Critics’ Picks

Dave Muller, Trade, 2000.

Dave Muller, Trade, 2000.

San Francisco

The Artist's World

The Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts
360 Kansas Street
September 12–November 21, 2001

The art world, goes the cliché, with its voguish receptions and insider lingo, is a tiny place. The world of artists, one might say, is possibly even smaller: a stew of creative juices, petty jealousies, aesthetic triumphs, sales coups, and egos. Ralph Rugoff's curatorial ode to this world is packed with endearingly funky, frequently humorous, and often self-deprecating references to all that surrounds the process of making art. Paul McCarthy’s video Painter, 1995, rolls all the issues into one de Kooning–like tantrum-throwing egotist, while Jim Shaw's dream drawings reveal how the art milieu seeps into the unconscious. Making art taints the soul of Guy Richards Smit, who turns his discomforts into acidic stand-up comedy, but Dave Muller is more pragmatic. He takes back art-world machinations with his drawings and giveaway T-shirts. These pieces and others by Bob & Roberta Smith, Annika Ström, and Michael Smith and Joshua White may initially seem to be art about art, but in reality they describe a state of being. They are observations about a profession. Anyone interested in the field would do well to take note.