Calendar. 04.03.13. + Ken Johnson Kerfuffle 2.0


Sandy Says So, 2012, by Lisa Adams. Part of the artist’s solo exhibit, Second Life, at CB1 Gallery. Opens Sunday at 5pm, in downtown Los Angeles. (Image courtesy of the artist and CB1.)

  • Boston: Barry McGee, at the Institute of Contemporary Art. Opens Saturday.
  • N.J.: New video works by Lee Arnold, at the Montclair Art Museum. Opens today, in Montclair.
  • NYC: Spectacle: The Music Video, at the Museum of the Moving Image. Opens today, in Astoria.
  • NYC: Gordon Matta-Clark, Above and Below, at David Zwirner. Through May 4, on 19th Street in Chelsea.
  • NYC: Elliott Hundley, at Andrea Rosen Gallery. Through April 27, in Chelsea.
  • NYC: The Emo Show, at the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts. Through May 11th.
  • NYC: Cordy Ryman, Adaptitive Radiation, at Dodge Gallery. Opens Saturday at 6pm, on the Lower East Side.
  • NYC: Pufferella, Pufferella’s Boudouir, at The Lab. This Saturday, for one day only, starting at 2pm at The Lab at 400 East 9th St, #2B, in the East Village.
  • NYC: Critical Language, a forum on International Art English, at Triple Canopy. This Saturday at 4pm, in Greenpoint. (For writer nerds, this looks like a must-do.)
  • West Palm Beach: The Radical Camera: New York’s Photo League, 1936-1951, at the Norton Simon Museum of Art. Through June 16.
  • S.F.: Christian Marclay, The Clock, at SFMOMA. The museum half a dozen screenings starting tomorrow at 11am (for members only). The first fully public screening will take place on May 4; the last, on June 1.
  • L.A.: Marilyn Minter, at Regen Projects. Opens Saturday at 6pm, in Hollywood.
  • L.A.: Anna Sew Hoy, Home Office, at Various Small Fires. Opens Saturday, in Venice.

In other news: The Ken Johnson kerfuffle has reared its head again. I’m on deadline, so here’s the short of it: Johnson just penned a piece in Art in America in response to a critique by David Levi-Strauss about his work reviewing shows concerning female and African-American artists. (While I generally agree with some of Levi-Strauss’s points, the whole “my students say this” and “my students say that” set-up of his essay is totally passive aggressive.) Johnson defends his positions in his new essay, and, in response, the white male status quo has taken to Facebook to give the New York Times critic some hearty bro slaps.

While I haven’t been wild about all of the critiques of Johnson’s work (I think the petition could have been more nuanced and Levi-Strauss just needed to strap on a pair and not lay his arguments on his anonymous students), I agree with many of the points being made. Johnson has a real bee in his bonnet about shows built around gender or identity. That is, gender or identity that isn’t white or male.

A lot of the Facebook comments keep going on about how Johnson’s work is being taken out of context and that this is all some sort of witch hunt. It is most certainly not. (The original petition, to be clear, does not call for Johnson’s censure. It merely asks that the New York Times acknowledge and address Johnson’s “editorial lapses.” This could have been done in the Public Editor column, or by running a letter to the editor with a response. The petition’s language is vague. But it is most certainly not calling for Johnson to be fired.)

For the record, I don’t have a problem with all of Johnson’s work. I’ve quite enjoyed some of his reviews in the past. But in the arena of gender and identity, I find him distressingly narrow-minded. I think a close read of the new Art in America essay is evidence of that. And certainly, a close read of some his previous work is, too. I did that the first time around. See my previous essay on the subject.

What bums me out the most in all of this is the artists — the ones who won’t get a nuanced criticism of their work in the New York Times because of who they happen to be.

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