Archive for the ‘Art/lit/music/film’ Category

Peter Mendelsund

July 21, 2014

From the August 2014 issue of Details magazine, the piece “The Cover Artist” by Timothy Hodler:

You may not know his name, but chances are you already own some of Peter Mendelsund’s work. The 46-year-old designer of iconic book jackets for top-shelf authors both living (Martin Amis) and dead (James Joyce) is celebrated in this month’s Cover (powerHouse, $60; out August 5), a retrospective of his greatest hits. He’s also publishing his first book, What We See When We Read (Vintage, $17; out August 5), a philosophical exploration of the literary imagination. Here, he shares the stories behind some of his standouts.

An example of Mendelsund’s work, the cover for The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus:

Despite the title of the Details piece, the creators of book covers are not referred to as artists, at least in art circles, where they are designers or illustrators. They provide artwork (art for short) — designs or illustrations — for commercial purposes and so they are normally outside the world of art criticism and art exhibits (“Art art”, you might say), except on special occasions, when applied (as opposed to fine) art, craftwork, folk art, street art, outsider art, etc. are granted attention in shows, catalogs, and the like.


Things we doubt Louis XIV envisioned

July 17, 2014

In the June/July 2014 Details, pp. 57-8, a piece by Laurence Lowe on the Jeff Koons retrospective now showing at the Whitney Museum in New York, treating four of his most iconic works: New Hoover Celebrity III’s (1980); Michael Jackson and Bubbles (1988); Made in Heaven (1989); and Puppy (1992).

On the last, Koons says:

I created it for a site-specific exhibition in Bad Arolsen, Germany. There was a huge schloss in the center of town. I envisioned Louis XIV visiting it and thought, ‘If Louis lived there, what would he want to see?’ Maybe he’d wake up in the morning and want to see a sculpture, about 40 feet tall, all made of live flowers, in the shape of a dog. It was that intuitive.


(There are other installations in other places.)


But is it art? Abstraction

June 29, 2014

In earlier postings on the “But is it art?” topic I looked at conceptual art, broadly conceived: the spawn of Marcel Duchamp, you might say. There’s another strain of art that has famously given rise to the query: abstract art.

An anecdote, from years ago at a reception for the opening of an exhibition of abstract art at the Columbus Museum of Art. I was contemplating a painting by Morris Louis (one of his Stripes series; see below) when another gallery-goer, looking disapprovingly at the offerings, remarked to me, “The rot began with the Impressionists”, conveying (I suppose) that when the Impressionists moved away from strictly representational art, the long slide began that eventually produced Kandinsky, Mondrian, Pollack, and all the rest, including Louis.

I don’t know why people like this guy go to exhibitions like the one we were at, but I slid away from him and went on to a CMA poster sale, at which I bought a reproduction of a (large) Louis Stripes piece.

Notes on Louis and then very briefly on abstract art.


But is it art? At MoMA

June 28, 2014

One more shot at this topic, after the High Line and the Whitney: a piece in the July/August 2014 Atlantic: “The Most Modern Curator: Why Paola Antonelli put Pac-Man, a mine detonator, and a vial of sweat in the Museum of Modern Art” by Megan Garber:

On the third floor of the Museum of Modern Art, in New York City, if you go to the bank of windows overlooking 54th Street and then turn right, you will find some synthetic sweat. The liquid, stored in a short glass vial, mimics the perspiration of cage fighters—collected just after a bout and chemically analyzed using a technique known as gas chromatography. It is slightly viscous. It is slightly yellow. It is slightly disgusting.

Which is the point. The vial is part of Design and Violence, an installation co-produced by Jamer Hunt and Paola Antonelli, one of MoMA’s most prominent, and provocative, curators. As a physical representation of some of humanity’s most enduring features — sex, aggression, smelliness — the bottle’s manufactured contents are both entirely and not at all natural. “We wanted objects that have an ambiguous relationship with violence,” Antonelli says, by way of explaining the installation’s selections, each of which — a stiletto heel, a self-guided bullet, a chalk outline of a drone — is meant to emphasize design’s power not just to solve problems but also to create them.


But is it art? More Jeff Koons

June 28, 2014

Last time around, a Zippy the Pinhead led to a Jeff Koons balloon dog and Popeye. Now, at the Whitney, a substantial show on Koons. From the NYT yesterday, this piece by Roberta Smith: “Shapes of an Extroverted Life: ‘Jeff Koons: A Retrospective’ Opens at the Whitney”:

There are so many strange, disconcerting aspects to Jeff Koons, his art and his career that it is hard to quite know how to approach his first New York retrospective, the Whitney Museum of American Art’s largest survey devoted to a single artist. [Open through October 19th; organized by Scott Rothkopf, the Whitney’s associate director of programs]

… there are all the big, often shiny sculptures, framed posters and glossy paintings, all tending toward an almost brain-freezing hyper-realism that isolates and fastidiously transforms objects from all corners of contemporary life: household appliances, gift store tchotchkes, advertising posters, children’s toys.

… The erotic and, to some extent, the scatological are never far beneath the surface in Mr. Koons’s art. Exhibit A is “Play-Doh,” [dated 1994-2014] a new, almost certain masterpiece whose sculptural enlargement of a rainbow pile of radiant chunks captures exactly the matte textures of the real thing, but also evokes paint, dessert and psychedelic poop.



What’s art and what’s not on the High Line

June 28, 2014

Previously, from Andrea K. Scott, “Parklife: Playing hide-and-seek at a sculpture show on the High Line”, New Yorker of 6/9&16/14, ending with an appreciation of conceptual artist Josh Kline. Now, the lead-in:

“Honey, I twisted through more damn traffic today,” reads the new white-on-pink mural by Ed Ruscha, above the High Line at Twenty-second Street. On a recent afternoon, the text doubled as a caption for a live-action cartoon, as a man on a scooter wove his way through a gaggle of tourists. Nearby, teen-agers held up handwritten signs advertising free hugs and yelled, “It’s emotional Tuesday!” Performance art? No, students from the neighborhood’s Fashion Industries high school, blowing off steam.

It can be hard to distinguish what’s art and what’s not on the High Line. “Archeo,” a new exhibition of eight outdoor sculptures by seven young artists, organized by the park’s nimble curator, Cecilia Alemani, plays to the idea of the High Line as a latter-day Readymade. Marcel Duchamp turned his bicycle wheel, snow shovel, and bottle rack into art with scant alteration. But the former elevated railway, once overgrown and abandoned, is now so groomed and urban-chic that it’s a ready-made backdrop for Instagram.


paper cut

June 26, 2014

For years it was clasped firmly in the embrace of a plastic device with a magnetic strip on the back, which allowed it to be displayed on a refrigerator (or other metal surface). But then it somehow slipped out and, being almost weightless, wafted away on some breath of a breeze, until eventually it was discovered by a visitor, on the floor far from the refrigerator.

It’s a Chinese paper cut, depicting my animal from the Chinese zodiac, the dragon:

A gift from the students in my 1985 classes at the Beijing Language Institute (as it was then).


Mustard on AZBlogX

June 25, 2014

(Vanishingly small linguistic interest.)

On AZBlogX, an entertaining photo (passed on by Michael Palmer on Facebook) of model Jordan Alexander (10/7/12) wielding a hotdog bun and mustard on what is either his dick or a hotdog held in his crotch (I have other photos of both scenarios). This has now been added to my Pages on phallicity posting (which now come divided into a subPage on wurst postings, for things like this, and a general subPage on the rest).


Streamlined Koons

June 21, 2014

Today’s Zippy, with a diner and an artist:


The diner and the artist, in turn.


Josh Kline

June 11, 2014

From Andrea K. Scott’s review “Parklife: Playing hide-and-seek at a sculpture show on the High Line” in the New Yorker of June 9th and 16th, about

Josh Kline’s brilliant “Skittles,” near the Standard hotel. An illuminated deli display case is stocked with rows of colorful drinks in ridiculous flavors — “Williamsburg,” “Big Data,” “Nightlife” — made from surprising ingredients. (“Condo” blends coconut water, HDMI cable, infant formula, turmeric, and yoga mats.) Think of “Skittles” as Duchamp’s “Bottle Rack,” updated for the age of aspirational marketing, when even a smoothie can be spun as a status symbol. The case is locked and the bottles are beyond reach, but you can press your nose to the glass.

The piece is a hoot.



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