March 14, 2009

Schimmel on MAN

Tyler Green at Modern Art Notes (MAN) has interviewed LAMOCA's Paul Schimmel in three parts:
Part one
Part Two
Part Three

Before Schimmel, LA was known by and large as a Light & Space city. After Helter Skelter, Southern California now has a compass, as north is to an Edenic dream so dissolved in atmospheric light, as south is to a trenchant nightmare, slouching towards Bethlehem. I'm interested in his view of recent art history, and this interview is good to go for charting his conceptualizations.

I erased all of the non-essential bits and stuck in a couple of notes along the way.

MOCA Paul Schimmel

We have three shows being worked on by three different curators. They're still the kind of large-scale, thoughtful, revisionist thematic exhibitions that MOCA is internationally known for.

The first is a show that Alma Ruiz has been working on for really the last three or four years --
It's a kind of book-end to a marvelous show that she did almost seven years ago
It was called The Experimental Exercise of Freedom.
It was the first in a series of shows she's organized of Latin American artists,
and this exhibit was a kind of political proposition coming out of a sculptural change that came out in the '60s in Latin America.
It was both formal and in a sense political, a radical movement.
a group of disparate but overlapping artists emerged in the '50s and '60s in Latin America
the show will be called A Latin American Light and Space.
The earliest work in the exhibition is one of these great Fontana light sculptures that are almost like drawings in space that were from the late '40s and early '50s. Also included is Carlos Cruz Diaz, Helio Oticica, Julio le Parc and Jesus Soto.

These will be room-sized installations... immersive experience ...the non-traditional use of color light and use space.

Interesting, the use of the idea of freedom, especially since Central and South America has had an extremely troubled relation to it over the years. More interesting, the use of Light & Space... its appearance is the same kind of surprise as Out of Actions was, the category was worldwide-- or did it really belong solely in one locale? Is this a projection, however well intentioned? (I vote for the former.)

art historian and curator Philipp Kaiser
(who has the coming show of the LA artist Jack Goldstein).
The Geffen show that's coming up in the fall of 2010 is called Wasteland: Art after Earth Art.
A generation of earth artists: Michael Heizer's Double Negative,
book-ended with a commission of a new large-scale project in the Mojave Desert by Christoph Buchel.
Wasteland is being co-organized with [UCLA's] Miwon Kwon.
It not only looks at the 'earthwork' genre, it looks at the generation of '70s and right-up-to-the-present artists who come out of that legacy.

*** Connection: T.S. Elliot and Earth Art.


How intentional was this?

"April is the cruelist month...."

Also this, Malvyn Bragg's super awesome BBC In Our Time for a discussion of Elliot's Wasteland (for other super interesting topics, you can get the podcast or pick through the archives).

A project about California and the '70s,
I will argue a specific pluralism in this period, a plethora of simultaneous of styles and attitudes that overlapped within neighborhoods of Los Angeles and San Francisco, but even within artists and individual oeuvres. You didn't have to have a kind of singular style. The idea that at the same time -- and maybe this is sort of one of the beginning points of the show -- that you could have within two blocks of each other Dick Diebenkorn doing the first of his great Ocean Parks and then Chris Burden being crucified to the back of a Volkswagen.

The notion that the 'post-modern' was created by the 'pictures generation' of New York is just wrong. I think in fact that very generation of artists were both directly and indirectly finding their foundation in the schools, the universities, the arts communities of California and places like CalArts.

In fact the studio practice of post-modernism -- its foundations were in California in the '70s, and it's in a sense the second generation and one that became more academically refined was to happen subsequently in New York.

It'll be 120-plus artists. an epic, revisionist large-hunk-of-history show.

*** Well, this should get him a medal for West Coast bad boy status: stealing the thunder from NY's Picture Generation.

I disagree with his view of the origin myth of post-modernism. What he is referring to is more doctrinaire, more theoretically/academically based. The post-modern tree I referred to in this post to describes an arc that covers everything from when Pop popped to this very moment.

A snippet:
"...There was a crisis at the end of the fifties. Young artists like baby Warhol, baby Rauschenberg, Baby whoever-was-destined-to-contribute-to-Pop Art... they looked at the Rothkos, the DeKoonings and other greats and realized that they weren't going to touch G-d any better than the grizzled masters. So they took the Oedipal turn and flipped the paradigm:

Instead of touching G-d through material means, they endeavored to touch everyday life through conceptual means.

I love the Lawrence Weiner quote: "We had to question the answers given to us in school." Artists at the end of the fifties and the beginning of the sixties questioned the answer of high modernism and flipped it on its head. A true revolution, Coprenican, like the invention of zero or negative integers. A cone of innovation reached an apotheosis and disappeared at its zenith. And what appeared was a raging mountain stream, a torrent of innovation that prized the conceptual over the material. Pop was followed by the Minimal, followed by the Conceptual, followed by Theory. The fruit of the postmodern tree was the conceptual, to be sure (Sol LeWitt, as far as I'm concerned). Art had to be dematerialized. It had to be in its essence, an idea. The stream flowed and broadened over time into a grand and stately river, soon into a slow and wide delta. That is where we are now: silted, fetid, and oozing out to sea, to be evaporated into oceanic clouds, ferried along the winds to mist the mountaintops...."


And then a show... probably in 2012 that I started thinking about while doing the Robert Rauschenberg combines show but also during the earlier parts of the Out of Actions show: In that period of the early '50s through the early '60s, the physical destruction of the picture plane and the notion of the end of painting after abstract expressionism. Painting went harder, became more conceptual and more graphic and it entered into a realm of being influenced by photography.

This happened mostly outside the New York axis. The most well-known example, of course, is Lucio Fontana and his puncturing of the picture plane. But the exhibition will really be international in nature. It will include Lee Bontecou, Alberto Burri, John Latham, Gustav Metzger of the art-and-destruction crowd (conceptually he's right in the middle of this, this performative destruction of the picture plane), Otto Piene, and of course Robert Rauschenberg is the man.

Also: Salvatore Scarpitta. He showed with Leo Castelli and made these rolling canvases. Kazuo Shiraga. And then Gunther Uecker. I think this is rich and I think you can see this idea of this as the end of painting.


But then again... isn't there a trace of dunderheadedness in an overly literal rendering of the punctured picture plane? Break that fourth wall, rebel that you are.

Posted by Dennis at March 14, 2009 11:11 AM

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