David Velasco

  • diary August 17, 2007

    Taylor Made

    New York

    If you’ve ever endured Mondo New York, the cult classic 1988 video tour of the city’s vitriolic, sometimes sophomoric, downtown performance-art scene, you know that Gotham’s nether regions were once a Grand Guignol of voodoo magicians and painted bedlamites decrying the wounds of abjection and rocketing rents. Those perfunctorily documented dog days, well before gender-bending torch singer Joey Arias became a ringmaster at Cirque de Soleil and Ann Magnuson an actress of some repute on the television series Anything but Love, drew thousands to New York—and probably drove an equal number away.

  • diary July 31, 2007

    Trash and Vaudeville

    New York

    Ever since Led Zeppelin’s 1969 “Mudshark Incident” at the Edgewater Inn, hotel debauchery has been de rigueur behavior for the belligerent and famous. A consistently popular form of conspicuous destruction, it’s surprising that it’s taken so long for the practice to hit the gallery circuit. (Adam Dade and Sonya Hanney’s “Stacked Hotel Rooms” don’t count.) Enter Nest, Dan Colen and Dash Snow’s tribute to counterculture heroics, an installation at Deitch Projects re-creating their ritual “hamster nests,” in which the artists get a hotel room, tear up phone books, roll around in their mess, and do

  • picks July 12, 2007

    “Equal, That Is, to the Real Itself”

    Hardly a return to the strong-arm objectivism of traditional realism, “Equal, That Is, to the Real Itself,” a summer group exhibition deftly curated by Linda Norden, rightly turns the real proper on its head with a slew of provocative works. Each, Norden claims, locates a congruence between art and lived experience. The title is taken from poet Charles Olson’s declamation of John Keats’s theory of “negative capability,” though its principle stimulus is Bertolt Brecht’s maxim that every exigency deserves its own artistic form. The show opens with the most recent (and politically urgent) work:

  • diary June 21, 2007

    Roger's Neighborhood

    Kassel

    Gossip circulates best in the provinces. So what better place to troll for tattle than at Thursday’s dinner party for two hundred largely European art-world aristocrats, hosted by Kunsthalle Basel president Peter Handschin and LISTE sponsor François Gutzwiller at a chic, vaguely rustic estate in the remote Swiss countryside? Perhaps the talk wasn’t quite juicy (or at least the real dirt was muttered in German asides), but it was certainly plentiful, as was the seemingly limitless supply of couscous and stuffed peppers replenished like clockwork by the conspicuously studly staff. Thanks to advances

  • A. L. Steiner and robbinschilds

    The danger of characterizing a work as “fun” is that, in doing so, one also risks implying that it is inconsequential. This is an especially deadly charge when measuring art of a feminist provenance: It’s still rare enough that such art is considered worthy of serious discourse. (Though perhaps such misogyny will attenuate in the wake of two current surveys: “WACK!” at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and “Global Feminisms” at the Brooklyn Museum.) With that in mind, A. L. Steiner’s latest project, C.L.U.E. (color location ultimate experience), Part 1, 2007, a ten-minute forty-eight-second

  • picks May 08, 2007

    “Beneath the Underdog”

    Right down to the treacherous, Monica Bonvicini–demolished drywall floors, everything about “Beneath the Underdog”—a massive, ambitious group show curated by artists Nate Lowman and Adam McEwen—is uneven. Oddly, this choppiness is also the linchpin to the show’s success. (That is, if success is a good thing for an exhibition protesting mastery and maturity.) The show willfully flaunts its crush on playful, masturbatory juvenilia, and as such the phallus abounds, from Lee Lozano’s fantastic drawing No title, 1963, to Michael Joaquin Grey’s Orange Gravity (California), 1992, a brilliant, fluorescent

  • Matt Stokes

    Matt Stokes’s six-minute forty-five-second Super-16 film Long After Tonight, 2005, may have won him the now-defunct Beck’s Futures Prize last year in Britain, but it doesn’t follow any of the current trends in American contemporary art. There’s no conceptual code to crack, no extreme or particularly innovative formal gestures, no wry political critique. And as if to evince the artist’s own sincere unselfconsciousness, there’s even a shirtless man with a braided ponytail, whirling to music like a dervish.

    All reason enough, perhaps, to like the work, which was shown at Stokes’s recent New York

  • Shirley Tse

    Like a diligent student of The Graduate, Shirley Tse has made her career in plastics, demarcating with uncommon zeal (and amid sporadic references to Martin Heidegger and Gilles Deleuze) an artistic practice defined less by a particular aesthetic agenda and more by consistent exploitation of her materials. The past few years have seen Tse building sculptures carved with cantilevered reliefs and constructing flat vinyl “paintings” à la Lucio Fontana. “Waiting . . . ,” the artist’s recent solo show at Murray Guy—her fourth there—reasserted her allegiance to Robert Smithson and the legacy of his

  • diary March 15, 2007

    Pleasure Principality

    Monte Carlo

    With the DVD release of Dynasty: The Complete Second Season still pending, my life has been sorely lacking in glamour of late. So when Turin’s Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo alerted us that their plans called for a press junket for foreign journalists to Monaco last Saturday for the unveiling of “Glowbowl”—a terse survey of contemporary art drawn from the foundation’s collection by artistic director Francesco Bonami and independent curator Martine Frésia—I dusted off my Nolan Miller evening wear, scored a stash of Ambien, and prepared for a transatlantic redeye.

    Monaco doesn’t have an airport,

  • Brent Green

    Five years ago, armed with a cheap digital camera and a computer equipped with iMovie, Brent Green set out to produce his first short animated video. The result, Susa’s Red Ears, 2002, was a choppily edited, whimsical tale featuring characters drawn on fragments of translucent cels, Scotch-taped together and photographed moving across naively rendered landscapes painted on glass and wood. Green has since upgraded to a superior digital SLR camera and has also begun to integrate stop-motion animation of three-dimensional, carved wooden elements. He continues to draw as well; the figures are more

  • picks February 28, 2007

    “Elephant Cemetery”

    If modernism were truly dead, “Elephant Cemetery” would make a perfect burial ground—a suite of fractured monuments to monumentality, sprawling memos to memory. Ostensibly about “objects and our relationship to them,” curator Christian Rattemeyer’s final exhibition at this venerable SoHo nonprofit is surprisingly less drab—and phenomenology-fixated—than this sentiment suggests. Take, for example, Jamie Shovlin’s obsessive watercolor-and-ink tributes to the cover designs for the fifty-eight Fontana Modern Masters pocketbook primers (including ten that were announced but never published). The

  • diary February 16, 2007

    Royal Academy

    New York

    Observing the long, shivering queue waiting for admission to last Sunday’s winter openings at P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, I almost turned back, Scene & Herd be damned. But the line moved swiftly enough, and my perseverance was rewarded with a clutch of excellent shows (eight commenced simultaneously), as well as good people-watching. The schoolhouse was flooded with everyday patrons, art-world aristocrats such as Jonas Mekas and Marina Abramovic, and even some official royalty, namely Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway, on hand for the opening of countryman Tom Sandberg’s installation of

  • diary February 07, 2007

    Creative Times

    New York

    William Burroughs’s bed is exactly as you’d imagine it: A modest, low-set full-size draped with a patchwork quilt, a box of Kleenex and a small lamp on a bedside table. If it weren’t for the three bullet-ridden, human-silhouette shooting targets on the facing wall (Burroughs was a killer shot), I’d be tempted to call it monastic. The bed sits in Burroughs’s old boudoir, a perfectly preserved room on the first floor of John Giorno’s storied “bunker” on the Bowery. Though our Buddhist poet host was out of town on the occasion of my visit last Thursday evening, he’d agreed to lend his pad to Ugo

  • Sue de Beer

    Sue de Beer’s latest video, The Quickening, 2006, is a morality tale without a moral, a murder mystery with no solution. It’s set in Puritan New England—though de Beer seems unconcerned with creating the realist mise-en-scène of the conventional period piece. The movie puts incongruity to use as a narrative strategy: When John Denver launches into the second stanza of “The Eagle and the Hawk” following the unceremonious hanging of one of the characters, the music is jarring, but the effect is oddly felicitous.

    The story of The Quickening is fairly simple, beginning and ending with the unexplained

  • picks January 30, 2007

    Mark Esper

    Like other kinetic artists, Mark Esper infuses odd, largely useless mechanical contraptions with mythological resonance, using his practice to meditate upon broad philosophical questions and the limits of sensory experience. He also really likes motion detectors, which makes touring his exhibition at this small Brooklyn gallery something of a treat. Opening with Gathered Voices, 2005, an apparatus comprising twenty-four speakers, swaying pendulums, and “electromagnetic units,” Esper explores the human mind’s phenomenal memory for voices, creating a schizophrenic choir from multiple readings of

  • diary January 22, 2007

    Flattering Light

    New York

    Surely your friends who attended the Whitney’s reception for Terence Koh’s first solo US museum presentation last Thursday night told you that it was a glamorous affair. It brimmed with all the usual suspects and more, from ubiquitous art-world intelligentsia like Thelma Golden (“Is this piece dangerous?”) and Adam Weinberg to icons like Bianca Jagger and twentysomething boys I didn’t even know existed outside their highly tailored Craigslist M4M postings and Manhunt.net profiles. (“Isn’t that LESbtm81?”)

    And it was glamorous—especially if you were one of the sixty or so people standing in the

  • diary January 05, 2007

    Team Player

    New York

    The ambitious, self-actualizing heroics of New Year’s resolutions often give me hives; I much prefer sleeping in—a gentle awakening to the postholiday cycle. So Wednesday, I chose to ease back into the New York art world via a friendly, low-key party at Lower East Side nonprofit Participant Inc. celebrating Devon Costello and Ilya Lipkin’s “Poster Project.” Director Lia Gangitano noted that the gallery floor had been repainted for the occasion, a noble endeavor, since the numerous posters—created by over twenty different artists—were only up for the night. (Printed Matter is hosting another,

  • Futoshi Miyagi

    “Dear stranger,” begins a typical introductory e-mail by Okinawa-born, New York–based artist Futoshi Miyagi. “First of all excuse me for sending this weird message.” If the opening address is both tender and awkward (can a stranger be “dear”?), so is the project to which it relates—an ongoing series of photographs begun in 2005 titled “Strangers,” each of which features Miyagi in an intimate, sexually suggestive scenario with a different man (and one transgender person). Nine of these pictures featured prominently, alongside several sculptures and installations, in “Brief Procedures,” the artist’s

  • diary December 12, 2006

    Another 48 Hours

    Miami

    Friday morning, I woke up in my hotel and checked the temperature in New York. Like I needed reassurance: “Feels like 17ºF”—a clarion reminder that despite Miami’s miasmal humidity, ambling along the South Beach boardwalk trumps tromping through Chelsea in December. Then again, weather doesn’t exist inside a convention center.

    Breakfast was at Jerry’s Diner, the art world’s temporary Peach Pit and a vague relief from the oppressive "South Beach Diet”—compulsory fasting due to lousy local food and service (offset, if you’re lucky, by occasional crudités “dinners”). At one table I spotted artists

  • Walead Beshty

    Walead Beshty has no shortage of ideas. Hot on the heels of a solo exhibition at the UCLA Hammer Museum, the Los Angeles–based artist’s second solo show at Wallspace, “The Maker and the Model,” was an eclectic collection of homages and footnotes to the work of (among others) Le Corbusier and Man Ray. Cutting across several media, including photograms, sculptures, and an ink-jet print (the last in the form of a limited edition on sale for forty bucks a square foot), it was also a demonstration of the artist’s conceptual promiscuity.

    By far the most striking piece in the show was New York, New York