Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tadanori Yokoo

Ok, enough with the politics. Time for a pure visual coolness break.

The Wonders of Life on Earth

Yakuza Movies (1968)

Sleep, Crime and Falling (1965)

See lots more by this Japanese poster artist at Journey Around My Skull, a great blog about avant garde books and graphic art.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

J'aime Picasso!

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And I especially love A Life of Picasso: The Triumphant Years, 1917-1932. This book, as with the previous two volumes, is too overwhelming to try to reduce into a pithy blog post. Read it (but start with the first volume) and love it. Just to leave you with a taste, here are a few pits I liked.

On Classicism:
Picasso saw eye-to-eye with Stravinsky, who believed "the only critical exercise of value must take place in art, i.e., in pastiche or parody." [How postmodern!] Picasso chose parody.
On Picasso's relations with other artists:
Picasso seldom put lesser artists down. Time and again, he would discreetly give them money, buy their work or get dealers interested, and even marry them off. [Juan] Gris, however, was not a lesser artist. He had absorbed the lessons of cubism at Picasso's elbow and had gone on to take cubism a stage further by dint of calculations, the like of which Picasso and Braque always distrusted. Ironically, Gris's discoveries were so impressive that Picasso did not hesitate to take advantage of them.
On being rich:
Despite the devaluation of his work, Picasso suffered little from the crash. [...] Picasso was about to buy one of the most expensive cars at the Salon de l'Automobile, a large, luxurious Hispano-Suiza coupe de ville. Picasso, who had experienced greater poverty than most of his painter friends, ejoyed driving around, to Olga's dismay, in this ostentatious chaufffeured car wearing an old suit the worse for paint stains, cigarette burns, and plaster dust. As he said more than once, "I would like to live like a pauper with lots of money."

Monday, May 26, 2008

Houses in Motion

When I was an art student, I was fascinated with graffiti and animation, and thought it would be cool to somehow combine the two. I even planned to do an animated version of a Sprawl song, "Big Ass Jewel" (with such lyrics as "Big ass jewel/it's a fascist death tool/shooting multicolored lightning into George Rupp's pool") on an 8' time 4' piece of plywood. Only a camera malfunction kept this from really coming off.

There is no way it could have been one millionth as good as the animation below. This animated graffiti is titled Muto, and is by an artist called "Blu", and was painted on public walls in Buenos Aires. It's mindblowing.

MUTO a wall-painted animation by BLU from blu on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Eat a Botero

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Hat-tip to C-Monster. One of his (her?) commenters wrote, "you eat the botero, you become the botero!"

Monday, May 12, 2008

Beautiful Cars, Ugly Cars

This is sad news. I'd call it ironic, but that seems callous. The accident didn't have anything to do with art cars at all. Just a drunk idiot behind a regular old Pontiac.

Tom Jones, the curator of the Art Car Museum, drove Swamp Mutha by Ann Harithas (below) in the Art Car parade Saturday for the last time.

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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Physically Transformed Books

Kingdom, 2008, altered book

Brian Dettmer makes unusually beautiful sculptures out of books.

Webster Two Point Oh, 2008, altered book

Core 6, 2007, altered book

If there were ever objects made to simultaneously horrify and thrill a book-lover, Dettmer has made them. You can see lots more here. His work is on display at the Kinz, Tillou and Feigen gallery in NYC through June 14.

Hat-tip to

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Hunting Prize Update

No further news about the disqualified artists, but the winner has been announced. The winner is Wendy Wagner, a multi-media artist from Houston. She won for painting, of course--that's what the prize is all about. But I'm more familiar with her as a really cool animator. You can see some of her animation on her website. I first saw them a few weeks ago at Diverse Works. Here's one of her paintings:

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Perchabirdability, mixed media on birch panel, 2005.


Friday, April 25, 2008

Joan Fabian and the Hunting Prize

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The Opposite of Peace, 2007, by Joan Fabian

This painting by Joan Fabian was entered into the into the Hunting Prize, where she was one of the artists on their "short list." As I understand it, that means she made it through the first round of judging, in which she had sent them a digital image of the piece, they decided they liked it, and asked for the original to be sent. She sent the piece to them, at considerable expense. At this point, she was disqualified. Why?

I contacted one of the jurors, who were going to chose pieces by viewing the actual works, and he said they never seen my piece. I called a representative of Hunting and she told me that they had nothing to do with the disqualification process and that it was the jurors that did the disqualifying because it wasn't a "painting".
Way to dodge responsibility guys! Now this is admittedly a grey area. On the other hand, artists have been painting on shaped canvases and shaped pieces of wood for a long time, and if such a work was not a painting as far as the Hunting Prize is concerned, it should have been either 1) more clearly spelled out in the rules, or 2) disqualified when she sent the digital file in.

What is the Hunting Prize? It's an art prize given by Hunting PLC, an English oil services company. From 1981 to 2005, it was given in the U.K., but moved to Texas in 2006. The prize is astonishingly generous--$50,000.

So what's the big controversy? It has been suggested that the shaped wooden nature of the painting is not the problem, but the subject. In the jaundiced opinion of local art blog B.S. Houston, Hunting is a prize that exist for the purpose of "impressing very-very wealthy oil executives and their wives." He also points our that the sign up sheet requires you to acknowledge that
Any artwork that includes the use of bodily fluids, degradation of religion or government, and/or depiction of sexual acts or any other medium, presentation or topic objectionable to Hunting PLC will be automatically disqualified from the competition.
So here's the possibly nefarious disqualification. Maybe the Hunting Prize people didn't see the word "WAR" when they got the digital file (I didn't see it at first, either), and when they opened the crate . . . whoops. (Why the word "WAR" should be offensive is another issue, but Hunting seems pretty damn sensitive about potential offense.)

What do I think? Well, whatever their reason for disqualifying the work, they did wrong by Joan Fabian, who went through a lot of expense to have a crate built for the piece and to ship it, at the request of the Hunting Prize. Also, the Hunting Prize folks need to loosen up a bit. And finally, impressing oil executives and their wives (and husbands) is worth doing--also educating them about art. If you are an artist trying to make a living from art in Texas, these people will be among your customers. So as an artist, you need to reach out to them in some way. They don't all have bad taste after all--Jean and Dominique DeMenil proved that.

For me, as a disinterested observer of this scene, I got introduced to an interesting artist. Joan Fabian's work reminds me of a stew of Jim Nutt, Lari Pittman, Elizabeth Murray, and Frank Stella. So on that note, let's close with another one of her paintings.

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Playtime, 2005

Update: In the comments, an artist named Carlos tells a similar story:
I have also been given the boot by the HAP folks. The word that I got was that my work was too-3-D...

Yes, it is made up of objects and brakes the plane of the 2-d format. Yes,I did include all dimensions and materials used. Yes, I did spend a large amount of money to ship the work to Houston, Yes, I have to spend more money to get the work back.
This suggests the problem they had with Fabian's work was its three dimensionality, not its politics. But it also suggest the Hunting Prize folks didn't pay much attention to the digital files and information the artists submitted about their pieces. I wonder if any other painters who submitted "non-flat" works were rejected?

2nd Update: You can see Carlos Cuevas' rejected piece here. It has a bit of an Ed Kienholz/Michael Tracy vibe, though without either of those two artists' intensity. B.S. Houston still thinks it was the "offensive" nature of the works that got them rejected. Cuevas's assemblage has some religious elements, but doesn't seem particularly offensive to me. (But the Hunting Art Prize people may be exceptionally sensitive to possible offense, for all I know.) At the same time, HAP must have been blind not to see that this was essentially a mixed media three dimensional work when they got the slide. Curiouser and curiouser!

(Welcome Glasstire readers!)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Give Up in EDO

EDO--that's what this graffitist/gallerist is calling "east of downtown."

This is from the website give up. Maybe you've seen some of this necessarily anonymous artist's work pasted up here and there around town. He's a highly creative street artist using posters and billboards placed presumably without permission hither and yon, all with the uplifting message, "Give up."

He has a show up at the Aerosol Warfare gallery. (I think the guy with the cowboy hat in the video is part of Aerosol Warfare.) Aerosol Warfare is a collective of legal graffiti artists. You may have seen this house on Alabama at Almeda they did:

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Photo from HoustonSoReal.

So, the question is, how did I not know these guys had their own gallery?! I guess that means I'm old now.

(All of this via Neon Poisoning.)

Monday, April 14, 2008

Gary Panter is in New York (and I wish I was too)
(This Panter painting is not in the Clementine show as far as I know. But all the images from Supertouch went away, so I borrowed this image from a Billy Shire Gallery show.)

Wow, this show looks great. Panter is one of my favorite artists (ever since I first saw his work in RAW and Invasion of the Elvis Zombies). This gallery show at Clementine Gallery in New York sounds practically like a retrospective, but I'll echo Supertouch and proclaim that Panter really deserves a museum retrospective. (You listening Diverse Works? CAM?)

Panter has a book that is tantamount to a retrospective from the nice folks at PictureBox. Have I mentioned that my birthday is coming up? May 8th? I'm just sayin...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Suzanne Anker

Suzanne Anker's art is based on psychology and biology. In this wall drawing, she takes a familiar Rorschach test image and gives it a spooky feeling of volume and aliveness.

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The Sum of All Fears, 2002 (?)

She has also turned Rorschach blot images into mysterious sculptural objects which combine a kind of sun-bleached classicism with Antonio Gaudi-like organic shapes. They could almost be the carefully preserved bones of species of animals related to those painted by Jim Woodring.

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Bear, 2005

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Gossipers, 2005

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Crab, 2005

I think the combination of strangeness and delicacy draws me to these pieces just as it does with so much of Jim Woodring's art. These sculptures are small (apparently they come in two sizes, 14" x 14" or 5.5" x 5.5"). Imagine having one hanging on your wall, across from your bed--it would encourage interesting dreams.

I was alerted to Suzanne Anker's work by We Make Money Not Art, which discovered her work as part of an exhibit called Brainwave at Exit Art in New York City.

(According to Artnet, these sculptures are available from the Deborah Colton Gallery right here in Houston. I mention in case someone wants to get me one as a graduation present. Just sayin...)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Marcel Dzama

I have never really warmed up to Marcel Dzama's drawings, but these three dimensi0onal installations from his latest gallery show are really cool.

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The show is at Gallery David Zwimmer in NYC. Hat-tip to We Make Money Not Art.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

I love these sculptures

They're by Jennifer Maestre. Hat-tip to a best truth.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Ed Kienholz

Did you know that before I studied finance and risk management, before I edited, marketed, and published comics, before all that, that I was an art history major?

One of my favorite artists is Ed Kienholz (1927-1994). He came to campus once for a a pair of shows at the Rice Museum and at the CAM in 1985. So I got to met him, and he and his wife/collaborator Nancy Reddin were really open and friendly to us students. He was having a good experience in Houston. CAM in particular was a very flexible space for him to build his huge tableaus. He complained bitterly about a museum in Seattle that failed to accommodate him adequately. (I later got to be friends with Larry Reid, then the director of that "museum," who had bad memories of Kienholz and his difficult demands.)

Kieholz's work is seering, brutal, unbelievably powerful. I don't know why, but today he and his work popped into my mind.

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Back Seat Dodge '38, mixed media, 1964.

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The State Hospital, mixed media, 1966

From a review of a Kienholz show in The Guardian, 2005:
When Ed Keinholz died, he was buried in his 1940 Packard, a deck of cards and a dollar in his pocket, a bottle of 1930 Italian red wine beside him, the cremated remains of his dog (who died a few days before him) on the back seat. His burial arrangements sound like one of his own works. It also gives something of the measure of the man, a farmer's boy of Swiss ancestry from Washington State, self-taught, immensely self-reliant, an individualist westerner who dodged the draft for the Korean war and made a living as an odd-job man in the 1950s (he had a truck advertising his services with the words "Kienholz - Expert" on the side). He decorated bars in Las Vegas, worked in a Spokane speakeasy, and opened a shortlived but successful LA gallery with the curator Walter Hopps in the late 1950s, a place that, by all accounts, had much in common with today's "alternative spaces". Kienholz was a hard-nosed guy who loved to hunt (he once took the Swiss artist Jean Tinguely on a duck shoot), loved cars, dogs and horses and the outdoors, and eyed New York with suspicion, always going his own way.Kienholz made installations before there really was such a thing, and conceptual works before the term became a movement. In the 1960s, he swapped watercolour "Barter" works, whose washy grounds bore only the rubberstamped name of the thing he wanted, for the goods themselves: a set of screwdrivers, a fur coat, a portable saw, a car.

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The Birthday, mixed media, 1964

Monday, February 11, 2008

What is a Painting Worth

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One hears about daring art thefts, mainly in Europe, with alarming frequently. Unlike Hollywood heist movies, they tend to be low-tech affairs. For example, there were two multi-million dollar art thefts in Switzerland in the past week.
Three men wearing ski masks walked into a private museum here in daylight, grabbed four 19th-century masterpieces, tossed them into a van and sped off, pulling off one of the largest and most audacious art robberies of all time. It was the second multimillion-dollar art heist in Switzerland in less than a week.

What's amazing is how easy the most recent of these thefts was.

According to the local police and officials at the Bührle Collection, one of the top private museums for Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art in Europe, three men wearing ski masks entered the museum barely a half hour before the 5 p.m. closing time on Sunday.

One of the thieves pulled a handgun and ordered terrified staff members and visitors to lie down on the floor, as the other two men pulled the paintings off the wall. The police said paintings appeared to be sticking out of the back of the white van the men used to make their getaway.

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The paintings they took, a Cézanne, a Degas, a van Gogh and a Monet, were collectively worth an estimated $163 million. The thieves were not connoisseurs, though. These were not the most valuable paintings--just the easiest to grab (they all hung next to each other in a single room). The big question is, what did the thieves hope to gain?

[The paintings] stolen in Zurich are considered major works and so widely known as to be “unsalable,” said Richard Kendall, a prominent scholar of late-19th-century French art and a curator at large at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass.

For the police and the public, the looming questions were not only who committed the crimes but, given the near impossibility of selling the paintings, why.

A common myth, popularized in the movies, of a theft to order carried out at the behest of a private collector, “is really to be considered a fiction,” said Karl-Heinz Kind, team leader of the works of art unit at Interpol.

The fact that there are no buyers lined up helps account for the recovery of famous works, he said, like the Munch paintings [stolen in Norway several years ago], which were recovered in 2006. “The thieves have difficulty finding someone to take them,” he said. “They are obliged to multiply their contacts and proposals. That increases the chances for police.”

Now this made me think about valuations for art. Assets are valued not just on what someone is willing to pay for something, but also on how many people are willing to pay and how frequently and easily they would do so. In other words, liquidity is important. When they price artworks, they base it on auction prices of similar artworks. (Which adds an extra layer of complexity--when you price a share of stock or an oil future, you have a bunch of identical assets to compare it with that are constantly being traded. But each painting is unique.) But there are few legitimate channels to buy art. When I say "legitimate," I don't mean "regulated." The art market is pretty unregulated--some countries have national heritage laws, that makes it impossible or difficult to export certain artworks; there are applicable tax laws, of course; as well as laws regarding the receiving of stolen property. But legitimate in this case means that you know the artwork's provenance. You know it wasn't stolen or looted. And if the seller can't provide provenance, you will have a hard time getting an auction house to carry it (especially for expensive works) and buyers will demand a deep discount, because they will be at risk of buying stolen goods.

So when they estimate the value at $163 million, there are two things to consider. Because of the relative lack of liquidity in the art market, the prices are likely to be lower than the best auction price at any given moment, and are also likely to be volatile. Calculating an estimated price would somehow have to take into account this volatility. The second point is that the value of the art to the thieves will inherently be much lower than $163 million because they are cut off from selling through legitimate channels to legitimate customers. The customers for stolen artwork have the power to set much lower prices.

My final question is, were these artworks insured? Can you even really insure paintings worth $163 million? I wonder especially because the security was so lax.

The museum’s director, Lukas Gloor, said the museum generally did not check visitors’ bags and had no metal detectors, which he said the entry hall of the building was too narrow to accommodate.

Given this, I wouldn't insure these artworks. Would you?