Glenn O’Brien

  • “Raymond Pettibon: A Pen of All Work”

    Raymond Pettibon is coming to the New Museum. His first New York museum survey, featuring more than seven hundred of his drawings from the 1960s to the present, in addition to early zines, artist’s books, and video collaborations with his artist and musician peers, will be complemented by a star-studded catalogue, with contributions from Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, Frances Stark, and Lynne Tillman, among others. Pettibon started his journey in late ’70s Los Angeles, where, instead of following the mainstream art-world itinerary, he became a

  • passages August 24, 2016

    Billy Name (1940–2016)

    MOST OF THE PEOPLE I went to college with wanted to be lawyers, doctors, senators, or president of the United States—like my schoolmate Bill Clinton. I used to see him handing out flyers advertising himself for class president. He was always running for something.

    I was ambitious but didn’t want to be president. I wanted to be in the art world and hang around Max’s Kansas City and work for Andy Warhol. Part of it was the way Pop art made everything look different. The Warhol Factory was the Rolling Stones of the art world. I was smitten by the total anarchy of the films and their bizarre casts,

  • Marilyn Minter

    MARILYN MINTER’S exhibition “Pretty/Dirty” debuted at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston during the summer, a long-overdue retrospective for an artist who has achieved stunning mastery in painting—using techniques from the most ancient to the most advanced, from paint on a fingertip to Photoshop—to engage the engines of desire that drive our consumer culture. The show, which was co-organized with the MCA Denver (where it went on view this past month) and curated by Bill Arning and Elissa Auther, follows Minter’s evolution from straight photography to matter-of-fact Photorealism, both

  • Jean-Michel Basquiat

    The Notebooks, by Jean-Michel Basquiat, edited by Larry Warsh. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2015. 306 pages.

    Widow Basquiat: A Love Story, by Jennifer Clement. New York: Broadway Books, 2014. 208 pages.

    THE SHOW OF EARLY NOTEBOOKS and drawings by Jean-Michel Basquiat opening this month at the Brooklyn Museum in New York places a focus on the artist’s formative works, which might provide a clearer and more profound understanding of his artistic intentions and methods than do larger exhibitions of later pieces. Eight marble notebooks, with their archetypal sketches and long lists of

  • Rene Ricard

    THE FIRST JOB held by Rene Ricard, born Albert Napoleon Ricard, was Warhol superstar. Rene had run away from home and high school, fleeing to Harvard Yard, and then, after an epiphany before a Warhol flowers painting at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, he moved on to New York, where he presented himself to Andy and was accepted. He was twenty when he played the title role in The Andy Warhol Story (1966/67) opposite Edie Sedgwick. Rene played Andy viciously, sending up his jealousy, meanness, and control-freakiness. Rene said later, “The only reason I agreed to do his film was to get

  • Paul McCarthy’s WS at the Park Avenue Armory

    I HAD A STRANGE REACTION to Paul McCarthy’s biggest work yet, WS, 2013, which occupied the entire main-floor space at the Park Avenue Armory in New York this summer past. It was, “Get me out of here!”

    I could easily avert my eyes from the giant, grotesque antiporn film playing on the west and east walls, but I couldn’t block out the disturbing and intentionally too-loud sound track that set my tinnitus abuzz. I say antiporn because, in America, pornography means appealing to prurient interests (in the lingo of the court), and for most of us McCarthy’s wild party is an excitement prophylactic. It

  • right-wing masculinity

    AS THE PRIMARIES APPROACH, there has been much outrage (and even more amusement) over the mincing, glide-walking, and supersibilant Dr. Marcus Bachmann, spouse and dance partner of Tea Party Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann. Doc Bachmann is a therapist whose counseling practice, Bachmann & Associates, is known for its techniques of praying away the gay, transforming miserable homosexuals into blissful Christian heterosexuals. The funny thing is that Bachmann is, in the words of Jon Stewart, “an Izod shirt away from being the gay character on Modern Family.”

    Andrew Sullivan noted

  • 1981: “New York/New Wave”

    THE “’80S” LITERALLY BEGAN WITH “The Real Estate Show,” an “insurrectionary” occupation of a vacant city-owned building at 123 Delancey Street. Literally, because the thirty-five-artist installation dealing primarily with real-estate issues in New York, was “open” for one day: January 1, 1980. It was padlocked by the police on January 2 and “came down” on the 11th when city workers invaded the space and carted off the work—an auspicious beginning for a decade of art.

    In June of ’80 the spectacular “Times Square Show,” mounted in an abandoned multistory massage parlor on Forty-first Street and

  • Mati Klarwein

    I FIRST ENCOUNTERED MATI KLARWEIN in 1970. Miles Davis had just released his revolutionary Bitches Brew, which featured Mati's painting on the sleeve. It was a perfect visual synthesis of Miles's magical amalgam of funk, rock, jazz, and psychedelia. Mati soon became a famous artist, quite outside the art-world path, for the lavishly detailed, cosmically erotic paintings that fronted albums by Santana, the Chambers Brothers, Earth, Wind & Fire, and others.

    I believe that at the time Mati was going by the name Abdul Mati Klarwein. He once said, “If all Jews would add an Arab name to theirs and all


    Lately I feel nostalgic for the art-historical roads not taken, a retro yen for rebels, troublemakers, and long shots. The atmosphere today is still, the forecast unchanged. We’re in the dollar doldrums. It’s all too peaceful—too decorative or decorous, too in tune with the boom. Watching Attila on cable I drift into a reverie: A barbarian horde rides into Chelsea and crashes the gates, or at least graffitis the pristine white walls.

    What’s most interesting to me now are those other “Pop” artists: Ray Johnson, Joe Brainard, and the German Wolf Vostell—category escapists, fame and fortune refuseniks,

  • Glenn O'Brien


    1 Vincent Gallo 1962–1999 (Petit Grand Publishing, Tokyo) Last June in Paris, I picked up Vincent Gallo 1962–1999, which set me hooting for hours in the beautiful city where nobody ever hoots (a shame, since the French are such a hoot). The photo album is devoted to Vincent Gallo’s favorite subject: Vincent Gallo. I must say, Vincent is one of my few living heroes, because he is no pussyfooter. He speaks his mind and reminds you that ego is what keeps you breathing. This book is full of great photos, like the Gallo Penis Across America Tour, and even better captions, like “Self-portrait

  • Rudi Gernreich

    THE IRRESISTIBLE CONCEIT of Austin Powers is nostalgia for futurism. That is the endemic condition of the baby boomer. We are disappointed by the present's relationship to our past's future. The future was so wide open. We were poised to make science fiction fact. Born on the New Frontier, we now find ourselves ghettoized by our collective disappointments. We are not the Jetsons and never will be. The year 2001 has little chance of living up to the film. And though we landed on the moon thirty-two years ago—and still lose a robot on Mars occasionally—we are spacemen marooned on earth.

  • Style Makes the Band

    “All music is experimental.” —Florian Schneider, Kraftwerk

    WHEN IT COMES TO STARTING A NEW WAVE, it takes an East Village. I don’t know how long the funky east end of Greenwich Village has been a bohemian enclave and avant-garde hub, but going back to Charlie Parker, jazz at Slug’s, the beats, and the immortal Fugs is good enough for me.

    When I discovered the East Village, at the outset of the ’70s, it was the funkiest place I’d been. It was a neighborhood that looked like it had a love hangover and lysergic acid indigestion. The ’60s were wearing off and something was afoot, on platforms. You can tell from the cover of the first New York Dolls album,

  • Martha Graham

    THE PLEASURE DERIVED FROM WATCHINGRichard Move reincarnate Martha Graham isnot the same kick to be had from a conventional drag show. The irony is there, at its highest, threatening-to-transcend-tamp level, as it is with a performer like Jim Bailey, who does Judy Garland and Barbara Streisand almost as well as they did themselves. But there is another pleasure here, something akin to the thrill of Jurassic Park or Godzilla: An extinct, or at least endangered, species is brought startlingly back to life. Richard Move is Martha Graham, the performer, the diva, the guru/choreographer. Onstage he

  • John Lurie

    JOHN LURIE FIRST WENT FISHING when he played St. James (either the Lesser or the Greater) in Martin Scorcese’s The Last Temptation of Christ. Jesus (Willem Dafoe) told his disciples to “become fishers of men,” and James, cranky and irritable as usual, misheard him and thought he said fisherman.

    Today, two thousand years later, Lurie is still at it, wandering the planet, tackle in hand, fishing for the fiercest game in the seven seas, from man-eating sharks to submarine-eating giant calamari. Fishing is an art, as anyone familiar with Moby Dick or Trout Fishing in America can presumably attest,

  • Bob Dylan

    I HEARD A TRACK from Bob Dylan's new Time Out of Mind (Columbia) on the radio a few weeks before the album’s release. I didn’t recognize the voice right away, but I was moved by its unique and powerful sound, like a venerable, shamanic Delta blues man backed by some weird, Tom Waits–like band. It was profound blues, ancient and future music.

    Before the song was over it hit me that it was Dylan with another new voice: deep, dark, aged in wood, like maybe the same wood Dante Alghieri wrote about rambling in. Dylan is a spiritual itinerant and his Time Out of Mind has ramblin’ music for all forms

  • Glenn O’Brien


    The ART WORLD BOTTOMS OUT. Hey, it can only get better. After the art-market crash, art tried to revive itself by imitating its obvious commercial analogues: rock ’n’ roll and fashion. Mistake. Look how well these forms are doing. Art should have some pride. It turned itself into crap long before rock ‘n’ roll or fashion. Maybe now that the old sales-driven art world is over, artists can think about making art and getting it to a larger and more significant audience instead of a conspiracy of speculators and their hired academician apologists.




    I REMEMBER THE DAYS WHEN a subway train illegally painted by Lee Quinones would roll into a station and the people on the platform would spontaneously applaud. I remember artists like Lee, Zephyr, Futura 2000, Lady Pink, Crash, Daze, SAMO© (aka Jean-Michel Basquiat), and Keith Haring putting art out on the street for free. But graffiti isn’t what it used to be. Style is all but gone, and this outlaw practice, once a field of ambition, daring, rebellion, and improvisation, has largely reverted to a form of unconscious egoism and conformist vandalism.

    There are still a few sparks of unauthorized


    I STILL REMEMBER that jingle and how sinister it sounded to me: “Fall into the Gap.” It was worse than the U2 song “I will follow.” It made me think of the abyss. Later I would be troubled by the slogan “For every generation there’s a Gap.” There’s nothing overtly evil about it, but the ambiguity of this line nagged at me. Are generation gaps good?

    But over the years, as the Gap clothing-store chain evolved and grew into a new kind of retail operation, not to mention a philosophy of life, I came to accept and patronize it. There’s much to like about the Gap. The quality is good, the price is

  • Think or Thwim

    Fairfield says: Why is irrelevancy so often taken for profundity?

    —Elaine de Kooning

    I WAS IN a hospital the other day and I saw a guy sitting in a wheel chair wearing a tuxedo. I said “What are you in for?” He said “I’m getting a vasectomy.” I said “Why the tuxedo?” He said “I figured if I was gonna be impotent I should look impotent.”

    And that’s why every art critic should own a tuxedo, aside, of course, from gala openings at MoMA and the Guggenheim and part-time waiter jobs.

    But seriously, folks, art writing. . . . No, seriously folks. Art writing is not what it used to be. I went to the