Several exciting developments at IDIOM! First, we are emeritus-ing our faithful and fearless books editor, Jessica Loudis, who has taken a position as Assistant Editor at Bookforum. Loudis has been a stalwart ally and rare friend, and we wish her the very best at her fancy new digs.
It was precisely the anti-realism of classicism, when realism would have meant a lifetime of images like those of Otto Dix, which made it so broadly appealing. And here the architecture of the Guggenheim really is put to spectacular use. We are literally lifted us away from Dix’s etchings, here located on the ground floor, and into the airy realm of ideal types, rehearsing the flight of the history on display.
Utopia, as we’re reminded early in the show, is a no-place, an impossibility, and to call something ‘utopian, like calling it ‘ideological’ is typically derogatory and reserved the position of one’s opponents. There is a difference, in other words, between saying that everyone should have enough to eat, and that everyone should be able to eat whatever they want, whenever they want, and also never be unhappy or in pain, plus pets and cake. The former is a possibility that has existed for decades, the latter is utopian.
What then to make of Warhol’s late work? Of his return to hand painting and abstraction? This is the implicit question posed by Andy Warhol: The Last Decade, organized by the Milwaukee Art Museum that closed at the Brooklyn last month. The show is the first survey of the artist’s final years, and, at first glance, the reasons for this delay are clear: the work simply isn’t very compelling. The best pieces are the collaborations with Basquiat and even these feel like limited iterations of that artist’s more successful canvases. When considered against the rest of Warhol’s output however, these works offer an illuminating counterpoint to the process without a subject that produced his earlier, signature pieces. It’s almost as though Warhol had to construct a parallel identity within the field of representation itself before expression became a possibility.
No one inhabits the edges of language with more grace than Gary Hill. No one makes its failures more alluring. Technically a book launch for An Art of Limina: Gary Hill’s Works and Writings, a new book by Quasha and Charles Stein, (who, along with Hill himself, was also in attendance) the evening is better described as an intellectual and artistic portrait. Both Hill and his collaborators share a deep and abiding fluency with the mid-twentieth century phenomenological tradition; late Heidegger, yes, but also Blanchot. Theirs is a full language, heavy, even; pre-Derrida in exactly the same way Beckett is pre-Derrida. Which is to say that for Hill, Quash and Stein, language has not yet exchanged its essentially pregnant mystery for a relentless complicity with violence and domination. Language is not yet the enemy it later became, not only for French thinking but for American art as well.
Especially valuable is the strong positioning given to not-for-profit spaces in the mapping of contemporary production. Long considered a sort of appendix to the more essential organs of museum and gallery, Anti-PROW offers up the 501©3 model as heir to a very specific vanguard tradition. Though perhaps darkly humorous to anyone familiar with the deep indignities carried by that particular tax-status, it’s not a point that can be quickly dismissed. With the standing of the contemporary museum radically compromised there is a vacancy to be filled. It remains to be seen, clearly, to what extent not-for-profits can effectively take up this mantle, but it certainly an important moment for them, and one that Anti-PROW highlights by engaging so openly with it.
Invested in black metal chiefly as a vehicle for reprehensible ideas about race and nationalism, Vikernes seems totally unreconstructed; his incarceration having only deepened the paranoid hatred at the root of his thinking. There is something of a moral hazard in letting such a figure serve as his own interpreter, and anyone familiar with the extent of Vikernes’ ideological legacy will be likely be unsettled by its relatively partial presentation here.
As it is, the only piece here that really seems to reflect the specificity of the selector is a three-dollar zine compiling every negative review run by the Times over the previous year. It’s a maddening document, frequently illegible and ultimately quite compelling. Partly an exercise in determining the moment a review moves from reportage to criticism, and then again towards negativity, either implicit or otherwise, it is most definitely a delightfully unique take on the past year. Cynically emblazoned with a photocopied ARTFORUM title across the back, the zine fully justifies whatever remains of the Annual’s initial instinct towards subjectivity.
The separation implied by Sterling’s ‘period notion’ of virtual cyberspace is itself as mythical as the artificial intelligence whose inhuman laughter inhabits it. Certainly the gamelan ensemble is there to underline Gibson’s archaic, exotic rendering, but the parody, by dint of the performance, extends to encompass the artistic process itself. Gamelan, which is of profound importance in Javanese rituals, sets off not only Gibson’s cyberspace as mythical, but Condon’s performance of art-making as well, as he slyly lampoons his own confessed obsessions with transcendence and projection.
Having been plied with cheap champagne and terrible, terrible live muzak, we were now offered further refreshments, namely water, whiskey and meatballs. This last combination was a particularly deft touch. It’s an impressive installation, most notably in the presence of a small, manufactured pond in the corner of the gallery behind a wall of fake plants. The pond is lit intermittently by a light linked to a sound installation that alternates between jungle cats mating and ‘the dying market calling out desperately the features and amenities that once made it great.’