COLUMNS

  • Interviews

    1000 WORDS: MATT WOLF

    IT’S DIFFICULT FOR ME not to think of Matt Wolf as a queer filmmaker, because he’s the first one I ever knew personally. He is also the first openly gay man I ever met. When I arrived in Manhattan from northern New Hampshire in 2001 at the age of eighteen, any notions I possessed of urbanity or sexual identity I had imagined in a bucolic vacuum. A chance introduction to Wolf, then a sagacious nineteen-year-old from San Jose, California, not only initiated my kinship with other flesh-and-blood homosexuals, but also affirmed the importance of an intellectualized communal identity. While Matt has

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  • Diary

    Monster Mash

    LET’S BEGIN WHERE MY FAIR WEEK ENDED, feeling left for dead lying on a bed, under an eldritch green glow emanating from some mysterious source (art?) at the Normandy Hôtel, a Haussmannian relic under partial renovation in the first arrondissement, where the Finnish collective the Community were hosting their inaugural salon. Evocative of something between a haunted house, a Kubrick film set, and, less excitingly, an art fair, the salon’s setting promised to channel the wicked fun of art’s unruliness, theatricality, and imaginative displacements. Yet as I moved through the hotel’s narrow corridors,

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  • Film

    Greatest Hit

    YOU CAN BE KNOCKED OUT by the craft of Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman and remain convinced that its twilight-of-the-mob narrative is unworthy of the director’s effort. That was basically my response the first time I saw the movie. But great works have a way of hanging around in your head “in the still of night,” to quote The Five Satins’s 1956 doo-wop hit, which accompanies the opening and final sequences of a film that is, at the least, one of the funniest yet deadly serious melodramas ever made. Scorsese was thirteen in 1956. Eternity, which is the subtext of The Five Satins’s song—and of The

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  • Slant

    Current Events

    SPANNING FIFTY-SIX MILES AND BORDERING SOUTHERN TORONTO, Lake Ontario hardly registers as a natural site for most Torontonians. The smallest of the five Great Lakes, flowing in from Niagara and out toward the Saint Lawrence River, the body of water feels physically, spiritually, and psychologically distant from the bustling city. Orienting viewers toward the estranged lake, the inaugural Toronto Biennial of Art—the latest addition to the globalized exercise in art-world tourism—opens modestly and with a quandary. Curators Candice Hopkins and Tairone Bastien frame this mega-exhibition as an

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  • Interviews

    Pat Steir

    Since the late 1980s, Pat Steir has slung her paint from a loaded brush, letting oils arc and flow in a signature gesture of both creation and sublime surrender. For her latest exhibition, at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, the American artist has filled the building’s rotunda with a new suite of thirty paintings that, together, form a color wheel—an art fundamental that dates back to the early eighteenth century. “What Goethe was really pursuing was not a physiological but a psychological theory of colors,” Wittgenstein once wrote. The same might be said of Steir’s

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  • Slant

    Malison Wonderland

    THE TALL, OLD MAN is in a pine-paneled room, wearing a blue jumpsuit that emphasizes his height. He stands self-consciously between two rows of boxed tomatoes that appear to levitate in midair. Underneath the picture is a caption: This image is cursed—the four little words that every JPEG wants to hear. On October 28, 2015, an anonymous Tumblr user paired the tomato farmer with this incantation, and the phenomenon of cursed images was born. Similar photos were dredged up from the 1990s, 2000s, and the far reaches of the internet, proliferating across copycat Tumblrs and, later, Twitter and

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  • Interviews

    Kiki Smith

    During this interview, Kiki Smith was multitasking, wrestling with a cat collar and making granola in preparation for an imminent trip to Europe. The American artist was crossing the Atlantic to finalize several exhibitions, including a survey at the Monnaie de Paris that will be on view until February 9, 2020. The show features one hundred works—including two courtyard-placed sculptures—created between 1980 and this year. The Paris mint is a fitting location in which to spotlight Smith’s work, given her personal interest in coins and medallions, which she happens to collect. Using what she

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  • Diary

    Time Sensitive

    IT’S FRIDAY NIGHT during the opening weekend of the Icelandic arts festival Sequences, and I’m at a food hall in Reykjavik along with a dozen or so members of the tight-knit creative scene on this island of roughly 360,000 people. One of the show’s cocurators, the sixty-three-year-old artist Ingólfur Arnarsson, is expressing his love for the experimental black-metal band Liturgy, as well as the intense, clavicle-rattling ambient noise of Tim Hecker. I’m surprised, a little, that Arnarsson’s musical tastes veer so aggressive; he’s a fairly subdued guy, known for making modest pencil-on-paper

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  • Slant

    Setting for a Cameo (for Douglas Crimp 1944–2019)

    I

    Do all the instruments agree?

    Can they?

    When each day is a season,

    as the room narrows and

    compounds mingle in discrete bones

    counting

    Mind is instrument, includes heartspine

    All organs conjugations

    There, only discord remains

    What pours opaque eyes

    See: the transitive flow

    We fail to define it

    Words too remote from their roots

    Sewage and surge

    The swirl of it all in a cake

    Cinnamon

              with a preference toward custard

    Surface tension covers gooey centers,

    blotched onion skin transparencies,

    lemon juice inks invisibly,

    swirling aspic anatomies orchid blooms,

    skin’s waxy luminescent glow;

    While Instruments

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  • Film

    The Longest Doomsday

    THE VOICEOVER EPIGRAPH of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia (1999)—“We may be through with the past, but the past is never through with us”—could also serve for Lost and The Leftovers cocreator Damon Lindelof’s remix of Watchmen, a new HBO series based on Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s multigenerational, self-deconstructing superhero comic from the 1980s. It is about the eruption of long-buried secrets, relationships, grudges, and atrocities into the present—a present very different from our own, save for certain recognizable details, artfully exaggerated in the tradition of near-future dystopias.

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  • Slant

    Loose Canon

    IN JUNE, NEW YORK’S MUSEUM OF MODERN ART WENT DARK to put the finishing touches on its contentious five-year expansion, which promised to put $450 million and 47,000 square feet of Diller Scofidio + Renfro architecture toward fostering a “deeper experience of art” across boundaries of media, geography, and identity. Today, MoMA emerges from its chrysalis a bigger, brighter, and supposedly more progressive institution. Gone—we are told—is the stiff, developmentalist progression from ism to ism, the residual investment in medium specificity, the instinctive parochialism, the cult of white male

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  • Interviews

    Amy Sillman

    For “The Shape of Shape,” a rollicking salon-style exhibition drawn from the holdings of New York’s Museum of Modern Art and part of the newly expanded museum’s “Artist’s Choice” series, Amy Sillman has selected around seventy-five works that, regardless of medium, movement, or period, share a fascination with shape. Like MoMA’s newly rehung collection galleries, the installation, which opens today and runs through April 20, 2020, reconstrues modernism through wide-ranging, unlikely juxtapositions. And like Sillman’s own paintings, it is intelligent, risky, and giddily perturbed, brimming with

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