Daniel Saldaña Sneak Peek

Posted by ben on August 6, 10:01 am | Category: art + bikes, design, sneak peeks

Daniel Saldaña dropped by the other day to show off his new penny farthing art bike. This piece will be in his “Electroism” show opening tonight at Blue Star. For more background, see Saldaña’s bikes here and here, and the Current article by Elaine Wolff. Also, check out his work in the ongoing David Shelton exhibit, Multiples.

Daniel Saldaña standing with his newest art bike

Daniel Saldaña standing with his newest art bike

Daniel Saldaña art bike handle

Daniel Saldaña art bike handle

Daniel Saldaña art bike ornament

Daniel Saldaña art bike ornament

Perkins’ Piano Pics

Posted by thomas-cummins on July 29, 2:38 am | Category: celebrations, in yo face, performance art, r.i.p., renegade performances

Raul throwing the metal end of a sledge hammer.

“ and Skye Cosby will be destroying a historic piano upon which music legends such as Sam Cooke have played. The piano was a gift from the late artist Reverend Seymour Perkins’ family to commemorate his artistic career and legacy. Perkins and Castellanos collaborated extensively for the last 2 years of Perkins’ life. Afterwards, Castellanos will build a wall sculpture out of the piano pieces…” -Raul’s MySpace

Facing West towards the Tower and Alamodome
Perkins house view West towards the Tower, Alamodome, and new Obama mural.

“My performance partner suffered a heat stroke last week cancelling our performance but we are now able to guarantee that on Tuesday the 28th, at 7:45 PM, at 602 Nevada (and Hackberry) at Reverend Seymour Perkins’ famous cement slab/sculpture garden, I, Raul Castellanos, will be breaking a piano given to me by the Perkins family to honor the late controversial and legendary artist from the Eastside. My assistant is Skye who is also Perkins’ only authorized biographer. I collaborated on many projects with Perkins for a bit more than 2 years and was truly honored to do so.” -Raul’s MySpace

Weapons for killing a piano
Weapons for killing a piano. The chain was awesome. I wish I would have seen the Ninja sword at work. The crew raises the piano here for vertical destruction. Starting from the right- Perkins son, Raul, and Skye. David Rubin watches in the background.
Raul hard at work while the neighborhood watches.
Raul hard at work while the neighborhood watches.
Perkins' house on right
REVIVAL CENTER. Remains of Perkins burnt house on right while Ben and Danielle watch.

It’s hard to believe, but this event was actually as good as it sounded. Raul once had an art studio next to mine and he was always pretty intense- destroying perfectly good instruments to create paintings and sculptures that helped him represent his deafness to the world. Destroying this antique, though, seemed particularly irreverent as well as the fact that, this time, his chaotic artistic performance was taking place in the middle of one of San Antonio’s poorer black neighborhoods. For the most part, passing cars would just honk curiously at the gathering crowd. There were moments, though, when this art crowd might have felt they were on the wrong side of Sunset Station. One passing neighbor yelled at a nervous spectator and told him to put the piano back together. Overall, though, I felt a real sense of community built between artists, San Antonians, and the recently bereaved. It has often been said that in art- in order to create, you must destroy. What better place, then, than at the Reverend’s Revival Center which once strived to rebuild the tattered remains of strung-out lives.

UPDATE: A video of the event was just uploaded to .

Repair as the new recycling

Posted by ben on July 21, 2:59 pm | Category: architecture, ceramics, design, public art

Platform 21 is hyping repair as “the new recycling” with its Repair Manifesto, along with various contests and publicity efforts. It’s interesting that some of the “repairs” Platform 21 is publicizing are not functional or structural, but are really aesthetic in nature.

Jan Vormann

This Jan Vormann project is cool, but it doesn’t appear to offer much in the way of structural integrity. Then again, maybe that’s not the point — highlighting quirky projects like this means more attention for the project, and perhaps a broader reach for the “repair ideology” it is pushing. It also encourages people to think creatively about repair, and makes a chic movement out what often becomes just a greasy time sink. So here’s my contribution: a handmade porcelain teacup I broke and repaired a little while back. It’s not as flashy as Legos in a brick wall, or the “golden seams” of traditional Japanese tea bowl repair, but out of four similar cups, this is now my favorite.

Brad Lum tea cup repaired by Ben Judson

PS. This cup inspired another Emvergeoning post a while back.

My weekend in photos

Posted by ben on July 13, 1:20 am | Category: adventure day, art paparazzi

2009 CAM weekend #2:

Randy Wallace / Rae Culbert price list

Randy Wallace / Rae Culbert price list

Kristy Perez: All that stands between us

Kristy Perez: All that stands between us

Love Shack: undisclosed location

Love Shack: undisclosed location

Mike Casey at FL!GHT Gallery

Mike Casey at FL!GHT Gallery

An unexpected visit from Bruce High Quality Foundation

An unexpected visit from Bruce High Quality Foundation

Put the pigeon among the paintings

Posted by ben on July 12, 7:06 pm | Category: bird flu, free food, rumors, silliness

I think I figured out how Chad Dawkins is reviewing all those CAM shows:

In this study, I investigated whether pigeons could be trained to discriminate between paintings that had been judged by humans as either “bad” or “good”. To do this, adult human observers first classified several children’s paintings as either “good” (beautiful) or “bad” (ugly). Using operant conditioning procedures, pigeons were then reinforced for pecking at “good” paintings. After the pigeons learned the discrimination task, they were presented with novel pictures of both “good” and “bad” children’s paintings to test whether they had successfully learned to discriminate between these two stimulus categories. The results showed that pigeons could discriminate novel “good” and “bad” paintings.

This study was published recently in Animal Cognition (hat tip).

Publicity Stunted

Posted by ben on July 9, 2:32 pm | Category: announcements, coverage

Chad Dawkins attempts to review every visual art exhibit on the Contemporary Art Month calendar on a blog created for the project: Publicity Stunted. So far he’s off to a good start, though more images could help. We’ll see if he can keep up the momentum through this weekend, which looks pretty packed.

Prodigal Son

Posted by jason + leslie on June 29, 3:05 pm | Category: interviews

Potter-Belmar Labs interviews Franco Mondini-Ruiz

May 22, 2009, San Antonio TX


Years ago, Franco Mondini-Ruiz quit a high-paying job in law, paid off his bills, took an extended self-desribed rite-of-passage-trip into Mexico, and then opened his infamous salon and art installation, the Botanica Infinito, on Flores Street in his hometown of San Antonio.  With this was launched an art career that took him all over the world, moving to New York City, contributing to the 2000 Whitney Biennial, winning the Rome Prize, lunching with the Queen of Egypt, and certainly much more.

A decade later, in 2006, San Antonio’s glamorously irreverent bad boy returned home to roost, establishing a lush and bountiful hacienda pregnant with beauty, poetry and art.  Faint echos of the Warhol Factory hang in the air with a swirl of beautiful assistants, dangerous pleasures, and wild, opulent parties, all in the service of and made possible through Mondini-Ruiz’ art making practice.

The son of an upper-middle class Italian Air Force man and a Spanish/Mexican beauty, Mondini-Ruiz is known by many as a generous, yet social boundary-pushing, provocateur.  He has both struggled through and reveled in the myriad contradictions of class, culture, and ethnicity that infuse and enrich his life.  A model hybrid who lives the reality of being “not quite one nor the other,” he owns the differences, fuses them together and enshrines them within his art.

Potter-Belmar Labs interviewed Franco Mondini-Ruiz at his west side domicile, in the bedroom he claims to have been his great grandmother’s.

[This interview is part of a three-part series.  Read Potter-Belmar Labs interview with ArtPace Director,  Matthew Drutt, also on Emvergeoning.]


Emvergeoning:  Tell us a little about the Botanica Infinito.

Franco Mondini-Ruiz: The Botanica was a readymade when I bought it.  It was a pre-existing botanica and it had inventory all the way from the 60’s.  Beautiful place. It was called Infinito Botanica, and underneath, it said “Amor, Dinero, y Paz y Tiempo de Gozarlo,” in my very best Spanish, which I think means “Love, Money, and Peace, and Time to Enjoy It.”  Unfortunately, some architects bought the building — friends of mine whose names will go unmentioned — and they painted out that gorgeous little mural, which was featured in the Whitney Biennial catalog.

Emvergeoning:  How does being from Texas affect your work?

More specifically than being from Texas, I have made a living being an artist from San Antonio.  Texas scares people ’cause there’s, you know, they think of Bush, they think of wealth.  They’re fascinated by it.  They’re interested in it.  But San Antonio is very intriguing to a lot of people all over the world.  There’s enough mystery to it that people are intrigued.  I really have made a career of it, and I don’t mean that facetiously or to be cavalier.  A lot of us from San Antonio, who either were born here or moved here, we love it.  It’s the love of my life, and it even breaks my heart, sometimes.

I have to watch out and not over-romanticize it, and not to just say, “oh, because San Antonio is part of me, I want to build it up.”  I’m haunted by the sense of place here.  I mean, my father’s from Rome, an ancient city with millions of layers.  San Antonio can’t compare, perhaps, with that– or maybe it can.  San Antonio probably has older indigenous populations even than Rome does.  You know, San Pedro Springs is one of the oldest continually-used centers of human inhabitation in the world.

Something intrigues me here, as a metaphor for a lot of things that I’m interested in and love, like cultural hybridity, class, industrialization versus agricultural society, castas, history, cosmopolitanism.

Emvergeoning:  You’ve described San Antonio as your muse.  How can a city be a muse?

I love it.  It makes me create.  It inspires me, and stimulates me.  Turns me on, like a muse.  It happens every two minutes!  And it might be so subtle, like:  Leslie [Raymond, of PBL] came over today, and she had her first menudo.  She sucked it down like her body needed that.   And it’s fascinating, that here she is, sophisticated, but she comes to the west side of San Antonio, and she’s eating this ancient food.  I mean, when you’re eating a tripe soup, you’re eating like an ancient Roman.  And here it is, just a few blocks away in a poor neighborhood in San Antonio.


It’s a mixture of high and low culture that doesn’t stop.  And while Leslie is eating the menudo, you know, this gorgeous guy covered in San Antonio iconography all over his gorgeous body is rolling a blunt, while his sister is serving us delicious dishes of food, while this white cowboy is painting the most delicate paintings and had just made this huge flower arrangement for me, and Carlitos is turning my little yard in the middle of one of the poorest neighborhoods in the poorest cities of the United States into Versailles, with the last few pennies I have in the bank!  I love it!  [laughs]

And it’s like that every minute, if you let it!  With the slightest nurturing, with the slightest investment.  It’s like all those cactus in front:  they need so little, and they bloom so exquisitely.

Continue Reading »


Posted by ben on June 26, 11:54 am | Category: graffiti, public art

I’m sure I’m late to the party on this one, but a friend just turned me onto French Belgian street artist Bonom (a play on bon homme?), who has worked in Paris and Brussels. Lots of good photos here.


Pacin’ it up

Posted by ben on June 24, 12:21 pm | Category: arts organizations, books, conceptual art, coverage, design, photography, responses/reviews

Dan Goddard, the Express-News’ long-time art critic who was recently canned in a round of layoffs, has just published two good articles dealing with Linda Pace properties. In the San Antonio Current, he discusses the fate of Pace’s storied art collection, and it’s forthcoming permanent home. Designed by British architect David Adjaye specifically for the Pace collection, the project is on hold due to the economic downturn. Apart from that news, which I’ve been hearing unofficially for a while, Goddard reveals many interesting tidbits about the collection, Linda’s personal relationships with various artists, and the ongoing activities of the foundation. I was excited to learn that the Linda Pace Foundation is funding a public work by Jesse Amado to be installed at the downtown library (it will surely be a welcome contrast to their Chihuly).

On Glasstire, Goddard reviews Jonathan Monk’s “Rew-Shay Hood Project Part II” at Artpace. There’s some good context here for understanding the subtleties of the show, from Monk’s history with appropriation to Rucsha’s Catholic background, right down to curator Matthew Drutt’s obsession with vehicle-related art. That Goddard brings up Dave Hickey’s discussion of Ruscha is interesting, given Hickey’s interest in custom cars as an artistic medium. Some people I’ve talked to about the show come away with the impression that Monk is having the Ruscha photos painted on car hoods from the same period; Goddard points out this isn’t the case, the hoods come from one or two decades later than the photos. Perhaps what’s going on here is a contrast between the beginning of the idea of an “artist’s book” (the move away from the artist creating singular, unique objects) and the end of the era of the custom muscle car. As Goddard points out, the push for more efficient, less polluting cars using computer technologies pushed out custom car hobbyist culture to a large extent. But the rise of these computer technologies also empowered artists to move into their own mass production, at the same time allowing the kind of appropriation that Monk himself uses. Although Ruscha wasn’t using computers to produce Twentysix Gas Stations (and I don’t know if Monk used them in his reproductions), they are the descendents of the mass-production technologies that printed Twentysix Gas Stations, and Monk’s relevance certainly has a lot to do with them. Thus in the show we have the suggestion of a kind of ebb and flow, technology and the markets at certain points inspiring very personal expression, at other points depersonalizing art even to the point that it becomes design. And isn’t Monk here acting more like a designer than an artist, if by design we mean depersonalized visual communication?

Video vs. Video or, Silent Stargazing

Posted by aaron on June 17, 3:50 am | Category: adventure day, art paparazzi, celebrity sightings, music, party photos, photography, rock!, video/film

No audio. Play simultaneously for best effect.

Galactic Center of Milky Way Rises over Texas Star Party from William Castleman.

Brooklyn’s Stars Like Fleas (featuring SA-town homeboy Ryan Sawyer on drums and lead beard) play a PopRally event at MOMA on June 8, 2009 – shot and edited by Austin Rhodes.

[hattips to albert flores & cosmo inserra for the first and ryan sawyer for the second.]

The Revolution Will Be Wheatpasted

Posted by ben on June 16, 10:59 am | Category: graffiti, politics

FryingPanFire posts images of street art from Tehran, made by pro-Mousavi activists (h/t Andrew Sullivan). This creature holds a green sign, like many of the protesters:

Tehran street art

San Antonio’s Outrage! or, The Great Rock’N'Roll Poster Swindle

Posted by aaron on June 15, 5:23 am | Category: coverage, design, music, rock!, typography

<i>An apparently forged Sex Pistols flyer fools Christie's authenticators and ignites controversy amongst internet design nerds.</i>

An apparently forged Sex Pistols flyer fools Christie’s authenticators and ignites controversy amongst internet rock’n'roll/design geeks.

As part of an ongoing project archiving San Antonio music flyers on my Facebook page, I have been frequenting the website Gigposters.com to comb through its San Antonio-related contributions. Early last week, I came across a singular new addition – the flyer pictured above, purporting to be from the Sex Pistols notorious Randy’s Rodeo concert in San Antonio on January 8, 1978. (Headline from the next day’s Express-News: “Pistols Win S.A. Shootout.”) The third date on the Sex Pistols short-lived American tour, it has gone down in punk rock lore as the concert at which Sid Vicious, after being repeatedly hit in the face with airborne full cans of beer, retaliated against the offending audience member’s head (and possibly innocent bystanders as well) using his bass guitar.

Continue Reading »

Art Trike

Posted by ben on June 13, 10:58 am | Category: adventure day, art + bikes, art paparazzi, design

As I was walking my bike down the road to get a flat fixed, Daniel Saldaña stopped to offer me a ride to the shop in his pickup. I was doubly lucky: Saldaña had his new art tricycle in the truck and let me snap a few shots before delivering it. (See this post for more on Saldaña’s art bikes).



Aaron Forland: Street Art vs Public Art

Posted by ben on June 12, 11:58 am | Category: graffiti, public art, responses/reviews

For my latest post on Glasstire, I took on a series by local artist and Emvergeoning contributor Aaron Forland. These pieces help us understand the differences between “street art” and “public art”:

Like a street artist, he uses spray paint on an existing surface, and doesn’t ask permission. But more like a public artist, he takes his time and carefully works over composition and placement (Forland removes these electrical covers, takes them home, methodically paints them, and then replaces them). Some of these pieces are months in the making. He also takes a painterly approach, and the series is much more reminiscent of a series of paintings than a group of tags.

I dealt with similar issues in a review for Art Lies a little while back (in this one I focussed more on street art vs gallery art, which would be an apt way to discuss Forland’s work as well). You can read it here.

ArtBall Sneak Peak

Posted by ben on June 11, 4:52 pm | Category: arts organizations, celebrations, rumors, sneak peeks

I’ve been digging around a bit for details about tommorrow’s Artist Foundation fundraiser, the ArtBall (aka aLadaDadaGala). I managed to get ahold of a list of artists in the auction, although I don’t know how complete it is:

Anne Wallace, Ansen Seale, Ben Mata, Bettie Ward, Charlie Morris, Chris Sauter, Cruz Ortiz, Diana Kersey, Ed Saavedra, Enrique Martinez, Franco Mondini-Ruiz, Gary Sweeney, Hills Snyder, Jeremiah Teutsch, Jerry Cabrera, Jessica Halonen, Jim Keller, Joey Fauerso, John Mata, Kelly O’Connor, Ken Little, Kristy Perez, Leigh Anne Lester, Loretta Rey, Louis Vega Trevino, Mark Hogensen, Marlys Dietrick, McKay Otto, Michele Monseau, Peter Zubiate, Richie Budd, Susan Budge, Susan Strauss, Thomas Cummins, Trish Simonite, Dan Borris, Scott Lifshutz

I’ve also heard that there will be a reading from a Dada play (Pere Ubu Ubu Roi??), and a performance by the Saint Lorraine Dance Company.

Two artists in the auction have posted images of their ArtBall pieces on Facebook: Michele Monseau and our own Justin Parr. I also hear that a bicycle custom-painted by Alex Rubio, and a library of signed books by San Antonio authors will be auctioned. I’ll update this post as I hear more…

Justin Parr

Justin Parr

Michele Monseau

Michele Monseau

UPDATE: Here’s Hills Snyder’s contribution to the auction:

Hills Snyder

Hills Snyder

Contemporary Art Month calendar online

Posted by ben on June 10, 12:59 pm | Category: announcements, arts organizations

Contemporary Art Month just posted their calendar on the website. Lots to sift through.

TheAlameda.org Hacked

Posted by ben on June 9, 9:33 am | Category: arts organizations

Uh oh. San Antonio’s newest museum’s website has been hacked, , and with only days to go before the acclaimed Phantom Sightings show closes:

Of the 7 pages we tested on the site over the past 90 days, 7 page(s) resulted in malicious software being downloaded and installed without user consent. The last time Google visited this site was on 2009-06-09, and the last time suspicious content was found on this site was on 2009-06-09.

We see website security breaches all the time, so this doesn’t necessarily reflect poorly on the Alameda’s web team, but I hope they’re working overtime to get it fixed.

UPDATE: As long as we’re on the topic of museum websites, I just went to the McNay’s site and found:

McNay Museum website

UPDATE II: It’s June 11th, and it looks like our museum websites are safe & accessible. Alameda purged their malware and McNay fixed their scripting bugs. Whew.

Illusions of Minimalism

Posted by ben on June 1, 11:54 am | Category: architecture, image & sound, music, responses/reviews, sound art

In a post at my new blog on Glasstire, I discuss the relationship between Rudolf de Crignis (currently showing at Lawrence Markey) and La Monte Young, as a way of exploring uses of the term minimalist. This comparison could be extended to some of the other minimalist composers, such as Phill Niblock, who activate architectural space through dense layers of sound at high volume.

But it’s worth noting that while the perceived variation induced by the Dream House’s standing waves calls attention to the physical space, the effect of these relatively small de Crignis paintings is to absorb the viewer in an alternate, purely visual space. It is perhaps the same effect Francis Bacon aims at when : “You would love to be able in a portrait to make a Sahara of the appearance — to make it so like, yet seeming to have the distances of the Sahara.” So while de Crignis’ paintings play with visual perception in a way that is analogous to Young’s or Niblock’s effect on the ear, they are perhaps more disorienting because they absorb the viewer in layers of paint, supplanting for a moment the physical space around them. It is interesting, though, that de Crignis is sometimes compared to James Turrell, an artist who does work with light sources and architecture in a way that is more obviously akin to Marian Zazeela’s light installation in the Dream House.

Mysteries of San Antonio Street Art : Bikes?

Posted by justin on May 31, 1:31 am | Category: acquisitions, adventure day, announcements, art + bikes, art paparazzi, borders, opportunities, possibilities

*update (june 08, 09) I ran into Daniel again and he is now claiming that the bikes will be temporarily displayed throughout the city, and locked in place.  He will be showing them soon as an entire group.

Be on the lookout, local artist Daniel Saldana, known most prominently in our community for his unfathomably plated metal objects, has taken to turning his excess metal into art bicycles, and leaving them about town.  I’ve seen them left up at SAMA, and Blue Star now, both times without a camera on my person.  I caught him at Red Dot with his newest creation, this time, chained to the pole outside.  Previous bikes were left to be picked up by lucky takers, and ostensibly this new one, I was told was “not finished,” and would be given a similar fate after completion.  If you have other images of these art bikes in their native habitat, give em up, via our contact form.

Daniel Saldana Art Bike outside of Red Dot event at Blue Star Contemporary Art Center in San Antonio Texas

On Kawara is not On Twitter

Posted by ben on May 27, 11:40 am | Category: conceptual art, net.art

I noticed today (via AFC) that there’s an On Kawara Twitter account which announces “I AM STILL ALIVE #art” every day. Then I noticed that the announcement is made every day at 11:55 AM, and that it is posted via a Perl script (Perl Net::Twitter). As it happens, last night I was flipping through , and I came across On Kawara’s postcard project, in which he sent the time he woke up each day stamped on postcards (this went on for 4 months):

Nov – 1 1969 I got up at 4.28 P.M.
Nov – 2 1969 I got up at 3.13 P.M.
Nov – 3 1969 I got up at 1.15 P.M.

Given the personal nature of this work, I figured either this isn’t On Kawara’s Twitter account or he is seriously changing up his working methods. A Google search later, I find the confession:

The conceptual artist On Kawara has 101 followers on twitter at the time of this writing. I have only 20-something. But I am On Kawara on twitter. Or rather, On Kawara on twitter is a Perl script that gets automatically run once a day on a server in a cabinet in my living room. I haven’t done anything to publicize his activities on twitter. All he does is announce, “I AM STILL ALIVE” once a day. He doesn’t follow anyone. Yet, somehow, it seeped out into the twitter community. The “Perl Net::Twitter” client name should be a dead give away.

The interesting thing about this (and my original reason for launching it) is that it blatantly negates the whole idea behind On Kawara’s “I AM STILL ALIVE” messages. Whereas those did indeed confirm that he was still alive, this doesn’t. It’s an automated process that he doesn’t even control. Were he to die, he would continue to announce “I AM STILL ALIVE”, everday, on twitter. So it really does two things; by falsely confirming that he is alive, it casts doubt on the issue but it also keeps the notion of him actively announcing that he is alive, alive.

Contemporary Art Month

Posted by ben on May 25, 7:17 pm | Category: uncategorized

This is a quick reminder to all San Antonio galleries to submit your Contemporary Art Month events to the website this week. Any events submitted after this week will not be included in the print version of the calendar.

River Reach sneak peek

Posted by justin on May 22, 4:55 pm | Category: art paparazzi, possibilities, public art

A little collection of photos from our upcoming river reach expansion project here in San Antonio.  I was lucky to be able to go on the official tour with Ben a few weeks back and get a first-hand view of the unfinished project.  There has already been a lot of local press covering the new reach and a blog dedicated to it exclusively on Mysa.com, so we had been notably lax in trying to get our images up online.  We’ll start with the under bridge panel installation by Stuart Allen.  Built of tightly woven metal strips painted in various colors, these panels slightly shimmer and change colors as the viewer walks past them, or floats underneath them by river barge.

Stuart Allen River Expansion Project San Antonio Texas

Continue Reading »

Rew-Shay Head Project

Posted by justin on May 22, 1:29 pm | Category: adventure day, art paparazzi, performance art, possibilities

Nate Cassie gives Jonathan Monk a haircut, prior to the opening of “Rew-Shay Hood Project Part II,” at Artpace.

(photo by Justin Parr)

Nate Cassie gives Jonathan Monk a haircut in the Hudson Showroom

Easy Rider

Posted by jason + leslie on May 13, 11:14 am | Category: arts organizations, interviews

Potter-Belmar Labs interviews Matthew Drutt

April 21, 2009, San Antonio TX

Matthew Drutt rides through cycles of change.  That’s really what he does. He served at the Guggenheim during that institution’s unprecedented decade of expansion, branding, and acquisition, including the new locations in Bilbao, Berlin and Las Vegas.  (He was also one of the main people responsible for the controversial and wildly popular Art of the Motorcycle exhibition, there.)  He then became curator at the Menil Collection in Houston during the difficult years that followed the death of legendary founder, Dominique de Ménil.  In 2006, he came to San Antonio as the Executive Director of ArtPace, and a year later, founder, Linda Pace, passed away.  Matthew has been leading ArtPace ever since, through unprecedented times, with deftness, and a sense of purpose both cool and passionate.

We began by talking about those Guggenheim boom years.

Matthew Drutt: I was part of a very small crew at the Guggenheim that planned these sort of satellite museums.  I was brought in almost immediately to work on Bilbao, which was just beginning to evolve from a drawing on a napkin to a set of plans for a real building.  The way [then-Director of the Guggenheim] Tom Krens worked tended to be in a very mentoring capacity, but with a very small group of people.  There was this crew of five to eight people at the beginning, that of course grew as the project started to come on line, but the cast of characters who worked on proposals to build Guggenheims around the world was quite small.

That was a very exciting time to be there, especially in the beginning when we hadn’t built anything yet, and it seemed like anything was possible.  At a certain point there were proposals coming in from all over the planet from people who wanted a Guggenheim Museum, especially after October of ‘97 when Bilbao opened.  In the months that ensued, it was like we had invented the paper clip, and everybody wanted one.  And so, I was literally churning out proposals to build Guggenheim in Lima, Guggenheim in Seoul.  It was just amazing.

Emvergeoning: And there were moments when such a vast empire seemed possible?

All of those moments seemed possible because Tom– he kept a lot of balls in the air, and he’d get these people to the table.  You had meetings with the head of Sony and the head of Samsung, the CEO of Deutsche Bank.  Some of them happened.  Deutsche Bank happened, there’s the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin.  Bilbao opened and became this huge success that was kind of our calling card.  We had a lot of leverage at that time because we had done it, and everybody, as we were going towards the opening, was doubting it, poo-pooing it, calling Krens a megalomaniac.

There was a lot of nastiness in the way that the Guggenheim was perceived as a wanna-be, and then we did it. We opened Berlin.  And then we had plans for a Gehry building in New York, and we had heads of state coming to open our exhibitions, and partnerships with the Hermitage and the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, and the Louvre.  Suddenly people started to… not be silenced by this, but the wind went out of the sails in terms of what a dumb idea all this was because it was working, and the money was flowing.

But what can I say?  It was the ‘Ninties.  So it was kind of like the mortgage business.  It was booming.  And it really didn’t blow up until Las Vegas opened on the heels of 9-11.  And that’s what really undermined the whole thing because the Las Vegas project was based on a very sound business model regarding tourism in Las Vegas, and what people were looking for.  9-11 killed Las Vegas tourism, and casinos closed.  So if casinos are closing, a museum doesn’t have a whole lot of… juice.

But those were the days when I would get a call at 4 o’clock in the afternoon telling me I had to take a trip to Germany, and I’d say “That’s cool, when?”  “Tonight.”


“Go home, grab some things, and be at the airport by 7 o’clock.  You’re going to Karlsruhe to do a presentation, and you’re coming home tomorrow night.”  I would keep a bag packed for little overnight trips.  So that was a very exciting time to be there.

Emvergeoning: Has it ever helped an artist to be from Texas?

Continue Reading »

Appropriation of My Demon Brother

Posted by ben on May 2, 4:03 pm | Category: arts organizations, photography, possibilities, responses/reviews

Just back from New York, and I must say I agree with Holland Cotter that it’s enlightening to see the Met’s “The Pictures Generation” show alongside the New Museum’s “The Generational: Younger than Jesus.” I also agree with him that the former is a much stronger and more carefully curated group of work than the latter. But at the same time, I don’t think it’s quite right to say that the “generational parallels are so many as to be worrisome. Has new art come no further than this? Is it still tilling fields all but farmed out in the past?”

Paul McMahon - Untitled (Nixon)

One reason to question this reductive view of current appropriation-driven art is articulated well in an article by Jan Verwoert published a couple of years ago in Art & Research. In it, Verwoert makes a distinction between the appropriation art that was produced in the 1970s and ’80s (see “Untitled (Nixon)” by Paul McMahon above), and another kind of work that emerged in the 1990s. The younger group of artists employ similar strategies as their predecessors, but with different implications. The basic premise is that during the Cold War history had frozen due to a superpower stalemate, and artists such as Robert Longo and Cindy Sherman analyzed culture through the lense of a detachment from history. In the ’90s the movement of history sprang to life again, and the act of appropriation became something more like the act of invocation: “To utter words for the sake of analysis already means to put these words to work. You cannot test a spell. To utter it is to put it into effect.” Artists had to wrestle with the ghosts of the past (a “multiplicity of histories”) as well as the life of the moment, as they dealt with a quickly evolving relationship to history and its connections to the present.

It seems to me that since 2001, this sense of living in a web of histories has only accelerated: from September 11 to Obama, China’s waxing cultural influence to the perpetually imminent collapse of Pakistan, commentators are stumbling over themselves to declare the dawn of new era after new era. It has the urgency of the 1960s, even if the cultural shifts are of a different nature. The ’60s produced a large body of art — both Pop and Conceptual — which resisted metaphor and was later synthesized by the ’70s “pictures generation” artists. But at the same time that this work resisted metaphor, it simultaneously helped open up space for a reinvigoration of metaphor and symbolism, a space that was filled by artists from Kenneth Anger to Martin Luther King (see “” and “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop“). Our moment now is different from the ’60s in many ways, but I think we are seeing a similar opening for a resurgence of the poetic, largely lacking from the artwork of “the pictures generation.”

Cao Fei - Deep Breathing

So while I found the pieces at the New Museum generally stale and incoherent (see “Deep Breathing” by Cao Fei above), it’s not because the artists are simply rehashing  Barbara Kruger or Jack Goldstein. It’s because the artists in the show generally don’t meet the poetic demands of the moment. They’re caught, unable to take the extra-historical viewpoint of their ’70s counterparts, but unwilling to make the poetic commitments of earlier artists. That’s not to say that other young artists aren’t invoking the past with an incantatory symbolization: it’s just not apparent in the vast majority of the pieces in “Younger than Jesus.”

Aaron Curry - Cosmic Knot #2

Aaron Curry’s sculptures and prints (see “Cosmic Knot #2″ above) at Michael Werner wove found material and invocation of modernist artworks together in a way that revealed, in the words of Bruce Hainley, “an artist who wishes to make thrilling rather than pernicious the attempt to wrest from the global barrage something inappropriable, irreducible, and questioning, which acknowledges what comes before it, culturally, and from where it arrives without merely desecrating it.” I sense in Hainley’s words (which come from the catalog for the show) a suggestion of the kind of invocation Verwoert proposes. Curry’s show is a thriller, raising the spectre of modernism dwelling somewhere in the water of our reservoirs — not as a chilling memory, but as a living ghost prepared to inhabit our fields, our livestock, our bodies.

UPDATE: This interview with Bruce High Quality Foundation in Art in America seems too pertinent not to add here. From the discussion of Sept 11 as their “creation myth” to the invocation of multiple histories, there are a lot of parallels between this post and the interview. Although I visited the Bruce High Quality studio during my trip, their recent show had just come down, so I missed their new work both in the gallery and in the studio — otherwise they may have made it into the original post.

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