A few noteworthy links and stories for your midweek perusal…plus a freebie at the bottom.
****College Art Association (CAA) has made eighty-one audio recordings from the panels at last month’s conference in Chicago available for download. They’re kind of expensive ($149.95 for the complete Set of CAA 2010 Conference Recordings on Interactive MP3 Audio CD-ROM or MP3 download; $24.95 for an individual panel MP3 download), but if you couldn’t come up with the cash to attend the conference in full, like moi, this could be a great way to access the panels you missed in person. I’ll be choosy, but will most likely buy at least one.
****“Palestinian Avatars”: This is fascinating; apparently, the movie Avatar and its indigenous aliens the Na’vi have been appropriated by Palestinian rights activists, who painted themselves blue and wore costumes inspired by the Na’vi during a recent protest in Bil’in, a Palestinian town divided in half by the wall. This post on Provisions Library provides further background along with some pretty brilliant analysis: “The most striking aspect of this re-appropriation of a distinctly American, Avatar meme, is the irony. And right across the barbed-wire fence opposite from Bil’in are Israeli soldiers whose weapons supplied by American taxpayers. So, as Joseph Nye would explain, that’s an example of U.S. “hard power.” Then, on the other side, the Palestinians to score by appropriating imagery siphoned with sophistication from the mighty currents of American “soft power.” Wow. Elsewhere, you can find additional photographs of what’s been dubbed the “Palestinian Avatar” protests here, along with a video of the demonstration.
****Artnet’s Charlie Finch asks “Who is Dakis Joannou?” Finch speculates that Joannou’s future as the Chairman of J&P (Overseas) and J&P-AVAX, both publicly traded Greek companies, “could yield two divergent prospects for a complex, interlocking business, dependent on amortization and wide debt-to-capital ratios. The first is that Dakis is smart enough and aggressive enough to take advantage of buying opportunities during a worldwide recession and increase his bottom line significantly. The second is that J&P is so overleveraged and so dependent on the luxury market that it is at serious risk of default, should its capital pipeline dry up. J&P’s low stock price would indicate a potential problem in this area.” If it’s the latter, it’s probably safe to assume that Joannou may indeed peel off some of that Skin Fruit in the not-so-distant future.
****Ikea plans to commission major works by contemporary artists Piotr Uklanski, Jeppe Hein and Jim Lambie for its “airport-sized,” Moscow-based development slated for 2012.
****Auction sales for work by African-American artists surged at recent Swann sale, and the market for art by African Americans continues to grow.
****The Grand Rapids Art Museum will present GRAM and Ox-Bow: Joint Centennial Celebration Exhibition and Artist Series this summer. 30+ artists from throughout Ox-Bow’s history will be featured at the Grand Rapids Art Museum in a special exhibition. (via Curated).
****I Like Your Work: Art and Etiquette: a pamphlet published by the contemporary art journal Paper Monument, addresses the topic of “manners in the art world” via interviews with 38 artists, critics, curators and dealers. Read this excerpt, a series of questions about art-world politesse posed to artists Michelle Grabner and Ryan Steadman, online here.
****Ohhhhh. So. Incredibly. Beautiful: An Elizabethan Bestiary: Retold. Go click on this one right away, you won’t be disappointed.
****I am not one of those women who is “into shoes”, but Dezeen’s top ten list of past shoe features makes me wish I were a bit more of a fetishist when it comes to this particular area of my body. Though no way in hell would I ever wear these french bread loafers.
****Jokes: Philosophical Thoughts on Joking Matters, by Ted Cohen, is now available for free download at The University of Chicago Press website – for the month of March only. (The Chicago Blog). The U of C Press offers a free downloadable book each month, so check back to see what else they’ll have available for you in the future!
****An exhibition of Grateful Dead paraphernalia opens at the New York Historical Society…and no, its not that kind of paraphernalia.
****And finally….all you need to know about Professional Female Stoners. This is not, unfortunately, a description of an up-and-coming growth sector in the jobs market.
This week Patricia and Brian sit down again with Lawrence Rinder. In the last interview, they discussed his role as the director of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, and it new building campaign. In this conversation they focus on his curatorial career, and his most recent exhibition Galaxy: A Hundred or So Stars Visible to the Naked Eye. Previously he was the Dean at California College of the Arts, curated for the Whitney Museum of American Art, and founded the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art at CCA. Read more
This week: Duncan and Richard get a sneak preview of the Contemporary Galleries in the new Modern Wing of the Art Institute of Chicago. Lisa Dorin the Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art is our guide. Duncan draws some wacky parallel between Kerry James Marshall’s paintings and the Matrix. Richard refers to the juxtaposition of Nauman’s Clown Torture and Robert Ryman’s Charter Series as “If the CSO had a G.G. Allin/ J.S. Bach double bill”.
Lisa answers the question: was it a complete pain in the ass to install Richard Serra’s ten thousand pound work Weights and Measures? Read more
Artist, performer, and director of the School of the Art Institute’s graduate fashion program Nick Cave had a big profile in last Sunday’s New York Times. Cave’s Soundsuits–wearable mixed-media sculptures that incorporate every material imaginable to make sounds unique to each garment–are on view in a large-scale exhibition at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts from March 28th through July 5th; the show will travel to UCLA’s Fowler Museum in 2010.
In the Times profile, Cave recalls what he was thinking when he made his first Soundsuit out of fallen twigs gathered from Chicago’s Grant Park.
“It was a very hard year for me because of everything that came out of the Rodney King beating,” he said. “I started thinking about myself more and more as a black man – as someone who was discarded, devalued, viewed as less than.”
One day, sitting on a bench in Grant Park in Chicago, he saw twigs on the ground in a new light: they looked forsaken too. He gathered them by the armful and cut them into three-inch sticks. He drilled holes through the sticks, so he could wire them to an undergarment of his own creation, completely covering the fabric.
As soon as the twig sculpture was finished, he said, he realized that he could wear it as a second skin: “I put it on and jumped around and was just amazed. It made this fabulous rustling sound. And because it was so heavy, I had to stand very erect, and that alone brought the idea of dance back into my head.”
Cave, you’ll remember, had a show at the Chicago Cultural Center in 2006. I really wish I’d been living in this city at the time so I could have seen it–Cave’s stuff is blowing my mind, and I need to know more about it, look at it up close and in person, watch the fur fly, so to speak.
My own lack of familiarity with Cave’s work makes me wonder, though: Why is Cave’s show traveling to the Fowler Museum, which is a museum of cultural history, and not an art museum that has an equally strong ability to support and exhibit interdisciplinary art of this nature, like, say, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) or even UCLA’s “other” arts institution, the white-hot Hammer Museum*? From the Fowler’s online mission statement:
The Fowler Museum explores art and material culture primarily from Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and the Americas, past and present. The Fowler seeks to enhance understanding and appreciation of the diverse peoples, cultures, and religions of the world through highly contextualized interpretive exhibitions, publications, and public programming, informed by interdisciplinary approaches and the perspectives of the cultures represented.
Don’t get me wrong: the Fowler is a fantastic institution and will do a superb job with this show. My quibble is with what seems a questionable location of Cave’s work in terms of “material culture” when it really is better understood in terms of contemporary artistic practice–which is, you know, highly interdisciplinary itself nowadays, and which is why institutions like Yerba Buena’s are an ideal context for it.
The NYT piece notes that in his catalogue essay for the Yerba Buena show, Dan Cameron “cites the ‘social sculpture’ of the artist Joseph Beuys, the legacy of the drag queen Leigh Bowery in the London underground performance scene and the ornate costumes of African-American Mardi Gras Indians in New Orleans” as associative touchstones for Cage’s fashion/sculpture/performance mash-up. So why emphasize only the last part of that description?
Cave shows his Soundsuits at Jack Shainman alongside Kerry James Marshall, Carrie Mae Weems, Michael Snow, Odil Donald Odita, Bob Knox, Tim Bavington–a diverse stable of artists involved in a wide range of practices, some interdisciplinary in nature, some less so. Check out Cage’s bio: He’s had solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Jacksonville and a bunch of other smaller contemporary art venues. That the Los Angeles venue of his biggest exhibition to date will be a cultural history museum rather than a contemporary art center seems a little out of context given where Cage has shown previously.
I’ve sat in the conference rooms where the decisions to greenlight exhibitions are made–the choices are complicated and involve a multitude of factors, and believe me, I know that outside observers (like myself) often have an overly simplistic view of how it all goes down. Maybe it’s as simple as the show wasn’t offered to anyone but the Fowler. But I’ve also witnessed firsthand how certain exhibition proposals get tossed aside with hardly a second glance because it belongs “somewhere else,” often that conveniently located cultural history museum that’s right down the street, practically next door, maybe we can collaborate with them on something or maybe not…whatever, “it’s not for us.”
This is not about the relative value of cultural history museums. It’s about context, the meaning of “culture,” and museological responsibility. Is the Fowler’s role, and by extension the role of other cultural history museums, to pick up the slack and plug up the holes left by the fine arts institutions in their city? I haven’t lived in L.A. for awhile now, so I can’t do more than broach the question. But the institutional journey that Nick Cave’s Soundsuits have taken and will take in the future would seem to provide a provocative case study in what qualifies as “contemporary art,” what’s deemed “material culture,” and why that distinction even matters.
*(Is this the part where I’m supposed to do the “due diligence/ full disclosure” thing and report that I was once an assistant curator at the Hammer? Well, then, consider it done.)