Thursday, January 31, 2008


Installation artist and printmaker Karla Roberts just released a new set of yummy prints. Do pass Go.

Where's my top hat?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Wish You Were Here.

On Saturday I found an extra half hour in my day so I stopped in to see the late Jason Rhoades' installation, Black Pussy, at Zwirner for the second time. I loved this show. I mean, I really loved this show. I am not going to use italics in this sentence. But seriously, I really loved this show.

I'd never seen any of Rhoades' work before, but after his death at the age of 41 it was impossible not to have heard about it. From what I'd read about this show (See Roberta Smith's laundry list here.) I was expecting to be bouncing towards a seizure from over stimulation. Yet this prayer to the inside felt more like a temple to me than anything. After five minutes in the room I felt a sense of reverence. We'll ignore how Freudian this paragraph has become and just keep moving.

Just to be clear, when I say "inside" I'm talking about the Webster's definition, "relating or known to a select group". Black Pussy feels very backstage or, maybe more accurately, after-hours. In it's original incarnation the artist populated the "set" with insiders and friends. Before the exhibit closed on Saturday, the ghosts of the artist and the included populated the space at Zwirner, making the nocturnal space into a waking dream. It was like walking through someone's heart. What was once private and the off-limits became public and well, mine. This one is going to stay with me. It already has. Wish you were here. I was, and I thank you for it, Mr. Rhoades, wherever you are.

Monday, January 28, 2008

As The Totally Awesome Turns.

In my neighborhood park . . .

I used to love that show. Plus it gave great stage actors like Larry Bryggman a way to make a decent living. And don't get me started on how much I'll always love Eileen Fulton for penning one of the funniest things I've ever read in my life: A short essay about, um, nipples in a mid-80's issue of National Lampoon that took the theme "Things I Hate". Actually, more than anything it was a complaint about the air conditioning at the CBS studios. At any rate, it was cool to see this sign in my park.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Nice Circle.

Remember this?

A few weeks ago I reported about finding this typed insert inside an issue of Art In America. My discovery officially became a nicely drawn conceptual circle the other day when a friend of inserter Chris Ouellette came across the post about the insert. (See my original post here, now with a fresh comment from the artist.) Wordpresser Gus23 wrote about his circuitous route through the ether to find his friend's name here on Heart As Arena. I wondered if something like this would happen when I made the original post. The internet is cool. Keep an eye out.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Luis Gispert's show, El Mundo Es Tuyo (the world is yours), severely splits itself between the Zach Feuer and Mary Boone galleries. I wasn't familiar with the artist's work before I walked into the former on Saturday. I immediately fell in love (It didn't last.). What can I say? I'm a sucker for heart-shaped speakers and big, abstract beats that drift off into the ether. Gispert provided me with both. The lit mirror that hangs across from the speakers looks like it was taken from the set of a Miami Vice, but that's not a bad thing. It goes with the room.

Actually, this show is replete with cultural references and commentary that, for the most part, I ignored. If you're interested you can read the press release. Sometimes I'm in the middle of an exhibit, it's working on a purely aesthetic level, and I just wanna sit in its pocket. Beyond the speakers and mirrors are a couple breathtaking c-prints. Opulence and abandonment hold hands while they're hiding under the bleachers here. At first glance both photos are detailed shots of a tricked-out truck cabs. It wasn't until my second pass at them that I realized that they were double landscapes. Looking out through the windows of each cab, past the immediate shiny foregrounds are scenes of poverty and paranoia. So much for my easy stroll through a shiny beat-littered forest. It signaled the violence that was to come in the film showing across the street at Mary Boone.

It all started so well.

Ugh. I say that not because of the violence. Whatever to that. I've spent enough time on farms that the bleeding of the pig didn't make me flinch. (Someday I'll regale you with how I saw a calf being born at the farm at the state pen. Long story. I was 12 and on the weirdest field trip of my life.) The frying of the dog was predictable and more like Tron than Chainsaw Massacre. Anyway, there has to be an easier way to make a radio. That was a joke, of course. I got the whole spin on the radio--the hungry, magical, and rabid sounds of the master blaster--I just didn't find it very interesting. I'm even a easy mark for that sort of thing and you couldn't have paid me to care. As much as I was enamored of the the two rooms at Feur I was bored by the film at Boone. I mean, ANYTHING looks cool projected on a wall that big, but so what. The film was just pointlessly gruesome and creepy. There were some more c-prints on the walls, but they were only stills from the film. Nice Firebird though.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Monday, January 21, 2008


Wow. The new Shirin Neshat show is as unconvincing as the last one. Why won't anybody utter the word, "Hack"? I shouldn't be thinking of Tom Petty videos when I'm seeing art. The telegraphed narrative actually made me laugh at one point. Wow all over again. My criticisms of this show are so similar to the last one that I'm going to give you a second opportunity to click on a link to my review of it on this end of the paragraph as well.

OK, Brent. Say something nice. The soundtrack was pretty. Derivative, but pretty. Wait. I said that last time too. As I was saying.

I have to admit that I liked it much better when my contact with her work was solely through it's use for Muslimgauze covers like the one above, or this one or, hey, that one.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Answer Of The Day.

At the late Jason Rhoades' exhibit at Zwirner on 19th

Me: Would it be OK if I took some photos?

Zwirner gallery assistant: You can take 100,000 if you want to.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Gold Sounds.

My review of Brian Belott's miracle of a show, Swirly Music, at CANADA is up now at Artcal Zine. The gallery has extended the run of the show through this weekend, and trust me when I say you should take advantage of it. Belott hasn't taken a false step since I first saw his work at Joymore a couple years ago, and Swirly Music is no exception. Go.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Monday, January 14, 2008

O Corpo Frágil

I stopped by Venetia Kapernekas Gallery Saturday to check out Silence in the Light, a collaborative show with Noritoshi Hirakawa, Hiroshi Sunairi, and Arto Lindsay. I knew that I was going to be a sucker for this show because of Arto Lindsay. Yeah, yeah. DNA. No Wave. Whatevever. I'll always hold a special place in my heart for the guy because of his 1996 album, O Corpo Sutil (The Subtle Body). It's one of the most gorgeous, odd, and perfect albums ever recorded.

But I digress. Well, actually, not so much.

Lindsay's lyric served as an anchor of sorts for me over in its corner of the room. The beautiful photographs by Noritoshi Hirakawa have a cold distance only enhanced by their low hanging positions on the wall. Their placement also augmented the feeling of voyeurism for which Hirakawa is known. There was something about having to lean down a bit to look that made the experience feel slightly illicit. Hiroshi Sunairi's sculpture in the middle of the room consists of bits and pieces of an elephant in ceramics. Which brings me back to Arto Lindsay's lyric on the wall.

The artists invited the songwriter to write a song without music, and its absence creates a phantom limb of sound. The tune is out there somewhere, like the landscapes in Hirakawa's photographs and the ghost of the elephant that has seemed to shed itself in bits and pieces. We can feel the presence of all these things, but we can't quite touch them. We are blinded by their silence. We always are.

Click here for images on the gallery site.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


I'm not often in this stairwell, but when I am I always enjoy this door.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


Cady Noland, This piece doesn't have a title yet, 1989

As y'all know, I usually don't get too excited about institutional stuff, but the MassMoCA + Chris Buchel debacle was an exception. (Well, at least for 5 minutes.) A pity that one of the most instructive things written as a result of the court's ruling will be lost in the recycling bin next month thanks to Art in America's crap web presence (They can't even be bothered to update their site to show the latest issue. Lame much?) In the letters section, Barbara Luderowski and Michael Olijnyk of Pittsburgh's Mattress Factory layout how they've avoided Buchel-like troubles without contracts since they opened in 1977. It's an important read and I didn't want it to get lost. School is in session.

To the editors:

The Sept. 21 verdict in the Mass MoCA vs. Christoph Buchel case has created a storm in the art world and left no museum professional or artist indifferent to the issues of contracts, artist/museum responsibilities and exhibition budgets. It's an ugly affair that we're sure all participants would like to place firmly in the past. As experienced practitioners in the field, we may be able to illuminate a method of working with artists that has served our organization extremely well. That method is, simply, placing the emphasis on the creative process rather than the outcome.

Located on Pittsburgh's North Side, the Mattress Factory is a museum of contemporary art that presents room-sized environments, created by in-residence artists. Since its founding in 1977, the institution has commissioned new work from over 300 artists. Yet, in all those dealings, we never signed a contract stipulating the budget for a piece or detailing artist/museum responsibilities.

It is our position that the creative process trumps written delineation of dollars and roles. Free, open and continuous communication throughout the process is vital to both the artist and the museum. A contract is a line in the sand that impedes this necessary dialogue. We believe that the best outcome is achieved when all participants work together for the greater good of the piece.

Many months before installation of a piece at the Mattress Factory begins, the artist communicates a vision, and we begin working on a daily basis to assist in any way we can to help achieve that vision. From regionally sourcing materials and labor to providing detailed information to aid in the artist's research, the museum is an active participant in the process, not just the pen that signs the checks. We often meet with the artist multiple times to ensure that objectives are clear to everyone involved before the artist begins his or her residency at the museum. Should the vision change mid-installation, all parties engage in meaningful conversation about options and adaptations to consider as the project moves forward.

We do not claim to have the full answer for the Mass MoCA/Buchel incident. But in our experience, communication--not a contract--is the key to a mutually fulfilling artistic process.

Barbara Luderowski, Director
Michael Olijnyk, Curator
The Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh

HAA ADDENDUM: Hey. I stand corrected. There IS a version online at the Mattress Factory blog. All that obsessive typing for nothing. HaHa. It was worth it to find out that the MF has a blog. Thanks to Jeffrey for pointing that out.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Insert Here.

I picked up the new Art In America at a Barnes & Noble on the UWS last week, and found a surprise inside. I couldn't learn anything about it being sanctioned so that makes it even better. When I did a little google work I got a tiny clue, but maybe not. I spot checked some of the other AiA's on the rack and didn't see any more inserts. Is it art or not? I don't know. I think that it is more than it is not. Its little mission was a success. I know that. A mass produced product suddenly felt intimate. I felt the flow of the random and the kick of an unexpected connection to another. I am undoubtedly grooving on an inner plane . . . and blatantly stealing Robyn Hitchcock songs.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

On Board.

I'm totally jazzed to see John Morris' paintings in a show opening tonight at D'Amelio Terras, and you should be too. Seriously. He knocked me out with the drawings he had in the Works On Paper show at D'Amelio Terras last year. Go.

The Strokes.

Georgia O'Keeffe and Andy Warhol at The Warhol. One of the small side rooms holds Warhol's portraits of O'Keeffe on opposite walls while O'Keeffe's abstract watercolors from the 70's hold down the middle. A nice, unexpected treat. There always seems to be a room or two like this when I visit. An earlier trip yielded the exhibition, Starf*cker, in which the focus was on Warhol's relationship with The Rolling Stones. God, I love this place. But you know that.

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh.

Sorry. I couldn't quite stop myself from making that reference.

In one of my favorite curatorial moves of the year, The Warhol replaced the purple cow wallpaper that usually graces this space with this fish design to go with Ron Mueck's Man in a Boat.

It's funny. I totally grooved to the Mueck when it was at the Brooklyn Museum last year. The Warhol's decision to show the pieces throuhout the museum instead of placing them in one central location diluted the show's power. Oddly, some of the larger works didn't feel as grand or as intimate in the smaller rooms of The Warhol. I would have expected the opposite to be true, but not so much.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Blogger Show. Iron City Brew.

Susan Contanse, detail

When I was in Pittsburgh I took a wayward 91A bus out to Digging Pitt and Digging Pitt Too galleries to see the Pittsburgh installments of The Blogger Show. I am soooooooo glad I made it out because it turns out that this is the swan song show for John Morris' pair of galleries. (See Susan Constanse's sweet farewell to Morris' mighty endeavor here.) The bus went off-route and dropped me at the wrong spot. It was pouring down rain, and my umbrella was falling apart as I made my way down a Pittsburgh-steep hill. Yet, it was still worth the trip. While the NYC Blogger Show had the feeling of an intimate salon show, the Digging Pitt leg of the tour opened things up and gave the works more room to breathe on their own. It worked.

I got kind of obsessed with this piece by JT Kirkland. I loved the work that he had in the NYC portion of the Blogger Show, and this one was even better. The wood smells good too. It would be a great base for one of Comme des Garcons' more abstract fragrances.

It was nice to see this piece by Steven LaRose in the reals. I was quite enamored of the jpeg, and it looked even more stunning when I was standing in front of it.

Around the corner and down the block at Digging Pitt Too, Susan Contanse and Bill Gusky shared the room. They looked especially good together on this wall (Gusky, above. Constanse, below.) . . .

Constanse . . .

Gusky . . .

One last note. The thrills continued when I started to investigate the gallery's flat files. The flat files were a big part of what Morris was trying to do with Digging Pitt. I hadn't had this much flat file fun since my first trip to Pierogi. Pittsburgh. I love ya, but you blew it. Digging Pitt will be missed.

One note after the last note. You can catch John Morris' amazing work at D'Amelio Terras, opening this Saturday night. He was part of a 4-person show at the gallery back in April, and I fell fast and hard for it then, and it's continued to impress ever since.

Oh, and I have a mad crush on these chairs by Marci Gehring. . .

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Best Death 2007

6. I Am As You Will Be: The Skeleton in Art @ Cheim & Reid

Paul Delvaux, Squelettes (Skeleton), 1949

A lot of people rightfully have been hoping for fewer skeletons in art. I'm with them, but I think that we're all really just hoping for less crap art taking the easy way out by throwing some skulls and bones into the pot. Artists can go ahead (Ha! No pun intended.) and skull out as much as they want want if they're making great and timeless art. Perfect that plenty of the artists in this show are dead. At any rate, there was barely a clunker in the bunch in this engrossing and wide-ranging show. I think I went three times and it wasn't enough. Brighter death now!

5. High On Fire, Death Is This Communion

An album consumed with themes of death and darkness. Crushing riffs for crushing times. And certainly one of the best album covers of the year.

4. Damien Hirst, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living

It's not new, but it was my first time seeing it, and it was one of the most powerful pieces of art I saw all year. Pity it also involved one of the most bonehead curatorial moves I'll ever see in my life. I'm always amazed when someone who makes their living in the art world displays such little faith in art. I mix my praise with more kvetching here.

3. Dying Fetus, War of Attrition

One of my favorite Technical Death Metal bands dropped their most pummeling and political effort yet. And we deserved it. The band focus all their lyrical and musical powers in ripping our doped-up idiotic world a new asshole. Pass the Depends, baby.

2. Karen Finley, Wake Up

For more than a moment, Finley convinced me that Performance Art might just be the thing to save us. The first piece in the show, “The Dreams of Laura Bush”, was hilarious and caustic. The second piece, “The Passion of Terri Schiavo”, was quite simply . . . EVERYTHING. Hilarious. Caustic. Disorienting. Dissolving. Disappearing. Quiet. Raging. Sometimes it felt like a Vaudeville pit orchestra, and sometimes it felt like Albert Ayler's determined and composed flailing on his way to The One. Taking the audience along for the ride, Finley deftly wended her way to the center of a lost soul in a dying body. And I'm not talking about Schiavo. I'm talking about us. Wake up.

1. Jerry Falwell died.

And it was awesome. This Little Hitler couldn't possibly be dead enough as far as I'm concerned. Christopher Hitchens thought the same thing. To quote Tinky Winky, "Bye-bye. Bye-bye."