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Luis Camnitzer, Selbstbedienung (Self-Service), 1996/2010, photocopies, rubber stamp, ink pad, wooden bases, dimensions variable.

Luis Camnitzer

Luis Camnitzer, Selbstbedienung (Self-Service), 1996/2010, photocopies, rubber stamp, ink pad, wooden bases, dimensions variable.

PROGRESSIVE INSTITUTIONS such as New York’s Museo del Barrio can epitomize the crisis of confidence in contemporary art. Their programming, often extremely well conceived and executed, tends to delineate such a radically democratizing role for art and its institutions that the art on display can sometimes appear merely illustrative or even redundant. Such a threat hangs over the Museo’s current retrospective of the work of Luis Camnitzer, which is simultaneously excellent and frustrating. If the complexity of Camnitzer’s work guards against art’s instrumentalization (by radical politics or any other framework), that same complexity also points to the ways in which we think of modernism and politics together these days—without acknowledging the unresolved issues that plague our definitions of both terms. Indeed, these repressions haunt work that, like Camnitzer’s, operates as

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