MoMA/Hammer/LA/Cologne/Met Museum/Belgian Congo Copal 11.1.2015
Critique by Vincent Galen Johnson, Lives and Works in Los Angeles, California
12:07 PM (0 minutes ago)
Updated 10:27AM Sunday 11.1.2015 re MoMA
Updated 9:56AM Sunday 11.1.2015 – re Belgian Congo Copal resin painting medium
Updated 8:57AM Sunday 11.1.2015
At the Hammer museum I saw something most interesting: In the traveling retrospective of a female Art Center MFA alum, I noticed that MoMA had acquired a six-part handwriting-as-drawing that is a work of Text-based art, culled from literature. The work had been in the artist’s graduate thesis show. I’m aware of museums seeking out the earliest examples of an artist’s work, and note that most of the work in the exhibition was not in major collections, public or private, but from the artist’s four powerhouse galleries, including Buchholtz, which means she passed the test of one of the supreme German cultural monocle examinations.
Many years ago, in reverie of the Buchholtz gallery’s presence, an artistic intervention by HAHA, made his apartment the site and space of exhibition, but through a glass window. You can read about this online.
The current Hammer retrospective artist’s career seems to have surged mostly recently, mostly upon her video works and digital media works, some of which prominently feature black characters.
Next month, another female Art Center MFA alum will have a video art retrospective, this will be at LACMA. The museum reports that the exhibition will occupy 20,000 sq. ft., the largest amount of floor space ever dedicated to a female artist exhibition there. I’m looking forward to this artist’s exhibition, and seeing what I had not seen in the past. I recall artists saying that her work made them get a headache, yet even then her career was one of the most ascendant in LA, based largely in Western Europe, specifically in Cologne and Dusseldorf, where the Ludwig Forum and K21 are among the 30 modern and contemporary art museums in the Nordheim-Westfalia region, which has the largest collection of these types of museums in the world.
As I have said many times before, it is also where over 100,000 art collectors reside; it is where Text Zur Kunzt is published and numerous art magazines are published – that is – except for those that have decamped for Berlin. It is a complete artistic universe, from bookstores to massive artist studios.
The Ludwigs both held full German doctor’s degrees in art history, and opened 13 different modern and contemporary museums in Western Europe. Although Cologne looks like an Ugly American city, it is not; it was the intellectual and artistic center of Western Europe. It is where the early 1980’s wave of German painters held sway – Immendorf, Kiefer, Richter, Baselitz, all who showed immense canvases on West Broadway in Soho. When one attends an art opening in Cologne, it is to attend the height of German fashion exhibition too.
Now Kiefer and Richter are riding most high, with Kiefer just having had a stunning retrospective at the Royal Academy in London, and will follow-up with one from his personal collection this December in Miami in the private collection space owned by the Margulies. My partner and I saw the absolute blowout Kiefer show at the R.A., which is modeled after the French Academy. Inside on the walls of the R.A. London – up high, are representational sculptures of Leonardo, Michelangelo, and so on – you get the picture. What is transmitted as well is the former relationship between state power and culture production.
As for Richter, whose stellar retrospective I also saw in London, but at the Tate Modern, just a few years ago, his market has reached over $1.2 billion in the past five years alone. As I’ve pointed out before, Richter invented a style he called Capitalist Realism while he was a student at the Dusseldorf Academy. He worked as a photorealist painter, and sold his works for not much. At one point he said he felt that he had painted himself into a corner by working against the International Style – Abstraction. He was at one point challenged to produce major abstract works, and did just that. It is this work that is his most luxurious, most commanding, rewarding, visceral, powerful.
Last, Anselm Kiefer lives in a castle. He has a driver; he dresses in 19th century landed gentry garb. The Dusseldorf Art Academy is the school which we used to look upon and dream – where artists were made to make their own paint, paint box, brushes, and every tool of the artist, taught by the giants of the German art scene. That historic and rigorous skill set training has not entered the LA art academy program, but its power to produce artists has indeed.
By the way, the New Objectivity exhibition of German art has come to LACMA, enjoy. Across the street from the Met is a similar exhibition at the Neu gallery. It’s my understanding that the son of one of German’s most prominent collectors is building a loan collection to be lent long term to LACMA; it will be composed of about a dozen artists – all men of European blood, all towering figures LA and German contemporary art.
There are recently created documentary films of both Kiefer and Richter working in their studios. Kiefer works in France, in an abandoned 300,000 sq. ft. department store that is his studio. His paint materials are mined from the French soil by a team of professionals, who then turn this into materials for making paintings.
In this context, is most rewarding to see the paintings by African Diaspora artist rise into the major gallery spaces and sell for immodest pricing, from MacArthur Binion, Jack Whitten, Ed Clark, and many more.
What is still not happening (and believe me I am looking) is the recuperation of Black Women Artists of the same generation as Barkley Hendricks, or Sam Gilliam, or whomever is in this class of black artists who experienced 40-50 year career delays.
9:56AM 11.2015 UPDATE
I’ve said this before – that LA, et al is part of the re-formation of the 20th century Paris/German art world and its economic and cultural benefactors Picasso & Matisse et. al. v . Duchamp et al. in legal terms, this re-emergent artworld decimated by WWII has been re-calibrated and reborn, by an unknown multiplier that dwarfs all past histories. No more selling a painting for a dozen eggs or a flash of the Parisian skirt now naked – who is also an artist that pays a male artist’s benefactors bill for an extravaganza of drinking and meals with all your male artistic world friends. Today, as in centuries past, many artists and other creatives and collectors, whose family became rich from slavery also take part now in this artistic paradise game, pay attention especially European collectors whose nation was major in the slave trade. Did I forget to mention the artworld universe that is enabled ana re0-enabled and thrives by and is paid for in advance by the rewards of 400 years of American slavery? This is what is called a “Trust Fund”.
“Keep a watchful eye” on the collectors in Brussels, the city that stripped the Congo of its material resources for the West to build its spectacular core buildings and its Royal Congo Museum. Brussels is the home of Magritte and more importantly, the creator of institutional critique at the genius level, not the ignorant peasant complainer level, Marcel Broodthaers, whose 2016 MoMA retrospective is being worshiped even before it is here. Brussels created Art Deco from raping the Congo. The wood in living Brussels buildings is from the Congo. Note that Broodthaers is my hero as he destroyed the equivalent of ARTFORUM through his arguments with them. That’s all I will say for now.
Colored/Negro/Black/Africa-American Artists – please read how Thomas McEvilley crushed MoMA’s utopia argument re how Modernism was created, in his several texts, the lead of which were letters and responses published in ARTFORUM. THIS LATER BECAME BOOKS. You already know how ELVIS rode the backs of Negro musical achievement to create his ART; MOMA’s 1984 PRIMITIVISM exhibition is the same ASTRONOMICAL gigantic lie.
10:27AM 11.1.2015 UPDATE
The Met acknowledges this in its current landmark “Kongo” exhibition. What it does not say but knows is that the raw materials from the Kongo were used to created Art Deco Art, based upon defamed Kongo imagery and Kongo raw materials. It also does not say that key elemental objects in the history of 20th century Modernism were created using Belgian atrocity Kongo Copal resin in its paintings; this is my research project on this material and its use that I presented in 2014 in Chicago. This Copal was thought to be the centuries sought missing element that was used by Jan Van Eyck to create paintings that looked like you were looking through water. A Polish aristocrat NY society painter named Frederick Taubes, who worked with U. Ill. chemists and Belgian National Laboratories, created the visionary version of this most sought after material in the early 1940’s. Taubes has 27 paintings in the Met. He was the most highly regarded representational painter of the European tradition of his time in NYC. Through my research, I am of the belief that not only Picasso and Pollock, and Le Corbusier, but untold numbers of other artists used Belgian Congo Copal resin in their painting materials, (from the late 19th century to at least 1970) as it was scientifically considered by paint chemists to be the super product of the age, due to its hardness and glass-like quality. Its primary use was in commercial house paint as it was a superior binder. The Getty held a symposium on its use. It was used in linoleum. It was used in mid century LP records. It was used in Konk hair cream. It was used premier art supplies in Europe and America. I have patent documentation of the major American corporations that used it. If you were an unaware Colored/Negro in say 1950/1960, your floor was covered in this linoleum; it was in your hair, and was in the paint on your walls, it ws in uyour LP’s; and it was the standard material used in the US and Britain for the first half of the 20th century. You were literally living and breathing and dancing through the biochemistry of the Kongo experience. MoMA is fully aware of this use; so is the Met and the Getty, and the Art Institute of Chicago; but there is no statement or research being done to show that Belgian Congo Copal painting resin is at the core of the creation of MODERNISM, just as the Art from the Congo is core to the Met’s collection. Picasso used this upscale house paint called Ripolin. I contacted several sources who said that Yes, it’s most likely that the premier house paint in France also used the premier resin – that from the Belgian controlled and defiled Congo. Note that over ten million Congo people were murdered by Belgium so that it could have wealth similar to the other European nations that committed similar atrocities. Congo Copal resin was most prized. In the 1940’s the NYTimes reported it selling at 60,000 bottles a year. Note that when the Congo attempted to free itself from Belgian rule, its first president was murdered by USA/British and Belgian rule.
Currently, the most historic art supply stores and Colour Men (the precursor to what we call art supply stores – which still exist in Europe) still sell Congo copal painting medium. This includes Sennilier, the most famed artist supply store in ART HISTORY – located directly across from the Louvre, which created the oil stick for Picasso, and sold to Van Gogh, et. al. A creative friend of mines in Europe made me aware of this. LeFranc & Bourgeoise in Paris (now LeFranc & Cie also see this product.) I also uncovered this use by Grumbacher – and confronted their paint chemist and publicity department. Grumbacher took over the manufacture of Congo Copal resin paint.
Pay attention: Belgian Congo Copal Painting Resin was the most opulent artist material of its time. This was 1890-1970 at a minimum. Several other major American art supply stores used this resin and knew how it was sourced, including the F.W. Weber art supply company that started in the 19th century in Philadelphia. The papers of Weber are in the Getty Research Institute’s collection. Both Taubes and his counterpart and adversary Ralph Mayers were primary in teaching artists how to use the best art materials of the period. Yale holds the papers and research materials of Ralph Mayers. Both Mayers and Taubes were well aware that the Belgian Congo – which used horrific means of 20th century slavery to extract raw the raw materials that created Belgium’s weath. If you look at photographs of the art supplies of the period you will see they are from the Belgian Congo. This is part of my research. American Artist Magazine was the primary information provider of artist materials use and research.