Magazine Home  |  News  |  Features  |  Reviews  |  Books  |  People  |  Horoscope  
Back to Reviews 97

Charles Long
Buloop, Buloop,
Courtesy Tanya
Bonakdar Gallery

The Whitney facade
with Pettibon banner

Cara Perlman's
inflatable sculpture

Cara Perlman

Detail of untitled
painting by
Laura Owens

Charles Clough
Holy Family, 1994

Michael Auder
Five Ring Circus
at AC Project Room

Michael Auder,

Taylor Mead's

Mike Flanagan
from Sick

artist's diary 

by Robert Goldman

April 6, 1997 -- Up to the Whitney to look at the Biennial again. Raymond Pettibon's gigantic banner on the outside scaffolding is a memorable moment in the history of the building. Mike Kelley told me that the image comes from a book Pettibon did a long time ago, all drawings of trains.

I wanted to see the David Hammons piece that I had missed the first time I was there. It's a wall-sized projected video of the artist kicking a bucket -- approaching the Bowery kicking a bucket, crossing the Bowery kicking a bucket, and walking down the Bowery, along a white wall, kicking a bucket.

A couple of days ago I ran into Charles Long who told me that the Whitney was having trouble with Bullop, Bullop, his water-cooler sculpture from which visitors can actually get a drink in a paper cone cup. Needless to say, the museum is uncomfortable with the idea of having water in the galleries. But even more ridiculous is that it takes three different labor unions to change the five-gallon water bottle. One union is in charge of bringing the bottle up the elevator, another one is in charge of unplugging the water cooler, and a third union holds the sculpture while the bottle is changed. Currently the piece carries a sign that reads, "This Sculpture is Temporarily Out of Water."

I also had the privilege of seeing Pat Hearn and Colin DeLand in front of Douglas Blau's wall of images. Pat is a beautiful woman. Before she became a famous art dealer I had seen her perform with her cabaret band Wild and Wonderful a couple of times. She's a marvelous singer.

April 5 -- Went over to Cara Perlman's studio, chatted for a while and looked at her little and big transparent floating sculptures of faces. She said that maybe they were about her feeling invisible. Her video work was recently visible in the peephole at Postmasters in SoHo in a collaboration with Coleen Fitzgibbon. It showed a tape loop of a pair of hands counting $100 bills over and over. The hands belonged to the owner of Max Fish, the bar that launched the whole Ludlow Street scene.

Cara suggested I go to 100 Avenue of the Americas where Gavin Brown has opened a ground floor showroom space. When I got there I was told by a bleached blond painter that the artist showing, Laura Owens, had turned down Mary Boone to go with Gavin Brown (note: I include this as an unsubstantiated rumor. Those who care to know the fact of the matter can find out for themselves. Those who don't care can include me among them). Laura Owens' big paintings have expansive, flat colored planes with smaller shapes of thicker paint that together make simplified representations. There's a seascape, a mountain landscape, a still life and a two-point perspective interior that looked to me to have a big Jo Baer white square in the middle with hallway walls at the wings that held small painted paintings. It was fresh and even funny and smart in the fluid dynamic between representation and abstraction. The different ways paint was handled on the same canvas reflected a knowing, post-conceptual attitude.

I met Rirkrit Tiravanija there as well as Stephen Westfall, who told me a funny, slightly dirty joke. After that I went over to Tricia Collins Grand Salon's group painting show where I talked to Charles Clough who has a very good painting in the show. The comedian Carl Reiner was at the opening. I told Charles the joke I'd just heard, and we talked over whether I should tell it to Carl Reiner. I had met Reiner once before so I said hello and asked him if he wanted to hear a joke. "Sure," he said. "It's a little risqué" I said. "Well I certainly hope so," he said. So I told him the joke. He didn't laugh, but he said, "That's a new one." Later it was explained to me that comedians don't laugh at jokes. It's not a very funny joke, but here it is all the same: Jack and Jill are working in a factory, but the business isn't going good. The owner has to make a decision so he goes to Jill and says Jill, I'm going to have to lay you or Jack off.

Michael Smith, Amy Sillman and I walked over to Michel Auder's show at AC Project Room (Apr. 5 - May 17). On the way we passed a big glamorous crowd scene that looked like a Hollywood movie premiere. It turned out to be Gianni Versace's fashion show at Ace Gallery. I wondered if the Guggenheim's Carl Andres were still inside?

Rather than making a viewing room for his single-channel videos, Michel Auder showed a video sculpture called Five Ring Circus. Five monitors sat in a row on a narrow steel table in the middle of the room, each playing different tapes in a kind of a fugue. I didn't catch more than a glimpse at the opening, but I did see places in North Africa and a purloined shot through a window of some people on a bed. Auder is the voyeur and spy, one who has traveled life. Here he is on his announcement card in the guise of a wise clown with a pointer saying look at this, and see what you see. With their brightly colored images the monitors look like a row of jewels. Who would ever think that watching television could be artistic?

Allen Ginsburg just died. At Michel's opening, Taylor Mead told me that reading Howl in the 1950s saved his life. Pop the Top with Taylor Mead is Taylor's new live web-radio show on three different websites --, and

Michel had a buffet dinner at a place on East 11th Street. Gary Indiana, Lynne Tillman and Linda Yablonsky were sitting at a table. Lynne said that she had mixed feelings about Allen Ginsburg, who she said was a great poet, but also a misogynist. I saw Allen perform last fall at St. Marks Church at the time of the publication of his book Selections that has on its cover his portrait painted by George Condo. It was an incredible performance. He sat himself down in the middle of some of downtown's best musicians (Lenny Kaye and Mark Ribot, among others) and sung his poems in his resounding low-pitched voice. One told the very tender story of sleeping on a cot when Jack Kerouac slides in and starts making love to him. Another, written on a bluff above ground zero at Los Alamos, N.M., conjures up poetic incantations equal to the power of plutonium. Ginsburg had more power and energy than anyone in the room. It was an unforgettable experience.

Another person I talked to at Michel's dinner was Cindy Sherman. She said that her gothic movie about murder in the office should be coming out in the fall.

April 3 -- Saw "Sick; The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist" by Kirby Dick at MoMA's New Directors New Films series. It doesn't get weirder than this. Dick's documentary of Bob Flanagan is amazing. Flanagan defied disease. He was powerfully human and funny. His sado-masochistic relationship with Sheree Rose was mutually reinforcing and a love story of the strangest kind. It's heroic (Isn't it strange what sort of heroes our time produces?) and sad, for he dies in the end. Rose's sequence of photos of the dead Flanagan are unlike any others. Along the way you meet his parents. His Mom says, "Where was I?" And you meet Sheree's dysfunctional parents also. Flanagan is even a counselor at a summer camp for kids who have Cystic Fibrosis, the same painful disease he has had all his life. He's sitting around a campfire singing jokey folk songs about the disease and its pain that makes the kids all crack up.

Flanagan certainly gives you your money's worth in the display of extreme "supermasochistic" acts. In the most famous scene -- I couldn't watch the whole thing -- he hammers a nail through his penis in close-up while he sings If I Had a Hammer. I had to shield most of the screen with my hand. Kirby Dick's work gets in close and shows you a life-affirming force of will that human beings will recognize. As intense as this movie is it is certainly not an advertisement for the S&M lifestyle.

Before the movie I looked into Rirkrit Tiravanija's small rectangular pavilion in the Sculpture Garden that is there for kids and others to observe, think and make drawings. It's an enjoyable activity.

ROBERT GOLDMAN is a New York artist.