The Daily Pic: A Cold War pornographer addressed queer desire.
This is a collaged contact-sheet, of sorts, made in about 1959 by the American photographer Bob Mizer, who is a major figure from gay erotica's Silver Age, as I guess you could call it. A full spread (ahem) of his work is now in a show at Invisible-Exports gallery in New York. It's hard not to smile at the innocence his images now seem to have. There's also some poignancy in noting how hard it once was to express gay desire. (Mizer was the subject of frequent police harassment.) Also interesting: how different our reaction might be to equivalent imagery of naked women from the same era's straight world, whose nudie pictures might seem more fraught.
The Daily Pic: Ingo Maurer shows it's better to charge a single diode than curse the darkness.
This LED “candle” was designed by Moritz Waldemeyer, and recently released by the great German lighting designer Ingo Maurer. It’s called “My New Flame”, and it uses 128 LEDs and simple circuitry (left visible on the stem of the candle) to provide a moving image of a blowing flame that stands in beautifully for the real thing. The image registers, simultaneously, as both very crude and utterly credible, like a votive offering to our technological age.
The Daily Pic: Mai Hofstad Gunnes shoots girls shooting girls.
This is a still from a charming 16mm film called “Bike and Bolex”, by the young Norwegian artist Mai Hofstad Gunnes, which I saw (and caught on fuzzy video) in Erlend Hammer’s group exhibition at the International Studio and Curatorial Program in Brooklyn. (Click on the still to go to my video.) The little, looping movie shows five young women cycling through a park in Berlin, and filming each other as they do so. It evokes some 1970s experiments with moving cameras and bodies. But what does it mean to look back on that moment with nostalgia, rather than to have been in it, with full belief in its forward gaze? Has the radical become a period style, put on by a bevy of cute girls just the way they don their vintage dresses?
The Daily Pic: Could a Baroque artist have painted a cross-dressing, heartbroken lover?
A wonderful, brooding painting attributed to the Spanish painter Juan Do, who was a student and then colleague of his compatriot Giuseppe Ribera in Naples, and may have died in the great plague of 1646. The painting is at the Metropolitan Museum, which considers it an allegory of the sense of sight. That could be right, but there seems to be a lot of other stuff going on: The plangent mood, the shirt pierced over the heart, even the strangely feminine look of the figure, masculinized in its mirror reflection. Is it a puzzle to be solved, or is the ambiguity meant to stand, irresolvable?
The Daily Pic: In "Bag Lady in Flight", one of L.A.'s great artists brought the street inside.
Old shopping bags, grease stains and drifts of kinky black hair are assembled into this 1970s work by David Hammons, titled “Bag Lady in Flight” and on view in the show called “Now Dig This!” at PS1 in New York. Assemblage was a crucial form for many of the artists in the show, which looks at African American creation in Los Angeles between 1960 and 1980. Hammons gets the genre more right than almost anyone else, black or white. He achieves a perfect balance between the original energies of his found objects and the considered artifice of artistic composition. (“Bag Lady” echoes the protractors of Stella and Duchamp’s descending “Nude”, but also the stagings of Kienholz.) Hammons transforms his materials while preserving the meanings they had on the street.
The Daily Pic: In a show called "Cell Block", the New York artist builds us a dungeon.
Alice Aycock must be one of the most neglected almost-famous artists of recent times. This is a 1975 drawing called “Project for Five Wells Descending a Hillside: Oblique Section”, from a group show called “Cell Block II” that’s been curated by Robert Hobbs for the new Andrea Rosen project space in New York. I’d never thought of incarceration as a notable theme in Aycock’s work, which can often seem more expansive than constricting, but Hobbs’s show seems to make that shoe fit. Of course, almost any architectural enclosure – a specialty of Aycock’s – can speak about incarceration. Our buildings inherently lock us away.
The Daily Pic: Glenn Ligon's neon refuses to shed light.
A lovely, subtle new piece called “Double America”, from Glenn Ligon’s show of neon at Luhring Augustine in New York. The work’s complexities – bright neon almost obscured with black paint; America as a near, but flawed, reflection of itself – make it a nice metaphor for the complex balance of success and failure that marks the nation’s polity and culture, including in the field of race. What seems legible, isn’t.
The Daily Pic: Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt transubstantiates sequins.
This is a typical piece by Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt, whose show at PS1 in New York, called “Tender Love Among The Junk”, seems to be getting surprisingly little attention. Lanigan-Schmidt first had success in the 1970s and 80s, filling a few galleries (but mostly his apartment) with fay accumulations of sparkly odds and ends that also had a significant edge. His art collides gay culture, outsider art, religious camp and sophisticated assemblage and installation. It has a poignant side that makes the cultural margins seem a tough place to be.
The Daily Pic: Andrew Smenos tests how pictures represent.
A sculpture and a painting by Brooklyner Andrew Smenos, shown together in a tight group show at Freight + Volume gallery in Chelsea in New York. Neither object alone much interests me (too cute) but the combination brings up all sorts of issues about how representation and realism work. Here we have a real animal, turned into an imaginary creature, which is then realized as a very small toy in wood, which is in turn reproduced as a fairly faithful and very large oil painting – which feels stylized, despite its strong roots in the world. The “toy” starts feeling like an experimental prop from a psych lab.
The Daily Pic: Michael Rosenfeld's new gallery reopens our eyes.
Michael Rosenfeld, the dealer in (mostly) American modern art, recently moved to a big Chelsea space. Among the unusual gems on display at the gallery’s opening were this gorgeous 1950s textile abstraction by Anne Ryan (an artist I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t know) and this sophisticated 1920s collage by Joseph Stella (an artist I’d always found a touch naive). Note that the artist Anne Ryan's name was given incorrectly in the original version of this post.
The Daily Pic: Ed Ruscha makes threats disappear.
Ed Ruscha’s “Stick Up Don’t Move Smile” (2001) and “Say Yes to Our Demands or Else” (1999), two small, older pictures from the big Ruscha show now at Gagosian Gallery in New York. Ruscha made them by bleaching-out the patches of fabric where we expect the words in the title to be, for a kind of reverse ransom-note effect. I like the way a cancelling that usually happens through scribbling on top of a word is here effected by the word’s removal. These pictures also trigger a lovely process of seeking, as you try to read words back into their blank patches. Threatening language gets reduced to the space its texts take up, as though form rather than meaning were the foundation of written expression – as though the visual always trumped the verbal.
The Daily Pic: Bjarne Melgaard makes paintings with bite.
These are two of the “tiger” paintings by the Norwegian Bjarne Melgaard, from his solo show at Luxembourg & Dayan gallery on New York’s Upper East Side. The paintings are immersed in a wild-and-woolygesamtkunstwerk that includes stacks of a surreal, wildly violent, porn-filthy novel by Melgaard, as well as sculptural installations straight out of the mind of a disturbed teen. But I find these paintings more profoundly peculiar than any of Melgaard’s more explicitly (and conventionally) outlandish gestures. I’ve never seen anything quite like Melgaard’s tigers; they have a fearful asymmetry worthy of William Blake.
The Daily Pic: Gary Simmons shows us our teachings on race.
This is “The King”, from 1993, one of the classic “chalkboard” drawings by the African American artist Gary Simmons, now on view in a little retrospective at Metro Pictures in New York. It manages to fix our memory of the race-tinged imagery that once was everywhere in American culture, while its blurrings also suggest that imagery’s evanescence. What’s always kept cryptic is whether Simmons’s school chalkboards are about teaching us, now, to remember and regret, or about how we were once taught to treat race. I also love the notion that Simmons own art might be subject to erasure – although, as art-world commodities, his chalk drawings always get treated for permanence.
The Daily Pic: Jack Goldstein made violent pictures that were under strict control.
This huge painting was conceived by Jack Goldstein in 1982, and is now in a show of his works at Venus Over Manhattan gallery on New York’s Upper East Side. Goldstein is famous for being a classic mad artist, but what I find most striking about this image is how it relates to rigorous “systems” art by his contemporaries such as Sol LeWitt. It so happens, of course, that the “instruction set” that determines the lines in Goldstein’s picture has to do with the trajectories of bombers attacking a city, and the arcs described by projectiles meant to take them down.
The Daily Pic: Phyllida Barlow crafts a monumental speck.
I don’t know any work of art better balanced between sculpture and painting than Phyllida Barlow’s “Untitled: Lattice (Large)”, in her solo show at Hauser & Wirth gallery in New York. That makes it more interesting than her other works, which sit too safely within the traditions of sculptural installation. “Lattice” comes close to being a massive, 3D enlargement of a tiny paint chip from a Rothko or a Reinhardt: The fractured grid reads as the threads of a canvas, and the specks of color read as underpainted pigment buried deep in the pictorial matrix. This creates a wonderful tension between the diminutive and the monumental, as has sometimes been achieved by Old Master painters working on the surface of the canvas alone. One cranky question: In what sense is “Lattice” untitled? And if it isn’t without a title, why include the word “untitled” in its name? I’d be willing to take it as a clever comment on titling, if it weren’t that this kind of un-titling is now the norm among artists.