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University of Michigan Museum of Art DIY Express Tour

If you are short on time (or not) allow me to streamline your experience, as I remove the chaff from the grain: 

see below map for details. 

1. Carlos the Jackel (Burhan Cahit Doğançay): The artist likes the collage and is fascinated with urban walls ("Walls are the mirror of society"). This work appears to combine the two in celebrating 

the eponymous Venezuelan terrorist, felon and bigamist. Note the image of notorious drug kingpin Nicky Barnes near the upper right corner. Why? I have no idea.

2. Judith with the head of Holofernes (Gaspare Traversi). Are you familiar with the Book of Judith in the Old Testament? We'll neither was I. It may help to have some understanding: In the story, Judith, a beautiful widow, is able to enter the tent of Holofernes because of his desire for her. Holofernes was an Assyrian general who was about to destroy Judith's home, the city of Bethulia. Overcome with drink, he passes out and is decapitated by Judith (You go girl!).

-To be honest, the story doesn't really grab me, but what does is that there is a whole genre of paintings dedicated to this subjectspecifically the part about Judith beheading Holofernes. It includes

a Donatello, a Boticelli, a Michelangelo, a Goya and two Klimts. Why does this genre exist? I have no idea. 

-this version by Traversi could also be of Salome and John the Baptist (it's a beheading thing). Maybe to add a little mystery and maybe to reach out to fans of the New Testament?

-a beheading in the Old and the New Testament? Is God trying to say something specifically about peoples heads or perhaps it speaks more to a lack of literary imagination?

3. A grouping of three disparate works, one beneath each other:

-Chasing a Slaver (Robert Hopkin): A former sailor like myself always enjoys a good nautical painting.   

-Selections from Truisms (Jenny Holzer) Hmmmm? not sure what to make of it. I wouldn't mind having this in my house though, of course the text would have to be changed. 

-Wrapped Roses (Christo): Christo is the guy that creates temporary "environmental" works of art: wrapping the Reichstag in a sheet of aluminum foil, creating a sculpture out 7,506 oil barrels floating in Hyde shaped like a bench and a 24.5 mile veiled fence in Sonoma county. (I'm not making this shit up!). I'm not sure what this work means and really don't care. Apparently he mass produces this particular "piece of art" and Andy Warhol would be proud. 

*so why have I brought you here? We'll there are two kinds of modern art in this world, those that are interesting and those that are horse-shit. You decide.  

4. The Stick (Roni Horn): I could care less about this stick (and this isn't the only one she has written on). I just wanted an excuse to tell you a funny story about a previous encounter with Ms. Horn. Wife and I in Dallas visiting the Nasher Sculpture Center (it's no big whoop) and a Roni Horn installation has just been installed. Eight chest high pastel colored glass cylinders placed around a space the size of a racquetball court. I was fascinated by how the cylinders must have been fabricated (they must weigh a ton), each with a mirror like top with a meniscus where the edge met the side of the mold. Everything else seemed rather routine (the color choices, the placement, the exact dimensions, etc). The docent (22 going on 14) seemed captivated by the whole thing: "Roni spent a week here supervising the entire installation" (a week I thought? what did she do after the cylinders were offloaded the morning of the first day?) and then "Whenever there was a break, Roni was always reading a book". (Wow!, Toni and I must be cut from the same cloth, as after inspecting the first cylinder for five minutes, I felt like reading a book).

Update: Ms. Horn is now creating glass cubes - genius!!!

5. Stenn Gallery: Briefly enter and view. When I was here there was an exhibit of 16 plinths that were actually speakers that emitted the word "Think" every now and then. You can't make this stuff up. 

6. Japanese Art: In the very corner there are five very interesting pieces. Japanese art is in a way the first modern art (BTW: It must be a requirement to have Mt. Fuji is the background). 

-The Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido (Ando Hiroshige): Hiroshige is the last great master of that Ukiyo-e woodblock prints and painting tradition.

-A Solitary Fisherman at Kajikasawa (Katsushika Hokusai): While Hiroshige may have been the last great master, Hokusai created the most famous series of Japanese woodblock prints "Thirty -six Views of Mount Fuji".  

Note: Artists rarely carved their own woodblocks for printing; rather, production was divided between the artist, who designed the prints; the carver, who cut the woodblocks; the printer, who inked and pressed the woodblocks onto hand-made paper. As printing was done by hand, printers were able to achieve effects impractical with machines, such as the blending or gradation of colours on the printing block.

-there also some really cool samurai swords (katana). Katana was often paired with a smaller companion sword, such as a wakizashi, or it could also be worn with a tantō, a smaller, similarly shaped dagger. The pairing of a katana with a smaller sword is called the daishō. Only samurai could wear the daishō: it represented their social power and personal honor.

7. Modern & Contemporary Art (3rd floor): Some good stuff here:

-Black Boomerang and Polygons (Alexander Calder): Calder created mobiles specifically so that they would move with air currents or touch.

Note: There is a legal requirement that every modern art collection has at least one Calder.

-Young Woman with Mandolin (Pablo Picasso): This is one of three Picasso's displayed and it highlights Picasso's favorite muse and mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter. 

-Standing Figure (Alberto Giacomatti): Alberto liked to sculpt Standing Figures.

-Untitled (Felix Gonzalez-Torres): it's an f'ing light bulb hanging on a wall! Purchased for the museum by the W. Hawkins Ferry Fund . . . W. Hawkins must be pissed. 

8. Aspara Warrior (Our Chim Vichet): a very good use of old machine guns. BTW: This is a woman 

9. Pair of windows from the Martin House (Frank Lloyd Wright): He would not only design your home, but also everything else in it. 

10. The Break-up of the Ice (Claude Monet): As written on the description, the break up of the ice on the frozen Seine in 1880 was the subject of over 20 Monet paintings. These are a but a few others: this one, that one and this one. Over 20, huh, he must have really liked ice, though as Groucho Marx 

supposedly once said “I love my cigar, too, but I take it out of my mouth once in a while”.

11. Dance Movement A-E (August Rodin): it's a Rodin, which is pretty cool. 

12. UMMA Store: Stop in for a few minutes and note there are no notecards or postcards for any of the works you like (how do they know?). If you like any of the other items, take a photo, so you can buy it online for half the price.  

13. Daedalus (Charles Ginnever): Daedalus was a craftsman and artist in Greek mythology, father of Icarus and Iapyx. He is the creator of the Labyrinth, a huge maze located under the court of King Minos of Crete, where the Minotaur dwelt. What I find interesting about this sculpture is the material it is made from, Cor-Ten steel, which is a corrosion resistant steel. The corrosion-retarding effect of the protective layer is produced by the particular distribution and concentration of alloying elements in it. The layer protecting the surface develops and regenerates continuously when subjected to the influence of the weather. In other words, the steel is allowed to rust in order to form the protective coating. Used in numerous other sculptures including Chicago Picasso and the Abetxuko Bridge.

Note: this sculpture is located just outside the south side of the building. 


1. Admission is free. Though if you are inclined you can slip some money in boxes 

strategically deployed throughout (if I were you I'd put in a Jackson ).

2. The museum consists of two interconnected buildings: The Alumni Memorial Hall and the Frankel Family Wing. For the above tour please enter though the Alumni Memorial Hall, make an immediate right and inspect 1. above.

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