As if by divine intervention, the revoltingly sacrilegious “Piss Christ” portrait will be going on display this Thursday at a ritzy Manhattan gallery right around the corner from the annual gathering of the United Nations General Assembly. For those who don’t know, this particular instance of free speech consists of a photograph taken of a crucifix floating in the artist’s urine. It caused a stir in the late 1980s and 1990s because the artist (Andres Serrano) had been subsidized by NEA and other public grants. Of course, Democrats staunchly defended both the work and the funding, and Serrano is a star among Manhattan’s elite liberal socialites.
Coming so soon on the heels of Obama’s condemnations of the Mohammed spoof trailer, Representative Michael Grimm (R., N.Y.) is calling on President Obama to condemn the Piss Christ exhibit.
That’s wrong. First of all, the president shouldn’t be condemning any work of art. But if you really want him to condemn the Piss Christ, this is what you have to do: Find an enterprising young artist willing to create a “Piss Mohammed” version of Serrano’s work, and ask the museum to hang it right next to the Piss Christ. It could be part of a “Piss Religion” exhibit. If the gallery declines (as it surely would), then perhaps one could gather together a small group of Manhattan atheists to march “piss portraits” of Mohammed and his fellow deities / prophets right up 1st Avenue past the United Nations, in homage to the First Amendment.
Every last person who complains will have to explain why they said nothing during the 20-plus years that the revolting Piss Christ has been touring art galleries around the world. They will be forced either to treat Islam and Christianity the same (i.e., stop trashing the latter) or finally admit the cowardly truth, which is that their degree of respect for any given religion is proportional to its proponents’s propensity for violence.
Art can be tricky. People scoff at Christo and his fabric art projects, but I lived in Miami when he did Surrounded Islands, and it was very cool. I still have a piece of the pink fabric.
However, when the Los Angeles Museum of Art announced that it would pay to haul a 340-ton boulder to a special pedestal and proclaim it a sculpture at the cost of $10 million, derision was in order.
The famously reclusive Michael Heizer [the artist] was on hand for the opening ceremonies and stood at the exit with LACMA director Michael Govan, shaking hands with museum guests and signing tickets.
“It does make the impossible possible,” Govan said to an audience of donors, trustees and government officials. “As Michael [Heizer] said to me once, ‘When do you get to see the bottoms of sculptures?”
Yes, I’ve always felt cheated not seeing the soles of David’s feet. Michelangelo? What a piker.
Some expressed wonder at seeing a large boulder (excuse me, monolith) in the midst of a city. Los Angeles is criss-crossed with mountain ranges. Beautiful boulders are everywhere, although you can’t see their bottoms.
What makes “Levitated Mass” art? Lots of blather.
Tom Wolfe wrote a biting history of modern art — The Painted Word — that argued once art stopped being something the average schmoe could understand, the art critic became essential.
We needed experts to tell us whether something was good and why. In Wolfe’s telling, savvy artists began to study the pet theories of the influential critics and painted works that fit the theory, got themselves discovered and got rich.
Here’s the LA Times art critic:
…The pyramidal stone has been cut across the bottom to fit those heavily ribbed steel shelves. Thick bolts anchor it in place, conforming to essential demands for earthquake safety. Slits at each side of the concrete floor provide drainage for inevitable rains, as do drains hidden beneath the surrounding decomposed-granite field.
Returning to the surface, other details emerge. The long channel is encircled by a lozenge-shaped line of Cor-Ten steel, embedded in the earth and rusting to a velvety brown. Decomposed granite, sloping gently toward the slot, seems like a forecast of the megalith’s slowly decaying future, reaching forward to its destiny thousands of years hence. The surrounding cityscape suddenly appears vain and fragile, the sculpture’s most affecting feature…
Well, he tried. But it sounded like an engineering report.
My advice is to visit the Petrified Forest — walk down past those stupid scenic overlooks– and you’ll be in one of nature’s sculpture gardens. There are eroded stone pedestals topped with jewel-like petrified wood. Gorgeous. You won’t need anyone to explain it.
Or for that matter, there is this stone I photographed two weeks ago at San Simeon Point, California. I was thinking of making up some fancy words about it, as satire. Instead, I’ll let it speak for itself.
When The Getty Center first opened its doors in 1997, a local billionaire remarked that it was “too good for Los Angeles.” Luckily, the J. Paul Getty Museum knows better. Nothing is too good for Los Angeles, and no works of art are too good for the people who admire them.
For thousands of years, powerful people have commissioned artists to venture into museums, churches, temples, and ruins around the world to make copies for their private collections. Today, with 3D scanning, photo-stitching, and printing, that tradition is poised to evolve and spread faithful reproductions of treasured artwork far beyond the walls of elite palaces.
Leading the trend, on June 1, 2012 The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced its collaboration with MakerBot Industries to scan and share data models of objects in the Met’s collection. Free, open-source, printable scans will be shared freely on Makerbot’s object file-sharing site, Thingiverse.com.
The technological changes happening right now are going to up-end traditional notions of a museum’s purpose as well as challenge intellectual property concepts and practices across many industries. This terrain is shifting very, very quickly: Autodesk has *already* released an iPad version of their 3D capturing app.
Forward-thinking institutions like the Met have already begun to realize that these new technologies will increase the importance of their objects’ provenance relative to their (more…)
Michelangelo’s masterpiece — see it up close.
Navigate in all directions with your mouse or arrow keys. Use your + and – keys to zoom in and out.
Zoomed in, you can see details, such as the wear on the marble steps.
William Boyd in the London Telegraph explains how his April Fools joke took on a life of its own.
It’s a strange experience to stand in the main gallery at Sotheby’s in Bond Street, looking at a small pen and ink drawing, Bridge no. 114 signed by the artist in his somewhat awkward, childish hand – “Nat Tate”. It hangs alongside Lowrys, a Scottish Colourist, an Edward Burra, a Bridget Riley, a Ben Nicholson, Graham Sutherlands and many other artistic luminaries ready to go under the hammer on November 15-16 at Sotheby’s big Modern and Post-War British Art sale.
Nat Tate, however, is unique – because, alone among the many artists represented here, he never existed. I made him up and wrote his fictional biography in 1998. I’m also responsible for what remains of his output – Bridge no. 114 was created by me, I signed the name “Nat Tate” at the foot of the drawing – and, as I stand looking at it, I have this unusual feeling of vague pride and authorial distance. This is both my drawing and not my drawing. I half expect Nat Tate to stride into the room and shoulder me aside. For the only time in 30 years of writing fiction I have this sensation that a character I invented has taken on a life of his own beyond the pages of the fiction that enshrined him. The pleasure that I feel contemplating the sale ahead is as much Nat’s as my own – a most unusual and not entirely comfortable state of mind.
The Nat Tate “affair” began on April Fools’ Day in 1998 at a glittering party held in the artist Jeff Koons’s studio in Manhattan. The host was David Bowie and he was celebrating the birth of his new publishing house, 21. My biography of Nat Tate was his inaugural publication and, apart from a very few present, nobody else knew that Nat was a fiction. Bowie read extracts from the book and an English journalist (one of the conspirators) moved through the throng asking leading questions and – people being people and not wanting to look ignorant or uninformed – many of them spoke openly about Nat Tate, warmly remembering aspects of his life, shows they had attended, reflecting on the sadness of his premature death…
We saw this last night:
How does art survive in a time of oppression? During the Soviet rule artists who stay true to their vision are executed, sent to mental hospitals or Gulags.
Their plight inspires young Igor Savitsky. He pretends to buy state-approved art but instead daringly rescues 40,000 forbidden fellow artist’s works and creates a museum in the desert of Uzbekistan, far from the watchful eyes of the KGB. Though a penniless artist himself, he cajoles the cash to pay for the art from the same authorities who are banning it. Savitsky amasses an eclectic mix of Russian Avant-Garde art. But his greatest discovery is an unknown school of artists who settle in Uzbekistan after the Russian revolution of 1917, encountering a unique Islamic culture, as exotic to them as Tahiti was for Gauguin. They develop a startlingly original style, fusing European modernism with centuries-old Eastern traditions.
The glimpses of the art made me want to see more. Great story, great paintings.
We saw the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre in Los Angeles yesterday, a wonderful experience.
The performance concluded with Revelations, a piece originally created 50 years ago, a just a couple years before the civil rights era began in earnest. The gospel-inspired dance suite was truly moving, particularly the finale.
They didn’t perform the dance shown in the clip above. I chose it because of the quality of the video.
How daring is it to mock Jesus in today’s America? Not very. Which makes this art exhibit in LA.
The R&R Gallery is celebrating it’s very first trip around the sun with a salute to The Man. That’s right, we’re pulling out the big guns…it’s The JESUS SHOW. Whether you’re a believer or an unrepentant sinner, come out and give props to the O.G. Badass. We may not be turning water into wine, but we’ll be trying our damndest, with original works by some of the finest of God’s children. Holy Shit.
Here’s an example of their work, combing two mockeries in one:
All this does is prove how conventional they are.
It takes real guts to mock Mohammed because you can actually lose your head over that. Or be forced to give up your identity and hide.
That’s what happened to Molly Norris, a Seattle artist who was forced into hiding because of the Everybody Draw Mohammed contest. She broke a real taboo and is paying the price.
Why not an art exhibit about the silence of the “arts community” about Norris?
This is one of those unfortunate stories where it’s hard to sort out the right and wrong.
What started out in 2004 as a $27,000 bill for weed abatement has ballooned — with penalties and other charges — to $69,322, far beyond the financial means of Diliberti, a former Marine who lives on a disability pension from his war injuries. Diliberti refused to pay a bill from a contractor hired by the local fire district to remove combustible vegetation in the fire-prone region. He was fishing in Baja California when the weed-choppers arrived. He says the plants were native chaparral and thus not a fire hazard. He won the backing of the Escondido-based California Chaparral Institute.
Laura Jacobs writes about dance in New York in the 1970s in City Journal.
there was another species of hustler in 1970s New York City, and this one was fit and disciplined. Its brand of hustling was walking, running, turning, and jumping from class to audition to rehearsal to performance. New York had always been a destination for dancers; traditionally, it was where they came to put the finish on their training. But in the seventies, as if they were the incandescent flip side to those Port Authority burnouts, aspiring Pavlovas, Isadoras, and Astaires positively streamed into the city. Dance was suddenly the most vital performing art in America—the medium with the message—and the dance boom of the 1970s was on.
If you want to pin a year to it, 1972 is as good as any. That’s when Liza with a “Z,” a one-hour special filmed in the Lyceum Theatre in New York, was broadcast on NBC. I well remember what an event it was in my neighborhood, a suburb of Chicago. As if she were a cousin, everyone rushed home to watch Liza Minnelli. The day after, everyone was singing that tongue-twisty song with the unforgettable refrain—“It’s Liza with a Z not Lisa with an S ’cause Lisa with an S goes ssss not zzzz.” America thought of Liza as a singer—the gifted, needy, quirky daughter of Judy Garland, who was the queen of gifted-needy-quirky. But Liza wasn’t just a singer. She could dance. And not just some faux tapping or a climactic kick. She could dance the work of Bob Fosse. She could isolate a hip, a shoulder. She could send a shiver from head to toe with a fleshy little seal-like frisson—the hot mama on an Arctic ice floe. And in Liza with a “Z” she did dance Fosse because he directed and choreographed the show (and later won an Emmy for it). She kept up with the Fosse corps, adding her own feints and flourishes, not to mention one clearly improvised and delicately lascivious hip shimmy. Poured into an ivory halter top by Halston and apparently braless, Liza was a sinful innocent à la Sally Bowles, creamily full-bodied.
The body was what the decade was about, beginning with where a body was. The Russian ballerina Natalia Makarova defected from the Soviet Union to the United States in 1970. Also in 1970, the American ballerina Suzanne Farrell defected from choreographer George Balanchine and his New York City Ballet (NYCB) and joined Maurice Béjart and his Ballet of the Twentieth Century in Brussels. Four years later, in 1974, Mikhail Baryshnikov defected from the Soviet Union to Canada, then made his way to New York and the American Ballet Theatre (ABT). The same year, the young star Gelsey Kirkland defected from NYCB to ABT in order to begin a partnership with Baryshnikov.
Here’s one number from that show.
If you have kids, you know Curious George, but you probably don’t know the story behind the books. Erica Greider in The Economist
The little monkey had a happy life in Africa—eating bananas, swinging on vines. When he was captured, by a man in a yellow hat, his distress was written on his face. He gaped at his body, clearly shocked to find it trapped in a brown sack, winched at the neck. But the little monkey quickly recovered his equanimity. By the time he boarded the rowboat, he was sad to be leaving Africa, but a little curious, too.
Thus began the adventures of Curious George, one of the most popular and enduring children’s characters of all time. During the course of seven original stories by H.A. and Margret Rey, he moved to America, joined the circus, and became an astronaut. Those are big adventures for a little monkey. But none was quite as dramatic as what had happened to his creators in real life. “Curious George Saves the Day”, an exhibition at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco through March 13th, makes that much clear.
Hans Augusto Reyersbach and Margarete Waldstein were German Jews from Hamburg. Hans, born in 1898, lived near the zoo and taught himself to draw there (also, how to bark like a seal). After the first world war he tried to scrape together a living drawing posters for the circus, but soon packed up and moved to Rio de Janeiro. He was there, selling bathtubs, when Margarete arrived. She was working as a photographer, and knew Hans as a family friend.
…As the decade drew to a close, no Jews in Europe felt safe. The Reys were working, but in letters to his publisher H.A. made it clear that progress had slowed. In September 1939 the couple left Paris for the Chateau Feuga, tucked away in the Dordogne region. “It feels ridiculous to be thinking about children’s books,” wrote H.A. Rey. At one point French police turned up at the castle—they were suspicious about what the strangers were up to—but finding the illustrations scattered around, left them in peace.The Reys returned to Paris several months later to find that the situation had grown more ominous. Refugees were streaming into Paris, and streaming out for safer destinations farther south. Ms Borden describes the preparations the Reys made for their escape: they tried to buy bicycles, but the only one they could find was a broken tandem. Hans bought spare parts, and spent an anxious few days fixing up a couple of single bikes. On June 12th 1940, the couple left Paris. The Nazis arrived less than two days later.The Reys made their way to the south of France, and spent several weeks in a makeshift refugee camp in a high-school gymnasium before proceeding to Lisbon. From there they arranged passage to Brazil, and months later to New York. They carried with them the first drawings for the Curious George books, and showed them to police as proof of their occupation. The first book, “Curious George”, was published in 1941.The little monkey arrives in New York and strolls off of the ship with a smile, holding his papers in one hand and a little red valise in the other. A policeman salutes in welcome.Curious George has his share of troubles in America. For example, he had to go to the hospital after swallowing a puzzle piece. The emotional clarity of Hans’ illustrations is brilliant in these scenes of setback. Sitting alone in his hospital bed, with a single fat tear rolling down his cheek, the little monkey is the picture of distress. And he is occasionally naughty. The exhibition displays a hand-written list, from Hans, of Curious George’s infractions: obstructing traffic by sitting on a light, escaping from jail, monkeying with the police…
“All of This and Nothing,“ the sixth in the Hammer’s series of biennial Invitationals, is likely to get a drubbing coming and going. Amid the raw drywall, cellophane and torn fabric, traditionalists may ask, “Where is the art?” On the other hand, jaded aficionados of contemporary art might dismiss the show as another triumph of the bloodless conceptualism that dominates the international biennial circuit. Although both positions have their merits, they miss the heart of this ambitious, challenging and surprisingly moving exhibition.
The photo above looks like one of the buildings commissioned by LA Community College (see the post California Government at work) but it’s not — it’s an attempt at art.
To be sure, “All of This and Nothing” has grand, somewhat nebulous intentions. It purports to be about everything—the fundamental conditions of existence—and nothing, as in absence and silence. But the featured works by 14 local and international artists are really about perception: the play of presence and absence that makes it possible, on the one hand, to tell one thing from another, and on the other, to blur or confuse those distinctions.
Bravo. That’s some fancy word dancing. Seriously, I’d hate to have to write that.
Things are not always as they seem. This may sound like an over-broad and obvious point, but what makes the exhibition fascinating is not what it says about the featured artists or works, but rather what those works request of us, the viewers. They ask us to appreciate, not the brilliance of the artists’ minds, but the subtlety and richness of our own.
Which I can on my own, at home, without this pretentious pap.
Or maybe this is an MRI of the president’s brain.
The Obamas’ taste in art is as broad as abstract canvases by Josef Albers, American Indian scenes by George Catlin and paintings by little-known figures like Alma Thomas, the African-American Expressionist painter. Works by those artists were among some 45 pieces that the first couple borrowed from several Washington museums to decorate their private White House residence and the West and East Wings, the White House press office announced on Tuesday.
…But the collection is also not without humor. Another contemporary work chosen by the Obamas is a word painting by the California artist Ed Ruscha. Called “I Think I’ll … ” it deals with the subject of indecision. The work depicts a brilliant red sunset against which Mr. Ruscha has painted phrases like “Maybe … Yes … ” and “Maybe … No … ” and “On Second Thought.”
“This is just the beginning,” Yosi Sergant told participants in an Aug. 10 conference call that seems to have been organized by the National Endowment for the Arts and certainly was joined by a functionary from the White House Office of Public Engagement. The call was the beginning of the end of Sergant’s short tenure as NEA flack — he has been reassigned. The call also was the beginning of a small scandal that illuminates something gargantuan — the Obama administration’s incontinent lust to politicize everything.
Sergant’s comments, made to many individuals and organizations from what is vaguely and cloyingly called “the arts community,” continued: “This is the first telephone call of a brand-new conversation. We are just now learning how to really bring this community together to speak with the government.” Wrong preposition. Not “with” the government, but for the government.
Did the White House initiate the conference call-cum-political pep rally? Or, even worse, did the NEA, an independent agency, spontaneously politicize itself? Something that reads awfully like an invitation went from Sergant’s NEA e-mail address to a cohort of “artists, producers, promoters, organizers, influencers, marketers, tastemakers, leaders or just plain cool people.”
They were exhorted to participate in a conference call “to help lay a new foundation for growth, focusing on core areas of the recovery agenda.” The first core area mentioned was “health care.”
The NEA is the nation’s largest single source of financial support for the arts, and its grants often prompt supplemental private donations. He who pays the piper does indeed call the tune, and in the four months before the conference call, 16 of the participating organizations received a total of nearly $2 million from the NEA. Two days after the call, the 16 and five other organizations issued a plea for the president’s health-care plan.
The automobile industry and much of the financial sector have been broken to the saddle of the state. Ninety percent of new mortgages and 80 percent of student loans — the average family’s two most important financial transactions — are financed or guaranteed by the federal government. Now the Obama administration is tightening the cinch on subsidized artists, conscripting them into the crusade to further politicize the 17 percent of the economy that is health care.
Time was, artists were proudly adversarial regarding authority, the established order, etc. “Epater le bourgeois!” and all that. Now they are just another servile interest group seeking morsels from the federal banquet. Are they real artists? Sure, because in this egalitarian era, government reasons circularly: Art is whatever an artist says it is, and an artist is whoever produces art. So, being an artist is a self-validating vocation.
Bottle Village in Simi Valley, CA is the creation of Grandma Prisbrey, who at age 60 began a 25 year art project, collecting junk and making art of it. Just about anything was incorporated into her creations, but bottles, pencils and dolls were favorite objects.
The dolls are quite creepy, at least today. She wasn’t much for building codes, as the largest piece of wood is a 2×4, which means the place is crumbling.
To see the full series of images, go here.