Some people wanted to make art in the gap between life and art.

Some people, meanwhile, are interested in the gap between if you move it you destroy it and actually we didn’t cut it up because it has little tongues and grooves and just slots together.

Mourning Jan Palach by Josef Koudelka

Josef Koudelka, Mourning Jan Palach who burned himself to death to protest the invasion, 1969, Magnum via newyorker.com

I’m haunted by this image by Josef Koudelka, who photographed the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968 and its aftermath. Jan Palach was a 21-year-old student who died in January 1969, after setting himself on fire in Wenceslas Square and running through the streets of Prague.

Koudelka made his photos secretly, under extraordinary and dangerous circumstances, but they always had a feeling of distant historicity. Then a couple of days ago Aaron Bushnell, a 25-year-old soldier in the US Air Force, set himself on fire in front of the Israeli embassy near my house. He was protesting US involvement and support of genocide being committed against Palestinians in Gaza.

Koudelka’s image illustrates Masha Gessen’s New Yorker essay about the implications for the US and its political system for an American soldier to self-immolate in terrible protest against something even worse.

More Factcheck! Same Plangent!…Less Purple!

Mike Kelley, More Tragic! More Plangent!…More Purple!, 1985 (Printed 1996), Ektacolor on museum board, each 30×24 in., illustrated is ed.1/5, sold at Sotheby’s in 2022

OK, since no one else had done it, I decided to figure out the Mark Rothko catalogue Mike Kelley photographed for his 1985 edition, More Tragic! More Plangent!…More Purple! which he printed in 1996 and published with Patrick Painter Editions.

If he’d actually taken all the photos in 1985, his options for catalogues with a decent number of full-page, full-color reproductions of Rothko’s paintings were very limited.

The first and biggest candidate was Mark Rothko, 1903-1970: A Retrospective, Diane Waldman’s catalogue for the 1978 show at the Guggenheim, which has been republished several times. No. Only one of the six Kelley works—a 1953 painting on canvas— was included. There was another possibility, thinner but timely: a catalogue for a 1983 show at Pace titled, Mark Rothko Paintings 1948-1969. I couldn’t find a copy nearby.

Fortunately, the only Rothko book the curators of the current Rothko Paintings on Paper show left in the National Gallery’s library was a spare copy of the catalogue from the National Gallery’s first show of Rothko Works on Paper, in 1984. That catalogue, assembled by then-Rothko Foundation curator Bonnie Clearwater, with an essay by Dore Ashton, was republished in 2008.

I found all six Rothkos Mike Kelley used in More Tragic! &c., and identified and collaged them with no purple below, to match the Sotheby’s hang above:

Continue reading “More Factcheck! Same Plangent!…Less Purple!”

View From Amache

a tall vertical photo of stars in the night sky contains text in white by artist david horvitz at the bottom: I made a photograph of the stars seen from eastern colorado one night last october, from the site of amache, the japanese internment camp. i imagine my grandmother looking at them from this same spot, some 75 years ago. the artist's name and the logo of the public art fund are at the bottom.
screenshot of David Horvitz’ For Kiyoko (From, Amache), 2017, digital image via PAF

Yesterday, February 19th was the anniversary of FDR’s Executive Order 9066, which ordered the displacement and imprisonment of 120,000 Japanese and Japanese-American citizens in remote detention sites around the western US. Artist David Horvitz marked the date on Instagram with a post about his grandparents, who met while incarcerated in Amache, Colorado.

Horvitz showed his photograph of the night sky as seen from Amache in a 2017 Public Art Fund exhibition on LinkNYC pylons. For Kiyoko (From Amache) depicted the same stars his grandmother might have seen, the same stars under which new groups of people in America were being threatened by the new government with kidnapping, detention, and deportation.

Horvitz’ website includes audio of a brief text about the making of this piece.
The Public Art Fund’s page has an installation photo of the image in Herald Square, and the way it blends right in to the landscape is kind of unsettling rn.

Commercial Break, Feb-Mar 2017 [publicartfund.org]

All The Maria Vermeers In New York

[And DC]. I just drove so far I ran out of content, so I relistened to the David Zwirner podcast about Benjamin Binstock’s reattribution of several Johannes Vermeer paintings to his daughter Maria Vermeer. In the interim, I’ve also watched Binstock’s address of Lawrence Weschler’s 2013 symposium at the NY IFA to address the authorship theory. Which, also, it rests in large part on creating a chronology of Vermeer’s extant works, something that traditional Vermeer scholars have generally eschewed in favor of more arguable date ranges.

Here, meanwhile, is a timeline Binstock presented in 2013 of Vermeer’s production, to scale, with seven what he calls widely recognized “misfits” outlined in red.

In case you don’t recognize them immediately, they are, from top to bottom, with their Rijksmuseum dates:
Girl Interrupted at Her Music, c. 1659-61, at the Frick
Young Woman with a Lute, c. 1662-64, at the Met
Mistress and Maid, c. 1665-67, at the Frick
Study of a Young Woman, c. 1664-65, at the Met
Girl with a Flute, c. 1665-66, at the National Gallery (DC)
Girl with the Red Hat, c. 1665-67, at the National Gallery (DC)
Woman Seated at the Virginal, c. 1670-72, Daphne & Thomas Kaplan’s Leiden Collection

It does seem wild that all the Maria Vermeer Theory paintings are in the US. The Kaplans’ Vermeer, long unknown to scholars and not really even seen until the 21st century, was bought by Steve Wynn at Sotheby’s in 2004, and its Vermeer attribution was only firmed up in the last 15 or so years. So very much in play, just as Maria’s name appeared in the discourse—and was ignored or dismissed.

Previously, related: Girl With A Reattribution

Girl With A Reattribution

It’s like looking in a mirror: Maria? Vermeer Facsimile Object

Technically, it’d still be a Vermeer, then.

On the latest episode of the David Zwirner podcast, Helen Molesworth talks to Claudia Swan and Lawrence Weschler about last year’s Rijksmuseum Vermeer show.

It’s an oddly timed conversation, and one that feels especially absent from the hoopla during the show. Besides the uncritical euphoria of the blockbuster, which is fine, the only substantive scholarly takes I remember coming out were about rediscovering Vermeer’s crypto-Catholicism. So yes, a re-evaluation of Vermeer’s view and depiction of women and public/domestic life—arguably his main subject—would have been welcome.

As would, apparently, any discussion of one of Lawrence Weschler’s ongoing fascinations: the proposal floated by scholar Benjamin Binstock in 2008 that several paintings attributed to Johannes Vermeer were actually the work of his daughter Maria.

Binstock’s theory has been vociferously ignored by institutional Vermeer scholars, but Weschler has hosted two symposia exploring and discussing it. Last year, with the Amsterdam show open, he published an updated article about the Maria Vermeer theory in The Atlantic.

Since Binstock’s initial publication, Vermeer scholarship and science has shifted in ways that should accommodate his speculations, but somehow don’t. The biggest change, arguably, is the National Gallery’s reattribution of their Girl with a Flute to a “studio assistant” of Vermeer, even though Vermeer was known not to have any registered students or assistants. The only loophole for not registering an assistant with the painters guild, Binstock notes, is if they are a family member. He calls Girl with a Flute, a self-portrait. And since the NGA’s Girl with a Red Hat is of the same person, and also, unusually, on a panel, not canvas, it’s also a Maria Vermeer.

You can see where this could lead. And yet it doesn’t. Which is the subject of the Zwirner-hosted conversation.

Plates Of The Society of The Cincinnati

Feb. 7, 2024, Lot 608, Society of the Cincinnati set of 12 plates, selling at the Potomack Company

Never imagined I’d be running a conceptual art and dishware blog, but here we are.

The Society of the Cincinnati is a hereditary organization founded in 1783 by Henry Knox so the officers of the American Revolution—and their descendants—could keep in touch. Around 5,500 men in the US and France were deemed eligible to join, and 2,150 joined within the first year. There are 13 affiliated societies in the US, plus one in France. George Washington was invited to be the first president.

Washington disapproved of the hereditary and primogeniture aspect of the Society, and so that section was stricken from the group’s founding articles. It was put back in after Washington’s death in 1799. [Alexander Hamilton was the second president.] Each eligible officer may be represented by one male living descendant at a time.

The Society of the Cincinnati has a giant palazzo on Massachusetts Avenue in Dupont Circle in DC. In 1960, this set of plates handpainted with the crest of the Society was produced by Delano Studios of Setauket, LI, a small porcelain painter which also made such dishes as the commemorative plate for Eisenhower’s 1953 Inauguration, and the Sayville Yacht Club’s 1967 Nationals.

They are now for sale, from the estate of Mrs Mary Lee Bowman of McLean, who passed away in late 2022. Bowman was a renowned hostess and supporter of the Virginia steeplechase, and a seven-time golf champion at the Chevy Chase Club, which inaugurated an annual women’s tournament, the Bowman Cup, in her honor.

In 1960 she married A. Smith Bowman, and moved to his family’s 7,240-acre farm, Sunset Hills, where his family operated what was long Virginia’s only legal whiskey distillery. The farm is now the city of Reston. Bowman was a descendant of Col. Abraham Bowman, who fought in the American Revolution. So maybe the plates were not Society of the Cincinnati swag, but were made as a wedding gift from/to a Society member. Mrs. Bowman is survived by several loving relatives, including her nephew Robert E. Lee, V.

Lot 608: Set of 12 Society of the Cincinnati Porcelain Plates, est. $150-250 (sold for $750) [potomackcompany.com]
previously, related: George Washington’s Lace
Thank You For Your Silver Service, Donald Judd X Puiforcat
Danh Vo: Shop the Look

Nebelmeer, Nebelmeer

Untitled (Nebelmeer), 2024, 48 x 48 in., paint on canvas, installed on a wall painted in complementary Benjamin Moore color with a suitably atmospheric name, via zillow

In what, from the finishes, looks like the early 90s, A police station in Georgetown was converted into two townhouses. One of them is being sold with help from a little known version of Caspar David Friedrich’s Wanderer Above The Sea and Fog. The H on the throw on the sofa stands for Hamburger Kunsthalle.

Previously, related: Monochrome House, 2016
Untitled (A Painting for Two Rooms by Cactus Cantina), 2017
Untitled (Blurred Frida), 2020
LMAO I have works like this that I haven’t even posted, just grabbed the MLS image and declared it, talk about tree falling in the forest

About Those Small Pictures

not quite Facsimile Objects

Recently I tried making Facsimile Objects of Richter overpainted photos. They started as 4×6 printed snapshots, I figured, why not start there? And they’re fine, I guess, so my dollar wasn’t wasted. But they ultimately lack the physical presence of overpainted photos as, well, photos with paint on them.

For a while I did wonder if it was the size, though. Maybe an image that small, palm-size—which is now phone-size—is just kind of maxed out in its impact. This was disproved this morning.

This was disproved this morning. I popped into Glenstone, as one does, looking for an R.H. Quaytman catalogue [didn’t have it, have to order it], and I went through the newly installed permanent collection exhibition in the Gwathmey building. In the first gallery between the Hilma af Klints and Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel, on the wall across from Fountain, is Man Ray’s Dust Breeding. And it’s tiny.

Man Ray, Dust Breeding, 1920, gelatin silver contact print, 2 3/4 x 4 1/4 in., like the one in Glenstone

The more common version of Dust Breeding crops out the horizon line between the Large Glass and Duchamp’s studio wall, and is usually printed later and larger. This early contact print, just 7 x 11 cm, is from 1920, and is the version that was first published. Called perhaps “the first Surrealist photograph,” Man Ray’s picture accompanied an article about Duchamp by André Breton in the October 1922 issue of the surrealist journal Littérature. It was captioned as “The domain of Rrose Sélavy” and a “view from an aeroplane.” [It also had a date of 1921, but hey.]

“Voici le Domaine de Rrose Sélavy/ Vue Prise En Aeroplane Par Man Ray — 1921”, from Littérature, Oct. 1922, via David Campany

Point is, it’s an amazing image, and an amazing object. And experiencing it in person makes me think I’ve seen it before. In her 2010 MoMA exhibition of photography and sculpture, The Original Copy, Roxana Marcoci included the print above, a loan from the Bluff Collection LP, in a little group of tiny, vintage Duchamp photos. Glenstone doesn’t have info or an image available yet of their print, I would bet a dollar that it’s the same object. A dollar or a Richter pic.

Huegette Clark Degas Facsimile Object

Edgar Degas, Dancer Making Points, 1874-76, 19 1/4 x 14 1/2 in., pastel and gouache on paper on board, a gift to the Nelson-Atkins from Henry and Marion Bloch, more or less

Speaking of unusual endings to the California real estate fortunes of somewhat reclusive copper heiresses: at some point in the early 1990s, soon after she moved into her $829/day hospital room with Central Park views, Huguette Clark’s Degas, Dancer Making Points, above, was stolen from her Fifth Avenue apartment. Clark didn’t want a scene, so she said do nothing, though someone called the Feds anyway, because they knew. It got fenced to Peter Findlay Gallery, where Henry & Marion Bloch, of the H&R Blocks, bought it in 1993.

In 2007, after an auction house and the FBI tracked it down, and the Blochs were resistant to give up their good faith purchase, and Clark, 98, was not interested in the attention of a lawsuit, the Blochs proposed a solution: Clark would donate the Degas to the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas City, where the Blochs had already pledged their Impressionist collection; she’d get the $10 million tax deduction; and they’d borrow it back from the museum until their deaths. And all of this would be completely secret.

Bill Dedman of MSNBC, who broke the whole Huguette Clark story, described the handoff that was required to make it happen:

In October 2008, on a clear but crisp Monday at the Bloch home in Mission Hills, Kansas, a Bloch representative handed the ballerina in the gilded frame to Clark’s attorney, who walked out to the car and handed it to a representative of the museum, who then handed it back to the representative of the Blochs, and back on the wall it went.

Clark had two other requests: 1) that the Corcoran Gallery, which held many artworks from her father’s collection, and where she once showed her own paintings, be permitted to borrow the Degas up to three times. [It never happened before the Corcoran closed in 2014, and it’s not clear whether the offer extended to the National Gallery, which took all the Corcoran art it wanted.] and 2) that Clark receive a full-scale photograph of the work. Which she did. Its current whereabouts are unknown.

Previously, related: Huguette Clark Paintings??

Rothko Was Here

I did not realize the full extent of Mark Rothko’s painting on paper. I remember seeing a works on paper show at Pace in the 1990s and feeling—wrongly, as it turns out—that it was just a second-tier project, and what was left in the estate.

Instead it is clear from the National Gallery’s show that Rothko was very engaged with painting on paper at specific points of his career, including windows of what is now called his classical phase. He took great care to paint and finish them, experimenting with composition, materials, borders, and mounting. [NGL, some acrylics look weird.]

But to make them he developed a practice of taping a sheet of paper to the movable, large-scale, plywood walls that he used as easels. One is on view at the end of the exhibition, built up with the overpainted palimpsests of various works.

Emily Fisher Landau’s Seagram Rothko, Untitled, 1958, via Sotheby’s

The way they kind of resemble the inverted composition of the Seagram paintings, made years earlier, is a coincidence. But that body of work does show Rothko’s search for something new didn’t suddenly appear in the 60s.

John Koch, Portrait of Benjamin Chester (Version 1)

John Koch, Garbisch Family Portrait (Version 1), 1955, 25 x 30 in., oil on canvas, being sold Dec. 3 at Freeman’s from the estate of Gwynne Garbisch McDevitt, that’s her in yellow

From the time he painted it in 1955, this John Koch painting hung in the master bedroom of the house it depicts until 1979. Pokety was the former duck hunting lodge of Walter P. Chrysler, which he left to his daughter Bernice, the white lady in white, at right. She and her husband, Col. Edgar William Garbisch, seated, scoured the Eastern Shore for disused architecture elements, and had the Winterthur and Colonial Williamsburg guy remodel the lodge into an 18th century farm, which they filled with American antiques and art, which had been called primitive art, and which they renamed naive art, and which was later called folk art, and just art. The National Gallery of Art has 428 objects from their collection; The Met has 177.

The twink Koch bathed in afternoon light is Edgar Jr, then 23. His sister Gwynne, seated in yellow, inherited this painting after their parents died in 1979. The auction of Pokety’s contents was the subject of extraordinary coverage by Sarah Booth Conroy in Kaye Graham’s Washington Post, which clearly felt an obligation to be the paper of record for such people and things as this.

The Great Hall of Pokety and its contents as depicted in the Fall 1980 issue of Home Decorating, and in the Koch painting considered here, via Garbisch grandson Frank B. Rhodes

It is from Conroy’s reporting that we hear the voice of Nancy Chester who, with her husband Benjamin, worked for the Garbisch family as cook and butler, respectively, for 35 years. The 1950 U.S. Census lists the Chesters as 26/maid and 28/handyman, while an older couple, Irene, 56, and James Lomax, 62, are described as cook and butler.

Between his inability to resist depicting sunbeams alighting on grey hair and his penchant for painting young men, I will guess that the Black man with his back to the viewer, whose presence at the center of this painting has been acknowledged fewer times than the Newport tallcase clock in the corner, is Benjamin Chester. Who then would have worked in the presence of this painting for 25 years. It absolutely blows my mind that these people lived with this painting their whole lives, when it should obviously be in a museum. And this is just “Version 1.” What stark visions of American society and power will the other versions elegantly and inadvertently reveal, I wonder?

[UPDATE: Estimated to sell for $15-25,000, it sold for $63,000.]

The Nakba Series

In an article in The New York Times about Israel’s attempts to expel Palestinians from Gaza into Egypt, Jerusalem Bureau chief Patrick Kingsley just called the 1948 Nakba—the murder and expulsion of Palestinians from lands that became Israel—a “migration.”

Website for Jacob Lawrence’s The Migration [sic] Series, 1940-41, at the Phillips Collection

Which immediately conjures Jacob Lawrence’s 60-panel masterpiece, The Migration Series, the 1940-41 epic that told a tale of “The Great Migration,” “the flight” of Black Americans out of the South “following the outbreak of World War I.”

Lawrence’s original title for his series was The Migration of The Negro. The title changed as language shifted with the political and cultural change. No one today would be confused by this, or by the changing implications of, “The Negro.” Yet the implications and complications of the term “Migration” are still rarely acknowledged.

“To me, migration means movement,” said Lawrence at some later point, according to the Phillips Collection, which acquired half the series. “There was conflict and struggle. But out of the struggle came a kind of power and even beauty. ‘And the migrants kept coming’ [the artist’s caption for the final panel, is a refrain of triumph over adversity. If it rings true for you today, then it must still strike a chord in our American experience.”

Perhaps hearing the 1948 Nakba called a “migration” in the midst of relentless violence on a massive scale, in the pursuit of another nakba, will shock people into recognition. That migration can also mean ethnic cleansing and genocide, and that it rings true today because it’s still endemic in our American experience, and there is not beauty in it.