Working in an art museum allows me to plumb the depths of the collection in a way that would be difficult, if not impractical, for most visitors. While we certainly encourage visitors to pursue their own academic interests arising from what they’ve seen (the Barnes’ art library is free and open to the public during business hours), sometimes the artwork Dr. Barnes collected is fascinating for the stories behind it, rather than the work’s formal qualities. Such is the case with a painting that can be seen in Gallery 23, by Tilly Losch. It’s a fun story to tell, and I’ve chosen to turn it into a Prezi presentation which you can view below.
This is a rough draft— the real story is so much more detailed than appropriate for a short Prezi— and I haven’t yet drawn up the bibliography which I intend to do, but art geeks should get a kick out of this.
Best watched in full screen mode. Advance at your own pace by using your keyboard’s arrow keys, or the onscreen arrows.
Woo hoo! Only four more days to go! How’s your own de-cluttering going?
Jon Held, Jr. was something of a big-shot in the mail art world. It was just a coincidence that he lived in the same city I did. It’s interesting to note that Duchamp became one of my favorite figures in Art History, and I now live in Philadelphia, where many of Duchamp’s most famous pieces reside (including his Large Glass, which can be seen in the stamps Jon sent me.)
For a short time before I was known as The Lava Guy, my mail art pseudonym was “Mister X”. Continue reading
Object for imagining, 1997. Found object of weathered wood, iron, plastic. 1997
While living in Scotland on the coast of the North Sea, I often collected pieces of weathered driftwood like this. Many of them were incorporated into small boxes, and sculptures a lá Joseph Cornell (1903-1972) whose work I admire. Unfortunately, none of those assemblages survive, as I was not able to ship them home with me. This is the only piece small enough to return with me.
Creation and Destruction
I love origin stories. Genesis. Adam and Eve. The Big Bang. The Epic of Gilgamesh. Frankenstein. This is the Lavaguy origin story.
I’ve had the nickname of “the Lavaguy” for over 25 years now. I used to get asked questions about the origin of the nickname so frequently, that I had some cards printed up (circa 1993):
More stuff from the filing cabinet. I’m beginning to view that filing cabinet as a black hole that sucks in every bit of paper that gets too near it.
circa Spring, 1996
Exquisite Corpse is a drawing game invented by the Dadaists, in which a piece of paper is folded into thirds. Each artist is tasked to draw one third of a figure without looking at what the others have drawn. It’s one of my favorite things to do in small groups or at parties.
This is one I participated in (I did the bottom third), while I was in The Netherlands in the first half of 1996. The other two artists were: Erika Atwood (American, top third), and Richard van der Berg (Dutch/New Zealander, middle third).
I have no idea what the context of this drawing was, but the three of us were thick as thieves for those few months together. There was always drinking and eating and drawing and painting (and much more than I can write about here) going on around us. Erika and I shared a studio, and Richard and I shared a flat together.
Back in the late eighties and early nineties, I experimented with a form of art that I never defined: it was part performance, part social activism, and very under-the-radar. The format was simple: I emulated government forms, with all their blanks and checkboxes for choices that didn’t seem relevant to me. This was way before Facebook, eHarmony, or any other online social network or dating site/app. They were meant to be funny, with tongue firmly planted in cheek. I must say, most people didn’t get the joke. Once in a while someone would take it seriously (as art) and think it was something kindof ground-breaking… but mostly I just got blank stares from people.