PRINT December 2003

Chrissie Iles


1 Michael Heizer, North, East, South, West (Dia:Beacon, Beacon, NY) Heizer’s key work, only partially constructed in the Nevada desert in 1967, is now for the first time fully installed, indoors, at Dia:Beacon. Four negative volumes cast in steel and sunk in the ground, these large, dark, enclosing forms are both protective and forbidding. This is radical sculpture: uncompromising, direct, clear, profoundly corporeal, provoking a strong urge to climb in. A compass for large sculpture, North, East, South, West led directly to Heizer’s seminal Double Negative, 1969–70. Dia director Michael Govan’s commitment to its full realization has raised the bar for museums everywhere.

2 Richard Prince, Second House In an isolated spot in the Catskills, Richard Prince has gutted a small house with garage and clad the outside in silver insulation panels, rewriting the concept of installation. New “Hood” paintings, evoking Judd’s early wall works, hang in three white rooms. (Another “Hood” painting, set on a plywood cube, is parked in the garage.) In the living room, a table displays 3rd Place, 1986—a double-sided portrait of Sid Vicious—and rare ephemera from Woodstock. Outside a window, a 1973 Dodge Barracuda, custom painted in gray, sits in the backyard. The view from inside becomes part of the installation, locating Second House somewhere between artwork, film set, and the uncanny domestic space of spiritual America.

3 Jung Hee Choi, Rice (MELA Foundation Dream House, New York) This video-sound work was presented in May at Dream House, the permanent installation of La Monte Young’s atonal music and Marian Zazeela’s magenta lights, and one of Dia founder Heiner Friedrich’s other great legacies. A hypnotic projection of rotating mandalic forms radiated out from Zazeela’s magenta color field like silent fireworks, while the sound of Choi tracing a circle around the top of an overturned cooking pot with a rice paddle created a single repeating tone that resonated deep in the solar plexus.

4 The Wrong Gallery (New York) Art will always remain vital if artists take matters into their own hands. The Wrong Gallery is little more than a recessed doorway in Chelsea, but founders Maurizio Cattelan, Massimiliano Gioni, and Ali Subotnick present a terrific series of succinct shows, including an early painting by Elizabeth Peyton and Untitled (Closed) by Adam McEwen, whose deadpan pieces are ones to watch next year.

5 “Ballpoint Inklings” (K.S. Art, New York) An ode to the humble ballpoint pen, this clever exhibition showed the huge range of possibilities the instrument can produce, from James Siena’s delicate latticed lines to Jonathan Lerman’s rock-band portraits and Suzanne McClelland’s Sugar Daddy, in which skeins of lines form words like spun sugar.

6 John Latham (South London Gallery) Latham, one of Britain’s most important living artists, showed a piece this year in “Independence: Issues with a Contemporary Relevance,” a London group exhibition. One would have loved to have seen more of him—a retrospective in New York would be the perfect counterpoint to the upcoming Dieter Roth show at MoMA QNS. Latham’s “One Second Drawings,” 1970–75, in which spray paint seems almost breathed onto panels, are conceptual gems and, like all his work, have been a huge influence on my thinking for as long as I’ve been a curator.

7 Banks Violette The highly worked black, white, and silver surfaces of Violette’s drawings, seen in several Chelsea shows this year, belie the emotional angst of his subjects: teenage gangs, rock ’n’ roll suicide, juvenile delinquents. Symbols from Motörhead album covers and X-ray images of skulls and galloping white horses are rendered in smooth graphite drawings. Brooding black enamel sculptural forms—a broken drum kit, for example—evoke the dark side of the heavy-metal American dream.

8 The Robert Beck Memorial Cinema (New York) In a blacked-out room on Ludlow Street on the Lower East Side, film lovers gather every Tuesday night at approximately nine. The projector whirs from a makeshift balcony, curator Bradley Eros introduces the program, and films by young and unexpected filmmakers are screened. One recent highlight: an expanded cinema presentation by Bruce McClure, whose multiple abstract color film-loop projections are overlaid and diffused into one another like a moving Rothko. Along with Ocularis, RBMC is one of the most innovative film venues in New York.

9 Schaulager (Münchenstein/Basel) With Schaulager, the first museum devoted as much to the study of artworks in open storage as to exhibitions, Herzog & de Meuron have achieved a rare thing: museum architecture that takes proper account of the art. Five floors of spacious rooms house the Hoffmann Collection, which curators, conservators, and scholars can view in a gallery environment. Downstairs, the temporary Dieter Roth retrospective and Robert Gober’s permanently installed Untitled, 1995–97, were essential viewing. The presentation of Gober’s piece is exemplary: Behind a bolted Madonna, water cascades down a staircase and reappears in underground grottoes, where one glimpses seaweed, rock, shells, and four wax legs through two grids in the floor. In addition to the Schaulager’s opening, the summer in Switzerland was rich with a great cluster of shows in Zurich, by Doug Aitken, Brice Marden, and Ugo Rondinone, among others.

10 Catherine Sullivan,’Tis Pity She’s a Fluxus Whore (Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT) Sullivan’s double-screen installation re-creates two controversial historic theatrical performances in their original sites—but with the locations reversed. The same actor performs extracts from Jacobean playwright John Ford’s drama about incest, ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore, which appeared at the Wadsworth Atheneum in 1943, at the site of the 1964 Fluxus festival in Aachen, Germany; in turn, Fluxus actions from the festival are reenacted in the Wadsworth’s theater. Through its rupturing, theatrical artifice is doubled in a compelling fusion of performance and installation.

Chrissie Iles is curator of film and video at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and co-organizer of the 2004 Whitney Biennial.