Unrolling: Ghetto Gursky Rhein

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When I undertook this Ghetto Gursky experiment last week, immediacy felt important: to use just the best image I could find online rather than scanning a catalogue, for example. And printing with the quickest, point&clickiest online service I could find. The constraints would then be the focus: the “accuracy” and veracity of the image that circulates freely [approximated here by resolution]; and the ability to instantly print large-format photos in the dimensions that were once so startling and rare, they were only available to, well, Gurskys.
Literally, though, no sooner did I place my order than I realized this generated complications. Printing at 5×6 feet, the rough dimensions of Gursky’s Rhein (1996), is actually beyond the capacity of most instant printers, at least those of the vanilla consumer variety. [It’s trivial to print a vinyl banner at that size, though, but this wasn’ what I wanted.]
Which is all a long way of saying that the Ghetto Gursky test print just arrived today. It turns out that my immediate vendor choice meant it was printed in California and groundshipped. But it came rolled nicely in a large tube, and it made it perfectly intact. So that’s all good.
First impression: ghetto fabulous. Turns out high-production photography has an uncanny valley effect, too. It’s on thick photo paper, with a nice finish. The colors are true [to the JPG I used, anyway]. Standing in front of/over it, the similarity to a Gursky is surprising.
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Looking closely, though, yields its expected rewards, just the way Hito Steyerl likes it: “resolutely compromised: blurred, amateurish, and full of artifacts.” Without algorithmic smoothing or some kind of image-massaging resolution upgrade, there are pink, pixellated passages in the sky [above].
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And there are a couple of greyish digital artifacts floating in the grass as well. I was going to say that the Ghetto Rhein does not have any of the crisp focus of Gursky’s original, but I don’t actually know that to be true. I haven’t stood up close with Rhein lately, but I’m not so sure that mid-90s C-prints actually have the grainless clarity I see/imagine in my memory. As with Prince’s Untitled (Cowboy) and the life-sized Untitled (300×404) print, I’d really like to see them side by side.
But the other issue, which popped up immediately, by which point it was too late, is mounting. There was no obvious, immediate, self-serve online place for facemounting a print that size on plexi. So now it’s up to me to track someplace down, and get it done. At which point, I’ll be schlepping a 5×6 print around. And soon enough, it’ll be basically 6×7 framed. And then it gets a crate, and then it’ll need a Sprinter van, and then it’s practically a Gursky, alike in every way except its street value.

Gursky, Ohne Titel XI

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The artist blew up the passages by a factor of at least twenty; the paintings’ materiality comes into focus as the surface images lose resolution, further abstracting already cropped and isolated images. That is to say, we can hardly tell what these paintings are “of.”
This diffusion into abstraction seems to operate as a metaphor for the materiality of the photograph, the way that photographic images reveal either grain, in straight photography, or pixels, in digital photography, when sufficiently enlarged.

Katy Siegel, Artforum, 2001, on Gursky’s Untitled XI, 1999, a photo of a detail of a Van Gogh painting, printed at 2.7 x 2m.

Ghetto Gursky

Seeing Brent’s tweet of a Taylor Swift photo yesterday made me finally move on an idea that’s been percolating for several years: the Ghetto Gursky.


The Swift-as-Gursky image is key, in a way. I had kind of a falling out with Gursky’s work in November 2001, when he was shooting Madonna’s concert tour (in LA, on Sept. 13) instead of what I felt he should be shooting: the wreckage of the World Trade Center.
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Madonna I, 2001, ed. of 2
I’d been morally invested in Gursky’s work [I was not alone at the time] and its presentation as a critique of the globalizing forces and systems in the world, and I’d wanted to see his take on what seemed like the most pressing reality of the moment:

From the first week after the bombings, when I was in full CNN burnout, I wanted writers’ and artists’ perspectives, not Paula Zahn’s. The scale of the debris, the nature of the target, even in wire service photographs, it called for Gursky’s perspective to make some sense of it, perhaps.

Because I realized even then it was an idealistic and presumptuous view of art, and it was based on no actual knowledge of Gursky’s practice of artmaking. But it distanced me from the work, and germinated the seeds of skepticism that had been planted at the end of Peter Galassi’s 2001 MoMA retrospective.
The last gallery of that exhibition featured ever more massive prints, with ever less subtle Photoshop manipulations, culminating in a collage of disembodied CEOs and boards of directors floating against an abstract background. I remember thinking at the time how awful it was, and wondering where Gursky was heading–and whether Galassi had any qualms about showing the stuff.
Gursky has certainly made much better work since, but it stuck with me then how closely linked the impact of his work is to the state of the technological art and the means of production at any given moment. He was a Becher alum interested in exploring the latest developments in large-format photo printing and digital manipulation. The effect and experience of this can be stunning, but it can also be a trap. When you’re selling spectacle and production and wall presence, you have to keep up with the Struths, as well as the dozens of other artists who figure out where the 5-foot wide printers are. And the 8-foot. So there’s that.
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99 Cent “Like Warhol, Gursky has succeeded in seducing his viewers with his product.” –Phillips de Pury, Nov. 2006
And then a few years later, while working on a story for the Times, a collector offhandedly mentioned a market for Gursky exhibition prints. Which kind of surprised me. Because now there was a tension between the arbitrariness and fiction of the photographic work’s edition size, and the physical reality of these giant, expensively produced, museum-grade [obviously] objects. And the tension played itself out in, or was really only a problem for, the market, where at that moment, Gurskys at auction were the most expensive photos in the world.
Which is right when I was chatting with another collector in Miami, as we toured the family’s house during an ancillary Art Basel event. Introduced to her as a fellow collector with an interest in photography, she asked, “Do you collect Gursky?” And suddenly Gursky was stripped bare, transformed into [or revealed as, depending on your cynicism] a pure commodity, the apparently socially acceptable way of straight up asking someone their net worth. And of demonstrating your own.
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Untitled (300×404), 2009, published in 2010 by 20×200
In 2009, when I printed up copies of Untitled (300×404) using a small JPG of a Richard Prince Cowboy photo, I was interested to see what the difference was between his real, appropriated artwork and the digital image we were “allowed” to access by copyright [and gallery/institutional exercise of control].
The 20×200 editions of Untitled (300×404) got me thinking about how art discourse and the market handle [or don’t] issues of authenticity and copying, where the value lies, and where the attention is directed. And the extent to which money, class, rarity, and luxury color our experience of art, even when we claim self-awareness and critical resistance, and even if the artist seeks to thwart such influences in the reception of her work.
And I thought on the existence of quasi-illicit, out-of-edition Gurskys infiltrating the market in a don’t ask, don’t tell way, ably performing their functions as markers of capital and luxury objects. And how it was acceptable to ask if you collected Gurskys, and even when you started, but not to ask how much you paid, or how big a discount you got, or what number this here Gursky was in the edition.
And I wondered how close you could get to the experience of standing in front of a Gursky, the encounter with the artwork, the image and scale and finish and physicality of the object itself. What would happen to the rest of the experience? Could a Gursky ever generate a genuinely critical encounter of the system that has spawned it, from within that system?
And that’s where the idea of the Ghetto Gursky came from: a full-scale recreation of the Gursky Experience, made with publicly available imagery and publicly available production technology. Which, by the way, has become widespread, if not commonplace, in the decades since Gursky began using it.
What would such a commonly produced object do to the socioeconomic aura of the originals? If a Gursky were a sign of significant wealth and sanctioned taste, what would a Ghetto Gursky be a sign of? Clueless and failed aspiration–the contemporary art equivalent of putting an elaborate copy of Michelangelo’s David by the pool? We can call this the outcome the Carlos Slim. Or would it be a way to show off the modesty of one’s means? The Art Basel cheer of absolutely no one, “Hey, I have five thousand dollars!”
The polarization of the art market is such that a Ghetto Gursky has less justification for existing, and less likelihood of being sold, than a real Gursky. Which seems ridiculous. So I decided to go ahead and make one and see what it’s like.
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Rhein, 1996, blown up 4x from a thumbnail for effect
I’ve ordered a full-size print of Gursky’s 1996 photo Rhein, which is being made using the largest jpg version of the image I was able to find online. Then I’ll have it mounted on Perspex and framed, just like his original. This is not Rhein II (1999), which is like 2×3.5m long, and is currently the most expensive photo sold at auction. [An edition of Rhein did just sell at Phillips a couple of weeks ago for $1.9 million, which is not nothing, but still.]
Rhein is only around 5×6 feet, big when it was made, but now, not really, which is kind of the point. It’s also a more manageable size to experiment with. It will fit on my wall and in my car and in my storage. Katy Siegel wrote in 2001 that “”Gursky’s motivation is the masterwork, the valorization of the fetishized object of high art.” A Ghetto Gursky will invariably be as heavy and large and unwieldy and difficult to transport, store, and hang as a real one, which only contributes to its implausibility. Which is kind of the point.

Untitled (Embroidery Trouble Shooting Guide)

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When I first met Richard Serra in 1994 or so, we talked a lot about the Internet. Soon after, I began trying to imagine what a Richard Serra web project would look like. Given the way his sculptures rather definitively reconfigured the space they inhabited, I envisioned a Serra site as a single, massive, interlaced GIF, that rendered in your browser with excruciating, megalithic slowness, controlling time and processing power as well as screenspace.
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I mention this now because I think that, after my nearly 20 years online, the Embroidery Trouble Shooting Guide page at sewingandembroiderywarehouse.com comes closest to Serra’s work in terms of its spare, dauntless power.
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ETSG is created in Microsoft FrontPage. None of the HTML headings tags are closed, so the text, as Rob at boingboing puts it, grows “inexorably in size until the greatest website in the world is achieved.”
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This kind of webby, self-referential recursiveness is similar to, though the inverse of, Moonwalk, Martin Kohout’s standout YouTube video which was a conceptual standout at the Guggenheim’s YouTube Play competition/exhibition a couple of years ago.
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ETSG‘s scrolling text is also reminiscent of Serra and Carlotta Fay Schoolman’s 1973 video piece, Television Delivers People.
But of course, it’s all unintentional, even unnoticed. Apparently, the SEW folks say the page renders just fine in Internet Explorer.

Crazy 20×200.com Sale Starts at 4AM EST

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20×200.com is starting their WTF Cyber Monday sale early, at 4AM Eastern, with an eye-popping 40% off on prints and frames, as detailed above. The discount ticks down a bit throughout the day, until it reaches a still-totally-respectable 25% off by 4PM.
The discounts apply to orders over $100, so for example a framed 14×11 edition of Untitled (300 x 404), below, would be $111 instead of $185. And one of the five remaining 30×24″ prints, would be $720 vs $1,200.
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There are, of course, many other excellent prints available, too.
You can’t even get discounts like that at Basel Miami Beach, people. It is serious Crazy Eddie days over there.

Untitled (NYPD)

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It’s UN Season in New York, and the streets are filled with people enjoying the sun, and squeezing through these flat-out gorgeous NYPD barriers. Seriously, I mean, Tony Smith, Donald Judd, Richard Serra, Beverly Pepper, Anselm Kiefer, Janine Antoni, Scott Burton, Robert Gober–you see where I’m going with this? I mean, Rachel Harrison–I’d love to make a Rachel Harrison-style version of these. That would be awesome. and so much more manageable, too.
Oh, look, I was right:
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Occupy protestors on Sept. 17th in Battery Park, as covered by Bucky Turco at Animal New York
So the next thing would be a Cow Parade-style celebration across the whole city. These barriers could become a vibrant platform for artists the world over, and highly collectible, too. Munny dolls-meets-street security furniture.
I. Am. On it.

‘Domestic Objects’ Opens Tonight, Sept 5 @ Bridge Gallery

And speaking of art and politics….
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I am stoked to announce my participation in “Domestic Objects,” at Bridge Gallery on the Lower East Side. The show opens tonight, Wednesday, September 5th, and runs through October 18.
In addition to my piece, the show includes work by John Powers, Susanna Starr, and Jer Thorp & Diane Thorp. “Domestic Objects explores concepts of our constructed private spaces, belonging, family, domesticity, and material possessions.”
Which seemed to me like an excellent context and time for “Untitled” (Orpheus, Twice), 2012. It’s a piece I’ve actually been thinking about for a couple of years, but this is the first time it will be installed.
I’ve been thinking about art that doesn’t exist, and why not. “Untitled” (Orpheus, Twice), 2012, is a speculation, or a wistful reimagining, of Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ 1991 work of the same title. I’ll probably write more about it later, and how it came to be, but now I’m going to hit the road.
If you’re able to make the opening tonight, it’d be great. Otherwise, I hope you’ll get to see the show while it’s up.
Domestic Objects, 5 Sept – 18 Oct, Bridge Gallery, 98 Orchard St (Del/Ess) [bridgegalleryny.com]

‘Concept By Mercedes’

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image via 0823n’s flickr
I swear, I’ve tried to keep it all on Twitter, but in the wake of Schimmelgate, I can’t help feeling that the debate over Jeffrey Deitch’s increasingly depressing tenure at MOCA overlooks one of the most damning incidents: Transmission LA: AV Club, the Mercedes-Benz exhibition curated by Mike D that suddenly displaced and delayed the opening of Philipp Kaiser and Miwon Kwon’s Land Art show, Ends Of The Earth.
Maybe it’s been underexamined, misunderstood, or just quickly condemned as a “marketing spectacle.” But I think Transmission LA is actually a show, an unusually pure embodiment of the programming vision Deitch and his patron Eli Broad hold for MOCA, and for art itself. But that means Transmission LA also expands–and complicates–the comfortable moral outrage against Deitch and MOCA; because the forces and assumptions that gave rise to it–art as leisure, entertainment, consumption experience, luxury good and corporate branding project–are already operating across vast swaths of the contemporary art and museum world.
MOCA’s own PR weirdness about its [non-]announcement and the ostensible obviousness of the show’s marketing objectives contribute to an inaccurate perception that Transmission LA was an impulsive, hastily organized, poorly handled, maybe slightly desperate corporate rental deal: that Mercedes and its ongoing lifestyle branding initiative, The Avant/Garde Diaries, swooped in unexpectedly to save the big, hard-to-fund scholarly show set to open in a few weeks by offering a six-figure proposal for a pop-up show “curated” by their aging rapper, if only the cash-strapped museum had a space available for a few weeks.
In fact, as the LA Times’ Mike Boehm reported a couple of weeks after the Mercedes show appeared on MOCA’s calendar, such a mix of “celebrity, fashion and youth culture” were “a key reason [Deitch] was hired in 2010.” Boehm wrote,

Deitch said he helped plan the festival for its sponsor, Mercedes-Benz, including recruiting Mike D as the curator who will oversee its offerings of art, music and food. Admission is free. With Mercedes covering the cost and making a contribution to the museum, Deitch expects it to generate several hundred thousand dollars for MOCA’s more conventional activities, while continuing his populist push.
“We need to build the museum as a social space,” Deitch said in an interview Tuesday at MOCA.

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image via Breaking Through – In Preparation for TRANSMISSION LA – AV CLUB
Deitch met Mike D [whose given name is Mike Diamond] in 2010, while participating in a documentary about Jean-Michel Basquiat by the musician’s filmmaker wife Tamra Davis. The Daily Beast, writing about the April opening, said “According to Diamond, Deitch called him a year ago to propose that he curate Transmission: LA and has been very hands-on since.” So Deitch was working on Mercedes’ show at MOCA in April 2011, and no one [sic] knew about it until six weeks before it opened.

But that is not Deitch’s only involvement in Mercedes’ branding activities. In December 2011, two months before Transmission LA was announced on Mercedes’ site, and 3.5 months before MOCA’s involvement was revealed publicly, Deitch made a an Avant/Garde Diaries video at Art Basel Miami Beach, along with Theaster Gates.
Ironically, considering the criticisms leveled against him now, Deitch’s role in the video is to provide gravitas and historical context. Specifically, it was to anoint The Avant/Garde as the rightful heirs to the “the avant-garde,” aka the world Deitch had come up in, the “small community” that was “the art world” in “the early 70s.” In other words, exactly the kind of intergenerational baton-passing that 90’s veteran, Deitch collaborator, and Avant/Garde-ist Aaron Rose called for in his recent defense of Deitch’s MOCA mission. [It’s not really relevant, but the video includes Deitch fluff-flubbing Gates’ affiliation with the Art Institute, instead of the University of Chicago.]
In his curator’s statement in the “official Audio-Visual Club zine“ [pdf], explaining how the whole thing came together, Mike D reflects some of Deitch’s curatorial light:

When Jeffrey Deitch first approached me about doing this show, the assignment was more simple. It was to pick 10 or 11 artists that I found inspiring, or was inspired by. I quickly, however, spiraled out of control.
I decided to be a bit more ambitious and go for a complete sensory experience inclusive of food, coffee, books, film, and many multi-media installations.

…I realized the theme had emerged: this notion of how visual art is informed by and inspired by music, and how that then turns back to music. after that, I knew that we also had to have a musical component to the exhibition with DJ nights, performances, etc. to complete the circle.
the food and coffee elements were conceptualized with Jeffrey originally because I thought of the project as two-fold. One is that LA is all about car culture. the tricky thing is to get people out of their homes, so you need to check multiple boxes off in one day and destination. the other is that we’re trying to create this all- encompassing sensory-rich environment.

“Pick 10 or 11” “inspiring” artists, add coffee and a DJ, crank “everything up to 11,” and you have “the new MOCA,” as Mike D put it on a MOCA blog, “a 21st Century institution that redefines how contemporary art is presented in a cultural context.” Which is modulated a bit from the way he described the show in April, before the Schimmel hit the fan: a “grown-up theme park, a Six Flags for adults.”

In The Avant/Garde’s preview for the show, “TRANSMISSION LA: AV CLUB Concept by Mercedes Benz [! -ed.] Curated by Mike D”, Diamond’s fragmented, aphoristic narration has been edited together to sound like nothing so much as International Art English, spoken with a recovering rocker patois:

Installations cranking everything up to 11…musicians…visual artists…trying to break it up…so that’s not a typical white wall, concrete floor kind of gallery experience.
An experienced curator would have said, ‘There’s no way this is going to be possible.’ But I didn’t know! [muffled laugh of whoever he’s talking to] So I just kind of like…’Do it!'”
Experiential, mind-altering fun? Like, my dream of what my house might be like. Like a fantasy of what it would be if you came over. Why don’t I meet you, we’ll have a cup of coffee, I have the big, old Tom Sachs sound system, and we’ll play some music on that.

The museum is transformed, the literalization of a dreamscape, where your fantasy of hanging out at your favorite musician’s house comes true.
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Image via 0823n’s flickr
And right in the middle of the show, waiting to upend your “gallery experience”? The 2013 Mercedes CSC, or Concept Style Coupe. Bet you didn’t expect that!
Deitch’s show, conceived by The Avant/Garde Diaries, which he has been consulting for, and organized by the inexperienced guest curator he picked, and with his intimate involvement, turns out to be more than a crankin’ exploration of “how visual art is informed by and inspired by music”; it’s also one step–sandwiched between “leaked” PR photos and an official unveiling at the Beijing Motor Show–in the highly orchestrated marketing campaign for the launch of the new, mid-sized version of the CLS 4-door coupe.
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Which is not to imply that The Avant/Garde Diaries was created by Mercedes just to launch one new mid-market sedan; it’s really a platform for shifting the cultural perception of the Mercedes brand itself. Taken as a whole, The Avant/Garde’s Diarists appear to be rebellious, creative, successful, in their late 30s and early 40s, prone to wearing large plaid, white with a token Asian–and almost exclusively male. It’s an aspirational lifestyle profile from which you can neatly reverse engineer the Mercedes driver profiles the company’s trying to counterbalance: suburban yoga moms, Orange County realtors, Hamptons d-bags, and unsettlingly blingy black folk.
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diptych via notcot
It’s also an attempt–and in Transmission LA’s case, a literal one–to make peace with a generation and culture which once considered Mercedes Benz as the contemptuous Other, the target of their scornful, youthful mischief, and to bring them–and their upscale families–into the corporate fold. And so a rapper who once encouraged his fans to turn stolen hood ornaments into necklaces is hired to make official versions for the Brand Communications team and party VIPs. And is provided with giant, authentic Mercedes logos to scatter about the galleries, and to dangle from gold chains on the front of the museum.
Mike D has traded up
image via shapthings’ flickr
[No doubt too late disclosure: I just sold one of our Mercedes; I trust the one that’s left is so boring as to be aspirational to no one.]
And this is all of a piece, not just with Deitch’s strategy for MOCA, “guest curators” and all, but with his conception of art and its role in the culture. Speaking to Mike Boehm in March, Deitch cited the fundraising difficulties faced by academically focused shows like Ends of the Earth:

It’s much easier, he said, to raise money for shows by popular figures, “where collectors are excited about the artists and brands want to be connected to the artists’ image. Fundraising for historical shows with great artists who don’t include today’s art-world stars is a great challenge.”

It’s a sentiment that comes up in The Avant/Garde Diaries’ latest video featuring 90s magazine photographer David LaChapelle and Berlin dealer Reiner Opoku, aptly titled, “Reinventing Yourself”:

[Opuku]: I’d say recently, we see a lot of need for certain brands–or the desire for brands to work with creative people. First of all, you have to find a language between these two: between the creator and the brand. Therefore you need people in between, who, let’s say, orchestra [sic] the whole enterprise, the whole idea.

LaChapelle’s reboot as a fine artist began, as you might guess, with a 2005 sideshow/”retrospective” at Deitch Projects. It’s all enough to make me wonder how deep and ongoing Deitch’s involvement with Mercedes’ marketing is.
More importantly/depressingly, it makes me wonder if there really is anything to be done about it. Transmission LA includes several artists I actually like, respect, or at least take seriously. Even Hans Ulrich Obrist has done a video for the Avant/Garde Diaries [which rather succinctly demolishes Aaron Rose’s defense of MOCA in the name of forgetting the irrelevant past. Count me as Team HUO on this one, obviously.]

Here’s Peter Saville shooting down the fantasy of a contemporary avant-garde in–what else?–his video for The Avant/Garde Diaries, titled awesomely, “Disco Ball of Everything”:

This last decade, we’ve had a broadly pluralist culture. Basically, we have a kind of, entirely multi-track system. The system has evolved to encompass all forms of provocation. We’ve entirely commercialized–and commoditized–life culture. It’s perfectly understood now that you will dress any way you like. You can have dance music with rock music with classical music. All of these genres in a multi-faceted, contemporary kind of reality. Like a kind of disco ball of everything.

If only Saville would curate MOCA’s show.
Meanwhile, museums seemingly not in peril have negotiated far-ranging sponsorships with car companies, from VW’s multi-year deal with MoMA and PS1 to BMWGuggenheim’s globehopping program on urban design. But MOCA’s Mercedes tie-up doesn’t remind me of these more traditional underwriting agreements. The closest analogue I can think of is YouTube’s complicated content/sponsorship/museum rental relationship with the Guggenheim for the YouTube Play Biennial in 2010. [For Mercedes’ part, nothing beats Arne Quinze’s Uchronian campaign at Burning Man for the 2007 Lexus LS460 for inspiration in developing a long-term, stealth co-optation of a non-commercial art context for a car launch.]
Is MOCA really only guilty of indelicate execution? Are the differences between Deitch’s boundary blurring antics and the rest of the art/museum world’s stimulation-seeking, crowd-pleasing, and corporate sponsor-pleasing differences of kind, or merely of degree? These are questions I’ve been grappling with as MOCA’s credibility has been disintegrating in front of me.
On the one [personal] bright side, it makes me feel slightly better, more aware and critical, and slightly less implicated, to have made this giant, blingy sculpture, which is now hanging in my living room:
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Untitled (MOCA Mercedes, after Mike D), 2012, ed. 10
Like the Thomas Hirschhorn chain sculptures which were its inspiration, this is made from cardboard, aluminum tape, gold foil, and packing tape. As such, it’s designed to last just long enough to serve its purpose, to be considered, favored, consumed/shown, and flipped a few times at auction. Anything longer than that will be a problem for the conservators, assuming such a position exists in the museum of the 21st century.
This one, I think I’ll keep for my self, but I suppose I’ll make a few more. The price’ll go up after Deitch leaves, with the increase going to MoCA.

Rijksoverheid Rood 9: The $50 Paint Job

Change I Can Believe In
So Todd Lapin at Telstar Logistics is starting to roll out The $50 Paint Job, and it’s really got me thinking.
Basically, it’s Rustoleum household enamel, thinned by 50% or so with mineral spirits, and applied with high density foam rollers, with wet sanding between each two very thin coats. This guy did it on his Corvair, and that moparts.org thread goes on for days, months, years about it.
As I’ve been building up layers of Rijksoverheid enamel on my own panels, using various brushes and rollers, and wet sanding in between, I’ve been working toward an ideal that’s really eluded me so far: a hand-applied painted surface that shows no marks from the application. Like, for example, a Gerhard Richter mirror painting.
Part of the motivation for this is the ease with which you [I] could order these panels from a body shop. It’d be Moholy-Nagy easy–even easier since there’s no design, just color–to just order these monochromes by the official Dutch governmental auto paint code on the phone. I have the list right here. But I wanted to do them myself.
And so far, that perfectly self-leveled, brushless, orange peel-less surface has eluded me. But reading The $50 Paint Job stories, it’s obvious why: the paint straight out of the can is too thick. And for whatever misguided, paint-can-as-unaltered-found-object reason, I have resisted thinning it. Well screw that, because the next six coats are going to be nearly water-thin. I can’t wait.
Previously: rijksoverheid rood in process
The original idea, to paint monochromes and 2-color gradients based on the 21 officially approved colors in the Dutch government’s Rijkshuisstijl, plus the five blues of the country’s new logo, all of which are derived, we’re told, from Golden Age Dutch painting and the Dutch light that inspired Dutch painting.

Study For Untitled (MOCA Mercedes, After Mike D), 2012

Mike D has traded up
OK, people, who has not been telling me about this? In Transmission LA, the very important exhibition Mike D just curated at MOCA, sponsored by Mercedes Benz?
Fortunately, Tyler Green used flickr user Eli Carrico’s image, above, for a MOCAWTF roundup, or I might have missed it for even longer.]
Here are a couple of other views, from sadjeans, who reports that “this Mercedes emblem was six feet wide,” which, really?
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And these from Nicolas Arias:
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Oops, sorry, that one’s from inside the show.
Besides its own self-evident awesomeness, it reminds me of one of my favorite artworks from Documenta 11, by Thomas Hirschhorn. Hirschhorn installed his Bataille Monument in a Turkish housing complex out of Kassel’s city center.
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To get to it, he’d come pick you up in a worked-over, old Mercedes, which I can’t believe I can’t find a photo of? Really, Internet? But that’s not important now.
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Because the work I’m talking about his contribution to the Documenta Collection by Edition Schellmann, sold exclusively at the show. CNN is a 2.5meter-wide piece of gold chain bling with the once-relevant news network logo dangling from it. An edition of 50, the original price was just EUR1200. And when it’s come up for sale it’s been just $5,000. So it’s an awesome–and inexpensive–way to fill a wall.
Obviously, if I can’t track down this original–do we know who the artist is? Mike D? Or the edition size? Did it enter MOCA’s collection?–I will be making my own edition in the Hirschhorn-ian style to celebrate MOCA’s and Mercedes Benz’s unwavering support and incisive relevance to contemporary art.
FIVE MINUTES LATER UPDATE:
OK, then, it’s a go. Notcot has these hardhitting photos from the opening. The artist is indeed Mike D. His subversive appropriation of the Mercedes logo and his deployment of it as a readymade were not limited to the patio. He had at least two more, one leaning against a fence, and one inside, tucked into a corner.
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I assume they’re from dealerships. No idea how he got a hold of them. But that does not look like six feet across; more like four. Okay, that one may be six feet. And the chains are gold[en].
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Also from Notcot: this gripping firsthand report:

So it’s only natural that when curating this art festival (which they gave him carte blanche on!) he created a HUGE Mercedes emblem hanging on a large chain in the central pavillion of the exhibition… as well as a few huge emblems tucked around the space… and then around 25 special chain necklaces with authentic Mercedes-Benz emblems for the artists and key brand folks…

Which was enthusiastic enough [“Here’s Anders-Sundt Jensen, Head Of Brand Communications, modeling one of the necklaces!”] for Anders-Sundt Jensen, Head of Brand Communications, to give said necklace to said blogger at the end of the night.
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Hmm, do we have a photo of Deitch wearing a Mercedes chain necklace?

Richteriana In The German News

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There is a review of Richteriana in this week’s DER SPIEGEL [22/2012]. Google doesn’t do tone, so who really knows, but it sounds alright. There’s not a link or an English version of the Spiegel review yet, but I”ll add them as they appear.
It’s written by Ulrike Knoefel, the art critic whose article about “the separate and secret museum” of destroyed Gerhard Richter paintings provided the impetus [and imagery] for my paintings.
I like that she noted,

Der Hinweis darauf, dass die nicht mehr vorhandenen Richter-Gemälde heute viele Millionen wert wären, brachte Allen dazu aus seinem Werk über Richter auch ein Werk über den Kunstmarkt zu machen.

And of course, then there’s the part about how, “Letzlich hat er ebenfalls große Konzeptkunst geschaffen.”
Mhmm.
If I want my Konzeptkunst to be really große, I may have to go all in, and decide to destroy whichever of the Destroyed Richter Paintings the market doesn’t take. While supplies last.

Richteriana In The News

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.

An Intentionally Incomplete Inventory of Pictures: Richter’s Bilderverzeichnis

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Photograph of a painting destroyed by Gerhard Richter, Gerhard Richter Archiv via Spiegel
Since I first started looking into them, I’ve wanted to know why Gerhard Richter destroyed some of his paintings. Because, of course, some of them weren’t “destroyed” destroyed, but just painted over, with their previous state being technically defined as a momentary completion, not a work in process. There are only a few like that in the Catalogue Raisonné, though; most of the works listed as “Destroyed” are presumably actually destroyed.
But at least they all got Catalogue Raisonné numbers. Ulrike Knöfel wrote about a different category of destroyed Richters, largely undiscussed and unseen, which were destroyed before the artist began his catalogue raisonné, and which thus, with maybe one exception, don’t have a CR number, and are thus excluded from Richter’s declared oeuvre. Even if they were authentically created by Richter, and shown in exhibitions, and offered for sale.
As Dietmar Elger points out in his biography of Richter, A Life In Painting, Richter actually conceives of the Catalogue Raisonné as a work of art in itself, one which, like Atlas, is still in process.
I recently met with Dr. Elger during a trip to New York, and we spoke about these dynamics of creation, destruction, recognition, and archiving as they play out in Richter’s practice. Elger runs the Gerhard Richter Archiv at the Staatlichen Kunstsammlungen Dresden, and maintains the Catalogue Raisonné, so he has a seat at the table for much of this history. After a brief fanboy prelude, in which he signed my book [and my copy of the Felix Gonzalez-Torres catalogue raisonne which he was also involved in], we got to talking. [We met for information, not as an actual interview, so I didn’t take notes or record our conversation, and I won’t directly attribute quotes, but just try to capture my recollections.]

Continue reading “An Intentionally Incomplete Inventory of Pictures: Richter’s Bilderverzeichnis”

Will Work Off Jpegs: Destroyed Richter Paintings

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Destroyed Richter Painting #03
First off, a huge thanks to everyone who came to the opening of Richteriana Saturday, and a high five to Magda, Postmasters and the artists in the show. It really does look great, and interesting, and provocative. If you can, you should definitely see it in person.
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Destroyed Richter Painting #04
Which is actually one reason I debated not posting images of the Destroyed Richter Paintings paintings I put into the show. One of the real drivers of making the paintings was to approximate the experience of standing in front of paintings that could now only be seen through photos. Or transparencies. Or JPGs. And to measure what the difference is between these different modes of mediated perception.
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Destroyed Richter Painting #02
I did not have access to the actual dimensions of Richter’s original works, but I worked hard to deduce the size as well as to approximate the image, so as to make the feeling of seeing a picture in person as authentic [sic] as possible, even while acknowledging that Richter made such an experience impossible.
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Destroyed Richter Painting #05
But looking at jpgs of paintings [of jpgs of paintings of photos] obviously falls short of this idealized encounter. As so much of our art encounter/consumption does. It’s a distinction that most people miss or gloss over, but which is not lost on Tyler Green, who recently addressed the subject of critics reviewing shows they haven’t seen by tweeting, “I never ‘work’ off JPEG.”
Richter actually showed most or all of the paintings depicted here between 1964-67, so in a way, there’s an aspect of going back in time, to encounter Richter and his work at the beginning of his Western career. A time when the context of the work wasn’t hype and adulation and skyrocketing prices, but bafflement, resistance, and indignation. There are early photo paintings that survive only because someone bought them or kept them; so these works, which were once good enough to be exhibited or put on sale, were rejected by the market before they were ultimately rejected by the artist himself.
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Destroyed Richter Painting #01
The one exception/mystery is Grau. This is one of the 70+ paintings that did make it into the catalogue raisonne, but which are now listed as destroyed. And if there’s a surviving image of the three destroyed grey monochromes [CR395-1-3], I couldn’t find it. So all that’s known publicly is the dimensions, and the unusual support [wood panel]. But that’s part of the beauty of the grey paintings, I thought, that you could think you could credibly extrapolate an actual painting from such minimal information. And seeing it in person really makes me miss Richter’s version–and to wonder what happened to it.