Rachel Kushner

  • ALEX BROWN

    I MET THE PAINTER ALEX BROWN when I moved to New York City from San Francisco in 1996. We were set up on a kind of blind date by friends from his childhood in Des Moines, Iowa, whom I’d known in SF. Among his Iowa friends, Alex had a certain legend attached to him. He’d moved to NYC, played guitar in various seminal hardcore bands (Gorilla Biscuits, Project X, Side by Side), produced a coveted zine called Schism, and almost immediately had an art career after graduating from Parsons.

    “I’ll be wearing a blue anorak,” he said to me on the phone, so I could identify him when we met. We were more

  • Rachel Kushner

    PAUL SCHRADER’S First Reformed and Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Loveless both feature pretty and guileless young blond women whose bellies swell with new life and who deliver babies, before the end of each film, into worlds that are maps of devastation—though the type of devastation varies slightly, as does the map.

    Loveless takes place in suburban Moscow, where its miserable bourgeois characters live in symptomatic lack, as the title suggests. A divorcing couple bicker over how best to dissolve their life so they can go their separate ways. It’s late autumn, and, as a voice from a radio news program

  • “Stan Douglas: Interregnum”

    If, per Merleau-Ponty, history “never confesses,” in the work of Stan Douglas it can always be restaged in the hopes of shaking out a few loose truths. For Disco Angola, 2012, Douglas produced fictional photographs of decolonization in 1974–75 Angola and concurrent scenes in an underground disco in New York. His 2013 film Luanda–Kinshasa invited the viewer to lose herself in a re-creation of an epic early-1970s recording session at the famous CBS 30th Street Studio in Manhattan. These works make up the core of this survey, along with a new six-screen film, The Secret

  • Rachel Kushner

    A movement within the Autonomist movement, Italian feminism of the 1970s was both highly intellectual and earthy—a kind of feminism that, on account of its deep roots in philosophy, Marxism, and psychoanalysis, shared little to nothing with American second-wave fare. Among its iconic thinkers—Mariarosa Dalla Costa, Silvia Federici, Leopoldina Fortunati, Carla Lonzi, and Luisa Muraro—Federici in particular has become a crucial figure for young Marxists, political theorists, and a new generation of feminists. Author of Caliban and the Witch (2004), a groundbreaking work on gender

  • WOMAN IN REVOLT: ALBERTO GRIFI AND MASSIMO SARCHIELLI’S ANNA

    “HOSPITALS, PRISONS, AND BARRACKS ARE LIKE THIS. Once you’re in, you’re screwed. . . . You’re sick because you don’t understand their medicine,” says Vincenzo Mazza as he encounters, and diagnoses with astonishing clarity, the repressive nature of life in Italy for a proletarian like himself in the year 1972. He’s a supporting real-life character in a film that primarily features a girl named Anna, whose last name no one seems to remember, or possibly they never knew it to begin with—never mind the fact that she is the point of absolute gravity and star of this nearly four-hour film, which

  • “Wade Guyton OS”

    The “OS” in the title of Wade Guyton’s Whitney show this fall stands for “operating system,” and if Guyton’s singular and inimitable practice is less hegemonic than Windows, it is one that has earned him recognition as one of the most influential artists of his generation.

    The “OS” in the title of Wade Guyton’s Whitney show this fall stands for “operating system,” and if Guyton’s singular and inimitable practice—misusing print technology to make drawings and paintings that are sly, slick, and confounding—is less hegemonic than Windows, it is one that has earned him recognition as one of the most influential artists of his generation. This exhibition of approximately ninety works made between 1999 and today will include, in addition to the artist’s iconic printed paintings and works on paper, sculptures (such as his mirrored, stainless-steel

  • CLOSE-UP: REBEL MOVEMENT

    DISCO ANGOLA HAS A CERTAIN RING, the seeming incongruity of the two words registering as a dark irony and something more specific, a godforsaken watering hole or open-air dance floor in some late-colonial “paradise.” Then again, it could be the name of a New York club meant to suggest such a fantasy of excess. But as the title of a recent body of work by Stan Douglas, the words posit separate histories, those of disco and of Angola in the years 1974 and 1975. Disco in that moment was just emerging as an underground, late-night phenomenon, and Angola was rapidly decolonizing in the wake of

  • Claire Fontaine: Economies

    Claire Fontaine is not just a conspicuously feminine name for an artists’ collaboration.

    Claire Fontaine is not just a conspicuously feminine name for an artists’ collaboration. “She” cannot be mistaken for a woman, because she is already something else: a brand of French notebook, more ready-made than fictional character. Since 2004, Fontaine has, with her Paris-based “assistants,” Fulvia Carnevale and James Thornhill, produced textual and object-based inquiries into the legacies of the left, most explicitly May ’68 and Italian movements of the 1970s, in an almost forensic search for the secret freedoms that might be cultivated under capitalism, a search whose

  • THE BEST BOOKS OF 2009

    Every year Artforum invites a spectrum of scholars, critics, and writers to reflect on the year’s outstanding titles.

    RACHEL KUSHNER

    Once upon a time in Paris, there was a short-lived meeting place in the form of a journal called Tiqqun, which, in two volumes, published anonymous philosophical writings that combined resonances of Agamben, Benjamin, Foucault, Heidegger, and Schmitt. Then there was no more Tiqqun, or Tiqqun went on hiatus. Its dissolution, according to rumors, had something to do with 9/11 and disagreements over the way to proceed in its wake. Sometime after this, an anonymous video,

  • ALLEGORICAL IMPERATIVE: SILVIA KOLBOWSKI’S AFTER HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR

    IN HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR’S opening montage, Alain Resnais’s camera glides through Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Museum, pausing before various reconstructions of horror—masses of anonymous hair; a gnarled, heat-blasted bicycle; a photograph of the bombed city reminiscent of Guernica—before moving on to a pearl-encrusted gift shop model of the Palace of Industry, a symbol of the city’s once-thriving military-industrial production, and then to a bus with the words ATOMIC TOURS printed on its side. An attractive young tour guide speaks cheerfully through a microphone to passengers (though we hear only

  • Paul McCarthy

    Timed to coincide with the museum's Buckminster Fuller exhibition, the presentation highlights Paul McCarthy's affective relationship to built space, in the form of two early films and three architectural installations.

    Lest we forget Piccadilly Circus, Paul McCarthy's 2003 video performance as George W. Bush, a president who likes to get naked and paint with his face, the artist—who has also recently enjoyed both a traveling retrospective of his work, organized by the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, and his own curatorial coup at the CCA Wattis in San Francisco—will now take over the Whitney's third floor, further confirming the decidedly new world order. Timed to coincide with the museum's Buckminster Fuller exhibition, the presentation highlights McCarthy's affective relationship to

  • 1000 WORDS: HARRY DODGE AND STANYA KAHN

    “ONCE UPON A TIME, or maybe twice, there was an unearthly paradise,” begins the Beatles’s 1968 animated extravaganza, Yellow Submarine. As the opening line’s turn on the cliché suggests, visions of other worlds—past, future, or parallel—have popped up repeatedly throughout history as the shadow expression of an era’s collective unconscious. But these fantasies don’t easily divide into categories of utopic or dystopic. From the radioactive monsters in cold war sci-fi novels to the Blue Meanies that invade Pepperland, the nightmare that threatens civilization is what generates the dream

  • “¡Cuba! Art and History from 1868 to Today”

    The exhibition begins in 1868, when the country embarked on its Ten Years' War for independence from Spain, and follows through the long twentieth century of ideological and aesthetic flux.

    When Alfred Barr organized his landmark 1944 MoMA survey “Modern Cuban Painters,” the island's most well known painter, Wifredo Lam, wary of being labeled “regional,” refused to participate. His absence was regrettable, since Lam's work perfectly characterizes the unique hybrid of avant-garde and Afro-Caribbean sensibilities that defined the Cuban art of his generation. Thankfully, Lam will be among some 150 artists contributing this show's roughly 450 works—including paintings by vanguardist Marcelo Pogolotti and rare images from the Fototeca de Cuba—many of which have never been exhibited

  • 1000 WORDS: CHARLES RAY

    CHARLES RAY DID IN FACT STEAL the thirty-two-foot-long fallen tree that inspired his recent sculpture Hinoki, just as rumor has it. After spotting the tree in a California field, Ray tried and failed to acquire it through legitimate channels. Not to be deterred, he returned to the site, chain saw in tow. Over a series of trips, he transported the tree, in hundreds of pieces, back to his studio in Los Angeles.

    Thus commenced Hinoki’s decadelong backstory—protracted even for Ray, who often spends years on his intricately fabricated sculptures in order to achieve just the right subtle-yet-delirious

  • OPENINGS: NATHALIE DJURBERG

    IN SWEDISH ARTIST Nathalie Djurberg’s Claymation film The Necessity of Loss, 2006, a man who cannot resist acting on his overwhelming attraction to a young girl decides he must castrate himself. But he still has arms with which to touch her, and so he lops off one of them, then both his legs, and finally his head. But even this disembodied state won’t “save” him from the feared inappropriate sexual liaison: At this point the girl cheerfully removes her underwear and sits on his face.

    Djurberg’s short Claymation films (of which The Necessity of Loss is by no means the most extreme or unsparing)

  • Rachel Kushner

    I’LL BEGIN WITH THE BULLET HOLES. They were small, but by no means discreet, and surely everyone who visited the UCLA Hammer Museum in early 2006 saw them, pocking the lower flanks of Jean Prouvé’s prefabricated steel-and-aluminum Tropical House, 1951/2005–2006, which had been retrieved from its original site in the former French Congo and reassembled in the museum’s courtyard. At first glance, the structure had a quaint dioramic quality, like a life-size colonial dollhouse for a make-believe attaché, an impression that was only enhanced by the leafy bamboo plants that surrounded it. But then

  • Anish Kapoor

    Though Londoner Anish Kapoor was born in Bombay to a Hindu father and

    a Jewish Iraqi mother, Brazil, strangely, seems a perfect context for his work. In his emphasis on biomorphic forms and the limits of materiality, Kapoor shares strikingly similar sculptural concerns with Brazilians Ernesto Neto, Lygia Clark, and Cildo Meireles. His career survey and first solo show in South America features twelve works—videos, paintings, mirrored pieces, and pigment and large-scale sculptures from 1975 to 2006—that concentrate on “reflection, color, spirit, stone,

  • Paul McCarthy

    “Head Shop/Shop Head” is the title of Paul McCarthy’s forthcoming survey, but “head shop” is more than an apt metaphor for any venue displaying the artist’s subversive paraphernalia and psychic landscapes, which have grown increasingly spectacular in recent years. It is also literal: McCarthy’s shop has long produced actual heads, both as sculptures and performance props. While last year’s exhibition at Munich’s Haus der Kunst highlighted the much-anticipated “Western” and “Pirate” projects, this show promises the most comprehensive overview of the artist’s career

  • diary February 20, 2006

    Grass Roots

    Los Angeles

    I've never known the title of my favorite Hans Haacke piece, and have always thought of it as “East Bunny, West Bunny.” It's a photograph of the former “death strip” along the border looking into East Berlin that features two bunnies in a face-off, one gaunt and desperate-looking, the other fat, smug, and potentially aggressive. Its subtle humor is something of an exception for Haacke, who tends to be a bit literal for my taste. But on account of the political catastrophe we now face, I was eagerly anticipating his three talks last week, given as the twenty-fourth annual Getty Lecturer and hosted

  • HARRY DODGE AND STANYA KAHN

    IN HARRIET “HARRY” DODGE and Stanya Kahn’s short video Let the Good Times Roll, 2004, a depressive, effusive woman named Lois sits in a motel room telling an unseen cameraman about a party she once attended. Initially she’d been reluctant to go out, but the hosts looked just great in these “little black shorts” and “rubber boots,” she earnestly explains, adding that their names were Wolf and Dandelion, “so right off the bat I’m feeling at ease.” Lois gets stoned, mingles, and then Dandelion asks if she’s ever done an anal douche: “‘Oh sure,’ I say, which must have been the grass talking.” After