As thick as the phone book of the town I grew up in, the catalogue for the 2014 Whitney Biennial is a whopper, coming in at 419 pages. But seeing as how this year’s Biennial was an impressive three floors, the attendant corridors, stairwells, random outside spaces, and more than 100 artists, maybe it’s not so big after all. Like the Biennial itself, the body of the catalogue is dived into three sections, one for each of the three curators: Stuart Comer, Anthony Elms, and Michelle Grabner. Each of these sections contains a contextualizing essay by the respective curator. In an interesting formal note is that the three sections are printed on different paper, which has the effect of making each section literally feel distinct.
Evaluating a catalogue is difficult; the success depends on what the reader is looking for. As preparatory material for viewing the exhibition, the catalogue is perhaps most successful. I doubt I would have enjoyed the exhibition as much if I had not read all of the essays beforehand. These essays proved invaluable to my visit to the Whitney. I previewed the artwork and made notations about the works with which I wanted to spend a little time. This method is itself flawed, because we all know that seeing a work in person is a very different experience from looking at pictures, no matter how lovely. It also mostly rules out the element of surprise. But honestly, the Whitney Biennial is such a massive undertaking for me as a viewer; this seemed to be my only method of making sense of this large and incongruent collection of artworks.
As a thorough record of the exhibition, the catalogue also succeeds, which in this case is important because the Biennial is nearing its close. When I read a catalogue that is little more than reproductions of the art, with the wall text on the following page, I am disappointed. A person is lucky to view a show once, let alone twice, but a book is different. There’s no end to a textual exhibition. We can visit anytime we want. This is where the catalogue succeeds. The 2014 Biennial contains a substantial amount of performance, audio, and video work. These are notoriously hard to capture on the page. Stuart Comer’s section is rife with essaylettes on selected works. There are writings on the performance works, which is great because although I visited twice, I didn’t manage to coincide with a single performance. Although all of the curators included text-based work, it is most noticeable in Anthony Elms’ section. I missed much of this text during my visit. It was crowded. It was hard to see. Text takes a lot of time. At home with a book, I have all the time in the world.
As an accurate reflection of the 2014 Whitney Biennial, I am less sure of the success of the catalogue. In the introduction the authors state, “If there is any central point of cohesion, it may be the slipperiness of authorship that threads through each of our programs… In many ways, it has simply become inefficient to slow down and figure out who is responsible for a specific idea or action, opening up interesting areas of collaboration.” While the authors are describing the discrete works in the show, perhaps this whole idea might be applied to the Biennial itself; it is very slippery. But the catalogue is intentionally less so, with its Roman numeraled sections, and three different paper stocks, the catalogue makes clearer distinctions than the curators do. The final section is by Michelle Grabner is marked by the inclusion of numerous conversations between artists, including Dawoud Bey, Christopher Williams, Rochelle Feinstein, Gaylen Gerber, to name a few. While all this focus on process seems as if it should make this section feel more slippery, it does the opposite—it concretizes the final section of the book. Real people, real artists, talking to other real people. The overall effect is humanizing, and intimate, a feeling that was impossible experience at the show.
Ultimately, I recommend this catalogue for those who want a serious look at the 2014 Whitney Biennial. This is not a coffee table book, nor is it a casual exhibition catalogue that one can leave on their bedside, to casually flip though before dropping off to sleep. No, this is the kind of catalogue you need to read while sitting up, with a cup of coffee. You might want to take some notes. If you have reading glasses, you better get ‘em.
Whitney Biennial Catalogue 2014
paperback, 416 pages
So, for some reason I thought the 2014 Whitney Biennial list was supposed to be revealed in December but instead it came out today!
Congrats to all our friends and the folks we do not yet know. We can’t wait to see the show.
As curated by Anthony Elms, Stuart Comer, and Michelle Grabner:
Academy Records and Matt Hanner
Ei Arakawa and Carissa Rodriguez
Robert Ashley and Alex Waterman
Lisa Anne Auerbach
Lucien Castaing-Taylor, VÃ©rÃ©na Paravel, and Sensory Ethnography Lab
Yve Laris Cohen
Critical Practices Inc.
Zackary Drucker and Rhys Ernst
RadamÃ©s â€œJuniâ€ Figueroa
Gaylen Gerber with David Hammons, Sherrie Levine, and Trevor Shimizu
Tony Greene curated by Richard Hawkins and Catherine Opie
My Barbarian (Malik Gaines, Jade Gordon, and Alexandro Segade)
Sara Greenberger Rafferty
Steve Reinke with Jessie Mott
Valerie Snobeck and Catherine Sullivan
Charline von Heyl
David Foster Wallace
PS. Thanks to Jerry Saltz’s facebook for the list.
A historical piece which points towards exceptional moments observed directly by the writer, in Chicago, over the course of the previous calendar year. Alternative, NFP, and commercial galleries, as well as art centers, museums, and public spaces, were visited more-or-less regularly, according to the nature of their programming. All artwork copyright original artists; all photography copyright Paul Germanos.
Per convention, “best of” lists and “year in review” articles are released late in December. And critics have tended to follow in lockstep. Yet such a schedule might be a cause for concern when one considers how little time in reflection is afforded the author of any such piece.
That said, it’s the original scope of the critic’s experience, and not the amount of time spent in reflection upon that experience, which is the greater issue in most cases. Readers have good reason to wonder about art writers: How much did he or she see in the first place? And what does it mean to be placed in a “top ten” list by a person who might have attended only ten events?
Of course, with regard to the utility of press, the writing itself counts for little; it’s a publication’s masthead and associated social connectivity which are really crucial. For whether the subject is artwork or the publicity related to it, heavily invested dealers, artists, directors, et al, labor to get the right bits in the right places, till the overall picture looks good–much like jigsaw puzzle work. The gaming of interpersonal relationships is, after all, the chief modality of the art world.
Let’s try something different!
Forgoing the pretense of a rational narrative, German painter Butzer dryly delivered pre-Socratic fragments–first in his native language and then in English–alongside projections of his artwork. The audio and visual elements in combination, amounting to a performance, were, in fact, stronger than his show which followed at Rhona Hoffman Gallery.
Butzer became moderately excited when, after the lecture, I presented him with a question about Nietzsche.
6:30 PM, January 25, 2012
Cochrane-Woods Art Center, Room 157
(adjacent to the The Smart Museum)
University of Chicago
5540 S. Greenwood Ave.
Chicago, IL 60637
Runner-up: Karsten Lund’s performance piece in Peregrine Program.
Curated by Jake Myers and Chris Smith, a/k/a “Tag Team,” and featuring 19 artists (Adam Farcus, Adam Grossi, Alberto Aguilar, Alex Bradley Cohen, Angeline Evans, Brian Wadford, Caroline Carlsmith, Cory Glick, Edra Soto, EC Brown, Irene Perez, Jeriah Hildwine, Jim Papadopoulos, Kevin Jennings, Nicole Northway, Pamela Fraser, Philip von Zweck, Thad Kellstadt, and Vincent Dermody) “Short Court: Tropical Aesthletics” was dominated by Jake Myers’ own performance in the center of the gallery.
There, Myers and company (including two professional players) offered to “take on all comers” in a high-spirited volleyball match. The boisterous physical competition which ensued was entirely contrary to the quiet struggle for rank which is usually present, if unseen, at such affairs. This was good. It’s yet unclear to what degree Myers’ work is ironic.
February 10 – March 10, 2012
1765 S. Laflin St.
Chicago IL 60608
With regard to the consistency and volume of his production, Hamza Walker has been exemplary: Every exhibition at The Renaissance Society is accompanied by a broadsheet containing one of Walker’s companion essays. Curiously, these essays usually go nowhere. Are they not read? not understood? not thought to be of any value? Sunday attendance at The Ren is too often like unto church: orderly, solemn, performed for fear of damnation, and forgotten on Monday.
The Renaissance Society
Cobb Hall, Room 418
University of Chicago
5811 S. Ellis Ave.
Chicago, IL 60637
Runner-up: Jason Foumberg, skyrocketing in 2013.
The Estonian performance collective NON GRATA staged the destruction of an American-made sedan on the grounds of New Capital: outdoors, late-winter, encouraging audience participation in the act. No fig leaf of sport covered the aggression here; this was a naked, public display of violence hitherto latent in the community. And it was possible to read the event as a sort of response to the call made by Butzer a little over one month earlier.
7:00 PM, March 4, 2012
1136 N. Milwaukee Ave.
3114 W. Carroll
Chicago, IL 60612
Runner-up: Unsolicited letters from Wesley Kimler.
(5) Most Noteworthy Young or “Emerging” Artists: Sarah and Joseph Belknap, Tyler Blackwell, Robert Chase Heishman, Sofia Leiby, Jake Myers, Meg Noe, Danielle Rosen, Joseph Rynkiewicz, Etta Sandry, Vincent Uribe, and Nikki Werner.
Over the course of the previous year, some memorable artwork, conversation, or public engagement was initiated by each the people listed above. Further, as a result of the good attendance at gallery openings and other events which most displayed, their names were easy to learn and remember.
(6) Best Museum Show: “The Language of Less (Then and Now) @ MCA Chicago”
Above: Dan Flavin: Untitled (for you, Leo, in long respect and affection) 3, 1978; John McCracken: Untitled, 1967.
Above: Carl Andre: Zinc-Lead Plain, 1969; Donald Judd: Untitled, 1970.
Curated by Michael Darling, the “Dimensions of Space” gallery within “The Language of Less (Then and Now)” exhibition wasn’t novel, or exciting, in the conventional sense. Rather, the thing had the appearance of being the logical conclusion of a long meditation upon the fundamental unit, or building block, of the works included, viz., the square. And this formal vocabulary hasn’t disappeared. For example, in “Binary Lore,” the most recent show local NFP threewalls, Edie Fake recalled Carl Andre.
Closed on April 15 , 2012
220 E. Chicago Avenue (MVDR Drive)
Chicago IL 60611
The Smart has made an effort to push its programming outward: into its lobby and courtyard. That physical movement runs parallel to the community engagement which has been a major thematic concern of several recent exhibitions. “Feast” wasn’t solely a remembrance of the past by means of a presentation of artifacts; rather, “Feast” was a new sort of moment, available to be experienced via the socialization which was possible at its opening reception.
February 16 â€“ June 10, 2012
Smart Museum of Art
University of Chicago
5550 S. Greenwood Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
Curated by Stephanie Smith
Artists: Marina Abramovic and Ulay, Sonja AlhÃ¤user, Mary Ellen Carroll, Fallen Fruit, Theaster Gates, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, InCUBATE, The Italian Futurists, Mella Jaarsma, Alison Knowles, Suzanne Lacy, Lee Mingwei, Laura Letinsky, Tom Marioni, Gordon Matta-Clark, Mildred’s Lane, Julio CÃ©sar Morales and Max La RiviÃ¨re-Hedrick, motiroti, National Bitter Melon Council, Ana Prvacki, Sudsiri Pui-Ock, Michael Rakowitz, Ayman Ramadan, Red76, David Robbins, Allen Ruppersberg, Bonnie Sherk, Barbara T. Smith, Daniel Spoerri, Rirkrit Tiravanija, and others.
Mikey McParlane’s performance on April 1, 2012, was really something special. Relevant to contemporary gender issues (whether I’m able to tease-out any deeper meaning) McParlane presented ambiguously in the guise of a harlequin. Here, the choreography, costume, makeup, audio and lighting came together perfectly. It was weird and beautiful.
April 1, 2012
“Second Annual Lyp Sinc Show”
1136 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Chicago, IL 60642
Performances by: Happy Collaborationists, Ben Foch, Sasha Hodges, Mikey McParlane, Sofia Moreno, Jillian Soto, Courtney Macandanz, RosÃ© Hernandez, Robin Deacon, Taisha Paggett, Jake Myers, Sharon Lanza, Monica Panzarino
Runner-up: Edyta Stepien & Ayako Kato @ Chicago Art Department
Hashimoto’s work was interesting in its own right. But, too, quite literally depending upon fiber, it recalled gallery artist Anne Wilson’s past treatments of the space, and prefigured Fred Sandback’s recent showing there as well. Politics aside, it’s rare for a dealer (here) to survive long enough for such a formal thread to become evident–running through a succession of shows. Hashimoto was polite and professional, and he didn’t need to be so.
September 14 – October 20, 2012
“Super-elastic collisions (origins, and distant derivations)”
Rhona Hoffman Gallery
118 N. Peoria St.
Chicago, IL 60607
Runner-up: “Lane/Sirianni” @ New Capital
76,000-square-feet of colored vinyl, with a 500,000 USD budget, whose real cost was the good will of its patrons.
June 5 – September 30, 2012
The Chicago Loop Allianceâ€™s “Color Jam” by Jessica Stockholder
State Street and Adams Street
Runner-up: “De-mystifying the Art Critic @ Chicago Artistsâ€™ Coalition”
Insofar as a tangible return on investment is concerned, ACRE stands head-and-shoulders above it’s peers. Whether related to the residency, the sheer number of shows produced by ACRE has transformed the landscape of the Chicago art world.
1913 W. 17th Street, 1F
Chicago, IL, 60608
(12) Greatest Misses by Chicago’s Critics: “Noelle Mason @ Thomas Robertello Gallery” and “Sheree Hovsepian @ moniquemeloche”
Above: Artist Noelle Mason explains the process by which the satellite-mapped US/Mexican border city “bird’s eye perspective” textile in the foreground was fabricated; pinhole camera prints documenting her substantial skydiving experience are mounted on the wall in the background.
Above: Sheree Hovsepian with her artwork.
We all wonder why some shows receive press while others do not. Mason and Hovsepian “did everything right,” and yet received scant critical attention.
“Blue Skies/Black Death”
September 7 – November 3, 2012
Thomas Robertello Gallery
27 N. Morgan
Chicago, IL 60607
February 4 â€“ March 24, 2012
2154 W. Division (@ Leavitt)
Chicago, IL 60622
These two (three) were interesting for the same reason: brush or roller “strokes” were applied directly to the walls of the exhibition site. “Painting,” here, was no longer wholly a commodity but rather also a temporary transformation of the venue itself.
May 6 â€“ August 19, 2012
Hyde Park Art Center
5020 S. Cornell Avenue
Chicago, IL 60615
Robert Davis and Michael Langlois
“Living the Dream” in “Re: Chicago”
September 16 â€“ March 4, 2012
DePaul Art Museum
935 W. Fullerton
Chicago, IL 60614
Bey was exactly as expected; Kahra was wholly unexpected. Both photographers presented evidence of the human condition, the bodily circumstance, of their subject. Whether relatively conventional or experimental in its execution, the genre of social documentation is alive and well. Sincere, but not maudlin, the work in each case was a relief from the tide of irony here yet to ebb.
“1975 to the present, a career survey”
May 13 â€“ June 24, 2012
The Renaissance Society
5811 S. Ellis Avenue
Bergman Gallery, Cobb Hall 418
Chicago, Illinois 60637
threewalls’ artist-in-research residency
June 1 – June 30, 2012
119 N. Peoria #2d
Chicago, IL 60607
After “Color Jam” and “Forever Marilyn” the bar couldn’t have been much lower.
Installed in August of 2012; now closed.
220 E. Chicago Avenue (MVDR Drive)
Chicago IL 60611
Norton’s schmutzy floral collages incorporate all manner of found objects–cast or bound together with wax and resin. If her additive Ab Ex, Neo-Dada process might recall a male figure such as Rauschenberg, her palette and penchant for translucent materials are more distinctly feminine.
After showing at Johalla Projects and the late Ebersmoore, Norton graced the MCA in 2012. In 2013 she was hired by Northwestern University; and institutional connectivity is, we all know, key to longevity in Chicago.
August 7 â€“ October 23, 2012
Curated by Karsten Lund
220 E. Chicago Avenue (MVDR Drive)
Chicago IL 60611
(I) The following errors were identified and corrected in the article above:
– “Sofia Leiby” was originally written as “Sophia Leiby”
– “Vincent Uribe” was originally written as “Vince Uribe”
– “Chris Smith” was not named as Jake Myers’ partner in Tag Team
(II) Image of Jason Lazarus at ACRE Projects removed:
– On March 25, 2012, the author of the article above created a photograph of Jason Lazarus in the act of igniting fireworks in the alley behind ACRE Projects. Uploading said original digital image to Flickr, the author of the article above maintained the nomenclature which he received on-site at the time of said event: ACRE staff referred to said event as Lazarus’ “Fireworks Extravaganza.” Regarding that reference, for 16 months no complaint was made. Jason Lazarus saw said image on Flickr 16 months ago, left a comment on Flickr at said time, and therein made no complaint about the presence of the words “Fireworks Extravaganza” in said image’s Flickr caption. After the publication of the article above a complaint was received by Bad at Sports, from ACRE, with regard to the use of the words “Fireworks Extravaganza” in said image’s caption on Bad at Sports. The offending image and caption have been removed from the article above.
(III) No Endorsement:
– The author of the article above failed to clearly indicate that even as his viewing experience was his own, so too his conclusions were his own. No individual member of Bad at Sports, nor Bad at Sports collectively, ought to be assumed to endorse the article above, in part or in whole. Errors and omissions are the fault of the author of the article above, not Bad at Sports.
Likewise, with the exception of content which he has produced, the author of the article above endorses no content on Bad at Sports, whether said content is found in the blog, podcast, or in any other place.
– In the article above, an image of John McCracken’s “Untitled,” 1967, appears opposite Dan Flavin’s “Untitled (for you, Leo, in long respect and affection) 3,” 1978. Whether appropriate, McCracken has been associated with “finish fetish” artists: meticulous practitioners of craft, whose minimal objects are denominated by clean, smooth surfaces, illustrated by the mirror-like reflectivity of McCracken’s piece in said image, above.
Heidi Norton, while having exhibited geometric figures in the same museum (MCA) in the same year (2012) as McCracken, is in no danger of being confused with him. Norton’s work of late has been hallmarked by blobs, drips (see the image of Norton’s work, above) and other surface irregularities.
The author of the article above chose to employ the word “schmutzy” to describe said formal qualities in Norton’s work. “Schmutz,” literally, means “dirt,” though it’s more broadly used to signify some foreign matter: possibly organic, probably only semi-solid, and definitely capable of making a mess. The primary meaning of the word cannot be overlooked.
Artists and critics, male and female, gay and straight, in contemporary Chicago, have set precedent for the descriptive usage. For example, the application of such material to a picture plane was the definition of “painting” provided by Vera Klement: “a mark with liquidy [sic] stuff…a recreation of the body in a way, it’s the stuff that’s in your body, sloshing around in there, that kind of feces, primal material,” at 8:42 – 10:05, in the BaS podcast “Episode 214: Constellations: Paintings from the MCA Collection” October 4, 2009.
And prior to said statement by Klement, Jason Foumberg wrote: “paint flows expressively like an ejaculation,” in his June 22, 2009, piece “Portrait of the Artist: Dutes Miller,” in Newcity.
Bodily processes and sexuality might be hinted at by a word such as “schmutz” when used in relation to the appearance of Norton’s work; but, the association is no more necessary than is forcing such a (bodily, sexual) reading of “finish fetish” in relation to McCracken’s work. And it’s wrong to conflate the artist and the artwork: a description of one ought not to taken as a description of the other. In no place has it been written that Norton is schmutzy, or is a schmutz.
Postscript above appended on July 21, 2013, by the author of the article above, subsequent to a letter received from the blog’s editor.
We are in the midst of a Vivian Maier moment. She has concurrent shows around the world. Three lovely coffee table books, one a year since 2011. Thereâ€™s a forthcoming documentary out about her, Finding Vivian Maier. Then thereâ€™s the Chicago History Museum lecture coming up on April 16 called â€œThe Reinvention of Vivian Maier.â€ And all of this since her death, or more rightly, because of her death.
Since I first saw the exhibit Finding Vivian Maier at the Chicago Cultural Center in 2011, I have had mixed feelings about Maierâ€™s work. It is undoubtedly compelling. The images are beautiful and the photographer so clearly loves city life. I pretty much never miss a street photography show. Last yearâ€™s Film and Photo in New York with Helen Levitt and Robert Frank among others, as well as Dawoud Beyâ€™s Harlem USA, both at The Art Institute of Chicago, were riveting examples of urban photography. But they were different from Finding Vivian Maier. These photographers created work specifically for exhibition. They not only consented to their work being exhibited, they also had a say in the body of work from which the curators had to select. Even if this say came only in the form of editing out images the individual artists didnâ€™t prefer. Vivian Maier didnâ€™t have this opportunity. Her oeuvre of over 100,000 negatives I am assuming are relatively unedited by her, and they are certainly not edited for exhibition.
Vivian Maier Street Photographer is beautiful. Glossy, nice-sized pages that encourage getting lost in the images. Although all of the images contained are of public space, there is an intimacy to Maierâ€™s work that makes me want to curl up on the sofa alone and spend some time with them. This irony of looking at these public images in private does not seem to be lost on the book. While some images are shown on opposing pages, others are allowed a blank page to give the reader time and space to consider the photo.
The book is organized roughly into three sections. The first are the city photos everyone lovesâ€”people, buildings, urbanity. Toward the end, there is a cluster of photos of animals dead in the street. These are juxtaposed against images of people sleeping, passed out, dirty children. It is impossible not to read this as â€œOh look how these dead city animals resemble our tossed aside urban people.â€ It is here that the book becomes interesting in another way. I couldnâ€™t help but wonder if Maier would have edited the book in this fashion. There are no titles to images. No dates. This is not the fault of the editor and rescuer of Maierâ€™s work, John Maloof. I spent a lot of time on his website and it is clear that while some of her images are dated, most are not. How does one curate over 100,00 photos? With so much to chose from, is it even possible to allow the work to tell itâ€™s own story? And what story would that be? The story Maier wanted to tell with her photographs? The story of Vivian Maier? Maybe itâ€™s the story of John Maloof, whose life is now inextricably bound to hers.
After the Acknowledgments, there are more photos, Maierâ€™s self-portraits. These are moving and unsettling. All I could think about was what this impossibly private person might think of all this. Looking at her pictures of other people seemed fine, but looking at pictures of Maier herself felt prurient and unseemly. But that is part of what the world loves about Vivian Maier, she is the fantasy of the undiscovered artist. The person who made work just for herself and then after her death is discovered to be a genius. Itâ€™s like every undergraduate art studentâ€™s fantasy come true.
This is a lovely book to spend time with and is more thought provoking than I had expected. I highly recommend it.
Vivian Maier Street Photographer, edited by John Maloof
Hardcover, 144 pages
Powerhouse Books, $39.95
Work by Anthea Behm
Golden Gallery is located at 3319 N. Broadway. Reception is Saturday from 6-9pm.
Work byÂ Cristina Gonzalez, Juan Angel Chavez, Steve Reber, Sarah Belknap + Joseph Belknap, Micheal Rea, Mark Holmes, Josue Pellot, Montgomery Kim, Hao Ni, Kazuki Guzman, Matthew â€˜Sighnâ€™ Hoffman, Dylan Jones, and Holly Holmes
Chicago Urban Art Society is located at 2229 S. Halsted St. Reception is Friday from 6-11pm.
Work by Anne-Mie Van Kerckhoven
The Renaissance Society is located at 5811 S. Ellis Ave., Cobb Hall 418. Reception is Sunday from 4-7pm.
Work by Conor Backman, Magalie GuÃ©rin, and Matt Nichols
LVL3 is located at 1542 N. Milwaukee Ave, 3rd Fl. Reception is Saturday from 6-10pm.
Curated by Dawoud Bey
Hyde Park Art Center is located at 5020 S. Cornell Ave. Reception is Sunday from 3-5pm.