Monday, September 26, 2016

Can’t Be Bothered

It’s Monday. I’m sitting at my desk at work and staring blankly at the screen trying to think but I can’t think because I hosted a dinner party and drank too much and talked too much and didn’t get to bed until 2:30am. While thinking about what the hell I should write about I thought about last year. What state of mind was I in last year around this time? I went through the archives on this thing and it looks like not much has changed. The post from September 28, 2015 is entitled My Brain Melted and All I have Now is Goo. Wow. Not much has changed apparently. Should this make me feel existentially mortified? Yes but I don’t care, not today. I just can’t be bothered with anything today. So in the spirit of not giving a crap about it all I will do a replay of last year’s post aka, this is going to be stupid. Below are just random thoughts because that’s all I have to offer today, this week, and apparently ever.

Whenever someone pours themselves a full glass, like almost to the top of the glass, of wine I always think certain things about them.

Back in the day they didn’t have mirrors.

Back in the day everyone basically watched/heard everyone else having sex because they had servants or were poor.

I remade the same meal for a dinner party and I felt guilty.

Why do people like cocktails? They suck.

Stendhal’s Red and Black was a good book. He went on too much about politics sometimes but it was good nonetheless. The characters felt so cliché to a point of almost dull but I guess that’s always the case because people are dumb clichés.

I have the least amount of money that I have ever had in my life in my bank account because my landlord cashed two rent checks at once and I never look at my accounts. I’m actually poor.

I’m going on a date with a guy on Thursday and I might actually like him and he might actually like me back. Weird.

Nail polish only lasts two days on me before it starts chipping. Why?????

I haven’t hung out with certain friends for a while and I don’t miss them.

It’s not even cold out but I’m scared for winter. Sometimes I feel like my fingers are going to snap off. Like icicles.

I say rude things when I’m in groups of people because I want them to have something to talk about.

The art world seems really boring at the moment.

I saw Klaus Biesenbach and Peter Eleey having dinner at a diner near MoMA the other day. I think Peter Eleey is a silver fox.

I forgot my planner today. It shows the month out in squares. I literally have no idea what I’m supposed to do this week.

When you are getting to know someone it’s hard to remember what you want to know about them so you ask them generic questions and hope that after you ask enough of them having there mouth on your mouth seems like an okay thing to do.

I want to be friends with someone I dated for a bit but he wants nothing to do with me and I don’t care about that but I like to win.

When people tell me they don’t read books I feel like their head just floated away like a balloon.

I’m becoming an old lady. I do old lady things like flower arranging, go to church to hear organ music and wait for the day that will release me from this mortal coil.

People who think that being in the 20s is the best are the worst.

Guys who look like bros makes me feel like god got drunk and should say ‘my bad.’

Pretty sure most people think I’m an asshole because I often act like an asshole.

I tried to make an appointment for a therapist but I’m too poor now so I’m stuck being poor and crazy I guess.

People just need to calm the fuck down about gender.

It must suck being a white person. I mean obviously it’s the best but it must suck nonetheless.

That feeling when you wake up in someone else’s bed and you forgot you were there and then you go to the bathroom because you know you have morning breath and then you see your reflection and you think ‘jesus fucking christ.’

When you break something and you bury it in the trash a little because you don’t want anyone else to see it but you also don’t want to get your hands dirty.

That time of the month when you have no sex drive.

When you want to ride your bike around the city but you have a social disease that is only cured by alcohol consumption.

That moment you talk to one of your friends and realize they are an insufferable ass and you mentally cross off their name in your mind.

Sometimes I actually feel good. Surprise!

When people say ‘born this way’ my head feels tight.

I wish one of my best friends was an actual genius so I could go to genius parties with them.

Rome seemed cool. I want to name something Agrippa.

Sometimes I go the bathroom at work just to get sunlight.

All the young kids are wearing slip dresses. Funny.

I can’t figure out how to use Instagram story. Like wtf is wrong with me? #oldperson.

Everyone should tell more lies because it would make things more interesting and confusing.

Having a job is cool.

One arm pushup seems hard. #wintergoal

It’s weird to think how many people we hug without actually feeling any affection for them.

Monday, September 19, 2016

September Brief – Cosima von Bonin, Art Book Fair, Stephan Kalmár, Lisa Cooley

Cosima von Bonin at SculptureCenter

Hello Darkness My Old Friend,

Well actually, more like hello mid-September my old friend, but anyways, hello, hello, we meet again. As nibbled upon a few weeks ago, I gave a de-brief on the Art World’s WTF week which included a sloppy-joe sandwich of crazy that was happening in the art world at the end of August. Now, just a few weeks later, we have a whole other bag of goodies that has made September already overcooked with new news. Unlike that post, this post is not a cluster of crazy but rather quick reflections on what is going on in NYC, which reflect and portend what else may be around the corner.

It’s only September 19th and if the rest of the season is anything like these past few weeks I can only predict that the art world will be a changing, very-very swiftly.

Cosima von Bonin at SculptureCenter

Let’s start off with something nice(ish). Cosima von Bonin just opened a show at SculptureCenter entitled, Who’s Exploiting Who in the Deep Sea? The show, co-curated by Ruba Katrib (curator of SC) and Sarah McCroy Director of Glasgow International, uses the ocean as its loose thematic net to orchestrate this micro retrospective. von Bonin is a funky sort of artist. She was born in Kenya but is a white women who lives in Cologne. Does that matter? No, not really but this is something to remark upon because there seems to be a consistency of biography throughout her work. It’s not biography in an Emin sort of way but more a re-creation, total self-amusement based work and that in its own way is very personal. What we see in the show is a collection of sculptures, most of them made of bright fabric, most of them cartoonishly anthropomorphized animals; an octopus, shark, and clams. The theme of the ocean, although possibly the vastest theme out there is well contained by creating a B-52’s like beach vibe with an oversized bikini, and uselessly faux changing stalls and dune barriers. At the opening there was the added flare/blare of singers performing pop music while wearing bright pink wigs who would intermittently saunter through the space. That part felt a bit overdone but overall there was something light and fun about the whole show albeit I’m not sure I liked it all too much. But that’s what I appreciated about it. It wasn’t trying so hard. von Bonin seems to make what she wants to make because it’s funny to her/fun to make and that was extremely enjoyable to see. There is a fine line of goofy good and goofy dumb. von Bonin acutely knows this and her toying with it makes you understand that mastery.

Art Book Fair at MoMA PS1

September doesn’t quite feel like September until the Art Book Fair comes to town. Its been going on strong for years now and its one of those things that keeps going and going and gets bigger and bigger. Even though going to it feels like Groundhog Day in many ways, I do like to go and get an injection of what’s going on out there in art book land. I went this past Sunday at around 3 and it was hot, humid and packed. I always expect the zine tent/prison to be a sweaty mess but I was surprised the rest of the building was just as fuming hot. Someone should really try to do something about that. The only place that was bearable was the dome. I hate this dome but I loved it that day because it had AC. There is something impossible about neck-stooped book gazing and heat exhaustion. Besides the heat and ridiculous crowd it was nice to see the wares of smaller book publishers. Why bigger galleries and bigger art presses like Frieze, even has anything there is sort of beyond me. There should be another thing entirely for artist’s editions and rare archives. Oh and those project rooms. Totally useless. A tattoo station in Gagosian’s made me eye roll so hard that I almost found it funny, almost. Overall: glad this still happens, feel terrible for the dealers who had to endure the hours of heat and I bought two things! One a poetry book from The Song Cave by Christian Schlegel. The other a postcard that reads “Love Art. Hate The Art World” a quote by Kenneth Goldsmith (yeah, yeah I know…) but I couldn’t resist, it’s just too me.

 Stephan Kalmár Leaving Artists Space

It was just announced that Stephan Kalmár, current Executive Director and Curator, is leaving from this post which he has had since 2008 to go to ICA (Institute of Contemporary Art) in London this November. Hmmm, how do I feel about this? Not much but it doesn’t surprise me one bit and I am hoping that whoever does replace Kalmár is not…well just like Kalmár. There is nothing ‘wrong’ with what Artist’s Space has become under his tenure, in fact he has done everything right. The shows, the rebranding, the fundraising, etc... but there is something a bit sad about all that pristine success. Artist’s Space has transformed in the last decade or so to be so European in its modeling that the grit of New York has been Perrier with a dash of Club Mate washed away. Is there anything to do about that? I’m not sure but I always believe that a non-profit’s ultimate motive is to meet its mission. This has been maintained in some ways under Kalmár but in others it has not. Artist’s Space was/is/should be a place that serves artists. I’ll just leave it at that and am curious to see who/where it will go next.

Lisa Cooley Closing

Lisa Cooley is closing her Lower East Side Gallery space and it has been buzzing around these past weeks and it frankly made me sad to hear. Not too surprised but sad. The influx of LES galleries these past few years has been at a terrifying rate and although that glut needs/needed to be abated it nonetheless is very disheartening to hear that Cooley is one of the larger spaces to fold. Her programming was consistent and from every encounter I ever had with her or I heard about her, there was always professionalism and sincerity which is downright rare in the art world. Her reasons for closing have been articulated by her directly in various interviews and I think that even in these statements there continues to be a transparency and grace. It's sad that places like hers are the ones to close but I do not doubt that by year’s end more and more will be making similar announcements. Here’s to hoping that after all of that there are still some good ones left.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Devastating Boredom of the Above Average Lifestyle

One of two things must be happening. Either I am getting very old or everything is getting very dull. I am grudgingly going to admit the former but I’m really not that old so what’s the reason for this mood I’m in? This mood being of total boredom, malaise, and blank-stared unamusement. Some think that the concept of boredom is absurd, wasteful, equlivalizing a lack of imagination but it’s not about that. It’s not about the interior self but rather what is happening out there. There being the landscape of cultural and social output. 

What is this landscape? It is so neat, tidy and obvious that it makes me gag. It is the clichés of clichés that have become so familiar that it is not even worth fretting over because it is all so useless. Things like a wall of art books/Artforums stacked on a shelf, with a book end made out of a ceramic melon that is next to a plant that has a funky custom lamp shining its LED natural bulbs which illuminates the mid-century (knockoff) chair that is on the Moroccan rug that has clothes strewn on the floor by labels, Eckhaus Latta, Hood By Air, Vetements and Kenzo all over the hardwood floor with a matching reclaimed hardwood coffee table that has the retrospective catalog of an artist who died of AIDS or was a Performance Artist in the 80s.

Ripping my hair out!!!

The above is a sampling of the suffocating displays of the Above Average Lifestyle. In this sort of life there are facts and there are fictions. Facts include, the person you are which was nurtured/supported to a general degree, includes forms of higher education, probably white, probably never had to really, actually worry about money, liberal or perceive self to be liberal, city dweller or live in a university town. Fictions include, self-directed narratives of struggles, mythologizing, authority, legitimacy, higher consciousness, obsessions/anxieties. These are just a few things. Essentially, people who are participating in this type of lifestyle are content to have their lives/selves equalized through external objects and arrangements of lifestyle to defacto reflect their interior being and philosophies.

So who cares if people want to sip their cold brews and talk about mindfulness all day while wearing a crop top that shows under boob and says 'feminist'? No one, but what I have issue with is that this type of lifestyle has seeped into everything. What's in the magazines, what’s in the papers, what’s in the books, what’s on the radio, what’s on TV, what’s in the movies, what’s in the supermarket, what’s in fashion, what’s on sale, what’s being talked about. The narrative of privilege and privileged lifestyle is drowning me.

I’m drowning in it because yes, I too am an asshole that lives this type of lifestyle. I shouldn’t be in this strata but through a series of perceptually fortunate events I have ended up here. I eat organic, I wear second hand and young designer clothes, I read theory and obscure fiction, I listen to podcasts as I prepare a gluten-free, vegan dinner for twelve. I have mastered this Above Average Lifestyle and I have always sort of hated it but I have also obviously tried to master it thus reflecting the need to belong to this bizarre qualification.

Now as I live my life, interact, think, listen, look at art and everything else I feel dull, dull, dull. This internal/external reflection is just that but I highly doubt that I am alone in feeling a bristling repulsion to living a life that you thought you wanted but really you wish you never had. There is not much to do about it, there are ways to alter this, move somewhere else, move in with someone else, do more drugs, drink more, change jobs, alter sleep patterns, pretend to be another person. These are all possibilities but I have a sinking suspicion that there isn’t a cure to being a cog.

In general (as always), this is just me complaining about the state of things rhetorically but I really do wish there was something that would excite my brain, eyes, body in an ecstatic way. This is dangerous but necessary, the sense of razing, of burning it all down flickers in my mind more often then is healthy.

These pretty and successful lives we live may have been made by our own making but what they are built on and with is the same-same-dull-dull things. Perhaps that’s the point and problem. Perhaps the sameness is the thing that comforts and appeals and people like me(us) are just too annoying to admit the true averageness of ourselves.

Be that as it may, it doesn’t make things better or more tolerable. When the Above Average Life is being displayed, bragged about and curtained all over everything all I can do is close my eyes, breath in, count to seven, breath out, say how nice (whatever) is while in my mind I am smashing my head against a brick wall over and over again.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Michael Heizer, The New Yorker

The profile on the earth works sculptor Michael Heizer in the recent New Yorker is a fantastic read. Written by Dana Goodyear and entitled, A Monument to Outlast Humanity, you learn about his decades long project, City, and Heizer’s personality that feels cliché in its cantankerousness but also touching like a dog who snaps at you but only because its ribs are sticking out.

I didn’t know anything about Heizer's biography and only a bit of his art but this article gleaned into him with both intimacy and distance which speaks to the journalistic aplomb that Goodyear is capable of.

Below is one section of this rather long piece. I picked it out because it speaks most of his background (and probable sources for the chips on his shoulders) and also shows the origins of his vehemence against Robert Smithson. It was sort of amazing to read about Heizer’s acidic hate for Smithson who is an artist that has been canonized the minute his plane crashed into the ground.

Read the below for a taste and if you like it read the whole thing here:


Heizer first came to New York in 1965, a runaway, straight-F student, sometime motorcycle racer, and art-school dropout from the East Bay whose father, Robert Heizer, a world-renowned field archeologist and professor of anthropology at Berkeley, had excavated extensively in California, Nevada, and Mexico, and was particularly interested in petrology: the rock sources of ancient religious monuments. His mother, a singer who had given up a career in order to raise children, was the daughter of a geologist who, as the chief of California’s Division of Mines, mapped the state’s mineral lodes. (Heizer’s paternal grandfather was a mining engineer in Nevada.) From childhood, Michael Heizer understood himself to be an artist. When he was twelve, his parents, realizing that formal education didn’t suit him, allowed him to leave school for a year in order to accompany his father on a dig in Mexico. His role was to make site drawings.

Still, in Heizer’s family, you were either an academic or a scientist or both, and he was neither. He was an oddball who played pibroch, ancient Celtic bagpipes that predate musical notation and are taught by voice. “I was the black sheep of the entire operation,” Heizer says. “It got pretty awful, the older I got. I didn’t like torturing them, but they were trying to tell me I couldn’t do what I needed to do. My brother”—a marine biologist—“got everything given to him, but I was ignored. My dad told me, ‘I’m sorry. We all thought you were a loser.’ ”

In New York, Heizer, who had married a woman with an infant daughter, made money by painting lofts in SoHo; Walter De Maria hired him to paint his place, and they became close friends. De Maria was nine years older than Heizer, a philosophical hermit, also from the East Bay. Heizer started hanging out at Max’s Kansas City, the artists’ bar, on whose front window he was later commissioned to make a scribble etching. Heizer was a decade younger than most of the artists at Max’s, and his prickly ambition sometimes rankled them. “He was very, very, very competitive,” the sculptor Carl Andre told me. “He wanted to be No. 1.”

Among artists, an idea was beginning to take hold that art needed to be liberated from the constraints of galleries and museums. No more objects: collectors had enough pretty things to put in their uptown apartments. Art should sweat a little. Robert Smithson—a brilliant talker, aesthetic shape-shifter, and amalgamist—appointed himself the spokesperson of the movement, and frequently expounded on art’s new direction in essays in art magazines. (His peers sometimes referred to him as Egghead.) In the fall of 1967, Smithson published an influential piece in Artforum, declaring, “Pavements, holes, trenches, mounds, heaps, paths, ditches, roads, terraces, etc., all have an esthetic potential.” Bulldozers could be used as paintbrushes; someone, he suggested, could sculpt a “City of Sand” of man-made dunes and pits.

By this point, Heizer had been in New York for a couple of years, going to Max’s, mixing Soyalac for the baby, and working intensively on “negative paintings,” canvases with geometric excisions at the edges. That winter, he decided to make a trip to the Sierras, where as a kid he had spent summers at a family cabin near Lake Tahoe, shooting off rockets in the dry lake beds and digging up Native American artifacts. In the snowy woods near the cabin, he excavated a pair of pits, lined one with plywood and the other with sheet metal, and declared the results to be ultra-modern art. The Escher-like inversion was simple but profound, a gesture that helped open to sculpture a new, subterranean dimension. “I make something by taking something away,” Heizer later told the Italian critic Germano Celant. He followed the Lake Tahoe pieces with a highly publicized series of trenches, troughs, heaps, and voids along a five-hundred-and-twenty-mile stretch of the Nevada desert, laying claim not just to a particular landscape but to the expansive idea of land itself.

The next year, he took Smithson on his first trip out West, hosting him and his wife, Nancy Holt, at the cabin, and leading them on a rockhounding expedition to Mono Lake. (Super-8 footage, which Holt edited into a short film in 2004, shows Heizer, bare-chested, in a denim jacket, cowboy hat, and jeans, rolling boyishly down a cinder mountain.) Smithson continued to pitch the developing movement, often featuring Heizer and his projects as case studies. “Heizer calls his earth projects ‘the alternative to the absolute city system,’ ” he wrote admiringly in Artforum. Before long, Smithson was quoting Heizer’s father in his pieces, and citing Heizer’s brother in published conversations. Heizer told me that he felt as if Smithson were stealing his identity. “I took him out West, and he decided, Now I know all this guy’s secrets,” Heizer says. The pattern was set, for life and for art: the more Smithson built Heizer up, the more furiously Heizer detracted, avoided, and denied.

Meanwhile, earthworks—or land art, as some people called it—was becoming the most visible new school in art since minimalism. Among its chief patrons was Virginia Dwan, an heir to the 3M tape fortune, who had a gallery on Fifty-seventh Street, where she represented De Maria and Smithson. While on an art-making trip with Heizer in 1968, De Maria sent Dwan a telegram from Arizona that read, “Many land sensations and projects already realized so very positive I urge you to consider closing of gallery and to consider world wide land operations.”

Dwan, who lived on a floor of the Dakota when she was not out scouting earthworks locations, was enthralled with the renegade artists in her coterie. She tried not to engage with the rivalries among them, though Heizer had clearly begun to see Smithson as his special adversary. Heizer was shy and sensitive, Dwan told me, “with a certain wild look about him, which he has to this day.” She said, “He’s like an animal with a badly hurt paw, who defends his territory with snarling and anger. His territory often includes his ideas. He gets very annoyed if someone uses something that was his idea originally.”
In 1969, Heizer approached Dwan, asking her to fund a project out West. Dwan gave him twenty-two thousand dollars, and several months later he returned to New York with photographs of “Double Negative,” one of the first monumental earthworks. Two hours from Las Vegas, overlooking the Virgin River, the sculpture consists of two deep rectilinear cuts across the top of a convex mesa, or, as Heizer puts it, a two-hundred-and-forty-thousand-ton displacement. The mesa is capped with rhyolite caliche, a tough seafloor sediment, and Heizer had to dynamite through it; he hired a local man to clear away the rubble, passing through the gashes with a crawler tractor. “The guy was really brave,” Heizer told me. “The cut goes into a void at the end, and then time stops. Everything disintegrates. It’s just a black hole.”

“Double Negative” is fifteen hundred feet across—roughly the length of the Empire State Building laid on its side. To Heizer’s chagrin, the sculpture is also exactly the length of “Spiral Jetty,” a strand of rocks that coils into the Great Salt Lake like a fiddlehead fern, which Robert Smithson completed, with Dwan’s backing, a few months after “Double Negative” was done. The inspiration for the site, Smithson told people, was that formative trip to Mono Lake.

Smithson died in a plane crash in 1973, but Heizer’s resentment is still fresh. “He’s a manipulating, devious tinhorn,” he told me. “This guy was from New Jersey. He had never been farther west than the Sunoco gas station in Hackensack. Now everyone thinks he’s a genius. He’s a complete phony.” Heizer’s ongoing grudge strikes many as inexplicably peevish. Gianfranco Gorgoni, a photographer who collaborated with both artists in the seventies, told me, “Smithson played a little trick on Mike. But Mike took it so seriously, like he owns all the deserts in the whole world.” I asked Heizer why it mattered so much whose idea it was to make art in the desert and who got there first. He was affronted. “That’s the business we’re in!” he said. “That’s what we do. Why should I destroy my life, my brain, and my health to innovate and let some asshole come along and steal it from me?”

Heizer has spent much of the past half century working on “City,” which is situated near his ranch in the Nevada desert. He has allowed almost no one to see it before it is finished.

Heizer’s “Double Negative” and Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty”—one a privation, the other an accretion—form an essential pair in the canon of twentieth-century sculpture. Julian Myers-Szupinska, a historian of earthworks, told me, “Chances are, in week ten of an 1800-to-the-present survey course, a slide of ‘Double Negative’ is going to be on the screen.” But, whether because of Smithson’s wide-ranging artistic practice, his fluent critical writing, his adroit self-promotion, or maybe even his early death, he dominates among academic reputation-makers. Myers-Szupinska said, “If your art historian is in a hurry, they may only put up ‘Spiral Jetty.’ ”

The best way to see “Double Negative” is from the air. Not long ago, Michael Govan flew me over Mormon Mesa, the site of the sculpture, in his plane, a single-engine 1979 Beechcraft Bonanza. From eight thousand feet, the mesa spreads like buttercream, riffled with small ranges down its sides. The edge is scalloped; across one indentation spans “Double Negative.” As I scanned the khaki-colored top of the mesa, my eye was drawn to the muddy flush of the Virgin River, heading toward the chalky turquoise puddle of Lake Mead. The monumental sculpture was nowhere to be seen. Then the plane banked, and suddenly it appeared, two black, shadowed depths feeding into a chasm where the side of the mesa falls away toward the valley floor. “Think of it as a hieroglyph,” Govan said. “Mike is the last of the great modern artists interested primarily in formal shapes.” Heizer, who used to supplement his income by gambling, says that the two cuts plus the chasm represent slots on a roulette wheel: the double zero at the top and the house zero that sits opposite.

Dwan donated “Double Negative” to the Museum of Contemporary Art, in Los Angeles, in the eighties, and Heizer hasn’t visited it for years. The degradation there depresses him: its clean, deep cuts have filled with boulders calved from the sides. Though he originally intended the piece to respond to time and ultimately be reclaimed by geologic processes, at some point he changed his mind, and now hopes to find the money to restore it. Govan thinks that this reversal came partly because Smithson championed the principle of entropy, and Heizer wanted nothing to do with an idea associated with his nemesis. Soon after the sculpture was finished, Heizer decided to go where no one could hear him talk.