I watched the dedication ceremony Saturday, but I wanted to see the stained glass windows Kerry James Marshall made at the National Cathedral in person before writing about them.
It is, of course, impossible to consider the windows outside of their multiple contexts, including: the fleeting, classical Episcopalian spectacle of the dedication ceremony, whose explicit purpose was to inspire, and which has already floated away from the physical present now of the installation. The Cathedral and its institutional apparatus’ reckoning with the white supremacist symbolism literally built into it, over decades; the incremental recommendations and changes made in the wakes of multiple instances of anti-Black violence; the official committees formed amidst the activism of Black students at the Cathedral’s schools; and the seemingly relentless drumbeat of white Christianist fascism beyond the Cathedral’s walls.
Kerry James Marshall is surely aware of all this. He’s been making compelling art all his career for cathedrals built to exclude him. The National Cathedral knows all this, too, obviously; it’s what they chose him to do. In a way, or in part. What was the commission, and what, actually, did Marshall do?
In 2021 Kerry James Marshall was commissioned by the National Cathedral to create stained glass windows to replace windows that depicted Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Marshall’s Now and Forever Windows will be unveiled and dedicated on Saturday morning, Sept. 23, and a public open house to celebrate them will run all day.
The windows are accompanied by a stone plaque engraved with a poem, commissioned from Elizabeth Alexander, titled, “An American Song.”
The dedication and reading will be streamed live on the Cathedral’s YouTube channel:
A history of the confederate windows, the task force that convened to study and remove them, and the project to replace them, is at cathedral.org/windows.
Ellsworth Kelly created his first floor piece, Yellow Curve-Portikus, in 1990 in Frankfurt. When the Raleses sought to recreate it, Kelly made a new work, Yellow Curve (EK808), in 2015. He supervised a test installation at Glenstone before he passed away. The video above is about the realization of Yellow Curve this year, for the EK 100 exhibition marking the centenary of the artist’s birth.
I love that at Portikus, the architecture was the fixed constraint, providing the parameters Kelly used to create the shape of the work. And at Glenstone, the work Kelly made provides the parameters for the space, which is built to fit. A perfect inverse which results in, seemingly, the same visual and physical experience. It’s the little differences.
The circumstances of the shape are well-known, and generative: Ellsworth Kelly saw an aerial photo of the World Trade Center site illustrating a 2003 New York Times article about the controversies over what to build. Kelly collaged his proposal, which he sent to the Times, which Herbert Muschamp donated to the Whitney. Interestingly, Kelly’s collage vividly captures the color of his proposal to fill the entire site with a large, grass-covered mound, used only for resting and gathering, while the flat, isometric image elides the actual form. Neither, as it happens, is it captured in the abstracted aluminum object he made in 2011, which somehow feels even flatter.
The circumstances of making this object are unclear, at least to me. There is the possible timing of an anniversary, of course. The collage was included in Peter Eleey’s show, September 11 at MoMA PS1, but a green panel was not.
The size of the panel is very small, even domestic: 22 1/4 x 49 1/2 in. (56.5 X 125.8 cm). This feels like an object to live with. It was produced in painted aluminum by Carlson Baker, fabricators who were very familiar to Kelly. It was made in an edition of three. Kelly gave ed. 1/3 to the Whitney. The example sold as a fundraiser for something at Sotheby’s in 2013 was listed as AC II, so Kelly had at least two for himself. The title then was Green Panel (Ground Zero), but the fabricators listed it as Green Panel, with the CR number, EK1022. The example hanging in the final gallery of the EK100 show at Glenstone is from the collection of Jack Shear. I recall it as thicker than expected, an aluminum slab rather than an aluminum sheet. Maybe that is the first one. Did they have it up in their house?
Thinking of Steve Roden took me back to a work he helped inspire: Untitled (George Washington’s Coffin). Steve had been “obsessed” by an auction photograph of two pieces of nondescript wood bound together, which turned out to be fragments of George Washington’s coffin. Turns out Washington was reinterred several times at Mount Vernon, and his heirs made a practice of giving away small pieces of his old coffin(s) to visitors. After wondering what this might have been like, living within this tradition of democratic relicism, I proposed to reassemble the coffin, reuniting all its pieces scattered to the world. This was in October 2016, if you can imagine.
And then I found this: a 1 by 1 3/4 inch fragment of lace that once belonged to George Washington, and which was given by Martha Washington to Gilbert Stuart to aid in painting Washington’s portrait. The catalogue note says it was a gift in 1865 of Jane Stuart, the painter’s daughter, who was also a painter, and who had beef about lace with rival Washington portraitist Rembrandt Peale:
…Peale claimed he had never seen Washington wearing elitist lace “ruffles,” notably represented in Stuart’s portrait hanging in the White House. To counter Peale’s accusation and defend her father’s character, Anne Stuart replied, “We [have] in our possession some lace which my father cut from Washington’s linen. The circumstances were these: My father asked Mrs. Washington if she could let him have a piece of lace, such as the General wore, to paint from. She said, ‘Certainly,’ and did it make any difference if it were old. He replied, ‘Certainly not, I only wish to give the general effect.’ She then brought the linen with the lace on it, and said, ‘Keep it, it may be of use for other pictures.’ I have given away this lace an inch at a time, until it has all disappeared; the largest piece I gave to the late Mrs. Harrison Gray Otis, who had it framed.
And so again we have the propagation of relics of George Washington by those with the most intimate physical connections to him, and disputes over their political implications. In addition to contemporary correspondence about the president’s lace, Mount Vernon holds two similar fragments, and a third, or rather a fourth, is reported in the collection of the Dorothy Quincy Homestead in Quincy, Massachusetts.
While I wonder about these objects and the social and historical processes that produce and preserve them, I am not really in a reassemble George Washington’s old lace shirt as a conceptual project mood these days. So you may bid unimpeded (by me, at least. There are already five bids, though the reserve is not yet met.
The other lot in the two-lot sale is, amazingly, The Metallic Pegasus Judicial Collar from the collection of the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Maybe the buyer will part it out one silver bead or feather at a time to mark Ginsburg’s judicial legacy, until it has all disappeared.
[update: the lace sold for $3,250. The collar did not sell for $195,000.]
The cover of tomorrow’s print edition [pdf] of The Daily Tar Heel, the student newspaper for the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, compiles text messages from yesterday’s campus shooting. It is a work of extraordinary grief, power, and anger, and it should be printed in endless stacks placed everywhere the politicians who let this violence continue go.
Of course, the difference is, there’s no space here; 22sf is the entire lot [sic] and structure [sic]. The wall is solid brick. It’s a one-foot wide party wall that used to belong to some building that got torn down and replaced by a 1980s bank parking lot. And yet, it does not belong to the bank.
This seeming surveyor’s error of a property barely justifies the term, and yet, there it is.
“Own a piece of Georgetown. This wall located at 30 and M NW. The opportunities are limitless,” the listing hilariously lies.
What opportunities exist for the owner of this wall? The opportunity to abide by centuries of law regarding party walls, for one. So you could you tear it down and build a 1×22 foot, three story fish tank, as long as it doesn’t pose any risk to the house next door.
You could paint a mural on it—the wall is fairly visible from Georgetown’s main drag, M Street—if you wanted the opportunity of subjecting yourself to the nitpicky conservative tastes of the Old Georgetown Board, which advises the federal Commission on Fine Arts, the bodies which review basically any construction, sign, or visual art proposal that is visible from these historic streets. If it were possible or profitable to paint or wrap something on the wall, I’m sure the current owner would be doing it.
I think the most realistic opportunity is for the owner of the neighboring townhouse to buy it for something between $50,000 and a dollar.
[Morning After, How Could I Have Been So Wrong? Update: The Wall will be the site of limitless radical and innovative visual experience, commissioned from the most daring artists, advertising agencies, political actors, and hypebeasts, which are presented regularly to the Old Georgetown Board for review and disapproval. Proposals for The Old Georgetown Billboard will be performed as part of the public discourse. Renderings will circulate in the stakeholder community, and will be collected online as a visual archive. For IRL visitors, Augmented Reality technology will provide scintillating, sponsored spectacle. This joint is about to go from an orphaned party wall to a global wall party. Let the bidding commence.]
[7/25: The Washington Post writes around my proposal like I’m not even here. The ignominy. Also, the seller of the wall, who has a $2.14 basis [!] is like, I didn’t rub two brain cells together to come up with this price. He really should just give the wall to the neighbor at this point. This whole thing is messy and hilarious af. Let this site eventually memorialize what might have been.]
Kelly worked out the colors and dimensions of the five monochrome panels in Sanary, a seaside village in France he visited in 1952. It’s one of the largest of the very few paintings he actually made in France and brought home with him to New York in 1954. The work he developed in Sanary has been on my mind for years; it’s some of his formative work that would inform his whole career.
The NGA’s text, written by curator Molly Donovan, cites Yve Alain Bois’ research that Kelly began with found colors, a set of paper stickers used in French kindergartens known as papier gommette. The colors are very similar to another multipanel work from the same moment, Painting for a White Wall, 1952, which is now in Glenstone’s collection. As Yve-Alain Bois discussed here when his CR Vol. 1 came out, Tiger was instrumental to the beginning of Kelly’s official exploration of color behavior; it was where he set out to understand “the strange orange/pink” that had occurred in the found colors of Painting for a White Wall.
What I didn’t know until seeing the painting in person and reading up on it, is Kelly’s interest in the Isenheim Altarpiece by Matthias Grünewald. In the 1973 catalogue for Kelly’s MoMA retrospective E.C. Goossen mentions Kelly’s Sanary-era sketchbooks include drawings of the altarpiece’s hinged construction alongside drawings of various compositions of windows and shutters, and even studies for a hinged painting. The connection to Kelly’s most important Paris painting—also in the Glenstone show—the multipanel construction repeating the window of the Musée d’Art Moderne, is obvious.
Actually, now that I put it up there, the composition of Johns’ painting feels very resonant with that of Kelly’s panels in Tiger. Johns did tell Johnston he got a book about the Isenheim Altarpiece from a friend. Didn’t say who, though. From Short Circuit to Flag to In Memory of My Feelings, hinged and multipanel paintings were on the minds of young artists in downtown Manhattan in 1954. I wonder what we could learn from a Kelly/Johns show. I’m sure Tiger would be a fascinating starting point.
[Next day update: On an impulse I checked for reservations at Glenstone last night, and there was space available this morning, so I went, and it was hot and glorious. I listened to most of an aquatic horticulturist lecture pondside, which was fascinating. The pond in the center of the Pavilions building is as thoughtful as the rest of the landscape, which really never disappoints. Even Split Rocker looked good. Not landscape per se, but you know.
There were some new pieces in the Charles Ray pavilion, always a marvel. And a couple of beautiful Kelly works on paper, including the dazzling, large collage above, from 1951, in the spot where Tiger was hanging. So I guess they rotate things. It was a low-key flex that they had such an amazing work on hand and didn’t just jump to include it in the show, but chose to let the loans tell the fuller story of Kelly’s practice. Truly a dynamic place amidst all the contemplative stillness.]
The National Gallery sent out word that the Vermeers are back, as is this one, which is now not a Vermeer again. Oh wait, only two Vermeer Vermeers are back. Girl With A Red Hat is still on the road. [Or not yet ready to come out. It doesn’t look like it’s on loan anywhere, and just weeks after Amsterdam, why would it be?]
Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ “Untitled” (USA Today) was included in Take Me (I’m Yours), an exhibition of participatory artworks, which opened at the Jewish Museum in New York in September 2016. The show was first conceived by Hans Ulrich Obrist in 1995 in particular reference to Gonzalez-Torres’ work. HUO was joined by Jens Hoffman and Kelly Taxter at the Jewish Museum in organizing the expanded view.
I opted for the image above because it feels like it could be from anywhere, but it is from Specific Objects Without Specific Form, a three-venue, 2011 exhibition of Gonzalez-Torres’ work organized by Elena Filipovic in 2010-2011. Filipovic included the work at Wiels in Brussels and at MMK Frankfurt in 2011. When the show was reconfigured by the artist co-curators at each venue, Danh Vo and Tino Sehgal, respectively, the work was removed, swapped out with another candy piece owned by MoMA, “Untitled” (Placebo), 1991. The extensive catalogue for the show was published in 2016.
The parenthetical in the title, USA Today, was originally a reference to a brightly colored newspaper with nationwide circulation, which you’d have to step over every morning on your way out of your mid-range hotel room. The artist once told Bob Nickas the piece referenced the “sugar rush” of patriotism. Obviously, I chose it for the color and everything else.
This pairing of two of Harvard men came to mind when I heard today of Ted Kaczynski’s death at the end of HK100. It’s a quote from Travis Diehl’s X-TRA review of Danh Vo’s 2018 Guggenheim show, Take My Breath Away.
It was part of Diehl’s discussion of an untitled Vo work from 2008 that comprises 14 schmoozy notes on White House stationery from Henry Kissinger to NY Post columnist Leonard Lyons. Most were about getting tickets to shows in New York: “You must be some kind of fiend. I would choose your ballets over contemplation of Cambodia any day—if only I were given the choice. Keep tempting me; one day perhaps I will succumb.”
Vo, of course, also bought Kaczynski’s typewriter, which he turned into the 2011 work, Theodore Kaczynski’s Smith Corona Portable Typewriter, but only after using it to type invitation cards to his 2011 show at the Fredericianum in Kassel. The index cards, bearing the title of the show and the birthdate of the United States, “JULY, IV, MDCCLXXVI,” were also included in an edition, Seasons Greetings, along with copies of Alston Chase’s book, Harvard and The Unabomber, distribution of which the university successfully thwarted.
[A few unsettling days later UPDATE: That Benning book, and especially Ault’s essay, reminded me of John Semley and Edward Millar’s 2021 essay on “Ted-pilled” Unabomber stans. They’re not only on TikTok. The blithe de-emphasis on Kaczynski’s calculatedly indiscriminate violence and murder in order “ya gotta hand it to him,” by both Benning AND Ault, is gross. Especially in the conflation of Kaczynski’s terrorism and Thoreau’s John Brown-ian anti-abolitionism. I guess we’ll find out how gross it all is if eco-terrorism joins fascist terrorism in our bright civilized future.]
Michael Lobel posted this cursed image on social media the other day.
While he was visiting Washington DC in 1976, Andy Warhol photographed Henry Kissinger accosting actress-turned-icon-turned-DC wife Elizabeth Taylor Warner, who was then married to Virginia Republican senator John Warner.
In 1976 Kissinger was Gerald Ford’s Secretary of State.