Art and Architecture

1971: A Year in the Life of Color

February 13, 2017
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1971: A Year in the Life of Color

Darby English’s 1971: A Year in the Life of Color points to a moment when the self-representation of black American artists working in the wake of modernism manifested in two shows staged during a tumultuous period of cultural, political, and aesthetic change—Contemporary Black Artists in America, at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and The DeLuxe Show, “a racially integrated abstract art exhibition presented in a renovated movie theater in a Houston ghetto.” *** Hyperallergic (in a piece by Jessica Bell Brown) has more commentary on what the convergence of these two shows meant for dismantling a homogeneous narrative of black modernist expression: Enter 1971, which takes as its starting point a most urgent year in aesthetic and racial politics. English’s object of study are two exhibitions essential to the ongoing relationship between black American artists and modernism: The Deluxe Show and the Contemporary Black Artists in America exhibition at the Whitney Museum, preceding Deluxe in the spring of 1971. In his book, English magnifies “an unprecedented brief swell of dissent within black political culture” that year, centering his study on the status and relevance of “color” as an aesthetic and social obsession. For so long, historians of African American art were unable . . .

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RIP Tzvetan Todorov (1939–2017)

February 9, 2017
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RIP Tzvetan Todorov (1939–2017)

Tzvetan Todorov (1939–2017)—literary theorist, intellectual historian, and philosopher—died earlier this week; in particularly uncanny circumstances, our free e-book of the month happens to be his The Fear of Barbarians. Rather than link to an obit, we’re going to reblog a conversation between Todorov and media scholar WJT Mitchell—who had never met in person or previously exchanged correspondence—that unfolded over three days on our blog, back in December 2010, on the heels of the then-recent publications of Barbarians and Mitchell’s Cloning Terror. Little more than six years ago, and the topics they discuss—the politics of occupation, the war on terror, the then-emergent Wikileaks, Goya, the US State Department’s penchant for torture, Guantanamo, cloning—feel both like prescient observations from a time now past, and nearly enraging in their unfortunate contemporaneity. Below, you’ll find links to Parts II and III. Download your free copy of The Fear of Barbarians here. ** We’re kicking things off with a series of letters between Tzvetan Todorov, author of The Fear of Barbarians: Beyond the Clash of Civilizations and W. J. T. Mitchell, author of Cloning Terror: The War of Images, 9/11 to the Present on the visual imagery of the war on terror, our current global political climate, and the role of . . .

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RIP JSG Boggs (1954/55–2017)

January 26, 2017
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RIP JSG Boggs (1954/55–2017)

In 1992 New Yorker critic Lawrence Weschler published Boggs: A Comedy of Values, which made the case for idiosyncratic conceptual artist JSG Boggs (1954/55–2017), whose work fabricated both a physical variety of currencies and the notion of legal tender, when Boggs tried to cash his bills in for goods and services. Boggs died this past week, and was duly eulogized, by both his hometown paper and the art world, and each offer up some details that enhance his story, perfect fodder for a world sorting out “alternate facts” from the “fake news.” From the Tampa Bay Times: Mr. Boggs’s full name was James Stephen George Boggs, but he was better known as J.S.G. Boggs and often just as “Boggs.” His art was all about money. It consisted, in fact, of exquisitely detailed, exact-sized reproductions of American dollars, English pounds and Swiss francs — though with one side left blank and key features drawn with an off-kilter twist. The George Washingtons on his “Boggs bills” sometimes faced the wrong way. Some were drawn laughing. Others crying. On some notes, Mr. Boggs’ own face appeared in place of the dead presidents. Others he signed above phrases like “crazy cash” or “for what it’s worth.” Often . . .

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RIP John Berger (1925–2017)

January 4, 2017
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RIP John Berger (1925–2017)

Critic, writer, and playwright John Berger (1925–2017), one of the twentieth century’s most important art critical voices (linking to the Guardian piece, as its the most thorough) died on January 2, 2017. Best known for the four-part BBC series Ways of Seeing (1972) and its accompanying critical text, Berger there offered a Marxist response to another (banal and apolitical) take on the history of culture, also produced by the BBC, Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation (1969). Hyperallergic was first with a tribute, which includes this anecdote: Speaking to Kate Kellaway, Berger explained his interest in labor and social issues. “The connection between the human condition and labour is frequently forgotten, and for me was always so important. At 16, I went down a coal mine in Derbyshire and spent a day on the coal face – just watching the miners. It had a profound effect,” he told her. When she asked how it made him feel. He responded quietly. “Respect. Just respect. There are two kinds. Respect to do with ceremony – what happens when you visit the House of Lords. And a completely different respect associated with danger,” he said. “This is not a prescription for others, but when I look back on my life I think it’s very significant I . . .

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Free e-book for December: Outside the Box

December 1, 2016
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Free e-book for December: Outside the Box

Our free e-book for December is Hillary L. Chute’s Outside the Box: Interviews with Contemporary Cartoonists. Download your copy here. *** We are living in a golden age of cartoon art. Never before has graphic storytelling been so prominent or garnered such respect: critics and readers alike agree that contemporary cartoonists are creating some of the most innovative and exciting work in all the arts. For nearly a decade Hillary L. Chute has been sitting down for extensive interviews with the leading figures in comics, and with Outside the Box she offers fans a chance to share her ringside seat. Chute’s in-depth discussions with twelve of the most prominent and accomplished artists and writers in comics today reveal a creative community that is richly interconnected yet fiercely independent, its members sharing many interests and approaches while working with wildly different styles and themes. Chute’s subjects run the gamut of contemporary comics practice, from underground pioneers like Art Spiegelman and Lynda Barry, to the analytic work of Scott McCloud, the journalism of Joe Sacco, and the extended narratives of Alison Bechdel, Charles Burns, and more. They reflect on their experience and innovations, the influence of peers and mentors, the reception of . . .

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RIP Mary D. Sheriff (1950–2016)

October 25, 2016
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RIP Mary D. Sheriff (1950–2016)

Mary D. Sheriff, internationally celebrated art historian and educator, died on October 19, 2016, at the age of 66. From Susan Bielstein, executive editor at the University of Chicago Press: We’re sad to report that our beloved author Mary Sheriff died on October 19, 2016, after a short, intense fight with pancreatic cancer. Sheriff was the W.R. Kenan, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Art History in the Art Department of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. A leader in the study of eighteenth-century art, she published three books with the Press: Fragonard: Art and Eroticism (1990), The Exceptional Woman: Elisabeth Vigée-Lebrun and the Cultural Politics of Art (1996), and Moved by Love: Inspired Artists and Deviant Women in Eighteenth-Century France (2004). We expect to publish her new book, Enchanted Islands: Picturing the Allure of Conquest in Eighteenth-Century France, and will announce a publication date in due course. From Sheriff’s partner, Keith Luria: specialized in eighteenth-century French art and transformed the field by re-evaluating rococo painting, introducing feminist perspectives, and examining European art in a global context. She published widely on artists such as Fragonard and Vigée-Lebrun, as well as on questions of art and gender. She taught at the . . .

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Virginia Dwan and Dwan Gallery

October 12, 2016
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Virginia Dwan and Dwan Gallery

Philip Kennicott, writing for the Washington Post, where he serves as art and architecture critic, recently reviewed Los Angeles to New York: Dwan Gallery, 1959-1971, an exhibition curated by James Meyer at the National Gallery of Art, in Washington, DC: The art galleries operated by Virginia Dwan from 1959 to 1971 were no ordinary white boxes selling decorative daubing to rich people. And the promise of some 250 works from Dwan’s personal collection to the National Gallery of Art is no ordinary gift. She played an instrumental role in the development of postwar American art, championing pop art, minimalism, ­language-based and conceptual work, and land art. She sponsored “The Lightning Field” by Walter De Maria and “Spiral Jetty” by Robert Smithson and paid for the land on which Michael Heizer carved his monumental earth work “Double Negative.” Fortunately, the exhibition surveying this gift is not the usual celebratory overview of a rich person’s trophies, either. “Los Angeles to New York: Dwan Gallery, 1959-1971” allows visitors to follow the intellectual path Dwan pursued during more than a decade of rapid change in American culture. In dialogue with the artists she championed, Dwan eventually talked herself out of the gallery business altogether, as the . . .

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August excerpt: Artificial Darkness

August 17, 2016
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August excerpt: Artificial Darkness

“Artificial Darkness Was Not a Medium”* Artificial Darkness does not advance the medium of darkness in place of the medium of painting or the medium of film. The histories of art and film presented here demonstrate not only that artificial darkness could operate between media but, more so, that it could only operate between media. Implicit in these histories, therefore, is a more radical proposition—asserted expansively by media theorists like Eva Horn—that there are no media. That is, there are no media “in a substantial and historically stable sense.” Joseph Vogl elaborates: “Media are not reducible to representations such as theater or film or to techniques such as printing or telegraphy. Nor are they reducible to symbols such as letters or numbers. Nevertheless, media are present in all of these things. They cannot be comprehended simply as a method for the processing, storing, or transmission of data. One can, however, reach their historical mode of existence through a special form of questioning: by asking how media determine the conditions they themselves created for what they store, process, and transmit.” Artificial darkness was not a medium. Instead, it was a “thoroughly heterogeneous ensemble consisting of discourses, institutions, architectural forms, regulatory decisions, laws, administrative measures, scientific statements, philosophical, . . .

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August excerpt: Live Form

August 15, 2016
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August excerpt: Live Form

“Craft as Collective Practice”* One way of characterizing the social turn in contemporary artistic practice is to foreground its history in the pedagogical practices of previous generations, in this case, women ceramists whose careers throughout the mid-twentieth century expand and enrich our current understanding of what socially engaged artistic practice is today. This book argues that is was modern craft and not modern art that spearheaded nonhierarchical and participatory experiences, through the experiential properties endemic to craft practices and, in particular, ceramics. This runs counter to the existing genealogies of participatory art charted by Claire Bishop and Boris Groys, which are wholly tied to a European model of performance and non-object avant-garde practice. Today, many artistic practices focus heavily on “socially engaged art,” “institutional transformations,” and “knowledge-exchange” between artist and audience. Mid-century craft is an important but unacknowledged antecedent to the activist principles that service such contemporary ideologies. Moreover, it was women artists, many of whom were affiliated with social reform movements and spearheaded radical educational initiatives, who performed the teaching and transmission of craft skills and ideologies at midcentury. This study is a thematic and gendered history of postwar American ceramics, which resituates a presently isolated and self-contained field . . .

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“The most mind-boggling coffee table art book of 2016 (or any time)”

June 3, 2016
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“The most mind-boggling coffee table art book of 2016 (or any time)”

I, too, am biased. I find Paul Laffoley’s work speculatively seductive—the paranoiac bad vibes-side of the New Age, mixed with some pretty great architectural schematics that anticipate accelerationism and our non-anthropocentric future. As part of a pretty compelling interview with Douglas Walla, Paul Laffoley’s legendary gallerist and editor of his catalogue raisonné, conducted by Richard Metzger (another pal of Laffoley’s) for Dangerous Minds, here’s a chunk that capitalizes on the wonder: Richard Metzger: Right after the publisher sent me a black and white print out of the book, you called me up and gingerly suggested that I “might want to give Paul a call at the hospital.” I indicated how great I thought the book was and you replied—more poetically than I’m putting it here—that you were relieved and satisfied that Paul would die knowing that he was on his way into the modern art pantheon, on his own terms. “He’s not going to die an enigma” is what you said. How did he feel about knowing the book would be coming out and the likely trajectory of his posthumous reputation as an artist? Considering his global renown and the financial success that it brought him in the final 15 years of his . . .

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