ReactorWeekend

Required Reading

by Hrag Vartanian on November 11, 2012

Shelley Miller’s sugary street art, like this one in Brazil, is a beautiful creation with an unconventional material, sugar. The artist describes her series, called “Sugar Coating: Brazil” as “a temporary façade, serving to reinforce the poverty and crumbling infrastructure of this town. This piece acts as a metaphor for the economic imbalance in many of the sugar producing countries, such as Brazil and the sugar industry as a whole. Beneath the surface of the sugar industry empire lies the reality of its slave labor foundation.” (via shelleymillerstudio.com, h/t Colossal)

This week, designing for catastrophes, Chelsea’s survival, Canada’s art biennial, Toronto’s take on street art, Jeff Koons and Basque separatists, and more.

 Should events like Hurricane Sandy make us think about the role of design in the world? The New York Review of Books explores the topic:

Putting contemporary design at the center of humanitarian crises, the Norsk Form approach is a notable change from the way the discipline has been viewed in recent decades. Philip Johnson founded the Museum of Modern Art’s design collection in 1932 to promote useful objects that accorded with his concept of industrial design as an art form. That idea was typified by his Machine Art exhibition (1934), which presented airplane propellers and circular ball-bearing housings atop pedestals like works of found sculpture, and for decades thereafter, MoMA’s imprimatur signified that an object could be both beautiful and practical. During the 1980s, however, opportunistic marketers and complicit journalists began to place an increasing emphasis on the celebrity of consumer-goods designers.

 Blake Gopnik’s article in Daily Beast/Newsweek about Hurricane Sandy’s impact on the Chelsea gallery district is worth a read:

But despite the repairs going on all around her, Sawon worried that, overall, the effect on the art world might be profound. “It’s the collapse of the middle class, extrapolated to the gallery world,” she said. She was voicing a thought heard from many of her peers: that international megadealers like David Zwirner and Larry Gagosian will pull through just fine, and that the tiny baby spaces will find a way to survive, but that the gallery scene’s middle — “where the most interesting art happens,” according to Sawon — may get hollowed out.

 Leah Sandals reviews the new Canadian art biennial, titled Builders, at the National Gallery of Art in Ottawa for Canadian Art. The funniest revelation, that is oh soo Canadian, is that the inspiration for this biennial came from the Hockey Hall of Fame, but that’s not to say there isn’t a lot to discuss in the exhibition:

While I was delighted to encounter an exhibition that didn’t just seem a roundup of the usual Canadian art star suspects — and that did help me learn about underappreciated creators and personalities who have been toiling away teaching and building the community — some uncomfortable questions came up for me around the exhibition’s premise.

In particular, I wondered how much being included in a biennial with this type of theme could feel like a bit of a consolation prize — as in “oh, we never did a big solo show of you, and you know it’s been decades since we’ve shown your work here at the gallery, but we want to show you here and now because, well, you’ve been a great influence on other artists.”

 The city of Toronto has created a committee to determine what part of street art is art and what is vandalism.

 Do you know the story of Jeff Koons’ “Puppy” (1995) and the Basque separatists? If not, read this. As Mark Sheerin explains, “The episode is like something from the pages of a thriller.”

 A short post about the history of street art in the political life of Indonesia:

This emphasis on change is consistent with Indonesian street art’s origins, but even in 2012, after a period of reform, the scene continues to expand.

The comments and the links they contain are as interesting as the post.

 An interesting data visualization of Foursquare check-ins in New York during Hurricane Sandy. (h/t @ArtsTechMeetup)

 This isn’t art related but it’s the funniest take — in 140 characters or less — I’ve read on last week’s US elections:

 And finally, your Sunday dose of hard to believe photography: “25 Places That Look Not Normal, But Are Actually Real.”

Required Reading is published every Sunday morning EST, and it is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts or photo essays worth a second look.

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  • http://twitter.com/yoonytakeuchi Yoony Takeuchi

    The works by Shelley Miller are really beautiful, but the concept behind her sugar walls feels really offensive. The poor kids lick a piece of art in their ghetto neighborhood? I feel guilty for liking this. Is it just me.

    • http://hragv.com Hrag Vartanian

      I don’t think she intends them to be eaten, but for the kids and others to think about the role of sugar in the economy of Brazil. I initially thought the same thing though, so I wonder what the kids think when they see it and if they even realize they are made of sugar.

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