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Posted inArt

New York City’s Art Scene in the 1920s

We’ve all heard the tales, dripping in posthumously-applied glamour, of New York City in the 1920s. These stories are usually set in smoky speakeasies with women donning flapper dresses and short bobs, saxophones smoothly slithering along a bar full of bootlegged liquor and men in fedoras and suits. The artistic trends that blossomed from 1920s New York have inarguably influenced those of today. Here is a brief history of what happened during the decade of decadence in the sleepless and sinful siren that is New York City.

Posted inArt

Tilting at Windmills: Joe Zucker as Don Quixote

Joe Zucker is the most inventive artist of his generation, which includes Elizabeth Murray, Mel Bochner, Joan Snyder and his longtime friend, Chuck Close, and perhaps the most misunderstood. One reason for the confusion is that reviewers have often focused on Zucker’s inventiveness with materials and processes without recognizing that they are inseparable from the work’s content. He is far more than an idiosyncratic formalist.

Posted inArt

Duchamp’s Endgame, in Chess and Art

BRIGHTON, UK — Swapping out pieces in a game of chess is only a smart move provided you hold the most on the board, or at least the strongest position. But a new show at the Barbican in London suggests chess could be a “metaphor of exchange” between the artists it lines up. According to the theory, Duchamp swaps ideas with acolytes: John Cage, Jasper Johns, Merce Cunningham, and Robert Rauschenberg. And yet the Frenchman, superb chess player that he was, came out conceptually on top by the time of his death in 1968.

Posted inArt

Single Point Perspective: Kafka’s Object and Its Objectives

There is a rather large and forbidding object currently on display on the second floor of the New Museum.

More than 9 ½ feet tall and 6 ½ feet wide, it is made up of two sections: an upper level composed of three cabinet doors, one of which is open to expose a set of gearwheels, and a mattress with arm and leg straps below. Twenty five cables hang down from the machinery in the cabinets, terminating in large, hair-raising needles.

Posted inArt

Art That Thinks Inside the Box

What is it about boxes that is so fascinating? I was thinking this as I went into Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art to see Pandora’s Box, a show that displays artist Joseph Cornell’s signature assemblages alongside the works of artists who allegedly were inspired by him or who were in artistic sympathy with him. I can think of historical precedents: medieval reliquaries; Victorian memento mori, which often look strikingly like Cornell’s miniature worlds. But these forebears don’t quite explain the combination of weirdness and visual beauty of something made by Cornell, nor the undoubted fascination with him since his death. His boxes frame the objects in a different way than a conventional picture frame, of course; they concentrate the viewer’s attention; but there’s something else, which finally came to me after I’d seen this show.

Posted inArt

Corporate Media Fictions: Brad Downey and Banksy

Just over two weeks ago, a story about an excavated Banksy in Berlin ricocheted across the global media. Most of the coverage featured closely cropped smiley faced riot police and the name “Banksy” screamed in the media coverage. From the tone of the coverage and the emphasis on the discovery of a lost Banksy most people probably assumed it was another case of an opportunist commercial gallery swiping a street art work and displaying it in order to make a potential profit. What many people — and news outlets — didn’t realize was that the glimpse of the Banksy was only part of a much larger work by artist Brad Downey.