Colby Chamberlain

  • Jack Smith

    In Artists Space’s final exhibition at 55 Walker Street, a hulking television monitor screened mottled, mid-1970s footage of Jack Smith standing outside the Cologne Zoological Garden, resplendent in a feathered turban. “The Museum is filled with a lot of stuff chosen from artists who represent the artist as the playmate of the rich,” he intones. “These artists suck art out of everyday life and transfer it to paintings and other kinds of crusts and sell it to galleries—who in turn sell it to museums and the rich so that the art eventually ends up in penthouses and storage warehouses of

  • QUEENS INTERNATIONAL 2018: “VOLUMES”

    In 2013, the Queens Museum completed a new wing that doubled the institution’s size and created a skylit interior plaza for public gatherings. A second phase of construction will incorporate a branch of the Queens Library. To consider what forms of community engagement might arise from the merger of museum and library, the eighth Queens International will explore alternative modes of reading, information storage, and archival research, with work by Gabriela Salazar, Milford Graves, Camel Collective, and other borough-based artists. Concurrently,

  • ADELITA HUSNI-BEY

    “REPEAT DARKLY,” said Adelita Husni-Bey: “‘There is no such thing as society, there are men and women.’” During an interview with Clara Schulmann in 2015, Husni-Bey uttered Margaret Thatcher’s famous words as if they were a sinister spell—in J. L. Austin’s terms, not a constative (“There is no society”), but a performative (“I, Thatcher, hereby abolish society”). Husni-Bey is hardly alone in ascribing a malevolent power to the Iron Lady. Across Britain, downloads of “Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead” shot up when Thatcher passed away in 2013. And while the Munchkin effervescence was doubtless

  • Bogosi Sekhukhuni

    So much for small talk. For his solo debut in North America, Bogosi Sekhukhuni positioned the exhibition’s unwieldiest artwork at the gallery’s entrance. The video by NTU (Bogosi Sekhukhuni with Nolan Oswald Dennis and Tabita Rezaire) Thus Saith the Lord (Overunity), 2015, opens with a narrator arguing in voice-over that science’s rationalist paradigm fails to account for the multiple historical figures who have attributed their major discoveries to visions or dreams. Blurry jpeg portraits of Dmitri Mendeleev, Srinivasa Ramanujan, and Albert Einstein flash across the screen, leading finally to

  • Sean Raspet

    While researching Soviet Constructivism for her book The Artist as Producer (2005), Maria Gough uncovered one of history’s great ironies: After the Russian Revolution, the avant-garde agreed on the common goal of integrating art with mass production. The artist who came closest to succeeding, Karl Ioganson, is now the least well known of his peers. Ioganson so dedicated himself to improving factory-floor efficiency that his records were not housed alongside those of Aleksandr Rodchenko or Lyubov Popova but were instead located in the Soviet Union’s archives of industry and labor.

    I sometimes

  • Hannah Levy

    “Full fathom five thy father lies / Of his bones are coral made / Those are pearls that were his eyes / Nothing of him that doth fade / But doth suffer a sea-change / Into something rich and strange.” This passage from Shakespeare’s The Tempest (1610–11), describing a human body undergoing an underwater metamorphosis, has particular significance for twentieth-century art. In 1947, Jackson Pollock made Full Fathom Five the title of one his most materially dense drip paintings, suggesting a kind of transubstantiation. The nails, tacks, and cigarette butts embedded in the canvas had been raised up

  • Jessica Vaughn

    In his book 1971: A Year in the Life of Color, 2016, Darby English adopts the term representationalism to critique the tendency among scholars to analyze the abstract paintings of black artists by seeking out coded affirmations of racial identity—relating, for instance, the layered compositions of Joe Overstreet to the hair weaves at his mother’s beauty salon, or characterizing Ed Clark’s use of a broom to spread acrylic over his canvases as an homage to janitors. This tendency, English contends, foists onto abstraction precisely the sort of static definitions it aims to elude. This past

  • Sam Moyer

    Sam Moyer’s first solo show in New York, “Night Moves,” took place in 2008 at Cleopatra’s, the independent storefront space in Greenpoint founded that year by Bridget Donahue, Bridget Finn, Kate McNamara, and Erin Somerville. There, Moyer presented five “paintings” made of stretcher bars wrapped in moving blankets. Appropriately enough, Moyer had first become interested in the formal qualities of moving blankets—their off-kilter color combinations, the patterns of their stitching—while assisting the artist Mika Tajima, who at the time had taken to displaying paintings in the kind of

  • “Stories of Almost Everyone”

    Thanks to Gotthold Ephraim Lessing and Clement Greenberg, the Greek statue of Laocoön is indelibly associated with modernism’s strict separation of narrative and plastic arts. Now that medium-specific studio artists have ceded ground to project-based multitaskers experimenting with documentary, ethnographic, and archival research, however, perhaps we need to revisit the story behind the statue. After all, who is Laocoön if not the first critic to caution against accepting an artwork at face value? This survey of art from the past twenty years,

  • Jordan Casteel

    The initial response to Jordan Casteel’s “Nights in Harlem” is a case study in how an exhibition’s reception can be overdetermined by an immediately preceding exhibition. By dint of their subject matter, her larger-than-life paintings of black men she met on the streets of Harlem inevitably recall the recent survey of portraits by Alice Neel of her neighbors in Spanish Harlem and on the Upper West Side, organized by Hilton Als at David Zwirner gallery. This has prompted critics to equate Casteel with Neel, more out of reflex than reflection. Most prominently, Jerry Saltz proclaimed Casteel “

  • Trevor Paglen

    Back to school: Trevor Paglen produced his important early work on military black sites and extraordinary rendition while pursuing a doctorate in geography at the University of California, Berkeley. Having already received his MFA, he drew on geography’s analytic tools to develop an artistic practice premised on the hunch that, however “secret,” clandestine government programs would always leave material traces—facilities, flight records, post office boxes—that could be located, documented, and made visible to a broader public. This year, Paglen spent several months as an artist-in-residence

  • Devon Dikeou

    Before David H. Koch affixed his name to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exterior plaza; before the Rockefellers funded the Museum of Modern Art’s international program during the Cold War; before Solomon R. Guggenheim, J. P. Morgan, and Andrew Carnegie marshaled their fortunes toward “refining” American culture; before several centuries’ worth of upstanding burghers, upstart aristocrats, and absolutist royals who amassed collections and awarded commissions, there were popes. How different the history of Western art would be without Julius II, who commissioned Raphael’s Stanza della Segnatura

  • Anne Neukamp

    Friedrich Kittler launched his lifelong investigation into how “media determine our situation” with a simple insight: that Michel Foucault, for all his brilliance, never reckoned with data storage systems other than the written word. The whole rich field of “German media theory” has emerged out of this blind spot. Kittler’s methods not only have transformed our understanding of analog and digital technologies, but also have alerted us to the technicity of writing itself. Typographic “operators,” like commas, quotation marks, and footnotes, all have their own complicated histories that Foucault

  • Sara Magenheimer

    Louis Agassiz, 1862: “I have never felt more deeply the imperfection of our knowledge of some of the most remarkable types of the animal kingdom than in attempting to describe the beautiful representative of the genus Cyanea found along the Atlantic coast of North America. I can truly say that I have fully shared the surprise of casual observers in noticing this gigantic radiate stranded upon our beaches, and wondered what may be the meaning of all the different parts hanging from the lower surface of the large gelatinous disk.” Claude Monet, 1924: “It took me time to understand my water lilies.”

  • the politics of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s Running Fence

    ONE SMALL ASPECT of daily life that Donald Trump’s election has altered, perhaps irrevocably, is e-mail etiquette. Professional contacts sign off on all manner of correspondence with “In solidarity.” Announcements and invitations include the poignant yet perfunctory phrase “now more than ever.” Friends forward (and reforward) online petitions, solicitations for donations, and pleas to call Congress. Among all these missives, the most memorable I have received was a post to Change.org by the artist Luis Camnitzer: “Dear President Donald Trump: Please use this golden opportunity to commission US

  • Mark Leckey

    HERE’S THE BAIT AND SWITCH: Each new technology that further isolates individuals first promises to connect them. It was film’s potential to organize collective perception that so excited Walter Benjamin: “The ancient truth expressed by Heraclitus, that those who are awake have a world in common while each sleeper has a world of his own, has been invalidated by film,” he wrote, “and less by depicting the dream world itself than by creating figures of collective dream, such as the globe-encircling Mickey Mouse.” Alone together in the darkened theater, the proletariat would commune with new totems.

  • performance January 10, 2017

    Good Charlotte

    ONE TELEVISION MONITOR in “A Feast of Astonishments: Charlotte Moorman and the Avant-Garde, 1960s–1980s,” screened clips of Charlotte Moorman’s TV appearances. On the Merv Griffin Show in June 1967, Moorman performed John Cage’s 26’1.1499” for a String Player with the help of comedian Jerry Lewis. Holding a military-grade practice bomb that Moorman had converted into a cello, he asked the audiences, “Does she know I’m famous?” Gingerly, he kneeled down before her, his head bent toward her bare shoulders while she pulled a cello string taut up along his back, playing it with her bow. It’s a

  • Slavs and Tatars

    In 1865, Édouard Manet exhibited Olympia at the Paris Salon, and Louis Pasteur patented a process for preventing spoilage in wine. It’s no stretch to claim a connection between these two events. Both modernist painting and pasteurization are techniques of purification, the one an expulsion of extraneous elements through progressive refinement, the other an elimination of pathogens through calibrated heating. Pasteurization, however, isn’t sterilization. Purge all the bacteria from wine or beer and you ruin the taste. Perhaps this explains why Clement Greenberg revised his theory of medium

  • Cao Fei

    Recently in these pages, artforum.com associate editor Dawn Chan argued that for many East Asian artists, success on the international exhibition circuit is contingent on their willingness to appeal to the “techno-Orientalist” fantasies of Western curators. Few artworks seem more indicative, if not outright parodic, of this predicament than Cao Fei’s RMB City, 2007–11, a floating island constructed in the simulated ocean expanses of Second Life. Much like the Panzani pasta ad that Roland Barthes decoded as connoting “Italianness,” renderings of RMB City abound with Sino-signifiers. A panda, a

  • Natascha Sadr Haghighian

    “Reason . . . always homogenizes and reduces, represses and unifies phenomena or actuality into what can be perceived and so controlled,” observes Abhor, the “part robot,” “part black” protagonist of Kathy Acker’s 1988 novel Empire of the Senseless. “The subjects, us, are now stable and socializable.” Along with her co-narrator and partner Thivai, Abhor navigates an alternate-reality Paris where Algerians have staged an anticolonial revolt. Here she reflects on how patriarchal violence begins with the assignment of identities. “Literature,” she argues, “is that which denounces and slashes apart