Sunday, October 30, 2005

Happy Halloween

Or Merry Samhain, for those pagans among us.

Halloween is my favorite holiday.

In the spirit of the holiday I offer up my favorite Halloween radio program, from Kalamazoo, Michigan. It could be called audio performance art??? but only if you really need a reason. Warning for extreme oddness.

The SwaG! Halloween Special

Also, an old favorite... The Black Lodge. You probably won't fully appreciate this unless you're a David Lynch fan, but it's a super-creative use of the internet. I first came across a much simpler version of this site in the late 90's, and it's expanded into an amazing, eery world of it's own. Warning : occasional disturbing imagery. It doesn't appear to work properly with Firefox. The site is like a choose-your-own adventure of sorts. If you can't figure it out, go to "help" on the home page.

"The Kids Aren't All Right"

Snagged from Lenny, but it was too good not to comment on.

Read the article here.

Aaron Rose has come to believe that MFA programs and overeducation are destroying the creativity and individualism of young artists. Rose writes
The primary problem with this kind of education is that by diving deeper and deeper into the theoretical and self-referential, artists lose touch with their public. As a result, the public, particularly the young public, often feels alienated from art. Intentionally or not, people have been made to feel inferior to the art intelligentsia. What inevitably follows is that art becomes simply something to be bought, sold and understood by a very small sector of the population and it loses its urgent role as a means of communication or as a catalyst for social or cultural change.
This echoes Suzi Gablik's writings a bit. Having not attended an MFA program, I can't comment specifically on how graduate education impacts a young artist. I do share Rose's puzzlement when he writes
why, when we live in such a socially and politically volatile time, are these students producing stuff with little or no social relevance when they should be delivering edgy, urgent, thought-provoking work?
Now, I don't do particularly political work myself. And I don't think everyone should. But there is definately a lack of "urgency" in the mainstream gallery work of today.

I think the issue is more complex than Rose makes it, and I don't think it's only the result of MFA programs. Fashion, or zeitgeist, or whatevery you want to call it is part of it - there's very little edgy, thought provoking work being done in any sphere of American culture right now. Why? Maybe the (mainstream) culture-creators and the culture-watchers are too comfortable still, despite the social and political strains. The current lack of edginess could also be reaction to the confrontational, personal and political art of the 1990's, just as Pop art was a sort of reaction to Abstract Expressionism. And I don't think this lack can be pinned solely on young artists. Where are the edgy artists of yesteryear?

Thursday, October 27, 2005

New painter (to me, anyhow)

I stumbled across Jose Lerma's paintings in a little exhibition catalogue we just got in at the library. He seems like an artist who is still developing, but I find his work more interesting than most of the abstract/decorative stuff so common lately.

This painting is Pronounced Neato, 2005. Check out his website. He reminds me a bit of Cecily Brown, only spare instead of fleshy. Lerma is based in Brooklyn and Puerto Rico and is represented by Andrea Rosen Gallery.

More Murray

The Brooklyn Rail has an interview with painter Elizabeth Murray and curator Robert Storr.

Rail: And how do you see Elizabeth’s work in the context of the recent history of shaped canvas? There are those who would fit into that category, for example Frank Stella, Lee Bontecou, and Ron Gorchov?

Storr: The argument that I made back in the eighties when I first heard about Elizabeth’s work, that I’m making again for the catalogue essay, is that basically she’s the first painter to have fully developed the possibilities of a shaped canvas work, which is based if you want to call it on the surrealist side of the equation that Stella and others had done. It goes way back to Russia and Argentina in the 1940s. What they did was figure out how to make a shaped canvas that was faceted in a way that a cubist painting can be faceted. But the idea that the container of the painting, the support, would follow the same elastic surface geometries as the forms within the painting, the biomorphisms, that was touched by no one. And Ron [Gorchov] was the only person who has stuck his foot in the water, but he didn’t take it as far as it might have been taken at that point. And I’m a big champion of his paintings, as you know, so I’m not admitting to reasons of criticism, again, but Elizabeth simply saw an opportunity that’s been sitting there for seventy years. I think it’s indicative of how she’s important, not just why she’s important, that not being deterred by the fact that there’s no argument out there for doing it, and not trying to get in on the arguments that are always in play around Stella, and seeing physically and materially what can be done, has made a dramatic change in the paintings.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Must see collection installation

At the Hirshhorn. As part of Gyroscope (the Hirshhorn's periodic rotation of the permanent collection) one of the new "exhibits" is Sculptors and their Drawings.

From a press release:
“Sculptors and their Drawings” provides a glimpse into the creative process of artists past and present-including Pablo Picasso, Alberto Giacometti, Henri Matisse, Robert Smithson, Julio González and Anish Kapoor-and demonstrates the many ways in which sculptors use drawings: as studies for their work, as a means of liberation from the physicality of sculpture and as a way of developing and exploring their visual vocabularies.
I'm not sure if the installation is complete (I don't remember seeing any Smithson or Kapoor) but the Giacometti room is spectacular.

Visceral art experiences

Very few "museum" pieces have moved me to the point of leaving me breathless with unexpected tears - not the all-out kind of emotional release or catharsis, but of a kind of instant recognition of something more to life, beyond asthetic appreciation or intellectual fascination.

Once, I turned a sharp corner at the National Gallery and came face to face with Elizabeth Murray's giant painting Careless Love. I still have no idea what it was about the painting that struck me - usually I can be analytic about why I like a particular piece, but this one is still a mystery to me. Something about its exuberant aliveness, mixed with a sense of deeper emotions. Murray's work is never just about frivolous, cartoony imagery, as it would seem on the surface. So I am overjoyed to see that a retrospective of her work opened yesterday at the Museum of Modern Art.

NYT review here. Murray on PBS's Art21.
Edward Winkelman on Murray.

Nicholas Nixon's The Brown Sisters is another such work. I first saw this piece during one of the super crowded "pay what you will" nights at MoMA. I was there to see one of the Modern Starts shows, and was focused on the figurative painters. Somehow though, what I came away with was an awed experience of standing before nearly thirty black and white snapshots of the same four women, year after year, watching them silently progress from young to middle aged. I'd never been interested in photography, never been moved by anything like this before. I could see those women's lives in their faces, could see where one of them had gone through a bad year, when later she seemed lighter again... Every year since 1975, photographer Nicholas Nixon has taken a photograph of his wife and her three sisters. The women stand in the same order, so even without knowing their names or anything about them you start to get to know them. It's eerily intimate, and at the same time something about their gazes keeps them opaque, unknowable.

Nixon's The Brown Sisters will be on display at the National Gallery of Art starting on November 13. Modern Art Notes post on the piece, which I think reminded me of this experience.

Thursday, October 20, 2005


As always DC Art News beat me to it, but I just have to highlight one paragraph in James Bailey's response to Options 05...

Ms. Lumpkin – coming as no surprise to me – has dramatically failed in her mission to bring us the cutting-edge of D.C. art with Options 05 – instead, she has given us retrograde phantom paper cuts with the blunt edge of her condescending view of D.C. art and artists, and has compounded that error by virtually ignoring the radical voices and visions of marginalized and minority artists in this city who are not fortunate enough to be able pay the outrageous tuition to attend art school. Ms. Lumpkin, like most New York City art insiders, seems obsessed with finding the next great white hope artist somewhere out there in MFA land.

I haven't seen the show yet, so I'm withholding my own judgement, but so far I haven't read any reviews that were positive toward the show as a whole.

I myself am not very familiar with the margins of the DC art world. James, could you point us towards some artists to make up a virtual Anti-Options show??

See also this related site.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Rodin forgeries and the DC connection...

A work in progress (a very rough draft)...

As part of a larger project on Rodin's drawings I've been researching Ernst Durig, who is the only identified forger of Rodin's drawings. Durig was born in Switzerland in 1894. He claimed to have been Rodin's last student, and owned a photograph of himself as a young man posing next to Rodin. His supposed relationship with Rodin has been called mostly untrue. Durig was a sculptor, mostly of portrait busts. He managed to sculpt quite a few notables, including Pope Pius XI, Mussolini, President Truman, and the poet Tagore, though he was paid for few of these. His M.O. seems to have been to offer to sculpt a famous figure for his "personal collection" and then grow angry when the subject declined to purchase the bust.

Durig married a widow and the family arrived in the U.S. in 1927-28. Sometime after this he apparently began exhibiting and selling signed Rodin drawings, as well as forgeries of sculpture by artists such as Houdon.

He was active in Washington DC from about 1930 to the end of his life. The DC Public Library's Washingtoniana department has a file of clippings from DC papers on Durig. The librarian called Durig "tv movie material" - Durig had somewhat of a tabloid notoriety here. In 1933 he was reported missing by his wife. He was missing for about a month, and the day after his equally mysterious return he and his family were evicted from their home for non-payment of rent. There are several sensational articles in the major DC papers surrounding the events, with photographs of Durig's possessions and sculptures set out on the curb. Durig apparently attempted to destroy many of the works in anger. Both Durig and his wife made paranoid comments to reporters regarding a "powerful political enemy" who hindered Durig's artistic career. There are several more clippings detailing further evictions from the same period.

In 1937 Durig and his family were present at the dedication of his Peace Memorial in Greenwood WI, for which the city paid him the cost of materials. Durig's wife and adopted daughter were killed in a car accident sometime after this. Durig's life went downhill after their deaths. In 1958 he was admitted to the hospital suffering from malnutrition, and the next year he was taken to St. Elizabeth's hospital, where he died penniless on November 4, 1962. In an obituary a friend calls him one of the "10 best" sculptors of all time. Sadly, though he claimed to be Rodin's pupil he didn't seem to have absorbed any lessons from the artist. His sculpture was mediocre at best.

After his death a chest of papers was found at St. Elizabeths which included letters written by Rodin and "Rodin" drawings. Sotheby's initially authenticated the drawings and agreed to sell them to repay the District for Durig's care. Soon afterwards Sotheby's declined to auction the drawings due to questions about the attribution. In June of 1965 Life magazine published an expose of Durig's forgery, and by a 1971 exhibition at the National Gallery a young Kirk Varnedoe had extensively studied Rodin's drawings and outlined features of the major forgers of Rodin's drawings, including Durig.

Durig's is a fascinating and sad story. He doesn't seem to have profited much from his forgery or his legitimate work as a sculptor.

Green on Shirin Neshat

I'm sure everyone has already seen it, but I'm behind. Tyler Green is reposting his essay on Shirin Neshat's Tooba. I've only seen Neshat's work in stills, but the solemn beauty of the imagery is inescapable.

Part One
Part Two Green writes:

Neshat's utopia is the simplest of Sufi gardens. It is in virtually every shot of the film. The garden sits at the top of a hill, a single tree, about fifty feet high, surrounded by a brick wall. There are no flowering plants, just the tree in the garden’s center. Surrounding the garden is parched earth, ground that grips clumps of thirsty scrub, neither nourishing it nor letting it blow away. The sky is blue and the few clouds are white and puffy. The land will remain athirst. Only the squared garden provides shade, sanctuary, promise.

The beautiful simplicity of the tableau is Neshat at her best, both in terms of the image she creates and the way she explores a concept. By making the garden the centerpiece of Tooba, Neshat refers to both Judeo-Christian and Sufi utopias.

Part Three to come...

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Tamarind Flick'r

Check out the Tamarind Flick'r, a blog which announces mostly one-night local art shows. I keep checking the site the day after their various activities, so haven't attended one yet.
From the August exhibition. Amilcar Cruz, guitarist.

The Tamarind Flick'r is based at El Tamarindo Restaurant on Georgia Ave, an "art gallery/restaurant/lounge/acoustic venue featuring local area artists, musicians, photographers, and poets."


This made my day. Sorry, not art-related, but I couldn't resist.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Opening Tonight at the Warehouse

If you're feeling brave enough to venture out in the drizzle...


A solo show - in three parts. Pat Dunning, Alexandra Silverthorne, and Joseph Barbaccia

Opening reception October 13 (tonight) from 6-8 pm. The show runs Wednesday October 5th to Saturday, October 22nd.

At the Warehouse Theater. Image is Joseph Barbaccia's piece "Spirit". Also here, bigger and with details.

On a side note, I like the Warehouse's new web design, but really they need more information - the opening isn't listed and there is no indication as to the gallery's hours.

Call for Entries - Photography exhibition

Entry Deadline: November 18, 2005
Opening Reception: January 10, 2006
Exhibit Dates: January 2 - February 3, 2006

The Capitol Hill Arts Workshop is currently accepting entries for a juried photography exhibition running January 2 - February 4 2006. All photographic works are welcome, conventional and unconventional processes, techniques,aesthetics, approaches, subjects, material or digital works, video, and photo installations. The judge for the show is Bruce McKaig, artist, photography instructor and Chair of the Arts Workshop's Photography Department. Interested artists may submit up to five images via slides or a CD (jpegformat) to the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop by mail or in person at 545 7thStreet, SE Washington, DC 20003. Images must be labeled with artist's name, date, title, size, and process. Please include a slide or jpeg inventory list (with optional artist statement) and a self addressed stamped envelope for the return of materials. Submissions must be received by November 18, 2005 and selected artists will be notified by November 30, 2005. There is a$20 entry fee per artist to CHAW and prizes will be awarded in variouscategories.The Photo Exhibition kicks-off a series of photography lectures from localexperts celebrating CHAW's renovated darkroom and new digital computer lab. For more information, please visit or call (202) 547-6839.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Solar Decathalon

On the architecture/design side of things, check out the Solar Decathalon, now on the Mall until October 16th.
The Solar Decathlon brings together 18 teams of college and university students from around the globe to participate in this unparalleled solar competition to design, build, and operate the most attractive and energy-efficient solar-powered home.
So far Virginia Tech is in the lead. The winner will be announced on October 14th. I briefly walked past the houses this afternoon and it looks like a fascinating competition. Getting to view displays like this at lunch is one of the nicer perks of working on the mall. The exterior designs vary from the contemporary starkness of the Rhode Island School of Design's entry to the suburban Americana of Crowder College's design. If I get a change to actually go inside a few houses I'll report back.

Monday, October 10, 2005

While I was away...

There was apparently alot of rain here in DC, a mudslide in Guatemala and a huge earthquake in Pakistan... the only news source I had access to was oddly enough Fox News, which didn't bother to report on much of anything besides the potential terrorist threat to the NYC subway...

Anyway, catching up. Here's what I've found of interest so far.

Edward Winkleman on art and commerce at the World Trade Center site.

Eyeteeth on some confusion over a commissioned sculpture by Louise Bourgeois.

James Bailey on... Blake Gopnik...well, you have to read it.

Josse Ford on Robert Smithson at the Whitney.

Fire destroys Wallace and Gromit's Aardman Animations sets. Another article here.

Joy Garnett of NEWSgrist sent me a link to the new VisualAIDS blog.
Visual AIDS blog posts will range from exhibition announcements, press releases for events including the Visual AIDS monthly web gallery, the Postcards annual benefit, and relevant articles from online news and blogosphere sources. Posts are generated by staff, board members, friends and colleagues in the arts and health professions, activists, artists and guest bloggers.
Samantha Worlov has redesigned her site. Check it out.