• New post at artreview.com

    A first look at Eve Sussman & Rufus Corporation’s White on White: The Pilot (just like being there).  This is the first installment of ES & RC’s project White on White: A Film Noir.  In my opinion, it all looks very, very promising.  Have a read.

     

    Eve Sussman & Rufus Corporation, Yuris Office (2009); courtesy Winkleman Gallery
    Eve Sussman & Rufus Corporation, 'Yuri's Office' (2009); courtesy Winkleman Gallery
  • Podcast of Alice Aycock and Peter Macapia at TDC…

    Here is a podcast of Peter and Alice’s talks during ‘Information Architectures’ at The Drawing Center.

    Unfortunately, our Flip camera ran out of juice at the beginning so sound is all we can provide, but I’m planning to put the proceedings together for a volume of the Drawing Papers, which will come out in the fall; so we should be able to reconsititute the presentations (at least in some form) there.

    Peter Macapia & Alice Aycock at The Drawing Center for \’Information Architectures\’ (3/26/2009).

  • ArtReview.com teaser…

    Younger Than Jesus, The New Museum’s “Generational” opens this evening.

    The approach here is an interesting one, coming as it does on the heels of an art market that appeared to fetishize youth. But the curators of the new triennial, Laura Hoptman, Mas Gioni, and Lauren Cornell, assure us that what the show is meant to offer is a “snapshot” of a specific generation that for some time now has simply existed either as a catchphrase (“Millenials,” “Generation Y”) or as a demographic group for marketers. For Gioni, Younger Than Jesus is an attempt to show this generation of artists as “producers,” ones for which, as Hoptman noted, the curators have created “no ‘ism,” which is to say no conceptual corral that might makes sense of what it is that this generation of artists is up to. (That seems like a good idea, except when you remember that the very notion of a “generation” is itself a conceptual problem, though the curators and others unpack the idea in one of the shows two accompanying catalogs; more on the second one in a moment). Hoptman demurred that they (the curators, the Museum) would “leave the assessments to the sociologists, to the marketers, and to the future,” which is a nice way of confirming that they (the curators, the Museum) believe the show (and this generation) is worthy of assessments to begin with…

    Read the full post on ArtReview.com

  • Information Architectures at The Drawing Center…

    ‘Information Architectures’ just finished last night at The Drawing Center.  Here’s the official write up that went out:

    The Drawing Center is pleased to present Information Architectures, a series of talks and discussions in which leading philosophers, architects, designers, editors, and artists consider how information is diagrammed, modeled, structured and otherwise disseminated in the expanded field of drawing.

    As artists, designers, and intellectuals are increasingly regarded as “content providers” within the broader spectrum of our cultural interests, it seems increasingly necessary to consider not simply how certain forms-or “formats”-give this content shape, but how the entire form/content divide may be rendered irrelevant, or obsolete, by the mutability of information itself. From this perspective, drawing is not seen as an ancillary medium but rather as a privileged theoretical and practical tool with which to work out the tricky business of in-form-ing.

    The series was organized by myself and Brett Littman, and over the course of the last three nights, six very talented and interesting people gave presentations on their work.

    On Tuesday we had artist Danica Phelps and philosopher Alva Noë; on Wednesday, artist Nathan Carter and editor/designer/architect Jeffrey Inaba presented; and last night, my friend Peter Macapia and the formidable Alice Aycock spoke.

    Instead of offering any kind of afterthoughts on the three evenings (except to note that I think they went very well), I’m going to post the videos of the talks.  (Unfortunately, our camera died at the beginning of last night’s talks, so I’m going to have to cook something up for Peter and Alice’s presentations.  We have the podcasts, so perhaps with their permission I’ll lay that over their slide shows and capture it in Flash.  We’ll see.)

  • Catalog essay for Rosson Crow at White Cube…

    texascrude

     

    Check out my catalog essay, “Rosson Crow’s History Painting: Setting and Speculation,” for Crow’s show at White Cube, Texas Crude.  The show is excellent, and the catalog has great reproductions of the work, along with an excellent and honest essay by Crow herself; it far exceeds anything I have to say about the work.

  • Essay in the new Ryan McGinness monograph from Rizzoli

    mcginness_works

    Ryan’s new monograph has just been published by Rizzoli (Feb, 2009) and includes an interview with Peter Halley, an essay by Ryan’s former studio assistant, Greg Lindquist, a conversation between David Byrne and Ryan and my essay, “The Look of Looks, or Ryan McGinness’s Ontology of Color.”  Content aside, the book is really nicely done and offers a great view of Ryan’s studio practice(s).

  • The horizon in Sugimoto and Sandback…

    David Cohen convened the first of the spring’s Review Panels at the National Academy Museum on January 30th, and among the shows the panelists took to task was Hiroshi Sugimoto’s photographs at Gagosian (21st St.), 7 Days / 7 Nights.  An odd thing happened when the panelists–joining David were Elizabeth Schambelan, Ken Johnson and (my friend, the brilliant) Joan Waltemath–began talking about Sugimoto’s work: not a single panelist mentioned the one factor that organizes this series of Sugimoto’s photographs, and that is the horizon.  (In fact, only Joan actually mentioned the content of the images at all, noting the importance of the local weather conditions to the effectiveness of the photographs.)  Perhaps it is too obvious, but it seems to me that one cannot adequately get at what is interesting, or even important, about Sugimoto’s seascapes, without at least broaching the topic of the horizon–whether as a line or as limit of perception (both real and metaphorical) or as primordial condition of orientation.

     

    sugimoto_ionianseasantacesarea_1990
    Hiroshi Sugimoto, 'Ionian Sea Santa Cesarea' (1990)

    It’s not that Sugimoto’s seascapes are necessarily “about” the horizon (though they are this in many ways); rather, in the images, the horizon at once announces itself as the element that offers the internal formal logic of the pictures (Sugimoto photographs his seas such that the horizon always appears in the same place, bisecting the horizontal dimension of the image), while at the same time, that logic is consistently undermined, or challenged, sometimes by the starkness of the formal device itself (in pictures where the sea and sky are easily distinguished, the recession is flattened and the picture reads like a geometric abstraction) but often by the weather or lighting conditions that obscure the horizon’s very legibility.

    In short, what Sugimoto’s photographs of seascapes do is to assert and to negate the horizon at the same time; speaking phenomenologically, we could say that these pictures orient and disorient at the same time.  It is this sense of disorientation that Michael Fried, in his recent book, Why Photography Matters As Art As Never Before  (Yale, 2008), pushes to such a point that it underwrites the “ontological fiction,” so important to Fried’s thinking on absorption and theatricality, that the observer does not exist.  Here disorientation becomes a kind of a-orientation, a condition of being-in-the-world that has no need of one’s being-there, of a perspective that belongs to no one (and it is exactly in this sense that Sugimoto’s photographs are not exercises in perspective, even though they hinge on the horizon line, upon which all perspectival constructions must be built).

    I think there is something to this reading of Sugimoto’s seascapes, but I am not willing to give up the other side of the coin here; which is to say, in negating the horizon, Sugimoto’s photographs reassert or perserve it all the same.  Whether that horizon is “for us” or “for itself” is a subsequent concern.  And staying with this pairing of negation and preservation is exactly what leads me to Fred Sandback’s work.  Or rather, it is Sandback’s work that lead me, I think, to a better understanding of Sugimoto’s seascapes.

     

    Fred Sandback, 'Untitled' (1972)
    Fred Sandback, 'Untitled' (1972)

    It is pure conicidence that David Zwirner mounted an exhibition of Sandback’s work while the Sugimoto was on.  But these are the kinds of chance encounters the can be essential to thinking things anew.  Walking through the Sandback installation, one cannot but be struck by how the geometric layouts that one reads where the strings connect to the floor or ceiling become all but illegible when viewing the pieces straight on.  More technically, one would describe this as the conflict or the incongruity between the works’ plan an elevation, as Edward Vasquez did when he gave a walkthrough of the exhibition back at the very end of January.  Vasquez went on to conjecture, rightly I think, that what Sandback was doing in much of his work was engaging with the language of linear perspective, the mapping or translating of three-dimensional space through the use of a two-dimensional line, which, of course, Sandback renders three-dimensional once again.

    And if engaging with the language or vocabulary of  linear perspective is what Sandback is doing, then the horizon once again becomes paramount.  And yet the horizon in Sandback’s work is essentially nonexistent; or rather, Sandback’s work, as Sugimoto’s seascapes do, negates the horizon at every turn.  Not one piece of thread seems to take up residence or establish a horizon line for the viewer.  The one that comes closest, a corner piece of white and red thread, is more concerned with constructing the illusion of the piece’s connection to the walls–an act of experiential disorientation rather than perspecitival orientation.  But again, in denying the horizon, one becomes that much more aware of it.  In its absence, the horizon is preserved.

  • Dissent and identity at ABMB ’08

    Note: A modified version of the post can be found at artreview.com

    Saturday evening during Art Basel Miami Beach, really the final evening of the event, is often given over to more measured reflections upon the circus one has just passed through.  “Good” seemed to be the universal assessment from the dealers (though this was quickly recognized as an elastic term, signaling everything from bravery in the face of financial destitution, to just this or the other side of breaking even, to turning a small profit but not wanting to gloat).  “Good” seemed to do it for everyone else as well, except, that is, when it came to the Rubell Collection, the Rubell family’s private museum, which has now been open to the public since 1996 and is nearly universally regarded as one of the more exceptional contemporary art exhibition originators and venues in the US.  The Rubell Collection was not “good”; it was “great”.

    But then it always is, isn’t it?  Quickly I found myself asking, “Can anyone be against the Rubell Collection?”  My question was more rhetorical than interrogatory, because it didn’t seem to me that anyone could be–against the Rubell Collection, that is.

    I don’t shy away from admitting that it is the current show, 30 Americans, which raised the question.  It is a show of art made by African-American artists, and it is a strong one, strong because it foregrounds the complex problem that identity is–and also, apparently, the problem we still have in using identity to identify people (or to identify ourselves), as this closing statement from the exhibition’s introductory wall text makes apparent:  “As the show evolved, we [the Rubell Family] decided to call it ’30 Americans’.  ‘Americans’, rather than ‘African Americans’ or ‘Black Americans’ because nationality is a statement of fact, while racial identity is a question each artist answers in his or her own way, or not at all.”

    On first glance there is nothing false about this statement, of course.  In fact, it looks to get the problem of identity perhaps more right than it wants to, because as a “statement of fact,” nationality has nothing to do with the “question” of “racial identity,” just as it would seem to have nothing to do with the question of “national identity” either, insofar as these terms indicate something of what it is like to be a certain race or of a certain nation.  As a statement of fact, “he’s an American” applies as much to an eight-month-old boy of Pakistani descent born in Dearborn, Michigan, as to an 88 year-old, decorated World War II veteran born in Fresno, California, as to, say, Christopher Hitchens, now a naturalized US citizen born in the United Kingdom.  Each, of course, is an “American,” though I don’t doubt that each has, does and will “identify” with that concept in very different ways, but this has nothing to do with the facts.  And here we see that the notion of being an “American”, in contrast, say, to being a “US Citizen,” is loaded with more than just factual content anyway.

    In naming their show 30 Americans, then, the Rubell’s want identity both ways; they don’t “identify” the artists they’ve gathered together in their show, because the “question” of “racial identity” is one each artist answers (or doesn’t) all on his or her own; yet rather than using how the artists answer that question (or don’t) to make the decision about who to include, the Rubells have nonetheless used identity, “black” or “African American,” as a necessary (though obviously not sufficient) criteria for their selections.

    Now, pointing out the specious logic behind the Rubell’s decision to name their recent show 30 Americans rather than, say, “30 Black Americans” is not what I mean to get at when I ask “Can anyone be against the Rubell Collection?”  What it does point out, however, is the problem of “identity” that attends the Rubell Collection (as much as it attends other publically accessibly private collections as well).  Here the distinction is not between the “fact” of “nationality” and the “problem” of ” racial identity” as it is between the problem of identity itself and something like the “fact” of “ownership.”

    As the Rubells state, this time at the outset of the same introductory text, “We only show art we own.”  This of course means that, without exception, all of the art is theirs.  And thus, in some way, to criticize the art is to criticize the Rubell’s themselves.  Of course it will be objected that this is not to be against them, the Rubell’s, so much as it is to be against their “tastes in art” or their “intellectual interests” or their “curatorial conceits.”  But one can have such things without the intermediary of private ownership.  This is what museums do after all: show a wide range of work, some which they own (and buy with both private and public funds), some of which they do not.  And there is a rich history of people being “against” museums, to which the codification of “institutional critique” itself attests.

    Perhaps the problem arises then when institutional identity, “The Rubell Collection,” becomes so closely aligned with personal identity, “the Rubell family,” and the explicit “fact” of “ownership” becomes a revolving door between the two.  Here, criticizing the Rubell’s Collection is seen as petty as criticizing someone’s choice of home décor; we do it of course, just not necessarily in public, because to criticize someone’s personal choices is tantamount to criticizing them.  But to criticize the “Rubell Collection” as an institution is seen as petty as well, because as a publically accessible but fundamentally private museum, it stands as a supremely generous gift, and so remains beyond reproach.

    This is what I mean when I state that one cannot be “against” the Rubell Collection, at least in any justifiable sense, because such justification will always be aiming at a moving target, and one will always risk appearing petty (as I may be doing now).  My point of course is not to finally find a place from which to stand “against” the Rubell Collection, but to explain how this conflation of personal and institutional identity keeps one from taking a stand at all.

  • Two new Drawing Papers…

    …are now available at The Drawing Center: Matt Mullican, A Drawing Translates the Way of Thinking, and M/M: Just Like an Ant Walking on the Edge of the Visible.  (Click on the images below for links to TDC’s publication pages.)

    The Mullican DP contains a great new interview between Mullican and the show’s curator, Joao Ribas, as well as transcriptions of pages from two of Mullican’s early notebooks.  Anyone interested in Mullican’s work will definitely find this DP illuminating, particularly for the epistemological questions that are central to the artist’s practice, and not just in drawing.

    The M/M DP is the first of our more experimental layouts.  It’s less a catalogue than a creative accompaniment to the conceptual issues that inform M/M’s work in general.  Short texts by Joao Ribas serve as meditations, or prompts for further thinking, on philosophical, literary and psychoanalytic concerns with language itself.