Critics’ Picks

David Robbins, Lift, 2007, still from a color video, 20 minutes 4 seconds.

David Robbins, Lift, 2007, still from a color video, 20 minutes 4 seconds.


“Practice, Practice, Practice”

Lora Reynolds Gallery
360 Nueces Suite 50
May 2–June 27, 2009

In “Practice, Practice, Practice,” artist Michael Smith and curator Jay Sanders reformulate the comedic punch line into a unit: the number three, a pedagogy shared by Jasper Johns (“Take an object. Do something to it. Do something else to it”). The abruptness of these ideas betrays the exhibition’s second premise: that artistic practice is tantamount to banal repetition punctuated by accidentally interesting moments, enfeebling the modernist myth of making. Wedged into the gallery space are works by twenty-six artists that explore comedic processes––feigned expertise, futility, zeal, consonance, and disjunction––as they overlay with contemporary artmaking. When clustered together, videos by Shana Moulton, David Robbins, and Tony Tasset appear to share Smith’s longtime preoccupation with myths of personal betterment; particularly Robbins’s Lift, 2007, an extended interview with his Wisconsin personal trainer. One might argue that the preponderance of video in this exhibition implicates the viewer in a hedonistic web of aspiration and inertia, watching and chuckling while using rote performance as an antidote to a rote reality. Other works such as Aura Rosenberg’s series “Head Shots,” 1995, which consists of photographs of men’s faces during masturbatory orgasms, further trivialize the idea of the glamorous public persona and position the viewer as an omniscient foil to buffoonery. In allowing their audience to play the straight man to these feverish and laconic pieces, Smith and Sanders indicate that an artist’s or curator’s method does not unfold into time or space; instead, it metastasizes and waits for the nearest precipitous cutoff or unceremonious stop.