One of many epic paintings David Diao made about Barnett Newman’s catalogue raisonné is a yearly tally of work, sorted by category, into zips. Every time I see it I think, “Other? What was the one other?”
And then rewatching Diao’s 2013 Dia talk last night, I am reminded that Other is a synagogue Newman designed, Diao said, for an architectural competition. There’s a 2014 story at Grupa O.K. about Harald Szeemann wanting to borrow the model [fabricated by Robert Murray] for a show in 1983, and Annalee refusing to lend it. She left it to the in the CCA in Montreal in 1991.
LATER TONIGHT UPDATE: EXCEPT. Newman did not make this for a competition, but for an exhibition. In mid-1963 he was working on the Cantos print series when Richard Meier, of all people, invited him to be the only non-architect in a show at the Jewish Museum, Recent American Synagogue Architecture. Newman also wrote an essay for the catalogue about synagogue architecture in the postwar context. His relationship with the Jewish Museum soured a couple of years later when he opposed what he felt the museum was wrongly implicating him with constrictive labels of Jewish Artist or Jewish Art. Mark Godfrey gets into this and other early postwar artists’ reckoning with Jewish identity and culture a bit in his 2007 book, Abstraction and the Holocaust.
Chop Shop installation shot at SPRING/BREAK 2016, in the vault on the 3rd floor of Moynihan Station, image: Tamas Banovich
I am psyched to announce “Chop Shop”, a show of my work at SPRING/BREAK 2016. SPRING/BREAK’s keyword this year is ⌘COPY⌘PASTE, which is probably what gave Magda Sawon the idea to approach me about a project. “Chop Shop” coalesced around several subjects and series that have appeared recently on greg.org: creative destruction; authenticity; artist’s agency; a critique of collectors, the market, and the networks art traverses; and the interactions between our digital, cognitive, and physical experiences.
In just the last few weeks, the show grew more ambitious and felt like the whole thing might just veer off the rails, but thanks to Magda and her people, the flexible and gracious organizers of SPRING/BREAK, and the expert assistance of some brave painters and printers, it all came together. And it looks absolutely mindbogglingly great, almost exactly the uncanny combination of spectacle, aura, and outrageous WTF? that I’d imagined. And to top it all off, it’s installed inside A GIANT, FREAKING VAULT.
Chop Shop installation shot with Destroyed Richter Grid No. 4, Destroyed Richter Painting No. 8, Shanzhai Gursky Grid No. 1, and Destroyed Richter Paintings Nos. 12 & 11, image: Tamas Banovich
Every work in “Chop Shop” is something I’ve been imagining or visualizing for months, or sometimes even years, but which I had not experienced in person, until now. And this process of conceptualizing something, and then actually realizing it, and then experiencing it, is intensely satisfying to me. I look at tons and tons of art, not only online, but in person, too. And the differences between these experiences and the impressions they leave feel important. So it’s not just a nicety when I say I hope you will be able to see “Chop Shop” in person. [It runs from Tuesday March 1 through March 7.]
“Chop Shop’s” images are appropriated from the old masters, but its processes are lifted from collectors, dealers, and museum shopkeepers. The artwork on view has either already been destroyed, and brought back to life, or it’s about to be chopped up to order, or broken up and parted out.
The show includes: new Destroyed Richter Paintings, which are full-scale resurrections of Gerhard Richter paintings that now exist only in archival negatives or jpgs. Some are of paintings the artist destroyed himself (after photographing them, obv), and some are of paintings that have been destroyed in the wild. In a nod to Richter’s own practice of transforming his paintings into photos, prints, or other media, some of the Destroyed Richter Paintings in “Chop Shop” are printed on aluminum panels. They are literally dazzling.
In another nod-or maybe it’s a critique wrapped up in an homage, it’s really too early to say-to Richter’s own destructive predilections, the Destroyed Richter Grid works transform [the jpg of] a lost squeegee painting into a set of prints on aluminum, which will be sold separately and scattered. Unlike Richter’s Facsimile Objects, which are produced in bulk, these grid pieces are each a lone, unique work, part of a whole that will only be visible together during the show. So Richter’s lost works stay lost, unless or until an enterprising curator in the future tracks all these panels down and reassembles them. And even then, what do we have, but a reconstituted jpg? We go to exhibition with the art we have, I guess.
Shanzhai Gursky No. 005, 2016, C-print, 185x303cm, will be destroyed in the production of Shanzhai Gursky Nos. 006 – whatever, 185cm x whatever, at Chop Shop
Shanzhai Gursky Grids are related to the Shanzhai Gursky series, which are produced full-scale from whatever the highest-resolution versions of Andreas Gursky’s images are available at the time. Except in this case, these new works, made for “Chop Shop,” will be themselves chopped and destroyed, with the fragments each constituting a new, unique work. Some are pre-chopped for your convenience, but others will be chopped to order, then properly mounted and framed for posterity. But the sight of these Gursky-looking works hanging, raw and exposed, naked, is just awesome. What a world, they make me think. What. a. world.
Study for Chop Shop Newman No. 1 and Nos. 2-6, 2015, jpg, but oh it’s real now, baby
Which brings us to the centerpiece of the show, Chop Shop Newman Painting No. 1, a full-scale repetition of Barnett Newman’s Voice of Fire (1967). It is literally awe-inducing, at least for me, and not just because I made it. [With conservation and materials research by the National Gallery of Canada, sage advice from David Diao, and the painterly talents of Tamas Banovich and Kyle Nielsen.] Newman made the 18-ft tall Voice of Fire to order for the 27-story geodesic sphere of the Expo67 US Pavilion. Chop Shop Newman No. 1 will be cut down into Chop Shop Newman Nos. 2 – ?? during the fair, with dimensions and compositions determined by the connoisseur collectors on a first-come, first-served basis. While supplies last.
There are so many variables and unknowns, and it’s crazy/fascinating ceding the fate of so much work to the hands of collectors-or to their indifference, if no one ends up caring, or engaging, or liking the stuff enough to take it home, which I suppose could happen. But it’s also immensely satisfying the way this show has me thinking through the systems of art, our expectations for it, and how we experience and value the world around us. So there’s that.
“The outcome is a painterly concatenation of destructive and creative forces, capital’s relentless churn made both gestural and material.” [mostafa heddaya for artinfo]
“They look modest and a little scared. (Rightfully so: “Voice of Fire” (sic) lost its first chunk to an X-Acto knife on opening night.)” [jillian steinhauer for hyperallergic]
“Allen made an absurdist gesture by offering up fragments of copied masterworks of contemporary art for sale by the square foot, like pizza.” [chris green for afc]
At SPRING/BREAK see @gregorg ‘s brilliant install @magdasawon ; also Caroline Wells Chandler knitted figs on the way pic.twitter.com/gMDUKn2gD8
David Diao, Barnett Newman: The Cut Up Painting, 2014, 153x127cm, image: office baroque
I’ve known about David Diao’s productive engagement with the work of Barnett Newman for a while, but I was still pretty blown away to get the announcement in my inbox this morning for his show, Ref: Barnett Newman, at Office Baroque in Brussels.
Because holy smokes, he has The Cut-Up Painting. Sort of.
The story has been around for a while, but rather vague, about how Barney had instructed his wife Annalee to cut up a certain painting. It was finished, but he felt it wasn’t working. She hadn’t cut it up before the artist died suddenly of a heart attack in 1970, but she wrestled with it, and decided to fulfill his wishes. So she chopped it up.
And that night, the story goes, she had a dream, and Barney appeared and told her she was cutting him up. And she woke the next morning, distraught, and gathered all the pieces together, and had them reassembled and lined on a new canvas.
The result was what you’d expect, a Frankennewman, and the painting, or object, whatever it had become, was never shown. [Rumors circulated that someone else altogether, another painter, had destroyed, not an unfinished or rejected work, but an actual Newman. This kind of thing happens when a work is absent, invisible, missing.]
The first time I’d heard of The Cut-Up Painting discussed publicly was in a 2008 symposium at the Getty Conservation Institute. Carol Mancusi-Ungaro described the story as Annalee told it to her. It’s wild and unsettling, with a twist, when Mancusi-Ungaro says Newman had confided in her “because I’m a conservator, and because I’m a woman, and I could identify with this feeling, perhaps.” [The Getty put it on YouTube in 2012.] The Cut-Up Painting was not included in the Menil’s show of late Barnett Newman last year, even though it did include the unfinished paintings Annalee gave the Menil for study & conservation. Sarah Rich did discuss it, though, in an essay in the show’s excellent exhibition catalogue, which also includes texts and research by Michelle White and Brad Eply:
When she first undid this unfinished work, she [Annalee] was following orders, though her dream suggests she also understood the cutting to be a violation. When she had the painting put back together, her act of preservation was also a transgression. Annalee Newman thus uncovered, in her own way, the means by which a painting might host the contours of ethical deliberation (a subject essential to Newman’s own artistic praxis). With those cuts and their stitching, with the deliberations she conducted, deferred, acted upon, and regretted, Annalee Newman performed an experience in which duty becomes consubstantial with defiance.
And now here it is, in some form, at least. David Diao has made a painting of Newman’s Cut Up Painting, and it looks pretty close to the image Mancusi-Ungaro showed briefly at the Getty, so it’s not just an imagining. I am fascinated to see it. Now to figure out how to get to Brussels. Ref: Barnett Newman opens 27 Feb. and runs through 6 Apr 2016 at Office Baroque [officebaroque.com]
Office Baroque is also showing earlier works by Diao at The Independent NYC during Armory Week, so there’s one I won’t miss.
Listening to David Diao’s amazing talk on Barnett Newman at Dia a few weeks ago, and then seeing his painted references to Newman, and especially to the 1966 Guggenheim catalogue for Lema Sabachthani, the debut exhibition of Stations of the Cross reminds me that Newman’s work has been experienced and considered quite differently than it is today. [The Internet Archive has digitized Barnett Newman’s The Stations of the Cross catalogue, btw.]
Which reminded me of these old photos of Newman sculptures. The top one’s from 1967, the first installation of Broken Obelisk at the Corcoran, the museum which commissioned it. It was included in the same large-scale sculpture exhibition as Tony Smith’s Smoke and whatshisname’s giant X.
This, first edition was removed from the Corcoran in 1969 [according to Washington Post courtier/reporter Paul Richard, there was turmoil after the departure of the museum director. Go figure.] and was eventually installed at the Rothko Chapel in Houston, dedicated after the fact to the memory of Martin Luther King. But there are a couple more. Has a Broken Obelisk ever been exhibited in DC since? And I keep looking for a photo of it from the other angle, with the actual Washington Monument. I mean, that shot was possible, wasn’t it? [Yes, from the FDIC building, apparently.]
And this one, which blows my mind, is Lace Curtain for Mayor Daley, a grid of barbed wire across a cor-ten window frame. Newman made it for a series of protest exhibitions hastily organized by Richard Feigen and Claes Oldenburg, after Chicago police attacked anti-war protestors at the Democratic National Convention. [Oldenburg was one of those beaten.] Annalee gave Lace Curtain to the Art Institute of Chicago in 1989, which has exhibited it only rarely.
Like I said, the perception of Newman’s work has been quite different than it is today.
I find the maxim of not reading reviews of one’s work to be much easier to live by when there are no reviews.
Because at least two takes on Richteriana have already been published, and I like the concept. It’s reassuring but also a but unsettling. And then a little invigorating, to encounter other peoples’ takes on your ideas.
In the Village Voice, James Hannaham called the Destroyed Richter Paintings “outlandish,” which I took to be a good sign, even though I wouldn’t–you know what, no, let’s just let it hang out there:
While partially homage, this work invades the great man’s privacy on at least two levels: first, by showing us images he apparently didn’t want anyone to see, and second, by co-opting and outsourcing his technique.
While I don’t think that’s literally true, the invasion of privacy part, I do think Hannaham is right to find an uneasiness in the images, not just whether they should exist, but whether they do or don’t, and if so, how?
And also Jane Hu did a lot of context work on Richter, his art, his history, his control issues, and the larger Richter and Art Industrial Complexes themselves:
[T]he artist has destroyed or painted over many past works, in order, presumably, to maintain a narrative about his artistic trajectory that satisfies his present sense as a painter. Richter knows as well as anyone that art history traffics in selling a story, as much as it does in telling an image. While the first half of his career produced paintings that tried to approximate photographic realism, he later increasingly turned to abstraction. And in doing so, no matter what other aesthetic reasons he may have had, Richter not only has revised his own biography, but those of his paintings as well.
Her discussion of David Diao’s work Synecdoche, is particularly sharp. On its own, David’s painting is amazing, but his wresting control of a vintage Benjamin Buchloh Artforum exhibition catalogue [whoops, 2nd time I’ve made that mistake. -ed] essay is a blunt and powerful and unsettling gesture.
The more I look at Synecdoche, the more it feels like the most important argument in the show.
During the 1960s, Mickey Ruskin regularly let artists eat and drink for free or trade art for sustenance at Max’s Kansas City. So when Ruskin ran into financial trouble, artists rallied and held a benefit auction for the bar, on June 15, 1971. Celebrated customers such as John Chamberlain, Roy Lichtenstein, and Willem de Kooning eventually became part owners of the joint, a relationship which has become known as the Chickpea Conspiracy.
Last month, the thick, painty work on paper de Kooning donated was sold by its purchaser’s estate at Christie’s. It’s a bit of a mess, at least to my eye, perhaps not a drawing that de Kooning would miss as much as the Erased one. And it only made $338k against a $400-600k estimate, so I guess I’m not alone.
But anyway, point is, here is a section of the auction catalogue:
I though that was all, but the Max’s Kansas City website has additional catalogue images, and a barely overlapping artist list. Hey, look, there’s David Diao, who is the grownup in the Richteriana show:
Destroyed Richter Painting No. 04, 2012, oil on canvas, 110x110cm
Postmasters is pleased to announce:
GREG ALLEN, DAVID DIAO, RORY DONALDSON,
HASAN ELAHI, FABIAN MARCACCIO, RAFAËL ROZENDAAL
May 12 – June 16, 2012
opening reception, saturday, may 12, 6-8 Postmasters‘ new exhibition Richteriana attempts to examine the current canonization of Gerhard Richter, presenting six artists whose works pre-date, update, expand, and subvert “the greatest living artist’s” own.
…[snip much amazing thinking and description of great artists and their work]…
Greg Allen’s Destroyed Richter Paintings channel the elder artist’s own private documentary images back into the photo- based painting feedback loop he once deemed “photography by other means.” They reproduce the experience of encountering Richter’s lost originals, while becoming new objects themselves. By engaging the sprawling Chinese photo-painting industry that has grown up in Richter’s wake, Allen forefronts the market’s incredulous perception of the artist’s autonomy–and his right to declare or destroy his own work.