The earliest work by Felix Gonzalez-Torres in the Metropolitan Museum’s collection is also the smallest. It is untitled, an instant black & white photo of the sea through a Cuban fence. It’s about 2.75 inches square. It is signed and dated 1985, and has a fragment of a magazine collaged on the back that reads, “THE BO–/ ANYMORE.” By the time it was acquired at the end of 1996, the year of the artist’s death, the Met had already acquired two similar sets of photos by Gonzalez-Torres: photogravures of sand, and cloudscapes. Similar, but different: this one is not an artwork. “Although made, signed, and dated by the photographer,” the catalogue entry reads, “Gonzalez-Torres thought of works such as this [photo] as lying outside his core oeuvre.”
Published in 1997, just in time to record the Met’s acquisition, the Felix Gonzalez-Torres Catalogue Raisonée has three categories: Works, Additional Material, and Registered Non-Works. The photo above is in the second category. When the CR was released, Gonzalez-Torres was the most important artist in the world to me, and I wanted more of his works, not fewer. I was upset for these somehow downgraded works, and for the sleights they faced in the discourse, the gallery, the market. I couldn’t accept that the same artist who’d shown me that the most remarkable things could be art–a pile of candy, a stack of paper, a jigsaw puzzle, a pair of clocks–also said they couldn’t be.
My incredulity over Felix’s work fueled a years-long contest with the declarative process, what artists called objects, what they kept, what they destroyed. It helped me keep an eye out for these marginalized–and invisible, since there weren’t even any pictures–works. But even as I developed more nuanced appreciations of [other] artists’ agency, these non-art designations still gnawed at me. Until the other night, when I started writing this. It’s been almost 25 years: what’s going on?
On April 3, 1974, a photograph of kidnapped heiress Patricia Hearst posing with a machine gun, a beret, and the seven-headed snake logo of the Symbionese Liberation Army was delivered, along with a cassette tape of the fourth recorded message from Hearst, to KSAN Jive 95, a counterculture radio station in San Francisco. The recording said Hearst now called herself Tania, a name taken from a comrade of Che Guevara, and she reiterated the SLA’s revolutionary demands for her release.
Wire services reproduced the photo, which appeared on the front pages of newspapers around the world the next day, Thursday, April 4th. On Kawara clipped his copy of it out of the Washington Post. By the weekend, and presumably before Hearst was identified as one of the armed SLA members who robbed a bank on April 15th, WE LOVE YOU TANIA flyers appeared on the campus of UC Berkeley, from whence she’d been kidnapped.
These may now be considered the first Tania Facsimile Objects.
In 1989, presumably in relation to her large-scale, silkscreen on aluminum sculpture Tanya as Bandit, now in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, artist Cady Noland created a work on paper titled Tanya. The cropped photocopy, a generation or more removed from the Tanya as Bandit source image, was put up for sale at Christie’s in London during Frieze Week 2014. In anticipation, the sale was pre-commemorated on this website by an edition, Untitled (Tanya).
In addition to an impulsive celebration through commerce of an exceptional object’s appearance at auction, in Untitled (Tanya) can be found some of the impulses of the Facsimile Object project. The edition indicates the possibility of realizing a perfect [sic] copy of Noland’s work, but only by cutting away the elements of designation and authentication–title, number, date, stamp, signature–thereby destroying the edition itself. An authentic but nearly worthless work is displaced by an equally worthless but iconic copy of another work. Their fate is in the collectors’ hands.
Tania Facsimile Object (N1), 2021, drops into this visual lineage, paying homage to the original, ad hoc WE LOVE YOU TANIA flyers of 1974, as well as Noland’s later appropriation. At 7.5×6 inches, Tania Facsimile Object (N1) shares the dimensions and cropped composition of Tanya (1989), while utterly transforming the object’s material characteristics. The high-gloss, dye sublimation print on aluminum is an exploration of how far the Facsimile Object format can diverge from referent works, how big a gap can be created, while still maintaining that facsimilated, auratic glow. Or maybe it’s just the light reflecting from the window.
Each Tania Facsimile Object is accompanied by a full-size, certificate of authenticity, handmade, signed and numbered on Arches. It will include, of course, a disclaimer to affirm to everyone that Ms. Noland was neither involved in nor consulted on the realization of this Facsimile Object, which will be available until September 11th, 2021.
Buy Tania Facsimile Object (N1), with COA, for $70, shipped.
My great-grandmother Vera Hilton collected rocks. She lived near Topaz Mountain in central Utah, a site that gave the WWII Japanese-American detention camp its name, and would pick up rocks she found interesting. She had a rock tumbler. In the 1970s, when she was in her 80s, Vera went to Europe, to see one of her children then stationed in Germany with the US military, and she picked up rocks from places she visited.
When my grandmother, Vera’s oldest daughter, died last year, I took this collection, a 50+ year-old shirt cardboard with rocks taped to it from her house. It was in a plastic bag, but stored flat. I had no idea what to do with it, except to keep it.
For a year, I’ve had it undisturbed, waiting, as I tried to figure out how to stabilize and restore it. I took it out yesterday for the first time. Some rocks need re-placing. Some need placing. Some may have no place. There’s all the tape, of course, and the stains from it, which call for attention. I’ve researched conservation and cellophane tape, but now that I’ve sat with it, I’m not comfortable with just ditching or replacing the tape. Vera taped these rocks to a piece of cardboard and wrote captions for them. When that tape gave out, she put more tape on. Including a double-sided tape strip on the card underneath it, the rock from Dachau appears to have been taped three times.
Which, there is a rock from Dachau. What is going on with these rocks? There’s a row that looks like they went through the tumbler; a few geologically oriented samples, including three epidotes from various locales and a pencil eraser-size ruby crystal from the Filers, who ran a Mineral of the Month Club for science teachers out of Yucaipa, California. Then there are the rocks from Europe: Stockholm, Paris, Rome (Colosseum), Rothenburg, Nuremburg, and Dachau.
Based on tape residue and size, I think I re-placed the loose rocks correctly on this grid, but maybe not? There are some rocks that don’t seem to correspond to anything; do they go somewhere? Is there a hint of what they are that might hint at where they’re from, and where they go? Does this tell you, a geologist or mineral collector, or a student of souvenir practices, anything? HMU!
I’ve come to not expect deep meaning to result from saving or restoring this assemblage, but I’m nonetheless intrigued by what it is, and how it came together. I met my great-grandmother several times as a child. Having this thing she made, that she worked on for several years, apparently, and that my grandmother kept intact for decades, is an interesting experience precisely because it is so unprecious. We have quilts she stitched by hand which embody a similar amount of her time and attention, and yet this is the antithesis of an heirloom. For the moment, at least, I’m going to keep it around.
David Rimanelli posted this beautiful Manet to instagram today, Bouquet of Violets, an 1872 painting that if I’m reading the note in the painting itself, first belonged to Berthe Morisot. Of course, my first reaction to these sorts of things now is, “Manet Facsimile Object?”
And the answer is, alas, no.
The size is perfect–22 x 27 cm–and it’s both very desirable and inaccessible. But without a lot of digging, the only image that shows the full canvas is a stock photo. And so the dimensions of the widely circulating–and cropped–Wikipedia image are slightly off. Also the color is different enough to take a quick whip-up off the table.
But the main dealbreaker for me is the sheer numbers of commercialized print options for this public domain image. Even if none is a Facsimile Object, there are tons of objects which are facsimiles. Like art, Facsimile Objects aren’t supposed to be functional, but that doesn’t mean they don’t do something IRL. In a case like this, the facsimilating is being done, and at scale. I’m going to need to think this through.
A few months back, in the midst of the Manet Facsimile Object and NFT frenzy, Eric Doeringer suggested I submit a work for a project being organized by Micheál O’Connell for the ABC Artists’ Books Cooperative. I am psyched and grateful to have my work included.
As an irreverent critique of the whole authentication boom, O’Connell conceived ABCOA as a collection of artworks that are their own certificates of authenticity. The resulting portfolio comprises 60 certified works of art, which is quite a deal for EUR30.
I have also been slow in posting about it only because I have not been able to figure out where my brief accompanying text went. So I’ve finally given up and am explaining the piece here.
As the text of De Maria’s certificate itself states, the engraved stainless steel High Energy Bar is not only made “operative and authentic” by the presence of this CoA; the combination of Bar and Certificate constitute another work, the High Energy Unit. My work, High Energy Certificate, completes the gesture De Maria started, by declaring a standalone certificate a work of art.
While this obviously affects all the extant certificates of de Maria’s High Energy Units, the CoA facsimiles printed for ABCOA also constitute a distinct but still authentic subgroup of this work. It’s possible that they have a brief explanatory text on the verso. Or maybe they don’t? They’re operative and authentic either way.
Have I just been skating past this picture my entire Charles Sheeler-lovin’ life without noticing it? Is it in my books wherever, and I’ve missed it? How do I have to discover it via one of the most haphazard paths possible, three images deep in a Charles Sheeler eBay tangent?
“Lady at the Piano” is the title found nowhere but Robert Allerton Parker’s May 1926 article in International Studio, “The Classical Vision of Charles Sheeler,” the first extended discussion in print of the artist’s work.” Nowhere except the recap of Parker’s article in The Literary Digest a month later, two pages of which are being sold on eBay.
If it’s out there, it probably has a different title. A painting the Digest unhelpfully captioned with, “Greenwich Village on Good Behavior,” is now known as MacDougal Alley (1924), but was Houses, Washington Square when it was shown at MoMA in 1939. Keeping with the sepia & charcoal theme, the image above is of a 1920s photo of the (very brick red) painting, from The Metropolitan’s collection, where it’s titled New York – Washington Square.
No connected work appears in Sheeler’s 1939 MoMA retrospective, either, but there are comparables. This cropped lady and her highly reflective piano remind me of my first favorite Sheeler, the 1923 Self-Portrait, which used to hang next to the Wyeth and the Tchetchilew in the hallway just outside The Modern’s March of European Modernism galleries. These smoky works on paper are a seemingly impossible mix of precision and sfumato, drawings that looked like photographs.
Anyway, in the immortal words of Monique reaction dot gif, I would like to see it.
A Cy Twombly drawing of a white rabbit would be interesting enough on its own. But you’re saying a Cy Twombly white rabbit drawing is at Sotheby’s Milano with this disclaimer? What does it MEAN?
“This work is registered in the Cy Twombly Foundation, Rome, in the ‘Memorabilia’ department. ‘Memorabilia’ are drawings or small works by the artist that the Foundation plans to publish in a specific catalogue.”
THE MEMORABILIA DEPARTMENT. IS PUBLISHING A CATALOGUE.
Heisenberg’s Rabbit Update: Perhaps noticing the blogger staring in awe through the screen, Sotheby’s has updated the text about the organizational and taxonomical structure of the Fondazione:
“This work is registered in the Cy Twombly Foundation, Rome, in the ‘Memorabilia’ section. In the memorabilia section are gathered all the works, as quick sketches or pieces whose subjects are not typical of the artist’s work.”
Two years after her retrospective in Frankfurt, Cady Noland has opened a show in New York that includes new work. It is in support of The Clip-On Method, a new, 2-volume publication of her work and writing, edited by Rhea Anastos. The title calls to mind Clip-On Man, a 1989 print on aluminum work based on a Charles Gatewood photo of a wild-looking executive at Mardi Gras with multiple Budweiser six-pack rings clipped onto his belt.
The website announcing the book and show at Galerie Buchholz, states that, “Publishing photographs of the work of Cady Noland without the express permission of the artist will be viewed as copyright infringement.”
I have not seen the show in person yet, so this post is based on viewing many infringements on Instagram in the three days since the show’s unannounced opening.
Director Barry Jenkins said one of the inspirations for The Gaze was a painting by Kerry James Marshall. In The Gaze, shot on the set of The Underground Railroad, actors embody ancestors, people who lived and died without much or any visual record of their existence. Marshall created a similar series of paintings depicting Black people of history for whom no visual record survives, and Jenkins called outScipio Moorhead portrait of himself, 1776, a 2007 painting (above) which he saw at the Met Breuer in 2016. I think Jenkins is quoting a text from the Met:
“In this painting Marshall created an imagined self-portrait of a real African American artist, Scipio Moorhead, who was active in the 1770s. Few if any images of Moorhead exist in the historical record. Everything we know of his legacy is based on Phillis Wheatley’s first book of poetry, published in 1773 while she was a slave [sic] in Boston. The book’s title page illustration is an engraving of the writer, reportedly modeled on a painting by Moorhead. The engraving remains the only visual proof, however tenuous, of Moorhead’s existence.”
From what I can find, no images of or by Moorhead survive, only some mentions of him in correspondence; marginalia identifying him as the subject of one of Wheatley’s poems; and the etching that is supposed to be based on his portrait of Wheatley.
Somehow the Met has a print that was not bound into one of the 300 copies the book Wheatley first got published in England. It was soon published in Boston after her return as a free woman, in 1773.
The preface to Wheatley’s book includes a statement signed by 18 prominent Bostonians who examined her and her manuscript and pronounced them genuine, despite her background as “an uncultivated Barbarian” who labors “under the Disadavantage” of being enslaved by the Wheatleys. Which, one must imagine, is an extraordinary thing to have experienced.
Wheatley married, wrote poems criticizing slavery and praising the American revolution, then died young, at 31. A new book by poet and professor Honoré Fanonne Jeffers includes previously unpublished letters showing her husband’s attempts to publish a second book of poetry after her death. Except for Wheatley’s book and a couple of other mentions, Scipio Moorhead’s fuller story remains unknown.
Marshall’s depiction of Moorhead is notable for the size of the historical void it occupies. The greatest sculptors of ancient Greece are only recognized as such because of later Roman copies of their work. Having no known work survive certainly hasn’t hurt the legacies of Phidias, or Polykleitos, who are foundational for European art’s history of itself. What would our culture be like if Moorhead’s Phyllis Wheatley were as influential as Myron’s Discobolus?
This is really not how I like to find out about multiple Richard Serra sculptures shoved into an alley in SE Washington DC, but here we are. @johnpowersus just tagged me on this instagram photo by Kevin Buist @porcupineschool. And I have to admit, except for the plinth; the siting shoved up against the garden wall; the dumpsters;
There are some oddities in this recording, like names I gave up trying to get the computer to pronounce correctly; words or abbreviations that are pronounced correctly in one case, and read out as a string in another; the startling precision with which the machine says, “Spongebob Squarepants,” and the sudden appearance of French voice for one precisely articulated line, while other instances of French are left to phonetic stumbling.
Johanna Burton is right, though, and Rachel Harrison’s text-related practice rewards the attention given to it.
I just started watching Barry Jenkins’ adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, and it is gorgeous and terrible and intense. One extraordinary thing about it is that in the midst of making this 10-hour series, Jenkins also made an hour-long, non-narrative work titled, The Gaze, and it is almost supernaturally moving. He wrote at length about it on Vimeo:
Early in production, there was a moment where I looked across the set and what I saw settled me: our background actors, in working with folks like Ms. Wendy and Mr. and Mrs. King – styled and dressed and made up by Caroline, by Lawrence and Donnie – I looked across the set and realized I was looking at my ancestors, a group of people whose images have been largely lost to the historical record. Without thinking, we paused production on the The Underground Railroad and instead harnessed our tools to capture portraits of… them.
What flows here is non-narrative. There is no story told. Throughout production, we halted our filming many times for moments like these. Moments where… standing in the spaces our ancestors stood, we had the feeling of seeing them, truly seeing them and thus, we sought to capture and share that seeing with you…
None of these shots are planned. Occasionally, when the spirit moved us, we stopped making the planned thing and focused on making THIS thing.
…we have sought to give embodiment to the souls of our ancestors frozen in the tactful but inadequate descriptor “enslaved,” a phrase that speaks only to what was done to them, not to who they were nor what they did. My ancestors – midwives and blacksmiths, agrarians and healers; builders and spiritualists, yearn’ers and doers – seen here as embodied by this wonderful cast of principal and background actors, did so very much.
Standing in for ancestors to see and remember them, and to experience being seen by them is as extraordinary as the insight to make this in the first place.
Samuel F. B. Morse expected his 1822 epic, 9×12 foot painting of the chamber of The House of Representatives in the just-repaired US Capitol would tour the country to paying crowds, and then be triumphantly acquired by the politicians he made famous. That did not happen. The tour was a flop; the painting he’d spent months creating in a makeshift studio next to the House chamber was sold in Europe, and eventually ended up at the Corcoran. It was only with the dissolution of that museum in 2014, almost 200 years later, that Morse’s painting came into the collection of the nation, at the National Gallery.
Morse chose not paint the chaos and occasional violence that typified the House’s deliberations over such controversies as the Missouri Compromise or the displacement of Indian populations. Instead, perhaps aspirationally, he depicts a calm moment where hardworking servants of the people were preparing for a night session.
Eighty recognizable politicians, journalists, and others are depicted–Morse sold a pamphlet diagram for viewers to identify them all-but the dramatic focus of the painting is an unidentified lamplighter. The figure stands on a ladder, against the giant chandelier, which has been lowered for his reach. [My first favorite thing about this painting was the thin, black line extending from the top of the painting to the chandelier, His back to the picture plane, but his profile reveals him to be a Black man. Was he enslaved? It’s not clear; the US government did not as a practice own slaves at the time, but slavers regularly leased the enslaved for government work–like rebuilding the Capitol after the British burned it in 1812. Morse was a supporter of slavery (also an opponent of immigration), which may explain why the central figure of his painting goes unnamed.
The only other non-white person in the painting, however, was well-known in Washington. Petalesharo was a Pawnee chief who traveled to DC as part of a Great Plains delegation to negotiate the fate of his and other tribes. He is shown seated in the House spectator’s gallery, with an impassive expression that resembles the portrait Charles Bird King made at the same time for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Petalesharo had become famous through the promotion of missionaries, who’d reported that the chief had stopped his tribe from killing a young Comanche girl, either as part of human sacrifice or in revenge for a theft. This show of civilized mercy was probably appealing to the man to Petalesharo’s right, Jedidiah Morse, the Calvinist minister and geographer, who was also the artist’s father. Jedidiah had come to Congress to share a massive report he’d written on the US relationship with the Indian tribes. After traveling for several years and meeting with Indian leaders and communities, Morse argued for white coexistence with the Indians, along with a heavy dose of assimilation and missionary-led Christianization. His recommendations were ignored in favor of abrogating treaties and exterminating Indian populations who would not remove themselves from newly claimed lands. Next to Papa Morse is Benjamin Silliman, Samuel Morse’s chemistry professor at Yale. Years later, after Morse would develop the telegraph and Morse Code, Silliman became the first person to distill petroleum.
While viewing Morse’s painting the other day at the freshly reopened National Gallery, I got up close to study these standout figures; their unusual compositions, one obscured at the center and the other pushed and fenced off at the margins; one with a glowing chandelier and the other amidst brushy abstractions of the grand chamber’s marble columns; and to contemplate their significance, long unsung, to the history of this scene and this nation. Which prompted my gallerygoing companion to say, “Uh-oh, here come the Facsimile Objects.” [Reader, I married her.]
As another experiment on cropping my way to Facsimile Objects, I envision this as a diptych extracted from the painting, each realized at full scale, and installed where Morse put them in the original painting. Seeing these definitely reminded me of Titus Kaphar’s 2016 painting Enough About You, in which he isolates and frames the face of an unidentified enslaved boy in a portrait of Elihu Yale. But I’m still figuring out how these compositions read apart from the larger painting, and in relation to each other. Unlike Kaphar’s work, an awful lot is missing here.
The first proofs just arrived, and while they’re great images, they’re a little low-res; even a big jpg of a 12-foot painting is not really big enough to work with, so I’m going to shoot the details myself. Which feels a little extra, but also necessary here. brb.
Hyperallergic has an awesome article by John Yau, one of our greatest Jasper Johns whisperers, that uncovers the source of a traced form the artist used in more than 40 works beginning in 1990, but which he had refused to identify. The motif appears to be two figures, one horizontal across the middle of the more vertical one, and is referred to by the name of the painting where it first appeared, Green Angel (1990). As you might expect with Johns, the revelation of the source for the Green Angel form is not a mystery solved, but a prompt for new questions.