Apr 192014
 
Donkey Frieze from Egypt

Donkey Frieze from Egypt

 

A couple pending matters before getting along to new business; thus, before too much more time goes by, my adventures in Hull, England, in which it turned out that donkeys were very important. Incredibly before last fall, I had never been to England, let alone Yorkshire…*

When I first became aware of Botschaften an den Prinzen Jussuf, the story around which I originally intended to discuss at the University of Hull’s Visions of Egypt: History and Culture from the 19th Century to the Present conference, my immediate reactions was, “Wow…So Sylvester!” I’m sure you are aware of who Sylvester is but, as a reminder, before Boy George, before Lady Gaga, there was Sylvester.

In addition to being an amazing soul and HiNRG dance music recording artist, Sylvester was known for hanging out in San Francisco dressed in amazing costumes, including his trademark pharaoh outfit. One of the only two times I snuck underagedly into a nightclub with a fake ID (the other time was to see the Thompson Twins) was to see Sylvester at El Goya.

So. Visions of Egypt was a conference mostly attended by actual Egyptologists, not art historians, and thus there was a lot of humor and pop-culture-referencing in many of the presentations so I think Sylvester would have been well-received. However owing to the great enthusiasm for donkeys expressed by insurgent quadruped fans, I did not get to work in any sort of reference to Sylvester in my presentation.

The talks were mostly interesting – I only say mostly since I could not hear them all, as there were concurrent sessions each day – and some were amazing, both in the creativity of deriving the subject and the supporting research, and in the delivery of complex histories in short (20 minutes) formats (please click through to the program to see how the conference subject was developed). My favorites were probably The Phoenix and the Patriarch: A Story in the Making by Sahar El Mougy from Cairo University, who brought the freshly experienced danger and delight of participating in protests; and Sam Bowker‘s talk, Tentmakers and Tourists: The Re-Orientation of Khayamiya.

Bowker’s research is about (among other things) the traditional and contemporary themes that show up in fabric crafts marketed as “airport art” which are in fact often quite skilful and original weavings. I was particularly surprised, but I think everyone was enchanted to discover, that laterally-figured donkeys are the frequent characters in these tapestries. In fact the audience of about 30 people were as thrilled by pictures of animals as I’ve ever seen people get.

This should have clued me for my own talk the following day. However I had actually only intended to use Franz Marc’s Eselfries (1911) and the frieze belonging to Reinhard Piper upon which Marc had based the painting and a few sketches as a sort of entry into Marc’s fondness for Egyptian animal motifs. What happened was, though, the second I showed the slides you see here of the donkeys, was that about a little more than half my audience (not like a thousand people but still) immediately whipped out cameras – iPhones and Nokias but also digital SLRs and one video camera – and began taking photos and making videos of the projected images, and me. I was astounded but continued speaking for the equivalent of a few more paragraphs, but when I advanced the slides, someone immediately asked, “Can you go back to the donkeys?” I freestyled for about 30 seconds about Eselfries, but quickly realized that people who were previously unfamiliar with the painting were oohing and aahhing over it, which is actually a very fine reaction, so I just stood aside for a minute. Then the moderator, who I had asked to remind me of the time so I could allow for questions, held up the yellow light. I could see that like in Perfume: The Story of Murderer people were too overcome by l’eau d’âne to countenance any meaningful discussion of Else Lasker-Schüler so, even though I had not spoken that much, I asked, “Um, are there any questions?”
Hands shot up. “Can you send me a file containing all of your donkey research images?” “Why are they donkeys purple?” and “Do you have any more pictures of donkeys?” “Um, I do, have a photo of someone, actually the artist, riding a donkey, but on my iPhone…” Immediately people clambered down from the amphitheatre seats and crowded around to see a tiny image of Franz Marc on Athos in 1906 (I did not have the heart to bring up that I also have a photo of August Macke on a donkey during a trip to Tunisia in 1914). “That person is too tall for that donkey!” “I don’t think it was his normal mode of transportation…” “That’s why they call it the Blue Rider!” – You see why I was thinking of Perfume..!  Meanwhile, the person with the video camera, who I learned was Jean-Marcel Humbert from the Sorbonne, was standing on a chair to continue to document the carnage.
Finally, after acquiring a fistful of email addresses written on crumpled scraps of conference programs and cocktail napkins from the open wine bar the night before, the crowd dissipated slightly, enough for M. Humbert to call out, “Vous devez venir à Paris. Je suis sûr que les gens à la Sorbonne étudient ce type de l’histoire de l’art!”
At this point the tattered film strip came loose from the sprockets of my mind. What if I didn’t speak French? Hadn’t I just said in the 11 seconds of actual academic data I managed to spew that someone at the Sorbonne, like, really knew a lot about this subject? Was I confused about where/what the Sorbonne was? Somehow I managed to answer that I was pretty sure this scholar at the Sorbonne actually had the situation under control.
“Vraiment? Qui est-ce? Je ne sais pas ce que c’est!”
I again demurred, saying that I was sure it was such a huge place (the Sorbonne and Paris I mean) that perhaps…I don’t know. I managed to give the vaguely Gaullic shrug I have been giving all my life under these circumstances. Meanwhile I was becoming fairly convinced that I had hallucinated the entire scholar in question, where she was from, everything (actually not but, still). Somewhere a video of all this exists.
Finally, I was alone, or so I thought, and went to grab my flash drive from the University of Hull’s computer. Remaining in the auditorium was a person originating from a German university (hint: program) whom I have found to be, um, somewhat taciturn. I was nonetheless glad h/she had remained. I couldn’t bring myself to ask, “Well, what did you think?” which wouldn’t have been a very Teutonacademic thing to do anyway, and I didn’t have to, because said individual offered as a non sequitur, “Du hast einen südlichen Akzent.”
The next session had already begun by the time I finally packed up my stuff, so I just sat in the lobby of the University of Hull history building and drank some orange juice left over from breakfast. Not right that moment, and not because of the unexpected outcome, but I decided to take a break from the relentless conference presenting I had been doing. I realized that the reason for the campaign – that I was not getting any sort of encouragement or affirmation for my research and thus had to take my message afield – no longer existed. I was actually OK, and even had people “at home” to talk with about Franz Marc. I thought about some different avenues to bring attention to Marc’s life and work. I do not actually enjoy public speaking and wanted to go back to just listening to people talk about their research at conferences without speaking anxiety in part of my mind. Never say never, though.
Eselfries, 1911, Franz Marc

Eselfries, 1911, Franz Marc

 

 

 

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Mar 232014
 
Franz Marc's family home in the München suburb of Pasing.

Franz Marc’s family home in the München suburb of Pasing.

I’ve written a little bit about (we’re saving our full repertoire for our even-bigger-screen reveal) the accidental hobby of my creative partner and myself, a sort of reverse geocaching + film. Basically we found out we like to research the addresses of art-historical places and find the spot on the earth where they once stood. In most of these cases, such as the pop-up gallery in Berlin search which ended up being recorded during a blizzard, or the colorful studio here in München destroyed in the war, we had city records and things like invitations to or posters for exhibits to go on, and it was possible to figure out, even where addresses had changed or buildings had been demolished, where they once stood. Sometimes we were able to use GPS coordinates, tagging our own maps as we went along, and sometimes we just used a compass, building keystones, and asking questions. Most of these excursions took a couple days of research and a one-shot hike.

Franz Marc’s family house in the München suburb of Pasing turned out to be our biggest challenge, though, and somewhat unexpectedly since Pasing was never destroyed and a lot of the old buildings have been preserved. However, perhaps not surprisingly, neither were Sophie and Wilhelm Marc, the parents of Franz, nor Paul, Franz’s brother, either very good with managing money nor with keeping records. Thus as it turns out the Marcs owned the house through a chain of convoluted machinations, so the normally very useful city and state records were not helpful. We assembled our clues – fragments of notes and letters mostly, and importantly, photographs showing  the house and the yard – and set off to Pasing with only a couple of bottles of water because “how big can Pasing be?”.

Well, Pasing is not that big, but, never underestimate the amount of confusion Franz Marc can cause. On our first journey (like, on the Straßenbahn Linie 19 so not that far) we walked around the neighborhood with the most Altbauten – nothing. The second day we knew to bring some snacks, but, still, after many hours – nothing. We were getting a bit anxious time-wise, and looked over all our notes again. I kept going back to the photographs, which showed very clear views of the property including which way the shadows were falling, and, since they photos were clearly taken in summer, and then in winter, you could see which way the house itself faced. We decided on the third trip to just be more playful and counterintuitively left everything at home but the camera, and getting off the tram just walked in a direction that seemed, for lack of a better way to describe, enticing and pleasant.

Not even half an hour into the walk, we turned a corner, and there it was. The other times we had been going completely in the wrong directions, by the way. Even if I didn’t know from the photographs, I would have just known, I think, that this was a place the Marc family would have lived. It’s a comfortably large enough home, but kind of secluded, even though it’s on city block, with many trees that were saplings in the photographs, a sort of open gazebo, and many eaves and places for birds to live. It definitely had an aura and I was very happy to have found the place – it made me feel very light at heart – and happy that the Marcs had lived there. Sophie Marc stayed on at the house after Wilhelm Marc died in 1907 until she went to stay with Maria Marc in 1916 (yes, Sophie Marc outlived Franz by just a few months).

Unfortunately, as you can see from the photos, the home is abandoned and in desperate need of some repairs. It’s probably not habitable the way it is now. I dearly hope someone will lovingly restore this historic treasure. If that person is you, please write to me and I will send you the address!

Once my heart had turned to being interested in “recovered biography” I realized how important it is to actually physically experience places and things important in the life of Franz Marc. It’s incredible to me that in a place as self-consciously “historic” as Bayern so many things are falling away. In 2013, the Goltz book store closed its physical location on the Türkenstraße, which should really have been outlawed or something. We did make some documentation of that location, too, though. But that is another story.

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Feb 082014
 
Tierschicksale, 1914, Franz Marc

Tierschicksale, 1914, Franz Marc

Was kann man thun zur Seligkeit als alles aufgeben und fliehen? als einen Strich ziehen zwischen dem Gestern und dem Heute? – Franz Marc, February 1914, from the intended introduction to the second edition of the Blaue Reiter Almanac. First printed in Der Blaue Reiter. Dokumentarische Neuausgabe by Klaus Lankheit. München, 1965, p. 325.

One of the most frequently cited articles about Franz Marc in popular literature is Frederick S. Levine’s “The Iconography of Franz Marc’s Fate of the Animals” from a 1976 issue of The Art Bulletin, and, subsequently, a short book on the same subject. Apparently there are some issues with the accuracy of the translations presented in both. What’s interesting to me is the creative idea Levine had to analyze Marc’s enormous 1913 painting Tierschicksale (mysteriously residing in the Kunstmuseum Basel) as an expression of Ragnarök, the apocalypse of Norse mythology. My opinion is that despite being generally familiar with the Eddas and with Der Ring des Nibelungen Marc wasn’t that interested in these sagas and didn’t consider them as particularly German.

A few years ago Andreas Hüneke, researching at the Lenbachhaus, discovered that the inscription on the back of the painting, „Und alles Sein ist flammend Leid“ is from a volume of the Buddhist Dhammapada of the Pali Canon of Buddha Siddhartha Gautama given to Marc by Annette von Eckardt. So it doesn’t seem to refer to Ragnarök directly as Levine (not having the benefit of Hüneke’s recent work) asserts. It seems more likely that Marc was very distressed, in the summer of 1913 when he made Tierschicksale, about von Eckardt’s move away from Munich to Sarajevo. It explains a little bit about why, upon seeing the painting again a few years later, Marc says he doesn’t even remember creating it and ascribes its meaning to the more external conflagration at hand.

In any case, Levine was not discouraged by his translating experience and went on to the faculty at Palomar College in California and also spent a lot of time studying and teaching at the University of Tasmania in Hobart.

Today, on Marc’s birthday, with so many animals imperiled, Tierschicksale doesn’t really need any overdetermining; it would be very tempting to just turn and flee, if only there was somewhere to go.

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Jan 202014
 

 

20140120-192202.jpg

Mobile upload reenactment™©

Liegender Hund im Schnee, Franz Marc, 1911

Liegender Hund im Schnee, Franz Marc, 1911

 

 

 

 

 

 

“… Du kannst Dir kaum vorstellen, wie wunderbar schön der Winter in diesen Tagen hier ist, schleierloses Sonnenlicht und dabei den ganzen Tag Rauhreif; sehr kalt, aber von jener schönen, erfrischenden Kälte, die einen nur äußerlich, nicht innerlich frieren macht. … Gegen Abend wird es chromatischer, statt blau weiß treten rosa und komplementär grünliche Töne auf, auch violett gegen farbige Abendluft. Ich habe zwei Sachen im Schnee in Arbeit: die Rehe unter schneebedeckten Ästen und den Russi im Schnee liegend. Ich komme mit beiden ganz gut weiter, sehr farbig. …”

Franz Marc, 17.1.1911

 

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Jan 062014
 
Franz Marc's Deer in the Snow at the Lenbachhaus; Persona

Franz Marc’s Deer in the Snow at the Lenbachhaus; Persona

The article M83: Why Music Is Contemporary Art on the Installation website provides an excellent forum, in the comments section, for the discussion of the title subject.

I like M83 a lot and agree that their sound is ambitious beyond poptronica though as commenters on the Installation site point out this is not necessarily because of compositional enterprise or chord progression For me the attraction is the “celebrate the apocalypse” mood of “Midnight City” or the spoken “created sample” in  “OK Pal:”

“We’re walking in the streets – or what’s left of them,
I take your hand, and the city is slowly vanishing.
There’s no crowd anymore, no cars, no signals.
But in the middle of the road, a purple and mellow shape is floating.
The shape of our mutual dream.
Stay calm, hold me tight, give it a chance to take us away.
We will live, we will dream on the shadow of our world.”
I had a dream the other night that incorporated both this song and the painting in the photo, Franz Marc’s Deer in the Snow (1911). In the dream a good friend of mine who recently has been through a difficult time was one of the deer, but hampered by a hank of rope or net caught between her hoof and head.  The reindeer tender freed her, and despite being “caught,” my friend as the deer, didn’t have any broken bones, or even any bruises or lost fur. I hope she will be OK like the deer in the dream. In the dream, I heard the music from “Midnight City” (which reminds me of this friend). I don’t know why anyone would think people (and animals) don’t see colors or hear music in dreams…maybe everyone does and they just forget.
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Jan 032014
 

One hundred years ago today, August Macke celebrated his 27th birthday – his last.

I spend a lot of research time excavating lost, unpublished, and little-known writings and facts about August Macke and his cousin (more like a little brother) Helmuth Macke. Franz Marc really loved the Mackes and his interactions with them are important for many reasons. But the Mackes are amazing on their own.

Famous Hyperbolic Color Chart

Famous Hyperbolic Color Chart

Like Franz Marc, August Macke was incredibly prolific across a number of mediums. As Marc notes from their first meeting, August is inescapably a benthic Capricorn, materialistic and practical. Yet his prose reads like verse, exploding with jokes (especially at the expense of Marc to whom he often “mit seinen im Ulk treiben”), imagery, sounds, and cheerful energy.

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Dec 242013
 
August Macke, Märchen (Sindelsdorf), 1911, Gouache, Deckweiß, Aquarell

August Macke, Märchen (Sindelsdorf), 1911, Gouache, Deckweiß, Aquarell

Franz Marc note to August Macke:

19.12.1910
Sindelsdorf

Du Gauner und alter Kulissenschleicher,

schwelge nur ruhig in den Kulissengeheimnissen anderer, einmal und zwar bald, (hörst Du?), musst Du auch aus Deinen Kulissen heraus vor die Rampe, dann schleich ich hinter Dich und beseh mir die Garderobe dieses Genies. – Übrigens lasse ich jetzt einen F …. nach dem anderen in meiner Malerei, – hörst Du sie nicht? Dröhnend!! Ich rechne nicht mehr auf den Besuch der Leute vor Weihnachten und werde also Deine Sachen nächstens zusammenpacken; es tut mit wahrhaftig leid, – sie sind mir so vertraut und lieb geworden. Soll ich die Sachen von Helmuth auch alle dazupacken? Vielleicht schicke ich das gerahmte Stilleben einmal eigens, wenn es Dir damit nicht eilt. Schreib mir bitte darüber. Grüsse Frau Lisbeth herzlichst. Viel Glück und ›Mut‹! zum Einzug in’s Atelier!

Dein Fz. M.

• • •

Although FM kind of jokes here about it perhaps being time for Helmuth Macke  – who has only just arrived – to depart, FM quickly gets used to having Helmuth around. At the end of the same month, the nurturing, self-possessed teenager makes art history happen…

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Dec 082013
 

 

Franz Marc, Rotes Reh und gelbe Antilope, 1913, Mischtechnik und Collage (Silberpapier)

Franz Marc, Rotes Reh und gelbe Antilope, 1913, Mischtechnik und Collage (Silberpapier)

So, Franz Marc always said he was from the future…he amended the amount of how far in the future to 50, then 150, then “about 150 to 500 years” as his own time ran out, and often when saying this was expressing a complaint about his contemporaries that in 2013 we could characterize as: Haters gonna hate.

The recent (and continuing unabated in München) interest over the paintings stolen and hoarded by Hildebrand Gurlitt and his son, Cornelius Gurlitt, has turned to a conversation about the meaning of ‘ownership’ of priceless artworks probably at the very, very, very least obtained via coercive means, and the role of art dealers in the procuring of art and broker of deals for artists.

I began to think about this discussion, in an earlier version though informed by perspicacity, in terms of Marc, who always had a lot to say about art dealers, ranging from the fatalistic to a kind of grudging respect to affection and back, in the case of Hans Goltz, to sputtering but somewhat amused indignation. It seemed beyond the realm of possibility that Marc had encountered the Gurlitts, as Hildebrand Gurlitt was not born until 1895. However I should learn never to  ‘bet’ against Marc’s knack for knowing somehow what someday would be meaningful. So, of course he knew the Gurlitts, in the form of the Fritz Gurlitt Gallery, through the eponymous owner and Fritz Gurlitt’s son, Wolfgang (the first cousin of Hildebrand), who had taken over the Berlin gallery and brokerage in 1907.

I was very excited to discover in revisiting Marc’s correspondence with August Macke the followng passage, in which Marc describes his interaction, with Wolfgang Gurlitt (the entire letter follows the break):

Sindelsdorf bei Penzberg, den 12. III. 13 Oberbayern

Lieber August,

… Das Beispiel Pechstein ist für mich typisch. Ich habe kein reines Gefühl mehr vor seiner Persönlichkeit. Mir ist höllisch Angst vor einer Popularität wie der seinen. Nolde tut auch keinesfalls mit, die ›Brücke‹ hat sich bis jetzt auch gesträubt. Aber was die tun, ist mir schliesslich auch nicht ausschlaggebend; wenn sie mittun, ist es ›der Not gehorchend, nicht dem eignen Triebe‹. Meier-Graefe hielt letzthin in München einen Vortrag, in dem er uns  alle als Geschäftsmacher bezeichnete und das Publikum aufforderte, es solle sich gegen uns verbinden etc.!! Und Cassirer denkt im Grunde genau so. Mit diesem Kreis will ich nichts zu tun haben. Ich habe die Erfahrung gemacht, dass, wer was von mir haben will, zu mir selber kommt. Wer sich für mich und uns alle interessiert, geht sehr wohl in den ›Sturm‹ und kauft auch dort; der ›Sturm‹ ist als Ausstellungsraum glänzend, riesengross, gutes Licht, dunkle Wände; Ich hab recht gut dort verkauft; tout Berlin braucht gar nicht hinzugehen, ist mir viel lieber so. Gurlitt bedrängt mich seit Monaten, ich soll doch nur bei ihm ausstellen; ich habe ihm jetzt durch Niestlé sagen lassen, wenn er mich durchaus für seinen Salon braucht, soll er mit kaufen anfangen. Auf dem Ohr scheint er aber taub zu sein; wozu soll ich dann bei ihm statt im ›Sturm‹ ausstellen? Ich war dreimal in Berlin (wegen Niestlé) dort und habe, glaube ich, einen einzigen Besucher dort getroffen. Legros war ebenfalls öfters in der Niestlé – und gleichzeitig Pechstein-Ausstellung und traf nie einen Menschen dort. Wenn was Interessantes dort ist, geht man hin, so gut wie in den ›Sturm‹. Tu Du, wie es Dir am besten scheint; ich will mich zurückhalten; ich fühle es als Pflicht gegen meine Ideen über das Ziel unserer Arbeit, das nicht über den Weg der Berliner ›Sommerausstellungen‹ zu erreichen sein wird. Du schimpfst oder lachst, – ich bin nun einmal so. Dass Du Kandinskys Vier Klänge ›schlecht‹ findest, ist mir vollkommen unverständlich; ich denke das Gegenteil: sehr gut. …

One of the things I always like about Marc is that although he is (vaguely) aware of the practical importance of money and often worries about not having any, neither can he be easily enticed or motivated by it (no one seems ever to tried the ‘immediate gratification’ tactic of food, alcohol, cigarettes ‘oder sonst was.’).  Also, for a mostly guileless and impetuous person, Marc could sometimes machinate fairly well…

Here Marc tells August of Gurlitt’s persistence in trying to have some dealings with him. On the one hand, Marc doesn’t really have any intention of bailing on the Der Sturm enterprise, but on the other, he wants to keep a line into Gurlitt on behalf of his longtime friend, neighbor, and fellow animal lover and animal painter, Jean-Bloé Niestlé, whose drawings of birds, while very skillful, fell somewhat outside the concern of the avant-gardes. He says Gurlitt actually seems a bit out of it in terms of critical culture, and that, further, no one ever seemed to be at the gallery anyway. It’s interesting that Marc expends a lot of effort trolling Gurlitt for  Niestlé, and also that (this is a long and very affctionate letter) that he takes the opportunity to inject a comment preemptively defending Wassily Kandinsky to August, who was not a fan: ‘I think the opposite: very good.’

Actually, in the next few months, the Gurlitt gallery, which had already seen the first and only Brücke group show in 1912, will have a very successful Henri Matisse solo show, followed in 1914 by consecutive spaces devoted to Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Erich Heckel, and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, and the handling of all of Lovis Corinth’s prints, and printing portfolios and catalogues of work by Pechstein and  Oskar Kokoschka. This probably goes to show that Marc was right to trust his instincts…

In any case it is quite amazing that Marc was very aware of the family who would one day sell Tierschicksale to Kunstmuseum Basel (still waiting to hear the explanation for that) and keep a Blauen Pferde hidden for seven decades. I picked this multimedia print work by Marc because it was made almost exactly 100 years ago, when Marc wrote this letter to August. It’s also very unusual for Marc in that it is truly a collage – the animals are cutouts from another print, and the brown spots are pieces of colored paper.
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Dec 052013
 


townley2

The artistic expression of human relationships with animals has been and remains deeply complex and shifting. From the shaggy predators of the Lascaux Cave paintings to the costumed, hyperreal Weimareiners in the photos of William Wegman, the canine form has been especially popular with artists as both an ad hoc subject and a highbrow icon. A particular type of dog, the Cirneco dell Aetna, or Italian Greyhound, appears quite often in the art of ancient Greece and Rome, enjoying a commonality shared only with cattle and horses.

The Italian Greyhounds, however (as we shall call them henceforth), literally crossed the threshold in the ancient world, entering households not as steeds for work and war or sacrificial offerings, but as companions and objects of beauty.

steatitesmall

The aim of this paper is to point out for consideration some examples of Italian Greyhound imagery from several ancient eras and geographical locations, to describe the history of this breed of dog in relation to its popularity in Greece and Italy, to draw a few conclusions about the dogs’ visual evolution and the reasons for its prevalence, and to show how both the animal and its image continued as both an influence and a viable species beyond the end of the Roman Empire. A starting point is to describe the nature and appearance of the Italian Greyhound, a species which exists fundamentally unchanged from its earliest days.

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Dec 022013
 
Lorna Simpson @ Haus der Kunst

Lorna Simpson @ Haus der Kunst

One of the aspects of Lorna Simpson’s work I have always admired is the technical quality of her photographs. At her recent press conference at Haus der Kunst she confirmed what you’d expect from examining the gelatin prints in particular but really, upon close in-person inspection, her oeuvre: that Simpson develops, prints, mounts and even frames most of her photos by herself in a darkroom/studio in New York City.

This sort of mid-career retrospective represents more than 30 years of of photography, film, video, and drawing. Known (as in these photos have entered the canon) for her mid-1980s for her language driven large-scale works combining photographs and text, Simpson’s effective enigmas are clearly coded but spacious enough to still wonder about. One of the most interesting works on view in München are a series from the 1990s of large multi-panel photographs printed on felt, accompanied by text panels describing their locations and the intimate encounters that are described but only hinted at visually. At the edge of the Englischer Garten where something exactly as described is probably happening right now only not as well concealed, the effect was actually humane and tender as opposed to amusing. The exhibit, which unfortunately overlaps with some other very strong show and with Haus der Kunst’s interactive festival also showcases Simpson’s film and video works, a group of watercolors, and an archive of found photographs from the 1950s, which Simpson has embellished by creating replicas of, posing herself to mimic the originals.

There are more photos here and even in these small photos of photos you can see how amazing they are.

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Nov 102013
 
Atlas Mikromega @ the Lenbachhaus

Atlas Mikromega @ the Lenbachhaus

A few years ago I went through a phase of being consumed with interest in Gerhard Richter’s cycle of 15 paintings, Baader-Meinhof (18. Oktober 1977).  Writing this now my obsession seems doubly strange because I did not then have the  geographic or cultural context for these works I have in 2013. One spring break I had seen the paintings – based upon photographs of Ulrike Meinhof, Holger Meins, Gudrun Ensslin, Andreas Baader; the funeral of Jan-Carl Raspe, and Baader’s books and record player – at the Museum of Modern Art and had a very strong reaction to them. I think I explored this subject so intently because my response was the opposite from my feelings for Franz Marc’s animals. The blurred details of the black and white photographs of portraits, news stills, and police snapshots made the subjects abjectly lifeless. The effect was like the dream of freezing; cold, sad, and bitterly empty. The paintings made me drained and ill. Yet I was fascinated by the tension – and desire – that was generated by being repelled by images whose subjects I was very drawn to.
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Nov 052013
 
Recovered Blue Horses

Blue Horses

 

So you have probably heard by now the incredible story of how hundreds of amazing paintings were recovered right here in München – right here in Schwabing! – from the derelict apartment of an “art dealer” who had stored them in haphazard fashion amid cans of apricots and bottles of sherry. Included in the cache are long-missing works by Max Beckmann, Picasso, Renoir, Matisse. Of course most happily found is the painting above, one of Franz Marc’s Blue Horses missing for more than 70 years.

It has been super-exciting to be so lucky to be here for this momentous occasion. Everyone – not just at the museum but everyone in the city – is talking about the fantastic aspects of the story (please read up on it; it’s sure to become even more fascinating) but what is most awesome is the jubilation and delight people are expressing. I can’t think of many places where a city-wide celebration would erupt over such a story.

Of course I am not unmoved.  FOCUS magazine broke this story on Monday. When I saw the headline in the Süddeutsche Zeitung’s Twitter feed I ran out to the news vendor to get a copy and snagged the last one, and the last print SZ in the stack too. I am very happy to have these print artifacts of this wonderful occasion.

Here are links from the Daily Mail (UK); Time Magazine (US); and Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE).

I am thrilled that one of the missing Blue Horses was found period, but it’s beyond overwhelming to be right here…Hopefully Turm der Blauen Pferde is hanging out in someone’s garage or wine cellar or something.

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Oct 202013
 

 

I cannot explain better what 18 of the 21 photographs above are better than the Haus der Kunst press release  about this very subject, so here it is, partially ellipsed for brevity:

Manfred Pernice ... will create an expansive, accessible installation consisting of various, often "recycled" works. The artist is interested not only in the reusing of found objects and materials of various origins, but also, what is more remarkable, he uses his own earlier works as architectural elements for new works or as installation pieces in altered contexts of meaning. Pernice's planned intervention for Haus der Kunst's central Middle Hall relates directly to the space's architecture and consists of two main elements: Pernice will place his architectural sculpture "Tutti" from the year 2010 in the middle of the room. A spiral staircase leads up to the sculpture's roof. From there, via a second staircase, the visitor reaches a bridge, which spans the Middle Hall and from which visitors can continually view the room from new perspectives. For the bridge, the artist will develop an installation, which, as a result of the work process, will evolve on site. This form of spontaneous response to the spatial conditions is characteristic of Pernice's sculptural approach.

My friend who came with me to the opening exclaimed more succintly: “Mager! Ich mochte lieber sehen…”

Additionally, the director of HdK, Okwui Enwezor (who is having a cusp birthday this week), described Pernice’s work as an “intervention in the global crisis of modernity.”

The artist and sponsors (the Friends of Haus der Kunst) also spoke at length about the sculptural installation, which seems to suggest they realize that even for HdK regular patrons it requires some type of backgrounding. I give HdK a lot of credit for trying out global-art-fair-type works in its austere central hall and for the integration (too seamlessly really) into the “renovation.”

Having just been in six airports in six days, the kind of indistinguishable elevations, chutes, and stopping spaces of those reminded me of Tutti IV in sort of a vague “I’m tired” (not “I’m aware of phenomenology) way. I think maybe also for people living in München the trappings of renovation – with both the Lenbachhaus and the Pinakothek der Moderne having recently reopened – plus the endless “installations” of scaffolding and rerouting at the Hauptbahnhof and Marienplatz – are part of the normal whirring scenic backdrop of the city.

 

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Oct 122013
 
The Blue Flask: A Story Told in Text Message
Pt. 1

A few nights ago, I had a dream in which one of the key objects later appeared in physical form during the day. I thought this was a bit unusual, in that the object, while quotidian, is not something you would see every day, let alone find on the street…

The object is this: a blue thermos type aluminum flask. The dream was actually a fragment of memory about something that had actually happened: a battle of petty ecological one-uppersonship and unintentionally amusing symbolism. Seeking to appear both more recycly than thou and also make a statement of personal taste, this guy had dispensed with plastic water bottles for a flask that looked exactly like the one in the picture, except I am sure minus the millions of microbes. The guy’s sort of but not really rival, a female, at the first opportunity produced her own personal power statement water bottle, ornately patterned in some sort of pink, green, and brown-over aluminum paisley. Also, this bottle was significantly larger.

Because I was in fourth grade (not really it was only a few years ago), and had a clear line of sight to the bottle duel, I poorly concealed some giggling. Observing this my friend across the room looked at me questioningly, whereupon I silently pointed out the comparison. My friend also began quietly laughing, and later, in another location, we both laughed quite a bit.

This was a tiny episode in a sprawling “big fish”-type saga, and I have not thought about it in some time, until this week when someone brought to my attention the names of both bottle-owning individuals, reunited for a charity affair, a telethon to benefit the humorless…J/K those last two phrases.

 Pt. 2

The dream about the bottle was very fleeting, and it was about the incident, and then I dreamed about other unrelated stuff. But when I woke up I could see those bottles through my lashes before I quite opened my eyes. IKR! But it was a dream.

Pt. 3

Later the day of the morning/night of the dream, I went to the Bayerische StaatsBibliothek. This is not unusual, I go there almost every day. What is unusual is to see a blue aluminum water bottle wedged into the space between a windowsill and a window on the second floor in a rarely used reading room (and in fact by a window that is rarely opened since it is always winter). Instead of fleeing in distress I leaned out over the parapet and window frame and fished the bottle in with the help of my scarf. I brought it home and I still have it, figuring that like in The Grudge there is no point in getting rid of it since it has already located me. Even though I can drink as much Löwenbrau Triumphator as anyone in my adopted kingdom I don’t like to carry glass bottles around because I am afraid they will break when I inevitably drop them, so maybe I will use this flask to transport beer during Wies’n – the most fun it will ever have in all of its lives.

The Blue Flask: Postscript

The blue flask/dream incident last week was one of a series of very strange things that have happened to me this year, so though it was “haunting,” I didn’t freak out. While I was in the library, I remembered suddenly that I wanted to check out The Author of Himself, the autobiography of Marcel Reich-Ranicki. I got the book and have been reading it instead of packing. On Friday it was reported that Ranicki had died after a long illness.

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Sep 132013
 

When I was little I was lucky to find my way very young to The Black Stallion books by Walter Farley. I read every single book (they appeared every other year or so from 1941 to 1983; the original book was made by Black_stallion_posterinto a stunning film of the same name) many times and like the Jim Kjelgaard dog books (Snow Dog, Big Red) I still read them once in a while. As a child I had Breyer horses and Barkies dogs and the scale of the models was compatible enough that I created an early kind of fan fiction diorama series in which the dogs from the Kjelgaard books met the horses from the Farley books.

Of the horses, I actually preferred The Island Stallion, Flame, and Black Minx, the Black’s (Shêtân) daughter. Also some of the “supporting” horse characters, particularly Wintertime and Sunraider. Of course Eclipse and the Piebald were fantastic villains. Unlike Kjelgaard, who told his stories from the perspective of the animals alone, Farley mixed the narratives voices between humans and horses mostly to good effect. Generally both these series of books are underrated and understudied; they are every bit as elegant and meaningful as Call of the Wild without the violence and free from the burden of having to explain the stereotypes of the time; so they remain free for children to enjoy today.

I was thinking about the Black Minx on and off for the past few weeks and even had a dream about the race with Eclipse that is the set piece of The Black Stallion’s Courage.

The Black Minx and Eclipse… Black Minx is the one horse whose speed potential we never really learn. Only “the boy”, Alec Ramsay, can inspire obedience in the headstrong filly. She was a poky frontrunner…she would get out in front of the other horses in every race, put lengths and lengths of distance between herself and the pack, and then…begin daydreaming until she wandered across the finish, albeit still the winner. She is also a bit romantic in other ways, falling in love with her colt rival Wintertime (who like Flame is a solid chestnut) and always wanting to play around with the other horses and guide ponies. Alec decides to “make” Black Minx more competitive by running her with Eclipse (who is dark bay), the wonder colt she bests in the Kentucky Derby but who rapidly thereafter matures into both a magnificent athlete and a terror, speedier (for a spell) even than the Black and cruel, toying with and breaking the spirits of his rivals.

But this plan backfires. The Black Minx bitterly resents having her dedication tested and the forced competition with Eclipse, whom she loathes. She never trusts Alec again. Moreover in these trials she is faster; Black Minx knows all along that even though Eclipse is very fast, she is too far ahead – all she has to do is hold her lead, which she does. Eclipse is bitter about Black Minx’s ease. Finally, in the Belmont Stakes, when all the horses (except the Black) race, Black Minx protests. Wintertime can’t keep the pace Black Minx and Eclipse set, so Black Minx simply slows down and keeps pace with Wintertime. Eclipse surges across the finish line breaking a track and world record. But as Alec races to Black Minx to make sure everything is OK, Eclipse realizes that Alec loved her best no matter what, win or lose. So for Alec and Eclipse, this is a sad story in terms of people-horse relations. For Black Minx, following her refusal to compete, she is retired, as is Wintertime, and they spend the rest of their days together. (In the very last books of the series, Wintertime and Black Minx have a daughter who is also unruly, Black Pepper.)

Tim Farley, Walter Farley’s son, maintains a Black Stallion Website that has a very fun forum, a lot of beautiful images of horses, naturally, stills and clips from the movies, and a real treasure – the vintage covers from the first editions of each of the books.

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Sep 012013
 

Screen shot 2013-09-01 at 9.34.35 PMDer Spiegel online had a story today about an art restorer’s amazing discovery of a new Franz Marc painting on the reverse of 1913′s Blauen Fohlen. Sigrid Pfandlbauer of the Kunsthalle Emden found the study of two cats bearing Marc’s signature while restoring Blauen Fohlen for an upcoming exhibition. What an incredible, exciting discovery…how much there is still to be learned about Marc.

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Aug 202013
 
Postkarte am Bubi, Franz Marc and Auguste Macke, 1911. This looks like mostly AM really. I love the way the feathers become the fish...

Postkarte am Bubi, Franz Marc and Auguste Macke, 1911. This looks like mostly AM really. I love the way the feathers become the fish…

“We actually had many more exciting exchanges back-and-forth, most of which were very unproductive and very unbecoming of two grown men.” LÖL.

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Aug 152013
 

Brunnen_Maedchen_mit_Seehund_von_Ferdinand_Liebermann_1930_Muenchen_Hohenzollernplatz-1
This post was actually written quite some time ago and held in reserve with about 50 other little stories under the title “Grendel’s Mother Doesn’t Have a Name!” which is now the title of a book chapter. It is actually only a little confusing, and also my devotion to pinnipeds remains unswerving.

I was inspired to revisit by sequential experiences, the first running across this adorable video of a sea otter playing a sort of tag with an Australian cattle dog. The sea otter is clearly enjoying himself, and as I watched him woof softly as he partially clambered up onto a dock, I heard myself think “…er lacht…” followed by a moment of confusion and then thinking… “… was ist das auf Englisch?” For a second I couldn’t think of the words. I have had a few fragmentary dreams in German, but this is the first time anything like this has ever happened in regular life. It was actually very pleasant and I hope it will begin to happen more often.

The other addition to this post is this image of this astounding statue watching over Hohenzollernplatz. It was made by Ferdinand Liebermann in 1930 and has withstood a lot. This is a very evocative image naturally and also reminds me of the moschophoros, which in turn puts me in mind of Knabe Mit Lamm and the poor unfortunate kids…(just a tiny image here because a whole story is coming along about this painting).
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Jul 232013
 

 

Danaé Xynias's "Weite Fluren" is a good match for the Orangerie.

Danaé Xynias’s “Weite Fluren” is a good match for the Orangerie.

In framing the composition of a landscape painting, the challenge to the image maker, following eons of tradition, comes down fundamentally to where to place the horizon line. Contemporary painters have toyed with this problem experimentally, such as in Colin McCahon‘s various large-panel installations of volcanic vistas in New Zealand. At the far reaches of these modern manifestations falls Trevor Paglen’s Covert Operations and Classified Landscapes  (2010) presenting the horizon as, also, metaphorically unreachable.  To sort of put things back into perspective, so to speak, Danaé Xynias makes the brave choice to return to the subject of landscape painting – the meeting of land (or water) and sky – allowing the horizon line to settle for the most part naturally in the center of her canvases.

Xynias’s  current exhibition, “Weite Fluren,” is a mixture of landscapes and stylized still-lifes. (The still-lifes are certainly interesting in their own right, with rounded forms of pumpkins and melons against a zero-depth background intensifying the relationship between subject and frame.)

A reference in the catalog for the show marks an oblique historical lineage by referencing both Caspar David Friedrich and Jacob van Ruisdael, demurring that Xynias doesn’t quote them directly. This is true, though particularly the low clouds often associated with the van Ruisdael family are a clear evocation of the past. Make no mistake though Xynias is strictly a modernist, in the sense that her facture is very clean, the painted surface entirely flat and removed from the content in careful application. The space Xynias makes reference to in the exhibition title is obviously something that is of keen interest in its totality to the painter, a graduate of the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf who practices in a remote studio in Niederbayern. “Weite Fluren” is luminous in its incarnation at the Orangerie in the Englischer Garten, the classicizing space with the summer-lush exterior always at the peripheral always in view. The show is hung simply, without name markers as a distraction, with the larger landscapes singly or in groups slightly above eye-level, making visitors have to look “up” into the skies of the paintings.

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Jul 162013
 
The Popular Artist Jeremy Deller...

The Popular Artist Jeremy Deller…

Felix Burrichter, the editor and creative director of PIN–UP (“the only biannual magazine for architectural entertainment”) and the curator of the current “Paper Weight — Genre-defining Magazines 2000 to Now” at Haus der Kunst explained his work process for the exhibit quite simply. The present-day print artifacts were chosen to reflect a range of well-known and unknown individuals showcased in magazines defiantly having a post-print life “off the reading table.”

More slickly produced and (seemingly) precisely targeted than Nick Logan’s The Face, which arguably is the forerunner, at least in typographic/photographic style of many of these volumes, the periodicals examined in Paper Weight are densely specific.

Visually, the exhibit at Haus der Kunst depends barely at all on a background knowledge of what are essentially very glossy ‘zines.  Architect Andreas Angelidakis was clever to blow up the magazine covers to slightly-smaller-than-billboard sizes but particularly to make the finishes completely matte and impermeably saturated; they recall story boards but make visitors feel as if they are moving about the set of Lars von Trier film. (There are a few unfortunate Tracey Emin-recalling pieces of furniture here and there but nothing too invasive. [See more photos].)

My favorite scene was the proximal juxtaposition of what happens to be the cover of the current edition of Fantastic Man featuring a stunning portrait of conceptual artist Jeremy Deller in a pink hoodie angled near a 2012 issue of The Gentlewoman featuring Angela Lansbury against a complementary tarama salada background. Fantastic Man of course is obviously trenchant and droll somewhat in the manner of the late Quentin Crisp while The Gentlewoman takes itself quite seriously (the Lansbury cover is somewhat of an anomaly with the usual sitters ranging within Beyonce and Christy Turlington to the same equestrienne-socialites you also don’t know from W and Town & Country.
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Jun 262013
 
Video is a small but strong component of Joëlle Tuerlinckx's exhibition at Haus der Kunst.

Video is a small but strong component of Joëlle Tuerlinckx’s exhibition at Haus der Kunst.

The legendary documentary Degenerate Art: The Nazis vs. Expressionism is available now (and probably not for long, so, Greasemonkey extension for Firefox, if you know what I mean) on youtube. Part of the mythical status of this program that originally aired in 1993 on the BBC is that it was never converted from VHS to DVD or digital download and has thus been difficult to locate and view.

As you might guess from the title this documentary by David Grubin is about the famous 1937 art exhibit held in Munich called Entartete Kunst, intended by the Nazis to show, collected, the most non-enobling effects of “degenerate art.” (Der Turm der blauen Pferde was part of this exhibit in Munich, and then removed when the show traveled to Berlin, beginning its period of being missing and presumed destroyed. I wonder sometimes if it would make Franz Marc scholars more happy or more sad if it is ever recovered…).
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Jun 132013
 

marcie02112Marcie Carey died on Wednesday, 12 June 2013 in Munich, Germany. She would have been 11 years old in a few more weeks. I never knew her exact date of birth but we always celebrated her birthday on 15 July since that is the anniversary of the day she came to Miami to join Queequeg, Astra, and me.

Marcie began her life in a puppy mill in Georgia, where she had three litters of puppies before she was 15 months old. When the puppy mill was raided and closed, Marcie was for several months in the care of Italian Greyhound Rescue, to whom I am grateful for choosing me as Marcie’s permanent parent. Of the 16 IGs seized with Marcie, 11 could not recover from whatever physical and psychological horrors they had been subjected to, and they died. I always knew, intellectually, that because of her past health history (her teeth were so terrible she had to have all of them removed, she had a pronounced heart murmur, and intermittent idiopathic seizures) that Marcie would not have as long a life as her very long-lived sisters, but, really, I didn’t accept this…

Marcie must have used all her resolve to survive the puppy mill. During her life with me, she was always very quiet and introverted, a dog after my own heart. Marcie bonded with her sisters, made friends with a tiny few humans, and having been taught to do so by Astra, was extremely fond of cats. Marcie once adopted and cared for a fragile, days-old kitten until a home could be found for the kitten and I saw during these days what a brave and loving mother dog she must have been under terrible circumstances.

Toward the end of her life Marcie had a spell of difficult fortune and became deaf. She seemed to be recovering and adjusting to this new challenge though, and surprised me by warming quickly and easily to life as a European dog. The intelligence and adaptability of dogs is really incredible; just by watching our neighbor dogs out the window and in the park, Marcie quickly deduced that she no longer needed or was required by society to wear a leash, and without even one trial run about how to do so, figured out how to walk with me on the pedestrian part of the sidewalk and even to pause patiently outside the pretzel store while waiting for her own treat.

As ever she communicated by tapping me with her paw when she wanted something. In her last moments I held her tiny paw while cradling her in my arms and felt her last breath and heartbeat. For such a quiet dog she filled the home with her gentle personality and my heart with love. I know my girls are all together now and wait now myself to be with them again.

There are many other photos and stories about Marcie, Queequeg, and Astra contained in this Website. Marcie was the last connection to the family of dogs I have been in for more than 20 years.

Here is a video of Marcie persistently admiring a cat,

 

 

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Jun 092013
 

Cafeful: Capitalism Can Hear You
There were opportunities during Isabelle Graw’s presentation this past week at the Lenbachhaus to make some some site-specific comments about the collections at hand, and Graw did make tangential connections to work by Joseph Beuys and Wolfgang Tillmans, thought not those which belongs to the museum’s Kunst Nach 1945 collection.

Intensely and yet breezily theoretical (I have heard Graw speak several times, on one of those occasions dismissing the Adorno-Horkheimer ‘culture industry’ works most art historians spend their lives trying to understand as insufficiently complex for her needs in explaining the reification of art) Graw is an engaging speaker, readily admitting that many of her contentions create oppositional paradoxes which thus cannot be argued against. Graw herself occupies dual roles, as professor for Art Theory and Art History at Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Frankfurt am Main and as an art critic and co-founder of Texte zur Kunst, the respectable but for-profit Berlin art journal. Graw also has a heavy amount of street cred coming from a lengthy association with Martin Kippenberger during Kippenberger’s time in Cologne.

objecitons3Her talk at the Lenbachhaus, Malerei als indexikalisches Medium in der neuen Ökonomie recasts the idea that paintings are “alive” somehow in the sense that they emanate an autonomous value in terms of the role of Painting with a “P” as both commodity and part of the larger “organism” of the process and documentation of the making of art.

Indexical is a word mostly associated in art history  with photography, and photography is important to Graw’s current interest, which expands upon many of the ideas she raised in her recent book High Price: Art Between the Market and Celebrity Culture in the sense that “documentary indexicality” is all but a de-facto given the ubiquity of record-making technology. Additionally, in the trinity of “icon/index/symbol,” “index” marks a definite place and time by compelling a reaction in the beholder. But I think it is the more abstruse “referential indexicality” that most interests Graw in this sense, as she used Diedrich Diedrichsen’s term “Selbstdarsteller” to describe Kippenberger’s performances of himself as himself (as opposed to performing “the other” or just “being” himself).objections2

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Jun 052013
 

 

Artists in Schwabing.

Artists in Schwabing.

Some Anglophones were saying recently how there were no artists neighborhoods left in München, specifically how there were no longer any such enclaves in Schwabing. I think what the person actually meant is that George Maciunas isn’t walking up and down Schellingstraße tossing boxes of junk around, leafleting, or setting up a utopian community in a Hofpfisterei storefront, meaning, there are few obvious visual social interruptions of “bohemian-ness” to the reality that it is very expensive to live or have a gallery space in the center of the city there is sometimes a tremendous, pressured sense of homogeneity in the immediate environment. This is both a true and false perception.
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