Schmidt. Gregory Taylor’s OS site includes Norton’s description of the Project and soliciting Eno’s participation.
    My favorite Strategy (as I attempt to write and edit in public): “Give the game away.”

    On Illegal Art


    Superstar still, 1987, Todd Haynes
    Superstar, 1987, Todd Haynes

    Last night we (finally) saw Todd Haynes’ Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story last night. After years of being snubbed by the clerks at Kim’s Video when I’d ask for it, and half-hearted attempts to get a bootleg copy from someone or other, we just walked over to Anthology and there it was, showing as part of Illegal Art!.
    (The first time I went to Kim’s, a Suit workin’ for the Mouse but livin’ in Chinatown and yearning for street cred, I cannily asked if Bladerunner wasn’t in the Ridley Scott section. The scornful reply: “Noo, the Douglas Trumbull section.”)
    Anyway, Superstar turned out to be both better and worse than I imagined. Definitely worthy of its reputation, it’s a canny film; it’s a little eerie how well the Barbie doll concept works. The bootleg copy they showed, though, sucked. If only there were a medium you could copy without generational degradation… [If you don’t have connections to the video underground either, you can watch Superstar in even lower-res online.]
    Giant Steps, 2001, Michal Levy
    Giant Steps, stills, 2001, Michal Levy

    Other films screened with Superstar, all using unauthorized/illegal footage or music in some way. For my money, the best ones were not about appropriation per se; Michal Levy’s Giant Steps, for example, is a fun, beautiful CG interpretation of John Coltrane’s canonical (and surely impossible to clear) recording.
    A slightly unrelated note: Apparently, my new haircut is something of a proto-mullet, not unlike Todd Haynes’.

    Aspen: The Magazine in a Box (on the Web)

    Image from Aspen 5+6, 1967, Sol Lewitt
    Serial Project #1, 1966, Sol Lewitt, from Aspen 5+6

    Unbelieveable. The entire collection of Aspen: The Magazine in a Box, is now online. It’s the magazine equivalent of Kieslowski’s Dekalog: almost completely unknown, yet highly respected and influential within its narrow audience.
    In a fit of John Cage admiration, I tracked down and bought Aspen 5+6 several years ago. In addition to some floppy little records with Cage and Morton Feldman on it, there’s a reel of 8mm film with works by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Robert Rauschenberg, and others; documents of Sol Lewitt’s seminal 1966 1967 exhibit at the Dwan Gallery in LA, Serial Project #1, and a little Tony Smith sculpture you can make yourself.
    Not owning a record player or an 8mm projector, my edition of Aspen has been more a glassined, bubblewrapped holy relic than anything else. Until now. The Moholy-Nagy film is full of glare, shadows and light reflecting off of machinery, as if Jeremy Blake and Paul Thomas Anderson were the same person. Check it out. Thanks, UBU (and thanks, Fimoculous for the link.)

    Gallery and Museum Picks So Far



    Untitled (Two Windows), 2002, Toba Khedoori

    Drawing Now: 8 Propositions at MoMAQNS, for Toba Khedoori, Chris Ofili, Russell Crotty, Paul Noble, Kai Althoff [Roberta Smith’s NYTimes review; Walter Robinson’s artnet review] [There’s a Toba Khedoori show at David Zwirner right now, too.]
    Lazlo Moholy Nagy Color Photographs at Andrea Rosen Gallery: They look like they were made yesterday, not in the ’30’s/’40’s. (Actually they were. Moholy Nagy’s estate had them printed for the first time ever. Liz Deschenes did the printing. They’re amazing and exquisite.)
    Staged/Unstaged at Riva Gallery: for (Souvenir cinematographer) Jonah Freeman’s entrancing new video work and a funny video piece by Maria Alos. Curated by Lauri Firstenberg. Chris Ofili and his crew climbed 11 flights of stairs for the sweaty opening.
    The (S) Files Bienal at El Museo del Barrio: It opens tonight, but I figure if there’s a little portrait of me by Maria Alos in the show, it must me good.
    Shmoology at M3 Projects in Dumbo: Curated by Bill Previdi, who’s 3 for 3 on shows he’s done that I’ve seen. Go now. Ends this weekend.
    Uta Barth at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery: for the photographs of the spaces between–sometimes between the camera and the background, this time between the branches out the artist’s window.
    Karen Kitchel at Cornell deWitt Gallery: for crisp, precise, beautiful paintings of grass.
    Martin Creed at Maurizio Cattelan’s Wrong Gallery: for something to talk about, since a lot of people are talking about it. [Same Walter Robinson review as above, just scroll down.]

    1979 Star Trek, or The Thin Line Between (Punch-Drunk) Love and Hate

    punch-drunk love poster

    I’m watching Star Trek: The Motion Picture right now, and it’s blowing me away. It’s the first movie, the one with the original crew, the bald chick, and V’Ger, a cloud-like alien vessel with the Voyager space probe at its core. Anyway, wide swaths of the movie are a nearly psychedelic trance, which I never remembered. There’s an incredible 10+ minute abstract FX sequence of the Enterprise entering the vessel. It’s similar to Jeremy Blake’s digital work and the passages he did for Punch-Drunk Love. Or, it’s as abstract, at least. A very unexpected place for such a confluence.
    Syd Mead's rendition of V'Ger

    [The visual effects on STTMP were originally led by Richard Taylor, then Douglas Trumbull took over after overruns in the chaotic production’s budget. So far, I think the V’Ger sequence was John Dykstra‘s and Trumbull’s realization of Syd Mead‘s concepts. An interview with Taylor survives for now in Google’s cache: page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6. Charles Barbee wrote about lighting and shooting the V’Ger Flyover, including accounts of 10-pass in-camera composited shots and finding just the right “glare angle.” Syd Mead discusses creating V’Ger.]
    While I mentioned before that elements of the Star Trek IV story inspired the latest script for the AYUAM, it turns out that several ideas from this Star Trek worked in as well. I’m not unaware that these are considered two of the lamest Star Trek films made (“The V’Ger flyby was interminable.”). Combine this with the fact that I don’t like musicals, and I find myself deeply engaged in something I should be hating, but instead, I’m loving it. Can someone explain this to me?

    Liz Deschenes, artist/photographer

    deschenes_beppu.jpg
    Beppu, 1997, Liz Deschenes [image via artnet]

    I can’t believe it’s been five years since I saw photographer Liz Deschenes’ first solo exhibition, Beppu, at Bronwyn Keenan Gallery. It’s a show that has stuck with me ever since, and not just because I go to sleep and wake up looking at photos from it (the first one I got is visible in this installation shot. It’s in the middle of the far wall, to the left of the monochromes.)
    Listening to Deschenes talk about photography and her work was a stimulating challenge; my eye&brain had to work hard to keep up. Needless to say, I vouch for the artnet.com reviewer: “I cannot help but think that Liz Deschenes has carefully considered the entire history of color photography.” Looking at her deceptively simple, beautiful landscape photographs, her deep understanding of photography is quickly apparent; they’re spatially complex, with no easy fore-, middle-, or background.
    In fact, they turn out to have a great deal to do with painting, especially the modernist’s concern with the painting’s surface, and the minimalist’s interest with color, form or object. A later, nearly all-white photo of the salt-crusted sands of Death Valley could be a Ryman, at least until you figure out that’s a rock there near the top. And of course, the print itself is so sleek and intentional there’s no mistaking it for paint or canvas. The materiality of the photographic, printing, mounting process also matters, it turns out.
    Over the years, as my looking and collecting increased–and now that I’ve gotten into the imagemaking business myself, albeit in a far less accomplished way–Deschenes’ work continues to be a touchstone for me. It’s a demanding favorite of connoisseurs which I somehow stumbled upon early, and which I’ve been trying to live up to ever since.

    On the influence of contemporary art on film, or Gurskyspotting

    99cent_main.jpg
    99 Cent, Andreas Gursky, 1999

    Watching Paul Thomas Anderson and Adam Sandler discuss Punch-Drunk Love on Charlie Rose. The overly bright 99-cent store in the clip looked familiar, eerily familiar, and, sure enough, it is the same as Andreas Gursky’s photo99 Cent, down to the giant “99-cents” banners on the back wall.
    Anderson also tapped Jeremy Blake to create abtracted hallucinations experienced by Adam Sandler’s character. Although Blake has become best known for his digitally animated abstractions, he is also quite fluent in film; he exhibited an illustrated screenplay, props, and digital “set” renderings in his first gallery show and has created at least one narrative animated short. [Thanks, Travelers Diagram.]
    Mark Romanek used a Philip-Lorca diCorcia photo to communicate to Robin Williams his character’s situation in One Hour Photo. “This is everything in terms of warmth and connectedness that your character can never have but desperately would want.” Judging from the pronounced lighting and extremely deliberate framing of the scenes I’ve seen, diCorcia references are not just limited to mood or motive.
    While you could chalk up the Bruce Weber-ish look of American History X to the general zeitgeist (If you’re shooting muscly, shirtless Aryans in 1998, whose style would you appropriate?), it’s something else when “important” but certainly not mainstream artists’ work turns up. I don’t know what that something is, though, and it’s 1:30 in the morning, so I doubt I’ll figure it out right now. I do know that we’d call the throwaway-sublime landscapes Richters, (but we were just kidding, I swear). And Jonah’s shots got called Vermeers (or Vermers, to be precise) by a woman at our hotel in Albert.

    Great Minds, etc etc

    santa_croce_basilica.jpg
    Arnolfo di Cambio et al, Basilica di Santa Croce, 1294-1442 [img via]
    As the Artforum.com discussion of Nico Israel’s Spiral Jetty travelogue turned from my smug fact-checking to the romanticisation of contemporary art, E.M. Forster’s A Room With a View popped into my head. Just as Forster’s English followed Baedekers around Italy–from this altarpiece to that fresco, from Firenze to Rome to Venice to Ravenna–a Contemporary Art Grand Tour has taken shape where Artforum pilgrims can demonstrate their faith.

    judd_marfa_milled.jpg
    Donald Judd, Untitled, 1982-6 [image via]

    In addition to Spiral Jetty, the CAGT includes: The Rothko Chapel; Walter deMaria’s Lightning Field; Michael Heizer’s Double Negative; Donald Judd’s Chinati Foundation; James Turrell’s work-in-progress Roden Crater; the Guggenheim Bilbao; and my own heretical favorite, Richard Serra’s Afangar.
    With Merchant/Ivory’s version of ARWAV firmly entrenched in my own movie worldview, I saw a vision of a hipster artist roadtrip remake. Sort of Basquiat meets Thelma & Louise, with Reese Witherspoon as Helena Bonham-Carter, Josh Hartnett as Julian Sands and Daniel Day-Lewis as, well, himself.
    ANYWAY, it turns out the fashion world’s own Forster, English Vogue-er (and faux twin) Plum Sykes, may beat me to the intersection of Art & Film. Hintmag.com leaked the outline of Sykes’ book, Bergdorf Blondes (which just got picked up by Talk/Miramax Books for $625,000, not including movie rights).
    The hot narratrix (calls herself “Moi”) dates, gets engaged to, and breaks up with the hot it-boy painter “Dan” (“Our heroine consoles herself that there is one thing worse than being disengaged to a person in a GAP ad, and that’s being married to someone in a GAP ad.”) [NB: Sykes dated, etc. painter/Gap ad star Dam(ian) Loeb.]; receives confidence-boosting advice as she pines for the hot LA filmmaker (“You are not superficial, you just look like you are because you wear a lot of Gucci.”) ; and hightails it home to En-ge-land, perchance to marry the Earl-next-door (“after bonking at the SoHo Grand”). Sounds pretty much like my movie idea.
    Should I go ahead and develop it? Or would it be like when there were those two Dalai Lama movies out at the same time?

    Placeholder: Spiral Jetty

    Spiral Jetty, 2002. that's foam in the foreground and salt crystal everywhere else
    Robert Smithson, Spiral Jetty.avi [1.3Mb], c. 2002


    This will be the entry where I write about our trip to the Spiral Jetty and post some amusing pictures thereof. It will be enlightening and insightful, yet not without wry humor. As it reverences the work itself, it will impress you and amaze you (in a quiet way) with our vision, dedication, and lack of condescension, and it will make you want to make the pilgrimage yourself. Ideally, it will ease your decision to keep an eye on me and my own artistic production.
    (And by the way, I watched part of Glitter yesterday on HBO7 or whatever. It’s not nearly as good bad as I’d been led to believe. It was mostly just bad bad. Although a harshly critical eye could find some painful-to-acknowledge similarities between Mariah Carey’s inability to act and my own. I fear this aside will negate any benefit I could have derived from posting further about the Spiral Jetty. Maybe we’d all be better off reading my last entry or the critical comments I made on Artforum’s message boards.)