Wednesday, June 30, 2010

How I Feel...

My body feels like the surfer's in the image above. For over 3 weeks I've had major calf cramps - you know the kind that wakes you out of a dead sleep and feels like the cramped area and pain is going to literally kill you. Every single day, for over 3 weeks, cramps 24/7. I've tried everything - hot packs, cold packs, rubbing the calf and leg, raising up and down on my toes, muscle lubricant, muscle relaxants, pain pills, bananas for potassium, all to no avail. I'm still residing in MAJOR PainLand and feel like I'm dying - I just want the pain to go away. Some commiseration would be nice. I may not know what a torn ACL feels like (well, actually I do) or passing a stone, as in kidney, feels like (hmm, again, yes I do) or a gall bladder attack (damn, again, been there- done that- had the bugger surgically removed), what a groin injury or a blinding migraine may feel like I can still be humane and human enough to offer commiseration and compassion. Whilst resolution of this malady that convinces me death would be a sweet relief from the pain may not be available it would be amazing to have some reassurance through love, commiseration and compassion that the rest of my days won't be filled with crushing, crippling, incapacitating, all-encompassing pain (either that or surgical extraction but since I'm grown accustomed to and am fond of having my limbs that's not an option).

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Getty Museum Explores the Tradition of Socially Concerned Reportage

In the decades following World War II, an independently minded and critically engaged form of photography began to gather momentum. Situated between journalism and art, its practitioners created extended photographic essays that delved deeply into topics of social concern and presented distinct personal visions of the world. On view at the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Center, June 29 – November 14, 2010, Engaged Observers: Documentary Photography since the Sixties looks in depth at projects by a selection of the most vital photographers who have contributed to the development of this documentary approach. Passionately committed to their subjects, these photographers have captured both meditative and searing images, from the deep south in the civil rights era to the war in Iraq in 2006. Their powerful visual reports, often published extensively as books, explore aspects of life that are sometimes difficult and troubling but are worthy of attention.

“This exhibition focuses on the tradition of socially engaged photographic essays since the 1960s,” explains Brett Abbott, associate curator of photographs and curator of the exhibition. “Working beyond traditional media outlets, these photographers have authored evocative bodies of work that transcend the realm of traditional photojournalism.”

Engaged Observers is structured around suites of photographs from the following projects: “Girl Culture” by Lauren Greenfield, “The Mennonites” by Larry Towell, “Streetwise” by Mary Ellen Mark, “Black in White America” by Leonard Freed, “Nicaragua, June 1978-July 1979” by Susan Meiselas, “Vietnam Inc.” by Philip Jones Griffiths, “The Sacrifice” by James Nachtwey, “Migrations: Humanity in Transition” by Sebastião Salgado, and “Minamata” by W. Eugene and Aileen M. Smith.

Although one does not always associate style with photojournalism, where objectivity and neutrality are traditionally valued, aesthetics have been an important consideration for all of the photographers represented in the exhibition. One of the strengths of this tradition has been its ability to harness artistic decisions in reporting on the world. Meiselas chose color film for her Nicaragua project because she felt it better conveyed the spirit of the revolution as she experienced it. Salgado noted that the solemn beauty so characteristic of his approach is important in conjuring a persistent grace among his migrant subjects, allowing him to present them in a dignified way while calling attention to their plight. Nachtwey used tight framing of messy conglomerations of tubes, instruments, and arms in The Sacrifice as a way of conjuring the atmosphere of controlled chaos that he experienced in trauma centers in Iraq. In this kind of work, subject and style, message and delivery, are deliberately intertwined.

All of the photographers in this exhibition use a series of images to address conceptual issues. For instance, Freed was concerned with bridging cultural divides to engender support of basic civil rights, while Griffiths denounced violent commercialization; Salgado pointed to the effects of globalization, while the Smiths addressed the related issue of industrial pollution; Meiselas engaged and countered the fragmented process by which we receive news and understand history, while Towell challenged the meaning of “newsworthy” and explored, as did Greenfield, how cultural values affect life; Nachtwey found the human toll of war unacceptable, and Mark, the idea of homeless street kids in one of the wealthiest nations in the world.

Many of the photographers have published books to further convey their socially engaged messages. Books allow for a greater depth of reporting than magazine articles since their length can be tailored to the needs of a particular project. And because they can be read in private, books are conducive to extended contemplation and the slow absorption of ideas, both of which are important to understanding projects that are broad in scope and have layers of meaning that, in many cases, were developed over the course of years. Moreover, they provide photographers authorial control over the presentation of their work. Each artist has the ability to decide how pictures are captioned and with what information.

A final section of the exhibition is devoted to tracing the origins of the documentary photography tradition, touching on American Civil War photographs by Alexander Gardner, turn-of-the-century activism by Lewis Hine, Depression-era photography, and photojournalism in pre-World War II picture magazines. This section also looks closely at the formation of Magnum Photos. Founded in 1947 by Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Besson, and several other photographers, Magnum provided a new platform for an independent documentary approach to photojournalism and became one of the world’s most prestigious photographic organizations. Magnum was structured to allow its members to pursue stories of their own choosing, spend as much time as they wanted on a particular topic, and be as involved as they desired in the editing, captioning, and publication of their work. The organization was meant to harness commercial assignments as a base from which to pursue independent work, and the concept has given rise to generations of independent photographers, including many of those in Engaged Observers.

Image Shown:
Leonard Freed, New Orleans, Louisiana, 1965. Gelatin silver print, 34.8 x 26.1 cm

Sunday, June 27, 2010

LACMA Presents John Baldessari

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) presents John Baldessari: Pure Beauty, the most extensive retrospective to date of Los Angeles-based artist John Baldessari (b. 1931), on view June 27 to September 12, 2010.

Organized by LACMA in association with Tate Modern, the exhibition will bring together more than 150 works and examine the principal concerns of Baldessari, who is widely regarded as one of the most important artists working today. LACMA’s presentation will be the only West Coast showing and feature the greatest number of works of any venue on the show’s major international tour.

“Pure Beauty will be a revelation to many, even those who are familiar with Baldessari, as it features many of the artist’s lesser-known works,” says Leslie Jones, LACMA associate curator of prints and drawings. “The exhibition will explore Baldessari’s lifelong interest in language and mass media culture, which seems increasingly relevant—-even imperative-—in an era of information and image proliferation.”

Based in Los Angeles since 1970, Baldessari is one of the most influential artists of his generation. His text and image paintings from the mid-1960s are widely recognized as among the earliest examples of conceptual art, while his 1980s photo compositions derived from film stills rank as pivotal to the development of appropriation art and other practices that address the social and cultural impact of mass culture. His continuing interest in language, both written and visual, has been at the forefront of both his work and teaching, through which, for more than thirty years, he has nurtured and influenced succeeding generations of artists, including David Salle, Cindy Sherman, and Barbara Kruger among others.

With humor and irony, Baldessari dissects the ideas underlying artistic practice and questions the historically accepted rules of how to make art. The combination of photography, painting, and references to film has become one of the key elements in his work.

Beginning with his little-known paintings from the early 1960s, the exhibition features the landmark photo and text works from 1966-68, photocompositions derived from films stills of the 1980s, irregularly shaped and over-painted works of the 1990s, as well as video and artist books. The show concludes with his most recent work, which includes a special multimedia installation conceived for the retrospective.

In the 1960s, Baldessari notably painted statements derived from contemporary art theory and instructional manuals onto canvas. These early major works, such as Wrong (1966–68, LACMA) and Tips for Artists Who Want to Sell (1966–68), will be on view.

In 1970 Baldessari cremated nearly all the paintings he had created between 1953 and 1966. Cremation Project was both a public renunciation of painting and the beginning of Baldessari’s more documentary, hands-off approach to art making, in which he used photography and video to record acts and events. His strategies embraced chance and accident, and included gameplaying, as in Choosing (A Game for Two Players): Carrots (1971), or seemingly pointless tasks, as in The Artist Hitting Various Objects with a Golf Club (1972–73). During the ‘70s, Baldessari also began to use cinematic tools of the script and storyboard as means to restructure conventional notions of narrative.

Beginning in the early 1980s, cinematic references become even more apparent with the artist’s use of found film stills that he cropped and enlarged to create photo-compositions. Abandoning the standard rectangular canvas or photographic format, Baldessari constructs irregularly shaped compositions from film stills, creating provocative juxtapositions. According to the artist: “I think of the images that I use as units, like words might be units, and I construct similarly to a good poet, where I’m trying to get a certain kind of syntax, a certain explosion, a meaning when these units collage, building up an architecture of meaning, so to speak.”

Baldessari’s work of the past two decades has continued to explore the relationship between imagery and language, as in the Goya Series (1997), as well as the social and cultural impact of mass media imagery, through his ongoing use of altered film stills and other photographic imagery.

Recently the artist has added dimension to his works, employing raised and recessed surfaces, as well as more color, which enhances the allusion to painting. Of particular note is Brain-Cloud (2009)—made specially for the exhibition—a multimedia installation involving photography, cast sculpture, and video that occupies an entire gallery and concludes the show.

John Baldessari: Pure Beauty is curated by Leslie Jones, associate curator of prints and drawings, LACMA, and Jessica Morgan, curator of contemporary art, Tate Modern, and assisted by Kerryn Greenberg, assistant curator, Tate Modern. Prior to LACMA’s presentation, the exhibition was on view at Tate Modern (October 13, 2009–January 20, 2010) and Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (February 11–April 25, 2010). Following its showing at LACMA, Pure Beauty will conclude its tour at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (October 20, 2010–January 9, 2011). The exhibition is accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue with essays by major writers, curators, art historians, and former students of Baldessari.

Born in National City, California, in 1931, John Baldessari is undoubtedly one of the most influential artists of our time. His long-term exploration of language and image coupled with his inquisitive approach to art-making has expanded the parameters of what we consider art.

In 1966 he began taking photos in a working class suburb of his hometown, National City. The pictures were intentionally non-spectacular and mundane. As an antithesis to Pop art, Baldessari adopted an anti-heroic attitude by documenting ingenious actions instead of monumentalising his subjects. The photos were enlarged and transferred onto canvas, and then commercial sign painters painted equally prosaic texts identifying each site. These photo and text pieces created new meanings and tensions between images and words and marked a pivotal turning point in Baldessari's artistic trajectory.

He later went one step further by dropping imagery all together from his canvases, leaving only texts appropriated from varied sources, which he sometimes manipulated. 'I sought to use language not as a visual element but something to read. That is, a notebook entry about painting could replace the painting... I was attempting to make something that didn't emanate art signals.' The concept of authorship was further addressed in the Commissioned Paintings (1969) series in which Baldessari hired amateur artists to produce paintings of photographs of a hand pointing at something ordinary. The inspiration for the series came from a criticism that said that Conceptual art was nothing more than pointing.

Teaching has always been a significant and integral part of Baldessari's life. In 1970 he was offered a position at the renowned California Institute of the Arts (Cal Arts) where he taught alongside influential contemporaries such as John Cage and Nam June Paik. Being exposed to their work and their respective mediums, music and video, made a significant impression on Baldessari. Music brought about the notion of temporality, which is reflected in his work through the use of multiple photos in a time sequence manner, as in Artist Hitting Various Objects with Golf Club (1972–73). With the introduction of the Sony Portapak, Baldessari naturally experimented with the new medium. Initially made for his students, such videos as I Will Not Make Any More Boring Art (1971) and I Am Making Art (1971) have become some of the artist's most iconic video pieces.

Having moved to Los Angeles, the proximity of Hollywood also found its way into Baldessari's work. He adopted the work processes of the film-making industry as themes in works such as Story with 24 Versions (1974) and Scenario: Story Board (1972–73) where plots are sketched out scene by scene. Baldessari also appropriated imagery from film stills, which he found in local shops and meticulously categorised by content for inspiration and use in his works. Simultaneously, the pieces he created began to take on a larger scale, using the photographs as building blocks to suggest narratives. In Kiss/Panic (1984) there is a provocative juxtaposition of a couple kissing, with a seemingly chaotic crowd scene below, surrounded by photos of pointing guns.

By the mid-1980s coloured dots began appearing on the faces of the characters in the found photographs. Baldessari discovered that obliterating the face gave even more anonymity to the subjects and therefore forced the viewer to focus on other aspects of the image to make sense of the scene. Bloody Sundae (1987) consists of two distinct scenes with the subjects composed in the form of an ice-cream dessert. On top, two men attack a third beside a stack of paintings, while beneath them a couple lounge decadently on a bed. All five faces are covered with coloured circles. The violence of the upper image coupled with the suggestive title, hints at a pending raid on the couple's room.

In later works the signature coloured dots usurp the rest of the person, flattening the image and creating an abstraction of the human form. The Duress Series: Person Climbing Exterior Wall of Tall Building/Person on Ledge of Tall Building/Person on Girders of Unfinished Tall Building (2003) has three such figures in compromising situations; however the filled-in silhouettes somehow attribute humour to what would be a dangerous scene.

Baldessari revisits his ongoing interests in the parts of the body that identify visual sensitivity in the series Noses and Ears (2006–7) and Arms and Legs (2007–8), in which these parts are isolated while other details of the body and environment are coloured in or omitted, leaving viewers the bare minimum to interpret the work. In his most recent series Furrowed Eyebrows and Raised Foreheads (2009), the artist continues his exploration of human expression through fragmentations.

Friday, June 25, 2010

“Calder to Warhol: Introducing the Fisher Collection” at SFMOMA

The first public presentation of the celebrated Fisher Collection, one of the world's foremostprivate collections of contemporary art, will be presented by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) from June 25 through September 19, 2010. SFMOMA recently announced an unprecedented partnership with Doris and the late Donald Fisher, founders of the Gap, to provide a home at the museum for their outstanding collection of more than 1,100 works, most of which have never been displayed publicly. This sweeping exhibition, entitled Calder to Warhol: Introducing The Fisher Collection, will offer an extraordinary preview of the depth, breadth, and quality of the Fisher holdings, with iconic works by Alexander Calder, Chuck Close, Sam Francis, Philip Guston, Anselm Kiefer, Ellsworth Kelly, Roy Lichtenstein, Brice Marden, Agnes Martin, Joan Mitchell, Gerhard Richter, Richard Serra, Wayne Thiebaud, Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol, and many others. It will also serve as the centerpiece of SFMOMA's yearlong 75th anniversary celebration and exhibition series in 2010, entitled 75 Years of Looking Forward.

Organized by Gary Garrels, Elise S. Haas Senior Curator of Painting and Sculpture at SFMOMA, Calder to Warhol: Introducing The Fisher Collection will provide a window into the vast collection assembled by the Fishers over more than four decades. The entire fourth and fifth floors of the museum, including the Rooftop Garden, will showcase approximately 160 works of painting, sculpture, photography, and video—a distillation of the Fisher Collection that aims to reveal not only its scope but also its core attributes. The collection is particularly distinguished for its concentration of works by Alexander Calder, Chuck Close, Philip Guston, Ellsworth Kelly, Anselm Kiefer, Roy Lichtenstein, Agnes Martin, Gerhard Richter, Richard Serra, Cy Twombly, and Andy Warhol. Unlike most private collections, it includes extensive groupings of seminal pieces by these 20th-century masters and traces their creative evolution through entire bodies of work.

"At this momentous time in SFMOMA's history, we are not only celebrating 75 years of accomplishments and innovation, we're also looking forward to a new era of growth and community service that will be greatly enhanced by the museum's presentation of these outstanding works of art from the Fisher Collection," said SFMOMA Director Neal Benezra. "Our collaboration with the Fisher family will give visitors access to some of the finest modern and contemporary masterpieces, placing SFMOMA among the greatest museums for contemporary art and elevating the cultural profile of the city as a whole. As the first unveiling of Doris and Don's incredible gift to the city of San Francisco, this exhibition will introduce the public to an incomparable group of iconic works that will inspire and educate generations of visitors in the years to come."

"Since the 1980s, the Fishers have helped shape San Francisco into a national center for forward-thinking art collecting," says Garrels. "It is an honor to tell the personal story of their collection through this tremendous body of art, which was assembled with love and determination over more than 40 years. I'm thrilled to see how this work complements SFMOMA's own holdings."

The exhibition will be organized in sections, alternating concentrations of works from a single artist and groupings of works by others with shared perspectives. The presentation will also lend insight to the Fishers' collecting methodology, emphasizing the collection's unifying threads: its richness in American abstract art, its strengths in contemporary German painting and photography, its deep concentrations of work by the artists they most admired, and a marked commitment to representing, whenever possible, the growth of each artist's work over time with key examples from every phase of their careers. This exhibition will be the first to convey these affinities and correspondences.

In the fifth-floor galleries, the presentation explores in-depth holdings of five artists in particular—Alexander Calder, Ellsworth Kelly, Anselm Kiefer, Gerhard Richter, and Richard Serra, with large galleries devoted to numerous works by each. The Overlook Gallery will be devoted to minimalist art with works by Carl Andre, Dan Flavin, and Donald Judd.

Half of the fourth-floor galleries will highlight the collection's esteemed holdings of abstract art, beginning with gestural paintings by Sam Francis, Philip Guston, Lee Krasner, and Joan Mitchell. Early sculptures by Mark di Suvero and John Chamberlain will serve as counterpoints. Single galleries will be devoted to the paintings of Agnes Martin, Frank Stella, and Cy Twombly, as well as the later works of Philip Guston. Other galleries here will include paintings by Willem de Kooning, Richard Diebenkorn, Brice Marden, Robert Therrien, and sculptures by Martin Puryear.

The other half of the fourth floor will center on Pop and figurative art. Major groupings of Pop works by Roy Lichtenstein and Claes Oldenburg will share a large gallery. Emphasizing a particular strength of the collection, two galleries feature the early and late paintings of Andy Warhol, with iconic pieces such as Triple Elvis (1962) and Silver Marlon (1963), and key works from the artist's Most Wanted Men series and later self-portraits.

In addition, two galleries will be dedicated to the work of Chuck Close, showcasing four of the artist's monumental portraits of other artists. Figurative works by David Hockney and Wayne Thiebaud will be shown together, as will groupings of photo-based works by John Baldessari, Sophie Calle, Barbara Kruger, Ed Ruscha, and Jeff Wall. Paintings by Richard Artschwager will be juxtaposed with Sigmar Polke, while the media arts galleries will present video installations by William Kentridge and Shirin Neshat. A final gallery features the paintings of Georg Baselitz, whose work the Fishers collected with great passion.

In the first completely new installation since the opening of SFMOMA's Rooftop Garden in May 2009, the outdoor space will display the Fisher Collection's strengths in large-scale sculpture, with works by Alexander Calder, Mark di Suvero, Beverly Pepper, and Isamu Noguchi. Key pieces by British artists Tony Cragg, Richard Deacon, Barry Flanagan, Antony Gormley, and Richard Long will also be on view.

In conjunction with the exhibition, SFMOMA will publish a richly illustrated catalogue presenting highlights from the Fisher Collection. The book will also include an introductory essay by Gary Garrels and excerpts from a 2006 interview in which Don and Doris discuss their collection with Neal Benezra.

Upon completing an expansion of SFMOMA's facilities, the Fisher Collection will be presented in a dedicated new wing and will also be interwoven with works from SFMOMA's modern and contemporary holdings, enhancing SFMOMA's capacity to develop exhibitions and public programs in all areas of its collections—painting and sculpture, photography, architecture and design, and media arts.

Doris and Donald Fisher Collection
The Fishers started collecting art more than 40 years ago, aided early on only by Doris Fisher's college roommate, Peggy Walker, and their keen instincts. Their very first purchases included prints—often acquiring whole suites—which were used to furnish the walls of an office building for Gap, the retail company they cofounded in 1969. Soon, their passion grew and they began adding paintings, sculpture, drawings, photographs, and other media. The Fishers have never hired a curator or broker to procure pieces for their collection; rather, they prefer the excitement of discovering each piece themselves.

During the last four decades, the Fishers amassed a museum-quality collection. It includes more than 1,100 works by 185 artists created from 1928 to the present. The collection features work by American and European masters from movements including Pop art, figurative Art, Minimalism, abstraction, conceptualism, Photorealism, and Color-field painting.

The Fishers collected work in depth by significant artists with the aim of representing the entire span of their careers. The collection includes concentrations of work by Alexander Calder (45 works), Ellsworth Kelly (41 works), Roy Lichtenstein (24 works), Chuck Close (23 works), Gerhard Richter (23 works), Andy Warhol (21 works), Anselm Kiefer (16 works), Richard Serra (14 works), and Agnes Martin (11 works), to name a few.

Doris and Don Fisher
Don Fisher, who passed away in September of 2009, was one of SFMOMA's most ardent and generous supporters. He was a member of the SFMOMA Board of Trustees from 1983 to 2009 and served on several Board committees, most recently as Secretary/Treasurer. Doris Fisher has served for many years on SFMOMA's Education Committee. At the National Gallery in Washington D.C., she is a member of the Trustee Council and has served as co-chair of the Collector's Committee for ten years.

Images Shown (please note that some pieces may not be included with this exhibition):
Alexander Calder; Double Gong, 1953; painted metal and brass; 60 x 132 inches
Alexander Calder; Eighteen Numbered Black;1953; painted metal and brass; 110 by 140 by 110 inches
Dan Flavin;
Dan Flavin;
Gerhard Richter; Seestücke (Seascape), 1998; oil on canvas; 114 1/8 x 114 1/8 inches
Sam Francis; Middle Blue III, 1959; oil on canvas; 72 x 96 inches
Andy Warhol; Nine Multicolored Marilyns (Reversal Series), 1976-1986; acrylic and silkscreen on canvas; 54 x 41 3/8 inches
Gerhard Richter; Janus, 1983; oil on canvas; 98 1/2 x 118 1/4 inches
Phillip Guston; As It Goes, 1978; oil on canvas; 76 x 102 inches
Roy Lichtenstein; Reflections: Whaam!, 1990
Georg Baselitz; Akt Elke 2 (Nude Elke 2), 1976; oil on canvas;78 3/4 x 63 3/4 inches
Georg Baselitz; Male Nude (Self-Portrait),1973/74; oil on canvas; 78 3/4 x 66 9/16 inches
Anselm Keifer;
Ed Ruscha, Hollywood-is-a-Verb,1983; Dry pigment on paper, 29 x 23"Georg Baselitz; George Baselitz; Volk Ding Zero (Folk Art Zero), 2009; bronze patinated, oil; 119.3 x 46.1 x 47.2 inches
Tony Cragg; Bent of Mind,
Ed Ruscha; Standard Station,1966; Print, Screenprint, Sheet: 26 1/4 x 40 1/4 inches
Isamu Noguchi;

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Most significant collection of René Magritte letters to appear at auction in over 20 years sells for over $218,000

Last Friday, Sotheby's New York sold the most significant group of Magritte correspondence to appear at auction in more than 20 years for the sum of $218,500 (£147,356), against a pre-sale estimate of $200,000-400,000. The collection was acquired by an American institution.

The cache of over forty highly important letters and postcards from Surrealist master René Magritte to poet Paul Colinet forms an extraordinary record of the artist’s creative process in addition to revealing the literary and artistic influences on his work during the most productive period of his career. Complete with whimsical drawings and sketches, many of which are variations on the artist’s well-known canvases. No other significant group of Magritte letters has appeared on the market since Sotheby’s 1987 sale in London, where the group was offered in an auction of artifacts from the artist’s studio consigned by his widow.

Senior Specialist in Sotheby’s Books and Manuscripts Department, Marsha Malinowski, said: “We are extremely pleased with the price that this historically significant group of letters achieved today and we are particularly thrilled that this highly important correspondence was acquired by an American institution, where it will be preserved for future generations to enjoy.”

In 1933, Magritte met the Belgian Surrealist poet Paul Colinet, and the two became close friends rapidly. At the time, Magritte’s personal connections with Surrealism were strained – he had left Paris in disgust and returned home to Brussels – although ironically his artwork remained clearly Surrealist in style. The collection of letters cover a wide range of topics – artistic, literary and surreal – and reveals a remarkable influence Colinet wielded on Magritte and his oeuvre. A peek inside the mind of the Surrealist genius is presented by a letter in which Magritte digressed on the significance of the number 9 and his prose becomes a bit surreal: “vous avez déjà remarqué que le chiffre 18 compose de 1 et de 8, soit 1 + 8 =9 . . . le chiffre 9, multiplié par lui-même donc 81, soit 8 = 1 = 9 . . .”

Sale Update:
The Getty Research Institute (GRI) in Los Angeles announced it has acquired an important group of letters and postcards from the Belgian surrealist René Magritte.

The group of over forty autograph letters and postcards to the Belgian Surrealist poet Paul Colinet documents Magritte’s life and career from 1934, about the time the two Surrealists met, to 1957, when Colinet passed away. They number about fifty pages, and also include a telegram, a typescript copy of a letter, and eight letters and postcards from Colinet, all contained in a brown morocco binder.

The correspondence was auctioned at Sotheby’s on June 18 by a collector who acquired the group of letters in London in 1987, following the death of Georgette Magritte, the artist’s widow. They have been in the collector’s possession in the United States since then.

The collection of letters adds to the already impressive archival holdings on Magritte at the GRI, to be found in correspondence with Guy Rosey, Noël Arnaud, and Marcel Lecomte, and the papers of E.L.T. Mesens and James Thrall Soby, among others. Together, these holdings offer a valuable glimpse of Magritte within the context of both his personal life and career and Surrealism’s spread into Belgium and beyond. This is especially true because although the famed artist was an unusually voluble correspondent with a large number of artists, writers, collectors, and dealers, his correspondence and papers are dispersed, with significant material in Belgium and at the Menil Collection, and smaller quantities of letters at Yale, the Ransom Center, and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Until their acquisition by the GRI, the Colinet letters appeared to be one of the last remaining intact caches of Magritte letters that remained both unpublished and not yet placed with a public institution.

“This addition will be sure to stimulate renewed attention to the Magritte letters at the GRI as a research resource for studies of not only Magritte, but also Surrealism, in which the GRI has particularly strong holdings, and in aesthetics more broadly,” said GRI director Thomas Gaehtgens. “Already, the theorist Thierry de Duve, having become familiar with the letters to Marcel Lecomte during his time here as a Getty Scholar, has written an essay on a most extraordinary illustrated example, in which the artist elaborately presents his understanding of Edouard Manet's famous Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1882).”

The GRI has a particularly strong collection of artists’ original letters, many of which have not been published. “Even when correspondence has been transcribed in publications, it’s important to have the originals in order to view their formats, the paper, and adjacencies of text and image,” said GRI chief curator Marcia Reed. “About a quarter of these letters are illustrated with small vignettes by Magritte, and they’re quite legible, reminiscent of his paintings, such as The Treachery of Images (1929), in which he places the image of a pipe with the caption ‘Ceci n’est pas une pipe.’ [‘This is not a pipe.’]”

René Magritte
The artist who, arguably more than any other, embodies visual Surrealism in the popular imagination was born René-François Ghislain Magritte on Nov. 21, 1898, in Lessines, Belgium. In the fall of 1916, he enrolled at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts, but also began working as a commercial artist, an endeavor that intermittently afforded him financial stability for the next few decades. By 1920, Magritte had made contact with Marinetti and the Futurists, and become fully involved in the Belgian avant-garde.

In 1922, he married Georgette Berger, and the following year he saw a reproduction of Giorgio de Chirico’s painting Le chant d’amour (1914), which triggered Magritte’s shift away from Cubism, though his first full-blown Surrealist paintings do not appear before 1925.

Together with E. L. T. Mesens, Marcel Lecomte, Paul Nougé, and a few others, Magritte was one of the key members of Belgian Surrealism, which distinguished itself from the Parisian group by its more social, less doctrinaire, character.

Magritte’s first one-person show took place in 1927, and he would go on to countless other solo and group exhibitions. Among the most prominent from his lifetime are perhaps his first show with Alexander Iolas (who became his lifelong dealer) in 1947; “Word vs. Image,” an exhibition of his early Surrealist word paintings at the Sidney Janis Gallery in 1954; and retrospectives of his work at the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, in 1954; and at MoMA, New York, in 1965, organized by James Thrall Soby. More recently, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)’s Magritte and Contemporary Art: The Treachery of Images, which featured illustrated letters from the GRI Special Collections, has encouraged a reconsideration of Magritte's legacy by highlighting his importance to later artists.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Lennon sells for $1.2 Million

John Lennon's handwritten lyrics to the final song on the classic Beatles album "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" were purchased by an American collector on Friday, June 18th for $1.2 million.

The winning bid for "A Day in the Life" was placed by phone at Sotheby's New York auction house, which declined to identify the collector further.

The price exceeded the pre-sale estimate of $500,000 and $800,000.

The double-sided sheet of paper features Lennon's edits and corrections in his own hand — in black felt marker and blue ball point pen, with a few annotations in red ink.

Rolling Stone magazine listed "A Day in the Life" at No. 26 in its compilation of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and "Sgt. Pepper" won four Grammy awards in 1968.

The lyrics, which begin with "I read the news today, oh boy," stirred controversy when the Beatles released the album in 1967. The song was banned by the BBC because it twice features the line, "I'd love to turn you on," which was interpreted as supporting illegal drug use. The song was also left off copies of "Sgt. Pepper's" sold in several Asian countries for the same reason.

The album's "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" was alleged to have glorified the use of the hallucinogenic LSD, a claim that bandmembers denied.

In addition, "A Day in the Life" features the lyric "he blew his mind out in a car," which Beatles aficionados claim is a reference to the accidental death of Tara Browne, the Guinness heir and close friend of both Lennon and Paul McCartney.

The lyrics appear on both sides of the single sheet. One side has Lennon's original first draft, written in a hurried cursive script. The other side is written almost entirely in capital letters and incorporates the corrections from the first draft and adds the words, "I'd love to turn you on."

Sotheby's said Friday's price came close to the $1.25 million paid in 2005 for the Beatles lyrics "All You Need is Love." It sold to an anonymous bidder at the British auction house Cooper Owen.

Images shown of handwritten lyrics for "A Day in the Life"
Original first draft (top image)
Revised draft (bottom image)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Twain and Fitzgerald sell at Sotheby's

On Friday, June 18th Sotheby New York's second offering of rare books and manuscripts including the Mark Twain Collection was conducted. Led by Samuel Langhorne Clemens’ unpublished autobiographical manuscript A Family Sketch, which achieved $242,500, a world auction record for an autograph manuscript by Twain** (est. $120/160,000*) the collection brought $936,012.

Encompassing almost two hundred original letters, manuscripts and photographs, The Mark Twain Collection shed light on the wit, pathos, and tragedy of the acclaimed author of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Samuel Langhorne Clemens. The top lot of the collection was Clemens’ unpublished manuscript, “A Family Sketch,” his most intimate and introspective memoir of his family and his own boyhood days and the missing chapter of his autobiography. The manuscript sold to a member of the trade bidding in the saleroom for $242,500 after competition from at least four collectors, setting a world auction record for an autograph manuscript by Mark Twain at auction (est. $120/160,000*). Clemens’ notion of autobiography took a discursive approach, with his recollections of his youth, sketches of people he had met, and essays on various subjects cobbled together in rambling fashion. What initially began as a tribute to his late – and undisputed favorite – daughter Susy thus devolved into a narrative that encompasses the whole of this family and friends as well as glimpses of incidents of his own childhood.

Other highlights of The Mark Twain Collection included the Clemens’ autograph manuscript of Chapter 8 from The Gilded Age, which achieved $68,500 (est. $30/50,000) and an original manuscript chapter from A Tramp Abroad, which sold for $59,375 (est. $30/50,000).

Friday's offerings also included an autograph transcription of the final two paragraphs from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, including the iconic concluding sentence, ‘So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past,’ which sold for $98,500, far exceeding presale expectations of $25/35,000.

Images shown (in order of appearance):
Clemens, Samuel L. Autograph manuscript of the Unpublished “Family Sketch" ca 1896-97. Estimate $120,000 - 160,000. Sold for: $242,500 (£165,348)
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. Literary Portrait and autograph manuscript of the final four sentences of The Great Gatsby, late 1920’s. Estimate: $25,000 - 35,000. Sold for: $98,500 (£67,162).

*estimates do not include buyer’s premium **The previous record was set by Sotheby’s New York on June 18, 1987, when lot 27, the autograph manuscript story, ‘The $30,000 Bequest’, 1903, sold for $110,000.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Musing, Pondering, Ruminating...

Why can't

summer session

be more like

instead of

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fundraising Exhibition of Louisiana Artists Responding to the Gulf Oil Spill

GULF AID ART: ARTISTS IN ACTION, A Fundraising Exhibition of Louisiana Artists Responding to the Gulf Oil Spill.

The benefit exhibition will take place from June 17-19th at the Jonathan Ferrara Gallery in located in the New Orleans Arts District. The exhibition will feature new works by over 25 well-known Louisiana artists reacting to the greatest environmental disaster in US history. Gallery owner Jonathan Ferrara and artist Dan Tague, both arts activists , conceived of the exhibition as a way for the visual arts community of New Orleans to respond to the disaster.

The exhibition will open on Thursday June 17th at 11am, with an artist reception from 6-9pm that night and will run for through Saturday June 19th at 5pm and continue online throughout the summer.

As this crisis has unfolded, citizens across the state have felt helpless in being able to respond the disaster.

What action can I take?
What can I do?
What is happening?
What is our future?
How can we help our fellow Louisianans who are being directly affected right now?

Inspired by actions taken by the musical community in organizing the recent Gulf Aid concert that featured musicians like Lenny Kravitz and Preservation Hall Jazz Band, visual artists are banding together to offer their creative talents in response to this disaster.

"Musicians have done their part and now visual artists are going to do their part as well to respond to this terrible disaster. We all are terrified, upset, anxious and damn mad about what has transpired and we have to use our creativity to speak up, comment, criticize and make our voices heard. We are all in this together and artists must take action!" - Jonathan Ferrara

Both Tague and Ferrara have a history of responding to disasters via artistic endeavors. In 2006, after Hurricane Katrina, Ferrara created New Orleans Artists In Exile, a travelling exhibition of artists affected by the hurricane. In 2006-7, Ferrara was instrumental in distributing over $40,000 in direct grants to artists in need recovering from Katrina. And in 2010, artist Dan Tague created a limited edition print (100), United For Haiti, which sold out in a week and immediately raised over $7500 for victims of the earthquake in Haiti. Those funds were donated to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund.

For GULF AID ART, each artist was challenged to create a new print edition with the only criteria that they respond / react to the current crisis affecting their home, health, happiness and economic futures. Each artist has created a limited edition print of 10 that will be sold both in the gallery during the limited run exhibition and online via the gallery's website. In an effort to make the work accessible to the general public and raise as much money as possible, the prices of the works will range between $100 and $500 with the potential to raise $80,000.

For this fundraiser, Ferrara will take down his current exhibition and install the 25+ works in the galley for a three-day fundraising exhibition. A to Z Framing of New Orleans, who is generously donating the framing, will frame the works in the exhibition.

In addition to the works in the gallery , British photojournalist Charlie Varley will exhibit a slide show of his photographs taken since the April 20th explosion documenting the spill and its aftermath. Varley's photos are regularly published around the world in Time magazine, Newsweek, The Times, The Wall Street Journal among others.

The exhibition will open on Thursday June 17th at 11am, with an artist reception from 6-9pm that night and it will run through Saturday June 19th at 5pm. Online sales continue through July 28th.

Image Shown:
Ron Bechet's Consequence of Choice. Serigraph with ink and motor oil, 14 x 17 inches.
"...We have been given the ability to make choices. In our current crisis, choices based on our greed and not necessarily our need, have changed the environment in which all living things exist. Making better choices in the future give hope for rebirth. Nature may adjust to our poor choices. The question is - will we?..."

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

25 years later the attack on Rembrandt’s Danaë is still grievous

June 15, 1985.- Danaë is Rembrandt's painting from the collection of Pierre Crozat which from the 18th century resides in the Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg. Rembrandt's painting was attacked by a man later judged insane; he threw sulfuric acid on the canvas and cut it twice with his knife. The entire central part of the composition was turned into a mixture of spots with a conglomerate of splashes and areas of dripping paint.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The lady is still perfect - 17 for 17

17 for 17. - the Queen is still undefeated in her career.

The Mighty "Z" has now passed the likes of the legendary Cigar in terms of consecutive wins. And some are still stupid enough to think that Rachel Alexandra should be mentioned in the same breath as Zenyatta. RA is not a champion - Zenyatta is the epitome of a champion. Watching this beautiful thoroughbred run reduces me to tears. She is truly an artist, as much as any painting hanging in a museum or gallery. She is soul, beauty and elegance personified. I have tickets to Del Mar to watch her this summer should she come to defend her title in the Hirsch Stakes which she's won the last two years.

For those of you watching this clip please note that "Z" is a come-from-behinder. She always starts at the back - that's her running style. Then when Mike Smith starts to manuever her into place and aske her for that amazing kick she has Miss "Z" turns it on and all that's left to do is celebrate yet another victory from this magnificent and beautiful athlete.

Below is another view of her Breeder's Cup Classic race last year when she bested the boys. The Breeder's Cup is the World Championship of Thoroughbred racing and the best horses in the world come to compete for 2 days in a variety of races (notice I said "the best in the world" - another reason Rachel Alexandria didn't participate - Jess Jackson knew his horse couldn't compete and win and that the world would see her for what she truly is so he ducked yet another race). The Classic is the "Big Kahuna" of the Breeder's Cup Championships - the "main event" and centerpiece - the most prestigious race to win in the Breeder's cup and the Zen Master is the first female to EVER win this race.

There's also some fun videos of her that show her prancing and dancing. The pre-race moves she does would be disconcerting when watching most horses as those moves might indicate something is amis. But that's not the case with Z - she's just strutting, prancing and dancing. Same with her post race moves - she's a ham :-). While you're watching the videos also remember just what a big girl she is - she's 17 hands high

When I get the time I think I'll enter a blog with video of all 17 of her wins - that will truly be a treat to watch.

Friday, June 11, 2010


A reflection of my response to having 93 students enrolled and waitlisted for my advanced writing and critical thinking class that caps at 35 and has a room capacity of 49.

Summer session starts Monday and 'twill be an "interesting" day, to say the least...

Image shown: Jean Désiré Gustave Courbet's "Self-Portrait"