Les Ballons du Grand Palais

The Grand Palais was already the best of the three venues in the world capable of accommodating my Satelloon project–a re-creation of NASA’s Project Echo (1960), the 100-ft metallic spherical balloon which was world’s first communications satellite, and which was also known as the most beautiful and most-viewed object ever launched into space–but now it’s practically inevitable.
Unless someone tells me that the Pantheon or Grand Central Station have already hosted legendary air shows dating back a hundred years…

These photos from Branger & Cie via the Smithsonian show balloons and blimps on display at the 1re Exposition Internationale de Locomotion Aerienne, which debuted in the nave of the Grand Palais in September 1909. They ran until 1951. Which makes bringing back the spirit of the Air Show both spectaculaire et logique!


Previously: Les Satelloons du Grand Palais]

Verner Panton Vilbert Chair For Ikea

Verner Panton Vilbert Ikea chair, originally uploaded by JForth.

The dates for Verner Panton’s Vilbert Chair run the gamut, but they cluster around 1993.
He created the chair for Ikea, and it didn’t sell for very long–I’ve seen “six months,” “a season,” and “a year”–and apparently, it didn’t sell very well, either.
As you’d expect from Ikea, it’s made out of melamine-coated MDF. I’m not a huge fan, but I find it very amusing to see how Panton fans and modernist furniture aficionados spin a famous designer’s commercial failure on the cusp of his resurgence.
One hack design site gets just about everything about the chair wrong in one, short sentence: “IKEA began a Panton revival when they reproduced his Vilbert Chair in 1994.”
One Dutch dealer says, “Only shortly Sold as Ikea made the Chair from different Materials as Verner Panton Required.”
But the most frequently repeated explanation, is “The design was perhaps too radical for IKEA shoppers and not that many were sold, making them rare to find today.”
This chair proved to be too abstract for the mindset of the Ikea clientele…”
Oddly, the Vilbert is not faring much better in its afterlife as a rare, connoisseur’s collectible, either. At auction, one sold for $450 in 2002; an unopened Vilbert didn’t sell in 2003; six sold for EUR 266 apiece in 2006, two didn’t sell for 400 pounds in 2007. Examples for sale online range from EUR275 to EUR450, while the most sensible prices are still in the thrift shop/garage sale range: EUR25 and “Sure, whatever, just take it.”

Richard Prints: Untitled (300 x 404)

Untitled (300 x 404, After Untitled (Cowboy), 2003 by Richard Prince)
I just got my first edition of Untitled (300 x 404, after Untitled (Cowboy), 2003 by Richard Prince) from the printer. It’s a 1px = 1mm version, which came out to be 12 x 16 inches, inkjet printed on aluminum.
Though it’s crazy to feel any sense of accomplishment for an image I appropriated whose fabrication I outsourced, I’m actually kind of stoked. The print looks fantastic, with a graininess that doesn’t map to the supposed pixel dimensions.
When you zoom in on a screen, a pixel is so nice and tidy and square. But unless you’re a mosaicist or a North Korean cardflipping stadium extravaganza director, physical pixels are probably not going to be square. Who knew?
Anyway, since it cost the same to make one as a dozen, there’s an edition of ten, with a couple of proofs. If I had a dealer, a gallery, an artist career, or an idea to have any of the above, I’d probably sell them. I’m sure they’d be cheaper than the Richard Prince.
Previously: West Trademark @)#(*$ed Up
Untitled (300 x 404): the making of
update: Just found out via Joerg’s post that the original photographer was not Jim Krantz, but Sam Abell, the great National Geographic photographer. He shot it in 1996 for Leo Burnett, Marlboro/Philip Morris’s agency. PDN had an interview with Abell about it last year, on the occasion of Untitled (Cowboy)‘s prominence in Prince’s Guggenheim retrospective.

Enzo Mari x Ikea Mashup, Ch. 6: Ikeaness

Enzo Mari x Ikea – Joinery, originally uploaded by gregorg.

The tile in the guest bathroom in North Carolina was handmade and sun-dried in Mexico, as you can tell by the single square with the artful flaw, a footprint from a wandering dog.
Woodworking aficionados get off on things like grain patterns and joinery, the more intricate the better. So it’s at once surprising and totally not that after spending so much time finishing this wood, I’m starting to dig its industrial qualities, its intrinsic Ikeaness.
Ikea’s IVAR shelving system is made from unfinished pine, but that’s barely half the story. When you start looking closely, you see that even the simplest board is actually made up of several pieces of wood, spliced together.
It’s never the same, either. Each identical-seeming 72-in. post is unique. It’s almost like they piece all these scraps together with this insane, zig-zag scarf joint, into a single, endless piece of wood, which gets extruded, drilled, and cut to length on the other end.
Once you notice these joints–this one is the highest-contrast of the whole pile–your eyes are drawn to them, like learning a new word and suddenly hearing it everywhere.
The shelves are glued up from pine strips, that’s obvious. But was I really so focused on selecting the “right” color ranges that I didn’t notice this string of lozenge-shaped plugs which filled a massive gap in one of the the shelves? I think that will be the table’s dog footprint.

Enzo Mari x Ikea Mashup, Ch. 5: In Process [Rev.]

An update on the Enzo Mari x Ikea autoprogettazione table project:
I just finished putting on the second coat of varnish sealer, and now everything’s drying and curing in the basement. The picture above was how the wood sat for a week between the first coat and this morning, stacked on our radiator [I moved it up after about 24 hours when it wasn’t quite cured, and then my schedule got away from me for the week.]

Continue reading “Enzo Mari x Ikea Mashup, Ch. 5: In Process [Rev.]”

Enzo Mari X Rirkrit Tiravanija

Untitled (Autoprojettazione, 1123 xE/1123 xR), 2004
courtesy kurimanzutto
As I’ve said before, the first Enzo Mari autoprogettazione furniture I ever saw was by Rirkrit Tiravanija. He had tables and chairs fabricated from polished stainless steel, which his gallery from Mexico City, kurimanzutto, showed at Basel and a couple of other fairs a few years ago.
They weighed a ton and cost a fortune–as furniture, anyway; as sculpture, they seemed like a bargain–but they looked spectacular.
Rirkrit hit a zone in his work then where he was re-creating various examples of modernistic furniture and architecture in mirrored stainless steel; there was a ping pong table; several corner assemblages using three Smithson-esque, non-site mirrors; and an entire chrome pavilion in Bilbao. The effect was to simultaneously aestheticize the original and dematerialize the substantial object on display, turn them into non-objects. Which is kind of ironic, since they’re among the most atypically beautiful works the supposedly non-object-oriented [heh] artist has made.
See another picture at kurimanzutto, slide 4 [kurimanzutto.com, image above, too]

Enzo Mari x Ikea Mashup, Ch. 4: Finish Fetish

For the 2002 reissue of his 1974 catalogue, PROPOSTA PER UN’AUTOPROGETTAZIONE , Enzo Mari added “a few technical hints.” I love them, especially the quotation marks, even as I prepare to ignore them a little and end up with something less “belle” than it could be:

…Then, from a purely formal (symbolic) and “instructive” point of view, table tops are “attractive” [“belle”] if they are made by putting several small planks together. From a strictly utilitarian point of view you can use plywood or chipboard.
For the same reasons the constructions are “attractive” if they are left rough, with the saw marks, neither planed nor varnished.

I found this slightly obsessive discussion of finishing solid pine furniture to be quite helpful, if a little daunting. But already, it saved me from myself and helped me lift my wood finishing sights beyond the lying corporate shelves of Ace Hardware:

First, however, a warning is needed: there is zero ‘truth in advertising’ in the finish industry. Absolutely anything can contain absolutely anything, no matter what the label says. There are products out there labelled tung oil that don’t have any tung oil whatsoever in them. Many ‘tung oil’ products depend mostly on phenolic resins. You have to buy from a source that is expert enough to know precisely what is in their products and trustworthy enough to tell you. In Canada, that’s Lee Valley, in the USA, Sutherland Welles.

Sounds good to me.
Sure enough, the extremely helpful folks at Sutherland and Welles guided me toward the right product for the project, a table with a top that will see regular use. I expect I’ll have enough polymerized tung oil varnish and sealer to give the table a good five coats, if not the 10-12 that Sankey prefers.
Meanwhile, I mapped out each piece to be cut onto the Ivar shelf components with blue tape. I plan to cut everything to length, finish the parts while I can reach all the corners, and then assemble the table. And then give it a last coat or two for good measure.
The wood cost $120, the tung oil, $82.

I Salone Mio: Everyday Life Objects Shop

If you’re in Milano–and after all, why wouldn’t you be this time of year? It’s Il Salone del Mobile, after all–definitely check out Everyday Life Objects Shop, an experimental retail exhibition of sorts organized by Apartamento Magazine and master curator/shopkeep Andy Beach of Reference Library. It opened tonight and runs through the 28th.
As it happens, I have an object in the Shop, an edition, actually, which I will discuss later after Andy sees fit to unveil it. Suffice it to say that I owe my mom Ann Orton and her sewing guru friend Pauline Richards a tremendous debt of gratitude. And when I need to get them to fabricate the rest of the edition, I’ll owe them even more.
Stay tuned.
OK, fine, here’s a picture.
Everyday Life Objects Shop
April 20-28, 2009
Via Arena 19
20123 Milano, Italy

Enzo Mari x Ikea Mashup, Ch. 3: Decisions, Decisions

So I’m finally going to make my Enzo Mari autoprogettazione table from Ikea components. A publicist from Ford had offered a Flex station wagon for a road trip, and last weekend, I took them up on it. Which meant I could bring back the 89-in pieces of wood I’d scoped out. So I did. Next I will cut and finish the pieces. Then I will assemble the table.

Continue reading “Enzo Mari x Ikea Mashup, Ch. 3: Decisions, Decisions”

Visiting Artist [sic], Parts 7 & 7: Robert Smithson

These are the last two segments from the lecture I gave at the University of Utah School of Art in 2007, titled Visiting Artist [sic]. They’re both about Robert Smithson. The first [above] is about Smithson’s own 1972 slideshow lecture at the UofU, “Hotel Palenque,” which he also published as an Artforum article, and which his estate eventually sold to the Guggenheim as a multimedia installation piece of art.
I love “Hotel Palenque,” and took its irreverent challenge to the orthodoxy of art and art criticism as part of the inspiration for some of my own talk. In preparation for my own lecture, I tracked down some people who were present at Smithson’s original lecture, to see what the artist may have said or indicated at the time.
Unlike the Guggenheim, I am deeply unconvinced that the lecture is a work of art per se. But I find it useful asking how and why treat this thing [sic] an artist made/did/said differently depending on whether it is or isn’t Art.

The second clip is the hometown favorite, the Spiral Jetty. In 2007, the big questions surrounding the Jetty concerned its recognition as a tourist attraction. The state government decided to do a big cleanup of the industrial detritus and abandoned machinery on Rozel Point [they arbitrarily classified wood and stone structures as “historic,” while removing all metal.] And then Smithson’s widow Nancy Holt made offhand comments about how it’d be fine with Bob to rebuild the Jetty, because that wasn’t the kind of entropy he meant, anyway. So I riffed on what kind of entropy might be best for a once-obscure, once-abandoned, now-popular Earthwork.
All Visiting Artist [sic] posts:
Parts 2 & 3: On Dan Flavin
Parts 4 & 5: On Throwing Art Away
video of Part 6: On Joep van Lieshout, which I apparently didn’t post here
Parts 7 & 7 [sic] on Robert Smithson

Visiting Artist [sic], Parts 4 & 5: On Throwing Art Away

I didn’t realize it at the time, but these two clips about Cary Leibowitz and Joep van Lieshout end up being related. Both artists make work that directly questions the value that the “Art” label imbues to an object. And though Cary comes at it from a position of artist neediness and Joep from defiant bravado, both address the issue of whether an “Art” object should be preserved.
Which is interesting, since I think MoMA threw out the van Lieshouts they commissioned when they built their new building.

And yeah, no, I don’t know why the YouTube stills for all my videos are green, either. It’s not like I whipped together a faux Flavin in the auditorium or anything.
All Visiting Artist [sic] posts:
Parts 2 & 3: On Dan Flavin
Parts 4 & 5: On Throwing Art Away
video of Part 6: On Joep van Lieshout, which I apparently didn’t post here
Parts 7 & 7 [sic] on Robert Smithson

Visiting Artist [sic], Parts 2 & 3: Dan Flavin

In April 2007, I spoke at the University of Utah as part of their Visiting Artist lecture series.
I was stoked, partly because Robert Smithson had famously spoken at the UofU, too, in 1969; his lecture and slideshow, “Hotel Palenque,” became an influential part of Smithson’s canon, and it’s a personal favorite of mine. After his death, the recording of the lecture declared a work, a “multimedia installation” which has been exhibited in museums and was acquired by the Guggenheim.
I took this somewhat problematic transformation as an inspiration for both my topic and my work. So I rounded up some other examples of how money and attention have impacted contemporary artworks after they have left the artists’ studios. Then in homage to the hilariously crappy film version of “Hotel Palenque” shot from the audience [it can be viewed in its wobbly entirety on Ubu, which describes it as a “Bootleg film/ documentation / artwork by Alex Hubbard”] I gave my younger brother my video camera, and told him to just let it roll.
The lesson was that money and the market will have its way with your work anyway, so you might as well prepare for it; so at the end, I told the audience that in order to remove any ambiguity in the future, I was officially declaring the lecture to be a work, my first in what Paul Morrissey described as “the medium of the lecture circuit.” So I passed around a stack of signed, numbered certificates of authenticity. 46 people took them.
Anyway, I thought the tape was lost immediately after the lecture, but then this weekend, just after the work’s 2-year anniversary, I found it in a bag. So I’m ripping it and posting the various segments of the talk on YouTube.
First up: Parts 2&3, Dan Flavin [I’ll post Part 1, my intro, but I can’t bring myself to intro it.]

In these two segments, I recapped some of the things I found while writing about Flavin’s work for the NY Times in 2005, including how collectors are fetishizing vintage hardware over the artist’s preferred newness, and how the Estate has adapted to that demand, as well as to the discontinuation of Flavin’s original light bulbs and fixtures.

Future segments will look at The Gates, Cary Liebowitz’s work, MoMA and the work of Joep van Lieshout, and changes to Smithson’s Palenque and Spiral Jetty. Stay tuned.
All Visiting Artist [sic] posts:
Parts 2 & 3: On Dan Flavin
Parts 4 & 5: On Throwing Art Away
video of Part 6: On Joep van Lieshout, which I apparently didn’t post here
Parts 7 & 7 [sic] on Robert Smithson
Previously: notes from my interview with Stephen Flavin, which didn’t get to me in time to make the NYT
notes from my interview with Emily Rauh Pulitzer, an early curator and collector of Flavin’s work, also not completed in time to make the Times
on visiting Flavin’s 2004 retrospective at the NGA
Also: Andy Warhol sent an impostor on a college lecture tour in the West; student reporters from the U of U unmasked him, in three parts, I, II, and III [note: U of U student Michelle Condrat researched the historical unfolding of the Fake Warhol Lecture Scandal]

See. The Artist. Be. The Artist.

Dan Fox, an editor at Frieze, has a long but excellent essay? article? exploration? of what it means to be a “professional artist.”

How should artists behave? How should we discuss art, build venues to show it in, tell people about it, try and support artists? There is no single answer: each situation demands a different solution. Perhaps, as we are hit daily with dire economic news, what is needed is to remain sensitive to the details, those small elements in the art world that cumulatively exert their own pressures on the ways in which people behave or relate to the making of art.

As my projects and interests have become increasingly some combination of quixotic, ridiculous, and conceptual, I’m left with the reality that the only rubric to justify their existence or realization is “art.”
But as someone who’s been wandering through the art and gallery and museum worlds for so long in the guise of anything-but-artist, I find defining myself as an artist to be problematic at best, mostly because of many of the issues Fox identifies: I’ve never sold a work. I don’t support myself through making or selling my work. I can barely imagine the idea of making saleable work [though if you’re in the market for a 100-foot satelloon, I’m sure we can work something out.] I was in a gallery show, but I don’t have or seek the external validation of an authoritative figure such as a dealer, critic, or curator. I’m an art history undergrad with an MBA where my MFA should be, and an art writer with a few NY Times bylines where my October credits should be.
If I were a “professional artist,” I’d immediately consider myself an abject failure, and my collecting, writing, fundraising, and curating reflexes would tell me to ignore my credential-less, dilettante-ish loser self.
So no, even with the art market evaporating like dew in the morning sun, I’m not too sanguine yet with the definitional aspects of being a professional artist. Still, good reading.
A Serious Business | What does it mean to be a professional artist? [frieze.com via c-monster]

Oh Mighty ISIS!

It seems the Pentagon has gotten wind of my master plan to re-create satelloons, the giant, inflated satellites with the integrated reflective communications capability, and they’re trying to beat me to the punch with a $400 million, 450-foot-long, inflated surveillance “airship” which would operate for up to 10 years at an altitude of 65,000 feet:

The Air Force has signed an agreement with DARPA to develop a demonstration dirigible by 2014. The prototype will be a third as long as the planned surveillance craft — known as ISIS, for Integrated Sensor Is the Structure, because the radar system will be built into the structure of the ship.

Uh, shouldn’t that be ISITS? Who names these things? Isn’t including “is” in your acronym cheating, like using all monosyllabic words in your haiku? But whatever, 150-foot prototype!
Pentagon plans blimp to spy from new heights [latimes]