A New Documentary for the Forger Who Infiltrated America’s Art Museums (Hyperallergic)

by Allison Meier on September 26, 2014 original article here.

Mark Landis at home with recent forgeries is the subject of the Art and Craft documentary

Mark Landis at home with recent works (photograph by Sam Cullman, courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories)

For three decades, Mark Landis quietly infiltrated art museums across the United States with donated forgeries, works he carefully copied himself from the whole of art history. Paul Signac, Pablo Picasso, Hans Holbein, less-known names like Louis Valtat — sometimes they even went on display in the galleries. A new documentary called Art and Craftreleased today in Los Angeles, tries to figure out what compels Landis, with a sympathetic portrait of a very curious character.

Mark Landis at home, showing off recent works. CHARACTER NAME: Mark Landis PHOTOGRAPHER: Sam Cullman Courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories

Mark Landis at home, showing off recent works (photograph by Sam Cullman, courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories)

Directors Sam Cullman and Jennifer Grausman discovered his story through a 2011 New York Times article, which wouldn’t have existed if not for a man named Matthew Leininger. While a registrar at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, he discovered works Landis was supposedly donating had already been given to other museums. As he dug deeper, he realized just how far the web of forgeries stretched.

The film, however, is much more interested in Landis, although Leininger gets some brooding screen time. It’s obvious the filmmakers were a bit enamored with this small man with his tinny voice, Ignatius Reilly-level confidence, and clever handiwork — employing coffee to stain cheap Hobby Lobby frames to an antique patina, using colored pencils to replicate a chalk drawing, even showing us step-by-step how to make a new Picasso out of a printed copy and some shellac.

It’s clear from the film that the Mississippi-based Landis, whose speech is often a string of old movie quotes, became obsessed with the attention of being a museum donor, and the scenes with his case worker and interviews on his mental health suggest some psychological roots.”I got addicted to being a philanthropist,” he says, noting that it was seldom he had people so nice to him. Yet he adds: “I didn’t do anything wrong or illegal.” And he didn’t, no money was traded, no financial harm that could be prosecuted was done, it was only the integrity of the museums which was marred.

That isn’t the focus of the film, however, nor the possible implications on art value, or the time wasted with his forgeries. Yet Landis is a fascinating figure to watch, as he impersonates a priest, even inviting the filmmakers to witness one of his blatant fake donations, supposedly in honor of a non-existent dead sister. And as an exploration of the value and authenticity of art, it is as good a lesson as any to not take anything at face value, including an otherwise nondescript man whose skilled work may be on wider display than the artists he copied.

Mark Landis at home and at work on a “Picasso”. CHARACTER NAME: Mark Landis PHOTOGRAPHER: Sam Cullman Courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories

Mark Landis at home and at work on a “Picasso” (photograph by Sam Cullman, courtesy of Oscilloscope Laboratories)

Art and Craft is released today in Los Angeles. A full list of screenings is online


Lack of Air-Conditioning Warps Raphael Painting at Rome Museum (Hyperallergic)

by Jillian Steinhauer on September 11, 2014 original article here.

Raphael, "The Deposition" (1507), oil on wood , 184 cm × 176 cm (72 in × 69 in) (image via Wikimedia)

Raphael, “The Deposition” (1507), oil on wood , 184 cm × 176 cm (72 in × 69 in) (image via Wikimedia)

In order to visit the Galleria Borghese in Rome, you must buy timed tickets online in advance. The museum is so popular that it’s near impossible to get next-day, let alone day-of, tickets (tomorrow is sold out). People flock from all over the world to see its treasures, which include artworks by Bernini, Caravaggio, Titian, Rubens, and Raphael.

What this world-class museum does not have, however, is functional air-conditioning. It apparently hasn’t for six months. And now the heat has claimed its first victim: Raphael’s “The Deposition,” a 1507 oil painting on wood showing Jesus’s body being brought down from the cross. Temperatures and humidity inside the Galleria — where staff have been forced to set up fans and open the windows in an attempt to cool the place down — have warped the Raphael painting; the museum’s DIY fix was to set up a dehumidifier next to the work, a tactic they say has reduced the warping.

But the air-conditioning hasn’t been working for months. And it still isn’t. La Repubblica broke the news of this in May, at which time Galleria Director Anna Coliva told the paper that the air-conditioning system was installed in 1997 and is completely worn out by now, adding that there were also a few years of a complete lack of maintenance. “The request to redo it has already been in play for at least 45 years,” she said. After posing the question of how this was possible, the writer of the article answers his own question: “A request that it’s easy to suppose is lost in the mazes of Italian bureaucracy.”

Recovering the History of Sound in Video Games (Hyperallergic)

by Allison Meier on September 2, 2014 original article here.

Video Games Live orchestral performance of the Tetris theme (photograph by Roxanne Ready, via Flickr)

Video Games Live orchestral performance of the Tetris theme (photo by Roxanne Ready, via Flickr)

The sound of video games has transformed from something seemingly mechanical accenting action to incredibly elaborate acoustic landscapes setting the mood for play. To preserve this history, and show why it’s worth exploring, a new documentary and archive project are underway.

Beep: A History of Game Sound — currently crowdfunding for production on Kickstarter — is directed by Karen Collins. A sound designer and the Canada Research Chair in Interactive Audio at the University of Waterloo, she has written extensively on audio in video games, including in the book Playing with Sound: A Theory of Interacting with Sound and Music in Video Games, released last year by MIT Press. Beep is aiming to be the first film on video-game sound history, and also a means of gathering interviews with key figures in its development that will be available as an archive.

As the funding page for Beep states: “We can’t go back and interview early film composers, but we can interview game sound designers and composers from the early days.” The majority of those people are largely unknown, even to gamers. “Most of us could hum the theme song to Super Mario Bros., but how many people know the name of the composer who wrote that music?,” says Collins in the Kickstarter video. (It’s Koji Kondo, who also did The Legend of Zelda and a prolific number of other Nintendo games.)


Image for "BEEP: A History of Game Sound" (courtesy the filmmakers)

Image for “BEEP: A History of Game Sound” (courtesy the filmmakers)

In a technologically nostalgic way, the impetus for Beep is aligned with projects like the Museum of Endangered Sounds. Created in early 2012, the online “museum” is focused on the preservation of sounds from now obsolete electronic media, whether it’s AOL Instant Messenger, Space Invaders, or Encarta MindMaze. Exploring the museum, you start to think of how the sounds of technology have gotten more subtle, from jarring 8-bit noise to gentler, composed sounds. However, in video games, the progress of play is so concentrated on visuals that it can be easy to overlook how audio has been essential to making gaming experiences engaging. Back in 2011, “Baba Yetu” by Christopher Tin for Civilization IV received a Grammy, the first video-game music composition to do so, suggesting that the music of games may be expanding into the mainstream.

The ground Collins is hoping to cover with Beep is ambitious, stretching from Victorian mechanical games to arcades of the 1970s and ’80s, to contemporary responses like the Video Game Orchestra, which gives the full instrumentation treatment to game sounds in live performances. As video games get more recognition as an art form, it will be integral to their history to have a record of these sound creators.

Beep: A Documentary History of Video Game Sound is fundraising on Kickstarter through September 30.

New Evidence that Neanderthals Made Art (Hyperallergic)

by Mostafa Heddaya on September 2, 2014 original article here.

Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 6.21.28 PM

Figure 4 from the “A rock engraving made by Neanderthals in Gibraltar” report, published August 12, 2014 (screenshot via PNAS)

Researchers have uncovered further evidence that human ancestors may have begun producing cave art earlier than previously thought. A group of European archaeologists have published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences presenting “the first known example of an abstract pattern engraved by Neanderthals.” The pattern, discovered at the southern tip of Spain in Gorham’s Cave, Gibraltar and dating to between 38,500 and 30,500 years ago, could substantially expand our understanding of the genealogy of artistic expression, generally thought to have begun with the cave art of early Homo sapiens, not Neanderthals.

Clive Finlayson, director of the Gibraltar Museum and one of the researchers involved, told BBC News that the discovery “brings the Neanderthals closer to us, yet again.” Previous studies, the BBC adds in their report, have noted evidence of Neanderthal flutes, decorative accessories, and even art.

The earliest appearance of cave art has been dated elsewhere in Spain to approximately 40,000 years ago, a 2012 discovery that unseated France’s Chauvet cave paintings as the world’s oldest. And although modern humans appeared some 45,000 years ago, Finlayson added that they reached the Iberian peninsula later than other regions, bolstering the hypothesis that the Gibraltar discovery is original Neanderthal handiwork and not inspired by human contact.

Whether or not these most recent discoveries of marks can be considered art remains a point of contention, and the authors of the Gibraltar study specifically establish that the marks had to have been made intentionally.

Francesco d’Errico, who oversaw the experiments in the Gibraltar study and is research director of France’s Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in Bordeaux, told BBC News that the geological circumstances of the marks establish their intentionality.

“[Dolomite] is a very hard rock, so it requires a lot of effort to produce the lines,” d’Errico said.

Two Imposing Maya Cities Uncovered in Southern Mexico (Hyperallergic)

by Laura C. Mallonee on August 28, 2014 original article here.

The facade of the monster doorway in Lagunita (all images courtesy of Ivan Sprajc)

The facade of the monster doorway in Lagunita (all images courtesy of Ivan Sprajc)

The remote Calakmul Biosphere Reserve in Southern Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula was once home to a powerful Maya kingdom. It ruled the region for 12 centuries until about 800 CE, after which its inhabitants mysteriously disappeared. Visit the UNESCO-protected jungle today to find more than 100 stelae and nearly 7,000 structures hidden beneath the lush trees. So many ruins remain, in fact, that archaeologists are still discovering them.

A researcher stands beside a stela on site in Lagunita

A researcher stands beside a stela on site in Lagunita

Last week, the research center of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts announced that an archaeological expedition led by Ivan Sprajc has uncovered the remains of two Maya cities, Lagunita and Tamchen.  Slowly, the blueprint of a vast civilization is materializing. In 2013, Sprajc’s team found the only other city, Chactún, in the nearly 1,900-square-mile area.

The existence of Lagunita was already known, though. In the 1970s, an American archaeologist named Eric Von Euw documented the city in a number of sketches, but the site was lost for four decades after he failed to record its exact location.

“We found the site with the aid of aerial photographs,” Sprajc explained in a press release, “but were able to identify it with Lagunita only after we saw the facade and the monuments and compared them with Von Euw’s drawings…”

At Lagunita, Sprajc and his team found palatial ruins surrounding four main plazas. Other surviving structures include a ball court, a 65-foot-high temple pyramid, three altars, a number of reliefs, and 10 stelae — one engraved on November 29, 711 CE by a Maya lord who ruled 80 years but whose name is now too faded to read. The site’s most extraordinary find was a zoomorphic doorway resembling a monster’s open jaws — a cosmological symbol of life’s origins.

Octavio Esparza, the project epigrapher, said that the large number of monuments in Lagunita means that it “must have been the seat of a relatively powerful polity, though the nature of its relationship with the larger Chactún, lying some 10 km to the north, remains unclear.”

Six miles northeast of Lagunita lies Tamchen, Sprajc’s other great discovery. Its name, which translates to “deep well” in the Yucatec Maya language, honors more than 30 surviving chultuns — deep underground chambers for collecting rainwater. Settled between 300 BCE and 250 CE, the city was inhabited at the same time as Lagunita. It has the same plazas and buildings, as well as the hilltop ruins of three temples arranged around a courtyard.

Both sites pose challenges to future Maya research, as many irregularities crop up in Lagunita and Tamchen. For one, pyramid temples and monuments with inscriptions are rare in the Rio Bec region, but they’re plentiful in these cities. Secondly, though abandoned around 1000 CE, a few of the stelae were modified sometime after. Several Postclassic structures (built between the 10th and early 16th century) were also found, as well as many other peculiar elements.

The press release states that these oddities reflect “continuities and ruptures in cultural traditions,” though their meanings remain mysterious. Archaeologists hope that the largely untouched region to the north might possess similar characteristics that would help decode them.

A stela from lagunita

A stela from lagunita

A chultun in Tamchen

A chultun in Tamchen

A large structure hidden in the trees in Lagunita

A large structure hidden in the trees in Lagunita

Explore the Activist Street Art of Buenos Aires Online (Hyperallergic)

by Allison Meier on August 13, 2014 original article here.

Mural by Ever in Castillo 201, Buenos Aire (via Graffitimundo/Google Cultural Institute)

Mural by Ever in Castillo 201, Buenos Aires (via Graffitimundo/Google Cultural Institute)

Through more than 300 images now posted online, you can explore the vibrant activism of Buenos Aires street art from your computer. As a metropolis where street art has often offered a voice for dissent and community resurgence, as well as a reminder to not forget recent atrocities, the Argentine capital has a distinct history that resonates on its walls.

Back in June, the Buenos Aires–based nonprofit Graffitimundo was one of 30 partners in the launch of the new Google Street Art Project. Their contribution to the platform includes hundreds of photographs from the 1980s to the present, as well as online exhibitions featuring stencil art and activism, the institutionalization of underground art, and the social impact of public art.

Cat painted by Jaz at Thames 201, Buenos Aires (via Graffitimundo/Google Cultural Institute)

Cat painted by Jaz at Thames 201, Buenos Aires (via Graffitimundo/Google Cultural Institute)

The street art starts in 1983 — the year that saw the end of the “Dirty War,” during which tens of thousands of people disappeared and were murdered by the state, and the return of democracy to Argentina. Suddenly people were able to speak their minds without fear of it leading to death, and the walls were mobbed with graffiti, propaganda, advertisements, and Argentinians just writing their thoughts. Then came the financial fallout of 2001, with its violent riots; following the destruction and bleak pall that befell the city, artists painted on the streets to bring some color and buoyancy back to Buenos Aires. Today these events of the recent past continue to reverberate — just this month a grandmother reunited with her grandson, who in 1978 was taken by the dictatorship from his mother, who gave birth to him in detention before she was executed.


Art by Jaz and Hyuro on the Google Cultural Institute street view (via Graffitimundo/Google Cultural Institute)

Art by Jaz and Hyuro on the Google Cultural Institute street view (via Graffitimundo/Google Cultural Institute)

Sparks of this history can be found in the Graffitimundo images, from Monica Hasenberg’s haunting 1983 “Silhouettes of the disappeared” to a recent wall collaboration by Tec, Defi, Chu, NASA, Parbo, Pedro, and Larva that’s representative of the post–financial crash style. Buenos Aires is very open in terms of giving artists permission to paint in public spaces — witness this collaboration between Jaz and Ever on an antique restoration warehouse, where the merchandise mingles with the mural’s cat-headed beings and man with three eyes — and you can see through the mapping project how the works wind through the city. There are also reminders of how street art continues to engage directly with contemporary issues, such as a mural by Borda on the grounds of the city psychiatric hospital that shows a figure examining medicine like it’s playing cards.

Later this year Graffitimundo plans to release a documentary on Buenos Aires street art called White Walls Say Nothing. That and the new explorable online cartography, while by no means comprehensive, give an international audience insight into the city’s activist street art.

Work by Nazza Stencil in Villa Martelli, Buenos Aires (via Graffitimundo/Google Cultural Institute)

Work by Nazza Stencil in Villa Martelli, Buenos Aires (via Graffitimundo/Google Cultural Institute)

View more from Graffitimundo at the Google Cultural Institute


Walking the Mysterious and Monumental Nazca Lines (Hyperallergic)

by Allison Meier on August 12, 2014 original article here.

Edward Ranney, “Viscas River Valley” (2001) (© Ed Ranney) (all images courtesy Yale University Press)

Sandstorms shifting the terrain of southwest Peru recently revealed new Nazca Lines. Hundreds of the geoglyphs in the desert were already known, showing animals, plants, and geometric designs etched in the earth at an incredible scale, the largest a 935-foot pelican. Yet the purpose of these ancient drawings, produced between about 500 BCE to 500 CE, remains one of history’s enigmas.

These newly exposed Nazca Lines were spotted by pilot Eduardo Herrán Gómez de la Torre, Phys.org reported. It was also from a plane that Long Island University Professor Paul Kosok first perceived the lines in 1939, an observation that would launch them into contemporary archaeological study. The allure of the puzzle of their function, from theories on an astronomical purpose to a labyrinth, has enticed researchers for decades. However, from the air isn’t how they were seen by the people who carved away iron-oxide stones to reveal the lighter clay in one-line images of a hummingbird, lizard, spider, whale, flowers, zigzags, and odder figures that appear like humans with animalistic features. It was from the ground.

Edward Ranney, Palpa Valley, 2004. © Ed Ranney

Edward Ranney, “Palpa Valley” (2004) © Ed Ranney

It’s this perspective that photographer Edward Ranney has documented since 1985, walking the 2,000-year-old lines with his large-format camera. Traveling in Peru as well as in Chile with archaeologists and local guides, his perspective in black and white gives them a majesty and mystery similar to early landscape photographers like Carleton Watkins.

This month, his newest monograph on the ancient art — The Lines, including an essay from Lucy R. Lippard — is being released by Yale University Press. Ranney told PetaPixel in a July interview that the book “represents one person’s interest in finding these glyphs and photographing them in the context in which their creators experienced them.” He adds that he hopes “pictures of them will increase others’ respect for them — they are by nature very fragile, easily wrecked by vehicles and even excessive foot-traffic.”

Despite their high-profile and restrictions on trespassers to the Nazca plain, there’s been recent destruction like in 2013 when some were wrecked by heavy machinery. And by viewing them from the surface, where the incredible distance of the lines can be more readily perceived, you can also see the delicate side of this ancient art dug from stones out on an arid plateau.

Edward Ranney, Nazca Pampa, 1985. © Ed Ranney

Edward Ranney, “Nazca Pampa” (1985) © Ed Ranney

Edward Ranney, Nazca Valley, 2009. © Ed Ranney

Edward Ranney, “Nazca Valley” (2009) © Ed Ranney

Edward Ranney, Nazca Pampa, 1985. © Ed Ranney

Edward Ranney, “Nazca Pampa” (1985) © Ed Ranney

Edward Ranney, “Cerro Unitas, Pampa Tamarugal, Chile” (2006) © Ed Ranney

Edward Ranney, “Aroma Valley, Chile” (2006) © Ed Ranney

The Lines by Edward Ranney is available from Yale University Press. Photographs of the newly revealed geoglyphs can be found at Peru’s El Comercio.