Author Archives: Matthew Newton, Associate Editor

How Museums Affect the Brain, the Art of the Cover, and Other News


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How Museums Affect the Brain: According to The Atlantic, a team of researchers at the Catholic University of America and the University of Utah have conducted a pilot study that provides evidence for architecture’s power to induce meditation. As Laura C. Mallonee at Hyperallergic explains: “The researchers wanted to find out whether people visiting museums, churches, and libraries experience similar brain activity to those practicing meditation. If they were able to show that architecture facilitates such contemplation, it would mean that the benefits of meditation can be achieved not only by ‘internally-induced (self-directed) methods,’ which such research tends to focus on, but also by outwardly imposed ones.”

The Art of the Cover: While we ran our own cover story this week about the making of artist Duane Michals’s beautiful new monograph, Liv Siddall over at It’s Nice That heaped praise on how The New Yorker produces a new and iconic cover each week: “What’s always boggled my mind is how The New Yorker goes through this gruelling tongue-biting process every week. It’s largely down to cartoon expert and art editor of The New Yorker, Francoise Mouly. Her and cover-obsessive contributor Mina Kaneko spend their time debating and discussing which artist would be up for the challenge of inhaling the essence of New York at that very moment, and translating it into an instantly engaging, witty image. The best part is, once the cover is out into the world, they speak to the artist about the process of making it, and what the city means to them.”

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Duane Michals in Conversation at the New York Public Library


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Christopher Lyon, Duane Michals, and Linda Benedict-Jones on stage in the South Court Auditorium at the New York Public Library on Wednesday, November 5, 2014. Photo: Randy Duchaine.

Last Wednesday Duane Michals was on stage in the South Court Auditorium at the New York Public Library to discuss his two new books: ABCDuane and Storyteller: The Photographs of Duane Michals. As part of An Art Book, the library’s ongoing series that celebrates the essential importance and beauty of art books, moderator Christopher Lyon offered the audience a brief introduction to Michals’s work and career.

“His activities touch on so many bases,” Lyon said about Michals. “Pioneering art photography. Unmatched portraitist. He’s a masterful editorial photographer, painter, art collectorstoryteller above alland an aesthetic gadfly who entertainingly undermines the claims of photography to represent reality. But I want to suggest that the apparent multi-sidedness of Duane is, itself, an illusion. As Duane made clear in [the text to his book Real Dreams], the key word, he wrote, is ‘expression’ not photography, not writing, not painting. So tonight I’m hoping that this really extraordinary gathering of critics, scholars, and curators will engage in a conversation illuminating Duane’s work and life.”

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Conflict Kitchen Reopens, Art Collector Windfalls, and Other News


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Messages of support adorn the exterior of Conflict Kitchen, which reopened today following death threats the eatery received for its current Palestinian menu, which also features interviews with Palestinians on its food wrappers (image via Conflict Kitchen).

Conflict Kitchen, open for business: Last Friday, the operators of Conflict Kitchen, a local restaurant that serves cuisine from countries with which the United States is in conflict, made a troubling announcement: “We have received a letter today containing death threats and we will be closed until the credibility of the letter can be established by the Pittsburgh Police.” The threats came after recent scrutiny by media outlets such as Fox News, Breitbart, and the Washington Free Beacon, which characterized the eatery as “anti-Israel.” Additionally, in a letter sent to the Heinz Endowments on October 31, Israel advocacy organization B’nai B’rith International expressed  “dismay and deep concern” about Conflict Kitchen’s current programming, citing a $50,000 grant the Endowments awarded to the eatery to aid its relocation from East Liberty to its current location in Oakland’s Schenley Plaza. Prior to Conflict Kitchen’s closure last Friday, co-founders Jon Rubin and Dawn Weleski responded to the recent press in a blog post“The real story on our Palestinian version is that it is the most popular iteration to date, with 300–400 people a day coming to the restaurant. Our public is approaching us with trust, support, and open minds.” Conflict Kitchen reopens today.

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Studio Visit: Inside Artist Lenka Clayton’s Attic Studio in Polish Hill


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Lenka Clayton, discussing her art practice, in the attic-turned-studio of her home in Polish Hill on October 17, 2014 © Carnegie Museum of Art. Photo: Bryan Conley.

“I start every project with a structure, with some set of invisible rules,” says Lenka Clayton, sitting behind a desk in the attic-turned-studio of her home in the Polish Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh.

The 37-year-old artist, originally from Cornwall, England, is relaxed as we talk, sipping tea from a ceramic mug designed by her husband, sculptor Seth Payne, as early morning sunlight illuminates the room. Two floors beneath us, in the living room, Clayton’s father, visiting from England, plays mandolin for her 1-year-old daughter Early. Occasional squeals of laughter can be heard as the music emanates through the house.

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Art School Blues, Museum Visitors as Art, and Other News


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Art school graduates, take heed: BFAMFAPhD, a collective concerned about the impact of debt, rent, and precarity on the lives of creative people, recently released a report titled “Artists Report Back: A National Study on the Lives of Arts Graduates and Working Artists.” As Alexis Clements at Hyperallergic points out, there’s one very clear take-away from the report: “people who graduate with arts degrees regularly end up with a lot of debt and incredibly low prospects for earning a living as artists.” If that slap of reality somehow left your idealism intact, the actual language used in the report might effectively snuff it out: “the fantasy of future earnings in the arts cannot justify the high cost of degrees.”

Archiving social media for future audiences: Rhizome, a nonprofit organization known for its support and conservation of digital artworks, has developed Colloq, a software tool that preserves the complex and immersive experiences that play out on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. The Knight Foundation has already awarded Rhizome a $35,000 grant to refine its prototype, and software developer Ilya Kreymer, formerly a programmer for the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, has made the underlying code available for free. As a beta test of sorts, Amalia Ulman’s social media performance Excellences & Perfections was used to capture the Instagram portion of her performance.    

When museum visitors become part of the art: “While visiting the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Andrés Wertheim noticed a disparity between the crowds gathered to look at Rembrandt’s The Night Watch, and the lack of people noticing just about anything else.” In response, “Wertheim began creating double exposure images combining [museum] crowds and artwork to capture this disparity, creating images that are sometimes humorous and sometimes ironic and always a bit surreal for his series ‘The Museum’s Ghosts.’”

Chuck Close discusses Big Self-Portrait (1967–1968): “There’s no question, I had some attitude about the way I wanted to be perceived,” said Chuck Close in discussing his Big Self-Portrait (1967–1968) at the Walker in 1980. “Now it seems very funny wanting to look like this tough guy with a cigarette sticking out of the corner of my mouth and a big, aggressive image of myself and saying to the viewer, ‘Hey, notice my painting, notice me.’ … I think I was trying to find out who I was as an artist.”

Before gentrification, a city covered in graffiti: In the wake of COST’s high-profile arrest last week, the New Yorker‘s Hua Hsu considers the legacy of illegal art: “Graffiti no longer represents the menace it did in the seventies and eighties. It’s arguable whether most New Yorkers even find it offensive anymore. It is part of the romantic, rough-and-tumble past, preserved in museums and coffee-table books. You are just as likely to see graffiti on the streets of Brooklyn as on the Web site announcing a new Brooklyn condo, an evocative signifier of urban bona fides.” 

In memoriam: Susan Sollins, cofounder and executive director emerita of Independent Curators International and founder and executive director of Art21, died on October 13. For Art in America, Julia Wolkoff writes: “Along with curator Nina Sundell (1936-2014), Sollins cofounded Independent Curators Incorporated, now Independent Curators International (ICI), in 1975. During her tenure as director at ICI, a nonprofit organization that organizes traveling contemporary art exhibitions, 75 shows featuring over 1,700 artists traveled to more than 360 institutions in Europe and North America.”

On a storied merger of music and pop art: The Color of Noise, a documentary about the artist Haze XXL (aka Tom Hazelmyer) and his record label, Amphetamine Reptile Records, will be screened this Thursday night at Club Cafe on Pittsburgh’s South Side. Hazelmyer is notable not only for the bands that he worked with (i.e., The Melvins, Superchunk, The Jesus Lizard, etc.), but for reviving the medium of the concert poster through collaborations with artists like Frank Kozik, Coop, and Ed Fotheringham.

In memoriam: Independent filmmaker, writer, producer, and actor L.M. Kit Carson has passed away at the age of 73. Hunter Carson, who starred as a child in Paris, Texas, the Wim Wenders’ film that his father wrote, posted this remembrance on his Facebook page: “RIP dad. Your light was and always will brighten the pathways of our future. It will never be extinguished. You did everything the way you wanted and never let anyone else do less than they were capable of doing. You mentored, taught, learned, fought, excelled as both athlete and student. I loved and loved and will love every moment we spent together. Thanks for everything. See you in the movies.”

Artist Talk: Charles Jencks, The Architecture of Hope: On Friday, October 24 at Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland, Charles Jencks—architectural theorist, landscape architect, and co-founder of Maggie’s Centres—will present the lecture “The Architecture of Hope.” The lecture begins at 6:30 p.m. and is free to the public