Ali Subotnick

  • Judson Powell and Noah Purifoy, Barrel and Plow, 1966, beer barrel and plow mounted on table. Documentary photograph of the work with Darcy Robinson and Judson Powell, Los Angeles, 1966. Barrel and Plow was one of fifty works included in the 1966 exhibition “66 Signs of Neon.” Photo: Harry Drinkwater.


    To better survey the manifold sites of postwar art in Los Angeles, Artforum invited art historians THOMAS CROW and ANDREW PERCHUK, curators MAURICE TUCHMAN and ALI SUBOTNICK, and gallerist HELENE WINER to join in conversation with artists JOHN BALDESSARI, HARRY GAMBOA JR., and LIZ LARNER—a group whose experiences span five decades and some of the most vibrant, vital scenes in the city. Critic and scholar RICHARD MEYER and Artforum editor MICHELLE KUO moderate.

    Michelle Kuo: We all know the myth: “The Cool School,” coined by Philip Leider himself in these pages [Summer 1964]. Leider was speaking of a “new distance,” a remove, which he saw manifested in the adamantine surfaces of the work of the Ferus Gallery artists and which came to stand for LA culture as a whole. But how might we attend to art in LA now, without reducing it to the same clichés about regional or even outsider production that persist, rather astonishingly, in many exhibitions, in much of the literature, and certainly in the market?

    How might we attend to the relationship—if any—between


    WHILE DOING PRIMARY research for his most recent film, Empire, 2002, which took Clement Greenberg’s library as its thematic starting point, the Los Angeles–based artist Paul Sietsema started to collect scholarly books steeped in the milieu of midcentury modernism. As a result, he soon found himself amassing a vast bank of images from various disciplines, but what particularly piqued his interest were the numerous pictures of cultural artifacts he discovered. Indeed, seeking after a time to organize this trove of material—and establish his own relationship to it—he privately began comparing

  • Ali Subotnick


    1 “A Rose Has No Teeth: Bruce Nauman in the 1960s” (Berkeley Art Museum, CA) As a friend of mine remarked upon seeing this show, a lot of Bruce Nauman’s early work is like some of the bad shit coming out of art schools nowadays. But when Nauman made it, it was so cool, so radical. The sculptures, films, videos, photos, and drawings the artist made in the 1960s effortlessly combine his personae as a nerdy art student in the studio (silly walk) and a techno geek (a hologram!) with his inner dork (counting stairs and playing with neon tubes) and, of course, the undeniable macho man (

  • “When Humor Becomes Painful”

    If laughter truly is the best medicine, this show could heal us all. Migros director Heike Munder and independent curator Felicity Lunn explore the use of humor as a strategy and philosophy—as well as its repercussions—in works from 1965 through today. They aim to position viewers in that awkward space where one questions the punch line and wonders what exactly instigates laughter. From Bruce Nauman to Thomas Zipp, George Maciunas to Rachel Harrison, Martin Kippenberger to John Bock, this show, Freudian slips and all, should evoke some uncomfortable

  • Left: Franz Ackermann and Elizabeth Peyton. Middle: Artist Christian Jankowski. Right: Havana Heat Club at Passerby.
    diary December 17, 2004

    Wall to Wall

    New York

    Barely a week after the closing of Art Basel Miami Beach, where his giant, tangled roadmap of a wall painting in Gavin Brown’s booth was one of the highlights of the fair, Franz Ackermann managed to pack GBE (Modern) on Saturday night with local and international fans still recovering from their Sunshine State sojourns. It was the opening of “Nonstop HHC,” Ackermann’s first show in New York since 2001, and it found him looking bigger and brasher than ever. A sharp black-and-white photograph of an eye—his own—introduces the show, which pulses with colorful wall paintings and new “mental maps,”


    DIDN’T SEE BUT HEARD IT WAS GOOD Stephan Dillemuth performance @ Reena Spaulings and Gavin Brown’s enterprise at Passerby; Amar Kanwar @ Peter Blum; Tara Mateik @ Reena Spaulings; “The Dreamland Artist Club” (Creative Time) @ Coney Island; Iran do Espírito Santo @ Sean Kelly; Black Dragon Society @ apexart; Derrick Adams @ Triple Candie; “presence: 25 Nights of Individual Performance Events by Various Artists” (curated by Michael Mahalchick) @ Canada; Peter Caine @ ATM; David Wojnarowicz @ Roth Horowitz; Ilya and Emilia Kabakov @ Sean Kelly; Alix Pearlstein @ Salon 94; Ed Ruscha talk @ the