Saturday, December 23, 2006


Some interesting articles in the NYT. $68 million sale price for Thomas Eakins's The Gross Clinic. Are you ready for another fair? It's called "a great amalgamation of interests." This is an artist definitely worth checking out. In case I don't post anything else (not necessarily partying, just a bunch of deadlines to meet). Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 8, 2006

More Basel!

More Basel! My introduction article for the Sunpost, plus articles from Omar Sommereyns and Michelle Weinberg.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Art Basel Miami Beach

This year's ABMB comes with a ripple effect of 12 other fairs. There’s a lot to see. Here are some of my recommendations... (wait! first, get a map: This is a good one (via Critical Miami): 1- Scope Miami is a solid fair with great galleries from all over the world. Don't miss NADA with some heavy duties. 2- Design Miami 06 (in its second installment) is already one best design fairs in the world (check out Zaha Hadid’s panel. Hadid, my favorite architect, won the Pritzker Prize in 2004). 3- In the middle of everything there’s some some goofy stuff. 4- Love photography? Go to PhotoMiami (there are some Miami galleries represented). 5- Go local, all over the Design District and Wynwood: Ingalls, Snitzer, Bruk, Dorsch, The Moore Space, etc. 6- Artnet has a good take on different events. 7- If you're interested in photo and video (particularly about architecture) CIFO is a good option (their parties are really cool). 8- Other sites with detailed suggestions and links are: The Next Few Hours and Alex in the City. Don't stay home. Go, go!

Friday, December 1, 2006

(post)Installation art

Let’s see (post)installation art as entertainment, interior design, architecture, tableau vivant, hyperreality and interactive theater all at once! Who would’ve imagined that space and observer could become part of the art experience? We crave new experiences. A painting alone is Ok, but it’s not enough for our ephemeral compressed time. Too oppressively flat. Only if one could bring art into a vortex of n dimensions. How about multiplying the observer’s viewpoint so that the observer is observed by him/her? Art for time/space and string theory. There’s always a relationship between void and mass. Art is about producing illusion, whether as a flat rectangle -as in painting- or as sculpture. Ancient pyramids are huge geometric solids (there’s no division between Amun and the Pharaoh). Athens’ Parthenon brings forth the idea of order, symmetry and scale in function of the citizen. Fast-forward 500 years to Rome’s Pantheon; we find a redefinition of the space (private/public) in the stability and permanence of the empire. In Romanesque architecture the inside means worship and domesticity, serfdom, while the outside remains dangerous (thus the fortress). Modern science redefines our relationship with space. With the invention of the elevator, buildings can go up dozens of stories. The car (a little room on wheels) takes our intimate living outside. With quantum mechanics, space becomes non-Euclidean. 20th-century art erases the boundaries between object/subject, inside/outside, private/public with Kurt Schwitters’ Merzbau, Duchamp’s ready-mades, the vast canvases of Pollock, Newman and Still, Frank Stella’s shaped canvases (which broke the hegemony of the rectangle), Sol Lewitt’s wall drawings, Carl Andre’s flat sculptures, Smithson’s Earth works, Kaprow’s happenings, Claes Oldenburg’s The Store, and the tableaux of Segal, Kienholz and Tom Wasselmann. Today, buildings look sculptural (Gehry's Guggenheim Museum), while interiors are designed as exteriors (Zaha Hadid)

Thursday, November 30, 2006

As the boundaries between urban and suburban become blurred, the city resembles more a landscape (or topography), rather than a volume. Installation art opens the possibility of exploring the limits of corporality and gregariousness.

Sachiko Kodama uses magnetic fluid to combine with dynamic, organic shapes in order to represent human emotion via pulsating liquids.

Let's design chaos and fashion our personal disorders
On Screens
With Cybernetic Tools
From Countercultural Perspectives
With Informational Chemicals (Chaos Drugs)
While DeLighting in CybErotics
As Guerrilla Artists
To Explore De-Animation Alternatives
While Surfing the Waves of Millennium Madness
to glimpse the glorious wild impossibilities and improbabilities of the century to come. Enjoy it ! It's ours to be played with. – Timothy Leery, The Eternal Philosophy of Chaos.

One can see spaces as ad lib, impromptu; suited for a life of diversity. Space -not as static, but- as a mutating force.

According to Robert Bone, The Catacombs are a metaphor for new theories of information processing. New technologies are inclusive rather than exclusionary, expansive rather than reductive, circular rather than linear, ultimately egalitarian and lifeaffirming rather than hierarchical and domineering.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


After I realized that we only have one more class to go, I decided to change my tune. Below, find a new focus for this week's issue. It's a sort of mix of different topics we've touched upon in class; from public art, pornography, art economics, pop culture and Feminism, to art as therapy, culture and art & society. Next week is Thanksgiving: Happy turkey to you all!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Carlos de Villasante

How about Carlos' presentation last night?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

In 1982 United Artists film studios installed a statue of Rocky Balboa, played by Sylvester Stallone, at the top of the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art for the making of Rocky III. In the film, the statue is ceremoniously dedicated in front of a cheering crowd and a humbly bashful Rocky. After Rocky III, Stallone donated the film prop to the city of Philadelphia, assuming that the statue would remain in its trategically significant position, overlooking the grand Benjamin Franklin Parkway. But, after much controversy, the statue was removed to the Spectrum, the sports stadium in South Philadelphia where the fictional Rocky and the real Stallone have their roots. In 1989, United Artists requested permission to reposition the statue for the filming of Rocky V. Having been burned the first time around, when they had to pay to have the statue removed museum authorities negotiated to have the film studio remove the statue immediately after the shooting. Stallone reopened the debate regarding the proper home for the Rocky statue at a press conference that generated much interest in his new film, supposedly the last in the series. Stallone claimed that he had done as much for the museum as Walter Annenberg (who donated $5 million and recently loaned his art collection for exhibition at the museum) and that he had single-handedly done more for Philadelphia than Benjamin Franklin. Museum authorities were once again accused of elitism, and the media eagerly picked up the ball and stirred up the old controversy, casting it in the expected terms of art authorities versus ordinary citizens, elite culture versus popular culture. --Harriet F. Senie, Sally Webster, Critical Issues in Public Art (Westview Press, 1992).

Art prices were relatively stable between the two world wars, but they began to rise in the 1950s. Prices for Pablo Picasso's works were thirty seven times higher in 1969 than in 1951, and prices for Marc Chagall's works rose fiftyfold over that period. The increase in the price of art was especially dramatic after 1983, with prices peaking between 1987 and 1990 and then falling somewhat after 1990. Picasso's Yo Picasso sold at auction in 1989 for $47.9 million, twice the pre-auction estimate and eight times what it sold for in 1981. Jasper Johns' False Start sold in 1960 for $3,150; in 1988, it brought $17.5 million at auction. From 1975 until the late 1 980s, works by the following artists recorded these price increases: Jackson Pollock, 750 percent; Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 490 percent; Claude Monet, 440 percent; Edgar Degas, 350 percent; Camille Pissarro, 220 percent; and Alfred Sisley, 220 percent. Even works by more obscure painters have skyrocketed: from 1975 to 1988, prices for watercolors by English artist Thomas Girtin increased by 310 percent, prices for paintings by Swedish artist Bruno Liljefors rose by 340 percent, and prices for works by Scotland's J. D. Fergusson appreciated by 460 percent.-- John E. Conklin, Art and Crime, (Praeger Publishers, 1994).

Even in a crowd, the visual arts encourage a capacity to work in solitude. The artist’s eye is always seeing, sensing and feeling the atmosphere around at that moment. If the inner peace for such exploration is not present in the person or persons we are working with in our initial contacts, we can at least see such peace of mind as part of our goal in introducing visual arts sessions. In this hectic, fast-paced world, all people can gain from knowing greater inner peace. Such peace comes from self-knowledge and an appreciation of each person’s unique, individual, creative mark which may in turn provide opportunities for increasing self-confidence and self-esteem. The wonderful beauty of the arts, in all forms, is that human emotion is involved in a raw and uncensored manner. Feelings flowing are essential for artistic experience. The professional artist and the inexperienced participant have in common the fact of being at their best as creators of visual imagery by their capacity to tap the unconscious and, as a result, to present in line, colour and form a mark that is individually their own, unable to be produced by any other individual in exactly the same way, ever. -- Bernie Warren, Using the Creative Art in Therapy, (Routledge, 1993).

Justice Potter Stewart of the U.S. Supreme Court gave a celebrated response to the question of pornography: "I don't know how to define it, but I know it when I see it." This fairly common remark characterizes the state of confusion that ensues whenever we attempt to define pornography, and it seems to have persisted longer than any definition yet offered. The problem of definition was nowhere nearer to a solution when a panel of experts on pornography, incuding Erica Jong of Fear of Flying fame and Al Goldstein, publisher of Screw magazine, met and discussed the issue for Harper's magazine. The panel launched into an exhaustive probe of pornography but, as expected, could not come to anything resembling an answer. Goldstein, whose attitude toward the subject is nothing if not straightforward, summarized the conclusion in this inclusive statement: "The problem with pornography is that no one really knows what it is, no one knows where to draw the line that separates it from other forms of expression."--Jon Huer, Art, Beauty and Pornography (Prometheus Books, 1987)
From here on, let's look at the following: 1- Physical environment, 2- Medium in which the craftsman works, 3- Materials and techniques, personality of the artist, 4- The artist's role in society, 5- The nature of the visual language artists use, 6- The visual forms to which the artist has been exposed and 7- The nature of the aesthetic canon by which the creative process is guided and judged.-- Evelyn Payne Hatcher, Art as Culture: An Introduction to the Anthropology of Art (Bergin & Garvey, 1999).

Perhaps they have internalized and are cooperating with the West's construction of not-white women as not-to-be-seen. How could they/we not be affected by that lingering structure of invisibility, enacted in the myriad codicils of daily life and still enforced by the images of both popular and high culture? How not get the message of what Judith Wilson calls "the legions of black servants who loom in the shadows of European and European-American aristocratic portraiture," of whom Laura, the professional model that Edouard Manet used for Olympia's maid, is in an odd way only the most famous example? Forget euphemisms. Forget "tonal contrast." We know what she is meant for: she is Jezebel and Mammy, prostitute and female eunuch, the two-in-one. When we're through with her inexhaustibly comforting breast, we can use her ceaselessly open cunt. And best of all, she is not a real person, only a robotic servant who is not permitted to make us feel guilty, to accuse us as does the slave in Toni Morrison Beloved (1987). After she escapes from the room where she was imprisoned by a father and son, that outraged woman says: "You couldn't think up what them two done to me," Olympia's maid, like all the other "peripheral Negroes," is a robot conveniently made to disappear into the background drapery. --Lorraine O'Grady, New Feminist Criticism: Art, Identity, Action (Icon Editions, 1994 ).

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Tomorrow, artist Carlos de Villasante will visit ART 106.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Maritza Molina

Maritza Molina’s presentation was interesting because as it turns, we’ve talked about issues that -even tangentially- touch her work: Performance, the use of the body as vehicle for self-expression, Feminism, etc. Is there a distinction between photography as such and the documenting of a performance? What do you think?

Is it art?

Last night, Jessica’s question (about Thomas Kinkaid’s work being art) started an interesting conversation that we couldn’t finish. I’d like to put my ten cents: Let’s start with Arthur Danto’s suggestion that a definition of art cannot be given “a priori” (that is, independent of the experience of artworks) because art can only be measured against artistic production. Some people believe that art is only “one thing” and that's it (i.e., an object should not be considered “art” if it doesn’t fit such model). That approach is limited. Why? Say you live in 1940’s New York. The art of the moment is Abstract Expressionism (coming from prior European modern traditions in Europe). How would you have received a 1965 exhibit at MOMA entitled The Responsive Eye, showing so-called “Op Art?” If you were establishment, you’d have rejected it –as many well-known critics (Greenberg, Barbara Rose, Thomas Hess) did. Why? It didn’t fit the norms. Yet, today, Op Art is recognized as an important post-war art movement. How to avoid this pitfall? We know Praxiteles excelled among Athenian artists. He had remarkable craft and personal style. The reason we value his art as “canonical” is that he “fits” the tenets of Greek tradition, yet was able to push this tradition a little bit. From Praxiteles’ model, I’d like to suggest a tentative criterion for assessing “good” art: 1- Craft (meaning technical skill, proficiency), 2- Personal style (individuality that enriches and yet “fits” a given tradition), 3- The acknowledgment of peers. In a more distant place, 4- Being accepted in the canon. To judge a given work one must apply the four elements together. Now, to answer the initial question I’d like to bring forth Miami’s Romero Britto. Does he produce art? Most people in the art scène would say, “Of course not.” But Britto’s work has a personal style; his craft is what it is (I’d say that he executes it properly). Finally, though the critics don’t accept him, he’s famous and figures in many important collectors’ collections. He has some degree of peer recognition but his work has yet to survive the canon. Will it? I don’t know. We have to wait. In the meantime, is it art? Possibly. Is it good? Surely not as good as that of other Pop artists, like Warhol, Ruscha and Lichtenstein, whose influence in Britto's work is quite clear. Naïve? Decorative? It depends what you’re looking for. Sometimes you crave a Big Mac instead of a Lobster Termidor; sometimes you want a cheap Tempranillo to down a tapa instead of a Burgundy. Now, apply that method to Kinkaid's work.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006


Miami-based performance artist Maritza Molina will visit our class tomorrow. Since there's a student show, I'm thinking we can meet in Merrick 309-A as usual, go to the show and then come back in time for Maritza's presentation.

Saturday, November 4, 2006

Kelly Flynn's Show

I'm proud to announce Kelly Flynn's exhibition of photographs, on November 11th, at Chelsea Galleria. Kelly is in our Art 106 class. We'll be there to support her. Chelsea Galleria, 2441 NW 2nd Avenue, Wynwood Art District. (305)576.2950

Friday, November 3, 2006

Pollock reigns!

Jackson Pollock's No. 5, 1948 just sold for a record $140,000,000. Keep working, you can make it!


Adler’s presentation was characterized by a contained intensity. I felt he really tried to express something one does not hear often about the uneasy relationship we have with the city. His idea of “in-betweness” stayed with me all night (as well as giving peoples and places the opportunity to exude beauty). I think his art is so much in tune with Baudelaire that he becomes the flâneur! What do you think?

Thursday, November 2, 2006

Art & Society

Art does not happen in a vacuum. There is always a particular social milieu in which art is produced. Each culture has a distinct social organization of artistic activities that is associated with a specific attitude of artists toward their work (for example French Cubism happens in a different socio-political climate than Russian Constructivism). Artistic cultures arise from artists' relationships with other artists, their audiences; from their involvements with cultural systems not specifically artistic, from artists' technologies and ideologies. A change in any of these variables (no matter how small) can modify a given culture and give rise to new variants of it (as per the difference between Cubism and Italian Futurism).

The professional artist chooses what to make (she produces in order to sell). She is a specialist, competent in the techniques of her craft. In the visual arts, the professional artist works in her own studio, at times of her own choice. In the artistic profession, is not the ownership of the means of production that matters so much as the artist's sense that she rules upon her personal aesthetic sense. This is the predominant image of the artist in modern Western societies.

Totalitarian regimes provide the best examples of what happens when a modern artistic enterprise is subordinated to a political ideology. Artists are forced back into sort of clerical roles, with the difference that the ideology is imposed on them. Even when it does correspond with their ideological views, it conflicts with the conception of the professional role that they regard as their primary orientation within the sphere of art (as Maikovsky's disenchantment with the Bolshevik Revolution). Above, an example of the so-called Socialist Realism.

More recently, a third avant-garde has emerged: The anti-artistic avant-garde, which is alienated from the very notion of art and its practice as it's received in other versions of the avant-garde culture. Art itself and its academic extension, is perceived as "oppressive" and "exploitative," and the obligation of the artist (and of the art critic) is seen as the promotion of the "end of art". The very coherence of art is felt to be an imposition of an arbitrary system on the immediacy of "aesthetic experiences," which are to be pursued with a self-conscious repudiation of any deliberate control.

Political avant-garde culture: The artist sees himself/herself as alienated from "oppressive" and "exploitative" political and economic institutions and tries to create a new kind of art intended to undermine these institutions (German poet and playwright Bertolt Brecht is an example). The bohemian and the political avant-garde overlap, and over time, one may change into the other.

Bohemian avant-garde culture: One of the distinguishable types of this artistic culture is the bohemian avant-garde, which tends to be alienated from all rational and utilitarian aspects of social organization and cultural tradition and aims to create a new kind of exaggeratedly irrational art and, perhaps even more important, an irrational style of life. (Typical of this group is the French poet and critic Charles Baudelaire.) Its behaviour centres on the ambivalent and the self-consciously paradoxical: a tradition of pursuit of the new, the cultivation of a pleasureless hedonism, the development of systems for the liberation of spontaneity.

Artist as "genius": As conjunction of the artisan, clerical, and courtly cultures, the cult of genius emerged in the early 16th-Century during the High Renaissance and became fully developed in the age of Romanticism -at the beginning of the 19th century. The artist conceives himself as the "unacknowledged legislator of the world" (in the words of the English poet Percy Shelley), an autonomous, godlike creator of new orders of reality obedient only to his perceptions and the categories of his mind. He creates the unifying symbols of a developing civilization. Historically, the "genius" is the precursor of the professional artist of the 20th-Century. Artists like Raphael, Michelangelo, Mozart, Byron, Beethoven, Delacroix, etc, are notable examples.

The courtly artist is a craftsman of ordinary social standing, directly dependent upon a secular royal court -or a household of the high nobility. He is usually socially involved with this household as a vassal, royal favorite, or court artist. He produces for the high aristocracy for which he works, without actually being a member of it. The artist is ennobled by his art, permeated with "noble" attitudes: heroic exaltation, fashionable late-medieval despair, or refined Rococo or Rajput sensuousness. Artists like Rubens, Velazquez, Goya, David, are salient examples.

The clerical artist is very much a craftsman, subordinated to a moral community, which he is committed to serve and to defend by his work. By his association with this tradition, the artist gains in prestige, but also acquires a moral responsibility which the pure craftsman is not bound by. The clerical artist belongs to a moral community, which provides him with criteria for judging which works of art are worth making. He is submissive to the discipline of the moral community of which he is a part. Boticelli, Raphael, El Greco, Zurbaran, are examples of artists in the service of the church.

The artisan is a member of a specialized collectivity, such as a guild or a workshop set up by a state or a church -who works on order and for pay only. Such artist develops the pride of good craftsmanship and habits of regularity and reliability in his work and does whatever style or content is required by the client.

Folk artists are nonspecialized members of their community and closely involved with all of its activities. Their art has symbolic elements which define and give shape to the community. The themes are linked with folktales, abstract stylization (geometric ornamentation of utensils). This artist lives more powerfully in her imagination than the rest of the group. She creates by following traditional patterns. Much art is produced spontaneously for oneself, or in friendship or for communal enjoyment, rather than for pay.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Artist Adler Guerrier is coming this Thursday. It should be an interesting presentation.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


1- Below, find this week's issue. 2- This week is pretty hectic for me, so I'm going to ask you to post your comments by Wednesday 12 noon (at that time the post comments-section will be closed). 3- For those applying for writing credit, it would be better if you could send me an earlier draft (via email). 4- By the way, how was Carlos?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The art market

For the last few years, the media have trumpeted contemporary art as the hottest new investment. At fairs, auction houses and galleries, an influx of new buyers--many of them from the world of finance--have entered the fray. Lifted by this tidal wave of new money, the number of thriving artists, galleries and consultants has rocketed upwards. Yet amid all this transformative change, one element has held stable: the art market's murky modus operandi. In my experience, people coming from the finance world into the art market tend to be shocked by the level of opacity and murkiness," says collector Greg Allen, a former financier who co-chairs MoMA's Junior Associates board. "Of course, there's a lot of hubris--these people made fortunes cracking the market's code, so they tend to think the opacity is someone else's problems. But the mechanisms are not in place to eliminate ethical lapses or price-gouging, and the new breed of collectors is definitely more likely to pursue legal options. And once things go to court, a lot of the opacity gets shaken out." The art trade is the last major unregulated market," points out Manhattan attorney Peter R. Stern, whose work frequently involves art-market cases. "And while it always involved large sums of money, there was never the level of trading and investing that we have now. I'm increasingly approached by collectors who have encountered problems." Stern represented collector Jean-Pierre Lehmann in his winning case against the Project Gallery, which captivated the art world by revealing precisely what prices and discounts Project Gallery Chief Christian Haye had offered various collectors and galleries on paintings by Julie Mehretu--information normally concealed by an art world omerta. --Time To Reform The Art Market? by Marc Spiegler for The Art Newspaper, 2006.

Monday, October 23, 2006


I need your inputs for this week's issue (Female Art) and that's it (as far as homework goes). 1- "It sounds like a paradox, but it is a very simple truth, that when to-day we look for 'American art' we find it mainly in Paris. When we find it out of Paris, we at least find a great deal of Paris in it." That's Henry James, observing the state of American art in 1887. 2- David Lock wins the Art on Paper Award. 3- Thefts from the Hermitage? 4- Artist Carlos Betancourt is coming on Thursday. It should be fun.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Female art

First, we would have to make a distinction between female art and Feminist art. Whereas the first is a label for art made by women, the latter addresses very specific socio-political issues regarding the exploitation of women by men. Feminism is right about the suppression and dislocation of women from the public sphere (since the Renaissance until the end of the Twentieth Century; just look at the disproportion of male and female artists in Modern art history). 1- An important alert to feminist issues came in the 1970’s, with artist Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party, a work that used several traditionally “feminine” art-mediums to teach women’s history (Chicago’s work represents the ways in which feminists began to explore their oppression through art). Why is it that the early avant-garde (Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Fauvism, Expressionism, Futurism, De Stijl, etc) were essentially male-driven movements? I don’t want to dwell in the causes of this phenomenon, which has been well-documented by Feminists such as Simone De Beauvoir in The Second Sex, Shulamith Firestone’s The Dialectics of Sex or Carol Gilligan’s In a Different Voice, among many others. 2- Since the 1960’s female art has brought forth a new attention to materials: ceramics, latex, rubber, fiberglass and yarn. There is a return to fiber media: weaving, quilt-making, etc. Formally, female art is generally characterized by a biomorphic, more fluid focus. In performance/art, video and photography, women have explored gestures of objectification and exploitation from a different perspective than those found in male performances (which tend to be more heroic). 3- Although art is universal, the claim that art has no gender is not necessarily true (See post-feminism). Can you think of particular female art themes? Go ahead.

Elke Krystufek's "Silent Scream" (2000's). Elke Krystufek emerged in the early '90s with in-your-face performances and installations dealing with femininity and sexuality as filtered through pop culture. Taking her cue from '70s body art--particularly its Viennese branch-Krystufek uses her own image, often distorted, debased, disguised, or made sexually explicit, to confront viewers with collective (and mostly suppressed) revulsions and desires. Krystufek’s art is about herself, her ego and her life. For ten years now, her impertinent performances have exhibited a voyeuristic/exhibitionistic dynamic that dissolves the boundaries between the public and private realms.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

No class this Thursday

Dear kids: Due to personal problems, I will not be able to make it to our ART 106 class. We're not meeting this Thursday. Tomorrow I’ll post a take-home for next Thursday.

More erotica

Talking about masterful, academic, virtuosistic, detailed-oriented erotica!

Friday, October 13, 2006


K.H.'s presentation left me wondering about the many different facets of this thing we call art criticism (she kept talking about "community"). What are your thoughts?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Balthus' Nude With Cat (1949). The work of Balthus does not fit neatly into an art historical category and he deliberately discourages the classification, preferring each viewer to appreciate his paintings directly. This does not imply that he worked in a vacuum, free from discernable literary and artistic influences, but more his desire to be considered as an individual rather than a member of a movement or part of an established style. A number of themes or subjects do recur in his art, the most important being depictions of prepubescent female figures. While such works are not devoid of an erotic content they are actually a coherent examination of burgeoning sexuality. Nude with cat is a study of unselfconscious sensuality, and whether the intimacy is regarded as overly confronting is very much left to the viewer, as the artist intended.

David Hockney's Man Taking a Shower (1966): "Hockney's vision . . . is stamped by his homosexual stance. In one sense, this undoubtedly limits his work: those of us who are not homosexual will never simply feel the same way about those delicate pink lines with which he tints the buttocks in his otherwise black-and-white drawings of young boys."-- Peter Fuller, Art Monthly, no. 49, September 1981.
(This paragraph is taken from Wikipedia): Michelangelo's The Last Judgment was an object of a heavy dispute between Cardinal Carafa and Michelangelo: The artist was accused of immorality and intolerable obscenity, having depicted naked figures, with genitals in evidence, so a censorship campaign (known as the "Fig-Leaf Campaign") was organized by Carafa and Monsignor Sernini to remove the frescoes. When the Pope's own Master of Ceremonies, Biagio da Cesena, said "it was mostly disgraceful that in so sacred a place there should have been depicted all those nude figures, exposing themselves so shamefully, and that it was no work for a papal chapel but rather for the public baths and taverns," Michelangelo worked da Cesena's semblance into the scene as Minos, judge of the underworld. It is said that when he complained to the Pope, the pontiff responded that his jurisdiction did not extend to hell, so the portrait would have to remain.

Caravaggio's Amor Vincit Omnia (1601). Much scholarly and non-scholarly ink has been spilled over the alleged eroticism of the painting. Yet the homoerotic, not to say pederastic, content was perhaps not so apparent to Giustiniani’s generation as it has become today. Naked boys could be seen on any riverbank or seashore, and the eroticisation of children is very much a cultural artefact of the present-day rather than Caravaggio's. -- Fragment taken from the Wikipedia

John Singer Sargent's Madame X (1884). The painting was exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1884 as Portrait de Mme *** and created a scandal. It's considered one of Sargent's best works: "The Salon was in an uproar. Here was an occasion such as they had not had since Manet's Le dejeuner sur l'herbe and L'Olympia. The onslaught was led the lady's relatives. A demand was made that the picture should be withdrawn. It is not among the least of the curiosities of human nature, that while an individual will confess and even call attention to his own failings, he will deeply resent the same office being undertaken by someone else. So it was with the dress of Madame Gautreau. Here the distinguished artist was proclaimed to the public in paint a fact about herself which she had hitherto never made any attempt to conceal, one which had, indeed, formed one of her many social assets. Her sentiment was profound. If the picture could not be withdrawn, the family might at least bide its time, wait till the Salon was closed, the picture delivered, and then by destroying, blot it as an unclean thing from the records of the family. Anticipating this, Sargent, before the exhibition was over, took it away himself. After remaining many years in his studio it now figures as one of the glories of the Metropolitan Museum in New York".-- Evan Charteris, John Sargent, Benjamin Blom, NY, 1927

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


Are you into gardening? This Thursday, Kathleen Hudspeth is coming to class. Among other things, she'll talk about The Next Few Hours, arguably Miami's best art blog.

Friday, October 6, 2006

Bert Rodriguez

How about Bert's presentation last night?

Thursday, October 5, 2006

Body Art

Over the course of the last 50 years, artists have investigated the aesthetic frontiers of the body. A central notion of human identity, the idea of the physical body and the human self -as stable - has eroded (think of two world wars, the Holocaust, Viet-Nam, AIDS, plus the redefinition of the body in light of the developments in psychoanalysis, philosophy, anthropology, medicine, etc). Artists have investigated the temporality, contingency and instability of the body within and beyond cultural boundaries. One can generally define several areas of investigation: 1- The gesturing body, or the performing body: A dual role of object and subject that becomes public and gets transformed by activism (here we have the FLUXUS performances of Ono, Klein, Beuys, Nauman, etc). 2- The ritualistic body, as one finds in the Viennese Actionists' use of the symbolic language of torture, slaughter and sacrifice (among them Günter Brus, Hermann Nitsch and Otto Mühl, as a way to deal with the horrors of post-War Nazi Austria). Or the self-mutilated body of Gina Pane and Mike Parr and the dying body -as bravely documented by Hannah Wilke. Also the desecrating body (as in Serrano’s Piss Christ). 3- The body as "participatory," as in Chris Burden's symbolic antics, Carolee Schneemann performances and Yayoi Kusama's staged "orgies." 4- The body as identity; whether expanding the idea of gender (the transgender phenomenon), sexuality or race, identity is characterized as a cipher in constant evolution (through the use of props, masks, costumes or any other disguises). In this category, we have the works of Pierre Moliniere, Lynda Benglis, Laura Aguilar, Paul McCarthy and others. 5- The idea of body as boundary: The artist's body is the limit between the private and the public realms and what is inflicted upon that body is inflicted somehow in the social or collective body. These artists examine issues of power, control and intimacy regarding liberties we can and cannot take within our own bodies. In this category we have the works of Dennis Oppenheim, Vito Acconci, Gina Pane, William Wegmann and Marina Abramovic -among others. To better understand the context of body art, take a look at these interesting topics: body piercing, corseting, scarification, infibulation, self-flagellation.

Pornography vs. erotic art

Pornography refers to representation of erotic behavior (in books, pictures, statues, movies, etc.) intended to cause sexual excitement. The word comes from the Greek porni (prostitute) and graphein (to write). Since the term has a very specific legal and social function behind it, we must make a distinction between "pornography" and "erotica" (i.e. artworks in which the portrayal of the so-called sexually arousing material holds or aspires to artistic or historical merit). The problem is that what is considered "artistic" today, may have been yesterday's pornography. According to our definition above, there's evidence of pornography in Roman culture (in Pompeii, where erotic paintings dating from the 1st century AD cover walls sacred to bacchanalian orgies). A classic book on pornography is Ovid's Ars amatoria (Art of Love), a treatise on the art of seduction, intrigue, and sensual arousal. With Modernity, in 18th-Century Europe, a business production (designed solely to arouse sexual excitement) begins with a small underground traffic and such works became the basis of a separate publishing and bookselling business in England (a classic of this period is Fanny Hill or The Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure (1749) by John Cleland). At about this time erotic graphic art began to be widely produced in Paris, eventually coming to be known as "French postcards." Pornography flourished in the Victorian era despite, or perhaps because of, the prevailing taboos on sexual topics. The development of photography and later of motion pictures contributed greatly to the proliferation of pornographic materials. Since the 1960's, written pornography has been largely superseded by explicit visual representations of erotic behavior that are considered lacking in redeeming artistic or social values. Pornography has long been the target of moral and legal sanction in the belief that it may tend to deprave and corrupt minors and adults and cause the commission of sexual crimes.

Andres Serrano's Piss Christ (1987). "We are born between the urine and the feces, Augustine says, and so was Christ, if there was a Christ, skidding into this world as we doon a tide of blood and urine. Blood, feces, urine—what the fallen world is made of, and what we make. He peed, ejaculated, shat, wept, bled—bled under Pontius Pilate, and I assume the mutilated god, the criminal, humiliated god, voided himself on the cross and the blood and urine smeared his legs and he ascended bodily unto heaven, and on the third day he rose into glory, which is what we see here, the Piss Christ in glowing blood: the whole irreducible point of the faith, God thrown in human waste, submerged and shining. We have grown used to beauty without horror. We have grown used to useless beauty."-- Andrew Hudgins

Wednesday, October 4, 2006


Hi. Couple of things: There are openings tonight at CIFO and MAM. Tomorrow, Bert Rodriguez is coming to talk to the class. Until then...

Friday, September 29, 2006


For next class I'd like a one-page "report" of MAC's current exhibition. Briefly describe what the show is about and express your opinion about it. Please, word-processed, no binder.

Snitzer last night

Snitzer's presentation was pretty intense. He's been to my classes before, but last night was special (you may have to do with that). What are your thoughts?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The artist as Shaman

Shamanism is not a 'religion' but rather a world-view system or a 'grammar of the mind' having many intercorrelations with art, culture, ecology and economy.-- Juhna Pentikäinen (Professor of Comparative Religion, Helsinki University Museum)

The central idea behind shamanism is the contact with the supernatural world by the ecstatic experience of an inspired intermediary, the shaman. There are four important constituents of shamanism: (1) the ideological premise of the supernatural world and the contacts with it; (2) the shaman as an actor (an intermediary) on behalf of a human group, (3) the inspiration granted him by his helping spirits; and (4) the extraordinary, ecstatic experiences of the shaman. In shamanistic rituals, the shaman uses different objects; some are natural, such as precious stones, bits of metal, teeth and claws of animals, bones, plants, and so on (“ready-mades?”). Then, there are man-made amulets (sort of sculptures), which include medallions, small figurines, carved knives, drums of all sizes, wheels and masks. These serve as objects for invocation, divination and healing. Since shamanism uses diagrams to establish cosmological renditions of the universe, one could think of these diagrams as aesthetic materials. My point is that in our secular societies of the West, art can be seen as a symbolic condensation of our environment, a way to depict and evaluate our milieu. Artists produce objects that have an aesthetic function for a receiving audience. Think of the parallel between the altar and the artist's studio (or the white cube for that matter) as places of art-convocation. It may be that (as sociologist Jurgen Habermas has suggested), artists have the role of "translating chaotic everydayness into ordered aesthetic symbols for public understanding."

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


The one and only Fred Snitzer is coming tomorrow. It should be a lot of fun.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Gean Moreno

So, what did you think about Gean’s presentation last night?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Conceptual art

1- According to conceptual art, the "concept" is more important than the work itself. This is not new (idealists have maintained that conception is more important than execution in that ideas are unpolluted by accidents): Art as a mental form; perceived, evaluated and savored as ideological and communicative instead of object-like and/or "expressive." Anything that is made up of "information" (including a written proposal, photographs, documents, maps and whatnot) counts as conceptual (the term has come to encompass all art forms outside traditional painting or sculpture). 2- Conceptual art can be traced back to Marcel Duchamp, who from the second decade of the 20th century produced various iconoclastic pieces in which he questioned the traditional values of the art world. However, conceptual art did not acquire a name or become a recognized movement until the late 1960s. Since then, the conceptual trend became widespread, flourishing at the same time as other movements, such as Arte Povera, Land art, Performance art and video art. 3- Conceptual art was initially anti-commercial. Artists thought that by eliminating objecthood, they would rid themselves of the problem of commodification behind “collectable art” (it didn't happen, after the movement was legitimized, conceptual art was very much collected). 4- By conveying a "conceptual message" artists rejected the Humanist stereotype of "creator" or "talent" so prevalent in the genius culture that developed since the mid-19th Century. 5- Conceptual art takes a great variety of forms, such as diagrams, photographs, video tapes, sets of instructions, and so on. 6- The movement was the forerunner for installation, digital, and other art forms in the 1990's.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


I need all your posts by 5pm today. After that time, I'll close the comments. Tomorrow Gean Moreno is coming to class. Until next month, you can see Moreno's show at Snitzer Gallery.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Go Banksy!

Again, Banksy, enfant terrible. Viva design!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

These third-generation ipods ads have been pretty successful. In this one, young human silhouettes (in black) dance inside an undifferentiated green space, along with traffic-sign arrows, capriciously bisecting or unraveling to the beat of rock music. Then, a female silhouette fills the foreground. For a couple of seconds, the shimmering ipod on her chest comes out the foreground and we read: “Life is random.”

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Update #2

Look at my syllabus. All your comments must be inputted by Wednesday, to give me time to read and grade them by Thursday. A couple of students (you know who you are) still owe me comments from last week's assignment. I think there's enough time from Friday to Wednesday to concoct 120 words. I cannot be more clear about this.

Saturday, September 9, 2006


The graffiti artist we talked about in class is Banksy. And this is the news of his latest guerilla performance in London. Tonight, openings at Charo's Edge Zones, Dorsch, Snitzer, The Moore Space (7-10pm, a cool performance by Tracy + the Plastics), Ingalls, Bernice Steinbaum, Locust Projects and Hardcore (among others). Just ask people for other places. Hope to see you.

Thursday, September 7, 2006

A Chinese poster of Karl Marx. (Without the lettering, it could work as a KFC logo).

The caption: "One eats the other and the Jew devours them all..." The cartoon promotes the Nazi claim that the Jews were behind World War II, having orchestrated it to destroy Nazi Germany.

Monday, September 4, 2006


1- I need more comments to my Thursday post. To make it easier, think of "symbols" that you are using right now in your projects. Do you feel akin to any in particular? Why? 2- Thursday we'll talk about this weekend's openings in Wynwood. 3- Check out Kelly Flynn’s Website; she's in our 106 class. I find her work well-executed and pretty interesting. 4- This Thursday, Brook Dorsch is coming to class. A true lover of the arts and pioneer of the Wynwood art scene, Brook owns of one of Miami's best arthouses, The Dorsch Gallery. Don't miss Dorsch's opening this Saturday (now with a newly-installed AC!)

Friday, September 1, 2006

How about Charo?

I was absorbed by Charo's presentation. Particularly because we had talked about ready-mades, which she defined as "an opportunity to share," "an experience" (which reminded me of Arte Povera). As if the more difficult the task, the bigger the empowerment. And how about seducing the gods with antennas? Charo is definitely a character. Tell me your thoughts and be frank. This is not a place for edulcoration.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Art news

Remember The Scream by Munch? The painting has been finally recovered! The masterpiece was stolen two years ago by gunmen who seized it from an Oslo museum (via

Symbols in art

1- Clouds mean rain, a falling barometer means that a storm is coming, a twister in the sky means an approaching tornado: one is a sign of the other. These relations exist in nature and were discovered, not invented by humans. On the other hand, a bell ringing means the end of class, the word “cat” means a certain species of domesticated quadruped. These relations are conventional. 2- In art, what is it that makes a thing a symbol? It is something represented in the artwork (an object, an action, or a pattern of objects and actions, or just a color) that does the symbolizing? How does A become a symbol of B? 3- The cross is a symbol of Christianity (a conventional token of suffering) but this is a historic and religious convention. On the other hand, the sun seems like a natural symbol of life and strength; a river brings forth the idea of eternal change and flowing, and so forth. In these cases there was no agreement (convention) as to what would stand for what; the relation is too obvious. 4- According to philosopher Nelson Goodman one can virtually make any A to stand for any B, provided one can justify the link -an important premise for an artist. 5- Here are some examples of how virtually anything can be a symbol for something else: animals, parts of the body, abstract characters, artefacts, plants, etc. A circle → the cosmos (in Shamanism); a triangle→ perfection; an ant→ industry; the ape → loyalty and devotion (ancient India); the arch→ the union of earth and sky (ancient Greece); the human beard→ wisdom, strength and virility (Semitic religions); blood→ a tantric image of fertilization (Vedas); ying/yang→ positive, negative (Ancient China); A and ω→ beginning and end (ancient Greece); the dog→ watchful guardian (ancient Egypt); Moby Dick→evil. 6- So, to further problematize the issue: What would Duchamp's Fountain stand for?

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Update (3 points)

1- We have class tomorrow, same time, same place. 2- Charo Oquet is coming around 7:40pm for a presentation. Oquet co-directs The Edge Zones (, one of Miami’s most interesting alternative spaces. Oquet is a good painter, but I particularly like her installations. They stand like discombobulated towers, part trash architecture, part baby-world. Dolls, fake jewelry, trinkets, cheap embroideries, little toys, souvenirs and whatnot jumbled in some bizarre offerings to the gods. 3- Incidentally, I haven't seen much participation (your 120-word comment) -which was already due. Ernesto? Fine, but how about the very possibility of the Internet (look under sociological implications) in cases like this?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

What is art?

Since definitions aim at setting limits, Dominic made a good point when he said that a work of art “is a man-made thing,” an artifact -as distinguished from an object in nature. A sunset is beautiful, but it's not art. A piece of driftwood may have aesthetic qualities, but it is not a work of art. On the other hand, a piece of wood that has been carved to look like driftwood is not an object of nature, but of art. Is it intention or “purpose” what characterizes art? Even that was challenged by Duchamp’s objets trouvés. Even though “Fountain” is a urinal, it could be that the act of recontextualizing it, i.e. setting it in a different space (re)defines it as art. Could art relate to a kind of heightened interaction with a particular environment? Historian Rhonda Roland Shearer has argued that exhibiting a found object “is already a modification from its natural state” (think of an installation of sea shells inside a gallery entitled “Wisdom”). According to this definition, paintings, sculptures, buildings, furniture, automobiles, ships, etc, can be seen as art. Arthur Danto (well-known critic and philosopher of art) has suggested that “art” should be kept open, as “an evolving concept” (as coincidentally one of you suggested on Wednesday). In addition, you advanced these other functions for “art”: (1) Self-expression (Jason?), (2) A way of presenting problems (Ernie?), (3) A means of human communicaton (visual perhaps? (Michele), (4) Is “art” innate? (Maria) Some of your suggestions point to important themes in aesthetics: (1) is the thesis of Italian philosopher Benedetto Croce in his book The Essence of the Aesthetic, (2) defines the manner of aesthetic investigation for Martin Heidegger in his essay The Origin of the Work of Art. (3) characterizes semiotics as a discipline in the Human Sciences. As per (4) I think of Jung's quote: “Art is a kind of innate drive that seizes a human being and makes him its instrument.” The issue points to an old debate, which still goes on. I side with evolutionary biology. This post addresses our first art issue. Please, find time to respond by (the latest) Tuesday, so we can have an interesting online discussion. Thanks to all for further problematizing existing problems.

American "Corvette": "Why did you Americans stop building those amazing square cars?" (Italian star designer Giorgetto Giugiaro, Fiat & Alpha Romeo)

English battleship (late 18th Century): With one of these -at Trafalgar- Admiral Nelson destroyed Napoleon's shot at ruling the seas (for many the first Modern naval battle).

Duchamp's "Fountain" (a 1964 replica of the original): "What is copied once can be copied many times."-- Gary Starkweather, inventor, laser print.

Eames' "Lounge Chair": A paragon of functionality and style.

Pantheon (c. 118 A.D.): "Being inside the Pantheon is like floating in heaven"-- J.W. Goethe

Robert Crumb: Intense, excessive, self-indulgent.

Venus of Willendorf (c. 22,000 B.C.): "[Some] have raised the possibility that it was designed to be inserted vaginally."

Pollock's "Lavender" ("Pollock is the strongest painter of his generation and perhaps the greatest one to appear since Miró."-- Clement Greenberg

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Some artnews

1- Power to the people in China (via Artdaily). 2- Calatrava's Fordham Building could be a masterpiece in a city with many (via WILLisms). 3- How about market trends? It means you've become a commodity. So what? 4- Local art & food (via Critical Miami) 5- The Next Few Hours is the coolest artblog in Miami (Kathleen is doing her MFA at UM and may come to talk to our class in October). 6- Who said there was no "ecological art"? 7- This is a fresh place to think about art. See you later...

Friday, August 25, 2006

In the meantime

Last night was fun. I'll post something more serious later, for now, this is the math genius I talked about last night... as per laid back intense, find it here. Another angle of propaganda art is this anti-holocaust exhibit in Iran. Pretty bizarre.