At the risk of sounding like a shill for Google, I will dedicate this post to Google Books. Actually, it’s now
called Google Play, but I’m old and find this concept confusing, so I’m going to ignore it. I suggest you do too. It is possible to purchase contemporary titles from Google Books and read them on your device, but so what? Everyone sells digital books. You can even check them out from the library. What I find most compelling about Google Books is the access to periodicals, old ones that I’d never encounter on my own. Admittedly, I’m pretty infatuated with old magazines. I bought 54 years of Gourmet off eBay, co-edited the New Art Examiner anthology, and interviewed Bad at Sportser Meg Onli for Art 21’s Centerfield post. Onli is currently working on a project about Black World/Negro Digest. She’s accessing all of her material through Google Books. I realize people use Google Books all the time, but I want to reframe it from just another place on the interweb trying to part me from my money, to an invaluable tool for artists.
Google calls all text, books, even magazines, even pamphlets, so keep that in mind. A simple search on “art” and restricting the results to free, yields only 47 titles, but what interesting titles they are. The first hit is The Art of the Moving Picture…: Being the 1922 Revision of the Book First Issued in 1915. Well, there’s just so many curious things about this book, I hardly know where to begin. The Art of the Moving Picture makes some excellent assertions, that still ring true. For instance that the pace of the “action photoplay” leaves no room for “full grown personal passion” (12). Think Die Hard or Con Air. Some things have not quite stayed the same. For instance “when a moving picture house is set up, the saloon on the right hand or the left declares bankruptcy” (207). I wonder what the author Vachel Lindsay would think of today’s upscale brew and views?
Because it’s Google, you are able to search within individual titles. Starting with magazines, restricting results to free, and searching “art” brings crazy random articles like this one from Vegetarian Times, called “Vegetarianism in Art.” There are more popular periodicals as well–hundreds of issues of Life. A browse of December 28, 1936, reveals a story about the first panda coming to the US and workers for the WPA’s Chicago theatrical arts project striking at the Merchandise Mart. The American Art Directory Volume IX (1911) has advertisements for art galleries on its forepages, is lousy with statistics, and names of artists and curators of the moment. And in case you didn’t know, back then all the high-end Chicago galleries were on South Michigan and admission to The Art Institute was twenty-five cents.
Besides book and magazines, you can also find other, more sundry reading material. There are many museum and exhibition catalogues, gallery brochures, bulletins from art organizations, but these charmers are a little more shy and require quite a bit of coaxing. Perhaps a bottle of rose and a bouquet of peonies would help.
Obviously, there is little contemporary art represented here, at least not for free. “Modern” in Google Book world lingers somewhere around 1912, which is kind of fun because searching a word like “sculptress” yields dozens of hits. Be warned, there are serious issues with meta data. Clicking on “Magazines” does not bring you to all of their magazines, it brings you to items scanned as individual issues. Most of what I read comes from bound volumes, that although look quite bookish, aren’t. Most of these are classified as books, though they’re still just magazines. Don’t expect the date Google gives you be correct, because it often isn’t. Read the title page. Even with these limitations, I still recommend spending some time on Google Books and exploring what these old magazines and books have to offer.
Written and overseen by Meg Onli, our beloved BAS teammate, Black Visual Archive is a terrific new blog/website dedicated to contemporary black and post-black visual culture that launches this week. What’s more, the website is designed by another invaluable BAS colleague, Martine Syms, who as you all know also runs Golden Age. I love the crisp look of this site, and the range of subject matter, which promises to be pop-y, eclectic, smart yet fun, too. Right now, Black Visual Archive has a beautifully written review of Kerry James Marshall’s exhibition catalog Mementos from his 1998 exhibition at the Renaissance Society in Chicago, which looks at the thematic and conceptual implications of the book’s design and content. They’ve also posted on a performance of Nina Simone’s “Feelings” at the Montreau Jazz Festival and the Berry Brother’s Fascination’ Rythym. A brief excerpt from “Kerry James Marshall | Mementos” follows:
Historically, a souvenir painting is a literal interpretation of an event, however, instead of painting the march from Selma to Montgomery or a portrait of the Little Rock Nine, Marshall’s “Souvenir” paintings all depict the interior of a middle-class household. In Souvenir I, (1997) the home becomes sanctified with the souls of black folk who hover above a couch. Their visages, reproduced with screen-prints, which are a sharp contrast to Marshall’s hand, are of deceased men, women and children with angel wings. In gold glitter the phrase “in memory of” is scrawled just below them. Is this our souvenir? The ability to ascend to a higher social status? Are these men and women our post-Movement saints? Powell notes, “one gets the sense that the ‘Souvenir’ paintings have just as much to do with process of memorializing as they do with the ‘idea’ or ‘theme’ of the memorial: painting likeness and building effigies to the one-time mortals-but-now-gods; creating a functioning, commemorative alter in one’s home; and constructing a hierarchy of African-American sainthood.”
There’s much more to come, so check out the site on a regular basis, or subscribe to the RSS feed for more.
Over the past two months everyone at Bad at Sports has been in a frenzy preparing for the exhibition, “Don’t Piss On Me And Tell Me It’s Raining” at apexart in New York. The show was a bit of a last-minute golden opportunity, so details have been scarce, but we now have the full scoop on what’s in store, and it’s pretty awesome. (You can keep up with Meg, Duncan, Amanda, Tom and Richard throughout the show’s installation and opening events by following Bad at Sports on Twitter and the hashtag #basapex.) The exhibition features over 100 objects, images and ephemera that will serve as a visual complement to Bad at Sports’ considerable audio archives, submitted by Bad at Sports contributors and guests of the show, including:
Carol Becker, Britton Bertran, Temporary Services, Adam Brooks and Mathew Wilson, Ivan Brunetti, Tom Burtonwood, David Coyle, Death by Design, Elizabeth Chodos, Miguel Cortez, Tony Fitzpatrick, Rob Davis and Michael Langlois, Jeremy Deller, Lisa Dorin, Jim Duignan, Dan Devening, Cody Hudson, Jason Dunda, Fendry Ekel, James Elkins, Anthony Elms, Pete Fagundo, Mary Rachel Fanning,Tony Feher, Rochelle Feinstein, Pamela Fraser, Liam Gillick, Helidon Gjergji, Michelle Grabner, Dylan Graham, Madeleine Grynsztejn, Sarah Guernsey, Terence Hannum, Anni Holm, Brian Holmes, Astrid Honold, Christopher Hudgens, Meg Onli, Amanda Browder, Tom Sanford, Duncan MacKenzie, Christian Kuras, Ben Tanner, Scott Hug, Richard Holland, Carol Jackson, Paddy Johnson, David Jones, Alex Jovanovic, Atsushi Kaga, Mark Staff Brandl, Vera Klement, Peter Saul, Gregory Knight, Monique Meloche, Leo Koenig, Chad Kouri, Steve Lacy, Caroline Picard, Jose Lerma, Laura Letinsky, Kerry James Marshall, Ed Marszewski, Eric May, Dominic Molon, Anne Elizabeth Moore, David Morgan, Julian Myers, Gavin Turk, Liz Nofziger, Jamisen Ogg, Neysa Page-Lieberman, Trevor Paglan, Raymond Pettibon, John Phillips, Allison Peters Quinn, Lane Relyea, Lawrence Rinder, David Robbins, Thomas Robertello, Julie Rodriguez Widholm, Elvia Rodriguez, Nathan Rogers-Madsen, James Rondeau, Marlene Russum Scott, Alison Ruttan, Dan S. Wang, Stephanie Smith, Deb Sokolow, Scott Speh, Chris Sperandio, Lisa Stone, Shannon Stratton, Randall Szott, Christine Tarkowski, Tony Tasset, Tracy Marie Taylor, Ron Terada, Philip von Zweck, Hamza Walker, Chris Walla, John Wanzel, Chris Ware, Oli Watt, Tony Wight, Anne Wilson, Jay Wolke, InCubate, Curtis Mann, Michael Velliquette, Clare Britt, Shannon Stratton, Damian Duffy, William Conger, M N Hutchinson, Mark Francis, Annika Marie, the artists of Blunt Art Text, and more.
The exhibition also features three related exhibition talks, all of which are free and open to the public. They’ll all be rebroadcast on upcoming episodes of Bad at Sports’ podcast, for those of you not able to catch the events in NYC.
Thursday, April 8, 6pm. On the eve of Deitch’s departure from New York, Carlo McCormick will talk to Jeffrey Deitch about his time and legacy as one of the most visible, dynamic and controversial players in the New York art world.
Wednesday April 28th, 6pm. Tom Sanford will moderate a panel of five other painters who will talk about painting, including: Kamrooz Aram, Holly Coulis, David Humphrey, Dike Blair and Deborah Kass.
Tuesday, May 18th, 6pm. Impractical Labor in Service of the Speculative Arts is a membership organization for those who make experimental or conceptual work with obsolete technology.
You can download the exhibition brochure, which features a conversation between co-founders Duncan MacKenzie and Richard Holland about the history of Bad at Sports, here.
Last but not least, the all-important details on the opening reception! This Wednesday night!
Don’t Piss on Me and Tell Me It’s Raining
Organized by Bad at Sports
Opening: Wednesday, April 7th 6-8pm
291 Church Street
New York, NY 10013
“Pilgrimage is one of the fundamental structures a journey can take–the quest in search of something, if only one’s own transformation, the journey toward a goal–and for pilgrims, walking is work,” writes Rebecca Solnit in the book Wanderlust: A History of Walking. Last summer artist Meg Onli (who, as you all know, blogs here at Bad at Sports and is an associate producer of the Podcast) discovered this for herself. Inspired by the perilous journeys taken by fugitive slaves along the underground railroad, Onli undertook her own pilgrimage by setting out on a 30 day, 440 mile trek that began in Montgomery County, Maryland, the birthplace of Josiah Henson (who inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin) and ended at Dawn, a settlement in Dresden, Ontario that is the site of the cabin home Hensen eventually built for himself after his escape to Canada.
Onli’s pilgrimage has both historical and personal significance; she undertook it, she has explained, “in search of my blackness.” Her resulting Underground Railroad Project is both a record of that search and a conscious attempt to reenact and reconstruct a Black historical identity that has been (and is still, in Onli’s case) realized in part by the act of walking.
Before and after the journey, Onli worked on a series of drawings that featured a “doppelganger” version of herself beset by fears and anxieties about the road ahead. On the project’s website Onli notes that this fictional version of herself makes reference to fugitive slave posters that typically depicted runaway slaves as solitary figures who, as Onli describes it, are “careless and literally running for their lives.” The reality, of course, was that the road to freedom was made up of people helping other people, an informal network of human connections that required foresight, planning, ingenuity and steely resolve on everyone’s part to succeed. The Underground Railroad was anything but a mad dash for freedom; to successfully navigate it, it was necessary to walk, not run.
Consisting of drawings, photo documentation and performance relics, Onli’s The Underground Railroad Project will be on view in Chicago this Saturday, July 25th as part of the Twelve Galleries series of exhibitions. The opening reception is from 7 to 10 pm this Saturday evening at this address:
2156 West 21st Place, 2nd floor
Chicago, IL 60608
If you live outside of Chicago, you can view photo documentation and extensive artist-authored commentary from this remarkable project on Meg’s website here.
A postscript: prior to beginning her walk, Onli wrote a series of letters to companies such as AIG, Union Pacific and CSX that have profited from Antebellum labor asking them for project sponsorship. Onli saw this as a potentially symbolic gesture on the part of these companies, akin to that of reparations to African Americans for slave labor and its aftermath. A total of twenty companies received letters, but none agreed to participate.