« December 2004 | Iconoduel | February 2005 »

January 31, 2005

Sosa... So Long!

I've been so busy lately that I missed this major piece of late-breaking news from the Cubs' lackluster off-season:

Sammy Sosa is headed to the Orioles, pending a physical.

Hope you like salsa music, Baltimore.

The Cub Reporter detailed the news on Saturday and offers a smattering of opinions today. Al Yellon's always good for a thought or two as well.

But about this offseason... Though it was high time for both Sosa and Alou to hit the road, the team's done seemingly little to address their absence behind the plate. I remain cautiously optimistic but, Jim Hendry's reputation for pulling off improbably good trades notwithstanding, does anyone else have that sinking feeling warming up in the pit of their stomach? That's a ripe bit of Cubbie love blooming right there.

"Sosa... So Long!"
Posted by Dan at 04:46 PM | Referenced URL's | Comments (2)

January 29, 2005

Who Wants In?

Art Chicago's stated deadline for exhibitor applications (December 1) passed by right in the midst of the Great Miami Maelstrom, and the drop-dead date for withdrawl without penalty is February 1. The competing Chicago Contemporary & Classic fair has no apparent application deadline, though the penalty for withdrawl already rose from 30% to 50% back on January 16 (full penalty on or after March 15).

So this seems as good of a time as any to see where some local galleries stand, what with lines being drawn in the sand and all.

A quick canvass of 18 River North and West Loop spaces yielded all of three who said they plan on participating in Art Chicago 2005 in Grant Park. Zero avowed plans to exhibit on the Pier with CC&C.

Of the 15 remaining, one said it will "probably" and two said they will "possibly" do Art Chicago, while nine don't plan to participate in either fair and three were unsure of their plans altogether (whether the assistants I spoke with simply didn't know or said the gallery wanted to "wait and see").

Ten of these galleries exhibited in Art Chicago 2004 and twelve were involved in 2003. (By my count, there were all told 28 Chicago-area galleries and dealers represented in 2004—not counting Wendy Cooper, who has since relocated here from Madison—out of around 150 exhibitors total.)

Though perhaps suggestive of a general tenor, this is an admittedly incomplete accounting. There were five or six other galleries that I wanted to ask (including a couple heavy hitters) but, for various reasons, was unable to. I did not inquire with Thomas McCormick, but have since noticed an image of theirs in rotation on CC&C's exhibitors page, suggesting that they, at least, have been lined up to show at the Pier. That makes one, anyways. (McCormick exhibited at Art Chicago in both 2003 and 2004.)

In spite of any trivial edge that could be granted to TBA and Art Chicago from all this, only one person I spoke with expressed any great enthusiasm about their participation in the fair. Otherwise the prevailing tone is, quite understandably, that of rampant uncertainty. These galleries are not necessarily art fair-averse—a number had recently returned from fairs in Florida (variously Art Basel Miami Beach, -scopeMiami, NADA, Frisbee and Palm Beach 3) and several are gearing up for others elsewhere (ArtLA, the Armory Show, -scopeNewYork, Art Basel, etc). There seemed to be more or less a general sense of agreement, though, that a number of things need to be "sorted out" before they're going to be willing to pony up $10,000+ for a booth on the home front.

Thomas Blackman was hurting out in San Francisco earlier this month, in part due to questions about the state of affairs in Chicago. And CC&C's sister fair, Art Miami, has had plenty of troubles of its own, living in the shadow of the Basel juggernaut. The hesitance in evidence among local galleries seems to suggest, anecdotally at least, similar issues around here.

CC&C says they anticipate featuring around 140 modern and contemporary galleries (in addition to their coverage of antiques and decorative arts), expecting this to account for half to two-thirds of Festival Hall's 170,000 square feet. For their part, TBA has their own 125,000-square foot tent to fill.

If they can't convince the locals, though, who can they convince?

"Who Wants In?"
Posted by Dan at 06:37 PM | Referenced URL's | Comments (0)

January 25, 2005

Judgment, Skepticism and Impatience

A check in to Armavirumque today finds Roger Kimball, as he is sometimes known to do, using his formidable powers of erudition in the service of good rather than evil.

Kimball on Truth:

In a famous passage of The Confessions, St. Augustine asks "What, then, is time? I know well enough what it is, provided that nobody asks me; but if I am asked what it is and try to explain, I am baffled." It is hard to read that passage without experiencing a shock of recognition. There is a basic sense in which, like St. Augustine, we all know what time is. As Einstein once observed, time is "what the clock measures." Any yet it is impossible not to feel that that answer, though correct, is somehow insufficient to the awesome reality of time--assuming, that is, that time is or has a reality and is not, as some philosophers have insisted, an illusion we contribute to make experience comprehensible.
When Plato described time as "the moving image of eternity," his formulation was more poetic than Einstein's, but not necessarily more satisfactory. The fact is that time, like many basic concepts, names an idea we are perfectly familiar with but that we may not be able to explain. Consider the concept of truth. There is an important sense in which we all know what truth is. We just couldn't get along in the world if we didn't. But being able to apply a concept in daily life does not necessarily mean we can define it. Or that we really understand it.
But even if subjectivity is truth, the problem of justification, of knowing what to answer when some asks you to explain, remains as pressing as it ever was. The history of speculation about truth has prominently included what we might call a school of impatience that, instead of trying to solve the problem, has endeavored to dismiss it.
All the varieties of scepticism belong to the school of impatience, as do pragmatists like the American psychologist/philosopher William James who defined truth as "what works." (The 20th-century Australian philosopher David Stove spoke in this context of "the American philosophical tradition of self-indulgence, or to give it its usual name, pragmatism.") The school of impatience tends to flourish in cynical ages, and so it is not surprising that it is immensely popular in our own age.
There is something discomfiting about confronting basic questions to which one has no, or only inadequate, answers. Faced with the question "What is truth?" it is much easier to behave as Pontius Pilate did and just wash one's hands.
Easier, but not finally more satisfying. The school of impatience has the advantage of distracting us from questions we may not be able to answer. But it has the great disadvantage of distracting us from questions that continue to matter, whether or not we can answer them.

As it pertains to art and criticism, the skeptical impulse is too often allowed to preemptively quash judgment. While questions along the lines of 'on what basis are judgments to be made' are crucial and probably what we're ultimately about, the lack of a solid answer ought not disqualify judgment altogether. Skepticism is a fine, indeed, healthy thing. But it can too easily become a crutch for avoiding engagement.

Of course I hasten to add that, in addition to the scores of knee-jerk skeptics in its ranks, the mighty School of Impatience also harbors its fair share of conservative reactionaries, always so impatiently aghast that their received truths might possibly be open to question.

It seems the flip-side of the sophist's interminable skepticism would be the conservative's self-satisfied certainty.

Neither holds much appeal for me.

[Update: via Grammar.police (on Kimball's tortured take on the "perils of sexual liberation"), Matthew Yglesias, who is very well acquainted, too, with matters metaphysical, and Brad Plumer take Kimball to task for his treatment of philosophy since Nietzsche, in which the artful Roger appears to be rather, err, impatient in his own skepticism. Yglesias: "... of course the philosophers he thinks are merely 'dismissing' the problem are doing no such thing. Kimball may not approve of, say, Richard Rorty or Donald Davidson but they're certainly writing on the subject." (Cf also: the ungenerous swipe at pragmatism quoted above.)]

"Judgment, Skepticism and Impatience"
Posted by Dan at 07:50 PM | Referenced URL's | Comments (3)

More to Come... I Swear

I promise that the quietude that has managed to reign around here of late will end fairly shortly. One more week of real-world distraction to go.

That said, I did manage to get my ass in gear recently, making it out and about to some galleries and finally getting over to the Art Institute before both Hero, Hawk, and Open Hand and Anri Sala's Focus commission, a 9-minute 35 mm film titled Now I see, disappear on January 30.

I do hope to somehow make it back there one more time, however briefly, and so will reserve what substantive comments I can muster until later. For the time being I'll leave it at this: Hero, Hawk, and Open Hand left me mildly disappointed and the Sala, rather befuddled. Viewing the latter twice through, I wondered whether I was missing something.

On her way out of the installation, one viewer remarked that she suspected it might be 'something about testosterone.' There is probably something to this but, in any event, she seemed nonplussed. Though a pamphlet with a good deal of accompanying text from curator James Rondeau is available, I feel comfortable saying—whatever my final opinion of Sala's piece itself—that it is damn near the height of ridiculousness. Again, I hope to view the film again, so... we'll see.

(Elsewhere: Alan Artner goes after the piece here, chalking up his dislike of it as a failure for popular culture. As usual, I think he overdoes it a bit.)

I also chose to face the elements head on Saturday night along with a couple hundred other brave souls to take in a evening showing of In the Realms of the Unreal, Jessica Yu's Henry Darger documentary, at the Music Box. The film was followed by a Q&A with Michael Bonesteel. More on this all some time in the not too distant future as well.

"More to Come... I Swear"
Posted by Dan at 03:28 PM | Referenced URL's | Comments (5)

January 18, 2005

Here and There

Yet another online run-down.

Artists, Submit

At Anaba, Martin urges artists nationwide to submit their proposals for the 2006 Whitney Biennial:

I would love it if artbloggers across the country cut and pasted this information onto their own blogs- no need to link, Tyler - and we can send the curators a message that we want to see more than simply a reflection of the Chelsea market. E-mail the information to your artist friends! Post it at your local art center! Submission is free, you'll get a cool rejection letter, and who knows - maybe someone will actually slip through the NYC filter of money and connections.
All submissions to be considered for exhibition in the Biennial should include the artist's biography or resume, a brief description of the proposed work, and between six and eight images. Recommended formats for images include slides, computer printouts, digital images on a CD_ROM, audio CDs, or VHS videotapes. We do not accept original artworks in the submission package.
Submissions may be sent to:
Biennial Coordinator
Whitney Museum of American Art
945 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10021

Martin's already got his proposal prepared, how about you?

Van Harrison Heads West

At panel-house, Terence Hannum tells us of Van Harrison's departure for LA, closing with this familiar refrain:

Is it a larger matter of pride to say that Chicago sustained an environment that cultivated Van Harrison/1R or that some day, if that day comes, Chicago sustains the future VH/1R's? As with all disappearances that befall Chicago's art "community", and it appears as if every era has theirs (though it feels as if they are growing closer together), some reflection is required. In my review of Josh Mannis and Anna Mayer at artLedge I alluded to these coastal migrations of spaces as well as closures. To be honest I have little faith much will change or that much reflection will be given. If we read back to FGA or look back to the 1970s here in Chicago a certain trope becomes clear. I think it is endemic to Chicago to be ignorant of what it has until whatever it is goes bankrupt, closes, flees, or grows tired of being ignored.

For an apt illustration of the phenomenon, observe the link-rot on the two-year-old site's own links page. To be fair, I'd imagine these sort of closures and disappearances are not limited to Chicago. Then again, the pathology Hannum notes as endemic to the city stretches beyond the narrow corridors of its contemporary art scene.

Engaging Judgment

At Modern Kicks, Miguel stands by his man:

I don't necessarily embrace as fully developed a Kantian position as I've sometimes articulated - I like it, but I'm not wedded to it. That said, the skepticism toward judgement I think I see hinted at in Timothy's posts (and Dan's comment) worries me a bit. As the "ethics of engagement" line suggests, judgement, whatever its problems, is what we've got to work with here.

I'm not so sure I see "the skepticism toward judgment" in Quigley's post myself. If anything, I see an affirmation of the need for judgment, perhaps with a recognition of the skepticism that in a certain respect attends our historical moment:

The value of criticism goes beyond the ethics of engagement. If that were all that were at stake we would be dealing with little more than abstract moralizing. But surely it's the effects that matter since the one who is critiqued is able to see more clearly how the work is actually being received. Nor is that process itself straightforward and direct. Understanding the response of the critic itself entails interpretation and assessment. So everyone involved is caught up in a delicate exchange involving perception, response, articulation, and (yes…) judgment. This enables all involved to sharpen their wits and refine their practice, whether it be expression through an artistic medium or engagement and understanding through the medium of ordinary language.
This is the very first step we must take in order for there to be any hope of creating a lively and productive critical environment. But it's not sufficient. There are too many other obstacles in place that must also be examined and dismantled.

Hoping to probe the middle ground between a Danto–Belting posthistorical mishmash and a Greenbergian historical determinism, Miguel also hits us with a reading assignment:

No one seems to like the enervating aspects of Danto's pluralism, the nominalism of Morris Weitz's art-is-what-the-artworld-says-it-is position. But there isn't a lot of support for another determinist choo-choo train [a phrase Rosalind Krauss levels at Greenberg], either, even if anyone knew how to get one going. Again, I don't have any answers. But one thing I think might be interesting along these lines might be to read Jean-Francois Lyotard's "Answering the Question: What is Postmodernism?" over against Greenberg's "Avant-Garde and Kitsch" with an eye toward comparing the animating strategies of the two essays.

Both essays are anthologized (the former, I believe, in excerpt, the latter in its entirety) in Art in Theory 1900-2000. (And, for what it's worth, both appear in my obsolete edition of Art in Theory 1900-1990 as well, so no need to upgrade just for this.) Greenberg's essay can also be read online. As far as I can tell Lyotard's isn't online, but with Amazon's Search Inside feature in effect, the enterprising reader can read the entire thing there.

No excuses now, folks. Read up, and remember to bring your notes to class.

"Here and There"
Posted by Dan at 04:20 PM | Referenced URL's | Comments (6)

Be Still My Heart

Could it be... a new Chicago art blog?

Folding Chair

A quick Google suggests the author is an Art History MA at SAIC.

As they say, developing...

"Be Still My Heart"
Posted by Dan at 03:42 AM | Referenced URL's | Comments (0)

January 17, 2005

Maybe it's the unwieldy acronym

Preparing its last-ditch revamp here at home, it seems Thomas Blackman Associates continues to suffer out on the west coast as well. This past Saturday the San Francisco Chronicle tackled the lack of fanfare surrounding this year's 7th San Francisco International Art Exposition (i.e., SFIAE7):

Expectations have deflated over the years since the fair's impressive beginning in 1998. By 2003, no one could disguise the fact that San Francisco's "International" art fair had devolved to a mostly regional affair.
SFIAE7 will have trouble making even that claim, as this year several of the city's most prominent galleries have passed on participating: Rena Bransten, Haines, Fraenkel, Steven Wirtz, Patricia Sweetow. The fair's international component has dwindled to three contributions from South Korea, one from Europe and one from Canada.
The advance wave of publicity for SFIAE7 was so faint that rumors of its 11th-hour cancellation began to circulate. Organizer Thomas Blackman put it down to a badly timed change of publicists and no local backup.
Some exhibitors also hesitated to commit, doubting that the fair would go forward, Blackman complained, because of news stories in mid-2004 noting the recent decline in quality and business of Art Chicago.
The devolution of the Chicago fair threw people on the art scene there into a tizzy of self-doubt. Everyone had grown accustomed to seeing the event as corroboration of Chicago's status as a serious art town.
San Francisco should not make the same mistake, no matter how disheartening locals may find SFIAE7. The Bay Area's identity and viability as a regional art center have never depended on any single perennial event and never will.

"Maybe it's the unwieldy acronym"
Posted by Dan at 02:49 PM | Referenced URL's | Comments (0)

Flash Bulbs and Artifact Preservation: Myth Debunked!

It seems my Google skills are suffering.

In response to the recent brouhaha over some problems at MoMA, especially regarding flash photography in the works on paper galleries, I posted a bit of an incredulous reply to someone at Gallery Hopper who questioned the scientific basis of a ban on flash photography. I thought I'd champion taking a conservative tack if no compelling evidence refuted the danger. I couldn't find much by way of contrary arguments via Google, and so was pretty well content to quote MoMA itself and the Library of Congress on the matter of light damage (no direct mention of flash bulbs in either) and leave it at that.

Todd Walker did his own bit of Googling on the topic and found a page refering to an apparent debunking of this danger from August 1996 on the inestimable Conservation DistList, but offering no real details. Now, while I never thought that my searches were exhaustive or decisive, I was surprised that I hadn't gotten a hit on this. I just assumed that my various casual Googles on the topics of conservation, light damage and flash photography would pull up any existing references from the DistList (which would have been my go-to resouce on the matter). Hell, I even threw in "distlist" as a search term a few times.

In part I assumed this because it's always looked to be a pretty well-indexed resource. For one thing, when Googling my own name (you see my true colors now, folks), among the top three results was always a single question I once posed to the list. As this is no longer the case (and considering the lack of hits I was getting) I figured either they've changed their robot policies (by which I mean this, not this) or their PageRank had somehow taken a hit, apparently leaving a Googler blind to their expert opinions. It couldn't possibly be my own incompetence.

Prompted by Todd's find, however, I thought to actually try out the CDL's own search utility, simply searching for the term "flash." Lo and behold, the search quickly revealed a thread containing this thorough debunking of the flash bulb myth. It took all of three minutes. Looking back, it seems the simplest of Google searches—try "distlist flash"—leads to another copy of the same post (not to mention some other good stuff). Grrr. Suffering on account of my own desire for complexity.

Here's the argument:

The underlying principle for any such calculation is reciprocity, the notion that light effects are cumulative in a simple additive manner. Reciprocity has been found to hold with reasonable accuracy in several industrial studies of textile light-fading, in at least one copying machine flash tube study, and most recently in a paper I just accepted for the upcoming ICOM-CC conference, by Saunders and Kirby of the National Gallery London. It is far and away the best study to date, on several historically important colorants, and finds reciprocity holds very nicely. While it is true, as someone noted, that some chemically measured effects linger in the dark (e.g. free radicals have been shown to take many hours to decay in photodegradation studies of wool) there is no evidence that this is a significant correction to estimates based on simple reciprocity. (Ezrati has a paper in the upcoming ICOM-CC conference showing intermittency has no significant effect on dye fading). So, the rest is arithmetic, and units.
An electronic flash on a camera is typically sized to use f8 for a film of 100ASA at a subject distance of 3m (10ft). From photo handbook data, this is equivalent to a light dose at the artifact of about 30 lux seconds (lx-s). An alternate route to this estimate is via the Illumination Engineering Handbook data: Xenon flash tubes for photography range from 10 to 200 Joules rating. Given efficacy of about 50 lumens per joule, a wide-angle reflector throwing the light forward into about 1/4 of the sphere, this gives a range of 20 lx-s for little builtin flash to 400 lx-s for big fat studio tubes.
For convenience, round up to 50 lx-s for each amateur. Assuming the gallery lighting is the lowest most museums can tolerate, 50 lux (5 foot candles) then each flash adds the equivalent of one second of normal gallery exposure. So, 300 amateur flashes a day is equivalent to adding five minutes to the display day. In order to actually increase damage by 10% on a ten hour day, one would need to experience 3600 flashes per day. Two large professional flashes would raise the ante a little, they would need 225 flashes a day to add 10%. For museums at 150 lux (15 footcandles) these numbers become 10,000 amateurs, or 700 pros, every day. To actually double fading would need 100,000 amateurs a day. Most museums would kill for those attendance figures! As for the UV wrinkle, xenon is used because it has a spectrum very close to daylight (6,000K). Given typical glass tubes and plastic diffusers, the UV ratio will be a little higher than properly filtered light, but UV type damage is far from the Achilles heel of artifacts at controlled light levels, it is color fading, and UV is not the issue here.
In other words, flash may very well be banned for reasons of copyright, or as a disturbance to the act of contemplation (my personal vote) but there is no preservation reason. I think the ban started originally because flash bulbs (and their precursors the open magnesium flash) were a genuine fire hazard, and an explosion hazard (hot fragments) and a garbage problem. Of course, tripods, hot studio lamps, and bulky equipment are still hazards, and a photography policy still necessary, but please don't wave the red flag of conservation over flashcameras.

So I stand corrected.

Spread the word far and wide, friends. We've got a Dark Age to end.

*Update: Todd Walker

"Flash Bulbs and Artifact Preservation: Myth Debunked!"
Posted by Dan at 12:12 PM | Referenced URL's | Comments (5)

January 12, 2005

This and That

Back briefly to point the way to a smattering of news and views.

First... If it's January in Chicago, you know what that means: aberrant weather and then some. Record high in the 60s today. Thunderstorm and flood advisories to boot. By Friday: forecasted high below 20 (revised up from sub-zero temps).

Rest assured that I'm not letting this allow me to shirk my duties around here, however. No, lack of posting is due to something else entirely.

Anyways, onward to a rundown of all that captures my fancy...

Our Man Henry

Tomorrow night is the Chicago premiere of Jessica Yu's In the Realms of the Unreal, a film about Chicago's own outsider par excellence, Henry Darger. Part documentary on Darger's life, part animated exploration of his work, the film features the voices of Dakota Fanning and Larry Pine, as well as interviews with some of Darger's few acquaintances and neighbors.

Proceeds from Thursday's premiere at the Siskel Film Center will benefit Intuit. General admission is $45 (Film Center and Intuit members, $35; students and AIC faculty and staff, $15).

Too rich for you? It will also be showing at the Music Box beginning Friday the 21st. You can join me then.

Some folks out west already got to see the film when it screened at the Hammer Museum on the 5th (and it hit the festival circuit before that): insurgent.muse and Rarified Air have the skinny.

An Institutional Burden

The hot item of the day in Artblogiana has to be this little shake-up at UCLA (abLA picks it up from Artnet News):

Last week a rumor shot through the California art world. Artists Chris Burden and Nancy Rubins (his wife) had resigned their positions as teachers in UCLA's art department after an art student loaded a gun and fired it during an art performance in class. Apparently, Burden wanted the student to be reprimanded, but the university administration demurred, leading to the resignations. Both the artists and the school are mum on the matter. Burden, of course, is known for a 1971 performance piece, Shoot, in which he had himself shot in the arm with a .22 rifle.

A comment at abLA suggests some further details, that the student in question "played Russian roulette in front of his new genres class." Scary shit, if this proves more than a casual locution, and I think prefectly legitimate grounds for a reprimand if not expulsion. Whatever the case, it is a classroom for God's sake. Let's leave the steel back at the avant-garde cabaret.

Caryn pegs Burden's reaction as ironic (Kriston too, it would seem). I'm not so sure I'd call it that, as I'd have to imagine he feels some sense of responsibility in response to this affair and, accordingly, some cumpulsion to act. [*Update: Kriston has since updated with a clarification and a fair share of indignation to level at UCLA.]

Then again, maybe Burden is just pissed at the inevitable academicization of his own avant-gardism. As if it weren't enough that the Conceptualists' objects and documents have, against all predictions, managed to rematerialize out in the vulgar art market, now Burden's shocking act has become a sort of token classroom gesture. The real irony here, and its a perrenial one: how institutional is our avant-garde?

Back in the abLA comments, Mark points out that Mat Gleason was on top of this a month ago, quoting a email that tipped him off to it. This may be little more than pure bloviation, but, absent the facts, I withhold judgment:

When you consider what this character did as a performance you gotta wonder why. Can you say hypocritical? Can you say cry-baby?
Seems Burden is lookin to crucify some kid to save his own bloated egotistical ass. It gets better. There are issues at play that are gonna ring real loud if they get beyond the walls which are currently protecting them. This is gonna be interesting.
I know this kids story. He aint no huff & puff typical student art fag. He is out on a limb. I invoke the spirit of G.G. Allin to come to his aid. Check it out, you'll see why. Right now he is waging a war against Chris, Nancy, Lari, etc. that i think you might appreciate.
They don't want the media involved. You'll see why.

My favorite response of all today comes from Sarah Hromack (with rhetorical chops like these, Sarah's grad school aps ought to blow 'em all away—so to speak):

What is it about the work of Burden and company that causes art students (most especially self-conscious boys, it seems) to blatantly imitate their conceptual hijinks? I suspect several answers to my own question, and none of them are simple. There’s a point in an art student’s undergraduate career, somewhere around sophomore year, where one has completed basic art history requirements and moves past 1945 to more conceptual/ performative works. Everyone is sick of drawing figures, painting still-lives, and cutting up Coloraid, and on the verge of dropping out from sheer, mind-numbing boredom. Grandpa Art Professor gathers us around for a blessing with west coast fairytales, and within weeks, everyone is rolling in ketchup and shitting in their pants.
Yes, obviously, Burden and his fellow glass-eaters are crucial to the history of American performance art. Yes, we should learn about them as students. And yes, learning is a process sometimes best done through imitation and repetition. But how many sledgehammers have to be taken to innocent watermelons? How many heads cut off deer, dead dogs covertly stored in studios, childhood stuffed-animals lasciviously defaced? Way to go, self-indulgant, testosterone-driven undergrad. You ruined it for everyone.

I say chalk it up to the romantic lure of arch radicalism. If a bit of dook in the dungarees is what it takes to smash up the Society of the Spectacle, then so be it. Viva la Résistance!

How bourgeois is the derivative radical?

Julia Friedman Reloads

Also of note from today's Artnet News...

I see that erstwhile West Looper Julia Friedman reopens in NYC on February 4. The gallery's inaugural show at their new Chelsea location, Wanderlust, features work from Jacques de Beaufort, Katy Fischer, Pablo Helguera, Torbjørn Rødland, Santiago Cucullu, Johannes VanDerBeek, and Daniel Arsham.

James Wagner recently said of Joymore's move from Chicago to Williamsburg, "Chicago's loss is our gain for sure."

Let me echo this sentiment (from this end of the stick) re: Friedman.

New Art for Grant Park

At its January meeting today, the Chicago Park District is expected to formally approve the acceptance of a large work by Polish sculptor Magdalena Abakanowicz. Agora (or, as the Sun-Times would have it, "Angora") consists of 100 cast-iron figures, headless and 9 feet tall, and will be installed in 2006 toward the south end of Grant Park near the corner of Michigan and Roosevelt.

The work is a bit of Sister Cities cultural diplomacy courtesy of the artist, the Polish Ministry of Culture and "a private Polish foundation." (For the guests, some well-worn Chicago trivia: until fairly recently our fair city's Polish population was exceeded only by that of Warsaw, though we now face challenges from such upstarts as Krakow and Lodz.)

Of the new work Bob O'Neill, president of the Grant Park Advisory Council, says, "It's edgy... You'll be able to walk around the 'people.'" O'Neill also predicts "it will be the most talked-about Chicago sculpture installation since the Picasso in Daley Plaza" (the Tribune's words). A hot Polish sausage poised to outdo Anish Kapoor's chopped liver just up the road? Is there some sort of interpark rivalry we don't know about?

Form Forsakes Function

While we're moving up that road to Millennium Park... I see today that Gehry's lovely, serpentine bridge over Columbus Drive was closed down when the snow and ice hit this past week. Why? The Trib has the scoop [via New (sub)Urbanism, via City Comforts Blog]:

The deck of the $14.5 million span was built using 2,000 planks of Brazilian hardwood. Rock salt would damage the wood, and park officials also discounted using the only other obvious snow-removal technique.
"It's over Columbus [Drive], so it's not like we are going to go out there and shovel it and dump it on the cars," said Helen Doria, executive director of Millennium Park.
Until it snowed heavily at the park, which opened in July, officials were not aware that wintry weather would force them to close the bridge, Doria said.
Gehry did not return phone calls to his office in Los Angeles.
Getting you to the other side of a street or river is not always the main goal when a bridge is designed, experts said.
But Nair said Gehry does not necessarily deserve harsh criticism for his choice of material.
"This is really not the kind of structure that has to be usable every day," Nair said. "Maybe it's reasonable to put the aesthetic considerations over practical matters."

"This and That"
Posted by Dan at 07:14 PM | Referenced URL's | Comments (1)

January 7, 2005

Shame On Me

I haven't made my way to a single gallery in town since late October. I'd planned to go out this past Wednesday, but weather and laziness conspired to scrap any and all plans.

Some others have been out and about a bit more recently than I...

There's a whole slew of openings tonight, primarily in River North, and Paul Klein has the lowdown over at Art Letter.

For a nice rundown from West Loop, Rarified Air brings the holiday goods. All appear to be up through at least the end of the month.

"Shame On Me"
Posted by Dan at 04:31 PM | Referenced URL's | Comments (2)

Paschke's Final Interview

Artbeat Chicago returns to Channel 11 tonight with an episode devoted to the late Ed Paschke.

I would imagine they will show all or part of Dan Andries' Thanksgiving Eve interview with Paschke, who died in his sleep from heart failure on Thanksgiving morning. Audio from the WTTW interview was previously included in segment for WBEZ's Sunday morning arts show, Hello Beautiful! back on December 5, which you can listen to here (Real Audio).

As I recall, the interview was just the first of three or four planned conversations with the artist in his Rogers Park studio. One of points of spacing out the interviews was to allow viewers a look at his exacting artistic process as it unfolds through the creation of a painting. As it stands, we'll naturally only get a glimpse at his work in its early stages.

That's a glimpse I'm looking forward to, however. Apparently Paschke, a consummate craftsman best-known for an electrifying pallete, always exhaustively layed out his compositions in a thorough grisaille underpainting before ever integrating even a bit of color. Downright classical in its way, but also revealing as to why some of his paintings have a look of brightly toned photographs.

Artbeat airs tonight at 10 pm on WTTW Channel 11 and repeats Saturday at 11:30 pm, Sunday at 5:30 pm and Wednesday at 4 am.

"Paschke's Final Interview"
Posted by Dan at 03:29 PM | Referenced URL's | Comments (0)

Pfingsten Demands Satisfaction

Surrounded as we are by forbidding mountains of snow, our attention was naturally prepared to turn to Miami this morning, where Art Miami 2005 kicks off today. Franklin appears, shall we say, less than enthused.

But first, there's a bit of a shakeup in the local art fair wars, as reported in this morning's Sun-Times...

If you'll recall, Thomas Blackman Associates recently announced dates for Art Chicago 2005. It will not be in the summer as they had previously hoped (to avoid competing with the spring auction season, it was said) but rather the spring, a mere week before the competing Chicago Contemporary & Classic fair (brought to us by Pfingsten Publishing, the producers of Art Miami, CC&C will be taking over Art Chicago's old slot at Navy Pier). As if it weren't already enough to have the two fairs on consecutive weekends, the CC&C folks announced yesterday that they're now moving their fair up a week and so will compete directly with TBA.

No chance now, I guess, of gallerists participating in both (if that were cost-feasible before). I'd imagine collectors, too, may have their loyalties split. Pfingsten's forced their hand and we've got us a duel (though not yet the raging three-way we'd been promised).

Rob Spademan, marketing director of CC&C's parent company, Pfingsten Publishing, said the date change was intended to take the show out of conflict with the spring art auctions in New York, making it easier for more exhibitors and collectors to attend the Chicago fair.
Last year, CC&C director Ilana Vardy told the Sun-Times she was content with the Mother's Day Weekend dates because they were Chicago's traditional time slot for an art fair. "But once we got out there selling the concept, this was a bigger issue than we thought it was," Spademan said Thursday. "So we had to adapt."
CC&C also announced that the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, known as McPier, had guaranteed it the more favorable time slot for the next seven years.
That was hard news to swallow for Art Chicago owner Thomas Blackman, who said he had unsuccessfully requested alternate dates at Navy Pier for the past several years. When Art Chicago vacated its longtime home at the pier's Festival Hall last year, Blackman said it was McPier's inflexibility on scheduling that was the primary cause. (McPier later sued Blackman for $375,000 in unpaid rent and fees; the lawsuit was settled in November.)

The Tribune (who, given a three-day lead time for stories in Tempo, long ago relegated overnight arts news to minimal newswire-style reports in Metro), has the following:

"Hosting our fair the week prior will significantly increase our ability to better serve both the galleries and the collectors," said Ilana Vardi, director of the exposition.
That week was the one announced in November for Art Chicago, which will be moving to Grant Park's Butler Field. The change in dates forces prospective participants to choose one fair or the other, as they cannot practically exhibit in both. Concurrent expositions recall the situation that took place in Chicago in 1993 when three fairs battled for dominance, with Art Chicago emerging the winner.

Whether any of this actually matters (and why) is a question we may ponder later. For now take a gander at former gallerist Paul Klein's take from the wake of Art Basel Miami Beach last month. The man pulls few punches:

The success of the Basel / Miami Fair is completely attributable to the remarkable competence of the organizers, and the failure of Art Chicago likewise lies solely in the hands of those who put it on. Art Chicago has suffered from a thorough lack of vision and bad manners.
Many are prone to laud Miami and blame Chicago for the fairs' relative success or lack thereof, but that's not really the truth. It is however safe to say that the Miami extravaganza is easily 4 times larger than Art Chicago in a city less than one quarter the size—so of course it’s going to have a greater impact there.
This is not to say that Chicago blew it, or that we can't have a kick ass fair here. But it damn sure says that none of the existing players are sufficiently competent to pull off a good Chicago show. There are certainly many collectors who want to come back to Chicago, but I'm not sure this country's increasing population of philistines will support 3 fairs (the 2nd being the Armory show in New York).
Next May, at least in theory, we will have two, mediocre at best, "art" fairs. Thomas Blackman Associates is no longer welcome at Navy Pier, for good reasons, and he says he will be putting a show on in tents, but I don't know a single one of his former exhibitors who wants to leap his burnt bridge. And Ilana Vardy's Pfingsten Publishing Group, which does have Navy Pier's endorsement for next May, has a history of a financially viable (for the organizers) show that is neither cutting edge nor innovative, just lucratively bland.
Here, look at the numbers. Approximately 150 galleries with take 4 booths, each at $5000 per booth, yielding the organizers Three Million Dollars. Even if they charge as much as $20 to enter, which they never have, and get 30,000 attendees, which they won't, the attendance figures only generate $600,000.
In other words, as Chicago's two organizers go forward into vaporland they really don't care about the quality art that brings in quality visitors; they care about the number of exhibitors. Hey, they may succeed economically, but we're going to be screwed.
My hope is that both shows cancel, admit defeat and slink away. They don't care if they are an embarrassment. Heck, the Old Town Art Fair will probably be better—at least they care. I would prefer a void.
With a void we have a need and maybe we will be lucky enough that the Basel group steps up and does a real show. Or Mark Lyman, but the Basel group has already raised the bar so high that only they, I think, could do a successful show here, because only they can draw the right exhibitors.
I’m not holding my breath.
Chicago has so much more substance than Miami. Our collectors don't need to collect 8000 works of art to compensate for anything. And we support our institutions. And if you don't agree, let me buy you lunch at Millennium Park and then we'll head over to the Art Institute for additional discussion.

[*Update: CC&C gets snubbed in Artnet's list of fairs and biennials, covering the first half of 2005 [via NEWSgrist], though they do have one of those rotating box ads at the right. Oddly enough, TBA has one of these too—for their River North exhibition space that hasn't existed since they abandoned their Huron Street offices back in July.]

"Pfingsten Demands Satisfaction"
Posted by Dan at 10:35 AM | Referenced URL's | Comments (0)

January 6, 2005

Our Guardians and Gatekeepers at the New Criterion

I'll join Tyler in his perplexity over the Armavirumque take from a year and a half ago on Christo and Jeanne-Claude's rather belated Central Park project The Gates, which has finally begun to be erected after a mere quarter-century delay, set for a late-February "opening."

To wit:

Christo's latest scheme is to sell the city back its own Central Park, plus about 15,000 metal gates of his own design, each decorated with colored fabric banners. At $5 million, it's a steal.


And here I was, laboring under the apparently mistaken impression that the cost for the city, as with all of the pair's totally self-financed projects, is a big fat goose egg. (If I'm wrong, someone please correct me.)

I'm not quite sure what Miguel sees in these guys.

Equally perplexing is the Roger Kimball opinion piece (a rant, really) from the Wall Street Journal that Armavirumque's Stefan Beck linked to, what's mostly a stock standard needling of contemporary art as "a joke on the viewer."

Rattling through a handful of tried and true chestnuts (giving a requisite nod to the "gullible" and "avaricious" art dealers of Chelsea), Kimball takes the duo to task for their postmodern effeteness and entrepreneurial derring-do, and offers a modicum of outrage over the notorious accidental death of a tourist in connection with The Umbrellas, installed years ago in southern California. He doesn't really mount any argument to speak of, but I suppose he doesn't have to, considering the audience. It's all pretty scattershot stuff, but nice work if you can get it (to cop a phrase).

The only real points he makes regarding The Gates, per se:

Still, some observers thought it obscene that the project would cost about $1 million more than the entire maintenance budget for Central Park. And why, after all, should the pair be allowed to capitalize on a public space for private profit? Then there were the environmental concerns: What would all that material do to the trees and landscaping of the park? And what about the public? Perhaps it wanted to be able to enjoy Central Park straight, unmolested by the massive intrusion of Christo's "statement."

"None of the original objections have really been answered," he writes. Then again, perhaps they have. But we mustn't let reasonableness get in the way of a good reactionary harangue, however weak.

The obscenity of the cost of it all, while offering a certain dose of perspective, is really a non-issue considering that none of the cash is coming out of the city coffers (again, as far as I'm aware). And environmental concerns have apparently been addressed to the satisfaction of the Central Park Conservancy, per the Gordon Davis editorial linked above (also via Beck at Armavirumque, for what it's worth), so I'm not inclined to put up a fight:

What caused me to reverse my views? For one thing, Christo altered his project. Originally, there were to have been 15,000 gates installed in mid-fall, a period when the park sees extremely heavy use. This time around, there will only be half that number and they will go in during February, when the interference with other park activities and users will be minimal. In addition, each "Gate" will rest atop the path surface, secured by its own weight rather than by footings drilled into the park's fragile landscape, as called for in the earlier proposal.
But more important to me by far than the revisions to Christo's project has been the change in Central Park itself. From the very beginning, the issue for me was not the art—which I had come to respect—but the park, as my 1981 report sought to make clear.

And as Davis also points out, Christo's enterprise is hardly the first to utilize the park grounds for such a brief stint, citing as examples the New York Marathon and Shakespeare in the Park—although I'm sure many a patron would prefer to enjoy the park unmolested by the Bard's wit and wisdom as well.

I'm curious, too, what the Journal's uber-capitalist readership thought of Kimball bristling at Christo's ability to "capitalize on a public space for private profit." Really, will those New Critters ever get off this socialist hobby-horse of theirs?

Eventually, Kimball comes to the heart of the matter, chalking up Mayor Bloomberg's keeness for public art to be some sort of Marie Antoinette-style gesture toward all those oppressed NYC cigarette smokers gathered in huddled masses outside the city's drinking establishments, yearning to breathe free and what not, freezing for want of a smoke:

Mr. Bloomberg does not want you to smoke. He wants another hefty chunk of your income in taxes. But he plans to compensate with lots of public art. It's a 21st-century version of "Let them eat cake."

Art critic sees increased visiblity for public art, cries: "Bread and Circus." Communist.

Related... Todd Gibson offers his take (and has the Missus put him in his place)... Plus, "Killer umbrellas! Of course! Exquisite."

"Our Guardians and Gatekeepers at the New Criterion"
Posted by Dan at 05:24 PM | Referenced URL's | Comments (1)