PRINT April 2004


Kelley Walker

New York–based artist Kelley Walker’s work can be seen in a two-person show with Wade Guyton at Midway Contemporary Art, St. Paul, MN, next month.

  1. POWER, CORRUPTION & LIES Peter Saville’s cover of New Order’s 1983 album is a tailored design of austere juxtaposition(s). Both modern and assertive, Saville’s style relies on his investment in strategies developed by Constructivists, Situationists, and other avant-gardes. Here and elsewhere, he employs these conventions commercially for the sake of visual pleasure while deflating their suspect utopian impulses, achieving an unprecedented degree of dissemination and influence.

    New Order, Power, Corruption & Lies, 1983. Cover design by Peter Saville. New Order, Power, Corruption & Lies, 1983. Cover design by Peter Saville.
  2. THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, 2003 Commercial director Marcus Nispel’s debut film, a contemporary remake of the cult classic directed by Tobe Hooper in 1974, feels perfect. Nispel sets his version in 1974 and uses the same cinematographer to create a pure, pleasurable, and nostalgic celluloid surface. Terrifying and exhausting.

  3. SETH PRICE, DISPERSION (2003) Price’s eccentrically designed and illustrated treatise on media, distribution, and the future status of the work of art is both precise and open-ended. Taking up examples that range from Marcel Broodthaers and Dan Graham to Linux, Alexander Kluge, and the Daniel Pearl video, Price forges a complex and prophetic art history, even as he appropriates and recasts the traditional roles of writer and designer. “Suppose an artist were to release the work directly into a system that depends on reproduction and distribution for its sustenance, a model that encourages contamination, borrowing, stealing, and horizontal blur? The art system usually corrals errant works, but how could it recoup thousands of freely circulating paperbacks?”—Seth Price

  4. JOSH SMITH Smith’s first New York solo show, at Volume, the Chelsea book-art gallery, consisted of many staple-bound books and a few paintings. Hand-generated spontaneous gestures, graphics, and most often the name “Josh Smith” are inverted via Xeroxing and converted into a mediated equivalent. Far from the pervasive psychedelia du jour, Smith’s compulsively photocopied, self-archiving, processed and degraded drawings anthologize a black-and-white, conceptual psychedelic experience.

  5. YEAR Founded by artists Ellie Ga, Bryan Savitz, and Meredyth Sparks, this six-month-old temporary project space at 88 Front Street in DUMBO offers a space for experimentation and is open to proposals from artists and curators alike. This spring, look for shows of work by Ian Burns, Nate Lowman, and Jenny Vogel. July will bring a “monthlong art orgy,” according to Sparks: The intrepid trio are inviting as many artists as possible to join in “collaborative experimentation” during what’s tentatively slated to be their final month.

  6. CONTINUOUS PROJECT In just one year this newly formed collective has reprinted the first issues of Willoughby Sharp and Liza Bear’s Avalanche (1970), Monika Sprüth’s Eau de Cologne (1985), and, especially perverse, Muammar Qaddafi’s collected parables, Escape to Hell, the first in their “Dictator Series.” They’re also reviving the Dutch newsletter Art & Project Bulletin, now with new projects by contemporary artists and writers. This is not simply retro fascination: Continuous Project transport whole historical documents, inverting time, funneling the past into the present via facsimile.

    Cover of Continuous Project #3: Escape to Hell, 2004. Cover of Continuous Project #3: Escape to Hell, 2004.
  7. ROBERT WATTS Unique in his exploration of art’s relation to commodity, Watts (1923–88) moved comfortably between Fluxus, Conceptual, and Pop practice, fueling a diverse and inventive body of work. Little has been written about his oeuvre, but Experiments in the Everyday: Allan Kaprow and Robert Watts—Events, Objects, Documents, edited by Benjamin H.D. Buchloh and Judith F. Rodenbeck and produced in 1999 to accompany an exhibition of the same title, offers something of a mini-retrospective. Works included: three wooden boxes/caskets in the shape of the stuffed animals they contain (For Alice, 1965), a Plexiglas pyramid housing six autographed baseballs (Signature Baseballs, 1968–71), and Lichtenstein’s signature in neon (R.F. Lichtenstein Signature, 1975).

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    Robert Watts, Chrome Swiss Cheese, 1964, chrome, 3 x 6 x 1/2". Robert Watts, Chrome Swiss Cheese, 1964, chrome, 3 x 6 x 1/2".
  9. KEITH MAYERSON, “HAMLET 1999” A cycle of some one hundred paintings and drawings, Mayerson’s Shakespearean science fiction stars a small stable of actors—Keanu Reaves and River Phoenix, among others—who represent what the artist refers to as the “new Hollywood masculinity.” These males are seduced rather than seducers, ball catchers instead of pitchers. Using murky, hallucinogenic colors and shifting resolutions, Mayerson actualizes a catholic range of painterly techniques. The synesthetic portraits, landscapes, and abstractions of “Hamlet 1999” evoke a stained-glass environment, an optical and intimate space devoid of cynicism and of pastiche.

    Keith Mayerson, Neo, 2003, oil on linen, 14 x 34". Keith Mayerson, Neo, 2003, oil on linen, 14 x 34".
  10. THE DREAMERS Bernardo Bertolucci’s latest effort finds a beautiful productivity in the student riots of May 1968. Bringing together three cinephiles—Matthew, an American exchange student who is dodging the Vietnam War, and French twins Isabelle and Theo—Bertolucci relies on filmic cultural clichés to describe his characters and events: Matthew slips into a James Dean persona, while the twins exhume their own French cinematic counterparts. Left alone in the twins’ parents’ apartment, the cinephiles engage in narcissism, debauchery, and philosophical condemnation of authority. Insulated from the struggle developing outside, they are suddenly jolted when a paving stone thrown by a protester in the street crashes through the apartment window, bringing the turmoil inside. Bertolucci interposes documentary footage of the uprising, creating an intricately layered fiction that ends by locating the theater itself as a site of violence and disaster: As the camera is placed in the very heart of the protest, the screen fills with overturned cars, assault police in riot gear, and exploding Molotov cocktails. Completely unapologetic and deeply illuminating of the difficulty the ’60s pose for cultural interpretation.