Domenick Ammirati

  • CHAOS CÉLÈBRE

    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

    THE JEAN FREEMAN GALLERY DOES NOT EXIST, BY CHRISTOPHER HOWARD. MIT Press, 2018. 416 pages.  

    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,

  • OPENINGS: JOSH SMITH

    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

  • “Make It Now”

    SculptureCenter’s “Make It Now: New Sculpture in New York” arrived hot on the heels of two other exhibitions that purported to clue us in about the country’s two big art scenes: P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center’s bloated “Greater New York 2005” and the UCLA Hammer Museum’s “THING: New Sculpture from Los Angeles.” While hardly perfect, “Make It Now” outdid its predecessors in one unexpected way: It plotted clear connections between the substance of local art and the environment in which it’s made. From Ester Partegàs’s tarp-covered, boarded-off Monument to the Truth, 2005, in the center’s yard,

  • picks September 05, 2005

    “Bonds of Love”

    Loosen those nipple clamps, kids; though this ambitious show curated by artist Lisa Kirk borrows its name from Jessica Benjamin’s feminist treatise on psychoanalysis and power, it’s perhaps best understood as a kind of institutional critique—an exhibition comprising female artists (and one F2M transgendered contributor) in a gallery known for hosting lots and lots of boys (cf. 2003’s summer show “Today’s Man”). Beyond that gesture, “Bonds of Love” is relatively un-programmatic in tackling issues of gender, sprawling across various media and three separate suites. Marilyn Minter’s vaguely

  • Larry Zox

    If you’re interested in modernism’s effluence, you might take a look at the work of Wade Guyton, Carrie Moyer, Sam Durant, Jorge Pardo, or Milena Dragicevic. Taken as a group, these artists address both modernism’s formal emphases and that quintessentially modern idea that vanguard art should go hand-in-hand with vanguard politics. Consider, for example, Barnett Newman, in 1962: “Harold Rosenberg challenged me to explain what one of my paintings could possibly mean to the world. My answer was that if he and others could read it properly, it would mean the end of all state capitalism and

  • diary May 18, 2005

    Role Call

    New York

    My favorite thing about the Armory Show this year was the zone of discomfort surrounding the Bellwether booth. It was a sturdy little pale-wood room stocked with clunky, brightly painted fake carbines, and sabers. Behind the counter stood artist Allison Smith, looking earnest and a little awkward, wearing a hat out of a Mathew Brady portrait and a homemade uniform of off-white cloth with brass buttons: A general’s pajamas? Smith’s work treats Americana with a combination of critique and fetishization, and while I’ve preferred other examples—her creepy Zouave doll at “Greater New York 2005,”

  • Keith Mayerson

    Keith Mayerson’s painting cycle “Hamlet 1999,” 2001–2004, is nothing less than an attempt to synthesize received images of high art, popular entertainment, and American history into a chronicle of an alternative, potentially revolutionary masculinity. It looks, however, like the product of a guy who paints in a converted garage, watching DVDs with one eye, the news with the other, and an art-history textbook with an enlightened third.

    The plotless “narrative” of more than one hundred canvases, rendered in a palette of marigold and pea soup, has only a general order, accumulating meaning frame by

  • AA Bronson

    For twenty-five years, AA Bronson lived and made art as part of General Idea. The Canadian trio mimicked and mutated mass-cultural forms from beauty pageants to boutiques to glossy magazines, always returning with vertiginous glee and cutting irony to the intricacies of creating an identity in a media-saturated society. Bronson’s work since the 1994 AIDS-related deaths of Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal, his two partners in GI, has become more personal and less sportive: The most powerful image in the 2002 Whitney Biennial was his deathbed portrait of Partz, and in an interview published this year