Posted inArt

The Limits of Text and Image: Glenn Ligon at the Whitney

It is perhaps telling that the first piece in the exhibition Glenn Ligon: AMERICA, the most comprehensive exhibition of the artist’s work to date, is not one of the text-based paintings for which he is best known, but “Hands” (1996), a massive canvas tacked to the wall of the exhibition’s entrance with pushpins, bearing the image of outstretched palms against a black background. Drawn from a mass-media photograph of Benjamin Chavis and Louis Farrakhan’s 1995 Million Man March, enlarged to the point of degradation and then screenprinted, what appears here is a copy of a copy of a copy, an image that can no longer articulate what it once represented.

Posted inArt

At MoMA, Drawing as the Politics of Living

Sometimes an exhibition reminds you of why exhibitions exist, those surprising moments when usually dull curatorial exercises become transcendent experiences, reinvigorating overlooked corners of art history. I Am Still Alive at the Museum of Modern Art is one of those exhibitions, defiant and vivacious as anything I’ve seen in New York in the past few years. The show focuses entirely on drawing, demonstrating contemporary drawing’s engagement with the politics of living and everyday life. This is art as struggle and art as achievement, nowhere more reaffirmed than in On Kawara’s telegrams sent to the artist’s dealers and friends simply stating: “I am still alive.” To make art and to fight through problems and conflicts, social or personal, through the medium of art is to be alive.

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Tribeca Film Fest Special: In Saint Laurent Film, Opposites Attract

When fashion impresario Yves Saint Laurent was once asked to name his favorite poet, he paused for a moment, smiled and spoke Pierre Bergé’s name in a soft tone. This “poet” was the designer’s devoted companion for over fifty years. He was also the impresario that ran the logistics of the Yves St. Laurent Couture House from day one in 1961 until its final bow in 2002. But his was probably his knack for finding the right word at the right time that enabled both their business and romance to last.

Posted inPerformance

Pen Meets Pick: Screaming Females and Doodle Drag Perform

Screaming Females are one of those bands who are just that good; they have an unwavering idea about who they are and what they want to do, have worked relentlessly to get where they are and have retained their weirdo aesthetic throughout. In the past two years, the band has gained the attention of indie icons like Henry Rollins and Jay Mascis, and they have played to huge auditoriums and basements alike, sharing the stage with bands like Dinosaur Jr., Ted Leo and the Pharmacists and Yo La Tengo as well as dozens of local musicians just starting out. The band doesn’t stop at concerts either — on March 30th, Screaming Females teamed up with frontwoman Marissa Paternoster and LNY’s new art collective, called Doodle Drag, for a multimedia show at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, New Jersey.

Posted inBooks

Artist Interventions as Sugarcoating

The Studio Museum in Harlem’s Fall 2010 Studio magazine, a publication that functions as newsletter, press release and behind-the-scenes peek at the museum’s operation, doesn’t exactly look institutional. This edition is covered by a mottled, fibrous layer of paper that obscures the magazine itself. Simply emblazoned “Fences,” the cover is part of an artist intervention into the Studio Museum’s magazine by Dave McKenzie. Interspersed throughout the publication’s pages are photos by the artist. Yet the photos fail to escape their medium; the whole project feels too much like branding. Does this artist intervention act more like the toy at the bottom of a cereal box than a distinct work?

Posted inArt

Online Art Space Goes Virtual Green

From ASCII sunsets to screen-flattened foliage, Artist Laurel Schwulst makes parks for the internet. In a temporary exhibition called Proposals For Future Parks shown on internet-based art space, the artist uses different media approaches, both online and off, to explore the abstract idea of a “park,” a loose term that for the artist might signify a constructed landscape that has been made for humans to experience. In this show of four parts, Schwurst designs parks that are meant to be experienced in the manner we are now most accustomed to — through screens, virtually and at a remove.

Posted inBooks

Meditations on Celebrity Over Millennia

Lapham’s Quarterly is a quarterly (duh) publication edited by Lewis Lapham (also duh), former Harper’s Magazine editor from 1976 to 1981. Each issue of the staid, stately magazine focuses on a single theme; previous themes have included “The City,” “Sports & Games,” and “About Money.” Drawing on writers and source texts from throughout history, Lapham’s provides a unique perspective on its chosen topics by sheer editorial insight, pairing eras and authors to best highlight the similarities and contrast between changing perceptions. It’s the proximity of all of these authoritative voices that gives Lapham’s its historical heft, but it’s the lightness of their touch that makes the text fun, an adventure and a time machine in the reading.

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An Elusive Photographer Caught on Film

You may have seen him on a bike somewhere in Manhattan, a flashing presence in a blue coat. Maybe he was at a gala or a fundraiser, if you happen to frequent those kinds of events. But where it’s easiest to find Bill Cunningham these days is in the pages of the New York Times, with his weekly fashion photo column On the Street picking up on the prevailing trends of that week in New York City dress. On the street, the 83-year old fashion photographer and aesthetic documentarian is tough to spot, much less pin down. It is Bill Cunningham’s own elusiveness that makes Richard Press’s new documentary Bill Cunningham New York so fascinating: the 92 minute movie is defined by its attempt to get to know a character and an artist whose work and life are completely inseparable.

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Australian Millionaire’s Museum Tries Something New (And Old)

In 1999, the National Gallery of Australia cancelled a planned exhibition of Sir Charles Saatchi’s Sensation, a collection of art focused on the work of the Young British Artists of the 1990s, on the grounds of the possible offensiveness of many of the works included in the show. Several of those works and artists are now on display in the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) recently opened in Hobart, a small city on the island of Tasmania in the south of Australia. Where the National Gallery quailed at the idea of exhibiting work by Damien Hirst, Chris Ofili and the Chapman brothers, MONA has no such qualms today. Works by these artists feature alongside 400 other pieces from the private collection of David Walsh, a Tasmanian millionaire gambler, art collector and founder of MONA.

Posted inArt

Peruvian Adventures in Brooklyn, a Graphic Review

Many of you will know that I’ve been critical of the conventional art review and how it doesn’t appear well suited to a lot of art that is produced today. So, in the interest of trying new art review forms, I’ve given a shot at using the graphic novel format for my review of Celso’s ¡No Habla Español! at Pandemic Gallery in Williamsburg.

His graphic sensibility seemed a perfect fit for this style. I couldn’t resist producing a short review of the show in this pop culture-friendly form.