Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Virginia Lynch has died

Virginia Lynch, the great gallerist of Tiverton, Rhode Island, died last week at age 92. The Projo's Bill Van Siclin has a moving tribute here. He writes:
If anyone seemed capable of defying time, it was this Texas-born teacher-turned-gallery-owner who almost single-handedly created a market for serious contemporary art in Rhode Island. The word “indomitable” might have been coined for the express purpose of describing her.

During its two-decade run, the Virginia Lynch Gallery turned almost every stereotype about selling and collecting contemporary art in the Ocean State on its head.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Matter “Pollock” could raise $10 million for aquarium?

The Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut hopes to raise money by selling one of the Alex Matter “Pollocks,” which Matter recently donated to the institution, according to a report Sunday in The Day of New London, Connecticut. Pictured at left and below is the two-sided painting, dubbed “Untitled 12,” which was among the paintings shown in the "Pollock Matters" exhibit at Boston College, which closed Sunday.

The newspaper says, “Plans are to sell it and use the proceeds to help fund the next stage of the aquarium's development. [Aquarium senior vice president Peter] Glankoff estimated it could be worth anywhere between $1 million and $10 million.”

Never mind that three scientific studies (all done in Massachusetts) of selections of the 34 Pollock-style paintings that Matter says he found in his late father’s effects in 2002 have found that at least half of them contain materials not patented during Pollock’s lifetime, some of them perhaps as long as four decades after Pollock’s death.

The Day reports:
For Matter, there is no question the paintings are Pollocks, considering the relationship between his parents and the artist.

“If you look at them, anyone who knows anything about Pollocks will say these are Pollocks,” he said.

He admitted he was initially frustrated over the controversy, “but I don't read that stuff anymore. People have their own agendas.”

How much the question of authenticity could affect the sale price is unclear. But that has not dampened the aquarium's enthusiasm.

“When word reaches modern-art aficionados that we're looking for a buyer, there will be great interest in it,” Glankoff said. “They are not making any more of these.” …

Last week Matter told Glankoff that if the donation of the first painting benefits the aquarium, he plans to donate additional paintings to the aquarium and other organizations.
  • Speakers at a Nov. 28 talk sponsored by the International Foundation for Art Research in New York offered more testimony that the Matter “Pollocks” are not by Pollock, though seemed to offer few new details. See reports in The New York Sun, The New York Times and London's Guardian. The Sun reported:
    The chair of the art history department at New York University and a co-curator of the 1998 Pollock retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, Pepe Karmel, gave a talk examining whether the Matter paintings look like Pollocks. Comparing images of the Matter paintings side by side with known Pollocks of similar scale, he argued that they did not. The Matter paintings were generally more homogeneous and repetitive in composition, while the confirmed Pollocks were often asymmetrical.
  • The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research has posted many times about the Matter “Pollocks.” If you’d like to read more, try here, here, here, here, here, and here.
Pictured: “Untitled No. 12,” 13 7/16 x 8 3/8 inches. Recto is at top and verso is below. The painting is reproduced here in conformity with fair use principles.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Garibaldi Panorama at Brown

Two years ago, Brown University’s John Hay Library received an enormous gift: a 273-foot-long 19th century panoramic painting depicting the dashing exploits of Italian patriot Giuseppe Garibaldi. Historic panoramas, often of battles, were popular in the 19th century, but few have survived. So this was not only a big gift, but a rare one. The problem with an enormous piece of art, though, is where to do you put it? The answer, naturally, is online.

You can read the rest of my report about the Garibaldi Panorama here.

Check out the Garibaldi Panorama yourself at Brown's panorama site. Here’s a Brown press release. Here’s a July essay on Garibaldi the man from The New Yorker.

Pictured at top: Brown staff and an outside contractor photograph the painting 6 feet at a time in July. Pictured below: “Garibaldi Defending Rome” from the “Garibaldi Panorama.”

“Gods in Color” at Harvard

A striking exhibit at Harvard makes us see ancient Greek and Roman sculpture — and perhaps roots of racism — as few of us have before.

When we think of the ancient Greeks and Romans, we picture them among the sober silent white stone of their surviving sculptures and columned temples. But the exhibit "“Gods in Color: Painted Sculpture in Classical Antiquity,” at Harvard’s Sackler Museum, presents striking evidence that our sense of ancient sculpture is distorted because we’ve forgotten that the white marbles were once painted in bold Technicolor.

As I wrote in my review:
Based on two decades of detective work by German archaeologist Vinzenz Brinkmann, here some 20 plaster replicas have been painted to approximate the ancient sculptures’ original appearances. The look is disconcertingly garish. Vivid red, blue, and green scales cover a Greek warrior’s helmet. A funerary monument for another warrior depicts him in yellow-leather armor decorated with blue stars and a green and yellow lion’s head. All this color feels wrong, wrong, wrong. And it’s this visceral reaction that makes the exhibit so intriguing. ...

Our notion of ancient Greek and Roman sculpture seems to originate in the Renaissance. Europeans made painted sculpture up through the medieval, Romanesque, and gothic periods. But around the 15th century, as the Renaissance dawned, artists and leaders sought inspiration in ancient Greece and Rome. These civilizations were seen as heights of culture — as well as heights of power — that artists and rulers emulated. Renaissance discoveries of ancient Greek and Roman marbles with their paint worn off by centuries of exposure to the elements (and then cleaned) inspired the great unpainted marbles of artists such as Michelangelo — and centuries of sculpture that followed. ...

Unpainted Renaissance sculptures, arising out of ignorance of classical polychromy, seem to be where Westerners began equating bare carved stone with ancient ideals of strength, sobriety, nobility, simplicity, purity — ideas that became bound up with Western notions of race and ethnicity, of whiteness. These ideas continue to pop up in contemporary culture, most obviously in portrayals of Romans in Hollywood epics. Roman characters have often been played by Brits with Shakespearian airs, suggesting analogies between the Roman Empire and the British colonial empire, with its Anglo dominance of Indians and Africans. By reconstructing the color of these ancient sculptures, archaeologists are also restoring some of the ethnicity that was bleached out of the originals.
Read the rest here.

“Gods in Color,” Sackler Museum, Harvard, 485 Broadway, Cambridge, Sept. 22, 2007, to Jan. 20, 2008.

Pictured: “West Pediment of the Temple of Aphaia on Aegina: Athena, Warriors, Archer (Paris?),” Greek, c. 490-480 BC, marble, Munich, Staatliche Antikensammlungen und Glyptothek, Color reconstruction: Munich, Stiftung Archäologie.

What Flickrites love about the ICA

The People’s favorite parts of the ICA building at the end of the first year, based on Flickr:
  • The building’s profile in a three-quarters view, either right outside the front door or from the southeast side looking across the harbor toward downtown (particularly when it’s lit up at night).
  • The view down the building’s indoor staircase.
  • The view along the panoramic windows in the Founders Gallery.
  • The view down the stepped seats and out the window of the Mediatheque toward the “screensaver” of water below, as seen in the photo by Mark Sullo at top.

Others on the ICA

When I was working on my review of the ICA’s first year, I contacted a bunch of people around town to get a sense of what folks in the community were thinking. Here is what a few of them wrote...

Shana Dumont, assistant director and assistant curator of the Montserrat College of Art Gallery in Beverly:
  • I like Chiho Aoshima's mural "The Divine Gas," but the fact that it has remained there since the new building opened makes it seem more decorative than edgy. It is nice to have the opportunity to reconsider a large-scale piece like that, but I can't help but conclude, after multiple visits, that it is closer to a one-liner than I'd initially thought. While I am sure that the funders had something to do with the duration of the mural, I'd love if the mural changed at least 3 times a year.
  • The ocean view and architecture have overwhelmed much of the exhibits that I've seen, but it's nice to have the structure set the bar so high, and perhaps it spurs the curators on.
  • I think they should've built at least one more level upward for additional gallery space. While the corridors and passageways are innovative, beautiful, and energizing to be in, the galleries are white boxes that don't seem prepared to usher in challenging new artwork.
Phaedra Shanbaum, co-director of Axiom gallery in Jamaica Plain:
Boston is considered the hub of new media. Many well known experimental and new media artists have started their careers or currently work in Boston, including Joe Gibbons, Louise Bourque, Tony Oursler, Nam June Paik, Jim Campbell, Denise Marika, and Brian Knep. Boston based public television station, WGBH, pioneered such influential experimental programs as the New Television Workshop and the Contemporary Art in Television (CAT) Fund. The fact that in its first year, the ICA, Boston's largest and newest contemporary art museum has consistently overlooked and misconstrued this medium in shows like “Super Vision” means that it is misrepresenting its constituency and ignoring the art form that makes Boston unique, and shapes Boston's regional identity.
Todd McKie, Cambridge painter:
ICA seems more interested in work done in Berlin or London or that appears at Art Basel than quality work done hereabouts. I'd be the last to advocate for showing work ONLY because it's homegrown, but there is some high quality work made hereabouts. Why not include that work in the mix? It strikes me that the current policy is, paradoxically, highly provincial. Also, what's lazier than curating from the pages of Artforum.? Sour grapes? Mebbe.
Pictured: Official ICA shot by Iwan Baan.

New ICA turns one

Happy birthday to the ICA, which today marks the beginning of its second year in its South Boston building. I recently reviewed the ICA’s first year. The upshot:
After the wow of the new building, most of the year’s 12 exhibitions of visual art (there have also been theater, music, and dance programs) have felt professional but bland.
But I agree with what JL has been suggesting since the beginning: the curators should be given time to get settled in.

For those who care about how the ICA engages with local art, it’s notable that five of the 22 artists in the permanent collection, which was inaugurated with the opening last year, reside in Massachusetts: Laylah Ali, Ambreen Butt, Taylor Davis, Kelly Sherman and Rachel Perry Welty. Three others used to live around Boston: Nan Goldin, Josiah McElheny and Philip-Lorca diCorcia.

Looking ahead, I’m trying to keep an open mind about the February exhibit “The World as a Stage,” co-organized for London’s Tate Modern by former ICA curator Jessica Morgan (who will be a regular ICA guest curator). The theme is very ahrty: “artists whose works investigate ideas of ‘theatre,’ staging and performance.” Reviews of the London presentation have been mixed (TimeOut London, the Guardian, the Guardian again).

But the Nicholas Baume-curated Anish Kapoor show scheduled for May, “the first major survey of the artist’s work in the U.S. in 15 years,” could be wicked cool. The British sculptor has been doing some fabulous work in recent years, including his 2004 polished stainless steel "Cloud Gate" in Chicago, one of the most dazzling pieces of public art anywhere. The Tara Donovan survey scheduled for September also looks promising.

In Geoff Edgers’ ICA year one piece in the Globe, Bill Arning, curator at MIT’s List, says:
They haven't had their show yet, the show that's going to rock people's socks curatorially. What's been exciting is the performance program. In terms of a big addition to the cultural life of the city, that's probably been the biggest plus.
Modern Kicks’ JL writes:
Now as the opening fades into history, it's a better time to see what the ICA will bring to the table (and an Anish Kapoor retrospective scheduled for next May sounds promising.)
WBUR also has a report.

Pictured: Official ICA shot by Iwan Baan.