Post-operative photography by Chuck Ramirez.
Chuck Ramirez made it through his open heart surgery on Monday, and was released from the hospital on Thursday. He’s back at home recovering. Background here.
The New York Times is covering a lawsuit that Gerard Malanga (a Warhol assistant and Factory fixture) recently brought against sculptor John Chamberlain. Chamberlain had sold a series of silkscreened canvases bearing his likeness, and made in Warhol’s style, to a collector. A panel charged with authenticating Warhol’s works had declared them genuine. Malanga accuses Chamberlain selling the prints in bad faith, claiming that they were made by Malanga himself, not Warhol. And now he wants his canvases back. Chamberlain apparently made $3.8 million off the deal, and Malanga is pissed, calling him “a consumate fraudster.”
Of course, some people would apply that label to Warhol. And I do have to wonder, if Gerard Malanga was going around making “Warhols” after he left the Factory, how much room he has to malign the motives of Chamberlain. I’m reminded that Jed Perl once called Warhol the “evil prophet of the profit motive” in art. Warhol had no problem, though, with other artists mimicing his work — he would even give his original silkscreens to people like Elaine Sturtevant to make the process easier. It’s one thing for collectors to be obsessed with the origins of these easily reproduced “Factory” prints. But for Malanga, who worked alongside Warhol, to split hairs over the identity of the artist seems just a bit petty. Even if John Chamberlain is a liar.
UPDATE: Maybe the real story here is the Warhol Authentication Board.
The McNay holds a special place in many of our hearts. I’m not alone in having visited the museum over the years, finding my relationship with certain works growing stronger each time I returned. The lovely dreamlike Redon, the Waterlilies, a little Matisse sculpture — all carefully presented in this old Spanish colonial mansion. Sometimes a piece might pop up that I’d seen a hundred times but never really looked at. So it goes. Almost everyone, in every city, has their little aesthetic oasis. And that little oasis will inevitably change, growing or withering depending on the whims of fate. Now the McNay has a new $50 million wing.
As I thought about the McNay’s new Stieren Center, and what to say about it, I came across Jed Perl’s rumination on museums in the last issue of the New Republic. A lot of it is standard Jed Perl: bitching about the art market, trashing Koons and Hirst and Eliasson, along with some of America’s biggest art institutions. Fair enough — he makes plenty of good points, even if his tirades are a bit predictable at this point. But Perl also develops the notion that the museum ought provide a stable sense of place. And that art itself ought to offer a world to enter into — not just a wry joke or another brand name to buy into.
Perl talks about the reluctance of the New Museum and the Broad Contemporary Art Museum to offer the visitor a sense of ground, of rootedness. For those of us who have lived in San Antonio for a while, or who grew up here, the McNay has always had that sense of place. It is intimate and stable — you can form a relationship with it that endures and grows. So how does the new Stieren Center fit into this concept of the museum as a grounding, intimate public space?
The building itself is nice. It’s nice to have a space at the McNay that was made for looking at art. There’s the high-tech glass ceiling that adjusts to the natural light, and indoor lights set to automatically supplement the sun when necessary. The flow of the galleries works pretty well, and there’s a sense of elegance to the space. Some of my architect friends complain that it’s a Renzo Piano rip-off, and considering how close we are to the Menil, it’s a bit disappointing to have that shadow cast over the space from the very beginning.
But then you see the art. The innaugural exhibit brings out the big guns that have for some reason been collecting dust in the McNay’s attic. Beautiful works by Joseph Cornell, Jean Arp, John Chamberlain, Paul Feeley, John McLaughlin and on and on fill the space (and more contemporary names too — Kiki Smith, Sandy Skogland, Ernesto Pujol). The show’s not so cohesive — the visitor has to move quickly from Op Art to Minimalism to Abstract Expressionism to Conceptualism — but the groupings generally work, and as a collection of modern and contemporary art, I think it’s stronger than the offerings at SAMA or the Blanton in Austin; definitely a major contribution to our city’s culture.
Then it dawns on me: there’s another show coming up in August? Where is all this work going? Back in the attic? And this is where we start to get back into groundedness. In a New Light is honestly a show I could visit many times over, and knowing that it will come down to make way for touring exhibits in a month or two is painful to consider. I take heart in the fact that René Barilleaux has organized some wonderful contemporary shows over the years, and will be able to do so much more with this new space. But at the same time I lament that this part of the collection is not one that I will grow to know as I have the more traditional work in the museum’s collection.
(Found on S. Flores early a.m., photo by Justin Parr)
Tyler Green points to posts by Daniel Drezner and Barry Gewen regarding the fate of the public intellectual in recent years. Drezner argues that, partly thanks to the blogosphere, the pool of public intellectuals is as strong as ever. Gewen thinks Drezner’s playing fast and loose with the term “public intellectual” — and in some cases I’m inclined to agree. I would consider Joshua Micah Marshall and several others on the list to be dedicated political analysts, although I think other names on Drezner’s list do make the cut (Christopher Hitchens and Andrew Sullivan, for instance).
At any rate, Green brings up the question of how many public intellectuals spend much time talking about visual art these days, and I think he’s right that the answer would be “not very many” (although I see no reason Dave Hickey couldn’t slip into Drezner’s list). But his explanation for this fact — that art critics “tend to burrow and bunker into the safe little cocoon of the art world, rarely engaging issues, ideas outside the ghetto” — needs some unpacking. It’s true that the visual art world can be insular in a lot of ways. I think part of the reason for this is that it is one of the few creative communities that has not embraced mass production in a comprehensive way. A work of visual art, unlike a typical book, album, or film is almost always limited in quantity. When it’s not (see Felix Gonalez Torres), it’s usually to make an abstract point about materiality or something. Even artists who use inherently reproducible media (e.g. photography) artificially limit their works to editions, apparently in order to remain within the prescribed economic structure of the art world. This makes the underlying structure of the art world inherently elitist.
But I think there’s another, perhaps more meaningful reason that the visual arts are rarely part of a broader public discourse (after all, every form of intellectualism tends toward elitism). While Green says that visual art “rarely engag[es] issues, ideas outside the ghetto,” visual artists work hard to embrace other disciplines and incorporate them into their toolbox. There has been a steady trend of breaking down these barriers between art forms at least since Duchamp. But, counterintuitively, this very openness has bread insularity. When a visual artist incorporates a technique from the music world, or an idea from the political realm, it is to build it into an esoteric conceptual structure. It’s rare for a contemporary artist to deal with an outside idea on its own terms — it’s more common to appropriate the idea or image and use it to comment on the art-historical tradition. This Talmudic labyrinth usually doesn’t yield much of interest to the broader public discourse.
Now I don’t mean to imply that artists have nothing to contribute to a broader conversation. Far from it. But for a public intellectual to engage with the art community in a meaningful way, they’re going to have to cut through many layers of irrelevant meta-discussion to get to the heart of the artistic statement. At a certain point, they’ll realize that they could more easily broaden their field of useful knowledge by studying economics or film.
Mutual of Omaha has “Visions of Victory” with a sports themed photo exhibition opening this weekend at the San Antonio Museum of Art. [The press photo a week ago was of a dirty Joe Namath on the football field, thus the Youtube reference...FYI] What are the greatest moments in sports history and who cares? Anybody want to take bets on the chances that the beloved San Antonio Spurs are anywhere in the mix? Only recommended on Free Tuesdays at SAMA from 4pm until 9pm.
(photo by Justin Parr)
Anne Wallace’s sidewalk stamping project, originally commissioned to her in 1999, is finally able to come to a close with the completion of Florida Streets new sidewalks all the way from 281 to S. St. Marys (San Antonio, Texas). The work includes a range of quotes from neighborhood people about their memories of the area, as well as images of traditional crops grown in the area, which was once the farmland for the Alamo. The corn, beans, frogs, hands, snakes, and text panels are totally worth a bike ride down Florida next time you are down this way.
public art? aqualung? pigeon coop? design by committee? I’m trying to get a good angle on it, but nobody seems to know ANYTHING about these. Pictured below, I’ve spent the last 2 months asking people “in the know,” if they know of, or have seen these objects, to no avail. Do you know anything about these giant acrylic hollow boxes, sheathed in metal and bathroom tile on the fore-front of our walk through downtown to the Alamodome? I’m not sure of the exact install date, but I have seen them unchanged in their current condition since the 2 weeks preceding the Final Four basketball games that gripped downtown San Antonio for a week. Possibly its unfinished? ..or maybe I just don’t get it.
(more images by clicking below)
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I like Elaine Wolff’s in-depth review of the new Stieren Center at the McNay. I’ve often felt that René Barilleaux doesn’t get enough credit for the work he does bringing strong contemporary art to the McNay — and I think part of the reason is that he never had the space to really show off his talents as a curator. At the same time, it’s really been a tragedy to have so many of the McNay’s modern and contemporary works in storage for a lack of exhibition space. As nice as the McNay is, I think a lot of people view it as “that cute little museum tucked away in Alamo Heights.” — but I think the collection is really better than that. Hopefully the new expansion will allow it to spread its wings and really give SAMA a run for its money. I’ll give you my impressions after checking in with the new space this weekend.