from the editor
There’s a tendency to embody art objects with a certain amount of agency. ‘What is that work doing,’ echoes the common phrase in crit. rooms, artists’ studios and critics’ computer screens around the globe. As a young artist fastidiously writing my statement, I would frequently find myself making claims for ‘the work’ and what ‘it was doing.’ While there were moments when I wished the work felt empowered enough to act on its own (to say nothing of self-generate, at least the tedious bits) the fact remained that without my hand, or eyes for that matter, the work didn’t do much except collect dust. ‘My work’ was a better phrase. At the very least, it was now attached to its maker and no longer had to bear the responsibility of its success or failure alone. Still, I felt odd about taking so much ownership as it ignored those who might see it, thereby waking it from its otherwise inert slumber, even if for a moment. To say that the object possessed no capabilities outside of dust-collecting now became more difficult.
Perhaps this is just one of those ‘if a tree falls in the woods’ sorts of questions, but I’m not convinced. Art objects—and by objects I mean ideas, text, video, performance, et al.—are most active after passing through our senses and into our brains. It is here that they succeed or fail at achieving their maker’s intentions while becoming a receptacle for those of the viewer. This is old news in scientific and theoretical circles. At the same time that I plodded through my artists statement, I was assigned to read Roland Barthes’ ‘From Work to Text’ and ‘The Death of The Author,’ which address exactly these issues of authorship and the activation of a work through the process of reading.1 The leap to art work and viewer wasn't difficult—though my grasp of these texts wasn’t complete until I found them evidenced through my own process of writing, reading, looking and making—just rewards that continue to bear themselves out on a daily basis. Active engagement with visual things, rather than passive spectatorship, pays dividends in the end.
In some sense, we all share in the authorship of objects. Without going too far down a theoretical rabbit hole, it’s enough to say that we all contribute to a work’s agency by bringing to it our own set of associations, meanings and experiences that inform the way we see and the potential meaning an object can have. These circumstances are unavoidable and, for better or worse, insert art objects alongside the other ‘things’ in our lives from footballs to private parks and city squares. Can we really imagine art and artists operating independently from the rest of the world? Glean what you will from these cursory observations, but keep in mind that these remain potent issues in the arts (though maybe I’m just playing into Western culture’s insistence on defining productivity and efficacy above all else and whose relevance for art remains suspect). How art objects are presented and received in our world gets to the core of their effectiveness and ultimately their ability to generate thought in, but not without, us.
Let’s continue this stream of thought. University of Dallas Art History Professor Catherine Caesar’s Long-Read delves into The Martha Rosler Library and its blurring of the line between the self and other, public and private. If you haven’t heard, Los Angeles is brimming with exhibitions that are part of Pacific Standard Time, a look back at L.A’s artistic past. In a second Long-Read, writer Catherine Wagley looks at the romanticization of this history and finds that it’s not so different for artists living and working there today. Otis College Assistant Professor, Tucker Neel, who also calls Southern California home, looks at LACMA’s California Design, 1930 - 1965: “Living in a Modern Way” with an eye towards the gift shop facsimiles of some of the objects on exhibit. On the East Coast, Maurizio Cattelan has filled The Guggenheim’s rotunda with a retrospective of his own objects that garner writer Brain Fee’s attention. Finally in Dallas, Diana Al-Hadid’s Sightings exhibition at The Nasher Sculpture Center receives Ben Lima’s pen—its intricate excesses providing an alternative to classical clarity, simplicity and rationality.
Our Project Space this issue features San-Francisco based artist Daniel Tierney. His images are a look at his inhabitation of a steady stream of studio spaces that influenced how he was thinking about space. In between domestic and work space, Tierney finds a place to look for something new by building, rearranging and sitting still. For the month of December, mbgETC will be piloted by writer and curator Leslie Moody Castro and artist Armando Miguelez whose project entitled, #aquiahora (‘here now’) will engage the countries, cities, colleagues and friends who have intersected their lives while providing a virtual time stamp of their locations and intersections. This endeavor will be extended in our next issue when Moody-Castro and Miguelez occupy the Project Space. In between these pieces, we encourage you to have a look at ...mbg Recommends which continues to feature art oriented items in Texas and elsewhere that we think deserve your attention.
Eric Zimmerman is an artist and Editor of ...might be good.
1. With the winter months approaching I can’t resist a recommendation. Both essays are found in: Barthes, Roland. Image - Music - Text. Trans. Stephen Heath. New York: Hill and Wang, 1977.
Make New Art, But Keep the Old
By Catherine Wagley
Nathan Spondike, untitled (Brazen Head 2 from Rodin's Gates of Hell), 2011, Installation view at Latned Atsär, Los Angeles. Courtesy of the artist.
“New art is so much better than old,” wrote commenter “George” in September, responding online to public radio critic Edward Goldman, who had devoted an on-air episode to Pacific Standard Time (PST) exhibitions in and around Santa Monica. Since PST, that Getty-funded, region-wide celebration of SoCal art from 1945 to 1980, focuses on history, all these shows featured older work by older L.A. artists. George found it “disappointing” that Goldman hadn’t mentioned a particular exhibition at the Rosamund Felson gallery of carnivalesque, recent text paintings by Karen Carson and closed his comment with a dig—“I usually enjoy your notes.”
Though it did include all-new work, the Karen Carson show, which ended in October, still fell under the PST umbrella. Or at least the PST logo appeared on the gallery’s press release and image list. When I visited, I asked the gallery director if this was an official PST show. “I don’t really know what that means,” he answered. “We never signed any paper work. But we’re showing an old school L.A. artist”—Carson’s been exhibiting in L.A. since ’69—“and putting the logo on our literature.”
It’s different for non-profit institutions that received Getty money for their PST exhibitions. They did, at some point, sign paperwork to earn a right to the logo, an abstract sun with twelve rays and a dot dead center so that, given hands, the sun could double as a clock (for telling Pacific Standard Time). The logo is everywhere right now: on gallery windows, streetlight banners, posters, billboards, museum websites and cups from The Coffee Bean. On the last Sunday of September, at the official opening of the Getty’s PST exhibition, Crosscurrents in L.A. Painting and Sculpture, 1950-1970, it was projected all over in moving white lights, overwhelming the museum’s granite campus with what resembled especially unruly fireworks. Earlier the same night, at a small reception in an upstairs Getty dining room, Robert Irwin and Judy Chicago, both in their 80s had stood near the podium at the room’s far end, joking under their breath. Or, from where I stood, it looked like they were joking while official after official, including Mayor Villaraigosa, took to the microphone to extol the virtues of SoCal’s art history.
Irwin, never a team player, has no historic art in the Getty’s centerpiece exhibition, even though he’s the artist often credited with establishing the Light and Space movement. Instead, he has a newly commissioned, 40,000-pound black granite column extending from the museum atrium into the main courtyard. “I can tell you the long story about L.A.—how it has no history and no culture,” Irwin told W Magazine a year ago. “That’s exactly the reason I stayed here.” Until recently. “We’re about to be invaded,” he continued, referring to L.A.’s newfound “legitimacy” that has inspired a handful of New York galleries to move West. “We artists are about to become beside the point. Which is why I have moved to San Diego.”
Pacific Standard Time focuses on an era in which art’s infrastructure was growing up around the artists, who were then the whole point. You opened a gallery or started collecting new local work because you had faith in those artists, not in the non-existent market. That’s partly changed, but because of Pacific Standard Time purposes to “finally” bring the region’s postwar art “milestones” to the attention of national and international audiences, aiming mostly toward legacy lionizing, its various shows and catalogues do a minimal job of framing history in terms of right now. If we really compared then and now, I’m not convinced we’d find artists who have become “beside the point.” Nor would we necessarily find that, for the almost-still-kids who move here looking to study, live and find niches as artists, the day-to-day situation is so different from when Irwin began his career.
There’s a second-story space on Jefferson, near West Adams, called Latned Atsär, where Nathan Danilowicz and Alexandra Wetzel currently live, work and host exhibitions. When a previous group of early-career artists lived and showed there, it was called Rasta Dental, because, at one point, the same space had been a dental office and, at another point, a Rastafarian center. After Danilowicz moved in, he decided that he would use the space, with its long corridor and rooms perfect for film screening, to host exhibitions too. “I wanted the art world to come to me,” he said. It does. Faculty at SoCal schools, curators, gallerists and museum programmers have all put in appearances alongside the many artists.
When Robert Irwin taught at Chouinard Art Institute in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he and fellow instructors frequented the space students Joe Goode and Ed Ruscha shared with three other artists. “There was one other place where Larry Bell lived with a group of artists too,” said Goode in 1999, “[W]e had the kind of unique places where people . . . congregated.” At the urging of faculty, Goode brought a portfolio of his drawings to Henry Hopkins, the just out-of-school curator who named his gallery after writer J.K. Huysmans, who wanted to be a risk-taker and had opened a gallery on La Cienega, kiddie-corner from Ferus Gallery, where SoCal pop got its first whiff of legitimacy.
For his debut show, Hopkins brought together, at Goode’s suggestion, Goode, Larry Bell, Ron Miyashiro—Donald Judd’s former assistant—and Ed Bereal. “We did this poster that had an American flag on the table and all of us were kind of mocking the idea of freedom and racism in this country,” recalled Goode. African-American Bereal ate a watermelon, Jewish Larry Bell ate a bagel, Japanese-American Miyashiro had a bowl of rice and the Catholic Goode ate fish. The show, called War Babies, lasted only six weeks and the gallery lasted under a year, since Hopkins’ shows were not what his backers had in mind. Goode then began exhibiting with Rolf Nelson Gallery, also on La Cienega.
Manny Silverman, who started his career at yet another La Cienega gallery, Ernst Raboff, knew Goode, Rolf Nelson, and most of the other gallerists and artists working in L.A. at the time. In 1965, he co-founded Art Services with partner Jerry Solomon to help artists pack, frame and transport work. “We would have to finish our work by noon,” Silverman told me. After that, artists would start stopping in and only talking and smoking would get done. “We didn’t read much,” said Silverman. “If you wanted to know something [about contemporary art], you went right to the source.”
Genevieve Pepin and John Ryan Moore read. The two opened Pepin Moore on Chung King Road a year and a half ago, and the last book I saw on their counter was Photography after Conceptual Art. They go to the source too, though. “We started with five [studio visits] a week before the gallery opened,” they wrote via email. “It’s such a great experience to be at the site of production, to be where the real decisions are made, or unmade. Our favorites are the ones that last for hours, when you really get to sift through things.” And like Silverman did fifty years ago, they know what’s up at the other galleries. “If you love art in this city, there's no excuse for not getting out and seeing what people are making happen.”
In the years just after grad school, with few exceptions, you could tell who was going to make a life in art in L.A. based on who you saw out. The classmates of mine who made it to exhibitions, openings, museums, alternate spaces even just once a month or so were the ones whose work I eventually expected to see hanging on the walls of those spaces. It might be exponentially bigger than it was in 1960, but L.A.’s art world is small, and as long as there are new spaces starting and new artists fighting their way in, thinking or hoping, they have something to say. It will feel like it’s all just starting. “It’s a really exciting time for art and artists in LA, as it has been for some time,” wrote Pepin and Moore. The same could have been said, and was said, in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
What’s frustrating about PST is that most of its biggest exhibitions don’t seem to be saying, “Look where we were and then look at where we are.” Instead, like a history book written by a diplomat, they say, “Look at how important we should be because of what happened then,” as if having milestones in your past makes your posterity competitive with the posterity of the rest of the world.
In Jack Goldstein and the Cal Arts Mafia by Richard Hertz, photographer and filmmaker Jack Goldstein, included in the Getty’s Crosscurrents exhibition, recalls running into a former Cal Arts classmate, artist Matt Mullican, in 2001. Mullican’s father had just died. Goldstein asked him what it was like to lose someone so close to him. “I’m a dad now,” Mullican replied. He could only view that old relationship in light of his current one. I’d prefer to look at the art in PST the same way, in terms of continuities and discontinuities with the past, not because new art is better than the old, but because old art is so much more interesting in light of the new.
Shelving Identity: The Art of Book Collecting, Archives and Reading Rooms
By Catherine Caesar
Tracy Mackenna and Edwin Janssen, Truth, Error, Opinion, 2008, Still image projection, 180 x 240 centimeters, duration 20:00 minutes. Courtesy of the artists.
Is it possible to access the artist’s identity through her works? Or is the possibility of such intimacy mere illusion? Do we get closer to the artist if we know what works she admired? Or was Nietzsche right in saying that we get nothing from “things (including books)” except what we already understand?1 I explore these questions by investigating the display of artists’ books as contemporary artistic practice, focusing on the Martha Rosler Library (MRL), a recent exhibition of approximately 7,700 volumes from the artist’s own collection. The installation began touring the States and Europe in November 2005, opening in New York City and hitting stops in Frankfurt, Antwerp, Berlin, Paris, Edinburgh and Amherst, MA before it retired, and the books finally returned to Rosler’s home.2 The exhibit, in which the public is invited to browse, read and photocopy the books, takes the idea of a “reading room,” the space providing respite from the display of visual art and offering the perusal of the exhibition catalogue or website, now expanding it to comprise the entire display. The MRL brings to light the contemporary nostalgia for the printed word, reviving the library as a site and source of inspiration, dialogue, dispute and perhaps rebellion.
The idea to display her personal library came partly in response to what Rosler describes as “space problems” in her Greenpoint, Brooklyn home. According to its organizer, Anton Vidokle, the MRL deliberately diverged from libraries locked away from the visitor, such as Donald Judd’s Marfa book collection, which remains forever ensconced behind glass—many volumes still shrink wrapped in their original plastic. Conversely, Rosler and Vidokle wanted the library to remain accessible to the viewers—to be housed in a “store-front” display, rather than within museum walls, and to foster dialogue. Although it would be arranged in various ways during its travels, the exhibit consistently encouraged hands-on use: all iterations of the show included the old stalwart—the photocopier—inviting readers to replicate poignant passages, as well as heavy programming ranging from discussions of particular books to talks by critics and artists, including Rosler. The texts not only encourage use, they also exhibit use: they retain Rosler’s own notational system consisting of slips of paper tucked in the pages she chose to mark. The books were initially displayed according to their original placement in Rosler’s home, an arrangement dictated by her research and living needs. In each installation, an online guide leads the viewer through the shelves of texts by referencing their original location in the artist’s house: “stacked on floor in pile, stacked between bookcase and kitchen sink, stacked on small footstool,” etc. In addition, Rosler’s own knick-knacks, photographs and postcard art reproductions decorate the walls and shelves of each space.3 The MRL creates a tension between the public installation versus the private nature of the collection—the archive versus the scrapbook—a tension that reveals much about both the continued relevance of book collecting and Rosler’s artistic goals.
For over four decades, Rosler’s photomontages, performances, videos and photographs have depended upon the interplay between the public and the private; she contends that capitalist society relies upon the false distinction between the two spheres. We are led to believe, she suggests, that our private lives are immune to consumer culture. She uses personae, or one of the devices she calls decoys, to thwart the viewer from identifying solely with the artist, and to divert her attention instead to broader social problems. Thus the work must be specific enough to reveal the effect of the social on the private and to transgress the merely theoretical, but it must also avoid a solipsistic focus on the self, which results in mere expressionism.4
As early as 1973, when she first staged her Monumental Garage Sale, Rosler began investigating this interplay between private and public. In the UC San Diego installation, Rosler filled tables and shelves with typical garage sale wares including clothing, shoes and magazines; she also advertised the exhibit with a garage sale flyer, directing the audience to the UCSD gallery rather than a private home. Family slides were projected on the wall and an audiotape broadcast a narrative that, quoting Karl Marx, examined relationships between the self, society and economics.5
In this installation, Rosler obscures her identity by displaying incongruous merchandise and photos, thereby unleashing the power of the first-person narrative without resorting to self-obsession. Moreover, she emphasizes the inextricability of public and private realms by bringing the garage sale into the gallery, which is both a public space and marketplace, and by clouding the distinctions between her identity and that of a fictional persona. Rosler viewed the performance as a portrait of a woman not unlike herself: “The persona I chose to inhabit this space was a sort of hippie with a child.”6
The MRL expands this tension between the public and the private, again balancing Rosler’s anti-expressionist goals with the specificity of the individual voice. I find precedents for these goals in the work of Russian Constructivist Alexandr Rodchenko. In 1925, Rodchenko designed his own reading room as his contribution to the Russian Pavilion for Paris’s Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels. Entitled the “Workers’ Club,” the spare space, fitted with shelves and cases for books and tables and chairs for reading or game playing, ideally provided respite for Communist laborers. Rodchenko intended the workers to engage with the space actively, to participate in collective activities that opposed the privatized behavior associated with a domestic library or parlor. The workers would sit together, arm touching arm at the long table, their attention communally directed toward the orator’s stand or the film screen.
In addition, the Club included a plan for a “Lenin corner,” a section of the room memorializing the recently-deceased leader. Rodchenko’s design differed from the Lenin corners prevalent in Soviet buildings, however: rather than featuring a bust or painting depicting the leader, the constructivist space denied iconic worship and instead offered myriad references to Lenin’s impact on Russian society. Rodchenko intended to include a photograph of Lenin, but it was supplemented by structures for displaying books, newsprint and slides. While the design of the Club foiled the capitalist environment—the privatized hedonistic interior—the Lenin corner rejected the capitalist cult of personality.
Even the photograph of Lenin proposed for the Worker’s Club breaks with documentary traditions. Over time, Rodchenko had become increasingly involved with photography, lauding it as a replacement for traditional artistic media. Yet he remained wary of photography’s tendency to idealize subjects, citing Marx’s characterization of the commodity as fetish object. In a 1928 essay, Rodchenko argues for the “snapshot,” or an amalgam of photographic depictions demonstrating different aspects of the sitter’s personality. This type of photomontage, which Rosler herself would come to adopt, opposes the singular image often associated with documentary photography. In this same essay, Rodchenko specifically addresses portraits of Lenin: “With the appearance of photographs, there can be no question of a single, immutable portrait. A man is not just one sum total; he is many, and sometimes they are quite opposed…. Tell me frankly, what ought to remain of Lenin: An art bronze, Oil portraits,.. Or: A file of photographs taken of him at work and rest, Archives of his books, notebooks, […] films, phonograph records?”7
This notion of the archive as substitute for commemorative portraiture or diaristic text helps us understand the goals of the MRL. Buzz Spector, an artist who employs books as key components of his work, distinguishes between an artist’s archive and journal: “…The archive shares [an] inward focus with the diary, whose text is a reiteration of experiences directed toward the future self of the diarist. But diaries turn every experience into a personal one, a matter of effect rather than intention, and it is the intentionality of the archive… that redeems it from diaristic narcissism.”8 Rodchenko prevents the worship encouraged by idealized views of Lenin, suggesting that, like the archive, a human consists of an amalgam of changing, contradictory data. The likeness of his former leader is deferred, and replaced by a series of textual and visual references. Likewise, Rosler eschews self-portraiture, replacing the singular with the myriad, the self-portrait with the archive, while never letting loose of the power of the “I.”
In the MRL, Rosler maintains an individual artistic viewpoint—she is the collector and digester of these texts. She retains first-person specificity: it is not a public library but her personal collection, but it is her citations visible on the bookmarks. We consequently perceive the personal vision of an artist dedicated to research. Rosler underlines the private nature of the installation by referencing the arrangement of texts in her home and including her own bric-a-brac. The emphasis on the specific prevents the lapse into the general, theoretical and politically ineffectual.
Yet the focus on Rosler as collector is obfuscated—she constantly pushes us toward the broader impact of her work, and the ongoing resonance of an individual private life within the larger social domain. By exhibiting thousands of texts, images and objects created by others, she amasses a cacophony of items that resists a singular focus on the individual connoisseur. Thus her view of identity parallels Rodchenko’s: there exists no single, iconic image of Rosler in her library, rather her existence is implied by a multitude of visual and textual references to her creative work. Indeed she was careful to avoid the possessive tense when naming the show “The Martha Rosler Library.” Like Rodchenko, Rosler fosters collective use and active engagement by establishing a reading room, replete with texts ranging from children’s books to economic theory. The viewer becomes not a passive spectator but a participant in the discussions, a browser and a reader. Information, as Rosler suggests by showing us the textual support behind her projects, is the key to empowerment. The dialogue inspired by her library spawns ideas that transcend her original acts of acquiring and collecting—see, for example, Tracy MacKenna and Edwin Janssen’s 2008 Truth Error Opinion, a photographic archive directly inspired by the Edinburgh manifestation of the MRL. Like Rodchenko’s Lenin corner, and like the suspension of Rosler’s identity in her Monumental Garage Sale, the ego of the author in the MRL is deferred to collective experience.
Ironically, despite the fact that Rosler has fabricated nothing, but only disposes a section of her overflowing home, we still search for her in the artwork. Elena Filipovic personifies the library with Rosler’s own character traits: “Smart, decidedly political in orientation, often funny, and all over the place (in that way a perfect mirror of its owner)…”9 We strive to find Rosler mirrored through her texts, seeking coherence and rationale. Art historians Alexander Alberro and James Meyer, when confronted with the catalogue of Robert Smithson’s books and Craig Owens’s slides, respectively, have mined the collections in part to respond to our unanswered questions about their owners, whose lives both were cut short too early.10 Although Rosler appears at each venue to communicate with the public, she continually deflects her authority in preference for the audience’s response. Moreover, though she is the collector of the MRL, she also creates a display in which nothing is for sale, and nothing is acquired. The consumer nature of art is shelved, just as the commodification of identity is curtailed by the rejection of the iconic celebration of the artist. Walter Benjamin, at the conclusion of his “Unpacking my Library,” where he recounts the process named in his title, touches on the contradictory relationship between book collecting and identity: “…ownership is the most intimate relationship that one can have to objects. Not that they come alive in him; it is he who lives in them. So I have erected one of his dwellings, with books as the building stones, before you, and now he is going to disappear inside, as is only fitting.”11 It is as if Martha Rosler is simultaneously present and absent. She is responsible for the collecting that provides us access to her books and their ensuing dialogue, but she also quietly dissolves amidst them, replaced by stacks of authors, words and images.
Catherine Caesar is an art historian specializing in American art of the 1960s and 70s, and Assistant Professor of Art at the University of Dallas.
1. Friedrich Nietzsche Ecco Homo: How One Becomes What One Is, trans. Walter Kaufmann (NY: Random House, 1967 ) 261.
2. The collection started at e-flux's New York gallery and then traveled to the Frankfurter Kunstverein, Antwerp's MuHKA (Museum of Contemporary Art); unitednationsplaza in Berlin, the Institut National de L'Histoire de L'Art in Paris, Stills Gallery in Edinburgh, and the Gallery at UMass, Amherst.
3. See Jessica Silverman’s analysis of the project in her “Martha Rosler’s Library: Collection, Library, Active Resource, Readymade” (California College of the Arts, MA in Curatorial Practice, 2007) and Elena Filipovic, “If You Read Here… Martha Rosler’s Library,” Afterall, 15 (Spring/Summer 2007), 91-95.
4. I address Martha Rosler’s work in detail in my dissertation, “Personae: The Feminist Conceptual Work of Eleanor Antin and Martha Rosler, 1968-1980” (Emory University, 2005). In my text, I also investigate Eleanor Antin’s Library Science (1971), a work discussed in Claire Ruud’s interview with Rachel Gugelberger in the previous issue of …might be good.
5. “I paid money for these things—is there a chance to recuperate some of my investment by selling them to you? ‘A commodity appears, at first sight, a very trivial thing. Its analysis shows that it is a very queer thing.’ She wonders, is it a sacrilege to sell the shoes her baby wore?” Text for “Traveling Garage Sale,” San Francisco, California, October 1 and 2, 1977, reprinted in Martha Rosler: Positions in the Life World, (Birmingham, Vienna and Cambridge, 1998), n.p.
6. Rosler, in interview with Craig Owens, “Art and Artists,” Profile (School of the Art Institute of Chicago:Video Data Bank) 5:2 (1986), 16. Rosler is a mother, but never thought of herself a hippie (Rosler, in letter to author, July 30, 2008).
7. Rodchenko, “Against the Synthetic Portrait, For the Snapshot,” reprinted in Photography in the Modern Era (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1989), 238-242.
8. Buzz Spector, “The Artist as Archivist, The Book as Body: Dieter Roth’s Gessamelte werke,” http://www.buzzspector.com/ (accessed November 4, 2011).
9. Filipovic, 91.
10. See Alexander Alberro, “The Catalogue of Robert Smithson’s Library,” in Robert Smithson eds. Eugenie Tsai and Cornelia Butler (Los Angeles: Museum of Contemporary Art and Berkeley: UCal Press, 2004), 245-248; James Meyer, “Outside the Box: James Meyer Unpacks Craig Owens’s Slide Library,” Artforum XLI: 7 (March 2003), 63-68; 260-264.
11. Walter Benjamin, “Unpacking My Library: A Talk about Book Collecting,” reprinted in Illuminations trans. Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken Books, 1968), 67.
Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas
Through January 15, 2012
By Benjamin Lima
Diana Al-Hadid, Gradiva’s Fourth Wall, 2011, Polymer gypsum, fiberglass, steel, wood, and paint. Courtesy of the artist and Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York. © Diana Al-Hadid. Photo by Kevin Todora.
Diana Al-Hadid’s sculptures combine intricate detail with imposing scale. In fact, they are so complex as to be somewhat daunting. But they reward sustained attention. In exploring, their intricacies, connections and contexts become clear.
Gradiva’s Fourth Wall (2011), on view at the Nasher Sculpture Center, features a fragmentary draped reclining female figure—Gradiva, the mythical object of desire—who rests at about eye level on a complex platform of stacked horizontal planes that are punctured by biomorphic cut-outs. Surrounding Gradiva to the rear is an irregular framework that provides a semi-transparent backdrop, rising up from box-shaped bases arranged around the structure’s rear perimeter. Structurally, the installation resembles a stage set, with the streetscape opposite it as its audience.
In its presentation of a roughly life-size scenario (the Gradiva figure is slightly under human scale), this work is distinct from Al-Hadid’s well-known earlier works. The sculptures in Reverse Collider, her breakthrough 2008 exhibition at Perry Rubinstein in New York, such as Tower of Infinite Problems and Self-Melt (both 2008 and both acquired by Charles Saatchi) used the Tower of Babel as a point of departure. These works took the form of mutant architectural models in a state of severe decomposition. They represented a mythical monument at microcosmic scale, leading viewers into imaginative absorption as they scrutinized seemingly endless labyrinth of tiny passages. By contrast, Gradiva’s Fourth Wall directly engages the viewer’s body at life size, as one walks around the work in the narrow space between it and the surrounding walls.
In continuity with the earlier work, Gradiva’s Fourth Wall allows viewers to explore carefully chosen references: in this case, an ancient Greek figure later taken up by Freud and the Surrealists. Since Al-Hadid’s work has addressed Chartres Cathedral, the Muslim scholar Al-Jazari and Pieter Bruegel, one could conclude that her appetite for citations is simply omnivorous, the range of references encyclopedic. Actually, her interests follow definite patterns. For example, the most frequent stylistic motifs belong to periods such as the Hellenistic, the medieval and the baroque, all of which are characterized by a formal excess or instability, in contrast to classical clarity, simplicity and rationality.
Her work can also be compared with that of her twentieth-century predecessors who dispose of the austere strictures of modernism. In her use of fiberglass to create sepulchral, stiffened organic forms in shades of ivory and off-white, Al-Hadid works in the territory opened by Eva Hesse. The sense of luxurious decadence, articulated through a combination of classical references and gestural abstraction, is like that of Cy Twombly’s. Her work defines a distinct path through art history; it proposes that each of these sources can be renovated and made meaningful within the seemingly ahistorical context of the contemporary art world.
Given the range of Al-Hadid’s references to medieval Islamic and Christian culture and her own Syro-Ohioan background (born in Aleppo, raised in Canton), one could be forgiven for searching her work for some perspective on current events, such as the anti-Assad protests in Syria and U.S. involvement in the Middle East. Although her work completely avoids any such commentary, it does testify to the encouraging possibility of a cosmopolitanism that is at home in more than one world. Al-Hadid has credited Adolf Loos’s 1908 essay Ornament and Crime as a key source for her work, but a source with which to struggle. Loos saw ornament as wasteful, primitive and doomed to obsolescence. Given Al-Hadid’s familiarity and sympathy with the central importance of ornament and decoration in Middle Eastern culture, she responded to Loos’s criticism with skepticism. Indeed, ornamentation is an important part of Gradiva’s Fourth Wall and many others of her works too. Rather than simply quoting traditional elements, however, Al-Hadid forms them into a complex and compelling ensemble.
Benjamin Lima is assistant professor of art history at the University of Texas at Arlington.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Through June 3, 2012
By Tucker Neel
Straub & Hensman Buff, Recreation pavilion, Mirman House, Arcadia, 1958, Photo by Julius Shulman, 1959. © J. Paul Getty Trust. Used with permission. Julius Shulman Photography Archive, Research Library at the Getty Research Institute.
Wallace M. Byam’s iconic silver Clipper Airstream trailer from 1936 greets visitors to LACMA’s exhibition California Design, 1930-1965: "Living in a Modern Way," the first major museum exhibition dedicated to investigating the importance of California midcentury modern design. While the gleaming road zeppelin is an alluring opener, the best way to enter LACMA’s show is through the museum’s gift shop just around the corner. Normally, exhibition gift shops touting reproductions of paintings on posters and umbrellas render “fine art” kitsch, but in the context of this exhibition, the gift shop is an appropriate place to orient oneself.
The objects on display in both wings of the show are designed for mass reproduction, defying the aura of “art” in favor of egalitarian consumption. In the gift shop, visitors can peruse and purchase chairs, pottery, dolls, prints and many other objects that have their antecedence in displays in the main exhibit. In fact, the gift shop’s DCW (Dining Chair Wood) by Charles and Ray Eames is almost in the sight line of the “original” on display. The only things separating the two are time and provenance. While the LACMA gift shop’s $170 Canister Set with Stand may not be exactly the same as Louis Ipsen’s original design from 1932, the product retains near verisimilitude, the only visible difference being that one bears an inconspicuously stamped LACMA insignia. In seeing these gift shop objects first, one can better understand the ideology that motivated the principles of modern design, a philosophy best summed up by the Eames in their desire to design “the best for the least for the most.”
For a first of its kind to exhibition, California Design looks quite familiar. This is due in large part to the relationships we already have with some of the objects on display, which are so commonplace in our daily existence as to be banal. A perfect example of this is the work of Henry Keck, whose aerodynamic glass and chromed metal sugar, salt and pepper shakers are as much a fixture of short-order dining as burgers and fries. Additionally, the inclusion of his Covered Roadside Barricade Light (1963) further draws our attention to the ubiquity of designed objects that we might not consider worthy of appreciation, were they not highlighted as objects justifying singular contemplation. What makes their inclusion revelatory is that they are truly the same as any of their companions out in the “real world.”
California Design takes on an air of familiarity due to the exhibition design itself, created by Los Angeles architectural firm Hodgetts+Fung. Their sprawling curvilinear floor plan and wave-like metal armatures give the space a kind of gimmicky Jetson’s feel, something redolent of an airport lobby or Expo hall. Though their design creates poorly lit vignettes, especially in a portion of the space dedicated to showcasing the early work of RM Schindler, the overall exhibition layout does encourage non-hierarchical perambulation amongst thematic displays centering on four main themes: “Shaping,” “Making,” “Living” and “Selling.” Each section contextualizes different factors that shaped modern California design, charting this history from the population boom during and after WWII with all of its effects on production, reproduction and domestication.
The exhibition’s most engaging section is “Living,” which highlights what makes California a particularly fertile place for modern design—a climate that allows for an indoor/ outdoor lifestyle. This sentiment is made clear in a collection of curving alcoves holding furniture, objects and garments. A white-rock covered island in the middle of the exhibition floor holds Walter Lamb’s turquoise Chaise (1954), an object familiar to anyone who’s ever spent time sunning by a swimming pool. Nearby, Mary Ann DeWeese’s iconic lobster-print swimwear further speaks to the importance and playfulness of SoCal beach culture, a point accentuated by the presence of a neighboring surfboard from 1961 by Hobart “Hobbie” Alter, detailed with pin-striping inspired by supersonic aircraft.
There is no doubt that these objects, and the more than 350 on display, are fascinating because they signify the innovative spirit that inspired their creation. However, seen in a contemporary light–against the realities of how modern design is packaged, sold and consumed today the exhibition becomes more problematic. Unfortunately, California Design repeatedly falls into the trap of re-authenticating the aura of the original, re-situating modernist design practices as rarified and elite. The most startling example of this is the museum’s full-scale transplantation of Charles and Ray Eames’ living room from their Case Study House #8, complete with knick knacks and fake houseplants (the museum asks visitors not to take photos of this life-size diorama). There is an overarching nostalgia at play here, a desire to literally re-create the past according to the ideological and institutional demands of today. The institutional promotion of this artifact threatens to shift the focus from the democratic motivations that formed the foundation of the Eames’ practice to something more in line with the promotional techniques of companies like Design Within Reach, which sells the Eames’ reproductions for many thousands of dollars, or publications like Dwell magazine, who, along with their advertisers, promote modern design as a signifier of class and as an aspirational means to wealth and higher social standing. At its best, California Design sheds light on what is plainly visible yet overlooked, focusing on how this peculiar land of sunshine and abundance contributed to the modern world we inhabit today. At its worst, the exhibition re-plays well-worn nostalgic longings for modern design without focusing a critical lens on its effects—how the sign of “the modern” has shifted to a different register, one far removed from its origins.
Tucker Neel is an Assistant Professor in the Communication Arts and Liberal Studies departments at Otis College of Art and Design. He is also founder and director of 323 Projects, a telephone-gallery showcasing audio art. You can access 323 Projects by calling (323) 843-4652 anytime, day or night.
Guggenheim, New York
Through January 22, 2012
By Brian Fee
Maurizio Cattelan, All, Installation view at Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, November 4, 2011 - January 22, 2012. © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. Photo credit David Heald.
Maurizio Cattelan, contemporary art's preeminent provocateur and prankster, inaugurated his debut solo exhibition at the Galleria Neon, Bologna in 1989 with a locked gallery door bearing a Plexiglas sign reading Torno subito ('Be back soon!'). Either unwilling to show his current body of work—which was highly conceptual and coupled art with furniture-making1—or unable to produce a new body of work, young Cattelan skirted the moment by evading it. Following this, Cattelan navigated a tenuous interchange with public exposure even employing look-a-likes, including long-time collaborator and New Museum Chief Curator, Massimiliano Gioni2. Twenty-two years later, with the art-world abuzz over Cattelan's claims of retirement from making art, the Italian born, New York-based artist pulls up the curtain to his retrospective at the Guggenheim Museum, revealing All3.
More specifically, he's strung everything up: 128 hyperrealistic and satiric sculptures, photographs and paintings suspended over the museum's iconic rotunda like a jumble of pricey pop-culture salami. The Guggenheim's spiraling ramps are completely bare. There are no wall placards aside from an introductory text at the rotunda's base. Rather, the museum employs an enormous, two-sided map for viewers to navigate the dangling installation and a dedicated smartphone app in lieu of the traditional headsets. It's a bold statement, in line with Cattelan's history of subverting art-world conventions. By executing All as one looming, non-hierarchical work, Cattelan's most comprehensive survey to date places a random, non-chronological, hanging cacophony of eye-catching taxidermy and warped waxworks in intriguing arrangements. It's on us to decipher them.
Though art-viewing is an inherently subjective experience, displays like All foster a unique encounter. The Guggenheim's architecture has been a blessing and a curse on past retrospectives. Despite the impressive spectacle of Cai Guo-Qiang's I Want to Believe and its installation of Head On—a wave of wolves arcing up the ramp before colliding with a glass wall—when approached from the "wrong direction," the artwork's dynamism and illusion was lost. Wrong directions do not apply in All, as the empty ramps spur examination from multiple vantage points. The proliferation of thick support ropes and stuffed pigeons provoke additional interaction with the work. Cattelan raised all sorts of controversy when he hung three waxwork boys from a tree at the Nicola Trussardi Foundation in 2004. Here they hang with dozens of trussed neighbors, their twine nooses receding into the background. His early figurative sculpture Charlie Don't Surf, of a penitent schoolboy crucified by pencils to his desk, now faces a print from Mother, of a fakir's praying hands protruding from a suffocating pile of earth. It's an intriguing pairing of religious imagery: forced and genuine.
A stuffed donkey harnessed to an absurdly overloaded cart, one of several instances of the lowly beast acting as Cattelan's hard-headed "dumb-ass" avatar4, now features Untitled, an animatronic drummer boy perched among its cargo, punctuating the museum with sporadic percussive pounding. Felix, modeled like the skeleton of a hissing cat but magnified to T-Rex proportions, appears to lunge at La Rivoluzione siamo noi, a miniature Cattelan twin dressed in a Joseph Beuys-styled felt suit and hanging from a coatrack. It's like Cattelan is taking a subtle dig at his critics, having Felix positioned to visually devour his own stand-in. Reflecting on his entire oeuvre at once asserts a strong visual humor that complicates opinions of even his most provocative works. As flagrant as Him (a supplicating, child-sized Hitler) is, its hanging in open space underscores the reality that it's “just art.” This does not deemphasize its ability to aggravate, but by removing Him from traditional display and stringing it up, Cattelan seems to espouse its role as nothing more than an exactingly crafted trinket. He's denigrating his work in his own retrospective, and the many stand-ins scattered throughout echo this tangled history of self-effacement and self-promotion.
What does All tell us about Cattelan himself? Despite the intentionally random distribution, positioning the Untitled taxidermy horse leaping up and away at the installation's highest point only to be stymied by a wall seems intentional to me. If All is meant to truly be Cattelan's swan-song, perhaps the next phase of his artistic career will dissolve these stand-ins once and for all. The next Cattelan we’ll see—the co-creator of glossy magazines like Toilet Paper and the feverishly creative international curator and trickster—may just be Maurizio.
Brian Fee is an art punk currently based in Austin, TX. His culture blog Fee's List covers his three loves (art, film and live music) occurring in his other three loves (the Lone Star State, the Big Apple, and Tokyo).
1. Cattelan's circuit of odd jobs in and after high school, including work in a local parish's gift shop and in a morgue as an assistant medical technician, culminated with industrial design in Forli, Italy where he met designer and architect Ettore Sottsass. It was around this time in 1987 when Cattelan created a pitch-book of his works to date and sent them to galleries and art editors on purloined postage, his first idiosyncratic step into the art world.
2. Cattelan and Gioni (along with editor/ curator Ali Subotnick) co-ran the Wrong Gallery, a square meter of prime West Chelsea exhibition space tucked behind a perpetually locked glass façade from 2002 to 2005. Though the Wrong Gallery was "evicted," they mocked up a full-scale version on the third floor of the Tate Modern that winter, plus it reappeared in the 2006 Whitney Biennial. Cattelan also co-curated the 2006 Berlin Biennale with Gioni and Subotnick.
3. Randy Kennedy “Hanging With Cattelan,” The New York Times, 9/29/11. [http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/02/arts/design/maurizio-cattelan-retrospective-at-guggenheim.html?emc=tnt&tntemail1=y] 4. Cattelan's New York debut at Daniel Newburg Gallery in 1994, featured a live donkey pacing about an otherwise minimally outfitted room. According to Nancy Spector's retrospective catalogue, Cattelan "claimed to identify with the animal's reputation as a buffoon.”
I finished my graduate program seven years ago. Since then, I have lived in, or moved to, at least nine different studios, each with its own parameters and often requiring a build-out and a re-build-out. This way of thinking and moving, building and un-building, ran parallel to my “regular” studio practice. These work spaces were often extensions of my domestic space— a variety of versions of the pre and post dot-com live work building code. My domestic space was defined by where my studio space was not, and the other way around was just as true. I often find myself sitting still just moving walls, platforms and storage in my mind hoping to find something new. Something interesting. Something simple.
Daniel Tierney is an artist working out of Oakland, California. He earned his MFA from San Francisco Art Institute and a BFA from Cleveland Institute of Art. He has participated in residencies at the Headlands Center for the Arts as well as the Kala Art Institute. Recent solo exhibitions include Reject, Reject at Steven Wolf Fine Arts in San Francisco and The Best Laid Plans are made in Ruin at Luis De Jesus Gallery in Los Angeles.
More work can be found at www.invincibleclock.com.
Aqui Ahora is an ongoing project that Armando Miguélez began in 2006. Literally translated as "I am here right now," the piece acts as a visual time stamp of his location as he travels the world and produces exhibition upon exhibition. As an extension of this ongoing project for ...mbg, Miguélez and myself, Leslie Moody Castro, will be tweeting for the month of December while we are both traveling and enjoying the holidays in a project we are calling #aquiahora. Modeled after an interview format, we have decided to open the dialogue and engage the countries, cities, colleagues and friends who have intersected our lives and careers over the past six years, engaging our histories and losing control of the dialogue, while continuously providing a virtual time stamp of our locations and intersections.
An extension of might be good’s project space, @mbgETC, provides artists with a chance to engage with Twitter as an online platform for intervention and experimentation. Participants are given a month for the realization of their projects and can be followed online at Twitter.com/mbgETC or in the feed located within each issues table of contents.
Idle: Jonathan Faber
November 17 - December 22, 2011
Artist talk December 10 at 2pm.
Abstraction within all manner of artistic practices has been making a resurgence over the past few years, though if you ask some, it never really went away. Amidst sleepy rehashes of the 1950s and lazy Gustonesque mimicry, there are smart, critical and downright gorgeous approaches in painting dealing with what, maybe incorrectly, we continue to term abstraction. Linguistic nit-picking aside, Jonathan Faber’s current offering at Champion presents a series of paintings whose line, color, symbols and shape move between frenetic activity and engrossing stillness. Conjuring expansive landscapes and intimate domestic settings, the paintings move, not only in the formal sense but perceptually within our brains where art ultimately finds some type of completion. This resolution is illusive and Faber’s paintings reflect this. Scribbled lines build and scratch their way over lush fields of color, obscuring what came before: physical residue of a search and a process, a journey that reflects both the process of their making and ours in trying to see them. This friction between thing and viewer is where art objects ultimately act and Faber’s paintings are striking examples of the ongoing and potent romance between them.
Short Stories, Part Three: Alejandro Cesarco, Ursula Mayer
November 12 - December 4, 2011
Ursula Mayer, Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight, 2010. Courtesy the artist, Montitor, and Jongma
SculptureCenter, Long Island City. Photo credit: Jason Mandella.
This weekend is your last to catch a glimpse of part three of writer and curator Isla Yeaver-Yap’s Short Stories at Sculpture Center in Long Island City. Built around questioning the role of critics and art historians, the current pairing features Ursula Mayer and Alejandro Cesarco, each presenting independent projects. Cesarco’s installation, The Streets Were Dark With Something More Than Night or The Closer I Get To The End The More I Rewrite The Beginning (2011), offers the viewer a partial narrative to piece together from an artist’s book, four photographs, a narrated slide show and a series of footnotes punctuating the space. Amateur sleuth’s will rejoice in deciphering the meaning(s) generated through the artists poetic repurposing of found text, literature, detective criticism, and his own writing. Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight (2010) a double projection 16mm film by Ursula Mayer centers around a group of dancers roughly following the Greek myth of Medea. Moving toward the unseen climax, the dancers alternate between action and repose, appearing to imitate the black and white shots of stone bas-relief in the accompanying shot. However, resolution is denied in this poignant take on a mythic narrative. Fiction and the artists’ internal logic are privileged over solid conclusions in both cases, reminding us of the speculative and unfolding nature of knowledge—illusive and seductive.
Eric Zimmerman is an artist and Editor of ...might be good.
Austin Blog Receives The Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant
The Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant Program is pleased to announce the recipients of its 2011 grant cycle. Designed to encourage and reward writing about contemporary art that is rigorous, passionate, eloquent and precise, as well as to create a broader audience for arts writing, the program aims to strengthen the field as a whole and to ensure that critical writing remains a valued mode of engaging the visual arts.
Austinites Jason Urban, R.L. Tillman and Amze Emmons received a prize under the "Blogs" category with Printersting. Congratulations!!
Lora Reynolds Gallery
Opening reception: December 3, 6-8pm
New York based artist Mads Lynnerup will be performing at the gallery on December 3rd followed b a public talk that evening. Lynnerup's work wryly engages and analyzes built environments and the widely accepted social behavior inherent in them in order to get at larger issues of alienation and perversity.
Lauren Fensterstock and Steve Wiman
Opening: December 15
Responding to the unique natural, architectural, and historical features of Laguna Gloria, sculptors Lauren Fensterstock and Steve Wiman create site-specific installations throughout the Driscoll Villa.
Women and Their Work
Opening reception: January 14, 7-9pm
Laurie Frick draws from neuroscience to construct intricately hand-built work and installations that explore the nature of pattern and the mind. Using her background in engineering and technology she explores self-tracking and compulsive organization. She creates life's most basic patterns as color coded charts. Steps walked, calories expended, weight, sleep, time-online, gps location, daily mood as color, micro-journal of food ingested are all part of her daily tracking. She collects personal data using gadgets that point toward a time where complete self-surveillance will be the norm.
Austin on View
Lora Reynolds Gallery
Through December 3
The three works on paper, titled Eclipse, Constellation and Sunset, each appear to simply be layered pieces of torn packing paper arranged to form rudimentary constructions that represent the cosmic events of their titles. The source of light particular to each event appears to emanate from behind the paper through small rips or imperfect intersections. Upon closer inspection, the drawings are, in fact, delicately and masterfully executed trompe-l’oeil renderings.
Gray Duck Gallery
Through December 18
In honor of the upcoming holiday season, grayDUCK is throwing a Wapatui! If you're not from the Mid-west, you might know this under another name: Trash Can Punch, Suicide Punch, or maybe even a Hairy Buffalo; It's a drink created by the community. In that same spirit, I've asked fifteen fabulous artists from Austin and beyond to mix up a visual Wapatui.
Through December 22
The solo exhibition Idle by Austin artist Jonathan Faber involves the paradox of memory and observation, intentionally seeking out subjects that co-exist between the expansive and the intimate, the recognizable and the ambiguous. Subjects are drawn from domestic and landscape settings as they manifest from memories of places or things observed, lived with, or passed through.
Holly Johnson Gallery
Through December 23
In this new body of work, stockpile, Doherty explores the role of seed banks and their preservation efforts in the face of climate change, the extinction of natural species and decreased agricultural diversity.
Through December 30
Ragnar Kjartansson’s work ranges from the use of traditional media such as painting, drawing, and video to the explorative practice of durational performance, for which he is primarily known. Throughout his practice, the concepts of theatricality, repetition, and identity serve as ever-recurring themes as he taps into nostalgic imagery from bygone eras of theatre, television, music, and art.
The Anxiety of Photography
Arthouse & Austin Museum of Art
Through December 30
Many of the works in The Anxiety of Photography reflect on the changing nature of our relationship to the materiality of images, as artists produce photographic prints from hand-painted negatives, violently collide framed pictures, arrange photographs and objects in uncanny still lives, or otherwise destabilize the photographic object. “They use the confusion that photographs can produce to create a more careful state of looking, a more open dive into pictures.”
Blanton Museum of Art
Through December 31
Storied Past explores the expressive and technical range of French drawing through preliminary sketches, compositional studies, figure studies, and finished drawings from the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries. Drawn primarily from the museum's renowned Suida-Manning Collection, the exhibition includes works by Jacques Callot, François Boucher, Jean-Baptiste Greuze, Théodore Rousseau, Jean-Louis Forain, and Théophile Alexandre Steinlen
Women and Their WorkThrough January 5, 2012
Jasmyne Graybill draws from the familiar forms of fungus, lichen, and mold to create installations and sculptures that are inspired by the innate logic of natural growth and decay. Her work reflects the intrinsic beauty of these processes and intimate ecosystems. She invents and sculpts fictional organisms that graft onto manufactured domestic objects and infest the nooks and crannies of their "host" architectural spaces.
Lose Yourself (Remix)
Through January 8
In Lose Yourself (Remix), a driving disco beat demands that the viewer nod his or her head while an ever-shifting sunset doles out questionable advice culled from the top of the pop charts. As the beat drives on, the out of context quotes solicit the viewer to “Give me everything tonight,” “You better lose yourself in the music, the moment,” “Keep on dancing till the world ends,” and finally “Dance, just dance.”
Mai Yamashita and Naoto Kobayashi
Through January 8, 2012
To produce Infinity, video art duo Yamashita and Kobayashi jogged for eight days in the pattern of an infinity sign until their footsteps inscribed the symbol in the flattened grass. Descended from artists who experiment with combinations of endurance and Land Art, such as Richard Long, Yamashita and Kobayashi employ nature as both the subject and medium of their work.
Sam Prekop and Michael Sieben
Through January 14, 2012
Sam Prekop, part of the widely acclaimed band, The Sea and Cake, will feature drawings, paintings and photographs. Like his music, his visual art demonstrates a strategic restraint and focus on the subtle qualities of mood and atmosphere. Michael Sieben is a founding member of Okay Mountain Gallery/Collective. The characters populating Sieben's work seem to bear the weight of (some very heavy) experience, but maintain an almost ridiculous optimism in the face of disaster and absurdity.
Blanton Museum of Art
Through January 22, 2012
When I Last Wrote to You about Africa is a major retrospective of internationally renowned artist El Anatsui organized by the Museum for African Art in New York City. On view September 25, 2011 – January 22, 2012, the exhibition spans four decades and includes approximately 60 works drawn from public and private collections internationally.
B. Hollyman Gallery
Through January 31, 2012
In collaboration with Austin Center for Photography (ACP), B. Hollyman Gallery will be exhibiting Henry Horenstein’s series Animalia, a collection of intimate and intriguing portraits of land and sea creatures made between 1995 and 2001. These portraits are at once abstract and telling. Horenstein shoots with a balanced uniqueness, experimenting with view, angle, and perspective
Through December 4
Preservation/Conservation will involve sculptural works and altered artifacts that deal with highlighting the impossible nature of conserving and preserving what is important, mundane and absurd.
Through December 10
An intimate installation by Michael Abelman in which the viewer both strolls by and floats over a gathering of ancient and contemporary art forms.In this show Abelman takes his popular map paintings and turns them on their side, puts them on a pedestal and invites us into the narrative and formal processes of his two and a half dimensional work presented in a format that is both atelier and oracle site.
San Antonio Openings
Opening reception: December 2, 7-11pm
Albert Alvarez's paintings are "painted at the brink of death. It won't be long til that shock wave hits."
Opening reception: December 10
Samuel Giesey documents his interventions on nature and the Texas landscape in a series of photographs titled Carrion. He is interested in the notion of beauty in death. Giesey has recently shown at F!ight Gallery and is scheduled for a solo show during Contemporary Art Month in San Antonio.
San Antonio on View
Mas Triste San Antonio
Through January 7, 2012
Mas Triste San Antonio will explore the effects of a city that caters to tourism rather than its home grown residents.
David Shelton Gallery
Through January 7, 2012
In her new drawings and sculptural works, San Antonio-based artist Jayne Lawrence continues her examination of the social and cultural inconsistencies she finds in the paradigms we live by that affect identity and behavior, and applies them to our sense of place and the relationship between ourselves and our surroundings.
David Shelton Gallery
Through January 7, 2012
Subject Properties features new drawings and sculptural works by San Antonio-based artist Jayne Lawrence. This is her first one-person exhibition at the gallery. Lawrence's work often includes three recurring symbols: the insect, which represents our alter ego or instinctual behavior; the human form, representing our physical selves; and architecture to represent the environment that we construct for ourselves to inhabit.
Four Decades with Colour
Blue Star Contemporary Art Center
Through February 12, 2012
Four Decades with Colour celebrates the career of Phillip King, one of the most important sculptors of the 20th century. This exhibition will feature more than 20 sculptural and print works, dating from 1963 through 2011.
Opening reception: December 3, 6-8pm
Moody Gallery is pleased to announce a new exhibition of paintings by Pat Colville. The exhibition New Works marks her forth exhibition at Moody Gallery, following the exhibition Ways and Means that was on view in 2009. Pat's work holds a commitment to abstraction and the two dimensional surface. Influenced by landscape design history of early Chinese and Japanese landscapes from the 13th and 14th century as well as Isometric drawing, Pat explores the allusion of space in her work. The exhibition will showcase approximately ten new paintings in acrylic ranging in size from 16" x 20" to 36" x 72".
Opening reception: December 17, 7-9pm
Daily Dance is a free dance-based exhibition curated by Sebastian Forray which features Helene Jeudy, Mara Caffarone, Maike Hemmers, Maureen Guiba and Maria Mantella.
Houston on View
Through January 7, 2012
Dutch invasiON presents the work of six artists living and working in the Netherlands. They are Christine Bittremieux, Anna Bolten, Hans de Bruijn, Demiak (Maarten Demmink) and Jessica Muller. In the variety of their artistic approach one can find one common subject: it is all about space. Every one of them appropriates space in a different way, the outside space, interior space and conceptual space translated into two or three dimensions. This preoccupation with space in and around us is typically Dutch.
Through January 7, 2012
Omitted is a new work within Timothy Harding's on-going series of constructed drawings that explores scribbling and how it is used to omit information.
Through January 8, 2012
Related Clues is a group exhibition which explores a slippage between 2D and 3D, between object and image and between concept and form. The artists in the exhibition, Jillian Conrad, Claire Falkenberg, Ian Pedigo and Brion Nuda Rosch, use a wide variety of media in works that display a sensitivity to edges, intersections and material quality.
Spirit of Modernism
Museum of Fine Arts Houston
Through January 29, 2012
The Spirit of Modernism pays tribute to the entrepreneurial spirit of businessman and art collector John R. Eckel, Jr. The friendship between John Eckel and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, lasted only five years before his untimely death in 2009. His art collection, now known as the John R. Eckel, Jr. Foundation Gift, lives on at the MFAH as an enduring legacy comprising 75 examples of Modernist American painting and sculpture, photography, and contemporary arts and design. This exhibition highlights the gifts in two locations on the museum’s campus: the Beck Building (Hevrdejs Gallery) and the Law Building (Alice Pratt Brown Gallery and Garden).
Rebecca Carter, Terri Thornton and Sally Warren
Free Museum of Dallas
Opening reception: December 2, 5-7pm
A text, a photograph, a rock, a narrative, a person, a memory, a place, a trauma: any number of things may enter within close proximity, coming close enough to be "held," intimately handled and unquestioned, preserved without understanding. The act of holding bears testament to their meaning. Things Held and Never Understood.
Helen Frankenthaler and Philip Pearlstein
Talley Dunn Gallery
Through December 10
Talley Dunn Gallery is pleased to present two concurrent exhibitions by iconic artists who have re-defined twentieth century painting, Philip Pearlstein and Helen Frankenthaler. Pearlstein’s subjects present straightforward, unidealized nudes without reference to mythology or allegory.Like her contemporary Pearlstein, Helen Frankenthaler also re-defined the history of post-war American painting in her own way – with a radical treatment of the canvas. By pouring pigment directly onto large-scale, unprimed canvases and avoiding the gestural brushstrokes of the abstract expressionist painters, Frankenthaler achieved a transparency of color that has inspired subsequent generations of artists, including Kenneth Noland and Morris Louis.
d. berman gallery
Opening reception: December 10, 5-7pm
D Berman Gallery is pleased to present Lance Letscher: Work from the middle ages, a collection of new collages. Fresh from his successful exhibition in Paris (France), now in Wimberley (Texas), Letscher continues to utilize the paper scraps of our culture to create his particular worlds.
El Paso Closings
Through December 10
Regina Silveira is one of the most prominent Brazilian artists working today, and is renowned for her explorations of architectural space through geometric constructs. Silveira created Gone Wild Reversed for this exhibition and states, “by using the tracks of absent animals, the reaction I want to provoke is the degree of amazement of the unexpected, which can take you to an imaginary realm... Footprints and tracks have constituted a significant part of the indexical imagery whose meaning I have been investigating over the past few years. Their accumulation particularly interests me for its allegorical potential to allude to a ‘ghost’ event that took place and left a mark.”
2011 Young Artists Exhibition at the Jones Center
December 10, 2-4pm
Exhibiting the work of 2011's Young Artists participants, a free Saturday morning art program focused on helping students with a strong interest in art to develop their portfolios and learn more about opportunities in the arts.
December 14, 6pm
Erin Gentry is the Education Coordinator at AMOA-Arthouse who worked on The Anxiety of Photography. Join us for an an insightful 20 minute talk about the work on view.
Call for Entries
EMDASH Award 2012
Deadline: Monday, January 9, 2012
The Emdash Award is open to artists living outside of the UK, up to five years from graduating from an undergraduate or postgraduate degree or under 35 years of age. The Emdash Award is part of the Frieze Projects programme, produced by Frieze Foundation, supported by the Emdash Foundation and presented in collaboration with Gasworks. For more information, click here.
Andrea Zittel’s Indianapolis Island
Indianapolis Museum of Art
Deadline: Friday, January 13, 2012
The IMA is issuing a call for proposals for a summer 2012 six-week residency on Andrea Zittel’s Indianapolis Island within the IMA’s 100 Acres: The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art and Nature Park. Graduate and undergraduate students and emerging professionals in the fields of art, design, architecture and performing arts are encouraged to apply to customize and reside on Indianapolis Island. Click here for more information.
Assistant Professor of Art and Urbanism
Southern Methodist University
Position Begins August 2012
The Division of Art in the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University (SMU) seeks a tenure-track candidate to join a department located in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. This position is an opportunity to mentor and challenge the imagination and creativity of the next generation of artists through engagement with art and urbanism. Teaching responsibilities will include introductory, advanced and graduate courses in an emerging field of art practices that focus on this dialogue with the physical, social or culturalfabric of the city, working across media or engaging with diverse populations. All application materials should be submitted via https://smu.slideroom.com/. Contact Associate Professor of Art Noah Simblist, email@example.com, with any questions.
Opportunities for Teens
Young Artists and Club Arthouse
Deadline: January 20
Applications for Young Artists and Club Arthouse are now open and are due on January 20th. Contact Erin Gentry, Manager of Education Programs, at 512.453.5312x110 for more information.