August 30, 2008

Studio Update: Summer progress

Summer is usually a productive season for those of us who teach, but inevitably some things remain unfinished because gauging the time needed to complete certain tasks, especially painting, is impossible. Nevertheless, I got a lot done.

Painting:
In Beacon, NY, I participated in Simon Draper’s Habitat for Artists shantytown residency project, spending most Mondays working unplugged in the four-by-five-foot shed he built for me. I completed twenty-five 11” x 17” data-gathering color studies (oil on cardboard) to inform my use of hue, saturation, and value in a new series of 40” x 54” paintings on canvas. My other studio is in my house, just around the corner from Mystic Pizza, and consists of a warren of small attic rooms, which seem spacious after spending time at the shack. There I work on larger-scale paintings. After making 18” x 24” paintings for the past two years, scaling up and working with an expanded palette has been a challenge. Rather than beginning rigidly with specific sketches and /or predetermined imagery, I’ve always been more inclined to let the process determine the outcome. Working bigger over a longer timeframe has increased the potential for both fruitful expansion and frustrating digression. But, on balance, the tangents have been more energizing than exasperating, especially as paintings neared completion.

Image above: My desk in Beacon. Image below: The shack in August. Image at bottom: Triad study, oil on cardboard, 11" x 17."

Book projects:
I’ve just finished drafting The Tower Paintings: Keeping Our Distance, a 50-page full-color artist’s book that reproduces a 34-panel series of paintings based on the structure of isolated observation towers. I made the paintings one by one, and by presenting them sequentially in the book, I intend to provide a visual narrative about the process of – and I hope progress in – making art. The idea is to situate each painting in the context of the whole project, and to allow readers to track and assess my aesthetic decisions. Two short essays are also included. The final version should be available in a week or two. Look for Control Number 2008907657 if you’re at the Library of Congress.

Writing:
In August I wrote about Jilaine Jones’s elegant exhibition of sculpture at the New York Studio School for the September issue of The Brooklyn Rail. Jones’s work shows that the process of “making” can indeed create deeper, more complex layers of meaning, and proves that creating permanent objects is still a viable approach for artists working in three dimensions. I'll provide a link once it goes online.

Upcoming exhibitions and events where you can see my work:
Building Consensus,” Akus Gallery, Eastern Connecticut State University, Willimantic, CT. August 28-October 9. Opening reception with the artists, Thursday, Sept. 4, 5-7pm.
Brooklyn Rail Silent Art Auction,” PaceWildenstein, 534 West 25th Street, New York, NY. September 4: Viewing 12-6pm, September 5: Viewing 12-6pm, Silent Auction 6-9 pm.
Evening with the Artists,” Habitat for Artists exhibition and record release party for Dar Williams's new project, Tuesday, September 9, 6-9pm. Spire Studios, 45 Beekman Street, Beacon, NY. (I have to teach, so I won't be there.)
Pocket Utopia Artist Residency, Brooklyn, NY. January 2009. More details to come.

Previous studio updates:
Studio visits (July 12, 2008)
Unplugged in Beacon (June 6, 2008)
Studio shack update (May 18, 2008)
Itinerant painter (May 9, 2008)

Laylah Ali: Life of the mind

Laylah Ali's drawing show, opening at the Decordova Museum today, features flat, seemingly naif drawings of costumed characters, layered with handwritten text. Random thought, overheard conversations and snippets of news stories create complex, enigmatic poem-like narratives. In the Boston Globe, Cate McQuaid visits Ali in her Williamstown, MA, studio. "A slender, striking woman with close-cropped black curly hair and glasses, Ali, 40, is a keen observer of how people present themselves to the world and what lies beyond surface appearances: unspoken social communication, the trappings of class and power, and the inevitable revelations of vulnerability that come hand in hand with assertions of strength. It's what her art addresses. Although much of her work hints at trauma, outright violence doesn't interest her.

"'If I shoot someone in the head, we understand that,' Ali says. Dressed in a long-sleeved T-shirt and jeans, she sits back in a chair in her studio and chooses her words thoughtfully. 'It's the power dynamics that are harder to sniff out - that's where most of our human relationships are - the mid-level, low-level aggression that occurs all the time in our lives.'

Ali, who double-majored in art and English at Williams, insists that she does not consider herself a writer. Sometimes she hears things she'd like to quote. Sometimes she imagines what people are thinking: 'I find your voice irritating,' she offers by way of example. 'I think my students are thinking that of me...'"

"Ali writes list items down on scraps of paper, then assembles them with care, making a kind of found poem. 'There's something nice about brain to page,' she says of the notes. 'No race, no female body attached to the lists. It's a freedom of just being a mind working without connection to a body....'Some artists are driven by the idea that their work has to be seen,' Ali reflects. 'I'm more interested in what happens in the studio. It's a great privilege to let the life of my mind have some time to itself.'" Read more.

Watch slideshows and see interviews with Ali at PBS Art:21. See some of her earlier work at 303 Gallery, New York, NY.

"Laylah Ali: Notes/Drawings/Untitled Afflictions," organized by Dina Deitsch. Decordova Museum, Lincoln, MA. Through January 4, 200.

August 29, 2008

Mike Bayne says, "I don't know."

Two Coats of Paint's inbox is awash with gallery press releases this week, some more compelling than others. Canadian Mike Bayne, whose first NYC solo show opens on Thursday, declares in his statement that he doesn't have any idea why he paints the things he does. Could this be one more indication that work motivated by intuition and instinct is making a comeback? "I think the question I most frequently get asked as a painter is: 'why do you choose to paint the things you do'? Probably the most truthful answer is that I don't know." Bayne writes. "I don't know why I photograph the things I do. I don't know why I chose to photograph my subjects in a certain way, under certain lighting conditions. I don't know why some photographs appeal to me as painting subject matter more than others. What I do know is that I don't start out with an idea or theme or concept and then strictly adhere to that throughout. I know that my work isn't a direct response to a political, social or environmental issue. I know that I don't have a conscious ideological agenda or feel strongly about the way art should be made or the future of art. That isn't to say I can't speculate after the fact and wonder whether I chose to paint something because of a personal association, or because of some cultural influence, or because of the way the neurons in my brain have been hardwired or because certain colours may appeal to me more than others at certain times depending on my mood. Those types of things may help to explain the existence of these paintings to some degree. But it's still speculation and hardly definitive. The truth is that I just don't find the question very interesting. It doesn't matter to me why I paint the things I do. And I don't think that is an anti intellectual or anti conceptual statement. I simply suspect that why I do what I do has a lot less to do with a rational, logical thought process than experiential factors like chance, luck, coincidence, intuition, instinct, belief, habit, emotion, feeling, taste or fashion, amongst others. Maybe that makes my position moderately irrational but I don't mind that label. It's not that I reject logic and reason entirely. I think they have their place. But it should be ok to say 'I don't know' when asked 'why'? That's probably not a very interesting answer but maybe the answer is determined by the question."

"Mike Bayne: Roadsides," Morgan Lehman Gallery, New York, NY. Sept. 4 - Oct.4.

August 28, 2008

NY Mag's fall painting picks

“Giorgio Morandi: 1890–1964,” Metropolitan Museum, New York, NY. Sept. 16–Dec. 14.
"When the master of quiet still lifes died, in 1964, he was unfashionable in New York and London yet revered in Italy. Today, Morandi’s pastel paintings of bottles give the illusion of time stilled. The visual equivalent of slow food."

“Alfred Kubin Drawings, 1897–1909” At the Neue Galerie, Sept. 25–Jan. 26.
"Nearly 50 years after his death, Kubin gets his first big American museum show. Wispy, surreal pencil drawings and watercolors are like those of a haunted, Austrian Edward Gorey."

“Live Forever: Elizabeth Peyton” and “Mary Heilmann: To Be Someone," New Museum, New York. Oct. 8–Jan. 11 (Peyton) and Oct. 22–Jan. 26 (Heilmann):
"With this doubleheader, the New Museum pays heed to these two quiet, trendsetting women, neither of whom, incredibly, has ever had a proper retrospective here."

Carol Rama” At Maccarone, Oct. 25–Dec. 20.
"The racy Italian nonagenarian, muse to Man Ray and Warhol, gets a rare American show of her sex drawings and bright abstractions."

Read New York Magazine's "Season at a Glance" column.

At The New Yorker, Morandi, Peyton, and Heilmann are fall preview picks, too, and in addition they've selected "Joan Miró: Painting and Anti-Painting 1927–1937" at MoMA, opening November 2. From the press release: "Taking his notorious claim—'I want to assassinate painting' —as its point of departure, the exhibition explores twelve of Miró’s sustained series from this decade, beginning with a 1927 group of works on canvas that appears to be raw and concluding with 1937’s singular, hallucinatory painting, "Still Life with Old Shoe." Acidic color, grotesque disfigurement, purposeful stylistic heterogeneity, and the use of collage and readymade materials are among the aggressive tactics that Miró used in pursuit of his goal. By assembling in unprecedented depth the interrelated series of paintings, collages, objects, and drawings of this decade, this exhibition repeatedly poses the question of what painting meant to Miró and what he proposed as its opposite, and in the process reveals the artist’s paradoxical nature: an artist of violence and resistance who never ceased to be a painter, a creator of forms."

August 27, 2008

Old-timers in Provincetown: Herman Maril, Robert Henry

Boston Globe critic Cate McQuaid reports on a few painting shows in Provincetown.

"Herman Maril: An Artist's Two Worlds," Provincetown Art Association and Museum, Provincetown, MA. Through Oct. 12. "You may not know Maril, who died in 1986. He was an artist who leaned into spare representation when his colleagues reveled in abstraction, so his work didn't fly with the trends. He lived and taught in Baltimore, not New York, where an artist of his caliber might have garnered attention, despite going against the grain. Though he did have a New York gallery, Maril made little effort to market his work. He was content to stay in his studio and paint."
"Robert Henry: Stop, Look, Listen," Provincetown Art Association and Museum, Provincetown, MA.. Through Aug. 31."Henry has been painting for five decades or more, and he's as stylistically eclectic as Maril is focused. Sometimes Henry's work is coyly humorous, sometimes, as in many of the sea-oriented works, quite dark."

Guston's paint still looks wet

At MoMA, installed in the teeming atrium space, I was happy to see seven of Philip Guston's cartoon paintings from the sixties and seventies. I agree with Village Voice critic RC Baker that the paintings look startlingly fresh. "Guston (1913–1980) began his career in the '30s, with stolid scenes of Klansmen that combined Piero della Francesca's Renaissance modeling with the social conscience of Mexico's radical muralists. Then came the lush abstractions that made Guston famous, and finally the late figures, which harked back to the Sunday comics he'd loved in his youth. The first exhibition showcasing his mature style, in 1970, was generally panned; Guston's newfound crudity was compared to the work of R. Crumb, a cartoonist the painter claimed he'd never heard of, but who shared the same big-foot comic-strip influences. Willem de Kooning, however, understood Guston's breakthrough, telling the younger artist: 'Well, now you are on your own! You've paid off all your debts!' Indeed, the gorgeous "Edge of Town" (1969) blends the absurdity of Guston's newfound characters with classical monumentality and the wet-into-wet cross-hatching of his elegant abstractions, creating a sui generis amalgam of image, mood, and materials. The beefy pink flesh of dangerous buffoons in white hoods, waving clubs and fat cigars as they cruise about in a pathetic black jalopy, is set against a sky of smoggy blue and rose leavened with the dark flecks of an earlier, painted-over composition—an imperfect foundation as flawed and dynamic as America itself. This is a transitional painting filled with struggle and conviction, the kind of work that leaps over everything else in its time to become timeless." Read more.

August 26, 2008

Brooklyn Rail silent art auction: Buy this painting!

Join me at The Brooklyn Rail Silent Art Auction, hosted by Pace Wildenstein, on September 5, from 6-9pm, where you can bid on my painting (at left, see details below), as well as many other extraordinary pieces donated by well-regarded artworld bigs, including local favorites Chris Martin, James Siena, Amy Sillman, and Joe Amrhein. The impressive list of contributors confirms the arts community's steadfast support for this monthly, non-profit, artist-run journal.

According to publisher Phong Bui, the Rail was named by the playwright (and first Rail theater editor) Emily Devoti in the fall of 1998. It was initially created as a weekly pamphlet for L-train riders, a Xeroxed broadsheet folded in half, with slanted opinions printed in four columns on the front and back. During the planning of the new publication, the four original editors, Ted (Theodore) Hamm, Joe Maggio, Christian Viveros-Fauné and Patrick Walsh (all of whom he met at The Brooklyn Ale House), invited Phong to write art criticism. Eventually they asked him to help shape the editorial content of the journal. He was reluctant to contribute so much time and energy to an activity that might interfere with his own ambition as an artist, but they were such passionate and knowledgeable individuals, and the Rail was becoming such a singular critical voice in the arts, politics, and the world in general, that he soon found himself envisioning a “Promised Land” where artists and writers could meet, share ideas and collaborate, as they used to years ago.

The Rail’s senior editors seek to avoid the predictability that comes with any overarching aesthetic or bias, and section editors are free to control the content of their respective domains as they see fit. But all value experimentation over complacency, and lucidity over jargon.
As Rail film editor Jonas Mekas said in his "Anti–100 Years of Cinema Manifesto," in times when everybody wants to succeed and sell, we should celebrate those who embrace social and daily failure to pursue the invisible, the personal things that bring no money and bread and make no contemporary history, art history or any other history. We must make art for each other, as friends.

Image details:
Sharon Butler, "Untitled, 11," 2007, oil on canvasboard, 18" x 24." This painting is one of a
34-panel series which is the subject of a new artist book, The Tower Paintings: Keeping Our Distance. The book, which includes one of my essays and images of all 34 paintings, is in the final proofing stage and will be available in late September.

"The Brooklyn Rail Two-Day Silent Art Auction," organized by Phong Bui, James Siena, and countless others.
Pace Wildenstein, 534 West 25th Street, New York, NY. September 4: Viewing 12-6pm, September 5: Viewing 12-6pm, Silent Auction 6-9 pm. See you there.

August 24, 2008

Manny Farber: The profundity of existence in its ordinary details

Union-Tribune art critic Robert L. Pincus on painter Manny Farber, who died early Monday morning: "Manny Farber never tired of looking at small things: a flower, a Post-it note or a section of rebar. He never stopped being fascinated with how 'to get it as I see it,' as he said one day in his studio. This was the prime paradox of Farber as a painter: He located the profundity of existence in its ordinary details, the everyday things of his life that he valued so much. He wasn't ever going to try to hit you over the head with meaning or message, by trying to create what he pejoratively referred to as 'masterpiece art.' But like the great Italian painter Giorgio Morandi, he gave humble forms a second life, a glow that invested them with a large beauty. Farber died early Monday at 91, in the Leucadia home he shared for many years with wife and fellow artist Patricia Patterson. His career spanned styles and epochs in recent art: Abstract expressionism, pop art, minimalism, conceptual art all came and went in his lifetime." Read more.

Publishing the unpublished: Coates on Bromirski

At anaba, Martin Bromirski has posted an unpublished review of his 2006 show, Art of This Century, written by painting pal Jason Coates. "When discussing Martin Bromirski's one person show at Haigh Jamgochian's wonderfully out of place Markel Building in Richmond, VA, it is quite possible to focus only on the near-perfect matchup between the small group of paintings and the site. For starters, Jamgochian's office building- which resembles a gigantic flying saucer plopped down amid the car dealerships and strip malls on West Broad Street, has the same future-as-imagined-from-the-past quality that Bromirski's misty abstracts capture. Bromirski has a knack for redefining the center, often creating art venues where there were none. He's accomplished this with his popular art blog anaba, his mock Art Basel at Stuffy's Sub Shop in Richmond, and now this show at what Bromirski deems the 'Bizzarro Guggenheim.' But equally as interesting is the way that the paintings ask you to imagine where they have been. The handful of small paintings are hung in a circular lobby among an elevator entrance and vending machines. Yet, even in this modest setting, Bromirski's paintings appear unassuming- almost tailor made to blend into the space. It is this unassuming quality- bordering on sweetness and pathos- that sets this work apart from his earlier, grander paintings. Previously, Bromirski's large scale work would center around a tiny, barely recognizable figure dwarfed by it's surroundings . In the new body of work, the individual paintings become characters themselves, ready to be crammed into a suitcase like a stack of dog-eared postcards and rushed off to the next adventure." Read more.

Eva Lake on Hannah Höch

Blogging painter Eva Lake reports today that reading The Photomontages of Hannah Höchhas been both inspiring and depressing. "When I first discovered Dada in the 70s, I read everything I could find. There wasn’t much on Höch at all, no monographs that I could find. And so I bought my books on John Heartfield and became the resident expert on him. I’d say that I still love him best today, but then again, it’s not like I had all this choice. You can’t like what you don’t know. For years Höch was only known within a certain context: the Dada years. She was even called 'The Good Girl' by Hans Richter, a dismissive remark if there ever was one, especially if you compare the work of the two artists. He made nice abstract films, while Cut with Kitchen Knife is just the tip of the iceberg on the tough cuts Hannah Höch achieved over a lifetime of art-making. And that’s the real deal: emphasis on a lifetime. I knew she was working into old age only because she was listed in Femail Art, produced by Anna Banana in 1978. Her address was listed in the back pages, along with Yoko Ono’s (and my own). As soon as Femail Art came out, I was writing these illustrious women. I wrote the letter to Höch all in German, which I had studied in school. The letter was returned with something like Abgestorben stamped all over it. I was just a little late – she was dead. " Read more.

August 23, 2008

Maqbool Fida Husain threatened by Hindu groups for his paintings of nude gods and goddesses

In The Guardian Randeep Ramesh reports that Maqbool Fida Husain, one of India's most famous living artists, was conspicuous by his absence from the country's first art fair which opened yesterday in Delhi. "Backed by Sotheby's and the government, the Indian Art Summit is a sign of how quickly attitudes to art have changed in the country, while political views have not. Prices of Indian art have skyrocketed in the past five years with paintings by Husain easily fetching $1m (£538,000)- staggering for a country where average incomes are less than $1000 a year. But Husain has just spent his 93rd birthday in self-imposed exile, forced out by threats from Hindu groups enraged by his paintings of nude gods and goddesses. Instead of his beloved Mumbai, Husain now lives in Dubai and London. He told The Guardian that he would 'love to return home' but faces 'three thousand legal cases which have been lodged against me in the past eight years. I cannot speak about them because I would be in contempt of court.'" Read more.

Plagens novel: It's just fiction

Peter Plagens, painter and longtime art critic for Newsweek magazine, has written The Art Critic, a novel which will be published on artnet. According to Regina Hackett, it's being published in serial form, one chapter a week for 24 weeks. If you see yourself in any of the characters, remember that, as my husband's bestselling tell-all-novelist ex-girlfriend is fond of repeating, " It's just fiction!"

Chapter One:
"Arthur’s recent but rising dyspepsia concerning what he was seeing in the galleries owed mostly to his feeling old and increasingly out of touch with the postmodern art world. He wasn’t that square; he genuinely liked modern art, especially abstract art, all the way up to and including Minimalism. High-end formalism was king o’ the hill back when he was a graduate art history student. Nowadays, Arthur complained constantly (but mostly inwardly): all that goddamned storytelling art that had put him to sleep during any number of slide lectures slipped -- albeit morphed into PC agitprop -- back into fashion at about the same time he’d become a professional art critic. And it had only gotten more pervasive since.

"Worse, all those current artists who indulged themselves in actual words -- paintings with words in them, 'photo-text pieces,' video works stuffed with dialogue, and other works requiring more didactic printed material slapped up on the walls than you’d find in a science museum -- weren’t the worst of it; the sin of language was a misdemeanor compared with whole nihilistic roomfuls of abject detritus, installations with more electronic equipment than an arena concert, and hugely expensive wannabe architecture in which designer drugs were somewhat mitigated by the assistance of a structural engineer. Although the artists boasted in the accompanying press material that the art -- what a big tent 'art' was now! -- 'forces the viewer to confront' some geopolitical issue or another, the local stuff, at least, seemed to be made by upper-middle-class kids who could afford the tuition for a Master of Fine Arts degree and then a studio in some rapidly gentrifying quarter of Brooklyn. The bar for 'oppression' had apparently been lowered to anybody looking cross-eyed at them on the subway. Between the lines, so to speak, their art told whiney stories about putative victimhoods, or self-congratulatory stories about their empathy for other people’s misfortunes. And they didn’t want their messages to be confined to mere galleries, either. You could feel them looking toward wider, more glamorous horizons. 'Face it,' the film critic at the newsweekly where Arthur plied his trade had once said to him when he took her along to a couple of exhibitions, 'they all want to direct.'" Read more.

August 22, 2008

More artists who write?

According to Douglas Wagner in The Arizona Gazette, two self-anointed "grammar vigilantes" who toured the nation removing typos from public signs have been banned from national parks after vandalizing a historic marker at the Grand Canyon. Jeff Michael Deck, 28, of Somerville, Mass., and Benjamin Douglas Herson, 28, of Virginia Beach, Va., pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Flagstaff after damaging a rare, hand-painted sign in Grand Canyon National Park. They were sentenced to a year's probation, during which they cannot enter any national park, and were ordered to pay restitution. According to court records, Deck and Herson toured the United States from March to May, wiping out errors on government and private signs. On March 28, while at Desert View Watchtower on the South Rim, they used a white-out product and a permanent marker to deface a sign painted more than 60 years ago by artist Mary Colter. The sign, a National Historic Landmark, was considered unique and irreplaceable, according to Sandy Raynor, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Phoenix. Read more. Listen to a story about their project, the Typo Eradication Advancement League, on NPR.

Cotter declares recreated Knoebel installation authentic!

NY Times critic Holland Cotter made the trip up the Hudson this week to visit Dia: Beacon and reports that he has no problem with the 2008 recreation of the 1977 Imi Knoebel installation. "'24 Colors—For Blinky' was in storage for some 30 years, and when it was finally retrieved, Mr. Knoebel decided that it was in such bad shape that it was beyond salvaging. So he made a new version from scratch, which is what we see at Dia. This means, of course, that the thin line between restoration and re-creation has been breached, and you can almost hear the sound of voices raised in protest. Shouldn’t the original piece have been shown, whatever its condition? Isn’t a re-creation, even by the artist, historically inauthentic, an expensive fake? I have no problem with the remake. The original was always meant as a conceptual gesture, a complicated act of self-assertion and self-abnegation, an exercise in loudness and dumbness, volubility and silence-seeking. The new version seems faithful to that. It will look old and 'authentic' soon enough, and may then acquire a kind of authoritative voice it was never really meant to have."

If you read my article in the July issue of The Brooklyn Rail, you know I completely disagree with Cotter's acceptance of the remake. A painting project of this scale, due to the meditative, repetitive process of "making" that we rarely see in conceptual work today, becomes much more than a "conceptual gesture." The wholesale recreation of Knoebel’s paintings has purged them of a not insubstantial measure of their authenticity. Remaking Donald Judd’s plywood boxes, say, or Dan Flavin’s fluorescent light installations does not detract from their real or intended artistic import because the visible subtlety of the artist’s hand is not germane to the aesthetic experience of viewing the work. But a painting itself perceptibly reflects the artist’s creative process, and cannot be reconstructed without effacing the artist’s original experience of making the piece. Look for my article in the September issue of The Brooklyn Rail that explores how meaning is enriched through the physical process of making.

Related post:
Two restoration tales: Ad Reinhardt and Imi Knoebel

August 21, 2008

Dill and Ruscha to lose the alley behind their studios, not the studios themselves

I've been pretty swamped lately, so when I glanced at the headlines about Dill and Ruscha, I thought they were going to lose their studios. In fact, they have threatened to leave their warehouse studios if the city takes a fenced-in alley behind their building and turns it into metered parking spots. In the LA Times Elina Shatkin writes that plans have been drawn and ribbons have been cut for the much-needed new parking spaces. "When Laddie John Dill, known for his paintings and large cement and metal sculptures, signed a lease on a warehouse on Electric Avenue in 1983, that stretch of Venice was known more for vagrants and heroin dealers than high art. He was joined two years later by fellow Chouinard Art Institute alumnus Ed Ruscha, and the pair fenced in an area in the back alley to use as a work space. In the two decades since, that small plot of city-owned land and several other nearby parcels have become hot property. In 2006, Councilman Bill Rosendahl began pushing an idea that had been on the council's agenda for roughly 20 years: transforming several parcels into metered parking spots." I can't imagine they'd actually leave their studios over this.

August 19, 2008

Kirchner's angular unhotties

I saw the Kirchner exhibition at MoMA yesterday, and found his use of jangly discordant color, combined with obsessively repetitive, diagonal brushstokes completely original and engaging. His daily practice involved drawing miles of linear, knotty pencil sketches, and the sketchbook display alone (he produced hundred of sketchbooks) is worth the trip. Here's how Dan Bischoff from The Star-Ledger describes the show: "The 'street paintings' are famous for their angular distortion and putrid color schemes, for their uncompromising ugliness, in fact. And, of course, for the innumberable pictures of distorted women that became a touchstone for Modern art throughout the rest of the 20th century. Oddly enough, they have never been seen together before. It's almost as if Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938) painted the pictures Joey Ramone would have painted (if Joey Ramone could have painted pictures). The figures are totally Punk -- crudely drawn, the compositions crammed and full of apparent afterthoughts. Nothing stays central, everything spins around in jagged shapes that look as if they're done with a crayon. ...There isn't really anything lascivious about these pictures, no 'look at the hottie for sale' quality. The same is true of the 30 drawings and the digital sketchbook you can page through that also are included in this show. If anything, Kirchner seems to identify with these prostitutes --like artists, they deal in beauty without assurance of support, always on the lookout for a patron who will last. Good luck." Read more.

Ken Johnson thinks the figures "resemble praying mantises or queen wasps, and the men who lurk about them are like anonymous drones. Kirchner was not a gifted painter," Johnson continues, "but his paintings have a bracing ugliness and a burning emotional intensity. Looking at his claustrophobic pictures is like seeing through the feverish eyes of a lost and tormented soul." Read more.

"Kirchner and the Berlin Street," Musuem of Modern Art, New York, NY. Through November 10.

August 18, 2008

Thinking Beyond The Unthinkable

Taking a little break from painting, I'd like to recommend Jonathan Stevenson's new book, Thinking Beyond the Unthinkable, which was just released by Viking today. Stevenson explores the intellectual virtues of the civilian strategists of the Cold War, and thinks about how to apply some of their genius in the very different Age of Terror. In Wired magazine this month, Stevenson argues that we need to tackle al Qaeda where it thrives — online. "The problem is that our ham-fisted policies, centering on a reckless war of choice and forced democratization, have eviscerated US public relations efforts. So Washington leads its Web campaigns on tiptoe. The Pentagon has begun launching foreign-language news sites to counter jihadist propaganda, but their sponsorship is intentionally obscure. The name of the site for Iraq (Mawtani.com) references the Iraqi national anthem, and its Department of Defense provenance is revealed only when you click on the About link. These kinds of unattributed information ops will never create a decisively positive view of the West.

"Whoever wins the White House in November should take the opportunity to give US foreign policy a makeover, which would allow us to emerge from the cybercloset. From there, the path is clear: harness the Net's unique combination of community and privacy to shape the debate within Islam about the best mechanisms for political change. A new tone in Washington could make moderate Muslims less averse to linkages with the US, which might in turn quietly provide support for anti-jihadist clerics — like Abdul Haqq Baker of the Brixton mosque in London — encouraging them to speak up in the blogosphere."


Update: In September, Thinking Beyond The Unthinkable won the Connecticut Book Award for Non-Fiction.


Related articles:
We Need a New Think Tank For the War on Terror

Posts about painting will resume tomorrow.

August 16, 2008

Out on the Island: Knoebel, Rivers and Krasner

"Imi Knoebel: Knife Cuts," Dan Flavin Institute, Bridgehampton, NY. Through October 12. Ben Genocchio reports in the NYTimes that Dia is featuring two Imi Knoebel installations, although his review is primarily focused on the one at the Dan Flavin Institute in Bridgehampton. "You notice the colors first: boundless, joyful, and leaping off the wall at you. They brighten up a dull, dark room. When I first looked at these collages I was somewhat disappointed, seeing only strips of colored paper arranged in abstract patterns. But up close you begin to see that a lot of thought has gone into the arrangements. The paper strips have texture, suggesting they were hand-painted, and there is a mix of flat and reflective surfaces. Some strips are also elevated, casting curious shadows. But what really hooks you is the gradual appreciation that the collages have an explosive, yet paradoxically serene, quality to them. The appearance of breezy spontaneity is also probably a big part of their appeal, though I don’t believe for a minute that they are really chance arrangements."Read more.

Related posts:
Imi Knoebel's restoration at Dia: "24 Colors--For Blinky"

Two restoration tales: Ad Reinhardt and Imi Knoebel

"Lee Krasner: Little Image Paintings," organized by Helen Harrison. Pollock-Krasner House, The Springs, NY. Through Oct. 31. Culturegrrl reports that Lee Krasner finally gets her due in this show of small-scale paintings. "This intimate show of just nine works, one-third of the known surviving paintings in this series, gave me a greater appreciation of this overshadowed artist than the many displays giving pride of place and space to Krasner's large-scale, later works that too often come off as wan wannabe Pollocks. (The show also contains a Krasner-created round table from the same period, shown in the living room, above, and what is thought to be her earliest self-portrait, dated 1929.) The paintings now displayed in Springs are intense, dense gems, some painted in the very room in which they are now displayed---the couple's living room. Others were painted in a small upstairs bedroom. Apartment-sized rather than loft-sized, they vary from all-over paintings reminiscent of Pollock but with their own coloristic pizzazz, to others that have been called 'calligraphic' but are more pictographic. Krasner seems to be experimenting in these small formats, but all are highly finished, fully conceived works." Read more.

"Larry Rivers: Major Early Works - 1952-1966," Guild Hall, East Hampton, NY. Through October 19. Ken Johnson reports in the NY Times that Rivers's facile draftsmanship, loose brushwork and clever collage would look increasingly thin, formulaic and derivative, but the early work was daring and original. "At a time when Abstract Expressionism ruled, he took up a seemingly old-fashioned, academic sort of figure painting. There was a twist to his approach, though. His nude models were not anonymous professionals but friends and lovers, and his paintings of them have a striking erotic intimacy. At Guild Hall, the bigger-than-life full-length portrait of the poet Frank O’Hara wearing only heavy work boots is startlingly visceral. It’s not super-realistic — the focus is soft, the painting smudgy, the colors muted. But the way the young, muscular O’Hara stands with hands on his head and one foot up on a concrete block creates a casual sexual vitality that slyly subverts high-minded traditions of the academic nude. It’s no surprise to learn that the bisexual Rivers and the gay O’Hara were lovers at the time." Read more.

August 15, 2008

In Sotheby's promo, Hirst vows to slow production

On Bloomberg Scott Reyburn reports that Damien Hirst will stop making the spin and butterfly paintings that are among his biggest sellers. "Hirst's trademark spot paintings will still appear, though production of these and formaldehyde works will be reduced, the artist said in a video interview on Sotheby's Web site....As was the case with Andy Warhol's 'Factory,' most of Hirst's works are made by studio assistants.
"'Someone told me there are 800 spot paintings,' said the London dealer Robert Sandelson in a phone interview. 'But I'm sure there are more than that.' In the summer of 2006, Sandelson's Cork Street gallery hosted a selling exhibition of Hirst works acquired through secondary sources. Recently, dealers have been concerned about overproduction of some paintings."

The video interview with the artist was created to promote Sotheby's two-day sale of new Hirst pieces, titled "Beautiful Inside My Head Forever,'' to be held in London on Sept. 15 and 16. The 223-lot auction of works entered directly by the artist from his studio may net him more than 65 million pounds ($121.7 million).

Geo/Mattera visits MoMA

Joanne Mattera saw the Geo/Metric print and drawing show at MoMA, and reports back with a jpeg-rich two-part post. The show surveys the recurring and widespread impulse toward geometric abstraction in modern and contemporary art. Artists representing various movements and geographical backgrounds are all there: Cubist, Dada, and Russian avant-garde artists of the 1910s and 1920s, with their images of flat, intersecting planes and floating shapes; artists associated with Minimalism, Op art, and hard-edge abstraction in the 1960s and 1970s, whose primary interest lay in the investigation of reductive form and color; and contemporary artists who continue to exploit the infinite potential of simple geometries.

"Geo/Metric," organized by Starr Figura and Kathy Curry. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY. Through August 18.

August 13, 2008

Mid-century British abstraction redux

Roger Hilton (1911-1975) is one of the second wave of St. Ives artists who succeeded the Ben Nicholson generation in the 1950s and 1960s. Terry Frost, Patrick Heron and Peter Lanyon were among his contemporaries. A notoriously difficult alcoholic, Hilton was influenced by both American Abstract Expressionists and Piet Mondrian, but never achieved lasting recognition during his lifetime. Gestural markmaking, color, and the human body were his primary interests. In The Times, John Russell Taylor wonders if Hilton may have had more success if he had lived longer, and led a more orderly life. "Perhaps not. After all, he had an important exhibition at the Serpentine in 1974, just before his death, and critical responses were disastrous. He did make the Hayward Gallery in 1993, and Tate St Ives in 1997, and there was little sign of any revival of interest. Had he been around in those years, gradually turning into a grand old man like Terry Frost, things might have turned out otherwise. Even taking into account, as his painter widow Rose Hilton says we must, 'the way he behaved', it seems that primarily he is the prisoner of his period: he worked in a style that almost immediately went out of fashion, as, indeed, did painting itself. What room for him would there have been in even the post-New Spirit in Painting era, let alone the post-Sensation era? For, most importantly (and imposingly), Roger Hilton was a proponent of freeform abstract painting....The 'subject' of a painting, if explicit, may well be a distraction: it has been argued that plastic qualities are all that count, and we take refuge in anecdote at our peril. Whether or not this is universally true, Hilton's work constitutes one of the best arguments for believing it. " Read more.

"Roger Hilton: Swinging Out Into The Void," curated by Andrew Lambirth and Michael Harrison. Kettle's Yard, Cambridge, UK. Through Sept. 30.

"A Continuous Line: Ben Nicholson in England," curated by Chris Stephens. Abbott Hall Art Gallery, Kendal, Cumbria, UK. Through Sept. 20. Reviewed in The Times.

August 11, 2008

Jonathan Jones urges museums to throw out the TV

Guardian critic/blogger Jonathan Jones wishes art galleries and museums would stop turning themselves into video lounges. "I don't think people realise how odd their behaviour is when confronted with the moving image in a museum. They stop, as if it deserves special attention. They bask in its light. Walk through the collection galleries at Tate Modern and it's always the video installations and little cinema spaces that are crowded. The oddest thing is that visitors often seem to act as if the moving image has more authority - that it is actually more important - than, say, a painting by Mondrian. In reality, of course, it's just easier to deal with because we are so used to watching TV. I think the reason I find this so bizarre is that I threw away my TV earlier this year. If you don't watch TV at home, the omnipresence of it outside the home becomes anthropologically startling. In museums, it stops people looking at art as it needs to be looked at. It takes time to watch a video: the illusion is reinforced that you don't need the same time to look at a still image. But to really see a great work of art takes hours, years, a lifetime. TV eats time, but doesn't give enough back for the hours it steals. Real art will reward you. Give it a chance." Read more.

August 10, 2008

Damien Hirst on Francis Bacon

"I think Bacon is one of the greatest painters of all time. He's up there with Goya, Soutine and Van Gogh: dirty painters who wrestle with the dark stuff. He's complicated. It's not essentially about formal skill or technique or dexterity. It's about belief. I believe! And the struggle, the sense that you somehow grunt your way though it by sheer will. That's what's inspiring to me, alongside the sheer bravery of confronting the dark side, the shadows, the full force of the human psyche. If you compare him to Lucien Freud, say, it's obvious that Freud is the more technically accomplished painter. He can read what he sees, and render it. Bacon couldn't do that. If you look at the feet in his paintings, they're bloody awful. He can't do boots. [Laughs] But it's so bloody powerful. His work always veers into the imagination. There's always this raw, dark power, this visceral energy that is compelling. The paint is alive....I have five Bacons now. They'll end up in the Manor [Hirst's country estate in Toddington]. I have one on the wall by the TV. I watch it more than I watch the TV. You can't not look at it. It demands your attention, pulls you in. It's just unbelievable to me that I own them. He popped into the Saatchi once to look at my work. They called me and said, 'Bacon's been in, he was here for about an hour.' I didn't really believe them but then here's this letter he wrote to Louis Le Brocquy, the Irish painter, where he says, 'I saw this Hirst fly piece and it really worked.' I still can't quite believe it." Read more.

Customs officials give Zhang Hongtu painting crit and seize painting

Human Rights in China reports that on July 3 Chinese customs officers seized a painting by China-born, New York-based artist Zhang Hongtu, which depicts the National Stadium in Beijing, popularly referred to as the Bird's Nest. Titled "Bird's Nest, in the Style of Cubism," the painting incorporates images of the stadium design; the Chinese characters for the "Sacred Olympic Torch," "One world, One dream" (the Olympic slogan) and "Family, Joy, Happiness"; the Arabic numeral "8" in repetition; and the English words, "TIBET" and "HUMAN RIGHT."
"I feel that the Olympic Games are a good opportunity to make this world a global village. It is a big party for all the people to get together without regard to national boundaries. 'Bird's Nest' was created with that thought in mind," Zhang told HRIC.
Customs officials told Zhang that the painting could not enter China because it contains "unacceptable" wording, the depiction of the stadium "isn't good enough," and the colors are "too dark and dull."
Also reported on ArtInfo.

Alternative artworld


The annual outdoor art festival rolled into my town this weekend, clogging the streets with gawking tourists and hordes of “art enthusiasts.” It's an alternative artworld in which white 10’ x 10’ tents, staffed by late-middle-aged artist/illustrators, are packed with hundreds of framed prints, paintings, and stained glass. Fancy van-and-trailer rigs line the back streets, serving as both lodging and storeroom for the hardworking artists. The artwork cleaves toward the traditional (beach, boat, landscape, still life) or bright and lively abstract paintings. Designed to be broadly likable, the soulless fare doesn't appeal to me, but the artists’ nomadic lifestyle is fascinating. If it weren’t so expensive to accumulate all the necessary gear, I’d be tempted to hit the road and blog about the experience next year.




August 8, 2008

NY TImes Art in Review: Christian Vincent, PN&FP2

Christian Vincent: Runyon Canyon," Mike Weiss, New York, NY. Through Aug. 16.
Ken Johnson reports:
"At a moment when articulately imaginative representational painting seems in short supply, it’s interesting to consider Christian Vincent’s mildly wacky works. Formerly a slick, realist painter of dreamy allegories in the Bo Bartlett mold, Mr. Vincent evidently has been transformed in recent years by the painting of John Currin. He shies away from sexual perversity, but he creates goofily surrealistic scenes in a style that seems derived from mid-20th-century children’s book illustration. A Los Angeles resident born in 1966, Mr. Vincent does not play out the possibilities of his project as daringly as he might, but his paintings are amusing, psychologically suggestive and made with admirable craft."

"Painting: Now and Forever Part II," Matthew Marks Gallery and GreenNaftali, New York, NY. Through August 26.
Roberta Smith reports: "PN&FP2 exudes enough skepticism to evade the Valentine sincerity of its title. Ranging through several generations and numerous styles and methods, it includes works by more than three dozen 20th- and 21st-century artists, living and dead....Marks gallery has teamed up with Greene Naftali. Both are filled to the brim with what might be called 'painting and its discontents,' and although they form one exhibition, the displays are as different as the galleries themselves. The arrangements at Greene Naftali, especially, convey the impression that the only way to take painting seriously is to treat it as some kind of joke....Despite opening with a wall painting by Lily van der Stokker, things are considerably more hushed at Marks. The large gallery mixes usual and unusual suspects. Abstraction dominates, as do canvas and other stretched fabrics, along with an air of studied nonchalance, especially in works by Michael Majerus, Michael Krebber, Blinky Palermo and Reena Spaulings (spots of red wine on a tablecloth — how daring). Rodney Graham’s little confectionery abstractions remind us how many nonpainters end up painting (as does a work on canvas by the structuralist filmmaker Paul Sharits at Greene Naftali)."

Read all of today's NY Times art reviews.

August 7, 2008

Growing season at UBS Art Gallery

The UBS Art Gallery's exhibition, "Implant," features work ranging from botanically accurate sculptures and paintings, to abstract gestures inspired by flora, to conceptual works suggesting artist/plant collaborations. Curator Jodie Vicenta Jacobson of The Horticultural Society was inspired by Michael Pollan’s book, The Botany of Desire, and the notion that plants have the power to infiltrate the artist’s psyche, eventually forcing the artists to immortalize them in works of art. Lance Esplund, shamelessly sprouting growth and garden metaphors, calls "Implant" conceptually heavy and aesthetically weak. "An ill-conceived and poorly tended garden — if not a jungle — in which artists and ideas clash, and certain works feel so out of place that they resemble invasive species....

"One of the main problems with 'Implant' is that its curator believes that painting, before the invention of the camera, performed mainly a slavishly 'mimetic [rather than poetic] function.' This worn-out premise is extended to mean that contemporary representational art must somehow be subversive in order to be relevant. To that end, we see Susannah Hewlett's 'Untitled (Painting is Dead)' (2008), a funeral wreath that spells out its title; Peter Coffin's 'Untitled (Greenhouse)' (2002), which transforms an actual greenhouse into a performance space for musicians, and Sharon Core's C-prints of the paintings of 19th-century American still life painter Raphaelle Peale. Ms. Core's photographs purport to comment on the photographic nature of painting 'before photography displaced painting.' What place, you may ask, do artworks about the 'death of painting' have in an exhibition about artists and plants, especially an exhibition that includes paintings? What those artworks do is to convert a show supposedly about the interaction between artists and nature into a show about the incestuous interactions between contemporary artists and art. 'Implant' is really just another exhibition (in which the theme happens to be plants) of the usual subjects and their usual subversions." Read more.

Tomorrow P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center and The Horticultural Society of New York present a lecture in conjunction with "Implant," in which Michael Pollan takes the plant’s point of view. At P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, 7:00 pm. Free and open to the public.

"Implant," curated by Jodie Vicenta Jacobson. UBS Art Gallery Midtown, New York, NY.Through October 31. A long list of participating artists is available at the website.

August 6, 2008

Mie Olise Kjærgaard perches in Houston

London-based Mie Olise Kjærgaard, born in 1974 in Denmark, is a finalist for the 2008 John Moores Painting Prize and will be participating in the International Studio & Curatorial Program in New York next year. In the summer issue of ArtForum critic Garland Fielder has recommended her exhibition in Houston, which closes on Saturday. "Kjærgaard is interested in utopian structures long since undermined by the problems that beset all visionary endeavors. Her paintings and installations are not, however, full of apocalyptic doom and gloom, but rather are hopeful; they are filled with visual ruminations that possess a unique beauty. Kjærgaard’s source material for this exhibition, titled 'Penetrating Pores of Construction,' is based on a trek she made to the North Pole to research the abandoned Soviet-era coal-mining town nicknamed the Pyramid. This architectural relic has proven to be an aesthetic and conceptual inspiration. Kjærgaard loosely interprets the town in her paintings, as befits her technique; the idea seems to be to capture the structures and layout of the place in her mind and then extrapolate a parallel universe in the gallery.

"The paintings are large and handled with confidence. Her use of paint reminds one of David Park in that she has the rare ability to evoke a multitude of surfaces, all contrasted with a harsh light, with a few well-placed, luscious strokes. Some of the paintings depict the dilapidated structures reconfigured on stilts to create a sense of vertigo. Others offer ships looming in the sky as if on some forgotten fantastic voyage of yesteryear. Her installation Penetrating Inbetween, 2008, is a life-size ensemble of found wooden planks that form what might be interpreted as a makeshift coal mine. As in the paintings, there is a longing tone in the work that inspires a humanistic appreciation of otherwise abandoned environments."

"Mie Olise Kjærgaard: Penetrating Pores of Construction," Barbara Davis Gallery, Houston, TX. Through August 9.

August 5, 2008

Kentridge print show in Williamstown

William Kentridge works in the tradition of socially and politically engaged artists such as William Hogarth, Francisco Goya, Honore Daumier, and Kathe Kollwitz . He's interested in the human condition, specifically the history of apartheid in South Africa, where he grew up, and the ways in which our personal and collective histories are intertwined. The work in this exhibition ranges from 1976 to 2004 and includes aquatint, drypoint, engraving, etching, monoprint, linocut, lithograph, and silkscreen techniques, often in combinations. In the Boston Globe, Cate McQuaid reports that the dense, lyrical prints "delve into this artist's bracing vision: How we see the world is how we create it, and what it becomes - and that can be evil and murky or filled with light. Often, paradoxically, it's both, because that's the way illusion is - never what it seems." Read more.

"William Kentridge Prints," organized by Faulconer Gallery, Grinnell College. Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, MA. Through August 24.

August 3, 2008

Turning death into another disposable consumer object

In Cabinet Magazine Michael Sappol, curator-historian at the National Library of Medicine (National Institutes of Health) and author of A Traffic of Dead Bodies: Anatomy and Embodied Social Identity in Nineteenth-Century America and Swedish historian Eva Åhren have written about anatomy studies and the current preoccupation with death symbolism. "Anatomy was a death cult. It invited us to know ourselves through the study and appropriation of the dead. And asked its practitioners to put aside any qualms about dealing with the dead, to enthusiastically mine their cadavers and search for knowledge within them, with the same kind of relish that prospectors searched for gold. Old anatomy halls often bear mottos such as 'hic locus est ubi mors gaudet succurrere vitae' ('this is the place where death rejoices in aiding life') and 'gnosce te ipsum' ('know thyself'). And the study of bones, the stuff of which we are built, produced the profoundest knowledge of what it is to be human....

"Whether visiting art galleries or going to the mall, it's hard to avoid skulls and ribcages: you see them in art installations, on posters, T-shirts, umbrellas, and even baby bibs. A time-traveler from the seventeenth century would be stunned: twenty-first-century people seem to ponder their own mortality and the vanity of life more obsessively than early modern people who meditated on such things with the help of still lives or figurines. Or do we? Maybe the abundance of manufactured bones have a kind of smoke-screen effect that helps us not to think about death. By sequestering death in the realm of art, pop culture, and kitsch, maybe we hope to attenuate the certain prospect of our impending mortality: Death becomes just another disposable consumer object, or conversely just another collectible. Thus accessorized, we no longer get good representational service out of the skeleton as an inner self, which traditionally negated our individuality and pointed to our common identity and fate: there's no possibility of transgression. If so, then the skeleton is gasping its last breath. Bone play is not as much fun as it used to be." Read more.

Related posts:
Xavier Tricot, Ensor scholar, cuts to the bone

Chelsea's Skeleton Crew (via Joanne Mattera)

Going the Way of All Flesh, Artistically (via Roberta Smith)

Unsuspecting family learns that heirloom is by Martin Johnson Heade

Maddie Hanna reports in the Boston Globe that the owners of an unknown Martin Johnson Heade painting had no idea that the piece, which had been passed down in their family since the 1860s, was worth anything, let alone a million dollars. Hanna spoke with Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., curator of American art at Harvard's Fogg Art Museum and Heade scholar, about the painting."Heades tend to turn up more than any other major American painter," Stebbins told her. Heade's work isn't optimistic or realistic enough to neatly fit that categorization, Stebbins said. His paintings were "brooding," so they weren't popular in the 1800s. Middle-class people bought them and passed them down through families, Stebbins said, adding, "They just got scattered." While the Heades were buried in basements, or hung in corners of homes, their value escalated. Now they often turn up at tag sales in places as far off as California. Original estimates by appraiser Bob Eldred put the value of the painting at about $500,000, but Lot #1120 sold for just over $1 million on Friday. It was the biggest sale Eldred Auctioneers has ever made. I wonder which of today's b-list (and c-list and d-list) painters are painting tomorrow's jackpot heirlooms.

August 1, 2008

Two restoration tales: Ad Reinhardt and Imi Knoebel

In July issue of The Brooklyn Rail, I wrote about an Imi Knoebel installation at Dia:Beacon. The installation, billed as a restoration of Knoebel's 1977 project "24 Colors--For Blinky," was in fact a wholesale recreation of the enormous project. Preservation and restoration of Minimalist art is the subject of a small show currently on view at the Guggenheim, “Imageless: The Scientific Study and Experimental Treatment of an Ad Reinhardt Black Painting.” In 2001 AXA Art Insurance donated "Black Painting"(1960-1966), an irreparably damaged Ad Reinhardt piece, as part of a conservation research study and collaboration with The Museum of Modern Art. Over the next five years, conservators, scientists, curators, and artists carried out a complete physical examination and scientific analysis of the work, which grew into a dossier of information about Reinhardt’s working methods and subsequent experimental restoration techniques used on the painting.

In the
NY Times, Holland Cotter reports that Reinhardt, when he was alive, made himself readily available to repair paintings, or substitute fresh ones if necessary. "When he offered to replace a damaged black painting in the Museum of Modern Art’s collection, curators balked. But we want our painting, they said. So battles over authenticity — over what constituted an original Reinhardt, or a particular Reinhardt, or an imperfect-but-acceptable Reinhardt — began during his lifetime and have grown knottier since. The Guggenheim’s black painting is painful evidence of these wars: it is not just seriously battle-scarred, it is a ruin, a reject, not-art. Having acquired it in that parlous condition, bruised and overpainted, AXA was initially planning to warehouse it. Instead it gave the picture to the Guggenheim, not as an exhibitable work of art, but as an object for study and experimentation. The gesture was the equivalent of donating a body to science; dissection, not resurrection, was the goal." I wonder if the curators at Dia were as thoughtful when they chose recreation over restoration for Knoebel's project.

Imageless: The Scientific Study and Experimental Treatment of an Ad Reinhardt Black Painting," organized by Carol Stringari. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY. Through September 14.