Tuesday, 30 November 2010


Architect Carlos Raúl Villanueva in collaboration with Alexander Calder, Aula Magna auditorium, Ciudad Universitaria de Caracas, 1954
C-print digital reproduction from a faded 1954 Kodachrome by Paolo Gasparini

R.S.V.P, 1939
C-print digital reproduction (framed); Time magazine cover May 22, 1939 (framed), vinyl lettering on wall, wall label with narrative text

R.S.V.P, 1939
From the series Cultural Diplomacy: An Art We Neglect, 2007-2009
Joseph Blumenthal and Frances Collins
Mock invitation to the 10th Anniversary Gala at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1939
Seven thousand guests received formal invitations to the inauguration of the new building of the Museum of Modern Art in May 1939. Prior to the event, Frances Collins, the Museum’s Director of Publications at the time, decided to play a dangerous practical joke: she enlisted her friend Joseph Blumenthal of the Spiral Press to design and print a mock invitation to the gala, inviting guests to “The Museum of Standard Oil.” Collins was fired from the Museum shortly afterwards. Collins was not the only staff member to lose her job. Nelson Rockefeller, who had been appointed new President of the museum two days before the opening of the new building, soon brought in a team of “time-and-motion experts” to streamline the museum’s operations. “[Alfred] Barr was contemptuous of the efficiency experts, but, as his wife Marga would later write, ‘Alfred had not foreseen the consequences of their reports. Now, Nelson Rockefeller has bypassed Alfred’s authority as Director of the museum and has played havoc with its central nervous system.’ … Several key staffers wired Barr with their support, offering to join him in a resignation en masse.”
- Cary Reich, The Life of Nelson A. Rockefeller, Worlds to Conquer 1908-1958 (New York: Doubleday, 1996)

Detail of Alexander Calder’s performing mobile Orange Fish (1946)
at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, 2008
From the series Cultural Diplomacy: An Art We Neglect, 2007-2009
Orange Fish is one of Calder’s earliest surviving stage works, a “performing mobile” created in 1946.
The work was acquired by the Pahlavis for the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art in 1976, and displayed to the public upon the museum’s inauguration in 1977. The museum’s opening ceremony was attended by many international guests and acquaintances of the royal family, among them Nelson Rockefeller, former president of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and former vice president of the United States. The portraits of Ruhollah Khomeini and Ali Khamenei were acquired by the museum after the 1978 Islamic Revolution of Iran.
“We are here to make a choice between the quick and the dead. That is our business. … We must provide the mechanism to assure that atomic energy is used for peaceful purposes and to preclude its use in war.”
- Bernard Baruch, remarks at the U.N. Atomic Energy Commission inauguration (June 15, 1946)
“Let us not be deceived—we are today in the midst of a cold war.”
- Bernard Baruch, speech at the Carolina State Legislature (April 17, 1947)

Didactic Panel and Model of Alexander Calder’s
Vertical Constellation with Bomb, 1943
From the series Cultural Diplomacy: An Art We Neglect, 2007-2009
“[T]he United States must face the prospect of acquiring and holding sufficient additional [petroleum] reserves to supply our military and civilian needs in the years ahead, irrespective of whether such reserves are within the borders of the United States…. They are in fact more important to the United States than to the countries that have them, because they are more vital to the life of the consumer than to the producer.”
- Ralph Davies (Deputy Coordinator of Petroleum Administration for War) to President Roosevelt, 1941
“By late 1942 Wallace Murray, head of the State Department’s Near Eastern and African Affairs (NEA) division, said that the U.S. would soon be ‘running’ Iran through ‘an impressive body of American advisers.’ “
- Daniel Yergin, The Shattered Peace; The Origins of the Cold War and the National Security State (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1977), 180-82
“The USA’s new interests in Iran... obliged Moscow to modify its policies and reassess its postwar ambition, not only in Iran, but in the Near East as a whole. In the ensuing Cold War there would be losses and gains for both sides. Iran ranks as one of the USSR’s earliest losses in the conflict.”
- Louise L’Estange Fawcett, Iran and the Cold War (Cambridge University Press: 1992), 18

The Larger Picture, 1939-1942 (Modern Entanglements, U.S. Interventions)

Mobile for the Hotel Ávila, 1939-1942,
c-print digital reproduction (44-3/4 x 59-3/4 inches); real-size construction plan of Calder’s mobile for the ballroom of the hotel

Cultural Diplomacy: An Art We Neglect
Alessandro Balteo Yazbek in Collaboration with Media Farzin
Henrique Faria Fine Art, New York
October 15 to November 13, 2010

This body of work entangles modernist art with global politics to offer the viewer a narrative of unexpected connections that border on the absurd. This series, the result of a collaboration with art historian Media Farzink, draws on the cultural symmetry between their respective countries, Venezuela and Iran, which led them to investigate the hidden origins of the Cold War.

Their narrative sketches out the intersection of foreign policy and corporate ginterest that has controlled the distribution of global power since World War II, revealing a delicate Cold War balance of oil and bombs.

Alessandro Balteo Yazbeck’s work is informed by historic conceptual art. He uses exhibition design as a medium to create an aura of curatorial authority for his work. His approach highlights the notion of collaborative authorship by explicitly quoting, incorporating or making reference to the works of other artists, curators and historians. Balteo Yazbeck was born in Caracas, Venezuela. He works between Caracas and New York since 2000. While in Caracas, he studied design and fine arts, and graduated with an emphasis on sculpture. His work has been shown in museums and galleries throughout the world, and is represented at institutional and private collections. In 2008, Balteo Yazbeck had his first U.S. major solo exhibition at the Carpenter Center at Harvard University. He participated in the second Trienal PoliGrafica de San Juan in 2009 and will be taking part in the next Istanbul Biennale 2011.

Media Farzin is an art historian and critic. Her work focuses on interdisciplinary American art in the postwar period, particularly language-based work of the 1950s-1970s. She was curator, with Jon Hendricks and Marianne Bech, of “Make a salad.” Fluxus Scores and Instructions (Musset for Samtidskunst Roskilde, 2007). Her writings on Middle Eastern art have been published in Tehran Avenue, Bidoun and Emerging Cultural Continent; Actors and Networks (Istambul, 2008). She has a BA in Fine Arts from Tehran University, an MA in Modern Art History/Curatorial Studies from Columbia University, and is currently a doctoral candidate in Art History at the City University of New York.

visit Alessandro Balteo Yazbek's 2008 Carpenter Centre/Harvard exhibition here

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