Moments from A Fantastic World Superimposed on Reality on Saturday, Nov. 21 @ Blender Theater. Curated by Mike Kelley and Mark Beasley!
Christian Marclay and Shelley Hirsch:
A little more, if you can handle it; don’t sweat the [Marclay] technique:
John Duncan’s performance scared the bejeezus out of everyone! In the pitch black dark theater…
…a chorus of people suddenly began screaming like maniacs. Terror! Nobody would attack an avant-garde crowd, right?
-Right? To my relief, the Xenon flash identified the screamers as merry pranksters, not bloody murderers.
Take a bow?
On with the show~
“If I were a member, I’d be livid,” whispered one super fierce publishing figure last night at the National Arts Club, referring to the dinner jacket-clad grown-ups who weren’t there for the Terence Koh lecture, who might have felt uncomfortably bumrushed by the scores of the artist’s ab fab fans, friends, a-KOH-lytes, and KOH-konspirators.
To appease the outnumbered, but patient and actually very welcoming real NAC members, and to satiate the hungry, anxious club visitors, refreshments were abundant, including exotic absinthe spritzers, chocolate covered ants, port wine cheese spread, and Campbell’s soup with straws.
Who was there? Who wasn’t?
Marina Abramovic, Klaus Biesenbach, Phil and Shelley Aarons, Jerry Saltz, Roberta Smith, Cecilia Dean, Adam McEwen, Jeffrey Deitch, Mary Boone (happy belated birthday, still sexy at 58), RoseLee Goldberg, Kathy Grayson, Sophia Lamar…
…and lots of fashion people I can identify only by their looks.
The patrician, oil-on-canvas dinner jacket set would have been pleased.
At 45 minutes, with nearly 400 images handpicked from local libraries and the artist’s bookshelves, individually scanned to ensure the highest quality, Terence Koh’s Art History 1642-2009 was a whirlwind tour of Western and Eastern Art, mostly chronological from 1642 to the present, and admitting into the Koh canon a few book covers, party photos, vintage porn, and even some line graph charts to diagram art market confidence.
Who was in it? Who made the Terence Koh Canon?
Marcel Duchamp, Vermeer, Velasquez, Warhol, Koons, Aurel Schmidt, Adam McEwen, Marina Abramovic, David Shrigley, Goya, Rembrandt, Judd, Bourgeois, Wojnarowicz, William Blake, Hockney, Rob Pruitt, Kelley Walker, Dash Snow, Bruce High Quality Foundation, Karen Black/Kembra Pfahler, Christian Holstad;
Maurizio Cattelan, Aaron Bondaroff, Muntean/Rosenblum, Yoko Ono, Bianca Jagger, Nauman, Robert Smithson, Yayoi Kusama, James Lee Byars, Girodet, Chardin, Flavin, Jenny Saville, Damien Hirst, Julian Schnabel, Murakami, Zhang Huan, General Idea, Dan Colen – not in that order (no McGinley? no AVAF?) – and that’s just a fraction of art history according to Terence Koh – which is more expansive than the Eurocentric humanities courses I took in college.
Koh spoke his own private ida-Koh language, which sounds something like Proto-Indo-Cabbie, though I heard someone ask Terence if it was Swedish.
He barely stopped to breathe, only taking breaks to sip from his glass of vodka. He frequently strided away from his lectern to gesticulate and indicate details of the projected images.
A few times, he ranted at a rapid-fire clip, sounded like a Sotheby’s auctioneer, notably while discussing the Jeff Koons chrome bunny, which at the scale of the projection, looked like a anthropomorphic Sputnik.
Terence shouted and waved his arms indignantly while covering pictures of Hitler looking at artwork, and in the more emotive moments, slowed and spoke solemnly, especially when Dash Snow appeared, and when he displayed AA Bronson’s heartbreaking AIDS revelation, Felix, which is, for me, one of the most moving images of contemporary art since I first saw it in the 2002 Whitney Biennial.
In these heavyhearted moments, Terence sounded plantive and morose, though somehow resisted tears. His lecture was politically charged, addressing, for example, 20th Century China and the Reagan administration’s delusional failure to intervene during the incipient AIDS epidemic.
And although nobody but Terence understood his words, he still said a lot, contextualizing himself and refreshingly reminding us that ultimately, art is remembered for being seen, and all that matters is how it looks!
Is this the new Terence Koh, post market crash, post Snow? Still cheeky, but more substantial, orchestrated, polychrome, narrative, and profound? Let’s find out at his “secret” performance tomorrow evening at Tompkins Square Park.
Oh, and rumor reveals a potential Terence Koh/Lady Gaga collaboration! DisKOH Stick!
I stood behind Erik Hanson to hear what he was saying at the opening of his solo show, From the Morning, at Horton Gallery:
(The title comes from a Nick Drake song, but I’m too busy listening to Nirvana’s Bleach re-issue to know anything about melancholic Songwriters who tragically gave up on life before 30.)
He said, “I was a punk rock DJ, but there were a few disco songs that I liked. It wasn’t cool to listen to disco, but I did – just a few songs – so this was my ‘coming-out’ piece,” he said, pointing at a dreamy drawing tattooed with handwritten titles of disco hits.
In his show last year at Eleven Rivington, only a few blocks away, Erik did a salon-style show of disheveled, coded, stripe paintings bearing lyrics of the song played while he painted. Each painting done in one sitting, which is sort of, supposedly how Luc Tuymans works, too.
The new show still gets filed under Pop/Rock music, but also reaches back ten years and branches out to include two clever sculptures, one in the clouds and one from the earth; a batch of whirly paintings like eccentric vinyl, twee thumbprints magnified, or folk galaxies; a grid of tiny photos; and a towering wall of monoprints that made the iPhone camera go spastic when trying to focus on Erik and friend Ethan Shoshan, who told me about the T-shirts he produced for the MIX festival. My favorite is My Shameful Taste, described as “a grouping of realistically-sculpted birch logs topped with graphite drawings of the LP labels of the artist’s ‘guilty pleasures,’ which were hidden from peers as a Boy Scout but ultimately became emblematic in the formation of his sexual identity.”
At the opening, Erik presided over a crowd of followers and described the Monday-night show at Santos Party House of living, loving legend Vaginal P. Davis and morbid, spiteful Tony Clifton:
“Most of the crowd left after two or three minutes of his singing,” Erik says of the Andy Kaufman-crafted persona whose “career” outlived its creator.
But for Erik, most of the crowd remained for much longer than a few minutes, happily absorbing his Selections. Congratulations, Erik!
That reminds me that I forgot to post photos of Vaginal P. Davis at the Participant, Inc opening a week or two ago, just days after Frank Liu unplugged the tragically short-lived Horton/Liu co-writing credit! My insider tells me that Frank Liu swiped some artwork as he stormed out of the gallery. That all seems incomprehensible, because who could fight with Sean Horton? Since working at Volume Gallery (now Freight + Volume), then helping to pioneer the LES gallery scene, Sean has always seemed to me a warm and hard-working artist-turned-dealer with innovative taste in outsider-ish queer art. But then what do I know?
Anyway, back to Vag: I was gonna save these photos for the next Stuart Sherman post, but they aren’t getting any younger!
Even dogs can’t keep their eyes off of Vaginal P. Davis, and she works blondes into a frenzy!
“Performance is for me related to the very literal use of the term. You have to perform an act to give form to an intent. That relates to what I do very strongly.” -Stuart Sherman
Beginningless Thought/Endless Seeing: The Works of Stuart Sherman is a comprehensive archive and survey of the late artist’s videos, poems, collages, drawings, stage performances, and signature “spectacles.”
Curators John Hagan, Yolanda Hawkins, and John Matturri present the prolific Stuart Sherman as a disciplined, studious artist with philosophical leanings. He worked every day and followed a natural logic that guided him from writing, to drawing, to performance, and to video. He appears as an earnest collaborator and sensitive reader, and ascetic in the ways he subsumes himself to his conceptual goals. Paradoxically, by suppressing his performative persona, he reveals a more permanent personality.
Though he earned his merit badges in the avant-garde scene around Charles Ludlam, the influence on Stuart Sherman from the Conceptual Art undertakings preceding him is apparent. His performances and videos feature repeated tasks, verbal instructions, minimal inflection, and geometric trajectories. “I find that in art in general, whatever the discipline, there’s too often a fascination with the material aspects of the medium, the sensuous properties of the medium with too little attention to the ideas that form the material.” Right! And like many other conceptual artists working before him, Stuart Sherman relentlessly interrogates written language in his ink drawings and found photo collages, many of which diagram the alphabet and select words that are incidentally loaded with pathos: “DRAMA,” “SCREAM.”
Most of the drawings look schematic, like tic-tac-toe games, semaphore messages, or dance instructions. He described them as “ideographic” and it’s tempting to identify figures among the dots and dashes. For example, we start to see in many drawings a large X topped with an O, which seems to correspond to the man/men noted in their respective titles. We also spot recurrent rings that signify the sun, and menacing zigzag lines, often red, that signal agitation or chaos, as in Orgy.
Beyond linguistic knob-twiddling, Stuart Sherman dissects and disperses the body and senses into his environment. In the videos, staccato editing and rebus-like montages establish analogies between his body parts and inanimate objects. Eating, in his words, “demonstrated most patently…the conversion of a physical act into language.” It also projects his face and open mouth onto the facades of a series of restaurants and diners. His “punctuating mouth” claps shut like a clapboard slate. In Portrait of Benedicte Pesle, the artist stands in a telephone booth, only to be replaced by a stack of white pillows. Baseball/TV stars a television-headed effigy, and in Theater Piece, he alternates between himself and a 2D cutout of his body – both strategies would appear later in his work. Finally, Discovery of the Phonograph establishes the transitive mechanics between field of vision, a spinning record, and bodily movement.
Chairs recur in Stuart Sherman’s imagery. As a poet, he loved word play and puns. I wonder if the Dr. Frankenstein in him recrafted the chair to stand in for him. One drawing mingles “chair” and “man” into the sequence “Chair Manned,” “Man Chaired,” until they amalgamate as “Chair Man/Man Chair.” Is it a coincidence that “Chair Man” sounds a lot like “Sherman?” Like Marcel Duchamp and “Marchand du Sel?”
Maybe we’ll find more clues in Nothing Up My Sleeve, the group show that just opened at Participant, Inc, which I hope to cover next week…