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  • Still Thinking About David Hammons

    Do you not HATE not realizing your true feelings about a show until after you've been published? After I wrote this piece for artnet on Friday, I went back on Saturday and saw something I missed the first time: a white man dressed in formal attire chiseling BLACK LIVES MATTER into a stone in front of the gallery. To me this is reads an act of atonement for centuries of ignorance, to be imprinted forever into the historical record.

    Other favorite pieces I’ve never seen before: a 36-foot-long trail of an exquisite corpse game played over several decades including Betye Saar, Bruce Conner, and Romare Bearden as players. A giant red ball with a hot wheels-sized Mars rover on it, in reference to a 1997 Mars Rover a 12-year-old girl named Sojourner, after Sojourner Truth; the freezer full of books on the oral history of his scantily documented 1980s snowball sale. A lamp whose shade is actually a Sotheby’s shopping bag printed with the crosshatched fluorescent tubes of a Dan Flavin piece. Let’s hear it for readymades.

     There is basically one, and consequently oft-cited interview, where David Hammons tells Kellie Jones in 1986 that the art audience is the worst audience. That in LA, artists like Noah Purifoy and Roland Welton were “outrageously rude to anybody,” regardless of how much money they had, and that in New York, he was appalled by artists’ willingness to grovel just to be near someone with money. His hostility towards this system, towards the press, the collectors, and the dealers is written plainly all the gallery walls, in pencil: THIS REMINDS ME OF. HOW MANY OF THESE DID YOU MAKE. HAS ANYONE ELSE SEEN THESE? IT’S BEEN DONE BEFORE. His unwillingness to speak to, to cater to them (us) is reflected in his unwillingness to translate the visual language of his work. Basically, this work is not for you (us). I like that that leaves his intentions to speculation.

     When he lived in LA, he “was still working in frames,” namely his commercially successful bodyprints, he told Jones, but sharing a studio on Slauson with Senga Nengudi helped him become more conceptual. He moved to New York and veered further into conceptualism and an arte povera inflected with the material vernacular of black culture. He made increasingly unsaleable works and retreated further from the spotlight, only making him more sought-after, more mythologized.

    The show is visceral, blistering, sprawling, gorgeous. He once complained that the art world was too educated, too conservative, and never has any fun. There’s an element of performance he’s asked of his audience akin to jumping through hoops—and they do it. A photo of two viewers grinning ear to ear, faces pressed almost to the ground looking beneath a Hammons plinth leads into a gallery where there are three of those plinths, topped with empty vitrines. Press your face nearly to the ground, and below the plinths you’ll see feet. You’ll then be well positioned to view a photograph mounted on the wall nearly touching the floor. While you’re down there, you might also notice that on the opposite wall, well above eye level, there’s a small shrine to some unknown deity. There’s so much fun in this show, at our own expense—I get the sense that he’s laughing at us, not with us. You are the emperor, and he’s here with your clothes.

    As for the tents: Hammons has a way of seeing people, or showing them who they are. The fur coats that debuted on the upper east side are here, backs still singed and splashed with paint, set before an ornate, covered mirror that these figures represented by dressforms cannot see themselves in. The tents are a ubiquitous sight on an increasing number of L.A. street corners that far exceeds the limits of Skid Row. If you live in L.A. you recognize them immediately, either as visual reminders of civic failure, or as triggers to reflexively grip harder to our steering wheels and lock our gazes to the road. There have been many many artists whose visions of L.A. include palm trees, swimming pools, and the saturated gradients of a sunset, but this is one of the first times I’ve seen someone portray the city like this, as it really looks in real life.

  • Shepard Fairey: 'I’m not going to be intimidated by identity politics'

    The glorious thing about being a white man in America is never having to undergo any kind of reevaluation of your sense of self; you can live your entire life without reflecting on the privileges you possess and how it effects the people around you who do not. Honestly though, what is the point of advocating for groups with whom you do not directly engage? No matter how well-meaning you are and how valorous your intentions, it comes down to self-glorification. 

    Passion makes for great art, and unlike the perfection of "Hope" in 2008, you won't find any of that here. "Damaged" lacks the necessary introspection of the complexity and contradictions of our time, and what was effective during that period of optimism and complacency is just totally unpalatable, even naive, now. Plus, these days street art is another corporate sales tactic, and our political art of choice is the meme. But his simplistic art of reduction has a sweeping populist appeal that trumps that of Barbara Kruger, an artist infinitely more incisive, intellectual, assertive, and clever.

    There's a line of his that I cut that I wish I hadn't: “There are plenty of things that have gone from being seen as very transgressive to very valuable; Impressionism was heretical when it started.” Totally, and its place in history is firmly cemented in the 19th-century. So how silly would you look trying to present impressionist painting to the world right now? Stale stale stale. Read about it at The Guardian

  • The Best of Manifesta 11

    Did I love Manifesta 11 or hate it? Both. I cannot tell. BTW Christian Jankowski did give me the best unpublished quote ever on how French iconoclast Michel Houellebecq's collaboration with a local Zurich doctor was like that alien-astronaut encounter from Solaris

    "We have this introduction from that old Andrey Tarkovskiy movie. In the spaceship, there's an alien who meets an astronaut and they both float in the spaceship together, and they're both familiar and unfamiliar. I see somethig like this there, too. Sometimes Michel makes a very long pause, and you wonder, is it because my question is so stupid? Is he making a pause because he's thinking? I still don't know, but it's every human's right to be irritating." Read the rest at Artinfo

  • Inside Awol Erizku’s Duchamp Detox Clinic

    The premiere installment of Awol Erizku’s Duchamp Detox Clinic, a roving gallery space the 27-year old L.A.-based artist created for himself and his emerging peers, comprises layers of assembled found materials: polyurethane sheets and basketball nets that have been spray-painted, covered in house paint, and then spray-painted again, and an out-of-commission Porsche 914 salvaged from the Palm Springs desert and embedded with live and plastic plants. A Soundcloud mixtape, mixed by Erizku and DJ Bradley Soileau, provides a sonic component: it opens with that familiar riff from The Destroyers’ “Bad to the Bone,” and continues on to NWA, Kendrick Lamar, and a Drake track overlaid with an interview with founding West Side Crips member Stanley “Tookie” Williams.

    “Bad II the Bone,” which opens on Saturday in a Downtown L.A. office and backpack manufacturing complex (in collaboration with Night Gallery), is a multimedia portrait of the West Coast. In the year since Erizku moved here from his native New York, the city has made an apparent impact on his work. The painted polyurethane combines the vernacular of gang culture and the makeshift plastic homes that line the sidewalks of nearby Skid Row, while the Porsche, overflowing with plastic fauna, evokes the sense of a culture centered on both the automobile and artifice. They are also nods to the artist David Hammons, whose voice also features on the mixtape, and whose own commentary on Duchamp’s legacy in the art world inspired the name of this itinerant detox clinic. (“He and John Outterbridge once said that nowadays artists just have to mention Duchamp, then just go straight to the bank,” Erizku explains.) Erizku’s work overtly follows in the footsteps of the older artist, who came to Los Angeles in the 1960s, and like Erizku, employed found objects as material references to black culture a central theme of his work. “He is to me what Duchamp was and is to him,” says Erizku. “Someone to look up to.”

    Erizku’s specialty has become combining seemingly disparate genres and materials into new hybrid cultural entities, from so-called high art and street art to paint and Porsches, expressed on digital outlets like Soundcloud and Instagram as often as in real life. He started making such readymades—found objects presented as art, a term coined by Duchamp himself—during his M.F.A. at Yale, with slicker objects (gold-plated basketball nets, for example, stacked vertically in reference to Donald Judd) but his West coast works have a grittier tone that actually feel more vibrant in their honesty. It's just ironic that he found this honesty in LA.