The Recent ‘Jelly Gummies’ of Sam Lyon

Sam Lyon’s recent 3D animations and characters have a particular texture and sheen, reflecting the name he’s given to the series he’s worked on for the past few years: “Jelly Gummies.” Whether it’s a sentient piece of fruit, a Teletubby, or an undergarment, Lyon applies his signature facial features and sensibilities to any given object, and effectively absorbs it into his gelatinous world.

Original source:

Your Concise Los Angeles Art Guide for Spring 2019

David Bradley, “Hopi Maidens” (2012), mixed media on panel, 40 x 30 in. (Museum Purchase, Museum of Indian Art and Culture)

This year, Hyperallergic put together its first Los Angeles print art guide. For those of you in LA, you can look out for copies in galleries, museums, and nonprofit art spaces around the city. We have also put together this online version so that you can access it from your devices at any time.

To stay up-to-date on our growing local coverage, we encourage you to sign up for our weekly Los Angeles newsletter, which compiles our various West Coast contributions from a wonderful team of writers. In the meantime, we hope you’ll enjoy learning about these eclectic exhibitions and events taking place in the Los Angeles area over the next few months.

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Los Angeles & California History 

Barbara T. Smith: The 21st Century Odyssey

When: Open through May 25
Where: The Box (805 Traction Avenue, Arts District, Los Angeles)

The undersung Barbara T. Smith is an influential feminist performance artist from Southern California who began her work in the late 1960s. This exhibition looks at a 1990s performance she did with her partner at the time, the scientist Dr. Roy Walford, in which she took on the role of Odysseus and he the role of Penelope. This is just one of her many imaginative projects that critiques the patriarchy, and the show will be an excellent opportunity to revisit Smith’s legacy.  

The Liberator: Chronicling Black Los Angeles, 1900–1914

Jefferson Lewis Edmonds, “The graduating class of Sawtelle School, June 1904,” The Liberator, vol. 6, no. 2, reproduction (image courtesy Edmonds Family Collection | Los Angeles Public Library Special Collections)

When: Open through September 8
Where: California AfricanAmerican Museum (600 State Drive, Exposition Park, Los Angeles)

In 1900, Jeffrey Lewis Edmonds, a former enslaved African, founded The Liberator, a newspaper that documented and advocated for the emerging Black population in Los Angeles. With Edmonds at the helm, the publication reported news, denounced racial injustices, and portrayed Los Angeles as a city of hope for African Americans. Prompted by the LA Public Library’s recent digitization of The Liberator, the California African American Museum displays the newspaper’s archives, alongside rare ephemera and photographs, chronicling the evolution of Black Los Angeles.

Time is Running Out of Time: Experimental Film from the L.A. Rebellion and Today

When: Open through September 14
Where: Art + Practice (3401 West 43rd Place, Leimert Park, Los Angeles)

In the wake of the 1965 Watts Uprising in Los Angeles, a group of Black diasporic students entered the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television as part of the University’s Ethno-Communications Initiative. They began producing experimental and documentary video work about the Black diasporic experience, and soon became known as the Los Angeles School of Filmmakers or the LA Rebellion. In Time is Running Out of Time, Art + Practice places the group’s radical 1970s short films in dialogue with recent work by the contemporary video artists they’ve influenced.

The Archival Impulse: 40 Years at LACE

When: Open through December 31
Where: Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (6522 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, Los Angeles)

LACE, which was founded as a grassroots artists space in downtown Los Angeles over four decades ago, continues to be an important venue for emerging artists and performers from around the world. Its historic role in shaping and supporting LA’s art scene was recognized last year when the Getty Research Institute announced that it was acquiring LACE’s massive archives, including correspondence, exhibition material, video tapes, and other ephemera. Although it contains “less than 1% of 1% of 1% of the actual archive,” an ongoing floor-to-ceiling installation at LACE gives viewers a good sense of the organization’s significance, and the importance of documenting its history.

Photography & Video

Sandra de la Loza, “Brothers” (2003), C-print, 20 x 20 inches, framed (image courtesy the artist)

Sandra de la Loza: Mi Casa Es Su Casa

When: Open through May 12
Where: Armory Center for the Arts (145 North Raymond Avenue, Pasadena)

In Mi Casa Es Su Casa, Los Angeles-based artist Sandra de la Loza presents subtly surreal, doctored historic photographs of her own Mexican-American family. Bodies and faces in the photographs are obscured and replaced with ghostly silhouettes; they prompt meditations on lost heritages, the fragility of memory, and the malleability of identity.

The Gutter Art of Stephen Varble: Genderqueer Performance Art in the 1970s Photographs by Greg Day

When: Open through May 17
Where: One National Gay & Lesbian Archives (909 West Adams Boulevard, University Park, Los Angeles)

In 1975 and 1976, photographer Greg Day took hundreds of pictures of notorious performance artist Stephen Varble (1946–1984), who wore costumes made from garbage as he regaled New York City pedestrians and gallery-goers with his guerilla “Gutter Art” shows. Performing as various characters, including Marie Debris, Varble played with nonbinary gender identities long before the term “genderqueer” was coined. ONE presents a selection of Day’s photographs of Varble’s trash couture performances, including his famous “Chemical Bank Protest” stunt, in which he donned breasts made from condoms filled with cow’s blood.

Oscar Gustaf Rejlander, “Madonna and Child with St. John the Baptist” (about 1860), albumen silver print, image (arched): 7 x 4 7/8 in. (the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles)

Oscar Rejlander: Artist Photographer

When: Open through June 9
Where: Getty Center (1200 Getty Center Dr, Brentwood, Los Angeles)

Since he died in near poverty in 1875, Oscar Gustave Rejlander has become known as “the father of art photography.” The flamboyant Swedish-born Victorian Brit collaborated with Charles Darwin; influenced the work of Julia Margaret Cameron and Lewis Carroll; and conducted pioneering experiments in combination printing. In the first major retrospective on Rejlander, the Getty Center showcases nearly 150 dazzling works, ranging from photo illustrations for Darwin’s The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals to a charmingly odd “Portrait of a Young, Chubby Girl Dressed Like a Picture of Her Great-Grandmother.”

Zina Saro-Wiwa, “Precious Eats Boli and Fish with Oil Bean,” video still from the series Table Manners: Season 2 (2019), eight digital videos (image courtesy the artist)

Inheritance: Recent Video Art from Africa

When: Open through July 28
Where: Fowler Museum at UCLA (308 Charles E Young Dr N, Westwood, Los Angeles)

At the Fowler Museum, three contemporary African video artists explore the realities of postcolonialism in their respective countries. Kudzanai Chiurai’s We Live in Silence (2017) is a series of tableaux vivants reflecting on Zimbabwe’s complicated relationships to American politics, Christian biblical stories, and African history; Zina Saro-Wiwa’s Table Manners (2014–19) depicts eight people on eight screens eating homemade Nigerian meals, offering commentary on the effect of Big Oil on Nigeria’s agriculture; and Mikhael Subotzky’s video installation WYE (2016), filmed on a nature preserve, follows three characters navigating post-Apartheid South Africa.

Kwame Brathwaite, Photo shoot at a public school for one of the AJASS-associated modeling groups that emulated the Grandassa Models and began to embrace natural hairstyles. (Harlem, ca.1966) (image courtesy the artist and Philip Martin Gallery, Los Angeles)

Black Is Beautiful: The Photography of Kwame Brathwaite

When: Open through September 1  
Where: Skirball Cultural Center (2701 North Sepulveda Boulevard, Brentwood, Los Angeles)

During the second Harlem Renaissance of the late 1950s and 60s, Kwame Braithwaite helped popularize the “Black is Beautiful” movement by taking vibrant photographs of African Americans with natural hair and clothes that honored their African roots. As a cofounder of Grandassa Models, a modeling agency for Black women, and the African Jazz Art Society and Studios, Braithwaite used art, music, and fashion as tools for social change. In the first exhibition devoted to this underrecognized figure, the Skirball Cultural Center presents an eclectic selection of work, ranging from striking behind-the-scenes portraits of Miles Davis and Max Roach to garments from Grandassa’s fashion shows.

Art Movements 

La Huella Múltiple and Gráfica América

When: Open through May 12 and September 1
Where: Museum of Latin American Art (628 Alamitos Avenue, Long Beach, California)

Printmaking has a long history throughout Latin America, and these two exhibitions highlight the collaborative spirit embodied in the creation of multiples and publications. La Huella Múltiple was founded in 1996 by artists Sandra Ramos, Belkis Ayón, Abel Barroso, and Ibrahim Miranda with the goal of showcasing the best prints produced by contemporary Cuban artists. MOLAA’s exhibition contains 54 works that present an expansive vision of printmaking. Gráfica América pulls back to survey the broad range of graphic works created by Latinx and Latin American print shops and publishing houses, from the US, Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean.

Barbara Jones-Hogu, “Unite (First State)” (1969), screenprint (© Barbara Jones-Hogu)

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power 1963–1983  

When: Open through September 1
Where: The Broad (221 South Grand Ave, Downtown, Los Angeles)

Spanning an especially volatile and culturally fertile period in American — and especially African American — history, Soul of a Nation gathers work from multiple centers of artistic production across the country, presenting a rich and varied cross section of Black art. From Barkley Hendricks’s dignified portraits to Frank Bowling’s luminous abstractions and the funk-infused imagery of Chicago’s AfriCOBRA collective, Soul of a Nation illustrates the disparate aesthetic routes that African American artists pursued in the service of empowerment and protest. The Los Angeles iteration of the exhibition, which traveled from the Brooklyn Museum, places special emphasis on the contributions of Angeleno artists, including Betye Saar, Melvin Edwards, John Outterbridge, Noah Purifoy, and Charles White.

Artist Retrospectives 

Allen Ruppersberg, “The Singing Posters: Allen Ginsberg’s Howl by Allen Ruppersberg (Parts I-III)” (2003/2005) (detail), commercially printed letterpress posters (image courtesy the artist and Greene Naftali, New York; photo courtesy Skirball Museum, Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles; photo by Robert Wedemeyer)

Allen Ruppersberg: Intellectual Property 1968–2018

When: Open through May 12 
Where: Hammer Museum (10899 Wilshire Blvd, Westwood, Los Angeles)

Allen Ruppersberg’s influence on contemporary art can’t be overestimated, as he pioneered strategies from installation and conceptual art, to appropriation and text-based art, beginning in the late ’60s. His current retrospective at the Hammer — his first in the US in three decades — includes representative works from across his oeuvre, characterized by his intellectual curiosity and very dry sense of humor. These include plates of rocks, pine cones, and other inedible items served to diners at “Al’s Cafe” (1969), and “The Singing Posters” (2003/05), a phonetic reproduction of Allen Ginsberg’s seminal beat poem “Howl,” printed on dozens of brightly colored broadsheets at the now-defunct Colby Poster Printing Co., a one-time staple of vernacular Los Angeles imagery.

Charles White: A Retrospective; Life Model: Charles White and His Students; and Plumb Line: Charles White and the Contemporary

Charles White, “Sojourner Truth and Booker T. Washington (Study for Contribution of the Negro to Democracy in America)” (1943), pencil on illustration board. 37 × 27 1/2 in. (collection of the Newark Museum, purchase 1944 Sophronia Anderson Bequest Fund, © The Charles White Archives, photo courtesy Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York)

When & Where: Los Angeles County Museum of Art (5905 Wilshire Boulevard, Mid-Wilshire, Los Angeles), through June 9; Charles White Elementary School (2401 Wilshire Boulevard, Westlake, Los Angeles ), through September 15; California African American Museum (600 State Drive, Exposition Park, Los Angeles), through August 25

With the deft hand of a master draftsman, Charles White captured the breadth of the African American experience, depicting everyday life, historical scenes, and images of Black empowerment. LACMA’s retrospective of White’s work features 100 drawings, prints, and paintings, tracing his path from his birthplace of Chicago to New York and finally Los Angeles. Two additional exhibitions will give further context to his legacy: Organized by LACMA and held at the Charles White Elementary School where he taught, Life Model: Charles White and His Students will explore his role as an educator, while Plumb Line: Charles White and the Contemporary at the California African American Museum features contemporary artists whose work resonates with White’s.

David Bradley, “To Sleep, Perchance to Dream” (2005), acrylic on canvas, 60 x 76 in. (gift of Richard E. Nelson, Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian)

Indian Country: The Art of David Bradley

When: Open through January 5, 2020
Where: The Autry Museum of the American West (4700 Western Heritage Way, Griffith Park, Los Angeles)

Born to a mother of Chippewa heritage before being adopted by a non-Native family, David Bradley has a unique perspective as both an insider and stranger in two worlds. His artwork reflects this complex identity, drawing on Pop Art, Santa Fe–style painting of the 1930s and ’40s, and Renaissance Art, among other sources. The Autry’s retrospective spans his four-decade career, showcasing the biting satirical humor beneath his vibrant and bold vistas into Native American life.

Solo Contemporary Artist Exhibitions

Diedrick Brackens: unholy ghosts

When: Open through April 27 
Where: Various Small Fires (812 N. Highland Avenue, Hollywood, Los Angeles)

Hovering between history and memory, Diedrick Brackens’s weavings were a highlight of last year’s Made in LA biennial at the Hammer Museum. Fusing African, European, and American textile traditions, he uses this labor-intensive medium to depict narrative scenes that capture the complexity of African American identity. Unholy ghosts, his current solo show at Various Small Fires, offers a more robust presentation of his evocative and poignant tapestries.

Fred Wilson, “Black Is Beautiful,” Iznik tiles, 281.5 cm x 583.6 cm x 1 cm, installation view (© Fred Wilson, photo by Damian Griffiths, courtesy Pace Gallery)

Fred Wilson: Afro Kismet

When: Open through April 27 
Where: Maccarone (300 South Mission Road, Boyle Heights, Los Angeles)

Since his influential 1992 exhibition Mining the Museum at the Maryland Historical Society, Fred Wilson has explored the way that history is constructed, interrogating how institutions and individuals canonize some narratives while erasing others. For his first solo gallery exhibition in Los Angeles, Wilson delves into the history of the black diaspora in Istanbul. With a nod to the creative period that African American author James Baldwin spent in Istanbul, Wilson delves into the city’s material culture to reveal an Afro Turk legacy that — as in the US — bears the marks of slavery in its past.

Cayetano Ferrer: Memory Screen

When: Open through April 27 
Where: Commonwealth and Council (3006 West 7th Street, Suite 220, Koreatown, Los Angeles)

Cayetano Ferrer’s contribution to the Frieze Art Fair’s recent Los Angeles debut featured neon signs from a prop shop, which he assembled into a Hollywood concrete poem flashing “Sin–Passion–Charity–Vicious.” His solo show at Commonwealth and Council similarly explores the fabric of Los Angeles. Utilizing wood, marble, plastic, and even gelatin, Ferrer’s constructions take the form of large-scale architectural models and interventions into the physical structure of the gallery’s exposed ceiling.

Christina Quarles: But I Woke Jus’ Tha Same

Christina Quarles, “Can Yew Feel? Tha Days Are Gettin’ Shorter” (2018), acrylic on canvas, 60 x 48 x 1 inches (© Christina Quarles, Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles)

When: Open through May 9
Where: Regen Projects (6750 Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood, Los Angeles)

Christina Quarles, who was raised in Los Angeles, has recently been included in some major contemporary art exhibitions, including the Hammer Museum’s Made in LA biennial and the New Museum’s Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon. This is Quarles’s first solo exhibition with Regen Projects since she joined its roster last year. It will feature her signature drawings and paintings, in which elongated, broken-up bodies occupy surreal landscapes and domestic settings.

Beatriz Cortez: Trinidad / Joy Station

When: Open through May 12
Where: Craft Contemporary (5814 Wilshire Boulevard, Mid-Wilshire, Los Angeles)

In her first major solo museum exhibition, El Salvador-born artist Beatriz Cortez imagines a multicultural commune housed in a retro-futuristic space station. A reflection on joy and survival in the face of environmental catastrophe, this elaborately constructed installation features geodesic domes made from salvaged car hoods — a reference to the architecture of post-war utopian communities — and a garden of plants native to the Americas. Cortez says her work “imagine[s] joy, especially shared joy, as a way to resist capitalism.”

York Chang, “Shredded” (2016), inkjet print on Japanese kozo paper, 34 x 72 in. (image courtesy the artist)

York Chang: The Signal and the Noise

When: Open through July 20
Where: Vincent Price Art Museum (1301 Avenida Cesar Chavez, Monterey Park)

York Chang critically and playfully blends historical events with fiction in his multimedia work. From taking on the personas of other major artists to writing in the voice of Jorge Luis Borges, Chang likes to mess with our expectations. For this show, he is building an immersive environment that will question the spectacle of media and propaganda.

Fritzia Irízar, Research image for Fritzia Irizar: CaCO3 (2019), digital photo (image courtesy the artist, © Fritzia Irízar)

Fritzia Irízar: ​CaCO3​ ​

When: Open through September 1
Where: OCMA Expand (South Coast Plaza Village, 1661 West Sunflower Avenue, Santa Ana)

The Orange County Museum of Art is currently presenting the work of six artists from around the Pacific Rim at its interim exhibition space (before moving into its new Thomas Mayne-designed building in 2021). Among those exhibiting is Mexican artist Fritzia Irízar, who explores the history of precious goods in relation to labor, trade, and natural resources. Her solo show at OCMA focuses on the pearl and the history of its cultivation in Mexico and Japan, even reinterpreting the legend of Cleopatra, who drank a pearl after dissolving it in vinegar to trump the extravagant gourmandism of her lover Antony.

With contributions by Carey Dunne, Matt Stromberg, and Elisa Wouk Almino.

The post Your Concise Los Angeles Art Guide for Spring 2019 appeared first on Hyperallergic.

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Art Movements

Sanford Biggers, “Many Waters” (2019), Archival digital print on Hahnemuhle Torchon with chine collé, 20 X 21¼ inches (courtesy of New York Foundation for the Arts)

Art Movements is a weekly index of developments centering the people of the arts and culture sphere. Listen to our weekly podcast of the same name on iTunes.


The American Academy in Rome has named the winners of its 2019–20 Rome Prize and Italian Fellowships. [Artforum]

Sanford Biggers, Karl Kellner, and Min Jin Lee were inducted in the Hall of Fame of the New York Foundation for the Arts. [NYFA]

Lee Bul was awarded the annual Ho-Am Prize for the Arts. [Artsy]

The estate of the late artist Katthy Cavaliere has awarded $100,000 grants for Australian women working in performance and installation art to Frances Barrett, Giselle Stanborough, and Sally Rees. [Artforum]

Aretha Franklin was posthumously awarded a Pulitzer Prize. [NYT]

The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation has announced the 168 scholars, artists, and writers who will receive this year’s Guggenheim Fellowships. [Guggenheim]

Arthur Jafa, “Love Is The Message, The Message Is Death” (2016), Video (color, sound), 7 minutes 25 seconds (courtesy the artist and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York/Rome © Arthur Jafa, 2019)

The Mike Kelley Foundation has awarded $400,000 in grants to 10 Los Angeles art organizations: 18th Street Arts Center; California State University Dominguez Hills; Dirty Looks Inc.; Echo Park Film Center; Equitable Vitrines; Ford Theatre Foundation; IF Innovation Foundation; Los Angeles Poverty Department; Pomona College Museum of Art; and the Huntington Library. [Art Daily]

A haunting photograph by John Moore, depicting an asylum-seeking Honduran mother being detained by an ICE agent while her daughter cries, has won the World Press Photo Award. [Art Daily]

The Pollock-Krasner Foundation has named the winners of its $3.17 million in grant funding. [ARTnews]

Yto Barrada, Arthur Jafa, and Rayyane Tabet are the nominees for this year’s Prix International d’Art Contemporain. [ARTnews]

Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo was awarded the Independent Curators International’s Leo award for arts patrons. [ARTnews]


LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions) is offering two full-time paid summer internships for college students through the Getty Marrow Internship Program. The positions are Curatorial Intern and Communications and Marketing Intern. Applications are due April 26. [LACE]


Mandy El-Sayegh, “Side Sleeper” (2017), Financial Times newspaper, india ink, pen, acrylic, correction fluid, and graphite, 24.41 x 29.13 inches, 62 x 74 cm (Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul.)

Austen Barron Bailly was appointed chief curator of the Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas. [Artforum]

Mandy El-Sayegh is now represented by Lehmann Maupin. [ARTnews]

Louis Grachos was appointed executive director of the Palm Springs Art Museum in Southern California. [via email announcement]

Olga Generalovawas named director of Lubov gallery in New York. The Gallery will soon relocate to Chinatown. [ARTnews]

Anthony Hernandez is now represented by Kayne Griffin Corcoran gallery in Los Angeles. [ARTnews]

Anthony Hernandez, “Screened Pictures #1” (2017), Inkjet print, 59 1/4 x 59 1/4 inches (150.5 x 150.5 centimeters) (Image courtesy the artist and Kayne Griffin Corcoran, Los Angeles)

Lily Kwong received the inaugural Ruinart Artistic Innovation Award by NEW INC, the New Museum’s cultural incubator. [via email announcement]

Rebecca Lamarche-Vadel was named the chief curator of the second edition of the Riga Biennial. [via email announcmenet]

Lynn McMaster was appointed CEO of the Remai Modern in Saskatoon, Canada. [Artforum]

Michelle Millar Fisher was appointed curator of contemporary decorative arts at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. [via email announcement]

Jasper Morrison is now represented by Kasmin. [via email announcement]

Elliot Reichert was appointed the first curator of contemporary art at Indiana University’s Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art. [Artforum]

Stephanie RosenthalDefne Ayas, Cristiana Collu, Sunjung Kim, and Hamza Walker will serve as the Golden Lion jury at this year’s Venice Biennale, called May You Live In Interesting Times. [via email announcement]

Belinda A. Tate and Daniel H. Weiss have joined the board of trustees of the American Federation of Arts. [Artforum]

Xiaoyu Weng was appointed an advisor and board member of SLEEPCENTER, a nonprofit arts center in New York’s Chinatown. [Artforum]

Robert Wolterstorff was named executive director and CEO of the Bruce Museum in Connecticut. [Art Daily]


Bibi Andersson (1935–2019), Swedish actress and frequent collaborator with filmmaker Ingmar Bergman [Guardian]

Lorraine Branham (1952–2019), journalism dean and mentor at Syracuse University [NYT]

David Brion Davis (1927–2019), Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and scholar of slavery [New Haven Register]

Jean-Louis David (1934–2019), French hairstylist [WWD]

Georgia Engel (1948–2019), actress known for her role on the Mary Tyler Moore Show [NYT]

François-Marc Gagnon (1935–2019), art historian and scholar of the Automatist movement [Le Devoir]

Sam Pilafian (1949–2019), tuba maestro [NYT]

Stanley Plumly (1939–2019), award-winning lyrical poet [NYT]

Lawrence Rhodes (1939–2019), dancer, teacher, director, and former head of the Juilliard School’s dance department [Pointe]

Barbara Schultz (1927–2019), adventurous television producer [NYT]

Ralph Solecki (1917–2019), revolutionary archaeologist [NYT]

Earl Thomas Conley (1941–2019), American country music singer-songwriter [USA Today]

James Winn (1947–2019), scholarly writer on Queen Anne and John Dryden, and skilled flutist [NYT]

The post Art Movements appeared first on Hyperallergic.

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An Overlooked Photographer Who Documented Generations

John Simmons, “Cops and Girl” (1968), Chicago, IL (all images courtesy the artist)

“Art is the totality of our being, the totality of our experience,” says John Simmons. “Every time I press the shutter, it’s the totality of who I am and all that I’ve experienced.”

The veteran photographer and cinematographer, who came of age in Chicago, has been tirelessly documenting the world around him since the 1960s, putting a spotlight on the minutiae of life, reveling in the beauty of intimate moments, and celebrating the unseen details of Black culture — a couple tenderly caressing on public transit; a church lady deeply, joyously overcome in a praise song; a young man, Will, proudly spread out on a Chevy automobile.

Simmons calls his documentarian eye an “intuitive quality that transcends time,” a befitting sentiment that his photographs reflect to a tee. His black and white images offer a seamless visual connection between decades, cities, and diasporas.

John Simmons, “Will on Chevy” (1971), Nashville, TN

Simmons’s career began in his mid-teens, when Bobby Sengstacke, a well-known Civil Rights photojournalist in Chicago, gave him a copy of The Sweet Flypaper of Life. The literary collaboration between Harlem Renaissance writer Langston Hughes and famed Kamoinge photographer Roy DeCarava interweaves image and text to chronicle a day in the life of a Harlem grandmother and her loved ones. Simmons found himself immediately inspired by the ability of these images to tell day-to-day truths of city life.

“I started taking photographs at a very interesting time and in a very interesting environment,” Simmons tells me over the phone. “Chicago was a very hip place in the ’60s, and it was a very politically active place. […] Growing up in the Black community of Chicago, there’s an affinity to the subject matter. My imagery basically reflects the life I live, as it does today.” Much of his work weaves a faithful, touching historic archive of Black Chicagoans and their everyday. (Simmons’s work, however, is not entirely limited to Black individuals. As he traveled outside of Chicago, he began to photograph a number of diasporic communities, touching on the interconnectivity of the cross-cultural human experience.)

John Simmons, “Blackstone Rangers”(1968), Chicago, IL
John Simmons, “The Nation,” Nashville, TN

Since his jumpstart in ’60s, Simmons’s archive of images grew more and more as he traveled across the globe. As his career progressed, he traveled across the United States and around the world to document aesthetics of the Black disapora, visually tying them together through black and white photography. He photographed boys in Trinidad and Tobago, Black Panthers in Tennessee, and nannies in Chicago, but their stories laced into one another through his intimate style of image making. He went on to photograph candid moments of iconic figures in Civil Rights and Black liberation movements, like Rosa Parks, Amiri Baraka, Nina Simone, and Angela Davis.

“Like a style of writing, it’s a style of seeing,” he says of his work. “A lot of people say that there’s a real continuity from my first photograph to my most recent photograph.”

His subjects seldom seem bothered by the camera’s presence; those who appear aware of the lens, welcome it — perhaps because Simmons made them feel at ease, as a familiar face in the streets of Chicago, Nashville, and beyond.

“I don’t know my subjects, I just take pictures,” he says. “My relationship to them is basically being grateful for them to be there. All my stuff happens in an instant. Whatever I’m photographing, if I look at it, it’s probably gone.”

John Simmons, “Nanny” (1967), Chicago, IL

“Our paths have to cross at that moment for that to happen, and the timing is so important, it can’t happen any other way. It’s supposed to happen at that moment,” he muses. “It’s amazing how all their experiences have brought them to that moment and all of my experiences have brought me to that moment, allowing us to share that moment in time and give it to everybody. I think it’s so amazing it gives me chills.”

Simmons speaks of his work with deserved pride. He pinpoints his 1965 photograph “Man With a Pistol” as a transcendent moment in his artistic course, calling it one of the first photographs he ever fell in love with.

John Simmons, “Man With a Pistol” (1965), Chicago, IL

But after decades of photographing, nearly all of his work was lost in a fire.

As he planned to move apartments, he stored his work in a friend’s garage. Just days later, he received a call telling him the garage had caught fire. He tucked his pants into his socks, he says, trekking amongst the rubble and the rats (he discovered that there had been grains stored in the garage that he had not been informed of) and went to rescue his negatives. He found everything stuck together; much was tainted by water damage. He then began the serious, painstaking process of trying to rescue these negatives. There are still photos he hasn’t recovered, and some he is still rediscovering when old friends send him scans of the images he’d gifted along the years, as he regathers his impressive body of work.

In a tragic instant, Simmons’s integral images of Black history were nearly lost — many still are. But those that remain, sing triumphantly, and sweetly.

John Simmons, “Love on the Bus” (1967), Chicago, IL

Though an Emmy Award-winning cinematographer and professor of cinematography at the University of California, Los Angeles, Simmons’s photographic work has been far less known. The fire was a wakeup call; Simmons knew he needed to create a mark for himself and his historical work.

After a friend introduced Simmons to Perfect Exposure Gallery in Los Angeles, Simmons had his first solo show, It Started in the 60s, in 2016. Anxiously anticipating his public debut as an art photographer, Simmons says he didn’t know how his work would be received. His next show with the gallery, Life in Black and White, occurred in 2018; in just two months, over 2,000 people visited the exhibition, newly introduced to a vital new collection of images and a firsthand perspective on Black experiences since the 1960s.

“It gave new life to what those pictures were about,” he says of the exhibition.

John Simmons, “Church Lady” (1967), Chicago, IL

Simmons still carries a camera every day. His website is an expansive, fascinating digital gallery of its own accord. “I never stopped taking pictures,” he says. But since the ’60s, “I feel like I’ve matured in my vision, in my storytelling. I feel like I express the narrative of humanity better now than I did when I was young. […] I have a real affection to this experience that we’re all having. If I didn’t do this, I don’t know what I would do.”

John Simmons, “Girl Eating Ice Cream” (1967), Chicago, IL
John Simmons, “Thug Life” (1995), Nashville, TN
John Simmons, “Doll and JFK” (1969), Nashville, TN
John Simmons, “The Black Man” (1969), New York, NY
John Simmons, “Jorge” (2015), Cuba
John Simmons, “Boys with Cannon” (2009), Trinidad and Tobago
John Simmons, “Boys on Bike” (1969), New York, NY
John Simmons, “Chicago Africa” (1968), Chicago, IL
John Simmons, “Tai Chi Brother” (2015), Los Angeles, CA

Editors note 4/19/19 4:05pm: This article has been updated to note that Simmons is an Emmy Award winner (the original article identified him as an “Emmy Award-nominated cinematographer”). It also now notes that Simmons’s first show at Perfect Exposure Gallery was in 2016, titled It Started in the 60s.

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Week in Review: Isamu Noguchi’s Studio Will Open to the Public, Cuban Artists Arrested

Light sculptures made by Isamu Noguchi in the Noguchi Museum in Queens (via Wikimedia Commons)

Week in Review is a weekly collection of news, developments, and stirrings in the art world. Subscribe to receive these posts as a weekly newsletter.

The Noguchi Museum in Queens, New York will soon allow the public a peek inside of Isamu Noguchi’s studio for the first time. “Unless you’ve been to the Noguchi during his lifetime and sat with him, very few people have ever been in the apartment,” said Brett Littman, the director of the Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum. He expects the museum’s renovations (including a new 6,000-square-foot building) to complete in 2022, when the studio will be open to the public.  [NYT]

At the preview of her exhibition at London’s Serpentine Sackler Gallery, artist Hito Steyerl addressed “the elephant in the room” surrounding the controversial Sackler name attached to to the institution. (The gallery opened in 2013, supported by a $7.2 million grant from the Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation. In the face of the opioid epidemic, the Sacklers have come under fire as owners of Purdue Pharma, the manufacturers of OxyContin.) “Affected institutions and artists need to start coming together to find legal ways to address the problem and then commonly find ways to regulate it by using existing institutional bodies … Imagine you were married to a serial killer and wanted a divorce; it shouldn’t be a problem to get a divorce,” she said. Steyerl said she received advice from photographer and founder of PAIN Sackler Nan Goldin, who requested the artist address two of the drug advocacy group’s demands of all Sackler-associated institutions: that the institution remove the Sackler’s name from its buildings and publicly announce its refusal to accept future funding from the Sacklers. [Artforum]

As the 13th Havana Biennial begins, independent Cuban artists who have been leading campaigns against Decree 349 are being arrested and questioned by state authorities. Decree 349 has proven controversial for its tight restrictions on art production in the country. Artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara has been arrested multiple times in the past week. He was detained while carrying out a performance tribute to Daniel Llorente. “In the end, all the threats the police had made suggesting that if I continued with my performances they were going to imprison me turned out to be an intimidation strategy and nothing more,” explains Otero Alcantara. “They kept asking me if I had involved minors, but one of the premises of the piece was that the participants had to be of age.” He says that approximately 20 neighbors participated in the performance before police arrived. Another participant, who was holding an American flag as part of the performance, was also arrested. Artist Amaury Pacheco was detained by state authorities, while artist Michel Matos says he was interrogated for nine hours, in which an officer “made direct and recurring mention of Tania Bruguera and her desire to destroy the revolution.” [Diaro de Cuba/Facebook]

Over 30,000 objects from imperial Brazil have been discovered buried underneath the RioZoo, which was built in 1888. Among the artifacts are ceramics, glassware, accessories, metalware, uniforms, and other clothing from the 19th and 20th century. The zoo sits inside of Quinta da Boa Vista park, the same location that once housed the National Museum, which was tragically burned in a fire in 2018. Archeologists are cleaning and cataloging the objects, the majority of which will be given to the National Museum, and possibly go on view in temporary exhibitions while the museum rebuilds. [TAN]

Concurrent to the fire that damaged Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris, there was a fire at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, which is considered the third holiest site in Islam. A guard told the Palestinian News Agency that “the fire broke out in the guard’s room outside the roof of the Marwani Prayer Room, and the fire brigade of the Islamic Waqf handled the matter successfully.” The fire lasted around seven minutes, and there was no reported damage to the compound’s permanent structure. [Newsweek/Smithsonian]

Belgian artist Wim Delvoye will throw his hat in the ring for the international competition to rebuild and redesign the Notre-Dame cathedral’s recently collapsed spire. “Based on the many years of deepening in the Gothic architectural style, Wim Delvoye feels strongly encouraged to contribute to the reconstruction of this monument [Notre Dame],” says a statement by the artist’s studio. [TAN]

TIME’s annual list of 100 Most Influential People bore the names of a few artists this year: 98-year-old Venezuelan artist Luchita Hurtado; founder of Studio Gang architecture firm, Jeanne Gang; and painter David Hockney. [artnet]

The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London will name one of its galleries after British pop legend Elton John and his husband David Furnish after the couple made a significant donation to the V&A’s new photography center. [Artsy]


Otto Piene, "Sketchbook: Groton" (2012), mixed media, Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum, Gift of Elizabeth Goldring Piene, (© 2019, photo by Charles Sternaimolo)
Otto Piene, “Sketchbook: Groton” (2012), mixed media, Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum, Gift of Elizabeth Goldring Piene (© 2019, photo by Charles Sternaimolo)

The Harvard Museums have received a gift of 70 sketchbooks by Otto Piene, from the poet and author Elizabeth Goldring, the artist’s wife. The sketchbooks date from 1935–2014 and are largely unpublished, and the next Stefan Engelhorn Curatorial Fellow in the Busch-Reisinger Museum (2019–21) will be appointed to study and catalogue the gift. Also included in the gift are a selection of pens that Piene used for his sketches. These will be held in the Center for the Technical Study of Modern Art (CTSMA) and will be used for the long-term preservation of the sketchbooks. [via email announcement]

This and other notable sales and acquisitions are chronicled in our latest Transactions story.

More News from This Week

  • Today in Notre-Dame News: Extreme Cathedral Makeover Edition
  • Initiative to Restore Black Churches Targeted by Racist Arsonist Reaches $1.3 Million
  • 2,000 Archaeologists and Scholars Ask Society for American Archaeology to Review Sexual Harassment Policy [UPDATED]
  • Trump Satirizes Kehinde Wiley’s Obama Portrait to Fundraise 2020 Reelection Bid
  • As Smoke Clears, Paris Envisions a Path Forward for Notre-Dame
  • German Authorities Drop Investigation of Group that Replicated Holocaust Memorial Near Home of Rightwing Politician
  • The American Museum of Natural History Cancels Event Honoring Brazil’s Far-Right President
  • In a Satirical Segment About the Opioid Epidemic, John Oliver Calls Out the Sackler Family
  • YouTube Flags Major Notre-Dame Fire as Misinformation, Links to 9/11 Article
  • Fire Engulfs Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris
  • Rent One of Claude Monet’s French Homes on Airbnb
  • The Financing of Hudson Yards Is Worse Than Its Architecture
  • Decolonize This Place Holds a Pizza Party in the Whitney Museum
  • American Museum of Natural History “Deeply Concerned” Gala In Its Hall Will Honor Brazil’s Far-Right President
  • The Viral Photograph that Has Come to Symbolize Sudan’s Uprising

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How Artists of the French Revolution Embraced Neoclassical Revivalism

Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy, “Aeneas and Companions in Latium” (circa 1790-1793) black ink and wash with white gouache highlights on brown paper (21.4 x 16.3 cm)

PARIS — Over the course of history, political revolutions have often sparked parallel artistic revolutions, pushing artists to invent new modes of expression to better engage with their transformed social realities. (Think of the Russian Revolution ushering in Socialist Realism, or the Industrial Revolution triggering the reactionary movement of Romanticism.) But in the case of the French Revolution, instead of starting a whole new movement, many artists opted for revivalism. Revolutionary Generation: French Drawings (1770-1815) from the Fabre Museum illustrates how, as the pastel frivolity of the Rococo movement went out of fashion, France’s insurrectionist artists adopted a narrative Neoclassicism as their predominant mode, drawing on ancient Greek and Roman art for inspiration.

On view at the Musée Cognacq-Jay, the exhibit features 80 of Montpellier’s Musée Fabre’s revolution-era drawings, originally assembled by the artist and collector François-Xavier Fabre, a student of preeminent Neoclassical painter Jacques-Louis David. Ranging from pencil sketches of reclining nudes to intricately rendered scenes from Greek mythology, these dexterous drawings are marvelously mesmerizing. Take Fabre’s own “Naked Man Grabbing a Stone Cube” (circa 1787-1792), picturing a young, buff, clenching male nude. It is both stone cold academically astute and symbolically intriguing, revealing the sprightly potential inherent in all revolutionary hopes.

François-Xavier Fabre, “Naked Man Grabbing a Stone Cube” (circa 1787-1792), black pencil drawing with white highlights on paper (58 x 44cm)

But the fully developed heroic phase of revolutionary Neoclassical art is perhaps best exemplified by David’s drawings, which embody the rational ideals of basic human rights and moral rectitude put forth by philosophers like Diderot, Voltaire, and Rousseau — ideals that were embraced by France’s growing bourgeoisie. As such, David’s art, which drew inspiration from Roman antiquity, reflects the end of France’s monarchy-aristocracy and abolition of the Feudal system, even while looking incredibly grandiose.

Following David’s grand paragon, the art of the nascent French Republic seized upon Ancient Rome for examples of artistic representations of virtue and heroism. We see this certainly in Jean-François-Pierre Peyron’s electrifying drawing “Study for Young Athenians and Athenians Drawing Lots to be Delivered to the Minotaur” (circa 1778). David’s classical revivalism — coupled with revolutionary fervor — can be seen as new and distinctive for its emphasis on historic knowledge of ancient art and architecture. This new-old knowledge was enhanced by the 18th-century excavation of Herculaneum and Pompeii and the exploration of the ancient monuments of the Greek islands. So with the birth of republican patriotic ideals, many artists were inspired to draw group scenes based on the moralizing myths of Greco-Roman antiquity. We see this unmistakably in Philippe-Auguste Hennequin’s drawing “Orestes’ Remorse” (circa 1800), based on the Greek Orestes myth; in Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy’s dramatic “Aeneas and Companions in Latium” (circa 1790-1793) drawing; and in Jean-Guillaume Moitte’s “Venus, Persistently Irritated with Telemachus, Asking Jupiter for His Demise” (1780).

Franois-Xavier Fabre, “Study of Antique Chair Covered with Drapery” (1796) graphite heightened with white chalk on brown paper (43.8 x 35.4cm)

By including some pretty wonderfully contrasting pre-revolutionary drawings, such as David’s “Study after Guido Cagnacci’s Young Martyr” (circa 1775) and Jean-Honore Fragonard’s wildly lavish fête galante drawing “The Slap” (1785), the show demonstrates how Rococo’s jubilant extravagance was overthrown by a severe Neoclassicism that accentuated the moral climate of the final years of the monarchy’s regime. Most illustrative of this morality art is the divine retribution depicted by Jean-Baptiste Regnault in his drawing “The Deluge” (circa 1789), based on the great flood myth.

Later, contradictory, intimately serene scenes, like Fabre’s “Study of Antique Chair Covered with Drapery” (1796), inspired by the art of classical antiquity, communicate more settled hopes for the new French Republic that grew out of giddy political-social upheaval.

The art world was by no means spared by this deluge, as some royal project commissions vanished or were abandoned as certain artists chose exile over revolution. For these expats, Italy was a favored destination, and many of the sensitive small drawings on view here seem inspired by those of the Renaissance. They thus provide an important artistic service today. They reverse the trend of imposing, grandiose contemporary art and monumental political art, where individual sensitivity is superseded or shattered by bombastic sensationalism. For as Antoine-Laurent Castellan’s early 19th century drawing, “Cloud Study” (circa 1812-1818), suggests, even puffy clouds can suggest the smoke of burning revolution.

Antoine-Laurent Castellan, “Cloud Study” (circa 1812-1818) Sepia wash on paper (19.3 x 23cm)
Charles Meynier, “Milo of Croton” (1795) black and brown ink with brown wash on paper (44.5 x 33.7cm)

Revolutionary Generation: French Drawings (1770-1815) from the Fabre Museum, curated by Michel Hilaire and Rose-Marie Mousseaux, at the Musée Cognacq-Jay (8, rue Elzévir, 75003 Paris) continues through July 14th, 2019. 

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Is It Beautiful, or Is It Art?

Aesthetics at Large by Thierry de Duve

There is a vast philosophical literature on Immanuel Kant. And many art writers, very often following the lead of Clement Greenberg, appeal to his Critique of Judgment (1790). The philosophers are concerned with reconstructing his argument and relating it to his philosophical system, while the art writers seek to apply his claims. But because the philosophers generally know little about visual art, and the writers about art are often philosophically ignorant, these discussions have remained oddly dissatisfying.

Thierry de Duve aims to bridge this gap. Convinced, as he states in the first chapter “Overture: Why Kant Got It Right” of his study, Aesthetics at Large. Volume One. Art, Ethics, Politics (University of Chicago, 2018) that “Kant Got It Right,” his goal is to demonstrate that Kantian aesthetics provide the royal road to understanding the practice of art writing.

Kant, who never traveled, knew little about contemporary art in his day. And he certainly never could have imagined the modern art world and its institutions. Kant lived under the old regime, though in old age he was enthusiastic, from a distance, about the French Revolution. And so it’s surprising for de Duve to claim that “he got it right.”

Like Kant, de Duve often is not easy to read. But in context, this is a minor problem. The crucial Kantian point, which he got right, as de Duve notes, is that aesthetic judgments are neither objective nor entirely subjective. “I admire this painting.”: I make that judgment knowing that you may well not agree. I like pasta, you prefer rice: Those judgments are subjective. “This painting is ten feet square”: That assessment is objective. And yet, if I am an art critic, my goal is to persuade you to agree with me, knowing well that I may fail entirely.

You may well know more than me about attributions, iconography, or the social history of a work of art. Fair enough – but that doesn’t give me any reason to prefer your aesthetic judgments. As de Duve rightly notes, this Kantian analysis is a letter-perfect account of the work-a-day practice of a critic.

Naturally, I hope that my judgments will be accepted by you, but in practice (as I well know) often that doesn’t happen. Here, then, we get to an important political point. I respect your judgments and expect that you, in turn, will respect mine. When it comes to aesthetic judgments, no one is privileged. You may be wiser, older, or younger, but that doesn’t give me reason to set aside my claims, and accept yours. Nor for you to believe mine. The practice of art criticism relies upon mutual respect.

In this way, Kantian aesthetics is radically democratic. Under the old regime, the art world was ruled in a top-down fashion. Under Kantian modernism, the system was egalitarian – or at least that was the ideal. As we all know, the practice turned out to be rather different.

De Duve’s exposition of this key point is flawless. There are, however, two points where he fails, in my judgment, to understand the implications of Kant’s analysis. Correctly noting that Kant’s account of aesthetic judgment is superior to Hegel’s historicist account, he then continues to argue that we need to update Kant.

Rather than making the Kantian judgment, “Is this beautiful?” we rather should say, “Is this art?” And then we are prepared to deal with Marcel Duchamp’s readymades. I understand the desire to update Kant, but fear that this would-be modernization loses the key force of his argument.

What, de Duve asks, would Kant say about the readymades?  In my opinion, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to answer that question, at least posed in that form, because the whole history of modernism comes before Duchamp. (De Duve has, I know, devoted an entire earlier book to this question. And so more discussion is really needed to resolve the issue.)

Amplifying Kant’s concerns with art and politics, de Duve offers a Kantian view of the contemporary art museum. Noting “the true cultural vulnerability of present-day museums, threatened by corporate takeover on the one hand and by the demise of their old humanistic legitimation on the other” (64), he worries about the effect of “Norman Rockwell blockbusters.”

Certainly he is right to note that often the museum traditions are under siege and so I agree that we should look critically at these institutions , but reject the claim that Kantian aesthetics offers any particular prescription for their exhibitions. If, as we have seen recently, exhibitions of fashion were very popular at the Met, who are we Kantian philosophers to say that this public judgment is mistaken? What superior knowledge do we claim to possess? But here we get into large problems with the nature of the public sphere, which also demand further discussion.

We philosophers love to argue, and so when I say that de Duve offers a lot to argue with, I mean that as sincere high praise. I can hardly avoid mentioning that Joachim Pissarro and I have just published a book, Aesthetics of the Margins / The Margins of AestheticsWild Art Explained, which offers a very different Kantian aesthetics. And since it would be impossible here to stage a confrontation with de Duve’s analysis, I leave that task to readers.

Kant is a difficult philosopher. For more than two centuries commentators have been arguing productively about how to understand his claims. And that, in my opinion, is a good thing because it demonstrates the importance of his arguments. Here, in focusing on two points of disagreement with de Duve, it’s essential not to lose sight of the much more important shared belief.

Like him, I do think that Kantian aesthetics provides the best way to understand contemporary visual art. That, need I say, is a controversial claim, and one that he defends with great persuasive force. For this reason, I look forward to rereading this pregnantly suggestive book and the three additional volumes that we are promised. Out of public disputation, Kant argued, we may arrive at the truth. Like him let us be optimists!

Aesthetics at Large. Volume One. Art, Ethics, Politics (2018) by Thierry de Duve is published by the University of Chicago Press and is available on Amazon and other online retailers.

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