Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Banning ART

UH Removes Gun Art Display From Exhibit, Pretty Much Making Artist's Point for Him



ART Gun by Artist Alton DuLaney Texas 2016
Artist Alton DuLaney couldn't be mad that University of Houston officials censored his gun art from an exhibit at the Blaffer Art Museum — they basically made his point for him.

Despite the fact that students will literally be sitting in English class with loaded guns on them in just three months, apparently DuLaney's exhibit, showing an unloaded revolver with a cartoonish banner that says "ART" protruding from its barrel, is all too threatening right now. Unlike private schools, UH is required to implement the new campus carry law slated to go into effect this August whether it likes it or not (from the looks of its restrictive campus-carry proposal, it doesn't like it). But even if DuLaney's exhibit went up in August while students were packing heat on the sidewalks, the UH Office of General Counsel has, interestingly, said that DuLaney's gun art still likely wouldn't have been allowed. (Yeah, we're still waiting on the office's further explanation for that.)

Now, the ART banner is the only item behind the glass, but DuLaney said the gun's absence may say more than its presence: “It proved my point about how controversial this object was,” he said.

DuLaney had planned to make a statement about the power of guns by juxtaposing the revolver with the "bang" comic-book-like graphic that says "ART." That cartoonish element reminded DuLaney of how guns are so omnipresent in Texas culture that, even for kids in this state, toy guns are part of growing up. He was wondering: If he transformed the gun to look this way, would it still have as much power? After UH's decision, the answer was, well, apparently yes.

“There's an obvious implication of power that this thing has, that this inanimate object has when combined with ammunition and intent to create damage,” DuLaney said. “So I wanted to create a piece that said all of that, but that was diffused by being cloaked in a statement of art."

The UH Office of General Counsel posted a two-paragraph explanation directly beneath DuLaney's display case for why the school banned the gun from the show, citing the Texas law that bans guns on campus (until August). Never mind the fact that someone else created an entire exhibit of prison shanks and nunchucks that are evenly laid out in a seven-foot-long display box — that's apparently fair game.

Which is pretty funny to DuLaney, given that, even if people were carrying deadly weapons on their way to class, his gun art (but not prison shanks) would still be off-limits...behind a glass case.

At the time he thought up the display, conversations were swirling around campus carry, some with heated intensity.DuLaney says his display is intended to be neutral, but that he was hoping it would still “fan the flames of dialogue” amid controversial debate. At UH, it was apparent just how touchy the subject had become among faculty after one professor even directed faculty in a presentation to “Be careful discussing sensitive topics,” to “Drop certain topics from your curriculum” and to “Not 'go there' if you sense anger.” “There's a weariness or fragility to having that conversation,” DuLaney said, hoping his artsy gun would eliminate some of that.

But guess we won't find out.

Read the article in The Houston Press

The exhibit is open until May 14, 2016, at 4173 Elgin Street, Houston, Texas.

A Loaded Subject

No Guns At UH, Even If It’s Art. Until August.

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Last week, the University of Houston’s Art Department opened their annual show of works by first and second-year graduate students as well as UH undergrads. Prior to the exhibition’s opening, MFA student Alton DuLaney met with resistance from UH’s Police and Legal departments about a work he wanted to include in the show. The piece, ART Gun, is made from a pistol and was intended to comment on the recent campus carry law passed in Texas—as a public university, UH will be required to allow concealed weapons on campus starting August 1st of this year.

The UH Police sent the artist this statement: “I have consulted with Legal and the gun is not to be allowed on campus. From both our positions, the matter is closed”

The artist on their reason for creating ART Gun:
“I wanted to create a piece of ART that took a neutral stance on the subject while at the same time commenting on the omnipresence of guns in the American culture and society, and opening up the dialog to this conversation.

DuLaney says the work is inspired by Chris Burden, Marina Abramovic, Andy Warhol, Marcel Duchamp, Roy Lichtenstein, and Mel Chin (who recently had a show at the Blaffer Art Museum on campus).

Ultimately, the artist chose to exhibit the work without the gun, asking, “Did the authorities give even more power to the object by forbidding its exhibition and thereby validate the power of the ART by censoring it?”

Read the Article on Glasstire 

ART too dangerous to display in the Houston Chronicle

The gun was part of my art. UH said no.

Is some art too dangerous to display?

May 2, 2016
The original version of "ARTGun," by artist Alton DuLaney. The University of Houston denied him permission to display the work as intended. Through May 14, a gun-less version is on view at Blaffer Art Museum.
I am an artist. I make art. In my work I examine the concepts of pride, power, and patriotism, especially as it relates to art.

Having recently moved back to my native Texas to obtain an MFA through the University of Houston, I have been fascinated with the discourse about guns — especially the loaded (pun intended) topics of concealed handgun licenses, licenses to carry, and campus carry.

I wanted to create a piece of art that took a neutral stance on the controversial subject, while at the same time commenting of the omnipresence of guns in the American culture. I quickly learned that getting a gun in Texas is much easier than getting an MFA.

For the annual exhibition of student art at UH's Blaffer Art Museum, I created a piece called "ARTGun": A real .22 revolver, not loaded, in a glass frame, with a cartoon-like "Bang" flag protruding from its barrel.

People familiar with art history will see that I was drawing on a long list of artists who've gone before me. I used the same caliber of gun that artist Chris Burden used "Shoot," the famous 1971 performance in which he had an assistant shoot him in the arm. I referenced Marina Abramovic, who in a 1974 performance laid out a table with 72 items, including a loaded gun, and invited artists to do as they saw fit. Then there's Andy Warhol (with his famous portrait of a gun­slinging Elvis), Marcel Duchamp (and his exploration in the beauty of the ready­made), Roy Lichtenstein (with his comic book approach to Pop Art), and even Mel Chin (who has exhibited works of art relating to both firearms and ammunitions at the Blaffer Art Museum).

The gun-less version of "ARTGun" — along with the artist's statement and a statement by Blaffer Art Museum — is part of the Blaffer's annual student art exhibiton.


When I proposed this piece for the show, I was advised by the UH police and legal departments that "the gun is not to be allowed on campus...(and) the matter is closed." Despite my efforts, and those of the museum, the piece was forbidden from being exhibited in its original form.

I have chosen to include the piece in the show anyway — only without the gun that was central to its original conception.

The situation brings up interesting questions:
­When a thing (a revolver) is designated an artifact (an art object object) is it still regarded as contraband (a weapon)?
­How is an unloaded piece of industrial design securely framed and under glass hanging on the wall as art, in a museum with security and cameras, still considered inherently and prohibitively dangerous?
­Does art have the power to transform things, appearances, beliefs, opinions?
­Is this object so powerful and taboo that it can't even be allowed into the building?
­Can we as a society see guns on TV and in movies, and even out on the street, but not in the museum?
­Is a museum a sacred space?
­By not allowing the gun into the the exhibition, was even more power given to the object, and thereby validate the power of the ART by censoring it?

When: 10-5, Tuesdays-Saturdays, through May 14.
Where: Blaffer Art Museum, University of Houston, 4173 Elgin.
How much: Free.

Read the article in The Houston Chronicle
Alton DuLaney is an artist and MFA student at the University of Houston. Check out more Gray Matters. Is this object so powerful and taboo that it can't even be allowed into the building?

"Censored" Art at the Blaffer Art Museum by Emily Burleson in The Daily Cougar.

Student art ‘censored’ at Blaffer Museum

ART Gun

ART Gun


Artist Alton DuLaney in his Houston Texas Studio April 2016 photo by Paolo Milanese

My name is Alton DuLaney. I am an Artist. I make ART. In my work I examine the concepts of Pride, Power, and Patriotism, especially as it relates to ART and the identity politics of being an American Artist.

Having recently moved back to my native Texas to obtain an MFA through the University of Houston, I have been fascinated with the discourse about guns, the incredibly loaded (pun intended) topic of Concealed Handgun License, License To Carry, and especially Campus Carry. I wanted to create a piece of ART that took a neutral stance on the controversial subject, while at the same time commenting on the omnipresence of guns in the American culture, and opening up the dialog to these conversations. Thus the piece ART Gun was conceived. I soon learned that getting a gun in Texas is much easier than getting an MFA!

Artist Alton DuLaney sketch ART Gun Texas 2016


Exploring the gun as an object of power, the piece I have created for this exhibition is called ART Gun, and is inspired by Chris Burden (using the same caliber of gun he used in his famous shooting piece), Marina Abramovic (who used a pistol in one of her early performances), Andy Warhol (with his famous portrait of a gun-slinging Elvis), Marcel Duchamp (and his exploration in the beauty of the ready-made), and Roy Lichtenstein (with his comic book approach to Pop Art), and even Mel Chin (who has exhibited works of art relating to both firearms and ammunition at the Blaffer Art Museum).

Roy Lichtenstein inspiration for ART Gun by Alton DuLaney



Combining my varied experience and interests of art history, window design, circus arts, custom framing, and media training,  I created what I intended to be a neutral yet provocative statement on the implicit power of the firearm, as well as ART’s power to transform objects, appearances, and hopefully opinions. After all, in Texas, a gun is a common toy for children, so surely it could also be ART. With the debate being so au courant, I did my research into art precedence and local law.

Inspiration for ART Gun by Alton DuLaney 2016


I educated myself on gun safety. I wanted to make sure that no one was harmed in the production and exhibition of this piece, including myself. I took numerous gun safety classes, completing the workshop and exams to be certified for a LTC license. However getting the piece into the Blaffer Museum, proved harder than hitting the bull’s eye.


When I proposed this piece for the show, I was advised by the UH Police and Legal departments that …”the gun is not to be allowed on campus…(and) the matter is closed”. Despite my efforts, and those from the museum, the piece was forbidden from being exhibited in its original form.

ART Gun by Artist Alton DuLaney Texas 2016

I have chosen to include the piece in the show, presented here without the gun, because the situation brings up several interesting questions:

- When a thing (revolver) is designated an artifact (ART object) is it still regarded as contraband (weapon)?

- How is an unloaded piece of industrial design securely framed and under glass hanging on the wall as ART in a museum with security and cameras still considered inherently and prohibitively dangerous?

- Does ART have the power to transform things, appearances, beliefs, opinions?

- Is this particular object so powerful and taboo that it can’t even be allowed into the building?

- Can we as a society see guns on TV and in Movies and even out on the street but not in the museum?

- Is a museum a sacred space?

- By not allowing the gun into the the exhibition, was even more power given to the object, and thereby validate the power of the ART by censoring it?

- When can a gun be justified on campus or in a museum?

- What is the difference between displaying and brandishing?

- Is it freedom of expression or is it public safety?

Ultimately, this piece of ART was not created to be Pro- or Anti-Gun, but Pro-ART!
The piece is on exhibit at the Blaffer Art Museum until 14 May 2016.

For more info from The Blaffer Art Museum

Alton DuLaney
29 April 2016

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Menil Neighborhood


The Menil Neighborhood
March 2016
Alton DuLaney and dog AureLeo in "Do-Ville" in Houston Texas March 2016

Nearly every major city has at least one. An Eiffel Tower or a Disney Concert Hall. A Golden Gate Bride or a Guggenheim Museum. A building or structure or landmark that stands independently of it’s given city limits, that comes to represent the place where it is geographically land-locked as an iconic symbol of that place, the image of which says NYC just as loudly, by only showing the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, or the Freedom Tower. (It could be argued that all of Manhattan has been art directed, considering that the island was leveled and mapped and planned. Even Central Park  is essentially an enormous installation art piece, or stage set, orchestrated by Frederick Law Olmsted, with every tree, trail, rock, hill and pond carefully placed to create an overall look and feel. Perhaps then Christo and Jean Claude’s installation of orange gates in the park was a redundancy - art on art.)

Menil yard art in Houston Texas photo by Alton DuLaney March 2016

Yes, every major city has at least one signature locale that speaks of the greater city at large, and more often than not these icons of urbanism are works of art (public art), tributes to the arts (museums), of exemplary architecture that elevates construction to an artistic level of respect and appreciation. One such example of this can be seen right here in our own back yard, in the Menil Collection - the Park, Museum, and surrounding galleries and buildings, what we shall refer to here as the Menil Neighborhood.
Menil Musuem in Houston Texas photo by Alton DuLaney March 2016
Nestled in the heart of Montrose, the 30 acre “campus” of the Menil Foundation, (not including their home in River Oaks designed by Philip Johnson, with interiors by Charles James), is a testament to John and Dominique de Menil’s vision of art preservation and presentation.
The Menil Foundation in Houston photo by Alton DuLaney March 2016

At the heart of the compound is the Menil Collection or Museum, designed by Renzo Piano and opened in 1987, it houses one of the largest privately held collections in the world.

The Menil Museum by Renzo Piano photo by Alton DuLaney March 2016


Additionally there is: The Cy Twombly Gallery, also by Piano, features a retrospective of the American artist’s work dating from 1951 through his death in 2011;

Cy Twombly Gallery at Menil in Houston photo by Alton DuLaney March 2016

The Dan Flavin Installation at Richmond Hall, located in a former grocery store, was Dominique de Menil’s last commission;
Richmond Hall in Houston photo by Alton DuLaney March 2016

The Byzantine Chapel, which originally housed 13th century frescos on a 15-year loan from Cyprus, and now the home of a rotating exhibition of sight-specific installations including currently “The Time Machine” installation;

Menil Byzantine Chapel in Houston photo by Alton DuLaney March 2016

the Philip Johnson designed Rothko Chapel displaying an impressive commission by Mark Rothko, and,
Rothko Chapel in Houston photo by Alton DuLaney March 2016
 out front, a gravity defying sculpture by Barnett Newman, the “Broken Obelisk”, which is currently, "broken"( away for restorations);
The Broken Obelisk is broken! Photo by Alton DuLaney March 2016
and the newest addition, the Bistro Menil,

Bistro Menil in Houston photo by Alton DuLaney March 2016

a quaint little bistro with outdoor seating and an enjoyable happy hour.
Public Art at Bistro Menil in Houston photo by Alton DuLaney March 2016

But what really defines the neighborhood is the collection of surrounding bungalows that the Menil Foundation began quietly buying in the 1960s in an epic effort to protect the atmosphere and character of the neighborhood. 
"Do-Ville" at the Menil Collection in Houston photo by Alton DuLaney March 2016
To unify the disparate architecture, the dozens of modest homes have all been painted the same shade of gray, now know as “Menil Gray”, thus giving a commonality and cohesiveness to the streets surrounding the park and the museum. 

"Menil" or "Howard" Gray at the Menil Collection in Houston photo by Alton DuLaney
The particular shade of gray is also referred to as “Howard Gray” as it was actually conceived by Howard Barnstone, who took over the Rothko Chapel project from Johnson. 
Live Oak tree in the Menil Neighborhood of Houston photo by Alton DuLaney

Dominique de Menil had requested a hue that would play well with the lush green lawns and majestic Live Oak trees of the park, as well as something that would not detract from the museum centerpiece she would eventually build in the park. 

Menil Live Oak in Houston photo by Alton DuLaney March 2016
Of note is that the Museum came later, and was painted to match the bungalows and not the other way around.

Menil Neighborhood in Houston photo by Alton DuLaney March 2016

The neighborhood became known locally as “Doville” (Dominique’s-Village), and has for decades been both enclave and refuge to artists, writers, designers, and other creatives, that have called the bungalows home. Residents in these rent-controlled units have access to world-class art and institutions, and also contribute to the authenticity of the neighborhood, while maintaining the character and charm that first attracted Dominique to the area in the late 1950’s, when the Menil’s were instrumental in forming the University of St Thomas.
A half-century later, Dominique’s vision is alive and thriving in Houston, attracting tens-of-thousands of visitors each year, and fulfilling the philosophies of accessibility (the museum and all exhibits are free to the public), 

Menil Collection in Houston hours of operation

the combination of spirituality and art (through the two chapels and tranquil, meditative park setting), 

Menil Park in Houston photo by Alton DuLaney March 2016
and intimacy (housing artists and creatives in the neighborhood’s iconic gray bungalows).  

Texas Artist Alton DuLaney with dog AureLeo at the Menil Collection in Houston
(For information on another great Texas artist who has work in the Menil Collection, check out this great book on Robert Rauschenberg published by the Menil.)
 
As one strolls through the park, surrounded by the cool gray-toned homes, and the understated yet impressive museum and surrounding galleries, it is easy to feel a sense of pride for the instantly recognizable art neighborhood. And though Dominique is long gone, her presence survives, as the compound continues to draw crowds and acclaim. And the vision continues to expand, with a master plan in the works for even more green spaces and the now-under-construction Menil Drawing Institute, which boasts to be the only free-standing building dedicated to works on paper in the USA. (The height of the new MDI, by the way, will be no more than 16ft, so as not to detract from or tower over the bungalows.) 

Construction on the Menil Drawing Institute in Houston photo by Alton DuLaney
Definitely a neighborhood worth visiting on any tour of Houston. For more information on hours or exhibitions at the Menil Collection, visit their website.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Tom House

TOM HOUSE book from Rizzoli
TOM HOUSE book from Rizzoli available Spring 2016



The book project which I had the pleasure of working on this past spring in LA with the great guys from the Tom Of Finland Foundation, and Rizzoli. Available now for pre-order.

RELEASE DATE: 8th March 2016
PRE-ORDER NOW: http://amzn.to/1T1OkGS
An immersive glimpse into the private, domestic world of one of the twentieth century’s most revolutionary artists. Nestled in a leafy, residential section of Los Angeles is the house where Tom of Finland (Touko Laaksonen, Finnish, 1920–1991) lived and worked during the last decade of his life. It is an extraordinary place—part shrine, part haven, part art-historical archive, and part utopian collective. For additional insight, the revelatory photographs are paired with rarely seen preparatory drawings.
Hardcover, 256 pages, Published by Rizzoli New York
By Michael Reynolds (Author), Martyn Thompson (Photographer) and Mayer Rus (Contributor).

Friday, December 4, 2015

James Surls Studio in Splendora by Alton DuLaney