Connecting The Dots

Reading Travis Diehl’s e-flux journal review of Arthur Jafa’s show at 52 Walker led me to Diehl’s road trip report in x-traonline of going to Cady Noland’s 2019 retrospective at MMK Frankfurt with Rasmund Røhling.

Which led to the recordings of the Cady Noland symposium convened at MMK on 27 April 2019.

Diehl also noted to Røhling that the Charlotte Posenenske sculpture and the Claes Oldenburg bacon soft sculpture included in the Noland show were very World Trade Center Twin Towers-coded. Also not to be a conspiracist or anything, but a Noland sculpture was also included in Peter Eleey’s September 11 show at MoMA PS1 in 2011.

Which led me to go searching for which Noland it was, and it of course, was the stanchion work, The American Trip (1988), which is more ambiguously political than MoMA’s other significant Noland, Tanya as Bandit (1989).

“September 11” installation view at MoMA PS1, 2011-12, by Matthew Septimus via MoMA

But none of that matters right now, because in looking through the installation shots, I was immediately sucked back in time by Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ black-bordered stack of mourning surrounded by Jeremy Deller’s “Mission Accomplished” banner.

And that banner. 90 x 600 inches, it was obviously a full-scale recreation of Bush White House image maker Scott Sforza’s hubristic aircraft carrier banner from 2003.

But I never made the connection to its title or date: Unrealized Project for the Exterior of the Carnegie Museum, 2004-2011. So Deller wanted to hang this banner on the outside of the museum as part of Laura Hoptman’s Carnegie International, which opened in October 2004, just before the presidential election. How far along did this proposal get, I wonder? [Deller ended up showing war re-enactors on tiny televisions inserted into the Carnegie’s dollhouse dioramas, the diametric opposite, attention-wise, from a 50-foot banner.]

In Front Of Her Salad

On the metro in DC this afternoon, a woman was eating Caesar’s Salad out of a clamshell container with her fingers, her high-contrast makeup turning every chew into a kabuki-like gesture of meaning.

Then she got up, with her salad, and walked over to study the map. She then lost her balance, and dumped her salad all over the guy sitting next to the map. And then she fell down. Except for all this, she was fine. It was at once the wildest, most predictable, and most avoidable scene imaginable.

Then on the way back, a woman kept losing the lid to her beverage container, which rolled along the floor in whichever direction the train’s momentum dictated, causing bystanders to spring into action to capture it.

Happy Pride [In A Still-Functioning Legal System]

Screenshot of Adam Klasfeld’s live coverage of the Trump election fraud trial, showing a routinely falsified invoice created to hide hush money payoffs, from Philip Bump’s WP newsletter

New York prosecutor Joshua Steinglass presented as evidence of Trump’s routine coverup and document fraud a falsified invoice for a shell company created to hide a different $125,000 hush money payment as an “Agreed upon ‘flat fee’ for advisory services.”

Scott Maxwell/LuMaxArt, 3-D Bar Graph Meeting, 2007, digital image, via flickr

I post it here for the same reason Bump posted it at the Post: to praise Michael Cohen’s choice of clip art. It is a distorted rendition of 3-D Bar Graph Meeting, a stock image created by Scott Maxwell of Lumaxart. A version of it created on Christmas Day 2007 was uploaded the next day to flickr.

Though he’s moved his operation to Shutterstock, one of Maxwell’s last updates to his blogpost blog, The Gold Guys, was from 2017: a unified quorum of rainbow stick figures expelling a gold-plated wannabe king, and the word IMPEACH.

No Number/ Black/ No 1, 1969

Shoutout to @dailyrothko for bringing this darkest of all Rothkos to light.

Ink on paper, 42 x 50 inches, not titled, dated, or signed, but from 1969, referred to as 1969, and annotated on the back, “no number/ black/ no. 1” in two different corners. In the National Gallery’s collection since the Rothko kids’ gift in 1986, but I’m not sure it’s been shown. I, for one, would love to see it.

1969, 1969 [nga]

A Kerry-Edwards 2004 Commemorative Mint Julep Cup

The Embassy Scroll by Lunt Silversmiths was the official silver pattern for U.S. embassies and consulates around the world.

A Kerry Edwards 2004 Commemorative Mint Julep Cup in silver by Lunt Silversmiths, 3 3/8 in. tall

Lunt also made commemorative mint julep cups, a form of gift that evolved in Kentuckian horse racing society.

This sterling silver commemorative mint julep cup was made by the Kerry Edwards 2004 campaign for the U.S. Presidency. “Together we made a difference/ With Appreciation/ John Kerry” is engraved on the verso.

If there was a difference made in the 2004 presidential election, it was the failure of a decorated war hero turned opponent to fend off the attacks of a draft dodger turned war criminal in the middle of an historically unpopular and unjust war.

The commemorative mint julep cup belonged to former Secretary of State Madeline Albright and will be sold at the auction of her estate on May 7th, 2024, right after this monogrammed American Silver Covered Vegetable Dish.

John Edwards’ 2008 campaign for president was derailed by the revelation that he had a child with a webvideo documentarian after his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. Edwards also seduced Bunny Mellon to give him over seven hundred thousand dollars during his presidential race, but not as a campaign contribution. He used the money to cover up his affair. Lunt Silversmiths, a family business founded in 1902, sold its trademark to Reed & Barton in 2009 and was dissolved in bankruptcy. John Kerry became Secretary of State during Barack Obama’s second term. Albright died in 2022.

7 May 2024, Lot 138: A Kerry-Edwards 2004 Commemorative Mint Julep Cup, est. $300-500 [hindmanauctions]
Previously, related: George Washington’s Lace (and RBG’s silver collar)
Untitled (Love, Henry), 2018 –

The History of Tilted Arc Is Long

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oh hi. Tilted Arc in storage in April 2024, with tarp and plywood that looks old enough to drive at this point.

The General Services Administration commissioned Tilted Arc from Richard Serra in 1981 as part of a Percent for Art program. The GSA’s regional manager guided the campaign to have it removed in 1985. It was finally removed at night on March 15, 1989 after Serra’s contract- and free speech-related lawsuit was dismissed. The three Cor-Ten steel plates that comprised the sculpture were taken from the Javits Building plaza in lower Manhattan to a government-owned parking lot at 3rd Avenue & 29th St in Brooklyn. The site was adjacent to the Metropolitan Detention Center. In 1999 the Bureau of Prisons built a new joint on the site, and the pieces of Tilted Arc were sent to a GSA depot at Middle River, Maryland. And there they stayed, on a loading dock, stacked and separated by pressure-treated lumber, as the GSA put it, “indefinitely.”

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Tilted Arc elements stored on a loading dock in Middle River, MD, c. 2004 via GSA

Which is not the same as forever. The government sold the Middle River site, and Tilted Arc was moved to the GSA’s Fine Art Storage facility in Virginia in the summer of 2005. [18 pallets of relief sculpture molds by Ray Kaskey for the World War II Memorial were also moved, but in different trucks.] It remains there to this day. I saw it yesterday, in fact. [Tilted Arc, that is, not the molds.]

Item ID: AA153: Richard Serra, Tilted Arc, screenshot of GSA Fine Art database entry via 2015 FOIA

By at least 1993, the GSA conducted regular evaluations of the condition of the Tilted Arc plates. [From the 2001 email thread submitting the first report from Middle River: “The iron curtain is still here.” “Norman reports the sculpture is still on the loading dock and is fine.”] In 2004 it was noticed that they were rusting unevenly due, it was determined, to moisture being trapped in the lumber and held against the otherwise protective oxidized surface.

After an evaluation by McKay Lodge, an art conservation firm which has long held contracts to maintain GSA artworks around the country, GSA issued a statement of work [pdf] to “STABILIZE TILTED ARC.” I find the text below, giving background to the proposal, to be extremely helpful in seeing how the GSA views the artwork:

In 1968 GSA constructs the U.S. Customs Court and Federal Building at 26 Federal Plaza, along lower Broadway in New York City. Due to prohibitive inflation and shifting policies within the agency, no public artwork is funded at the time of construction. In 1979, GSA authorizes the Art in Architecture Program to allocate funds for Richard Serra to create a public artwork for the Federal Plaza, on the corner site adjacent to the U.S. Customs Court and Federal Building (now named for Senator Jacob K. Javits). Serra’s sculpture, known as Tilted Arc, is installed on July 16, 1981.

The sculpture was looming and domineering, and an interesting study in the manipulation and compression of public space. Cast in steel, the arc stood 12′ high and 120′ long, and when it [was] on the plaza, it obscured all views of the city beyond the brown metallic wall. [sic obv]

GSA Dismantles Tilted Arc
In June of 1986, the National Endowment for the Arts announces that it will assist GSA to locate a new site for Tilted Arc. However, Serra adamantly reiterates that the sculpture is site-specific, and if moved will be rendered meaningless. [again, sic obv]

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Documentation photo of a guy unperturbed by the history of Richard Serra rigging published in McKay Lodge Tilted Arc conservation report from Summer 2009, via GSA

McKay Lodge proposed to treat the plates with a marine anti-corrosion film. They were unstacked, cleaned and sprayed, and restacked. The conservator’s report noted that “the predicted problem [uneven corrosion] had occurred to some extent, but pitting had not yet occurred to a degree that the steel would be permanently marred. Nevertheless, it revealed the importance of coating this steel if it is to be stored for years, and the work was performed just in time.”

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Richard Serra’s Bellamy, 2001, photographed in storage in the Bronx, alongside the East River, in 2009, by Jake Dobkin via

McKay Lodge recommended reapplying the film as needed every 3-5 years, and to minimize exposure to rainwater by “fastening a covering of plywood over the length of the newly [re-]stacked steel plates and then tying over this waterproof tarps sufficiently fastened to avoid wind lifting.”

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Google Maps image of Richard Serra’s Clara Clara, stored upright, outdoors, and next to the Seine at a Paris municipal fine arts depot in Ivry-sur-Seine

No one seemed to suggest researching how other Richard Serra sculptures fare while exposed to the elements, or how other Serra sculptures are stored. In 2009, while the GSA was in the process of spraying their steel plates, Serra himself stored sculptures outdoors, on the riverfront, in the Bronx, by keeping them upright. Just today Michelle Young wrote about visiting the Serra sculpture owned by the city of Paris, which is stored outdoors and upright at a municipal depot.

Clara Weyergraf-Serra and Martha Buskirk’s foundational 1990 book, The Destruction of Tilted Arc: Documents WAS Tilted Arc for me, so I FOIA’d Tilted Arc in 2015 because I’d wanted to see where it was, and what happened to it after it was removed. I also wondered if any consideration or analysis had been done relating to Tilted Arc in 2010, when the Jacob Javits Building plaza was being redesigned for the second time. [In 1997 Martha Schwartz’s sinuous bench maze replaced the planters and benches that had been scattered across the original architects’ plinth-with-fountain plaza.] The proposal documents from Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, who was selected for the redesign, did not show any trace of historical review or evaluation of reinstalling Tilted Arc. The focus, if I recall, was on alleviating drainage and ventilation problems in the parking lot under the plaza.

When I went to see Tilted Arc‘s situation in 2015, it was indeed encased in an armature of some kind and wrapped in blue tarp. The warehouse complex felt obscure, but neither secret nor restricted. In the intervening years, development around the site has accelerated. There is a new Wegman’s nearby, and countless condo and office towers. The warehouse next to Tilted Arc‘s storage area is now a microbrewery, with outdoor seating. While I’ve been not disclosing its location all this time, I’ve heard from multiple people of their visits.

When I went yesterday, the tarp was off, the plywood was rotting and covered with fallen leaves. The protective coating that is supposed to cure to a white film when active was not visible to me. While ignoring the decades of Serra conservation experience now accumulated by museums and collectors around the world, GSA appears to not even be following their own basic policies to keep the work intact. Preserving Tilted Arc by clamming up and ignoring it is not working.

Preserve it for what, you ask? Didn’t Serra himself declare it destroyed? The actual answer to that is, yes, no, and we don’t know. In his introduction to The Destruction of Tilted Arc: Documents, Serra quoted his own statement to a 1984 GSA hearing: “I want to make it perfectly clear that Tilted Arc was commissioned and designed for one particular site: Federal Plaza. It is a site-specific work and as such not to be relocated To remove the work is to destroy the work.” To which he added, “This has been accomplished; Tilted Arc is destroyed.”

So if the US Government put it back in Federal Plaza tomorrow, would it no longer be destroyed? What parameters of that site must be specified for Serra to have considered it a viable work again? Did he say? Did anyone think to ask? [Anyone besides me, I mean. In 2015 I suggested to a mutual friend that he ask Richard to at least document his intentions for Tilted Arc, in hope that it might ever be reinstalled some day. I don’t know if he did, but the time when we can’t ask anymore has come.]

print of a GSA photo of Richard Serra’s Tilted Arc, 28 Sept 1986

Tilted Arc was removed because an art-hating judge, a Reagan appointee, and Rudy Giuliani wanted to score political points by destroying something that mattered to people they hated. The people angry at the government for chopping it up and destroying it were wrong; that government dismantled it the same way they installed it—look at those tongue & groove joints, it just slides apart!—and they’ve spent 35 years storing, moving, protecting and conserving the pieces of it.

To what end? Serra shut down the possibility of selling it off; no collector or institution would take a destroyed Serra […unless?] So why take this effort if not to preserve the possibility of reinstalling it? How does that play out? Serra himself was obviously never going to ask for it, but he’s gone now. The GSA seems uninterested to pursue it on their own. So who makes it happen? Are Serra collectors in a Whatsapp group chat right now trying to figure it out? Could you imagine a more fitting monument to billionaires colluding to get the government to do whatever they want than a resurrected Tilted Arc?

Or maybe it’s just a government that does its job, takes care of things, appreciates the arts, recognizes a sculpture’s significance, and creates the opportunity to do something better. The history of Tilted Arc is long, but it bends back toward Manhattan.

Uncut

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.

davidhorvitz.com
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.