McQueen’s Screens

A Hyperallergic review of Steve McQueen’s show at the Art Institute of Chicago, including an interesting meditation on the use and installation of video art in museums:

At the Art Institute of Chicago’s Steve McQueen exhibition, I saw something unusual: museum-goers spending time — minutes of it! — watching moving images. In an otherwise bustling museum, the visitors in these rooms were silent and enthralled.

McQueen and the Art Institute collaborated to make the exhibition an experience, not just a series of screens…

Visiting the McQueen exhibition cemented a conviction that has been growing in me: if you are not going to properly install film and video, it’s better to do without it…

Were McQueen’s works installed on 17” Radioshack monitors with headphones dangling next to them, I doubt any visitor would watch them for more than a few seconds, let alone try to unravel their ambiguities.

Give us some credit: Americans are sophisticated in nothing if not the moving image.

What I Might See in New York, part 3: Gangnam Style

A quick list of what else I might see in New York, following up on this post and this post:

1) Calder Bronzes at L&M Arts

2) Richard Artschwager at the Whitney

3) the Warhol influences show and the photo manipulation before photoshop show at the Metropolitan

And, some dance-worthy art news. The entire art world is going Gangnam Style, in support of Ai Wei Wei and a Gangnam parody video that he made and that was banned in China.

The photos are pretty priceless–from Anish Kapoor to the staff of MoMA:

What I Might See in New York, part 2

Something else I want to see: a retrospective of Wayne Thiebaud‘s work at Acquavella Galleries. 1) who can resist his color, his brushwork, his compositions as sweet at the confections he depicts? 2) It’s a clear example of a relatively recent phenomenon–galleries doing exhibitions like a museum: spanning the artist’s entire career and not just recent work for sale; curated by a major scholar; consisting of loans from major collections all over the country.

Wayne Thiebaud, “Yo Yos,” 1963, oil on canvas

And, just pointed out to me (thank you FW) is this review in Hyperallergic by John Yau. The article probes the ways Thiebaud hasn’t always been taken seriously by the art establishment, and lays out some excellent reasons why he should be. If it wasn’t already, this exhibition has moved to the top of my to-do list.

What I Might See in New York, part 1

Going home (to NYC) for Thanksgiving break. There won’t be a ton of time for art perusing, but I’m sure I’ll find a way. I still need to look into what’s on and then prioritize. Here’s one thing I might go for: a real garage sale at the Museum of Modern Art held by Martha Rosler. Not only would I experience an art event, I might pick up something useful for a good price!

There’s also a few interesting notes about how the installation was set back by Hurricane Sandy. The ways the New York art world has been affected just keep coming up.

More as I look into what’s on

Election-Day Quickie

A quick post with a link to an article in the New York Times about what happens–or doesn’t happen–after a fake artwork is identified.

The rest of this week I will be at the New England Museum Association conference, and hope to blog about any particularly interested sessions or issues that come up.

‘Til then, get out and vote!

Artists I Like: A Salute to General Idea

For a “Curating Contemporary Art” class last year, we were tasked with creating a theoretical exhibition. I chose the Canadian collective General Idea (1969-1994), because, well, I like them, but also because,

though well-recognized through retrospective exhibitions in Canada and Europe, [I thought they] deserved more attention here.

I also noted:

a recent revived interest in art of the eighties, particularly art related to AIDS-activism (including an upcoming show at the [MCA Chicago and] ICA Boston curated by Helen Molesworth).

With that heightened focus, General Idea seems to making a frequent appearance in e-flux and other art announcements, including in that very exhibition I mentioned, This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s, in an installation similar to the one I imagined.


Installation by General Idea in “This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s at the MCA Chicago and ICA Boston


My theoretical exhibition, as designed in Google SketchUp

which you can view in more detail and navigate in 3D here, and was based on a previous installation:

General Idea, “Infections,” as installed at the World Wide Video Centre, The Hague, Netherlands, November 1994

Other recent mentions that have come up – an edition that the collective intended to produce in 1980 but did not fully complete, called Liquid Assets:

General Idea, “Liquid Assets,” 1980

and an announcement of a lecture by AA Bronson, the surviving member of the trio, at the Pacific Northwest College of Art, accompanied by a brief interview in their magazine.

AA Bronson

I love being right…

… but who doesn’t? I refer in particular, though, to when your interpretations of art or artworks end up being validated by the artists themselves (though, if they’re not, it doesn’t mean you’re wrong–or that they’re right).

Today’s case has to do with Fred Wilson, a favorite of mine whose work I have presented and written on before. Last year, for a Curating Contemporary Art course, I began an essay on his work with an analysis of a video segment for Art21, the PBS series that looks at contemporary art.


Here’s what I wrote about the first few minutes of the video, which take place in Wilson’s studio:

The room in his studio where he arranges the objects is a white-walled, naturally-lit, cavernous warehouse space. He moves between this immaculate room and another room, just as high-ceilinged but not as well-lit, cluttered with ladders, portfolios, and artwork wrapped in cardboard and furniture blankets. He repeatedly returns to this room to retrieve objects from a wall of sturdy wooden shelving that houses his collection, resembling a museum storeroom. This analogy is key: Wilson’s studio, reflective as it is of his practice within museums, is itself set up like a museum. The mess of packing materials and the inactive collection occupies the storeroom; the curator/artist brings objects out of storage to be exhibited in the clean, bright, white room – the proverbial white cube of the exhibition space.

It is clear in this case that Wilson’s studio is meant to resemble the museums in which he does his projects; thus his studio becomes a staging area, where he can simulate an arrangement of objects as it will appear in a gallery or museum.

This supposition was based solely on my viewing of the video and my foreknowledge about Wilson’s practice. Here’s what was written in an article in the November 2012 issue of ARTNews:

Wilson bought his studio, formerly a garage, in 2001 and renovated it to look very much like a Chelsea gallery, with a facade of frosted windows, pristine white walls, and a poured-cement floor. “I wanted it to be this way because this is my gallery,” says Wilson, whose interventions in museum collections are often site-specific…

Entering his backroom storage unit is like walking into a combined history museum and thrift shop…

Quite similar, no? I’m realizing this may be coming off as bragging; I do not mean it to be. I only mean to convey that as someone who analyzes art for a living, it is satisfying and reassuring to find that what amount to educated guesses have some basis in reality; not only does Fred Wilson’s studio resemble a gallery, he renovated it to be so.

I experienced a similar feeling at a lecture by Allan McCollum, another artist I wrote extensively about in my undergraduate years. His lecture was a a sort of career survey, as my paper had been. Much of my analysis was based solely on my observations of his projects, as many of them had not been written about by other critics or historians. And much of what he said in the lecture bore out my analyses.

I guess I might have found myself in the right field, huh? I of course have my doubts at times. But lately, though work has been stressful and busy, I am finding that I am loving every single thing I am doing there, and I would be happy to keep doing it for quite awhile longer.

A Repentant Quickie

I make this quick post in shame; it has been more than a month since my last. Terrible. I can only say that full-time work and other hobbies have taken up my time and energy – but you, oh readers, are not forgotten! Ideas for posts keep coming; it’s a matter of a swift kick in the tucus to actually write them.

I will break the month-long ice with this quick post. I wrote about how Rotterdam seemed to be a city after my own heART. Alas, bad news out of Rotterdam, a theft of works by major modern masters. So I guess the thieves there also share my tastes, though not my civic-mindedness.

The Art Newspaper, 1

I apologize for getting political, particularly for those who might not agree with me. But, I imagine most of you probably do, so I’m not too worried.

There was an article in the Art Newspaper reminding us, in case we forgot (which we might have, because it’s ridiculous–see below), that Romney and Ryan, like all Republicans eventually do, would propose to cut the budgets of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). I did my second graduate school qualifying paper (I wrote a bit about the first one here) about the removal of a video by David Wojnarowicz from an exhibition at the Smithsonian in 2010, and by extension, about public funding for the arts. This included a slight detour back into the culture wars of the late ’80s and early ’90s, which eventually saw the end of grants to individual artists and the budget of the NEA drastically cut. It has steadily risen since, only to be hacked at again and again.

I don’t plan to go on a rant about how important the arts are to society. I won’t even give you numbers detailing how the U.S.’s arts budget falls far below much smaller countries with much smaller budgets, revenues and GDPs. I will say this: the combined budget of the NEA and NEH is currently $292 million. They would like to cut that in half, and that is part of their plan to lop $3.3 trillion off the federal deficit.

Let’s do some quick math-how many zero’s is a trillion? Oh, interesting, my computer calculator won’t do that many. OK hang on… got it. Cutting the NEH/NEA budget in half would get you — drumroll please — 0.44% of the way towards your $3.3 trillion goal! Congratulations, dream team!

In the meantime, the three R’s, Republicans Romney and Ryan, would lose us $2 trillion in revenue over the next ten years by reducing the tax rate on the top income bracket to 25%, and ending taxes on income from interest, capital gains, and dividends. Fun fact: this means Romney, for one, would pay only .82% on $21 million he earned in 2010/2011. Not a bad deal! For him. Not a bad deal for him.

If I’m being snarky, it’s because I’m absolutely befuddled how anyone could fall for this. This is a lot like my math about how fast I’m reading the many e-flux articles flooding my inbox. It does. not. make. sense.

There’s a note towards the end of the article about how the Reagan administration increased charitable giving from the private sector through tax incentives, and that’s great; it was particularly important for corporations and wealthy patrons to step up to the plate once public funding for the arts went kaput. The implication in the article, however, is that maybe letting the rich keep more of their money will also help with private giving. This is also pretty anti-logical. As an artist/blogger quoted in the article says:

When your tax rate approaches zero, the tax benefit of donating money or art drops, too.

Right. Getting a break on your taxes is no longer a benefit if you’re barely being taxed. This guy adds that there are social and cultural motivations to donating money for the arts besides tax incentives. Of course there are! But those won’t radically shift giving trends, whereas it’s clear that tax incentives do: charitable giving rose 25% under Reagan’s incentives (I would like to state that despite this one policy, I am not a Reagan fan: he is the one who got us into this mess in the first place). The end of the tax incentive would once again cause this number to drop.

It’s basically the same argument they’re making about the economy: putting more money into the hands of the extremely wealthy will “trickle-down” to the rest of us (see! goddamn Reagan!). I wonder how Romney’s charitable giving is.

NOTE: Of course the Art Newspaper requires a digital subscription; I’ll try to get a good scan of the article and post it later. Coming up, a repatriation controversy special! Nigeria demands back Benin bronzes from the MFA!

Keepin’ Up with the E-Flux, 3; or, Why I’m Moving to Rotterdam

I wrote one of my graduate school qualifying papers on the theory of literary critic Harold Bloom, called “the anxiety of influence.” In a quick nutshell, the theory is about how a “poet simultaneously imitates and distorts the work of his predecessors in order to overcome the anxiety that their influence provokes” (my words). It has often been applied to artists as well as poets, as it was in my paper (in my case, to appropriation artists–Mike Bidlo and Sherrie Levine specifically).

I often worry that the artists and theories I’m interested in are passé; in Bloom’s case I believe he has fallen somewhat out of favor because… why was it again? Oh, yeah, cuz he’s a racist sexist jackass. But, much like Freud, his personal shortcomings do not completely invalidate his better ideas.

Anyhoo, I was pleased to see, in my e-flux reading (see parts 1 and 2), that an MFA graduate exhibition in Rotterdam used Bloom’s theory as the theme, and one of his books on the theory, The Map of Misreading, as the title.

Validation! The Witte de With Contemporary Art center in Rotterdam had an exhibition in 2005 on forms of reenactment in contemporary art; it included my guy Mike Bidlo, who is very out of fashion. Man, they really get me in Rotterdam!