“Mike’s World” and “Air Kissing”

Michael Smith, Down in the Rec Room, 1979/1981. Performance view, Castelli Graphics, New York, 1980.

ANDY WARHOL went to a lot of parties. In Andy Warhol’s Party Book, posthumously published in 1988, he gives a good explanation why: “Sex and parties are the two things that you still have to actually be there for—things that involve you and other people.” This assertion occurred to me while visiting “Mike’s World: Michael Smith & Joshua White (and other collaborators),” a retrospective that was recently on view at the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas (and travels to the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, in April). During the late 1970s and early ’80s, Michael Smith—an artist known for his performance, video, and installation works—developed a deadpan character called Mike, who, while Warhol’s art seemed to degenerate into partygoing, was waiting, usually in vain, for a party to happen. In the performance and video Down in the Rec Room, 1979/1981,

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