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.
The Daily Pic: For 40 days, painter Nick Miller churned out likenesses.
These dashing portraits of New York critics David Cohen and Joseph Wolin (both friends of mine) are part of a 40-day, 40-portrait campaign waged by Irish painter Nick Miller, when he was in residence this fall in a Brooklyn studio. Miller isn’t a painter so much by profession, as by ontology. His practice is all about facing up to what being a painter could mean, at this late date, and to what is involved in using paint to encounter the world. The result, often, seems to be a kind of “painting degree zero” – just making representation happen, without thinking too much about style or manner. It’s as if Samuel Beckett had written, “I can’t paint, I will paint.”
The Daily Pic: At Christie's mega-sale, a work by Afro resists the masterpiece theory of art.
This is “Porta Portese”, painted by the Italian artist called Afro in 1964, and my favorite work in last night’s record-breaking auction at Christie’s, about which I ranted on today’s Daily Beast. (And last night, live, on Twitter.) This Afro was the only unexpected work on offer, by an artist few people at Christie’s had ever heard of and whose auction record was a paltry $1 million dollars. (Only Elizabeth Peyton had a - barely - lower auction history.) That means “Porta Portese”, which sold for $938,500 – or one fortieth of last night’s price for Franz Kline – offered an antidote to yet another noxious effect of splashy auction records: Their tendency to concentrate attention on a handful of “geniuses”, as though they’re all that could matter in art. The danger is that, under the pressure of auction headlines, new-minted collectors are now more likely to buy a lousy Warhol, as they wait to afford a better one, than something great by someone who’s not so well known. Forza Afro.
The Daily Pic: Lee Friedlander channels porn without making it.
After the beautification of the Egon Schiele nudes in yesterday's Pic, here's a kind of antidote: Two 1982 nudes by Lee Friedlander, on view now at Pace gallery on New York's Upper East Side. Friedlander is one of the few art photographers I know who unashamedly channels porn in his nudes, yet without fetishizing the link. With Friedlander, there's a powerful sense that he's an open-eyed observer of the world and everything in it (including girly pictures). But there's also a sense that his way of observing – his particular unweighted glance – is unique to him, and more in contact with the real than most. He confronts us with the raw facts of sex and nudity, as we've lived them in the U.S. His nudes are neither salacious nor prim nor arty.
The Daily Pic: Egon Schiele's nudes sell us their models' bodies.
This is one of many gorgeous images in a fascinating show of female nudes by Egon Schiele at Galerie St. Etienne in New York – but their gorgeousness may be a problem. (There's a racier example in the Tumblr version of this blog.) The show's official position is that Schiele has been unfairly caricatured as a misogynist letch, and that in fact in his pictures of naked women (mostly prostitutes or their like, portrayed in the years to either side of World War I) the artist "negates the illusion of passivity that traditionally held in check the nude's erotic potency" and "visually affirms female sexual autonomy". His women are said to "own their sexuality; they take pride in their seductive bodies and are empowered by their allure." Which is awfully close to the argument that Playboy and Penthouse have always made about the "girls" in their magazines.
Schiele is such a master of the seductive surface – and I'm talking here about his compositions, not his models – that any social ugliness behind the picture-making moment disappears from sight. Schiele is, if nothing else, an ancestor of the best in long-legged fashion illustration. The elegance of his touch and line "sells" us the women on view, and makes it easy to consume them. I prefer Toulouse Lautrec, whose ugly, awkward whorehouse views make it clear that something's out of whack in their sexual politics.
The Daily Pic: Robert Burley shot the disappearing world of analog photography.
“Dwayne’s Photo Lab, Parsons, Kansas, December 30, 2010” is an image of the last facility in the world that processed Kodachrome film, taken three weeks before it ran its final batch. The image is by Robert Burley, from his new book called The Disappearance of Darkness: Photography at the End of the Analog Era, from which I culled a slide show for yesterday’s Daily Beast. What interests me most about the demise of Kodak films and their like is that they often relied on large-scale industrial processes to exist at all, so probably can never be revived by hobbyists. I wonder if there’s any other major technology that’s disappeared as thoroughly, irretrievably from our repertoire.
The Daily Pic: Glen Baldridge made a hunter's blind that captured modest visions.
Glen Baldridge’s “This Way” is on view in his solo show at Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery on New York’s Lower East Side. He shot the source image using a camera set up in the forest, with a motion detector designed to trigger the shutter when anything passed by. Instead of bagging big game, however, Baldridge’s camera went off at the merest fall of a leaf or shift of a branch, capturing the quotidian emptiness of the natural world. Baldridge then printed his banal shots onto large sheets of handmade paper, using a complicated process of resists and powdered graphite. It’s as though his lush artistic media are being asked to restore the romantic essence that is never really there in nature – or only gets there with some human help.
The Daily Pic: The late Alina Szapocnikow liked well-upholstered bodies.
In MoMA's show of the fascinating Polish artist Alina Szapocnikow, who died young in 1973, my favorite works crossed over between art and design - like these "Belly Cushions", from 1968, that she'd hoped to put into mass production. The "new" MoMA is sometimes accused of having a corporate ethos, but with shows like this, of obscure, neglected figures from far points (from us) on the globe, I think it defeats such accusations. At the moment, the Modern has nothing crowd pleasing and easy on view. Oh, wait. There's Munch's "Scream".
The Daily Pic: Mike Kelley paints carpet and goes grim in "Funny".
Mike Kelley’s “Topo Gigio Topographical Model”, from a group show called “Funny” curated for the Flag Art Foundation in New York by Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson. Despite the exhibition’s title, few of the works at Flag yield a straightforward laugh, but as usual Kelly’s is more vexed even than others. This crude piece of crudely painted nylon carpet, framed-up as high art, is about both rec-rooms and Rothko, and thumbs its nose at both. (The wrong title was given for this work in an earlier version of the Daily Pic)
The Daily Pic: After Sandy, Diana Thater shows that Chernobyl was even worse.
This image of an abandoned music room near Chernobyl is by L.A. artist Diana Thater. On Friday, her Chernobyl-themed video installation will go on view at David Zwirner gallery in New York – barely ten days after the gallery was flooded chest-high by Hurricane Sandy, as I discussed in a big feature on today’s Daily Beast. It bears witness to Zwirner’s deep resources – but also to the gallery’s fleet-footedness. The Thater show was due to happen in the New Year, but Zwirner and his staff realized how perfectly suited it was to New York’s post-disaster moment. (Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York)
The Daily Pic: Chandler Burr, curator of scents, presents an irreproduceable art form.
This image is not my Daily Pic, which is why I’ve put it up: It merely points to the scent-art I want to talk about – that the perfumer Daniela Andrier is smelling in the photo – but which I have no way of representing. On today’s Daily Beast, I published a profile of Chandler Burr, the world’s first curator of olfactory art, soon to open a major perfume survey at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York. And one of the interesting points that didn’t make the article’s final draft was that, unlike art forms like painting and photography or even music that can survive reproduction, olfactory media can only be experienced “live”, in the flesh. That means their serious appreciation absolutely demands the kind of dedicated space that only a museum can provide. Lucky such space now exists, at least for the duration of Burr’s shows.
The Daily Pic: Lady Liberty helps this artist win the Guggenheim's $100K.
This is a detail from a piece called “WE THE PEOPLE” by Danh Vo, a Vietnamese Berliner who is slowly assembling a piece-by-piece, full-scale replica of the Statue of Liberty, in the same copper as the original. This work seems to be stalking me: I saw it in New York in February in the New Museum’s triennial, and then again this October at the Shanghai Biennial. I Daily Pic’d it at the New Museum, but I guess it deserves another go, since Vo was just now announced as the winner of the Guggenheim’s Hugo Boss Prize, worth $100,000. I can’t wait for next spring, and the solo show that goes with the award. I want to see what else Vo has been up to.
The Daily Pic: In Minneapolis, Andy DuCett captures a local vibe.
Another image from my recent trip to Minneapolis – this time showing one small part of a massive installation by local artist Andy DuCett, filling the entire Soap Factory arts center. Here DuCett has built Brobdingnagian Lego, but elsewhere in the show he’s installed a real bar, a mini football field and a working thrift shop. The Twin Cities seem to have an old-time, survivalist, DIY spirit, and DuCett has bottled it.
The Daily Pic: In the 1950s, Grace Hartigan injected the everyday into her abstractions.
“Billboard”, painted by Grace Hartigan in 1957 and now in the permanent collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, where I saw it on a recent trip to the Twin Cities. Although Hartigan “officially” counts as a second-generation Abstract Expressionist, what impressed me about this picture was how much it anticipated Pop art. Hartigan based it on a collage of Life magazine snippets that included ads for toothpaste and food shots. “I have found my subject,” she’s quoted as saying. “It concerns that which is vulgar and vital in American life, and possibilities of its transcendence into the beautiful.” All true of the best Pop, except for that old-fashioned bit about transcendence.
The Daily Pic: Kiki Kogelnik's 1960s work looks forward to feminist pieces from decades later.
These images are by an Austrian artist named Kiki Kogelnik, who died in 1997. She had a stint in 1960s New York, and is now showing at Simon Subal Gallery there. What interests me about her is that, even as she adopted the look of Pop Art, her content looked forward to feminist work of the 1980s and 90s. She was interested in the female body and how science and medicine touch it, and she sampled clinical imagery to get at her concerns. Of course, in the mostly male world of Pop, this was hardly a way to hit it big.