If you read this blog, you know how much I like Vik Muniz's work. I've met Vik once, and I like him too. He's a real charmer. When I need info on what's happening in the world of Vik, I just hop in my car and head to North Tampa. Doesn't everyone? All kidding aside, when I do head to St. Pete to visit daddy I always stop at the Contemporary Art Museum (CAM) at the University of South Florida and this trip was no different. The show there, "Beautiful Losers" is just the type of show I'd love to see in Atlanta, but the powers that be seem uninterested in these type of exhibits. After taking in the exhibit, the super-nice staff at the museum lead me to the university's Graphicstudio across campus and told me that the studio was preparing a portfolio of photogravures by none other than Vik himself to be included in his upcoming retrospective organized my the Miami Art Museum that will also be exhibited at CAM. Graphicstudio is an incredible place. The walls are filled with the editions they have produced by the likes of Chuck Close, Robert Mapplethorpe, Ed Ruscha and of course, Vik Muniz. The staff lets visitors wander around and before I knew it I was lead to the print room where Vik's photogravures were being printed. A printer there explained to process to me quite eloquently and allowed me to take pictures. The portfolio, a revisiting of one of Vik's earliest series, "Individuals", contains 52 prints and is housed in a custom box that contains a built-in easel to display the works...one a week for every week of the year (a smaller portfolio of 12 is being considered as well...one per month I assume). "Individuals" was a major break though for Muniz. Originally produced in 1992 and as Vik tells it, he had returned from Europe with only $100 to his name, some film and a piece of Plasticine, a modeling compound. He made one sculpture but couldn't afford more modeling compound, so he photographed that sculpture, destroyed it and created another from the same material. He proceeded to create 60 such sculptures and photographed each. On my way out, I was privileged to meet Margaret Miller, the director of Graphicstudio who shared with me two delightful Vik tidbits: First, Vik insisted on the photogravure process so that the prints had a very soft, diffused feel, "the Barbara Streisand Vaseline coated lens feel" (Vik's description). Second, she told me that Vik's cat Velcro (and I thought my cat Zesty had a clever name) had pawed its way across one of Vik's new "Pictures of Pigment" (viewable at www.vikmuniz.net) and that there are cat hairs visible, magnified considerably in the photograph, that were left behind.
What a great and completely unexpected experience! In the words of Governor Arnie "I'll Be Back!"
P.S. - The Carlos Museum in Atlanta will mount an exhibit of works produced at Graphicstudio that opens February 11, 2006.
On may way home from an impressive tour of the High Museum's new galleries by photo curator Julian Cox and while waiting for my to-go order, I came across this tidbit about the "Gimme Shelter" opening at Saltworks Gallery in Andisheh Nouraee's "Scene & Herd" column in Creative Loafing:
"I was eavesdropping on a
pretentious guy trying to impress his friends with his ability to
generate nonsense-artspeak about Wardell Milan's photograph "Sow The
Seeds of Victory." The highlight was when he explained to his
friends how Milan's blurring of certain parts of his image was his way
of "attacking the very idea of photography!" He also noted how the
photograph also focused its attack on Republicans, even though the
political figures depicted in the piece (Washington, Jackson, Franklin)
predate the Republican Party's existence. No wonder people hate art."
I'm the pretentious guy! With a bully pulpit of my own!
First the cheap shots: 1. I've gone ahead and circled the Republicans in Milan's photo (above). Is that a machine gun pointed at George Bush's head? I can see how the GOPs are easy to miss when you don't actually look at the photo. Plus, it was my friend Jeff and not me who commented on the Republicans. I commented that it was more of an attack on the establishment. Just the same, I don't see any pictures of Clinton or Carter in the image. 2. It's impolite to eavesdrop.
And now for the rest of the story: I own this photo. It hangs in my bedroom. I look at it frequently and wonder why a graduate from the highly-respected and super-hot Yale Photography School would fill his photograph with blurry imagery in unexpected places, make it difficult to determine what is actually in the foreground and what's in the background and create an exaggerated one-point perspective? Usually a photographer would be criticized for including such normally-amateurish elements, but Milan is from Yale, and at Yale the focus (no pun intended) seems to be about making formally-perfect pristine pictures. So why would Milan do this? It must be intentional. My conclusion then, is that since he seems to be raging against just about everything else in this image, the intentional photographic transgressions are most likely a rage against something. The Yale aesthetic? Modernist standards? My interpretation is as good as anyones.
Wardell, please tell us! Leave me a comment!
(Of further interest: every image of a black man in the photo - mostly Milan himself - is blurry and poorly exposed. hmmmmm.)
Coincidentally, another friend of mine and I chatted about the phenomenon of people who go to art openings and spend no time looking at the art. This happens at museums too...notice how many people spend as much time looking at the label next to the artwork as the artwork itself. Andisheh Nouraee must be one of these people, more interested in the scene than the art. Upon hearing my comments, the artwork seemingly became meaningless and the skewering of an art lover (albeit a pretentious one) became the reason to stay.
No wonder art lovers hate philistines.
(Fellow Bloggers, help me out here and link to this story! I'll return the favor.)
Okay everyone, dig out your old mix tapes or get XM radio, slip into your Prada driving shoes and hit the road! There are a string of top notch photography and photo-based shows taking place in the southeast over the next several months each of which is not to be missed.
Our first trip takes us 325 miles northeast to Winston-Salem, NC to catch "The China Series" an exhibition of Ed Burtynsky's new body of work at SECCA, the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art up now through 01.08.06. Driving directions here. Marilyn Kiang especially may want to take this one in so she can see how its supposed to be done. The New York times critic Ken Johnson must disagree with me based on this highly critical review
of Burtynsky's retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum. Interestingly, the one Burtynsky I own avoids all the purported cliches pointed out in Johnson's review.
For the new year, make the quick 200 mile trip to the Knoxville Museum of Art where work by new media artist Jim Campbell will be on display. We can all stay at my sister's house! Campbell uses new technology to transmit imagery with its basis in photography and video. Exciting and accessible, this show will likely prove to be a great introduction to new methods of image making and will challenge viewers notions of representation. I had dinner with KMA executive director Todd Smith last month who has some exiting plans for this ambitious museum. Directions here.
Spring 2006's road trip can be made on a bicycle. Our now-beloved High Museum will present Chuck Close - Self Portraits 1967-2005. Close is easily among the most influential contemporary artists who continues to reinvent the nature of photographic image making. Although many of the works in the exhibit will be only sourced from photographs, the show will likely include a number of actual photos including his groundbreaking daguerreotypes. The show runs 03.25.06 - 06.08.06. Do you really need directions?
And finally the best for last. A mere 450 miles from ATL, the Contemporary Art Museum on the campus of the University of South Florida in Tampa will present a Vik Muniz retrospective. From their website:
Since the mid-1990s, Brazilian artist Vik Muniz
has been making an international impact with his photographs
documenting images he has made in an astonishing variety of non-art,
often ephemeral materials, including dirt, sugar, wire, string,
chocolate syrup, peanut butter, fake blood, color chips, the circular
paper remnants made by hole punches, and diamonds. Muniz’ images are
at once familiar—they are often of recognizable news images, works from
art history, or well-known personages—and alien: after an initial
moment or recognition, it quickly becomes clear that these images are
not what they first seemed. Organized by the Miami Art Museum, this
exhibition will include approximately 100 works produced throughout
Muniz’ career from 1988 to the present.
The show opens 07.07.06 and runs through 10.07.06. Driving directions here.
Conscientious beat me to the punch on this. Chris Scarborough is employing a similar strategy as Lux but on teens and adults. Although (and I can't believe I'm saying this) Lux's photos are far more visually compelling, its Scarbourough who has managed do replace the kitsch with complexity. There is a review of Scarborough's recent Louisville show in the current issue of ArtPapers.
I love the new High Museum. I LOVE THE NEW HIGH MUSEUM!
I'm sorry for everything nasty I have said about the museum (well maybe not for this). Renzo Piano has created a museum and a public space that is perfect for Atlanta. My sense of belonging to a community of art lovers has never been stronger than today while standing in the piazza that the addition surrounds. Piano's village for the arts will allow the museum to grow as its holdings improve and at the same time provide Atlantans with a cultural heart so inviting that I believe it will create the one space in Atlanta to bring together our very separate communities. This was evident today.
The museum is full of contemporary photography. Struth! Wall! Muniz! Dicorcia!Misrach! Mann! Another Wall! And none of these are even in the photography galleries whose space sadly feels like a footnote to the rest of the addition. None the less, our whining paid off: the High listened. With Julian Cox at the helm of the photography department, I believe that his influence will also rectify the short-changed photo galleries.
The museum is full of local artists as well: Angela West, Orien Catelidge, Lucinda Bunnen, Annette Cone Skelton (who must have slept with someone to get placed between Agnes Martin and Donald Judd), Radcliffe Bailey...the list goes on. I'd like the High to identify these artists as being Georgia based with a special symbol like they do at the NOMA (Send them some money by the way. I am.)
The best surprise (to me...its been installed for quite a while now) is in the original museum. The High has devoted a significant amount of space to southern vernacular (i.e. folk) art which the museum has deep and excellent holdings. If anyone questions the validity of folk art as a complex and compelling genre, go look at the little Howard Finster glass house sculpture. It's an absolute treasure.
I'm not an architecture critic, but the new spaces are perfect for art. The lighting on the fourth floor (northern natural light) is a revelation. As an aside, I want to defend Richard Meier's small spaces in the original building in that when that building was designed, the High's collection was largely decorative arts and pre-contemporary art. And none of it was all that big. Why design massive spaces for a piece of Newcomb pottery? Meier must have considered the then very thin holdings of the museum and designed appropriately.
One oddity of the addition are the many trapezoid shaped spaces that seem to be designed to display video art (one does screen a William Kentridge video). The others though have photos and paintings on display. I'll take more art on display any day, but these spaces are a little quirky to hang pictures in. They are sort of like entering a "mystery vortex" room.
One last suggestion: move the Alfredo Jaar installation out of the gallery its in where is takes up way too much space and move it to the lobby. It's a powerful piece visually and will not be lost in any room regardless how big.
I'm splitting hairs here though. I'm in love with the space and with the potential that the addition brings. I think it marks an important change in the High's collective mentality: it can no longer simply defer to the special interests of its wealthy patrons. This is a museum for Atlanta, all of Atlanta, and the High has proved that it's vision recognizes this.
All that art made me hungry. I went to Popeyes and promised this guy that I'd split the money with him if this photo ever became worth a million dollars (His figure! Perhaps he collects.) Any takers?
You better act quick...this one won't be around long! From his latest "China" [thanks for the correction Todd] series, Ed Burtynsky has produced this limited edition for Blind Spot Magazine. Here are the details: Edward Burtynsky
Shipyard #11, Qili Port, Zhejiang Province, China Digital C-Print
22" x 18" image, mounted to a 28" x 24" archival board
Edition of 25