N O T   for  Y O U R   E Y E S

Detail of  Milan Cathedral's ˙1386~1965˙ roof

[2016: 04: 22] "What is important for these figures is that they are present, not that they are seen. The elk depicted by Stone Age man on the walls of his cave is an instrument of magic, and is exhibited to others only coincidentally; what matters is that the spirits see it. Cult value even tends to keep the artwork out of sight: certain statues of the gods are accessible only to the priest in the cella; certain images of the Madonna remain covered nearly all year round; certain sculptures on Medieval cathedrals are not visible to the viewer at ground level. With the emancipation of specific artistic practices from the service of ritual, the opportunities for exhibiting their products increase", Walter Benjamin said. How interesting then, in the Age of Mechanical Reproducibility, that some works still find their way into hiding.
       Maybe Benjamin had something like the above in mind as he wrote. It would appear (at least to my untrained eye) that what we're actually seeing is a separate church on top of the church. And, although the commoner might not have once been able to enjoy the roof's splendor, I bet the eyes of God smiled down on its lightness. Now, differently, images of Milan Cathedral's roof are to be found proudly displayed from a variety of corners, and visitors may access the roof for a fee. What was once enjoyed by God alone is now within the grasp of any pilgrim rich enough to pay the gatekeeper. What are we to make of the Whitney Museum's bashful concealment of Richard Prince's Spiritual America, then?

The concealment of Richard Prince's Spiritual America
The Whitney Museum of American Art as of ˙2016: 06: 06˙

Spiritual America is so valuable that we're not allowed to look at it. The work is not on view, only a grey ex and the title. Art that went once unseen is seen, and art now meant to be seen isn't: the roof wasn't made for your eyes, but now it is on view, while Spiritual America and it's source photo ~ Garry Gross's photo of Brooke Shields for Sugar and Spice Magazine ~ was, although not anymore.

A   N O T E   on   B E D R O O M   P A I N T I N G S

David Reed always aspired to make a bedroom painting, Danto told us in the first pages of After the End of Art. That is, a painting strung so personally to the patron that they might eventually remove it from the main space of their household so that it retreat to the more intimate confines of the patron's bedroomThat's what Reed was going for with this:

Installation view of Two Bedrooms in San Francisco
David Reed ˙1992˙

We can see that the work is not actually a bedroom painting because it's on public display; it is however the aspiration towards one, and a particular bedroom: Kim Novak as Madeleine Elster and Judy Barton in Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo. I like it because it seems like a good thing to use art for. Reed was obsessed with Vertigo and Novak since boyhood (if Reed saw Vertigo at it's initial release, he was about twelve years~old). Were there any bedroom he'd want to have his painting in, it would be Elster~Barton's, but since she is a fictional character from Hitchcock's masterpiece, that was not strictly possible. Childhood fantasy could have him recreate her bedroom and place his painting over her bed, however; it could also allow him to switch his painting out for the one that originally appears in the film:

Comparison of the original still from Vertigo
And Reed's modification for Two Bedrooms in San Francisco

I'm jealous that Reed got so close. No one ever wanted to hang my work up in their bedroom. I have recently wanted to hang another's in mine, though. It was a simple drawing of a flowery bush with a few remarks about their station in the wheel of the year by a painter named Andrew Birk. There were a few more notes in the grass. I've never really wanted a work of art like I wanted this one. I've encountered series of works that I loved and aspired to own in their entirety, but could hardly afford one. And that would be all well ~ to buy one would be to subtract from the totality, like pulling a chapter from a book, in which case I'd be only a ruiner of good things [1]. That was until recently, when I saw the note underneath all the green. Suddenly, just this one moment that made it different from the rest. When I saw the drawing I followed it where it went, and imagined doing that every day ~ for the rest of my life ~ in the thirty seconds between falling and getting ahold of Birk. Then he told me it had already sold by mail to an American artist living in Vienna. Now I wonder if I'll ever recover.
       So, that's a bedroom painting. The Whitney's purpose in veiling Spiritual America is not to bring it to the bedroom, though, but to keep it out of other people's.

I've done this more than once.

S P I R I T U A L   A M E R I C A

Before ˙1983˙, Spiritual America was a castrated horse:

Spiritual America
Alfred Stieglitz ˙1923˙

After ˙1983˙, it became new again.
       It's hard to find work of Gary Gross's that aren't nudes of Brooke Shields at the age of ten, published in mass ˙1973˙ for a division of Playboy. He was apparently a fashion photographer of some repute who worked for big names like Cosmopolitan and Calvin Klein. His career ended with a series of dog portraits from the Aughts. Here is one such notable portrait (which is to say, the one they have on Wikipedia):

Gary Gross ˙2004˙

"The images portray Shields nude, standing and sitting in a bathtub, wearing makeup and covered in oil," Wikipedia says.
       A ˙US˙ federal court ruled in ˙1981˙ that the image was not pornography, nor did Shields have rights to the photograph, as it was her mother who signed for consent and usage of her likeness.
       Richard Prince photographically reproduced one image of Shields two years later from an original Gross print, titling it "Spiritual America", after Stieglitz who had eight decades earlier. It was part of a trajectory set some years earlier by Prince's Cowboys, which are also photographic reproductions (of photographs).

Comparison of original Marlboro advertisement
And Prince's Cowboy ˙1989˙

In ˙2009˙, the Tate removed Spiritual America from an exhibition after protesters described it as "a magnet for pedophiles".
       The work is valued by one very particular and slim class of individuals for erotic purposes ~ namely, pedophiles; it is simultaneously valued by another very particular and slim class of individuals ~ namely, art people ~ for what purpose? How does the value differ between one class and the other?
       At first site, Spritual America and Gary Gross's picture of Shields are one in the same: they're both flat, two~dimensional representations of Brook Shields in her youth. The pedophile who might be interested in this photo's interest is in what it looks like. There's no difference in the appearance, so a pedophile could use the mass~produced Gross picture and the unique Prince picture in much the same way, albeit that the Gross picture has the following advantages for people trying to access it for pornographic purposes: there's more than one, so it is easier to access and costs less; it can also be accessed privately should one buy it, whereas one may only see Spiritual America in public. There's also reproductions of these pictures available that pedophiles can get at for free and privately. Art people treat the two differently, though ~ they cannot use the two pictures in the same wayIf the Gross picture were somehow made unavailable, the Prince picture would stand in fine for the pedophile. The Gross photo is just porn to them (as pedophiles),* not artBut, if the Prince picture were somehow damaged, the art person would not (as art person)* buy a print of Sugar and Spice and use the Gross photo as a stand in. The same object is at once porn and not, depending on who's looking at it and what their purpose is. We can heighten the distinction with the Cowboy above: if the art person wanted to value it as porn, it would not be possible in any popular sense of the word "porn", because it is not a representation of private parts or private behaviors, like sex; yet, it does have some value. The Cowboy and Spiritual have in common that they are both photographic reproductions made by Prince for complex, artistic purposes. They look different, yet are treated the same by art people. Meanwhile, the two photos of Shields look the same, yet are treated differently by pedophiles. Hmm…

Any art person could also be a pedophile, as any pedophile could also like art.

K I N E S I S   and   S T A S I S


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