AZ Solitude Cabin, 2017

Untitled (AZ Solitude Cabin), 2017, mixed media, ed. 1/2, plus an AP or so.

Last year I spotted this structure in a front yard in Washington, DC. It is a wedge-shaped cabin [?] made of wood and siding and decking and corrugated plastic. The translucent plastic panel on the angled side facing the house is hinged and often propped open, like a canopy. There is a small platform in front, but I could not see what, if anything, is inside, without going into the yard.

It reminded me, in the accumulation of fleeting instants I’d see it, of Andrea Zittel’s Wagon Stations.

Andrea Zittel, Wagon Station, First Generation, 2004, customized by Giovanni Jance

And her Homestead Units.

Andrea Zittel, Homestead Unit at A-Z West

And her Cellular Compartment Units.

Andrea Zittel, Cellular Compartment Units, 2001, all images via zittel.org

Those Cellular Compartment Units especially stood out for me, as I wondered what this structure could be for, what could be inside. Zittel created a separate space for each, “single human need or desire from sleeping to eating to reading to watching TV.”

I resisted the impulse to declare someone else’s garden folly a work, and nothing I googled ever brought me any closer to finding one of my own, or figuring out what it is.

Seating for one? It turns out to be uncommon to see wide shots of the cabinet for Jeremy Bentham’s auto-icon. It did not make the trip to the Met Breuer. Are there shots of it empty? image: hyperallergic

I happened to drive by the house again recently, and the structure is still there. So I’ve been thinking of it again.

I had three chairs in my house, but only one in my sitting shed in my front yard, Thoreau did not write.

I’ve passed this writer shack in Salt Lake, hard up against what’s basically a highway, for years. This is like the third or fourth renovation.

I just need a quiet place to write, but I live on a very busy street with constant traffic.

Gehry’s Norton House writer’s nest, on the boardwalk at Venice Beach, but from the back. It’s open to the house. image: thegrumpyoldlimey

Anyway, I’ve decided to go ahead, and let this stay as is, as ed. 1. And I am ready to make another. A structure customized for a single human need or purpose.  It could be writing, or reading, or sitting, or showering, or pissing. Actually, there’s already a structure for that.

 

 

UntitledICE, 2018

UntitledICE, 2018, paint, plywood, reflective tape, installation shot

Last winter I was visiting museums on the Mall a lot in order to write this review/roundup. It was pretty grim going, and I don’t think I was wrong about the mood.

These black cubes appeared along my drive, and I would take note of them, think about them. They had an eye-catching, out-of-place presence and no discernible purpose, which made them feel  of temporary sculpture. They were also alongside a conduit road whose main feature was not slowing you down on your way, which created a tension, if only for the briefest (passing) moment.

Tony Smith, Die, 1968, 400px image via NGA, because I guess any larger scale would have made this jpg a monument.

They made me think of Tony Smith’s Die, obviously, but if anything, that easy association pushed back against my own doing anything with these cubes. They also made me think, though, of Smith’s massive 1967 sculpture Smoke, which, like so much of his work, first came into being as black plywood.

Smoke being built in the Corcoran, 1967, image via Tony Smith Estate

Smith built Smoke in one half of the Corcoran’s atrium while Ronald Bladen built X in the other. Or rather, the Corcoran built Smoke and X for Smith and Bladen. The sculptures were commissions, fabricated by the museum’s carpenters for a three-artist show called, “Scale as Content.” [The third work was Barnett Newman’s Broken Obelisk, which was installed outside, facing the White House and the Washington Monument. The Corcoran ended up owning none of these works.]

construction of Ronald Bladen’s X, 1967, image: royslade.com

Artforum’s retardataire reviewer didn’t like it “as art,” but “Scale as Content” feels pretty on the nose for Smith, who realized Die in six foot steel in 1968 after noodling for six years over a six inch cardboard model. [In 1967 Smith also showed a plywood version of Maze, and published the cardboard version in Aspen Magazine.]

An old photo I have of Broken Obelisk installed for the first time, at the Corcoran Gallery, 1967, via

Anyway, these boxes were not placed where they are for artistic reasons. I finally went to investigate them on foot in January. They’re cover/markers for some infrastructure node, presumably related to the construction staging on the lawn between the Tidal Basin and the Washington Monument. They’re close to crosswalks; maybe they’re hookups for eventual pedestrian crossing signals.

Inside the Black Cube? UntitledICE, 2018, paint, plywood, reflective tape, installation shot

But this is not really the time, and these are not in the place, for benign indifference to the apparatus of the state. In this era of plate readers, wifi sniffers, Stingrays, and ICE raids on pizza delivery guys, these black boxes now feel like–like black boxes. Given what we keep finding out on a daily basis in DC, what could we possibly not know yet? You don’t have to be Trevor Paglen to wonder about the menace of ersatz apparatuses popping up on the major thoroughfares of Washington. Are they some nefarious surveillance system in waiting, or one that’s already at work?

Trevor Paglen, Trinity Cube, on view at SAAM via IG:gregdotorg

The intervening months have also brought Paglen’s Trinity Cube and Rachel Whiteread’s cast voids to town, and so I still pass these cubes and still think. One thing I think a lot about is the point of declaring something a work. Another thing is declaring. Another is a work. Sometimes, during a year of wondering if I’m rationalizing, I wonder if the reflexivity, the impulsion, the emptiness of these things are reasons in themselves. Emptiness as Content.

As Tony Smith said about Die: “This is a complicated piece. It has too many references to be coped with coherently.”

Yas Regina

Wolfgang TIllmans, Regina, 2002, 136.6 x 206.4cm, ed. 1/1+1AP, est. GBP30-50000, Christie’s London during Frieze Week

I am a bigger fan of Wolfgang Tillmans than of the British royal family, but this is a truly excellent image, and I would definitely like to see it IRL, preferably pinned on my wall. It’ll be sold at Christie’s during Frieze Week.

As a 1/1 acquired directly from the artist, and with no exhibition history, I’d imagine this print has an interesting story of its own.

If I don’t scare up an extraneous GBP 50,000 by next month, perhaps a Shanzhai Tillmans series is in order. Of course, unlike a Shanzhai Gursky, I’m not sure what the difference between a Tillmans and a Shanzhai Tillmans would even be.

Christie’s London Day Sale, October 5: Lot 354 Wolfgang Tillmans, Regina, 2002, ed. 1/1+1AP [christies]

Untitled (Faux Snakeskin), 2018

 

Untitled (Snakeskin), 2018, mixed media, 43 x 76 in., image via NYE&Co/liveauctioneers

ArtBasel is upon us. “The only question [connoisseurs are asking] these days are: ‘Is that one of the top ten works? And is that an A-plus picture?’

And here I am starting to feel about headboards-I-don’t-own-as-readymade-paintings like Dan Flavin ended up feeling about fluorescent lights: stuck.

Yes, that’s exactly what it’s like. Can you just imagine the market pressure? Demanding you to keep repeating your greatest hit, to keep churning out every iteration of the formula, to see the concept through to the bitter end, until it’s ultimately the headboard on your own deathbed, stained with your own hairgrease, that becomes your final, ghostly selfie. The hammer drops, the crowd cheers, your kids want to cash out and move your estate to Zwirner, authorizing faux-finish headboards in posthumous editions.

Damn. That got dark fast. And here I’d only planned to point out that this king-size, faux snakeskin quilted pleather number is most definitely in the top ten of the series. The top five, even. If you want it, you have until next week to let me know, at which point it’ll slip from all our grasps.

Previously, related:
Untitled (Joan Collins, Toile de Jouy), 2015
Untitled (Dubious Tommy Hilfiger Decisions), 2017

Study for Untitled (Powerless Structures), 2018

Pablo Picasso, Le Marin, 1943, 130x80cm, pre-puncture. image:Google cache of Christie’s

When Katya Kazakina reported that GOP finance chairman/sex predator Steve Wynn’s Picasso was damaged by Christie’s and withdrawn from sale this week idgaf.

But when Kazakina reported it had a hole punched through it by the pole of a falling paint roller, dropped by a contractor, I immediately thought, “Paint roller? Elmgreen & Dragset’s Powerless Structures Fig. 87, “Back in a minute” (2000) is a loaded paint roller!”

Elmgreen & Dragset, Powerless Structures, No. 87 “Back in a minute”, which I happened to show in 2000 at Exit Art, but didn’t buy in time. image: artnet

“Paint roller through a Picasso, well, there’s your Powerless Structures right there,” I said. “But can it really be that easy?” And then I remembered that Michael & Ingar hadn’t thought so back in 2004 when they put a safe behind a Hirst.

Elmgreen & Dragset, Safe / Dot Painting, 2004, image: Perrotin

And then there’s this quote, mentioned in the Ganz sale catalogue, from Jacques Prevert, who visited Picasso two weeks before Le Marin was painted, and a month after the artist had been told by the Gestapo he was to be sent to a German concentration camp:

Picasso, more than any other artist, reacts to the things around him. Everything he does is a response to something he has seen or felt, something that has surprised or moved him. (Quoted in M. Cone, op. cit., p. 135)

So yes, I will react. And if you need me, I will be honing my paint roller throwing technique until the #chinesepaintmill Picasso arrives.

[update: wow, Christie’s did a whole catalogue for Le Marin, which, unlike the painting, is still available.]

Elmgreen & Dragset, 12 Hours of White Paint, Powerless Structures, Fig. 15, 1997, at the Gallery Tommy Lund in Odense, Denmark, I think, image: kunsteder.dk

update update: Thinking about how to actually make this work, I look back to an even earlier Elmgreen & Dragset performance piece, 12 Hours of White Paint, Powerless Structures, Fig. 15 (1997) [above], where the duo repeatedly painted and washed off the walls of a gallery space. The downstroke is the key. I bet the painter was painting the wall opposite the Picasso and so had his back to it, and on the end of his downstroke he stabbed it. Which is fine, but I had hoped to work a rollerful of paint into the disaster somehow.

Unrealized Rockefeller Diptych (1650 – 2018)

Lot 1685: a George III walnut side chair, together with a pair of George III fruitwood sidechairs, “with inventory labels inscribed D.R. 53.1758 or D.R. 53.1759”. est. $200-300, sold for $5,250.

I ended up not bidding on anything in the David Rockefeller auction this week, but I had my eye on some things. At first I thought of the trio of simple, mismatched, 18th century Chippendale side chairs, which could round out a small table where a similar, orphaned family chair might one day need some company.

These nice but unremarkable chairs would go nicely with our humble chair, I thought, but claiming that is the reason to buy them would be a lie. You would buy them–I would buy them–because 65 years ago, the family registrar marked two of the three chairs with inventory numbers: D.R. 53.1758. I am fine with acknowledging this.

I realized that buying something you might conceivably need would violate the spirit of the occasion. Beyond all other auctions, a Rockefeller Auction is pure want. And what is wanted, above all, is provenance.

Could provenance and its auratic power be isolated from the object that is its ostensible vehicle? What object might make that possible? It would not just have to be non-precious, or non-aesthetic; it would almost have to thwart value and appeal. It couldn’t be ironic or sentimental, or hold even a remote association with Rockefeller personally–which seemed a little intrusive–or with the family and their history and legacy.

I love that this puzzle presented itself at the exact same time I was dealing with the Japanese plates Danh Vo bought 11 years ago from the rural Pennsylvania estate sale of an obscure US general with a connection to the Vietnam War and the JFK assassination.Anyway, I did a reverse estimate sort on the 800 or whatever lots in the online auction. I skipped past all the Staffordshire porcelain figurines of shepherdesses. I lingered for a moment over the fireplace tools and andirons (above). I have a thing for andirons of provenance, but then I remembered that the Rockefellers did, too: David’s brother Nelson had a business selling reproductions of his art collection, including his Diego Giacometti andirons.

Then I found it: Lot 1732 An 18th Century English Cast-Iron Fireback, est. $200-400.  It was in terrible condition, or rather, it had a rare patina. Like how they gratuitously leave the bird’s nest in the hood scoop of the barn find Ferrari. 1st Dibs lists two nearly identical firebacks [below] with Spes, the Roman goddess of hope, as 17th century Dutch, so Christie’s (and the Rockefellers’) description probably stems from the careful preservation of an inaccurate invoice “from WM. Jackson Co., 1 February 1956.” #provenance.

Fire like a Rockefeller, 17th c Dutch cast iron fireback depicting Spes/Hope at Schermerhorn, Haarlem, NL via 1stdibs

Oh, weird, what’s this, Lot 1753, Late 17th Century Italian Priedieu, “the base reduced in depth”, est. $400-600? A priedieu with the prie removed is kind of perfect. Not to question the Rockefellers’ faith, of course, just that when you put it in a home, the kneeling part of a priedieu can be a real tripping hazard. The provenance here was distinct, too: “Acquired with the contents of Hudson Pines.” David & Peggy bought Hudson Pines from his sister Babs, who’d built it. So this 10-inch deep, chopped up priedieu has a double Rockefeller provenance. I imagine it holding a tiny key bowl, or blocking an unsightly vent.

Study for Unrealized Rockefeller Diptych, 2018

But it’s also almost the same dimensions as the fireback. Now I could see these two damaged, useless, clunky antiques together, a found monochrome diptych monument to this liquidity event, a celebration of the massive value accrued around them during the last 70 years of their 350 year existence.

Each of these marred tchotchkes ended up selling for $3000, which answers the question of what provenance is worth. And I don’t have to worry about where to put them.

Danh Vo: Shop The Look

Danh Vo, VJ Star, 2010. Sold at Phillips in 2015

After reading Tim Schneider’s recent article about the market views of Danh Vo’s work, I realized I hadn’t written about Vo’s Guggenheim show.

Tim’s point is well taken, and borne out in the show: Vo makes both sexy, shiny, collector bait (gold-leafed flags & alphabets, Statue of Liberty fragments) and meaning-laden but head-scratchingly unaesthetic cultural detritus (the stuffing from Robert McNamara’s chair, the Unabomber’s typewriter). The typical market dynamics of art stardom readily attend to the former, while posing a challenge to the latter.

Parts is parts: The White House Years of Robert McNamara, Lot 20, 23 October 2012 image: Sotheby’s

At least that’s how it looks on the secondary market. Vo’s global network of top-flight dealers know a thing or two about placing “difficult” work with “connoisseurs.” Those McNamara chairs, purchased at Sotheby’s for $146,000, were promptly stripped for parts, which were sold as separate works to nine of Marian Goodman’s most well-cultivated private and institutional clients. And some of the wonkiest Gothic and Hellenic scrap mashups with the grossest Exorcist titles are in the collection of Francois Pinault. Then Vo installed them in the Dogana alongside scrap metal rented [rented!] from Cameron Rowland and plastic tarps David Hammons dragged into Mnuchin’s joint from the street.

Two things that stuck with me from the Guggenheim, and any time I see one of Vo’s spare, deliberate installations: he makes almost as many objects as he shops, and he shops a lot.

Just a few of the editions, mostly photogravures, Danh Vo has produced with Niels Borch Jensen starting in 2010

Vo makes a lot of very interesting editions, which get equal treatment in his shows, even if they don’t garner equal attention. An easy place to start looking is the sheaf of photogravures Vo has produced with Niels Borch Jensen. There was a burst of activity in 2010, starting with Joseph Carrier’s photos of Vietnam; various family snapshots; and a candid photo of the artist who, at that moment, would have been his ex’s ex. Loaded/awkward. Anyway, seven of the 12 prints in the screencap above are in the show, and that’s still just the tip of an iceberg.

Danh Vo, Seasons Greetings, 2011, ed. 24, for the Fredericianum, image: newarteditions, which doesn’t have it.

The first Vo edition I regret not getting was Seasons Greetings, made for his show at the Fredericianum in Kassel. A gift box contains a T-shirt from the Statue of Liberty; a coffee mug with a Barbara Bush quote on it from the GHWB Library shop; a book about Ted Kaczynski Harvard sued out of print; and just when you think the loaded-souvenir-shopping-as-practice has gone too far, there is a card on which Vo typed out the name of the show, JULY, IV, MDCCLXXIV– using Kaczynski’s typewriter.

I started thinking about these editions because Tim Schneider hadn’t mentioned them, at least not directly. Tim broke out the auction performance for Vo’s works: of 52 pieces to come up for sale, 13 were not gilded cardboard or Statue of Liberty chunks, and 6 of these 13 were bought in. And two of those six, I realized, were the same piece.

Danh Vo, Untitled, 2009, two Imari plates previously owned by Gen. Lyman Lemnitzer, ed. 7/12, not sold by Blake Byrne at Phillips NY, Feb 2016.

Two examples of Untitled, 2009 (above), from an edition of 12, had come up for auction: one at Phillips in 2016, from Daniel Buchholz (est. $8,000-12,000); and another, from Bortolozzi, in Christie’s London in 2015 (est. £10,000 – £15,000). [Christie’s deletes webpages for unsold lots, so unless you have a print catalogue, or an artnet database, you’ll need an Internet Archive.]

Untitled (2009) in 2010, hanging in Danh Vo’s kitchen. He opened his apartment as a venue for the Berlin Biennale. image: kunsten.nu

When Vo turned his apartment into an exhibition site for the 2010 Berlin Biennale, they were hanging in the kitchen [above]. And before that, in a Summer group show in 2009, Daniel Buchholz showed them in Köln. That credit line also includes an auction catalogue for the estate of Gen. Lyman Lemnitzer, which was unmentioned anywhere else.

Lot 3498: Lyman Lemnitzer’s Japanese dinnerware, as purchased in 2007 by Danh Vo for $625+premium, image:liveauctioneers.com

Which immediately got me wondering. And sure enough, there it is: 2007, Alderfer Auction in Hatfield, Pennsylvania. Among the various lots of Japanese Imari ware Gen. Lemnitzer had accumulated were two lots of twelve matching plates in slightly different sizes. They totaled, with premium, around $1200. Even as a barely emerging artist, I’m sure he netted out.

How low can you Vo? Lot 0402: 2pc Imari porcelain plates, looking very Vo-ish, sold for $60 in West Palm Beach, image: liveauctioneers.com

The super weird thing, though I didn’t know how weird yet, was that the day after I was searching for Vo’s 11-year-old sale, a near identical pair of Imari plates was coming up for auction in West Palm Beach. The pattern was identical, the marks identical, the sizes were very slightly different, but maybe not out of the auction houses’ margin of error. The auction estimate was $40-60. Even by the cruelest market calculus, that seemed like an unlikely price curve.

There must be thousands of plates like this, I thought, wrongly. A search through almost ten thousand auctions for Imari porcelain plates turned up only one that matched the Lemnitzer plates Vo bought and the two in front of me. [Sidebar: there is too much stuff in this world.] Could this pair be an overlooked Vo edition? If it was, could it be rescued? More interestingly, if it wasn’t, did it matter?

The auratic weight of provenance, history, culture, and memory are at the crux of Vo’s work. He buys the objects he buys because of these associations, and he puts them in an art context, where their backstory operates like an informational dye packet that explodes when you read a wall text, irrevocably staining the object in your mind, if not your eye. You can complain about the inertness or opacity of Vo’s objects, and their reliance on explanations, but I’m pretty sure he dgaf. And by the time you realize it, it’s already too late; Vo has changed the way you see–and think about–what he’s put before you.

So can that connection be severed? And if severed, can it be reattached? If it never existed, can it be conjured by an identical object? Vo spends an awful lot of time shopping. It’s probably the main part of his practice, besides chopping. These intangible issues, evocations, and associations hover around every transaction we make; it’s how brands work, how fashion works, how art works. Vo transposes his objects from one sphere–the historical, political, or personal–to another, but every time we trawl through eBay or a museum shop, so do we. Consumption and the mechanisms and networks of capitalism implicate us all.

Whether these Floridian plates once sat on the shelf of the American father of the Vietnam War is immaterial. Because now these plates evoke Danh Vo. And that is something.

If you bought these plates, please know that you did so because the liveauctioneers app gave me the false impression that I had placed a winning bid, and then gave no warning before it closed the sale. While you enjoy your plates, I will enjoy thinking about them.

On Some Historical Objects Relating To George Washington

St Paul’s Chapel celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2016. image: trinitywallstreet

Built in 1766, St. Paul’s Chapel is the oldest public building in New York City and has been in continuous operation for over 250 years. When its sister parish Trinity Church (built 1698) burned down in 1776, St. Paul’s Chapel served as the primary place of worship for the likes of George Washington while Trinity was rebuilt. This august, historic, sacred space contains one of the two earliest public depictions of The Great Seal of The United States, of which visitors to this site have so recently read.

And St. Paul’s Church is also the place where my critique of the impertinent treatment and presentation of The Great Seal gets laughed out of town like a mobbed up president’s stooge claiming attorney-client privilege.

The Great Seal of the United States painting and friends, St Paul’s Chapel c.2013, image: pastinthepresent

Behold the wide shot of the painting of The Great Seal hanging in its original spot, over the Washington Family Pew (reconstructed to some non-original spec, apparently some time after the radiators went in), and sandwiched in between World Trade Center Relief Swag exhibitions made of PVC jungle gym and clip-on tracklights? Are these original, historic exhibition fixtures made by first responders in October 2011?

#neverforget? no problem! what is this? c. 2013, image via pastinthepresent

Is it still there? Because this photo was taken in 2013 by historian/blogger Michael Lynch. So maybe it’s gone? I honestly don’t know whether to scream or ask for their fabricator’s contact info, whether to help one of the richest parishes in the country Kickstart some proper vitrines or take a vow to never show work again without a PVC kiosk.

But Professor Lynch is not through. He also went to Federal Hall, the site (but not the building) of George Washington’s inauguration on April 30, 1789. I have stood on the porch of Federal Hall. I have seen a musical version of the life of JP Morgan performed on the steps of Federal Hall. I have gone to the gym many times across the street from Federal Hall, but somehow I have never been inside Federal Hall.

Fragment of Federal Hall 1.0 Balcony on view at Federal Hall 2.0, c. 2013, image: pastinthepresent

So I have not known about the slab of the balcony from the original Federal Hall, which is on display there. The National Park Service calls it a balcony, but looking at this engraving of Washington’s inauguration, I might call it a loggia.

Federal Hall, Seat of Congress, 1789 engraving by Amos Doolittle of Washington’s inauguration, image via wikipedia

Anyway, despite being the site of the 1st Congress, the formation of the United States, the adoption of the Bill of Rights, and Washington’s inauguration, Federal Hall went back to being City Hall when the capital decamped to Philadelphia in 1790. And then New York City tore that place down in 1812 when they built their new City Hall.

Pay no attention to the little cart behind the blue curtain. Also, elevator out of service, probably. image: intro-ny

Fragments of the building were saved, including this piece of brownstone from the loggia, which apparently went on display at Bellevue Hospital until it was returned in 1889, for the centennial. And it was given a coat of concrete, so they could carve it. And it was put in a frame on little wheels so it could be rolled around. Oops, it broke. At least now we can see the actual stone under the concrete skin, the part where the concrete repair came off also.

Here is a concrete-coated-and-carved piece of stone which you can barely see the original of, which used to be on the building here, till we tore it down, and anyway, George Washington probably stood on this to found our country. Or near it, it’s really hard to say. But this is how we do, and it apparently always has been.

fragment of the balustrade of the original Federal Hall where G. Washington was inaugurated, painted wrought iron, later oak base, collection: NYHS

Fragments of the building were saved. In a minute I have found another: the balustrade of the balcony where Washington was inaugurated. It, too, went to Bellevue, where it was incorporated into a portico. Perhaps this stone was, too? Anyway, in 1883 the balustrade went to the New York Historical Society, where it remains. [Interesting. A 1917 catalogue of Old New York views distinguishes between the NYHS and Bellevue balustrades.] It is positively lyrical. Was it by Pierre l’Enfant, who was commissioned to renovate Federal Hall in 1788? Yes. It is dated 1788-89. Thirteen arrows. Wrought iron painted yellow-gold. The New York Historical Society was headquartered in Federal Hall in 1809 and took the city’s donation of some of the original furniture.

fragment of a painted silk flag flown at George Washington’s inauguration, Apr. 30, 1789, collection: NYHS

And back to painting. Here is a fragment of a flag flown at Washington’s inauguration. It is about four inches square, paint on silk, with part of the word PRE[sident] visible.

I don’t yet know what to do with this information and these objects, but it must be something.

Previously, related:
Untitled (George Washington’s Coffin), 2016–
This window from Hanford is being sold as ‘Manhattan Project Glass’
The hydrogen gas generators of Prof. Thaddeus SC Lowe’s Union Army Balloon Corps

Of The Great Seal Of The United States

The Great Seal of The United States, painted by an unidentified artist in 1785 for Trinity Church on Wall Street. image: Trinity Church

In 1776 a committee of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin were charged by the Continental Congress with creating an official seal, a sign of sovereignty and authenticity, for the new United States. Two committees later, in 1782, the primary suggestion from their committee included in the final design was the motto, E Pluribus Unum. Other committees, meanwhile, contributed the eagle, and the use of 13 elements–stars, stripes, arrows, olive leaves–to symbolize the original states in the Union.

The final design was described in terms of its heraldic elements by Congressional Secretary Charles Thomson, and this text remains the law Congress enacted in June 1782. Thomson provided an engraver with a sketch, which was turned into a die and put to use by September.

In October 1785, as the new Constitution was being negotiated nearby, the Vestry of Trinity Church on Wall Street commissioned an unidentified artist to paint one of the earliest public depictions of the Great Seal of the United States. The painting was installed on the north wall of St. Paul’s Chapel above the pew reserved for George Washington’s family. The pew is gone, but the painting (above) remains.

After his inauguration in April 1789, President Washington asked Thomson to transfer custody of the Great Seal from Congress to the Department of Foreign Affairs. It has remained under the charge of the Secretary of State ever since.

The counter-die of the Great Seal of the United States, at the Department of State, or it was…

Between 1782 and 1885, four dies were created as replacements were needed, with minor changes or heraldic corrections each time. But since 1885, the die’s design has been fixed. It was installed inside a new press in 1904, and in 1986, the current die, along with a master die from which all future dies may be created, was put into service. An officer of the Department of State uses the Great Seal for 2-3,000 official statements, treaty documents, ambassadorial appointments, and such, per year. It is most widely seen via its depictions on the back of the $1 bill and the covers of US passports.

Untitled (Art In Embassies), 2018, 8 x 8 x 1 ft, inkjet print on fabric, powder-coated aluminum, plastic; ed. 1/3+1AP installation view, US Embassy, Peru, 12 Apr 2018

With this context in mind, I hereby announce a new work, Untitled (Art In Embassies), which went on exhibition this week in some courtyard at the US Embassy in Lima, Peru. It comprises a pop-up The Great Seal step & repeat tradeshow photo-opp backdrop and thirteen folding chairs, arranged in a circle.

The installation is visible in these photos showing the US’ official representative to the Summit of the Americas, a relative of the president with no experience or actual role, who cannot obtain a security clearance because she and her family are under criminal investigation; eleven alumnae of some economic development grant programs of the previous administration; and someone’s tio.

Previously, related:
Untitled (Presidential Seal), 2017, ed. 25+5AP
The Great Letterpress of the United States
How ya like How Ya Like Me Now?

Untitled (Avoidable), 2018–

Each of the five elements in Tony Smith’s sculpture Wandering Rocks (1967) has a name: Smohawk, Shaft, Dud, Slide, and Crocus.

 

Wandering Rocks National Gallery of Art installation view, image via nga.gov

Of the edition of five, at least one Wandering Rocks is installed indoors. The National Gallery’s is on the lawn [above]. The Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park’s, which is the artist’s proof, was previously installed on and around a woodchipped path [below].

Tony Smith’s Wandering Rocks Olympic Sculpture Park 2012 installation view, image via seattlepublicart.com

Wandering Rocks has since been moved.

Wandering Rocks, OSP 2018 installation view, image via: tylergreendc

This installation seems a deliberate mockery of the plaque at the OSP, which is a quote from Smith:

What is my intention? It is a new measure of man, in forms of free space, in terms of space that is defined but not enclosed, in terms of measurable space that flows so subtly into the infinite that it is impossible to know where the boundaries of art and nature lie…”

Placing art is hard. Placing sculpture in public is harder still. So many decisions can detract from the experience of art, or can thwart the artist’s intentions. With close looking and self-awareness, it is often possible to overcome these environmental obstacles and appreciate what the artist has accomplished. Additional benefit can be gained by understanding what the curator’s intentions might have been, too, whether or not they achieve them.

For the experienced art viewer, it is a special challenge to appreciate the work and understand its context while identifying the flaws, errors, or shortcomings that mar its presentation. A wonky spotlight. No benches. Audio bleeding from the video installation two galleries away. One or two of these, we can let slide. When such seemingly avoidable distractions pile up, though, and threaten to ruin an art experience, perhaps a conceptual artistic exercise can help.

To deal with unnecessarily problematic encounters with art, I propose to turn the third most egregious or annoying thing about it into a new work of its own. It may not solve the problems you identify, but maybe you’ll get some relief from art’s power to give significance and meaning to your annoyance. Maybe the thrill of discovering installfails and the interpretative exercise of ranking them will become a reassuring relief, if not a delight, when you look at art.

the creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act.

Wrote Duchamp, who could not have imagined a work whose form–indeed, its entire existence–is predicated on the spectator’s decision to conjure it through affront.

Now, I don’t want to uncritically gamify your museum visits. Being compelled to contemplate an artwork about your connoisseurship of annoyance could become infuriating if it begins to intrude on. Every. Freaking. Poorly glazed. Painting. In the place. But it could also lead to an awakening, a liberation from the burdens of the imperfections of the external world, which in turn fosters deeper encounters with the art in front of you. Deciding not to conjure the work by deciding not to log more than one or two annoying things in an encounter is a valid, and powerful, option.

Untitled (Avoidable), 2018, dimensions variable, the third most annoying thing about an art installation or encounter, image: tylergreendc

And so in honor of the eagle-eyed spotting of the sprinkler cover sitting in the lawn next to Wandering Rocks, between the otherwise unremarked-upon stanchions and the steel cheese grater fence, I have designated this work Untitled (Avoidable).

May it be ever at your service. Send pics.

Previously, slightly related:
On Tomason, or the flipside of dame architecture
Tomasons and Akasegawa Genpei, translated

Not Untitled (Sold Out)

Lots 365, 369, and 388 in Wright20’s art & design sale, 19 Apr 2018

A pre-emptive note: I have seen Carl Auböck’s 1950s-era stone and leather paperweights coming up for auction at Wright20 in a few weeks.

Though they bear a superficial formal resemblance, they do not quality as editions of Untitled (Sold Out).  If you submit them for authentication, please be assured that I have logged their dimensions, patina, and images, and I will know immediately that you did not buy them at a Nordstrom’s Christmas 2016 pop-up shop, so please save me the hassle and you the certain public embarrassment.

19 Apr 2018 Lots 365, 369, and 388: Carl Auböck II, Paperweights, est. $1000-1500 each [wright20.com]
Previously, related but not: Untitled (Sold Out), 2017, Leather-wrapped stone from Nordstrom

Gursky Street View

Andreas Gursky, Utah, 2017, at the Hayward Gallery, London, thru Apr 2018

Whether it heals all wounds, time does cool all hot takes. When the Gursky show opened at the Hayward Gallery in January, I was immediately set off by this kicker from Laura Cumming’s review in The Guardian:

But the show’s masterpiece is unlike almost anything Gursky has made before. It is a new work, a single shot of some prefab houses skimmed on a mobile phone while driving through Utah. The photograph registers the speed of the car racing through the landscape – and modern life – in all its random glitches and blurs. At the same time, the houses look perilously ephemeral against the ancient mountains behind them. This fragile little thing, a spontaneous and disposable shot, is enlarged to the size of a cinema screen – a monumental homage to the mobile phone and the outsize role it plays in depicting our times.

Not just Gursky using a phonecam, but Gursky doing something new? Now that is news.

In addition to the phone and all its quotidian implications, what caught my attention was the subject: Utah. I had, just a couple of weeks before, driven along the very road in southern Utah as Gursky. I was also in the middle of a two-month mess on my server, which necessitated rebuilding my blog and its underlying software and databases. But that could wait until I identified the precise stretch of highway Gursky had captured. So I set out again, on Google Street View.

From the geology and the development, it was possible to narrow down the site of Gursky’s photos to the roads around Zion National Park, and east from Zion and Kanab, toward Grand Escalante and Staircase National Monuments. The sections of this rural, two-lane highway with guard rails and fresh blacktop were even fewer. And none of it matched.

This section of Utah is very sparsely populated, and very few roads cross it at all. So the options dwindled very quickly. But on the road between St George and the border-straddling polygamist towns of Hildale, UT and Colorado City, AZ,  I recognized the striated mountain range immediately. But there were no houses at all.

outside Hildale, UT, image: gsv

Which, two things: it’s now obviously a composite. But before that, those poles. Gursky’s original image is full of blurs and artifacts, including what are apparently some disembodied pole fragments. These artifacts, coupled with the disparate blur on houses, patios, guard rail, etc., led me to assume Gursky had experimented with an iPhone’s panorama feature from a moving car. That he was exploiting the stitching algorithm of the phone, a source of found digital manipulation.

Google Street View saw what Gursky saw, or vice versa

But of course, this turned out not to be the case. What hit me during these first few days was that this Gursky was being presented as a single image when it was now obviously a composite.

And so I set out to find the site of the other, lower half. Which, with every Streetviewed mile, was turning out to be an entirely fictional, constructed composition. While trying to rebuild my webserver I wandered the highways again, finding this or that house; meanwhile the more accurate version of Gursky’s process emerged: that he’d taken photos with a phone, and then returned to reshoot sites with his regular camera, and–like always–he just fixed the whole thing in post.

So my Gursky bust turned into a Guardian factcheck. And I was left dissatisfied, again, by Gursky’s view, even as I grew intrigued by Google’s. I found myself indexing the differences: vantage point, height, date, blur, glitch, and stitching. I imagined Streetview’s rooftop, panoramic compositor, and Gursky’s passenger driveby–which turned out to be a tripod on the shoulder. And I tried to imagine what it’s like for a maker of ambitiously scaled images to work in a world where giant companies are constantly taking a picture of the entire earth. Maybe the better digital analog for Gursky’s practice isn’t Google at all, but etsy.

Gursky Street View, v.1, 2018 –

In good etsy form, I have knocked off Gursky’s image by collaging the elements I’ve found. If/as I find more, I’ll add them until…until what? I don’t know, I guess until it’s done, or I get bored. If you see something say something.

There Is Another Sheeler Photo Of Baroness Elsa’s Duchamp Portrait

Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, Portrait of Marcel Duchamp, 1920, photo: Charles Sheeler, published in the Little Reiew, 1922. image: brown.edu

After 6 years and 72 issues, I am sure glad Margaret C. Anderson hung in there to publish one more issue of her avant-garde poetry magazine The Little Review in the Winter of 1922. Because it includes a different Charles Sheeler photo of Baroness Elsa’s Portrait of Marcel Duchamp.

The one that’s been floating around, via Duchamp dealer Frances Naumann, mostly, is a more clinical, perhaps Sheeler-esque photo [below].

Charles Sheeler
The Baroness’s Portrait of Marcel Duchamp, ca. 1920
Gelatin silver print
9 5/8 x 7 5/8 inches, via francesnaumann

But besides the dramatic lighting, the Little Review version actually reveals more of the cocktail of feathers, gears, and flywheels that filled Baroness Elsa’s glass. Also it’s sitting on a plate.

All of this matters to me because this, my second favorite portrait of Duchamp after Florine Stettheimer’s, is lost, destroyed. And so this kind of documentation will help make a reconstitution of it truer to the original, and less of an inspired-by approximation.

Brown University and the University of Tulsa have digitized The Little Review as part of their Modernist Journals Project [brown.edu]

Previously, related Elsa-iana: In The Beginning

Untitled (No Evil Befall Thee), 2018

Untitled (No Evil Befall Thee), 2018, latex paint and crayon on door (if I ever refabricate this it’ll probably be written by my dad? idk) , trash bags, installation shot by @JacobGarchik

Vintage wood chopped in half, Biblical evocations written on architecture by anxious parents, folks on Twitter wondering aloud about “exorcism gone wrong?” Sounds to me like New York City’s caught a case of Danh Vo Fever!

[s/o to the OG Twitter Garbage Sculptor Jayson Musson]

Untitled (A Painting For Two Rooms By Cactus Cantina), 2017

Untitled (One Painting For Two Rooms By Cactus Cantina), 2017, cornflower blue and green wall paint, landscape painting (framed), charcoal, dimensions variable, installation view

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.

Gerhard Richter, Two Sculptures for a Room by Palermo, 1971, plaster & wood, painted, in ochre room, image:gerhard-richter.com

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.

Untitled (One Painting For Two Rooms By Cactus Cantina), 2017, cornflower blue and green wall paint, landscape painting (framed), charcoal, dimensions variable, installation view

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.

Beuys again:

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?

Untitled (Macomb Wall Painting), 2017, eggshell finish paint, painting hook, est. 36×40 in., installation view

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.

Previously, related: http://greg.org/archive/2016/01/29/untitled-border-2016.html
http://greg.org/archive/2016/05/27/monochrome-house.html