Michelle Kuo

  • Syd Mead, Megastructure, ca. 1969, publicity rendering of future cities and vehicles for United States Steel, 11 1/4 x 27 1/8".


    THE BIG PICTURE is David Graeber’s picture: An anthropologist, anarchist, and activist based at Goldsmiths, University of London, Graeber adopts a bracingly wide-angle view in our era of specialization. His acclaimed 2011 book Debt: The First 5,000 Years poses a sweeping rereading of obligation, exchange, and value; his numerous writings on the alternative political models provided by direct democracy and direct action have found a wide audience beyond the social sciences. He has also put his voice to use, having long participated in global protest movements such as Occupy Wall Street and its

  • Kraftwerk performing as part of “Kraftwerk–Retrospective 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8” at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, April 10, 2012. Photo: Peter Boettcher.


    WHEN KRAFTWERK SPEAKS, everything else suddenly gets a little louder: loud like your heartbeat in an anechoic chamber, or loud like a neon-lit wet suit on a robot in 3-D. The group’s laconic vocals only enhance the booming, anthemic extravagance of the aural world in which they envelop us. And that expansive sound is the sound of machines. In the early 1970s, in Düsseldorf, the group’s co-founders, Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider, famously began using synthesizers in hopes of covering the full range of human hearing, from “20 to 20,000 Hz,” as they have said.

    So, too, the soft, precise voice

  • Jack Whitten, Pink Psyche Queen, 1973, acrylic on canvas, 71 x 60".


    WHEN DOES AN IMAGE END? At the edge of the screen, we might say, or of the stretcher or the page. But none of these answers has ever seemed to satisfy Jack Whitten. His work eludes the perimeters we know. It conjures something else: infinite extension, scanning, even searching.

    The modernist grid, of course, implied such extension: its vertical and horizontal lines always iterable, potentially continuing beyond the limits of a given picture, as if that picture had merely zoomed in on a larger array. Beginning in the 1960s, though, Whitten came to understand that other kinds of movement were

  • John Chamberlain, Hano, 1970, mineral-coated polymer resin, 30 x 37 x 34".

    “John Chamberlain: Choices”

    Too sweet for Minimalism, too hard for Pop, John Chamberlain’s assemblages still give pause.

    Too sweet for Minimalism, too hard for Pop, John Chamberlain’s assemblages still give pause. That caesura is his signature: He forced the dream of aerodynamic speed into confrontation with gravity––and with the massive industrial edifice that was and is our world’s vast trammel. Torquing the car part into dense, anticompositional crushes and folds, Chamberlain overturned the two-dimensional “drawing in space” of David Smith’s welded sculpture and offered instead a resolute engagement with substance, whereby the promise of virtuality and mobility is always freighted with

  • Eleanor Antin, The Death of Petronius, 2001, color photograph, 46 1/2 x 94 1/2". From the series “The Last Days of Pompeii,” 2001.


    WHERE, EXACTLY, IS LOS ANGELES? Somewhere between the studio lot and the Eagle Rock studio, Chinatown and Chinatown? Between the “playfield of the devil,” as Richard Neutra called it, and the “hyperurban configuration” described by Fredric Jameson? Amid all the endless commonplaces about the city, Jameson’s early-’90s reading still stands out, aptly charting a new disorientation and eclecticism in the buried entrances to the Westin Bonaventure Hotel and in the chain-link chic of Frank Gehry’s Santa Monica house. If over the years Angelenos have gotten used to those swimmingly crossbred spaces,

  • Judson Powell and Noah Purifoy, Barrel and Plow, 1966, beer barrel and plow mounted on table. Documentary photograph of the work with Darcy Robinson and Judson Powell, Los Angeles, 1966. Barrel and Plow was one of fifty works included in the 1966 exhibition “66 Signs of Neon.” Photo: Harry Drinkwater.


    To better survey the manifold sites of postwar art in Los Angeles, Artforum invited art historians THOMAS CROW and ANDREW PERCHUK, curators MAURICE TUCHMAN and ALI SUBOTNICK, and gallerist HELENE WINER to join in conversation with artists JOHN BALDESSARI, HARRY GAMBOA JR., and LIZ LARNER—a group whose experiences span five decades and some of the most vibrant, vital scenes in the city. Critic and scholar RICHARD MEYER and Artforum editor MICHELLE KUO moderate.

    Michelle Kuo: We all know the myth: “The Cool School,” coined by Philip Leider himself in these pages [Summer 1964]. Leider was speaking of a “new distance,” a remove, which he saw manifested in the adamantine surfaces of the work of the Ferus Gallery artists and which came to stand for LA culture as a whole. But how might we attend to art in LA now, without reducing it to the same clichés about regional or even outsider production that persist, rather astonishingly, in many exhibitions, in much of the literature, and certainly in the market?

    How might we attend to the relationship—if any—between

  • Iain Baxter&, Television Works, 1999–2006, acrylic paint on reclaimed televisions, reclaimed pedestals, and reclaimed metal wall brackets. Dimensions variable. (detail)

    “IAIN BAXTER&: Works 1958–2011”

    It may sound like a one-liner about boring art: Canadian Conceptualism. But Iain Baxter& got the joke first, sending up the lugubriousness of cultural production in the 1960s—a time when the press release, the grant proposal, and the institutional contract were new inventions in a burgeoning art economy. Before adopting the business-speak ampersand in his name in 2005, Baxter&, with his wife Ingrid, founded one of the first art “corporations”—N.E. Thing Co.—in Vancouver in 1966 (just before compatriots General Idea), generating copious

  • Amy Sillman’s studio, New York, 2009. Photo: Amy Sillman.


    THE WORLD WAS SUPPOSED TO END this past May, but we’re still here. No Rapture, no Apocalypse. The same could be said of Abstract Expressionism: That dripping, demonstrative, unabashedly tactile practice has met its maker many times over. Yet its effects are everywhere apparent. AbEx is there, of course, in works that dramatize the false promises and ignominious deliquescence of the genre, pushing gestural abstraction to its stained, ripped, debased, and de-skilled limits (witness David Hammons’s recent suite of literally trash-bagged pictures). It is there when artists make one more cool,

  • Chto Delat?, The Tower: A Songspiel, 2010, still from a color video, 36 minutes 52 seconds.


    GOING FROM ONE TO TWO is going overboard. Working with others means exceeding, sharing, even contaminating—whether with an intimate partner or a band of outsiders, with fellow avant-gardists or an unknown audience. Well after the Impressionists incorporated themselves and the Surrealists assembled their exquisite corpse, after Gilbert met George and Fischli met Weiss, the collective, the factory, the duo have all persisted, even if they are still relatively rare. Artists continue to collaborate in arrangements that span loose underground communities, corporations (ersatz or actual), offices,

  • Mark Leckey, GreenScreenRefrigerator, 2010, still from a color video, 17 minutes 5 seconds.

    Mark Leckey

    In the annals of inhalation, we’d have to count Miley Cyrus’s recent hallucinogenic hit and Bill Clinton’s pot dabble (and denial) among the more infamous entries. But Mark Leckey’s might be the most, well, intoxicating. During a brief performance inaugurating his latest work, GreenScreenRefrigeratorAction, 2010, the artist draped himself in a sheet and apparently took a lungful of coolant. He drew in deeply. Why? Perhaps to better unite with the thing standing next to him: a humming, immaculate black Samsung refrigerator—part obdurate Tony Smith cube, part Kubrickian monolith, part ’00s

  • View of “Hors-Jeu” (Out of Bounds), 2001, gb agency, Paris. Foreground: Robert Breer, Float, 1970. Middleground: Robert Breer, Rug #5, 1965. Background: Robert Breer, Beam, 1966. Photo: Marc Domage.


    I SAW ROBERT BREER’S SCULPTURES before I saw his films—nearly ten years ago, when looking at photographs of the 1970 World’s Fair in Osaka. Funny things, white fiberglass domes that stood like alien statuary in a monumental drape of fog. Little did I know that these mesmeric objects would actually have been moving: They crept glacially, only to reverse direction whenever they bumped into anything.

    Breer’s career is no easier to pin down. A looming but fugitive presence in postwar art, he is legendary as an experimental filmmaker; periodically, his other work will startlingly come to the

  • Mario Milizia, Style Mixer (detail), 2003, ink on cardboard, 81⁄4 x 81⁄4".


    YOU MIGHT MISS THEM AT FIRST. The deadpan numerals on the cover of this issue slowly emerge, one after another, only to recede back into a slightly tremulous gouache lozenge. But these digits are all around us. We know their glowing, electric font from hand-held calculators and dashboard clocks, from Casio wristwatches and their retro reissues (for nerd-chic cognoscenti wanting a ’70s throwback). And if the look is highly resilient, more widespread than ever, it’s because the design is so incredibly economical: a closed scheme of seven segments capable of generating a full range of alphanumeric