"Looking Back: The 8th White Columns Annual": White Columns.
In the eight years since its inception, the White Columns Annual has emerged as one of the more anticipated events of the New York art calendar. The premise--a curator's selection of artworks on view in the city in the year preceding the show's opening--reliably yields a specific kind of exhibition, one that tends to be vaguely nostalgic and introspective, less a presentation of art objects than a display of semipersonal keepsakes or aide-memoire. This year's edition was organized by Pati Herding, a lawyer and curator known for, among other endeavors, the now defunct but fondly remembered salon-cwm-performance series Evas Arche und der Feminist. She did a lot with the small space: The forty-two works were diminutive and precisely installed. The selections were varied and rich. Readings, performances, and screenings occurred periodically throughout the show's run. There was a lot to see.
If one piece among the group jumped out, it was Carissa Rodriguez's It's Symptomatic/Wbat Would Edith Say?, 2013, a large, vivid color photograph of the artist's own tongue, all glistening and saliva-slick. At first, the image reads as gently self-reflexive, a wry acknowledgment of the personal curatorial "taste" the exhibition implicitly endorses. Yet the picture has been modified. Rodriguez brought the photo to a specialist in Chinese medicine, who used the principles of tongue diagnosis to assess the tongue's colors, textures, and shape, scribbling on the image in black marker to indicate evidence of various maladies: problems with the liver, the spleen, the diet, etc. Thus, the analogy can be extended; the organs by which the art world renders judgments and creates value-whether the annual survey or the art magazine--do not exist in isolation, but are in fact linked to other organs in a complex, somatic system, such that seemingly invisible or inconsequential changes at one site cause create unexpected, even dramatic symptoms at others.
What symptoms, if any, were on display here? Most clearly detectable were tendencies toward the handmade, the small-scale, and the historically overlooked. And if Rodriguez's tongue pointed to an oral fixation, such an assessment was also supported by a number of works derived from foodstuffs. We could find, for example, Hannah Wilke's Untitled (Single Gum Sculpture), ca. 1975, chewed wads pressed together and curled to create an orifice; the undated Untitled (Gummibarchen) by Konrad Lueg (the pseudonym of Capitalist Realism exponent Konrad Fischer), consisting of fourteen gummy bears pasted onto graph paper and displayed in an off-the-assembly-line row; Mary Beth Edelson's oozing and pooling Honey Painting, 1972; and, my favorite piece here, Tony Conrad's very funny Pickled E.K. 7302-244-0502 #7, April 2006, a section of 16-mm film rolled up and placed in a jar with vinegar and spices.
The mouth, of course, is not the eye. Though an individual's taste can be as refined as a sommelier's, the gustatory falls low on Aristotle's hierarchy of senses. It is the first stop along the alimentary canal, a prelude to the baser, gastric depths. It is one of the most bodily of sensations, and thus did bodies populate the show: Emily Sundblad's weird and melancholy Yves Saint Laurent eyeliner-and-ink sketches on stationery; Lampe-sculpture, ca. 1970, Alina Szapocznikow's flowering phallic lamp; a photo by Rosemarie Trockel of a male torso with a piece of meat stuck to it; and dancer Senga Nengudi's Rapunzel, 1981, an enigmatic image documenting a performance in a bombed-out Los Angeles building that involved a pair of stretched-out pantyhose. Nengudi, though respected for many years, has only recently begun to receive the attention she deserves. In January 2013, her longtime New York gallerist, Thomas Erben, held a small, survey-style presentation of her work at his Chelsea space, and from 2011 to January of this year, New York's Museum of Modern Art displayed an important 1977/2003 sculpture of hers in its contemporary galleries. Again and again in this show, we saw Hertling favoring artists whose presence in recent shows represents a certain reorientation of the canon, specifically a growing recognition of female artists of the 1970s and '80s. This is a welcome shift, and it was elegantly and thoughtfully recorded here.
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|Date:||May 1, 2014|
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