• String Theory

    Daniel Birnbaum on Ilya Kabakov's former studio in Moscow

    “The piece is from '85,” says American critic and Ilya Kabakov expert Amei Wallach. “No, no, it's from '86,” retorts Joseph Backstein, Kabakov's old friend. Both of them should know, but here in the artist's former studio—where the classic work 16 Strings has been reconstructed—all straightforward facts seem to disappear into a thick cloud of Slavic mythology. It's January 30, the day after the opening of Moscow's first contemporary art biennale, and the curators, artists, and critics in town for the show have come here to pay homage. Kabakov built the studio himself in 1968 and lived

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  • Red Alert

    Brian Sholis on “Regarding Terror: The RAF Exhibition” in Berlin

    “We are here to view an art exhibition. We are here for art, not politics,” Klaus Biesenbach said emphatically during his opening remarks at last Friday's private reception for “Regarding Terror: The RAF Exhibition,” the new show at the Kunst-Werke Institute for Contemporary Art (KW). Featuring over fifty artists, “Regarding Terror” bestirs the ghosts of the Red Army Faction, the group of Marxist-Maoist terrorists who hoped to destabilize the West German government and kick off the revolution via a series of targeted arsons, kidnappings, bombings, and shootings that began in 1968 and crescendoed

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  • Rake's Progress

    Linda Yablonsky on Cecily Brown at Gagosian

    “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

    David Rimanelli at Jeff Koons's fiftieth birthday party

    “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

    Alison Gingeras around Mexico City

    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

    Claire Bishop on SITAC in Mexico City

    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

    William Pym on “Log Cabin” at Artists Space

    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

    Martin Herbert on Tino Sehgal at the ICA, London

    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

    Jeffrey Kastner on Chris Burden and Nancy Rubins's departure from UCLA

    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

    Brian Sholis around New York

    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

    Linda Yablonsky around New York

    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

    Andrew Hultkrans on Dennis Cooper at the Accompanied Library

    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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