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Tunnel Discovered Next to Rockefeller Museum in Israel

September 1st, 2015

Rockefeller-Museum-Jerusalem-EntranceA nearly 100-foot deep tunnel discovered by Israeli police in East Jerusalem may have been intended for a museum heist at the Rockefeller Archaeological Museum, Reuters reports.  The hole had been dug in an elderly woman’s yard, possibly by a group of men reportedly checking a water leak there.  “This is the work of a criminal gang that wanted to gain access somewhere – whether to the museum or the bank, is still being checked,” says police spokeswoman Luba Samri. Read More »

More Galleries Moving Out of Chelsea, Crain’s Reports

September 1st, 2015

Chelsea High Line, via Crain'sCrain’s has a summary of the ongoing migration out of Chelsea by small and mid-level galleries, as rents continue to spike, and those who don’t own their buildings are slowly forced out.  “Just like in SoHo, galleries are the victims of their own success,” says Stuart Siegel, senior VP at CBRE Group Inc., who has specialized in Chelsea for years. “The galleries put Chelsea on the map. Then the world followed them.” Read More »

Yves Bouvier Vows Revenge for Fraud Accusations

August 31st, 2015

Yves Bouvier, via Art Market MonitorFollowing the unfreezing of his assets last week, Yves Bouvier has given an aggressive interview with a Swiss newspaper, vowing revenge against former client Dimitri Rybolovlev for his accusations of fraud.  “They deceived justice and destroyed my reputation,” he says. “I will destroy the only thing that affects the Russian billionaire in Monaco: his fortune.” Read More »

Olafur Eliasson Proposes Waterfall for “Art Pool” in Copenhagen

August 31st, 2015

An unofficial rendering of Eliasson's project, via Art NewspaperArtist Olafur Eliasson is designing a special waterfall installation for “an art pool,” where viewers can dive underwater to see works by a group of artists.  “I have wanted to construct a waterfall in Copenhagen for a while,” he says.  “I’m keen to participate in this project as it’s a work of art.” Read More »

Delegation of Copyright Reps Call for International Review of Artist Copyright Law

August 28th, 2015

A map of nations supporting resale rights, via Art NewspaperWith the conclusion of a conference at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in Geneva, a coalition of art world professionals, government workers and copyright experts have placed a call for an international review of artist copyright law, particularly in consideration of resale royalty inequity in nations like the U.S. and China.  “So many sales take place in countries that don’t recognize the right, such as the US or China,” says artist Gordon Cheung, who supports the measure.  “This unfairly disadvantages artists based in these countries, as well as artists whose work sells in these countries.” Read More »

Resident Artists Build Recreation of Vienna’s Loos Bar in LA

August 28th, 2015

Los Bar at MAK Center LA, via NYTFour artists working at Los Angeles’s MAK Center have recreated the famous Vienna hotspot, Loos Bar (named for its designer, Adolf Loos), recreated in miniature with cardboard, glue and sawdust.  “We wanted all the clichés of a European bar. You can smoke inside. It’s loud. It’s nasty,” says collaborating artist Christoph MeierRead More »

Takashi Murakami Showing Private Collection in Yokohama

August 28th, 2015

Takashi Murakami, via Art NewspaperTakashi Murakami has announced a surprise exhibition of his personal collection of art, toys, antiques and other objects this fall at the Yokohama Museum of Art, the Art Newspaper reports, interviewing the artist on his collection and his love of Anselm Kiefer’s work.  “When I first came to New York, I finally saw a real Kiefer in a show at the Museum of Modern Art,” he says. “When I stood in front of it, I cried. The work was Osiris and Isis (1985-87), a painting of a step pyramid, and I was awestruck.”    Read More »

Met Announces Plans for Former Whitney Building, Set to Open in May

August 27th, 2015

The Whitney Museum, via The WhitneyThe Metropolitan Museum of Art has announced its renovation plans for the repurposed Breuer Building, former home of the Whitney Museum, set to open in March 2016.  The plans for the space will include a “book bar” and restaurant.  “Our approach to inhabiting and interpreting the building honors Breuer’s intent for the space, highlighting its unique character as an environment for the presentation of modern and contemporary art,” says Thomas P. Campbell, the director and CEO of the Met. “The wonderfully scaled galleries and interior spaces of The Met Breuer provide a range of opportunities to present our modern and contemporary program, in addition to our galleries in the Fifth Avenue building.” Read More »

Palestinian Artist Thrown Out of Banksy’s Dismaland Show After Anti-Israel Protest

August 27th, 2015

Banksy, Dismaland (Installation View), via The GuardianPalestinian artist Shadi Alzaqzouq has been thrown out of Banksy’s Dismaland installation following a protest against Israeli artists included alongside his work in the exhibition.  “I found out when I arrived at the show that three Israeli artists were taking part, one of whom served in the IDF,” the artist says.  “I decided I had to protest in some way so I went and got a bed sheet from my hotel room and wrote ‘R.I.P Gaza: Boycott Israel’ on it in coal and hung it over my artwork and laid down like a corpse in front of my two paintings on display.” Read More »

Collectors Look to Art for Liquidity Following Market Rout

August 27th, 2015

Andy Warhol, One Dollar Bill (1962), via Sotheby'sFollowing the massive market rout earlier this week, Bloomberg notes a number of collectors already trying to squeeze liquidity from their art collections.  “Ten years ago no one in the art market paid close attention to these corrections in the stock market,” said Elizabeth von Habsburg, managing director of advisory firm Winston Art Group. “Now clients respond immediately.” Read More »

12- Year Old in Taiwan Trips, Punches Hole in Paolo Porpora Canvas

August 27th, 2015

Boy smashes painting, via GuardianA 12-year old boy in Taiwan accidentally punched a hole in Paolo Porpora’s Flowers, after tripping and falling towards the painting this week.  “The painting’s bottom right is damaged,” says exhibition organizer, Sun Chi-hsuan. “The boy’s hand made contact with the artwork and left a hole the size of a fist.” Read More »

Ai Weiwei to Install “Forever” Bicycles Outside Gherkin in London

August 27th, 2015

Ai Weiwei, Forever, via Art DailyAi Weiwei’s iconic bicycle installation Forever will be installed in front of the Gherkin in London next week, as part of the city’s “Sculpture in the City” event, running from Sept. 4th-13th.  “The Forever bicycles were a brand from when I was growing up. In our village there were no real roads and we always had to ride bikes to carry things,” Ai says.  “I thought they would be a good public sculpture because people relate to bikes. They’re designated for the body and operated with your body. There are a few things today that are like that.”  Read More »

Yves Bouvier Assets Unfrozen by Singapore Court

August 27th, 2015

Yves Bouvier, via Art DailySingapore’s highest court has unfrozen the assets of Yves Bouvier, locked down earlier this year following the Swiss dealer’s lawsuit with Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev over mark-ups on the work Rybolovlev purchased that tallied over $1 billion.  “I am happy that my position has been vindicated,” Bouvier said. Read More »

Stefan Simchowitz Sues Ghanian Artist Over Disowned Works

August 27th, 2015

Ibrahim Mahama, Out Of Bounds (2014), via art ObservedGhanaian artist Ibrahim Mahama, whose stretched jute sack are a highlight of this summer’s Venice Biennale, is the defendant in a lawsuit brought by Stefan Simchowitz and Dublin dealer Jonathan Ellis King, after the artist emailed them disowning 294 pieces by the artist.  “I was really left with no choice,” Simchowitz said, noting that the act has cost the dealers over $4.45 million. Read More »

William Kentridge to Create Massive Frieze on Banks of Tiber River

August 27th, 2015

William Kentridge's Triumphs and Laments proposal, via Art NewspaperWilliam Kentridge has planned a massive installation, Triumphs and Lamentations on the banks of the Tiber in Rome, power-washing its embankments to create a series of monumental images of war and its aftermath.  “Everyone’s triumph is someone else’s disaster,’ Kentridge said at a presentation of the frieze he would use as his plan for the work. “If you’re returning in triumph from a war, it means that other people are returning as slaves.”  Read More »

New York Times Notes Influx of Private Art Advisors in Strong Market

August 24th, 2015

Bernard Berenson, via NYTThe New York Times notes a new wave of young, dynamic, and often privately-affiliated art advisors working in the burgeoning market for art.  “There is a new breed,” says Wendy Cromwell, former president of the Association of Professional Art Advisors, “an independent contractor — kind of like black ops, like a hired gun — who can get you what you need in a tough, changing environment.” Read More »

Fondazione Prada Lends Sculpture to National Museum of Iran

August 24th, 2015

Miuccia Prada with husband Patrizio Bertelli, via Art NewspaperMiuccia Prada is taking an active role in strengthening diplomatic relations between Iran and Italy, lending works from the Fondazione Prada’s current exhibition Serial Classic, on ancient sculpture, to an exhibition starting next month at the National Museum of Iran in Tehran. Read More »

Tania Bruguera Returns to United States

August 24th, 2015

Tania Bruguera, via LA TimesTania Bruguera has returned to the United States, following 8 months of detainment in Cuba for her protest work, Tatlin’s Whisper #6.  The artist’s arrest for the work had evoked fears that she may be placed in detention for “disturbing the public order.”
Read More »

The Broad Set to Open September 20th

August 24th, 2015

The Broad rendering, via Art DailyLA’s The Broad is set to open September 20th with a vast exhibition of its permanent collection.  “This installation is an incredible opportunity to highlight the collection’s breadth and demonstrate in full force the Broads’ nearly five-decade engagement with art,”Founding Director Joanne Heyler. “We are not only able to present exciting moments of the collection’s well-known depth in artists like Twombly, Lichtenstein, Koons, and Warhol, but we also have explored interconnections between artists, and are showing works not previously associated with the collection and shared for the first time with Los Angeles audiences, including many of our most recent acquisitions.”  Read More »

NPR Investigates Quality of Engagement at Museums Worldwide and Dangers to Art World

August 24th, 2015

Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring, via NPRAn article in NPR this week questions the oft-praised attendance records and audience engagement implying the strength of the art world, and examines the quality of evaluation that visitors to museums are currently practicing.  “The art world can survive anything from the public — hostility, ignorance, even fanatical prudishness — but the art world cannot survive an indifferent public,” says Michael Lewis, an art history professor at Williams College. Read More »

Dutch Police Arrest Alleged Forger Asking €15 million for Fake Van Gogh

August 24th, 2015

Van Gogh, The HarvestDutch police have arrested a man accused of trying to sell a counterfeit Van Gogh painting for €15 million, claiming the piece was an early study for the artist’s work The Harvest.  Several buyer had expressed interest in the work, which had forged papers claiming authenticity by the Van Gogh Museum. Read More »

Peter Zumthor Profield in LA Review of Books

August 24th, 2015

Peter Zumthor's LACMA model, via LARBThe LA Review of Books examines the career Peter Zumthor this week, and the Swiss architect’s plans for the extended design of LACMA, which boasts one of his signature, stark towers and will connect the museum with the existing Broad Contemporary Art Museum, the Resnick Pavilion, the Pavilion for Japanese Art, the Page Museum and the La Brea Tar Pits. Read More »

Marketplace Looks at Art Equity Startup Arthena

August 21st, 2015

Christopher Burge, chairman of Christie's (L), endMarketplace has an article on Arthena, the startup aiming to encourage investment in fine art through an equity share purchase of a curated art collection.  “I’m part of this generation that they’re trying to reach out to, and I realized that this generation looks at art not only from a cultural perspective, but also a financial perspective,” says founder Madelaine D’Angelo. “And it makes sense, because if you look at how many kids my age have student loans, if you put $10,000 into something, you want to make sure it’ll be worth $10,000 the next day.” Read More »

Ed Vaizey Places Export Bar on First Eyewitness Rendering of Niagara Falls

August 21st, 2015

An East View of the Great Cataract of Niagara, by Captain Thomas Davies, via The GuardianUK Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has placed an export bar on the 1762 study of Niagara Falls by military artist Capt. Thomas Davies, the first eyewitness artwork depicting the natural wonder.  “I hope that the temporary export bar I have put in place will result in a UK buyer coming forward and that the watercolor will be available for all to better understand Britain’s global role in the 18th century,” Vaizey said. Read More »

New York – Chason Matthams: “Advances, None Miraculous” at Thierry Goldberg Through September 13th, 2015

September 2nd, 2015

Chason Matthams, Heidi (2010), via Art Observed
Chason Matthams, Heidi (2010), via Art Observed

In our daily lives, we are constantly bombarded with imagery, navigating through the chaos of web pages, textbooks, etc. These images are being infinitely reproduced and distributed, passing through our perceptual filters to either be kept indefinitely or to be ignored entirely. This summer, Miami-born artist Chason Matthams works with Thierry Goldberg to put on his first New York solo show, Advances, None Miraculous, delving further into the chaos to create non-linear narratives from this image detritus, making comparisons that might otherwise be ignored. Read More »

Los Angeles: Petra Cortright ‘NIKI, LUCY, LOLA, VIOLA’ at the Depart Foundation Through September 12th, 2015

August 31st, 2015


Petra Cortright 'Niki Lucy Lola Viola' (Installation View)
Petra Cortright ‘Niki Lucy Lola Viola’ (Installation View), all images courtesy of Jeff McLane

Currently at The Depart Foundation is NIKI, LUCY, LOLA, VIOLA, a solo exhibition by Los Angeles based artist Petra Cortright, curated by Paul Young. Brightly illuminating the pitch black walls of The Depart Foundation, Cortright presents a series of works that delve into the imaginative depths of the internet-literate modern mind.  Video and animation are approached with careful attention to composition, transforming them into fully immersive presentations that function in both time and space.  As Cortright pushes the limitations of her compositions, she also familiarizes viewers with videos, digital paintings, and flash animations that utilize the aesthetic and landscape of the digital. Read More »

New York: James Lee Byars: “The Figure of Death and The Moon Column” at Michael Werner through September 3rd, 2015

August 30th, 2015

James Lee Byars, The Figure of Death (1987), via Art Observed
James Lee Byars, The Figure of Death (1987), via Art Observed

This summer, Michael Werner Gallery’s New York location exhibits a pair of sculptures from James Lee ByarsThe Figure of Death (1987) and The Moon Column (1990) are shown concurrently with two other exhibitions of Byars’ work, The Diamond Floor and The Poetic Conceit and Other Works, on view at the gallery’s London and Berlin locales, respectively. Read More »

London – Marc Quinn: “The Toxic Sublime” at White Cube Through September 13th, 2015

August 27th, 2015

Marc Quinn, The Toxic Sublime - The Toxic Sublime - 7&3Y6">;X[:0#'y (2015), via White Cube
Marc Quinn, The Toxic Sublime – The Toxic Sublime – 7&3Y6″>;X[:0#’y (2015), via White Cube

Artist Marc Quinn returns to his beloved shoreline for a new exhibition of works at White Cube this month, a continuation of the artist’s ongoing interest with the motion and resulting detritus that defines patterns of water, flow, and humanity’s relationships with these fluid forces. Read More »

New York – “Storylines” at the Guggenheim Museum Through September 9th, 2015

August 26th, 2015

Mark Manders, Room with Reduced Chair and Camouflaged Factory (2003) , via Art Observed
Mark Manders, Room with Reduced Chair and Camouflaged Factory (2003) , via Art Observed

Compiled from over 100 works in the Guggenheim Museum’s personal collection, the current exhibition at the uptown institution, Storylines: Contemporary Art at the Guggenheim, feels like something of a victory lap for the museum, following up on its excellent On Kawara exhibition with an extended show of contemporary works that spans the last thirty years, and which uncovers a broad curatorial focus at the core of its collection.  Emphasizing a nuanced interest in the narrative as a core unifying element for disparately realized works, objects and assemblages, Storylines pulls from diverse practices to portray the often challenging representative missions that contemporary artists set for themselves. Read More »

New York – Tamuna Sirbiladze: “Take it Easy” at Half Gallery Through September 3rd, 2015

August 25th, 2015

Tamuna Sirbiladze, Pomegranate (2015), via Art Observed
Tamuna Sirbiladze, Pomegranate (2015), via Art Observed

Artist Tamuna Sirbiladze’s first solo exhibition in the United States, at New York’s Half Gallery combines oil-stick on unstretched canvas, accented by an intuitive emphasis on interior design and decorative elements inside the gallery, emphasizing its position as a formerly domestic space.  Taking the artist’s signature style as a starting point, the works seem to move towards a more expansive, space-oriented technique.

Read More »

New York – Jack Pierson: “onthisisland” at Cheim & Read Through August 29th, 2015

August 24th, 2015

Jack Pierson, Two Places at Once (2015), via Cheim & Read
Jack Pierson, Two Places at Once (2015), via Cheim & Read

For his first exhibition with Cheim & Read in over 6 years, Jack Pierson has returned to the canvas, bringing a series of bright, pastel-colored compositions that trace the artist’s renewed interest in the painterly surface as an opportunity for encounter, while exploring his own meditative process in realizing, executing and completing his works.  Created during a self-imposed retreat on the island of North Captiva (just off Florida’s Gulf Coast), Pierson seems to have taken a moment away from his often brash, challenging wordplay and sculptural practice to examine the beaming sun and gentle waves of the island getaway. Read More »

Weston-Super-Mare – Banksy: “Dismaland” at The Tropicana Through September 27th, 2015

August 23rd, 2015

Banksy, Dismaland (Installation View), via The Guardian
Banksy, Dismaland (Installation View), via The Guardian

Banksy, the master of grandly executed public projects and sharp jabs at the banality of pop culture, has opened his newest project, Dismaland.  The exhibition, which the subtitle a “family theme park unsuitable for children,” is spread out across the Tropicana, an abandoned site in the seaside town of Weston-super-Mare, and features a number of contributions from more mainstream contemporary artists, including Damien Hirst and Jenny Holzer.  Yet the park is still definitively Banksy, with his trademark irreverence and coy inversions of pop culture formats abounding across the derelict swimming club in the British resort town, and continues his barbs towards the Walt Disney Corporation.

Read More »

New York – Hank Willis Thomas: “The Truth Is I See You” at MetroTech Promenade Through June 3rd, 2016

August 21st, 2015

Hank Willis Thomas, The Truth Is I See You (Installation View) at MetroTech Promenade
Hank Willis Thomas, The Truth Is I See You (Installation View) at MetroTech Promenade

The Truth Is I See You, the Public Art Fund’s recent collaboration with Brooklyn-based artist Hank Willis Thomas, is on view at MetroTech Promenade through June 3rd, 2016. Dispersed throughout the flush, green common areas of the park, and nestled amongst high rise commercial buildings in downtown Brooklyn, the project addresses issues of communication, individuality and globalism within the frame of Brooklyn, one of the most dynamic urban areas of the United States.  Focusing particularly on languages spoken throughout the city, Thomas installed all twenty-two lines of Ryan Alexiev’s Truth Poem in a similar fashion to street signs, each showing a line from this poem in English, while the other side gives its translation in languages including Chinese, Polish, German and Hebrew, accompanied by a pronunciation guide. Read More »

New York – Yoko Ono: “One Woman Show 1961-1970″ at MoMA Through September 7th, 2015

August 20th, 2015

Yoko Ono, Half-A-Room (1967), via Art Observed
Yoko Ono, Half-A-Room (1967), via Art Observed

It’s easy to lose sight of Yoko Ono.  The Japanese artist has consistently shifted forms and formats over the course of her career, working with poetry, painting, performance, choreography, public art, and more, often in subtle actions that belie their often considerable emotional and physical affect.  The fluxus-trained artist brings her early work to MoMA this summer with One Woman Show, an in-depth consideration of her practice and evolution as an artist at the intersection of performance, encounter and installation in the early years of her work.

Yoko Ono, Bag Piece (1964), via Art Observed
Yoko Ono, Bag Piece (1964), via Art Observed

The exhibition is expansive, to say the least, and despite the considerable amount of space afforded it, still manages to feel close to bursting with the artist’s work.  Her textual prompts run the length of the gallery, joined by paintings and drawings that mix participation, meditation and time as complicit elements of the work’s reception. Poetic in its presentation, there remains a trace of the physical throughout, from these calls to action, to works like A Painting in Three Stanzas, a frozen moment in time where a plant stem pierces through a fabric sheet painted in sumi ink. While time and process is suggested by the work, its status as a static work points to another number of timeframes, where the viewer might encounter a seedling, a fully grown vine, or perhaps no plant at all.

Yoko Ono, Painting in Three Stanzas (1961), via Art Observed
Yoko Ono, Painting in Three Stanzas (1961), via Art Observed

It also culls a number of the artist’s early, playful inversions on both Dada and Surrealism, like her classic works Apple and Three Spoons, divergent takes on Magritte’s linguistic subterfuge that maintain a more organic focus on the present object rather than a representation. One could almost consider this work an extension of the surrealist’s work, pushing his semiotic challenge to a natural conclusion. Also on view are a number of the artist’s early performative works, including Bag Piece, a performance for a single dance in which they cover themselves in a black sheet as they traverse a small space. Taken here amongst her other art objects and textual prompts, the minimal space afforded the work makes it all the more surreal.

Yoko Ono, Painting to Hammer a Nail (1961), via Art Observed
Yoko Ono, Painting to Hammer a Nail (1961), via Art Observed

The exhibition continues through her work following her marriage to John Lennon, and the pair’s collaborative work in music, art and performance, including their famous Bed-In (in which the pair stayed in a hotel bed for days as a protest for peace), and their massive billboard installation project, War is Over (if You Want It). Video and audio from this period, including a special room set aside for the Plastic Ono Band (her long-running musical endeavor), reflects the power influence that both Lennon and Ono left on each other’s work, and on each other’s lives.

Yoko Ono, Cut Piece (1964), via MoMA
Yoko Ono, Cut Piece (1964), via MoMA

Perhaps what feels most compelling about Ono’s exhibition is her practice’s emphasis on possibility, the open-ended conclusion of her works as activated by the viewer/user. There’s a certain satisfaction, even, to this format, as if the work’s idea remains free from a final determination, and rather allows the viewer their own act of completion, liberated from the restraints of a physical space. Even in rooms so full of her various pieces, ideas and actions, that one can walk away from the show with this sense of completion is a testament to the artist’s practice.

One Woman Show is on view through September 7th.

Yoko Ono, Apple (1966), via Art Observed
Yoko Ono, Apple (1966), via Art Observed

— D. Creahan

Read more:
Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960–1971 [Exhibition Site]
“‘Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960-1971’ Review: Performance for a Lifetime” [WSJ]
“Review: In ‘Yoko Ono: One Woman Show, 1960-1971,’ Text Messages From the Edge” [NYT]
“Yoko Ono at MoMA review – a misunderstood artist finally gets her due” [Guardian]

 

New York – John Singer Sargent: Portraits of Artists and Friends at the Met Through October 4th, 2015

August 18th, 2015

John Singer Sargent, The Fountain (1907)
John Singer Sargent, The Fountain (1907), All images via Michael Ziga for Art Observed

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s new exhibition of celebrated American painter John Singer Sargent (1856–1925),  Portraits of Artists and Friends, presents a collection of artists, writers, actors, and musicians, colleagues and friends of the painters, that offered Sargent the freedom to create more radical and dynamic works than those made for paying clients.  The sitters are often candidly depicted in the act of painting or lounging where others pose comfortably for Sargent. Read More »

Mexico City: “The Negative Hand” at Anonymous Gallery Through August 28th, 2015

August 17th, 2015

Sofia Leiby, An excuse is a polite rejection (after JW) (2014), via Anonymous Gallery
Sofia Leiby, An excuse is a polite rejection (after JW) (2014), via Anonymous Gallery

There’s a telling line in the press release for The Negative Hand, a presentation of new works at Mexico City’s Anonymous Gallery, reflecting on the cave paintings as Lascaux: “by defining themselves, artists often define the systems around them as well, and inversely, by defining the systems around them, artist begin to define themselves.”  It’s an open-ended prompt, but one that feels particularly resonant in 2015: embracing the aesthetic fusions and detritus of modernity as equally worthy of examination and re-creation as any singular subject. Read More »

New York: Jean-Michel Basquiat: “The Unknown Notebooks” at The Brooklyn Museum Through August 23rd, 2015

August 16th, 2015

Jean Michel Basquiat- The Unseen Notebooks- The Brooklyn Museum
Jean-Michel Basquiat The Unknown Notebooks (Installation View)

Currently on view at the Brooklyn Museum is Basquiat The Unknown Notebooks, the first major exhibition of the writings and sketches from Jean-Michel-Basquiat’s’ rarely seen personal archives. Without a doubt one of the most influential artists of 1980’s Neo-Expressionism, Basquiat worked with music, poetry, and  graffiti before finally arriving at painting. Tagging the walls of downtown New York, Basquiat and his friend Al Diaz presented socially conscious graffiti under the tag name SAMO.  Straying from the visual attributes of popular graffiti, these tags were often full of sayings, quotes and poems in plain script that replaced graffiti’s showmanship with intellectual thought.  Navigating viewers into the personal thoughts of Basquiat with two video documentations and many rarely seen paintings,The Unknown Notebooks is a satisfying mixture of both seeing and reading.

Jean Michel Basquiat- The Unseen Notebooks- The Brooklyn Museum (2)
Jean-Michel Basquiat The Unknown Notebooks (Installation View)

Basquiat’s cultural plurality and vivid paintings begin with the socially investigative phrases, symbols and thoughts on these carefully curated pages.  Each of the 160 pages in the exhibition hold a single composition, with blank pages framing the words to a strong effect.  Intent on speaking with political and socio-economic strength, corporate symbols, quotations, crowns, skeletons and teepees hang above words, and at the end of sentences, altering these everyday phrases, while visual techniques, suggesting dichotomies in familiar linguistic comprehension, open more room for unique interpretation.

Jean Michel Basquiat- The Unseen Notebooks- The Brooklyn Museum (4)
Jean-Michel Basquiat The Unknown Notebooks (Installation View)

Accompanying the notebooks are a series of paintings that possess a freedom and fearlessness directly related to the artist’s graffiti background.  Words fill the canvas from top to bottom, transforming text into texture and letters back into gestural marks.  Acting as much as a carrier of language as a layer of paint, Basquiat’s words successfully  imported graffiti’s aesthetic energy and social awareness into the white cubes of the art world. The anonymous foundations of his early craft embrace this energetic freedom, vandalism, and self-expression that have come to define youth culture. A contributing figure in the impact of the practice in contemporary art proper, Basquiat’s dedicated approach to symbols and lettering transform this anonymous art form into a new format inside his burgeoning artistic repertoire. 

Jean Michel Basquiat- The Unseen Notebooks- The Brooklyn Museum (3)
Jean-Michel Basquiat The Unknown Notebooks (Installation View)

Jean Michel Basquiat- The Unseen Notebooks- The Brooklyn Museum (5)
Jean-Michel Basquiat The Unknown Notebooks (Installation View)

The Unknown Notebooks reveals  the underlying elements that made expression a larger concern for Basquiat than fitting into the previously determined aesthetic standards of high art. The primitive and socially aware foundations that have defined his work, and kept its impact almost thirty years later are here at Brooklyn Museum in an almost elemental form, on display through August 23rd.

— R.Williams

Read more:
“Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks” at Brooklyn Museum [Exhibition Site]
“Review: Jean-Michel Basquiat’s ‘Unknown Notebooks’ at the Brooklyn Museum” [New York Times]
“‘Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks’ Gives a Window Into Basquiat’s Mind At Its Most Relaxed” [Forbes]

New York – “Tiger Tiger” at Salon 94 Bowery Through August 21st, 2015

August 15th, 2015

Tiger Tiger at Salon 94 (Installation View)
Tiger Tiger at Salon 94 (Installation View)

Tiger Tiger is the current summer group exhibition at Salon 94 Bowery, on view through August 21, 2015.  The fittingly titled show brings together fifteen artists, whose works explore the ease of tropical landscapes, and the seemingly perfect equilibrium of wild life. Works boasting ample color spectrums speak to simple yet ecstatic rhythms of island life, while elsewhere a distinctive composition of flush tropical wilderness wins out.  Distinctively foreign to New Yorkers, elements from these tropical destinations blossom into depictions of dazzling animals, plants or landscapes, contrasting the city’s heavily industrialized and overpopulated dynamic just outside the gallery space. Read More »

New York – “What Nerve! Alternative Figures in American Art 1960 to the Present” at Matthew Marks Through August 14th, 2015

August 14th, 2015

Forcefield, Meerk Puffy Autumn Shroud (2002), via Art Observed
Forcefield, Meerk Puffy Autumn Shroud (2002), via Art Observed

Over the past half century, American art has distinguished itself as much for its formal heroes (Pollock, de Kooning, Judd, etc.) as its outliers, artists working along distinct threads of the abject, pop culture and mass production who challenged the more refined and neatly conceptualized exercises of the 20th Century avant-garde.  This separate thread of American art, running from 1960’s comic-book art through the punk and funk movements of the 1970’s and onwards through the chaotic energies of turn of the century performance and video are the subject of What Nerve!, a documentation of the American underground at Matthew Marks. Read More »