Which turns out to be just one example of how time moved back then. The cover—for which there was no hook except art world vibes—was none other than Florine Stettheimer’s Studio Party (or Soirée). Don’t expect ME to demand an excuse to love Florine Stettheimer!
And then there were dueling reviews of a big Yves Klein retrospective, from Nan Rosenthal and Benjamin Buchloh, who—spoiler alert—may have disagreed on Klein, but they both disliked the show. And while neither of them answered the highly specific Yves Klein-related question that led me to this issue in the first place, I can’t complain.
“Obviously, it’s a clock, the whole project is a clock. It’s managed by the moon,” said Darren Almond of his Fullmoon Photos series in this seven-year-old video from the Louisiana Museum.
It’s been a minute [h/t @br_tton] since I remember how thoughtful and interesting I find Almond’s work, then he comes up with this:
It started off as a romantic gesture, an inquisitive point. Then it became a kind of controlled concept. But then I was involved in this meditation by moonlight. I was involved in the act of making the photograph. Then my life was becoming connected and had a strong relationship with the landscape. I was going off into this landscape we are no longer familiar with, which is the landscape of the night, away from all the pollution, the light pollution that we’ve generated, that we surrender ourselves with.
Recognizing the change we undergo by the making of the work. It’s something I think about a lot, at various levels. I have unrealized projects that would, I recognize, consume me, were I actually to attempt to realize them. Some of them are maybe even unrealizable by design. There are tabs open for a project I actually consider doing. There are tabs open for posts I have yet to write. These are the impacts of writing and connecting as I do.
In 2013, I was in Patagonia. There, the atmosphere is very clear, there’s far less light pollution and you’re able to literally see the colours of the night sky. This experience marked a cut-off point for me. After twenty years of traversing the globe and looking through the lens of a camera at what I could see in front of me, I suddenly felt that I needed to approach landscapes that I couldn’t see, landscapes beyond visibility, but through the visual somehow, using a tool or a mechanism to see into the shadows, to enlighten the shadows that lie before us.
What followed was Timescape paintings, “Inspired by views of the deeper space…[that] materialise the impression felt when faced with this night sky,” and “that evoke the visible confines of the cosmos,” according to MUDAM. “Despite their apparent blackness, these paintings are obtained from numerous layers of different flat colours applied successively on an aluminium support.”
So twenty years of meditating by moonlight and traveling to forgotten landscapes led Almond to become an abstract painter trying to capture the impression of looking up at the night sky. I was worried this romantic project didn’t sound like progress, but then I remembered we exist within cycles of time, some of which are made visible by moonlight, and some which only come into view after many trips around the sun.
Art & Obsolescence, Ben Fino-Radin’s podcast about conservation and the materiality of digital and media art, has been consistently fascinating since it began, but the latest episode is particularly tremendous. Ben talks with Carol Mancusi-Ungaro, the Whitney’s chief conservator, who also worked at the Menil, and at Harvard, and who is one of the most influential forces in the conservation of contemporary art.
In less than an hour, Mancusi-Ungaro talks about working for Dominique deMenil; solving a mystery of the Rothko Chapel; starting the Artist Documentation Program that interviews artists about their process and materials; working with Annalee Newman on the material legacy of Barnett Newman; the Replication Committee she helped launch at the Whitney, to sort out issues of reproducing fugitive artworks; and her work with Cy Twombly over the decades—and the book she’s writing about their interactions.
After his $69 million sale of a work and an nft at Christie’s in 2021, no one in the self-policing art world went harder after Beeple’s attention than Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev. CCB curated one of the most off-the-charts Documentas, and now runs the Castello di Rivoli in Torino.
When CCB released a Zoom video of her first conversation with Beeple, whose actual name is Mike Winkelmann, I watched it and concluded that his pose of ignorance and indifference toward the art world of galleries and museums—as totally distinct in his view from the online/digital communities and platforms where he’d been releasing his art for years, or the 3D projection wrapping and CG graphics world of his profession—was in fact a pose. He toggled between claims of not knowing an artist or anything about art, and of standing in front of paintings in galleries for hours. In any case, he decided his best response to the sudden interest of dealers, curators, and artists was to neg the art world that only started paying attention because of his record-setting auction result. CCB was one of the most persistent and credible counterparts, but I didn’t realize the extent. When CCB tweeted yesterday that her latest conversazione [sic all the way through] with Beeple was out, I misinterpreted it as the second.
Against all manner of better judgment, and only because I guess I like pulling blocks out of the jenga tower of my admiration for CCB, I went back to listen to the actual Episode 2. OF SEASON 1. Of her conversazioni with Beeple. About an hour into the 2-hour ep, I started taking tweet-sized notes, since there seems to be no other record of this glitch-looping trainwreck even happening. I gathered the tweets below, and will probably keep listening, and documenting, if only because CCB’s Curating for Dummies tutorials are probably worth noting.
Last September at RogerEbert.com, Soren Hough interviewed Swiss director Cyril Schäublin about his new film, Unrest, which was then in the New York Film Festival. Unrest is about a mountain community of anarchist watchmakers in the 19th century. It sounds fascinating, both for its content, but also for how it was developed and produced, in an exceptionally decentralized, collaborative, mutual aid-inspired mode inspired by its cast of predominately non-actors, but also by the ideas of one of its characters, the Russian anarcho-communist Peter Kropotkin.
SH: It sounds like your natural aesthetic instinct tied well into this particular story where you, as you say, have this big name in “Unrest”—Peter Kropotkin. He’s not in a huge amount of the movie, he doesn’t have that many lines, he’s not a central character, and it’s certainly not a biopic.
CS: The guy who acts as Kropotkin (Alexei Evstratov) is a very avid Kropotkin guy. I mean, he’s really into him. And he said to me at the end, “I didn’t say that much!” But he told me the way we were doing the film, and how the film was organized, and how we talked to each other, he felt [it took a] mutual aid approach. That was really interesting for me.
Schäublin talks, too, about the desire to understand and depict the experiences of the women in his family, his ancestors, who worked in watch factories, but also the difficulties in doing so, especially for 19th century people:
it’s much easier to reconstruct male biographies [from the 19th century] than female biographies. I thought, “What can I show of women, like the women in my family who did that work?” The only thing we can reconstruct is their work. People today that go to watchmaking schools still learn how to build a watch from the 19th century—that’s the start of the school. So you can reconstruct the manual labor, but not the biographies—what we call biographies.
A few weeks ago I spoke with Michael Shaw for his long-running art podcast, The Conversation. And when I say long-running, I mean both he’s been doing the podcast for a long time, and holy smokes, not only did we talk a long time, he got two whole episodes out of that content. (Granted the first part *does* have “meandering” right in the description.)
Amazing people are always sneaking into town and talking at the Smithsonian American Art Museum without my knowing. Last October it was Arthur Jafa and Ja’Tovia Gary, who spoke about their work, Black music, and the conception of a Black Cinema.
At least I’m not the only one out of the loop; until the audience questions, neither Jafa nor Gary seemed to know Kanye West had rolled up that morning on Howard University with his Sunday Service tour. [Gary was not. Having. Immmmmmt, either, and criticized West’s appropriation of gospel church practice as self-promoting spectacle, as well as his alignment with fascism and the forces of state violence. Jafa was taught.]
Anyway, point is, video of the event turns out to include Jafa’s epic Love is the message, the message is death and Gary’s 2015 short film The Ecstatic Experience, neither of which I’d seen in the wild. [Gary has an excerpt on her own Vimeo.]
Jafa’s piece was acquired jointly by SAAM and the Hirshhorn.
The artist Elizabeth “Betty” Stokes di Robilant was interviewed by Christie’s in May 2013. Stokes was a longtime friend of Cy Twombly. Their story and relationship and collaboration, and her later erasure from Twombly’s official story, is discussed in Chalk, a biography of Cy Twombly by Joshua Rivkin, which was published in October 2018. Rivkin quotes the interview by Robert Brown, which was published on the occasion of the sale of a painted bronze cast of a 1966 [or 1956, or 1959, or 1980 or 1981, or 1990] sculpture Twombly gave to dee Robilant for her 10th wedding anniversary. Twombly later reworked and cast the sculpture in 1990 in an edition of five. Di Robilant’s three children each got one; she got one, and Twombly got one. Ed. 1 of 5 was sold at Christie’s London on June 25th, 2013, for GBP 1.63 million.
I’ve written about “Dislocations” before. It’s one of the contemporary shows at MoMA that left a deep impression on me when I first moved to New York. It was in 1991-2 when Rob Storr curated huge, room-dominating sculptures by Chris Burden and Louise Bourgeois, and installations [!?] by Bruce Nauman, Adrian Piper, the Kabakovs, and David Hammons.
I just found this 5yo photo of Hammons’ Public Enemy, which I guess I had looked up because I was deep into photomurals at the time, and really wanted to find (or make) Hammons’ big photocube of the piece’s namesake, Teddy Roosevelt and his Grateful Savages [sic, obv].
In the intervening years MoMA has upped their archival game significantly, by putting a ton of exhibition material online, including the press release, checklist, brochure, installation photos, and a pdf of Storr’s catalogue. [Oh wow, Sophie Calle was in that show? Guess her intervention–removing paintings from the Modern’s galleries–was so subtle, I forgot.]
This was the first work of Hammons’ I’d ever seen, probably the first time I’d heard of him. Which seems crazy now, but reading the show’s time capsule of a catalogue, maybe I wasn’t so far behind. Storr waxes and marvels at what is now known about Hammons’ practice:
Hammons has preferred the city as a workplace and its citizens as his audience and sometime co-workers. Street flotsam and jetsam are his materials. What he brings to the gallery is all and sundry that it traditionally excludes. What he extracts from those materials and brings to the objects and installations that he has created outside the museums are the marvels and mysteries that lie already and everywhere to hand along heavily trafficked thoroughfares, in public parks, and in the so-called vacant lots littered with the evidence of their constant nomadic occupation and use…
“I like doing stuff better on the street, because art becomes just one of the objects that’s in the path of your everyday existence. It’s what you move through, and it doesn’t have superiority over anything else.” [he said in an otherwise unpublished interview which I now think we should unearth. -ed.]
Storr goes on about Hammons’ improvisatory process, “like jazz,” in which, despite a year of lead time, “all options remained open and the result wholly unforeseen” until the artist arrived to install the work. Which must have given MoMA an institutional heart attack.
And which, really? Because you can’t just pick up four huge photomurals or a substrate for them. And those sandbags seem very manufactured and ordered from somewhere. True, if you just work fast enough, those NYPD barriers were all over town, free for the taking. [Do they still have those? For throwback protests?]
What I thought about yesterday was whether Public Enemy still existed, or could be recreated. What I wonder about today, though, is what it’ll take for Uncle Teddy to get the Silent Sam treatment.
I was absolutely floored by this tiny quote from Zora Neale Hurston’s 1928 field interview with Cudjoe Lewis, who was one of the last known survivors of the last slave-ship to come to the United States. He arrived in the US from what is now Benin in 1859 or 1860, smuggled in on the Clotilde at the age of 19. His given name was Kossula.
“I want to know who you are and how you came to be a slave; and to what part of Africa do you belong, and how you fared as a slave, and how you have managed as a free man?”
His head was bowed for a time. Then he lifted his wet face: “Thankee Jesus! Somebody come ast about Cudjo! I want tellee somebody who I is, so maybe dey go in de Afficky soil some day and callee my name and somebody dere say, ‘Yeah, I know Kossula.’ ”
Hurston spent three months interviewing Kossula, and even longer trying to get his history published. Because of her training an anthropologist she refused publishers’ demands that she rewrite Kossula’s vernacular testimony. 87 years later, it is being released for the first time, and I just bought it.
[This is where I originally expected this quick post to stop.]
Kossula was a leader of the community of Clotilde survivors who after attempting to return to Africa, created a settlement outside Mobile, Alabama called Africatown. In a 1914 book called Historic Sketches of the South, Emma Roche Langdon recounted the stories of the Clotilde’s voyage, the survivors, and their descendants. She spelled his name Cudjoe Kazoola Lewis.
The original was carved in wood, to be cast in bronze. When the bronze bust was ripped off the base and stolen in 2002, the pastor said it had been in front of the church for “about three decades.” Was he off by 15 years, or had it taken until the 1970s to make the cast of Rhodes’ sculpture?
In 2008 a new, similarly shaped sculpture was unveiled, though this picture from a local newscast shows it next to a wall, not on the brick pyramid, because it was installed at the Africatown Welcome Center alongside a bust of John Smith, a mayor of the nearby town of Prichard. The sculptures were donated by two filmmakers from Africa, Thomas Akodjinou from Benin and Felix Yao Amenyo Eklu from Togo, in 2007.
On his blog Akodjinou honored John Smith for his involvement in the Alabama Benin Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum, which saw Africatown as an historic symbol of reconciliation between the two interconnected cultures.
In March 2011, both sculptures were vandalized, with their heads ripped off. The sculptures were originally described as marble, but from the look of this painted and chipped base, I am doubtful.
The headless busts were still visible in 2016 when Belgian artist Maarten Vanden Eynde visited Africatown. His account is disheartening, if not downright harrowing. Besides the historic cemetery, which is sinking, many of the structures and homes are run down or abandoned, and the area is threatened by surrounding industrial redevelopment. [Tho tbh, it looks kind of typical on GSV from 2011-2017.]
In 2016 sculptor April Livingston launched a GoFundMe to make a new bust, just the head this time, to be cast out of iron. It was bolted to the base in February 2017, when she promised the local news that she could cast a million more. Me, I’m most interested in the history of the previous three.
A reader, Jon Auman, who is amused by my sense of art mystery, recently sent along a pairing of paintings. He saw Alice Neel’s 1946 Dead Father (above) in the catalogue of a Thomas Amman show in Zurich, and it reminded him of Dana Schutz’s Emmett Till.
For all but a few days after the Whitney Biennial opened, it has been beside The Point, if not impossible, to consider Schutz’s painting as a painting, not as a cultural flashpoint. But Auman’s noticed what I think is a real reference for Schutz, and it’s one that has not been raised or discussed publicly, afaik.
The immediately received and problematic genesis of Schutz’s painting of Emmett Till is the photograph of Till’s murdered body in an open casket that his mother Mamie Till caused to be published to protest his unjust killing. The most widely circulated of those photos was just young Emmett’s face, and it’s reasonable to accept that Schutz’s gashed painted surface was inspired by that picture. But other photos of the funeral reveal that Till’s body, his casket, and his surroundings, do not resemble Schutz’s depiction at all. Her painting is not a documentation; it is her construction. Which, of course it is.
And Neel’s painting of her own father’s funeral is pretty clearly a reference. Unlike her more famous portraits, Neel painted Dead Father from memory, a deliberate remove from experience and observation. Looking for a clean image of it brought up another Neel painting I’d forgotten, which feels even more relevant.
In 1951 Alice Neel painted Death of Mother Bloor, which shows the public funeral in Harlem of Ella Reeve “Mother” Bloor, the revered American Communist organizer and suffragist, who died in the midst of McCarthy’s witch hunts. Like Schutz, Neel cast a sympathetic eye on the historic funeral of a politically controversial figure, and constructed a painting unconstrained by photography’s documentary assertions.
In 2012, Dana Schutz talked with Jarrett Earnest at length about her painterly influences, or artists she admires. A lot of what she sees is construction. She doesn’t mention Neel, but I think it’s worth asking.
I am pleased to announce that a work I thought was gone has perhaps come back on view in Washington, D.C. The title, obviously, is derived from Gerhard Richter’s 1971 work, Two Sculptures for a Room by Palermo (below). But its creation, including all the vagaries involved, are inspired directly by Palermo’s work and practice.
Talking about his late student in a 1984 interview with Laszlo Glozer, Joseph Beuys said:
I believe that one of the most important things for art–and he knew it too–is the behavior of people in general. The way people live, the way they live in their space. The way people live was very important for him. The way they inhabit, the way they live, what chairs they sit on, or what they have around them, what they stuff into themselves.
I’d seen the painting first (what they have around them), but it was that charcoal (the way they live) and the horizontal blue passage on the upper left that made the work come into being (the way they inhabit). But that was last year.
Well, if I could, I would say one should perceive his works like a breath. They have something of a breath about them, a breath that vanishes…One ought to see his paintings more like breath that comes and goes, it has something porous, and it can easily vanish again. It is also highly vulnerable. Vulnerable, say, like a cornflower: when you out it into light, it fades very quickly. So one has to perceive that breathlike being as an aesthetic concept and not as a solid structure…
I still don’t know whether to post these matters, or whether it differs from filing it away, or from seeing it, or thinking it. I mean, it’s posted now because the house where this was installed last year came back on the market, with the same listing photos, and I saw them again. But what changes? Is the work still there? Would it matter if it is or isn’t? Does it matter what that crappy little painting even is?
Which seems as good a time as any to mention another work from last year, which I intentionally didn’t post, to see what it was like. Does it change now? Now that situation has been moved out and gut renovated for sure? Now that I can search for it in a different dialogue box? Now that someone else can, too?
For me the value lies in the wonder, the fleeting marvel, the tiny layers of history, of how some people lived overlaid with how other people staged. So I’m good.
I’m stoked to be speaking this coming Sunday, Oct. 29, with Anne Doran and Deborah Treisman, about their new book, The Dream Colony: A Life in Art by Walter Hopps. The discussion and book signing will take place at Alden Projects™ on the LES, starting at 6pm.
Todd Alden has an incredible-sounding show up right now which provides a nearly perfect backdrop and context for a discussion of Hopps and the emergence of the post-war LA art world: a collection of 66 exhibition posters for Ferus Gallery, which Hopps founded with Ed Kienholz, which was then taken over by Irving Blum.
I imagine the talk will draw heavily on Doran & Treisman’s book, which they created from over 100 hours of interviews with Hopps; and on the posters themselves, which Hopps, and later Blum, often created in collaboration with the budding artists themselves, including Ed Ruscha, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol.
It should be a great talk about a great read in a great show, so do try and come.
You could buy The Dream Colony now via bookshop.org, but why not get a copy from the authors on Sunday night? [amazon bookshop.org] Ferus Gallery: Between The Folds runs through Nov., 19, 2017, at Alden Projects™ [aldenprojects.com]
I’ve recently enjoyed and been enlightened by Martin Herbert’s new collection of essays, Tell Them I Said No published by Sternberg Press. Herbert considers ten artists who have left the “art world” and how. I put that in scare quotes because some artists stop making work, while others stop showing it, and others refuse to perform as public figures discussing or representing their work.
It’s a very thoughtful group of essays about a fascinating and challenging group of artists who, it turns out, are engaging with art and artistic practice entirely on their own terms. The artists are Agnes Martin, Albert York, Charlotte Posenenske, Stanley Brouwn, David Hammons, Lutz Bacher, Christopher D’Arcangelo, Laurie Parsons, Cady Noland, and Trisha Donnelly.
A couple of excerpts from Herbert’s introduction:
As performed today, [self-detachment] pushes against the current in an epoch of celebrity worship and its related feedback loop, increasingly universal visibility and access. A big part of the artist’s role now, in a massively professionalized art world, is showing up to self-market, being present. On all channels, ideally: see how, aside from all the photo opportunities, far-from-digital-native figures take to social media or splash themselves when possible across magazines (which grander galleries now produce themselves) or collaborate with fashion designers, all gates open.
In such a context of hectic short-termism and multiple types of oversharing, some kind of voluntary retreat, some respect for the Joycean triumvirate of silence, exile, and cunning, might constitute a vanguard, if a difficult and apparently suicidal one to countenance today since it seemingly requires earning the right to leave.
None of this, meanwhile, has transpired in a steady-state art world. Rather, the urge to pull back, where felt, echoes changing conditions over decades, from the swing toward dematerialization and its intersection with critique, to art’s transmogrification into a backcloth for the power plays of the prosperous.
Each case Herbert examines is particular; he does not try to force artists’ experiences and choices into an over-arching historical analysis. But as I found myself nodding along in recognition and admiration for these artists, I came to feel a case being made against the structures of the market- and celebrity-centered art world we’re soaking in.
This multi-faceted questioning reminded me of another paradigmatic challenge, posed by Helen Molesworth in the Dec. 2016 issue of Artforum. Molesworth asks why shock, countering shock with shock, and a strategy of épater le bourgeoisie persists as the dominant mode of modernism and the avant-garde:
Must meaning be predicated on shock? Why was a cut or a break always required for something to be historically serious or significant? Why couldn’t continuity or gentleness, even, be imagined as a hermeneutic of radicality? As someone with a nascent interest in domesticity and the quotidian, I felt that shock didn’t help me understand much of anything.
Molesworth goes on to discuss powerful examples of engagement, listening, connection and self-reflection as alternatives to the received models of attention-grabbing spectacle and an ever-intensifying cycle of shock and desensitization. In a similar way, while the artists Herbert discusses don’t show a singular path out of the current hall of mirrors, they remind us of the overlooked potential of engaging art with questioning, silence, and refusal. Who could refuse to buy Tell Them I Said No at Amazon for like $24? [amazon]
In August Artspace published an interview celebrating self-styled “art architect” Peter Marino. The “Dark Prince of Luxury,” who has become the architecture dom to the world’s wealthiest people and brands, told Andrew Goldstein the secrets of his success and career ascent in the New York of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and Warhol’s Factory.
[AG:] It would seem trauma is an excellent crucible for talent.
[PM:] It really is. If you just lead your normal, banal life you don’t get enough fried brain cells to be an artist. [Laughs]
And of fortuitous meetings with future clients like the refugees Marella and Gianni Agnelli:
Everyone from Europe was coming to New York to see the art scene. And it was a double whammy. The kids today don’t remember the violence of the Red Brigades in Italy, but the communists were this close to overrunning the whole country. So all the cultured, wealthy, sophisticated people came to New York. It was a very frightening moment. And they all needed a place to stay.
And they all needed places to stay in New York. Enter Peter Marino.
Right place, right time.
I’d like to think that my architecture really expressed the times in which we lived, or helped define the time in which we lived. Because, for me, that’s one of the definitions of great art…So, I try so hard in the stores I do, in the homes I do, to make it so that if you took this compendium of my work, it would express the time in which we live.
In this, alas, I have no doubt that Marino has succeeded. Whether it’s nine-figure flagships for Chanel or similarly costly New York collector townhouse renos, and estates for “rogue Mexican bond traders,” Marino’s work embodies the defining spirit of our age: immense wealth expended on limitless craft and luxury for the pleasure of a tiny few.