The Joan Mitchell You’ve Never Seen

Joan Mitchell, “Minnesota” (1980), oil on canvas in four parts
102 1/2 x 244 1/4 inches, © Estate of Joan Mitchell, Collection of the Joan Mitchell Foundation, New York (all images courtesy David Zwirner)

The career of Joan Mitchell, who once likened Clement Greenberg to a “toilet seat,” ought to remind us of how tribal the art world continues to be. There are those who want to belong to clubs and acquire the proper affiliations, and there are others who don’t or can’t belong to anything of the sort, even the cliques that would gladly welcome them. Academics are fond of repeating that Mitchell was “a second generation” Abstract Expressionist, as if that were the clubhouse she wanted to enter, and got stuck in. No matter what else they might say about her work, that label is slapped across their assessment.

Is this a way of placing Mitchell in history, or is it — as I have come to think — a way of putting her in her place? This is crucial to what I am getting at — did Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline influence Mitchell, or did they inspire her? This, I believe, is a crucial distinction. Perhaps she should have tried to erase de Kooning, as Robert Rauschenberg did.

Joan Mitchell, “Sunflowers” (1990-1991), oil on canvas in two parts, 110 1/4 x 157 1/2 inches, © Estate of Joan Mitchell, Collection of the Joan Mitchell Foundation, New York

The probing, shifting, subtle, and brilliant internal conversations that Mitchell carried on with various artists while working in her studio — whether it was in New York, Paris, or the French countryside — ultimately ended with them exiting, leaving her on her own, charging ahead. More importantly, when she began drawing loosely and impulsively with a brush, which happened around 1951-52, she was defining her own territory as well as accumulating her own arsenal of painterly possibilities. Mitchell was never a follower. Her gestural paintings are not like de Kooning’s or Kline’s. She was inspired by the things that they and others, like Mark Rothko and Adolph Gottlieb, did in their work, but by the time brushstrokes and forms appeared on her canvases, they were all her own.

Looking at paintings by an artist whose work you know well is like trying to find your way through a forest to a clearing that you are sure is there, even if you have never set foot in it before. You must work your way through your own history with the art if you are going to try and see it fresh. Sometimes scrutinizing it in a new circumstance helps.

Joan Mitchell, “Untitled” (1972), oil on canvas in two parts, 76 3/4 x 89 7/8 inches © Estate of Joan Mitchell, Collection of the Joan Mitchell Foundation, New York

This is one of many reasons why you should go to the magisterial exhibition, Joan Mitchell: I carry my landscape around with me, at David Zwirner (May 3 – July 12, 2019), which now represents her estate. In addition to being her first show with this blue chip gallery, it is also, as the press release states, “the first exhibition to focus on the artist’s multipaneled paintings.” This gives you a chance to experience a concentration of Mitchell’s work that you would otherwise never have seen, which is hard to believe but true. The added bonus is that paintings are exhibited in spacious digs with lots of breathing room between them. None of the galleries she showed with previously could have accommodated these paintings.

The exhibition consists of nine multi-panel paintings – a panoramic format that de Kooning and Kline never explored. They were made between 1967 and 1992, the year she died, at the age of 67. It includes “La Seine” (1967), which was one of the first quadriptychs Mitchell made, on loan from the Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza Collection, Albany, New York, and culminates with a late diptych, “Untitled (1992).

Joan Mitchell, “Untitled” (1992), oil on canvas in two parts, 102 3/8 x 157 3/4 inches, © Estate of Joan Mitchell, Collection of the Joan Mitchell Foundation, New York

In 1967, Mitchell, who had moved from New York to Paris in 1959, settled in Vétheuil, about 35 miles northwest of the city. Her property overlooked the Seine.

If we take our cue from the title of the earliest painting in the show, “La Seine,” done the year she moved there, Mitchell made all the work in this exhibition in the French countryside, far New York and Paris, in the years after the art world shifted its attention to Pop Art and Minimalism and soon thereafter announced the “death of painting.” As her friend Frank O’Hara declared in his mock manifesto, “Personism”: “You just go on your nerve.”

Three points need to be made here, before discussing individual works. At no time does she accommodate herself to the dominant critical discourses circulating throughout the New York art world. To point out, for example, that these works reify a painting’s essential flatness ignores the obvious: Mitchell knew a stretched canvas was flat long before it became a thing that critics harped on. Second, it is more important to note the differences between what she did and what had been done by artists of an older generation. If you focus on the similarities between her work and theirs, you fail to see the specificity of what she attained. Third, as I have previously suggested, with the multi-panel paintings she defined a territory all her own.

Joan Mitchell, “Untitled” (1974-1975), oil on canvas in three parts,
8 5/8 x 19 1/8 inches; framed: 17 3/4 x 29 3/4 inches, © Estate of Joan Mitchell, Private Collection, Minneapolis

Mitchell’s approach is straightforward and direct: she uses a specific brush to apply a particular color. As she moves across the canvas, she changes the brush, color, and viscosity of the paint. At no point does she scrape down or rub out what she has done. She goes forward without circling back.

She breaks her strokes and colors into zones. Each zone, whose height and width vary, is dominated by a cluster of vigorous brushstrokes that can be vertical, diagonal, horizontal, calligraphic, wispy, or wide). There is an underlying structure to the compositions, a shifting from one kind of painterly activity to another.

The quadriptych “La Seine” is a damp, wintry painting. The two interior panels mirror each other, as do the two outer, flanking ones. As with all of the paintings in this exhibition, there are areas that she leaves unpainted, creating the impression that the colors and forms are emerging from the ground.

Joan Mitchell, “La Seine” (1967), oil on canvas in four parts, 76 7/8 x 165 7/8 inches; framed: 78 1/2 x 167 1/2 inches, © Estate of Joan Mitchell, Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza Art Collection, New York State, Office of General Services

Along the bottom of each of the four panels, she paints a blotchy, black, horizontal form. Over this she lays down another series of brushstrokes in bright colors – blue, green, red, orange. Adjacent to this form is a series of wispy strokes, or a calligraphic bundle that reminded me of a knot. Here, Mitchell juxtaposes mass and line. Their proximity suggests change and instability.

In the outer, flanking panels, Mitchell largely fills the rest of the canvas with rounded and squashed blue, green, and dark, brownish-red forms, over which she paints a tangle of lines. This layering creates an enmeshed space, evoking foliage and underbrush. Mitchell was a master of setting off one form or color against another. Highly analytical, she was able to advance that a painting was made of separate but layered and entangled parts. With the white ground dirty in places, the damp dreariness of winter is hinted at but never becomes the sole focus of the painting. With the roiling forms and tangled lines placed above the white unpainted spaces below, we are reminded of shrubs, trees, and vegetation growing up to the river’s edge.

Joan Mitchell, “Edrita Fried” (1981), oil on canvas in four parts,
116 1/4 x 299 5/8 inches, © Estate of Joan Mitchell, Collection of the Joan Mitchell Foundation, New York

The quadriptych, “Edrita Fried’ (1981) is titled after Dr. Edrita Fried, a well-known New York psychoanalyst and author who died in 1981, at the age of 70. Mitchell both remembers and memorializes her friend with a large field of cerulean blue brushstrokes across four panels, which is invaded by bright orange clusters that first appear along the bottom of the second panel from the left. In the next panel on the left, they push against the resistance of the blue strokes, which partially cover them. In the fourth and last panel, an orange torrent bursts forth from the panel’s left edge, heavily engaging the dominance of the blue field. It is as if Mitchell were feeling her way across the painting, moving from left to right. Where another artist might conclude with the orange taking over the last panel, Mitchell doesn’t. Triumph is a masculine illusion.

The landscapes she carried inside her were made of visual incidents, feelings, memories, and associations. It was a powerful brew, and Mitchell drew sustenance from it again and again. She was attuned to trees, flowers, fields, and the rock faces that can be seen while sailing around the Mediterranean island of Corsica, which is something she did. But it was not just the forms of nature that inspired her; it was also the light and air, the wind rustling the leaves, or the heat of a sultry windless day.

What makes Mitchell great is her ability to infuse paint with an endless range of feelings. That is what gives her paintings their staying power, why they are one of the towering achievements of the postwar period. Her art could be simultaneously raw, tough, evanescent, and vulnerable. At a time when painting had died once again, and the smart money was on Conceptual Art, Mitchell showed that paint had not lost its power to communicate contradictory and elusive feelings, wisps of thought and slippery memories, tumult and calm, the tragic and joyous, often in the same work.

Joan Mitchell: I carry my landscape around with me continues at David Zwirner Gallery (537 West 20th Street, Chelsea, Manhattan) through July 12.

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Mark Greenwold Looks in the Mirror and Does Not Flinch 

Mark Greenwold, “Bright Promise (for Simon)” (1971–1975), oil on canvas, 85 x 108 1/4 inches

There are artists who aim to shock the viewer and those who attack decorum. While the former may gain immediate attention, and generate buzz in the media, the latter might have more staying power, and for good reason. The art world believes in decorum — the display of appropriately polite behavior – which is especially apparent when you think about what gets put up in public institutions these days. You may behave or misbehave, but you must do it in an acceptable manner. You must know how to walk up to the line but not cross it. Propriety must be maintained at all costs. Titillation and smugness are fine but the truly indecorous and the blurring of boundaries are another matter.

Mark Greenwold challenges protocol, as does Peter Saul. Their transgression is that, no matter what they put into their paintings, they don’t divide the world into us versus them. Whether the subject is an old man with knobby knees in an adult diaper, or a knife-wielding woman, or a goofy-looking killer strapped into an electric chair, it is us we are seeing, and none of us are pretty.

In an interview I did with Mark Greenwold that appeared in The Brooklyn Rail (April 2010), we talked about William Bailey and James McGarrell, two painters he studied with as a graduate student at the University of Indiana in the late 1960s. During this part of our exchange, he made an observation that still resonates:

The same things that trouble people today troubled [Bailey and McGarrell]: that I don’t make more work and that it veers between something that’s too over-the-top or operatic and the sentimental.

For viewers who don’t know this artist’s work, I think it is important to see the exhibition, Mark Greenwold: And Now What?!, at Garth Greenan Gallery (May 30 – July 2, 2019). You should not leave before you experience the whole extravaganza. Spend time with each work and notice the attention Greenwold pays to surfaces and color, such as the veined, mottled skin of an old man’s leg.

Mark Greenwold, “Barbara (Grasshopper)” (1966–1967), acrylic on canvas, 54 x 48 3/4 inches

There are 12 paintings in the exhibition, done between 1964 (when Greenwold was a graduate student in his early 20s) to 2018 — a lifetime of work. Despite all the changes his paintings have undergone and the inspirations he has absorbed – from Tamara Lempicka and Francis Bacon to Ed Keinholz and McGarrell — he has proven remarkably consistent. His paintings include human figures (usually more than two), an animal (or insect), and a room. The figures are often posed frontally, with at least one in the foreground. The space occupied by the figures is a room, and, in that sense, closed – a kind of stage full of props. Distortions and scale shifts of all kinds take place. As has often been stated about Greenwold, the subject is sex and violence, though this seems too general to tell us anything.

In an early work, “Christmas Painting” (1964), whose figures, in contrast to his later, hyper-realist style, share something with Bacon’s expressionist distortions, Greenwold presents us with all the trappings we associate with that holiday: a Christmas tree, Santa Claus, a stocking hanging above the fireplace, a reindeer peering through the window, a dog, and a nuclear family – man, woman, a boy. The painting above the fireplace depicts a woman lying nude on an animal rug, most likely a bear.

Mark Greenwold, “Christmas Painting” (1964), acrylic on canvas
51 1/2 x 64 inches

The room itself is an interlocking series of monochromatic rectangles, which section the space off, adding to the feeling of isolation that runs through the composition. The boy, who looks like he is striking a kung fu pose, occupies a maroon square facing the man and woman, who are standing in an adjacent, red rectangle. The woman faces us, while the man is either embracing or restraining her from behind. Santa Claus seems to be partially undressed, with what could be his penis peeking out from under his red and white suit.

It is impossible to figure out what is going on in this early painting. This is also true of the other works in the exhibition, even as Greenwold expanded his skill set in pursuit of visual excess and the orchestration of dissimilar appearances. In “A Magic Summer” (2017), we look into a narrow room dominated by a double window looking onto a calm sea. Proportionally, the characters occupying the room feel too big for the space.

The primary drama of the scene takes place in front of the bed, where a skinny woman recoils from the body of a man on the floor, whose bare chest has apparently been stabbed by a pair of surgical scissors. They are both in their underwear. Is she the culprit, or is it the man in glasses, also wearing only underpants, straddling him, scissors in hand?

Mark Greenwold, “A Magic Summer” (2017), oil on canvas over panel, 40 x 50 inches

And yet, for all the violence — implied and otherwise — some of the figures seem to be mugging for the camera, while others are lost in a hypnotic daze or busy with their hair. What is the oversize cat standing on its hind legs near the painting’s lower left corner looking at? Who is the bearded, bare-chested man collapsed in the opposite corner? Is that Chuck Close, in green-framed glasses, appearing as a bodiless head hovering on the windowsill? And what about the naked man next to him, wielding a meat cleaver? Floating above them all is the only fully clothed figure in the picture, with the body of a boy and the face of a man, whose face is red and blue and demonic.

While this cast of characters are Greenwold’s wife and friends, I think it is extraneous to focus on that. We should think only about what is in front of us. If we concentrate on the color scheme, we would notice his use of greens, turquoises, and blues, dominated by the lime green underpants of the bespectacled man lying in front of an Empire-style sofa, clutching his bloody chest. We might further notice the attention Greenwold lavishes on the furniture or how the mirror on the right-hand wall opens the painting up, offering us a view of things we cannot otherwise see; the reflection become an aperture that relieves the room of its claustrophobia as well as underscores its closed, narrow space.

In “Diaper” (2017), Greenwold paints with a slightly looser hand than in “A Magic Summer,” to devastating effect. Three men form a triangle in a room, again with the back wall dominated by a window. The man on the left is wearing an adult diaper and a knee brace. Is that a catheter bag full of urine beside him? Why is the naked man in the middle — the apex of the triangle — hanging from the ceiling, his eyes bugging out? What about the man on the right seated in a modern mid-century chair? Why are there a cluster of lines partially obscuring his face? Are these Greenwold’s fears about getting old and incontinent? Is that why he holds his hands in the air, palms facing us, in a pose faintly suggestive of crucifixion? Is his mouth open, aghast, because he knows his body will eventually betray and humiliate him?

Mark Greenwold, “Paris” (2017–2018), oil on panel, 50 x 40 inches

Greenwold takes us down the rabbit hole into that place where fear and trembling preside. I cannot think of another painter who has dealt with the subject of incontinence and the feelings of impotence that come with old age, but it is entirely in keeping with the emotional arc represented by these works. Beginning with “Christmas Painting” with its conflicted emotions about the family, about being left out, even shunned, Greenwold has dealt with what the literary critic Sianne Ngai calls “ugly feelings.” If they were too sentimental at one point, Greenwold seems to have eliminated that possibility from his work. It is hard to imagine a scenario where the failing body can be turned into a sentimental subject.

As for being over-the-top or operatic, this has always been true of Greenwold’s work, only more so as the years have gone by, and he has continued adding to his storehouse of painterly skills in order to prepare himself for all the indecorousness to come. I think there is something fearless about the different ways Greenwold looks at the failing body with such hard-nosed clarity, and, sensing signs of chaos beginning to bloom, does not turn away. It is one thing to look at death in the eye. It is another to look at dying and see that it has your face and body.

Mark Greenwold: And Now What?! continues at Garth Greenan Gallery (545 West 20th Street, Chelsea, Manhattan) through July 2.

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The Maximalist Dance Music of Valgur, Ibibio Sound Machine, Hama, and Steve Lacy

All you need to dance is a beat, but sometimes more will do: juicy textures, electronic nuggets, decorative splotches, maybe even a melody. These ingredients are all extraneous, of course, but excess can delight. The albums reviewed below demonstrate the charms of maximalist dance music, a mode that prizes density.

Valgur: Zapandu (Valgur)

Gleefully arch beneath a beguiling surface, this experimental Mexican pop band has invented the glassiest of pop templates: lustrous and cloudy, like the magic vapor swirling around inside a crystal ball. The tone of their songs, at once solemn and excitable, pushes the sound into electric motion.

The album’s most startling weird noise among many is Elizabeth Valdivieso Gurrion’s voice: a gentle, graceful soprano — naturally high but electronically altered to echo — singing neat, pretty, almost classical-sounding melodies in both Spanish and Zapotec while seeming to exude a pale, eerie glow.

The band layers its cold, wispy keyboard hooks, bursts of spiky rhythm guitar, percussive synthesized bass, and random sound effects — a crying baby, a ringing telephone — to create a sense of crisp clarity obscured, slightly, by hazy chill. The harsh, airy propulsion of the music moves like a large, sleek, unpredictable machine, programmed to do its job cleanly and efficiently, but capable of violence.

To pair such music with such a singer could have produced cheerful camp, extracting humor from contrast, but in fact the blurred edges of the electronic sound accentuate her ghostliness; she sounds like a disembodied, avenging spirit, forever trapped in a state of extreme, furious, mournful, but somehow etiolated, feeling. The effect, while not devoid of humor, is perturbing; the whispered chorus in “Vampiro” and the dissonant key change in “El Pozo” (the hook: “Uno dos tres/cuatro cinco seis”) prickle the skin.

If Shura sang for US Girls, she might sound like this — a breathy, technologically modulated vocal performance, designed to illustrate how automated gestures can both hide and magnify emotion, incorporated into a scarier, jerkier, shuffled recombination of keyboards, guitars, and extradiegetic noises. To hear emotions shuffled and manipulated so transparently — this is what’s scary.

Having streamlined its sound just enough to move elegantly without ironing out the creepy surprises lurking beneath the polish, Valgur crunches and glimmers. Between detachment and emotion lies an uncanny valley.

Ibibio Sound Machine: Doko Mien (Merge)

Supposedly a tribute band paying homage to the last days of disco, this London ensemble blends electrofunk and Nigerian pop into drum-fueled overdrive. Floating buoyantly over a jittery combination of live instruments and programmed sounds, it’s colorful, splashy party music.

As disco modes go, Ibibio Sound Machine’s is spiky rather than smooth. The zigzagging layers of warm live drums, snippety drum machines, and assorted clacking percussive instruments don’t bounce so much as stagger around, surging and receding in intricate, aggressive patterns, always pushing in some direction — a reflection of the Afrobeat influence.

The disco influence inheres in the band’s casual mastery, the way the beats circle back on themselves to imply the permanence of an eternal loop, and in the enthusiastic vocals of Eno Williams, who belongs to a grand tradition of gawky, somewhat awkward singers swept off their feet by the grace of a beautiful dance groove and everything it represents — connection, romance, poise, confidence, community. In another context, the corny cheer with which she exclaims “I want you to be sweet like sugar, sweet! for! me!” would sound forced; instead, whether she’s singing in English or Ibibio, her chatty good humor lends the music emotional verve.

“Just Go Forward” hops back and forth, with contained energy, over twitchy rhythm guitar and at least three different drum tracks before erupting in a brass-punctuated chant that sums up their musical philosophy: “Just go forward! Don’t look back! Always forward!” “Wanna Come Down” incarnates that principle, propelling its horn blasts and serrated wah-wah guitars round and round in a spiral; occasional key changes make the return to the refrain sound all the more inevitable, as if the song were a vicious cycle.

The shiniest confection is “I Know That You’re Thinking About Me,” which repeats the title over and over as an echoey guitar solo gradually turns sparklier and sadder, fading in an ethereal haze of horn. “I Will Run” follows, a short epilogue whose chirpy bassline runs into your arms.

This album’s bubbly percussive energy is a syncretic, collaborative marvel. It moves and loves motion.

Hama: Houmeissa (Sahel Sounds)

A Nigerien composer whose short electronic instrumental pieces combine the sweeping and the dinky, Hama likes to imagine clubs in the future, where guests sip on bluish-purple beverages and dance to an array of vintage synthesizers. This album, a playful electric flurry, is his attempt to write the soundtrack for such a party.

Although Hama is a one-man-band who composed the album on his laptop, his offhand complexity and textural range are those of an ensemble, perhaps a brightly and surrealistically dressed band of keyboardists and drummers playing plastic, multicolored Dr. Seussian instruments, with loops and ornaments.

Fond of juxtaposing the concrete with the airy, he assembles a sonic kaleidoscope of varied keyboards: whooshing gusts, plonking shudders, blips and dings and clicks, lushly watery oscillations — echoing, lurid, glowing, pinging with assured solidity.

This music mostly consists of simple melodic repetitions, as Hama’s original melodies share space with traditional Nigerien folk tunes; often he’ll play a tune on one synthesizer and then repeat it on a different one. His trick is to pick melodies that lend themselves to endless rhythmic flow — the bouncy loop on “Houmeissa” is both mesmerizing and propulsive, while the rubbery jitters on “Dounia” gradually trace a wide, expansive circle that ends up back where it started (before starting again, of course).

Without interrupting the hypnosis, percussive effects provide variety: cymbal crashes, metallic pops, synthesized thwacks. Such regularly patterned music could keep playing forever in its little corner of the world.

What kind of party would play music that shimmers so evenly, without a single climax or drop? Not a dance party, or a dinner party — a party for ideal humans who never get tired or bored. This album condenses that energy.

Steve Lacy: Apollo XXI (3qtr)

Having gained renown as an adventurous, mellow producer for his work with Ravyn Lenae, Solange, Vampire Weekend, and his own group The Internet, on his first solo album Steve Lacy unveils his elaborate musical theories in full — about the fluidity of genre, the interlocking of guitars and synthesizers, the arbitrariness of song structure. The album’s complexity sounds like clutter.

Designed as showcases for experimental funk, Lacy’s convoluted musical knots can delight in the unlikeliness of their invention. On “Playground,” the guitar chords oscillate back and forth with the rhythm of a swing in a playground. On “Love 2 Fast,” a tart guitar figure combines with dazed background choral hums, Lacy’s echoed mumbles, and interwoven sung verses to provide a suitably summery, yet ominous setting for another distorted, piercing, almost tinny guitar solo, bursting forth with a fiery passion that strangely complements such a relaxed song.

“Like Me” generates queasy, frenzied tension from the shrewd placement of prickly bass and buzzy, dissonant piano spikes, which ricochet with such precision that it sounds as if many more musicians are involved in recording the song than there are, at least on its first half. After building marvelously for five minutes, the it segues into a slower, wispier section in which chimes ring and strings flutter, followed by yet another discrete section that foregrounds the squeak of his vocoder. Such is Lacy’s hallmark as a producer, at least on his solo material: he can’t stop fussing, can’t leave a simple thing alone.

Simultaneously faint and ornate, the album accrues light, feathery instruments to no end — strings, bilious keyboard swirl, breathy harmonies. The resulting songs aren’t topheavy, exactly, but they are as unwieldy as stacks of feathers. While the lyrics describe sexual anxiety and coming out with empathetic generality, Lacy’s hesitant singing often disappears beneath an oceanic expanse of high, wet, trebly rhythm guitar, the album’s loudest and mildest ingredient.

Aiming for warm, breezy ease, he veers into a quiet claustrophobia. He’s too absorbed in minutia for the album’s whole to click into focus.

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Required Reading

This mixed-use tower, L’Arbre Blanc, is designed by Sou Fujimoto is association with Nicolas Laisné, Dimitri Roussel and OXO Architectes. It’s modelled on the shape of a tree and the balconies cantilever out like branches. See more images at Dezeen (via Dezeen)
  • Happy Pride Day! Let’s start this week’s Required Reading with a “coming out” story of sorts. This one is written by Shannon Keating and it’s titled:

The Time I Went On A Lesbian Cruise And It Blew Up My Entire Life

  • Everyone is talking about E. Jean Carroll’s excellent essay about the time President Trump sexually assaulted her. You must read it:

So now I will tell you what happened:

The moment the dressing-room door is closed, he lunges at me, pushes me against the wall, hitting my head quite badly, and puts his mouth against my lips. I am so shocked I shove him back and start laughing again. He seizes both my arms and pushes me up against the wall a second time, and, as I become aware of how large he is, he holds me against the wall with his sho

  • Daisy Alioto writes about the “gentlefictation” of graffiti:

In 2016, a study by Warwick Business School used Flickr uploads to analyze the relationship between photos of street art and London property values. “[T]he researchers’ analysis revealed that neighborhoods with a higher proportion of ‘art’ photographs also experienced greater relative gains in property prices.”

And in America, as crime dropped in the 1990s and affluent college graduates enacted a great migration from the suburbs to the country’s cities, graffiti became the literal poster board for the “authentic” urban culture they were seeking—driving up prices along the way. It was only a matter of time before the artists themselves got wise.

  • Raquel Salas Rivera and Carina del Valle Schorske discuss “Latinx poetics and what it means to be a Puerto Rican poet and translator after the devastation of Hurricane Maria”:

I found you when I was actively searching for poetic predecessors on the island, out from my mother’s profound disillusionment with the misogyny of the Nuyorican poetry scene in which she participated in the ’70s. I had just begun translating Marigloria Palma’s work from the same period as a kind of evasion or alternate route, depending on the day. Google took me to you through her: I found you reading her poems about New York on YouTube—“Nueva York con paloma.” Spanish doesn’t lie about the fact that “doves” and “pigeons” are the same birds, so the shared word is able to embrace both romance and contamination, an urban intimacy.

  • Wondering why the Hong Kong protesters are still on the streets? Jason Li has a helpful guide for you:

  • Rashid Khalidi calls out the arrogance of the Trump/Kushner vision, if you can even call it that, for the Middle East:

These are only some of the ways that the administration of which Kushner is part has made its contempt for the Palestinians apparent. In recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, it has unilaterally taken an issue Israel is treaty-bound to negotiate with the Palestinians off the table, and reversed seventy-plus years of US policy, while ignoring an international consensus that the city’s final status would be subject to a mutually acceptable peace agreement. The Trump administration has also explicitly avoided endorsing a two-state solution or any form of Palestinian sovereignty, positions Kushner reiterated in his interview. It closed the Palestinian mission in Washington, D.C., and cut off US aid to the Palestinian Authority. It claimed that, contrary to the status of all other refugees since World War II, the descendants of Palestinians, declared refugees in 1948, are not themselves refugees. Finally, in endorsing Israel’s annexation of the Golan Heights, the Trump administration has cleared the way for the annexation of whatever parts of the West Bank Israel should choose to swallow up.

  • Over at Mother Jones, Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffery explain to us how Facebook screwed everyone:

In the case of social platforms, their power is over the currency of democracy: information. Nearly 70 percent of American adults say they get some of their news via social media. That’s a huge shift not just in terms of distribution, but in terms of quality control, too. In the past, virtually all the institutions distributing news had verification standards of some kind, no matter how thin or compromised, before publication. Facebook has none. Right now, we could concoct almost any random “news” item and, for as little as $3 a day to “boost” it via the platform’s advertising engine, get it seen by up to 3,400 people each day as if it were just naturally showing up in their feed.

  • Did you know slaveholders were given reparations? Tera H. Hunter opines at the New York Times:

On April 16, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill emancipating enslaved people in Washington, the end of a long struggle. But to ease slaveowners’ pain, the District of Columbia Emancipation Act paid those loyal to the Union up to $300 for every enslaved person freed.

That’s right, slaveowners got reparations. Enslaved African-Americans got nothing for their generations of stolen bodies, snatched children and expropriated labor other than their mere release from legal bondage.

  • Gillian Brockell writes about how Oklahoma’s Fort Sill, which is currently holding migrant children, was the site of the incarceration of 350 Japanese Americans during WWII, in addition to being the longtime prison for Apache leader Geronimo, from 1894 until his death in 1909:

In fact, Fort Sill has a long history of holding children.

It was established in 1869 for U.S. soldiers fighting Native Americans. In 1894, eight years after Apache leader Geronimo had surrendered, he was transferred to Fort Sill. He was joined by nearly 400 other Apaches, including women and children. They could move freely inside Fort Sill’s large area, and some, including Geronimo, were allowed to leave to perform in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. But they were still considered prisoners of war.

  • Sometimes history repeats itself:

  • I have no idea but OMG:

Required Reading is published every Sunday morning ET, and is comprised of a short list of art-related links to long-form articles, videos, blog posts, or photo essays worth a second look.

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Queer Artists in Their Own Words: Ben Oblivion Is Inspired by Tabloid Scandals and Thomas Kinkade

The month of June is a time to celebrate the LGBTQ community and reflect on the advances of queer people to strengthen civil liberties around the world, even in a moment of great political uncertainty. It’s also a good opportunity to spotlight the richness and diversity of culture we have within the community. Hyperallergic is commemorating Pride Month by featuring one contemporary queer artist per day on the website and letting them speak for themselves. Click here to participate.

Ben Oblivion, “All The Stars Explode Tonight” (image courtesy the artist)

Ben Oblivion

Age: 24

Location: Cleveland, Ohio

Artistic Medium: Performance and Installation

Who are you and what do you do?

I am an artist and attention whore who is trying to come up with material for a very exciting and revealing autobiography, which will be read by all.

What are the top three greatest influences on your work?

Tabloid scandals, Thomas Kinkade, and a personal crisis.

Describe your coffee order.

Americano with half of a sugar packet

What is your greatest accomplishment?

Ask me after I’m dead. (It will probably be my funeral.)

What constitutes a perfect day?

60 degrees and breezy with lots of layering possibilities.

What was your favorite exhibition from last year?

Mernet Larsen: The Ordinary, Reoriented at the Akron Art Museum and Bridget Moser, Jacob Koestler, and the Vault at SPACES Cleveland.

What would your superpower be if you had one?

Astral projection.

Tell us a lie about yourself.

I’ve never told a lie.

What is one question you wish somebody would ask about your work?

Where do I get off?

What is the greatest threat to humanity?

Demanding brief answers to complex questions.

What did you make when you first started making art?

Self-portraits inspired by Egon Schiele before I realized how much more fun it is to be self-aggrandizing and vain.

Do you prefer spilling the tea or throwing shade?

Tea in the shade darling.

What is your all-time favorite work of art?

“My Love is An Anchor” (2004) by Kate Gilmore, or maybe the portrait of Imelda Marcos and her family by Ralph Wolfe Cowan

What are your plans for pride month?

Looking down my nose at people, fully aware that it’s covered in blackheads.

What is the future of queerness?

I don’t know but I hope it’s ugly and loud and full of cathartic pain.

Name one guilty pleasure.

I don’t believe in guilty pleasures, but I feel truly bad for liking “Japanese Boy” by the musician Aneka.

Greatest queer icon of the internet: Babadook, Momo, or a pervading sense of existential angst?


Is there enough support for queer artists where you live?

No, and we could use a few more queer artists here as well. Come to Cleveland! It’s very cheap!

How do you stay cool during the summer?

Baby, I’m always cool.

What is your favorite type of milk?

The stuff Charlize Theron bathed in during Snow White and The Huntsmen.

“Queer Artists in Their Own Words” is an ongoing feature happening every day in the month of June. For prior posts in the series, please click here.

The post Queer Artists in Their Own Words: Ben Oblivion Is Inspired by Tabloid Scandals and Thomas Kinkade appeared first on Hyperallergic.

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The Sandy Cliffs and Blue Skies of Martha’s Vineyard Abstracted into Paintings by Rachael Cassiani

Moshup Moment. Images: Field Gallery

Massachusetts-based artist Rachael Cassiani finds inspiration in her local beaches, dunes, and cloud-strewn skies to create abstract landscape paintings in various sizes and shapes. With a limited but vibrant color palette, Cassiani strips each scene down to its essential elements. Different shapes and hues create the illusion of depth and separation between air, land, and sea.

“I choose the structure of the paintings by looking at my scene and seeing where the most dominant hues are,” Rachael Cassiani said in a statement. “I exaggerate the natural colors of the original landscape.” While painting almost exclusively in the Martha’s Vineyard and Vineyard Haven areas of Massachusetts, Cassiani manages to capture her surroundings in a way that is not repetitive or homogeneous. The time of day and changing seasons completely alter the view, as does the artist’s choices regarding positioning and perspective. Swirls and daubs of oil paint add texture to some of the works, but they each feel like a small piece of a larger abstract puzzle.

To see more of Cassiani’s paintings, follow the artist on Instagram.

The Cliff Side.

To the Beach / Sunset Shapes

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Swimming in Blue 5x7inch Oval #oilstudy #oilpaint #oiloncanvas #oilpainting #create #cubism #carveouttimeforart #colorcrushcreative #contemporaryart #contemporaryartist #contemporarypainting #painting #passioncolorjoy #impressionism #expressionism #winsorandnewton #seascapepainting #abstractonly #abstractlandscape #abstractexpressionism #abstractart #abstractpainting #abstractartist #artistsoninstagram #modernart #marthasvineyard #dowhatyoulove #doitfortheprocess

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A Day In the Dunes

Beach Roses

Expressive Cliff Side

Sepiessa Sky

Summer on Tashmoo

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I’d be Lost Without Jack


The handplane I use the most is the one that receives the least love.

My old Stanley jack plane, a $12 purchase at a Kentucky fair, has its original chipbreaker and iron, which is just about sharpened down to a nub. When I disassembled the plane yesterday I noticed that its iron was so dull that its edge looked almost rounded over. The chipbreaker was covered in sap. Even the lever cap had to be scraped clean of sticky debris.

I usually sharpen it only two or three times a year – more if someone asks me for a lesson in sharpening curved irons.

While some of you might be on the verge of calling the Abuse Line for Handplanes (800-241-TOOL), I can assure you that this is the sort of working relationship that jack planes love and thrive on. Even when slightly neglected, they work like crazy.

And my jack plane sees a ton of use, even on commercial jobs.


This campaign chest I’m finishing up has three separate units for drawers, seven drawers and what seems like an acre of secondary/interior surfaces. When it came to cleaning up all these surfaces, the jack was my first and only choice.

I’d go broke if I smooth planed all the drawer bottoms – inside and out. These were glued-up panels, so they had to get cleaned up. And they had to fit perfectly in their grooves.

The jack does this work in one or (at most) two passes on a board. No other tool – electric or otherwise – can leave such a pleasant surface with that speed. That is, unless you prefer an #80 belt-sanded surface, which is honestly an option if you prefer power sanding – I don’t. (I’m sure some of you are saying, “But what about widebelt sanding machines?” Come talk to me in person, and we’ll chat.)

When my customer reaches into these drawers, he might feel the soft undulations left by the curved iron on the drawer bottoms. He might think nothing of it. Or he might think “huh, handwork.”

Here’s what I think when I feel those undulations: “Thanks, Jack.”

— Christopher Schwarz

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Ukiyoemon Mitomoya Takes Ancient Approach Toward the Contemporary

Japanese artist Ukiyoemon Mitomoya continues the ukiyo-e tradition with contemporary and political reflections, his works commenting on anything from white-collar life in Japan to Brexit. The result moves between the humorous and satirical to the enlightening, offering a different scope and perspective on the issues of the day.

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Eunjeong Choi’s Cascading Colors Create Cityscapes

Eunjeong Choi’s wild, illusionary oil paintings create cityscapes with kaleidoscopic forms. In a manner that can be likened to Maya Hayuk and Jen Stark, Choi creates both neat and muddied reflections on color, cascading in two and three dimensions. The painter-installation artist is currently based in Seoul, South Korea.

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