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Remixing Romare Bearden

The Bearden iPad app, your Demuth’s in the mail, Frida threatens to shave, and other links from around the Web (and MTV)

In 1977, Romare Bearden reimagined Homer’s Odyssey as a series of collages with a cast of black characters, a meditation on war and the search for a home that resonated with themes of the Great Migration. Via the Smithsonian’s Traveling Exhibition Service, “Romare Bearden: A Black Odyssey” has been crisscrossing the country; it ends a stint next week at the Reynolda House Museum of American Art in Winston-Salem before traveling to six other venues.

Just as Bearden used elements from Homer’s classic epic as building blocks, the Smithsonian is inviting the members of the public to use Bearden’s collage elements as their own. It has released an iPad app, “Black Odyssey Remixes,” allowing users to transform the people, animals, places, and things from Bearden’s works into original digital creations. Share your Bearden remixes here. For more inspiration, check out more of the artist’s collages in “Romare Bearden: Urban Rhythms and Dreams of Paradise,” at New York’s ACA Galleries through February 2.

A collage that ARTnews intern Claire Voon created using the Smithsonian’s “Black Odyssey” app. The imagery is based on Bearden’s painting Battle With Cicones, 1977.

Just Tweet It
The Pew Research Center released a report on the ways arts organizations are harnessing digital technologies. The report, the result of a survey of some 1,244 groups that received NEA funds, found that 77% of respondents agree that the internet has “played a major role in broadening the boundaries of what is considered art.”

But even as arts organizations amp up social media efforts, museums remain behind the curve in connecting with the young demographic they are trying to attract. One reason, the data suggests, is employees’ unfamiliarity with the customer-service issues that come with an empowered audience—like online complaints. But 74 percent of respondents also said their organizations also don’t have the staffs to harness social media effectively.

Though the report describes how museums are trying to evolve as the public demands more access, more apps, and the ability to share instantly, a major stumbling block is that in most cases, people are not allowed to take pictures into museums. The policy derives from copyright issues, but it is rife with contradiction: when contemporary works are shown in private galleries, it’s rare to be stopped from shooting a picture; when those same works are in contemporary-art museums, a strict no-photo policy applies. Ever more unenforceable—and at odds with the way communication is heading–the policy deprives museums of the benefits of photo-sharing that made recent works like Ann Hamilton’s “The Event of a Thread” at the Park Avenue Armory and Tomás Saraceno’s rooftop sculpture at the Met such popular successes. As more and more museums join services like Instagram, asking visitors to tag and post their pictures, a more nuanced approach to what can be photographed seems inevitable.

Not the Da Vinci Code
Meanwhile, on Hyperallergic, technology as art medium is the theme of Kyle Chayka’s interview with filmmakers James George and Jonathan Minard. Their interactive documentary-in-process CLOUDS uses a new 3D cinema format called RGBD to present interviews of luminaries in the computational-arts community in a videogame-like environment. It’s a community that considers writing art code as a form of self-expression and an intellectual adventure.

MoMA curator Paola Antonelli in a preview from CLOUDS, an interactive documentary by James George and Jonathan Minard.

Curtain Call
Rocco Landesman steps down as chair of the National Endowment for the Arts with “rave reviews,” according to a Washington Post story that cites his biggest achievement as collaborations forged with other federal agencies as well as the private sector and his low points as certain ill-advised comments about Peoria and arts administrators–not bad considering the embattled tenures of so many of the NEA’s leaders. This many or many not make it easy to write a book about his experience, as so many of his predecessors have done. Who will be tapped to be the next federal voice of (and lightning rod for) the country’s cultural communities? Can an NEA chief play a stronger role on the national stage without igniting more culture wars? Stay tuned for part two of the Obama administration….

Beauty Myth?
Laurie Fendrich, the painter and columnist, writes an ode to Dave Hickey on the occasion of his announced retirement from the art biz, and on the cusp of the publication of his two new books–one on America’s love for material pleasure, the other on beauty.

In the Chronicle of Higher Education, Fendrich presents the critic as a visionary, anti-elitist maverick whose friendships with the likes of Hunter Thompson, Lester Bangs, and other countercultural icons, along with his forays into cocaine and music, somehow cost him cred in the art world. With her focus on the political undertones of his beauty-minded esthetic, Fendrich seems to be positioning Hickey as a latter-day Harold Rosenberg. Whether or not you agree with her assessment, don’t necessarily expect Hickey’s retirement to last. “He could be pulling a sneaky Marcel Duchamp nonwithdrawal-withdrawal,” Fendrich suggests.

Covering the New Yorker
Chris Ware writes about his elegiac New Yorker cover commemorating the Sandy Hook tragedy. Meanwhile, at Paper Monument, Dushko Petrovich offers a delirious close reading of those rows of tiny ads for jackets, jewelry, rehab centers, and more–or, as he calls it, “the neo-surrealist montage unfolding perversely in the margins.”

The Envelope Please
The United States Postal Service announced the pre-order phase of the “Modern Art in America 1913-1931” stamp series, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armory Show. The stamps, from the first-class mail equivalent “forever” series, feature 12 masterpieces from the show, including Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase, no. 2, Stella’s Brooklyn Bridge, and Demuth’s I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold, the famous rendering of a moving fire truck based on a William Carols Williams poem (a natural for the Demuth Museum, the artist’s home and studio in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.)

It’s a great painting—but won’t people think it’s a five-cent stamp?

Charles Demuth, I Saw the Figure 5 in Gold, 1928, on a stamp from the new modern-art series.

People Who Wed in Glass Houses…
Tucked inside the New York Times weddings section was the news that couples who want to start a modern family with a Modern wedding can stage their nuptials at the Philip Johnson Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut, starting this spring. The packages, which run from $10,000 to $50,000, will include a tour of the site, with lunch or brunch (food and beverages not included). The setting might not be for everyone’s taste, however—no red wine is allowed.

Them’s the Breaks
Back in 1985, in one of MTV’s first Art Breaks, Richard Prince stands in an all-white outfit outside the Guggenheim. As he buys a soft-serve, vanilla ice-cream cone that mimics the museum’s shape, he mimics the AmEx ads popular at the time. “Art and MTV,” he quips. “Don’t stay home without them.”

When the music television decided to revive the Art Breaks last year, it asked Creative Time and PS1 to help produce the 30-second spots. A new crop of videos began airing, by artists including Mickalene Thomas, Andrew Kuo, Cody Critcheloe, and Divya Mehra, whose piece, titled On Tragedy: Did you hear the one about the Indian?, has a little fun with the Richard Prince spot. On a making-of video just posted on MTV, see the tragic fate of the ice cream cones that had to die for the video to come out right.

Divya Mehra, Still from On Tragedy (Did you hear the one about the Indian?), 2012.

Highbrow or lowbrow?
Ovation, the cable arts channel (whose “godfather” was the late National Gallery of Art director J. Carter Brown) has found an artist spokesperson to lead its campaign to be reinstated by Time Warner Cable. The service is distributing a picture of Frida Kahlo, in her 1933 painting Self-Portrait with Necklace, with a speech bubble added. Quite a threat–will it do the trick?

Frida Kahlo campaigns for the Ovation channel.

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