Summer Session

Summer Session – The Artist Who Inspired Kanye West’s “Famous” Visuals Responds to the Video

This Summer Session we’re thinking about celebrity, and today we bring you an excerpt from an article by Erica Gonzales about Kanye West’s recreation of artist Vincent Desiderio’s work for his music video “Famous.” Desiderio was neither consulted nor compensated before West made the video, yet he asserts that he was honored by West, exemplifying the social, economic, and artistic realities of what it means to have “star power.” This article was originally posted at Elle Magazine on July 3, 2016. Famous

When Kanye West’s “Famous” video released last weekend, many pointed out its likeness to Vincent Desiderio’s “Sleep,” which similarly shows naked figures slumbering side by side.

Soon after the premiere, it was revealed that West not only aimed to recreate Desiderio’s famed piece, he personally collaborated with the artist too. Since the weekend, Desiderio has spoken out about getting discovered by Kanye and helping to create “Famous.”

The artist apparently didn’t know the rapper was recreating his work until the morning of the video’s premiere at the Forum last week, according to The New York Times. He only found out West wanted to meet him the night before, when he received an urgent call at his studio. He was then flown out by the rapper’s team to meet with West in Los Angeles for a confidential project. When West finally showed him the piece he was working on, Desiderio nearly broke down.

“I was almost in tears,” he told NYT. “We just hugged each other.”

Read the full article here.

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Summer Session

Summer Session – The Mohn Games

For this Summer Session we’re thinking about celebrity, and one of the key ways in which celebrity status is produced in the art world is through the winning of prestigious awards. While these awards spotlight contemporary art, they often come at the cost of reducing the conversation around works to their marketability, and introduce the artists themselves to a number of ceaseless public media inquiries. Today we bring an excerpt from East of Borneo, in which author Carol Cheh examines the creation and reception of the Mohn Award. This article was originally published on August 9, 2012.

Meg Cranston, Made in L.A. 2012 installation view at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. Photo by Brian Forrest.

Meg Cranston, Made in L.A., 2012; installation view at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. Photo: Brian Forrest.

In March of this year, the Hammer Museum introduced the Mohn Award—a $100,000 art prize offered in conjunction with their new “Made in LA” biennial—to some fanfare. Blending elements of the Whitney Biennial’s Bucksbaum Award and Britain’s controversial Turner Prize, the Mohn Award will recognize a single biennial artist, selected from among 60 participants, with a hefty cash sum and the publication of a monographic book on the artist’s work. A jury of four professional curators chose five finalists shortly after the exhibition opened on June 2 and now, in a unique and attention-grabbing twist on the classic art prize format, the winner will be selected by public vote.

The Mohn Award is the latest in a series of flag-planting, publicity-generating spectacles that have altered the fabric of LA’s art landscape. If the Getty’s “Pacific Standard Time” initiative offered corrective histories, and Michael Govan’s upgrading of the LACMA campus with monumental, crowd-pleasing installations by Chris Burden and Michael Heizer provided iconic visual references, the Mohn Award could be said to add some serious bling to the mix. Money talks and, as many have noted, this award puts Los Angeles and the Hammer Museum on par with the biggest global players in the art prize market.

Read the full article here.

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Summer Session

Summer Session – @Large: Ai Weiwei at Alcatraz

Our current Summer Session topic is celebrity, and today from our sister publication Art Practical we bring you a review by Heidi Rabben of artist Ai Wei Wei’s controversial show @Large. Rabben takes Ai’s position as an artist-activist-provocateur to task, suggesting that the show relies too heavily on his reputation without delivering the content to match. This review was originally published on November 24, 2014.

Ai Wei Wei. With Wind, 2014; installation detail, New Industries Building, Alcatraz. Courtesy of FOR-SITE Foundation. Photo: Jan Stürmann.

Ai Wei Wei. With Wind, 2014; installation detail, New Industries Building, Alcatraz. Courtesy of FOR-SITE Foundation. Photo: Jan Stürmann.

This text is likely neither the first nor the last thing you will read about @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz. Substantial coverage began far in advance of the insurgent artist’s opening in late September, and the hype has continued steadily since. So it is not without reservation that I contribute another drop in the bucket. But for a project that professes to be predicated entirely on freedom—of thought and of speech in particular—the vast majority of the @Large analysis is, at best, cautiously complimentary, and, at worst, reductive and descriptive. A number of factors may be contributing to this reserved reception, including the scale and budget of the project, the number of volunteers and assistants who assembled and help maintain it, the exhibition’s lengthy duration, and the nuance of its touristic setting. A section of the project website is even dedicated to these statistics, stressing the impressiveness of the undertaking. While surely significant, these elements overwhelmingly eclipse criticism about the artworks themselves. And beyond the stats looms an implicit hesitation about evaluating such socially conscious intentions, or perhaps further, of critiquing an artist–activist–celebrity like Ai Weiwei—a figure who, ironically, professes to invite and value serious critique. So in the spirit of one of the exhibition’s taglines, “Liberty is about our rights to question everything—Ai Weiwei” (which literally appears on the commemorative luggage tag), this review will question some of the core works and motivations in @Large.

Read the full review here.

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Summer Session

Summer Session – ART THOUGHTZ: Damien Hirst

As we wrap up our month-long consideration of celebrity, we bring you this video from Hennessy Youngman’s web series Art Thoughtz. One of the most infamous celebrity figures of the art world is Damien Hirst, and while Youngman has no real problem with Hirst’s status as an art market darling, he does take issue with his presentation. This video was originally uploaded on January 10, 2012. 

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Summer Session

Summer Session – Melody Set Me Free 4.0: “We Kiki”

For this Summer Session the topic is celebrity, and we’re investigating the various ways celebrity, pop culture, and art inform and reflect one another. Today we bring you an episode from artist Kalup Linzy’s web series Melody Set Me Free, in which actor Macaulay Culkin guest stars as a music producer. This video was originally uploaded on July 23, 2014.

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Summer Session

Summer Session – #Hashtags: Rebel Rebel

This July we’re talking about celebrity, and today we bring you an article from our #Hashtags column that explores the intersection of art, social issues, and global politics. In this essay, author Anuradha Vikram talks about how the queerness of countercultural artists becomes appropriated as they achieve stardom, leaving behind the precariousness that first defined them while it continues to define their colleagues. This article was originally published on April 21, 2014.

Leee Black Childers. David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust, Philadelphia, 1973. Digital C-print.

Leee Black Childers. David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust, Philadelphia, 1973. Digital C-print.

As a young art-school graduate trying to understand the artist’s life that I had chosen, I could have had no better tutor than Leee Black Childers, who died April 6 at age 68. Childers, photographer and minder for rock stars and transgender icons, led the sort of life that the rest of us only read about. His generation, in the East Village and elsewhere, lived with a precarity and an immediacy that somehow produced enormous creativity. The rewards of that artistic output accrued unevenly to its creators, such that I came to know a man who had worked intimately with Andy Warhol, David Bowie, and Iggy and The Stooges as a colleague at what was, for me, a transitory job at a photography lab while I worked out bigger plans. Reflecting, I am reluctant to romanticize an era that left such crucial participants a hair’s breadth from mainstream celebrity yet financially destitute, but I’m awed by the tenacity and fearlessness that they brought to their art and to their lives.

Read the full article here.

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Summer Session

Summer Session – Work of Art! Reality TV Special

Today for our Summer Session topic of celebrity, we bring you an episode from artists Chris Vargas and Greg Youmans’ web-based trans/cisgender sitcom Falling in Love…with Chris and Greg. In this satirical video, Vargas and Youmans edit an episode of the short-lived reality TV show Work of Art, demonstrating the vital linkages between Pop art and queer art, and how commercially successful iterations of both are evacuated of their radical, political meanings in order to become consumable products. 

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