PRINT December 2000

Bruce Hainley


1 Gary Boas, Starstruck: Photographs from a Fan (Dilettante Press, Los Angeles; Deitch Projects, New York) The intensity of the star moment captured by one of the great fans (a disappearing type) in all its discombobulating glory: the flash blurring vision, deranging time and being (who am I? who are you?). A primer of Boas’s vast collection, edited acutely with Hedi El Kholti, Starstruck intersperses the photos with the author’s carefully redacted reminiscences, showing how quarantined and “handled”—for all the media saturation—celebrity has become. Boas is what Andy Warhol might have been if, instead of aiming for that job in New York, he had stayed put in Pittsburgh with his mother, Julia.

2 Louise Lawler (Metro Pictures, New York; Richard Telles Fine Art, Los Angeles; Editions Assouline, Paris) Lawler’s zany Metro exhibition “floated” rainbow-hued pictures of Warhol’s Silver Clouds at various heights and angles, allowing his shiny farewell to painting and the original to reflect on her own work, in which the sight of art folds a continuing interrogation of the site of art into its objecthood. Her Richard Telles show allowed one to be hypnotized by the shininess of her photos’ surface and their severe boxlike support. It’s a pity more young photographers don’t study Lawler’s witty, contemplative work in its entirety. With Editions Assouline’s publication of An Arrangement of Pictures, surveying much of her career, they no longer have an excuse.

3 Raymond Pettibon (Regen Projects, Los Angeles) Think Proust transported to LA to do a follow-up to the Search, this time as noir graphic novel, a punk roman-fleuve. A Joan Crawford–type stars. She’s in love with a baseball-playing ex-con who spends his days surfing. . .

4 Patricia and Rebecca Field The brilliance of the Fields’ (no relation) costume design for Sex and the City is its accuracy, best reflected in the characters’ fashion mishaps: As much as Carrie and her girlfriends perambulate as exemplars of with-it hipness, each is often seen having a bad clothes day. For all the heaven of Jimmy Choo shoes, Christian Louboutin gold slouch boots and thick, ankle-length knit cardigans, there’s the fabulous thing amiss—a dress weirdly cinched, a skirt too short, a de trop scarf.

5 Stephen Prina, Vinyl II(J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles) Very exciting to have the Getty deign to consider, much less commission, works by contemporary artists, yet despite the generally excellent roster, “Departures” was a dud—save for Prina’s Vinyl II. Museological interrogation and dirge in the guise of a musical meditation on two paintings in the Getty’s collection—one that looks like a de la Tour but isn’t, the other a de la Tour that looks like it’s by somebody else—the referential impact of the film skids gorgeously on the third meaning, the unquantifiable fun of Prina’s bright red jumpsuit, and the elegiac tonalities of his singing voice.

6 Vincent Fecteau (greengrassi, London) After years of what seemed to be an investigation of the erotics of the maquette (and weirdly evocative interiors), Vincent Fecteau abandoned appropriated imagery and shifted scale. Now enlarged to the size of a roomy hatbox, his sculptures resonate with the authority of the real (a walnut shell, a rubber band), showing it to be—paradoxically?—dependent on the precision of ornament and the idiosyncratic poetics of the personal.

7 Maureen Gallace (303 Gallery, New York) Uneasy, luxurious stares at the actual—mysterious little buildings on beaches that are both tough geometric form and self-portrait manqué—as it is transformed by memory. These paintings hold their own against any being made today—by continuing to stare and stare again at the purity of whatever paint is, and paintings are.

8 Molly Nesbit, Their Common Sense (Black Dog Publishing, London) A brave intervention, a moving study of drawing lines and the erotics of abstraction, absence, and Duchamp, Nesbit’s astonishing book, her first since the masterful Atget’s Seven Albums, proves the form and way in which thought is written— the style—can’t be extricated from the manner in which and what it means. Syntax—and flicking with syntax—matters. Blurring of genres and gaming reflect cultural flux and randomness. Gertrude Stein had enough common sense to know this, but I won’t even begin to get into how many people don’t.

9 Brian Calvin (Marc Foxx, Los Angeles) Too much drinking. Too many cigarettes. Awkward sex. If some aspects of Calvin’s canvases nod to Alex Katz (cocktail parties, an acute notice of fashion), the muddy colors, droopy faces and fingers, rheumy eyes, even the resigned perseverance of the paint itself set apart this investigation of what remains of the figure in painting. Modigliani lost in Los Angeles, grumpy over yet another day of sunshine.

10 Peter Hujar (Matthew Marks Gallery, New York) I wanted to note the moment when NBC replaced the astoundingly intelligent, ungimmicky, emotionally disturbing accuracy of Freaks and Geeks with a show called, I think, Lardy Miracles. You know the story line: There’s a sick child or something and then everyone worries and prays and it lives! Intelligent, ungimmicky, disturbing, hauntingly accurate, Hujar’s photographs, many never before exhibited—freaks and geeks, burned-out cruising zones, dead pets—redeem, even if, to paraphrase Emily Dickinson, they redeem bleakly. There’s little solace, but there is life, bruised and amazing; disconcerting but crucial to see it represented with such unblinking intimacy. Still, as exampled by too much current photography, many prefer lardy miracles—or just lard.

Bruce Hainley is a contributing editor of Artforum.