A few days ago a friend with amazing superpowers for finding things sent an eBay listing from a European autograph dealer for a Richard Prince joke drawing. It was a hilarious forgery, but it was also only €1, and, I argued, it was well worth it. As we texted about it, I was like, dang, now I want to sell Richard Prince drawings on scraps of paper on eBay for €1! You should make them in puffy pen ink, my heroic friend said.
As it turns out, puffy ink is more of a bottle-based medium than a pen-based one. And it is intended for use on fabric, not Arches or fancy metallic scrapbooking cardstock.
The dimensionality of the text, along with the curling of the paper as the puffy ink dries, most assuredly transforms what I’d imagined were drawings into objects. Objects which might get crushed if shipped via a simple, stamped envelope. Objects which contain vital title, stamp and initialing elements on the verso, complicating simple framing and mounting.
And to top it all off, eBay insists I list my US-based items in dollars. But out of such difficult decisions is great art sometimes born. In the case of this little series, at least, I am certain they’re worth a dollar if they’re worth anything at all. Because every single one is guaranteed to contain an authentic Richard Prince joke. I could not make these up.
This untitled acrylic and watercolor seemed to stand apart from the several series of new works on paper Jasper Johns is showing at Matthew Marks this month.
It shows the “Green Angel” motif, an abstracted outlined form Johns used for a group of work only used around 1990, and whose source he long refused to disclose. [Artist Cristóbal Lehyt identified it this year: a photo of an unusual, little mashup of a Rodin sculpture of a minotaur holding a centauress torso.] But the date is 1990+2019, implying Johns revisited an old work.
The motif is there, apparently drawn out in dark lines on a multicolored ground, and then all the spaces are blacked out, right up to the lines. When any of this happened, or the impetus for returning to a decades-old work and reworking it, was not known. It would be interesting to check the drawings CR, though, and see how the “original” (sic) Green Angel work on paper fits into the flow.
When John Yau wrote about the Rodin discovery in May, I imagined this year would see a bounty of Johns reveals. We now know some of what Johns knew when he made this work, and when he reworked it. But as this photo of the artist’s studio from June shows, now Johns knows that we know, and he included it…anyway? As a little treat?
Shoutout to Brian Dupont, who yesterday flagged a recent challenge by Blake Gopnik to identify the comic strips Jasper Johns painted over in his small 1958 work, Alley Oop. Turns out one of Blake’s readers already did the same thing I just did: follow the second Google Images search result to a 20+ year-old flickr post by a guy whose self-appointed mission was to take down Roy Lichtenstein by tracking down all his comic book source images.
The Frenchness of the original Manet Facsimile Object drove me to decide the certificates of authenticity needed to somehow be French as well. I spent a couple of increasingly frustrated weeks looking for a calligrapher who could execute certificates in official 19th century French letter forms. Researching the history of French script, I kept running up against the realization that the image of French cursive in my mind had become Vietnamese.
2.2.1861 (2009 – ) is one of Danh Vo’s simplest, most elegant, and most powerful projects. His father, Phung Vo, copies out editions of a farewell letter Jean-Théophane Vénard, a 19th century Catholic missionary wrote to his father on the eve of his beheading for proselytizing. Phung learned exquisite, French-style penmanship in school Vietnam during French colonial rule, and converted to Catholicism as a gesture of political solidarity with the South Vietnamese regime–but he doesn’t speak French. He’s reproduced the letter hundreds, if not thousands, of times, and Danh includes the letter in all his exhibitions. Phung’s letters will continue as long as he’s able. In the mean time, the father’s elaborate calligraphic texts have become an evermore prominent element of the son’s work.
After deciding not to try to get Phung Vo to make them, I ended up copying his letter for practice, and producing the Manet certificates myself. It’s a pattern I’ve kept since, using period German script for the Dürer certificates, and so on.
I think Vo’s creating 2.2.1861 as a time-bracketed edition, available until it’s not, also informed my own approach to the Facsimile Object editions. Though a bigger inspiration was clearly limited-time editions that arose during the pandemic, like Pictures for Elmhurst and Wolfgang Tillmans’ Between Bridges. They’re available as long as they’re needed, or useful, or relevant, or I don’t know what. It’s not like they’re meant to be disposable, but there is a finitude to them.
Anyway, as much as I love 2.2.1861, I’ve never put one up; they feel pretty intimate, but also pretty fragile, the less handling the better. While wishing Vo and his family all the health and safety in the world, the last year-plus had me thinking about mortality more regularly. And I decided to order a letter now, while I knew they were available. When it arrived–the lead time was several months–I immediately felt like I knew what had to be done, and so I made a Facsimile Object of it.
In a way, this Facsimile Object complicates the relationship between itself, the artwork, and a COA. What would a certificate of authenticity even look like here, but a less expert copy of the original work?
Within minutes of my taking the photo at the top of the post, the tape slipped, and the object guillotined to the floor. It was totally fine, and will be hanging again by morning. It is very sturdy. I can’t tell for sure in the dark, but it also seems to have a slight lack of focus, or a pixel-level distortion keyed to the tiny waverings of Vo’s line. It reminds me of the visual tension present in Richter’s stripe series. Those images are created not by stretching, but by replicating an almost imperceptibly narrow vertical strip of a painting. Will producing a facsimile object cause an unanticipated, slight distortion that’s only visible in person, close up? Daylight can’t come fast enough.
[update: it does! actually, it feels a little blurry. perhaps something about the scanning, or the surface of the paper. Anyway, fascinating.
In 1982, at age 22, Jean-Michel Basquiat created a suite of 18 screenprints drawn from diagrams in Gray’s Anatomy. The artist had received a copy of the book, the Wikipedia of its day, when he was seven, and drawing images from it while recovering from a car accident. Three of these 18, published in an edition of 18+7AP, are coming up for sale at Christie’s this month.
The series does not include a diagram of a knee, but it does include a couple of skulls, a subject which Warhol and Johns both addressed.
FYI, the signature is pencil; the X is screenprinted.
Since not buying the print of it MoMA deaccessioned three years ago, I’ve been low-key fascinated by Charles Sheeler’s photo of “Aunt Mary,” and the elderly Black woman in 18th-century costume seated in a kitchen at Colonial Williamsburg. Sheeler made the picture in 1935-36, while visiting at the invitation the Rockefellers. They donated this print to The Modern for a 1941 exhibition. This is the only Williamsburg photo Sheeler made public; the rest he used as reference for his paintings.
But that’s not important now. While ostensibly depicting the past, Sheeler’s photo of “Aunt Mary” captured a complicated aspect of its present, when a Black woman was hired to perform as an enslaved woman in a vast, celebratory fabrication of US colonial history, built by the richest man in the country, in the still foundationally racist Virginia of the 1930s. I’ve wanted to figure out who this woman was, and what her experience was like.
Because public versions of the photo and postcards over several decades referred to different interpreters as “Aunt Mary,” I assumed it was a Mammy-like role, trying to recast slavery as a benevolent family relationship. Some historic mentions even say the woman playing “Aunt Mary” was born into slavery, a real possibility for an elderly Black woman in 1933, but less plausible in the 1950s.
During pandemic-related shutdowns in the Summer of 2020, I emailed folks at the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Library at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation to see if their archives might shed any clues on this woman’s identity, and on the experience of her and other Black historic interpreters at the time. I was grateful and fascinated to receive from archivist Sarah Nerney who, with limited library access, managed to answer some of my questions, and inspire a whole bunch more.
And what who knew when and what happened when and who was involved is central to the issue at hand, which is ultimately that Jasper Johns draws on images from the world around him to make his art, and what does that mean? Another issue at hand: who are all these people, and does anyone in Litchfield County have anything to do besides be all up in Jasper Johns’ business?
I have never been able to understand* why the Whitney hates the Whitney so much that they moved out, but they do, and they did. And now, as Katya Kazakina reports at artnet , there’s talk of selling it when the Met’s lease runs out in 2023.
Of course, there was talk of selling the building in 2008, too, when the plan to build in the Meatpacking District was a thing. Those rumors were floated and batted down immediately, but also repeatedly, in the Times. Now, with the Met a mess and not exercising the purchase option Kazakina reports was in their original 8-year lease, and the Frick just subletting while its own building is renovated, the question is no longer, “Is it for sale?” but “How much could they get, and who would buy it?” [Or as Kazakina actually put it, “Now, the multi-million-dollar question is: If the building is sold, can it be developed?”]
Kazakina’s list of hypothetical buyers includes a random country, Sotheby’s new owner Patrick Drahi, a future Larry Gagosian foundation, or a condo tower developer** who’d want to turn Marcel Breuer’s museum into “a really ritzy gym.” Which is all well and good–or spiraling levels of cringe, depending, obv–but which also misses the most obvious solution: turn Breuer’s Whitney into a house.
I made a quick trip to see Cady Noland’s exhibition at Galerie Buchholz on Saturday, but let’s talk about this brick facade across the street?
I’d feel worse about never in my life noticing the extraordinary brickwork if it had been discussed by literally anyone else outside of the 126-page building inventory for the creation of the Metropolitan Museum Historic District, published in 1977.
Seeing this Todd Eberle photo of Jeff Koons coming up for auction at Stair Galleries next week, I was reminded of huge blog post deep dive I’d worked on after the Whitney show and then bailed on, about the timeline for the Celebration series.
But if you look around enough, you can find that someone else has already laid a lot of the stuff out, even if they haven’t necessarily connected all the dots.
The Duchamp necklace is 61 inches long, which strikes me as pretty damn long for a necklace, a double loop all the way down into your cleavage. So those 77 beads are big, almost like blocks. This is a statement AND a necklace.
This necklace is accompanied by a small (3×7 inch) signed print, dated 2002, a color image of the necklace itself arranged on a flatbed scanner. It feels like a certificate of authenticity to me. Another image, 10×14 inches, and laminated (!), is a filtered and rasterized depiction of another beaded statement necklace, not included in the sale, which reads, “I’ll sell when you catch up to my prices.”
Not gonna lie, until I started typing this, I wanted this necklace, or to make it, or to make the other one. But I thought they were tiny, like baby bracelet-size. And then I was also, respectively, like, “Well, good for Duchamp!” and “Sorry you don’t have any collectors!” So unless or until I give a talk at CAA and need some ironic bling, I’m going to just sit this one out.
While working on the Scipio Moorhead Facsimile Object a couple of months ago, I started trying to figure out the challenge of a Kerry James Marshall Facsimile Object, too. Marshall’s portrait of Moorhead fills the gap in the historical record–there is no known depiction of or signature work by the painter considered to be the first Black artist in America. Meanwhile, the deep, multihued blacks of Marshall’s signature figurative style counter the uniform whiteness of American/European history painting, while also exposing how under-optimized the prevailing systems of image reproduction and circulation are for accurately depicting Black skin. Reproductions of Marshall’s paintings regularly fail in this specific way to mirror the experience of seeing them in person. So they are an excellent challenge for the Facsimile Object construct.
The calculation for making a Facsimile Object of a Kerry James Marshall work is pretty elegant in one respect, though. The epic scale immediately excludes most of his paintings. And the breakthrough work that marked a turning point in his practice–and that anchored his Met Breuer-filling retrospective a couple of years ago–is a headshot, a perfectly sized egg tempera on a sheet of sketchbook paper.
It took several attempts to find a good reproduction of A Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of His Former Self (1980) that would reproduce on aluminum. This multistep filtration process, going from work to image to jpg to print, really gets a workout here, or at least, the apparatus gets seen operating in ways that might otherwise go unnoticed. Sometimes the work’s saturation is pumped up to bring out the red of the figure’s gums, for example, or the brightness is increased to emphasize the painting’s striated facture. Sometimes it’s printed in duotone, flattened into a pair of floating white eyes and an exaggerated grin. It extends the reach of Marshall’s own practice, “forcing the issue of perception by rendering an image that is just at the edge of perception.”
That Marshall knew his carefully calibrated painting was still at risk of being reduced to an undifferentiated black field, a shadow, is perhaps indicated by the title itself. That this was interesting to him is perhaps indicated by his subsequent decades-long practice of depicting Blackness in a world that is still catching up with him.
There are classic pictures of young art dealer Lucien Terras modeling stockades at Cady Noland’s 1994 exhibition at Paula Cooper Gallery. Gibbet, above, is named after the lamppost-like cages used to starve people to death in public. It has an American flag draped over it, with carefully placed holes to allow the stockade to function as it was designed. Your Fucking Face is named after your fucking face, I guess, and is identical except for the flag.
What I’d never realized until I saw both photos side by side on @_installator_‘s instagram, was that they were of the same object. Or one played the other on film. Bruce Hainley’s Artforum review of the Frankfurt show is very clear that these two works are installed next to each other.
Like in the photo above, which accompanied Bob Nickas’ Spike Art review. Except the checklist for the show did not include Your Fucking Face, and the stockade listed after Gibbet was called Beltway Terror. The Brants own “both,” so I guess we could ask if there is one stockade or two–or two stockades or three.
Oh here is a photo of the 1994 show in Bob Nickas’ installation photo roundup in Bomb Magazine, with Your Fucking Face and Gibbet side by side, but on a plinth. And it looks like the transparency was flipped, or the flag was. When even her collaborators get confounded, I can see why the artist issues disclaimers about reproductions of her work.
I have absolutely loved MVRDV’s Marble Arch Mound from the minute I saw it in Dan Barker’s epic tweet thread of visiting it on opening day in July. It hits every rendering vs. reality, experience economy, placemaking spectacle fail button, without costing me a farthing and without having to be my problem in any way. It is an upfront and honest disaster. And unlike some embarrassing and pointless destination stairchitecture closer to home, at least the Mound hasn’t killed anyone. Yet.
A mountain of criticism has been thrown up on the Mound since, but Barker’s take still feels the clearest. He identifies the obvious things, like the cruft of fencing, garbage cans, and signage that delineate paid-access public space; and the nakedness of a new garden draped–it must be made clear–over a scaffold, and looking like a Minecraft skin–to me, a good thing!–but inevitably doomed by comparison to the lush renderings. He points to the complete absence of the promised interior program of a cafe and light installation: was it unfinished, abandoned, or still waiting for an intern to be blamed for not pulling it together?
And he’s the first to point out what’s probably the Mound’s most significant failing: it’s too short to provide a view of anything except the buildings and construction sites surrounding it. Like so many failures in the UK these days, this one feels entirely predictable and avoidable. And yet here it is.
Setting aside the obvious differences in site and program, MVRDV’s two temporary scaffold stair projects, can help see where we are, and where we came from since the Summer of 2016. The Stair to Kriterion was built to the rooftop of a building in front of Rotterdam’s central station. It evoked the city’s commemoration of post-war reconstruction and nostalgia for the long-closed movie theater at the top of the stairs. There was a cafe and an exhibit, but because it had an actual view, it was free, and packed. Though MVRDV principal Winy Maas suggested it should be permanent, it came and went as planned, in two months.
Marble Arch Mound sounds so dissatisfying it will be lucky to make it to January. At least when the leaves fall on the surrounding trees in a few months, they’ll stop blocking the view of the park. Instead of the Dutch throngs, access to the Marble Arch Mound is capped at 1,000 people/day, 25 at a time. This is the trickle of a crowd that was not only supposed to revitalize the shipping street next door, but to buy enough tickets to generate profits for Mound.
All of which was also clear on paper. The Marble Arch Mound is the transparent architectural embodiment of the cultural, corporate, and governmental institutions that brought it into being, of the strategic assumptions, values, and decision-making processes they used, and of the vision, constraints, and compromises they imposed.
Just as the Vessel embodies Bloomberg-era New York real estate oligarchs’ compulsion for trophy spectacle, whereby an Eiffel Tower to yourself that turns out to be an ill-conceived suicide machine, the Marble Arch Mound captures this privatized, austerity-riddled, authoritarian, kakistocratic, pandemic moment in London with a truly terrible clarity. This Potemkin Village Green of a public building induces amazement and awe, at least from afar. If only it could outlive the political calamity that built it.
There was something beautiful and haunting and unexpected about the depiction of the destruction of Sodom from a medieval manuscript that got tweeted across my timeline the other day. Medievalist Dr. Erik Wade’s thread highlighted the blissed out, same-sex residents comforting each other, even as the city burned around them. I was also taken by the delicate line drawings, more refined than marginalia, but clearly less than fully filled in. I hesitate to say it is unfinished, though. The tangle of figures look so similar to each other, for a minute I wondered if the illuminator was tracing them.
It’s from a late 11th-century manuscript known as The Old English Hexateuch, the earliest known English translation of six books of the Old Testament (basically, the Torah plus Joshua). Cotton MS Claudius B.iv, a name derived from one of the founding collections of the British Library, includes almost 400 illuminations in various states of detail. They depict the stories of the Bible set in the contemporary Anglo-Saxon milieu the manuscript’s lay audiences would recognize immediately.
I did not plan on making a Facsimile Object of Dürer’s verso painting of the Destruction of Sodom, but the brushy allure of the flames raining down on the cities proved irresistible. Now again, I find that the delicate lines depicting the victims, and especially the sketchy flicks of flame everywhere, made me want to hold the manuscript in my hand. As this was impossible, I made another Facsimile Object. Now I have an unlikely diptych, from centuries and countries apart, of an unlikely and terrible scene.
Not gonna lie, they hit a little differently now, when wildfires are raging across three continents, than in May, when I made the first one. So far Facsimile Objects have engaged with the present only temporally, by marking a (lost) moment in time: a missed auction preview, a pandemic-closed museum, the sale of a painting, a surprise Summer show. But with some religionists repeating the medieval model of blaming a conflagration on the existence of gay people, this pair of Facsimile Objects connects on a content level as well.