Tyler Green Modern Art Notes
Archive for April, 2006
The Smithsonian American Art Museum’s blog, Eyelevel, features a nice Kriston Capps post on Lucelia-winner Matt Coolidge. (Strange to me: If you’re SAAM, and you have a blog, and if you’re trying to build an audience and a national presence ahead of you’re opening… why don’t you make sure that your in-house blog breaks the Lucelia story a few days before everyone else?)
The Guardian’s Jonathan Jones muses about whether being wealthy ruins artists. (Thanks AJ.) Jones’ became interested in the question when he learned that Damien Hirst, whose last show was Whitney Biennial-bad, is worth $180 millon. He goes on to cite examples of wealthy artists who churned out self-obsessed garbage (Dali) and artists who continued to make good work.
This all reminded me of Agnes Martin, who died in Taos last year. (She was 92.) Martin lived in a Taos ‘retirement home’ called Plaza de Retiro. (Yes, really.) In a previous life Plaza de Retiro had been a ’50s-style drive-in motel, a ‘motor court’ in the parlance of the day. To outward appearances it had not been substantially upgraded for its conversion into a retirement home. The day I drove by the dirt courtyard was muddy with puddles and there was no sign that the courtyard had ever been landscaped. It was not Rummy’s Ranch. And to the end, Martin’s paintings were fantastic.
The hip museum idea of the last year or two is rooftop sculpture gardens.
In Tuesday’s SF Chronicle, John King told us about SFMOMA’s competition to design one on its parking garage. (SFMOMA has an exhib of the six finalists, too.) MAMFW has a rooftop space, but last time I was there (December) only this Henry Moore was installed. And Renzo Piano has included a rooftop sculpture space in his Whitney expansion design.
Much-rumored, now official: The Armory Show will be held the same weekend as the ADAA fair next year: Feb. 23-26. That’s less than 11 weeks after Art Basel Miami Beach.
Newspapers — well, some of them — are beginning to get hip to art blogging. I still haven’t found a MSM blog that’s as good as the best two or three dozen sites on my blogroll, but the MSM is trying. All of which is a long way toward saying that the Boston Globe’s Geoff Edgers has started Exhibitionist. (Today Edgers tells us that the MFA Boston’s fundraising campaign should be complete in about four years.) So far Edgers gets the blogging thing: Smart, short-if-possible, regularly updated: Good start. Growing pain: The link on the page to the Globe’s A&E coverage actually goes to the food section. (This actually isn’t so bad — you should see my daily drama of attempting to navigate the LAT’s arts section.) Other blogroll adds:
“From a psychological standpoint I find the spectacle of war very impressive,” Marcel Duchamp said in 1915 shortly after his arrival in New York. “The instinct which sends men marching out to cut down other men is an instinct worthy of careful scrutiny. What an absurd thing such a conception of patriotism is!… Personally I must say I admire the attitude of combating invasion with folded arms.”
Thanks to the diaspora of artists caused by the Great War, Dada arrived in New York. The American version wasn’t as polemical as European dada, but it was plenty informed by the carnage it had fled. Jean Crotti’s Clown (1916) is a plainly transitional piece: It’s whimsically cute, but it hints at the rearrangement of bodies that was going on in Europe.
Back in Berlin, dadaists eviscerated the ruling classes that had led the continent into war. In New York dadaists eviscerated America’s insularity and its obliviousness to millions of deaths. In Berlin, artists who had witnessed the awesome killing power of new machines questioned the benefits (and the motives) of militaristic industrialization. In New York, dadaists poked fun at where industry was leading consumers. Or they poked fun at consumers. Or at consumables. Or all of the above.
All of these themes are present in Man Ray’s wonderful repeating coat hanger sculpture Obstruction, which hangs over the center of the New York dada gallery. Seen in the context of the rest of curator Leah Dickerman’s show, Obstruction reads as a commentary on the war. an Ray specified that an infinite number of coat hangers could be used in the piece, to the point where coat hangers completely filled a room. With a simple consumer object — Americans loved those! — Man Ray mimicked the endless piling up of bodies in Europe.
In Cologne dadaists focused on the psychological effects of war injuries and how the war had transformed men into stumps. (Berliners were plenty fascinated with this too.) In New York, a dada dude transformed himself – into a woman.
It is Marcel Duchamp’s transformation into Rrose Selavy that best captures the spirit of New York dada. Duchamp had just left a continent on which dual monarchies, the Entente powers, Serbs, and Magyars (Magyars?!), decided what role the individual filled: infantry lieutenant, ambulance driver, whatever. People were chosen for those jobs in large part because of who they’d been before the war: Serb or Croat, a resident of this duchy or that district.
By contrast in New York, Duchamp’s assertion of the individual’s power to make his own choices was striking. He transformed himself into who he wanted to be. (And, apparently, he wanted to be a punny French dame with a come-hither look.)
In defense of the pink pajama-lovers, it is in New York where dada begins to take on its anything-as-art mantra. Duchamp, in a letter back to Paris, declared objects in his studio to be ‘readymades’ and asked his sister to send them to New York. (Too late: She’d already cleaned out his studio.) It is also where Dada found its sense of humor — distance from the war created space for a few yuks. (‘We escaped!’ the artists seemed to know.)
It is here where the NGA’s installers join in the puns. Throughout the show, each gallery is labeled by it’s city name. So just as I left “NEW YORK” for “PARIS” I realized that I was really entering “ARIS.” The “P” had been covered up by Duchamp’s urinal.
Related: The exhibition catalogue is 40% off.
To be announced tomorrow (but on MAN now): The Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Lucelia Award will go to Matthew Coolidge of the (completely awesome) Center for Land Use Interpretation.
I’m in the current Black Book magazine, writing about a trip I took to visit Andrea Zittel at A-Z West just after Christmas. Zittel lives in the middle of nowhere, and I tried to convey that in my lede:
Out of Los Angeles on Interstate 10, through two hours of inner-city, suburbs, exurbs, and past an Indian casino, beyond the turn-off for Palm Springs, past wind-power-generating turbines twirling in the wind, past a curiously punctuated sign that says “Buds Tires,” past the convenience store where you can buy a poker-chip money clip for $5.95 and a “Support Our Troops” yellow ribbon magnet for a dollar less. Then up Highway 62 — a four-lane highway on which SUVs go 70 mph in the left lane and ATVs go 15 mph in the right; past a mobile home that has blown across the desert and come to a stop up against the raised road; through Morogno Valley, where a radio ad explains how to use a pawn shop; past the “Dig Your Own Cactus 39 Cents” store; and finally to a steep, rocky hillside across the highway from a strip mall which features the county heath department, a cardiologist, and a bail bondsman.
Here is about three hours east of L.A., and four hours west of Phoenix—in the middle of the Mojave Desert, in Joshua Tree, California.
I’ll have some more posts on Zittel, her work, the survey show that’s now at the New Museum and A-Z West for the next week or so. But first: Zittel is a blogosphere star. Here are a few posts I’ve read about her recently:
Cally Creates digs the A-Z Uniform and found a Japanese write-up of Zittel;
Dexigner shows us A-Z Wagon Stations in their natural environment;
Art Marketing Secrets with more on the A-Z Wagon Stations; and
My AJmate John Perreault with the A-Z of Andrea Zittel.
Related: The Zittel exhibition cataloge is 40% off.
Admin note: I think MAN had some interesting newsy-ish items yesterday, so scroll on down. And at least three US art museums offer free wifi. See here.
Welcome to the first in what will be a monthly offering: Great moments in GawkerForum. As you must know by now, GawkerForum is Artforum’s attempt at publishing something blog-like. It is the worst imaginable mix of society reportage, self-infatuated writing, and tangentially-art-related party coverage. In fact, the operating credo of GawkerForum apparently is that art doesn’t matter — the parties that happen between art installations are everything. So without further ado, the April version.
“Some have criticized [Francesco] Vezzoli as an opportunist whose only talent is for drawing attention. Then why did so many of us show up? Herd instinct? Glamour quotient? Need for love? I’ll leave that to art history…” — Linda Yablonsky. Art history is interested in determining why people showed up to a Larry Gagosian party? I should be nice: At least Yablonsky didn’t compare attending a Vezzoli-Gogo party to covering a war.
“I headed inside, picked up a program, seating card, and sugary-sweet lychee martini, and took the lay of the already bustling land.” — Michael Wilson. Bustle: To move or cause to move energetically and busily. If the land really was bustling, either this story is from 1906 or Wilson has a much bigger story than he thought.
“I learned that you haven’t really lived until you’ve been stuck in a small elevator with large personalities like Jack Pierson, PaceWildenstein’s Douglas Baxter, and retired JPMorganChase art advisor Manuel Gonzalez; and, second, that you really haven’t lived until you’ve lived.” — Linda Yablonsky. Is being in an elevator with an artist, a dealer and a retired consultant that critical a life experience? Also: Apparently you haven’t lived until you’ve name-dropped – which, come to think of it, should be GawkerForum’s subtitle.
“After the reception, the sluggish elevator to the dinner in Klagsbrun’s West Village penthouse gave us time to reflect on Sullivan’s success.” — Linda Yablonsky. (What is it with GawkerForum’s elevator fascination?) And while an elevator ride isn’t much time to ‘reflect’ on an artist, it’s pretty much the closest GawkerForum came to ‘reflecting’ on art all month.
“The afterparty took place a block away at The Cock, the recently-relocated gay bar on the site of another known as The Hole, where the gallery crowd were squashed against bemused regulars while enjoying the open bar and a chance to flout the city’s smoking ban.” — William Pym. If you’re going to bars with names like ‘The Cock’ and ‘The Hole’ and all the mischief going on is the flouting of the smoking ban: The party is lame.
“I spoke with pinstriped photographer Hollister Lowe, who had braved the second phase of the evening, to find out what he was making of it all. ‘Rivington Arms openings are always great because of the people they attract,’ he told me, ‘I come for the inspiration of the crowd.’ ” — William Pym. Another possible GawkerForum subtitle: Who needs art to inspire you when you have the crowd?