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The Afghanistan to D.C. Express


Jess Ruliffson

An illustrated story about a Marine officer recovering in the hospital after being evacuated from Afghanistan.


Jess Ruliffson


Jess Ruliffson


Jess Ruliffson


Jess Ruliffson


Matisse: Innovator Until the End


Leon Neal/Getty

Many artists wind down in their twilight years, but not Matisse. He was not only prolific, but also created an entirely new art form with his vivid, cut-out paper works.

Surrounded on all sides by the joyful sweep and thrilling colors of some of Henri Matisse’s greatest work, it is impossible to miss the surge of excitement that coursed through the artist in his 70s and ensured that his final years became some of his most prolific and ambitious.

Suffering from terrible arthritis, wheelchair-bound, and often confined to the studio where he worked and slept, Matisse eschewed paintbrushes, which he found increasingly difficult to use, and created a new medium that allowed him to stretch his love of composition and color further than ever before.

Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs, which opens at Tate Modern in London on Thursday, is a glorious and unprecedented study of his final decade. The project, created jointly by Tate and MoMA, is the largest-ever collection of the artist’s paper cut-out work, including all four iconic “Blue Nudes.” It is scheduled to open in New York in mid-October.

Matisse’s finest cut-outs are reunited in chronological order, sometimes for the first time since he created them, giving you the sense of stepping into the studio where he worked. He often made the compositions by pinning the pieces of paper he had cut directly onto the walls around him. In one room of the exhibition, his vivid, life-size plan for the Vence Chapel includes the outline of the door to his studio.

Freedom of Speech

Artists vs. the Guggenheim Bilbao

Guggenheim Bilbao Censors Paul McCarthy and Mike Bouchet Collaboration

Camilo Brau

The Guggenheim Bilbao has ordered a mural that caricatures the museum to be taken down, but the artists are arguing the artwork's removal would violate their freedom of speech.

Could a respected museum be violating artists’ freedom of speech in Spain? The Guggenheim Bilbao ordered a mural created by artists Mike Bouchet and Paul McCarthy that depicts the museum with hand-drawn sketches reinterpreting it as a battleship to be taken down. The mural coincides with an exhibition by the artists, titled “Powered A-Hole Spanish Donkey Sport Dick Drink Donkey Dong Dongs Sunscreen Model,”  at the contemporary art space Portikus in Frankfurt that criticizes art institutions as, according to a press release, “self-serving mechanisms for their board members.”

“What’s the purpose of these museums?” pondered Bouchet in a recent phone conversation. “The purpose of museums like this probably have more to do with city tourism than with art.”

Bouchet and McCarthy worked with a Spanish media company that sells billboard space throughout Bilbao in order to place the large-scale piece, which has hung since April 2, on 31 Gran Via, also home to a Massimo Dutti retail shop.

The artists first conceptualized the piece in the early 2000s, when they likened the Guggenheim Bilbao’s Frank Gehry-designed building to a battleship. “We were amazed that we hadn’t seen it come up before in popular media,” Bouchet said. “I think the fact that they reacted so strongly, that they were not interested in any sort of artistic interpretation of their museum… It’s hard for me to say what their motivation is, other than that image of the museum as a battleship, there must be some sensitivity to that particular image because it happens to look like it so much.” Bouchet went on to explain that the Guggenheim Bilbao said that they own all the rights to any reproduction of the museum.

Synchronized Vision

Mapplethorpe's Artistic Twin

A new exhibit pairs the photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe with the sculptures of Auguste Rodin, showing that their work and sensibility was often eerily similar, almost clone-like.

In the now 25 years since Robert Mapplethorpe’s death, there have been an almost tiring number of exhibitions regrouping his series on flowers, sex, celebrities, and so on into predictable narratives. But this spring in Paris, the Mapplethorpe hoopla is taking an interesting turn. In a veritable Mapplethorpe renaissance, two exhibitions have launched in tandem dedicated to his work. The Grand Palais is displaying a 250-image, non-chronological Mapplethorpe retrospective spanning his entire career (and running through July 14). Meanwhile, across the Seine, another new expo boasts a more novel approach: it situates Mapplethorpe’s work against that of iconic French sculptor Auguste Rodin (held at his namesake museum from April 8-September 21). It’s an “entirely different, but complementary” way to see Mapplethorpe’s work, Michael Stout, President of the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, said rather admiringly. Though their chosen media were different, Mapplethorpe’s work seen here (120 photographs on loan from the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation) is so attuned to the sculptural he seems to have dipped his hands in Rodin’s clay.


Musée Rodin

The scenography makes smart use of what is in fact a relatively small exhibition space: a corridor and a single room. With glass panels that double as dividers, Mapplethorpe’s images are hung adjacent to clusters of Rodin sculptures. (There are 50 sculptures in total, mainly presented in glass vitrines.) Staged in a way that is at once packed and airy, the transparency of the glass structures make the associations stronger, be it overt juxtapositions or glimpses out of the corner of one’s eye. The silhouettes seem to reverberate across the room, in a mildly hall-of-mirrors effect.

Billed by the curators as a “dialogue,” the show is ultimately more like two voices communing in completely matched unison. It’s the Parent Trap effect in a museum setting (with a time machine). The concord of the two artists’ visions is astonishing: the crouching and contorting forms are positively clone-like at times. Even the way each artist dealt with texture seems to be shared: the smoothness of firm bodies and the wildness of hair, with equivalent fixations on curves—hips and foreheads and necks and arched hands.

Of War & Watercolors

Turning Ukraine’s Bullets Into Art

As the Maidan burned, Kiev’s artists on the barricades collected memorabilia to turn into creative projects. The first pieces commemorating the revolution are now on display.

One of Kiev’s most prominent artists, Ilya Isupov, opened the glass doors of the bookshelf in his front room and demonstrated his historical collection. The artist found his first “revolutionary artifact” last December: a wooden peg that had connected Lenin’s statue to its pedestal for 67 years, before protesters toppled the monument at the end of last year. Pieces of grenades, shells spotted with soot and a ripped-up bag that once belonged to an anonymous soldier of the Maidan’s Self-Defense Army—every piece represents a historical moment that the artist and his family experienced over the last four months.


Konstantin Chernichkin/Reuters

A military helmet that the artist himself wore on the Maidan occupied an important spot on the shelf. Isupov and his friends, Kiev’s local artists, believed it was important to preserve the artifacts they found on the Maidan, and on nearby Instituska and Grushevska streets, for a permanent exhibit commemorating the more than 100 lives lost on the square during a brutal government crackdown.

The smoke of burning tires was still covering the Maidan when the first signs for museum preservation appeared on a catapult made by protesters, and metal pieces of barricades. “We have enough space in Kiev’s Museum of War, and other historic museums, for the revolutionary artifacts from the Maidan,” said Isupov—like many Ukrainian artists, he had risked his life defending the Maidan and upon coming home, he painted everything he had experienced on the square.

Gone Again

Vandals Sack Pompeii—Again

Thieves are chipping away at the remains of archaeological and cultural wonders, removing prieceless artifacts piece by piece. Can Italy stop the ruins from being ruined forever?

One might argue that Pompeii has never been quite the same since the catastrophic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. that buried it under 25 meters of ashen dust. But centuries of painstaking excavations and anthropological study have brought about 75 percent of the once-dead city back to a splendid life, making it one of the most important archeological sites on the planet.


A damaged statue is seen in the Thermae Stabianae in Pompeii March 8, 2012. (Ciro Luca/Reuters)

Since around 1994, when Italy’s state budget was too stretched to keep up preventative restoration, the ruins have been in a steady state of decline, ruined even more by around 50 significant collapses of walls and rooftops that somehow survived the volcano but couldn’t stand up to modern neglect.  Now, the ruined ruins face a new threat: thieves who are stealing what’s left of its glory. And Pompeii isn’t the only ancient wonder being pilfered. Sites all over Italy are being picked at and destroyed by those meant to protect or appreciate them.

The latest known larceny in Pompeii happened sometime before March 12, when a guard doing a routine check of the ruins noticed that an 8-inch-square chunk of a fresco depicting the goddess of Artemis, the Greek goddess of wilderness and hunting and later of childbirth, had been plied off the wall of the House of Neptune.


The Cute Streets of Tokyo


Thomas C. Card

During the day, these women hold corporate jobs. But on their off hours, they embrace 'kawaii,' the trend of dressing in a cute, almost child-like style, to flaunt individuality.

On the back cover of photographer Thomas Card’s new book, Tokyo Adorned (Abrams, March 2014), a young girl with a light pink-and-blue hairstyle wears a brightly colored floral frock accessorized with a pink, patent leather watering can. “Kumamiki was one of the [first] girls who came to have her portrait done,” Card says in his Chelsea art studio, “This is what [she] wears on a day-to-day basis around the streets.”

Kumamiki is just one of the nearly sixty individuals Card photographed for his series examining kawaii—or “cute”—style in Tokyo, one of the many trends that is exploring the complex ideas of identity and self-expression in the Japanese capital. Card’s fascination with the eccentric Japanese culture began roughly ten years ago after reading an article in The New York Times that highlighted a “crazy eye make-up phase” happening in the club scene throughout Asia. “The Ganguro were doing very extreme eye make-up,” he explains. “I thought it was just incredible, the variety and the creativity that went into these different looks. So I wanted to do a beauty story that looked at these girls before they went into the club and at the end of the night, so you could see the progression along the way. There is always this huge difference between the way you see yourself and they way it manifests in the physical world.”

With a hectic work schedule, Card never had the opportunity to travel to Japan and complete the Ganguro photo series. But after the devastation of the 2011 tsunami, he decided to revisit the idea. “It was not quite a year after the earthquake and the tsunami that I started hearing about new things developing on the street [in Japan],” he says. “But I knew it changed and I needed to rethink what the project would be now. The sense of identity, though, is what has stayed with me from the beginning, and I thought it would be a great time to go do an identity study and exploration.”

After six months of trying to reach potential subjects remotely, Card and his team arrived in Japan. They scouted the streets for girls—and a few boys—to photograph and created a Tumblr to attract attention. “I was able to get two girls to come into the studio to do a portrait shoot…To really win the trust of the people you work with, you need them to come into the studio to see what the experience was like, and what I was trying to do.” His project spread by word of mouth and soon, Card had found roughly 75 girls to work with.

Silent Collaborators

Art World: Wives Don't Count

Kira Perov and Bill Viola

Donato Sardella/Getty

The Grand Palais's Bill Viola retrospective has one glaring omission: recognition of his wife’s substantial contributions to his work. It’s 2014—why are women still overlooked in the art world?

Bill Viola, celebrated as a pioneering video art innovator, is the subject of a 40-year career retrospective, called simply “Bill Viola,” that just opened to great fanfare at Paris’s prestigious Grand Palais. “Bill Viola in 2014 is like Picasso in 1966,” says Grand Palais curator Jérôme Neutres, citing the year a Grand Palais exhibition made Picasso a household name. A review in France’s Le Nouvel Observateur calls Viola a “master” and his work “spectacular.”

Yet, Viola, 63, isn’t the sole author of his own works—he is but one member of a team led by his wife Kira Perov, Executive Director of the Bill Viola Studio, that produces the works credited to him. As The New York Times reported on March 11, “[Viola] has the visions, [Perov] helps realize them, along with a small technical team.”

Even in a profession where paying assistants to carry out work isn’t unusual, The New York Times seemed to give inordinate credit to Viola’s life partner, whom he met in the late 1970s. When I emailed Perov to confirm the accuracy of the statement, she said that the characterization didn’t go far enough.

“That is only part of my role,” Perov wrote. “I also am responsible for the exhibition program and the way that the works are presented in the world, all publications on the work, the archives (paper, photo, video), the finances, and also play a creative role in making the works.”


Jasper Johns is Back to Work


Jasper Johns (American, born 1930). Study for Regrets. 2012. Acrylic, photocopy collage, colored pencil, ink and watercolor on paper.11 3/8 × 17 3/4″ (28.9 × 45.1 cm). (Art © Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Photograph: Jerry Thompson)

What happens behind the walls of the great American painter Jasper Johns’ studio? A new exhibition at New York’s MOMA reveals the intricate process behind the creation of two of his latest paintings.

When an artist reaches high-profile status, it comes with many obligations. How do you deal with the flurry of invitations and requests that fills your mailbox—especially when you are notoriously reclusive? The artist Jasper Johns, famously known for his Flag painting from the 1950s, found an effortless and efficient solution to politely decline—a custom made stamp that reads “Regrets, Jasper Johns.”

Haphazardly, this stamp found its way into a completely new body of works, titled by the same name, now on view at the Museum of Modern Art.

Regrets maps out the evolution of two large-scale paintings, accompanied by various preliminary prints and drawings, that Johns began working on at the end of 2012. The central focus is a single photograph of British painter Lucian Freud.

Casually seated on a bed with his arm raised to obscure his face, the image of Freud was captured in 1964 by British photographer John Deakin on behalf of fellow Brit Francis Bacon, who famously paints from photographs instead of models.


Sexually-Charged Napalm Art

Sculptors have relied on some pretty strange materials over the years. But one artist in Miami has gone even further, creating pieces made from napalm and a rare aphrodisiac soda, Nexcite.

Nicolas Lobo has a thing for using strange substances in his artwork. In the past, the Miami-based artist has sprayed grape cough syrup out of a fire extinguisher, filled a trough with green dye, and used play dough and cherry cough syrup to recreate a meth lab crime scene. The artist also likes to use what he refers to as “the production process of a quasi invisible psychosocial substance to generate forms.” For his latest exhibition, “Bad Soda / Soft Drunk,” which is on display at Gallery Diet in Miami through March 29, Lobo incorporated two odd materials—napalm and a Windex blue-colored sexual energy beverage from Sweden called Nexcite—into his sculptures.  


Lobo’s fascination with napalm began with his interest in videos that instruct viewers how to make homemade chemical concoctions. Napalm is the infamous, goo-like substance that burns quickly when lit on fire and adheres easily to skin. The American military used it as a weapon during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, during which the iconic Pulitzer Prize-winning image was taken of a little girl running down the street naked after a napalm bomb was dropped on her village. After noticing that napalm was a popular subject on YouTube, he watched the 1969 film Inextinguishable Fire by experimental documentary filmmaker Harun Farocki that explored how chemical companies produced the substance. The artist started concocting batches of his own napalm last fall, dousing large blocks of Styrofoam with benzene and gasoline, and then washing them off to stop the reaction before the two liquids fused with the Styrofoam to create the goo. The result was the skeleton of his sculptures, which he then coated with a skin of play dough. “Anybody that you talk to almost knows what it is—sort of,” says Lobo. “It’s this horrible weapon, it’s a bomb thing, but nobody knows what it looks like, so I wanted to give it a shape.”

Shortly after making his first napalm sculptures, which he thinks are akin in shape to Chinese scholar’s stones, Lobo visited an unused building while hunting for studio space in Miami’s Opa-Locka neighborhood last fall. Inside, he discovered 69,000 bottles of Nexcite, an aphrodisiac drink that was originally called Niagara—until Pfizer sued its Swedish manufacturer, Magic House, for trademark infringement because the name was too similar to the pharmaceutical company’s sexual enhancement drug for men, Viagra. Magic House caved and changed the name to Nexcite. The drink’s exclusive American vendor, RLW Marketing Inc., reported that after the name change, sales dropped from 100,000 a month to 100,000 for all of 2002. While RLW Marketing Inc. dissolved shortly after, Nexcite is still available for sale in the United States on Amazon, and, according to the soft drink’s website, it still has an American importer. “It was all boarded up and disused, and they pulled the wood off, and this beam of light shone in, and there was a two-story tall mountain of this stuff,” says Lobo, who knew immediately that he wanted to incorporate the bright blue liquid into his work. “The owners of the building bought it as is, and they were like if you can help us get rid of this you can have it.”


The Whitney Houston Biennial

For one night only, a group of female artists are coming together to challenge the exclusion of the Whitney Museum’s Biennale. And the name of their event takes its name from a certain pop diva.

After her death, Whitney Houston was described, rightly for such an over-used word, as an icon. And now she becomes one for female visual artists.

The Whitney Houston Biennial: I’m Every Woman opens for one night only on Sunday in what curator Christine Finley describes as “a feast for the eyes.” “The idea started two months ago,” Finley told The Daily Beast, “and has quickly turned into a fantastic show of both established and emerging artists.”


Whitney Houston performs onstage at the 2009 American Music Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on November 22, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty)

Set in a 3,000 square foot space in Dumbo, Brooklyn, the exhibition will be presented salon-style with works ranging from videos and performances to paintings and sculptures.