Alex Kitnick

  • View of “Lifes,” 2022, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. Floor: Charles Gaines, Falling Rock, 2000. Wall: Morag Keil, The Vomit Vortex, 2022. Photo: Joshua White.

    GROUP THINK

    THE GESAMTKUNSTWERK is one of modernism’s most telling inventions. Built from dance, music, theater, and poetry, it sought to stanch the crisis of modernity with a multisensory experience: If life was breaking up—split between public and private, work and leisure—the “total work of art” promised to bind disciplines and audience together to create something like community. Beginning in 1876 under the patronage of King Ludwig II of Bavaria, Richard Wagner launched a festival to stage his epic operas in Bayreuth, Germany, inspiring a devoted, at times fascistic, cult as well as fierce critics (

  • Dan Graham, Performer/Audience/Mirror, 1977. Performance view, De Appel, Amsterdam, 1977. Dan Graham.

    DAN GRAHAM (1942–2022)

    I DIDN'T KNOW Dan Graham well. I met him a handful of times in the mid-2000s when I was a graduate student at Princeton University. I wanted to write my dissertation on Dan, but I was too young and too terrified to do it. Once, when I met him in his loft on New York’s Spring Street, he threw a fit because I didn’t know the work of the Japanese architect Itsuko Hasegawa. I was wet behind the ears and couldn’t find my angle—I was too sympathetic to his position, which was at once ardent, skeptical, and laced with wry humor. With Beatriz Colomina and Mark Wigley, we took an architectural tour of

  • Jason Hirata, Sometimes You’re Both (detail), 2019, three-channel HD and digital video (color, sound, indefinite duration), auxiliary HD video (color, sound, 10 minutes), loaned artworks, loaned video documentation, 80WSE Gallery, New York. Photo: Carter Seddon.

    OPENINGS: JASON HIRATA

    WHEN ARTISTS SPACE REOPENED on New York’s Cortlandt Alley in 2019, the building’s entrance moved and a beautiful basement carved out and cubed, there were water bottles (Dasani, Snapple, Poland Spring) spread out across the floor full of urine of different hues. Dazzled by the newness of the space, my eyes, somewhat annoyingly, kept shifting downward to look at these funky things (in part to avoid tripping over them), only to be hit by a wave of repulsion and embarrassment. Here I was, a grown and credentialed man—a critic!—staring at piss, leisurely scratching my chin. If you walk around New

  • FLATWARE

    I ALWAYS ASSUMED that Jasper Johns painted In Memory of My Feelings—Frank O’Hara, 1961, to memorialize the poet whose name is stenciled at the bottom of the canvas and whose poem lends the painting its granite title. But after seeing the work again at the recent Johns exhibition, I checked the dates and realized that the artist finished it five years before O’Hara died. I couldn’t quite believe it at first—so many of the meanings I’d projected onto the work were thrown back at me—and then I had to start scraping off interpretations and understanding the painting according to a new set of terms.This

  • Paintings for the Art Fund of the Museum of Artistic Culture in the Museum Bureau of IZO Narkompros collection, Moscow, 1919–20.  © Encyclopedia of the Russian Avant-garde. 

    REQUIEM FOR A DREAM

    THE IDEA OF AN AVANT-GARDE MUSEUM has something of the head-scratching quality of the oxymoron to it—because didn’t the avant-garde turn its back on institutions in hopes of engaging directly with life? (That said, why people consider institutions anathema to life has always been another head-scratcher for me.) In his 1909 Futurist Manifesto, F. T. Marinetti promised to destroy museums and other dusty sites of knowledge (“libraries, academies of every kind”) in order to make space for speed and dynamism. But ten years later, over in Russia, Kazimir Malevich used language similar to Marinetti’s

  • Liu Chuang, Bitcoin Mining and Field Recordings of Ethnic Minorities, 2018, three-channel 4K video, color, sound, 40 minutes.
    April 21, 2021

    “INFORMATION (Today)”

    Curated by Elena Filipovic

    Over the last number of years, curators have plumbed archives and restaged key postwar exhibitions in hopes of grasping the present. One of the more promising efforts in this vein is Elena Filipovic’s forthcoming reimagination of Kynaston McShine’s “Information,” presented in 1970 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. “INFORMATION (Today)” will demonstrate how the technologies and systems-thinking that took hold of art practices worldwide in the late 1960s continue to fascinate us. But the occasion is not simply a golden anniversary (the show was originally scheduled

  • Pauline Boty posing with her painting Celia Birtwell Surrounded by her Heroes, 1963, London, October 29, 1963. Photo: Michael Ward.

    Style Counsel

    The Hidden Mod in Modern Art: London, 1957–1969, by Thomas Crow. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2020. 200 pages.

    THOMAS CROW’S NEW VOLUME, The Hidden Mod in Modern Art: London, 1957–1969, is a meticulous account of the imbrications between artmaking and stylemaking in postwar London, flanked by a jeremiad against what its author perceives as received ideas in contemporary art history. Indeed, Crow’s street-level method—we are treated to a litany of place names, hairstyles, and vivid descriptions of magazines—is part and parcel of his complaint: If art is to be meaningful, Crow seems to insist,

  • Caravaggio, The Inspiration of Saint Matthew, 1602, oil on canvas, 9' 8 1/2" x 6' 2 1/2".

    Point of No Return

    “WHEN DISCONTENT WITH MUSEUMS is strong enough to provoke the attempt to exhibit paintings in their original surroundings or in ones similar, in baroque or rococo castles, for instance, the result is even more distressing than when the works are wrenched from their original surroundings and then brought together.” This is Theodor Adorno in his great essay “Valéry Proust Museum,” first published in German in 1955, a moment of reckoning and reconstruction. Though Adorno doesn’t specify why the attempt to return and repatriate is more upsetting than the original rift and reassembling of modernity,

  • Tom Burr, Deep Purple, 2000, wood, steel, paint. Installation view, FRAC Champagne Ardenne, Reims, France. Photo: Aurélien Mole.

    CROSSED PATHS

    THE MUSEUEMS ARE CLOSED but the sculptures are still there. Memorials and monuments, too. If you’re in Lower Manhattan, you can ramble along the Irish Hunger Memorial’s serpentine path, a rugged simulacrum of peat and stone. I’ve never been to Ireland, but I take it that parts of it look like this. The strangeness of the work is its location in Battery Park City, where since 2002 it has sat like a souvenir between corporate towers, with the Hudson River stretching out to the west. Robert Smithson called certain of his sculptures “nonsites” to denote their difference from the sites whence they

  • “Danh Vo: Take my breath away”

    In the Christian tradition, the “laying on of hands” is a way of transporting a spirit from one body to another. Danh Vo made a similar technique integral to his art. Starting with an array of scavenged objects, ranging from grand chandeliers to presidential pens, Vo alters them—in ways that are undetectable to the human eye—by imbuing them with an affective charge. At times, he cuts these items into pieces, as he did with Roman sculptures and, more metaphorically, the Statue of Liberty. And then there are the cardboard boxes that he

  • View of “Louise Lawler: Why Pictures Now,” 2017, Museum of Modern Art, New York. Photo: Martin Seck.

    Louise Lawler

    IN THE VIDEO The Public Life of Art: The Museum, 1988–89, Andrea Fraser guides the viewer through the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Wearing a gray business suit, she twirls past paintings by Matisse and Kline as she breathlessly enumerates the benefits museums bring to their home cities, including business talent and tourist dollars. Her script is ironic and incisive, to say the least, but the way she is framed by the camera—beside brochures and under works of art—is also striking. In one shot, a fragment of a Roy Lichtenstein painting and a burnished metal trash can form a tense

  • Thomas Eggerer, Moonlight Slowdown, 2017, oil on linen, 65 x 64".

    Thomas Eggerer

    Thomas Eggerer’s recent exhibition marked a conspicuous shift in the artist’s practice. While architecture and the (almost always male) human figure have long been central to Eggerer’s paintings, both subjects typically appeared with a brushy unfinish that emphasized the paintings’ process. In contrast, Eggerer’s new compositions have a smooth, even-sealed quality to them. But perhaps the defining feature of the painter’s earlier practice was that his bodies almost always appeared in groups—clamoring in the ocean, working in the fields, traveling by bus, or lolling about on a playground.