OKIE ED WOWS EM AT ARTWALK
Hollywood Ed Ruscha, the swinging California artist who once dated starlets like Samantha Eggar and sent out a wedding announcement picturing himself in bed with two nubile blondes, was nowhere to be found in New Schools Tishman Auditorium on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2004, at the kick-off of the 10th annual Artwalk NY fundraiser for the Coalition for the Homeless.
Instead, the guest was Oklahoma City Ed, the plain-spoken Midwesterner who studied illustration at Walt Disneys Chouinard Art Institute and celebrates true originals like Clark Byers, Georgias "Barnyard Rembrandt," a sign painter who "never passed up a good roof." Ruscha wasnt actually wearing coveralls -- he was in sneakers, dark pants and shirt and a pea-green cotton jacket -- but he may as well have been for all his homespun subtlety. For instance, he explained the genesis of his esthetic by showing a slide of the round, black gearshift of a 1950 Ford. "I liked the shape and the function," he said, "and it merged into my art."
As for Peter Jennings, the ABC anchor on hand to conduct the interview with Ruscha, he is a stalwart Artwalk supporter, bless his heart, but he shows how hopelessly clueless middlebrow America is about contemporary art (if the art bug is something you catch, these people have been thoroughly inoculated). We got queries about Ruschas interest in nonfiction (something by John McPhee on geology), in jazz (something about Ornette Coleman at the Disney Center) and about the origins of the term "Pop art" (coined by critic Lawrence Alloway in response to works by Richard Hamilton and Eduardo Paolozzi, and popularized on the West Coast by Walter Hopps "New Painting of Common Objects" exhibition at the Pasadena Art Institute in 1962).
Art collector and former Paine Webber chief Donald Marron joined Ruscha and Jennings on the stage, and was able to contribute a little bit of savvy. He told an anecdote about Ruschas blue-and-yellow 1963 word painting Oof, which is currently on view on the fourth floor of the new Museum of Modern Art (Ruscha hadnt yet made it to the new museum), joking that MoMA curator Kynaston McShine had to hold forth for 10 minutes on the apparently simple painting to get the museum acquisition committee to agree to the purchase. No word on the price, of course.
Ruscha had come prepared with his own slides, however, which saved the day. "I have my grievances," he said at one point, noting that he didnt approve of the recent U.S. currency redesign. Showing side-by-side images of Andrew Jackson on the old and the new $10 bill, Ruscha praised the cranky visage in the original intaglio but said that the new digital version looks like a guy waiting in line at Starbucks. Similarly, the picture of Lincoln on the original $5 bill is "the one I know, warts and all," while the new Lincoln "looks like he could be president of the National Rifle Association."
Ruscha has been selected to represent the U.S. at the 2005 Venice Biennale, and Jennings asked him if he had started on the show yet. "Ill be working up to the last minute -- what time is it?" he joked. Then he said that the installation would "probably be something about my doubts about the progress of history or something like that." Hmm, sounds like it might be political.
One highlight at the Artwalk live art auction at Sothebys two days later on Nov. 22 was the bidding battle for a small (20 x 16 in.) but witty acrylic painting on linen by Ruscha from 2004 titled Hot and Cold and showing fuzzy silhouettes of two old-fashioned water taps, with a blue stripe coming from one and a red stripe from the other. The work, which carried a $70,000 presale estimate, sold for $100,000 to Museum of Modern Art trustee Agnes Gund after a spirited duel with art advisor Simon Watson, who was on the phone to an unnamed client.
Artwalk typically raises about $500,000 for charity. According to Coalition for the Homeless executive director Mary Brosnahan Sullivan, New York City currently has 38,000 homeless people, 16,000 of them women and children.
BAD REVIEW FOR NEA CHIEF Readers of film critic A.O. Scotts review in the Nov. 21, 2004, New York Times Book Review of National Endowment for the Arts director Dana Gioias book of essays on the arts, Disappearing Ink: Poetry at the End of Print Culture (Graywolf Press, $16), got quite an earful. A former executive at General Foods, Gioia himself has credentials as a poet, though Scott finds his essays shot through with "clichés and nuggets of wisdom so uncontroversial as to be inane." Ostensibly a study of literature in a fairly illiterate cybernetic age, Gioias "dutiful and well-intentioned book" has "a knack for taking genuinely interesting and urgent questions and making them seem, by the time he is finished considering them, much less so." Though readers of poetry will approach this book with interest, Scott says, the collection "is pretty much useless either as cultural analysis or as literary criticism." Wow.
MORE FOLLY AT HISTORICAL SOCIETY?
The $5-million Alexander Hamilton exhibition at the New-York Historical Society has drawn only 27,000 visitors, including 7,000 from school groups, in its first two months, much fewer than the 80,000 people that the institution had projected for its first big-ticket show, according to a report in the New York Times. The exhibition has been criticized for dumbing-down its content [see "Artnet News," Sept. 29, 2004] as well as for avoiding "the reactionary aspects of Hamiltons political vision -- like his opposition to the Bill of Rights." The Historical Society also recently cancelled its offer of its auditorium for an outside conference on free speech, though director Louise Mirrer insists that the move was not political. Critics are looking forward to the museums next big show, a $2.2-million exhibition on slavery that is slated to open next fall.
BLACK WOMEN ARTISTS AT PARSONS
The galleries at Parsons School of Design at 66 Fifth Avenue are currently featuring "Creating their Own Image," Nov. 11, 2004-Jan. 30, 2005, a historically important exhibition of images by and of black women. The show features roughly 50 works by 25 artists, including Emma Amos, Chakaia Booker, Elizabeth Catlett, Rene Cox, Pamela Jennings, Adrian Piper, Faith Ringgold, Lorna Simpson, Kara Walker and Carrie Mae Weems. The show is organized by Lisa E. Farrington, a professor in Parsons critical studies department.
NEW L.A. SCULPTURE AT HAMMER
The Hammer Museum in Los Angeles presents "Thing: New Sculpture from Los Angeles," Feb. 6-June 5, 2005, a show of works by 20 up-and-coming Los-Angeles-based artists. The exhibition -- reflecting a "sculptural practice rooted in the production of objects" -- is organized by Hammer Projects curator James Elaine, Hammer curatorial assistant Aimee Chang and California State University professor Christopher Miles. Artists included in the show are Lauren Bon, Jedediah Caesar, Kate Costello, Krysten Cunningham, Hannah Greely, Taft Green, Matt Johnson, Aragna Ker, Olga Koumoundouros, Renee Lotenero, Nathan Mabry, Rodney McMillian, Chuck Moffit, Kristen Morgin, Joel Morrison, Michael OMalley, Kaz Oshiro, Andy Ouchi, Lara Schnitger and Mindy Shapero. Most of the ca. 45 works in the show, dating from 2002-04, are going on view for the first time.
DE BEER, VIOLETTE AT WHITNEY
The Whitney Museum has scheduled exhibitions of two cutting-edge young New York artists for 2005. "Sue de Beer: Black Sun," a two-channel video installation that "furthers de Beers exploration of the construction of feminine desire and unfulfilled longing," opens at the Whitney Museum of American Art at Altria, Mar. 3-June 17, 2004.
Also up is an untitled installation by Banks Violette, the artists first solo museum exhibition, opening at the museum proper on May 27, 2005 and remaining on view through September. The work includes a sculptural component evoking "a Minimalist representation of a ruined skeleton of a church" as well as a musical component composed by Black Metal musician Snorre Ruch. Both exhibitions are organized by Whitney curator Shamim M. Momin.
B-SIDE GALLERY RETURNS WITH "EAST VILLAGE ASU"
The B-Side Gallery, which artist Caren Scarpulla ran at 543 East Sixth Street in New Yorks East Village from 1984 to 87, featuring a range of rowdy group shows of works by artists like Ronnie Cutrone, Pierre Cuvelier, John Defazio, Theresa Nortvedt and Bruce and Rhonda Wall, is coming back. Artist Rick Prol is reopening the space for "East Village ASU," Dec. 7, 2004-Jan. 15, 2005. The exhibition, organized by Prol and Jan Lynn Sokota, features works by Keiko Bonk, Rich Colicchio, Stefan Eins, Dragan Ilic, Mark Kostabi, Louis Renzoni, Prol, Anton Van Dalen, Martin Wong and many other East Village stalwarts. The show is frankly designed as a corrective to Dan Camerons "East Village USA" exhibition, which opens at the New Museum on Dec. 8, 2004, and omits many of the artists listed above. "ASU," by the way, stands for "and some uthers," who here include Michael Ricardo Andreev, Linda Obuchoska and Joshua Smith. For more info, contact (212) 228-6367.
ARTÉCITY IN MIAMI BEACH
Miami Beach developer Alessandro Ferretti, who built the new Wave hotel and the Ambassadors condominium in the beach resorts SoFi (South of 5th Street) neighborhood, is working on a new, block-long residential project between 21st and 22nd Street. Dubbed Artécity, the $100-million, 225,000-square-foot project is designed as "a haven for events surrounding the arts" in partnership with the Bass Museum, the ArtCenter South Florida, the New World Symphony, the Miami City Ballet and the Wolfsonian Museum.
Artecity has already begun its sponsorship activities, and is underwriting the video lounge at Art Basel Miami Beach, Dec. 2-5, 2004. The development, which eventually will number 180 residential units, includes the Governor Hotel (the largest original Art Deco hotel in Miami Beach), two new towers designed by the Arquitectonica firm and the historic Park Plaza Apartments. Prices start in the $200,000 range, with finished units planning to come online beginning in early 2006. For more info, see www.artecitymiami.com
MANN FOUNDATION AWARDS
The Rema Hort Mann Foundation has awarded $10,000 grants for 2004 to artists Frank Benson, Liz Bougatsos, Ellen Harvey, Valerie Hegarty, Adam Putman, Mika Rottenberg and Gedi Sibony.
"EASY" OPENS FOR THANKSGIVING
Art-world filmmaker Jane Weinstocks new film, Easy, which is produced by her husband, photographer James Welling, is scheduled to be released on Nov. 26, 2004. Starring the young actress Marguerite Moreau -- photographer Malerie Marder took the production stills -- Weinstocks film is billed as a "relentlessly truthful exploration of romantic love."