PRINT December 2000

Wayne Koestenbaum


1 Men’s Shoes Liberated from their long sleep of black and brown, men’s shoes have discovered blue, pink, red, and other bright, inappropriate colors: a major revisionary moment in the history of Western sartorial masculinity. I will wear my vintage 2000 yellow Prada driving slippers into the ground.

2 Tristan und Isolde/Chuck & Buck Couples in heat: The Metropolitan Opera’s new production, magnanimously sung by Ben Heppner and Jane Eaglen, taught me about torment and postponement (and caused me to murmur, “Now at last I understand the nineteenth century”), while Miguel Arteta’s movie, written by Mike White, who also stars, instructed me about modern love as it borders, Gummo-like, on retardation.

3 Two Legends: Catherine Deneuve and Alice Neel (Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Robert Miller Gallery, New York) Deneuve is one of the only great film star–beauties of the ’60s still working at full steam. Her ubiquity on the screen this year (Place Vendome, Dancer in the Dark, Pola X, Time Regained) gives everyone a lift: Once again we can take her for granted as a largeness on the landscape. Neel, though dead, reminds us that the figure is alive. This year she sent us her portraits of Warhol, Geldzahler, Nochlin, et al. as valentines from the beyond. No one looks pretty in a Neel painting.

4 The Return of the Hand The hand was never truly exiled, but, of late, it has tended to hide. “OO,” the summer show at Barbara Gladstone of one hundred drawings, all executed in the last year, offered the consolations of human scale and of intimate labor. I like artists to work. I miss facture. Speaking of the hand, I also loved the paintings of Otto Zitko, joyful scrawls, commemorating anarchic penmanship, at Cheim & Read.

5 The Mainstreaming of Orange Or rather, “The Persistence of Orange.” Long a no-no, orange has now become a primary color. The sole, if considerable, charm of the Darren Almond sculpture Mean Time, an enormous steel shipping container on view at Matthew Marks this fall, was its color: orange. Hermès has never been ashamed of orange. Nor have I. Please remember Comme des Garçon’s orange shoes, for men.

6 I spent much of January 2000 visiting Apartment 21: a three-bedroom spread in Chelsea, where three young men live rent-free (at least at the time of the website’s origin) in exchange for twenty-four-hour video surveillance, available to members via the Internet. Sometimes I’d catch the boys having sex, or showering, or opening the refrigerator. Mostly they were wasting time at their computers. Alas, the website may now be defunct.

7 The Films of Jay Rosenblatt (Film Forum, New York). Delicate, austere, noncommercial, auteurish, seemingly handmade films by a sensitive San Francisco guy, on the subjects of failed masculinity, historical trauma, pedagogic punishment, and suicidal melancholia, assembled from found footage.

8 Figures and Faces Vampire, I go to galleries to find bodies and faces (usually, on the walls). Here are some of the arresting visages and embodiments I’ve craved and been reciprocally bitten by: Claude Wampler, live, behind glass for a month at Postmasters, in Painting, the Movie; the minimalist art-world mugs of Timothy Greenfield-Sanders at Mary Boone; the faux-signed celebrity photos of Richard Prince (Barbara Gladstone); the cartoony bodies in John Wesley’s ludic pink-blue paintings (P.S.1); languid partying sylphs in Daniel Reich’s “The Nocturnal Dream Show,” an homage to radical faeries and their drug-dazed, performing brethren, at Pat Hearn; weird slattern homebodies, including a befuddled Gramps, in Chris Verene’s photos at Paul Morris and American Fine Arts; Cindy Sherman’s portraits of rapacious or spaced-out women who fall short of the mark (Metro Pictures, Gagosian); Peter Hujar’s photos of mental patients, Mrs. Vreeland, David Wojnarowicz, and John Heys, along with wrecked furniture (Matthew Marks); Carolee Schneemann French-kissing her cat (Vespers Pool, at Emily Harvey); and plump Leigh Bowery with severe piercings in a Charles Atlas video at XL Xavier LaBoulbenne.

9 Commodity Fetishism in Sculpture I also go to galleries to find objects and fixtures whose likenesses or prototypes I’ve owned or dreamed of owning. Here is a sampling of choses that helped me interrogate my retrograde thirst for possession: Ricky Swallow’s twirling spray-painted turntable at Andrea Rosen; Tom Friedman’s construction-paper movie projector, at Feature; E.V. Day’s installation of a Stephen Sprouse evening gown (Transporter) suspended glittering from the ceiling (as if around a maypole) at Henry Urbach Architecture; and Pipilotti Rist’s febrile, messy rooms at Luhring Augustine, complete with liquor bottles on which films were projected and, in the bathroom, a closed-circuit video camera staring up from the toilet bowl.

10 Two Troupers: Margaret Cho and Hillary Clinton Cho’s one-woman-show movie, I’m the One That I Want, soars. Her “ass-master” routine stays with me, as does her endurance, her persistence against mainstream TV’s censoring indifference to her off-beatness. As for Clinton, I had no choice but to read about her all year, and I ended up finding her perpetual appearance in the newspaper to be a stabilizing, sweetening, maddening weather, like constant sunshine. She always seemed “up.” Running for the Senate must be exhausting. Why do some people choose such tiring lives? Usually their alibi is devotion to public service. But what does “public service” mean? I’m glad that, some of the time, art refuses to be a public service announcement.

Wayne Koestenbaum is a New York–based poet and writer. A collection of his essays, Cleavage, was recently published by Ballantine Books (New York).