It’s been something of a French spring in Los Angeles, as the Ceci N’est Pas… initiative, organized by the French Embassy, has brought numerous Gallic artists and curators to town for residencies, group exhibitions, and other fun projects. Some of the projects have had intensely LA-centric themes, such as the high-profile group exhibition LOST (in LA), which used the television show “Lost” as a loose framework within which to explore creative linkages between LA and France. Such projects have presented intriguing opportunities to look at our city’s histories, cultures, and mythologies through the refracting lens of a foreigner’s gaze.
Perhaps the most endearing and welcome of these LA-focused exhibitions was LA Existancial, an examination of the legacy of influential French-born artist Guy de Cointet, who lived in LA from 1968 until his death in 1983. A local cult favorite for many years, de Cointet has only recently received wider recognition from the art world at large. Along with contemporaries like Al Ruppersberg and William Leavitt, he played a significant role in the development of California Conceptual art. Interestingly, his status as a foreigner who came here without a firm grasp of the English language played a crucial role in his practice; he came to see language not so much as a tool for conveying meaning as an archive of aesthetic objects to be examined and manipulated. His two-dimensional works made heavy use of abstract arrangements of text, influenced by Surrealist and Dada art, semiotic theory, and WWII-era encoding methods. He was also fond of staging theatrical productions, utilizing the conventions of theater to deconstruct the clichés of visual and verbal communication.
The Museum of Modern Art, Indianapolis Museum of Art, and Walker Art Center are some of the illustrious cultural spaces where one might expect to see our award-winning film series Art in the Twenty-First Century. It’s true that host organizations have traditionally included such museums, as well as universities, libraries, and cultural centers. But Art21 screenings have also happened in the unlikeliest of places, from a water treatment center in Wichita, Kansas to a research base in Antarctica to a former drill hall in Ethiopia.
In my short time here as Art21’s Director of Education, I have heard incredible stories about enthusiastic individuals and spaces opening their doors to friends, colleagues, and the general public with the sole purpose of sharing Art21’s film series. I can hardly wait to hear new stories that I’m certain will emerge during our yearlong screening initiative Access 100 Artists.
Access is our external screening program, which started back in 2007 to coincide with the Season 4 release of our PBS series. Now six seasons in and Art21 is celebrating an important milestone: to date, we have profiled 100 contemporary artists. In conjunction with our 100 Artists celebration, we’re offering our entire collection of films (including New York Close Up) totally free of charge to partner organizations new and old.
Access 100 Artists aims to be a worldwide festival of free Art21 film screenings. From a small dinner party with friends to a 24-hour outdoor jubilee, no venue is too small or too large. Anyone can participate. Here’s how:
- Register at www.art21.org/access. Share your screening dates with us and we’ll announce them here.
- Use our online resources and discussion guides for pre- and post-screening activities.
- Promote your event with Access postcards. We’ll mail these right to your door along with other materials that will help make your event successful.
- Tell us what went down! Who came? What did you screen? What did you talk about? Enquiring minds want to know.
- Add your pictures to our Access Flickr group and help us grow our visual archive of stories.
By getting involved with Access 100 Artists and sharing your experiences, the education team here gains greater insight into the many different ways that Art21 films are used and shown around the world. We’ll not only share your stories with people in our office, we might get in touch with you and ask for quotes or a blogpost. We’re looking to you to re-think the relationships and connections between the artists we’ve featured. You know what we do. We want to hear your stories!
“I was always a colorist, I’ve always had a phenomenal love of color… I mean, I just move color around on its own. So that’s where the […] paintings came from—to create that structure to do those colors, and do nothing. I suddenly got what I wanted. It was just a way of pinning down the joy of color.”
If I told you that the great French colorist Henri Matisse uttered the above words would you be surprised? Now what if I told you that these are in fact the words of Damien Hirst, the enfant terrible of the late 20th century best known for his bisected animals submerged in formaldehyde, cabinets filled with medical supplies and an installation consisting of live maggots and a severed cow’s head? The paintings to which Hirst is alluding in the above quotation are his Spot Paintings, a series of over 300 paintings currently being exhibited at Gagosian Gallery’s eleven locations in eight countries across three continents. What surprised me more than Hirst proclaiming to be a colorist in the epigraph of the press release for “The Complete Spot Paintings 1986-2011” was that, after viewing those works on view in Gagosian’s New York spaces, I could not help but appreciate the way in which the Spot Paintings resonate with Matisse’s canvases. Let me connect those dots, if you will.
Hirst came of age in the late 1980s as a leading figure of the Young British Artists group, emerging onto the contemporary scene in London through a series of audacious exhibitions highlighted by the 1988 Freeze show, a now legendary exhibition curated by Hirst while he was still a student at Goldsmith’s College. Advertising mogul Charles Saatchi attended the show, which was staged in an abandoned space in the London Docklands, and by 1991 had offered to fund Hirst’s art production. In short order Hirst produced arguably the most iconic work of the 1990s: The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991). Hirst would go on to win the prestigious Turner Prize in 1995 and before long, as his art morphed into a full-blown brand, become the poster child for the dovetailing of art and corporate capitalism.
Abdellah Karroum is a Moroccan independent art researcher and curator based in Paris, France and Rabat, Morocco. Karroum founded L’appartement 22 in 2002, the first independent experimental space in Rabat, which inspired the formation of a number of artist-run spaces in Morocco. Nationally as well as internationally acclaimed artists, writers, and filmmakers, including Adel Bdessemed, Doa Aly, Hamdi Attia, Fouad Bellamine, Faouzi Laatiris, Cécile Bourne-Farrell and others have left their mark on L’appartment 22. In addition, Radioapartment22, an experimental online radio, provided the space with a platform for hosting equally significant projects over the past decade.
Between 1993 and 1996, Karroum served as the assistant curator at the CAPC Musée d’art contemporain de Bordeaux in France. In 2006 he was appointed associate curator of the DAK’ART Biennial for African Contemporary Art in Senegal; later in 2008 he became co-curator of the Position Papers program for the Gwangju Biennale, and in 2009, the curator of the 3rd AiM International Biennale in Marrakesh, followed by the curatorial project “Sentences on the Banks and other activities” in Darat Al-Funun in Amman, in 2010.
This past summer, Karroum curated the Working for Change project for the Moroccan Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale. This research and action-based project focused on producing artworks and sharing documents. After a research period in the Rif (Morocco), the project continues in Venice with the aim of proposing and studying connections between artistic production and social contexts. Morocco’s example proved significant here at the artistic and political levels, as seen in each of the proposed artworks. This curatorial project’s “practive” approach–which involves the joining of the practice of art as research to its appearance as active production (practice + active)–seeks to activate projects, including several collaborations in Morocco with feminists and other activists.
Inhale. As you exhale your body relaxes. Exhale moving into a deep quiet place inside you… You can see off in the distance what appears to be a cave. As you approach the cave you see that there is a large opening. Enter the cave…
About 32,000 years ago, humans inhabited the Chauvet Cave in what is now southern France and covered the walls with art. Predatory animals like lions, bears, rhinos, and hyenas are etched into the smoothed wall surfaces next to a chimerical half-human-half-animal figure, abstract lines and dots, and a few unidentifiable winged things. Experts believe that the paintings had some kind of shamanistic purpose for those Aurignacian cave people. Some of what they were painting clearly came from within the mind, rather than what was running around, pouncing, and attacking cave people in the physical world.
A distinctly separate inhabitation of the Chauvet Cave occurred during the Gravettian era about 3,000 years later. Most of the paintings covering the cave walls were made during the earlier Aurignacian period, so these later cave dwellers would have been confronted with the physical marks of memory, the traces of an earlier people. Perhaps the Gravettian cave people were not of artistic and ritualistic inclination, or did not value the act of mark-making for posterity, since they left only charred remains, smoke residue, and a single child’s footprints. That cavechild was likely the last human to look upon the paintings until three speleologists rediscovered the cave in 1994. For about 25,000 years, a cave full of pictures sat unnoticed in France, a country with a rich history in painting, but those pictures afford a glimpse into the imagination of the prehistoric mind.
1. Felix Gonzalez-Torres in Deadline, exhibition at the Musee d’ Art Moderne, Paris. October 16, 2009 – January 10, 2010. Curator Odile Burluraux said of the exhibition, “Deadline has chosen to examine a group of artists who died during the last twenty years and whose concluding works are marked by an awareness of imminent death, the urgency of the task at hand and impulse to self-transcendence.”When I got to the long corridor of Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ xeroxed birds and beaded curtain at the end, I just lost it. The impression left on the beads of visitors’ bodies as they passed through, then the swishing of the beads as bodies disappeared to the other side truly struck me. I was overcome by a feeling of fragility, loss, a sense of absence all in this one moment. It was the most powerful experience I had in the museum, and that I have ever had with Gonzalez-Torres’ work. Other artists in the show: Absalon, Gilles Aillaud, James Lee Byars, Chen Zhen, Willem de Kooning, Hans Hartung, Jorg Immendorff, Martin Kippenberger, Robert Mapplethorpe, Joan Mitchell, Hannah Villiger.
2. Smithsonian’s censorship of Fire in My Belly by David Wojnarowicz from the Hide/Seek Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. An inversion of my #1? Maybe. Here, the threat of the video’s absence only strengthened the attention called to it. I went to a screening of 3 versions of the video held at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where we also Skyped with curator Jonathan Katz. This show was denied so many times before it was accepted into the National Portrait Gallery that he was not entirely surprised of it wreaking havoc. What would Wojnarowicz’s work be if there wasn’t at least someone in the religious right gnashing his jowls to tell us it’s the work of Satan?
3. Elles@centrepompidou, Women Artists in the Collections of the National Modern Art Museum, Paris, May 27, 2009 – February 21, 2011. If I was struck by lightening at that moment, I would have been ok with that – sitting in a room of projections of Marina Abramovic, Ana Mendieta, and Carolee Schneeman in their early performances. But then I wasn’t and I stepped into a Pipilotti Rist floor-to-ceiling video projection on my way to Nan Goldin’s screening room. The over-stimulation mellowed a bit when I got to Agnes Martin and Hanne Darboven, but my pleasure never subsided. I couldn’t repress a chuckle at the Guerilla Girls’ poster on my way down. Hello! 2010 = IT’S TIME TO BE A WOMAN ARTIST. DO IT! And go to the Pompidou while the show is still up.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that artists make the best curators. Mark Wallinger’s exhibition, The Russian Linesman at the Hayward Gallery last March, was a proposal about what creative curatorship might actually mean – a bringing together of historically or aesthetically disparate objects which generate unexpected “sparks of poetry” (pace Max Ernst). Adam McEwen’s show, Fresh Hell at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, is a continuation in the same spirit. Drawing on the intellectual dilettantism of the way we collate and digest information these days, and the increasing anachronism of academic specialization, McEwen’s show is a wildly disparate generator of transhistorical energy, epitomized in its display of Walter de Maria’s 1967 High Energy Bar. Set into the wall in a brightly-lit vitrine, the work – a footlong steel bar, glowering with condensed power – is the fulcrum of the whole exhibition, an object whose aesthetic and actual density lodges it in place against the onrushing stream of history.
McEwen’s theme is the weight of things, the way that art objects of particular power resist dispersal and dissolution. Like Wallinger, McEwen hops between historical periods with fluency, drawing out resonances without hammering a thesis home (as he himself says, “it’s the artworks that are in control, not the curator”). The opening room, for instance, pits a wall of silver industrial insulation panels by Rudolf Stingel (on which visitors are invited to stick notes or photos, or gouge their name in) with three huge hunks of medieval stonework: the heads of the Kings of Judah, lopped off the west façade of Notre Dame by anti-monarchists in 1793 and discovered, buried, in the 1970s. The juxtaposition invites certain readings: iconoclasms old and new, the palimpsest of history, Paris itself as a site of perennial protest. And yet the heads (which, sorry, are by far the most fascinating and beautiful works in the show) remain, despite their vandalism and interment, fully alive, blazing with authority embodied in their muscular carving and physical presence. That weight allows them to stand outside history, an idea echoed in a note pinned to the Stingel behind: “Time doesn’t exist. Clocks exist.”
This week in Roundup read about Pepón Osorio’s drowned art, Allora & Calzadilla getting shortlisted, Janine Antoni in motion, and a Hiroshi Sugimoto/James Turrell art counterpoint.
- Allora & Calzadilla are on the shortlist of artists to have their ideas selected for Trafalgar Square’s fourth plinth. The winning concept will take its place in Britain’s premier public art spot after Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle by Yinka Shonibare is taken down at the end of 2011. The latest proposals will be revealed in central London next month and the selected work will be announced in early 2011.
- Drowned in a Glass of Water, an installation created by Pepón Osorio was commissioned by the Williams College Museum of Art and is currently on display at 69 Union Street, North Adams, MA (a former Gateway Chevrolet Dealership) until September 7. It will then move to WCMA itself on Sept. 25.
- White Cube Hoxton Square (London) presents Kupferstichkabinett: Between Thought and Action. The exhibition looks at the “pivotal role of drawing in current practice, the exhibition features over 200 works on paper by some of the most significant artists working today” and includes the work of Bruce Nauman and Gabriel Orozco. The show closes August 28.
- Property developer Paddy McKillen’s new arts center at Chateau La Coste (France) will include structures designed by five of the world’s top architects and feature a complementary sculpture park that will include works from artists Louise Bourgeois, Richard Serra and James Turrell. As a work-in-progress, it could be 2011 before the art is finally in place at the new center.
The passing of Louise Bourgeois (Season 1) naturally prompted a host of critics to reflect on her life and artwork. They have written of her famed sculptures and textiles, recurring spider motif, pioneering exhibitions, childhood traumas, and the Sunday salons in her Chelsea home. Now, what about Bourgeois’s cooking?
They say that cooking is, like other art forms, an expression of one’s inner self. As I read Bourgeois’s obituaries, many of them recalling the artist’s charms and spunk, I began to wonder if she cooked? If her approach to food was anything like her approach to art? If her cooking looked like her artwork? Or what her artwork might tell us about her cooking? While these inquiries might seem random, chef Mario Batali has pointed out that “food, even more than art, allows an admirer to relate to [an] artist on common ground,” and there is perhaps no “better way to come to appreciate and understand an artist than through [her] appetite.” Luckily, I found that Bourgeois contributed to at least three cookbooks in her lifetime: The Museum of Modern Art’s Artists’ Cookbook (1977) by Madeleine Conway and Nancy Kirk, Food Sex Art: The Starving Artists’ Cookbook (1991) by Paul Lamarre and Melissa P. Wolf (aka EIDIA), and The Artist’s Palate: Cooking with the World’s Greatest Artists (2003) by Frank Fedele.
In The Museum of Modern Art’s Artists’ Cookbook, a black and white photograph shows Bourgeois, then in her mid-sixties, sitting on top of an old brick and mortar stove with a collection of pots and pans placed near her feet. There are no pictures of Bourgeois’s cooking or artwork, only her portrait and words. These pages give more of a sense of her character than the essence of her cooking:
I was told as a child in France that cooking is the way to a man’s heart. Today I know that the notion is absurd, but I believed it for a very long time. My mother was in delicate health and could not cope with long hours of work in the kitchen. To please her, I took on the responsibility of seeing to it that my father had dinner. It wasn’t easy. He often came home very late. I waited for hours to make sure that the food stayed hot and fresh—and I became expert at just that. When my father appeared and wanted a steak, I cooked it for him. In those days, a man had the right to have his food ready for him at all times. During my student years I did not cook at all. The memory of those many wasted hours lingered. I subsisted on yogurt, honey, and pumpernickel bread. I still eat the same foods today.
In front of two computers, somewhere between Detroit and Marseille, towards the Cranbrook Academy of Art, Concordia University, and Université de Provence, Corina Reynolds and Vency Yun decided to sit down in front of their Skype accounts and talk about everything related to their MFA experience. There were giggles, moments where thoughts fleeted away, but on the whole they talked about: their worries their life, their expectations, their practices, their studios, their virtual communities, and their potential life after the MFA. These videos gives you a shimmer into the life and opinions behind the walls of two art institutions and the people who reside in it. Enjoy!