New York


Artists Space Exhibitions

When 18 artists design holes for a putt-putt golf course, do you simply rent a putter and check your high-falutin’ esthetics at the door? Or do you search for deeper meanings here—a critique of art as leisure activity, a meditation on the putter as phallus or on the hole as lack? Faced with determining whether this was just summer fun or a serious exhibit, your intrepid reviewer gathered the opinions of a number of different putters and presents a selection of their views in lieu of his own.

Hole 4: Mel Chin, Shelter (par 2). Popularly called the “Gulf War Hole.” You putted into a blown-out bunker and aimed for a hole inside of which played a video of a Desert Storm air attack. Here, a man who identified himself only as El Conquistador boasted of his putting abilities, proceeded to take five strokes to sink his ball, and then declared: “I am El Conquistador! A hole in one!”

Hole 12: Cindy Sherman, Untitled (par 3). One of the medical-cum-sex manikins from Sherman’s recent series of photos spread her legs and opened her mouth to give the putter a choice of two holes. A stroke-meister from Oklahoma City had real problems here: “It’s the Plexiglas covering the photo,” he said. “Too slippery.”

Hole 15: Pat Oleszko & Ward Shelley, CENSORAMA (par 3). This time the golf ball had to be putted past an inflated, many-armed Jesse Helms to reach the pleasure hole, a dome of breasts. Or, in the words of the artists’ pun-filled rant: “The porn-again Christian soul-juror wreaks havoc in attempts to place a ball (or ball a place) in Pleasure I land, a territory of glowing fulsomeness accepting of all will the titters and thighs.”

Hole 17: Alison Saar, (Seventeenth) Hole-in-My-Soul-Blues (par 3). This hole, described by the artist as a “commentary on the contrast of the elite golf scene and homelessness, and racism,” forces you to putt through the leg of a “homeless” tin-man lying on the green. It elicited vitriol from someone who would describe himself only as Satan’s Helper: “I fuckin’ hate these politically correct holes. Like, this really increases my awareness of poverty. Now I know why the homeless are a problem. They get in the way of your putt.”

Other fine holes: The King’s Hole by Gregory Amenoff, in which a bad putt will create alternate destinies for the life of Elvis (electrician, truck driver, etc.); Fred Wilson’s Welcome, in which Astroturf is surrounded by a tiny picket fence and covered with signs reading PRIVATE PROPERTY, NO TRESPASSING, BEWARE OF DOG; and your reviewer’s favorite, Sandy Skoglund’s Sketching with Cheez Doodles, a hole featuring lots and lots of shamelessly orange cheez doodles that covered the walls, the mechanical rabbits hanging from the ceiling, and the plantlike obstacle between the tee and the cup.

About halfway through the course, your intrepid reviewer discovered that his golf ball was emblazoned with one of Jenny Holzer’s “truisms.” It reads: “Boredom makes you do crazy things.” Was it boredom with the million boring group shows of summer that made Artists Space decide to do something fun this August? While this show was not quite crazy, it goes without saying that it was not par for the course either.

Keith Seward