Too Close for Comfort


Memorial to a Marriage – Patricia Cronin and Deb Kass.
Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian’s National Portraits Gallery.

Sometimes you go to a museum to see one thing, and bump into another entirely unexpectedly.

A few months ago I went to see the recently unveiled Obama portraits at the National Portrait Gallery. It has become NPG’s practice that presidential portraits join their counterparts on the second floor, while the portrait of a first lady enters the hall of recent acquisitions. Just beyond the queue to see Amy Sherald’s painted portrait of Michelle Obama was another work of significance, lying in state: Memorial to a Marriage, by Patricia Cronin. The work depicts Cronin and her wife, artist Deborah Kass, nude on a bed, tastefully shrouded by a sheet. They rest in an embrace, Kass’s head nuzzled against Cronin’s neck, their toes touching. Continue reading

The Missing Archive of Yuri Schwebler


Installing “Magnetic North,” c 1970-71. Image Courtesy Rory Connell

Now that it is winter, and the east coast of the U.S. is likely bracing for another portmanteau of snow, we’ll take a moment to recall the time the Washington Monument was turned into a sundial.

Featured briefly on the CBS Evening News on Monday, February 11, 1974, sculptor Yuri Schwebler, visibly cold, stands by and somewhat awkwardly discuses his motivation to ray lines away from the base of the Washington Monument to transform it into a sun dial. As his response ranges from articulate to school-boy giddy, it’s clear his motivation is sincere: sincere-enough that in 1971 he filed a permit with the National Park Service and waited three years before the snow was just the right depth to make the work. Continue reading

Reestablishing Rockne


The Miami Line in 1987 photo by RK

“I got to spend a lot of time on roof tops with my dad,” says Heather Krebs. She recalls a postcard from her father, dated 1974, telling her the laser piece they worked on had been turned on. She laughs. “I was five.”

Rockne Krebs, the father of laser art, got rooftop access to some atypical locations for his installations—The Kennedy Center, Lincoln Memorial, parts of Disney Land—and often took his daughter.  “It was sort of like having this backstage pass….hanging out in these areas and looking over the scenery and the laser sculpture from views that few would see,” she remembers. Continue reading

Drawn to Puryear

Martin Puryear Sculpture

Martin Puryear, Vessel, 1997–2002, eastern white pine, mesh, and tar, Courtesy of the artist. © Martin Puryear, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery

On the subject of his printmaking, Martin Puryear told Art 21 that he tries to “make work that’s about the idea in the sculpture without making a picture of the sculpture.” It’s an aspiration that resonates throughout his exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum: the first major traveling museum exhibition that positions his sculpture in direct relationship with his printmaking, as well as his drawings and drawing process. Continue reading

Change Up Artist

Robert Irwin Sculpture

Square the Circle, 2015–16. Fabric and wood. Installation view of site-conditioned work in Robert Irwin: All the Rules Will Change, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, 2016. © 2016 Robert Irwin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo © 2016 Philipp Scholz Rittermann

Since April 7, the Hirshhorn has been hosting “All The Rules Will Change.” It’s the first Robert Irwin survey outside of California since 1977, and as such only features work made between 1958 and 1970—with exceptions to a couple of installations designed for the exhibition.

The title of the exhibition has several reads. One is a tidy summary of Irwin’s process for art-making: transitioning away from painting to the optical and transformative play of his discs, columns, and later scrims. Another read encapsulates a personal response to looking at his work, and art in general: despite its minimalism, his work is muscular and will force most viewers to change how they see and engage art.  Continue reading

Of Guise and Dolls: a conversation with Melissa Ichiuji

Stripped. Photo courtesy of the artist.

As we spoke about a class she was teaching, and of past events, Melissa Ichiuji toyed with a knife and wasp’s nest. “I am restoring a piece that has to go back to Belgium. It had a wasp nest inside.” The nest wasn’t an infestation: it was a part of Kissie Kissie, a figurative doll that rests on its shins. Leaning forward somewhat seductively, arms arched back, the anatomy of its face had been replaced entirely by the hexagonal weaving of a hoard of wasps. She holds up the replacement nest she’ll use to fix the sculpture. “It’s gorgeous, right?” Continue reading