Publishing behemoth Condé Nast has accused the cutting-edge international art bimonthly Flash Art of copyright infringement in regard to the cover of its January-February issue. The original image in question was crafted by Italian photographer Mario Testino for the December 1998 issue of Paris Vogue, and shows supermodel Audrey Marney dressed in white.
For Flash Art, the French artist team of Pascale Gatzen and Thomas Buxó digitally appropriated and altered the Testino picture by puting the model in a cassock-like purple dress designed by Azzedine Alaïa. According to Flash Art writer Guus Beumer, the two artists were illustrating a feature on the fashion designer, in which his dresses are shown like sculpture, by returning Alaïa to fashion's most natural habitat -- the cover of Vogue.
Condé Nast lawyers, however, see the matter differently. Flash Art is simply trying to sell more copies, they claimed in a Mar. 15 letter to the magazine, by pirating the exclusive Vogue trademark. Condé Nast wants unspecified damages, not to mention the destruction of the "unauthorized" issue. Flash Art, for its part, is claiming freedom of expression, and hopes to enlist Testino himself in its cause. Stay tuned.
Norman Bluhm, RIP
A memorial tribute to the painter Norman Bluhm, who died on Feb. 3, 1999, was held at the Whitney Museum on Mar. 1. A close friend of the poet Frank O'Hara as well as de Kooning and Kline, Bluhm made paintings that are explosive, color-filled hybrids of representational and abstract forms, works that are rooted in a fecund biomorphism. Born in Chicago, he studied with Mies Van der Rohe at the tender age of 16. He was a B-26 bomber pilot during World War II and lived in Florence and Paris after the war. He became part of the Abstract Expressionist generation in 1956, when he moved to New York and showed at Leo Castelli Gallery.
At the memorial, stirring tributes were offered by the painter Archie Rand and poet-critics Raphael Rubinstein and John Yau (monsignors all, on this occasion). Fiery and poignant stories were told of Bluhm's anathema towards the art world, his love and generosity towards poets, of visits to his Vermont studio, and most of all, of the greatness of his paintings.
One other vociferous consensus of the elegies, voiced despite the presence of Whitney Museum director Maxwell Anderson, was that Bluhm has been institutionally screwed. Even with the 40-year retrospective at the Butler Institute branch in Howland, Oh. (through Apr. 11), the question remains, which major American museum will pony up and give Bluhm his due? Auction houses should check their inventories.
New on West 26th
Work by art luminaries Judy Pfaff, Frank Stella and George Sugarman debuted a new Chelsea gallery called, simply, Tatunz. Proprietor Gary Tatunz, an 11-year veteran of the Berlin scene, has located in the Chelsea Arts Building (526 West 26th Street) on the second floor next to Gorney Bravin Lee's temporary space. Pfaff is represented by Straw into Gold, a dazzling 1990 assemblage of steel wire, glass, tin cans and bedsprings that fills the space like visual music. Stella's huge Organdie (1998), an orgasm of architectural shapes and graphic motifs, is priced at a cool $450,000.
But it's the ageless 87-year-old Sugarman, however, who steals the show with Screen (1988) and Black White and Yellow (1988). Both are twisting bended reliefs of aluminum painted in bright acrylic colors, priced at around $40,000 each. The scale of the works overwhelms the space and the viewer is unable to step back to take in each one, but we owe thanks to curator Stephen Davis, a professor at Hunter College, for bringing these three artists together for the first time.
The abject photographer Nan Goldin has recently taken to curating and she presents two European artists at Kagan Martos, a loft gallery on the fifth floor at 515 Broadway. Both Kathe Kruse and Steffen Koohn are showing for the first time in New York. Kruse, a tall brunette who has appeared in Goldin's photographs, has painted a wall in vertical bands of monochromatic acrylic colors and hung on it matching canvases that blend into the wall's pattern. Her stripes are similar to Ugo Rondinone's, though his are horizontal and painted on a stretched tarpaulin.
Koohn is showing both photos and a three-dimensional work. His grainy color photographs have the nuance of cinema verité. They're actually stills from 8mm porno films from the '70s, but only show empty rooms with a person entering or exiting at the periphery. In the center of the gallery is what could be called a deadbeat horse. Koohn has molded a latex skin from a taxidermied horse and flattened it on a square mat of hay, with indentions marking the hooves, eyes, ears, muzzle, etc. It's memorably creepy.
Husband and wife
Artists Sarah Vanderlip and Drew Dominick, who are married in real life, recently had competing exhibitions at two Chelsea galleries. Vanderlip presented a cast in sugar of her one-year-old son at XL. Spectral and fragile, her infant child is immortalized -- thanks to plastic resin.
As for Dominick, he has literally switched gears. Formerly known for kinetic metal grinders that spun wildly while suspended from the ceiling, he now takes up imagery of the great hunter-gatherer rituals. One wall at Team gallery is covered with wallpaper made from pictures clipped from outdoorsman-sportsman magazines of men in hunting vests posing with their kills. In the gallery space proper are small gray and bronze figurines depicting miniature versions of this male ritual. Some of the statues are mounted on drywall bases. There's even a Tonka Toy-sized flatbed truck made from sheetrock, with a dead moose or something in the back, perhaps a scale bottle of Jack Daniels too.
Kinds of building
Architecture has been making its presence felt in several new shows. At Max Protetch, the famous deconstructivist architect Zaha Hadid has hyperinstalled a show devoted to her impressive array of architectural designs, including a scale model for her new Contemporary Arts Center in downtown Cincinnati.
Invisibility is but one of the concerns of Mary Ellen Carroll's show at Frederieke Taylor TZ' Art. Her vehicle is the famous glass house that Mies van Der Rohe designed for physician Edith Farnsworth, an eccentric woman who left behind a dull journal chronicling the building of the house and her conversations with its famed architect. Carroll's installation, called "views, profiles and details," features photos of the landscape surrounding the house and textual works using the dimensions and specifications of the house. The house itself is never actually pictured. Her installation is spare and subtle, very modernist indeed. Prices of works range from $2,000 to $7,000.
Cologne-based installation artist Silke Schatz is making her New York solo debut at Brent Sikkema (in his new gallery at 530 West 22nd Street, formerly home to Morris-Healy). She was part of a group of squatters that lived in an abandoned 19th-century concert hall in northern Germany. For this show, she has made wall-sized, multicolored pencil drawings that plot different areas of the commune. The drawings are axiometric, almost as if done on a computer -- though they're clearly drawn freehand. The gallery installation also features, up on a raised platform, a composite of various elements of the squat, including a makeshift table and a wall covered with snapshots.
Matthew Cusik is a painter whose new work, on view in his first show at Kent in Soho, is based on images of the 1968 Elrod Residence by architect John Lautner, which served as a set for the James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever. The paintings are done on wood in a hard-edged enamel, and are reminiscent of those glass walled modernist bachelor pads in Hollywood with ocean views and hot tubs and Barca loungers. The paintings are priced from $3,500 to $7,000.
One of the most exciting gallery programs this season has been the Project, a raw space housed in a former '80s discoteque up in Harlem. The space is run by Frieze contributor (and current Dutch Magazine correspondent) Christian Haye, who shows a penchant for the truly avant-garde on an international scale. Scandinavians run into Latin Americans and Russians, young New York and L.A. artists show with seasoned museum bred Europeans, and the legendary street-performer William Pope L. can do his thing (a recent example had him lying for several hours spreadeagled wearing a mask and assorted other gear on a suspended metal bed spring).
Most shows at the Project so far have been two-person solos -- currently it's Peter Rostovsky and Daniel J. Martinez. Rostovsky, a painter from St. Petersburg, Russia (and recent graduate of the Whitney Independent Studies Program), is a 28-year-old having his first solo show in New York. A set of "Utopian Portraits" shows six friends from the back, their heads staring up towards the upper left corner of the canvases. The six "Sun Paintings" depict various breaks in cloud formations with the sun bursting softly through. It's a good concept because you actually get to see what the heads are staring at. The pictures measure 24 by 32 inches.
Martinez is a poet conceptualist from Los Angeles who made his name in the 1993 Whitney Biennial, where he provoked considerable animosity by handing out museum admission badges with the message, "I can't imagine ever wanting to be white." Ironically, his harsh criticism of institutions and politics has won him museums shows in Europe and South America.
Martinez calls his photographic lightboxes, which are pairs of transparencies that together measure about three by five feet, "Technosocial Habitats." On the left is a photo of a building or street with an exotic flower in the center foreground while on the right we see a yearbook-like photo of a neighborhood girl. It turns out that the neighborhoods are in L.A., the girls are from Philadelphia, and the flowers are artificial. It's based on the kind of image collisions seen in work by Adrian Piper or Jeff Wall. The Project is open Thursday thru Sunday.