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Articles on this Page
- 09/12/14--08:42: _New York
- 09/12/14--09:29: _Paul Kasmin Gallery...
- 09/12/14--10:36: _Slideshow: Moyra Da...
- 09/12/14--10:54: _Q&A With A.R. Gurne...
- 09/12/14--11:23: _Week in Review: Fro...
- 09/12/14--14:29: _11 Great Artists at...
- 09/13/14--04:00: _Newsmaker: Photogra...
- 09/15/14--07:09: _Hou Hsiao-hsien at ...
- 09/15/14--07:26: _Matisse Breaks Tate...
- 09/15/14--10:36: _Slideshow: Art Rio ...
- 09/15/14--11:06: _New York
- 09/15/14--11:20: _London, Ontario
- 09/15/14--12:54: _Basilica SoundScape...
- 09/15/14--15:38: _Slideshow: Photogra...
- 09/16/14--04:00: _On the Road in the ...
- 09/16/14--14:06: _Garage Museum Teach...
- 09/17/14--04:00: _"What Nerve!": A Sh...
- 09/17/14--07:19: _Russia Pursues Arre...
- 09/17/14--08:26: _New York
- 09/17/14--08:45: _Slideshow: Mike Kel...
- 09/12/14--08:42: New York
- 09/12/14--10:36: Slideshow: Moyra Davey's "Burn the Diaries" at the ICA Philadelphia
- 09/12/14--10:54: Q&A With A.R. Gurney: A Banner Year for a Veteran Playwright
- 09/12/14--14:29: 11 Great Artists at Art Rio and Beyond
- 09/13/14--04:00: Newsmaker: Photographer and Writer Moyra Davey
- 09/15/14--07:09: Hou Hsiao-hsien at the Museum of the Moving Image
- 09/15/14--07:26: Matisse Breaks Tate Record, DC Public Art Provokes Protest, and More
- 09/15/14--10:36: Slideshow: Art Rio 2014 Highlights
- 09/15/14--11:06: New York
- 09/15/14--11:20: London, Ontario
- 09/15/14--12:54: Basilica SoundScape Is Not Your Average Music Festival
- 09/15/14--15:38: Slideshow: Photographs by Brian Finke
- 09/16/14--04:00: On the Road in the “Wild West” World Of U.S. Marshals
- 09/16/14--14:06: Garage Museum Teaches an Old Building New Tricks
- 09/17/14--04:00: "What Nerve!": A Shadow History of American Art
- 09/17/14--08:26: New York
Plays that have been dismissed the first time around rarely get a second chance. So it’s understandable that A.R. Gurney, known as Pete, is thrilled that his 1977 play, “The Wayside Motor Inn,” has “come back to the roost” at off-Broadway’s Signature Theatre and to demonstrate that it has value after all.
“It was kind of amazing when I finally saw the play take shape onstage,” recalled the 83-year-old playwright. “I kept asking myself, ‘Did I write that?’ ‘Did I know that then?’ I really had not looked at the play since I wrote it and very few people had either.”
Indeed, it’s been a long exile for “The Wayside Motor Inn,” which was initially greeted by a sour New York Times review with the headline, “‘Inn’ Left by Wayside.” The play recently opened to strong notices, including an approving one from the Times, hailing the achievement of director Lila Neugebauer and a first-rate ensemble. The play’s limited run has been extended twice, now through October 5.
“Wayside” is a complicated drama in which five couples play out their respective longings in a Boston motel room. Although the individual stories are concurrent, the characters never actually intersect with the exception of one pivotal scene. A father comes to the room of an older couple to ask for a sewing kit. He wants to repair the shirt that moments earlier he had ripped off his son’s back in a fit of anger over his son’s reluctance to attend Harvard. The older couple have their own frustrations, including the specter of mortality and a remote concern for the college-age students who arrive at the inn to cement a sexual and moral bond. The other pairs — a horny salesman flirting with a sassy room service waitress and a battling married couple — demonstrate the timeless, if often futile, attempt to connect.
“Although the couples never meet, I wanted to convey the idea that we’re all in this together,” Gurney said.
That has been a leitmotif of sorts throughout the career of the prolific playwright, who can look back on an oeuvre of more than 50 works and look forward to a banner year. Not only is the Signature producing three of his plays — joining “Wayside” will be a revival of his 1983 drama, “What I Did Last Summer,” and the premiere of a new play, “Love and Money” — but his 1989 epistolary hit, “Love Letters,” will be back on Broadway this fall. In a limited engagement from September 13 through February 1, the two-hander features a rotating cast of major stars: Brian Dennehy and Mia Farrow, Dennehy and Carol Burnett, Alan Alda and Candice Bergen, Stacy Keach and Diana Rigg, and Anjelica Huston and Martin Sheen.
In a recent interview with ARTINFO, Gurney spoke of how the Signature convinced him to revive a play that he had left for dead and whether the act of writing letters in cursive is a lost art in an era of email and text messages.
What did you think when the Signature came to you with one of your more obscure efforts?
I thought, “I don’t think I’ll let you do that.” It was badly reviewed and didn’t appeal to audiences. But the Signature is loaded with young people and they thought it was good idea and wanted to give it a try, so I went along with that.
In “What I Did Last Summer,” one of the characters refers to her modeling clay as “the muck of life.” Is that what you’re dealing with in “Wayside”?
When I wrote the play in the mid-’70s, I did sense the world significantly changing. Many of our friends were getting divorced, the older people were left to visit their grandchildren because they wouldn’t visit them, the family was breaking up, and there was this obsession with college entrance. I taught at MIT and there was the importance of making the right impression on the person who is interviewing you. I also saw, at the time, that the decision of college-age couples to live together was fraught. So, yes, there’s a lot of people in the play trying to take bigger steps and paying for them.
“Wayside” has been compared to the work of British playwright Alan Ayckbourn. But there is something Chekhovian about it, isn’t there?
I don’t think Chekhov is interested in scenic puzzles as is Ayckbourn, but as far as an attitude toward life and the ambiguities of why we do things, I like to think I have some similarity to Chekhov. I didn’t want to make the ending solutions too pat.
“Wayside” is anomalous insofar as it doesn’t deal with the WASP culture, a mainstay of your work.
Well, I got into that because this play was so resoundingly unsuccessful that I decided that’s not a direction I want to continue on. So more and more I wrote about the cultural world I grew up in and how that’s become increasingly obsolete through the years.
In “Love Letters,” over the course of a 50-year correspondence, Melissa Gardner rejects that WASP culture while Andrew Makepeace Ladd III embraces it. Why does she not also reject him?
I don’t know. Very simply, I’m not sure of this, but I think he’s always interested in her, always tries to communicate with her, always tries to encourage her to the degree that he can, always tries to go to her art shows.
Do you think it’s some sort of recognition on her part that she can’t entirely disassociate herself from that world, no matter how much she tries?
I think that he would probably be one example of that. She tries every kind of art but she needs to express herself over and against the culture in which she grew up, and the culture at least speaks back to her through Andy and in a non-critical way. He encourages her in a way that nobody else does. Certainly not her mother, father, stepfather, or any of the various types she marries.
Does Andy like her art?
Every actor might play it differently. When I play it, I don’t like her art but I want to be polite about it. I admire the fact that she’s trying.
Can you love somebody whose art you don’t like?
I think so, don’t you? You have to be tactful about the art. But yeah, I think you can.
You’ve got a rotating cast of stars in “Love Letters”…
I think they’re all terrific actors. My hope is, as we continue and I hope we do, that we can both get younger and middle-aged actors, people of different ages to play the part. When we first did it at the Long Wharf, the casting was of people right down the fairway, in their 40s and 50s. Then I was at a party and Elaine Stritch came up to me and said, “I want to do your blankety-blank play.” I didn’t want to tell her that I thought she was too old so I said, “Well, who would you get to play it?” And she said, “I’ve already gotten somebody. Jason Robards.” And they did fine. But Matthew Broderick and Helen Hunt did it and they were in their mid-20s. And it worked!
Do you think the art of letter writing, in cursive, is a lost world?
Yeah, I really do. I have eight grandchildren and I constantly ask them if they use the cursive style. Most of them communicate through a machine. And when they do write, it’s printed and not on personal writing paper and the printing’s not very good. They don’t read either. Facebook and all that, sure, but they don’t read books. I have a grandson who is in college and I tell him, “You’ll do better when you learn to read and write.” [laughs]
— Scott Indrisek selected five must-see gallery shows in New York this week.
— Art+Auction highlighted 50 women artists worth watching.
— Brie Ruais explained her intensely physical sculpting methods.
— Dan Colen discussed “learning from the paint” through his new large-scale canvasses.
— Scott Indrisek made a case for why Hair of the Dog — yes, Hair of the Dog — is (or should be) an art bar.
— Richard Nonas, an anthropologist turned sculptor, described his upcoming show at Fergus McCaffrey.
— Sam Durant, whose latest history-inspired work is on view at Paula Cooper, answered 23 questions in this week’s Questionnaire.
— Anneliese Cooper walked through “Killer Heels: The Art of the High-Heeled Shoe” at the Brooklyn Museum.
— Christie’s announced the sale of some gold-plated James Bond swag.
— Ashton Cooper got the scoop on the new Russ & Daughters outpost at the Jewish Museum.
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — Now in its fourth year, Art Rio has settled into a successful formula with 100 galleries, 60 from Brazil. Though the ratio of international exhibitors has been dialed back from 50 percent the first couple years, those that remain represent a healthy mix of smaller spaces tailoring their offerings to nurture connections with the Brazilian market as well as blue chip stalwarts such as Gagosian, White Cube, and David Zwirner showing their usual wares.
While exhibitors were upbeat during Wednesday’s VIP preview, which catered to a predominantly local crowd, most reported works on hold rather than sales. Traffic slowed on Thursday and Friday but was expected to pick up Saturday morning when organizers present a second two-hour VIP event, aimed at collectors from Sao Paolo, Argentina, and greater Latin America who wait for the weekend to make the trip to Rio.
The fair organizers’ selection of the location along the old waterfront has played a part in jumpstarting gentrification in the neighborhood. Once the taxis have dodged construction-related traffic jams, however, the four former warehouses along Pier Mauá provide a convivial environment for both taking in the art and taking a break outside with a caipirinha and some ceviche, the food trend of the moment in Brazil.
Happily, the trend toward foregrounding local and regional art could be seen in the first section, which emphasized work from the second half of the 20th century, as well as the larger contemporary section. Click on the slideshow to see some of the top works, from classic modernism to street art for gallery walls to Renata Lucas’s Absolut Prize-winning interventions exploring changes in the surrounding neighborhood.
A Toronto-born photographer and writer, Moyra Davey is known for producing images imbued with a delicate intimacy (close-ups of dog paws and dewy spiderwebs) as well as process-based works such as her mailers—photographs that have been folded to envelope size, mailed to an institution or individual, and ultimately unfolded and displayed, still bearing the markings of their postal journey. Often her work also takes a distinctly personal tone, particularly in her films, which—produced, shot, and edited entirely by the artist herself, mostly inside her Washington Heights, New York apartment — have built narratives around subjects like Davey’s psychotherapy sessions and photographs of her sisters in the 1980s.
Davey’s most recent body of work finds the artist—a voracious reader who at the time of our conversation was knee-deep in texts by Derek Jarman, Karl Ove Knausgaard, and Hervé Guibert, among others—immersed in the life and writings of French literary figure Jean Genet. For “Burn the Diaries,” her exhibition opening September 19 at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, Davey will touch on the three central elements of her practice with a series of her mailer photographs, a text responding to Genet, and a film, My Saints. She spoke with Modern Painters assistant editor Thea Ballard about using literary encounters to explore personal subject matter.
THEA BALLARD: How did you get into this body of work?
MOYRA DAVEY: It all kind of started with reading Genet. I’d never read him before, and a friend of mine, Pradeep Dalal, made a remark that sent me to his interviews, which are really fascinating. I started with the nonfiction, his last book, Prisoner of Love. And eventually I read his novels. But I ended up writing a text that’s organized around this encounter with Genet, and then the video followed, and the photographs. It’s a triangle with equal sides—each one is as important as the other.
TB: What was it specifically about Genet that you first connected with?
MD: Pradeep was a respondent at a panel on writing and photography that Zoe Leonard and I did at the International Center of Photography, and I was talking a lot about my notebooks, as was Zoe. Something he said was very striking: “Does everything have to be commandeered for art? Can’t some things, like journals and letters, just be private?” And he cited Genet in that context—Genet was asked in an interview which books had influenced him, and he said no particular book: It’s music, it’s theater, it’s film, it’s reading, it’s kind of everything. To me, it’s a real conundrum because on the one hand, if you’re an artist or a writer, you have to cut yourself off from life in order to work. On the other hand, once the work, the writing, gets some momentum, it’s an incredible high to be in that creative space. But you have to sacrifice everyday life, leisure, just reading for its own sake, listening to music for its own sake, watching film for its own sake. I think there’s a thing that happens to artists where everything is grist for the mill. My friend Alison Strayer calls it “poaching on life.” I say in the video: “Why can’t we just take the time to listen to music for its own sake?”
TB: Personal details and images are central to your work. Do you struggle with negotiating what or how much to reveal?
MD: I do have a lot of doubts about revealing personal details and anecdotes. I divulge a fair amount, but I’m very careful. I feel like there’s a line that you can’t cross because it becomes this excess. You want to create a kind of tension, an interest in the viewer or the reader. But the way I deliver the material is very detached and disassociated, and that creates a counterbalance to the intimate stories that I’m telling. It offsets the personal nature of some of the material.
TB: For this exhibition you’re using Genet as something to activate material. In the past you’ve used Mary Wollstonecraft and others.
MD: For each new work that I make, I try and anchor it in reading one person in particular, and it inevitably branches out. A lot of what I come across is serendipitous, and to have these accidental encounters in reading is something that’s very pleasurable, to realize that a piece of writing has resonance with the thing you’ve been focused on, that it can take you in an unanticipated direction.
TB: Can you tell me a bit about the mailers?
MD: My gallerist in Toronto, John Goodwin, asked me to fold up some photos and mail them to him so he could make a little poster for a show I was doing. Then a few years later, I was in Paris and was asked to be in a summer show at Murray Guy. I remembered what I had done, and I thought, oh! I can take photos in Paris, and just mail them like giant folded postcards. I got hooked on doing it because it’s so manageable. Everything is within your control. Even the postal service is reliable—nothing has ever gotten lost. I like turning the photograph back into an object, making it a more casual thing, making it something you can handle, giving it this epistolary thrust. I think the long and short of it is I love doing everything myself.
TB: You produce your videos yourself as well.
MD: Yeah, I really like to work alone. In the case of My Saints, I’m just grabbing people who happen to be in my vicinity. There’s one person, Angela, who I met in another situation, and I discovered she had read all of Genet, so I interviewed her. I like to be able to work whenever I feel like it, though I think I should try working with people to change things up a little bit. It would force me to be a director in a different way, and to plan things out, which, when you’re working by yourself, you don’t really have to do.
TB: What led you to incorporate video into your practice?
MD: The initial impulse was that I felt that I didn’t have any more ideas for photography, that I had somehow backed myself into a corner, that my photography had become so enclosed and hermetic within the domestic sphere, focusing on particles of dust. I really wanted a break from that, and I also had this urge to write something. I really didn’t think my first video, 50 minutes, was ever going to circulate. I thought it was going to be a bottom-drawer piece. I thought it would be unbearable for people to watch this monologue—and of course there’s always the fear that it’s going to be perceived as solipsistic or exhibitionistic or whatever. But I’ve found that bringing in these other histories—Genet, Wollstonecraft, and so on—it broadens the focus, and it makes these connections that move the work out of your little world. I think that also makes it more accessible to viewers. I just published this little pamphlet for Camden Arts Centre in London. They ask you to choose a quote to put on the back. Mine is from Fassbinder: “I’d say the more you put yourself into the stories, that is, the more ‘honestly’ you put yourself into the story, the more that story will concern others as well.” Which is such an interesting idea. From personal experience I really believe it’s true, and again it’s like another paradox—you’re revealing something that’s so personal and idiosyncratic, but I guess there’s something about the quality of honesty and truth that people can connect to.
TB: When you’re working so closely with the life and work of someone like Genet, is there a point where you have to let go?
MD: Absolutely. The whole time I was reading him I was questioning my impulse to do this. I think it’s interesting to work with someone who you kind of rub up against. It creates a friction or tension that can be really generative. And now I’m actually reading Anne Sexton, who I have really mixed feelings about. She was pretty crazy, but she could be an absolutely amazing poet. She was accused by many people of being overly confessional, airing her dirty laundry, that kind of thing. I just made a piece that uses a line from one of her poems: “Why else keep a journal if not to examine your own filth?”
Another interviewer brought up this idea that I have hosts—Genet, Wollstonecraft, Benjamin, Sontag, Baudrillard, and so on. I immediately said to her, “I’m a parasite!” I’m sort of feeding on these people. But you have to be careful. I think the challenge is always to find the point where you connect and then pull yourself away and write about your thought process.
A version of this article appears in the September 2014 issue of Modern Painters magazine.
The Taiwanese film director Hou Hsiao-hsien, whose films detail the micro and macro complexities of his country’s history, is the subject of a massive and comprehensive retrospective at the Museum of the Moving Image, running now through October 17. Born in Guangdong, China in 1947, Hou left the country as an infant as fighting resumed in the Chinese Civil War. Landing in Taiwan, he would become a major figurehead of the country’s cinematic new wave in the early 1980s, which combined personal stories of displacement with historical examination and critique.
Much of his work has been nearly impossible to see in the United States for many years. Only in the last decade, when some of his most recent films began to receive miniscule theatrical and DVD releases, was he fully appreciated by the larger critical community in this country, despite already being an active presence on the film festival circuit.
But just as quickly, Hou’s work has been misunderstood. Or rather, at a time when his films could have grown in popularity, they were reduced to the laziest of simplicities: they are slow, too long, boring. The writer Dan Kois, in a ridiculous piece for the New York Times Magazine in 2011, lumped the director in with Tarkovsky, Edward Yang, and others as filmmakers who, despite feeling that their work is worth seeing, he is giving up on because he just doesn’t get what they’re doing. To watch their films is akin to eating disgusting “cultural vegetables,” his reasoning goes.
A simple survey of Hou’s films displays how wrongheaded this way of thinking about his work can be. From his earliest autobiographical epics to the more recent present-day whispers, the work is anything but stilted or traditional. Despite their veneer of minimalism and lack of histrionics — and his films can be slow and boring, but why can’t we strip these terms of their negative connotations when talking about art? — Hou’s films are all about movement. He invokes the long-take, often moving the camera through a host of different compositions before cutting. But when his camera is still, or the movement is hushed and gentle, is where Hou’s films come alive. When the camera is still the action inside the frame is alive, as characters move in and out and across the frame, changing the way we look at the scene. This subtly gives the impression that Hou’s films are bound by stillness when they are actually quite kinetic. Precision is confused with tedium.
Movement is also seen in the narrative structure of his work. “A Time to Live and a Time to Die” (October 3), one of his earliest masterpieces, stretches over a long period of time, tracing the life of the main character from adolescence through adulthood. “The Puppetmaster” (September 13) displays movement via multiple narrative lines — the main story, which jumps many years; the narration, spoken from the present; and real life monologues from the main character the story is based on.
In recent years, Hou’s work has become even more reserved. He has moved away from the personal meditations on Taiwan’s maze-like history, making the Ozu-tribute “Café Lumière” (September 26) in Tokyo and a remake of “Flight of the Red Balloon” (September 28) in Paris. As part of the series, the museum will be screening two films in which Hou did not direct but played a part, behind or in front of the camera, in their production: Jia Zhangke’s “I Wish I Knew” (October 17) and Edward Yang’s “Taipei Story” (September 21).
— Matisse Breaks Tate Record: More than 560,000 people visited the Tate’s show of Matisse’s cut-outs since it opened in April, making it the museum’s biggest blockbuster ever. “The fact that the works have not been brought together for 40 years captured people’s imaginations,” Tate director Nicholas Serota said. The show is slated to travel to MoMA next and will open on October 12. [BBC]
— DC Public Art Provokes Protest: After residents complained, an installation by Abigail DeVille inspired by the Great Migration is being removed from DC’s 5x5 public arts festival. “It’s one of our main thoroughfares, and people walk down the street and look through the window and see what appears to be junk. It’s embarrassing,” explained DC Council member Marion Barry. At least locals can feel somewhat comforted that the artwork wasn’t an anatomically correct (and visibly aroused) statue of Satan, as appeared on the streets of Vancouver of last Wednesday — and was also promptly removed. [Washington Post, BuzzFeed]
— Anselm Kiefer’s Massive Studio: To celebrate Anselm Kiefer’s upcoming exhibition at the Royal Academy, the Guardian’s Michael Prodger visited the artist’s 200-acre studio in the south of France. There, he saw underground temples and sky-high stacks of shipping containers and cavernous rooms lined with lead, the entire place essentially one enormous artwork. “Metaphysics and megalomania are mixed on a daunting scale,” Prodger writes, “and the effect is overwhelming.” [The Guardian]
— Madison Square Park Gets Giant Craggs: Tony Cragg is the next artist to participate in Mad. Sq. Art’s park programming, with several 22-foot-tall works that weigh in at 8,000 to 10,000 pounds. [NYT]
— West Coast Art Goes East: Christopher Knight writes about the eastward expansion of LA’s art scene. [LAT]
— Jed Perl Reviews Koons: “That Koons will be Koons is his own business. That he has had his way with the art world is everybody’s business. No wonder the people in the galleries at the Whitney look a little dazed. The Koons cult has triumphed.” [NYRB]
— Shanghai’s SH Contemporary opened somewhat empty with a notable percentage of the art held up at customs. [ArtNet]
— RIP Rita Castleman, a curator who spent 30 years at MoMA building its impressive collection of prints. [NYT]
— Film director Wong Kar Wai has been tapped to direct the Met Costume Institute’s forthcoming show about China’s influence on the arts. [ArtNet]
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Let’s be frank: Most music festivals are terrible. There is perhaps no worse way to ingest live performance than in the sweltering sun, in a field adjacent to a village of Port-a-Johns, in an environment as ecstatically corporate-branded as a NASCAR track. Thankfully there are still a few small-scale festivals out there, Basilica SoundScape chief among them, which put a focus on intimacy and adeptly curated content. This weekend the third edition of the event unfolded in Hudson, New York, taking place in Basilica Hudson, a converted factory close to the town’s Amtrak station. Organized by a savvy quartet — Pitchfork’s Brandon Stosuy, Brian DeRan, Tony Stone, and ex-Hole member Melissa auf der Maur — SoundScape brought together everything from experimental electronica (Tim Hecker) to raw punk (White Lung) and unexpected instrumental ensembles. Behind the stage itself, a massive textile painting by Sterling Ruby served as a performance backdrop. The venue was never overcrowded, with a side bar area decked out as a sort of cozily vintage cabin, decorated with paintings by Jim Krewson (including one depicting the Hudson Valley’s own Marina Abramovic, dressed as a Home Depot “Employee of the Month.”)
(Clockwise from top left): A dance performance by Helene Lesterlin and Jack Magai at Groundswell, "Marina Abramovic as Home Depot Employee of the Month" by Jim Krewson, and performances by Endless Boogie and Deafhaven / Photos by: Scott Indrisek
Friday and Saturday evening were packed with highlights and only the occasional misstep (New York’s Endless Boogie, who never rise above the level of any-bar-band-ever). Things got pleasantly weird beginning with the many-membered Gamelan Dharma Swara orchestra, who conjured a repetitive, mesmerizing lull that was periodically ruptured by spasms of dissonance (imagine someone trying to hypnotize you and then, right before you go under, throwing a cold beer in your face. In a good way). Tim Hecker followed, turning up the intensity and the volume — this is a man, after all, responsible for a track called “Incense at Abu Ghraib.” This is electronic music you don’t dance to so much as shiver along with, your very bones twanging with the bass; I haven’t been so concerned about a performance’s effect on my physical health since I last saw My Bloody Valentine, and Hecker’s set was somehow even more viscerally confrontational. (An especially resounding frequency during the final track found audience members nervously looking at their neighbors, perhaps for confirmation that the world was not actually ripping apart at its seams.)
Saturday’s programming veered more toward rock and metal, but also included a fairly low-key performance by Majical Cloudz that ended up being my personal favorite of the weekend. Front man Devon Welsh opened with an a cappella version of “This Is Magic,” his voice an amalgam of influences — Morrissey, Xiu Xiu’s Jamie Stewart, the eternally earnest Brendan Fowler — and his stage presence decidedly David Byrnian. Majical Cloudz’s set — in a darkened side room of Basilica, before a mostly seated audience — was pared down and heartbreaking, melodramatic without ever veering into embarrassing emo histrionics. From there, things got more chaotic on the main stage, with Vancouver-based White Lung shredding through many of the songs on their recent “Deep Fantasy,” front woman Mish Way a slinkily intimidating presence in red lipstick and a transparent dress. They were followed by Deafheaven, an anthemic and atmospheric metal band under the helm of singer George Clarke, who strutted and shrieked like some sex-kitten embodiment of Ian Curtis. Swans— lumbering and loud, their reputation cemented by glowing praise via Pitchfork in recent years — closed out the evening before the crowd decamped for an official afterparty at Half Moon, a lovable dive just up the street.
SoundScape’s programming was also augmented by an unrelated satellite event, Groundswell, which took part on Saturday at Olana, Frederic Church’s well-preserved mountain hideaway. Sculptural installations were staged in the woods and alongside hiking trails, culminating with a William Basinski performance against the very backdrop that had inspired the Hudson River School of painters. It was a nice addition to a weekend of art, culture, and small-town revelry, and a fitting companion to a music festival that values genuine experience over profits.
This November, powerHouse will publish “U.S. Marshals,” a book of photographs taken by Brian Finke as he infiltrated the world of the titular law enforcement agents. These images — which are, as the artist admits, more than a bit heroic — have an extra frisson amidst the current debate over the militarization of police forces in the age of Ferguson. ARTINFO’s Scott Indrisek chatted with Finke about the project, which will also be the subject of a solo exhibition at New York’s ClampArt, on view November 20 through December 20.
As the forward to the book explains, your in-road to the world of “U.S. Marshals” was via a childhood friend, Cameron Welch. Did you ever suspect that your friend Cameron would grow up to be a U.S. marshal? How has his current vocation changed the person you knew growing up, if at all?
I still see him as the same person from growing up: This guy in high school that knew everyone, that would always know the place to be on a Friday and Saturday night, a really great, sincere, outgoing guy. It’s kind of surreal seeing him as a U.S. marshal, but at the same time it totally makes sense. He’s really intense about what he does and I’m happy for him that’s able to have that passion for his career.
Before beginning this project, what were your own general thoughts and experiences regarding law enforcement? How did those thoughts and opinions change, if at all, during the duration of the project?
What’s amazing about what I do and one of the reasons I feel very fortunate is that photographing allows me to enter all these amazing worlds. One day I’m photographing a BBQ story in Texas, then flight attendants in Detroit, then the next day hip-hop music video models — it’s always something new, and an extremely intoxicating and addictive way of life. My entry into photographing the marshals felt very natural. The very first day out we were driving 120 mph down the freeway to capture an escaped convict. It was such a thrill being there that all my photographs felt super heroic — actually too much so that they were almost like propaganda posters — but that was just because the images reflected how excited I was being there, and my reaction to the experience. It’s pretty bad-ass watching the marshals do their jobs.
What was one of the craziest things you encountered or observed while traveling with marshals across the country to capture these images? Did you ever find yourself in danger?
I witnessed sex-offender round-ups in Las Vegas, a Con Air prison extradition from Cuba, and intense Texas/Mexico border activity, like in the Wild West. But I never felt my life was in any danger. Maybe I was a bit naïve in some situations, but the marshals are all about overwhelming force when going to serve the warrants. It’s amazing watching them do their thing.
One thing that’s readily apparent from your photos is that the marshals have some serious hardware. In your opinion, is all of this gear necessary for the job, or is some of it excessive?
I am not a journalist, a reporter, or activist. I photograph subject matters that fall in the documentary area but it’s not my intention to comment directly on current events. I leave that up to the viewer to take what they will from the photographs and come to their own conclusions.
Your body of work is very diverse, to say the least — you’ve shot everything from hard-partying frat boys to travelers on Amtrak and Japanese baseball players. When you’re capturing diverse subcultures like these, or traveling with a marshal to photograph their daily life, how involved do you personally get in the experience?
I love what I do and I’ve come to realize I really have to participate in order to commit to so much time with a subject. I spend a few years on these book projects and I get completely obsessed with them. When my assistant and I are with the marshals we’re in the back seats of their SUVs, binoculars in hand, scoping out the WalMart parking lot and waiting for the operation to go down. We’re right there behind the action. And when the marshals say, “Put on the bulletproof vest” — we do.
Forty-seven years after it first debuted as Moscow’s largest restaurant and nearly a quarter century after it was abandoned, the Seasons of the Year will finally see new tenants. The Garage Museum of Contemporary Art announced yesterday that its forthcoming permanent home inside the Soviet-era eatery in the capital’s central Gorky Park is due to open in June 2015. The nearly 54,000-square-foot space will initially host such exhibitions as new work by Rirkrit Tiravanija, a monumental installation by Eric Bulatov, and pieces from leading Russian and international artists.
Garage changed its name from Center for Contemporary Culture to Museum of Contemporary Art this past spring, a move that was meant to signal expansion plans not only for its building, but also for its programming. Founded in 2008 by Dasha Zhukova to display contemporary art, Garage now runs a booming education program, expects to open a public library devoted to contemporary art, and produces its own exhibitions under the guidance of Kate Fowle, its chief curator. “Garage’s new name reflects a long-term commitment to providing broad public access to contemporary art and ideas in Russia, a commitment that has been increasingly exhibited throughout Garage’s six-year history with robust educational programming,” the museum announced at the time of the name change.
With its new building — the institution’s first permanent home after two temporary sites — Garage is building a space custom fit for its increased ambitions. And Rem Koolhaas, who was tasked with transforming the abandoned restaurant's ruin for the museum, is leaving it largely untouched. “Perhaps in architecture, a profession that fundamentally is supposed to change things it encounters (usually before reflection), there ought to be an equally important arm of it that is concerned with not doing anything,” he announced while delivering the 2009 Byard Memorial Lecture at Columbia University, now printed in the book “Preservation is Overtaking Us.” Developed three years later, the new Garage edifice is an exercise in abstinence. The 1968 building’s structural core, which remains sound, will be kept intact — interior walls still stand, displaying weathered Soviet mosaics with ideological imagery that was once ubiquitous across the country. Curators can choose to hang artworks on the original walls, but hinged panels that drop from the ceiling with all-white walls can create the effect of a traditional gallery space. There will also be event spaces, screening rooms, and a café decorated with restored Soviet-era furniture.
The building’s original façades have crumbled, so OMA and Koolhaas designed double-thickness polycarbonate shell to sheath interior spaces and contain service infrastructure. The translucent silver-grey exterior panels will be lifted off the ground to connect the museum’s interior with the surrounding park, and two 36-foot-wide panels will slide vertically to reveal the atrium, a double-height space where especially large works can be displayed. Koolhaas’s interventions supplement what the building lost while it languished in disrepair and organize the ruin into an interior space that meets Garage’s programmatic needs. Yet preservation is the design’s generative force — while vestiges of Soviet architecture often go unappreciated and destroyed in contemporary Russia, Garage and Koolhaas insist that history must be acknowledged and addressed, not ignored. “For 70 years Russia destroyed various histories,” said Garage director Anton Belov, “and it would be a mistake to destroy this relic of the Soviet Union. It’s a unique piece of architecture, and you should treat it as such.”
The Garage building sets an example for dealing with the architectural past at a moment when historic architecture faces extreme threats in Moscow. This past summer alone, two of the city’s most significant Constructivist landmarks faced demolition and botched renovations. In late spring, real estate developers nearly succeeded in winning a permit to dismantle the 1922 Shukhov Tower, a latticed steel radio tower and the first of its kind. A small group of preservation activists rallied to save the iconic structure, and Garage organized public visits to the tower to highlight its historic significance. The city council granted landmark designation to the tower last month, just as another structure, the famed circular 1929 Melnikov House, was seized by the Russian state from its resident, the architect’s granddaughter. The State Architecture Museum plans to open the home as a public museum before the end of 2014; local critics have raised concerns about the legality of the granddaughter’s snap eviction and it remains unclear how the significant preservation efforts needed to properly restore the home can be completed in so short a time. Public outcries against the defacement and destruction of Soviet architectural patrimony are growing, thanks in no small part to prominent institutions like Garage, which fuel discussion about aesthetics, culture, and history.
“Education is the main element in all our processes,” said Belov. To that end, the museum’s OMA building is equipped with substantial education resources that include classrooms and conference spaces. For Belov, the structure, like the art it will eventually display, serves this higher purpose: “It’s not only about the construction of our building. It’s about the construction of society — thinking people, professionals, lovers of contemporary art.”
Edited by Dan Nadel, who also curated the accompanying exhibition at Rhode Island School of Design, What Nerve! is a book-length survey of four unconventional American art scenes, spanning from the 1960s to present day. The Hairy Who in Chicago and the “Funk” artists in California form the foundation for a shared temperament that, as Nadel writes, is fascinated by “the body as a generative force, audacious sexuality, an interest in disguise and obfuscation, the blurring of foreground and background, and an ambition to make works that break from the restraints of conventional categorization.” Styles were loose, absurdist, obscene, or intentionally kitschy. Artists like Jim Nutt and Gladys Nilsson experimented with acrylic on Plexiglas; fellow Hairy Who member Jim Falconer made silkscreen-and-oil-painted linoleum works in 1968 that could hang comfortably from today’s cutting edge. The narrative continues through the work of Destroy All Monsters (focusing quite a bit on the output of group member Niagara, often overlooked in favor of the better-known Mike Kelley and Jim Shaw). Painter, comic artist, musician and Peewee’s Playhouse set designer Gary Panter gets his own minisection focused on a 1981 series, “The Near Extinction and Salvation of the American Buffalo.” And the story concludes by bringing it all back home to Providence and RISD with Forcefield, a collective ecstatically dabbling across media. The unifying factor behind all of these artists is their distance from New York’s art scene, which may have hurt their visibility at times, but certainly not their wildly eccentric creative output. It’s enough to make you want to move to Dayton or Milwaukee and start getting weird.
What Nerve! Alternative Figures in American Art, 1960 to the Present, will be on view at RISD’s Chace Center Galleries from September 19 through January 4.
A version of this article appears in the October 2014 issue of Modern Painters magazine.
— Russia Pursues Arrest of Ukrainian Artist: Russian authorities are seeking to arrest daredevil-turned-artist Mustang Wanted after he took credit for painting Ukrainian colors on a Moscow skyscraper last month in honor of Ukrainian Independence Day. Despite Russia’s international arrest warrant, Ukraine has said they will not give him up. The stunt performer, who described his feat as “an art performance,” has said that he is willing to turn himself over if Russia will release Ukrainian fighter pilot Nadezhda Savchenko. [TAN]
— Cutlog Cancelled: As FIAC introduces its own satellite fair, (OFF)ICIELLE, its six-year standby Cutlog bows out, citing a lack of space. “All the venues potentially available are booked up by FIAC, which is supported by the town hall and the ministry,” said fair director Bruno Hadjadj. Cutlog New York, however, will go ahead as planned alongside Frieze New York next May. [Artnet]
— New Associate Curator for Frick: Aimee Ng, who guest curated the museum’s Parmigianino show this past spring, has been named as the Frick Collection’s new associate curator. “We have tremendously enjoyed working with Aimee Ng over the past two years, and it is with great pleasure that we bring her onto our staff full-time,” said Frick director Ian Wardropper. “We anticipate benefiting greatly from her fresh perspective on our collection.” In other Frick news, pressure is mounting for the institution to drop its renovation plans. [ARTnews, Artnet]
— Artists, Access, and the Internet: Stephen Tanenbaum argues that San Francisco artists upset over their displacement as a result of the tech boom should take comfort in the fact that technology offers them unprecedented global access. Of course, that may not be the case if net neutrality gives way to the “two-tier” Internet speed model — an issue on which art worlders are now officially speaking out. [HuffPo, TAN]
— The Seattle Art Museum’s Betty Bowen Award went to Ralph Pugay. [Artforum]
— Elizabeth Egbert has been named the interim president at the Staten Island Museum. [DNAinfo]
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