Domenick Ammirati

  • Jack Smith, Untitled, c.1962.
    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

  • David Cotterrell, Foreign Body, 2003. Installation view.
    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

  • Larry Clark, “Punk Picasso,” 2003. Installation view. Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York.
    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

  • Untitled (Berlin Demonstration, Television Crew), 2002.
    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

  • Reverse, 2003.
    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

  • The Residents, “Land of 1000 Dances” (1975).
    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

  • Baby Jane/ Helen and Annie Style, 2002.
    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

  • Accelerator (still from a DVD), 2003.
    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

  • No Title (At least I'm..), 1983.
    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

  • Untitled, 2002.
    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