All posts in art history

Yes, No, Maybe: Artists Working at Crown Point Press (podcast)


Yes, No, Maybe: Artists Working at Crown Point Press is celebrated by an array of public programs at the National Gallery of Art, including lectures, a concert, gallery talks, and a variety of offerings in the Gallery Shops. All programs are free of charge in the East Building Auditorium unless otherwise noted. Seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Featuring 125 working proofs and edition prints produced between 1972 and 2010 at Crown Point Press in San Francisco, one of the most influential printmaking studios of the last half century, Yes, No, Maybe goes beyond celebrating the flash of inspiration and the role of the imagination to examine the artistic process as a sequence of decisions. The stages of intaglio printmaking reveal this process in very particular ways. Working proofs record occurrences both deliberate and serendipitous. They are used to monitor and steer a print’s evolution, prompting evaluation and approval, revision, or rejection. Each proof compels a decision: yes, no, maybe. Among the 25 artists represented are those with long ties to Crown Point Press—Richard Diebenkorn, John Cage, Chuck Close, and Sol LeWitt—as well as those whose association is more recent, such as Mamma Andersson, Julie Mehretu, Jockum Nordström, Laura Owens, and Amy Sillman.

The exhibition is on display at the National Gallery through January 5th, 2014.

Judith Brodie, curator and head, department of modern prints and drawings, National Gallery of Art, and Adam Greenhalgh, Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow, National Gallery of Art
On view at the National Gallery of Art from September 1, 2013, through January 5, 2014, Yes, No, Maybe: Artists Working at Crown Point Press features 125 working proofs and edition prints produced at this printmaking studio—one of the most influential of the last half century—by 25 artists between 1972 and 2010. The exhibition goes beyond celebrating the flash of inspiration and the role of the imagination to examine the artistic process as a sequence of decisions. In this lecture recorded on September 8, exhibition curators Judith Brodie and Adam Greenhalgh explain how the stages of intaglio printmaking reveal this process in very particular ways.




Reflections on The Armory Show At 100 and The Cubists Vs. The Fauves


Came across an interesting bit of art history after finding myself on the New York Historical Society’s website in celebration of  the 100th anniversary of the seminal 1913 Armory Show. For one month in New York City, The Armory Show introduced Americans to the European avant-garde artists of the day including Duchamp, Gauguin, Van Gogh and Picasso, and in doing so became what is has been called the most important art exhibition ever held in the U.S.

What Kim Orcutt writes for the Historical Society anniversary about the Cubists versus The Fauves is fascinating. It’s pointed out that The Armory Show is best remembered for Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2), and so today, it’s easy to think that the Cubists “were the ‘big news’ of 1913.” Orcutt points out that there was a lot of media attention to “find the nude,” and some critics had no taste for these “puzzle pictures.”


Marcel Duchamp, Nude Descending a Staircase (No. 2)

Henri Matisse, Le Luxe II

Henri Matisse, Le Luxe II

But The Historical Society piece reminds us that the most important space at the show was reserved for Henri Matisse and other artists in his circle, known as the Fauves. Interestingly enough the Fauvist exhibit included a work by George Braque, who to many would become known for his work in Cubism.

The Port of Antwerp by George Braque

Georges Braque, The Port of Antwerp (Le Port d’Anvers), 1906.

Many critics were to become outraged at the Fauves’ primitivist style, which as the article points out, because to them it abandonded technical mastery at the dawn of the modern era and was called art for children. The article itself is brief, but you’ll enjoy seeing all of the art that was at the show by so many artists that we now know, and whose work we love. Hope you enjoy it.

Read more about The Armory Show at 100, The Cubists versus the Fauves ->

Inventing Abstraction, 1910-1925 through April 15, 2013 at MOMA


by Mark Gould

On this week’s Modern Art Notes podcast Tyler Green interviews Museum of Modern Art curator Leah Dickerman about the new MOMA exhibition “Inventing Abstraction 1910-1925: How a Radical Idea Changed Modern Art.”  If you’re a fan of Green you know he’s quite the art scholar and on Modern Art Notes he always does a great interview and Ms. Dickerman gives us some fascinating insight into the opening years of the last century when so many artists embraced the lack of figuration and representation of objects in their work, or what we know as abstract art.

The opening of the exhibition presents a picture by Picasso that bestows a certain attribution to the painter who most certainly would claim title to the lineage of cubism and, says Ms. Dickerman by all appearances is an abstractionist painter but could never philosophically embrace it. The exhibition will show that distinction will go to Vasily Kandinsky, not only a painter but a theorist who held teaching posts in the Soviet Union and later at the Bauhaus. In 1911 Kandinsky attended a musical concert and was so moved his artwork was forever changed. He authored a philosophical treatise, “On The Spiritual In Art” and founded an artist exhibition society. After the concert Kandinsky began making sketches of the performances and later he and many other abstract artists would make large contributions in the areas of how sound, word and color interact on subconscious, non-verbal level. In composing words and letters on a page the early abstract artists would be the protagonists for artwork done later by the Dadaists at Cabaret Voltaire, and much later some would say, perhaps the entire field of graphic design.

Vasily Kandinsky, Komposition 5, 1911

“Must we not then renounce the object altogether, throw it to the winds and instead lay bare the purely abstract?”

—Vasily Kandinsky, 1911
(from the Museum exhibition catalog)

The abstract artists said that that among the other reasons, taking representation out of their work made their vision and their craft more pure; a scene or an object would only clutter the viewer’s mind or restrict the experience in some way. This was a more distilled and a purely transcended experience. (I know I feel that way about my own work much of the time. I really didn’t find my center with abstract art until about ten years ago, and then like with so many things, it was like someone turned the water spigot and the water came running out!)

Another factor according to Dickerman there was a new culture of connectivity around the world; with cars, trains, boats and planes the world was moving and interacting in new and faster ways. With mass media and the proliferation of editors she says, art was disseminated rapidly, to more people and editors, like Alfred Stieglitz, played pivotal roles as transcontinental conduits for avant-garde ideas. There was an urgency to create a new, modern language.

Farbstudie--Quadrate mit konzentrischen Ringen (Color study--squares with concentric rings)

Tyler Green’s interview with Leah Dickerman is worth listening to. As Green says “the show excavates the origins of abstraction — both in Europe and in America — and tells the story of how networks between artists and a new age of communication and inter-disciplinary practice and awareness helped fuel experimentation.”

“In Dickerman’s exhibition cubism is the key jumping-off point for the new abstractionists, which is certainly part of the story. However, early abstraction was richly colorful — and immediately, not gradually — suggesting that there’s more to the story than just artists distilling cubism into abstraction. Dickerman and I discussed both cubism and color.”

It was a tremendous time involving a lot of artists and of course there isn’t time to mention them all here. Marcel Duchamp, František Kupka, Paul Klee, Josef Albers, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, and so many great artists are part of the exhibition. MOMA does a great service to everyone by putting the companion website online with artwork, audio tracks, video and interactive diagrams. I can’t tell at first glance what technology is being used but the good news for iOS phone and tablet folks is that it isn’t Flash. Probably HTML5. If you aren’t going to NYC a visit to the website is a good second choice.

(Editors Note: ALL images republished here 2012 MOMA Museum of Modern Art © copyright information here)

Sonia Delaunay-Terk Prismes, électriques (Electric prisms), 1913






The Evolving Fields of Artistic Research, Creative Inquiry and Humanites Based Research

While efforts in this regard certainly made large impact at the beginning of the last century, in the middle of the century, and again in the 80’s, say, the postmodern era, we see that this evolution is not completely new. But today we are seeing renewed and evolved thinking about using the arts and other creative-based disciplines as a means of research. Art as research you say? Just another nut job from California you say? Perhaps, but I think not.

I have spent the last 20 years making this a personal field of study, in part because the apparent duality of the paradigm matches both my persona and my professional work.

Science. All those tubes and wires.Double-blind, peer-reviewed, journal certified scientific research. Documented, proven test results. I’m all for that really, and do not write here to propose that scientific research is “bad,” or should be changed. Just that there are important alternatives. And it seems I have a lot of company.

Having stated the above it might be natural to assume that what I’m doing is some sort of narcissistic folly.. wanting to believe there is more meaning in my own artwork and other creative endeavors, and that of so many others that I regards as heroes, geniuses, everyday people who changed the world by their thoughts and their creations. Believing that there is something new, quantifiable, tangible and very worth researching. Again, I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that.

I was fortunate enough to be at New College in San Francisco as a graduate student  in the 00’s when Humanities faculty, including Dr. Judy Grahn Anne Bluthenthal and Neeli Cherkovski, among others, founded the Creative Inquiry program there. I remember seeing a media snippet or social media comment from people laughing or thumbing their noses at such a far flung attempt at epistemological classification. An attempt to reify something so non-verbal, so ethereal, so emotional. Well, having studied in that program I can tell you it was one of the best academic programs I’ve had the pleasure of studying in.

(Note: updated 1/14/12:) I neglected to mention that the Creative Inquiry MFA Program is now thriving at CIIS in San Francisco, the California Institute For Integral Studies. A one of a kind program worthy of a closer look.)

Part of this and other related blog posts is an attempt to aggregate material for a book, since this is a subject that really must be approached in real form. But if you come across this, or  social media links, I’d be interested in hearing from you if you are involved in creative inquiry or a related field, and hear about how you approach these subjects.

One would think that the deconstructions that are part of postmodernism would have resulted in much larger efforts to to make the arts a primary form of inquiry. It is partially from that perspective that I regard Grahn, Cherkovski and others who have made progress in these fields of study as part of that group of heroes, in the vanguard of research of human thought and expression. I can’t speak for them, but as an observer I can say that one trait common to these folks was the strength of their convictions; the belief, the knowledge that these are very legitimate forms of academic pursuit and do not need to be “further legitimized by another group’s values and criteria.” 1

I think since the study of postmodernism began we have seen a convergence of disciplinary thinking from what might previously have been considered widely different and not necessarily considered to be an appropriate merging of thought. Again, this is not completely new. An example might be Kant, or how Arthur C. Danto restructured the concept of aesthetics to  more fully include the concepts used in art today. Consider how Buddhism or other Eastern spiritualities, or how physics suggests that how a phenomenon is observed affects how the phenomenon behaves.2

Continued discussion will include the work of Walter Benjamin and others, whose philosophies laid the groundwork for changing the discourse about the means of production of art, mechanical reproduction, and later computers, and all that implies for how work of many artists has changed and the art world along with it.



1. McNiff, Shaun. (1998). Art-Based Research. London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

2. McNiff, Shaun. (1998). Art-Based Research. London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.





Pace’s Arne Glimcher on Robert Rauschenberg’s “Erased de Kooning Drawing” (1953)

Attention art historians — here’s a very interesting interview that tells the story behind the story of Robert Rauschenberg’s breakthrough work, Erased de Kooning Drawing. Pace Gallery’s Arne Glimcher, a friend of Rauschenberg, De Kooning, Jasper Johns and many other artists, tells the story of how the artist approached De Kooning and asked for one of his paintings so he could erase it. According to the Rauschenberg interview, when he went to ask De Kooning about doing this, at first he seemed quite upset, but, said yes. The painting was among a group of works that were sold to SFMOMA. As Glimcher articulately explains, the work explores both the metaphor of destroying the generation that preceded him, but also the act of creating by erasing, or deleting, rather than adding.

Of course the work caused a scandal in the art world, and among the general public as well, who could not see the work as anything more than destruction. Rauschenberg, of course, spent his life thinking about art at very complex levels, and here he talks about the collaboration that resulted in the erasure of an image, and the creation of another.

A video by ARTINFO and Streeter Phillips

Here is a great online interactive piece about the work produced as part of SFMOMA’s Making Sense of Modern Art Series >