The Vogels. Or, how to become a world class art collector on a postal clerk’s salary

I’m missing Art Basel | Miami this year. Last year’s event and surrounding shows displayed so much contemporary (and some modern) art, from so many artists and galleries that my head was buzzing for days afterward. This year I have our art251 gallery to co-run, so I’ve been visiting Art Basel virtually – reading the press releases, following the exhibitors and tuning in to the podcasts and vids, using the great tubes of the internet.

The best story by far to emerge this year from Art Basel | Miami is the continuing odyssey of Herb and Dorothy Vogel, their passion for contemporary art and their outstanding collection. On December 5, the documentary “Herb and Dorothy” was screened at Art Basel’s Art Loves Film night. And so their real-life art fairytale goes something like this…

[youtube]fMuYV_qvyEk[/youtube]

Over the last 40-plus years they have amassed a cutting-edge, world-class collection of contemporary art. In all they have collected around 4,000 works. Over time they have crammed art into every spare inch of space inside their one-bedroom Manhattan apartment. In 1992 they gave around 2,000 important pieces – paintings, drawings and sculptures – to the National Gallery of Art, in Washington, D.C. Then, in April of this year the National Gallery announced that an additional 2,500 of Vogels’ artworks would go to museums across the country: fifty works for fifty States. The National Gallery simply didn’t have enough space to house the Vogel’s immense collection.

So, why is this story so compelling?

Well, it’s compelling because they are just like you and me. They are not super-rich, they have no condo in Aspen, nor do they moor a yacht in Monte Carlo. They’re not hedge fund managers. They didn’t make a fortune before the dot.com bubble burst.

Herb Vogel, 86, is a retired postal clerk and Dorothy Vogel, 76, a retired librarian. They started collecting art in the 1960s and continue to this day. Their plan was simple and guided by two rules: the art had to be affordable, and small enough to fit in their apartment. Early on they decided to use Herb’s income for buying art, and Dorothy’s to paying living expenses. Though now retired they still follow the plan. They collect art because they love art and finding new art. In Dorothy’s words,

“We didn’t buy this art to make money… We did it to enjoy the art. And you know, it gives you a nice feeling to actually own it, and have it about you. … We started buying art for ourselves, in the 1960s, and from the beginning we chose carefully.”

More telling is Dorothy’s view of the art world, and the New York art scene:

“We never really got close to other people who collect… Most collectors have a lot of money, and they don’t go about their collecting in quite the same way. My husband had wanted to be an artist, and I learned from him. We were living vicariously through the work of every artist we bought. At some point, we realized that collecting this art was a sort of creative act. It became our art, in more ways than one. … I enjoyed the search, I guess. The looking and the finding. When you go to a store, and you’re searching for your size, don’t you get satisfaction when you find it?”

And Herb adds the final words:

“The art itself.”

So, within their modest means and limitations they have proved to be visionaries; many of the artists they supported early on have since become world-renowned. And, they have taken their rightful place among the great art collectors of the world, such as Getty and Rockefeller, and Broad and Saatchi. The Vogels used their limitations to their advantage – helping them focus, rather than being a hinderance. Above all, they used their eyes to find and collect great art, not their ears.

Why has manga become a global cultural product?

[div class=attrib]From Eurozine:[end-div]

In the West, manga has become a key part of the cultural accompaniment to economic globalization. No mere side-effect of Japan’s economic power, writes Jean-Marie Bouissou, manga is ideally suited to the cultural obsessions of the early twenty-first century.

Multiple paradoxes

Paradox surrounds the growth of manga in western countries such as France, Italy and the USA since the 1970s, and of genres descended from it: anime (cartoons), television serials and video games. The first parodox is that, whereas western countries have always imagined their culture and values as universal and sought to spread them (if only as cover for their imperial ambitions), Japan has historically been sceptical about sharing its culture with the world. The Shinto religion, for example, is perhaps unique in being strictly “national”: the very idea of a “Shintoist” foreigner would strike the Japanese as absurd.

The second paradox is that manga, in the form it has taken since 1945, is shot through with a uniquely Japanese historical experience. It depicts the trauma of a nation opened at gunpoint in 1853 by the “black ships” of Commodore Matthew Perry in 1853, frog-marched into modernity, and dragged into a contest with the West which ended in the holocaust of Hiroshima. It was this nation’s children – call them “Generation Tezuka” – who became the first generation of mangaka [manga creators]. They had seen their towns flattened by US bombers, their fathers defeated, their emperor stripped of his divinity, and their schoolbooks and the value-system they contained cast into the dustbin of history.

This defeated nation rebuilt itself through self-sacrificing effort and scarcely twenty years later had become the second economic power of the free world. Yet it received neither recognition (the 1980s were the years of “Japan-bashing” in the West), nor the security to which it aspired, before its newly-regained pride was crushed once more by the long crisis of the 1990s. Such a trajectory – unique, convulsive, dramatic, overshadowed by racial discrimination – differs radically from that of the old European powers, or that of young, triumphant America. Hence, it is all the more stunning that its collective imagination has spawned a popular culture capable of attaining “universality”.

At the start of the twenty-first century, Japan has become the world’s second largest exporter of cultural products. Manga has conquered 45 per cent of the French comic market, and Shonen Jump – the most important manga weekly for Japanese teenagers, whose circulation reached 6 million during the mid-1990s – has begun appearing in an American version. Manga, long considered fit only for children or poorly-educated youths, is starting to seduce a sophisticated generation of French thirty-somethings. This deserves an explanation.

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[div class=attrib]Image courtesy of readbestmanga.[end-div]

Sex appeal

[div class=attrib]From Eurozine:[end-div]

Having condemned hyper-sexualized culture, the American religious Right is now wildly pro-sex, as long as it is marital sex. By replacing the language of morality with the secular notion of self-esteem, repression has found its way back onto school curricula – to the detriment of girls and women in particular. “We are living through an assault on female sexual independence”, writes Dagmar Herzog.

“Waves of pleasure flow over me; it feels like sliding down a mountain waterfall,” rhapsodises one delighted woman. Another recalls: “It’s like having a million tiny pleasure balloons explode inside of me all at once.”

These descriptions come not from Cosmopolitan, not from an erotic website, not from a Black Lace novel and certainly not from a porn channel. They are, believe it or not, part of the new philosophy of the Religious Right in America. We’ve always known that sex sells. Well, now it’s being used to sell both God and the Republicans in one extremely suggestive package. And in dressing up the old repressive values in fishnet stockings and flouncy lingerie, the forces of conservatism have beaten the liberals at their own game.

Choose almost any sex-related issue. From pornography and sex education to reproductive rights and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, Americans have allowed a conservative religious movement not only to dictate the terms of conversation but also to change the nation’s laws and public health policies. And meanwhile American liberals have remained defensive and tongue-tied.

So how did the Religious Right – that avid and vocal movement of politicised conservative evangelical Protestants (joined together also with a growing number of conservative Catholics) – manage so effectively to harness what has traditionally been the province of the permissive left?

Quite simply, it has changed tactics and is now going out of its way to assert, loudly and enthusiastically, that, in contrast to what is generally believed, it is far from being sexually uptight. On the contrary, it is wildly pro-sex, provided it’s marital sex. Evangelical conservatives in particular have begun not only to rail against the evils of sexual misery within marriage (and the way far too many wives feel like not much more than sperm depots for insensitive, emotionally absent husbands), but also, in the most graphically detailed, explicit terms, to eulogise about the prospect of ecstasy.

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The society of the query and the Googlization of our lives

[div class=attrib]From Eurozine:[end-div]

“There is only one way to turn signals into information, through interpretation”, wrote the computer critic Joseph Weizenbaum. As Google’s hegemony over online content increases, argues Geert Lovink, we should stop searching and start questioning.

A spectre haunts the world’s intellectual elites: information overload. Ordinary people have hijacked strategic resources and are clogging up once carefully policed media channels. Before the Internet, the mandarin classes rested on the idea that they could separate “idle talk” from “knowledge”. With the rise of Internet search engines it is no longer possible to distinguish between patrician insights and plebeian gossip. The distinction between high and low, and their co-mingling on occasions of carnival, belong to a bygone era and should no longer concern us. Nowadays an altogether new phenomenon is causing alarm: search engines rank according to popularity, not truth. Search is the way we now live. With the dramatic increase of accessed information, we have become hooked on retrieval tools. We look for telephone numbers, addresses, opening times, a person’s name, flight details, best deals and in a frantic mood declare the ever growing pile of grey matter “data trash”. Soon we will search and only get lost. Old hierarchies of communication have not only imploded, communication itself has assumed the status of cerebral assault. Not only has popular noise risen to unbearable levels, we can no longer stand yet another request from colleagues and even a benign greeting from friends and family has acquired the status of a chore with the expectation of reply. The educated class deplores that fact that chatter has entered the hitherto protected domain of science and philosophy, when instead they should be worrying about who is going to control the increasingly centralized computing grid.

What today’s administrators of noble simplicity and quiet grandeur cannot express, we should say for them: there is a growing discontent with Google and the way the Internet organizes information retrieval. The scientific establishment has lost control over one of its key research projects – the design and ownership of computer networks, now used by billions of people. How did so many people end up being that dependent on a single search engine? Why are we repeating the Microsoft saga once again? It seems boring to complain about a monopoly in the making when average Internet users have such a multitude of tools at their disposal to distribute power. One possible way to overcome this predicament would be to positively redefine Heidegger’s Gerede. Instead of a culture of complaint that dreams of an undisturbed offline life and radical measures to filter out the noise, it is time to openly confront the trivial forms of Dasein today found in blogs, text messages and computer games. Intellectuals should no longer portray Internet users as secondary amateurs, cut off from a primary and primordial relationship with the world. There is a greater issue at stake and it requires venturing into the politics of informatic life. It is time to address the emergence of a new type of corporation that is rapidly transcending the Internet: Google.

The World Wide Web, which should have realized the infinite library Borges described in his short story The Library of Babel (1941), is seen by many of its critics as nothing but a variation of Orwell’s Big Brother (1948). The ruler, in this case, has turned from an evil monster into a collection of cool youngsters whose corporate responsibility slogan is “Don’t be evil”. Guided by a much older and experienced generation of IT gurus (Eric Schmidt), Internet pioneers (Vint Cerf) and economists (Hal Varian), Google has expanded so fast, and in such a wide variety of fields, that there is virtually no critic, academic or business journalist who has been able to keep up with the scope and speed with which Google developed in recent years. New applications and services pile up like unwanted Christmas presents. Just add Google’s free email service Gmail, the video sharing platform YouTube, the social networking site Orkut, GoogleMaps and GoogleEarth, its main revenue service AdWords with the Pay-Per-Click advertisements, office applications such as Calendar, Talks and Docs. Google not only competes with Microsoft and Yahoo, but also with entertainment firms, public libraries (through its massive book scanning program) and even telecom firms. Believe it or not, the Google Phone is coming soon. I recently heard a less geeky family member saying that she had heard that Google was much better and easier to use than the Internet. It sounded cute, but she was right. Not only has Google become the better Internet, it is taking over software tasks from your own computer so that you can access these data from any terminal or handheld device. Apple’s MacBook Air is a further indication of the migration of data to privately controlled storage bunkers. Security and privacy of information are rapidly becoming the new economy and technology of control. And the majority of users, and indeed companies, are happily abandoning the power to self-govern their informational resources.

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Manufactured scarcity

[div class=attrib]From Eurozine:[end-div]

“Manufacturing scarcity” is the new watchword in “Green capitalism”. James Heartfield explains how for the energy sector, it has become a license to print money. Increasing profits by cutting output was pioneered by Enron in the 1990s; now the model of restricted supply together with domestic energy generation is promoted worldwide.

The corporate raiders of the 1980s first worked out that you might be able to make more money downsizing, or even breaking up industry than building it up. It is a perverse result of the profit motive that private gain should grow out of public decay. But even the corporate raiders never dreamt of making deindustrialisation into an avowed policy goal which the rest of us would pay for.

What some of the cannier Green Capitalists realised is that scarcity increases price, and manufacturing scarcity can increase returns. What could be more old hat, they said, than trying to make money by making things cheaper? Entrepreneurs disdained the “fast moving consumer goods” market.

Of course there is a point to all this. If labour gets too efficient the chances of wringing more profits from industry get less. The more productive labour is, the lower, in the end, will be the rate of return on investments. That is because the source of new value is living labour; but greater investment in new technologies tends to replace living labour with machines, which produce no additional value of their own.[2] Over time the rate of return must fall. Business theory calls this the diminishing rate of return.[3] Businessmen know it as the “race for the bottom” – the competitive pressure to make goods cheaper and cheaper, making it that much harder to sell enough to make a profit. Super efficient labour would make the capitalistic organisation of industry redundant. Manufacturing scarcity, restricting output and so driving up prices is one short-term way to secure profits and maybe even the profit-system. Of course that would also mean abandoning the historic justification for capitalism, that it increased output and living standards. Environmentalism might turn out to be the way to save capitalism, just at the point when industrial development had shown it to be redundant.

[div class=attrib]More from theSource here.[end-div]

Artists beware! You may be outsourced next to…

China perhaps, or even a dog!

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As you know, a vast amount of global manufacturing is outsourced to China. In fact, a fair deal of so-called “original” art now comes from China as well, where art factories of “copyworkers” are busy reproducing works by old masters or, for a few extra Yuan, originals in this or that particular style. For instance, the city of Dafen, China manufactures more “Van Goghs” in a couple of weeks than the real Van Gogh created in his entire lifetime. Dafen produces some great bargains — $2 for an unframed old master, $3 for a custom version (prices before enormous markup) — if you like to buy your art by the square foot.

You’ve probably also seen miscellaneous watercolors emanating from talented elephants in Thailand, the late Congo’s tempera paintings auctioned at Bonhams, or the German artist chimpanzee who, with her handlers, recently fooled an expert into believing her work was that of Ernst Wilhelm Nay.

Well, now comes a second biography of Tilamook Cheddar, or Tillie, the most successful animal painter in the history of, well, animal painters. Tillie, a Jack Russell terrier from Brooklyn, NY, has been painting for around 7 years, and has headlined 17 solo shows across the country and in Europe.

Despite these somewhat disturbing developments, I think artists will be around for some time. But, what about gallerists and art dealers? Could you see the Toshiba robot or a couple of (smart) lab rats or an Art-o-mat replacing your friendly gallery owners? Please don’t answer this one!

Portrait of The Dog. Image courtesy of T.Cheddar.

Robert Rauschenberg, American Artist, Dies at 82

[div class=attrib]From The New York Times:[end-div]

Robert Rauschenberg, the irrepressibly prolific American artist who time and again reshaped art in the 20th century, died on Monday night at his home on Captiva Island, Fla. He was 82.

The cause was heart failure, said Arne Glimcher, chairman of PaceWildenstein, the Manhattan gallery that represents Mr. Rauschenberg.

Mr. Rauschenberg’s work gave new meaning to sculpture. “Canyon,” for instance, consisted of a stuffed bald eagle attached to a canvas. “Monogram” was a stuffed goat girdled by a tire atop a painted panel. “Bed” entailed a quilt, sheet and pillow, slathered with paint, as if soaked in blood, framed on the wall. All became icons of postwar modernism.

A painter, photographer, printmaker, choreographer, onstage performer, set designer and, in later years, even a composer, Mr. Rauschenberg defied the traditional idea that an artist stick to one medium or style. He pushed, prodded and sometimes reconceived all the mediums in which he worked.

Building on the legacies of Marcel Duchamp, Kurt Schwitters, Joseph Cornell and others, he helped obscure the lines between painting and sculpture, painting and photography, photography and printmaking, sculpture and photography, sculpture and dance, sculpture and technology, technology and performance art — not to mention between art and life.

Mr. Rauschenberg was also instrumental in pushing American art onward from Abstract Expressionism, the dominant movement when he emerged, during the early 1950s. He became a transformative link between artists like Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning and those who came next, artists identified with Pop, Conceptualism, Happenings, Process Art and other new kinds of art in which he played a signal role.

No American artist, Jasper Johns once said, invented more than Mr. Rauschenberg. Mr. Johns, John Cage, Merce Cunningham and Mr. Rauschenberg, without sharing exactly the same point of view, collectively defined this new era of experimentation in American culture.

Apropos of Mr. Rauschenberg, Cage once said, “Beauty is now underfoot wherever we take the trouble to look.” Cage meant that people had come to see, through Mr. Rauschenberg’s efforts, not just that anything, including junk on the street, could be the stuff of art (this wasn’t itself new), but that it could be the stuff of an art aspiring to be beautiful — that there was a potential poetics even in consumer glut, which Mr. Rauschenberg celebrated.

“I really feel sorry for people who think things like soap dishes or mirrors or Coke bottles are ugly,” he once said, “because they’re surrounded by things like that all day long, and it must make them miserable.”

The remark reflected the optimism and generosity of spirit that Mr. Rauschenberg became known for. His work was likened to a St. Bernard: uninhibited and mostly good-natured. He could be the same way in person. When he became rich, he gave millions of dollars to charities for women, children, medical research, other artists and Democratic politicians.

A brash, garrulous, hard-drinking, open-faced Southerner, he had a charm and peculiar Delphic felicity with language that masked a complex personality and an equally multilayered emotional approach to art, which evolved as his stature did. Having begun by making quirky, small-scale assemblages out of junk he found on the street in downtown Manhattan, he spent increasing time in his later years, after he had become successful and famous, on vast international, ambassadorial-like projects and collaborations.

Conceived in his immense studio on the island of Captiva, off southwest Florida, these projects were of enormous size and ambition; for many years he worked on one that grew literally to exceed the length of its title, “The 1/4 Mile or 2 Furlong Piece.” They generally did not live up to his earlier achievements. Even so, he maintained an equanimity toward the results. Protean productivity went along with risk, he felt, and risk sometimes meant failure.

The process — an improvisatory, counterintuitive way of doing things — was always what mattered most to him. “Screwing things up is a virtue,” he said when he was 74. “Being correct is never the point. I have an almost fanatically correct assistant, and by the time she re-spells my words and corrects my punctuation, I can’t read what I wrote. Being right can stop all the momentum of a very interesting idea.”

This attitude also inclined him, as the painter Jack Tworkov once said, “to see beyond what others have decided should be the limits of art.”

He “keeps asking the question — and it’s a terrific question philosophically, whether or not the results are great art,” Mr. Tworkov said, “and his asking it has influenced a whole generation of artists.”

A Wry, Respectful Departure

That generation was the one that broke from Pollock and company. Mr. Rauschenberg maintained a deep but mischievous respect for Abstract Expressionist heroes like de Kooning and Barnett Newman. Famously, he once painstakingly erased a drawing by de Kooning, an act both of destruction and devotion. Critics regarded the all-black paintings and all-red paintings he made in the early 1950s as spoofs of de Kooning and Pollock. The paintings had roiling, bubbled surfaces made from scraps of newspapers embedded in paint.

But these were just as much homages as they were parodies. De Kooning, himself a parodist, had incorporated bits of newspapers in pictures, and Pollock stuck cigarette butts to canvases.

Mr. Rauschenberg’s “Automobile Tire Print,” from the early 1950s — resulting from Cage’s driving an inked tire of a Model A Ford over 20 sheets of white paper — poked fun at Newman’s famous “zip” paintings.

At the same time, Mr. Rauschenberg was expanding on Newman’s art. The tire print transformed Newman’s zip — an abstract line against a monochrome backdrop with spiritual pretensions — into an artifact of everyday culture, which for Mr. Rauschenberg had its own transcendent dimension.

Mr. Rauschenberg frequently alluded to cars and spaceships, even incorporating real tires and bicycles into his art. This partly reflected his own restless, peripatetic imagination. The idea of movement was logically extended when he took up dance and performance.

There was, beneath this, a darkness to many of his works, notwithstanding their irreverence. “Bed” (1955) was gothic. The all-black paintings were solemn and shuttered. The red paintings looked charred, with strips of fabric akin to bandages, from which paint dripped like blood. “Interview” (1955), which resembled a cabinet or closet with a door, enclosing photos of bullfighters, a pinup, a Michelangelo nude, a fork and a softball, suggested some black-humored encoded erotic message.

There were many other images of downtrodden and lonely people, rapt in thought; pictures of ancient frescoes, out of focus as if half remembered; photographs of forlorn, neglected sites; bits and pieces of faraway places conveying a kind of nostalgia or remoteness. In bringing these things together, the art implied consolation.

Mr. Rauschenberg, who knew that not everybody found it easy to grasp the open-endedness of his work, once described to the writer Calvin Tomkins an encounter with a woman who had reacted skeptically to “Monogram” (1955-59) and “Bed” in his 1963 retrospective at the Jewish Museum, one of the events that secured Mr. Rauschenberg’s reputation: “To her, all my decisions seemed absolutely arbitrary — as though I could just as well have selected anything at all — and therefore there was no meaning, and that made it ugly.

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Art Review | ‘Color as Field’: Weightless Color, Floating Free

[div class=attrib]From The New York Times:[end-div]

Starting in the late 1950s the great American art critic Clement Greenberg only had eyes for Color Field painting. This was the lighter-than-air abstract style, with its emphasis on stain painting and visual gorgeousness introduced by Helen Frankenthaler followed by Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland and Jules Olitski.

With the insistent support of Greenberg and his acolytes, Color Field soared as the next big, historically inevitable thing after Jackson Pollock. Then over the course of the 1970s it crashed and burned and dropped from sight. Pop and Minimal Art, which Greenberg disparaged, had more diverse critical support and greater influence on younger artists. Then Post-Minimalism came along, exploding any notion of art’s neatly linear progression.

Now Color Field painting — or as Greenberg preferred to call it, Post-Painterly Abstraction — is being reconsidered in a big way in “Color as Field: American Painting, 1950-1975,” a timely, provocative — if far from perfect — exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum here. It has been organized by the American Federation of Arts and selected by the independent curator and critic Karen Wilkin. She and Carl Belz, former director of the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University, have written essays for the catalog.

It is wonderful to see some of this work float free of the Greenbergian claims for greatness and inevitability (loyally retraced by Ms. Wilkin in her essay), and float it does, at least the best of it. The exhibition begins with the vista of Mr. Olitski’s buoyant, goofily sexy “Cleopatra Flesh” of 1962, looming at the end of a long hallway. The work sums up the fantastic soft power that these artists could elicit from brilliant color, scale and judicious amounts of pristine raw canvas. A huge blue motherly curve nearly encircles a large black planet while luring a smaller red planet into the fold, calling to mind an abstracted stuffed toy.

It is a perfect, exhilarating example of what Mr. Belz calls “one-shot painting” and likens to jazz improvisation. Basic to the thrill is our understanding that the stain painting technique involved a few rapid skilled but unrehearsed gestures, and that raw canvas offered no chance for revision. “Cleopatra’s Flesh” is an act of joyful derring-do.

The “one-shot painting” stain technique of color field was the innovation of Helen Frankenthaler, first accomplished in “Mountains and Sea,” made in 1952, when she was 24 and unknown. (It is not in this exhibition, but the method is conveyed by her 1957 “Seven Types of Ambiguity,” with its great gray splashes punctuated by peninsulas of red, yellow and blue.) The technique negotiated a common ground between Pollock’s heroic no-brush drip style and the expanses of saturated color favored especially by Barnett Newman and Mark Rothko.

In Greenberg’s eyes the torch of Abstract Expressionism (the cornerstone of his power as a critic) was being carried forward by Ms. Frankenthaler’s spirited reformulation, followed by Mr. Louis’s languid pours; Mr. Noland’s radiant targets; Mr. Olitski’s carefully controlled stains and (later) diaphanous sprayed surfaces. And this continuity confirmed the central premise of Greenbergian formalism: that all modern art mediums would be meekly reduced to their essences; for painting that meant abstractness, flatness and weightless color. As you can imagine, that didn’t leave anyone, not even the anointed few, with much to do.

Revisionist this show is not. Its 38 canvases represent 17 painters, including a selection of works by Abstract Expressionist precursors titled “Origins of Color Field.” The elders tend to look as light and jazzy as their juniors; Adolph Gottlieb, Hans Hoffman and Robert Motherwell, all present, were ultimately as much a part of Color Field as Abstract Expressionism. But even Newman’s “Horizontal Light” of 1949 seems undeniably flashy; its field of dark red is split by a narrow aqua band, called a zip, that seems to speed across the canvas. Rothko’s 1951 “Number 18,” with its shifting borders and cloud-squares of white, red and pink, has a cheerful, scintillating forthrightness.

This forthrightness expands into dazzling instantaneousness in the works of Ms. Frankenthaler and Mr. Louis, where it sometimes seems that the paint is still wet and seeping into the canvas. Ms. Frankenthaler’s high-wire act is especially evident in the jagged pools and terraces of color in the aptly titled “Flood” and in “Interior Landscape,” which centers on a single, exuberant splash. Mr. Louis manages a similar tension while seeming completely relaxed. In “Floral V,” where an inky black washes like a wave over a bouquet of brilliantly colored plumes, he achieves a silent grandeur, like a Frankenthaler with the sound off.

After the Frankenthaler and Louis works, this show dwindles into a subdued free-for-all, as most artists settle into more predetermined ways of working. Often big scale and simple composition add up to emptiness, especially when the signs of derring-do recede. Both Mr. Olitski and especially Mr. Noland are poorly represented. In Mr. Noland’s square “Space Jog,” Newman’s zips run perpendicular to one another, forming a pastel plaid on a sprayed ground of sky blue, like a Mondrian bed sheet.

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Shopping town USA

[div class=attrib]From Eurozine:[end-div]
In the course of his life, Victor Gruen completed major urban interventions in the US and western Europe that fundamentally altered the course of western urban development. Anette Baldauf describes how Gruen’s fame rests mostly on the insertion of commercial machines into the decentred US suburbs. These so-called “shopping towns” were supposed to strengthen civic life and structure the amorphous, mono-functional agglomerations of suburban sprawl. Yet within a decade, Gruen’s designs had become the architectural extension of the policies of racial and gender segregation underlying the US postwar consumer utopia.

In 1943, the US American magazine Architectural Forum invited Victor Gruen and his wife Elsie Krummeck to take part in an exchange of visions for the architechtonic shaping of the postwar period. The editors of the issue, entitled Architecture 194x, appealed to recognised modernists such as Mies van der Rohe and Charles Eames to design parts of a model town for the year “194x”, in other words for an unspecified year, by which time the Second World War would have ended. The architects Gruen & Krummeck partnership were to design a prototype for a “regional shopping centre”. The editors specified that the shopping centre was to be situated on the outskirts of the city, on traffic island between two highways and would supplement the pedestrian zone down town. “How can shopping be made more inviting?”, the editors asked Gruen & Krummeck, who, at the time of the competition, were famous for their spectacular glass designs for boutiques on Fifth Avenue and for national department store chains on the outskirts of US cities.

The two architects responded to the commission to build a “small neighbourhood shopping centre” with a design that far exceeded the specified size and function of the centre. Gruen later explained that the project reflected the couple’s dissatisfaction with Los Angeles, where long distances between shops, regular traffic jams, and an absence of pedestrian zones made shopping tiresome work. Gruen and Krummeck saw in Los Angeles the blueprint of an “an automotive-rich postwar America”. Their counter-design was oriented towards the traditional main squares of European cities. Hence, they suggested two central structural interventions: first, the automobile and the shopper were to be assigned two distinct spatial units, and second, space for consumption and civic space were to be merged. Working to this premise, Gruen and Krummeck designed a centre that was organised around a spacious green square – with garden restaurants, milk bars, and music stands. The design integrated 28 shops and 13 public facilities; among the latter were a library, a post office, a theatre, a lecture hall, a night club, a nursery, a play room, and a pony stable.

The editors of Architectural Forum rejected Gruen’s and Krummeck’s design. They insisted upon a reduced “regional shopping centre” and urged the architects to rework their submission along these lines. Gruen and Krummeck responded with an adjustment that would later prove crucial: they abandoned the idea of a green square in the centre of the complex and suggested building a closed, round building made of glass. They surrounded the inwardly directed shopping complex with two rings. The first ring was to serve as a pedestrian zone, the second as a car park. This design also failed to please. George Nelson, the editor-in-chief, was scandalised and argued that by removing the central square, the space for sitting around and strolling was lost. For him, the shopping centre as closed space was inconceivable. Eventually, Gruen and Krummeck submitted a design for a conventional shopping centre with shops arranged in a “U” shape around a courtyard. Clearly, those that would celebrate the closed shopping centre a few years later were not yet active. It was only a decade later that Gruen was able to convince two leading department-store owners of the profitability of a self-enclosed shopping centre. Excluding cars, street traders, animals, and other potential disturbances, and supported by surveillance technology, the shopping mall would embody the ideal, typical values of suburban lifestyles – order, cleanliness, and safety. Public judgement of Gruen’s “architecture of introversion” fundamentally changed, then, in the course of the 1950s. What was it, exactly, that led to this revised evaluation of a closed, inwardly directed space of consumption?

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A Solar Grand Plan

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By 2050 solar power could end U.S. dependence on foreign oil and slash greenhouse gas emissions.

High prices for gasoline and home heating oil are here to stay. The U.S. is at war in the Middle East at least in part to protect its foreign oil interests. And as China, India and other nations rapidly increase their demand for fossil fuels, future fighting over energy looms large. In the meantime, power plants that burn coal, oil and natural gas, as well as vehicles everywhere, continue to pour millions of tons of pollutants and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere annually, threatening the planet.

Well-meaning scientists, engineers, economists and politicians have proposed various steps that could slightly reduce fossil-fuel use and emissions. These steps are not enough. The U.S. needs a bold plan to free itself from fossil fuels. Our analysis convinces us that a massive switch to solar power is the logical answer.

  • A massive switch from coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear power plants to solar power plants could supply 69 percent of the U.S.’s electricity and 35 percent of its total energy by 2050.
  • A vast area of photovoltaic cells would have to be erected in the Southwest. Excess daytime energy would be stored as compressed air in underground caverns to be tapped during nighttime hours.
  • Large solar concentrator power plants would be built as well.
  • A new direct-current power transmission backbone would deliver solar electricity across the country.
  • But $420 billion in subsidies from 2011 to 2050 would be required to fund the infrastructure and make it cost-competitive.

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