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

An Oral History of Teenie Harris’s Iconic ‘Black Monday’ Photograph


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K. Chase Patterson and Alma Speed Fox, curators of Teenie Harris Photographs: Civil Rights Perspectives, during a visit to the Teenie Harris Archive at Carnegie Museum of Art in September 2014.

Here at Carnegie Museum of Art we’ve just installed the latest show of Charles “Teenie” Harris’s work in the Lobby Gallery, featuring 25 images on a particular theme as selected by guest curators. The exhibition, Teenie Harris Photographs: Civil Rights Perspectives, is quite special because the theme of civil rights is by far the largest of Harris’s work. He documented not only protest marches and demonstrations, but the meetings held to plan them; integration efforts in education, employment, and the military; African Americans who were the first to hold particular jobs and political roles in Western Pennsylvania; housing discrimination and poor living conditions; injustices in urban redevelopment; and the day-to-day struggles and joys where basic rights were denied or granted. This is the first look into this enormous and important topic of his work.

We were honored to work with guest curators Alma Speed Fox, former Executive Director, Pittsburgh NAACP and founding member and Executive Vice President of Freedom Unlimited, and K. Chase Patterson, President and CEO of Corporate Diversity Associates and Chairman of Centennial Human Rights Dinner, Pittsburgh NAACP. Their conversations about who were in the pictures and what they were doing, were often valuable and vast, and could not possibly fit on a label, such as the passage below about one of Harris’s iconic images from the civil rights movement.

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Program Notes: Minding and Mining the Archives


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Some of the more than 400 cubic feet of boxes, books, and other ephemera left behind when the Department of Film and Video closed in the early 2000s.

In September, we began working on an exciting new archival initiative at Carnegie Museum of Art (CMOA). In 2011, the museum received an AW Mellon grant to preserve and create access points for its time-based media artworks. The project has many components and one of them is the formation of the Department of Film and Video archive. The Department of Film and Video, which was active at CMOA beginning in 1970, was responsible for acquiring the majority of the time-based media artworks in the museum’s collection. By preserving its records, we are working to recover the valuable context in which the artworks were acquired and maintaining the department’s incredible legacy.

When the Department of Film and Video closed, it left behind an entire office of materials—everything from memos to installation photographs to projection equipment manuals. We have more than 400 cubic feet of boxes, books, and other ephemera. Just imagine about 400 banker boxes or the space inside a large walk-in closet. It is a huge body of records and its size is only matched by the value of its contents. The Department of Film and Video was one of the first of its kind in the country and it helped usher in a whole new era for moving image programming at museums and film venues across the country.

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Maggie Keswick: China and the Intelligent Landscape


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Maggie’s Hong Kong, 2013. Architect: Frank Gehry. Photograph © Kalson Ho, Over and Over Studio.

Maggie Keswick’s personal experience with cancer led to the founding of Maggie’s Centres in Edinburgh now two decades ago. Of Scottish origin, the Keswick family has been involved in trading and business ventures in Southeast Asia since the mid-nineteenth century. Raised in both Britain and Hong Kong, where her father was chairman of Jardine Matheson, Maggie was one of those rare Europeans able to visit the historic sites of mainland China after the rise of communism.

This hybrid and privileged background informs the wonderful book that brought Maggie Keswick to the attention of architects, historians, and landscape enthusiasts in the late 1970s. The Chinese Garden was for many a revelatory exploration of the landscapes and pleasure grounds constructed across China for emperors and traders, traditions that are millennia-old yet then little known in the West. “Like the plans of Gothic cathedrals,” Maggie wrote in her preface, “Chinese gardens are cosmic diagrams, revealing a profound and ancient view of the world, and of man’s place in it.”

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The Invisible Photograph: Underground in the Corbis Image Vault


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Still from Underground: The Corbis Image Vault, Part 1 of The Invisible Photograph © Carnegie Museum of Art.

For a few days back in late December 2013, a small group of us found ourselves 250 feet underground, exploring the subterranean expanse of Iron Mountain, a former limestone mine located in rural Western Pennsylvania, about an hour and a half’s drive north of Pittsburgh. You reach Iron Mountain on a windy road dotted with farmlands until you finally arrive at a nondescript parking lot and a guard station. Over 2,500 people work in this place, one of many Iron Mountain sites across the country, but you would never guess the immensity of it until you’re inside.

Here among data centers, governmental document storage facilities (including the National Archives and US Social Security), and vast collections of television and film celluloid reels (like Warner Brothers and Universal Studios), sits a repository of a very different kind of material. The Corbis Iron Mountain Archive houses over eleven million photographic negatives and glass plates from the Otto Bettmann Archive spanning the 19th and 20th centuries, and represents a significant glimpse into some of the most important historical moments captured by photographers both well-known and obscure. The fact that the collection was moved from an above-ground storage facility in New York City over ten years ago into the current underground “cold” storage gives a sense of its increasing importance. Bettmann himself had to smuggle his collection into the country after he was pushed out of Austria by the Nazis.

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