Spencer Finch and the 9/11 Memorial

September 11, 2014

Photo by: Jin Lee

Photo by: Jin Lee

Today marks a day forever embedded in our memories. It’s a day we wish we could forget; a day we wish never happened. Nearly 3,000 individuals lost their lives on September 11, 2001, but to the families there may be only one name on that list that, when called out during today’s memorial, causes their deepest 13-year wound to ache anew.

Spencer Finch, the artist commissioned for the National September 11 Memorial Museum, was charged with the task of creating a visual work of art that commemorates the tragic event as a singular whole, yet does not dilute the individuality of each life lost. His final product, now on view inside the museum at Ground Zero, is an eloquent installation that captures a more abstract memory of September 11, 2001: the clear blue early September sky.
Photo by: Ofer Wolberger

Photo by: Ofer Wolberger

But memory is a funny thing and while everyone who was in New York City that morning can recall that the sky happened to be a perfectly crisp cloudless blue, the exact shade differs from person to person. Or, maybe it’s like trying to remember a dream when the harder you try the quicker it fades. Finch was one of the New Yorkers here that day, so this project became somewhat of a personal endeavor. Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky consists of 2,983 square sheets of watercolor paper- one for every person who died that day and in the 1993 bombing – hand painted in varying shades of blue. In a New York Times article, the artist tells of a construction worker who inquired about the installation and, upon explanation, walked right up to one of the squares and said, “This is the color. This is what the sky looked like that day.” He was one of the survivors. Responses like this make Finch’s artwork successful. Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky connects everyone to a moment that changed all of our lives, a day when everyone looked up at the sky. Each piece of paper represents an individual experience of a day imprinted in our collective memory.
Photo by: Damon Winter/The New York Times

Photo by: Damon Winter/The New York Times

Spencer Finch is represented by James Cohan Gallery. His drawings and sculptures explore color as it pertains to memory, history, and experience, perfectly fitting for an installation such as Trying to Remember the Color of the Sky, 2014. He created a similar work in 1994 called Trying to Remember the Color of Jackie Kennedy’s Pillbox Hat, that also uses an anecdotal yet unforgettable element of a tragic and pivotal moment to signify our collective memory. Not all of his work is based on tragedy, though, and Finch has exhibited his colorful works nationally and internationally that are inspired by a range of sources, from medieval Books of Hours to Henry David Thoreau to Claude Monet. Visit the artist’s site to see more: here. Also on view in NYC: Spencer Finch at the Morgan Library, through January 11, 2015.

To the families who on this day every year go back to the sites where your child, parent, sibling, or spouse died tragically: we all grieve with you. And while we cannot be with you to comfort you on those birthdays, graduations, weddings, and anniversaries when you feel the saddest, we will never forget.

The Koons Effect

July 23, 2014

photo 3-2Thirty five years of inflatables, naked ladies, colored mirrors, basketballs, vacuum cleaners, and cartoon animals have gathered together for the first time. The menagerie of sculptures and paintings range from super-sized shiny to blandly ubiquitous, at times cerebral and at other times really in your face. He’s an extrovert who often makes somewhat uncomfortable comments about inflatable toys, like “The sexual power of the imagery was so intoxicating to me visually that I had to have a drink.” We are enchanted by his prolificness, his whimsy, and his celebrity. Collectors and speculators throw gobs of money at him for enormous metal Popeyes, lobsters, and balloon dogs. I’m talking, of course, about Jeff Koons whose first New York retrospective is currently on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Jeff Koons: A Retrospective is a celebration of an artist’s uncanny ability to make metal look plastic and Michael Jackson look white.

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Postcards from London

July 1, 2014

L1000344I jumped the pond for a few days and tackled as many exhibitions as my jet-lagged brain would allow. There’s really much too much to see in London in three days but I gave it a valiant effort. The highlight of my trip was Bridget Riley The Stripe Paintings 1961-2014 at David Zwirner, the Henri Matisse Cut Out exhibition at the Tate Modern, Adrian Ghenie’s Darwin Room at Pace London, early Jim Hodges at Stephen Friedman, and BANKSY at Sotheby’s. And I thoroughly enjoyed wandering around the lovely little Mayfair shops and pubs and enjoying all of the old-world charm London has to offer. Including a few pints of Guinness.

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Do the Polke

June 10, 2014

© 2014 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Jonathan Muzikar. All works by Sigmar Polke © 2014 The Estate of Sigmar Polke/Artists Rights Society
© 2014 The Museum of Modern Art. Photo: Jonathan Muzikar. All works by Sigmar Polke © 2014 The Estate of Sigmar Polke/Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, Germany

Stoned or sober, Sigmar Polke: Alibis 1963-2010 at MoMA is a trip. But one worth taking. (And, for the record, I was sober.) His talent lies in his unselfconscious exploration of just about every medium available to an artist – painting, printmaking, video, performance, photography, sculpture, etc. By dabbling in a little bit of everything, Polke’s oeuvre evades market categorization and continues to keep us all guessing. The curators of MoMA had their hands full when organizing this retrospective and (smartly) opted to install the show chronologically. So I jotted some notes as I followed their timeline of Sigmar Polke’s career:

The most Pop-y of Polke’s works are those from the mid-1960s, such as the painting Girlfriends, 1965/1966 (above). Taking an image from an advertisement, Polke mimics and caricaturizes the commercial printing process of using small ben day dots of color to create a picture. By hand, he enlarges and exaggerates these dots just enough to blur the image and reveal irregularities that occur in this mechanical process. Like the work of fellow German Gerhard Richter, his is an effort to expose the dissemination of mass culture as a halftone half-truth, an illusion constructed to make people want for an ideal or a lifestyle or a product as they entered a new modern, post-war, era. These ‘Polke-dots’ crop up in other paintings and prints the artist made in the 60s and 70s, becoming one of very few unifying themes of his artistic style.

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April 24, 2014


Although I live in New York, Fort Worth is and will always be my home. And spring is, by far, my favorite season in Texas. The weather is warm and sunny, not yet unbearably hot, and the landscape is in full bloom. Perfect time to check out the incredible architecture and contemporary art in the lovely museum district. 

Ours is no amateur run-of-the-mill art district. The world class artists and architects placed within one city block of Fort Worth will impress even the most jaded museumgoer. Like they say, “Everything is Bigger in Texas.” Especially the Richard Serra‘s.

Richard Serra, Vortex, 2002

Richard Serra, Vortex, 2002, 67 feet tall!

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Musings on Manet

April 16, 2014

I inaugurate this endeavor with a note on the artist who, in my humble opinion, revolutionized our ideas of art. Or, rather, what art can be.

The renegade Edouard Manet: a classically trained painter who used the Academic modus operandi to then challenge its very authority. His paintings are not only beautifully rendered; they represent a crucial turning point in art history. My passion for contemporary art begins with Manet’s Le dejeuner sur l’herbe, 1863. Actually, I adore everything Manet painted but if I must pick a favorite it is certainly this iconic luncheon on the grass; an image that had the power to shock, question, contradict, and transfix. Le dejeuner sur l’herbe was rejected from the Salon in 1863 as the jury found that a nude figure within a landscape (brazenly gazing straight at them!) was much too scandalous. Now, the work hangs with pride in the galleries of the Musée D’Orsay in Paris and appears in every art history textbook.

Manet was one of the greatest rule-breakers contemporary art has known. His paintings weren’t about history or allegory or portraiture or landscape; they were about painting. He blurred the lines between the Academic hierarchies and focused on light, color, form. Because of him, Impressionism happened. Expressionism happened. Dada happened. Marcel Duchamp set a urinal atop a pedestal. Everything changed in terms of what it meant to be an artist.

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