Friday, October 27, 2006

schwitters kunst

The Heart Goes From Sugar to Coffee, 1919

Miss Blanche
, 1923

The Knave Child, 1921

Images are from the website of the Schwitters Museum in Hannover, Germany (site in German).

Labels: , ,

Thursday, October 26, 2006

space program

Cornell history professor Michael Kammen will be speaking at the Bookery II this Saturday at 2:30 p.m. He will be discussing issues related to his new book, Visual Shock: A History of Art Controversies in American Culture. Controversial topics include abstract art, nudity and all sorts of salaciousness. MacKenzie Ryan has a brief review in this week's Ithaca Times. She invokes the cover's "seemingly phallic" juxtaposition of Constantin Brancusi's "Bird in Space" with the Washington Monument. That makes two mentions of the great Romanian sculptor in one issue, the other being my own (you've seen it already, I'm sure).

UPDATE (10/29): The above date is correct, but the day of the week is wrong; the talk is Sunday. I'm going to begin a week of traveling by going down to Buffalo and will thus be unable to make it. Sorry for the misinformation.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

kurt schwitters, godfather of hip-hop

so, surrealism?

Jacques-Louis David, Madame Recamier (from the Artchive)

Kurt Schwitters

From my latest Times review:
The Museum of Modern Art had a big blockbuster show this summer, featuring one of the most radical and iconoclastic movements in early twentieth-century art. Dada, the name of the show and the movement both, was jam-packed with artworks of wildly differing characteristics. It captured the eclectic funhouse atmosphere of the movement, its loudness and vibrancy. At times however, it had the feel of a theme park, or a sort of Dada's Greatest Hits. In addition, much of the quieter or more reflective material was buried amidst the spectacle.

A Private Eye: Dada, Surrealism, and More, now showing at the Johnson Museum, serves as a welcome companion piece. Gathering works from the collection of Cornell alumnus Arthur Brandt, this show highlights lesser-known work by well-known Modernist icons. In addition, more obscure names are given their day in the sun, often outshining their canonical counterparts. Dada and its successor movement, Surrealism, are complemented by work from other avant-garde movements of the time. The show, although large by Johnson standards, is dominated by small, delicate work, art that doesn't scream.
If it isn't clear enough in the article, I'd like to reemphasize the obvious, namely that the Johnson is a small university museum, here drawing off of the collection of a single individual. My comparison with the MoMA show was intended not to hold the Johnson to an unreasonably high standard, but rather as a way of thinking about different ways of showing similar work. While I'm not familiar with the Mr. Brandt or his collection, I imagine that curator Andrea Inselmann was working within some serious constraints. She seems to have done a respectable job, considering.

There are a number of worthwhile looking events connected with the show (which is up through Christmas Eve):
*Francis Naumann, a scholar and gallerist, will talk on Thursday, November 2 at 5:15 p.m.

*Arthur Brandt himself will show up to talk about his collection with the two "men" (Francis and Andrea) on Saturday, November 4. That's at 4:00 p.m.; the Johnson's late fall reception will follow at 5.

* Andrea will be giving two exhibition tours: one on Sunday, November 5 at 3:00 p.m. and another on Thursday, November 30 at noon.
Do enjoy the show.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, October 22, 2006

what goes on

I'm writing my Private Eye review for the Times right now (due tommorow morning, but hey, the show just opened yesterday!), so the big, thoughtful essay-like posts I know I have in me will have to wait a while. Thanks for understanding.

(The above image is of Man Ray's Cadeau, aversion of which appears in "Eye". This image is "courtesy" The Ontological Museum.

Much of what I posted under my "echo" series merits further elaboration; let me know if you have any ideas or just want to express enthusiasm for a topic. The "long zoom" topic is of particular interest to me, my scientific ignorance notwithstanding (hi Barbara!). It seems like some bridges need to be made between the (pop) scientific discourse and the contemporary art discourse. Someone else out there is no doubt much more qualified than (The Thinking) I. Barbara? Steven?

Over the last two weekends, I've been doing volunteer work at Ithaca's famous Friends of the Library Booksale, which is "one of the three largest" in the nation, according to their website. I've been sorting and straightening out books, a great passion of mine (believe it or not). Sections such as "Art", "Communications", and "Sociology" were relatively neat last time I checked. Alas, sections such as "Military History" and "Thrillers" are probably doomed.

I'm going try to see all the Ithaca art I can this week. John Hartell, who designed my parent's house--where I'm currently doing time and where Vladimir Nabokov did so in the past (really!)--has a show of painting and other work at the Upstairs Gallery. Gimme Coffee on Cayuga has--along with some really tasty espresso--a show of gelantinous looking sculpture and other work based on some kind of esoteric philosophy-theology involving the notion of "zoltophy" (anybody know about this?). Ernst Schoen-Rene is the artist's name. My caffeine addiction will be driving me back shortly. The Johnson has a Polaroid show and a show of Daoist art that I've barely glanced at and the Ink Shop has a print exchange with works from Toronto. I'm sure there is more out there.

I'm also planning a trip out to Boston early next week. As I've mentioned in various places, I'll be reviewing the work of Gerry Bergstein, my former SMFA instructor. Did anybody go to the opening or the talk? What else is going on in town? More on my plans later in the week.

I'm going to try blogging every day this week.

Labels: ,

Friday, October 20, 2006

more echoes

Barbara Mink, Untitled (2006/8)

I'm trying to catch up with some things that have interested me while on blog hiatus.

*Pop science writer Steven Berlin Johnson writes on the forthcoming computer game Spore, and what he calls "the long zoom". The later is his proposal for a new visual paradigm based on the ability to see and imagine things at vastly different scales--from the global to the microscopic and beyond. I'm no scientist, but this appears extremely relevant to artists, including those working in "traditional media". Johnson develops many of these ideas in his new book, The Ghost Map, a disease thriller.

*Barbara Mink is an Ithaca artist who is grasping her way into this domain. Her half of a two-person show back in August contained rich, painterly abstractions that move away from her earlier, more recognizably landscape inspired work. An included statement cited the influences of natural diasters and Hubble space telescope imagery. (Regretably, I don't have a copy of the statement right now; if Barbara or anybody else wants to send it to me, I'll consider posting it here.) I think the work isn't quite living up to the concept yet; nevetheless, they are beautiful paintings. I review an earlier show of hers here.

*Other artists working within "the long zoom" occupy a disproportionate number of slots under the heading "Artists" in my sidebar. They are representatives of what I consider to be one of the most promising developments in recent art. Check them out.

*Natasha Pickowicz (my boss!) has a short essay on a recent local performance by (the) Small Sails. I was there myself, and was mesmerized by their spacey, electro-acoustic sounds and backing video projections. The theatre (one of Cornell's cinematheques) was almost completely dark; at times I would forget that there were actual live musicians performing onstage. I still don't know what the performers look like.

*Local artist Steve Poleskie's blog is among my favorites. He has done everything from realistic portraiture to "aerial theatre". In the early to mid sixties, he lived in New York City, where he founded and ran the screenprinting studio Chiron Press. He worked there with a broad cross-section of the New York artworld. Needless to say, he knows some interesting characters. He came to Ithaca to teach at Cornell in 1968 and has mostly lived here since. He also has a new historical novel
, The Balloonist, to be published soon. His blog revolves around his long and fascinating life, as well as new projects of his.

*Warren Craghead's a map's little spell is an innovative combination of hand drawing, collage, and web interactivity. It explores some of the weirder aspects of the familiar suburban landscape. It is strangely reminiscent of the "computer games" I used to write as a child on some primitive Mac.

*I've been enjoying Matt Madden's sweet, playful meta-comic 99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style, which you can preview here. Based on the format of French writer Raymond Queneau's own classic Exercises (also highly recommended), he repeats nearly one-hundred times the banal incident of a man getting up from his work to go to the refrigerator. Each reiteration is done a different way. Formal elements are rearranged and various popular comics genres (daily strip, fantasy, horror, superhero, etc.) are pastisched. Its tremendously entertaining.

Labels: , ,

the thinking eye previews "a private eye"

Opening tommorow at the Johnson, is A Private Eye: Dada, Surrealism, and More. Included are "over 150 works" on loan from the collection of Dr. Arthur Brandt, a Cornell alumnus. Not just Dada and Surrealism are to be seen; other early modernist movements will provide both context and interest of their own.

Granted that I only returned to Ithaca a little over a year ago (after spending five years in Boston), it seems like its been a while since the city has seen such a large grouping of classic modern art. Needless to say, I'm thrilled, and other art fans of Ithaca should be excited too. These were iconoclastic movements, protesting against the "academic" art of their time; one hopes that not just today's academics will see the show.

My personal favorite amongst the included artists is Kurt Schwitters, who ran a one-man Dada movement in Hannover. He dubbed it "Merz", part of "Commerz" (commerce), a word fragment found on a paper bit used in one of his earliest collages. Best known for his paper collages and three dimensional assemblages, he also worked as an avant-garde graphic designer, which was still a fairly new career in the nineteen twenties. Check out his links to the Constructivist work in the show.

Anyway, I liked Schwitters enough to spend a year of art school imitating him. I would gather detritus from used bookstores, from my apartment, and from the street. I would spend hours, days, weeks arranging and layering the pieces over paper or board. I would add paint and ink, brushing and dripping, layer after layer. It was disappointing to me that the magazines and candy wrappers I used seemed to lack the richness of those from Weimar Germany. Eventually, I moved on to more unexplored territory, but I still get a thrill from seeing his work. Never did I expect to do so in Ithaca.

I'll be reviewing the show (which I have yet to see) for next Wednesday's Times. I intend to find something I can gripe about, but really this is a show that shouldn't be missed.

Labels: ,

Sunday, October 15, 2006

everything you ever wanted to know...

Karl Zipser recently interviewed me for his thoughtful blog, Art and Perception. Topics include me as an art-writer, the state of the contemporary scene, and the relationship between internet globalization and local art cultures. Here are the results.

Labels: ,

Friday, October 13, 2006

times update

The Ithaca Times' new arts blog can now be found here. Posted most recently is a Flickr set (taken by the Times' photographer Amelia Burns) depicting the Dougherty installation in what looks like wonderful weather.


Wednesday, October 11, 2006


From today's Ithaca Times:
In Collegetown, nestled in between Cornell's Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts and Sheldon Court (a grad student dorm), North Carolina sculptor Patrick Dougherty has realized Half a Dozen of the Other, one of his signature tree branch installations. Six woven twisting towers form a V-shape, pointing away from the street. Each is supported by a living tree. The trees poke in and out, acting as rigid counterparts to the towers' fluid dance-like movement. From some angles the sculptures appear as domes, from others like frayed rope.
More here. Pictures.

Labels: ,

Sunday, October 08, 2006

a game called echo

Some things that I've enjoyed recently or plan upon enjoying in the near future:

*A Cornell lecture by Albright-Knox director Louis Grachos, who co-curated last year's intriguing if unfortunately titled Extreme Abstraction.

*Cornell art department head, Buzz Spector is doing a book installation in downtown NYC next January. With luck, it will be recreated here in Ithaca come spring. The sculpture, to be shaped as an enormous "C", will compile work by university faculty in the arts and humanities.

*The Ithaca Times (which I write for) has an new arts editor, Natasha Pickowicz. I recently had the pleasure of meeting her. I have two upcoming reviews there. One--to appear this coming Wednesday--will be on Patrick Dougherty's outdoor installation. Appearing later in the month will be a review of the Johnson museum's upcoming exhibiton of Dada and Surrealist art. I'm particularly looking forward to reacquainting myself with the work of the great Kurt Schwitters. A wall of his paper collages--hung salon style--was the personal highlight of my visit to MoMA's Dada blockbuster back in August. Ms. Pickowicz has also started a Times arts blog, which I hope to contribute to soon. UPDATE: The Times blog linked to above is defunct; a new one will be launched into orbit in the coming weeks.

*My other major pilgrimage on my August trip was to the Jewish Museum's small show of Eva Hesse sculptures. (I unfortunately missed the accompanying show of her drawings.) Seeing them was a rare treat, due the fragility of the experimental materials that she used (latex, resin, fibreglass...). More about the two shows here...

*Up right now in NYC is Personal Geographies: Contemporary Artists Make Maps. The exhibit, which aims to show "work that relates to charting or mapping in a personal, non-empirical manner" includes work by Josh Dorman, whom I've written about glowingly in the past. More...

*Gerry Bergstein, with whom I've studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, will be showing his work at Boston's Gallery NAGA. This is Your Brain on Art will open this coming Friday (the 13th). There will be a talk on the 21st. Following up my DeCordova piece, I'll be covering the show for Big Red & Shiny.

*Karl Zipser, of Art & Perception, recently interviewed me on art, blogging and number of related topics. While I don't expect it to surface for another week or two, you can find some other exchanges between the two of us here.

More to come...