The Daily Pic: Our toughest sculptor films our mighty industrial past.
The latest installment in our “video week” presents a moment from the wonderful film called “Railroad Turnbridge”, shot by Richard Serra in 1976 and now on view (as a digital projection) at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto. (Click on the image to view a clip). The film is nothing more than some black-and-white footage of the massive piece of equipment – usually known as a “swing bridge” – that allowed ships on the Willamette River near Portland to pass to either side of a crossing train track. (The bridge still seems to exist, but now rises up instead of swinging.) In this clip, shot from the bridge-deck itself, the railroad equipment is cleverly assimilated to the camera that is shooting it – with a further parallel being drawn, maybe, between the force of heavy industry in society and the power of central perspective in art. Other passages in the film are more about documenting the machinery itself, and its insanely massive construction. They make you realize how profoundly Serra’s famous heavy-metal sculptures are rooted in the moment of their making, when the heyday of America’s heavy industry was coming to its end. Who would have thought that such tough-guy work had a nostalgic, almost sentimental side?
The Daily Pic: James Nares slows Manhattan's rat race to a snail's pace.
It’s video week at the DP, and this is a still from “Street”, an utterly engrossing projection by James Nares that’s now drawing crowds at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. (Click on the image to view a clip that was shot in situ, or go to Nares’s Web site for a different one.) “Street” is nothing more than one hour’s worth of footage culled from 16 hours spent riding a car through the streets of Manhattan, with a video camera pointed out at the pedestrian flow.
What seems to account for the video’s almost magic, irresistible attraction is that it is shot in extreme slow motion and at very high definition. Nares has taken the slow-mo technology usually used to capture the flight of a hummingbird and trained it on his own species, as it too goes about its normal business.
Today’s very extended Daily Pic looks at how that tech causes the video’s entrancing effects, and it includes some guesses from a couple of experts: Alvy Ray Smith, the computer scientist who co-founded Pixar (and who happens to be my brother-in-law) and the Berkeley psychologist Arthur Shimamura. Click “Read Full Story” below to see our dissection of the video’s effects.
– A Slow Trip Through A World Slowed Down: Although it’s clear that the figures that we see on the sidewalks have been artificially slowed – it takes 12 seconds for an umbrella to pop open – we don’t feel as though the progress of Nares’s car has been equally decelerated. Even though that car must have been traveling the streets at a fair clip, to keep up with other traffic, we feel that it is (and we viewers are) moving at a real and normal snail’s pace. In other words, we feel that we are moving at a slow, stately rate through a universe whose contents have been abnormally slowed. At a guess, that could be because we identify completely with the lens of the camera, so that anything it sees feels like it has been seen with our own, untroubled, unmanipulated vision. The effect may also depend on the fact that there aren’t many cues in the scene to tell us how fast our car is really going (a car going 5 and a car going 30 witness basically the same streetscape, though passing by at different rates) whereas the pedestrians’ gait and actions – such as unfurling that umbrella – have a standard duration that we recognize as having been lengthened in Nares’s video. Slow motion filming almost always involves a static camera pointed at a moving subject, which may be why Nares’s use of a moving slow-mo camera seems to produce such novel effects.
Daily Pic: B. Wurtz suffers, or prospers, from aesthetic agnosia.
These are stills from “Metal Sculpture”, a wonderful 1979 film by the New York sculptor B. Wurtz which just went live (as a video) in the new issue of the online magazine called Triple Canopy. (Click on the stills to watch the footage.) The premise is simple, and charming: Wurtz talks about a new metal sculpture he’s discovered and which he assembles as we watch; it turns out to be a perfectly normal folding music stand. His (pretend) inability to recognize the object as the functional thing it is, and his desire to treat it only as art, is a kind of condensation of the spirit that animates a lot of the best art making. I’ve referred to it as aesthetic agnosia – an ability to perceive the stuff in the world but not to recognize what it is or how it works, like the famous Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. Wurtz turns himself into The Man Who Mistook His Stand For His Art, and by doing so, made it so.
From Botticelli to John Updike, the rosebud nipple has long dominated Western art.
In case you haven’t heard, a nipple movement is sweeping the U.K. Ladies from Liverpool to Essex are increasingly looking to define, darken, and enlarge their areolae, shelling out as much as $1,800 for “tittooing,” a not-so-clever nickname for the two-hour tattooing procedure.
Sure, it could be a passing fad, but big nipples are in—and tittooing is poised to upend the landscape of breasts as we know them in the Western world. Taking our cues from the arts, we’ve long idealized the small, salmon-colored nipples of Botticelli’s Venus. Fashion tends to favor small nips as well (Kate Moss’s dime-size areolae are almost as famous as the model herself). Nipples are slightly more varied in the adult-entertainment industry, but there’s little diversity when it comes to highbrow smut. Playboy’s bare-breasted models may be buxom, but their nipples are rarely larger than pepperonis.
Despite the new trend overseas, scientific evidence suggests both women and men are partial to petite nipples. In a 2011 study, a plastic surgeon in the U.K. surveyed 100 models’ breasts in attempt to determine what factors make some more appealing to the eye than others. Proportion was key, but his “Analysis of an Ideal Breast” also found that nipples accounted for very little surface area on said perfect breast.
To be sure, the small nipple ideal is subjective, even silly, given that no two nipples are the same in reality. But artists, poets, and breast-obsessed men alike have been drawn to the ideal for centuries.
In Libya, behold a cultural revolution.
The Libyan poet Khaled Mattawa and I agreed to meet by the Arch of Marcus Aurelius, in the heart of Tripoli. I was there a few minutes early and walked toward the familiar structure in that invisible atmosphere that surrounds us when we find ourselves in a place that has meant a great deal but from which we had been separated. I had not been back to the city of my childhood in over three decades. I left a boy; returned a man.
Under Gaddafi's dictatorship, painting subversive graffiti was a dangerous crime. (Louis Quail/In Pictures/Corbis)
The sun was sharp. The shade beneath the stone arch was as physical and reliable as a lake. The structure was built some 1,850 years ago, a year or two after Aurelius came to power. I remembered the opening lines from one of Khaled Mattawa’s poems—“East of Carthage: An Idyll”—when he addresses the Roman emperor:
Look here, Marcus Aurelius, we’ve come to see
your temple, deluded the guards, crawled through a hole
in the fence. Why your descendent, my guide and friend
A new retrospective of the late American art prodigy Keith Haring opens at Paris’s Modern Art Museum.
An extensive retrospective of the late American artist Keith Haring opens today at the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris. The exhibition, titled The Political Line, showcases some of the highlights from Haring’s formidable career, which spanned just over a decade. (Sadly, the artist passed away in 1990 at the age of 32 due to complications related to HIV/AIDS.)
Through his art, Haring commented on some of the most important socio-political issues of his time and, fittingly, this exhibition trails the major themes that influenced his work: capitalism, mass media and religion, racism, and his campaign against drug use and AIDS (he himself was diagnosed with HIV in 1988). Ultimately, the messages he conveyed were just as important as the medium itself.
“This is not something that he simply put into his work: this is a reflection of who he was as a person,” Julia Gruen, director of the Keith Haring Foundation, explained at yesterday’s press conference. “What you are going to experience with this exhibition is the great passion and idealism of this young artist. He put part of himself out there, so that you can reflect and you can interact with the experience of his time. He was very engaged in his whole moment.”
Upon arriving in New York in 1978, Haring fell in love with the energy of the city—particularly its prolific street-art culture—and he painted some of his earliest works on billboards, in the subway, and in other available public spaces. As such, he became a great champion for the democratization of art. “The public has a right to art … Art is for everybody,” he once said on his desire to make his work accessible to all. His approach was also a most pertinent way for him to get his message across.
The Daily Pic: Elli Chung contemplates veggie aesthetics.
This lovely, funny image is by Elli Chung, from her show at Julie Saul Gallery in New York. The title is “KAWA AKAGO, An Infant Monster Who Lurks Near Rivers and Drowns People” – the show illustrates moments from Japanese folk tales – but that name does not at all reflect my first impressions of the photio. I saw this naked tuber as entirely within the Western tradition of nude beauties on riverbanks, with echoes of Titian and Courbet’s “White Stockings”. Rather than seeing a threat in it, I found a note of sadness, as the vegetable contemplates its failure to live up to that aesthetic and erotic tradition.
The Daily Pic: The Viennese artist makes room for video's supporting cast.
In this age of projected art, six screens demand equal billing with the images shown on them. The installation is by Heimo Zobernig, and I saw it in a group show at Leo Koenig gallery in New York. In person, the effect is quite strange: By now, we’re used to found objects getting used as sculpture, but here it’s as though pedestals replaced the works that normally sit on them. Rather than fading into the background, like the well-trained servants of aristocracy, Zobernig’s screens insist on being recognized in all their individuality and distinct objecthood: Here’s one wearing a yellow belt; there’s one discretely detailed in green; here’s another, standing proud and taller than all his kin, in a suit of silver that’s brighter than anyone else’s.
The Daily Pic: Designer Yuya Ushida makes a sofa from recycled eating sticks.
Designer and engineer Yuya Ushida “unfurls” his “SOFA_XXXX”, which isn’t X-rated, but gets its name from the X joints that give it both structure and expandability. (Click on the image to see a video of its laborious production, and then its fascinating use.) I saw the piece in the “Against the Grain” show at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, where a wall text explained that its first prototype was made from about 8,000 recycled bamboo chopsticks – China alone throws out about 90 billion of them each year – which were hand-drilled by Ushida as a student project for the design academy in Eindhoven. It seems that the versions of XXXX going into mass production may be made from plastic, and so won’t be as “green”. Maybe the trick would be to publish DIY plans for sofas to be made by anyone who eats lots (and lots) of take-out Chinese.
The Daily Pic: The late L.A. artist got rid of everything except garbage.
The late Mike Kelley made this drawing, and it’s now in the fascinating New Museum show of art from New York in 1993. The image is from a series based on the “Sad Sack” comic strip, except that Kelley has erased everything except the trash that is everpresent around the strip’s eponymous hero, a private in the U.S. army who gets everything wrong. I love the way erasure becomes a tool for depiction and emphasis, and failure becomes a heroic condition.
The Daily Pic: The artist looks at how East Germany sold its military mission.
In his solo show at Andrew Kreps Gallery in New York, the German artist Peter Piller is showing a series of appropriated photos called “Umschläge” (German for “Covers”), which are just that: Images of the front and back covers of the defunct East German magazine called “Armeerundschau” (“Army Panorama”), whose layout juxtaposed a front image of a war scene and a back image of a pretty girl. According to Wikipedia, the magazine’s primary attraction was its “clothed pin-ups of women”, but the site also quotes the magazine’s longtime editor saying that its aim was to “prepare boys and men for their military service in the NVA [the “National People’s Army”], and to prepare women and girls to be good wives and girlfriends, to teach them to love soldiers and be willing to wait for them. We knew we had to convince women to love soldiers. If we didn’t, men wouldn’t want to go into the NVA.” That weird tension seems visible in Piller’s appropriations: A testosterone-laden front cover stands in strange tension with a remarkably chaste back cover that has to function as sexual bait for the magazine’s male readers and as a mirror for women viewing it. And then, in this issue at least, there’s a weird racial and colonial subtext as well. Sometimes, it’s enough for art simply to point out the world’s weirdnesses.
The Daily Pic: The "pop" in his culture came from the 1930s.
This real pastry case full of plaster confections was made by Claes Oldenburg in 1962, and is in the show of his very early works that opens Sunday at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In researching my New York Times profile of him that just went up on the paper’s Web site, I came to realize that Oldenburg’s glance at American consumption was hugely retrospective. Rather than contemplating the shiny chrome of the Mad Men era, Oldenburg was looking back at the more modest material culture of his childhood during the Great Depression, when he first arrived in the U.S. from Sweden.
The Daily Beast: The Swiss artist stomps on earlier masterworks.
This still is from a video called “Walking on Carl Andre”, made in 1998 by Swiss artist Sylvie Fleury and now being shown on the street-front screen at Salon 94 gallery on the Bowery. (Click on the image to watch the full work.) The video takes seriously Andre’s invitation to walk on his minimal floor pieces, but treats them as cheesy fashion runways rather than elite artistic conceits. Fleury entertains the possibility that there’s more in common between fashion and art, between shoes and masterworks, than most of us want to let on.
Jenna Lyons Will Not Wear Google Glass; UN Backs Woman Who Sued Prada Japan for Sexual Discrimination
and there's been another Cannes jewelry heist. More