When Douglas Cramer sold this Jasper Johns painting at Christie’s in 2012, he told the story of its creation, as a thank you to a doctor for making a house call the artist didn’t have the money to pay for. But that feels incomplete, since, if Johns filled Dr Wilder’s prescription for Paregoric at the Sande Drugs on 76th Street, doesn’t that mean he was living in his penthouse on Riverside Drive by then? I think there’s more to the relationship with Dr. Wilder than, “If I live I’ll pay you Tuesday.” [If nothing else, they stayed in touch enough for Dr & Mrs. Joseph Wilder to loan the painting to the artist’s solo show at the Jewish Museum in 1964.]
This painting, Mathis, from 1983, strikes me as a very good transitional painting, and was recognized as such by a serious collector who kept it for decades. That did not, apparently, drive interest to the level Phillips had estimated, and so all the work of contextualizing this painting was at risk of being lost, or at least under-appreciated. Not now though.
Patrick Radden Keefe reports in the New Yorker that Nan Goldin and her activist organization P.A.I.N. delivered a letter [pdf] from a growing list of contemporary artists to the trustees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art last month, calling on them to remove the Sackler name from the walls and spaces of the museum. On Wednesday, that is exactly what happened; the Met announced the removal yesterday.
The text of the letter, and its signatories as of November 15, 2021, is read here by a computer-generated voice.
Eight years ago, I was inspired by Ian Bogost’s article on the McRib to create a video work, untitled (where we all go), about art, love, and the inevitability of death. Bogost’s theory that the rare, seasonal appearance of the obviously artificial McRib sandwich helped to normalize the equally artificial McNuggets we see every day. This dynamic, I thought, also describes how the occasional spectacle of blockbuster art auctions create an economic logic for the rest of the art market all the way down the pricing pyramid.
This same scheme is now in full effect in the NFT space. Pyramids merged yesterday when McDonald’s launched a one-week Twitter sweepstakes to promote the return of McRib by giving away ten “McRib NFTs.” At the time of posting, it has received over 81,000 retweet entries.
Because I am never under any illusion that anyone listens all the way through these things, I will not be spoiling anything by telling you how this ends, which is that McDonald’s, Rarible, and any and all of their crew, “will have no liability whatsoever for, and shall be held harmless against, any liability for any injuries, losses or damages of any kind, including death, to persons, or property resulting in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, from acceptance of the NFT.”
There are some oddities in this recording, like names I gave up trying to get the computer to pronounce correctly; words or abbreviations that are pronounced correctly in one case, and read out as a string in another; the startling precision with which the machine says, “Spongebob Squarepants,” and the sudden appearance of French voice for one precisely articulated line, while other instances of French are left to phonetic stumbling.
Johanna Burton is right, though, and Rachel Harrison’s text-related practice rewards the attention given to it.
It consisted of a hallway hung with 43 banners by a signpainter, depicting portraits of great men of arts and letters, plus a quote from each about the transgressive nature of creative genius. There was also one self-portrait by the serial killer John Wayne Gacy, who’d taken up painting in prison, and whose work was, controversially, garnering market and media attention. Sort of the George W. Bush of his day, except Gacy actually went to jail.
David Rimanelli posted this work on his Instagram recently, and it prompted me to revisit Kelley’s installation, and the quotes he assembled. The Renaissance Society’s documentation includes a text that rightly criticizes those in the spectacle-driven culture who turned a murderer into a celebrity artist. [The work mitigated its own centering of a Gacy painting by including donation boxes for victims’ rights organizations, though, if you think about it, that gesture only offloads the scale-balancing to the viewer.] but it seems oddly silent on what I think was Kelley’s most devastating critique, the consistency with which icons of white male-driven culture seek to excuse themselves from moral obligations to anyone but themselves.
For the handout at “Ten Approaches to the Decorative,” a 1976 group show at Alessandra Gallery curated by fellow artist Jane Kaufman, Joyce Kozloff contributed two texts: “Negating the Negative (An Answer to Ad Reinhardt’s ‘On Negation’)” and “On Affirmation,” which was also an answer to Ad Reinhardt’s “On Negation.” Recently David Rimanelli posted an image of the handout on instagram. Kozloff first heard Reinhardt read the text at Columbia, when she was in graduate school. It was only published in 1975, in Reinhardt’s collected writings, edited by Barbara Rose. Kozloff’s text is available on the artist’s website.
“Ten Approaches to the Decorative” was a foundational show in what would become known at the Pattern & Decoration movement. Artforum had a lengthy review which mentioned Frank Stella a disconcerting number of times.
Reading this entire checklist in one take in ASMR voice this morning, I considered that the description of exhibition announcements and brochures as “throwaways” may be related to Duchamp’s recommendation that visitors should throw away his posters.
As considered in the recording, Number 22, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, was indeed incorrectly listed as Horizontale-Verticale, No. 1, when it was actually Horizonale-Verticale, No. 2. This correction will appear in all future performances.
The times I was interested in the content of Marcel Duchamp’s exhibition poster/catalogue/checklist for the Dada exhibition he organized at Sidney Janis’s gallery in 1953 never managed to coincide with the times I had one readily at hand to study it, or to the times when one turned up on the market that I wanted to drop a few thousand dollars for. [Duchamp encouraged visitors to crumple this 38×24-inch poster into a ball and throw it in the trash when they entered the exhibit, so even fewer survive than you’d hope.]
And every time I tried to research it online—the show was a landmark, and influenced people like Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg tremendously, so that happened a lot around here–I was surprised that A) no giant images of it existed online, and B) none of the text in this all-text document for this historic show seems to have ever been published. [After transcribing the entire thing, I now see that is not the case; at least one of these essays was published in the collected writings of its author, but I can’t remember which. And it won’t matter now.]
So right as the pandemic closures loomed, I jammed down to the Hirshhorn Museum, where a Dada exhibition poster hung peacefully among the Duchampiana promised by the Levines, and I photographed the whole thing. When I was stuck or exhausted by other writing–or by lockdown life in general–I’d take a few minutes and just type the stuff in.
Now I am pleased to release this historic text for the first time. It is available both as an edition of Better Read, where a computer-generated voice reads texts by Sidney Janis, Tristan Tzara, Richard Huelsenbeck, Jean Arp, and Jacques Levesque, plus Duchamp’s own text contribution. The essays are also available as a pdf.
The 212-item checklist is currently available as a spreadsheet on my Google Drive. If this lockdown situation continues I may end up reading it myself. But having it read by a computer was such a mess, Zombie Tzara himself would have risen to smack the Dada right out my mouth.
One day later update: So I’m reading Kenneth Goldsmith’s new book, Duchamp Is My Lawyer, and suddenly I’m like, d’oh I bet Monoskop has this damn poster. And of course he does, but just as a giant (finally) legible jpg. So anyway. Dada.
Auction houses on occasion write essays for specific works of art. The occasion is the sale of that work, and the estimated value of the work determines whether an essay is warranted. Of the 23 works by Gerhard Richter for auction during Frieze Week, nine are accompanied by essays. The threshold for getting an essay seems to be £200,000.
This episode of ASMRt consists of me reading all nine essays published by Phillips, Christie’s, and Sotheby’s, about the nine most expensive Richters being sold this week.
Besides the obvious emphasis on the artist’s own significance, a recurring theme is the relation of each painting to his most significant bodies of work. Specifically, many works are described as referencing or prefiguring other, better known or more important work.
Which, if you think about it, implicitly argues for the relative lower significance of the work at hand. But it is here, it is for sale, and a case must be made, and something must be written. So here is an hour-long recording that doesn’t need to be listened to of texts that don’t need to be read. Links to the individual lots are after the jump.
The middle of three 5 x 4-ft offset lithograph panels in Robert Rauschenberg’s Autobiography contains a dizzying spiral of text featuring key moments of the artist’s life, as well as an extensive list of artworks.
When Oliver mentioned it on twitter the other day, I realized I’d never actually made it through the entire text. Now I have. I transcribed it here for this robot to read.
Five years ago today, Cady Noland learned that her 1990 sculpture Log Cabin had been destroyed and refabricated in Germany without her authorization, and that the new version (or whatever it was) had been sold to a “mystery client,” Cleveland collector Scott Mueller.
Mueller had a buyback clause in his purchase agreement, allowing him to unwind the transaction and receive his $1.4 million back if the artist contested or rejected the authenticity of the work. Which is exactly what happened. Mueller had to sue Galerie Michael Janssen to get his money back (which he presumably did; the case was ultimately withdrawn.) But in 2017 Noland, who had not been a party to Mueller’s dispute, but rather its subject, filed a copyright infringement claim against Janssen and collector Wilhelm Schürmann, for the unauthorized replication and distribution of her artwork.
Artistically, one would think it hinges on the artist’s determination of the conceptual nature of the sculpture Log Cabin Facade. Because they had a blueprint, Schürmann et al apparently figured they could refabricate the work as needed, no problem. That turns out to not be how Noland conceives of the work, however; her court case emphasizes the importance of the original logs she ordered from Montana, the stain she later instructed Schürmann to apply, and the 25 years’ patina the sculpture acquired. All of this was destroyed and replaced without her knowledge.
The document read here is one of the most recent filings in the case. It is a memorandum from the artist (via her lawyer) arguing against the defendants’ motion to dismiss her complaint, which has been amended and re-argued three times in three years.
Her claim is fairly atypical, and complicated, and Noland’s interpretation of copying, and fair use is, if successful, probably a net negative for the culture. The Office of Copyright’s denial of copyright registration to Log Cabin, however, feels like an egregious error.
This recording was made on the beach at Emerald Isle, North Carolina. The waves end up sounding like traffic to me, unfortunately, and into what seemed like a pitch black, silent night, some neighbors brought dogs and fireworks.
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.
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.