Ann Hamilton’s “Fly Together,” part of the Creative Time-led project, Pledge of Allegiance. // Source: creativetime.org // Photo: Guillaume Ziccarelli

On June 14 (Flag Day), Creative Time launched Pledge of Allegiance, a new project commissioning 16 artists to create flags fly simultaneously at 12 art institutions around the country.

I love the project—there are flags, new artists’ commissions, opportunities for artists to make topical political statements, opportunities for art organizations to self-organize and take risks.

Caveat: NYC’s public art programs can host some of the most exciting and ambitious art here, but it’d be nice to see them take more risks with emerging, non-blue-chip artists, especially with new and auxiliary programming.

Sights

See: Pledges of Alligiance

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Impressions

Ecstatic Alphabet/Heap of Langauge and Tom Sachs

I am really blessed to live in NYC, as well as have days like today, when I can sample from some of its bounty.

Just as I was finishing up work early, a friend emailed to remind me about Ecstatic Alphabets/Heaps of Langauge at MoMA, a survey of text-based art. A very well-edited selection of 20th c. works on paper and printed works are on view, followed by a larger gallery with bigger projects by contemporary artists.

Among the first half-dozen works viewers will encounter are:

I was hooked. My favorite discoveries in the modern section were:

Marcel Broodthaers. Un Coup de dés jamais n'abolira le hasard. 1969. // Source: moma.org.

Marcel Broodthaers. Un Coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard. 1969. // Source: moma.org.

Marcel Broodthaers‘ version of Stéphane Mallarmé’s “Un Coupe de Dés…” Simple redaction rectangles on translucent vellum. Hints of what will come, and what has past, is visible. The book is time, and the open spread the present moment. It’s such a simple idea, but so well executed, that its elegance is quite profound. Being moved by simple gestures is always welcome.

Carl Andre‘s now now (1967). I have mixed feelings about Andre, but the textual/typographic gesture was so simple, yet so evocative of objects in space, that I really had a durational experience, to my surprise. (See it on page 2 of this exhibition PDF.)

There were many more works I enjoyed by Henri Chopin and Christopher Knowles. Of course, it’s really amazing and cool that Robert Smithson‘s Heap of Language is on view.

The contemporary gallery provided a nice opportunity to see Shannon Ebner‘s large photos of landscape interventions, as well as Tauba Auerbach‘s paintings.

Tauba Auerbach, RGB Colorspace Atlas (Volume 1), 2011, Digital offset printing on mohawk superfine paper, 3200 pages, linen, binder's board, acrylic paint Measurements for closed book Binding: Daniel E. Kelm and Leah H. Purcell at the Wide Awake Garage in Easthampton, USA Edition of 3 / SOTA/S 2011-036/1. // Source: StandardOslo.no.

Tauba Auerbach, RGB Colorspace Atlas (Volume 1), 2011, Digital offset printing on mohawk superfine paper, 3200 pages, linen, binder’s board, acrylic paint Measurements for closed book Binding: Daniel E. Kelm and Leah H. Purcell at the Wide Awake Garage in Easthampton, USA Edition of 3 / SOTA/S 2011-036/1. // Source: StandardOslo.no.

Tauba Auerbach, RGB Colorspace Atlas. (2011). // Source: Rhizome.org.

Tauba Auerbach, RGB Colorspace Atlas. (2011). // Source: Rhizome.org.

Most of all, Auerbach’s recent RGB Colorspace Atlas series was ingenious and visually lush. They’re books—blank, hardbound, filled with pages so that it forms a perfect cube. Then, it’s airbrushed to create an RGB colorspace. Six examples are on view—three closed, three open—and they’re breathtakingly beautiful.

Paul Elliman. My Typographies (2). 1994 Paul Elliman (British, b. 1961). My Typographies (2). 1994. Photogram, 11 x 14" (27.9 x 35.6 cm) Courtesy the artist. © Paul Elliman. // Source: moma.org.

Paul Elliman. My Typographies (2). 1994 Paul Elliman (British, b. 1961). My Typographies (2). 1994. Photogram, 11 x 14″ (27.9 x 35.6 cm) Courtesy the artist. © Paul Elliman. // Source: moma.org.

I also appreciated getting to know the work of Paul Elliman (British, b. 1961), whose Found Fount series is a series of typologies of odds and ends. (Fount/Foundry/Font, get it?) The objects are on view, but the photograms are also very enjoyable.

A few weeks ago, I decided to switch directions in the studio and give text-based art a rest to see what would happen to my work. I was afraid that working with text might be too easy or formulaic, and result in art that is too quick a read. Ecstatic Alphabets/Heap of Language reminded me of the joy of elegant solutions—textual or not—and my love of the printed page.

The crowds were in full force for Free Fridays at MoMA, rewarding persistence and patience. About a mile uptown, I visited Tom Sachs’ Space Program: Mars, organized by Park Avenue Armory and Creative Time.

Tom Sachs. Creative Time/Park Avenue Armory. Source: CreativeTime.org.

Tom Sachs. Creative Time/Park Avenue Armory. Source: CreativeTime.org.

Tom Sach's Space Program: Mars. Source: Park Avenue Armory newsletter.

Tom Sach’s Space Program: Mars. Source: Park Avenue Armory newsletter.

It was my first visit to the Armory. I knew that art and antique fairs are held there, so I understood that it is a huge space. Still, nothing quite prepared me for turning the corner of the sole freestanding wall in the Armory, and seeing the expanse of space populated by precisely-lit installations/stage sets as well as various artist-made (or artist’s studio-made) space vehicles.

The show was unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and I found myself at a loss for words. I don’t want to ruin the experience for anyone, so I’ll leave you with the fragment M shared with me: “It’s so earnest.” The exhibition continues through June 17. I recommend attending a public program, such as the Demonstrations. And allow lots of time.

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Sights

See: Light and Landscape and Tom Sachs

These look like they’ll be great show, well worth the hike upstate and uptown.

May 12–November 11, 2012
Light and Landscape
Storm King Art Center
Old Pleasant Hill Road‬, Mountainville, NY 12553‬

Storm king presents contemporary art that explores creative and conceptual possibilities of natural light.

Storm King Art Center presents a special exhibition devoted to contemporary art in which natural light is both a primary medium and a conceptual focus. Light and Landscape, organized by Associate Curator Nora Lawrence, encompasses 25 works by 14 artists who use a variety of strategies to engage with light as a central component of their art. Encompassing sculpture, installation, works on paper, and video, the works encourage viewers to contemplate not only their natural surroundings and the effects of sunlight, but also the vast impact of light on our daily lives and ecosystem.

Artists represented in the exhibition are Matthew Buckingham, Peter Coffin, Olafur Eliasson, Spencer Finch, Katie Holten, Roni Horn, Donald Judd, Anish Kapoor, William Lamson, Anthony McCall, Katie Paterson, Tobias Putrih, Alyson Shotz, and Diana Thater. Their work will be installed across Storm King’s 500 acres of hills, fields, and woodlands—interspersed with the Art Center’s permanent collection—and in the Museum Building.

May 16–June 17, 2012
Tom Sachs: SPACE PROGRAM: MARS
Park Avenue Armory
643 Park Avenue, between 66th and 67th Streets, New York, NY 10065

From May 16 through June 17, Park Avenue Armory and Creative Time join forces with artist Tom Sachs to launch SPACE PROGRAM: MARS, a four-week mission to the Red Planet that explores the universe as a path to discovering ourselves. This interactive installation recasts Park Avenue Armory’s 55,000-square-foot drill hall as an immersive space odyssey featuring dynamic and meticulously crafted sculptures, including elaborate spacecraft, Mission Control, a launch platform, a Mars landscape, and much more. SPACE PROGRAM: MARS will be manned by Sachs and his studio team of thirteen, who will perform the myriad procedures, rituals, and tasks of their mission at the Armory.

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Research

Rochelle Steiner Lecture at CCA

Rochelle Steiner, Director of the New York-based Public Art Fund, gave a lecture tonight at CCA. The Public Art Fund is a non-profit organization that commissions new, temporary works of public art by contemporary artists. You have heard of Olafur Eliasson’s Waterfalls project, perchance? That was them.

I came away really impressed with the Public Art Fund’s work. The organization thinks of itself as a museum without walls, so their public works rotate after six months. Developing a new work could take years, so their commitment to keeping the art temporary is admirable.

Steiner showed Public Art Fund projects by big-name artists—Alex Katz, Mark di Suvero, Juan Munoz, Jenny Holzer, Anish Kapoor (whose Sky Mirror in Rockafeller Center might be one of the most brilliant public interventions I’ve seen), Chris Burden—so I was familiar with all of the artists. I must have been looking for art that seemed incongruous with the artists’ oeuvres, because I was a little surprised that it all looked like contemporary art. I guess I was expecting some public art works to have more of a “community art” feel. More modest, pictorial, “easier.” But it didn’t. And I think that’s wonderful. The work is top-notch, the kind of thing that audiences would flock to at the Venice Biennale. Of course, it was public art for New York, free for anybody walking by to take a gander at, and made in collaboration with city agencies or corporations, yet I didn’t see any signs of compromise, of the urge to dumb down the art for general audiences, or to simplify elaborate installations.

Lest you think that the Public Art Fund is all highfalutin’, they also do educational outreach. In the Waterfalls project, they developed, printed and distributed a curriculum to NYC classrooms, and developed boat and bicycle tours. Steiner also listed the huge economic benefit to the city. Of the Waterfalls’ $15.5 million budget, the City gave a $2m grant; but the economic impact in tourism, boat trips, etc., centered around Lower Manhattan, is estimated to be around $60m. (Not that I think art’s aesthetic payoff isn’t enough.)

I left the lecture with one small regret—there are no equivalents in the Bay Area, no nimble public arts non-profits free from the problematizing consensus-building that dominates civic agencies.


Ann Pasternak, Director of Creative Time, is talking at UC Berkeley’s Kroeber Hall on Nov. 24. Don’t miss it.

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