Cowered In Place

Krzysztof Wodiczko’s projection in 2018, photo: Joshuah Jest

I have reservations about directing too much of today’s outrage at a museum or a curator, so I’ll try to keep some perspective, and I urge anyone reading this to do the same.

But I find myself literally shaking with anger at the decision to cancel Krzysztof Wodiczko’s Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, DC, 1988–2000, in the aftermath of a mass shooting at a Florida high school yesterday afternoon. The work is a 3-night slide projection of a hand holding a gun and a hand holding a candle, flanking a bank of microphones. The decision was made, an unattributed update to the project’s press release said, “Out of respect for those affected, and in sensitivity to our public.”

I stepped away from my computer for a few hours to deal, and they added yet another update, a quote from the artist:

“To me, the silence feels most respectful. In this case, not showing the projection shows respect and sensitivity to the people who suffer from this great tragedy,” Wodiczko said.

Seriously? We all suffer. And while the artist and the museum join the NRA in silence, the ones suffering the most, the students, are stepping the hell up to the microphone. If silence is best, then why show the piece at all?

The sudden embrace of silence-as-respect belies the Hirshhorn’s and, apparently, the artist’s, claims and positioning for the work up to and while it was projected, as planned, on Tuesday night.

The press release led with this pull quote from Wodiczko:

“…the 30-year-old projection appears to me today strangely familiar and at once unbearably relevant. More than ever before, the meaning of our monuments depends on our active role in turning them into sites of memory and critical evaluation of history as well as places of public discourse and action.”

I guess the relevance really was unbearable, and instead of memory, evaluation, or discourse, the only action was to pull the plug.

Director Melissa Chiu told WAMU:

“What his work did was suggest that art in the public sphere … could actually offer up ideas and commentary that was topical,” Chiu said. “It was about what’s going on today, but also ephemeral.”

Indeed it was about what’s going on today, which is why she disappeared it.

I would perhaps have let the whole thing go with a grimace except for the comments of Chief Curator Stéphane Aquin in a YouTube clip, positioning the work as a safely shocking spectacle from a lost, fascinating history:

In 1988, the artist made it very clear it had a pointed reference to the politics and issues at the forefront of the public debate. It was an election year in the States. The original context has waned, has dissolved in history. But those objects still speak to us with striking relevance, to all of us, in various ways.  And so it remains a very powerful image.

Wodiczko’s Hirshhorn projection in October 1988. Has anything changed but the Lichtenstein?

Which, just, no. What were the politics and original context? In a Washington Post article from the original staging, in late October 1988, just weeks before the presidential election–an article which the Hirshhorn linked to three weeks ago– Wodiczko explains:

“For me, it is what I think of politics in this election, resembling more and more a crime story. For example, [Republican presidential candidate] George Bush on one hand is for the death penalty and on another is antiabortion, on one hand he goes on about ‘a thousand points of light’ and on another defends guns and a strong militaristic policy.

“Media and microphones are also used as weapons.”

What has changed? What has waned? What has dissolved into history? There is another, very similar clip, where Aquin says, “thirty years after, we’ve lost and forgotten about the original context” for Wodiczko’s work. But damn it, we have not. It is all around us, even more.

So why does he say this? Why return to this piece which, contrary to his lofty claims for its significance, was neither groundbreaking (it was Wodiczko’s 32nd projection) nor impactful. (When I tried to argue that Wodiczko should get the credit Doug Aitken’s vapid music video was getting for being the first projected work on the Hirshhorn’s exterior, Aquin’s predecessor Kerry Brougher cackled that it was barely more than a one-night slideshow that no one saw or remembered.)

Museum regimes change, but the motivation is the same. There is a desire for attention through spectacle and controversy in order to accrue power and capital, both social and political, at the moment. And in this case, Aquin and Chiu either are completely blind to the reality they’re showing in–which I doubt–or they’re calculating and manipulating for their own optimization.

When its relevance and topicality spike, like they just did, what is the instinctive reaction? To hold a candlelight vigil? To turn the museum and the Mall into a site of mourning or debate? Does Wodiczko’s work pose an opportunity for the Hirshhorn, or an inconvenience? Or possibly an existential threat?  If necessary, would we rally to defend the Hirshhorn’s showing of this work? Is a museum that silences itself and artists it claims are of profound relevance, in mere anticipation of critique worth defending?

Unfortunately for those who thought art was the message, the message is cowardice. Museums in this town have died from such self-inflicted wounds. That’s history that should not be lost or forgotten.

[yet another update: by last night, Melissa Chiu was saying the work would be rescheduled, not simply brought inside to a video monitor. A sensitive announcement to that effect at the beginning would have averted much criticism, but it also seems clear that criticism was the catalyst for the change. Which only underscores the absence of critical thought and understanding that went into this entire presentation.]

[Two weeks later update: the Museum has announced that the projection will now happen on March 7-9.]

CAA Reviews reviews Social Medium

The editor of Social Medium: Artists Writing 2000-2015, Jennifer Liese, alerted me to Francesca Balboni’s CAA Review of the anthology, which includes a very nice mention of my Erased de Kooning Drawing posts.

For me, however, the good moments outweighed those that were less than stellar. The biggest revelation was Greg Allen’s idiosyncratically obsessive and meticulously researched blog posts on Robert Rauschenberg’s Erased de Kooning Drawing (2011–13). Allen seems to answer Mike Kelley’s assertion to artists in “Artist/Critic?” (2001, another highlight) that “historical writing” can no longer be the project only of the art historian, if we wish to “escape the present limitations of critical discourse” (33). Allen’s blog offers an instructive example of the kind of art histories we might pursue instead. Mariam Ghani’s “The Islands of Evasion: Notes on International Art English” (2013) is as incisive as it is readable, as she summarizes and responds to the heated critical debate around Alix Rule and David Levine’s essay “International Art English.” I also enjoyed many of the selections in “Artists Writing as Art,” especially a bureaucratic love letter to the Liverpool CCTV from Jill Magid’s surveillance performance One Cycle of Memory in the City of L. (2004) and the script for Andrea Fraser’s biting institutional critique Official Welcome (2001).

It is still a sufficiently rare occurrence for me to see such reactions to my work, and it has definitely not gotten old, especially on a rough news day. [Are there any other kind lately?] But it also energizes me to be read as in dialogue with Mike Kelley, and to be discussed in the context of such artists and writers as these folks. I still find Social Medium to be an invigorating read, and am still really grateful to Liese for including me in it.

Social Medium: Artists Writing, 2000–2015 [caareviews.org]

On The Unveiling Of The Obama Portraits

The portraits of the Obamas by Kehinde Wiley (L) and Amy Sherald (R) before they are unveiled, NPG

I went to the unveiling of the official portraits of Pres & Mrs Obama yesterday at the National Portrait Gallery, and I wrote about it for ARTNews.

You’ve seen the portraits by now, so I included a photo of them veiled, like fancied up David Hammonses. Which is a hot take I’d love to see.

I discovered that the Obamas created a playlist for the unveiling on Spotify, which I don’t use. But if someone wants to look it up, (“2/12 Obama Event Playlist,” if you can search for that kind of thing), lmk. (Update: it’s apparently not visible.) Meanwhile, here’s a partial track list so far:

Rise Up, Andra Day
When The Day Comes, Nico & Vinz
Matter of Time, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
Black Gold, Esperanza Spalding (feat. Algebra Bresett)
Sign of the Times, Harry Styles
And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going, Jennifer Hudson
Mi Gente, J. Balvin, Willy William (feat. Beyoncé)
Bang Bang, Nicki Minaj, Ariana Grande
Boredom, Tyler The Creator (?)
Space Boots, Miley Cyrus
Book Of Your Heart, U2

Unveiling Portraits of Barack & Michelle Obama at the NPG [artnews]

Revisiting Works At The Metropolitan Museum

On a visit to the Met this week to see Michelangelo, I also surveyed the status of three works there. As I approached, I figured I’d better perform Untitled (Koch Block) myself, in case no one else did.

I needn’t have worried. The kids are alright.

The #andiron is standing strong. I put in a request to view the photographs in the collection by Mrs. Flora Whiting, the donor of the andiron and many more objects; the appointment is not for several weeks.

After visiting Anne Truitt sculptures so much lately, I can’t stop staring at the little climate control stele. Maybe I’ll sneak a new coat of paint for it.

Speaking of painting, the Proposte monocrome, gris has been accepted. I’m not sure I agree with the choice, but it was really out of my hands.

I am now doubly intrigued by the stele again, which in this light seems to have been painted a different grey than the wall or the moulding.

Previously, related: :
Untitled (Koch Block), 2014 –
Untitled (Andiron Attributed To Paul Revere, Jr.), 2014
Proposte monocrome, gris, 2017, as photographed by @bshaykin

Untitled (Painted Wall), 2018

greg.org, untitled (painted wall), 2018, installation view
Untitled (Painted Wall), 2018, enamel paint and rubber on limestone, diptych, est. 48 x 144 in., installation view, Jan. 16, 2018, Arlington, Virginia

Once again I am able to take comfort, of a sort, in at least knowing how I am different from Jasper Johns, who, when he once caught a glimpse out the window of a car of a wall painted red and black, did not pull over immediately, and photograph it. We stand on the shoulders of giants in the middle of the street.

previously, related: Untitled (Unpainted Wall), 2017

Cosa è Andato al Prada Doppio Club di Miami

prada_double_double_1.jpg
virgil Abloh, J.W. Anderson, Diplo e Ricky Martin erano tutti presenti al progetto di partito di Carsten Höller
Benzoino Luccello
Se fossi a Londra intorno al 2008, potresti ricordare Il Doppio Club: un incongruo pop-up a tema congolese, ospitato in un magazzino del nord di Londra. Creato dall’artista Carsten Höller e bizzarramente sponsorizzato da Prada, il club / bar / ristorante temporaneo ha attratto celebrità, modaisti e club per oltre otto mesi. Probabilmente passerà alla storia come la più eccitante esperienza della vita notturna mai vista nella capitale.
prada_double_double_2_bjork.jpg
L’EVENTO DI APERTURA DI MIAMI DOPPIO CLUB DI PRADA. FOTO: PIETRO BJORK
Quasi un decennio più tardi, Il Doppio Club è riportato in vita per la sedicesima edizione di Arte Basel Miami. Per soli tre giorni, questa seconda iterazione dell’installazione artistica esperienziale ha preso il sopravvento in uno studio cinematografico degli anni ’20 con un’imponente line-up, titolata dalla Principessa Nokia, Metodo Uomo e la Madonna Nera. È stato lanciato con una prestazione di Wyclef Jean, che ha radunato Miuccia Prada, Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Chloe Saggio e Ricky Martin nel suo giardino tropicale illuminato al neon.
Il Prada Doppio Club Miami – in contrasto con la sua edizione originale di Londra – ha una divisione estetica, tra monocromatico e iper-policromatico. Mentre lo spazio esterno sabbioso e il suo palapa bar sono illuminati da neon colorati perfettamente proporzionati, la sezione interna sembra di entrare in un film di Tim Burton – nero, bianco e nient’altro consentito. “Prendo particolare attenzione ai dettagli”, spiega Höller, che aveva incaricato i buttafuori di confiscare le cannucce colorate all’ingresso del secondo spazio, per preservare la sua identità estetica.
prada_double_double_3_getty.jpg
VIRGIL ABLOH. FOTO: GETTY
L’artista tedesco nato in Belgio è noto per la natura interattiva del suo lavoro – spesso associato al movimento dell’estetica relazionale – in cui la percezione e il processo decisionale sono centrali. Per il suo sondaggio presso la Hayward Galleria nel 2015, i visitatori sono stati confrontati con una serie di scelte: tra la porta A e la porta B per entrare nella galleria; inghiottire una pillola da una pila sul pavimento o no (pensa Il Matrice blu e rosso); è stato buttato giù dal museo da una delle due gigantesche diapositive attaccate alla facciata della Rivasud (che ha fatto il suo acclamato debutto alla Tate Moderno nel 2006). Lo stesso concetto si applica al club di Miami, dove le persone dovevano scegliere tra due contesti drasticamente contrastanti (sebbene fossero liberi di viaggiare da uno all’altro).
E mentre il “divertimento” gioca chiaramente un ruolo importante nel lavoro di Höller (è in qualche modo sconcertante pensare di essere stato addestrato come scienziato agricolo), Il Doppio Club va ben oltre il puro divertimento. È un viaggio in cui arte, design e musica coesistono.
prada_double_double_4.jpg
“IL PRADA DOPPIO CLUB MIAMI”, UN PROGETTO DI CARSTEN HÖLLER PRESENTATO DALLA FONDAZIONE PRADA MIAMI, 5-7 DICEMBRE 2017. FOTO: CASEY KELBAUGH CORTESIA FONDAZIONE PRADA
“A volte vengo a conoscere le culture attraverso la musica”, ci dice Höller, indicando la line-up caraibica e sudamericana del palcoscenico all’aperto (un momento saliente del secondo giorno è stata una performance del locale, 7-pezzo Tallawah Mento Banda ). “Volevo celebrare queste comunità, che sono così centrali nel tessuto culturale di Miami”, continua. Nel frattempo, la musica elettronica pesante ha dominato lo spazio al chiuso, grazie a spettacoli come Mimi Xu (conosciuto anche Coniglio Nebbioso) e il produttore di Chicago la Madonna Nera.
Allo stesso modo, nel 2008 a Londra, il dialogo tra culture occidentali e congolesi è stato al centro dell’attenzione. Höller (che divide il suo tempo tra la Svezia e il Ghana) ha viaggiato in Congo estensivamente negli ultimi 20 anni. Questo interesse, senza dubbio, fu alimentato dalla sua educazione in Belgio, la cui violenta eredità coloniale segnò profondamente il paese centro-africano. “Volevo adottare un approccio più positivistico”, racconta Höller. “Il Congo è un posto enorme. Volevo celebrare quella cultura in tutta la sua vitalità e potenza. ”
prada_double_double_5_bjork.jpg
HANS ULRICH OBRIST E CARSTEN HÖLLER. FOTO: PIETRO BJORK

https://pharmaciefr.org/


Ora, Arte Basel Miami – uno dei momenti più esclusivi dell’agenda culturale internazionale, in cui l’uno per cento affluisce da tutte le parti del mondo – non è esattamente l’ambiente ovvio per un autentico scambio culturale. Quindi, la diversità ha in qualche modo abbandonato l’agenda, a favore dell’esperienza esperienziale glamour e guidata dal marchio? “Tu hai l’intrinseca diversità di Miami, e in più la natura internazionale di Arte Basel”, spiega l’artista. “Era una folla molto variegata, imballata dall’inizio alla fine.”
Indipendentemente da ciò, Il Doppio Club sarà probabilmente ricordato come la cosa più bella che è successo a questa edizione di Arte Basel Miami. E, chissà, potrebbe anche creare un campo in una città vicino a te in futuro: “È certamente una possibilità”, dice Höller, che ritiene che gran parte del suo lavoro possa essere concepito come un doppio club. Si spera che la prossima tappa duri abbastanza a lungo per segnare davvero la coscienza collettiva locale.
prada_double_double_6.jpg
“IL PRADA DOPPIO CLUB MIAMI”, UN PROGETTO DI CARSTEN HÖLLER PRESENTATO DALLA FONDAZIONE PRADA MIAMI, 5-7 DICEMBRE 2017. FOTO: CASEY KELBAUGH. CORTESIA FONDAZIONE PRADA
previously, suddenly related: Rem Casafresca

Rothko & Parsons At The National Gallery, Curated By Bunny Mellon

betty_parsons_mellon_rothko_nga_white.jpg
Here are photos of Betty Parsons’ sculptures on the dining tables at the opening dinner for the National Gallery of Art’s first exhibition of modern art, held in 1973. On the walls are many Rothkos.
betty_parsons_mellon_rothko_nga_yellow.jpg
The exhibition, American Art Art Mid-Century, curated by visiting MoMA alum Bill Seitz, was made up entirely of loans from private collections, because the NGA had basically no modern works, and had only barely begun to even accept works by still-living artists. [That Gorky, Kline, Newman, Pollock, Rothko, and David Smith were all dead by 1973 hadn’t helped them get into the collection.]
betty_parsons_mellon_rothko_nga_red.jpg
When J. Carter Brown became the NGA’s director he made the controversial decision to hold VIP dinners in the museum itself. NGA president Paul Mellon’s wife Bunny, renowned for her gardening and interior design acumen, took upon herself the role of planning flowers and decor for many of these special events.
I have yet to track down the checklist, but the show’s press release [pdf] says there were 26 works by 23 artists installed in the temporary exhibition galleries on the main level. Yet these photos show at least eight Rothkos, in a room which I believe is on the far west end of the ground level.
According to Bunny Mellon: The Life of an American Style Legend, by noted centenarian socialite biographer Meryl Gordon, Mrs. Mellon asked Parsons to provide some of her painted found wood sculptures-a letter in the Archives of American Art [p.23] says “10 or so,” but Gordon says 14, and I count like 28-to “adorn [the] tables” at the dinner. Parsons’ datebook [p.132] shows she attended.
betty_parsons_mellon_rothko_nga_blue.jpg
Mrs. Mellon was a frequent customer and friend of Parsons. Parsons exhibited her own sculptures and paintings in Washington DC’s Studio Gallery beginning in 1972, and would later show Bunny’s daughter’s artworks in New York. There is an invoice [p.16] in the Archives of American Art for printing table cards for the NGA dinner. I think they’re the gilt-edged ones in the bottom of the picture above.
betty_parsons_mellon_rothko_nga_orange.jpg
It struck me that as a dealer, Parsons had been instrumental in the careers of many of the artists in the show. Yet her own artwork was being relegated to decoration. But Gordon notes that Bunny also loaned the Rothkos. Which might mean Bunny’s concept for the dinner was a two-artist show. Notice above, the table under the Rothko which has nothing but Parsons sculptures on it. Also, wow, every place setting has its own ashtray and embossed matches.
Quoting Lee Hall’s 1991 illustrated biography of the gallerist, Gordon wrote that Parsons worried the partygoers “will hate my work.” She also wrote that all “her table sculptures for the National Gallery sold out.” Wait, what?
These photos, from the National Gallery of Art, are in the gloriously digitized Betty Parsons Gallery papers at the Archives of American Art. [aaa.si.edu]
Meryl Gordon spoke about her biography of Bunny Mellon at the NGA on October 15, 2017 [nga.gov]
The press release for American Art at Mid-Century says the show is the first of two, but I haven’t found the second [nga.gov, pdf]
Buy Bunny Mellon: The Life of an American Style Legend via Amazon [amazon]

Better Read #018: Ellsworth Kelly, Notes of 1969

gmap_kelly_artic_green2.jpg
In writing yesterday’s post, I realized I’ve come back to Ellsworth Kelly’s “Notes of 1969” before.
What strikes me now, besides the quote I used for yesterday’s title, was this:

Everywhere I looked, everything I saw became something to be made, and it had to be exactly as it was, with nothing added. It was a new freedom; there was no longer the need to compose. The subject was there already made, and I could take from everything. It all belonged to me: a glass roof of a factory with its broken and patched panels, lines on a road map, a corner of a Braque painting, paper fragments in the street. It was all the same: anything goes.

Sometimes I feel this, too, but with guilt or ambivalence, not freedom so much. I also think about how brick walls have become surfaces, and how most bricklayers now have been replaced by machines.
Download and listen to Better_Read_018_Ellsworth_Kelly_Notes_of_1969.mp3 [mp3, 6:35, 6.7mb, via greg.org]
Previously:
related/impetus: I Found An Object And Presented It As Itself Alone
not really related, but I do want to own this Google search: Ellsworth Kelly Dancing Monkey
very much related, 2012, still thinking about how to handle these: Google Art Institute Project
2011: What I Looked At Today: Ellsworth Kelly’s Writing

I Found An Object And Presented It As Itself Alone

ellsworth_kelly_red-blue-green-1963_mcasd.jpg
Ellsworth Kelly Red Blue Green, 1963, oil on canvas, tho tbh this looks like someone’s sneaking a vector drawing onto wikipedia, collection: mcasd
In a 1969 text published in 1979 and revisited often since, Ellsworth Kelly looked back at how he learned to look:

Looking through an aperture (a door or a window) is a way that I have been able to isolate or fragment a single form. My first memory of focusing through an aperture occurred when I was around twelve years old. One evening, passing the lighted window of a house, I was fascinated by red, blue, and black shapes inside a room. But when I went up and looked in, I saw a red couch, a blue drape and a black table. The shapes had disappeared. I had to retreat to see them again.

As we come to understand Kelly’s work as his direct presentation of objects he encountered, it will change the way we, too, see the things around us.
In completely unrelated news, here is an extraordinary traveling awning salesman’s sample from the 1940s.
salesman_awning_sample.jpg
dimensions: 19 1/4″ x 18″ x 10 1/2″
Ellsworth Kelly “Notes of 1969” [pdf] was originally published in 1979 by the Stedelijk in Ellsworth Kelly: Paintings and Sculptures 1963-1979 / Schilderijen en Beelden 1963-1979. What we all need, though, is the Ellsworth Kelly Catalogue Raisonné. [wfu.edu, amazon, amazon]
The “Roofing Salesmans Sample” [sic] is lot 1118 in Dan Morphy’s December 9, 2017 advertising auction update: sold for $225. [liveauctioneers via @presentcorrect via @marybanas via @bshaykin]

Our Guernica Cycle – EB-5, 05.06.2017

guernica_cycle_eb-5_1400px.jpg
Our Guernica Cycle – EB-5, 05.06.2017, in the style of George W. Bush, 2017, oil on canvas, 50x80cm (20×28 in.)
On May 6, 2017, The New York Times reported, Jared Kushner’s sister met with potential investors in Beijing, trying to raise $150 million for the family’s Jersey City real estate project. She was promoting the EB-5 visa program, which essentially sells US green cards for making a $500,000 investment. Her PowerPoint slide showed photos of “EB-5 Visa Key Decision Makers,” including Senators Grassley and Leahy; DHS Secretaries Jeh Johnson (ex-, obv.) and Gen. John Kelly (now ex-, too, obv., and White House chief of staff); -and her brother’s father-in-law (and boss) Donald Trump.
Jared Kushner still owned major stakes in his family’s business at the time, having transferred only some of his holdings to his other family members when he became a White House employee. He would subsequently revise and refile his financial disclosure forms repeatedly to include previously undisclosed conflicts, contacts, and investments.
Kushner had tried mightily during the transition to secure Chinese investment in his company’s overleveraged flagship property, 666 Fifth Avenue. His efforts failed, and his partner, Vornado, has since declared that their ambitious plan to redevelop the office building into a multi-use megatower-and refinance it at a much higher valuation-was no longer feasible. The property is on track to go bankrupt as early as 2018, putting the Kushner’s equity at risk.
Our Guernica Cycle – EB-5, 05.06.2017 is the second painting in an ongoing series. I now see the Our Guernica Cycle as proceeding in roughly chronological order. It is November, and the outrageous Guernica moments since May are obviously piling up like leaves in the gutter. But the pace of disaster puts us all at risk of forgetting or acquiescing to the obvious wrongs of just a couple of months ago. If painting can do anything at all, it should be able to recalibrate our narrative clocks a bit.
So here is a painting, and a pyramid of prints, of the US president’s family hyping his political power to sell visas in exchange for investing in their private real estate company.
While it is similarly painted in China, in the attempted style of our still-most-relevant painter,
George W. Bush, EB-5, 05.06.2017 obviously differs from the Ivanka / Merkel 03.17.2017 work in several ways. For one thing, it’s done before you decide to buy it. I honestly cannot imagine how this helps. But then, given what we all knew going into it, I could not imagine why anyone, including me, would want to have an awful painting of Ivanka & Merkel in my life, either. Even more than before, this is a case of urgency, of feeling the need for an image of a moment of a crisis to be produced, disseminated, and preserved, even while the crisis continues. To bear witness, to #neverforget.
This work is further complicated by having the actual picture of Trump in it. Could it be any tougher of a sell? On the bright side [sic], the execution of the image is, I believe, more skillfully Bushian than ever. So at least it’s a good bad painting of a corrupt cabal. Right? And anyway, the gradient is probably the best part.
The Modified Kinkade Pyramid is in effect, and all prints will be available in the identical sizes and editions as the first work. However, blighting the image by hand will only take place upon request. So please make a note if you want more blight. The print was made available first to original Kickstarter backers, and now it is available generally, for a limited time. It is discounted 10% because y’all are all VIPs to me, but also to take into account a better sense of actual production and shipping costs. As before, any surplus will be turned back into producing the next images in the Cycle.
Literally no one has asked, but it is possible that the first print, Ivanka / Merkel 03.17.2017 could be made available as well.
Thank you again for your engagement during this ongoing disaster.

Select Print/Edition Size

[via paypal]
Previously: UPDATED: Our Guernica Cycle – Ivanka / Merkel 03.17.2017

Untitled (Mnuchin Gallery), 2017?

mnuchin_money_cingraham.jpg
Untitled (Mnuchin Gallery), 2017, printer’s proof. ink on rag, 27×31.5 in., $860., limit one per collector, image: ap/jacquelyn martin via @_cingraham
Art and the Mnuchins can never get too far apart from each other. Today Steven Mnuchin was photographed by the Associated Press holding the printer’s proof for a new print edition, Untitled (Mnuchin Gallery). It is issued in a signed and stamped edition of 10, plus 4 artist proofs.
Half of the edition is a #monochrome painting on an uncut 50-subject sheet of $1 bills signed by Steven T. Mnuchin. If you asked me this second the only possible color would be black, insta goth dom leather glove black, into the conscienceless pits of hell black, fund passthrough tax cuts by raising taxes on everyone else and gutting health care soul black, but that might change.
rauschenberg_paper_painting_1953.jpg
Robert Rauschenberg, Untitled (paper painting), 1953, 18x14x4 in., shoe box tissue paper, glass, wood base. lost or destroyed.
The other half is 50 $1 bills signed by Steven T. Mnuchin, shredded by hand, in an appropriately scaled perspex display case inspired by Robert Rauschenberg’s lost Untitled (Paper Painting) of 1953. All examples are accompanied by an engraved, signed and stamped certificate of authenticity.
As moneyfactory.gov [srsly] has only begun producing Mnuchin notes today, and moneyfactorystore.gov only offers uncut notes from 2013, with former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s signature on them, the actual release date for this edition is still to be determined. You may add your name to the waitlist.
Previously: Untitled (Mnuchin Gallery), 2017, pdf
Related: Untitled (Crystal Bridges), 2015
2011: ArtCash by Warhol, Rauschenberg, et al for E.A.T., including bills featuring the ur-print-your-own-money traitor Jefferson Davis

Ellsworth Kelly Dancing Monkey

ellsworth_kelly_moma_postcard_spring.jpg
Spring (Yellow Curve), 1984, paper on postcard
So far you are not sending me all the Ellsworth Kelly postcards like I asked, so I am forced to find them myself.
ellsworth_kelly_moma_postcard_summer.jpg
Summer (Blue Curve), 1984, paper on postcard
Oh wow, here is something wonderful which I have never seen before: a set of Ellsworth Kelly postcards. Four identical postcards, each with a varied but similar collaged element, a very Kelly-esque quarter circle, rotated within a frame, and titled with the four seasons.
ellsworth_kelly_moma_postcard_autumn.jpg
Autumn (Red Curve), 1984, paper on postcard
They’re almost Kelly paintings, but not quite: the blue curve seems to have a gradient, and the yellow curve looks like it’s covered in raindrops. They’re affixed on a tsuitate, a stationary, single panel Japanese screen that blocks views and drafts through a doorway. The combination of primary curves collaged with Asian art reminds me of some works Gabriel Orozco showed at Marian Goodman in 1994; they were remixes of overlapping circular cutouts from exhibition catalogues for Chinese scholar rocks and Ellsworth Kelly paintings. They were fantastic, and all sold, alas, and I am baffled that I can’t find a single image of them online right now.
ellsworth_kelly_moma_postcard_winter.jpg
Winter (Black Curve), 1984, paper on postcard
Anyway, the image Kelly set each curve into is Japanese, a woodblock print. It turns out it’s by Kitagawa Utamaro, an illustration from a 1789 collection of New Year’s poems called Waka Ebisu. I can’t yet figure out where Kelly might have gotten his postcards; maybe his 1984 exhibition history will yield a clue. [update: nope.] But Harvard has the print. The Met has the print, but has never shown it. The British Museum has the whole portfolio, and the best online documentation. The British Library’s online resource is a copyright-grabbing embarrassment. If I make my own Kelly Four Seasons collages, I’ll use their paranoid watermark jpg just because.
The scene is titled Saru-hiki [Monkey Trainer] and shows a troupe of performers visiting the house of a daimyō during New Year’s. Musicians accompany a dancing monkey in a kimono as the refined ladies of the house look on, some peeking around the tsuitate and others watching from behind semi-opaque bamboo screens called sudare.
Kelly presumably sent the postcards to his partner Jack Shear, because Shear donated them to MoMA in 2011, in honor of four refined ladies of that house, who have long supported Kelly and his work: Kathy Fuld (Spring); Agnes Gund (Summer); Jo Carole Lauder (Autumn); and Marie-Josée Kravis (Winter). So who does that make the dancing monkey?
Ehon waka Ebisu 絵本龢謌夷 (The Young God Ebisu, an Illustrated Book) [britishmuseum.org]
Previously, related: Ellsworth Kelly Postcards: Wish You Were Here!

UPDATE: Our Guernica Cycle – Ivanka / Merkel 03.17.2017

our_guernica_cycle_ivanka_merkel_gregorg.jpg
Our Guernica Cycle – Ivanka / Merkel 03.17.2017, 2017, 50x80cm, oil on canvas and associated print editions, greg.org
Happy apparent Birthday, Ivanka!
I’ve been staring at her distorted portrait for so long, it took the shock of the news yesterday to make me realize I have not actually, officially, gone public with the results of the first picture I Kickstarted. “Our Guernica, by Our Picasso,” an historic painting to mark the moment last March when Ivanka Trump turned up in a White House meeting with the leader of the free world, Angela Merkel, executed in the style of George W. Bush.
In the course of production of the pyramidful of print editions, plus some canvases, the project became Our Guernica Cycle, and Ivanka/Merkel 03.17.2017 became the first image, unfortunately, and not the last. I’ve now lived with these images for almost six months. All but two of the project backers have received their merch [the last two canvases are staring at me right now, set to be shipped before the opioid crisis is solved.]
And a new image is complete. It is a moment for reflection. Also a moment to celebrate getting these things out of the house. And I’m still asking the question I started with: what is art supposed to do? What is a painting for? The image I ended up with is terrible. In the process of applying the Kinkade-ian custom “highlights,” I realized they could only and ever make things worse. I started calling them “highblights,” or just “blight.” I gave backers the choice between “more blight!” and “it’s bad enough!” and they split almost evenly. With the last works going out the door, I am still undecided.
What does it mean, too, for an artwork to be experienced only [or largely] privately, by its purchasers? It is the antithesis of a Guernica; it’s My Own Private Guernica. Our Guernica.
The greatest outcome from this project has to be the show of support, the collective, shared outrage combined with an open-eyed engagement with art, even knowing it will not solve the horrible problems looming all around us. 59 people bought prints that didn’t exist of an image that hadn’t been created yet, in order to see it happen. And that is amazing, and I am very grateful. Maybe the real Our Guernica is the friends we make along the way.
Six months later, though, we’re obviously not through this. The world has not ended [I’m writing this at 11:39 on Monday night. Oh, I’m just about to publish it at 1PM on Tuesday.] The world has not ended, but our town square is still being strafed by Nazis. So Our Guernica is Our Guernica Cycle. What does that mean?
Chapman_Insult-to-Injury_Great-deeds-against-the-dead-2003.jpg
In the spirit of #thisisnotnormal, I’ve been working my way through images and possibilities, with the goal of accurately witnessing and capturing the political horrors and threats that surround us. Even more than Guernica, I’ve been thinking of Goya, whose Disasters of War series, 80+ prints whose creation occupied decades, and which Goya did not anticipate publishing in full in his own atrocity-rattled lifetime. I’ve especially come to appreciate the Chapman brothers’ Insult to Injury project, [above] where their clownish embellishments of a Goya Disasters of War portfolio condemned the folly of Bush & Blair’s Iraq War. [Called it, obv.]
So I expect this series will go on a while. After the backers were taken care of, I used the rest of the Kickstarter project funds to commission the next painting. It, too, has arrived. I think I will invite the original backers to order one first, but it should be available soon. It, too, was created with instructions to look like George Bush had painted it. The Chinese painters I’m working with seem to have gotten a little better at this bad style. Perhaps that will be when we know the Cycle is complete: when the #ChinesePaintMill system designed to industrialize Gerhard Richter’s paint-from-photo tactics can successfully reproduce the clumsy expressionist facture of the man who is still, alas, America’s most relevant painter. So stay tuned.
Our Guernica, After Our Picasso [kickstarter]
Previously, related: On Coming Around on Insult to Injury

Talking Walter Hopps, Ferus, & LA with Anne Doran & Deborah Treisman, 10/29 @Alden Projects

dream_colony_cover_hopps_doran_treisman.jpg
I’m stoked to be speaking this coming Sunday, Oct. 29, with Anne Doran and Deborah Treisman, about their new book, The Dream Colony: A Life in Art by Walter Hopps. The discussion and book signing will take place at Alden Projects™ on the LES, starting at 6pm.
Todd Alden has an incredible-sounding show up right now which provides a nearly perfect backdrop and context for a discussion of Hopps and the emergence of the post-war LA art world: a collection of 66 exhibition posters for Ferus Gallery, which Hopps founded with Ed Kienholz, which was then taken over by Irving Blum.
I imagine the talk will draw heavily on Doran & Treisman’s book, which they created from over 100 hours of interviews with Hopps; and on the posters themselves, which Hopps, and later Blum, often created in collaboration with the budding artists themselves, including Ed Ruscha, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol.
It should be a great talk about a great read in a great show, so do try and come.
You could buy The Dream Colony now via Amazon, but why not get a copy from the authors on Sunday night? [amazon]
Ferus Gallery: Between The Folds runs through Nov., 19, 2017, at Alden Projects™ [aldenprojects.com]