Surprisingly hypnotic

Adriana Ramic's "Craigslist-assisted Readymade" displays three objects available for free on Craigslist and changes the images every eight seconds.

A primer on what a Readymade is.

Ramic's website is fun. Click here and see what I mean.

More messiness with legal street art

A group in Atlanta commissioned a whole lot of street art, and got--possibly, depending on who you ask--all the proper permits. But that didn't stop a group of residents from coming and painting over the mural.

Advice to young artists

from Marina Abramovic

"But my advice to young artists is to be less selfish. When you arrive at a certain age, you have to give unconditionally. I think young artists should be much less selfish than they are. First of all, you have to know that making art is not about being famous and having money. The art is about a different matter. Fame and money is just a side effect. This you have to get clear in your head.
The second thing you have to figure out is whether you’re an artist or not. People want to be artists for different reasons, but if you have to create then you might make a good artist. And it requires a whole different set of sacrifices. It’s a lonely life. You have to really dedicate yourself completely. You have to be inferior. You have to be in fever, diseased, like it’s the only thing that exists ever.

Then, if you’re a really good artist, you have to learn how to survive in society—not compromising to the market, not creating art pollution in your studio. And there are so many things you have to learn about the business. It’s amazing, my first show ever was in Italy, and it sold out. But I never got a penny. All artists experience the same shit. So you have to kind of stick together and give each other advice. There are very few artists who are actually generous. Robert Rauschenberg was one of them. He created a hospital for artists. He created a kind of bank account if you’re in trouble as a young artist."

Read the entire interview at VICE.

Rice Gallery videos now available

Have you missed some of the past installations at Rice Gallery? They're now all available, on video, on ArtBabble.

On smooth and rough

"The unequivocally completed, clear and polished work of art is an act of authority, presented to the spectator like a gift or a declaration, something requiring acceptance rather than an answering-back. The roughly fashioned, apparently unfinished painting, on the other hand, is more akin to an initiated conversation, a posed question, demanding an engaged response from the beholder for its completion. Smooth artists necessarily take pains to conceal to the utmost any of the revisions and alterations they might have made on the way to the finished object. Rough artists deliberately expose the working process of composition as a way of pulling the spectator further into the image."

Schama, Simon. Rembrandt's Eyes. New York: Random House, 1999. 654.

Christmas gets modernized


Or, at least the public Christmas tree in Brussels.

If you're done pondering Glen Beck

take a look at this lush and personal film on Ed Ruscha.

More from America's favorite art critic

Glen Beck released a video about controversial art and the first amendment. And he submerged an Obama figurine in a jar of "pee-pee." It's a reference to the furor over Andres Serrano's 1987 photograph called "Piss Christ." And if 1987 seems like kind of a while ago, it's much more current and topical than Beck's rant over Diego Rivera's New York murals...painted 75 years ago.

Quote of the Day

"What I have in mind is that art may be bad, good or indifferent, but whatever adjective is used, we must call it art, and bad art is still art in the way that a bad emotion is still an emotion"

Marcel Duchamp, "The Creative Act"

Free art in Dallas!

The Dallas Museum of Art is doing away with its $10 admission fee, recognizing that admission fess are only about 2% of the museum's revenue but a hindrance to many people who may want to visit. In a somewhat more revolutionary move, it's also making museum memberships free. The new director says that the museum "values participation over cash." Major special exhibits will still be ticketed, but members who come to the museum often can earn points toward discounts to those exhibits.

Growing up in Dallas I went to the DMA often, especially when I was in high school. I would have gone much less often if there were an admission fee each time--it was free back then. I'm happy to see it free again.

Art critic buys knockoff paintings, on purpose

(this one is real, not a fake)
Jerry Saltz, one of the bigger names in art criticism, wanted some paintings by big-name artists but can't afford the prices ($34 million for a Richter, for example). So he put out a call for $155 fakes. The results, and the process, are pretty fascinating.

Christo's other big plan

While Over the River gets delayed over and over, Christo has been working on another project: the largest permanent sculpture.

The Tapestry. Again.

Here is the Vimeo version of the Bayeaux Tapestry animated. Since Youtube is blocked at school.

Where do you go for good garage sales?

Some people can go to MoMA.

"I don't know if anyone else has realized this. I feel so cool."

What could make one of my students feel so smart and cool? Noticing how much this looks like this. That's all it takes!

Look! The picture moves!

Folks seem pretty in awe of my background photo this week. Because they've never seen a gif before? Several people have asked where I got it. Here.

Razzle Dazzle

Wrong Razzle Dazzle

I recently discovered the podcast 99% Invisible. Ok, I didn't "discover" it--my dad introduced me to it. Anyway, the most recent episode is about Dazzle camouflage on World War I ships. The website has an advantage over the podcast--it has photos of the "sea-going Easter eggs."

The future of portraiture?

A Japanese photo studio is using 3-D printers to make photobooth-style portraits. In three dimensions. How long do you think it will be before we all have 3-D printers in our homes and can send each other 3-D photos to print out?

Shopping spree

This weekend my wife and I went to the 16th annual Avenue CDC Art on the Avenue. Rather than say "rampant overspending," let's just call it "passionate support for Texas artists." We bought work from Terry Hagiwara, Virginia Bally, Michael Golden, Jim Brown, and Orna Feinstein. Don't ask me where we're going to put it all.

Cool Video

I'm pretty sure this is going to be the next dance craze. Start practicing now.

"Street Art"


Who decides when it's graffiti and when it's art? In Toronto, it's now a municipal committee.

Update on the Wright House

An anonymous (for now) buyer has agreed to buy the threatened Frank Lloyd Wright house in Phoenix. Because some folks have two and a half million dollars to help out historic sites.

For the record, it's not me.

A brief foray into math

So this blog post is all about learning math, not art history. But it's about learning, and it's fascinating. So, you know, read it anyway.

Need more of a teaser? It's by a guy who went through all 33 course of MIT's computer science less than a year. He explains his process and techniques.

For those of you who start your Christmas shopping early

This came out this week.

Gangnam Style

I never thought I'd be mentioning the international hit "Gangnam Style" on this blog, but then international artist extraordinaire Ai Weiei went and made his own spoof. So how can I resist? For an interesting contextualization and defense of the video (and to give credit to where I got this photo), check here.

Art for Rent

Artsicle is a New York startup that hooks young art lovers up with inexpensive art...for rent. One co-owner calls it "Zappos for art." I love Zappos as much as the next guy, but I wouldn't spend much money there if I were only renting the shoes. We'll see how this goes.

Caves, bulls, and chicks

What did the artists in Lasceaux and Altamira have in mind when they were making cave paintings? We don't know. But some "researchers in neuroaesthetics" have some theories.

Life imitating art?

The brains of Google

The corridor to Hal

The brains of HAL 9000.
The cool thing about working at Google? No space suit required.

The amazing and surprisingly beautiful photos Google released of their data centers reminded me of a certain 1968 Stanley Kubrick film.

Texas Contemporary Art Fair

The second Texas Contemporary Art Fair is this weekend. I would really like to go, but I think I have too many other commitments to be able to make it. So please: 1) go, and 2) tell me about it, hopefully with 3) photos.

Another use for Google Earth

Sure, you can use Google Earth to find roads. But you can also use it to find 9th-century canals that helped build Angkor Wat.

Friday Night Lights

Or Monday and Wednesday nights, in this case. It seems the lights from the intra-mural sports fields are interfering with the light show at the new Skyspace at Rice. Surely Rice University has folks smart enough to solve this problem quickly.


I have this photo because it was the top hit on a Google Image search for "Houston Art"

Do you live in Houston? What do you think about art? It seems people are asking, and they're compiling answers.

Art graffiti is nothing new

One of the challenges that restorers of a 17th-century fresco have to deal with is graffiti scratched into an angels wing.

Another art attack

Sunday a man tagged one of Rothko's Seagram Murals at the Tate in London. The man posted a picture of his work online, and claims that he is making some sort of a statement about living art and making new works. He compares himself to Marcel Duchamp.

Note to the vandal: Duchamp marked up a postcard of the Mona Lisa, not the freakin' Mona Lisa. "Re-appropriation" goes hand in hand with reproduction, for better or worse. Duchamp taught us this. You're a moron.

And a personal note: my "bucket list" currently has only one item--to go to London and see the Seagram Murals.


This is your periodic reminder that one of the nation's finest art museums is only a few hours away from us, and that you should go visit it some time soon.

Another cool "guerrilla installation"

What might be even better than fake historical marker signs? What about magnetic butterflies? These are gorgeous, and they can be stuck almost anywhere.

Demolition Watch: Wright House

A (really cool) house that Frank Lloyd Wright designed for his son is set to be demolished by developers. But the Phoenix mayor's office has stepped in to the controversy, and the house is now under 24-hour police protection.

What they've learned

I came across this "What I've Learned" list, with arts administrators explaining the lessons they've learned through their careers. Arts administrators? Who cares? I ain't no stinkin' arts administrator! There are two good reasons to take some time to read through this (I haven't read it all yet, but I am committed to reading it all over the next few days):

1. If you're interested in art history and are thinking about a career related to art history, then there's a really good chance you're thinking about being an administrator--or at least working closely with them. Even if you prefer the academic route, you'll most likely end up doing administration too.

2. Most of this advice is good for anyone in any career, even if you're not at all interested in being an art historian. Want to be an engineer? A comic book artist? A sales person? This is still good advice from people who have been working for decades.

Painterly pranks

"Houbraken's portrait is of a rather cantankerous, compulsively avaricious master whom the students would deliberately deceive by painting coins on the floor which Rembrandt would then stoop to collect."  Schama, Simon. Rembrandt's Eyes, p. 518.

The new Carnegie building wouldn't pass muster

British codes for new school buildings, aiming at lower cost and the ability to replicate at multiple sites, wants to get rid of curved walls, rooftop terraces, and non-standard materials. At least architecturally, schools should be as cheap and boring as possible.

The art of food


This weekend I watched the documentary El Bulli: Cooking in Progress, which follows the chefs at El Bulli for a year. [If you're not familiar with the restaurant El Bulli and its super-star chef, Ferran Adria, you might want to have a look here. But please note that it's not a working restaurant any more] They spend six months of the year in a test kitchen preparing new ideas for the upcoming season while the restaurant is closed, and then they integrate their new dishes into the menu over the following months. The movie has no narration and doesn't really tell a story. It's just a look into the process that ends up making this amazing avant-garde food. Two things struck me as I watched that remind me of the creative process and the visual arts that we're studying in class.

1. It's highly organized. The chefs aren't just throwing ingredients around and playing to see what happens. The first half of the movie is dominated by charts, photos, and binders. Lots of binders. They take an ingredient--sweet potatoes, for example--and then run an exhaustive system of tests and experiments. What happens when we cut it this way, and then fry it in oil? When we cut it that way, and dehydrate it? Or if we cut it this way, and vacuum seal it? And once they've run those tests, they start combining ingredients and all the combinations of techniques. Each test is noted in a database with a photo, and the database is printed, copied, and organized into binders. The only time in the movie when we see Adria get really angry and throw the kind of fit that chefs are known for? When one of the sous chefs has his hard drive die on him. But, explains the assistant, that's why we have it in binder and copied. We've lost nothing. I don't want papers! the executive chef yells, I don't need more paper! I want it on the computer! Even though I was already fairly familiar with El Bulli and the kind of revolutionary food they serve, I was still surprised to learn that in the six months when the restaurant is closed they don't actually create new dishes. They simply run all these tests and experiments to give them ideas when they actually open the restaurant and start creating dishes based on the ingredients available at the time.

2. The professional kitchen is run exactly like the old studio system. Ferran Adria is the celebrity chef who owns and runs the restaurant. It's his vision and his ethos the restaurant promotes. And yet, at least in the movie, we hardly ever see him cook. He tastes and organizes and gives feedback and talks on the phone a lot, but it's his four head and sous chefs who do most of the groundwork. And then, when the restaurant opens, they have about 40 interns come in to learn and do the day-to-day preparation. At one point Adria tells a group of apprentices that his job is the creative aspect, and that production is up to them. This is no different than the artist's workshop from medieval Europe up to the 19th century. The master gets the commissions, organizes the composition, and puts on the final and difficult touches. A workshop of journeymen and apprentices do the groundwork. This is true, even today, of many non-visual arts, like fashion. The notion that a single artist does all the work that bears his name is actually a fairly new and Romantic ideal. Andy Warhol and his Factory system was much more traditional than it may have seemed, as is the system several major artists use today where much of the basic work is done by underpaid or unpaid workers.

If you're interested in super-high-end food, check out El Bulli: Cooking in Progress, and also watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

I'll be reading...

...the new Camille Paglia book on art. I know that I read Sexual Personae my first year of college, and that it was hugely influential and changed the way I thought about a lot of stuff, even when I disagreed with her. But I don't remember anything specific any more. I know that Paglia is always a forceful and engaging writer, and she pretty much sold me on this book with the line "the only road to freedom is self-education in art." I'll get back to you when I get it and have a chance to read it.

Behold, the Mona Lisa!


No, not that one. And no, not that one. This one was recently presented in Geneva,

A Place Beyond Belief

Here's a short but touching story about a public art work in Kosovo that connects September 11, The Serbian War, and a temporary light sculpture that may become permanent.

Meme Challenge

A student emailed me this picture with the accurate-yet-predictable subject line "lol."

It's an easy trick: choose a few detailed, beautiful, and recognizable art pieces from the past, and compare them to some more recent minimalist pieces.

But the trick can work both ways, can't it? Couldn't I choose some older works that are less beautiful or socially acceptable, and then juxtapose them with two more recent works that are jaw-dropping?

If you make it, I will post it (within reasonable bounds, of course).

And for it's worth, the piece on the bottom left is by far my favorite of these four.

A Primer

Complex Art + Design has compiled a "Top 100" list of the most influential artists of the past decade. I've got to admit I've heard of very few of them. It took me a while to notice, but there are multiple images for each artist, so you can get a better feel for their work. I'm not particularly surprised to see so many commercial designers or street artists on a list of "serious" art, but I also have to admit I didn't realize how many street artists are also corporate designers, and vice versa.

Misinformation, city government, art

I think this is my favorite art story of the year. Someone put up fake plaques around Los Angeles attributing things--dumpsters, trees, for example--to artists. Who doesn't want an Andy Warhol dumpster? I want pictures of all the plaques!

Medieval churches not the only buried things out there


A giant Roman mosaic floor has been unearthed under a farmer's field in southern Turkey. Remarkably, the mosaic is still in "pristine" condition.

Houston Art Fair

Glasstire has a lot of photos from the Houston Art Fair. Check them out.

Doolittle (1989) and Ritual de lo Habitual (1990)

So here's one of my set pieces, a musical rant I've made many times over the years.

Look at all the things that people say made Nirvana such a great band in the late '80s and early '90s. The ability to fuse hard rock and pop sensibilities into a form that appealed across the spectrum; a blend of fast and slow, quiet and loud; commercial success with major labels without giving up their souls or producing the sort of bland studio work that came out of so many '80s bands; technical virtuosity; grunge.

Those are all fine, but here's the thing: The Pixies and Jane's Addiction were also making music in the same time frame, all those things are true of them as well, and they're much better.

So put away Nevermind and try out Doolittle and Ritual de lo Habitual. You'll wonder, as I often do, what's so great about those Nirvana guys.

More Barbie

So it seems I just can't resist Barbie art. From Jason Freeny: Barbie Anatomical Model. Prints are available, in case you're already thinking about birthday gifts.

Jane Alexander

Yesterday I went to the CAMH to see the Jane Alexander exhibit. I don't think I've ever used this word to describe an artist's work before, but it is freaky. Freakyfreakyfreaky.

The exhibit features a number of sculpture installations and also a series of photocollages. Almost all of them involve strange human-animal creatures. There are marching naked men with dog heads. Tiny men, in tiny suits, with monkey-like heads. Wingless birds. One of the pieces involves a miniature prison yard, surrounded by barbed-wire fences, rusty machetes and red rubber gloves. And a lamb-like guard.

Please take time to go see this exhibit. It is amazing.

Portishead, Third (2008)

In the mid '90s, Portishead were one of the pioneering groups of the sub-genre known as trip-hop. And then they did nothing as a band for 10 years, leaving a few songs behind to hear on "Best of the 90s" compilations.

Surprisingly, their third album came out in 2008. It's dark, raw, and sometimes abrasive. But it's so full of energy and integrity that I can't forget about it. The album is a great example of growing out of earlier styles and definitions without letting go of larger goals and passions. They may not be hip young trip-hop artists any more, but they're still definitely artists. Engaged, thoughtful artists.