The Daily Pic: John Singer Sargent paints his Parisian friend.
“Of course Delafosse is a decadent in the matter of neck-ties – but he is a very intelligent little Frenchman,” wrote John Singer Sargent about Léon Delafosse, the French pianist who sat for this portrait in around 1896. I saw it on a visit to the Seattle Art Museum earlier this autumn. It’s a lovely thing (Delafosse was so pretty he was known as “The Angel”) but I wonder why I like slick crowd-pleasers in older art, but can’t stand them in the art of our times? How can I enjoy Sargent so much, when I hold Cezanne up as the model artist of his era?
The Daily Pic: In Miami, Laura Aldridge recuts painting's cloth.
I seem to suffer from a new syndrome called “fair blindness”. I find it almost impossible to take anything in at art fairs, or distinguish meaningfully between all the merchandise on view. One exception, at this past weekend’s NADA art fair in Miami, were these giant “paintings” by the English Glaswegian Laura Aldridge, at the booth of Kendall Coppe gallery of Glasgow. Aldridge’s pieces represent, I guess, a new kind of superrealism, since they are hand-made, hand-painted enlargements of real pockets that Aldridge has sourced from secondhand clothes. I like the way they relate to the scale and shape of traditional heroic paintings, and how they re-root a painter’s “canvas” in the textiles of everyday life.
The Daily Pic: Canada gallery flogs rugs and fine art – and wit – at the NADA fair.
I’ve said it more than once: The world’s art fairs have far more in common with souks than with museums. That’s why I shot this photo of the booth of a New York gallery called Canada, at the NADA fair in Miami, which happily set out to prove me right. Owner Phil Grauer invited Yousef Idia, the Moroccan-born husband of one of the gallery’s artists, to sell Berber rugs from the floor of the booth. “Come peddle your rugs, and I will peddle my pictures,” Grauer remembers saying. The dealer feels that “the structure of the rugs matches the structure of many of the paintings I’m interested in.” And, he says, given the pain everyone suffers at art fairs, having rugs on the floor “kind of softens the blow”.
The Daily Pic: Disposable cameras used by artists – you have to buy one to see the results.
Disposable cameras, given to 24 artists to do with as they please, then offered for sale for $1,000 each – with no instructions for what the buyer should do with the camera, its film or the images on it (if any). This project, by W/ (pronounced “with”) of New York and on view at the NADA art fair, was one of my favorite works at this week’s artfest in Miami Beach. It poked fun at the obsessive act of shopping and choosing that art fairs are all about, and short-circuited any normal connoisseurial impulse. Buyers were simply asked to put themselves in the artists’ hands, and trust that good would come of it. If I were to buy one of these signed cameras, I’d keep it unopened, allowing hope and potential to rule the day.
The Daily Pic: Marcel Duchamp's reworked photo of his most famous painting, a steal at $15 million.
After a day running around the Art Basel fair in Miami Beach, I came back to tried-and-true Marcel Duchamp for today’s Daily Pic. This work is on sale at Michael Rosenfeld’s booth for $15 million. It’s a photo of Duchamp’s semi-Cubist “Nude Descending A Staircase” (a painting that became infamous at its showing at the 1913 Armory show) which Duchamp lightly reworked with pencil, watercolor and white pastel, probably around 1915. It’s referred to as a “study” for a later version of the “Nude” that Duchamp painted for his patrons Louise and Walter Arensberg, but I can’t help feeling that Duchamp enjoyed blurring the distinction between photography and the hand-made, between originals and reproductions. In which case this ought to count as an “original”, fully complete work by Duchamp, and one that’s arguably more complex than the paintings it relates to.
The Daily Pic: For it's 100th birthday, a famous art magazine gives rein to Richard Prince.
This is the cover of the new 100th-anniversary edition of Art in America, with an image commissioned from Richard Prince. (It’s also the 25th anniversary of his first appearance on the magazine’s cover.) The project gets a bunch of things exactly right. Prince’s cover gives a classic dose of Americanness to a magazine that has its country in its title, but the image also undermines its own patriotism by voicing it as cliche. And, rather than turning an old illustration into a fancy painting (low become high for the umpteenth time) it recirculates one kind of illustration as another (from dime novel to ten-dollar art rag; from painting to printing to painting to print once again.) This is, as it proclaims, a picture of art in America.
The Daily Pic: Tatzu Nishi built a living room around the explorer.
I caught the installation called “Discovering Columbus” on Saturday, the eve of its closing. Japanese artist Tatzu Nishi had built a condo-cliche living room around the statue of Christopher Columbus that has looked down on Columbus Circle in New York for more than a century. Thanks to Nishi’s intervention, we got to to see all sorts of details in the statue that no one has since it was carved: Details of the explorer’s shoes, of his hat, of his hand on a tiller. This puts the statue in a category that fascinates me: Works of visual art that barely qualify as visual. Various grave goods come to mind, but I think almost every artwork has some carefully conceived details that are irrelevant to our visual appreciation of it.
(Photo by Lucy Hogg)
The Daily Pic: With his "Woodmen", George Baselitz prefigured digital dismemberment.
I saw “Woodmen”, completed by George Baselitz in 1968, on a recent trip to the permanent collection at MoMA. I think of Baselitz as an artist who made it big in the 1980s, with the Neo-Ex return to figuration – but the date of this picture proves me wrong to so think. More importantly, I was instantly struck by how the discombobulations in this painting, with body parts fractured and rotated and repeated here and there across the surface, foretell the much later decompositions of digital imagery.
The Daily Pic: Kutlug Ataman imagines a space race with its feet on the ground.
A still that’s on display in a video installation by Kutlug Ataman called “Journey to the Moon”, in his solo show at Sperone Westwater gallery on the Bowery in New York. The piece is built around a long, fantastical narrative, set in 1957, about a village in far eastern Turkey whose residents decide to launch a rocket ship made from their mosque’s minaret. It’s totally charming and strange, even as it touches on all sorts of current issues: Religion and science, poverty and development, the past and the future, East and West, hopes and dreams and their conflict with reality.
The Daily Pic: Monika Sosnowska plants her "Fir Tree" in Central Park.
A standard ironwork staircase, crumpled and turned upside-down, is “Fir Tree”, a typical piece by the polish artist Monika Sosnowska. New York’s Public Art Fund has installed it on its regular site at the southeast corner of Central Park. I love the way it echoes the real trees all around it, and how its red bannister reads almost as a Christmas garland. My one cavil? The barrier that’s been set around the work’s base – made necessary, I assume by the climbing urges of morons.
The Daily Pic: Corban Walker expands on issues of smallness.
This is a photo of Corban Walker, an Irish-born Brooklyner who often makes work about being four feet tall, and whom I profiled in this week’s Newsweek. I actually think this portrait is important, because it brings the whole issue of scale into focus. Working with the maquette for his installation in the Irish pavilion at the last Venice Biennale, Walker briefly seems a giant, while a room-high sculpture appears diminutive – the opposite, of course, of how thing’s “really are”. It’s trite to note that “big” and “small” are relative terms, but I think we often forget that fact when we’re dealing with people who don’t measure up to our expectations.
The Daily Pic: Barb Choit shows us old images as they fade to black – or cyan.
“Barbershop Fade #7” is the best of the fascinating photographs in the Barb Choit solo show now at Rachel Uffner Gallery in New York. Choit documents the fading, cyan-heavy images that circulate in shop windows all over modern cities. It takes some effort to remind oneself that her images aren’t faded at all, but are accurate transcriptions of the final moments in the lives of other photos. And she shows how the fragile virtuality of photography has replaced the actual, tangible objects in the shop windows of her great predecessor, Eugene Atget.
The Daily Pic: Alexander Calder's plasters change our eye for his bronzes.
Alexander Calder’s plaster maquette for “Cheval I”, from 1930 and now in a show at L&M Arts in New York, where it sits beside the bronze that was cast from it. The exhibition had many pairings like this, and they all reminded me of how much I prefer plasters to bronzes, especially in modern art. The plasters are delicate and ephemeral and feel as though they record the artist’s act of working. (Apparently, Calder modeled directly in plaster rather than starting out in clay or wax.) The bronzes don’t only lose some of the detail of the plasters; they inevitably invoke the elaborate, expensive, time-hallowed process of casting, by which the original maquettes come to be inserted into Old Master art history and its market. The bronzes are really pictures of the plasters, and need to be read as representational acts, with all the translation that involves.
The Daily Pic: Before perfecting his confectionary colors, Wayne Thiebaud went brown.
Wayne Thiebaud painted “Cigar Counter” in 1955, and he’s now lent it to a survey of his paintings at Aquavella Galleries in New York. It is pretty much the least typically Thiebaudian picture in the exhibition, which is what I like about it. Its Pollocky drips reveal Thiebaud’s roots in Abstract Expressionism, while its subject already announces his love of serried ranks of consumables, soon to take over his art. (I also like the notion of a painting that is of cigar boxes, when so many pictures have been painted onto them.) And here’s a thought: Does the candy-shop plenty of the Aquavella show, with its rows of delicious pictures, make the exhibition function as one giant Thiebaud? It’s all close to being fractal.
The Daily Pic: In 1988, Lynne Cohen showed pictures that pried the lid off reality.
"Flying School", one of the classic photos from Lynne Cohen's 1988 show called "Occupied Territories", now being restaged at Higher Pictures gallery in New York. (The book of the same name is also being reissued). Cohen was one of the pioneers of the neo-documentary trend in fine-art photography, in which content seemed to matter much more than form – but where no single take on a subject was ever specified. Sometimes it seems as though she’s merely prying the front wall off a room, and letting us see what’s inside.