Jonathan Griffin

Criticism and essays on art and culture

Tag: Nicole Eisenman

Carnegie International 2013

Carnegie Museum of Art, PittsburghCI130362_swords

“You can’t bring culture to people, you can only bring it out of them.” That’s Robert Rauschenberg, in a 1968 manifesto titled “Proposals for Public Parks” which the curators of the 2013 Carnegie International—Daniel Baumann, Dan Byers, and Tina Kukielski—have reprinted in the catalog for their exhibition. Rauschenberg’s assertion poses a ticklish problem for the trio, whose assigned mission it has been (as first mandated by Andrew Carnegie in 1895) to bring culture to the people of Pittsburgh. Invigorated by Rauschenberg’s paradox, they have installed an edition of the Carnegie International (last held in 2008) that is both deeply rooted in its historical and geographical situation, and expansive in its purview. Artists from Switzerland and England lure visitors into the museum with eye-catching outdoor sculptures while, inside, the first work one encounters is by Polish artist Paulina Olowska, who has borrowed a collection of puppets from a Pittsburgh theater. Elsewhere, art from New York, Tehran, Zagreb, and Johannesburg seeks to connect the far-flung with the close at hand. And—notwithstanding the peripatetic art crowd that descended on Pittsburgh for the exhibition’s gala opening—it is the local audience that the 2013 Carnegie International seems designed to address. Read the rest of this entry »

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On the Grotesque

Basil Wolverton, Heap, 1955
© The Wolverton Estate. Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York

The grotesque got its name by mistake. When, one day in fifteenth-century Rome, a young man fell into a hole in a hillside, he assumed he’d discovered a Roman grotto. He fetched a lantern and found wild frescoes over the grotto’s walls: half-human, half animal figures, with legs and arms transforming into curling vines or ornamental volutes. In fact, he had stumbled upon Nero’s buried Villa Aurea, the raised floor level giving the rooms a grotto-like appearance. Nevertheless, the term “grotteschi” stuck as a label for this newly discovered style that radically dissented from the classical restraint to which the Renaissance had hitherto adhered. Read the rest of this entry »