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Sunday, July 31, 2005

You Know It's the Slow Season ...

... when Sarah Boxer gets her editors at the Times to buy this as a piece of cultural criticism.

Well, I guess if the boundaries of the beat are fuzzy, the writing is going to end up that way too. You think she would have learned her lesson by now, though. Those blogging cats may not get out much, but they do have claws.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Light and Light vs. Light and White

The always excellent A Daily Dose of Architecture compares installations of the Dan Flavin retrospective at the Modern in Fort Worth and the MCA in Chicago. The post includes a great image of Flavin's monumental work, untitled (to you, Heiner, with admiration and affection), in Tadao Ando's Texas masterpiece.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Cops Go to The Frick

Yesterday MAN pointed to a piece on a great education program that The Frick is running for the NYPD.

I love to see museum programs that go beyond the usual docent tours and artist talks. While art historical purists might raise issues ("They're using Art to teach cops how to be cops?"), I'm all for this program.

The ability to look deeply is a life skill that's worth having for its own sake--whether it's used for art appreciation, police forensics, or anything else. And art appreciation is a great way to teach the skill. Kudos to The Frick and Amy Herman, the head of education programs there, for designing the program.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

This Week's Beauty Contest

I found out today that someone at Forbes has been reading the site.

I don't post anymore about the print media mentions that From the Floor gets (except for that recent one--my favorite ever--in the Arkansas Times) because it's happening more and more often. Don't get me wrong. I love the attention. It's just that my Midwestern upbringing indoctrinated modesty, and I've never been able to fully work through those issues.

But this one is different because it's not an art magazine acknowledging the competing presence of the blogosphere. This mention is by a general-interest publication (we're all generally interested in money, right?) that is spreading the word to a broader community that a committed group of art bloggers exists.

So if you're a new reader to the art blogosphere, welcome. There's a lot of interesting stuff going on here. You can start by spending some time trolling through my archives. (The "Best of From the Floor" section in the right-hand navigation bar is a good place to start.) But also make sure to visit the other notable art blogs in the "Discussion Fodder" section at the right. Many of them could just as well have been included on the Forbes list.

And, in case you're wondering, regardless of what Forbes says we're not going interactive here anytime soon. Comments are off for a reason. I waste too much damn time on the site as it is. I don't want to have to read, police, and edit comments too. But if you want interactivity, there's an email address at the right. Feel free to use it. I do respond.

Related: some linky love to my fellow best-of bloggers who don't have the same issues with modesty that I have: art.blogging.la, Modern Art Notes, and the Forbes Fave Gallery Hopper.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Elsewhere Today

How about a quick whirl around the net this morning.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

If It Weren’t So Bright Outside

And if I weren’t feeling so hot and lazy this week, I would write something resembling a review of two cool, dimly-lit shows I’ve seen recently: James Turrell at Pace Wildenstein and Young America: The Daguerreotypes of Southworth & Hawes at the International Center of Photography.

On the surface, the two couldn’t be more different. At Pace, Turrell presents two wonderful light projections from 1968, Juke Green and Alta (pink) (at left), and 11 not-so-great recent holograms. Less than a mile to the south and west, ICP has put together a beautifully lit show of daguerreotypes that emerged from the legendary Boston studio well over a century ago.

As different as these shows are, though, it wouldn’t take much to draw out an interesting set of similarities. One that comes immediately to mind: both Turrell and the daguerreotypists used new tools for reflecting light in a way that pushed the technology beyond mere commercial applications.

As evidenced by their legendary portrait of the imperial Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court Lemuel Shaw (at right), in the end it’s the work of Southworth & Hawes that comes across as the more engaging. Their work elevated the daguerreotype more than Turrell’s has elevated the hologram. (Interesting piece of trivia not mentioned in the exhibition: Lemuel Shaw was also Herman Melville’s father-in-law.)

With his moving mountains and all, you have to give Turrell his due, but the holograms are some of his weakest work to date. You would never know that from the show’s price list, though. When I visited the gallery, shortly after the show’s opening, nine of the 11 had either sold or were on hold. With his light transmission holograms being offered at $135,000 and the light reflection holograms at $85,000 (but available on the secondary market for less than half that price), the two much, much better vintage projection pieces come across as relative bargains at $300,000. And both are still available.

My take away (since at those prices I’m not taking away any of Turrell’s pieces): this small show demonstrates that Turrell’s work is much stronger when its driving illusion exists in the viewer’s sense of perception than when it exists in the technology of an object external to the viewer.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The Voice of the Critic on the Street

Or on the roof, as the case may be.

Why is it that it's never the art professionals who feel free enough to be totally honest in voicing an opinion about a well-known artist's work?

How to Shift the Focus

There has been plenty of justified speculation today that the White House rushed its selection of a Supreme Court nominee to shift the media’s attention away from Karl and Scooter’s alleged leaking of confidential information.

This has gotten me wondering about what kind of art world story would need to break during this ultra-quiet summer season (how painfully right number 3 is) to shift the focus away from the MFA’s Malcolm Rogers and his Las Vegas shows. Here’s a list of potential stories that I’ve come up with that could do it: Wait. I guess that last item wouldn’t exactly remove Rogers and the MFA from the spotlight, would it?

Monday, July 18, 2005

What's that Saying about the Pot and the Kettle Again?

Looks like it has become museum management ethics day today here at FtF. I'm not sure if I'm laughing or crying about this.

The Arts Ethicist

This weekend the NY Times decided to do the ethics thing in the Arts section, not just in the Magazine. My take: a completely underwhelming argument. And late (very late) to the discussion. Here's one paragraph from Michael Kimmelman's piece to illustrate:
Cash alters that equation. Last year Boston rented 21 Monets to the Bellagio. Now it is leasing art to the show in London and also to another Bellagio exhibition, "The Impressionist Landscape from Corot to van Gogh," run by PaceWildenstein. Ticket price: $15 (which, if you look on the bright side, is half the fee at Tut). When collections become assets, it's a short step from renting art to selling it. Not casting off a bit of detritus, but deaccessioning multimillion-dollar pictures to capitalize on a red-hot market, as standardbearers are now doing.
Note to Times writers and editors: please review the definition of slippery slope.

And say what you will about the Bellagio deal (I've said what I will), but the MFA's loan show currently at the Royal Academy in London is in a completely different class. There's no argument that can be made about this show being ethically challenged.

If the paper of record is going to take major organizations to task for ethical lapses, it should make sure its arguments are logically sound and its details are correct.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Janet Cardiff, Off with Her Head

Maybe it’s due to the summertime dearth of art world activities, but Janet Cardiff’s work is popping up all over this week. Seeing one of her pieces, though, is no longer at the top my list of things to do this weekend.

Cardiff’s Internet project Eyes of Laura received a tepid review from Sarah Boxer in the NY Times earlier this week. Greg chimed in today with a riff on Cardiff’s work and on Boxer’s piece, mentioning that the 33,000 art world insiders who subscribe to the e-flux mailing list are already in on the site’s secret.

I’ve seen significantly less coverage, though, on what looks to be a truly interesting project—Cardiff and George Bures Miller’s installation Pandemonium (at right) at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. From the e-flux press release for this work (does Cardiff do anything that doesn’t get e-fluxed?):
Cardiff and Miller will present Pandemonium in Cell Block Seven, a massive, cathedral-like, two-story wing completed in 1836. It has never been open to the public, and has been stabilized especially for this exhibition. . . . Using the existing elements in the prison cells Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller have made the entire Cellblock Seven into a giant musical instrument, producing a percussive site work. This instrument, controlled by a computer and midi system, is made up of one hundred and twenty separate beaters hitting disparate objects such as toilet bowls, light fixtures and bedside tables found within the prison cells. The composition begins subtly as if two prisoners are trying to communicate and then moves through an abstract soundscape and lively dance beats until it reaches a riot-like crescendo.
I had made tentative plans to piggyback a visit to ESP onto a trip I was supposed to make to that area on Saturday, but then I saw mention on the website that children under seven are not allowed into the facility. I tried pulling the few short strings that I have, but no luck. They won’t let me in if I have the kid with me. It’s a city of Philadelphia rule, supposedly. Can the government really deny admission to a public facility because of a person’s age? If I want my Cardiff fix I guess I’ll have to remain satisfied with a Cardiff-led walk through Central Park.

It’s probably for the better anyway that I’m not going to ESP because now I come to find out that this Saturday is the day for their annual Bastille Day celebration.
This year’s event will culminate on Saturday, July 16th at 5:30 PM when dozens of French revolutionaries, armed with muskets and cannon, and singing “La Marseilles,” storm the grim walls of “the Bastille” (Eastern State Penitentiary) and drag Marie Antoinette to a real, functioning guillotine, built for the occasion.
I’ve heard that in past years Marie Antoinette has thrown Twinkies to the crowd from her position on the parapet prior to the storming of the walls. Let them eat cake, indeed. No mention is made, though, of whether or not the crowd gets to parade her head around on a pike after she visits the guillotine.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

So THAT'S What They Look Like

What a ragtag bunch [via].

Bronx Museum, Part 2, and a Tangent

I figure that since I went to all the trouble of leaving Manhattan to see a show I need to get at least two posts out of it.

Add the Bronx Museum to the list of art museums that has started its own blog. It will be interesting to see if these institutions are able to balance the spontaneity and irreverence that make good blogs sticky with the need to represent the organization to the public.

On a separate topic, there is a piece included in AIM 25 that I didn't mention in yesterday's post but that I thought I would highlight today--for a purely self-indulgent reason. Esperanza Mayobre's work, y dio a luz (at right), is sort of a conceptual portrait in neon of my kid. (In Spanish-speaking countries, when a woman gives birth people say "Dio a luz" which translates literally as "She gave light.") The cool white neon looks great in the gallery space, and seeing it installed there gave both the real baby and her dad a smile.

And, speaking of irreverent blogs and kids, for the last couple days I've been in stitches over the (four-year-old but new to me) blog Dooce. I guess it's not just in arts-related matters that I'm the last one to find out about the good stuff.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

A Different Sort of Summer Group Show

It’s become a seasonal event—the flocking of dealers and collectors to Columbia and Hunter open studios and MFA exhibitions. With all those birds migrating elsewhere this weekend, anyone staying in the city has the opportunity for a peaceful, quiet viewing of an exceptionally strong group show.

The Bronx Museum isn’t usually thought of as prime hunting ground for emerging talent, but it should be. Its annual Artist in the Marketplace (AIM) exhibition features notable work by a talented group of young artists, most of whom don’t yet have gallery representation.

This year’s exhibition, AIM 25, has no overarching theme, and there’s no curatorial vision imposed on the works included. The show simply presents pieces (ranging from the very strong to the moderately interesting) from this year’s program participants. The show includes work in diverse media—from painting to video to drawing to performance. Some of the most interesting work, though, is sculptural.

Olen Hsu’s installation, Anacoluthon (installation view at right), raises more questions than it answers. Made of paper, latex, and twine, this soft sculpture of withering objects used for making music (a piano, music stands) emits a soft, pleasing algorithmically composed melody that draws viewers into the work’s presence and provides a soundtrack for their exploration of the piece’s surface and forms.

Installed nearby, Tom Kotik’s Brown (Maximum Volume) also uses sound to hook viewers, but in Kotik’s case the sound made by the work is inaudible. The piece—an amplifier connected to an exposed speaker which pulses slowly and regularly—plays a tone so low as to be outside the range of human hearing. Expecting to hear something interesting emerging from this simply presented, out-of-date audio technology, viewers instead are transfixed by the disturbing pulsing of the woofer, becoming mesmerized by the strange soundless motion it makes.

Meridith Pingree’s kinetic sculpture, Worm Decay (at left), also commands interest as it pulses, wiggles, and jerks in response to movement in its environment. Across the gallery, Beth Gilfilen’s quiet and still three-dimensional installation of cut and drawn-upon commercial paint chips sits firmly within the body of work emerging in recent years that will be seen by future art historians as having meaningfully expanded the possibilities for the medium of drawing.

This is not to say that only the sculptural works in the show are of interest. Vlatka Horvat’s four photographs from her Searching series present a young woman—head stuck into a bush, under a car, and in other strange places—obviously searching for something. But what? The ambiguity of the poses and the implied narrative delight. Thessia Machado includes a wonderful two-minute-long soundless digital video that focuses on a woman’s navel. Her belly is covered with small moles which she flicks with her finger. When each is touched it spirals down into the vortex of her belly button and disappears into the folds of skin. Equally as quirky and engaging as Horvat’s photographs, this piece is a small humorous gem.

Rather than turning it into a hodgepodge of recent work, the lack of curator-imposed homogeneity in this show is refreshing. It’s the summer group show that is an antidote to what’s currently on display around Chelsea. If gallerists from that neighborhood would be willing to make the train trip up to the Bronx (note to galleristas: it doesn’t take as long to get there as it does to get to the Hamptons), they'll be sure to find much of interest for their fall and spring seasons.

AIM 25 is on display at the Bronx Museum of the Arts through October 2, 2005.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Sound Advice for Young Artists

The July/August issue of Art on Paper leads with an interesting cover story. A young, anonymous artist working on the publication’s staff wrote letters to several established artists seeking advice on building a career in the art world. The issue reproduces, exactly as submitted, the dozen letters the writer received in response. Some are hand written while others are typed. Some are coherent; others ramble and are painfully indirect.

Gregory Amenoff’s response, the most practical and probably the most sound in the lot, so impressed me that I wanted to share a short summary of his major points. His advice comes one main point per paragraph, and he makes my job easy by printing each of his major suggestions in red caps. For the remainder of Amenoff’s thoughts, and to see the other 11 responses, pick up a copy of the issue on the newsstand.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Summer Doldrums

The lazy, quiet July and August artworld summer days are here (the horrific events in London yesterday, notwithstanding). Blog readership is down, posting fodder is scarce (but, thank goodness, there will always be the Wall Street Journal), and there’s not even that much of interest showing around the city to write about.

Last week I spent an afternoon walking through Chelsea. After seeing group show upon group show my mind began to wander. I began wishing I was at the beach instead.

Holland Cotter doesn’t feel the same way. In today’s Times he has a long piece highlighting this summer’s selections. The piece is so long, in fact, that my mind started to wander while reading it. Maybe it is time for a trip to the beach.

But if I were to head to the shore, I wouldn’t know what book to bring along because this week I have all but polished off every art blogger’s requisite summer read--the new de Kooning biography. Following the narrative of the painter’s life has left me feeling depressed: all the years of poverty, the vagaries of his critical reception, the inability to form and sustain interpersonal relationships, the chronic inability to make decisive decisions, the battle with alcoholism and the continual binges, the slide into dementia. The list could go on. It’s almost enough to make a bourgeois suburban life sound idyllic.

Ouch. I think I do need a vacation. A few days in Chicago, perhaps? Flavin at the MCA, a Cubs game, a day at the beach on Lake Michigan. I ought to look into booking tickets.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Boston [Hearts] Las Vegas

I don’t love Las Vegas. I hate it actually. I find myself having to go every few years for work, and I don’t look forward to the trip anymore. But Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts doesn’t seem to feel the same way.

Tyler Green takes the MFA and its director, Malcolm Rogers, to task in a Boston Globe op-ed piece this week for sending another selection of paintings from its collection to Sin City. While I find myself agreeing with my friend’s opinions most of the time, on this issue I don’t.

Green seems to think that this heralds a new approach to museum management, dangerously shifting the paradigm of what a nonprofit art museum should do. I’m not so sure I agree. As I see it, the MFA has just taken to the next level what every other major museum is already doing—curating traveling exhibitions and partnering with for-profit entities to earn income from its assets. And I’m not convinced that, in theory, that’s necessarily a bad thing.

While most don’t admit it, museums often hope to make a profit from the exhibition fees they charge other institutions for hosting the shows they organize. Additional revenue is generated by the gift shop sales that accompany these shows. The book publishers, post card printers, note card producers, umbrella manufacturers, etc. who create the schwag that gets sold are always for-profit partners who make money by establishing a revenue-sharing arrangement of some sort with the museum.

This model is, essentially, what we have with the latest MFA show in Las Vegas. In this case, though, the for-profit entity has taken a more active role in bringing the traveling exhibition to the public—by providing the exhibition space and managing the show. But that’s nothing new or nefarious either. A couple of the best, most scholarly, single-artist shows I have seen in the last few years have been produced and exhibited by commercial galleries. Rothko at PaceWildenstein and Gorky at Gagosian come immediately to mind. Both these shows included works lent by nonprofit, museum collections. And, I daresay, their inclusion was justified by the quality of and insight provided by the exhibitions.

What Green, and many others, seem to forget is that it take cash (and a whole lot of it) to run an art museum. Just because an institution has nonprofit status doesn’t mean that it can’t or shouldn’t try to make money on certain endeavors. A museum director would be remiss if he or she didn’t maximize revenue-generating opportunities—as long as they are done in a manner that’s consistent with the organization’s mission. As a nonprofit, the organization is responsible for using the profits that it may make to subsidize its mission-driven operations and programs that do not earn enough income to cover their costs. I assume that is what profits from Las Vegas are being used for back home in Boston.

Rogers et al. at the MFA have broken new ground with these Vegas shows. The approach makes certain people uncomfortable and does set a precedent that sits close to the line of what constitutes ethical museum practice. I don’t think that the line has been crossed by these two shows, though. But because the line is being approached it is worth keeping an eye on future partnerships that the MFA develops. I know I’ll be doing that. And I’m sure Tyler will too.

Monday, July 04, 2005

What the ))<>(( ?

Have any idea what ))<>(( means? Don’t bother checking the search engine of your choice. As of today, you won’t get any results if you search for ))<>(( .

Is that because search engines don’t index character sets that don’t have letters, or is it that the spiders haven’t yet found this new Iconoduel post or Miranda July’s delightful new blog documenting the release of her first feature film, Me and You and Everyone We Know?

Well, don’t hold your breath because I’m not going to tell you what ))<>(( means. But I will tell you that it’s well worth your while to go see July’s big screen debut to find out for yourself.

There’s much, much more to the film than just this strange ASCII character set (you know, the ))<>(( I’ve mentioned several times now) to recommend it. The film is so good, evidently, that it brought Iconoduel out of semi-retirement. See that post for more detail, description, and insight on the film than I’ve given here.

See, this post isn’t intended to be a review. It’s actually more of an experiment. Will this entry get indexed by the major search engines and eventually be returned as a search result for ))<>(( ? Exactly how many times do you think I need to use ))<>(( in a post before it gets noticed?

And, speaking of noticing, while you’re watching Me and You see if you can spot the brief appearance in the film of a work that was included in the 2002 Whitney Biennial. Extra credit if you find it.

Update: I have it on good authority that punctuation doesn't get indexed--so no top-of-the-search-results listing for this post.

Friday, July 01, 2005

More Proof that the Cutting Edge Cuts Elsewhere

I've been uncharacteristically negative here over the last week. Let me head into the long holiday weekend by getting a little bit splenetic on myself for a change.

If you read From the Floor for up-to-the-minute news and notes, you’re looking at the wrong site.

Case in point. The other day I walked past the former midtown home of art-loving Deutsche Bank. The building now has the law firm Clifford Chance as its marquee tenant. That’s the same Clifford Chance that was a major sponsor of this year’s Armory Show. It’s also the same Clifford Chance that is building an important collection of works on paper by emerging artists.

Fortunately for us midtown suits, Clifford Chance has kept the building’s small lobby gallery. Currently on view is an exhibition curated by the firm's art consultant, Dinaburg Arts. The show, entitled Woven, features work by ten artists who are either working with textiles or are using what are traditionally considered to be textile methods of production (e.g., weaving, crocheting, etc.) in other media.

What stopped me in my tracks as I walked by the lobby windows was a fantastic, gigantic piece by Lucky DeBellevue. I did a double-take, then a triple-take. I stopped and stared at it through the window. I turned around, walked into the building and looked at it in person. I managed to snap a couple shots of the untitled piece from 2004 before I was told by the lobby attendants that photography was not allowed. (Not that it mattered much as my camera is now telling me I have a memory card error, and the images are not recoverable. So no pictures here, unfortunately.)

I’m not always a fan of DeBellevue’s work, but this piece is stupendous. The contrast in color and texture between the chenille stems and the plastic pearl-like ball, the juxtaposition of forms on the right and left sides—everything about the work feels right.

When I got back to a computer I did a quick Google search to check a few facts before I wrote something on the piece for the blog. And what do I find near the top of my search results as I start reviewing them?

This.

James Wagner saying exactly the same thing as I intend to say about exactly the same piece. But he says it seven months before I do. And he gets his digital camera to work so he has an image to show. (There's another available here, for the time being, at Artnet.)

DeBellevue's piece (Untitled, 2004), and the rest of the show, is on view in the lobby of 31 West 52nd Street through September 7, 2005.

Clarification (update): The lobby gallery of 31 West 52nd is sponsored by the building's management company, not by Clifford Chance. Dinaburg Arts, however, curates for both organizations.

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