The Daily Pic: Sekula, the great photographer who billed documentation as art, died on Aug. 10.
Alan Sekula, the great artist-documentarian, died Saturday at the age of 62 – three days after the Daily Pic happened to have lingered on one of the images from his great “Fish Story” series, recently acquired by the Museum of Modern Art. I’d known he’d been sick with cancer for some time, but had no idea he was so near the end. So today’s Pic, another MoMA image from the same series, is in Sekula’s memory. It’s a 1992 photo titled “Pancake, a former shipyard sandblaster, scavenging copper from a waterfront scrapyard. Los Angeles harbor. Terminal Island, California.” Vimeo has a nice little video of him speaking a few years ago; its most Sekulian quotes come toward the end.
The annual battle to build the most outrageously creative sand castle was held on Rockaway Beach in Queens on Friday. Isabel Wilkinson on the stunts, performances and elaborate contraptions. Plus: See Photos
For some, building sand castles is an act of leisure. For the artists who gathered at the 2nd annual Sand Castle Competition on Far Rockaway Beach in Queens on Friday afternoon, it was anything but.
Teams of contemporary artists and their assistants descended on the beach just after noon with the intensity and dedication of an Olympic team: there were game plans, sketches, elaborate props -- even costumes.
Each of the ten teams was allotted a large plot of sand, and allowed to stockpile sand and water before the competition began. Each artist came equipped with an elaborate concept -- but, as with any creative endeavor, an idea is only half the battle; execution here was the most important part of pulling off a great product.
Sand Castle Competition winner Jamie Isenstein discusses the art form and the return of the Rockaways.
The Daily Pic: Jimmy DeSana's 1980s photos bring a downtown moment to life.
Photos by the late Jimmy DeSana are now on view at Salon 94 on the Bowery in New York. With their bright colors and staged melodrama, they take me right back to ’80s New Wave. Surprisingly, most of the images still feel firmly rooted in that moment – this branch of photography still hasn’t been naturalized into the art mainstream. But today’s Daily Pic, dated 1980-82 and titled “Sweatshirt”, is an exception: It feels more fully performative than staged; more about documentation of a strange act than creation of theater just for the camera. It could almost be one of Erwin Wurm’s “One Minute Sculptures”, from two decades later.
Famous actors and musicians go out of their comort zones for the sake of art. Watch as these celebrities take art to the limit as only they can.
From the meat dress to emerging from a womb-like egg at an award show, it seems like all of Lady Gaga's life could be classified as performance art. However, recently she teamed up with performance artist Marina Abramovic to film a bizarre piece of performance art. During the two minute video she hits one continuous note, which is played throughout, stands in a clearing with cones on her eyes, wanders naked in the forest, and hugs crystals against her naked body. It might be connected to her upcoming album, ARTPOP, but it may also be related to nothing at all. Such is art.
The e-commerce giant sells everything under the sun—from Danielle Steel books to toothpaste. Can it also sell expensive Dalis and Warhols?
From publishing to print news to groceries to fine wine, there are few industries Jeff Bezos and his online behemoth Amazon have left untouched in their path to world domination. Now, with Amazon Art, Bezos and Co. are making another pass at adding fine art to the list.
Monet portrait for sale on Amazon Art for $1.45 million. (Amazon.com)
Back in 2000, a $45.4 million partnership between Amazon and Sotheby’s failed to get off the ground. Thirteen years later, the giant e-commerce site is back in the game with Amazon Art.
This time, it’s not simply relying on a single outside vendor. At launch, the marketplace offers access to 40,000 works from more than 150 galleries, with high-priced works from household names like Andy Warhol and Norman Rockwell. There’s an interesting dissonance between the price point of the products ($1.15 million for Andy Warhol’s Flowers) and the interface, which seems designed for the everyman; on the homepage, a section labeled “Artists You Know” directs users to works by the likes of Dali, Miró, and Matisse. Based on the price of the piece sold, Amazon will charge a tiered commission rate between 5 percent and 20 percent.
The Daily Pic: Katrin Heichel paints the vanishing world of the pinup.
This is Katrin Heichel's "Guten Morgen Deutschland (Good Morning Germany)", from 2010, now in the summer show at Thierry Goldberg Gallery in New York. I'm not usually a fan of art with strong links to "traditional" (read, "illustrative") techniques, but this painting triggered some interesting thoughts. I was intrigued by a kind of parallelism between the dead genre of the girly pinup, as seen on the walls of the lunchroom depicted by Heichel, and the moribund state of traditional painting. This led me to think about the connection that has traditionally been made between paint and flesh, and especially women's flesh. It seemed strange and compelling to find a woman artist using paint to redepict images of female bodies originally conceived for male eyes. On top of that, the picture seems to express some kind of nostalgia for the vanishing space of the laddish lunchroom, and uses the nostalgic medium of paint to do the expressing. The illustrative technique of Heichel, trained in the Leipzig School, also comes pretty close to the technique used for some of the more "classy" pinups of yore. Maybe there's a kind of fond hope that the magic of paint can clean up society's gendered messes, coupled with the acknowledgment that it can't.
Pop diva Lady Gaga bares all and practices the ‘Abramovic Method’ with performance art maestro Marina Abramovic in a new, very NSFW video.
Jay Z just got one-upped by the reigning queen of pop.
The rap czar’s hip-hop spin on Marina Abramovic’s performance art project “The Artist Is Present,” which saw him spitting the Magna Carta Holy Grail track “Picasso Baby” for six hours straight at a posh Manhattan art gallery, was a viral sensation. The stunt even included a little dance with Abramovic herself and aired as an HBO special this past Sunday. But now Lady Gaga has gone, in the words of Jay Z, all kinds of H.A.M.—getting naked and engaging in the “Abramovic Method,” which describes itself as “a series of exercises designed to heighten participants’ awareness of their physical and mental experience in the present moment.”
The Daily Beast: Allan Sekula's great "Fish Story" enters the Modern's photo collection.
I was so happy to see this and other photos from Allan Sekula's "Fish Story" in the MoMA show of its latest photographic acquisitions. Sekula's project, shot between 1988 and 1995, represents the informative, content-focused end of the spectrum of fine-art photography, so it's great to see it find a home in a museum thought of (utterly unfairly) as the home of formalist Modernism. (As in the Bill Brandt show there that's closing this week.) Funny thing is, I remember that when I first saw Sekula's images, years ago, they seemed utterly resistant to aesthetic concerns – they were just pure documentation of global trade and labor. Now they look like an established, familiar aesthetic.
The Daily Pic: Ghanaian sculptor El Anatsui makes art about manual workers (including his).
This is “Earth’s Skin", one of many giant installations in the solo show that the Brooklyn Museum is giving to the Ghanaian-born artist El Anatsui. I haven’t been convinced by any of the readings that I’ve heard of these pieces, which either center on their visual splendor or on their tenuous (or cliched) connection to aspects of “African" culture. Taking in the show the other day, I realized that a more interesting, profitable reading would have to center on issues of labor – on the tedious labor expended by El Anatsui’s hordes of assistants, as they flatten and pierce thousands of metal bottle caps and soup-can lids, and on the history of Africans laboring on behalf of Western rulers, to satisfy Western tastes and demands.
The Daily Pic: Edward Hopper's paintings are worse than his drawings – which makes them better.
This is a study for Edward Hopper’s “Office at Night", from 1940, and the finished painting based on it, as paired in the Hopper drawings show now at the Whitney Museum in New York. The oohing and aahing around this show seems all about Hopper’s skills as a draughtsman, but it’s pretty clear that by the commercial-art standards of his time (or even of ours) those skills were fair to middling. His work only becomes interesting when he transfers his drawings to paint, where his technique was quite simply absent. But it’s that absence of quality – the same absence of culural value that we see in his banal office or diner or other subjects – that makes his paintings unique to him, and to his place and moment. He needs to display a level of skill that brings him closer to an American sign-painter than to a French academician.
The Daily Pic: MoMA launches its first sound-art survey.
This is one of many bells recorded by Stephen Vitiello for his outdoor sound piece called “A Bell for Every Minute", now installed in the MoMA garden for the Aug. 10 opening of “Soundings: A Contemporary Score", the Modern’s first full survey of sonic art. My feature on the show and its artform appears in print in Sunday’s New York Times, and is online now. Among the things I didn’t have room to mention there:
– That sound is a rare medium that has managed to keep an avant-garde patina. Maybe that’s because of the recent rediscovery of the sound-art components in early Dada and abstraction, and because of the new recognition of John Cage as a seminal figure for all postwar artforms. Also and amazingly, painting and sculpture, material and commodified, still count as the artistic norm, which lets an immaterial and hard-to-sell medium like sound continue to act as the Official Opposition.
– That the best new pieces of so-called sound art are almost all representational: That is, they find new ways to present sonic “images" that we already know and care about, and to comment on them. Which means that, rather than being a new medium for art making (and when was the last time sophisticated people thought about art in medium-specific terms?), sound is merely a new subject worth exploring, in a medium that happens, not surprisingly, to be mostly sonic. (Although the great success of Christian Marclay’s phonic works comes from realizing how tightly sound and vision have been packaged together in 20th-century culture.)
– That sonic pieces have quite simply become some of the best recent works, in any medium: I mention Janet Cardiff’s “40 Part Motet" in my Times piece, but I might as well have cited the Anri Sala installation at the current Venice Biennale, Christian Marclay’s “Guitar Drag" and “Video Quartet" (arguably more profound than his popular “Clock"), Rineke Dijkstra’s “Buzz Club" and Bruce Nauman’s “Days".
Jay Z’s video for ‘Picasso Baby,’ which airs Friday on HBO, is the latest in a recent love affair between music and art. Simon de Pury reports.
Sitting in the Hamptons, I’ve heard, to my amazement, that there are viewing parties being organized here for the first airing of the Jay Z (what a relief that he dropped the hyphen in his name!) “Picasso Baby” video, which will air on Friday on HBO.
His recent video shoot at the Pace Gallery in New York probably represents the peak of the current lovefest between the music and art worlds.
At the instigation of Jeanne Greenberg (the brilliant owner of gallery Salon 94), a number of art-world groupies and luminaries—including Yvonne Force, Bill Powers, Linda Yablonsky, Lawrence Weiner, Jerry Saltz, and the grande dame of performance art, Marina Abramovic—were invited at short notice to take part in the filming. Why didn’t Jeanne email me?! Like everyone else, I would instantly have dropped whatever other phenomenally important things I was doing at the time to witness a six-hour nonstop performance of “Picasso Baby”!
The song is a roll call of some of the art world’s most dropped names: Picasso, Rothko, Warhol, and Basquiat—but also Art Basel, the Museum of Modern Art, and Christie's. George Condo (who has the advantage over his glorious predecessors to be alive and well, but does not yet share their standing in the art market) also gets his mention. In the song, Jay Z refers to himself as today's Picasso, a characteristically modest statement that was validated by Diana Widmaier Picasso—the beautiful granddaughter of the artist and Marie-Thérèse Walter—who was at the video shoot.
The Daily Pic: At the Met, the Catalan master has a conceptual edge.
Joan Miro's “Photo: This is the Color of My Dreams”, from 1925, is up now in the modern rooms of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It never ceases to amaze me how many different options were on the table in the 1920s, and how they seemed to narrow as formalist abstraction took over later, even in an artist as protean as Miro. This ultra-sophisticated picture feels like it could have been made yesterday – which I guess shows how far we haven't come.
The Daily Pic: Just when he hit it big with geology, the Californian turned to sociology.
Two wildly different pictures by the same artist, from Llyn Foulkes’s solo show now at the New Museum in New York. It is, as they say, the darnedest thing: Around 1969, Foulkes was painting peculiar and very interesting wall-filling images of rocks (like “Portrait of Leo Gorcey", at left here), and they were very well received – which of course led him to leave those absolutely behind, in favor of the even stranger figurative images that became his trademark, as per the 2001 picture, called “The Corporate Kiss", at right here. I guess the figurative pieces have a stronger and zanier energy – but that’s also what makes them more predictably “weird". The rock paintings, because they are so much harder to read, seem more profound in their strangeness. They remind me of the “specific objects" of minimal sculpture, but captured out there in the natural world. Somehow, I even feel that, in their solitary, unforgiving strength, they have a political engagement that’s more compelling than the explicit politics of some of Foulkes’s later works. It’s not too late for him to go back to his rocks…