Lauren O’Neill-Butler

  • Left: Artists Andrea Bowers and Catherine Opie. Right: The convention-center entrance. (All photos: Lauren O'Neill-Butler)
    diary March 12, 2009

    Family Circus

    Los Angeles

    NEARLY TWELVE THOUSAND PEOPLE were naturalized a fortnight ago at the Los Angeles Convention Center; meanwhile, four thousand were sequestered nearby in the dimly lit lecture rooms, present for the College Art Association’s annual conference. It was easy to get lost in the shuffle: Descending the escalators, I spotted ecstatic new citizens holding tiny American flags and frazzled art historians in casual-smart garb prowling the floors and pushing their way out into the upper-seventies heat, where vendors hawked picture frames, certificate holders, and street meat. The latter group wore name tags

  • Left: Agnès Varda, Les Veuves de Noirmoutier (The Widows of Noirmoutier), 2004, still from a 35-mm film, 9 minutes 30 seconds. Right: View of Les Veuves de Noirmoutier, Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art, 2006.
    interviews March 10, 2009

    Agnès Varda

    The inimitable director Agnès Varda is widely known for her films––the French New Wave classic Cleo from 5 to 7 (1961) and The Gleaners and I (2000) are just a few. Here she speaks about her exhibition at Harvard’s Sert Gallery in the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, which opens March 12. Concurrent with the exhibition, the Harvard Film Archive will devote a week of programming to her groundbreaking films, including her most recent undertaking, The Beaches of Agnès (2008), which opens at Film Forum on July 1.

    THIS IS MY FIRST INSTALLATION in the United States, and it makes me very happy.

  • Daniel Guzmán

    Since the 1990s, Daniel Guzmán has made drawings that borrow imagery from a wide range of sources––from punk rock to the daily news, heavy metal to Mexican mural painting––and his first exhibition at this gallery charted similarly dense terrain. Guzmán’s latest sculptures share certain motifs with his drawing series “La Búsqueda del Ombligo” (The Search of the Navel), 2005–2007, in which he explored his cultural roots; but they focus on darker subjects, namely the New Fire, an Aztec bloodletting ceremony, the artist channeling aggression and disenchantment into metaphor.

    The rectangular structures

  • Left: View of “Kerry James Marshall” (work in progress), 2009, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Right: Kerry James Marshall, Visible Means of Support: Mount Vernon, 2009, acrylic latex, 27 x 32'.
    interviews February 26, 2009

    Kerry James Marshall

    On the heels of Monuments for a New America, his conceptual two-page comic spread in the Washington Post, the Chicago-based artist Kerry James Marshall has created two large murals for the Haas Atrium at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Depicting Mount Vernon and Monticello––among many other hidden aspects––these works, which debut on February 26, continue Marshall’s investigation of history.

    THE CHALLENGE AT SF MoMA is to put something in the space that will not be overwhelmed by the architecture itself. Originally, I proposed to transform the atrium into a Garden of Eden with a stream

  • Erica Baum, Shampoo, 2008, color photograph, 19 x 14".
    picks February 24, 2009

    Erica Baum

    The red-, blue-, and green-stippled book edges in Erica Baum’s new photographs bring to mind the paperbacks that encumber used-book stores, thrift shops, and family libraries: faded film adaptations, celebrity biographies, and the occasional art monograph. In this exhibition, she walks a fine line between documentation and concealment, presenting pictures of eight such books fanning out and close-up, open but not completely exposed. Fragments of text and cheaply reproduced images––Goldie Hawn in a scene from Shampoo (1975), Art Garfunkel, Richard and Pat Nixon––are evident between the bars.

  • Chiara Clemente, Our City Dreams, 2008, still from a black-and-white and color film, 85 minutes. Kiki Smith.
    film February 04, 2009

    Five Women

    I WATCHED CHIARA CLEMENTE’S Our City Dreams (2008) in fits and starts, as the DVD screener battled my computer. During this graceless do-si-do of breaking down and starting up again, the ensuing allover abstract images captured on screen––pixelated views of artists Swoon, Ghada Amer, Kiki Smith, Marina Abramovic, and Nancy Spero, amid contemplative shots of New York City––seemed to dovetail, in moments nearing cliché, with Clemente’s dreamy and meandering first feature documentary.

    An intimate series of portraits, the film trades in contemplative voice-overs and languid views of the artists at

  • Charlotte Posenenske

    In the May 1968 issue of Art International, the thirty-eight-year-old German artist Charlotte Posenenske published a manifesto lamenting the “regressed” utility of art and, by implication, the larger network of the art world. Her statements convey her concern with the social role of artists, and presage her decision later that year to become, perhaps unsurprisingly, a sociologist. Yet unlike other artists from the late 1960s and early ’70s who employed strategies of rejection or withdrawal—Lee Lozano comes first to mind––Posenenske was not concerned with blurring the boundaries between art and

  • Christopher Miner, Family Photo, 2008, color photograph, 24 x 20".
    picks January 28, 2009

    Christopher Miner

    “After being married for only two years, I’ve found that I prefer to spend more time alone than my marriage will allow.” Self-observant and self-absorbed, Christopher Miner fills his second solo show at this gallery with unbridled quips and deprecating gems. But what at first appears trite or crude resonates beyond the monitor. His outlandish videos dig deep; they recall the abject musings of Mike Kelley as well as the comedic obsessions of Mike Smith. In a new suite of shorts, Miner takes Jackson, Mississippi, his hometown, as subject and muse and presents several intriguing characters––his

  • Left: Machine Dazzle. Right: Critic Peter Schjeldahl and White Columns director Matthew Higgs. (All photos: Ryan McNamara)
    diary January 20, 2009

    Law and Disorder

    New York

    SINK OR SWIM. Since art nonprofits (and downtown art nonprofits in particular) have dealt with those looming conditions for ages, it felt only natural that last Tuesday night, during several events feting such institutions, conversations about community would trump those about the economic downturn. White Columns celebrated its prestigious history with the opening of “40 Years/40 Projects,” and the Sylvia Rivera Law Project held its fourth annual “Small Works for Big Change” auction at the Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation. The latter, a benefit that is supported by donations and volunteers,

  • Superflex, Flooded McDonald’s, 2008, stills from a color film, 20 minutes.
    interviews January 14, 2009

    Superflex

    The international projects by the Danish collective Superflex engage alternative-energy production, community organizing, and what they commonly term “countereconomic strategies.” For their first solo exhibition in London, opening January 16 at South London Gallery, they will present a new film, Flooded McDonald’s.

    THIS WORK IS one of our first forays into filmmaking. Although we’ve previously used film and photography to document our projects, Flooded McDonald’s incorporates a more general cinematic approach. It may at times seem like a documentary, because it follows the actual flooding of a

  • interviews January 06, 2009

    Alex Bag

    Since the mid-1990s, the New York–based artist Alex Bag has created a wide array of acerbic video art––by turns hilarious and horrific––that frequently features Bag herself. Her latest commission opens on January 9 at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Coinciding with the exhibition, Electronic Arts Intermix is expanding its catalogue to include all of Bag’s videos for distribution.

    MY MOTHER STARRED in two children’s television programs: In the mid-to-late ’60s she hosted The Carol Corbett Show on WPIX in New York City, and in the ’70s, in the tristate area, she had a show on WCBS called The

  • Lorna Simpson

    One intriguing aspect of midcareer retrospectives is that they typically herald a new phase in an artist’s practice, a reinvention. Take for example Lorna Simpson, who recently, a year and a half after her mid-career survey at the Whitney Museum of American Art, had a two-part exhibition at Salon 94. Marking a significant shift from her large-scale photographs juxtaposing figure and text, her new work, including two series of drawings, imparts an intimacy and directness underpinned by the seminal themes of her practice: race and gender. While her latest offerings continue to blend formal and