Charles Garabedian (1923–2016)

Artist Charles Garabedian

Artist Charles Garabedian has died, reports the Los Angeles Times’ Jill Leovy. Renowned for brightly colored paintings portraying scenes based on Greek literature and daytime TV, Garabedian “injected an imaginative California sensibility into contemporary art,” wrote Leovy. He earned a master’s degree at UCLA, where he later taught, and was featured in a solo show at the Whitney Museum in 1976. The next year, he was named an NEA fellow; he then received a Guggenheim fellowship in 1980.

In addition to the Whitney, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles have his work in their collections. Yet many of his supporters felt Garabedian often received less recognition than he deserved: “He makes no compromises,” said artist Ed Moses, an old friend. “He is just into the painting as painting.”

Critic David Pagel once wrote of Garabedian, “There is no escaping from his wily art.”

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May 23, 2016

UCLA’s Fowler Museum Appoints New Chief Curator

Matthew Robb

Matthew Robb has been named the new chief curator at the Fowler Museum at UCLA, starting June 13. Robb previously served as curator of the arts of the Americas at the de Young, one of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Marla Berns, the Shirley and Ralph Shapiro Director of the Fowler Museum, said of the appointment: “I am thrilled that someone of Matthew’s strong scholarly background and excellent museum and curatorial experience will be joining us…Given the Fowler’s strong collections of ancient and historical arts from Mesoamerica as well as our stellar holdings of material from the Andean world, Matthew will bring fresh insights and expertise to future research and exhibition projects.”

During his time at the de Young, Robb’s research was focused on the permanent collection’s murals from the ancient Mexican city of Teotihuacan. In 2013, he was instrumental in bringing the Weisel Family Collection of Native American Art to the de Young. A specialist in the art and archaeology of ancient Mesoamerica, he compiled a database of over 500 examples of stone masks associated with Teotihuacan during his time as a scholar at the Getty Research Institute in the spring of 2015. Prior to joining the de Young, Robb was associate curator in the department of the arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas at the Saint Louis Art Museum, where he began as an Andrew W. Mellon postdoctoral curatorial fellow in 2007. He has also previously served as a visiting curator at the Walters Art Museum and the Princeton University Art Museum.

Robb did his undergraduate at Princeton University, where he graduated in 1994, and earned a master’s degree in 1999 from the University of Texas at Austin and a Ph.D. in 2007 from Yale University, where his thesis on the apartment compounds of Teotihuacan was received the Frances Blanshard Fellowship Fund Prize.

May 23, 2016

MAK Center Director Leaves for University Art Museum at Cal State Long Beach

Kimberli Meyer

After nearly fourteen years leading the MAK Center for Art and Architecture at the Schindler House in Los Angeles, director Kimberli Meyer is leaving to become director of the University Art Museum at California State University Long Beach. The director of MAK—Austrian Museum of Applied Arts / Contemporary Art in Vienna, Christoph Thun-Hohenstein, said of her “Kimberli’s tenure at the MAK Center has marked a period of exceptional growth and productivity, represented not only by the physical expansion of MAK Center properties, but also in exhibitions, publications and programming that have brought national and international notice to this unique public venture.”

Among the many exhibitions Meyer has spearheaded, curated, or overseen are “How Many Billboards? Art In Stead,” cocurated with Lisa Henry, Nizan Shaked, and Gloria Sutton; “Esther McCoy and the Heart of American Modernist Architecture and Design,” cocurated with Susan Morgan; “Yves Klein: Air Architecture,” curated by Francois Perrin; “Tony Greene: Room of Advances,” curated by Judie Bamber and Monica Majoli; “Everything Loose Will Land: 1970s Art and Architecture in Los Angeles,” curated by Sylvia Lavin; and “Routine Pleasures,” curated by Michael Ned Holte. The next exhibition at the MAK Center scheduled for 2017 is “How to Read El Pato Pascual: Disney’s Latin America and Latin America’s Disney,” curated by Rubén Ortiz Torres and Jesse Lerner.

Meyer worked with numerous artists, architects, curators, and scholars to develop and present projects at the MAK Center, including Carmen Argote, Michael Asher, Scott Benzel, David Burns, Sara Daleiden, Andrea Fraser, Renée Green, Katie Grinnan, Isaac Julian, Brandon Lattu, Simon Leung, Dorit Margreiter, Gunther Domenig, Steven Holl, Andrea Lenardin Madden, Christoph a. Kumpusch, Lebbeus Woods, My Barbarian, Vanessa Place, lauren woods, and Erwin Wurm. She also presided over the expansion of the MAK Center’s R.M. Schindler properties, including negotiating the gift of the Fitzpatrick-Leland House and overseeing the new Garage Top space at the Mackey Apartments. She also served as commissioner for the US presentation at the 11th Cairo Biennial, which presented the work of artist Jennifer Steinkamp.

May 23, 2016

Arts Commissioners Threaten to Defund Virginia Museum Over “Anti-Christian” Art

Mark Ryde, Rosie’s Tea Party, 2005.

Members of the Virginia Beach Arts and Humanities Commission have threatened to cut future funding for Virginia’s Museum of Contemporary Art for including two works in the institution’s current exhibition that they believe are sacrilegious, Claire Voon of Hyperallergic reports. The museum has also received numerous calls and emails urging it to take the paintings down.

Titled “Turn the Page: The First Ten Years of Hi-Fructose,” the exhibition is a retrospective of San Francisco’s contemporary art magazine Hi-Fructose. It is also the museum’s largest show to date. Intended to celebrate the artists whose works have frequently appeared in the magazine, the exhibition features two canvases by Surrealist painter Mark Ryden. Fountain, 2003, depicts a young girl holding her own decapitated head while blood spurts from her neck. Rosie’s Tea Party, 2005, portrays another little girl wearing a cross and sitting at a pink table hosting a tea party for a kitten, a pink bunny rabbit, a baby, and a couple of rodents. In the painting she is cutting a ham that reads “Corpus Christi”—which is Latin for Body of Christ—with a saw. There is also a bottle of wine with a label depicting an image of Jesus and a framed print or embroidery hanging on the wall behind them that reads “Be Good.”

Arts commissioner Ben Loyola described the works as “very anti-Christian and anti-Catholic.” Commissioner Brian Kirwin said that he would “definitely consider zeroing [MOCA] out” by cutting future funding. According to museum spokeswoman Dot Greene, the commission allots $120,000 to the museum each year “to support hard cost exhibition expenses.” The sum amounts to 6 percent of the institution’s approximately $2 million operations budget.

Greene confirmed that the paintings will not be removed. “We do not find the work anti-Christian,” she said. “We recognize there are Christian symbols depicted in ‘Rosie’s Tea Party’ along with a myriad of others. Symbolism and religious iconography in art have a long and storied history, all of which are up for personal interpretation.” In response to the call for funding to be admonished, she said that the two commissioners are expressing “their personal opinion and not that of the Commission.”

The National Coalition Against Censorship’s director of programs, Svetlana Mintcheva, wrote the commissioners to remind them that “as government officials, you cannot use your power to control public money so as to impose your interpretation of the work on the community as a whole and discriminate against ideas with which you disagree.”

May 23, 2016

De Appel Arts Center’s Board of Trustees Resigns

De Appel Arts Center in Amsterdam

After Lorenzo Benedetti was fired as director of the De Appel Arts Center in Amsterdam in September 2015, and a Dutch court upheld his dismissal, the board of trustees at De Appel have now resigned “in part due to the developments surrounding the dismissal of director [Lorenzo] Benedetti,” according to an announcement on the center’s website. This is the same board that fired Benedetti after only a year with him as director. The Amsterdam District Court had ruled that different interpretations of the role of director were the principal reason for his firing.

The staff of the curatorial training program at De Appel—including Charles Esche, Elena Filipovic, and Beatrix Ruf—called for the board’s resignation and had boycotted their own program in protest. In an open letter, they said the institution was “brought low in the eyes of the national and international art community” by the board’s treatment of Benedetti.

The now ex-board consisted of Alexandra van Huffelen, CEO of Amsterdam transportation firm GVB, as chairwoman; treasurer Wouter Han, managing director at finance firm Lazard Benelux; Suzanne Oxenaar, artistic director at Lloyd Hotel & Cultural Embassy, Amsterdam; Benno Tempel, director of the Gemeentemuseum, the Hague; and Hermine Voûte, an attorney with Amsterdam firm Loyens & Loeff.

May 23, 2016

ICA Miami Appoints Three New Board Members

Elle Macpherson

The ICA Miami has appointed three new members to its board of trustees prior to its anticipated opening in 2017: Elle Macpherson, Manny Kadre, and Cynthia Fiske. Manny Kadre is currently the chairman and CEO of the Tri-State Luxury Collection, a conglomeration of fourteen automotive dealerships in the Northeast, as well as a member of other several prestigious boards and committees around the city including the University of Miami’s board, the University of Miami presidential search committee, University of Miami Hospital in South Florida, and the Federal Judicial Nominating Commission, among others.

Elle Macpherson is the cofounder and creative director of Welleco.com, and cofounder of Elle Macpherson Body. Macpherson also serves as the global ambassador for (RED) and is involved with Breast Cancer Case, UNICEF, Smile Foundation, and NACOA, as well as The Miami Woman’s Fund.

Cynthia Fiske is the director of Cartier’s flagship store in Miami’s design district and has previously held leadership positions with major retailers including Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, and Macy’s.

May 23, 2016

Ace Gallery Founder Fired and Facing Possibility of Criminal Charges

Douglas Chrismas

After facing legal claims by artists represented by the gallery seeking their works back as well as payment for works sold, the founder of Los Angeles’s Ace Gallery, Douglas Chrismas, has been terminated from the business by a court-appointed financial manager. The manager, Sam Leslie, is a forensic accountant that now runs the day-to-day operations of the gallery after it filed for bankruptcy, and he has filed a report documenting millions of dollars diverted from the gallery to mysterious accounts and dozens of works of art that have been moved to private storage.

Leslie ended Chrismas’s role in the gallery after a review of Ace’s financial records, noting that over a period from February 2013 to February 2016, a total of $16,910,139 was directed to Ace New York, and of that sum $4,568,382 was diverted to an entity known as the Ace Museum. Both companies are red flags, since Chrismas closed the New York branch of his gallery over a decade ago, and his so-called museum on La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles has not had a consistent history of exhibitions. Leslie also found that Chrismas instructed assistants to move sixty works of art from Ace Gallery to a private storage facility the day before Leslie took over management of the business.

In his court report, Leslie said “I asked Chrismas to prove his ownership to me of these sixty pieces…He told me had had acquired them years before, and when pressed, gave me dates in the early 1970s and 1980s, and he confirmed all works he allegedly owns predated the year 2000 in any event. None of these pieces, including one of significant value, were listed in the bankruptcy petition he personally filed in 2004.”

The attorney who represented the painter Gary Lang in the Ace bankruptcy case, J. Scott Bovitz, says concealing assets in a bankruptcy case could result in criminal charges: “if the artwork was in fact his personal property, Mr. Chrismas didn’t disclose it in his 2004 bankruptcy, and that’s a problem…If it wasn’t his own property and he stole it from the bankruptcy estate this year, that’s also a problem. Either way, he has painted himself into a corner.” Bovitz noted that transferring money out of a bankrupt estate may also be a crime, depending on intent. It is not clear as of yet whether a criminal investigation is under way.

The gallery is still open with regular hours and some staff, and is opening a new group exhibition on June 11—including John Armleder, Mary Corse, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Ben Jones, Jannis Kounellis, Gary Lang, Robert Longo, and Julian Schnabel, among others—at its location on Wilshire Boulevard.

May 23, 2016

Artists’ Installation on Hong Kong’s Tallest Building Censored by Officials

Sampson Wong and Jason Lam

A video installation that was displayed on the facade of Hong Kong’s tallest building has been taken down by officials and exhibition organizers days after the artists revealed that there was a political message embedded in the work, according to Amy Qin at the New York Times. In a statement released yesterday, Ellen Pau—chairwoman of the film and media art group at the Hong Kong Arts Development Council, which commissioned the artwork—and Caroline Ha Thuc—curator of the “Fifth Large-Scale Public Media Art Exhibition: Human Vibrations”—said that the artists had shown “disrespect” by not consulting them in advance about changes to the work and that the artwork would be removed from the show. The video, which is nine minutes long and was created by the artists Sampson Wong and Jason Lam, was to be displayed on the International Commerce Center building every night until June 22. It starts with the words “Our 60-Second Friendship Begins Now” and moves into a series of numerical countdowns and phrases in both Chinese and English.

The work was shown for the first time on the International Commerce Center building on May 17, which coincided with the start of a three-day visit to Hong Kong by Zhang Dejiang, a member of the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee who oversees Hong Kong and Macau affairs. On May 18, the artists stated that the final countdown in the video—a series of glowing nine-digit numbers—related the number of seconds until July 1, 2047: the date when the agreement guaranteeing Hong Kong’s semiautonomous status for fifty years after its handover to Chinese rule is set to expire.

It remains unclear whether another work will replace the removed video, meanwhile the artists maintain they did not change their piece, and have said they will soon release a more comprehensive statement on their work’s removal.

May 23, 2016

Ken Loach Takes Palme d’Or at Cannes

Ken Loach

Manohla Dargis reports in the New York Times that the British director Ken Loach took the top honor of Palme d’Or at the 69th edition of the Cannes Film Festival yesterday for his film I, Daniel Blake. The film’s story centers on a carpenter with a heart condition facing an impenetrable bureaucracy. This is not the first time Loach has won the prize at Cannes, his 2006 film The Wind That Shakes the Barley, set during the Irish War of Independence and the subsequent Irish Civil War, won the Palme d’Or that year as well.

The jury for this year’s feature competition was led by George Miller and included Arnaud Desplechin, Laszlo Nemes, Katayoon Shahabi, Kirsten Dunst, Valeria Golino, Mads Mikkelsen, Vanessa Paradis, and Donald Sutherland.

The ceremony where Loach received his award also included a tribute to French actor Jean-Pierre Léaud, best known for playing Antoine Doinel in François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows, with an honorary Palme d’Or presented to him by Desplechin. Among the other awards, Shahab Hosseini was given the best actor award for his role in Asghar Farhadi’s film The Salesman, and the prize for best actress was awarded to Jaclyn Jose for her role in Ma’ Rosa, directed by the Philippine filmmaker Brillante Mendoza. The best director prize was jointly given to the Romanian director Cristian Mungiu and to the French director Olivier Assayas. The Jury Prize went to the British director Andrea Arnold for her film American Honey, Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan won the Grand Prix prize for It’s Only the End of the World, and Finnish director Juho Kuosmanen took home the Un Certain Regard prize for The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Maki.

May 20, 2016

Steve Wolfe (1955–2016)

Steve Wolfe, Untitled (Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man), 1991, oil, screenprint, modeling paste, and linen on stretcher, 8 x 5 x 1/2”.

Steve Wolfe, known for his scrupulous and sculptural recreations of literary classics—such as Gertrude Stein’s The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, 1933, or a Penguin reprinting of Voltaire’s Candide, 1759,—as well as full-length records and 45s from the likes of Joni Mitchell, Otis Redding, or the Beatles, died. Wolfe’s oeuvre, more than anything else, seems to function as an intimate self-portrait—much in the way that anyone’s personal collection of books or music usually is.

Born in Pisa, Italy, the artist studied at Virginia Commonwealth University. He began making works on paper in the 1980s. For more than twenty years, Wolfe created objects that explored the intersections of material culture and the collective memory.

Wolfe’s book pieces carried the patina of secondhand love, yet their scuffs and tears were hardly accidental. The only difference between his version of a volume from James Joyce and the hardback it was modeled after was that his “book” would hang on the wall of a gallery or museum, a copy far more special than the mass-produced original. As critic David Frankel said in a review of Wolfe’s first solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum in the December 2009 issue of Artforum: “As artworks, of course, they’re strictly do not touch, and once you understand what each one is—not a much-thumbed copy of a favorite art book or novel but its simulacrum, dog ears, grime, and all, painstakingly modeled in materials like metal and wood, and printed, painted, and drawn in oils and inks—you may actually pull away a little, not wanting to fingerprint or even breathe on so careful a surface.”

Wolfe had shown nationally and internationally, and his art can be found in the collections of institutions all over the United States, such as New York’s MoMA, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Menil Collection in Houston, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Dallas Museum of Art.