Impressions

nyc art itinerary: Museum of the City of New York

It’s been over a month since I wrote a list of NYC art places I aim to visit in 2013. Today I ticked off my first of seven sites when I visited the Museum of the City of New York for the Designing Tomorrow exhibition on the 1939 World’s Fair.

The exhibition was a good overview for the World’s Fairs in the 1930s, spanning San Francisco, San Diego, Cleveland, Chicago, and of course, Queens. I came away with some interesting info:

  • Robert Moses’ initiative to convert the area that is now Flushing-Corona Meadows Park from marsh and dumping ground into a World’s Fair site and park was the largest reclamation project ever undertaken.
  •  The Panorama, now housed at the Queens Museum of Art, is over 9,000 square feet, and is the result of the labor of 100 people working for three years.
  • ConEdison commissioned a diorama that showed the lights of NYC going on and off in a 12-minute cycle. It was three stories high and a block long.

But, overall, I was a little let down. The artifacts seemed outnumbered by tiled photos and didactic texts. I missed the awe,  excitement, and interactivity that all these inert things were trying so hard to convey. Further, many photos were reproduced, either as part of the signage, or in digital slideshows. For example, rare color photos were projected on a standard-definition projector in a too-bright hallway, while photos of illuminated pavilions were shown on a monitor with annoyingly long crossfade transitions. While the graphic designers made chronologically consistent typographic choices, the photos were presented in 21st century means, and the precision and luminosity of the original prints or slides were lost. The exhibition also seemed soft on social history; I would have loved to hear more about how Depression-era audiences, NYC’s disparate communities or the US’ progressive movement engaged the Fairs.

The main things I enjoyed were:

1. Loads of examples of lovely typography—off-set printed on brochures, as well as hand-painted in proposal drawings.

2. Some of the original proposal drawings were truly stunning. This one, in particular, is fantastic in real life:

Micromegas proprosal drawing by Frank Paul.
Micromegas proprosal drawing by Frank Paul.
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Impressions

Armory Art Fair fly-by

I visited the Armory Art Fair yesterday, thanks to the largesse of HWT (general admission, $30). I was glad I went—I saw some work I liked, some materials that might be useful to know about, and got to see what galleries are participating. Of Bay Area galleries, Wendi Norris moved from the Modern pier to the Contemporary pier; Silverman Gallery had a nice booth with staff smartly suited and booted; Haines had nearly the same location and similar works as last year. I liked the conceptually-oriented galleries Ingleby, Sies & Höke, Max Wigram and Tanya Leighton (European, no suprise). I also noticed that there were quite a few works related to flags; whether this is a trend or a result of finding what I’m seeking is hard to say.

In no particular order, some hasty snapshots of artworks that caught my eye.

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Impressions, Sights

NYC Art Itinerary

"Migration Patterns" map by an anonymous contributor, sent to Becky Cooper, and printed in "Manhattan of the Mind" by Zachary Sniderman, New York Times Magazine, Feb. 17, 2013.

“Migration Patterns” map by an anonymous contributor, sent to Becky Cooper, and printed in “Manhattan of the Mind” by Zachary Sniderman, New York Times Magazine, Feb. 17, 2013.

When MA visited NYC last week, he filled each day with an ambitious art itinerary. It reminded me that I used to try to make the most of of my trips to New York. But since moving here, I’ve become lazy, and too borough- and subway-line-centric. I’ll take MA’s inspiring lead and resolve to get out into my own city more often. Here’s a list of places that I would like to visit, but have not yet been—and which I hope to see in 2013.

It’s better to set goals along with strategies, so I’ll include personal notes to make getting there easier.

The Morgan Library
225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street 
A short walk from one of my favorite places to eat, Koreatown. Also, not far from Grand Central Station where Nick Cave’s horses will be on view March 25–31 as part of its centennial celebrations.

The Cloisters
99 Margaret Corbin Drive, Fort Tryon Park
A bit out of the way, in a northernmost part of Manhattan—yet by bicycle, it turns out to be just 10 miles from my house.

Wave Hill
West 249th Street and Independence Avenue, Bronx
This is even further out of the way in the western edge of the Bronx, but I could make a longer bike and art day out of it, as it’s only 5.2 miles north of The Cloisters. Thirty miles round trip is nothing for serious riders; I am not a serious rider, but maybe I’ll start to up my mileage come spring.

1939 World Fair collectibles, collection of Kyle Supley, on Designing Tomorrow's Tumblr.

1939 World Fair collectibles, collection of Kyle Supley, on Designing Tomorrow’s Tumblr.

Museum of the City of New York
1220 Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street

This was not high on my list of places to visit, but it turns out that they’ve got a current exhibition on the 1930s World Fairs called Designing Tomorrow. World fairs are generally fascinating to me, but I am especially keen to learn more about the 1930s fairs in Queens (Didn’t I mention I’ve become borough-centric?) for their spectacle, futurism, modern design, typography, as well as the numerous bits and bobs of memorabilia.

 
e-flux

311 East Broadway
Who knows why East Broadway runs at an angle to, and detached from, Broadway. But I know where e-flux is, having made a pilgrimage to its neighboring dumpling restaurant. Now I just need to combine my dumpling craving with astute contemporary discourse.

Museum of the Moving Image
36-01 35th Avenue at 37th Street, Astoria, Queens
My own borough; I hang my head to admit that I’ve been to the multiplex around the corner.

 
Brooklyn Botanical Garden

150 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn

Not art; visual nonetheless. In Prospect Park next to the Brooklyn Museum. Another nice bike adventure come warmer weather and new blooms.

  • Visited May 17. Huge, lovely, and well worth a visit.

 

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Impressions

303 Gallery – Doug Aitken – 100 YRS

Doug Aitken, still from 100 Years gallery walk-through, 303 Gallery, NYC.

Doug Aitken, still from 100 Years gallery walk-through, 303 Gallery, NYC.


Doug Aitken usually makes big videos, but his current show at 303 Gallery in Chelsea looks full of installations including large sculptural text works. I’m excited to see it in person. Have a look at the really nicely produced video:
 303 Gallery – Doug Aitken – 100 YRS.

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Impressions

Chelsea Gallery Jaunt

It started late and ended early—Chelsea’s lack of eateries and bathrooms, why dost thou forsake me?—so here are only a few picks and reports:

Dan McCarthy, Poly Styrene, 2012, 56 x 44 inches, acrylic on canvas // source: Tumblr.

Dan McCarthy, Poly Styrene, 2012, 56 x 44 inches, acrylic on canvas // source: Tumblr.

Dan McCarthy’s text paintings
Shoot the Lobster inside Martos Gallery on 28th Street

Absurd texts like “DEPECH MODE” (sic) are painted with a round brush in large, cartoonish scripts. However, the paintings are smooth, matte, and flat. Like weather-worn signage, the image seems ground down to the gesso underneath—they are mostly white, with the color appearing as artifacts of brushstrokes. Perhaps the artist achieved the effect with the use of resist, sanding or both. Yet the work feels fresh, and not overworked or precious. The way the text is off just a bit, and the surprise that such a flat surface can be tactile and appealing, made for an interesting experience for me.

Song Dong’s Doing Nothing Book pages
Pace Gallery, 25th Street

Dong wrote a text  about doing nothing, yet having to do it, then sent it to translation services. He then presented their translations (and mis-translations), often on their company letterhead, in the exhibition. The results where sometimes practical, sometimes attempting philosophical tones, and mostly far-off.

Odd iceberg-like sculptures out of drywall (with electrical outlets) or tiled walls (with showerheads) and window frames nearby were interestingly strange forms.

Dieter Roth. Björn Roth
Hauser & Wirth, 18th Street

Hauser & Wirth’s much hyped, new space was massive and spectacular, but the work was almost* all not my taste. The disparate materials and forms seem like so much to pull together, then there’s all the smears, dust, blotches, pours, I guess you could say the ooziness, seems repellant on a visceral level, and then it actually became repellant via the aroma of chocolate. At first, it was heavenly, and I wondered why the workers casting chocolate and sugar sculptures looked so angry. After I re-entered the gallery and the waft hit me anew to the effect of nausea, I understood.

Martin Creed, Work No. 1461, 2013, 2-inch wide adhesive tapes, Overall dimensions variable. Permanent installation on view from 24.01.2013, Hauser & Wirth, 511 West 18th Street, New York NY 10011 // martincreed.com

Martin Creed, Work No. 1461, 2013, 2-inch wide adhesive tapes, Overall dimensions variable. Permanent installation on view from 24.01.2013, Hauser & Wirth, 511 West 18th Street, New York NY 10011 // martincreed.com

Visitors to the gallery are greeted by 'Work No. 1461', by Martin Creed, in the entrance. Photography: Bjarni Grímsson; © Dieter Roth Estate; courtesy Hauser & Wirth

Martin Creed, Work No. 1461, 2013, 2-inch wide adhesive tapes, Overall dimensions variable. Photography: Bjarni Grímsson; © Dieter Roth Estate; courtesy Hauser & Wirth // wallpaper.com

Martin Creed’s entrance installation at Hauser & Wirth

This makes sense now!

*I did love one work: the hallway installation made of vertical stripes of hundreds of different kinds of two-inch tapes, films and fabrics. There was Painter’s tape, duct tape, holographic films, calendared vinyls, retro-reflective materials, caution tapes, hook-and-loop tapes, adhesive foam, novelty tapes like camouflage. The overall effect was colorful, like visual candy. But the materials were quotidian and recognizable. I love that such common materials, used in such a simple gesture, can create such an uncommon, delightful experience. That leap seems like magic to me, and I hope to achieve and explore that in my own work. There was so much to look at and appreciate. For example, the mylar tapes took up the pebbly texture of the wall, resulting in distorted reflections. There was fleecy flannel that I was dying to touch. The inclusion of adhesive foam—a utilitarian and not visual tape—was humorous. And many of the calendared vinyls, retro-reflectives, and holographic films are not typically available in two-inch rolls—they were probably cut painstakingly by hand, or (probably) at much expense on a vinyl plotter. I spent a lot of time looking at the individual stripes as well as the overall whole.

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Impressions, Travelogue

Manchester and London Travelogue: Top Ten

I just returned from the UK, where Chinese Arts Centre invited me to install Irrational Exuberance (Asst. Colors) in their new project space / pop-up shop. I had a fantastic trip, extended, at the last minute, by Hurricane Sandy.

I wish all those affected by the disaster a smooth, quick recovery. Cheers to first responders, volunteers, and everyday workers—like those at JFK who, by simply turning up to work despite hamstrung transportation, allow people like me to come home.

I spent a week installing the show and learning more about the art scene in Manchester. I also visited Liverpool, and spent six days in London. Here are my UK trip highlights.

#1 Being an artist.

Like most artists, the overlap between my practice and income is small, so increasing the amount of time I can be an artist is an ongoing process. That’s why the support of organizations like Chinese Arts Centre is so valuable—it scales up my work and exhibition opportunities. CAC shared their resources, space, talent, and time so that I could create and present my art. For that, I am unspeakably humbled and grateful.

I arrived a week ahead of the opening, and got to work right away prepping the newly remodeled space. I painted the walls and readied the space for Jon, the art technician, to help me mask and paint diagonal stripes. This exhibition design detail is important to me because it relates to a psychological study that found a correlation between upward movement and positive sentiment.

Chinese Arts Centre Curator Ying Kwok and Programme and Engagement Co-ordinator Liz Wewiora making selections.

The stripey blue wall awaits art, as CAC Curator Ying Kwok and Programme and Engagement Co-ordinator Liz Wewiora make the final selections.

Cheers to Jon, Gass, and Lee, whose technical assistance was tremendous, as was their patience with English-American differences in units of measurements, names of tools and materials, etc. (FYI, Americans: If I understand correctly, joint compound, spackle, and filler area all simply known as fillers. Drywall and Sheetrock are gibberish terms to Brits. Ironmongery means hardware. Paint isn’t latex, but emulsion.)

Vinyl posters in progress.

Vinyl Posters in progress.

I also made new site-specific works—two Vinyl Posters using ribbon, thread, transparent vinyl and acrylic. They’re inspired by supermarket’s oversized sale posters, which were ubiquitous in my childhood but seem less common today.

Vinyl Poster #1 & 2, 2012, vinyl, acrylic, ribbon, thread, 36 x 45 inches each.

Vinyl Poster #1 & 2, 2012, vinyl, acrylic, ribbon, thread, 36 x 45 inches each. View from the Thomas Street windows.

None of this would be possible without the vision of curator Ying Kwok, and the support of all of the staff. I’m especially grateful to the staff and volunteers for the lovely preview they hosted; I’m so honored to have been a part of it.

Opening reception of Irrational Exuberance (Asst. Colors) at Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester, UK on October 25, 2012.

Opening reception of Irrational Exuberance (Asst. Colors) at Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester, UK on October 25, 2012.

The exhibition continues through February 16, 2013. More info at CAC’s exhibition page.

#2: Transparent democracy and the merging of art and life in Manchester.

Mike Chavez-Dawson is an artist and curator, an impresario of the contemporary art scene in Manchester, among many other things. He told me about the idea of ‘transparent democracy’ and how it shapes his practices. His art and curatorial work are integrated into his life and vice versa, and woven into the fabric of Manchester, too. For example, in addition to curating a show of propositional work by David Shrigley at Cornerhouse (through Jan. 6), he worked with Shrigley to create Shrigley’s Anti-Psychotic Brain Bread at Bakerie (with beets and ginko).

David Shrigley's Anti-Psychotic Brain Bread at Bakerie, Northern Quarter, Manchester.

David Shrigley’s Anti-Psychotic Brain Bread at Bakerie, Northern Quarter, Manchester.

MCD’s the inaugural curator-in-residence at a cool new project space called Lionel Dobie. More on transparent democracy will be forthcoming in the form of MCD’s PhD and, surely, future exhibitions.

Drawing in the Sketch-O-Mat. Sitters drop a suggested donation of £1 for a 5-minute portrait.

Drawing in the Sketch-O-Mat at Cornerhouse. Sitters drop a suggested donation of £1 for a 5-minute portrait.

MCD also let me trade off drawing with him during his Sketch-O-Matic session. The Sketch-O-Matic is like a photo booth, except an artist sits inside and makes a drawing of your likeness. It’s a brilliant idea, and I’d love to see it franchised in other places. Situated at Cornerhouse, which is really an intersection of food, drink, art, and film, the booth attracted a really wide audience. I had a lot of fun doing a public project that still allowed the privacy of a tiny studio.

My Sketch-O-Matic drawing of Mike Chavez-Dawson.

My Sketch-O-Matic drawing of Mike Chavez-Dawson.

Mike Chavez-Dawson's Sketch-O-Matic drawing of me. It's with a digital collage of Noel Gallagher's face.

Mike Chavez-Dawson’s Sketch-O-Matic drawing of me. It’s with a digital collage of Noel Gallagher’s face.

(Plus, MCD invited David Byrne, who was in Manchester, to my preview. I’m a conceptualist, so the fact that the idea of my art has been thought, even for a millisecond, in that genius mind, is kind of an honor.)

#3 The Hospitality and Kindness of New Acquaintances and Old Friends

Huge thanks to Kate and Paul, muay thai buddy Mai and Danielle, and my Airbnb hosts. I’m so thankful for their hospitality in the days while I scrambled to re-schedule my flight home to NYC following Sandy.

Best sofa-surf ever: a view of the full moon from MW's sunroom.

Best sofa-surf ever: a view of the full moon (echoed by double glazing) from MW’s sunroom.

#4 The excellent curation of photography on in London right now.

Out of Focus: Photography 
Saatchi Gallery
Partially on through Nov. 4

Maybe one of the best shows of photography I’ve seen ever. Saatchi’s perfect galleries help. But also the amount of space given over to individual artist’s projects, so that viewers get thorough looks at significant bodies of work, is really key.

Katy Grannan, Anonymous, Los Angeles, 2008, 2010, Archival pigment print on cotton rag paper mounted to plexiglass, 39 × 29 inches (99 × 74 cm) // Source: Salon94.com.

Katy Grannan, Anonymous, Los Angeles, 2008, 2010, Archival pigment print on cotton rag paper mounted to plexiglass, 39 × 29 inches (99 × 74 cm) // Source: Salon94.com.

Katy Grannan‘s portraits of people in Los Angeles and San Francisco are stunning for the character of the individuals, who express aspirations of glamour and rude realities simultaneously. Shot in unforgiving sunlight, printed large, and hung on a very low centerline, every wrinkle and scar is on display. After my initial disgust wore off (if there were two empty seats on a bus, and one of them was next to one of these characters, you might opt for the other seat), I got a sense of Grannan’s sense of  humanity for her subjects. It was a nice turn.

David Benjamin Sherry, Holy Holy Holy, 2009, traditional color print, 40 × 30 inches (102 × 76 cm) // Source: Salon94.com.

David Benjamin Sherry, Holy Holy Holy, 2009, traditional color print, 40 × 30 inches (102 × 76 cm) // Source: Salon94.com.

David Benjamin Sherry‘s lovely landscapes in color tints are majestic and somehow right, despite the unearthly color shifts.

John Stezaker, Seat (Film Portrait Collage) III 2008 Collage 10.31 x 8.46 inches // Source: Petzel.com.

John Stezaker, Seat (Film Portrait Collage) III 2008 Collage 10.31 x 8.46 inches // Source: Petzel.com.

John Stezaker‘s collages of b/w head shots are compelling. They work, but it’s not clear why. We see two faces, then one, then two again. Other collages place non-portraits within portraits, yet the brain still seeks out facial features in the patterns. Even with dozens of photos on display, the ingeniousness doesn’t wear out.

Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin‘s reprints of archived material demonstrates a keen eye, penchant for acts of omission, and attraction to social violence.

Unfortunately, the show was only partially on view, as many of the galleries had been changed over for Karl Lagerfield’s The Little Black Jacket photo show. As KD said, with the oversized portraits of models and celebrities printed with a visible halftone pattern, “It’s basically like being inside a fashion magazine.” Another room, featuring huge multi-color prints on perspex, was blatantly Warholian. Yawn.

Also on at Saatchi, Prix Pictet’s exhibition, Power (ended October 28), featured works from twelve photographers, with some very strong selections.

Seduced By Art
National Gallery
Through Jan. 20

Ori Gersht, Blow Up #1, 2007, c-print mounted to acrulic 98 x 74 1/2 x 1 3/4 inches // Source: CRGgallery.com

Ori Gersht, Blow Up #1, 2007, c-print mounted to acrulic 98 x 74 1/2 x 1 3/4 inches // Source: CRGgallery.com

Seduced By Art exhibits traditional paintings alongside early and contemporary photographs that they inspired. It’s a beautifully installed exhibition, with tasteful black walls and spot lighting. The didactic texts were thankfully concise. There are a few works by photographers I recognized—Jeff Wall, Nan Goldin, Renee Dijkstra, Sam Taylor Wood—as well as many others new to me—Ori Gersht (awesome image of exploding flowers frozen with liquid nitrogen), and Helen Chadwick among others. I found it an enlightening exhibition whose premise seems obvious (unless you’re a whinging traditionalist), but whose execution is thoughtful.

Short and sweet, An Ode to Hill & Adamson is sure to charm. It’s a sped-up, making-of-a-photo video by Maisie Broadhead and Jack Cole, wherein a model and production crew re-stage a historical photo also on view in Seduced by Art. Watch it on Vimeo.

#5 The potent everydayness of the players of Tino Seghal’s show at Tate Modern.

I walked into the last night of Seghal’s show in the Tate’s Turbine Hall (closed Oct. 28) at just the right moment. There were clusters of people standing around. I stood among them and waited for something to happen. It was late, and already dark when I crossed Millenium Bridge to get here. I started to wonder if the performances had ended for the day.

Then, people started singing, en masse. People who I thought were the public were actually performers, while there where viewers like myself, and then members of the public just chitchatting. Soon the performers broke from their spots, and everyone began to disperse. As people passed me, I searched their faces for indications: Were they actor or viewer? It was a revelation—being in this situation created a change in me. I saw people differently; I saw their potential, and the possibilities for our interactions in a new way.

I observed as the ensemble walked in various formations, chanted statements, and made their way around the massive hall, while the lights went on and off at key junctures. I was attentive, but self-conscious, behaving in a way that says: I’m  respectful of your performance, staying quiet and out of the way. There were only the walls of Turbine Hall, yet I remained behind the psychological fourth wall of the theater. Then, after the ensemble  sang a composition from static positions, one of the activators walked straight up to me and, standing very closely and behaving as though we were very dear friends confiding in each other, she told me the story of her immigration and path towards finding confidence in herself. This was for an audience of one—me. I felt intensely honored to be engaged on this one-to-one level, with this larger exhibition, with this unique stranger who I might never meet again. It seemed to me a great act of generosity.

There was a statement, which I couldn’t quite remember, which seemed to be a central tenant of Seghal’s show, if not his entire purpose: that even in this technological age, the potential for humanity and human relations is great. In my words, it sounds trite, but it was enacted by such a moving, pitch-perfect ensemble that I felt like I was in a different place or time, like I was observing a super-race or our future selves, so unified and purposeful were the actions, despite the various ages and everyday appearances of the actors.

[Note: I did shoot many photos, but I decided not to include them here. These experiences and revelations are so much larger than what the work looks like; I can understand why Seghal doesn’t want his work photographed—it would reduce the gesture too much.]

#6 Painters of colorful texts. Two solo shows in London. 

Mel Bochner: If the Colour Changes
Whitechapel Gallery
Through Dec. 30

Thank goodness for art capitals. I might have to go to London to see such an in-depth survey of a longtime New York conceptualist painter, but it’s a damn fine show and I’m glad someone organized it.

In the ground  floor galleries, Bochner’s concern with the basics—texts, numbers, shapes, color, blocks and grids—is illustrated with experimental works and installations.

In the upper galleries, viewers encounter works that trace refining conceptual and textual interests.

If the Color Changes #4 (1998) features a brilliant text from Wittgenstein’s “Remarks on Color” (1950-1):

One observes in order to see what one would not see if one did not observe.

I love this text—it fuels the patience necessary for looking at art. Also, the form and content jackknife beautifully: Bochner painted this text in offset layers, so that the interactions of color provide countless opportunities for observation.

Meditation on the Theorum of Pythagorus (1974) is a surprise—it’s a series of shards of colored glass arranged on the floor in rectangles and squares, with an empty space for a right triangle.

Mel Bochner, Amazing!, 2011 oil and acrylic on canvas, two panels.  Courtesy Peter Freeman // Source: nga.gov.

Mel Bochner, Amazing!, 2011 oil and acrylic on canvas, two panels. Courtesy Peter Freeman // Source: nga.gov.

Mel Bochner, Oh Well, 2010, oil and acrylic on two canvases, 100 x 75 inches. Courtesy Peter Freeman Inc., New York © Mel Bochner 2011 // Source: http://jumpsuitsandteleporters.com/

Mel Bochner, Oh Well, 2010, oil and acrylic on two canvases, 100 x 75 inches. Courtesy Peter Freeman Inc., New York © Mel Bochner 2011 // Source: http://jumpsuitsandteleporters.com/

Lastly, a gallery filled Bochner’s two signature styles. First, tidy lines of all-caps rounded sans serif texts, including thesaurus entries. I had much more engagement with the paintings than reproductions I’ve seen in the past. I especially resonated with a positive/negative pair, Oh Well and Amazing (both 2010) Second, colorful paintings that display their own dimensions, quite baffilingly, fill Whitechapel’s wall perfectly. I wonder if this conceptual piece is re-made for every institution that shows it? If so, it’s a brilliant, if time- and materials-intensive painting series.

Bob & Roberta Smith: The Art Party USA Comes to the UK
Hales Gallery
Through Nov. 17

Bob and Roberta Smith, The Art Party USA Comes to the UK, exhibition view, 2012, Hales Gallery, London.

Bob and Roberta Smith, The Art Party USA Comes to the UK, exhibition view, 2012, Hales Gallery, London.

Bob and Roberta Smith—a single artist that goes by the moniker of a duo—might be known primarily as a painter of signs, but there is much more (especially in contrast to the the nostalgic craft artifacts exhibited in art galleries by New Bohemian Signs-affiliated sign painters) to it. As this new show demonstrates, Bob and Roberta are even more political and topical now.

Bob and Roberta Smith, The Art Party USA Comes to the UK, detail.

Bob and Roberta Smith, The Art Party USA Comes to the UK, detail.

Join the Art Party appeals directly towards Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, to restore art education in the UK. Bob and Roberta encourages audiences to appeal to Gove as well.

The exhibition exudes cheeriness. The walls are lined with cloth pennants and several paintings. Kooky, folk-arty, figurative sculptures fill the space. Bob and Roberta appear in a sweet, educational-style video outlining the platforms of the Art Party (it’s shot in a small wooden shed capriciously labeled as an institute for contemporary art by the artist). The video is presented on a mobile screen, and viewers are offered brightly colored molded plastic chairs for seating. It evokes a schoolroom, gently nudging adult viewers to recall the art that lined their childhood classroom walls.

Bob and Roberta Smith, The Art Party USA Comes to the UK, 2012, Hales Gallery, London.

Bob and Roberta Smith, The Art Party USA Comes to the UK, 2012, Hales Gallery, London.

Bob and Roberta have a knack for stating truths simply: “All things are made,” he argues in the video in support of art education in UK schools. “Demand that all schools are art schools.”

The aesthetics and forms are endearing, optimistic, and winsome. It would be cloying but for the urgency of the message.

#7 Manchester’s growing contemporary art scene.

When I spent three months in Manchester in 2009, it seemed like a pretty good place to be an artist: cheap studio rent, active alternative and artist-run spaces, and vibrant activity via the universities. I was really inspired by artists’ mutual support.

This visit followed the Manchester Contemporary art fair weekend and coincided with the Free for Arts Festival. I also visited newer spaces Lionel Dobie Project and Malgras|Naudet.

Chris Kenny, Cultural Instructions, 2012, found text, scanned, enlarged, printed, mounted. On display in The First Cut at Manchester Art Gallery.

Chris Kenny, Cultural Instructions, 2012, found text, scanned, enlarged, printed, mounted. On display in The First Cut at Manchester Art Gallery. Through Jan. 27.

I sensed more energy; indeed, momentum. MCD estimated that there are many more practicing artists now. There were three shows at three venues exhibiting the work of recent graduates (Bachelor’s degree students). (I liked the title of one, So Far, So Good.) The question that occurred to me, as more artists work to gain access to more exhibition opportunities, is to what degree with the mutual support continue, or give way to an atmosphere of competition?

Corridor8 is a new publication exposing the art scene in the NW. Issue #3 includes fascinating interviews with local leaders such as Whitworth Art Gallery Director and Manchester Art Gallery Director Dr. Maria Balshaw. Those interviews lend insight on the direction of major institutions.

One thing that seems missing, however, is critical writing on all these shows happening in Manchester. A weekly column in a paper would be too centralized and limited. Something like Art Practical, with a large, distributed base of writers comprised of artists, critics, and curators, with editorial excellence, and a fixed schedule, could do a lot to document the art scene and create more rigorous dialogue. There are plenty of very, very bright minds who can provide artists and venues with a feedback loop. They just need the right platform.

#8 Fallowfield Loop.

A railway line converted into a running and bicycling path through the southern part of Greater Manchester. Cool, damp, green, quiet. A place to run for miles, away from the traffic that baffles this American.

#9 Cheap Eats.

Currency conversion = constant sticker shock. Cheers for healthy, reasonably priced bites: This and That curry in the Northern Quarter. Sainsbury’s bag of pre-washed raw veg: green beans, mange tout (snap peas) and broccoli. Onogiri from Wasabi. Thai Pie (green curry in a English pie) from the Manchester Market in Piccadilly.

#10 Turner, not the one you’d think.

I went to see the Turner Prize show a the Tate Britain, which had great drawings by Paul Noble, who continues his uncanny text/architecture drawings.

But the JMW Turner show had some pleasant surprises for me.

Color and Line: Turner’s Experiments
Tate Britain
Through Spring 2013

These interpretive rooms are educational, accessible, and not overly complicated with digital gee-gaws. In fact, there weren’t any screens. There were static (!) texts, charts and some electrical displays showing the physical properties of light á la the Exploratorium. There was a suite of amazing intaglio prints that examined how Turner’s color was interpreted by printers working in etching, aquatint, and mezzotint. Spend some time with these if you can.

There was a time line which elaborated paint colors with their years of invention, and a map that showed how Turner adjusted his palette for different sites. Finally, there was a series of drawing tables, where viewers can sketch a Turner image and display their drawing. It was a wonderfully low-tech educational exhibit.

Celmins Selects Turner
and
Artist Rooms: Vija Celmins

Joseph Mallord William Turner, The Yellow Sky, circa 1820-30 // Source: http://www.tate.org.uk/

Joseph Mallord William Turner, The Yellow Sky, circa 1820-30 // Source: http://www.tate.org.uk/

There were two additional rooms that showed museological inventiveness: In the first, contemporary realist draughtsman Vija Celmins selected Turner’s sketches and underpaintings. It’s a really lovely, exceedingly elegant set of washes and expressions of light and weather that I think a lot of young artists would relate to today. In the second room are Celmins’ own works, always a treat in their mastery and unthinkable labor. Her drawings of starry skies are unbelievable.

Vija Celmins, Night Sky 3, 2002 // Source: NationalGalleries.org.

Vija Celmins, Night Sky 3, 2002, Aquatint with burnishing and drypoint on paper, 37.20 x 47.10 cm // Source: NationalGalleries.org.

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Impressions

An inspirational art collector

Via Michael Arcega:

Howard Vogel: postal worker by night (shift), art collector by day.
1922-2012

Just read about the amazing life of Howard Vogel (Matt Schudel, “Herbert Vogel, unlikely art collector and benefactor of National Gallery, dies at 89,” Washington Post, July 22, 2012). He and his wife, Dorothy, lived modestly in a NYC apartment and collected amazing works by Chuck Close, Richard Tuttle, Sol Lewitt, and many more.

The obituary characterizes couple as letting their passion for art shape their lives, despite the draw of the riches and luxuries that would have been theirs with a few choice sales from their collection. Instead, they chose to share their collection to the National Gallery of Art, where the couple viewed art decades ago, and where admission fees are never charged.

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