Robert Gober Has Seen Some Stuff

And bought some stuff. And made some stuff. The press release discussed it in the context of hashtag collector, and Roberta Smith called it “a resonant portrait of the United States.” But Robert Gober’s exhibition at Demisch Danant, “Cows at a Pond,” felt like the self-portrait of an artist trying to live and work ethically in a present where the injustices and suffering of history repeat themselves. So I guess they’re both right.

I sat in Gober’s chair to read his notes—unfinished and unpublished, except, of course, for putting them in a show—of attending the art forgery lawsuit against Knoedler Gallery. One important observation was the purported shock at the naked fraud perpetrated by the “venerable” gallery, a term Gober remembered from the 2000-2001 coverage of the price-fixing crimes of two “venerable” auction houses: Sotheby’s and Christie’s.

Continue reading “Robert Gober Has Seen Some Stuff”

Let’s Review The Tape

Tidy Noland

There has been surprisingly little written about Cady Noland’s show at Gagosian’s Park & 75th Street storefront space. I’m not gonna lie, I don’t know quite what to make of it all, either. All the years of absence and anticipation just end, and people maybe don’t quite know what to do or say. In the last 20 years, Noland’s practice has been understood as a harbinger, coming from the past, with relevance for the present. In the 80s and 90s she threw the dodgeball of prophecy about American violence and celebrity politics and art world commodification at our heads, and every disclaimer, auction record, and lawsuit of this century was another hit.

As Noland’s first show of new work, and a lot of it, in decades, it’s easy to want it to be important. But now that means figuring out what it’s doing now; is it relevant in this moment, or is it yet another harbinger?

Continue reading “Let’s Review The Tape”

Kerry James Marshall Dishes?

Kerry James Marshall, Untitled (5 relief prints), 1998, installation view, Renaissance Society

In his 1998 exhibition at the Renaissance Society, Mementos, Kerry James Marsh paid unsettled homage to the historicization of and nostalgia for the US Civil Rights Movement, and for the Black experience of living through it [sic].

Continue reading “Kerry James Marshall Dishes?”

Lou Stovall’s Sam Gilliam

Sam Gilliam, Untitled, 1979, acrylic and metallic paint on polypropylene fabric, swagging dimensions vary, being sold at Swann on 19 Oct 2023 for an est. $150-250,000

A gorgeous 1970s swag given by Sam Gilliam to one of his longtime friends and print collaborators, that fits perfectly in a modest domestic setting? Sign me tf up.

Artist/printmaster Lou Stovall and Sam Gilliam were tight for decades until they weren’t. With Stovall’s passing earlier this year, maybe they’re reconciling in the beyond. Meanwhile, in the here and now, Stovall’s estate is selling this intensely saturated drape painting, which Gilliam gave to Stovall in 2006. RIP to those resting, and happy bidding and swagging to everyone else.

19 Oct 2023 | Lot 111: Sam Gilliam, Untitled, 1979, est. $150-250,000 [update: sold for $197,000, nice, reasonable, not out of control] [swanngalleries]
Previously, related: Color in the Landscape: my Sam Gilliam article for Art in America

Now (And Then) And Forever

“With gratitude for the imagination, creativity, and vision of Kerry James Marshall in his design for the Now and Forever Windows, on behalf of the Windows Replacement Committee and the Fabrics and Fine Arts Committee, we present to you these stained glass windows, fabricated by Andre Goldkuhle, to be set apart for the people of God.”

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?

Continue reading “Now (And Then) And Forever”

Kerry James Marshall’s National Cathedral Windows Dedication

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.

EK 808: The Making Of

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.

Previously, related, it sounds like this one is a refabrication of the 1992 floor piece, though. How does that work?: Ellsworth Kelly, Red Floor Panel (1992)

Ellsworth Kelly, Green Panel (Ground Zero), 2011

Ellsworth Kelly, Green Panel (EK1022), 2011, painted aluminum, ACII sold at Sotheby’s in 2013

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?

George Washington’s Lace

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.

21 Sept. 2023, Lot 2: GEORGE AND MARTHA WASHINGTON’S LACE GIVEN TO GILBERT STUART FOR GEORGE WASHINGTON’S PORTRAITS, via The Potomack Company

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.

Gilbert Stuart (attr.), Portrait of George Washington (Lansdowne Type), 1796, a copy of the 1796 original (now in the National Portrait Gallery), but officially disavowed by Stuart because he would have gotten in trouble for selling it twice. In the White House collection since 1800

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.

Lot 1: The Metallic Pegasus Judicial Collar. “Four of her collars are in museums – the Lace Judicial Collar, the ‘Majority’ Collar, the ‘Dissent’ Collar, [and] the Decorative Polychrome Tiled Collar.”

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.]

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Judicial Collar & George Washington’s Gilbert Stuart Portrait Lace | September 21, 2023 [potomackcompany]

Untitled (Death By Gun, Endless Stack), 2023

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.

The Daily Tar Heel [dailytarheel, 30 Aug 2023 pdf]
Previously, Better Read, #008, “Untitled” (Death by Gun), a work from f’ing 1990

Untitled (AUS), 2023 [UPDATED]

Untitled (AUS) and USM(ono)C(hrome), 2023, installation view, via CNN Pentagon correspondent Oren Liebermann

The second in what I guess will be an ongoing series. Any Republican senator could end this installation at any time.

MONDAY MONOCHROME UPDATE: Now the Navy makes it a triptych.

Untitled (AUS), Untitled (USN), and USM(ono)C(hrome), installation view,
14 Aug 2023, via Lara Seligman

Previously, related: USM(ono)C(hrome), 2023

FS: Wall, Dreams

It’s hard to imagine that the cheapest real estate listing in Georgetown still feels overpriced.

A wall was listed for sale yesterday, for $50,000. If the dimensions, 22 square feet, are accurate, that is $2,273/sf, more than twice the going rate for premium renovated townhouse space.

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.]

[Week After Update: Artist Michelle Banks posted a deep dive on The Wall from Georgetown Metropolitan on Bluesky, and guess what, it’s messy, and kinda shady!]

[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.]

related: ‘Too big, too bold’: No-Go For Peck Mural in Georgetown [wcp]
‘Unexpected pops of color, unique origin stories, and Instagram-worthy backdrops’: Georgetown BID list of murals [georgetowndc]
Board says Georgetown Transformers have to go [dcist]

Chasing Ellsworth Kelly’s Tiger

Ellsworth Kelly, Tiger, 1953, 80 x 85 in. oil on canvas in five joined panels,
a gift of the artist to the nation, in the collection of the National Gallery of Art

One of the great rewards of the Ellsworth Kelly @ 100 retrospective at Glenstone is seeing this foundational, early multi-panel work, Tiger, from 1953, which is in the collection of the National Gallery of Art.

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.

Ellsworth Kelly, Painting for a White Wall, 1952, 23 x 71 in., oil on canvas on five joined panels, photographed for Glenstone by Ron Amstutz

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.

Ellsworth Kelly, Study for Tiger, 1952, collage on paper, 6.5 x 6.9 in., via Art Basel 2017

Anyway, the relationships of the various panels are intuited, not mathematical. Kelly worked them out in sketches and collages, like the one Matthew Marks brought to Basel in 2017.

detail of an Ellsworth Kelly Sanary sketchbook page ganked from Goossen’s 1973 MoMA catalogue

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.

Jasper Johns, Perilous Night, 1982, 67 x 96 in., oil and encaustic and silkscreen and arms on canvas, in the Meyerhoff Collection at the NGA

What most intrigues me, though, is the possible connection to Jasper Johns. In 1987 Jill Johnston did an exhaustive and revelatory analysis of Johns’ incorporation of fragments and details of the Isenheim Altarpiece into his paintings in the 1980s. One of the first is Perilous Night, from 1982, a work that is also at the National Gallery.

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.

Ellsworth Kelly, Spectrum Colors Arranged by Chance VII, 1951, 99 x 100 cm, collage on paper, at Glenstone

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 Vermeers Are Back, Plus That Other One

Facsimile Object of Girl Who Goes To Europe For A Couple of Months, Comes Back With A Vermeer Accent

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?]

And all five are together again at the Met, and all three are back at the Frick, too, never to travel again, except when Sotheby’s takes over the Breuer building, of course. Oy.

Previously: All The Vermeers In New York rn