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.
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
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?
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
The Seal of the President of The United States is the official coat of arms of the U.S. Presidency, and is based on the Great Seal of the United States [below], which is used by the federal government to verify the authenticity of certain official documents. The basics of the current design go back to 1877. After a formal redesign was initiated by Franklin Roosevelt, it was taken up and finalized by Harry Truman in 1945.
Counter-die for the Great Seal of the United States
In that redesign, based on a painting provided by US Naval Commodore Byron McCandless, the eagle was switched from facing to the left-in the forward direction when used on a mounted flag-to facing right, dexter, the standard direction in heraldry. A press release of October 25, 1945 says the eagle faces “right-the direction of honor-but also toward the olive branches of peace” it holds in its right talon.
The Seal design has been unchanged since 1960, when the 50th star was added to its border recognizing the inclusion of Hawai’i in the United States.
The Seal is used on the lectern for presidential press conferences. It appears on the side of Air Force One, Marine One, and presidential limousines. It is affixed to the balcony of the White House for state arrival ceremonies. The Secret Service is authorized to use the Seal of the President on merchandise it sells for charitable fundraising in its White House Online Gift Shop.
The law governing the use of the Presidential Seal is contained in Title 18 U.S. Code § 713. It is primarily concerned with using the Seal to falsely imply endorsement or support for commercial activities by the Government or the President, and with the wrongful exploitation of the Seal for commercial gain:
(a) Whoever knowingly displays any printed or other likeness of the great seal of the United States, or of the seals of the President or the Vice President of the United States, or the seal of the United States Senate, or the seal of the United States House of Representatives, or the seal of the United States Congress, or any facsimile thereof, in, or in connection with, any advertisement, poster, circular, book, pamphlet, or other publication, public meeting, play, motion picture, telecast, or other production, or on any building, monument, or stationery, for the purpose of conveying, or in a manner reasonably calculated to convey, a false impression of sponsorship or approval by the Government of the United States or by any department, agency, or instrumentality thereof, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.
(b) Whoever, except as authorized under regulations promulgated by the President and published in the Federal Register, knowingly manufactures, reproduces, sells, or purchases for resale, either separately or appended to any article manufactured or sold, any likeness of the seals of the President or Vice President, or any substantial part thereof, except for manufacture or sale of the article for the official use of the Government of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than six months, or both.
In 1972 Richard Nixon promulgated regulations about authorized uses of the Presidential Seal by issuing Executive Order 11649. The Seal, it states, may be used by the President. It may be reproduced for “Use by way of photographic or electronic visual reproduction in pictures, moving pictures, or telecasts of bona fide news content.” It is permitted “in libraries, museums, or educational facilities incident to descriptions or exhibits relating to seals, coats of arms, heraldry, or the Presidency.”
In 1976 Gerald Ford amended EO 11649 by issuing EO 11916, further authorizing “Use in encyclopedias, dictionaries, books, journals, pamphlets, periodicals or magazines incident to a description or history of seals, coats of arms, heraldry, or the Presidency.”
Section 2 of EO 11649 goes on to echo 18 U.S. Code § 713 (b) in constraining commercial exploitation of the Seal:
The manufacture, reproduction, sale, or purchase for resale, either separately or appended to any article manufactured or sold, of the Seals of the President or Vice President, or any likeness or substantial part thereof, except as provided in this Order or as otherwise provided by law, is prohibited.
greg.org, Untitled (Presidential Seal), 2017, digital print on bond in acrylic message holder.
Sheet: 14 x 8.5 in. Folded: 6 x 8.5 in., ed. 25 + 5 AP
An adaptation of this blog post incident to the description or history of seals, coats of arms, heraldry, or the Presidency is now published as a books, journals, pamphlets, periodicals or magazines, in a signed, stamped, limited edition of 25, with 5 artist proofs, three of which have been placed in or reserved for in libraries, museums, or educational facilities, with absolutely and unequivocally no impression of sponsorship or approval by the Government of the United States or by any department, agency, or instrumentality thereof.
Digitally printed in color on 14 x 8.5 inch white bond, it is folded by hand and stored in a decommissioned EZ-GO message holder in clear acrylic, so you can hang it on your fucking golf cart.
Untitled (Presidential Seal) is $20, shipped. [via PayPal]
ARTIST PROOF UPDATE: It works.
Untitled (Mnuchin Gallery), title page, 2017, 34-page pdf
Untitled (Mnuchin Gallery) is a 2017 work comprising a 2012 technical paper by four economists in the United States Treasury Department’s Office of Tax Analysis. The paper explained a revision to the Treasury’s methodology for analyzing the impact of corporate income taxes on companies, owners, and workers. It did this by examining the type of income (capital or labor/wage) and the distribution of those income sources across the entire taxpayer population. It was found, for example, that the top 1% of households accounted for 49.8% of total capital income, but only 11.5% of labor income.
The purpose of the study was to understand the impacts of tax-related policies and forecasts more accurately, and in greater detail, in the hope that more accurate data will lead to better-crafted policy and legislation.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has spent several months making claims about lowering corporate income tax rates that are directly contradicted by the findings of the study, and the calculations of Treasury Department’s career economists. So he had the study removed from the US Treasury website, and a spokesman has disavowed the methodology as “the dated staff analysis of the previous administration.” No alternate methodology or analysis has been offered.
Steven Mnuchin, like his father Robert Mnuchin, was a partner at Goldman Sachs. Like is father, he collects modern and contemporary art. One Mnuchin is in the business of conferring relevance on objects by exhibiting them, the other by suppressing and disappearing them. This work is a family reunion of those two tactics.
Untitled_Mnuchin_Gallery.pdf [34pg, pdf, via wsj]
Kara Walker, Detail of U.S.A. Idioms, 2017, image via sikkema jenkins & co
It feels unusual to feature a current text on Better Read, but then, these are unusual times.
It strikes me that Kara Walker’s artist’s statement for her current show at Sikkema Jenkins & Co. has not been considered in an expanded context. An artist’s statement, in a press release, is already fighting with two critical hands behind its back. Yet the press release is actually the artist’s title for her show. The impetus for writing any of this is presumably well understood, but here, the specific circumstances of Walker’s work, her practice, and the shitshow of a world we’re living in right now should, I believe, upend our complacent expectations.
I myself found it too easy to make quick judgments about these texts and their implications when I saw the ad for Walker’s show in Artforum, which contained the show’s title, which I’d previously ignored, because I’d taken it for a glib press release. I let the order of reception, my own subjectivity, influence my judgment, in ways that I might not have noticed without further, in-depth consideration. And yet Walker had anticipated it all.
Download Better_Read_015_Kara_Walker_20170914.mp3 [6:57, 3.3mb, via greg.org]
Kara Walker exhibition page [sikkemajenkinsco.com]
Sikkema Jenkins’ press release with Kara Walker’s texts [pdf, sikkemajenkinsco.com]
Close, but not quite: Study for Untitled (Koch Block), image by @sailingfanblues
First conceived in September 2014 in response to a tweet by Zachary Kaplan, Untitled (Koch Block) is a collaborative public artwork situated permanently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
It comprises an endless succession of volunteers who sit on the edges of the fountains in front of the museum in a manner that obscures the engraved name of the museum trustee, David Koch. The work includes the engravings on both fountains, and so is ideally performed by two or more individuals at any time. While a sitter’s personal items such as a stroller, wheelchair, shopping cart, or backpack might be placed in front of the engraving for extra-wide impact, no permanent alteration, damage, or obscuring of any kind should take place, and certainly not as part of this artwork.
Any one individual or group should feel free to sit and block public view of the name for as long as they wish, but all should be mindful of others who might also wish to participate. The Artist Is Present-style marathons are discouraged. Instead, try taking turns, coordinating, and/or making arrangements onsite to continue the work. Formalized schedules or shifts should also be avoided, even if this means the work is not persistently instantiated.
It’s true that awareness of the work could be facilitated by people posting photos on social media using a hashtag like #KochBlock. My concern, though, is that viral messaging might run counter to the essential nature of the work, which is to deplete the mindshare and social capital that typically accrue from such purportedly eleemosynary naming opportunities. Still, such efforts are obviously beyond my control, and if the 7 million visitors to the Met each year decide they all have to post #KochBlock selfies, well, we’ll re-evaluate.
The ideal state of the work is for the names to be permanently blocked from view through uncoordinated but widespread acculturation. At any moment in which a sitter finishes blocking and rises from her spot, another individual naturally and un-self-consciously takes her place. Some folks will undoubtedly make a point of visiting the fountains to participate. Some might make it a routine. People might come to recognize the faces of other regulars. Eventually, Koch blocking should become an ingrained behavior common to sharing civil, public space, as obvious and natural as dodging slow-moving tourists or jaywalking. [s/o @man for reminding me this needed to be formally auraticized.]
UPDATE: Just realized this is my third piece at the Met. Thanks for the support!
If you’re wondering who the one person was who went to the mall in Chevy Chase, to the J. Crew store Monday, it was me. And I was only picking up a catalogue order.
And marveling at the giant [signed!] Richard Serra Torqued Spirals exhibition poster from Gagosian, c. 2003, one of two constellations of highly curated posters and prints lining the staircase.
I contemplated the state of the brick&mortar retail industry, making a note to watch the liquidation auctions for a deluge of contemporary art ephemera when the reaper comes for J. Crew. And figuring if the swag doesn’t turn up, we’ll know the store designers who fantasy-shopped it all together have absconded with it in lieu of severance.
Just as I was thinking, this poster was my most unexpected Serra sighting ever, I stepped outside, and found this, in the garden of the condos across the street.
I approached to take a photo, and the carefully calculated elevations of the lawn revealed the bottom quarter of the Cor-Ten slab. If only he’d added a water feature, I bet Tilted Arc would still be standing.
Installation shot: Untitled (I Can See Russia From My House), 2017, 15′ x 10′ x 6′, dye sublimation printed carpet, bolts, washers, lumber.
I’m psyched to announce the public installation of a new work, Untitled (I Can See Russia From My House), in Warrenton, Virginia. It is a dye sublimation print on carpet, mounted on a wood support.
I suppose it could also be installed indoors, but it would lose a lot of the impact; it really is a piece that is best come upon in the course of daily life.
Untitled (I Can See Russia From My House), 2017, washer and bolt installation detail
The carpet is affixed to the support using bolts and washers [above]. Longtime Kremlin watchers will note that the image, of the south facade of St. Basil’s Cathedral, is here reversed.
Although an installation shot from December 2016 shows unrelated works installed nearby. It is the artist’s intention that this piece be viewed and appreciated on its own. Despite what you might assume, it is currently not for sale.
The Mellow Pad, 1945-51, by Stuart Davis, co-founder of the American Artists Congress in 1936, image: whitney.org
This edition of Better Read features a speech delivered by Michigan Republican congressman George Donderos on the House floor on Tuesday August 16, 1949 titled, “Modern Art Shackled To Communism.” I came across quotes and excerpts from this speech while researching the American Artists Congress, the group that brought Picasso’s Guernica to the United States for a fundraising tour in 1938.
Dondero made several fiery speeches against modern art during this, the McCarthy era, repeatedly accusing modernism and all its subsidiary “isms” of being a vile foreign-led Communist plot to destroy American art and values.
Near as I can tell, this is the first time Dondero’s complete speech has been available outside the Congressional Record, which turns out to be a lot harder to get ahold of than I expected. I am currently preparing a compilation of all Dondero’s art-related speeches, and the responses they engendered from the accused, the threatened, and even, surprisingly, the nominally allied. Because even I have a hard time listening to a robot for 26 minutes, the complete text of Dondero’s speech is included after the jump.
Download Better_Read_013_Dondero_Communist_Shackles_20170417.mp3 [26:49, 39mb, mp3 via dropbox greg.org]
The first draft of history. History written by the victors What even is it? The barrage of nonsense comes so fast and thick and is so full of bullshit that the very notion of history feels out of date. Which is probably someone’s point. Or at the very least, in someone’s immediate interest.
Do you even remember the outrage when the Japanese Prime Minister’s Press Office released publicity photos of Shinzo Abe meeting Donald Trump at Trump Tower on November 17th, which revealed that Ivanka and Jared were sitting in on the meeting?
And then like two weeks later, the Times kind of buried the lede that at that very moment, Ivanka’s fashion label was negotiating a licensing deal with a Japanese apparel conglomerate whose majority shareholder is a development bank owned by the Japanese government.
Oh, hands were wrung, potential conflicts of interest were ruminated upon, denials and assurances were floated. And it all turned out to be bullshit, and that was also the same time Jared and Ivanka were in fact preparing to take up offices and jobs in the White House.
So maybe that’s a power of a painting: the ability to slow things down, even just long enough to have an impact, to make something stick, to give some context. It rewards the exercise of looking, looking longer, and looking back.
Campaign Ends April 26th: Our Guernica, After Our Picasso: A Kickstarter
I'm not saying we should commission GWB to paint this, but I'm not saying we shouldn't https://t.co/gVUVtN31UF
— gregorg (@gregorg) March 17, 2017
I swear, I tried not to do it, but the image was too strong. In the days since I started drafting this Kickstarter campaign, I quit several times. And then history kept catching up to this image. In fact, history started lapping it.
So yes, we need to mark this moment, this look on Chancellor Merkel’s face, on all our faces, when it was still possible to not believe what was happening before our eyes. And there’s only one painter who can do this moment justice. Unfortunately, he and justice are not really in a great spot right now, so we’re gonna use #chinesepaintmill and the Thomas Kinkade Editions Pyramid.
Our Guernica, After Our Picasso: collaged details from Michael Kappe/dpa photo, George W. Bush painting, and Picasso’s Guernica
In my darker moods, I imagine a series of paintings of such moments will come- Angelus Novus looking back and piling JPG upon JPG at his feet as the storm irresistibly propels us into the future. Can our brush-wielding Chinese allies capture the essence of Trumpian corruption with authentic Bushian flourish? Can we spread the resulting image(s) to the four corners of the warming, flooding earth to bear adequate witness? Let’s start with one and see.
Back “Our Guernica, After Our Picasso on Kickstarter now
UPDATE #1 After just a couple of days the project has gotten over halfway to its funding goal, thanks!
It has also been the subject of reportage by Will Fenstermaker at Artspace [who is also a backer, write what you know!] and AFC [“that’s a lot of layers to unpack for what’s essentially a meme” I do not disagree!]
On the more depressing news front, today, Day 3, might pass without a single new backer. Perhaps everyone’s too stunned at the floating of #Ivanka2024 by The Daily Caller [not linkin’, look it up], and worrying how a painting can somehow head off this meta-disaster. It probably can’t, but there’s a lot to be done in the mean time.
I’ve also noticed that backers are a savvy bunch. Folks seem to prefer the lower-priced, smaller prints at this stage. Possibly, I thought, because you’re reluctant to put up larger amounts of money for an artwork that you’ve 1) not seen because 2) it doesn’t exist yet.
It might be useful to reframe the entire project as a single conceptual piece, in which case, the physical manifestations are secondary to its core expression. But it’s still natural to wonder how it’ll look, especially if you’re contemplating getting a big one. I’m trying to think up a solution for this. Any advice or thoughts are welcome. And thanks again for spreading the word!
UPDATE #2 WHOA IT IS HAPPENING, THANKS! THE BALL IS ROLLING, THE CAMPAIGN IS CONTINUING. LET’S BUILD THAT PYRAMID AND LAUNCH A WHOLE BUSHMASTER CYCLE OF PAINTINGS TO DOCUMENT THIS THING!
The Vermeil Room in the White House as redecorated by Pat Nixon’s plumbers, photo c.1992, LOC via Phillips-Schrock
The White House needed renovation and redecoration, and the Nixons were determined to put their mark on the place. By 1969, the French interiors commissioned by Jacqueline Kennedy were worn from use. Also they were detested by politicals as reminders of a martyred rival. H.R. Haldeman and new White House curator Clement Conger set out on an aggressive fundraising effort to remake the White House and its collections, a campaign publicly led by the First Lady Pat Nixon. The period room-style appearance of the White House to this day largely reflects Mrs Nixon & co’s work.
Based on my Google Books previews of it, this story of “the Dismantling of Camelot” is meticulously told by Patrick Phillips-Schrock in his 2016 book, The Nixon White House Redecoration and Acquisition Program: An Illustrated History.
Vermeil Room a la Boudin, c. 1964, image: whitehousemuseum.org
Phillips-Schrock’s account of the 1971 redecoration of the Vermeil Room on the ground floor of the White House is representative. From a caption of a photo of Boudin’s Kennedy-era design: “The room was expensively finished in painted surfaces in blue and white with vitrines lined in white silk. Conger found it offensively French…” [p.74]
From an interview with Conger: “What we have done in ‘face-lifting’ the Vermeil Room is to change the room from a very dark blue–which is rather depressing–to a light green-gray, the appropriate color as the background for vermeil, which is gold. You use blue with silver, but never such a dark blue!” [p.76]
The room was reconceived as an early 19th century sitting room, with a table at the center “attributed to the workshop of Duncan Phyfe, it was on loan until a donor could be found to purchase it.”
An 18th century lighting fixture in crystal with 10 lights replaced the Kennedy chandelier of bronze and blue tole. Further lighting was supplied by four matching sconces and by two candlesticks given by Mrs. Marjorie Meriwether [sic] Post, which were placed on the mantel. The fine Louis XVI marble fireplace was acquired and installed in 1962. [not too offensively French, I guess. -g.o] Within the firebox were a pair of valuable brass andirons, obtained from Israel Sack of New York. When the room was opened to the public, Conger related, “These are American andirons, so called ‘in the Paul Revere Manner’ with the flame and diamond lozenge–except they are a little more petite and narrow than the heavier ones of this same design one generally sees.” [p. 77]
The andirons abide.
American Andirons in the Vermeil Room, c.2008, image: CSPAN via whitehousemuseum.org
I mention this because I just googled across it. And because 1971 was a busy year for well-provenanced, Paul Revere-ish andirons. It was the same year Mrs. Giles Whiting bequeathed her Paul Revere (Attributed) andirons to the Metropolitan Museum. Interestingly, Mrs. Whiting’s Revere-ian andirons did not have a diamond and flame, but an urn and flame finial. Actually, I don’t know if that’s really interesting at all. Maybe what’s interesting about andirons is not the things themselves, but the complicated narratives into which they are enlisted.
Previously, related: Untitled (Andiron Attributed To Paul Revere Jr.), 2014 [greg.org]
I confess, when I heard parts of downtown DC were blocked off yesterday morning, my first thought was how this might affect my driving to the National Gallery.
But the composition and placement of this RESIST banner by Greenpeace makes this the most masterful work of art of our new era. Better even than the styrofoam copy cake. Scott Sforza could not have done it better himself.