March 28, 2011

A few things I saw on Spring Break

 I've been invited to organize a show at the quirky Hygienic Art in New London, CT, so when I stopped by to check out the space, I ran into "Canoe Ride Two," (above) a small piece by Samantha Listorti. The painting looks a little washed-out in my lousy iPhone snap, but the vivid color captures a spooky, dreamlike environment. Listorti, a recent grad of the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts where the curriculum is based on rigorous perceptual study, says it's hard for her to tell where reality ends and the subconscious begins.

Carl Dimitri, "Thinking About Charlotte Bronte and Shit,"oil on canvas, also in the show at Hygienic Art.

Judith Linhares, "Cave," 2010,  oil on linen, 54 x 72," at Edward Thorp Gallery through April 2. I loved these paintings because Linhares has a mad, inventive way with paint.

I visited my colleague Lula Mae Blocton's studio in the Connecticut woods where we managed to avoid talking about art department politics and focus on her art practice. Blocton's paintings, which are  based on patterns from African textiles, will be included in the show I'm organizing at the Hygienic.

I also recommend Daniel Wiener's show, Making is Thinking at Lesley Heller, which features sculpture made with Apoxie-Sculpt. Yes, I agree: making IS thinking. The pieces, which are surprisingly painterly,  look like gnarly, psychedelic-colored tree roots.  Wiener is giving a gallery talk on Sunday, April 3, the last day of the exhibition.

Samuel T. Adams, "Unearth," 2011, acrylic, oil, and carborundum on layered canvas, 60" x 48." This collaged and layered piece was included in "Incipient Image," curated by Stephen Maine at Lesley Heller. Lately I, too, have been thinking about incompleteness, and since Maine manages to articulate my inchoate thoughts so eloquently, here's an excerpt from his statement about the thought-provoking show:
An image occurs when the transient world of appearances, with its randomness and indeterminacy, aligns with the beholder's fond hope that vigilant trolling of the visual realm will yield trophies of meaning. We expect paintings, drawings, and photographs to provide those images and meanings, however veiled or fleeting. But what of works that point to multiple readings—more closely resembling the unorganized, undifferentiated visual world? Such works function associatively, accruing significance as the viewer assigns it, eluding verbal definitions.

I think of the work of these artists as a portal to polymorphous visual experience rather than a vehicle of a fixed and particular significance. The viewer relies on hunches, hints, and evidence in dealing with these works, which possess not a single, embedded meaning that needs to be decoded, but multiple meanings as a condition of their existence. They dodge rather than declaim their significance, asking rather than telling how to make sense of them....

The works here are not formally or conceptually unresolved, rather they are resolved in such a way that they retain the speculative spirit of the earliest, inchoate stages of their making in a sort of suspended animation. It is not that these works necessarily look unfinished (though some of them might) but that the degree of finish allows for doubt about the relevance of  an image to the array of issues each artist deals with....

In their work, these artists favor the discontinuous and open-ended, and leave it to the viewer to connect the dots. Their relation to imagery is bound up in a highly personal language with one initiate, one native speaker, who risks being the only audience. For these artists, the viewer's bewilderment is a measure of their success, as they find deeper pleasure in the creeping twilight of ambiguity than in clarity's shadowless high noon.
Dona Nelson, Untitled, 2008, acrylic, mediums on canvas, 80 x 80." Included in"Incipient Image" at Lesley Heller.

And just think, only six more weeks until summer vacation.

March 23, 2011

Part II: Alternate "Art Madness" lists

Louise Bourgeois, Cell (Glass, spheres and hands) 1990-1993 , Glass, marble, wood, metal and fabric Copyright Louise Bourgeois, 1990-1993/VAGA. Permission of Viscopy Ltd, Sydney 2000

Debate continued today about the male-dominated "Art Madness" competition created by Tyler Green on his ArtInfo blog, Modern Art Notes. Yesterday on Two Coats, artist Brian Dupont's excellent essay addressed the implications of the Green Team's nearly all-white-male selection, but Green suggested that complainers create their own lists (each of Green's panelists selected 32 artworks) before casting stones. Green contended that the final list, which ranks the top sixty-four artworks created since 1945, is about artwork not artists, and that there just aren't as many specific pieces by women artists that fall into the "masterpiece" category, thus there are more men. Study the lists below and one thing is clear: ranking artwork is about the people who are doing the ranking--not about the artwork itself. Note: If I get more lists, I'll post them tomorrow. And I'll continue adding links for the less familiar pieces listed.

Jennifer Dalton's List
Dalton (@jen_dalton on Twitter)  is the Brooklyn artist who began questioning Tyler Green's list on Twitter earlier in the week.
This was a very productive exercise for me personally, and gave me an opportunity to think hard about what qualities I value in individual artworks, but I think that is all it does. These are the 32 most important individual artworks for me and my personal artistic practice that I can think of at this moment. As many others have said about this exercise, tomorrow it would likely be different.

The degree to which I resist calling these "the greatest works of art of the last 65 years" is the degree to which I would also challenge the lists of the "experts" on the same premise. This exercise exposes the false objectivity, false hierarchy and false certainty embedded in the narrative of greatness. In particular, the conception of artistic achievement in terms of single "master"pieces is a crucial flaw if the goal is to identify artistic importance. It privileges a certain type of brilliant, amazing and important work over other equally or even more important work in a way that does not feel truthful. I post this list as the fruit of my labor, but it is impossible for me to accept my own list of the "greatest" works that does not include Gerhard Richter, Mark Rothko, Alice Neel, or Donald Judd, just because I can't pick one single work by these artists that has had as big an impact on me as the other more stand-alone works that clawed their way onto my list. So. That being said....

1. Felix Gonzalez-Torres "Portrait of Ross in LA"
2. Ed Ruscha "Every Building on the Sunset Strip"
3. Marina Abramovic "Rhythm O"
4. James Turrell "Roden Crater" and I don't care that it's not finished
5. Robert Smithson "Spiral Jetty"
6. Linda Montano & Tehching Hsieh "Art/Life (Year of the Rope)"
7. Yoko Ono "Grapefruit"
8. Shirin Neshat "Rapture"
9. Chris Burden "Shoot"
10. Damien Hirst "The Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone
11. Valie Export "Tap and Touch Cinema"
12. Duke Riley "Those About to Die Salute You"
13. Sophie Calle "Take Care of Yourself"
14. Jeff Koons "Puppy"
15. Cindy Sherman "Untitled Film Stills"
16. Andrea Fraser "Untitled"
17. Gordon Matta-Clark "Splitting"
18. Hans Haacke "Shapolsky et al. Manhattan Real Estate Holdings, A Real
Time Social System, as of May 1, 1971"
19. Nancy Spero “The Torture of Women"
20. Carolee Schneeman "Interior Scroll"
21. Kara Walker "Presenting Negro Scenes Drawn Upon My Passage Through
the South and Reconfigured for the Benefit of Enlightened Audiences
Wherever Such May Be Found, By Myself, Missus K.E.B. Walker, Colored"
22. Vito Acconci "Seedbed"
23. William Kentridge "Felix in Exile"
24. Christian Marclay "Video Quartet"
25. Mierle Ukeles "Touch Sanitation"
26. Mary Kelly "Post-Partum Document"
27. Bruce Nauman "Live Taped Video Corridor"
28. Tim Hawkinson "Signature Piece"
29. Andy Warhol "Campbell's Soup Cans"
30. Hanne Darboven "Kulturgeschichte 1880-1983"
31. Louise Lawler "The Tremaine Series"
32. Olafur Eliasson "The Weather Project"

Brian Dupont's List
Brian (@BDPNT on Twitter) is the Brooklyn artist/blogger who penned the response to "Art Madness" posted at Two Coats yesterday.
1. Pollock “#32”
2. Judd “100 works in milled aluminum”
3. Ellsworth Kelly “La Combe”
4. Joseph Beuys “Arena”
5. Smithson “Spiral Jetty”
6. Gordon Matta-Clarke “Splitting”
7. DeKooning “Excavation”
8. Frank Stella “The Marriage of Reason and Squalor”
9. Cindy Sherman “Untitled Film Stills” *
10. Judd “Untitled 1962”
11. Serra “Belts”
12. Nauman “South American Triangle”
13. Roni Horn “Paired Mats – for Ross and Felix
14. Terry Winters “Good Government”
15. Brice Marden “The Grove Group” *
16. Gober “Silly Sink”
17. Richter “October 18th” *
18. Christopher Wool “Apocalypse Now”
19. Glen Ligon “Untitled (Text paintings)”*
20. Paul Thek “Technological Reliquaries” *
21. Matthew Barney “Cremaster 3”
22. Eva Hesse “Untitled 1970”
23. Catherine Opie “Untitled (Icehouse series)”*
24. Blinky Palermo “To the people of NYC”
25. L. Bourgeois “Spider” (1997)
26. Felix Gonzalez Torres “Untitled (Perfect Lovers)”
27. Nauman “Corrider Installation (Nick Wilder Installation)”
28. Flavin “Untitled (Marfa Project)” 1996
29. Barry LeVa “Continuous and Related Activities”
30. Maya Lin "Vietnam Veteran's Memorial"
31. Julie Meheretu “Goldman Sachs Mural”
32. Wade Guyton “Untitled” (1997) (*kind of)

* Consideration of a series of works.

Hilary Robinson's List
AKA @ardmara, Robinson is a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, and edited Feminism-Art-Theory: An Anthology 1968-2000.

1. Feminist Art Program, Womanhouse 1972
2. Cindy Sherman, Film Stills 1977-80
3. Louise Bourgeois, Cells series 1984-?
4. Carolee Schneeman, Interior Scroll 1975
5.Nancy Spero, The Torture of Women 1974-6
6. Mary Kelly, Post Partum Document 1973-79
7. Shirin Neshat, Rapture 1999
8. Eva Hesse, Hang Up 1966
9. Judy Chicago, Dinner Party 1974-1979
10. Barbara Kruger, Untitled series 1980s
11. Valie Export, Genital Panic 1969
12. Diane Arbus, American Rites, manners and Customs 1963-7
13. Yoko Ono, Cut 1964
14. Martha Rosler, Semiotics of the Kitchen 1975
15. Jenny Holzer, Truisms 1977 on
16. Abramovic/Ulay, Rest Energy 1980
17. Rachel Whiteread, House 1993
18. Helen Frankenthaler, Mountains and Sea 1952
19. Shigeko Kubota, Vagina Painting 1965
20. Frida Kahlo, Moses 1945
21. Ana Mendieta, Silueta Series 1973-80
22. Tanja Ostosjic, Looking for a husband with an EU Passport 2000-5
23. Adrian Piper, Cornered 1988
24. Alice Neel, Andy Warhol 1970
25.Lee Miller, Buchenwald/Dachau photographs 1945
26. Kara Walker, My complement, my enemy 2007
27. Nancy Holt, Sun Tunnels 1976
28. Hanne Wilke, SOS Starification Object Series
29. Suzanne Lacy/Leslie Labowitz, In Mourning & in Rage
30. Maya Lin, Vietnam War Memorial
31. Carrie Mae Weems, Ain’t joking Series
32. Lynda Benglis, Artfoum Ad
(the arrrrghhh….point)
33. Jenny Saville, Plan
34. Mona Hatoum, Measures of Distance
3. Mierle Ukeles, Sanitation
36. Helen Chadwick, Of Mutability
37. Jana Sterbak, Vanitas: Flesh Dress for an Albino Anorectic
38. Barbara Hepworth, Dag Hamerskjold memorial
39. Niki de St Phalle, Hon
40. Betye Saar, The Liberation of Aunt Jemima
41. Louise Nevelson, Sky Cathedral
42. Elizabeth Catlett, Homage to my Young Black Sisters
43. Milica Tomic, I am Milica Tomic
44. Zoe Leonard, Untitled Documenta installation
45. Eleanor Antin, Carving: A Traditional Sculpture
46. Sophie Calle, Suite Venitienne
47. Janine Antoni, Loving Care

Note: if Frida Kahlo’s Moses and Lee Miller’s photos are ineligible – both from 1945 – then just cut them out and put in no 33 and 34.

Michelle Vaughan's List
Vaughn, AKA @black_von, is a Brooklyn artist who blogs at The Black Von Scrolls.
This was HARD, but I gave a stab at it. I left out so many...
1. Jasper Johns - White Flag, 1955
2. Agnes Martin - Morning, 1965
3. Ed Ruscha - Standard Station, 1966
4. Gerhardt Richter - Uncle Rudi, 1965
5. Andy Warhol - Electric Chair, 1965
6. Mark Rothko - No. 1 (Black Form Paintings), 1964
7. Louise Bourgeois - Maman, 1999
8. Robert Smithson - Spiral Jetty, 1970
9. Francis Bacon - Pope Innocent, 1953
10. Eva Hesse - Chain Polymers, 1968
11. Sol Lewitt - Lines In Four Directions, Each A Quarter of A Square, 1969
12. Joseph Beuys - Infiltration for Piano, 1966
13. Richard Serra - Union of the Torus and the Sphere, 2001
14. Martin Kippenberger - Untitled, Lieber Maler, male mir…, 1983
15. Rebecca Horn - Concert for Anarchy, 1990
16. Martin Puryear - Ladder for Booker T. Washington, 1996
17. Yoko Ono - Cut Piece, 1964
18. Ed Kienholz - Back Seat Dodge 38', 1964
19. Robert Frank - The Americans, 1955-59
20. Diane Arbus - Identical Twins, 1966
21. Nan Goldin - Jimmy Paulette + Taboo! In the bathroom, 1991
22. Cindy Sherman - Untitled Film Still, no. 92, 1981
23. Gerhard Richter - 256 Colours, 1974
24. Maurizio Cattelan - La Nona Ora, 1999
25. Andrea Zittel - A-Z Comfort Unit, (1994-95)
26. Alex Katz - The Cocktail Party, 1965
27. Donald Judd - 100 untitled works in mill aluminum, 1983-85
28. Michael Craig-Martin - An Oak Tree, 1973
29. Maya Lin - Vietnam Veteran's War Memorial, 1982
30. Cornelia Parker - Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View, 1991
31. Lucien Freud - Reflection, 1985
32. Jenny Saville - Reverse, 2002-2003

Joanie Gagnon San Chirico's List
Gagnon San Chirico, AKA @JoanieStudio, makes art for public spaces. 
I know I have some somewhat unknown artists in here, but I think that's important too since so many women artists were marginalized (and still are). My choices are about intent. I've seen many of these in person and they moved/influenced me. 3 token men

1. Helen Frankenthaler, Trojan Gates 1955
2. Joan Mitchell, Ici 1992
3. Tacita Dean, Kodak 2006
4. Ursula von Rydingsvard, Tunnels on the Levee 1983
5. Eva Hesse, Spectres series paintings 1960
6. Ann Hamilton, Myein 1999
7. Grace Hartigan, Shinnecock Canal 1957
8. Alberto Burri, Matedi Grasso 1956
9. Agnes Martin, On a Clear Day 1967-1974
10. Robert Longo, Untitled (Cathedral of Light) 2008
11. Lee Bonticou, Untitled 1959
12. Louise Bourgeois, Maman 1999
13. Marina Abromivic, The Artist is Present 2010
14. Bridget Riley, Decending 1965
15. Mark Bradford, Analog 2004
16. Nancy Spero, Israeli Women Soldiers, 1966
17. Jane Frank, Aerial View No. 1 1968
18. Elaine DeKooning, Veronica 1960
19. Lee Krasner, White Squares 1948
20. Hannelore Baron, Untitled 1981
21. Ida Applebroog, Mother Mother I am Ill 1993
22. Hedda Sterne, Machine #5 1950
23. Yoko Ono, Cut Piece 1964
24. Pipilotti Rist, Himalaya's Sister's Living Room 2000
25. Alma Thomas, Red Azaleas Singing and Dancing Rock and Roll Music 1976
26. Joan Snyder. Vanishing Theatre/The Cut 1974
27. Judy Chicago, The Dinner Party 1974-1979
28. Louise Nevelson, Dream House XXXII, 1972
29. Tara Donovan, Haze 2003
30. Kara Walker, Slavery! Slavery! 1997
31. Jaune Quick-to-See Smith. Trade (Gifts for Trading Land with White People), 1992
32. Barbara Kruger Untitled (Your Body is a Battleground) 1989

A mashup of media, but all are important (to me).

Matthew Langley's List
Langley, AKA @MatthewLangley,  is a Brooklyn/DC artist who blogs at Matthew Langley Artblog
Here's 32 from me - the whole "masterpiece" thing is a real hang up, especially when it comes to anything after 1970. Anyway, do with this as you will...

Jennifer Bartlett - Rhapsody
Sherrie Levine - After Walker Evans
Barbara Kruger - your gaze hits the side of my face
Jenny Holzer - truisms
Pat Steir - The Brueghel Series (A Vanitas of Style)
Anne Truitt - Knights Heritage
Georgia O'Keefe - Abstraction Blue
Susan Rothenberg - Butterfly
Judy Pfaff - Painted Forms: Recent Metal Sculpture, Installation, Whitney 1978
Lee Krasner - white squares
Joan Mitchell - Chord IIV
Magdalena Abakanowicz - Four on a bench
Alice Aycock - Low Building with Dirt Roof
Nancy Holt - Sun Tunnels
Cindy Sherman - Untitled Film Stills
Gorilla girls - Do women have to be naked...
Maya Lin - Vietnam Memorial
Alice Neal - Portrait of Andy
Laurie Anderson - America Parts I - IV
Rachel Whiteread - House
Diane Arbus - Twins
Nan Goldin - The Ballad of Sexual Dependency
Sally Mann - Immediate Family
Agnes Martin - Untitled
Kiki Smith - Standing
Linda Benglis - Artforum Advertisement
Kara Walker - My Complement, My Oppressor, My Enemy, My Love
Louise Bourgeois - spider
Helen Frankenthaler - Mountains and Sea
Jo Baer - Rook
Jackie Winsor - Burnt Piece
Eva Hesse - Repetition Nineteen

Maritza Ruiz Kim's List
Kim is a San Francisco Bay area artist who goes by @marzkim on Twitter.
Here's my list; I can't even say that it's the order of my favorite artworks or that it's focused on what should be in the larger "greatest artworks" list- it's a mixture of ones that were important to my development as an artist, as well as ones I think people should know about, or that I think had an important impact in their time. I skew towards less well known works in some cases. There were so many ways to approach it, I'm even more curious now to know what Tyler Green's panel thinks about the final result he posted. I'm also very curious about their original lists. Good luck with what you come up with- list making is a bit crazy making. There are many gaps here.

1. One and Three Chairs, 1965, Joseph Kosuth
2. The Dinner Party, 1979, Judy Chicago
3. Campbell’s Soup Cans, 1962, Andy Warhol
4. Interior Scroll, 1975, Carolee Schneeman
5. I Like America and America Likes Me, 1974, Joseph Beuys
6. O Superman, 1983, Laurie Anderson
7. Buddha Watching TV, 1974, Nam June Paik
8. Accession III, 1967/68, Eva Hesse
9. Night Sea, 1963, Agnes Martin
10.Self-Portrait Exaggerating My Negroid Features, 1981, Adrian Piper
11. Untitled (House), 1993, Rachel Whiteread
12. Sun Tunnels, 1976, Nancy Holt
13.Monogram, 1955-59, Robert Rauschenberg
14.Nan One Month After Being Battered, 1984, Nan Goldin
15. Study after Velazquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X, 1953, Francis Bacon
16. Untitled Film Stills, 1977-80, Cindy Sherman
17. Eddie Carmel, Jewish Giant…, 1970, Diane Arbus
18. Seven Passages to a Flight, 1995, Faith Ringgold
19. The Americans, 1955-59, Robert Frank
21. Vietnam Veterans Memorial, 1981, Maya Lin
22. Moratorium, 1969, Jasper Johns
23. Abstract Painting, 1963, Ad Reinhardt
24. Fifty Days at Iliam, 1978, Cy Twombly
25. Protect Me From What I Want, 1988, Jenny Holzer
26. Relation in Time, 1977, Marina Abramovic & Ulay
27. Running Fence, 1973-76, Christo & Jeanne-Claude
28. (Early) Wall Drawings, c.1969-early 1970s, Sol LeWitt
29. One Thousand Days One Million Years, 1993, On Kawara
30. Cut Piece, 1964, Yoko Ono
31. Lairs, c1962-5, Louise Bourgeois
32. Host, 1996, Ellen Gallagher

UPDATE (3/24/11)

Art journalist Carolina Miranda, who blogs at C-Monster and WNYC Gallerina,  has posted an excellent response to Green's game and come up with a list of her own.
Robert Smithson, Spiral Jetty, 1970
Philip Guston, Painting, Smoking, Eating, 1973
Pollock, One, 1950
Willem de Kooning, Excavation, 1950
Jasper Johns, Flag, 1954-55
Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Portrait of Ross, 1991
Gary Panter, Jimbo in Purgatory, 2004
Asco, Spraypaint LACMA, 1972
Gordon Matta-Clark, Splitting, 1974
Gego, Reticularea, 1969
Dondi, Children of the Grave 3, 1980
Robert Rauschenberg, Bed, 1955,
Robert Rauschenberg, Erased de Kooning Drawing, 1953
ESPO, aka Steve Powers, the buff tags series from L.A., 2002 (not sure if these have an official name)
Ed Ruscha, Every Building on the Sunset Strip, 1966
John Baldessari, I Am Making Art, 1971
Rachel Whiteread, House, 1993
Cindy Sherman, Film Stills 1977-80
Julian Schnabel, Just Kidding, Wanted to Make Sure You Were Paying Attention
Yoko Ono, Cut 1964
Nam June Paik, TV Buddha, 1974
Carolee Schneeman, Interior Scroll, 1975
Eva Hesse, Sans II, 1968
Grace Hartigan, Shinnecock Canal 1957
Ana Mendieta, Silueta Series 1973-80
Alice Neel, Self-Portrait, 1980
Kara Walker, My complement, my enemy 2007
Maya Lin, Vietnam War Memorial
Louise Nevelson, Sky Cathedral, 1957
Cory Arcangel, Super Mario Clouds, 2002-05
Diane Arbus, American Rites, Manners and Customs 1963-7
Robert Frank, The Americans, 1955-59
Glenn Ligon, Runaways Series, 1993
Chris Burden, Shoot, 1971
Louise Bourgeois, Maman, 1999
Andy Warhol, Campbell’s Soup Cans, 1962
AA Bronson, Felix, June 5, 1994 (1994/99)
Francis Bacon, Study After Velazquez’s portrait of Pope Innocent X, 1953
Nan Goldin, Nan One Month After Being Battered, 1953
Joseph Beuys, Felt Suit, 1970
Cornbread, “Cornbread Lives” tagged on an elephant, sometime in the early ’70s
John Valadez, Car Show, 2001

My List (@TwoCoats on Twitter)
It's Spring Break and I'm trying to get some work done in the studio, but I wanted to contribute another painting-centric list even if it's somewhat half-assed. I have no idea whether these are the best pieces by these artists, let alone "masterpieces" (I don't have many artists' monographs, and judging from JPEGs gets dicey), but the important thing is to think about artists in terms of contemporary influence as opposed to their auction prices. I cribbed from the lists above and then included several additions. I would have liked to include Hans Hoffman, Ellen Gallagher,  Joseph Beuys and Nam June Paik's work but I just couldn't determine their best work using online sources. The artwork is listed in no particular order--I simply don't have the heart to rank artwork and artists.

Nancy Spero “The Torture of Women," 1987
Carolee Schneeman "Interior Scroll," 1975
Mary Kelly "Post-Partum Document," 1973-79
Andy Warhol “Brillo Box,” 1964
Jackson Pollock,”Blue Poles,” 1952
Ellsworth Kelly “Spectrum Colors Arranged by Chance,” 1951
Gordon Matta-Clarke,”Food,” 1971
Frank Stella, “Marriage of Reason and Squalor,” 1963
Terry Winters “Good Government,” 1984
Jean-Michel Basquiat, "Slave Auction," 1982
Maya Lin "Vietnam Veteran's Memorial," 1982
Feminist Art Program, "Womanhouse," 1972
Louise Bourgeois, "Filette," 1968
Kara Walker, My complement, my enemy 2007
Judy Chicago, "Dinner Party," 1974-1979
Diane Arbus, "American Rites, manners and Customs," 1963-67
Jenny Holzer, "Truisms," 1977
Jasper Johns, "White Flag," 1955
Gerhard Richter,"256 Colours," 1974 (So many others, too)
Mark Rothko, "No. 1 (Black Form Paintings)," 1964
Sol Lewitt, "Lines In Four Directions, Each A Quarter of A Square," 1969
Andrea Zittel, "A-Z Comfort Unit," 1994-95
Bridget Riley, "Decending," 1965
Sherrie Levine, "After Walker Evans," 1979
Kerry James Marshall, "Our Town," 1995
Lee Krasner, "Jackson Pollock," I'm serious.
Elizabeth Murray, “Painter’s Progress” 1981
Robert Rauschenberg, "Bed," 1955
Philip Guston, "Painting, Smoking, Eating," 1973
George Maciunas, et. al. “Fluxus” 1962 onward
John Baldessari, "What is Painting," 1966

(Sorry, I can't seem to stop editing my own list.)

Related posts:
From John Powers (@starwarsmodern at Twitter): Modernist Hangover: The Masterpiece
From Paddy Johnson at Art Fag City: The Alternative to Tyler Green's Art Tourney

March 22, 2011

Part I: Tyler Green's "Art Madness" prompts outrage in the art community

Carolee Schneeman, "Interior Scroll," 1975, performance.

Jana Sterbak, "Meat Dress," 1987.

Over on Twitter yesterday Jen Dalton started a debate about the male-dominated "Art Madness" competition, which Tyler Green has organized at his ArtInfo blog, Modern Art Notes. I've never liked the idea of ranking art and artists, so I won't participate in Green's game, and I hope others will join me in abstaining. Artist Brian Dupont responded to the overwhelming testosterone of the selection with "Bracketology," an excellent blog post that addresses the implications of the nearly all-male list. Green contends that the list is about "artwork" not "artists" and that there aren't as many specific pieces by women artists that fall into the "masterpiece" category. Which begs the question, what makes a "masterpiece?" Tomorrow I'll post Part II, which will include the alternate lists that are filling the inbox as I write.

Here is Dupont's essay in its entirety:
Although I am not a basketball fan, the NCAA tournament has always represented the turning point where winter turns to spring. I have no interest in March Maddness or associated workplace gambling; my sport is baseball and the annoyance posed by my co-workers trying to get me to go in on the office pool really only means that opening day is around the corner…

This is the second year Tyler Green has given his readers a set of brackets ostensibly for the art world. Last year he pitted the America’s abstract painters against one another (Cy Twombly beat out Ellsworth Kelly for the crown), but this year’s version is a bit more problematic. He aims to present a tournament of the greatest post-war works of art, but has instead managed to expose just how ingrained some of the systematic biases that haunt art and its attendant institutions can be.

Looking at his selection of 64 works of art, you’ll find only 3 works by women: Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills, Marina Abramovic’s Rhythm 0, and Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial. On the other hand, most of the (very) old white males of the art historical canon are represented multiple times. Ruscha, Serra, and Judd are found twice; Richter three times; Johns, Rauschenberg, DeKooning, Pollock, and Barnet Newman four times; and, perhaps fittingly for this kind of popularity contest, Warhol leads the pack with five works. That’s more than half the total bracket represented by only 10 (white) men.

Mr. Green did not generate the list of works himself; he amalgamated a seeding selection from five guests (two of whom were women) to get the final brackets, but the process is his, and despite facing complaints from myself and others (on Twitter) he has chosen to defend these results as given by the process he set up. I have suggested (in an exchange on Twitter) that such results may point to a flawed process and that as the organizer he could have made some changes, but his response was “Why on earth would I presume I’m so smart I should overrule the five other (distinguished) people I invited to contribute?”

An exercise of this sort, intended to be lighthearted and in good fun, is bound to contain most of the works that populate the very end of a mammoth art history textbook. The broad outlines and movements of post-war and contemporary art will be illustrated with a few key works, as space allows. If women and minorities are not well represented, whose fault is that? The makers of the list only picked personal favorites and had them compiled after all. If Joan Snyder, Helen Frankenthaler, Eva Hesse, Lee Bontecou, Ana Mendita, Anne Truitt, Agnes Martin, Lee Krasner, Lynda Benglis, Carolee Schneemann, Judy Chicago, Howardina Pindell, Elizabeth Murray, Dorthea Rockburn, Mona Hatoum, Yayoi Kusama, or Louise Bourgeios (to name just a few of the notables from the same time period as most of the works on the list off the top of my head) weren’t the favorites of these critics and curators, why is that necessarily a problem within the context of this harmless little game?

The answer is that because Mr. Green’s game has managed to illustrate quite succinctly how easy it is to exclude women and minorities and still have everyone involved remain blameless. Whether it be a small lark of a bracket or the larger art world, it is too easy to point at a system or process as an excuse without actually examining who set up the system or how. It may be “just a game”, but games allow us to distill and process some of life’s messier and complex interactions into a simpler form that is more comprehensible for its abstraction. In short, they make it easier to see what is fair, and I think it becomes very clear that the system as devised is not (either in the brackets or the art world).

At least in the case Art Maddness II, the problems are easier to identify and fix. Looking at the list I think it is evident that there are shifting evaluations based on lax guidelines. If it makes sense to consider Cindy Sherman’s entire Untitled Film Still series and Gerhard Richter’s Baader-Meinhof paintings as a single entity, why does Jasper Johns need three different flags? Is Three Flags really that different from Flag? Similarly, how different are the DeKooning Women or any of the Newman zip paintings? Is the point to consider groundbreaking work or major statements? Isn’t Vir Heroicus Sublimis so closely related to Onement I that context that they can be discussed in the same breadth? Pollock’s individual drip paintings are different enough, but isn’t their scope related to the collective breakthrough they represent?

Lest I be accused of not presenting an alternative, I find that I only need to look at another rite of spring, one that relates to my own sporting interest and would not require any great investment to change. Every spring Baseball America ranks the top 100 prospects in baseball’s minor leagues. It is every bit as contentious as any other interested battle of minutiae, and their process is remarkably similar to Mr. Green’s. Each of their writing staff compiles a list of their opinion of the top prospects, and the results are compiled in a spreadsheet. However instead of that being the end of it and having the final list generated by having Jim Callis hit ‘print’, the writers get together to look at the raw results and debate and argue for them. They curate the list, revising and reconsidering so that there is, if not consensus, then at least a sense that the biases and idiosyncrasies that arise from such a small sampling of opinion can be removed and that the final list is stronger. Mr. Green could have had a simple conference call with Michael Auping, Kristen Hileman, Dominic Molon, Ed Schad, and Katy Siegel to see where duplicate works that present the same idea could be reconciled, and to see what deserving works that may have been left off could take the place of the duplicate.

To be inclusive may have been a bit more work, but it is disappointing that a writer who purports to hold himself to high standards and certainly holds others to similar account did not make the effort. The tournament hosted by Modern Art Notes is a small offense, but the reason to speak out against such minor infractions is to hold the larger system to account. That “it’s just a game” shouldn’t be an excuse if we don’t want “it’s just art” to be a similar refrain.
Judy Chicago (American, b. 1939). The Dinner Party, 1974–79. Ceramic, porcelain, textile, 576 x 576 in. (1463 x 1463 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Foundation, 2002.10. © Judy Chicago. Photo: © Aislinn Weidele for Polshek Partnership Architects


March 16, 2011

Images: Thomas Berding

 Thomas Berding, "By Land and By Sea," 2010, oil on canvas, 70″ x 76″

Thomas Berding, "Light of Day," 2010, oil on Canvas, 44″ x 48″

Thomas Berding, "The Lab," 2008, oil on canvas, 48″ x 44″

Made in response to the post-industrial landscape, Thomas Berding's recent paintings draw upon the sense of refuse and the promise of refuge that urban centers and ports of commerce suggest. He sees the the network of city streets and buildings as a stage on which more mercurial behaviors, fleeting notions, and unrequited longings play out. "Ultimately it is my hope," Berding says, "that the paintings, like urban landscapes, teem with a sort of double consciousness, a prevailing sense of both, the future-present and the ever-present past."

I zeroed-in on Berding's paintings this week when I stopped by a group show at The Painting Center. A RISD grad, Berding is an associate professor of Studio Art and chair of the Department of Art and Art History at Michigan State University in East Lansing.

"Charged Brushes," The Painting Center, New York, NY. Through March 26, 2011. Ten Artists selected from The Painting Center Registry including: Thomas Berding, Brian Bishop, Galen Cheney, Jeanette Fintz, Patrick Earl Hammie, Suzanne Guppy, Mark Lavatelli, Lorna Ritz, Jo Ann Rothschild, Robert Szot

IMAGES is a regular feature devoted to work by painters who deserve more love.


March 15, 2011

Frank Stella's hard-edge sfumato

Frank Stella, "Gray Scrambled Double Square," 1964, synthetic polymer paint on canvas.

"Gray Scrambled Double Square," detail. When the image is enlarged, the pencil guides and hand-painted, imperfect quality of the lines. are evident.

Frank Stella, "Empress of India," 1965, metallic powder in polymer emulsion paint on canvas, 6' 5" x 18' 8"
"Frank Stella, " Empress of India," installation view. Stella deliberately avoided dramatic changes in color intensity, because, he reasoned, "when you have four vectored V's moving against each other, if one jumps out, you dislocate the plane and destroy the whole thing entirely."

Frank Stella, "Astoria," 1958, enamel on canvas, 8' 3/4" x 8' 3/4"

"Astoria," detail. Stella has said he was influenced by Jasper Johns's Flag paintings.

Frank Stella, "The Marriage of Reason and Squalor, II," 1959, enamel on canvas, 7' 6 3/4" x 11' 3/4"

"The Marriage of Reason and Squalor, II," installation view.

I stopped by MoMA yesterday to see the Picasso Guitar exhibition (check out the excellent exhibition web site here) and was pleased to find four Frank Stella paintings on display in the atrium.  In these paintings, all from the 50s and 60s, Stella creates painted stripes outlining lightly penciled lines.  Filling the canvas according to a methodical strategy, Stella liked the idea of the artist as laborer--he used commercial paint and a house-painter's brush to further distance himself from aesthetic decisionmaking. The systematic nature of his process was a decisive break with the Abstract Expressionists and anticipated Minimalism, but the brushwork still conveys a poignant personal element. "My painting," he said, "is based on the fact that only what can be seen there is there. . . . What you see is what you see." In reproductions, Stella's paintings often look like hard-edge abstraction, but up close his brushwork is something else entirely.

"Frank Stella: Works of the 50s and 60s," The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY.


March 13, 2011

Shape, light and line at Storefront

Installation view: Andy Spence and Colin Thompson

Andy Spence and Colin Thompson's abstract paintings are on display through the end of the week at STOREFRONT. Spence's measured geometries and optical illusions hung side-by-side with Thompson's gleefully scrawled characters remind me of siblings who have gone their separate ways but still find plenty to talk about.

In the back room, check out Amy Lincoln's delicately painted tabletop still lifes which compel a closer look. Clearly Lincoln is captivated by the allegorical implications of everyday life, as were northern Renaissance painters like Hans Holbein, Jan Van Eyck, and Petrus Christus.

Amy Lincoln, "Tokyo Plants," 2010, acrylic on mdf, 14.25 x 12."

"JUX: New Paintings by Andy Spence and Colin Thompson," STOREFRONT, Brooklyn, NY. Through March 20, 2011.

"Amy Lincoln: New Still Life Paintings," STOREFRONT, Brooklyn, NY. Through March 20, 2011.


March 12, 2011

Geometry is real

Rico Gatson, "Mystery Object," 2011, paint, wood, glitter and plexi-glass.

Rico Gatson, "Mask," 2010, paint wood and glitter.

Rico Gatson,"Sojourner Truth," 2011, oil on canvas.

Paul Pagk, " All tomorrow's parties," 2010,  oil on linen 76" x 74"

Paul Pagk, "Aligned deep down from above on the edge," 2008-10, oil on linen 76" x 74"

Peter Hildebrand, "Liar (Portrait of Buckminster Fuller as St. Sebastian)," 2011, alkyd and resin on canvas, 74 x 56"
 Nathlie Provosty and Dannielle Tegeder

Last week I stopped by Exit Art to see "Geometric Days," an exhilarating exhibition of new paintings that "deploy geometry to expose organizational structures from microscopic, political, and spiritual dimensions." I agree with the premise that geometry, abstraction and painting are ingrained in our interpretation of experience. Yes, geometry is a measure of space and time, abstraction is a poetic expression of the visual, and painting is the manifestation of a will to communicate. Indeed, geometry isn’t always abstract--it's simply another form of reality.

These paintings call upon mathematics as a spiritual force (and geometry as its visual realization) that codes the experiences of nature, built environments, social constructs, and the digital world. "For these artists geometry is more than a combination of lines." curator Artist/Curator Papo Colo writes. "The nature of images is mathematical. Geometry divides borders, topography and climate. This labyrinth of numbers and forms construct the world in a rational way but also transform surfaces/images into spiritual substances that take you to a space of esoteric solutions." Paintings by Rico Gatson, Peter Hildebrand, Charles Koegel, Geoffrey Owen Miller, Driss Ouadahi, Paul Pagk, Nathlie Provosty, and Dannielle Tegeder are included in the show.  For me, Rico Gatson's irresistible constructed pieces and Paul Pagk's big awkward geometries stole the show.

"Geometric Days," curated by Jeanette Ingberman and Papo Colo with Herb Tam. Exit Art, New York, NY. Through April 30, 2011


March 8, 2011

VOLTA Part II: How the work was installed

In my last VOLTA post I showed images of individual paintings. The following installation shots, despite the lousy iPhone quality, are equally (even more?) fascinating.