Allen Ruppersberg, Untitled (The Book as Object), 1976
Courtesy Marc Selwyn Fine Art
A look at Ed Ruscha’s book-related works.
on Bruce Hainley’s experimental art criticism.
Untitled © Vincent Fecteau 2010
Pep Talk 5: Bruce Hainley
Pep Talk, June 2011. 111 pp.
I became aware of Bruce Hainley’s writing on art a little more than a decade ago, while I was in college. Amid the monotony of a magazine’s review section, coming across his description of an exhibition by Ingrid Calame at Karyn Lovegrove’s Los Angeles gallery was like encountering a snake in a field. The review’s venom was poisonous and worked quickly: “The gimmick behind the project … was flimsy enough to begin with, and by now it’s just fatuous.” On the explanation of her onomatopoeic titles: “Yeah, right.” I was in Boston, hundreds of miles from an art-world center and frustrated by persistent critical obfuscation. The clarity of Hainley’s indictment was thrilling.
Thereafter, on the lookout for this Los Angeles critic’s byline, I learned quickly that the takedown was not his principal trade. (In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that in ensuing years I got to know Hainley a little; but more on this later.) Hainley’s occasional lashings are needles meant to puncture consensus, to deflate an overinflated reputation, and their rarity adds to their power. The majority of his reviews and essays instead grapple with the work of complex and often misunderstood artists, whether young or established. In the tradition of the great poet-critics whose work he relishes, Hainley’s mind follows his eyes. As he noted a decade ago, “I am a promiscuous looker. I will look at anything.” And once he decides that he likes looking at something, he keeps looking: Many of the artists he wrote about in the late 1990s and early 2000s are the artists he is writing about, and talking with, today. This isn’t slavish devotion to a particular style. There is little, beside Hainley’s ardor, that unites pastoral painter Maureen Gallace, abstract sculptor Vincent Fecteau, conceptual provocateur Trisha Donnelly, and object philosopher Elaine Sturtevant. It’s not what they make that appeals to him, but how they see. “I don’t mean, Oh, every person sees the world in his or her own special way!” he states in an interview. “No. I mean that, for example, Vince is one of the most visually intelligent people I’ve ever been around: he notices forms that are almost always out of sync with what a dominant mode of seeing wishes to exist.”
A filing cabinet on the internet by Rob Giampietro, featuring design, art, philosophy, education, and more.
Again, I love the internet.
Mai-Thu Perret, An Evening of the Book
(Short film produced to promote the release of three films by Mai-Thu Perret)
Originally produced for The Lyon Biennale of Contemporary Art and filmed on location at the Kitchen NY, Evening was conceived as a ‘remake’ of the 1924 agit prop play of the same title that was conceived as an experiment in mass artistic agitation for the book, and dramatized the conflict between old pre-revolutionary and new revolutionary books. Using actors from the academy of communist education, in a set & with costumes designed by Varvara Stepanova, it was a pantomime that culminated in the victory of the revolutionary heroes and a parade of libraries and new editions.
This performance, in which books and letters are actors in their own right, seemed a suitable starting point for the artist’s first array into moving images. Using props sometimes inspired by those of the original evenings, such as the books or the sports costume, sometimes unrelated such as the fluorescent tubes, the cut out from the banner, or the commas, Mai-Thu Perret devised the outline of a choreography which was performed for the camera by a team composed of artist friends such as Amy Granat or Fia Backström, and professional dancers.