from the editor
Another critical piece to the Austin art community’s rebuilding puzzle was put firmly in place yesterday with AMOA-Arthouse announcing it had hired Louis Grachos to fill its vacant E.D. position. Effective January 1, Grachos comes to Austin after a productive decade at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, N.Y. where he oversaw the expansion of its permanent collection, the controversial selling off of a number of the collection’s antiquities in 2007, and countless internationally recognized exhibitions. On paper Grachos appears to be the ideal candidate to lead AMOA-Arthouse out of its post-merger blues and into what will optimistically be a new and dynamic chapter in the organizations future. While we can only peer into the crystal ball at this point, Grachos past endeavors should give Austinites something to be excited about starting this November in addition to all of the positive things we mentioned last issue. Welcome to Austin, Louis!
From the PR department Grachos says, “I am excited and energized by this unique opportunity to create a new model that will integrate contemporary art into the Austin community. By utilizing the smart and flexible Jones Center, and the wonderful grounds and facilities at Laguna Gloria, we will find many incredible opportunities for commissions, exhibitions, and public programs. In addition, I envision AMOA-Arthouse as a museum without walls, and in that respect the city and the parks present another great programming opportunity. Austin is a thriving and creative city that makes it a very attractive place to engage contemporary artists in all artistic disciplines. ” This sentiment dovetails nicely with some of The Jumex Foundation/Collection’s director Patrick Charpenel’s ideas for his organizations future which can be read in Mexico City-based writer and curator Leslie Moody Castro’s engaging interview with him. How museums grapple with diverse and complex audiences is an increasingly critical idea, but not one without a long history. LACMA Chief Curator of Contemporary Art Franklin Sirmans reviews U.C. Irvine Associate Professor Bridget R. Cooks' book, Exhibiting Blackness, and finds a book that delves head-long into the rich and complex exhibition history surrounding African American artists and viewers. A book, and review, that are welcome additions to the otherwise thin scholarship on the topic.
Artists and institutions branching out into multiple disciplines and encompassing wider territories is an exciting idea, and our Project Space this issue is a stellar example of such expansion and collaboration. Fringe-based artist Margaret Meehan and Andy Campbell, a Texas State Senior Lecturer and writer, have put together a wonderful collection of images, sound and text for your consideration. Those of you lucky enough to have seen Meehan’s exhibition, Histrionics and the Forgotten Arm, at Women & Their Work in Austin and Conduit Gallery in Dallas, will have a head start on those of us not fortunate enough to be Texas residents. From Austin, writer and Tiny Park co-founder Thao Votang has written about All_Over, Ben Brandt’s immersive Co-Lab project. Dallas is hard at work lately and we have two reviews from Big D to whet your art-going appetite. The first comes from University of Dallas Assistant Professor Catherine Caeser who writes thoughtfully about Kevin Cooley’s Skyward in the video room at Marty Walker Gallery. U.T. Arlington Assistant Professor Benjamin Lima provides our second Dallas review, lending his insight to Jacob El Hanani’s intricate drawings currently on view at Holly Johnson Gallery.
Does our shoe fit? What’s your take on AMOA-Arthouse’s new hire? Email us your thoughts at email@example.com.
Eric Zimmerman is an artist and Editor of ...might be good.
Added on Thursday, June 14th, 2012
Exhibiting Blackness: African Americans and the American Art Museum, Bridget R. Cooks, 2011.
By Franklin Sirmans
Jacob Lawrence, The Life of Toussaint L'Ouverture, 1938, Panel #7: As a child, Toussaint heard the twang of the planter's whip and saw blood stream from the bodies of slaves. Amistad Research Center at Tulane University, New Orleans.
Over the course of about 200 pages, Bridget R. Cooks lovingly and critically maps out a well-read course of African American art exhibitions in the 20th and early 21st century. That her work is held close to home is apparent through the cover of her book. There we are confronted by a figure of the author, blurred beyond recognition. In a way she is a bridge and this work is her story. It becomes more so when we understand the other elements of her cover image. On her right sit her parents, back to back, with their gazes drawn to separate paintings. They are at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where Cooks first began to look at art as a child. On her left is Abraham Agonafir, a gallery attendant who the author befriended while working at the museum several years ago and subsequently learned much about the collection and the museum’s visitors. Her mother’s eyes fall on Mary Cassatt’s Mother About to Wash Her Sleepy Child (1880) and her father stares at Winslow Homer’s The Cotton Pickers (1876). Though both paintings are pillars of the museum’s American Art galleries, one can imagine the significance for Cooks as a young woman finding her way as an art scholar.
Surely these two paintings must have spoken volumes to Cooks, and they are the perfect starting point for her discussion, which has as much to do with artists as it does viewers, and that is a good thing. Who needs another survey through the work of the usual suspects of African American art history? Actually, I take that back, we all do! I can remember having no problems lugging my entire semester of books on “Afro-American Art from 1850 to the Present” around campus. While that was long ago, a quick view of similar syllabi hasn't made that bag much heavier.
In Exhibiting Blackness Cooks lays out a history, not artist by artist, as in many standard academic texts, but by telling the story as a curator, one who has identified pivotal exhibitions worthy of extended exploration. Those exhibitions are not limited to African Americans in scope or representation. Her purview is refreshingly broad. We learn the significance of Edward Steichen’s groundbreaking Family of Man exhibition (MoMA, 1955) on the controversial Harlem on My Mind show at the Metropolitan Museum, in 1969. Early American art, like that of Cassatt and Homer provide the backdrop and they are joined by black contemporaries like Edmonia Lewis, Robert Douglass and Henry Ossawa Tanner.
The first chapter delves into the solo exhibition of William Edmondson at MoMA in 1937 and the group show Contemporary Negro Art (1939) at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Questioning the concept behind the two different modes of curatorial address, Cooks raises questions around the outsider and naïf Edmondson in contrast to the young, though already highly-trained Jacob Lawrence, “whose forty-one panel General Toussaint L’Ouverture (1937-38) was called ‘easily the most remarkable exhibit,’ of all.” The debate around outsider and insider continues but at the dawn of the discussion it is easy to see how the stakes were higher when questions of intellect were so tightly bound to the reception of Negro art.
Chapter two, focused on the Harlem on My Mind exhibition, illuminates how closely tied the art was to the larger societal discussion around race and culture. Organized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, under the directorship of Thomas Hoving, the show purported to be about Harlem while involving no one from Harlem. Questions of cultural license and awareness led to a galvanized civil rights movement of artists aimed at opening up the discussion in the museums. This would lead to a host of changes that continue to reverberate today in terms of the presence of blackness in our museums, amongst artists, curators and viewers.
A detailed discussion of one of those shows that occurred after the groundswell of demand led by black artists and activists is Two Centuries of Black American Art (1976), organized by the eminent curator and artist David C. Driskell. His exhibition, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, travelled to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts and the Brooklyn Museum. One of the most important aspects of that show was the fact that Driskell mapped African American art as an extension of African art thus giving the subject a sense of tradition that had eluded all previous discussions in the curatorial dimension. While Alain Locke exhorted artists to represent Africa in their work, Driskell’s selection of paintings and sculptures showed how abstract and conceptual such an idea could be rather than simply filling a painting with empty signifiers.
Cooks concludes with commentary on the exhibitions Black Male and The Quilt’s of Gee’s Bend, returning us again to where she opened, with the now universally resonant question of intent versus intuition and insider versus outsider. It’s a good place to be and the artists discussed along the way are an interesting and diverse group. Yet, one must note that two immensely important shows go missing in the discussion. I would love to hear Cooks’ take on Some American History (1971) and The Deluxe Show (1971), both organized by the Menil Foundation in Houston. The former was curated by Larry Rivers and included his own work amidst that of black artists including William T. Williams and Joe Overstreet, among others. The latter was organized by Steve Cannon, a New York poet, and a motley bunch of artistic personas including Clement Greenberg, Sam Gilliam, Peter Bradley and Ken Noland. The show was about abstraction and was probably one of the first instances of aesthetics being the only line of inquiry for an exhibition that included several black artists. And, I think that is the future Cooks alludes to in her conclusion, African Americans After the Art Museum. She talks of an expanded American Art and that seems to be the direction we are heading.
Franklin Sirmans is the Terri and Michael Smooke Department Head and Curator of Contemporary Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Sirmans is also the Artistic Director of Prospect.3 New Orleans.
Co-Lab Project Space, Austin
Closed May 26
By Thao Votang
Ben Brandt, All_Over (exhibition view)2012, Site-specific installation. Photo: Madison Morals.
The instant I stepped through the threshold of Ben Brandt’s installation All_Over at Project Space1, I entered another world—and stood completely at the mercy of his environment. Brandt’s installation successfully demonstrates his thoughtfulness and marks the completion of his M.F.A. at The University of Texas at Austin. It is a loud announcement of Brandt’s push from the safe docks of school.
All_Over represents a contemporary look at the ancient grottoes that “served as oracle temples and garden decorations”2 and establishes a space viewers enter physically, mentally and spiritually. Like gardens or cloisters, viewers enter an environment in which the outside world might as well not exist. Brandt’s grotto comes complete with the cave-like sensation of entering through a gaping mouth and squeezing through an exit. While the large north door invites visitors inside, they must slip through a small opening cut into plastic to exit the south door. As darkness falls, clip lamps placed through the space provide limited light. These don’t function as pointers but rather add to the illusion of spelunking or deep sea diving.
Inside, sound is muffled; the white cube is terrifically gray. Blown insulation lies piled on the floor, clings to the walls, sticks to objects placed around the room and floats in the air. Wooden planks (construction material that are a common thread through Brandt’s larger body of work) lean against walls, old artwork sits on the floor, a shirt hangs off a peg on the north wall and a worktable stands near the center of the room. Busts fill a bookcase in the south west corner—opposite to it a string and wood sculpture rests. Five painted wood planks rise from the insulation on the floor up to the ceiling. These planks are striped hues of blue and red and lack a dusting. Additionally, insulation also does not completely cover the ceiling, giving a sense of movement to the work. The insulation seems to still be creeping upward, and Brandt catches it in mid-motion.
A path forms as foot traffic flattens the soft and lumpy insulation and marks the presence of others after they have left. Similarly, the hanging shirt on the north wall is not simply the abandoned workspace of an artist, but a gesture of things we all leave behind. By including the busts, Brandt refers to forms found in ancient grottoes. These remnants, the abandoned sculptures and the footprints of others, create an archaeological site for visitors to explore. The oppressive heat and impure air within the installation make it physically difficult to tolerate; however, the beauty and eerie quiet of All_Over ask the viewer to stay and consider their own memory and subconscious.
Brandt’s influence from Buontalenti Grotto in Boboli Garden and his other works Apoxyomenos (The Scraper), Plaid Apoxyomenos3, and the humorous video projected outside at Project Space bring the installation beyond a superficial use of an apocalyptic theme to a meditation of time. By displaying a forgotten space in which blown insulation usually inhabits as a grotto or place of meditation, Brandt asks visitors to reflect upon their own buried sculptures.
All_Over’s success lies in Brandt’s ability to completely utilize Project Space and present guests with an installation that transforms the room and changes as visitors pass through. The competence shown in using a material such as blown insulation, creating a sensual impact that surrounds visitors, demonstrates Brandt’s potential as he moves forward.
Thao Votang writes fiction and helps organize Tiny Park in Austin, Texas.
1. The new name for the east 7th Co-Lab Projects location.
Marty Walker Gallery, Dallas
Through June 16
By Catherine Caesar
Kevin Cooley, Skyward Installation (in situ), 2012, 9 min 45 sec HD Video, Installation. Copyright Kevin Cooley. Courtesy of Marty Walker Gallery, Dallas, TX.
When first entering the video room at Marty Walker Gallery, one is struck by the unusual orientation of the projection: Kevin Cooley’s appropriately-titled Skyward (2012) is cast onto the ceiling of the room rather than the wall. Even once we are seated, there remains a certain discomfort—reticent to deviate from the seated position, we strain our necks in attempt to take in the ceiling screen. It is only once we give in to the experience by lying back on the beanbag chair that we can begin to embrace the serene blue sky projected above. Cooley’s camera is indeed directed skyward, capturing a seemingly uninterrupted vista immediately recognizable as Los Angeles, thanks to palm trees, highway overpasses, airplane contrails and helicopters that periodically flash across the lens. The greater part of the video definitely embodies L.A. car culture, since our beanbag perspective mimics the viewpoint of a reclining automobile passenger gazing through the sun roof at the cloudless sky and the edges of scenery flickering along the perimeter of the road. The faint hum of a car engine and its shifting gears narrates the road trip, which the artist has composed by uniting different segments filmed during a journey from downtown L.A. out to the Palisades.
Our expedition is both mundane and graceful. We routinely observe our surroundings from the inside of a car, yet that view is rarely unimpeded, due to the noise and threats of urban traffic. Cooley’s Skyward allows us to relish in this metropolitan oasis, imagining the wind blowing our hair during a trip to the beach on a cloudless day. To further this sense of quiet serenity, Cooley intersperses moments of timeless poetry into an otherwise real-time trip. Fat bumblebees hover leisurely over our heads while a series of blimps silently traverse the sky. These brief respites suggest that the rapid speed of our everyday travels hinders our ability to perceive the beauty and grandeur of what is always present (I began wondering why I rarely see blimps—are there more in Southern California than Texas?). This sense of wonder culminates when a bunch of pink balloons enters the lens, and the car-camera quietly comes to a stop so we can take it in. Although the balloons are the oddest vision we encounter during the journey, they are still commonplace—like a marker of a birthday party or a new baby girl tied to a suburban streetside mailbox. But here the balloons are singled out from their surroundings, backed only by the intense blue sky, allowing the suggestion of a birth of a brand new year of life to shine unhindered by a prosaic context.
Much of Cooley’s previous work explores the juxtaposition of the natural and the manmade, the latter often signaled by the shock of the color pink against a landscape. In his Devil’s Churn, a hot pink inner tube spins and rocks, seemingly ad infinitum, within a tumultuous Pacific Coast inlet, while the pink balloon motif from Skyward may originate in Cooley’s Saguaro, where we await its demise as it blows dangerously close to an enormous prickly cactus. This 2011 series, entitled Primary Forces, plays on the power of the four elements, here water and wind, while celebrating the majesty of the Western United States from the perspective of the artist: an Oregonite now displaced to New York. It is this ingenuous Pacific Coast joy that pervades the denouement of Cooley’s Skyward, when the viewpoint of the automobile sun roof is replaced by that of the small aircraft window, and the urban road gives way to the ocean and shore, with the L.A. skyline visible in the distant haze. Already slightly lightheaded from lounging in the beanbag and gazing at the ceiling, Cooley’s viewer is doubly dizzied by the airplane’s loop-de-loop, which creates a momentary dislocation akin to the experience of Robert Smithson’s circling Spiral Jetty helicopter. The boundless urban sky that predominates the first seven minutes of Skyward dissolves into the boundless Pacific Ocean during its remaining moments, and the infinity of nature seems to triumph over the manmade structures.
Yet there is something naggingly familiar about Cooley’s viewpoint; perhaps its scope and disorientation recall an IMAX movie, but that reference to popular culture hearkens back to the realm of the prosaic, always lurking in Cooley’s work. To Cooley, the pink balloon may be as cheap and transient as the urban vista or, alternately, it can be perceived with the wide-eyed joy of a little girl playing at her birthday party, or of a Brooklynite revisiting the azure intersection of the West Coast skyline and the Pacific Ocean.
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.
Jacob El Hanini
Holly Johnson Gallery, Dallas
Through June 16
By Benjamin Lima
Jacob El Hanini, Star Line, 2010, 18 x 18 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Holly Johnson Gallery, Dallas.
Seeing the ten examples of Jacob El Hanani’s Linear Landscape series of ink drawings at Holly Johnson Gallery is a special event. El Hanani has worked steadily and consistently for years (with works collected by MoMA and the Metropolitan Museum among many others), yet, positioned apart from any particular group and the trends of the moment, his work may be unknown to those who are not specialists in drawings. Although the small scale, detail and repetition of his work resembles that of his colleagues Marco Maggi or Astrid Bowlby, it also contains a historical dimension in relation to medieval Jewish manuscripts.
Each of the Linear Landscapes, at 18 inches square, practically demands up-close attention to discern even a few of the details. All of the forms are generated by the meticulous repetition of tiny shapes. Sometimes, the unit of repetition is a single mark or hatch; sometimes, it is a letter or series of letters. (The latter technique, known as micrography, in which tiny letterforms become abstract decorations, derives from medieval Jewish manuscripts.) The initial challenge, then, can be to discern whether the drawing is based on text or not. After that, one might search for specific references to establish a scale of view. Are the landscapes cosmic, microscopic, human-scale or otherwise? Often, this is left ambiguous. In Leaves (2011), overlapping diagonals blanket the main field, as darker areas fill in the upper right and lower left corners. In Triangle Landscape (2011), gently curving rows of small triangular marks create billowing cloudlike forms across the top two-thirds of the frame, while darker, angular shapes crowd around the bottom.
Micrography is an especially historically resonant aspect of El Hanani’s practice. According to an online exhibit at the Jewish Theological Seminary, micrography developed in medieval Jewish communities within the broader Islamic world, where it was frequently used for Bibles in codex form. Without oversimplifying the situation, micrography could be seen as characteristic of traditions—such as those of both the Jewish and Muslim communities—that included both a reverence for sacred scripture and certain prohibitions on divine images. El Hanani’s work is not explicitly devotional, but his biography does refer to the influence of this cultural context; he was born in Morocco in 1947 and moved to Israel as a child. Later, when he moved to New York, he found affinities with artists such as Sol LeWitt, whose work also incorporated highly repetitive patterns at a small scale. I am not sure, however, whether El Hanani’s work bears a closer affinity to one or the other of these models. The sheer individuality of his work makes it difficult to glibly categorize in this way.
If both medieval and contemporary, sacred and secular references are important to El Hanani’s work, is it possible to define how they work in combination? One idea is that the state of reverie, induced by contemplating the vast number of tiny repetitions, is shared across the sacred and secular contexts, simply as a result of their scale. If so, this would show that in some cases, formal resemblances can overpower differences of context. However, insofar as each of El Hanani’s works creates an absorbing microcosm with its own inherent interest, questions such as these recede into the background.
Benjamin Lima is assistant professor of art history at the University of Texas at Arlington.
Interview: PATRICK CHARPENEL
By Leslie Moody Castro
Jumex Foundation/Collection community program.
As the new director of the impressive Jumex Foundation/Collection, Patrick Charpenel has assumed the lead role with a clear vision on collaboration, public service projects and a focus on education and transformation through art. Additionally, he is taking the helm to oversee the construction of a brand spanking new building for exhibitions and archives in the Polanco neighborhood of Mexico City.
Leslie Moody Castro [LMC]: I’d like to talk about what the plans are for the future as well as some of the changes you have already implemented at Jumex. Can you begin by telling me a little bit about the foundation, the collection and your personal history with Jumex, including how you became their director?
Patrick Charpenel [PC]: The Jumex Foundation/Collection just recently had its ten-year anniversary. It’s a foundation and collection that is relatively young, and it was born from the corporate entity that manufactures juices. Eugenio Lopez Alonso originally owned the Foundation/Collection, well his father actually, but Eugenio is the only child of the owner. Together they founded a separate area within the company that was concerned with culture, philanthropy and education, which is what the Jumex Foundation is. Ten years ago Eugenio Lopez decided to formally start the Jumex Foundation in order to give a structure to the collection that was started a few years prior, but to grow the Foundation to become something that concerned itself with education and research aside from just showing contemporary art. Through the support of research projects and educational programs with art they also contributed to publications and underwrote projects with artists, students and outside art institutions with the help of other donors and philanthropists. These projects were mainly in the realm of public arts and provided support to artists, students and institutions that needed this support in order to move forward with their programs
LMC: So there is the collection and there is the educational component that supports art and culture in order to diffuse it?
PC: Yes. The Foundation is not just the project of creating a collection of contemporary art nationally and internationally, but is also focused on constructing a platform so the collection and the function of the collection has much more to do with the experience of the artistic product as well as its knowledge.
LMC: As director of this collection and this program and platform, why did it call your attention? You are a curator and have a strong and long history of curating. Why did you want to become the director of this Foundation?
PC: First, the Jumex Foundation/Collection is a project that I’ve known for many years although it is young. I’ve worked with Patricia Martín, a former curator and director here at Jumex, and I also worked closely with Abaseh Mirvali the former director here between 2005 and 2008. I started because I consider it a social tool to transform the world specifically with art. I don’t see art only as a species for fun or as a product within a specific location or that has to be in a historical space. I see museums as laboratories for experiences and centers for research and education. So I considered the Foundation/Collection a platform. A Foundation like Jumex that is so big and with international recognition allows us to move forward with a series of projects that are perfectly and totally aligned with what I was just saying. It has a social character, and that is concerned with opening a space for reflection. Through this, it can be a vehicle for change that provides an opportunity to think about our present political, economic and social conditions, as well as seeing what types of conversations can emerge and which changes will permit us to make our world better for the future.
LMC: What are your plans moving forward and how do you plan on making that happen?
PC: The theme of research and education has always existed. It’s not just this concern that exists, now we want a new turning point so that the Foundation becomes a new platform for all the activity and knowledge that I spoke of. I’ve been thinking about institutions that don’t have the goal of legitimizing an artistic product, but instead become spaces where cultural products are problematized. Instead of legitimizing we should be problematizing, instead of shielding ourselves and being closed off we want to make ourselves more vulnerable and open. We want Jumex to be a project that goes out and operates in different contexts, so the education program is operating in DF, in distinct spaces. There is one program in jails, we have others in public schools, in public spaces, it’s also in Universities. We are looking at problems in research, at problematics within education and projects of art in locations that are nontraditional.
LMC: These educational programs and programs in public schools that are outside of the collection, do they always use the collection or do you reach outside of the collection and work with other artists or works of art?
PC: Some of them yes. Remember that it’s not just the collection. The collection is a compliment to the program that we have been working on. But yes, some things have to do with the collection, of course. One quick example, we are starting to work with a collective called Superflex which is a collective of artists that have a strong political and social character. We want to work solely with things that have legal characteristics. We are generating contracts with institutions where we make them obligated to conserve energy via legal compromise, not just moral but legal, that have to be complied with and are sanctioned by the government. In this same exhibition or project they are also testing a biodigestor that works with excrement and has to be in rural areas in order to create energy. They have been working on a prototype that they’ve been doing research on for a number of years and it’s starting to work very well. In the future they want to bring the product out to the open market. It’s for those rural areas that have waste and excrement from cows and farm animals that is then converted into energy that then enables them to cook and have electricity. If that works we want the product to be cheap so it can reach thousands and thousands of rural areas. It’s also a product that doesn’t create emissions or contamination while generating a very important money saver in communities outside of the large cities and municipalities in the third world.
LMC: Wow, you’re really collaborating within a lot of projects, people, schools, etc.
PC: Exactly. The ones that I just spoke of are just two examples, but there are many programs. We are really trying to create some exhibition projects that are more than just the works of art we present. We are also in the beginning stages of working with a very important archive where we want to show the importance of what an archive is—where we can allow an archive like this one to illustrate how it can inspire education and knowledge in a region of the country. Apart from this we are also trying to work on a project to see where we can generate conferences and workshops that will provide a launching point for exhibitions. It’s not just going to be the products that artists create, but products that are educational; that can circulate and are then presented in a gallery.
LMC: Can you tell me a little bit more about the educational programs that you are working on in the public schools? The public school program is very different here in Mexico, and quite honestly I’m very removed from it. Can you tell me how that functions apart from the other social programs you are working on?
PC: We are starting to work on specific projects that bring in artists and groups of artists—such as Torolab—that have a marked social character and generate dynamics in specific contexts. But there is also this idea to infiltrate certain economic structures that are already in place. We want to dislocate the foundation of this system in some way. So, right now we are starting to open these programs, but at the same time we are also starting to move forward with implementing thousands of workshops and analytical courses in elementary schools. Some of these are courses and within the Jumex prototype artists are invited to realize them. For example, here in Ecatepec, artists’ Ana Gómez, Gabriela Galván and Adrián Monroy are doing an entire study of urban integration where the juice plant was originally established 50 years ago. But we are also working in other important municipalities such as Ciudad Juarez. Not only are we working with the artists in the area that hosts these programs, but we are also constantly active with workshops and projects with artists with the intention of modifying the social urban spaces of Ecatepec, so that these spaces become ones of integration and interaction. We are motivated to become more educational by working with other people, being research conscious and developing the gene of being socially aware and reaching out to more people, much like an activist project; something that is more than just an artistic product.
LMC: Jumex is really becoming more of a link between the greater public and the world of art. You’re opening the doors for the public so that they understand that art is part of life.
PC: Yes, exactly. And also that it’s a link for transformation.
LMC: I went to Jumex yesterday and I was really surprised that the entire space is completely open; the public can explore the entire building, gallery space, the archive, and even the offices. I realized that it is a space that’s really open to the public even though it’s really hard to get to.
PC: Yes, we are going to keep the gallery in Ecatepec and continue to do experimental projects. Our storage will also stay in Ecatepec. You only saw a part of the library, we have another thousand or so books in storage. All the library space is at capacity, so we are also going to open a new section for books that will make the library space considerably larger in order for researchers, students and the general public to have access to them and consult them in order for it to be a library that can serve anyone’s needs. That said, we are also going to open a new building in Mexico City that will be 4,000 square meters of space. Half of that space will be exhibition space and the other half will be divided between the lobby, restaurant, bookstore and offices. We will also have two auditoriums: a small auditorium, and a main one that can be used for conferences, workshops and projections. We are also going to have a small reading room that will connect the library in Ecatepec with the new one in this building.
LMC: And where is this new building going to be?
PC: In the Polanco neighborhood.
LMC: You know, getting out to Ecatepec to see the current exhibition (Poule!) was great, and the show was fantastic, but I have to say that it’s really a trek. However, I think it’s also kind of a shame that not everything will be there once the new building is built. It is, after all, Jumex, and the original location of Jumex. Yes, it’s a pain to get to, but it’s worth it. However, considering the type of social engagement projects that you are looking to do and have started doing, and in order to use this Foundation/Collection as a tool for general change, it’s absolutely understandable that Jumex needs to have a more accessible and visible presence in the city of DF.
PC: Yes, we also want the experimental projects in Ecatepec to generate a strong link between the municipality of Ecatepec and the business, which are two things that we still have not explored within the foundation. So the example that I mentioned earlier with Superflex; we have precisely these commitments between the business and this artistic project, the economic and legal structure and of production of this business and this artistic project in which we are working.
LMC: Wow, there’s a lot of really important things on the horizon.
PC: Exactly. We are going to generate a new collection of books which will be directed at specialists such as curators and artists. Another collection will mainly be fundamental art and culture texts about themes that are important here in Mexico. We are also going to open a collection with an international focus.
LMC: Are you more focused on projects here in Mexico or internationally?
PC: No, we want to do many collaborations and we are trying to identify places, like film institutions for example. We are going to do projects with universities like UNAM which is one that we are looking at, and with other art and educational institutions. We are making alliances because we think it’s ridiculous to try to do all of this alone. We have the complete conviction that these are social projects that need everyone's interest. We also need to create these alliances so that the projects are better planned and have a bigger impact so they can go further, reach a broader audience and have a wide social penetration.
Leslie Moody Castro is an independent writer and curator living in Mexico City.
With special thanks to Andrea Aragon López for her invaluable assistance in translation.
MIS(S)UNDERSTOOD: Liner Notes on Difference, Aggression and Love
By Andy Campbell & Margaret Meehan
“[Hypertrichosis] is a congenital defect of unknown origin. These people are the hairy men and women of the circuses. Perhaps some of you remember Jo-Jo, the “dog-faced” boy"1
In 1959 Annette Funicello, she of Beach Blanket Bingo fame, released two singles. The first, for Disney, was called “Tall Paul” and detailed the narrator’s love for a guy named Paul. Likened to a “mountain” and a “tree” the narrator of the song is googoo for Paul because, well, he is so tall. “Tall Paul” was the first time a female vocalist landed on the top ten rock and roll charts, paving the way for Funicello’s subsequent successes.
That same year Funicello also released her first non-Disney single, “Jo Jo the Dog Faced Boy”. A teeny-bopper echo of Elvis Presley’s (nay, “Big Mama” Thornton’s) “Hound Dog”, Funicello’s song is a narrative account of the hasty arrival (and departure) of a teen pop-singer whose face hangs down like a “Boston bull” and rolls around on the stage like a “Pekingese”.
Tall Paul wins the girl’s heart with his “great big eyes”, “great big smile”, “great big kisses”, and great big… should we continue? Annette didn’t, but the implication is clear.
But Jo Jo, a character patterned off of the very real “Jo-Jo, the ‘dog-faced’ boy” (née Fedor Jeftichew), a Russian-born male with hypertrichosis, was not so lucky. While he drove “the crowd / stark raving mad” and “the gals lined up / for his autograph”, ultimately he “roared away / in his Cadillac” a star, but alone. The narrator in this tune is the distanced observer of a crowd whipped into a frenzy, instead of the invested lover.
Some excesses are privileged over others. Some fights worth fighting. Some sources clearer.
HARRY HILL’S NOTORIOUS VARIETY THEATER AND CONCERT SALOON FOR SPORTING GENTLEMEN
A FIGHT ARRANGED BY PROFESSOR JAMES CAMPBELL, MANAGER
NELL SAUNDERS (WIFE OF PUGILIST JOHN SAUNDERS) AND ROSE HARLAND (UNMARRIED)
FEMALE BOXERS AND GREAT SHOW!
ONE WILL TRIUMPH! THE OTHER, FALL!
A NOVEL AND NONSENSICAL EXHIBITION!
$200 AND A PIECE OF SILVER-PLATE!
(beer served by Waiter Girls)
“Mr. Hill introduced the lady contestants to the audience. Miss Saunders wore a white bodice, purple knee-breeches, which she had borrowed from one of the negro performers, red stockings and shoes. Miss Harland wore blue trunks and white tights. Both appeared exceedingly nervous, were very pale, tried to blush, and partially succeeded. Time was then called, and the female boxers shook hands. Miss Harland did not know what to do with her hands, but kept her head well back out of the way. Miss Saunders had a fair idea of attack and defense, but could not carry it into practice.[…] Miss Harland endeavored to get square and was again worsted, but finally succeeded in disarranging Saunders’ back hair by a vicious blow from the shoulder. Both women then smiled […] The exchanges were lively and hard […] Miss Saunders was the winner by a point, and she accordingly received the prize and the applause of the audience. Some gentleman handed Miss Harland a ten-dollar bill, and the two female boxers left the stage arm in arm.”2
“Baby you understand me now
If sometimes you see I'm mad
Doncha know that no one alive can always be an angel?
When everything goes wrong you see some bad
Well I'm just a soul whose intentions are good
Oh lord, please don't let me be misunderstood
Ya know sometimes baby I'm so carefree
With a joy that's hard to hide
Then sometimes it seems again that all I have is worry
And then you burn to see my other side
But I'm just a soul whose intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood
If I seem edgy
I want you to know
I never meant to take it out on you
Life has its problems
And I get more than my share
But that's me one thing I never mean to do
'Cause I love you
I'm just human
Don't you know I have faults like anyone?
Sometimes I find myself alone regretting
Some little fooling thing
Some simple thing that I've done
I'm just a soul whose intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood
I try so hard
So don't let me be misunderstood”3
Margaret Meehan picks up on these historical conditions of Otherness; lubricants to keep culture moving smoothly. Histrionics, feelings of empathy, titillation and the horror that accompanies the display of live human bodies… Meehan pries them open in arranging a boxing match. You’re a combatant.
Prying: that form of looking at once curious and intrusive.
A chalk circle marks the path of the combatants. The ring has four sides. In mining Meehan’s archive we return again and again to unfamiliar familiars. The Circassian, a mossy-haired girl, whiter than white – the jewel of the Caucus. Or the hypertrichotic with an excess of hair like a werewolf. Most recently in Meehan’s corpus, this second character is also the pugilist.
This fighter never meant to take it out on you… but you see she had to. She was bloodied up before the match even began. The sharp iron taste, a product of the viscous tracings from nose to chin, informs her every move. In this arena there are many metaphors for desire.
In the end, though, she’ll smile and walk out arm and arm with you.
This is a fiction.
Some good-for-nothing reporter won’t be able to read between the lines of this final chameleonic act. He’s just happy to report what he sees, without pursuing the intimate knowledge of feeling.
“That was a real barnburner!” he says. “No, c’mon, you were great!” he says. “Ohmygod I love Nina Simone!” he says. Besides, he’s drunk.
It is precisely because of his particular shortcomings that I’d like to remind you that Meehan’s boxing gloves are lined with glass. You and your sparring partner leave the circle-squared arm in arm, yes, but also with millions of little lacerations covering your hands. So small are these cuts that they are invisible to any paying observer – no blood pools. Still, a throbbing cocoon swamps your hands and impedes your fine motor skills. The gloves are off, but you might as well still be wearing them.
And so: large gestures have to stand in for the more subtle movements you originally practiced.
In the midst of this ambivalence (sweet celebration and basic ache), we might want to sing a popular song, laden with unfulfilled promises of liberation. We hope to land on the top ten rock and roll charts.
Ding Ding, motherfucker.
Andy Campbell is a Senior Lecturer at Texas State University in San Marcos. His interests include: queer theory, historical feminisms, the meanings and processes of community, and creative nonfiction.
Margaret Meehan lives and works on the fringe. Sometimes in Austin and sometimes in Dallas.
1. Lulu Hunt Peters, “Diet and Health: Superfluous Hair, No. 1” The Los Angeles Times, July 7, 1924, pA6.
2. “Female Boxing Match: A Novel and Nonsensical Exhibition at Harry Hill’s”, The New York Times, Mar 17, 1876, p8.
3. Nina Simone. Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, 1964.
Added on 2012-06-11 13:44:46
Taryn Simon: A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I-XVIII
Museum of Modern Art, New York
May 2 - September 3, 2012
Taryn Simon, Excerpt from Chapter I, A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I–XVIII. © 2012 Taryn Simon.
Produced over the span of four years (2008-11), artist Taryn Simon’s A Living Man Declared Dead and Other Chapters I-XVIII is the result of her globetrotting research project (twenty-five countries made up her itinerary) into bloodlines and their stories. Simon’s tracking down of hundreds of living descendants of a single story-propelling male or female is not simply genealogical—she also traces the connections between people established by fate. Nine of the projects eighteen chapters are currently on view at MoMA and are each made up of three segments; portraits of the bloodline (portrait panel); text (annotation panel); and a third featuring photographic evidence (footnote panel). The first woman to hijack an aircraft, genocide victims in Bosnia, and diseased Australian rabbits are just a few of the subject’s of Simon’s project that maps relationships between ‘chance, blood, and other components of fate.’ Notions of the oft-mentioned archive are conjured in the chapters, both in a formal sense and the larger conceptual underpinnings of the project. This classification process, which photography is particularly adept at demonstrating, loom large in Simon’s exhibition with the intersections between external politics and personal psychology colliding to startling effect. Photographic ‘truth’ is problematized in this context; where complex and often mysterious narrative’s and familial connections run head-long into the idea of ‘evidence’ embedded within the images and text. Find your way to MoMa for Simon’s exhibition, you won’t be disappointed.
Eric Zimmerman is an artist and Editor of ...might be good.
Ana Fernandez: Real Estates and Other Fictions
Women & Their Work, Austin
May 10 – June 21, 2012
San Antonio has a unique culture that sets it apart from other Texas cities. The first things that come to mind are the usual suspects: the Alamo, the Riverwalk, the historic buildings and the blend of Mexican and American culture. But as a San Antonio native myself, Ana Fernandez’s paintings struck a strong chord of familiarity in the nuanced and rundown neighborhoods that are her primary subject matter. Realistically rendered and straightforwardly composed, the paintings act more as portraiture than landscape, even with the lack of people. Instead are the things they choose to represent themselves: the color of their homes, their Christmas decorations, the decals on their car. There is an underlying humor in the imagery which lends itself to the fictional quality of the work as you question motives behind certain decorative choices; generating questions about society’s overall need to embellish the bare necessities of home, travel and even our bodies. What kind of person lives here? Who would put that in their yard? This retrospective aura is heightened by the fact that many of the scenes take place at night or on a neutral, cloudy day, which pushes everything into sheer spooky. The way Fernandez handles light and translucency is enough to induce goosebumps. As you voyeuristically gaze onto the façade of these strangers’ homes, you can imagine that somewhere behind that pink curtain or tinted car window, someone is looking straight at you with an arched eyebrow, wondering what you’re doing there.
Emily Ng is an artist and Production Associate at Fluent~Collaborative.
Added on 2012-06-13 11:58:26
Louis Grachos Named Executive Director at AMOA-Arthouse
June 14, 2012 - AMOA-Arthouse announced today that Louis Grachos has been named its executive director. The appointment completes an extensive, seven-month international search. Mr. Grachos, director of the renowned Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, NY, brings with him more than thirty years of experience in the contemporary and modern art world. Throughout his career, Grachos has demonstrated a clear and uncompromising vision as a curator and community-focused museum director. He has designed high-impact, multidisciplinary exhibitions and innovative education initiatives, and commissioned exceptional works of art. At AMOA-Arthouse, Grachos will play a major role in reinvigorating art presentation, commissioning new art, and programming the museum's two sites. He will bring nationally prominent exhibitions and artists to Central Texas. Grachos takes on his new role part time at AMOA-Arthouse on November 1, 2012, and will assume full-time responsibilities on January 1, 2013.
"We are thrilled to have Louis Grachos on board to lead the museum during this very important time in its history," said Michael (Mickey) Klein, chairman of the AMOA-Arthouse Board of Trustees. "He comes with an outstanding reputation in the art world and extensive relationships with artists, collectors, and museum colleagues. He has a wealth of knowledge and a history of creating exciting exhibitions and programs. I know Louis will be a great asset to the Austin arts community."
"After an extensive and thorough search process, we feel that Louis Grachos is the best possible person we could have found to direct AMOA-Arthouse," Darrell Windham, president of the AMOA-Arthouse Board of Trustees, said. "Our board is impressed with his vision, and his ability to bring nationally prominent exhibitions and artists to Austin. Louis will have great success in providing new opportunities for Austinites to experience modern and contemporary art."
Speaking about his new appointment, Grachos said, "I am excited and energized by this unique opportunity to create a new model that will integrate contemporary art into the Austin community. By utilizing the smart and flexible Jones Center, and the wonderful grounds and facilities at Laguna Gloria, we will find many incredible opportunities for commissions, exhibitions, and public programs. In addition, I envision AMOA-Arthouse as a museum without walls, and in that respect the city and the parks present another great programming opportunity. Austin is a thriving and creative city that makes it a very attractive place to engage contemporary artists in all artistic disciplines. "
During his 10-year tenure at the Albright-Knox, Grachos has built long-standing relationships with artists, donors, and nationally prominent art collectors. He oversaw of the growth and development of collections, exhibitions, and programming at the 150-year-old gallery, and has a proven track record in fundraising and building strong ties to the community. In addition, Grachos has initiated a space study for a master plan for growth at the Gallery. Perhaps most importantly, Grachos oversaw significant growth of the permanent collection of the Gallery through a variety of significant donations, commissions, and major acquisitions.
Grachos previously served as the director of SITE Santa Fe, where he led the renovation of a warehouse for exhibition space and was a driving force behind a highly successful international biennial. He also served as curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego, and as both the interim director and curator of exhibitions at the Center for the Fine Arts in Miami. Prior to these roles, he held various positions at the Queens Museum of Art and The Americas Society, as well as internships at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
A native of Canada, Grachos was educated at the University of Toronto and New York University. He also completed post-graduate work at the Center for Museum Studies at John F. Kennedy University, San Francisco, California.
Tiny Park to Open New Gallery Space 1101 Navasota Street
June 4, 2012 - Tiny Park is pleased to announce the opening of our new gallery space at 1101 Navasota St., Austin, TX 78702 and the opening of "Greatest Hits", a group exhibition featuring all of the artists (and in some cases, specific works) we presented in our previous home-based gallery. The exhibition is an opportunity for us to get oriented in the new space and present a tongue-in-cheek "history" of our activities to date. We'll be working with some of these artists in the coming year, so the exhibition acts as both a history and preview. Opening Friday, June 29, 2012, 7pm to 11pm, the exhibition continues through July 28 and will be available for viewing 12pm - 5pm on Saturdays and at any time by appointment.
Tiny Park presents contemporary art exhibitions, readings, performances, and film screenings by local and national artists. Tiny Park also collaborates with guest curators and outside organizations to present conceptually and aesthetically diverse works. Tiny Park is organized by Brian Willey and Thao Votang.
Lawndale Artist Studio Program 2012-2013 Participating Artists Announced
June 12, 2012 - Lawndale Art Center is pleased to announce the residents for the seventh round of the Lawndale Artist Studio Program. Artists selected for the program are Domokos Benczédi, Nancy Douthey and Patrick Turk.
With an emphasis on emerging practices, the program will provide these artists with non-residential studio space for nine months (September 2012 - May 2013) on the third floor of Lawndale Art Center in the heart of the Museum District. The artists will have full access to their studios 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Each artist will receive a $500 monthly stipend for the duration of the program and an initial $1500 unrestricted materials allowance. Artists working in all mediums were encouraged to apply. At the completion of the residency, works produced during the program will be exhibited at Lawndale Art Center in May 2013. The 2012-2013 residents were selected from over 100 applicants by a panel of three arts professionals; Dean Daderko, Curator at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston; Sharon Engelstein, Artist; and Adrienne Johnson Yost, Senior Associate at Kinzelmann Art Consulting and Lawndale Programming Committee Chair.
Sicardi Gallery Announces Grand Opening of New Space at 1506 West Alabama Street
June 4, 2012 - Sicardi Gallery announces the grand opening of our new space at 1506 West Alabama in Houston, designed by architect Fernando Brave, with a solo exhibition by the Colombian artist Oscar Muñoz. A reception with the artist is scheduled for Thursday, June 7 from 6 to 9 p.m.
For his third solo exhibition at Sicardi Gallery, Muñoz will present Paístiempo and Editor solitario as well as a selection of mixed media works, photographs, and videos. Together, these projects and images form part of the artist’s ongoing exploration of the ephemeral and vulnerable nature of human life. A catalogue with text written by Daniela Perez, independent curator and co-founder of the Mexico City non-profit space de-sitio, is forthcoming.
The new location of Sicardi Gallery is in the Houston Museum District, just across from The Menil Collection and the Houston Center for Photography. It includes expanded gallery spaces, areas for video projection, and a research room open to scholars and curators by appointment.
Houston Fine Art Fair
HFAF ARTWEEK, running from September 9th through the 16th, provides the unique opportunity for art fair attendees not only from Houston but also from out of town to become better acquainted with Houston’s burgeoning art scene. During the week of the fair, various cultural institutions will offer a wide selection of events and exhibitions to make this a citywide event.Fluent~Collaborative is a proud cultural partner of the Houston Fine Art Fair.
September 9 - 16
Taking place in Houston, The Texas Contemporary art fair features
presentations from 60 galleries showcasing contemporary work from the
most innovative, progressive and driven artists from around the world.Fluent~Collaborative is a proud cultural partner of Texas Contemporary.
October 18 - 21