Saturday, July 30, 2011

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things - Small West Side Museums

By Charles Kessler

I'm talkin' art here, not “raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.” And, to narrow it down, my favorite art from some of the lesser-known, small art museums in Manhattan. (I’ll do the outer boroughs and New Jersey another time.) I also want to focus some attention on the lesser-known work in these museums.

You can easily do all the small museums on the West Side in one day; the East Side museums would require more endurance, but it’s also possible to do in a day. On the West Side, I began at the Hispanic Society and worked my way downtown via the Number 1 train which has a stop no more than a block away from all the West Side museums.

First, two general observations. Holland Cotter is without question correct when he wrote in the Times that contemporary art is pushing out traditional art from the non-Western museums. This disheartening trend is very much in play with many of these museums. The other thing I noticed is that all of the recent construction of expensive new buildings and additions hasn't added much exhibition space, but it has caused financial problems for the institutions — sometimes fatal ones. (The latest fatality is the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi that overspent on a Frank Gehry building.)

Hispanic Society
Broadway between 155th and 156th Streets. (Subway: Number 1 to Broadway and 157th Street.)
Admission is free.
Hours: Tuesday - Saturday, 10:00 am - 4:30 pm
Photography without flash is permitted in the museum.

The museum is part of Audubon Terrace, an early 20th-century Beaux Arts complex of eight buildings that is worth the trip by itself. The site includes the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and is the former home of The American Geographical Society, the American Numismatic Society and the Museum of the American Indian-Heye Foundation.

Exterior of the Hispanic Society showing some of the Audubon Terrace complex.
The Hispanic Society specializes in Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin American art and artifacts, and they also have a rare book and manuscript research library. The guards are knowledgeable, helpful and friendly, if perhaps a little too attentive sometimes.  The interior of the Hispanic Society is a work of art in itself, but it’s a bit dark in places.
Interior, Hispanic Society.
Even the bathrooms are worth checking out.
Men's bathroom, Hispanic Society.
Most of the paintings are hung close together, and they're on a balcony which doesn't allow you to step back and view the work — but what great work it is! They have some of the best paintings by Velazquez and Goya in the country.
Francisco de Goya y Lucientes, Pedro Mocarte, 1805, oil on canvas, 30 ½ x 22 ½ inches.
And they also have an extensive collection of ceramics and hardware like this fun 15th-century knocker hammer.
Knocker Hammer, 15th Century, iron (Hispanic Society).
Taking up about a quarter of the main floor is the Sorolla Room, a massive series of paintings by Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida created from 1911 to 1919 that depict scenes from each of the provinces of Spain.

Finally, for a scholarly institution their website is surprisingly unhelpful. There are very few reproductions and little information about the work in their collection.

American Folk Art Museum
Columbus Avenue at 66th Street, across from Alice Tully Hall. (Subway: Number 1 to 66th Street.)
(Their building on West 53rd Street is closed.)
Admission is free.
Hours: Tuesday - Saturday, noon -7:30 pm; Sunday, noon - 6:00 pm; Monday closed
Photography without flash is permitted in the museum.

This is a sad case study in museum over-extension. They built a new show-piece building near the Museum of Modern Art that they could not afford and recently ended up selling it to the Modern and moving to this very modest space. The museum store is in the front and takes up about a quarter of the space.
American Folk Art Museum store.
For the next year the only exhibitions they will be doing are three quilt shows gathered from their comprehensive collection. They don't have the money or space for anything else. They do have some great quilts though. Here are a couple of outstanding examples on display now:
Artist unidentified, United States, 1900-1940. Cotton with cotton and wool embroidery, 76 x 71 inches. Gift of Mary and Al Shands. (American Folk Art Museum #2008 8.1) Photo by Gavin Ashworth.
Artist unidentified, Starburst Crib Quilt, 1880-90, Maine, cotton (American Folk Art Museum).

The Rubin Museum of Art
17th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues. (Subway: Number 1 to 18th Street.)
Hours: Monday and Thursday, 11 am - 10 pm; Tuesday, closed; Wednesday, 11 am - 7 pm;
Friday, 11 am - 10 pm; Saturday and Sunday, 11 am - 6 pm.
Admission: Adults - $10.00; Seniors (although I believe seniors are also adults) and students - $5.00.
No photography of the work is allowed.

The Rubin Museum of Art is dedicated to the art and culture of the Himalayas. It’s a fairly new museum -- it opened in October, 2004 --  and they did a beautiful renovation to what used to be Barney’s department store.  They have an active and creative educational program that includes music, film, lectures, meditation, and storytelling. Even their cafe features Himalayan-inspired food. Their website has slide shows, audio tours and podcasts, blogs, educational PDF’s and lots of information on related art and culture. They are a very hip organization.

On the second floor there's an exhibition of work from their permanent collection titled Masterworks: Jewels of the Collection — and they are masterworks indeed!
Installation view of Masterworks: Jewels of the Collection (Rubin Museum of Art).
The rest of the space has an extraordinary number of changing exhibitions: Human Currents: The World’s Largest Pilgrimage (until October 24, 2011); Patterns of Life: The Art of Tibetan Carpets (until August 22, 2011); and the newly opened Gateway to Himalayan Art (until January 1, 2012).

The exhibition that made the biggest impression on me was Quentin Roosevelt’s China: Ancestral Realms of the Naxi (until September 19, 2011). The Naxi, mostly unknown in the West, are one of China’s 55 minority nationalities. They live in a remote area of southwest China and have their own distinctive religious and artistic traditions (called Dongba) — including the world’s only living pictographic script (see photo below).
Dongba Pictographic Manuscript Pages, created some time between the 18th century and 1949, ink and paint on paper. From the Harvard-Yenching Library ID# B63 - 04 (The Rubin Museum of Art).
Click to enlarge.
Ritual slats (Kobiu) with animals and Naga dieties (The Rubin Museum of Art).
Click to enlarge.
Dongba priests insert these ritual slats into the ground to show their respect to the spirits and the gods of nature. The animals are chosen to represent the totality of the realm of nature.

National Museum of the American Indian
One Bowling Green.  (Subway: Number 1 to South Ferry.)
Hours: 10 am - 5 pm every day; Thursdays until 8 pm.
Admission is free.
The entrance to the National Museum of the American Indian. Security, like all the Smithsonian Museums, is very tight.
This museum is a big disappointment - it has become a cultural museum like its Washington counterpart, to the detriment of traditional art.  In addition, most of the space is taken up by large corridors and a huge empty rotunda. It’s a grand Beaux-Arts space designed by Cass Gilbert in 1907 and was the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House, but it doesn’t serve this art well — at least not the way they’re currently using (or not using) the space.
Rotunda of the New York branch of the National Museum of the American Indian.
Half the remaining space is taken up with contemporary art and another quarter with a theater — mostly empty.
Theater at the National Museum of the American Indian - they are teaching children how to hula.
Very little of their enormous permanent collection is on view — it’s just like Holland Cotter observed — and what little they do display is behind glass cases and difficult to see.
Permanent collection, National Museum of the American Indian.
They have an excellent website, though, with photos of and information on everything in the collection.

Next time: The small East Side museums

Friday, July 29, 2011

Alexander McQueen vs. Frans Hals at the Met

A small section of the 1 1/2 hour line to get into the Alexander McQueen show at the Met
Entrance to the Frans Hals show at the Met (through October 10th)

Larry Gagosian Has Come A Long Way

Gagosian store, 988 Madison Avenue
Larry Gagosian started in 1969 with a poster store in Westwood, and now he has a store on Madison Avenue. He's done a few other things too.
Gagosian Store interior

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Art News

By Charles Kessler

There have been a couple of deaths in the art world: Cy Twombly and Lucian Freud. Roberta Smith has an insightful appraisal of Cy Twombly’s art.
  Cy Twombly at Cy Twombly Gallery in Houston in front of the gallery's largest painting, Say Goodbye, Catullus, to the Shores of Asia Minor.
And The Telegraph has an excellent obituary of Lucian Freud. 
Lucian Freud, Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, 1995, oil on canvas, 59 5/8 x 86¼ inches

I   must admit I never cared much for Freud’s art, and it always annoyed me that what I considered to be minor art got all this acclaim and astronomical amounts of money — $33 million for the painting above. On the other hand, at least the guy could really paint, unlike Elizabeth Payton, George Condo, etc.

Also, sadly, Amy Winehouse died at age 27 - a cursed age for rock musicians. The Telegraph once again has an excellent obituary.


Peter Plagens reviews two new books about the history of Los Angeles art: Rebels in Paradise by Hunter Drohojowska-Philp and L.A. Rising by Lyn Kienholz.

Via the art blog Hyperallergic I found out about this video tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most famous house, Fallingwater. It’s very much an amateur video, but you get to see some beautiful details.

The always topical Brooklyn Rail has two in-depth interviews, one by Jarrett Earnest with Peter Selz,  and one by Phong Bui with Richard Serra.

And finally,, a website devoted to “photography and events that makes us go WOW,” has 37 photographs of extreme weather conditions by the storm chaser and photographer Mike Hollingshead. Here’s a sample:
Extreme Instability: Shelf cloud moves over a storm chaser producing what they term the “whales mouth” in southeast Nebraska August 9, 2009. All rights reserved by

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Gallery Roundup

By Charles Kessler

Richard Tuttle’s show at Pace Gallery is over, but it looks like his influence has now extended from the Lower East Side to Chelsea. I suspect it’s because Chelsea galleries usually have group shows of younger artists in the summer — but whatever. The best of the shows, my favorite anyway, is a semi-retrospective of B. Wurtz at Metro Pictures (Wurtz is represented by the gallery Feature, Inc.) through August 5th. I say semi-retrospective because Metro Pictures chose to show only one aspect of B. Wurtz’s art — maybe the Whitney will do a fuller exhibition some day. This work is influenced by Tuttle at his best: inventive, subtle and joyous.
Installation view, B. Wurtz: Works 1970–2011, Metro Pictures, New York.
Other examples of Tuttle’s influence: The Andrea Rosen Gallery has a sculpture in her back room that I actually thought may have been a Tuttle but turned out to be by Elliott Hundley; most of the work in D’Amelio Terras’s group show, Affinities: Painting in Abstraction; likewise, a fun show at Casey Kaplan called Everything Must Go; and CRG’s summer sculpture show (they moved to a new space at 548 W. 22nd).

Two other shows I liked are The Women in Our Life at Cheim & Read (until September 17th), an anniversary exhibition of women they have shown over the last fifteen years — and they’ve shown some of the greats; and Im Schatten der Made (In the Shadow of the Maggot), a zany exhibition of a John Bock video that looks like an old-time movie, and the props he used in the video. It’s at Anton Kern until August 12th.
Installation view, John Bock, 2011, Courtesy Anton Kern Gallery, NY

Lower East Side:
Like Chelsea, there are mainly group shows on the Lower East Side -- and it’s a chance to see some new faces. A wide-ranging show of ceramics titled Paul Clay (awful pun) at Salon 94 Bowery (until July 30th) was reviewed by Roberta Smith and has received a lot of attention. This is an excellent show, but I agree with Smith: why is it that ceramic shows are so crowded? It makes everything in this show, with the major exception of Jessica Jackson Hutchins's piece, look like chachkies.
Jessica Jackson Hutchins, Symposion, 2011, mixed media, 47 x 115 x 78 inches (Courtesy of Salon 94 Gallery)
Installation view, Paul Clay, Salon 94 Gallery
The New Museum just opened a God-awful show, Ostalgia, (until September 25th). Ostalgia is a term used to describe a sense of longing and nostalgia for the era before the collapse of the Communist Bloc. It’s an ambitious show, I’ll give it that. It includes more than fifty artists from twenty countries across Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Republics. One work made the show worthwhile for me, however: Victor Alimpiev’s video of the faces of two opera singers, one singing corrections of breathing technique into the other’s ear. They are singing about singing and it’s tender, haunting, lyrical and beautiful.
Victor Alimpiev, My Breath, 2007. (Courtesy of the artist and Regina Moscow/London)
The Stephan Stoyanov Gallery presents another well-crafted video (things are getting better in that respect), this by Cliff Evans, and it's a unique one. Unfortunately the gallery’s site doesn’t provide any images, or even any information about the work, but you can see a typical example on Evans's website. The video is a composite of animations that flow together to create a complicated moving landscape. It's dense and complicated, but not hysterical in the way Ryan Trecartin’s work at PS1 is. I especially love the odd vertical shape (about 24” x 12”) of the video. It makes it more of a thing.

UPDATE: Cliff Evens sent me a photo (below) from the video, and it's a beaut. It's still important to go to his website to see how it works.

Finally, there are good group shows at Feature and Rachel Uffner Galleries; and Mulherin + Pollard Gallery opened a space at 187 Chrystie Street, at the end of Freeman Alley off of Rivington.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

More Art News

By Charles Kessler

There’s been a lot of discussion about GIFs (an image with a few details animated) in the art blogs, mainly in response to a post by Tom Moody. Now, via The Browser, I learned of a Washington Post article about a collaboration between photographer Jamie Beck and motion graphics artist Kevin Burg that produced much more sophisticated GIFs (which they call “cinemagraphs”). Here is their site; it has many more of their cinemagraphs. And here’s a good tutorial on how to create cinemagraphs.

Anil Dash has a excellent article with many good links, as does Paddy Johnson. Four good sites to see what artists are doing with the GIF format are:
and especially which is probably the most extensive site devoted to digital art.

Finally, there's 3Frames, a pretty good free iPhone app that makes it easy to make animated GIFs with your iPhone.

Toulouse-Lautrec’s Muse

Unknown photographer, Jane Avril at the Moulin Rouge, c.1892. Musée Montmartre, Paris
A Courtauld Gallery exhibition (until 18 September 2011) chronicles the relationship of the aristocratic artist Toulouse-Lautrec and the cancan-dancing daughter of a prostitute, Jane Avril. More about the exhibition can be found here, here and here.

Summer Art Event
Culturefix, a bar, gallery and event space on the Lower East Side (9 Clinton Street,  just below Houston), has undertaken an ambitious project called Telephone: a Game of Multi- Disciplinary Communication.

From their press release: culturefix chef and owner Ari Stern will create a dish based off of the wikipedia entry about the game telephone. From this dish, composer Michael Vincent Waller will write a piece of music which will be performed for 16 artists who in turn will create pieces of art to be displayed during the length of the exhibition. Based off of the 16 visual works of art, playwrights from the Overturn Theatre Ensemble will have one week to write plays that will then be directed and performed by professional actors under professional direction.

I have no idea how good this is, but it seems worth checking out. There will be play readings every night through July 24, from 6:30 -8pm. For more information and to buy tickets for the play readings, go to:

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Newly Discovered Paintings by Leonardo and Caravaggio

Posted by Charles Kessler

Leonardo da Vinci, Salvator Mundi (Savior of the World), c.1500, oil on a wood panel, 26 x 18 ½ inches.
The story of the discovery of this Leonardo painting was originally reported by Milton Esterow in Art News and elaborated on nicely here by Jonathan Jones in the Guardian.

Finding a Leonardo is especially significant because there are so few of them in existence — only fourteen. In fact the number of Leonardo paintings known to be lost (The Battle of Anghiari and Leda and the Swan among them) almost equals the total of his existing work. 

The Salvator Mundi will be exhibited at London's National Gallery as part of a show about Leonardo's years at the court of Ludovico Sforza that will include an extraordinary seven of the fourteen existing Leonardos. It opens November 9 and will run through February 5, 2012.
Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, St Augustine, c.1600, oil on canvas, 47 x 37 inches
British art dealers are on a roll. I just wrote about a London dealer discovering a Van Dyke;
now, as reported in the Guardian, the British dealer and art historian Clovis Whitfield unearthed a Caravaggio that was covered in old varnish and bad repainting.

The painting is considered an example of Caravaggio’s mature work (done when he was only 28!). It adds to our understanding of Caravaggio because, according to Renaissance scholar David Franklin,
 “Often a [lost original] composition is known from copies but not this one. ...It shows a side of Caravaggio perhaps that is not as drastic and antagonistic as usual but where he was working very closely with [Vincenzo] Giustiniani [Caravaggio’s patron in Rome] to try to create a much more quiet image of a saint."

The painting is currently at the National Gallery of Canada in an exhibition called Caravaggio and His Followers in Rome.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Some Interesting Reading

By Charles Kessler

This website has maps of Africa dating back to 1554; some, like this, are beautiful in their own right.
Map of Africa, 1554, Sebastian Munster

Here's a depressing reason why the Chinese art market is booming: "one of the most essential functions of art works is corruption."

Sadly, the Barnes is not long for this world. For those who never got a chance to see this great, eccentric collection in its natural environment, the New York Times has a virtual tour here.

Without even finishing it, Jonathan Jones gives an over-the-top glowing review of Rome, Robert Hughes’s new book.

In another post, Jonathan Jones declares "We don't own modern art – the super-rich do." But the post is more thoughtful and complicated than you'd think from the title. He writes:
...contemporary art has a dual nature. On the one hand it is – like all fine art down the ages – a plaything of the rich. But that is not the whole story. It is also a public art. Spectacular installations, accessible videos such as The Clock, and free display spaces like the Tate Turbine Hall, make the art of today a common property, capable of communicating in exciting ways across nations and generations. It has a utopian aspect.
The Los Angeles Times has an article on how public art (like the di Suvero sculpture exhibition in the photo below) is thriving in New York partly due to the support of Mayor Bloomberg. They quote Creative Time director Anne Pasternak: "With [former Mayor Rudolph W.] Giuliani you usually didn't ask for permission, you apologized later," she said. "A bunch of us who program in New York have reason to be nervous for when Bloomberg is no longer mayor."
Mark di Suvero sculptures on Governors Island, Mahatma (1978-1979), foreground, one of 11 steel sculptures. (Jerry L. Thompson / Storm King Art Center
Finally, the Carnegie Institute and the Andy Warhol Museum and Foundation have collaborated on an iPhone app that allows you to make your own Warhol print simulating the way Warhol made his silkscreen prints. It’s temporarily on sale for only $0.99, and it’s a lot of fun. Here’s a sample I made using one of Han Silvester’s photos of Surma body painting:
Adapted from Hans Silvester, Natural Fashion,  no.4, 2007, C-print, 39 3/8 x 27 1/2 inches, Edition of 10

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

One Big, Happy Family!

Robert Rauschenberg with then-assistant Brice Marden, New York, 1968. Photo - Henri Cartier-Bresson, courtesy of Robert Rauschenberg Archive, NY
Re-posted in summary by Charles Kessler

Jerry Saltz has an interesting project going. He’s asking for help making a list of post-war artists with a “modicum of recognition” who worked for other artists. Here’s what he has so far:

Carroll Dunham worked for Dorothea Rockburne
Barnaby Furnas worked for Carroll Dunham
Christopher Wool worked for Joel Shapiro
Josh Smith worked for Christopher Wool
Annette Lemieux worked for David Salle
Jacob Kassay worked for Josh Smith
Jackie Saccoccio worked for Christopher Wool
Alexander Ross worked for Julian Lethbridge
Sarah Morris worked for Jeff Koons
Jennifer Rubell worked for Koons
Tony Matelli worked for Koons
Carl Fudge worked for David Reed
Matthew Weinstein worked for Ross Bleckner
Darren Bader worked for Urs Fischer
Robb Pruitt worked for Richard Artschwager
Daphne Fitzpatrick worked for Robert Gober
Robert Gober worked for Jennifer Bartlett
Banks Violette worked for Robert Gober
Margaret Lee worked for Cindy Sherman
Rirkrit Tiravanija worked for Gretchen Bender
Udomsak Krisanamis worked for Rirkrit Tiravanija
Brice Marden worked for Robert Rauschenberg
Dorothea Rockburne worked for Robert Rauschenberg
Matt Magee worked for Robert Rauschenberg
Elizabeth Peyton worked for Ronald Jones
Haroon Mirza worked for Jeremy Deller
Matt Keegan worked for Elizabeth Peyton
Gabriel Orozco worked for Antony Gormley
Alexis Rockman worked for Ross Bleckner
Mark Handforth worked for Martin Kippenberg
Jutta Koether worked for Martin Kippenberger
Susan Jennings worked for Cindy Sherman
Robert Melee worked for Marilyn Minter
Ronnie Cutrone worked for Andy Warhol
George Condo worked for Andy Warhol
Elyn Zimmerman worked for James Turrell.
Elyn Zimmerman worked for Robert Irwin
Rick Prol worked for Jean-Michel Basquiat
Keith Edmier worked for Matthew Barney
Massimiliano Gioni worked for Maurizio Cattelan
Lisa Ruyter worked for Marilyn Minter
Dave Muller worked for Mike Kelley
Collier Schorr worked for Richard Prince
Josephine Meckseper worked for Laurie Simmons
Laura Stein worked for John Baldessari
Jonas Wood worked for Laura Owens
Jonas Wood worked for Matt Johnson
Sally Ross worked for David Reed
Carl D'Alvia worked for Sean Scully
Huma Bhabha and worked together for Meyer Vaisman
Jason Fox worked for Vija Celmins
Jacob Kassay worked for Ann Craven and Josh Smith
Wayne Gonzales worked for Peter Halley
Ben Noam worked for Julie Mehretu
Lisa Ruyter worked for Mary Heilmann
Banks Violette worked for Robert Gober
Robert Melee worked for Marilyn Minter
Justine Kurland worked for Gregory Crewdson
Lisa Anne Auerbach worked for Paul McCarthy
Jennifer Bornstein worked for Sophie Calle
Jennifer Bornstein worked for Mike Kelley
Kenny Goldsmith worked for Allan McCollum
Ashley Bickerton worked for Jack Goldstein
Mike Ballou worked for Marilyn Minter
Matt Keegan worked for John Miller
Nicole Eisenman worked for David Humphrey?
Inka Essenhigh worked for Gary Stephan
Merlin Carpenter worked for Martin Kippenberger
Isca Greenfield-Sanders worked for Cecily Brown
Corin Hewitt worked for Matthew Barney
Jessica Jackson Hutchins worked for Lawrence Weiner.
Jessica Jackson Hutchins worked for Joan Jonas

New York Times art critic Roberta Smith and New York magazine art critic Jerry Saltz. © Patrick McMullan Compan
A related article, in the ever informative ARTINFO, lists the “Power Couples of the Art World.” Here are some:

John Currin and Rachel Feinstein
Rob Pruitt and Jonathan Horowitz
Bruce Nauman and Susan Rothenberg
Allora & Calzadilla
Mark Handforth and Dara Friedman
Ugo Rondinone and John Giorno
Wade Guyton and Kelley Walker
Simon Fujiwara and Ingar Dragset
Gilbert Proesch and George Passmore (aka Gilbert & George)
Pierre Commoy and Gilles Blanchard (aka Pierre & Gilles, aka the French Gilbert & George)
Ai Weiwei and Lu Qing
Liam Gillick and Sarah Morris
Mickalene Thomas and Carmen McLeod
Tim Noble and Sue Webster
Marianne Vitale and Rudolf Stingel
Richard Phillips and Josephine Meckseper
David McDermott and Peter McGough
Subodh Gupta and Bharti Kher
Elizabeth Peyton and Klara Liden
Rashid Johnson and Sheree Hovsepian
Fred Wilson and Whitfield Lovell
Architects Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio
A.K. Burns and Katie Hubbard
Mike Kelley and Trulee Hall
RongRong and Inri
Peter Halley and Ann Craven
Farhad Moshiri and Shirin Aliabadi
Carroll Dunham and Laurie Simmons
Eric Fischl and April Gornik
Ilya and Emilia Kabakov
Brendan Fowler and Andrea Longacre-White
Berlinde de Bruyckere and Peter Buggenhout
Allison Schulnik and Eric Yahnker
Robert Mangold and Sylvia Plimack Mangold
Christian Boltanski and Annette Messager

Artist Cecily Brown and New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff
Creative Time director Anne Pasternak and artist Mike Starn
Stedelijk Museum director Ann Goldstein and artist Christopher Williams
White Columns director Matthew Higgs and artist Anne Collier
Art dealer Zach Feuer and artist Alison Fox
Art Production Fund co-founder Yvonne Force Villareal and artist Leo Villareal
SculptureCenter curator Fionn Meade and artist Mary Simpson
Artist Art Spiegelman and New Yorker art director Françoise Mouly
Artist Sarah VanDerBeek and Museum 52 dealer Matthew Dipple
Independent curator Alison Gingeras and artist Piotr Uklanski
Artist Kathryn Garcia and Brooklyn Is Burning co-founder Sarvia Jasso
MoMA painting and sculpture curator Laura Hoptman and artist Verne Dawson
Artist Cory Arcangel and Art Since the Summer of '69 gallerist Hanne Mugaas
Musician and art person Björk and artist Matthew Barney
Art dealer Gavin Brown and artist Hope Atherton
Artist Nicole Eisenman and Dia Art Foundation development associate Victoria Robinson
Artist AA Bronson and architect Mark Jan Krayenhoff van de Leur
Artist Jessica Jackson Hutchins and art rocker Stephen Malkmus 
Artforum editor David Velasco and artist Ryan McNamara
Gagosian Gallery staffer Sarah Hoover and artist Tom Sachs
Gagosian Gallery staffer Rose Dergan and artist Will Cotton
Artissima artistic director Francesco Manacorda and artist Rosalind Nashashibi
Artist Anton Ginzburg and Andrea Rosen Gallery director Katie Rashid
New York City Department of Cultural Affairs commissioner Kate Levin and artist Mark di Suvero
Artist Anish Kapoor and art historian Susanne Spicale
Art dealer Lisa Cooley and artist Scott Calhoun
Curator Klauss Kertess and artist Billy Sullivan
Artist Sean Landers and former Andrea Rosen Gallery director Michelle Reyes

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Body Painting of the Surma Peoples

By Charles Kessler

I’m grateful to my California friend Ken Garber for making me aware of the photo-documentary book  Natural Fashion: Tribal Decoration from Africa by Hans Silvester on the extraordinary and sophisticated body painting of the Surma Peoples. Silvester exhibited this work at the Marlborough Gallery in 2008, and the show was reviewed by Roberta Smith.

Hans Silvester, Natural Fashion,  no.10, 2007, C-print, 39 3/8 x 27 1/2 inches, Edition of 10
Surma is the Ethiopian government's collective name for the Suri, the Mursi and the Me'en tribes — a total population of 186,875 people of the Omo Valley in southern Ethiopia. They’re probably most known for the strange practice of piercing and inserting lip and ear plates.

Don't be fooled into some Gauguin-like romantic notion about peace and love flower children. These are a violent people — the Surma have always been involved in tribal and guerilla warfare, and now the area is a  hotbed of the arms and ivory trades. But they, particularly the adolescents, do take joy in decorating themselves and others, sometimes two or three times a day.
Hans Silvester, Natural Fashion,  no.15, 2007, C-print, 39 3/8 x 27 1/2 inches, Edition of 10
Hans Silvester, Natural Fashion,  no.113, 2007, C-print, 39 3/8 x 27 1/2 inches, Edition of 10
Some of the best photos can be found here, and there are a few YouTube videos available, but I found them annoying because they move through the images too fast, and there are a lot of distractions. Here’s one of the better ones: