Previous: Holiday (9)

Next: Hypothetically (60)

Special holiday report: Holland Cotter and the call of the herd

Post #1104 • December 28, 2007, 7:51 AM • 15 Comments

Artnet, December 12:

Which is better, a complete set of facsimiles or a limited selection of originals? Ambitious viewers can decide for themselves this month, as the Triple Candie exhibition space in Harlem presents full-color offset reproductions of the 60 paintings in Jacob Lawrence's The Migration of the Negro, an epic work made by the 24-year-old artist in 1941. According to Triple Candie, Lawrence considered the paintings to be a single artwork and intended that they all be exhibited together, though he sold half the series to the Museum of Modern Art and half to the Phillips Collection shortly after it was made.

Edward Winkleman, December 14:

So I get why Triple Candie is offended by this continuous misrepresentation of the work to the public (the title of their exhibition clarifies their feelings about this: "Undoing the Ongoing Bastardization of The Migration of the Negro by Jacob Lawrence,"), but once again I find myself uncomfortable with the nature of their response. I am on record as opposed to reproductions being exhibited as if art. Even when the nature of the reproductions is clearly stated, I find the context overwhelmingly misleading and thus potentially as much of a bastardization as only partial groupings. ... All the same, I love their commitment and passion.

EW commenter Joseph Giannasio, December 17:

...I support what they are doing, and would say by really taking chances and engaging the discourse it is more interesting than everything else that is going on and important that they do what the are doing, and present non-commercial alternatives that take risks.

Yours truly in reply, December 17:

From the standpoint of the attention economy, in which attention is the coin of the realm, this is a fiscally conservative maneuver. After all, Holland Cotter swooned over [Triple Candie's] Cady Noland show, which purchased credibility for the gallery in the currency with which it is bought in this segment of the art world: the raising of issues. ... Being ingnored is the red ink of the attention economy, so you run a greater risk by displaying objects that exist primarily for their own ineffable purposes in an atmosphere of humble respect.

Holland Cotter, today, December 28:

Jacob Lawrence painted "The Migration of the Negro," 60 small pictures in tempera on hardboard panels, in what seems like a flash. ... The series is about the shift of African-American populations from a poor and repressive rural South to a prosperous but unwelcoming urban North between the two world wars. Lawrence’s family participated in that shift. For him it was lived history, an organic phenomenon, and he conceived his depiction of it that way. But two concurrent exhibitions - one at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the other at Triple Candie, a nonprofit space in Harlem - suggest that his concept has not come down to us intact. ...the [Whitney] show represents a mere fragment of the Phillips Collection’s larger fragment. The overarching drama of the series, the cumulative product of Lawrence’s thought-through formal calculation and narrative subtlety, is, if not lost, much diminished. And such editing has spurred a second exhibition, "Undoing the Ongoing Bastardization of ‘The Migration of the Negro’ by Jacob Lawrence," at Triple Candie. ...

Triple Candie is one of few nonprofit spaces in the city, or at least in Manhattan, to offer a serious alternative to the market-addled art mainstream. It has done so in a series of exhibitions that have had, by traditional standards, no art at all, and that might even be considered a threat to the very idea of art as the market defines it. ...there are two good reasons to visit the Triple Candie show: It presents the complete "Migration of the Negro" series, or a version of it; and it shows it in the Harlem neighborhood where Lawrence created it, a neighborhood that became predominantly African-American as a direct result of that migration. ... What’s more real, after all, art or the feeling of it? History or the telling of it? Medium or message? We know the conventional market wisdom. It’s important to have the alternative.

Next: the bleat goes on.

Comment

1.

opie

December 28, 2007, 8:49 AM

When PC matters are involved the proverbial tempest in a teapot is always lurking around the corner. Here we have a double "issue": a minority story of hardship coupled with reproductions (gasp!) in the sacred precincts of a gallery.

It's a story. You look at the art for the art and a story and you look at the reproductions for the rest of the story and art, sort of. What's the big deal?

Is a reproduction that much less authentic than yet another stupid Warhol silkscreen portrait of somebody or other - edition unknown - with an estate stamp on it?

2.

Jack

December 28, 2007, 10:19 AM

Must be a very slow news week in the art world.

If people want to exhibit reproductions identified as such, and other people care to see them, that's perfectly fine and absolutely not an issue. There's certainly no "daring" or "bravery" involved here.

Besides, if Lawrence himself chose to split up the series by selling to two different entities, what's with this "ongoing bastardization" business, as if it were the result of some evil conspiracy perpetrated behing Lawrence's back or against his adamant opposition?

Please, if somebody wants to manufacture a controversy, then something slightly more plausible is in order.

3.

Marc Country

December 29, 2007, 9:31 AM

"According to Triple Candie, Lawrence considered the paintings to be a single artwork and intended that they all be exhibited together, though he sold half the series to the Museum of Modern Art and half to the Phillips Collection shortly after it was made."

I think that line says it all... Oh, and I just remembered, that I intend my entire oeuvre to be one sculptural intallation, although I've sold some to far-flung locations, and have actually destroyed some works... those ones count too!

4.

catfish

December 29, 2007, 10:12 AM

Great comment, Marc.

5.

g

December 29, 2007, 10:45 AM

From Artnet: "… the 60 paintings in Jacob Lawrence’s The Migration of the Negro, an epic work made by the 24-year-old artist in 1941. According to Triple Candie, Lawrence considered the paintings to be a single artwork and intended that they all be exhibited together, though he sold half the series to the Museum of Modern Art and half to the Phillips Collection shortly after it was made."

Resident genius Marc makes this statement:
I think that line says it all... Oh, and I just remembered, that I intend my entire oeuvre to be one sculptural intallation, although I've sold some to far-flung locations, and have actually destroyed some works... those ones count too!

Marc will never get the chance to face the dilemma Jacob Lawrence did, so it’s easy to voice idealist opinion he will never have to contend with.

No matter that it was 1941, the start of WWII, that Jacob Lawrence was a ‘Negro’ in a time of open racism, that the post depression poverty was still a fresh memory.

There are a lot of things one could say about the Triple Candie exhibition but going nah-nah-nah about Jacob Lawrence’s decision to sell and keep the paintings together, even if in two groups, is not one of them.

6.

catfish

December 29, 2007, 11:19 AM

Hi g,

Marc was having fun, I think. I didn't take Marc's statement as "nah-nah-nah" but rather a poke at the exagerated attention everyone gives to "the artist's intention" as if such things amounted to divine revelation and a replacement for all moral mandates connected with the work.

In any case, artist's intentions, in my view, don't matter and it is amusing when an artist violates his own stated intention.

7.

opie

December 29, 2007, 11:34 AM

That's right, Catfish. Everyone wants to treat the artist's intentions as divine, while simultaneously keeping us in poverty, like holy men. I could do with a lot less of both.

Also, why doesn't someone just get them all together & exhibit them? Doesn't seem like such a problem.

8.

Franklin

December 29, 2007, 12:13 PM

Somebody's going to have to work a lot harder to convince me that showing an incomplete grouping of these works constitutes "bastardization," particularly given that the series hasn't been together since it left the artist's studio. (Due to their purchase by MoMA and the Phillips, no less.)

Marc will never get the chance to face the dilemma Jacob Lawrence did...

G faces this dilemma every other week, apparently. I'll tell you what, G - you confine your comments to what people have written, and keep that "resident genius" crap to yourself.

9.

Marc Country

December 29, 2007, 12:45 PM

Touché, g. It was unthinkable of me to inject a sense of humour into commentary on these earthshaking issues.

"Marc will never get the chance to face the dilemma Jacob Lawrence did, so it’s easy to voice idealist opinion he will never have to contend with."

The Dilemma: should I maintain the integrity of my vision for a body of work, or should I sell half of it to the MoMA? True, this is a particular dilemma I will likely never get the chance to face. I can't argue with that.

Franklin, don't be jealous of g's proclamation of my genius, he didn't necessarily imply that I'm THE resident genius... there could be a number of us...

(I'm gonna go add it to my CV, in any case.)

10.

Marc Country

December 29, 2007, 12:52 PM

It seems to me the only "risky" thing here is the Triple Candie people calling the Whitney people "Bastardizers" (why does this all sound like nothing so much as pop-tart tabloid gossip?...).

I'm sure Lawrence never called the Phillips or MoMA people such nasty names...

11.

Franklin

December 29, 2007, 2:11 PM

You're right - I disdained the possibility that his praise of your genius was sincere and rightly noted. My apologies.

12.

Eric

December 30, 2007, 6:53 AM

Why do xeroxes or 'simulacra' (ha ha) still cause waves in art world circles? All of these people who profess to be so cutting edge and open minded harp on these long dead issues. NYC galleries will show whatever will get sold or written about. Obviously Triple Candie isn't selling these repros so they desperately need to be written about in order to stay relevant or at the very least keep their doors open (unless some rich person keeps the place running regardless of profit margins).

The packaging of the exhibition is as irrelevant as the artist’s intentions. The art is out there and the public can make of it whatever the hell it wants to. The same goes for the stuff on display in the museums.

Imagine if museums or whoever owns art works had to give up ownership of works because the artist intended their works to be displayed to the public in a different manner than fate or economic needs had determined? Triple Candie is not battling racism or whatever evil they are implying by their use of the word ‘bastardization’. They are desperately trying to capture the attention of an art critic working for a major publication. They are manipulating the press by using copies of art works because they know this moot issue is still controversial for some bizarre reason.

Also, what is so riveting about using reproductions? We see ‘art’ that is far more conceptual or even further removed from an actual hands-on creative process in trendy galleries all the time.

13.

Marc Country

December 30, 2007, 8:57 AM

An exhibition of originals...

14.

opie

December 30, 2007, 9:02 AM

Go get 'em, Eric!

15.

Jack

December 30, 2007, 1:51 PM

Yep, that about covers it, Eric.

Subscribe

@franklin_e

franklin.e

Offers

Other Projects

Legal

Design and content ©2003-2014 Franklin Einspruch except where otherwise noted