Tagged: jerry saltz

Miscellany. 06.28.11.

One of the best visual tricks in Ryan Trecartin’s solo show at PS1: A mirror on the floor reflected the video on the screen on the wall — allowing the viewer to take in the already-hallucinatory spectacle upside down. (Photo by C-M.)

Ryan Trecartin at PS1
I’ve been pondering the Ryan Trecartin show over at PS1 and felt like I needed to come back to it in a more meaningful way, since I think that my initial assessment was quite glib. I’m gonna be honest: the work still grates on my nerves. The relentless Alvin and the Chipmunks talk inspires a prejudice I don’t know that I can overcome. (I also find Elmo exasperating, so it may just be me.)

An image of one of Trecartin's works at the New Museum, in 2009. (Photo by C-M.)

But, the show at PS1 did make me appreciate Trecartin’s work more than I had in the past. I’d seen his videos at the Hammer Museum in L.A. a few years back and they’d pretty much driven me nuts. I appreciated what he was doing visually: the gender-bending, the banal, suburban-style backdrops peopled by surreal scenarios and the self-centered internet-ish habit of having characters speak over each other rather than engage in dialogue. But the cumulative effect of spending a couple of hours watching his videos left me feeling as if I’d been subjected to an eternity of Nyah Nyah Cat. It was an orgy of excess — with characters who were excessive, scenarios that were excessive, dialogue that was excessive, overstimulation delivered in industrial doses, the raging American id as channeled by the YouTube generation.

Bradbury's classic sci-fi work, set in a dystopic future where you can't turn the walls off

His work is still about excess — the show at PS1 eats up a whole lot of real estate and no doubt has a fairly spectacular carbon footprint. But I have to admit that the surreal sculptural sets from which you view the work made this exhibit, more than any other I’ve seen of his, far more intriguing. The squishy chairs and giant headsets left me feeling as if I was truly part of the work. In addition, the wall-sized video projections gave the whole thing a kind of sci-fi vibe. In fact, as my partner-in-crime reminded me, it was right out of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 — a world in which the walls talk and the citizenry has no ability to turn them off. Montag, the main character bemoans this condition: “Nobody listens anymore. I can’t talk to the walls because they’re yelling at me. I can’t talk to my wife; she listens to the walls.”

Viewed in that light, I came away respecting the gesture, even if the tweaky nature of the characters still left me irritated. And even though it left me wondering at what point an artist’s commentary becomes the act that he’s critiquing. But maybe that’s the point…

On Generation Blank

Generation Blank, per Jerry Saltz. (Illustration by Jacob Thomas, nabbed from NY Mag.)

It seems like the week’s talked-about essay is Jerry Saltz’s piece about the cerebral, content-free creation of so many art school types: “These artists draw their histories and images only from a super-attenuated gene pool. It’s all-parsing, all the time.” (Which kinda reminds me of this little bit from Tom Wolfe.) But the sentiments echo what Holland Cotter had said earlier in his review of El Museo’s (S) Files Bienal:

In short, the ‘The (S) Files’ confirms what should be obvious but rarely is in the art world: there are scads of artists out there with careers and lives that don’t, whether by chance or by choice, revolve around a few square blocks of mid-Manhattan art real estate. At the same time another truth is demonstrated: In a highly competitive market that turns art schools into art mills, a lot of art, no matter where it comes from, looks like a lot of other art everywhere.

Kyle Chayka at Hyperallergic thinks some critics just aren’t looking hard enough for good work. I think I land somewhere in the middle: you’ll always find something fresh if you search for it, just like you might find orchids in a swamp, but it might mean a whole lotta slogging through navel-gazey art school mumbo jumbo to turn it up.

Random Linkage

Find me at Gallerina. Plus: #workoFart, the last one!

El Saltzino with Work of Art contestant Peregrine Honig’s nails, which read “Jerry Saltz.” Awesome. Click on the image to see it large. (Photo by C-M.)

As is customary, you can find my New York City Datebook over at WNYC. (Don’t miss the kissing skeletons.)

Plus, the Not at all Brief #workoFart Recap: Lordy, they saved the drama for last. Though maybe it all just seemed more intense because I was watching the whole mess in the Brooklyn Museum’s lobby, with the contestants running around getting schnockered in the background. Anyhow, onto the recapping business…

In the final episode of the season, Simon de Pury toured the country in a puffy parka visiting contestants. The three finalists toured “the world famous Brooklyn Museum” visiting art. (A friend commented after the show that the museum’s lawyers must have had a requirement in the contract that every episode contain at least ten uses of the phrase “world famous.”) Each finalist — Peregrine, Miles, Abdi — was given $5000 and three months to work on a show that would be shown at De Pury’s auction gallery. It was the most interesting episode out of the bunch, showing a less frantic, more personal process — and more of my new boyfriend Simon de Pury (Be Bold!). The gallery show at the end was all kinds of awesome, mainly because Sarah Jessica Parker ran around clutching her head as if it might fall off and groaning “wow” repeatedly. In the end, Abdi won.

El Saltzino has an extensive recap over at New York Magazine, in which he has some interesting things to say (towards the end) about how the show — for some viewers — may have pried the lid off of the insular, self-involved art world. While I think the program overall could have been waaaaay more interesting (the judging panel desperately needed an artist and the challenges needed to be a lot smarter), overall I’d have to agree.

Beyond that, I found Work of Art interesting because it was a reflection of the art industry in more ways than anyone would probably care to admit. First, it showed that being a socialite with connections is more important than being articulate about art (China). Two, that half the battle of art these days is being able to come up with a good story to go with it (Miles, Nicole). Three, performance artists are crazy (Nao). Lastly, it showed that the process of creating and showcasing art isn’t as pure as anyone would like to believe it is. There is a vast art world bureaucracy of art dealers, public relations specialists and art writers who create storylines around art and artists. And ultimately, it’s these storylines, not necessarily the art, that the vast majority of people are following.

This was a point that painter Richard Phillips made in a really smart way when I interviewed him for my article in Time. (Unfortunately, his quote ended up on the cutting room floor.) But he put it this way: “I’ve been to the Venice Biennale and there are always these huge displays where the artists seem like subcontractors to the celebrity curators in charge,” he explained. “Their work is being seen in this falsified synthetic world. What’s exciting about the show is that we are seeing this process in action.” And with that, I couldn’t agree more

Hasta pronto and see y’all at the world famous Brooklyn Museum…

I never understood Matthew Barney…

…until I watched this.


On a totally unrelated note: The New York Observer has a story about Jerry Saltz’s Facebook page. I gotta admit,  that as much as I relish El Saltzino’s ranting in the same trashy way I love domestic beer and a good diving elbow drop, it’s kinda weird that this story didn’t include a single critical reaction — or reactions from people mentioned in the story (um, like Klaus Biesenbach or Tyler Green). And it doesn’t even mention John Yau. A real missed opportunity for some interesting reading.

Posting notice: Edward James Olmos meets Larry Gagosian edition.

If there’s one thing I love about any movie or TV show that features Edward James Olmos (think Miami ViceBlade RunnerBattlestar Galactica) is that at some point in the proceedings, the bad guys will be off doing something truly awful and Olmos will seethe — under his breath — something along the lines of “Find them” or “Get them.” And it always sounds really badass. (See video above.) I like it so much that I’m hoping to incorporate this into everyday conversation as much as possible. (Eg. Husband: “Do we need milk?” Me: “Get some.“)

In other news: no Digest today. I’ve got a ton of frackin’ work to do. But, in the meantime, you can enjoy this terrifically speculative story in the New York Times business section about Larry Gagosian, which quotes nobody of real significance, but which concludes that the gallerist could get hit really hard by the economy or he could just ride it out. (How’s that for definitive?) Sadly, it barely makes reference to Damien Hirst. 

Plus: Jonathan Jones at the Guardian is P.O.’d at art. “It has become the enemy of truth, the murderer of decency.” Whoa, Jonathan! Time to get on the happy pills…

And, late update: A rad video of the Saltz-master groping the wares at Armory. What I would give to party with this guy. For reals!