700 Obama covers

Here’s a link that’s going around that is a pretty wild collection — 700-some covers from publications announcing Obama’s victory:




Kris Kuksi – Jeremiah Spofford

After we talked about Chris Burden in class and his grey lamp posts I remembered Kris Kuksi and his found object assemblage.  He collects all sorts of toys, models and dolls, paints them and arranges them into landscapes/reliefs reminiscent of Hieronymus Bosch.   


Hans Peter feldmann, Mike Kelley, Christian Boltanski-Maria Jönsson

I’m interested in the differences and similarities between three artists who mock the art world and esthetics their mischievous relationship to high culture and I’m interested in the simplicity of form in their work and their straightforward modes of presentation.

Hans Peter Feldmann- dumbfounding and profound wit, paper light, loaded with meaning, or no meaning.

“A single image can be completely mistaken. For this very reason he never makes individual pictures but always series. His series aim at the mean value. And some pictures within a series that are, in a sense, too good, are then being sorted out, since he regards aesthetics to be a thing for other professions and other times.”

The bone-dry wit of the subjects he categorically chooses to document and hang on the wall is mixed with the lingering feeling that it’s not that easy, what feels so light is about something much heavier. Some of his documentation becomes evidence, it’s hard to make polaroids of a selection of clothing without it feeling heavy, as in all the clothes of a woman, an obviously edited collection of female clothing.

Mike Kelley-
In one project Mike Kelley looks at old paintings he did in art-school and repaints them in the same painterly way, as a way to force himself to go back there. The saved paintings works as an archive of his history that he uses to make work about development, memory and the institutionalization of education and art.

ART:21:      Explain the concept behind your project “Day is Done.”
KELLEY:      “Day is Done” is built around the mythos that relates to “Educational Complex” and the history of a kind of symbolist attempt at uniting all the arts. “Educational Complex” is a model of every school I ever went to, plus the home I grew up in, with all the parts I can’t remember left blank. They’re all combined into a new kind of structure that looks like a kind of modernist building. I started to think about this structure through the Gesamtenswerk, the ‘total artwork’, of Rudolf Steiner, where he tries to combine all the arts and develop a kind of rule system according to which every art form is related. So the architectural relates to the dance relates to the music relates to the writing. But it’s also a kind of religion. And so my religion for this structure is repressed memory syndrome. The idea is that anything you can’t remember, that you forget or block out, is the byproduct of abuse and that all of these scenarios are supposed to be filling in the missing action in these blank sections in this building. It’s a perverse reading of [Hans Hoffman’s] push-pull theory. (cont.)
ART:21:      It’s almost like working as an anthropologist.

KELLEY:     Yes, I think of it very much that way.

“I’m an avant-gardist. We’re living in the postmodern age, the death of the avant-garde. So all I can really do now is work with this dominant culture and flay it, rip it apart, reconfigure it, expose it.”

Christian Boltanski
In his preliminary years, Boltanski painted in an autodidactic way, concerned primarily with themes of historical significance. However, by the 1970’s, (26 years old 1970) Boltanski removed himself from the painting arena and began his quest for remnants of his own past through selected artworks. These artworks led Boltanski to question the substance he had used when creating his own artworks. However, this introspectivism supplied him with the motive for other artworks in which non-truths and the realisation of fundamental truths converged. Boltanski reconstructed his own youth in this method.
Having been born in France post-Holocaust, Boltanski had a challenging childhood since he had a Jewish father. In his early work, he would often invent his own childhood and history using other people’s photographs. He would purposely choose photos that could be anybody and would often use many of them together to further implicate anonymity of the figures. This furthered the universality of his work.

‘Something like 60 per cent of my work is destroyed after every show. And if it’s not destroyed, it’s removed, or I’ll mix one piece with another. When I make a show it’s like when you arrive at home and you open your fridge at night and there’s two potatoes and one sausage and two eggs, and with all that you make something to eat. I try to make something with what is in my “fridge”.’
‘One of the beauties of my life is that I never work. I’m lazy and I have no other way to work. I teach this to my students: you must wait and hope – there’s nothing else you can do. And when you have an idea, you can do it in ten minutes.’
His artistic work is haunted by the problems of death, memory and loss; he often seeks to memorialize the anonymous and those who have disappeared.

After Qualls – faheem majeed

Michael Qualls was a Chicago based artist known for his abstract found wood and earthwork sculptures. Michael studied art and psychology at Loyola University before transferring to Columbia College where he received his B.A. in 1986. Being a therapist, social activist as well as an artist, he divided his time between doing work in the community and pursuing a career in art.

With influences as diverse as Louise Nevleson, Sam Gilliam and Martin Puryear, Qualls created sculptures with varying shapes and dimensions that presented unique juxtapositions to elicit dialogue about composition, form, balance, and structure.

About his work he stated:

“By allowing a flowing together of Post-Modern American, African and Asian aesthetics, I hope to infuse my work with a confluence of aesthetic values that transcends cultural and personal boundaries.”

Quall’s aesthetic was classed as mixed media.  Being predominately a wood assemblage artist, he collected found wood, but with an aesthetic purpose. His materials were mostly comprised of discarded furniture.  His process within his studio was to arrange the wood based on size and shape. He was very specific in the types of wood fragments that he used in that normally they were very minimal, simplified shapes. Inspired by Louise Nevelson, Quall’s assembled the simple wood fragments into layer upon layer that made the work very complicated. Qualls and I had a very similar way of collecting materials. We both were known to frequently “dumpster dive” to find what we considered discarded treasures. However, this dumpster diving was always purposeful. Qualls wasn’t looking for just any wood fragments, but rather specific pieces that would fit within his aesthetic.

In his studio space Qualls had boxes, milk crates, and buckets arranged on the floor and shelves that where themselves made of found lumber.  The arrangement categories often seemed arbitrary. But upon further inspection, you saw that Qualls was meticulous in his categorization:  3 foot spindles, small cubes and rectangles, large cubes and rectangles, splintered wood, round half circles, large circles, small circles, found colors, natural tones, metal, dirt, and fabric. Each part of his collection was sorted and stored in order for optimal viewing so that he could easily survey his collection and decide the best placement for each collected piece.

The following is an except from is an excerpt from Michael Qualls Ear and Tar series statement:

Every fragment of earth is sacred, holding unfathomable mysteries.  In my on going earth and tar series the memory of everyone who has lived is evoked.  We think of mass graves as horrifying and indeed the circumstances, which create them, is that.  But, essentially we all go to a mass grave.  The horror of September 11 brings this reality into sharp relief.  We are always breathing the ashes to ashes and dust to dust of all human beings, everywhere, through out time.

These sculptures are meant to stir us to this truth.  In the face of this reality is the hope, the vitality, and life force each individual brings, and that we can create as groups.  At the heart of each sculpture is the soil element, surround by diverse distinctive patterns and color.  While we are all the same, paradoxically, we all make a difference.  Each lost life, everywhere, is a loss indeed.

Describing Qualls work in “African Art The Diaspora and Beyond” collector and author Dan Parker writes:

Qualls is a stellar Chicago sculptor, who uses the environment as his palette.  Qualls has the uncanny ability to take found wood and soil from the earth and transform them into prized works of sculpture…..”

In each piece he collected, Qualls was considering the larger role they would play once assembled in his work. The decisions made were not arbitrary but rather allowed him to communicate his thoughts on life and death.

Bernd and Hilla Becher collected Industrial Age Calvinist Holy Sites – Nick Wylie

“I’ve always said that we are documenting the sacred buildings of Calvinism. Calvinism rejects all forms of art and therefore never developed its own architecture. The buildings we photograph originate directly from this purely economical thinking.” – Bernd Becher

“They were constructed with no consideration of so-called beauty and serve their functionality alone, which means that when they lose their function they are no longer entitled to exist, so they are torn down.” – Hilla Becher

Bernd Becher died last year, only about a year after I saw the retrospective held at the Hamburgher Bahnhof for his wife Hilla and him. The exhibition filled room after room with prints of similar and identical looking industrial buildings from Europe and the United States. The artists took the photos for over fifty years, and in doing so amassed an enormous collection of images. The overwhelming thing is, though, that often they manage to find shots of buildings that look almost identical, and shoot them in the exact same way, framing the shots in a mindblowingly memetic way. The exhibition instilled in me a bit of the panic that I feel at malls and Swap meets, and it effected my family even more severely.

I had been relieved to find that my visiting family was able to muster some interests in the work elsewhere in the museum. The drama of Beuys, Barney, Hirst and others had held their attention with some ease, but when we arrived at the sprawling Becher retrospective, the tension began to mount. I found myself being called upon to defend the relics of an obsessive 50 year practice of two artists. “Why did there have to be so many rooms of the same thing?” “What was the point of taking all of these?”

My obnoxious sophomoric critiques of the work:

I was at the time not a fan of photography, and these images, on their face, represented the worst of the images of dry formalism that photo practice and history brought to mind. I was also suspicious of the technique of super saturation. While undergrads, my friends and I made a “fortune teller,” the kind made out of folded paper that’s operated by four digits. It was a crit response generator, and among the stock, boring, hackneyed advice was “make more of them.” I was also angry at the prospect of artists making the same sort work for their entire career. The prospect that this was one of the few time-tested viable routes to building a sustainable practice was a nauseating prospect.

That being said, I felt that while in that museum with my family, it was my duty to defend all art. With the help of a vague and difficult-to-translate wall text, I cobbled something together about documentary photography and how they were seminal originators thereof or something.

I now am much more down with all sorts of photography, and am especially interested in the practices of certain Chicago photographers. Greg Stimac is my roommate and has a photo practice which bears family resemblances to that of the Bechers’. He travels across the US and collects images of people mowing their lawn, or bottles of piss that truckers have discarded that can be seen glowing at sunset, or people at shooting ranges, etc. He has multiple collections, they often involve subjects, and they are much smaller than the Bechers’ collection, but they perform similar tasks.

The Hasselblad Foundation, which awarded the Bechers the crazy prestigious Hasselblad Award (they also got golden lions and erasmus awards late in their careers) said that as the founders of what became known as the Becher school, Bernd and Hilla influenced “generations of documentary photographers and artists.” You’d think of this as a formal influence, and there was, as is visible in the work of Thomas Struth, among others. However, in an interview with Die Welt (http://www.signandsight.com/features/338.html) around the time of their retrospective, they describe their practice as a risky, lonely, adventurous rambling through places that no one would want to go. They describe being constantly accused of spying, taking photographs for the enemy. They talk of waiting weeks for the perfect light only to see buildings destroyed before it comes. They witnessed hope that they knew was unwarranted in town after town. These experiences, which for them are individually associated with nearly all of the identical-looking photographs, are where I locate the real kinship between Greg’s work and theirs. The role of the documentary photographer/artist/collector is noble in its scrambling dedication to maintaining memories, but it is often a bizarre transient existence that brings a sometimes unwanted understanding of the way are, and the way things are so homogeneous. What fascinates me now about both bodies of work is the performative endurance challenge that is required to orchestrate the archival rescue these images from the dustbin of history.

Hilla maintains that:

“When someone discovers something in their lives that really interests them, then they should be content with doing that – without having to go and lie on a beach once a year.”

I’m not sure how that relates to the above, but it struck me and I wanted to relay it. I had kindof stopped thinking about collection as a replacement for leisure activity, and I’m mulling that over now, on the eve of our class (sorry).



wiki entry

nyt obit

welt: retrospective interview w/ Cornelius Tittel

Fred Wilson Re-Presents History and Objects by Maria Gaspar

Recently, I had the opportunity to hear Fred Wilson speak about his work at the Milwaukee Art Museum’s “New American Collections Galleries” opening exhibition a few weeks ago. I was not very familiar with his work prior to this lecture, but have become extremely interested in the ways in which he recontextualizes, deconstructs and re-presents the way in which historical institutions or art institutions present historical objects, in particular those of Non-Western origin or indigenous origins. Wilson works with collections that already exist within museums- African Art, Native American Art, Post-Modern Art, etc, etc. He described the way in which he gains access to a museum (historical or art based) and has the ability to redisplay the cultural objects available to him. Obviously, museums know exactly what they are getting themselves into when they ask Fred Wilson to create an installation using their objects. However, Wilson states that it is not about disrespecting the institution, it is about looking and critically thinking about the meaning and representation of these objects that are interpreted by the museum to the public. It is then about having the viewer reconsider notions of representation, race and colonialism. Fred Wilson works within the museum system. He looks through the basements of museums, storage spaces, has conversations with the security guards, docents, curators and visitors and gains inspiration from it all to create his installations. His interest in existing museum collections is fascinating. He challenges the viewer, invokes conversation and questions museumification by creating new connections between objects and between objects and their locations. He described the way museums include all African objects in one plexi-glass vitrine. He asked the audience if the same would be done with say, Modernist paintings. Would they be exhibited on top of one another? Wilson then showed us an image of an  installation of a collection he recontextualized using Westernized Paintings and Sculptures. And, yes, did it look pretty wild! A Giacommeti right next to a Picasso in front of a DeKooning and all on one platform! He said that all he did was exhibit them the same way African objects have been traditionally “showcased”. Through his practice, he has been able to challenge museums to critically think about the way they present the world to others and to become more creative about the way they do this.I think Wilson redefines notions of culture and power in ways that we need to reconsider.  Fred Wilson throws it back at us- as the viewers, the cultural producers, the museums and the artists. He promises nothing, but challenges everything. 

Fred Wilson received the MacArthur Genius Grant in 1999 and represented the USA at the Biennial Cairo in 199 2 and the Venice Biennale in 2003. In 2001, he was the subject of a retrospective, Fred Wilson: Objects and Installations, 1979-2000 at the Center for Art and Visual Culture, University of Maryland, Baltimore County. For the 2003 Venice Biennale, Wilson created a multi-media installation which borrowed its title from a line in “Othello.” His elaborate Venice work, “Speak of Me as I Am,” focused on representations of Africans in Venetian culture.

Objects for Lonely Men – Mary Robnett

Noam Toran’s short film Objects for Lonely Men (2001), tells the story of a man obsessed with Jean-Luc Godard’s 1959 film A Bout de Souffle (where the main character is obsessed with Hollywood gangster films). The protagonist in Objects for Lonely Men designs a tray to house a collection of  physical representations of the film. The tray is made from a single sheet of vacuum formed plastic with slight recesses to fit the objects, including: small steering wheel, female mannequin head, cut-out gun, hat, telephone, Herald Tribune Newspaper, sunglasses, ash tray, rear-view mirror, pack of Gitanes non-filtered cigarettes. Toran looks to explore our relationship with electronic objects and the fantasies they create. As a collection, this could serve as a product one could borrow when you rent the video. 



Toran continues to explore this relationship in, Accessories for Lonely Men (2001), a collection of eight fictional products designed to help alleviate the loss of a woman. The objects include: (1) a steel finger designed to curl chest hair, (2) a device to “share a smoke” by placing a cigarette in one hole while exhaling smoke from the other, (3) a rapid plate thrower, (4) a plastic tube that is attached to the side of the bed and winds of sheets in the middle of the night, (5) a hair alarm clock that wakes you up by flicking strands of hair in your face, (6) the silhouette of a woman that can be placed in front of a light to cast a shadow, (7) a machine that blows warm, breath-like bursts of air on you while you sleep, (8) cold, feet-like objects to be placed at the end of the bed. Toran attempts to understand loneliness, asking whether we miss the physical individual or the idea of someone.

Toran is collecting the physical manifestations of a particular fantasy. These products are not meant for production, but for reflection. In an interview, Toran explains he had just ended a five-year relationship and began thinking more about loneliness as a theme. At the end of a relationship, a person often collects romanticized versions of moments and objects. Here, Toran presents a collection of physical objects to create an imaginary relationship. Similarly in his film, Objects for Lonely Men, Toran has created objects to help become a fictional character who (in the film) was mimicking fictional gangster characters. 

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