Who’s the most interesting art critic in the country right now? Nope, not Jerry Saltz. I might change my mind tomorrow, but today I’m pretty damn sure it’s Hennessy Youngman. Okay — Hennessy’s not actually an art critic. He’s not an art writer. He’s a thinker of Art Thoughtz who has described himself as “just an American nigga at the cross section of dissonant worlds, and I’m the chaos of those conflicting cultural spheres unresolved in all their wonderful madness.” His stuff takes the form of direct-address video monologues performed by Youngman himself, who sits in a white-walled “alabaster alcove” and proceeds to break down art world rhetoric into its constituent bullshit parts. Have a look at Hennessy’s latest, on Relational Aesthetics:
It’s a truly blissful feeling when someone says straight out loud what you’ve been thinking but were too cowed by your peers to say yourself, no? Youngman spreads this kind of bliss with each new episode of Art Thoughtz. But what he does is not exactly about speaking truth to power – it’s a bit more irony-laced than that. Check out this episode on Curators, for example. It’s pretty sexist (although the observation about Velma hair was frakkin’ brilliant), and I think Hennessey might be confusing, or at least conflating, curator with dealer here….
I love how in my YouTube stream, this episode is followed by a promotional interview with Rhizome executive director and New Museum curator Lauren Cornell (Free). This coincidental juxtaposition sums it up for me: at the same time that the young, blonde, attractive Cornell seems to exemplify the type of curator Youngman is caricaturing, she’s also one of the few out there who is actively thinking-through the social media practices that Hennessey himself is engaging. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cornell wanted to include Youngman in one of her next shows.
Point is, Hennessey Youngman is taking the piss out of everything and everyone; the layers of irony are too thick to fully pry apart and as a result we’re forced to assume a different posture, as it were, in our reception of Hennessy’s Thoughtz. If you read it straight, you’re going to get defensive or pissed off and thus totally miss the point, but if you think it all boils down either to comedy or simply an outsider’s attempt to take a giant shit on the art world, you’re not listening carefully enough. It’s one of those both/and kind of things that pushes us into areas that make us feel uncomfortable. And in my book, that is always a good thing.
Henessey is already something of an internet phenomenon, yet there’s surprisingly little out there about who this guy actually is, where he comes from, etc. I like that he’s a man of mystery and hasn’t yet been included in one of Ms. Cornell’s exhibitions. The dominant culture always manages to absorb its critics, though, so I don’t hold out much hope that he won’t be, sooner or later. I do know that in this interview Hennessy Youngman had the balls to respond to the question “Can you be successful if you’re a Muslim artist?” thusly:
Are you serious? Have you ever heard of this artist collective known as Al-Qaeda? They did this performance piece called 9-11. That was absolutely jaw dropping. They only performed it once, but luckily it was very well documented and can be seen pretty much anywhere on the internet. Highly recommended. Way better than anything them Fluxus or Dada motherfuckers could come up with.
So I’ll hold out just a little bit of hope that Hennessy never cleans up his act enough to grace the museum’s white walls.
The second edition of “Fielding Practice,” a podcast produced for our Art21 column Centerfield: Art in the Middle with Bad at Sports, just posted today. On this episode, Duncan MacKenzie, Dan Gunn, and I are joined by art critic, blogger, and ArtSlant’s Chicago editor Abraham Ritchie to talk about the rise of CSAs (Community Supported Art), which are art subscription programs that foster new collectors while supporting local artists; we dish about the art writers “strike” at the Huffington Post and we review Mindy Rose Schwartz’s solo exhibition at ThreeWalls, which recently closed. Plus: previews of the most anticipated Chicago exhibitions and events happening over the next few weeks. Click here for the podcast and related links, and thanks for listening!
Our big thanks to Julia Hendrickson for last week’s superb series of posts on printmaking and print curators, Sonnenzimmer, Spudnik Press and Corbett vs. Dempsey. This week Thea Liberty Nichols, a Chicago-based arts writer and arts administrator, is guesting on the blog. Starting today, she’ll bring us a series of posts exploring issues in contemporary arts writing.
For these posts, Nichols conducted interviews with friends and colleagues, all of whom are either artists, art writers and/or art administrators and who shared their insight on the various forms their writing takes. They’ll talk about how they define their written work within the constellation of their expansive practices, and how writing can be a tool for expressing themselves and also engaging with others. Chicago folks will remember that Nichols recently organized a panel on the form and content of arts writing in conjunction with Nomadic Studio – an audio recording of that conversation will be available later this week, so check out Thea’s posts for the link when it becomes available.
Here’s the bio scoop on Ms. Nichols, the woman who I’ve always said has a name befitting a rockstar superhero fighting machine – which no doubt she is, in her spare time:
Thea Liberty Nichols is an arts administrator, independent curator and freelance writer. Formerly, she served as Director of 65GRAND gallery and Study Center Manager at Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art. Presently, she works for The School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Visiting Artists Program which selects, hosts and facilitates opportunities to engage with dozens of international contemporary artists via lectures and symposia.
Some great upcoming programming planned around Chicago Artist’s Month that I wanted to bring to your attention. This weekend, Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art will present Henry Darger at Home (and) at Work, a program comprising two multi-disciplinary events about process, studio practice, and creativity in conjunction with Chicago Artists Month. The events start with a panel that includes some fantastic Chicago writers, and finish several weeks later with….a PUPPET SHOW. Awesome. You’ll find all the details below….
Finding inspiration in the Henry Darger Room Collection and the texts and imagery Darger crafted within it, Intuit has collaborated with the Chicago Underground Library (CUL) and The Anatomy Collective (TAC) to examine the relationship between writing, art-making and the creative process.
In collaboration with the Chicago Underground Library, Contemporary Authors and the Artistic Process, a panel discussion of authors followed by a bookmaking project with the audience, will take place on Saturday, October 2 from 11:00am – 1:00pm. In collaboration with The Anatomy Collective, Henry Darger’s Life (&) Work, a puppet show based on the life and work of Henry Darger and the collaborative text will take place on Thursday, October 28 from 6:00pm – 8:00pm. Both events take place at Intuit, 756 N. Milwaukee, Chicago, IL
Contemporary Authors and the Artistic Process
Saturday, October 2, 2010, 11am -1pm
$10; includes admission to Intuit’s galleries
A panel discussion featuring authors John Bresland, Stephanie Kuehnert, Audrey Niffenegger and Bayo Ojikutu will explore their multi-disciplinary sources of inspiration, the role biography plays in their work and how their studio contextualizes their practice. The 45-minute discussion will be moderated by Nell Taylor, Executive Director of Chicago Underground Library, with an introduction by Thea Liberty Nichols, Intuit’s Study Center Manager, and panelists will have books available for purchase.
Immediately following the panel, Intuit and CUL invite you to participate in a collaborative bookmaking project in homage to Darger’s life’s work, the masterpiece, In the Realms of the Unreal… Audience members are encouraged to bring in an item (a photo, artwork, magazine or newspaper clipping, etc.) or use items made available to create the text and imagery for a book that, once collaged together, will be housed within CUL’s collection and serve as the inspiration for the puppet show Henry Darger’s Life (&) Work on October 28.
Henry Darger’s Life (&) Work
Thursday, October 28, 6pm-8pm
Admission is by donation
Following Contemporary Authors and the Artistic Process, Theater group The Anatomy Collective will have just over three weeks to develop an exclusive puppet show that blends the tracings, clippings, ephemera and writing generated and collected by Darger with the book collectively created by attendees of CUL’s panel. The resultant performance will showcase TAC’s talents and resourcefulness in a whimsical epic that re-interprets Darger’s (home) life and (studio) work and the readers and viewers it continues to inspire.
For further information about this exhibition or to inquire about other Intuit programs, please contact Intuit at firstname.lastname@example.org or 312.243.9088.
Hello again – I’m back with another quick plug for y’all. Tomorrow night, Chicago arts writer/administrator/curator Thea Liberty Nichols has organized a panel on the “form and content” of arts writing as part of Nomadic Studio, which is presented at DePaul University Museum and organized by the Stockyard Institute for the yearlong collaborative Studio Chicago project….jesus I can’t keep up with it all. Anyway…here is the pertinent who, what, whys and whens of this particular panel, which I think should be really interesting and if it isn’t I will be partly to blame because I will be on it, along with Patrice Connolly, Abraham Ritchie, Bert Stabler and the aforementioned Ms. Nichols, who IMHO has the one of the best names in the world.
Come see us discuss, and participate in the discussion! Also, please check out the whole slate of programs that are part of Nomadic Studio at the Stockyard Institute! And you can read more about the Nomadic Studio project on ArtSlant, right here.
6-8pm –Thursday, September 23rd
Form and Content of Writing w/ Thea Liberty Nichols, Patrice Connolly, Claudine Ise, Abraham Ritchie and Bert Stabler
Panelists will engage in a casual discussion that examines the form (newsprint, published monographs, online journals or blogs) and content (criticism, interviews, exhibition reviews, press releases or scholarly essays) of their writing. Their individual practices, including the texts that inform and inspire them, will be examined alongside the colleagues and organizations with which they collaborate. In conjunction with Studio Chicago, the ways in which their studio environment, and indeed the city itself, contextualizes their practice will also be explored.
Abraham Ritchie is a writer as well as the Editor for ArtSlant: Chicago, the creator and administrator of The Chicago Art Blog on the ChicagoNow network and WordPress, and also writes for NewCity. He has previously written about art for Madison Newspapers, Inc.
Thea Liberty Nichols is an arts administrator, independent curator, and writer who lives and works in Chicago. Along with managing Intuits Study Center, she also acts as Co-Director of 65GRAND
Patrice Connelly is the Curatorial Associate for BMO Financial Group’s Corporate Art Collection where she crafts catalog texts describing and contextualizing the art works in their holdings. She has been contributing freelance art exhibition reviews to Newcity since 2008.
Bert Stabler is a teacher, writer, curator, and artist living in Chicago. He feeds on the living.
Claudine Isé has worked in the field of contemporary art as a curator and writer. Isé was Associate Curator of Exhibitions at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio. Assistant Curator at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and an art critic for the Los Angeles Times. She currently writes for artforum.com, art:21 blog, ARTnews, New City, and badatsports.com.