Time capsules: 1980-1985.
ABC No Rio's inaugural event, "The Real Estate Show," takes place in an abandoned Delancey St. tenement. Organized by Collaborative Projects--aka Colab--the exhibition addresses the machinations of the Lower East Side real estate market. The show only gains in notoriety when the city repossesses the building during the show's run.
Benjamin Buchloh's "Beuys: The Twilight of the Idol," appears in Artforum. Coming in the wake of the artist's Guggenheim retrospective, the essay seriously undermines Beuys's felt-and-fat-in-the-Caucasus self-mythology. Strategically, Buchloh's demystification of Beuys serves as a historical correlative for his disenchantment with the revival of expressionist tendencies toward artist-heroes and private agons.
ZG, the London-based arts-and-attitude periodical, launches. Fifteen-issue run, edited by Rosetta Brooks, provides eclectic coverage of the latest downtown Manhattan trends. Very pretentious and way cool.
Ingrid Sischy's debut issue as editor of Artforum: "Allegiance to one kind of art or to one kind of thinking about art is inappropriate, at this time, for a serious art magazine.... Blinders would be fatal now." Her first issue, dominated by artists' projects, is nothing if not inclusive: Art & Language, Dan Graham, Kim MacConnel, Just Another Asshole, and, memorably, Heresies Collective's "Artrace: An Heretical Bored Game." Among the rules: "Subscribe to Artforum; read only your own reviews. Don't join a Marxist or feminist study group; you won't get points."
Craig Owens, "The Allegorical Impulse," part 1, October 12: Leaning on Walter Benjamin, Owens maintains that allegory persists as a crucial element in contemporary art. Citing Cindy Sherman, Troy Brauntuch, Robert Longo, and Sherrie Levine, he attributes allegorical tendencies particularly to appropriation artists. The critic concludes with an excursus on the inevitable complicity between this "deconstructive" art practice and the objects of its critique.
Roland Barthes dies in Paris. His book on photography, Camera Lucida, had appeared the month before.
Studio 54 shuttered after owners' tax evasion charges.
Ross Bleckner, Julian Schnabel, and David Salle open at Mary Boone. In his Arts Magazine diary Robert Pincus-Witten calls the dealer's three darlings "Boonies."
"Pablo Picasso: A Retrospective" opens at the Museum of Modern Art. Auspicious timing for this compendious exhibition, given the fashion for Picassoid wannabes with gargantuan ambitions.
3 Teens Kill 4, an East Village band including David Wojnarowicz, pours blood and bones down the stairwell of 420 W. Broadway, SoHo's most important gallery address, as commentary on US policy toward Central America. Drummer Julie Hair: "We went to 14th St., absconded some bones, and sealed them in plastic. Those bones were not well cleaned off. Lots of dead animal bits intact. Still quite bloody."
"Seven Young Artists from Italy," curated by Jean-Christoph Ammann, opens at the Kunsthalle Basel. Arguably the first Transavanguardia exhibition with international impact, the show includes Sandro Chia, Enzo Cucchi, Francesco Clemente, Mimmo Paladino, Nicola de Maria, Luigi Ontani, and Ernesto Tatafiore.
Douglas Crimp, "On the Museum's Ruins," October 13: Taking his cues from Rauschenberg, Foucault, Benjamin, Bouvard et Pecuchet, and Malraux, Crimp identifies the museum as an inevitably incoherent archive. Couched in the neutralizing language of academe, Crimp's essay has an inescapable ideological thrust: He is gunning for the institution before setting his sights on painting in the following year's "The End of Painting."
Venice Biennale: Georg Baselitz and Anselm Kiefer share the German pavilion. Some infer that the former's Model for a Sculpture depicts Hitler giving the Nazi salute; the latter's works refer to the Nibelungenlied, militarism, Wagner, Heidegger. Vituperative reaction--fascistic," "teutonic," "bombastic--aggrandizes the hitherto relatively obscure artists. The international pavilion, curated by Achilie Bonito Oliva and Harald Szeemann, includes Chia, Cucchi, Clemente, and Paladino, as well as Americans Susan Rothenberg, Julian Schnabel, and David Salle: the first important attempt at integrating recent European and American painting. Pictured: Georg Baselitz, Modell fur elne Skulptur (Model for a sculpture), 1978-80, tempera and wood, 70 x 58 x 96".
Colab's "Times Square Show" opens in a decrepit former massage parlor on 41st St. and 7th Ave. A hundred-odd artists and performers, many from the nascent East Village art scene and including soon-to-be-notables Jenny Holzer and David Hammons. Violence and sex overriding themes, in keeping with the "outsider" locale.
Jurgen Habermas's watershed lecture "Modernity: An Incomplete Project" sharply rebukes the theoretical critical mass increasingly subsumed under the rubric of postmodernism--Foucault, Derrida, et al.
Three Cs--viz., Clemente, Chia, and Cucchi--open at Sperone Westwater Fischer, a group show that decisively puts the central figures of the Transavanguardia on the New York map. Kay Larson (Village Voice) describes the look as either "Late Late Mannerism" or, quoting Chia, "The Last Baroque." Pictured: Sandro Chia, Genova, 1980, oil on canvas, 7'6" x 13'.
"Finger fur Deutschland" is staged at Jorg Immendorff's studio in Dusseldorf. A debutante party of sorts for young German artists bucking the neo-ex trend (Martin Kippenberger, Albert and Markus Oehlen, Werner Buttner, etc.). A program of German New Wave and avant-garde music held at the local artist dive, Ratinger Hof, accompanies the show.
Jasper Johns's Three Flags sells for over $1 million, reports the New York Times--a first for a living artist: "Reached by telephone at his house in Stony Point, N.Y., Mr. Johns said he felt 'nothing other than amusement' at the price of the painting.... 'I was brought up in the Depression, and $1 million is a very important figure to one who grew up at that time. It has a rather neat sound, but it has nothing to do with painting.'"
Absolut Vodka launches "Absolut Bottle" campaign.
Group Material opens gallery at 224 E. 13th St. with "The Inaugural Exhibition."
John Adams's Nixon in China, directed by Peter Sellars, premieres at Houston Grand Opera.
In a trade with the artist, Julian Schnabel receives David Salle's diptych painting Daemonization; reversing the panels, he paints a portrait of Salle on one of them, retitling the picture Jump.
Calvin Klein jeans commercial featuring Brooke Shields ("You know what comes between me and my Calvins? Noting.") banned by CBS.
Metro Pictures opens with group show (Troy Brauntuch, Jack Goldstein, Michael Harvey, Thomas Lawson, William Leavitt, Sherrie Levine, Robert Longo, Richard Prince, Cindy Sherman, Laurie Simmons, James Welling, and Michael Zwack). Metro's cofounder (with Janelle Reiring) Helene Winer had previously directed Artists Space, where Douglas Crimp had curated the seminal 1977 "Pictures" show. The lineup of media-obsessed artists contrasts sharply with the mythological/allegorical fixations of neo-expressionism and the Three Cs. Pictured: Metro Pictures opening, November 1980.
Ronald Reagan elected 40th president.
"Who Shot J.R.?" episode of Dallas viewed in a then record 41 million homes.
Keith Haring begins making his drawings on the walls of subway stations in New York.
Pyramid Club opens on Avenue A. Avantdrag performers are a staple, with regular appearances by Hapi Phace, Lypsinka, John Kelly, Stephen Tashjian/Tabbool, and Ethyl Eichelberger, who dances precariously on the narrow bar in full Queen Elizabeth I attire.
John Jesurun's "living film serial" Chang in a Void Moon enjoys performances every Monday night (curtain 9:30 and 11): deadpan theater of the absurd for insomniacs.
San Francisco-based magazine RE/Search launches with "Shocking Tabloid Issues."
John Lennon, shot in New York City.
ALSO OF NOTE
* Dara Birnbaum, Collective for Living Cinema, New York
* Sarah Charlesworth, Tony Shafrazi Gallery, New York (New York gallery debut)
* Arch Connelly, Artists Space, New York
* Waiter Dahn, Galerie Paul Maenz, Cologne (solo debut)
* Gunther Forg, Galerie Rudiger Schottle, Munich (solo debut)
* Gilbert & George, "Modern Fears," Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London
* Roni Horn, Clocktower, New York (solo debut)
* Thomas Struth, Galerie Rudiger Schottle, Munich (solo debut)
* "Milhelmer Freihelt und Interessante Blider aus Deutschland," Galerie Paul Maenz, Cologne
* "Expressionism: A German Intuition" (cur. Tom Messer). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
* "Three New York Artists" (cur. Jean-Christoph Ammann; Robert Moskowitz, Julian Schnabel, Susan Rothenberg), Kunsthalle Basel
* John Berger, About Looking
* Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose
* Michael Fried, Absorption and Theatricality: Painting and Beholder in the Age of Diderot
* Andy Warhol and Pat Hackett, POPism
* American Gigolo, dir. Paul Schrader
* Heaven's Gate, dir. Michael Cimino
* Raging Bull, dir. Martin Scorsese
* The Return of the Secaucus 7, dir. John Sayles
* The Shining, dir. Stanley Kubrick
* Ska revival (Specials, Madness, Selecter)
* Rock Against Racism movement in Britain, Germany, and France
* Throbbing Gristle, 20 Jazz Funk Greats
RELATED ARTICLE: MILESTONE 1980
Fassbinder's Berlin Alexanderplatz
SINCE MANY IN THE '70s imagined themselves to be living in a disco-inflected version of the Weimar Republic, with all the lurking political apocalypse that implied, there was a voluptuous foreboding in the prospect of a TV miniseries by Rainer Werner Fassbinder chronicling the lower depths of '20s Berlin. Fassbinder's cinema of cruelty, with its equal echoes of Brecht, Warhol, and Douglas Sirk, had from the outset provided an infusion of demystifying pessimism in a climate still saturated by late-'60s fever dreams of spiritual transformation. By the time Berlin Alexanderplatz aired in 1980, Fassbinder had moved beyond the deliberately alienating manner of his grotesque spaghetti western Whity (1971) and the noir degree zero The American Soldier (1970) to adopt an approach that was more like infiltration. He wanted to stir up the emotional identification that any old Joan Crawford picture could bring into play, all the better to home in on moments of utter defeat, betrayal, surrender.
For Fassbinder to move beyond art houses to the potentially unlimited world of television was a heady idea, even if Berlin Alexanderplatz was only to be shown here on PBS. TV--not yet balkanized by a thousand cable channels--still seemed like the public square, and the miniseries, a new form, might hold possibilities to which even movies couldn't aspire. A miniseries had so much more time to explore the narrative intricacies that movies were obliged to compress. It could, in theory, let events unfold in something closer to the cadences of experience.
The form's possibilities had been well demonstrated by the BBC's I, Claudius (1976), whose rich detail made even the most ambitious swords-and-sandals epic seem cartoonish by comparison. Two years later the NBC series Holocaust, whatever its dramaturgical shortcomings, had the unexpected effect in Germany of sparking public discussion of its subject on a wider scale than ever before.
It seemed, then, that the long forms with which television was experimenting might evolve into a genre as dense, popular, and aesthetically powerful as those nineteenth-century novels that lent themselves so admirably to the format. The novel that Fassbinder had chosen to adapt was of a different sort: Alfred Doblin's 1929 epic was a thoroughly modernist work, imbued with a hallucinatory expressionism far removed from the flat, bright certainties of the TV image. For Fassbinder the book was a touchstone: It had transformed him when he read it as a teenager, and the hapless heroes of his films had time and again been named after the novel's protagonist, Franz Biberkopf, an ex-convict set adrift in post--World War I Berlin.
Berlin Alexanderplatz the TV show turned out to be a belated Expressionist masterpiece, harsh and unforgiving in its delineation of Franz's inevitable undoing, implacable in its air of nocturnal gloom. Yet Fassbinder had grasped the miniseries aesthetic, if only to frustrate its expectations. From episode to episode, one stayed tuned, as if somehow things were going to turn out all right in the end. As incarnated by the remarkable Gunter Lamprecht, the fundamentally good-hearted murderer Biberkopf emerged as Fassbinder's ultimate sacrificial victim, his life dismantled by the charming, utterly malign Reinhold Hoffmann (Gottfried John). For Fassbinder, the men's destructive relationship was driven by a sexual desire they were incapable of acknowledging; played out in the episodes of Berlin Alexanderplatz, it was like the final unleashing of the demons evoked by the work of Lang and Murnau, of Nolde and Beckmann and Grosz, and more terrifying for the fact that it was all happening on television.
For all its promise, Fassbinder's miniseries was less the beginning than the end of something. He died eighteen months after it first aired, and the kind of uncompromising auteurist television that Berlin Alexanderplatz seemed to announce was to remain a rarity. For better or worse, television would prove more receptive to a thoroughly collaborative model of creation, and decidedly unreceptive to the kind of unrelieved bad dream that Berlin Alexanderplatz projected into the public square.
Geoffrey O'Brien is editor in chief of the Library of America.
Talking Head's Remain in Light
IN THE WINTER OF 1980 Brian Eno went on radio station KPFA in Berkeley, California, and prophesied. He foresaw the advent of "fourth-world music," he said, music not exactly here (Anglo-American rock) or there (tribal, folkloric, traditional). What he envisioned was an "almost collage music, like grafting a piece of one culture onto a piece of another ... and trying to make them work as a coherent musical idea, and also trying to make something you can dance to." Eno had left London two years before. He was living in Lower Manhattan and spending many of his working hours with David Byrne, the leader of Talking Heads, an art-rock band that thought it was a funk band, or vice versa. Eno had produced the Heads' second album, More Songs About Buildings and Food (1978), and their third, Fear of Music (1979), and was in the midst of recording an album with Byrne alone, an album of experimental pieces that layered dense, percussive grooves by Eno, Byrne, and eleven other musicians atop snippets of "found" voices-- f rom a recording by a Lebanese mountain singer, say, or that of an Egyptian pop diva. The album would be released in 1981 as My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, a title borrowed from a novel by the Nigerian writer Amos Tutuola about a young man who wanders beyond the bounds of his village into the topographical and existential unknown. But Eno and Byrne did not go quite that far with Bush of Ghosts: This was "experimental" music that was meant to be appreciated, and was--at least within the bounds of SoHo. It had the flavor and contours of Otherness, but there was little here to dance to. Eno didn't make records to dance to. Talking Heads did.
While making Bush of Ghosts, Byrne and the three other members of Talking Heads, along with Eno (by then a kind of fifth Head), recorded and released Remain in Light (Sire Records, 1980), an album that was the first to actually deliver on Eno's prophecy. It is an album that also happens to be prophetic in its own right, anticipating not only the way popular music is made now and sounds now, or the more adventurous of it anyway (think of Moby's Play or Radiohead's Kid A), but also the way we live now--at some frontier where here and there are at once terribly conspicuous and disquietingly elusive.
Talking Heads gathered to record the album in the Bahamas in the spring of 1980. It had been decided that the band would build songs the way "I Zimbra," the opening song on Fear of Music, had been built: from jamming together. These instrumental jams were harmonically minimal, but there was nothing simple about the music being made. The complexity, and the captivating freshness crucial to popular music, was all in the layered rhythms and timbral values: not song but sound. The band would work and rework riffs until exhausting them, recording them on long stretches of tape. Development, variation, resolution: These all came later, when Byrne and Eno took the many instrumental tracks for a given song and mixed them--essentially by turning this one on and that one off endlessly, ingeniously. Paradoxically, the wonders of the modern recording studio allowed for the making of a kind--a new kind--of communal, near-tribal music. Welcome to the fourth world.
The lyrics Byrne wrote once the music was done reinforce the music's sense of existing along some once carefully demarcated but now permeable and restless border region. He was reading John Miller Chernoff's African Rhythm and African Sensibility; he was listening to radio preachers and a new vocal style out of the South Bronx called rap; he was also, he told me recently, trying to get beyond the strictly psychological, the self-conscious Self, into the mythic and magical (much as fourth-world chroniclers like Salman Rushdie were beginning to do). Byrne, you might say, was feeling a kind of protoglobalist urge: "And you may find yourself in another part of the world ... And you may ask yourself--Well.. how did I get here?" he talk-sings on "Once in a Lifetime." Along the frontier between here and there, identity would be problematized ("I'm changing my shape-I feel like an accident," the narrator declares in "Crosseyed and Painless"), and border crossings would be contested, as he darkly foresaw in the lyrics to "Listening Wind": "Mojique buys equipment in the marketplace / Mojique plants devices in the free trade zone."
With Remain in Light, Talking Heads wandered far, far from anybody's idea of downtown, toward a future we are only beginning to understand we have arrived at, one thick with unimagined complication and, it must be hoped, possibility.
Gerald Marzorati is editorial director of the New York Times Magazine. (See Contributors.)
A Barbara Kruger, "Pictures and Promises,' opens at The Kitchen. A former magazine art director (Mademoiselle), Kruger curates a show illustrating the influence of print media on contemporary artists. The artists (Victor Burgin, Sherrie Levine, James Welling, Laurie Simmons, Hannah Wilke, et al.) share the gallery with magazine spreads, ads, posters, and monitors broadcasting television commercials.
Robert Longo's "Men in the Cities" is introduced as series in artist's first Metro Pictures solo. Large-scale charcoal drawings of men (and women) in business attire, contorted in moments of evident surprise or pain, interspersed with lacquered cast-aluminum reliefs depicting views of Manhattan architecture (e.g., Bellevue, the Downtown Athletic Club). Longo includes stenciled "credits" for his models and fabricators.
Pictured: Robert Longo, "Men In the Cities," 1981. Installation view, Metro Pictures, New York.
"A New Spirit in Painting" opens at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. Curated by Nicholas Serota, Norman Rosenthal, and Christos Joachimides, the exhibition attempts to integrate new expressionist tendencies among British, European, and American artists within a broad spectrum of painterly practices. The influential (all-male) hodgepodge: Richter, Polke, Kiefer, Markus Lupertz, A.R. Penck, and Rainer Fetting; Chia and Paladino; and motley Americans and Brits--Ryman, Twombly, Bacon, Auerbach, Morley, Marden, Guston, Warhol, de Kooning, et al. As the lineup suggests, the spirit isn't quite as new as promised.
First installment of Robert Hughes's eight-part TV series The Shock of the New and publication of companion book. Hughes's gregarious delivery and colorful language help establish him as the most influential mainstream critic in the US, although his attitude toward contemporary art is almost invariably hostile or dismissive.
Peter Schjeldahl's first column as senior critic at the Village Voice appears.
opens Loo Division in the bathroom of her E. 9th St. apartment.
Pictured: Gracie Mansion at Steve Lack show, Loo Division, New York, 1981.
Photo: Timothy Greathouse.
Ronald Reagon shot.
Julian Schnabel's joint show at Mary Boone and Leo Castelli opens. Schnabel is the first new artist Castelli has signed since 1971; like his 1979 Boone debut, the show sells out prior to the opening. The collaboration between the grand seigneur of contemporary dealers and the brash young Boone is itself provocative (representing the artist jointly, they split commissions). Schnabel shows 13 paintings, some on velvet, incorporating gold leaf, moose antlers, and, of course, broken crockery. Thomas Lawson in Flash Art" "Like Reagan, Schnabel puts his faith in unregulated expansionism."
Pictured: Juilan Schnabel, St. Francis in Ecstasy, 1980, wood putty, plates, and oil on wood, 96 x 84".
"Sex and Language" conference at the Plaza Hotel, New York, features more than 100 speakers--psychoanalysts, writers, filmmakers, and "scene makers of indeterminate pedigree," as the New York Times puts it. Participants include Lina Wertmuller, Alain Robbe-Grillet, William S. Burroughs, Thomas Szasz, and Maurice Girodias. "What do I know about sex and language?" Robbe-Grillet wonders. "Nothing. My sex is vague and my language is absent. I am here to observe the scene--and the circus."
Seminal East Village galleries Civilian Warfare and Nature Morte open for business. Civilian Warfare promulgates the archetypal down-in-the-gutter-with-a-handful-of-glitter East Village aesthetic, whereas Nature Morte, under the direction of artists Alan Belcher and Peter Nagy, propounds the Pop/Conceptual undercurrent.
Pictured, from left: Nature Morte, E. 10th St., New York. Civilian Warfare Gallery, E. 11th St., New York.
Photos: Andreas Sterzing.
"Westkunst: Contemporary Art since 1939" opens at the Museen der Stadt, Cologne. The show, curated by Kasper Konig et al., promises examples of "continuity and contradiction"; the 1939 start suggests a political focus. Received modern masters (Picasso, Beckmann, Klee, Mondrian, Ernst, Pollock, de Koonlng--the list goes on) mingle with the stars of the '60s and the occasional oddball (Fautrier, Wols, Ivan Albright, Abraham Rattner). An eclectic range of contemporary art: Schnabel, Salle, Longo, Brauntuch, Holzer, Kushner, Clemente, Ahearn. The exhibition also serves as yet another staging ground for the proliferation of new German painting.
Fun Gallery opens. Under the direction of Bill Stelling and underground film star Patti Astor, the East Village hub features Keith Haring, Futura 2000, Fred Brathwaite, Kenny Scharf, Jane Dickson, and Nicolas Moufarrege during its five-year run.
Pictured: Graffiti show at Patti Astor's Fun Gallery, New York. Photo Martha cooper.
Rene Ricard's first Artforum article, "Not About Julian Schnabel," appears. A not entirely facetious title, as Ricard spends several opening paragraphs attacking various New York dealers, especially Mary Boone. A poet, Ricard eschews normative critical writing, freely mixing panegyric, vituperation, and gossip. These high-octane "appreciations" go some way toward defining the climate of Sischy's Artforum.
AIDS first diagnosed.
MOMA high priest Alfred Barr dies.
IBM PC introduced.
Inaugural issue of Art & Text, edited by Paul Taylor, appears. The ambitious journal comes from a far-flung locale, Victoria, Australia; but under Taylor's canny direction it soon achieves readership beyond the Australian art world.
Rosalind Krauss, "The Originality of the Avant-Garde: A Postmodern Repetition," October 18: Krauss concludes her critique of originality with Sherrie Levine's rephotography of pictures by Edward Weston and Eliot Porter, continuing the journals canonization of the "Pictures" group.
"Fictive Victims" opens at Hallwalls in Buffalo, New York. Features work by Gretchen Bender, Mark Innerst, Bill Komoski, Anne Doran, Peter Coates, Jim Isermann, and Peter Fleps. Curator Robert Longo mixes "Pictures-type photo-based art with figurative and abstractish painting, the whole suffused with an atmosphere redolent of parody, pop culture, wistfulness, and kitsch. At Sandro Chia's suggestion, Annina Nosei invites 22-year-old Jean-Michel Basqulat to join her gallery. Nosei sets up the artist in her basement so he can paint, a gesture that gains a certain notoriety. "Basquiat is likened to the wild boy raised by wolves, corralled into Annina's basement," Jeffrey Deitch writes in Rash Art. Pictured: Jean-Michel Basqulat. Photo: Andreas Sterzing.
Thomas Lawson, "Last Exit: Painting," Artforum: Lawson stolidly argues for a genuinely subversive painterly practice. David Salle much valorized: "Salle's paintings remain significant pointers indicating the last exit for the radical artist. He makes paintings, but they are dead, inert representations of the impossibility of passion in a culture that has institutionalized self-expression." Among the illustrations: Lawson's own Shot by the Fathers.
Laurie Anderson's "0 Superman" sells 500,000 copies worldwide. The '70s performance artist takes deadpan delivery, ominous lyrics, and New Wave/No Wave attitudinizing mainstream. Pictured: Laurie Anderson, 0 Superman. Performance view, Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York, 1982. Photo: Chris Harris.
The term "postmodernism" migrates into fine-arts discourse, showing up in a New York Times headline, for Andy Grundberg's "Cindy Sherman: A Playful and Political Post-Modernist": "By focusing exclusively on conventionalized, almost stereotypical forms of representation, Sherman seems to question our assumptions about originality in art." Perhaps the first time "postmodernism" in the October-ish sense appears in the newspaper of record.
The Germans invade New York. A neo-ex juggernaut, with solo shows of Rainer Fetting at Mary Boone, A.R. Penck at Sonnabend, Markus Lupertz at Marian Goodman, Salome at Annina Nosel, and Georg Baselitz at Xavier Fourcade. Ross Skoggard writes in Art in America, "The big sport for critics this month is deciding who's your favorite German."
ALSO OF NOTE SHOWS
* Werner Buttner, Galerie Max Hetzler, Stuttgart (solo debut)
* Sophie Calle, Galerie Canon, Geneva (solo debut)
* Carroll Dunham, Artists Space, New York (solo debut) Pictured: Carroll Dunham, Untitled, 1980, casein, acrylic, dry pigment, and pencil on paper, 30 1/2 x 22".
* Fischli & Weiss, Galerie Stanli, Zurich (solo debut)
* Jedd Garet, Robert Miller Gallery, New York
* Jim Isermann, Rio Mizuno Gallery, Los Angeles (solo debut)
* Jonathan Lasker, Landmark Gallery, New York (solo debut)
* Louise Lawler, Jancar/Kuhlenschmidt Gallery, Los Angeles (solo debut)
* Louise Lawler and Sherrie Levine, first installment of collaborative A Picture Is No Substitute for Anything, Harold Rivkin, New York
* Paul McCarthy, Death Ship, University of Southern California, Los Angeles
* Albert Oehlen, Galerie Max Hetzler, Stuttgart (solo debut)
* Izhar Patkin, The Kitchen, New York (solo debut)
* Thomas Ruff, Galerie Rudiger Schottle, Munich (solo debut)
* Laurie Simmons, Metro Pictures, New York (solo gallery debut) Pictured: Laurie Simmons, Tourism: Pyramids 2nd View, 1984, color print, 40 x 60".
* Robert Yarber, Simon Lavinsky Gallery, Los Angeles (solo debut)
* "Downtown Invitational Drawing Show" (cur. Keith Haring), Mudd Club, New York
* "Art Allemagne Aujourd'hul" (Baselitz, Beuys, Darboven, Haacke, Immendorff, Kiefer, Lupertz, Palermo, Penck, Polke, Richter, Roth, Ruckriem, Vostell), Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris
* Jean Baudrillard, For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign [Pour une critique..., 1972]
* Norman Bryson, Word and Image: French Painting of the Ancien Regime
* Jacques Derrida, Dissemination [La Dissemination, 1972]
* bell hooks, Ain't l a Woman: Black Women and Feminism
* Georg Lukacs, Essays on Realism
* Salman Rushdle, Midnight's Children
* The Decline of Western Civilization, dir. Penelope Spheeris
* Dlva, dir. Jean-Jacques Beineix
* Mommie Dearest, dir. Frank Perry
* Ralders of the Lost Ark, dir. Steven Spielberg
* Halrcut 100, "Favourite Shirts (Boy Meets Girl)"
* Lounge Lilzards, The Lounge Lizards
"New York/New Wave"
THE "'80s" LITERALLY BEGAN WITH "The Real Estate Show," an "insurrectionary" occupation of a vacant city-owned building at 123 Delancey Street. Literally, because the thirty-five-artist installation dealing primarily with real-estate issues in New York, was "open" for one day: January 1, 1980. It was padlocked by the police on January 2 and "came down" on the 11th when city workers invaded the space and carted off the work-an auspicious beginning for a decade of art.
In June of '80 the spectacular "Times Square Show," mounted in an abandoned multistory massage parlor on Forty-first Street and Seventh Avenue, took things to a whole new level. The show was as funky as its surroundings and as lively a happening as had been seen since the '60s. Artists dropped in and contributed to this nonstop party, a continuous work-in-progress that featured not only the best young artists but also film, video, and live music performances. It brought worlds together--the uptown (as in the Bronx) with the downtown, the theoretical with the impulsive, the vandals with the decorators. A souvenir shop sold cheap multiples by participating artists.
The institutional emergence of this new force took place in mid-February 1981, in the "New York/New Wave" show at P.S. 1 in Long Island City, a spectacular exhibition featuring 119 artists (more or less) and curated by Diego Cortez. Mammoth in scale, "New York/New Wave" offended purists as much by its maximalist approach as by its content. Cortez hung the art from floor to ceiling, throughout the galleries and the halls. He brought together a coalition of punks, No Wave musicians, young painters, graffiti artists, poets, performers, and more radical-type forefathers like Ray Johnson, Lawrence Weiner, William Burroughs, and Andy Warhol to create a museum-as--fun house that engaged the eye and mind relentlessly.
I recently dug up a review in the apparently hip SoHo Weekly News by John Perreault, who seemed offended that the show was a huge hit: "Why so many people? Is the art world eager for a possible new wave slap in the face?" But revisiting the show when the RS. 1 galleries were closed, he found it "a plain and timid thing." Joking on the "New Wave" title, he called the exhibition "tidewrack"--i.e., what's left when the tide goes out.
I also dug up something I wrote about the show in Interview, and it addresses some of Perreault's concerns in a similar metaphoric vein: "This is a tidal wave of art, about to reduce the entire art world to limp rubble, particularly the stuff that floats." Here I believe I was casting a jibe at the then popular gallery installations of lumber piles. I continued: "Here's a whole new art world ready to replace the old one. Of course the old one is not going to just pack up and move to Chicago because of an art show in Long Island City. But I can tell they're scared. And why? I think because here is art based on life, not on art. The public might like it." I think that was the revolution that began with "The Real Estate Show," got hot with "The Times Square Show," and went public with "New York/New Wave."
Perreault and other mainstream commentators didn't find much news in "New York/New Wave," but looking over a list of contributing artists, I find quite a few names who went on to serious things: Kathy Acker, David Armstrong, Jean-Michel Basquiat, David Byrne, Sarah Charlesworth, Henry Chalfant, Larry Clark, Arch Connelly, Jimmy de Sana, Dondi, Brian Eno, Fab 5 Freddy, Peter Fend, Futura 2000, Jedd Garet, Nan Goldin, Keith Haring, Duncan Hannah, Roberto Juarez, Bill Komoski, Greer Lankton, Lady Pink, Marcus Leatherdale, Arto Lindsay, Judy Linn, John Lurie, Lydia Lunch, Ann Magnuson, Christoper Makos, Robert Mapplethorpe, Frank Moore, Lee Quinones (LEE), Rene Ricard, Kenny Scharf, Kate Simon, Duncan Smith, Kiki Smith, Steven Sprouse, Ken Tisa, Harvey Wang, Larry Williams, Robin Winters. Not only that, but the curator, Diego Cortez, has gone on to create some very modern cocktail piano music.
Alas, that was an age of showmanship and shamanship the likes of which seem most remote today. Not that there is no new wave of art ready to break--I sense its far-off presence, and we're praying for psychic surf daily--but that idea of art coalescing to reach the public without mediation seems so outside the realm of institutional practice it's practically dangerous. Nutty world, huh?
Glenn O'Brien is a writer based In New York.
Keith Haring's Wild Style
ONE AFTERNOON in late spring of 1981, I was taking a lunch break from my new job as exhibition coordinator for the now defunct Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies. The IAUS, a think tank propelled into existence in 1967 by Peter Eisenman, was located on Fortieth Street just west of Fifth Avenue. Part of the IAUS mission--along with publishing October, Skyline, and Oppositions and hosting frequent panel discussions--was to mount exhibitions of architects and projects deemed sympathetic to the founder's ideals and methodologies. I was recruited to oversee the logistics of these shows, whose parameters remained somewhat vague during my yearlong tenure. It wasn't the curatorial job I'd been looking for, but it was the closest I'd gotten to being paid for doing what I wanted to do. Having moved to New York not quite two years earlier, I was still finding it difficult to get my bearings in the art world, and to make ends meet.
An article about Keith Haring in the Village Voice was fresh enough in my memory that I knew who he was the instant I saw him, though, of course, I had no idea yet of what he had to do with me. It was a moment of perfect serendipity: A sunny spring day, a blur of movement in the corner of my eye, a curious peek over a few shoulders, and there he was, ten feet in front of me, at the foot of the steps of the New York Public Library. Armed with two large sticks of white chalk, he had just finished marking out the frame of the drawing and was now starting on the figures in earnest. I was struck by the fact that he did not appear to have announced his intentions, as those who were gathering around him seemed fully confused about what was happening.
The entire eight- to ten-foot-square drawing--which I remember (perhaps incorrectly) as a dolphin-baby combination, a little rougher and more wobbly than the subway drawings that would soon begin popping up around the city-took less than five minutes to complete, and suddenly he was gone, vanished back into the crowd. For a full minute more I stood in stunned silence, gaping at the drawing, at the faces of my fellow New Yorkers on lunch break, at the spot in the crowd where he'd last been seen. At first I thought he might return, but then I realized in a flash that the implicit illegality of the act I'd just witnessed was key to its meaning. Though I had read about process art, seen plenty of performances at the Kitchen, and even gone the year before to see "The Times Square Show"--a sprawling mess of rebellious art crammed into a Forty-first Street massage parlor-the Haring sighting was unprecedented in my experience of art up to that day. What would inspire a presumably middle-class white kid no different f rom me to choose this hazardous and ephemeral mode of artmaking? And why was I working a day job that was only fractionally fulfilling? Was there something I wasn't getting?
Over the next couple years my path intersected with Haring's several times. I went to an open studio at P.S. 122 a few months later for the express purpose of meeting him (and chickened out), photographed a wall painting he made for the New Museum of Contemporary Art's Alternatives in Retrospect catalogue, and even chatted him up one night at Danceteria. His career very quickly became a matter of public record--he was championed in Artforum by Rene Ricard (1981), soloed at Tony Shafrazi (1982), appeared in Charlie Ahearn's film Wild Style (1982), showed at Fun Gallery (1983)--and I developed the feeling, also new, that my life had brushed, however fleetingly, with art history.
My own career as a critic and curator was just beginning, and soon enough (two years later, once I began publishing) it became a point of professional pride with me to point out that I did not like the direction Haring's work (nor, for that matter, the work of most early-'80s painters) had taken. It wasn't personal, it was about the shape my own ideas were taking and the need to passionately defend certain principles while, just as passionately, debunking others. I glimpsed something during that long-ago lunch hour about taking responsibility for my own artistic ideals and for creating a discursive space where they could be shared. Some of this occurred to me only years after the fact, and I certainly never mentioned it to Keith. In fact we had little personal contact up to his death in 1990, and yet I always felt strangely certain, on some purely subjective level, that we were kindred spirits.
Dan cameron is senior curator at the New Museum of contemporary Art, New York, and is organizing the 8th International Istanbul Biennial.
"Critical Perspectives" opens at P.S. 1, New York. An array of art critics push their own agendas in the guest curation, viz., Ronny Cohen (Energism"), Edit deAk (graffiti), Joseph Masheck (academic formalism), Thomas Lawson (Salle, Fischl, Goldstein, himself).
Late Night with David Letterman premieres.
Jenny Holzer, Messages to the Public, Times Square--first "Truisms" work using LED.
"Transavanguardia Italia/America" opens at Galleria Civica Modena. Appending Basquiat, Salle, Schnabel, David Deutsch, and Robert S. Zakanitch to the Italian movement, the exhibition is largely distinguished by its curator, Achille Bonita Oliva, whose 1979 essay "The Italian Trans-Avantgarde" (Flash Art) promoted the return to figurative, mythopoeic painting. Pictured: Enzo Cucchl, La Guerra delle regional (The war of the regions), 1981, charcoal on paper mounted on canvas, 8' 11' x 14' 3".
Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous premieres.
"Italian Art Now: An American Perspective--1982 Exxon International Exhibition," curated by Diane Waldman, opens at the Guggenheim. The first major exhibition of new Italian art at an American museum. Clemente is excluded, and his absence is taken as evidence of Waldman's obtuseness. Aside from his high praise for Chia and Cucchi, Peter Schjeldahl ("Treachery on the High Cs," Village Voice) dismisses the show as "a bore."
Falklands War begins.
Sigmar Polke's first New York solo show opens at Holly Solomon. "It is a scandal that he has never shown here before," Thomas Lawson comments in an Artforum review.
Rudi Fuchs's Documenta 7 brings together both the new, mostly European figurative painting and artists with "critical" art practices from the US (Barbara Kruger, Dara Birnbaum, Cindy Sherman, etc.). "Documenta seemed to me to be an effort to make painting a specifically European activity," Roberta Smith observes. "A painter like Julian Schnabel... was excluded, while young [American] artists doing photograph-based work were invited to exhibit." Overall, American critics react negatively to Fuchs's vaporous, reactionary premises.
Wedge, edited by Brian Wallis and Phil Mariani, debuts. Another journal dedicated to "critical" art practices, but its editorial program remains less academic than that of October. Ceases publication in 1988.
Isreal invades Lebanon.
Rainer Werner Fassbinder dies.
Benjamin Buchloh, "Allegorical Procedures: Appropriation and Montage in Contemporary Art," Artforum: Like Craig Owens, Buchloh conscripts allegory as an important tool of critical practice, providing substantial art-historical pedigree. Emphasizing the political implications of allegory and appropriation, he goes on to praise Martha Rosier, Sherrie Levine, and Dara Bimbaum.
Hilton Kramer, late of the New York Times, launches the New Criterion. Having given up on contemporary art post-AbEx, he promulgates an archconservative, "Reaganite" cultural politics.
"Zeitgeist," organized by Norman Rosenthal and Christos Joachimides, opens in a neo-Renaissance palazzo designed by Martin Gropius near the Berlin Wall. The zeitgeist in question is infused with the rebirth of painting. Marginal improvement on the Royal Academy's pure testosterone "New Spirit" show: Susan Rothenberg is the sole woman among the 46 artists exhibiting.
Pictured: Susan Rothenberg, Slena dos Equls, 1974, acrylic on canvas, 9 3/4 x 22 1/2".
Basquiat's solo show at Fun--characterized as a return to the raw immediacy of the artist's work pre-Nosel--opens. "The opening was great," Bruno Bischofberger comments. "It drew young blacks and Puerto Ricans, along with limousines from uptown."
Rene Ricard, "The Pledge of Allegiance," Artforum: Ricard's apotheosis of Fun Gallery director Patti Astor ("The Fun wasn't started because Patti Astor suddenly wanted to become an art dealer....Open your own gallery. You can have your own fun. Start your own war.")
Maya Lin's Vietnam Memorial dedicated in Washington, DC.
ALSO OF NOTE
* Mike Bidlo, "Jack the Dripper at Peg's Place," P.S. 1, New York
* Jennifer Bolande, "Landmarks," The Kitchen, New York (solo debut) Pictured: Jennifer Bolande, Cartoon Curtain, 1982, color photograph, 38 x 42".
* Jean-Marc Bustamante, Galerie Baudoin Lebon, Paris (solo debut)
* Leon Golub, "Mercenaries and Interrogations," Sarah Campbell Blaffer Gallery, University of Houston
* Richard Hambleton, Alexander Milliken Gallery, New York (solo debut)
* Mark Innerst, The Kitchen, New York (solo debut)
* Tadashi Kawamata, Gallery Kobayashi, Tokyo (solo debut)
* Mark Kostabi, Molly Barnes Gallery, Los Angeles (solo debut) Pictured: Mark Kostabi, Materialism #2, 1982, oil on canvas, 48 x 36".
* Barbara Kruger, Annina Nosei Gallery, New York (first solo at Nosei)
* John Miller, White Columns, New York (solo debut)
* Mark Morrisroe, 11th Hour Gallery, Boston (solo debut)
* Nic Nicosia, Delahunty Gallery, Dallas (solo debut)
* Lee Quinones, Fun Gallery, New York
* Peter Schuyff, White Columns, New York (solo debut)
* Philip Taaffe, Roger Litz Gallery, New York (solo debut)
* Mark Tansey, Grace Borgenicht Gallery, New York (solo debut) Pictured: Mark Tansey, Action Painting II, 1984, oil on canvas, 76 x 110".
* Christopher Williams, Jancar/kuhienschmidt Gallery, Los Angeles (solo gallery debut)
* Terry Winters, Sonnabend, New York (solo debut) Pictured: Terry Winters, Early Animals, 1982, on linen, 68 x 79".
* David Wojnarowicz, Alexander Milliken Gallery, New York (solo debut)
* "A Likely Story" (cur. Valerie Smith; Gretchen Bender, David Cabrera, Ronald Jones, Jeff Koons), Artists Space, New York
* "Art and the Media: A Fatal Attraction" (cur. Thomas Lawson; Donald Baechler, Barbara Bloom, Sarah Charlesworth, Robert Longo, David Salle, et al.), Renaissance Society, Chicago.
* "Extended Sensibilities: Homosexual Presence in Contemporary Art" (cur. Dan Cameron), New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York
* "Five Painters: Chia, Clemente, Kiefer, Salle, Schnabel," Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London
* "Image Scavengers: Painting" and "Image Scavengers: Photography," ICA, Philadelphia
* "Warhol verso de Chirico," Campidoglio, Rome; rehung 1985 at Marisa del Re Gallery, New York
* Jean Stein, Edie, an American Biography
* Cornel West, Prophesy Deliverence! An Afro-American Revolutionary Christianity
* E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, dir. Steven Spielberg
* Querelle, dir. Rainer Werner Fassbinder
* The Road Warrior, dir. George Miller
* Sans Soleil, dir. Chris Marker
* Tron, dir. Steven Lisberger
* Grandmaster Flash, The Message
* Husker Du, Everything Falls Apart
* Rise of Synth-Pop (Heaven 17, Soft Cell, Human League)
Scritti Politti's "Jacques Derrida"
IN 1982, TWO TENDENCIES, neither exactly a trend, came together in a curious moment: the release of a single by the band Scritti Politti. What was notable though was not the A side, "Asylums in Jerusalem," but the tune on the flip side, a lite, elegant number called 'Jacques Derrida."
Tendency 1: It is hard to believe just how long a handful of narratives dominated the development of pop music; perhaps the most influential was the vulgarized version of the great countercultural fantasies of the late '60s in which wave after wave of nonconformist young warriors do battle against the forces of the market. In this conceit, the goal of the market--striving not just for economic gain but for ideological victory--is to keep these rebels from expressing their aggression and instead to "soften" them, as the saying went. Today hardly anyone harbors any delusions that the emblematic aggression, loose cannons, and antisocial behavior of raw rock are not in themselves culture-industry products, and ideologically loaded ones at that. But for some time it was an article of faith that AC/DC was a threat to the system while Julio Iglesias supported it.
Punk seemed to validate the boiling-kettle theory of rock authenticity, raising loudness an anger to new heights while (the story goes) rescuing rock from the market. But something else was emerging from punk: Doubts about received sexual identities now reached every adolescent, and with them the constructed nature of cultural categories became apparent. In fact, according to punk, if we don't construct ourselves, somebody else will do it for us. After 1980, a movement was born that made virtues of seduction, decadence, longing, and melancholy, that no longer claimed to be original or "natural" but rather affirmed the quoted nature of our "own" feelings, that tried not to shout down or drown out the status quo but to slip through its cracks: I'm thinking of Orange Juice, The Monochrome Set and Josef K, The Teardrop Explodes, Culture Club, Dexy's Midnight Runners, ABC, and, of course, Scritti Politti. Others have been forgotten (there are probably few Artforum readers who could reminisce with me about Mark Bee r's incomparable single "Pretty"). The aesthetic accomplishments of African-American soul music, sneered at by rock, as well as queer-culture insights into the nature of performativity, contributed to this deeply influential revaluation. A few years later, the Smiths even sold some records with it.
Tendency 2: Once upon a time, young people concerned with the cultivation of their sensibilities came together not just in reading poetry but also through the novels of Camus, Kerouac, Hesse, Sartre, and Genet, depending on the era. And here too an important new early-'80s development became manifest. The romanciers of the moment, those whose books as much portrayed the world as questioned it, whose overheated texts could flatter the youth as well as move the ground under their feet, were now named Derrida, Deleuze, or Lyotard. They were academics, scholars, philosophers by trade, yet their words were memorized with the same impatient rapture--and used and misused for personal life choices and values-as Salinger's or before them. This reception was Goethe's often a mark against these authors within academic philosophy: How could deconstruction be taken seriously when, out there, it was spawning all these problems among the pubescent? Today the point is moot, and these texts have long since become academically institutionalized.
Many are no longer taken seriously, while others have become classics and entered the canon.
The teenagers who schiepped around bad translations of abridged French editions in their jacket pocket to read on the subway never again invested such emotional intensity in such difficult texts. At the time, it seemed to them as if a text by Derrida contained not only his theory but the whole of the literature that the text dealt with, including its entire range of emotion. Similarly, the postmodern soul music invented at the beginning of the '80s seemed not only to quote the history of pop music since the '50s but also to embody deep cultural complexities--from fashion to politics to history. "Theory" and this new, reference-laden pop music were models for a Gesamtkunstwerk-like access to the world, yet at the same time these were short songs and abridged books with a few quickly communicable tenets. Still, in 1982, this unlikely constellation culminated in Green Garthside of Scritti Politti singing: "I'm in love with Jacques Derrida..."
Diedrich Diederichsen is a Critic based in Berlin and a professor at the MerzAkademie, Stuttgart.
Translated from German by Sara Ogger.
Bruce Weber for Calvin Klein
Sometimes an athlete or actor thinks he's so much more beautiful than the way I see him. But it might have been his nose that I was in love with.
Bruce Weber in Bruce Weber(Knopf, 1989)
WHEN HIS PHOTOGRAPH of a muscular young man in nothing but white briefs appeared on a Times Square billboard in August 1982, Bruce Weber was nearly as unknown as his model, a pole-vaulter named Tom Hintnaus, who took a break from training for the Olympics to help launch Calvin Klein's new line of men's underwear. Weber had set Hintnaus against a whitewashed wall and photographed him from such a low angle that he appeared not just heroic but magnificent: a colossus looming over a crossroads. The photographer, a former model himself, had a reputation for turning jocks into demigods, but he'd never done it on such a spectacular scale, or to such stunning effect. Virtually overnight, the billboard--and the undisguised bulge in Hintnaus's briefs--made Weber the most visible iconographer of the '80s and established his particular type of buff beef as the new all-American idol.
But for those of us who read images in men's fashion magazines like tea leaves, Weber was a legend long before he hit Times Square. The photography of men, in and out of clothes, had already been sharply divided into periods: before Bruce Weber and after. Ever since his 1978 spread in the SoHo Weekly News, featuring a Pepperdine water-polo player named Jeff Aquilon sprawled on an unmade bed with his hands down the front of his boxer shorts, it was obvious that Weber was a man who loved men. Nevermind what does or doesn't go on between Weber and his models; he admires and adores them-their lips, their arms, their backs, their taut stomachs, their tousled hair-and that adoration suffuses his work. He'd perfected his signature synthesis of classicism, naturalism, and (homo)eroticism in the pages of GQ in the early '80s, where his images of casual camaraderie were the closest that magazine ever came to acknowledging that a substantial segment of its readership is gay. But if Weber was building on a largely gay fr amework--on von Gloeden, Eakins, Horst, Platt Lynes, Cadmus, and a slew of '50s physique photographers--he wasn't constructing an exclusively queer iconography. Maybe that's because Weber's subject is masculinity-its mythos-in the broadest sense; like Larry Clark, he's not just celebrating it, he's trying to figure it out.
Weber doesn't just hold up a mirror to the narcissistic gym culture he and his pumped-up beau ideal helped create. Whether his subject is Sam Shepard, Matt Dillon, Chet Baker (in his 1988 film, Let's Get Lost), or the boxer Andy Minsker (in Broken Noses ), Weber zeroes in on the construction and display of boyishness and manliness. As the texts in his many books make clear, this is not exactly an intellectual process; he's not "interrogating gender."
The same layering of artifice and authenticity that marked Weber's GQ shoots and his ad campaigns for Klein and Ralph Lauren characterizes all his work, so even his documentary films have a through the-looking-glass quality, if only because the crew invariably includes a hairdresser, a makeup artist, and a stylist to ensure that no one appears before the camera without the requisite Weber makeover. (A similarly hands-on support team attended the photographer's marathon shoot of American Olympic contestants for the January/February 1984 issue of Interview. Though many of the athletes didn't appreciate the attention, they all ended up looking like GQ models.) No matter how they're achieved, Weber's results suggest a way of being a man that is fluid, playful, artful, and at once straight-acting and gay-friendly. That's not to say it isn't also adolescent, self-congratulatory, class-bound, and sometimes just plain silly.
What once seemed subversive, even revolutionary, looks a bit tired if not crass these days; the Edenic idyll of naked youth Weber staged for Bear Pond (1990) is a lot less compelling recycled for Abercrombie & Fitch. But Weber still matters: He continues to make pictures of comradely affection that imagine a sweeter, warmer, less competitive world. In the early '80s, after decades of freeze-dried male models and their female props, the matey menages of handsome, sporty men and women that Weber created for GQ, Lauren, and Klein felt welcoming, almost consoling. Funny how powerful these fantasies can be. The curators of the 1987 Whitney Biennial, who presented Weber along with Julian Schnabel, Ross Bleckner, Barbara Kruger, Terry Winters, Jeff Koons, and Peter Halley in what now looks like the definitive '80s exhibition, cited this quality in his work; they called it the "comfort of myths." The punishing new body consciousness ushered in by the image of Hintnaus towering over us in his underwear may have eroded that comfort, but Weber's myths have proved hard to resist, and harder to shake.
Vince Aletti is the photography critic and art editor for the Village Voice.
The Other de Chirico
WHEN I THINK ABOUT THE AESTHETIC sea change of the early '80s, I keep coming back to MOMA'S 1982 de Chirico retrospective, which, in fact, was not a retrospective at all. Coming to a halt in the 1930s, it censored more than half his career. (He died in 1978.) The show confirmed the received wisdom that, after his youthful glory days, de Chirico became a traitor to the modernist cause. But William Rubin's essay in the catalogue also contained an unexpectedly subversive illustration, a double-page spread of eighteen (yes, eighteen!) near identical versions of The Disquieting Muses, 1917, all painted between 1945 to 1962. The old-fashioned point was to demonstrate again the bankruptcy of the later de Chirico, who would often stoop to making replicas and variations of his signature masterpieces. But times had changed. The grid-style layout of these eighteen clones suddenly felt at home in the world of Warhol, who, only months later, would offer his own mass-produced de Chirico show in Rome with assembly-line riff s on the canonic masterpieces. By decade's end, Mike Bidlo upped the ante with his facsimile de Chirico retrospective in Paris, which, unlike MOMA'S, covered the artist's entire controversial career.
Clearly the moment had come for even some early modernist rebels to start violating their own moribund prejudices. Call it zeitgeist, but 1982 also saw Philip Johnson undertake another watershed attack on his own and MOMA'S past: the final stages of the AT&T Building, a Chippendale skyscraper that made his pioneering International Style show of 1932 feel like a time capsule from a remote era. This shift in gears also meant rediscovering the late work of other twentieth-century old masters who had presumably gone off the track after the heyday of modernism. For instance, the last decade of Picasso's art, as finally unveiled to New Yorkers in the Guggenheim show of 1984, seemed no longer an embarrassingly feeble postscript but something so different and messily vital that it could launch the fresh directions charted in the 1981 Royal Academy of Arts show "A New Spirit in Painting." And it was around this time, too, that Picabia's shameless girlie-photo paintings of the '40s and '50s began to make his early work s look stuffy. This updated version of the old Dada assault on time-honored values fired artists of the '80s--David Salle, among others. What could be more shocking than a return to realism, whether populist or museum-worthy? For this, again late de Chirico provided fuel, especially with his robust revivals of the old masters, quoting the styles of Titian and Rubens, Canaletto and Courbet. It was a neorealist milieu that would nurture the development of many artists of younger generations, from Eric Fischl to John Currin.
Who could ever have expected that all this scorned and buried twentieth-century art could ignite fresh imaginations? In the early '80s, walls were crashing, vistas were opening, and sinner artists like de Chirico were not only absolved but embraced. A different past and a different future would be possible. What a liberation it was to have the old catechism turn into history!
Robert Rosenblum, a contributing editor of Artforum, is professor of fine art at New York university and a curator at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.
Anselm Kiefer's Innenraum
WHEN ANSELM KIEFER's Innenraum (Interior space), 1981, among other colossal paintings, knocked me for a loop at Mary Boone Gallery on West Broadway in 1982, I didn't know that its image derived from a postwar photograph of Albert Speer's Reich Chancellery in Berlin: the cavernous, skylit, ineffably racy "mosaic hall" where Hitler would meet around a map table with his military staff, making plans. Nor did I know much else (I only thought I did) about the Third Reich, or about German modern culture generally except as filtered through standard humanist, leftish, smoky vamps--Thomas Mann, the Bauhaus, Bertolt Brecht (trans. Eric Bentley), Marlene Dietrich. Imprinted with the Paris-to-New York mythos of modern art, I assumed that "German painting" was a typographical error.
That same year, I sat on a plane bound for Documenta 7, reading The Song of the Nibelungs. It was my first visit to Germany. In Kassel I was far from disappointed by the grandeur and some mysterious other quality--I didn't yet understand it as humor--of more new Kiefers. Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter, Georg Baselitz, and the fetching Neve Wilde--remember Salome?--also swaggered on the walls. (I was crazy about Polke immediately.) Joseph Beuys was on hand, at the top of his game. Loudspeakers broadcast Wagner (a backfiring critical ploy by Daniel Buren). Germany! I felt plugged into a great secret dynamo of reeking truths and sickish excitement.
Modern European history after Napoleon was brewed in Germany, starting with Marx and Bismarck. Germany's enemies consoled themselves by developing the main lines of modern culture, Retroactively, Kiefer made the history a subject of the culture. His paintings had American formats and French aromas. (Their rugged handling was coolly dramatic and decorative, not Expressionist.) Kiefer was an international conceptualist at root; he once told me he had been inspired by Ed Ruscha to make books as art objects. One of his '70s books--of blocky black forms painted over porno babes--was called Donald Judd Hides Brunhilde. He built jokes on a scale that only God could back up far enough to take in. The Kiefer effect was like divine, unfriendly laughter.
I was thrilled by Kiefer because he so aggrandized aesthetic sensitivity, giving it the run of grown-up stuff. His poetic license was like an ID with which to breeze through police lines at major crime scenes. The big emotion that his pictures stirred was, amazingly, not an end in itself but an expedient for thought. Kiefer's work suggested to me how art criticism, no less than art, could handle political anxiety: lyrically and head-on, authorized only by accurate feeling and a lot of nerve. Not that I could do it very much myself (insecure), but I could spread the word.
The pictorical rhetoric of Innenraum is regular Kiefer: fleeing perspective countered by frontal materiality, all imbued with light/dark, sonorous tones and chafing colors. The underlying photograph is made funereal by black patches over the hall's sumptuous mosaic panels. A big wad of inked paper stands in for Hitler's map table. Dominant is the gridded skylight, which, as an upside-down and truncated triangle, swings forward, spilling the bleak radiance of a no-comment sky. Feelings of the space (terrific architecture) and about the space (grief, anger) blend like notes in a musical chord. You may not be given any new ideas about Nazism, architecture, or painting, but a long look turns your old ideas back on themselves in spirals of paranoiac irony.
I kept feeling that something momentous was supposed to happen, culturally, on account of Kiefer. But then I had similar anticipations about the initial impacts of David Salle, Eric Fischl, and Cindy Sherman. (I proved right only about Sherman, whom everybody likes and misunderstands in ways that steady and goad her.) The early-'80s moment of maximum artistic ambition and worldly attention evanesced. The reason is a long story, marked by disastrously polarized critical intellect and aesthetic sensibility. Kiefer remains a tremendous maker of things, but his recent work seems more or less resigned to solipsism. We let him down.
Peter Schjeldahl is art critic for the New Yorker. (See contributors.)
BLADE RUNNER WAS A PRODUCT deeply of its time, but its singularity has sustained our attraction far beyond that moment. Much of the avalanche of commentary the film provoked in the decade of its release is increasingly irrelevant to its status now and longer term. Few viewers today will be preoccupied with how vividly it supposedly maps out the "unmappable" shape of the de-centered city or, now that the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union itself have vanished, how acutely it delineates the contours of late capitalism in the bipolar days of the cold war. Likewise, the movie's retrospective links to the now hopelessly elastic category of film noir and its anticipations of cyberpunk are no longer essential screens through which to view it. Blade Runner's fate may be more analogous to the trajectory of Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927), which has transcended the extravagant surfaces of its originary moment. In that film, too, the protagonist observes, explores, and attempts to read an indecipherable urban field of expe rience on a quest to distinguish a real human being from a mechanical simulation of one.
In his 1968 novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick portrayed a thoroughly reified social world dominated by inanimate things and machines. Dick's remarkable account of the petty ruin of individual experience and hope through the spread of "a peculiar and malign abstractness" became something quite different in Ridley Scott's Blade Runner. In the early Reagan-Thatcher era, the novel was remade into a world-weary celebration of the petrifying universe that Dick found so deadening. Few films achieve Blade Runner's lyric fatalism: It makes emotionally credible the bleak threshold at which the technological products of global corporations become the objects of our love, our longings. The affecting moment when Rick (Harrison Ford) tells the android Rachael (Sean Young) to say "Kiss me" is a haunting evocation of a much broader subjective capitulation to the imperatives of technique and instrumental rationality, as if affirming with listless resignation: "Who cares what she is?" This sublimation of otherness is the indifferent '80s resolution of the alienation that, in Dick's novels of the late '60s and early '70s, led to psychosis and self-destruction.
Of course the replicants in Blade Runner, especially the Rutger Hauer character, Roy Batty, might seem to perpetuate the longtime habit of allegorizing robots and androids by reading their poignantly humanlike behavior as a cautionary index of how machinelike we have become. But the terms for such a reading don't effectively exist in Blade Runner. What the film did with considerable novelty was to imagine the promiscuous space in which machines and humans were equally rootless--disposable parts of the same derelict systems. And both, outside of any binary categories, are various patchworks of memories real and false, of media effects, quasi emotions, and sensory experiences manufactured and programmed externally. Did Roy actually witness the galactic marvels he details while "dying" at the end of the movie (after exclaiming, "I've seen things ..."), or were they mnemonic implants? Within the logic of the film it doesn't matter. The seductive disorientation of Blade Runner is linked to the advent of a fallen w orld in which there is no longer the historical recollection available to grasp what it has fallen from. The film epitomized a broader '80s experience of free-floating nostalgia cut loose from any object. Facilitated by the Vangelis score, Blade Runner's phantasmagoric operation fraudulently affirms the possibility of retrospective yearning in a world that had made such sentiment effectively impossible.
Jonathan Crary is professor of art history at Columbia University and a founding editor of Zone Books.
"The Revolutionary Power of Women's Laughter," curated by Jo Anna Isaak and including work by Ilona Granet, Mike Glier, Mary Kelly, Jenny Holzer, Nancy Spero, and Barbara Kruger, opens at Protetch McNeil, New York, Isaak's essay relies heavily on structural linguistics and Lacanian psychoanalysis in advancing the cause of feminist art practices.
Time magazine Man of the Year: the computer
Robert Longo's double show at Metro Pictures and Castelli Greene opens, featuring very large, multimedia works--cast aluminum bas-reliefs, paintings, and drawings in various combinations. Iconic works, e.g., Corporate Wars: Walls of Influence, shown.
Ronald Reagan dubs the Soviet Union the Evil Empire.
Compact discs introduced.
Curators Tricia Collins and Richard Milazzo launch Effects magazine in their East Village apartment. "The whole idea behind Effects was that it was an extension of our living room, which was a regular hangout at the time," Collins recalls. Great visuals, e.g., Richard Prince's "The Entertainers"; often gelatinous, comedy-theory prose ("Jim Welling sets his obscurities in iceberg pronged pedantic Russian. Is there a poetry of loss?"). Folds after three issues.
Semiotext(e)-- a journal that began publication in 1974--issues first two volumes of its Foreign Agents series, Jean Baudrillard's Simulations and Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari's On the Line (1983). The series comprises nonpareil critical-theory must-haves for the smart-art crowd.
Julian Schnabel's painting Notre Dame sells at Sotheby's for $93,500--$40,000 over initial estimate.
Cindy Sherman's first "fashion" photographs commissioned by Dianne Benson, proprietor of the trendy SoHo boutique Dianne B., for Interview.
Just Another Asshole #6 appears: prose writings by 61 artists and others, including Kathy Acker, Eric Bogosian, Jenny Holzer, Cookie Mueller, Richard Prince, David Rattray, Kiki Smith, and Lynne Tillman.
Thierry de Duve, "Who's Afraid of Red Yellow and Blue?," Artforum: Another art-history heavyweight enters the death/rebirth of painting argument, concluding "that both alternatives, unless rejudged and reinterpreted, are bound to remain equally disquieting."
"Science Fiction," curated by Peter Halley and including work by Jeff Koons, Richard Prince, Ross Bleckner, Donald Judd, Robert Smithson, R.M. Fischer, Taro Suzuki, David Deutsch, and Jim Biederman, opens at John Weber, New York. Proto neogeo, before there was a name or market for it. Halley: "You couldn't give it away until '85." Pictured: R.M. Fischer, Max, 1983, steel, brass, limestone, and lights, 86 x 33 x 31".
Unofficial opening of Philip Johnson's AT&T Building, hailed as a "harbinger of a new era" by Paul Goldberger in the New York Times. An overnight icon of postmodern architecture (and symbol of that style's acceptance by corporate America).
Area opens in TriBeCa. As the Mudd Club era ends, a new velvet rope dispensation begins.
Richard Prince's "Spiritual America" opens in a Lower East Side storefront tricked up for the occasion. The exhibition consists of a single, notorious image: Prince's rephotographed picture (after an original by Garry Gross) depicting a prepubescent Brooke Shields emerging from a steamy bathtub. The brazen image of little-girl sexuality arouses hostile reactions from former (often feminist) critical supporters.
Prince: "I got kicked out of the women's club." Pictured: Richard Prince, Brooke Shields (Spiritual America), 1983, color photograph, 24 x 20".
The United States invades Grenada.
Museum of Contemporary Art's
Temporary Contemporary opens in Los Angeles in a vast renovated warehouse (design by Frank Gehry). The museum's corrective vision to the New York-centric view of American art abets the establishment of LA as a pivotal art scene.
Michael Jackson's 14-minute video for "Thriller" debuts on MTV.
ALSO OF NOTE
* Donald Baechler, Tony Shafrazi Gallery, New York Pictured: Donald Baechler, 1983. Installation view, Tony Shafrazi Gallery, New York.
* Gretchen Bender, Nature Morte, New York (solo debut)
* David Bowes, Galerie Eric Franck, Geneva (solo debut)
* James Brown, Tony Shafrazi Gallery, New York
* Scott Burton, contemporary Arts center, Cincinnati
* George Condo, Ulrike Kantor Gallery, Los Angeles (solo debut)
* Futura 2000, 51X, New York
* Rodney Alan Greenblatt, Gracie Mansion Gallery, New York (solo debut)
* Keith Haring, Fun Gallery, New York
* Ronald Jones, Centro Documentazione Artein, Rome (solo debut)
* Greer Lankton, civilian Warfare, New York (solo debut)
* Allan McCollum, Marian Goodman Gallery, New York (Plaster Surrogates' debut)
* David Reed, Max Protetch, New York
* Thomas Schutte, "Sculpture from Germany," SF MOMA
* Peter Schuyff, Pat Hearn Gallery, New York (solo gallery debut) Pictured: Peter Schuyff, The Bathers, 1983, acrylic and paper on canvas, 57 x 84".
* Rosemarie Trockel, Galerie Philomene Magers, Bonn (solo debut)
* "1984: A Preview," Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York
* "Borrowed Time," Baskerville + Watson, New York
* "Expressions: New Art from Germany", St. Louis Art Museum
* "Post-Graffiti," Sidney Janis Gallery, New York
* "Real Life Magazine Presents" (Jennifer Bolande et al.), White columns, New York
* "Sound and Vision: Today's Music," (Laurie Anderson, Fab Five Freddy, Philip Glass, Joseph Jarman, Glenn O'Brien, Gregory Sandow, Alan Vega), New Museum of contemporary Art, New York
* Svetlana Alpers, The Art of Describing: Dutch Art in the Seventeenth Century
* Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities
* Norman Bryson, Vision and Painting: The Logic of the Gaze
* Michel Foucault, This Is Not a Pipe [Ceci n'est pas une pipe, 1973]
* Hal Foster, ed., The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodem Culture
* Serge Guilbaut, How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art: Abstract Expressionism, Freedom, and the Cold War
* Born In Flames, dir. Lizzie Borden
* Flashdance, dir. Adrian Lyne
* The King of Comedy, dir. Martin Scorsese
* Videodrome, dir. David Cronenberg
* Madonna, Madonna
* New Order, Power, Corruption & Lies
* Prince, 1999
* R.E.M., Murmur
* Sonic Youth, Kill Yr. Idols
Ridley Scott's 1984-inspired commercial for Apple Computer sirs.
"Civilization and the Landscape of Discontent" at Nature Morte and "Still Life With Transaction" at International With Monument, both curated by Tricia Collins and Richard Milazzo, inaugurate a run of 45 shows by the pair between 1984 and 1993. The two are noteworthy for their coagulated, obscurantist prose style. Fond of citing Hegel. Pictured: Peter NAgy, EST Graduate, 1984, acrylic and photocopy on canvas, 48 x 40".
Parkett begins publication. Each issue of the bilingual (English/German) journal is devoted to in-depth coverage of one to three contemporary artists, with accompanying editions for sale.
Downtown impresario Claryssa Dalrymple joins forces with Nicole Klagsbrun and John Abbott to open Cable Gallery in New York.
Benetton begins "All the Colors in the World" campaign.
Jean-Michel Basquiat opens at Mary Boone, to mixed reception. "The colors are freshly squeezed and clean, the edge polished, the funk flattened," Nicolas Moufarrege complains in Flash Art. Boone claims the paintings are deliberately "underpriced" at $10,000-$25,000, emphasizing that the gallery is taking a low-key approach to the artist's promotion.
Carlo McCormick and Walter Robinson, "Slouching Toward Avenue D," Art in America: A lengthy, insider's view of the East Village art scene, countered by Craig Owens's terse dismissal, "The Problem of Puerilism," In the same issue.
Peter Halley, "The Crisis in Geometry," Arts: Among the emergent neo-geo set, Halley is the theorist/polemicist, here arguing for the Importance of Baudrillard and Foucault with respect to Levine, Bleckner, Koons, et al.
HIV identified by researchers.
"New Hand Painted Dreams: Contemporary Surrealism," at Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York. Including work by George Condo, Kenny Scharf, Peter Schuyff, Thierry Cheverney, and Jiri Georg Dokoupil, the show marks an early foray of the East Village art scene into SoHo.
Pictured: George Condo, The Clown Maker, 1984, oil on linen, 73 x 48".
Fredric Jameson, "Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism," New Left Review: A classic statement on postmodernity, highlighting pastiche as its dominant modality, the effacement of high/low distinctions, and the potential dehistoricization implicit in a culture of deracinated signifiers.
Michel Foucault dies; the same month, vols. 2 and 3 of his posthumous Histoire de la sexualite appear.
Jean Baudrillard, "Astral America," Artforum: A contributing editor since 1983, Baudrillard, the strangely buoyant sage of postmodern alienation, here tours Minneapolis, Los Angeles, and New York: "By a wonderful complicity shared by all its population, New York affords itself the comedy of its own catastrophe." The philosopher confesses his avowed disinclination to master English.
"Von Hier Aus," curated by Kasper Konig, opens at Messelgelande, Dusseldorf. Title phrase--from here out--provided by Beuys, who spells it out in green neon over the entrance. Beuys, Richter, Darboven, and Polke represent older generations; neo-ex heavily included (along with such exceptions to the movement's hegemony as Gerhard Merz, Ulrich Ruckriem, Imi Knoebel, Werner Buttner, and Albert Oehlen). Although the show prioritizes Dusseldorf, the strong presence of the Mulheimer Freiheit group and Oehlen et al. underscores the increasing prominence of Cologne.
"'Primitivism' in 20th Century Art: Affinities of the Tribal and the Modern" opens at the Museum of Modern Art. Curators William Rubin and Kirk Varnedoe display historical avant-garde work (Picasso, Giacometti, Ernst) and examples of the arts of Africa, Oceania, etc., with emphasis on direct instances of influence and more nebulous connections. Thomas McEvilley's "Doctor Lawyer Indian Chief," in the November Artforum, attests that Rubin treats MOMA as "a temple to be promoted and defended with a passionate devotion--the temple of formalist Modernism." A series of exchanges ensues between the curators and McEvilley.
Andreas Huyssen, "Mapping the Postmodern," New German Critique: Another weighty attempt to pin down the exhaustingly slippery concept, enlivened, however, by Huyssen's account of his visit to Documenta 7 and his assault on Rudi Fuchs's curatorial agenda.
Advertisting mogul Charles Saatchi sells off his collection of Chia paintings. The artist's market quickly sours, having a devastating effect on his career.
"An International Survey of Recent Painting and Sculpture," curated by Kynaston McShine, marks the reopening of MOMA after renovation.
Ross Bleckner shows a single, large stripe painting at Nature Morte. The exhibition provides a new appropriationist/neo-geo context for the artist's work: "I liked the gallery's intellectual, gay attitude." Pictured: Ross Bleckner, The Oceans, 1984, oil on linen, 8 x 10'.
ALSO OF NOTE
* Ashley Bickerton, Artists Space, New York (solo debut)
* Sarah Charlesworth, The Clocktower, New York. Pictured: Sarah Charlesworth, Red Scarf, 1983-84, color photograph, 42 x 32". From the series "Objects of Desire."
* Thierry Cheverney, Pyramid Club and Pat Hearn Gallery, New York (solo debuts)
* Rene Daniels, Mike Kelley, Robert Longo, Cindy Sherman, Metro Pictures, New York
* Fortuyn/O'Brien, "Bon Voyage Voyeur--a view over the ocean," Galerie van Kranendonk, The Hague (part 1), and Artists Space, New York (part 2; solo debuts)
* Robert Gober, "Slides of a Changing Painting," Paula Cooper Gallery (solo debut)
* Mona Hatoum, Franklin Furnace, New York (New York solo debut)
* Kevin Larmon, Nature Morte, New York (solo debut)
* Annette Lemieux, Cash/Newhouse, New York (solo debut)
* McDermott & McGough, North Shore Gallery, New York (solo debut)
* Joel Otterson, Nature Morte, New York (solo debut)
* Steven Parrino, Nature Morte, New York (solo debut)
* Martin Wong, Semaphore Gallery, New York (solo debut)
* Christopher Wool, Cable Gallery, New York (solo debut)
* Michele Zalopany, P.P.O.W., New York (solo debut)
* "Art and Ideology" (cur. Benjamin Buchloh, Donald Kuspit, Lucy Lippard, Nilda Peraza, and Lowery Sims; Ismael Frigerio, Alfredo Jaar, Jerry Kearns, Suzanne Lacy, Fred Lonidier, Allan Sekula, Nancy Spero, Kaylynn Sullivan, Francesc Torres, and Hannah Wilke), New Museum of Centemporary Art, New York
* "Limbo" (cur. Carlo McCormick and Walter Robinson), P.S. 1, New York
* T.J. Clark, The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and His Followers
* Dennis Cooper, Safe
* William Gibson, Neuromancer
* Michael Holly, Panofsky and the Foundations of Art History
* Rosalind Krauss, The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths
* Jay McInerney, Bright Lights, Big City
* Brian Wallis, ed., Art after Modernism: Rethinking Representation
* Choose Me, dir. Alan Rudolph
* Paris, Texas, dir. Wim Wenders
* Repo Man, dir. Alex Cox
* Stranger Than Paradise, dir. Jim Jarmusch
* The Terminator, dir. James Cameron
* Run-D.M.C., Run-D.M.C.
* Gothic Rock begins in Britain (Southern Death Cult)
* Madonna, Like a Virgin
World of Video
WORLD OF VIDEO OPENED UP on the southeast corner of Twenty-first Street and Second Avenue in New York on November 10, 1984, according to my diary. It was one of the first stores in the city to rent movies, and I think I was its first customer: I lived eleven stories up in the same building in a one-bedroom apartment, house-sitting for a friend who had recently gone to Los Angeles to make videos for a new show called MTV. She had left behind a VOR and a giant TV that had been hooked up to cable and HBO--four things that were still pretty rare at the time. In that Orwellian year, she was my Big Brother.
Half the tapes at World of Video were formatted for Betamax, a longer form than VHS with much clearer sound and sharper images. Sony owned the rights to Betamax and wouldn't share them, so the alternative, cheaper, inferior VHS version was born. Early VHS recordings had notoriously bad sound. I still have a copy of Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate on two cassettes, and you can't understand a word. It should have had subtitles.
Renting a film for the day was a happy new experience. The obvious advantages were privacy, convenience, the view-at-any-time factor, the pause button, and the rewind mechanism (to play it again); videotapes were also the perfect solution for the author of Why I Go to the Movies Alone, the title of a little book of verse I wrote in 1980. I think I rented nine hundred films in my first month of membership. (World of Video was a "club"--it charged an initiation fee and published a homemade newsletter.) I couldn't believe my luck in living in the same building--there were late fees right from the start of video rental, but all I had to do to drop off a movie and maybe pick out another was take the elevator. A visit to the liquor store across the street was harder work. I would literally spend hours poring over the titles-the foreign and cult classics, the directors' cuts, the adult section, comedy, action, drama. It was all at World of Video.
Back then there was only one copy of each title. If The Swimmer--starring Burt Lancaster, based on a short story by John Cheever--was just out and that was the tape you wanted, you would have to make a "reservation" to get it. I remember renting Blade Runner, keeping it for seven days, and almost getting kicked out of the club. ("Hogging" was the term for late returns.) Come to think of it, I should have kept that tape forever; it was the version that originally came out in theaters, the one with the Harrison Ford voiceover, and you can't get that version anymore (except maybe on eBay); the only one they sell now is Ridley Scott's director's cut. No hard-boiled Philip Marlowe/Jim Thompson film noir voice-over; lots of dead space on the sound track instead. The director's cut sucks.
Pornography was the perfect subject matter for the VHS experience. World of Video had plenty, and all kinds--hetero, gay and lesbian, s/in, and a new variation, amateur porn. This I really liked. I was never into professional porn, with its fake moans, its circular tits that never sagged, its stupid story lines that took up half the show. Amateur tapes were real--real smiles, real laughter, shot in real time, with people who lived next door. Good take-your-time sex instead of a thirty-minute closeup of a slam-and-ram. Amateur porn was natural. Natural is good. Natural used to be good for twice a night.
Rental porn essentially killed adult theaters. Physically, everything changed. Instead of heading up to Times Square, buying a ticket, and picking out a seat comfortably far from the rest of the wankers, you could grab a hard-core video and look forward to your very own couch in your very own living room and that fast-forward button, the key accessory to porno-viewing pleasure. You could even invite your friends over. Home entertainment was starting to happen. Forget ABC's Saturday Night Movie. World of Video was the way to go.
Richard Prince has exhibited his paintings and photographs for over two decades. (See Contributors.)
Novelist, playwright (The Roman Polanski Story), and former Mudd Club habitue Gary Indiana's first review for the Village Voice, inaugurating his tenure as the most fractious and compelling art critic in the mainstream press.
"Les Immateriaux," curated by Jean-Franqois Lyotard, opens at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. Illustrating some aspects of what the French philosopher calls "the postmodern condition" the exhibition contains no artworks, showcasing instead cybernetic technologies and radical materials (e.g., prosthetic skin). Echt-Lyotard: the decentered self, nonlinearity, the decline of "master narratives," etc.: "The speculative hierarchy of learning gives way to an immanent and, as it were, 'flat' network of areas of inquiry, the respective frontiers of which are in constant flux" (The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge).
Donna Haraway, "Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980s," Socialist Review: A classic of nascent "cybernetic theory." Haraway polemically links the cyborg to socialist feminism, positing this entity on the border of fiction and reality as a new ideal of subjectivity.
Mikhail Gorbachev becomes general secretary of the USSR.
Saatchi Gallery opens in London.
The Palladium, designed by Arata Isozaki, opens on 14th St. Decor includes large-scale installations by Schart, Haring, and Basquiat. Former telephone commodities salesman Jeff Koons's first solo show, "Equilibrium," opens at International With Monument (where Koons's neo-geo confrere Meyer Vaisman is a partner). Koons's basketballs suspended in aquariums become iconic works of the neo-geo groundswell. Also, meticulously framed Nike ads featuring (mostly) black basketball stars--used with the permission of the company rather than appropriated--and bronze casts of inflatable objects, e.g., a lifeboat. Gary Indiana in the Village Voice: "Art making has become a salvational sport, the basketball of disaffected, middle-class white kids." Pictured: Jeff Koons, "Equilibrium," 1985. Installation view, International With Monument, New York.
Guerrilla Girls affix posters across lobby windows of 420 Broadway: "These galleries show no more than 10% women artists or none at all." The anonymous Girls take to making appearances wearing gorilla masks.
Nicolas Moufarrege dies of AIDS. A pivotal figure on the East Village scene, the Egyptian-born artist, critic, and curator promoted an inclusive aesthetic, very much in tune with Fun Gallery. Memorial retrospective at P.S. 1/The Clocktower in 1987, curated by Elaine Reichek and Bill Stelling with essay by Brooks Adams.
Live aid concert.
"Warhol, Basquiat Paintings" opens at Tony Shafrazi Gallery. Collaborative works by Warhol and Basquiat, who is closely attached to the Pop art deity. Poorly received, the works are left out of the 1989 Warhol retrospective at MOMA.
Maureen Dowd, "Youth. Art. Hype: A Different Bohemia," New York Times Magazine: Dowd's cover story on the East Village art scene indicates the high level of popular media exposure. But the area's vitality is on the wane. Two years later, New York magazine publishes Amy Virshup's "The Fun's Over," proclaiming the death of the scene.
* Alan Belcher, Cable Gallery, New York (solo debut) Pictured: Alan Belcher, Household Science (Buff Puff), 1985, color photograph on Plexiglas, 30 x 20 x 3".
* Christian Boltanski, "Monuments," Le Consortium, Dijon, France
* Barbara Ess, Rodney Graham, Ken Lum, Galerie Rudiger Schottle, Munich
* Katharina Fritsch, Galerie Johnen und Schottle, Cologne (solo debut)
* Peter Halley, International With Monument, New York (solo debut)
* Robert Gober, Paula Cooper, New York
* Alfredo Jaar, Grey Art Gallery, New York University (solo debut)
* Tadashi Kawamata, P.S. 1, New York (New York solo debut)
* Will Mentor, Wolff Gallery, New York (solo debut)
* Peter Nagy, International With Monument, New York (solo debut)
* Aimee Rankin (Morgana), New Museum and Postmasters window installation, New York (solo debuts)
* Alexis Rockman, Patrick Fox Gallery, New York (solo debut)
* Douglas and Mike Stain, Stux Gallery, Boston (solo debut)
* Haim Steinbach, Cable Gallery, New York Pictured: Helm Steinbach, Artful Balance, 1985, plastic-laminated wood shelf, wave machine, and digital clocks, 19 x 37 x 121/8".
* Jessica Stockholder, Malinda Wyatt Gallery, New York (solo debut)
* "The Art of Memory/The Loss of History," (cur. William Olander; Bruce Barber, Judith Barry, Troy Brauntuch, Sarah Charlesworth, Louise Lawler, Tina Lhotsky, Adrian Piper, Stephen Prina, Richard Prince, Martha Rosler, Rene Santos, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Christopher Williams, Reese Williams), New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York
* "The European Iceberg: Creativity in Germany and Italy Today" (cur. Germano Celant; Gae Aulenti, Hans Hollein, JP. Kleihues, Renzo Piano, Aldo Rossi, Anselmo, Baselitz, Baumgarten, Burn, Calzolari, Cucchi, Darboven, N. de Maria, Fabro, Immendorff, Kounellis, Lupertz, G. Merz, M. Merz, Mucha, Paladino, Penone, Pistoletto, Polke, Richter), Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto
* "The Knot" (cur. Germano Celant; survey of arte povera), P.S. 1, New York
* "Thought Objects" (cur. Barbara Ess; Rodney Graham et al.), Cash/Newhouse, New York
* "Production Re: Production" (cur. Bob Nickas; Philip Taaffe, Sturtevant, et al.), Gallery 345/Art for Social Change, New York
* "Signs" (Gary Falk, Ken Feingold, Marian Galczenski, Jenny Holzer, John Knight, MANUAL [Suzanne Bloom and Ed Hill], Matt Mullican, Ted Savinar, Al Souza), New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York
* Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste [La Distinction, 1979]
* Bret Easton Ellis, Less than Zero
* After Hours, dir. Martin Scorsese
* Blood Simple, dir. Ethan Coen
* Hall Mary, dir. Jean-Luc Godard
* The Man Who Envied Women, dir. Yvonne Rainer
* My Beautiful Laundrette, dir. Stephen Frears
* Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, dir. Tim Burton
IT WAS THE BEGINNING OF THE END, or the end of the beginning, depending on which denizen of the then still fabulous East Village you consult. It was also the year of the first Wigstock. Back then--late in the summer of '85--an afternoon of drag delirium was little more than a predictably eccentric bit of neighborhood fanfare, not the mass public spectacle the celebration would soon become. Relatively more organized than the general chaos native to its Tompkins Square Park locale, the inaugural Wigstock was nonetheless pieced together from the same ragged fabric. It might not even stand out so clearly now from the many other great moments of collective absurdity endemic to that scene, except that at some point during that glorious day, we all shared an epiphanic hallucination: Somehow or other, Joni Mitchell took the stage and performed her 1970 classic "Woodstock," an anthem for a generation other than ours. It really happened like that--except (a) it sounded more like she was singing "Wigstock" than "Woodsto ck," (b) the folk diva was clearly wearing a wig, and (c) she happened to be inhabiting the corporeal form of a certain John kelly.
Few are left who recall the anarchic amateurism of Wigstock '85. So many of the best, from John Sex to Wendy Wild, died much too young. Even Lady Bunny--who created Wigstock in the enthusiasm of her first year in New York, out of the wild admixture of drag and rock 'n' roll that was the Pyramid Club--has trouble remembering the specifics. With my own recollection of events dubious at best, I thought it might help to talk to the siren himself. The performance artist (and author of personae including the Callas-spawned contralto Dagmar Onassis) Kelly admits he's not even sure what year Wigstock began. But what he does recall is significant: Beyond the mandate of "looking pretty and having fun," he says, drag was "a way of venting rage-a big fuck you." That attitude is the expression of the frisson that came from rolling all those poses--hippie and punk and queer and urban--into the glorious bouffant of Wigstock. It worked, particularly in Kelly's incarnation of Mitchell, because this generation mined the subtle ty and inevitability of irony far ahead of the popular imagination. Here it was possible to do a piss-take with love, to manifest absurdity in such a way that it not only had transcendent meaning, but literally brought an audience to tears.
To celebrate any such moment past is to understand both its prescience and the impossibility of its re-creation in the present. The queens who were part of the late-night drunken brainstorm to reference the irretrievable ideal of Woodstock surely knew this in their hearts, if not their brains. What sticks out now for both Lady Bunny and Kelly is just how small that first Wigstock was: how the communal space of the events was shared with bewildered bums and a Latino population that had not yet been gentrified out of the neighborhood; and, perhaps more significant for the course of future events, how Wigstock was still the province of freaks--as yet untouched by the cloned-out banality of Chelsea queens who would shortly make the pilgrimage east an end-of-summer ritual.
My memory of John's Joni is intermingled with a whole confluence of hilarious impersonations from around that time. Watching her that afternoon was not so very different from the pleasures of watching Mike Bidlo do Jackson Pollock, or reappreciating our old Kraftwerk records through the innovations of Afrika Bambaataa, or seeing Kelly as the Mona Lisa on the cover of Paper, which later in 1985 photographed Joey Arias as Andy Warhol and Ann Magnuson as Edie Sedgwick. You see, back then mock stardom was fabulous, and downtown publications were not yet under the tyranny of celebrity culture. We had yet to adopt words like sampling and appropriation into our vocabulary. On that day in Tompkins Square Park, at the end of a summer spent recklessly cavorting in the still luridly lowbrow East Village, it was all still just fun.
Carlo McCormick, a senior editor of Paper magazine, is organizing "Art After Dark," an exhibition of "downtown New York art" made between 1974 and 1984, for the Grey Art Gallery and the Fales collection, New York University.
The Replacements' Tim
Time for decisions to be made / Crack up in the sun, lose it in the shade.
The Replacements, "Hold My Life"
WHAT THE BEATLES WERE TO LOVE and the Sex Pistols to anger, the Replacements were to screwing up. Not merely or accidentally hapless, the original members of the band--Paul Westerberg, brothers Bob and Tommy Stinson, Chris Mars--made a loopy lust for failure the basis of a collective comic persona. While their contemporary Martin Kippenberger, another born comedian, fitted the self-conscious, balletic pratfall to the world of gallery and museum, the Replacements tailored it to a pop-music career. Every professional opportunity that came their way became, as songwriter Westerberg proclaimed with hoarse glee, "one more chance to get it all wrong / one more night to get it half-right."
The four were just rowdy, endearing goofballs when they started performing in their hometown of Minneapolis in 1978; by '85, the year of their major-label debut, Tim, they'd promoted themselves to the rank of professional screwups. Abandoning songs midway during live sets, picking fights with fans, tossing their LPs' master tapes into the Mississippi River to sabotage a pending release in the shiny new CD format--the Replacements treated their career like a game they couldn't bear to win.
The band's self-image was so complex because it reflected with unusual purity the baroque condition of rock in their day. A once revolutionary form that had delivered nothing so successfully as its own ubiquity, at middle age, rock had misplaced its reason for being. Sun King Elvis, bloated and bejeweled, had expired, and rap was being born ... the Replacements, formed during the twilight of rock's import, opted for honesty and frankly acknowledged their favored music's cultural demotion. Playing the stuff was now, as one early Westerberg tune declared, just "something to du."
History might humble a form--humiliate it, even--but beauty is never beyond reach. Stageward the 'Mats stumbled. Audiences never knew which version of the band to expect. By show time the four might be too smashed to stand upright, much less play a set. On good nights, though, they'd play the stuffing out of every number, proving themselves one of the great live acts of the day, a jukebox loaded not just with strong originals but with the '70s FM radio rock, corn-coated country tunes, and Americana their own frayed-edged compositions had absorbed and synthesized. Juvenile and sophisticated, ornery and self-mocking, the band didn't play "funny songs" a la Bonzo Dog Band or They Might Be Giants, but instead expressed the existential situation comedy its members were living. Their decision to highlight the coordinates of their dilemma in every aspect of their packaging--recordings, promotion, performance--lent the Replacements' image an artful transparency that helped to make theirs the mid-'80s music of choice at art schools across America.
And it was all for real, which meant their comedy had consequences. Living a pratfall in slow motion is no easy thing. As their major-label career advanced, the structural tension inherent in their conflicted outlook grew more pronounced--the clownishness, the fascination with failure, the strategic self-loathing so fundamental to their idea of themselves clashing ever more powerfully with the reality that they were, in fact, artists possessed of substantial musical gifts. Theirs was the classic dilemma encountered by a certain kind of comic mind: What to do with a loser's self-image when that image has yielded success? Westerberg's lyrics struggled to reconcile the problem, the effort gradually exhausting him as, by the late '80s, his songs had grown less what-the-hell and more self-pitying. Unable to find a way around a predicament of their own creation, the Replacements disbanded in '91.
Of course, the fool is supposed to fail; it's part of the program. The Replacements had transposed the fool's gestural one-liner onto their lives, scaled it up, and ridden its arc to the disastrous, hilarious end; their career describes, as nearly as Kippenberger's does, that rarely glimpsed phenomenon, the meta-comedy. The Replacements weren't just one of the most talented acts of the rock era. These four midwestern kids, who performed their first gig at an alcoholics' halfway house and showed up sloshed, were one of the great balls-out comedy acts of the last century.
Milwaukee-based artist David Robbins teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is currently writing an alternative history of twentieth-century comedy.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Date:||Mar 1, 2003|
|Previous Article:||McDermott & McGough talk to Bob Nickas. ('80s Then).|
|Is seafood a heart saver?|
|Tangibles, intangibles originated from time capsule.|