Quick study

July/August cover of ArtForum: Cy Gavin, Untitled (Bald Eagle), 2020, acrylic, oil stick, oil, on canvas, 90 x 90 inches

Contributed by Sharon Butler / Once I finally dragged myself away from political news, there was a lot to learn. Here are links to some stories this month, from Cy Gavin’s powerful painting on the cover of ArtForum, bike riding in NYC, new graffiti, opportunity listings, a two-part online painting exhibition, and portrait pairs of direct descendants, to the toxic legacy of Zombie Formalism, the future of Art Basel, and more.

In ArtForum, Cy Gavin contributes 1000 words about two paintings he made upstate during the lockdown. Since he moved there, he has done some research about George Washington, who visited the area during the Revolutionary War. “I started the eagle painting [at the top of this post] in December 2019 and finished it in June 2020, while working on other things. The impeachment inquiry dominated a chunk of last year, with even Nancy Pelosi invoking the founding fathers in this cringey way, turning the rhetoric back on Republicans, but ignoring the fact that the framers of the Constitution did not anticipate a country where people of color had personhood.” Read more.

Another nail in the coffin of art-fair culture: NYTimes reports that James Murdoch, son of white supremacist and Fox News founder Rupert Murdoch, is buying a controlling interest in M.C.H. Group, the Swiss owners of the Art Basel fairs. I imagine quite a few artists won’t be interested in supporting his brand. Read more.

Riding back and forth to the studio on my bike, I’ve noticed a powerful resurgence of graffiti, on bridges, walls, and especially the plywood used to cover shop windows. In a NYTimes piece this week, David Gonzalez writes that the artists in the 1970s used to have to steal spray paint from hardware stores, but now they can order it online and watch tutorials on YouTube. Read more. / In addition, Colin Moynihan wrote a piece in The New Yorker a few weeks ago about how the boarded up storefronts in deserted Soho recalled the neighborhood’s pre-gentrified past. Read more.

“Art in the Time of Pandemic: Best Foot Forward” / includes Laura Newman, Aerial, ink and acrylic on paper, 12 x 9 inches

Joanne Mattera has curated “Art in the Time of Pandemic: Best Foot Forward,” a massive online show of small-scale, mostly abstract, painting. Artists, she says, are getting through the pandemic one brushstroke at a time. Check out both Part 1 and Part 2.

Left: Rembrandt Peale’s Thomas Jefferson (1800); right: Shannon LaNier. Photo © Drew Gardner. Courtesy Smithsonian Magazine.

From Artnet: “For the past 15 years, the British photographer Drew Gardner has been tracking down the blood relatives of famous historical figures and posing them in their relatives’ likenesses. For Shannon LaNier, a Houston-based television anchor, this was a particularly uncomfortable task. LaNier is a descendant of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, who is thought to have given birth to at least six children while enslaved at Jefferson’s plantation.” In his will, Jefferson decreed that 600 of his slaves be sold, the kids he had with Hemings freed. Read more.

Fort Hamilton Gatehouse at Green-Wood Cemetery

Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn has announced they are launching a nine-month artist residency for local mid-career artists. Artnet reports that the “artist will be provided with a studio space from January to September in the Fort Hamilton Gatehouse, a striking 1873 Victorian structure that had long been closed to the public.” Green-Wood’s archive, dating back to the 1838 when the cemetery was incorporated, includes photographs, documents, and other items that will be available for research. Applications are open through September 2, 2020. Learn more.

“Morning in Brooklyn,” allegedly by artist George Ault, sold for $270,000. The FBI is investigating it as a fake, produced by Henkel’s forgery cohort. (Photo: Hirschl & Adler)

In the Detroit News, Robert Snell and Michael H. Hodges report that a forgery ring has been busted in Michigan. “FBI agents raided a home in northern Michigan this week while investigating a sophisticated art forgery ring that allegedly tricked connoisseurs into buying phony paintings purported to be from top American artists. The raid Tuesday and Wednesday targeted Traverse City resident Donald “D.B” Henkel, 60, a self-described artist who is accused in a sealed FBI search warrant affidavit of orchestrating a years-long conspiracy.” Artists whose work has been forged include Ralston Crawford, George Ault and Gertrude Abercrombie. Read more.

Donald “D.B.” Henkel (alleged ring leader of the forgery ring), Metaphors of the Heart, 2017, Henkel’s 2017 entry to ArtPrize.
Zombie Formalist: Hugh Scott-Douglas, Untitled (2013). Image courtesy of Phillips.

Remember Zombie Formalism? At artnet, Chris Wiley considers the “toxic legacy” of ZF, “a new kind of court painting, produced solely to flatter and enrich the titans of the new gilded age.” Read more.

Alex Greenberger suggest at ArtNews that narrative figurative work is begining to look like Zombie Figuration. “Images in which bodies contorted in unnatural poses; bizarre assemblages of objects that felt fraught with meaning; provocative mashings of art-historical tropes; collapsed divisions between male and female, analog and digital, real and unreal; allusions to current events, with some idiosyncratic tweaks… The trouble is, this style stopped evolving… Welcome to Zombie Figuration.” I have to disagree, though. Greenberger may be tired of the glibness of artists like Mathieu Malouf, Jamian Juliano-Villani, and Emily Mae Smith, but the conversation around the figure and the body still seem vitally important. Read more.

Brice Marden, “Complements.” (Credit: Brice Marden/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; via Christie’s)

Auction houses put up their first global online event and sold a lot of stuff. Brice Marden’s “Complements” sold for more than triple the artist’s previous auction high. Make of that what you will. Read more.

A rendering of the Queens Ribbon bridge, which would link Long Island City in Queens with Roosevelt Island and Midtown Manhattan. Credit: T.Y. Lin International

Michael Kimmelman in the NYTimes: A new report proposes 425 miles of interconnected bike lanes across the five boroughs!!! Another sees new car-free bridges into Manhattan from Queens, Brooklyn and New Jersey!! This piece is definitely worth multiple exclamation points.

Check out this massive list of residencies, grants and other opportunities with links and deadlines, courtesy of Creative Capital. Read more.

ICYMI: I admit I haven’t been following this closely with all the other news in my Twitter feed, but here’s a story from the NYTimes about what’s been going on at the Guggenheim. At the end of June, some staffers sent a letter calling out “an inequitable work environment that enables racism, white supremacy, and other discriminatory practices” to the leadership team. The article details problems at the Basquiat show last year, which was guest-curated by Chaédria LaBouvier, the first Black woman to organize a solo show at the museum. Artistic director and chief curator Nancy Spector is now on a three-month leave of absence. Read more.

Related posts:
Basking in Basquiats
David Gonzalez and the rights of graffiti muralists
Art forgery ring specializing in Russian avant-garde busted
ON FILM: Art and Fraud

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