PRINT Summer 1998


Peter Halley

Peter Halley is an artist and publisher of Index magazine. A retrospective of his work, “Peter Halley: Painting as Sociogram, 1981-1987,” was recently held at Kitakyushu Municipal Museum in Japan. His prints were recently on view in “New Concepts in Printmaking I” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.


    The show of the year, if not the decade. Scher turns a set of themes—surveillance, interactivity, installation—into an amazing experience of light, time, and space. Funny, awesome, scary—or, as she puts it, “If this is a smart room, how come I’m tripping on all this stuff?” This installation should be permanent.


    Mosset may not be new, but he’s always current. My favorite work is an 18-foot-long pink monochrome from ’86 that’s both bold and beautiful. A soixante-huitard, he was splitting his time between the US and Europe well before it was fashionable. Moisset established the motorcycle as the ideal transport for the nomadic artist and has constantly supported other artists, helping arrange shows for young Americans in Europe. And now this master of the post-’60s sublime has finally settled down in Tucson. Well, Robert Smithson always recommended the desert.


    While we’re on the subject of nature: the Adirondack mountain region—all six million acres—is empty, beautiful, and cheap. The landscape is like none other in the Northeast: it seems positively Scandinavian. Even in August, the ground radiates a coolness trapped from the previous subarctic winter. It’s more fashionable to schlepp out to Montana or Wyoming, but if you’ve been on a plane lately, you know it’s much more relaxing to cruise 4 1/2 hours upstate. And with all the kitschy food concessions along the way, you can even pretend you’re stuck in an airport.


    Need something to read while you’re up in the Adirondacks? Galileo, Courtier describes the career of the Renaissance man not as a scientist but as a courtier who made his way by creating technological baubles for the powerful. Galileo presented his discovery of the moons of Jupiter to the Medici family under the title of the “Medici Stars.” Upward mobility within the system of aristocratic patronage, not cash, was what mattered, and above all science had to be amusing. Biagioli’s book reminds us that today’s art world is more the product of this system than of market capitalism.


    The enthusiastic response to this innovative Japanese designer’s exhibition proves that modernity is back. But Kuramata’s modernity—like much of what has been done in Japan since the ’60s—is playful, perverse, full of historical innuendo, exuberantly experimental, even anthropomorphic. The Kuramata show, seen in a New York context rife with machine-age moralism, creates a touchstone for what modernity can be (and has been elsewhere).


    Modernity’s back in music too. WE are in tune with the sonic themes of post-Web life. The music’s emotionally resonant—almost spiritual—but it switches gears just when you least expect it. And it’s all done with sampling and turntables—the ultimate in musical appropriation. Like others in the electronica/ambient/illbient movement, WE hail from Brooklyn: a logical provenance, given the borough’s kaleidoscope of Arab, Caribbean, and African-American sounds.


    In the most geriocratic of professions, architects in their midforties are still at the outset of their careers. My favorite among this generation is Chatham (although this alternates every week with my admiration for Deborah Berke). Like Frank Gehry at the beginning of his career, Chatham moves easily between low—budget commercial projects and test—tube residential commissions. Iconoclastic and irreverent, he designed restaurants for Brian McNally in the ’80s (including the classic Jerry’s in SoHo), built the only brutalist house in Seaside, Florida, and was commissioned by Martha Stewart to handle an unrealized renovation of her Gordon Bunschaft house on Long Island. He’s designed an eighteenth-century-inspired house in Nevis as well as a stunning corrugated—steel house in Mississippi. Chatham’s use of materials is very pop, and he creates kinetic plans of social movement with Mozart-like ease. Watch out.


    I happen to live in TriBeCa, the center of the universe for mediocre restaurants owned by entrepreneurs intent on luring the city’s white—collar worker ants. But for a really tasty bite around here, try Franklin Station Cafe, where the husband (French) and wife (Malaysian) proprietors serve the freshest French—Malay “bistro” food in a comfortable place with large windows overlooking the street. Arty slides of faraway places are sometimes projected on a screen over the door. And Edith Piaf can often be heard above the mealtime chatter. The spicy shrimp and noodles with French bread accompanied by a papaya shake is guaranteed to cure the common cold.


    Richard Gluckman’s interior is startlingly monumental and sexy, with all the clothes hidden behind monolithic black slabs. And there are no men’s and women’s sections, just rack after rack of the most beautiful fabrics, colors, and cuts ever.


    The most beautiful and poetic movie I’ve seen in years. The closest analogy is to the early Fellini of La Strada, in which the everyday drama of people at the fringe is transformed into an imagistic reverie. Harmony Korine deserves credit not just for making a beautiful film, but for taking the first small step in breaking the stranglehold Hollywood—style narrative has had on our minds since the onset of Spielberg’s and Lucas’ reign.