Jack Bankowsky

  • “East Village USA”

    As I dipped into the foreword of the catalogue for “East Village USA,” the New Museum of Contemporary Art’s survey of the rollicking scene that sprang to life on the mean streets of New York’s Alphabet City circa 1981 and vanished as quickly some half-dozen years later, I experienced a start of recognition. Like the show’s mastermind, New Museum senior curator Dan Cameron, I lived in the East Village as the scene bustled into being and cut my teeth there as a critic. But it was not these biographical details that served as my proverbial madeleine, so much as Cameron’s surprising confession that,

  • OPENINGS: ANTHONY BURDIN

    My first experience of “recording artist” Anthony Burdin began with a morning-after phone call. On day four of the 2004 Frieze Art Fair, a trusted colleague rang me up to report that an unscheduled, late-night event had been, well, an event. The off-site concert, it turns out, had found its way onto the fair’s special-events calendar as a consolation prize of sorts after fair organizers pulled the plug on New York dealer Michele Maccarone’s high-decibel Burdin booth, which was deemed incompatible with the merchandizing of Hirschhorns and von Plessens nearby. One wonders, of course, how a youngish

  • Jack Bankowsky

    JACK BANKOWSKY

    1 Anthony Burdin “Recording artist” Burdin is no stranger to the multicity tour, but the twist is, he never gets out of his car. Forget about three nights at the Beacon Theater: Burdin pops in a favorite CD, sings over the tracks (or over himself, singing over the tracks), and records the results—all the while filming his roadie’s progress out the window with a handheld camera. I duly kicked myself for missing his unscheduled late-night performance at the Frieze Art Fair, but an audience with the artist in Michele Maccarone’s darkened and dead-bolted booth (nothing like a

  • A Roundtable

    “JEFF KOONS MAKES ME SICK.” The words are Peter Schjeldahl’s, and the occasion was a review in the SoHo weekly 7 Days, back in the ’80s, before Koons was quite the museum-certified star he is today. In the course of the write-up, Schjeldahl would turn his conceit around, explaining how undeniable, unstoppable, finally essential the experience of the artist’s work was for him. What makes Koons’s art simultaneously so toxic and so compelling? And why is it both institutionally embraced and yet seen by many as an art of diminishing returns, a symptom of all that is wrong with culture today? Koons

  • PORTFOLIO: JEFF WALL

    IF THE DIALECTIC OF ARTIFICE AND FACT HAS INFORMED JEFF WALL’S WORK FROM THE start, then his latest pictures tip the balance: away from the excruciating feats of stagecraft evidenced in an image like After Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, the Preface, 1999–2001 (which took Wall nearly three years to complete), and toward the documentary, or “near-documentary,” impulse that remains the other strong attractor in the photographer’s working dynamic. (Two of the four images in this portfolio are, for all practical purposes, “documentary”: observed, and then shot in a session or two at most.) Of

  • PORTFOLIO: TINA BARNEY

    If you remember Francis Minturn Sedgwick (aka “Duke” and “Fuzzy”) at all, you'll remember him as a great beached wreck of a man, the disabling patriarch at the heart of Jean Stein and George Plimpton's 1982 account of the flare up and burn out of his daughter and Factory phenomenon Edie. In contrast to the old-line It Girl's by now remarkably durable fifteen minutes, Sedgwick senior's star signaled weakly against the backdrop of his times. Vessel of class privilege and vaguely fascist sentiment, Fuzzy was given to lording about his lands in skimpy trunks, hitting on the female houseguests, and

  • Pat Hearn

    WHEN I WANDERED into the Pat Hearn Gallery at the corner of Sixth Street and Avenue B for the first time in the fall of 1984, two things called me hack from the late-in-a-long-afternoon-of-gallery-rounds torpor I was just slipping into. The first was the decor, heretical by SoHo-white-cube standards—or for that matter, by East Village–storefront-shabby ones. In place of sealed hardwood, a grouted mosaic of tiny tiles glistened underfoot like a model-home bathroom; add a kidney-curved built-in planter and the scene seemed to promise a house-proud hostess proffering an artfully arranged platter

  • EDITOR'S LETTER

    WHEN THE PRESS RELEASE for the Whitney Museum’s autumn exhibition “The Warhol Look: Fashion Glamour Style” crossed my desk last summer, I let go a groan. Not a major one, more a been-there-done-that sigh of exasperation. The art/fashion turn—in these pages no less so than in general—has been from the start a kind of magnet for misapprehension. Journalistic overprocessing turned a modest blip on the art screen into a full-blown bugaboo. Somehow what one might have thought a less-than-earthshaking notion—that the specter of glamour and the attendant mechanisms of fascination had become (pace

  • The Whitney Biennial

    THE ARTISTS:

    Doug Aitken

    Roman Anikushin and Bob Paris

    Michael Ashkin

    Robert Attanasio

    Burt Barr

    Zoe Beloff

    Douglas Blau

    Chris Burden

    Charles Burnett

    Louise Bourgeois

    Bureau of inverse Technology (BIT)

    Vija Celmins

    Abigail Child

    Francesco Clemente

    Bruce Conner

    Bryan Crockett

    Cultural Alchemy

    Philip-Lorca diCorcia

    Sam Easterson

    Wendy Ewald

    William Forsythe

    Leah Gilliam

    Michael Gitlin

    Felix Gonzalez-Torres

    Dan Graham

    David Hammons

    Ken Jacobs

    llya Kabakov

    Martin Kersels

    Annette Lawrence

    Iara Lee

    Zoe Leonard

    Sharon Lockhart

    Charles Long

    Kristin Lucas

    Kerry James Marshall

    Antonio Martorell

    Paul McCarthy

    Amanda Miller

    Paul D. Miller

    Christopher

  • “The Whitney Biennial”

    Mum’s the world when it comes to this year’s WHITNEY Biennial. Faced with the still—vivid memory of Klaus Kertess’ prehyped/postsniped ’95 version, it’s understandable that the current curators—longtime Whitney curator Lisa Phillips chose to share her appointment with Louise Neri, US senior editor of the Swiss journal Parkett—are playing their cards closer to the chest. Here’s what they will tell us: for abstract painting look elsewhere (narrative rules in this biennial); fashion—meets—art doesn’t rate; LA, a city whose artistic vitality

  • CLOSELY WATCHED TRAIN

    CHRISTOPHER MÜNCH MAKES MOVIES out of a fear of missing the action, which is another way of saying he makes movies about mortality. In his 1992 feature debut The Hours and Times, a fictionalized reconstruction of a 1963 weekend John Lennon (Ian Hart) and Beatle manager Brian Epstein (David Angus) spent holed up in a Barcelona hotel room, Münch imagines a horny pas de deux in which Lennon’s light-as-a-feather ride atop the cresting zeitgeist (the last moment of calm before full-blown Beatlemania) makes the fab lad a ready object of fascination for the worldly and ruminative Epstein, his every mortal anxiety in tow. Münch works the charged situation into an affecting evocation of the melancholy of unconsummated desire, but it’s the Beatle conceit that makes the old story new. By the closing sequence, in which Lennon tenders a nonplussed “okay” to Epstein’s solicited promise that they meet on the same park bench exactly a decade later, it’s clear that it’s the specter of fame of a particular late-century verity and pitch—the life-is-short/pop-is-long redemption embodied in Lennon’s burgeoning celebrity—that haunts the quotidian “hours” Epstein suffers enthralled by the pop-historical mop top (and only partially witting cock tease). As spare as it was resonant (the action’s restricted largely to one suite during a single weekend), Münch’s directorial effort was happily in sync with his bare-bones budget, lifting the film above the flood of well-meaning but forgettable indies and earning him a loyal following among cannier film observers.
     
    In Münch’s new feature, Color of a Brisk and Leaping Day, life’s dependable finitude is once again the esthetic lodestone, but here the house-bound existentialism of Hours gives way to elegy. Shot in a ravishing black and white that recalls the photographs of Ansel Adams and O. Winston Link and that earned cameraman Rob Sweeney the cinematography award at last year’s Sundance, Color ostensibly recounts the counterheroic coming of age of second-generation Chinese-American John Lee (Peter Alexander) via his quest to save the foundering Yosemite Valley railroad line. Lee (whose family came to America to build the transcontinental railroad and prospered as merchants) raises the money to buy the railroad, but his out-of-step endeavor (akin to throwing ’90s venture capital after the typewriter) is doomed from the start. As in Hours, it’s the futility of the gesture—the aborted nature of the central narratives—that opens the local action onto the larger poetry, but in Color Münch trades in Epstein’s personal anxiety over the fleeting nature of his earthly stint for Lee’s perplexity before the passage of an entire way of life. As the railroad becomes the film’s symbolic core of mourning, the Ozymandias effect drives Color’s abiding nostalgia, not only in terms of Lee’s quixotic effort but also in a series of relationships (two intimacies with women, one near intimacy with a man) that become palpable for him only as they evaporate. If the Epstein-Lennon dynamic is refigured here in the overwrought but unrequited attentions that the introverted railroad man Skeeter (played by R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe) directs toward the curiously opaque Lee, the film’s overarching romance ultimately revolves around Lee’s relationship to the railroad and his mis-scheduled appointment with destiny, echoed in the sustained visual counterpoint between the white-elephant enormity of the languishing trains and the permanence of the magisterial western landscape (recalling the lyricism of Terence Malick’s farm machinery against the parched Texas panhandle in his 1978 Days of Heaven, a film Münch counts among his favorites).
     
    With its quirky subject matter and self-consciously poetic use of language, Color’s appeal may seem less epiphanic than that of Hours, but for those poised to test the first feature’s extraordinary promise, the more ambitious Color will secure Münch’s status as an auteur of particular and decisive vision. As Color makes the festival rounds in anticipation of an early-winter release, I sat down with Münch to ask him about these two movies, which have moved me as much as any others in contemporary cinema.
     
    Jack Bankowsky

    JACK BANKOWSKY: I just read a review of Color of a Brisk and Leaping Day, and I have the feeling that the writer was a bit mystified as to what to make of it. The Hours and Times may have ended up being more accessible because of the John Lennon–Brian Epstein connection, which is something most people can plug into. But to my mind, the films share a lot in terms of thematics and ideas, although the ostensible subject matter of the new film is quirkier.

    CHRISTOPHER MÜNCH: Well, I think both came out of a concern for certain types of characters. Color of a Brisk and Leaping Day was difficult to

  • The Art/Fashion Thing

    WHEN I VISITED Andy Warhol’s retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in 1989 and filed my first feature-length article for Artforum, what impressed me as much as the work itself was the great comic spectacle of his museumification as it played itself out in the commentary surrounding the show. In the face of the most contemporary of contemporary artists, both detractors and advocates suddenly turned into 19th-century connoisseurs quibbling over the relative “quality” of the early versus the late work, trying to sort out the “real art” from the dissipated spectacle. At its worst the discussion

  • THE ART OF THE MATTER: CURATING THE WHITNEY BIENNIAL

    The Whitney Biennial, it often seems, can do no right. The 1993 version of the show—the first of director David Ross’ tenure, and the first entrusted to a single curator—fared badly in the press even by Biennial standards, but the efforts of years past had also routinely drawn fire; group-authored, they were often seen as committee-compromised blueprints of the art-world pecking order. Curator Elisabeth Sussman’s forthright focus on politically motivated work was credited in some quarters as a wholesome corrective to this tendency, but it inevitably ruffled establishment feathers. Shortcomings

  • Etc. Etc.

    EDWARD RUSCHA'S DEADPAN charge of redundancy on the cover of this anniversary issue reminds us that what is true for rock stars and pop artists also holds for a magazine whose identity is synonymous with vanguard culture: the onset of deep adulthood is cause less for jubilation than for dread. It’s no secret that Artforum has become something of an institution over the last three decades; Ruscha’s dig, in fact, is only the most recent in a minitradition of artists-tweaking-Artforum that dates back at least as far as John Baldessari’s 1966–68 THIS IS NOT TO BE LOOKED AT. And indeed it is not the

  • A Conversation

    Ingrid Sischy is currently editor-in-chief of Interview and a photography critic for The New Yorker. She served as editor of Artforum from February 1980 to February 1988.

    JACK BANKOWSKY: When you took over Artforum you were only 27. How were you received in the beginning?

    INGRID SISCHY: I have no idea; I was too busy trying to do the job to worry about that kind of thing. When I was offered the position it felt like something hit me on the head. When fate knocks you on the head you go with it or you don’t. And I went with it. We had to move on the first issue so fast; by the time we finished it

  • April 1993

    Remember the soft-focus ’70s? The mood most celebrated by the yuppie “poets” of the ’80s, who came of age in that “blighted” decade, was a misty nostalgia for the ’60s they had missed. Back then, the ’70s seemed the one slice of history constitutionally immune to the wave of cultural cannibalism already flowering in products as diverse as New Wave, American Graffiti, and a photograph by Sherrie Levine of a photograph by Edward Weston.

    Well, the ’70s are back—and have been for some time, if one heeds the augurs of clubdom, where mood rings, bell-bottoms, and the Brady Bunch have already enjoyed

  • Jack Bankowsky

    Demon-possessed and spewing indecencies, Sue Williams has arrived spitting and foaming in the art-world spotlight. Indeed, Williams loads her canvases with brutish doodles and slogans until their scrubbed and smeared surfaces read like a virtual catalogue of crimes against her sex.

    Dan Cameron looks in on this one-woman heart of darkness and discovers a feminism that works the very belly of the beast. Williams has perfect pitch when it comes to the dictions of abuse, of both the overt and the more insidious sort. She knows that oppression can come dressed as common sense—its impositions managed

  • Jack Bankowsky

    Professing a fascination with the American culture-scape that shares as much with the wide-eyed dazzlement of the 19th-century innocent abroad as with the sophisticated deliriums of contemporary old world emissaries like Jean Baudrillard, Dick Hebdige recounts a North American odyssey that took him from the “echoing ball courts” of Chichén Itzà to the “blasted city center” of Detroit. As a practiced decoder of cultural signs and the author of Subculture: The Meaning of Style, Hebdige is well equipped to read the “ruins” of our truly ancient continent. Indeed, just when the thought of another

  • THE SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS

    ZEROING IN ON the most numbing daily given of our souped-up late phase of capital—the ubiquitous advertising still—Richard Prince planted a pin on the cultural map by parading Madison Avenue’s longest-running fiction, the ridin’, ropin’ Marlboro man, under the sign of art. Like the now venerable tradition of artists, from Marcel Duchamp to Andy Warhol to Jeff Koons, who have in one way or another squared off with the twin demons of commerce and communications, Prince has been subject to a predictably mixed reception: he is simultaneously revered as an “artist’s artist,” with a cultish cabal of

  • SLACKERS

    IN SLACKERS, 1991, RICHARD LINKLATER'S vision of adolescence gone rancid, he trains his camera on a mundane milieu—the postgrad, between-semesters doldrums of a middle-American university town (Austin, Texas, to be precise)—and introduces us to a new casualty for the ’90s. A subject without a mission, a fate, or even a subjectivity (at least in the superadequate Modern sense), the slacker inhabits an atomized universe: everyone speaks a debased or hybrid argot, worships at their own jerry-built altar, proselytizes for a private religion. Master narratives, in short, do not inhere. The slacker