Indigestible Correctness Parts I & II
Participant Inc. & Kenny Schacter/ROVE
Feminism hasn’t looked this good in a decade. Indigestible Correctness, a pair of concurrent exhibitions at Participant Inc., and Kenny Schacter/ROVE, is a gutsy and visceral curatorial exercise. Curators Rita Ackerman and Lizzi Bougatsos create a set of shows that are as much about display art as an attitude, starting with the self-consciously bad, fragmentary poem of a press release. Their statement is an analog for the show, not merely an obligatory description. Each exhibition is a dialectic montage of works that acquire and re-acquire meaning through the relationships that develop in between them. The exhibits are hung differently, emphasizing the curators’ feminist intervention, unfortunately at the expense of Part II at Kenny Schacter/ROVE.
Part I, at Participant Inc., functions as both an exhibit of individual works and an organic whole, creating an engaging narrative of shifting identities, individuating the show from its fraternal twin at ROVE. Angelblood’s installation, "Desperate Final Stature" (2004), activates the entire space and subsumes the work of the other artists into a grand, ramshackle vision of sexual and gender identity. The rest of the works in the show are collisions of difference between masculine and feminine, neither one dominating the discourse. The overt emphasis on the body and sexuality that the show exudes makes it all seem like a conceptual orgy. Lutz Bacher’s bad pin-up girl "Gentleman Callers (panther)" (1993) hovers above Robin Graubard’s darkly beautiful "The Doll Hospital" (1994) against the soiled wall, a giant smear of dirt that runs across two walls and the floor to a kind of piano plow. Louise Bourgeois’s 1970 "Rabbit" hangs near the ceiling, a muddy looking reminder of mortality. Richard Kern’s photo "Japanne tied up" (1986) is hung with Robin Graubar’s "X-Box Death Squad" (1992) and "Lost" (1994), imparting S&M, violence, terror, and fame into the psychosexual narrative. This one section of the show, with its majestic punctuation by Angelblood’s piano thing bent on "messing shit up," is brilliant.
The other compelling montage is a corner of photos by Katja Rawhles and Robin Graubard along with a Richard Prince sculpture that captures the themes of the show— violence, sex, and power. Rawhles’s female protagonist stares out at the viewer while suggestively interacting with phallic objects near Graubard’s photos of a nude cowboy, an angry boy, and armed men. Richard Prince’s female bust with a plastic bread fastener necklace "Untitled (necklace)" (2001-02) locates the site of the struggle between masculine and feminine identities in our desire driven consumer culture. Alone, these works would be at best odd portraits and didactic feminism, but together they create a critical intervention.
Part II, at Kenny Schacter/ROVE, is a different exhibit, although the content and the theme of the works are similar. The works are hung farther apart, denying the kind of dialogue, or more appropriately, the intercourse, that occurs between the works in Part I. Kembra Pfaler’s installation of photos from the Wall of Vagina series, boogie boards, and personal objects is a self-contained version of the montage strategy that Ackerman and Bougatsos employ at Participant, Inc. It’s unfortunate that the works are isolated, because it emphasizes the formal over the interplay of meaning between them. This simultaneously reduces the curatorial intervention in Part II, while making its presence in Part I more apparent. This may simply be a result of space issues, but it demonstrates how the meaning of an object is not a fixed thing independent of context. It also places more weight on the individual works, which isn’t the real strength of the show at all.
Part II isn’t a brilliant statement: It is an interesting and uneven collection of works that echo the themes in Part I. The most curious entries in the show are Christopher Wool’s "brown, untitled (P432)" (2003) and "black, untitled, (p436)" (2000). They are similar to Marlene McCarty’s "Untitled (SLASH)" (1993) included in Part I, which is one of the few works preoccupied with almost purely formal questions of representation. Wool’s silk-screens mimic the gestures of abstract expressionism, while McCarty’s heat transfer parodies geometric abstraction. Along with Jeff Elrod’s tape painting, "Fallout" (2003), they stand out from the rest of the overwhelming narrative of sexual identity that finds a unique expression in Pfaler’s personal, post-feminist altar to her seventies inspired "vamp" character.
Part II is best viewed as a collection of clues to the curators’ vision, from Picaba’s early self-reflexive painting of the artist holding a painting of a nude, "Montparnasse" (1940-41) to Inez van Lamsweeerde and Vinoodh Matadin’s meticulously constructed picture of female goth sexuality in "Guinivere Descending a Staircase" (2000). The immaculate C-print is a modern reinterpretation of "classical" beauty, and though it clearly objectifies the female subject, its inclusion is a provocative act of political and ideological incorrectness by Ackerman and Bougatsos. They understand art’s ability to challenge the dominant culture, which has become at once intolerably correct and reactionary. As art becomes a "profession" with formal equations for success, it also grows boring, cold, and superficial. The art world’s conservative posturing is sad in what are becoming desperate times for progressive politics and expression. What Indigestible Correctness does beautifully is to make the argument that feminism isn’t merely theory, but a way of challenging cultural hegemony. In Part I, the curators have imbued every work with a sense of urgency and life that every other major show this season, from the Whitney Biennial to Working in Brooklyn, has sorely lacked.
Lynne Drexler: The First DecadeBy William Corwin
DEC 22–JAN 23 | ArtSeen
In Lynne Drexler: The First Decade, simultaneously at both Berry Campbell and Mnuchin Galleries, we come across a voracious and novel form of late Abstract Expressionism. Its a path that runs parallel to color-field painting, and in playing with discreet nodes of color owes as much to Klimt, van Gogh, and Seurat, as it does to Drexlers mentor and teacher, Hans Hofmann. The paintings in these two exhibitions test out how best to manipulate the viewers response to associations of almost-pixelated color units, singular forms which attain a mosaic-like quality: working together but retaining their independence. This causes almost as much visual agita as it creates harmonic compositions.
Faith Ringgold with Tschabalala Self
APRIL 2022 | Art
Faith Ringgold is an important artist who is currently the focus of two exhibitions in New York City. Her show at the New Museum, curated by Massimiliano Gioni, Gary Carrion-Murayari, and Madeline Weisburg, surveys her impressive six decade career, while the exhibition at ACA highlights the artists work in print mediums. On the occasion of these exhibitions, Tschabalala Self spoke with Faith Ringgold about growing up in Harlem, the roles of activism and writing in an artists practice, and the importance of seeing art from all cultures and places. Ringgolds long time friend and gallerist, Dorian Bergen, joined Ringgold for the conversation.
New York Food ExhibitionsBy Mary Ann Caws
OCT 2022 | ArtSeen
As I write, there is at the Museum of the City of New York, a gigantic and vividly colorful exhibition entitled Food in New York: Bigger Than the Plate, which opened on September 16 to great acclaim in the newspaper and radio.
Willem de Kooning:
By Benjamin Clifford
Men and Women
JUNE 2021 | ArtSeen
Willem de Kooning’s practice never stood in place for long, a sustained creative restlessness that is plain to see in a pair of exhibitions currently on view, one at Craig F. Starr and the other at Matthew Marks.