The Museum of Art and Design, New York’s The Global Africa Project makes an audacious claim: to present the art, design, architecture, and craft of the contemporary African diaspora. Given that Africa is the world’s second largest continent, with a population of over one billion dispersed among 54 distinct countries—never mind the millions of people of African descent living elsewhere—any attempt to survey its production and influence seems impossible. However, the curators — Dr. Lowery Stokes Sims, formerly director of the Studio Museum in Harlem and currently the Charles Bronfman Curator at the Museum of Arts and Design, and Dr. Leslie King-Hammond, founding director of the Center for Race and Culture at Maryland Institute College of Art — have embraced the unwieldiness of the notion of “Africa,” creating an exhibition that intentionally raises more questions than it answers.
Robert Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty” (1970) is arguably the most famous, least directly experienced work in the Land Art cannon. Most know the work from iconic aerial photographs, some by Smithson’s accompanying text and some by his weird and monotonous film. Built in 1970, the 6,650 tons of black basalt paved in a 1,500 foot long counter-clockwise coil was underwater and invisible for nearly 30 years until the early 2000’s. During the first days of 2011, artist Suzanne Stroebe and I ventured into the frigid landscape of Northern Utah to Rozel Point, the home of Spiral Jetty on the Great Salt Lake. On January 2, Smithson’s birthday (he would have been 73 and coincidentally died in 1973), we visited the site for the afternoon and returned two days later to spend an incredible 23 hours with the jetty and its lunar-like, desolate landscape.
On November 30, 1994, choreographer Bill T. Jones’s experimental dance piece “Still/Here” opened at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The work featured live dancers performing in front of video footage of terminally ill people discussing their sicknesses. Nearly a month later, dance critic Arlene Croce blasted the piece in a now-infamous essay in the New Yorker. Announcing that she had never seen “Still/Here” and had no intention of doing so, Croce wrote, “By working dying people into his act, Jones is putting himself beyond the reach of criticism. I think of him as literally undiscussable.” She went on to classify that category of undiscussability as “those dancers I’m forced to feel sorry for because of the way they present themselves: as dissed blacks, abused women, or disenfranchised homosexuals—as performers, in short, who make out of victimhood victim art.” In many ways, the National Portrait Gallery’s current, controversial, and excellent special exhibition Hide/Seek feels like a resounding rebuttal of Croce’s thesis.
The Metropolitan is really hitting hard with its new media efforts lately, coming out with an interesting project in conjunction with its Lod mosaic exhibition, as well as a new presentation called “Connections,” an online series of photo slideshows with audio featuring museum staff giving short presentations of pieces in the museum collection that fascinate them, based on a particular theme or idea. The videos are fun insights into the personalities of staff and the collection, but they could go deeper into the art objects that they present.
In 1996, someone mentioned to Richard Timperio that he should mount a Christmas show at the Planet Thailand cafe on Bedford Avenue. While Timperio isn’t a big fan of Christmas shows, he gave it a try and organized the first in what has developed into an annual tradition of inclusive exhibitions that continue to grow. This year’s incarnation is titled It’s All Good (Apocalypse Now).
A new Roman mosaic on view at the Metropolitan might have been used for an entertaining parlor, but its imagery is anything but peaceful. Excavated in Lod, Israel, the 300 A.D. mosaic is thought to be from the home of a wealthy Roman, installed in a room that would have been used for hosting guests. The Lod mosaic is also unique in that it’s incredibly well-preserved; the colors of the tiles pop like nothing that’s 1700 years old should. What really pops, though, is the mosaic’s imagery. Composed of hunting scenes that focus heavily on animals eating each other, it’s a pretty strange sight.
Eli Broad’s much anticipated museum finally unveiled the design by Diller Scofidio + Renfro to the public today. First of all, I have a very difficult time taking firms that use a plus sign instead of an ampersand or just the word “and” seriously because, really? Anywho, back to the design. Bluntly put it’s a rhombus looking cube with a concrete (concrete!?) honeycomb skin that makes a “flirtatious gesture in the direction of Disney Hall,” Christopher Hawthorne’s words, not mine. The honeycomb of the skin is elongated in such a way towards the highest “flirtatious” point, it actually just looks like it is being sucked into a vortex, and not a good one.
In a New York magazine article, Justin Davidson calls for the Whitney’s Breuer building to be turned into an architecture museum, a space devoted to exposing a side of the practice that we don’t normally see. Davidson points out New York’s lack of an institution to educate the public about architecture. But is that what the Breuer is meant for? As the Whitney moves downtown, we’re faced with different possibilities for the iconic building. Could an architecture museum take the place of a huge contemporary art museum in the architectural icon?
The new year is always a time of idealism. We want to improve ourselves, lose weight, find success in a new career: everyone has high aspirations. Why shouldn’t we do the same for the art world? Here’s a list of resolutions I have for the contemporary art community in 2011. There are some suggestions, some criticisms and some predictions, but what they all have in common is a desire to foster a better public artistic dialogue, free of some of the snares we encountered over this past year. Click through for a small flash of optimism before what promises to be a roller coaster ride.
The purpose of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts’ new Art of the Americas wing to provide a space to tell the entire story of American art. Yet visitors may be surprised to find the ground floor of the new wing occupied by Aztec, Mayan and Native American art, sharing space with early colonial work. The new galleries question the idea that “American” art is solely defined by work created in the United States, tied to the too-strong connection between “America” and the colonial US. The MFA instead presents art from this era of both Americas, South and North, as a continuum, part of a dynamic intercultural milieu. But how far does the museum go in redefining what we mean by “American” art?
Sometimes, the internet is boring. It’s a tough truth to bear, but it is true nonetheless, and I deal with that fact when it rears its ugly head. But what brightens up those dreary internet days for me aren’t just the websites I check out for news and info, they’re the personalities that I rely on to get that info to me: their senses of humor, senses of the surreal and their ability to hand-pick and hand present stuff that I want to see. Here are ten Twitter personalities that I love hearing from, and I think you should check out for the New Year, and beyond.
How many of the estimated 46,000 artists, dealers, collectors, and lookyloos that checked in at Art Basel Miami Beach actually made the 35-minute car trip from the stunning South Beach to industrial Wynwood for the Seven Art Fair is still unclear.
Seven was to Basel what Independent New York was to the Armory Show. An art fair (ok fine, temporary exhibition forum), yes, but set up as a museum-like display rather than sales booths, more concerned with theme and content than commodity object. Curatorial considerations made intelligent relationships between artists from different galleries, instead of an “art world greatest hits.” Because of the elimination of sales booths, the pressure was off. Here, dealers seemed to be interested in discussing ideas.