On August 8, my beloved, complex, imperfect city of Chicago did the civic/art version of an historical battlefield reenactment…sort of. The event marked the fiftieth anniversary of the public unveiling on August 15, 1967 of Picasso’s untitled metal behemoth, now known simply as “The Picasso” (see Google Maps) or in its updated 2017 social media parlance, #EveryonesPicasso. So once again the mayor (Rahm Emanuel filling … Continue reading Public Sculpture is Having a Moment in the Midwest
The 2017 Whitney Biennial closes in just over two weeks. Since its opening in March, the exhibition has been widely heralded for its “political charge” (see for example reviews by Peter Schjeldahl in The New Yorker and Jerry Saltz in New York Magazine), for its impressive diversity of artists included (though I wish this still was not so rare as to be newsworthy), and the … Continue reading Image not Object: the 2017 Whitney Biennial
I reached that point last week where I desperately needed to stop writing about art and just go look at some. This overwhelming hunger to consume actual things, physical objects and images, led me to do a little binge-viewing this past weekend here in Chicago. The Art Institute offered a reinstallation of their modern collection and two very “smart” exhibitions by men named Christopher, Christopher … Continue reading Saturated and Satiated: Isa Genzken at the MCA Chicago
The 55th installment of the Venice Biennale has come to a close, ending yet another months-long, ever-expansive spectacle of contemporary art seen by 475,000 visitors, in a century’s old city that remains a spectacle in and of itself. The sheer scale and scope of the exhibition–this year comprised of a main exhibition curated by Massimiliano Gioni entitled The Encyclopedic Palace that included 150 artists, 88 participating nations, and close to 50 collateral events–makes seeing everything and subsequently reflecting upon it nearly impossible. I visited in early November while on a research trip, and I am surprised by how much my experience at, and of, this year’s Biennale has stayed with me, by how profound an impact it has had on me as an art historian. I say surprised not only because I am disposed to a cynical suspicion about now-ubiquitous international contemporary art biennales and fairs, which somehow manage to be both bloated and vacuous, but also because, as a historian who works on postwar art of the not-so-distant past, my relationship to “the contemporary” and “contemporary art,” both in regards to my teaching and scholarship, has felt rather tortured of late. Continue reading “(The) Contemporary: Reflections on the 55th Venice Biennale”
In the wake of the de-installation of Indifferent Matter: From Object to Sculpture at the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds (25 July – 20 October 2013), two friends and art historians decided to co-write a blog based on our own conversations about the exhibition and on a casual interrogation of one of the show’s curators, Pavel Pyś (and the mineralogist consultant for the show, Mike Rumsey), over Japanese noodles. The exhibition made waves and rustled feathers, particularly evident through a public programme that included talks by Peter Osborne and Richard Checketts, often calling into account its curatorial motivations.
The controversy sprung mainly from the decision to showcase a number of objects that are clearly – and in some cases famously – designated as artworks alongside artefacts and things not commonly placed within a fine art context such as ‘Neolithic jades, a new mineral named during the course of the exhibition, fragments of Roman sculpture and a collection of eoliths.’ All of the objects included in the exhibition, were presented on as equal formal terms as possible, with only the most basic information on small wall labels. As a result, all of the sculptural things on view were equally decontextualized, extricated from their historical or art historical specificity. The intention of the exhibition was to question at what point (or perhaps points) does an object, become not just thing but also a work of art, and once labelled as such, in this case a sculpture, how does it ‘sit’ in time. The elephant in the exhibition space, so to speak, was the fact that the art objects, when paired with natural or ‘artefactual’ objects, were robbed of some art historical authority – a result which proved offensive to some, intriguing to others, and was perhaps totally lost to those with limited specialist knowledge. Continue reading “An Indifferent Matter?”