Posted inArt

Open Secret

Stanley Whitney is in his mid-sixties. By his own account, he struggled in the studio from the early 70s to the late 80s, “just trying to make work.” The issue was to make something that was his, rather than to make something that was the right or approved of thing to do. Although it is seldom discussed publicly, this is the dilemma facing every African-American artist. You must be a spokesperson who produces testimony that can be regarded as representative of Black culture — the “I” speaking for the “we.” (Even after the death of the author, it seems that there is at least one “we” that must be spoken for in this postmodern world.)

Posted inArt

Why There Are Great Artists (Part 2)

Before writing about Sylvia Plimack Mangold’s shift from interiors to landscapes, I think it is useful to once again consider the floor paintings, which she worked on for about a decade, beginning in 1967. It is in these paintings that the artist defines an approach to subject matter from which she has never wavered. She will paint only what she observes, but with more rigorous parameters than simply investigating her immediate circumstances. Her subject matter will never suggest an elsewhere or material plenitude. She will make no allusions to fantasy, leisure, or social status. It is incumbent on us to reflect upon what she does and doesn’t do.

Posted inArt

Book Spurning: The People’s Library at OWS

When the NYPD — invasion-clad and riot-tooled — swiftly and forcibly dislodged protestors of the Occupy Wall Street Movement from their stronghold in Zuccotti Park on November 15 last year, they mangled and destroyed, among other things, the so-called “people’s” library, an impressive collection of books generously made available to the public on a barter-basis: take one, leave one. A Gutenbergian species of free trade, if you will.

Posted inOpinion

Required Reading

This week, Koons’ hanging train, Mona Lisa dates change, Bloomberg gets its name on Hirshhorn balloon, 20 must-see artist websites, the exit of Exit Art, the Dictionary of American Regional English is complete, 60 Minutes to tackle contemporary art and more …

Posted inArt

Some Things I Know About This Artist

Max Gimblett was born in Auckland, New Zealand, in 1935. From 1962 to 1964, while living in Canada, he worked as a potter, an experience that has influenced his relationship to materials and process. In 1965, he moved to San Francisco, and began studying painting at the San Francisco Art Institute, and became friends with Phil Sims. It took Gimblett a decade to hit his stride.

Posted inArt

Why There Are Great Artists

The current exhibition of paintings, watercolors, and prints by Sylvia Plimack Mangold at Alexander and Bonin (March 16–April 28, 2012) got me thinking once again about the different kinds of spaces she has constructed in her work, beginning with the tilting planes in her early paintings, such as “Floor 1” (1967), “Floor with Light at Noon” (1972), and “Two Exact Rules on a Dark and Light Floor” (1975), all done in acrylic on canvas.

Posted inOpinion

Required Reading

This week, essays and reviews on Occupy and criticism, British Modernism, Herzog’s Biennial piece, The Art Newspaper misses the point in Russia, New York’s design community is strong, a Triennial review and a look at representations of violence.

Posted inBooks

Wheel Life: Paul Scheerbart’s Quest to Build a Perpetual Motion Machine

My favorite shelf in the home library is where Raymond Roussel, the Comte de Lautréamont, E.T. A. Hoffmann, Leonora Carrington and other writers form a brilliant phalanx of eccentricity and marvel. I turn to it like a five-hour energy drink, sampling a few pages of, say, Raymond Queneau or Heinrich von Kleist when in need of a shot of alternative reality (I’m waiting for cable to start producing surreality shows in which men and women practice automatic writing while in trances).

So what fun to add Paul Scheerbart and his perpetual motion machine to the line-up, an altogether delightful addition to the foule folle. A German writer who was born in the Prussian port of Danzig and lived in Berlin for much of his life, Scheerbart (1863-1915) was a jack of all genres — art critic, playwright, novelist, poet, etc. — with many muses.

Posted inArt

Without Elaboration (Part 2)

In 1981, Bess was reintroduced (or, for many of us) introduced by way of a small one-person exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Barbara Haskell organized the show and there was a small pamphlet available for free. According to the pamphlet, the symbols in Bess’ work were based on “obscure sexual references” and there was something “lurid” about them.