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The Artist as Subject and Curator


Upcoming Art and Art Films at International House


A piece from 2005 by Margaret Kilgallen, one of the artists to be featured in a film at I-House.
A piece from 2005 by Margaret Kilgallen, one of the artists to be featured in a film at I-House.

International House has always been one of Philadelphia’s best venues for film (a hidden one, to judge from the small regular attendance) and they’ve been adding art, courtesy of which has been presenting video work in I-House’s lobby space. They’ve also been showing ever more films about art and artists. I missed one I really wanted to see in November on L.A.’s Ferus Gallery but we’ll get chance this week to see a film on a current generation of California artists. Beautiful Losers (2008) by Aron Rose screens on Wednesday, Jan. 21 at 8. Featuring Margaret Kilgallen, Barry McGee, et al, according to the folks at I-House it speaks to what happens when the “outside” becomes “in.”

Installation view of
JUNGLELAND, a exhibition by Matt Leines, William Buzzell, Alex Lukas and Joe Buzzell at Space 1026 last April. The Philly collective is the subject of a short film to be shown at I-House.

For something closer to home they’ll also be showing Ted Passon’s short film on Space 1026 as part of the same program. And if you arrive at 6pm you can catch the opening of Charles Hobbs’ exhibition Head in the Clouds as well as Virgil Wong’s video installation, Billions of Robots Heal the Human Heart (both courtesy of

The real Basquiat in 1985.

On Thursday, Feb. 26 at 7pm they screen Basquiat (1996) which I’ve seen and recommend. It was Julian Schnabel’s filmmaking debut and stars David Bowie in a good portrayal of Andy Warhol. This one’s presented in connection with the Free Library’s One Film, One Philadelphia and is free for students with Ids.

Jeffrey Wright plays the artist in Schnabel’s film Basquiat.

Another Artist as Curator: Vik Muniz at MoMA

Gerhard Richter as done by Vik Muniz with paint samples could have been included in MoMA’s recent exhibition, Color Chart; Reinventing Color 1950 to today.

What connects a piece of bubblewrap, a felt suit by Joseph Beuys, a slide carousel and a small oil sketch of a beach scene by Odilon Redon? Rebus, currently at MoMA (through Feb. 23). Not Rauschenberg’s painting of that name (which may currently hang in the galleries, I didn’t check) but the latest Artist’s Choice exhibition selected by Vik Muniz (I recently referred to this exhibition series here). It’s like entering the mind of an artist as he free-associates. Muniz was allowed to select from the entire museum collection, hence the manufactured objects from the design department (the bubblewrap and slide projector, a paper clip and a plastic bucket) as well as paintings (Redon and Ruscha), sculpture (Koons and Giacometti), drawings (Bochner, Polke), and lots of photography, from the commercial to Bill Brandt.

Vik Muniz suggests a Rubic cube might fill the space in Giacometti’s
Hand Holding a Void.

Anyone familiar with Muniz’s own work knows that he loves art which he recreates in various improbable media, then photographs: a Caravaggio made from a plate of spagetti, Namuth’s portrait of Pollock in chocolate syrup (a reaction to his mother’s injunction not to play with his food?), a prop piece by Richard Serra in dust (Muniz gives a wonderful narrative of the process that lead him to his work in Reflex; A Vik Muniz Primer, Aperture, 2007). The wonder is that the curators ever got him out of their store rooms. Muniz arranges the 82 works in a linear progression, each piece selected in relation to the one before, so the Polke drawing of what looks like a brick is followed by a brick-shaped piece of laminated plywood which is followed by an Outerbridge photograph of a similar form.

I found some other possibilities on Google Images: candidates for Governor of Ohio, already associated with the Giacometti, above, by Princess Sparkle Pony, on whose blog it resides.

But the relationships aren’t merely formal. Some are associated by use: a Rubik cube, manipulated with the hands would fit perfectly into the empty space of the sculpture that follows it: Giacometti’s Hands Holding the Void (Invisible Object). Others were already associated: William Wegman’s Dropping Milk is a parody of Edgerton’s famous Milk Drop Coronet, which precedes it.

Many of us make these associations all the time. I’m prone to see art in the everyday: when shown the image on-screen during a sigmoidoscopy all I could think of was Mona Hatoum (I was told later that her piece involved an endoscopy; oh well), a bunch of asparagus makes me think of Manet and Hans Haacke, and a pile of construction materials covered by a tarp bound with rope invokes Christo, of course. But the chance to follow someone else’s string of associations was a delight, and I’m grateful that Muniz was willing to share them with us.

MoMA has taken all the poster spots along the escalators at the nearby 53rd St. subway stop to advertise the exhibition; they use details of Muniz’s various selections for Rebus. They could have given that space to the artist, himself. Now that would be another idea for MoMA’s programming!