I thought Art Chicago was pretty boring—only a handful of really good galleries represented—but, to my surprise, loved the Antiques Fair a few floors below. Meanwhile the Olafur Eliasson exhibition at the MCA (through September 13th) has caused a lot of excitement—as I mentioned, so much better than at MoMA and PS 1—and the the pairing with the Buckminster Fuller show (through August 9th) is genius, because you can see the lineage. As I’ve no doubt mentioned before, Einar Thorsteinn, who works with Olafur (“helps me with models and helps me to think,” as Olafur said in his artist’s talk), was a protégé of Fuller, and so here you can look at Fuller’s models and then go downstairs and see how Olafur and Einar have taken off on them in their own models, made them more fanciful, and then elaborated on them in large works. There are also interpretations of Fuller’s work by sculptor Kenneth Snelson, which are gorgeous. I wish I had images to illustrate all of this, but I was only able to photograph Eliasson’s exhibition while accompanied by a representative of the MCA, and had not made an appointment to shoot the Fuller show.
Let me go off a little bit on this policy of no photography, which is shared by the Whitney (but not by MoMA), and the reason I didn’t write about Jenny Holzer’s show here, which I loved. Yes, I could have gotten images from the museum, but if they didn’t reflect my vision, I’d just be doing P.R. I could understand it in the old days, the concern that a lousy shot taken on someone’s Brownie could end up in a magazine as representative of the artist’s work, or that people would produce coffee mugs and T-shirts with a pirated image. But today, when the influence of print is lessening and word-of-mouth rules, why would you want to insist on stopping someone from taking a picture with her iPhone and emailing her excitement to all of her friends? As for artists, photography is a way of recording what is important to them—not some commercial photographer—ideas that they may want to incorporate into their own work. As we all know, major museum exhibitions have an influence on the art that comes after, and to limit that in any way seems counter-productive.
Museums seem to be catering more and more to the casual visitor while distancing themselves from artists. First there’s the entrance fee, which limits when you can see the work (in crowds on free night). I tried to get a friend who’s a professor of art in Iowa into MoMA on my press card with me, and was told she could come in for free if she had a group of students with her. But even if she were teaching in New York, doesn’t she have to see the show first, to decide if it’s something she wants to bring her students to? I know so many artists who choose to pass on major exhibitions because of the fee, and often if you find a good show, you want to see it more than once. In Chicago, no doubt, many artists can afford to join both the MCA and the Art Institute (or “INSTITVTE” as it reads on their Web site—yikes!), but in New York, with a plethora of major museums, cost becomes prohibitive. I propose that the New York museums get together on an “artist’s card” that would allow entrance to all the museums for a yearly fee of $125 or so. Verifying that someone is an artist is easier now than it was back in the day when I had to prove my professional status to the city in order to live in SoHo—it can be anyone who has a Web site featuring their work, or is featured on a gallery Web site. Such a policy would increase not only traffic but word-of-mouth.
That said, here are some random shots from the Eliasson exhibition:
From the model room
Wednesday evening I went to the opening of the newest version of Olafur Eliasson’s survey exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art. At one point a museum video crew, collecting short interviews to use in fund-raising, approached and asked me to talk about my connection to the museum. At first I didn’t think I had anything to say, but then realized that my intense interest in Eliasson’s work began with the MCA and the Robert Irwin exhibition in 1976 that changed forever how I think about art. Irwin was Eliasson’s biggest influence as well, although I think it’s unlikely that he ever saw an actual work until fairly recently. This version of the traveling Eliasson survey show (next stop: Dallas) is the best exhibition of the many I’ve seen (I didn’t see the survey in San Francisco, however, and the curator there, Madeleine Grynstein, is now the director at the MCA). At the MCA the work has room to breathe, and I think Eliasson is at his best in vast enclosed spaces—the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern (below) being an example. I’m going back today to take pictures, which I’ll share.
Olafur Eliasson, weather project, Tate Modern, 2004.
Even if you didn’t know Kurt was German, the siting of his cottage in the forest would make you think of Hansel and Gretel, but then you go inside and the fairy tale feeling is complete. Both rustic and elegant, it could be Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother’s house—provided Grandma had exquisite taste and a penchant for Biedermeier furniture.
But finding such a house in the middle of the Catskill woods isn’t the only incongruity. The other is that Kurt is an architect, a designer of chic store interiors (such as those for Diane von Furstenberg and my favorite department store, Bon Marche in Paris) and blindingly white loft-like spaces. Obviously he has range. How many modernist architects do you know who proudly display a cuckoo clock?
One of the many distinctive aspects of Kurt’s house is that there are no screens—“How European,” a friend said. Yeah, except northern Europe doesn’t have insects (a Swiss friend once told me it was because they wouldn’t allow them) and this is New York State, where mosquitoes rule. Kurt, however, is uniquely oblivious—or impervious—to mosquitoes, and one summer evening I ate in his dining room largely untouched—even though the room was buzzing with them—because his dog, sitting next to me on the bench, was incredibly efficient in snapping the insects out of the air with his mouth.
The massive, elaborate antique furniture is from his family, and when I asked Kurt how he got it into the house he said, “Oh, it was easy. It came from Europe in a container, which was left on the main road, and I rented a U-Haul…” Clearly what’s easy for Kurt would be challenging for a normal person—he's also moved hundreds of rocks from the woods to form patios and walkways around his house. I hope to do a summer update on the extensively gardened exterior which, when everything is in bloom, is as magical as the interior.
‘tis in ourselves that we are thus
or thus. Our bodies are our gardens, to the which
our wills are gardeners: so that if we will plant
nettles, or sow lettuce, set hyssop and weed up
thyme, supply it with one gender of herbs, or
distract it with many, either to have it sterile
with idleness, or manured with industry, why, the
power and corrigible authority of this lies in ourwills.
(Shakespeare, Othello, Act 1, Scene 3)
Mind is the wielder of muscles. The force of a hammer blow depends on the energy applied; the power expressed by a man’s bodily instrument depends on his aggressive will and courage. The body is literally manufactured and sustained by the mind. Through pressure of instincts from past lives, strengths or weaknesses percolate gradually into human consciousness. They express as habits, which in turn manifest as a desirable or an undesirable body. Outward frailty has a mental origin; in a vicious cycle, the habit-bound body thwarts the mind. If the master allows himself to be commanded by a servant, the latter becomes autocratic; the mind is similarly enslaved by submitting to bodily dictation.
Paramahansa Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi, 1946.
So reading about the brain and how thoughts and experience can change its physical configuration (neuroplasticity), I wonder why stop with the brain? If the brain can change, why not the rest of the body?
I have not forgotten a long article I read in The New York Times more than ten years ago (now finally available through the miracle of online archiving), which describes how a person diagnosed with multiple personality disorder may have actual physical characteristics that come and go, depending on which personality is dominant:
For more than a century clinicians have occasionally reported isolated cases of dramatic biological changes in people with multiple personalities as they switched from one to another. These include the abrupt appearance and disappearance of rashes, welts, scars and other tissue wounds; switches in handwriting and handedness; epilepsy, allergies and color blindness that strike only when a given personality is in control of the body.
Today, using refined research techniques, scientists are bringing greater rigor to the study of multiple personalities and focusing on a search for the mechanisms that produce the varying physiological differences in each personality.
One of the problems for psychiatrists trying to treat patients with multiple personalities is that, depending which personality is in control, a patient can have drastically different reactions to a given psychiatric medication. For instance, it is almost always the case that one or several of the personalities of a given patient will be that of a child. And the differences in responses to drugs among the sub-personalities often parallel those ordinarily found when the same drug at the same dose is given to a child, rather than an adult.
[Also] …observation of vision differences…made by those treating multiple-personality cases. ''Many patients have told me they have a drawer full of eyeglasses at home, and they never are quite sure which to bring when they go out''….
Now what I need is to develop a personality that doesn't have spring allergies.
A corner of the bathroom:The upstairs studio:
And outside, the Hudson, still bleak in early April: