Elizabeth Schambelan

  • ECLIPSE OF THE SUN

    1.

    TWENTY YEARS AGO, physicists discovered that the expansion of the cosmos is speeding up. Instead of losing momentum as they fly farther apart, the particles dispersed by the Big Bang scatter faster and faster. In other words, entropy accelerates.

    Once, this fact seemed counterintuitive, but in 2018 it was a palpable reality. As the universe hastens toward its demise, it seems fitting to begin this reflection by observing a different anniversary: the centenary of Dada Death. Toward the end of World War I, George Grosz promenaded through Berlin dressed as a grim reaper appropriate to the zeitgeist.

  • Hell Is For Children

    “A THOUSAND SHAPES of death surround us, and no man can escape them, or be safe.” Sarpedon makes this remark to Glaucus in The Iliad, Book 12. Bill Paxton’s character in Aliens puts the same thing a different way: “Game over, man! We’re fucked!” For Paxton’s character, Private Hudson, death has no shape at all—it’s just a smudge on his screen, a blur of malevolent radiation. But that’s more than sufficient to establish the salient fact, which he relays to his comrades with a memorable intonation of rising panic.

    In November 2016, we didn’t know the exact contours of the nightmare that was about

  • talks with curator Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev about Documenta 13

    ELIZABETH SCHAMBELAN: As artistic director of Documenta 13 this summer, you’ve chosen not to organize the exhibition around a single theme or concept. Instead, the materials circulated so far articulate a constellation of figures, ideas, and concerns, some of which are in tension with others: for example, secrets, riddles, and paradoxes on the one hand, hard science on the other. Yet interdisciplinarity emerges as one implicit animating principle—of course, contemporary art is inherently interdisciplinary, and curatorial practice reflects that, too, but in the case of Documenta 13 this

  • “Postmodernism”

    DOES POSTMODERNISM BEGIN with the teapot? The question is prompted by the V&A’s design survey “Postmodernism: Style and Subversion, 1970–1990,” where the vessels appear with bewildering frequency. On view are Adrian Saxe’s Ampersand teapot (1988), Richard Notkin’s Double Cooling Towers teapot (1984), Matteo Thun’s Pontifex teapot (1983), and so on, ad infinitum. The best of the bunch is Marco Zanini’s weirdly brilliant Colorado teapot (1983), a truly original example of the form that simultaneously evokes a pacifier, a pop-up chicken thermometer, and the red-nippled breast of a Tom Wesselmann

  • Carrie Moyer

    After receiving her BFA in painting from the Pratt Institute in 1985, Carrie Moyer became somewhat disenchanted with her chosen medium. She supported herself as a graphic designer, and her art practice, in turn, became increasingly design-oriented: She put her talents to use creating agitprop for such groups as act up, Queer Nation, and Dyke Action Machine! (which she cofounded with Sue Schaffner in 1991). All the while, she studied the historical nexuses of art, politics, and design, from Constructivism to the visual production of the ’60s counterculture. Only in the early 1990s did she begin

  • CLOSE-UP:

    FOR A COUPLE OF YEARS in the late 1970s, John Divola made a habit of visiting an abandoned house on Malibu’s Zuma Beach, toting a Pentax camera and a few cans of spray paint. On his arrival, he’d inspect the premises, seeing what had changed since the last time he’d been there, what ad hoc redecorations had occurred at the hands of vagrants or the wind. If nothing looked especially interesting, he’d move things around, do some spray-painting, and then begin taking pictures.

    In the resulting series of some fifty color photographs, the house seems afflicted with the kind of slip-sliding kineticism

  • “Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970–1990”

    As exemplified by the Memphis group’s antic asymmetries or the high-low architectural fugues of Michael Graves, Hans Hollein, and even Philip Johnson (who killed his own master narrative with New York’s ersatz-Georgian AT&T building), postmodern style once enjoyed a reputation as the most bemusing interlude in recent design history.

    As exemplified by the Memphis group’s antic asymmetries or the high-low architectural fugues of Michael Graves, Hans Hollein, and even Philip Johnson (who killed his own master narrative with New York’s ersatz-Georgian AT&T building), postmodern style once enjoyed a reputation as the most bemusing interlude in recent design history. But a renewed appreciation of all things po-mo has been building lately, and this show—encompassing some 250 exhibits, from Ettore Sottsass’s iconic Casablanca sideboard to Grace Jones’s Constructivist maternity dress, with

  • diary November 17, 2010

    National Libation Front

    AT A TUESDAY LUNCHEON following the preview of Kutlug Ataman’s midcareer retrospective at Istanbul Modern, a British newspaper critic asked the artist: “Are people constantly telling you that you look like Robert Downey Jr.?” Perhaps relieved to discuss something other than the exhibition—his first in his native Turkey, and the subject of a lengthy press conference earlier that day—Ataman answered, “Constantly,” and said that during a visit to Los Angeles a pair of teenage girls had approached him for an autograph, which he’d obligingly provided. Indeed, not only Ataman’s physiognomy but also

  • Joe Bradley and Chris Martin

    In Chris Martin’s painting Six Pillows Rose Up to Greet the Dawn—Good Morning! Good Morning!, 2007–2009, the six pillows—appended to a canvas in two rows of three—appear to have had a rough night indeed. But, per the title, they are nevertheless jaunty in their thick coatings of blue, white, pink, or yellow pigment, cheerfully registering all the depravities of facture that may occur when oil paint is slathered onto stuffed-cotton convexities. The paint is scabby and scrofulous in some places, rippled with mazelike whorls in others, while the sections that are smooth have a strangely plasticine

  • Kazuo Shiraga

    Though Kazuo Shiraga (1924–2008) has long been considered one of the most important members of Japan’s Gutaï group, this lucid exhibition was his first solo show in the United States. In consequence, many viewers may have been unaware, at least initially, of the salient fact that he painted with his feet. Laying his support (first flimsy paper, later canvas) on the floor, and holding on to a rope suspended from the ceiling of his studio, he would slip and slide through blobs of oil paint. The marks that resulted have a kind of beastly quality: deeply furrowed; seemingly random, sometimes spasmodic,

  • Peter Halley

    With their stark, rectilinear compositions and their palette of unmodulated blacks and retina-searing fluorescents, the nine large paintings in “Peter Halley: Early Work, 1982 to 1987” still pack a visual wallop, their Day-Glo acrylics as deathless as Clorox bottles. In the mid-1980s, some relict formalist, stumbling upon them in the East Village, might have mistaken them for a New Wave homage to de Stijl. But Halley, steeped in critical theory, dubbed his squares and rectangles cells or prisons and his rigid lines conduits, and occasionally introduced some liminally representational element,

  • CIVIC ENGAGEMENT: PROSPECT.1 NEW ORLEANS

    International biennials of contemporary art have long ventured into the cities that serve as their hosts, but perhaps none has reckoned with so loaded a locale as PROSPECT.1 NEW ORLEANS. More than three years after Hurricane Katrina wrought its devastation, much of the city remains in grave disrepair, making it a setting where critical designations such as “site-specific work” and “socially committed practice” can seem tenuous at best. Curator Dan Cameron and the eighty-one international artists he invited to participate in the first New Orleans biennial were well aware of this dilemma, and they often addressed the challenge by directly involving local communities across the city. The nearly three hundred works on view through January 18 by no means obviate the complexities of staging an exhibition in such a deeply troubled place, but they necessarily suggest heightened and far-ranging questions about how a biennial—or any work of art—might truly engage its context. Artist GLENN LIGON and Artforum senior editor ELIZABETH SCHAMBELAN headed to the bayou to survey the results.

    I ALMOST MISSED one of the most affecting presentations of Prospect.1 New Orleans. Wandering into a small room at the back of the L9 Center for the Arts, I discovered “Gone,” an exhibition of flood-damaged photographs assembled by the center’s founders, local artists Keith Calhoun and Chandra McCormick. Hung salon style in their ruined mats and mud-encrusted frames, these black-and-white documentary photos of weddings, block parties, and second-line parades in the Lower Ninth Ward are a devastating reminder of what Hurricane Katrina swept away and what a courageous and determined group of artists,