Where’s a King sit?

Downtown Greensboro is in a rush. The controversy over the Elm Street statue of Martin Luther King, Jr., and a proposed 9/11 memorial makes it clear. Development downtown is bubbling – to the point where people aren’t being consulted and decisions are being made in haste.

At center are Mayor Nancy Vaughan, Downtown Greensboro Inc.’s President Zack Matheny, and sculptor Jim Gallucci.

I’m coming at it the way I approach public art, by asking basic questions:

  • Who are we commemorating?
  • Why here?
  • Why now?

This is what’s been removed for casting in bronze. Bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. at Elm Street and Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive. Photo from 2013. Artist: Wilbur Lee Mapp

In this regard, Elsewhere’s George Scheer was on point:

A 9/11 monument in this context, at this location, in this current political climate is really unsophisticated. Given the national conversation on the presence of confederate memorials, now is not the moment to move a civil rights monument and replace it with 9/11 memorial. It makes it appear that Greensboro is totally tone deaf.

We don’t need a giant memorial to 9/11 on Elm Street. I get that there were two people who died from Greensboro in the attacks. Maybe there would be a more appropriate way to remember them specifically, and tie the city to that national story. But the time is not now, and the place is not on a revitalized and busy Elm Street.

Opening tonight: Gate City Greetings


This is one I really wish I could be at.

Opening tonight with a BBQ to celebrate is Gate City Greetings at Southfirst Gallery in Brooklyn. Featuring work from UNCG MFA grads Nickola Dudley, Matt Hayes, Harriet Hoover, Branch Richter, Amy Stibich, and Clark Williamson, the show should be amazing.

Their thesis show at the Weatherspoon blew my socks off and if their experience is anything like mine, having the work whittled down and condensed does a lot to clarify and set the strengths in relief against the work of others’. There’s a catalog with an essay by yours truly. Congratulations to these artists, all of whom I consider friends.

Be there tonight!

Wednesday August 7, 5-8 PM
60 N6th Street, Brooklyn, New York 11211


From Marcy to Chelsea

Jay-Z raps “Picasso Baby” at Marina Abramovic in Pace Gallery

Not even Nas could stop Jay-Z from this take over. Thanks to a deal with Samsung, Jay-Z’s latest album, Magna Carta Holy Grail,  sold a million copies before it was even released. His single (which sucks) has been playing everywhere and the new album is being debated and talked about as if it’s scripture found in a cave upstate.

I have to hand it to Jay-Z, who is not only one of the best rappers of all time, but has let his work grow with his life. Thank god he’s not pretending to sling keys or stand on street corners any more. Instead, he’s rich as alfredo and expanding his presence into new territory. The latest place he’s gone is artworld central: Chelsea.

He has a track called “Picasso Baby” on his latest album. And in a clever mixture of art, marketing, and music, he did a six-hour performance of that one track in Pace Gallery yesterday. Opinionated and world-weary as always, Jerry Saltz was there and has the blow-by-blow.


Green Hill revamps + LASERZ!

Crucifixion, Puccio Capanna, c. 1330. North Carolina Museum of Art.
Crucifixion, Puccio Capanna, c. 1330. North Carolina Museum of Art.

The Green Hill Center announced a rebranding this week. They have a new brand identity, logo, and website.  Gone is “The Green Hill Center for North Carolina Art” and in its place is the condensed and sleek “Greenhill.” It’s good to see they’re evolving and thinking about perception, placement, and how the structure of the organization meets the public. I like the name change a lot, but my initial reaction to the new logo and website is “Meh.” Having gone through quite a few redesigns, I know sometimes the initial reaction isn’t the best, but there you go.

The other big NC art news this week comes from Dr. Warren S. Warren, who teaches in the chemistry and radiology departments at Duke. During a visit to the National Gallery in London, Warren learned that the art world is using imaging technologies that are 30 to 40 years old. (Surprise! The art world is always behind!) So he decided to see if he could use the lasers from his work with melanoma to make images of old master paintings without harming the surface.

Warren and others in Duke’s Center for Molecular and Biomedical Imaging, which he heads, have discovered they can use Warren’s pump-probe laser to create three- dimensional cross-sections of art that let researchers see colors and layers and maybe, at some point, discover the source of materials…

The first beneficiary of the laser is the North Carolina Museum of Art, about 60 miles southeast of Durham. The museum and the school are figuring out together how to make the pump-probe laser work optimally for art conservationists.

The museum’s 14th-century “Crucifixion” by Puccio Capanna was the first painting to get a pump-probe laser exam. It revealed a thick layer of lapis lazuli over Madonna’s mantle, said William Brown, the museum’s chief conservator. Typically, that blue is achieved with a layer of the less-expensive azurite, covered with a thin layer of lapis, which was more expensive than gold at the time, he said.

Miranda July wants to e-mail you

Miranda July
Miranda July

Artist/filmmaker/performer Miranda July is beginning a new e-mail project — and she could come to your inbox! Not only July, but her friends and accomplices. She’s enlisted as collaborators Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Lena Dunham, Kirsten Dunst, Sheila Heti, Etgar Keret, Kate and Laura Mulleavy, Catherine Opie, Lee Smolin, and Danh Vo.

July will be sending out private e-mails around a theme:

There is something about the mundane-ness that feels very intimate to me. I thought I would do that idea on a grand scale. At first I thought I’d do it with my friends but then I realized no one would care about them as much as I did. So I chose some of my more famous friends, or famous people that weren’t friends. I came up with 10 topics and they had to scavenge through their inboxes for an email that fit each topic.

To sign up for the e-mails, go here. The first theme is money.

Ed Ruscha gets his Calvin Tompkins close-up

L.A. artist Ed Ruscha gets an in-depth profile by Calvin Tompkins in this week’s New Yorker. Tompkins is his usual thorough self, drawing connections between Los Angeles’s art history and Ruscha’s idiosyncratic, multi-media approach to making art. Tompkins lacks a point of view, though, which may be attributable to Ruscha’s evasive qualities. It’s a bit of a paradox to try to capture an artist whose defining characteristic is their ability to escape definition.

Ruscha, whose works can be cold and impersonal, has always been a hot personal influence on me. When I was a teenager, I fell in love with the painting he has at the Virginia Museum because it seemed to do something. It’s not a picture of something as much as it is a picture doing something.

It has  minimum of elements. Their relationship is tenuous and must be supplied by the viewer, which must happen over time and thus creates a kind of narrative experience of the picture. The pencil that’s repeated gets broken and even the smallest parts of the broken pencil are painted on canvas as if you are watching the pencil break. The word “Noise” can be connected to the sound of a pencil breaking or leafing through the Western comic book. It can also be connected to the unbroken pencil, which makes no sound.

That sound of no sound is what I always settle on. In the end, I hear the sounds that are happening in the gallery when I look at this painting. This can’t be experienced online, when a thousand things are vying for your attention.

That word – Noise – is brought in with such aplomb! The perspective renders the lettering into a space that the rest of the painting, which is painting as flat as a board, resists. I see this painting coming out of abstract expressionism’s insistence on the painting surface as a place for action but heading towards the post-modern insistence on art as something conditioned and prepared in our heads. Good stuff.

The reproduction kills the effect, but just so you know the piece:

Ed Ruscha, Noise, Pencil, Broken Pencil, Cheap Western, 1963. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Ed Ruscha, Noise, Pencil, Broken Pencil, Cheap Western,
1963. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Number of spot paintings in the Hirst Empire

Damien Hirst / NYTimes.com
Damien Hirst / NYTimes.com

You might say an artist is bad when a newspaper graphic about their work makes you feel more than their work ever did. The New York Times has a story today about artist Damien Hirst’s spot paintings, which have been a subject of much speculation and argument. They are basically polka dots made with house paint. Most of them are done by Hirst’s assistants. And they fetch a handsome price on the market, which could cause some unease among those looking to protect their “investments.” NYT:

For buyers, dealers and auction houses, the prospect of an unlimited supply was a complication. A flooded market might affect the paintings’ future value — not a small worry when they can cost as much as $3.4 million.

Now the number is out. There are 1,365 spot paintings — for now. Hirst and his assistants are still making them so that number is going to go up. Their value to me most likely will not change.

The NYT has produced a nice graphic for those looking to see trends. The graphic confirms artworld values we already know: the bigger the painting, the more it will sell for (most likely). The earlier and the later work isn’t worth as much as the prime period (mostly). Amanda Cox’s graphic says more than Hirst’s paintings ever could:

Damien Hirst's spot painting prices / Amanda Cox, NYTimes.com
Damien Hirst’s spot painting prices / Amanda Cox, NYTimes.com