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S U M M E R 2014
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TABLE OF CONTENTS 6
THE GEE’S BEND TRADITION An exhibit of contemporary quilts
10 DAVID BOHNETT The perfect philanthropist 16 HELEN MOLESWORTH A self-described “feminist curator” 22 ARTISTS DRINKING BEER A conversation with Iva Gueorguieva and Liat Yossifor 32 GORDON PARKS Segregation Story photo essay 42 TRANSFORMATIVE GIFTS Hits and misses in museum donations 60 MY FIRST TIME With Wall Street Journal Arts Editor Eric Gibson
Artwork: Tinnie Dell Pettway, Gee’s Bend Tradition, 2009 Quilted fabric, 79 x 82 inches, Courtesy of That’s Sew Gee’s Bend
A word from the editor
38 The Schnitzer Collection 48 Bruce Nauman 50 Nathalie du Pasquier 54 Madame Cézanne 62 Perspective 63 Contributors
A WORD FROM THE EDITOR
ON CONSERVATION POLICY
ecently it was revealed that the iconic funerary mask of King Tut was irreversibly damaged when the braided beard on the work was knocked off, and then, more incredibly, re-attached with non-approved conservation epoxy glue. Although there are now voices that believe this disaster is possibly fixable, the episode brings to the fore a longstanding debate in the art world, to wit, can the great art treasures of the world be entrusted to, shall we say, less than sophisticated museum workers? In most of Europe and the United States, the conservation profession requires years of graduate level training and then a carefully overseen apprenticeship before artworks are handled by an individual conservator. The field demands that conservators thoroughly study the artistâ€™s entire oeuvre, the era, the materials, the methods, and any previous restorations and then make a plan, which must be approved by curator(s) and colleagues before actually performing any repairs. Often with a major undertaking this can take years, require international travel, fundraising and extensive research before the work begins. Another crucial tenet of contemporary conservation requires all repairs be reversibleâ€”so that future conservators can undo previous repairs, if necessary. This abundance of cau-
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tion is prudent but not infallible. The famed, and infamous, Elgin Marbles, which have been under the “stewardship” of the British Museum for over 180 years, were revealed to have been irreparably damaged by vigorous over-cleaning resulting in the loss of their original surface paint and evidence of the sculptors tools, one more reason the Greeks demand their return. This hideous damage cannot be reversed and art historians feel the permanent cost to the artwork is incalculable. By the same token, the Metropolitan Museum of Art has a fascinating YouTube video detailing the laborious process by which the museum’s conservators spent years reassembling a statue from their collection which inexplicably fell from its mounting and shattered into hundreds (thousands?) of pieces [view video]. It is truly astonishing to see what they were able to do under dire circumstances. So we return to the original question: How should countries of origin that may not have the training, access to materials, and latest techniques or technology deal with art disasters? Obviously, there is no simple answer. Do works of art belong to the whole of humanity or are they possessions of their home institutions? If the former, then how can the conservation community rally to protect these inestimably valuable treasures from a janitor wheeling epoxy? Especially when the motivation is to get the work back on display as soon as possible to satisfy the demands of a voracious public. It would seem that an international committee, with funding, might be the answer, where museums from around the world make contributions to fund not only the work of the committee but the repairs by highly qualified experts as well. There is international committee who address the issues of looting; perhaps that is a model worth duplicating to prevent further atrocities perpetrated by well-intended but unqualified museum workers. Yours, Barbara Pflaumer Editor in Chief firstname.lastname@example.org ON THE COVER:
Iva Gueorguieva, Murmuring Swordsman, 96 x 77”, acrylic, collage and oil on canvas 2013
THE GEE’S BEND TRADITION On view at The Lehman Gallery, Bronx, New York, lehman.edu/gallery
see The exhibit is on view through April 24. 6
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he Lehman Art Gallery, at Lehman College in the Bronx, New York, is currently exhibiting fourteen contemporary quilts and eight limited-edition etchings made by the Gee’s Bend quilters. An African-American community located southwest of Selma, Alabama, the group has a tradition of quilt making dating back to the 19th century. The use of a broad range of colors, the abandoning of traditional grid design and the recycling of materials speak to the individuality of the quilters’ inspirations. The quilts, which have become highly prized by collectors and museums, are recognizable by “compositions [that] vary widely from minimalist constructions to intricately pieced geometries—often with unpredictable sequences of patterns, bold colors...their inventive improvisa-
tions suggest jazz riffs and bring to mind the innovations of 20th century modernism,” according to curator and exhibition organizer Susan Hoeltzel. Since their rise to prominence in the 1920s, the quilters of Gee’s Bend (known as Boykin since 1949) have gone from making items of necessity to creating timeless works of art. As is the tradition with all quilt making, the women of Gee’s Bend assembled their works from discarded pieces of cloth, and their works were essential objects to the inhabitants of the unheated “Roosevelt houses” built for them in the 1930s.
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Louisiana Bendolph History, 2007 Softground aquatint 27 3/4 x 34 1/2 inches Edition # 17/50 Courtesy of Paulson Bott Press Loretta Bennett Blues, 2007 Softground spitbite aquatint etching 42 3/4 x 31 inches Edition # 23/50 Courtesy of Paulson Bott Press Loretta Bennett Wrapped in Denim, 2014 Quilted fabric 84 X 84 inches Courtesy of Greg Kucera Gallery, Seattle
Typically comprised of a variety of recycled fabrics that carry memories associated with the previous owner and with personal connections to friends and family, these magnificent quilts feature “used clothing [as]… an aesthetic choice.” Working both as individuals and in groups, the women of Gee’s Bend established a distinctive style, sometimes working from sketches, other times improvisationally. Today the quilters’ awareness of the role their pieces hold in the contemporary art world means they are conceived as works meant to displayed, like paintings, on the wall. The quilts on display in the Lehman exhibition are contemporary works; for example, Loretta Bennett’s Wrapped in Denim of 2014 is an intricate quilt of vibrant colors at the center which mute into the blues of faded denim as they radiate out. This beautiful work is an illustration of the free form that typifies the Gee’s Bend quilts. The fabric’s wear, fading and underlying layers work as patches
across the surface of this vibrant quilt. Bennett also demonstrates her love of color and her success in adapting quilt making into etching with her aquatint Blues, of 2007. Her ability to move the viewer’s eye in and out of the composition is sophisticated and indicates an innate understanding of color theory. Louisiana Bendolph’s History, of 2007, illustrates another example of a quilter’s transition from one media to another. The lime greens, chartreuse, blue and a strategic black stripe in her aquatint are not the work of a simple seamstress but the result of a knowing and intrinsically savvy artist. Lastly, the complex quilt by Tinnie Dell Pettway titled Gee’s Bend Tradition, of 2005, harkens to a work she almost certainly has never seen, Piet Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie Woogie, in a palette of red, white and blue. The movement and intensity of the design are not merely eye catching but also the output of a seriously devised plan successfully carried out. 9
The Perfect Philanthropist
David Bohnett, 58, is a transplanted Chicagoan who founded GeoCities, a forerunner of social media sites akin to Facebook, which he sold to Yahoo in 1999. Since that time, as he said in a Los Angeles Times interview, he “invests where he can actually improve lives, empower individuals and build viable communities in meaningful ways.” Virtually unique in the Southern California environs, Bohnett does not approach philanthropy as a branding opportunity but rather as an altruistic way of doing good works as a reward in itself. His modesty is as remarkable as the many philanthropic outlets he supports, which range from voting rights, AIDS research, animal research and rights, LGBT initiatives, and gun violence prevention. Additionally Mr. Bohnett serves on the boards of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. His recent gift to the Philharmonic of $20 million endowed the chair for the Phil’s CEO and addressed the issue of underserved communities. Bohnett should serve as a model to all supporters of charitable institutions; he gives without expecting personal gain, which is why he is the perfect philanthropist. Foreground: Did philanthropy run in your family—was that part of your growing up? David Bohnett: It did. My parents were very involved in community activities. I grew up in Chicago; my parents and grandparents were from the South Side. As you learn things growing up and are exposed to things at an early age, you don’t think about it—it’s just part of your life. My mother volunteered for many years with the Illinois Children’s Aid Society, and for the longest time I thought that was one word since I heard it so often. My father was involved in the local community Chamber of Commerce, and they were involved with their church. If you’re exposed to philanthropy in the home it’s similar to if you are exposed to music, as you early on develop an appreciation for both. A lot 10
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of the work I have done with music and music education has to do with early exposure to the form. Foreground: Of the many charities you’re involved with, is there one that has a special place in your life? Bohnett: One is my recent gift to the LA Phil, which is comprised of two parts: one half is endowing and supporting the CEO role (in this case Deborah Borda), ensuring strong management for the future, and the other is an innovation fund for new audiences. If it was one it would have to be the LA Philharmonic, but then there are a handful of other organizations such as LACMA [Los Angeles County Museum of Art], where I have been very involved due to Michael Govan’s leadership, and amfAR (The Foundation for AIDS Research), Photography: John Russo
John Chamberlain, Most of Edginess, 9/2000, Metal. 11
David Hockney, The Twenty-Six V.N. Painting, 1992, Oil painting on canvas.
Sam Francis Untitled 1959, Acrylic on paper.
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with which I have been involved my whole life. In Los Angeles, the Los Angeles LGBT Center has been a big part of my entire adult life (I came to LA as an 18-year-old to attend USC). Foreground: How funny that you left Los Angeles for grad school in Michigan —it’s too bloody cold! Bohnett: It gets cold but I love Ann Arbor—it was a real motivating place for me. It was not the beginning of my philanthropy career but the beginning of my career as an activist. Going to graduate school, I had a work/study grant, and one of the agencies at the University of Michigan you could work at was the Gay Student Council Center. So I trained as a counselor and when I came back I was predisposed to continue my activist career. Foreground: Do you think when one becomes prosperous, a certain level of charitable support is required—does having a lot of money trigger a tripwire for philanthropic support? Bohnett: No I don’t think so. Foreground: Do you think it’s not true especially here in Los Angeles or in general? Bohnett: I don’t think it’s not true especially here, I think it’s not just in general, it’s not the catalyst for people. Tell me more about the question. Foreground: I come from Philadelphia, which is a Quaker city that has a real tradition of philanthropy, and when I came to California 20 years ago I was stunned by the difficulty that places like LACMA have raising money. It seemed to me
that donors tended to be more aligned with hospitals and universities through an emotional connection because their children were born there, or their parents were saved, or they went to school there and there wasn’t a profound sense of obligation to society. It brings me back to my first question —do you grow up with a sense of giving back or when you are successful does that trip a switch—to me it doesn’t seem to be automatic here, so I am particularly interested in your perspective. Bohnett: There’s really something to that question with multiple layers to it because if you take San Francisco and you take the philanthropic culture there, it’s very different than Los Angeles. So you say, well why is that and I would say there was a very significant migration to San Francisco, earlier than there was to Los Angeles. Foreground: Yes, the migration of Bostonians to San Francisco in the 19th century was significant and they took their culture with them. Bohnett: That’s to your point, and the second point is Los Angeles was more frontier, and I have always talked about Los Angeles as a place where there was still that frontier mentality, to come here and make your own way because there isn’t the same structure that there is in Boston, Philadelphia, and New York. So a lot of people come here to escape what they think are those restrictive structures and so, in that sense, there is some escaping the cultural and social responsibility for philanthropy. The third point which is very interesting as I was thinking of major philanthropists here is that Eli Broad is from Michigan 13
Lawrence Weiner, A Rope (of Hemp) + Cable (of Steel) + a Thread (of Silk) & Braided (all together), 1994.
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and Wallis Annenberg is from Philadel- buy very distinctive, classic furniture phia and I’m from Chicago so it kind of and lighting pieces for our mid-century makes your point. home. We also bought modern and contemporary art starting in the early ’80s. Foreground: You are a person who has been extraordinarily generous and Foreground: I understand you own keeps a very low profile. I would venture works by David Hockney, Sam Francis, to say most people in this town don’t Agnes Martin and Catherine Opie. Tell know who you are and I’d love to know me about your philosophy of collecting. if that’s intentional or not. Bohnett: My art collecting is a personal Bohnett: I think it’s just consistent reflection of me, my tastes, and my with my temperament. If you look at beliefs. It’s what I love. All of the works GeoCities, for example, it was all about speak to me. I am particularly interested giving everyone else the opportunity to in things that are at the intersection contribute or participate, to set home of art and technology, social justice pages and connect, which is my thing: and reflect fairness and equality. I have helping to empower others, which I find digital pieces by Miyajima, sculpture very motivating. I don’t come from a by Keith Haring, and work by Robbie place that feels like my name is going to Conal. I like to learn about what the artinspire others. ist’s intent was and the context in which they created the work. Foreground: Do you have a philosophy of philanthropy that you use as your Foreground: Please talk to me about guideline? your technology collection and particuBohnett: First it starts with leadership larly your Enigma machine. and then it needs to fit within catego- Bohnett: I collect pieces that appeal to ries that come from my own personal me and are in sync with my passion for interest in philanthropy, which broadly communications. I see it all as a continis social justice, social activism. One uum. I’ve been fascinated by inventions of the things I am most pleased about my entire life. Even more so, I deeply with the LA Phil announcement was the admire the inventors behind them like messaging that got out that I was very Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham interested in helping the Phil research Bell. The Edison Stock Ticker from 1890 underserved communities through was one of my earliest finds. My collectmusic education programs outreach and ing criteria are for pieces that have not that was very satisfying because that’s only had a major impact on society but the reason I am involved. are also well designed and are innovative firsts in their field. Foreground: How did you get interested in art and begin collecting art? Bohnett: I began collecting once I was out of graduate school and was living with a former partner. We would 15
HELEN MOLESWORTH A SELF-DESCRIBED “FEMINIST CURATOR”
he Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) has been undergoing a sea of change in the last eight months with the appointment of a new director, Philippe Vergne, and more recently the announcement of a chief curator, Helen Molesworth. Molesworth, 48, came to the West Coast from Boston, where she served as the chief curator at the Institute for Contemporary Art.
Foreground: You did your dissertation on Duchamp. The Philadelphia Museum of Art has the collection of the work of Duchamp and it is historically one of the most highly trafficked permanent exhibitions in the museum. I’m always interested to know what first engaged
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one with Duchamp and how that may have transmuted over the years. Helen Molesworth: Duchamp more than any other artist in the 20th century redefined the very concept of what art is, what it can be, and what it does, and because of that he remains a pro-
found interlocutor for many contemporary artists. Duchamp puts a work of art into a rather unstable philosophical position and once you do that there’s no recovering of the stability. When you destabilize the very foundational idea about a thing, you don’t just get to have it back. He remains almost now a hundred years after that a very public iteration of the “readymade,” the most profound influence on the art of the 20th century. Foreground: Before the position at MOCA materialized what was your impression of Los Angeles as an art center?
Molesworth: For the last seven or eight years, before the MOCA job came up, I have been increasingly coming here, three or four times a year, because I felt it was as important to come here as it was to go to New York. LA was very much a part of my rotation, if you will. LA is a huge magnet and there is no second city. New York is perhaps the major distribution network for contemporary art and LA is a formidable production network—there are a lot of people working here. The cities are very different and very complimentary: LA is very 21st century to my estimation and New York was, is, and will always be the capital of the 20th century.
Installation view of Selections from the Permanent Collection, now on view at MOCA Grand Avenue, photo by Brian Forrest, ©The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Foreground: You are self-described as a feminist curator. Does that mean that institutions like MOCA whose collections are male-oriented are or have been sexist? Molesworth: MOCA is not any different from other major institutions of modern and contemporary art in this country which happen to have been
Foreground: Do you think there’s any danger of over-correcting to balance the representation in the museum collections? Molesworth: What kind of danger would that be? Foreground: That art would be added that might not be of the quality it should be. Molesworth: I’m not worried about that at all. I think that’s an old-fashioned idea; it’s as old-fashioned as saying if we had 50 women in the Senate would they sometimes be hysterical when they have their periods. I am not saying that if the museum’s collections were absolutely structured by parity that we’d have any better or worse art in the museum.
Foreground: It’s interesting because 25 years ago the Women’s Museum founded in Washington, DC, as I’m sure you know, and to me that was the wrong correction because it isn’t about having our own museum its about being mainstreamed into every other museum. Molesworth: I would agree with you there, I don’t think we need gendersegregated or race-segregated or ethnicity-segregated museums. I think what a museum is trying to do is exhibit, collect, and preserve the art of our profoundly sexist. They were shaped time, and in 2015 the art of our time is by the times they were created in and actually extraordinarily diverse and that they remain bound to a lot of sexist presents museums that are used to colpractices. Feminism is a long game of lecting in a more limited strain a set of overturning centuries of discrimination. very real challenges. Those challenges
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happen at the level of taste, context, funding, and access. Those are real challenges that require daily work for long-term gain. Foreground: As a newly established curator in Los Angeles at an influential museum how do you launch relationships with the galleries in town? Molesworth: It’s very, very difficult in Los Angeles to see everything every month. I don’t keep up; I can’t figure out if it’s even possible, partly due to quantity and partly due to geographical dispersion—it’s a very challenging situation. It’s an embarrassment of riches. Also new galleries open—I feel
as though I hear every week about a new space that’s opening. It’s obviously a time of great growth but basically I think you have to commit yourself to seeing as much as you can. Foreground: Are there types of art that you personally cannot tolerate, and if true, how do you deal with that? Do you ignore it? If an artist is tremendously popular but you don’t care for it what do you do with that? Molesworth: It depends. There is some work that does not appeal to my personal taste but may be operating at a very high level within its own self-articulated paradigm—doing what it wants
to be doing at a very high level and just because it doesn’t appeal to my taste doesn’t mean that it’s not good. It’s just that I am not interested in that set of problems or interested in things that look and feel that way. So I try to remain open to that type of work in a museum setting because you have to remember the collection you are building is not for right now but actually for the future. You want to be able to build a collection that has the capacity to tell a very prismatic story so that the people a hundred years from now have what they need, because we don’t actually know what will be important. So it’s like a time travel game—difficult but interesting to play.
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There is other work that I don’t like for intellectual or political reasons because I think that the model is so uninteresting or problematic to whatever value judgment I want to make, but with that work I try to show the work that I am committed to. We all have political and intellectual lines in the sand so you try not to get backed into a corner. Foreground: When you talk about building a collection for a hundred years into the future, for the long game, I am sure you don’t want to weigh in on particular artists, but I often ask colleagues in the field whether they think
Jeff Koons or Damien Hirst or whoever will stand the test of time—do you have an opinion on that? Molesworth: I think that Jeff Koons will stand the test of time. Jeff makes sculptures that, in my mind, almost perfectly encapsulate the time that we live in, so whether you like them or not it basically doesn’t matter. They condense technological perfection, technical culture, narcissism, profound challenge to culture as deconstructed around ideas of taste, and they make manifest and completely evident the income disparity under which we live. So yes, they are going to stand the test of time because no matter what happens they are the
perfect picture of what is happening to us right now. Foreground: Is there a successor to Jeff Koons that you can identify? Molesworth: I don’t think in terms of succession like that. One of the things that has happened in art history is that we don’t think in terms of those paternalistic models of father and son anymore. The world doesn’t really work like that anymore. I am sure that there is someone who can make objects or images that are as encapsulating of their time as Koons makes of his time. We don’t know who those people are yet but they are out there.
Iva Gueorguieva (b. 1974, Bulgaria) received an MFA from the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. Liat Yossifor (b. 1974, Israel) earned her MFA from the University of California, Irvine. I sat down with both of them to talk about their work.
IVA GUEORGUIEVA & LIAT YOSSIFOR Barbara Pflaumer: Iva, your artwork is very high energy, complex and coloristic—tell me about what motivates you? Has it evolved to its current state or was it more or less consistent in imagery? Iva Gueorguieva: I feel as though ten years ago it was much easier for me to talk about my work (laughing)... Pflaumer: The more you do it the less you want to talk about it... 22
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Gueorguieva: When people Google my name a bunch of really dense images come up. Pflaumer: Very dense and very energetic... Gueorguieva: What’s interesting is that the way I make the paintings is very slow, but they come across as a highly energetic visual experience. and yet the making is slow. I work with small brushes on large canvases, and I also work with collage, so there’s a lot of cutting of pieces of
Mast Womb, 114 x 68 x 22â€?, acrylic, collage, oil, paper, linen, muslin, wood and wire 2014.
I have always been very interested in the history of synesthesia and the history of artists and musicians trying to explore it—and, of course, colors have meaning. It’s such a human experience; it blows my mind when I think about what does a fly see, what does a dog see?
Wave, 80 x 80” acrylic, collage and oil on canvas 2014. 24
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muslin or linen that are glued onto the surface. There are parts of the process that are fast and there are parts that are slow. I start with parts on the floor and I cut, cut, cut. Pflaumer: Do you paint it and then put it on or put it on and then paint it? Gueorguieva: Both, but either way but it’s a fast maneuver—it has to be because of the glue. I’m cutting a shape and then I’m obliterating, in an instant, the whole composition made previously. Pflaumer: So it changes all the time. Gueorguieva: With the fabric the kind of the changes I make are pretty dramatic—a massive obliteration of the canvas. Color has always been pretty important—I have always been very interested in the history of synesthesia and the history of artists and musicians trying to explore it —and, of course, colors have meaning. It’s such a human experience; it blows my mind when I think about what does a fly see, what does a dog see? I still remember a time in my childhood when I thought everything in the past was black and white. There’s a beauty and absurdity to the experience of color, thinking about color, working with color. My father is colorblind, and I know working on a painting it changes all the time. What I had thought was a predominately orange painting is actually a blue painting or a red painting. Pflaumer: So you don’t sketch your artwork out? When looking at a blank canvas you don’t plot anything? Gueorguieva: No, I can’t wait to get in there and so the compositions are fractured and there are multiple points of view, multiple perspectives, multiple vanishing points—kind of Futuristic—reminiscent of Italian Futurism, in the approach to space and simultaneity. Often the first reaction is overwhelming, and sometimes people get so overwhelmed they have to look away or look until they find their way in.
Pflaumer: You both do, for want of a better term, abstract art. Would you take exception to that characterization? Liat Yossifor: I don’t try to empty the shapes; for me, the body and the figure are always there. I know people see it as abstraction but I am not interested in figuration and abstraction – those two big categories. If a face pops in there then, as silly as that sounds, let there be a face. Pflaumer: Forgive my use of the term “abstract,” but to me you are abstract painters and I was wondering whether you ever explored figurative painting—did it ever intrigue you? Yossifor: My first work in L.A. was portraits— monochromatic portraits—and I was a figurative painter until 2010 and I had a crisis. Pflaumer: Did you get sick of doing figurative work? Yossifor: Not at all, it was a crisis of meaning. The way I was handling the figure in a sociopolitical context was suffocating me, and for me to break out as a painter I had to let go of the subjects that were associated with these issues. It was really more like breaking with some sort of meaning. Gueorguieva: It’s interesting you say that because I had a very similar kind of experience. I had a realization in college, where I studied philosophy. When I got to graduate school I had a lot of questions, ideas; I had read a lot and I tried to paint from that place and it was not working. I had to actively break away from that kind of justification for the work. Yossifor: The explanation was to break away from literal language and that resulted in abstraction.
American Vortex, 87 x 71”, acrylic, collage and oil on canvas 2014
Pflaumer: Tell me more about that. Gueorguieva: I got an email from an old friend of mine from graduate school; she’s a painter. She was talking about how more and more she 25
Liat Yossifor, Notes II, Figure II, 20 x 16 inches, oil on linen, 2015
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emotion of making that show be composed in a way that starts and ends like a musical dance. I don’t listen to music while I paint; I listen to it on my breaks. I don’t want to translate music, that’s really important to me. There’s such a relationPflaumer: Do you think these young artists who ship with painting in my work, and the painting talk about their work, in very general terms, make should speak its own musical language. A lot of the language is similar between music and dance less interesting or inferior work? Gueorguieva: It’s not a judgment of but a de- and painting, but I never really wanted to illusscription of the state of things. I find it less in- trate another self. teresting than looking at a painting. I was just at LACMA at the Hudson River exhibition, and Pflaumer: So with the “Eight Movements” are there are these crazy paintings of landscapes. you numbering the paintings, movement one, I would have dismissed traditional landscape movement two, or are you not titling them at all years ago and just walked past, but I was so by assigning an emotion to them individually? drawn into these paintings: the light, the space, Yossifor: I can never assign—there isn’t that the mood—there was something revealed there, kind of planning. The way I work is a very fast like a communication happening of another process; it’s recording movements of the body realm. In the Peter Huyghe exhibition next door over three days, in each painting. So when I I was bombarded with a discourse, which was work on a show, I paint for three days and then I much more familiar territory for me in some ways scrap it off and then again three more days until because I was aware of the dystopian fantasies I get the take that I want. So a series of work and references to the animal world and the hu- is like me moving for months before the show man world and the machine and destruction and with take one, take two, take three and then I let all the stuff I am emotionally and experientially the painting stand. So the end result is like one connected to, and yet walking next door to the painting is dark and messy and one is celebraHudson River exhibit and looking at these quiet tory and it could be about politics, or the sex I had last night or whatever. It’s really open and paintings was harder in many ways. honest in that way and I think it should be that. Pflaumer: Is there a correlation in either of your I don’t want to fake it; it is really what happens in my studio. work with music? Yossifor: Actually this fits right into what is happening with me right now. Tomorrow I’m ship- Pflaumer: When you say you scrape it do you ping a show I’ve entitled “Eight Movements,” mean you take off the previous work you have and I’m kind of nervous about how I’m going to done on that canvas? compose it in the space. The idea for me was Yossifor: The whole thing. it’s kind of a continuous painting which adds up to one. It’s a fast process that moves through Pflaumer: All the way down to the nubs? a body of work really quickly, and I give into it Yossifor: To zero. It’s really like recording moveand it starts to reflect a lot of different moods. ment but there is also a critical side to it, the When I was making them, I thought, well, let’s editing side. While you work on a painting for make it a movement and allow—for lack of a months, you edit and you get distance and then better word, its not an art word—let’s allow the you come back. is seeing, especially with younger artists, that they are so attached to the conversation around their work that they don’t think about the making necessarily.
So the end result is like one painting is dark and messy and one is celebratory and it could be about politics, or the sex I had last night or whatever. It’s really open and honest in that way and I think it should be that. I don’t want to fake it; it is really what happens in my studio.
Pflaumer: When you do this do you have all eight canvases out? You can literally go from canvas to canvas to canvas? Yossifor: Yes, and sometimes the best work happens two days before you ship it. Pflaumer: But how does it dry? Yossifor: My work is never dry. Pflaumer: How can you ship it? Yossifor: Everybody hates me for that. Pflaumer: Seriously, on a practical level how does this work? Yossifor: It’s screwed from the back and suspended in a wooden box. Pflaumer: Wow. Oil paintings take forever to dry anyway. Yossifor: Oil paintings technically take a year to dry, and I am not going to make a show a year in advance so I just gave up on that. A friend of mine told me a story about putting his finger into the work of a famous impasto painter and it went right through. Pflaumer: Stop! Yossifor: And he was a collector. I asked him if he told the gallery and he said no because then he would have had to buy the painting.
Liat Yossifor, Notes III (detail), 17 x 17 1/2 Inches, oil on linen, 2015 28
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Pflaumer: That’s terrifying—vandalism! Of course museums are always saying, “don’t touch” but the conservation departments are constantly finding evidence of fingerprints. … Liat, were you influenced/inspired by Agnes Martin? Yossifor: Sure, Ed Reinhardt, etc.—there’s a whole history to that and when I started working with monochrome I had to be educated about the history of the monochrome. At some point, at least in terms of what I’m doing now, I feel as though I had broken away from it. I understand the work of the monochromaticists but that’s not the point of it.
Pflaumer: It’s circumstance that it’s monochromatic? Yossifor: The reason that it is monochromatic now is because I move so fast until all the colors cancel each other out and make it gray. It’s all about cancellation and sabotage and I don’t even love the gray. If I had to choose maybe I would want it to be a different color but it is the result of the process. When you are young and taking a painting class, the teacher would tell you not to move too fast or it will become mud and my grays are a bit of a mud. Pflaumer: But that’s your intent ultimately, isn’t it? Yossifor: It is my intent for the colors to cancel each other out. When you take opposite colors based on color theory, when you mix colors together they do cancel each other out and you end up with a brownish gray or a green gray and I think I am in love with that area so maybe I am in love with the gray. So maybe I’m wrong and it’s not about the monochrome but about the process. Pflaumer: For the collector, the museumgoer, the curator—how can they know about your process or is it important that they know? Gueorguieva: In my opinion it’s a matter of education.
see Eight Movements March 19 - April 18, 2015 Ameringer McEnery Yohe Gallery, NY www.amy-nyc.com
Pflaumer: That may be true but isn’t it exclusionary? It puts a lot of people on the wrong side of that equation. Gueorguieva: Well, what I mean by that is there’s a process fostering the ability to look at a painting closely. It’s all there—sustained looking but how do you foster sensitivity to learning to see? If people look at a painting closely and say “I don’t get it” and keep going or all they care to do is look at the label, that’s what I meant about education. Yossifor: It has to be experiential—just living 29
Pflaumer: But as we were talking earlier about conservation—how do you cope with dust and dirt on a wet painting? Yossifor: Paint is a skin and it changes over time. Yossifor and Gueorguieva: They are living things. Gueorguieva: There’s a certain responsibility Pflaumer: It’s like a marriage—you have to work but there are chemical reactions that are ongoing; they yellow if somebody smoked next to on your relationship. Yossifor: This is important to me, the way the them, or bleach from cleaning products affects art world handles painting. It is on a level like a them. court painter and they expect to have to read and educate themselves for other genres but Pflaumer: Those are things you cannot control, when they come to painting the painting is sup- but what I am specifically asking about is when posed to do everything for them. Why do I have you are making a work are you cognizant of the to do something more accessible? long game? Gueorguieva: Not only that but on the one Yossifor: I hired a conservator to look at my work hand the problem is exactly what you are de- and give me advice on how to protect an impasto scribing and on the other hand there is a kind of painting, and his advice was to make it as safe as obsession we have with information. If you are possible, which is what I am doing and there are at a dinner party and you are talking about in- a lot of little things I have to manage. They have formation, it’s a much more difficult thing to say to be on minimum panels, and I have to remove that I had an experience with a painting. It’s a some of the old excess, but he ultimately said quieter, more difficult experience. In some ways to me this is an age-old problem where artists we are doubly marginalized. The critical atten- have to weigh the future of the work versus extion is a little bit lazy. perimentation. I took a lot of his advice but not to the point where I stopped making the work. Pflaumer: This is why curators don’t like labels It’s not that hard to get linen on panel or make because they want people to look at the art, not sure the right paint is better but when he told read labels. … When you are making art, and me you don’t want to go more than a quarter you are feeling what you are feeling and you inch thickness, I lost him there. A curator came want to say what you’re feeling in a specific way, over and said, “your work is performative,” and do you ever stop and think, OMG this is going the painting continued to perform over time, it to fall apart in 10 years? Or I shouldn’t do this is about movement and air moves them and the because it’s not going to last. Or do I have a sun moves them, they are living. I kind of like the responsibility to make sure it is constructed in a idea that they will get wrinkled and old like me as I get older, but I am not sure collectors will like it. certain way so it doesn’t fall apart? Gueorguieva: Paintings in a way are pretty durable—I tell collectors that not only are they col- Pflaumer: You are both originally from other lecting a painting they can also make a pretty countries. How does that influence the work you durable construction out of it. I had a painting make? fly 20 feet into the air from a pick up truck and Yossifor: We have this thing between us that land in traffic and it was totally fine. we both came here at 16 in the same year; Iva with a painting and giving it a chance over and over again. People come to my studio and they expect the painting to give itself to them like a naked woman and I say no, stick with it, educate yourself, and ask me questions. I want to torture my audience a little bit.
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from Bulgaria and my family from Israel but my father’s family was originally from Bulgaria. Gueorguieva: Both of our fathers are engineers and we have these amazing, loving mothers and every American tells us there’s something wrong and we need therapy for it. Pflaumer: Why did you come to the United States? Yossifor: My father is an engineer and he left a year before us to find work here. It is hard to know exactly why he left, but Israel is a very intense place to live. Obviously more intense for a Palestinian than an Israeli but it is a very fear driven, panicky place and it was the second Intifada at the time we left. He wanted a different life for us. Pflaumer: Is there a connection between your Israeli self and your American self and the art you make? Yossifor: I am going to talk for both of us because we handle artwork the same way. We bring ourselves to the studio every day, and when you bring yourself you bring all of it. You bring the Israeliness, the Bulgarianness, the gender—all of that is there and if you want to open yourself up to it in a way it is all there. It is something coded in a different way than ‘90s identity politics. Gueorguieva: A friend looked at my work and said it was somehow foreign or European and that it made him realize how American he was. … I met Liat’s paintings before I met her, and I fell in love with the work. I went to a show in Pomona and she had a show in the project space and there was a series of four black paintings. There was this connection, something about the work. Even though I have been here for a really long time there are certain aspects of American culture that I don’t relate to. It takes a decade to learn the language and takes another decade to learn the humor, it takes forever - trying to
understand Jeff Koons who I can understand intellectually, however, the humor was outside my frame of reference. I grew up with very different kinds of objects in the home. There are other sides to Pop Art I don’t connect to at all, aside from Warhol, who was an immigrant, so his work feels very familiar in a way. What I am trying to say is that the immigration thing is different for me. Our families came here in a very dramatic way, unlike people who say they came here to study or a met a guy—our parents made that very dramatic decision to take their children and go across many countries and borders, and the thing is we left we didn’t just come here. The relationships with friends and relatives are damaged forever, you are severing relationships, and it is violent, there’s a violence to immigration. Yossifor: I didn’t have to go into the army and at one point I thought that I would be a soldier, and instead two years later I am in San Francisco smoking pot. I would write to my friends in Israel and they didn’t understand; there was a disconnect and it continued until there was no one left. But it is very fluid here in L.A. Pflaumer: No one has an identity here. Gueorguieva: My paintings in Baltimore, my paintings in Philadelphia, my paintings in New Orleans, my paintings in L.A.—I was driven by wondering what is going to happen in this place. It is much more about the micro-ecology of place and that’s interesting to me.
GORDON PARKS: SEGREGATION STORY
On view at the High Museum of Art Atlanta, GA Through June 7 www.high.org
Steidl/The Gordon Parks Foundation
ordon Parks: Segregation Story showcases more than forty color photographs by trailblazing African American artist Gordon Parks, many on view for the first time. Created for an influential 1950s Life magazine article, these photographs offer a powerful look at the daily life and struggles of a multigenerational family living in segregated Alabama.” —High.org All images by Gordon Parks (American, 1912–2006). Courtesy of and copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation.
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Ondria Tanner and Her Grandmother Window-Shopping, Mobile, Alabama, 1956 33
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(CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT)
Untitled, Shady Grove, Alabama, 1956; Untitled, Shady Grove, Alabama, 1956; Mr. and Mrs. Albert Thornton, Mobile, Alabama, 1956; Store Front, Mobile Alabama, 1956. 34
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The images Gordon Parks captured in 1956 helped the world know the status quo of separate and unequal, and recorded for history an era that we should always remember, a time we never want to return to, even though, to paraphrase the boxer Joe Louis, we did the best we could with what we had. â€“Charlayne Hunter-Gault
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Outside Looking In, Mobile, Alabama, 1956 36
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Department Store, Mobile, Alabama, 1956 37
Portland Art Museum, Oregon portlandartmuseum.org
IN PASSIONATE PURSUIT THE ARLENE AND HAROLD SCHNITZER COLLECTION AND LEGACY curated by Bruce Guenther
rlene and Harold Schnitzer developed a preeminent collection of Northwest art during a sixty-year period of impassioned acquisition. Beginning with an intellectual quest to learn more about art history and inspired by a vibrant and vocal group of young Portland artists teaching at the Museum Art School (now the Pacific Northwest College of Art), the Schnitzers became enthusiastic collectors. They would champion and support regional artists over many years and, through their example and Arleneâ€™s Fountain Gallery of Art, kindled a community-wide passion for collecting local art. Their joy in collecting developed a diverse, colorful, intellectually acute, and eclectic body of work that grew to inform their lives and the lives of art lovers around the region.
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The Schnitzer’s joy in collecting developed a diverse, colorful, intellectually acute, and eclectic body of work that grew to inform their lives and the lives of art lovers around the region.
(OPPOSITE PAGE) George Johanson, Durer’s Rabbit, 1978, Acrylic on canvas, Collection of Arlene and Harold Schnitzer. (THIS PAGE, TOP) Sherrie Wolf, Tulips with Concert of Birds; Reference: Frans Snyder, 1579–1657, 2008, Acrylic on canvas, Oil on canvas, Collection of Arlene and Harold Schnitzer. (BOTTOM LEFT) Marie Watt, Almanac (Glacier Park, Granny Beebe, Satin Ledger), Bronze and wool, Collection of Arlene and Harold Schnitzer.. (BOTTOM RIGHT) C.S. Price, By the River, 1927, Oil onboard, Collection of Arlene and Harold Schnitzer. (NEXT PAGE) Michele Russo, Make Glad The Day, 1984, Oil on canvas, Collection of Arlene and Harold Schnitzer.
IN PASSIONATE PURSUIT: THE ARLENE AND HAROLD SCHNITZER COLLECTION AND LEGACY
Though there were a few exceptions, such as pioneering modernist C.S. Price (18741950), who is handsomely represented by forty-three works of art, the nucleus of the collection centered on Museum Art School faculty of the post-World War II period. The group includes Yale-educated painter and art history instructor Michele Russo, painters Louis Bunce, Harry Widman, and George Johanson, and sculptor Manuel Izquierdo. Most of these artists were with the Fountain Gallery of Art from its opening in 1961 through its closure in 1986, and their work is well represented in the Schnitzer Collection. A hallmark of the collection is its propensity to follow artists’ careers for decades, as with charismatic, urbane Louis Bunce, who is represented by a total of fifty-seven paintings, prints, and drawings spanning more than fifty years. Michele Russo, Arlene’s inspirational professor and initial mentor, has fifty works in the collection. More than fifteen artists are represented by at least twenty works each, as significant demonstration of the Schnitzer’s belief in the individual and their willingness to contribute to an artist’s success over time. Stemming directly from the Schnitzers’ passionate advocacy for art and artists, the Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Endowment for Northwest Art, established in 2004, ensures ongoing stewardship and further development of the Museum’s Northwest collection. Funding was gifted to create the position of Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Curator of Northwest Art and to support exhibition and acquisition funds. This trio of endowments guarantees an emphasis on Northwest programming and will help sustain the art and artists of the Northwest. —Bonnie Laing-Malcolmson From In Passionate Pursuit: The Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Collection and Legacy, curated by Bruce Guenther, Portland Art Museum, Oregon, portlandartmuseum.org. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.
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“Revealing, serendipitous encounters” The San Francisco Chronicle
“Magical moments” Shutterbug Magazine
“Rewarding...Fascinating... Beautiful” San Jose Mercury News
Looking at Art/the Art of Looking Photographs by Richard Nagler
In museums around the world, Richard Nagler rapidly walked the crowded galleries waiting to document spilt-second encounters between individuals and works of art. In the resulting photographs, the viewer becomes a work of art and a familiar art piece takes on freshness and vibrancy. The art, the photographer, and the museumgoer come together in a delightful and spontaneous moment of creativity. We invite you to join them.
Get a 30% discount on the hardcover and paperback edition through December 24, 2014. Code: LOOKART 41
TRANSFORMATIVE GIFTS: HITS AND MISSES
ecently cosmetics billionaire Leonard Lauder bestowed on the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York his personal collection of 81 masterpieces of Cubist art that dramatically elevate the museum’s holdings in Modern Art. Comprised of significant work by Picasso, Gris, Léger, and Braque, this gift literally transforms the museum’s assets in a previously underrepresented area of 20th century art. In addition, the collection details the story of the collaboration between Picasso and Braque as they invented Cubism (they famously called each other Orville and Wilbur and worked together virtually every night on their newfound exploration of visual expression). The Met mounted an exhibition, which, among other things, taught the viewer how to distinguish each artist’s work. Over the years many museums have been recipients of the largesse of wealthy donors, and not always with the glee that the Lauder gift has received. During the last two centuries, particularly in the United States, museums have been created and grown as a result of donors who choose to share their collections with the public. It must be presumed that many collectors with a passion for a particular kind of art believe that the works they are gathering should ultimately be placed in a museum. Historically, museums welcomed, if not encouraged, gifts from these individuals, and often the curatorial staffs worked alongside the donors assisting in the selection process, with the long-term goal of augmenting their museums’ collections. By the same token, many an august institution has found itself the unwitting benefactor of artwork it doesn’t want or collect. A hundred years ago these gifts would accompany highly desirable objects but would also be handcuffed to lesser quality works of art. In today’s world, museums, most of which suffer from limited space, conservation capabilities, and funding constraints, have established guidelines for donations, often requiring the giver to endow the gift, which can come as a shock to some would-be philanthropists who presume their generosity should be welcomed without qualifications. However, there are examples that more than justify a museum’s reluctance to accept some works into their collections, and most of these institutions are already encumbered with previous mistakes that they cannot sell, show, or conserve. Let’s examine a few examples of wins and losses.
Fernand Léger, Composition (The Typographer), 1918-19, Oil on canvas 98 1/4 x 72 1/4 in. / 249.6 x 183.5 cm, Promised Gift from the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection, © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris 42
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MUSEUMS One example of a painful museum experience focuses on the collections of the late industrialist Armand Hammer. Hammer, a longtime trustee of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, collected prints and paintings from a variety of areas ranging from Vincent Van Gogh and John Singer Sargent to a particularly distinguished collection of prints by the English artist William Holgarth. So great was the latter collection that LACMA had a signed agreement with Hammer that his gatherings would ultimately reside at the museum. To that end the museum stopped collecting Holgarth prints since they acknowledged they could never duplicate Hammer’s wealth in that arena and justifiably believed his treasure trove would be donated to them. Then Mr. Hammer changed his mind, deciding instead to open an eponymous vanity collection, and LACMA was left without the industrialist or his vast holdings. LACMA would face another similar situation with one of its trustees, the late Norton Simon, who amassed after the Second World War one of the greatest assemblages of Western and Indian art in the world. Simon promised it to them and then he too had a change of heart, subsumed the Pasadena Museum of Art, and transformed it into the Norton Simon Museum, where his magnificent collection now resides. LACMA learned important lessons from these agonizing experiences, so when the transplanted Englishman Arthur Gilbert, a Beverly Hills real estate magnate, attempted to enlist the museum into showing, conserving, and offering expanded exhibition space to his collection of “micro-mosaics,” the museum stood its ground and declined. Gilbert, who titled his mosaics “micro” due to the extremely small size of the individual tiles used to create the images, was the premiere collector of them, and while extraordinary feats of craftsmanship they did not represent items usually found on the collecting path of most major museums. When LACMA, under the leadership of the late Dr. Andrea Rich, said they were not willing to expand gallery space to exhibit the works, Gilbert gave the collection to the Spencer House in London and neither side ever looked back. Finally LACMA’s pain was assuaged with a transformative gift from Henri and Janice Lazaroff, who donated their previously little-known compilation of Modernist works, including 20 Picassos, watercolors by Miro and Kandinsky, a sculpture by Joan Miro, two Henry Moore sculptures, and many other treasured works of art. This gift allowed the museum to “significantly expand what is acknowledged to be an incomplete and spotty collection at the museum,” Senior Curator of Twentieth Century Art Stephanie Barron was quoted at the time. While the Lazaroff gift made past wounds less acute, the pain never goes completely away; it’s like losing the Super Bowl in a very close game.
Woman with a Book, 1932, Pablo Picasso, Spanish, 1881-1973, Oil on canvas, 51-3/8 x 38-1/2 in. (130.5 x 97.8 cm), The Norton Simon Foundation, F.1969.38.10.P, © 2015 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Reproduction, including downloading of ARS works is prohibited by copyright laws and international conventions without the express written permission of Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 45
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MUSEUMS Another example revolves around former Ambassador to the Court of St. James, Walter Annenberg, who when deciding where his collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterworks would reside after his death, collaborated with four museums on an exhibition tour. All four institutions hoped that the 50 masterpieces by 18 of the greatest artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries would become part of their permanent collections. The museums were the National Gallery of Art (NGA), the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA), the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met). In the end, the Met secured the gift, making concessions to the donor pertaining to placement of the collection and guaranteeing that it would be shown in toto instead of integrating the works into already existing galleries devoted to the artists. Before the Ambassador announced his decision, each museum valiantly attempted to impress the donor with what they would do to highlight his collection to greatest advantage as well as make a specific case for why their respective institutions were most worthy of securing it. With the Philadelphia Museum of Art, whose galleries already had an impressive collection of works by Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists, the case was made that the addition of the Annenberg Collection would make Philadelphia the greatest center of holdings of 19th-century French art in the world (if taken in connection with the Barnes Foundation that, at that time, resided a mere 10 miles away). LACMA’s case was that as the youngest of the four institutions it could never hope to duplicate a collection of similar importance and hence the Annenberg Collection would make their museum a destination location for the art in a city that already enjoyed extremely high tourism. The NGA believed that the Ambassador’s connection to the Washington establishment made them the obvious choice, but ultimately Mr. Annenberg chose the Met because it was the largest and most prestigious museum in the country (although the grumblings heard around the art world were that the Annenberg Collection would make the least difference to a museum of the Met’s size and existing collections). The Met doesn’t always win. When the late financier Robert Lehman left his collection to the museum he stipulated that the over 2,500 works had to be exhibited together in a setting that evoked the atmosphere of the home he and his father (who had begun the collection) had lived in with the art throughout their lives. Needless to say this caused a furor, partially because the museum had to expand into Central Park but also because the enclave, supported by the Robert Lehman Foundation, has a separate curator and staff while “enjoying” a notoriously frosty relationship with the museum itself. Additionally the Met must get permission from the foundation for the exhibition of outside work. In the final analysis, museums often find themselves perched on a slippery slope. On the one hand, they depend on the generosity of the collectors in their midst, while on the other hand, these same collectors have to be managed so that any given museum doesn’t lose control of what is ultimately in the institution’s best interests. In the 21st century this is somewhat easier to manage because museums are less willing to accept gifts with too many strings attached. Georges Braque, Trees at L’Estaque, L’Estaque, summer 1908, Oil on canvas 31 5/8 x 23 11/16 in. / 80.3 x 60.2 cm, Promised Gift from the Leonard A. Lauder Cubist Collection, © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris 47
REVIEW n a purely physical level, Peter Plagens’ Bruce Nauman: The True Artist is a beautiful object. The book, replete with large-scale reproductions of Nauman’s work, comes in its own hardcover box, and the spine is left artfully exposed. Beyond the book’s physical dimensions, Plagens has also contributed something unique to the current scholarship on Nauman. Plagens, an abstract painter who also held a fourteen-year stint as the art critic for Newsweek, has known Nauman since the 1970s when the two of them were just establishing themselves in the art world of Southern California. In fact, it was Plagens who slammed Nauman’s first retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in his 1972 Artforum review; yet then in 1975 Plagens makes an
BRUCE NAUMAN: The True Artist by Peter Plagens review by Aleesa Pitchamarn Alexander Phaidon phaidon.com
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appearance in Nauman’s film Pursuit. These men have been in each other’s orbits for some time and in many different capacities, as Plagens relays in the text. Nauman actually consented to the pursuit of this project in part because of Plagens’ presence, as despite Plagens’ early reactions to Nauman’s work, there exists a basis of mutual respect between the two men.
All of this lends an at once personal and critical account of Nauman’s career as “one of the most, if the not the most, influential artists of the last halfcentury.” Avoiding the overly theoretical jargon that can often come with discussion of contemporary art, Plagens has made a complicated artist more accessible to the general reader. Part biography, memoir, and illustrated career survey, the book not only engagingly examines Nauman’s work but also constructs for the reader a vivid impression of who Nauman is as a person. Plagens traces Nauman from his early formative days as an MFA student in the nascent graduate program at UC Davis. He relays anecdotes which gesture at both Nauman’s seriousness and intellectual rigor as well as his dry sense of humor. He places much emphasis on Nauman’s apparent “Americanness,” as demonstrated by his practical Midwestern temperament and his choice to eschew city life and instead reside on his New Mexican horse ranch. The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein is presented as one of Nauman’s earliest and most important influences, and this is especially apparent in the artist’s explorations of text and language in his work. Thus, positioning Nauman as a kind of “philosopher-artist” seems apt when considering the entirety of his oeuvre. Rather than make work on any kind of clear trajectory or linear progression, Nauman instead favors finding solutions to separate but related artistic problems. This is also reflected in the fact that Nauman works in a variety of media and is considered as a particularly important figure with
regard to his contributions to video and installation art. As such, this part of his body of work is difficult to represent in book form, though the text does a fairly nice job, with pages of film stills from various performances and videos. His manipulation of media is as varied as the kinds of themes his work often addresses: sex, death, the uses of the body, the physical and metaphysical aspects of what it means to be human. The title of the book comes from his 1967 neon piece, The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Mystic Truths. With Nauman, it is difficult to tell whether he is being serious or tongue-in-cheek with such a title, or perhaps to what degree are both sentiments implied. Plagens admits that he “was wrong” about his initial assessment of Nauman’s LACMA show. One strength of Plagens’ writing is that he is honest about his current and previous opinions of Nauman’s work. He acknowledges his ebbs and flows of ambivalence and is frank about his bouts of confusion, admitting that especially during his early career “Nauman’s art bothered me. It was both psychologically and culturally threatening, and the very fact that it bothered me bothered me.” In this way he sympathizes with potentially similar feelings of bewilderment on the part of any reader or viewer of Nauman’s work, as such responses are almost inevitable. In addition, this approach allows Plagens to avoid any unnecessary fanfare over Nauman’s art. This ultimately pays respect to the artist in a more nuanced way than is possible with uncritical and generalized applause. 49
NATHALIE DU PASQUIER
DONâ€™T TAKE THESE DRAWINGS SERIOUSLY 1981-87 edited and designed by Omar Sosa
NATHALIE DU PASQUIER:
It was April 2013, fiddling in a bunch of boxes, that Omar Sosa and I selected these drawings without really having any plan in mind. They belong to the past: I have become a painter since then, and as for Omar, he was not yet born or he was just an infant. Omar wanted to make a book. We scanned and printed a great number of sheets, and little by little, on the floor, the shape of the book began to appear. We were fascinated by the world that was designing itself. Omar, because it was all new to him, and myself, because I was looking from the outside at the forgotten girl I used to be, full of serious ideas about everything.
powerHouse Books powerhousebooks.com
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DEYAN SUDJIC: Nathalie Du Pasquier is one of those people who are able to make the awkward conversation about what, if anything, divides art from design seem stilted and redundant. She didn’t have a formal education in either, but she has done both sometimes at the same time—mostly on her own, from time to time with George Sowden. She has a studio in Milan now, filled with the intoxicating scent of oil paint. It’s in a high-ceilinged industrial building, the walls neatly stacked with carefully stretched canvasses. These early drawings were made in a sketchbook on a table in her bedroom. Her current studio is full of the evidence of a disciplined, purposeful creative energy. There is an easel, a trolley stacked with tubes of paint, and well-looked-after tubs of brushes. It is the workplace of an artist. Over the course of three decades, she has produced a wide range of objects, fabrics and textiles, and furniture. Sometimes these have been at the front of her mind, at others they have faded as painting has preoccupied her. What interests her most is looking at and observing the world of places and cities and things, how people are shaped by them, and how they can perceive them; a fascination that can drive both art and design. Her work over the years has explored various ways of representing what she sees. At the beginning, the drawings were naïve looking, but not innocent: decorative, flat patterns, mostly frontal. As her skills developed she demonstrated an interest in exploring the ambiguity of surfaces and how they are represented. [Her early work] still has an extraordinary freshness. It was an energy that was still evident in 2006 when Miuccia Prada took some of the patterns that Du Pasquier had made three decades earlier and used it for her Miu Miu collection without authorization. This was followed by other brands looking back at Du Pasquier’s work from the 1980s, and using it for contemporary projects, both in fashion and home-design textiles, from American Apparel to Wrong for Hay. This is not a nostalgic revival, it is a reminder of the continuing relevance of Du Pasquier’s singular and evolving vision. From Nathalie Du Pasquier: Don’t Take These Drawings Seriously 1981-87, edited and designed by Omar Sosa, powerHouse Books, powerhousebooks.com. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.
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aul Cézanne’s portraits of his wife and most frequent model, Hortense Fiquet, profoundly shaped his practice as a figure painter and stood as a paradigm for later artists. Pablo Picasso called Cézanne “my one and only master … the father of us all, and indeed, he is often 54
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named a painter’s painter.” If these quietly powerful paintings of Hortense Fiquet came to be acknowledged as a testing ground for Cézanne’s innovation and experimentation with paint on canvas, their subject and her vital partnership as model, mistress, wife, and mother have been willfully overlooked.
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my one and only master... the father of us all, and indeed, he is often named a painter’s painter. — Pablo Picasso Paul Cézanne met Hortense Fiquet in Paris in 1869. She was working not as a model at the Académie Suisse, where Cézanne drew informally at the mornings, but rather as a bookbinder. Although the circumstances of their first encounter are unknown, an early portrait (now lost) of the sensual twenty-two-year-old tells us that she was modeling for the artist by 1872. She would spend the rest of her life serving the extraordinary Paul Cézanne. Hortense Fiquet has not fared well in the writings on Cézanne, neither as his model nor as his wife. With little understanding of her as a human being, critics have taken the portraits as platform for character analysis, citing her sour expression and her remote, impenetrable demeanor. Over time, these unflattering observations have crafted a wholly undeserved reputation, in and out of Cézanne’s studio. One need only read the few extant let-
Madame Cézanne (Hortense Fiquet, 1850–1922) in a Red Dress, Paul Cézanne (French, Aix-en-Provence 1839–1906 Aix-en-Provence), 1888–90, Oil on canvas, 45 7/8 x 35 1/4 in. ( 116.5 x 89.5 cm), The Mr. and Mrs. Henry Ittleson, Jr. Purchase Fund, 1962. Paul Cézanne (French, 1839–1906). Madame Cézanne in a Red Armchair (Madame Cézanne in a Striped Dress) (detail), ca. 1877. Oil on canvas. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Bequest of Robert Treat Paine, 2nd. Madame Cézanne (Hortense Fiquet, 1850–1922) in the Conservatory, Paul Cézanne (French, Aix-en-Provence 1839–1906 Aix-en-Provence), 1891, Oil on canvas, 36 1/4 x 28 3/4 in. (92.1 x 73 cm), Line: Bequest of Stephen C. Clark, 1960.
ters in the hand of Hortense Fiquet to recognize her strengths and the qualities of character that redeem her from memory. Just as Hortense Fiquet’s likeness refuses to come forth with clues to her character, so, too, does the manner in which she was painted, often painstakingly, confound us at first glance. It is thanks to the opportunity to closely examine these pictures as objects, as works of art, as clues to a long relationship, that we come a little closer to Cézanne, and to the still-ephemeral qualities of his remarkable life. —Dita Armory, Acting Associate Curator in Charge and Administrator, Robert Lehman Collection, The Metropolitan Museum of Art From Madame Cézanne, Metropolitan Museum of Art, metropolitanmuseum. org. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved. 57
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The conceit of My First Time is the interviewee’s first museum experience and what it meant to them, whether it was the museum itself or a particular work of art that moved them.
Eric Gibson For the past 16 years Eric Gibson has been the Arts Editor at the Wall Street Journal. His previous work was as a writer and critic for The New Criterion, Art News and the Washington Times.
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y father’s company transferred to London in 1960 when I had just turned 7. My parents were interested in art and they would take my two sisters and me with them to museums. Art museums back then were very different from what they are now. They were not user friendly in any way at all, and I have this recollection of the seemingly endless galleries whose walls were covered in acres of brown canvas. I especially disliked sculpture because it was all these brown and white lumps that seemed to be strategically placed to slow my passage to the exit. I had no time for modern art whatsoever, but when I was 15 I was watching the TV news one night and there was a brief segment about the Tate Gallery giving a retrospective to Barbara Hepworth. It had her in the museum talking about her work. There were these abstract sculptures and they had holes in them, which I thought was completely loony. One of her sculptures is called “Four Square Walkthrough,” and it’s four slabs of bronze stacked up like a house of cards that you were literally supposed to walk through. Afterward I turned to my mother and said, “There’s this crazy artist on TV who puts holes in her sculptures and makes things you are supposed to walk through.” She gently put me in
my place by saying, “Oh yes, it’s Barbara Hepworth—I am looking forward to seeing that exhibition.” So she took me with her and I didn’t dislike it but I really wasn’t bowled over. When I was next home from school on vacation somehow the Tate Gallery came up and my mother said there was an exhibition of Henry Moore. I said, “Who’s he?” and she said, “Well he’s kind of like Barbara Hepworth.” I thought, that’s good enough for me—sure, I’ll go with you. I walked in a skeptic and when I got in there I was completely blown away. Suddenly, yes, it was all abstract but it wasn’t just all abstract; his reclining figures were semi-abstract and so I could see they were close to something familiar. But I could also see he was doing something different. I made my mother take me back two or three more times and yet I still wanted to go again and finally she said to me: “I have seen it enough times go on your own.” I knew it had had this huge impact on me but it didn’t say to me this is the direction of my life, but art did become the most important thing in my life after that. Whenever I was home I would go to museums, and I always wanted to see more and more. Ultimately it did shape the direction of my life—it was that one moment. The irony too is that having hated sculpture, sculpture became my abiding passion.
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Fields of white and glimpses, flashes of blue, the blue of the western sky, or what I called to myself watch-face blue. It spoke to me of another world. â€” from Faithful and Virtuous Night: Poems by Louise Glick
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CONTRIBUTORS SPRING 2015 ALEESA PITCHAMARN ALEXANDER is a fifth year BONNIE LAING-MALCOLMSON is president of the combined MA/PhD student and a Doctoral Scholars Oregon College of Art & Craft. Central Fellow at UC Santa Barbara. Prior to graduate school, she worked as a curatorial intern in the Prints and HELEN MOLESWORTH is Chief Curator at The MuDrawings department at the Art Institute of Chicago. seum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA). A distinguished scholar, writer, and curator, Molesworth DITA ARMORY is the Acting Associate Curator in was previously at the Institute of Contemporary Art/ Charge and Administrator of The Robert Lehman ColBoston, where she oversaw a rigorous program of aclection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. claimed monographic and historical survey exhibitions and an emerging collection of contemporary art. DAVID BOHNETT is a philanthropist and technology entrepreneur committed to effecting positive change GORDON PARKS (November 30, 1912 â€“ March 7, through community building and social activism. In ad2006) was an American photographer, musician, writer dition to serving as Chair of the David Bohnett Founand film director. He is best remembered for his photodation, he is a Vice Chairman of the Board of the Los graphic essays for Life magazine and as the director of Angeles Philharmonic Association and Trustee of the the 1971 film Shaft. John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, amfAR (The Foundation for AIDS Research) and the Los AnLIAT YOSSIFOR earned her MFA from the University geles County Museum of Art (LACMA). of California, Irvine, 2002.Â She has been in numerous solo and group exhibitions. Yossifor completed her NATALIE DU PASQUIER was a member of the Milanresidencies at The Ucross Foundation, Claremont, WY based Memphis Group that pioneered post-modern in 2008 and at the Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt, furniture and fabric design in the 1980s; she has since Germany in 2010. Yossifor is represented by Ameringer focused on her painting career. | McEnery | Yohe Gallery, New York, and Anita Beckers Gallery, Frankfurt, Germany. ERIC GIBSON is editor of the Leisure & Arts page of The Wall Street Journal. He joined the Journal in 1998 as Foreground is published quarterly by Shelf Media an assistant editor and art critic for the Leisure & Arts Group LLC, PO Box 852321, Richardson, TX 75085. page, and was previously deputy editor of the Leisure Copyright 2014 by Shelf Media Group LLC. Subscrip& Arts page. tions are FREE, go to www.shelfmediagroup.com to subscribe. IVA GUEORGUIEVA was born in 1974 in Sofia, Bulgaria. She attended Goucher College, Baltimore, MD, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA and she received her MFA from the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, PA. Her work is included in many public and private collections including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; the Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minneapolis, MN; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA. 63
Published on Mar 31, 2015
Foreground fine art magazine. In this issue: David Bohnett, Helen Molesworth, Iva Gueorguieva, Liat Yossifer, Gordon Parks, Eric Gibson, Bru...