COLUMNS

  • 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

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  • Cat's Meow

    Catholic No. 1: Cats—a charming volume put out by Evil Twin Publications and D.A.P. (“with assistance from: VICE”) that celebrates feline grace, beauty, and naughtiness—arrives in the mail. “This is actually Catholic v1.5,” editors Jesse Pearson and Glynnis McDaris explain. “This sounds nerdy but it’s true. The first Catholic was published in an edition of 1,000 handmade zines to accompany a group show we curated in November, 2003, at Guild and Greyshkul in New York.” The book contains contributions from over 100 artists and writers, including Roe Etheridge, Richard Kern, Steve and

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  • LA Residential

    Behind the pale gray facade of a newly built faux-Neutra home at 1482 Inverness Drive in Pasadena, a disc of shimmery transparent plastic—one can’t help thinking a giant LifeSaver—sways ever so slightly on a string. The disc shatters a blinding beam of narrowly focused light, scattering it into multiple eclipses and self-devouring ovals. Elsewhere, a cylinder of what looks like smoky, nicotine-laden glass—dichroic, one expert labeled it—creates modulated, rainbowy effects. A giant ball rotates over a very functional-looking kitchen, casting pentacles on the walls. And then

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  • Fab or Flab?

    Although it’s been a few years since I last saw Mark Morris, I felt reasonably sure what to expect from the opening night of his five-day engagement at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Morris’s rich choreography, astonishing musical sensitivity, ever-expanding vocabulary of sexual entendres, roving eye for other cultures, and performative bravado have all remained constant since the very beginning of his career—even if the fizziness of his work seems to have flattened somewhat. It’s hard to say if this mellowing-out is due to the fact that Morris has (a) won his very own private culture war

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  • Personal and Political

    Something unexpected happened in the closing minutes of the memorial for Leon Golub in the Great Hall at Cooper Union last Sunday: Robert Storr, speaking rapidly and with increasing urgency, turned a pointedly secular tribute into an almost evangelical call for art-world solidarity with Golub's viscerally political vision, rousing the standing-room-only gathering to thunderous, cheering applause.

    Golub died last August, at eighty-two. Like his wife of fifty-three years, Nancy Spero, he stuck to his Old Leftie guns throughout his life, expressing his rage against one state machine after another

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  • American Friends

    After stopping in New York, Boston, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago, we arrive in Minneapolis. I'm traveling with curators Gunnar Kvaran and Hans-Ulrich Obrist to map “The Uncertain States of America,” a project that will result in a

    show of emerging American artists in Oslo in the fall. We’ve collected dossiers from almost a thousand prospective contributors and have glimpsed an artistic landscape that we really hadn’t known anything about. Armed with lists of recommendations from friends across the nation, we continue our exploration in the galleries, studios, cafés

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  • Crumb's Bums

    “You want me to cover a T-shirt launch?” I said incredulously to my editor. Indeed. So I hauled my art-critic carcass over to the Stella McCartney boutique on far West Fourteenth Street to attend a party celebrating underground-comics legend R. Crumb’s collaboration with the designer: His-and-hers T-shirts adorned with pictures that express his befuddlement over the passions ignited by high fashion. McCartney has been a fan for some time and has already hosted a glam party in London for the scrawny, bespectacled poet of lovely buxom ladies with meaty thighs and big butts. My friend Hanna Liden

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  • Less Is More

    VB55, at Berlin's Neue Nationalgalerie, was Vanessa Beecroft's biggest work to date: One hundred women, aged eighteen to sixty-five—coached by a psychologist, fed vegetarian snacks, and wearing nothing more than skin-toned pantyhose and a sheer coat of almond oil—standing around in Mies van der Rohe's spectacular glass box. Instead of her usual bevy of models, Beecroft cast ordinary-looking locals with red, blonde and black hair—the colors of the German flag and of her grandparents' and parents' hair. For at least one journalist at the press conference, Beecroft's combination of

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  • Tweedy Set

    How to regain your writer’s pride as you’re being shunted to the back of a two-block line outside the New York Public Library? Simple. Pass by a similarly shunted rock star (David Byrne), a longtime Rolling Stone editor (David Fricke), and a downtown DJ/theorist manqué (DJ Spooky) on the way. This spottily luminescent throng was assembled to hear Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy and Stanford law professor and intellectual property activist Lawrence Lessig discuss copyrights, copywrongs, and their effects on contemporary creativity. Moderated by Wired contributing editor and digital culture writer

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  • Rising Sons

    It fascinates this Jew to see another culture still trying to digest WWII. Brilliantly curated by Takashi Murakami, “Little Boy” is a hi-lo survey of “otaku” (pop-culture fanaticism) and its relationship to the Japanese avant-garde.” Artist/otaku impresario/Vuitton handbag doodler Murakami chose “Little Boy”—the code name for the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima—to locate “these new cultural forms in the trauma and generational aftershock” of the postwar period. It’s a Japanese “loser art” meets Pop meets Shoah moment. Indeed, there is more to Hello Kitty than I thought.

    “We’ve only seen

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  • Selective Memories

    The lurid green cover of Art Since 1900: Modernism, Antimodernism, Postmodernism has been haunting art historians since the end of last week. A formidable new textbook, with over a hundred short essays that add up to nothing less than a “comprehensive history of the art of the twentieth century” (as publishers Thames & Hudson put it), is set to strain our bookshelves. The four October heavies—Rosalind Krauss, Hal Foster, Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, and Yve-Alain Bois—arrived in Britain to promote their tome, first at the Association of Art Historians’ annual shindig in Bristol and then in

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  • Praxis of Evil

    All told, Cambridge’s summit on evil last Sunday turned out to be good. Budding gnostic and MIT graduate student Ross Cisneros, one of six candidates in the institute’s visual-art program, had convened “Regarding Evil,” bringing together a “wise clergy” (in his words) that included natty artists Ronald Jones and Julian Laverdiere; bespectacled political scientist Jodi Dean; black-clad, snuff-taking, muscle-bound musician, Church of Satan associate, and Charles Manson friend Boyd Rice; and the presence of Manson himself (in the form of two incoherent missives written from prison). Matthew Barney

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