JERRY SALTZ, RABBLEROUSER?
Everyone knows about Facebook, of course, but in the art world no one has embraced Facebook with quite the same genius as New York art critic Jerry Saltz. After quickly reaching the Facebook maximum of 5,000 "friends," Saltz made his "wall" into a kind of public assembly, where issues of the day -- from art shows to gossip and scandal -- are avidly discussed by a surprising number of participants. Though Saltz’s Facebook forum sounds like any other comments page, it has one important distinction, as Saltz points out -- people are taking part under their own names, which somehow makes the discussion more relevant.
Saltz says he has several rules for posting on his forum, including "keep it short" and "keep your sense of humor." No attacks on fellow commenters are allowed, though attacks on Saltz himself are tolerated (and not infrequent, despite accusations of sycophancy from malcontents).
One recent topic, which gathered nearly 200 comments in record time, began with a report on the Williamsburg blog Hyperallergic to the effect that New Museum curator Richard Flood, at a talk at the Portland (Ore.) Art Museum, had suggested that bloggers were like "prairie dogs" ("one prairie dog pops up. . . . another pops up. . . . they have no idea. . . . truth means nothing to them") and that Saltz, with his Facebook "army," was stirring up "the aggressive spirit in this country" that could lead to a populist backlash against culture. Saltz’s page is like a website for Mussolini, according to the intemperate curator.
The bloggers did not take these remarks well, apparently, nor did many of the comments on Saltz’s Facebook page. (The feeling in this corner is that Flood’s assessment of the blogger mob is amusing, and not entirely off the mark, but that he is wrong in typing Saltz as some kind of cultural tea-bagger.) In any case, Saltz’s "wall" has moved on to other topics, and the New Museum says that "we are going to stay out of the back and forth."
LOWELL DARLING FOR GOVERNOR
In 1978, San Francisco artist Lowell Darling ran for governor of California against Jerry Brown in the Democratic primary. A performance artwork disguised as a political action, it led to a video titled Making News (1978) and a book, One Hand Shaking.
Now, 32 years later, the irrepressible California Conceptualist has re-entered the political arena, once again facing off against Jerry Brown in a run for California’s top office. Darling launched his campaign with an exhibition titled "Full Disclosure" at Gallery 16 in San Francisco, a show consisting of all of the artist’s personal possessions that are in the U.S. (he has been living in Europe), ranging from childhood memorabilia, IRS documents and other personal items to artworks, including mail-art collaborations with Ray Johnson. The show ends Mar. 31, 2010, but the campaign goes on. For more info, click here.
COLLECTOR SUES DEALER IN ART DISPUTE
What’s it worth to stay off of a Marlene Dumas "blacklist"? How about $8 million? That’s the amount that Miami collector Craig Robins wants from David Zwirner Gallery for allegedly costing him the South African-born artist’s affections. Robins’ lawsuit, filed on Monday in Manhattan federal court, asks for $3 million in compensatory damages, plus a whopping $5 million in punitive damages for the gallery's "reprehensible motives" and "wanton dishonesty," according to a story in the New York Post.
If nothing else, the suit is a fascinating glimpse into the machinations that go on at the high end of the art market. Robins alleges that the gallery "blabbed" to Dumas (in the Post’s words) that it had helped him resell one of her paintings, Reinhardt's Daughter (1994) in 2004, thereby breaching a confidentiality agreement and earning Robins the disapproval of the artist. Zwirner supposedly informed the artist about the sale to curry favor with her, in a bid to win the right to represent her work.
Now, Robins says that he finds himself barred from buying Dumas’ from any of the artist’s primary dealers, and says that Zwirner admitted that she was displeased with Robins’ 2004 sale. Robins also says that the gallery promised to try to make amends by getting him back on Dumas’ good side, and to give him dibs on any new paintings that didn’t go to museum collections -- but that he got no response when he tried to purchase three paintings (!) from her latest Zwirner show, "Against the Wall," last week.
The gallery denies Robins’ allegations and promises to defend itself in court. For those who want to see what the fuss is all about, "Against the Wall" is on view Mar. 18-Apr. 24, 2010. See www.davidzwirner.com
ABRAMOVIC MEETS HER MATCH?
It’s hard to convey the gravity of Marina Abramovic’s ongoing performance work, The Artist Is Present, for her Museum of Modern Art retrospective, for which Abramovic sits in the MoMA atrium and challenges any comer to stare into her eyes until they can take no more. However, the artist may have met her equal on Saturday, Mar. 27, 2010, when another artist, Anya Liftig, sat down across from her. Liftig arrived at 9:15 am, in time to be the first person in line to confront Abramovic. She was dressed in a dark blue dress and had braided her hair in order to resemble the senior artist. Liftig went on to stay locked in a staring contest with Abramovic all day, to the bemusement or disappointment of those in line waiting for a turn themselves.
So, who is Anya Liftig? She is herself an artist, and conceived of her participation in The Artist Is Present as a performance of her own, which she has dubbed The Anxiety of Influence. A 2004 MFA graduate of Georgia State University, the Brooklyn-based Liftig has in the past done such works as Jewbilly, a "narrative performance piece" focusing on her experience of growing up between two cultures (her mother is from East Kentucky, her father from Hartford, Conn.)
Interviewed by Tatiana Berg in Bomb magazine, Liftig said that she is naturally a "squirmy, awkward, physically uncomfortable person," and that she prepared for The Anxiety of Influence for one week, "scouting the best locations, abstaining from alcohol, eating a high protein diet, practicing sitting still, not speaking for long periods of time." Essentially, the work was meant as an homage, "playing with ideas from the inside out," in Liftig’s words, with the artist careful to remain within the parameters set for participation in The Artist is Present: stay silent, don’t move, don’t put anything on the table.
What about the reviews? James Westcott, author of the just-published Abramovic biography, When Marina Abromivic Dies, told Artnet News that he thought Liftig’s The Anxiety of Influence was "partly funny, but I think too creepy to be a masterstroke of satire."
FRASER ON INSTITUTIONAL CRITIQUE: TIME TO GROW UP
What does Andrea Fraser, the artist who once filmed herself having sex with an art collector to make a point about the artist as a commodity, think of today’s debates about the role of the art institution? The topic came up in an interview with the Harvard Crimson on the occasion of the retrospective "Andrea Fraser: Boxed Set" at the school’s Carpenter Center. And the answer might surprise her admirers: Fraser says, in essence, that contemporary institutional critiquers need to grow up. According to Fraser, "there’s a lot of anti-institutionalism in the art world and elsewhere; however, at this point, I have to think about it as being a little adolescent." The artist goes on to explain that the impulse of her early work was to "escape" the institution, but that these days she sees a better way: "anyone really looking at institutional critique and the practice associated with it could see that it was never about escaping institutions," the now-successful artist opines to the Crimson, adding, "Instead [of trying to escape] one is left to struggle within this discourse."
ANIMATING THE RUMBLE IN THE JUNGLE
Chris Isenberg, the sport and culture fanatic whose No Mas website is famous for its sophisticated sports gear, much of it licensed -- a t-shirt with "Cassius Clay" written in classic Coca-Cola logo style, for instance, based on an old photo of the fighter at Angelo Dundee’s Miami gym -- has gotten into the movie business. On the occasion of the 35th anniversary of the "Rumble in the Jungle," the 1974 fight in Zaire between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman, Isenberg commissioned Minnesota watercolorist David Rathman to make an animated short film based on footage of the boxing match. Rathman’s original art from the film is currently on view in New York at Larissa Goldston Gallery, and Rathman and No Mas have also collaborated on a series of inexpensive ($250 each) limited edition prints, also depicting scenes from the fight.
Isenberg’s "Rumblevision," as it is called, features two other short films on the fight as well. James Blagden’s comic black-and-white animation GFOS vs. GOAT, pits the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, against Ali, the Greatest of All Time, in a kind of pugilistic dance-off. In Jerome Lagarrigue’s more painterly and lyrical Round Zero, Ali’s opponents morph into a buffalo and a whale, and the vid ends with a quote from Ali that includes the line, "I’m so mean I make medicine sick." The vids can be found on YouTube or the No Mas website.
ART AND POLITICS, BETWEEN COVERS
Two new books tackle the subject of art and politics, a topic that is of special interest in the Shepard Fairey era. Scholar Maurice Berger’s For All the World to See: Visual Culture and the Struggle for Civil Rights is due from Yale University Press on Apr. 20, 2010. Six years in the making, the book looks at the role played by visual images, and the rise of television and picture magazines, in the struggle for civil rights in the U.S.
The publication coincides with an eponymous exhibition that opens at the International Center of Photography, May 21-Sept. 12, 2010, and subsequently appears at the two co-organizing institutions, the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., and the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in Baltimore.
Already out is Julia Bryan-Wilson’s Art Workers: Radical Practice in the Vietnam War Era, which was published by the University of California Press in October 2009 (and dubbed a "best book of 2009" by Artforum magazine). Bryan-Wilson looks at four central figures of the period -- Carl Andre, Robert Morris, Hans Haacke and Lucy Lippard -- to show the ways that "a polemical redefinition of artistic labor played a central role in minimalism, process art, feminist criticism, and conceptualism."
RYAN MCGINNESS AT THE VIRGINIA MFA
Artist Ryan McGinness has gained a certain amount of renown in downtown New York for throwing one party a week for a year -- basically 50 parties in a row (a project now drawing to a close) -- but he does manage to get some studio work done as well. Witness the ca. 32 x 8 ft. painting done by McGinness for the atrium of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, which goes on public view on May 1, 2010, when the MFA unveils its new $150-million McGlothlin Wing. Dubbed Art History Is Not Linear, the new work is made in McGinness’ signature style -- multiple overlays of brightly colored, logo-like silkscreens -- but the images are all derived from works in the MFA collection, ranging from ancient art to European paintings to contemporary works like Barry Flanagan’s leaping hare and Claes Oldenburg’s oversized eraser.
FUNDRAISER FOR DAN ASHER
A special benefit exhibition has been organized for New York artist Dan Asher, who has been suffering from lymphoma/leukemia for many years. The show, featuring intimate portraits by Asher of Bob Marley from 1974-78, takes place at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise at 620 Greenwich Street in New York on Thursday, Apr. 1, 2010, at 7-9 pm. Sales go towards Asher’s medical expenses; for more info, see www.danasherart.com
REMEMBERING NANCY SPERO
Pioneering feminist artist Nancy Spero (1926-2009) is being honored with a public commemoration at the Great Hall of Cooper Union in New York City on Sunday, Apr. 18, 2010, at 3 pm. Speakers include Benjamin Buchloh, Donna De Salvo, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Kiki Smith and Robert Storr. All are welcome.