The Daily Pic: In 1942, Mies van der Rohe designed a concert hall around a plane factory's bones.
This gorgeous photomontage by Mies van der Rohe, in the "Cut 'n' Paste" show at the Museum of Modern Art, is a study for an imaginary concert hall, prepared for Architectural Forum magazine for a 1942 feature on the American “town of the future". It is striking how Mies, who was a builder through and through, made truly stunning works on paper, whereas his colleague and rival Le Corbusier, though always claiming props as a painter, was really only good in 3D. (That comes clear in the Corbusier survey that’s just upstairs from where the Mies is hanging at MoMA – I Daily Pic’d its best painting yesterday.)
But there’s way more to Mies’s image than its visual brilliance. As the scholar Neil Levine has discussed, the background image for the concert-hall study shows an aircraft assembly plant built by Albert Kahn in Maryland in 1937, as the largest open-span structure achieved until then. When Mies grabbed its image for his study, the vast space was being used to build bombers just then attacking the Nazi regime – from which Mies had recently fled, later than most of his peers and after years of less than evident opposition. (You can just see one plane behind the collaged sculpture; Mies blacked out details of others.) As Levine points out, the potent formal values of this study come steeped in politics and the real world – precisely what photomontage was designed to invoke.
The director of Los Angeles’s Museum of Contemporary Art announced his resignation Wednesday evening—ending three rocky years there. Isabel Wilkinson on his tenure and what could be next.
The controversial director of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) is stepping down after three tumultuous years. Jeffrey Deitch’s departure was announced Wednesday night, heralding the end of a roller-coaster tenure that brought internal disagreements and huge new crowds.
Deitch, who had two years left on his five-year contract, informed the board of his decision Wednesday, saying that he expects to stay on through the fall to oversee the museum's $100 million endowment campaign. MOCA has already formed a committee to search for his replacement.
MOCA director Jeffrey Deitch attends an event last year in L.A. (Donato Sardella/WireImage/Getty)
David G. Johnson, co-chair of the museum's board, announced the departure. “As colleagues, friends and great admirers of Jeffrey’s talent, we respect his decision and thank him for his tremendous dedication to the museum and all those who value MOCA,” he said in a statement.
The Daily Pic: In 1918, the budding architect painted his vision of how the built world would someday look.
This 1918 painting, called "The Fireplace", is by Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, a.k.a. – in his later architect avatar – Le Corbusier, and it's now in his survey show at MoMA in New York. What's (obviously) fascinating about this domestic still life is how much it presages the building ideas that Corbusier came up with later: The casting down of classic ornament in favor of simple geometric massings placed in the surrounding landscape – and devoid of rich urban fabric, which was the tragic flaw in Le Corbusier's work in planning. This early painting already has the unpeopled froideur that his critics complain of in his buildings. (But which I think has been slightly overstated – there's a contemplative upside to living in and among minimal sculptural forms.) By channeling Le Corbusier, "The Fireplace" manages to blow all of Jeanneret's later paintings out of the water, making them look awkward and decorative.
The Daily Pic: At the Met, the Middle Ages turn out to be rainbow-hued.
A recent visit to the Cloisters, the uptown medieval branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, brought home a truth that I’ve known but rarely felt: That medieval sculptures and buildings were almost always brightly painted. It makes way more sense of a stained glass like the one at right, from Germany in about 1300, to imagine it in a setting that included bright statues like the one at left, from Italy in about 1350. Instead of either glass or statue standing out as a note of designer color in an elegant stone box – as in most current museums and churches – both would originally have been parts of a total decor that included all the bright hues of God’s creation. That vision also makes more sense of the brightly painted altarpieces of the 14th and 15th centuries: The glowing fictions they present would have been of a piece with the glowing reality all around them. There would have been continuity between the painted and real world, instead of disjunction.
The Daily Pic: Robert Irwin turns a whole room into subtle abstraction.
After the drubbing I gave James Turrell's Guggenheim mess, it's a pleasure to have found a Light And Space work I can get behind. Robert Irwin's 1977 piece, now reinstalled in the space at the Whitney it was conceived for, doesn't have one trademark wow-cool effect, or any paraphrasable point. It's a single scrim of fabric that cuts the room in two, and whose black bottom edge gets extended along all four walls. It has all the complexity of a really superb abstract painting, by Malevich, say, or maybe Jo Baer. A sure mark of its power?: Visitors seemed compelled to stay hushed in the room, even though there was no special reason for silence.
The lifting of the Cuba embargo along with quirky laws have made one surprising group part of Cuba’s 1 percent.
In most parts of the world, artists struggle to make a living. In Cuba, they're part of the wealthiest 1 percent of the population.
Artist Nelson Dominguez moves a painting at his studio in Havana on September 14, 2012. (Franklin Reyes/AP)
Two quirks of fate have led to an explosion of well-paid artists on the island: an exception to the U.S. embargo on Cuban goods that allows Americans to spend money on Cuban art, and an accident of Cuban history that lets artists keep the money they earn.
The Daily Pic: Chicago painter Manierre Dawson launched into modern art before almost anyone else.
I must admit that I’d never heard of the Chicago painter Manierre Dawson before seeing this picture at the Met the other day. It’s called “The Meeting (The Three Graces)" and is dated 1912 – a date that makes Dawson one of the very first American modernists. He’d done a tour of Europe in 1910, but apparently the roots of his geometrical style don’t depend on Picasso. It seems he was offered a spot in the great Armory Show, but turned it down – and then went on to buy a Duchamp that he saw in it. I’m not saying Dawson’s up there with Cubism’s founders, but even coming close, as early as he did, makes him deserve a name check.
By Romanian woman to protect her son who stole them.
In a story that defies logic, all that remains of works by Monet, Matisse, Picasso, Gauguin, Lucian Freud, and Meyer de Hanan may have been burned. Last October, thieves stole seven works belonging to collector Willem Cordia from Rotterdam's Kunsthal museum. Investigators traced the paintings to the remote Romanian village of Carcaliu, where Olga Dogaru—the mother of the alleged thief—says she burned the works because if they no longer existed, she thought he son could not get in trouble. (The paintings include Monet’s 1901 Waterloo Bridge, London, Gauguin’s 1898 Girl in Front of Open Window, and Picasso’s 1971 Harlequin Head.) While experts have not yet confirmed the remains are definitely those works, they have discovered remnants like tin-lead yellow which has not been used since the 19th century as well as nails and tacks made by blacksmiths.
The Daily Pic: Francis Cape looks at where communitarians sat.
For his installation at Murray Guy, one of the most creative and substantial galleries in New York, Francis Cape began by studying the benches made by various utopian communities across the United States – everything from the Shakers to the Harmony Society to the Society of Separatists at Zoar. He measured the original pieces, most very old, then remade them in his own woodshop in upstate New York using local poplar lumber, as a way of considering “communalism as a historic and a contemporary alternative to individualism". What we get, at Murray Guy, is a community of communal objects, their differences subsumed in the collective. Interesting, though, how Cape takes the joint efforts of the original makers of his benches and translates them into the lonely world of the artist’s studio, home to the labors and thoughts of an individual genius. It’s also interesting how, by using the same wood and finish for all of his varied benches, Cape seems to evoke the spirit of mass production. (A fascinating book has been published to go with the show.)
The Daily Pic: Josephine Meckseper plucks her art from our commodity culture.
It’s a cliche to say that art changes how we see the world, and it’s most often barely true. The claim really panned out for me, however, with Josephine Meckseper’s new show at the Parrish museum on Long Island. Meckseper takes elements of our commercial culture – a Jeep sign, in this case, as well as a drug store’s mirrored display panel – and reworks them as magpie-shiny sculpture. At the Parrish, her work got me to realize how the museum’s lovely new building has been conveniently sited by a busy road – just like Long Island’s SUV-friendly shops. With the help of Meckseper’s piece, a nearby crushed-car sculpture by John Chamberlain seemed less about modernist form and more deeply embedded in car and commodity culture; it started feeling more like Detroit, circa 1960, than Montmartre, circa 1912. A fabulous early Dan Flavin, made of pristine-pure white fluorescents, had its purity usefully polluted by a neighboring Meckseper that used the same tubes to evoke store fixtures. (Flavin was keen on such mundane connections in his earliest years, then rejected them when he became a famous formalist.) And, overall, Meckseper’s large wall pieces, the size and shape of retail displays, made me notice that all the large-scale abstract canvases of America’s postwar era, of which the Parrish owns quite a few, may have had their roots in how America’s grandest merchants offered up goods in their picture windows. Before Meckseper, I hadn’t thought of Rauschenberg, piling goods onto his “Combines", as working like a window dresser. (Which is how he and Johns made a living in their early days – as his foe Hilton Kramer liked to point out.)
I guess I buy the idea that art, and museums, may function as an antidote to our commodified world – but, like a vaccine, they may only manage that by dosing us with some of its poison.
Challenge traditional British art scene.
Reflecting shifts in the global art market over the past decade, major American art dealers have begun to fill up London’s Mayfair. Long known for its stylish stores, classy hotels, and storied art, it has become more Manhattanized as American galleries like Gagosian and Zwirner have eaten up commercial space. The move by these big-name American dealers reflects both the desire to reach the new wave of collectors from the developing world who often buy homes in London, and that artists want dealers with clients all over the world.
The Daily Pic: The Met's Cloisters branch turns 75, and shows off knightly opulence.
This tapestry was woven in Flanders in about 1500 for a noble French client. It's part of a series of hangings whose unicorn themes are being examined in a show that celebrates the 75th anniversary of the lovely, neo-medieval Cloisters branch of the Metropolitan Museum, up-island in Manhattan. A tapestry like this was the ultimate luxury good and status symbol, worth so much more than a measly painting. What interests me in the textile shown here is how the newly goods-stuffed lifestyle of the European upper class is also this deluxe object's subject: Take a look at the precious fabrics and hunting gear and (especially valuable) the dogs that it shows. Hunting culture, and all its trappings, had become a central place for a noble to display his control of leisure time and surplus resources and available manpower. In that context, the unicorn itself, whatever its symbolic intent, can be thought of as the elite prey that any stylish noble would want to be hunting. In a lovely circular twist, the tapestry's true subject turns out to be the luxe of which it's an example. You could say that one of the treasures it displays is itself. (There's an afterlife to such extravagant hunting: John D. Rockefeller paid a million dollars for the unicorn hangings in 1922.)
The Daily Pic: Robert Therrien enlarges things, so we can know them better.
Robert Therrien makes oversized domestic objects. Claes Oldenburg has always made oversized domestic objects. And in my Therrien piece in yesterday's New York Times, on the occasion of a mini-survey at the Albright-Knox in Buffalo, I show how these two artists have little in common. (It's pure, weird coincidence that the Times had me profile both of them this summer.) Oldenburg's enlargements are about amplification, taking pop culture and making it goofily present to us, as though we can't avoid bathing in it. Therrien's magnifications are about close observation. They are a sober attempt to give us access to every detail in objects that matter in our everyday lives. Oldenburg's sculptures start life as stylish and stylized drawings, full of clownish energy, and the finished pieces never come close to trompe-l'oeil; Therrien's objects have their roots in photographs that document things that he cares about, and are realized with worshipful accuracy.
Veteran auctioneer and art-world figure Simon de Pury has developed an obsession with Instagram, and all it reveals about someone’s visual sense. From Snoop Dogg to Ai Weiwei, he pays tribute to his favorite Instagram artists.
I was late to embrace social media. But when I did, I did so with a vengeance.
Facebook initially appealed to my intrinsic urge to collect. Building up a respectable number of friends seemed like a fun game. I was definitely not going to ask to be befriended by just anyone and was therefore only going to respond to requests from people I knew personally. This proved far too slow a process, so I began to scan for potential friends by asking people I already knew. This of course exposed me to the mortifying risk of having my requests remain unanswered or worse, turned down. My number of friends inched up very slowly; I rapidly lost patience. To speed things up, I began to instantly accept requests from total strangers. This proved to be a smart move since it allowed me to swiftly reach 5,000 friends—the maximum number allowed by Facebook.
"All-around 21st-century artist the great Kanye West at Design Miami/ Basel" —Simon de Pury
By that time I had basically lost interest in Facebook and I moved on to Twitter. This seemed far more suited to my short attention span and it seemed faster to build up a number of followers. I much preferred the idea of having followers rather than friends in any case, and there was no limit to the number of followers allowed. I quickly saw that in order to build followers you had to tweet on a regular basis. So I began to wrack my brain to come up at least once a day with a pearl of wit or wisdom. It was most helpful that you are not allowed to go beyond 140 characters. Also it seemed to me that following others was less a total waste of time and trivial than on Facebook. Russell Simmons (@unclerush /2.79 million Twitter followers at the time of writing this column) was dispensing several times a day invaluable advice on how to live properly. For me, who has great difficulty of ever coming to the end of any book, following the philosopher and author Alain de Botton (@alaindebotton /377k) provided me with great quotes that I could use to pepper up my conversation at dinner parties. But eventually, I quickly bored of Twitter as well.