Thanks to Sam Sweet and Steve HadleySeptember 29th, 2014
Cybill Shepherd/Phone Sex
1992, Dye bleach print on foamcore, 63 × 17”
Opens October 3, 2014September 29th, 2014
Thanks to John RubeliSeptember 27th, 2014
NY Times Published: Swptember 25, 2014
By: Paul Krugman
Liberals talk about circumstances; conservatives talk about character.
This intellectual divide is most obvious when the subject is the persistence of poverty in a wealthy nation. Liberals focus on the stagnation of real wages and the disappearance of jobs offering middle-class incomes, as well as the constant insecurity that comes with not having reliable jobs or assets. For conservatives, however, it’s all about not trying hard enough. The House speaker, John Boehner, says that people have gotten the idea that they “really don’t have to work.” Mitt Romney chides lower-income Americans as being unwilling to “take personal responsibility.” Even as he declares that he really does care about the poor, Representative Paul Ryan attributes persistent poverty to lack of “productive habits.”
Let us, however, be fair: some conservatives are willing to censure the rich, too. Running through much recent conservative writing is the theme that America’s elite has also fallen down on the job, that it has lost the seriousness and restraint of an earlier era. Peggy Noonan writes about our “decadent elites,” who make jokes about how they are profiting at the expense of the little people. Charles Murray, whose book “Coming Apart” is mainly about the alleged decay of values among the white working class, also denounces the “unseemliness” of the very rich, with their lavish lifestyles and gigantic houses.
But has there really been an explosion of elite ostentation? And, if there has, does it reflect moral decline, or a change in circumstances?
I’ve just reread a remarkable article titled “How top executives live,” originally published in Fortune in 1955 and reprinted a couple of years ago. It’s a portrait of America’s business elite two generations ago, and it turns out that the lives of an earlier generation’s elite were, indeed, far more restrained, more seemly if you like, than those of today’s Masters of the Universe.
“The executive’s home today,” the article tells us, “is likely to be unpretentious and relatively small — perhaps seven rooms and two and a half baths.” The top executive owns two cars and “gets along with one or two servants.” Life is restrained in other ways, too: “Extramarital relations in the top American business world are not important enough to discuss.” Actually, I’m sure there was plenty of hanky-panky, but people didn’t flaunt it. The elite of 1955 at least pretended to set a good example of responsible behavior.
But before you lament the decline in standards, there’s something you should know: In celebrating America’s sober, modest business elite, Fortune described this sobriety and modesty as something new. It contrasted the modest houses and motorboats of 1955 with the mansions and yachts of an earlier generation. And why had the elite moved away from the ostentation of the past? Because it could no longer afford to live that way. The large yacht, Fortune tells us, “has foundered in the sea of progressive taxation.”
But that sea has since receded. Giant yachts and enormous houses have made a comeback. In fact, in places like Greenwich, Conn., some of the “outsize mansions” Fortune described as relics of the past have been replaced with even bigger mansions.
And there’s no mystery about what happened to the good-old days of elite restraint. Just follow the money. Extreme income inequality and low taxes at the top are back. For example, in 1955 the 400 highest-earning Americans paid more than half their incomes in federal taxes, but these days that figure is less than a fifth. And the return of lightly taxed great wealth has, inevitably, brought a return to Gilded Age ostentation.
Is there any chance that moral exhortations, appeals to set a better example, might induce the wealthy to stop showing off so much? No.
It’s not just that people who can afford to live large tend to do just that. As Thorstein Veblen told us long ago, in a highly unequal society the wealthy feel obliged to engage in “conspicuous consumption,” spending in highly visible ways to demonstrate their wealth. And modern social science confirms his insight. For example, researchers at the Federal Reserve have shown that people living in highly unequal neighborhoods are more likely to buy luxury cars than those living in more homogeneous settings. Pretty clearly, high inequality brings a perceived need to spend money in ways that signal status.
The point is that while chiding the rich for their vulgarity may not be as offensive as lecturing the poor on their moral failings, it’s just as futile. Human nature being what it is, it’s silly to expect humility from a highly privileged elite. So if you think our society needs more humility, you should support policies that would reduce the elite’s privileges.September 27th, 2014
Karl Wirsum, Show Girl I, 1969
‘What Nerve!’ at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum
By KEN JOHNSON
NY Times Published: SEPT. 25, 2014
In 1962 the film critic Manny Farber published the provocative essay “White Elephant Art and Termite Art,” in which he distinguished two types of artists: the White Elephant artist, who tries to create masterpieces equal to the greatest artworks of the past, and the Termite, who engages in “a kind of squandering-beaverish endeavor” that “goes always forward, eating its own boundaries and, likely as not, leaves nothing in its path other than signs of eager, industrious, unkempt activity.”
While White Elephant artists like Richard Serra, Brice Marden, Jeff Koons and a few other usually male contemporary masters still are most highly valued by the establishment, the art world’s Termite infestation has grown exponentially. They’re everywhere, male and female, busily burrowing in a zillion directions. They’re painting, drawing, doodling, whittling, tinkering and making comic books, zines, animated videos and Internet whatsits — all, it seems, with no objective other than to just keep doing whatever they’re doing.
Where did they come from? How did this happen? The history of White Elephant art is well known, that of Termite art much less so, which isn’t surprising given its furtive, centerless nature. So it’s gratifying to see a rousing exhibition at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum that blocks out a significant part of what such a history would entail. “What Nerve! Alternative Figures in American Art, 1960 to the Present” presents more than 180 paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs and videos by 29 artists whom Mr. Farber probably would recognize as Termites.
The show was organized by Dan Nadel, an independent curator, co-editor of The Comics Journal and author of books about comic-book history, in consultation with Judith Tannenbaum, the museum’s recently retired curator of contemporary art. In his introduction to the exhibition’s invaluably informative catalog, Mr. Nadel doesn’t refer to Farber’s zoological terminology, but he posits a similar set of oppositions. The show, he writes, “proposes an alternate history of figurative painting, sculpture and vernacular image-making that has been largely overlooked and undervalued relative to the canon of Modernist abstraction and Conceptual art.”
Specifically, the exhibition focuses on four groups of artists associated with as many different geographical regions: the six-artist group calling itself the Hairy Who, which exhibited in Chicago from 1966 to ’69; nine artists associated with the San Francisco-born trend known as Funk; the four art- and zine-producing members of the noise band Destroy All Monsters, which disturbed the peace in Ann Arbor, Mich., from 1973 to ’77; and Forcefield, a four-artist collective that made music, videos, sculptures, installations and colorful, knitted costumes in Fort Thunder, a former warehouse in Providence, R.I., from 1996 to 2003.
Many artists in “What Nerve!” have had nationally and, in some cases, internationally visible careers: the Hairy Who’s Jim Nutt, Gladys Nilsson and Karl Wirsum; from Funk, the ceramicists Ken Price and Robert Arneson and the painters William T. Wiley and Peter Saul (represented here by a wacky 1966 sculpture of a man in an electric chair, one of the few 3-D works he made); and Mike Kelley and Jim Shaw of Destroy All Monsters. Forcefield (the Rhode Island school alumni Mat Brinkman, Jim Drain, Leif Goldberg and Ara Peterson) was exceptional in that it achieved national recognition during its own lifetime when the group was in the 2002 Whitney Biennial.
The works in the exhibition, however, are from the times when the groups were active. (In the case of Funk, for which no self-selected group existed, Mr. Nadel picked pieces that were included in a 1967 show at the University of California, Berkeley, called “Funk,” which was organized by the curator Peter Selz.) This focus on early works catches the artists when they were young, feeding off the creative energies of their comrades and responding most nakedly to their historical times. It gives the show an exciting spirit of discovery that tends to fade when artists mature and peel off into their more individualized, professional careers.
Among the most poignant works are a set of finely made drawings of funny monsters on paperback-book-size cards by Mr. Kelley. These reveal his debt to Mad magazine, underground comics, the cartoonist Ed Roth (a.k.a. Big Daddy) and Mr. Nutt, whose bizarre portraits of imaginary characters painted on the reverse sides of plexiglass panels are also highlights. Mr. Kelley’s drawings show an intimate side of him that almost completely disappeared when he went on to his immensely influential career as a producer of conceptually and materially extravagant multimedia spectacles.
Mr. Nadel has added to the show works by six artists who didn’t belong to any particular group but who influenced or were influenced by the group-affiliated artists. These include a suite of mordantly comical prints called “See America First” by the woodworking genius H. C. Westermann, who was revered by almost everyone else in the exhibition. There are elegantly erotic paintings by the Chicago Imagist Christina Ramberg and ribald, brusquely painted cartoon pictures by William Copley. The painter Elizabeth Murray, who came out of Chicago, is represented by two of her exuberant, Cubist spins on domestic chaos. A series of semiabstract paintings on paper by Gary Panter — the underground comic artist and designer for the TV show “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” — pertain to the extinction of the American buffalo. Most unexpected, there are Cubist-style watercolors portraying heroic imaginary characters and a complicated, panoramic picture of some kind of futuristic machinery by Jack Kirby, the comic-book artist who, along with the writer and editor Stan Lee, created the Fantastic Four, the X-Men and other popular superheroes.
Many more artists might have been included. R. Crumb has certainly been an inspiration for countless Termite-types. The Chicago painters Roger Brown and Ed Paschke would fit right in. San Francisco’s Mission School of the 1990s, which included Chris Johanson, Margaret Kilgallen and Barry McGee, would be another group worth adding, as would the collective around the video makers Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch. This is not to quibble, but to observe how suggestively the exhibition samples an extraordinarily lively history that’s been hiding in plain sight for half a century.
“What Nerve! Alternative Figures in American Art, 1960 to the Present” continues through Jan. 4 at the Rhode Island School of Design MuseumSeptember 26th, 2014
Opening reception: Thursday October 2, 2014. 6-8pm
Through October 19, 2014September 26th, 2014
by Michael Duncan
THE REAL ARTISTIC INNOVATORS OF THE WEST COAST are only beginning to be recognized. Artist, performer, poet, and occult practitioner, Cameron (Marjorie Cameron Parsons Kimmel) (1922-1995) is one of the most fascinating underground figures of mid century California. A maverick follower of the esoteric mysticism of Aleister Crowley and his philosophical group, the O.T.O. (Ordo Ternpli Orientis), Cameron was also an accomplished painter and draftsman and mentor to younger artists and poets such as Wallace Berman, George Herms, David Meltzer, and Aya.
Cameron’s works demonstrate refined draughtsmanship, formal command, and fantastic imaginative powers. Her sensitive drawings and paintings delineate a magical realm, of metamorphosis and protean transformation. Featuring symbolic creatures in imaginary landscapes, her delicately articulated artworks rival those by fellow surrealists such as Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varo, Ithell Colquhoun, and Leonor Fini. They also seem fascinatingly prescient of fantastical works by contemporary artists such as Kiki Smith, Amy Cutler, Karen Kilimmck, and Hernan Bas.
Cameron’s most notorious role was as wife and spiritual avatar of scientist and mystical thinker, Jack Parsons (1914-1952), one of the founders of Cal Tech’s Jet Propulsion Lab and, until his violent death, a star pupil of Crowley and the O.T.O. But the Parsons years proved to be only part of Cameron’s story. A powerful personality, she led an exceptional and troubled life fraught with hardship and poverty.
Born in 1922 in Belle Plaine, Iowa, she was a cantankerous, rebellious child whose mystical, artistic nature went against the grain of her railroad worker father, church-going family, and small town neighbors. Graduating from Davenport High School in 1940 at the height of World War II, she enlisted in the Navy and was assigned the tasks of drawing maps and working in a photographic unit, jobs that she later regretted as her “karmic connection” to wartime deaths. Despite her success in these jobs, when, she learned that her brother, an Air Force tail gunner, had been injured in action, she fled to Iowa to see him. She was declared AWOL, court-martialed and confined to the base for the remainder of the war.
Upon her honorable discharge from the service in 1945, she moved to Pasadena where her parents were then living and where she became a fashion illustrator and perhaps attended art classes. Disillusioned with mainstream culture, she became an enthusiastic supporter of jazz, frequenting the black clubs on Central Avenue. Her life was forever changed, however, when an old Navy friend took her to the home of Jack Parsons. Instantly struck by Cameron’s dramatic red hair and intriguing looks, Parsons was convinced she was his “Scarlet Woman,” the incarnation of what he had been searching for in his “sexual magick” experiments.
Indoctrinating her in mystical lore, Parsons dubbed her “Candida” and the couple married in 1946. Cameron wavered in her devotion to the occult with sojourns to a Switzerland convent and, in 1948, to Mexico where she went to pursue her art. She settled for a time in San Miguel de Allende where she met artists Leonora Carrington and David Siquieros and the Los Angeles performers Renate Druks and Paul Matheson. During her Mexico period, Parsons sent Cameron a remarkable series of letters instructing her further in magical practices. In 1950 she returned to her husband who was working at that time in explosives research for Hughes Aircraft.
Parsons’ occult practices led to extended investigations by the F.B.I, and the termination of his government defense work. In 1952, the couple’s plans to leave the country for Mexico were tragically ended when Parsons was killed in a freakish explosion in his Pasadena garage laboratory caused by his dropping a container of fulminate of mercury. (His death has caused much speculation by occult conspiracy theorists.) After Parsons’ death, Cameron retreated to the desert of Beaumont, California for a kind of “vision quest,” living for a while in an abandoned canyon Without water or power. Returning to Los Angeles, she reintegrated herself with society by painting a series of works called the Parchments. She gave birth to a daughter, Crystal, in 1955.
Cameron’s romantic esthetic and commanding persona prompted filmmaker Curtis Harrington to commemorate her output as a visual artist in The Wormwood Star (1955), a lyrical short film recording the art and atmosphere of her candlelit studio. Most of the beautiful paintings and drawings documented in this film were later lost or destroyed. Paul Mathison and the actor Samson DeBrier introduced Cameron to film maker Kenneth Anger, who cast her in a leading role opposite Anais Nin in his film Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1956), a fanciful depiction of an occult initiation rite as envisioned by Aleister Crowley. With fiery red hair and heavy eye makeup, Cameron played the Scarlet Woman wrapped in a Spanish shawl once belonging to Rudolph Valentine. Her striking presence steals the show from the rival Nin. Cameron enjoyed a tempestuous relationship with Anger for the rest of her life. She also played a key role alongside Dennis Hopper in Harrington’s lyrical feature film Night Tide (1961). In 1969 she appeared in an unreleased film filmed in Santa Fe, Thumbsuck, by artist John Chamberlain.
In the early 1950s, Cameron met the fellow LA artist and jazz enthusiast Wallace Berman who was fascinated by her artwork, poetry, and mystical aura. She later recounted that she was impressed by the fact that, shortly after they were introduced, he gave her a copy of Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf. Although steering clear of her occult activities, Berman was intrigued with her persona and, as she put it in her 1986 interview with art historian Sandra Starr, “He seemed to be interested in somehow promoting me.” In 1955 Berman used his photograph of Cameron as the cover of his literary and artistic journal Semina 1 and included in the issue a reproduction of a drawing she had made the previous year during her first experience with peyote, which she had taken after hearing a lecture by Aldous Huxley. The reproduced drawing became renowned when the Los Angeles Police Department cited it as “lewd” and shut down Barman’s 1957 exhibition of drawings, assemblages, and sculptures at Ferus Gallery. After this experience, Cameron, like Berman, refused to show her art in commercial galleries. She remained, however, a crucial figure in the Berman circle.
For the rest of her life, she devoted herself to writings and. artworks that explored the ideas of mystical transcendence she had learned from Parsons. In 1964 she published Black Pilgrimage (Baza Press), a volume of dark mystical poems and. ink drawings. A prose excerpt published in Sentinel Two is a kind of exhortation to her dead husband, invoking a spiritual power: “Rise up! I have surpassed the tomb you dreamed for me.” Addressed to Myrha (Smyrna) — who, in Greek mythology, developed an incestuous passion for her father and gave birth to Adonis-Cameron’s poem in Semina 8, titled June 2, 1962, offers no respite from the “dying world” except through the “grace and joy and sorrow” of a child. The kohl- eyed, wild-haired sphinx in the ink drawing accompanying the poem seems stolidly placed, incapable of providing solace.
Despite the grim fatality of much of her writings, Cameron’s artworks portray a fanciful, even wistful lyricism. Her many tender drawings of her daughter present Crystal as an extenuated ephebe or sprite, seemingly the embodiment of a mythological figure. In the early 1960s she corresponded with Joseph Campbell, citing her interest in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, as well as in the fiction of Hermann Hesse and Isak Dinesin. Consumed by myth, and the idea of protean growth, Cameron depicted the process of metamorphosis and transformation in hundreds of line drawings where ominous figures and landscapes emerge from uniformly striated, passionately articulated ink marks. Other gouache drawings and paintings depict mythic figures of her own creation engaged, in ritualistic, symbolic acts.
With a brief sojourn in Santa Fe in the late 1960s, Cameron spent her last decades in a small house in West Hollywood. In 1989 Cameron co-edited with O.T.O. leader Hymenaeus Beta an edition of the occult writings of Parsons. Also that year, Cameron’s artworks were surveyed in an exhibition at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery curated by Edward Leffingwell. Titled The Pearl of Reprisal, that exhibition included water-color, ink, and casein drawings from the series Anatomy of Madness (1956) and Pluto Transiting the Twelfth House (1978-1986). Cameron died of cancer at the Veterans Hospital in Los Angeles in 1995. A selection of her work was included in the Whitney Museum of American Art exhibition, Beat Culture and the New America 1950-1965 and in the 2005-2007 traveling exhibition Semtnd Culture: Wallace Berman and His Circle, organized by the Santa Monica Museum of Art.September 25th, 2014
Julie Graves, left, of Albany, Calif., and Chris Adams, second from left, of Berkeley, hold up signs Feb. 10 in support of a beach access bill that Democratic state Sen. Jerry Hill introduced near Martin’s Beach in Half Moon Bay. (Eric Risberg / Associated Press)
By AMANDA COVARRUBIAS
LA Times Published: September 25, 2014
It was surfers versus a Silicon Valley tech billionaire, and on Wednesday, the surfers won — for now.
A San Mateo County judge ruled tentatively Wednesday that Vinod Khosla, a co-founder of Sun Microsystems, had wrongly denied public access to Martin’s Beach, which for decades was visited by thousands of locals who picnicked, surfed and fished in its protective cove.
Surfer Mike Wallace of El Granada walks past a gate on his way to Martin’s Beach in Half Moon Bay on March 12, 2013. (Michael Short / Special to the San Francisco Chronicle)
The case resonated with some people because it reflected fears that tech billionaires were buying up coastal properties with the intention of keeping others out.
Joe Cotchett, an attorney for the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation, which brought the suit, called Superior Court Judge Barbara Mallach’s decision “a huge victory for all of the people of California.”
“This is a battle of David versus Goliath,” Cotchett said, “between the people who want to use the beaches and the wealthy who want it for their own private purposes.”
The previous owners granted beachgoers their only way to the beach by land, via a dirt road, and charged a small fee for parking. But in 2010, two years after Khosla acquired the property, his manager locked the gate, painted over a sign that had beckoned from California Highway 1 and posted security guards to ward off trespassers.
Khosla did so despite being told by county planning officials, the Coastal Commission and a different San Mateo County Superior Court in 2009 that he needed to seek a coastal development permit if any of his actions were to change the “intensity of use” of the water or access to it.
Mallach ruled that by padlocking the gate, hiring security guards and altering signs without state permission, Khosla had wrongly denied public access to the beach, violating the California Coastal Act.
Mallach, however, did not impose about $20 million in fines that the nonprofit Surfrider Foundation had been seeking — a total based on the maximum of $15,000 a day dating to the October 2010 gate closure.
Regardless, Angela Howe, legal director for the Surfrider Foundation, said the judge’s order means Kholsa must immediately “cease preventing public access to the coast.”
But the case may not be over.
Dori Yob, a lawyer for Khosla, said in an email: “We are disappointed with the court’s decision and will consider our options for appealing the ruling.”September 25th, 2014
“Driftwood Village—Community,” Sea Ranch, CA. Experiments in Environment Workshop, July 6, 1968. Courtesy Lawrence Halprin Collection, The Architectural Archives, University of Pennsylvania
By ALEXANDRA LANGE
NY Times Published: SEPT. 22, 2014
In 1966, the landscape architect Lawrence Halprin and the dance pioneer Anna Halprin invited 40 young people to Northern California to participate in a roving summer workshop. Moving from San Francisco north to Sea Ranch, the modernist coastal development master-planned by Mr. Halprin, the architects, artists and dancers investigated the common ground between the couple’s two professions: the environment. They staged a happening in Union Square, took blindfolded walks, built a village of driftwood and dropped paper from trees. A new exhibition at the Graham Foundation in Chicago, “Experiments in Environment: The Halprin Workshops, 1966-1971,” explores the Halprins’ interdisciplinary creative process through photographs, films, drawings and the scores that gave the participants’ movement a shape and a purpose. Mr. Halprin died in 2009, but Ms. Halprin, 94, spoke about the workshops and her continuing dance practice earlier this month. (This interview has been edited and condensed.)
Q. Tell me about the dance deck at your house in Kentfield, Calif.
A. Larry designed the dance deck so I could do my work and be with my daughters as they were growing up. The space is very different than the regular studio and stage space. Instead of being a rectangle, it wanders in and around the trees. That had a tremendous impact on me. There was no proscenium arch, no enclosure. The dance deck was an eye-opener to taking theater to where people are rather than expecting people to come to you. It led to “City Dance,” which took place in Union Square, in department stores, with people in parks.
“City Dance” was the first piece you did with the workshop participants, right? How did you make it happen?
They were given the score that said where to go and what time to be there before they came to San Francisco. That was the first thing. In the afternoon they were wandering and moving in different areas of the city, and they met at Union Square at 3 p.m. They hadn’t seen each other before, but they were all to meet in Union Square and face west.
A score? What does that entail?
The score just tells you what activity to do. It doesn’t necessarily tell you how to do it. The space tells you how do it. We did put people in pairs so they wouldn’t be completely overwhelmed by arriving in a foreign city. We coupled a dancer with an architect. The first week of the workshop was in San Francisco, in my studio there at 321 Divisadero, then we went on a ferryboat to the dance deck, worked there for another week, then up to the Sea Ranch, where we worked for two weeks. At the end you couldn’t tell who was the architect and who was the dancer.
What was the point of the workshop activities?
The activities had to do with awareness. Usually in a city you are focused on where you are going. I am going to the theater: How do I park my car? How do I get to the theater? We were teaching people to really notice how people are responding in an environment. Larry’s work reflected that always. What’s the difference between a pathway that’s curved and one that is at right angles? He wanted to make something people could experience, not just use as a place to go through.
The Portland Open Space Sequence he designed definitely has that feeling of wandering and discovery.
I was invited to do something there, and I designed this score for one of his fountains. But I didn’t anticipate that they would go in the fountain. Within five minutes they were in the water.
You and your husband collaborated frequently. How do you think your work influenced his, and vice versa?
Larry and I were married 70 years. I guess I was about 18 when we met, and he was 22, so he definitely influenced me and I definitely influenced him. How to specify? I always say in my classes: “Ask yourself, ‘Where am I? Who am I with? What have we gathered here for? What is our intention?’ ” It is the same thing if you are designing a square or a park. When I rebelled against modern dance and started to do workshops — that name wasn’t used at that time — Larry became very intrigued that this could be for everybody.
Why did you rebel against modern dance?
I didn’t like it because it was autocratic. I thought anybody could create a dance. I started to teach people how the body actually works. I looked at the skeleton. I did human dissection. I did all these things to understand the nature of movement, not just my movement. The dance reflects their input, not just a choreographer coming in and teaching them steps.
That means the dance must be different every time.
During the time of Fluxus, I would get scores from Yoko Ono. One of hers was, “Release 100 butterflies.” Where am I going to get 100 butterflies? I took her score and modified it to, “Imagine at this site, at this time, releasing 100 butterflies.” And I would send her a score to do.
You are 94. Do you still dance every day?
I’m still doing what I have always done. In relation to Larry, each year since his death I have done a special event in his memory. I am going to Israel in a couple of months, connecting with peace organizations. I will do a walk with 100 women from different religious backgrounds on the Haas Promenade he designed in Jerusalem. I will be using dance as a way to create peace.
“Experiments in Environment: The Halprin Workshops, 1966-1971,” is on view through Dec. 13 at the Graham FoundationSeptember 23rd, 2014
Friday October 3, 2014. 5PMSeptember 23rd, 2014
Installation view, 2014
Through October 04, 2014September 22nd, 2014
Thanks to Jonathan MaghenSeptember 22nd, 2014
By JOHN SCHWARTZ
NY Times Published: SEPT. 21, 2014
John D. Rockefeller built a vast fortune on oil. Now his heirs are abandoning fossil fuels.
The family whose legendary wealth flowed from Standard Oil is planning to announce on Monday that its $860 million philanthropic organization, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, is joining the divestment movement that began a couple years ago on college campuses.
The announcement, timed to precede Tuesday’s opening of the United Nations climate change summit meeting in New York City, is part of a broader and accelerating initiative.
In recent years, 180 institutions — including philanthropies, religious organizations, pension funds and local governments — as well as hundreds of wealthy individual investors have pledged to sell assets tied to fossil fuel companies from their portfolios and to invest in cleaner alternatives. In all, the groups have pledged to divest assets worth more than $50 billion from portfolios, and the individuals more than $1 billion, according to Arabella Advisors, a firm that consults with philanthropists and investors to use their resources to achieve social goals.
The people who are selling shares of energy stocks are well aware that their actions are unlikely to have an immediate impact on the companies, given their enormous market capitalizations and cash flow.
Even so, some say they are taking action to align their assets with their environmental principles. Others want to shame companies that they believe are recklessly contributing to a warming planet. Still others say that the fight to limit climate change will lead to new regulations and disruptive new technologies that will make these companies an increasingly risky investment.
Ultimately, the activist investors say, their actions, like those of the anti-apartheid divestment fights of the 1980s, could help spur international debate, while the shift of investment funds to energy alternatives could lead to solutions to the carbon puzzle.
“This is a threshold moment,” said Ellen Dorsey, executive director of the Wallace Global Fund, which has coordinated the effort to recruit foundations to the cause. “This movement has gone from a small activist band quickly into the mainstream.”
Not everyone will divest completely or right away, Ms. Dorsey noted, and some are divesting just from specific sectors of the fossil fuel industry, such as coal.
“The key thing is that they are moving along toward a common destination,” she said.
Among the individual investors joining in the announcement on Monday is Mark Ruffalo, the actor. The news conference will include a videotaped message from Bishop Desmond Tutu, who said that because climate change has a disproportionate impact on the poor, it is “the human rights challenge of our time.”
Just how transparent the various funds and institutions will be about the progress of their asset sales is uncertain.
At the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, there is no equivocation but there is caution, said Stephen Heintz, its president. The fund has already eliminated investments involved in coal and tar sands entirely while increasing its investment in alternate energy sources.
Unwinding other investments in a complex portfolio from the broader realm of fossil fuels will take longer. “We’re moving soberly, but with real commitment,” he said.
Steven Rockefeller, a son of Nelson A. Rockefeller and a trustee of the fund, said that he foresees financial problems ahead for companies that have stockpiled more reserves than they can burn without contributing significantly to climate damage. “We see this as having both a moral and economic dimension,” he said.
Activism to divest from fossil fuel companies began on college campuses, but the record of success there has been mixed.
The university with the biggest endowment, Harvard, has declined to divest, despite pressure from many students and outside organizations.
Drew Gilpin Faust, Harvard’s president, has issued statements that she and her colleagues do not believe that divestment is “warranted or wise,” and argued that the school’s $32.7 billion endowment “is a resource, not an instrument to impel social or political change.”
Stanford recently announced it would divest its holdings in the coal industry; Yale University’s investment office asked its money managers to examine how its investments affect climate change and to look into avoiding companies that do not take sensible “steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” The announcement did not satisfy students pressing for divestment.
Pitzer College, however, is one of a number of schools that have promised more extensive efforts to remove fossil fuels from their endowments. Donald P. Gould, a trustee and chair of the Pitzer investment committee and president of Gould Asset Management, said that everyone involved in the decision knew that the direct and immediate effect on the companies would be minimal.
“I don’t think that anyone who favors divestment is arguing that the institutions’ sale of the fossil fuel company stock is going to have much impact, if any, on either the stocks or the companies themselves,” he said, since the market capitalizations of the companies is immense.
Even if the movement were to depress share prices, the energy companies, which make enormous profits from their products, do not need to go to capital markets to raise money, he noted. But in the long term, he said, “divestment seeks to work indirectly on these companies by changing the conversation about the climate.”
Pension funds have proved a harder sell. While Hesta Australia, a health care industry retirement fund worth $26 billion, announced last week that it would get out of coal, many others have not. PensionDanmark said in a statement that it has invested 7 percent of its $26 billion portfolio in renewable energy with plans to raise that percentage over time. “Divestment will itself not contribute to solving the challenges of global climate change, and we believe it is not a very wise way to try and solve the issue,” the company said.
Torben Moger Pedersen, the fund’s chief executive, added that if the returns from a traditional carbon-based power plant and a wind farm were equal, the fund would invest in the wind farm. But, he added, “We are not missionaries.”
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In an interview last week at the Rockefeller family’s longtime New York offices at 30 Rockefeller Center, Mr. Heintz, Mr. Rockefeller and Valerie Rockefeller Wayne, the chairwoman of the fund, spoke of the family’s longstanding commitment to use the fund to advance environmental issues.
The family has also engaged in shareholder activism with Exxon Mobil, the largest successor to Standard Oil. Members have met privately with the company over the years in efforts to get it to moderate its stance on issues pertaining to the environment and climate change. They acknowledged that they have not caused the company to greatly alter its course.
The Rockefellers have also tried to spur change through direct investment. In the 1980s, Mr. Rockefeller said, members of the family formed a $2 million fund to invest directly in renewable-energy alternatives. They were too early.
“The fund didn’t survive, which was a lesson,” he said. Nevertheless, he added, the failure of the fund was “a badge of honor.”
Ms. Wayne said the family’s commitment is intergenerational, and continuing. She said that her 8-year-old daughter lectures her on the destruction of orangutan habitat to create palm oil plantations.
“If I’m wearing lipstick, she won’t kiss me,” she said, “because there’s palm oil in it.”September 22nd, 2014
Thanks to Steve HadleySeptember 21st, 2014
Part, #12 1964
oil on chipboard panel
panel: 13 x 15 3/8 in. (33 x 39.1 cm)
ORGANICS AND CUT-UPS, 1963 – 1965
12 September 2014 – 18 October 2014September 20th, 2014
NY Times Published: SEPT. 18, 2014
By David Brooks
Somebody recently asked me what I would do if I had $500 million to give away. My first thought was that I’d become a moderate version of the Koch brothers. I’d pay for independent candidates to run against Democratic or Republican members of Congress who veered too far into their party’s fever swamps.
But then I realized that if I really had that money, I’d want to affect a smaller number of people in a more personal and profound way. The big, established charities are already fighting disease and poverty as best they can, so in search of new directions I thought, oddly, of friendship.
Ancient writers from Aristotle to Cicero to Montaigne described friendship as the pre-eminent human institution. You can go without marriage, or justice, or honor, but friendship is indispensable to life. Each friendship, they continued, has positive social effects. Lovers face each other, but friends stand side-by-side, facing the world — often working on its behalf. Aristotle suggested that friendship is the cornerstone of society. Montaigne thought that it spreads universal warmth.
These writers probably romanticized friendship. One senses that they didn’t know how to have real conversations with the women in their lives, so they poured their whole emotional lives into male friendships. But I do think they were right in pointing out that friendship is a personal relationship that has radiating social and political benefits.
In the first place, friendship helps people make better judgments. So much of deep friendship is thinking through problems together: what job to take; whom to marry. Friendship allows you to see your own life but with a second sympathetic self.
Second, friends usually bring out better versions of each other. People feel unguarded and fluid with their close friends. If you’re hanging around with a friend, smarter and funnier thoughts tend to come burbling out.
Finally, people behave better if they know their friends are observing. Friendship is based, in part, on common tastes and interests, but it is also based on mutual admiration and reciprocity. People tend to want to live up to their friends’ high regard. People don’t have close friendships in any hope of selfish gain, but simply for the pleasure itself of feeling known and respected.
It’s also true that friendship is not in great shape in America today. In 1985, people tended to have about three really close friends, according to the General Social Survey. By 2004, according to research done at Duke University and the University of Arizona, they were reporting they had only two close confidants. The number of people who say they have no close confidants at all has tripled over that time.
People seem to have a harder time building friendships across class lines. As society becomes more unequal and segmented, invitations come to people on the basis of their job status. Middle-aged people have particular problems nurturing friendships and building new ones. They are so busy with work and kids that friendship gets squeezed out.
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So, in the fantasy world in which I have $500 million, I’d try to set up places that would cultivate friendships. I know a lot of people who have been involved in fellowship programs. They made friends who ended up utterly transforming their lives. I’d try to take those sorts of networking programs and make them less career oriented and more profound.
To do that, you have to get people out of their normal hunting grounds where their guard is up. You also probably want to give them challenging activities to do together. Nothing inspires friendship like selflessness and cooperation in moments of difficulty. You also want to give them moments when they can share confidences, about big ideas and small worries.
So I envision a string of adult camps or retreat centers (my oldest friendships were formed at summer camp, so I think in those terms). Groups of 20 or 30 would be brought together from all social and demographic groups, and secluded for two weeks. They’d prepare and clean up all their meals together, and eating the meals would go on for a while. In the morning, they would read about and discuss big topics. In the afternoons, they’d play sports, take hikes and build something complicated together. At night, there’d be a bar and music.
You couldn’t build a close friendship in that time, but you could plant the seeds for one. As with good fellowship programs, alumni networks would grow spontaneously over time.
People these days are flocking to conferences, ideas festivals and cruises that are really about building friendships, even if they don’t admit it explicitly. The goal of these intensity retreats would be to spark bonds between disparate individuals who, in the outside world, would be completely unlikely to know each other. The benefits of that social bridging, while unplannable, would ripple out in ways long and far-reaching.September 20th, 2014
Curated by Joanna Kleinberg Romanow
This group exhibition features sixteen artists who engage in sewing, knitting, and weaving to create a wide-range of works that activate the expressive and conceptual potential of line and illuminate affinities between the mediums of textile and drawing. Multi-generational in scope, Thread Lines brings together those pioneers who—challenging entrenched modernist hierarchies—first unraveled the distinction between textile and art with a new wave of contemporary practitioners who have inherited and expanded upon their groundbreaking gestures.
List of Participating Artists: Mónica Bengoa (b. 1969, Santiago, Chile), Louise Bourgeois (b. 1911, Paris, France- d. 2010, New York, NY), Sheila Hicks (b. 1934, Hastings, NE), Ellen Lesperance (b. 1971, Minneapolis, MN), Kimsooja (b. 1957, Taegu, Korea), Beryl Korot (b. 1945, New York, NY), Maria Lai (b. 1919, Ulassai, Sardinia- d. 2013, Cardedu, Sardinia), Sam Moyer (b. 1983, Chicago, IL), William J. O’Brien (b. 1975, Eastlake, OH), Robert Otto Epstein (b. 1979, Pittsburgh, PA), Jessica Rankin (b. 1971, Sydney, Australia), Elaine Reichek (b. 1943, New York, NY), Drew Shiflett (b. 1951, Chicago, IL), Alan Shields (b. 1944, Herington, KS- d. 2005, Shelter Island, NY), Lenore Tawney (b. 1907, Lorain, OH- d. 2007, New York, NY), and Anne Wilson (b. 1949, Detroit, MI).
Opens September 19 through December 14, 2014September 19th, 2014
NY Times Published: SEPT. 18, 2014
By Paul Krugman
This just in: Saving the planet would be cheap; it might even be free. But will anyone believe the good news?
I’ve just been reading two new reports on the economics of fighting climate change: a big study by a blue-ribbon international group, the New Climate Economy Project, and a working paper from the International Monetary Fund. Both claim that strong measures to limit carbon emissions would have hardly any negative effect on economic growth, and might actually lead to faster growth. This may sound too good to be true, but it isn’t. These are serious, careful analyses.
But you know that such assessments will be met with claims that it’s impossible to break the link between economic growth and ever-rising emissions of greenhouse gases, a position I think of as “climate despair.” The most dangerous proponents of climate despair are on the anti-environmentalist right. But they receive aid and comfort from other groups, including some on the left, who have their own reasons for getting it wrong.
Where is the new optimism about climate change and growth coming from? It has long been clear that a well-thought-out strategy of emissions control, in particular one that puts a price on carbon via either an emissions tax or a cap-and-trade scheme, would cost much less than the usual suspects want you to think. But the economics of climate protection look even better now than they did a few years ago.
On one side, there has been dramatic progress in renewable energy technology, with the costs of solar power, in particular, plunging, down by half just since 2010. Renewables have their limitations — basically, the sun doesn’t always shine, and the wind doesn’t always blow — but if you think that an economy getting a lot of its power from wind farms and solar panels is a hippie fantasy, you’re the one out of touch with reality.
On the other side, it turns out that putting a price on carbon would have large “co-benefits” — positive effects over and above the reduction in climate risks — and that these benefits would come fairly quickly. The most important of these co-benefits, according to the I.M.F. paper, would involve public health: burning coal causes many respiratory ailments, which drive up medical costs and reduce productivity.
And thanks to these co-benefits, the paper argues, one argument often made against carbon pricing — that it’s not worth doing unless we can get a global agreement — is wrong. Even without an international agreement, there are ample reasons to take action against the climate threat.
But back to the main point: It’s easier to slash emissions than seemed possible even a few years ago, and reduced emissions would produce large benefits in the short-to-medium run. So saving the planet would be cheap and maybe even come free.
Enter the prophets of climate despair, who wave away all this analysis and declare that the only way to limit carbon emissions is to bring an end to economic growth.
You mostly hear this from people on the right, who normally say that free-market economies are endlessly flexible and creative. But when you propose putting a price on carbon, suddenly they insist that industry will be completely incapable of adapting to changed incentives. Why, it’s almost as if they’re looking for excuses to avoid confronting climate change, and, in particular, to avoid anything that hurts fossil-fuel interests, no matter how beneficial to everyone else.
But climate despair produces some odd bedfellows: Koch-fueled insistence that emission limits would kill economic growth is echoed by some who see this as an argument not against climate action, but against growth. You can find this attitude in the mostly European “degrowth” movement, or in American groups like the Post Carbon Institute; I’ve encountered claims that saving the planet requires an end to growth at left-leaning meetings on “rethinking economics.” To be fair, anti-growth environmentalism is a marginal position even on the left, but it’s widespread enough to call out nonetheless.
And you sometimes see hard scientists making arguments along the same lines, largely (I think) because they don’t understand what economic growth means. They think of it as a crude, physical thing, a matter simply of producing more stuff, and don’t take into account the many choices — about what to consume, about which technologies to use — that go into producing a dollar’s worth of G.D.P.
So here’s what you need to know: Climate despair is all wrong. The idea that economic growth and climate action are incompatible may sound hardheaded and realistic, but it’s actually a fuzzy-minded misconception. If we ever get past the special interests and ideology that have blocked action to save the planet, we’ll find that it’s cheaper and easier than almost anyone imagines.September 19th, 2014
Etude sur le, mouvement, 1959-1960,
Ink on paper, 34 7/8 x 25 x 1 inches
Through October 18, 2014September 18th, 2014
18 September—25 October 2014September 15th, 2014
Untitled (Orange Monochrome 02), 2014
signed, dated and titled verso
unique chromogenic print
60 x 48 inches
September 13 – October 25, 2014September 13th, 2014
By NICK BILTON
NY Times Published: SEPT. 10, 2014
When Steve Jobs was running Apple, he was known to call journalists to either pat them on the back for a recent article or, more often than not, explain how they got it wrong. I was on the receiving end of a few of those calls. But nothing shocked me more than something Mr. Jobs said to me in late 2010 after he had finished chewing me out for something I had written about an iPad shortcoming.
“So, your kids must love the iPad?” I asked Mr. Jobs, trying to change the subject. The company’s first tablet was just hitting the shelves. “They haven’t used it,” he told me. “We limit how much technology our kids use at home.”
I’m sure I responded with a gasp and dumbfounded silence. I had imagined the Jobs’s household was like a nerd’s paradise: that the walls were giant touch screens, the dining table was made from tiles of iPads and that iPods were handed out to guests like chocolates on a pillow.
Nope, Mr. Jobs told me, not even close.
Since then, I’ve met a number of technology chief executives and venture capitalists who say similar things: they strictly limit their children’s screen time, often banning all gadgets on school nights, and allocating ascetic time limits on weekends.
I was perplexed by this parenting style. After all, most parents seem to take the opposite approach, letting their children bathe in the glow of tablets, smartphones and computers, day and night.
Yet these tech C.E.O.’s seem to know something that the rest of us don’t.
Chris Anderson, the former editor of Wired and now chief executive of 3D Robotics, a drone maker, has instituted time limits and parental controls on every device in his home. “My kids accuse me and my wife of being fascists and overly concerned about tech, and they say that none of their friends have the same rules,” he said of his five children, 6 to 17. “That’s because we have seen the dangers of technology firsthand. I’ve seen it in myself, I don’t want to see that happen to my kids.”
The dangers he is referring to include exposure to harmful content like pornography, bullying from other kids, and perhaps worse of all, becoming addicted to their devices, just like their parents.
Alex Constantinople, the chief executive of the OutCast Agency, a tech-focused communications and marketing firm, said her youngest son, who is 5, is never allowed to use gadgets during the week, and her older children, 10 to 13, are allowed only 30 minutes a day on school nights.
Evan Williams, a founder of Blogger, Twitter and Medium, and his wife, Sara Williams, said that in lieu of iPads, their two young boys have hundreds of books (yes, physical ones) that they can pick up and read anytime.
So how do tech moms and dads determine the proper boundary for their children? In general, it is set by age.
Children under 10 seem to be most susceptible to becoming addicted, so these parents draw the line at not allowing any gadgets during the week. On weekends, there are limits of 30 minutes to two hours on iPad and smartphone use. And 10- to 14-year-olds are allowed to use computers on school nights, but only for homework.
“We have a strict no screen time during the week rule for our kids,” said Lesley Gold, founder and chief executive of the SutherlandGold Group, a tech media relations and analytics company. “But you have to make allowances as they get older and need a computer for school.”
Some parents also forbid teenagers from using social networks, except for services like Snapchat, which deletes messages after they have been sent. This way they don’t have to worry about saying something online that will haunt them later in life, one executive told me.
Although some non-tech parents I know give smartphones to children as young as 8, many who work in tech wait until their child is 14. While these teenagers can make calls and text, they are not given a data plan until 16. But there is one rule that is universal among the tech parents I polled.
“This is rule No. 1: There are no screens in the bedroom. Period. Ever,” Mr. Anderson said.
While some tech parents assign limits based on time, others are much stricter about what their children are allowed to do with screens.
Ali Partovi, a founder of iLike and adviser to Facebook, Dropbox and Zappos, said there should be a strong distinction between time spent “consuming,” like watching YouTube or playing video games, and time spent “creating” on screens.
“Just as I wouldn’t dream of limiting how much time a kid can spend with her paintbrushes, or playing her piano, or writing, I think it’s absurd to limit her time spent creating computer art, editing video, or computer programming,” he said.
Others said that outright bans could backfire and create a digital monster.
Dick Costolo, chief executive of Twitter, told me he and his wife approved of unlimited gadget use as long as their two teenage children were in the living room. They believe that too many time limits could have adverse effects on their children.
“When I was at the University of Michigan, there was this guy who lived in the dorm next to me and he had cases and cases of Coca-Cola and other sodas in his room,” Mr. Costolo said. “I later found out that it was because his parents had never let him have soda when he was growing up. If you don’t let your kids have some exposure to this stuff, what problems does it cause later?”
I never asked Mr. Jobs what his children did instead of using the gadgets he built, so I reached out to Walter Isaacson, the author of “Steve Jobs,” who spent a lot of time at their home.
“Every evening Steve made a point of having dinner at the big long table in their kitchen, discussing books and history and a variety of things,” he said. “No one ever pulled out an iPad or computer. The kids did not seem addicted at all to devices.”September 12th, 2014
An untitled Lee Krasner work from 1948
By KAREN ROSENBERG
NY Times Published: SEPT. 11, 2014
Critics think they have the last word, but sometimes art keeps talking. In 2008, while organizing the Jewish Museum’s boisterous survey of Abstract Expressionism, “Action/Abstraction: Pollock, de Kooning and American Art, 1940-1976,” the curator, Norman L. Kleeblatt, noticed that two paintings — Lee Krasner’s “Untitled” (1948) and Norman Lewis’s “Twilight Sounds” (1947) — seemed to be speaking to each other. He had the good sense to listen and, later, to orchestrate a deeper conversation. The result is “From the Margins: Lee Krasner and Norman Lewis, 1945-1952,” a nuanced, sensitive and profound exhibition.
The show isn’t really a dialogue, in the conventional sense. But it bravely elides differences of gender, race and religion, finding that Krasner and Lewis — a Jewish woman and an African-American man — shared a visual language that was a subtler, more intimate dialect of Abstract Expressionism. And it does so while recognizing the cultural accents in both artists’ works, the influence of Hebrew writing on Krasner’s grids of glyphs and the connections to jazz in Lewis’s meandering lines.
Probably the most refreshing aspect of the show is the chance to see Krasner matched up with a man who is not her husband, Jackson Pollock. And Lewis, whom curators have too often shown as either a lone visionary or as part of a well-defined circle of black artists, also benefits from the pairing.
Building on a section of the 2008 show called “Blind Spots,” “From the Margins” also suggests that Krasner and Lewis were hidden in plain sight: Krasner as the spouse of an art celebrity, Lewis as a black artist whose paintings were more formal than political. (“I’m sure if I do succeed in painting the black experience, I won’t recognize it myself,” he said in a 1968 interview.)
Both Krasner (1908-1984) and Lewis (1909-1979) embraced abstraction in the 1940s, after early flirtations with Social Realism: They both had been involved in the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration (and may even have met through that organization), and Lewis had been a member of the Harlem artists’ group 306 (which included the socially minded artists Romare Bearden and Jacob Lawrence.)
Some other formative influences are apparent in the show’s first room of paintings: for Krasner, it was the abstract painter and pedagogue Hans Hofmann; for Lewis, the Harlem art school director Augusta Savage. For both, Picasso and Mondrian. Krasner comes across as the more restless of the two painters, moving from the flat, interlocked shapes of “Lavender” (1942) to the dense, peaked brushwork of “Noon” (1947); Lewis seems to hit on his mature scuffed-and-scumbled style without much deliberation.
Even here, though, you can see what Mr. Kleeblatt has called a “magical synergy,” especially in two canvases that feature floating rectangular grids in a palette of reds and mauves.
More of these moments occur in the second room, the heart of the show, which brings together Krasner’s “Little Image” paintings and the “Little Figure” paintings of Lewis. It suggests not only an obvious common interest in diminutive imagery, but also an obsession with painting-as-writing (or, as the Abstract Expressionist progenitor John Graham called it, “écriture.”)
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With their neat rows of pictographs, the “Little Image” paintings relate clearly to Krasner’s religious education as a child of Jewish immigrants from Russia. She painted them from right to left, as Hebrew is written. But her glyphs can be read in a broader context, as evidence of a general interest in codes and ancient scripts. (A fascinating catalog essay, by Lisa Saltzman, mentions World War II cryptography and the effort to decipher clay tablets at Knossos as possible influences.)
Lewis’s “Little Figure” paintings can appear similarly impenetrable, with their bluesy palettes and jazzy noodlings. (Some, like “Magenta Haze,” make explicit reference to music.) Like Krasner’s “Little Image” paintings, they eschew the big, swashbuckling gestures of textbook Abstract Expressionism in favor of a wiry sgraffito (or occasionally, in Krasner’s case, a thin and tightly controlled drip).
Scale matters, too: These are intimate paintings, made in small, domestic spaces. (Krasner worked in the upstairs bedroom of the house she shared with Pollock in Springs, a bucolic East Hampton community; Lewis in his apartment on 125th Street.) And they come in very un-Abstract-Expressionist shapes and proportions: long, vertical canvases that resemble Asian scrolls, and even a tondo.
The homeyness of their work is reinforced by the installation, with such midcentury touches as mint green walls and Eames chairs in the museum’s wood-paneled second-floor galleries. (“Action/Abstraction,” by contrast, informed by the pronouncements of Clement Greenberg and Harold Rosenberg, was shown in the museum’s white-box ground-floor space.)
In the final gallery, which goes beyond the dates in the show’s title to accommodate a couple of works made in the 1960s, both artists do experiment with bigger canvases and brighter palettes. Krasner’s “Kufic” (1965) unleashes sweeping golden brush strokes, reminiscent of Arabic script, on a straw-hued ground. And Lewis’s “Alabama II” (1969) deploys a small, barely visible line of marching stick figures on a searing expanse of sunset pink, hinting at the struggle for civil rights while still insisting on being read as an abstract painting.
The show’s organizers (Mr. Kleeblatt, the museum’s chief curator, with an assistant curator, Stephen Brown) finish with a short audio program, which weaves together snippets of interviews with Krasner and Lewis. It’s an appropriate way to end “From the Margins,” an exemplary show that says to curators everywhere, keep listening.September 12th, 2014
September 12th, 2014
Pink Lady, 1963
Acrylic on canvas
84 1/2 x 58 inches (214.6 x 147.3 cm)
SEPTEMBER 11 – OCTOBER 18, 2014
September 13 – October 25, 2014
Opening Friday, September 12, 6:00 – 8:00 pm
Thanks to Jonathan MaghenSeptember 9th, 2014
Untitled (Top and Exterior Gates, DeWalt Mask M33.e), 2014
44 x 32 x 40.5 inches
111.8 x 81.3 x 102.9 cm
Through October 23, 2014September 7th, 2014
Credit Marion Fayolle
NY Times Published: SEPT. 5, 2014
BY T. M. Luhrmann
FLORENCE, Italy — WE think of our senses as hard-wired gateways to the world. Many years ago the social psychologist Daryl J. Bem described the knowledge we gain from our senses as “zero-order beliefs,” so taken for granted that we do not even notice them as beliefs. The sky is blue. The fan hums. Ice is cold. That’s the nature of reality, and it seems peculiar that different people with their senses intact would experience it subjectively.
Yet they do. In recent years anthropologists have begun to point out that sensory perception is culturally specific. “Sensory perception,” Constance Classen, the author of “The Deepest Sense: A Cultural History of Touch,” says, “is a cultural as well as physical act.” It’s a controversial claim made famous by Marshall McLuhan’s insistence that nonliterate societies were governed by spoken words and sound, while literate societies experienced words visually and so were dominated by sight. Few anthropologists would accept that straightforwardly today. But more and more are willing to argue that sensory perception is as much about the cultural training of attention as it is about biological capacity.
Now they have some quantitative evidence to support the point. Recently, a team of anthropologists and psychologists at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics and Radboud University, both in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, set out to discover how language and culture affected sensory awareness. Under the leadership of Asifa Majid and Stephen C. Levinson, they made up a kit of systematic stimuli for the traditional five senses: for sight, color chips and geometric forms; for hearing, pitch, amplitude and rhythm variations; for smell, a set of scratch-and-sniff cards; and so forth. They took these kits to over 20 cultural groups around the world. Their results upend some of our basic assumptions.
For example, it’s fairly common, in scientific literature, to find the view that “humans are astonishingly bad at odor identification and naming,” as a recent review of 30 years of experiments concluded. When ordinary people are presented with the smell of ordinary substances (coffee, peanut butter, chocolate), they correctly identify about half of them. That’s why we think of scent as a trigger for personal memory — leading to the recall of something specific, particular, uniquely our own.
It turns out that the subjects of those 30 years of experiments were mostly English-speaking. Indeed, English speakers find it easy to identify the common color in milk and jasmine flowers (“white”) but not the common scent in, say, bat droppings and the leaf of ginger root. When the research team presented what should have been familiar scents to Americans — cinnamon, turpentine, lemon, rose and so forth — they were terrible at naming them. Americans, they wrote, said things like this when presented with the cinnamon scratch-and-sniff card: “I don’t know how to say that, sweet, yeah; I have tasted that gum like Big Red or something tastes like, what do I want to say? I can’t get the word. Jesus it’s like that gum smell like something like Big Red. Can I say that? O.K. Big Red, Big Red gum.”
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When the research team visited the Jahai, rain-forest foragers on the Malay Peninsula, they found that the Jahai were succinct and more accurate with the scratch-and-sniff cards. In fact, they were about as good at naming what they smelled as what they saw. They do, in fact, have an abstract term for the shared odor in bat droppings and the leaf of ginger root. Abstract odor terms are common among people on the Malay Peninsula.
The team also found that several communities — speakers of Persian, Turkish and Zapotec — used different metaphors than English and Dutch speakers to describe pitch, or frequency: Sounds were thin or thick rather than high or low. In later work, they demonstrated that the metaphors were powerful enough to disrupt perception. When Dutch speakers heard a tone while being shown a mismatched height bar (e.g., a high tone and a low bar) and were asked to sing the tone, they sang a lower tone. But the perception wasn’t influenced when they were shown a thin or thick bar. When Persian speakers heard a tone and were shown a bar of mismatched thickness, however, they misremembered the tone — but not when they were shown a bar mismatched for height.
The team also found that some of these differences could change over time. They taught the Dutch speakers to think about pitch as thin or thick, and soon these participants, too, found that their memory of a tone was affected by being shown a bar that was too thick or too thin. They found that younger Cantonese speakers had fewer words for tastes and smells than older ones, a shift attributed to rapid socioeconomic development and Western-style schooling.
I wrote this in Florence, Italy, a city famous as a feast for the senses. People say that Florence teaches you to see differently — that as the soft light moves across the ocher buildings, you see colors you never noticed before.
It taught Kevin Systrom, a co-founder of Instagram, to see differently. He attributes his inspiration to a photography class he took in Florence while at a Stanford study-abroad program about a decade ago. His teacher took away his state-of-the-art camera and insisted he use an old plastic one instead, to change the way he saw. He loved those photos, the vintage feel of them, and the way the buildings looked in the light. He set out to recreate that look in the app he built. And that has changed the way many of us now see as well.September 6th, 2014