An Interview with Hu Xiangqian

Hu Xiangqian with photographic still from “The Sun” (2008) for the fall Duke House Exhibition “chin(A)frica: an interface” October 2017 – Feburary 2018

In early November, IFA MA student Cindy Qi interviewed Hu Xiangqian, whose work is currently exhibited at the Institute of Fine Arts, NYU as a part of the fall Duke House Exhibition chin(a)frica: an interface, on view through February 18, 2018. Hu Xiangqian (b. 1983) was born in Leizhou, Guangdong Province and graduated in 2007 from Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts. He currently lives and works in New York City. Hu’s artistic practice is grounded in performance and video works featuring an intentional amateurishness and crudeness. Notable exhibitions include the Gwangju Biennial (2014) and the Shanghai Biennial (2016).  A photographic still of his durational performance piece entitled The Sun (2008) hangs in the Institute’s Lecture Hall. The interview was conducted in mandarin Chinese and later translated to English by Cindy Qi.

CQ: Having been in New York for several months now, do you have any discoveries or inspirations you would like to share? Have you decided what kind of work to make during your time here?


HXQ: Yes, I have been preparing to get started in my studio. I live in Brooklyn and in my opinion, it’s a very isolated area that has nothing to do with art, but I like that place. It allows me to distance myself from all that is happening in Manhattan while also having the opportunity to be close to all of it. I really like this feeling of being able to pull away and engage at the same time.

我在我的工作室里准备啊,我现在住的地方比较远,在布鲁克林。 那个地方算是很荒凉的,跟艺术没有什么关系。但是我喜欢那个地方,所以我会在那里做作品。我还挺喜欢这种跟曼哈顿若即若离的感觉。

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On Kawara—Silence: A Conversation with Assistant Curator Anne Wheeler

On April 27, 2015, IFA PhD candidate Anne Wheeler and IFA MA alumna Sarah Zabrodski sat down to discuss the Solomon R. Guggenheim’s current exhibition, On Kawara—Silence. Wheeler is the assistant curator of the exhibition. Zabrodski blogs at

Installation view: On Kawara—Silence, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, February 6 to May 3, 2015 Photo: David Heald © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation

Sarah Zabrodski: On Kawara proposed most of the exhibition sections and was a close collaborator in the early stages of exhibition planning. What was it like working with the artist?

Anne Wheeler: Senior curator Jeffrey Weiss met On Kawara in 2005, in the process of acquiring the painting Title (1965) for the National Gallery of Art, so he had a relationship with Kawara before approaching him in October 2011 about doing the Guggenheim show. I came onto the project full time in April 2012, and worked for about a year before meeting Kawara himself. We first met almost two years ago to this day, on April 28, 2013—a day I remember clearly—a Sunday. Kawara sent Jeffrey and me a map of a park, with a dot drawn in the location where we were to meet him. We went, and we waited, and finally he came walking toward us, and brought us to a picnic table where we sat and talked with him and other members of his family until the sun went down.

Kawara was very deliberately not a public figure—he was infamous for his refusal to grant interviews, show up for openings, or make public appearances. He told us early on: “I am an artist that never made any public statements,” and we always tried to be extremely respectful and protective of this choice, and of his privacy. Jeffrey took Kawara on a walk-through of the museum early in the process, and we brought him models of the Guggenheim and maquettes of his Date Paintings and other work to help him conceptualize the exhibition within the space without actually having to be there. We always measured what was worth bringing to him, what was worth asking.

Our meetings involved a lot of exhibition planning and talk about the facts of each series—how and when certain artworks were made, or what they were made for—but ultimately the meetings turned out to be more conversational than strictly business. We would go in with questions about, say, where to place a certain Date Painting, but we would end up discussing cave paintings, gravity, the role of art throughout time, the history of human consciousness—really big topics, and his opinions were quite profound. After each meeting, I’d leave thinking, “What was that?”—and then as a researcher, to always have these new “assignments” was such an education for me.

As far as the artwork, though, we never talked about why—“why” questions were not discussed. It’s been one of the funny and difficult things about giving tours, responding to the why questions: “Why these newspapers? Why the red, blue, and gray? Why this or that?” I can say all of the things that I think about the work, but I can never reference anything he actually said.

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James Elkins in Conversation with Claire Brandon

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 9.14.55 AM
Screenshot of draft provided by James Elkins.

James Elkins, Professor in Art History, Theory, and Criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, delivered a lecture at the Institute of Fine Arts on February 10, 2015 as part of the Institute of Fine Art’s Daniel H. Silberberg Lecture Series. The lecture, “The End of the Theory of the Gaze,” explored the shortcomings of existing theories about the gaze and presented several aspects of Visual Worlds, the book that Professor Elkins is currently working on. IFA Ph.D. Candidate Claire Brandon spoke with Professor Elkins after the lecture.

Claire Brandon: Your lecture presented the failure of the theory of the gaze in the context of the new book you are working on, Visual Worlds.  Could you talk a little bit about the digital format for this project?  You mentioned that you and Erna Fiorentini are writing and editing this document using Google Drive, allowing for open-sourced authorship in some instances.  How does this process work?  How did you decide on Google Drive as a tool?

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 9.16.06 AM
Screenshot of Google Spreadsheet provided by James Elkins.

James Elkins: Well, we chose Google Drive (link here) just because it’s simple and it includes spreadsheets (which we need to keep track of word counts, illustrations, etc.). I have tried several WordPress sites, Nings (some are quite expensive), and other collaborative tools; they’re useful if you need video conferencing, separate discussion groups, etc.

The co-authoring part of the project works extremely smoothly: we have a document called “What’s new” where we exchange ideas; two spreadsheets to manage the many tasks of accumulating words, images, and arguments; a third spreadsheet for managing word counts; a document that records the Oxford Press “house style” (that’s something authors usually don’t see until the end, but we’re making our own “house style” for citations and usages).

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Sturtevant: The Troublemaker

In early February, Curatorial Assistant Ingrid Langston and IFA MA Candidate Ashley McNelis toured the MoMA galleries. Langston assisted MoMA PS1 Curator Peter Eleey in organizing the exhibition Sturtevant: Double Trouble at MoMA, which runs from November 9, 2014 to February 22, 2015. Double Trouble is timely not just in light of the artist’s recent passing, but also because it is only Sturtevant’s second American-organized solo show since the 1970s. The intervening four decadesin which Sturtevant was largely ignored by the art worldhave afforded her audience the time and hindsight to catch up with her intelligently penetrating vision. Sturtevant: Double Trouble also juxtaposes traditional art historical narratives (represented by works in MoMA’s permanent collection) against works from Sturtevant’s reactionary oeuvre. The exhibition will be on view in the third floor Special Exhibitions Gallery and the fifth floor Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III Painting and Sculpture Gallery at MoMA until it heads to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles from March 21 to July 27, 2015.

Ashley McNelis: I understand that Sturtevant actively combated the use of curatorial strategies at other institutions. What was working with her at MoMA like?

Ingrid Langston: Unfortunately, I never got to meet her personally. She was working with Peter Eleey closely and was planning to come out for the installation before she passed away in May 2014. Peter went to Paris every few months to meet with her, but by the time I came on the project she was not really traveling much. So I never worked with her directly, which is a shame, but probably also made my life a lot easier. We did work closely with her daughter, Loren, too, who, along with her gallery in Paris, is the executor of the estate and the co-producer of Sturtevant’s video works.

In starting with the long hallway to the exhibition space that we were given, there is a puzzle right off the bat. It can be a challenge to draw people in and to make them understand that there’s an exhibition at the end. One of the very first pieces that Peter and Sturtevant placed was the dog, Finite Infinite (2010). It’s striking, like you’re literally running along with the dog down the hallway to the target at the end [Sturtevant’s Johns Target with Four Faces (study) (1986)]. The dog runs again and again into the wall; it’s endlessly repeating. It sets up the notion of the frustration of progress, related to how her whole project went against the idea of a straight, progressive narrative of art history.

Here, in Study for Muybridge Plate #97: Woman Walking (1966), she strides in front of the lens like in an Eadweard Muybridge, positioned in front of her own versions of Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, and James Rosenquist. It’s a nod to photography, the most “copying” medium. It’s about action, the circulation of images and the frustration of circular motion like this wallpaper of an owl whose head keeps turning. It’s so weird—we’re pretty sure she just grabbed it off the internet for her 2013 Serpentine show. The exhibition is trying to speak to the consistency of her project. It’s almost shocking how she stuck to her guns pretty much from 1964 when she began recreating the works of other artists.

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Light, Smoke, and Acid: John Van Hamersveld on His Psychedelic Posters

On January 8, 2015, IFA PhD Candidate Elizabeth Buhe sat down with John Van Hamersveld in his Rancho Palos Verdes studio to discuss his work as a graphic designer, and, in particular, his 1960s psychedelic posters designed for Pinnacle Productions. 

ifacontemporary John Van Hamersveld in his San Pedro Studio January 2015
John Van Hamersveld in his San Pedro studio, January 2015. Photograph by the author.

EB: To start, why don’t you tell me a little about your artistic formation.

JVH: I was guided into graphic arts and communication of American and worldwide design at Art Center. At Art Center I would go to this store in Westwood called Flax, and they had an international magazine stand there. I was able to see even further how typographical design, photographs, and the communication process were European and went back to the Bauhaus. But then—boom—you know, it was something that was very contemporary and everywhere with Life Magazine and all that.

EB: So what years are we talking about here?

JVH: That’s in the 50s, from the 50s going into the 60s. 1961 I go to Art Center. The second part is that I leave Art Center early, one year after my education there, and I’m taking off the summer. My father gets me a job at Northrop Aviation. Between the director and himself, they guided me into publication making. They would make these books up that they’d show to generals on all the secret information on developing and testing. So at home, I decided after learning all that I can do my own surfing magazine. So I created a surfing magazine in my bedroom. I gathered up people from around the community and made the stories up, and then basically put it all together in my bedroom and took it down the street and had a printer—just an ordinary store-front printer—print it. So out of that, all the sudden, I was at Surfer Magazine. And then I was at another magazine called Surf Guide. So there’s three magazines that I’d been designing over a three-year period of time. I decided that I’m going to go to Chouinard, and get back into my art education. So I go to Chouinard, which is just turning into CalArts, and changing all of the sudden. At Chouinard I was anticipating becoming a painter, and I showed my canvases there. This was in 1965. The counselor who starts me out says you can take photography, you can take film, you can take video, and you can take animation. You can take all these other things that would be complementary to your communication classes of graphic design. So all the sudden it was like art! But it was media art. That was then developed into a thing called Pinnacle, which was this big promotion that I was able to do.

EB: Right. Before we start with Pinnacle, can we go back to some of your earlier influences?

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A Conversation with Joshua Shannon

On December 2, 2014, University of Maryland Professor Joshua Shannon delivered a lecture entitled “Photorealism: A History of Surfaces” as part of the Institute of Fine Art’s Daniel H. Silberberg Lecture Series.  (A recording of his talk can be viewed here.)  The theme of the Silberberg lecture series this year is “failure,” and Professor Shannon’s presentation on photorealism took the failure of credibility suffered by humanist painting in the late twentieth century as a point of departure.  IFA Ph.D. Candidate Claire Brandon interviewed Professor Shannon following the lecture.

Joshua Shannon's lecture, "Photorealism: A History of Surfaces," in the lecture hall of the IFA.
Joshua Shannon’s lecture, “Photorealism: A History of Surfaces,” at the IFA.

In the beginning of your lecture, you mentioned 1968 as the starting point for your study.  What was happening with the practice of photorealism during that moment?  How do you see it as marking such a major shift in painting?

Photorealism made a rather sudden appearance in painting in 1967-68.  Most of the photorealists had been making other kinds of realist painting in the years just before then, but it is amazing to see how suddenly—and simultaneously—many of them began to make paintings that acknowledged, even exaggerated, the fact that that they were based on photographs.  This struck me as a fact needing some historical explanation.

Why have you chosen to focus on Robert Bechtle?  How can his work be differentiated from the other photorealists you brought up, such as Chuck Close, Richard Estes, and Ralph Goings?

I just think Bechtle made many of the richest and most revealing paintings.  The photorealists are united by the fact that they all make clear that they have painted from photographs, but the kinds of photographs they work from are actually quite diverse.  While Estes, for example, uses urban architectural photography and Close uses portrait photographs, Bechtle works from snapshots.  His paintings are deliberately exploring amateur photography, even mediocre amateur photography.  Bechtle is interested not so much in precision or in dryness as he is in posing.  His paintings are about self-presentation, and about what counts as a good or meaningful picture.  As such, Bechtle has his fingers on many of the most important problems in visual representation over the past several decades.  We have so much to learn from his paintings.

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A Rendez-vous with Philippe de Montebello

Following a thirty-two-year tenure as Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Philippe de Montebello has been, since 2009, Fiske Kimball Professor in the History and Culture of Museums at the Institute of Fine Arts. Also in that year, Professor de Montebello became the first scholar in residence at the Prado Museum in Madrid, and, among his many other honors and awards for his contributions to the arts, was recently named to the Board of Trustees of the Prado and the Musée d’Orsay. On November 21, 2014, IFA Master’s student Jennie Sirignano sat down with Professor de Montebello to discuss his newly-published book, Rendez-vous with Art.

Philippe de Montebello in his office at the Met. Photograph by Lee Clower. Image courtesy W Magazine.
Philippe de Montebello in his office at the Met. Photograph by Lee Clower. Image courtesy W Magazine.

Jennie Sirignano: Professor de Montebello, thank you for meeting with me. In your new book Rendez-vous with Art, you mostly focus on ancient and European works of art. Was it a conscious choice to not include discussions of contemporary art?

Philippe de Montebello: We just happened to not go to certain places. I didn’t go to the National Gallery in London. I didn’t go to the Uffizi. For over two and a half years, Martin and I would call each other and say “I’m going to Florence for a conference—can you be there?” And so we happened to be in Florence, and me in Madrid because I am on the board of the Prado, and he never had more than one day, nor me more than one day, so we limited it. I would have loved to do the Musée du Moyen Âge in Paris at Cluny. I never got around to it. I could have spent a great deal of time in MoMA looking at things I love. Not contemporary, it would have been more Modern. Contemporary I don’t understand very well, but if I do a second book with him, which I don’t think I will because I don’t think it’s necessary, I would do medieval, I would do Islamic, and we would cover many of the things we haven’t. This serves in a way as a kind of travel guide for people who want to go around and look at art. I don’t know. I am not sure it serves anything.

JS: Well, you have described your decision to dedicate the majority of your professional life to museum work as wishing to “above all share my passion with others, many others.” Does Rendez-vous with Art have a similar genesis?

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Reorienting Sari Dienes: A Conversation with Alexis Lowry Murray and Delia Solomons

On December 16, 2014, Marci Kwon sat down with Alexis Lowry Murray and Delia Solomons, who co-curated the exhibition Sari Dienes at the Drawing Center. All are PhD candidates at the IFA.

Sari Dienes, NYC, ca. 1953-1955. Ink on webril, 36 x 72 in. Private collection of Pamela Jarvis, NY. Image courtesy Sari Dienes Foundation. Licensed by Vaga, New York, NY.
Sari Dienes, NYC, ca. 1953-1955. Ink on webril, 36 x 72 in. Private collection of Pamela Jarvis, NY. Image courtesy Sari Dienes Foundation. Licensed by Vaga, New York, NY.

MK: To begin, how did you come up with the idea for the show? And what was it like putting it together?

ALM: It was surprisingly simple. While researching Jasper Johns, I came across Sari as a side note in the catalogue for the Jasper Johns retrospective, organized by Kirk Varnedoe. Delia and I had been talking about curating a show together, and think I waited only twenty minutes before I talked to her about it. We looked up the Sari Dienes Foundation website, and were immediately interested in the rubbings she made, and the indexicality of that process. We made an appointment to go to the Foundation – we simply called their phone number – and when we got there it was instantly clear to both of us that an exhibition was the best idea. We had gone up to the Foundation open-endedly–for a moment I even thought about doing a dissertation on Sari–but we immediately knew an exhibition was best.

DS: The works looked incredible in person–really delicate and yet with this substantial scale. While examining them in the barn, we instantly pictured them on white walls in a gallery or museum space in New York, back in the urban context where she originally made these works.

MK: You first saw them in a barn?

ALM: Sari’s work is housed in a barn that is cared for by her Foundation. Barbara, the curator of the Foundation, and her husband Rip live in upstate New York where Sari used to live. Sari used to work in the Foundation’s barn, and it is literally chock-full of art.

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EXPAND//FOLD//COLLAPSE// Sculptures by Marta Chilindron: A Conversation with Great Hall Exhibition Curators, Susanna Temkin and Katharine Wright

The following is a transcript of a conversation between IFA PhD candidates Susanna Temkin and Katharine Wright and Master’s student, Caroline Barnett. Temkin and Wright are the co-curators of the Great Hall Exhibition program for the 2014-2015 academic year. The interview took place on October 27, 2014.

Marta Chilindron, Cube 48 Orange, 2014, acrylic, dimensions variable: closed: 48 x 48 x 48 in., Courtesy Cecilia de Torres, Ltd.
Marta Chilindron, Cube 48 Orange, 2014, acrylic, dimensions variable: closed: 48 x 48 x 48 in., Courtesy Cecilia de Torres, Ltd.

CB: So, tell us a little bit about the show. What can we expect to see?

ST: We’re going to be installing a total of eight works by the artist Marta Chilindron, three of which are large-scale. Chilindron creates manipulable sculptural works using transparent and multi-colored plastic-based material. For the show, we are installing works throughout the Great Hall. We wanted to make as much use of the space as possible, so they will be in the vestibule, the lobby space, and on the marble table on the platform right below the staircase. But, right now things are tentative. We’re giving this interview before we do the installation, so we will have to see how everything plays out.

CB: It’s appropriate that the installation is in flux – expanding and collapsing like the title.

ST and KW: Yes!

CB: What were the challenges of curating a show in the Duke House? I imagine it has a lot of limitations.

KW: One of the challenges is the nature of the space…there are a lot of things you have to work around. It’s a place of major circulation; everyone who comes in and out of the building has to go through there at some point – there are classrooms, offices, our lunch room. So that really hinders where you can exhibit things.

ST: This is not a traditional exhibition space. It’s challenging: we had no walls, we had to really respect the building, people have to be able to use it, it’s not climate controlled, etc., etc.

KW: But that’s why Chilindron’s work is so exciting because it dictates that kind of movement and manipulation of space; it can fill it or contract as need be. For example, right now we are involved in discussions about the work, Green Pyramid (2006). Depending on how we choose to install the piece, it can stretch from a hexagonal shape with a diameter of eight feet to a much more condensed, triangular form that uses about half of the floor space.

CB: You can’t change the lighting, can you?

ST: Yes! The building staff will help with spotlights. However, one thing that is important about Chilindron’s art is how the nature of the materials she works with – transparent acrylics and other plastics-based media – interacts with the light effects of the space. I’m really excited to see how the works we install near the staircase will reflect light filtering in from the Duke House’s skylight. For students, I think it will be nice to see how the works change throughout the course of the day or with the weather, for example.

CB: Are you two continuing the program into the spring?

KW: We’ve been tasked with organizing the spring exhibition. I should explain that we’re co-organizers and co-curators of this year’s Great Hall Exhibitions, but Susanna has taken the lead on this show in the fall, and I’m going to take the lead in the spring. We’re still in the process of negotiating what the next exhibition will entail.

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Everything is Interrelated: a conversation with Roxana Marcoci

The following is an abridged transcript of a conversation between IFA alumna Roxana Marcoci, Curator of Photography at The Museum of Modern Art, and the author, which took place at MoMA on 7 August 2012.

Roxana Marcoci, Curator of Photography at MoMA
I was born in Romania, in Bucharest, and I left when I was 18 as a political dissident. I became a political refugee in Paris while I studied for a year and a half at the Sorbonne, and then I immigrated to the United States. For my undergraduate studies I went to Hunter College, which is part of the City University of New York—it was an excellent program. I did a triple major: art history, theater and film criticism, and a colloquium in interdisciplinary studies, which was taught by two professors from two different humanities’ fields. So this sort of cross-disciplinary approach was from the very start the core of what I did. It was always an underlying current in my studies. Continue reading “Everything is Interrelated: a conversation with Roxana Marcoci”