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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Summer Session

Summer Session – Punk Thing

For this month’s Summer Session we’re thinking about celebrity, and today we bring you an article by Brandon Brown from our sister publication Art Practical on perhaps one of the most iconic and enduring cultural genres: punk. Simultaneously existing as both an infamously commercialized stylization and a sincere, perennial style, punk remains an inexhaustible testament to the inextricability of power and aesthetics. This article was originally published on September 10, 2015.

Still from the X-Ray Spex performing "Oh Bondage! Up Yours!" circa 1977. From the documentary Punk in London (Metrodome, 1977).

Still from the X-Ray Spex performing “Oh Bondage! Up Yours!” circa 1977. From the documentary Punk in London (Metrodome, 1977).

in memoriam Peter Culley

“Punk was not a musical genre; it was a moment in time that took shape as a language anticipating its own destruction.” —Greil Marcus, Lipstick Traces

“I’m mad, but I ain’t stressin’.” —Kendrick Lamar

Do you know that great Sappho poem about all the things some people say are so great? “Some say marching cavalry, some say foot soldiers / others call a bunch of ships the most beautiful of sights / offered by the dark earth / but I say it’s whatever you love best.”1 The rhetorical device Sappho uses to open this poem—“some say…but I say”is called a priamel, a list of possibilities that the speaker ultimately disdains in favor of her true feeling.

This literary device been used by countless poets since Sappho. Poly Styrene makes use of it for one of my favorite songs, “Oh Bondage Up Yours!” by X-Ray Spex: “Some people say that little girls should be seen and not heard, but I think…oh bondage up yours!!” Part of the genius of this particular priamel is the transformation of Poly Styrene’s voice, which begins subdued, even resigned, but rapidly becomes a loud, feral “fuck you.” The scream is one of both affirmation and refusal, deftly iterating the way the phrase “Oh Bondage” both celebrates and utterly rejects the quotidian masochism of life under dominion.

What happens right after this vocal leap can only be described in terms of utopian time travel. A sixteen-year-old white Brit who calls herself Lora Logic blows one long note into a saxophone, a note that stubbornly drones before distorting into a crude statement of the melody. Then Poly Styrene’s voice returns: swinging, furious, perfect. Her sense of timing is extraordinary, stretching out the o of oh just slightly, but long enough that up yours suffers a soft elision. When she screams “up yours!” she has to squeeze the two syllables into one and a half. It’s a little out of step, but so is Poly.

Read the full article here.

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Summer Session

Summer Session – Do You Believe in Television? Chris Burden and TV

This Summer Session we’re thinking about celebrity, which necessarily includes the ways in which celebrity is most easily produced and consumed—that is, were also thinking about television. Today we bring you an excerpt from an article published on East of Borneo by Nick Stillman, regarding Chris Burdens television performances of the 1970s, which used the medium of television to challenge the consumerist ethos it perpetuated, unlike its complicit emulation seen in the Pop Art movement. This article was originally published October 10, 2010.

Chris Burden, still from TV Hijack, 1972. Photo: G. Beydler. Courtesy of the artist and Gagosian Gallery, © Chris Burden.

Chris Burden, still from TV Hijack, 1972. Courtesy of the Artist and Gagosian Gallery, © Chris Burden. Photo: G. Beydler.

It’s generally known that Chris Burden made a few commercials for television in the 1970s. But any pursuit of why, expanding meaningfully beyond the descriptive synopses Burden himself provides for most of his individual works, has been curiously rare. Burden—then living in Venice Beach—was concurrently making live performance work that deployed television monitors as critical signifiers of voyeurism. This link between his use of the television set as an object or prop in performances like Do You Believe in Television or Velvet Water and his works that actually took place on television is crucial to parsing why arguably the foremost performance artist of his generation began to resituate a live performance practice to a medium that seems antithetical to live art. Television as both communicative and manipulative vessel is a major focus in Burden’s work from 1971 to 1977. Burden usually downplays the political connotations or intentions of his art, but this body of television work seems like an examination of militaristic training, specifically, how authority results in belief.

Read the full article here.

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Summer Session

Summer Session – Bad at Sports: Interview with Kehinde Wiley

This Summer Session we’re thinking about celebrity, and today we bring you an interview from the podcast Bad at Sports with artist Kehinde Wiley, courtesy of our sister publication Art Practical. Wiley, a highly celebrated artist himself, is best known for his large Orientalist paintings of men of color, utilizing the immaterial visual vernacular of authority and the materiality and scale of wealth to reframe his anonymous, systemically disenfranchised subjects in positions of power. This interview was originally published on January 15, 2013. 

Kehinde Wiley, Leviathan Zodiac (The World Stage: Israel), 2011; oil and gold enamel on canvas, 115 x 79.75 in. (framed). Collection of Blake Byrne. Courtesy of Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA.

Kehinde Wiley. Leviathan Zodiac (The World Stage: Israel), 2011; oil and gold enamel on canvas; 115 x 79.75 in. (framed). Collection of Blake Byrne. Courtesy of Roberts & Tilton, Culver City, CA.

In September 2010, Bad at Sports founders Richard Holland and Duncan MacKenzie, along with Dr. Amy Mooney, associate professor at Columbia College, sat down with artist Kehinde Wiley at Rhona Hoffman Gallery, in Chicago, during the installation of his exhibition The World Stage: India-Sri Lanka. The interview was presented as Episode 263 on the podcast. We bring you an abridged version of that conversation in anticipation of Wiley’s upcoming exhibition at the Contemporary Jewish Museum (CJM), The World Stage: Israel. The eighteen paintings included in the CJM exhibition and represented here are, like the series presented at Rhona Hoffman Gallery, portraits of young men that Wiley has encountered on the streets of cities around the globe who are influenced by and style themselves in the fashion of urban African American youth culture. Regardless of their diverse ethnicities, Wiley renders these men in poses that adopt the conventions of European aristocratic portraiture. The World Stage: Israel will be on view from February 14 through May 27, 2013.
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Richard Holland: In your earlier work, you have these patterns that define the space and then work themselves onto the figure. But now the work is back into that more illusionary mode, in which you are obviously quoting a lot of Orientalist work. But you’ve put these figures back in control of spaces and things.

Kehinde Wiley: So much of my work is defined by the difference between the figure in the foreground and the background. Very early in my career, I asked myself, “What is that difference?” I started looking at the way that a figure in the foreground works in 18th- and 19th-century European paintings and saw how much has to do with what the figure owns or possesses. I wanted to break away from that sense in which there’s the house, the wife, and the cattle, all depicted in equal measure behind the sitter. In my work, I want to create an understanding, not about what a painting looks like but about what a painting says. In many of those earlier works, the paintings speak about landed gentry who possess not only women’s bodies but the bodies of indentured servants and the bodies of, well, we could almost consider the land a body. What happens when we empty that out and create this swatch through which we push through the decorative?

I started working with street casting in the streets of Black America and then moved on to the streets of Africa, from Nigeria to Senegal. I went on to Rio and São Paulo, to Afghanistan and Israel. I find models who are completely unknown to me. I find people who take the train and get to work every day or people who go to the store to buy milk. I stop them and say, “Look, I think there’s a characteristic in you, and I can’t really describe what that is, but I need you to trust what this is. Look through the historical sources that I found. Which one do you like? Who do you want to become in this picture?” That is revealing.

Read the full interview here.

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Summer Session

Summer Session – Help Desk: Is It Any Wonder?

This Summer Session we’re talking about celebrity, and today we bring you Bean Gilsdorfs Help Desk arts-advice column and a question about fame. With the art world, the art market, and celebrity so deeply intertwined, what is the difference between being a famous artist and a successful artist, and can it be described by the similarities between Thomas Kinkade and Damien Hirst? This column was originally published on April 16, 2012. david-bowie-fame

How do you become a famous artist? I am an artist and make lots of art (performance, paintings, drawings, etc.) but I never went to art school. What should I do to slowly but surely become better known in the art world?

Fame, huh? Without a doubt, you must already know that there is no way to “surely” become “better known in the art world,” especially if you are going to do it slowly. Fame strikes like lightning, white hot and irrefutably blinding to those in its immediate path. If fame is your goal, why bother trying to climb the ladder, rung by greasy rung? Why not charter a helicopter and get airlifted to the top? Since my job as an advice columnist is to answer the queries set before me, here is a short list of actions that others have tried in pursuit of fame:

  • Kiss (with lipstick on) the museum-hung artwork of an already-renowned artist. When you are arrested, explain to the press and the jury that it was a form of homage and that you were simply overcome by the power of the art. Alternately, if you are the fighter-not-a-lover type, you could punch, kick, stab, or otherwise wound an artwork you find objectionable or offensive.
  • Sleep with someone powerful. It’s pretty well tested as a means to gain recognition, so why not give your favorite rock star/politician/A-list dealer a bounce? And then he or she can give your career a boost in return.
  • Make a complete spectacle of yourself: do buckets of drugs while making art, have sex in the gallery, don’t bathe, etc. Be the wild and crazy guy who publicly justifies all the stereotypes of the tortured artist. Bonus points if you are a.) attractive and b.) from an old-money family.
  • Two words: reality show.

Read the full article here.

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Summer Session

Summer Session – Guerrilla Girls Talk the History of Art vs. the History of Power

Today for our Summer Session topic of celebrity, we bring you an interview from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert with the feminist art activists the Guerrilla Girls. Colbert and the Guerrilla Girls talk about the ways in which institutional power limits the possibilities for representation in museums and galleries, thereby shaping the narrative of art history and also popular taste. Moreover, the interview itself is an intriguing overlapping of celebrity engagement with feminist activism. This video was originally uploaded on January 14, 2016. 

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Summer Session

Summer Session – The Dark Side of Mickey Mouse: Llyn Foulkes at the New Museum

For this Summer Session topic of celebrity, today we bring you Allegra Kirklands review of the 2013 Llyn Foulkes retrospective at the New Museum. Across all of his multi- and mixed-media works, Foulkes oeuvre holds a special fascination for the hollow promises of fame implicit in American popular figures, like Mickey Mouse and Clark Kent. His heavily textured style viscerally manifests the darkness beneath the saccharine gloss of pop culture, revealing the physical and economic violence that underwrites Americanas most beloved characters. This article was originally published on August 22, 2013. 

Llyn Foulkes. The Lost Frontier, 1997–2005; mixed media; 87 x 96 x 8 in. Courtesy of the artist and The New Museum

Llyn Foulkes. The Lost Frontier, 1997–2005; mixed media; 87 x 96 x 8 in. Courtesy of the Artist and the New Museum.

Llyn Foulkes ranks among that rare cadre of artists for whom fame is an optional extra. Over the course of his fifty-year career, the Los Angeles–based multimedia artist and musician has experienced periods of success—for his monumental Pop-influenced paintings of rocks and, decades later, for his zany, large-scale narrative tableaux. But much of his work has been met with silence from critics and buyers, allowing Foulkes an enduring reputation as an underappreciated art-world outsider. The artist’s retrospective at the New Museum, a traveling exhibition organized by the curators of Los Angeles’ Hammer Museum, positions him squarely in the canon of acclaimed American artists. Yet Foulkes, now seventy-eight, remains stubbornly opposed to the pitfalls and pretensions of the gallery and museum circuit. He is a product of the midcentury American West—a cynical, eccentric figure intent on skewering our national pop culture, political institutions, and military might in equal measure.

Read the full article here.

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