PRINT December 2004

David Rimanelli


1 Howard Hodgkin (Gagosian Gallery, New York) We’re so far removed from the temper of Abstract Expressionism that the possibility of making gestural abstractions that are convincing seems unlikely, and writing about them, impossible. In any case, Hodgkin’s pictures don’t feel terribly AbEx. He says the content of Double Portrait, 2000–2003, is “the end of a friendship.” I don’t have any idea what this means, but I can’t forget the angry upset orange seeping out of the interior panel onto the surrounding, ornately carved frame.

2 “A Minimal Future? Art as Object 1958–1968” (Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles) and “Beyond Geometry: Experiments in Form 1940s–70s” (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) Two brilliant LA exhibitions, demonstrating by contrast that New York’s modern/contemporary art museums continue, overall, to churn out uninspired, even lousy shows (but maybe the future augurs well, given the goodly number of new appointments at the Whitney and MoMA). Curated by Ann Goldstein, “A Minimal Future?” received some harsh critiques, occasionally pointed but often petty. I thought it was a terrific survey, one that actually benefited from the sheer oddity of some its inclusions—for example, Lawrence Weiner’s not-so-great paintings, which looked like parodies of Minimalist practice. Lynn Zelevansky’s show read like the obverse of Goldstein’s: Foregoing concision, “Beyond Geometry” spanned liberally over three decades and twenty-odd countries. Great grids: Max Bill’s One Black to Eight Whites, 1956; François Morellet’s 0°90°; Switching with Four Interfering Rhythms, 1965; Lygia Pape’s Box of Cockroaches, 1967.

3 Karlheinz Weinberger (Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery, New York) Weinberger’s best pictures date from the early to mid-’60s: images of teenage motorcycle hooliganism with an Alpine twist. The girls favor beyond-blown-out bouffants and Tyrolean patterns; the boys like oversize Elvis or swastika belt buckles. Very inventive, the way these guys truss up the crotches of their jeans. And this in Zurich?

4 Alex Bag (Elizabeth Dee Gallery, New York) She belongs on the Top Ten every year, whatever she does.

5 Martin Honert (Matthew Marks Gallery, New York) There’s something indescribable about this show, but I kept thinking, “It’s real art, not the usual substitute.” I laughed a lot, especially as I admired Santa Claus, 2002, Knight’s Battle, 2003, and Ghosts, 2002, exclaiming repeatedly, “Look, it’s Germany!” Honert based these sculptures closely on drawings he had done as a child, but Santa’s helper Ruprecht appears in both the childhood “original” and the grown-up sculpture rather like a demonic apparition above St. Nick’s shoulder, brandishing a pitchfork. Perhaps this accounts for my initial misapprehension of the figure as a Ku Klux Klansman in weird, gilt disco robes; his goodie bag looks creepy, too.

6 Cold Mountain and Dogville In Anthony Minghella’s film adaptation of the Brice Marden paintings—oh, wait, it’s a Civil War melodrama, sorry—Nicole Kidman radiates beauty, sublimity, tragedy; Baz Luhrmann should direct her in Phèdre. In Dogville, Lars von Trier drags her through the dirt for just shy of three hours, but she gets even in the end. How Europe sees America.

7 Rachel Mason, Kissing President Bush (Yale School of Art 2004 MFA Sculpture Exhibition, New Haven, CT/Parlour Projects, Brooklyn) I asked Mason about her larger-than-life plaster sculpture depicting herself and our president sucking face: “What is it about George W that makes you feel hot?” Mason: “He is a wildly passionate man who consumes my will. My love for him is deep and frightening. The more he hurts me the more I love him. But he’s also just so silly and fun-loving and yet he’s even God-fearing in the old-fashioned sense. I love how his hair is always slightly tousled and his adorably awkward chuckle when he stammers for words. His wild and uncontrollable emotions are so exciting, but it even scares me a little, and you have to admit, he’s just so mysterious!”

8 “Comic Grotesque: Wit and Mockery in German Art, 1870– 1940” (Neue Galerie Museum for German and Austrian Art, New York) Independent curator Pamela Kort organized an exhibition stunningly replete with deranged, hideous, hilarious, cruel art: Hail Germania! So many treasures, but three examples should suffice in this context: Max Klinger’s divine Pissing Death, ca. 1880; Hannah Höch’s photomontage butchery Newlywed Peasants, 1931; and John Heartfield’s Oh Christmas Tree in Germany, How Crooked Are Your Branches!, 1934 (a desiccated Tannenbaum contorts itself into a swastika). Make invidious comparisons between this show’s aesthetic dementia praecox and the slack tedium of SITE Santa Fe’s “Disparities and Deformations: Our Grotesque” (the latter’s curator, Robert Storr, contributes an essay to the catalogue—can’t wait for Venice!). Up though February 14, and a must-see.

9 Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopedia (Steidl) Don’t let W magazine deceive you: The new Russia’s not all Cy Twombly at the Hermitage. Russian prison guard Danzig Baldaev’s compendium of underworld body art was the best book of the year. Sick, I’m telling you, really fucked up. Worth noting in connection with the burgeoning fashion for Boris Mikhailov’s photographs of post-Glasnost misery: I saw an exhibition of his work at the ICA Boston, and I swear some of his desperately forlorn models sported tattoos straight from Baldaev’s encyclopedia (or very close variations).

10 The New York Times obituary of Jacques Derrida “Jacques Derrida, Abstruse Theorist, Dies at 74”: So begins Jonathan Kandell’s revoltingly stupid hatchet job on the late philosopher. It’s genuinely shocking how debased the cultural standards at the Times have become. You don’t have to be a “Derridean” to feel contemptuous of such merde. Speaking of which, who is Jonathan Kandell anyway? Too bad Piero Manzoni’s not around: He could can Kandell.

Artforum contributing editor David Rimanelli teaches art history at New York University. He has organized a number of exhibitions, including, most recently, “Women Beware Women,” at Deitch Projects, New York, in 2003.