Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Regarding “Regarding Warhol”

By Charles Kessler

Andy Warhol, Self-Portrait, 1967, acrylic and silkscreen on canvas, 72 x 72 inches each, (Detroit Institute of Arts). Is Warhol being contemplative, or is he giving us the finger?
Some thoughts on the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition, Regarding Warhol: Sixty Years, Fifty Artists (until December 31st):

  • Compared to Warhol's work in this exhibition, almost all the work looked minor to me. Jeff Koons held up better than most, but Richard Prince seemed especially weak. I’d like to see how Warhol would do in a show that included major work by Pollock, Dekooning, David Smith, Johns and some other heavy hitters of the last half of the twentieth century. I think he might hold his own, but it would be nice to be able to see. 
  • The 1962 Big Campbell’s Soup Can is still exciting. I never noticed the very faint hand-drawn pencil line in the white space just above the red at the top of the label. Such designer drawing!

Andy Warhol, Big Campbell's Soup Can, 19¢, acrylic and graphite on canvas, 72 x 54 ½ inches (The Menil Collection).

Just because people made portraits during this period doesn’t mean they were influenced by Warhol.
Alex Katz, Lita, 1964, oil on canvas, 60 x 60 1/8 inches (The Museum of Modern Art).
  • Some surprises in the show — for me at least:

Vija Celmins, Time Magazine Cover, 1965, oil on canvas, 56 x 40.6 cm © the artist. 
Hans Haacke, Helmsboro Country, 1990, mixed media.
  • Warhol never expected anyone to watch his eight-hour movie Empire, 1964, for its full length. His original intent was to project it on a wall like a painting, and he was surprised when there was a request to show it in a movie theater. Although he had no objection to others sitting and watching the full film, Warhol himself was never this foolish.
  • Nico's "screen test" is not a good example of a Warhol “screen test” because she was used to being photographed (she was a model) and, as a result, she doesn’t display the self-consciousness that I love so much in his screen tests. (The same is true with Dennis Hopper’s screen test.)  Nico did look gorgeous, though.
  • I don’t see how Basquiat fits in this show even if he did collaborate with Warhol on some paintings. In fact it’s possible Warhol wanted to collaborate with Basquiat because they were so different.

Some thoughts on the Metropolitan Museum's panel discussion about the influence of Andy Warhol:
The  Rogers Auditorium at the Metropolitan Museum was relatively empty for the panel discussion last Sunday. Did people know something I didn't? 

The panel seemed promising. It included Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, considered by many to be the best up-and-coming curator in the world right now; Arthur C. Danto, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Columbia University; and Louis Menand, Professor of English at Harvard University and on the staff of the New Yorker. Mark Rosenthal, independent curator and co-curator of the exhibition, was the moderator. But it was disappointing. Arthur Danto didn't show, and Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev just rambled on, paid no attention to the topic, and made no sense. She said the most influential artist of the twentieth century (not the last half — the entire twentieth century!) wasn't Picasso, or Duchamp, or Warhol. The most influential artist according to her was — wait for it — Joseph Beuys!!!. Matisse didn't even deserve a mention.

Andy Warhol, Marilyn Monroe's Lips, 1962, synthetic polymer, silkscreen and graphite on canvas, 165 1/2 x 163 inches (Hirshhorn).
My time wasn't completely wasted though. Mark Rosenthal made a couple of interesting points. He thought Warhol was making ironic reference to Dekooning with his monumental painting, Marilyn Monroe's Lips, 1962; and he said Warhol's exhibitions were always installations.

And I got to walk out of the Met with Marla Prather, the co-curator of the exhibition. We talked about the trouble they had exhibiting Warhol's "Silver Clouds". The "Clouds" had to be filled with just the right amount of helium so they would float around and not all gather in a corner of the ceiling or sink to the floor. That was also the reason for the fans, which I didn't remember seeing at one of the original exhibitions in Los Angeles. (Where, BTW, one of the "Clouds" escaped the gallery and flew into the Los Angeles smog.)

Andy Warhol, Silver Clouds, first shown in 1966 at the Castelli Gallery in New York.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Art on the Right and Left Banks this Weekend

By Charles Kessler

Friday night was a good time to be in Bushwick if you wanted to see a wide variety of  Performance Art. At Agape Gallery I saw Variations, a performance by Elise Rasmussen. She directed two actors (Corey Tazmania and Niall Powderly) in various re-enactments of possible scenarios of the 1985 death of Ana Mendieta, the wife of the well-known minimal sculptor, Carl Andre. Andre was tried and acquitted of her murder, but the circumstances remain suspicious to a lot of people. 
Ana Mendieta and Carl Andre
(Medieta was less then five feet tall but went out a very high window to fall 33 stories to her death; she was phobic about heights and wouldn’t go near those windows; they had a history of drunken fights; and Andre had scratches on his face.) The performance got more interesting when the audience started to make suggestions, and it became pretty intense when a few people talked about the pain of their own phobias and experience with suicide. 

Next I went to Grace Exhibitions Space for the Performing Arts. Since 2006, Grace has been an important venue for performance artists from all over the world, and Friday night was no exception. There were performances by artists from Switzerland, Berlin, Estonia, France and, of all places, Kentucky. There was Beat Poetry by Ron Whitehead, an older poet from Kentucky; a chaotic, frankly silly, extravaganza by the Estonian group, Non Grata; 
Voluntarily Out of Focus performed by Non Grata Group from Estonia.
(This panoramic was taken with my nifty new iPhone 5 camera — click to enlarge.)

and the Swiss artist Saskia Edens did one of the best performances I’ve seen in a long time. She carried a thin sheet of ice around to about a dozen people, and she and they would blow on it, melting enough holes so it eventually fell apart. It was an elegant, beautiful, erotic and moving experience, and one that required extraordinary endurance. Why she didn’t pass out and/or get frostbite I can’t imagine.
Breath by Saskia Edens, Grace Exhibition Space.
The 22nd annual Jersey City Studio Tour took place this weekend (my how time flies!). It’s no longer a tour of artists' studios, at least not primarily — instead it’s a citywide series of art exhibitions and performances. Among the highlights was a group exhibition organized by Pro Arts in the Tenmarc building, an enormous space that was generously loaned to Pro Arts for the tour. 
Jersey City Studio Tour exhibition, Tenmarc Building
It’s nearly impossible for a group show like this to look good, but there was plenty of excellent work, and Nimbus Dance Works and Bollywood Funk presented some delightful dances. 
Nimbus at Tenmarc
(Later that day Nimbus invited the public to watch them rehearse for a rare staging of Charles Weidman’s 1936 classic dance, Lynchtown. The dance will be presented in several venues in New Jersey and New York. Don’t miss it — it's powerful stuff!)
Drawing Rooms — a former convent turned exhibition space in Downtown Jersey City
The Tour showcased a beautiful new exhibition venue, a three-story former convent in Downtown Jersey City (see photo above). Organized by Victory Arts Projects, each artist was given their own modest but nicely proportioned room. It’s an ideal space to experience intimate art, although I imagine it would be equally suitable for large installations. It has the potential to be one of the most important art spaces in New Jersey.
 Mazz Swift and Amelia Hollander Ames playing in an historic row house in Downtown Jersey City.
Sunday was a concert by Con Vivo to benefit the Embankment Preservation Coalition, an organization dedicated to preserving an imposing elevated stone railway structure.  Technically the event wasn't part of the tour, although the artists Jessica Dalrymple and Gregg Kreutz, owners of the historic row house where the benefit took place, were on the tour. The event was a warm, neighborly, civilized way to spend the afternoon — and for a good cause. 

The weekend ended with a crawl of trendy bars (the new Jersey City) and at Uta Brauser’s Fish with Braids gallery (a venue more typical of the funky old Jersey City I knew and loved).

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Bushwick Gallery Guide Updated

By Charles Kessler

Note: On the right sidebar under "Gallery and Museum Guides" is a pdf file of this guide that can be downloaded. The numbers on the map represent bars and restaurants; these are listed below, after the gallery listings.

Three galleries closed since my last update in February: 950 Hart, Botanic and Kesting/Ray — but at least nine galleries opened, bringing the total to an amazing thirty-nine. They're spread out over a large area; what is being called “Bushwick” actually includes parts of East Williamsburg and Ridgewood, Queens. If you have the energy, it’s possible to do it all in one day (it's about 4 1/2 miles), but you can easily split the tour into eastern and western sections if you prefer. For the eastern section, you can take the L train to Morgan Avenue and go out the Bogart Street exit (toward the back of the train if you’re coming from the west). 56 Bogart, a building with 10 galleries, is across the street from the exit. For the western section, you can start from the Dekalb Avenue L subway station and return via the Jefferson Street L (at Wyckoff and Troutman).

Some galleries are open Friday - Monday, 1 - 6 pm, and most are open at least Sundays. Others, however, are only open by appointment and for openings. It's a good idea to check gallery websites (their names below are linked to their websites), email them, or call the galleries in advance to confirm. It’s also a good idea to take the gallery phone numbers with you because in some cases you may need be let in.

Alphabetical Listing of Bushwick Art Galleries

319 Scholes, 319 Scholes Street, no phone listed,  email: lindsay@319scholes.org.
Active Space, The, 566 Johnson Ave., buzz 5 to be toured through, no phone listed.

Agape Enterprise, 56 Bogart Street, (718) 417-0037, email: info@agapeenterprise.com.

Airplane, 70 Jefferson Street - basement, (central Avenue is a more pleasant street to take to this gallery than the safe but bleak Evergreen Avenue), (646) 345-9394, email: airplanegallery@gmail.com

Bogart Salon, 56 Bogart Street, (203) 249-8843, email: bogartsalon@gmail.com.

Bull and Ram, 17-17 Troutman #226, no phone listed, email: bullandram226@gmail.com.

C.C.C.P., 56 Bogart Street, (917) 974-9664, email: cccp@mindspring.com.

Centotto, 250 Moore Street #108, call (908) 338-3590 to be let in, email: postuccio@gmail.com.

CLEARING, 505 Johnson Avenue #10, (347) 383-2256, email: desk@c-l-e-a-r-i-n-g.com.

English Kills, 114 Forrest Street, (use door to the garden on the right), (917) 375-6266, 

et al Projects, 56 Bogart Street, (914) 498-8328, email: adam@etalprojects.com.

Ethan Pettit Contemporary, 119 Ingraham Street, no phone listed, email: ep@ethanpettitgallery.com.

Grace Exhibition Space, 840 Broadway, 2nd Floor, (646) 578-3402.

Grimm Schultz, 313 Linden Street, Studio B, no phone listed, email: info@grimmschultz.com.

Interstate Projects, 66 Knickerbocker Avenue, no phone listed, email: tom@interstateprojects.com.

IV Soldiers Gallery, 184 Noll Street, no phone listed, email: ivsoldiers@gmail.com.

Living Gallery, The, 1087 Flushing Avenue, no phone listed, email: thelivinggallery@gmail.com.

Luhring Augustine, 25 Knickerbocker Avenue, (212) 206-9100, email: info@luhringaugustine.com.

Microscope, 4 Charles Place, (347) 925-1433, email: info@microscopegallery.com.

Momenta Art, 56 Bogart, (718) 218-8058, email via their website.

Norte Maar, 83 Wyckoff Avenue, (646) 361-8512, email via their website.

NURTUREart, 56 Bogart Street, (718) 782-7755, email: gallery@nurtureart.org

OUTLET, 253 Wilson, no phone listed, email: info@OUTLETBK.com. This gallery will be changing its name, email address and website often. Get on their mailing list if you want to stay in touch.

Panoply Performance Lab, 104 Meserole, no phone listed, email: panoplylab@gmail.com.

Parallel Art Space, 17-17 Troutman Street, no phone listed, email: parallelartspace@gmail.com.

Parlour, The, 791 Bushwick Avenue, (718) 360-3218, email:  info@theparlourbushwick.com.

Regina Rex, 17-17 Troutman Street, ring bell #329, (646) 467-2232, email: info[at]reginarex.org.

Robert Henry Contemporary, 56 Bogart Street, (718) 473-0819, email: info@roberthenrycontemporary.com.

Sardine, 286 Stanhope Street, no phone or email listed.

Secret Project Robot, 389 Melrose Street, no phone listed, email: rachel@secretprojectrobot.org

Slag Contemporary, 56 Bogart Street, (212) 967-9818, email: info@SlagGallery.com.

Small Black Door, 19-20 Palmetto Street, no phone listed, email: smallblackdoor@gmail.com.

StorefrontBushwick, 16 Wilson Avenue, (917) 714-3813, email: StorefrontBushwick@gmail.com

Studio 10, 56 Bogart Street, (718) 852-4396, email: studio10bogart@gmail.com.

SUGAR , 449 Troutman Street, #3-5, ring bell #21, (718) 417-1180, email: sugar@sugarbushwick.com

THEODORE:Art, 56 Bogart Street, (212) 966-4324, email: theodoreart@gmail.com

Valentine, 464 Seneca Avenue, (718) 381-2962, email: valentineridgewood@gmail.com

Weeknights, 566 Johnson Avenue, Studio #27, (201) 953-4062, email: weeknightsgallery@gmail.com

Weldon Arts , 181-R Irving Avenue, (347) 955-4455, email: info@weldonarts.net

Bushwick Open Studios (BOS), Bogart Street, June 7, 2012.
If you’re going to spend a day gallery-going, you’ll want to stop occasionally at a bar or restaurant for some rest and recuperation. Bushwick is blessed with many excellent ones, and they’re usually a lot less expensive than you’ll find in Manhattan. They're grouped geographically below, and when available, I linked the name of the bar or restaurant to its website. The map was too crowded to include the names of the restaurants and bars, so they are indicated by number. The map was also too crowded to include coffee spots, but two of my favorites are Swallow, 49 Bogart Street, across the street from 56 Bogart; and The Loom, 1087 Flushing Avenue, in the same building as The Living Gallery.  

Recommended Bushwick Restaurants and Bars

1.  Roberta's Restaurant — 261 Moore Street, (718) 417-1118, open daily from 11am - midnight. This is Bushwick’s most famous restaurant, and one of the most unique restaurants in New York. For all that, it’s relatively inexpensive — maybe expensive for Bushwick, but not for Manhattan. Expect a wait. 

2.   MoMo Sushi Shack — 43 Bogart Street, (718) 418-6666, open Tuesday - Sunday from noon - 3:30pm and 6pm - 10:30pm; and Friday and Saturday until midnight. This is the best Japanese food I've had outside of California (I haven’t been to Per Se). Again, maybe a bit expensive for Bushwick, but not for Manhattan, and not for this quality. 

3.   Shinobi Ramen53 Morgan Ave (entrance on Grattan Street between Morgan & Bogart), no phone listed, open Monday - Thursday from 6pm to 11pm; Friday and Saturdays, 6pm to 11:30pm; closed on Sundays. This is a small, friendly place where people share long tables. The prices are more typical of Bushwick. (The nearby MoMo and Roberta’s also have communal seating — it must be a Bushwick thing.) BYOB. 

4.   Brooklyn Fireproof Cafe and Bar 119 Ingraham Street, (347) 223-4211. The kitchen is open daily from 10am - 11pm; and Saturday and Sunday from 6pm - 11pm. The bar is open late. They have an outside courtyard where there’s often live music; and behind the bar is a room that’s sometimes used for art exhibitions.

5.   983983 Flushing Avenue, (718) 386-1133, open 7 days a week from 10am - 2am. They’re a new restaurant that displaced a local favorite, but they have in turn become a popular neighborhood spot.

6.   Narrows Bar 1037 Flushing Avenue, (281) 827-1800, open Monday - Friday from 5pm - 4am; Saturday and Sunday from 4pm - 4am. They have a pleasant back yard.

7.   Dear Bushwick — 41 Wilson Avenue,  (949) 234-2344, open every day from 5 - 11 pm (bar is open until 1pm on weekends). This is a new pub that specializes in English country food.

8.   Tandem Bar — 236 Troutman Street, (718) 386-2369, hours not listed, but they’re open late. Some food. 

9.   Mama Joy’s1084 Flushing Avenue, across from the Loom, (347) 295-2227, open every day from 11am; the bar is open until 2am. This is a very friendly new place that serves good Southern soul food at great prices. Try their shrimp and grits. 

10.   Cafe Ghia 24 Irving Avenue, (718) 821-8806. The kitchen is open Sunday - Thursday from 10am - 11pm; and Friday and Saturday, 10am -12am. Popular small storefront cafe/bar.

11.   Arepera Guacuco 44 Irving Avenue, (347) 305-3300, open Monday - Wednesday from noon - 11 pm; Thursday - Friday, noon - 12am; Saturday, 11am - 12am; Sunday 11am - 11pm. Excellent and inexpensive arepas and other Venezuelan specialties. 

12.   Northeast Kingdom 18 Wyckoff Avenue, (718) 386-3864, open for lunch Monday - Friday from 11:30 - 2:30pm; for dinner, Sunday - Wednesday, 6 - 11pm,  and Thursday - Saturday, 6 - 11:30pm. The bar is open late. Pretty good burgers. 

13.   Tortilleria Mexicana Los Hermanos — 271 Starr Street, (718) 456-3422, open Monday - Friday from noon to 9pm. Very inexpensive, and not bad. 

14.   The Bodega Bar 24 Saint Nicholas Avenue, (646) 924-8488, open daily from 11:30am - 2am; and until 3am Friday and Saturday. Craft beer and some good sandwiches and small plates. 

15.   Mazelle 247 Starr Street, (347) 425-7675, open weekdays from 5 - 11 pm; weekends, 11am - 4am, closed Mondays. A new bar/restaurant that serves Russian and Ukrainian food.

16.   Skytown 921 Broadway, (347) 921-2911; the kitchen is open daily from 8:30am -10pm. The bar is open late.  Nice looking new bar/cafe near Microscope, Airplane and The Parlour galleries.

17.   Little Skips 941 Willoughby Avenue, (718) 484-0980, open 7am - 9pm every day except weekends when they open at 8:30am. A popular coffee cafe with some food.  Near Microscope, Airplane and The Parlour galleries.

18.   255 Cafe 255 Wilson Avenue, (347) 985-2399, open Monday - Thursday from 10am - 8pm. This is a generally Spanish restaurant, sort of Mexican/Cuban. The pastelitos are supposed to be good.

19.   Monteros Mexican Grill173 Irving Avenue, (347) 533-7857, open every day from 8am - 10pm. They offer a strange combination of pizza and Mexican grill. 

20.   Bon Asian Spice — 140 St Nicholas Avenue, (347) 787-7876, open Monday - Saturday from 11am – 10pm; closed Sunday. Pan Asian food. 

21.   Caribe Star — 54-55 Myrtle Avenue, (718) 386-0387, open Sunday - Thursday from 8am - midnight; and Friday and Saturday, 8am - 1am. Authentic Dominican-American food. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Note on Pop Art: 50 Years and Counting

By Carl Belz

A half-century’s now passed, yet I vividly recall the excitement we felt when Pop Art happened in the New York art world at the start of the 1960s. And exciting it was, especially among the generation of artists, critics, curators and art historians who, like me, were entering the field at that moment. Exciting, in part, because the new art was up for grabs, it hadn’t been claimed, as Abstract Expressionism seemed then to have already been claimed, by patriarchs like Clement Greenberg, Harold Rosenberg, and Thomas Hess. Exciting, too, because its link to everyday experience, to billboards and soup cans and comic books, made it immediately accessible, even fun, in sharp contrast to AE’s seriousness of purpose and sometimes unfathomable depth. In addition, but by no means least among the excitements it stirred, Pop’s accessibility also extended to the art market, its product was inexpensive, it could be acquired and lived with for the equivalent of a new suit when a new car remained out of reach. 

Amid such excitements, Pop at the same time incited voices of discontent. Its bark on behalf of the commonplace was said to recall Dada, but it lacked Dada’s political bite and was therefore found wanting. It was said to be flawed as art because it only duplicated the look of the supermarket display and the tabloid front page, it failed aesthetically to transform them. And it was even dismissed out of hand--by no less than Greenberg himself--as a phenomenon belonging not to a proper art history but merely to the history of taste.

Greenberg was right and wrong. Right, insofar as Pop wasn’t first of all about art, it didn’t engage the formal probing and stretching that had characterized modernism’s urge to meaning since the middle of the 19th Century, it mostly adopted the formal tenets that modernism currently practiced, and thus was it considered tangential to modern art’s history. Which is very much the way kindred predecessors such as the Surrealists were regarded at the time of Pop’s happening, and the same was true even of Pop Godfather Marcel Duchamp, who at the beginning of the century had appropriated Cubism’s shallow space and shifting planes to structure his stories about nudes descending a staircase, chess players in competition, and a virgin transforming into a bride stripped bare, but who then abruptly retired from art-making in favor of playing chess himself, becoming in the process an artist interrupted: a fascinating but marginal figure, a major-minor player rather than a force, within the big art historical picture as it was viewed through Greenberg’s modernist prism.

What Greenberg got wrong was in large part a function of what he got right, which in both cases derived from a vision of art historical change based on the model of a mainstream and its tributaries. It was in the mainstream that formal originality powered art forward and in doing so regularly shaped our understanding of its history, at times even prodding a rewriting of that history--as Abstract Expressionism was in the process of prodding a rewriting of the late paintings of Claude Monet at the very moment when Pop appeared. All of which Greenberg surely knew, yet he wrote Pop off as just another example of our culture’s capricious, ever-changing taste. He dubbed it “far out” to indicate it was vanguard in appearance only, and he accordingly judged it as ephemeral, a blip on the radar screen the way Dada had been. It deserved maybe 15 minutes of our attention, but it didn’t affect the writing of art’s history.

Except that it did. From the outset, Pop was more widespread than any cultural alternative we’d previously seen. There seemed overnight to be Pop artists on every street corner and Pop pictures everywhere we turned, in gallery and museum exhibitions and in the media, nationally and internationally. And when the initial excitement about it waned, when the buzz subsided, and when the media spotlight moved inevitably to the next great thing, we realized that Pop had ushered in a sea change of historic proportions. 

To wit: Independence from elite culture had been declared, modernist hegemony in turn had been ruptured, taste had become democratized, and each of us had been set free to indulge without external sanction--and without the guilt and anxiety it engendered--the artistic excitements and pleasures and entertainments that piqued our interest;  free to enjoy Andy Warhol’s gaudy Marilyn in tandem with Mark Rothko’s somber abyss; even free--pace Clement Greenberg--to couple avant-garde and kitsch, to listen to tunes on a headset, say, while cruising art’s history at MoMA or the Met or the Frick Collection. Free, as well, to read artworks without regard for the artist’s intent and to conjure our personal histories of art based on those same favorite pleasures and excitements--the way Roy Lichtenstein did over a span of four decades as he served up his versions of classic ruins and romantic sunsets and Mondrian look-alikes and Abstract Expressionist brushstrokes and riffs on Surrealism and Cubism and Art Deco and Chinese landscapes, and in doing so produced an art historical panorama as entertaining as any theme park at Disneyland or anywhere else. 

As a crown upon these abundant excitements, finally, the new democracy of taste decade by decade spread steadily into the art market, at each heightened level bringing gasps of breathless wonder as collectors exercised their freedom to pay as much or more for an Andy Warhol as for a Jackson Pollock, as much or more for a Lichtenstein brushstroke inspired by Willem de Kooning as for a de Kooning itself, as much or more for all kinds of cultural commodities that nobody among us--at least nobody among 99% of us--could previously have imagined. True, Pop was inexpensive in the beginning, but its humble origin in the market only enhanced the creation myth that was pitched on its behalf, a myth that gradually accrued the iconic status of an investor’s fairy tale about free enterprise and the American Dream.

So Pop was a blast, and we reveled immediately in its exploits and rushed to absorb its message. We looked at Duchamp anew and watched his enormous influence catapult him into the exclusive company of Matisse and Picasso. We rediscovered Surrealism, not in the dreary nightmares of its founding fathers, but right in front of us, in the marvels of America’s everyday mass media culture and dazzling technology. We everywhere saw photography as it blossomed in a veritable renascence of theory and practice. Modern art’s arena seemed suddenly to have been leveled and expanded, no longer was modernism by itself in the spotlight, no longer did we have a mainstream and its tributaries. The non-hierarchical structure of modern society that Greenberg had insightfully found mirrored in Pollock’s overall pictures had come full circle to the gates of the elite world of modernist art. Our methodologies for dealing with both the modern and the modernist art of our time were in turn affected. In the face of Pop’s celebration of everyday subjects and instant access, formalist analyses were felt to be inadequate, even irrelevant. From the outset, news about Pop told us about the artists’ backgrounds, how Andy Warhol had been a commercial illustrator, how James Rosenquist had painted billboards. Constantly reminded that artists made art while living in the real world, at particular times and in particular places, we wanted increasingly to know how those factors affected the objects they made. Increasingly, then, the formalist autonomy of the object yielded to studies emphasizing the context of its creation. 

Pop arrived like a blast of fresh air, welcome and invigorating, and it remains in many ways synonymous with the upbeat aspect of the 1960s. But like the 60s as a whole, not all of Pop, let alone all of its postmodern progeny, has always worn well or been all that it was advertised as being. Not for me, anyway. I sometimes fret, for instance, about the high/low union: Warhol and Rothko may both flatten me, but in radically different ways that are in no way interchangeable. Having come to art via the study of titans like Velasquez and Rembrandt, Manet and Cezanne, Matisse and Picasso, I also fret over news about the death of the author, for I have not the arrogance to assume the author’s stead. I fret further about the claim that artworks need only be interesting when experience tells me they can be, even urge to be, meaningful. Art as entertainment likewise makes me fret, so I reach for the remote. In the grip of our media culture, even the democratization of taste occasionally makes me fret about our being marketed ever more products in the name of cultural pleasures and excitements and thereby pitted against one another in competition for more artistic toys--and becoming in the process more divided from one another, more alone. And naturally I fret about the democratization of the art market, about large sums of money being equated with artistic quality or entitling museum trustees to dictate what their museums collect and exhibit.

But in closing, let me assure you that I’ve made my peace with the market: I have at home a Campbell’s soup can, chicken noodle, signed with my name by Andy Warhol and given to me by a friend in 1966. When I saw a similar can in an auction catalog 25 years later with a $2500 to $3000 estimate, I felt the ultimate excitement, the excitement of cashing in. Hastening to the kitchen, to the shelf where the soup can had sat all those years, to check my modest treasure, I was stunned to realize how shabby it had become, how faded, Andy’s signature barely visible under a film of grease. I knew for sure it was worthless, and my heart ached. How could I have let that happen? How could I have exposed the can to the risks of everyday experience? How could I have just lived with it? Then the lightbulb went on: Worthless on the market, the can was still filled with memories--and they were still worth plenty.    

Carl Belz is Director Emeritus of the Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Art News

By Charles Kessler

Piero della Francesca paintings are coming to the Frick.
According to a report in the New York Timesfrom February 12th through May 19th, The Frick Collection will be exhibiting seven works by this great 15th century Italian artist. It will be the first exhibition in the United States devoted to Piero. 

Out-of-towners —plan your visit to New York accordingly!
Piero della Francesca, Virgin and Child Enthroned with Four Angels, c. 1460-70, Oil possibly with some tempera on panel, transferred to fabric on panel, 107.8 x 78.4 cm (The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute).

Two interviews and a profile:
An entertaining interview with Los Angeles Times art critic Christopher Knight.
 I go to a show, and I see a bunch of stuff, and I have some thoughts, and I get confused, and I don’t know what that is, and I take a bunch of notes. It’s a way of processing it for myself. Then I sit down and start to write about it to figure what it is I think. And that’s when it happens. It doesn’t really happen in front of the work. It happens when I’m writing.
And a reverential interview with intelligent answers from the mononymous Hudson, the director of Feature, Inc., one of the oldest and best galleries in the Lower East Side.

Hudson at work
And this long-overdue profile: The Man Behind the CalArts Mafia: A Portrait of Jack Goldstein, 10 years after his suicide.
Jack Goldstein, White Dove, 1975, a still from a 20-second 16mm film with sound.
An enormous geometric mosaic was recently discovered in Antoichia ad Cragum, an ancient city along the southern Turkey coast. Not only is the mosaic of significant artistic value in itself, but it's also evidence of the great reach of the Roman Empire. Check here for more photos. 
Poolside Roman mosaic, probably third or fourth century, 1600 square feet (Photo: University of Nebraska, Lincoln).
Clements makes the case that non-profits, because of their tax-free status, use money that would have been public money but that becomes privately controlled, usually by white, very rich men. Wealthy individuals can thereby fund organizations that promote their personal beliefs rather than letting the public, through their representatives, decide how the money should be spent. 

In addition, he poses these provocative questions:
Why does the nonprofit structure have to mimic corporate structure? Could you work within that structure to place artists and community members on the board and in leadership roles? Are you working to preserve a salary or to pursue a mission? And are your goals served by having to maintain a staff, be subject to the demands of funders, and adopting someone else’s leadership model? 

Two Chelsea exhibitions:

Jackson Pollock & Tony Smith: Sculpture. An Exhibition on the Centennial of their BirthsMatthew Marks Gallery, 502 West 22 Street (until October 27th). 
Jackson Pollock, untitled, 1956, plaster, sand, gauze and wire, 9 x 12 x 5 inches (Photo: Matthew Marks Gallery).
This extraordinary exhibition consists of two practically unknown sculptures by Jackson Pollock, made just weeks before he was killed in an auto accident on August 11th. They were created in the backyard of Tony Smith's house on the same weekend as Smith made his very first sculpture (cast from an egg crate — see below), which is also in the exhibition along with two other sculptures Smith made that year. 
Tony Smith, Untitled, 1956, concrete 3 ¾ x 8 ⅜ x 6 ⅝ inches (Photo: Matthew Marks Gallery).
An enormous Tony Smith sculpture on display further down on 22nd Street, in Matthew Mark's large space (until October 27th), took my breath away. Smith came a long way in a decade.
Tony Smith, Source, 1967, painted steel, 132 x 354 x 408 inches.

More New York 1970s - 1980s. 

The New Museum has two panel discussions coming up about this period:
Graffiti/Post Graffiti screening and panel discussion, Thursday, October 4th at 7 pm ($8, free for members). They will be screening Paul Tschinkel’s Graffiti/Post Graffiti (1984, 28 min), a documentary that includes interviews with artists Jean-Michel Basquiat, Rammellzee, and Lady Pink, and gallery dealers Patti Astor and Tony Shafrazi. Participants on the panel will be Patti Astor, Fab 5 Freddy, Marc H. Miller, and Paul Tschinkel.

Alternatives in Retrospect: Artist-run Spaces in the 1970s and 1980s, Friday, October 5th, 7 pm (free).
This panel is about the development of alternative spaces in New York and how they were critical for presenting young artists and new ideas. Participants will be Stefan Eins, Coleen Fitzgibbon, Becky Howland and Joe Lewis. It will be moderated by Walter Robinson.

Finally, there's the heart-rending film How to Survive a Plague, a documentary about the efforts of a group of young people with no scientific training who fought for the development of promising new drugs to fight AIDS and pushed to move them quickly through experimental trials, thereby saving the lives of thousands during the worst of the AIDS epidemic. 
Still from the documentary, How to Survive a Plague.