Art down the pan

What I will always think of as ‘almost Trump’s toilet‘ has made the news again.

Busted flush: Man arrested over theft of solid gold toilet in England
Det Insp Jess Milne said: “The piece of art that has been stolen is a high value toilet made out of gold that was on display at the palace. The artwork has not been recovered at this time, but we are conducting a thorough investigation to find it and bring those responsible to justice.”

That headline-grabbing golden loo was only one of Maurizio Cattelan‘s many not-so-subtle provocations at Blenheim Palace.

Maurizio Cattelan at Blenheim Palace: blisteringly good and as subtle as a solid gold toilet
In his new exhibition featuring a praying Hitler and a felled Pope the artist plays to his strengths: spectacle, scale, shock, subversion.

Hitler in Churchill’s birthplace more shocking than the golden toilet – Maurizio Cattelan review
The Italian art prankster redecorates Churchill’s birthplace with an 18-carat loo, hideous union jacks and Hitler himself. What a fitting show for a country unravelling into madness.

art-down-the-pan-1

Update 16/09/2019

The Art Newspaper have updated their report of the story with photos showing the damage caused by the theft.

‘I wish it was a prank’: Maurizio Cattelan on the surreal theft of his golden toilet
The burglars caused “significant damage and flooding” after removing the toilet, which was plumbed in, at around 4.50am this morning. A 66-year-old man has been arrested in connection with the incident. Thames Valley Police say that a group of offenders used two vehicles during the theft. Commentators on social media fear however that the work may be melted down.

art-down-the-pan-3

art-down-the-pan-4

A new ‘modern’ art

I’m trying to resist signposting to simply everything on Colossal, as it’s all amazing, but I thought these recent posts work well together — paintings, but not as we know them.

Glitched paintings by Olan Ventura give a contemporary twist to 17th Century still lifes
Philippino artist Olan Ventura creates lavish acrylic paintings in the tradition of 17th century Dutch still lifes. Replicating the smallest details of iconic works such as Jan Davidsz de Heem’s Vase of Flowers (c. 1660), Ventura veers off course with striking glitches and drips that shoot off the canvas edges, seeming to pull grapes, lobsters, and roses from the past into the present.

new-modern-art-4

new-modern-art-5

Landscapes by Jason Anderson blend precise pixelation and hazy abstraction
U.K.-based artist Jason Anderson creates abstract urban landscapes using pixelated patches of pastel-toned oil paint. Each work on linen has a single focal point of bright yellow usually representing the rising or setting sun, though in the painting above the illumination comes from an approach train. Anderson balances the natural and manmade by primarily featuring infrastructure—ships, marinas, trains, buildings—that appears small and distant within each pastel haze.

new-modern-art-3

new-modern-art-2

And whilst these images aren’t strictly paintings, they strike me as following that same ‘glitchy-made-real’ feel.

Photographs of animals and architecture are sliced and rearranged into bizarre collages by Lola Dupre
Spain and Scotland-based collage artist Lola Dupre (previously) continues to surprise and delight with her unusual composite images. Rather than incorporating unique individual collage elements that contrast with each other, Dupre works with repetition and duplication to build bizarrely proportioned pets, buildings, and human figures. By layering and off-setting shards of the same photo in a sort of visual syncopation, Dupre stretches and bends otherwise familiar subjects into surreal images.

new-modern-art

Curating at the cliff edge

It could be said that, in taking this project on, Caroline Lucas is taking a break from politics at exactly the wrong moment. But I think this refocussing of priorities, reminding us of what’s at stake, is vital right now.

Too much politics? UK Green party MP and anti-Brexit campaigner Caroline Lucas turns curator
Other paintings selected, by artists such as Victor Pasmore, point to the changes in landscape over the past century. “How can we take all of this for granted?” Lucas says. “What are these familiar scenes going to look like over the next 50 years, a period that will be critical at a time of accelerating climate emergency?”

She also hopes to include an image of Beachy Head chalk headlands in East Sussex by the Turner prizewinning photographer Wolfgang Tillmans. “At this critical moment, being on the edge sums it up. We are at the cliff edge metaphorically, from an environmental point of view and in terms of political change,” Lucas says. A number of contemporary posters from local environmental campaigns reflecting public concern, highlighting the need for action, may also be included.

Cut-up cameras

They may be on their way out, but film cameras are nevertheless remarkable machines. This project from Fabian Oefner shows them off in a whole new way.

Vintage cameras dissected with a saw and suspended in resin by Fabian Oefner
For his latest series titled “CutUp,” artist Fabian Oefner used a band saw to slice film and still cameras into pieces, revealing their beautiful and complex inner workings. The pieces were rearranged, reassembled, and suspended in resin in interesting configurations. Each new sculpture transforms the tools for making art into new works of art designed to be viewed from multiple angles.

cut-up-cameras-3

There are more images of these familiar yet previously unseen objects on his website.

CutUp – Studio Oefner
Oefner deliberately selected still and video cameras to slice apart. This is an allusion to his earlier photographic work, where the image made with the camera is the “art” and the camera itself is merely a tool. For this series, the tool is transformed into a piece of art. It is at the same time a deconstruction of the technology of image capturing, revealing the beauty underneath the surface of these objects.

cut-up-cameras-2

cut-up-cameras-1

And here’s how it’s done.

Fabian Oefner – CutUp
CutUp is a series of technical objects, that are sliced, rearranged and distorted into a new form. The objects are encapsulated in resin, captured in their current state forever.

Reminds me a little of Damien Hirst’s cows.

Everything is political, nothing is neutral

Remember last year I mentioned how the Design Museum’s exhibition on political graphic design had itself become political? Those kinds of debates are still ongoing. Should museums just be preserving cultural heritage, or using their collections to promote social justice and equality? (Is it not obviously the latter?)

Are art institutions becoming too ‘ideological’? A debate breaks out at the International Council of Museums Over Politics in the galleries
What is at stake at the Kyoto meeting on September 7 is more than a battle over terminology. It reflects a debate that has been taking place for the past four decades around whether museums can ever be ideologically neutral spaces. It also reflects a desire since at least the 1980s for museums to be meeting places where ideas can be discussed, turning the museum from a traditional “temple” to a more democratic “forum.” The debate has been given added urgency as institutions in the West face increasing pressure over their colonial-era collections, sources of funding, and historic under-representation of women’s history in particular.

Beautiful physics

Another great find from Brain Pickings, the French mathematician and journalist Amédée Guillemin and his 1868 physics textbook Les phénomènes de la physique.

How nature works, in stunning psychedelic illustrations of scientific processes and phenomena from a 19th-Century French physics textbook
In consonance with the pioneering 19th-century information designer Emma Willard’s conviction that knowledge is most readily received when “addressed to the eye,” Guillemin understood that the fundamental laws of nature appear too remote and slippery to the human mind. To make them comprehensible, he had to make their elegant abstract mathematics tangible and captivating for the eye.

He had to make physics beautiful.

beautiful-physics-2

beautiful-physics-3

beautiful-physics-4

beautiful-physics-5

I’d say he succeeded, wouldn’t you?

Collapsing time, increasing order

What do you get if you cross the patient fastidiousness of Pelle Cass with the diligent meticulousness of Ursus Wehrli? This guy.

Cy Kuckenbaker’s time collapse videos let you see daily life as you’ve never seen it before
His “time collapse” videos stemmed from a desire to get to know the city in which he lives with the same vigor he brought to bear as a Peace Corps volunteer in his 20s, exploring Iraq, Africa, and Eastern Europe.

This impulse might lead others to join a club, take a class, or check out restaurants in an unfamiliar neighborhood.

For Kuckenbaker, it means setting up his camera for a fixed shot, uncertain if his experiment will even work, then spending hours and hours in the editing room, removing the time between events without altering the speed of his subjects.

Midday Traffic Time Collapsed and Reorganized by Color: San Diego Study #3

A big hand

Remember Mario Irarrázabal? Well, he’s not the only one with big hands.

New Zealand’s giant hand sculpture is the stuff of nightmares
You’ve got to hand it to New Zealand artist Ronnie van Hout. His public sculpture Quasi is part self-portrait, part oversized Thing from The Addams Family, and completely terrifying. Perched atop City Gallery Wellington in the Kiwi capital, the 16-foot-tall hand-face statue looks like something out of Salvador Dalí’s nightmares.

It’s the strangest self-portrait I’ve seen in a while.

Ronnie van Hout: Quasi
His work explores the freak, the outsider, the reject. His public sculpture Quasi is a partial self-portrait. The giant hybrid face-hand is based on scans of the artist’s own body parts. It’s as if ‘the hand of the artist’ has developed a monstrous life of its own.

a-big-hand

Non-reflecting reflections

We’re continually fascinated by mirrors, the first selfies, regardless of what Borges might sayWired introduces us to the work of interactive artist Daniel Rozin and shows us a few of his mechanical marvels.

This artist makes kinetic ‘mirrors’ that echo your movements
The interactive element is crucial, according to Rozin. “My pieces are very boring when there’s not a person in front of them,” he explains. “But the minute a person stands in front, it takes your image. I try to think that maybe it takes more than your image, that maybe it’s capturing something about your soul and displaying it back to you.”

How this guy makes amazing mechanical mirrors
Daniel Rozin, Artist and Professor, Interactive Telecommunications Program, NYU, makes mechanical “mirrors” out of uncommon objects that mimic the viewer’s movements and form.

Daniel Rozin, “PomPom Mirror,” 2015

As well as creating mirrors from fur and hundreds of stuffed toys, what else could you use? Mud?

Interactive sculptures mirror visitors’ movements in shimmering fabrics and cracked clay
In his recent piece Cracked Mud (2019), a mound of clay pieces undulate and upturn in response to visitors’ movements below a low-hanging orb. The suspended light mimics the sun, hovering over the manipulated and cracked earth below. Another piece, Fabric Mirror (2019), uses a digital camera and 400 motors to capture the movements of those who walk past, imitating their gestures in twisting gold and red fabric. Both works allude to how the sun interacts with our bodies and the earth, the former representing a barren future, while the later explores our reflection bathed in shimmering gold.

The global design collection Universal Everything take a similar but more high-tech approach here, with this installation that greeted visitors to The Barbican’s recent AI: More Than Human exhibition.

Futuristic shapes mirror human movement in a responsive animation by Universal Everything
Future You presents a non-human animated figure that wiggles, shifts, and bends in tandem with the user, presenting up to 47,000 possible variations in appearance. The animation also evolves alongside the user, becoming more agile as it learns movements specific to the visitor’s body.

Future You installation at AI: More Than Human, Barbican, London

Another mysterious Da Vinci

Is it a real Da Vinci? And who really owns it? Not questions about the Salvator Mundi, this time.

Family claims quarter share of disputed Isleworth Mona Lisa
The attribution of a painting known as the Isleworth Mona Lisa has been a matter of dispute for more than a century. Its owners say it was an earlier portrait by Leonardo da Vinci of the same woman, Lisa Gherardini, whose likeness hangs in the Louvre. Other experts believe it is a later copy of the world’s most famous painting.

This week it has emerged that the painting’s ownership is also bitterly contested. Giovanni Battista Protti, a lawyer based in Padua, represents a family who he says owns 25% of the portrait. A civil court in Florence, where the painting has been on show for the past six weeks, has now set a hearing for the ownership dispute for 9 September.

Falling short

I think I need to make a bigger effort to find more positive stories. Everything I read convinces me more and more that we’re a planet of idiots.

Scarecrow’ statue of Melania Trump unveiled in Slovenia to mixed reviews
“I can understand why people might think that this falls short as a description of her physical appearance,” Downey told AFP, but insisted that he found the end result “absolutely beautiful”.

intellectually-challenged-2

If he’s saying this isn’t a good description of her ‘physical’ appearance, does he mean he was trying to represent her — what? Intellect?

Has humanity reached ‘peak intelligence’?
Whatever the cause of the Flynn effect, there is evidence that we may have already reached the end of this era – with the rise in IQs stalling and even reversing. If you look at Finland, Norway and Denmark, for instance, the turning point appears to have occurred in the mid-90s, after which average IQs dropped by around 0.2 points a year. That would amount to a seven-point difference between generations.

Don’t sweat the details

Two artists, one approach.

Palette knife smudges and heavy brushstrokes form colorful abstract portraits by Joseph Lee
Lee began painting as a way to channel his creativity after a failed acting audition. “After working on a long project, I needed to protect my energy and be selfish with my time,” he told Shape/Shift Report. “I don’t have any formal artistic training and coming from a theater background, human behavior and emotions were the closest references I had to paint.” Describing his process as “a bit of a blur,” Lee says that he shuts off mentally and fully engages with the work. No two days are the same, and that’s the way he prefers it. “I am not conscious of what I am doing much of this time,” he explained.

dont-sweat-the-details-1

Thick brushstrokes form plump songbirds in oil paintings by Angela Moulton
Chickadees, barn swallows, and goldcrest kinglets emerge from impasto oil paintings by Angela Moulton. The artist works in the aesthetic space between realistic and stylized, using natural tones that are slightly keyed up, and following the body and beak shapes of each bird while giving them just a bit of extra plumpness. Thick brush strokes form the birds’ bodies in just a couple of deft swipes.

dont-sweat-the-details-2

Good night Japan

Tokyo is such an evocative place, futuristic yet grounded. No wonder it attracts so many visual artists.

Davide Sasso’s seductive “video game inspired” photographs of a neon-lit Tokyo at night
Inspired by his favourite films – Blade Runner, Akira and Enter the Void – as well as video games like Final Fantasy VII and Snatcher, these photographs are seductive, nostalgic yet manage to capture the modern vibrancy of the world’s largest city.

good-night-japan-2

good-night-japan-1

Here’s another photographer with a similar idea.

Night photography of urban Japan
Photographer Jun Yamamoto (a.k.a. jungraphy) takes these subdued (but somehow also vibrant) photos of Japanese cities at night.

good-night-japan

So long everybody

Hell is other people? No problem.

This camera app uses AI to erase people from your photographs
Bye Bye Camera is an iOS app built for the “post-human world,” says Damjanski, a mononymous artist based in New York City who helped create the software. Why post-human? Because it uses AI to remove people from images and paint over their absence. “One joke we always make about it is: ‘finally, you can take a selfie without yourself.’”

bye-bye-3

Bye Bye Camera – an app for the post-human era
According to Damjanski: The app takes out the vanity of any selfie and also the person. I consider Bye Bye Camera an app for the post-human era. It’s a gentle nod to a future where complex programs replace human labor and some would argue the human race. It’s interesting to ask what is a human from an Ai (yes, the small “i” is intended) perspective? In this case, a collection of pixels that identify a person based on previously labeled data. But who labels this data that defines a person immaterially? So many questions for such an innocent little camera app. […]

A lot of friends asked us if we can implement the feature to choose which person to take out. But for us, this app is not an utility app in a classical sense that solves a problem. It’s an artistic tool and ultimately a piece of software art.

But, as that Artnome article explains, he’s by no means the first to do this…

bye-bye-5

Meanwhile, Italian sculptor Arcangelo Sassolino (is he a sculptor? What’s the reverse of sculpture?) is creating another disappearance.

Dust to Dust: Arcangelo Sassolino’s literal and conceptual erasure of the classical aesthetic
In Arcangelo Sassolino’s ‘Damnatio Memoriae’, a custom-made machine grinds a white marble torso to dust; dematerializing classicism and all that it revered over the course of a four month exhibition period at Galerie Rolando Anselmi in Berlin.

bye-bye-1

In this conceptual and literal erasure of the classical aesthetic, Sassolino questions the value of the narrative proposed by the Western canon and asks if we can free ourselves from the rules of the past. While the statue is changed by the process of grinding, it does not disappear—becoming instead fine dust that spreads through the exhibition space like mist. This new form allows the sculpture, and thus classicism, to invisibly permeate the exhibition space. As it settles on the walls and floors of Galerie Rolando Anselmi, and on those who visit the show, the complex reality of extracting oneself from the restrictive idealism of classicism becomes abundantly clear.

bye-bye-2

Speaking of classically proportioned behinds.

New art project seeks to reveal the “real size” of modern life’s most famous behind
“The wait is finally over,” we’re told. “Hundreds, potentially thousands of images of the world’s most famous body part have been analysed and carefully measured. Interviews have been read through and words evaluated. Everyone has always known that it’s big, but exactly how big is it?”

Ida-Simon is, of course, talking about Kim Kardashian’s behind. No mere attempt at digital titillation, the pair describes the project, simply titled The Bum as “a commentary on the time we live in.”

bye-bye-4

Looking through Cindy Sherman’s Rear Window

News of an upcoming exhibition of Cindy Sherman’s photography at the National Portrait Gallery, London, from the end of June to mid September. This is from the British Journal of Photography last year.

Huge Cindy Sherman retrospective goes on show at NPG next year
Titled Cindy Sherman, the exhibition will feature around 180 works, including the seminal series Untitled Film Stills. Shot from 1977-1980 in New York, the 70-strong series cemented both her reputation and her approach – manipulating her own appearance to explore the complex relationship between facade and reality.

Also on show will be all five of Sherman’s Cover Girl series, made in 1976 when she was a student, as well as more recent work such as Clowns and Society Portraits, plus material from her studio that gives an insight into her working process.

cindy-shermans-rear-window-1

Interestingly, as The Art Newspaper explains, this is all Hitchcock’s doing.

Cindy Sherman gets first UK retrospective at the National Portrait Gallery
The photographer Cindy Sherman grew up in New York’s Long Island in the 1950s. She was a self-confessed “child TV addict”. Her parents would leave her at home to go to parties, and she would watch the same films on repeat. Her favourite childhood film, Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, is “her blueprint,” the curator Paul Moorhouse says ahead of Sherman’s first retrospective in the UK, at London’s National Portrait Gallery. “That’s how I understand her work,” Moorhouse adds.

Sherman would repeatedly watch the wheelchair-bound Jimmy Stewart as he in turn obsessively observes his neighbours, attempting to fathom their lives via fragmentary visual glimpses. In adulthood, Sherman would quote Grace Kelly’s instruction to Stewart: “Tell me everything you saw—and what you think it means.”

“Sherman’s art poses the very same challenge,” Moorhouse says. “She invites us to see her and then work out what she means. She is pure appearance.”

She began in the 70s, but her work is still vital today.

Sherman succeeded in “expanding the definition” of portraiture by actively “presenting a false image”, Moorhouse says. And that makes her “almost uniquely current”.

“There’s a sacrosanct notion, a holy cow, in art history: that we can read a person’s character by looking at their face,” Moorhouse says. “We’re always looking at other people and trying to work out who they are. But the truth is we can never really tell. You can only interrogate their appearance.”

Understanding and exploring that tension lies at the heart of Sherman’s art, Moorhouse says. And this tension is ever more pressing when seen through the prism of social media and projected identity.

“No other artist interrogates the illusions presented by modern culture in such a penetrating way,” Moorhouse says. “Advertising, fake news, social media, even pornography—no other artist scrutinises so tellingly the façades that people adopt or our struggle to make sense of what’s presented to us via our cultural outposts.”

cindy-shermans-rear-window-2

Someone’s death makes someone rich

Can’t help but think this shouldn’t have gone on sale.

Pistol that Van Gogh ‘used to shoot himself’ sells for £115,000 at Paris auction
An anonymous phone bidder took home the Lefaucheux revolver, its casing heavily rusted and the inlay of the curved handle missing, for more than double the highest estimates made by experts at auction house Drouot.

“It is a very emblematic piece,” said auctioneer Gregoire Veyres. “The fact that it’s a gun, it’s an object of death. And if van Gogh is van Gogh, it’s because of his suicide and this gun is part of it.”

Van Gogh’s gun, ‘most famous weapon in art history’, sells for €162,500
The auctioned Lefaucheux pinfire revolver is almost certainly the weapon used, although this cannot be conclusively proved. The type of weapon, its calibre, its severely corroded state and the location and circumstances of the find strongly suggest it is the gun. In the evening of 27 July 1890 Van Gogh suffered a gunshot wound while in a wheatfield and he then staggered back to the inn, dying two days later.

Art in the age of Netflix

The Dalí Museum isn’t the only one to use new technologies to draw in the crowds.

The Cleveland Museum studied how to best engage visitors in the age of Netflix. Here’s what they found
The Cleveland Museum of Art’s initiative, an interactive three-room experience (and app) called the ARTLENS Gallery, is one of the more comprehensive projects in the museum-tech sphere. It offers the opportunity for visitors to virtually explore artworks up close, create their own digital compositions, and learn about the museum’s collection by taking pictures with their phones.

To pre-empt any charges of gimmickry, perhaps, the museum conducted a two-year study on digital technology and visitor engagement.

Perhaps the most interesting figure had to do with millennials, an elusive demographic whose attention—and money—has long been coveted by institutions.

Millennials were 15 percent more likely to visit the digital galleries than older adults (44 percent compared to 29 percent, respectively) and 88 percent said that the digital component of their visits made them appreciate the value of an art museum.

“We’re not competing with other museums. We’re competing with Netflix,” says Jane Alexander, the museum’s chief digital officer. “You can be six years or 80 years old, you can have an art history degree or not—we want people to realize there’s something here for everyone.”

Accidentally empowering museum audiences

I’ve always believed that the central tenet of interactive art, borrowed from Quantum Theory, is that the act of observing affects that being observed. Perhaps we could see these two recent news stories as examples of that.

Safe sealed for 40 years until museum visitor spins the dial
“I said, ‘That’s quite the time capsule.’ I said, ‘I’m going to try this now for a laugh.'”

He leaned his ear close to the lock, began cranking the lock and listened intently for the telltale click, click, click.

“I put in 20-40-60, three times right, three times left, one time right. Tried it, it’s like, oh my God.”

The door creaked open. The room filled with a cloud of dust and a round of applause.

“When it opens, total surprise and amazement, right? I have a little bit of luck but hopefully I didn’t use it all up on this one.”

Solved: A case of mistaken identity in a Madrid art museum
Pastor, who is 39 years old and currently living in Luxembourg, was so sure he was looking at Rodin that he thought he had misread the caption. While still in the museum, he began googling Leopold—who is remembered primarily for presiding over a genocide in the Belgian Congo. While the two men clearly shared a resemblance, Pastor couldn’t shake the feeling that this was a case of mistaken identity, and he resolved to get to the bottom of it.

Charting frustration

An interview with US artist, Christine Sun Kim.

An artist who channels her anger into pie charts
A series of her large-format charcoal drawings, which explore navigating the hearing world as a deaf person, are now on view at the 79th Whitney Biennial in New York. The six works pair depictions of varying mathematical angles with correlative, rage-inducing encounters that are both broadly applicable — “being given a Braille menu at a restaurant” or “offered a wheelchair at an airport” — and painfully specific to her experience — “curators who think it’s fair to split my fee with interpreters.”

charting-frustration-1

Channeling her experiences into images of geometric angles, musical notes and meme-like pie charts, Kim playfully combines different sign systems to create what she calls a “common language that all people can connect to.”