Issue 19 | Winter 2019
2018 NNAR A R 2019 2017-2018
EXECUTIVE BOARD President | Kelsey Malone Vice President | Emily Hollingworth Editor-in-Chief | Elizabeth Hawley Web Editor-in-Chief | Katie Rothstein Director of Design | Joyce Giboom Park Head of Public Relations | Nora Maxwell Treasurer | Idil Kara
STAFF Amanda Gordon Amelia Langas Amy Greenberger Catherine Malloy Charlotte Tauss Elizabeth Cameron Emily Brooks Emily Hollingworth Flannery Cusick Gia Yetikyel Grace Gay Isabella Chia-I Ko James Tsui Joely Simon Kaitlyn Margolis
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Katharina Nachtigall Luke Cimarusti Mackenzie Gentz Maria Agudelo Meghan Considine Natalia Wang Nicholas Liou Nicole Skakun Paula Fernandez Ridley Rochell Savannah Christensen Simona Fine Tyler Kuehn Valerie Gruest Slowing Zoe Detweiler
Letter from LETTER the President Dear Reader,
FROM THE PRESIDENT
DearWhen reading submissions for our Winter Journal, the NAR team became Readers, fascinated with the theme vision, and its many facets. In a time when looking to theWhen future seemssubmissions to be a wayfor many of us are dealing present, it was in- with reading our Winter Journal, thewith NARthe team became interested teresting how manyand academic examined and applied this idea. As the ideato ofsee consumption its manypapers applications. We all participate in consumption, from shopping, to media, to being dictionary, consumed by one’siswork. Consumption equal parts defined by The Merriam-Webster vision the act or power ofis seeing goal and a threat, so ittowas to seeprovides how academic and aporaimagining. Needless say,interesting the definition a lot ofpapers spaceexamined for interpretaplied the concept in unique, interesting ways. tion. by The consumption is theause something. As defined Whether it beMerriam-Webster Pope Alexanderdictionary, VII’s vision to make Rome cityoffor both Needless to say, this definition provides plenty of room for interpretation. From being visitors and citizens alike, or Thomas Cole’s vision for the Hudson River School’s consumed by dance, to the critique of material consumption, the term is uniquely defined place in American landscape painting, the term is uniquely defined by each piece by each piece in our 2019 Winter Journal. For us, the editing and compiling process was intruly our 2018 Winter you appreciate a pleasure andJournal. we hopeWe youhope appreciate the essays.the essays, for editing and compiling process was truly a pleasure. As always, we would like to acknowledge all of the hard work done by our incredible Editor-in-Chief, As always, we wouldHawley, like to acknowledge all of thetalented hard work doneofby our Elizabeth and our exceptionally Director Design, incredible Print Editor NicoleNAR Fallert, and Joyce Park. Thank youin to Chief, my engaged team, forour all exceptionally of the work puttalented into reading, Director Design, Emily Thank youhas to taken my engaged team, sorting,of and compiling ourHollingworth. submissions. The journal a villageNAR -- enjoy! for all of the work put into reading, sorting, and compiling our submissions. The Kelseyhas Malone journal taken a village -- enjoy! President
Kelsey Malone President
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Letter from LETTER the Editor FROM THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Hello NARnians!
Welcome to our Winter 2018 issue! You are probably staring at this on
Welcome to the Winter 2019 issue! In preparing this journal, the NAR team wanted to your computer screen while simultaneously checking social media or eating highlight not just what it means to consume, but what it means to be consumed. We were or watching Queer Eye. All these are things I have done this winter. There’s consumed by the art, ideas and of emotions of our writers. From manifesto culture in Mexa permanent motion to this wintry season, and I never feel as though I can ico to soulless urban retail spaces, each piece puts forward a unique interpretationdo of the one task at a time. theme.
Northwestern When doing millioninvites thingsyou at once, difficult to pick one idea to foThe ArtaReview reflectit’s on the way you consume and are consumed byThis the world around For me,was thisinspired meant slowing appreciating the things cus on. issue’s themeyou. “vision” by the down, way our featured writI ers use explore and letting myself fully embrace my daily experiences. My hopethe is that theFrom pieces in space, perception, and intention. They look beyond noise. this issue willart allow you such to useasartManet’s to challenge your relationship withtoconsuming. traditional pieces, Gypsy with a Cigarette, contemporary works like Christ and The Lamb by Jeff Koons, each piece explored in this
I journal would like to thankhow our an President, Kelsey Malone, of Design, Joyce Park, discusses artists achieved his or our her Director vision. For me, these artiand entire staff fortohelping to put I would to thank clesthegave meNAR the ability focus on justthis oneissue ideatogether. with both artist also and like writer. Grace Gay and Mackenzie Gentz for their tireless work as Assistant Editors.
I’d like to thank our President Kelsey Malone and our Director of De-
Please enjoy the Winter 2019 issue of the Northwestern Art Review! I hope it inspires you Hollingworth, especially. encourage you tobuying turn off your notificatosign stopEmily and smell the roses, but maybe to Ithink twice before them.
tions as you read through this issue. Take your time, have some tea. Let these pieces provide Elizabeth Hawleyyou vision. Nicole Fallert Print Editor In Chief
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IN InTHE theISSUE Issue 6
DEMYTHOLOGIZING ART AND ARTIST: THE REVOLUTIONARY PEDAGOGY OF THE CHICAGO MURAL MOVEMENT Meghan Clare Considine, Northwestern ‘20
TRANSITION THROUGH DANCE TO MODERN ART
REFLECTIONS ON I Think We’re Alone Now
MERELY FOR A MOMENT: AN EPHEMERAL ALTERNATIVE TO THE SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY KUNSTKAMMER TRADITION Justin Ross Muchnick, Stanford ‘20
THE GENEOLOGY OF CHICAGO’S CHICANX MURALS
Kate Palmer, University of Pennsylvania, ‘20 Katharina Nachtigail, Northwestern ‘21
Josémanuel Hernández, Northwestern ‘20
CONSIDERING EMPTY SPACE: NARI WARD’S HAPPY SMILES AND THE CONTEMPORARY CITY Christopher Michael University College Dublin, ‘19
RADICAL WALLS: EL GRUPO DE PINTORES ¡30-30! AND MANIFESTO CULTURE IN EARLY 20TH-CENTURY MEXICO CITY Melissa Sztuk, Depaul University ‘19
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DEMYTHOLOGIZING AND ARTIST: THE ISRAELI MUSEUMART ARCHITECTURE: REVOLUTIONARY PEDAGOGY OF THE OF YAD VASHEM VS. THE MUSEUM CHICAGO MURAL MOVEMENT TOLERANCE Jessie
MEGHAN CLARE CONSIDINE, Baldinger NORTHWESTERN | Northwestern University ‘19 UNIVERSITY, 2020
In 1968, Emory Douglas, the Black Panther Party’s Min-
ister of Culture, wrote, “The ghetto itself is the gallery ... By taking art out of the museum and putting it on the street with the people, the revolutionary artist educates the people as they go through their daily routine.”1 The Black Panthers were a militant organization comprised of skilled community organizers who positioned black and brown poor residents as the ignored if not abused colonial subjects of an aloof government, mobilizing the rhetoric of decolonization when speaking of American urban space. Douglas’s drawings were available as centerfolds in the party newspaper and, therefore, publicly visible as people read on busses or trains. Though Douglas wrote from Oakland primarily about his own work, a similar ideology informs a broader trend of urban mural making. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, a mural craze swept the entire United States in a revolutionary fervor inspired in part by the Mexican Muralists and the Works Progress Administration projects of the 1930s. It was particularly well-documented in Chicago, the home of the majority of the movement’s leaders. Each mural offers a spectacular object of individual study and warrants further scholarship, but this essay endeavors to situate both the practice of mural-making and the completed object itself as opportunities for revolutionary pedagogy and insurgent forms of teaching and learning. In fact, the educational potential was ever prioritized and consciously articulated by the leaders of the movement. I argue in addition that the Chicago Community Mural Movement rests on histories of mentorship and generosity that endured, and perhaps were even strengthened by, the institutionalization of the movement. All of this has helped to create a tradition of public art and artmaking in Chicago that prioritizes specific marginalized populations who are typically involved with
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the work from its inception. The tradition of mural making involved durational performances informed by their respective communities. It was an art by and for working class neighborhoods, and while the artist was not always necessarily from the particular community, they typically enlisted the help of students related in some way to the building on or in which they were painting. Passers-by, who had the opportunity to witness daily progress on the mural, also formed relationships with the muralists, thereby influencing content. There are even accounts of community members having their likenesses represented in the completed murals, such as in William Walker’s Peace and Salvation, Wall of Understanding (1970), where local personalities stand alongside national leaders. Walker writes in the original report, “at the base of the wall are figures representing the community: the Black Panther Party, Martin Luther King Jr., John Stevens, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Malcolm X, and members of various youth groups in Chicago. These figures symbolize the need for unity among all Black people. As these figures march together, they become a symbol of hope.”2 This composition is indicative of a common trend in the Chicago Mural Movement: narrative and reality are eschewed so as to elevate and honor everyday life by representing it on a monumental scale alongside the exceptional. In the process of making, artist and team are able to articulate and make manifest the unique values of the neighborhood, and the dialogic exchange of knowledge and skill results in pride and ownership of the visual field. In Toward a People’s Art, Eva and James Cockcroft and John Pitman Weber remind us that the subject matter of these murals is not always pretty, nor the formal elements merely decorative. The writers emphasize, “community murals are controversial, for in a world of injustice...a formulation of
values implies a criticism of that world and the projection of a possible alternative world. Community art becomes a form of symbolic social action and implies further social action.”3 Therefore, in thinking of the mural as a site of articulating common values and grievances, murals themselves do not necessarily create community. Rather it is a community that creates a mural, and then prolonged exposure to said mural serves to further embolden community by visualizing a potential future. The Mexican roots of Chicago’s movement also prioritized innovative forms of pedagogy. David A. Siqueiros, renowned muralist and mentor to Chicago Mural Movement stalwart Mark Rogovin, wrote of the necessity of public mural-making decades earlier in 1934: “We shall put an end to sterile verbal didactic teaching, which has produced nothing of value in the last four hundred years of academism…”4 There is in the treatise an inherent understanding that new modes of art making require new modes of teaching and learning, and that a revolutionary aesthetic requires a revitalized mode of education that transcends the academy and its rigid top-down approach. Siqueiros proceeds to write, “We must foment the teaching of exterior mural painting, public painting, in the street...We will be preparing ourselves for the society of the future, in which our type of art will be preferred to all others, because it is the effective daily expression of art for the masses.”5 This potent sense of optimism and futurity permeates the text and the practice and informed the work and methodology of muralists in Chicago. Mark Rogovin moved to Chicago immediately after working with Siqueiros on his final mural, The March of Humanity on Earth and Towards the Cosmos (19641971). He enrolled in the School of the Art Institute, and, after working for several years, founded the Public Art Workshop on the West Side, in Austin. Through the organization, he published his Mural Manual: How to Paint Murals for the Classroom, Community Center, and Street Corner (1975) with artists Holly Highfill and Marie Burton. The manual is an act of profound generosity that patiently details the logistical realities of public art making and how the successful muralists in Chicago navigated these joys and challenges. Folk singer Pete Seeger wrote the introduction, indicating the impressive broader popularity and established networks of a movement that was necessarily civic first and foremost.
The text is exceptional for its primary emphasis on student experience. In the section titled The Classroom Mural, the authors write, “In the process of doing a mural, the student, perhaps for the first time, will have a role in creating or changing his or her own environment,”6 demonstrating how communal public artmaking offered agency to individuals marginalized by intersecting positionalities of race, socioeconomic status, and even age. The pedagogy was beyond learning facts and figures, but a mode of empowerment through the extension of choice and decision. This particular pedagogy existed internationally, as evident within a framework first articulated in 1968 by Brazilian educator and philosopher Paulo Freire in Pedagogy of the Oppressed as problem-posing education. Situated in opposition to what Freire refers to as banking education, the pedagogy of Chicago muralists resonates resoundingly with the former. Freire writes, “Banking education... attempts, by mythicizing reality, to conceal certain facts which explain the way human beings exist in the world; problem-posing education sets itself the task of demythologizing.”7 Banking education is perhaps what students working on murals throughout Chicago might have been accustomed to in their schools: clear delineations of teacher-student hierarchy and primacy given to memorizing dry facts and figures over developing nuanced critical thought. Although there is little evidence indicating that the Chicago Muralists and Paulo Freire were even aware of each other’s projects, their priorities are undoubtedly mutual. Freire’s proposal of problem-posing education is radical in its positioning of teacher and student as comrades in dialogue and action, ever in pursuit of the same goals. Problem-posing education eschews hierarchy and enables teachers and students to become “subjects of the educational process by overcoming authoritarianism and an alienating intellectualism….The world—no longer something to be described with deceptive words—becomes the object of that transforming action by men and women which results in their humanization.”8 The generous, optimistic ideology behind the Chicago Mural Movement offers individuals forgotten by the power structures the opportunity to have their valid and pressing concerns monumentalized in public art. Moreover, it often affords them the opportunity to contribute to the art-making alongside a newly demystified lead artist. To quote another post-colonial theorist, Frantz Fanon, this experience transforms the colonized inhabitant
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of the American city from “spectator crushed to a nonessential state into a privileged actor.”9 While denizens of these neighborhoods may not see themselves or their interests necessarily reflected at an institution like the Art Institute, these were both made manifest by the burgeoning mural movement. The value of representation itself is not to be understated, and the feeling of ownership and pride for a mural’s constituents is worth highlighting. Jeff Donaldson writes, “it should be remembered that blacks were rarely seen in billboards, in print or other public media before 1967,” reminding us of the sheer dearth of black subjects in American visual culture up until the late 1960s, as cited in Rebecca Zorach’s account of The Wall of Respect.10 A tourist site for those in the know, the Wall was frequently positioned in opposition to the cool intellectualism of the Chicago Picasso in Daley Plaza. Gwendolyn Brooks exemplified this dichotomy in her Two Dedications (companion poems), The Chicago Picasso and The Wall (1967). Where the latter is comfortable and familiar with passages like, “A drumdrumdrum. / Humbly we come.” and “All/ worship the Wall.”, the former is more tentative and situated as mystical and opaque. Brooks writes, “Does man love Art? Man visits Art, but squirms/...it is easier to stay at home,/ the nice beer ready./ In commonrooms/ we blech, or sniff, or scratch./ Are raw.”11 While Art is capitalized in The Chicago Picasso, communicating an austere distance and monolithic quality, the word art is not even used to describe the Wall, which is something far more personal and demystified.
Such concentrated visual manifestation of black excellence on a single storefront led to the Wall being a pilgrimage site for Chicago’s African-American residents and visitors. One of these pilgrims to the Wall was artist Seitu Jones. Indeed many young people who witnessed the making of the Wall went on to their own careers in the arts, inspired and emboldened by the Wall.12 After the lead artists were gone, local children tended to the Wall and were reported to offer tours for a quarter. Although some have maligned the mural’s constituents for exploiting the wall by charging fees for outsiders to photograph it, this behavior is indicative of the ownership residents felt over the art in their neighborhood.13 Some of the movement’s most prominent muralists took a brief indoor hiatus for a month in the winter of 1971 when Mark Rogovin, John Pitman Weber, Eugene “Eda” Wade, and William Walker were offered a handsome sum to take residency at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Borrowing the verbiage of the movement’s leaders, the then-director of the MCA, Joseph Shapiro, wanted to “create a more vibrant link with the community.”14 The artists were to complete murals in the lower level gallery spaces, and the museum would purchase for them the finest materials. The show was called Murals for the People, and the irony of transporting an inherently collaborative methodology into the harsh fluorescents of the museum was not lost on the artists.
Figure 2. Patrons observing Mark Rogovin’s Free Angela Davis and Other Political Prisoners in progress at the MCA Chicago Murals for the People exhibition (1971). MCA Library exhibiFigure 1. Murals for the People special admission pass, distributed at the South Shore Community Arts Center.
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Also confounding was the notion of working on a genre that necessitates site-specificity and site-responsiveness in the neutralizing white cube of the gallery space. It was for this reason that the four murals were to be returned to four community organizations chosen by each respective artist upon completion of the month-long exhibition. The artist’s statement of intent which was included in the exhibition’s press release read:
We have joined together out of the necessity that demands that all creative forces work together for the benefit of men and women in struggle.
While we paint here, we find this location foreign to our usual mural settings. Our projects are located in working class c ommunities, far from the intensity of galleries.
Our murals will continue to speak of the necessity for unity between all people in struggle. They will record history, speak of today, and project toward the future—toward an end to war, racism and repression—they will speak of the beauty of life.15
Considering the long and problematic history of ethnographic museums,16 putting a human body on display in a museum is a complicated endeavor that often inadvertently involves a voyeuristic, othering gaze on the part of the spectator. The museum did indeed further commodify the radicality of the artistic process by including the statement of intent in the marketing. There is also a tangible tension in putting these laboring bodies in a museum as art objects themselves, it necessarily mystifies them when their projects actively worked toward a demystification. The pedagogy associated with the exhibition was more of the expected intellectual academic sort: a symposium on Tuesday March 2, 1971, with, of course, a lecture and question and answer session. Despite these dissonances, the national attention garnered by the exhibition did mean greater exposure and resources for the movement. In an interview, John Weber shared that the artists convinced the museum to allow them to work at night when the building was closed because it
did not seem that they would finish on time; patrons just had so many questions during the day. Not only did the nocturnal work schedule afford the artists privacy, but it also provided opportunity to smuggle materials out of the buildings to share with teams of future murals!17 A quasi-Robin Hood altruism is echoed in an interview conducted by Rebecca Zorach with Mark Rogovin, where he noted that, “...we got to purchase whatever paint we wanted and so we ordered the polytech acrylic, which was the best acrylic in the world and by far the most expensive acrylic in the world, and when we finished with the projects it continued to supply the mural movement in Chicago for endless projects!”18 This sentiment is indicative the generosity of the movement. Liberated from the confines of an art market, there was never a worry about too many murals because there was no such thing, and questions of ownership and attribution became inconsequential as this was truly art by and for the people. When the exhibition was highlighted by Grace Glueck in the New York Times, she emphasized that the museum agreed not to censor the content of the murals, as well as provide free passes to “neighborhood people, cultural centers, and schools.”19 I worried that these passes in particular were nothing more than an empty institutional promise to appease the idealistic artists, but Rebecca Zorach generously shared with me an image of one of many free passes that were widely distributed at the South Side Community Arts Center (fig. 1). Additionally, when examining the archives of the Chicago Defender, a publication for a primarily African-American readership, I found that the exhibition, insular as its origins were, actually did inspire further mural making. A May 1971 article details a group of school children from kindergarten to sixth grade at Hyde Park’s Phillip Murray Elementary School who took a field trip to see murals around Chicago culminating in Murals for the People at the MCA. They were all so enthusiastic after their trip that they and their teacher proposed their own mural project to the Hyde Park Kenwood Community Conference Schools Committee, who voted unanimously to fund the project $800.20 This is an important document because it suggests that even when the practice of mural making is stripped of site and space, the methodology remains so vital that it spreads and empowers, providing further experiential learning opportunities.
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Figures 3 & 4. Children experimenting alongside William Walker’s Wall of Love at the MCA Chicago Murals for the People exhibition (1971). MCA Library exhibition files. Although the exhibition garners certain valid criticisms, the visibility it afforded the movement allowed others to be affected by the liberating process of mural making. Perhaps it was not the artist and the mural that were mystified by their being placed in the museum, but rather the museum itself that was afforded a moment of demystification and humanization (however brief) by the exhibition, which undermined the bourgeois fetish for lone artistic genius in a sleek clean space. Looking at lightbox images and contact sheets of Rogovin’s (fig. 2) and Walker’s (figs. 3 and 4) murals in particular, the interaction with audience members is striking and palpable. People are far closer to the objects than one might expect to be allowed to at a contemporary art museum. For a moment, the gallery was made studio and rendered approachable. There is a roll of paper larger than the UNTITLED, 2007 size of a child hanging next to William Walker’s Wall of Love, and looking closely one can see the children creating their RICHARD MISRACH own responses to the mural. Particularly notable is the childish scrawl that reads, “light is the left hand of darkness.” Is this cryptic text a response to the Ursula K. Le Guin novel of 1969, or something else?
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Regardless, it’s clear that the presence of the muralists inspired creativity, experimentation, and importantly in a space that so often discourages it, play. The four murals were painted on portable panels which allowed for easy transportation to their ultimate destinations. William Walker’s magnificent Wall of Love, for example, wound up on the exterior of the South Side Community Arts Center, the very same location that dispersed the free passes to the exhibition. These murals, though conceived and made in a museum, are still powerful contributions to Chicago’s rich history of public art interventions that prioritize the populations they interpellate. In 1967 the National Endowment for the Arts launched their Art in Public Places initiative, the year Picasso’s Untitled [Head of a Woman] was installed in Daley Plaza. In her book Artificial Hells, Claire Bishop condemns this mode of public art21 as a “plop art” model, and suggests another Chicago project held from May to December 1993, Culture in Action curated by Mary Jane Jacobs, as an alternative. Sculptor Suzanne Lacy’s contribution, Full Circle (fig. 5), resonates with the methodologies of the Chicago muralists because the process is as important as the product, and the elevation of marginalized voices as emphasized. In fact, the work is attributed to both Lacy and a “coalition of Chicago Women.” While the majority of murals from the Chicago Mural Movement are figural, Lacy’s work is abstract: one hundred sculptures of boulders that Lacy had sourced from a female-owned rock quarry in Oklahoma with bronze plaques operating as tributes to one hundred women in Chicago (no women had ever been recognized in the city’s public monuments). Bishop reminds us that it would be wrong to read the object in solely visual terms,22 just as I have argued of Chicago’s rich history of mural making. The process was pedagogic and relational, with an advisory board of 15 women nominating the one hundred they would honor, culminating in a dinner at Hull House with international feminist activists including Anita Hill and Gloria Steinem. The sculpture is only the ephemera, the remains of something far larger that transcends objecthood. We cannot understand the Mural Movement from object alone because the relationships formed and the constituents empowered are as, if not more, integral.
The movement is unique in that it is one of very few instances where the educational and collaborative potential is so vital, paving the way for further exemplary and responsible public art interventions in the city.
LOOKING(,) AT THE BEACH: GAZE AND REPRESENTATION Endnotes
Lois Biggs | Northwestern University ‘20
1. Emory Douglas, “To The People and All Revolutionary Artists: On Revolutionary Art,” News Service, January 24, 1970, 5. Revised from its original publication, October 19, 1968 2. William Walker, Peace and Salvation, Wall of Understanding report. (Chicago Public Art Group Guide, September 30, 1970). 3. John Pitman Weber et. al, Toward a people’s art: The contemporary mural movement. (University of New Mexico Press, 1998), 73. 4. David Alfaro Siqueiros. “Towards a transformation of the plastic arts’.” Art in Theory 2000 (1900): 429. 5. Ibid., 430. 6. Marie Burton, Holly Highfill, and Mark Rogovin, Mural Manual: How to Paint Murals for the Classroom, Community Center, and Street Corner (Boston, Ma.: Beacon Press, 1975), 55. 7. Paulo Freire, P edagogy of the Oppressed, trans. Myra Bergman Ramos (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016), 83. 8. Ibid., 86 9. Frantz Fanon, “On Violence” in The Wretched of the Earth, (New York: Grove Press, 2004), 2. 10. Rebecca Zorach, “Painters, Poets, and Performance: Looking at the Wall of Respect,” in The Wall of Respect: Public Art and Black Liberation in 1960s Chicago (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2017), 31-32. 11. Gwendolyn Brooks. “Two Dedications (companion poems): I. The Chicago Picasso, II. The Wall.” In the Mecca: poems (1968). 12. Rebecca Zorach, “Painters, Poets, and Performance: Looking at the Wall of Respect,” in The Wall of Respect: Public Art and Black Liberation in 1960s Chicago (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2017), 17-18 13. Ibid., 31 14. Grace Glueck, “Tell It on The Wall,” New York Times (New York), February 21, 1971. 15. Museum of Contemporary Art, Communications, “News Release “Murals for the People”, news release, Chicago, IL, 1971. 16. Particularly in Chicago with the 1893 World’s Fair (Columbian Exposition) and it’s notorious Midway Plaisance, where nonwhites were made to perform the exotic in models of global villages. The reader might consult Michael Harris’s “The Nineteenth Century: Imagined Ideology” in Colored Pictures: Race and Visual Representation (2003) for a detailed analysis of the way in which the Plaisance was organized. Ultimately establishing a narrative of progress coinciding with pseudoscientific racial hierarchies, the lengthy stretch of villages culminated in the sleek center of the fairgrounds aptly called “The White City.” With the Midway Plaisance today bisecting the University of Chicago campus in Hyde Park, this history is etched into the built environment of Chicago. 17. “John Weber on the Chicago Mural Movement,” interview by author, December 1, 2018 18. Mark Rogovin, “Mark Rogovin,” interview by Rebecca Zorach, Never the Same: Conversations About Art Transforming Politics & Community in Chicago & Beyond, 2013, 2014, , accessed December 10, 2018, neverthesame.org. 19. Grace Glueck, “Tell It on The Wall,” New York Times (New York), February 21, 1971. 20. “’Wall of Respect’ Going Up in Hyde Park Area.” Chicago Daily Defender (Big Weekend Edition) (1966-1973), May 22, 1971. 13. 21. In short, high modernist, cold, academic, and having little to nothing to do with the populations that interact with the object(s) on a daily basis. 22. Claire Bishop. Artificial hells: Participatory Art and the Politics of Spectatorship. Verso Books, 2012, 203.
Figure 5. Suzanne Lacy and a coalition of Chicago Women. Full Circle (for Joan W. Harris, 1/100). 1992-1993. Limestone and Bronze.
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TRANSITION THROUGH DANCE TO MODERN ART KATE PALMER,
UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA, 2020
Henri Matisse, Dance I, 1909
The representation and release of inner emotions in dance serves as an expression of one’s deepest feelings.
Dance ranges from controlled, practiced patterns as in ballet, to a release of vibrant wild energy. Artists have, in traditional and modern works, chosen to depict dance because their fascination with the human figure and the overwhelming emotion conveyed through movement. To view the quiet grace of dancers moving in rhythm with their souls touches an artist’s feelings and inspires a need to recreate or redefine this unique, innate emotion. Henri Matisse’s Dance I, painted in 1909, was a study for a commissioned work, although it is painted in oil and hangs at more than eight by twelve feet on its own wall in the Museum of Modern Art. Matisse extracted the motif for Dance I from his earlier work Le Bonheur de Vivre. The Fauvism movement valued individual expression, and Matisse does not stray from this dogma. Matisse depicts the emotional transition from traditional to modern through the dance; the isolation of the nude figures, through color and line, forces the viewer to fully experience the joyful movement. Matisse uses a limited palette of vivid high saturation shades of blue, green and beige to create a distinguishable foreground, midground and background. The colors are displayed without noticeable brush strokes. The artist washed the colors onto the canvas evenly to produce three conspicuous parts to the painting –the landscape, the nudes, and the sky. Although the coloring is naturalistic, uncommon for Matisse’s work and much of modern works during this era, the lack of shading, blending and variation in tone make the image appear flat, which diverges from the depth and realism exhibited in traditional paintings. although vibrant, are far darker in tone than the bright pink-orange beige of the nudes, drawing immediate attention to the figures. NAR | 13
Had Matisse incorporated variation of color and detail into the background, the attention would have been pulled from the dancers, but rather he forces the viewer to focus on the movement of the figures, the dance. In addition to drawing attention to the dancers through color, Matisse incorporates line work in order to accentuate the flexibility of the dancers and to create an index of motion. By outlining the dancers, Matisse isolates their bodies, creating a barrier between them and the environment. The distinguishing lines are mostly bold and continuous; however, Matisse also uses a line weighting technique, thickening the strokes at certain curves and making the lines weaker, thinner or even incomplete at others. This lack of bold linearity occurs mostly in the extremities of the figures, at the hands and feet, as with the hand holding of the two rightmost figures and the reaching hands in the bottom left of the painting. This parallels the idea that outlining acts as a barrier to the outside world, only penetrable through human contact. Matisse additionally utilizes linearity in another form in Dance I to indicate a change of plane. The arc of the back on the dancer in the bottom leftmost section of the painting is accentuated by this black curve. Without it, the muscle curvature of her back would disappear and the viewer would not be able to register the delicate bend in the dancer’s form. Matisse leaves parts of the canvas exposed and does not perfect the black lines as if the painting was completed with a sense of urgency, adding to the movement of the dance. Dance I is primarily a work of linear definition and large blocks of color rather than the noticeable brush strokes of impressionist works or chiaroscuro of traditional paintings; However, Matisse does use some shading to add small details to the nudes. On the arch of the foot in the leftmost dancer there is a subtle hue of grey to detail the dancer’s heel by showing light and dark. The shading on the foot appears to be a delicate wash of black paint, presumably Matisse painted the stroke in and then washed the pigment from the canvas leaving a stain that appears grey; this technique is also indicated through subtle streaking and drip lines throughout the painting, likely from water running down the canvas. The limited variation in color and heavy outlining could contribute to a sense of flatness, but Matisse simultaneously and brilliantly creates a work with aspects of both flatness and depth. The image conveys a sense of three-dimensional space from weight and volume displayed in the figures. The formation of NAR | 14
the dancers’ circle creates and ellipse that indicates depth. Additionally, the layering of figures depicts that, indeed, one is in front of the other, creating space and giving the figures substantial form. The line details on the nudes, the arc of the back, the circular breasts, and the facial features, although simple, indicate uneven surfaces. Even though the figures have volume, they appear almost weightless due to the way their feet barely grace the ground, particularly in the way the figure on the right appears to be flying, her body splayed sideways; the only contact she would make if she were not airborne would be kneeling. Although the scale is difficult to determine, as there is not much to compare to, the dancers are reasonably proportional to one another, yet the figure on the far left is noticeably larger and appears to be the only in deliberate motion. Traditional nudes, as by the regulation of provincial academies, were not only realistic in color, shading and proportion but also the women were exclusively painted in deliberate positions. The fact that the figures in Dance I are nude, a classic subject in academic art, and the tribal-like circle the women dance in ties the painting to a primitive past, metaphorically, traditional painting. Matisse’ nudes most stray from classic nude portraits and diverge to modern art because they illustrate a state of pure candidness. The limited background emphasizes the nudes in the image. The women are in action, dancing at their own will without any adornment or luxurious objects surrounding them as in traditional painting; they are free spirits in a contemporary world. The vibrant colors and the weightlessness of the dancers lend to the playful, joyous essence of the painting. Like modern art, the dance expresses emotional liberation. Matisse’s intention is to express the power of dance, and symbolically, creative freedom. The dancers are unbothered by the outside world, which is why Matisse deliberately paints a bland and undetailed environment – the dance is beautiful enough to carry the image alone. Metaphorically, Matisse expresses the birth of modern art – modern artists ignored the negativity from the outside world to concentrate on their own intuition and desire. Modern art expresses freedom—a time where artists began to rebel from the constraints of traditional art academies and explore through feeling, movement and passion—a synonymous process to dance.
REFLECTIONS ON I THINK WE’RE ALONE NOW I Think We’re Alone Now,
KATHARINA NACHTIGALL, NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY, 2021
the Mary Leigh Block Museum of Art’s latest exhibition, displays the thesis work of Northwestern’s 2018 MFA students James Britt, Joe Cassan, Kandis Friesen and Christopher Smith. Upon entering the exhibition space, the viewer is first confronted with a mall directory created by all four artists. Like most mall directories, its purpose is to help the viewer navigate the space: it uses a simple numbering system that matches areas on a floor plan of the Block with the title and artist of the work that corresponds to it. Unlike most mall directories, however, it is also a parody of a commonplace object, created as means to critique the modern consumer and the manipulation of them by our capitalist and materialistic society. This collaborative piece works in the legacy of the two art movements, “happenings” and “pop/pre-pop.” Artists such as Claes Oldenburg, for example, produced similar such parodies of other commodities that saturate our modern world. The mall directory has a very important role to play in I Think We’re Alone Now, as it is the first piece visible to the viewer. With an approximate height of 175 centimeters and width of 60 centimeters, the sculptural object is the perfect size to attract the viewer’s attention. It is located directly to the right of the exhibit entrance and is placed in parallel to the museum’s wall. The directory is a rectangular structure, made up of two parts: a white outer frame and a centered black screen that displays the map of the exhibit, which has an almost X-ray like quality, as it is illuminated from behind and is filled with contrasting white lines that stand out against the black background. The title of the exhibit, I Think We’re Alone Now, along with the words “Mall Directory” are written in a bolded white font at the top of the screen. Just below this text is a diagram depicting a bird’s eye view of the Block’s first floor exhibition space. The white lines that make up the diagram are slightly thinner than those making up the font of the title. In these same, somewhat thinner lines, 1
the artworks are also printed onto this floor plan. They stand out against the otherwise monochrome structure, as they are represented in various colors (e.g. turquoise, bubblegum pink or tangerine). Each piece is also attributed a number from one to fifteen. These numbers correspond to the text below the map, which is arranged into three separate columns of writing that offer the artist’s name, the title of their work, the medium used, and the size of the fifteen different works on display. The final piece of information the directory gives the viewer is located on the bottom right corner of the black screen, disclosing the names of the various foundations that offered their support through donations to the exhibit: the Norton & Walbridge Fund, the Myers Foundations, the Jerrold Loebl Fund for the Arts and the Alsdorf Endowment. t between denotation and connotation through the creation of this mall directory. The exhibition as a whole is presented to the viewer as a shopping mall, and thus the inclusion of a directory seems obvious; however, its existence certainly poses some questions for the viewer, since it is an unexpected sight within a museum context. Why is there not simply a museum guide? Why is the exhibit framed within a shopping mall? By representing a mall directory in such a realistic and banal way, the viewer understands that the artists’ intention is not to abstract it from its function, but rather to make a claim about it as an object and what that represents. Firstly, the large title reading “museum directory” ensures that the viewer does not mistake the piece for anything other than what it is. Through this conscious process of recognition by the viewer, one is immediately confronted with past experiences at shopping malls. The mind is brought back to busy plazas and endless rows of shops, usually spanning over several floors, buzzing with the hum of frantic shoppers being hailed by signs that read “sale” and “reductions” in all directions. The fact that this directory is placed into a museum, a space that begs for silence and independent contemplation, makes this familiar object
1. I Think We’re Alone Now: Art Theory and Practice MFA Thesis Exhibition. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.blockmuseum.northwestern.edu/view/exhibitions/ past-exhibits/2018/2018-mfa-thesis-exhibition.html
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one that becomes suddenly alien. We become aware of the fact that the shopping mall is advertised to the consumer as a social experience: a place to interact with others and pass time. Rem Koolhaas describes the twenty-first century as “the point where the urban [can] no longer be understood without shopping.”2 This fact further proves how ridden our society is with agoraphiles (those who love the marketplace), who are intoxicated by the enticing rhetoric of companies mass-circulated through social media and advertising; however, the classical image of ‘glitz and glamor’ is destroyed by the MFA students, who wish to present the mall as a failed concept, as they keep the design of the directory simple and unornamented. Nowhere do they include signs of aspiration that one may expect to see in modern spaces, such as shopping malls, through tropes of money and lavish lifestyles. Finally, the decision to include the list of supporters and donors to the exhibition is a conscious one. Beyond serving as a courteous message of thanks to various foundations, it proves to the viewer how even the art world is controlled and managed by the owners of ‘faceless’ corporations. The argument could be made that the directory’s existence fall victim to its own claim, as it wishes to distance itself from the world of consumption by alluding to its failure, though its existence is only made possible by the very thing it is critiquing. This same conclusion is drawn by Boris Groys who argues in his text The Artist as Consumer that “every artist is primarily a user, a consumer of the medium in which he works, and can produce nothing other than that which their chosen medium…allows him to produce.”3 Groys continues to say that the artist has thereby “been robbed of their cultural mission” and is therefore “subjected to the logic of general consumption.”4 The mall directory eludes to this same inescapable aspect of consumption by converging the world of art with that of consumption, i.e. by showing that the museum is also a place of commerce and trade. Claes Oldenburg’s work The Store from 1961 is an installation piece that aims to mimic the experience of entering a typical store, by “…painting and placing (hanging, projecting, lying) objects after the spirit and in the form of popular objects of merchandise.”5 He even attributes an address in the lower East side of New York City, 107 East 2nd Street, where the store would ideally be placed. Oldenburg uses the site of the piece as both the exhibition space and also the studio in which he creates new stock for his store: “this store will be constantly supplied with new
objects, which I will create out of plaster and other materials.”3 Ranging from food items, such as cut steaks and bowls of ice cream, to racks of lingerie and other garments of clothing, Oldenburg’s eightyfoot-long and ten-foot-wide store really has it all. He wishes to draw attention to the commercial aspect of entering a store and emphasizes this through the selling of these objects. As such, spectators were allowed to take small chunks of the piece home with them, as if they had bought items from a real store. It is obvious that Oldenburg wishes to critique the American consumer through this process, as the renderings of commonly bought items are grotesque and gluttonous in their appearance. For example, the slices of cake are made to bulge in certain areas, and the items of clothing are deliberately rough to touch and are painted in dulled hues of green and terracotta. This rough surface is made possible by the plaster-covered muslin that Oldenburg uses to create the shapes of the objects. Both pieces are similar in their attempt to be accessible to any viewer, i.e. that the experience of going to a shopping mall or convenience store is universal to all. In this way, both works are also indirectly critiquing the institution of high art as a whole, critiquing the elitist nature of the high art institution as a whole, rendering it divisive and exclusive. By giving the store an address, Oldenburg distances the installation from its space inside the MoMA and instead places it into a neighborhood of New York that is not particularly wealthy. The MFA students manage to achieve this same effect by introducing their work in a familiar and self-explanatory way – there is no complicated introductory text to their exhibit written in high-art jargon, that would be understood by so few. Furthermore, both pieces deal with the appraisal of the modern world in which we live, and how it is more and more evident that we are increasingly becoming indoctrinated by our surroundings. The representation of this loss of control, however, is approached in two different ways. In The Store, for example, Oldenburg wishes to show how the consumer is driven to purchase item after item, regardless of whether or not it is needed. The mall directory takes a slightly different approach in its offer of critique and does so by alluding to the process of purchasing through its physical form and placement into a museum.
FRANCESCA WOODMAN: THE BODY’S INNER FORCE Laura Feigen | Stanford University ‘18
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2. Koolhaas, R. (2000). The Harvard design school guide to shopping: Project on the city. East Rutherford, NJ: Monacelli Press. 3. Groys, B. (1999). The Artist as an Exemplary Consumer. 4. Groys, B. (1999). The Artist as an Exemplary Consumer 5. Hochdörfer, A., Oldenburg, M., & Schröder, B. (2013). Claes Oldenburg: Writing on the side 1956-1969. New York: The Museum of Modern Art.
Overall, the desire to denounce capitalism and what it brings is an idea that is not unique, as it travels through time. Eventually, a new contemporary artist replaces their predecessor, by generating work that is even more “contemporary” and relevant to the present moment. In this way, we can consider the works of both Oldenburg and the MFA students as commodities themselves, that also follow cycles of trends and patterns, dictated by our society. The parallel further proves Groys’ theory and perhaps leaves us with the sad truth that our lives are dictated by the purchases we make. Endnotes
1. I Think We’re Alone Now: Art Theory and Practice MFA Thesis Exhibition. (n.d.). Retrieved from http:// www.blockmuseum.northwestern.edu/view/exhibitions/ past-exhibits/2018/2018-mfa-thesis-exhibition.html 2. Koolhaas, R. (2000). The Harvard design school guide to shopping: Project on the city. East Rutherford, NJ: Monacelli Press. 3. Groys, B. (1999). The Artist as an Exemplary Consumer. 4. Groys, B. (1999). The Artist as an Exemplary Consumer. 5. Hochdörfer, A., Oldenburg, M., & Schröder, B. (2013). Claes Oldenburg: Writing on the side 1956-1969. New York: The Museum of Modern Art.
Figure 1. James Britt, Joe Cassan, Kandis Friesen and Christopher Smith, I Think We’re Alone Now Mall Directory, Photograph by Katharina Nachtigall
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MERELY FOR A MOMENT: AN EPHEMERAL ALTERNATIVE TO THE SEVENTEENTHCENTURY KUNSTKAMMER TRADITION Ornate, gilded frames line the walls from floor to
JUSTIN ROSS MUCHNICK, STANFORD UNIVERSITY, 2020
ceiling, wallpapering the room with masterpieces. The highest ones are angled downward, the better for earthbound viewers to crane their necks upward to examine them. Refined gentlemen wander through the gallery, inspecting other pictures closer to the ground. Busts and a nude statuette adorn an elegant table that also holds other curios, including a conch shell and an unorganized pile of paper drawings. A retinue of courtly men, clad in dignified black over-garments, stands solemnly within the well-lit room. The archduke himself is captured in a moment of poise, graceful in his stride; even without the extra inches afforded to him by his wide-brimmed black hat, he is taller than all in his erudite entourage. Meanwhile, two dogs hold the otherwise empty center foreground, one mid-hop and the other standing still, and the crisp diagonals of the hardwood floor rush toward a heavy, wooden door in the background, just open enough for one to catch a glimpse of another room stocked floor-to-ceiling with even more gold-framed paintings. This scene, painted in oil on a copper plate measuring three-and-a-half by four-and-a-quarter feet, is The Archduke Leopold Wilhelm in His Picture Gallery at Brussels (fig. 1), on display at the Prado Museum. The work was completed between 1647 and 1651 by David Teniers the Younger and is paradigmatic of the 17th-century Flemish gallery painting, or kunstkammer (plural kunstkammern).1 Teniers, the court painter of the Austrian Archduke Leopold Wilhelm.2 painted this picture along with a suite of many similar scenes to document and commemorate tbhe prolific collection of the art-loving archduke. The paintings on the walls are Teniers’ representations of actual works owned by Wilhelm, unlike the paintings in some other kunstkammern, which are instead stylized or fictitious
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in what amount to gallery-themed capricci.3 In his work, Teniers celebrates the ostentatious erudition of Wilhelm, who raises himself above the animals at his feet by guiding his enlightened retainers through his almost unimaginably grandiose gallery. But this consummate gallery painting of Teniers’ does more than substantiate Wilhelm’s keen connoisseur’s eye and air of refined sophistication: it also provides a salient foil for a painting of comparable size in the collection of the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University. In Musical Party in a Picture Gallery (c. 1665, fig. 2), an unknown Flemish artist4 draws inspiration from the gallery painting tradition. Though this unknown artist certainly lacks Teniers’ level of technical skill and relentless attention to detail, the painting nonetheless seems upon first glance to fit the mold of the kunstkammer. The manifold pictures on the walls, the opulent architecture and the tableau of elegantly dressed musicians—every aspect of this picture seems bathed in the sumptuous wafts of arty erudition. Upon closer inspection, however, this picture is not a mere second-rate Teniers. In fact, it hides a message completely antithetical to the archetypal gallery painting. While traditional kunstkammern venerate the work of art, Musical Party in a Picture Gallery argues against this very idea. By revealing the tired banality of the exalted work of art, this picture suggests as an alternative the fleeting and transient beauty of lived experience. Ephemerality and music, it asserts, make contact with life in ways that a framed, esteemed piece of art cannot. 1. Distinct but related to the northern European “cabinets of curiosities” known as kunstkammern or wunderkammern. 2. Louise H. Burchfield, “A Painting by David Teniers the Younger,” The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art 31, no. 1 (Jan. 1944): 6. 3. Elizabeth Honig, “The Beholder as Work of Art: A Study in the Location of Value in Seventeenth-Century Flemish Painting,” Netherlands Yearbook for History of Art 46 (1995): 279. 4. Throughout this paper, I will be referring to this unknown artist using the pronoun “they,” because I do not have any indication of this painter’s gender and I do not wish to assume. This is a conscious decision in accordance with the style guide of this journal, not a misunderstanding of common pronoun-antecedent agreement conventions.
In the unknown artist’s painting, six gentlemen are gathered in the side parlor of a presumably larger main hall. A seventh, who beckons to an unseen person outside of the picture, stands at the painting’s left. This man wears all black; the rest are dressed in gaudy colors and are all engaged in music-making. The man closest to the one in black holds a few pages of sheet music as he stands in profile, wearing garish orange socks that match the similarly colored accents of his clothing. Beside him, but far deeper in the side parlor, is a blond-haired man with a violin tucked under his chin. His eyes are closed: he is lost in the sound of his instrument. The final four men are compressed in a densely-packed central patch of canvas. One studies the sheet music on a stand in front of him as he works his cello, and another plays a violin or viola as a third, with wavy blond ringlets, looks on in careful contemplation. The final figure rests on a chair, his back toward the viewer and his face turned to the sheet music in his hand. To his right is a table evocative of a traditional Flemish still life, with a porcelain vessel, a purple tablecloth and a lobster with an orange hue that rhymes with the socks of the man across the parlor. What connects this scene to Teniers’ painting of Wilhelm’s collection is what hangs on the walls. A mélange of different paintings, of various sizes and genres, covers the walls of the side parlor and the main room. In fact, to afford us a better view of these paintings, the artist has skewed the perspective of the side parlor and given its right wall an unrealistic outward slant. The content of the images themselves, like in Teniers’ depiction of the collection of Archduke Wilhelm, follows the tradition of the kunstkammer, where, according to art historian Elizabeth Honig, “there is no discernable iconographic rationale: market scenes, mythologies, devotional images and landscapes hang side by side.”5 At the far left of Musical Party in a Picture Gallery, on the wall of the main room, a canvas of two gesturing figures hangs above a verdant woodside landscape. In the center background, above the head of the focused violinist, a lamenting Mary holds her dead son Christ in her arms. The parlor’s outturned right wall is peppered with more landscapes, as well as portraits, a religious scene and a still life with a vase of flowers. But while the content and arrangement of these images follows the tradition of the kunstkammer, the artist paints them in such a way that diverges from the usual approach of a gallery painter. Unlike Teniers’ relentlessly detailed and highly energetic micro-vases,
canvases the works of arts in Musical Party in a Picture Gallery lack this tenacious attention and transcendent radiance. This difference is especially evident in the contrasting ways in which each artist depicts Mary after Jesus’ crucifixion. In the Descent from the Cross scene that Teniers paints in the upper-left of Wilhelm’s gallery—a copy of Tintoretto’s Descent from the Cross (1547–49, fig. 3) owned by Wilhelm6—the face of Mary, who has fainted upon beholding her dead son, is molded in realistic light and shadow. The orange fabric of her lower garment folds and ripples in a naturalistic way, and a viewer can almost feel the weight of her limp, collapsed body. Beyond Mary, this picture shines with the subtle brightness gleaming on the heads of the other figures. These flickering halos provide both Tintoretto’s original and Teniers’ copy with a shimmering spark of vivacity. In Musical Party in a Picture Gallery, however, the artist has painted a very different scene. Instead of Teniers’ realistic Mary, the Mary holding the dead Christ in this picture has an unnatural two-toned face, a ghostly white circle ringed by a band of dark brown. Her facial features are unsettlingly ham-handed, from her gaping black mouth to her eyes that slant diagonally downward and seem in danger of sliding off her face. Her light blue cloak is simple and inelegant, a flat, undefined garment. This Mary, unlike Teniers’ analogue, is clumsy and devoid of life. While the unknown Flemish artist’s decision to forgo marvelous detailing and shining energy in the micro-canvases may be at least partially attributed to a comparative lack of skill—after all, Teniers was Wilhelm’s court painter and this artist is a literal unknown—the reality seems to be far more complicated. Take, for instance, the still life with flowers on the right wall of the parlor. For a trompe l’oeil, this painting is quite unconvincing, with the flower stems (especially the ones at the bottom right) rendered with an unrealistic flatness. The flowers, though they are not wilting and are undeniably supposed to be in full bloom, lack the vibrant pop of a floral arrangement— all except the bottommost yellow flower are dull and drab in their muted coloring. Near the top left of the still life, the artist seems to have given up on illusionistic picture-making and instead lazily settled for dabs of pigment in an approximation of a flower’s shape. The vase itself is no more realistic or lively. The strange white outlines on its bottom half do not convey a sense of depth or dimensionality, and near the 5. Ibid., 266. 6. “Kreuzabnahme Christi,” Kunsthistoriches Museum, http://www.khm.at/objektdb/detail/1558.
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Figure 1: David Teniers the Younger, The Archduke Leopold Wilhelm in His Picture Gallery at Brussels,
Figure 2: Artist unknown (Flanders, active seventeenth century), Musical Party in a Picture Gallery, c.
top of the vase, only a glimmer of white that seems to be added as a mere afterthought retains a sense of reflectiveness; however, it is clear that the artist did not paint this still life so poorly because they couldn’t do any better. In fact, in the bottom-right corner of the party scene, directly below the sub-painting of the still life with flowers, the artist has crafted a far superior still life. Though the glossy purple tablecloth falls over the side of the table in a not-quite-naturalistic way, the artist has still displayed a level of skill and attention to detail absent in the flowers on the wall. Most prominently, the ornate porcelain vessel exhibits the “seductive delights” of a painting with “a pronounced fidelity to life” that art historian Susan Merriam deems central to the conception of the seventeenth-century Flemish still life.7 The subtle shadowing around its edges, for example, endows it with a lifelike roundedness. Its glistening shine of reflective white is significantly more deliberate and precise than the white on the vase in the still life with flowers. The soft glimmer of white on the porcelain’s neck, as well as a delicate lick of white near the vessel’s center, complement the larger reflective flashes on the middle and lid of the receptacle. This sensuous porcelain vessel is possessed with a sense of lifelikeness that the artist has withheld—by choice rather than incompetence—from the still life on the wall. So, if not simply because the artist is amateurish, then why are the paintings on the walls of Musical Party in a Picture Gallery so unconvincing, lifeless
and boring? An answer may lie in what is at stake in these sub-paintings as opposed to what is at stake in the sub-paintings in the traditional kunstkammer. For an artist in the mold of Teniers, one reason to make gallery paintings was to show “remarkable versatility,” to be “another Proteus, assuming the recognized styles [or copying the actual pictures] of every great artist and ‘inventing’ their works in miniature.”8 But this unknown Flemish artist, it seems, is not exactly in the mold of Teniers. After all, the main focus of Musical Party in a Picture Gallery is not the art on the walls but rather the music-makers in the foreground, whose colorful clothing provides the vibrancy that the paintings behind them lack. This composition stands in stark contrast to the customary composition of a gallery painting, where whatever figures happen to be in the picture—even Archduke Leopold Wilhelm himself—are secondary to the pictures hanging on the walls. In fact, if this unknown artist really wanted to make a gallery painting of a party scene, they would have been better served to have done it like their more notable Flemish contemporary Hieronymus Janssens. When Janssens—who is actually best remembered for his paintings of lavish parties—painted kunstkammern, he framed his “elegant dancing parties” in a “picture gallery,” where the “main foreground activity is not dancing but the discussion of works of art.”9
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7. Susan Merriam, Seventeenth-Century Flemish Garland Paintings: Still Life, Vision, and the Devotional Image (Burlington, VT: Ashgate 2012), 60. 8. Honig, “Beholder as a Work of Art,” 277. 9. Elizabeth Honig, Painting and the Market in Early Modern Antwerp (New Haven: Yale University Press 2012), 205.
Figure 3: Tintoretto, Descent from the Cross, 1547-49, oil on canvas, Kunsthistoriesches Museum, Vienna.
The background of Picture Gallery with Dancing Party (1660–80, fig. 4), for instance, depicts many well-dressed couples dancing in a high-ceilinged room, but the primary focus in the center foreground is a group of people who gather around a painting that has been taken off the wall for them to examine more closely. Maybe, then, by contrast, Musical Party in a Picture Gallery—where the art on the walls matters less than the true foreground activity of music-making—is actually an inversion of the gallery painting. And with this inversion, this unknown artist presents a philosophy of life diametrically opposed to the statements made by traditional kunstkammern. Elizabeth Honig suggests that in a gallery painting, “the display of knowledge is the primary activity.”10 To be a connoisseur of art, to have a vast collection but also to engage with the works of art on the wall, was to have supreme knowledge and erudition. For the elites of seventeenth-century Flanders, especially in Antwerp where most of the master gallery painters lived and worked, understanding art was an important——if not the most important—mark of cultural capital. Thus, the work of art itself was endowed with a sense of infinite authority, far beyond the monetary value of the piece itself (which, Honig notes, was generally fairly low “compared with clothing, jewelry, and objets d’art”11). In line with this location of value, kunstkammern portray art with a sense of reverence, raising the work of art upon a glorious pedestal. Musical Party in a Picture Gallery, however, argues that the work of art is actually not that 10. Honig. “Beholder as a Work of Art,” 277. 11. Ibid., 280.
important. It is not infinitely exalted: it dulls with age, its pallor matching the ghostly face of Mary. It wilts like the still life with the flowers, and it turns white and barren like the wintry landscape scene on the very same wall. So instead of allowing someone like Teniers to convince us that art possesses supreme venerability, Musical Party in a Picture Gallery entreats us to turn to ephemerality—to life itself. The music made by the figures in this painting is fleeting, like the short-lived beauty of real life. It cannot grey or dull like the pictures on the wall simply because its central conceit is that it is momentary: it exists briefly, then it does not. And the artist highlights the transient beauty of music and lived experience through the painting’s tragic figure: the man in black at the far left. Not only does he wear a gloomy black outfit in contrast to the lively colors of the musicians, but he is also the only figure posed outside the smaller room. He stands instead directly in front of a landscape painting. Framed by this canvas, he exists in a liminal space, a quantum state, simultaneously in the real world and the world of the wall painting. With a gesture of his arm, he calls an unseen someone to come and listen to the music being made, but in doing so, he is giving up the chance to fully experience the actual music. He forgoes the ephemeral, musical beauty of life because he is concerned with beckoning someone over to hear the music, with summoning a witness to record this moment for posterity, with willing this instant to become eternal. He forgoes life because he is concerned with art. The landscape that frames him therefore becomes his prison, where he will grow dull and grey like the lifeless paintings beside him—the lamenting Mary, the flowers—and miss out on life precisely because he thought he could capture it forevermore. And perhaps this black-clad man reaches out from one canvas to another to serve as the tragic alter ego of another man in black: Teniers’ enlightened Leopold Wilhelm. While Leopold wears his black with an aura of refinement, himself exalted by virtue of the exalted art he owns, the other man’s black clothes reflect the tragedy of the lifeless work of art.Where Teniers displays the erudition of collecting and understanding art, the unknown artist of Musical Party in a Picture Gallery sees this exercise as fundamentally missing the point. Life itself, their painting argues, cannot be preserved forever on a nobleman’s wall; it is too transitory not to be experienced in the moment. Life itself is far too beautifully fleeting to be used NAR | 21
S.O.S. STARIFICATION OBJECT SERIES HANNAH WILKE
Figure 4: Hieronymus Janssens, Picture Gallery with Dancing Party, 1660–1680, oil on canvas, museum collection (Most likely Musée Girodet), Montargis, France
as a symbol of status and erudition, to exert itself in service of those connoisseurs—from Wilhelm on down—who rose to ubiquity in seventeenth-century northern Europe. It truly is fitting, then, that the music in Musical Party in a Picture Gallery inhabits a space just outside of our perception. We, in viewing this painting, cannot hear the music that the instrumentalists are creating, for this particular music, like life, cannot be deliberately framed, recorded or known. We can grasp at it, but we cannot quite capture it and hang it up to age and dull on a wall. And in reaching out toward the ineffable, the transient, the unattainable, this unknown artist offers a rejoinder to their contemporaries’ prevailing conception of art as exaltation. So perhaps, in a strange way, it is the perfect reward for this artist that their name is not remembered or celebrated like Teniers and his gilded frames. Perhaps it is the perfect reward for this artist that their name existed, like the unreachable sounds of the musical party that they painted, merely for a moment.
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Burchfield, Louise H. “A Painting by David Teniers the Younger.” The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art 31, no. 1 (Jan. 1944): 5–7. Honig, Elizabeth. Painting and the Market in Early Modern Antwerp. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998. –“The Beholder as Work of Art: A Study in the Location of Value in Seventeenth-Century Flemish Painting.” Netherlands Yearbook for History of Art 46 (1995): 252–297. “Kreuzabnahme Christi.” Kunsthistoriches Museum. http:// www.khm.at/objektdb/detail/1558. Merriam, Susan. Seventeenth-Century Flemish Garland Paintings: Still Life, Vision, and the Devotional Image. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2012.
THE GENEAOLOGY OF CHICAGO’S CHICANX MURALS
JOSÉMANUEL HERNÁNDEZ NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY, 2020
The barrios, or Latinx neighborhoods, on
Chicago’s south side, such as the two I grew up in, Little Village and Archer Heights, are often populated with painted murals and public displays of art on buildings, train stops, bridges, and pretty much any visible surface. Encountering a mural is a communicative experience which goes beyond that of viewing traditional canvas paintings. It is both a painting and a space. The neighborhood of Pilsen, or La Dieciocho as people like my papá call it, has been a central hub for the creation of murals since the 1960s. This art emerged from the ideas of the 1960s Chicanx Movement and was also heavily influenced by Mexican Muralism. In this essay I wish to explore some of these influences by providing some historical context and then examining one particular Chicanx mural in Pilsen. Mexican Muralism was a movement centered around the creation of public, and often state funded, art which emerged in the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution of 1910. This art form was heavily informed by the frescoes of the Italian Renaissance, especially in technique. However, the content was informed by the new state conceptualizations of indigenismo and mestizaje which took pride in the
indigenous culture and the mixed roots of the Mexican population. Among the most prevalent muralists were Los Tres Grandes, the three big ones: Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and José Clemente Orozco. The content of their art was inherently political and many of these state-sanctioned murals made direct references to events and key figures of the Mexican Revolution. In this way, murals were used as a visual means of transmitting historical information, albeit a biased version of it, to a largely illiterate population. One such mural, and one of the most popular, is Diego Rivera’s La Historia de México, finished in 1935 at the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City. This is a mural I had the pleasure of visiting last summer through a Northwestern humanities course. Like many products of the Mexican muralist movement, Rivera’s La Historia de México is informed by the somewhat contradictory political beliefs of both the artist and the state. By contrast, the Mexican-American and Chicanx murals, such as Prevent World War III, which emerged in urban areas like Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood were not constrained by state involvement. They were informed by more organic community activism and politics. It is therefore important that this art form not be appropriated but instead remain a part of the
Figure 2 Leftmost panel of the mural painted by Marcos Raya. It is called “Fallen Dictator”. Photo by Kaitlynn Scannell. Image taken from: https://interactive.wttw.com/my-neighborhood/pilsen/art-as-activism
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Figure 1. A Hector Duarte mural near my home in Chicago’s Archer Heights Neighborhood (painted in 1998). Image taken from: https://www.transitchicago.com/art/pulaski-orange/
community that it belongs to, and appreciated only through the understanding that it belongs to that specific community.. One legacy of the Mexican Muralist movement was its translation into urban murals and street art in the United States. An example of this is the Mexican and Chicanx murals in Chicago’s Latinx neighborhoods. The modern urban mural movement here started around the 1960s. It was informed by the recent Chicanx movement, which centered around taking pride in the distinctive experiences of being Mexican-American and being informed by multiple cultural ways of knowing. Such forms of ethnic nationalism specifically privileged the Mexican and indigenous aspects of the Chicanx identity as an alternative to assimilation and in this way are very similar, at least on the surface, to the indigenismo and mestizaje which informed Mexican Muralism. The difference is that the Chicanx movement and art did not originate from a state entity or from wanting to protect state interests. It sprang up out of a need for immigrant and Chicanx communities to express themselves and validate the culture and social struggles present in their neighborhoods, city, and planet. As in Mexico, public art was a powerful way of reaching a massive audience. The art was inherently political also, as it spoke to the common threats being faced by the low income and immigrant population. Additionally, the integrity of the political messages was less questionable as they were not state or corporate funded. They were a community project. These works and the movement continue to thrive, with NAR | 24
new murals being produced to date. Though in recent years, due to gentrification and some government absorption, the integrity of some works and messages has become compromised. Within Pilsen there are some notable muralists which have emerged as grandes in the community. These include artists like Hector Duarte, Gabriel Villa, Carlos Cortez, and Marcos Raya. In 1980, Raya collaborated with nine other local artists to paint a giant anti-war mural along a bridge on 18th street, near the northern edge of the neighborhood.1 The mural is called Prevent World War III. The composition depicts one large film strip, representing one cohesive struggle or history like Rivera’s mural, with multiple panels that were worked on by many different artists. Prevent World War III, like Rivera’s La Historia de Mexico, is clearly a very unapologetically political work of art. It speaks out against imperialism, state corruption, and nuclear weapons. One of the panels on the very left, painted by Raya, depicts people rallying together and holding up a banner with socialist icon Ché Guevara’s face on it, while a broken statue of U.S.-backed Nicaraguan dictator Anastacio Somoza lies on the ground. Such an image is reminiscent of the workers and agriculturists in Rivera’s mural and similarly calls for mobilization of the masses against a common threat. The mural was made in the 1980s during the Reagan administration and is therefore specifically very anti-imperialist and takes a stance against U.S. interventions in Latin 1. Kaitlynn Scannell, “Pilsen Murals Blend Art and Activism,” WTTW Chicago Public Media - Television and Interactive, October 05, 2017, https://interactive.wttw.com/my-neighborhood/pilsen/ar t-as-activism.
America. This specific issue at the time was, and continues to be (for example look at current involvement in Venezuela), very relevant to Latinx and Chicanx people in particular, who have strong connections to both the U.S. and Latin America. The mural, though somewhat focused on global politics, connects with the issues relevant to the community. One of the panels, at the very right end of the mural, depicts a giant spider crawling on a globe covered in web, a reference to globalization - corporations and private enterprises influencing global events. However, this issue and the metaphor are also connected to the issue of gentrification in the Pilsen community. Corporations and real estate interests continue to displace small local businesses and residents, uprooting generations of low-income families and threatening the community by reducing the amount of affordable housing. The Pilsen mural is a living and adaptable piece of protest and resistance which continues to stay relevant as it is worked on to this day. Raya, a Pilsen resident, has personally restored and added to the mural a few times since its original conception.2 Some recent additions include a skeleton figure in a suit wearing a PRI button. The skeleton seems to be on the ground, in a gutter, staring at the fallen dictator from the first panel. Raya is saying that the fate of the PRI, a now historically dictatorial political party in Mexico, should be the same as that of the dictator. Indeed,
just as Somoza was assassinated not long after he was added to the mural, the PRI party was recently voted out of the presidential office by the people of Mexico. It is an interesting image because it completely contrasts the more positive representation of the PRI in Rivera’s mural. Another recent addition, above the PRI skeleton, is a sign which reads “Stop Plan Merida”. Plan Merida involves an agreement between the U.S. and Mexico in which the U.S. agreed to help the Mexican government combat drug trafficking through monetary aid and weapons.It is criticized for being imperialistic, providing weapons and money directly to drug traffickers due to corruption, and for not targeting the root cause, which is the high U.S. demand for drugs. The anti-capitalistic themes resonate well with similar themes in Rivera’s mural, but the Pilsen mural is less hesitant to criticize the state and current political leaders. Yet another addition, from 2016, includes an image of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and two heads of the same snake body, licking a nuclear weapon. Raya painted them over what used to be an image of Reagan and Jimmy Carter, from when they were both running for president. Raya is saying that not much has changed in the last few decades. Government officials are still only concerned with attaining military power and using it to influence our state of affairs. The issue of militarization is also related to issues of police brutality and abuse of authority in black and brown Chicago neighborhoods. 2. Jeff Huebner, “A Major Mural in Pilsen Gets a Few More Years in the Sun,” Chicago Reader, July 07, 2016, https://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/marcos-raya-prevent-world-war-iii-mural-street-art/Content?oid=22771667.
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Figure 3. Prevent World War III mural. Photo by Kaitlynn Scannell. Image taken from: https://interactive.wttw.com/my-neighborhood/pilsen/art-as-activism
The mural reflects the fact that the issues which are relevant to our community are connected to each other and to the larger global issues of imperialism, globalization, consumerism, and racial capitalism. Citations
Scannell, Kaitlynn. “Pilsen Murals Blend Art and Activism.” WTTW Chicago Public Media – Television and Interactive. October 05, 2017. https:// interactive.wttw.com/my-neighbor hood/pilsen/art-as-activism. Huebner, Jeff. “A Major Mural in Pilsen Gets a Few More Years in the Sun.” Chicago Reader. Figure 4. Recent addition of Trump and Clinton to mural. Photo by July 07, 2016. https://www. Kaitlynn Scannell. chicagoreader. com/chicago/marcos-r aya-prevent-world-war-iii-mural-street-art/ Content?oid=22771667.
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CONSIDERING EMPTY SPACE: NARI WARD’S HAPPY SMILERS AND THE CONTEMPORARY CITY
CHRISTOPHER MICHAEL UNIVERSITY COLLEGE DUBLIN, 2019
In Nari Ward’s installation Happy Smilers: Duty Free
Shopping (1996), viewers go through a seemingly upbeat storefront, painted yellow with reggae music playing from speakers, only to be met in what would be the space of a store in a more nefarious reality. A fire escape features prominently, surrounded by old tires and debris, and there’s this ominous rainy soundtrack playing on a loop. The installation itself is very large, and the unused space is tangible. The false promise of the optimistic exterior just leads way to a space that’s been laboriously emptied, causing the viewer to wander around its boundaries confused and disheartened. It’s very intensive and curious to view, leaving gallery visitors uncomfortable in the hollowed room. Invoking the bodegas of Ward’s home of Harlem, the piece doesn’t speak to areas of community in the way a bodega usually functions, but rather those places you pass without a clue of what goes on inside them: those restaurants where you never actually see people eating, seemingly omnipresent chain stores, like Mattress Firm, that can’t possibly be making enough money to survive, or the shady bar you pass on your way home wondering when it’ll get shut down. The happy exterior is not truly inviting, just meant to fit in enough with its surroundings to cover up the more sinister ongoings inside. I wonder what this space is meant to truly hold. Money laundering? A mafia meeting place? Or just a space of decay, forgotten by the world? America seems especially full of these hollow places in our late capitalist era. Hito Steyerl, in her essay “Duty Free Art,”1 charts these areas of vacant space created by big capital in major cities and hubs of commerce that have become increasingly present in the 21st century. Using the example of freeport art storage (industrial buildings or warehouses declared to be outside regular state power in order to create tax havens for art collectors),
Steyerl examines how the collision of modern art and free market capitalism have created these unique spaces of extrastatecraft.2 Freeport art storage facilities, as Steyerl explains, are essentially museums outside of traditional state power and only accessible to the super wealthy, constantly in transit and radically redefining the physical space they occupy. Pointing towards stacks of crates found in Port Francs, Geneve, which supposedly contain various artworks from wealthy collectors, Steyerl wonders whether these facilities even actually contain the artworks they claim to, or if they are entirely empty, just meant to obscure more nefarious movements. It is appropriate then that Ward based Happy Smilers on a space in his Harlem neighborhood whose exterior suggested a candy store, but the actual purpose was for local men to gamble illicitly. Like the places Steyerl discusses in her essay, Ward invokes a space whose physicality is radically altered by the crooked ongoings inside. These hollow spaces, whether they be for gambling or for the movement of wealth, reshape our perceptions of the physical areas they occupy, and our relationship to the material world around us. Whether it be shifting borders, in the case of freeport art storage, or the implicit confusion and redirection in Ward’s illegitimate bodega, these spaces not only disrupt our understanding of brick and mortar commerce and economic relations, but our entire trust in the concrete world around us . Ward’s installation speaks not only to literally empty spaces, but also those places that are spiritually hollow, void of the presence of a human soul. Starbucks is maybe the best example of this for suburban America, with its overwhelming presence and readymade customer base. Have you ever been to a Starbucks franchise in a town you weren’t familiar with?
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Did you find it eerie the way the other customers felt like part of the furniture, like they were there as background actors for your experience? Or was it jarring how smooth everything ran, how it was no different than the Starbucks where you’re a regular and know the manager? How the employees can be interchanged, supervisors and all, and the store would keep going, unphased, so long as people like you kept coming? There’s a scene in the final season of The Sopranos where Patsy and Bert go to a Starbucks-esque coffee chain that has just opened in their neighborhood in an attempt at extorting money the way they have with other local businesses in the area.3
Figure 1. Nari Ward, Happy Smilers: Duty Free Shopping. 1996, Installation. Available from: Frieze (https://frieze.com/article/nari-ward)
Offering the manager “protection for a small fee”, he responds that they’d have to go through “Corporate” to authorize anything like that. When met with threats of the store being damaged or the employees being assaulted, the manager responds that with thousands of stores, the company probably wouldn’t care all that much, and that he’d just be replaced if anything were to happen. It’s a very telling moment about America in the early 2000’s, that local power—albeit in the form of the mafia—as begun totally losing control to these large neoliberal corporations.
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The hollowness that Ward invokes in his installation can be viewed, in many ways, as a by-product of the consumerist city model found in this particular Sopranos scene. There is an implication in Ward’s installation that this is a space purposefully left out of the realm of “normal” business dealings, a presence created in the shadow of an ever-gentrifying world. Modern monolithic corporations like Starbucks, Mattress Firm or, more recently, WeWork, have a tendency to create the shadows that these illicit dealings thrive in, as they take over buildings literally everywhere in the modern city, draining the soul from each like an unstoppable vampiric force. Creating conditions where it is virtually impossible for small businesses, public infrastructure, or artist projects to succeed, it seems the contemporary city is full of either large multinational food chains and businesses, or hollow spaces like Happy Smilers that leave city dwellers feeling out of place and out of touch. Rebecca Solnit’s ideas of suburbanization in the contemporary city might help us understand this phenomenon, where she describes cities in which rapid gentrification “threatens to make to make urban places as bland and inert as the suburbs, to erase place.”4 In other words, erasing the once soulful urban space to such an extent that the soul of the city seemingly disappeared with it. As Patsy puts it in the scenes conclusion, it really might be “over for the little guy.” A recurrent theme in Ward’s work is his examining the remnants of life in our current neoliberal condition. In Smart Tree, a sculpture designed for the Highline in New York, an apple tree grows out of a smart car made from tires, suggesting environmental collapse. In his Crusader sculptures and video work, a homeless man’s shopping cart is turned into a pimpedout vehicle of new urban survival. Happy Smilers follows in these footsteps as a statement on the emptiness of life in an overly capitalist world. The expectations set by the storefront are not met within, and there’s a sense of great disappointment walking around the sculpture’s desolation. It begs the question of how we can reconcile with these empty spaces. How do we fill those run-down business and fight against corporations colonizing our cities and suburbs? How do we recreate a sense of community where our streets have become sterile and lack character? Is the America of 2019 a lost cause, or is there real chance to rebuild both physically and spiritually?
Ward’s piece does not seek to answer these questions, but rather to make you increasingly aware of the strangeness and discomfort in these kinds of urban places. For those who experience this work, uneasiness is a tool powerfully wielded by Ward, allowing us a place to contemplate the empty spaces and spiritual hollowness of the contemporary city. Endnotes 1. Hito Steyerl, “Duty Free Art”, Duty Free Art: Art in the Age of Planetary Civil War, (New York: Verso, 2017),75-100 2. Steyerl uses this in reference to Keller Easterlings ideas of extrastatecraft outlined in the book Extrastatecraft: The Power of Infrastructure Space (New York: Verso, 2014) 3. The Sopranos, Season 6, Episode 8 (HBO) 4. Rebecca Solnit and Susan Schwartzenberg, Hollow City: The Siege of San Francisco and the Crisis of American Urbanism, (New York: Verso, 2000) 29. Citations Solnit, Rebecca and Schwartzenberg, Susan. Hollow City: The Siege of San Francisco and the Crisis of American Urbanism. New York: Verso, 2000. Steyerl, Hito. “Duty Free Art”. Duty Free Art: Art in the Age of Planetary Civil War. New York: Verso, 2017.
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RADICAL WALLS: EL GRUPO DE PINTORES ¡30-30! AND MANIFESTO CULTURE IN EARLY 20TH-CENTURY MEXICO CITY MELISSA SZTUK, DEPAUL UNIVERSITY, 2019 The Grupo de Pintores ¡30-30! was a collective of revolutionary, anti-academic artists active in Mexico City from 1928-1930. Drawing inspiration from the aesthetics of the Mexican revolution even in their very name they directly opposed the presence of traditional European art in the post-revolutionary period.1 Following the model set forth by other avant-garde artists in Mexico (from the muralists to the Estridentistas), they turned to the production of manifestos printed on brightly colored and provocatively illustrated posters. These posters were their means of challenging accepted artistic values, championing populist beliefs and accessibility in art in contrast to the conservative, hierarchical art of the Academy. The final product of the manifestos is a messy, provocative, and sometimes contradictory whole that reveals as much A CUCA,1924 about their ideology as it does their position within the TARSILA DO AMARAL
Figure 1. Manuel Maples Arce. Actual (Hoja de Vanguardia), No. 1, 1921. Recto and verso, 59.5 x 40 cm. Museo Nacional de Arte de México. From: Tatiana Flores, “Clamoring for Attention in Mexico City: Manuel Maples Arce’s Avant-Garde Manifesto Actual N° 1,” Review: Literature and Arts of the Americas 37, no. 2 (2004): 208-220. 1. The “30-30” is a reference to a type of rifle popular among Mexican revolutionaries. 2. Tatiana Flores, Mexico’s Revolutionary Avant-Gardes from Estridentismo to ¡30-30! (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013), 29. 3. Manuel Maples Arce, Actual No. 1. Reproduced in Mexico’s Revolutionary Avant-Gardes from Estridentismo to ¡30-30! (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013), 18-9.
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art of twentieth-century Mexico. Diverging from their contemporaries, the manifestos produced in the Grupo de Pintores ¡30-30! are unique for their incendiary content that combines text and image to create a space where word becomes action, affirming the group’s radical socialist beliefs surrounding the politics of the institutions of art and government and what role both items should play in Mexican society. The Grupo de Pintores ¡30-30! presents the gritty underside of the Mexican post-revolutionary period, a status reinforced with each successive manifesto. Each document presents a wealth of information bound in layers of cultural, political, and visual references, but the scholarship in this area fails to treat the manifestos of this collective as material objects that present one communicative whole, a gap that this paper hopes to address. The post-revolutionary period in Mexico City is rich with avant-garde experimentation. Each group that emerged in this era is intricately tied to the political and social environment of the time. One of the first among the many to develop was Estridentismo, a movement focused on the emerging cosmopolitan sense of the urban. Products such as a car engine were valued for their aesthetic beauty, and the bustling sounds of a city were praised for their musical quality through literature and canvas painting, blending written word and the visual arts into one essence of urban spirituality.2 In its most important writing (and the first of its kind in Mexico), Actual no. 1 (1921) [Figure 1], the poet Manuel Maples Arce declared Estridemtismo’s aesthetic goals through the popular tool of the European avant-garde: the manifesto. The Estridentistas employed confrontational and challenging language, writing in a deliberately erudite manner aimed directly at an audience of “all of the young poets, painters, and sculptors of Mexico.”3 It was a movement created by and for the intellectual middle class and decidedly turned its back on the conservative artistic ideals promoted by the government.
At the same time, it consciously distanced itself from its contemporary European artistic tendencies in a direct negation of all the “falsely modern”4-isms of the continent; however, despite his desire to separate from European trends, even Maples Arce could not successfully save the movement from insistent comparisons to Italian Futurism and Ultraism. Though somewhat ironically, he himself participated in the Europeanization of the movement by utilizing the popular tool of the European avant-garde as his format for dissention, thus creating a paradox of ultimately inescapable Westernization and establishing a contradictory precedent for the performance of the avant-garde in Mexico. In the wake of Actual No. 1, the muralists began their activity. From the muralists came the Union of Workers, Technicians, Painters, and Sculptors, or the Sindicato de Obereros, Técnicos, Pintores y Escultores (SOTPE). Their militaristic approach called back to a revolutionary ideal that they felt tied them most wholly to the essence of the masses.5 Like the Estridentistas, the SOTPE would make use of the manifesto as political/artistic tool in their most important text, the Manifesto del Sindicato de Obereros, Técnicos Pintores y Escultores (1923). Through the name alone, the group immediately aligns artists with laborers, which are listed first among the various groups that make up the coalition. It turns to the resources of class-based hostilities, pitting the artistic world into a warring duality: “on one side the most ideologically organized social revolution ever, and on the other side, the armed bourgeoise.”6 This document served to forge a lasting connection between art, the populace, collectivism, and militaristic ideology, one which would dominate the Mexican art scene for decades to come. Emerging from involvement in all reaches of the Mexican avant-garde came the Grupo de Pintores ¡30-30!. Their populist ideological motivations largely revolve around the ever-changing political stance and pedagogical techniques employed by the Academy of San Carlos. Perhaps the effort closest to the heart of this collective was that of the Escuela de Pintura al Aire Libre (EPAL). The schools fostered the education of those that had traditionally been left behind by the Academy. They catered to the residents of both the rural and urban margins in which the schools were located and worked closely with the children of laborers and farmers to cultivate their own naïf art [Figure 2].
In a (constructed, nationalist) inward reflection, the mixed-race Mexican modernists took a special interest in the “primitive” thought to be inherent to what was considered the most essentially Mexican populations. Over their combined 20 years of activity, the EPALs, Popular Centers of Painting, and the School of Direct Carving had various provincial and urban locations and became an important place to connect middle-class Academy-trained artists with modern experimental art inextricably tied to the Mexican countryside and its residents.7 A substantial number of the thirty original members were personally involved in the efforts of the popular education programs. The work of the Grupo de Pintores ¡30-30! was to rally support for their efforts in the schools, and to spread anti-Academic sentiment throughout the country. In short, the EPALs were the practice of the philosophy of the Grupo de Pintores ¡30-30!.
ISRAELI MUSEUM ARCHITECTURE: YAD VASHEM VS. THE MUSEUM OF TOLERANCE Jessie Baldinger | Northwestern University ‘19
4. Maples Arce, Actual No. 1, 19. 5. Sureya Hernández. “La Aventura Sindicalista De Los Pintores Muralistas Mexicanos: El Sindicato De Obreros Técnicos, Pintores Y Escultores (1922-1924).” Letras Históricas 20 (2019): 141-68. 6. Siqueiros, David Alfaro et al. “Manifiesto del Sindicato de Obreros Técnicos Pintores y Escultores,” 1923. Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros, Mexico City.
Figure 2 Carolina Treviño. Retrato. n/d, óleo. Escuela de Pintura al Aire Libre in Churubusco, 1925. From: Monografía de las Escuelas de Pintura al Aire Libre, México, Secretaría de Educación Pública, Editorial Cultura, 1926.
Of greatest concern here of the artistic production of the Grupo de Pintores ¡30-30! are their five manifestos. While each member of the collective continued essentially uninterrupted with their aesthetic projects of modern everyday life, the desired made for ¡30-30! publications like their manifestos contain a distinct visual language. Each of their five manifestos is a large, colorful, broadsheet poster filled with revolutionary 7. Laura González Matute, Escuelas de Pintura al aire libre y centros populares de Pintura, (Mexico City: CENIDIAP, 1987): 75-85.
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text accompanied by sometimes crude, sometimes elegant illustrative woodblock prints integrated into their overarching design. The first manifesto was finished July of 1928 and the last in December of the same year. Throughout the months, each manifesto was widely reproduced and pasted on that walls of the city center. The messages conveyed were short and written in imperfect, informal language, allowing any passerby to engage with the text, or at least with the cartoonish illustrations. The absence of an identified author, along with their creation for a public forum, reinforces their support of the commons.8 Concealing individual identity in favor of a larger, collective identity gives their voice a tone of democracy that begins to speak for the groups they aim to support. These are not the opinions of one, but of many. They are at once attempting to educate the public and use their spaces to gain support inherent in the day to day physicality of the city and its walls. The manifestos were written to provoke the bourgeoisie and, in a public sphere, challenge the power the upper class held over artistic production in Mexico. Especially target for attack was the government sponsored academy of fine arts, the Academy of San Carlos, which was heavily associated with conservative, European, and hierarchical artistic ideals at the time. Though each manifesto has content unique to the moment it was published, an ultimate message of doing away with the antiquated Academy is pushed constantly. The header consistent through all five manifestos, “AGAINST: I. ACADEMICS. II. BUREAUCRATS. III. Robbers of public office, and IV. In general, against all forms of intellectualoid parasites and vermin,”9 places them, above all else, as the enemies of the Academy. They dismiss all value, artistically and morally that those who support the Academy might claim. In the deeply conservative society of early twentieth-century Mexico, they declare all artistic production coming out of the Academy aborted fetuses “that day after day crawl out of the filthy sewers”10 [Figure 4]. From a very early moment, the Grupo de Pintores ¡30-30! makes it clear that they do not plan to soften any blows. They burst into the public eye ready to fight like revolutionaries and provoke the conflict that they so desperately call for.
A GOLDEN “RELIC” FOR THE AGES: ACCEPTANCE, APPROPRIATION AND SACRISTY IN CHRIST AND THE LAMB Emily Kappes | Northwestern University ‘18
Figure 4. Detail of El Grupo de Pintores ¡30- 30!. 1er. Manifiesto Treintatrentista. Reproduced in ¡30-30! Contra la Academia de Pintura. Mexico City: CENIDIAP, 1993.
Figure 5. Detail of El Grupo de Pintores ¡30- 30!. 1er. Manifiesto Treintatrentista. Reproduced in ¡30-30! Contra la Academia de Pintura. Mexico City: CENIDIAP, 1993.
Starting with their first manifesto, a sense of urgency emerges. The prints are crude and done quickly; they are by no means a traditional, elevated form of art. Alongside the imagery of aborted fetuses in jars, they call upon scatology to get a laugh out of its audience [Figure 5]. This crude visual component compliments nicely the crude written component, which is only paralleled in overall design. The final products are messy; the texts are riddled with typos and inconsistencies. 8. Flores, Mexico’s Revolutionary Avant-Gardes from Estridentismo to ¡30-30, 279. 9. El Grupo de Pintores ¡30-30!. 1er Manifiesto Treintatrentista, 1928. Reproduced in ¡30-30! Contra la Academia de Pintura. Mexico City: CENIDIAP, 1993. 10. Ibid.
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Figure 3. El Grupo de Pintores ¡30- 30!. 1er. Manifiesto Treintatrentista. From: Tatiana Flores. Mexico’s Revolutionary Avant-Gardes from Estridentismo to ¡30-30!. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013.
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Figure 6. Detail of El Grupo de Pintores ¡30- 30!. 5o. Manifiesto Treintatrentista. From: Tatiana Flores. Mexico’s Revolutionary Avant-Gardes from Estridentismo to ¡30-30!. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013.
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Bullet points are grouped together accidentally. Their words are filled with common spelling mistakes and missing dozens of accents and commas—seemingly without care. All that remains is the need to spread their message as quickly as possible, leaving behind any desire to be pristine, to fit an aesthetic ideal pushed by the Academy. The collective actively fought for the common man, daily life, and popular culture— all of which have the tendency to avoid naturally the artificial beauty and technique of the Academy. They have their own inherent aesthetic that the Grupo de Pintores ¡30- 30! explores in their imperfection and simplicity. With the progress of each manifesto, the collective gets to some higher level of sophistication with the content of their prints. It develops its visual language to its culmination in the fifth manifesto: its most mature product of immaturity [Figure 6]. The imagery has reached a peak in its crass synthesis of symbols, giving them the ability to communicate complex and pointed messages of dissent; moreover, the fourth and fifth manifestos are no longer the general cry against the Academy and its crimes. No longer directed at the public, these are targeted at very specific groups and individuals of the academic elite. The main target of this manifesto was the newly appointed director of the Academy, Manuel Toussaint—appearing in the accompanying image as the overweight priest “Monseñor Todos Santos,”11 with the face of President Emilio Portes Gil, forging a disparaging and unflattering connection between the two public figures. But, while these images may be amusing to those invested in Mexican modern art, realistically, the rest of the world lived their lives without a sense of these squabbles. So, how public are these manifestos? One must note a certain kind of distancing from the public from the first to the fifth and final. Through their populist beliefs and their strong desire to advocate for them, it becomes evident that their first priority does not always lie with their voiced ideologies. It could be argued that regardless, they are speaking out for the betterment of the lives of the whole on matters they might not know to care about, but can this advocacy mean the same for the public when the participation of the public is not tacitly included?
Finally, the legacy of the Grupo de Pintores ¡30-30! is not in unique visual qualities impressed on Mexican aesthetics, but instead in its words and actions has the collective had the most lasting impact. Their populist values brought attention to the importance of the accessibility of art on an individual level. The EPALs, the School of Sculpting and Direct Carving, and the Popular Centers of Painting gave the opportunity to the lower classes to participate in the redefining of art for the modern age. With these schools, children, laborers, and farmers were able to come together to experience the arts like they had never been permitted before. Aspiring artists who would otherwise have no hope of having their work exhibited were having their work shown internationally, encouraging a much more authentic exchange between what had once been considered the extremes of high and low culture. They were a collective unlike any other of their time, never lacking in wit or fiery intent that disseminated new and exciting possibilities of what art could be for the next generations to come. Their passion for accessibility and community engagement created a space for the evaluation of the role of art in society, which continues to echo contemporary issues. The importance of art education in lesser served communities has not lost its resonance. Current day museums and community centers are taking up this initiative progressively more— constantly finding new ways to involve underserved communities and to diversify the discussion surrounding art and its relation to the people.
11. El Grupo de Pintores ¡30-30!. 5° Manifiesto Treintatrentista, 1928. Reproduced in ¡30-30! Contra la Academia de Pintura. Mexico City: CENIDIAP, 1993. Translation: “Monsignor All Saints.” This title is a play of words in direct translation of the French Toussaint into its Spanish equivalent.
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Citations Flores, Tatiana. Mexico’s Revolutionary Avant-Gardes from Estridentismo to ¡30-30!. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013. Hernández, Sureya. “La Aventura Sindicalista De Los Pintores Muralistas Mexicanos: El Sindi cato De Obreros Técnicos, Pintores Y Es cultores (1922-1924).” Letras Históricas, 20 (2019): 141-68. https://dx.doi.org/10.31836/ lh.20.7149. Maples Arce, Maples.Actual No. 1. Reproduced in Mexico’s Revolutionary Avant-Gardes from Estridentismo to ¡30-30! (New Haven: Yale Univer Press, 2013), 18-9. El Grupo de Pintores ¡30-30!. “5° Manifiesto Treintatrentis ta,” 1928. Fondo reservado de la Biblioteca Justino Fernández del Instituto de Investigacione Estéticas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexi co City. El Grupo de Pintores ¡30-30!. “5° Manifiesto Treintatrentista,” 1928. Fondo reservado de la Biblioteca Justino Fernández del Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico City. González Matute, Laura. ¡30-30! Contra la Academia de Pintura. Mexico City: CENIDIAP, 1993. Escuelas de Pintura al aire libre y centros populares de Pintura. Mexico City: CENIDIAP, 1987. Siqueiros, David Alfaro et al. “Manifiesto del Sindicato de Obreros Técnicos Pintores y Escultores,” 1923. Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros, Mexico City.
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“THE ARTIST MUST CREATE A SPARK BEFORE HE CAN MAKE A FIRE AND BEFORE ART IS BORN,
THE ARTIST MUST BE READY TO BE CONSUMED BY THE FIRE OF HIS OWN CREATION”