March 24th, 2017
bruce m. sherman

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Seeking Myself, 2017

March 17, 2017 through April 16, 2017

Nicelle Beauchene

March 17th, 2017
Steve Wolfe: Remembering Steve’ Speaks Volumes About an Artist

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“Untitled (Study For Picasso),” one of the works featured in “Steve Wolfe: Remembering Steve.” Credit Steve Wolfe; Farzad Owrang and Luhring Augustine, New York

NY Times Published: MARCH 9, 2017

Steve Wolfe, an artist who died last year at 60, was known for the small, select library of trompe l’oeil books he created. From his first solo show in 1989, Wolfe’s sculptures and wall pieces were all-but-perfect replicas of worn, well-used copies of modern classics and artist monographs and catalogs — usually his own — tweaked to within a hair of the original. Initially anonymous and ordinary in appearance, these copies become exquisitely personal as you grasp the level of skill and commitment required to make them. They are labors of love.

That love permeates “Steve Wolfe: Remembering Steve,” a memorial exhibition at Luhring Augustine. It is the first show of the artist’s work in New York since 2009, when the Whitney mounted an exhibition of studies for the books, and the first show since 2003 to include any of the book pieces themselves. The writers here include Leo Tolstoy and Henry James, James Joyce and Gertrude Stein, and Allen Ginsberg and Jean Genet. The catalogs feature the work of Pollock, Warhol and Walker Evans. Also included are a few of Wolfe’s trompe vinyl records, among them Patti Smith’s “Horses,” an LP, and the 45-r.p.m. single of the Beatles’ “Help.”

Seen together, these works form a poignant self-portrait. The show opens with Wolfe’s rendition of Joyce’s “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,” its green cover gently creased, like aged skin. It pays tribute to the various writers and artists, many of them gay, who, it seems safe to say, formed Wolfe’s understanding of himself as an artist and as a gay man.

For the most part, Wolfe made his book pieces from a combination of oil paint, modeling paste, lithography or screen prints and carved, painted wood, a thorough mixing of media to fashion work that melds art with literature and music. If a cover had a metallic finish, like Kenneth Anger’s “Hollywood Babylon,” he also used bronze-casting.

The first clue to the specialness of Wolfe’s “painted sculptures” (his words) is that they hang on the wall, inviting scrutiny and savoring that usually reveal signs of artifice and process. These are especially evident in the studies, which vary often, but not strictly, according to book type. Studies for books with black-and-white covers tend to be executed in graphite. Those for paperbacks usually depict only the front, as with Nabokov’s “Speak Memory,” whose white cover Wolfe set aflutter with brushwork. For hardback books (but also some paperbacks), their typically ragged dust jackets are usually splayed open to expose front, back and spine — more than in the final piece. One example, Gertrude Stein’s 1948 monograph on Picasso, plays with perception: You can’t tell if the textured brushwork of the painting on the cover is meant to show Wolfe’s hand or imitate Picasso’s.

In all the final pieces, you simultaneously contemplate the love of the book as text and as design, and the life of the book as an object — a mass-produced one worn to a state of uniqueness before Wolfe began making his copy, memorializing one point in its particular disintegration.

Often there is a resonant dovetailing between the condition of a book and its subject and design. For example, the white dust jacket of “Walker Evans American Photographs,” a 1962 catalog from the Museum of Modern Art, has appropriately suffered light damage: a permanent shadow creeps across the front.

Wolfe’s rendition of the familiar Penguin paperback of Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” is of a copy swollen to twice its size. It has, in effect, blossomed, the way Anna did when she fell in love with Vronsky. The pages fan outward delicately, like the gills on a mushroom. The book wasn’t submerged in water — nothing so crude. It was Wolfe’s beach reading one summer, consumed in high humidity and often “with wet fingers,” he once said. The drifting snow in the cover image — taken from a 19th-century Russian print — is beautifully painted.

Wolfe’s books honor the exacting labor of cherished writers and artists by returning the favor. But they are also hidden in their labors of love, enacting the frequent need for homosexual attractions and bonds to remain undeclared. This show brings a new clarity and depth to Wolfe’s art, through its attentive selection and installation, and because it is now, sadly, finite, fixed. But perhaps we give ourselves to it more fully because it’s all that is left.

March 16th, 2017
Monsanto Weed Killer Roundup Faces New Doubts on Safety in Unsealed Documents

NY Times Published: MARCH 14, 2017

The reputation of Roundup, whose active ingredient is the world’s most widely used weed killer, took a hit on Tuesday when a federal court unsealed documents raising questions about its safety and the research practices of its manufacturer, the chemical giant Monsanto.

Roundup and similar products are used around the world on everything from row crops to home gardens. It is Monsanto’s flagship product, and industry-funded research has long found it to be relatively safe. A case in federal court in San Francisco has challenged that conclusion, building on the findings of an international panel that claimed Roundup’s main ingredient might cause cancer.

The court documents included Monsanto’s internal emails and email traffic between the company and federal regulators. The records suggested that Monsanto had ghostwritten research that was later attributed to academics and indicated that a senior official at the Environmental Protection Agency had worked to quash a review of Roundup’s main ingredient, glyphosate, that was to have been conducted by the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

The documents also revealed that there was some disagreement within the E.P.A. over its own safety assessment.

The files were unsealed by Judge Vince Chhabria, who is presiding over litigation brought by people who claim to have developed non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma as a result of exposure to glyphosate. The litigation was touched off by a determination made nearly two years ago by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a branch of the World Health Organization, that glyphosate was a probable carcinogen, citing research linking it to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Court records show that Monsanto was tipped off to the determination by a deputy division director at the E.P.A., Jess Rowland, months beforehand. That led the company to prepare a public relations assault on the finding well in advance of its publication. Monsanto executives, in their internal email traffic, also said Mr. Rowland had promised to beat back an effort by the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct its own review.

Dan Jenkins, a Monsanto executive, said in an email in 2015 that Mr. Rowland, referring to the other agency’s potential review, had told him, “If I can kill this, I should get a medal.” The review never took place. In another email, Mr. Jenkins noted to a colleague that Mr. Rowland was planning to retire and said he “could be useful as we move forward with ongoing glyphosate defense.”

The safety of glyphosate is not settled science. A number of agencies, including the European Food Safety Agency and the E.P.A., have disagreed with the international cancer agency, playing down concerns of a cancer risk, and Monsanto has vigorously defended glyphosate.

But the court records also reveal a level of debate within the E.P.A. The agency’s Office of Research and Development raised some concern about the robustness of an assessment carried out by the agency’s Office of Pesticide Programs, where Mr. Rowland was a senior official at the time, and recommended in December 2015 that it take steps to “strengthen” its “human health assessment.”

In a statement, Monsanto said, “Glyphosate is not a carcinogen.”

It added: “The allegation that glyphosate can cause cancer in humans is inconsistent with decades of comprehensive safety reviews by the leading regulatory authorities around the world. The plaintiffs have submitted isolated documents that are taken out of context.”

The E.P.A. had no immediate comment, and Mr. Rowland could not be reached immediately.

Monsanto also rebutted suggestions that the disclosures highlighted concerns that the academic research it underwrites is compromised. Monsanto frequently cites such research to back up its safety claims on Roundup and pesticides.

In one email unsealed Tuesday, William F. Heydens, a Monsanto executive, told other company officials that they could ghostwrite research on glyphosate by hiring academics to put their names on papers that were actually written by Monsanto. “We would be keeping the cost down by us doing the writing and they would just edit & sign their names so to speak,” Mr. Heydens wrote, citing a previous instance in which he said the company had done this.

Asked about the exchange, Monsanto said in a second statement that its “scientists did not ghostwrite the paper” that was referred to or previous work, adding that a paper that eventually appeared “underwent the journal’s rigorous peer review process before it was published.”

David Kirkland, one of the scientists mentioned in the email, said in an interview, “I would not publish a document that had been written by someone else.” He added, “We had no interaction with Monsanto at all during the process of reviewing the data and writing the papers.”

The disclosures are the latest to raise concerns about the integrity of academic research financed by agrochemical companies. Last year, a review by The New York Times showed how the industry can manipulate academic research or misstate findings. Declarations of interest included in a Monsanto-financed paper on glyphosate that appeared in the journal Critical Reviews in Toxicology said panel members were recruited by a consulting firm. Email traffic made public shows that Monsanto officials discussed and debated scientists who should be considered, and shaped the project.

“I think it’s important that people hold Monsanto accountable when they say one thing and it’s completely contradicted by very frank internal documents,” said Timothy Litzenburg of the Miller Firm, one of the law firms handling the litigation.

The issue of glyphosate’s safety is not a trivial one for Americans. Over the last two decades, Monsanto has genetically re-engineered corn, soybeans and cotton so it is much easier to spray them with the weed killer, and some 220 million pounds of glyphosate were used in 2015 in the United States.

“People should know that there are superb scientists in the world who would disagree with Monsanto and some of the regulatory agencies’ evaluations, and even E.P.A. has disagreement within the agency,” said Robin Greenwald, a lawyer at Weitz & Luxembourg, which is also involved in the litigation. “Even in the E.U., there’s been a lot of disagreement among the countries. It’s not so simple as Monsanto makes it out to be.“

March 16th, 2017
A Long Time Gone, but Welcomed Back

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“Tlunh Datsi,” a work from 1984 by Mr. Durham

NY Times Published: MARCH 10, 2017

LOS ANGELES — It was a big night for the 76-year-old American artist Jimmie Durham. That evening, Jan. 28, was the opening of his retrospective at the Hammer Museum here, eagerly anticipated because he has not had a solo show in the United States in 22 years.

Along with collectors and curators, dozens of artists came to see the works firsthand: Charles Gaines, Liz Glynn, Tacita Dean and Andrea Fraser included. Crowds surrounded a small army of gangly, totemic wood sculptures enlivened with clothing, animal skulls and paint. They lined up to see an equally unruly life-size self-portrait — a funky assemblage that parodied a “job wanted” ad, with handwritten notes on a canvas body promoting the artist’s attributes. The words “useless nipple,” “12 hobbies!” and “I am basically lighthearted” ran across his chest. The work had a shell for an ear and a turquoise stone for an eye.

But viewers had to make do with the self-portrait, because the artist with bright blue eyes and a wry, self-deprecating sense of humor was nowhere to be seen. Mr. Durham, a Cherokee Indian, has not stepped foot in the United States since 1995, the year of his last New York gallery show, at Nicole Klagsbrun. Given his history as an activist critical of the United States government, dating to his leadership in the American Indian Movement in the 1970s, published reports have said he was living in a self-imposed exile in Europe.

“That’s not really the case,” Mr. Durham explained in a rare interview, conducted over three Skype video calls from Naples, Italy, where he and his partner, the artist Maria Thereza Alves, have turned a 12th-century convent, more recently used as a leather factory, into a studio with living quarters. He said he couldn’t visit Los Angeles this year on doctor’s orders.

“I wish I could have come for the show,” he said. “I have had many stupid problems over the last three years: strokes and broken bones and this and that. And I’m not quite over them.”

Still, he acknowledged that he stopped living in New York in the 1980s — and gave up having a gallery there soon after, just as he was gaining a foothold in the market — in large part out of frustration with the art world’s increasing commercialization. “I guess you could call leaving New York a statement or position in that I didn’t want to be judged by my monetary success. I didn’t want to be a part of the American dream.”

He was also fed up at being pigeonholed as a Cherokee artist. “I am perfectly willing to be called Cherokee,” he said, speaking slowly, thoughtfully. “But I’m not a Cherokee artist or Indian artist, no more than Brancusi was a Romanian artist.”

While acknowledging such political complexities, the Hammer show, “Jimmie Durham: At the Center of the World” (on view through May 7 before it travels to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and the Whitney Museum of American Art) does try to bring Mr. Durham’s work back into a broadly American context.

“I consider him to be one of the most important American sculptors today, alongside David Hammons, and yet because he moved to Europe, he’s not really put into that category,” said Anne Ellegood, the show’s curator.

Mr. Durham also has a growing fan base among artists. “Instead of overinflated, overhyped, oversized installations passing as art, Jimmie Durham’s work is authentic, modest and funny,” Judy Chicago noted after seeing the show. “Plus he has the most uncanny sensitivity to materials.” She was particularly moved by a recent assemblage that combines found objects and Murano glass “in an amazing way to express the vulnerability of the body that comes with aging.”

Born to a Cherokee family in rural Arkansas, the fourth of five children, Mr. Durham was resourceful from an early age. His father was a construction worker who made his own furniture. His children followed him into the tool shed.

“As a child, I didn’t do art, but I made many things — every kind of toy, every kind of tool,” he said, mentioning wood slingshots and small animal traps. During our conversation, he retrieved some small carving knives made by his father and held them in front of the computer screen.

“He was absolutely fanatic about his tools,” Mr. Durham said. “He didn’t approve of the way I worked. He wanted things to be nicely finished, which I don’t like necessarily. And I don’t mind using the tools badly or in ways you shouldn’t,” like hitting an ax head with a hammer to shave off a layer of wood.

Wood and stone have long been the mainstays of his sculpture. Found animal skulls, painted in bright colors or encrusted with beads or stones, prove another important medium, with the skulls of an armadillo, skunk, dog and moose appearing in the Hammer show.

He dates this interest to a visit to the Coushatta reservation in East Texas as a teenager. He spotted a deer skull, painted blue and mounted to a tree: “I was just astounded by it,” he said. “I felt it was part of something extremely serious and special.”

After enrolling at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Geneva in 1970, he began incorporating the skulls into art. He remembers finding a dead badger on the side of a road leading to France. “I went back home and got my good knife and skinned the badger,” he said. “I took the head off, boiled the meat, made something out of the skin and made an artwork out of the skull. I used everything.”

In 1974, he became the director of the International Indian Treaty Council, an organization founded during an American Indian Movement meeting at Standing Rock, N.D., to promote the sovereignty and rights of “native nations” across the world. He resigned five years later, citing leadership problems. (As for current Standing Rock protests against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, he said he wished he could do something concrete to help: “I have friends there, and I think the last thing they need is my words.”)

As he began showing his artwork more frequently in New York, he struggled with its reception. One series from 1982, canvas paintings incorporating documentary photographs of Indian hardships, proved too popular with a mainly white audience — “too easy, too entertaining,” he said. “The paintings were always semiabstract, and the photos were always horrible things happening on or around Indian reservations.”

His work began to confront Native American stereotypes. In 1985, he built museum-like displays of faux-Indian specimens. One was a handprint on paper made with red paint and his blood; another was “Pocahontas underwear,” a garment he made of dyed-red chicken feathers and beads, putting Native American craft materials to startling use.

But Mr. Durham grew frustrated by the general tendency, especially during the heyday of multiculturalism, to read his art biographically. Recent work — including photographs, drawings, vitrines and video — tends to be more enigmatic or abstract, with a 2012 series combining carved wood blocks and metal machine parts found in his studio into dynamic forms that resemble Brancusi columns out of whack.

Mr. Durham first met Ms. Ellegood in 2006. She was a curator at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and had the idea of pairing him with the artist Sam Durant to represent the United States at its Venice Biennale pavilion. But when questions arose about the fact that Mr. Durham is not registered as a citizen with the Cherokee Nation, he withdrew from the project.

His lack of registration also fueled an allegation by a retired Cherokee judge, cited on Mr. Durham’s Wikipedia page, that he is a “poser” and not really Cherokee. Mr. Durham pointed out that “many Cherokees are not registered. My family didn’t even think about registering.” He criticized tribal enrollment efforts, originally backed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, as a “tool of apartheid.”

Mr. Durham continued to show in Europe while Ms. Ellegood pursued a new idea: an American retrospective. Three years ago, he finally agreed. “She wore me down,” he said, laughing.

She took the title of the current show from a long-running series by Mr. Durham highlighting the absurdity of any nation’s or culture’s claims of superiority. For years, he has been making poles “to mark the center of the world” and placing them in odd spots in the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, Belgium, France, Germany, South Korea and even Siberia.

As seen at the entrance of the Hammer show, the lightweight poles typically consist of a single piece of carved wood, with a hand mirror attached. One interpretation is that the mirror implicates the viewer as complicit in a classic power play of defining who is insider and who is outsider. But Mr. Durham had a more lighthearted take. It’s natural to be a touch vain, he suggested: “You want to be able to look your best when you’re at the center of the world.”

March 11th, 2017
Howard Hodgkin 1932 – 2017

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Going to America, 1999.

NY Times Published: MARCH 9, 2017

Howard Hodgkin, a British artist whose lush, semiabstract paintings, aquiver with implicit drama, established him as one of the most admired artists of the postwar period, died on Thursday in London. He was 84.

The Tate Galleries announced his death but did not specify a cause.

Mr. Hodgkin was a relative latecomer to fame. A slow, methodical worker who could spend years building up a painting’s surface, he did not have a solo show until he was 30, and for years thereafter toiled against the grain, his work at odds with prevailing fashion.

His globs and stipples and smears — seemingly brisk and impulsive, but painstakingly applied and endlessly revised — ravished. On the Tate’s website, Nicholas Serota, the departing director of the museums, called Mr. Hodgkin “one of the great artists and colorists of his generation.”

But his coded emotional settings seemed elusive, even baffling, as did his stylistic relationship to current art. In Britain he was seen as an abstract painter, in the United States as representational — a puzzle.

“I never expected anyone to be interested in my pictures, and there were years when I couldn’t even get my friends to look at them,” Mr. Hodgkin told The New York Times in 1990.

His paintings in the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 1984 propelled him into the top echelon of international artists. Seductive and arresting, they showed an artist at the height of his powers, and audiences responded.

“Not since Robert Rauschenberg’s appearance at the Biennale 20 ago has a show by a single painter so hogged the attention of visitors, or looked so effortlessly superior to everything else on view by living artists,” the critic Robert Hughes wrote in Time magazine.

He added: “Here the wearisome traits of much contemporary art, its honking rhetoric, its unconvincing urgency, its arid ‘appropriations’ of motifs, are left at the door, and the slow-surfacing complexities of mature, articulate painting greet the eye.”

Mr. Hodgkin won the Turner Prize a year later, and as major gallery and museum exhibitions in Britain and the United States followed, one after the other, his distinctive blend of bravura brushwork, emotional depth and sense of mystery began to hold sway. He came to be seen as a highly original interpreter of the dramas that unfold in intimate, interior space, an heir to Bonnard and Vuillard.

“On the subject of sitting rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms and balconies neither Hodgkin’s eye nor his hand has ever failed him,” the critic John Russell wrote in The New York Times Magazine in 1990. “He is all-seeing on the subject of hotels, restaurants, private collections, public parks, costume jewelry, human exchanges of all kinds and day-to-day weather reporting. Manners and mores, ups and downs, ins and outs — all have their place in his paintings.

“He can make a wet afternoon in summer feel like the most blissful thing that ever happened,” he continued, “and when he summons up the quintessence of a restaurant (in London, by the way, not in Paris) he makes us want to stand up and shout for the menu.”

Gordon Howard Eliot Hodgkin was born in London on Aug. 6, 1932, to a Quaker family with an illustrious pedigree in the arts and sciences. His father, Eliot, was a manager at Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) and a well-known horticulturalist. His mother, the former Katharine Hewart, daughter of the Lord Chief Justice of England, Gordon Hewart, was a homemaker and botanical illustrator.

With German air raids looming, Howard was evacuated in 1940 with his mother and sister to Long Island, where he stayed with family friends for three years.

After returning to Britain, he attended a variety of expensive schools, including Eton, and ran away from most of them, finding little encouragement for his determination to become an artist — his goal since the age of 5.

He painted on his own, and during a return visit to Long Island in 1947, he began going to galleries and museums in New York City, looking closely at the work of Matisse, Degas, Bonnard and Vuillard. One of his earliest works, the 1949 gouache “Memoirs,” served as a marker for the themes that would preoccupy him in the coming years.

Judith Higgins wrote in Art News in 1985, “Highly stylized, fiercely outlined and angular, humming with erotic currents, ‘Memoirs’ announced the subject of all Hodgkin’s subsequent work: the great tradition in French painting — figures in an interior — transmuted, in Hodgkin’s case, by memory.”

In 1949 he gained admission to the Camberwell School of Art in London, where he studied briefly under Victor Pasmore and William Coldstream, the leading figures in the Euston Road School. He spent four years at the Bath Academy of Art in Corsham, where he studied with Clifford Ellis.

In 1955 he married Julia Lane, a fellow student at Corsham. They later separated. He is survived by their two sons, Louis and Sam.

Mr. Hodgkin was given a one-man show at Arthur Tooth and Sons in 1962, but for years he depended on teaching to make a living. In the mid-1950s he began lecturing at Charterhouse School. He later taught at the Bath Academy of Art and the Chelsea School of Art.

He produced mostly small-scale works until late in his career, on canvas at first but, beginning in the late 1960s, only on wood, usually old boards scavenged from London antique shops. In violation of the tenets of American abstraction, he embraced the frame, emphasizing its presence by painting on it directly, or including framing rectangles in the painting.

The strongly geometric forms of the early painting evolved into looser, brushier images that teased the idea of figuration. In “Jealousy” (1977), a red mass, barely human, coils angrily within a frame-like rectangle. The leaning, spotted rectangles in “Dinner at Smith Square” (1975-79) suggest, just barely, two people conversing over a table.

“I am a representational painter but not a painter of appearances,” Mr. Hodgkin told the critic David Sylvester in 1976. “I paint representational pictures of emotional situations.”

His reputation grew. He had his first show in New York in 1973, and in 1976 Mr. Serota organized his first museum exhibition, at the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford. In 1995 the Metropolitan Museum of Art organized the traveling exhibition “Howard Hodgkin: Paintings 1975–1995,” and in 2006 Tate Britain mounted a 50-year survey of his work.

If Mr. Hodgkin never quite rose to the celebrity rank of Lucian Freud or David Hockney, by the time he was knighted, in 1992, he stood at the threshold of “living treasure” status.

“To be an honest artist now, you have to make your own language, and for me that has taken a very long time,” he told Mr. Sylvester for the catalog to “Howard Hodgkin: Forty Paintings, 1973-84,” a traveling exhibition that incorporated many of the paintings from the Biennale.

Mr. Hodgkin was an interviewer’s nightmare, notoriously reticent about his work and unhappy analyzing its meaning. He made it clear that art was a slow and painful business. At the same time, he confessed to feeling a sense of exhilaration in his final years.

“I don’t care a damn about what happens when I’m dead, but I do have a sense of increased urgency,” he told The Guardian in 2001. “And I think it’s made me more courageous.”

March 9th, 2017
mary weatherford

two figures, 2016, (detail) Flashe and neon on linen, 117 x 104 x 4 1/2 inches (297.2 x 264.2 x 11.4 cm)

like the land loves the sea

Opening reception: Friday, March 10, 2017, 6:00-8:00pm
Through May 6, 2017

David Kordansky

March 9th, 2017
A Ticket to Hell

By Charles M. Blow
NY Times Published: March 9, 2017

Donald Trump has spent his whole life overselling an overinflated vision of himself and his success.

He was the outer-borough boy whose father’s “boxlike office” was on Avenue Z in Brooklyn; he always dreamed of making it to Manhattan and breaking into the big league.

With a hustler’s spirit and some sleight of hand, he made it, but not in total.

He made the move, made the money and made his mark on New York’s skyline, but he never quite made it into the inner sanctum of New York high society.

I’m convinced that this is part of his obsession with former President Barack Obama. Obama was quickly granted the thing Trump never had: upper-class acceptance and adulation.

For Trump’s part, his sin was even worse than being new-money: He was tacky rich.

No amount of money or success could completely rid him of the odiousness of being coarse and crass.

He upset social conventions.

For him, things had to be gilded to be glamorous. All modesty — either real or contrived to guard against exposure — was absent from the man. He was a glutton for attention and adoration. He chased the spotlight and pimped celebrity for profit. He valued flaunting over philanthropy.

In New York City’s elite social circles, Trump was persona non grata.

As many others have pointed out, he became the idiot’s image of an intellectual, the coward’s image of a courageous man and the pauper’s image of a prosperous man.

But rather than being crimped by his ostracism, he wore it as a badge of honor.

He became the Everyman of rich men. He was the outsider, too authentic and even acerbic to be tamed by the convention of the elites. He was the populist billionaire, still engaged in the rough and tumble, at home on reality television just as he was in overpriced real estate.

He was impolitic in the way that many average Joes would be if they came into wealth and not from it.

He swept into politics at just the time that message had its greatest resonance, when there were enough people leery of institutions and weary of the establishment; the wealthy, social, cultural and intellectual elites were on the outs, and there was an opening for an outsider who knew how to work his way in.

The elites who had rejected Trump were now the rejected class. They were the 1 percent, the Wall Street barons, the manifestation of the evils of income inequality. This was the time for a populist, or at least someone who could pretend to be one.

It was in that environment that Trump swept into the presidential election, with the same bluster and bravado, aggression and subversion that had worked well for him in business.

He was not book smart or well mannered. He was all gut and elbow and verbal barbs. For too many, he was refreshingly anti-polish and anti-convention.

And, as is Trump’s wont and calling card, he oversold his voters a bill of goods that he would never be able to deliver. The Pied Piper of pipe dreams did in politics what he had done in business: He got people to buy into a success mythology in which he was a wizard. In this mythology, ethics, honor and truth are casualties.

Everything is going to be the greatest and the best and the most successful simply because he deems it so.

But now, the legend of Trump, the one most rigid in his own mind, is rubbing up against the harsh reality of presidential politics, where cooperation is needed and accountability is demanded. In this new world, Trumpism appears brittle, hollow and impotent.

No matter your politics, Trump’s first weeks in office have been a disaster, as his rush to action, lack of focus and absence of acuity have led him to calamitous missteps and conspiratorial misstatements.

And now his oversold promises are being exposed for the lies they were — draining the swamp in Washington, forcing Mexico to pay for his ridiculous southern border wall, the incredibly defective Obamacare repeal and replacement proposal.

In January, Trump oversold again in an interview with The Washington Post about what he would deliver. The Post reported Trump’s comments this way:

“We’re going to have insurance for everybody,” Trump said. “There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us.” People covered under the law “can expect to have great health care. It will be in a much simplified form. Much less expensive and much better.”

But the plan just announced and endorsed by Trump doesn’t even come close to delivering on this promise. Not only would prices most likely rise for many Trump voters, but millions of Americans would be at risk of losing coverage under the plan.

Not only that, but as NBC reported last month:

“Donald Trump’s most ardent supporters are likely to be hit the hardest if he makes good on his promise to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and embark on trade wars with China and Mexico.”

The report continued:

“An analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 6.3 million of the 11.5 million Americans who used the A.C.A. marketplace to buy their insurance last year live in Republican congressional districts. Policy analysts say that a rollback of the A.C.A. would hurt older and rural Americans — two populations that favored Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in the presidential election.”

As he has done his whole life, Trump has sold those who follow him as some sort of money-drenched messiah a bill of goods, but this time the lie is likely to manifest in loss of life, as sick people lose coverage.

Donald Trump has sold his supporters — and by extension, this country — a ticket to hell.

March 9th, 2017
alex olson

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Ether, 2017
Oil and faux pearls on canvas
180.3 x 127 cm
71 x 50 in

March 9 – April 22, 2017

Altman Siegel

March 9th, 2017
ricky swallow

“Hanging S sculpture (open),” 2017, Patinated bronze, 52 x 9 x 7

March 3 – April 22, 2017


March 9th, 2017
Mike Kelley’s Underground Afterlife

Mike Kelley’s last major piece is installed on the grounds of the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, not far from his real childhood home (top right) in the suburb of Westland, Mich. Credit Nicholas Calcott; inset: Courtesy of the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts and Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit

NY Times Published:MARCH 8, 2017

THERE IS A GLISTENING white ranch-style house on a small grassy lot behind the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, adjacent to the institution’s gravel parking lot. It is architecturally generic, like countless other homes scattered across this part of Michigan, and yet it also happens to be a work of art, the last major piece by the artist Mike Kelley. “Mobile Homestead” — a to-scale recreation of the house where Kelley grew up in Westland, a suburb 30 minutes from Detroit — is open to the public, a community exhibition space managed by the museum. Scarcely seen, though, is what sits far below it: an intricate underground lair often referred to, in a remarkable understatement, as “the basement.” Kelley planned on using it himself as a project space before committing suicide in 2012.

His admirers still speak of his passing with great regret. “What a huge presence he created, seemingly out of a sense of inadequacy,” his friend the musician Kim Gordon told me. The artist was a self-described “blue-collar anarchist,” and cited Iggy Pop and Sun Ra among his primary influences. His impact has been widespread and profound and perhaps unexpected. Kelley’s subjects were marginalized figures — janitors, comic book characters, lonely teenagers. His work rested somewhere between conceptual art, pop culture and the foggy memories of his own working-class upbringing; he was attracted, he once said, to “places that the majority of men would close off as degraded and disgusting.”

In many ways, “Mobile Homestead” was the culmination of his singular career. From conception, Kelley thought of it as a project having two parts, public and private, with the basement accessible only to his friends and other artists. The idea was to create a piece that would be simultaneously geared toward community service and also, in part, closed off to the community.

The completed “Mobile Homestead” opened in 2013. In keeping with Kelley’s intention, it quickly became an unofficial town hall, hosting everything from book drives to A.A. meetings to quilting workshops to a lawyer offering a lecture on obtaining house loans. During the 2016 presidential election — with a show mounted on the walls of the house featuring political memorabilia from local collector Morry “The Button Man” Greener — the debates were screened in the garage, and people got into arguments in the driveway. Meanwhile, the basement below the house functioned according to Kelley’s plans as a space reserved only for, in the artist’s words, “private rites of an aesthetic nature,” an antisocial space within the public work.

Kelley’s old friend Cary Loren is the de facto caretaker of the house’s subterranean lair — “the basement curator,” in the words of Elysia Borowy-Reeder, MOCAD’s executive director. I met Loren one afternoon in February at the bookstore he co-owns, inside a strip mall in the suburb of Oak Park. Loren and Kelley founded the influential noise band Destroy All Monsters with the artist Jim Shaw and the singer Niagara in 1973, while they were all studying at the University of Michigan. (At the time Shaw and Kelley were living together in a house in Ann Arbor called God’s Oasis; Kelley’s room, where the band also practiced, was, somewhat predictably, in the basement.) Since his friend’s death, Loren has helped to oversee “Mobile Homestead,” offering suggestions for exhibitions in the house and handpicking the few artists who have been allowed to work, in secret, underground. Calling the space a basement is a bit of a misnomer. It is more of a complex maze of tunnels, ladders and cubbylike rooms, a sort of habitable sculpture.

Loren and Kelley began talking about purchasing property for an artist’s refuge back in the ’90s. By this time, Kelley — who left Detroit in 1976 to attend CalArts in Valencia — was considered the quintessential West Coast artist, but he remained devoted to Michigan. “Mike had this idea of buying his childhood home,” Loren said, and turning it into a band house, with tunnels beneath, “burrowing,” as Kelley described it in 2010, “into other people’s private space.” This was an unfeasible concept that the artist pursued anyway. Whenever he visited Michigan, Loren said, “we’d stop by his house and he’d go up there with a checkbook and try to buy it from the owner, who never wanted to sell.”

KELLEY WAS BORN IN 1954 into a Catholic working-class family. The artist John Miller, a classmate at CalArts who has written extensively about Kelley, traces Kelley’s interest in secret chambers back to his father, who worked as a public school janitor. Kelley once described how the job granted him access to “hidden underbellies,” like the boiler rooms and maintenance closets of banal public buildings. He would revisit the tension between the visible and the unseen, the conscious and the unconscious, in much of his work. The strongest precedent for “Mobile Homestead” was his 1995 architectural model “Educational Complex,” a tabletop representation of Kelley’s childhood home along with every school he attended. Kelley claimed, perhaps deceptively, that the majority were blocked from his memory because, as he put it, “80 percent of these buildings that I had been in for most of my life were the site of some kind of repressed trauma.” The failure to remember was Kelley’s modus operandi, a method apparent in his final work’s stark and nondescript interior.

As an installation, “Mobile Homestead” ties together the various strains of Kelley’s career, including his obsession with isolation and loneliness, and with domesticity and familiar structures (including the repressed darkness lurking beneath every happy home). The only thing most people know of the space, since no photo of it has been publicly released, is that it is reached through one of two hatches, one inside the house, the other out front. That the basement is essentially invisible only adds to its power, casting the entire project as a series of unanswerable questions: If an artist creates an intricate underground studio beneath a replica of his childhood home and virtually no one is able to see it, does it exist? Who is it for? What is it for?

In 2005, the London-based nonprofit Artangel, which funded “Mobile Homestead,” approached Kelley about doing a public art project. As the years went by, Kelley was doubtful the project would ever be completed, according to various people who helped with it; there were too many moving parts. And yet he worked away at it up until his suicide. Despite the heavy personal subtext of the project, Kelley didn’t want it to become a tribute to himself, and he asked that his own work not be shown inside.

UPON THE BASEMENT’S completion after Kelley’s death, the first thing Loren did was to cover a wall with Destroy All Monsters artwork. That was followed by a sort of “christening” by Loren and Shaw, who recorded some music in the space, including a demented cover of Andy Williams’s “Lonely Street.” Since then, Loren has mostly invited Kelley’s friends underground, including the artist Paul McCarthy and the band he plays with, Extended Organ, which performed in one of the rooms. “I can’t say it’s inviting,” McCarthy said of the space. “I like it, but it’s not cozy. I don’t think it’s meant to be cozy.” McCarthy was as surprised as anyone by the existence of the basement: “I never knew he was doing it until literally the day of his memorial, and he’s already gone.”

MOCAD and the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts have a strict policy about maintaining the privacy of the basement, in keeping with Kelley’s wishes that “the underground zone will not be open to the public and the works produced there would have to be presented elsewhere, or not at all.” One cannot simply walk into MOCAD and ask to see it. Perhaps one wouldn’t want to. Amy Corle, the curator at the museum who runs the programming for “Mobile Homestead,” had told me that fear is not an uncommon reaction to standing over the hatch that is in what would have been Kelley’s childhood bedroom closet. “A lot of people think they want to go down,” she said, “and then they look and say, ‘No.’ ”

This reaction is understandable. A clunky and awkwardly placed ladder leads to a concrete room with another ladder leading farther downward. There is a path at the bottom with more ladders that go up into tunnels that connect to different rooms. Some of these chambers have extremely low ceilings that an adult of average height could not stand up in. Light comes from small fluorescent bulbs in caged fixtures, the kind found in a submarine. One of the tunnels leads to the space where Paul McCarthy played with Extended Organ. It is covered in cheap Halloween decorations. In another room, Loren installed a God’s Oasis sign. Elsewhere, he stored some of Kelley’s ashes.

The space is both claustrophobic and improbably vast, and panic can set in quickly. Standing there, staring into the dark of one of Kelley’s concrete tunnels, about 40 feet beneath the ground, with only blackness visible ahead, it helps to think of home.

March 9th, 2017
Ray Barsante | Stoneware

Untitled # 1, 2017
Stoneware and Watercolor
26 X 14 inches

Opening Reception: Saturday February 23, 2017. 3 – 5 PM

South Willard Shop Exhibit

February 24th, 2017
Earths mysterious magnetic field stored in a jar

Ancient pottery, like this jar from Iron Age Judea, can record our planet’s magnetic ebb and flow.

By Marcia Bjornerud
The New Yorker February 13, 2017

Of all the environmental amenities that this hospitable planet provides, the magnetic field is perhaps the strangest and least appreciated. It has existed for more than three and a half billion years but fluctuates daily. It emanates from Earth’s deep interior but extends far out into space. It is intangible and mostly invisible—except when it lights up in ostentatious greens and reds during the auroras—but essential to life. The magnetic field is our protective bubble; it deflects not only the rapacious solar wind, which could otherwise strip away Earth’s atmosphere over time, but also cosmic rays, which dart in from deep space with enough energy to damage living cells. Although sailors have navigated by the magnetic field for a millennium and scientists have monitored it since the eighteen-thirties, it remains a mysterious beast. Albert Einstein himself said that understanding its origin and persistence was one of the great unsolved problems in physics. Today, the scientific consensus is that the field arises in Earth’s outer core, where the movement of liquid iron creates a giant, self-perpetuating electromagnetic dynamo, and that the geometry of the field is approximately dipolar, like a bar magnet, with the two ends coinciding, on average, with the geographic North and South Poles.

In detail, however, things are much messier. The global magnetic field also has quadrupole and octopole components, which make its actual geometry something like a playground jack with extra spikes. The strength and orientation of the field can change without warning, over millions of years or in a few days. Since 1990, the magnetic North Pole has migrated almost nine hundred miles, from Axel Heiberg Island, in the high Canadian Arctic, to a site close to the true North Pole. At the same time, the over-all intensity of the field has been falling at a rate of about six per cent each century. Changes like this do not always happen steadily; since 1969, there have been four well-documented “geomagnetic jerks,” in which the rate of change in the field strength abruptly accelerated before, months later, settling back to normal.

Direct measurements of the magnetic field now span almost two hundred years, and iron-rich volcanic rocks on the ocean floor provide a lower-fidelity chronicle of its erratic behavior—including wholesale reversals in polarity—back about a hundred and fifty million years. But reconstructing the field’s behavior between these two extremes has been difficult. The trick is to find an iron-bearing object that locked in a record of the magnetic field at a well-constrained time in the past, in the way that wine of a given vintage preserves an indirect record of that year’s weather conditions. For this sort of remnant magnetism to form, the object generally must have been heated and then cooled through its Curie temperature—the threshold, named for Pierre, at which iron-oxide particles will align themselves with the ambient magnetic field. At best, however, young volcanic rocks can only be dated to within a few thousand years. Fortunately, natural rocks aren’t the only ones with magnetic memories; archeological materials like fired pottery and even smelting slag may bear similar information. On Monday, in a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of Israeli and American archeologists and geophysicists reports the most detailed reconstruction yet of the magnetic field in pre-instrumental times, using a set of ceramic jars from Iron Age Judea.

The clay jars, which were likely everyday vessels for wine or olive oil, do not appear to have been made with particular care. Although they exist now as fragments, they can be dated with unusual confidence because of the royal insignias stamped on their handles; they were made between 750 and 150 B.C. The team’s analysis suggests that for much of that time the magnetic field was relatively stable, and about forty per cent stronger than it is now. But the oldest jars reveal that, just before 700 B.C., the field’s strength briefly jumped by half, to almost twice its modern intensity, then fell rapidly in the next three decades. Today, such an event would cause catastrophic disruption of the electrical grid and satellite communications. It’s unlikely that the Judeans even noticed it.

The new findings, with their clear evidence of a geomagnetic spike, may help archeologists date pottery from other Iron Age sites, particularly where stamps are lacking. The study could also be useful in a second, less direct way. Carbon-14, the isotope that archeologists use in radioactive dating, is cosmogenic—continuously created in Earth’s uppermost atmosphere by cosmic-ray collisions. As a result, its rate of production fluctuates with the strength of the magnetic field. At times when the field is weak, more 14C is produced, and organic materials (wood, peat, seeds, textiles) soak up more of it than usual, making them seem younger. When the field is strong, the same materials’ ages will skew old. By understanding the past dips and rises of the magnetic field, archeologists can reduce the uncertainties in their calculations.

But, in the geophysical community, the tales told by the Judean jars may cause unrest. Both the height and the sharpness of the spike they recount push up against the limits of what some geophysicists think Earth’s outer core is capable of doing. If the eighth-century-B.C. geomagnetic jeté is real, models for the generation of the magnetic field need significant revision. Given the importance of a stable magnetic field to our electricity-dependent, communications-obsessed culture, these questions are of more than academic interest. The makers of these old jars, diligently stamping handles with the royal brand, had no idea that they were contributing to a twenty-first-century debate about the very heart of the planet. One wonders what unintentional messages the objects we leave behind will carry into the future.

Marcia Bjornerud is a professor of geology at Lawrence University, in Appleton, Wisconsin, and the author of “Reading the Rocks: The Autobiography of the Earth.”

February 20th, 2017
When lies overruled rights

A charcoal drawing by Miné Okubo, who was incarcerated in the Topaz internment camp in Utah at the same time as Fred Korematsu. Okubo studied fine art at Berkeley and in Europe, and worked on government art projects (including a W.P.A. mural with Diego Rivera) before the government interned her and other Japanese-Americans on the West Coast. In 1946 she included hundreds of her drawings in a memoir, “Citizen 13660.”

When President Trump signed an executive order temporarily banning travel from seven majority Muslim countries, he hurled us back to one of the darkest and most shameful chapters of American history. Executive orders that go after specific groups under the guise of protecting the American people are not only unconstitutional, but morally wrong. My father, and so many other Americans of Japanese descent, were targets of just such an order during World War II.

Seventy-five years ago on Sunday, under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, all people of Japanese ancestry living on the West Coast were forced to leave their homes and report to incarceration camps. Two-thirds were American citizens. Fred Korematsu, my father, then 23, refused to go. A proud and loyal citizen, he had tried to enlist in the National Guard but was rejected and was wrongly fired from his job as a welder in an Oakland, Calif., shipyard He was arrested and tried for defying the executive order. Upon conviction, he was held in a horse stall at a hastily converted racetrack until he and his family were moved to a desolate camp in Topaz, Utah. My father told me later that jail was better than the camp.

He appealed his conviction to the Supreme Court. In his case, and in cases brought by Minoru Yasui and Gordon Hirabayashi — among the most infamous cases in American legal history — the court in 1944 upheld the executive order. Justice Frank Murphy vehemently opposed the majority decision, writing in a dissenting opinion, “Racial discrimination in any form and in any degree has no justifiable part whatever in our democratic way of life.” In the hysteria of war and racialized propaganda, my father’s citizenship did not protect him. For him and the 120,000 other Japanese-Americans incarcerated during World War II, there was no attempt to sort the loyal from the disloyal.

In 1982, almost 40 years after my father’s conviction, evidence was discovered proving that the wartime government suppressed, altered and destroyed material evidence while arguing my father’s, Yasui’s and Hirabayashi’s cases before the Supreme Court. The government’s claims that people of Japanese descent had engaged in espionage and that mass incarceration was necessary to protect the country were not only false, but had even been refuted by the government’s own agencies, including the Office of Naval Intelligence, the F.B.I. and the Federal Communications Commission.

With that evidence, my father reopened his case. In November 1983, he stood before a Federal District Court judge, Marilyn Hall Patel, and said, “As long as my record stands in federal court, any American citizen can be held in prison or concentration camps without a trial or a hearing.” Judge Patel overturned my father’s conviction, declaring that his case “stands as a caution that in times of distress the shield of military necessity and national security must not be used to protect governmental actions from close scrutiny and accountability.”

Around that time, the federal Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians declared that the Korematsu case had been “overruled in the court of history” and found that my father’s incarceration was based on “race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership.”

Although his conviction was vacated, my father was keenly aware that his case was never formally overturned, even though it was widely discredited by scholars and even the courts. He was a quiet, soft-spoken man, but he spent the rest of his life speaking around the country about the government misconduct that led to incarceration, in hopes of preventing it from occurring again. In 1998, President Bill Clinton awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom for the brave stand he took against an unjust government action.

In 1991, President George H. W. Bush declared, “The internment of Americans of Japanese ancestry was a great injustice, and it will never be repeated.” But it can happen again. Since my father’s death in 2005, I have taken on his work to remind Americans what happens when our Constitution is ignored in the name of national security. We need to scrutinize Mr. Trump’s executive orders and any other attempts to single out groups for repression. Let us come together to reject discrimination based on religion, race or national origin, and to oppose the mass deportation of people who look or pray differently from the majority of Americans.

“Stand up for what is right,” my father said. “Protest, but not with violence. Don’t be afraid to speak up. One person can make a difference, even if it takes 40 years.”

Karen Korematsu is the founder and executive director of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute.

February 18th, 2017


Closed today for National General Strike

No Work
No School
No Shopping
No Snakes

National General Strike

February 17th, 2017
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