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Walker + Getty, part II: Amped up after a Couple of Days in LA

Following up on the mid-November blog posting, which introduced the new Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative (OSCI) at the Walker, is a report from our big meeting at the Getty Center last week where all of the grantee institutions convened. In attendance were Andrew Blauvelt (Design), Robin Dowden (New Media), Betsy Carpenter (Visual Arts), and myself, […]

Following up on the mid-November blog posting, which introduced the new Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative (OSCI) at the Walker, is a report from our big meeting at the Getty Center last week where all of the grantee institutions convened. In attendance were Andrew Blauvelt (Design), Robin Dowden (New Media), Betsy Carpenter (Visual Arts), and myself, together with teams from Art Institute of Chicago, Freer Gallery of Art / Arthur M. Sackler Gallery,Smithsonian Institution, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, National Gallery of Art (DC), SFMoMA, Seattle Art Museum, Tate Gallery. 

Perhaps it was the sunshine, sea air over Santa Monica, and thereupon sun-kissed skin that left us giddy after the OSCI event adjourned last Wednesday, but I’d like to think that we were all just really delighted by what dialogues ensued in and around the Getty Research Institute. Not to say that after two days of presentations and conversations (one of which being the need for a more desirable project title – ideas welcome), the group’s ideas about online collections catalogues weren’t slightly more mangled than they were going in. But in a good way. Getting down to it, here are some of the issues we all worked with:

  • Grocery Store or a Restaurant? To start, this question coined by Mr. Blauvelt was quickly taken up and re-posed by many during the meetings, referring to how the OSCI would exist beyond being a compendious repository. How the OSCI envisions itself as a venue in the service of preparing its content for users’ varied preferences, and emphasizing the author’s subjectivity, while dynamically switching up the menu from time to time, seemed an issue canopying many of the other conversations. 
  • Completeness: Would the OSCI strive for comprehensive information on all entries? Or will it preference select contributions to scholarship, assuming that the more general information (i.e. tombstone data) is retrievable easily elsewhere (i.e. Google searches, or the good old-fashioned library)? Dubious sentiments were exchanged about the end-goal of making an online so-called “catalogue” when the term wontedly implies, what Tate’s Head of Collection Research, Jennifer Mundy, had described as an “intellectual cul-de-sac.” The online cataloguing project is thus seen as a more thoroughgoing collections project—one not reduced to records, lists, brief synopses, and thumbnail images.
Betsy Carpenter and Andrew Blauvelt presenting to the OSCI group.

Betsy Carpenter and Andrew Blauvelt presenting to the OSCI group

 

James Davis, Online Collections Editor for Tate Online

James Davis, Online Collections Editor for Tate Online

 

  • Audience: Who is the OSCI’s public?  As LACMA’s manager of Art & Education Systems, Diane Folsom, scrolled down a list that included undergrads; PhDs; collectors; artists; journalists; dealers; smarties; art tourists; librarians; conservators; professors; museum staff, she emphasized the need for audience analysis (and ultimately user testing) in order for the OSCI to meet the expectations of whom it serves.
  • Writing style: Dependent on the articulation of audience, the OSCI must decide what tone the language of the site and the incorporated texts will take on. Are artist work entries introduced with a précis followed by a list of more academically-written texts? In these longer texts, must conclusions be front-loaded and must headings be mandatory to be sufficient for the average web user who is accustomed to scanning content and skipping around screens? If so, this presupposes a writing style that many of the proposed authors may not be used to, or even prefer to employ.
  • Authorship:  The contributors would not only be those on the OSCI team, but cross/extra-institutional as well, global and motley. Page-count is not a concern for the OSCI, so a multitude of authors could potentially write for one artist’s work. This means an interesting mix of varying subjectivities, perhaps leading to well-substantiated contradictions and interesting reader response.  Meaning is multi-vocal, multi-disciplinary, complex and contingent. And the extent of elaboration within each entry begins to map axial changes in interpretation over time.  
  • Interactive engagement: Who is directly responsible for caring for readers’ comments? Whenever the Getty group’s discussion touched upon these types of interactive features, this question continuously arose. How often, or under what circumstances will curators be able to reply to reader response? Also, while inviting remarks to entries, how will the institution preserve its integrity in furthering knowledge in the field of contemporary art through balancing the engagement of user comments with “experts’” perspectives? The National Gallery of Art’s curator, Arthur Wheelock, Jr., expressed concern over an influx of misinformation being generated by too much interactivity, in emphasizing the institution’s responsibility to guide dialogue on the art in its collection and meet some criteria of accuracy.   
  • Online research: In answer to the professor’s raised eyebrow upon mention of citations to “online research”—as much online content on culture sites is geared towards mass appeal and typically associated with pop culture— the OSCI responds by puncturing this stigma. Critical texts are written by curators, archivists, or conservators, as well as commissioned by relevant savants, and as just mentioned above, much of this information could be complemented by readers’ posted submissions as well. This process marks the enacting of a new approach to art history via the web—one that indicates historical shifts through a platform of diverse voices, and also incorporated audience feedback, and through more transparent idea development (for example, by gradually stacking edited texts atop one another verses replacing them). In order to validate the “legitimacy” of this online source information, the group put forth one option of a universal footnoting and reference system that the academy might approve of.
  • Rights and reproductions in the electronic age: For this topic, the Getty had Maureen Whalen, Associate General Counsel for the J. Paul Getty Trust (their legal expert) present. She talked about issues such as current practices for posting images online, Terms of Use governing access to online resources, the nebulous implications of “fair use,” living artists’ copyright concerns, and varying copyright formalities for non-U.S. works. Whalen also addressed problems involved with posting comparative illustrations of artworks owned by other museums and private collections, and potential problems involved with the liability of publicizing all that’s communicated in oral histories (i.e. interviews).
  • Hierarchy of information: What gets headlined? Through design and the organization of content, whether reflected in publications or online, the institution makes clear how it feels about the documents it holds. But different from its print counterpart, the OSCI permits a new degree of flexibility in altering what artists or authors, for instance, might be foregrounded verses what remains appendixed.
  • Longevity: Who manages the OSCI? Who selects the artist works to be featured, interviews artists, digs through the archives, writes the texts and edits them, is responsible for database entry, functionality, and so forth? What departments of the institution are intimately involved with the project? What collaborative partnerships with other institutions might enrich and help to sustain the project?
  • Greater impact: Beyond the cultural and academic impact, what is the demonstratable economic and social impact of the OSCI? In one case, to help address this question, the Seattle Art Museum has created an advisory board composed of community members and figures abroad so that their ideas don’t exist in an institutional vacuum.
  • “The end product”: What does the OSCI’s “success” entail?

Breakout sessions on these topics—entitled “Audience and Writing,” “Sustainability,” and “TMS and Beyond”—turned into intense conversations that piqued everyone’s reassessing sense of their own stake in the OSCI undertaking. As the rooms heated up with varying opinions around some of these considerations, what seemed decidedly consensual was the impossibility of defining an umbrella system for the Initiative (though some systems of standardization, such as citations, will likely be inevitable). What approach may make sense for an institution taking up specialized research on Monet may not jibe with one’s multi-disciplinary investigation of the Camden Town Group’s social and cultural resonance. Nonetheless, the epiphanies and kinks of each institution’s project development will continuously inform one another’s throughout. 

After a few days passed to let the Getty gathering all sink in, Betsy, Robin, Andrew, and I met to revisit some of the questions raised by our colleagues. Before really delving into the project though, a cardinal question remains—for a collection like the Walker’s, one that consists of some 12,000 works, how do we begin making a handful of initial selections for the OSCI (and how many can we take on in the near future)? More on this next time.

Los Angeles, Getty trip, December 2009 014

Fun in the sun: Betsy Carpenter, Brooke Kellaway, Robin Dowden, and Andrew Blauvelt.

Reviewing our Reviews: “Has the Walker Art Center Discovered … Fun?”

So asks Tad Simons on Mpls.St.Paul magazine’s “Morning After” blog. While we would of course heartily affirm that notion – we love the f-word! – we also wonder why Mr. Simons believes the Walker was previously a no-fun zone. (Read his blog yourself for his take on that.) Suffice it to say that we are […]

So asks Tad Simons on Mpls.St.Paul magazine’s “Morning After” blog. While we would of course heartily affirm that notion – we love the f-word! – we also wonder why Mr. Simons believes the Walker was previously a no-fun zone. (Read his blog yourself for his take on that.) Suffice it to say that we are delighted by his delight.

va2009art1028dg_001Simons began his tour of the galleries with the retrospective of work from “prolific prankster” Dan Graham (shown here during the installation), noting how the artist says he was inspired by a Beyoncé poster to name his show Dan Graham: Beyond. “From this one can deduce that either Graham doesn’t care about looking cool, or he’s so cool it doesn’t matter.” (Both are probably true.)

Matt Olson, a co-founder of the ROLU design studio in Minneapolis (see their fine blog here), also loved this exhibition, and while he didn’t openly use the f-word in his review, he came darn close:

“as I found myself being drawn into heavy philosophical questions about perception and analysis, I kept thinking about kids and how they react to these pieces. Children don’t think about these things, they experience these things, they participate, they experiment… and I encourage you to do the same thing.”

Indeed! You can do just that– experience, participate, experiment, all for free – at this Saturday’s Wall-to-Wall Walker open house.

There you will discover that “whole new levels of weird are also being explored,” as Simons puts it, in Event Horizon, an exhibition that he declares is “the boldest, most refreshing thing the Walker has done with its permanent collection in a long time.” The other new exhibition of works from the Walker collection, Benches & Binoculars, is “a fabulously overwhelming extravaganza of art, made all the more tantalizing because the Walker never does this kind of thing.”

ex2009bb_promo_015Moving on (Simons is starting to make us blush), Star Tribune critic Mary Abbe also seemed to have fun with Benches & Binoculars. Homing in on a 1968 abstract work by Frank Stella and a 1978 figurative piece by Jim Dine, she observed: “The paintings don’t exactly glare at one another across the gallery, but the conceptual smack-down is obvious.”

Meanwhile, Jay Gabler noted in the Daily Planet that this cheek-by-jowl, salon-style painting installation “isn’t just novel, it’s tremendously illuminating. Not only do eras and artists get to intermingle, abstract art isn’t segregated from figurative art. In the windowless gallery, the eclectic warmth of the display feels like a giant hug by artists who typically are presented as ice cold.”

A giant hug from artists. Could it get more friendly—and, dare we way, fun—than that?

he got the idea for the exhibit’s name from a Beyoncé poster—which is like saying you decided to go deer hunting because you like the way Sarah Palin holds a rifle. From this one can deduce that either Graham doesn’t care about looking cool, or he’s so cool it doesn’t matter.

Walker+Getty

The Walker’s next collection catalogue will be free for the whole world. Getty has sponsored nine art museums[i] to lead the pilot stage of what has been termed the Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative (you’ll hear it referred to around here as OSCI). Through innovative web-based architectures, each awarded institution will present visitors prodigious access to […]

The Walker’s next collection catalogue will be free for the whole world.

Getty has sponsored nine art museums[i] to lead the pilot stage of what has been termed the Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative (you’ll hear it referred to around here as OSCI). Through innovative web-based architectures, each awarded institution will present visitors prodigious access to artists’ works in the permanent collections.

At the Walker, we’re conceptualizing our own interpretation of what this new online space could be.

Considering that technology has enabled institutions to digitally preserve and activate a greater fraction of the 85% of its history that is otherwise considered ephemeral, buried, or disappeared, collection catalogues are up against a new set of expectations these days. There is a colossal amount of uncovered content to work with, not to mention the mega quantities of incoming material produced by still living contemporary artists that make up the greater part of our collection. So the traditional implication of “collections catalogue” has become a tenuous one. They can no longer be as delimited, static, impervious, finite. They shouldn’t be outdated before being published.  And this is where the OSCI takes up its task of archive mining and creative programming: thinking up appropriate ways to select from and to dynamically assemble unprecedented amounts of available information into a viable user interface.

Though the Getty Initiative is only in its planning stages over the next year, what is certain at the moment is that this next idea for the catalogue will be flexible, interactive, sensorial, and host a variety of media. It will invite visitors to experience works in the collection on significantly new levels of amplitude and proximity, while making visible the Walker’s relationships with artists over time, and emphasize courses of invention, adaptation, mutation, reanimation, and even erasure.

Tomás Saraceno, 32SW Stay Green/Flying Garden/Air-Port-City, 2007. Pillows with pressurized air, webbing, covered with black felt, grass, solar flexible panels, electrical cables, battery, solar pump, water supply system. 192-15/16 in. diameter. Courtesy the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York

Tomás Saraceno, 32SW Stay Green/Flying Garden/Air-Port-City, 2007. Pillows with pressurized air, webbing, covered with black felt, grass, solar flexible panels, electrical cables, battery, solar pump, water supply system. 192-15/16 in. diameter. Courtesy the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York

What is less certain is what it’s going to look like. Rethinking the potential of communicating the Walker’s collection of contemporary art to the public raises some good questions: how does an arts organization that is known for accessioning work from outside of the traditional artistic canon (Japanese Gutai, Viennese Actionism, Brazilian Neoconcretism), from artists who cross disciplines (Pierre Huyghe, Trisha Donnelly) and use ever-advanced, ever-bizarre, or ever-decaying technologies (Cao Fei, Kris Martin, Tomás Saraceno, Bruce Conner), and from collaborative and community-based projects (Sam Durant, Nari Ward), suitably reflect these energies through the OSCI? Rather than exist as antithetical to or stifle the content it encompasses, the new catalogue project has to appropriately sync its identity with the distinct creativities that compose the Walker’s collection. Talked about issues include indeterminateness, multiplicity, scale, totality, decentralization, temporality, motion, means of entry, hierarchies, authorship, and translation. These conversations are crucially influential to forming a proper vision for the OSCI catalogue’s design and functionality.

Elucidative to the development of this project are the larger art historical discussions on the topic of the archive. Of late, institutions have been discussing what an archive of contemporary art even is, and how can one rationalize the typologies output by cataloguing and using database structures to represent content that often exists only to repel such “normalizing” devices. Essential questions recently raised by Tate Modern’s Archiving the Artist symposium  (September 2009); Monash University’s Archive/Counter Archive conference (July 2009); CAA’s panel on What is Contemporary Art History (February 2009); Berkeley’s Archiving the Avant Garde consortium (2001), and by exhibitions such as Every Version Belongs to the Myth (Project Arts Centre, 2009); Working Title: Archive (Muzeum Sztuki, Lodz, 2008); The Order of Things (MuHKA, Ghent, 2008), and artist projects including Helke Bayrle’s Portikus Under Construction film (2001-2008); Walid Raad’s The Atlas Group Archive (1999-present); Armin Linke’s Book on Demand (2003-present); Lev Manovich’s Soft Cinema (2000-2005); Carlos Amorales’ Liquid Archive (1999-present) continue to shape OSCI project, albeit through bouts of both illumination and bewilderment. But invaluable to the sensible and sensitive making (and unending tweaking) of this collections site is the exchange of insights from partner art spaces, people at the Walker who have worked with artists in our collection for decades, and from the artists themselves.

Nari Ward with members of the Lao Family Community of Minnesota, Minneapolis, 2000

Nari Ward with members of the Lao Family Community of Minnesota, Minneapolis, 2000

During Phase 1 of the project, with a year or so for us to all meet, mull and experiment on how this new collection catalogue will turn out (and in trying to ultimately find a nice balance between idealism and practicality), there is much exciting work to be done…

I’m Brooke, new here as the Getty fellow for the OSCI project. I flew in last week from San Francisco and arrive to the project with a recent Master’s degree in Exhibition and Museum Studies from San Francisco Art Institute. The past few years I’ve spent working on contemporary art archive research and projects. It’s great to be at the Walker, working with the Visual Arts and New Media departments to take part in this exciting initiative.

More updates soon.


[i] Other OSCI participants are Art Institute of Chicago, Freer Gallery of Art / Arthur M. Sackler Gallery,Smithsonian Institution, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, National Gallery of Art (DC), SFMoMA, Seattle Art Museum, Tate Gallery.

“Dan Graham: Beyond” previews (show opens tomorrow)

Dan Graham and his retrospective got robbed of the “Artist of the Year” and “Solo Show of the Year” awards at last night’s First Annual Art Awards, a glitzy and somewhat tongue-in-cheek affair at the Guggenheim in New York. Here in Minneapolis, however, Graham delighted everyone at yesterday’s media preview for Dan Graham: Beyond, offering […]

Graham (left) inside "Public Space/Two Audiences" (1976)

Graham (left) inside "Public Space/Two Audiences" (1976)

Dan Graham and his retrospective got robbed of the “Artist of the Year” and “Solo Show of the Year” awards at last night’s First Annual Art Awards, a glitzy and somewhat tongue-in-cheek affair at the Guggenheim in New York. Here in Minneapolis, however, Graham delighted everyone at yesterday’s media preview for Dan Graham: Beyond, offering chatty, humorous insights into work from four decades and referencing everything from Dean Martin to the paper-dress moment in the ’60s to the “cliché arcadia of the suburbs, where normal people live.”

He “may be the most influential American artist you’ve never heard of ,” as Gregory J. Scott put it in the Star Tribune.

In The Daily Planet, Jay Gabler noted how, during the preview tour, curators Bennett Simpson and Chrissie Iles “kept finding themselves enthusiastically interrupted by the artist, who clarified a point here, shared a story there, and kept emphasizing that whatever place he’s earned in the international contemporary art world (and he’s surely earned a place; Beyond is the cover story of the current Artforum), most of his work was meant to be funny.

Even Fox9 News weighed in with a video preview of the galleries, noting in a feature on last night’s Student Open House how Graham “taps into youth culture and a rock and roll sensibility to create art, architecture and public spaces.”

The show is getting a final spit-and-polish and will be on view to the public tomorrow – and don’t miss the 2pm conversation with Graham, Iles, and Simpson, featuring an “opening set” by post-punk duo Japanther.

Bits & Pieces

Reports on the burning of Hélio Oiticica’s work have been somewhat exaggerated: The artist’s work is not a quite a near-total loss. Stories a couple of days ago cited that “90%” of the work made by Oiticica, a major figure of the Brazilian avante garde in the late 1960s and early 1970s, had been destroyed […]

Reports on the burning of Hélio Oiticica’s work have been somewhat exaggerated: The artist’s work is not a quite a near-total loss. Stories a couple of days ago cited that “90%” of the work made by Oiticica, a major figure of the Brazilian avante garde in the late 1960s and early 1970s, had been destroyed in a fire at the home of Oiticica’s brother César in Rio de Janeiro. Now César and others been able to look more closely at the damage, reporting that a number of works were spared and for others, restoration is possible. No word yet on how such devastation could occur — reportedly the storage spaces had humidity control, sprinklers, and fire alarms — but no doubt more is yet to come with this story. In related and bittersweet news, Oiticica’s CC5 Hendrixwar Cosmococa, acquired by the Walker in 2007, goes on view here on February 27, 2010.

chuck close

"Big Self-Portrait," Chuck Close, collection Walker Art Center

The man who brought us (Chuck) Close: A recent story in the Akron Beacon Journal delves into the history of Linda, a Chuck Close portrait that’s considered a key piece in the collection of the Akron Art Museum. Turns out that Rosenkrantz’s husband, Christopher Finch, is not only a former associate curator at the Walker, but according to the Beacon Journal story, Finch is responsible for Close’s Big-Self Portait becoming a key piece in the Walker’s collection: “in 1968 [he] had persuaded the museum to buy a Close, which, as it happened, was the first Close to go into a public collection.”

Take the “Collector Challenge”: This nifty game at PBS.org tests your eye based around the collection of Dorothy and Herbert Vogel—the librarian and postal worker who became renowned for amassing a hugely important collection, mostly of conceptual and minimalist works. Now they’ve dispersed that collection to 50 museums in 50 states; the Vogels selected the Weisman Art Museum in Minnesota. To Have it About You: The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection opens there this Friday.; you might also want to check out the documentary film Herb and Dorothy.

Miroslaw-Balks-How-It-Is-001

Photograph: David Levene, via The Guardian UK

“It embraces you with a velvet chill”: So says the Guardian about How It Is, Miroslaw Balka’s new installation in the Tate Modern’s cavernous Turbine Hall, which is basically a gigantic, raised steel box that visitors can walk under—or inside (see video here). The latter choice means you get swallowed by darkness — unless giggling youths illuminate the interior with their cell-phone cameras. Is that the equivalent of ignorant theater-goers interrupting a performance when their cell phones ring?

Remembering visual arts curator Robert Murdoch: Back in 1965, he was the Walker’s first curatorial intern to serve in a program supported by the Ford Foundation, and he returned here from 1983 to 1985 as chief curator. In the ‘70s, as the first curator of contemporary art at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Murdock organized the first solo museum show for Richard Tuttle. Read more in the New York Times’ obituary, and in this Star Tribune piece. Annie Murdock, Robert’s daughter, wrote to us to note that his family has made arrangements for donations in his memory to be made to the Pollock-Krasner Foundation. “This is the first time that the foundation has done anything like this,” she said, “and we hope it will result in building a fund for Emerging Artists in Robert’s memory.”

1. Reports on the burning of Helio Oiticica’s work have been exaggerated (but, sadly, only a little): Stories http://greg.org/archive/2009/10/18/fire_destroys_90_of_helio_oiticicas_work.html a couple of days ago cited that “90%” of the work made by Oiticica, a major figure of the Brazilian avante garde in the late 1960s and early 1970s, had been destroyed in a fire at the home of Oiticica’s brother in Rio de Janeiro. Now Cesar and others been able to look more closely at the damage, reporting that a number of works were spared and for others, restoration is possible. (Greg.org) <http://www.artinfo.com/news/story/32990/fire-destroys-brazilian-artist-helio-oiticicas-works/>

Related and bittersweet news: Oiticica’s CC5 Hendrixwar Cosmococa goes on view here at the Walker on February 27.


2. The man who brought us (Chuck) Close: http://www.ohio.com/news/63970597.html — A recent story in the Akron Beacon Journal delves into the history of Linda, by Chuck Close – which, as Big Self-Portrait is to the Walker, is considered a key piece in the collection of the Akron Art Museum. Turns out that Rosenkrantz’s husband, Christopher Finch, is not only a former associate curator at the Walker, but according to the Beacon Journal story, “in 1968 had persuaded the museum [the Walker, that is] to buy a Close, which, as it happened, was the first Close to go into a public collection.”

3. Take the “Collector Challenge” – this nifty game at PBS.org tests your eye based around the collection of Dorothy and Herbert Vogel—the librarian and postal worker who became renowned for amassing a hugely important collection, mostly of conceptual and minimalist works. Now they’ve dispersed that collection to 50 museums in 50 states; in Minnesota, the Weisman Art Museum was the lucky recipient. To Have it About You opens there this Friday. – link to show at Weisman—http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/herb-and-dorothy/collector-challenge.html

4. It embraces you with a velvet chill”: so says the Guardian about Miroslaw Balka’s How It Is, a gigantic, raised steel box in the Tate Modern’s cavernous Turbine Hall that visitors can walk under—or inside. The latter choice basically means you get swallowed by darkness, a perhaps welcome sensation as Halloween approaches. See The Guardian’s video here. http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/video/2009/oct/12/miroslaw-balka-tate-modern (Closer to home, for Minnesotans at least, is the Soap Factory’s Haunted Basement.)



5. Remembering visual arts curator Robert Murdoch: Back in 1965, he was the first curatorial intern to serve in a program supported by the Ford Foundation, and he returned here from 1983 to 1985 as chief curator. In the ‘70s, as the first curator of contemporary art at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, Murdock organized the first solo museum show for Richard Tuttle. Read more in the New York Times’ obituary, and in this Star Tribune piece < http://www.startribune.com/obituaries/64461777.html?elr=KArksUUUoDEy3LGDiO7aiU>. Annie Murdock, Robert’s daughter, wrote to us to note that his family has made arrangements for donations in his memory to be made to the Pollock-Krasner Foundation < http://www.pkf.org/ >. “This is the first time that the foundation has done anything like this,” she said, “and we hope it will result in building a fund for Emerging Artists in Robert’s memory.”

Your 10-minute guide to Dan Graham at the Walker

Galleries 4, 5, and 6 are getting prepped for the arrival of work from Dan Graham: Beyond, which closed on Sunday at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. The Los Angeles Times called this retrospective “witty, surprising, smart and engaging” (the show originated at the Museum of Contemporary Art there), and Art […]

va2006po_graham_0106_001

Artist's portrait by Cameron Wittig

Galleries 4, 5, and 6 are getting prepped for the arrival of work from Dan Graham: Beyond, which closed on Sunday at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. The Los Angeles Times called this retrospective “witty, surprising, smart and engaging” (the show originated at the Museum of Contemporary Art there), and Art in America noted that it “perhaps says as much about popular culture of the last 40 years as about Graham himself.”

Peter Eleey, who is organizing the Walker’s presentation of this show, has noted a pretty consistent binary quality that runs through Graham’s otherwise incredibly diverse body of work: It’s in the low/high, inside/outside take on the ways in which Graham views culture, and in the ways viewers see Graham’s work (and often in how the work itself is configured); in the artist’s ideas about both the production and the consumption of culture; and in the various combinations of transparency and reflection that form the crux of many of his projects.

This oppositional way of reading his work, coupled with its lack of a signature “style,” can combine to make Graham’s art seem elusive. But once you tap into the frequency on which he’s operating, the artist’s vision really does cohere. In fact, that consistent vision, coupled with a restless curiosity—thus the “beyond” of the exhibition title—is what led the Walker to follow Graham’s career and collect his work for decades, acquiring its first piece by the artist in 1978.

That means there’s a fair amount of material on our websites about this artist—a convenient source for background on Graham before the retrospective opens on October 31. You might start with this profile of Graham, plus a selection of his works from the Walker collection. The biography is taken from the catalog for Let’s Entertain—a Walker exhibition curated in 2000 by former chief curator Philippe Vergne that featured one of Graham’s pavilions, New Space for Showing Videos (shown here), which offers bean bag chairs and the prospect of watching videos of other people watching videos in the same pavilion. That piece will also be on view in Dan Graham: Beyond. (Graham’s work has also been included several other Walker-organized exhibitions: American Tableaux, Artists’ Books, The Last Picture Show: Artists Using Photography, 1960-1982, and Worlds Away: New Suburban Landscapes.)

“New Space for Showing Videos,” installed at the Walker's 2000 exhibition, "Let's Entertain"

“New Space for Showing Videos,” installed at the Walker's 200 exhibition, "Let's Entertain"

See also:

Don’t Trust Anyone Over 30 — Six years after his work appeared in Let’s Entertain, the Walker co-commissioned and presented this splashier Graham spectacle: a rock opera performed by puppets. Since collaboration was at the heart of Don’t Trust Anyone, Graham participated in a discussion (if you’ve got more than 10 minutes, there’s a 45-minute video here) with several other artists who worked on the piece, including Phillip Huber, who created its puppets (and those for another notorious work, Spike Jonze’s film Being John Malkovich), and members of the punk duo Japanther (who return to play at the opening-day talk with Graham on October 31).

Two-way Mirror Punched Steel Hedge Labyrinth — this Walker-commissioned pavilion is on permanent display in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, and is probably second only to Spoonbridge and Cherry in terms of popularity.

The annual Student Open House on October 29 — includes this year a preview of Dan Graham: Beyond, and should be a spectacle of its own sort, as it’s inspired by Graham’s passion for rock and punk (see Japanther, above).

Get a closer look at other Graham works in the Walker collection on ArtsConnectEd.org, including his groundbreaking Homes for America project from the 60s. And on mnartists.org, you can get a hint of Graham’s influence locally with this description of a project at the Art of This gallery last month, and an interview with artist Aaron van Dyke, who runs a gallery out of his St. Paul house.

Going postal…

We recently featured the Walker’s Collectors’ Council Acquisitions Fund (CCAF) in the July/August issue of WALKER magazine. The CCAF was established in 2006 to create a way for members to participate in the Walker’s acquisition process, including the opportunity to vote on an artwork they acquire as a gift to the Walker each year. The […]

Two untitled portraits from the Melba Price series acquired by the Collectors' Council Acquisitions Fund in 2009.

Two untitled portraits from a series by Melba Price appear on a new Walker postcard.

We recently featured the Walker’s Collectors’ Council Acquisitions Fund (CCAF) in the July/August issue of WALKER magazine. The CCAF was established in 2006 to create a way for members to participate in the Walker’s acquisition process, including the opportunity to vote on an artwork they acquire as a gift to the Walker each year. The fund is unique in that it’s dedicated to acquiring “first works” – works by artists who are new to the Walker’s collection. In this way, the fund draws on the institution’s long history of engaging artists early in their careers and following them throughout their journey.

This year, we created postcards to commemorate the art purchased by the Collectors’ Council Acquisitions Fund, which for 2009 is a series of five gouache-on-paper portraits by St. Paul artist Melba Price. (Interestingly, Price based the portraits on anonymous digital images that she selected from online photo websites like gettyimages.com.) The Walker will create a new card each year in honor of the new addition to our permanent collection. Postcards featuring Adam Helms’ Untitled (48 Portraits) (purchased in 2007) and Tomás Saraceno’s Flying Garden/Air-Port-City/32SW (in 2008), along with the Price postcards, are all available in the Walker Shop. Stop in and check them out!

Collectors’ Council members met in April to vote on their 2009 selection.

Collectors’ Council members met in April to vote on their 2009 selection.

A special thanks to those who participated in the Collectors’ Council Acquisitions Fund this year:

Front row from left: former Walker curator Doryun Chong, curator Siri Engberg, Tasha Marvin, John Cullen, Collectors’ Council co-chairs Sally Blanks and Randy Hartten, Leni Moore, Walker curatorial fellow Andria Hickey, former Walker curator Yasmil Raymond, and chief curator Darsie Alexander

Back row from left: Director Olga Viso, Alan Polsky, Kate Kelly, Maurice Blanks, Joe Gibbons, Sanders Marvin, David Moore, Jr., and curator Betsy Carpenter

Not pictured: Robert Bras and Julie Matonich, Toby and Mae Dayton, Nazie Eftekhari, Ron Lotz, Tim and Kim Montgomery, Joan and John Nolan, Rebecca and Robert Pohlad, and Susan and Rob White

Thanks also to Lowry Hill, generous long-standing sponsor of the Collectors’ Council.

The Collectors’ Council is open to Walker members at the Patron’s Circle level ($2,000) and is a great way to more deeply engage with contemporary art. For more information, contact the Walker’s development office at 612.375.7642 or e-mail donors@walkerart.org.

Haegue Yang is here.

For the last three weeks, a small group of individuals with a variety of expertise have been meeting twice or more weekly to participate in an experimental project with artist-in-residence, Haegue Yang. Entitled Shared Discovery of What We Have and Know Already Yang’s project involves a series of seminar workshops that investigate critical themes and […]

For the last three weeks, a small group of individuals with a variety of expertise have been meeting twice or more weekly to participate in an experimental project with artist-in-residence, Haegue Yang. Entitled Shared Discovery of What We Have and Know Already Yang’s project involves a series of seminar workshops that investigate critical themes and ideas in her work, such as abstraction, community, and subjectivity. Yang’s project began with a proposal to “domesticize” the institution by taking up residency as an apprentice in the institution, creating a new twist in the artist-in-residency model, which, in the artists’ words, “normally implies an artist visiting to provide the institution with something-commissioned work, a particular outcome to a particular community.” Instead, the artist asked what she might gain from the Walker, a place she first encountered when her work was included in the exhibition, Brave New Worlds (2007). To this end, she asked the Walker to mobilize a group of “expert participants” to join an open-ended skill-share and knowledge exchange. Specifically, the seminar series addresses the relationship between Yang’s abstract forms and the influence of such topics as the history of transnational wartime resistance, the biographies of historical figures such as Marguerite Duras, Kim San and Nym Wales, the cinematic and literary work of Duras, the history of abstraction, as well as the plastic arts of carpentry, knitting and origami.

Bringing together historians, theater professionals, designers, film curators, artists, French language scholars, art historians, philosophers and museum workers, the group has embarked on a unique journey of “shared discovery.” In each session, participants in the group give presentations and lead discussions from their bases of knowledge, slowly building a long-form conversation. Themes and connections between them have emerged in ways we couldn’t have predicted at the outset of the project.

An attempt to chronicle these findings can be found on the Artist-in-Residence website, where more details about the sessions and participants are also listed.

Yang’s solo exhibition, Integrity of the Insider, is currently on view in the Medtronic Gallery.

Haegue Yang Installation 6/08

Haegue Yang, Asymmetric Equality (2008) installation at REDCAT, Los Angeles

“The Quick and the Dead” nominated for a new and glamorous Art Award

Just in time for its last few days, Waker curator Peter Eleey’s exhibition The Quick and the Dead has been nominated as “Group Show of the Year” as part of the First Annual Art Awards, to be presented at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum on October 29. The Art Awards, presented in association with White […]

The Art Awards' version of Oscar [photo by Thomas Mueller]

The Art Awards' version of Oscar (photo by Thomas Mueller)

Just in time for its last few days, Waker curator Peter Eleey’s exhibition The Quick and the Dead has been nominated as “Group Show of the Year” as part of the First Annual Art Awards, to be presented at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum on October 29.

The Art Awards, presented in association with White Columns , New York’s oldest alternative art space, were conceived by artist Rob Pruitt, known for employing glitz and sensational staged events (like a cocaine buffet back in 1998) that amount to critical yet cheeky send-ups of the art world. In fact, probably the only way this could take place would be as a Pruitt production — anything more outwardly earnest would be regarded as entirely unseemly by the very people being fêted.

Aiding host Pruitt as emcees are the Delusional Downtown Divas, “three young women hungry for art world stardom but comically unaware of how to reach their goal of stylish domination,” who make videos about their exploits. Presenters include Sofia Coppola, Mary-Kate Olsen, and probably some other art-affiliated celebrities that will bring on the paparazzi (or at least the big-time party photogs).

In the group show category, The Quick and the Dead is up against three shows from New York museums (we will assume this nomination is not mere geographic tokenism): The New Museum’s After Nature; The Pictures Generation: 1974-1984, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art; and WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution, at P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center. (It should be mentioned that the last was organized by and first presented at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.)

Other nominations of note: for artist of the year, Dan Graham, whose retrospective, Dan Graham: Beyond, opens at the Walker on October 31 — and was itself nominated for the Art Awards’ solo show of the year; another solo-show nomination is Live Forever: Elizabeth Peyton,” which the Walker presented last winter and spring.

Coming Attractions: A fresh take on the Walker’s collection debuts in November

Darsie Alexander’s office is a mess. The walls are plastered with hundreds of photocopied images, from Warhol’s Sixteen Jackies to Beuys’ Felt Suit to a giant photograph of a boxing match by Andreas Gursky. Punctuating them is an assortment of Post-Its marked with cryptic notes, ideas in formation, and arrows pointing to visual relationships—relationships that […]

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Elizabeth Carpenter and Darsie Alexander planning the collection exhibitions. Photo: Cameron Wittig

Darsie Alexander’s office is a mess. The walls are plastered with hundreds of photocopied images, from Warhol’s Sixteen Jackies to Beuys’ Felt Suit to a giant photograph of a boxing match by Andreas Gursky. Punctuating them is an assortment of Post-Its marked with cryptic notes, ideas in formation, and arrows pointing to visual relationships—relationships that will play out in the galleries when the Walker’s new collection exhibitions open on November 21.

Conceiving of and assembling this expansive series of installations—which will fill five galleries—was a priority for Alexander after arriving as the Walker’s new chief curator last winter. Opening dates were already set, so she barely had her e-mail set up before delving into an intensive study of the 11,000-plus artworks, films, and performance documents that make up the Walker’s collection. Getting a feel for its pulse involved the help of her fellow curators, plus a lot of time spent walking around the galleries and exploring art storage. And then there are her office walls. “All of these color copies are a modest way of living with the work and its ideas. They enable me to practice a few visual relationships in miniature form,” says Alexander. “Still, nothing compares to the excitement of bringing the art into the galleries and witnessing how ideas play out in real time, in real space. With such an extraordinary collection of works in all media, I know the collection installation will deliver a plethora of themes, some of which we’ve planned but others I can only guess at. That’s part of the fun.”

Even before she arrived at the Walker, Alexander was in touch with its curators, gaining their perspectives and insights in phone meetings and via e-mail. Visual arts curator Elizabeth Carpenter has played a central role as the exhibitions’ co-curator, given her deep connection to the institution’s holdings. Her knowledge of Walker history, coupled with Alexander’s fresh perspective, make for a strong and complementary duo. “This is my third major reinstallation of the collection since I came to the Walker, and it never ceases to amaze me how remarkably rich it is, and the number of histories and narratives we can draw from it,” says Carpenter. McGuire senior curator for performing arts Philip Bither, film curator Sheryl Mousley, design curator Andrew Blauvelt, and education and community programs director Sarah Schultz have also been vitally important in talking through ways to represent the multidisciplinary nature of the collection in a single show. “They’ve all offered great advice on keeping the gallery spaces dynamic,” Alexander says. “While the exhibition in galleries 1, 2, and 3 will run for nearly three years, we want new experiences to unfold over that time span—fresh discoveries for regular visitors that will reinforce the fact that, as a multidisciplinary arts center, change is ongoing here.”

The notion of change became essential in working out the key themes of the exhibitions, given the experiential, performative, and temporal nature of the art of the 1960s and ’70s, particular areas of Walker strength and interest. Alexander is also thinking about the arts’ connections to real-life events, such as philosophical, social, and political shifts, global conflict, or the seemingly inconsequential facets of the everyday. Art has always responded to life, she says, but in contemporary practice the lines between the two are especially porous.

Other kinds of change will be quickly apparent to visitors. “There will be a notable contrast to the look of the galleries as they appear now—spare, elegant, and loosely chronological,” Alexander notes. “In November, we’ll be using the collection to create a changeable thematic exhibition, one that will have a range of subplots and visual contrasts.” She anticipates that people will find new rhythms in the galleries, with some feeling very dense and active and others rather quiet, like a deep, cleansing breath.

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