12 April 2017

10 April 2017

What's up for six more days..

Two excellent, politically charged shows ending this week in Chelsea, and one recently opened: Sue Williams at no. 555 w21st is the one of the three reacting to Trump’s inauguration but though she titled a 2016 canvas (not in the show) “Trump Not Funny,” the works here don’t directly reference him or cast him as a regrettable aberration from a peaceful norm but rather chronicle her emotional relation to the norm, with a large canvas bearing the inscription “All Roads Lead to Langley” (below, words at bottom)


and a five part series i. Revere, ii. 2 Horses, iii. Curtain, iv. Ronald Reagan & William Casey, v. ...Sat There Weeping, Weeping...

iv. Ronald Reagan & William Casey

Down 21st Albert Oehlen is using the large Gagosian space for an ATM with large, identical canvases (like Schnabel's recent show at Pace) but get up to 568 West 25th as also ending are four large paintings and other works by Shiva Ahmadi, who grew up in Iran around ‘kitsch’ Persian miniatures she hated but turned to the medium in American art school after the Iraq War invasion. Her works depict Middle Eastern hero worship but convey the playfulness of human life stained with blood.. monkeys symbolizing figures that beckon the political or religious leader with balloons that become bombs.  Also here is one of her first forays into animating the monkeys and balloons.

Shiva Ahmadi, The Mesh, 2016

Up til May 13 at 515 w27th is a series of three Max Ernst sculptures from 1967 he titled Big Brother: Teaching Staff for a School of Murderers which contains Big Brother, Séraphine Cherubin and Séraphin le Néophyte, like Ahmadi conveying a distressing social order.  Down at 300 Broome in a group show there's examples of different phases of Roy De Forest's "Nut Art" through this week..


Roy De Forest, Untitled, 1978

Two worthwhile shows in the Upper East Side are ending this week: (1) a collage group show at 64 e77th including two enjoyable Picassos from 1916-18, a copy of Ernst’s La femme 100 têtes, and a cleverly made Cindy Sherman film; (2) a recreation of Agnès Varda’s exhibition of photos before she made La Pointe Courte, as well as several videos of hers and assorted Vardanalia at 19 e66th, Near the Varda is early Mimmo Rotella at 130 e64th. I haven't seen Lygia Pape at Met Breuer yet but that's there.

The show of twelve Tàpies paintings at 980 Madison 3rd floor til April 22 is quite a good selection from mostly after Franco died and his works became more contemplative - I like all his periods but he entered a visionary phase from the late 1980s on.  Though I haven’t blogged about him much, Tàpies is my favorite post-WW2 painter.  Perhaps I will type more about these, but you get that I think you should see this.


Antoni Tàpies, Jo Parlo amb la Mà (I Speak to the Hand), 1999

Also Werner’s presentation of early Jorg Immendorff is a once in a lifetime insight into the development of one of the most influential post-war artists.  Here again I may type more, but this show demonstrates that in addition to his later works' influence on Neo Rauch, he gave his teacher Beuys the idea for chalkboard works.  Though the Beuys-formed German Student Party at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf had already taken up changing admissions policies, Immendorf’s neo-Dada 'LIDL' action in December of 1968 in which he created a cardboard classroom encouraged Beuys while getting them in further hot water with the administration, after which Beuys allowed all rejected students into his class which led to his dismissal two years later, 4 e77th til May 13.

09 April 2017

20 March 2017


New York as Seen from Across the Body, 1913

As the Picabia show, which readers in these parts had herein been implored to see, is being taken down I’ll type some more with its glow still fresh. Amongst other things, it afforded the spectacle of Picabia quotations offered to the masses going up the Metro escalator at 53rd and 5th, a set of three or four including “I am a beautiful monster," “civilization created crime" and “live for your pleasure" rotated as Madison Avenue-style brainwashing sparing commuters a larger set that could include “Happiness is to command no one and not be commanded.”  “The world is steeped in sticky good taste and ignorance.” “There is no truth true to life” “Misery is illustrious like a triumphant god with circular gestures”  “Newspapers are daily leeches which you place in a crown around your head.” “‘Why do you write?’ Francis Picabia: I don’t know and I hope I never know.” “If you read Andre Gide aloud for ten minutes, your breath will stink.” “Art is a pharmaceutical product for imbeciles.” “War makes me want to laugh.” “I surpass amateurs, I am the super-amateur; professionals are shit-pumps.” “‘All the plants belong to me, that’s why I don’t like the country!’” “Don’t be fooled: artists are dry cleaners.”  “Life is today and today doesn’t exist.”  “Artists are the result of nature’s miserliness.”  “There is only one way to save yourself: sacrifice your reputation.” “Genius lies in ignoring others.” “Art is the worship of error.” “To fear the senses is to become a philosopher.” “Where art appears, life disappears.” “It’s better to suffer than be surrounded by scarecrows.” To Duchamp, Picabia was “a negator. With him it was always, ‘Yes, but..’ and ‘no, but..’ Whatever you said, he contradicted. It was his game. Perhaps he wasn’t aware of it.”


As with MoMA‘s wonderful presentation of Lygia Clark, the perplexed reviews tell you the artist has steered their vessel off the flat earth. I hadn’t read Financial Times’ Ariella Budick on Broodthaers, but as Clark, Broodthaers, and Picabia each added to art something it hadn’t seen before which has to this day been only partially excavated and tagged by others, her reviews have scored the trifecta of cluelessness towards anything that cannot be reduced to well-trodden art theory mantras.  “These products of Picabia’s nadir have re-emerged, not to be redeemed, but to suggest that their maker was something darker than a mere prankster or provocateur. At MoMA, he comes across as a spectacularly talented but insubstantial nihilist, an anti-artist propelled by the vacuum in his soul.”  As Picabia, the poet Max Jacob referred to as Tzara-thustra, and Bataille were the leading devotees of Nietzsche among Parisian modernists, she is parroting the lazy and inaccurate shorthand of “Nietzsche the nihilist” while anyone who actually reads Nietzsche ('Pour que vous aimiez quelque chose il faut que vous l’ayez vu et entendu depuis longtemps tas d’idiots') knows his entire oeuvre was involved in overcoming nihilism, saying art was a primary tool to do so, which drove Picabia to find belief in his own creations and discoveries rather than dogmatics, discoveries essential to both modernism and post-modernism with an impact only a handful in art can claim.

Burdick on his mid-40s works: “The mixture of turpitude and Aryan-friendly realism is troubling. It’s not clear whether he was cozying up to Vichy fascists or lampooning them, flattering through imitation or protesting with satire.”  Quoting Petras again contextualizes the source “The editors and columnists (of FT) have supported wars destroying the Libyan, Iraq, Syrian and Ukrainian economies..” in the case of the Ukraine, directly supporting neo-Nazis; in the case of Syria, supporting those who funded ISIS at a critical juncture.  Picabia: “I have no intention of talking politics, that’s something I absolutely loathe..”  Nietzsche's "Strict war discipline.. superiority of the leaders, unity and obedience among the led.. have nothing to do with culture” becomes Picabia's “A clan of nonentities .. cut off the heads of those who represent force and intelligence, who represent an aspiration of something better..” the "obedience among the led" illustrated in 1942‘s Adoration of the Calf (left). “Dear revolutionaries your ideas are as limited as a petit bourgeois from Besançon..”

Nietzsche respected Buddhism but eventually found it lacking the individual affirmation that could overcome nihilism.  Breton to Picabia in 1952: “Tell me, was not Dada perhaps, at its best, a flake of Zen wafted as far as ourselves?” Picabia’s “Andre Breton and I have never been on bad terms, the rumors going around are stupid made-up stories dictated by idiots” was by all accounts the case, but the way they agreed to disagree on aesthetic matters, in my view, reflected the latent rift between Picabia the Nietzschean and Breton the Hegelian, the source of which predates Nietzsche, commencing when his “educator” Schopenhauer loathed the popular Hegel ("the clumsy charlatan") so much he scheduled his Berlin lectures at the same time.  Hegel believed in the inevitability of the state though his has been, as Walter Kaufmann noted, exaggerated; Picabia joins Nietzsche in aversion to the herd.  Rousseau, admired by Breton, was dialectically superseded for Nietzsche by Goethe’s Faust.  The Freudian-influenced Breton wrote appreciatively in the Anthologie de l'humour noir “Nietzsche’s whole enterprise in fact tends to justify the superego by increasing and expanding the ego.. to restore to man all the power he had invested in the name of God. It might be that the ego dissolves at that temperature..”

In that 1952 letter Breton wrote Francis "I would like you to read (Daisetz T. Suzuki's Zen Doctrine of No-Mind), because if anyone has set himself the task proposed in this book, of transcending discrimination in all forms, it is certainly you." In Zen "no-mind" the innate non-discrimination of perceived entities stands apart from conditioned notions of dualism, closely resembling Breton’s “supreme point” noted in the Second Manifesto, which I’ve seen as an epigraph for a book about the Dalai Lama: “Everything leads us to a point in the spirit in which life and death, real and imaginary, past and future, communicable and incommunicable are no longer perceived as contradictions. It would be in vain to look for any other motivation in surrealist activity than the hope of determining this point.” My immediate impressions upon reading the Suzuki doctrine was that it bore an uncanny resemblance not just to this point but also to Breton’s “communicating vessels,” first formulated in his 1928 essay Surrealism and Painting which mentions Picabia amongst many others (over twenty years before the Suzuki translation became available in French), but since he wrote Communicating Vessels thereafter during what Michel Carrouges called in 1950 “the period when Marxism exercised its strongest hold on Breton” he could not reconcile the Eastern asceticism with Hegelian dialectical materialism, relating it rather to Picabia’s version of Dada unencumbered by materialism.  Deleuze: “The dialectic is the natural ideology of ressentiment and bad conscience. It is thought in the perspective of nihilism and from the standpoint of reactive forces.. powerless to create new ways of thinking and feeling"

Communicating Vessels was published in 1932, wherein Carrouges notes that in an elaboration of the supreme point “life for the sake of life and of Revolution” replaces past/ future and life/ death, saying elsewhere “..the supreme point can remain for the surrealists the place, at once real and ideal, where all antimonies are resolved, the meeting place of all the divine energies that Nietzsche dreamed of recuperating.” In 1937, after his formal break with Moscow, Breton wrote about the supreme point “these antimonies, cruelly felt, must be gotten rid of.. this suffering..” which sounds Buddhist.  In 1955 Ferdinand Alquié, picking over Carrouges’ interpretations, went to to great pains to downplay Breton’s concern for dialectical materialism, quoting Wolfgang Paalen in 1953 “(Hegel’s) philosophy permits the justification of all the totalitarian regimes,” but concedes “Breton could not but admire in Hegel the will to negate all transcendence or, which amounts to the same thing, to project all transcendence onto a horizontal plane” which itself sounds like Zen.

Breton’s selection for Nietzsche in the Anthologie de l'humour noir was a flight of non-discrimination, Friedrich’s letter to Jacob Burckhardt in 1889:

‘I have reserved myself a small student’s room.. I pay twenty-five francs, including service, buy my tea, and do all my shopping myself, suffer from torn shoes, and thank heaven every moment for the old world for which men have not been simple and quiet enough..

‘What is disagreeable and offends my modesty is that at bottom I am every name in history..

‘Tomorrow my son Umberto will come with the lovely Margharita, whom, however, I shall also receive here only in shirt-sleeves. The rest for Frau Cosima - Ariadne - from time to time there is magic.’

The communicating vessels, as described by Breton and illustrated by Rivera..


resembles the visual schema in Doctrine of No-Mind, while Picabia’s Transparencies intuit the doctrine, applying it to modes of sacred and profane representation in the West, providing both form and content to Polke's drama of the consciousness.


Some have speculated Picabia was hinting Breton was the central figure of Dresseur d'animaux (below) and Picabia the owl, but Breton’s letter of 1952 hinted that the Zen master ‘Shih-kung Hui-tsang of Foochow’ profiled by Suzuki could have unwittingly been the main figure in Dresseur d'animaux, as Picabia intentionally interrupted the outlines of him and the animals to portray him as the lord of illusion before Magritte adopted that theme.


Becoming, important to Nietzsche, appears in Breton’s 1946 “In Haiti at night..” “Bearing witness as no other and always quivering as if weighed in the balance of leaves, like egrets taking wing from the face of the pond where today’s myths are born, the art of Wifredo Lam streams out from the point where life’s springwaters reflect the mystery tree, by which I mean the preserving soul of the race, so as to shower with stars the becoming that must be for the betterment of humanity.”  The half-Cuban Picabia’s postwar works in his final period seem to be more distantly indebted to the liberties Lam took with Afro-Cuban iconography.

Where Picabia primarily departed from Duchamp, beginning with the machine period, was his will to discover in what Marcel pejoratively called the retinal something unknown and to believe in nothing else.  “‘Mr. S.S., of high Persian nobility’ praised Francis 'the truly beautiful thing is to paint an invention well. This gentleman - Cezanne, as you call him - has the mind of a greengrocer’” recounted Breton in 1922, the same year he wrote to Francis “the more I think about it, the more I feel I have always loved you.” At one visit I saw two elderly women riding down the escalator, one pointing to the large photo of Picabia “now that was good!” What glows is a spirit that could not be consumed in him or anyone that cares about him, a treasure map that the earliest modernists held from their first steps with more surprises to come. “I prefer not to spoil the surprise.”

05 March 2017

I found three or four live performances of pianist Horace Parlan, as well as his documentary, out of which this seldom viewed 1997 Geneva date features a trio with an unknown-to-me bassist and drummer after he'd moved to Southern Denmark..



and this '86 Round Midnight from Cologne with Dizzy Gillespie, Clifford Jordan and others..



+ an hour with Archie Schepp. Not live but..


If you click on “Philly” on the last post you get “currently not on view.”  I can verify that I became aware of the existence of The Fatal Temple during a few short periods of public display after it languished in storage for years.  Apparently Arshile Gorky is wrong to think it is an important work of art, and the Philly brain trust knows better. It is an oil and not a light-sensitive work on paper. Arensberg’s donation of The Poet and His Muse from 1925 is also rarely exhibited, although this period and work is generally considered less significant than Fatal Temple there’s still a lot of people who’d like to see it.  Max Ernst’s seashell from 1928, the primary phase of frottage since its invention three years earlier, from Arensberg. They also have a good little Rouault collection from various sources but they generally don’t see the light of day, none at the moment.

Collectors know this is an historically important painting, but Philly hasn’t grasped it yet and only shows it once in a while:

Peter Doig, Figure in Mountain Landscape II, 1998-9

Look at all the redundancy in the modern galleries before you tell me about space restrictions. The expansion in three years will make room for more head-scratchers.  Expanding could have been a way to respect the John G. Johnson's estate's wish for keeping its collection together (once the courts rule the museum's way there's no looking back), and do the same for Arensberg, instead they keep major Arensberg gifts in storage and hang Johnson's Veroneses and Titians above eye level.  Without Arensberg and Johnson it's a quaint regional museum.

Their Demuth and Sargent watercolors are up now though.

04 March 2017

What's up for one more day (fair week edition)

It would seem I decide which art fair to go to by where Michael Werner is showing.  This works if you like German art from the 80s ‘neo-expressionist’ generation, though they of course represent others, and if you do, you know they’ll whip a few things out that are worth the time and price of admission, and the other booths are bonus stimulation.  That led me to the Independent once after they started charging for it, and this year to the ADAA Art Show, my first visit ever to this, which confusingly for some is being shown at the Armory while the Armory remains an art show.

Daniel Richter, Ophelia
I can recall going to the Armory twice while Zwirner had Daniel Richter, seeing his Owner’s History Lesson at one and his Ophelia at the other.  These were two of the great paintings of their era and I enjoyed staring at both immensely. However, Daniel Richter has for whatever reason moved on to Regen in LA and they are not at a NY fair it would seem.

Both Werner and the other booths delivered to my satisfaction.  Werner has two works on paper by Picabia to grab collectors coming from MoMA, a transparency and a Spanish woman from the 20s, several works on paper by Beuys including pencil drawing of a girl with her back turned in front of a cross which blew me away in its ‘multiples’ simplicity, three Doig landscapes from the early 00s, a wonderful Penck work on paper, a fun Polke, a Schwitters in the upper corner of their tight office full of works for sale, a Baselitz, etc., the best Werner booth I’ve seen.

As the show is considered stodgy, traditional, and geared to older Upper East Side collectors, the mix of old and new nonetheless meant there was a lot of great older stuff. The new work was generally not down my alley but hot NY names that are selling.

Leonora Carrington, El templo de la palabra, 1954

Leonora Carrington’s prices have gone way up since she died.  Had she sold well in her seventies or before she probably would have moved to New York or Paris, but she was dead broke most of her life, with Edward James at times supporting her by buying up what was around.  This has enhanced the history of Mexican art and perhaps made her more enjoyably impervious to NY fashions. At the Mary-Anne Martin booth "The Temple of the Word" (major, well worth seeing in person) is/was up for $2.5M + they have a few Carrington works on paper + works by Kahlo, Tamayo, Gerzso, and Toledo, great viewing overall.


Donald Morris had four or five Joseph Cornells which the staff will take off the wall to show his inscriptions and additional collages on the back. Hauser and Wirth had Gorky’s depressed eary 30s drawings from his Nighttime, Enigma and Nostalgia series (above), based on di Chirico's Fatal Temple, which I'm well acquainted with because Albert Eugene Gallatin donated it to Philly. All Louise Bourgeois at the Peter Blum booth. All Norman Lewis at the Rosenfeld booth. Gallery St. Etienne lists Heckel, Kirchner, Mueller, Nolde, Pechstein, and Schmidt-Rottluff but they also had two good works on paper by Schiele... not major works (to go with the minor selections of them at National Gallery East).. like the Vuillards at Jill Newhouse but worthy of being detained by.

Giorgio de Chirico, The Fatal Temple, 1914

Checked out Clio (open tomorrow) along with a bunch of new Chelsea shows (not open tomorrow) and, as usual, "independent" "outsider" "anti-fair" consists exclusively of art school trends, with the exception of two or three religious painters from around the globe who go by previous generations' art school trends. A standout for me, though, was the Georgian Ia Liparteliani.

20 February 2017

What's up for one more day

A year or so ago while reading interviews of Tapies I was thinking about a spacial representation in which Beckmann’s dramatis personae was in the front


Paris Society, 1947

with an empty room in the back. I hadn’t at the time seen  Beckmann’s  empty room, his last painting. (Met til this evening)

Backstage, 1950

Also the most recent and second time I had visited the St Louis Museum of Art I had not slept the night before, but figured that seeing their vast Beckmann collection red-eyed would be part of the fun.  Little did I know that they had a well-attended show of floral arrangements in front of, and matching the colors of, the paintings, which attracted crowds that would openly state their preference for the flowers over the Ernsts and Beckmanns. I was counting to ten, and if that didn’t work I would count to twenty, and as it turns out I managed to not make a major scene.  Especially large was the crowd around the floral arrangement in front of Columbine:


Carnival Mask, Green, Violet and Pink (Columbine), 1950

Don't miss at the 75th and Madison outpost the Marisa Merz retrospective through May 7, and gallery 464 at 5th Avenue has Krishna Reddy's mixed color intaglio from 1968 "Demonstrators." The highlight of MoMA's floor of 1960s art, up til March 12 and of which I may type more about, is Henri Cartier-Bresson's photographs of May '68, which I don't recall being up when the floor was initially hung.


Also there I cannot get enough of the Picabia retrospective: a masterfully curated show of one of the most influential and original painters of all time. Breton said he was the first painter he knew of to use abstraction. Michael Kimmelman wrote about the 'transparencies,’ images juxtaposed by layering, in 1989 “one need only visit the display of works by Sigmar Polke now at the Mary Boone Gallery to realize Picabia's influence.”  Pierre Cabanne said to Duchamp “the Picabia-Duchamp meeting largely determined the break you were in the process of making” to which Duchamp said “yes,” referring to the break from Cubism to non-retinal painting and readymades. Duchamp started painting machines first but related the practice immediately to Picabia who took it in different directions.  Picabia has had a deeply personal and emotional impact on me for a while and I am sorting through more typing about him for this space that I will return to in a week or so.

Bo's'n Pettibon's retrospective is up at the New Museum til April 9 and his tenth show at Zwirner opens this week (Update 3/2: 'Raymond Pettibon's exhibition TH 'EXPLOSIYV SHOYRT T  will now open at a later date') along with a new Alice Neel show. Near the New, David Diao waxes nostalgic about 5 1/2 years spent in Hong Kong as a child at 54 Franklin til March 11.



In Midtown, this is the last week for Flor Garduño's photographs at 145 e 57 3rd fl, an assistant to Manuel Alvarez Bravo (above).  DAG's selection of Bengali works is at 41 e 57 suite 708 til March 10, Pace McGill has free speech-related photos from the US.


I used to get upset when the Dia Beacon would take down Hanne Darboven's Kulturgeschichte rooms coinciding with my visits, but now a much larger version (above) is at their Chelsea outpost at 535 21. Wangechi Mutu's content seems to be moving towards the decorative, i.e. collector's living rooms, at 530 21. André Butzer's last figurative show received a critical trashing and now he's found abstract expressionist religion, “The ostensible uniformity of the paintings underlines the variations between them," 519 24Yinka Shonibare MBE's Victorian Philanthropist's Parlour is at 533 26.

10 February 2017

There was an article in the Guardian a while back ‘(Andrew) Motion, chairman of the judging panel for next month's David Cohen prize for literature, was trying to kickstart a debate on who was "the greatest living writer in the British Isles".

‘So far the engine has refused to spark into life. The suggestions are few, and one or two may be facetious: Amis, of course; the poet Tom Raworth; the novelist Lesley Glaister; the footballing penseur Wayne Rooney (why not Coleen?). ‘

I was the one who ‘suggested’ Raworth and join all the others in lamenting his passing.  I think a link and a second link got me to Motion’s website; otherwise I agree with Charles Bernstein this past October ‘If Andrew Motion is a poet, I don’t want to be a poet.’  So my loyalties as to who was the ‘greatest living writer of the British Isles’ had at least been noted in a formerly palatable newspaper.  If you ask me about the best reading I’ve ever attended his will come immediately to mind.. this one starts at 29:45..



Piri’ Miri Muli’ concerns: he uses the line break within the word a few times, including the first poem in his selected, to force an inversion of meaning within the sentence which came much more often in his verse, retaining a control of content used for anything but and other effects.  Also, having lived for a time in Mexico, he weighed in "Gaslight" on Enrique González Martínez’ owl in response to Rubén Darío’s swan..

poetry is neither swan nor owl
but worker, miner
digging each generation deeper
through the shit of its eaters
to the root - then up to the great tomato

What's up for one more day

3 shows ending tomorrow:

Petzel’s curatorial response to the Trump inauguration that includes works from long before this year and different perspectives, including a bust of Snowden installed temporarily in a park. 456 W 18th Street

If you would prefer the human foot to be red, disembodied, glowing, in groups of four, and only visible from straight ahead then Louise B. has you covered. 547 25th

Never seen before Eisenstein drawings take their place in the erotic genre at 510 26th St. Sergei the horny bastard! He even has one of an acrobat pleasuring himself as a cover for Stendal’s (sic) complete works “Egotism.” I don’t think I’m the only one who still has his Monsieur Beyle shelf by the bedside.

Also in DC a wonderful show of photos of a Rajisthani girl and her mother and sister including letters documenting her predicament by Gauri Gill at the Sackler through Sunday.

23 January 2017

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12 January 2017

What's up for two more days v. F11 or +/=


Kasmin's wonderful evocation (515 27) of Brancusi's impasse Ronsin "a dead end street of ramshackle studios and workshops that had been built originally for the foreign artisans who came to work on the 1889 International Exposition.. When (collector John) Quinn made his second and last trip to Paris in the fall of 1923 - he died the following year - his happiest evenings were spent at impasse Ronsin. Henri-Pierre Roché describes an evening there in 1922 when Erik Satie was present: 'Dinner at Brancusi's - splendid. His famous cold beans puree, with garlic vinaigrette, his grilled steak... he multiplies himself, cooks, serves... there were two violins, Satie and Brancusi playing duos, teasing each other, we laugh so hard our jaws ache." (Tomkins' Duchamp) When Quinn died, Brancusi asked Duchamp and Roché (author of two of my favorite Truffaut films) to buy his works for what was then a low sum with a collector friend of Brancusi's and split them three ways. Duchamp told Pierre Cabanne he then proceeded to support himself "for fifteen or twenty years" by selling his cut of the sculptures to Roché one by one as the prices kept going up.

There's a wonderful previously unseen Ernst at the show, but I believe it was painted in Arizona and Brancusi hated Ernst for some inexplicable reason. This was, though, the general period when Ernst was preparing his move back to Paris and Man Ray was a common friend.

The show includes Duchamp's Rotoreliefs which Breton originally convinced a collector to finance and that he later made in larger number.. spiral, moving discs that recall British Vorticism. His use of movement put him at odds with Cubists "they had an absolutely clear, dogmatic line.." which led to the request to withdraw from a group show Nude Descending a Staircase, which resembled Futurism rather than Cubist scenes of someone playing a guitar or reading a newspaper with a glass of Pernod. "Always there has been a necessity for circles in my life, for.. rotation. It is a kind of narcissism.." The chocolate grinder, like the spirals anti-painterly, creates the essence of the bachelor of the Large Glass to be entered into existence by the malic molds.

Also ending this week is the aforementioned Guston - Nixon show and Hurvin Anderson at Werner 4 e 77.

08 January 2017

What's up for three more hours: three big museum shows you already knew about if you're nearby

I hadn’t seen Philly’s Mexican Modernism show til last Sunday.. It has five Kahlos, all of which I’ve never seen in person, including ‘My Dress Hangs There" (below) owned by a gallery in SF.  The show’s title “Paint the Revolution,” unfortunately borrows from Mexico’s plutocratic deception using the word “revolutionary” for “the perfect dictatorship,” whose current "institutional revolutionary" presidente is today the subject of national protests four and a half years after Obama congratulated him for his victory while the opposition and much of the public still disputed the outcome.  The American Revolution, highlighted elsewhere in town, preceded such corrupt partisanship to the point that political parties were not mentioned in the constitution.  The show's only internal critique of this (a critique which became pronounced throughout Latin America) is Leopoldo Méndez’ cartoon satirizing Rivera, Siquieros, and Dr. Atl being close to the government (right), part of a number of print sets given to the museum by various donors, to go with Paul Strand photos which were recently given.  The selection was bland but with some highlights, including denizens Gerzso and Paalen but not Carrington and Varo.



Also ending today is the Jerusalem show at the Met which I saw for the first time on Thursday.. fortuitously not giving me time to ponder its political subtext.  Would have liked to have seen that several times.. there are 12C capitals from Nazereth that look like those of the time from the South of France, only with Grover from Sesame Street (right) flanking one of several demons.  Time machines...

I assume you knew about these shows. I mentioned the various Ragnar Kjartansson shows, including the one at the Hirshhorn ending today.  I am grateful to Kjartansson for getting me in to Halldor Laxness, whom I’ve never read - prompted to dive in to World Light in Pavlovian fashion like I'm taking the course.  I also attempted, at both the Bushwick and National Mall locations, to see as much of the World Light film he made as possible.  Doing so I understand the impulse - there are various Brechtian influences - to include the bloopers in the four screen presentation, but I found that at times draining to someone who was trying to follow the story.  On the whole, the film did what it set out to do - suggest the novel and its immensity without producing its own self-contained, altered adaptation as filmmakers often do.

World Light’s most delightfully befuddling aspect is how the protagonist relates to the narrator and Laxness. The protagonist, Olafour Karason, is supposed to be based on “the life of one Magnus Hjaltason Magnusson, an Icelandic folk poet (1873-1916), including Magnusson’s abandonment by his mother, his long childhood illness as well as the extreme deprivations he endured, his tormented marriage to a grasping, manipulative epileptic woman, and his prison sentence for the sexual violation of a fourteen-year-old girl” (Sven Birkerts’ intro).  Karason’s quest is to mirror the beauty of nature, and in the course of doing so is immersed in the oligarchy of an island’s Regeneration Company, which comes to co-opt the town’s Psychic Research Society but not the labor organizers with whom Karason is friendly but philosophically at odds with, as he announces to them (in one scene in the film, at a workers meeting) “a poet.. loves the world more than all the others do.. it is much more difficult to be a poet.. than it is to be a man and live out in the world.”  The novel was first copyrighted in 1937 after he had confronted workers' movements in the US.. Laxness was at this time influenced by Taoism. 


“I read it for the first time when I was writing the script,” he told Calvin Tompkins; his father, much taken by it, had staged it also. Kjartansson gets an earnest looking chap (in the blue garb above) to play Karason and casts himself as a chorus wearing his white evening jacket.  His turn as chorus stabilizes the narrator more than the novel does, and it’s clear that Kjartansson relates to Karason, which Laxness intends to some unfixed degree.  It seems that part of Laxness’ game is to isolate the pure artistic impulse in Romanticism and set it into the world below, which Magnusson’s subject matter, life story, and absence of irony befit.  There is certainly no novel quite like it, addressing the scope of 20th Century concerns (amplified in the 30s) with both directness and mystification.

02 January 2017

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