Lane Relyea


    “ART IS STILL AND DEAD”: such is the frostbitten assessment Vija Celmins delivers in an interview published in 1978. In the few essays that have peeked in on Celmins’ enigmatic thirty-year career, it’s conspicuous how often the artist is quoted, and how eagerly writers turn to her biography (an early childhood in Latvia dodging World War II bombing raids, a pilgrimage west in the ’60s to feed her creative development on the Zen chum of the Venice Beach art scene). It’s as if, like a spirit called by a medium at a seance, the art can only speak through her. True, something like a clairvoyant’s


    Released nearly two years ago, Richard Linklater’s Slacker continues to inspire head-scratching among editorialists. To them this no-budget, neither-coastal, college-town travelogue signals the seizure of the world-historical stage by the most improbable of actors. More Alfred E. Neuman than Johnny Rotten, with one finger on the pulse of society and another up the proverbial nose, the slacker belongs to a new generation that doesn’t quite know what to do with the torch that’s been passed it. Poised midway between the campus exit and the welcome mat to those crusty institutions—the family,


    ON THE ROAD to discover America, our hero makes a quick stop and disembarks from his vehicle, a turbo-charged bird of prey aptly named The Eagle—symbol of freedom as flight, and of flight as both sovereignty and exile. “One small step for man,” he says, looking at his boots, “one giant leap for mankind.” It’s his mystery that makes this character so recognizable: dressed in white, he’s the good sheriff, yet he’s also a masked man, never removing his motorcycle helmet, keeping its visor down. He’s the Michelin Man as a latter-day Lone Ranger—a man on the move, the man on the moon. He’s the ultimate

  • My Bloody Valentine

    DREAM POP—THE WORDS CATCH in your throat like swallowed bubble gum. Which is why they summarize so well the music they’ve been glommed to. Eventually popularized by such bands as Ride, Lush, and My Bloody Valentine, the sound that inspired dream pop originally lofted up from the clubs of Manchester, England, in the mid ’80s, where an emerging generation of teen alchemists patched strobe lights and fully cranked guitar noise into acid-house sequencers, wrapping rock metal around house’s sensual yet faceless motifs of process and repetition. Opposed to the civic-mindedness many postpunk acts had

  • Nancy Barton

    Nancy Barton has a knack for making art that’s at once self-centered and self-deprecating—for her the personal is both political and pathetic. Although devoting weighty consideration to intensely intimate subject matter, her work always comes packaged in the most laughable melodrama. In her most recent show, “Live and Let Die,” 1992, works with names like Doctor No and Stayin Alive depict her decidedly mixed emotions toward her father. Surprisingly, Barton manages to evoke white-bread icons James Bond and John Travolta without stuffing tongue in cheek; on the contrary, this new work is as


    HEY KIDS, LOOK WHAT’S SHOWING AT THE MUSEUM! Hard-edge science projects, fun-house Minimalism, a visual jungle gym pulled straight from the pages of Highlights for Children: a poured bath that hangs vertically on the wall like a painting, a see-through table set with see-through plates and glasses, a big black box so completely filled with matching black ink that it looks like a solid cube—there’s even a merry-go-round, only its wooden horses stand in one place while the rest of the carousel spins. Put on your thinking caps, or better yet your crash helmets. These freckle-faced optical illusions

  • Buzz Spector

    One thing you can say for Buzz Spector is that he does his homework. The bummer is he hangs it in galleries and calls it art. The problem is not that Spector’s work is overly smart, or that he approaches knowledge as power (knowledge as value, privilege, security, boredom); what’s irritating is the way he treats that power—like a teacher’s pet, he deftly blends reverence and opportunism. Evoking the solemn certitude of a bible-study meeting, his latest show dutifully recites chart-topping art-world catechisms—we’re invited to sing along to our favorite hymns about the loss of the original, the

  • Paul McCarthy

    Every civilization gets the shamans it deserves. What we have is a media bureaucracy of fashion plates managing our dreams and fears, their Dolby chorus of double-talk snake-charming the popular imagination beyond complacency into a deep, deathlike slumber. Paul McCarthy’s hour-long hostile takeover of television sitcomdom, Bossy Burger, 1991, interrupts our regularly scheduled programming like a nightmare. McCarthy has appeared on TV before. (He chose to exhibit a few of his more unseemly performance works, such as Sailor’s Meat, 1975, in which he dressed in women’s lingerie and fucked raw meat

  • Carter Potter

    With the art world knee-deep in both nagging insecurities and a backlash desire to appear confidently hip, in-jokes are all the rage; indeed, about the worst thing you can say about a work of art these days is that it looks simply clever. This spells trouble for Carter Potter’s latest output, which is, if nothing else, as smart as a barbed whip. Potter weaves together motion-picture film strips as if they were colored thread and displays the resulting “fabric” on stretcher bars like paintings. Clever, yes, but Potter’s celluloid quilts manage to lead a surprisingly robust afterlife; the gesture

  • Chris Wilder

    Snot-nosed yet affable, young and bored to death, the character Chris Wilder broadly sketches in his latest outing enjoys swap meets, the Butthole Surfers, thinking about bugs, and watching daytime television. As personas go, his is not entirely unattractive. The problem is that Wilder doesn’t lend the sketch much detail; he doesn’t describe so much as broadcast what’s already a threadbare stereotype. Compiled from an array of abject artifacts, such as brightly colored fake-fur pillows and shag-carpet toilet-seat covers, Wilder’s work avoids the look of self-important art, suggesting instead a


    WITCH-HUNTS, LOTTO, stupid pet tricks, prisons, mass displays of allegiance to the state, Arnold Schwarzenegger—there are some things we Americans just can’t get enough of. Sex isn’t one of them. Except, of course, when it’s made to serve interests apart from its own, giving flesh to the very beliefs that degrade it. More than just good, sex must be good for something—for promoting ideology (the battle of the sexisms), for affirming missionary-style hierarchies, for expounding the moral advantage of competition over sharing, defining the taking of pleasure as winning, winning as finishing first,

  • Sam Samore

    Sam Samore literally refuses to identify himself. (“For reasons of privacy,” he concludes his statement in a recent group-show catalogue, “the artist has chosen not to disclose any personal biographical information”). Talk about coy: Samore presented (more like hid) eight snapshots, each cropped to postage-stamp size, on the three walls of the gallery’s huge main room. On the floor-to-ceiling window that constitutes the room’s fourth wall, he printed six panels of text. One must snoop around to discover Samore’s art (all the checklist discloses about the photographs is “no title, no date”), and