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Choque Photos, from the Pixação SP series.


By Deanna Sirlin
The Art Section

The best part for me about TAS is that artists and writers continually bring new discoveries to my attention. I am delighted to know and present work of Brazilian photographer Choque; I first saw his photographs when researching images for an article by Christina Roiter, our writer from Rio, who reported on the São Paulo Bienal [see Vol III, No. 1 (January 2009) "Pichação at the São Paulo Bienal: Art or Crime?"]. Both artist and documentarian, Choque has generously allowed us to reproduce his gorgeous images here. There is something about the golden light and sensation of triumph, both visual and physical, in these works that I find exalting. In one of those treasured moment of synchronicity, Michael Klein asked if I was interested in his writing about the retrospective devoted to Sol Lewitt's wall drawings at MASS MoCA. The parallels between the Brazillian graffiti artists Choque documents and Lewitt's wall drawings, in terms of both their use of scale and the desire for community their work reflects, could not please me more.

On a different note, Robert Stalker has written about the films of Joseph Cornell. Although I am a fan of this artist of Utopia Parkway [a real place in Queens, New York where the artist lived], I did not know of his films. Stalker's profound insights into Cornell’s film work have many current parallels in the ways many video artists work by replacing sound and using found footage. But most interesting to me is the way Cornell translated his sensibility from one medium to another, from the boxed assemblages for which he is best known to film. Still more exciting than that is the way color has a voice here at TAS this month--the blue of the Cornell’s film still, the gold in Choque's photographs, and the intensity of Lewitt's color. Ah . . . good competition for Spring!

All my best,




To see a timelapse film of the installation of Sol LeWitt's wall drawings, cliick on the image above.
Windows users may need to download Quicktime for Windows here.
Courtesy of MASS MoCA.

Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective


by Michael Klein

Long after the last hands were outlined on the walls of Lascaux and the frescoes had dried into the walls of the various palaces of renaissance Florence, Sol LeWitt began a contemporary enterprise in words and ideas that would shape a lifetime of art in the 20th century. To manifest his ideas, he invented a unique body of work called wall drawings. LeWitt prepared studies and instructions for these works; initially, he painted them directly onto walls, assisted by other artists and students. In later years, the drawings were often executed by others following his instructions.

During the summer of 2008, a group of us on a retreat in Williamstown, MA had the opportunity to view MASS MoCA's monumental retrospective of LeWitt's wall drawings from 1969 to 2007 in neighboring North Adams as a show in progress. It opened in November of 2008 and will remain on view until 2033, a twenty-five year exhibition! The group I was with was guided by wall after wall to see the forthcoming show in various stages of being drawn and painted by a team of sixty-five artists and students. Fascinated by the enormity of the task at hand, we were also intrigued to peer into a supply closet filled with boxes of blue tape, paints, chalk, pencils, rags and drop clothes--an artist’s dream of seemingly unlimited supplies ready at hand. Each individual wall, or section, was the domain of a small group of artists, volunteers, and students from the local colleges such as Yale and Williams who are the co-sponsors of the exhibition/installation extravaganza. Tacked to the wall or taped to work tables were notes, plans, and diagrams. Their daily progress was revealed in personal notes, sketches, and comments left around as a reminder to those of us who got to sneak a peak at the work under way that this show was to be the culmination of enormous energy, planning, and devotion (LeWitt himself participated in its planning prior to his death in 2007).

Model for LeWitt Wall Drawing Retrospective. Courtesy: MASS MoCA.

I was a graduate student in art history at Williams three decades ago, a time when there were limits to the number of Jews or Blacks admitted each year, gay was a lyric in a Cole Porter song, and contemporary art was certainly not a subject deemed worthy of discussion, let alone a full semester's course, despite the fact that the Williams College Museum of Art had hosted a major retrospective of Jackson Pollock's paintings, organized by Clement Greenberg, in 1952. It is personally rewarding to see such a phenomenally orchestrated and powerful show now at MASS MoCA, a few miles east of the college, and remarkable that the museum dedicated its wall space, re-furbished an old building, and collaborated on such a project in this day and age of "we need a blockbuster to stay alive." The project, therefore, is not only a nod to the ideal of the museum as a place to view and think about art, but equally a nod to the museum as an important classroom for young and old alike. While MASS MoCA has functioned for some time as a laboratory for experimental programs, this classy retrospective of 105 works actually allows visitors to the Berkshires an opportunity to visit and revisit the show over time.

LeWitt’s concept for the wall drawing was simple: a hand drawn plan executed on the wall following the instructions prepared in advance in a diagram. Yet the operational mechanics and execution of these temporal works were fundamental to the movement and beliefs of a generation of minimal and conceptual artists. "The world had too many objects," so why not eliminate the need for an intermediary support, such as paper or canvas, and work directly on the wall? To that end, LeWitt wrote in Arts Magazine in 1970, "I want to do a work of art that is as two dimensional as possible." To this he added, "The physical properties of the wall: height, length, color, material and architectural conditions and intrusions, are a necessary part of the wall drawings."

A wall drawing is just that, a figure of forms, words and instructions drawn out on the wall. Where the wall might be, public arena or living room, didn’t matter: the wall drawing is a democratic form of art that fits the place and space to which it is assigned.

Like many of his generation, LeWitt saw a way to integrate art within architecture, thus suggesting its utter permanence. Others, like Robert Morris, may have seen this in terms of singular geometric sculptural forms; or in land art, where the landscape is the architecture (Michael Heizer); or in the use of painted shapes as the picture on the wall, as illustrated by David Novros's "portable murals," a term he used in the early 1960s to describe his relationship as a painter to architecture. For LeWitt, the wall is the support for the idea, the way a word carries the message and meaning of an idea.

The drawing's scale is defined by the wall or location. Ownership is secured by means of a signed document and related diagram. The instructions are there, and the execution depends on the arms, hands, minds, and eyes of those executing the project. LeWitt’s own teams learned the drill, of course, but the novice also interested Lewitt, the hand and mind of someone new to drawing out and filling in these often very large scale installations.

LeWitt Wall Drawing, Installation View. Courtesy: MASS MoCA.

Every time the drawing is made, the mark of the maker is apparent: thinner lines perhaps, slightly deeper colors, and other varied nuances that allow each iteration of the wall drawing to have its own character –you never step in the same river twice; ergo, you never produce a given wall drawing the same way twice, either. At the root of the work is a firm belief in the honesty of geometry and mathematics. At his best, LeWitt discovered, or perhaps the better word is uncovered, a system by which he could engineer and reengineer a seemingly endless stream of permutations of forms, linear charts, and colors, including occasional decisions to switch to black and white. What is most extraordinary about this extraordinary vision is the nearly inexhaustible range of shapes, forms, colors, and styles that LeWitt was able to derive from this simple idea. At times, the wall drawing is quite austere, in bold primary colors that energize the wall surface, while at other times it can be a sea of wavy lines, or a frenetic jumble of shapes, or precise horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines, or even, as in the last series of works before his death, a controlled pattern of scribbles. Here, LeWitt brilliantly took the idea of random doodling and transformed it into a series of renderings that exploit the qualities of black graphite on a white wall. The walls seemingly radiate light. If Barnet Newman and Clyfford Still ventured into the abyss with the scale and saturated colors of their grand Abstract Expressionist canvases, then LeWitt certainly broached the same Herculean scale with his conceptual drawings.

Does MASS MoCA's extended showing of LeWitt represent a new model for exhibitions? One hopes for other mega projects like this, devoted to the work of LeWitt and others of his generation as well as opportunities for younger artists to think big, think long, and think timeless.

The exhibition Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective will remain on view through 2033 at
MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts.


As former Curator for the Microsoft Art Collection, Michael Klein commissioned a LeWitt wall drawing for the collection in 2001. The finished work, Wall Drawing #1000, is a remarkable 20 x 50 foot work in a large cafeteria enjoyed by employees and visitors in Redmond, WA. He now operates Michael Klein Arts in New York and is an artist’s agent and private dealer.

Pixação SP

A Photo Essay

by Choque Photos

Emerging in the 1980s in São Paulo, Pixação quickly became one of the most aggressive and controversial forms of expression to date, turning its artists, the Pixadores, into one of the most marginalized social groups in the city.

Constantly in search of adrenaline, social resistance and recognition, the Pixadores enter the city center from the outskirts in order to assert their existence through bold nocturnal actions – nightly escapes from the social exclusion that weighs on their daily lives.

Seeing as Pixação declares itself as a visual challenge against elite aesthetics and also stands as a clear reflection of the city’s conflicted social context, the main objective of this photo essay is to question the social structures that drive a generation of youth to feel that their only creative outlet lies in the degradation of the urban landscape.














At 22, Choque Photos focuses his lens on contemporary social issues, particularly urban youth expression. Amidst the chaos of São Paulo, Choque sees photography as a survival tool. His greatest pleasures in life are nighttime photo shoots and a big bowl of açaí.

To see more of Choque Photos' work, click

To Email Choque Photos, click here.

Joseph Cornell in his kitchen, c. 1965. Photographer unknown. Courtesy: Private Collection.

Screen Memories:
The Cinema of Joseph Cornell

by Robert Stalker

Between 1936 and 1968, artist Joseph Cornell made approximately 28 films, some in color, some in black and white, none over twenty minutes long, and all silent but for the occasional musical soundtrack. With the possible exception of Rose Hobart (1936), Cornell’s first, these films remain virtually unknown outside of a coterie of Cornell scholars and art historians otherwise devoted mostly to the hauntingly enigmatic, small-scale “memory boxes” on which the artist’s reputation primarily rests. While the years since Cornell’s death in 1978 have seen the appearance of a full-scale biography, several monographs, and a host of important exhibitions, the increasing critical interest in his work has done little to bring a wider audience to Cornell’s films. This neglect is unfortunate, for Cornell’s films engage many of the same issues he pursued in his boxes. Indeed, Cornell’s genius as a filmmaker was to introduce into film the very same readymade or found aesthetic that governed the creation of his boxes, collages, and assemblages, a strategy so bold and prescient as to justify avant-garde filmmaker Stan Brakhage’s estimation of Cornell as “a monumental figure” in film history. And, like his box constructions, Cornell’s films touch on matters of loss and preservation, memory and desire, and raise important questions regarding the cinematic medium’s relation to time and the archive.

The issues surrounding the archive fundamentally inform Cornell’s aesthetics and working methods. In his family home in Queens, where he lived his entire adult life with his mother and brother, Cornell amassed a vast private archive—“a clearinghouse,” as he called it, “for dreams and visions . . . childhood regained”—comprised of dossiers, memorabilia, and outmoded artifacts devoted to such subjects as film stars (Garbo, Bacall, Monroe), ballerinas (Fanny Cerrito, Tamara Touvanova), popular entertainers (the singer Raquel Meller), and nineteenth-century poets (Emily Dickinson, Goethe, Hölderlin) to name but a few of the less eccentric and arcane subjects found among Cornell’s immense collections. From these archives, Cornell culled the materials that went into his box constructions. Much like Marcel Duchamp’s own “portable museum” Boite-en-Valise [Box in a Valise] (1941), which Cornell helped assemble, these small, elegant boxes function as miniature archives, housing the precisely arranged collages of old photos, trinkets, and baubles the artist collected on his haunts of second-hand stores throughout New York City. Of the hundreds of boxes Cornell created, many of them, such as Untitled (Penny Arcade Portrait of Lauren Bacall) (1944-46), Fanny Cerrito in Ondine (c.1947), Untitled [Caravaggio Boy] (c. 1950), or Untitled [Medici Princess] (c.1952-54), to name a few, explicitly strive to recover what Cornell was fond of calling “the light of other days.”

Cornell’s film work shares with his work in assemblage a fascination with memory and the recoverability of the past, discovering in film the potential to set down, as he called it in a 1946 letter to French film historian Claude Sebanne, "a record Atget-like." And, just as the sheer immensity and inscrutability of Atget’s photographic archive seems to displace commonly held ideas about originality and authorship, the "found" aesthetic that Cornell imported into his filmmaking complicates notions of individual creativity. Remarkably, not only did Cornell not shoot any of his own films, he never even learned how to work a movie camera. Instead, Cornell commissioned other directors and photographers, such as Brakhage, Rudy Burckhardt, and Larry Jordan, to shoot the sequences he later edited. Or, even more ground-breaking, he re-edited in his own idiosyncratic way “found footage,” creating highly personal film collages. It is this latter technique of manipulating existing footage—an approach to filmmaking that Cornell may have initiated—that he deployed for his first, and no doubt most famous, film, the haunting Rose Hobart.

Having purchased from a New Jersey warehouse for a ridiculously low price a print of the early grade-B “talkie” East of Borneo (1931), Cornell took the film home, eliminated the original soundtrack and dialogue, and replaced it with Nestor Amaral’s jaunty composition “Holiday in Brazil.” More radically still, he re-edited the original feature film’s running time down to approximately 19 minutes, focusing the viewer’s attention now almost exclusively on the film’s somewhat androgynous female lead, the actress Rose Hobart. Slowing the projection speed down to 16 frames per second (the standard speed for silent film) and projecting the film through a deep blue glass plate, Cornell created something of a cinematic equivalent to the homages to actresses, divas, and performers of times past in his box constructions such as Legendary Portrait of Greta Garbo [destroyed] or in his magazine article entitled “Enchanted Wanderer [excerpt for a Journey Album for Hedy Lamarr]” published in View (Dec. 1941/Jan. 1942). The film, however, raises interesting questions about just what is being archived.

From left: Stills from "Nymphlight," Rose Hobart, Legend for Fountains, "Angel."

The opening shot of a crowd gazing skyward announces one of the film's key motifs, that of vision. The film that follows, comprised mostly of close-ups of Rose Hobart, emerges as a meditation on the seductions of film stardom, dwelling on themes of distance and desire, fascination and unattainability. The actress’s closely cropped hair and masculine attire—riding gear, trench coat, mannish suit and hat—recall other androgynous actresses in Cornell’s work, while the recurring "proscenium shots" of Rose—framed in doorways or emerging from behind curtains or netting—also invite comparisons to his boxes, whose photographs of stars and performers were often placed behind glass, tiny window frames, or lattice-work. In contrast, however, to the materiality and “touchability” of the boxes (which were, after all, meant to be picked up and handled by the viewer), the projected film’s immateriality and temporal unfolding suggest that Rose Hobart attempts not to archive a tangible object but rather to preserve or arrest one of the more peculiar and evanescent experiences of cinematographic modernity—the moviegoer’s visual possession of the Hollywood star.

In addition to using found footage in Rose Hobart and other “collage films,” such as “Bookstalls” (late 1930s), “Jack’s Dream” (c. 1930s), and “Children’s Party” (c. 1938), Cornell also hired others to shoot original footage for him. Nevertheless, the graininess, abrupt cutting, and other “amateurish” touches of these films significantly give them the look of found footage. Like Rose Hobart, several of these films seem to take as their subject the archiving of fleeting aesthetic experiences. Two of the most beautiful of these, A Legend for Fountains (Cornell’s favorite of his films) and Nymphlight, both from 1957 and shot by Rudy Burkhardt, take New York City as their primary subject. Borrowing its title from a Lorca poem, A Legend for Fountains (b/w; 19 ½ min.), for example, follows Cornell’s assistant Suzanne Miller through some of Cornell’s favorite neighborhoods in Little Italy and the Lower East Side. With her trench coat and short hair, the somewhat androgynous Miller appears to function in the film as a female stand-in for Cornell, wandering the city streets, gazing in shop windows, engaged in just the kind of flanêrie that Cornell himself so often enjoyed. The recurring images of the actress walking through corridors and doorways suggests that Miller, in contrast to Rose Hobart, is not so much the aesthetic object as the subject of the aesthetic gaze. Lingering in some of Cornell’s favorite stomping grounds, Miller seems to “collect” aesthetic experiences from just the kind of banal objects and situations that inspired Cornell’s art—shop windows, birds in flight, and children at play.

Nymphlight (color; 7 ½ min.) provides an interesting counterpoint to A Legend for Fountains. Where Legend embraces urban flanêrie, Nymphlight, shot in another of Cornell’s favorite haunts, Bryant Square Park behind the New York Public Library, contemplates the urban pastoral. Shot in color, and to be accompanied according to Cornell by Claude Debussy’s “Cloches à travers les feuilles,” the film follows twelve-year old Gwen Thomas, daughter of painter Yvonne Thomas, on a leisurely stroll through the park. The opening shot of the film, a flickering glimpse through the parapets of a little stone wall of Gwen running, announces the film’s key theme: the evanescence of aesthetic experience. Dressed in a white party dress and carrying a slightly sullied and broken parasol, Gwen leisurely strolls through the park, taking in the park’s fountains, birds, and passersby. The birds in flight (one of Cornell’s major motifs) may suggest poetic transcendence or the fleetingness of aesthetic experience, while the focus on fountains (so common in Cornell’s films) may teasingly evoke Duchamp’s own Fountain (1917), the retrieval of aesthetic experience from the most unlikeliest of sources being the cornerstone of Cornell’s aesthetics.

The image of the fountain returns in “Angel” (1957; color; 3 min.), one of Cornell’s most poignant films. Dedicated, as Cornell said, to his friend, the painter Pavel Tchelichew, who had recently died, the film offers a rather moving meditation on mortality. Comprised of static shots of a statue of an angel and a fountain in a Flushing cemetery, the film’s elegant and quiet close-ups against an expanse of blue sky of the statue’s solid yet partly decaying marble brilliantly capture a sense both of the earthly and time-bound and the unworldly and eternal. The film’s stylistically innovative dissociation of moving image from moving subject (a technique Cornell also largely deploys in “Centuries of June” from the same year) anticipates by several years the daring cinematic experiments of Andy Warhol’s Sleep (1963) and Empire (1964), foregrounding duration, in contrast to movement, as cinema’s true subject.

Speaking of the difference between still photography and film, the surrealist Jean Cocteau once called attention to the fact that in film, “time courses through” the object. Cornell’s films appear particularly sensitive to this reality, exploiting the medium’s unique relation to time to construct a cinematic archive. His beautifully enigmatic films thus provide not only a provocative counterpoint to his work in assemblage but also a critical chapter in the history of American avant-garde cinema.


Robert Stalker is an Atlanta-based freelance arts writer.