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The Soulful Insolence of Sven Lukin

I have been a Sven Lukin fan since 1970, when I first saw “Untitled” (1969) in one of the concourses running under the Empire State Plaza in Albany. Made for, and located in, a long recessed area — and playfully hovering between flatness and volume, the pictorial and the sculptural — Lukin’s “Untitled,” a three-dimensional, green, orange and blue squiggle, is over 11 feet high and nearly 120 feet long.

Like someone practicing penmanship, “Untitled” begins as a series of tightly compressed vertical folds — think u’s and n’s — that rise and fall, suddenly run along the floor, undulate once, and then extend straight along the floor again until it rises up again; it wants to stretch to its full length, which, as the recessed area makes clear, it can never do. Despite its physical imprisonment, “Untitled” is as irrepressible as a rubber snake.

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A Man Without a Camera

Marco Breuer is best known for the photographs that he makes without using a camera. (He does other sorts of photography, but this body of work is largely what we know about his endeavors). Rather than pointing at a moment that is gone, and wresting fixity from flux, as photographs are said to do, Breuer acknowledges the triumph of instability, with its attendant manifestations of destruction and demise.

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A Truly Subversive Artist Is Not Necessarily Someone Who Is Theatrical or Gimmicky

If there is one constant about Thomas Nozkowski that I would single out, it is his lifelong insistence on subverting conventions. In 1974 he began painting on canvas board measuring 16 by 20 inches. (Let’s be clear here — Bill Jensen never painted on this small a surface because it had no historical precedence). He used an inexpensive, mass-produced product, the same kind that comes in “paint by number” kits and carries associations with “Sunday painters.” No wonder his defiance went largely unnoticed, particularly when the ’80s rolled around.

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The Daily Practice of the Impossible

Dana Schutz, who is in her mid-30s, belongs to the generation of artists who grew up in an epoch where painting was routinely thought of as a dead practice. One couldn’t just be a painter, because doing so would be to enter a dusty domain crammed with empty signifiers. It would mean you were doing something that was obsolete (and reviled) — like speaking Latin to the drugstore cashier. The lines were pretty clear: dumb people became painters; smart people became conceptual artists who painted only when and if the subject called for it. This viewpoint might have started out as speculation, but now it’s a stupid and persistent prejudice.

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A Bird’s-Eye View of Heaven

By all accounts, Pearl Blauvelt (1893–1987) was a recluse who lived in northeastern Pennsylvania in a house without running water, plumbing or central heating. Her neighbors referred to her as the “Village Witch.” In the mid 1950s, she was declared incompetent and moved to a facility where she resided until she died. The house she lived in stood vacant for nearly fifty years, until it was bought and restored. The people who bought the house discovered Blauvelt’s drawings in an old wooden box lodged under long-abandoned piles of things.

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Can We Still Learn To Speak Martian?

Let us start with two addresses just a few blocks from each other in San Francisco, and what was happening there in the early and mid-1950s. On Halloween, 1954, the Six Gallery opened at 3119 Fillmore Street in San Francisco. The six founders were Wally Hedrick, Deborah Remington, Hayward King, David Simpson, John Ryan and Jack Spicer. Their shared interest was to have a place to exhibit art and host literary events, to put art and poetry on the walls, side by side. At the debut exhibition, Spicer’s poems were in fact on the wall, just like the paintings and drawings of the other co-founders.

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Why There Are Great Artists (Part 3)

The rigorous parameters that Sylvia Plimack Mangold established in her earlier bodies of work (the floor paintings and the landscapes framed by “tape”) continue to inform her paintings of individual trees (specifically the maple, elm, locust, and pink oak), which have been focus of her attention since the early 1980s. Year after year, in different seasons and subtly changing light, the artist has returned to the same handful of subjects seen from the same tightly cropped viewpoint.

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Open Secret

Stanley Whitney is in his mid-sixties. By his own account, he struggled in the studio from the early 70s to the late 80s, “just trying to make work.” The issue was to make something that was his, rather than to make something that was the right or approved of thing to do. Although it is seldom discussed publicly, this is the dilemma facing every African-American artist. You must be a spokesperson who produces testimony that can be regarded as representative of Black culture — the “I” speaking for the “we.” (Even after the death of the author, it seems that there is at least one “we” that must be spoken for in this postmodern world.)