Blogs Centerpoints

Bits & Pieces: Alec Soth; Xmas kitsch, Shanghai-style; the coming Inquisition; more

How to spend the money from all those gifts you’re going to return. Find some ideas browsing Alec Soth’s top 10 photo books of 2009. Fans of Soth’s earlier blog — and they were becoming legion — are elated that he’s back, at least in a bloggy kind of alter-ego way as one “Lester B. Morrison.”  They […]

Lester B. Morrison's Facebook photo

Lester B. Morrison's Facebook photo

How to spend the money from all those gifts you’re going to return. Find some ideas browsing Alec Soth’s top 10 photo books of 2009. Fans of Soth’s earlier blog — and they were becoming legion — are elated that he’s back, at least in a bloggy kind of alter-ego way as one “Lester B. Morrison.”  They should also keep an eye out for more information about Soth’s first survey, opening here at the Walker next September.

Christmas, as only the Chinese can do it: My friend Adam Minter, a writer based in Shanghai, has been snapping photos of every Christmas tree he’s seen in the past few days — 141, to be exact.

redemption house

The script at the bottom of that tree says “Redemption House.” See the other 140 Christmas trees — some pathetic, some downright creepy, and many pushing kitsch into entirely new realms — at Adam’s blog, Shanghai Scrap.

Barbara Kingsolver & Walker history: In Lacuna, Kingsolver’s first novel in nine years, a character named Tom Cuddy writes to the protagonist, Harrison Shepherd:

“The Department of State is getting into the art business. … the idea is to pack up a fresh load of paintings on Uncle Sam’s ticket, and parade them around the museums of Europe. A special show of American paintings to send overseas, to show those Parisians we’re not a bunch of rubes. … They recruited my old boss for the job, Leroy Davidson from the Walker. He only got 50 thousand clams to work with but he’s done a killer job, Leroy chose everything himself. He’s fed up with the Europeans sniggering about heart-throbbing landscapes and the American Scene, so he decided to give them an eyeful. Seventy-nine paintings, mostly Modern Art: Stuart Davis, Marsden Hartley, Georgia O’Keeffe, it’s a killer.”

Joseph LeRoy Davidson (1908 - 1980)

Joseph LeRoy Davidson (1908 - 1980)

Incidentally, work from those painters is currently on view in Benches & Binoculars. Two outlines of Davidson’s distinguished career (here and here)  note that he was an assistant director and curator at the Walker before moving to Washington and heading up the feds’ initial efforts at cultural PR through contemporary art (which, according to some, came into full flower with Abstract Expressionism in the 1950s). Our archivist Jill Vuchetich notes, however, that “the timeline is slightly off.  He would have been the first assistant director starting in 1940 when the Walker Galleries became the Walker Art Center, under director Daniel S. Defenbacher.”

Your most burning questions about art … answered! Watch the informative and instructional video below, which tells you how to submit queries for the upcoming Inquisition — a revival of a public quiz forum that played out at the Walker in 1940. In fact, Davidson probably got in on this game, as it was invented by his boss, Defenbacher.

Bits & Pieces: holiday design, “sagging,” celebrity art lovers

Marcel’s Wanders-ing here, and over there: Can’t get enough of Marcel Wanders’ holiday trinkets at Target? You might want to moon over the 312-page digital book that Wanders published on his website, which exposes the whole design process and then some, including “Santa’s rejects.” It’s well worth paging through. Also check out the wrapping paper, […]

Marcel Wanders cover for de Bijenkor's 2008 holiday magazine

Marcel Wanders cover for de Bijenkorf's 2008 holiday magazine

wander_target design book

page from Wanders' design book for Target, 2009

Marcel’s Wanders-ing here, and over there: Can’t get enough of Marcel Wanders’ holiday trinkets at Target? You might want to moon over the 312-page digital book that Wanders published on his website, which exposes the whole design process and then some, including “Santa’s rejects.” It’s well worth paging through. Also check out the wrapping paper, socks, teddy bears, lingerie, Christmas balls, vases, dresses, and table decorations he designed for the 2008 holiday season at de Bijenkorf, a department store in his home country. (This year, de Bijenkorf’ commissioned Victor & Rolf to create a Christmas collection—perhaps Target will bring that duo to this side of the Atlantic next year?)

“…and a giant cherry on a huge spoon”: Target’s 2009 festivities also include a new video and radio commercial with a song by the VocalEssence Ensemble Singers. Watch the video and try to guess which Singer has a day job at the Walker.

Enduring? Certainly. Endearing? You decide … an exhibition about “sagging” called Hang Time: The Enduring, Endearing Trend, is up at Pill House (aka Pillsbury House) in South Minneapolis through January 30. As curator Roderic Southall told MPR’s Marianne Combs:

“If I were asked to boil down the messages that are sent to saggers by those adults who object to it I would suggest the phrase ‘you low down dirty dog homo boy who lacks any positive sense of who you are . . . listen to me as I tell you how to be.’ I think that accurately reflects how little I think the dialogue has been worth. Why we have such a violent community dialogue about clothing in the midst of all of the other social challenges is worthy of study and, in a way, celebration.”

Fair enough. But as Combs and Southall himself point out, if something’s been going on for 20 years, hasn’t it transcended trend status? Count on a lively artist/community discussion on January 15 atat 6:30 p.m.

From the Archives: Celebrities in our Midst! One of our interns is going down to the archives and will soon be posting treasures she unearths there (following up on this post). For now, pay a quick visit to Eyeteeth, the blog of former Walker staffer Paul Schmelzer, to see Sonic Youth enjoying the Walker’s 2006 Cameron Jamie exhibition. He hasn’t yet visited the Walker — that we know of — but James Franco’s been making inroads of late in the contemporary art world, including an appearance as a presenter at the First Annual Art Awards; now the Wall Street Journal has published his lengthy piece about performance art, questioning whether his role as artist “Franco, just Franco” on General Hospital qualifies as such; it’s accompanied by a video in which he interviews “godmother of performance art” Marina Abramovic.

"Franco, only Franco" on "General Hospital"; image from ABC

"Franco, just Franco" on "General Hospital" (image from ABCO)

Bits & Pieces: From “Twilight” to “Zaire,” and points in between

Robert Pattinson’s got nothing on Francis Bacon! Who needs fan sites and movie trailers when you have ArtsConnectEd.org? See the slideshow presentation created by a Twilight fan, who uses artworks by Bacon and others to illustrate an outline of this, uh, literary sensation. It’s not too early to get a start on next year’s Halloween […]

robert pattinson Bacon - head in grey
Robert Pattinson’s got nothing on Francis Bacon! Who needs fan sites and movie trailers when you have ArtsConnectEd.org? See the slideshow presentation created by a Twilight fan, who uses artworks by Bacon and others to illustrate an outline of this, uh, literary sensation.


big head costume

It’s not too early to get a start on next year’s Halloween costume: Take inspiration from this paper-crafted self-portrait-as-helmet by 3D artist Eric Testroete, inspired by “big-head mode seen in videogames” See more pictures here. (via printeresting.org)

NYC Mayor Bloomberg only narrowly won re-election — and now this. After 66 years in Manhattan, the nonprofit American Craft Council has had it with the cost of doing business there. It is quitting the New York — and following a long trail of artists to greener, more fertile, and far cheaper pastures of Minneapolis, where it will take up residence next summer.

Minneapolis artist David Rathman, who showed here in 2003, has branched out from paintings and drawings to video, with stunning results. See below — best viewed in full screen!


Installation view of Pierre Huyghe’s Wind Chime (after “Dream”) (1997/2009) in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden © 2008 Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGPThe Quick and the Dead lives on. Three works from the highly regarded exhibition were recently acquired by the Walker for its collection. Probably the most familiar is Pierre Huyghe’s Wind Chime (After “Dream”) (left), which became a favorite in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden over the summer. We’ll All Go Together, a sound piece by Susan Philipsz, was an oddly comforting yet slightly eery presence in the underground parking garage (where it kept company with a battered, oil-leaking Buick — a surprise artwork by Trisha Donnelly that appeared the day before the show opened). And Mark Manders’ Life-size Scene with Revealed Figure is an enigmatic work that suggests any number of functions – an alterpiece, an obsolete projector, a stationary puppet — though its ultimate purpose remains mysterious.

Bits & Pieces: Curatorial Edition

“I traced out that Morandi drawing … Traced that son of a bitch out on a blank piece of paper, and I said, ‘There’s the artwork.’ ” Who says curators aren’t badasses? Read, via Greg.org,a brief yet fascinating account of curatorial license by the legendary Walter Hopps—all with the noblest of goals in mind: to […]

“I traced out that Morandi drawing … Traced that son of a bitch out on a blank piece of paper, and I said, ‘There’s the artwork.’ ” Who says curators aren’t badasses? Read, via Greg.org,a brief yet fascinating account of curatorial license by the legendary Walter Hopps—all with the noblest of goals in mind: to promote the work of Giorgio Morandi, who in the late ’50s/early ’60s was mostly unknown, at least on the West Coast. At an early stage of his long and illustrious career, Hopps founded and ran the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles (from 1957 to 1962), showing the likes of Robert Irwin, Ed Kienholz, Wallace Berman, and Ed Ruscha, in addition to Morandi.

We’ve noticed this, too: “The word ‘curate’,” lofty and once rarely spoken outside exhibition corridors or British parishes, has become a fashionable code word among the aesthetically minded, who seem to paste it onto any activity that involves culling and selecting.” From a recent New York Times piece.

You be the curator, option 1: Help commission a work of art with the stunningly simple FEAST MPLS: Attend a (not all that expensive) dinner. Peruse artists’ proposals with your fellow diners. Vote. The winning artist gets the take from the door (minus the dinner cost). Uses money to create proposed work. Shares work at the next FEAST MPLS dinner. Try it out on November 14.

va2009po_da-bc_0720_004

Chief Curator, Darsie Alexander and Curator of the Permanent Collection, Betsy Carpenter, planning upcoming PC exhibiton, Event Horizon, opening November 21, 2009 and running through August 26, 2012, in Galleries 1 and 3.

You be the curator, option 2: Make your own exhibition at the Walker’s After Hours Preview Party on November 20. Select thumbnail images of works from the Walker collection (including photos, videos, films, performances, or sound pieces). Arrange works on a gallery floor plan. Put the works you care about the most in prominent places. (“Curate” comes, after all, from the Latin for “to care”?) Paint the walls of your miniature gallery. Find ideas connecting the works. And finally, title your exhibition. Get tickets to the After Hours Party here.

Flitting Species Put Together to Present a Semblance of a Whole

Who are the Walker’s avian neighbors? My father and I went “city birding” to see the surprising ways wildlife dovetails with the urban environment. In May and then in October, we wandered the grounds of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, then migrated to Loring Park, and concluded our observations perched atop the Walker’s green slope. Here […]

Who are the Walker’s avian neighbors?

My father and I went “city birding” to see the surprising ways wildlife dovetails with the urban environment. In May and then in October, we wandered the grounds of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, then migrated to Loring Park, and concluded our observations perched atop the Walker’s green slope. Here is a bird’s-eye-view of the territory we covered.

Three birding sites around the Walker
1: Minneapolis Sculpture Garden; 2: Walker’s greenspace; 3: Loring Park; 4: Walker Art Center, Gallery Tower; 5: Walker Art Center, Theater Tower

First, to introduce the birders:

Abbie

Abbie pic

  • Novice at bird identification
  • Walker Art Center staff
  • Fledgling artist

Renner

Renner pic

What we saw may surprise you! Take a look at our list, then go look for yourself. I welcome your comments to this post — I’m curious to see if you see the same species or others!

Three Sites and two dates copy

FIELD NOTES:HIGHLIGHTS

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

  • In the Garden we enjoyed observing a fairly diverse bird population. In both May and October, lots of birds find their way to the Garden grounds.
  • In May, the Green Heron was our most unexpected sighting. We saw it flying low overhead at 8:41 am. Later we spotted it in a pine tree along the western edge of the Garden. Maybe it nests in the wetlands located about 1/3 mile west of the Garden?
  • As we walked along the park’s eastern and western edges in October, we saw Ruby-crowned Kinglets in the pines, often at very close distances (as close as 4′). They would flit from one pine bow to the next, and would frequently hover (almost like a hummingbird), positioning themselves just under the pine needles’ tips. Could they have been drinking water droplets?
  • Another great bird to watch was the Brown Creeper. It lands at the base of a tree trunk then slowly hops and spirals up, foraging for insects. Once it gets as high as the branches, it takes flight and alights at the base of the next tree. We watched it scale 5 tree trunks, very methodically and consistently repeating its search for food.

Walker Art Center’s Greenspace

  • In May, virtually all the observed individuals were flying over.
  • Contrasting the greenspace observations with those recorded in the Garden or in Loring Park, one can hypothesize that features such as physical structure, diverse flora, and a water source make a quantifiable difference in the abundance and diversity of birds, even on a micro-local level.

Loring Park

  • In both May and October, this location had the most diverse populations of our three sites.
  • Mourning Doves: We saw them all through the Sculpture Garden, even atop George Segal’s Walking Man, but we didn’t see any in Loring Park!
  • 70% increase: In October, we saw 70% more species than we saw in May! This was striking because the species counts at the other sites were consistent for our two survey dates.

We submitted our observations on e-bird, an free online checklist tool. E-bird  offers organized record storage and customizable reports to users. Its greater purpose is to serve researchers in the fields of conservation and ecology.

Every two facts in the hand is worth a third in the thicket.

Had my dad and I only surveyed the Garden, our experiences would have been less dimensional. The accumulation of information is not a strictly additive process, but can compound our knowledge multiplicatively. With every observable datum, relationships exist between that singular bit and all the pieces that came before. In this context we cobble together patterns, discriminate and identify categories,  speculate as to meaning and postulate as to the future. How many bits and pieces must we put together to present a satisfactorily convincing semblance of a whole?


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS:

  • Recently I had the opportunity to attend a discussion between artist Fritz Haeg and some Walker staff. Reflecting on his works and practice influenced me to conduct this bird census. I appreciate the power of Haeg’s work to remind us that wilderness is always at hand, and closer at hand than we might casually believe.  Thank you to Education and Community Programs for making this encounter, this exploration, and this learning possible.
  • Singing the Legacy of Sekou Sundiata

    Sekou Sundiata – Voice and Passage Today, I ponder death. I am thinking of life’s inevitable end because it is gray and I have just returned from Paris and feel the demise of my own vacation, acutely (and remember some vain and heroic graves in Pere Lachaise cemetary that now lie in ruins or are […]

    Sekou Sundiata – Voice and Passage

    Today, I ponder death. I am thinking of life’s inevitable end because it is gray and I have just returned from Paris and feel the demise of my own vacation, acutely (and remember some vain and heroic graves in Pere Lachaise cemetary that now lie in ruins or are forgotten.) I am also thinking of death in relation to my lost compatriot, the poet Sekou Sundiata, whose life and work we celebrate and remember this week at Intermedia Arts in Minneapolis.

    Sekou created in voice – invisible exhalations of sound and meaning. In our time, voice can be preserved in analog and digital technologies. But constitutionally it is wind – ubiquitous, forceful and completely mysterious. Voice (as wind) shapes and moves us, wounding and restoring, animating and destroying. As long as we breath (easily) we give voice to ourselves and to others. Our (or at least my) beloved and hated remembrances are linked to these invisible currents of the lungs, throat and lips. We are upheld by those moments when we are nourished and sustained by the voices of care; of friendship; of understanding; of compassion: and often crushed by those breaths that carry the forces of hatred, contempt and violence. Spirit. Voice. Are we not wind too – ubiquitously banal – blown and blowing; arriving as departure?

    These dark and light gifts of voice: a newborn’s cry; words of love and endearment from someone we long for; news of the passing of someone we cherish. Passing – always – wind and voice – words that wound, heal, reverberate and echo. Sounds carried in the head and heart; in the caverns of the body. Voice – inescapable – whisper or harangue. Voice as phantasm – mystery and mist – more allied to expiration than to form.

    Unlike others who in print lie forever prone on a page; Sundiata rises holographically even now in his voice (listen to him on the web- linked here); ghostly returning to stand before us, nearly as gorgeous and tall as he was in life; convening and communicating in his crooner’s baritone; lulling in his clear tones – smoothing over the very depths he so expertly navigated. Making it all seem so easy (His Coolness forever preserved). Listen in. He tells how he temporarily escaped the inevitable through transplantation, accident and re-creation. In the end, by aligning himself with voice – perhaps he mastered expiration; escaped the final silence by refusing to just be written down.

    We return this week to his work (an expiration of voice together in song and conversation); perhaps, to dance our own undoing; to be with him in passing.

    * * *

    Singing the Legacy of Sekou Sundiata: The America Project
    Thursday, October 22, 2009 – Saturday, October 24, 2009
    2822 Lyndale Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55408 | 612.871.4444

    Intermedia Arts is proud to host Singing the Legacy of Sekou Sundiata: The America Project Twin Cities, a series of community events including Art Treats lunches, citizenship dinners, a film screening and community sing, all designed to inspire and ignite our passionate ideals around citizenry, civic work, and active engagement in civic life. Together we will use art, music, conversation and laughter to discuss what it means to be an American today, and to dream about what it could mean in the future
    sundiata1-600w

    Look who’s hanging in the White House

    The Huffington Post has an AP story today about the contemporary art revolution that has taken place at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue since the Obamas took up residence there. There have been a few reports on this development since the election — including excited reactions from gallery owners and museum directors — but with today’s story […]

    The Huffington Post has an AP story today about the contemporary art revolution that has taken place at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue since the Obamas took up residence there. There have been a few reports on this development since the election — including excited reactions from gallery owners and museum directors — but with today’s story it would appear that the checklist has been finalized (or at least the First Lady’s office released a list earlier this week).

    Work by Glenn Ligon and Ed Ruscha, both of whom are important to the Walker’s collection, is on view (at left is a Ligon piece from the Walker – not the White House!), along with pieces Mark Rothko, Jasper Johns, and Richard Diebenkorn; the HP story has a pretty extensive slide show of some of the selections, but the Washington Post’s has even more (along with a review of sorts by critic Black Gopnik).

    “Would this material be interesting if it wasn’t Frida Kahlo?”

    That’s the rhetorical question the author of a new book posed to the New York Times in a fascinating — and still unfolding — story concerning Mexico’s most famous artist (not counting Kahlo’s husband, Diego Rivera). The material Barbara Levine refers to is a trove of some 1,200 recently discovered artworks, diaries, letters, and artifacts […]

    finding frida imageThat’s the rhetorical question the author of a new book posed to the New York Times in a fascinating — and still unfolding — story concerning Mexico’s most famous artist (not counting Kahlo’s husband, Diego Rivera).

    The material Barbara Levine refers to is a trove of some 1,200 recently discovered artworks, diaries, letters, and artifacts attributed to Kahlo, which she explores in the newly published Finding Frida Kahlo. Although officials at Princeton Architectural Press say the book states clearly that authentication of the works is still an issue, according to the Times, it is not a central part of the book (let alone its thesis).

    The story about the discovery has its own fairly-tale-like quality, involving an art and antiques dealer, a reclusive Mexico City lawyer, and a wood carver in the mountain town of San Miguel de Allende. The carver is said to have made frames for Kahlo, who in turn is said to have entrusted to him several trunks and boxes of her possessions. Now the circle of characters has expanded to include a grand-daughter and other relatives of Diego Rivera; a host of Kahlo scholars and art experts (self-appointed and otherwise), including artists who worked with her and Rivera; officials from Kahlo’s trust; and handwriting and chemical-analysis experts. And, naturally, more lawyers!

    There’s also a criminal complaint filed in Mexico and attempts to halt the sale of the book in the U.S., not to mention a whole lot at stake, financially and otherwise. (The Walker’s presentation of Kahlo’s 2007-2008 touring retrospective was among the highest-attended exhibitions here). So stay tuned. And since everyone’s an expert, check out the Times“Frida Kahlos or Frauds? slide show and judge for yourself.

    Eno Gets Freaky

    In anticipation of the sold out Brian Eno and Jon Hassell conversation on Sept 22, here is a gem for your pleasure.  Eno performs here with legendary Roxy Music in the early 70’s, freaking out on tambourine and, er, keyboard?  Here he is rocking his crucially dangerous “vampire peacock” look.  Check out that skullet! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UODv3aCVxg Also, here’s one […]

    CenterPoints 10.5

    “Through humor and human drama, to questions about the way we live” — Huffington Post has a short post about No Impact Man, with links to several other influential pieces that brought Colin Beavan to international recognition. No Impact Man is screening at the Walker next week. Bad at Sports has a fun and informative interview […]

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