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 Cover of Art News
April 1996

 Cover of Frieze
March-April 1996

 Cover of Art in America
April 1996

 Cover of Flash Art
March-April 1996

 Cover of Artforum
April 1996

the magazine rack 

by Patterson Beckwith 

Art News


Art in America

Flash Art


The April issue of Art News, which my 

editor tells me is the only art magazine 

that makes a profit, has a two-page ad for 

the Lincoln Continental on pages 17-18, an 

ad for a cruise line on page 120, an ad for 

a fancy Swiss watch made from "space-age 

ceramics" on page 41 and an inflammatory- 

conservative rant taken out as 

advertising by art dealer Louis K. Meisel 

on page 38, in which he applauds Ayn Rand 

and George Will and demonizes New York 

Times critic Roberta Smith for reviewing 

art involving "used tampons and sanitary 

napkins!", saying that "in the name of 

multiculturalism...we are coerced to 

dispose of the word `quality'...."

The magazine's gossip section, called "Art 

Talk," begins with an interesting two-

paragraph story about how the price is 

going up on the most expensive hot-dog-cart 

license in New York, the one reserving a 

spot outside the Metropolitan Museum of 

Art. "This year the Parks Department 

doubled the price of the contract, to 

$288,200." On the second page, we learn 

that Cindy Sherman's first movie, which 

went into production in Manhattan last 

month, should be released in the fall or 

winter. They say that "the film deals with 

a serial killer who stalks office 


On page 110, there is a three-page review 

by Kay Larson of the "Total Risk, Freedom, 

Discipline" abstract painting show at the 

Guggenheim Museum. Larson says that 

"Modernism was the century's abstract 

sacrament" and goes on to describe what she 

calls a "worshipful exhibition" of 

non-figurative art. She writes about 

walking up the ramp at the museum: "around 

you go, rising through the sacred space of 

modernism's aspirations. The path is lined 

with icons...a parade of spiritually 

instructive objects." Her main complaints 

are that the show doesn't include anything 

by young artists, or anything by Picasso, 

and that "the abstract-figurative debate 

itself is antiquated."

On page 114 is the cover story, "John 

McEnroe: From Center Court to SoHo," a 

congenial interview with McEnroe by Art 

News publisher Milton Esterow. The 

priceless cover photo, taken at the tennis 

star's art gallery, shows a balding and 

goateed McEnroe sitting at his desk in 

front of a giant red-and-white Ed Ruscha 

painting that says AN INVASION OF PRIVACY. 

The article paints McEnroe as a charming 

dilettante of an art dealer. He says things 

like "I'm a little uncomfortable to say to 

someone `hey, buy this, buy that.'" and "I 

still feel like I have a lot to learn. One 

of the best things about having a gallery 

is learning. I'm light years behind those 

sharks out there." The article is peppered 

with complimentary quotes from Laurence 

Salander and Eric Fischl. Salander runs an 

art gallery where he let McEnroe 

`apprentice' for a few months in 1993, 

before John opened the John McEnroe Gallery 

in 1994. Salander says that "He's set up 

emotionally and intellectually to love 

art...he's intelligent and sensitive enough 

to understand art and to need it." And from 

Fischl, "I think he's extraordinary. What 

impressed me was how fast he put together a 

consistent collection. We've gone to 

galleries, and I've watched him pick out 

the best drawings." Fischl also says that 

he and John traded drawing lessons for 

tennis lessons a few years ago, but that 

McEnroe was hopeless as an artist. 

The story seems to be that McEnroe was an 

art collector and museum-goer throughout 

his tennis career, and increasingly since 

he retired five years ago. He had lots of 

friends in the art world, mostly dealers, 

who wanted to encourage his interest in 

art. He bought a loft at 41 Greene Street 

to live in and then on a sort of lark 

decided to have an art gallery instead. It 

seems like he is in the resale business, 

borrowing artwork from other galleries. He 

has an assistant, Steven Soulios, who says 

in the article, "I see myself as a curator. 

We hope to push forth new ideas. You can 

still be avant-garde with figurative work. 

That's the vision we're trying to show." 

Still, though, McEnroe seems to aspire to 

representing artists on his own: "I've 

heard from some of the guys like [the 

dealer] Bill Aquavella that I should just 

deal with the dead guys, because dead guys 

are a lot easier to deal with. Still, in my 

heart I want to be someone who can find a 

niche with some younger artists. I'd like 

to be part of bringing an artist up from 

obscurity. Obviously, the artist has to be 

good--that's the main thing."

In Frieze, the British art magazine, there 

is a short piece titled "Angelic Upstarts" 

about the new art school in Italy called 

Fabrica run by the Benetton clothes 

company. Author Jeremy Millar left the 

school feeling really disillusioned with 

the place. His complaints, first about the 

institution and then about Oliviero 

Toscani, Benetton's ad-man and founder of 

the school, are cutting and insightful. He 

mentions that the school's reflecting pools 

were poisoned with fungicide to discourage 

gypsies from using the water, and then goes 

on to talk about Toscani: "During my time 

at Fabrica, the French resumed nuclear 

testing in the Pacific. The next day, 

Oliveiro had the front page of Liberation: 

Chirac's face disfigured with badly 

photoshopped keloid scars. The day after, 

it was this image that became the news, on 

the front of all the other newspapers, 

effectively replacing the issue which it 

had sought to raise." Continuing, he 

alludes to the internal politics of the 

institution, which opened less than a year 

ago. Sounds like high turnover.

On page 48, there is a four-page piece by 

Stuart Morgan about the painter John 

Currin. Accompanied by five reproductions 

of Currin's work, the article speculates as 

to why the paintings seem to show such 

disregard for their (aging, nude, mostly 

female) subjects. Morgan guesses: "Perhaps 

loathing of the human body...forced Currin 

to assume the role of satirist. Satirists 

tend to be old-fashioned, intent on 

resisting change." Describing a painting of 

a woman called Guitar Lesson, Morgan says 

that "The result is embarrassing but also 

infuriating: a low trick played on us as 

well as her. But also on women in general." 

Towards the end of the piece, Morgan quotes 

Currin, who says his work is "Realist 

drag," and says that "the paintings take as 

their subject matter human relations at 

their most abject...the final effect is 

destructive, grotesque, nihilistic."

On page 58, Juan Vincente Aliaga pans the 

exhibition "Femininmasculin, Le sexe de l'art"

at the Pompidou Center in Paris, saying 

that the show was "short-sighted and 

prudish" and that "the curators linked 

themselves more closely with the fantasies 

of the '70s than to...more recent art." 

Aliagas objected to the "almost exclusively 

white heterosexual orientation of the 

show," which he says "undervalued the 

impact of AIDS on art." The review 

expressed dismay that curators from the 

land of Foucault could totally "ignore the 

cultural and behavioral ramifications of 

behavior and sexuality" in favor of an 

"appeal to nature." He aimed his strongest 

criticism at one section of the show 

devoted to the reproductive process, 

remarking that "Feminist struggles to 

separate sexuality from procreation seem to 

have served no purpose."

"Small Talk" by Kate Bush on Joseph Grigely 

appears on page 64. "Grigely has been 

totally deaf since childhood," explains 

Bush, "The substance of his work is the 

dialogues he has with others in the form of 

notes scribbled on pieces of paper." The 

artworks, called "Conversations with the 

Hearing," are occasionally presented as 

installations representing the place where 

the conversations "have, may or will 

occur," like a studio or restaurant. 

Grigely has also made a book, called Deaf 

and Dumb: A Tale, which Bush describes as 

"a pseudo-anthology of documents relating 

to the history of deaf education." It is 

the "Conversations," which she quotes 

Grigely as calling "drawings of speech," 

which are the subject of the article. 

Writing that the work is "an emblem for the 

impossible pursuit of meaning," and also 

that "it is unsurprising that [it] has been 

likened to the urgent calligraphies of Cy 

Twombly," she says that Grigely has 

bettered other artists who "have tried to 

counter the muteness of the art object 

through direct methods of communication," 

the difference in his work being that it is 

not just a one-sided declaration, but 

rather an examination of an exchange. 

In the reviews section at the back of the 

magazine, Ronald Jones writes about the 

"Haute Couture" show at the Metropolitan 

Museum. Jones says that the show "is not 

only a beautiful exhibition but historically 

profound in ways at least as engaging as 

anything on the museum's upper floors." 

Emphasizing the "seriousness" of the 

exhibition, he writes about what he calls 

the political clout of the fashion designer: 

"Consider how the [recent] use of fake fur 

has foregrounded the agenda of the animal 

rights and anti-fur movements. Couturiers 

can make `artists,' who think they have 

been truthful, feel awfully jealous."

Art in America's news section, called 

"Front Page," has a short article about a 

group show in Stockholm called 

"Interpol." The story is about the opening 

of the show, where a Russian artist named 

Alexander Brener, "declaring that he had 

given up art to become a rock star, started 

to bang away on a drum kit. In the midst of 

his performance, he rose from the drums and 

began destroying a large installation work 

[made mostly from human hair] by one of the 

other artists in the show, Wenda Gu." 

Another Russian artist, Oleg Kulik, was 

arrested for injuring people at the opening 

during his performance art: "Naked and 

chained to a doghouse, Kulik imitated a 

vicious dog, attacking anyone who came 

within range."

In a five-page "Report from Korea," Eleanor 

Heartney describes a big new international 

show there called the Kwangju Biennale. It 

seems like Heartney had a bad time in 

Korea; she bellyaches about "confusion 

caused by the scarcity of multilingual 

guides...lack of adequate transportation... 

[and] the unavailability of catalogues and 

press materials," saying that "visitors 

plunged into the opening chaos might be 

forgiven for thinking that Kwangju was 

not quite ready for primetime." She goes 

on to say that the works in the main show 

of the Biennale, called "Beyond the 

Borders," seemed to have been chosen to 

"emphasize the enduring cultural traditions 

of artists' native countries," and that the 

choice of the Cuban artist Kcho for the 

$50,000 grand prize "Underlined the 

preference for homespun, socially conscious 

commentary." Kcho's installation, entitled 

"Para Olvidar," "featured an old rowboat 

resting atop a field of upright beer 


The cover story, about Canadian artist Jeff 

Wall, is a review of a traveling show of 

the artist's recent work. Written by Richard 

Vine, the article makes Wall seem like a 

critic's dream; his pictures lend themselves 

to diverse and colorful interpretation, with 

which Vine fills most of the article. Vine 

also describes in detail Wall's technique for 

making his highly constructed photos, 

saying that the figures are "blatantly 

posed," and the shots "frankly devised." He 

says that the lighting "mimics the banal 

allover illumination of contemporary film, 

TV and advertising." The effect of all 

this, he concludes, is that Wall comes to 

"embody the...very totalizing power his 

pictures teach us to dread." 

"Visual Voices" by Raphael Rubinstein is 

about three artists who use writing in 

their work: Joseph Grigely, Kenneth 

Goldsmith and Sean Landers. Rubinstein 

seems pissed about having to read Sean 

Landers' handwritten, misspelled, 

confessional book,Sic, and he calls it 

boring and difficult to read. Giving a bad 

review to Lander's for his writing is like 

shooting fish in a barrel for Rubinstein, 

as he reproduces the most self-indicting 

confessions from Landers' book: "I mean the 

belief or hope in the back of my mind is 

that even though this writing appears...trite 

and meaningless that somehow it possess a 

deeper more profound meaning." Rubinstein 

says that "The ultimate in the 

relentlessly circular, solipsistic nature of 

Landers' imagination." The section on 

Grigely suffers from the lack of firsthand 

discussion Kate Bush had in her article 

about the same artist in this month's 

Frieze (see above). He says of Grigely's 

work, "Conversations with the Hearing": 

"The subject is not so much the artist's 

deafness but the complexities of 

language," and applauds Grigely's 

"accessible personalization of complex 

theoretical issues." Then Rubinstein turns 

to condescension, equating Grigely with 

Chuck Close (confined some years back to a 

wheelchair by a sudden paralyzing illness), 

as an unfortunate victim. The piece ends: 

"The resourcefulness and grit with which 

Grigely responds to his difficult situation 

is exemplary." Kenneth Goldsmith's book, 

No.111 2.7.93-7.22.95, is a 600-page 

collection of original and plagiarized 

phrases and words, organized alphabetically 

and by number of syllables. Rubinstein 

seems to have enjoyed the rhyming nonsense, 

and he includes a full column of the text 

in his article: "alterna-sucker, always a 

pleasure, amateur kisser, Amber Valetta, 

ambient sleeper, ambulance chaser, AMC 

Pacer." He says that "Goldsmith brings to 

the textual tradition of Conceptual art...a 

hitherto absent sense of hypnotic beat."

There's an ad for ArtNet on page 110, right 

before the back-of-the-magazine reviews. 

"Look for our online magazine," it says. 

Flash Art's first dozen or so editorial 

pages are, as in every issue, made up of 

the longest "News" section of any art 

magazine. The stories are mostly taken 

straight from press releases, and the whole 

section is an unreadably boring account of 

shows that opened or are going to open at 

various museums and art fairs. There is one 

short piece, accompanied by a reproduction, 

about how the Museum of Modern Art has 

purchased a complete set of "Untitled Film 

Stills" from Cindy Sherman for about $1 

million, and another about how Flash Art's 

own "Art Diary" directory is going online.

Jake and Dinos Chapman, who were on the 

cover of the last issue of this bimonthly 

magazine, have taken out an ad that appears 

on page 35. A full-page response to a 

review by Martin Maloney, signed by the 

brothers, it charges Maloney with having 

"an erotically intense interest in his own 

opinion" and "an inferiority complex." The 

reply ends with the facetious admission 

"...we are '80s artists, we are gratuitously 

contrived from magazines like an 

aesthetically montaged Frankenstein and 

we are less than base pleasure." On page 

49, there is a less critical review than 

the one in Frieze of the "Femininmasculin" 

show at the Pompidou. Eric Troncy says that 

"everything that depicts a penis, a vulva 

and the various orifices has been brought 

together under the Centre Pompidou roof for 

the occasion." "In the final analysis," 

Troncy allows, "we get to see some very 

nice artworks...[but] what "Femininmasculin"

is lacking [is] a stronger rock-and-roll 


Dike Blair has an article on page 78 called 

"Artist's Dream Machines: The Films of 

Longo, Salle, and Clark." Blair offers a 

plausible explanation for why so many 

"films directed by artists, pretty much of 

one generation with little or no previous 

experience in film-making, all appear at 

once," the answer being money. He explains 

that the entertainment industry is cashing 

in on America's appetite for independent 

films; the industry has figured out that 

"after all it's just about as easy to make 

a knock-off of Pulp Fiction as it is of Die 

Hard." He writes that "what Longo, Salle 

and Clark have been doing all along in the 

art world matches the job description of 

the auteur film-maker." Blair passes over 

the mediocrity of the artists' movies to 

claim that making movies is a legitimate 

extension of what Clark, Salle, and Longo 

do in galleries. "The main ingredients of 

all three films reduce to those of the 

artist/director's work. Longo is 

preoccupied with scale and media-dynamics. 

Salle organizes an amalgam of images that 

are simultaneously tasteful, detached and 

disturbing. Larry Clark offers up is edgy 

adolescent obsession." In a epilogue to the 

article, Blair did a short interview, "A 

Chat with Cindy Sherman," about her 

untitled horror movie. Sherman pitches the 

movie, which is being written by someone 

else: "It's about this secretary, Doreen, 

who lives in Queens. She's a dim-witted, 

mousy person who works in an office. She 

accidentally kills somebody when she's 

working late...this sort of empowers her, 

she gets off on it and starts killing more 

people in her office. Then she starts 

bringing home their bodies, one by one, 

back to the basement of her apartment in 

Queens. With all the dead bodies she sets 

up a sort of 'Sherman' tableaux, a sort of 

office that represents her ideal 

environment." The article would've 

benefited from some discussion of the movie 

that Pace gallery owner Arne Glimcher 

produced,Just Cause, which was really, 

really bad, trite and formulaic. Would he 

say it is a reflection of Arne's gallery 

career, or what? 

On page 88, there is an incoherent and 

rambling article by Janine Gordon called 

"SM(Art) Alex Videos," about Alex Bag, 

Alix Lambert, and Alix Pearlstein. The 

piece takes as its premise that "the use of 

video as a socially critical medium by 

three female artists who happen to share 

the same first name is anything but a 

coincidence." Gordon then fails to explain 

how this is not a coincidence. Gordon 

sounds kind of insane when she tries to 

explain why video is an important medium: 

"Video is used as readily as the printed 

word and distributed, reproduced and 

transmitted as frequently via Blockbuster 

Video, cable satellite, NASA and the World 

Wide Web. As soon as the economy picks up, 

we will have videos on all our computers 

and we will be able to see our 

conversations live." She makes even less 

sense when she compares the three artists' 

work, writing that "challenging or 

embracing the redundant banality in 

everyday life through theatrical 

performances synthesizes and synchronizes 

Alex Bag, Alix Lambert and Alix 

Pearlstein's videos." She ends the article 

by stating that "the mutation of an 

individual's so-called sincere or fixed 

identity into an abstract notion of 

selfhood questions the transparency of 

appearances. The knowledge that play-acting 

exposes by exaggerating a specific reality, 

theatrically unravels a concealed truth." 


Artforum more than any of the other art 

magazines, seems to aspire to a 

general-interest audience. Or maybe they 

just want to appeal to their art-audience's 

other interests. Its April issue has 11 

articles with non-art subjects, compared to 

five about art exhibitions or artists (not 

including the art reviews in the back of 

the magazine). There are two articles about 

the Internet, four articles about music, 

one article about fashion and four articles 

about movies. I am probably just sick of 

reading about art from writing this piece, 

but I find the non-art stories refreshing 

and interesting. On page 15 and 16 are two 

articles about computers. The first is a 

review of a book by Bill Gates, and the 

second, called "Hot List," is a regular 

column about Web pages by Mark Van de 

Walle, this month devoted to sites about 

movies. Other writing about movies includes 

a Q&A with participants of the Sundance 

Film Festival; J. Hoberman on The 

American President, which he says is all 

about Michael Douglas being like Bill 

Clinton; a Thyrza Nichols Goodeve interview 

with The Brothers Quay; and a "Focus" 

review in the back of the magazine about an 

exhibition of French filmmaker Chris Marker 

at the Wexner Center. The music articles 

are about--what else--alternative music; 

reviews of a new Yoko Ono album, a new 

album by the all-girl punk band the 

Raincoats, and an article by Charles Aaron 

about white-boy blues music (Beck, Railroad 

Jerk, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion). 

Further on in the magazine there is a piece 

by Jan Fjeld about Brazilian rap music. 

Fjeld describes the difficulties faced by 

rap artists, whose music goes unplayed on 

the radio and whose impoverished audience 

mostly has no buying power; "the average 

monthly wage is $100; a CD costs around 

$20." Fjeld ends the article by saying 

that "Brazilian rappers and hip-hop culture 

are where North American rappers were in 

the mid '80s: struggling to broadcast their 

hard-edged social message beyond the 

borders of their own neighborhoods." 

Artforum has recently exhibited an unseemly 

obsession with fashion, but this issue 

seems to be an exception; it only has one 

article about clothing. French Critic 

Olivier Zahm's regular two-page spread, 

"Flash Track," consists of his writing 

about the work of one fashion photographer 

and one fashion designer. This month's is 

actually pretty cool: he got 24-year-old 

London style magazine photographer Mario 

Sorrenti to take pictures of clothes by an 

underground NYC clothing and art collective 

called the Bernadette Corporation. On page 

63, there is an ad taken out by the two-

person collaborative called Liz-n-Val. They 

always have an ad; this month's is 

relatively low key, only a quarter-page and 

in black-and-white. It is a cartoon of 

little boats with flags on them that say, 

"Seeking Creative supporters...Brave 

Patrons, Brave Galleries, Brave Museums, 

Critics, Global Savages Adventure." It also 

has their phone number and their signature 

in the bottom right corner. Liz-n-Val are 

just like Dan Graham, making art especially 

to go in magazines, with the difference 

that I don't think Graham still has to pay 

for his space, does he?

Patterson Beckwith is an artist who lives 

and works in New York.