PRINT December 2019

Cady Noland

Cady Noland, Cart Full of Action, 1986, metal cart, rims, rear-view mirror, exhaust, engine oil, battery charger, various plastics, oil-based car care products. Installation view, Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, 2018. Photo: Fabian Frinzel.

MORNINGS ARE FOR CEASE-AND-DESIST LETTERS, afternoons for rebuffing the advances of the great museums of the world. Conspiracy theory is Cady Noland’s lifeblood, refusal her modus operandi. Difficult, reclusive, idle and industrious, forsaken by her vocation (for how long now?), yet still ferociously committed. Noland—we mythologize art’s mad widows—would be certifiable if she were not simply right. The world today—if you’re fool enough to shed your survivalist armor, to look up from your navel and out from your bubble—is enough to drive you crazy. Unless, like the crazy in the Oval Office . . . you’re crazy!

Trust me—trust Noland!—everything is connected. Take, for instance, the supermarket shopping cart: anodyne by conventional reckoning, and yet (am I crazy?) an object as perfectly of a piece with her carceral normal as walkers (also benign?), cyclone fencing (far less so), and (bear with me) a vacationing Madame Onassis nailed by a paparazzo on a Capri port crawl circa 1970.

Patty “Tanya” Hearst and her yellow-press-baron granddad, William Randolph; Charles “Helter-Skelter” Manson and talk-show host Geraldo Rivera; Jaclyn Smith (she’ll marry again—in spring!) and Jackie O. Famous for burying her first husband—and for being famous—the first lady of celebrity reigned at the check-out counter, queen symptom of the apotheosis of our tabloid culture, a phenomenon roughly coincident with Noland’s coming of age and, as such, a variety of violence indivisible from her psychotic America.

Organized for the Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, by brand-new director Susanne Pfeffer in—YES!—full collaboration with the artist, this first major reprise of Noland’s output sets forth the artist’s now-iconic materials and moves: hot pictures on cold metal, standing or leaning or spilled across the floor. Funny that the artist, who towers above her 2.0 generation, would traffic not in high-tech dazzle but in street-credible debris enacting a minimal menu of operations—blocking, barricading—on our bodies and the spaces through which they move. Arrayed here to bracing effect throughout the entirety of the museum’s famously recalcitrant Hans Hollein–designed plant, her work looks as timely as it did on the cusp of the 1990s, when—having thanked the artist for inviting me to her studio—I stepped into the late autumn East Village drizzle. Had I, my heartbeat quickened, just witnessed the next big thing? Yes, and—portents proved prophetic—YES again!

Jack Bankowsky is a critic, a curator, and Artforum's Editor at Large.