David Deitcher

  • White Columns, Paula Cooper, and El Museo del Barrio

    A LITTLE MORE than a year ago, a variety of news outlets reported that an estimated 350 hopeful artists had lined up outside the entrance to fabled New York contemporary art space White Columns—the site of numerous groundbreaking exhibitions, including “Artist/Critic,” 1983, “The New Capital,” 1984, Group Material’s “Resistance (Anti-Baudrillard),” 1987, and Fred Wilson’s “The Other Museum,” 1990. As it happened, these people were not queuing up to see artwork; nor were they there to protest an exhibition or, more predictably, to talk with staff members about show proposals. Rather, these hungry

  • ACT UP New York

    The list of lenders for this exhibition reads like a who’s who of the outraged queers who over twenty years ago created art that helped galvanize the movement to “take direct action to end the AIDS crisis.”

    The list of lenders for this exhibition, subtitled “Activism, Art, and the aids Crisis, 1987–1993,” reads like a who’s who of the outraged queers—among them gifted artists, filmmakers, designers, even a hairdresser—who over twenty years ago created art that helped galvanize the movement to “take direct action to end the AIDS crisis.” In addition to some seventy works of mostly collectively produced agitprop by, among others, Fierce Pussy, Gang, Gran Fury, Donald Moffett, the Silence = Death Project, and Ken Woodward, the show includes sketches and

  • Paul Graham

    HOW MIGHT WE ACCOUNT FOR the burgeoning interest in the British photographer Paul Graham—who, in addition to his solo debut currently at the Museum of Modern Art, recently had two concurrent commercial-gallery shows in New York? It is partly, no doubt, a consequence of steidlMACK’s publication of a shimmer of possibility, a deluxe, limited-edition, twelve-volume set of books presenting photographs Graham shot between 2004 and 2006 on trips throughout California, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Texas. These books, which one can look at but not touch, are at the entrance

  • “How Do We Want to Be Governed?”

    It’s been more than a year since the announcement of Roger M. Buergel’s appointment as director of Documenta 12, yet many of the questions that first accompanied the emergence of this little-known curator from Lüneburg, Germany, on the international stage remain: Is Buergel a logical successor to Catherine David and Okwui Enwezor? Will he offer, as art historian Sabeth Buchmann wondered in these pages last February, “less political discourse in exchange for art with a capital A”? A recent visit to Buergel’s “How Do We Want to Be Governed? (Figure and Ground)” (cocurated with Ruth Noack) at Miami

  • Spiritual America

    “Popisms,” the second section in this month’s special issue, examines ten defining moments in the history of Pop since the '60s, revisiting key interactions between art and mass culture and looking closely look at how they were written into Pop history. Here, David Deitcher remembers the late lamented Lower East Side gallery Spiritual America, while Graham Bader, Howard Singerman and Kitty Hauser recall three shows—“High & Low,” “Helter Skelter,” and “Superflat,” respectively—that have shaped the story of Pop after Pop.

    For twenty years I kept a rather plain postcard tucked away in a folder of

  • “The Last Picture Show”

    The pictures in “The Last Picture Show,” a survey covering the “conceptual uses” of photography from 1960 to 1982, demonstrate an approach to the medium that contrasts sharply with the one Alfred Stieglitz and his progeny developed to attain for photography the exalted status of Art. The Conceptualists’ stripped-down aesthetic, which sought to document an action or fool the eye and evinced a resolute lack of interest in the subtleties of the print, remains startling to this day.

    Yves Klein’s Leap into the Void, 1960, first printed in a decoy of the French newspaper Dimanche, occupies a central,

  • Tim Rollins

    DAVID DEITCHER: We met at the slide library at the School of Visual Arts in 1980. I remember you as an energetic, engaging young man with an idiosyncratic fashion sense. You wore only red and black, right?

    TIM ROLLINS: [Laughs.] That’s right, for two reasons. First, economy. Second, I was infatuated with the Russian Constructivists and how they developed forms to serve revolutionary politics—abstract designs that projected enthusiasm, progress, affirmation, even joy, as opposed to the abject imagery of, say, the German Expressionists. The Russian avant-garde explored what a militant beauty might

  • David Deitcher

    SCANNING THE BOOK DISPLAY in the reading room at the Whitney Biennial, I was dismayed to come upon the pale-green and pink slip case of Wayne Koestenbaum’s The Queen’s Throat: Opera, Homosexuality, and the Mystery of Desire, which I happened to be enjoying at home. Its presence on the Whitney’s hit list felt unmistakably grotesque, if possibly revealing.

    Conceived as an educational supplement to the Biennial, this “space of reading” includes a corner reserved for a user-friendly compilation of press clippings about the artists in the show, a centralized block of tables furnished with chairs and

  • THE LIBRARY IN YOUR GOOD HANDS: RAYMOND PETTIBON

    In 1978, Greg Ginn, of the California-based punk band Black Flag, asked his kid brother Raymond Pettibon to lend the group a drawing for the cover of a new single. Ever since, Pettibon’s images have appeared on records, fliers, and album jackets for bands as obscure as Super Session (among whose vocalists are Pettibon and Los Angeles artist Mike Kelley) and as familiar as Sonic Youth. Pettibon also started producing slim, photocopied compilations of his cartoonlike drawings in the late ’70s, (which he would occasionally intersperse with others by a nephew, whom he dubbed with the Dickensian

  • The Story That Won't Go Away

    A friend of mine told me she didn’t find JFK particularly homophobic—its several gay men, after all, are not confined to the usual stereotypes. Consider how the imprisoned gay hustler Willie O’Keefe describes businessman Clay Shaw (Tommy Lee Jones) to Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner), the New Orleans district attorney who will try Shaw unsuccessfully for conspiracy to kill President Kennedy: “He’s not one of those limp-wrists,” instructs O’Keefe, “he’s a butch John.”

    Were the even more “straight-acting” O’Keefe not referring to a trick he’d once turned, he might have described Shaw more accurately

  • ART ON THE INSTALLATION PLAN: MoMA AND THE CARNEGIE

    TWENTY YEARS AGO New York’s Museum of Modern Art initiated a series of modest shows, called “Projects,” to “keep the public abreast of recent developments in the visual arts.”1 On the surface this sounds like proof of the Museum’s commitment to contemporary art, but it would be more accurate to say that the series only enabled the Modern to avoid a more substantial involvement with new work.

    The “Projects” series was launched after one of the most ambitious and controversial contemporary-art shows in MoMA’s postwar history, the “Information” exhibition of 1970. This broad, anarchic survey of

  • BARBARA KRUGER: RESISTING ARREST

    I’m interested in making art that displaces the powers that tell us who we can be and who we can’t be.
    —Barbara Kruger, 1989

    IT SOMETIMES SEEMS as if curators, critics, and journalists alike are doing their best to eradicate “critical” post-Modernist art from the historical record. This can happen even when the opposite effect is intended: the organizers of the “Image World” exhibition, for example, at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art in 1989-90, lavished upon works by Richard Prince, Sherrie Levine, Cindy Sherman, Barbara Kruger, Allan McCollum, and others such a heady blend of museum formalism and disco pyrotechnics that this art’s social and discursive implications were all but obliterated. It was not

  • the United Colors of Benetton

    MOST ADVERTISING THAT FIXES itself like barnacles to the outsides of buses is of the Jordache, Bud, or Virginia Slims variety. In the wake of the ruthlessly upscale “redevelopment” of New York’s housing stock, some ads now feature bodacious young women lying belly down before high rises reduced to the scale of gigantic vibrators. But lately something new has been added to such reinforcements of the national appetite for youth, luxury, and officially sanctioned vice. Buses now contain ads that double as political messages. The photographer Oliviero Toscani has produced the most extraordinary of

  • Ronald Jones

    In 1985 Ronald Jones organized an exhibition for the Nexus Contemporary Art Center in Atlanta, where he lived at the time. Entitled “Public Art: A Blunt Instrument,” the show introduced Southerners to contemporary art that responded to the knotty historical predicament outlined in Jean Baudrillard’s essays on the “simulacrum,” which Jones quoted on several occasions in his catalogue text. Baudrillard’s Simulations was first published in English two years earlier, and was therefore only beginning to acquire the rank of cult classic in an art world ravenous for a “paradigm shift” or, failing that,

  • 1989 Biennial

    Though I’m reluctant to join the mob of Whitney bashers, it’s been hard to remain judicious about this year’s Biennial. Like many others, I was puzzled by the organizers’ exclusion of art that resists a conventional—indeed, conservative—conception of contemporary visual culture. I was offended, for instance, that AIDS and the varied cultural responses to it were consigned to a single, metaphorical mention in the catalogue introduction: “ . . . the horrific toll of AIDS on the arts community is but a harbinger of potentially larger disasters, including the ozone deterioration that threatens the

  • IDEAS AND EMOTIONS

    I WAS NEVER ESPECIALLY INTERESTED in David Wojnarowicz’s art. Part of the problem was that I associated it with the heyday of the East Village scene, and all that faux-naiveté and self-conscious expressionism, the presiding cult of the (youthful, male) individual, the hustling and the profiteering just left me cold. Under those conditions it would have been difficult to give his art a proper chance; instead I dismissed it as private fantasy—a category, of course, for things that couldn’t possibly matter.

    Back then what did matter was subjecting all kinds of cultural production to a litmus test