Of the many branches of contemporary art’s gnarled and twisted family tree, arms and armor appears to be a particularly precarious limb, a long-dead branch likely to be pruned off by any serious storm. More than any other field of art history, arms and armor have come to be associated with the dimly-lit studies of the super rich, typified by Bruce Wayne’s manor in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman. “Check this out. He must have been the king of the Wicker People.”
There are those of us, though, who notice things in that scene, that most viewers miss: For example, the completely anachronistic juxtaposition, on the armors flanking the door, of close helms and breastplates from the sixteenth century, with eleventh century kite shields decorated with swirling-armed crosses. Five hundred years of history separate the former from the latter, no less than separates the latter from the present day. A close helm would have been as out of place at the battle of Hastings as an Abrams tank at the court of Henry VIII.
Most people watching Batman, even artists and art viewers, wouldn’t know the difference, and couldn’t care less, and in fact would probably imagine the previous paragraph being read aloud in the voice of Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons. The appreciation of arms and armor is easily treated as an oddball, nerdy fringe of art history, and tainted by association with violence: undergraduate art history survey courses rarely cover the difference between a bascinet and a burgonet. Contrast this with the expectation that anyone with a degree in art, in any medium, should easily recognize the painting The Joker later defaces as Rembrandt’s late self-portrait, and the one he spares as one of Bacon’s popes.
Arms and armor may not be appreciated by as wide of an audience as is painting, but they have their fans, and I’m one of them. As a kid, I remember going to visit my family in Philadelphia, and we must have gone to the art museum; I remember a seeing, just in passing, some maces in a display case and becoming totally enamored. My dad bought me a book on arms and armor on that same trip, and I’ve still got it, much abused and well loved. In my teens my mom bought me a book on the arms and armor of the medieval knight, and I’ve still got that one too. The summer before I went away to college, I went to Europe with my girlfriend at the time, and each time we visited a new city I sought out its arms and armor museum: Vienna and Dresden were both quite memorable, though that latter city sadly lost much of its collection in the firebombing it experienced in World War II.
In August of 2007, I was attending a residency at the Vermont Studio Center, before moving to Chicago to join my wife Stephanie Burke, who had just started school at SAIC. She called me to tell me about the wonderful collection of arms and armor she’d seen at the Art Institute. I arrived a month later, headed down to the Art Institute, and found the long, dimly-lit hall…completely empty, save for a single display case with a few swords lingering.
The hall was the Art Institute’s Gunsaulus Hall, which housed the Art Institute’s fantastic collection of arms and armor until late 2007. Three years later, a small selection of the collection was put on display in the Art Institute’s Galleries 235 and 236, where it remains on view today. The exhibition space is small and so the percentage of the collection that can be shown is necessarily quite limited (although its ceilings are high enough to display an armor for man and horse with the rider mounted, something never before possible at the Art Institute). In that display, a sign indicates that this small display is temporary, pending the completion of a new, much larger exhibition space for the collection, at an undetermined future date.
The Art Institute’s collection of arms and armor comes from the estate of George F. Harding, Jr. (1868-1939), a Chicago businessman and politician who amassed an incredible collection of arms and armor as well as other art and artifacts from around the world. In 1927, Harding expanded his Hyde Park home, adding upper stories emulating a castle. He used this “castle” as a museum to display his collection of arms and armor.
The castle was torn down in 1964 as part of an urban renewal project, and the collection was moved to a building, closed to the public, at Randolph and Michigan. The museum’s chairman, Herman Silverstein, along with his wife Bea, was the subject of a lawsuit by the Illinois attorney general’s office in 1976, accusing the Silversteins of “violating IRS regulations concerning charitable trust laws by mismanaging the museum assets and failing to allow public viewing of the relics.” The Silversteins agreed in count in 1989 to resign, and to turn over to the Art Institute the last $4.1 million of the Harding Museum’s cash assets, to be used to conserve and display the collection. The Harding collection itself had been turned over to the Art Institute in 1982, under pressure from the State.
The bulk of the Art Institute’s collection remains in storage, out of view, but even the small selection on display is well worth seeing. There’s also a book, Arms and Armor at The Art Institute of Chicago, by Walter J. Karcheski Jr., out of print but available online very inexpensively. For my dear fellow viewers who appreciate this odd branch of our culture’s visual history, we will have to content ourselves with these, until the Art Institute makes room for a larger exhibition space for this world-class collection.
Recently compiled emails show that we have a little somethin-somethin for everyone. Michiganians have the upper hand on this one though. (…haha?) If you live in Detroit you should get in on this Kresge Artist Fellowship application and if you’re a bored PhD, Cranbrook prefers you. Columbia College has that baller book arts residency this winter. Humble has it’s new Fall/Winter grant application up. And, holy shit, SAIC IS HIRING.
2013 Kresge Artist Fellowships — $25,000 for emerging and established metropolitan Detroit artists
We believe your art invigorates our city. We believe that within our creative community lies a path to our imagined future. Your energy, your talent, your ideas inspire. We believe this so strongly that we’re willing to invest. In you. In a creative Detroit.
Literary Arts: Arts criticism in all categories (including literary, performing and visual), creative non-fiction, fiction, poetry, spoken word, and interdisciplinary work (including experimental work, graphic novels, zines and other hybrid forms).
Visual Arts: Art and technology, book arts, ceramics, collage, drawing, fiber, glass, installation, metalwork, painting, photography, performance art, printmaking, sculpture, video art, and interdisciplinary work (including experimental work and other hybrid forms).
Application Deadline: February 1, 2013
Cranbrook Academy of Art — Call for Critical Studies Fellowship
Cranbrook Academy of Art, a preeminent graduate school of art, design and architecture seeks applicants working in the fields of Critical Theory and/or Contemporary Art, Craft and Design Theory for a one-semester residential teaching fellowship for Fall 2013. Please note: we are not seeking candidates who are primarily studio artists or who propose a studio-based series. (womp, womp)
Travel stipend toward R/T travel to campus and/or professional activities
Housing (private apartment on campus)
Fellows must reside on campus and be free from professional duties during fellowship (September 9- December 20, 2013)
Application must be postmarked by December 1, 2011.
To apply, send 3 copies of a packet that includes:
• Completed Application Form
• Letter of interest
• Academic CV (including bibliography of published work)
• Proposal of Series for the Fall 2012 semester (to include 2 lectures and 2 discussion topics)
• Names and contact information for three references (must include telephone number)
Mail application to:
Sarah Turner / Critical Studies Fellowship
Cranbrook Academy of Art
PO Box 801
39221 Woodward Avenue
Bloomfield Hills, MI 48303-0801
Founded in 1932, Cranbrook Academy of Art is located on a National Historic Landmark campus in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. The country’s only independent graduate-only program in visual art, architecture and design, Cranbrook offers an intense and intimate learning experience for 150 graduate students in a community of studio-based programs where Artists-in-Residence mentor students to creatively influence contemporary culture.
For more information, contact Sarah Turner at the address above or: email@example.com
Anchor Graphics/Center for Book and Paper Arts Joint Residency
TIMELINE: • Completed entries must be emailed by December 1, 2012. • Notice of acceptance will be emailed by December 5, 2012. • The residency dates are January 7 – 25, 2013.
Anchor Graphics and the Center for Book and Paper Arts are offering a three-week residency this winter interim, from January 7–25, 2013. The residency is intended to provide time and facilities for a artist to work alone on a specific project.
The Centers are combining resources this year to offer an emerging or mid-career experienced book artist and/or printmaker a combination of resources to complete their artistic vision, including access to studio space and Anchor Graphics and the Center for Book and Paper Art’s top quality print, letterpress, bookbinding, and digital studios. There is also a housing and honorarium component to the residency.
Humble Foundation NY – New Photography Grant
2012 Fall/Winter Grant Guidelines
Humble Arts Foundation established the New Photography Grant in 2007 to help support photo-based art projects in the U.S. and abroad.
How the Grant Works
Given twice annually (fall and spring), the grant is a $1,000 cash award that recognizes the strongest new proposal in contemporary art photography as submitted to Humble Arts Foundation.
Deadline: Friday, November 30, 2012, 11:59 PM, PST
We accept applications from photographers who are at least 18 years old, regardless of geographic location.
We will fund projects that are new or ongoing. Applicants should submit no more than one proposal requesting support for one project.
Humble Arts Foundation’s senior curatorial staff will review projects for visual strength and clarity of proposal.
Submit exactly ten images. Each image must be a jpg, 72dpi and 600 pixels wide only, that means the width of the top of the image, not the side (length).
Artist members: Free
Deadline: January 7, 2013
Full-time Faculty Position, Art Historian, North American Art, 1865–1945
Deadline: December 1, 2012
Good luck to everyone, always!
Work by Lana Herzog.
Maya Polsky Gallery is located at 215 W. Superior St. Reception Friday, 5-7:30pm.
Work by Homo Riot.
Bert Green Fine Art is located at 8 S. Michigan Ave. Suite 1220. Reception Saturday, 5-8pm.
Work by Irena Knezevic.
Alderman Exhibitions is located at 1338 W. Randolph St. Reception Friday, 6-8pm.
Work by Stephen Eichorn.
Ebersmoore is located at 350 North Ogden Ave. Reception Friday, 6-9pm.
Work by Deepak Tandon.
Veranda8 is located at 401 N. Racine. Reception Friday, 6-9pm.
In January 2009, Catherine Opie traveled to Washington D.C. where spent three days photographing the inauguration of President Barak Obama. From this came the 100 picture photo series and companion book called both entitled Inauguration. These photos reveal the nation’s excitement surrounding the event. The book itself is lovely, cloth bound, with photo printed boards and debossed title.
Much of the book consists of pictures of the ecstatic Americans who came to the White House to witness the inauguration. Opie captures all kinds of people, from all over the country. The crowds were dense. A Jumbotron conveyed a live feed of the inauguration to the mass of people outside the formal event. Close-up ups of individuals amid the crowd. Some of the most interesting photos, though, were of the people visiting the sights of D.C. There are two photos, one of a middle-aged woman, one of a young woman, both African American. These women are clearly pleased to be at this historic event and mug for the camera, a camera that does not appear to be Opie’s. At first these seems to optimistic photos, after all the women are here to attend the inauguration of the first African American president. Still, both women were posing in front of the National Council of Negro Women, and these photos remind us that in America, some people are still more equal than others.
The first photograph in the book is perhaps my favorite. In what looks like the terminal of Virgin America stands a cardboard cutout of Barak Obama. He’s friendly and welcoming and the Virgin banner emblazoned with the word America hangs behind him. Despite the warm tones of the red carpet, and the smiling face of our soon-to-be president, the picture feels hollow. Our cardboard president in the foreground and rows of empty chairs with people waiting in the background, the photograph conveys not a feeling of pride or optimism, but instead speaks to futility.
With this being election season it is impossible not to draw parallels. I’m not sure what Opie’s intention was with this project. Clearly she couldn’t know what the following four years would bring. But looking at this book now, it’s unreliably depressing. The people in the photographs, so hopeful, were so excited about that watershed moment in American history. Although it was only three years ago, it feels like a lifetime. It’s not that anyone believed Obama was magic, but just for a moment many Americans thought this inauguration signaled a beginning, a new start. A poem by Eileen Myles concludes the book. Myles write, “I’d like to have that day again.” After reading Inauguration, I have to admit I agree.
Inauguration by Catherine Opie
Gregory R. Miller & Co., September 2011
Cloth, 124 pages, $50
Work by Melanie Schiff.
Kavi Gupta Gallery is located at 835 W. Washington Blvd. Reception Friday, 5-8pm.
Work by Dietrich Wegner.
Carrie Secrist Gallery is located at 835 W. Washington. Reception Friday, 5-8pm.
Work by Peter Drake.
Linda Warren Gallery is located at 327 N. Aberdeen. Reception Friday, 6-9pm.
Work by JJ Miyaoka-Pakola.
Lloyd Dobler Gallery is located at 1545 W. Division Ave. Reception Friday, 6-10pm.
Work by Elizabeth Atterbury.
Document is located at 845 W. Washington Blvd. Reception Saturday, 6-8pm.