Category Archives: Art

Art Inside: Fieldnotes #4

By Annie Buckley, for the “Art Inside” series

Attending graduation, with all its traditional pomp and regalia, is a ritual I enjoy as a university professor. This year, I had the good fortune to celebrate more graduates from my department than ever before. Exciting as this was, there was another, smaller, graduation celebration that stands out in my mind. In June, together with three students who also graduated with BAs this year, I hosted a graduation at the prison in Chino for 11 students who completed the Yearlong Certificate in Art and Creative writing. These graduates did not receive a university diploma or celebrate their day with caps and gowns, dinners out, or even balloons and streamers. They walked across a makeshift concrete stage in prison-issue blues to receive their certificates. Those assembled to support them — teaching artists, volunteers, prison staff, and a precious few family members — sat together with the graduates in plastic chairs clustered under a metal awning in the visiting yard. Despite the humble surroundings, the celebration was as festive as any, and all the more laudatory for the effort that these men had put forward to complete this achievement. Continue reading

The House in and as Contemporary Art

By Farrah Karapetian

On April 8, 2017, Rosa Parks’ home was unveiled to the German public. American ex-pat Ryan Mendoza moved it there and put it back together, without fetishizing its façade, in a garden behind a 1960s-era apartment building in a Berlin neighborhood called Wedding. Passersby can at times hear Parks’ voice recordings playing from within the house, and see the lights lit behind curtained windows; they can spend time in Mendoza’s family’s garden, although they cannot enter the house — partly due to liability, and also out of respect for Parks. Rhea McCauley, Ms. Parks’ niece, had not been able to find any other way to save the house from demolition, despite the iconicity of its former occupant. Parks’ actions inspired many in the Civil Rights Movement, but death threats forced her to leave Alabama for Detroit, and her life remained difficult, as evidenced by the condition of her house. The house is an unvarnished monument to a networked idea of individual agency in the battle for equality – and yet of course it broadcasts this notion in Germany, a country that has spent 70 years confronting its past and regulating neo-Nazi behavior. After the pro-Confederate, pro-Nazi rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, Mendoza is trying to move the house back to the US. He is convinced that it should stand testament to Parks’ leadership as a balance to the preponderance of uncontextualized 20th century monuments to the failed Confederacy that remain in the American South. Continue reading

The American Flag in and as Contemporary Art

By Farrah Karapetian

On June 6, 1966, Sidney Street, an African-American veteran of World War II, sat in his Brooklyn apartment listening to the news on his radio. He heard that the civil rights activist James Meredith had been shot by a sniper. Street took his 48-star American flag out of a drawer, carried it out to Lafayette Avenue and St. James Place, laid a piece of paper on the sidewalk, and keeping the flag properly folded, lit it on fire. He never let it touch the ground. A small group of people gathered around him, and when police arrived, they heard Street say, “If they let that happen to Meredith, we don’t need an American flag.” Street believed in the flag as much as did the people who soon sought to punish him, or his action would have lacked significance. Continue reading

Witnessing Miracles in Teju Cole’s Blind Spot

By Austin Adams

“There is more in the world,” Teju Cole writes in his latest book Blind Spot, gesturing to Hamlet’s famous lament. The heaven and earth of Cole’s philosophy is local and seasonal. Structured as a book-length series of pairings of photographs coupled with text, we are given to consider several hundred images of day-to-day life from across the globe — happenstance corners, detritus and, occasionally, people and things that inhabit the world without spectacle or choreographed meaning. At this moment, in the first text-image pairing, we are with Cole in Tivoli, where spring has doubled the earth: “Everything grows, both what receives the light, and what is cast by it. There is more in the world, all of it proliferating like neural patterns.” Continue reading

“The Suspended Step” Reimagines the City of Lucca

By Grace Roberti

Morphing mammals, dismembered body parts, and reimagined classical figures stand in unexpected locations throughout the historic center of Lucca, Italy. They are part of an exhibit entitled: Il passo sospeso ~ Esplorazione del limite or The Suspended Step ~ An Exploration of Limits. The bronze works of over 40 international artists are featured among Lucca’s famed, park-topped Renaissance walls, and they make touring historical sites thought-provoking and even fun. Continue reading

Images of the Digital Age: “Something Unusual is Happening” at Printed Matter

By Megan N. Liberty

Fully immersed in the digital age, we are in a constant state of multitasking; we carry web browsers in our pockets, simultaneously talking, reading, and traveling. Whereas once we relegated combinations of image and text to children’s books, now they ooze from our fingertips as we spew emoji and GIFS alongside our letters. One particular media is well-suited to champion narrative that captures our new mode of interaction: the comic. Already steeped in image-text combinations, its layered multi-panel form speaks our digital language. Something Unusual is Happening: Experimental Comics and the Art of Visual Narrative at Printed Matter in New York surveys some of the comic artists innovating today, presenting a range of works that reflect the multitasking, fast paced, image-text communication that has become commonplace. The majority of the work is from the aughts, and includes American and European artists and stapled zines, bound books, textiles, and large prints. Shared by all is a commitment to expanding the form, pushing the limits of graphic narrative. Continue reading

The Pleasures of the Glimpse: On Dirk Braeckman at the Venice Biennale

By Kaya Genc

Inside the Belgian pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale, it is the vast whiteness of the space that strikes you first. The interior of the recently renovated pavilion resembles a hospital, a place devoted to purity, a sanctuary for healing. Then the gaze shifts its focus onto images: Dirk Braeckman’s dark canvases feature bodies, natural formations, surfaces of things so dark that they seem indiscernible from their backgrounds. Rarely has the contrast between space and artwork influenced me quite this way, certainly no other pavilion in the world’s leading art event had come close to the experience. Continue reading

Art Inside: Field Notes #3

By Annie Buckley, for the “Art Inside” series

“We are not going to change the whole world, but we can change ourselves and feel free as birds. We can be serene even in the midst of calamities and, by our serenity, make others more tranquil. Serenity is contagious.”

—Swami Satchitananda

When I entered the bright classroom, women of all ages were gathered around four rectangular tables. Most were dressed in requisite blue uniforms and some wore the optional muumuu, or as my grandmother used to call a similar garment, housedress. The energy was buzzing but each was focused on a bright square of paper in front of her, intently arranging petals in patterns. Strewn down the center of each table was a rainbow of flower petals, leaves, and seeds, both real and artificial. The women were collecting them to layer in colorful patterns on the sheets. They practiced creating their own designs while getting used to the new materials. Two teaching artists, dressed all in black to avoid any of the range of disallowed clothing — from jeans to all red or pink to khaki, anything that might resemble the garb of either inmates or guards from afar — moved around the tables like hummingbirds, shifting from one participant to another then hovering in place to assist or discuss. The atmosphere was more garden party or craft fair than prison. The women and the Community-based Art team collaborated to transform the space. Continue reading

Art Inside: Fieldnotes #2

By Annie Buckley, for the “Art Inside” series

This is my first visit to our new program at this prison. I meet up with our teaching team in the expansive parking lot and we walk through a sea of cars to a small guard booth where an officer is sitting behind a Plexiglas screen. He greets us, already familiar with the four teachers that have visited for the past four weeks. They sign in, introduce me, and we are issued a key and alarm. The process is relatively easy, calm, and methodical. Continue reading

Do You Sense the Layers? – Vija Celmins at The Matthew Marks Gallery

By Sam Sackeroff

What is found in a “found object”? That question, like many questions that have animated postwar American art, was first asked under very different circumstances. A remnant of the prewar European avant-garde, it was most memorably posed by the Surrealist poet and theorist André Breton in his 1937 autobiographical novel, L’Amour fou. Recalling a meandering walk that he had taken with the sculptor Alberto Giacometti through the Marché aux Puces flea market in Paris in the spring of 1934, Breton described how he came upon a large wooden spoon with a distinctive slipper-heel handle. Although otherwise unimpressive, this “found object,” or “objet trouvé,” seized Breton, who purchased it and brought it home, still wondering why it had had such an effect on him. After some time, he realized that his apparent interest in the spoon was only the most recent link in a much longer associative chain that led deep into his unconscious. In a convulsive moment of perception, he recognized that its slipper-heel called to mind a glass sculpture of a slipper that he had asked Giacometti to make for him months earlier but that the sculptor had never delivered. That sculpture was in turn linked to a half-formed phrase, “the Cinderella ashtray,” that had occurred to Breton in a waking dream earlier still. Together, that half-formed phrase and the undelivered sculpture made up yet another composite link that reached even further back, now to Breton’s erotic desire for the “lost object” as such. What had initially been a simple wooden spoon came to symbolize for Breton “a woman unique and unknown.” Continue reading