Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"Collaboration" in the big leagues 1

Faithful readers of my blog will recall that I am enamored of collaboration, always a sucker for a chance to match wits with a fellow artist.  So imagine my interest to read about art collaboration in the big-time art world (by which I mean written about in the New York Times).  Going through some old newspapers I found two articles that I want to share with you.

The first is a glowing story about a guy whose new show consists of works that he "meticulously stole from 77 artists: paintings, sculptures, sketchbooks, video, architectural objects, artmaking devices and more.  Equal parts group show and conceptual installation, prank and boundary-pusher, it raises messy art world questions about aesthetic ownership and influence, the division between curator and artist, and the value of nontraditional and repurposed work."

That's right -- this guy, whom I'd rather not make even more famous by naming, went around to his friends' studios and stole something while they were getting a glass of water or answering the phone. After he started this "project" he described it to a gallery owner, who immediately offered him a show. She explains: "one of our missions is to bring the creative community together, and we're very interested in process -- in terms of this show, each artist's individual practice and how they influence each other."  She says she thinks of the artist/perp as both curator and conceptual artist, because "He's very thoughtful about each acquisition."

The artists whose work was stolen all thought this was a jolly endeavor, the story tells us.

So isn't this a great idea?  Don't just steal your friends' ideas, steal the whole damn painting.  The story goes on at length about how this artist has such a hard time coming up with ideas that he's forever visiting psychics, bugging his friends, even paying one of them $200 for a suggestion.  Don't you just want to hug him, he's so dim-wittedly adorable?

Sorry, folks, but it makes me want to puke.  Shame on this dope, but twice shame on the gallery owner. If  she thinks "bringing the creative community together" means facilitating theft, and if carefully choosing what you're going to steal proves what a great artist you are, then I think she needs a crash course in remedial ethics.  And shame on the NYTimes writer for glamorizing the whole thing:  not only does this raise messy questions about aesthetic ownership, how about plain old it's-my-piece-of-paper ownership?

Tune in tomorrow for another New York Times take on collaboration.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The lamest item at the estate sale

I think it's a tie.

Item 1:  A dollhouse chest of drawers, made out of wood-grain cardboard, with drawers drawn in ballpoint pen.  Price: $2.

Item 2:  An almost-empty jar of vaseline, with a paper towel inside.  Price: 50 cents.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The lamest estate sale ever

Granted, I missed the first two days of this estate sale, so all the good stuff was probably gone.  An old lady in our neighborhood died three years ago and her children decided to wait "till the real estate market came back" before putting the house up for sale.  I visited at the open house and was amazed to find that NOTHING had been cleared out.  For instance, isn't this an appealing closet?

Isn't this an appealing basement?

Homeowner clutter notwithstanding, after a year on the market and several price cuts, it's finally been sold. Now for the estate sale.

Apparently the same minds that decided "hey, Mom's junk is so cool that it won't detract from selling the place" went on to decide "hey, Mom's junk is so cool that people will pay big money for it."

Here are some of the things that somehow had escaped being sold on the first two days.  Can't imagine why.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Sign of the week

Since we're touring the Centre Pompidou this week, here's a sign from there.

Sorry, but I don't understand.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Fiber at the Pompidou 4

Here are two installations in which fiber isn't the star of the show, but plays an important role.  Both are by artists associated with the Fluxus group of artists who in the 60s combined visual art with music, literature and performance.

Robert Filliou, Principe d'équivalence, 1968 (details below)

The installation consists of lots of wood cabinets and panels; the recurring theme is a red sock in many different sizes, stages and formats.  I thought it was funny.

Here's a work by a Swiss artist, Daniel Spoerri, whose shtick is to find a bunch of objects that somebody else arranged or left behind on some horizontal surface, then affix them to a support and display them vertically.  He calls them "snare-pictures" and one of his most famous was the remnants of a meal eaten by Marcel Duchamp.  This one features stuff on a beat-up tablecloth or length of fabric.  The photo is hard to read but imagine you're craning your neck and looking up at the ceiling with the tablecloth spread vertically on the wall above your head.

Daniel Spoerri, Marché aux puces (hommage à Giacometti), (Flea Market), 1961 (detail below)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Fiber at the Pompidou 3

I found prominent fabric in the works of two American pop artists at Centre Pompidou.

First, Claes Oldenburg, enjoying quite the revival this year with two shows at MoMA in New York.  This piece is typical of his construction of everyday objects in droopy fabric but unlike many others you may recall, is done in monochrome canvas.

Claes Oldenburg, Ghost Drum Set, 1972 (details below)

Less known but equally important as a pop art pioneer is Jim Dine, whose most important contribution to popular culture may be that the musical "Hair" took its name from one of his works.  Here's a mixed-media piece with an old pair of pants prominently hanging at one side, the sleeve of an old sweater at the other.

Jim Dine, Putney Winter Heart Number 3 (Garbage Can), 1971-2

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Fiber at the Pompidou 2

Moving on to three dimensions, here's a big sculpture by Barry Flanagan, a British artist (1941-2009) most famous for his leaping rabbits in bronze.  But at the start of his career, Flanagan was one of the pioneers in minimalist and conceptual art, experimenting with humble materials such as rope and sticks.

Barry Flanagan, casb 1 '67, 1967 (detail below)

It's basically a canvas sack filled with sand that over the years has sagged and drooped and looks for all the world like a woman wearing a too-tight dress.

Another droopy sculpture:

Marc Couturier, Lin, verre, or, 1988 (Linen, glass, gold)  

Hung rather high on the wall, this sculpture gains immensely from its beautiful shadow.  The bolt or package of fabric perched on top of the glass sags a bit; don't know if it has always been that way or if gravity is having its way...

Monday, July 22, 2013

Fiber at the Pompidou 1

I am always on the lookout for mainstream artists who use fiber in their work, and found lots of examples in the Centre Pompidou in Paris.  I'm always wrestling with the eternal question of where "fiber art" stops and "art that happens to incorporate fiber" starts, and who makes that decision.  Still not sure what the answers are, except that I bet none of these artists would call their own work "fiber art."

Jean-Pierre Pincemin, Hexagones collés, 1969 (detail below)

The hexagons are cut out of painted canvas and glued together.  The whole construction hangs loosely, with no apparent support behind it.  Pincemin was part of a French art movement in the early 70s called the Supports/Surfaces group, which rejected the traditional stretchers.

Claude Viallat, Bâche kaki, 1981 (details below)

Viallat also was part of the Supports/Surfaces group and liked to paint on varied fabrics such as sheets, mattress ticking, tablecloths, or here, military surplus tarps.

Piero Manzoni, Achrome, 1961 (detail below)

Manzoni, one of the stars of the Arte Povera movement in Italy (and who famously canned his own excrement as "art"), liked to work with everyday materials.  This piece has loose fiberglass, bound with very thin wire into fat ropelike strands.

Lots more fibers coming in future posts.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Art reader's digest

"The Painted Word", by Tom Wolfe, 1975, is a delightful short book that should be read by anybody who's studied or read about the theories of modern and contemporary art -- I guarantee, you'll understand more from reading this book than you did from your art history teacher or from reading (or reading about) Clement Greenberg.  Yes, the references are 35 years out of date, but it is still TRUE!!  And funny.

Here's an excerpt:

The notion that the public accepts or rejects anything in Modern Art, the notion that the public scorns, ignores, fails to comprehend, allows to wither, crushes the spirit of, or commits any other crime against Art or any individual artist is merely a romantic fiction, a bittersweet Trilby sentiment.  The game is completed and the trophies distributes long before the public knows what has happened.  The public that buys books in hardcover and paperback by the millions, the public that buys records by the billions and fills stadiums for concerts, the public that spends $100 million on a single movie -- this public affects taste, theory, and artistic outlook in literature, music, and drama, even though courtly elites hand on somewhat desperately in each field.  The same has never been true in art.  The public whose glorious numbers are recorded in the annual reports of the museums, all those students and bus tours and moms and dads and random intellectuals ... are merely tourists, autograph seekers, gawkers, parade watchers, so far as the game of Success in Art is concerned.  The public is presented with a fait accompli and the aforementioned printed announcement, usually in the form of a story or a spread of color pictures in the back pages of Time.  An announcement, as I say.  Not even the most powerful organs of the press, including Time, Newsweek, and The New York Times, can discover a new artist or certify his worth and make it stick.  They can only bring you the news, tell you which artists the beau hamlet, Cultureburg, has discovered and certified.  They can only bring you the scores.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Collaboration -- some unhappy campers

I wrote yesterday about how the key to a successful blind collaboration -- one where you don't talk to your fellow artist (or even know who it is) when you hand over part one of the work -- is to have no fixed expectations of what that person will do to it in part two.

I was a happy camper when I saw what happened to the piece I started.  But some people in the show weren't.  Take a look at what happened to four of them, and see if you agree.

Exhibit A: a painted ceramic mask

Here's how the work was finished:  the mask was broken into pieces and arranged in a glass bowl with bark, moss, grass, flowers and pebbles

Exhibit B: a hollow ball turned from spalted maple

Here's how the work was finished:  the ball was broken apart, covered with encaustic wax, burned, filled with dirt and planted with flowers; photos were made at each stage and displayed as the finished piece

Exhibit C: a mixed-media assemblage including doll heads and a vintage globe collaged with photos

Here's how the work was finished:  the globe was cut in two, wrapped with yarn, filled with soil and rocks, and planted with thyme and basil

Exhibit D:  a photoshop creation, printed up fairly large

Here's how the work was finished: the photo was sliced into pieces, some of which were mounted on a wood support, overlaid with some yellow yarn wrapped around nails to make an architectural line about a half inch in front of the support.

Two of the part-one artists were upset and stomped out of the opening reception.  Another announced to the world, when participating artists were invited to make remarks, that he would never do anything like this again.  I don't know what the fourth one thought.

So what do you think?  Would you have stomped out?  I'll tell you my opinion after I've heard yours.