Carlo McCormick

  • TOY SOLDIERS

    NEW YORK POST-PUNK was not a sound. It was sounds—plural, and loud enough to be visceral. The music of this polyglot city spoke in tongues: forked tongues in cheek, the alien admixed into the familiar, like something too slippery for language and better conveyed in the furtive, desperate gestures of absurd and random sonic violence. Yet the silence that descended on the city at night with the hush of a criminal was in turns haunting, liberating, and scary as hell. From deep inside this absence rose new kinds of music in the late 1970s and early ’80s that at once caught the quietude in the

  • diary January 22, 2018

    Treasures of Truth

    ALWAYS A HIGHLIGHT of the art-world calendar, and just as often an epiphany, the Outsider Art Fair, now in its twenty-sixth edition at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea, is an ever-vital reminder of all that art can be and all that can be art. I have been an attendee since it first launched in the Puck Building, named for the satirical late nineteenth-century publication that lambasted political corruption and is now home to the Trump-Kushner clan (their walls are adorned by work from artists mortified to witness that the art market is oblivious to meaning in the face of money). But the fair’s

  • Glenn O’Brien

    IN AN AGE OF TASTEMAKERS, trendsetters, influencers, consultants, and that most pernicious of hybrids, “creatives,” to talk about how cool Glenn O’Brien was is also to acknowledge how diminished this term has become. But O’Brien was very cool, and he achieved this status at a time when the word was still both contested and marginalized. In the remarkable half century since he arrived in New York as a wholesome kid from Cleveland, O’Brien didn’t so much report on culture as actively create it.

    I was young enough to know O’Brien’s legendary byline years before I knew him. The downtown scene back

  • Martin Wong

    DECADES AGO, well before Martin Wong had a gallery—let alone the fame that has only gathered momentum since his passing in 1999—he hung some paintings in an inexpensive little Japanese restaurant on St. Marks Place in New York. There were a few neighbors who disliked them and said so, but it’s safe to assume that most people never even noticed them: These were paintings of brick walls, hanging on brick walls. To those of us who were actually paying attention, they seemed like some ultrabanal trompe l’oeil, or perhaps a reminder of the horrifyingly cheap patchwork jobs the local slumlords

  • passages April 09, 2014

    Rene Ricard (1946–2014)

    IT TAKES SOMEONE with as much tenure and tenacity on the scene as Rene Ricard to make me remember what it was like to be a young art writer. Seemingly always already there, stumbling and groping forward just in front of me, his peripatetic wanderings through the cultural mayhem of New York were a beacon-like inspiration for my own similarly hopeless pursuits and perhaps, too, a fair warning to maintain some critical distance lest we all end up like moths to the flame. He was a full-fledged freak, and in missing him, many of us must miss just as dearly that time when being so outré was not all

  • “Tauba Auerbach: The New Ambidextrous Universe”

    While most artists are busy making stuff for us to look at, Tauba Auerbach produces the kinds of perceptual enigmas that make us examine just how we see. Her rigorous, highly formal, but always visually engaging practice migrates across media, including sculpture, painting, photography, weaving, and artist’s books. For this, her first solo museum exhibition in the UK, Auerbach takes her cue from the seminal popular science book after which she’s named this show, pulling materiality through the looking glass to create a new series of large-scale wood floor sculptures,

  • “Graffiti”

    Sidney Janis turned his attention to graffiti just as its practitioners were transitioning from train cars to canvas and gaining creative traction, making him the hippest octogenarian of his day. The Brooklyn Museum’s exhibition of twenty large-scale works culled from his estate—by ten artists, including Crash, Daze, Tracy 168, Lady Pink, Toxic, and A-One—should establish that, rather than being a dealer late in his dotage, Janis was prescient as ever.

    When Sidney Janis’s venerable gallery on New York’s Fifty-seventh Street mounted “Post-Graffiti” in 1983, the event seemed monumental. For more than five decades of collecting and dealing, Janis had kept abreast of the times, successively championing modern, Abstract Expressionist, and Pop art, and now he had turned his attention to graffiti just as its practitioners were transitioning from train cars to canvas and gaining creative traction, making him the hippest octogenarian of his day. As art-world tastes and media hype moved on, however, Janis continued showing and

  • 1985: Wigstock

    IT WAS THE BEGINNING OF THE END, or the end of the beginning, depending on which denizen of the then still fabulous East Village you consult. It was also the year of the first Wigstock. Back then—late in the summer of ’85—an afternoon of drag delirium was little more than a predictably eccentric bit of neighborhood fanfare, not the mass public spectacle the celebration would soon become. Relatively more organized than the general chaos native to its Tompkins Square Park locale, the inaugural Wigstock was nonetheless pieced together from the same ragged fabric. It might not even stand out so

  • Martin Wong

    WHEN MARTIN WONG DIED at his parents’ San Francisco residence this past August, five years after moving back home to a cocktail of AIDS medications, Chinese herbs, and mother’s love, word of his passing spread through the diverse community of all who knew him with all the grief, startled silence, and spontaneous reminiscences awarded the best of our fallen heroes. Certainly there was an immediate collective sense of how much had been lost. Perhaps more elusive was an understanding of what it was that had touched so many in such radically different ways. The curious reality is that there wasn’t

  • Boy in the Hood

    GATHER ROUND, Y’ALL, AND I’LL TELL YOU about the little village I grew up in seemingly a lifetime ago. It’s long gone now, its flavor left in traces less comforting than haunting. Sometimes in the early spring when the shit begins to thaw, or perhaps in the fall when the air gives out an unnatural early chill, memories drift into focus—the forgotten face, the bodega that turned into a gallery, then a boutique. Suddenly I’m back. A crummy day, a slight drizzle drawing out the aroma of last night’s arson, junkies lined up in the open drug markets spread out over a labyrinth of derelict tenements

  • Gracie Mansion Gallery

    When Joanne Mayhew-Young renamed herself after the official residence of the mayors of New York, she joined the likes of John Sex, Patti Astor, and Lydia Lunch, individuals who hoped that an aggressively self-conscious sense of difference could vanquish the mundane aspects of life by making the whole of it art. The East Village was a magical site for radical self-invention, where one’s idiosyncratic contribution to the creative moment stood in for any actual personal history, and Gracie Mansion was the queen of the scene.

    Mansion’s forays into art-dealing were absurdist sendups of the gallery

  • SIVA'S IN THE HOUSE: IZHAR PATKIN'S DANCE-FLOOR DEITY

    The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.

    —William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, 1790–93

    WHERE EACH IS BOTH is Izhar Patkin’s Josephine Baker, and also his Carmen Miranda—and most of all his Siva, the Hindu divinity whose disconcerting and sublime contradictions and convergences suggest a reality beyond the norms and incompatible oppositions of experience. A god of magical multiplicity and ambiguity, Siva is Patkin’s muse, his dance partner on the elusive edge of transcendence and transgression. Patkin has always traveled freely through the nominal differentiations of race and

  • X Y ESS

    INASMUCH AS WE INHABIT a world choked with images, we are subject to an incessant barrage of fictions, each projected as some quantity of truth—or, at least, of credibility. The phenomenon is fueled, of course, by the mass media, but it implicitly involves the history of art. The mystical faith in symbolic figures, from primitive cultures to contemporary religious art; the authority granted to engravings and other printed pictures from both since and before the invention of photography; the tendency to accept historical, portrait, and other academic genres of painting and sculpture as if they

  • Howard Finster

    Fourteen years ago, in the God-bless-America bicentennial year of our Lord, the Reverend Howard Finster had a divine vision. Busy at work at one of the countless odd jobs in one of the dozens of trades he mastered over the years to support his mission and family of five, Finster, a sixty-year-old (at the time) Free Will Baptist minister, looked down at a smudge of white paint on one of his fingers, and lo and behold, a human face appeared there. From that little face came a mighty voice, and the voice spoke to Finster and said to him, “Paint sacred art.” It seems that after forty-five years of

  • Zap #12

    It has been more than 20 years now since Zap Comix first reared its ugly monster head out of the psychedelic miasma and sociopolitical upheaval of the ’60s to change forever the way we think about comic books. In both form and content, it goes beyond the obvious appeal of transgression/regression fantasies. Zap is that rare kind of artistic and literary masterwork that jumps out and smacks you right in the face, knocks you to the floor, and wrestles with your bilious heart of darkness till you’re screaming uncle, wretching in utter disgust, or begging for more. Reveling in hysterical silliness

  • Gary Panter

    Writing about Gary Panter’s art seemed a whole lot easier a few years ago than it is today. Certainly, part of this new, increased difficulty can be attributed to some changes in esthetic discourse within the art world itself; notably, that the distinction between “high” and “low” culture has become like a swampy muddle of co-optation, resistance, and retrenchment. Now, those two camps lob their artillery about without direction or definite cause at an invisible and equally fatigued ideological enemy. While the battle zone of recognized validity has become murkier, Panter’s own position has

  • Fred Gwyne

    Those who passed over Fred Gwynne’s first solo exhibition in the belief that it was going to be just another vanity show/media event were regrettably mistaken in doing so. Gwynne is, after all, most immediately recognizable as the character of Herman Munster, the bumbling monster-daddy of the mid-’60s sitcom The Munsters. His role was so hammy, inane, and unforgettable that it stigmatized Gwynne as an unemployably overexposed and typecast figure, but it probably helped generate his subtly barbed and reality-mocking position as the demeaned fool, excluded from and laughed at by the domain of “

  • “Street Stencils of the Lower East Side”

    This exhibition was devoted to the culturally neglected and often persecuted art of the street stencil. It represents the first historical survey in New York of this vital form of expression. The show was well-executed and appropriate within the spirited, informative, intercultural, community-based context of the Henry Street Settlement. Yet it was almost completely ignored by the larger art-going public, making it one of the most lively, educational, and provocative shows the art world missed this year.

    In New York, street stencils have had a parallel development with graffiti and other forms

  • Martin Wong

    So often have the discarded, lowly, kitsch, and despised artifacts of our daily lives been dredged up by artists to shock, disturb, amuse, or contradict our sensibilities that it’s easy to forget a rarer spirit of esthetic and political passion that is wholly unlike the prominent strategies of camp, transgressive, or political art. In the flood of media-fried pop, politicized urban expression, and confrontational excess that was rapidly consumed in New York at the outset of this decade under the moniker of East Village art, it was maybe inevitable that the delicacies of a few artists, such as

  • YOKO ONO SOLO

    IF PART OF OUR somewhat dated model of heroic greatness in the arts seems to be the neglect and misunderstanding of our artists in their day, then let’s get a head start on the (perhaps) inevitable—a long-overdue reassessment and appreciation of the work of Yoko Ono. Much of the neglect of Ono is a subdivision of the lack of interest that has obscured many of the important artists who, like her, were part of the Fluxus movement, which, in the ’60s, brought together a number of diverse talents in an inspired proliferation of events, publications, and other activities under the umbrella of an