Our friends J and D rank the Harvard Natural History Museum as one of their two favorite Boston destinations, along with the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Dinosaur and whale bones. A hummingbird collection. The world’s largest collection of Victorian glass flowers.
This Ivy League museum is the very definition of old school exhibition style: all the specimens are tightly grouped, even stacked, in front of bright monochrome backgrounds. Without any environmental context whatsoever, the viewer is free to think about the animals however they wish, which makes for a wonderfully poetic exploration. Contemporary museums go to extremes to recreate appropriate environments for their stuffed specimens and often avoid the relationships that are so interesting. It’s surprisingly refreshing to focus on just one thing, not the entire context.
on the set at The Listening Array photo and video shoot
I have spent my week listening to secret tapes from Kennedy’s office during the Cuban Missile Crisis and reading the transcripts of Reagan and Gorbechev’s Cold War dinner parties in Reykjavik, Iceland. It all boils down to espionage, really, and the bug the Russians put in the U.S. seal at the American embassy in Moscow. That seal, plus fifty-year-old listening devices and gold halos in historical art: that’s the jist of this project.
It doesn’t necessarily make sense, and that used to bother me, back when I was suspicious of postmodern art, before I started making serious art myself. Yet it does make a kind of sense when you see it all in context. This project we’re working on is called The Listening Array: a term that refers to a series of microphones connected in different intervals that correlate data to determine position. It’s a device used for spying. It’s also exactly what it sounds like: an arrangement of things that are used to listen. In this project, it references both meanings.
Vik Muniz from the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book [source]
If you’re still wondering what to get your loved ones for the holidays, may I suggest consulting a tried and true Dallas institution, the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book. For $110,000 you can buy a “His and Hers Double Portrait in Chocolate” by Vik Muniz. The perfect gift for the art lover in your life.
From the catalogue:
Maybe he sent bonbons after the first date. Certainly, untold chocolate has been exchanged over the years. To celebrate that entertaining, exasperating, enduring thing you call love, try our His & Hers portrait by Vik Muniz.
The brilliant Brazilian lives and works in New York, crafting internationally famous art out of literally anything: caviar, dirt, diamonds, toys even! Here, he will capture your likenesses in a double helping of Bosco® chocolate syrup. You come away with a framed 60″ x 48″ museum-quality photographic work of art, a limited edition of one, thank you.
To grow the good karma you’ve started, Vik is donating his proceeds to Centro Espacial Rio de Janeiro, the charity he created to bring social and art projects to life for underprivileged young people in Brazil.
More here: Neiman Marcus Christmas Book Fantasy Gifts and Brazilian Artist Vik Muniz has Some Sweet Paintings
As for us, earlier this week, we left the 14 inches of snow on the ground back in New England and flew down to Dallas to celebrate Christmas with family.
When we lived in LA, what we loved about the city was that on a given day, we could see a great exhibition at a number of world-class museums; see new work at galleries in a handful of art districts; browse the numerous specialty art, architecture, design-related bookstores; hear a visiting artist speak at any of the umpteen area universities; go to an arthouse theater, or a silent film theater, or a foreign film theater. That gargantuan city has seemingly endless opportunities to expand your horizon as an art and culture lover.
But practically, it’s a hard place to make art. Studio space is scarce, pricey and often limited in size. The cost of living is high. And there’s something about limit-less opportunities that makes it easy to neglect your own work in favor of doing something more appealing. To spend your money on tickets to RedCat instead of artmaking materials.
Now that we’ve set up studio in Providence, we’re starting to hear the same complaints from artists who have fled “The City” [this seems to be what East Coasters say in reference to NYC] in favor of this artist-friendly town. Providence has in spades what more notable culture centers don’t: abundant, cheap industrial studio space; low(ish) cost of living; and — most importantly, I think — fewer distractions.
At the same time, we’re not geographically isolated from the rest of culture. Murray and I have established an art-viewing routine here that involves going to Boston at least weekly and to New York almost monthly. We travel in this country and abroad often enough to get our fill of new ideas and the current dialogue in the art world at large. But on a daily basis, we have the luxury of time and space in the studio. Good coffee on our way there. Other artists, industriously working nearby.
For us, it amounts to a vibrant, daily practice. And that’s a good trade-off.
It’s a big space, 2800 sqft, and we’re sharing it with two other artists (both teach at RISD). Like many studios in the Providence area, it’s an old mill building that’s now multi-use industrial with artist studios thrown into the mix. This space has been in the artist studio rotation for who-knows-how long, so we’ve got the happy task of peeling back the layers of inherited materials and tools and dust and cobwebs to make a space that’s workable for this new crew of studio-mates. It’s already set up well, with a shared wood-shop and a shared open space for building larger projects or showing work for studio visits.
Since I took these pictures, Murray and I have pieced together a smaller work space for the two of us and have started to move in the boxes of studio gear that we’ve been edging around at home since we got our stuff off the moving truck.
What you’re not seeing here is a large loft space over the shop area, the kitchen area, and the individual studio spaces, as well as the view out the wall of windows, which captures a steep tree-covered sloping hill and the roof lines of the rest of this enormous complex.
A while back my mother gave me her cast-off mobile phone because she found it too complicated to use. One of her complaints was that it was always taking random pictures. When I got the phone, I had to sort through a gallery of 187 inadvertent pictures. The majority were easy to delete, but a handful of the photos were cool.
Thomas Demand, Poll, 2001 [source]
Truly one of the best photography shows in recent memory. MCA EXPOSED: Defining Moments in Photography, 1967-2007 not only pulls together some of the best photos of the last forty years, it does so in a challenging and engaging fashion. Ordered in logical, and sometimes provocative, groupings — “staged photography,” “portraits,” “landscape” — in rooms that are prominently labeled, but not overly text-heavy, this exhibition is proof that the MCA’s reputation as the go-to museum for contemporary, conceptual photography is well-deserved.
Two regrets: there is no exhibition catalogue, and the museum’s website offers very little information about this show. Those who can’t make it to Chicago before July will miss out on a great exhibition. The MCA would be wise to follow MOCA’s lead: offering the audio tour of the new WACK exhibition, along with reviews and a preview of the catalogue, online.
MCA EXPOSED: Defining Moments in Photography, 1967-2007
February 24 – July 29, 2007
Murray and I are in New York for the conference. Yesterday, I spent the day seeing art with my friend Alison Owen. We hit the Whitney Altria’s Burgeoning Geometries show (good), the National Academy and High Times, Hard Times: New York Painting 1967-1975 (good), and then spent a lovely lunch and late afternoon at PS1 (great, especially the Vik Muniz show). We were there in time for sunset, but unfortunately, the door to James Turrell’s roof piece was frozen shut.
Phoebe Washburn, Minor In-House Brain Storm, 2006
Diana Cooper, Emerger, 2006
For our upcoming show, we knew we wanted to create a 2D wall-collage that documents the process of making the videos, to accompany the videos themselves. What we realized we wanted was a living document that functions like the project categories on this blog: a loose narrative of the “making of” these two pieces with photos, experimentation, and commentary.
We thought about taking the presentation in a more sculptural direction, but quickly realized that the sculptural-ness of the work could outstrip the organic conceptual map that we’re trying to evoke. In reality, we want to disconnect the process from a linear timeline, and reconnect it into a didactic schematic of two people struggling to come together in collaboration.
Since we document everything, we’ve got plenty of material — photos, writing, sketches — to cover a 25′ stretch of wall. What is left to do is create the narrative that links everything together, which we’re thinking will end up looking something like a brainstorming flowchart.
We’re working on the collages we’ll be installing this Saturday. The collages document the making of the two videos the exhibition is featuring. The drawing above is one of the collage presentation strategies we’re considering. Documentation has such a tricky relationship with the art it represents. So often, documentation becomes the art, something we’ve tried to avoid.