It’s deadline-madness time at MAN HQ. Back Monday. If you’re looking for the post on the art museums’ Super Bowl bet, it’s here.
Tyler Green Modern Art Notes
Archive for January, 2010
I don’t mean to pick on one writer or on one blog, but here’s a good example of why I’m enjoying the Super Bowl-wager back-and-forth between the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the New Orleans Museum of Art: Yesterday the big sports blog site SB Nation ran a post on it here: “I’m as surprised Indianapolis has an art museum as you are,” SBN editor Holly Anderson snarked.
Well, that’s the point. People who never thought about art or about Indianapolis having (a quite fine) art museum are now looking at IMA paintings. Heck, Sports Illustrated media critic/reporter Richard Deitsch is so amused that he’s posted multiple tweets about the directorial discourse. The IMA and NOMA are chest-thumping with the rest of their communities. Bye-bye fusty, hello Team Us.
I’ve always liked the way cities rally around their sports teams, the way a team becomes a point of commonality. Why shouldn’t art museums try to do the same thing — and in the process become somewhere that more people in their communities think about visiting?
In response to the proposed Super Bowl bet between the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the New Orleans Museum of Art about which I posted on Monday, NOMA director E. John Bullard has come roaring back in defense of his Saints.
First, some background: On Monday, IMA director Max Anderson initially proposed wagering an IMA loan of an Ingrid Calame painting. That was a nice choice… but apparently Anderson wasn’t too worried about having to pay off the bet: “We’re already spackling the wall where the NOMA loan will hang,” he tweeted.
On Tuesday morning, Bullard emailed MAN HQ:
“Max Anderson must not really believe the Colts can beat the Saints in the Super Bowl. Otherwise why would he bet such an insignificant work as the Ingrid Calame painting? Let’s up the ante. The New Orleans Museum of Art will bet the three-month loan of its Renoir painting, Seamstress at Window, circa 1908, which is currently in the big Renoir exhibition in Paris. What will Max wager of equal importance? Go Saints!”
Anderson TwitPics this from his seat at the Colts’ Lucas Oil Stadium. I expect a response soon…
UPDATE, Tuesday, 2:20pm EST: SNAP! Anderson tweets back at NOMA: “We’ll see the sentimental blancmange by that “China Painter” and raise you a proper trophy: [A Jean-Valentine Morel jeweled cup, which won the Grand Medal at the 1855 Paris World Fair.]”
UPDATE: Tuesday, 11:20pm EST: These museums are getting serious.
In an email I received while I was, er, on my way to dinner (sorry for the delay!), Bullard raised the stakes: “I am amused that Renoir is too sweet for Indianapolis. Does this mean that those Indiana corn farmers have simpler tastes? If so why would Max offer us that gaudy Chalice — just looks like another over-elaborate Victorian tchotchke. Let’s get serious. Each museum needs to offer an art work that they would really miss for three months. What would you like Max? A Monet, a Cassatt, a Picasso, a Miro? Sorry but we have no farm scenes or portraits of football players to send you.”
Ouch!: I suspect Bullard knows that the Indianapolis Museum of Art actually owns a farm. (It’s part of the IMA’s endowment.)
A couple hours after Bullard’s rejoinder, Anderson replied to both Bullard and to @NOMA via Twitter: “Colts will win; here’s how sure I am: [the IMA's four-by-six-foot JMW] Turner for Vigée Lebrun’s Portrait of Marie Antoinette.”
[The Lebrun, painted in 1788 when Marie Antoinette was queen and just a year before the French Revolution, is the middle image. The Turner, from 1800, is just above, at right.]
“I’m glad to see that Max has gotten serious. Certainly the Turner painting in Indianapolis is a masterpiece, worthy of any great museum. Regrettably the size, over ten feet high with its original elaborate frame, and the fragile condition of New Orleans’ Portrait of Marie Antoinette prohibits it from traveling. I propose instead our large and beautiful painting by Claude Lorrain, Ideal View of Tivoli, 1644. [At left.] This great French artist is considered the father of landscape painting and was one of Turner’s great inspirations. These two paintings would look splendid hanging together in New Orleans — or miracle of miracles, in Indianapolis.”
Bullard is right: They would.
UPDATE: Wednesday, 130pm EST: We have a deal!
From IMA’s Anderson via Twitter: “Deal — Claude for Turner. Two masters in spirited competition across the channel, and between our fair cities. Go Colts!”
And in polite, collegial reply, NOMA’s Bullard: “Max is a gracious opponent. Thanks for accepting the wager of a Claude from New Orleans for a Turner from Indianapolis. But this is definitely the Saints year. They are the Dream Team and in New Orleans we know that dreams come true. Geaux Saints!!!”
- Think there’s more to architecture than Renzo & Co., designers to moneyed discernment? You’ll love the Mammoth best architecture of the decade.
- I had no idea the Art Institute of Chicago had a blog, but that’s how I found out that the AIC is rotating Bruce Nauman’s Clown Torture out of its contemporary galleries. Here’s what’s next.
- Greg Allen has been looking into the under-examined art histories of Washington. He’s found the Tom Wesselmann painting that linked JFK and a nude and he examined hard-edge painter, Anne Truitt best friend and JFK mistress Mary Meyer.
- Possibly the most eclectic blog post on photography ever. Yes, this means it includes David LaChapelle.
- I would like a temporary writing studio, please.
- How a fantastically great Jackson Pollock ended up in San Francisco. (Re: the same painting, hello, Tintoretto.)
- Wet-plate collodion photography: It’s back.
- Linking industrial communities via art.
- So far no word from the New Orleans Museum of Art on a Super Bowl bet with the Indianapolis Museum of Art. I’ll try to get an answer by the end of the day.
Finally, museum-exhibition catalogues are going digital.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art will announce a new online catalogue-publishing initiative today. LACMA will kick off the program by publishing 10 out-of-print catalogues online. Many of them present scholarship LACMA produced during the early boom years of contemporary art in Los Angeles, including Maurice Tuchman’s 1966 catalogues for an Edward Kienholz show (several works from which are now in LACMA’s collection) and a two-man show of Robert Irwin and Ken Price, James Monte’s 1968 Billy Al Bengston publication and The Museum as Site: Sixteen Projects, the publication that accompanied a 1981 exhibition curated by Stephanie Barron.
The catalogues are being published in partnership with the Internet Archive using open-source software. Each publication can be viewed online, downloaded in PDF format, or downloaded for use on electronic book readers, such as Amazon’s Kindle. (Update: The software is Kindle-capable and includes a Kindle option, but LACMA says it is not yet distributing via Kindle.)
In April, starting with “Myths, Legends and Cultural Renewal: Wagner’s Sources,” LACMA will begin to publish some of its new extant catalogues relevant to new shows online (as well as in print). It will also develop catalogues for online-publication-only and it will publish additional out-of-print catalogues online as well.
LACMA has been in the vanguard of institutions publishing digitally for several years. In 2008 the museum put its first out-of-print catalogue online, a book documenting its 1967-71 Art & Technology Program. (That publication is also one of the 10 that LACMA is publishing with its new reader.) LACMA’s blog, Unframed, is one of the best museum blogs. The new catalogue initiative will be published on a section of LACMA’s website called Reading Room.
LACMA gave MAN a preview of several of the books it is re-publishing online. The quality is good and the powerful zoom feature make even the occasional blurry type easily readable. Complicated images — such as photos of Kienholzes — are crisp. I was surprised at how quickly the books loaded. (I don’t have a Kindle, so no Kindle test.) The export-to-PDF feature creates a strikingly clear, clean PDF copy of each catalogue. The feature is so good (and easy-to-use) that I suspect many individual users or educators will keep LACMA digital catalogues on their computers for easy reference.
Reading museum catalogues on a screen is a different reader experience than reading them in print. I found that reading digitally prompted me to make associations between work in the catalogue and newer art, associations that I could quickly explore by opening another tab in my browser. For example, while flipping through Monte’s Bengston catalogue [cover and detail above], I realized that I was thinking of Matthew Barney’s ‘field emblem’ in the context of Bengston’s stacked chevron. I opened a browser tab and looked around for information on how Barney developed his symbol and whether he’d noted Bengston as an influence. At a library I’d have had to go to the library with this idea in mind, find Bengston and Barney books in a library catalogue, asked a librarian to pull them out of stacks, and then hunted.
The catalogue initiative piggy-backs on a Getty Foundation program to re-imagine the collection catalogue in online form. LACMA is working with the Getty to put its Southeast Asian collection catalogue online. It is one of nine institutions working with the Getty on that project. (MAN revealed the Getty initiative here and here last February.)
Traditionally rights for reproductions of works was an issue or a concern for museums considering digital publications. A LACMA spokesperson told me that the museum feels good about its legal position. “We did reach out to artists on some occasions, but these are books that LACMA published,” LACMA communications director Allison Agsten said. “They’re our books and so in some instances we did take a little risk.” Agsten said that the museum consciously chose not to start the Reading Room with new books of new art, and that rights-and-reproduction issues will be something the museum continues to examine as it digitally publishes books about contemporary art.
Related: The more easily art museum catalogues are accessible, the more scholarship about art can bleed into other areas.
IMA director and Twitter-devotee Maxwell Anderson responded by wagering a three-month loan of this recently acquired painting. Nice choice… but apparently Anderson isn’t too worried about having to pay off the bet: “We’re already spackling the wall where the NOMA loan will hang,” he tweeted.
Museum directors talking trash? My, my. You gonna take that, NOMA? Follow it here.
- I can’t improve on Greg Allen’s tweet: “Glenn Ligon in Blake Gopnik’s [Washington Post] article about black artists: “We’re still the subject of articles about black artists.”
- Holland Cotter reviews New York’s contribution to the season of big, big drawings shows: Bronzino at the Met. (In Los Angeles: Rembrandt and his Pupils at the Getty.) Cotter’s review is lovely, but apparently it’s just the latest exhibition that is exempt from Cotter’s Rule.
- Patti Smith popped up on NPR’s Fresh Air to talk about her new memoir and spent a lot of time on Robert Mapplethorpe.
One of my most valued books is a tiny little tome
that Jerry Saltz edited for Frieze over a decade ago. Smartly titled,
“An Ideal Syllabus,” it features artists, curators and critics picking
their favorite or most-valued books.
Earlier this month I asked some artists to essentially re-create the exercise for MAN. Next up: Andrea Zittel, the Joshua Tree, Calif.-based artist. Zittel is currently building a ‘floating island’ for the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s Art & Nature Park. She talked about the project with the IMA’s Richard McCoy on art21’s website yesterday. (Tip: Lots of cool pictures.) Zittel’s work is also on view as part of SFMOMA’s 75th-anniversary exhibition and in MOCA’s 30th-anniversary exhibition. Earlier this month Zittel announced a new format for her long-running High Desert Test Sites project. [Image: Prototype for Billboard at A-Z West, 2007, Andrea Zittel.]
Two best ever coffee table books
Beyond Craft: The Art Fabric by Mildred Constantine and Jack Lenor Larsen. (Published 1971, 1986.) The ultimate textile book. A stunning orgy of tapestries and weavings from the heyday of craft — back when it expressed the IQ and experimentation of jet propulsion laboratories.
The exhibition catalogue for the 2001 Gio Ponti exhibition at the Queens Museum, curated by Brian Kish. One of my all time favorite designers. Gio Ponti is over the top, edgy, flamboyant and all-the-way Italian. In no way is this the tamed-down, taste-made modernism of the international style.
Two change-your-life Books
The Hidden Messages in Water by Masaru Emoto, translated by David A. Thayne. (Beyond Words, 2004.) This is my newest find so I’m undeniably enthusiastic. A Japanese scientist discovers that molecules of water are affected by thoughts words and feelings.
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. *Harper, 2008.) I’ve loaned or bought this book for countless friends. Part sociology, part pragmatism, part self-help. An astute analysis of the human mind that will change the way that you pursue your life ambitions.
Two books that hit at the dark soul of California
Where I Was From by Joan Didion. (Knopf, 2003.) First person narrative at it’s best, Joan Didion draws from details of her upbringing in central California and then dives headfirst into the dark side of the Golden State.
River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West by Rebecca Solnit. (Viking, 2003.) Ostensibly written as a biography of Muybridge, this book is also a spectacular description of post-gold rush San Francisco, railroad magnates and the representation of the last vestiges of the once-wild West.
The land is to American art what mythology, religion and belief were to European art. From nearly the beginning of American art, painters made romantic, idyllic paintings of the land. Those portrayals continued for almost two centuries. They went up the Hudson River, west to Niagara Falls, across the great rivers of the heartland, over the West and her mountains until finally the land was so used-up by Americans (and artists) that full-field abstraction was the only way left. For almost the whole of our nation’s first 200 years, this bucolia was interrupted only by horrific (staged) photographs of corpses strewn across the Civil War-ravaged land. (Aside: That art historical blip could have been part of this examination of the period.) [Image: Henry Wessel, Jr., Buena Vista, Colorado, 1973.]
Then, thanks to a group of photographers working independently of each other in the late-Vietnam years, that changed. Tagged ‘The New Topographics,’ Eastman House curator William Jenkins gave photographers who showed the docu-truth about how Americans were treating the land a show in Rochester, NY in 1975. The exhibit traveled to Los Angeles and Princeton, NJ.
The ‘new’ show includes two-thirds of the pictures in the original. It closed at LACMA just after the New Year and will travel to the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, Ariz., SFMOMA and then to museums in Linz, Cologne, Rotterdam and Bilbao. It debuted at the Eastman House last summer. The LACMA installation was curated by Edward Robinson.
The exhibition is a missed opportunity. The partial re-presentation of an important, 34-year-old show is curatorial rote recitation, a blown chance to present and re-contextualize the most important American art of the 1970s.
The current exhibition is a missed chance to re-examine the entire field of ‘new topographic’ photography, to re-historicize it and to include artists whose work not only fits the meme but whose work helped create it and who were not included in the Eastman House show. (In fairness to Jenkins and his colleagues: They did not have the resources or technology available to later curators. Presenting a reasonably complete examination of ‘new landscape photography’ is easier now than it was then.)
True: LACMA tacked Ed Ruscha onto the show by including some of his artists books, including “Every Building on the Sunset Strip” (1966). But ultimately Ruscha’s inclusion looks shrugged-in, a tacit admission that this exhibition’s curators merely (partially) re-staged a classic instead of considering a period. Photographers such as Pirkle Jones, Dorothea Lange and William Garnett — all of whom were doing what we call ‘new topographic’ work before the Eastman House artists were — deserve to have their work included in examinations of ‘new topographic’ work. Art exhibitions at major museums should be more than the re-opening of time capsules. [Image: Frank Gohlke, Landscape, Los Angeles, 1974.]
A proper re-examination of the period might also have included a look at how artists’ changed approach to the American landscape continues to influence American art today. Again, LACMA included a tack-on that’s apparently intended to stand in for dozens of other artists: A video from the Center for Land Use Interpretation that documents the oil industry in the Western landscape. I think Matthew Coolidge, CLUI’s majordomo, is an important thinker, a philosopher of the American West in the Rebecca Solnit or Marc Reisner mold, but CLUI’s inclusion here demonstrates the artlessness of its enterprise and the exhibition’s unfortunate lack of intellectual and curatorial ambition.
Upcoming on MAN: More on the show, including a look at its (fantastic, well-written, must-own) catalogue and a look at Lewis Baltz’s masterpiece.