Because of Prohibition, Margaret Barr had never had much more than a glass of sherry, and only on rare occasions. But she learned how to make Old-Fashioneds when her husband, Alfred Barr, was fired, or “forced to resign,” from his job as director of the Museum of Modern Art. It was 1943, World War II was on and Barr, who was the first director of MoMA and famous for championing Picasso, got the letter on a Saturday morning. When Margaret wanted to go to a movie with their six-year-old daughter, Barr went along but was in a “ghastly mood.” He showed her the letter when they returned.
It was from millionaire Stephen Clark, the chair of MoMA’s board of directors, and it said that he and Mrs. Rockefeller had decided that, really, all Barr was good at was writing, not curating or directing. And so he was being asked to relinquish the directoral job and stay on to write things if he so chose, but, of course, at a greatly reduced salary. Barr stayed inside the house for days, in despair, writing responses to Clark that he never sent. Said Margaret:
I still remember seeing him lying on the couch in the living room — still everything is exactly in the same place in our house to this day — lying on the couch. . . always in his pajamas and bathrobe. I remember kneeling beside him and offering him an Old-Fashioned in order to make him drink something so that he would eat something. It was unbelievable.
As the story goes, MoMA had hung a show by new primitivist Morris Hirshfield, with awkward, “offensive” nudes. Stephen Clark had not liked this, nor had critics. Or perhaps Clark hadn’t liked it because critics hadn’t liked it. I’m not sure. Regardless, the board forced Barr out, even though he’d made the museum what it was.
It’s probably not unfair to say Paul Schimmel made MOCA what it is – or what it has been the last decade and a half. After all, the museum’s still more or less an adolescent; it only opened in 1983. Schimmel curated at MOCA for more time (22 years) than Barr directed MoMA (14 years). The MOCA board forced Schimmel out on June 28 (they say he resigned, which is what Clark said when Barr was on the couch being force-fed Old-Fashioneds).
In this week’s roundup, Doris Salcedo’s rose shroud, several Art21 artists in documenta 13, Do Ho Suh’s Fallen Star, Paul McCarthy’s 30-foot ketchup bottle, and much more.
- Doris Salcedo’s first London show since 2007 is now on view at White Cube. Doris Salcedo: Mason’s Yard includes A Flor de Piel, an enormous shroud made up of thousands of rose petals connected to each other in a suspended state and which may transform during the course of the exhibition. This work was developed as a sculpture that was about the simple but impossible task of making a flower offering to a victim of torture. The exhibition closes June 30.
- Allora & Calzadilla, Ida Applebroog, Mark Dion, William Kentridge and Julie Mehretu are in documenta 13. This exhibition series located in Kassel is dedicated to artistic research and forms of imagination that explore commitment, matter, things, embodiment, and active living in connection with, yet not subordinated to, theory. The exhibition runs June 6 – September 16.
- Rashid Johnson‘s work is in An Architect’s Dream, a group exhibition in Washington, DC that focuses on the concept of arrangement and presentation as a unifying formal device. Johnson explores the nuanced transformations of black history and culture between his own family’s generations. This work continues his interest in the intellectuals and creative provocateurs of African American history.
- Jeff Koons kicked off Studio in a School’s Visual Arts Appreciation Week. He visited a second-grade class at PS 112 in NYC. Fred Wilson and Ursula von Rydingsvard also visited classes as part of this program.
I was recently asked by my friend Audrey Chan to guest lecture in a class she’s teaching about gender roles in art. She was planning on showing the students my own creepy, grief-and-pathos-laden grad school video piece Give Thanks as well as Mike Builds A Shelter by Michael Smith, and asked if I could suggest any other videos. Audrey had also thought of Family Tyranny/Cultural Soup, the collaboration between Paul McCarthy and Mike Kelley (featured in Season 5 and Season 3, respectively, of Art in the Twenty-First Century) in which the (loosely interpreted) act of making soup in a cooking show format is made analogous to the abuse of one’s son. It’s probably telling that my contribution was the comedy duo Tim and Eric’s internet short Just 3 Boyz, a sitcom parody which represents the cancellation, if not annihilation, of middle class American manhood in popular culture.
Like Pop Rocks and Coke, the combination of watching Family Tyranny followed immediately by Just 3 Boyz is, if not lethal, at least nauseating and generally ill-advised. In their own way, both works explore the mental space that results when mass entertainment commingles with interpersonal abuse and dysfunction; the cooking show and the sitcom revisited as sites of trauma.
In Just 3 Boyz, Tim and Eric assume parental roles. Shades is a lampshade puppet voiced by Richard Lewis, and Zach Galifiniakis plays the prodigal son, a roommate who is returning from college. Much is left unexplained: Why are these “boys” living together, especially when one of them actually went away to college, and is now returning? Why are Tim and Eric acting simultaneously like the Three Stooges and an old married couple? It is inferred that this is one of many episodes, and the awkward situation of three presumably platonic male friends sharing a suburban house echo the elaborate and unlikely means by which sitcoms keep their casts on one set.
When Zach returns home from college, the air is thick with tension. He is dressed in a Juicy couture tracksuit (actually, “Saucy” couture in this instance) and pigtails. Zach is extremely impatient and verbally abusive. Given Galifiniakis’ “That’s so Raven” jokes in his standup routine, we can safely assume Zach is playing the role of the uncompromising teenage diva; but this attitude, when assumed by a surly, overweight bearded middle aged man, is intimidating and scary. Decidedly not Raven.
Jimmy Fallon, in case you haven’t already seen this, does one hell of a Neil Young impression.
Recently I shared a video clip with one of my classes where Fallon, singing a Neil Young version of “Sexy and I Know It”, is joined by Bruce Springsteen in a duet of the song.
Crazy and fantastic performances like this are one of the things that keep me looking for new ways to inspire students. After watching the video, a few of us decided that Fallon was using a strategy employed by many artists, musicians, comedians and actors. Here he was, singing in a voice that makes you almost believe it IS Neil Young, and performing a song that Neil Young would never consider (or at least we hope). Because it was Fallon as Young singing LMFAO, it made the viewer/listener pay closer attention to the lyrics and the way the song was re-presented to the audience.
Artists such as Arturo Herrera, Mark Bradford, Paul McCarthy, John Baldessari, Jeff Koons, Laurie Simmons, Allora & Calzadilla, Eleanor Antin and even Gabriel Orozco employ a similar approach in some of their work. Each artist, in a unique way, juxtaposes elements we normally do not see together in order to make us pay a different kind of attention. In Fallon’s performance, you find yourself thinking about how the song has been given the “front porch treatment”. It feels more accessible, comical and silly than the original version, if that’s even possible, yet you wind up liking it even more each time you see it. Check it out here.
Our latest Exclusive video has just gone live–check out “Paul McCarthy: Chaos & Debauchery” on Art21.org! Filmed in his Los Angeles studio, two of Paul McCarthy’s long-time assistants — Thomas Harris and Craig McIntyre — describe the process of sculpting, molding, and fabricating the artist’s large-scale works. Likening McCarthy’s artistic approach to taking a “snapshot of disorder” that’s then meticulously reproduced, Harris and McIntyre discuss how the formal qualities of the work dovetail with themes of chaos and debauchery.
Paul McCarthy is featured in the Season 5 (2009) episode Transformations of the Art in the Twenty-First Century series on PBS. Watch full episodes online for free via PBS Video or Hulu, as a paid download via iTunes, or as part of a Netflix streaming subscription.
CREDITS | Producer: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Interview: Susan Sollins. Camera: Robert Elfstrom. Sound: Doug Dunderdale. Editor: Joaquin Perez. Artwork Courtesy: Paul McCarthy. Special Thanks: Thomas Harris & Craig McIntyre. Video: © 2012, Art21, Inc. All rights reserved.
In this week’s roundup, work by Allora & Calzadilla takes flight, William Kentridge is honored, Kalup Linzy gets rid of____, William Wegman projects Weimaraners, and more.
- Allora & Calzadilla‘s Body in Flight (Delta) is on view at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The exhibit begins with a full-scale wooden reproduction of an elite business-class airline seat. In lieu of a balance beam, a female gymnast uses the sculpture to perform a live, extensive routine. The work was first presented last year as part of the Venice Biennale and will run at IMA through April 22.
- William Kentridge has won this year’s prestigious Dan David Prize. The Dan David Foundation grants the $1 million prizes in three categories — past, present and future — for scientific, technological and cultural accomplishments. The prize, named after philanthropist Dan David, who died last year, is administered from Tel Aviv University.
- Kalup Linzy‘s Melody Set Me Free Episode 3 entitled Get Rid of____, is featured on actor James Franco’s website. Linzy also participated in a new Huffington Post video series entitled The Moment I Knew I Wanted to Become an Artist.
- Jenny Holzer: ENDGAME is at the Skarstedt Gallery (NYC). This exhibition features paintings by Jenny Holzer in which the artist uses redacted U.S. government documents where little text is legible. These documents became the grounds for the new paintings that allude to the Suprematist works of Kazimir Malevich. This show will run until April 7.
- Do-Ho Suh‘s Karma is on view at the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden in City Park (New Orleans). This 23-foot stainless steel sculpture features a male figure surmounted by a seemingly endless chain of alter egos, rising into the sky like a silver spinal column. The string of figures is faceted like a gem stone, lending a glittering digital effect to the tower. Each iteration of the man is holding his hands over the eyes of the man who precedes him.
- Charles Atlas’s Joints 4tet for Ensemble installation is at the University of Michigan Institute for the Humanities in Ann Arbor. The exhibition consists of ten video monitors set on stands of varying heights. Video loops successively focus on various parts of the human body to capture Merce Cunningham’s unique style of movement, form and gesture. Ambient sounds by John Cage, Cunningham’s longtime companion and collaborator, accompany the videos. This work is on view through March 31.
- William Wegman’s latest video Flo Flow was projected onto the exterior of the Everson Museum of Art. Wegman created the two minutes and 30 seconds long video for the Urban Video Project, a multimedia public art initiative of Light Work and Syracuse University that operates several electronic exhibition sites along the Connective Corridor in Syracuse, NY. Flo Flow can be viewed from dusk to 11p.m, Thursdays through Sundays. It continues through May 27.
Where Cupola Bobber turns deluges of impersonal information into gradually unfolding epic explorations, guest curator Helen Molesworth’s stunning show of 1980’s art at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s, shows the power of an unabashedly partisan approach to history, research, and framing of the past. (Molesworth is Chief Curator at the ICA Boston).
It’s immediately apparent that Molesworth’s dynamic, vibrant, deeply affecting show of political (in its most inclusive sense) art in the 1980’s has uncanny reverberations today. From the first moment of entering the space, viewers come into contact with a flatscreen television on which appears newly-produced, filmed interviews of artists talking about what they were up to more than thirty years ago. Many of them cite Reagan’s refusal to recognize the AIDS crisis, Thatcherism and the beginnings of neoliberalism, and most of all the political indifference to unfairness around them as the inspiration for some of the most ambitious activist art made in America to date.
Other artists featured in the video program cited the “real” end of modernism (Tony Tasset wryly remarks that the conceptualist/minimalist model of the artist as critic and art as philosophical criticism “failed, frankly”), giving rise to appropriation art, practices across media, and true postmodernism pastiche as we recognize it now.
But most of the artist interviews cite their sense at the time that, as Molesworth herself articulates, “culture is really capable of changing society.” Of all the moving art in the show–and my eyes watered more than usual, as I’ll no doubt get into soon– what’s most remarkable is how much the artists in This Will Have Been truly made work as material for democracy.
In this week’s roundup Kiki Smith explores interdependence, Paul McCarthy delves into expressionism, Laurie Anderson sees the future, Cindy Sherman deals with fiction/depiction, and more.
- Visionary Sugar: Works by Kiki Smith will be on view at the Neuberger Museum of Art of Purchase College (NY). The exhibition includes new large-scale drawings, collages, tapestries, multi-colored gilded reliefs, and metal sculpture. In this work, Kiki Smith explores the interdependence of all living things, “representing and embracing the vitality of an animistic, spiritually-charged universe”. The show will run February 4 – May 6.
- L.A. RAW: Abject Expressionism in Los Angeles, 1945-1980, From Rico Lebrun to Paul McCarthy is part of the Getty Foundation’s initiative Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945–1980 that traces the distinctive aesthetic of figurative expressionism from the end of World War II to the present. The Pasadena Museum of California Art show includes Paul McCarthy‘s work and demonstrates the ongoing relevance of expressionism as a primary approach to art making. This exhibition closes May 20.
- Tommy Hartung & Uri Aran reflects the two artists’ years of exchange and collaboration, revealing their parallel interests in storytelling and varied notions of desire, sentimentality, and sadness. The exhibition is accompanied by a published conversation between Hartung and Aran. This show takes place at White Flag Projects (St. Louis) and closes February 18.
- Kerry James Marshall‘s Black Night Falling: Black holes and constellations will soon be on view at the Monique Meloche Gallery (Chicago). This work is part of the gallery’s on the wall series, a rotation of projects viewed from the street through floor to ceiling windows. This series is intended to engage the community and challenge the white cube notion of viewing. Marshall’s work will be on view February 4 – May 12.
- Laurie Anderson was interviewed in the January 2012 issue of Believer magazine about her vision of art in the future. Anderson sees a future in which “[w]e’ll be able to be in the present more effectively” and no longer need to make art or have museums, say five thousand years from now. Anderson raises interesting questions for artists: Will art still be made in the future? If so, what will it look like?
- John Baldessari: Class Assignments, (Optional) features student works that are responses to a series of notes/instructions provided by John Baldessari, who first used them in 1970, when he was a professor at California Institute of the Arts (Cal Arts). The project and exhibition reflect Baldessari’s ongoing interest in pedagogical and conceptual approaches to art making. This show is at the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts and closes March 31.
- Cindy Sherman‘s work is on view in Blind Cut at the Marlborough Chelsea (NYC). This group exhibition spans several generations and addresses questions regarding identity, authorship, originality and reality. The work includes diverse notions of fiction and depiction and will close on February 18.
- Yinka Shonibare MBE will be exhibiting at the James Cohan Gallery (NYC) with a multi-part exhibition of new sculptures, photographs and the premiere of a new film. Shonibare’s Addio del Passato explores the concept of destiny as it relates to themes of desire, yearning, love, power and sexual repression. This exhibition will run February 16 – March 24.
- Vija Celmins, upcoming Season 6 artist Ai Weiwei, and 53 other artists have work in Lifelike, an international group exhibition at the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis) that features artists “variously using scale, unusual materials, and sly contextual devices to reveal the manner in which their subjects’ “authenticity” is manufactured.” The show will run from February 25 – May 27.
- Mark your calendars for the Barry McGee retrospective exhibition at the University of California’s Berkley Art Museum. This show will celebrate over 20 years of work from McGee. Sponsor the Andy Warhol Foundation donated $100,000 to the event, which is a testament to McGee’s work. This exhibition will run August 23 – December 9.
Up until recently, I was unaware of how difficult it is for some students (and perhaps adults) to reach into their memories and use a past event, sound, place or even scent to influence the development of a work of art. A few weeks ago as part of a larger sculpture unit exploring how memories can be represented, I asked one of my classes to sketch two different memories in three different ways for a total of six small drawings. The three ways included:
- Sketching the actual memory as best they could- no shading or intricate details necessary at first
- Sketching an abstract representation of the memory using shape, color, texture, etc.,
- Choosing a word that somehow describes the memory and then finding a way to draw or design the word itself as a representation of it.
Getting students to think about the two memories in three different ways, I had hoped, would allow them to explore what they recalled in more detail. But I was amazed- no, floored- at the number of students who “couldn’t think of a memory to try” or students who bitterly complained they “didn’t want to draw a memory.” I kept thinking that the assignment, which was part of an introduction to representing memory three-dimensionally, was broad enough to have students reach back as far as they liked in order to share a fun, funny, bizarre, bitter or celebratory memory and influence their initial brainstorming. But getting these first sketches done was pure agony for some.
Now that we’re further into this particular unit, I look back on that first week and wonder how I may have started off differently. I thought a lot about what students needed in the beginning in order to more freely explore their own memories and share them. In the end it was no surprise that I came up with basically my own advice, given to other educators many times before… Share better examples and do more “front-end” work.
While I had asked students to draw two different memories to start, I hadn’t shared very many artists at that point who use memory to inspire their own work. I also hadn’t asked students to talk with their parents or family members about what they remembered about their own childhood, just as a way to trigger certain ways of thinking. Sure, we had discussed and briefly looked into works that gave specific memories form, such as the Iwo Jima Memorial and Janine Antoni’s “Moor”. We even had the opportunity to talk about how memory is constructed and the fact that specific events can be remembered very differently by people who experience them together. But we didn’t do enough to get good quality ideas going in and as a result I have quite a few half-baked sculptures (both literally and figuratively) that explore memories even the students themselves consider inconsequential.
Looking back a few weeks, and looking forward to trying this again in the future, I would share a more diverse range of artists and art works that specifically deal with memory in various ways. I would consider sharing Josiah McElheny’s work and paintings by Susan Rothenberg. I’d (carefully) select works by Paul McCarthy and perhaps Judy Pfaff, Mark Bradford and Mike Kelley. I would even include a range of works by surrealists such as René Magritte.
Working with memory presents challenges, like many themes and ideas we choose to teach with, that are terribly difficult to get rolling without an organized, broad and juicy introduction. Still, the great thing about teaching is that we get to continuously reflect on our work and make it better for the next time around.
In this week’s roundup Do Ho Suh addresses displacement and “home,” Bruce Nauman finds inspiration in Native America, Jason Schwartzman celebrates John Baldessari, and more.
- Do Ho Suh‘s Fallen Star is under construction at The Stuart Collection, University of California San Diego. Fallen Star takes the form of a small house that has been picked up by some mysterious force, (perhaps a tornado) and “landed” on a building, seven stories up. A roof garden is part of Suh’s design and will be a place with panoramic views for small groups to gather. This can be seen as a “home” for the vast numbers of students who have left their homes to come to this huge institution, the university, which has nothing even resembling a home. A video detailing the installation process was commissioned by The Stuart Collection:
- Alfredo Jaar is one of a several participating artists whose works are on view in Being American at the School of Visual Arts’ Visual Arts Gallery (NYC). The exhibition surveys responses by visual artists to some of the most pressing social issues in America today: from recent environmental catastrophes to the pervading effects of the economic crisis; from the long shadow of 9/11 and two overseas wars to the homefront debates surrounding religious tolerance, gay marriage, capital punishment and firearms possession. This show closes December 21.
- Allora & Calzadilla’s third solo show, Vieques Videos 2003-2011, is on view at the Lisson Gallery in London. The artists contributed to the visual culture of this campaign with a long-term, multi-sited project entitled Landmark, which is informed by the following questions: “How is land differentiated from other land by the way it is marked? Who decides what is worth preserving and what should be destroyed? What are strategies for reclaiming marked land? How does one articulate an ethics and politics of land use?” This show can be seen through January 14, 2012.
- Bruce Nauman‘s Setting a Good Corner (Allegory and Metaphor), is part of a collection of modern works that are paired with Apache, Arapaho, Hopi, and Sioux art. Native American Kindred Spirits: Native American Influences on 20th Century Art at Peter Blum Soho (NYC) focuses on a single subject: how modern artists found inspiration in the American landscape and Native American arts and crafts. This work is on view through January 14, 2012.
- Drawings, an exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery (Paris) introduces two new series of work by Richard Serra, July and Rifts. This is Serra’s first major drawing exhibition in Paris since 1995 and “provides a space, a place for me to go to where I can concentrate on an activity that is satisfying in and of itself,” says the artist. This work is on view until January 7, 2012.
- John Baldessari is celebrated by actor Jason Schwartzman in this video produced for Pacific Standard Time at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA):
- Louise Bourgeois: The Spider, The Mistress and the Tangerine was screened on Tuesday December 4 at Cornell University’s Willard Straight Theatre (Ithaca, NY).This documentary features extensive footage of Louise Bourgeois and was directed by art historian Amei Wallach and art documentarian Marian Cajori. It captures Bourgeois, a lifelong feminist, constructing some of her most influential installations.
- Krzysztof Wodiczko‘s works are currently on view at WORK (London). The gallery is currently showing Krzysztof Wodiczko: The Abolition of War, an exhibition that invites the public to reconsider their understanding of the impact of war on veterans who have fought (or worked as medics) in Iraq and Afghanistan. The two featured projects, The Flame and War Veteran Vehicle, bring into focus the post-traumatic condition experienced by returning soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan. Both are based on a set of interviews conducted by the artist with anonymous war veterans and their families. This show is on view until January 14, 2012.
- Keltie Ferris was interviewed for Metro Pulse during her artist-in-residence and exhibition at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. The exhibition is on view until December 9.
- Maya Lin spoke to a packed audience on October 24, 2011 in Mies’ S. R. Crown Hall, home of the Illinois Institute of Technology‘s College of Architecture. Lin spoke about environmental conservation and her ambitious landscape artworks. Check out this video for the full lecture.
- Paul McCarthy is currently exhibiting in London’s St James’s Park and at two Hauser & Wirth galleries. In a video posted by The Guardian, Adrian Searle discusses The King, an installation that pokes fun at ideas of self-aggrandisement and debunks the myth of the male artist as hero.