365 Days of Art: June 15 – Sculpture Exhibition Closes at Storm King

Bourgeois at Storm King Arts Center, courtesy of modernartobsession.blogs.com

June 15, 1983

An exhibition at the outdoor sculpture center in upstate New York, Storm King Art Center, called–simply and appropriately enough–A Landscape for Modern Sculpture, closes. The exhibition features large-scale works by Louise Bourgeois and others.

365 Days of Art: June 14 – Time Magazine Blames Warhol for RFK Assassination

June 14, 1968

In the aftermath of the attempted murder of Andy Warhol and the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy within three days of each other (RFK’s assassination pushed Andy Warhol off the cover of Life magazine that week), Time‘s art critic Piri Halasz wrote:

To the extent that Warhol’s art and life-style embody and glorify the abdication of moral responsibility and the condoning of petty viciousness and violence, they helped to create the atmosphere that made the Kennedy shooting…Andy Warhol is an extraordinarily sinister, even wicked person”.

With both shootings intertwined in the public’s mind, even other artists were heard to wonder why Bobby Kennedy was the one who had to die.

365 Days of Art: June 13 – Rubens Painting Destroyed by Arson

Peter Paul Rubens, King Philip IV of Spain

June 13, 1985

A man is arrested for setting fire to and destroying a painting of King Philip IV of Spain by Peter Paul Rubens hanging in the Zurich Kunsthaus. Sadly, only the frame survives the arson.

When a guard notices smoke, all exits are closed and an inspection of all visitors is begun. The man is arrested and says his reason for destroying this priceless work was to protest environmental pollution.

As if! Everyone knows burning stuff is bad for air quality.

365 Days of Art: June 11 – Dieter Roth Exhibition Receives Humorous Review

Dieter Roth, Staple Cheese (A Race), 1970

June 11, 1970

Dieter Roth’s first US exhibition receives a tongue-in-cheek review in the International Herald Tribune, which says that the gallery owner “will sell it to anyone with $21,000 and a bad cold”.

The reason for the bad cold is that the exhibition stinks. Literally stinks. Inspired by an artist whose work Roth thinks is “cheesy”, the show features 37 suitcases of all sizes and models which are filled with cheese. One suitcase is opened every day, to expose the unwrapped cheese. In Roth’s words:

They stood there shiny and beautiful–only gradually becoming disgusting. First juice started oozing out, then the maggots came, and then, of course, flies started laying their eggs.”

Oh yes, speaking of that–the health department gets wind of it (quite literally, as all accounts state how much the air reeked) and serves a summons on the gallery owner for permitting “the breeding or harboring of flies.”

Besides the suitcases, a “cheese race” is run by pressing slabs of cheese onto the walls, and allowing them to slide down, with the goal of crossing a “finish line” at the bottom. Unfortunately for the betting crowd, most cheeses dry out and stick to the wall before completing the race, though.

Some critics are amused: “Anyhow we have a chance to test the idea that art gets better as it gets older. Pure burlesque.” writes William Wilson in the LA Times. To no one’s surprise, no pieces from the exhibition sell.

Many years later, the gallery owner’s husband throws the suitcases away in the desert. I’m guessing they still stunk!

Image credit: Staple Cheese, A Race, 1970, Dieter Roth. Cheese stuffed into over 37 suitcases. Image courtesy of Eugenia P. Butler Estate Copyright Notice: © Eugenia P. Butler Estate.

365 Days of Art: June 10 – Howard Finster Artwork Featured on Album Cover

Talking Heads, Little Creatures, featuring artwork by Howard Finster

June 10, 1985

Folk art is brought into the mainstream a bit when Talking Heads feature Howard Finster’s artwork on their album Little Creatures.

The Reverend Howard Finster is one of my favorite artists, and you can read more about him here. He was a collector (of dental molds, “wore-out art supplies”, glass jars, bicycles, really anything that you can think of), who turned his collections into works of art, and his rural Georgia backyard into a “Paradise Garden” chock-full of artwork. He was also a patriot, before that word got tossed around so freely, and I mean it as a compliment: many of his works were about American icons like Elvis and George Washington. He numbered each and every work in a barely legible numeric system since he had only a sixth-grade education. He got his creative ideas from God. He used to hang out on his front porch twice a week and entertain whomever wanted to come over and talk about artwork (and probably God).

He has since died, but his nephew still runs Paradise Gardens. Much of the work has been moved to the High Museum of Art for safekeeping, but you can still get a sense of its heyday. An excellent road trip!

365 Days of Art: June 9 – Gorky’s Newark Airport Murals Unveiled; Said to Look Like Atlantic City Hangover!

Arshile Gorky, Mechanics of Flying

June 9, 1937

Arshile Gorky’s murals for the Newark Airport murals are unveiled. A reporter at the opening reception collects bystanders’ reactions, and prints them in the Newark Ledger the next day. My favorite is that the artwork looks “like a hangover after an Atlantic City convention!”

Poor Gorky. You know my heart goes out to the guy.

365 Days of Art: June 8 – Augusta Savage Opens Gallery

Augusta Savage, circa 1938, with some of her sculptures.

June 8, 1939

Augusta Savage opens an art gallery on 125th Street in Harlem called the Salon of Contemporary Negro Art. The opening reception is well-attended, with 500 people of both races there, and there is buzz surrounding this well-known artist. The unfortunate thing is that residents of Harlem have no money for art, and people with money don’t want to come to Harlem. The gallery soon closes.

365 Days of Art: June 7 – Leonardo is Anonymously Accused of Sodomy

Portrait of a Man in Red Chalk (believed to be self-portrait), Leonardo da Vinci, c. 1510-1515

June 7, 1476

Leonardo da Vinci is accused of sodomy. This is the second time since April that this accusation is made; it’s placed anonymously in a mailbox in the town hall. The finger pointer makes the claim that Leonardo and four others have sodomized a young man who works as a goldsmith and male prostitute (in some accounts, he’s also called an artist’s model). The legal system offers the death penalty for sodomy, but it also requires that the complaint be signed, and as such, both accusations are dismissed for not meeting the legal standard.

Leonardo is thought to have been gay, because of these charges and longstanding relationships with two younger men who served as assistants, but there is actually no evidence of any romantic relationships in his life. For this reason, some think that he was celibate, no matter what his orientation may have been.

365 Days of Art: June 6 – NYT Reviews Edward Curtis’ Photographic Book of Native American Research

Sioux Chiefs, by Edward Curtis

June 6, 1908

The New York Times publishes a review of Edward Curtis’ first volume of research on all the Native American tribes in the United States, including photographs. An excerpt:

Nothing like it has ever before been attempted for any people. He has made text and pictures interpret each other and both together present a more vivid, faithful and comprehensive view of the North American Indian as he is to-day than has ever been made before or can possibly be made again…In artistic value the photogravures are worthy of very great praise. They are beautiful reproductions of photographs that in themselves are works of art…And when it is all finished it will be a monumental work, marvelous for the unstinted care and labor and pains that have gone into the making, remarkable for the beauty of its final embodiment, and highly important because of its historical and ethnographic value”.

365 Days of Art: June 5 – Felix Partz Dies of AIDS; Is Memorialized in Photo

AA Bronson, "Felix, June 5, 1994", photograph, 1994

June 5, 1994

Artist Felix Partz dies of AIDS, and his collaborator AA Bronson documents the event in a heartbreakingly grotesque photograph. This is a real photo–even if it looks staged, or like a drawing based on a photograph–that shines light on AIDS, if only because it’s so hard to wrap your head around. Bronson says:

I made this photograph of Felix a few hours after his death. He is arranged to receive visitors, and his favorite objects are gathered about him: his television remote control, his tape-recorder, and his cigarettes. Felix suffered from extreme wasting, and at the time of his death his eyes could not be closed: there was not enough flesh left on the bone.

Felix and Jorge and I [members of the Canadian artistic collaboration General Idea] lived and worked together from 1969 until 1994. This communal life ended when Jorge died of AIDS on February 3, 1994. Felix followed shortly after, on June 5, 1994…”

365 Days of Art: June 3 – Nazis Legalize Art Theft, Peggy Guggenheim Visits Brancusi During WWII Bombing, and Andy Warhol is Shot

This is a cruel and violent day in the history of art:

June 3, 1938

The Nazis pass a law legalizing art robbery of “Entartete Art” [Degenerate Art], which sets the stage for many Jews to be robbed of their art collections.

June 3, 1940

Peggy Guggenheim recalls visiting Constantin Brancusi’s studio while the Germans bomb Paris:

One day I was having lunch with him in his studio workshop and he was telling me about his adventures in the last war. He said he would never leave Paris this time. In the last war he had gone away and as a result he had broken his leg. Of course he did not wish to leave his studio and all his enormous sculptures. They could not possibly be removed. At this point of our conversation a terrific bombardment of the outer boulevards of Paris took place. He knew at once that it was the real thing, but I did not believe it, as we had had so many false air-raid warnings. We were only a few blocks from the Porte de Vaugirard, where some bombs were falling, and the noise was infernal. He had mde me move from under the glass roof into the other room, but I paid no attention at all and kept going back to fetch wine and food from our lunch table. Afterward we emerged into Paris, where the news was confirmed. All the factories of the outer boulevards had been bombed, and a lot of school children killed.”

June 3, 1968

Andy Warhol is shot by Valerie Solanas at The Factory because she feels he is trying to steal her work. While Warhol speaks on the phone, Solanas fires at him three times, hitting him once. The bullet penetrates both lungs, his spleen, stomach, liver, and esophagus. Warhol is brought to the hospital and undergoes a five-hour operation. Later, Solanas gives this statement:

I consider that a moral act. And I consider it immoral that I missed. I should have done target practice.

365 Days of Art: June 2 – Gauguin Painting Sells for 76 Francs

Paul Gauguin, Forest Interior (Sous-Bois), 1884

June 2, 1894

The Gauguin painting, Forest Interior (Sous-Bois), is bought by one Ambroise Vollard in Paris, for 76 francs; the money goes to benefit the widow of Gauguin’s dealer.

After Gauguin went to Tahiti in 1891, he consigned a few paintings to a collector and dealer named Julien-François Tanguy, who died three years later. After Tanguy’s death, artists, collectors and other dealers organized an auction at the Hôtel Drouot, and donated proceeds to Madame Tanguy.

1884 (21 7/8 x 18 1/8 in.)

365 Days of Art: June 1 – Society of American Artists Forms

Moonlit Cove, Albert Pinkham Ryder, c. 1880-1885

June 1, 1877

The Society of American Artists forms, as an alternative to the National Academy, which they find too conservative. Initial members include sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Albert Pinkham Ryder, Julian Alden Weir, John Henry Twachtman, and Louis Comfort Tiffany, with most of the best-known artists of the day becoming members. The Society eventually merges back into the National Academy in 1906.