COLUMNS

  • Babies on Board

    “Make It Now” at SculptureCenter presents new work from twenty-eight New York sculptors in its crumbly, Maya Lin-rehabbed factory space near the dead end of Purves Street in Long Island City. The curatorial premise as written was rather waffly—with so many different artists involved, all-purpose platitudes like “belief” and “politics” had to suffice (in the spirit of inclusiveness). But the three curators (Mary Ceruti, Anthony Huberman, and Franklin Sirmans) made good on their promise to bring together artists at different moments in their careers. The young and surging are well represented:

    Read more
  • Iceland Hopping

    Ever fancied having a Lawrence Weiner tattooed on your bottom? The young Roman artist Micol Assaël has done just that, and it reads “sink or swim / your ass gets wet / there is no excuse.” I know this because both Assaël and Weiner were in Iceland for the opening of the Reykjavík Arts Festival and she asked him to authenticate the work—which he duly did with a kiss. This marriage of trendy young artist and gray-bearded conceptualist reflects the festival as a whole, which contains a major exhibition of the late Swiss-German artist Dieter Roth and, complementing it, an extensive program of

    Read more
  • Role Call

    My favorite thing about the Armory Show this year was the zone of discomfort surrounding the Bellwether booth. It was a sturdy little pale-wood room stocked with clunky, brightly painted fake carbines, and sabers. Behind the counter stood artist Allison Smith, looking earnest and a little awkward, wearing a hat out of a Mathew Brady portrait and a homemade uniform of off-white cloth with brass buttons: A general’s pajamas? Smith’s work treats Americana with a combination of critique and fetishization, and while I’ve preferred other examples—her creepy Zouave doll at “Greater New York 2005,”

    Read more
  • Thank You, Sir

    Protesting Sotheby’s new anti-union contractor, picketing maintenance workers booed everyone entering the Contemporary Art evening auction on Tuesday night. I had to walk through the “boo” gauntlet (though the union had my sympathy). As did Tobias Meyer, the auctioneer, who I first spotted emerging from a towncar, in black tie with his maestro-like slicked-back hairdo. A sea of hearty booers parted for him to enter the building, quite fabulously. The scene couldn’t have been set more perfectly—reduced to this crass, classic conflict between Us and Them. Workers and owners. Artists and

    Read more
  • Group Effort

    “COULD WE HAVE SOME QUIET IN HERE, PLEASE?” The commandingly loud voice belonged to Andrea Fraser, whose performance May I Help You? had been in more or less continual progress for four hours, ever since the new gallery Orchard, founded by artist Gareth James and eleven cohorts including Moyra Davey, Fraser, Christian Philipp-Müller, R. H. Quaytman, Karin Schneider, and Bennett Simpson, opened its doors to the public at 1:00pm on Wednesday, May 11. Originally devised in 1991 for a show at the late Colin de Land’s American Fine Arts, Fraser’s wickedly funny monologue—in which she seems to

    Read more
  • Capitol Infusion

    Why bother plying your wares at yet another art fair when you can simply fly your best customers in for a gallery visit? That was the novel idea behind BERLIN 2005. Twenty-one Berlin galleries—from Arndt & Partner to Galerie Barbara Weiss—invited their favorite collectors and curators for a long weekend of openings, dinners, and parties in “the city where today's most unique art is created.”

    Since Sunday was the sixtieth anniversary of VE Day, World War II was on many minds, yet the weekend’s art extravaganza recalled the 1948-49 Luftbrücke (airlift), bringing collectors instead of

    Read more
  • Oys ‘R’ Us

    Fresh from a productive (weepy) session on the old analyst’s couch, I schlepped across Central Park to check out “Wild Things: The Art of Maurice Sendak,” at The Jewish Museum, fully braced for even more primal soup to be stirred up. The legendary auteur of characters such as Little Bear and Really Rosie, and the 1963 book Where the Wild Things Are (yes, inspired by his Jewish relatives in Brooklyn) has a hotline to my kishkes. And who knew these kiddie classics were actually generated from post-shtetl Jewish angst? Add a performance of Brundibar (1938), a Holocaust-era children’s opera recently

    Read more
  • Outside the Box

    Low expectations have been at least partly responsible for some of my happiest experiences in art, and they didn't let me down on Saturday afternoon when I dropped into Parker's Box, in Williamsburg, for what the invitation had billed as a weekend “international art market.” I expected the sale of something, I guess, but all I found was a bunch of artists sitting around talking at an art fair that was nothing short of soulful. The artist-run gallery has survived on Williamsburg's Grand Street for five years. To celebrate, directors Alun Williams and Allyson Spellacy opened their doors to a

    Read more
  • Remaking Haye

    I accompanied Michele Maccarone to the Julie Mehretu drawings show at. . . what’s no longer the Project, on West 57th Street. One consequence of the ugly legal battle between Swiss businessman and mega-collector Jean-Pierre Lehmann and dealer Christian Haye—an internecine quarrel over some Mehretu paintings that Lehmann had wanted but didn’t get—was that the young dealer had to relinquish the name of the maverick gallery he founded in Harlem in 1998, and thereafter expanded with a Los Angeles branch in 2001. So he’s dubbed the “new” enterprise Projectile; a prominent “X” partially

    Read more
  • Given Cake

    An announcement for “What Now? Art Practice and Public Institutions Today,” a panel discussion held last week at the Guggenheim Museum, listed several promising questions to be discussed: Do today’s artists impact institutions in the same way that artists of the ‘60s and ‘70s did? How can institutions balance artistic ambition with limited production budgets? Where can we find new models for public institutions? The discussion was held to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Etant donnes, the French-American Fund for Contemporary Art, a grant-giving organization that has sponsored over 100

    Read more
  • Gang Gang of Four

    Gang Gang Dance, a percussive quartet featuring young old-hand musicians (from avant-metal bands Cranium and Angel Blood) and young old-hand artists (from the stables of Kenny Schachter, American Fine Arts, and Rivington Arms), has been together more than five years but is at a peak right now with its tribal, screechy kind of energetic funk. The band’s London debut took place in the basement of a pub at 2am on the Saturday night of last October’s Frieze Art Fair. I was drunk, and the night stays with me as a jumbled dream of transatlantic assimilation. Band members Lizzi Bougatsos, Brian DeGraw,

    Read more
  • Unquiet Americans

    The downtown underground resurfaced in Manhattan last Wednesday, though (sigh) only for the night. At 192 Books in Chelsea, the line between fact and fable grew dim as Harry Mathews read the sex scenes from My Life in CIA (Dalkey Archive Press), his new autobiographical novel.

    Mathews, author of Cigarettes and other gems, has been a part-time Parisian for many years—long enough to have been suspected of being an American agent by the French intelligentsia. His new book chronicles his life in the 1970s as a frog version of the unwitting spy in Graham Greene's Our Man in Havana. Arriving at

    Read more