Critics’ Picks

W.A.G.E., Wo/Manifesto, 2014, poster for their “Wages 4 W.A.G.E. Campaign.”

W.A.G.E., Wo/Manifesto, 2014, poster for their “Wages 4 W.A.G.E. Campaign.”

Los Angeles

“You May Add or Subtract From the Work”

MAK Center for Art and Architecture, Mackey Apartments
1137 South Cochran Avenue
March 23–April 23, 2017

In 1977, artist Christopher D’Arcangelo placed a blank centerfold in the journal of the Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art along with a note suggesting that readers paste the insert to the institute’s walls. Blank would meet blank: The artist exhibiting there at the time was Michael Asher, who, as usual, hung nothing, but instead hired folks to spend their days in the gallery at four bucks an hour. From that historical intersection comes this show’s historicizing axis. Curators Simon Leung and Sébastien Pluot present original scholarship on Asher and D’Arcangelo, including video interviews conducted by Pluot and Dean Inkster with the likes of Benjamin H. D. Buchloh and Lawrence Weiner; vintage ephemera; and copies of Asher’s collected writings, and a 1978 Artists Space catalogue in which D’Arcangelo had his name replaced by blank space. Recent works by Dorit Cypis, Ben Kinmont, Emilie Parendeau, and Silvia Kolbowski each reflect an explicit engagement with one of these influential artists.

Kolbowski’s video Missing Asher, 2017, for instance, relates her hunt for a previous homage to the artist and presents her droopy 1990 brochure of Asher quotes. D’Arcangelo and Asher would likely have appreciated such recursions. In their way, they both insisted that artworks and art history don’t make themselves. D’Arcangelo once exhibited an hourly accounting of his day job refurbishing lofts. Thus, the curators’ prominent placement of the Working Artists and the Greater Economy (W.A.G.E.) poster Wo/Manifesto, 2014, the last line of which reads “W.A.G.E. DEMANDS PAYMENT FOR MAKING THE WORLD MORE INTERESTING.” Clearly, it’s not enough to muse over the variously inequitable “conditions” of “display,” nor to top up the slim honoraria of art workers with the vague benefits of brand recognition. The four dollars an hour paid to Asher’s participants, adjusted for inflation, meets the W.A.G.E. standard for performers. Rare is the artist today who could say the same.