Posts Tagged ‘American art’
THE HUGO BOSS PRIZE 2010: Hans-Peter Feldmann at the Guggenheim Museum. Image from an article on freshome.
So a long-awaited review on local ministerial pay is finally out.
A couple of days ago, TODAYonline reported the following:
The committee set up to review ministerial salaries has submitted its report to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and the Government is now studying the recommendations.
Channel NewsAsia understands that the report is expected to be made public early next month.
It also understands from several Members of Parliament (MPs) that the report is expected to be debated in Parliament soon. Next month could see two sessions of Parliament- one on Jan 9 as announced by the Clerk of Parliament – and a second sitting on Jan 16.
However, committee chairman Gerard Ee had said earlier that, with regard to how and when the report will be made public, the committee will stand guided by the Prime Minister.
The report comes after nearly seven months of consultations with the public, politicians and human resource experts. The review was announced by Mr Lee at the swearing-in ceremony of the new Cabinet at the Istana on May 21 this year, following the General Election.
Political salaries are currently pegged to top private sector pay.
Analysts say the report will likely go through a first run with Cabinet ministers before details are released to People’s Action Party MPs, possibly at the party caucus on Jan 3. They will have to decide whether to accept the report, or if they would go even further than what have been recommended.
They may even consider whether the recommendations will set the tone for top public sector pay.
Once these issues have been discussed, the report will be made public and debated in Parliament.
Analysts say it is important that the report is clear on the rationale for its recommendations, and that the new formula is seen as fair and acceptable.
The new wages will be backdated to May 21.
(Read the original here.)
Image from freshome.
Just to put into perspective that claim about managerial … sorry, ministerial salaries being “pegged to top private sector pay”, this is what Wikipedia has to say on the subject:
In April 2007, the Prime Minister’s annual salary increased to S$3.1 million (US$2.05 million), about five times that of the then President of the United StatesGeorge W. Bush who earned US$400,000. The annual entry-level salary for ministers increased from $1.2 million to $1.6 million, and was projected to rise to 88% of the private sector benchmark by the end of 2008. Almost half of ministers’ pay packages was made up of an individual performance bonus decided by the Prime Minister, and a variable bonus component based on the country’s prevailing gross domestic product and capped at eight months of each minister’s annual salary. The pay increases were justified by the Government on the grounds that the salaries had to keep pace with those in the private sector to attract the best talent and to avoid corruption ……
In 2008, the annual salary for entry-level ministers was $1,924,300. In view of the worsening economic crisis in 2008–2009, as of January 2009 the Prime Minister’s salary was cut to $3.04 million, while the pay of ministerial-grade officers was reduced by 18% to $1.57 million. In November 2009 the Public Service Division announced that pay increments would be deferred for a second time in 2010 because of the uncertain economic recovery. A minister’s 2009 salary of $1,494,700 per year was therefore 22% lower than what he or she received in 2008.
(The relevant article here.)
The artist and his money. I mean, art. Image from T Magazine’s blog.
In anticipation of this momentous event (the findings of the report have yet to be made public), I’ve included pictures of Hans-Peter Feldmann’s installation last year at the Guggenheim, where he tacked a hundred thousand used dollar bills to the wall of a gallery. Feldmann had won the 2010 Hugo Boss Prize – and the prize money, unsurprisingly, was a hundred grand.
From a write-up on the Guggenheim’s site:
The installation, which uses money that has previously been in circulation, extends the artist’s lifelong obsession with collecting familiar material into simple groupings that reveal a nuanced play of similarity and difference. Throughout his practice, Feldmann has frequently divided an apparent whole into separate components; he has photographed every item in a woman’s wardrobe (All the clothes of a woman, 1973), presented individual images of the strawberries that make up a pound of fruit (One Pound Strawberries, 2005), and created a sequence of 100 portraits showing individuals of every age in a collective lifespan of a century (100 Years, 2001).
Feldmann also has a history of resisting the art world’s commercial structures, issuing his work in unsigned, unlimited editions and retiring from art making altogether for nearly a decade in the 1980s, at which point he gave away or destroyed the works remaining in his possession. Bank notes, like artworks, are objects that have no inherent worth beyond what society agrees to invest them with, and in using them as his medium, Feldmann raises questions about notions of value in art. But his primary interest in the serial display of currency lies less in its status as a symbol of capitalist excess than in its ubiquity as a mass-produced image and a material with which we come into contact every day. At its core, this formal experiment presents an opportunity to experience an abstract concept—a numerical figure and the economic possibilities it entails—as a visual object and an immersive physical environment.
All that green – and still but a fraction of what Singapore’s ministers earn.
When you take quantities out of its numerical abstraction and into the reified realm of money’s material reality, the immediacy of it can be … overwhelming.
Image from freshome.
Artwork of the day: NY-based culinary artist Victoria Yee-Howe‘s bruise cakes (above).
Created during the artist’s stint in residence at Seattle’s Arabica Lounge, these er, ecchymosis-inspired confections were created, according to a write-up on Edible Geography, by “photo transfers (images printed on rice paper with edible ink) of bruises caused by six past lovers, mining her photographic archive to share her skin’s ephemeral records of damage in equally fleeting form.”
Indeed. The slippage here between the abused female body (as a result of voluntary sexual shenanigans or otherwise), and the undeniably sexual, possessive act of oral consumption (what could be more .. irreversible an act of ownership ?), is too salient to be missed.
A piece on the Art21 blog mentions that Yee-Howe is also the founder of the Chinatown Cake Club (CCC), a private dessert club based out of an apartment in Manhattan’s C-Town, where one can “eat and socialize, watch screened movies, read the paper, or “simply sit in the corner and eat cake until you puke.” Under the auspices of the CCC, Yee-Howe has also created what she calls the Artist Tribute Series, a range of special, dedicated cakes, one of the more striking of which (below) featured David Wojnarowicz’s Untitled (Face in Dirt) of 1990. A guest, who runs the Obsessive Sweets blog, described it as “a devil’s food cake filled with homemade citrus curd, chocolate mousse and covered in vanilla bean frosting.”
Unless otherwise stated, all images in this post from the artist’s personal site.
Image courtesy of Obsessive Sweets.
Helen Frankenthaler at work, in 1969. Photographed by Ernst Haas; all images here from ernst-haas.com.
Seems like the Grim Reaper is determined to get the most mileage out of the last few days of the year.
Helen Frankenthaler, pioneer of so-called color field painting, passed away yesterday, on Dec 27th.
What I find absolutely fascinating are the series of images Life magazine photog Ernst Haas took of her at work in the studio in the late ’60s. There she is, straddling a wide expanse of canvas rolled out against the floor; unravelling a river of paint; impressing a series of splotches onto the blank canvas, her body crouched like a cat’s or an acrobat’s.
Remind anyone of anything ?
Yep – Hans Namuth’s famous pictures of Jackson Pollock in a similar vein, which gave rise later to Harold Rosenberg’s declaration of “action painting.” And indeed Namuth’s images cemented Pollock as the Ab-Ex artist par excellence in the popular imagination: the reinventor of post-war painting as a gestural, action-oriented, macho arena, a man who embodied talent, tragedy, and – ultimately – self-destruction at the height of fame.
(Chief victim though: Lee Krasner.)
Perhaps Ernie Haas had Namuth’s Pollock pictures in mind when he snapped these shots of Frankenthaler; they look like a conscious attempt to mythologize her creative processes and originary power, in like fashion. The NYT’s obit of her (reproduced below, or read it here), interestingly enough, seems to emphasize her privileged, moneyed existence, offering up her biographical circumstances – which includes her connections to influential men, such as ex-squeeze Clement Greenberg (?!) and one-time husband Robert Motherwell – as an explanation of sorts for her place in a resolutely masculine canon, almost apologist in tone, not unlike Haas’ conspicuously citational framing of her as a Pollock-ian wannabe (whatever the reality) …
HELEN FRANKENTHALER, ABSTRACT PAINTER WHO SHAPED A MOVEMENT, DIES AT 83
By Grace Glueck. Published: December 27, 2011.
Helen Frankenthaler, the lyrically abstract painter whose technique of staining pigment into raw canvas helped shape an influential art movement in the mid-20th century and who became one of the most admired artists of her generation, died on Tuesday at her home in Darien, Conn. She was 83.
Her longtime assistant, Maureen St. Onge, said Ms. Frankenthaler died after a long illness but gave no other details.
Known as a second-generation Abstract Expressionist, Ms. Frankenthaler was married during the movement’s heyday to the painter Robert Motherwell, a leading first-generation member of the group. But she departed from the first generation’s romantic search for the “sublime” to pursue her own path.
Refining a technique, developed by Jackson Pollock, of pouring pigment directly onto canvas laid on the floor, Ms. Frankenthaler, heavily influencing the colorists Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland, developed a method of painting best known as Color Field — although Clement Greenberg, the critic most identified with it, called it Post-Painterly Abstraction. Where Pollock had used enamel that rested on raw canvas like skin, Ms. Frankenthaler poured turpentine-thinned paint in watery washes onto the raw canvas so that it soaked into the fabric weave, becoming one with it.
Her staining method emphasized the flat surface over illusory depth, and it called attention to the very nature of paint on canvas, a concern of artists and critics at the time. It also brought a new, open airiness to the painted surface and was credited with releasing color from the gestural approach and romantic rhetoric of Abstract Expressionism.
Ms. Frankenthaler more or less stumbled on her stain technique, she said, first using it in creating “Mountains and Sea” (1952). Produced on her return to New York from a trip to Nova Scotia, the painting is a light-struck, diaphanous evocation of hills, rocks and water. Its delicate balance of drawing and painting, fresh washes of color (predominantly blues and pinks) and breakthrough technique have made it one of her best-known works.
“The landscapes were in my arms as I did it,” Ms. Frankenthaler told an interviewer. “I didn’t realize all that I was doing. I was trying to get at something — I didn’t know what until it was manifest.”
She later described the seemingly unfinished painting — which is on long-term loan to the National Gallery of Art in Washington — as “looking to many people like a large paint rag, casually accidental and incomplete.”
Unlike many of her painter colleagues at the time, Ms. Frankenthaler, born in New York City on Dec. 12, 1928, came from a prosperous Manhattan family. She was one of three daughters of Alfred Frankenthaler, a New York State Supreme Court judge, and the former Martha Lowenstein, an immigrant from Germany. Helen, their youngest, was interested in art from early childhood, when she would dribble nail polish into a sink full of water to watch the color flow.
After graduation from the Dalton School, where she studied art with the Mexican painter Rufino Tamayo, she entered Bennington College in 1946. There the painter Paul Feeley, a thoroughgoing taskmaster, taught her “everything I know about Cubism,” she said. The intellectual atmosphere at Bennington was heady, with instructors like Kenneth Burke, Erich Fromm and Ralph Ellison setting the pace.
As a self-described “saddle-shoed girl a year out of Bennington,” Ms. Frankenthaler made her way into the burgeoning New York art world with a boost from Mr. Greenberg, whom she met in 1950 and with whom she had a five-year relationship. Through him she met crucial players like David Smith, Jackson Pollock, Willem and Elaine de Kooning and Franz Kline.
In 1951, with Mr. Greenberg’s prompting, she jointed the new Tibor de Nagy gallery, run by the ebullient aesthete John B. Myers, and had her first solo show there that year. She spent summers visiting museums in Europe, pursuing an interest in quattrocento and old master painting.
Her marriage to Mr. Motherwell in 1958 gave the couple an art-world aura. Like her, he came from a well-to-do family, and “the golden couple,” as they were known in the cash-poor and backbiting art world of the time, spent several leisurely months honeymooning in Spain and France.
In Manhattan, they removed themselves from the downtown scene and established themselves in a house on East 94th Street, where they developed a reputation for lavish entertaining. The British sculptor Anthony Caro recalled a dinner party they gave for him and his wife on their first trip to New York, in 1959. It was attended by some 100 guests, and he was seated between David Smith and the actress Hedy Lamarr.
“Helen loved to entertain,” said Ann Freedman, the former president of Knoedler & Company, Ms. Frankenthaler’s dealer until its recent closing. “She enjoyed feeding people and engaging in lively conversation. And she liked to dance. In fact, you could see it in her movements as she worked on her paintings.”
Ms. Frankenthaler’s passion for dancing was more than fulfilled in 1985 when, at a White House dinner to honor the Prince and Princess of Wales, she was partnered with a fast stepper who had been twirling the princess.
“I’d waited a lifetime for a dance like this,” she wrote in a 1997 Op-Ed article for The New York Times. “He was great!”
His name meant nothing to her until, on returning to her New York studio, she showed her assistant and a friend his card. “John Travolta,” it read.
Despite the early acknowledgment of Ms. Frankenthaler’s achievement by Mr. Greenberg and by her fellow artists, wider recognition took some time. Her first major museum show, a retrospective of her 1950s work with a catalog by the critic and poet Frank O’Hara, a curator at the Museum of Modern Art, was at the Jewish Museum in 1960. But she became better known to the art-going public after a major retrospective organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1969.
Although Ms. Frankenthaler rarely discussed the sources of her abstract imagery, it reflected her impressions of landscape, her meditations on personal experience and the pleasures of dealing with paint. Visually diverse, her paintings were never produced in “serial” themes like those of her Abstract Expressionist predecessors or her Color Field colleagues like Noland and Louis. She looked on each of her works as a separate exploration.
But “Mountains and Sea” did establish many of the traits that have informed her art from the beginning, the art historian E. A. Carmean Jr. suggested. In the catalog for his 1989-90 Frankenthaler retrospective at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, he cited the color washes, the dialogue between drawing and painting, the seemingly raw, unfinished look, and the “general theme of place” as characteristic of her work.
Besides her paintings, Ms. Frankenthaler is known for her inventive lithographs, etchings and screen prints she produced since 1961, but critics have suggested that her woodcuts have made the most original contribution to printmaking.
In making her first woodcut, “East and Beyond,” in 1973, Ms. Frankenthaler wanted to make the grainy, unforgiving wood block receptive to the vibrant color and organic, amorphous forms of her own painting. By dint of trial and error, with technical help from printmaking studios, she succeeded.
For “East and Beyond,” which depicts a radiant open space above a graceful mountainlike divide, she used a jigsaw to cut separate shapes, then printed the whole by a specially devised method to eliminate the white lines between them when put together. The result was a taut but fluid composition so refreshingly removed from traditional woodblock technique that it has had a deep influence on the medium ever since. “East and Beyond” became to contemporary printmaking in the 1970s what Ms. Frankenthaler’s paint staining in “Mountains and Sea” had been to the development of Color Field painting 20 years earlier.
In 1972, Ms. Frankenthaler made a less successful foray into sculpture, spending two weeks at Mr. Caro’s London studio. With no experience in the medium but aided by a skilled assistant, she welded together found steel parts in a way that evoked the work of David Smith.
Although she enjoyed the experience, she did not repeat it. Knoedler gave the work its first public showing in 2006.
Critics have not unanimously praised Ms. Frankenthaler’s art. Some have seen it as thin in substance, uncontrolled in method, too sweet in color and too “poetic.” But it has been far more apt to garner admirers like the critic Barbara Rose, who wrote in 1972 of Ms. Frankenthaler’s gift for “the freedom, spontaneity, openness and complexity of an image, not exclusively of the studio or the mind, but explicitly and intimately tied to nature and human emotions.”
Ms. Frankenthaler and Mr. Motherwell were divorced in 1971. In 1994 she married Stephen M. DuBrul Jr., an investment banker who had headed the Export-Import Bank during the Ford administration. Besides her husband, her survivors include two stepdaughters, Jeannie Motherwell and Lise Motherwell, and six nieces and nephews. Her two sisters, Gloria Ross Bookman and Marjorie Iseman, died before her.
In 1999, she and Mr. DuBrul bought a house in Darien, on Long Island Sound. Water, sky and their shifting light are often reflected in her later imagery.
As the years passed, her paintings seemed to make more direct references to the visible world. But they sometimes harked back to the more spontaneous, exuberant and less referential work of her earlier career.
There is “no formula,” she said in an interview in The New York Times in 2003. “There are no rules. Let the picture lead you where it must go.”
She never aligned herself with the feminist movement in art that began to surface in the 1970s. “For me, being a ‘lady painter’ was never an issue,” she was quoted as saying in John Gruen’s book “The Party’s Over Now” (1972). “I don’t resent being a female painter. I don’t exploit it. I paint.”
Overheard on the tweet-vine: American sculptor John Chamberlain, famed for his works involving old automobile parts, is dead at 84.
And right before his big retrospective at the Guggenheim too …
His NYT obituary reproduced in full below. (The original here.)
JOHN CHAMBERLAIN, WHO WRESTED ROUGH MAGIC FROM SCRAP METAL, DIES AT 84
By Randy Kennedy. Published: December 21, 2011.
John Chamberlain, who almost singlehandedly gave automotive metal a place in the history of sculpture, smashing and twisting together a poetic fusion of Abstract Expressionism and Pop from fenders, fins, bumpers and hoods, died on Wednesday in Manhattan. He was 84.
His wife, Prudence Fairweather, announced his death but declined to give a cause. He had spent his last years mostly in Shelter Island, N.Y.
In a restless career of almost half a century, Mr. Chamberlain worked with a broad range of materials, some as pliant as foam rubber and as ephemeral as brown paper bags. But he returned again and again to the more substantial stuff of the scrap yard, explaining the attraction as one of practicality. “I saw all this material just lying around against buildings, and it was in color,” he said, “so I felt I was ahead on two counts.”
But auto bodies also provided him with a material that could bear more than its weight in art-historical significance: as a chaotic riff on Duchamp’s readymades, as a renegade form of truth-in-materials Minimalism, as a bridge between the raw expressiveness of the New York School painters and the assembly-line deadpan of Warhol.
Critics often saw his crumpled Cadillacs and Oldsmobiles as dark commentaries on the costs of American freedom, but Mr. Chamberlain rejected such metaphorical readings. He turned to making sculpture from other things partly because he grew so tired of the automotive associations.
“It seems no one can get free of the car-crash syndrome,” he told the curator Julie Sylvester in 1986. “For 25 years I’ve been using colored metal to make sculpture, and all they can think of is, ‘What the hell car did that come from?’ ”
Years later, he said: “I think of my art materials not as junk but as garbage. Manure, actually; it goes from being the waste material of one being to the life-source of another.”
Mr. Chamberlain devoted his life to challenging traditional notions of sculpture and to eroding the boundaries between sculpture and painting. He was among a wave of late-modernist sculptors who put color on an almost equal footing with form, and he had an uncanny ability, as the curator Klaus Kertess wrote, “to make roundness into color and color into roundness.”
Donald Judd, who enshrined many of Mr. Chamberlain’s pieces at the art complex he built in Marfa, Tex., observed that Mr. Chamberlain’s colors in his early years were quintessentially American, “the hard, sweet, pastel enamels, frequently roses and ceruleans, of Detroit’s imitation elegance for the poor.”
Mr. Chamberlain felt that even the word “sculpture” was limiting in describing art that, while functioning in three dimensions, could be made from almost anything.
“A sculpture is something that if it falls on your foot, it will break it,” he said. (Well into his career, some people still had a tough time seeing his sculptures as works of art; in 1973, two 300-pound metal pieces were mistaken for junk and carted away as they sat outside a gallery warehouse in Chicago.)
Mr. Chamberlain’s early influences included few sculptors. He gravitated to poets and to the Abstract Expressionist painters he met at the Cedar Tavern in Greenwich Village after moving to New York from Chicago in 1956, chiefly to Franz Kline and Willem de Kooning.
“Kline gave me the structure,” he once said. “De Kooning gave me the color.”
They also helped fuel a love of drink that contributed to his reputation as an art-world hellion, especially during the heyday of Max’s Kansas City, the Cedar’s successor as New York’s art-world clubhouse. At six-foot-four, with a broad, toothy smile full of mischief and menace, he looked, and sometimes acted, like a character from a Sam Peckinpah movie. In 1964, the year he represented the United States at the Venice Biennale, he was arrested in the Village after a drunken street fight with a police officer. Mr. Chamberlain’s lawyer defended his client by saying the fight was the fault of the officer, who had repeatedly and “needlessly struck Mr. Chamberlain on the head with a nightstick.”
John Angus Chamberlain was born on April 16, 1927, in Rochester, Ind., the son of a fifth-generation saloonkeeper. He was raised above a meat market until he was 4, when his parents divorced. His mother, a sometime waitress, took him to Chicago, where he was left in the care of his maternal grandmother, Edna Brown Waller, whom he described as a strong, voluble presence in his life.
In his teens, he grew to love classical music but decided he didn’t have enough talent to pursue a music career. Mostly to stay out of trouble, he joined the Navy at 16 in 1943, lying about his age, and served in the Pacific and Mediterranean before returning to Chicago to study hairdressing on the G.I. Bill — an occupation he saw partly as a good way to meet women. Between shifts as a hair and makeup instructor at a modeling school, he tried to teach himself to draw but grew frustrated and enrolled in private art classes. He later entered the School of the Art Institute of Chicago but lasted only a year and a half because of quarrels with instructors he accused of being narrow-minded.
Through a friend, Mr. Chamberlain found Black Mountain College in North Carolina, which he attended in 1955 and 1956. It introduced him to like-minded artists, most of them poets including Robert Creeley, Charles Olson and Robert Duncan. Shortly after leaving the school he met and married Elaine Grulkowski, his second wife, and the couple had three sons. Two, Angus and Duncan, survive him, as does his fourth wife, Ms. Fairweather, and her daughters, Alexandra Fairweather and Phoebe Fairweather. Elaine Chamberlain died in 1973, and a son, Jesse, died in 1999. Two other marriages ended in divorce.
Early on, Mr. Chamberlain was drawn to the totemic welded constructions that David Smith made from old tools and machine parts. But in 1957, he had an epiphany while staying with the painter Larry Rivers in Southampton, N.Y. Using two fenders he pulled from a 1929 Ford rusting on Mr. Rivers’s property, he made a sculpture by running over the pieces repeatedly with a truck to bend them the way he wanted, then he fitted them together almost like puzzle pieces.
The sculpture, “Shortstop,” opened his eyes to the potential of pre-painted junk metal. And work like it, heavily indebted to his Abstract Expressionist mentors, attracted admirers like the influential collector Allan Stone, who described the young Mr. Chamberlain as “a gruff, hairy” character, “more like a north woodsman than a sculptor.” Many critics saw his early work as an affront. One, writing in The New York Times in 1959, described a Chamberlain work as “a construction from the wreckage of a motor car.”
Even admirers like the critic Peter Schjeldahl seemed unsettled by the apparent randomness of Mr. Chamberlain’s crushing machines. “As with a sunset or a snowstorm, you don’t know whether there’s an operating intelligence behind it all or not,” he wrote in 1969, “so you learn to accept the manifestations for themselves.” He added: “The mangle is the message.”
Mr. Chamberlain was rarely happy working for long in one place. Besides New York, he lived in New Mexico, California, Connecticut and Sarasota, Fla., where he kept a houseboat and a yacht in addition to two sprawling studios. He continued to work and sail after settling in Shelter Island (while living part-time in Manhattan). At 74, he took up the saxophone. He also made headlines in 2011 by leaving his longtime gallery, Pace, for the larger empire of the Gagosian Gallery.
His pieces — with punning, portmanteau titles like “Awesomemeatloaf,” “Schizoverbia” and “Anything Goethe” — were not usually intended to be figural. But, depending on the vantage point, they could evoke dancing or hobbled human forms, trees, flowers, boats and birds. A 1982 sculpture called “The Lineup (Dedicated to the Sarasota Police Dept.)” looked like a row of reprobates hauled in for public indecency.
In the late 1960s he switched from car parts to unpainted galvanized steel, then made pieces from resin-coated crushed paper bags. He also began using blocks of foam rubber that, when tied with cords, resulted in forms strikingly like his car-metal pieces, underscoring the seeming softness of such rigid pieces. In 1968, Mr. Chamberlain took a detour into filmmaking, the most notable result of which was the cult hit “The Secret Life of Hernando Cortez,” filmed in Mexico with Warhol regulars Taylor Mead and Ultra Violet in various states of intoxication and undress.
In 1970, the year he was given a retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim museum, he began working with heat-shaped Plexiglas and aluminum foil. But he returned to car bodies in 1974. (The Guggenheim is planning a new retrospective, to open in February.)
Mr. Chamberlain’s work is in the collections of dozens of museums, including the Guggenheim, the Museum of Modern Art and Dia:Beacon in Beacon, N.Y.; this year an older piece sold at auction for $4.7 million, a record for his work.
Mr. Chamberlain spoke of his work with reluctance and often humility, deriding the over-intellectualizing tendencies of his questioners. “Everyone always wanted to know what it meant, you know: ‘What does it mean, jellybean?’ ” he told Julie Sylvester, adding: “Even if I knew, I could only know what I thought it meant.”
But he trusted his instincts and seemed to follow them to please himself more than anyone else. “When a sculpture is nearly done, you can put things on and you take them off and it doesn’t make any difference,” he said. “Stopping is the key; you have to know when to stop. If I feel so glad that a sculpture is here, and I don’t care who did it, then I figure it’s a good piece.”
I love Wayne Thiebaud’s work.
Who doesn’t ?
For want of a less tired description, there’s something simply magical about his paintings of cakes and pies and sugary treats and vertiginous streetscapes: the way they seem to suggest a world of childhood wonders, or a child’s-eye view of the world, as it slowly shades into lengthening shadows and a sense of melancholy and – inexplicably – loss …
Or, as Mike Kimmelman puts it: “It slowly registers in our minds as the gap between what actually was — between those cloying Boston cream pies that we really ate and the gum-ball machines that ate our pennies — and the world as we wished it to be. He gives us not real cheese but Platonic cheese. And this gap between reality and desire ushers in sadness after the first leaping rush of pleasure. Mr. Thiebaud’s work is not about a perfect world. It is about the fact that the world never was and still isn’t perfect, except perhaps one little part of it, to which we can briefly retreat via these paintings and glimpse the way all things ought to be.”
(Kimmelman’s NYT review of the Thiebaud retrospective at the Whitney in 2001 reproduced in full below. Or read the original here.)
I think ol’ Mikey hit the nail on the head there.
This one’s for N., who seems to be having a pretty rough time of it lately. Here’s hoping he derives as much joy from Thiebaud’s work as I do.
Pie Counter (1963), Wayne Thiebaud. In the collection of the Whitney Museum.
Three Machines (1963), Wayne Thiebaud. In the collection of the de Young Museum.
French Pastries (1963), Wayne Thiebaud. In the collection of the Hirshhorn Museum.
Apartment Hill (1980), Wayne Thiebaud. In the collection of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
WISTFUL JOY IN SODA-FOUNTAIN DREAMS
By Michael Kimmelman. Published: June 29, 2001.
If the world were a perfect place, the Wayne Thiebaud retrospective that has just opened at the Whitney Museum of American Art would be nailed to the walls for good and we would be free to stop by whenever we needed to remind ourselves what happiness feels like. The world not being perfect, the show is around through the summer, so consider yourself forewarned. At the Whitney, as in life, happiness is fleeting.
Meanwhile, you are free to bask in these pumpkin pies, meat and cheese deli counters, lipsticks, hot dogs and gum-ball machines, which, as Mr. Thiebaud has painted them for the last 40 years, have the aura of loves lost and too fondly recalled. Objects of conflicted nostalgia, rimmed in blue halos, they appear suspended in weightless isolation and glow with a brilliance so peculiar and unreal that it looks as if it must be from either the light of heaven or the glare of an operating theater.
By this I mean to say that after a while Mr. Thiebaud’s pictures prompt something more complicated than plain joy and closer to the nature of memory, which is always a tricky affair. It slowly registers in our minds as the gap between what actually was — between those cloying Boston cream pies that we really ate and the gum-ball machines that ate our pennies — and the world as we wished it to be. He gives us not real cheese but Platonic cheese. And this gap between reality and desire ushers in sadness after the first leaping rush of pleasure.
Mr. Thiebaud’s work is not about a perfect world. It is about the fact that the world never was and still isn’t perfect, except perhaps one little part of it, to which we can briefly retreat via these paintings and glimpse the way all things ought to be.
This experience is akin to what we feel before the works of certain painters to whom Mr. Thiebaud owes longstanding, explicit debts: Giorgio Morandi, the turn-of-the-century Spanish virtuoso Joaquín Sorolla, his fellow Californian Richard Diebenkorn and especially Chardin. What Proust wrote about Chardin’s views of brown crockery and dead rabbits applies also to Mr. Thiebaud’s hot dogs:
”You have already experienced it subconsciously, this pleasure one gets from the sight of everyday scenes and inanimate objects, otherwise it would not have risen in your heart when Chardin summoned it in his ringing commanding accents. But your consciousness was too sluggish to reach down to it. It had to wait for Chardin to come and lay hold on it and hoist it to the level of your conscious mind.”
Joy yielding to melancholy yields to the less jolting but more durable satisfaction of being in the presence of pictures so lovingly made. Mr. Thiebaud’s Americanness has as much to do with this devotion to craft as it does with the objects of Americana that he depicts.
Craft and, I might add, an American brand of wit. Melancholy and wit not being mutually exclusive, these pictures belong, as writers have pointed out about Mr. Thiebaud, to the tradition of Chaplin, Keaton and other memorable comics who have captured the American ethos. Whether it is with a row of cakes in a store window or spaghetti entanglements of highways or cartoonish visions of San Francisco wherein the streets shoot straight up like raised drawbridges, Mr. Thiebaud demonstrates the fine art of telling a dry joke.
”This sandwich, and then this sandwich again, and then the same damn sandwich again” is how the writer Adam Gopnik puts it in one of the show’s catalog essays. Right. We smile at the hot dogs and lipsticks solemnly arranged like so many receding headstones at a cemetery not just because of the solemnity but also because of the repetition. People talk about Mr. Thiebaud’s work as representing American abundance (all that food and all that land), but the pictures, which include big empty spaces and isolated shapes, don’t connote abundance so much as they approximate the movie routine of the guy who leaves his house and drives around only to end up where he started, so he tries another direction and ends up in the same place. And on and on, the gag being the deadpan sight of the house, on which the camera dotes as Mr. Thiebaud does on his pies and cakes.
Simultaneously, we can’t fail to note that there are variations, subtle differences between one slice of cream pie and the next, which betray an expressive hand, and which separate Mr. Thiebaud from Pop. They are the same pies, but not painted quite the same way.
The quality of paint handling is, again, the key: if it’s sometimes hard to pinpoint whether the psychological tone is ironic or affectionate or detached, it is obvious that the works are about geometry and pigment, and they are the opposite of mechanical.
This applies even to the human figures that Mr. Thiebaud began to paint in the early 1960′s, when like Philip Pearlstein, Alfred Leslie and Alex Katz he evolved an unsentimental way of depicting people. The effect, he once explained, is meant to be ”like seeing a stranger in some place like an air terminal for the first time: you look at him, you notice his shoes, his suit, the pin in his lapel but you don’t have any particular feelings about him.”
At the Whitney, a room is devoted to these blank-faced zombies, endearing like the pies and equally presented as if they were soldiers at attention. The usual comparison is to Edward Hopper, but psychologically speaking these figures are less like Hopper’s lonely souls than like Vermeer’s women or the subjects of early Northern Renaissance portraits, which is to say, they are minutely described but affectless.
We can therefore read what we want into them. Here is Mr. Thiebaud’s Willy Loman, in ill-fitting business suit hunched over a paperback. There is Twiggy’s look-alike in yellow dress and groovy white boots, her slim face framed by a severely cropped bob and giving nothing away, the payoff of the image being the jog of her skinny elbow outlined in blue, which breaks the vertical plane of back and chair, a formal flourish.
And then there are the twin majorettes, beaming in the sunlight, batons held high, an image with the sentimental whiff of a faded photograph. They may conjure up people we knew or feelings we had, the way the gum-ball machines can conjure up a row of gunslingers — the Earps ready for a showdown in the slanting light of late afternoon — if that’s how we choose to see them.
I have delayed mentioning an obvious source, namely cartoons. People writing about Mr. Thiebaud typically describe his stint as a Disney animator, movie poster illustrator and comic strip writer, and it is a pity that the retrospective doesn’t include any of that work.
But it’s useful to recall, and less frequently noted, that Mr. Thiebaud spent time as a boy on his grandfather’s farm in Southern California, then on a big family ranch in Southern Utah, milking cows, shooting deer for meat, plowing wheat and planting alfalfa. For a while he even thought about becoming a farmer.
And along with the cakes and cheese, he has painted incandescent, slightly antic landscapes, too, the views turned into complex, almost abstract grids of irregular patterns, seen from a bird’s-eye perspective. They are different pictures from the other works. The art-historical sources include Chinese painting, Monet and Cubism, as in ”River and Farms,” for instance, a dizzy jigsaw-puzzle design in which flattened fields under hazy skies turn from deep blue to pink, and a solitary poplar, a slender cone, casts a blue-green shadow against a patch of mustard.
The affection and eccentricity of these landscapes, which are partly inspired by views of the deltas in the Sacramento Valley, provide obvious signs of firsthand experience. Mr. Thiebaud (his maternal grandmother was one of the Mormon pioneers who settled in Utah in the mid-1800′s) is as much an artist of the American West — of Western light, Western space, Western silences, Western attitudes — as he is an heir to Krazy Kat or Mickey Mouse.
Organized by Steven A. Nash for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, where it was first shown, and installed at the Whitney by Marla Prather, who has added drawings as well as paintings from local collections, the exhibition concludes with these landscapes. Some aren’t great. Mr. Thiebaud occasionally employs a childlike mode of painting, uncharacteristically fey, and a few images (cityscapes included) are too coy, like fairy-tale illustrations — although resistance to these works may partly stem from short-circuited expectations: seeing something different from an artist who in general has been so constant over the decades.
Detractors will say constancy is a fault, not a virtue, and fail to smile at the gentle in-jokes whereby a drawer of neckties becomes a mock Morris Louis, a bathtub brings to mind Donald Judd, and scattered crayons suggest Richard Serra.
I say, thank goodness somebody around here has a sense of humor, especially somebody who paints and draws so gorgeously. (Check out Mr. Thiebaud’s drop-dead lifelike rabbit if you are wondering what happened to good old verisimilitude in art.) Humor deflates pretense, which Mr. Thiebaud entirely lacks. In the end, his pictures provoke happiness if for no other reason than that they are content to be what they are, which is enough. This is the same message they convey, by extension, about the modest objects and people they depict.
See the cakes on their spindle-legged platforms. Notice how the vertical stripes of the lemon cake in the back balance the horizontal layers of cream inside the chocolate cake in the front, while the hollow circle made by the empty center of the angel-food bundt cake to the side complements the yellow circle of the meringue pie near the center, and how the number of cakes adds up to seven, with three on either end of the one with the heart drawn in red icing on top.
Street and Shadow (1982), Wayne Thiebaud. In the collection of the Crocker Art Museum.
Image from Smoking Lily.
Happy December 1st, folks – which, of course, happens to be World Aids Day.
In memoriam: a short roster of artists lost to the scourge.
Félix González-Torres (d. 9.1.1996).
Untitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.), 1991
David Wojnarowicz (d. 22.7.1992).
Arthur Rimbaud in New York (Times Square), 1978
Keith Haring (d. 16.2.1990).
Mural in the (converted) bathroom at the New York LGBT Community Centre, 1989. (Thanks to regular reader Marc!)
Scott Burton (d. 29.12.1989).
Bench and Table, 1988 – 89
Robert Mapplethorpe (d. 9.3.1989).
Self-Portrait with Bullwhip, 1978
Jack Smith (d. 25.9.1989).
Flaming Creatures, 1963
Tseng Kwong Chi (d. 10.3.1990).
New York, New York (WTC) from the East Meets West series, 1979
Peter Hujar (d. 26.11.1987 )
David Wojnarowicz, 1981
Image of the day: a still from the recent documentary, The Universe of Keith Haring (2008). I find the picture hilarious. The awkward angle; the dorky pose; the silly expression; the Buddy Holly-esque glasses; the reflective sparkle ..
Haring succumbed to AIDS in 1990 – preceding another famous victim, Freddie Mercury.
World AIDS Day happens in slightly more than week (Dec 1); this one’s for you, Keith.
It had to happen: art-making moves into the realm of the scatological. (Well, after Belgian prankster Wim Delvoye anyways …)
As part of the Living as Form exhibition currently showing in downtown Manhattan till Oct 16, artistic collective Superflex recreated a completely functional copy of the executive restroom at the JP Morgan Chase offices (below) – in a Lower East Side diner. Both restaurant and er, designer facilities are open to the public.
Now that’s taking participation art to a whole new level.
All pictures here courtesy of Superflex.net.
A NY Times review of Living as Form reproduced at the end of the post.
WHEN LIFE BECOMES ART
By Ken Johnson. Published: September 29, 2011.
At the Olympic Restaurant on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, customers who heed the call of nature are in for a pleasant surprise. The grungy stairway leading to the second floor is ominous, but on opening the door to the unisex lavatory, they will discover a clean, well-lighted bathroom with the black tile floor, sleek stainless steel fixtures, dark wood wainscoting and gleaming white sink of a high-end corporate washroom. It is a work of art — not just figuratively, but literally. Called “Power Toilet / J.P. Morgan Chase,” it is a fully functional copy of an executive bathroom at that investment bank’s offices, created by the collaborative art-making group Superflex.
The Superflex bathroom was unveiled last Friday as part of “Living as Form,” an enthralling, philosophically provocative round-up of 20 years’ worth of socially engaged art. Organized by Creative Time’s curator Nato Thompson, the show is mostly housed in the raw, cavernous interior of the Historic Essex Street Market; the Olympic occupies a corner of the same building.
It represents efforts by more than 100 artists to expand definitions of art and change social conditions by inventive, nontraditional means. Low, temporary walls of stacked concrete blocks and gray metal shelving units divide the space, creating an ambience that suggests a revolutionary militia’s headquarters. (The layout was designed by the architectural firm Common Room.)
Some of the artists veer toward symbolism. For “Palas por Pistolas,” a project orchestrated by Pedro Reyes, 1,527 guns were collected in a Mexican town racked by drug-related violence. The weapons were melted down and turned into shovels that were then used to plant trees on public-school grounds. Some of the spades are on display at the start of the exhibition, along with a young tree, which will be planted in a community garden after the show ends.
Ambiguity is not commonly a feature of social-practice art, but “Golden Ghost,” an installation by Surasi Kusolwong resembling a piece of 1960s-style scatter art is an exception. It is a two-foot-deep field of colorful factory-thread waste, in the depths of which are hidden six pieces of gold jewelry. Visitors who dive in and find one can keep it. It could be argued either way whether this is a satire about grubbing for material wealth or a metaphor about searching for spiritual meaning.
But most of the projects aim without ambivalence for pragmatic, real-world results. For“Operation Paydirt/Fundred Dollar Bill Project,” Mel Chin has invited people here and all over the United States to fill in the outlines of printed cartoons of hundred dollar bills. An armored car will deliver almost 400,000 of these bills to Congress in a bid to prompt legislation and financing to cleanse lead-contaminated soil in New Orleans.
Some enterprises are hard to distinguish from social outreach programs. Since 2001, a group called Women on Waves has traveled in boats around the world providing women’s health and reproductive care, including abortions. Their vessels have been included in international art exhibitions, but to call what the organization does art, in however expanded a sense of the term, is to invite a question: What is gained by viewing certain programs as art rather than social work?
This is a point to which huge quantities of learned and often theoretically abstruse verbiage have been devoted in journals, art magazines and conferences. The most persuasive argument is that breaking down the usual divisions between categories like art and social activism is liberating, energizing and consciousness-raising for both: art can escape its ivory tower, and activism can be more creative. Utopia rises in the visionary distance.
It is typical of many a social-practice action, however, that the whole experience can only be had by those directly involved from beginning to end. The rest of us must imagine a project like Mr. Chin’s by reading descriptions of it and studying photographic and video documentation, ephemera and publications. How are we to form opinions about this kind of work if we know about them so indirectly? The problem is compounded by descriptions that often sound as if they were written by and for bureaucrats, which frequently is the case, given the genre’s dependence on institutional financing.
Some descriptions are more imaginatively appealing than others. Speaking at a conference held at the Skirball Center at New York University on the day of the opening, the Czech artist Katerina Seda described a project that sounded like a Monty Python sketch. In 2003 she went to a town of about 350 people and did a survey to find out how they spent their time. She learned that they all did pretty much the same things — shopping, cleaning, cooking, eating, watching television and so on — but that they did them at different times.
So, with the mayor’s blessing, she organized a day when everyone was to do the same thing at the same time. At the end of the day, there was a beer party for the whole town, and at 10 o’clock it was lights out. It would be nice to think that the townspeople experienced some enlightenment about, say, the possibility of creating alternate realities. Conventionally categorized forms of life may not be as fixed as we tend to believe.
In any case, Olympic Restaurant regulars will be pleased to know that the new bathroom will remain a permanent, usable fixture, an enduring testament to modern art’s refusal to be fenced in.
“Living as Form” runs through Oct. 16 at Historic Essex Street Market, 80 Essex Street, south of Delancey Street, Lower East Side; (212) 206-6674, Ext. 222, creativetime.org.
[This post is the first part of a two-part review.]
Don’t be fooled by the rather routine-sounding name – these guys are huge, and they’re serious.
Spread over all four floors of a revamped Art Deco building on Armenian Street, just across from the Substation, the gallery boasts some 12,000 sq feet of display space. To put that number into perspective, the structure used to house the Mayfair Hotel (below), apparently a pretty classy joint that, by the 1980s, had fallen into disrepute — and, from the looks of it, disrepair. (There’s a short piece on it over at The Long and Winding Road.) That’s right, a hotel. All that space — which, thanks to high ceilings and massive windows, allow for copious amounts of natural light to flood the interior in the day, and suffuses the rooms with an aureate crepuscular glow that slowly dissipates into a cool, dim gloom as the tropical sun sets, the effect an utterly enchanting one — now made over into a white cube just for art viewing.
As someone remarked to me, Art Plural may represent the biggest private gallery in Singapore yet.
I don’t doubt it.
The lives and times of a building:
The brainchild of Swiss couple Frederic and Carole de Senarclens, the gallery certainly lives up to its name; art-wise, the mix is an eclectic, trans-continental one. There were pieces by modernist masters — a Picasso and a couple of Dubuffets were up for sale (which may already have gone off the market, this was a while ago) — as well as a smorgasbord of offerings from contemporary art’s biggest and hippest names. Upon being buzzed into the silent, cavernous chamber, all pristine walls and grey cement floors, with absolutely nothing extraneous to distract the eye, the visitor is greeted by one of YBA-tist Marc Quinn’s monumental flower paintings (below), a canvas of colossal, lustrously-coloured blooms that peer at you as if in an eerily sensuous reenactment of some sci-fi nightmare like The Day of the Triffids, their otherworldly, non-anthropomorphic floral visages seeming almost to present greedy mouths agape, threatening to breach the two-dimensional picture plane and to disrupt the aloof quietude of the environment through the sheer force of alien hunger … Verisimilitude, chromatic brilliance and gigantism is here synthesized to produce a profoundly, potently unsettling effect. Quinn is on record as saying: “I remember visiting a flower market one day and noticing how all these flowers that shouldn’t be available at the same time ……. It perfectly illustrates how human desire constantly reshapes nature’s limitations. The fact that these flowers are always available to us is artificial and unnatural.” (See here for the full interview.)
Well, he’s certainly right there.
The vivid, garish surfaces and appropriated imagery that characterize so much of Pop art — from Warhol’s silkscreens, to Lichtenstein’s jumbo Ben-Day dots, to Richard Hamilton’s collages and, more recently, the many incarnations of Takashi Murakami’s ‘superflat’ figures across a wide variety of consumer products — find a new lease of life in the hands of Indian duo Thukral and Tagra, who are well-represented in the gallery’s collection. The omnivorous, multi-media heterogeneity of T & T, which boasts an iconography of commercial merchandise and figures culled from popular culture, most often found floating in a utopian dreamscape of pastel-hued skies and cotton-candy clouds, rendered on both canvas and three-dimensional, spherical metal shapes (below), has been described as “a whimsical fascination with consumerism—not unlike Murakami— blurring the lines between fine art and popular culture, product placement and exhibition design, artistic inspiration and media hype.” (See here.) Hardly groundbreaking, since their work, as mentioned, may be located squarely in a trajectory extending from Pop’s earliest days to more contemporary manifestations; what does relieve it of an excess of commercial enthusiasm, however, is an ironic self-awareness, artistic tongue firmly in cheek. One signature T & T strategy is the so-called BoseDK trademark, which makes its appearance in quite a few of (or all?) their pieces:
Much of the output of Thukral & Tagra is presented under the brand name of BoseDK Designs. BoseDK, which is an Anglicization of a pejorative Punjabi term, is intended to create an obliquely obscene presence in the art gallery. Branding the artworks, in this way deliberately and ironically commercialises their oeuvre. The brand of BoseDK extends into all facets of their work from design and retail commissions to paintings, sculptures, wallpaper and installations. It has been described as striving ‘for a rootless cosmopolitanism, an instigation to infect all manner of communication with an unexpected sparkle, in the process making life more marvelous’.
(Quote from Initial Access.)
The idea of a spurious brandname — like so much mass-produced consumer chaff — for stuff that actually sells for princely sums, that takes its inspiration from market-oriented commodity culture, is pretty hilarious in the best pomo fashion: a self-conscious cycle of endless referentiality.
Pakistani-born, NY-bred Seher Shah produces intricate, black-and-white graphic works on paper, quite breathtaking in their near-abstract, collaged aesthetic. Shah’s understated compositions, looking like nothing so much as leaves from a draughtsman’s sketchbook filled in by a daydreaming surrealist, are informed by her interest in the visual culture of power, and her experiences as a Muslim woman in a post-9/11 America. Speaking of the use of Islamic imagery in her work, the artist noted:
It was in the midst of this [the aftermath of September 11] that I had started creating a series of works that negotiated between personal photographs, iconic Islamic spaces, geometries and symbols. I wanted to be able to construct works that showed universal connections to certain geometric forms and massing.
The title Jihad Pop came about as a means to construct the idea of struggle of identity alongside images from pop culture and to form a new association with Islamic visual imagery. The meeting of these two words ‘jihad’ and ‘pop’ is the marriage of this exploration of identity and the simultaneous broadcast of imagery of violence, conflict and migration. Using associations and influences from media images, personal travel photographs, animation, graffiti and hand drawings to create the series that unfolds to explore the relationship of Islamic iconography and imagery. I kept the connection open to the meaning of both words, so as to interpret it in a variety of means. Using cultural elements I had grown up with from New York, Brussels, London and Lahore I started constructing and reconstructing images and symbols I was gravitating towards. The Jihad Pop works as of now are mainly constructed through a series of large-scale drawings and several print editions.
(Full interview on QMA’s blog.)
Shah’s preoccupation with the mathematical construction of space, as seen in her Interior Courtyard drawings, for instance (below), seems to channel, strangely enough, the alliance of academicism and orientalism found in the work of Jean-Léon Gérôme. An example of Gérôme’s brand of 19th century exoticization, Prayer in the Mosque (below), set in Cairo’s Mosque of Amr, features a rigidly linear perspective of the site, the system of arches and columns — running in regular rows towards an all too discernible vanishing point on the horizon line — and the schematic description of grid-like beams overhead and patterned tiles underfoot matched only by the disciplined ordering of the human figures within this architectural backdrop. The correspondence between the depiction of social cohesion and the absolute geometry of the pictorial space here no doubt gestures at the overarching presence of Islam in the life of Arab communities, and the role it plays in regulating even the most minute of details. And it is this along this axis of synchronicity, between orthodox perspective and religious diktat, that Shah structures her architectural drawings of interior spaces, while her collages of “personal photographs, iconic Islamic spaces, geometries and symbols” instead functions to de-naturalize the seeming transparency and pictorial logic of linear perspective. On display in Art Plural were The Expansion of the First Great Ornamental Age: Division and Hierarchy (2009; below), both of which feature one of Shah’s favourite devices: the grid. As art historian Rosalind Krauss has remarked, the grid, as a spatial device, renders a composition “flattened, geometricized, ordered … antimimetic, antireal”.* According to her, it negates the contours of the real by imposing a pre-ordained regularity on the compositional surface, and not, as in the case of the interlocking orthogonals of Renaissance perspective, to map a representation of reality on a two-dimensional canvas. Krauss’ objective was to submit the grid, as an artistic tool, to a historical analysis, but as it is deployed by Shah over apparently random agglomerations of bodies, patterns, icons, and landscapes, it foregrounds the constructed nature of rationalized pictorial space — against which, as the artist demonstrates in pieces like The Expansion of the First Great Ornamental Age: Fragmented Landscapes (below), there is only the space of the irreducibly two-dimensional surface.
* Rosalind Krauss, “Grids”, in The Originality of the Avant-Garde, pp. 9 – 22. See p. 9.
Interior Courtyard I (2006), Seher Shah. Image from the artist’s personal site.
Prayer in the Mosque (1871), Jean-Léon Gérôme. In the collection of the Metropolitan Museum.
Also spotted at Art Plural were photographic prints of the Starn brothers’ Big Bambú: You Can’t, You Don’t, and You Won’t Stop installation (below), which was featured last year at the Metropolitan Museum as part of their series of exhibitions on the roof. Alas, I had already left NYC then, but here’s a short write-up from the NYT:
From April 27 through Oct. 31 the twin artists Mike and Doug Starn will be creating a site-specific installation that is part sculpture, part architecture and part performance. Called “Big Bambú” it will be a monumental bamboo structure in the form of a cresting wave rising as high as 50 feet above the roof. Throughout the summer the artists and a team of rock climbers will lash together an intricate network of 3,200 interlocking bamboo poles with nylon rope, creating on the roof’s floor labyrinthlike spaces through which visitors can walk.
“Big Bambú” is a perpetual work in progress — it will never quite be finished — that will evolve in three phases: first, the basic structure will be completed by the opening day; second, the eastern part will be built by the artists and rock climbers to a height of about 50 feet; third, the team will build the western part to about 40 feet high. Not only will visitors be able to watch the installation as it is constructed and walk through it, they will also be able to climb up the sides.
Big Bambú seems to encompass a number of strands in contemporary art: installation, participation, performance, process. What is interesting in the present instance, however, is that it speaks to Art Plural’s ambitions for its role in the local art scene. Carole de Senarclens revealed in a conversation that their goal is to eventually be able to stage a similarly large-scale, public installation in Singapore — perhaps one of French designer slash artist Thierry Dreyfus’ light shows …
But more on that in part deux.
The Starns’ Big Bambú installation at the Metropolitan Museum in NYC, in 2010. Image from Carlisle Flowers.
Big Bambú at the Met. Image from this site.
Big Bambú at the Met. Image from this site.
[To be continued.]
(A Bunny Bonanza, part one, here.)
A couple of weeks back, sitting in a friend’s shophouse, chugging back a couple of expired beers and looking at his portraits of spooky-looking children, I tried explaining to a group of friends the concept of the Eight Characters.
A brief summation: most people know that Chinese astrology assigns an animal to each year, with one’s zodiac animal representing certain personality characteristics. What is perhaps less common knowledge is that the fact that (a) each animal is also accompanied by an element, of which there are five (metal, water, wood, fire and earth), and (b) there is an animal and an element assigned not just to your year of birth, but also the month, day and hour, thus making up one’s personal Eight Characters (4 animals + 4 elements = 8 characters).
And Chinese astrology holds that it is the day of birth, rather than the year, which most accurately describes one’s personality.
Reactions to my er, exposition on the finer points of Chinese astrology was met with the usual gamut of reactions: excitement (SY discovering she was born on the day of dragon); disappointment (MP realizing he was born on the day of the goat, which was too … unglamorous for him); skepticism (everyone else, with AO just assuming I was making shit up <lol>).
And me, I was born on the day of the wood rabbit — or yi mao 乙卯 in Chinese.
August is my month, as it is my country’s; my birthday happens in a couple of weeks, Singapore’s in a couple of days. Which got me to thinking about my fellow bunnies … I got down to some extensive Wiki-ing, and came up with a list of famous people who were also born on the day of rabbit. Curiously enough, quite a few renowned artists featured on the list, including Picasso, Pollock and Rauschenberg. Colour me impressed.
Also — less pleasingly — a couple of complete assholes ……
So, without further ado, I present you with The Brilliant Bunny Wall of Fame, followed by The Nasty Bunny Wall of Shame.
THE BRILLIANT BUNNY WALL OF FAME (artists first)
Gustave Caillebotte, b. 19 Aug 1848 (Metal rabbit). Post-Impressionist painter best known for his Paris Street; Rainy Day of 1877.
Paris Street; Rainy Day (1877), Gustave Caillebotte. In the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Pablo Picasso, b. 25 October 1881 (Metal rabbit). Only the most prominent artist of the twentieth century.
Les Demoiselles D’Avignon (1907), Pablo Picasso. In the collection of the MoMA.
Man Ray, b. 27 Aug 1890 (Earth rabbit). Artist best known for his surrealist pictures and objects, and so-called ‘rayographs’.
Jackson Pollock, b. 28 Jan 1912 (Water rabbit). Artist of the New York School; famed for his action painting and ‘all-over’ canvases.
Autumn Rhythm (Number 30) (1950), Jackson Pollock. In the collection of the Metropolitan Museum.
Philip Guston, b. 27 June 1913 (Earth rabbit). Painter; shifted from the Ab Ex style of Pollock to a more personal, pictorial idiom.
Cherries (1976), Philip Guston. In the collection of the MoMA.
Ad Reinhardt, b. 24 Dec 1913 (Earth rabbit). Painter; produced monochromatic (or near-monochromatic, heh) canvases.
Abstract Painting (1963), Ad Reinhardt. In the collection of the MoMA.
Robert Motherwell, b. 24 Jan 1915 (Wood rabbit). Yet another New York School guy. His brand of Ab Ex-ism consisted of rough black forms set mostly against a white backdrop.
Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 110 (1971), Robert Motherwell. In the collection of the Guggenheim New York.
Andrew Wyeth, b. 12 July 1917 (Wood rabbit). Realist painter; best-known for Christina’s World, which depicted a polio-stricken young woman.
Christina’s World (1948), Andrew Wyeth. In the collection of the MoMA.
Robert Rauschenberg, b. 22 Oct 1925 (Earth rabbit). One of the most famous of the mid-century, post-Ab Ex artists. His ‘combines’ are his defining works.
George Maciunas, b. 8 Nov 1931 (Fire rabbit). Founding member of the Fluxus movement. One of its most seminal, yet enigmatic, members — due largely to an early death from cancer.
Sonic Youth performing George Maciunas’ Piano Piece #13 (Carpenter’s Piece).
Yoko Ono, b. 18 Feb 1933 (Wood rabbit). Someone else who needs no intro (though for all the wrong reasons). Associated with the Fluxus group as well.
Georg Baselitz, b. 23 Jan 1938 (Wood rabbit). German painter famed for his upside down canvases of the ’70s.
Richard Serra, b. 2 Nov 1939 (Water rabbit). Sculptor famed for his massive cor-ten steel behemoths.
Walkthrough of Richard Serra’s Torqued Ellipse IV (1998), in the collection of the MoMA.
Ok, now everyone else (this is of course a partial list at best):
Dwight Eisenhower (34th President of the US), b. 14 Oct 1890 — Fire rabbit.
Bertolt Brecht (playwright, The Threepenny Opera), b. 10 Feb 1898 – Fire rabbit.
Aaron Copland (composer, Appalachian Spring), b. 14 Nov 1900 – Metal rabbit.
Sukarno (First President of Indonesia), b. 6 June 1901 – Wood rabbit.
Henry Fonda (actor, 12 Angry Men), b. 16 May 1905 – Wood rabbit.
Jean-Paul Sartre (philosopher, Being and Nothingness), b. 21 June 1905 – Metal rabbit.
Hannah Arendt (political thinker, Eichmann in Jerusalem), b. 14 Oct 1906 – Metal rabbit.
Jacques Tati, (director, Mon Oncle), b. 9 Oct 1907 – Metal rabbit.
Edwin Land (scientist and inventory, the Polaroid camera), b. 7 May 1909 – Fire rabbit.
Desi Arnaz (musician, actor, The Lucy Show), b. 2 Mar 1917 – Water rabbit.
Michael Caine (actor, Alfie), b. 14 Mar 1917 – Wood rabbit.
Quincy Jones (musician, composer), b. 14 Mar 1917 – Wood rabbit.
Lena Horne (singer), b. 30 June 1917 – Water rabbit.
John Rawls (Harvard philosopher, A Theory of Justice), b. 21 Feb 1921 – Wood rabbit.
Jane Russell (actress, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes), b. 21 June 1921 – Wood rabbit.
Jack Kerouac (writer, On the Road), b. 12 March 1922 – Earth rabbit.
Malcolm X (activist), b. 19 May 1925 – Water rabbit.
Bill Haley (musician), b. 6 July 1925 – Metal rabbit.
B. B. King (musician), b. 16 Sept 1925 – Water rabbit.
Robert Fogel (economist, Nobel laureate), b. 1 July 1926 – Metal rabbit.
Miles Davis (jazz musician), b. 26 May 1926 – Wood rabbit.
Princess Margaret (of the U.K.), b. 21 Aug 1930 – Water rabbit.
Allan Bloom (academic, The Closing of the American Mind), b. 14 Sept 1930 – Fire rabbit.
Nagisa Oshima (director, In the Realm of the Senses), b. 31 Mar 1932 – Metal rabbit.
Corazon Aquino (11th President of the Philippines), b. 25 Jan 1933 – Metal rabbit.
Jayne Mansfield (actress, The Girl Can’t Help It), b. 19 Apr 1933 – Wood rabbit.
Karl Lagerfeld (fashion designer), 10 Sept 1933 – Earth rabbit.
Frederic Jameson (academic, Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism), 14 Apr 1934 – Wood rabbit.
King Harald V (of Norway), b. 21 Feb 1937 – Earth rabbit.
Jack Nicholson (actor, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), b. 22 Apr 1937 – Earth rabbit.
Dustin Hoffman (actor, Tootsie), b. 8 Aug 1937 – Fire rabbit.
Joyce Carol Oates (writer, them), b. 16 Feb 1938 – Earth rabbit.
Ted Turner (media mogul), b. 19 Nov 1938 – Wood rabbit.
Tina Turner (singer), b. 26 Nov 1939 – Fire rabbit.
Michael Stuart Brown (geneticist, Nobel laureate), b. 13 Apr 1941 – Metal rabbit.
Nora Ephron (screenwriter and director, Sleepless in Seattle), b. 19 May 1941 – Fire rabbit
Julia Kristeva (academic), b. 24 June 1941 – Water rabbit.
Paul Anka (singer), b. 30 July 1941 – Earth rabbit.
Harrison Ford (actor, Indiana Jones series), b. 13 Jul 1942 – Fire rabbit.
Diane Keaton (actress, Annie Hall), b. 5 Jan 1946 – Earth rabbit.
Stephen King (writer, Pet Semetary), b. 21 Sep 1947 – Water rabbit.
Al Gore (45th Vice President of the US), b. 31 Mar 1948 – Wood rabbit.
Clarence Thomas (US Supreme Court Justice), b. 23 June 1948 – Earth rabbit.
Prince Charles (of the U.K.), b. 14 Nov 1948 – Water rabbit.
Peter Suskind (writer, Perfume), b. 26 Mar 1949 – Wood rabbit.
Jamaica Kincaid (writer, Lucy), b. 25 May 1949 – Wood rabbit.
Chris Van Allsburg (writer and illustrator, Jumanji), b. 18 June 1949 – Earth rabbit.
Michael Richards (comedian and actor, Seinfeld), b. 24 July 1949 – Wood rabbit.
Peirce Brosnan (actor, GoldenEye), b. 16 May 1953 – Fire rabbit.
Benazir Bhutto (two-time Prime Minister of Pakistan), b. 21 June 1953 – Water rabbit.
Jerry Seinfeld (actor and comedian, Seinfeld), b. 29 Apr 1954 – Wood rabbit.
Steig Larsson (writer, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), b. 15 Aug 1954 – Earth rabbit.
Annie Lennox (singer and musician), b. 25 Dec 1954 – Wood rabbit.
Rowan Atkinson (actor and comedian, Mr. Bean), b. 6 Jan 1955 – Fire rabbit.
Kevin Costner (actor, Dances with Wolves), b. 18 Jan 1955 – Earth rabbit.
Bruce Willis (actor, Die Hard series), b. 19 Mar 1955 – Earth rabbit.
Chow Yun Fat (actor, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), b. 18 May 1955 – Earth rabbit.
Spike Lee (director, Do the Right Thing), b. 20 Mar 1957 – Metal rabbit.
Ray Romano (actor and comedian, Everybody Loves Raymond), b. 21 Dec 1957 – Fire rabbit.
Ellen Degeneres (actress and comedienne, Ellen), b. 26 Jan 1958 – Water rabbit.
Prince (singer, musician), b. 7 June 1958 – Wood rabbit.
Jim Carrey (actor, The Mask), b. 17 Jan 1962 – Wood rabbit.
Steve Irwin (zoologist and TV personality), b. 22 Feb 1962 – Metal rabbit.
Fandi Ahmad (Singapore football legend), b. 29 May 1962 – Fire rabbit.
Stephen Chow (actor, Shaolin Soccer), b. 22 June 1962 – Metal rabbit.
Anthony Kiedis (singer and musician, frontman of Red Hot Chili Peppers), b. 1 Nov 1962 – Water rabbit.
Bret Easton Ellis (writer, American Psycho), b. 7 Mar 1964 – Wood rabbit.
Wynonna Judd (singer), b. 30 May 1964 – Earth rabbit.
Guillermo del Toro (director, Pan’s Labyrinth), b. 9 Oct 1964 – Metal rabbit.
Teri Hatcher (actress, Desperate Housewives), b. 8 Dec 1964 – Metal rabbit.
Bjork (singer and musician), b. 21 Nov 1965 – Earth rabbit.
Zoe Tay (Singapore actress), b. 10 Jan 1968 – Earth rabbit.
Alexander McQueen (fashion designer), b. 17 Mar 1969 – Metal rabbit.
Faye Wong (singer and musician), b. 8 Aug 1969 – Wood rabbit.
Catherine Zeta-Jones (actress, Chicago), b. 25 Sept 1969 – Water rabbit.
Daniel Handler (writer, a.k.a Lemony Snicket), b. 28 Feb 1970 – Earth rabbit.
Dave Eggers (writer, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius), b. 12 Mar 1970 – Metal rabbit.
Lara Flynn Boyle (actress, The Practice), b. 24 Mar 1970 – Water rabbit.
Andre Agassi (tennis player, former world champion), b. 29 Apr 1970 – Earth rabbit.
Uma Thurman (actress, Pulp Fiction), b. 29 Apr 1970 – Earth rabbit.
Ewan McGregor (actor, Moulin Rouge), b. 31 Mar 1971 – Wood rabbit.
Portia de Rossi (actress, Ally McBeal), b. 31 Jan 1973 – Fire rabbit.
January Jones (actress, Mad Men), b. 5 Jan 1978 – Fire rabbit.
Laura Prepon (actress, That ‘70s Show), b. 7 Mar 1980 – Earth rabbit.
Alicia Keys (singer, musician), b. 25 Jan 1981 – Water rabbit.
Hayden Christensen (actor, Stars Wars Episode II and III), b. 19 Apr 1981 – Fire rabbit.
THE NASTY BUNNY WALL OF SHAME (oh, booo.)
Ed Gein, b. 27 Aug 1906 (Water rabbit). American serial killer; the character of Buffalo Bill (Jame Gumb) in The Silence of the Lambs was based on Gein.
Pol Pot, b. 19 May 1925 (Water rabbit). Khmer Rouge leader and mass murderer.
Bernard Madoff, b. 29 Apr 1938 (Metal rabbit). Financial crook, public enemy numero uno of the late 2000s.
Muammar Muhammad al-Gaddafi, b. 7 June 1942 (Metal rabbit). Libyan leader and dictator.
Gary Ridgway, b. 18 Feb 1949 (Earth rabbit). The so-called Green River Killer. Responsible for the murders of at least 70 women in Washington state.
Bill O’Reilly, b. 10 Sept 1949 (Water rabbit). Big bully, and all-round imbecile. (At least you give folks like Cheney credit for political efficacy and some measure of intellgence/cunning. O’Reilly’s just … annoyingly loud. Like the Westboro Baptist folks. <shudder>)
Tsutomu Miyazaki, b. 21 Aug 1962 (Metal rabbit). Japanese serial killer. Murdered four young girls and mutilated their corpses, partially consuming them and drinking the blood of one.