Tim Griffin

  • View of “Christopher Williams: The Production Line of Happiness,” 2014, Museum of Modern Art. From left: Untitled (Study in Yellow and Green / East Berlin) . . . , 2012; Clockwise from Manufacturer Name (Outer Ring) . . . , 2008; Window (with Window Cutaways) . . . , 2010; Kodak Three Point Reflection Guide / © 1968 . . . , 2005. Photo: Jonathan Muzikar.

    Tim Griffin

    LOCATED AT THE VERY HEART of Christopher Williams’s retrospective, “The Production Line of Happiness,” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York was an image that stood apart for seeming at once so incongruous and yet utterly representative of the artist’s oeuvre. Like so many of Williams’s works, this photograph takes its title from an exhaustive inventory of the circumstances of its making, beginning with TecTake Luxus Strandkorb grau/weiß/Model no.: 400636—naming the branded model of a beach chair and the online store from which it was purchased—before moving to the chair’s materials

  • True Detective, 2014, production still from a TV show on HBO. Detective Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Detective Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson). Photo: Lacey Terrell.

    True Detective

    RARE IS THE CELEBRATED TELEVISION SERIES that owes its reputation almost entirely to its inaugural episode’s first twenty minutes, but such is the case with True Detective. Indeed, the HBO program—penned by Nic Pizzolatto and starring Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey as detectives Marty Hart and Rust Cohle, respectively—might even be said to have created a media frenzy based on a single conversation between its protagonists. Driving away from a ritualized murder scene deep in rural Louisiana, Cohle rebuffs his partner’s attempt to bond over the horrific nature of what they’ve

  • “Douglas Gordon: The Only Way Out is the Only Way In”

    It is sometimes difficult to recall that in the decade just before artists became fixated on the little screen’s splintering fields of information, what prevailed instead was an obsession with the big screen: immersive art installations offering a kind of high-end notation for phenomenological shifts happening throughout culture as digital technology took hold. Few artists are so crucial to this history as Douglas Gordon, whose landmark works lent pop iconicity to the editing of experience. This slender but astute survey will pair a recent effort with five others from

  • Jack Goldstein, A Spotlight, 1972, 16 mm, black-and-white, sound, 8 minutes.

    Tim Griffin

    PROBABLY MOST STRIKING about curator Philipp Kaiser’s incisive retrospective exhibition “Jack Goldstein x 10,000”—originally organized for the Orange County Museum of Art in Newport Beach, California—is the uncanny extent to which the artist, seen from our distance today, still proves able to shape the reception of his work. Indeed, such coding in advance was forthrightly thematized here by Portfolio Performance, 1976–85/2001. In this group of nine large prints, each panel features a single archival image of a piece executed by Goldstein in the years referenced, accompanied by an

  • Rodney Ascher, Room 237, 2012, digital video, color and black-and-white, sound, 102 minutes. Clip from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, 1980.

    Rodney Ascher’s Room 237

    BY SO MANY MEASURES, Room 237 is a diminutive film. Directed by Rodney Ascher (reputed for his 2010 short, S from Hell), it is restricted in scope to the interwoven commentaries of five devotees of Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 classic, The Shining, whose day jobs range from ABC correspondent (Bill Blakemore) and history professor (Geoffrey Cocks) to experimental musician (John Fell Ryan), playwright (Juli Kearns), and professional “conspiracy hunter” (Jay Weidner). The remarks of these aficionados are laid over corresponding clips from Kubrick’s film, in addition to occasional passages from the

  • Emmett Williams, Abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz, 1963–64, offset scroll, 7' 2 1/4“ x 2 1/4”.

    Tim Griffin

    WRITING DURING A VERY DIFFERENT MOMENT IN ART, scholar and critic Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, seeking to construct a genealogy for contemporary conceptual practices, famously asserted that the artist Robert Morris irrevocably altered the reflexive constitution of artmaking after modernism by introducing linguistic theory into his engagements with sculpture. In so doing, Buchloh suggested, the sculptor necessarily extended the parameters of art about itself outward to include the very architectural surfaces and frames that provided any artwork with its physical syntax and, for later generations, the

  • Ridley Scott, Blade Runner, 1982, 35 mm, color, 117 minutes. Rachael (Sean Young).

    Tim Griffin on art and artifical life

    CLASSIC WITHIN THE GENRE of science fiction is the figure of the replicant, or android—a wholly synthetic being who is nevertheless, for all immediate intents and purposes, distinctly human, possessing the capacity for emotion and memory, and even for a kind of personal evolution while navigating the ever-shifting terrain of lived experience. And yet more definitive of this figure, within the narrative paradigms of science fiction, is how he or she is nearly always subjected to a melancholic twist of fate that introduces an irreparable fissure between engineered and organic worlds. At some

  • Ger van Elk, The Well Polished Floor Sculpture, 1969–80/2010, polished floor. Installation view, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 2010. Photo: Hogers & Versluys.

    Tim Griffin

    THE TEMPORALITY OF ART’S DISPLAY has always been in dialogue with that of the surrounding culture, and, more acutely, with that of commerce and its cycles of production and consumption. If, for example, during the workers’ reform movements of the 1800s the great expositions saw an extension of exhibition hours to make it possible for popular audiences to visit after the factory day shift, by the end of the nineteenth century encyclopedic institutions such as New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art would be attuned to shoppers’ attention spans. (When people visited either the encyclopedic museum

  • Gianni Colombo, Spazio elastico (Elastic Space), 1967, fluorescent elastic bands, electric engines, Wood’s lamp. Installation view, Central Pavilion, Venice. From “ILLUMInations.”


    AMONG THE MORE PUZZLING PREOCCUPATIONS of dialogues around art during the past five years has been “the contemporary,” a seemingly self-evident description that, to date, has operated largely in reverse—that has been put forward, in other words, as a meaningful denomination and subject of inquiry in advance of any actual, deductive relationship to the surrounding world. The hope, it would seem, is that the term employed by itself, and evocatively, will help tease out some general understanding of the conditions for artmaking and its reception today. Yet, unlikely as this might be, the

  • William Leavitt, Spectral Analysis, 1977/2010, sofa, starburst light fixture, end table, television with DVD of rotating prism, wooden wall, curtain panel, six ceiling-mounted theatrical lights with gels, recorded highway-traffic sounds, dimensions variable.

    William Leavitt

    IT MUST HAVE BEEN A THRILL when poststructuralism hit the scene in Los Angeles in the early 1970s: Hardly a picture, it seems, could pass through an artist’s studio without a new kind of caption being affixed, totally altering that image’s sense. For In Search of the Miraculous (One Night in Los Angeles), 1973, Bas Jan Ader endowed dim snapshots with romantic grace, scribbling snatches of song lyrics at their bases. Five years later, in his series “Blasted Allegories,” John Baldessari paired snapshots of televised imagery with single words, prompting (by making, for example, angst seem like

  • Matt Mullican, Untitled (Try and Beat This Mars), 1974, collage on paper, 8 3/4 x 11".

    Matt Mullican

    While other artists during the 1970s were busy exploring how media imagery marks our distance from the world, Matt Mullican was considering the ways such representations are inevitably part of it.

    While other artists during the 1970s were busy exploring how media imagery marks our distance from the world—to use the parlance of the Pictures generation—Matt Mullican was considering the ways such representations are inevitably part of it. In fact, he decided to become a representation himself, regularly performing under hypnosis so that the often arbitrary conventions by which we evaluate experience became all the more apparent. As this retrospective seeks to organize nearly four decades of work that delves so deeply into the question of how we organize

  • Werner Herzog, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, 2010, color HD video, 95 minutes. Production still. Foreground: Werner Herzog. Photo: Mark Valesella.

    Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams

    WHAT WOULD TRON LOOK LIKE in a carbon-dioxide-filled IMAX theater, with a digitized Jeff Bridges hovering above the steep vertebrae of seats buried in ancient snowfalls of calcified crystal? The question is never asked outright in Werner Herzog’s foray into 3-D moviemaking, Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010). But such petrified futures come to mind the moment viewers put on oversize, battery-powered glasses and then, in the opening scene, find themselves—instead of having to dodge a glowing Frisbee or the flailing limbs of the Kraken—greeted by an idyllic vineyard whose protruding tree