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…
The Daily Pic: LaToya Ruby Frazier takes a refined look at a neglected community – her own.
LaToya Ruby Frazier took this photo called “Grandma Ruby and Me" in 2005, when she was barely out of art school, and now it’s in her solo show at the Brooklyn Museum. Frazier documents her family’s troubled existence in the moribund steel town of Braddock, PA. She’s not the first photographer to record difficult lives from the inside, as it were, rather than as a dispassionate observer: Nan Goldin and Richard Billingham came first. But Frazier seems even more implicated in her shots than they were (she’s often her own subject), and, instead of adopting a pseudo-casual snapshot esthetic, she’s completely mastered the craft of traditional black-and-white shooting and printing. That makes her the Ansel Adams of the rust belt.
Rapper sets release date for new video.
Jay Z will release his music video/documentary entitled Picasso Baby: A Performance Art Piece, this Friday night on HBO. The video, which was filmed during Jay Z’s six- hour performance at the Pace Gallery, will be shown following the rapper's appearance on Real Time With Bill Maher. With celebrities like Judd Apatow and Marina Abramovic making appearances, not to mention Jay Z himself serenading crowd members, the video will certainly have star power. The question is, will the art world approve?
The Daily Pic: Andy felt the link between the Norwegian and his victims.
Another of Warhol’s silkscreen riffs on Edvard Munch’s prints, from the show that closed yesterday at Scandinavia House in New York.It was Warhol’s choice to combine the femme-fatale “Madonna" image with Munch’s self-portrait. The pairing gets at a couple of truths. First, that the self-created image of Munch as tortured artist is inseparable from the (impeccably) tortured art he produced – Warhol knowing more than most about such acts of artistic self-creation. Second, that a tortured woman is never without her torturer. (It’s easy to imagine this doubling as forensic: the crime-scene image of a rape victim paired with a mug shot of her rapist.) Again, Warhol, the consumate voyeur of others’ sexual politics, knew all about such ties.
The Daily Pic: At Scandinavia House, the Popster riffs on the angst-man.
A twofer from "MUNCH | WARHOL and the Multiple Image", a show at Scandinavia House in New York that’s now entering its final weekend. In 1984, a Manhattan gallery that showed lithos by Munch commissioned Warhol to do silkscreen riffs on them, which he did, but then never printed up as an edition. Warhol, canny as ever about how things stand in the art world, makes clear how emptied of meaning Munch’s icons had become by his day, after they’d gained celebrity status – something Warhol knew more about than anyone. There’s also a sense that he knows that Munch, like him, was an artist on the make, turning out prints to fill and create a demand: Munch’s collectors, buying direct from him, could get a print hand-touched by the artist or not, in any number of versions that got released over time. Of course Munch, like his buyers, actually believed in technique and the artist’s hand, even as it served their business interests; Warhol put both at the service of what he’d declared a higher art form – the art of business itself. In the end, though, Munch’s screamer, in Warhol’s version, has some of the pathos of the silkscreened Marilyn. Except that here it’s great art that’s been devoured by its own success. It’s become the stuff of coloring books, ready to be redone in green and red.
Famous for “The Lightning Field.”
Legendary minimalist artist and sculptor Walter De Maria died Thursday of a stroke at the age of 77. The California native’s most famous work, The Lightning Field, consists of 400 steel poles embedded in a grid in the New Mexico desert. While he never gained widespread attention—De Maria detested photos of himself and rarely gave interviews—critics applauded his large-scale works as daring and intelligent. The Dia Art Foundation, a group that he worked with for most of his career, has called him “one of the greatest artists of our time.”
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.