Colby Chamberlain

  • View of “Anything Can Substitute Art: Maciunas in SoHo,” 2012–13.
    picks January 11, 2013

    George Maciunas

    In Fluxmanifesto on Fluxamusement, 1965, George Maciunas writes, “To establish [the] artist[’]s nonprofessional, nonparasitic, nonelite status in society, he must demonstrate [his] own dispensability . . . he must demonstrate that anything can substitute art and anyone can do it.” To rephrase, the role of the artist is, paradoxically enough, to eliminate the role of the artist. Maciunas’s ambivalence, if not outright hostility, toward art as a profession accounts for his reluctance to identify as an artist; he preferred to introduce himself as an architect, a graphic designer, or as the chairman

  • View of “Haroon Mirza,” 2012.

    Haroon Mirza

    For his first New York solo exhibition, curated by Gary Carrion-Murayari and Jenny Moore, British artist Haroon Mirza stocked the New Museum’s next-door storefront space with signal emitters. Studio speakers issue modemlike trills, junk-shop televisions flash syncopated bursts of white noise, and strips of LED lights intermittently douse the room in red, blue, or green. It is an installation that doubles as a concert, a pulsing electric fugue.

    Surprisingly, the installation also supplies an inadvertent comment on the legacy of Matisse, specifically the painter’s characterization of his art as “

  • Alisa Baremboym, Leakage Industries: Clear Conduit, 2012, gelled emollient, unglazed ceramic, USB cable with gender changers, flash drive, floor flange, threaded pipe, screws, red pipe caps, 40 x 32 x 48". From “A Disagreeable Object.”

    “A Disagreeable Object”

    “A Disagreeable Object” had a simple premise: Surrealism’s afoot. More difficult was the proof. Arguing for an avant-garde’s renewed relevance first entails defining the original movement—no easy task when that avant-garde was exceptionally long-lived and riven by factionalism from the start. Instead of honing a signature style, Surrealism stockpiled strategies, aesthetic techniques devised to trigger that exhilarating condition known alternately as the marvelous or uncanny. Curator Ruba Katrib resolved this preliminary dilemma by borrowing her exhibition title from a 1931 work by Alberto

  • George Maciunas, Foot in Shoe, 1973–77, offset print on paper, 10 1/2 x 8 1/2". From “Wooster Enterprises.”

    Wooster Enterprises

    It’s a pathetic scene. Painful, even. In 1930s Paris, Marcel Duchamp hawks his Rotoreliefs from a booth at the Inventors’ Fair. “Like a smiling salesgirl,” Henri-Pierre Roché would recall. Obviously, Duchamp won’t be the last artist to test the strategic and commercial potential of modeling artwork as everyday retail merchandise. The cash register rings through Claes Oldenburg’s “The Store,” 1961, Keith Haring’s 1986–2005 Pop Shop, Christine Hill’s Volksboutique, 1996–, and Superflex’s Guaraná Power, 2004– (to say nothing of certain Louis Vuitton collaborations). But what a disheartening precedent.

  • Naama Tsabar, Work on Felt (Variation 1), 2012, felt, carbon fiber, piano string, guitar tuning peg, 51 x 29 x 100".
    picks October 01, 2012

    Naama Tsabar

    When Naama Tsabar exhibited Untitled (Speaker Wall) and Untitled (Speaker Wall - Prototype), both 2010, in that year’s “Greater New York” at MoMA PS1, they reverberated—literally and figuratively. Eight-foot black monoliths bearing bookshelf speakers in front and an array of guitar strings in back, the sculptures emitted a loud, heavy hum that—at the pluck of a string—erupted into otherworldly oscillations, the sound of electric gamelan run through Richard Strauss’s Thus Spake Zarathustra. These were sculptures impersonating instruments (or was it vice versa?), apropos totems for a moment when

  • Frank Heath, Former Structure / Distribution Case (City Hall Post Office, Broadway and Park Row, New York, NY 10038), 2012, wood, paint, postage, 39 x 39 x 10”.
    picks April 11, 2012

    Frank Heath

    At the core of Derrida’s The Post Card (1980) is this key insight: Contrary to Lacan’s famous claim, a letter can always not arrive at its destination, and it’s this chance for drift that allows change—history itself—to occur. Frank Heath’s solo exhibition is a series of posts without return. First, Reruns (all works 2012), five diptychs that juxtapose clippings from the same newspaper published on the same date, only decades apart; in each pair, the precise wording of one classified appears twice, the result of Heath’s placing the advertisements anew this past February and March. Lost bags,

  • Tommy Hartung, Anna, 2011, still from a color video in HD, 20 minutes 37 seconds.
    picks December 13, 2011

    Tommy Hartung

    When a mannequin is in the gallery, Surrealism is on the table. That’s been the case since 1924, when André Breton identified mannequins as a signature appearance of the “marvelous” (a romantic’s term that mirrors Freud’s uncanny). Sometimes the connection goes slack—for instance, during the grim cocktail party of waxwork figurines called “Skin Fruit” that showed at the New Museum last year. Lately, however, there’s been a trickle of exhibitions being casually described as disturbing, creepy, or simply fucked-up—after-hours chatter that, when parsed more rigorously, spells out Surrealism. Consider

  • View of “A Show About Colab (and Related Activities),” 2011.
    picks November 07, 2011

    “A Show About Colab (and Related Activities)”

    From photocopied flyers, the word jumps out: OCCUPATION. On January 1, 1980, Colab (aka Collaborative Projects) rang in the decade with the “Real Estate Show,” a group exhibition illegally installed in a vacant city-managed building on a derelict stretch of Delancey Street. As a poster later wheat-pasted to the property stated, “This was to be the beginning of an exchange about landlord speculation, tenants’ rights, property misuse, projected housing development, arbitrary urban planning, etc.—a citizen’s center.” The police padlocked the building the next day.

    This “Insurrectionary Urban

  • Lawrence Weiner's exhibition announcement card for his show at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Paris, 2005.
    picks July 01, 2011

    Lawrence Weiner

    Venturing into the periodical stacks, we find in the summer 1974 issue of Art-Rite a questionnaire asking artists to make a political statement. Lawrence Weiner responds with a variation on his Statement of Intent from 1968: “1) An artist may construct an art, 2) An art may be fabricated, 3) An art need not to be constructed.” This minor article, hard to find without recourse to microfilm, bolsters the argument that the core tenets of Weiner’s language-based practice were conceived as a Vietnam-era affront to power. That said, it also betrays a hint of self-satisfaction, a presumption that this

  • Jamie Isenstein, Installation Shots (axe, harp, log), 2010, 
HD videos on infinite loops, projectors, pedestals,
 dimensions variable. Installation view.
    picks November 28, 2010

    Matthew Day Jackson, Jamie Isenstein, “The Original Copy”

    Tired of confronting his own effigy in The Tomb, 1967, Paul Thek complained, “Imagine having to bury yourself over and over.” This was precisely the underlying strategy of two compelling solo exhibitions this year. Matthew Day Jackson’s “In Search of” at Peter Blum Chelsea was riddled with allusions to his own demise, including a fabricated account of his disappearance after a cross-country road trip. Jackson introduced the conceit in a faux-documentary video that shared its title with the exhibition—a nod to both a 1970s television program of the same name and Bas Jan Ader’s In Search of the

  • View of “179 Canal / Anyways,” 2010. From left: Josh Kline, Citizen Dick / Hurl Jam / Guess Jeans, 2010; Bravo Presents: Seattle Story, 2010; Facebook Friends, 2010; Canadian Brunettes, 2010. Floor: Josh Kline, For Your Health, 2010.
    picks November 17, 2010

    “179 Canal / Anyways”

    If your memory still reaches back farther than your last Facebook login, recall the sizable crowd that attended “Recessional Aesthetics” at X Initiative in March 2009. Why such a turnout? Chalk it up to the tongue-in-cheek title, which intimated that—post–Lehman Brothers, post-Inauguration—a departure from business as usual was imminent. Something could crack open. But where? One viable answer presented itself that May, when 179 Canal inaugurated its remarkable run with “Nobodies New York.” As a month-to-month beneficiary of a soft real estate market, the gallery was inevitably short-lived, but

  • Melvin Edwards, Weapon of Freedom, 1986, welded steel, 11 x 9 x 6”. From the series “Lynch Fragments,” 1963–.
    picks September 22, 2010

    Melvin Edwards

    To say what’s timely about a Melvin Edwards survey in 2010, go back to 1958. That June, Clement Greenberg published “Sculpture in Our Time,” which pronounced a change in direction for the medium. Brancusi, the argument went, had effectively capped off the Renaissance tradition of sculpture as a solid, monolithic form––so much so that no one subsequently could add anything further. With that lineage exhausted, the new relevant precedents were Picasso’s Cubist guitar constructions and the welded-steel assemblies of Julio González. The standard-bearer became David Smith, who joined sheets of metal