"John Baldessari's 1987 work titled The Fallen Easel is made up of nine framed panels containing fragmentary images that seem to add up as a complex non sequitur. The lone diagonal panel shows a grayscale screen print of an easel laying on the ground, while other panels show faces and hands that are sometimes obscured by ovals of bright flat colors. Clearly, we see a rebus of sorts, but its substitution of picture-fragments for a syllogistic circuit remains just outside of the grasp of routine readability. Mentally reassembling them does not help, and the narrative context that would enable the work to be analyzed in the manner of a dream is missing. We can only conclude that the relationship between the work's diverse elements is one of an evocative and visually stylish provisionality, but we remain haunted by it, for it keeps us coming back in search of the key that will unlock its beguiling mystery of allegorical displacements and substitutions. Yes, this is an update of a kind of surrealism, but there is something else going on here as well, something pertaining to the typical psychological distance created by mass media imagery striped of its pretense of narrative coherence. All at once, the linked histories of Surrealism, Pop Art, Conceptual Art and Postmodernism flash before our eyes. We are not in Kansas anymore, but is unclear exactly where we are or where anything else is for that matter."
(Mark Van Proyen, November 2009, art ltd. magazine)
Fig.1 John Baldessari (1987). "The Fallen Easel" colour lithograph and screenprint in five parts printed on paper and aluminium plates. Collection of Jordan D. Schnitzer. Photo: courtesy of Legion of Honor Museum.
"'Don't Touch' is an unspoken warning in any art museum. Sometimes an institution might post a sign explaining to visitors why touching the art on view is bad - not just for the obvious catastrophic reasons, but because even oils from hands that appear to be clean can cause incremental damage. Mostly, though, visitors already know what they are (or, rather, aren't) supposed to do in art's presence.
Touch is a privilege typically reserved for the artist who made the art, as well as its professional caretakers. In fact, 'the artist's touch' has been a central value in Western art for hundreds of years.
By the start of the 1960s, with the Abstract Expressionist generation of American painters riding high, it had even become something of a fetish. The loaded brush, the whiplash line, poured paint, the palette knife and sponge - signs of distinctive gestures mattered, almost like handwriting. De-mythologizing the artist's touch was left to Andy Warhol, who announced that he instead wanted to be a machine, and to Sol LeWitt and his idea-oriented cohort of Conceptual artists. They pulled the plug for good.
Enter Franz West, the impish Viennese artist whose compelling retrospective is at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Born in 1947, West is a generation younger than Warhol and LeWitt. The fetish for the artist's touch having been retired just before he arrived on the scene, he took the next step. In the mid-1970s, West handed things over to the audience.
Wrapping pieces of wood and cardboard and lengths of wire with gauze, coating it in plaster or papier mâché and painting the whole thing white, West made sculptures that the audience was meant to pick up, manipulate, examine at close range, hang on an arm or around the neck, or even stick one's face into. The shapes are abstract. But often, part of the sculpture suggests a handle - a direct visual invitation to audience participation. Silently it says, Touch me, hold me.
Other shapes appear designed to fit around the neck, under the arm or on other embraceable parts of the body. Or, they echo bodily orifices. (Can a sculpture have a belly button?) A glass bottle at the end of a long stick, both embedded in lumpy papier mâché, looks like a ritual implement meant to be passed around in some primitive religious ceremony.
These materials also evoke the damaged condition art holds in contemporary life. Like a cast made for a broken limb, white plaster and gauze result in sculptures bound in a medical dressing.
West calls these sculptures 'Passstücke' -- originally translated as 'fitting pieces' (passende Stücke) but now referred to as 'adaptives.' In biology, adaptation is a structure or form modified to fit a changing environment. West's touch-me sculptures attempted the same for art's new circumstance."
(Los Angeles Times, 31 March 2009)
Bill "Viola's The Greeting is pretending to be a picture, hanging on the wall of the National Gallery, as part of 'The Passions' exhibition in 2003. The context of the gallery space and the badging of The Greeting as a picture give the work something different, making it more than just a film. The significance is in the context of where it is shown and the pretence occurring that this is a picture. Indeed, when walking downstairs in the National Gallery towards 'The Passions' exhibition, it is seeing it hanging on the wall that strikes immediately; I am being invited to believe that this animated film is pretending to be a picture. The analogy is of the picture becoming an actor, pretending to be something else. In terms of form, The Greeting is a film. Therefore, what is it that makes it now defined as an exhibition, a part of Viola's 'The Passions' in 2003? It is only the fact that it's part of a gallery that makes it an exhibition, although in reality it is also actors directed by a video artist into this film, slowed down and with no sound, which is pretending to be a painting. Therefore, it is conceptual art, in that what the artist is doing is not just making a painting, or having the idea for a painting, but having the idea of where it should be staged. The inscribed text of the space in which it is viewed makes a difference to what the viewer or spectator sees, and what is going on."
(Alison Oddey, 2007, p.70)
Fig.1 Bill Viola (1995). "The Greeting".
Fig.2 Jacopo Carucci da Pontormo "The Visitation".
3). Alison Oddey (2007). "Re-Framing". In: "Re-Framing the Theatrical", Palgrave Macmillan. 1-21.
"this blog is nina wenhart's collection of resources on the various histories of new media art. it consists mainly of non or very little edited material i found flaneuring on the net, sometimes with my own annotations and comments, sometimes it's also textparts i retyped from books that are out of print.
it is also meant to be an additional resource of information and recommended reading for my students of the prehystories of new media class that i teach at the school of the art institute of chicago in fall 2008.
the focus is on the time period from the beginning of the 20th century up to today."
(Nina Wenhart, 26/06/2008)
"Chuck Close is associated with the style of painting called Photorealism or Superrealism. In this style, artists in the early 1970s created a link between representational systems of painting and photography. Photorealism developed as a reaction to the detachment of Minimalism and conceptual art, which did not depict representational images. Photorealists frequently used a grid technique to enlarge a photograph and reduce each square to formal elements of design. Each grid was its own little work of art. Many of the Photorealists used the airbrush technique.
Big Self-Portrait, in black and white, was the first of Close's mural-sized works painted from photographs. This painting took four months to complete. To make this work, Close took several photographs of himself in which his head and neck filled the frame. From these he selected one of the images and made two 11 x 14-inch enlargements. On one of the photographs he drew a grid, then lettered and numbered each square. Using both the gridded and ungridded photographs, he carefully transferred the photographic image square by square onto a large canvas measuring 107 1/2 x 83 1/2 inches. He used acrylic paint and an airbrush to include every detail.
When Close was making his painting he was concerned with the visual elements--shapes, textures, volume, shadows, and highlights--of the photograph itself. He also was interested in how a photograph shows some parts of the image in focus, or sharp, and some out-of-focus, or blurry. In this portrait the tip of the cigarette and the hair on the back of his head were both out-of-focus in the photograph so he painted them that way in Big Self-Portrait."
Fig.1 Chuck Close 'Big Self-Portrait', 1968 acrylic on canvas 107 1/2 x 83 1/2 in. Walker Art Center