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Act/React at the Milwaukee Art Museum

The Milwaukee Art Museum is currently exhibiting a show called Act/React. I visited the show just over a month ago and have been meaning to blog about it for some time. It is coming down on January 11, so if you’re going to be in or passing through Milwaukee over the holiday break, take a […]

Daniel Rozin, Peg Mirror, 2007.

The Milwaukee Art Museum is currently exhibiting a show called Act/React. I visited the show just over a month ago and have been meaning to blog about it for some time. It is coming down on January 11, so if you’re going to be in or passing through Milwaukee over the holiday break, take a moment to stop in and see the show. It is worth it.

Going into the show, I was most excited to see the work of Cammille Utterback. Her piece, Liquid Time, is one of my favorite pieces of artwork. Several pieces from her External Measures Series are in the exhibition. One piece in the exhibition that really surprised me was Daniel Rozen’s Peg Mirror. The mirror consists of a collection of rotating pegs. Each peg’s end is tapered, and when they rotate in the light, the change in shadow represents shades of light and dark. While it’s a mechanical device, it feels very warm and inviting, certainly due to the warmth of the wood and the amazing precision it shows in reflecting the viewer.

Nathaniel Stern wrote a wonderful in-depth review for Rhizome:

…all the works on show are unhindered by traditional interface objects such as the mouse and keyboard. Most of them instead employ computer vision technologies, more commonly known as interactive video. Here, the combined use of digital video cameras and custom computer software allows each artwork to “see,” and respond to, bodies, colors and/or motion in the space of the museum. The few works not using cameras in this fashion employ similar technologies towards the same end. While this homogeneity means that the works might at first seem too similar in their interactions, their one-to-one responsiveness, and their lack of other new media-specific explorations — such as networked art or dynamic appropriation and re-mixing systems — it also accomplishes something most museum-based “state of the digital art” shows don’t. It uses just one avenue of interest by contemporary media artists in order to dig much deeper into what their practice means, and why it’s important. “Act/React” encourages an extremely varied and nuanced investigation of our embodied experiences in our own surroundings.

Stanley Landsman, Walk-In Infinity Chamber, 1968.

Stanley Landsman, Walk-In Infinity Chamber, 1968.

Another exhibition currently on view at the MAM is Sensory Overload: Light, Motion, Sound, and the Optical in Art Since 1945. It is a perfect companion exhibition to Act/React, highlighting some of the MAM’s new media collections, and connecting the contemporary work in Act/React to a deeper history of new media work. The exhibition web site notes:

The Museum has collected and exhibited new media art ever since 1967 when it co-organized Light | Motion | Space with the Walker Art Center, one of the first exhibitions on this form of art in the United States. Sensory Overload features some of the most popular works in the Museum’s Collection as well as key works on loan from other institutions and private collections.

A couple notable pieces are Erwin Redl’s MATRIX XV, Josiah McElheny’s Modernity circa 1952, Mirrored and Reflected Infinitely, and Stanley Landsman’s Walk-In Infinity Chamber, to focus on just a few. Many of the artists in the exhibition are also part of the Walker’s collection.

Past-Present-Future: George Brecht, Mark Bradford

George Brecht gestorben È morto George Brecht, genio di Fluxus Fluxus Conceptual Artist George Brecht Dies at Age 82 L’artiste américain George Brecht, un des membres du groupe Fluxus, est mort à Cologne (Allemagne) … … the breadth of publications reporting on the demise of this artist is an indication of how influential – and […]

George Brecht gestorben
È morto George Brecht, genio di Fluxus
Fluxus Conceptual Artist George Brecht Dies at Age 82
L’artiste américain George Brecht, un des membres du groupe Fluxus, est mort à Cologne (Allemagne)

… the breadth of publications reporting on the demise of this artist is an indication of how influential – and appreciated – his art is. Brecht was a key figure in Fluxus, a 60s movement whose art has been a focus of the Walker in its acquisitions, and his work was featured in the museum’s 1993 Fluxus survey. It will also play a prominent role in the upcoming Walker exhibition, The Quick and the Dead, opening in April – that is, to the extent that “prominent” means anything, given that Brecht sought to create “an art verging on the non-existent, dissolving into other dimensions.”

Peter Eleey, The Quick and the Dead’s curator, has selected several of the artist’s “event scores” for placement throughout the exhibition, where they will act in concert as a “larger score.” These are simple instructions for performances or “events” that anyone can enact – or in some cases, they simply happen. There’s Sink, for example, which is “on (or near) a white sink,” and Winter Event, which is simply “snow.” And every Thursday is the performance of Brecht’s Thursday.

While death means the end of Brecht’s career (though you never know, given the morbid preoccupations of many Conceptualists), that of another artist featured at the Walker has been coming into a full flowering. Mark Bradford, a self-described “beauty operator” whose work was included in Brave New Worlds at the Walker in 2007-08, will return to speak here in April (actual date to be confirmed – check back for details).


In the meantime, his Ark – built from the shell of a destroyed house and assorted flotsam from Hurricane Katrina – has become perhaps the emblematic piece at the sprawling Prospect.1 New Orleans biennial. (The image here comes from the exhibition’s homepage.) In his review, the New Yorker’s Peter Schjeldahl declared it perhaps the single artwork most liked by the locals. Prospect.1 is on view through January 18 should you have plans to be in New Orleans (warmth-seeking Minnesotans, take note!).

(Credits for Brecht’s Void Stone : Arp Museum Bahn hof Rolandseck. Photo: Warburg. Via Artdaily.com.)

CenterPoints 10.3

Potty Art again: The New York Times’ City Room blog takes a seat and looks at some art museum toilets by way of The Art Museum Toilet of Museum Art. The name is a mouthful and I think the joke is on us. The Walker isn’t part of the museum, but our restrooms are rated […]

  • Potty Art again: The New York Times’ City Room blog takes a seat and looks at some art museum toilets by way of The Art Museum Toilet of Museum Art. The name is a mouthful and I think the joke is on us. The Walker isn’t part of the museum, but our restrooms are rated highly and named lovingly.
  • 2010 Whitney Biennial curators named: Francesco Bonami will be the curator, working with the Whitney’s Gary Carrion-Murayari as associate curator. Bonami curated Unfinished History in 1998 and was an contributing curator on Zero to Infinity: Arte Povera 1962-1972 in 2001, both at the Walker.
  • Money and Art: Giant Robot is making money from art, having a print sale. Included in the Giant Robot print sale is the work of Mike Perry, has been mentioned on this blog before, resulting in some, uhh, interesting search terms. Mike’s latest book, Over & Over, full of hand-drawn patterns is excellent. Rirkrit Tiravanija is making art on money.  Rirkrit created untitled, better known as the stage, in 2006′s Open Ended exhibition and has several works in the Walker’s collection. [via]
  • Two things beautiful: Manhole art from the streets of Japan and Miquel Barceló’s ceiling installation at the UN’s palace of nations in Geneva.
Thanks to Paul for sending along some links. 

Modern design: it doesn’t stay shiny and new all by itself

Downtown Minneapolis’ Peavey Plaza made news on Friday as a “Marvel of Modernism.” Designed in the early 70s by M. Paul Friedberg, it’s one of 12 urban spaces selected by the Cultural Landscape Foundation as part of its “Landslide 2008” campaign to draw attention to mid-20th century landscape design – and that fact that these […]

Downtown Minneapolis’ Peavey Plaza made news on Friday as a “Marvel of Modernism.” Designed in the early 70s by M. Paul Friedberg, it’s one of 12 urban spaces selected by the Cultural Landscape Foundation as part of its “Landslide 2008” campaign to draw attention to mid-20th century landscape design – and that fact that these highlighted “Marvels” are looking rather shabby. Indeed, the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota included the plaza on its own “10 most endangered” list last May.

Part of the need for such campaigns is due to the odd niche that urban landscape design occupies. In its story about Peavey Plaza, MPR made the point that most people don’t think of landscapes as being designed; by extension, it’s also rare to think about their “maintenance” beyond lawn mowing and leaf raking. Those who perform maintenance, of course, realize that it’s quite a bit more complicated, especially with a design like Peavey Plaza’s, which involves water and fountains and relatively unusual materials like pebble aggregate. (Interestingly, MPR’s story noted that the plaza is maintained not by parks staff, but city streets staff, who may unintentionally make poor decisions since the Plaza is not part of its regular maintenance program.)

Many of the other 11 places chosen by the Cultural Landscape Foundation are intriguing, especially Herbert Bayer’s Mill Creek Canyon from 1982. In the spirit of Bauhaus, where he got his start, Bayer’s outlook as a designer was admirably “universal” (as he named one of his fonts); besides graphic design and landscape design, he also made sculptures and helped transform Aspen, Colorado from a mining town into a ski resort.

On the other side of the coin, I’m stumped by the inclusion of Boston’s City Hall Plaza. I’ve been there, and it’s simply a wind-swept hardscape wasteland – the exact kind of place that gives mid-century modernism a bad name. What’s almost amusing is that, at the end of its own lengthy essay on City Hall Plaza, the Cultural Landscape Foundation concludes that investment in “making the plaza attractive, viable, and environmentally sustainable” is needed. If this place is neither attractive, nor viable, nor environmentally sustainable – why is it considered noteworthy, let alone a marvel?

I’d be interested to hear about other urban landscapes that people feel merit a visit, whether they are marvelous or stupendously awful. (For the latter, I have a local example: Minneapolis’ Federal Courthouse plaza, pictured here.)

(Image sources: Top: Preservation Alliance Of Minnesota, via Star Tribune; bottom: Dig This Designs )

Would Beuys have auditioned for “American Idol”?

Or the Idol counterpart in his home country, Deutschland sucht den Superstar? (Love that title!) The shaman/sham/most brilliant artist of all time (to paraphrase an Art News profile from 1980), did take risks with his “aktions,” most famously in cohabitating with a coyote in a gallery (see documentation in Walker exhibition) – but I just […]

Beuys goes "Bananas"

Beuys goes "Bananas"

Or the Idol counterpart in his home country, Deutschland sucht den Superstar? (Love that title!) The shaman/sham/most brilliant artist of all time (to paraphrase an Art News profile from 1980), did take risks with his “aktions,” most famously in cohabitating with a coyote in a gallery (see documentation in Walker exhibition) – but I just learned that he also made a go of it as a pop singer. Artforum.com (via YouTube) has a video of Beuys making himself vulnerable before mainstream TV viewers, performing a protest song called “Sonne Statt Reagan” in 1982 on the German show Bananas, which also hosted acts like Depeche Mode. Artforum’s video section has a lot of other good stuff, including David Byrne talking with Jeff Koons – in 1975, Matthew Barney’s 2003 Regis Dialogue at the Walker, and an interview with Mary Heilmann in which the artist talks about “keeping the bourgeoisie happy,” among other things.

Leading ladies: Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Peyton, Olga Viso

A postscript of sorts to our earlier post about Elizabeth Peyton’s brand-new portrait of Michelle and Sasha Obama, which was added to Peyton’s survey at the New Museum after our soon-to-be brand-new president was elected (and will also travel with the exhibition, which arrives here in February). That portrait was commissioned by W magazine in […]

A postscript of sorts to our earlier post about Elizabeth Peyton’s brand-new portrait of Michelle and Sasha Obama, which was added to Peyton’s survey at the New Museum after our soon-to-be brand-new president was elected (and will also travel with the exhibition, which arrives here in February). That portrait was commissioned by W magazine in conjunction with its November issue, which is dedicated to all things cool and cutting-edge in the art world and therefore features a profile of the Walker’s director Olga Viso.

The story, while brief (it’s also a profile of Madeleine Grynsztejn, director of Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art), offers a solid overview of Viso’s background, and also allows her to air her views on multidisciplinary/interdisciplinary art, as well as the contemporary art market. The latter was described in the piece as “exploding,” though keep in mind, glossy magazines work on very long lead times …

Meanwhile, plenty of artists and others are commenting on what the financial meltdown portends not just for the art market, but for art itself. More on that soon.

What does boredom look like?

Leave it to Paul Schmelzer, the former chief blogger on Off-Center, to find the fine-art connection in Minnesota’s infamous Senate ballot recount. On his own blog, Eyeteeth, he’s mentioned how the “Lizard People” write-in vote on one ballot made waves last week, thanks mostly to MPR’s excellent “Challenged Ballots: You Be the Judge”, a feature […]

Leave it to Paul Schmelzer, the former chief blogger on Off-Center, to find the fine-art connection in Minnesota’s infamous Senate ballot recount.

On his own blog, Eyeteeth, he’s mentioned how the “Lizard People” write-in vote on one ballot made waves last week, thanks mostly to MPR’s excellent “Challenged Ballots: You Be the Judge”, a feature that provided an all-too rare occasion for election transparency.

But more to the point at hand, in a story for the Minnesota Independent, where he works as managing editor, Schmelzer talked to photographer Paul Shambroom about capturing the mind-numbing process of (re-)counting thousands of ballots. Shambroom, whose Meetings series masterfully – even majestically – documented small-town civic proceedings across the USA, said that if he were to return to his days as a news photographer, he might try “try to embrace the boredom” of such a task.

That got me trying to think of works of art that might “try to embrace the boredom” of something. What about Instead of allowing some thing to rise up to your face dancing bruce and dan and other things? That ‘s the “situation” by Tino Sehgal where a single person writhes slowly and soundlessly, kind of starfish-like, on the floor of an empty gallery; it played out last winter in the Walker’s Medtronic Gallery as part of Sehgal’s largest “show” to date in the first U.S.

Other examples of tedium-as-art? Send a comment below.

The Walker’s Christo-wannabe

The Walker has a Christo imitator lurking around. He hit Witt Siasoco, Teen Programs Manager. From the WACTAC blog: At least the mouse stayed fresh while on vacation.

The Walker has a Christo imitator lurking around. He hit Witt Siasoco, Teen Programs Manager. From the WACTAC blog:

At least the mouse stayed fresh while on vacation.

Politics affecting art – a little differently this time.

Elizabeth Peyton originally painted this portrait, Michelle and Sasha Obama Listening to Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention August 2008, for the art issue of W magazine. It was added to Peyton’s Live Forever retrospective at the New Museum on the day after the election, when the show had already been up since early […]

Elizabeth Peyton originally painted this portrait, Michelle and Sasha Obama Listening to Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention August 2008, for the art issue of W magazine. It was added to Peyton’s Live Forever retrospective at the New Museum on the day after the election, when the show had already been up since early October. Why? Senior curator Laura Hoptman deemed it “appropriate.”

The release from the New Museum is as follows: “The New Museum joins Elizabeth Peyton in paying tribute to incoming First Lady Michelle Obama, whose portrait with her daughter Sasha will be unveiled today on the 4th floor as a new component of the exhibition Live Forever: Elizabeth Peyton. This is the first time this newly created painting is on public view. Please join us in celebrating as we look forward to rousing changes both large and small.”

Now that she’s been added to the show, is the First Lady coming here when Live Forever packs it up to the Walker in February?

The economy is melting too

At the DNC and RNC, the artist team ligorano/reese set up a project, The State of Things, that melted in the hot afternoon sun. It would seem that the visual message was too apt to not re-use: In a new, time-based event, called Main Street Meltdown the artists will install the word “Economy,” carved in ice, in Foley Square, […]

by Ligorano/Reese

At the DNC and RNC, the artist team ligorano/reese set up a project, The State of Things, that melted in the hot afternoon sun. It would seem that the visual message was too apt to not re-use:

In a new, time-based event, called Main Street Meltdown the artists will install the word “Economy,” carved in ice, in Foley Square, using the New York Supreme Court as a back drop. The artists chose Foley Square, close to the heart of Wall Street, as the site to focus on the timeliness of the financial crisis in the final week of the presidential campaign. The artists refer to Main Street Meltdown as a “temporary sculpture.”

The monument measures 15 feet long, 5 feet tall, and weighs almost 1,500 pounds. It is the fourth in a series of ice sculptures by the artists that deal with important political issues. 

It is not often I learn of new work via The Consumerist, but as the work demonstrates, these are exraordinary times.

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