Art Criticism


Red Ceiling: Dye Transfer Print, 1973.

My essay, William Eggleston and the Rise of Color Photography, is being published in the May 2010 issue of Hyperion:  On The Future of Aesthetics.

On the cover of the November 5th edition of  The Brooklyn Rail is a drawing by William Powhida, taking aim at New Museum over its plan to allow Dakis Joannou, a trustee, to exhibit his Jeff Koons collection next February.  New Museum’s arrangement has generated considerable criticism and is compounded by the fact that Koons himself will curate the exhibition.  The situation came to the attention of a wider public this week in a New York Times article that cited  Tyler Green among others for helping raise awareness of the issue on his blog (Modern Art Notes).

As a non-profit institution, New Museum is sanctioning a collector/artist collaboration to exhibit work that has already been validated in the marketplace and which only stands to bolster the market position of both.  Wouldn’t the institution be better served in returning to its stated mission of showing original work by unknown artists who take risks and deserve recognition?  It is time for New Museum to exercise better judgment.  Powhida’s humorous and critically insightful drawing with accompanying text, slamming curatorial cronyism, makes this point clear.

Drawing by William Powhida:  Front Cover of Brooklyn Rail (11.5.09)

Drawing by William Powhida: Front Cover of The Brooklyn Rail (11.5.09)

For a high resolution image: click here.

New Museum of Contemporary Art

New Museum of Contemporary Art

From Modern Art Notes (Tyler Green’s Modern And Contemporary Art Blog):

This morning’s New York Times features a front-page Deborah Sontag and Robin Pogrebin article on a story that MAN has been aggressively covering for six weeks: The New Museum’s self-made ethical problems regarding its exhibition of a trustee’s collection. (Click here for a roundup of links to MAN’s coverage. Click here for an op-ed I wrote for the current issue of The Art Newspaper.).

For Tyler Green’s full post: click here

From "The Generational:  Younger Than Jesus"

 

‘Jesus’ Saves

God bless the New Museum’s tantalizing triennial.

 

by Jerry Saltz

New York Magazine


In the last years of the boom, numerous artists came to the fore who have their aesthetic heads up the aesthetic asses of Gerhard Richter, Andy Warhol, Richard Prince, Cady Noland, and Christopher Wool. They make punkish black-and-white art and ad hoc arrangements of disheveled stuff, architectural fragments, and Xeroxed photos. This art deals in received ideas about appropriation, conceptualism, and institutional critique. It’s a cool school, admired by jargon-wielding academics who write barely readable rhetoric explaining why looking at next to nothing is good for you. Many of these artists have sold a lot of work, and most will be part of a lost generation. They thought they were playing the system; it turned out that they were themselves being played.

 

Wet Plate Collodion Image

 

In this lecture hosted by Aperture and presented by Parsons The New School,Geoffrey Batchen will discuss the topic Perplexity and Embarrassment: Photography as Work. Batchen is a professor of art history at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where he specializes in the history of photography. He is currently working on an exhibition about the careers of Richard Beard and Antoine Claudet, due to open at the Yale Center for British Art in October 2011. Batchen’s books include Burning with Desire: The Conception of Photography (The MIT Press, 1997); Each Wild Idea: Writing, Photography, History (The MIT Press, 2001); Forget Me Not: Photography and Remembrance (Van Gogh Museum & Princeton Architectural Press, 2004); and William Henry Fox Talbot (Phaidon, 2008). 

 

FREE

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

6:30 pm

Aperture Gallery
547 West 27th Street
New York, New York
(212) 505-5555

Note:  I said in an MFA seminar at Parsons that art – as it exists in the market now – is not a necessity for living, but a cultural luxury that presumes a certain high standard of  living.  Given a choice between eating or buying art, I’d just as soon eat and wonder what place in my life art might have filled.  Most of the people in the room dissented.  With the economy in tatters, I wonder if they might be revising their thoughts.

_____________________________

Art As We Know It Is Dead

By Jonathan Jones

The Guardian


The economic collapse has destroyed the flashy art of the last two decades. In its place, we need something new.

The economic collapse is hitting the art world in some surreal ways. Gagosian Gallery in Los Angeles has just had to postpone a planned exhibition, by the maverick performance and conceptual artist Chris Burden, that involves the use of 100kg of gold bricks. Gagosian purchased these – wow! How much does 100kg of gold bricks even cost? – from a company called Stanford Coins and Bullion. This company is a subsidiary of Stanford Financial Group, that is, it’s part of the empire of Texas financier Allen Stanford who is now at the centre of a massive fraud investigation. Now, announces Gagosian, “the gallery’s gold has been frozen while the SEC investigates Stanford.”

So the stories are spinning as the marriage of art and money unravels.

Not so long ago the British painter Leon Kossoff held an exhibition at the National Gallery. His drawings after the Old Masters got almost no press attention that I can recall – yet Kossoff is a veteran artist with great achievements to his name. He has painted the life of London’s East End with a sombre honesty and compassion. Artists such as Kossoff, or Frank Auerbach, or Paula Rego are a lot less fashionable today than artists who do things with gold bricks.

Why is that? No, it is not because they are “figurative”. Marc Quinn is figurative; Antony Gormley is figurative. What makes artists such as Kossoff seem out of date? It is their melancholia. The contemporary art world can cope with melancholy as style, but taste revolts at the reality of sad, severe, serious life in these painters’ work. The problem is, you can’t parlay it. You can’t fantasise on it. The authenticity of these artists annoys us because it tells us there are realities that rule us, The world, since the 1980s, has stopped believing in such a thing as reality. Money was unleashed from facts of any kind. Art became its delusive mirror.

Art is fun, it’s a laugh, it’s entertainment, it’s spectacular, it’s cool … art now aspires to be all the things fashion is. And so it cannot accomodate the awkwardness of a Kossoff: cannot be a bone in anyone’s throat. Its success is totally bound up with the same fiction that anything is possible that has inspired banks to lead us all into a looking-glass world.

I’ve tried to resist this fact for a few months, but I’m done with illusion. Art as we know it is finished. It is about to be exposed as nothing more than the decor of an age of mercantile madness. On what bedrock might a new art arise?

Anyone for Kossoff?

 

Alfredo Jaar’s “Power of Words”; and images from Wendy Ewald’s “Towards a Promised Land.”

ABSTRACTIONS From “Framing and Being Framed: The Uses of Documentary Photography,” from left: Alfredo Jaar’s “Power of Words”; images from Wendy Ewald’s “Towards a Promised Land.”

 

 

October 12, 2008
THE NEW YORK TIMES
ART REVIEW

Not Quite Documentary Art

 

Despite its title — “Framing and Being Framed: The Uses of Documentary Photography” — the exhibition at the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery at Wesleyan University contains many artworks that are not, strictly speaking, documentary photographs. Some of them are not even documentary in nature. They are more conceptual projects that employ photographic material ranging from snapshots of everyday life to portraits and conventional documentary imagery.

But this in no way negates the show’s powerful premise, which is to encourage viewers to think about the ways in which artists and photographers use and abuse documentary principles. Nina Felshin, the gallery’s curator, has done a terrific job assembling interesting and provocative work in this vein, the best of which invite viewers to consider issues of agency, context and interpretation in documentary-based art.

Take, for instance, Wendy Ewald’s “Towards a Promised Land” (2004-2006), a collaborative conceptual project comprising photographs, banners and sound recordings. For 30 years, the artist has put cameras in the hands of children all over the world to record their impressions of life and the world around them. The present installation documents her work with 22 children living in the English seaside town of Margate, all of whom are asylum seekers and refugees.

Ms. Ewald spent 18 months interviewing children in Margate, taking their photographs and teaching them to use a camera. Showing here are installation shots of her photographs of the children, displayed as public banners around the streets of Margate, along with the project’s 2006 book, “Towards a Promised Land.” There is also an audiotape including snippets of the children’s personal accounts of their experiences. It is quite moving.

Employing elements of self-representation, participation and collaboration, Ms. Ewald departs from standard documentary conventions in which the artist is at arm’s length from the subject. Her project is less a documentary than a kind of testimonial. The same goes for Eric Gottesman’s “Sudden Flowers,” an ongoing installation of photographs and video made in collaboration with children in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, in an effort to improve the public image of Ethiopia abroad. Here the participants are openly trying to reshape an image of themselves.

Much of this work illustrates a simple point: The way in which subjects are perceived depends on the lens through which they are viewed. Emily Jacir toys with this idea in her photographs of the annual Israeli Day Parade in New York. On the one hand, several images emphasize bonds of friendship between the United States and Israel, with parade participants carrying flags from both countries and wearing T-shirts with pro-United States slogans emblazoned across them. On the other hand, other images contain nasty anti-Arab references.

Artists also complicate traditional assumptions about documentary imagery by restaging, rehearsing, or simply evoking past events for the camera. Matthew Buckingham’s “Will Someone Please Explain It to Me, I’ve Just Become a Radical” (2008), consists of 12 photographs of the interior of a building at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where in 1967 a sit-in against recruitment on the campus by Dow Chemical, manufactures of napalm, used in bombs during the Vietnam War, ended in a violent police action against the protesters. The artist invites us to project our own thoughts onto these now empty interiors.

By contrast, An-My Le is a more conventional documentary photographer, using a large format camera to create richly detailed black-and-white photographs of young American marines doing training exercises for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq at a military base in the Mohave Desert in California. Her accurate and engaging rendering of simulated battlefields evokes the harsh reality of soldiering in desert conditions, but also, in a quite profound way, brings the war home.

Also bringing the past back to the present is Kota Ezawa’s “Simpson Verdict” (2002), an animated projection based on the actual courtroom footage of one of the most widely publicized legal cases in history, O.J. Simpson’s 1997 murder trial. Focusing on the emotionally-charged final minutes, as the defendant and his legal team awaited the jury verdict, the footage is simplified and abstracted to focus on Mr. Simpson’s movements and gestures. The result is a case study in body language.

“Framing and Being Framed: The
Uses of Documentary Photography,”
Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery, Center
for the Arts, Wesleyan University, 283
Washington Terrace, Middletown, through Dec. 7. Information: (860)
685-3355 or http://www.wesleyan.edu/cfa.

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