After the extremely popular, blockbuster gallery show of Basquiat
paintings at Gagosian’s Chelsea gallery, another Basquiat show has opened at
Gagosian’s Hong Kong gallery, coinciding with the opening of Art Basel Hong Kong.
It will feature a (mostly) different set of paintings from the New York Show,
and runs from May 21st to August 10th.
Just a few works have been brought over from the New York show (see the 1983 triptych Year of the Boar
and the 1983 painting and collage with Egyptian writing Dark Milk, seen above on the right). This exhibition is smaller and
does not include the high number of well-known masterpieces by the artist. It
also includes a higher percentage of late work (including The Thinker
from 1986, and a piece from 1988, the year of his death). However, also
included is an Untitled piece from
and a 1984 Self Portrait. While the New York show had some great examples of the artist’s use of
Jazz subjects (Now’s The Time, Horn Players, and Discography II), this show rounds out the theme with the hastily painted Charlie Parker tribute of 1984, Bird of Paradise, (seen above on the left). Bird of Paradise
just sold a year ago at Sotheby’s for €912,750. Another little-seen diptych displays with unusual clarity the relation between Basquiat’s typical early
expressionist heads and African masks -- with a slight nod to Picasso as intermediary.
Like the last Gagosian show, this one is mostly paintings, but viewers can also see
the arresting giant screen print Untitled (Return of the Giant Figure), created by Basquiat from a collation of his small drawings and printed in 1983 in an
edition of 10. The impressive impact of this work, created by the use of white on mat black and the large size combined with tiny details, is only slightly diminished by the necessary presentation here under glass, which tends to turn it into a mirror work.
The new Gagosian show is the first exhibition of Basquiat’s paintings in
Hong Kong, pointing to the importance of not just of Art Basel Hong Kong, but of the Chinese market.
More information on the show, hours and location at Gagosian’s website.
P.S. I know some readers were expecting to see one of my usual rants about the art market after the recent sale of Basquiat's Dust Heads for over 35 million dollars at Christie's - once again a new record for the artist. But I just couldn't bring myself to do it.
Below, you can hear Toxic, Al Diaz, and Macklemore talk about Jean-Michel Basquiat.
In the last post I talked about the many Basquiat works being shown in the New York auction houses this month. On May 3rd, Christie's released these three mini videos as part of a campaign to raise the hype level around it's selling of Basquiat's 1982 Dustheads
. That work is estimated at 25 to 35 million dollars (the same estimation given to Jackson Pollock's classic drip painting No. 19, 1948
to be sold the same day). If it did sell at that price, it would again break the previous recently broken record for a Basquiat at auction.
These highly edited videos are in essence commercials for the work to be auctioned this month. In one way, they lower the already low standard of art historical discourse put out by the auction houses. But at least the first two include interesting information and recollections by people who knew Basquiat, and are, unlike the auction houses, speaking from the heart.
In the first, Basquiat's high school friend Al Diaz (who had ben known as Bomb 1, and later became part of the SAMO team with Basquiat) looks back.
Although Basquiat and Diaz hung out and lived in Brooklyn and downtown Manhattan (and Diaz now lives in Sunset Park Brooklyn) the video is shot in Five Poinz, Queens, and includes a lot of footage of recent graffiti that has little to do with Basquiat's work.
Next comes an interview with Toxic, who collaborated with Basquiat in a different way. The two first met in the Roxy club in the early 1980s. Basquiat had a studio on Crosby Street, where he would invite over younger graffiti kids like Toxic, A1, and Phase II, sometimes calling them "our kids." In 1983 Toxic and Basquiat worked with Rammellzee on the classic "Beat Bop" record. Like anyone who know Basquiat at this time, he remembered him working on many paintings at once, and that "Jean constantly painted what was going on around him," putting in scraps of conversation.
While there was more of interest in this interview that was edited out, Christie's decided to end with Basquiat reportedly saying "if you sell cheap you are cheap," and then cutting to footage of Dustheads on view at Christie's, where they hope it will meet there record breaking estimate.
Finally, the current rapper Macklemore talks about Basquiat's influence and relevance to hip hop today. This attempt at modern "relevance" is the least relevant to Basquiat's work. And here, the hype and advertising goes both ways. As the reviewers said of the Basquiat/Warhol collaborations, it makes you wonder "who is using who." But not for long.
A total of
Fifty-Seven Basquiat works go on view in New York this month. In addition to
the 31 works at the S2 “selling exhibition,” which I announced earlier, altogether the Spring Contemporary Art Auctions in New York are offering 26 of the
All the works to be auctioned will be on preview for a short
time before the sales in mid-May. Sotheby’s is auctioning 4 works on paper, 2 Basquiat
paintings, and one Warhol/Basquiat collaboration on the 14th and 15th
to complement its simultaneous “selling exhibition;” Christie’s is showing 5 works on paper (including the huge Ribs Ribs) and 5 paintings (including the 1982 Dustheads, estimated at a record-breaking $25,000,000 – $35,000,000)
on the 15th and 16th; and Philips is showing 7 works on paper and 2 paintings
(the impressive rarely seen Untitled / Soap detailed below, and a 1981 baseball player) on May 16th and 17th.
By coincidence, Philips and Sotheby's are giving us a chance to see two different artworks bearing Basquiat’s “Origin of Cotton” phrase, first used in several post SAMO
soon after the hugely popular monster Basquiat show at Gagosian gallery closed,
this again gives those around New York an opportunity to see a wide range of
his works. Many of these are rarely seen, and will surely disappear into
private collections soon. Tellingly, some of the works Gagosian showed (Ribs Ribs and Untitled (Julius Caesar on Gold) have shown up again in these auctions.
details on the works on auction, and where and when the public can see them in the
free preview, see the auction page of this website (click on the titles to see images). For the
S2 exhibition of 31 works on view until June 9th see http://basquiat.sothebys.com/ . I’ll
try to talk more about that mixed exhibit soon.
Tomorrow, more than 30 works by Jean-Michel Basquiat will be on view
at S2, the second floor gallery at Sotheby’s New York City. Examples range from a
1979 work on paper to large canvases from 1987, and includes some great pieces.
Most of the artworks in the exhibit (titled “Man Made:
Jean-Michel Basquiat,”) have rarely been seen in public exhibitions, or auction
previews. Unlike in the breathtaking Gagosian show, which was extremely discrete
about the works' possible availability on the secondary market, most of the
works will be on sale in the gallery environment. Apparently, Sotheby’s has decided
to do it this way rather than put so many up for auction at once. Prices range from $20,000 for a small work on
paper, to millions (up to $15 million) for paintings.
Works include ten early (1979 to 1981) drawings, writing,
and collage on paper (some from Glen O’Brian’s private collection), and the
Untitled 1981 spray paint on metal “Jimmy Best on his Back to the Suckerpunch of his Childhood Files” done for the New York/New Wave exhibit of that year.
Also on view are the entire print series Anatomy (18 pieces from 1982) and From Leonardo from 1983.
More spectacular is Punch Bag, a colorful acrylic and oilstick painting of a boxer done in St. Moritzin 1983, and the 1986 Gri Gri. I am a
particular fan of his painted sculpture and constructions, which were missing
from the large show which recently closed at Gagosian’s. But this show includes
an untitled wooden box collaged with color xerox copies of his drawings and
commenting on both minimalist sculpture and Warhol’s Brillo Box, and the magnificent memorial Gravestone, painted on three doors in 1987 after Warhol’s death.
Also of note are the 1982 Jack Johnson and VNDRZ portraits and the 1985 South African Nazism painted on a found metal sign with a sort of
political/primitivist/punk Rauschenberg look.
The exhibit, “Man Made: Jean-Michel Basquiat,” will
run at Sotheby's galleries (1334 York Avenue below 72nd) from May 2 through
June 9. It is open Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm, and Sunday 1 to
5. The exhibition website is at http://basquiat.sothebys.com/
The opening party is on May 1st, but personally I’m
prioritizing the Occupy May Day workshops, rally, march from Union Square at 5:00, and perhaps the danceparty afterwards. I’ll see the works better on May 2nd, when it opens
to the public. Although that would mean missing Swizz Beatz, so perhaps I’ll
try to squeeze it in afterwards, and come back later for a second look.
Also, Sotheby’s rival auction house Christie's will be
putting up several Basquiat works for auction on May 15th and 16th, including the well known 1982 painting Dustheads, estimated at between $25
million and $35 million, and apparently poised to break the current Basquiat
record of $26.4 million, set at Christie’s in November.
The major exhibition of many Basquiat paintings now on at Gagosian gallery 255 W 24th Street (Chelsea, New York) will be closing a few days from now on Saturday, April 6th. I discussed the exhibition here after the opening; apparently it has been breaking attendance records for a private gallery, with thousands of visits a day. Don't miss it.
According to an article on ArtInfo website (by Rachel
Corbett), Jean-Michel Basquiat’s ex-girlfriend Alexis Adler is finally set to reveal a trove of very early Basquiat works
and related items created while the artist spent several months in her Lower
East Side apartment. There are reportedly 65 or so previously unknown items
including drawings and postcards and painted clothing, as well as rolls of film
of the young Basquiat at work.
Basquiat and Alexis Adler dated from late 1979 to early 1980,
when Basquiat was still unknown, homeless, and creating punk-influenced photocopied
postcards and painted clothing for sale on the street.
Adler was a friend of Basquiat’s friend, musician John Lurie
(and of writer Luc Sante), and was
attending college when they met. She became part of the “baby crowd” along with
Basquiat, Michael Holman, and high school friend Danny Rosen – young friends
with an alternative style who became regulars at the Mudd Club and other
downtown clubs. When they first started
going together neither Basquiat or Adler had a home, and they sometimes stayed
together with whoever would take them in. They met at the home of friend Felice Ralster, where they both stayed for a short
time, until Felice kicked them out for Jean-Michel writing all
over her things.
When Adler got her own apartment, at East 12th Street near Avenue B,
Basquiat moved in for the last few months of 1979. It
was his first permanent address after leaving his father's home in Brooklyn. He had a room in the back of the
railroad apartment filled with papers where he made his drawings and poetic
phrases. Adler had studied art history, but was focusing on biology in college.
Basquiat was fascinated by her chemistry textbooks, and copied many of the
strange symbols into his drawing. Some of the other symbols and phrases from
his work of this time were painted on her walls (“Famous Negro Athletes” on a
door, and the copyrighted word “Milk" on a radiator), and apparently a
mural on one wall with the words “Olive Oyl.” The Art Info article states that Adler
subsequently “bought the apartment they once shared, and never painted over his
One day she woke up and found Basquiat had painted a wide
streak of Morris Louis like multicolored drips down the length of a new gold
coat she had gotten as a gift. But she accepted that the painting added to the beauty, and still owns the coat. Adler is pictured with a different painted jacket above.
She also stored "writings and early drawings" (including whole notebooks and sheets of yellow legal paper), as well as his postcards, painted clothes,
and photographs. In these early years, Basquiat painted on
walls and objects in many apartments he stayed at, or left drawings on paper as
gifts. But many of those were thrown away and painted over, and other objects
sold when prices for his work first started rising. Basquiat's later girlfriend Suzanne Mallouk famously burned her much more valuable trove of Basquiat paintings and other material in a bonfire outside his studio after their breakup.
Rachel Corbett reports that Adler has kept her collection for thirty
years, and has now “begun to assemble a team of advisers to help sort through
the material in preparation for a book on the collection and, in all likelihood,
an exhibition and sale.” Why now? “Part of the issue,” explained
Adler, “has been that I am a working biologist who has raised two kids on my
own and have not had time or energy to deal with it. Now is the time, however.”
Her photos (in slide form, so far un scanned), include not just shots of Jean-Michel and friends, but lost
early work, “pieces of art that don’t exist, just from found objects in the street,” says Adler, including neo-dada assemblages incorporating bicycles wheels, and a wicker basket on industrial
metal object on a chair.
The New York Post also
reports that Adler now plans to produce a book on the collection, featuring the
murals, photos, sketches and notes he left behind. Other sets of notebooks have
been republished by Larry Warsh, and by Vrej Baghoomian in books that have long
been out of print and highly sought after. An exhibition of Basquiat’s
notebooks is scheduled to open at the Musée
d’Art Moderne in Paris next year.
Basquiat’s former assistant, Stephen Torton has been hinting at some such trove of unknown Basquiat’s
for some time, and the Basquiat
Authentication Committee endorsed six of Adler's paintings and drawings
before it dissolved itself in the fall of last year. It now appears that
Torton, along with Lisa Rosen and Sur
Rodney Sur are assisting Adler in cataloging the collection and perhaps preparing
it for future sale, although no sale has yet been announced.
A collection of such ephemera would be of great use to scholars if housed in some academic library or other institutional home. But with the rare Basquiat photocopied postcards selling for thousands of dollars, and a Basquiat painted door selling for 1.8 million, the chances of the collection remaining intact and available seem slim. The news of Adler's property arrives when the Blockbuster gallery exhibition of
Basquiat’s work is attracting thousands of visitors a day at Gagosian’s gallery
in New York’s Chelsea, and new records for his major paintings continue to be broken at auction. Whatever happens to this collection of early work
and ephemera, a temporary public exhibition (and even just a well-produced book) would be fascinating and add to
the understanding of Basquiat’s development into a visual artist.
There is now a short video interview with Alexis that gives a glimpse of some of her photos, and a bit of their story, posted here: http://animalnewyork.com/2013/basquiat-east-village-apartment/ (Video and photos: Aymann Ismail/ANIMALNewYork with the permission of Alexis Adler)
This website will try to relay more information as it becomes available.
The Basquiat exhibition which opened last night at Gagosian gallery, is a large and impressive collection of the artist's paintings.
Such an assemblage of works is what you would expect at a museum, not a gallery. Not since the Brooklyn Museum retrospective of 2005 have we seen such a huge number of his works in the New York area. There are canvases from throughout Basquiat's brief career, from one of the artist’s first paintings on canvas -- the Untitled (Car Crash) from 1980 -- to Riding with Death, painted in 1988, the year of his own death.
I made a quick count of 62 works (mostly large paintings) distributed through the large, multi-room, Gagosian gallery at West 24th Street.
Last night a long line snaked down the cold street of people waiting to get in. The crowd in the gallery mixed usual art world types, people who had been friends of the artist or loosely in Basquiat's cohort, and many younger fans of his art, which continues to be extremely popular to many starting to learn about modern painting. There were also more black faces than typically seen in Chelsea galleries -- I hope the word continues to spread outside the usual circles.
The gallery did a great job of assembling these works from private and a few public collections (there were many key works from the Stephanie and Peter Brandt Foundation collection in Greenwich Connecticut, and from the Broad Art Foundation in Santa Monica). There were many famous, iconic works by the artist, and some that are rarely displayed or reproduced. Anyone interested in his work will find it a breathtaking show, and those unfamiliar with his work will get the chance to see a range of styles and periods, and experience the physical presence and textural interest that can not be found looking at reproductions.
That said, the show appeared to me assembled, rather than curated.
The distribution of the work did not follow the conventional chronological presentation. This can sometimes be useful, bringing up fresher ways of seeing the work. But neither did the rooms seem to be divided by style, medium, theme, or even size. Unlike the lay out of his 2010 retrospective in Paris (or the Brooklyn Museum retrospective in 2005) I was not struck by insightful juxtapositions or illuminating placements of the work. Of course, it is unfair to compare a gallery show to what can be done at a large museum. But it is hard to review the exhibition itself (rather than the very different task of using the occasion to review Basquiat the painter), as there did not seem to be any particular art historical take on the artist being presented here. The bulk of the work was from 1981 and 1982 - the period most prized by collectors. And despite the mix of work, the exhibition seemed to favor bold, expressionist painting of human figures. The two large oilstick on paper drawings were hung in a corridor, and there were no black and white or small drawings, and none of the painted sculpture. By default the show appeared to be saying Basquiat was a prolific and major painter who gregariously produced going back and forth between a mix of styles.
This is true, but a better understanding of the artist’s approach could have been brought across by highlighting some of the distinct looks and techniques he repeatedly used, and often moved through. There were some good examples of these major stylistic approaches, but they were mixed in to appear like individual examples of an impulsive and mercurial genius.
One exception was a row of three adjacent 1983 paintings of black boxers, all large canvases mounted on used industrial wooden pallets. These included two of the simple oilstick on monochrome works (Sugar Ray Robinson and Jersey Joe Walcott), supplemented by the more complicated Cassius Clay. The juxtaposition was impressive, and illuminating.
In addition to boxers, Basquiat had a longer-term and even more varied use of jazz musicians as subjects in his work. Basquiat was a huge fan of jazz, especially of the be-bop era. He used both the sports figures and the jazz musicians in his work as historical examples of high-points of Black history, as examples of how Black genius was exploited and oppressed by a white power structure, and as analogies to Basquiat's own position as a Black artist in a white art world. His artistic references to jazz were represented here by three works, distributed throughout the show: Discography II, Now's The Time (see below), and the excellent 1983 tryptich Horn Players (from the Broad collection in LA), depicting Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.
Basquiat was an uneven artist, but not even the museum retrospectives want to delve into criticism and differentiation of his body of work, so one would certainly not expect that here. What drove Basquiat to be a great artist, his compulsive constant drawing and producing, also led to a prodigious production of painting which to my mind could have used a little more editing – especially the many neo-expressionist paintings of human figures. Basquiat was part of the 80s neo-expressionist wave, with all its problems and contradictions, but he also came to it from a unique place, and often rose way beyond its typical aspects.
Basquiat always had a great sense of line, both as the trace of thought processes and as a physical mark on paper. Basquiat’s use, and re-use, of drawing is very important to his process and incorporation of written language and visual sources. In order to produce a major and impressive exhibition, small scale drawing was not included here. An attempt at an exhibition of blockbusters was certainly impressive (and will help in bringing in the big bucks for whatever pieces may be on the resale market) but not the best way to understand Basquiat as an artist.
I also happen to be a huge fan of Basquiat’s painted three dimensional wooden constructions, especially the free standing ones. None were included here. But perhaps a separate, smaller, exhibition of “the sculpture of Jean-Michel Basquiat” is needed.
The majority of the works here were painting on canvas, but there were many major works showing the variety of supports he used. These included the boxer paintings on pallets mention above, and several canvases with the crossed wooden supports exposed at the corners that he did when assisted by Stephen Torton; an untitled painting on a door; the immense stretched cotton drop cloth of Eyes and Eggs (first shown in Gagosian’s LA gallery, 1983, and now in the Broad Collection); and the huge roughly cut round wood Now’s the Time, a 1985 painting of a jazz record (from the Brant Foundation collection).
Two of his fascinating long, horizontal, multi-panel works with hinges were also included, in different rooms: Frogmen, 1983, and Brother’s Sausages, both of 1983. When you look at the mix of motifs, painted over sections, and jumbled re-ordering of canvases in these works you can sense the playful yet serious mood of their creation, invoking Rauschenberg, Burroughs and Gysin’s “cut-up” theories, and a blithe “whatever” approach.
In one smaller room, pride of place was rightly given to
one of Basquiat’s masterful African-influenced “griot”-type works done
in the mid 80s on slatted wood, like a fence turned sideways to a
portrait aspect. This one (titled M, from 1984) was dressed in a royal blue, and seemed to me to be portraying a women, rather than the usual male figure.
Other highlights included the large beautiful but unsettling 1982 Untitled (Two Heads on Gold); the complex diptych and predella painting In Italian (1983); and Obnoxious Liberals (also from the Broad collection), a major 1982 painting of a slave auction on which Basquiat had scrawled “NOT FOR SALE” in white oilstick.
Images of a few of the works on display are now available at the Gagosian Gallery website, temporarily at Pinterest, and at the brief Huf Po review of the show.
I have included links to existing images of works mentioned above for reference only (all images of Basquiat works are copyright © The Estate of Jean-‐Michel Basquiat/ADAGP, Paris; ARS, New York, 2013), but there is no comparison to seeing the actual works.
The exhibition will be on view at the Gagosian gallery at 255 W 24th St. until April 6th.
February is "Black History Month"
Above is Jean-Michel Basquiat's painting “History of the Black
People,” which both celebrates the achievements of
Black people in history, references slavery and the oppression of Blacks, and satirizes the usual conception of “Black History,”
as Black History Month is often taught in schools and cultural institutions.
This website had tended to ignore Black History Month,
not wanting to segregate such themes to one month out of the year.
And, in that the history of Black people is bound up in
the history of racism and colonialism, there can be no history of any people
without the history of all.
But that said, here in New York City, anyway, this
month there does happen to be many opportunities to see exhibits by many great
Besides the huge Basquiat exhibition at Gagosian’s, announced earlier on this blog [UPDATE: and which I have now reviewed] there is a
great gallery show of Romare Bearden’s work, also discussed previously, to close on February 23rd. And there is much more:
* * *
“Now Dig This!
Art and Black Los Angeles 1960–1980” is another interesting, and important,
exhibition continuing through this month. This show, curated by Kellie Jones, had
been seen in LA earlier this year, and is running at MoMA’s PS1 in Queens from
October 21st, 2012 until March 11th, 2013.
The PS1 version of Now Dig This still includes 140 works by
thirty-two artists. David Hammons,
who is also associated with New York City, began his career in Los Angeles and
is included here, as well as several works by Betye Saar.
Also included are Melvin Edwards, Maren Hassinger, Senga Nengudi, John
Outterbridge, and Noah Purifoy. The show
convincingly shows that the vital legacy of the African American arts community
in Los Angeles is critical to a more complete and dynamic understanding of
twentieth-century American Art.
PS1 is open noon to 6pm, but closed Tuesday and
Wednesday. 22-25 Jackson Avenue (at 46th Ave.), Long Island City, NY
(Take the 7 train to 45th Road - Court House Square Station).
* * *
“Blues for Smoke” is an exhibition of visual art
relating to blues music, at the Museum of American Art, February 7–April 28,
2013. The Whitney says it “brings into focus a wide range of contemporary art,
music, literature, and film through the lens of the blues. Featuring the work
of visual artists such as David Hammons, Zoe Leonard and Jean-Michel Basquiat
alongside the music of jazz, blues and hip-hop legends, the exhibition
considers how the blues might help us understand themes of place, performance
and identity in recent art.” Also included are Bob Thompson, Melvin Edwards,
Martin Wong, Mark Morrisroe, Glenn Ligon, and others. Whitney Museum of
American Art, 945 Madison Avenue (at
75th Street). http://whitney.org/Exhibitions/BluesForSmoke
There is also a schedule of related performances upcoming in March and April.
* * *
Watts has a small show this February in the project room of the French Institute / Alliance Française (from Jan 24, 2013 - Sat, Feb 23, 2013. Ouattara is an artist from the Ivory Coast, Africa, who spent some time living in
France, where he met Basquiat and was a friend of his in the last year of his life.
Watts and Basquiat visited New Orleans together, and had plans to visit African together just before Basquiat died.
Ouattara later moved to New York City, and is still painting. This exhibition draws on his African roots and
experiences as a New Yorker. Ouattara Watts creates collage like paintings that
incorporate cryptic ideograms, religious symbols, and floating abstractions.
While making reference to Black figures, Africa and the Diaspora, and hinting
at social and historical readings, the works move to cosmic and spiritual
The exhibition is free, at the French Institute / Alliance Française, 22 East 60th Street
(btwn Madison and Park Ave.) NYC. For
more information, see: http://www.fiaf.org/events/winter2013/2013-01-24-ouattara-watts.shtml
* * *
The Ghanaian artist El Anatsui had a marvelous exhibition
at Chelsea’s Jack Shainman Gallery this January, and has a large work on view
by the Highline. In February opened “Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El
Anatsui” at the Brooklyn Museum featuring over 30 of his large metal and wood
El Anatsui is known for works made by piecing together
bottle caps recycled in Africa, into magnificent, shimmering works that recall metal
sculpture, African textiles, and advanced abstract painting. This show is
unusual in also including some of his painted wood reliefs. The Brooklyn Museum
writes that this show “responds to a long history of innovations in abstract
art and performance, building upon cross-cultural exchange among Africa,
Europe, and the Americas and presenting works in a wholly new, African medium.”
The show runs Friday, February 8th, 2013 to Sunday, Aug 4th, 2013. The Museum
opens at 11am, and is closed Monday’s and Tuesday’s. The first Saturday of
every month is free, and open 11 am-11 pm. See: http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/exhibitions/el_anatsui/#
* * *
The Metropolitan continues its African Art, New
York, and the Avant-Garde (which opened back in November 27, 2012 and runs to April
14, 2013). The exhibition highlights the specific African artifacts (mostly West
and Central African sculpture in the Met and other collections) acquired by the
New York avant-garde, and there influence. These are compared to work by Alfred
Stieglitz, Charles Sheeler, Pablo Picasso, Francis Picabia, Diego Rivera, and
Constantin Brancusi. see: http://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2012/african-art
* * *
“Flying Home” (named after the swinging Lionel Hampton
tune) is the mosaic mural by Faith Ringgold at the 125th Street subway station
at Malcolm X Boulevard. It honors black figures active in Harlem, from Sugar
Ray Robinson to Josephine Baker to Malcolm X.
Faith Ringgold currently has a traveling exhibition of
her art, organized by the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, NY which will be
at the ACA gallery (529 West 20th St. NYC) from March 2 through April 27 (and then at
the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C. May – August 2013).
On February 27 she will be speaking along with Dr. Cornel West on “Art,
Politics, Protest” and her work at the National Academy Museum.
* * *
1199-SEIU Bread and Roses Cultural Project presents “I
Am Black Art,” an exhibition featuring the works of Tyson Hall and Ka-Son
Reeves, running till March 5th. see: http://www.nyc-arts.org/events/48456/i-am-black-art
* * *
The New-York Historical Society will exhibit
approximately thirty photographs by MacArthur Fellow Camilo José Vergara, who
has been traveling across the United States since the 1970s photographing Martin Luther King murals. see: http://www.nyhistory.org/exhibitions/dream-continues-photographs-martin-luther-king-murals-vergara
For those of you in the New York City area, pick up a copy
of that free newspaper called the Village
Voice (older residents will remember it as a once important periodical). In
it there is an article by Christian Viveros-Faune (along with artwork by
William Powhida, as pictured above) on the art market. The front cover teaser
reads “Art’s New Factory: It pumps out the dollars-but crushes creativity.”
Inside the article is titled “How Uptown Money Kills Downtown Art.” If you can’t
pick up a copy, you can read the article online.
Often when this blog is announcing some Baquiat works on
public display for a few days before a major auction moves them from one private
collection to another, we digress from the positive listing of the viewing opportunity
to a negative rant on prices, collectors, and the art market. Now we can link
to the subject once more.
The Voice article
discusses how the $8 billion art industry in New York not only drives up
prices, and keeps important work in the hands of the tiny filthy rich minority
(largely the 1% of the 1%), but how the speculation in contemporary art reaches
down and “affects the way art is made, understood, and, ultimately,
She talks to several people giving examples of this phenomena, and how it works. At one point she sites the Bruce High Quality Foundation as a sort of alternative. But she ends with Robert Storr alluding to the bigger picture - how the opaque economy of the art world is one with the world economy.
Others (Micheal Findlay's 2012 The Value of Art: Money, Power, Beauty, and especially Julian Stallabrass’ 2004 Art Incorporated)
have brought our attention back to these phenomena previously, and with more depth and theoretical sophistication. The Voice article is a bit of a one-sided
rant, but brings up good issues with contemporary details, and anyway, look who’s talking.
Viveros-Faune also mentions several other recent articles
from insiders pointing to similar issues:
I know, the bigger ideas here go back before Adorno. And the avant-garde was always tied to the Bourgeois "with chains of gold." But it does seem there was a turning point in the form of art itself (somewhere around Warhol?) and more recently a serious crisis, linked both to the development of modernism, and more importantly to the incredible growth in inequality worldwide. However, "crisis" may be the wrong word when it has been so protracted, and has no sign of ending.
At the start of her article, Christian Viveros-Faune quotes the 87 year old art historian Irving Sandler on the challenge of "figuring out how art that behaves like a commodity can be counteracted
by artists." He says, "One way to do this is to create communities. Another way—and
I think this is very, very important—is to create anti-market polemics." Well, yes. But both Sander's "communities" and "polemic" need to be tied to a much larger movement against the root causes before they can make much of a difference.
The show “Romare Bearden: Urban Rhythms and Dreams of
Paradise” due to close tomorrow, February 2nd will now be extended
till February 23rd, 2013. It is well worth a visit, even if you have
seen many of the other Bearden shows over the last few years.
2011 saw the centennial of Romare Bearden’s birth (born
September 2nd, 1911 in Charlotte, North Carolina, before moving to
New York City as a small child). Earlier in the year there were several shows, when I discussed them and Bearden's work on this blog. But we had to wait until the end of 2012 (the show
opened on November 3rd, 2012) to see such a great selection. The
show contains between 30 and 40 carefully chosen works covering his entire
career. And it concentrates on what he was best at, his innovative collages.
ACA Galleries is at 526 West 20th Street (5th floor), in Chelsea New York City.
My favorite of his works are the urban collages, such as The Block at the Met. They are
represented here by On Such a Night as
This, a nice example from 1975, pictured below (but this intricate and small collage does not come across well in illustration).
But other works and genres make this a fascinating show,
even to those who have seen the many smaller and less complete shows around the
centennial, or even the vast retrospective several years ago at the Whitney,
where some of his great works were watered down by so much of the Caribbean
paintings. I now have a greater appreciation for some of his more idyllic work (later work set in the Caribbean, earlier in the South, and the exquisite orientalist fantasy Khayam and the Black Girl from 1971.) .
However, especially intriguing, and surprising to me, was 1956
abstract collage Untitled (double-sided) (illustrated on right). It appears to owe more to Kurt Schwitters and European collage than to American social realism, or the Abstract Expressionism current at the time. In the Centennial show at the Studio Museum of Harlem they repeated the common belief that "the relevance of the medium of collage first dawned on Bearden" after a collaborative attempt with the Spiral artists around the 1963 March on Washington, and he then "abandoned the abstract for the collage." The exhibition of this work complicates that story.
Bearden is also famous for his Jazz-themed works, such as Up At Minton's
, 1980. Revealing
here are the large watercolor and collage depictions of Jazz musicians from the
end of his life, like All the Things You Are
1987 (illustrated at left).
As I mentioned earlier here, Bearden was still working in New York City in the 1980s, at the
same time as Jean-Michel Basquiat . The two artists are extremely different in
background, style and temperament. But there shared experimentalism, shared
themes (especially Jazz), and engagement with depicting Black life make you
think it unfortunate they never met.
* * *
More on the show at ACA galleries, “Romare Bearden: Urban Rhythms and Dreams of Paradise,” where you can see a slide show of all the works on display. (But don't let that stop you from seeing the intricately constructed and textured works in person.)
Also check out the fascinating story of ACA, from Stewart
Davis and the Artists Union in the 1030s to Faith Ringgold and contemporary
artists today, at http://www.craftinamerica.org/artists_fiber/story_2232.php