The opening date of the IMA’s 100 Acres: The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park is less than a year away, and work is picking up at an increasing pace. 100 Acres will be one of the largest museum art parks in the country, and the only one to feature the ongoing commission of site-specific artworks. Around here it’s become commonplace to interact with one of the eight artists making an inaugural installation on site or in a 100 Acres meeting. Construction and planning is well underway on all of the projects.
Being responsible for the preservation of these new installations continues to precipitate developments in our long-term approach. For the past five years, I’ve been helping to care for the more than 50 outdoor sculptures on and around the IMA campus, but the installations within 100 Acres will require a slightly different kind of understanding of preservation.
For example, the IMA’s iconic 1970 LOVE sculpture has been installed on the grounds in at least 4 different locations, and at least 3 other locations elsewhere before it was acquired by the IMA in 1975. Unlike LOVE, the 100 Acres works will be intrinsically tied to their locations.
Once 100 Acres is open, the IMA will continue to commission new site-specific, endemic, large-scale installations and artworks for the untamed woodlands, wetlands, meadows and 35-acre lake of this museum art park. As far as I know, a project of this scale is unprecedented. When I thought about art conservators with experience working with site-specific outdoor installations, the first one that came to mind is my friend Francesca Esmay, the conservator at the Dia Art Foundation. While it remains to be seen if any of the 100 Acres installations will become as iconic as Walter De Maria’s The Lightning Field or Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, I was very interested to understand her approach to managing the preservation of “art that extends beyond the traditional exhibition framework.”
I asked Francesca about the maintenance and conservation documentation of the Dia collection, in particular for Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty.
Francesca Esmay: There are a lot of facets to the preservation effort at Spiral Jetty, so I will try to talk through all of the different approaches that Dia is taking. I guess two main things to point out right from the start is that (1) the piece entered Dia’s collection in 1999, so for most of its life it has not been under the purview of Dia; and (2) it was substantially submerged for almost 30 years! It emerged in 2002 and has been almost consistently visible since then, at times with water levels so low that there is exposed lake bed for hundreds of feet around the sculpture, really with no water in sight.
Obviously this change in water levels has impacted the physical materials of the Jetty. It becomes intermittently encrusted with salt crystals each time it emerges from the Great Salt Lake, dramatically coloring the basalt rock white until the salt wears away and the rocks return to their black color. Along with this more transient shift in color, the change in water levels have created areas of erosion, simultaneous with areas of new deposits of silt and sand from the lake.
Since we at Dia are still gathering information around the history of the piece, I cannot say what, if anything, was done to it in terms of prior physical interventions or “restorations” during the years before it came into the collection. If anything had been done it would have been in the early 70s, since it became consistently submerged not long after it was finished in 1970.
As far as routine maintenance for the sculpture, I check the water level online from time to time, to make sure the sculpture is still visible! And to a certain extent, we attempt to roughly gauge the number of visitors to the site, although we don’t keep hard data on that and rely instead on estimates from the park officials at the Golden Spike National Historic Site. We have contacts who live in Salt Lake City who regularly visit and report on anything noteworthy, and we typically have someone from the staff and/or colleagues visiting the site providing reports as well. I have managed to see the piece once per year since joining Dia in 2006 and plan to maintain that schedule so there is a formalized, regular documentation of the sculpture and its changes.
Specifically in regard to that effort, I recently collaborated with the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) to explore ways to document the piece in a more systematic way. I worked with Rand Eppich, senior project manager in the Field Projects Group at the GCI, who deals with photography and documentation for the projects they work on — many of which are archaeological sites. He and I spoke about the idea of using those methods to document Spiral Jetty and we met there in May of this year to launch a collaboration.
- Works by Art21 artists Pepón Osario (Season 1) and Eleanor Antin (Season 2) are currently on view in the exhibition Black&WhiteWorks at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts. The show includes painting, sculpture, drawings and prints by more than twenty-five artists, many of whom are associated with the history of the gallery, which was founded in 1971. The exhibition continues through July 31.
- Through October 19, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles will display a selection of objects from their permanent collection with a particular focus on the past five years. Titled Collecting History: Highlighting Recent Acquisitions, the exhibition includes works by Mike Kelley (Season 3) and William Wegman (Season 1).
- Wegman’s work is also on view at the Scottsdale Museum of Art in Arizona in the solo exhibition, Unexpected Wegman. All forty-five pieces on view are held in the museum’s permanent collection; some have never before been exhibited. In addition to the artist’s well-known Weimaraner portraits, the exhibition includes facile prints Wegman made with the Segura Publishing Company beginning in 1985. Unexpected Wegman continues through January 2010.
- Season 1 artist Barry McGee is included in the group exhibition Work Now, which explores the concept and meaning of “work” in our present society. The exhibition is on view at Z33 in Belgium through September 27.
- See images of Lance Armstrong’s bike–with graphics by McGee–at Supertouchart.com. According to the website, the bikes was created to commemorate Armstrong’s competition in the Tour of California this year. McGee’s signature characters “populate a carbon fiber frame masterfully altered to resemble a vintage metal race cycle literally ‘ridden hard and left out in the rain’ one too many times.”
- Kara Walker and Martin Puryear (both Season 2) are mentioned in Kinshasha Holman Conwill’s recent article about the push to bring greater diversity to the White House art collection, and the importance of supporting African American artists. Read Conwill’s piece for the Art Newspaper here.
- Through September 12, the Otis College of Art and Design presents Superficiality and Superexcrescence, an exhibition focusing on the work of thirteen Los Angeles-based artists–including Season 4 artist Catherine Sullivan–who remake superficiality “not as a condition to be resisted, but rather one to be analyzed and manipulated.” A full-color catalog is available for purchase.
- The Southwest School of Art and Craft presents Texas Draws I, an exhibition of drawings by thirteen artists from various parts of Texas. Work by Houston-based artist Trenton Doyle Hancock (Season 2) is included, along with drawings by Benito Huerta, Jules Buck Jones, Jayne Lawrence, Mona Marshall, Christine Olejniczak, Katie Pell, Jimmy Peña, Regis Shephard, Bonnie Young, and Eric Zimmerman.
- Season 4 artist Mark Bradford will lecture at the Dallas Museum of Art on July 23 at 7pm. Bradford’s work is featured in the museum’s exhibit, Private Universes, which continues through August 30.
Greetings from Memphis and Happy Moon Landing Day.
Here we go. I’ve never done this before. Well, not really. I’ve tried it twice. The first time, nobody cared. The second time, I was posting syllabi for my students, so the deck was stacked in my favor. But this is new to me, an unknown known, as they used to say. They probably still say it—I just did. This is already wandering, which I’m going to justify by thinking of a blog as nothing more than a mediated thought process. At least for today, until I get limbered up.
I wrote a list. It’s a nervous tick that I presume creates organization. For an absolutely miniscule moment, I thought I’d be slick and draw up a chart that linked everything I was going to discuss into one highly legible image, but the list came instead. It made me wonder if charts were no longer sufficient for making order of my world…if I had entered into some kind of post-Barrian existence, which made me sad because I truly love Alfred Barr’s chart, if only as part of a Sisyphan struggle to hammer it into a form closer to the way I understand Modernism, which is a fun, if futile, endeavor. Futile fun. Almost as enjoyable as fun futility. I’ve just ticked off the second thing on the list. The first was the moon landing.
The list, in truth, is compensation for my own sense of wonderment at this task of blogging. Self-consciously blogging about blogging seems excessive, but a logical place to start. One of the notes on my list says “admit implicit delusions of grandeur afforded to the blogger.” Please don’t misunderstand me. I doubt this will be the best thing you read today, or ever. But this forum certainly fertilizes the megalomania. Art21 offers a beautifully blanche carte to its bloggers and, like all blogs, the possibility that everyone on the Internet will read what you’ve said. It’s an odd thought, given that most of what most academics write sees only a limited audience. This whole blog format is truly amazing, way more than the Facebook…Edmund Burke above the mists and the like. I thank the Art History gods that I recently reread parts of Barthes’ Mythologies and Eco’s How to Travel with a Salmon. Now, at least, I can point to them when I write something embarrassing. “Well, you know, it’s not like I’m Roland Barthes…” See what I mean about delusions of grandeur? I’m presently finding comfort in the notion that smoke signal-sending humans were the first bloggers.
New post: We’ve got ourselves one of those hairy elephant things for dinner over here. Bring some berries. We’re out.
Ostensibly, I’m to discuss art, which brings me to a point I’ve been trying to make for a while to anyone who is caught in my sights. Everyone should go to the library and get a copy of Susan Sontag’s Against Interpretation and read the essay of the same name. At the very end of a very exciting argument, Sontag says that we should all replace a hermeneutics of art with an erotics of art. Less think, more fun? Probably not what she was going for, but I’d like to imagine that there is something in here that we’ve been neglecting. So in the spirit, I’m going to make an absolutist statement, meander around what might count as an argument, and then ask everyone else to help me supply the evidence.
In celebration of the fifth season of Art:21—Art in the Twenty-First Century, premiering this fall on PBS, the current round of Flash Points topics correspond to our upcoming four thematic episodes: Compassion, Fantasy, Transformation, and Systems.
After a few weeks of Compassion, up next is Fantasy. The signature question for this topic is:
Does art expand our ability to imagine?
Additional questions to ponder include:
- How might personal dreams and cultural taboos shape our vision?
- How does our desire for perfection control us?
- What role does technology play in wish fulfillment?
Throughout this time, we’ll publish in-depth posts about the artists profiled in the forthcoming Fantasy episode — Cao Fei, Mary Heilmann, Jeff Koons, and Florian Maier-Aichen — as well as feature musings from our roster of guest writers, extending the theme beyond the series to real world correlations, questions, and perhaps even discomforts.
Help us start the conversation by leaving a comment below. Feel free to note other artists whose work addresses the theme of fantasy — we’d love to collectively envision a broader landscape of how it is considered in contemporary art practice. And save the date for the Fantasy episode which debuts nationwide October 14, 2009 on PBS!
When I learned that Doris Salcedo was being featured in Art21′s episode on Compassion, I couldn’t imagine a more appropriate artist to represent this theme. However to me, Salcedo goes beyond feeling compassion for the victims she represents in her work to being completely enveloped in their reality. By doing so, she’s able to give a voice to those who were silenced. This is especially strong in her work, Atrabiliarios, which powerfully illustrates what is left behind from the “disappeared ones” — empty shoes and unhealed wounds. This work is one of the few owned by the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, and was featured in our exhibition Portrait/Homage/Embodiment. The shoes, which are recessed in niches that are covered by roughly-sewn animal skins, are abstracted representations of individuals who have “disappeared” as the result of political violence in Colombia. The power of the work comes from Salcedo’s strong and immediate connection with her subject’s world.
While contemplating what to write for this post, I remembered that Salcedo gave a talk in St. Louis back in 2002, when the work was purchased. Looking through the transcript, she describes how you cannot understand a situation by analyzing it from a comfortable distance—something I think we’re all guilty of every time we open a newspaper. To fully connect with a situation she asks you to go beyond analysis and be “in the world” — to delve into the history and the lives of those involved. She emphasized that she considers her art to be “impotent” in actually changing the circumstances behind these terrible stories. However, the ability of her work to communicate is not only strong, but essential in continuing the memory of the victim. When a viewer contemplates Salcedo’s art, the pain of the victim being represented reaches out and connects with each viewer’s own memories of pain. This personal and private interaction with the work elicits compassion from the viewer and in that moment, connects him or her to the victim.
In a series of timely posts on Modern Art Notes, Tyler Green discusses the use of art as a means for understanding the difficult subject of torture. I feel that this sentence in particular can be applied to Salcedo’s approach to her work: “Perhaps because they embrace ambiguity rather than reject it, artists often excel at embracing emotionally and intellectually difficult subjects.” Through the openness of her work, Salcedo is able to communicate a fuller reality of the individual she represents, beyond newsprint or a CNN ticker. The violence inflicted upon the victims, the materials left behind, the artist’s position and that of the viewer — all of these combine to create a powerful cross-section of experiences and emotions, resulting in a stronger sense of understanding and compassion with those represented in the work.Rachel Gagnon Craft is Communications and Web Manager at the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St. Louis, MO.
Many thanks to John d’Addario for his insightful and exciting posts on New Orleans contemporary art scene. Be sure to read his interview with Dan Cameron about Prospect.2, which launches in Fall 2010.
Up next is Adrian R. Duran, Assistant Professor of Art History at the Memphis College of Art in Memphis, TN. He received his Ph.D. in Art History from the University of Delaware in 2006 and specializes in Twentieth Century Italian art. He has published articles and reviews in Carte Italiane, CAA.reviews, Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide, SECAC Review, and Number: an independent arts journal. His current projects include a book on Il Fronte Nuovo delle Arti and articles on Grandmaster Flash and Leoncillo Leonardi.
I don’t understand why anyone would like Elizabeth Peyton, but I also don’t understand why anyone would like egg whites or Coldplay or The Shawshank Redemption, so maybe I’ll never understand. Her first UK solo show at the Whitechapel Art Gallery is so fey and self-conscious that I had to crush a can of Bud against my forehead and punch the wall out of sheer repressed masculine frustration. The drive to the police station and subsequent waiting around for my lawyer gave me sufficient time to mull over Peyton’s work. If I did like her work, what might I say about it? That its intimate scale and willful prettification of some of the nineties’ butt-ugliest pop stars brings together teenage fandom and the tradition of 18th-century portraiture? That its objectification of sallow Caucasian male beauty strikes a blow for the female gaze? That the breathless swishiness of her paintbrush and contre-jour light effects create poignant elegies to the transience of youth? That Peyton’s reimagining of Delacroix as the drummer in The Strokes and Napoleon as a Lower East Side DJ is somehow a radical reinterpretation of history? In Peyton’s words, Napoleon was “a beautiful man and he had a big vision about life.” Ever seen Elizabeth Peyton and Sasha Baron Cohen in the same room together?
Meanwhile, at Camden Arts Centre, Johanna Billing’s absorbing and beautiful film works – on TV screens, large projections, and portable DVD players – generate an effortless intimacy that looks willfully dumb in Peyton’s work. Her latest film, I’m Lost Without Your Rhythm (2009), follows a group of Romanian dancers and musicians rehearsing in a big drafty mansion, whose trust falls and neck rolls are spliced among images of walking, tripping, cleaning, bicycling so that everything becomes a kind of dance of interconnected bodies. Billing’s sense of accidental beauty grows out of the participants’ relaxation in front of the camera, rather than – as in so much nominally participative art – the participants guilelessly enacting the artist’s themes. It’s hard not to draw parallels with Antony Gormley’s current One and Other project in Trafalgar Square, in which participants, inaudibly elevated above the crowds, are subsumed to self-congratulatory political and artistic ends. Billing’s ongoing You Don’t Love Me Yet project (started in 2002) asks musicians, of all levels, ages, and nationalities, to perform a little-known 1984 Roky Erickson song (because most of Roky Erickson’s mid-eighties songs are really well-known). The results, each on a separate DVD scattered across a table in the main gallery space, can be watched individually on little DVD players, which feels appropriate. Each has the shambolic, intimate, DIY feel of a self-released covers album produced by a small town rock band. Repetition and ham-fisted musicianship renders the plaintive lyrics (“To be or not to be/That’s the question unceasingly”) into a kind of mad football chant of slacker celebration.
Thanks to the New York Times, my area of London has transformed itself into a mecca of cappuccino bars and organic delis, so to get the rough-around-the-edges feel a contemporary art fan like myself thrives on, I need to decamp to somewhere less gentrified. Hannah Barry Gallery is currently staging a group show of contemporary sculpture, entitled Bold Tendencies, on the top level of a multi-story car park in the heart of Peckham, an area of London often euphemistically described as “edgy.” Guest projects by roving curatorial and gallery projects (The Sunday Painter, New Model Army, Field, and Lucky PDF) occupy some of the vast windblown lower levels, whose huge apertures fill the spaces with light and give onto the broken-tooth skyline of central London. Delicate film and slide projections on cracked concrete piloti play out a lo-fi unfussiness that would seem precious if it weren’t for the overarching spirit of generosity that the whole thing generates (a series of Tweets documents the whole thing here). A take-off of Barnett Newman’s Broken Obelisk from MoMA’s atrium – a plywood obelisk whose apex, broken off, wobbles on a spring from the fractured base – is an assertion of relative institutional impotency like something out of Bruno. It might be the Negronis talking (there’s an excellent Campari bar on the top level), but the Peckham installation feels like an exit strategy for an art world in the throes of insecurity.
EXCLUSIVE: On the roof of his Brooklyn studio, artist Oliver Herring photographs Davide Borella during an exhausting performance as Borella spits various colors of water, tinted by food dye, up into the air and onto his face.
Among Oliver Herring’s earliest works were his woven sculptures and performance pieces in which he knitted Mylar, a transparent and reflective material, into human figures, clothing and furniture. Since 1998, Herring has created stop-motion videos, photo-collaged sculptures, and impromtu participatory performances with ‘off-the-street’ strangers, embracing chance and chance-encounters in his work.
A friend of mine told me how she first learned of rape: rape happens when someone forces all your clothes off, her brother explained. My friend was, of course, horrified.
I learned about rape at the Sauk County Fair. I picked up a graphic novel at a booth, and, while I don’t remember the novel at all, I remember one phrase from the author’s biography: “raped at knifepoint.” She had been a young black woman and the one with the knife had been a white man. I imagined it happening in a barn (in the filmy, strangely accurate way I understood white-on-black violence, farms were emblematic sites), though I didn’t really know what it was. I did vaguely understand that her subsequent pregnancy meant the legacy of what happened would probably outlive her.
It’s difficult to understand the pain of others. Even now, I still often think of rape as silently happening in rural places, leading to new lives that will be tacitly ignored by those of us who weren’t there.
Art is at its most incisive when it breaks into that chasm between our own misunderstandings and the pervasive pain we don’t know how to acknowledge. Though I saw Doris Salcedo’s Shibboleth, an austere fissure that split into the foundation of the Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall, only in photographs, I felt it acknowledged the difficulty of compassion with penetrating accuracy.
Salcedo works in an aloof way. Yet she’s always gutturally grappling with the most emotive and threatening sides of life—piling wooden chairs in an alley in such a way that makes death absurd and daunting, filling furniture with concrete to commemorate people whose lives have been made irrationally inert, or breaking open the floor of the Tate Modern. She responds to explicit problems—political violence in her native Colombia or racism in the post-colonial world—but her work has wide ramifications.
At first glance, Shibboleth struck me as a cold Minimalist ploy, a Richard-Serra-like testament to the power of single physical gestures. And I suppose it is cold and minimal. But watching a video of visitors stepping over and around the fissure, becoming inadvertently separated from each other, unable to close the gulf and unsure of how to navigate it, emphasized the fragility of our understanding of ourselves. What is compassion? How close can we really get to someone else’s pain? What we do once we’ve witnessed trauma?
After immersing herself in the pain of others, Salcedo has emerged with inert, gapingly industrial gestures. Cold and mute like architectural ruins, they give compassion a pragmatic face.
Welcome back to BOMB in the Building, where each week we’re featuring a BOMB interview with a Season 5 artistâ€”or one that corresponds to the theme of the artistâ€™s work. Inspired by Doris Salcedoâ€™s discussion of witnessing, victimization, and the brutality of power, we dove back into our Archive and unearthed an interview with another Third World artist, Regina JosÃ© Galindo.
In this BOMB interview with novelist Francisco Goldman from Winter 2005, Galindo, winner of the 2005 Venice Biennale Golden Lion, discusses social action, inaction, karma, and her intensely personal performances that stem from her rage at the violence and corruption in Guatemala, then and now.
Suffering and Compassion: itâ€™s not just within Buddhism that these ideas interpenetrate and inform each other. Salcedo and Galindoâ€™s works share an inescapable truth: art is about experience.
Francisco Goldman: I imagine that we should begin with a few words about what is happening today in Guatemala. Hurricane Stan, the flooding, the terrible loss of lives, the general calamity that is going to sink people even deeper into lives of inescapable poverty. What did Guatemala do to deserve so much suffering?
Regina JosÃ© Galindo: To me this question feels too deep, too heartrending. As you say, my country has suffered an eternity of calamities of all shapes and sizes: a mortal conquest, the maltreatment of indigenous villages and the negation of their rights throughout our entire history, the Gringo intervention, an infernal 36-year war, evil governments, spine-chilling levels of corruption, a murderous army, histories of violence that are a daily nightmare of inequality, hunger, miseryâ€”and now this, which unlike the aforementioned things is a natural disaster. How is such karma even possible?
But you ask what Guatemala did to deserve all this. Perhaps the proper questions would be: What havenâ€™t we done? Why have we been so afraid, and tolerated so much fear? Why have we not woken up and taken action? When are we going to stop being so submissive?
I feel impotent, unable to change things, but this rage has sustained me, and Iâ€™ve watched it grow since I first became aware of what was happening. Itâ€™s like an engineâ€”a conflict inside me that never yields, never stops turning, ever.