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“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.

Impressionable Youth

I really enjoyed Walker photographer Gene Pittman’s recent post about his portrait of skateboard videographer Ty Evans.  I immediately got excited when I saw that old school Powell Peralta ripper graphic, and I commented that the graphic was one of the images that got me interested in art.  As a fiery young dork imprisoned in […]

I really enjoyed Walker photographer Gene Pittman’s recent post about his portrait of skateboard videographer Ty Evans.  I immediately got excited when I saw that old school Powell Peralta ripper graphic, and I commented that the graphic was one of the images that got me interested in art.  As a fiery young dork imprisoned in small town USA, I was riveted by the danger and recklessness that the image represented.  As an added bonus, Ma absolutely HATED it.  It got me thinking about other images that inspired my creative path in life.  Here are some, in no particular order:

 Picasso's Guernica

barrel

Oh no, what have I started?  I had better stop now.  What are your influential images?  Post them in reply.

Finds from the planet’s biggest gift shop

Walker staff members Nancy Gross and Michele Tobin have been on the mother of all shopping trips in New York – including, first and foremost, several days at the New York International Gift Fair. With several thousand designers, artisans, craftspeople, etc. exhibiting their wares, this gargantuan buyers’ mart takes up not just the entire Javits […]

Walker staff members Nancy Gross and Michele Tobin have been on the mother of all shopping trips in New York – including, first and foremost, several days at the New York International Gift Fair. With several thousand designers, artisans, craftspeople, etc. exhibiting their wares, this gargantuan buyers’ mart takes up not just the entire Javits Center, but also Piers 90, 92, & 94. Nancy just sent this update as they prepared to make their final rounds at the Fair before returning to Minneapolis tonight:

“In spite of the current state of they economy, and light attendance at the show by vendors and buyers, we have found some great new merchandise for spring and summer. Some highlights include Alessi’s adding to its already successful line of “Banana Brothers” products by Stephano Giovannoni. We loved the collection, including the placecards, corkscrews, canisters, toothpick holders, etc.

Monday evening, we were invited to a special dinner event hosted by Alessi. We enjoyed connecting with our colleagues from Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (Mark and Maxine) and our Alessi rep, Diane O’Donnel. And for the pasta course, the chef demonstrated Alessi’s ingenious “Pasta Pot”: a crock-pot-like appliance designed by chef Alain Ducasse and designer Patrick Jouin, which allows vegetables, pasta and sauce to cook together and go straight to your table.

One of our favorite companies, Kid-O toys (mentioned in our last blog post), introduced a new, well-designed wooden memory game and also an interactive depth perception toy. Look for them in the Walker Shop in June.

Some other fun things we found were a Ipod speaker with a Lego-like look, a roll of packing tape with Shepard Fairey-inspired graphics, real “Wee Plants” the size of a fingernail that grow in a glass vial, and specialized lenses for your camera phone that create special effects (wide angle, kaleidoscope,etc.).


A fresh color trend we found was citrine yellow combined with grey – a look that we’ve incorporated into our spring assortment of Chilewich placemats. Turns out that Michelle Obama’s Inauguration Day outfit was right on trend!”

The Museum of Bad Art’s Michael Frank

Museum of Bad Art Today the Walker was visited by Michael Frank, the Curator-in-Chief of Boston’s Museum of Bad Art (MOBA). Since the early 90′s, the MOBA features “art too bad to be ignored™,” displayed in galleries in the basements of two community theatres in the Boston area, the “largest network of theatre-basement exhibition venues […]

Museum of Bad Art

Today the Walker was visited by Michael Frank, the Curator-in-Chief of Boston’s Museum of Bad Art (MOBA). Since the early 90′s, the MOBA features “art too bad to be ignored™,” displayed in galleries in the basements of two community theatres in the Boston area, the “largest network of theatre-basement exhibition venues on Earth.” The museum exhibits artworks with a playful ironic subtext. The hilarious website is a fascinating peek into the world of images found in thrift stores, garbage piles, yard sales, and even donations from artists themselves. Michael is in town to view and promote Masterworks: The MOBA plays , 6 commissioned plays based on 6 paintings from his new book The Museum of Bad Art: Masterworks. Being a Boston native myself, I was immediately excited to meet Michael and ask him some questions about MOBA.

What is your professional background?
I’m a professional musician and guitar player—Mike the Hatman. I do kids’ shows.

How did you become involved with MOBA?
In the early 90’s, the founders of the Museum of Bad Art decided to move on. There were a group of us who wanted to see it continue. I knew the founders because of a donation I made to the museum. I became Curator-in-Chief because I donated more art than anyone else.  Louise Reilly Sacco, the sister of one of the founders, became Permanent Acting Interim Executive Director.

What is the mission of MOBA?
We look for art created in earnestness, but where something went wrong in the execution or concept.

Which piece exemplifies the mission of MOBA?
That’s so hard to do, choose one piece. That’s like asking, “Which kid do you like the best?” I think Gilded Nude does a good job of showing what we’re about. You have to read the commentary, though—“The viewer is struck immediately by the youthful female subject’s oversized arm.”

Very tongue-in-cheek.
That’s MOBA.

What is your definition of “bad art?”
It’s difficult to be ironic about abstract art. Most art I would include in MOBA is representational, mostly with poor technique. Just because it has poor technique, though, doesn’t mean it automatically fits in at the MOBA. Some of the work has very good technique. It has to be a compelling image, one that I find interesting. Basically, if I say it’s museum-worthy, it is.

How do the artists at MOBA compare with “outsider” artists?
The works are very similar to Outsider Art or Art Brut. Some of the artists are also in many outsider art collections.

Some artists donate their works. How do the artists feel about being exhibited at MOBA?
A lot of artists do donate works. Some artists will use MOBA on their resumes. I follow the mission of MOBA when choosing the works. If the artist is too self-conscious or silly, trying to make bad art, I don’t accept it. Some artists are surprised when they find that their works are in MOBA. Only one person objected, the rest are happy about it for the most part.

MOBA exhibits mostly paintings and some sculpture. Have you considered including other media like film or performance art?
No. I thought about photography. Like abstract art, I find it hard to be ironic about photos. I do have a collection of music that I play at the galleries. One musician is Mary Schneider, Australia’s Queen of Yodeling. She yodels the classics. She yodels the melody to the William Tell Overture with an accompanying orchestra. She has fantastic technique.

What are people’s reactions to MOBA?
Almost everyone likes it. Some people don’t get it. What are people’s reactions to the Walker?

Mostly positive, some mixed opinions. The Walker shows so many different kinds of art, not many people like everything at the Walker. A lot of people know who we are and that we push the boundaries of the definition of art, so they expect that. Some people expect to see Van Gogh paintings and are mad when they find out we don’t show any.
I saw some works in your museum that I might consider for MOBA but like I said, it’s hard for me to be ironic about abstract art. I wondered, “Why is a canvas with a slit cut into it considered art?”

The Bryant Lake Bowl is currently showing Masterworks: The MOBA plays, performed by the Minnesota-based Commedia Bauregard theatre company. Interestingly, one of the plays is based on the painting Bone-Juggling Dog in Hula Skirt, by Minneapolis artist Mari Newman.

The Museum of Bad Art: Masterworks and other MOBA merchandise can be purchased from the MOBA website.
Like all reputable museums, MOBA happily accepts donations. Submissions should be made via email: curator@museumofbadart.org.

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.)

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.

“Pictures of People”

Calvin Tomkins has a lengthy piece on Elizabeth Peyton and her “pictures of people” (as she prefers to call her portraits), in the October 6th New Yorker. It’s pegged to a new survey of her work, Elizabeth Peyton: Live Forever, which opened yesterday at the New Museum in New York, and arrives here at the […]

Calvin Tomkins has a lengthy piece on Elizabeth Peyton and her “pictures of people” (as she prefers to call her portraits), in the October 6th New Yorker. It’s pegged to a new survey of her work, Elizabeth Peyton: Live Forever, which opened yesterday at the New Museum in New York, and arrives here at the Walker on Valentine’s Day.

The article traces the evolution of Peyton’s style, from her early years of painting mostly from photographs (she used to have a day job as a photo researcher), to her recent focus on doing live sittings with people who are part of her life. Tomkins, who writes of sitting for Peyton along with his wife, Dodie Kazanjian, also delves to some degree into the personal life of Peyton, whose biography enters her work most markdly through her renderings of close friends and lovers.

The article is available only in print (and no one has put it elsewhere on the Web that I can find), but the New Yorker website features a web-only slide show of 9 images, ranging from one of her early works, a charcoal portrait of Napolean, to a recent likeness of Matthew Barney.

charcoal drawing by Elizabeth Peyton

charcoal drawing by Elizabeth Peyton

Also: here’s a 10-minute audio interview on the New Museum’s website, in which Peyton talks with curator Laura Hoptman; and a few notes, courtesy of WWD, on the “fashion flock” who attended the Tuesday night preview in New York: you know you want to read it!

Your moment of zen.

This article from the New York Times by Nicolai Ourousoff about the new California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, designed by Renzo Piano and across the park from Herzog & de Meuron’s deYoung, was just too beautiful not to share, particularly the opening and closing paragraphs. Ahh, I remember those African Hall dioramas well: […]

This article from the New York Times by Nicolai Ourousoff about the new California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, designed by Renzo Piano and across the park from Herzog & de Meuron’s deYoung, was just too beautiful not to share, particularly the opening and closing paragraphs. Ahh, I remember those African Hall dioramas well:

Not all architects embrace the idea of evolution. Some, fixated on the 20th-century notion of the avant-garde, view their work as a divine revelation, as if history began with them. Others pine for the Middle Ages.

But if you want reaffirmation that human history is an upward spiral rather than a descent into darkness, head to the new California Academy of Sciences, in Golden Gate Park, which opens on Saturday.

and

The museum has also preserved its African Hall, with its gorgeous vaulted ceiling and dioramas of somnolent lions and grazing antelopes, integrating it into the new design. Built in the 1930s, this neo-Classical hall is a specimen of sorts. Its massive stone structure reflects colonial attitudes about the civilized world as a barrier against barbarism. It was intended as a symbol of Western superiority and a triumph over nature.

By contrast, Mr. Piano’s vision avoids arrogance. The ethereality of the academy’s structure suggests a form of reparations for the great harm humans have done to the natural world. It is best to tread lightly in moving forward, he seems to say. This is not a way of avoiding hard truths; he means to shake us out of our indolence.

Images, of course, from the New York Times.

Bears not Bombs (Or, the perils of public art in our nation’s capitol)

Tyler Green points out a somewhat sad commentary on the state of things: A sculpture by street provocateur Mark Jenkins set off a suspicious packages alert. “The bomb squad promptly arrived, a poetic but misguided, out-of-proportion response to a non-existent threat,” Green writes. “Throughout the day DCist chronicled other polar bear sightings, including this one […]

2862911787_1c7008f23f_o.jpg

Tyler Green points out a somewhat sad commentary on the state of things: A sculpture by street provocateur Mark Jenkins set off a suspicious packages alert. “The bomb squad promptly arrived, a poetic but misguided, out-of-proportion response to a non-existent threat,” Green writes. “Throughout the day DCist chronicled other polar bear sightings, including this one pushing a shopping cart with a globe in it around the National Mall. And later I found that Wooster Collective had posted a couple pictures on its site that seem to indicate that this whole ‘public art’ thing was nothing more than a tree-hugging-style environmentalist stunt.” Indeed, Greenpeace has revealed it that it teamed up with Jenkins to raise awareness of the “shared plight of polar bears and humans in the face of global warming.”

For more images, see the project’s Flickr pool. And, after the jump, a Washington Post photo of the bomb squad doing its thing. (more…)

David Byrne’s Bike Racks

Musician, artist, former garden rocker, and avid cyclist David Byrne, was not only a juror for a recent bike rack design competition in New York, but an entrant as well. The City has gone ahead and produced some of his site specific designs. You can read about them in the New York Times or take […]

Musician, artist, former garden rocker, and avid cyclist David Byrne, was not only a juror for a recent bike rack design competition in New York, but an entrant as well.

The City has gone ahead and produced some of his site specific designs. You can read about them in the New York Times or take a ride wth Byrne and the Wall Street Journal in this video: [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brCk1-AVvRk[/youtube]

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