Domenick Ammirati

  • diary August 03, 2020

    Low Relief

    I DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU, dear reader, but I really have not been getting out much. I hunkered down the second week in March, resurfaced briefly for some protests, and then resumed the shadowy, unproductive, vaguely counterfactual Covid-era life—a weird, slowdripped speedball of paranoia and complacence topped off with knifing hangovers of despair. It’s gotten a little old. Therefore, when asked by the editors to report back from Thursday’s “L.E.S. Summer Night”—an evening of gently extended hours among some thirty-odd Lower East Side pandemic-parched galleries waiting open-mouthed for a quenching

  • slant April 15, 2020

    Handle with Care

    For all our fluttery ideas about the dematerialized object, the economics of art still rely on moving physical objects from one place to another. Right now, the logistics of art are frozen, as are the lives of those who shuttle, mount, and set it just so. Even the relatively small number of art handlers and installers with non-gig positions at institutions and the larger moving outfits have been subject to layoffs—some, like those at UOVO Fine Art Storage, with questionable motives. The rest are mostly freelance, mostly precarious, and right now mostly not making a living.


  • Corin Hewitt

    The setup of Corin Hewitt’s new work was as pristine as a thought experiment. A Parrot in Parallel Proposes, 2020, comprised two birds, one fluttering in a cage inside Motel’s modest storefront, the other in a similar situation in the apartment next door, just on the other side of the gallery’s north-facing wall. Both parrots actually live together in the flat, but for a few hours each week, they were artistically intervened into this new schema. Art lovers, fowl fanciers, and other freaks signed up for brief small-group encounters with the bird in the gallery—ten minutes of sitting in contemplative

  • slant March 27, 2020

    Helter Shelter

    My first impulse when this all began was to buy groceries. My second was to see how people were doing. The art world, for all its flaws and fissures, is a community, and it’s the one I’ve got. When its trappings recede in a time like this—as if there were any time like this, exactly—you’re left with the people. I’ll be talking to some of them over the next couple of weeks, seeing how they're doing materially, emotionally, physically, financially, and so on.

    —Domenick Ammirati

    FOR THE PAST FEW YEARS, I’ve been living illegally in the leaky garage of a former funeral parlor, which had been converted

  • Nicolas Moufarrege

    In his short life, Nicolas Moufarrege (1947–1985) traversed vast terrains both geographic and intellectual. His idiosyncratic hybrids of painting and embroidery, which took shape in Beirut, Paris, and New York, muster dense arrangements of Middle Eastern and Western iconographies. The smartly titled “Recognize My Sign”— Moufarrege’s first museum survey, which debuted at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston in 2018—returns him to his final hometown. The artist’s varying references, as old as Egyptian papyrus and as pop as Mickey Mouse, vibrate with a longing for connection while also showcasing

  • performance December 16, 2019

    You Better WeWork

    I HATE CHILDREN. I feel bad about this, of course. My sister has a couple, my friends have others; I was once one myself. Yet only the occasional spike of terror about my own steadily approaching death has ever made me want one. Who wouldn’t like to have a captive audience for their ill-informed theories of everything, or at least an in-house caretaker when one’s brain goes? But those don’t seem like super honorable reasons for taking on the project, although they might be common ones, confessed to or otherwise.

    Last Sunday, however, my aversion to children was overcome by my love of Ei Arakawa.


    AT AN INTERDISCIPLINARY SYMPOSIUM called “Hiving: Living Forms, Forms of Living” at New York University in April 2019, Georgia Sagri provided her own etymology of the word anarchy. Sagri had been invited to participate not for any experience with the apiary but because of her relation to the thematic of the hive as both metaphor and model for less hierarchical forms of political organization, which she rather famously knows something about. Overwriting the traditionally accepted etymon from her native Greek, anarchos, or “without leader,” Sagri instead offered the alternative meaning “without

  • diary September 16, 2019

    General Assembly

    THE BERGEN ASSEMBLY marked my first trip to Scandinavia, and as a Henry James fan I hope I may be forgiven if I play a bit of the wide-eyed American abroad, marveling at the tall Nordics with their precise beards and high-tech outerwear. Meanwhile, I had brought no umbrella to literally the rainiest city in Europe and shivered constantly under a dampening white denim jacket. It was also, for me, a rare trip to an international biennial, which (Venice notwithstanding) tends to come in different flavors than our American festival exhibitions—more discursive, more searching, more ragged, more

  • diary April 10, 2019

    Animal Collective

    WHEN I ATTENDED THE ASSOCIATION OF WRITERS AND WRITING PROGRAMS CONFERENCE recently in Portland, Oregon, my thoughts turned to H. P. Lovecraft. Perhaps it was the clammy, fertile, haunted quality of the Pacific Northwest; perhaps it was the unearthly horror of having no agent and few prospects. Really, though, I blame Jeff VanderMeer, whose book Annihilation (2014) I had bought for the airplane. While the justly praised novel is typically described as ecological sci-fi, VanderMeer pulls a classic trick at its climax that I associate with Lovecraft: In a scene that takes place deep in the bowels

  • performance February 01, 2019

    Ain’t We Got Fun?

    THERE’S NOTHING VERY COOL about going to see an eight-hour production of The Great Gatsby. I tried to get it past the kultur cop in my head by looking into various alternate interpretations of the play, my favorite being one originated by the now dean of Medgar Evers College, Carlyle V. Thompson, back in 2000, when he argued that Gatsby was in fact a light-skinned black man passing as white. Thompson cites clues like the forty acres that Gatsby owns, the withheld obscenity that gets scrawled on his front steps, the way Tom Buchanan’s racist claptrap helps frame the novel (“If we don’t look out

  • books December 03, 2018

    Jeaneology of Morals


    FOR SEVEN MONTHS IN 1970–71, a young artist named Terry Fugate-Wilcox promulgated the existence of a fake art gallery at a nonexistent address on Fifty-Seventh Street, then the main drag of the New York art world. Fake artists, fake works, a fake director with a Pynchonesque name: You get the gist. He promoted this enterprise, the Jean Freeman Gallery, by purchasing space in a few art magazines for seven ads featuring images of Earthworks-y pastiche; sending out press releases to luminaries such as Lucy

  • diary November 09, 2018

    Electoral Plastic Inevitable

    TO PREPARE FOR THE MIDTERM ELECTIONS, I studied my NYC voter guide and spent consecutive nights watching dystopian cinema. The Purge (2013) surprised me with its clear and pointed class critique. After all, what a reasonable observer might once have imagined to be satire (see Alex Jones; “I really don’t care do u?”) is, in 2018, often bald-faced propaganda or the gleeful expression of racist and/or fascist and/or misogynist opinion. One lawless night a year when the rich can freely cleanse the nation of its underclass scum? Fuckin awesome. Even poor Pepe started out a simple slacker, remember,

  • picks December 08, 2017

    Adam Putnam

    The subjects of the fifty-four intimate photographs and eighty-four short films that comprise Adam Putnam’s exhibition “Portholes” include in situ windows and doors, disjunctive architectural elements, celestial light sources, ranks of trees, and spans of dune. Also, there is the occasional human, shrouded or otherwise obscured. The photos’ gauzy processing strips away detail so that bodies and objects take on a degree of abstraction. The blur is never so much as to imply nostalgia or squander Putnam’s precision; paradoxically, it clarifies. The result is a kind of cerebral psychedelia—Kenneth

  • diary April 30, 2015

    Wishful Thinking

    AN AIR OF SOLITUDE hangs around the practice of philosophy; dispelling this aura, or its reputation, seemed perhaps the point of last week’s Night of Philosophy. Organized by, among others, the French Embassy (bien sur), the event gathered the secular monks of episteme, Francophones, and looky-loos from 7 PM to 7 AM, Friday night to Saturday morning, in two adjacent, shabby-regal buildings on Fifth Avenue a few hops from the Met. Sixty-two twenty-minute lectures by luminaries including Kwame Anthony Appiah, Barbara Cassin, Simon Critchley, and Monique Canto-Sperber (whose appearance on the topic

  • picks March 01, 2013

    Dave Miko and Tom Thayer

    One half of this show, entered via a quiet door on a thoroughfare, features work you might find familiar—and like—if you know Dave Miko and Tom Thayer’s accomplished individual practices and their vivid joint presentation at the Kitchen in 2011: exquisite, strange, mute projections of heavily processed and degraded color video (Thayer) over rough mural-like abstractions made with enamel, aluminum, and other materials (Miko). The exhibition’s other section, in a smaller, glassed-in space around the corner like one big shopwindow, highlights a complementary logic of collaboration with a caterwauling

  • diary December 24, 2011

    Weekend Report

    FOR THE PAST THREE MONTHS New York intellectuals have been climbing all over themselves to get a piece of Occupy Wall Street. Finally we can trade in all this thinking for doing, symbolic action for acting in the real world. Now is the moment to put that pet theorist into practice—Rancière or Agamben or Negri, the whole motherfucking Frankfurt School.

    The weekend of December 17 revolved around an action that gave the art world an unusually central role: D17 Reoccupy, a call for an occupation of Duarte Square. Most of the site is used by Lower Manhattan Cultural Council for its LentSpace exhibitions,


    IN FALL 2005, when Josh Smith was invited to fill a sliver of the basement gallery at New York’s SculptureCenter as part of that institution’s In Practice series, he responded by moving more or less the entire contents of his Harlem studio into the space. This installation strategy, Smith told me, was less a choice than a capitulation to sheer necessity—his studio was so crowded he could barely squeeze in one more tube of paint. The claim seems entirely believable, given the artist’s reputation for hyperproductivity; on the other hand, Smith may have been drily joking about that very reputation

  • “Energy/Experimentation: Black Artists and Abstraction, 1964–1980”

    At first glance, this show appears to be a simple survey of the dominant modes of postwar abstraction. In one corner hangs Melvin Edwards’s Cotton Hangup, 1965, an expressionist sculpture of black steel, tools, and rebar; in another stretches Joe Overstreet’s Saint Expedite A, 1971, a post-Minimalist rigging of green-, black-, and redpainted canvases. Barbara Chase-Riboud similarly reimports reference into Minimal forms: Her Bathers, 1972, consists of a field of low rectilinear aluminum volumes that ripples like a bed of wave-polished rocks, with green-gray silk splays suggesting seaweed exposed

  • picks December 06, 2005

    “I Wish It Were True”

    If you always thought relational aesthetics was a little bit bougie, how about some good old-fashioned social sculpture? To create I Wish It Were True, 2005, artists Leslie Hewitt and William Cordova pooled their collections of bootlegged black and Latino cinema; weekly public screenings in one of Project Row Houses' restored shotgun homes attract artsy types, activists, and neighbors from the mostly poor, mostly black Third Ward. The politically charged works veer from obscurities to acclaimed masterpieces: Warrington Hudlin's phenomenal 1974 documentary Black at Yale, John Sayles’s The Brother

  • Keith Farquhar

    Relatively unknown in the United States, Edinburgh-based artist Keith Farquhar has been exhibiting cool, humorous, at times obliquely political drawings, paintings, and sculptures in Europe for nearly a decade. Deadpan figures made of clothing have lately become a signature form—blue jeans for legs, hooded shell jackets or sweatshirts for the upper body. Pinned against walls or other supports, the characters are draped and creased to give them slight but distinct expressions; but such “individuation” only makes them appear more generic, whether they’re alone or arrayed into ritualistic room-size