Domenick Ammirati

  • 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

  • Michael Mahalchick

    Michael Mahalchick weaves and stitches scraps of scavenged cloth into raggedy wall hangings, lumpy totems, and squat, motley creatures, celebrating both quiet industry and its flip side, sensual languor. One favorite trope is to take properly horizontal forms and give them the primacy, and display value, of the vertical. Quiltlike drapery No. 34 (Let Your Freak Flag Fly), 2003, was inspired by Gee’s Bend; to form the two perfectly titled To Die Dreamings, 2004, which together evoke a pair of slatted swinging doors, the artist wove strips of old clothes onto futon frames. As installed in this

  • picks April 13, 2004

    “Art in the Office”

    With a view toward a beneficent yet up-to-the-minute public image, the corporate communications firm Global Consulting Group is hosting a contemporary art show in its Financial District digs. New York artist/curator Matt Keegan rounded up the thirty-odd contributors, most near the beginning of their careers. Some take gentle nips at the hand that feeds them; others inject playfulness into the buttoned-down environment. Martha Friedman has installed a pyramid of hyperrealist polyurethane-foam cantaloupes on a conference-room table; across the hall, artist-in-residence Pia Lindman meets with staff

  • Sol’Sax

    What scares white America? Ghosts? Decrepit mansions? Or a hulking figure in a hoodie and gold chains peeling back a section of fence? In a show dedicated to the quintessential inner-city motif of chain link, Brooklyn-based artist Sol’Sax presented a video projection starring such a character, transformed into something truly ghastly by a zombie-gray ceramic mask. His midnight exploits—loitering on a street corner, creeping through a gap in a fence, cooking out in a vacant lot—layer fear of the occult over white paranoia to expose the absurdity of the latter. But Sol’Sax also lampoons his macho

  • picks January 21, 2004

    William Eggleston

    Breeze past the vintage gelatin-silver prints; the main attraction in this show of Eggleston’s early black-and-white work is the thirty-minute film Selections from “Stranded in Canton,” 1974, which takes an unexpected trip through a southern demimonde. The tightly shot vignettes, which entirely lack Eggleston’s customary offhand perfection, focus on people making spectacles of themselves. A drunk drag queen croons to the bemusement of bar patrons while Wings and Zep play on the stereo. Two guys (regular but for the metal incisors one flashes) bite the heads off chickens in an alley. But the most

  • picks October 14, 2003


    Irreplaceable, sweet embraceable: The “you” of curator Lisa Kirk’s title is the second-person pronoun of pop odes from the Gershwins on. Kirk asked fourteen of her favorite youngish artists to lend works of their choosing, which she's installed in a temporarily reconfigured downtown apartment. Invited into the parlor, the fractious modes of contemporary artmaking conduct a lively klatch. Tamara Zahaykevich’s small, odd, wholly contempo foamcore constructions flank Jennifer Sirey’s pair of skinny, five-foot-ten vitrines filled with spoiled wine and fleshy pink sheets of cultured bacteria; though

  • picks September 16, 2003

    “The Paper Sculpture Show”

    When “The Paper Sculpture Show” asks you to make art, it gives you plenty of rules to follow. But don’t worry, there’s no Sol LeWitt waiting around to whack the sloppy and disobedient with a T-square. Instructions and diagrams for dozens of projects are printed on heavy paper and stacked on long tables; you take what you like, then settle down with scissors, glue, etc., at plywood workstations cleverly designed by Allan Wexler to mimic Tab-A-into-Slot-B construction. The contributions of twenty-nine artists represent all manner of contemporary impulses, from the pure geometry of Seong Chun’s

  • picks July 25, 2003

    “Half Air”

    Throughout “Half Air”—an exhibition of paintings, drawings, video, and photography by fringe avant-gardists and underground visionaries—there's a sense of sly knowingness, a cagey approach to the abyss. In the Wooster Group's film By the Sea, 1979 (made in collaboration with Ken Kobland), oceanic tableaux pass the camera in a jerky circular course; this centripetal motion offers itself as a kind of fulcrum and ur-form for the exhibition. It's echoed by Glenn Branca's mandala-like drawings of harmonic patterns and by the circular symbols of Forrest Bess's paintings; we also see video

  • picks July 11, 2003

    “Palazzo delle Libertà”

    A massive palace built by the family of a fifteenth-century pope now houses a contemporary-arts center, and with “Palazzo delle Libertà,” Siena’s CAC makes its curious location its subject. The exhibition includes thirty-odd artists from Italy and beyond who were enjoined only to produce something new and site-specific. Some of them take on the building as a physical, almost phenomenological entity. James Casebere offers a trademark photo of a flooded maquette presented in the room it represents, while Alex Hartley fills a nook with a dizzying, Turrell-like installation of a black-and-white

  • picks May 29, 2003

    Larry Clark

    The surface of Larry Clark’s world is all teen boys and drugs, screwing and screwing up. But the undertow is death, and never has its drag seemed more powerful than in the autobiographical exhibition “Punk Picasso,” which displays photographs, scribblings, newspaper clippings, collages, typed recollections, and all manner of ephemera. The sprawling show begins with a circa-1940 billet-doux addressed to Clark's mother (from his father) and concludes with recent photos of her in the bedridden end-stages of Alzheimer's. In between is Tulsa; jail time; friendships with, among others, River Phoenix

  • picks May 06, 2003

    Josephine Meckseper

    It's revolution, baby, in an installation laid out a little like a bedroom without furniture: shelves arrayed with baubles, magazines, and dirty pictures; none-too-fancy paintings, works on paper, and photos on the walls; TV murmuring on the floor. While shopping carts burn and Baader-Meinhof look-alikes vamp, German-born Meckseper pays out the cultural strands knotted post-’68, ties them to the present, and loops them back again. A grainy, sun-shot video documenting a summer-of-love-style day in the park turns out to depict a recent “No Blood for Oil” rally, and a collage juxtaposes the flower

  • picks April 15, 2003

    Jenny Saville

    Jenny Saville’s 1999 show at Gagosian, which marked her US solo debut, demonstrated that she’d transcended associations with the Saatchi stable. Her strange imagery included a transgendered odalisque and women’s heads and torsos stacked or laid over one another like photographs taken through a faceted lens. But the most unsettling thing about these monumental nudes was Saville’s style itself: dramatic cropping and foreshortening; brushwork that was aggressive in some areas, nearly mute in others; and a morbid palette of flesh tones. Saville referred as much to Rubens and Courbet as to Lucian

  • picks April 11, 2003

    “Golden Oldies of Music Video”

    Though the title seems to promise a Top Forty countdown, this esoteric selection of music videos from MoMA’s collection emphasizes the genre’s links to other, presumably higher arts. Thus, included are clips for composers Philip Glass and Ryuichi Sakamoto and a roster of directors that comprises Rodney Graham and Tony Oursler. The show does a fine job documenting the form’s technological evolution, but only up to a point: “Golden Oldies,” you see, is a bit of a chestnut itself. Over the course of three screenings (on April 17, April 24, and May 1, each at 8 PM), it reprises the 1985 MoMA show

  • picks March 04, 2003

    Catherine Sullivan

    Half-surrounding the viewer with antic scenes staged in an empty house, Catherine Sullivan’s five-channel video installation Big Hunt, 2002, at first glance evokes a “sane patient/insane doctor” logic puzzle. Behind the madness, though, lies careful method. Sullivan selected performance scenarios—ranging from The Miracle Worker to the real-life story of Birdie Jo Hoaks, a woman who passed as a teenage boy—that suggest five different “economies” of acting style. Take the five sets of tasks executed within these scenarios, multiply by the five economies, and voilà: twenty-five silent, black-and-white

  • picks February 04, 2003

    Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle

    The single remarkable thing here is a sound. Make your way around the exhibition’s showpiece, a huge, gleaming goiter that turns out to be a model of a thunderhead. Skirt the measly word painting; bypass the climatologically precise 3-D animation of another cloud mass inside a hangar. Follow your ears and guts to the gallery’s back corner, where small speakers emit a powerful basso pulse.

    Low enough to be almost haptic, increasing in tempo from ambling hum to rapid oscillation, the throb turns out to be the basic sound track of a four-minute video entitled Accelerator (2003). (A wrecked car lies

  • picks January 24, 2003

    Raymond Pettibon

    In any given group of Raymond Pettibon’s drawings, one can find punk, pop, high abstraction; politics, Christianity, and sex; sports and movies and books from Henry James to Mickey Spillane; grotesque abuses of power and radiant transcendence; deadpan sarcasm and deadpan earnestness and every discursive point in between, all of it under the shadow of a skepticism unto the eschatological.

    Remember, though, that the apocalypse is a downer only for us sinners. Everybody else goes to heaven. Multiple meanings resting on the rock of a single fact: This semantic structure is one of the keys to Pettibon’s

  • picks January 03, 2003

    Eric Wesley

    “Grow your own.” Redeployed by a black man, this hippie imperative sounds like the rhetoric of African-American self-empowerment. In a laconic yet expansive one-upping of the archetypal racist logic that says, Shit, you all were only ever good for picking our crops anyway, Eric Wesley is growing bootleg tobacco and selling it to the (white) world of contemporary art.

    We follow Wesley’s experiment in entrepreneurial agronomy with a stroll through a grow house, from incubating seedlings to lamp-bathed adult plants to browned leaves in a drying crib. A baggie of dried product lies on a workbench