PRINT December 2004

Bruce Hainley


1 “Sturtevant: The Brutal Truth” (Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt) Removing even the permanent collection, intrepid MMK director Udo Kittelmann and in-house curator Mario Kramer turned over the entire museum to Elaine Sturtevant, giving gorgeous space to more than 140 dazzling works, many seen for the first time in this exhibition, on view through January 30. Part of the instant fun is that at first glance it looks like a weird but really great group show; of course it’s not that at all. Complicated, maddening, exhilarating, the brutal truth repeated throughout is her project’s undeniable greatness. Thought as power is beauty.

2 Tomma Abts and Vincent Fecteau (Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven) Such a brilliant combo. Curator Phillip van den Bossche had the perspicacity to trust the artists, impeccably providing each a solo room and each a room where one curated things—often rescued from deep storage (Har Sanders, Erik Pape)—to illuminate the other. Their choices brought out hitherto unseeable mutual connections—in fact, the two artists ended up collaborating on their curated rooms—and showed just how dopey much curating’s slavishness to “proper” art history is.

3 Entourage (HBO) I mean, it’s Sex and the City for guys. Bawdy, jacked with Hollywood verismo courtesy of coproducer Mark Wahlberg et al., the program lets Debi Mazar strut her brash stuff and Jeremy Piven smarm his way to TV greatness, while Adrian Grenier and crew cruise the Sunset Strip for our pleasure. Mazar and Piven, respectively cast as a kick-ass PR rep and shark agent to Grenier’s up-and-coming, straight-from-Queens-with-his-boys movie star, prove the high-school drama-arts chestnut true: There really are no small roles.

4 Lee Lozano (P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, New York) Nasty, lewd, and brilliant, Lozano threw up so much of what the art world force-fed. Curators Bob Nickas and Alanna Heiss, P.S. 1’s director, gave the woman time (which is space) so that the ferocity of her work could be paid heed. As with Sturtevant, the history books get rewritten from here.

5 Trisha Donnelly (Carnegie International, Pittsburgh; Casey Kaplan, New York) Understanding the burden of the performer and wanting to escape becoming the dog-and-pony show the art world adores, Donnelly, unannounced to and undocumented for anyone, slipped into caterer’s penguin uniform and served the fancy-pants guests at the Carnegie International’s gala opening dinner. Could there be a more clarifying (if unconscious) homage to Mierle Laderman Ukeles’s washing the steps of the museum? Donnelly’s second solo show, at Casey Kaplan, continued her burrowing pursuits.

6 The Return of Scary, Glamorous Fags: “OMNI: A Celebration of Klaus Nomi’s 60th Birthday” (New Langton Arts, San Francisco) and A Night with Paul Lynde (Ultra Suede, Los Angeles) Having already produced a killer Klaus Nomi ’zine (Apocalypse Then) and postered their city with the hypnotic diva in full-on tuxedo-from-Mars regalia, Berlinbased collective PP (artists D-L Alvarez and Gwenael Rattke) staged Alvarez and Kevin Killian’s play Total Eclipse, showed rare concert films and memorabilia, and then discoed the night away. PP’s intervention—stealth political action—recalls a time when fags were weird, fanged, and, well, not for kids. Slier, Paul Lynde often seemed to be for kids, the ur–PeeWee Herman. Having purchased, for a depressingly low sum, a box of Lynde paraphernalia on eBay, A Night with Paul Lynde star Michael Airington completed the one-man cabaret act Lynde never got around to. Boozy, cruisey, and vicious, Lynde let his zingers fly, channeling a snarling flamboyance into America’s living room. Wanting somehow, somewhere, to acknowledge the recent passing of a great cook, I’ll let Lynde have the last words: When Hollywood Squares host Peter Marshall asked, “According to the French chef Julia Child, how much is a pinch?” the Center Square wagged, “Just enough to turn her on.”

7 Frank Stella (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art) Curator of painting and sculpture Janet Bishop, together with curatorial associate Jill Dawsey, took eight great Stellas—Shoubeegi, 1978, wows in enamel and glitter(!)—cleanly hung them, and provided a brief, cogent essay (by Dawsey). There’s no way a gonzo retrospective in some enough-already Gehry building could have been better. Oh, and, Art Fans, Stella’s career alone complicates any neat history of the ’60s (see also picks number one and number four).

8 Douglas Crase, Both: A Portrait in Two Parts (Pantheon) and George W.S. Trow, The Harvard Black Rock Forest (University of Iowa Press) In a year when an environmentalist won the Nobel Peace Prize, two illuminating meditations on America and the land through differing moral negotiations of the personal. Crase’s dual biography of botanists extraordinaire, Rupert Barnaby and Dwight Ripley (their passion—and expertise—was legumes), provides proof of both men’s artistic gifts, their behind-the-scenes bankrolling of much of the 1950s New York art scene, and the loving complexity of their fifty-year relationship. Trow’s 1984 New Yorker essay, in book form for the first time, traces the history of specific forests, American silviculture, and man’s increasingly attenuated relation to that land.

9 Giorgio Morandi (Lucas Schoormans Gallery, New York) Intense. A disarming negotiation of the abstractions of the real, ostensibly in the form of still lifes of boxes, cups, and vases. No wonder Robert Irwin called the Italian master the only great European Abstract Expressionist. Six ravishing oil paintings, a drawing, and a truly mind-boggling watercolor—endlessly generous, endlessly mysterious.

10 Patrick Hill (David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles) The dude might have begun using Venice boardwalk affect (wood scraps, tie-dyed denim, glass, ribbon)—not to vouchsafe his sincerity (how most “craft” is deployed today) but unpacking it to limn where such affect came from (Allan Kaprow, feminist art, Mike Kelley)—but he finds a way to shoot the tube of such materials to ride to gleaming elegance and, um, soul. The sculptures depend on glass’s reflection showing what isn’t there as there.

Los Angeles–based Artforum contributing editor Bruce Hainley teaches in the masters of art criticism and theory program at Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, CA. Art—A Sex Book, his collaboration with John Waters, was published by Thames & Hudson late last year.