Crowds Swarm Kara Walker’s Sugar Sphinx (artnet news)

Cait Munro, Sunday, June 1, 2014 original article here.

Kara Walker, A Subtlety (2014). Photo: Jason Wyche, Courtesy Creative Time.

Kara Walker’ s immense A Subtlety (2014) is 75 ½ feet long, 35 ½ feet tall, and 26 feet wide Photo: Jason Wyche, Courtesy Creative Time.

The Brooklyn art scene saw an influx of visitors this weekend thanks to Bushwick Open Studios, and though not a part of the official programming, Kara Walker’s giant sugar sculpture at the Domino Sugar Factory was one of most popular destinations. The much-discussed installation, which features the body of a racially-charged stereotype of a black woman in the pose of a sphinx, has recently been the subject of some unsavory Instagram photos amidst widespread positive attention from casual art observers and major publications alike.

While the Washington Post predicts you might only have to wait in line for 20 minutes to see the artwork, this weekend visitors waited for up to an hour in a line that snaked down Kent Street underneath the beating sun. One witness claimed the line reached all the way back to the Williamsburg Bridge, and that a single policeman was tasked with controlling the crowd.

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Photo: artnet News

Whether the massive interest in the sculpture has stemmed from the social media controversy, the recent inundation of art events in Brooklyn, or steadily increasing media coverage remains a mystery, but clearly something in the combination of aesthetic, location and, concept has won Walker’s work a place among the most successful, highly trafficked exhibitions of the year. If you can handle the crowds and the heat, we recommend making the trek to go see it. Just remember to bring some water and entertainment, because there’s sure to be a wait, and it’s only getting hotter.

Kara Walker‘s “A Subtlety or the Marvelous Sugar Baby an Homage to the unpaid and overworked Artisans who have refined our Sweet tastes from the cane fields to the Kitchens of the New World on the Occasion of the demolition of the Domino Sugar Refining Plant” remains on view at the Domino Sugar Refinery through July 6.



Why Banksy Is (Probably) a Woman (Citylab)


by Kriston Capps  Nov 4, 2014 original article here.


Andrew Winning/Reuters


Banksy Does New York, a new documentary airing on HBO on Nov. 17, opens on a bunch of scofflaws trying to jack an inflatable word balloon reading “Banksy!” from the side of a low-rise building in Queens. These hooligans weren’t Banksy. Neither were the police officers who took possession of the piece after the failed heist and denied that it was art. Nor in all likelihood was the silver-haired man who sold $420 worth of Banksy prints for $60 a pop in Central Park, or the drivers who slowly trawled New York streets in trucks tricked out with Banksy’s sculpture, or the accordionist accompanying one of Banksy’s installations. While the film shares a lot of insights about street art, media sensationalism, viral phenomena, and the people who make Banksy possible, it doesn’t cast a light on who Banksy is or what she looks like.

“Banksy hunters” who tracked the elusive artist over the course of her month-long residency last October never caught a glimpse of her—at least, so far as anyone can be sure. Reporters such as Beth Stebner (New York Daily News) and Keegan Hamilton (then with The Village Voice) didn’t find her. That her identity is still secret is an achievement, given her notoriety and marketability.

But what Banksy Does New York makes plain is that the artist known as Banksy is someone with a background in the art world. That someone is working with a committee of people to execute works that range in scale from simple stencil graffiti to elaborate theatrical conceits. The documentary shows that Banksy has a different understanding of the street than the artists, street-writers, and art dealers who steal Banksy’s shine by “spot-jocking” or straight-up pilfering her work—swagger-jackers who are invariably men in Banksy Does New York.

All of which serves as evidence against the flimsy theory that Banksy is a man.

A scene from Banksy Does New York depicts vandals attempting to make off with the last piece from Banksy’s 31-day residency in New York. (HBO)


This hypothesis is not completely unfounded. Eleven years ago, The Guardian‘s Simon Hattenstone met Banksy in a pub in Bristol. The reporter had his own concerns about identifying Banksy, even early into the artist’s career. (“Nobody here seems to know what he looks like. But they all know him. That is, they know of him. That is, if he is a he.”) Hesitations notwithstanding, Hattenstone was convinced: He wrote that the person he interviewed “looks like a cross between Jimmy Nail and Mike Skinner of the Streets.” Your standard bloke.

In the 2010 film Exit Through the Gift Shop, another documentary about street art, Banksy appears as an anonymous figure whose voice is disguised, but who is plainly a man. So that would seem to put the question to rest. Further to the point, the street artist Shepard Fairey referred to Banksy as “he” and “him” throughout an interview with Brian Lehrer the same year. Fairey would be in a position to know, presumably: He’s the closest thing Banksy has to a colleague. Fairey says that Banksy insists on anonymity, in part, to manage his image in the press. “He controls the way his message is put out very carefully,” Fairey says in the interview.

Yet these pieces of evidence confuse rather than clarify the issue. Exit Through the Gift Shop is a classic piece of misdirection. Over the course of the movie, the film’s would-be documentarian, Thierry Guetta, is exposed as a poor filmmaker. Partway through, Banksy takes over the production, turning it into a documentary about the documentarian instead. To complete the meta romp, Guetta, working under the nomme de rue Mr. Brainwash, proceeds to rips off Banksy’s style. All of this means that Fairey, Banksy’s co-conspirator in Banksy’s film, is an unreliable narrator.

Another piece from Banksy’s New York residency. (HBO)


During the very first interview that Banksy gave to The Guardian, another figure was present (“Steve,” Banksy’s agent). Another figure is always present, says Canadian media artist Chris Healey, who has maintained since 2010 that Banksy is a team of seven artists led by a woman—potentially the same woman with long blonde hair who appears in scenes depicting Banksy’s alleged studio in Exit Through the Gift Shop. Although Healey won’t identify the direct source for his highly specific claim, it’s at least as believable as the suggestion that Banksy is and always has been a single man.

“Since there is so much misdirection and jamming of societal norms with Banksy’s work, as well as the oft-repeated claim no one notices Banksy, then it makes sense,” Healey tells me. “No one can find Banksy because they are looking for, or rather assuming, a man is Banksy.”

A Banksy outside the Hustler Club in Hells Kitchen. (Eric Thayer/Reuters)


Part of what makes Banksy’s work so popular is that it doesn’t operate much like street art at all. Think about Invader or Fairey, artists who appear in Exit Through the Gift Shop: Invader’s 8-bit career began with a single “Space Invaders” icon that the artist reiterated endlessly. Fairey’s work started with a stencil of Andre the Giant prefaced by the word “Obey,” again, repeated over and over. While they’re both more like media moguls than graffiti writers today, Fairey and Invader started with the same strategy: to project themselves into public spaces by broadcasting themselves all over it.

That ambition to control a public space through this sort of redundant branding, to make the street your own, is a masculine one—and it’s shared by the overwhelming majority of street artists. In the theater of the public square, graffiti is cousin to cat-calling—which Slate’s Dee Locket smartly explains as the constant effort by men to “create the illusion of dominance in shared public spaces,” specifically by claiming women’s private spaces as their own. Naturally, street art is at best delightful and at worst a nuisance, whereas cat-calling is an intolerable social problem and a legitimate threat to women’s safety. So any comparison between the two only goes so far.

Still from a video graphic mapping Banksy’s October 2013 New York residency. (HBO)


Banksy does Brooklyn. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters)


Compared to the highly visible work of Invader or Fairey or dozens of other high-profile street artists, Banksy’s work is different. Girls and women figure into Banksy’s stenciled figures, for starters, something that isn’t true of 99 percent of street art. Banksy’s work has always done more than project “Banksy” ad nauseum. (In fact, a “handling service” called Pest Control exists to authenticate Banksy’s protean projects.) Banksy’s graffiti understands and predicates a relationship between the viewer and the street, something that graffiti that merely shouts the artist’s name or icon over and over (and over and over) doesn’t do.

Maybe it gives Banksy too much credit to say that her work shows a greater capacity for imagining being in someone else’s shoes. (It’s true of her themes of social justice, but it’s also formally true in the way her work anticipates interaction with the viewer.) Andrew Russeth, at the time the editor for Gallerist, the New York Observer‘s art site, finds Banksy’s work lacking in the Banksy Does New York documentary, calling it “art that hits you over the head with its message” and “worst-common-denominator art”—although he had kinder things to say about Sirens of the Lambs, a truck filled with squeaking plush animals. The fine-art world may not love Banksy, but Banksy plainly thinks of herself as part of that world: The New York residency drew on countless tropes from the art world, complete with a wry audio tour guide.

Banksy’s Everything but the Kitchen Sphinx in Queens was dismantled and removed by the owner of an auto-glass shop. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)


“The real show he is running is on the Internet,” says one savvy observer in the documentary. “It’s like the Internet is almost his graffiti wall.” Close: Her graffiti wall. The savvy manipulation of media to make viral art, to make art about virality, makes Banksy an innovator breaking out of a familiar form. In contemporary art today, that’s a feminine trait: The best selfie artists are women, for example. So are the artists leading the Post-Internet art world.

Given how many men rip off Banksy in Banksy Does New York—watch the film to meet the utterly vampiric art dealer Stephan Keszler, if for no other reason—it’s only fitting to presume that Banksy is a woman. Women experience the street in a different way than men do. Women experience the art world in a different way than men do. Love her or hate her, Banksy is putting herself at the intersection of the street and the art world. Why would anyone expect that position to be occupied by a man?

Works by Banksy titled Kate Moss 2005 appear in a 2009 auction. (Andrew Parsons/Reuters)


What most street art looks like. (HBO)




Ai Weiwei @ Alcatraz, and legos, lots of legos

Thor Swift for The New York Times

Jori Finkel of the New York Times described the scene at Alcatraz as artist Ai Weiwei prepares for his multiple installation show.

“Judging from the large bags of colorful Legos on the floor and dozens of plastic base plates piled on tables, this room could have been the activities station for a well-funded summer camp. And the five women and men drifting in and out, slicing open boxes and rooting around for the right size toy bricks, were young enough to pass as camp counselors.”

This scene (and subject matter, freedom) is antithetic for the venue of his newest show, the infamous prison Alcatraz. This assembly Lego masterpiece is taking place in the building where prisoners once laundered military uniforms and is normally off limits to the tourists visiting this national park. In With Wind, one part of the show, birds (paper kites) fly around with a large dragon kite wrapped through the ceiling pipes. The dragon carries coded messages and quotes on his scales (actually hand cut paper).


Photo by Hyperallergic,com


Photo by Hyperallergic,com

This show by the artist Ai Weiwei opened September 27 and one installation features 176 portraits of politically exiled and imprisoned men and women from around the world made up of over 1 million Lego blocks. This show, @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz, will be open until April 2015 and was made possible by Cheryl Haines and her team of volunteers who helped to construct the works based off of the designs from a 2,300 page instruction manual. Absent from these portraits is the artist himself who was also a victim of political imprisonment in 2011. He was detained for 81 days, many spent in solitary confinement, and his passport is still being withheld from him today. Those days are fuel for his current show. He is not present at his show; he is still not allowed to leave China. He has never set foot on Alcatraz.

Henry Moore, Auguste Rodin meet in English field (Associated Press)

By JILL LAWLESS March 19, 2013 3:57 PM

PERRY GREEN, England (AP) — Henry Moore has company on his muddy home turf.

At the late British artist’s former home in the English countryside, swooping sculptures sit on rain-sodden fields, and sheep graze at the base of monumental bronzes. Now they have been joined by figures created by Auguste Rodin, for an exhibition that aims to tease out the connections between the French master sculptor and the English modernist.

The only problem, right now, is the weather. Britain’s long, wet winter has left the countryside a soaking mess. Unlike most art shows, this one is best approached in waterproof boots.

“You’ve got water on the fields reflecting the forms, which is beautiful — but it’s muddy,” curator Anita Feldman said during a preview of the show on Tuesday. “But the lambs are out, which is beautiful.”

The Henry Moore Foundation owns the house and farmland where the artist lived from the 1940s until his death in 1986. Set amid woods and fields about 30 miles (50 kilometers) north of London, it is a gallery and sculpture park devoted to the work of Moore, whose large, fluidly curved bronzes stand in 39 countries around the world.

“Moore Rodin,” which opens March 29 and runs to Oct. 27, marks the first time the foundation has placed pieces by another artist alongside Moore’s work on the lawns and fields.

The two artists never met; Moore was a 19-year-old soldier in World War I when Rodin died in 1917. But Moore Foundation Director Richard Calvocoressi said that between then they “reinvented the language of figurative sculpture.”

Feldman acknowledged that people may not immediately see the connections between Moore — best known for massive abstracted forms — and Rodin, creator of “The Thinker” and other iconic human figures.

“The first thing people think of with Henry Moore is that it’s weighty and static and timeless,” she said Tuesday. “Whereas Rodin is all about movement and gesture.”

Rodin’s muscular nudes are more obviously classical in inspiration than Moore’s stretched and warped figures.

But Feldman said Moore admired Rodin and owned a cast of the French artist’s “Walking Man,” which he photographed in detail. And the two are both unmistakably modern artists: Inspired by antiquity and by Renaissance geniuses like Michelangelo, they studied classical art then took it apart.

Feldman said both felt that “by breaking down and condensing form you can distill it to something that’s essential.”

Conservator Rupert Harris waxes Rodin's 'The Burghers …

“They are connecting with the past to make a modern sculpture that is very humanistic,” Feldman said.

They also both thought a great deal about locating art in a landscape — and made big works that are shown off to excellent effect on the Moore Foundation’s 50 acre (20 hectare) site.

The exhibition of more than 100 works, including 12 large outdoor sculptures, includes many pieces loaned by the Musee Rodin in Paris — and one uprooted from its plinth outside the Houses of Parliament in London.

“The Burghers of Calais” — Rodin’s affecting depiction of the French city’s leaders surrendering to the English after a 14th-century siege — has stood for decades outside the seat of British government.

Moore called it the best piece of public sculpture in London. Now it stands in a field, near Moore’s bronze “Three Piece Sculpture: Vertebrae.” The juxtaposition makes it clear that both are kinetic sculptures that unfold as the viewer walks around them.

Nearby, Rodin’s “Jean d’Aire,” a nude figure with clenched fists from 1887, stands opposite Moore’s “The Arch,” made 80 years later — a completely different work with some of the same tense energy.

In an inside gallery are models and drawings by both artists that reveal more links. Both men often fragmented the human body, sculpting isolated torsos and hands and heads. Moore’s drawings of hunched Londoners sheltering from the Blitz in Underground stations are hung alongside Rodin’s “black drawings,” illustrations of vulnerable human figures drawn in the years after the Franco-Prussian War.

Moore’s daughter, Mary Moore, has assembled a cabinet full of objects collected by both men. Rodin’s are mostly classical antiquities; Moore’s, reflecting his fascination with found objects and art from non-Western cultures, include a Persian model of a lynx, a stone Aztec head and a piece of driftwood.

Mary Moore, who grew up in the house and watched as her father began buying more land and dotting it with his creations, said she was struck by the differences between the two artists, rather than the similarities.

“It’s a generational difference. I was amazed to hear that Rodin didn’t carve. He was a modeler, whereas my father was a consummate carver.”

But she said she welcomed the visiting artworks.

“They are human scale,” she said. “They fit perfectly in the parkland landscape.”

Christo fills former natural gas tank in Germany (Associated Press)

Associated Press – Fri, Mar 15, 2013

OBERHAUSEN, Germany (AP) — Artist Christo has unveiled his latest spectacular creation: a balloonlike installation that fills the inside of a former natural gas storage tank in Germany’s industrial Ruhr region.

Christo’s “Big Air Package,” an inflatable envelope made of translucent white polyester, rises 295 feet (90 meters) from the floor of the Gasometer in Oberhausen. It will be open to the public from Saturday through Dec. 30.

Christo’s structure is kept upright by air fans. Visitors enter through airlocks. Christo says the effect is to leave visitors “virtually swimming in light.”

The tank was converted into an exhibition hall after being taken out of service in 1988.

Christo and his late wife, Jeanne-Claude, in 1999 exhibited a wall made of 13,000 colored oil barrels at the Gasometer.