New York

Dave McKenzie, Yesterday’s Newspaper, 2007, day-old newspaper, wood, 2 1/4 × 20 1/2 × 17 1/4".

Dave McKenzie, Yesterday’s Newspaper, 2007, day-old newspaper, wood, 2 1/4 × 20 1/2 × 17 1/4".

“Looking Back: The 10th White Columns Annual”

White Columns

Dave McKenzie, Yesterday’s Newspaper, 2007, day-old newspaper, wood, 2 1/4 × 20 1/2 × 17 1/4".

Yesterday’s Newspaper, 2007, by Dave McKenzie, is just what its title announces: a folded issue of a day-old local paper resting on a low wooden platform. The piece provides a pause, a reminder of the headlines that earned our brief attention, one step out of sync with the nonstop twenty-four-hour news cycle. But it also repeats the pitiable fate of those above-the-fold stories: discarded one day past relevance, the paper on the pedestal must continually give way to time: another day, another yesterday. McKenzie’s piece, which appeared at the forefront of the White Columns Annual, also served as compelling shorthand for the exhibition as a whole. Each year, the venerable nonprofit asks an artist, writer, curator, or collective to create a show from artworks of the previous season. The slim constraints—the works are meant to have been shown in New York in the year prior but can be from galleries, art fairs, studios—give the Annual a sense of critical urgency, a last-chance-before-it’s-gone excitement, but it also means that the show can be burdened with the slightly exclusionary feel of an insider’s club.

For the tenth anniversary of the exhibition, artist and White Columns director and chief curator Matthew Higgs chose works by twenty-five artists. True to his other prolific curatorial concerns, Higgs grouped the work of hot up-and-comers (Justin Adian’s Flavin-like corner piece of painted foam, Bill Jenkins’s thirty-nine-minute video of the street taken from a shopping cart) with that of more established outsider artists (Christopher Knowles’s stunning typings Lamp and Eight Ladders, both 1985–86, with their grids of red and black typed c’s and, in a pairing that was a high point of the exhibition, Birdie Lusch’s rough-hewn “fork, spoon, and knife holders”) and that of artists with mental and developmental disabilities who work with nonprofits such as Healing Arts Initiative and Creative Growth (Alyson Vega’s bleak fabric pieces; William Scott’s wholesome reimagining of the globe as an Inner Skyline Opportunity Space for Peace Celebrating, 2014). The hang was refreshingly straightforward: McKenzie’s paper, Jenkins’s video, and Susan Cianciolo’s accessories kit wereon the floor, and almost everything else was placed at a comfortable eye level. Works on paper and small-scale sizes prevailed.

Higgs’s preferences for the intimate, the bricolaged, and the unpolished opened up a welcome space for humor. Three of the most conceptually grounded works doubled as the funniest: Rainer Ganahl’s series of photos from the Whitney Museum symposium “The Koons Effect Part 1” (part of his ongoing “S/L” series, 1995–) juxtaposes a wan group of panelists with the exuberance of projected images of Koons’s shiny toys (along with the giddiness of a smiling Jeffrey Deitch in the audience); Mieko Meguro’s sparse oil-and-pencil paintings of “world traveler Dan Graham having a rest” at various hotels have a Warholian paint-by-numbers flare perverted by a low vantage point that makes Graham’s feet assume epic proportions; and Vaginal Davis’s Flirtation Walk (The Ho Stroll), 2015, is a suite of eighteen publicity photos and production stills and nine text-based sheets that “out” several famous stars (Frankie Avalon, Tommy Kirk) as Hollywood hustlers.

The White Columns Annual gives us a glimpse into someone else’s navigation of the art world, and tells us more about a particular curator’s taste than it does about current art trends. But the New York Times isn’t objective either, and the show, like yesterday’s paper, gives us a chance to catch our breath and reflect, even if the effect is fleeting.

Rachel Churner