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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

    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

  • 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

  • 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

  • picks December 01, 2011

    Ryan Trecartin, “A Painting Show,” Josh Kline

    Sentences exploded. The sedentary warped action. Space replaced place. In “Ryan Trecartin: Any Ever” at MoMA PS1, Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch installed sculpture, video, and music to inspire continual shifts of focus, so that everything flickered between object and ambience. It was a thrilling, wholly convincing expression of the smelting of language, self, and the world in telecom’s foundry.

    I feel weird writing about painting but I love to look at it, and the best place to do that in 2011 was “A Painting Show” at Harris Lieberman. It was a constellation of conversations and influences: Elizabeth

  • diary November 24, 2011

    McLaren and McLuhan

    BEFORE RAGNAR KJARTANSSON was named the winner of the Malcolm Award, Young Kim, longtime companion of prize namesake Malcolm McLaren, told us how it would make the winner feel: “This award will let at least one artist know that people do love him, people do care.” For those assembled at the Bowery Hotel on Monday night to celebrate the end of Performa 11, Kim shared memories of her late partner moping about e-mails that curators did not answer. She quoted him, affecting a pathetic tone: “No one loves me. No one’s gotten back.” If Kjartansson still has doubts about the universal love for him, I

  • picks November 18, 2011

    Daniel Gordon

    The subject of Woman with a Blue Eye (all works cited, 2011)—like all the “sitters” for Daniel Gordon’s recent portraits—is a bust built from photographs. The woman they form is scarred with seams and rifts. One of her eyes is bigger and more brightly blue. Her hair is blonde and thickly pixelated in some spots, softly unfocused and brown in others. A purplish pattern—blue particles emerging from a red field like sandpaper’s grit—interrupts the skin in a swath of color from the right temple to the left cheek. I wondered if the artist had drawn the pattern with software. “There is no digital

  • diary November 01, 2011

    Costume Drama

    I NEVER REALIZED that when Halloween falls on a Monday, New York celebrates half a Hanukkah’s worth of it, but as the sun went down Friday night I saw last-minute shoppers lining up outside of Ricky’s and costumed overachievers parading on the West Side. On the occasion of its second annual benefit, the online journal Triple Canopy was dressing up as a book—copies of Invalid Format, a dead-tree anthology of texts from the first four issues, were distributed as schwag. 155 Freeman, site of the new editorial office, was still enduring city inspections and too small besides, so the event was held

  • picks October 06, 2011

    Stephen Willats

    Photographed, diagrammed, and invaded, New York—a “strange attractor” of a place—is the topic of Stephen Willats’s first solo exhibition in the city. On the streets near the gallery you can find stickers with two squares connected by directional arrows, or a monitor in the window of Essex Street’s Café Grumpy where the same motif is superimposed on footage of pedestrians. It repeats inside the gallery, too. Strange Attractor Series No. 2 (all works 2011) is a big grid of the squares, with some tinted to form an angled spiral. Indigo on the outside, it travels the spectrum to end back near blue.

  • diary September 17, 2011

    Poetic Justice

    “RIO DE JANEIRO IS SECOND ONLY to São Paulo in its contemporary art effervescence,” said the guidebook that I leafed through after arriving at ArtRio last Wednesday. I’d never been to Brazil before, but I still sensed the second-city feeling at the first edition of ArtRio at Pier Maua. (SP-Arte, back in the superlatively “effervescent” megalopolis, happened for the seventh time in May.) The mild air drifting into the pavilions from the palm-lined waterfront promenade gently reinforced the stereotype that São Paulo is for work and Rio for play. Most of the art looked correspondingly frivolous.

  • diary August 19, 2011

    Prince among Men

    Brian Droitcour at Guild Hall: “Richard Prince’s ‘Canal Zone’ got a death sentence for not being “transformative.”

    RICHARD PRINCE’S “CANAL ZONE” got a death sentence for not being “transformative.” Patrick Cariou, the photographer who sued the appropriation artist for copyright infringement, wants the works destroyed. While they continue to languish in a Long Island City warehouse, Prince is presenting a new series, “Covering Pollock,” at the island’s other end. The show opened last Friday in the lobby gallery of Guild Hall, on the occasion of the East Hampton cultural center’s annual benefit. Prince connected Jackson Pollock and friends with punks and marauders—Sid Vicious, Ian Curtis, a bare-breasted Kate

  • picks August 18, 2011

    Kate Steciw

    People like to call digital images immaterial, a figurative description evoking specters who can appear in space of their own accord. But data can’t be beheld without the twofold vessel of a file format and a device that can read it. A better metaphor might be liquid. Water is the central figure in Kate Steciw’s The Swimmer, 2011. A pool’s blue ripples warp a woman’s body, and the image is distended across six floor mats. They form an asymmetrical crest that stretches across one wall and onto the floor, where it gathers dirt from viewers’ shoes. Steciw ordered the rugs from an ordinary online