For the 30th anniversary of its original installation and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion, Public Art Fund reinstalled Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ first billboard work, “Untitled” (1989) at its original site facing Sheridan Square in the West Village. Until today, the Guggenheim also exhibited “Untitled” (1991), a stack sculpture made from 161 unsold prints originally made to support the Public Art Fund project.
This edition of Better Read is the text of the billboard, plus the artist’s statement.
There is a new show by Jacob Kassay at von ammon co in Georgetown.
Ten OG silvered paintings from 2009 are mounted on the edge of columns in the gallery, facing the door, basically.
They reflect the daylight that comes in from the gallery’s north facing glass wall. The array of LED spots on the gallery’s black timber ceiling provides fill, but does not light the paintings individually. It’s more ambient, environmental.
The lights also snap on and off in relation to a candle in the corner. The candle is held by a bracket in front of a plug-in nightlight, which is connected in turn to a relay controlling the gallery’s lights. When the candle light wanes, the nightlight turns on–and the gallery lights turn off. When the candle is bright, the nightlight turns off, and the lights stay on.
In the absence of turbulence, the candle can burn brightly and steadily, and the lights stay on as expected. But the candle, like a Calder mobile, invites disturbance. When the candle’s doing its thing, the uncertain stroboscopic perturbations can be unnerving. To remain in the gallery thinking of art brings back visceral memories, not of Martin Creed, but of Bruce Nauman. Any prolonged exposure, meanwhile, might feel like shift work under a failing fluorescent light, with all the internalized bodily and psychic stresses that entails.
While the paintings remain as gorgeous and seductive as ever, with movement dancing across their reflective surfaces, Kassay’s candle-driven gallery also illuminates the intrinsic precarity of the art system in which they’re consumed.
I should have asked about the light situation, but the paintings are for sale.
A friend and colleague recently said I had a very soothing voice, I should do a podcast, and I couldn’t tell if that meant I was talking too much, or being too dadsplainy, or perhaps he was right? I generally trust his judgment, but the reason I created a podcast read by a robot is because I could not get past the annoyance all audio performers apparently deal with, of hearing a recording of one’s own voice.
Anyway, I joked that I’d make an ASMR art video, ASMRt, and the name was so damn catchy, I knew at that moment I had to do it. But what to say? What to read? Yesterday the perfect text fell from heaven [actually, Contemporary Art Daily]: the press release for Josh Smith’s first New York show since leaving Luhring Augustine for David Zwirner.
One thing led to another, and now here is a recording of me laconically reading press releases for fifteen Josh Smith solo shows between 2007 an 2019. It was recorded on June 11, 2019 an iPhone in two conference rooms at the Cleveland Park branch of the DC Public Library. Text sources are linked below. My first regret will probably be hosting this mp3 myself. My second will probably be not releasing this as an album.
Machu Picchu, do you, like Constantin Brancusi, consider the base an integral part of your sculptures? Or did you place your work, the world’s first portrait bust of Mickey Mouse sculpted from cheese, on an intact wheel of Wisconsin State Brand cheddar cheese so that it would, as the publicist claimed, weigh 1,000 lbs?
Is a question Snow White did not ask the sculptor at Sardi’s that morning in July 1971. Some extended footage of this press event to promote Disney On Parade, a touring theatrical production not involving ice skating, which I may or may not have seen as a child, was surfaced by the enthusiast/historians at DisneyAvenue. It baffles me in unexpected ways.
Maybe it’s realizing the parallel professionalizing paths McCarthy and Disney have traveled that capture my attention. Having recently experienced a Disney cruise, I can honestly say almost every detail of this footage makes me cringe and fear for these people’s jobs. After I’ve been outraged at the apparent lack of attention to detail, or even of preparation.
Who was running this event? Did no one know where or how the cheese sculpture would move? Does no one have a mark? Did Snow White not have an inkling about what to say or do? When she improvises(?) a conversation with Mickey and Goofy, does she not know these performers are supposed to not talk? The action is driven almost entirely by instructions from the assembled press, who just want to get their shots, print first, maybe, then TV? Is that alright?
Let’s spend a tiny moment on Snow White here. She is wearing a watch. She has an office. She talks about phone conversations to publicists. Though there is a translator between them, she knows enough Spanish to translate the sculptor’s answers for the press, similar to how she interprets Mickey’s mute, mime answers to the questions she maybe should not have asked in the first place. Whenever discussing the subject at hand, a sculpture made of cheese, she only mentions its materiality, its cheeseness: that it melted, that people–and anthropomorphized dogs–want to eat it.
The first thing Snow White says is to Mickey: “There you go, Mickey. A self-portrait of yourself! Can you imagine that?” Well, if he made it, yes? But no. She immediately crosses awkwardly in front of Mickey and the sculpture, to shake the sculptor’s hand: “Thank you very much!” She’s soon told to move because lighting, and then she’s told to interview the sculptor.
The sculptor who is himself in an elaborate costume. He works, he says, in stone, wood, bronze, and now cheese. It took him three 8-hour days to complete. The cheese got soft in the heat, which made things difficult. The sculptor’s name is Machu Picchu. Reader, I think it was not. But in the end, this is the performance, character, and narrative which most fascinates me.
How did Disney come to the place where a pseudonymous Spanish-speaking sculptor has his first work in the medium of cheese, a 1,000-lb. head of Mickey Mouse, wheeled into a Broadway restaurant by three unrehearsed performers is the best way to promote a traveling character revue? What is his experience, this ungoogleable artist whose authorship Snow White attacked repeatedly?
Other segments of this PR footage show characters entertaining a group of boys in Boys Club t-shirts on the empty floor of Madison Square Garden. A range of costumed characters meet an audience assembled, as their posters tell us, by the New York Metropolitan Area’s McDonald’s restaurants. Donald Duck and Goofy clown around mutely with a Herbie The Lovebug–who has very non-canonical eyes, eyebrows, and flimsy teeth. A lot of legwork went into preparing for this publicity campaign, and this footage resulted. As Rauschenberg didn’t say, there is art in the gap between image and experience. Or was that Duchamp’s infrathin, between content and perception? I wish we lived in a world where it didn’t feel obscene not just to remake this sculpture, but to break down, study, and restage this entire video, line for line, gesture for gesture, shot for shot, frame for frame, for a live audience.
You know what I have never seen? An original “WE LOVE YOU TANIA” poster. Which might be easier to explain than you might think. If my own vintage photo captions are to be trusted, the photo of Patricia Hearst reborn as Tania of the Symbionese Liberation Army was only released on Wednesday, April 3, 1974, less than two months after her kidnapping. It accompanied a tape recorded statement by Tania, which was delivered to the offices of leading San Francisco counterculture/rock radio station KSAN, Jive 95. The photo ran on the front page of newspapers across the country on April 4th. [If I recall his Guggenheim clippings collection correctly, On Kawara read about it in the Washington Post.]
Getty’s original caption for the above image says, “Posters reading ‘We Love You Tania’ appear on bulletin boards at the University of California campus 4/15,” the day “she was identified by the FBI 4/15 as one of four armed women who took part in the robbery” of the Hibernia bank across the bay in San Francisco.
But the posters above and below Tania show events on April 11 and 7, respectively. So it seems more likely to me that Hearst’s Berkeley classmates posted their flyers–and they were photographed–soon after the Tania image was released, not, as it sounds, in celebration of the hours-old bank robbery. So this is a very narrow window in which to celebrate Tania’s revolutionary activities without celebrating her crimes. Or without at least using the security camera still of her from inside the bank.
(Original Caption) Someone waiting in line to watch the Patricia Hearst trial 2/23 brought in a huge drawing depicting Patricia Hearst holding a weapon copied from a photo taken at the University of California at Santa Cruz, uses her head in the drawing for a photo.
Is it possible for a photo archive to be even less helpful in its archiving? The only thing Getty managed to record about this photo of an extraordinary life-sized cutout painting (not a drawing) on board of the Tania portrait is the date (February 23, 1976).
I can find no source for the claim that the Tania photo was taken at UCSC, and a great deal of documentation that the SLA didn’t get farther than Daly City before the Tania photo was released. And though it is unspecified, this installation photo must have been taken outside the Federal Courthouse in San Francisco. Was it the painting itself, perhaps, that came from Santa Cruz? [update from a new source: it was apparently the young woman in the cutout who was from UC Santa Cruz: one Jean Finley. It also says the drawing (sic) was brought by “someone,” and that the Tania photo comes from the Hibernia Bank robbery. Boomers made news hard.]
The photographer, and more importantly, the artist who made the cutout painting, and most importantly, the current status and location of the cutout painting at this moment, are all unknown. If you are the boatshoed man on the right, or know him–he would be in his mid-60s now–please do get in touch. There are works in progress.
UPDATE: The internet is not canceled yet.
Within hours of posting this, Bean Gilsdorf tweeted that perhaps this woman posing in the Tania painting was Jeanne C. Finley, the artist, filmmaker, and California College of the Arts professor who had attended UC Santa Cruz. A couple of quick, shocked, and bemused emails later, we knew. That is her, and the artist who painted that thing is Alison Ulman. Here I quote Finley:
[T]he fact of that image is that it is an incredible artwork by my very best friend from childhood, Alison Ulman, that she did when we were in college at UC Santa Cruz back in the truly experimental days of that institution. Alison was obsessed with Patty Hearst and we both attended the trial. She created that work as a public artwork (long before the idea of social engagement ever was a thing) that the public would engage in while they waited in line to get into the trial. On one side was Tanya with the 7-headed cobra, on the other side was Tanya as a debutante. Everyone wanted to have their photograph done on the 7-headed cobra side! We had to get in line at about 1am and sleep on the sidewalk until dawn because there was so much public interest in attending the trial and it was a great way to pass the time.
If you try to google Alison all you’ll find is this 15-year-old website. (http://endlessprocess.com/) …She is an amazing artist, and lives a most unconventional life…not one that really intersects anymore with the art world, but that is really the art world’s loss. We’ve been best friends since 2nd grade where we lived two blocks from one another and spent every day together as kids. We decided we wanted to go to college together so we both applied to UC Santa Cruz because we read that there was co-ed nude sunbathing on the dorm roofs. Santa Cruz was really hard to get into then, so the other artists in art school with us were all pretty amazing people. I felt so lucky to be there and have the freedom to be an artist and do things like this with my best friend.
The art world’s loss indeed, but an amazing story about an interesting project at a fascinating moment in time. Thanks to Ulman, and to Finley, and to Gilsdorf for bringing it all together.
David Hammons is having a show. And the gallery, Hauser & Wirth in Los Angeles, sent out a press release. I marveled at it this morning, but it wasn’t until Powhida tweeted [d’oh, deleted!] about framing it that I realized it needed realizing.
The press release is a jpg titled, unnamed.jpg. It is 1212 x 930 pixels and 72px/inch resolution. In order to print it at that size, I converted it to a pdf 12.92 x 16.83 inches. I haven’t figured out quite how to print that yet, but it has only been a few minutes, so maybe chill or take care of it yourself? I’ll take a crack at it tomorrow.
One night the artist came over for dinner and after they sat together on the front porch of the house as lightning bugs flashed under a canopy of sycamores. The host’s small child, three or four years old, came out to the porch to say goodnight to all. The father gathered his son in his arms and took him upstairs, his bedroom just above the porch, and tucked him into bed. When he returned to his drink and their conversation, Twombly pointed up to the boy’s bedroom and said, of his own son, of Alessandro, “I don’t know where he slept.”
This anecdote came to mind when I saw this haunting 1965 photo of a young Alessandro, because at least Twombly knew where the kid sat.
The photo, published at a date I can’t determine, in an apparent edition of five, was included in the Pompidou’s Twombly retrospective in 2016. Another, smaller version of the scene, which crops out the dark hallway entirely, was also included. It was apparently an edition of six. Florence Briat Soulié photographed it for her lyrical review of the exhibition. Alessandro has extricated his arm from the chairback, and has one leg up on the seat, but he maintains his gaze into the unlit hallway of the palazzo, where his father was snapping away.
Those locks, those umbrellas, it looks like the ingresso. But that floor and that doorway don’t match, and there’s no steps. And that bust sure moves around. And it looks slightly less like Trump in the light.
I sat on these photos and this post for a couple of months, ngl, wondering if I wanted to deal with the possible blowback that might arise from the Fondazione Nicola del Roscio’s assertion of copyright over these and all of Twombly’s photos. Part of me wanted to just make a point by linking to them only on pinterest.
Come for the sketch Frederick Edwin Church made of Mount Katahdin, but stay for the sketch Frederick Edwin Church made of Katahdin Lake.
When he tweeted it today, Tyler Green said that was one blue brushstroke, and the beach was one white one. Staring at the zoomed in jpg, I am not sure. The white could be one deftly twisted stroke, but the blue looks like it it probably a few. In any case, it is just beautiful, and not the kind of thing you [I] expect from Church.
Inspired by Thoreau, Church made several trips to Katahdin between the 1850s and 1880. This sketch was likely painted before 1878, but after 1856-60, which is when Church made a stencil of Katahdin and the surrounding landscape as seen from across the lake. Because the mountain was outlined with the stencil.
The Cooper-Hewitt acquired over 500 paintings and 1500 drawings from Church’s son in 1917, including at least two made from the stencil, plus the stencil. Which is fantastic, but not as great as that lake or that beach.
Before Tico Mugrabi, Emmanuel Perrotin, Per Skarstedt, and Francesco Bonami, there was Nigo. Nigo tagged KAWS. Nigo collabo’d with KAWS. Nigo collected KAWS. Nigo commissioned KAWS. And now Nigo has sold KAWS. Some of them. At a Sotheby’s auction in Hong Kong named after himself.
These texts by Virgil Abloh and W. David Marx are from the print catalogue for the auction, NIGOLDENEYE®. [Nigo also started putting a registered trademark sign after his name.]
The texts seem relevant only because the main KAWS painting sold for $14.7 million, and because they articulate with unabashed uncriticality the ultimate ambition of art as a tool of capital.
Gene Moore was the creative director for Bonwit Teller, and then from 1955, after Bonwit’s owner Walter Hoving bought it, for Tiffany & Co. next door. Moore hired Andy Warhol, among others, to create window displays along Fifth Avenue. Moore’s book was quoted by warholstars.org:
[Warhol] never pretended a difference between what he did to survive and what he called his art. To his credit, I think it was all the same to him. He was a very busy young man. I used Warhol’s art in several of my perfume windows at Bonwit’s. In July 1955, just before my work began at Tiffany’s, I made some wooden fences, and he covered them with graffiti for a series of windows. They were fun, full of a childish playfulness.”
I haven’t given two thoughts to those Warhol Fences in 20+ years, since seeing one at a Warhol fashion flotsam show at the Whitney. Which turned out to be a refabrication cooked up by Warhol Museum director Mark Francis? And which turned up again, alongside another one, in Adman, a 2017-18 show of Warhol’s commercial work.
Which, now I am actually kind of interested in bringing back destroyed artworks. And in Gene Moore and his artist colabos. And in the amazing vintage photos a reader just sent me of several more of Warhol’s window display perfume fences, which are awesome?
I can’t find it now, but someone, either Moore, or Dan Arje, the Bonwit’s assistant art director whose archive is now at the New School, said how easy it was to work on windows with Warhol. He never froze, never panicked, never stalled, but got right to work and cranked out that art. And these fences show it. They feel instant, sprung fully formed from the artist’s head–and pen–like a Keith Haring glowing baby.
Which isn’t the same as improvised or conceived on the spot. Installation views of the Adman show include sketches for the Miss Dior fence, so a lot of it was clearly worked out in advance. Credibly repeating one of these wall-sized drawings seems like it would be very hard. But I want to see those birds so bad I can taste it.
The Raleses bought Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ “Untitled”, which was made for the 2007 Venice Biennale. It was based on an unrealized sketch the artist made while considering a public art commission. I believe it was for a university. The posthumous thing bothered me at the time, and Nancy Spector and I went around a bit on it, but I decided to roll with it, and it turns out to be fine. Art world shenanigan-wise, it could have been much, much worse.
It was a rainy autumn evening when I first saw it reinstalled at Glenstone. The shallow pools of water on the surface of the concave discs of white Carrara marble splashed and glistened with rain.
“They’re beautiful, and I think people will probably throw coins in them, or might actually get into them if it’s hot,” Ms. Spector said, smiling. “I wouldn’t mind.”
Andrea Rosen, the dealer who represented Mr. Gonzalez-Torres from 1990 until his death and who now oversees his estate, said she did not think he would mind either. He would probably jump in himself.
I did not back then, nor in the two visits since the new building opened, ever once get the sense that the Raleses would be chill with people frolicking in their Felix pools. But the fact that they have custom-fitted hot tub covers does make me wonder if the amount of frolicking is not actually zero.
Some day I will learn to visit grupa o.k. more frequently in order to better time my awe to their discoveries, but that day is not yet. And so I just saw their January post of Walter de Maria’s contribution to Willoughby Sharp’s foundational exhibition Earth Art, staged in 1969 at Cornell’s White Museum.
When Sharp asked De Maria to participate in the show, the artist wrote back a letter outlining his project. Proposing to exhibit a mattress and an audiotape of crickets in the room (presumably Cricket Music), Sharp promptly rejected the work, stating, “in no uncertain words that each artist in the show had to touch dirt.” In the wake of Sharp’s decision, an alternative proposal was submitted according to the curator’s requirements. Sharp later described De Maria’s installation of the accepted work:
[De Maria flew in and during the opening—and there were hundreds of people going through the museum—he had the cartons of earth emptied into the center of the floor, and then he got his only tool, which was a push broom, with bristles and a long handle, and he pushed the earth into a carpet that was about two inches high. And when that was done to his satisfaction—he did it very meticulously—he took the broom and turned it so that the end of the broom handle became a marker and very slowly, across this tablet of earth, he wrote G-O-O-D, and then F-U-C-K…As soon as Tom Leavitt (then director of the Andrew Dickson White Museum of Art at Cornell University) saw that, and realized that there were kids at the opening as well as the president of Cornell, they cordoned off the room, put up Sheetrock, and the next day the piece was swept up and dispersed.]
This long retelling of Sharp’s story is important for reassessing De Maria’s earth-based projects and reinserting the foundation of sound to his overall career. According to Sharp, the earth carpet was Plan B; dirt became essential because of curatorial limitation. More akin to his much earlier ironic game pieces, such as Boxes for Meaningless Work (1961), where the viewer is constantly reminded that what he or she is doing is meaningless, Good Fuck is an irreverent jab at the art community.
The title itself is a gimme, obv, but it’s the idea of dirt as De Maria’s Plan B and curatorial imperative that sticks with me. Also as Adams’ footnotes point out, Sharp’s timeline doesn’t quite compute. In her 2013 review of MOCA’s Land Art show, Suzaan Boettger notes that De Maria’s piece stayed on view for several days, but when the university came after it, he and MIchael Heizer both pulled their works in protest. [Boettger brings it up because they both refused to participate, officially, in the MOCA show, too, thus sucking up all the attention by their absence.]
UPDATE: Is there any discussion of earth art that cannot be improved by a little digging? [I am so sorry.]
After thanking me for the mention, Suzaan Boettger pointed out that in fact, she discovered Good Fuck, and Heizer’s work at Cornell, Depression, in the course of researching her 2002 book, Earthworks: Art and the Landscape of the Sixties [UC Press]. As soon as I saw the cover in my shopping cart, I recognized Boettger’s book, but I am pretty sure I had not read it, because I would have remembered this:
De Maria had arrived at the museum during the opening and, while visitors watched from behind the closed glass doors of the gallery assigned to him, raked the earth that student assistants had provided into a smooth shallow rectangle. He then used the tip of the rake handle to inscribe in capitals on a diagonal across this earthen rug’s surface the words GOOD FUCK. Considering the earth is traditionally coded female, this recalls the archaic practice by a male farmer of copulating with a virgin on a newly furrowed field to insure its fertility. [p.165]
Well. we will never see wall-to-wall carpet of Earth Room or the rows of poles piercing the Lightning Field the same way again, will we?
Boettger’s version also has the work on view for at least “a few days” before White Museum director Thomas Leavitt told the artist he would close the work off in advance of an elementary school group visit. De Maria and Heizer pulled out, so to speak, together.
There should probably be a limit on the number of curatorial WTFs in a single post, but the fact that neither artist nor their work were mentioned in the exhibition catalogue, and that Heizer’s participation in a related symposium was edited out of the published version of it, seems like pure institutional malpractice. Boettger found documentation of the works, her footnotes reveal, in a Cornell archive separate from the museum’s own exhibition archives. And Sharp’s account only came out years later. It really should not have taken until 2002 for information on these artists and their works to surface.
On the bright side, Heizer’s withdrawal of his work seems to have been a major pain in the ass for Cornell; the dirt excavated from his 8-ft deep, 75-ft long trench had been repurposed for other artists’ works, so it couldn’t be swept away so easily. But by then, all the critics and VIPs had been flown back to Manhattan on Cornell’s private plane. #junkets
As soon as the e-flux header gif started flashing I knew what Heimo Zobernig was up to in Dresden:
In the Albertinum he is presenting a selection of recent paintings from this series as well as a new spatial installation in the atrium. The basis for this work consists of design drawings produced by Piet Mondrian in 1926 for a room in the home of the Dresden art collector Ida Bienert, which are on view in the exhibition entitled “Visionary Spaces” in the Albertinum. Whereas Mondrian’s design was never actually implemented, Zobernig’s installation in the original dimensions of that room can be entered and experienced as a cubic sculpture.
Yes, but what? Never realized? Never realized in Frau Bienert’s Haus, maybe.
In 1970, Pace Gallery produced a full-scale version what was then known as Salon for Madame B. based on the sketch above, which they purchased from Mondrian’s friend and heir Harry Holtzman. The room was constructed in spectroscopically color-matched Formica by the American Cyanamid Corporation, which simultaneously launched “The Mondrian Collection” of Formica. After its commercial debut in New York, Mondrian’s Formica Room traveled to Chicago, where it went on view at the Art Institute.
Six years ago I found a vintage photo of Mondrian’s Room, and I tried tracking it down, to see if it still existed. Pace was singularly unhelpful with even the most basic information, so I dropped it. But it has be out there somewhere; Formica is plastic, and we know how long that sticks around. In the mean time, there’s a new version in Dresden, so project usurped, if not mystery solved.