Diary

  • Picture This

    A few days into rehearsals for Tino Sehgal’s Institute of Contemporary Arts show—which took place in the galleries, with staff and invited guests permitted a sneak preview—it was clear that not everyone appreciates the Berlin-based artist’s deployment of dancing, singing, and chattering humans (and nothing else) as art. Sehgal’s works, which seek to embody a categorical shift away from object-based art production, are never photographed or otherwise documented and are usually unencumbered by wall labels. This contributes to a certain mystique, but can also sow confusion. Unexpectedly

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  • Gun Shy

    In 1971, a performance with a gun helped secure Chris Burden’s status as an art-world legend. Now, more than three decades later, it seems another performance involving a firearm may have been a central factor in the abrupt retirements of Burden and his wife, sculptor Nancy Rubins, from the faculty of UCLA’s Department of Art.

    Rumors began to percolate before Christmas, and there has been increasing chatter on art blogs since then, but little official information has emerged about the situation—all the parties have kept quiet on the specifics of the performance and its relationship to the

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  • Grand Opening

    My Saturday night in Chelsea started at an unfashionably early 6:15 when I strolled in to the (at that point) subdued reception for Laylah Ali’s second show at 303 Gallery. It’s another collection of small-scale gouaches on paper, though many are now half-length portraits of individual “Types”—as she calls the latest incarnation of her bubble-headed protagonists—seemingly excerpted from the stealthily violent vignettes, evoking schoolyard bullying or race-motivated attacks, with which she made her name. Ali has sublimated the cruelty even further here; it’s evident only in the small

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  • Quality Time

    John Lurie's sardine-packed opening at Roebling Hall on far West 26th Street was a Mudd Club flashback so intense that Steve Buscemi went unnoticed by everyone including his own wife, Jo Andres, whom he had lost in the crush at the door. Figures from every period of Lurie's professional life—from Lounge Lizard, to Jarmusch star, to filmmaker—came together to support his new life as an art-on-paper man. Musicians (Eric Sanko, Pat Place, and Connie Berg) rubbed elbows with scenesters (Chris Parker and Maripol) and artists (Tom Otterness and James Nares, who said that since Lurie had

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  • Bottoms Up

    A word about readings: Unless the author is a close friend, I avoid them like the Meatpacking district on Saturday night. The tawdry, awkward venues, the injurious scholastic chairs, the fake solemnity, the nervous laughs, the tucked-in torpor of the audience: The whole scene generally strikes me as less a promotion of the writer’s work than a cheap dramatization of the debasement of literature in contemporary America, a Spinal Tap for poets, if you will. Which is why it was quite a bit more than a “refreshing surprise” to attend a reading by LA’s post-punk Jean Genet, Dennis Cooper, at the new

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  • Leisure Class

    I’d been sick in bed with a cold and was excited to get out of my houseclothes, so I agreed to take the baton from my colleague Peter Plagens and check out two more “TimesTalks”: Art Spiegelman (The Graphic Novel’s Unlikely Hero) was chatted up by former New York Times Book Review editor Charles McGrath; and Rem Koolhaas (The Prophet of a New Modern Architecture) was interviewed, or, rather, prompted by the paper’s architecture critic, Nicolai Ouroussoff. The discussions were set up like Charlie Rose-ish “conversations” in front of “TimesTalks” signage and videotaped with a flower arrangement

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  • Gray Days

    As with a lot of other New York liberals, my love/hate relationship with the New York Times has recently drifted toward active dislike. This discontent has nothing to do with the malfeasances of Jayson Blair, Rick Bragg or Howell Raines—it has to do with the fact that dull, over-considered centrism just pisses me off these days. I mean, I used to find the Times's ultramild leftism reassuring, but—given the current occupant of the White House and his dangerous follies—I now find it primly beside the point. Yeah, I know it's at least partly irrational, and for better or worse the

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  • Party Monster

    “Useless Man,” an exhibition devoted to the late Leigh Bowery— featuring two films by Charles Atlas of the six-foot-six Bowery madly cavorting and numerous photographs by Fergus Greer, capturing his moods, whimsies, and full-body rubber outfits—opens at Perry Rubenstein in Chelsea. Definitely looks like an up-note for the coming season, given the rather staid and predictable offerings in New York lately. Bowery, legendary avant-garde drag queen, club diva, Lucian Freud model, and lead performer in the groovy beyond-underground band Minty, went to his great reward on December 31, 1994;

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  • Union Mike

    Lancashire's greatest auteur took to the stage to meet the public after a screening of his latest, the almost universally praised Vera Drake. His Q-and-A session at the National Film Theatre was ably set in motion by the British Film Institute's Sandra Hebron, who had selected the movie to open her acclaimed London Film Festival last October. In print, Mike Leigh can come across as a grumpy old man, verging, in his invectives against the Hollywoodization of cinema (a disease, in his view), on the sanctimonious. In person—and before an audience of informed and adoring cinephiles—he is

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  • Philadelphia Story

    Located well off the beaten track on a sleepy residential street on Philadelphia’s Main Line, the Barnes Foundation contains dozens of Impressionist and modernist masterpieces that eclipse the proudest holdings of many a big-city museum. It’s remote enough and allows so few visitors (by appointment only) that you need a car and a serious advance plan to get inside, and once there, you'll find it unprofessionally maintained and lacking in amenities. But it's as magical and odd as it is because Albert Barnes, an irascible patent-medicine millionaire, took a page from Isabella Stewart Gardner’s

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  • Professional Grade

    Art Basel Miami Beach déjà vu was inevitable at Columbia University’s MFA Open Studios on Sunday, as a flood of dealers and curators—even collectors—journeyed to the far Upper West Side in search of the next crop of bright young things. The fashionably interdisciplinary program has a who’s-who list of faculty (Kara Walker, Rirkrit Tiravanija) and consistently produces successful artists—this year’s Whitney Biennial, which featured alums David Altmejd, Sue de Beer, Banks Violette, and Barnaby Furnas, was practically a class reunion. So interest in the annual sneak peak runs high, to put it

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  • Shill Bill

    Daring to question the Weinstein brothers of Miramax seems the very definition of leading with one’s chin. Little wonder, then, that when the fearsome moguls of American independent film agreed to be interviewed at MoMA last Thursday night, they chose an interlocutor with chin to spare—the prognathous prince of pulp cinema, Quentin Tarantino. The occasion was the studio’s twenty-fifth anniversary, to be celebrated over the coming months with the screening of fifty Miramax films (including Reservoir Dogs, shown after the discussion), fifteen of which will be donated to MoMA’s film archive.

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