Friday, April 29, 2011

Art Fag City: The Sound of Art

A few months ago, Art Fag City founding editor Paddy Johnson made a compilation of recordings of music, noise, and sound art from galleries, museums, and other New York art venues:

This is a collaborative project in several senses of the word: more than forty artists contributed to it, one hundred seventy-four donors on Kickstarter funded it, and now, at its current stage of distribution, an equally diffuse group of enthusiasts of experimental sound is being counted on to give it a listen. 

So be cool. Make a purchase through PayPal and receive your very own edition of this vinyl LP in the mail. For those that don't have a turntable, it's worth mentioning that the album itself is mighty easy on the eyes. 

Michael Smith prints and T-shirts commemorating the project are also available.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Hard at Work, Tikunning the Olam

You may be wondering how David Lynch is doing over in the realm of general coolness. Good news: His hair is passively modeling recognizable works of art, both seasons of Twin Peaks are on Netflix, and he recently posted a link to the David Lynch Signature Cup Coffee commercial on Twitter:

So…life is good.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Jene Highstein at Danese Gallery

Seeing this show in the flesh last Thursday made me want to revisit everything I read in college about Postminimalism. Along with Eva Hesse, Joel Shapiro, Hannah Wilke, and Martin Puryear, Highstein is part of a generation that was raised with a philosophy emphasizing literacy and sophistication in visual art. Shapes, colors, and forms were simple and direct. Painting and sculpture were so abstract as to align themselves with Platonic ideals: immaculate, pretty much authorless, and, above all, pure. I'm already kind of plagiarizing myself and don't want to drag what I wrote about Mary Judge into the ground, but to me, to go against the grain in this respect, making work that--for all its subtlety--is decidedly impure, is to commit an act of particular courage.

Jene Highsteen, NEW SCULPTURE: Towers and Elliptical Forms, Installation view, 2011.
 The titles of the human-height sculptures in the show (above, from left to right, Jar TowerOff-Balance Balloon, and Jug Tower, all 2008) along with the falteringly anthropomorphic and asymmetrical tower sculptures, (below) recall things that are at once practical and monumental, at once earthly and beyond what can be easily grasped. These works are emphatically graceful, nebulous, and imperfect; in short, more like the thoughts of a person than authorless ideals.

Jene Highsteen, NEW SCULPTURE: Towers and Elliptical Forms, Installation view, 2011.
Highstein is also like Wilke and Puryear in the considerable originality with which he treats materials. As with Wilke's work in plastics or Puryear's in wood, Highstein's approach (in the past to clay, glass, and in this show, to steel) is a matter of gentle exploration, more about meditating on the possibilities of his medium than garrulously flirting with its edgy limitations. Made of a traditionally heavy material, Highstein's sculptures in this show maintain a firm connection to the ground. And yet they appear, occasionally, to float.

It's Easter. So what real harm can one little cross do, after all?

Not having "spoken out" on the vandalism to Andres Serrano's photograph Piss Christ (1987) that took place last week, this seems worth sharing:

"When I heard that Piss Christ had been vandalised, I instantly thought of Cock Jesus. More of Cock Jesus later. In case, like me, you hadn't heard of Piss Christ, let me explain that it's an artwork – a photograph, taken by artist Andres Serrano, of a plastic crucifix submerged in his own quite orange urine – maybe he'd just had a Berocca. Last weekend, some devout Christians attacked Piss Christ with a hammer.

I say that's just a continuation of the artistic process. By creating a new work, Shards Piss Christ, these extremist Catholics made a profound artistic statement about Piss Christ's desecration of holy imagery by themselves violating the sanctity of the gallery. It's a devotional work worthy of comparison to the Sistine Chapel.

I hope the process continues. Shards Piss Christ could, say, be pelted with excrement, making Shit Shards Piss Christ. That could be shoved in a bin bag, making Bin Bag Shit Shards Piss Christ. Someone might be sick on that, creating Vomit Bin Bag Shit Shards Piss Christ..."

Read David Mitchell's full column here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lucy Lippard Has Something to Say

After Lucy Lippard's lecture last Thursday at SVA about landscape photography and the phenomenology of place, people stuck around for a ten-minute question and answer session. A lot of the questions that people had were internet-related. This shouldn't have come as a shock; the plethora of photographs available on the internet contributes in a big way to how we take them as documents that shape (or distort) how we think about place, and it was understandable that people would be curious to hear what Lippard had to say about it. The shoulder-shrugging tone of her responses was owed partly to the sort of things people asked (a lot of messy, hard-to-follow non-questions ending with "What do you think about that?") and partly to the fact that Lippard is not an internet person. I would obviously be stoked, for example, to learn that she was reading this (I can be uselessly starstruck when I see someone I really look up to in person, and was characteristically so when I asked for her permission to post the photo I took of her), but I don't think it's going to happen.
Lippard's not being "an internet person" could have something to do with her age (I hasten to add that she is very young in spirit, etc.). One might additionally detect a mild technophobia from her residing in rural New Mexico or from her general fondness for the countryside. I'm also fairly convinced that internet content can potentially develop in people short, fickle attention spans that are poorly adapted to the breadth of what interests Lippard and the depth of what she has to say. 
Sadly, almost no one is immune to this [SQUIRREL!]. I'm not a technophobe, but I can totally relate to people who are chagrined by how the most widely-read art journalism consists mainly of short, punchy paragraphs with fewer details about an artist and his or her work than what the author did at the opening and what famous people the author talked to. I'm pretty sure the most popular section of the Artforum website is Scene and Herd, and while I'm sure that the writers and editors in that department are very nice people, this is a bummer. A lot of blogging is written by people who just want to meander along about their own unique views of the world and not distinctly about art, and it doesn't seem right to some.
What's funny is that this is exactly what Lucy Lippard does. A couple of times on Thursday, Lippard asserted that she was not an art critic and described her writing as "just me rambling" (if that was false modesty, then I, for one, was fooled). A lot of Lippard's writing is direct and polemical, but a lot of it can indeed take the form of a list of art works that she has thematically clustered together to expound upon. This was certainly the form her lecture took, which did not at all seem boring or indulgent, notwithstanding whatever prejudices I might have had disposing me to believe that what I'd be hearing would be interesting and thoughtful.
My fear of associating with a kind of personality or reporting style that I took to be indulgent inhibited me from writing about art on a blog for a long time. This is an attitude I've started to outgrow. Sharing thoughts that are very personal or idiosyncratic can be indulgent in many cases, but it can also lead to insights that are worth hearing.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Lucy Lippard at SVA Theatre

     Lucy Lippard will be talking tonight about landscape photography at the SVA Theatre on West 23rd St at 7 PM. I'm realizing now that I could have enriched my entries about maps and map-making in contemporary art (be it that of R. Justin Stewart, Elisabeth Munro SmithBen Joyce, etc.) in a big way if I'd included in my reviews of Stewart's or Smith's work a few lines from Lippard's book, Overlay: Contemporary Art and the History of Prehistory. New York: The New Press, 1983):

     "The most ordinary map has an inherent formal beauty as a drawing and it satisfies a basic longing for order by offering a syntax, a language through which to appreciate, without depicting, landscape. It is a way of modernizing the whole notion of art about space.
     Maps are graphic notations of remembered experience...The map, and map-derived art, is in itself fundamentally an overlay--simultaneously a place, a journey, and a mental concept; abstract and figurative; remote and intimate. Maps are like 'stills' of voyages, stasis laid on motion." (121-2)

    I want to be just like Lippard when I grow up. For all that I was trying to say about maps (their being internally-coded and frequently difficult to describe, a peculiar condition for pictures or sculptures that are supposed to represent space, distance, and contiguity as faithfully as representational art), she really has a way of boiling down a difficult string of concepts cleverly and elegantly that I would have been better to try to emulate (or crib). If you have the means, I highly recommend hearing her speak. You won't regret it.