Look, don't touch (or eat!)

Priya Gandhi retold the story of Ed Brzezinski, who, on a visit to a Robert Gober exhibition, ate one of the donuts from his piece called “Bag of Donuts”, as well as other accounts of museum go-ers treating exhibits as interactive art installations (when they weren’t):

In 1989, the New York Post reported that Ed Brzezinski, on a visit to Robert Gober’s exhibition at Paula Cooper Gallery, ate one of the donuts from Gober’s “Bag of Donuts” (1989). Brzezinski later said that the donut, coated in synthetic resin for preservation, “tasted stale.”

Okay, I was hungry. I’d been drinking and I hadn’t eaten anything all day,” he said, post-ingestion. People were upset — likely because Brzezinski did not take seriously the delicate presence that the gallery and museum space requires of the viewer. He was hungry.

[…]

I don’t believe that these incidents are as simple as negligence and idiocy (though some of that is present). To me, there are no wrong ways to respond to art, only unaccepted ones — and even the unaccepted ones highlight integral questions of purpose. I do not advocate the destruction of art. Rather, I ask a question that seems simple at first glance, but is complicated by defacement: What do we want from our encounters with art? The answer is at the root of our human relationship with an object and reflects the value we get from that encounter. The importance of the question of purpose cannot be undervalued. We value our institutions vigorously; to allow them to serve us, and for us to serve them, they have to allow people the room to make mistakes.

For the most part, I see signs that explicitly tell observers not to touch art or cross the marked lines on the floor. If you disobey those rules, then you’re being ignorant and deserve the consequences. I may draw the line at stolen artefacts though but good luck reclaiming them without getting caught.

A Kaws-tic review by Hrag Vartanian

I try to avoid meta-reviews when they’re especially scathing (Rashayla Marie Brown’s review of Virgil Abloh’s “Figures of Speech” is a notable exception) but I was intrigued by this one by Hrag Vartanian. For Hyperallergic, he reviewed Kaws’ retrospective exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum curated by Eugenie Tsai. Vartanian starts throwing critical punches from the get-go (the title, Kaws Is Terrible, But Thankfully Forgettable, sets the scene):

We live in an age of cons driven by people who think they’re smarter than the rest of us, or in on a joke the rest of us fail to see. Con men (and they’re most often men) are prevalent in the fields of modern and contemporary art. They have their coteries of edgelords, artists, curators, and associated writers and academics who fancy themselves ahead of the crowd, along with collectors, dealers, auctioneers, and other purveyors of luxury goods who join them in celebrating their acquisition of power, or the symbols of it anyway.

Few genres of contemporary art reveal the machinations of this tiresome ouroboros of popular shock to luxury shlock as clearly as graffiti and street art. And no one encompasses that soulless supersizing of pop culture as clearly as Kaws […]

He pours scorn on the gentrification of street art and graffiti, laying a large part of the blame on artists like Kaws, whom he noted for being “apolitical”, lending his work to “the super wealthy who prefer to be comforted and appeased rather than being criticized.”

The art on display in KAWS: WHAT PARTY, is wretchedly meh. The references are facile, and aesthetically the works are akin to Instagram filters or Photoshop tricks. He uses shiny materials, scale, and quantity to make his obtuse points. Not to mention, he offers merchandise in every color and size and price point — let’s call him the Swatch watch of art.

I recommend you read it for the continuous fire spitting from Vartanian which appears to be aimed mainly at contemporary art’s shallow emptiness rather than Kaws alone. Personally, I can take or leave Kaws. His work uses pop culture references I hold dear to my heart (The Simpsons, for example) but his style isn’t for me. Maybe in 2008 when I was heavily into skateboard art (as much as someone can be without every stepping foot on one but I did love Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 back in the day!) I do agree with Vartanian’s overarching views on street art and its commodification. Alas, it is nothing new and artists lament it every decade it occurs. If anything, the time between artistic revolution and gentrification has shortened so much that some artists appropriate before we can blink an eye. But hey, they’re making their millions of NFTs while we sit and bash on our keyboards, right?

Some “better” artists: Keith Haring documentaries to watch on YouTube and Sampira’s top 5 Jean-Michel Basquiat paintings

Rohini Kejriwal on the history of indigo

Indigo is the penultimate colour of the rainbow and it is etymologically tied to India, demonstrating how far its origins go way back as Rohini Kejriwal discovered for Hyperallergic.

While indigo’s etymology identifies it as a “product of India,” it has a long history of being grown and used around the world for over four millennia and was further globalized as major 18th-century indigo plantations were founded by colonial powers in both India and the American South. For this show, [Bhasha] Chakrabarti sourced indigo from various parts of the world — from India to Nigeria to Guatemala — after interacting with farmers, dyers, and traders in cities with ancient traditions of indigo dyeing. She maps these overlapping cartographies of trade, imperialism, and resistance in her work and traces the presence of indigo in conceptions of divinity, agricultural and textile histories, and musical traditions. For example, she layers the lyrics of Blues songs with Bengali protest songs about the “tyranny of blue,” sung by indigo plantation laborers. 

I don’t hear enough about indigo. It’s a beautiful and underrated colour. There are three birds that are indigo in colour (and/or name):

  • Indigobirds
  • Indigo buntings 
  • Blue grosbeaks

Lactarius indigo, aka the indigo milk cap or blue milk mushroom, is a type of fungus with an indigo underbelly. And denim jeans got their blue colour originally from indigo dye. Go read Rohini’s essay and then check out indigo’s Wikipedia page.

Indian etymology related: Daughters, milking cows, and etymological debates

Colour related: The green experience and pink things

'We Are History' examines the links between art, colonialism and climate change

We are History | Trailer

For gal-dem, Lauren Dei spoke to the artists behind a new exhibition called ‘We Are History. The show, curated by Ekow Eshun, displays art that tells the stories of colonialism and its pivotal role in global warming and the harsh realities of climate change.

Featured artists include Alberta Whittle, Otobong Nkanga, and Malala Andrialavidrazana.

“We have a saying in Barbados charting the timeline of hurricane season,” Alberta tells gal-dem via phone call.“‘June – too soon, July – stand by, August – come it must, September – remember, October – all over.’ In 2021, the hurricane season began in April. Climate colonialism means the hurricane seasons are growing longer and longer, leaving the country on tenterhooks for over half the calendar year.”

An early scene in the film shows the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian in 2019. The camera pans above the wreckage of the decimated Bahama Islands. An estimated 13,000 homes were severely damaged or lost during the Category five storm that left the national airport underwater and saw over 6,000 evacuees rescued by air. 

Head over to Somerset House to see We Are History, which runs until 6th February 2022.

'Repro Japan' and how Japanese culture has influenced the rest of the world

Lord knows we (the West) have a lot to thank Japan for in terms of pop culture and a new exhibit called ‘Repro Japan: Technologies of Popular Visual Culture‘ pays tribute to that influence. The exhibit is running at the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) until 20th March 2022 and features an array of visual artefacts, from woodblock prints to anime cels.

This from Yuchan Kim, writing for The Williams Record:

The first thing I noticed walking into the exhibition is that Repro Japan feels like pieces of Japanese culture stitched together. It’s not organized by timeline, region, or style as you would expect at other exhibitions that survey a particular country’s culture. The two galleries are instead organized by rough groupings of mediums, ranging from textiles and woodblock prints to manga, 3D prints, and cosplay costumes and performances. 

As Kim said in his conclusion, it’s not a cohesive, all-rounded representation of Japanese visual culture (it’s in Massachusetts after all). But you’ve got to start somewhere and if it’s safe to do so and you’re in the area, go check it out.

Found out more on WCMA exhibit page.

The ordered chaos of Yeesookyung's kintsugi sculptures

If you’re familiar with kintsugi, you’ll know how it finds beauty in the broken. Yeesookyung’s kintsugi sculptures, however, try to turn broken chaos into a sense of ceramic order.

Blending ornately patterned vessels with deities and animals, the delicate assemblages meld shards of discarded ceramic into new forms with bulbous sides, halved figures, and drips of metallic epoxy. Utilizing fragments from previous works references the Korean tradition of discarding porcelain with small irregularities, while the visibly repaired crevices draw on Kintsugi techniques, the Japanese art of highlighting the beauty of broken vessels with thick, gold mendings.

Kintsugi related: Alex’s “foodsafe” kintsugi hack and Kintsugi: The Japanese Art of Repairing Pottery with Gold

(via Colossal)

The creative direction of Tyler Adams

Tyler Adams is a creative based in LA. He works predominately in casting, photography, and art direction and boasts clients such as BET, Def Jam Records, Nike, Stussy, and Warner Music Group.

There’s something very cool and understated about Tyler’s art direction. I like his use of lighting and colour and the mix of urban landscapes and personal portraits, sometimes in the same image.

In an interview for Full Service Radio (below), Tyler discussed his work style, what it’s like living in LA, and how he got into photography.

'Bold Black British', curated by Aindrea Emelife

© Ibrahim El-Salahi

‘Bold, Black British’ was an exhibition held at Christie’s London between 1–21 October, showcasing Black British art from the 80s until the present. It was curated by Aindrea Emelife who wanted to show a wide range of Black British art besides a few paintings:

‘I like to see my curatorial practice as a Trojan horse,’ Emelife explains. ‘I want people to go into exhibitions with one idea, and have other ideas leap out at you, challenging and moving you at unexpected turns, asking you to look again at the history you thought you knew, or look closer at a history that has been seldom looked at.’

I found about this way too late but you can see some of the art via Wallpaper.com and a list of the featured artists on the Christie’s website as well as a 3D virtual tour.

TheArtfulGabby is doing Halloween makeup every day for charity

The very talented TheArtfulGabby demonstrated her makeup talents for spooky season by transforming into different characters every day this Halloween month for charity. So far she’s done Frankenstein’s monster, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Joker (the 3 most recent ones), Harley Quinn (my personal fave), and some Marvel characters (Black Panther and Spider-Man).

I’m scaring myself with horror games over on Twitch and doing 31 days of Halloween makeup to raise money for the Born Free Foundation! They’re an amazing charity that work to stop the exploitation and suffering of animals in the wild and in captivity. I’m not a fan of horror at all, so this is a big challenge for me this year, but we’re currently on £930 when our goal was £450! At £1,000 I have to shave my eyebrows off live on stream! Eek! 😂

TheArtfulGabby

The attention to detail is incredible. Go follow Gabby on Instagram, Twitch, and check out Born Free and help save the animals.

Rhea Dillon on 'Nonbody Nonthing No Thing', her debut solo exhibition

“Being Black British is part of my ontic and ontology so it’s always present in my work because it is me.” Photography by Theo Christelis, via V.O Curations

For AnOther, Sagal Mohammed spoke to Rhea Dillon about her first solo exhibition, entitled Nonbody Nonthing No Thing. The Black British-Jamaican artist, writer and poet uses a variety of media to interpret what she calls the “‘rules of representation’ as a device to undermine contemporary Western culture” and “‘humane afrofuturism’ as a practice of bringing forward the humane and equality-led perspectives on how we visualise Black bodies”.

Nonbody Nonthing No Thing is one of those works, showing abstractions of Blackness in the form of 7 paintings and sculptures. The above image depicts “landing” and how the Diasporic experience for Black Africans and Caribbeans meant leaving the known and landing in the unknown. That fragmented journey, which doesn’t stop when the plane touches down or the ship anchors, is captured brilliantly in this work.

Nonbody Nonthing No Thing is at VO Curations in London from 15th Oct–11th Nov 2021 so get there if you can.

Tina M. Campt's 'A Black Gaze'

I follow MIT’s tech blog and stumbled upon a book from their press called ‘A Black Gaze’:

In A Black Gaze, Tina Campt examines Black contemporary artists who are shifting the very nature of our interactions with the visual through their creation and curation of a distinctively Black gaze. Their work—from Deana Lawson’s disarmingly intimate portraits to Arthur Jafa’s videos of the everyday beauty and grit of the Black experience, from Kahlil Joseph’s films and Dawoud Bey’s photographs to the embodied and multimedia artistic practice of Okwui Okpokwasili, Simone Leigh, and Luke Willis Thompson—requires viewers to do more than simply look; it solicits visceral responses to the visualization of Black precarity.

With regular discourse around cultural appropriation and Black art that falls under the white gaze, it’s important to bring the conversation back to Black people creating for Black people and what that means for us.

You can buy a copy from Bookshop (affiliate link) or head to the book’s official MIT Press page for more stockists.

Wastebasket, Snowflakes, and Spraypaint

Concrete poetry from Rob Giampietro with three poems called Wastebasket, Snowflakes, and Spraypaint. Here is Snowflakes (the poem above) in standard written form:

“No owls as we wake now. As flakes fake snow, we fake OKs. So now we owe. Lakes soak. Oaks flake. No snow owls. No snow as we wake.”

The work was inspired by the late Emmett Williams who used words and poetry to create his own unique blend of visual art in flux and language.

(via Kottke.org)

A review of Emily Rapp Black's book, 'Frida Kahlo and My Left Leg'

Sophia Stewart reviewed Emily Rapp Black’s new book, ‘Frida Kahlo and My Left Leg’ for Hyperallergic:

The question that propels Emily Rapp Black’s Frida Kahlo and My Left Leg is simple and self-implicating: “Why do we (I) love Frida?” Throughout the book’s fourteen loosely-linked essays, Black lays claim to Kahlo for unique reason: like the painter became later in life, Black is an amputee, and both women’s lives were shaped by physical disability. In her youth, the author formed what she calls “the perfect imaginary friendship” with Kahlo. “I chose to try and understand the story of her body as a way of knowing or accessing mine,” Black writes, “as if the story of her life set out a path or trail that, no matter how difficult, I might follow.” Latching onto public figures like this is common among young disabled people, who are desperate to find other people in the world like us, to trace a possible road map for our own lives. Still Black admits the limits of an attachment to a woman who “lives only in the terrain of my imagination where I set all the terms of the story.”

But what about the rest of Kahlo’s legion of fans? Few, if any, other artists have become objects of such intense parasocial affection. Kahlo’s disembodied likeness adorns lipsticks, coasters, aprons, magnets, leggings, notebooks, keychains, backpacks, even Christmas ornaments. (Full disclosure: I have previously owned a Kahlo-emblazoned pencil case, t-shirt, pair of socks, and sticky-note pad; I still display her “Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair” in my bedroom.) Surely the outspoken communist would have abhorred the commercialization of her image and art. But what would she make of how her life has been interpreted, packaged, and flattened by her own admirers?

Hero worship is commonplace with the ever-evolving popularity of social media and the need to show the world and fellow fans that they love their fave and they’re better than yours. But with that adulation comes problematic behaviours, misguided quotes, and misunderstood ideologies. Frida Kahlo is no exception.

Johnson Eziefula on his art and his relationship with identity

“Gloria’s Trip to Paris” – Mixed-media on Canvas. (2021)

Johnson Eziefula is a Nigerian artist who uses mixed-media to display the various elements of life and identity:

“I find my major inspiration as an artist in a mix of my environment and its components,” he adds, citing people and their social, behavioural and cultural characteristics as key drivers to his creations. “Environment in this case goes beyond my immediate physical environment. But as far as a totally different region or space, the world as of today has grown smaller and we’re much more interconnected than ever before.” Johnson is also inspired by his own emotions and imagination, along with his daily observations and encounters, plus the “endless conflict between one’s understanding of what is and the unending curiosities, amongst other things. It’s an endless list.”

via It’s Nice That

Eziefula calls himself a “Biographer of the unnoticed” on Instagram, using materials like charcoal, acrylic, pastels, and fabric to create his pieces.