There is a constant tussle between all the possibilities of human thought and between all the possibilities of a human mind’s sensitivity and between all the possibilities of a human character. — Thomas Bernhard, ‘Walking’, Three Novellas.
Tamuna Sirbiladze’s Elements were gestures which disturbed the presentational standards of the white cube. Related to wall paintings made in Vienna, London, Venice, and New York, Elements were first intended as works in and of themselves, and quickly evolved to become specific components within the given parameters of an exhibition. When conceived by Sirbiladze as freestanding armatures designed to accommodate work by other artists, Elements effectively brought pictorial space into actual space. In agitating that which separates the two, Sirbiladze gave the role Elements performed a subtle cognitive twist.
Beginning with a schematic view of the exhibition space, Sirbiladze’s Elements were derived from modern Roman letter forms. In their making, they employed readymade building materials of standard size, and were fabricated onsite to the artist’s specifications. Elements then became a configurable proposition situated somewhere between sculpture and architecture, or a meta-device which could invite endlessly discursive liberties. With Elements OMI,executed for The Crayon Miscellany at OMI International Art Center, Sirbiladze used the letters T and L to arrive at an example of what she termed ‘an anti-Judd structure’, quasi-monumental in scale and painted by proxy in what the artist laconically called ‘Russian colors.’ The placement of Elements OMI at the gallery entrance articulated a raumplan which confounded movement and directed the act of looking within the four walls of the space, encouraging investigation and providing opportunities for seeing outside the norms of typical experience.
Sirbiladze’s Elements bear affinities with Franz West’s Wegner Raüms 2/6 – 5/6, twin exhibitions where West’s work was arranged in a combinatory manner which included idea, object, exchange, and place. In their respective approaches to similar positions, Sirbiladze and West engaged modes of display which deliberately upended convention at each turn, and fundamentally called into question how ‘the work’ becomes just that. Furthermore, and more provocatively, the language games present throughout suggest an openly chaotic dismantling of historian E.H. Gombrich’s renowned dictum: Perhaps for Sirbiladze and for West, there were no artists, or no art. Instead, there may have been only the possibility of perception giving way to successive images of thought, or to a grasp of thinking itself, thus disclosing a position where vision, image, and reflection were embodied in a purely ecstatic posture
Deitch knows everyone, but most people don’t know much about him. Like his hero Warhol, he’s an impresario of almost undetectable brio, a painfully painstaking man, patient with his explanations but only because, one suspects he suspects, you might be too inattentive to otherwise understand just what he has in his mind. He is solitary—a disciplined runner, he’s never been married and answers all his own e-mails—and in 1992, he curated a show largely drawn from Joannou’s collection called “Post-Human,” about the blurring of what is real and what is artificial. It’s a concept he can seem to embody: a kind of abstracted and evacuated person, almost holographic, not unlike his friend Jeff Koons. (“I think he has played the role of a post-human character himself,” says Massimiliano Gioni, the New Museum and Venice Biennale curator.) Deitch will talk over people, but politely, unspooling pedagogic insight. That closed-off social affect, for what it’s worth, always annoyed the L.A. Times art critic (and Deitch arch-critic) Christopher Knight, who complained to me that “I’ve sat next to Jeffrey at dinners many times and I’ve never been able to have a conversation with him.” …“The criticism that he gets sometimes is that he’s critic and curator and finance expert,” says Gioni. “Sometimes he is criticized for being complicit with the market. But he became his own model.” The other criticism, of course, was that he wasn’t actually serious about serious art—or not as serious as he was about the party taking place around it. Which he sort of confesses to: “I do not think that there’s any contradiction between being rigorous, super-serious, and being fun and lively,” he says. “Look at the greatest artists, Picasso. This is the most rigorous, toughest stuff. He pushed and challenged himself, but you see the images of Picasso—he’s having fun, he loves it. Toulouse-Lautrec, this is revolutionary, rigorous art. He’s hanging out in those clubs. He’s going to the Moulin Rouge and having a good time. Of course, obviously, the example of Andy Warhol, the Factory. That’s a fundamental thing, that there’s no contradiction between engagement and enjoying life, and a rigorous approach and disciplined approach to art, and you should be able to do both. Art that’s deadly serious—and some that I respect—it’s not the art that excites me.” [Carl Swanson on Jeffrey Deitch]
“You can’t separate them,” he said, on a drizzly afternoon in his office above Deitch Projects, on Grand Street in New York’s SoHo. “One of the biggest misunderstandings of this is that somehow there’s the art market and then there’s, let’s say, the ‘good’ part of the art world,” such as non-profit organizations or museums, with their educational mission. “My primary interest is the art itself and being on the side that helps to produce the art,” he said, “but the art business is possibly the most important part of how art is supported.” At Citibank, Deitch put this insight into practice. In his nine years there, from 1979 to 1988, he pioneered two major industries, art advisory services and art lending, that today are integral parts of the art trade. Rather than disavow the market, Deitch studied it, understood it, and used it to facilitate the work of artists he believed in, largely by encouraging collectors to visit and form relationships with the artists they admired. “Jeffrey was embracing of the market,” said the artist Jeff Koons, who has known Deitch since the late 1970s. He could see that “it’s not bad if something is sought after and people place value on it.” …Even before getting his MBA, Deitch saw the art world as “a window on global economics.” His boss, John Weber, was married to the Italian dealer Annina Nosei; he watched Italian collectors buy art as a hedge against Italy’s inflation during the political turbulence of the 1970s. Over the course of his career, he watched as the action shifted to Greek shipping families, American real estate and shopping mall developers, Japanese collectors and corporations, and Russian and Chinese buyers. When he left New York to attend Harvard Business School, his art-world friends were surprised; he told them he was going to HBS to “to study art criticism,” a joke, he said, with measure of truth to it. [Anna Louie Sussman on Jeffrey Deitch]
Well, I love the excitement of a spectacle and a spectacle is something that it—I like an artistic project that takes on a life of its own, where I did not want to be like a conventional gallery where you put up your show and then you wait for the reviewer, you know, that you just wait for somebody to endorse it. I wanted to create projects that had their own energy, that were talked about, that brought people in, and we started this very early on. One of our early projects notoriously—can we get to the letter D? …Okay. Well, the economics was very straight, we set a whole system, so each artist who was invited was offered if they needed it up to twenty-five thousand dollars as a production budget. It was very generous for that time. And if you’ve been to the original Grant Street space, it’s very interesting. It’s not that big, the whole plot is 2,500 square feet. The gallery space is maybe a thousand square feet, but high ceilings, and somehow you can do something that appears to be big but it doesn’t get overwrought and it’s something that’s doable, so for twenty-five thousand dollars you can do amazing things in there, and the deal was that we would, out of that funding, give the artist a studio space, assistants, materials, we put on the project, and if we sold it, the money would be reimbursed and the artist and the gallery would split 50/50. If we didn’t sell it I would just keep the project, it would go into my collection. But what happened from the beginning, we actually sold these crazy projects and we—I’ve always felt the economics of art, what you’ve got to do is inspire people, and so if you’re playing it safe, sometimes there are plenty of buyers for safe, decorative paintings and sculpture, but if you really go all the way with somebody, out of all the possible collectors in the world there’s gotta be a few who are going to be inspired and say, “This is amazing, I want to be part of this.” And that’s what happened. [Massimo Gioni in conversation with Jeffrey Deitch]
MS. TUCKER: No, I think it changed far more – my idea of what a museum is has changed since the New Museum more than it changed in the Whitney. But when I was there, I told Jack Fowler that I did not believe in the museum as an archive, which meant that I had obviously seen museums as archives, repositories, places of scholarship and evaluation, exhibitions as the visual residue of the scholarship and evaluation. And I thought that that was putting the cart before the horse, that it was more important to put the art out, and then to evaluate it, rather than to use the art as proof of certain kinds of theories or events. MS. TUCKER: Well, so what happened was that the museum started that way with no – I mean none of us having any experience, and very idealistic, very, you know, non-hierarchic. It’s going to be a wonderful place to work. We’ll borrow spaces. And in fact, we did do three exhibitions, and we promised to do catalogs with all the exhibitions. And we did. We offset them. And it was hot and tiny in that place. But we still managed. It became clear that the building was going to be sold. And the day that – I was sitting here in my house with the trustee, with Allen Goldring, and with the, at that time, development officer, who I subsequently fired, trying to figure out how, where, when, and what. And I got a call saying the building had been sold and we had to vacate in two months. And I said okay. And I got a call 10 minutes later saying that the New School was giving us that space that we have now on [inaudible]. I had been with Zira to see the president because Zira had thought it would be a good thing. Macani [phonetic] was retiring. I told him if they gave me 12.5 a year I could make it. Totally unrealistic… Well, I didn’t know anything, you know? Well, I’d spend the 12.5 a year – I mean, that’s crazy. But what it meant, you see, is they give me 12.5 a year now. And it just offsets my telephone expenses and so forth, and I don’t – still don’t have any obligation to them; whereas if they funded the whole thing, look what would happen.[Marcia Tucker in conversation with Paul Cummings]
When I started the museum, I wasn’t interested in starting an alternative space. Rather, I was interested in trying to redefine what a museum could be in terms of contemporary art. When I worked at the Whitney Museum of American Art as a curator, it was clear that the contemporary area had become very complicated. In the mid-1970s there was an economic recession, and suddenly corporate sponsorship of exhibitions became a crucial factor for art institutions. This meant that contemporary art was the runt of the litter, so to speak, because, being the most controversial, it was the most difficult to fund. Moreover, as an art historian who had always worked in museums, I felt that if I were going to challenge a paradigm it needed to be the paradigm I knew best.
What defined museums as opposed to galleries or alternative exhibition spaces in that period was the collection, which struck me as highly problematic because it created a strict value system of hierarchies and judgements that I thought was inappropriate for works that had been made very recently. The second thing I saw was that as museums focused increasingly on their collections, on acquiring works and showing them, and on looking for collectors to donate or to will their coil ections to the museum, they became increasingly out of touch with what was actually happening “today.” The resources taken up by the collection expanded at the expense of contemporary, experimental kinds of programs and exhibitions. Contemporary art is always fluid and changing, and its value is contingent; it calls for a very different kind of research and scholarship than a historical approach does. I thought that the only way to build a collection of contemporary art is to change it constantly and make it potentially transient in the way that cultural critic James Clifford talks about. The premise for putting together such an unusual kind of collection was to acknowledge that artistic value is not absolute, and to make transparent the critical and historical judgements that create the collection. I assumed that if the New Museum could collect, hold something for a certain period of time, and then either sell it or trade it for another work, it would help to create a more appropriate and more challenging kind of collection. [Marcia Tucker in conversation with Martina Pachmanová]
At the New Museum she emphasized inclusive group shows with provocative titles like “ ‘Bad’ Painting” and “Bad Girls,” insisted that the museum guards be knowledgeable about the art on view and planned to de-accession the collection every decade to keep the museum young. She served as series editor of “Documentary Sources in Contemporary Art,” five anthologies of theory and criticism. Her most notorious show, “Have You Attacked America Today?,” caused garbage cans to be thrown through the plate-glass window of the museum, which had by then moved to Broadway in SoHo. (The museum is constructing a new $35 million building on the Lower East Side, which is expected to open late next year. Until then it is sharing gallery space with the Chelsea Art Museum.)John Walsh, then director of the J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu, Calif., described Ms. Tucker in especially apt terms in a 1993 article in The New York Times: “There’s always been a social conscience in Marcia that’s impatient and results in a kind of alertness you can just read across her forehead like a Jenny Holzer sign.” [Robert Smith on Marcia Tucker]
An exhibition retracing the life and times of the once-precocious fashion designer, former curator extraordinaire, now filmmaker, writer and editor CS Leigh runs the risk of being an exercise in futility. Few figures have left behind a record so riddled with holes. As a teenager in the early 1980s, Kristian Leigh is thought to have designed dresses for the likes of Meryl Streep. After his fashion house allegedly succumbed to debt, and following what would be the first in a series of disappearances, Leigh, this time with the first name Christian, re-entered the New York scene around 1985 as a critic, curator and broker. His exhibitions were effective promotional vehicles for such artists as Ashley Bickerton, Christian Eckart and Peter Halley, and for then up-and-coming gallery owners like Thaddaeus Ropac, whose reputation was sealed by ‘The Silent Baroque’, a monumental group show Leigh curated at Ropac’s Salzburg gallery in 1989 and which is remembered today mostly for the lavishness of its catalogue and opening reception. Another disappearance act ensued, this time after ‘I Love You More Than My Own Death’ – Leigh’s Pedro Almodóvar-inspired group exhibition at the 1993 Venice Biennale – once again became mired in debt. Four years later, Leigh, now prefaced by the monogram ‘CS’, re-emerged in Paris as a filmmaker. According to various reports, he is the director and screenwriter of a number of feature-length films, among them Far From China (2001), Nude Descending (2002) and Process(2003), as well as numerous short films. Yet besides Process, many of Leigh’s films seem to be as elusive as their maker, occasionally showing up at festivals and special screenings but otherwise hard to catch. On the other hand, Leigh’s recent London-based book and music publishing arm, Syntax, undoubtedly exists (a copy of one of the publications was on view at castillo/corrales), but so far its distribution similarly shuns wide exposure. [Anthony Hudek on Christian Leigh]
Five years later, in the summer of 1989, a mega-exhibition of American art opened in Salzburg. “The Silent Baroque” is remembered above all for its absurdly extravagant opening festivities. A multitude of New York artists and critics were flown to Austria, put up in deluxe hotels, and treated to banquets on the grounds of Schloss Schönbrunn, outside Vienna. Attendees remember it as a fever dream of opulence, with night after night of Fellini-esque parties catered by liveried footmen. For some, the junket represented the grand finale of ’80s excess, the last and most lavish party of the waning decade. But “The Silent Baroque” is remembered for other things as well. It put Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac on the map, brought the neo-geo artists to Europe, and highlighted the ascendancy of its young maximalist curator—the corpulent, brilliant Christian Leigh. Nobody in the art world remembers exactly when they first began hearing about Leigh. He seems to have burst onto the scene during the 1985–86 season, charming dealers and artists alike with his smarts, conspiratorial humor, and intimations of financial largesse. Soon he was writing reviews for Artforum, organizing loquacious dinners at Barocco, and curating memorable shows. Stefan Stux remembers being dazzled, as were many other dealers. “He would come into your gallery and say, ‘I love this work. How much is this one? Ten thousand dollars? Why don’t you put a reserve down on this one. And by the way, I’m going to curate a show in Europe, and I’d like to include some of your artists.’ You felt like you’d reached God’s foot.” Meanwhile, the grand “Silent Baroque” catalogue, with its mix of artists’ projects and interviews, not to mention its square format, came to resemble a giant hardcover issue of Artforum. Leigh’s own contribution to the book was odd: a long, earnest analysis of sexism in Hollywood. The other forty-two contributions were equally peculiar, and heterogeneous. Like the exhibition itself, the catalogue was essentially a grab bag of up-and-coming names, from Jeff Koons, Peter Halley, and Ashley Bickerton, to Hilton Als, Jerry Saltz, and Herbert Muschamp. Any organizing principle was conspicuous mainly by its absence. [Alexi Worth on Christian Leigh]
Right at the beginning of the book this sets a political tone somewhat at odds with the book’s appearance as a glossy coffee-table item. Once one has started to read, this turns out to be mere surface. Leigh even seems to infer that superficiality in itself is baroque – a tragic misunderstanding. He claims not to be interested in the baroque as a historical phenomenon as such. If he had been interested we would probably have had quite a different book, certainly not this celebration of flimsiness, notwithstanding its physical weight. What he is aiming at remains unclear. Jeff Koons’ cover radiates precisely the same pretentious ambiguity. Picturing a black dog on a watermelon it might be intended as a critique of racism. If so, it is so disguised that it throws doubt on the sincerity of its designer. No limits were set on the participating artists and writers with regard to form and content of their contributions. The resulting book is a free-wheeling collection of individual projects and essays lacking any coherence whatsoever. So let us forget about the promising title and review the articles and projects for what they are. In his essay, Donald Kuspit raises Leigh himself as curator to the rank of artist. A discussion of the current tendency among curators to transform their exhibitions into art works – frequendy to the detriment of the artist’s intentions – would have been more to the point here. An interesting, but generally neglected phenomenon in this context, is that only the current hype of group-shows enables curators to do this. Perhaps it is about time to return to the intellectual integrity of one person exhibitions or at most of shows featuring a few congenial artists. [Kyra Delsing on Christian Leigh’s Silent Baroque]
While permanently altering the nature of curatorial practice in the US, Collins & Milazzo’s role as catalyst in the late-’80s neo-Conceptual takeover of the East Village was no less decisive. Even a cursory study of the former couple’s résumé is enough to make the current generation of peripatetic curators blush: in the course of a decade, from March 1984 to May 1993, a mind-boggling forty-four exhibitions, virtually all accompanied by catalogues, or at least a co-authored text. In many cases, the verbal pyrotechnics and occasional lapses into self-parody outweighed the work on view. Unsurprisingly, the pair’s most fertile period came early, with a series of groundbreaking minisurveys of new art, whose titles still read like postmodern primers: “Still Life with Transaction,” “The New Capital,” and “Paravision.” One of the taboos they punctured was the notion that serious curators don’t make exhibitions in galleries. Along with nonprofits like White Columns, a partial list of their local venues included International With Monument, Nature Morte, Postmasters, Tibor de Nagy, American Fine Arts, Massimo Audiello, John Gibson, Annina Nosei, Sidney Janis, and Tony Shafrazi. In the end, the reign of Collins & Milazzo fizzled for the same primal reason it came into being: Times changed, and the art that people wanted to see changed with them. One vainly scrutinizes the list of twenty artists in their 1993 swan song, “Elvis Has Left the Building (A Painting Show),” to find more than a couple of names that even register. [Dan Cameron on Collins and Milazzo]
With twenty-twenty hindsight, it’s easy to see how specious and fickle the outpourings of both attention and money were, and it’s easy now to point up the hubris of those who believed that the rules of the game were changing forever. Alan Belcher and I never imagined ourselves to be revolutionaries; rather, we naively found ourselves in the right place at the right time, a moment in which, as I still believe, true progress was being made in the visual arts (though this was happening mostly in SoHo). Belcher and I identified strongly with the Metro Pictures school of art: media-derived, critical, and ironic. Consequently, we loathed the initial definition of the East Village by way of Gracie Mansion’s kitsch (had seen it all before at Holly Solomon’s on West Broadway) and Civilian Warfare’s Urban Punk (now seemingly the most true-to-the-neighborhood aesthetic). We felt vindicated only by the arrival, and subsequent success, of International With Monument and Cash/ Newhouse, and were proud to be peers in the court of Collins and Milazzo. It was Collins and Milazzo—that cross between Deleuze and Guattari and Ozzie and Harriet—who deserve the most credit for creating the intellectual East Village. They not only brought together (over Tricia’s home cooking) the like-minded young artists and gallerists of the neighborhood, but virtually built the bridge connecting the Pictures generation with its spawn. Personally, I learned volumes from my experience in the East Village, up to my eyeteeth in it as I was. The anxiety of making it into the history books was erased, as the history books themselves were democratized, opened up for seemingly anyone to write in. It’s surprising just how many “East Village” shows were mounted around the world, usually instigated by outside forces, but occasionally from within the neighborhood itself, for there certainly hasn’t been a glut of geographically inspired curating since (no shows anywhere, to my knowledge, on “The Marais” or “The Galleries of Bergamot Station”), which points to the fact that the audience outside saw the East Village scene as more cohesive and homogenized than did those of us within it. Just as the history books expanded to record more names, we became acutely aware, at an early age, of the rapid turnover of artists required to fuel the novelty-driven market (I’m often reminded of Robert Pincus-Witten’s essay “The Scene that Turned on a Dime” ). Anyone involved in it can think of dozens of artists and dealers who seem to have disappeared from the art world completely—far more, in fact, than those whom we know to still be active. [Peter Nagy on the East Village]
ALLAN McCOLLUM: It’s fascinating and touching that people work so hard to build an imminent meaning into things; that they pursue their desire to produce symbolic objects for themselves to keep, and to exchange with others. In our culture, an artwork is an object of this kind; and whatever specific meaning the artist works to put into it, it will always retain its promise as a gift, its destiny as a keepsake. This is the artwork I am interested in making: an object filled with the absence of certain meaning, and yet rich with the quality of meaningfulness in and of itself. What comes across in a lot of your work is an unabashed optimism for the potential of art. At the same time you have enthusiastically supported certain younger artists regarded by other critical thinkers of our generation to be devoutly cynical in their outlook. What is your view of those who see only cynicism in the work of today’s younger artists? ALLAN McCOLLUM: Your writing has always been marked by an exaggerated attention to style. Recently, critical texts have been looked at from a literary model—with a view to the ideological implications of their rhetorical devices. Can you talk about how the way you write reflects your underlying concerns about art, how your writing style impacts on the issues you deem important to you? COLLINS & MILAZZO: There is a pragmatic and a theoretical answer to your question. Pragmatically, when we started to write ‘art criticism’ (in 1982), if this is what it can be called, much of the art we sponsored or supported, either had no audience, or was unknown, unappreciated, or simply, ignored. We, on the contrary, were inspired by this ‘new’ work—and, quite frankly, allowed that work to un abashedly infect our “style” with new possibilities. While it is unfashionable in the art world to speak of new possibilities, inspiration, vision, creativity, and especially, originality, or basically a generative, or what Lucio Pozzi calls a ”regenerative,” approach, this was the case at the time—and still is, at least for us. Artists are constantly constructing new situations for themselves, trying to find a way out of certain discourses, or a way into others, even as they get trapped trying, ultimately, to find a way into their ‘own’ discourse. But no discourse is fully one’s own, nor is there any excuse for not trying to reinvent color or the alphabet. Convention and desire play into each other’s hands. Both win and both lose. The only thing you can be sure of is that you will be both brutalized by the process and inspired by it. But it is incumbent upon the critic to become engaged by the process, at the very least—either reflexively, which is usually the case, that is, where the art and the artist lead the way, or absurdly, and more unusually, where the critic, or rather, ”critical thinker,” dreams that he or she is helping to construct a dynamic ‘critical’ (in the sense of ‘crisis’) situation, where in art may thrive. The latter involves a form of willful, even violent, innocence—if it is to survive against the odds of the status quo, fashionability, ‘politics,’ and general cultural inertia. A theoretical, and far less ‘honest, ‘answer to your question is that we never believed in art criticism. It is too academic, too removed, too falsely objective and objectifying, too discreet and subsidiary and yet too self-deceivingly and passively opportunistic. It is a form of ‘graduate schoolism,’ especially as it is practiced by right-wing Marxists. But ultimately, it is simply too inconsequential in the greater scheme of things. It has even less of a chance to matter than art itself in the larger world of the Social. Perceptively, you have not referred to us as art critics, nor to our work as art criticism; instead you speak of ”critical thinkers,” and simply of “writing.” In the past, we have referred to ourselves as ‘advocates’ and to our critical work as ‘anti-criticism.’ This was partly due to a blatant rejection of the given (as described above) critical and art historical models, that is, the small-worldism [sic] of professional agendas, and, in part, to a personal fascination with setting a precedent for other, less legitimate and legitimizing, and more active modes of perception and criticality. A personal fascination that was steeped deeply, and, in part, generated by, the ‘impersonal’ or expansive beauty and innovation of the art we proudly advocated. Rather than comply with the ‘model ‘ for these things, for meaning and ethics, we have always chosen to test the limits of the rational, to try the de-stabilizing thresholds of meaning, rather than accept the lure of meaning per se and its reifications, and to adopt, when confronted by the conscience and consciousness of a moral code, an absurd ethic. And ultimately, to chance the actuality of closure over the rhetoric of correct positions. [Allan McCollum in conversation with Collins and Milazzo]
Wanting to discover the beauty of the world around her, a young bee named Maya leaves her hive to go exploring. On her adventures, she looks around the meadow where she lives, and meets other insects that live there. As many young creatures do, Maya spends a lot of time playing and having fun with her friends. The enthusiastic bee is constantly amazed by what she discovers while flying around the meadow.
Maya grows up in a hive with strict rules, and has several conflicts with the Queen’s adviser. When she discovers the villainous Buzzlina Von Beena’s plot to steal the Queen’s royal jelly, Maya is banished from the hive. With her best friend Willy tagging along, Maya meets a young hornet named Sting. Together they have to stop the plot, and the fight between bees and hornets before it’s too late.
__________________________________________________________ Wandemar Bonsels, The Adventures of Maya the Bee, 1912. Maya the Bee, 1975; Maya the Bee Movie, 2014; Maya the Bee: The Honey Games, 2018.
The art world tends to be driven by its market, and throughout the ’50s and the ’60s it was a relatively small art world with dealers and collectors and one or two small museums. It was during that period that the most powerful and permanent American art in this century was made—from Abstract Expressionism and Pop, to Minimalism and Post-Minimalism. It was, in a real sense, a great Mediterranean moment created by 4000 heavily medicated human beings. And then in the late ’60s we had a little reformation privileging museums over dealers and universities over apprenticeship, a vast shift in the structure of cultural authority. All of a sudden rather than an art world made up of critics and dealers, collectors and artists, you have curators, you have tenured theory professors, a public funding bureaucracy—you have all of these hierarchical authority figures selling a non-hierarchical ideology in a very hierarchical way. This really destroyed the dynamic of the art world in my view, simply because like most conservative reactions to the ’60s it was aimed specifically at the destruction of sibling society—the society of contemporaries. [Dave Hickey in conversation with Sari Carel the Postmodern Art World]
I think there’s a tendency not to want to divorce yourself from your art. I always told my students you make orphans—like Little Orpan Annie—they’re supposed to go out into the world and find their own Daddy Warbucks, and you don’t have anything to do with it. But these people seem so perversely close to their art. They say there are two kinds of artists: if you go see their art, the good kind of artist stands next to you and looks at it again, in your presence. The other kind of artist goes and stands beside their art to protect it, and/or explain it to you. You know, I prefer Ed Ruscha who just stands there beside you. But I get the feeling that Ed is not as tired of this as I am, because he makes art. It begins to feel like it’s all so thin. It’s like if I put my pen to the paper it will go through to the floor. Nothing there. And that’s hard because I’m in the business of liking things. I was thinking the other day about the Rodgers & Hammerstein song from Showboat called “Falling in Love with Love”—well that’s what I do. I’m not only obsessed with things, but I’m obsessed with being obsessed with things, and that’s why I don’t write much negative criticism—I have to kind of be obsessed with it first… or get paid five dollars a word, at which point everything looks good. [Dave Hickey in conversation with Rainey Knudson]
Another reason it is changing is that in the history of art, the tides of influence tend to go back and forth, they tend to be reactive. One generation reacts against another; the next generation, reacting against the previous one, goes back to the generation before that, which is to say the tides of influence in the art world tend to skip a generation. So now I have students who are really into Bridget Riley and Richard Serra; students who study Warhol, mostly as a colorist. When you are a young artist, you look around and you say, ‘Gee everything sucks, I am going to go back to the moment right before everything started sucking, and try to find a new way out of that’.So you have a lot of artists trying to find a new way out of ’60s art, much in the same way artists in the ’80s tried to find a new way out of ’40s art—in the sense that Julian Schnabel, David Salle, and Francesco Clemente looked back to the early figurative sources of Abstract Expressionism as a place to start. So that’s perfectly natural, and it happens all the time. The problem today, of course, is that art cannot change so fast because it is so highly institutional. The people in the museum are going to be there forever, the people in the university are going to be there even longer. The institutional super structure of the art world, which is always out of date by definition, is really out of date now. I think that you do begin to see small undergrounds, although its hard to stay underground for very long just because if you’re any good at all, people really want to look at it, because there is so much boring fucking art. Anybody who sees anything they like, they go crazy. I know artists just coming out of school and they already have a waiting list of 40 paintings, and that’s not because they are great artists, it’s just that they’re not bad artists. [Dave Hickey in conversation with Sari Carel on the Postmodern Art World]
The 1980s are back—and not just in the latest season of the Netflix series Stranger Things. The work of late artist Steven Parrino—who became famous for his signature torn, crumpled and twisted canvases and sculptures that were once synonymous with bad-boy art of the ’80s—has been cropping up everywhere in recent months.
Gagosian—which has represented the artist’s estate since 2006, the year after the artist’s untimely death in a New Year’s Eve motorcycle accident at age 46—has been doing the heavy lifting. Last month, the gallery presented Parrino’s 13 Shattered Panels (for Joey Ramone), a large-format, site-specific installation of folded, crumbled, and torn painted plasterboard, in Art Basel’s Unlimited sector for monumental art. And at the most recent Frieze Art Fair in New York, the gallery juxtaposed Parrino’s work with pieces by chrome sculptor John Chamberlain to illustrate how both explored the act of folding and compressing materials. [Eileen Kinsella on Steven Parrino]
Sotheby’s is pleased to announce Colossal! Monumental Works from the 1980s, an online-only sale that focuses on large painting and sculpture by artists of the Neo Expressionist and Neo Geo movements, both of which defined the artistic scene of that decade and affected the artistic production of others in the years to come. Many of the artists included have enjoyed critical attention during the 1980s and beyond for their fresh conceptual approaches to images and objects. Taken together, these represent a strong aesthetic current that captures the zeitgeist of an era defined by a major increase in demand for Contemporary Art. All lots in this sale are being offered without reserve. A selection of highlights will be on view in our New York galleries from July 10-17. Other works are available to be viewed in our New Jersey storage facility. Please contact us directly with any viewing requests. [Sotheby’s Collassal! Monumental Works from the 1980s]
“If this seems unduly commercial, that’s because it is. “Boom” gently posits that the arc of the art market in the late 20th and early 21st centuries has been yanked away from art and toward the market. Beginning in the 1940s, Shnayerson traces a move from connoisseurship to commerce, from the elegant Leo Castelli, whose gallery showed Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, to his rather more rambunctious protégé, Larry Gagosian. As a new guard of dealers rises, collaborating and competing with one another — Mary Boone, Gagosian’s rival for Castelli’s blessing, is one of a handful of female gallerists Shanyerson credits with challenging male domination of the field — it must also contend with the insatiable market it has helped to create… At the outset, even the merit of today’s multimillion-dollar art was a matter of debate. “The quality of the American achievement is very far from being a settled question,” Hilton Kramer wrote in a scathing Times review of the Metropolitan Museum’s 1969 show of postwar American art, which included the likes of Pollock, de Kooning, Lichtenstein and Warhol — a question that was settled, in part, thanks to the work of boosters like Betty Parsons, Sidney Janis and Castelli, gallerists who championed and sold it. “Art, not money, was Leo’s motivation,” Patty Brundage, who worked for Castelli, told Shnayerson. “He wouldn’t have made it as a dealer today because it’s all about the money.” [Matthew Schneier on the book Boom Mad Money, Mega Dealers, and the Rise of Contemporary Art]
It’s just as well that the appetite of this enlarged public is not for new art, but for new personalities, because finally there is little to differentiate one conceptual artist’s work from another. One pale grid on the wall is pretty much like any other; one page of compulsive calligraphy is hardly distinguishable from another. Thus the shift in focus from art work to the persona of the artist is necessary in a greatly expanded art world. in an overcrowded and undercapitalized milieu, only the media attention can single out the happy free from the madding crowd. Because communications media are by definition fickle, there is little loyalty to these overnight sensations. New personalities must be constantly created to satisfy not only the artist’s ego, but also the critic’s equivalent need to distinguish him or herself through the discovery of a definitive new talent. Parallel to the substitution of “stardom” – instant prominence as opposed to a steadily growing reputation evolving over a long period – for artists is the redefinition of the critic, not as the judge of quality but as the artist’s impresario. The disbelief that art has any intrinsic quality quickly leads to the conclusion that all an artist needs needs to succeed is a press agent who can write Art-Forumese. This cynicism is supported by attitudes toward success inculcated in art schools and promulgated by a new type of literature devoted to advising artists how to market their careers, manage there images, find galleries, collectors, etc., which along with books by accountants and lawyers about art, is the largest new category of art literature. [Barbara Rose on Twilight of the Superstars]
The rhetoric which accompanies this resurrection of painting is almost exclusively reactionary: it reacts specifically against all those art practices of the sixties and seventies which abandoned painting and coherently placed in question the ideological supports of painting, and the ideology which painting, in turn, supports. And thus, while almost no one agreed with the choices Barbara Rose made to demonstrate painting’s renaissance, almost everyone agrees with the substance, if not the details, of her rhetoric. Rose’s catalogue text for American Painting: The Eighties is a dazzling collection of received ideas about the art of painting, and I would submit that it is only such ideas that painting today knows.
Here, then, is a litany of excerpts from Rose’s essay, which I think we may take as provisional answers to the question: To what end painting in the l980s?
… painting [is] a transcendental, high art, a major art, and an art of universal as opposed to topical significance.
… only painting [is] genuinely liberal, in the sense of free.
[painting is] an expressive human activity … our only present hope for preserving high art.
[painting] is the product exclusively of the individual imagination rather than a mirror of the ephemeral external world of objective reality.
… illusion … is the essence of painting.
Today, the essence of painting is being redefined not as a narrow, arid and reductive anti-illusionisrn, but as a rich, varied capacity to birth new images into an old world.
[painting’s] capacity [is] to materialize an image … behind the proverbial looking-glass of consciousness, where the depth of the imagination knows no bounds.
Not innovation, but originality, individuality and synthesis are the marks of quality in art today, as they always have been.
… art is labor, physical human labor, the labor of birth, reflected in the many images that appear as in a process of emergence, as if taking form before us.
The liberating potential of art is … a catharsis of the imagination.
… these paintings are clearly the works of rational adult humans, not a monkey, not a child, or a lunatic.
“Now something’s gone terribly awry with that artistic morphology. An inversion has occurred. In today’s greatly expanded art world and art market, artists making diluted art have the upper hand. A large swath of the art being made today is being driven by the market, and specifically by not very sophisticated speculator-collectors who prey on their wealthy friends and their friends’ wealthy friends, getting them to buy the same look-alike art… Galleries everywhere are awash in these brand-name reductivist canvases, all more or less handsome, harmless, supposedly metacritical, and just “new” or “dangerous”-looking enough not to violate anyone’s sense of what “new” or “dangerous” really is, all of it impersonal, mimicking a set of preapproved influences. (It’s also a global presence: I saw scads of it in Berlin a few weeks back, and art fairs are inundated.) These artists are acting like industrious junior postmodernist worker bees, trying to crawl into the body of and imitate the good old days of abstraction, deploying visual signals of Suprematism, color-field painting, minimalism, post-minimalism, Italian Arte Povera, Japanese Mono-ha, process art, modified action painting, all gesturing toward guys like Polke, Richter, Warhol, Wool, Prince, Kippenberger, Albert Oehlen, Wade Guyton, Rudolf Stingel, Sergej Jensen, and Michael Krebber. I’ve photographed hundreds of examples this year, at galleries and art fairs, and a sampling appears on these pages.” [Jerry Saltz on contemporary abstraction]
“Naturally, when re-evaluating the canon of the last five decades, there were notable omissions. The group failed to name many artists who most certainly had an impact on how we view art today: Bigger names of recent Museum of Modern Art retrospectives, internationally acclaimed artists and high earners on the secondary market were largely excluded. Few paintings were singled out; land art was almost entirely absent, as were, to name just a few more categories, works on paper, sculpture, photography, fiber arts and outsider art... TLF: There aren’t that many paintings on the lists. KT: No. Wow. I didn’t realize that until two days later. I love painting, it’s just not here. TLF: Is painting not — Torey, you’re a painter — contemporary? TT: It’s old. I don’t know. I tried to look at what types of painting happened and then see who started it. RT: I put Guston on my list. David Breslin: On my longer list, I had Gerhard Richter’s Baader-Meinhof cycle [a series of paintings titled “October 18, 1977,” made by Richter in 1988, based on photographs of members of the Red Army Faction, a German left-wing militant group that carried out bombings, kidnappings and assassinations throughout the 1970s]. It speaks to the history of countercultural formation. How, if one decides not to peaceably demonstrate, what the alternatives are. How, in many ways, some of those things could only be recorded or thought about a decade-plus later. So, how can certain moments of participatory action be thought about in their time, and then also in a deferred moment? KT: I thought of all the women painters. I thought of Jacqueline Humphries, Charline von Heyl, Amy Sillman, Laura Owens. Women taking up the very difficult task of abstraction and bringing some meaning to it. That, to me, feels like important terrain women have staked out in a really serious way. Maybe one or two of those people deserve to be on this list, but somehow I didn’t put them on. DB: It’s that problem of a body of work versus the individual. KT: But am I going to pick one painting of Charline’s? I can’t. I just saw that show at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., and every painting in the last 10 years is good. Is one better than the other? It’s this kind of practice and this discourse around abstraction — and what women are doing with it — that I think is the key.” [25 Works of Art that Define the Contemporary Age]
“It seems to me that the current situation is not about available options, as Schwabsky suggests, which span a wide range of possibilities, or about a critic channeling Greenberg’s legacy and identifying the next viable tendency in art. Rather, it revolves around one fundamental question: how does an individual go about making work when a significant part of the art world believes that painting and drawing are dead? Or, to put it another way: after the death of the author, how does an individual reinstate the mantle of authorship and take responsibility for what he or she makes? Mimicking casualness or employing a machine or fabricators to make one’s work — as many critical darlings are busy doing — might be this generation’s way of shucking responsibility. Previous generations of artists, critics and curators bought into a constricted definition of what art could be, believing that history had brought them to an inevitable endgame and that any aesthetic alternative was spurious at best. But nothing, we should remind ourselves, is necessarily etched in stone.” [John Yau on Greenberg and his legacy]
“Every artist whose work derives from relational aesthetics has his or her own world of forms, his or her problematic and his or her trajectory: there are no stylistic, thematic or iconographic links between them. What they do have in common is much more determinant, namely the fact that they operate with the same practical and theoretical horizon: the sphere of interhuman relationships. Their works bring into play modes of social exchange, interaction with the viewer inside the aesthetic experience he or she is offered, and processes of communication in their concrete dimensions as tools that can to be used to bring together individuals and human groups. They therefore all work within what we might call the relational sphere, which is to today’s art what mass production was to Pop and Minimalism. They all ground their artistic practice in a proximity which, whilst it does not belittle visuality, does relativize its place within exhibition protocols. The artworks of the 1990s transform the viewer into a neighbor or a direct interlocutor. It is precisely this generation’s attitude towards communication that allows it to be defined in relation to previous generations: whilst most artists who emerged in the 1980s (from Richard Prince to Jeff Koons via Jenny Holzer) emphasized the visual aspect of the media, their successors place the emphasis on contact and tactility.They emphasize immediacy in their visual writing. This phenomenon can be explained in sociological terms if we recall that the decade that has just ended was marked by the economic crisis and did little to encourage spectacular or visionary experiments. There are also purely aesthetic reasons why this should have been the case; in the 1980s, the “back to” pendulum stopped with the movements of the 1960s and especially Pop art, whose visual effectiveness underpinned most of the forms proposed by simulationism. For better or worse, our period identifies with the Arte Povera and experimental art of the 1970s, and even with the atmosphere of crisis that went with it. Superficial as it may be, this fashion effect had made it possible to re-examine the work of artists such as Gordon Matta-Clark or Robert Smithson, whilst the success of Mike Kelley has recently encouraged a new reading of the Californian “junk art” of Paul Thek and Tetsumia Kudo. Fashion can thus create aesthetic microclimates which affect the very way we read recent history: to put it a different way, the mesh of the sieve’s net can be woven in different ways. It then “lets through” different types of work, and that influences the present in return.” [Nicolas Bourriaud on Relational Aesthetics]