Tim Griffin

  • Larry Johnson, Copier (detail), 2007, color photograph, 55 1⁄2 x 65 1⁄2".

    Artifacts

    ONE DOESN’T HAVE TO LOOK VERY HARD to find a common thread running through the various texts in the current issue. Regardless of topic, it seems, nearly every contributor gravitates, sooner or later, to the same concern: that we are in the midst of an epochal shift the consequences of which are obviously powerful yet dauntingly unclear. “Something is falling apart right now, and not only in the art world,” says this summer’s Venice Biennale curator, Daniel Birnbaum, speaking to the ways in which our volatile social and economic context risks making any cultural endeavor seem out of tune, if not

  • The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, 1999–, stills from a TV show on Comedy Central, March 4, 2009.

    DOUBLE ENTENDRE

    IT IS AMONG the most remarkable exercises in deconstruction to appear on mainstream television in recent memory: an eight-minute segment of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, aired last month, in which predictions and proclamations made by the punditry of the cable business channel CNBC during the past two years are juxtaposed with short texts describing events as they actually unfolded to create today’s global financial crisis. “The market just won’t quit, no matter how poorly actual companies are doing,” quips Mad Money host Jim Cramer in February 2008, unaware that the Dow will fall to half

  • Illustration from Cory Arcangel’s essay “On Compression,” from his book A Couple Thousand Short Films about Glenn Gould (Film and Video Umbrella, 2008).

    USES AND ABUSES

    AS THIS MAGAZINE continues to chart the rapidly changing coordinates for art within the broader landscape of contemporary culture, two recent experiences—a pair of discussions with students in graduate art programs, one of which took place in Rotterdam, as part of a symposium on art criticism at the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, and the other at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles—have laid greatest claim on my attention. However distinct their European and American contexts, both groups of artists seemed wary about the art-world system as it stood before

  • Frank O’Hara in his home, New York, 1965. Photo: Mario Schifano. Courtesy the Estate of Joe LeSueur.

    IN PERSON

    INEVITABLY, THE IMAGE THAT ADORNS the cover of this month’s issue will elicit from readers a searching double take: The amber vastness and big sky of the American West are immediately recognizable, with the panoramic terrain’s sun-scorched sand, silt, and shale having provided a stage for epic characters in cinema for nearly a century. And yet the protagonist here is playing his leading role in this romantic fantasy all wrong, having eschewed the commanding poses of so many outlaws and cattlemen for a quietly distracted (if not befuddled) look backward from his horse—or pony, as it happens.

  • Leandro Erlich, Window and Ladder—Too Late for Help, 2008, metal, ladder, fiberglass, brick, 14' 9“ x 5' 3”.

    NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION

    DELVING INTO ART HISTORIAN Christopher S. Wood’s consideration of legendary Renaissance scholar Michael Baxandall in the current issue, readers may have the sneaking suspicion that they are being directly and personally addressed by the text’s first line: “Money is very important in the history of art.”

    For while those droll words are, in fact, merely cited by Wood—he is, of course, quoting from Baxandall’s 1972 book Painting and Experience in Fifteenth-Century Italy—and speak to things at a historical distance, their fundamental point, and intended implications, are entirely pertinent

  •  Matt Mullican, Untitled, 1975–76, ink on paper, 8 1⁄2 x 11".

    WHAT IS THAT PERSON THINKING?: AN INTERVIEW WITH MATT MULLICAN

    WHEN MATT MULLICAN is invited to lecture on his artistic practice to a large group at a museum or school, he typically begins his presentation by affixing a number of images to the wall behind him: first, a photograph of one person, followed by a comic-strip rendering of a second person; then two stick figures (one framed, the other unframed), an abstract sign for the human body (akin to those found at crosswalks or on bathroom doors) and a similarly spare icon denoting a head and chest (think of the cropped international symbol for customs officers at airports); and finally, a circle, a square,

  • SNAPSHOT OF 2008

    FOR A FEW DAYS in mid-September, it was acute: the feeling that, however little the physical contours of the world might have changed, its form now was nevertheless imbued with a kind of virtuality. How else to describe the experience of, say, a city like New York, a place seemingly intact—even prospering wildly, to judge from the ubiquitous construction cranes accenting the skyline—while headlines blared news of a financial collapse portending substantive shifts in the character (to say nothing of the underlying organization and perception) of everyday life? To walk among the glistening

  • A Dymaxion Car, designed by R. Buckminster Fuller, in front of the US Capitol, Washington, DC, July 20, 1934. Photo: Corbis

    TOMORROW NO MORE

    IN THE UNITED STATES over the past three months, it has become abundantly clear that the points for debate between the two major political parties’ presidential candidates are not nuanced matters of policy but rather the most basic tenets of the country’s social and economic infrastructure. Yet most remarkable about this particular election season is that such attention to the very contours of civil society has been prompted less by abstract ideology than by concrete circumstance. The credit crisis, for instance, required government intervention on a scale unseen since the Depression, forcing

  • CHANTAL AKERMAN: CHILDREN’S BOOK

    A CRUCIAL TERM FOR CHANTAL AKERMAN is that of evocation, which she regularly uses to describe the thinking underlying her various projects. Speaking, for instance, about her powerful 1999 documentary, Sud (South)—for which the artist and filmmaker traveled through a swath of rural America stretching from Georgia to East Texas, where she found herself confronted by the recent, horrible lynching of James Byrd Jr.—she observed: “[The film is] neither an anatomy of James Byrd’s murder nor the autopsy of a black man lynched by three young white males, but more an evocation of how this event fits into

  • Mad Men, 2007–, still from a TV show on AMC.

    ART AND AGENCY

    AMONG THE MORE INTRIGUING SCENES in the AMC television series Mad Men, a drama set in the offices of a prominent New York advertising company at the beginning of the 1960s, is a sequence in which a few of the firm’s executives sit down to view freshly minted commercials for the day’s presidential candidates, Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy. The contrast in styles couldn’t be starker: Nixon sits stolidly at his desk, enumerating his qualifications in clear terms before somberly conveying his views on what he considers the nation’s most pressing issues; Kennedy, by contrast, appears in his

  • Opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games, Beijing, August 8, 2008. Photo: Doug Mills/New York Times/Redux.

    Mirror Image

    A COROLLARY of Marshall McLuhan’s famous adage that art is a “radar environment” uniquely suited for making clear the effects of media in culture is his lesser known analogy between those effects and the sound waves that become visible along an airplane’s wings just before it breaks the sound barrier. “The sudden visibility of sound just as sound ends,” McLuhan writes in Understanding Media (1964), “is an apt instance of that great pattern of being that reveals new and opposite forms just as earlier forms reach their peak performance.” And so, he argues, the fragmentary quality of mechanization

  • Eva Hesse, H+H, 1965, varnish, ink, gouache, enamel, cord, metal, wood, papier-mâché, unknown modeling compound, particle board, and wood, 27 x 27 1/2 x 4 7/8".

    “Oranges and Sardines: Conversations on Abstract Painting”

    For this exhibition, contemporary artists Mark Grotjahn, Wade Guyton, Mary Heilmann, Amy Sillman, Charline von Heyl, and Christopher Wool pair their own canvases at the Hammer with those of the earlier figures (Klee, De Kooning, Gonzalez-Torres, and Guston among them) who they say influenced them most.

    Few have managed to render the light anxiety of artistic sublimation with such comedic facticity as Frank O’Hara did in his 1957 poem “Why I Am Not a Painter,” a New York School parable in which the sources of one’s inspiration—here, sardines and the color orange—are shown to be always right there in the artwork (and also not). Acknowledging this conundrum, contemporary artists Mark Grotjahn, Wade Guyton, Mary Heilmann, Amy Sillman, Charline von Heyl, and Christopher Wool pair their own canvases at the Hammer with those of the earlier figures (Klee, De Kooning, Gonzalez-Torres,