John Miller

  • Tony Conrad

    AS IT HAPPENED, I became acquainted with Tony Conrad in the early 1980s before I knew much about his work. He was part of the East Village scene then and easy to get to know because of his open, unpretentious, and often bemused demeanor. Before this, I had seen him present some of his cooked films at CalArts in 1978—works made with film stock that was processed with heat rather than chemicals. This inspired Tony to try baking, broiling, pickling, and frying his footage. At the time, I failed to recognize that this was a kind of self-deprecating gesture, that he was known for The Flicker,

  • “Tony Conrad: Doing the City, Urban Community Interventions”

    Two poles that inform Tony Conrad’s diverse oeuvre are the flicker and the drone.

    Two poles that inform Tony Conrad’s diverse oeuvre are the flicker and the drone. The former, via a seeming slowing down of the mechanics of film, interrupts the medium’s illusion of continuity. The latter, conversely, represents a principle of dedifferentiation, as it causes otherwise discrete sonic elements to meld together, producing a concrete psychoacoustic experience. This survey, the first in more than twenty years, shows how Conrad incorporated both of these techniques into public interventions and educational projects. The show includes episodes and artifacts

  • Mike Kelley

    Jack Goldstein once quipped that the reason he left Metro Pictures was the low production value of Mike Kelley’s work.

    Jack Goldstein once quipped that the reason he left Metro Pictures was the low production value of Mike Kelley’s work. But Goldstein could never have guessed the degree to which Kelley’s powerful scale and polish would ultimately eclipse his own. If Kelley, early on, used shoddy materials to invoke a subordinate vernacular culture, his later embrace of high-tech fabrication effectively channeled the underside of our popular information economy— the reperformance of images, whether via sexting and online


    I’VE SPENT FORTY-TWO YEARS waiting for the other (saddle) shoe to drop: Sha Na Na at Woodstock? There, the group performed Danny and the Juniors’ 1957 doo-wop classic “At the Hop.” Woodstock was many things—brainchild of hip entrepreneurs; cheesy, overdetermined symbol of the counterculture; sentimental apotheosis of the hippie—but, say what you like, it was not a sock hop. Although the Woodstock performance propelled Sha Na Na to certain commercial success in film and television as well as music, at a live show in San Francisco (preserved on their 1973 album The Golden Age of Rock ’



    DEATH HANGS HEAVY over Paul Thek’s oeuvre, from the morbidity of the early reliquaries to the stillness of the late seascapes. It was present long before Thek was diagnosed with aids. Almost always it is coupled with a sense of religiosity that, for better and worse, comes with imperatives utterly different from those of career, consistency, and well-being. Something similar drove Robert Smithson’s early work, but Smithson was able not only to bring this to bear on the framework of the art world but also to transpose it into a systematic aesthetic. Thek’s art, on the other hand,


    IN RETROSPECT, Douglas Huebler seems to have framed the scope of his work (or at least the general reception of it) with two irreconcilable declarations, the first being Conceptual art’s most oft-quoted pronouncement, “The world is full of objects, more or less interesting; I do not wish to add any more.” Despite its laconic tone, Huebler’s remark, initially put forward in a 1969 artist’s statement for a show at New York’s Seth Siegelaub Gallery, mercilessly lampoons the expectation that artists be prolific. It implies a cessation of production, not because the world is particularly wonderful,

  • Sarah Lucas

    Take a table. Fry two eggs and place them side-by-side at one end. At the other, take a kebab and put it in the middle. Seen as a sculpture, these elements pointedly assert their sheer materiality. Even so, to not see them as breasts and a vagina is impossible. Roughly thirty years before Sarah Lucas made Two Fried Eggs and a Kebab, 1992, featured in this British artist’s midcareer retrospective, Robert Morris argued for a “literalist” art—devoid of parts—that would deflect anthropomorphic readings. This idea became a standard for Minimalist sculpture. Even though Morris’s unitary gestalts trace


    Word had it that the artist, dressed as a Napoleonic courier, rode into the gallery on a white horse, read a message of surrender, turned around and rode out. You had to be there. The rest of the show made no mention of it and the artist never photographs her performances. Even if you were there, you might have missed the wolf howl that was supposed to play intermittently. The serial drawings of simple green tubes or cylinders proved no less elusive. The checklist said “see front desk for title,” and, on request, a gallery assistant would obligingly play an MP3 drum sequence. In short, you might


    JASON RHOADES’ NEW YORK debut show, titled “CHERRY Makita—Honest Engine Work,” represented the culmination of an ongoing project: the re-creation, through several incarnations, of what variously could be seen as a mechanic’s or carpenter’s shop, a sculptor’s studio, and the suburban garage of an obsessive-compulsive hobbyist. The centerpiece was a ludicrously overblown drill (fashioned from a Chevrolet 350 V-8 engine, so large that it hung from a winch), which the artist would sometimes start up and use to bore holes in the wall of the mock garage that housed it. It was this futile contraption

  • Susan Leopold

    Susan Leopold shows boxes that contain miniature scenes visible through small fish-eye lenses mounted on their exteriors. Her subjects are predominantly urban themes such as indoor swimming pools, stairwells, doorways, and windowed interiors. While painstaking craftsmanship and careful lighting make these scenes look realistic, the fish-eye lenses render the typically coherent, rational perspective one expects extremely subjective.

    A curious psychology of model making informs Leopold’s project, but her relationship to that tendency is largely unreflective. Ultimately this work falls short to the

  • Colette

    Colette’s contribution to feminist esthetics has been underrated. Perhaps this is due, in large measure, to the fact that her frankly narcissistic posture unleashes several traits—self-indulgence, childishness, and seduction—that are anathema to mainstream feminism. At a moment, however, when so much of feminist practice verges on zipless decodings, these transgressions amount to a kind of personal realpolitik.

    Colette’s show at Dorsky focused on the latest wrinkle in her career, while a concurrent show at Rempire covered the entire crinkly fabric of the last 18 years. The photos at Dorsky were

  • Susan Hiller

    For her recent two-gallery exhibition, Susan Hiller showed a selection of paintings at Nicole Klagsbrun and a video installation entitled An Entertainment, 1990, at Pat Hearn. The paintings involved the dispersal of various pigments and inks over patterned grounds such as wallpaper; unfortunately they were estheticized to the point of blandness, leaving little to please or to offend the viewer. That, however, was not the case with An Entertainment.

    Hiller’s four-channel installation montaged excerpts from a quintessentially English genre of children’s entertainment: Punch and Judy shows. She

  • Arnold Fern

    At least since the publication of Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal, 1857, the image of the flower has shouldered symbolist overtones that distinguish it from the other so-called natural subjects. Artists as diverse as Vincent van Gogh, Odilon Redon, Georgia O’Keeffe, Andy Warhol, Lowell Nesbitt, Robert Kushner, Judy Chicago, Robert Mapplethorpe, Gilbert and George, Colette, Jim Isermann, and Christopher Williams have exploited this distinction. Even if most floral depictions can claim no special significance, an outright convergence of beauty and sexuality makes the image of the flower seem less

  • Bruce and Norman Yonemoto

    Bruce and Norman Yonemoto’s latest videotape, Made in Hollywood, 1990, falls somewhere between two films to which its title seems to refer: Jean-Luc Godard’s widely recognized Made in U.S.A., 1966, and Jeff Koons’ upcoming Made in Heaven. Situated between the past and the future, between Godard’s worldly hell and Koon’s heaven (insofar as Hollywood symbolizes the quintessentially American promise of dreams come true), Made in Hollywood weaves a tight allegory the simplicity of which is deceptive.

    By serving as a blank screen onto which all of the other characters project their desires, an alluringly

  • Candyass

    “i like to pretend i,m someone else as much as possible so i wont get too depressed. well i cant do alot of things, lots of things indeed and i;m not as smart as i would like to be and not as politically aware/politicaly correct as i would like to be and this is nerveous making if i let it so i like to try and kill time and avoid the serious issues i was tought to well sort of avoid by making art. . . .”—so reads the notarized artist’s statement for Cary Leibowitz’s (a/k/a CANDYASS) recent show of pennants, felt banners, door mats, plates, wallpaper, plaques, and cardboard boxes emblazoned with

  • Douglas Huebler

    This survey of 12 works offers a concise overview of Douglas Huebler’s oeuvre and suggests a revaluation of this generally underrated artist. Huebler is best known as a member of Seth Siegelaub’s core group of Conceptualists, and especially for his early statement that “the world is full of objects, I do not wish to add anymore”—a manifesto some considered hypocritical in light of his subsequent output. Interpreting that stance too literally, however, overlooks its status as an exemplary conceptual gesture, as well as its broader expression of a general ecological economy. At the very least this

  • Tony Oursler

    Oozing blobs, leaky vessels, encrusted bits of debris, and mutant bodies have been longtime staples of Tony Oursler’s expressionist universe, a decrepit sci-fi wasteland a la Jean Cocteau, where crude props mingle with magical video effects. Here Oursler’s rich but cheesy theatrical dreamscapes serve as a perfect vehicle for the theme of pollutio—and, in this case, visions of colonial America provide the unexpected twist that brings it all back home.

    In a small house of mirrors inscribed with astrological symbols and hex signs, entitled Krypt (all works 1990), a video monitor set amidst flickering

  • Notes on the Underground

    Notes on the Underground: An Essay on Technology, Society, and the Imagination, by Rosalind Williams. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1990, 265 pp., 17 black and white illustrations, $19.95.

    JUST AS the historian of religion Mircea Eliade argued that the Neolithic shift from a pastoral, nomadic way of life to a settled, agricultural civilization precipitated a phase of profound upheaval and spiritual breakdown, so Rosalind Williams contends in her new book, Notes on the Underground, that the apprehension of losing the natural world to a predominantly technological one has triggered deep mourning

  • Perry Hoberman

    Perry Hoberman’s new interactive installation, entitled Faraday’s Garden, featured dozens of used household appliances, arrayed across a waist-high counter. Spanning an entire room, the platform was cut through with a circular path, carpeted with mats equipped with pressure-sensitive switches. As viewers made their way through the “diorama,” their footsteps automatically triggered appliances ranging from hair dryers and electric knives to film projectors. Turned on inadvertently, the appliances seem almost autonomous, inspiring the childlike fantasy of a living garden of consumer goods.


  • Mark Tansey

    “Dumb it down,” could be a motto for Mark Tansey’s work. Everything in a Tansey painting funnels into a one-liner. He uses writers and other artists as “straight men,” insinuating the viewer into a good-natured complicity, that only a sourpuss would spoil. At the same time, the paintings make disconcertingly large claims for themselves; Tansey aims to critique nothing less than discourse itself.

    Using Robert Smithson’s drawing A Heap of Language, 1966, as his point of departure, Tansey creates a “ground” of stenciled, rubber-stamped or rendered type from which he conjures forth his images. These