“Folk Art and Neo-Folk Art” was both exhilarating and illuminating. Panelists touched on important points of original research, while much new territory was explored. However, a cloud of doubt may still linger as to where and when folk art and naïveté give way to professionalism. Betty MacDowell and Rachel Maines asserted that training is the key, but their fellow panelists freely interspersed untrained artists’ work without distinctions. One was left to make one’s own deductions.
This conversation between the Croation-born artist Dora Budor, whose science-fiction-inspired installation Spring was on view in the Swiss Institute’s basement, and Chrissie Iles, a film curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art, lasted only forty-five minutes. To some in the audience, it felt like an eternity. While the discussion started out informative—Iles sketched out a history of science fiction from its nineteenth-century origins in literature to its adoption by cinema in the twentieth—it slid steadily into unintelligibility. By the end of the event, Budor and Iles had made hash of potentially exciting topics, among them the relationship of human bodies to technology and the impact of computer-generated imagery (CGI) on perception, with maddeningly convoluted and directionless statements. It wasn’t pretty.
From an aesthetic point of view, the term “punk”—whether referring to a music genre, a fashion style, or a nonconformist attitude—has generated an incredibly diverse creative output that ranges from cynical and nihilistic to self-empowered and ethically sound. Tonight’s panel, organized by A.I.R. Gallery and the Women and the Arts Collaborative at Rutgers University, addressed the passionate, potent combination of youth rebellion, women’s rights, and fast, furious music through the stories of five panelists who emerged from various punk scenes in the United States.
A recent talk by the Brooklyn-based critic Naomi Fry was as wide ranging—one could even say scattered—as both her interests and her curriculum vitae. “I always have to remind myself that I’m a writer,” she said, reflecting on her roles as a teacher of writing at the Rhode Island School of Design and New York University and also as a copy editor for the New York Times.
The second and final panel on the symposium for the Jewish Museum’s exhibition Jack Goldstein x 10,000 featured presentations by two artists—Kathryn Andrews and Paul Pfeiffer—who emerged a couple generations after Jack Goldstein. Neither artist was directly influenced by Goldstein, as they arrived at their aesthetic approach prior to gaining knowledge of the elder artist’s work. One of two panel moderators, Claire Bishop, described the situation as “reverse engineering.” While hers was certainly a clever use of the phrase, the concept is standard operating procedure for scholars making connections between the art of different decades. That doesn’t mean artists don’t have a say, and here is what they said about Goldstein and influence.
Following the symposium’s keynote presentation, the first panel featured two figures from the highly influential Pictures Generation—the artists Robert Longo and Matt Mullican—along with Morgan Fisher, a substitute for the absent Troy Brauntuch. The panel’s moderator, Julia Robinson of New York University, introduced the speakers and loosely moderated a discussion on their personal and professional experiences with the artist Jack Goldstein, the subject of a retrospective at the Jewish Museum.
An afternoon symposium that coincided with the Jewish Museum exhibition’s Jack Goldstein x 10,000 began with a keynote presentation by the artist and filmmaker Morgan Fisher. Upon accepting the invitation to speak, Fisher stated that he purposely didn’t read the literature on the artist that he hadn’t already, in order not to be an “imposter” among the critics and historians. Thus he spoke of what he knew.
For “Dennis Oppenheim: Form – Energy – Concept,” Electronic Arts Intermix offered a special program of films from the early 1970s: selections from the artist’s Aspen Projects (1970–71), the rarely screened Disappear (1972), and two of his 2-Stage Transfer Drawings (both 1971). Transferred to DVD, the films were presented as double projections, as Dennis Oppenheim (1938–2011) was said to have exhibited his films and videos in this way or as dual-monitor installations.
For her lecture at Hunter College, Chrissie Iles, curator of film and video at the Whitney Museum of American Art, gave a basic overview of projection art (film, video, slides) from the 1960s to the present. It was an engaging talk with a lot of images to look at. I asked a question during the postlecture Q&A session, though not as articulately as I would have liked. I queried her on why artists haven’t explored—or appropriated—modes of distribution through Netflix (for rentals) or Amazon (for sales).