Sculpture and Designed Things Part II: Artschwager and Formica

Formica Advertisement, 1955, published in Ideal Home. http://www.flickr.com/groups/midcenturyinprint/
Formica Advertisement, 1955. Courtesy of Flickr Midcentury Print group.

“This housewife is a ‘FORMICA’ kitchen enthusiast – but aren’t we all? Won’t you feel life is good when you own a kitchen where all the surfaces are jewel-bright-clean-at-a-wipe ‘FORMICA’ Laminated Plastic?”
– 
Formica Advertisement, 1953, published in Ideal Home 

Jean Baudrillard wrote that modern materials like concrete or nylon are no less true, authentic, or real than stone or cotton, and that with the passage of time the “nobility of materials” would dissipate, modifying “our sensorial relationships with materials.”1  Plastic, whether Melamine, Nylon, or Formica, may have become ubiquitous substances of our material lives, but I would argue that, at least in the case of Formica, it has yet to overcome its second-class status as a cheap, fake, or in our current age, highly unsustainable. Continue reading “Sculpture and Designed Things Part II: Artschwager and Formica”

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Why Everyone Should Care about the DIA

The Rivera Court, Detroit Institute of Arts

The remaining posts in my three-part series on the sculpture of Richard Artshwager are still forthcoming, but I wanted to take the opportunity to do a quick post about something a bit broader than my usual discussions of sculptural things, about an issue that everyone and anyone even mildly interested in art should care about: the move by Kevyn Orr, the appointed emergency city manager of Detroit, to hire Christie’s auction house to appraise the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts in advance of a possible sale to help offset the massive municipal debt that led to the city recently declaring bankruptcy. Actually, let me revise that statement, the controversy brewing around the possible liquidation of DIA’s collection is an issue that reaches far beyond bleeding heart arts supporters or so called liberal-elites. The implications of such a move speak to much more than just local politics or the politics of publicly-funded arts institutions. Selling the DIA’s collections, which will probably be valued in the billions, would only be a quick fix to a complex problem, and the result would be a greater, irreversible impoverishment of the city of the Detroit. Continue reading “Why Everyone Should Care about the DIA”

Sculpture and Designed Things Part I: Andre, Artschwager, and Everything but the Kitchen Sink

Installation of Gallery 297b at the Art Institute of Chicago with works by Richard Artschwager, Carl Andre, Agnes Martin, and Frank Stella in view. Photo by the author, August 2013
Installation of Gallery 297b at the Art Institute of Chicago with works by Richard Artschwager, Carl Andre, Agnes Martin, and Frank Stella in view. Photo by the author, August 2013

I think I may be having a bit of a Richard Artschwager revelation. For all of my interest in sculpture, especially postwar sculpture, I have to admit that I have never given his work a lot of attention. The timing of this personal Artschwager-awakening, while caused by an seemingly odd confluence of encounters, is not totally unexpected considering that many seem to be having their own Artschwager-moments. Just days before his passing in February of this year, a large-scale retrospective, the first in decades, closed at the Whitney Museum of American Art. This exhibition, Richard Artschwager! opened at UCLA’s Hammer museum this summer, and largely in response to this more recent manifestation of the exhibition, Artschwager has been appearing, specter-like, in my digital life over the past few weeks. There have been countless tweets, news features, and blog posts including: compendiums of Artschwager-isms, fantastic photographs of his blps installed around Los Angeles and a fun video piece produced by the Los Angeles Nomadic Division (see below). Continue reading “Sculpture and Designed Things Part I: Andre, Artschwager, and Everything but the Kitchen Sink”