Tag Archives: art

Assembled audience

I gave a talk at Williams College last year and took a little while to visit one of my favorite museums, Mass MoCA. There’s a new installation there, by Taryn Simon, called Assembled Audience. You walk in through a curtained opening and you’re in a pitch-black space. It’s very quiet. And then, slowly, applause starts to build. Bigger and bigger. About a minute of swell until the invisible crowd out there in the dark is going absolutely fucking nuts.

And I have to be honest, whatever this may say about me: I felt an incredible warmth and safety and satisfaction, standing there, being clapped for and adored by a recording of a crowd. Reader, I stayed for a second cycle.

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Going Out of Business

There’s a certain strain of 1960s-70s visual art that’s so sunny, so optimistic, so earnest in its belief that a better world is possible and that world would be really colorful, that it makes me cheerful whenever I see it.  (Relevant:  Mexico 68 Olympics poster.)  So I was happy to go by this in the Chazen today:

But it turns out that, while Mel Bochner is actually a painter active in that era, he made this in 2013!  Thanks for keeping it going, Mel Bochner, whoever you are.  I like this a lot and I like the Chazen for putting it up.

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That Jeff Koons feeling

Jed Perl opposes Jeff Koons:

The sculptures and paintings of this fifty-nine-year-old artist are so meticulously, mechanically polished and groomed that they rebuff any attempt to look at them, much less feel anything about them.

But four paragraphs later:

Koons knows how to capitalize on the guilty pleasure that the museumgoing public takes in all his mixed messages. He knows how to leave people feeling simultaneously ironical, erudite, silly, sophisticated, and bemused.

Does Koons make people feel things, or does he not?  Or are irony, erudition, silliness, sophistication, and bemusement feelings that don’t count as feelings?

Jed Perl writes well but I find his judgment strange.  About Jeff Koons I have no opinion.  But I remember his name because of the piece he wrote about Francis Bacon, which seems to suggest that people like Bacon not because of anything in the paintings, but because the artist sports a biography and attitude that appeals to mushy-minded would-be avant-gardists.  “The Bacon mystique,” Perl writes, “is not grounded in his paintings so much as in a glamorous list of extenuating circumstances.”

To me this makes no sense.  I went to a small museum which was showing some of Bacon’s paintings and I was knocked over by them.  Whoa, what is that?  I had no idea who he was, or whether he was glamorous, or whether it was cool to like him.

I think it’s OK to say (as Perl also does, later in that piece) that Bacon is a stupid painter and only people who are stupid about painting like his paintings.  But it’s crazy to deny that people actually do like Bacon’s paintings, as such, not just the idea of Bacon’s paintings, or the idea of being the kind of person who likes Bacon’s paintings.

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Imagery

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Chazen 1934

Gold Is Where You Find It by Tyrone Comfort

[photo by flickr user Chris Tank]

CJ and I went to the superb 1934: A New Deal for Artists show at the Chazen this weekend.  Highly recommended if you like American representational painting from the first half of the 20th century at all, or you have an inquisitive kid who likes to see what the world used to look like, or both.  Very good, historically informative title cards, too!  The best special exhibition we’ve seen there, I think.

A couple of good new pieces in the permanent contemporary collection upstairs, too:  a new Beth Cavener Stichter, this one a deer’s body with a rabbit face turned toward the viewer in an unimpressed way, and a funny Gregory Scott painting/movie about Roy Lichtenstein, which you can watch on vimeo:

 

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Roger Brown and the Chicago Imagists at Madison MOCA

The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art has a superb exhibit of Chicago Imagism up through January 15, 2012.  I saw the Roger Brown exhibition at the Hirshhorn in DC when I was in high school, and his paintings have stuck in my mind ever since.  He’s sort of a cross between De Chirico and a Sunday newspaper comic.  And there’s some kind of Zenoistic “stillness within motion” thing going on.  He paints a lot of disasters and a lot of skyscrapers, and sometimes disasters involving skyscrapers (as in “Sudden Avalanche” at left, or “World’s Tallest Disaster,” at right (which, by the way, is the cover image of Cate Marvin’s great poetry book of the same title.) Even the skyscrapers which don’t have disasters happening to them carry a certain sense of foreboding.

Many of the paintings in this show were gifts from the family of UW bacteriologist Bill McClain.  McClain credits the Imagists with inspiring him to have good ideas about biochemistry.  One more reason to go see this show!

CJ really liked it.  We have a new thing we do at art museums — I tell him he should look at a painting and say to himself, “What question does this make me want to ask?”  When he saw Brown’s “Skyscraper with Pyramid” (pictured in the linked profile of McClain) he asked why one of the people in the skyscraper was in color when all the rest were in silhouette.  Good question!

Anyway, great show, you can see everything in a half hour (though many of the paintings are worth spending longer on) and it’s free.  We’re lucky to have this museum in Madison and I encourage people to take advantage of it!

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Imaginary Architecture

Filip Dujardin‘s digitally assembled photographs of buildings that don’t (and often couldn’t) exist are on display at the Chazen through May 16.  Worth the trip.  More Dujardin images at BLDGBLOG.

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Evan Baden: The Illuminati, at Wisconsin Union

Five prints from Evan Baden‘s photo series The Illuminati are hanging now through January 19 in the 2nd floor galleries at the Wisconsin Union.  The idea is pretty simple:  photos of young people by the light of their computing devices.  But they’re beautiful.  Whoever curates photography at the Union is doing a very good job.

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Obama, glitter, Wisconsin

Monica hits the front page of the Guardian, which reports on the art-auction party she threw for Barack Obama in New York in advance of Super Tuesday. Monica tells me that artist Aaron Sinift is still selling his glitter Obamas at $240 per: $80 goes to the artist, $160 to BO. This blog doesn’t endorse candidates, but it does endorse art; and let me just say that Obama looks great in glitter. In fact, since WordPress has upped its storage limit to 3 gigs, I don’t have to just say it — I can show it!

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Monica probably doesn’t want her e-mail address on this blog, so if you want one of these (I hear they make excellent Valentines) write me and I’ll write her.

I’m glad the Democratic race is still undecided; I’ve never lived in a state with a meaningful primary before. I took CJ out to lunch today (at the very welcome newcomer Pizza Brutta on Monroe) and was very much hoping BO and HRC would cram themselves into the banquette on either side and cover CJ with kisses. Didn’t happen. But we’re still 10 days away.

From the linked Guardian piece above, here’s Monica campaigning in Iowa:

We had volunteered to go door to door for Obama in Mason City, Iowa, prior to the Iowa Democratic primary caucuses. Mason City is very rural, surrounded by small pig farming communities. Weather at some points was well below zero. I knocked at one man’s house – I guess it was 7:30 in the evening – and he answered the door wearing only a pair of Y-front jockey underwear. He was probably 60-something, Republican. I asked him if he would vote for Obama and he asked me if I would marry him. I said no and he said no, so I went on my way.

But there’s a big question unanswered here. Did Mr. Y-Front Hog Wrangler want to know if Monica would marry Obama? Or was this a proposal? Two very different stories. Either one works as a “meet cute” scene for a romantic comedy of the opposites-attract type.

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