Category: Conceptual

Photo Diary: ’112 Greene Street’ at David Zwirner Gallery, in NYC.

A piece of Gordon Matta-Clark’s graffiti truck, from 1973. Matta-Clark was inspired by graffiti in the early ’70s — before it had caught on with the mainstream art world. (Photo by C-M.)

The 1970s were not kind to New York. There was a middle class exodus to the suburbs. The Son of Sam was terrorizing the town. The city was bankrupt. Which, in a way, made the place an ideal spot for artists — who could take over empty SoHo warehouses for dance performances and attack derelict buildings in the Bronx with chainsaws, all without anybody batting an eyelash. The current David Zwirner exhibit 112 Greene Street: The Early Years (1970-74) examines this history — specifically, the story behind the alternative arts spot that gave rise to a number of figures, among them sculptor and conceptualist Gordon Matta-Clark. (Most interestingly, he was able to make a real live cherry tree grow in 112′s by-all-accounts-nasty basement.)

For those who relish examining a period when the city was entirely bereft of velvet ropes and gaggles of Sex and the City wannabes, this is definitely the show for you. It is heavy on Matta-Clark, containing evidence of some of his early building slicing experiments, but also has some compelling sculptures by Richard Nonas and Alan Senet. In addition, to anyone interested in the history of graffiti, the show is an absolute must-see. Matta-Clark had a heavy duty interest in the art form — letting Bronx teens tag up his van and documenting early tags on the subways in pieces he called Graffiti Photoglyphs. (See the photos below.)

You’ve got until the end of the week to catch the show. 112 Greene Street runs through this Saturday, Feb. 12.

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The Figure in Contemporary Art: Brooklyn Museum.

Fred Wilson, Grey Area (Brown Version), 1993. (Photographs taken by Ben Valentine at the Brooklyn Museum last December.)

Recently, while browsing an art history book, I began thinking about how much the portrayal of the human figure has evolved since the Paleolithic era (think Venus of Willendorf), through the Renaissance (Michelangelo’s David), to today — when contemporary artists seem to portray humans conceptually and aesthetically in radically different manners. This has inspired me to begin collecting contemporary representations of the human form. I thought I’d begin the series at the Brooklyn Museum, which features a wide range of artists and aesthetics (all walking distance from my apartment). Hopefully this photo series will begin to give us an idea of the many facets of identity today. It could help us see how far we have come, or simply show how psychotic we all happen to be…

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The Digest. 11.29.10.

Silver, by William Hundley. (Image courtesy of Hundley.)

Today you’ll find me at ARTnews.

Asco’s Spray Paint LACMA, 1972. (Image courtesy of Harry Gamboa Jr.)

Hey Folks:

Taking the week off because it’s the freakin’ end of summer and I’ve got work comin’ out the hoo-ha. In the meantime, may I kindly direct you to ARTnews magazine’s September issue, where I’ve got a story on Chicano art — one of the most challenging pieces of writing I’ve ever done.

So, if you want to learn all about what went down in the photo above (that’s really LACMA and it was really sprayed) and you’re keen on reading about a crew of artists who you may not know, but whom you should…then, by all means, click right here. Or, better yet, pick up the mag, which is on newsstands now.


Sell Out: Street artists go Madison Avenue.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Cash For Your Warhol, by Hargo (aka Geoff Hargadon).

I’ve organized a little online show for the folks behind the Add-Art Firefox plug-in that riffs on advertising and selling out. For the purpose of this digital gathering, I’ve teamed up with eight brand name vandals — Stikman, Skewville, infinity, Hargo, eko, Celso, Cake and Abe Lincoln Jr. –  to replace all of those annoying web ads with something waaaay artier and  entertaining. (Haven’t heard of the plug-in? You can read all about it here and download it here.)

In this post, find examples of each of the artists’ “campaigns.” To see the complete series of pieces that each artist created (along with an explanatory write-up of the show), visit

Special thanks to Hana Newman for pulling this together.


Abe Lincoln Jr.






Photo Diary: John Baldessari’s ‘Pure Beauty’ at LACMA.

And whenever possible, add a unicorn. Tips for Artists Who Want to Sell, 1966-68 by John Baldessari. (Photos by C-M.)

While I was in L.A., I managed to pop into LACMA for a brief jaunt through the John Baldessari retrospective that just opened this past Sunday. I have to admit that his work had always struck me as a little clinically conceptual  — the ultimate in art-industry inside-baseball. (Full disclosure: Prior to this show, my exposure to him had been limited to group shows.) But this exhibition, which gathers more than 150 objects dating back to the early ’60s, has convinced me that he has a very wry sense of humor, even if it’s an art-nerdy one.

In one video, he says “I am making art” over and over — an absurdist art mantra. In his Ghetto Boundary Project, from 1969, he marked the boundaries of a San Diego, Calif. ghetto (as defined by the local planning commission) with stickers — making him an O.G. street artist. In the seriously stonerrific video, Six Colorful Inside Jobs, from 1977, he has a house painter paint a small cube six different colors. I was hypnotized.

There are unusual photographic collages and arrangements and a giant brain sculpture that incorporates video of the viewer. (Yep, it was a head-trip.) Moreover, the imagery is saturated with Southern California — images of film stills, palm trees, blue skies and wide streets lined with bungalows. I really dug it.

Pure Beauty is up through Sept. 12. If for some reason, you can’t make it. There’s always his digital app, which lets users create their own 17th century Dutch still-life. Plus: read Christopher Knight’s review in the L.A. Times here.

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On the water in NYC with Marie Lorenz.

Spent Sunday at dawn paddling around Randall’s Island with artist Marie Lorenz, as part of her long-running project, The Tide and Current Taxi. It was all kinds of awesome. My WNYC colleague Jennifer Hsu made the most wonderful video of the whole experience (that’s her in action, above). Check out our report over at WNYC Culture.