Is All Art Sacred Art? In a Prose Meditation, One Poet Makes the Case

The Journey Isn t as Difficult as you fear
The Journey Isn’t as Difficult as you fear

The New York Times:

HE HELD RADICAL LIGHT The Art of Faith, the Faith of Art By Christian Wiman

With all the stonings, smitings, beheadings and bear maulings in the Bible, it is easy to miss the rather staid death of Eutychus. As recounted in the Book of Acts, the young man nods off during a long sermon by St. Paul, and falls three stories from a window in Troas. In a reprieve for dozing parishioners everywhere, Paul resurrects him.

Poor Eutychus comes and goes in only a few verses, but I thought of him while reading the poet Christian Wiman’s curious new book, “He Held Radical Light” — not because it’s in danger of putting anyone to sleep, but because, like Acts, it’s an episodic account of equally strange encounters, in this case, with apostles of verse. A. R. Ammons shows up for a reading in Virginia but refuses to read, telling his audience, “You can’t possibly be enjoying this”; Seamus Heaney winks before stepping into a cab in Chicago; Donald Hall orders a burger for lunch, then confides to Wiman, who was then 38: “I was 38 when I realized not a word I wrote was going to last”; Mary Oliver picks up a dead pigeon from the sidewalk, tucks the bloody carcass into her pocket and keeps it there through an event and after-party.

Wiman had met a few poets by the time he finished college at Washington and Lee and completed a Wallace Stegner Fellowship at Stanford, but he really started to collect them at Poetry magazine, where he was editor for 10 years. The most straightforward version of those years would be a literary tell-all, along the lines of the former New Yorker editor Robert Gottlieb’s “Avid Reader.” But “He Held Radical Light” is something else: a collection of private memories, literary criticism and theology, plus an eccentric anthology of poems Wiman holds dear, all drawn into an argument about art and faith.

(click here to continue reading Is All Art Sacred Art? In a Prose Meditation, One Poet Makes the Case – The New York Times.)

Hmm, sounds interesting.

Atget’s Paris

Atget s Paris
Atget’s Paris

An acquaintance flattered me and compared a photo of mine to Eugène Atget’s work, so I had to learn more. In school, and in my life, I’ve studied the painting masters, visited art museums all over North America and Europe, but I haven’t filled in the photography part of my art education as thoroughly, yet. A friend suggested I consider Berenice Abbott next; I plan on doing so.

I have not studied Atget’s photographs extensively, yet, simply browsed this quite intriguing book. There are a lot of contemporary photographers1 documenting urban environments who have been influenced by Atget, whether consciously or unconsciously. Photos of store fronts, workers, mannequins, streets, etc. 

This was the photo of mine that initiated this exploration, btw, a snapshot taken with Hipstamatic/iPhone. I printed a 10”x10’” version on metal and hung it in my hallway.

Dreaming My Dreams
Dreaming My Dreams

  1. professional or amateur []

On Boycotting Woody Allen’s Films, Hate the Artist, Love the Art

9 great movies
9 great movies

For many years I’ve heard many variations of the question answered here by the New York Times Ethicist columnist, Chuck Klosterman; whether moral failings or even alleged moral failings are reason enough to avoid the work of certain offending artists.

I was discussing with a friend whether it is permissible to boycott Woody Allen’s films in the wake of the sexual-abuse allegations. We both thought it would be wrong to further empower someone who may have sexually abused a child. But our legal system is built on the principle that the accused are innocent until proved guilty, and preserving that value is important whether or not you believe the allegations. Is it permissible in this case to boycott, or should we presume innocence? J.K., NEW YORK

When news of Dylan Farrow’s accusation against Allen resurfaced earlier this year, I received many emails that were all different versions of the same question: “Is it acceptable to continue watching (and re-watching) Allen’s films if any part of me believes he may have molested his adopted daughter?” Your query is both similar and different; you’re wondering if it’s O.K. to stop watching his movies, even if he has been convicted of absolutely nothing and insists that he’s innocent.

My answer to both questions is yes.

There are many who find themselves wondering if they can still love “Manhattan” or “Crimes and Misdemeanors” if the allegations against Allen are true. It’s highly unlikely, however, that those same people would wonder if they needed to move out of a house if they discovered the carpenter who built it had been accused of the same offense. This is because of art’s exceptionalism — we view artistic endeavors as different from other works. But it’s this same exceptionalism that allows a person to consume art by people they see (rightly or wrongly) as monstrous: What you know about an artist can inform the experience you have with whatever they create. A film is not just a product that has one utility; it’s a collection of ideas that can be weighed and considered in concert with one another.

Watching a movie is not a tacit endorsement of the person who made it.

(click here to continue reading On Boycotting Woody Allen’s Films –

Johnny Depp and some psychoactive mushrooms
Johnny Depp and some psychoactive mushrooms

Can you separate the artist as an individual from their work? I settled this question long ago, for myself, by agreeing to let myself read and enjoy poetry written by Ezra Pound. Ezra Pound seems like he was a virulent anti-semite, a Nazi-sympathizer, and so on, and yet his poetry is intriguing. Roman Polanski admitted having drugged and screwed a 13 year old girl, and yet “Chinatown” is still a great film, as is “Knife in the Water”. John Lennon might have hit Yoko Ono a few times, does that mean I can never listen to “Working Class Hero” again? What about David Bowie’s Third Reich fixation during the time of the recording of some of his best albums? The list goes on and on: artists who were assholes, thugs, sexual deviants, or even worse, Scientologists! Does it matter if Henry Ford was a Nazi-sympathizer? Would you still drive a Ford car? Like Mr. Klosterman says, would you boycott your house if you discovered one of the carpenters who worked on your kitchen did some vile thing ten years ago? Where does it stop? 

It’s a variant of the old cliché: Hate the Sin, Love the Sinner, in this case, Hate the Artist, Love the Art. Or not, it’s your own choice, and your choice alone to make.  

Walter De Maria, Artist on Grand Scale, Dies at 77

Walter De Maria's The 2000 Sculpture
Walter De Maria’s The 2000 Sculpture

For some reason, when I saw the above sculpture installation at LACMA, I didn’t remember that Walter De Maria was part of the NYC underground scene that also evolved into The Velvet Underground…

Walter De Maria, a reclusive American sculptor whose multifaceted achievement and sly Dadaist humor helped give rise to earthworks, Conceptual Art and Minimal art, on an often monumental scale, died on Thursday in Los Angeles. He was 77 and lived in New York.

In a career of more than 50 years Mr. De Maria made drawings of all-but-invisible landscapes, gamelike interactive wood sculptures and a record of himself accompanying the sound of crickets on the drums.

Mr. De Maria himself was a sometime percussionist who played in jazz and rock groups in New York in the 1960s, including one that evolved into Lou Reed’s Velvet Underground. Yet as an artist in later years he avoided the limelight, rarely giving interviews or letting himself be photographed.…

In other works Mr. De Maria favored shiny metals and pristine floor-hugging geometric forms that were often repeated in great numbers. 

From 1953 to 1959 he attended the University of California, Berkeley, studying history and painting, the latter under the painter David Park, who was also a musician and had a jazz group in which Mr. De Maria occasionally performed.

During these years Mr. De Maria was part of San Francisco’s developing avant-garde scene, participating in “Happenings” and theatrical performances and turning increasingly to three-dimensional works. His friends included the composer La Monte Young (later to become another Dia beneficiary) and the dancer Simone Forti, whose task-oriented choreography made him interested in interactive sculpture. Mr. De Maria moved to New York in 1960 and immersed himself in the downtown scene. He participated in Happenings with Robert Whitman (who was then married to Ms. Forti) and briefly ran a gallery on Great Jones Street with him, exhibiting Minimalist sculptures made of wood.

The sculptures were often Dadaist in intent. A piece called “Ball Drop” consisted of a tall columnar structure with a small hole at the top and bottom and a small wood ball. The viewer could drop the ball in the top hole and retrieve it from the bottom.

During this time Mr. De Maria performed with jazz musicians, including the trumpeter Don Cherry, and joined a band called the Primitives. It would evolve into the Velvet Underground.

(click here to continue reading Walter De Maria, Artist on Grand Scale, Dies at 77 –

George Contemplating Walter De Maria's The 2000 Sculpture
George Contemplating Walter De Maria’s The 2000 Sculpture

Brooklyn Museum Cancels Graffiti Show

Plate F

Cowards. Controversial art is still art, right?

The Brooklyn Museum has canceled plans to show “Art in the Streets,” the popular but controversial graffiti exhibition originated by the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. In both a terse press release and an e-mail that, according to L.A. Weekly was sent to an artist in the show, the Brooklyn Museum’s director, Arnold Lehman, blamed tight finances for the cancellation. In the email quoted by L.A. Weekly, Mr. Lehman said: “With no major funding in place, we cannot move ahead.”

The show has drawn criticism in Los Angeles, both from people who accuse it of glorifying vandalism and from others who question the role of Roger Gastman, an associate curator of the show who also has a commercial interest in street art. The first issue was of most concern to The Daily News of New York, which editorialized in April that, if the show comes to Brooklyn, “museum mavens will be sticking their thumbs in the eyes of every bodega owner and restaurant manager who struggles to keep his or her property graffiti-free, not to mention the eyes of all New Yorkers who cringe recalling the days of graffiti-covered subway cars.”

(click here to continue reading Brooklyn Museum Cancels Graffiti Show –

There’s a difference between spray painting gang symbols and street art, as we’ve discussed previously.

Facts Are Pliable Too

Woody Graffiti - CLS


Chicago Museums To Charge Out-of-Staters on Free Days

Art Institute Lions with Blackhawks Helmets

Not surprised, really. Tourists are often easy targets for revenue generating ideas (special taxes on hotels, car rentals, etc.). No matter the price, visiting the museums of Chicago is still worth the expense.

The Big Squeeze confronts every facet of the economy and will soon hit culture-craving visitors to Chicago from places like Des Moines, Berlin and Buenos Aires.

A nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization providing local coverage of Chicago and the surrounding area for The New York Times. More From the Chicago News Cooperative » Their free ride on free days is about to end. As it does, we can wonder how else we might monetize the city’s 40 million annual visitors.

Very quietly, a consortium of museums has persuaded the Illinois legislature to allow them to charge entry fees to out-of-staters on the 52 free museum days each year mandated by the General Assembly.

The bill, approved unanimously,  is on the desk of the Hamlet of Springfield, Gov. Pat Quinn, who presumably will need less time to mull whether to sign this one than he took agonizing over abolition of the death penalty.

Gary Johnson, president of the Chicago History Museum, led the charge as head of Museums in the Parks. That group comprises the Adler Planetarium, Art Institute of Chicago, DuSable Museum of African American History, Field Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, Museum of Science and Industry, National Museum of Mexican Art, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, John G. Shedd Aquarium and Johnson’s home base in Lincoln Park.

The legislature’s jurisdiction originally involved museums on public parkland, back in an era in which the state gave them operating money. It no longer does, but some still get local help, like the aid Chicago’s museums get from the Park District.

Currently, Chicago’s museums must have 52 days when admission is free even to out-of-staters. They’ve argued for years that they labor under a de facto unfunded state mandate and, with budgets tight, need help.

(click here to continue reading Chicago Museums To Charge Out-of-Staters on Free Days –

and because of this:

Nationally, Chicago appears to offer more freebies than any big city, with the exception of Washington, where so many museums are subsidized by all of us. “We’re off the charts,” another Chicago museum leader told me.

Ex Parte

On a personal note, I moved to Chicago because the first time I visited here, as a broke-ass college student, with a vanload of friends hepped up on something or other, I went to the Art Institute when admission was whatever you wanted to pay1, and was so impressed that suddenly Chicago jumped to the top of the list of cities I wanted to live in. But I understand that in the 21st Century, art is not a priority, and has to pay its own way.

Queue Up

  1. I paid a dollar []

Demolition of Bertrand Goldberg’s Prentice Hospital Scheduled

Any Porthole in a Storm

I had thought the Bertrand Goldberg designed Prentice Women’s Hospital was already demolished years ago, but apparently not.

As Rahm Emanuel prepares to takes office May 16, the first big historic preservation battle of his mayoralty is taking shape: Northwestern University is gearing up to tear down the old Prentice Women’s Hospital, designed by Bertrand Goldberg, the architect of Marina City, and replace it with a new medical research building.

If the university wins city permission for demolition, it could be wrecking the boldly sculptural, brilliantly engineered high-rise at the very time the Art Institute of Chicago is celebrating it as part of a major exhibition of Goldberg’s work. “Bertrand Goldberg: Architecture of Invention,” opens September 10 and runs through Jan. 8, 2012.

Such a glaring juxtaposition, with creativity displayed on the museum’s walls and ransacked outside them, would reveal to the world anew that Chicago destroys architectural landmarks as fast as the city builds them. And it would demonstrate just how hard it can be to save leading examples of mid-20th Century modernism. Although widely admired by architects, old Prentice is by no means beloved by the broader public. Some liken it to a prison.

Located at 333 E. Superior St., the 36-year-old high-rise is unquestionably a major work in Goldberg’s career.

Preservationists have already laid the groundwork for a fight, meeting on old Prentice with downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd). “He’s one of the people who said you need to show how it can be reused,” said Jim Peters, president of Landmarks Illinois. Reilly didn’t return phone calls asking for comment. Nevertheless, it’s clear that the preservationists have taken a cue from his emphasis on finding a new use for the building.

Three Chicago architectural firms worked pro bono for Landmarks Illinois to prepare a study which looks at whether old Prentice could be re-used for offices, apartments or a research lab. The study makes a compelling case for the latter, arguing that the four quadrants of the former maternity floors could be sub-divided into research team areas and that the common space once occupied by nursing stations and nurseries could work well as a central breakout space.

(click here to continue reading Cityscapes: Northwestern wants to tear down Goldberg’s Prentice Hospital; preservationists have other ideas.)

I’d be pleased if the city found a way to preserve this building somehow, but I wouldn’t expect it to happen.

links for 2011-02-03

“Little Milton – Greatest Hits (Chess 50th Anniversary Collection)” (Little Milton)

  • Italian researchers who specialize in resolving art mysteries said Wednesday they have discovered the disputed identity of the model for Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa — and claimed he was a man. Silvano Vinceti, chairman of the Italian national committee for cultural heritage, said the Florence-born Renaissance artist’s male apprentice and possible lover Salai was the main inspiration for the picture.
    (tags: arts Italy)

Dream caused by the flight of a bee near Presidential Towers

Dream caused by the flight of a bee near Presidential Towers

Shot with my Hipstamatic for iPhone

Lens: Salvador 84

Flash: Cadet Blue Gel

Film: DreamCanvas

Lightbox version for your viewing pleasure.

Title stolen from Salvador Dali’s painting: Dream Caused by the Flight of a Bee around a Pomegranate a Second Before Awakening, 1944

Cash For Your Warhol

Cash For Your Warhol
Cash For Your Warhol, originally uploaded by swanksalot.

Ok then, I’ll have to look.

Piccadilly Circus somewhere, London

BOSTON—Art collectors who need some quick cash and happen to own a work by Andy Warhol may be in luck. A new Web site has appeared, called Cash for Your Warhol, which promises to quickly sell your piece by the famed Pop artist “regardless of the size, price, or condition.”

“Our nationwide network of investors has helped lots of art collectors in situations like yours,” the site reads. “They can often make you a written offer within hours of contacting us, regardless of economic conditions, and have your problems solved within days.”

Is it real? Too good (or crass) to be true? Well, maybe. Created by Boston-based artist Geoff Hargadon, the site was inspired by the “Cash for Your House” signs that Hargadon has seen in neighborhoods hit particularly hard by the recession. He commissioned the same Texas company that produces the “Cash for Your House” signs to create “Cash for Your Warhol” signs, which he has posted around Boston, including near Brandeis University’s Rose Art Museum, whose future remains uncertain after the president of Brandeis announced in January that the school would dissolve the museum and sell off its collection.

Cartier-Bresson opening

Cartier-Bresson opening
Cartier-Bresson opening, originally uploaded by swanksalot.…

Shot with my Hipstamatic for iPhone
Lens: John S
Flash: Off
Film: Pistil

plan on going to this, maybe not for the opening, but before it leaves

This exhibition of nearly 300 images is the first full retrospective devoted to Cartier-Bresson in three decades. It includes both his formally groundbreaking early images and his historically significant postwar work—in India and Indonesia during struggles for independence, in China during the revolution, in the Soviet Union following Stalin’s death—that redefined the field of photojournalism.

Following an exquisite presentation of the best of the early work, the exhibition is organized as a series of distinct sections. Several of these sections are devoted to his work in countries such as the United States, the Soviet Union, and France. Other sections present the themes that preoccupied Cartier-Bresson throughout his career: portraiture, the persistence of ancient customs and patterns of life, the transformation of these patterns by modern industry and commerce, the poetry of human encounters on the street, and the psychology of the crowd.

The retrospective, organized by the Museum of Modern Art, shows the rich interplay between Cartier-Bresson the artist, gifted at capturing the flux of life, and Cartier-Bresson the photojournalist whose lens shaped our understanding of seismic political and cultural changes across the second half of the 20th century. This retrospective is the first to draw upon the extraordinary resources and cooperation of the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson in Paris. It will premiere at the Museum of Modern Art in February 2010 and after its Chicago showing, travels to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Henri Matisse – Black Is Also a Color

I still haven’t been to the Matisse exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago, unfortunately. Such a powerful artist.

In 1908, when Henri Matisse exhibited in Paris thirty paintings, sculptures and drawings representing his work of the previous eight years, a disgruntled critic complained of the artist’s “unhealthy state of mind, overworked by search and ambition.” If only he’d realized what was coming. Just three years earlier Matisse had burst into notoriety as the most radical of the Fauves, or “wild beasts,” of painting; the 1908 exhibition showed that the 38-year-old artist was ready to take stock of his work without false modesty, the better to push forward into new terrain. His sense of accomplishment and his restlessness could hardly be disentangled. “I do not repudiate any of my paintings,” Matisse declared in his “Notes of a Painter,” published a few months later, “but there is not one of them that I would not redo differently, if I had it to redo.”

Where most observers saw madness and aggression in Matisse’s work, his one great early defender among the critics, Guillaume Apollinaire, saw a “Cartesian master.” “We are not here in the presence of an extravagant or extremist undertaking,” Apollinaire argued. “Matisse’s art is eminently reasonable.” The poet was being sly, knowing as he did that to be reasonable, or rather to put one’s reason into practice, can be a most extreme undertaking. And Matisse was just as crafty when he claimed, in implicit contradiction to Apollinaire, to disdain intellect as a guide to painting: “I believe only in Instinct.” True, Matisse is the most intuitive of painters, yet to express his instinct cost him immense intellectual as well as physical labor. “Often behind one of these works,” he explained to a Catalan journalist, “a dozen more have been undergoing evolution, or, if you wish, involution, from objective vision to the sensationalist idea that engendered it.” Matisse’s insight, if it has been precisely transcribed, is extraordinary. It would have been more conventional to assume that art begins with sensation and is gradually elaborated to construct an “objective vision.” But Matissean vision is just the opposite, moving from objectivity to sensation, or rather (and here comes a curious oxymoron) to a “sensationalist idea,” apparently a sort of intellectualized sensation. It’s as if, in Blakean terms, one were to start from experience to achieve innocence.

Matisse’s paintings can appear to have taken form effortlessly. Their timelessness is akin to that of the icons that stunned the painter when he visited Russia in 1911—”the true source of all creative search,” he declared. Of course, the frank evidence of multiple revisions observable on the surfaces of most of them tells us that this sense of ease is deceptive. Readers of Hilary Spurling’s biography of the painter can easily come away from it thinking of the artist as an absolute kvetch: high-strung and anxious, a reckless workaholic on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Of the 1906 painting The Gypsy, he later observed that it “shows the energy of a drowning man whose pathetic cries for help are uttered in a fine voice,” while the mural Music (1910) he described as “an immense effort which has exhausted me.” Of the glorious 1912 still life Basket of Oranges, later purchased by Picasso and now on view in Chicago, he told Françoise Gilot, “It was born of misery.” When a painting happened to achieve an unexpected success he took little pleasure in it, seeing the work as just “the beginning of a very painful effort.” A confirmed atheist—except “when I work”—he would use the Lord’s Prayer as a mantra to calm himself down. And yet as his friend the writer and socialist politician Marcel Sembat observed, “He has no wish to offer other people anything other than calm.”

(click to continue reading Black Is Also a Color | The Nation.)


And from the AIC:

Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913–1917 examines what is without question the most innovative, momentous, and yet little-studied time in the artist’s long career. Nearly 120 of his most ambitious and experimental paintings, sculptures, drawings, and prints from the period are on view. Matisse himself acknowledged the significance of these years when he identified two paintings, Bathers by a River and The Moroccans, as among his most pivotal. These monumental canvases from the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Modern Art, New York, inspired the collaborative work of this exhibition and serve as major touchstones within it. This is the first exhibition to offer an in-depth investigation of Matisse’s art from this time, revealing information uncovered through extensive new art-historical, archival, and technical research.

(click to continue reading Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913–1917 | The Art Institute of Chicago.)