Author Archives: Matthew Newton, Associate Editor

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

New Hire: Kate Barbera


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What is your official title, and what are some of your general responsibilities?

My official title is Archival Assistant for the Time-Based Media Collection. I am part of a broad, comprehensive effort to preserve all of the film, video, and audio assets at the museum. My main task is to create an archive that will house the photographs, letters, reports, posters, slides, and memos that provide context for the media materials. These papers help tell the fascinating history of film in Pittsburgh. I am working to preserve the records and taking steps to make them available to everyone inside and outside the museum. Some materials will even be scanned and put online. Overall, my goal is to make this information readily accessible so more people can use it for research. I hope my work helps others discover the city’s unique, exciting, and influential film scene.

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Studio Visit: Inside the Firehouse Workspace of Sculptor Dee Briggs


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Briggs’s office in a Wilkinsburg firehouse that she converted to a studio for her art practice back in 2009. Photograph courtesy of Dee Briggs Studio.

Arriving at the firehouse-turned-studio where sculptor and architect Dee Briggs centers her art practice, it’s hard to ignore the feeling that you’ve stumbled upon a well-kept secret. Located in Wilkinsburg, a small town just outside of Pittsburgh that’s become better known in recent years for its economic decline rather than its prosperous history, the building is partially obscured from public view by an abandoned house that towers over nearby Swissvale Avenue. In fact, nearly every street within walking distance of Briggs’s studio features either a vacant lot or an abandoned home, nature quietly reclaiming the open spaces and derelict structures in a tangle of thistles and ivy. The reality outside her front door, however, is not lost on Briggs. Instead it’s an issue that occupies her thoughts and informs her work.

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The Shadow of Memory in a Post-9/11 World


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Under Attack candles, 2010. Image courtesy of Sebastian Errazuriz Studio.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, nightmare-like imagery appeared on television screens across the country. News footage of two commercial airliners flying dangerously low through the New York skyline played on an infinite loop. The twin towers of the World Trade Center hemorrhaged fire and black smoke against a clear blue sky. Office workers helplessly plummeted from windows. Clouds of ash rolled through New York’s financial district like slow-moving dust storms. Crowds of strangers wept and hugged one another in the streets. It was unbearable to watch, yet impossible to look away. Thirteen years later that graphic imagery still lingers in the nation’s collective memory, a stark reminder of what personal loss and incalculable horror looks like.

Like so many other people who looked on in disbelief that day, Chilean-born artist Sebastian Errazuriz was influenced by the events that transpired. For more than a decade, Errazuriz—whose first major solo museum exhibition, Look Again, opened last Friday at Carnegie Museum of Art—has been creating sculptures, photographs, collages, and sketches in memory of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Collected under the title Never Forget, Errazuriz treats the ongoing project as not only an exercise in memory, but as a way to reconsider the messages and imagery that surfaced both during and after the attacks.  

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New Hire: Emily Davis


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Emily Davis, taking a spin in the backyard with her pet chicken, in Alameda, New Mexico, circa 1985.

What is your official title, and what are some of your general responsibilities?

My official title is Senior Research Associate for the Time-Based Media Collection. I am working on an exciting multi-faceted project funded by the A.W. Mellon Foundation. One of my main responsibilities is to ensure the long-term sustainability and accessibility of the museum’s time-based media collection, which includes film, video, audio, and software-based artworks. To do this I am assessing the preservation needs of the holdings, determining what works need and can be migrated to digital formats, working with the artists, galleries, and estates to migrate the work according to best practices, and updating the collection records to document the preservation work. I will also be working with the new archival assistant to arrange and describe the related archival materials in  order to gather more information about the collection and make it accessible to staff and researchers. Continue reading