Friday, October 3, 2014

Madison and Milwaukee Wisconsin 2014 (with a little Ft Myers Florida in between)

So, I have been residing in Madison for the last four months or so doing mural work for a corporation headquarters there. As I have stated in previous posts, Madison is one interesting place, and when I say Madison I mean the surrounding areas as well. I had a few firsts while there. The day after I arrived a tornado sped through the work site and demolished a farmhouse and building that housed about 8 classic cars throwing them in the field like toys. This was my first view of the true power of a tornado (although I have seen them from a distance a few times in Florida). Above is one view of the scene the next morning.
While there I had the chance to see a Jim Dine exhibition called "I Knew Him." which was pretty much skulls- mostly prints of skulls but also sculpture, photography, painting collage and a mix of all the above. The work shown was from the period between 1982-2000. The exhibition was held at The Chazen Museum which I again highly recommend to anyone visiting the area.
Also of interest in the Chazen's collection is the work of Beth Cavener Stichter. The works in the collection are incredibly beautiful ceramic sculptures that have now gained a little controversy because they are being highlighted in the most recent exhibition at Chazen focusing on ceramics.

Read all about it!

Other really fun things that I did in Madison include going to The Majestic to see The Budos Band with opening act Electric Citizen ( Electric Citizen is a really cool rock band with a crazy chick singer who really knocks it out of the park! See them if you get the chance.)
The Budos Band can hardly be described- you just got to experience it.

The next weeks went by with little excitement except for my nightly viewing of the fireflies emerging at dusk. Then we (Kym O'Donnell and I) took a little trip to Milwaukee. 
The Milwaukee Museum of Art was not our first stop but I want to list things in order of magnitude rather than in chronological order for this part of the post. The main reason I wanted to visit The MMofA was to see the Kandinsky retrospective that was currently up. The exhibition was very well put together, especially strong in its historic emphasis on time lines ( something I've noticed a lot more these days ) and included very strong examples of Kandinsky's work in the different stages of its development to help map out how he became a master of abstract painting and print making.
However, there was one disappointment - The reconstruction of "Private Room" which is a large scale mural that covers four walls of a room left me unimpressed. I just don't like the composition. I looked at it long and hard, walked around it and eh.....
This was created during Kandinsky's involvement with the Bauhaus school when much of his most important works were created. I chalk it up to having student involvement in the project which is clearly shown in the documentation.
Tara Donovan's work in the museum's collection was my surprise favorite. Made of buttons and glue this sculpture made my day. Tara Donovan has since become somewhat of a hero to me as I researched her work and life.

Wayne Thiebaud has always been one of my favorite painters and he is well represented in the museum's collection.

Next we ventured to a mysterious exhibition at the Charles Allis Art Museum called "UNIS- The Origin of the Unicorn" which promised to be an account of a fictional expedition funded by the unicorn obsessed Charles Allis to find proof of the creatures existence. I like the concept because it sounded very much like something The Experimental Skeleton, Inc. group would come up with.
The exhibition was in several parts. Some objects were placed within the museum's collection like artifacts that belong or should disappear and then there was an invitational section where contemporary artists showed their take on the myth of the unicorn. The images I show here are from the contemporary room.
Matt Smiroldo

Nicholaus Arnold "Feel Better"

Michael Kautzer "U is for Uniblock"

I wanted to include my favorite artifact from the museum's regular collection to give a contrast to the objects found in the UNIS exhibition which include costumes, false documents, maps and ephemera.
The exhibition looks like it was a lot of work, and was the brainchild of one Timothy Westbrook of Timothy Westbrook Studios. I gather from looking at his web trail that he is an artist very much focused on fiber arts, costume and performance work. I like the whole feel of the project and what a strange little museum to do it in. I will confess that seeing this show has given me inspiration to make a proposal to another very strange museum ( more on that later ).
 We then walked the Riverwalk which sports a group of public sculptures. Among them is the work by Beth Sahagian Allsopp titled "Acqua Grylli". Meant to be a guardian or gatekeeper to the river this mermaid type mythological figure is perched on the top of an arch which is filled with all kinds of symbolic objects- horseshoe, rabbit's foot, peppers, a hand making the sign to ward of the evil eye, etc.

The crowning work of the Riverwalk- "The Bronze Fonz" by Gerald P. Sawyer
During this time we also flew in to Ft. Myers, Fl to attend the opening of "The Moon Museum" at the Rauschenberg Gallery at Edison State College. The opening of "The Moon Museum" was on a Friday evening and the next day there was to be an artist talk by New York based artist Keith Edmier. We attended both events and had a blast.
On display in the foyer of the gallery temporarily is this painting by Theo Wujcik of Rauschenberg.

The exhibition's purpose was to show one very small object and to frame that object historically. "The Moon Museum" is a ceramic chip normally used by Bell Labs (in the 1960's) to print circuits on. But this is no ordinary ceramic chip, there are six drawings etched on to the chip reproduced from original work by Robert Rauschenberg, David Novros, John Chamberlain, Claes Oldenburg, Forrest Myers and Andy Warhol. Furthermore, one of these chips (there were between 16 and 20 made) supposedly made it on to the landing gear of the Apollo 12 mission. This makes "The Moon Museum" arguably the first art object to be sent outside the earths atmosphere.  This is not my first encounter with "The Moon Museum" nor my first post on the subject. Below I have copied my post for the Experimental Skeleton Skeleblog on some musings on art objects/artifacts in space.The original post was titled "Prudes of the Galaxy" and was published on 6/23/2010. 

Dr. Evil isn't the only one sending rude shapes into space!

Are humans the most puritanical life forms in the galaxy? Well, it seems that the space outside our atmosphere is the perfect laboratory for testing this question.

Last week the Tampa Museum of Art began exhibiting an object that, along with others of it's type, disseminate images of human anatomy into the depths of space. The exhibition is the brainchild of independent curator Jade Dellinger and marks the first time Dellinger has worked in collaboration with the new Tampa Museum of Art ( hopefully there will be many more projects to come!)
Although the "Moon Museum" is sited on our closest neighbor and probably of little interest to extraterrestrials it still has the possibility of offending our earthling brothers and sisters.
The "Moon Museum" is a small chip that was supposedly smuggled onto the Apollo 12 mission to the moon. The project was masterminded by Forrest Myers and included himself, John Chamberlain, David Novros, Claes Oldenberg, Robert Rauchenberg and Andy Warhol. Quite a formidable line up of artists. According to most sources this collaborative work of art is most likely still on the Moon surface attached to the landing gear of the lunar module.
This very interesting object and exhibition has captured the imagination of art lovers, tech geeks and the straightlaced. It just so happens that Andy Warhol's contribution to the chip is a drawing of a no-no. The upper left image has been interpreted as a rocket, an "A" and a "W" or most likely an outer space dick drawing. This has some people a little uncomfortable.
It is also of note that people responding to the various articles have weighed in on quality as well. Here are some posts from the article that ran in the Tampa Tribune-

In response and mentioning Rauchenberg's drawing-
"That should give any space visitors a real good first impression of us. The straight line is particularly impressive."

"That's the best we can do? A bunch of stick drawings. The aliens who are on their way here will at least have a good laugh."
Assuming that aliens laugh.

"The weenie doodle is the acme of class."

Many of the original posts have been removed by the staff of the Tampa Tribune to protect the innocent. More prim behavior.

It is interesting that in this old clipping from the time of the stunt (1969) has a thumb covering Warhol's contribution and calls it a signature rather than a drawing.

But wait, that is not the end of the story of human anatomy in space! The next very heady chapter of nude parts in space begins again with the Pioneer program. This time the images were sent into deep space and the message is a "serious" salutation to whatever intelligence may discover the probe. This time scientists and one artist constructed the imagery and again
the prudes got all upset. Linda Salzman Sagan was the artist/writer who created the image on the  Pioneer Plaques to be sent beyond our solar system along with her then husband  astronomer Carl Sagan on the Pioneer deep space probes ( Pioneer 10 and 11) Both plaques were identicle even though the mission flight was different. Linda Salzman Sagan's art was subject to some editing- read this copy of the Wikipedia page-

One can see that the woman's genitals are not really depicted; only the mons veneris is shown. It has been claimed that Sagan, having little time to complete the plaque, suspected that NASA would have rejected a more intricate drawing and therefore made a compromise just to be safe.[2] However, according to Mark Wolverton's more detailed account, the original design included a "short line indicating the woman's vulva."[3] It was erased as condition for approval by John Naugle, former head of NASA's Office of Space Science and the agency's former chief scientist.[4]
But Sagan himself wrote that "The decision to omit a very short line in this diagram was made partly because conventional representation in Greek statuary omits it. But there was another reason: Our desire to see the message successfully launched on Pioneer 10. In retrospect, we may have judged NASA's scientific-political hierarchy as more puritanical than it is. In the many discussions that I held with such officials up to the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the President's Science Adviser, not one Victorian demurrer was ever voiced; and a great deal of helpful encouragement was given."
He also commented that "The idea of government censorship of the Pioneer 10 plaque is now so well documented and firmly entrenched that no statement from the designers of the plaque to the contrary can play any role in influencing the prevailing opinion. But we can at least try."

According to astronomer Frank Drake, there were many negative reactions to the plaque because the human beings were displayed naked.[8] The Chicago Sun-Times retouched its image to hide the genitals of the man and woman.
The next imagery that was sent into space was aboard the Voyager mission and was afar more advanced medium. The "Golden Record" was a phonograph record that included sounds of Earth, images, recordings of different languages, etc. alas the prudes won in the last fight. NASA did not include the Sagan's proposal for a nude photograph of a man and women.
From Wikipedia-
After NASA had received criticism over the nudity on the Pioneer plaque (line drawings of a naked man and woman), the agency chose not to allow Sagan and his colleagues to include a photograph of a nude man and woman on the record. Instead, only a silhouette of the couple was included[2].

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Atlanta Georgia- Report from the Field, Part 2- The Goat Farm

During my stay in Atlanta I visited the real estate experiment called The Goat Farm. The Goat Farm is a for profit project which focuses on reinhabiting old run down factory buildings with an artist colony. Is it working? Well, according to the folks I met there it not only is working but is growing by leaps and bounds. There is a waiting list for occupancy and the developers are getting more and more spaces up to code for studio and living space.
Here is an abbreviated document of my stroll through the grounds on a weekday in the afternoon.
When I arrived the first building I came to was being cleared out and there was a sale of the contents ( mostly huge machines- drill presses , stamping machines etc.-) where I did purchase some items- some of which will figure into a future 13th Grape multiple.
The building range from functioning spaces to dangerously run down structures

 Machines abound, converted into tables or workspaces.
There is even a cafe that was open when I arrived. Besides the occasional photo shoot I happened upon this is the only place I found residents of the compound.

Inside the cafe they served coffee in an atmosphere of one part bar one part library.

Here at the cafe I wandered into a conversation between several guests who had also been at the clear out sale and some metal smiths. The smiths talked passionately about lost metal working techniques that they were trying to keep alive through classes they offer at the compound. I met a fellow from the UK named Mark J. Hopper and another resident metal worker named David Sturgis. Mr. Hopper later took me on a tour of his working studios and class rooms.

Hopper offers a therapeutic metal pounding night to relieve stress with this circle of anvils located in his space. He also gets some of his metal flattened out ( a head start to the process at least) for his own ends.

Custom knives created at the metal shop. Some of them for kitchen use with handles made of old recipe books and resin. A very beautiful and clever use of material.

The space of jewelry designer/manufacturer Billie Hilliard.

Overall I had a very inspiring time at The Goat Farm. I left with the wish that we could create and sustain something like this in Tampa. It is a smart thing for a developer to do. The developers and administrative wing of the project are obviously making money and the residents seem happy and fulfilled. I look forward to visiting The Goat Farm in the future and seeing the progress.

Atlanta Georgia- Report From the Field

May of this year I had a few weeks in Atlanta, GA for a project at The Georgia Aquarium. During my stay I revisited some of my old stomping grounds ( I was on mobility from Parsons School of Design New School for Social Research in 1992-1993 and attended The Atlanta College of Art during that time) and also had a little time to see something new.
The High Museum of Art in midtown Atlanta has had an addition built on to it since I was last there. The addition, designed by Renzo Piano, more than doubled the size of the museum's exhibition space.

Nadine Robinson's "Coronation Theme: Organon" A really nice sound/sculptural installation in the contemporary collection.
Anish Kapoor- another example of amazing finish fetish insanity. Polished stainless steel.

Phillip Guston "Untitled" oil on masonite
There was an incredible amount to take in at The High Museum of Art- a custom car show, a furniture design show and many more works worth sharing in the permanent collection. I will post just a few more just to add flavor.

Centipede 111 Bench by Hector Esrawe

Crochet Chair by Marcel Wanders- Epoxy, fiber, resin

"The Sleeping Fawn" by Jean-Joseph Carries- plaster and brown patina

Saturday, April 5, 2014

#5 of The Thirteenth Grape subscription- An explanation.

The 5th multiple in The Thirteenth Grape subscription is complete and on the way via U.S. Postal Sevice. "The Occultation of Regulus by Erigone" is the title of this multiple and is in fact 13 pieces of a total work. Here is the process and some aspects of the meaning attached to the work.
An upright pentagram gave the segments their shape. The upright pentagram is a positive symbol associated with the triumph of mankind over the material world. The pentagram was mapped out on a golden rubber serving matt and each segment was giving its "number".

After spraying the masked out matt figures cut out from the catalog of the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art were placed in the 13 spaces. These figures represent both the recipient of The 13th Grape and the star Regulus.

13 firecrackers were then woven together and small plastic bags filled with acrylic inks of different color were taped tot he cluster of explosives.

 The figures and the background design were spattered by the explosions acting as the occultation of the figures/Regulus by the asteroid Erigone 163. This coincided with the actual occultation in the heavens on March 20th of the same objects.
 Unmasked the figures were then adhered down and the segments cut and mounted.
The brass clip that holds the piece to the chip board also acts as Erigone moving towards or away from the figure.
As for the meaning - this work is more of a place holder and celebration of a rare celestial event. A happy new year wish come to the subscribers quite late. There is also deeper reasons for the choice of magnifying this event and those are found in the mythology surrounding Erigone.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Two weekends of Florida strangeness

This is a post probably best told mostly with images. Two weekends in February, back to back, of unusual Florida sights. The first weekend we traveled to Dinosaur World. I had never set foot in Dinosaur World but often passed it on my way to Orlando off of I-4. Here are the pictures from that early February day
Here I would like to post a work that was published in Papermachete #1 which I contributed and was all about this stretch of I-4

   One of my interests since my childhood has been carnivorous plants. The early attempts to cultivate such plants were a huge disappointment because I had no way to seed or purchase the meat eaters. So, the obsession was fed by trips to the library looking at pictures of sundews, pitcher plants and lobster pot traps. Recently, the quest  led me to Parkesdale Farms off of I-4 to purchase a pitcher plant which was shown as a specimen at the Strawberry Festival in Plant City. Finally,I thought, an insectivorous plant that fits the old desire. Hopefully one that  i won't kill like the Venus Fly Traps that were all the rage in the 80's and available at most grocery stores. The excursion to Parkesdale Farms opened an entirely new avenue of inquiry; the nature of advertisements along the I-4 corridor and their relationship with the practice of making art.
   The particular stretch of I-4 that is closest to the exit to get to Parkesdale Farms is also inhabited by several larger than life roadside "structures" which could or could not be construed as advertisements for the businesses that they are born from. Like an all too predictable physical projection from our collective interests Dinosaur World looms with it's enormous, colorful and possibly anatomically incorrect reproductions of early reptiles. Claiming more than 150
full size dinosaur exhibits along the walking paths of the park, Dinosaur World is an important tangent in the winding path between advertisement and art.
   Talking with one of the artists that worked on the dinosaur attractions before the park opened, Spanky Hudas, shed a particularly lurid light on the origins and intentions of the displays. Spanky worked alongside a Polish sculptor and several Mexican laborers for the Swedish owner Christer Svennson. Mr. Svennson,
Spanky explained, was a Swedish carnival worker who gained traction making dinosaur displays in Europe. He purchased the real estate on which an older roadside attraction called Gator Jungle lay in ruins. Some of the aging denizens of Gator Jungle remained even as the crew began to sculpt the dinosaur exhibits, including an immense one eyed alligator and a bear. These animals met a brutal end at the hands of the new management. Spanky Hudas recalled the slaughter of the bear; the gator was hauled off to an uncertain end. A few of the exhibits were shipped from Sweden and the rest were carved on sight under huge carnival tents by Mr. Hudas and the Pole with no name. Spanky also recalled to me the horrible conditions that the wet land area offered for such a job. The crew worked without electrical equipment carving huge blocks of styrofoam into the primordial beasts using liquid nail to adhere the blocks together while their employer routinely dumped toxins like MEKP and waste resin unto the grounds. When asked if the giant lizards were intended as advertisement for the park or art Spanky replied " Well, they weren't put there to support the community spirit"
Spanky Hudas and Christer Svennson parted ways after a heated argument over how many T-rex teeth he had produced one afternoon. Dinosaur World opened to the public in November of 1998.
   The Tyrannosaurus Rex, which must be all of 40' high, turns it's face from the controversial roadside architecture called "Airstream Ranch" installed on the eastbound lane of I-4. The "Airstream Ranch" is the brainchild of businessman Frank Bates who owns the Bates RV Exchange also off the eastbound lane of I-4. Created as a tribute to "roadside architecture" and a more direct reference to the "Cadillac Ranch" off of I-66/I-40 in Texas, this ambitious work made of 8 half buried airstreams has come under fire by county officials as a violation of code. They say it is an advertisement for his RV business. Frank insists that
"Airstream Ranch" is art. Frank came to his inspiration by being aware of another very similar work of art. In 1974 the art group known as Ant Farm created Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas. Ant Farm was a conceptually driven group made up of three individuals; Chip Lord, Hudson Marquez and Doug Michels. 
Ant Farm had a knack for creating seemingly whimsical time based works. In a way the Cadillac Ranch was a meditation on the evolution and decline of the cadillac signature tail fin. The group was also known for their time capsule work. Ant Farm buried a refrigerator with popular food products and medicine in 1972  which was opened  during a public ceremony at the Art Guys Museum in Houston Texas in 2000. The persistent ratcheting of cultural and design evolution issues from these works. It is no wonder the T-rex looks away.
Cadillac Ranch consists of 10 Cadillacs buried nose down at a precise angle all in a row. The installation is in a wheat field owned by helium tycoon Stanley Marsh off of interstate 66 (40) and has been moved once in it's 35 year history ( in 1997 ) to save it from the expansion of Amarillo.
It is interesting to note a few very important differences in the two "ranches".First, Cadillac Ranch was so loved that it was actually saved from destruction and secondly, Cadillac Ranch has an interactive element. For years the Cadillac Ranch has accumulated graffiti posted by visitors. The graffiti is encouraged by owner Marsh as an evolution of the project. On the other hand the Airstream Ranch is difficult to get to and tagging is not encouraged, oh and it is not beloved.
It is strange that the same sort of desire to celebrate the freedom of travel and love of the open road can have such different reactions from local governments.
I would be willing to bet that Cadillac Ranch outlives all of the car themed public art out there. Maybe it is that the cars are tilted at the angle of the The Great Pyramids of Giza that gives the installation it's longevity, allowing it to survive while works like Spindle by Dustin Shuler are vulnerable to the back-hoe in Berwyn, Illinois (demolished May 2nd, 2008). Perhaps it is a matter of context. The stark terrain of Amarillo complements the Cadillac Ranch. The glistening metal skin of the Airstream Ranch could be too bold for the lush green backdrop of rural Florida, it may be too bold a vision. The air may be too heavy with humidity and in the evening it may be more entertaining to imagine the ghosts of a huge one- eyed gator and a skinned bear looking endlessly through the wetlands for it's lost pelt.

The next weekend we traveled to the Florida State Fair

Centrifugal governers- Steam engines are one of my great interests.

This little automated puppet theatre caught my attention.

Works by Johnny Meah at the midway! Months before we had met our old friend Mr. Meah in Fort Myers where he had a one man show at HOWL Gallery.

Talkers and clown at the side show during the Florida State Fair.

Johnny Meah takes the audience on an incredible journey through the history of the sideshow at  HOWL Gallery.