The Title is the Art

6 witty retorts

With few exceptions we spend a great deal more time remembering and ruminating upon artworks we have already experienced than we spend sharing space with those artworks.

Our memories of artworks are kept in mind, 'pegged,' if you will, by experiential aspects of each artwork that stood out to us as we shared space with it: a color, form, recognizable image, icon, and so on.

By default these distinct 'peggings' of the artwork's experience become contained in the artwork's title.

When discussing artworks, we don't say for example, "I'm reminded of great sprays of pale, desaturated grayish-purple among speckles of gray of various lightnesses and darknesses."

Instead we say, "I'm reminded of 'Lavender Mist,' by Jackson Pollock."

With the passage of time and the lack of a refreshing experience of an artwork the memory of it becomes distorted. Its clearest evocation comes at the appearance or the verbalization of its title.

My piece The Title Is The Art explores this phenomenon. This piece only exists during moments of your participation. The instructions:
  • Click on the headline for this post, or click here.
  • Type your name at the top of the program window that now appears.
  • Click MAKE ART to generate the title of an artwork. This title is generated through the random selection of an adjective and a noun from lists of thousands of words. The artwork is instantly attributed to you through the addition of your name -- for example "The Indigenous Walrus, by Bill Gusky."
  • When you see a title that resonates with you, click STORE. The title is now added to a list that lasts as long as you keep the program window open.
  • When you are through making art, click SAVE STORED TO DOC. A window appears allowing you to save your list of stored titles anywhere you like on your machine as a Word doc. Note that if you have trouble opening the Word doc due to using an older version of Word, simply right-click on the file's icon, chose Rename, then change the file extension from .doc to .rtf, or to .txt -- although in .txt you will lose the line breaks between each saved title.
Your title artworks are instantly connected with you through your choice to generate them, through your activation of the art-making medium (the title-making program), through your choice to save an artwork, and through the use of your name.

Your title artworks become energized and their relevance is reinforced through deployment in your life: as a print-out tacked to a wall, as printed t-shirts, as signage, as graffiti and so forth. Since they are yours your title artworks can be used any way you like, any number of times. They persist in this world as your artworks.

The power of each title artwork that you create is multidimensional.
  • Each exists first as a container of resonance for you. Something about the title artworks you select is evocative for you on a personal level.
  • Second, each artwork is an entire narrative in miniature. Its elements derive from linguistic units developed over thousands of years, across many thousands of miles. Some phonetic elements stand out among the others, becoming aural or graphic protagonists that adopt a stance vis-a-vis the other elements. These conflicts become associated with aspects of each element's history.
  • Third, each title artwork exists on the art historical continuum that includes conceptual artworks by James Lee Byars, George Brecht, John Baldessari, Joseph Kosuth and Lawrence Weiner, among others, as well as Marcel Duchamp's readymades. As such, each title artwork helps bring that continuum forward. As you create each title artwork, and particularly as you deploy each title artwork in your life, you participate on a moment-by-moment level in the vitalization and evolution of that art historical continuum.
When you make a title artwork using this program you make history now.

Welcome to future history.

Bill Gusky

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Flagrant self-promotion - Updated 7/20/11

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Busy studio times and a flood of family events over the past two months, hence the posting gap. Some flagrant self-promotion regarding upcoming events this year:

  • My animated video T-Town Rust Belt Queen will be on view at Litchfield County Screen Project, curated by Sue Berg, in one of various locations in Torrington, Connecticut, from June 30 - August 25, 2011.
  • Two of my paintings were selected for the Fourth Annual Juried Exhibition at Sylvia White Gallery in Ventura, California.
  • I'm exhibiting six paintings in the St. Botolph Club Foundation's Foundation on Parade exhibition in Boston, Massachusetts, October 25 - November 21, 2011.
  • I'm opening a solo exhibition of paintings at the New Milford Public Library April 14, 2012
My solo show scheduled to open at Chrysalis Center in Hartford September 21, 2011 has been postponed due to a building project.

Some upcoming writing projects include a review of a new Rizzoli book about fascinating multi-practice artist Charles Matton, a developing essay on contemporary non-objective painting, plus interviews, show reviews and more.

It's been a real pleasure to see the number of new followers on Scribd, where I've got a few papers and book reviews with more to come. Thanks everyone for your continued support.

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Meredith Allen, 1964 - 2011

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It ended all too soon, Meredith. I only wish I could have known you better. Thank you for your inspiration and your generosity. Godspeed.

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Hermann Nitsch: 60. Painting Action // 60. Malaktion -- at Mike Weiss Gallery 2/19 - 3/19

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Hyperallergic posted about this just a few days ago.

It interests me that Nitsch ritualizes the un-ironic turning back to Modernism that characterizes much of the art being made during our ostensibly postmodern or altermodern period, whether or not the artists involved acknowledge this.

Nitsch's performative ritual renders mystical Modernism's apparently inescapable gravity. Through it the contemporary turn-back is purged of nostalgia, guilt, creative confusion, maybe even the sense of creative inadequacy. On the other side of the equation Modernism itself is purged of angst, violence, a dozen drunken legacies and a few suicides, and rendered a sacrament for contemporary artists, so long as they submit to the white-robed priesthood of the market's sacred dropcloth-sanitized space.

The undeniable humor of this apparently straight-faced performance (?) can't mask the fact that religification (goofy word but follow me now) is one means of driving phenomenon deep into an unreachable past and birthing generations of agnostics who can say, much as we (most of us anyway) say about the religion of ancient Egypt, "Fascinating mythology, interesting artworks, but it's clearly of the distant past and not relevant to our time."

It's electrifying to imagine a time, perhaps not far in the future, when we can sincerely say the same thing about Modernism.

photo from Mike Weiss Gallery's website

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Janine Antoni, "5Rhythms," at CAA Conference, New York February 11, 2011

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Douglas Dreishpoon chaired a panel at the 99th annual CAA conference titled Parallel Practices: When the Mind Isn't Focused on Art. Next to him on the dais sat Petah Coyne, Philip Taaffe, Vija Celmins, Robert Gober and Janine Antoni, an A-List panel by any measure. The topic at hand was the issue of what these highly successful artists do in their down time -- on the face of it not an earth-shattering subject but in fact a matter of fairly deep importance to those of us committed to this art-making life who are also required to deal with day-jobs, children and so forth.

The discussion was enlightening for a number of reasons, easily worth the price of admission. It was bookended however by two presentations of sorts that especially bear noting and that, for me, eclipsed the rest.

Petah Coyne came prepared with stories from childhood and from her daily life that at times only obliquely related to the panel subject, but that projected very vividly from the rostrum as part of a PowerPoint presentation she delivered in a very natural if well-rehearsed manner. She ended the segment about each work she discussed with the title of the book she most closely associated with it; obviously in her off-time she's a reader. The repetition of this closing and the arcane book titles themselves lent a very appealing oddness to her presentation, in my opinion an oddness much in keeping with the appeal of some of her works.

Her presentation at CAA for the most part added to my memory of the experience of her installation at MASS MoCA, while opening even more questions that will likely never be answered. My lasting impression is of Coyne's mastery of association between remembered experience and material.

If listening to Coyne was like looking down a tunnel bored into memory itself, lined with stories, great piles and hanks of hair, silk flowers and taxidermy, listening to and watching Antoni was like being gently shooed into moment-to-moment now-ness.

Janine Antoni was last to hold forth on her down-time activities. She started off by talking about Jung and Active Imagination, then segued into something she refers to as her obsession which she called 5Rhythms. This movement meditation practice was devised by Gabrielle Roth during the 1960's. Antoni described some of the basics, then descended the dais and, pre-wired with remote mike, gave a live demonstration while talking about each of the five rhythms.

From my notes the rhythms are Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical and Stillness. Each rhythm, which manifests itself in dance, is a kind of movement with its own characteristics. For example Staccato is distinguished by 'heart, breath, beat,' while in Chaos "The thinking brain drops into the body," and Antoni tells us that images come to her in Stillness.

She made it clear at the outset that 5Rhythms is a meditation and that manifesting it performatively is not really in keeping with its nature and intention. Just the same it made for a highly compelling performance, perhaps in part because Antoni is so clearly at ease with her body and, by extension, with herself. Very little if anything was self-conscious about her dance as she transitioned from one rhythm to the next, explaining very naturally if at times a bit breathlessly about the meaning of each.

What fascinated me most was the way Antoni transformed the site from a somewhat ruptured matrix of two- or three-hundred-odd spaces of disparate focuses, concerns and ambitions into a single roughly unified performance space, tattered at the edges to be sure but holding a solid core of focus, admiration, contemplation.

As proof consider that she was dancing at audience level, making viewing beyond the nearest three or four rows difficult. Yet in this audience that a half-hour before was shouting "LOUDER!" at Vija Celmins, probably one of the gentlest souls on Earth, no one stood up for a better view, sidled in close with a camera, or otherwise behaved disruptively.

By the time Antoni completed Stillness a new tone had set in, lingering well into the question-and-answer session that followed.

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Jamie Stuart - "Idiot with a Tripod" (aka "Man in a Blizzard")

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Some of you experienced the Blizzard of December 2010 first-hand. For the rest of us, Jamie Stuart's superb short film "Idiot with a Tripod" - aka "Man in a Blizzard" - will have to suffice. Don't miss Roger Ebert's excellent blog post, which brought Stuart's film to my attention.

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Xeth Feinberg -
(I'm Gonna) Hang Myself By Christmas

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Ignore that indistinct object floating in the punch bowl as you enjoy another Mishmash Media miracle of the Christmas season.

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Book Review: Asian Art Now
by Melissa Chiu and Benjamin Genocchio
from The Monacelli Press

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Of course I'm highly qualified to evaluate a book about Asian art, because of my rich Asian heritage and the many decades I've spent traveling and intensively studying the art of China, India, Japan and so forth.

cough! cough!

OK, I wanted to review this book because I am almost completely bereft of any knowledge or understanding of contemporary Asian art. Yeah, I've got that Murakami guy down cold. Yoshitomo Nara's little kid giving me the finger from a diving board still makes me chuckle. And that guy who works with incense ash and dresses up in a meat suit has made a big impact on my life. But if you want to know more from me -- well, right now I'm drawing a blank.

In my defense I'd suggest that attempting to define the category "Asian Art" makes almost as much sense as attempting to define the category "Art from Earth."

Why attempt to define art by continent? The cultures on any given hunk of land are likely to be so diverse as to demand a breakdown that recognizes their divisions.

But in this case I'd argue that it's justified because of the centuries we've spent focusing on Western Art -- a category defined by an entire friggin' hemisphere. If that ever made sense at all it could only have been in a very small, painfully isolated world.

Well, the boundaries are gone and the world keeps growing. All these categories are breaking down in an information slushpile that we're slowly picking through. It's like a gargantuan thrift store -- YAY!!! As I gaze into my crystal ball I see a future in which categories we once defined as Western Art, European Art, Asian Art, and even Abstract Art and Painting and Sculpture, are re-sorted according to rubrics we're only now beginning to glimpse.

With this in mind if you're like me you need to own a copy of Asian Art Now, and hope to whatever deities you worship that they keep publishing as Asian Art Now 2, Asian Art Now 3, and so forth, hopefully once a year. Because if they don't this will quickly become Asian Art Then.

The reason is that Asian Art Now will help you get up-to-speed on much of the art that hasn't crossed your eyes yet through the pages of Art in America, Art Forum, Modern Painters and whatever other trade papers you subscribe to. It's fairly up-to-the-minute, and those crazy Asian artists keep pumping it out.

Chiu and Genocchio have done a shrewd job of identifying key landmarks in a teeming landscape of creative effort, and then presenting their information in clear language that's to the point, not terribly indulgent in conjecture, and sets you up for further, more intensive study on the artists they present.

The authors wisely lead off with a historical chapter that will remind you of artists nobody bothered teaching us about in the '80's, back when the world was small. Sure, there's Yoko, but there's also Sekine Nobo, Lee Ufan, Tanaka Atsuko (subject of an article in Art in America some years back), Kazuo Shiraga, Shozo Shimamoto, Li Keran -- a continent of names that never made it into my understanding of art history.

Then it's off to the races with chapters titled Politics Society and the State, Asian Pop Consumerism and Stereotypes, and Urban Nature.

The pages of this mid-sized book are balanced fairly evenly between text and clear, bright full-color images, often two or three to the page. The occasional full-page image is sadly a bit scarce, but that's understandable in a volume of 255 pages that attempts to cover such a broad subject.

The authors wrap with A Glimpse into the Future, one which I hope holds many more editions in a series.

Asian Art Now earns three-and-a-half out of five Nara-Girls-Flipping-The-Bird for being a brisk, colorful overview of a universe of creative expression that seems poised to surround and absorb us in a world of evaporating boundaries and, let's hope, of increasing reconciliation.

would be an obvious candidate as one of several text books rounding out a college overview course on Contemporary Asian Art.

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Book Review: Van Gogh in Auvers: His Last Days
by Wouter Van Der Veen and Peter Knapp --
Published by The Monacelli Press

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My dear Theo,

In reply to your question about the greatest disadvantage to being dead and famous, I’d probably have to identify the frequent floggings as the answer. It seems that complete and total strangers can’t resist dragging me from the grave every few years and wailing away now that I’ve bit the big one. “Let’s see how much more gold we can squeeze from the old boy.”

I suppose I wouldn’t mind it so much if more people were truly interested in the real me. But as we’ve discussed, more often than not it’s some contrived caricature of Vincent they want to know more about, some sort of pathetic insane misunderstood genius. What is it about this cartoon character that people can’t resist? It’s like that worthless yellow sponge creature that lives in a pineapple at the bottom of the ocean, all outline and no substance. Even the outlines are without value.

Very rarely does anyone ever get it right. Picasso understood me well, as did Matisse and some of the Fauves. Kirk Douglas had not a clue. As for Don McLean, let it be said that he doesn’t want to meet me in a dark alley anytime soon. My stomach churns to this day from all the grave-spinning caused by his worthless ballad.

Wouter Van Der Veen and Peter Knapp seem most assuredly to have a clue, if their book Van Gogh in Auvers: His Last Days is any indication. It’s one of the few times I’ve noticed the authors of a mainstream publication attempt to straighten accounts for me and set things right.

As an example allow me to submit these quotes from the introduction:
Van Gogh has often been presented to us as poor, sick, insane, depresssed, alcoholic, and hotheaded. He has usually been portrayed as an antisocial and isolated individual, as a violent misfit, filled with rage and easily carried away, who sold only one painting in his lifetime because his work was despised and misunderstood. He died a martyr, sacrificed at the altar of the ignorance of his contemporaries. ...

In reality, Vincent van Gogh was a complex, intelligent, and sophisticated artist...

He was a longtime student of the techniques of drawing, consulted texts on perspective, and kept himself abreast of the latest artistic developments of his time. He could afford to do all this because he was not in a position of financial difficulty...

This cultivated bourgeois was not mad, far from it. He was obstinate, uncompromising, drawn to the extreme in everything he undertook. He had an impossible character, an innate and stubborn sense of perseverence, and he was utterly indifferent to what other people might think or say...

Van Gogh was neither misunderstood nor ignored by his contemporaries. ...
...the privileged few who were able to view his work... were filled with enthusiasm for the dazzling work before their eyes...

Finally, (he) did not sell just one painting in his lifetime. ...

Theo, do you want to know what the greatest disgrace of a misleading caricature is? It doesn't smell. There’s no sweat, no anxiety. Those last days come back to me in memory as an aromatic melange, coffee, tobacco, liquors and sweats of all kinds: tobacco sweat, alcohol sweat, garlic sweat. The rancid alfalfa sweat of the stable man as distinct from the half-franc-perfume sweat of the Avenue Dimanche whore, as distinct from the hot summer morning old-laundry sweat steamed into overworn bed sheets. The clean glisten of exhilaration at a perfect creative moment, fresh as dew. The acrid drenching shivering perspiration just after trigger-pull.

Van Gogh in Auvers returns some of the sweat to those days as only a skilled and relentless historian’s best research and estimation could possibly perform. I can feel it in the writing, which seems to break down those weeks at times practically day by day. Its humidity steams in the section about you, Brother Theo, your tragic ending, and of your wife and son and their struggles and successes, all excellently documented with family photographs. I can also feel that sweat in the crisp, bright and sweeping photographs of my paintings that devour the generous pages of this intelligent volume. In many of these images I can feel every stroke again.

And where did the authors find this dizzying selection of artworks? Some of these paintings I’d almost forgotten about entirely. These two authors have done the work of an army of detectives to scrounge some truly obscure canvases out of collections from around the world. Had I not already known what I’d been up to, this book would have done a thorough job of informing me.

That being said, I don’t understand the presence of a little reproduction of one of my letters to you, Theo. It’s slipped into the pages almost as an afterthought, not up to the quality of the rest of the book. When I hold it to my ear I can almost hear a meeting in which some middle manager force-feeds this half-baked inclusion to the exhausted authors. Had it been Monacelli Press's intention to make a gimmicky coffee table book they’d have done better to use a rubber severed ear.

Not that I wouldn’t enjoy a truly gimmicky send-up. Maybe that’s where the Don McLean types get it wrong; they don’t carry their caricatures to bombastically entertaining extremes. I’d venture a few dozen francs for a book in which I wear a backwards baseball cap and low-slung trousers, and ride a skateboard through southern France spitting hip-hop rhymes while committing canvas crimes -- and that’s a cartoon that’s at least as good as the pathetic, insane, misunderstood genius. Wouldn’t you agree, Theo?

Thankfully, Van Gogh in Auvers is above all that, a rare book that for once adds to and clarifies the discourse rather than simply sitting on it or, worse yet, sending it even further astray. With that in mind, and fake letter notwithstanding, I hereby award the book Van Gogh in Auvers: His Last Days four and three-quarters out of five glasses of absinthe for outstanding research, spectacular photo-illustrations, excellent peripheral and contextual information, and, over all, for being a shining example of what a flogged-to-kingdom-come artist really wants to see in yet another book about himself.

That’s all from me, Theo. Time to begin resting up for the next flogging.


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Olu Oguibe, Saya Woolfalk and Cary Smith at Real Art Ways, Hartford, Connecticut

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Would have been nice to hit the Creative Cocktail Hour this past Thursday, but the day job pretty much kicked me to the curb. So to make up for it I hit the openings tonight at Real Art Ways, a "three-fer" deal featuring Olu Oguibe, Saya Woolfalk and Cary Smith.

I'd wanted to see Cary Smith's paintings for a while now. The jpeg files online make them look ice cold, perfectly painted. By and large that's how they come off in real life. The paint is very thin, perhaps applied and wiped off or applied in very thin layers. Maybe in some cases it's applied in thin scumble or dry brush, hard to say. Their tracery of lines and shapes is robust, map-like
. Perhaps the lines are made through masking, but too often it seemed like the colored paint surrounding the tracery flowed along with it, rather than being crossed by it. The sense I got was that the artist literally paints around the figures and leaves an underpainting of white exposed.

Regardless, the lines and shapes provide a super-flat architecture that supports a diagrammatic space of ambiguous depiction. There's a little bit of the sense that some meaning underlies it all, but for me this fades quickly. In the end I was left with an admiration for a very precise and finely-honed technique.

Smith's older paintings include shapes that I can only think of as slices of fruit, and there were a few examples of these at the RAW show. Here's one from the Feature Inc website that isn't at RAW:

These shapes and the lines noodling around them give me the distinct sense of kitchen decor. Imagine an overlay of text in 1950's-style lettering and you've got the makings for a snappy cookbook cover. Maybe the phallic loops are meant to charge these works with a kind of sexuality, but if that's the case the artist's frosty clinical precision would be cause for some serious shrinkage.

Smith's newer (newest?) works at RAW feature tree-like structures. Take a look at Splat #16:

Not sure if it's the sky blue along with inverted tree shape, but I'm reminded of Carroll Dunham's recent tree paintings. There's a marriage here of geometric and organic that suggests cybernetics, or perhaps a technology of artificially generated biological forms. The interplay of positive and negative shapes in these smaller paintings is more playful than in the older works.

After a pause at the awesome snack table -- and RAW knows how to lay out a spread, people -- I slipped over to a dark corner of the big gallery where a performance was taking place on a colorful black-light set of painted organic and geometric elements too numerous and varied to remember with any precision. It's like a sugary night-time haze in my memory, although tiny dots of green light projected on the ground and constantly moving stand out in my mind. The performer -- was this Saya Woolfalk herself? -- dressed in a kind of white body suit seemed to move through a series of drawn-out, carefully rehearsed movements that included prostrations and writhing. She remained in the same part of her stage the entire time I watched.

As she performed, a video played on a wall directly to the right of the stage area. The audio was perfectly terrible, playing through two crappy computer speakers left on top of the projector, roughly eight feet above our heads.

The combined effect of terrible audio, mildly interesting video, badly lit inscrutable performance and sugary-sweet stage set was the sense of being in a mall in which everyone was conscientiously engaged in pointless actions -- performer, viewers and nearby gallery visitors who weren't viewing the performance.

Woolfalk's hanging artworks were less baffling and perhaps a bit more coherent than the performance piece. They remind me a bit of paintings by Thomaselli and of contemporary folks paintings by artists whose names I can't remember right now.

A brightly lit gallery next door to the performance was hung with artworks that hadn't been created yet, dated 2011 or 2012 or something similar. These appeared as white rectangles on the sky-blue wall. Also some poor victim had been reduced to a skeleton and left on a table. Truth be told I have no idea what this part of the exhibition was about and couldn't be bothered to find out.

Olu Oguibe has apparently become infatuated with New England's stone walls. As the RAW website notes,
For me the stonewall in the gallery space is first and foremost a formal statement. It is a simple, three-dimensional line in space, a mark, if you will. It is also the ultimate minimalist gesture in the sense that the medium is not the stone but the wall itself, and my approach is to present the stonewall in its barest elemental essence, as a complete gesture, almost like a found object, without artifice.

Of course, like any other object, the New England stonewall is more than just a form in space. There is an amalgamation of geology, history, craft and metaphor inherent in the form that requires no greater intervention than to relocate the wall from nature to the gallery. In doing so, the goal is to transcend the philosophical limits set by other artists from Robert Smithson to Andy Goldsworthy, who have rearranged nature within nature in order to make art or a statement. Nature requires no such rearrangement.

I am interested in the New England stonewall as a conceptual marker, as metaphor; a metaphor for the conquest of the wild and the triumph of sedentary civilization; a metaphor for our democracy which was founded on labor, migration, individual determination, and communal vision; a metaphor for in-between spaces; a metaphor for a sense of place; a metaphor for New England itself.

By moving the New England stonewall into the gallery or museum space, and making the stonewall part of the vocabulary of conceptual art, I hope to generate a new, inclusive discourse that draws no line between aesthetic or formal concerns, and environmental, cultural, and social discourses.
Thing is, the wall Oguibe built at RAW has about as little to do with classic New England stone walls as it possibly could. I know stone walls, having tromped through the woods and farms of Northwest Connecticut for roughly eight years of my youth. They're rough-hewn, built of necessity as farmers cleared big rocks from the land. Over the years they tend to collapse through weather and abuse to resemble long piles of stones shot through with saplings and poison ivy. The stones themselves are often speckled with lichen.

Perfectly built walls similar to the one Oguibe built can be found in New England, to be sure, but they're built by anal-retentive stone masons hired by aristocrats to surround their mansions. These particular stone walls truly are triumphs of sedentary civilization, as the artist notes: the civilization of bankers and financial gurus responsible for the recent economic meltdown.

This massive wall is satire, a faithful reproduction of the great dividers the wealthy erect to provide a sense of separation from and elevation above the working class, who are hired and required to build them to right-angle perfection.

In the rather tedious accompanying video a number of doughy white people are allowed to spoof themselves by jabbering on and on about the cultural value they place on these property dividers built by people who work harder in a week than Wall Street aristocrats likely work in a year. Specific topics include efforts to preserve the walls, which come off as efforts to preserve the economically stratified status quo.

To tweak Oguibe's first paragraph above, the 'stonewall' really isn't a formal statement first and foremost, in the artist's mind; it's first and foremost a conceptual statement, the artist devouring the aristocracy's last sacred space, the public art space, with a conceptually-charged structure that aristocracy uses to separate itself from its surroundings.

And what a comic structure that is, because these walls can't really stop anything capable of scrambling over them. Hoards of angry investors and home owners still have free and unemcumbered access to the palaces of the financial elite.

56 Arbor St
Hartford, CT 06106
email: info@realartways.org

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Book Review: Richard Wright
Published by Rizzoli and Gagosian Gallery

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The night shift: coffee nuked into sludge, East Village Radio humming low and crazy, three large paintings trilling demented dirges on the surrounding walls. Fresh mix of napthol brilliant red filling a three-ounce cup, burning through the 20th-hour haze.

Had the light not changed the tiniest bit, or had I missed the merest flicker of shadowed halogen, I'd never have noticed the hank of piano wire slipping over my throat, the gloved hand, the gray-coated lurch barely brushing my back.

Instinctively I tossed the paint over my shoulder at the intruder while seizing the razor-sharp noose with my other hand. I turned to see a gleaming red grimace of rage, napthol running down the corneas of his beady eyes.

The wire went slack for just a moment and I jerked away, but not far enough. A gloved fist hammered my solar plexus, doubling me down face-first into an up-jerked knee that whipped my head back into and through the flat white studio wall.

My chin hooked against a cross-beam and I nearly lifted my entire body off the floor struggling to pull my head from the ragged hole as the intruder grabbed my legs and gave a ferocious spine-straightening yank. Swarms of perfectly arranged dots danced in my eyes, reminding me of Untitled (22.09.05), as seen on page 31 of the nearest object my flailing hands could reach: Richard Wright, a book of artworks published by Rizzoli and Gagosian Gallery.

The neat white volume became a shield in my outstretched hands, blocking the merciless fists of my assailant and buying me precious milliseconds until my head popped free of the wall and I sprang away.

I'd only backed myself against a cabinet, but the sharp corners of the book became punishing daggars that jabbed savagely at my intruder's face and chest. He finally reeled into the gloom of an unlit corner, only to return with box cutters jammed in both fists. Arabesque slashes incised my white t-shirt and chest, creating twin scarlet blots spiked with scorpion-fish-like needles that eerily resembled the Richard Wright cover, which the book strangely fails to name in its List of Works.

The rampaging murderer reared back and paused to admire the strange mirrorlike similitude between chest and book, and that's when I frisbeed the volume, shuriken-style, at his paint-splattered face. I can only wonder at the furor coursing through his fiendish veins that helped him duck that bullet-speed blade, which then whipped around like a boomerang and returned to my waiting hands.

By that time the blood spouting from my chest had painted a design of perfect paisleys not unlike Untitled 2007 as seen on page 38 of the fairly well-illustrated book-turned-weapon. I realized this after I'd tripped the killer to the floor, leaped onto his chest and began mashing that page into his twisted face. I'd pulled the book away briefly to check that his face paint had dried enough not to stain it.

In my blind rage I couldn't have seen the foot that snaked up from behind and hooked around my neck, and I had no time for surprise as with a single merciless yank the killer tore my head back into the hardwood floor. Somehow during my brief period of unconsciousness I remembered the essays by Russell Ferguson, Sarah Lowndes and John Lowden that gave me fresh insights into Richard Wright's environmental paintings. Correlations with Mondrian and illuminated manuscripts came to mind, as well as interpretations of the mysterious Rohrshach-like design that emblazoned the book's cover.

My puzzlement over the omission of this piece's title became a life preserver that dragged me back from the cold depths of unconsciousness to see the killer standing above me, preparing to sink my own solid steel Ginsu butcher knife into my chest. A triumphal gleam shone beneath the crimson paint peeling off his face as he reared back, blade in hand, the vision shocking me into a last-ditch roll of desperation that left a hair's breadth between spine and knife.

Now, if you were to ask me why I'd had that 220-volt electrical socket built into the floor all those years ago, I probably couldn't tell you. But what I can tell you is that as hot blue bolts surged up that silver blade and across the killer's body, dancing his limbs in a wicked smoking twitching tarantella, I was grateful to see one of my more interesting art books, the one that probably saved my life, lying safely to the side beneath the flickering lights, far away from the sparks and flames that would ultimately require two and a half fire extinguishers to subdue.

"Downtown we call this guy 'the Studio Slayer,'" the detective intoned, wincing at the charred remains. "Obsessed with butchering artists whose taste in art books is highly refined. Guess you put a stop to this mad man's career once and for all."

"Well, I must admit I had a little help," I replied with a smile, dusting off Richard Wright one last time before slipping it back onto the second shelf of my studio book case.

Richard Wright earns three-and-a-half out of five broken home security systems for being fairly well illustrated, and for being somewhat handicapped by the inherent difficulty of translating environmental experiences into book format.

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Nancy Winship Milliken: Pleiades
Amherst, MA through November 6, 2010

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From the artist's website:

The object of my desire is the New England landscape, from the full sails decorating the waters of Provincetown to grazing sheep dotting pastoral Vermont hillsides. My heart sails over the rolling hills, beautiful fields and quiet bays of the Pioneer Valley near my studio. These wool felted sculptures grazing on a farm creates a landscape painting that one can walk into and feel the texture and smell of New England. The name of this show, Pleiades, refers to the seven stars in the constellation Taurus, by which sailors of old navigated, as well as the seven peaks of the Holyoke range. The process of felting not only filled my studio with the comforting smell of lanolin, it also mirrored the steady dailiness of farming. Likewise this installation, which requires vigilant maintenance against weather and time, honors the work traditions of water and land, especially the field on which it now sails.
Through November 6, 2010 -- Open viewing from the road. Group tours Sundays at 1:00. Private tours available by the artist.

Thistlebloom Farm

South East Street

Amherst, MA

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Book Review: Charles LeDray -- workworkworkworkwork
published by Skira Rizzoli and the ICA Boston

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Textile, the second flesh: an assiduousness to its weaving, the intensive laying-on of thread to thread that counts out instants of time while forming the material of an outer skin. The practical forms we create with textiles document human form, need, desire, modesty.

Charles LeDray's textile creations and installations echo these aspects of our lives in ways that are at times both amusing and profound. His pieces read like remnants of lives imagined yet not lived, shadows of fictive presences. In the case of his human bone pieces, authentic human remnants wrested and reconfigured toward aesthetic fictions.

Rizzoli and the ICA deal LeDray's ouvre a working class justice with Charles LeDray: workworkworkworkwork, a volume accompanying the ICA's touring survey of the same name. Large full-color photos pack most of its pages tightly and present the artist's work with all the clarity that's likely possible in a book this size (what, a bit less than 200 pages?).

LeDray's body of work boggles the mind in terms of obsessiveness, to be sure, but also in terms of sheer variety. Small hats, little suits, a miniature coat rack with a ratty, torn coat perfectly recreated at half-size, strange little remnants in frames, stuck to walls, installations of miniature clothing stores complete with drop-ceiling, tiny doll furniture carved of human bone -- the survey and the book could only present a sampling, but what a sampling it is.

A handful of essays at the front do a great job of introducing LeDray's work and setting it within a historical and contemporary context. In particular I enjoyed Adam D. Weinberg's inclusion of LeDray in a lineage that includes William Henry Fox Talbot, Eadweard Muybridge, Allan McCollum and Mel Bochner.

Charles LeDray: workworkworkworkwork earns four out of five miniature wizard hats for being a downright satisfying perusal and a terrific introduction to the work of this intriguing artist. And right now you can land it in your library for a song: a mere $27.50 at Amazon.

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Graciela Iturbide: asor at ROSEGALLERY in Santa Monica, opening July 24

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My good friend Michelle Vick reminds me that the gifted and mysterious Graciela Iturbide is exhibiting images from "asor," a book in which she brings together a selection of surreal, seductive and enigmatic photographs from her personal archive. Most of these images have never been seen before, and from the selection on the ROSEGALLERY website this is some intriguing imagery.

Don't miss out on one of the least known yet most important events in photography that's likely to happen all summer.

Bergamot Station Arts Center
2525 Michigan Avenue G5, Santa Monica, CA 90404
T 310.264.8440
F 310.264.8443

Open Tuesday to Saturday 10.00am – 6.00pm

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A Russian Suprematist treasure trove on view at the Hutson Gallery in Provincetown until July 1

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Late this past May some friends and I were on the Friday night gallery crawl in Provincetown when we came across this little tucked-away room lined with what looked like Russian Suprematist paintings.

This is just a sampling, with badly-compressed images. These are all original paintings on paper or board. Some are signed with initials, and some are unsigned. The dealer, Mary Feeley, told us that she'd purchased them from a former Soviet republic, but I can't recall which. The paintings were dated from 1919 to sometime in the early 1920's.

The significance for me is that these seem to be lesser-known artists, and they show the effects of the broader cultural work taking place in the young Socialist nation. These paintings mark the time, effort and focus of people caught in a whirlwind of purpose, driven by a utopian vision. They're the records of artists seeking relevance within a new regime, practicing the language of a new world order.

Head out to Provincetown before July 1 and check out this outstanding collection before it disappears again.

Hutson Gallery
432 Commercial Street
Provincetown, MA 02657
telephone: 508-487-0915
email: director@hutsongallery.net

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Rebecca Sugar: BRILLIANT

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Fascinatingly flabbergasting animated cartoon here.

Compelling comic here. -- Read this story -- catch the storytelling skills and expressiveness.

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Artist/Explorer Reid Stowe completes a record-setting voyage

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He's back and looks great, if thinner than I remember seeing him. After 1,152 days at sea Reid Stowe sailed into New York on June 16. It was a strange and awesome thing for a guy whom John Tierney in his New York Times article characterizes as "a singular blend of mariner, mystic, carpenter, painter, sculptor and New Age philosopher."

It's good to read people taking this voyage for what it was: an extended, self-imposed purification ritual by a true believer. Performance art doesn't get more authentic than this. It's extreme in every aspect. Sheer ambition alone simply isn't enough to sustain an art piece at this level of duration, arduousness and sheer danger. I haven't spoken with Reid in many years, but I'm as convinced today as I was then that his faith, his commitment and his authenticity are absolute.

Check Charles Doane's article "Comprehending Reid Stowe: His Various Purposes" for what looks to be a comprehensive discussion of the various things Reid was trying to do in this voyage, and for images of some of the art pieces he created while at sea.

It'll be interesting to see how this achievement affects the future work of this intriguing and very unusual artist.

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University of You, a new Facebook Game by Left Brain Games

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Full disclosure: I did a lot of work on this game. And I'm damned proud of it, too. It's a blast! Left Brain Games has made quite a few Facebook games and applications, but University of You knocks the ball right out of the park.

University of You is an awesome Facebook game that lets you build your own university. Start out with a simple layout, add a couple students from your Facebook Friends (you're not inviting people to play at this point, you're just using their names and profile pics) -- then drag them into your university's first school to get things going. Take crazy trivia quizzes to ratify your competence to administrate the different schools available, from art to business to video game development to mixology. Accumulate game currency through student tuition and use it to buy buildings, dorms, parking lots and all the crazy things a great university needs. As your university grows it can accept more students, making for more tuition and so on.

You can invite friends to build their own universities, then visit them, take their quizzes and even prank their campuses. University of You has been up since mid-May and already the buzz is growing. Search for it under Facebook Applications or Facebook Games, or just click here to get your own university growing right away!

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Cyrilla Mozenter, warm snow -- Adam Baumgold Gallery May 20 - June 26

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Some of Cyrilla's work seems to occupy a site adjacent to Agnes Martin's and within eyeshot of Richard Tuttle's, in a manner probably more to the interest of the former artist than the latter. There's greater intimacy and literacy here than Tuttle's work, I think, in the sense that one detects a private heritage underlying all these pieces complete with its own broad, somewhat detailed mythology and even a cosmology. In the images provided some of the works come off as artifacts discovered and shared almost in a childlike way.

Adam Baumgold Gallery
40 East 75th St

Tues. - Sat. 11:00-5:30 PM


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Pat Steir at Contemporary Arts Center, May 22- August 22, 2010

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My good friend Pat Steir shot me this awesome heads-up on the panoramic installation that's about to rock Cincinnati's Contemporary Arts Center from late-May to late August, bracketing summer with its Niagara-tudinous thunder. Find it in its entirety below.

People, you have to get to the Midwest once in a while, and now's a great time. Those people know how to cook, OK? Barbecue like you wouldn't believe, hipster enclaves that rock 'til dawn, and art to splatter your soul and recongeal it again in better more energized form.

Here's an itinerary for you: First, Escape From New York to Paterson, New Jersey. Then swing West and stop by Pittsburgh for a few days to dig on the scene John Morris, Susan Constanse and the other wild happening artists keep blazing day and night. Then swing North and get thee to Cincinnati for the big Pat Steir installation.

Along the way are some crazy amusement parks and wild roadside attractions to help you keep it real. There, I just set up your best summer road trip. Make it happen, people! Thanks Pat Steir, great hearing from you and good luck with this awesome installation!



Pat Steir will transform a vast trapezoidal gallery within the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) into an immersive environment of her famous poured paint. The work will be on view from May 22 through August 22, 2010.

In Water & Stone, Steir treats the over 1800 square-foot gallery space at the CAC, located in the Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art designed by Zaha Hadid, as if it were a canvas, painting the surfaces and creating one of her signature waterfalls directly on a 24-ft. tall wall at the end of the gallery. The project allows Steir to interact with a singular architectural space for the first time. The result is envisioned by the artist to be a dark, mysterious work of complex interplay between wall paintings, conventionally hung paintings, paintings conceived as three-dimensional objects, diaphanous scrim paintings, and film.

Immediately upon entering the installation, visitors encounter a wall-sized, concavely curved panoramic waterfall painting which leads them into a windowless space of blue and black. Amid the darkness, light animates three diaphanous scrims of waterfalls. On other surfaces the shifting light will reveal shapes and marks such as rectangles, moons, frets and scratches. "I hope the space becomes visually confusing," says Steir, "as visitors see images appear and disappear into a fluctuating darkness, it will be like a nocturnal underwater experience."

Water & Stone is the culmination of a long line of inquiry by Steir. Among the predecessors to this project are works such as Panorama at the Newcastle Biennale, Newcastle, England (1990); her installation at Documenta IX, Kassel, Germany (1992); and Likity Split at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1998).

Press Inquiries:
Molly O'Toole motoole@contemporaryartscenter.org 513.345.8404
LeAnne Anklan lanklan@contemporaryartscenter.org 513.345.8421

Contemporary Arts Center
Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art
44 East 6th Street
Cincinnati, OH 45202
(513) 345.8400

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