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“nice walk” (1,739 reviews): A Reinvention of an Allan Kaprow Activity Hauser & Wirth, The High Line / New York

On Saturday afternoon, two figures in ceil-blue medical scrubs got down on all fours and proceeded to make random ink marks on the High Line park’s elevated footpath, only to quickly wash them away.

The activity took place on the occasion of the final day of Hauser & Wirth’s most recent exhibition uptown, “ALLAN KAPROW. PAINTINGS NEW YORK.” The show surveyed works spanning the breadth of Kaprow’s materially archival output, aiming to trace an evolution of his ideas as they migrated toward a threshold of particular interest to him: the ever-elusive boundary between “art” and “life” that he sought to blur, dissolve, and eliminate altogether.

With the gallery’s East 69th Street location already bearing historical significance in connection to Kaprow’s legacy (his seminal environment piece Yard was shown in its first manifestation there in 1961), the recently presented work in drawing and painting offered plenty of nuanced clues indicating where or in what direction his progressively deconstructive line of critical inquiry would lead him.

In a 1958 essay titled “The Legacy of Jackson Pollock,” Kaprow ruminates on the nature and degree of Pollock’s art-historical impact just two years after his death, describing a certain enlargement of space between artist and working substrate due to Pollock’s approach to gesture, the body, and performance in relation to painting. This viscerally solidified the ground beneath Kaprow’s feet and suggested an infinite expanse of quotidian possibilities to explore. In one line of this text in particular, he introduces the concept of a Happening, which he would come to explore in much greater depth over the course of his life: “Not only will these bold creators show us, as if for the first time, the world we have always had about us but ignored, but they will disclose entirely unheard-of happenings and events, found in garbage cans, police files, hotel lobbies; seen in store windows and on the streets; and sensed in dreams and horrible accidents.”

In essence, the eulogistic text on Pollock conveys a sense of how his painting practice eventually transcended the limitations it had come to him imbued with, calling for a total collapse in distinction between the arenas of “art” and “life” that Kaprow had so deeply considered.

“Not satisfied with the suggestion through paint of our other senses, we shall utilize the specific substances of sight, sound, movements, people, odors, touch. Objects of every sort are materials for the new art: paint, chairs, food, electric and neon lights, smoke, water, old socks, a dog, movies, a thousand other things that will be discovered by the present generation of artists.”

It is at this atomizing brink that the practice of artist Puppies Puppies may be situated, somewhat similarly pursuing a profound confusion of “art” and “life” as diametrically opposed terms.

On the High Line this weekend, behind the surgical masks were artists India Menuez and Ser Serpas, who in collaboration with Puppies Puppies realized this “Reinvention of an Activity by Kaprow,” which called for “one person to draw a line on the street with chalk, while a second person followed it and erased it with a rubber eraser.”

To fulfill this realization, both Menuez and Serpas came uniformed and well equipped, in not only scrubs but with latex gloves, booties, and sponges with special handles fashioned to deliver a steady flow of either ink or solvent for its user, as well as other small necessities for maintaining optimum cleanliness.

Both of their tops cropped, the pair of costumes designed by Puppies Puppies comedically feigned exposure of the wearer’s midriff by extending a layer of black fabric downward, which featured screen-printed illustrations of organs accurately placed and diagrammatically labeled on either side. Dressed the part, they had split up and assigned to one another the tasks of making marks (Serpas) and of scrubbing them away (Menuez) as per the parameters of the Activity’s score. Lasting around forty minutes, the Reinvention was something of a heartfelt exercise in futility and negation.

“nice walk” (1,739 reviews): A Reinvention of an Allan Kaprow Activity @ The High Line, New York. Courtesy of Puppies Puppies.

That Menuez and Serpa played the specific role of hygiene/custodial workers in this scenario undoubtedly ties into Puppies Puppies’s intricate, quietly drawn out mythology as told by the artist over the past few years — an aspect of this being the experience of surviving a life-threatening brain tumor. While the fragmented story has been presented in the public sphere under the guise of performance, there is always a direct correlation to the extremely intimate interior life that drives the work.

Similar to the recurring use of horseshoe crabs throughout Puppies Puppies’ work — having been fascinated by the creature’s baby-blue blood and ultimately the “supernatural” ability to detect even the slightest presence of bacteria via the Limulus amebocyte lysate, or LAL, test commonly used in the medical field — it is likely that part of the inspiration behind Saturday’s Reinvention can be sourced from the substantial amount of time the artist has spent in hospitals.

As the artist statement provided by Hauser & Wirth, who commissioned the piece, concludes, “We are all vulnerable to becoming or making the mess that needs to be cleaned up, falling into disorganization, and needing to be re-organized, broken, and then fixed.”

by Chris Viaggio

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P.A.I.N. Sackler’s ‘Die-In’ Demonstration / Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Sackler Wing

Artists, activists, and addicts congregated just after 4 p.m. on Saturday inside Gallery 131 of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Sackler Wing, directly in front of the Temple of Dendur, for a public “die-in” during which roughly seventy participants lay on the floor as mock casualties of the unrelenting opioid epidemic in the United States that currently claims close to 150 lives per day.

The Egyptian temple erected under Roman rule around 15 B.C. — which would enter the U.S. as a gift from Egypt in 1965 — was awarded to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1967, and eventually installed in the Sackler Wing in 1978. P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) demonstrators targeted the temple as their protest site because of its high profile in the art world (many fundraisers and dinners are held here), positioning it as a prime example of the Sackler family’s sterilized reputation as art patrons rather than owners of the pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma, which is responsible for introducing OxyContin to the market in 1995 and recklessly downplaying its abuse potential by way of misleading marketing strategies.

Two black banners stenciled with white lettering were embedded within the crowd and legible throughout the demonstration, one reading “SHAME ON SACKLER” and another insisting that the Sacklers “FUND REHAB” as part of a suite of reparations owed to the American public.

Photo by Michael Quinn
Photo by Michael Quinn

“I went from the darkness and ran full speed into The World,” begins Nan Goldin’s confessional call-to-arms based on her own three-year experience with opiate addiction, which started in 2014 and spanned 2017. “I was isolated, but I realized I wasn’t alone.” Goldin’s essay is one of seven contributions to a January 2018 Artforum feature titled “The Uses of Power.” Using this theme as a prompt, artists and writers were asked to “picture our current life and imagine possible lives otherwise,” as well as to “consider how we can and should use power.”

Goldin’s text is accompanied by a portfolio of eleven images, some of which shed light on her darkened interior life as an addict — self-portraits and captured tableaus of her drug and its related paraphernalia that would often populate the artist’s floors, desks, and countertops. Other images, cropped and arranged by Goldin in grid formations, show a selection of institutional plaques of philanthropic honor that can be seen above doorways and on the walls of many of the world’s most highly regarded art and academic institutions. Polished surfaces bear engraved homages and respectful recognition of one or more facets of the Sackler family’s multipronged empire.

The solution-driven bottom line of Goldin’s response: “I’ve started a group, P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now), to hold them accountable. To get their ear we will target their philanthropy. They have washed their blood money through the halls of museums and universities around the world. We demand that the Sacklers and Purdue Pharma use their fortune to fund addiction treatment and education. There is no time to waste.”

Photo by Jean-Christian Bourcart
Photo by Jean-Christian Bourcart

A Change.org petition — launched alongside Goldin’s Artforum statement released in January — is one among a few budding courses of action through which Goldin plans to apply an increasing amount of collective pressure to hold the Sacklers accountable for the crisis. The petition, addressed to such entities as Purdue Pharma, The Sackler Family, The Mortimer D. Sackler Foundation Inc., and the Raymond & Beverly Sackler Foundation, has so far accumulated nearly 33,000 of its 35,000-signature goal.

One hundred pill bottles, “prescribed to you by the Sackler family, major donors of the Met,” were tossed like coins into the moat during the twenty-minute rally. Listed at the very bottom of each of the small floating canisters was a startling statistic: “RX# 200,000 dead.”

Noemi Bonazzi, a stylist, set designer, and close friend of Goldin’s, recalls the artist’s early resolve to start the P.A.I.N. group and carry out a series of direct actions after reading and discussing a number in-depth exposés of the Sackler Family’s connection to the opiate epidemic in publications including The New Yorker, Esquire, and The Guardian.

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, four out of five people who try heroin today started with prescription painkillers, and it was Goldin’s use of a near-deadly mixture of heroin and fentanyl — which she had sought out as a cheaper alternative to her waning supply of OxyContin — that led to an overdose and subsequent admission into a rehabilitation treatment center in January of 2017.

Photo by Thomas Pavia
Photo by Thomas Pavia

Saturday’s demonstration was a prime example of meaning being injected into objects and sites in concentrated bursts and in the name of resistance. Bonazzi spoke of the choreographed timing and planned visual effect of the water-logged pill bottles, which came to fill the temple’s surrounding moat — “the action of going into one’s pocket or bag” — as a powerful way to bring a very real problem out into the public sphere.

“Goldin’s addiction is also our epidemic, and the forces she holds responsible include a family, not as private as they used to be, that has profited directly from the unspeakable pain of others,” writes David Velasco in his Editor’s Letter in Artforum’s January 2018 issue.

Goldin’s familiarity with the art of turning the personal, or private, into the political will continue to be a force to be reckoned with as she and fellow organizers prepare for more awareness campaigning and direct action down the line.

by Chris Viaggio

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Getulio Alviani has left us (5 September 1939 – 24 February 2018)

Getulio Alviani – our long time friend and designer of the helvetica Flash Art logo in the late ‘60s – has left us on the 24th of February, 2018, after a long battle with an insidious sickness he was unable to overcome.

One of the most important kinetic artists of our time, he also touched the design and fashion industries with essential originality (celebrating his kinetic clothes with Germana Marucelli, renowned ‘60s stylist and aunt of Paolo Scheggi).

Getulio fought arduously in sustaining his fellow contemporaries (Morellet, Le Parc, Massironi, Munari, etc.) with exhibitions and articles which appeared on the pages of this very magazine. For Getulio, the movement of Kinetic and Programmed Art came before his own work. A circumstantial tribute will appear on the forthcoming print issue of Flash Art Italia.

Farewell, dear friend.

With Enrico Castellani and François Morellet, suddenly some night, you will give us a sign with a kinetic and starry sky.

by Giancarlo Politi

Translated from Italian by Claudio Santoro

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The Opening of Louvre / Abu Dhabi

Long heralded, regularly maligned and largely misunderstood, the Louvre Abu Dhabi finally opened its doors to the public on November 11, 2017. Nestled on the shores of Saadiyat (Happiness) Island in the United Arab Emirates’ capital city, the fledgling institution is the first of a bevy of starchitect-built museums that will, one day, dot this luxury tourism/cultural island destination.

For the moment, though, Jean Nouvel’s “city within the city” stands supreme, its latticed mashrabiya-like dome crouched practically to the level of the Gulf waters, which lap away at the blazing white buildings splayed below the vaulted 180-meter-diameter disc. As the broiling sun sifts through the emblematic dome (the museum’s logo is in fact abstracted in the canopy’s porous intricacies), the open-air passages and mini-agoras are dappled with what the Pritzker Prize-winning architect calls, rather prosaically, a “rain of light.” The building deftly sidesteps the predictable pastiches of arabesque motifs, the tiresome tropes of medina-as-warren. It seems of here, yet not from here: it is a re-creation of a local visual patrimony, rather than a reproduction of one. Everyone agrees: it is a wonder.

Step inside, however, and opinions start to divide. The Louvre Abu Dhabi is touted as the first “universalist” museum of the twenty-first century, and certainly the only one of its ilk in the Arab world. Universalism, in the minds of the Louvre Abu Dhabi’s reigning regents, stands in contrast to the encyclopedic ethos that has driven the monstres sacrés of the West, the Musée du Louvre on the banks of the Seine and London’s British Museum being the standard bearers of the genre. Where encyclopedism is in-depth, exhaustive, specialized and, ultimately, compartmentalized (think of the Paris Louvre’s physical split into departments), universalism is a cultural mix. Its vocation is to connect diverse works (archaeological, decorative, “fine art”) to an extremely long timespan across world cultures. A walk through its galleries is an encounter with a sort of manifold universal memory. A twelfth-century lion sculpture from Muslim-ruled Spain “dialogues” with a Chinese dragon sculpture of the same era that had meandered into the collection of the Stoclet Palace in Brussels (provenance is critical for the Louvre Abu Dhabi); a red sandstone Buddha head from Northern India in the fifth century is paired with a white marble Qi dynasty Buddha bust from nearly the same time; Marcel Duchamp’s Porte-bouteilles (1913) rubs shoulders with a wood and metal “magic statue” from the Batsangui culture in Gabon (1900–30), the readymade-meets-totem ricochet conjuring all manner of questions.

Simply put, this is the story of mankind — from the first settlements through the rise of world religions and trade routes, to the princely court, modernism and our contemporary moment. The vicissitudes of this saga are told through the museum’s own burgeoning collection, the fruit of an acquisition spree that began in 2009 with the purchase of Mondrian’s Composition with Blue, Red, Yellow and Black (1922) from the Yves Saint-Laurent/Pierre Bergé estate (provenance, again). The works now total around 650. Complementing this bedrock are some three hundred pieces on loan from the consortium of French lending institutions known as Agence France-Muséums, created at the time of the intergovernmental accord between France and the UAE that sealed the deal in 2007, granting the Emiratis use of the Louvre name for thirty years (only twenty remain).

Local intelligentsia, while smitten by the sudden array of treasures permanently displayed at arm’s reach, remain skeptical: has the Louvre Abu Dhabi decentralized the implicit Western-centric cultural viewpoint as successfully as it has dismantled the rigid encyclopedic methodology, itself the fruit of Enlightenment idealism and imperial opportunism? While some works on loan from the Musée Guimet and the Musée de la Quai Branly (providing Oriental and Asian, African and Oceanic artworks, respectively) amplify the Global South feel, critics bemoan an underrepresentation of Arab modernists, manifested by a token Saloua Raouda Choucair sculpture.

Alongside this threadbare modernism is a willful nationalist narrative. As expected, we find the soft power innuendo that frames the country as a tolerant, enlightened, cultural bridge-builder: the side-by-side Quran-Bible-Torah display; instances of nudity (Bellini’s 1480–85 Madonna and Child, bronze dancers by Degas) nimbly foiling foreign journalists’ finger-pointing to puritanism and censorship.

The UAE seems to have taken the opportunity of the universalist vitrine to write itself, meaningfully, into global history. Neolithic pottery hailing from Mesopotamia yet unearthed on nearby Marawah Island, for example, lends credence both to the land’s ancientness and its role as a fulcrum of early maritime trade. Emirati artist Abdullah al-Saadi gets pride of place, as his Naked Sweet Potato (2000–10) sculpture and single-channel video are the final pieces in the contemporary gallery. Even Giuseppe Penone’s commissioned work, Germination (2016), a single line spiraling across Sèvres-manufactured porcelain tiles, holds at its center the thumbprint of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, founding father of the nation.

Jenny Holzer’s monumental texts, another commission with a mission, seem carved into the very flesh of the building, as if they had somehow always been there. They include a creation myth written in Acadian and Sumerian, an excerpt on self-determination from sixteenth-century philosopher Michel de Montaigne’s Essais, and a passage from thirteenth-century Arab philosopher Ibn Khaldun’s Muqaddimah, which neatly casts the universalist conceit as homegrown.

For such a young museum, the Louvre Abu Dhabi already has a rocky history: accusations of laborer exploitation, a succession of false-alarm opening dates, and persistently fuzzy local understanding of its affiliation to the Louvre mère. To be clear: this is an autonomous Emirati institution. It is not an off-the-shelf franchise deal, nor is it the by-product of the Paris Louvre sniffing out juicy emerging markets. Agence France-Muséums will not only spearhead temporary exhibitions, it is contractually bound to lend an average of three hundred works per year until 2026, regularly rotated. The Louvre Abu Dhabi relies on the technical, curatorial and educative guidance of its French partners but, at one point, it should attain self-sufficiency. After all, in only twenty years, the right to the Louvre name will vanish.

What that self-sufficiency might look like is hard to imagine today. The stakeholders believe hard and fast in education. So much so, they have even concocted a “Children’s Museum” — a museum-in-the-museum with actual artworks displayed at kid’s-eye level and mediators galore. But after the euphoria of opening week settles, the hard work of promotion begins, with one burning question: How do we keep people coming back?

by Kevin Jones

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The Opening of Yves Saint Laurent Museum / Marrakech

Enamored by Marrakech, Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé acquired the famous 1930s Majorelle Garden in 1980 to save it from demolition. It was a bohemian refuge for the designer to prepare his collections — an oasis that made him nostalgic about his childhood in Oran, and where the colors of zelliges, zouacs, djellabas and caftans evoked the sketches of Delacroix and Matisse. As Saint Laurent said, he owed the boldness of his work “to this country, to its forceful harmonies, to its audacious combinations and to the fervor of its creativity.”

The opening of the Musée Yves Saint Laurent in Marrakech coincides with the opening of the new Musée Yves Saint Laurent in Paris (located in the former fashion house where Saint Laurent designed his collections from 1974 to 2002, and the current headquarters of the Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent). Both museums will house more than five thousand haute couture garments, fifteen thousand accessories, and thousands of drawings, sketches, collection boards, photographs, prototypes, warehouse records and retail books collected by the designer since he founded his couture house in 1961.

Situated on Rue Yves Saint Laurent, adjacent to the Majorelle Garden (where the former studio of Jacques Majorelle is today a museum dedicated to Berber culture), the Musée Yves Saint Laurent Marrakech offers a significant selection from this collection, including key pieces from the designer’s late work.

The Red City edifice, designed by the French architectural firm Studio KO, sprawls across four thousand square meters. The building — made of traditional rose-colored ochre terracotta bricks — creates a pattern of cubes with a lace-like covering of bricks, similar to threads in fabric.

The classic YSL logo welcomes you in an entrance inspired by both James Turrell and Moroccan courtyards. Beyond a curved lobby wall made of traditional stained glass, one enters a four-hundred-square-meter permanent exhibition space, designed by Christophe Martin, which is currently showcasing more than fifty haute couture creations set around central themes in Saint Laurent’s work: Black; Africa and Morocco; Imaginary Voyages; Masculine-Feminine; Gardens; and Art.

Iconic pieces exhibited include the Mondrian dress, the “Le Smoking” suit and many of Saint Laurent’s most important creations inspired by Morocco. All the exhibition’s spotlit models are backdropped by black-painted walls, and surrounded by projections mixing words, photographs and films that contextualize the exhibited garments. Some parts of the walls are covered by images from his sketchbooks, magazine covers, fragrance campaigns and hundreds of gowns — but no trace of any of the erotic drawings that caused a scandal when they were revealed to the public a year ago.

The museum’s temporary exhibition space opens with a show of thirty artworks by French Orientalist pompier-painter Jacques Majorelle, which depict an ethereal view of the Arabic way of life. His paintings and drawings are displayed on walls painted in the famous Majorelle Blue — a color created by Yves Saint Laurent himself, who as a dandy made his entire life a work of art.

by Timothée Chaillou

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The Reopening of The Bass Museum of Art / Miami Beach

“I call that Bazooka Joe pink,” says the man dispatched from New York to spruce up Ugo Rondinone’s forty-two-foot-tall Miami Mountain (2016) in preparation for the reopening of the Bass Museum of Art on Sunday, October 29, 2017.

He’s gazing up at the topmost boulder in the stack of five, all freshly repainted in a rainbow of graffiti-resistant fluorescents, but could just as easily be describing Miami’s signature hue. According to Rondinone, whose clown-filled solo exhibition “good evening beautiful blue” inaugurates the renovated Bass, “Day-Glo color is the most artificial color that you can get.”

Nature and neon, art and artifice flourish under the blistering Miami sun, and the two-year, twelve-million-dollar transformation of the Bass, founded in 1964 by the city of Miami Beach with the donated collection of residents John and Johanna Bass, promises to extend the institution’s role as a cultural hub well beyond the annual bacchanal of Art Basel. Rondinone’s Miami Mountain, an Instagram sensation since it was installed outside the museum last fall to kick off a decade-long collection-building initiative, is just the tip of the iceberg.

“The Bass is Miami Beach’s contemporary art museum, and what we’ve done with this new design is create spaces where you can spend more time with the art,” says executive director and chief curator Silvia Karman Cubiñá. Architect David Gauld, working with Arata Isozaki (who designed the museum’s previous expansion, completed in 2001), carved out an additional forty-seven percent of exhibition space within the existing building, a 1930 Art Deco edifice by Russell Pancoast that began its life as a public library, bringing the total area to 41,000 square feet.

A series of clever moves — replacing the space-hogging central ramp with a sleek staircase, enclosing a terrace to create a sky-lit pavilion for special events, reconfiguring another part of the first floor to make a dedicated space (and entrance) for educational activities — and cosmetic enhancements (an overhauled lighting system, fresh floors and finishes, new signage) combine to create a more polished, integrated and flexible museum that is intuitive rather than daunting to navigate.

Once lobby-less, the new Bass boasts a central gathering space with ample comfortable seating. On one side is a constellation of LED signs that read “welcome” in an array of languages. This Welcome Wall is a new site-specific work by Cameroon-born, Belgium-based Pascale Marthine Tayou, whose solo show “Beautiful” shares the opening bill with Rondinone’s. An exhibition of recent work by Mika Rottenberg will debut in December.

“We’re an urban museum,” says Cubiñá. “You bump into this museum while you’re walking to the beach or a restaurant, and we take that responsibility quite seriously because if people can bump into art, the possibilities are endless.”

by Stephanie Murg

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