COLUMNS

  • Rake's Progress

    “Jerry and Roberta hate me and Artforum doesn't know I exist,” Cecily Brown was saying to playwright Tom Stoppard and Artforum senior editor Scott Rothkopf. The three were sharing a rear banquette on the third floor of 5 Ninth, where—despite the winter's first major snowstorm—Larry Gagosian had brought out the troops to toast Brown's opening at his Chelsea gallery.

    The artist was swapping war stories with Stoppard, a surprise guest, sharing tales of the awkward moments that can result from being friendly with critics. Stoppard, who has won (and deserved) just about every top honor the theater

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  • Blonde Ambition

    “Pam: American Icon,” a series of photographs by Sante D’Orazio of sexy-deluxe former Baywatch star and preeminent pop icon Pamela Anderson, opens at Stellan Holm Gallery in Chelsea. Crowded, but slightly mystifying. Velvet ropes. I stand tentatively at the door until some guy in black waves me in, hearing inwardly a not-altogether-agreeable echo of my club-going days. Paparazzi galore, but, with Ms. Anderson a no-show, who are they planning to take pictures of? Cologne art dealer Raphael Jablonka? It’s almost impossible to see the photographs given the unseemly hordes. I did admire Pamela

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  • Conference Crawl

    Art junkets always sound good on paper: the allure of expense-paid travel to some distant metropolis; a conference or fair or biennial to dive into; a crash course in the local art scene; a highly condensed bit of gratuitous tourism. Yet inside this pretty Trojan horse lurk a host of challenges that arise when you spend concentrated blocks of time crowded into minivans alongside other art professionals with whom you might not see eye to eye, to put it mildly. Luckily, last weekend’s SITAC conference defied such uneasy expectations. While the “serious” side of the conference was a real mixed bag,

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  • Art Is a Cabaret

    Who knew that the SITAC conference is the art event in Mexico? The fourth International Symposium on Contemporary Art Theory proved to be a nonstop slew of private viewings and collectors’ parties complementing three long days in which a semiglittering array of art historians, theorists and critics slogged it out via an indefatigable (and often incomprehensible) translator. This year’s theme, chosen by artist Pablo Helguera, the symposium’s director and smooth host, was the relationship of art criticism to art history. Given the euphoric amnesia of most art magazines, this was a well-chosen

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  • Cabin Fever

    I was not overly keen on visiting the opening of “Log Cabin” at Artists Space, because the wind was whooshing and Manhattan was cold, getting colder. There was a terrific scrum at the entrance to the elevator, and I had to wonder if the icy gang upstairs would have their wits about them. If we were to spend the rest of evening muffled in layers, bashing into each other, well, it wouldn’t be much of a party. But it was, actually, a lovely party. Curator Jeffrey Uslip has arrayed a jamboree of visual attack tactics against neocon homophobia and the suppression of contemporary queer lexicons. “It’s

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  • 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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