**** ‘Agnes Martin’ at Tate Modern, London

Agnes Martin, Happy Holiday, 1999, Tate / National Galleries of Scotland, © estate of Agnes Martin.

I recently wrote a short article about the relationships between female artists, museums and audience numbers, in which I discussed how the public are statistically unbiased towards men; unlike many western museums. Audiences actually want to see the fearless art created by women who are unafraid to challenge traditions in a historically masculine field. But not all of these female artists are, or were, as publicly exposed as the likes of Marina Abramović and Tracey Emin. Agnes Martin, for example, embraced a solitary life, but her work still had a significant impact on other artists. Her summer retrospective at the Tate Modern explores the full breadth of her career, from the early naturalistic landscapes to the uniform abstract canvases she became most famous for.

Agnes Martin, Untitled, 1977, watercolour and graphite on paper, 22.9 x 22.9 cm, Private Collection. Photograph courtesy of Pace Gallery, © 2015 Agnes Martin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Martin’s experimental work in New York is particularly interesting. Burning Tree, with its metal-tipped prong-like branches, is one of a number of sculptural pieces inspired by nature. It’s certainly not something I expected from an artist so fixated on grids and linework, but then geometry and symmetry seem to dominate Martin’s forms even with they are based on organic objects. I also did not anticipate such a warm atmosphere throughout the exhibition, and by that, I mean that I expected such minimalist canvases to lack much of an emotive impact. Some parts of the show did seem rather cold and unfeeling - the 12 near-identical white panels known as The Islands, for instance - but Martin’s delicate use of luminous colour and subtle alterations between works in a series are surprisingly calming.

I should also mention the concept of a retrospective within a retrospective, which becomes apparent in a room filled with drawings executed between 1952 and 2004, the year of Martin’s death. It’s a lot to take in one go, but if you’re interested in the development of an artist’s style over time, then this is a fascinating inclusion.

Agnes Martin, Untitled #1, 2003, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, © 2015 Agnes Martin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Agnes Martin, On a Clear Day, 1973, Parasol Press, Ltd. © 2015 Agnes Martin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Throughout the galleries, the exhibition narration connects Martin’s artistic position to her personal state of mind at the time. She suffered from schizophrenia as an adult, and her obsession with the perfect composition often meant that she destroyed her own works if they did not entirely satisfy. I can see how these associations might distract from Martin’s natural talent, but I see no problem in mentioning these backgrounds if they allow the visitor to understand the artist’s thought processes and feel more connected to the work itself. As someone who often struggles with abstract minimalism, I certainly found myself seeing everything a little more clearly. And who is going to argue with that?

Rating: **** - These simple works feel entirely different in the flesh and I’m ashamed to have left it so long after the exhibition opening to visit.

‘Agnes Martin’ is on at Tate Modern until 11th October 2015. All images are courtesy of the Tate.

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10

City Museum: A 10-Story Former Shoe Factory Transformed into a Massive Urban Playground

The 600,000 square-foot urban playground, City Museum, in St. Louis is probably the largest park of its kind anywhere. A former 10-story international shoe factory was constructed by artist and sculptor Bob Cassilly

The jungly gym contains 10-story slides, multiple floor slides, a rooftop Ferris wheel, restaurants, ball pits, an aquarium and the use of repurposed airplanes, among many other unbelievable features, which are perpetually under construction. If you are planning a last summer trip, this is the best bet for your kids! 

Rauner: Don’t Close the Illinois State Museums -- seriously.

Hey, so, taking a break from my vacation because this can’t wait:

In order to save the state some money, Governor Bruce Rauner of Illinois has proposed to axe the Illinois State Museums; 6 institutions which represent the natural history, art, and culture of our state. This would permanently close the exhibits and neglect more than the 13.5 million accessioned objects in collections.

For one, this is not at all a wise financial move: out of the $4 billion shortfall, the $6.29 million operating budget of the museum systems accounts for about 0.15% of the total budget - and the negative implications would far exceed that drop in the budget, reflected in significant declines in tourism, education, and access to research and collections.

Closing a natural history museum (or any collections-based institution) is not as simple as shutting the door and walking away. Our state has far-reaching legal and moral obligations to maintain and use those objects and specimens entrusted to us in perpetuity. Rauner clearly does not understand the severe consequences in his want to shave a little off the top – it’ll come at the cost of the history and physical knowledge of this state. The research conducted from the ISM systems impacts communities all around the U.S.. We ought to remember the borders of our state are political, not geological. If the closure goes ahead and we shutter our public museums, it could set a precedent for how local legislatures regard other state museums – and that would be catastrophic.

Here’s what you can do to help:

  • If you’re in Illinois or around Springfield, attend the public hearing next Monday, July 13th, and stand in opposition of the closures.
  • Submit public comments to the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability. You ought to do this before the July 13th hearing, but submissions are valid until July 23rd. 
    • A SUGGESTED FORMAT (you can adapt as needed) for your email
      (or letter to mail):
      ______________________________________
      The Honorable Bruce Rauner, Governor
      State of Illinois
      207 State House
      Springfield, Illinois 62706

      Dear Governor Rauner,

      As a [SCIENTIST, EDUCATOR, STUDENT, MEMBER OF THE PUBLIC], I am deeply concerned about the proposed closure of the Illinois State Museum System.  The ISM System is an internationally recognized museum with a strong reputation for scientific excellence (active federal research grants, globally recognized staff) and reliable curation of scientific, cultural and historical objects (13.5 million accessioned objects) of state, national and global importance.
      The ISM System has a demonstrated track record of public outreach and education (in 2014, over 40,000 schoolchildren visited the ISM and 2300 teachers were helped), including STEM education, for the citizens of Illinois.  Surely the people of Illinois should not be cut off from so valuable an institution formed for the common good, the preservation of their heritage, and the education of their children for future success in a modern society.  Please consider the societal services provided by this modern, significant, and high visibility museum system, and save the ISM for the people of Illinois.

                                                                            Sincerely,
  • Sign the petition and join more than 8,900 people who support the continued operation of these museums.

Please help me spread the word. This is a time when natural history collections need everyone’s help and public support, regardless if you live in our state. I would really appreciate it.

Thank you,
Emily

2

E M P T Y  M U S E U M S

a playlist for wandering in the museums at night, or early morning, when nobody is there but you and the traces of long-dead artists. Sneeking into closed palaces in southern Italy; sleepovers at the Louvre; hiding from museum guardians at midnight; the sound of your steps in the sacred silence of royal halls. Lost in a place where different times almost touch, just you and your friends in an empty temple of art. | listen | 8tracks

requested by patrokhlus

3

‘A recent expedition to the Talkeetna Mountains by the alaskamuseum has uncovered a new marine reptile fossil from the Age of Dinosaurs known as an elasmosaur.Earth sciences curator Patrick Druckenmiller said elasmosaurs are a type of plesiosaur with extremely long necks and two pairs of paddle-like limbs used to swim under water. They lived during the Late Cretaceous period about 70 million years ago. “Picture the mythical Loch Ness monster and you have a pretty good idea what it looked like. This is an exciting find because it is the first time an elasmosaur has ever been discovered in Alaska.”’ [X]

7

Cracking the (hyena) case

Last week while I was at VidCon our exhibitions and conservation teams opened up the Hyena Diorama for the first time in over a century! This was an exploratory glance at the specimens’ overall condition, and gave our exhibitions staff a better understanding of how the hyenas are mounted and configured within the space. They also found a can of carbon disulfide (spelled disulphide on the container), which was originally included as an insecticide. 

Stay tuned for more! :D 

Photos by Tom McNamara

Thomas Eakins created this masterpiece specifically for Philadelphia’s 1876 Centennial Exhibition, but it was rejected—perhaps because the jury deemed the subject too bloody and brutal for display in the art building. Today, it’s recognized as one of the greatest American paintings ever made. Happy birthday to the artist, born on this day in 1844.

“Portrait of Dr. Samuel D. Gross (The Gross Clinic)”, 1875, by Thomas Eakins 

Do not use Jack the Ripper to mansplain Women’s History to me. Just do not.

Museum billed as celebration of London women opens as Jack the Ripper exhibit

Oh. I see. Well, that’s…equally disappointing and infuriating.

There are lots of creative, inspiring ways to celebrate and interpret the rich history of women in all cultures. Using Jack the Ripper as a narrative lens is not one of them.

Opening a women’s history museum is a noble cultural contribution, one that requires thought and sensitivity as well as boldness and confidence. Here’s a hint, for anyone thinking about doing this: Let the women’s stories stand for themselves; they do not need to be dependent on a patriarchal historical framework. And whatever you do, do not pick the patriarchal framework of a serial killer who targeted sex workers. And even if you go so far as to make that mistake, do not give a quote to The Evening Standard that suggests the women were somehow partially at fault for their own murders. 

“Palmer-Edgecumbe told the Evening Standard that he planned to open a museum about the social history of women, but that as the project developed he decided a more interesting angle was from the perspective of the victims of Jack the Ripper. “It is absolutely not celebrating the crimes of Jack the Ripper but looking at why and how the women got in that situation in the first place,” he said.”

I don’t even know where to start with how out of touch and clueless that statement is, so I’ll just say OH HEEEEEEEEELL NO.

I feel terrible for the community that was deceived. Some places just don’t deserve to be called a museum. This is a gimmick, a tourist trap, and a cultural eyesore. I don’t know why this mouthbreathing anachronism thought this was a good idea, but it’s proof that money doesn’t equal having common sense. Or decency. Or respect for women. 

And those people deserve a kick in the shins. 

8

What is sunrise like at the Getty?

“The fog was so thick we couldn’t see the sunrise when it came at 5:47am PT. There was no gong, no fanfare. Many of us were oblivious, engrossed in conversations with old friends or new acquaintances, awkwardly touching each other as per Ono’s instructions, or contemplating the obscured landscape. I looked at my companions, asking them “Was that it? Did we miss it?” That was it, but we hadn’t missed it at all.

Piece by hyperallergic‘s Matt Stromberg. Read in full here.