Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas! Keeping up-to-date with the geometric adventures of my friend, Einar Thorsteinn, who lives in Berlin, this is his latest creation: a configuration he defined in 1978 but has just now built. He gave me an explanation about expanding on the transformation in geometry Buckminster Fuller called "Jitterbug" (sometimes when Einar tries to explain things to me it makes my brain hurt), but I just think it’s beautiful—as did Olafur Eliasson, who will be showing a work based on it at a Madrid gallery in January.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Greetings from sunny L.A! My trip began auspiciously, with the long-haired, sleepy-eyed student next to me reciting a Shakespeare sonnet (#57) from memory, something about being a slave to love, before nodding off for a flight-long nap. I then downloaded (for free), the complete works of Shakespeare on my iPhone, through an app from, which comes with this required caveat:

Rated 12+ for the following: Frequent/Intense Realistic Violence, Infrequent/Mild Profanity or Crude Humor, Infrequent/Mild Sexual Content or Nudity, Infrequent/Mild Mature Suggestive Themes, Frequent/Intense Cartoon or Fantasy Violence, Infrequent/Mild Alcohol, Tobacco, or Drug Use or References and Infrequent/Mild Horror/Fear Themes.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Even MORE Orozco

Peter Schjeldahl, "Man of the World: A Gabriel Orozco retrospective," The New Yorker, December 21 & 28, 2009, pp. 146-7:

Orozco’s patient remark in their [his paintings’] defense gives me pause: “People forget that I want to disappoint.” That strategy, targeting “the expectations of the one who waits to be amazed,” has worked well for him. I vividly remember being outraged in the proverbial manner of a philistine exposed to modern art when, for his first solo gallery show in New York, in 1994, Orozco displayed, on the walls of the main room at Marian Goodman, nothing but four Dannon yogurt lids. I recovered, by and by, to take the artist’s point, which amounted to disappointment as aesthetic therapy. The transparent, blue-rimmed, date-stamped, price-labelled little items were—and are, at MOMA—rather lovely, when contemplated without prejudice. Are they art? No. They are Dannon yogurt lids. The art part is a triggered awareness that the world teems with vernacular loveliness. If you overlook that, it’s sad for you.

I’m sorry Schjeldahl “recovered” because I haven’t. I’m already capable of seeing “vernacular loveliness” in the world, thank you, and don’t need unsolicited “aesthetic therapy” to remind me that it exists. Orozco aims to “disappoint,” like that would be unusual. Clearly he’s never been to Chelsea.

Have we so lost touch with art’s ability to surprise and delight that we don’t even try anymore? If we were to admit how rare the true art experience is, thousands of museums, galleries, and art schools would have to go out of business.

So we settle for emptiness, cool ideas, and illustrations of theory, and make fun of those who see art as having a higher purpose.

Pinning yogurt lids to a gallery wall is like inviting people to a concert, sitting down at a piano, and then not playing any music. Wait….didn’t someone actually do that? And wasn’t it in, like, 1952?

It’s time we moved on.

Gerhard Richter, Abstract Painting (894-1), 2005 11 3/4 x 17 3/8

If, after the Orozco show, you want to indulge your senses in a retrograde manner, hop on over to the same place we first saw those Dannon lids, the Marian Goodman Gallery, and wallow in Gerhard Richter’s gorgeous scraped abstractions, up through January 9th.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

More Orozco

What I wrote below sounded so negative, I wanted to amend it. I don’t want to discount Orozco because, while I find his much of his “conceptual” work tedious, I’m completely inspired by his drawings, small paintings, and collages. It’s just that these are regarded as ephemera rather than the real deal, when I think they are the real deal. Again, this isn’t an argument for painting and drawing over conceptual art, but for Orozco’s painting and drawing over his conceptual art, much of which, for me, falls into a genre Jerry Saltz has written about and Roberta Smith has aptly coined “Curator's Art” (whether or not they’d include Orozco, I don’t know). Asked about the Urs Fischer survey in the comments to the post below, while I find some of his work intriguing, Fischer lost my respect with the hole in the wall that, when you get too close, sticks a tongue out at you. In my book, not only is it just too easy, it sends the same message as Orozco’s shoebox: that museum visitors are idiots and deserve to be treated as such.

To show how undervalued (I'm not talking money here) Orozco’s graphic work is, I can’t even find examples on the Web of the pieces I love best. The overused image above will have to do.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Gabriel Orozco at MoMA

From the Samurai Tree series, IM (2006), egg tempera on red cedar panel with gold leaf, 21 5/8 x 21 5/8"

What is most important is not so much what people see in the gallery or the museum, but what people see after looking at these things, how they confront reality again.
–Gabriel Orozco.

Some artists would be better off wthout retrospectives. Coming across Gabriel Orozco’s work piecemeal in galleries and museums, reading about it in books and art magazines, I was enthralled. Seeing it at MoMA I was dis-enthralled. What looks like a happy eclecticism when viewed sporadically over time reveals itself as dilettantism up close; much that Orozco has done, someone else did better and sooner, so it ends up looking like a lot of threads that were never fully developed--although I, unlike other critics, absolutely adore many of his drawings and collages.

Even where he’s at his best, however, Orozco doesn’t know when to stop and take the work that extra mile—the large paintings that are derived from his collages and drawings look forced. And in the giant gallery in Prints and Drawings on the second floor, Orozco chose to mount an around-the-walls repetition similar to Andy Warhol’s Shadows (1978) but without the sublimity.

Recycled works such as the installation of four clear yogurt caps pinned to opposing walls and the empty shoebox at the entrance to the exhibition seem, especially the second time around, less like conceptual art than sheer hubris, what the artist can get away with because of his celebrity. My friend Ann has coined the phrase “poke in the eye art” in that it makes fun of the rest of us who are struggling to create something meaningful. Also I resent the idea that the masses out there, your average museum goers, are unseeing, unfeeling ignoramuses who need artists, superior beings that we are, to lead them out of the darkness—this time by upsetting their expectation to see something satisfying when they shell out $20 to go to a museum.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not an argument for craft for the sake of craft. I’m all for art that calls for a minimum of intervention (such as when, in 1975, Robert Irwin transformed the space in a gallery at Chicago's MCA with just a strip of black tape or Orozco, in 1993, placed an orange in each of the windows of the buildings adjacent to MoMA--brilliant!). But when the message is oblique, didactic, and separated from its intention by the distance in time....sometimes a shoebox is just a shoebox.

Also check out Deborah Sontag’s review in Friday’s Times and Holland Cotter's review today (12/14/09).

Monday, December 7, 2009

This from my hike yesterday on the mountain. Otherwise tweaking my Anne Truitt piece (scheduled for the January Art in America), working on the Person of the Year cover (not my artwork, someone else's), making travel plans for Christmas in California, and going back to the city today for Orozco at MoMA and Sting at St. John the Divine. Will be back on track soon....