Perspectives: A Podcast on Art and Ideas
Painting Abstraction: Alteronce Gumby and Julia Rooney
In this episode of PERSPECTIVES, art historian Samuel Shapiro sits down with abstract painters Alteronce Gumby and Julia Rooney to discuss the past and present of pictorial abstraction in connection with Zeit Contemporary Art's online viewing room 'Painting Abstraction: 197X - Today.'
Abstract painting was many things throughout the twentieth century, but it often served as a method through which artists could open a door by closing one. In 1921, Alexander Rodchenko painted Pure Color: Red, Yellow, Blue - a triptych of monochromes. This is what he said about it: “I reduced painting to its logical conclusion and exhibited three canvases: red, blue, and yellow. I affirmed: this is the end of painting…there will be no more representation.” And on he went to work in the service of a socialist utopia. After the cataclysmic historical rupture of the Second World War, Jackson Pollock declared that “the modern painter cannot express this age, the airplane, the atom bomb, the radio, in the old forms of the Renaissance or of any other past culture.” Closing the door on easel painting, he proceeded to fling skeins of paint onto prone canvas ground. In the final quarter of the century, after the hegemony of abstract expressionism like Pollock’s, artists turned abstraction on itself; Gerhard Richter claimed his own painting to be “an assault on the falsity and the religiosity of the way people glorified abstraction, with such phony reverence.” He called work like Rodchenko’s “devotional art” and “church handicrafts,” thus closing the door on utopian aspiration and direct expression in order to open one onto the complex negotiation of history, form, and subjective experience that abstract painters must perform to this day.
In the wake of these polemical positions, painting persists with ongoing vitality and relevance. Indeed, from the perspective of the gallerygoer, it’s easy to see that artists today are looking for new doors, new ways forward, as they also strive to prop open a few doors that so many tried to slam shut. But what does it feel like, from their perspective, to work under the weight of this tradition? What possibilities does the medium of painting and the mode of abstraction offer artists today that it did not throughout the twentieth century? At a cultural moment in which everything from money to individual identity has been subjected to complex processes of abstraction, can abstract painting still claim to clarify the world around us and our relationship to it? Should it?
Alteronce Gumby has degrees in painting from Hunter College and the Yale School of Art. He’s had residencies and solo exhibitions from New York to Paris. Julia Rooney, too, attended the Yale School of Art, after she completed her bachelors at Harvard. She’s exhibited at numerous galleries, has upcoming residencies at Mass MoCA and the Joan Mitchell Center, and has worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Department of Islamic Art in New York City and at the Sol LeWitt Archive.
On Sol LeWitt
Sol LeWitt (1928-2007) was a pivotal figure in the development of minimal and conceptual art and catalytic in the relay between the two. Perhaps because of that complexity, he doesn’t figure into the public consciousness as much as many of his postwar peers, although not for lack of exposure: there is an entire building dedicated to LeWitt’s wall drawings at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, and his modular sculptures grace grounds from the National Gallery of Art to Stormking. So who was Sol LeWitt? How can we reconcile his serial structures with his delicate hand painted gouaches, his folded paper drawings with large-scale instruction-based wall drawings? What did LeWitt mean when he said that “The idea becomes a machine that makes the art” and that “Conceptual Artists are mystics rather than rationalists”? How is it that his art has been claimed to represent both a kind of impersonal logic and a mad obsessiveness?
In this episode of PERSPECTIVES, art historian Samuel Shapiro sits down with Janet Passehl and Cristina Guadalupe Galván to discuss LeWitt’s early work and the developmental arc of his career; the relationship he constructs between art, architecture, and language, LeWitt’s legacy as a collector, and his meaning for artists today.
Janet Passehl has been curator of the Sol LeWitt collection since 1991. She worked closely with LeWitt towards the end of his life and continues to oversee his art collection and archive. She has facilitated hundreds of gallery and museum exhibitions featuring LeWitt’s work, including the major retrospective organized by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 2000. In addition to being a true authority on the artist with an intimate knowledge of his life and work, Janet is herself a practicing artist and has exhibited across the United States and Europe from Mass Moca to the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart.
Cristina Guadalupe Galván is an artist and architect who writes. She is the principal at Idée Fixe, a transdisciplinary studio of art and architecture, and has worked at a number of other architectural firms, supporting such luminaries as Dan Graham and Denise Scott Brown. In addition to architecture, stage design, and exhibition design, Cristina has shown visual art from New York to Tokyo, and has written extensively on subjects from urban planning to Sol LeWitt.
In Conversation with Res and Bryson Rand
Photography has always been a uniquely mobile medium, unconfined to an artist’s studio. What happens to the medium when its peripatetic practitioners are locked in place? When they lose access to the world’s photographic face? What happens to photography under lockdown? In this episode, art historian Samuel Shapiro sits down with American photographers Res and Bryson Rand to talk about photography and interiority, about the necessarily inward turn their photography has taken during our collective confinement. They discuss about their practices, the impact of lock down in their photographic work and the general state of the medium today. This episode is presented in conjunction with the online viewing room The World Within: Photography and Interiority.
Res earned an MFA from the Yale School of Art in 2017 and has shown all over New York, New Haven, and Florida, where they recently completed a residency with Catherine Opie. Res’s work has been featured in Aperture, Cultured, and W Magazine and a few of their notable recent projects include Pulse, a series made in the aftermath of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in 2015 and Towers of Thanks, a 2017 photobook published by Loose Joints, that explored their mother’s role as the construction manager for Trump Tower.
Bryson Rand received an MFA from the Yale School of Art in 2015 and has since also attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. He’s shown in galleries from Berlin to Mexico City to New York, where he’s had solo shows at Zeit Contemporary Art and La Mama Galleria and where he participated in an exhibition at the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art. He’s published four books and has lectured at Harvard University, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the School of Visual Arts.
Enter Online Viewing Room
Andy Warhol: The Last Decade
Zeit Contemporary Art is pleased to announce a new episode of PERSPECTIVES. This second installment of the podcast series, presented in conjunction with the online viewing room Andy Warhol: The Last Decade, focusses on the late years of the artist’s career. Art historian Samuel Shapiro sits with Jessica Beck and Mark Loiacono, two of the field’s leading experts to talk about Warhol’s late work, about his final decade, the 1980s. Long underappreciated ―scorned by some and simply ignored by most― this crucial period of Warhol’s career has just recently begun to be reevaluated, leading to exhibitions and a wealth of new scholarship about an artist many thought they knew all too well. In this conversation, they debate whether the late Warhol was no longer successful or resurgently experimental, discussing a wide range of his artistic production and how it has come to be seen in a new light.
Jessica Beck is the Milton Fine Curator of Art at The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, where she’s worked since 2014. Trained as an art historian at the University of Chicago and the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, Jessica has curated many Warhol projects, including Andy Warhol: My Perfect Body, Adman: Warhol Before Pop, and Andy Warhol: Sixty Last Suppers. Jessica has been a visiting scholar at Carnegie Mellon University and, during the Warhol Museum’s current closure, she’s taken on another understudied aspect of Warhol’s practice―his many published books―through a series of short lectures on the Warhol Museum’s YouTube channel.
Mark Loiacono is a Brooklyn-based art historian, writer and curator with a Ph.D. from New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts. He teaches Art and Design History and Theory at the Parsons School of Design and has written and lectured extensively on Warhol. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on Warhol’s abstractions and he served as the Curatorial Research Associate for the recent blockbuster exhibition Andy Warhol—From A to B and Back Again at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.
In Conversation with Eva Specker
Zeit Contemporary Art is pleased to present PERSPECTIVES, a new podcast on art and its ideas. In each episode Samuel Shapiro will assemble the voices of thinkers, artists and philosophers who approach art and its role in contemporary society from unique points of view.
In this first episode, Samuel Shapiro sits with Dr. Eva Specker, a prominent psychologist at the University of Vienna. As a researcher in the department of cognition, emotion, and methods in psychology, a member of the Empirical Visual Aesthetics Lab, and a member of the board of the journal, Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts, Eva dedicates her scientific career to questions that might at first seem to belong more to the realm of art history. She investigates how emotion is communicated through works of art, how we experience awe, how environmental context changes the way we look at art, and even how curatorial narratives shape perception. Accordingly, her research takes place in scientific laboratories and art museums, alike. She’s conducted fieldwork in the Albertina and Belvedere Museums in Vienna, the Queens Museum in New York, and at the Venice Biennale.
Uniquely positioned between the fields of psychology and art history, Eva is deeply invested in the question of what happens when we look at a work of art. In this conversation they discuss experience and emotion, objectifying the subjective, data-driven curating, authenticity and reproduction, and how our current state of lockdown might impact our emotional relationship to art.
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