Brian Droitcour

  • Left: Collector Stefan Simchowitz and dealer Joel Mesler. Right: San Jose ICA director Cathy Kimball and Silicon Valley Contemporary founder Rick Friedman. (All photos: Brian Droitcour)
    diary April 17, 2014

    App Happy

    LAST THURSDAY, while at the opening night preview of Silicon Valley Contemporary, a new art fair in San Jose, I shared six posts on Instagram. Here they are, ranked by likes:

    1. The Marina Abramović Institute presented The Mutual Wave Machine, an installation by empathy researchers Suzanne Dikker and Matthias Oostrik. It’s a tented pod, with room inside for a pair of volunteers to sit facing each other as their brain activity is measured and visualized on the screens that surround them. White spots cluster when their thoughts are in sync, and dissipate in blackness when they aren’t. While waiting

  • Still from promotional video for “Five Puzzles in Contemporary Art,” an online course through the Museum of Modern Art.
    slant July 09, 2013

    Mind the Gap

    THE INTERNET IS THREATENING HIGHER EDUCATION. Clay Shirky, academic and media theorist, predicted on his blog that online courses will upset the economic model of universities the same way Napster disrupted the music industry. Why buy an album when all you want is a single? Why incur the debt required to get a two- or four-year degree when you can take only the courses you need when and wherever you want? Just as Napster offered a more effective way of distributing the song, Shirky says, massively open online courses distribute the lecture. But unlike Napster, the movement is coming from the

  • Steve Roggenbuck, Fuck IRL, 2012.
    slant December 09, 2012

    Brian Droitcour

    THE BEST PAINTING OF 2012 was the botched Jesus, the inexpert restoration of a nineteenth-century religious fresco. You can Google the restorer’s name and the location of her church if it matters to you; the painting interests me as one that unfolds online, shared and liked and collaged by thousands of nameless users. I suspect it went viral for the same reason that videos like Double Rainbow do: It expresses a selfless, raw awe at beautiful mysteries. Early twentieth-century biology demonstrated that a tick perceives nothing but its thirst for blood and the body temperature of animals that can

  • Left: Dnepropetrovsk sunrise. Right: Artist Olafur Eliasson and collector Victor Pinchuk. (All photos: Brian Droitcour)
    diary October 30, 2012

    It’s Always Sunny in Dnepropetrovsk

    OLAFUR ELIASSON has been thinking about steel. “The people who work with steel refer to it as something fluid,” he said. “No one ever referred to steel as something static.” We were in Dnepropetrovsk, an industrial city of a million people in southeastern Ukraine, for the opening ceremony of the Interpipe Steel Mill. Eliasson had contributed five permanent installations to the factory—from a tunnel of elliptical steel arcs at the entrance to a sixty-meter-tall artificial sun—at the behest of Viktor Pinchuk, the founder of Interpipe. The collaboration followed Eliasson’s solo show at the Pinchuk

  • Michael Bell-Smith, The White Room, 2012, HD video, sound, 25 minutes 31 seconds.
    picks September 24, 2012

    Michael Bell-Smith

    It is impossible to identify a beginning or end to any of Michael Bell-Smith’s four new videos. By convention they should be called loops, but the word feels wrong here. A loop creates the impression of an image fallen out of time through repetition, whereas Bell-Smith evokes timelessness not with recognizably repeated sequences but with chains of transitions and variations. The eponymous digits of Magic Hands (all works 2012) conjure sounds and flashes of light, to-do lists, and balls of crumpled paper. Backgrounds fold and shift as fluidly as the objects before them appear and vanish. Similar

  • Left: “Footloose” partygoers Mike Horne and Enoch Lambert. Right: Founding CUAC director Kathleen Peterson and current director Adam Bateman. (All photos: Brian Droitcour)
    diary August 23, 2012

    Last Dance

    ON SATURDAY NIGHT I boarded a chartered “pARTy bus” from Salt Lake City to the Central Utah Art Center in Ephraim, Utah. Mikell Stringham, a member of CUAC’s board, welcomed passengers on the bus to the “Farewell to Ephraim Party.” Her colleague Andrew Shaw quickly corrected her: “It’s the ‘Footloose Dance Party.’ ” The city council served a surprise eviction notice last month, but as of yet no terms of settlement have been decided for the early breach of contract, and CUAC is trying to stay in Ephraim (pop.: 6,000) to maintain its unusual status as a small-town contemporary art gallery. I asked

  • Left: Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, artistic director of Documenta 13. Right: Documenta 13 participant Alexander Tarakhovsky and Documenta 13 chief agent Chus Martinez.
    diary June 09, 2012

    Participant Observation

    1. THE Q&A at Wednesday’s press conference was bracing. Reporters were long-winded and rude. Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev resisted them with sass, though at times her frankness lost its edge and spilled over into strangeness. One asked her to “tell us more about the end of art.” Another, irked by the exhibition’s rangy interdisciplinarity, wondered how it could be parsed by a million viewers who are “as uneducated and confused as you.” She replied: “I didn’t know there were sports journalists here with us.” When a woman asked “how do you feel, what do you feel” about working in Kassel, Christov-Bakargiev

  • Borna Sammack, LAZY, 2012, mixed media, dimensions variable.
    picks May 24, 2012

    Borna Sammak

    Extrusion grinds food down to tiny pellets and presses it into shapes. It is the manufacturing process that gives Cheetos and Doritos their addicting uniformity. The term is also used to describe the rendering of three-dimensional images, and for Borna Sammak extrusion’s double meaning gives a sense of digital matter’s substance. Pixels are a friable mass, dragged into form by the artist’s mouse. An untitled video on view here (all works cited, 2012) portrays a skeletal tower, a model of the Guggenheim Museum in New York, and dripping polyps of processed cheese coalescing and collapsing amid a

  • View of “Images,” 2012.
    picks April 23, 2012

    Darren Bader

    One of the cats hid under the couch. But the sweet black-and-white one cuddled and played. They were up for adoption from the SaveKitty Foundation of Queens, New York, and they were sculptures by Darren Bader. “Each cat-adopter will get an artwork,” reads his text on the wall. “If you don’t want your cat to be an artwork, I won’t force it on you!” Throughout his show, “Images,” the metabolic processes of eating, digestion, growth, and death—vividly present in the animals and plants on display—nourish Conceptualist gestures of naming and framing. (The title of one cat is given as “orangutan flesh

  • Artie Vierkant, Image Object Saturday 9 July 2011 5:47 PM, version Wednesday 4 January 2012 5:49 PM, 2012, digital image, dimensions variable.

    Artie Vierkant

    IN ARTIE VIERKANT’S EXHIBITION at China Art Objects in Los Angeles last October, he presented works from the series “Image Objects,” 2010–, which consists of thick, wall-mounted Sintra PVC sheets imprinted with bright abstractions drawn in Photoshop. A few days after the opening, images of these works were posted to the gallery’s website. You’d expect the exhibition documentation on a gallery’s site to tell you transparently what a show looked like, but these files were not straightforward installation shots. Although the works are visible, they are clouded with Photoshopped pollutants, hazed

  • Ryan Sullivan, Untitled, 2012, oil, enamel, latex, and acrylic on paper, 22 x 30”.
    picks February 28, 2012

    Ryan Sullivan

    Two distended oval depressions hollow out the surface of an untitled 2011 painting by Ryan Sullivan. Purple and abscessed, riddled with dusty black and yellow ridges, they look like a set of lungs ravaged by carcinogens. This is one of sixteen recent paintings, all untitled, in Sullivan’s expansive solo debut. Each one fixes a trajectory of fast and beautiful ruin: Sullivan pours oil, enamel, and latex paints on a canvas, waits for the toxic pool to form a skin, like a pudding, and then tilts the frame to let the substances slide, gather, and crease. His chaotic process grafts the cosmic to the

  • A virtual fair-goer in front of Kader Attia’s Po(l)etical / Demo(n)cracy / Unable, 2009–11, at Galerie Krinzinger's booth at the VIP Art Fair.
    diary February 07, 2012

    Exclusive Content

    THERE IS A SPECIAL MIX of bewilderment, exhaustion, and despair that I feel only when visiting an art fair. The intensity of this feeling was the one metric in which the “exclusively online” VIP 2.0 Art Fair outdid its convention-center antecedents. Within the limits of its domain at, the fair made a maze of 135 exhibitors showing over a thousand artists, all of whose work had a sameness imposed by the format—a monotony more emphatically pronounced when caused by file compressions rather than uniform booths. At least I got to stay home by myself while taking it in Friday and