8,190 Details From A Picture

Alright, I’ve looked into it and talked to some folks, and while I was and am right to be incredulous, I now feel a little better about Gerhard Richter’s Strip series of digitally printed works Marian Goodman is showing in Paris [above].
So I talked with some Richter collectors, some people who have seen the work in person, either in Paris or elsewhere, and some folks at Marian Goodman, who thoughfully listened to my grave declaration that “I have some real issues with these works,” and gamely engaged it, almost as if a real sale were hanging in the balance, which, obviously, it was not.
The easiest and best first thing to do: ignore Buchloh. I started reading his catalogue essay, and just decided that his ruminations on the implications these digital prints under plexiglass have for the history of facture would just piss me off, so I set it aside for another day. Ultimately, the way I’ve come around to the work, or at least come to see it as credible, is by considering it within Richter’s own practice and history, not as a dubiously hyped innovation of global import.
Invariably, in every conversation, the first reply to my skepticism about these giant pixel extrusions was, “Have you seen the book?”
richter_patterns_koenig.jpg“The book” is not the slim exhibition catalogue for Goodman’s show, which reproduces 14 examples of Strip, and edition of 72 unique digital prints [53x105cm, mounted on Aludibond] which were chosen from 4,096 possible strips by “chance operation”; as well as the much larger [160x300cm, plexi] works made by combining “selected” strips. [There are also the oil-poured-on-glass Sindbad pictures, but whatever. Off topic. I just want to contrast the different processes, one clearly Cageian, one clearly not, that went into making works out of the system Richter devised.]
And that system is what’s only really expressed fully in “the book.” Patterns. Divided – Mirrored – Repeated, the massive artist book [41x27cm, 520 pages] published by Walther Koenig in an edition of 800+50, is overwhelming. It consists of 221 spreads showing strips from each of the “twelve stages of division” being mirrored and repeated. I found myself constantly turning back to the key, a diagram of Abstraktes Bild CR724-4, the 1990 squeegee painting which is Richter’s “ready-made” source overlaid with the division and subdivision matrix used to generate the strips. I should have snapped a photo of it, but instead, I’ve simulated it here by hand, with only six divisions, instead of Richter’s twelve:
The exponential increase reminds me of the old illustrations of a nuclear chain reaction, which is kind of relevant; Richter has printed digitally manipulated photos of atoms taken with an electron scanning microscope, like his Strontium photomural [below] at the deYoung in San Francisco. Richter conceives of a similarly infinitesimal division continuing here, too, and he apparently only stopped at 4,096 0.8mm-wide strips because the next level of would require magnification to see.
Strontium 2004, 910x945cm, CR888, image via gerhard-richter
Before seeing Patterns, I originally thought these Strips were just pixel-wide extrusions. They are not. The wider, lower-order strips clearly show the mirroring and repeating. Here’s a detail from the cover of Koenig’s 2011 catalogue [pdf] and an unsatisfying page shot from inside. I’d say these are from the 256 and 128 divisions, respectively:
Even on the 2,048 division strips, you can still see the pointy, mini-Rorschach forms. And yet all the stand-alone editions and works came only from the 4,096 level. Which I assume means the static/boring horizontal stripes running across the larger prints should vibrate up close with nearly invisible mirrorings. And since no one has mentioned it, and everyone’s first and last resort to the book instead, I’m going to assume that effect is either not evident, not successful, or not compelling.
This is not the first time Richter has undertaken a photographic dissection of a painting, of course. He reworks reproductions of his paintings for editions all the time. [He also cut at least one squeegee painting into pieces, which were sold separately, but that’s another story.] His most closely related experiment dates from 1978, where he took black and white pictures of an abstract painting, Halifax, which he used in a photogrid, 128 Photographs of A Picture, and in several artist books, beginning in 1980 with the edition that inspired the title of this post, 128 Details From A Picture (Halifax 1978) I.
Unlike the computational precision that generated Strips, Richter took the 128 Halifax photos “from various sides, from various angles, various distances and under different light conditions.” And yet the end result of both is an apparently randomized, disorientated view of deracinated fragments. A nod to photography’s mechanical “magnifiying vision,” but also a deliberate and thorough sandbagging of its objective, informational idiom.
128 Details from a Picture (Halifax 1978) II, 1998, offset prints, image via gerhard-richter
For years, I’ve loved the Halifax photow way more than the painting. Richter’s expedition across the surface of the painting turns it into a landscape, which his images don’t even pretend to map. Richter must like them, too, because he’s kept reissuing them over the years as new books and editions.
So already in 1978, Richter demonstrates there is no way to reconstitute the image of the original painting from the distorted, incomplete photofragments. Not news. But that might be fine. I bet you could reverse engineer a pretty reasonable approximation of 724-4. Or at least an actionable one. Or an interesting one.
And I would bet that, if you fed a hi-res photo of Halifax and the 128 photos into a computer, it would now be possible to crunch the images and solve the puzzle. Not only could you identify all the parts in the photos, analyzing the light angles and camera distances in a 3D animation program should reveal Richter’s position, sequence, and the path he took as he wandered around the painting with his camera.
Richter was able to stay a generation or so ahead in his flight from intentionality, but it seems to have caught up with him.
Previously: Gerhard Richter Strip Show
Similar but not related: Marion Thayer MacMillan’s Water Pictures


When it’s not taking letterpress to the people, the Type Truck is making stops in some of the more fantastically designed and sited picnic pavilions in These United States. From the tour date calendar, I do believe this particularly Prouve-esque model is in northern Arizona or southeastern Utah, a day or so away from their gig in Green River.
A couple more views here and here.
AAA UPDATE: of course, RO/LU does me one better. Nicely played.


Alright, so I’m back from a day mostly spent at MoMA:
Wow, the Film Department is firing on all cylinders.
I remember one year when Chaka Khan yelled at the crowd for not paying enough attention to her, and now this year, Kanye West is performing to mad hype. Crazy.
Hmm, the fourth floor where I’d hoped to spend a great deal of time studing Jasper Johns’ Flag was “closed for reinstallation,” which means they’re part of the Missing Flag Coverup! Trust No One!
There are some Bridget Riley paintings in the hallway next to the cafe [I know] that look like they came from Bill Seitz’s 1965 Op Art blockbuster, The Responsive Eye. Don’t tell Larry Aldrich, though, or he’ll turn them into fabrics.
Really, a very crowded place.
Oh, I bought this anthology, Curating and the Educational Turn, and I think it’s going to be sweet. Unfortunately, with 27 different authors the chances of anyone topping this sentence, chosen at random from the introduction, are slim-to-none:

For several of the authors gathered here, these primarily function as points of departure for performative or polemical texts which themselves refuse a masterful discourse of explication in an attempt to honour the ethos of counter-institutional and counter-hegemonic practices of dissent and emergence.

Maybe curators have added pedagogical toolsets to their praxis because they’re fed up with people always asking them to explain what the hell they’re saying.
I almost bought what is undoubtedly the greatest book of its kind, Murakami Versailles, but it was too heavy to contemplate carrying it around. Also, I expect it will be entered into evidence in Murakami’s trail before the People’s Post-Revolutionary Court, so I can just grab a scaned version soon enough.

And Furnish It With Love

I want to buy this world of chairs, but this signed, dated, handmade Judd ur-chair, from Flavin’s stash in Marfa, even, sold in 2003 for $60,000–and in 2007 for $29,000. At that rate, I figure by 2012, I’ll be able to just pick it up from the curb.
And then this unsigned, undated, handcarved teak chair from who knows where, the knuckleheads at Rago didn’t call me back about it–twice–and it ended at just $465.
Holy smokes, a Juddy stack of Coke and Pepsi cases? Is this for real, anonymous objects? Anonymous in that we don’t know the name of The Master of the Atlantic City Bottling Co. $300 at Kamelot. That hurts.
Which, I guess I could make my own for less–five Coke crates at $10-30 each–autoprogettazione x Coke. Sorry, no Pepsi.
I’ve been so focused on generating enough empty plastic Diet Coke bottles to be recycled into a dining roomful of Emeco With Coke 111 Navy Chairs, I haven’t even thought about the crates.
But seriously, I’m kind of kidding. Because as much as I’d like to close the loop and save the planet and all by turning my empties into chairs, the fact that normal Emeco chairs–recycled from cans–last 150 years, and this rPET one has a 5-year structural guarantee makes me a little uneasy. How long would one cast out of recycled glass bottles last?

Propaganda For Love [And/Or Europe]

“Civilization is in an acute form of crisis. But the germs of a future culture are floating in the air. It is possible that one day the first flowers may spring up here on American soil.”
– Gordon Onslow Ford, 29, opening his lecture on Surrealism at the New School, January, 1941.
Gorky, Motherwell, Matta, Tanguy and Pollock were apparently in the audience.
Onslow Ford was sent to the US as part of the Committee to Preserve European Culture. Art historian Martica Sawin transcribed the lectures, which are published for the first time in the catalogue accompanying the artist’s first NY show since 1946, at Francis Naumann.
The only online references to this Committee are in relation to this show, and Onslow Ford’s bio. [google cache here, as the page is not currently visible from onslowford.com] He was an officer in the British navy, and given leave for the lectures. His 2003 obit says “an expatriate group” invited him, and he was certainly preceded to NY by many of his older surrealist colleagues.
But instead of returning to the war, “he decided to join other Surrealists in Mexico seeking greater isolation to travel his own artistic path.” He camped out in a hacienda in a remote village for six years, then moved to San Francisco [where he co-founded that crazy hippie art barge, the Vallejo.] Which sounds an awful lot like ducking the war and hiding out in BF Mexico. Just sayin’.
“Gordon Onslow Ford: Paintings and Works on Paper 1939-1951,” curated by Fariba Bogzaran, through Dec. 23 francisnaumann.com via

Art In The Age Of Digital Reproduction

So beautiful. Or is it elegant?

Either way, the degraded, abstracted pixelation of user canzona‘s 1000th ripped & uploaded YouTube video is a great digital tribute to experimental composer Alvin Lucier and the ‘photocopy effect,’ “where upon repeated copies the object begin to accumulate the idiosyncrasies of the medium doing the copying.”
As MeFite DU puts it, “I like how it’s called ‘the photocopy effect,’ but was inspired by a sound recording.”
I Am Sitting In A Video Room 1000 [youtube via @joygarnett]

Adaptive Subdivision By Quasimondo

Adaptive Subdivision, originally uploaded by Quasimondo.

Saying they reminded him a bit of the polygonal distortions of the Dutch Landscape images from Google Maps, greg.org reader Patrick passed along these examples of adaptive subdivision from flickr user Quasimondo.

Googling around on it, I gather it’s a tiling technique used in mapping that partitions an image based on the similarity of adjacent data; more similar=larger polygon. More detail/variation=smaller divisions.

I’ve been debating in my head whether to really delve into the actual algorithms and techniques used to camouflage the various military & intelligence sites I’ve been pulling. It’s not clear that it’d help the project along in any way, but it does fascinate me.

What became immediately obvious is that while the geometric abstractions of some sites are clearly based on the underlying image, others have been pasted over by totally unrelated polygon blobs. Compare in the map of The Hague below, the detail of the Noordeinde Palace in the upper left and the outsize blob hiding the Department of Defense on the right.

View Larger Map

I wonder if sometimes it’s best–or enough–to just be stoked for the found images I’ve found as I’ve found them.

The Beautiful Caverns of Luray, Virginia

Score one for the bloggers. I found this beautiful little packet of souvenir photographs at a small, otherwise uninteresting flea market a few weekends ago.

They’re tiny, just 2×2.5 inches, but they’re crisp and beautiful in a way that reminds me we’re losing something tangible in this wholesale shift to digital printing.

The photos reminded me a bit of a miniature photogrid from Olafur Eliasson–he’s done caves looking in and looking out, and some later pieces are documentations of his trip through a place, like the river rafting series.

But more than that, they reminded me of a tiny set of Robert Smithson mirror displacement photos I kind of wanted to buy. Smithson had used a Kodak Brownie to take tiny, square snapshots of mirrors stuck in the snow on his Greenwich Avenue roof. The Met had them on hold for a very long time, and ended up taking them in 2001. There are no images online, but they fall in an interesting place in Smithson’s work, between his contact sheets and his rarer, larger photos.

As for these photos, I have to thank Steve Roden, who helped me notice them at all. Roden had posted this summer about the Luray Caverns, specifically a recording of The Great Stalacpipe Organ, which was made of concert-tuned stalactites. Those Luray promoters didn’t miss a single angle.

Fosse, Gerry. Gerry, Fosse

Bob Fosse as the Snake in Stanley Donen’s 1974 movie musical adaptation of The Little Prince [available in low-res original and Billie Jean mashup versions, because why not? via maud]
which was not, in fact, filmed in the same location as Gus Van Sant’s Gerry after all:
Related: my 2003 interview with Van Sant’s producer Dany Wolf
my idea for a shot-for-shot remake of Gerry set in non-Anglo Los Angeles.

John Steiner’s Balloon, 1857

While this 1857 ambrotype of John Steiner’s balloon preparing for an international crossing from Erie, Pennsylvania to Canada is the first known photograph of a flying machine, Steiner’s was not necessarily the first balloon.

Still, kind of awesome.

FWIW, Steiner had to bail out over Lake Erie in dramatic fashion. His balloon made it to Canada and was found some time later.

The Smithsonian has the story–and the photo, which is on display at the National Air and Space Museum.

The Role Of Charles Kinbote Will Be Played By Paul Limbert Allman

On an evening in October 1986, two well-dressed men approached Dan Rather on Park Avenue, began asking him, “Kenneth, what is the frequency?” and then started pummeling him. They were never identified or caught, and the motive behind their question and their attack was never explained.
In a 2002 article in Harper’s magazine, however, Paul Limbert Allman “solves” the riddle. The answer: New Yorker short story writer Donald Barthelme.
As his analysis unfolds, and hypothetical interactions between Rather and Barthelme become bitter vengeance. Allman begins to sound more than a bit like Charles Kinbote, the protagonist of one of my absolute favorite novels ever, Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov. Which is not who you want to sound like if you’re really gunning for credibility.
Pale Fire is structured an eponymous epic poem by a dead poet named John Shade, and the increasingly unhinged footnotes added by Kinbote, Shade’s self-deluding neighbor/colleague/groupie/stalker.
So if the Pale Fire logic holds, then [calculates on fingers] I think that means Allman attacked Dan Rather. Or that Allman is a figment of Rather’s imagination. It could go either way.
The frequency: Solving the riddle of the Dan Rather beating [harpers.org via jessamyn]
“Kenneth, what is the frequency?” [wikipedia]

Untitled (Composition with Taxi, Tree & Halston)

We were driving back from the storage unit Sunday morning, when we saw this spectacular and impossible-seeming scene on E 63rd St & Park:

A taxi, slammed full force, backwards and against traffic, into a tree in front of the townhouse Paul Rudolph created for Halston.

Apparently, a carjacker came flying off the bridge, hit the taxi, sent it spinning, and then backed back up 63rd to flee down Lexingon. And all before 8 in the morning. According to the super of a nearby building, the whole incident was captured on security cameras, so I should be checking the local evening news.