John Chamberlain’s Crazy Metal Sculptures Take Over the Guggenheim

Twisting brightly colored fenders, bumpers, and fins into compact beautiful objects, sculptor John Chamberlain gave trashed cars a glamorous second life. Chamberlain, who died last December at the age of 84, was also known for his continuous exploration of new materials and processes. “I think of my art materials not as junk but as garbage,” he once said. “Manure, actually; it goes from being the waste material of one being to the life-source of another.” In celebration of his five-decades long career, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum recently mounted John Chamberlain: Choices, a comprehensive exploration of his work, and the first retrospective in the US since 1986. … Read More

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Preview Juergen Teller’s Controversial Photographs

Just in time for New York Fashion Week, Juergen Teller, the German-born photographer most known for his cheeky refusal to keep his ad campaigns for designers like Helmut Lang, Yves Saint Laurent, Vivienne Westwood, and Marc Jacobs distinct from his most intimate, non-commissioned images, has an exciting new show opening at Lehmann Maupin. “I don’t really see it as commercial work when I do commercial work,” he has explained. “I see it more like… Let’s say somebody wants to do an independent film, right? They have to cast actresses and choose locations and all that. So I’m just using this stuff to create my own fantasies and dreams.”

The exhibition gives a prime sample of Teller’s no-holds-barred approach to picture-taking, which at times has lent his work an air of contention. Divided into three groups, the first series of Teller’s show features alluring portraits of Vivienne Westwood (wearing nothing but her fiery red mane) and photos of model Kristen McMenamy, which were controversial for their purportedly “pornographic” quality. The second set, Men and Women, depicts what some see as representations of the stages of masculinity — from coming-of-age to loss of virility — as contrasted with female power. The third grouping, Keys to the House, features intimate shots of friends and family as well as landscape photos taken at Teller’s home in Suffolk, UK. Click through our slideshow for a sample of photos from this bold, racy, and beautiful show. … Read More

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Your Holiday Guide to Secret Santa Gifts That Don’t Suck

Holiday-party season is upon us, which means you’ve probably encountered at least one round of Secret Santa, whether it’s at work or among friends. Of course, this also means you’re faced with the conundrum of finding something cool without spending too much. Because we all know that the two things most important with Secret Santa gifts are that 1) they shouldn’t actually set you back financially, and 2) they need to demonstrate your thoughtfulness, creativity, and utter coolness, impressing the pants off the recipient and everyone involved. We already took inspiration from the release of Madden NFL 12 from our friends at EA Sports to give you ideas on how to enjoy the holidays at home; now we’re using it as the jumping-off point to help you find some top-notch gifts that will leave you feeling smugger than Mr. Claus himself. Whether your recipient is a football fanatic, a culture vulture, or a sartorial junkie, here’s a plethora of thrifty gifts that will make you wish your own Secret Santa had this list. … Read More

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K-NARF’s Kitschy Photo-and-Scotch-Tape Creations

French-born, Singapore-based artist K-NARF has exhibited his “photograffiti” installations in unlikely locations such as old cinemas, functioning plants, and abandoned garages. But he’s no street art snob. He has also shown his work at the French Embassy in Tokyo, the Museum of Sydney, and a photo festival in Arles, France. His career was launched back in 2001 when an artist named Teruo Kurosaki gave K-NARF — then a practicing architect — his first exhibition, The Red and Newspapers, at Sputnik PAD in Tokyo, Japan. Since then, he has been honing his creations and is seemingly primed to join the neo-pop ranks of cynical self-merchandising artists Jeff Koons and Takashi Murakami.

In his latest solo show, K-NARF PHOTOGRAFFITI, which opens today at New York City’s Clic Gallery, K-NARF presents a kitschy series of photographs of amusement parks from the ’80s that he then altered with adhesive tape. Click through for a slide show of eye-catching works from the exhibit. … Read More

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Preview the Brooklyn Museum’s Controversial ‘HIDE/SEEK’ Show

HIDE/SEEK, the stand-out exhibit that provoked controversy when it opened at the National Portrait Gallery in October 2010, has found a new home at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. The show, the first major museum exhibition to focus on themes of gender and sexuality in modern American portraiture, presents over 100 works by 67 artists, with almost all of the works from the original exhibit on display.

HIDE/SEEK opens with Thomas Eakins’ 1892 photograph of a geriatric Walt Whitman (whose relationship with Peter Doyle is well known) and closes with several versions of David Wojnarowicz’s A Fire in My Belly, the film that ignited the controversy with the Smithsonian Institute due to its depiction of a crucifix covered in ants. Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Nan Goldin, Glenn Ligon, Georgia O’Keefe, and Marsden Hartley are some of the artists in this high-caliber exhibition that asserts the significance of the work of gay artists to contemporary art, and presents a new paradigm for understanding the complex and tense relationship between sexuality and portraiture. Click through for a slide show of some of our favorite work on display. … Read More

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A Collection of Great Vintage Cocktail Books

In his 1922 book Cocktails: How to Mix Them, honorable barkeep Robert Vermeire provides the generally accepted story for how the cocktail came to be. Over a hundred years earlier in America, distressed over the loss of his prize-fighting cock, a squire offered his daughter’s hand in marriage to any man who brought the animal back alive. When a cavalry officer arrived at his door bearing the live cock in tow, the squire’s daughter, in her excitement, mixed up some drinks, blending whiskey, vermouth, bitters, and ice. The delicious concoction was christened on the spot, and the “cocktail” was born. With the holidays fast arriving, you might savor some tips from some storied barkeeps and writers. Click through for a small selection of vintage cocktail books, along with a few newer selections by writers we love, to help you get through the season of merry-making. … Read More

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Michael Stipe’s Photos of Patti Smith On the Road

After the deaths of her husband Fred Smith, her brother Todd, and her original keyboard player Richard Sohl, Patti Smith was urged by her famous friends Michael Stipe of REM and Allen Ginsberg (who readers of Just Kids will remember she met in her early days in New York City) to go back on the road. For two weeks in 1995, Stipe followed Smith while she toured with Bob Dylan, chronicling the experience in his intimate visual diary Two Times Intro: On the Road with Patti Smith. While the book serves as a document of a beginning — Smith’s re-emergence as a touring musician, its reprinting by Akashic also coincides with a musical demise — the recent break up of REM. Click through to see some of Stipe’s photos, and let us know in the comments if you think he shows potential for exploring his art in this new medium. … Read More

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Scott Biram and the One-Man Bands You Should Know

Tattoo artist Norman “Sailor Jerry” Collins was a poet, a prankster, and an innovator, who picked up the art form while hopping freight trains across the US. He became a legend for his dedication and creativity — traits mirrored by the musical acts featured today by Sailor Jerry Presents. Scott Biram, who performed in the series on November 8 in Aspen, Colorado, plays guitar and harmonica, sings, yodels, and, in the blues tradition, stomps his foot. Using a stompboard, he sends that sound through two giant 18-inch subwoofers. Biram is part of a tradition of musicians who, with their innovation and freakish talent for performing on multiple instruments (often simultaneously), carry forth the spirit of the one-man band in new ways. We got together with him to compile this list of our favorite “one-man” acts. … Read More

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Famed Photographer Nan Goldin Takes on the Louvre

Nan Goldin, the photographer best known for her gritty snap shots of heavy drug use, violent couples, candid autobiographical moments, and the New Wave scene of the early ’80s is back with a new show, Scopophilia, at Matthew Marks Gallery. In her first exhibit in New York since 2007, Goldin explores the themes closest to her heart: love, gender, sexuality, and voyeurism. Yet this time around, she pairs her own autobiographical photographs with images taken at the Louvre Museum, where she was given free reign to train her lens on some of the most prized works of art history. While some of these paintings and sculptures will be familiar, these are not the works you think you know. Goldin’s backside view of Antonio Canova’s Cupid and Psyche is startlingly intimate and sexually charged. In her own words, Goldin reveals her inspiration: “Desire awoken by images is the project’s true starting point.” If you can’t make it to the show in person, click through to see some of Goldin’s brash and personal new photos. … Read More

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Preview The Morgan Library’s Massive Charles Dickens Exhibition

Charles Dickens would have turned 200 years old next year. To celebrate the bicentennial of the great Victorian novelist, The Morgan Library hosts Charles Dickens at 200, an exhibition of Dickens’ novels and stories, his letters, books, photographs, original illustrations, and caricatures as well as other personal effects. Organized by Declan Kiely, the Robert H. Taylor Curator and Department Head of Literary and Historical Manuscripts, the exhibit runs through February 12, 2012 and presents an ongoing series of gallery talks, lectures, and film screenings.

Among the offerings on view at the library are a portrait of Dickens at age 29 just a few months before he made his first trip to the US; an appeal to fallen women “anonymously” written (by Dickens) encouraging London prostitutes to enter a home Dickens created; a watercolor of Hungerford Stairs, which shows Warren’s Blacking Factory where Dickens worked as a 12-year-old boy wrapping boot-blacking bottles — a traumatic experience that worked its way into his novels; and many personal effects from seals to playbills. Following is a small sample of illustrations and effects you’ll see at this vast exhibit, which captures the art and life of the peerless literary superstar. … Read More

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