Saturday, July 30, 2005

Smithson at the Whitney

Recently seen: Robert Smithson at the Whitney.

Originally organized by Eugenie Tsai for the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, this retrospective will be at the Whitney through October 23. In addition to some of the pieces he created for display in (and critique of) “the white box,” there are several films documenting the creation of his more well known, site-specific, earth art works, like “Spiral Jetty” and a variety of in process drawings, proposals, and instructions on ongoing care. The glimpse these artifacts offer into Smithson’s creative process exposes some of the threads that tie together many of his pieces. This alone makes the show worth seeing. And finally, something more to look forward to, from New York Magazine’s review.
Next September, the Whitney and an organization called Minetta Brook will present one of Smithson’s unrealized proposals, based upon a drawing called “Floating Island to Travel Around Manhattan Island.” A tug will pull what looks like a chunk of Central Park (itself a kind of island) around Manhattan. The idea is whimsical, of course, but also telling. In Smithson’s universe, nothing is solitary, isolated, or fixed. Even the islands move.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Picturing Augusta

Maybe it’s the heat this summer, but I can’t seem to get my mind out of the South. So, further exploring the theme of Southern culture, I’ll share a recent find called City of Dust. This blog showcases photographs and stories primarily of Augusta, Georgia—where I spent most of the hot summers of my childhood. Quoting the author:
Augusta is the second largest city in Georgia, but you wouldn’t know it by driving through downtown. The city center, although attempts at revitalization are underway, is largely vacant, the victim of suburbanization and the desire of most folks to shop in safe, pleasant malls. The city is old, worn-out, run-down, and oft-maligned. But, you know, the town has got soul.
One of my favorite Augusta stories is of the Haunted Pillar (above):
In 1829 a visiting preacher was said to have been mocked and scorned by Augusta’s citizens. He swore a curse on the city, predicting that only one pillar of its market would stand and, as if that wasn’t enough, even the pillar would be cursed. On February 8, 1878 a cyclone destroyed the entirety of the lower market and all that remained was one pillar, which was moved to its present location at Broad and 5th shortly afterwards. That’s almost fifty years after the original curse, so either the preacher was patient or believed that revenge is a dish best served cold. Be that as it may, people that have touched the pillar are reported to have been variously struck by lightning, felled by heartattacks, and killed in car crashes within minutes.
No word on whether City of Dust has seen any ill effects from photographing the pillar, but I don’t mind telling you that I’ve never gotten up the nerve to touch it. Though the author has recently moved away from Augusta, his archives of his time there are well worth diving into, starting with his very first post, here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Self-Taught Artists, the Bible & the American South

As an expatriate of the South, expressions of southern culture have gained a resonance for me, particularly since moving to New York. Sadly, the exhibition “Coming Home! Self-Taught Artists, the Bible and the American South,” opened and closed before I even knew of it. This inaugural exhibition of the Museum of Biblical Art showcased biblical themes in the work of some of the best known southern folk artists like Howard Finster, Sister Gertrude Morgan, Mose Tolliver, and Clementine Hunter, whose “Frenchie Goin’ to Heaven” is pictured here.

For those of us who missed it, there is an exhibition catalog, and WNYC’s Leonard Lopate hosted a discussion of the exhibition on his May 9th radio program. Also worth checking out is this reposting of a May 11th New York Times article complete with conservative Christian commentary.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Contemporary art (on the street)

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming... This panel discussion on street art sounds like a pretty interesting event. Organized by the fine folks at Wooster Collective.
moderated by Marc and Sara Schiller of Wooster Collective

MARTHA COOPER, Hip Hop Files: Photographs, 1979 to 1984 and Subway Art and
MICHAEL DeFEO, Alphabet City: Out on the Streets.

Join us for a vibrant and exciting exchange of ideas of how street art, has grown from and contributed to our city.

Reinventing Martha

I rarely discuss work-related issues here, but Grant’s latest post on Martha Stewart piqued my interest and reminded me of a comment that Rebecca made recently when an ad for Martha Stewart’s new show aired. She observed that Martha was capitalizing on her prison experience by reinventing her brand from “Martha Stewart the aspirational (but unattainable) goal” to “Martha the imperfect (and therefore eminently more approachable) woman.”

This is the most apparent in the advertisements for her new show “Martha,” showing a bungling but lovable character who is more friend than icon. From the show description:
With an unscripted and unedited format, there are bound to be some surprises. So, what happens when Martha's carefully laid-out plans go awry?
My favorite bit from the promo—dropping a glass sculpture while working with artist Dale Chihuly. Staged? Who knows, but for me, the transformation isn’t yet ringing true.

This AP article from March lays out the that Martha Stewart empire is attempting.
“Her prison experience can be used as a new and powerful brand asset,” said John Barker, president of DZP Marketing Communications, based in New York. “What prison has done is to make her more fallible. There is this opportunity to make Martha more approachable, more empathetic.”

C. Britt Beemer, chairman of America’s Research Group, based in Charleston, S.C., agreed. “America is going to find out that they are going to see a new Martha that is more humble, more caring and more understanding of the American female,” Beemer said. “I would say it is a very clever transformation of a business icon into a real person with feelings.”
It’s a good strategy, but as Grant opines, her Vanity Fair interview gives “no indication that Martha Stewart is more interesting or complex.” Hmmm... the hardest part is the execution, isn’t it.

Is Martha transformed, or will she just play transformed on TV.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Set and Drift

Set and Drift, a set of site-specific art installations, radio transmissions, and video projections sponsored by the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, opens this Saturday, July 16, with an evening of outdoor concerts and film screenings. The most interesting part: the venue, Governor’s Island.

Purportedly the exhibition was designed to stimulate public interest in the history and possibilities surrounding Governor’s Island. The artists use the island’s forts, mess halls, and officers’ housing as their exhibit space and conceptual material. Each piece deals with the site and its previous military uses in some way.

The detail above is from Jesse Bercowetz and Matt Bua’s “The Last House to the Left,” an architectural addition to a civil-war era officer’s house on Colonel’s row. Because of the historic nature of the site, the artists weren’t allowed to alter the structure, and had to construct the addition without attaching to the existing house. They had planned to use found materials to create their makeshift museum for objects, images, and sounds but were disappointed to find nothing to work with at the site. “There wasn’t any trash,” Bua told Time Out.

Using the island in this way puts me in mind of Donald Judd’s Chinati Foundation in Marfa, TX. Judd envisioned his enclave there as permenant exhibition space for site-specific works by Judd himself and several of his contemporaries. This kind of use is by far the most interesting (but unfortunately the least likely) approach I’ve heard to development for Governor’s Island. Read more about the exhibition in Downtown Express.

The only way on to Governor’ Island is by ferry from the Battery Maritime Building just north of the Staten Island Ferry Terminal. The ferry runs Tuesday–Saturday and costs between $3–6.

Monday, July 04, 2005

The Knitting Machine

In a modern artist’s take on patriotism, Dave Cole, a self-described hyperactive sculptor from Providence, RI, spent the weekend knitting an American flag... a really big American flag.

“I’ll be up on a boom lift, throwing the stitches with a 5-foot-long fishing gaff,” Cole reports. “There will be a guy in each excavator, and I'll give hand signals to them: Angle it up, lower it down. A lot of it is just plain fun: Just boys playing with trucks.”

“It’s something a girl could do, in every way a boy could want to do it,” Cole says of “The Knitting Machine.” “It’s bigger, louder, faster, heavier, and more dangerous.“ But that’s not the point, he says. “Dig deeper, and you get to the idea of work, and of identity in work and production, and how work and production relate to the machine, and how the machine relates to national identity.”
The project uses two John Deere excavators holding two aluminum light poles to knit 18-inch-wide strips of felt into a flag 20-feet-wide by 30-feet-long. The work was completed yesterday afternoon, but the flag will be displayed at Mass MoCA until October.

Via Cool Hunting. Quotes above from The Boston Globe.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Boerum Hill, Brooklyn

sam's delithe brooklyn innHoyt & PacificPacific & Bond
dean & bondwyckoff & hoytState and Bondwyckoff & bond
bergen & hoytdean & hoytpacific & bonddean and nevins
Bergen and NevinsWyckoff and Nevins the victorybergen & bond
For some reason when I‘m snapping away with my camera phone, I take a lot of photographs of corner buildings. Who knows why, but that appears to be a theme. Here’s a sampler of the corners of Boerum Hill (or should I say North Gowanus).