Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Cold Tortoise

Breaking news- Tortoises are no longer Art.


They are going to warmer climes. (It would be great to see a followup from the museum.)

Monday, August 25, 2014


The tortoises are still pacing the Aspen Art Museum penthouse.

If you haven't been keeping up with our local hot topics it's tortoises. Cai Guo-Qiang’s “Moving Ghost Town Tortoises” exhibit has garnered multiple protest petitions most notably the one started by Lisbeth Oden https://www.change.org/p/aspen-art-museum-take-the-ipads-off-the-tortoises

The articles have been fast and furious.

The Washington Post
LA Times
Huffington Post

Here's my own unsanctioned unauthorized art exhibit in front of the Aspen Art Museum on Sunday Aug 24. The unsanctioned unauthorized art exhibit consisted of me walking veeeeeeeerrrrrrrry sloooooowwwwwwly back and forth in front of the Aspen Art Museum for 30 minutes wearing my "tortipad".

To create your own tortipad you will need the following:

an iPad in a case (I suggest an iPad mini), some twist ties, wall sticky putty and a ski helmet.

use the twist ties to secure the google strap to the back of the iPad case (this is a speck fit folio)

Place the wall putty on the back of the iPad case on the other end.

The twist tie secures the case at the back.
The putty secures the case at the front.


Not recommended for use above African Sulcata speeds. 

The exhibit is scheduled through October 5, that is unless the weather turns too cold for desert tortoises. Given our propensity for snow in September… I'm guessing that the exhibit won't run the full course.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Aspen perceived

Rant Warning:

I love my home town but sometimes I just want to slap it upside the head. We have tempest in a tortoise shell as our current cause de jour , we have a $70 million dollar free museum without a permanent collection, a mad moose on the loose up at Maroon Lake, the City Council has decided that the free market is bad for everything except pot, the local paper has gotten letters complaining about too many porta potties  (complain about too few before you complain about too many I say) and our current Mayor was afraid that choosing a Council Member with a roll of the dice would have made us look silly- yeah *that* would have made us look silly.

Lodging, development, building, transit, density, we teeter on the edge of the abyss.
 Our souls are in the balance. We are doomed, doomed, doomed.

It's a problem of perception.


America has been a place of reinvention since the first boatload. The Wild West welcomes newcomers with a ubiquitous "don't care what you did before, what ya gonna do here?" The tales told could be as dark as Conrad or as subtle as de Maupassant.

Re-invention? We've made a meal of it.

A big fat banquet.

… and we Aspenites have a rose colored utopian view of ourselves as hearty mountain folk who climb, ski, bike and support all the moral, environmental, humanitarian causes on the planet.

Others see us as ungrateful posers who have won the lottery and can only squander the profits.

What is this relationship of Aspen and Money?

Let's reframe the conversation.

Let's start with a good long look in the mirror.

A whole generation pulled Aspen out of poverty after WWII.  It is we who have welcomed the money, we chopped down trees for the money, we mowed ski runs for the money, we built hotels for the money, we paved streets for the money, we built runways for money, we courted money, we won money, we're in bed with money.

Want a divorce? I didn't think so… at least not without the property tax, the sales tax, the real estate transfer tax and custody of Prius.

Are we  spinning Gold into Good ?


are we delusional?

Money isn't character.

How you make it, what you do with it, how you treat others… that's character. 
(Confused? Read Trollope)

Now, let's try evaluating all those problems with a dispassionate eye. 

The formula is simple. It's difficult, but simple. 
You start with a realistic evaluation of the present.

Then think of the outcome you want.
(Please make it a positive outcome.)

Don't try and over think a solution.
Don't place blame.
Don't punish.

There can be simple solutions to complex problems.

Perception is everything.

End of rant.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Up the down staircase, or an afternoon at the Museum

The new Aspen Art Museum has two staircases, one accessed from the cash register* and one from the street. If you prefer you may use the elevator and get shot to the top (or the bottom).
(*let me be clear- there is no entrance fee- but there are still things for sale)

Here's the NYT fluff piece (can't wait for the real review)

"Black Lightning" Art "happening"

August 2 I went through the doors of the Aspen Art Museum with the rest of the hoards. It was the "must see" event of the summer in Aspen. This was supposed to be a "members only" preview. In reality it was an "anyone who wants to enter" preview.

I felt sorry for the tortoises. 
After all it wasn't their choice to be surrounded by iPhone wielding art lovers.

I hope they don't turn into soup.

It is a great view from the top floor (as we knew it would be).

There's been plenty of controversy surrounding the museum.


(...and this one posted on August 4 two days after the Museum "pre-opening" as reminder that the  Kids Valley Art show was  discontinued under Ms. Zuckerman Jacobson's watch
http://www.aspendailynews.com/section/letter-editor/163308  )

Even our former Mayor the famous (or infamous) Mick Ireland has asserted on his Facebook feed that someone "punched him" yesterday due to the Art Museum (don't you love this town? I just can't make this stuff up).

Most of this has centered on the "view plane" from the street and the loss of parking spaces. The museum does a fine job of blocking out the mountain from it's neighbors and from pedestrian traffic. As I've stated previously the building is all about  admiring the view in the mirror or to quote Rembrandt "Vanitas, vanitas."

Vanity in Aspen? The .01% of the .01% opting for exclusivity? "Locals" railing against change and privilege (whilst pocketing the profit)?  I'm shocked. Shocked I tell you.

After my quick perusal of the museum  my head hurt. I was squinting. My sinuses throbbed and I had that all too familiar feeling of a migraine hovering on the edge of my eyebrows.

I can forgive much. I can forgive the mixture of  hastily crafted wooden handrails and the paint not quite dry yet on the "permanent" handrails. I can forgive the unfinished edges, the unwashed glass, the construction dust pooling in the cracks and corners. I can almost forgive the bad craftsmanship. (The display boxes for the minerals are shoddy, just plain shoddy.) Sigh….this is, after all, a "pre-opening" opening. The windows can be cleaned and the display boxes can be replaced.

What I cannot forgive is poorly displayed art. The color temperature of the lights alone is enough to induce the mother of all migraines. (Don't lecture me about low light to protect pigment- this isn't it- by a long shot- this is simply the wrong LED and the wrong throw distance and the wrong angle of illumination) The objects are anchored in acidic white more married to the wall than to each other. There is no attempt to focus the viewer's attention on the art.

Then there are the choices within the show itself. There is normally a logic in the juxtaposition of objects which contrasts the aesthetic , conceptual and  historic. This allows a viewer to bring their own level of understanding to the show. What on earth do Klein and Hammons have to say to one another?

At first glance the answer is "nothing". Simply put Klein worked the system and Hammons worked outside the system.  Klein was a colorist, a lover of the female form and an extremely witty provocative marketeer with the full support of the French Government. Hammons punched above his weight for Civil Rights and jabbed at the Establishment every chance he got. There is not subtlety or wink wink nod nod from Hammons. There is no Civil Rights commentary from Klein.  The fact that Hammons substituted red white and blue in the American Flag  for green black and red doesn't make him a colorist.

The fact that Klein got the French government to honor stamps he'd painted with Klein Bleu doesn't make him an activist. (Lest we forget there was plenty of opportunity in 1950's France for activism- days after "The Void" opening on April 28 came the Algerian coup on May 18.)

They shared a technique, 

Klein had naked women rolling around in pigment 

and Hammons used his own body to do the same. 

(Guess which sold more)

Yves Klein and Iris Clert once had a good joke by announcing his "new look" which, once revealed was a gallery with freshly painted white walls.  Everyone leaving the exhibit assured all those still waiting that it was a "must see".

"The Void"

It was the ultimate "Emperor has no clothes" triumph.

In contrast Hammons wry humor of selling snowballs on the street satirized the art not the cognoscenti.

M. Klein and Edouard Adam developed a new "Bleu" with full government support.  Here's a lovely video on M. Adam- it's in French and blogger won't show the direct link- but it's worth it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XyLpQ6S4YzA

Mr. Hammons did not rely on expert craftsmen to manufacture his art. He used found objects.

So, yes you can put these two together in the same show if for no other reason than to illustrate their differences; but it's heavy lifting. It could have been a lot easier.

I would have welcomed a show of Hammons and Benton.

or Klein and Koons (and I do actively *loathe* Koons)

Ah well, maybe next time at the Redbrick

…and there it is… there is no attempt to make this "comfortable" or "easy"… there is no place to take a breath in this new museum. One of the joys of "museuming" is to see a work up close, and from afar, to take your time in a room to breathe in the essence of all the walls. There is no intimacy here.  Placing objects in a white void is not enough. You have to say something with the relationship of objects to one another. You have to give the viewer the opportunity to see and understand, to love it or hate it.  Time, Art needs time, and patience, and breath.

At the Aspen Ideas Festival there was a panel of museum curator super stars discussing "The Museum as Citizen". Panelists were Michael Govan of LACMA, Glenn Lowry of MoMA, Thelma Golden of the Studio Museum in Harlem,  Lisa Phillips of the New Museum, Paola Antonelli of MoMA and our own Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson of the Aspen Art Museum. The question was what is the responsibility of a museum to the community? The answers were pretty homogenous and could be summarized in two objectives "art education" and "community involvement". The rallying cry was "Create Social Spaces!".

All the answers that is except for those from Ms. Zuckerman Jacobson.   Her answer was that the primary purpose of Art is to create "frisson".  Friction, disquiet, terror all those elements of shock which rock us out of our comfortable existence and make us reevaluate our world that is the primary purpose of the Aspen Art Museum.

Frisson has certainly been achieved. Congratulations Ms. Zuckerman Jacobson.

 It doesn't take much for my natural cynicism to overwhelm any desire for being open to "the new" it doesn't take much for me to leave vulnerability at the door. It doesn't take much for me to dust off that old New York armor and strap it back on my tired shoulders. I know it well it fits like an old overcoat in the rain, damp and smelling of wet wool.  Do I really want to do that in Aspen?  Do I really need to remember my cynicism in order to fully rejoice in the optimism of these glorious mountains?

Nope, not so much.

I think I  shall revisit the Doerr-Hosier and the excellent Herbert Bayer exhibit. That is an art exhibit which heals instead of fractures.

I expect nothing less from the "humanist" Mr. Bayer

I will continue to quote M. Voltaire, "je me suis mis à être un peu gai, parce qu'on m'a dit que cela est bon pour la santé." or as is more commonly translated : "I have decided to be happy because it's good for my health". Enough "frisson" will find me without my looking for it.