The Money Pit

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In November 1973, Walter De Maria wrote to his former dealer, Virginia Dwan, seeking funds to create a second, larger version of 35-Pole Lightning Field, a work of Land art that he had erected near Flagstaff, Arizona, earlier that year with Dwan’s financing but later dismantled. During her keynote lecture at “Collecting the ‘Uncollectible’: Earth and Site-Specific Sculpture,” a half-day symposium held at the Frick Collection, New York, on May 23, art historian Suzaan Boettger quoted from the letter: “I have come to realize that the land or earth movement as a whole is best advanced through fewer major statements rather than a profusion of smaller ones.”

The Butcher, the Baker, the Exhibition Maker

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Theater of Exhibitions, a slender new book by Jens Hoffmann published by Sternberg Press, offers fifteen brief chapters on curatorial work. While Hoffmann, a 41-year-old curator, writer, and deputy director of exhibitions and programs at the Jewish Museum in New York, rarely mentions specific works of art, he discusses his own exhibitions and criticizes—in a casual way—the alliance between museums and the wealthy, the blandness of international biennials, the overproduction of artists, and the extension of curatorial work into publications, conferences, screenings, and workshops. Unlike Hans-Ulrich Obrist, whose recent reflections on the profession were published in Ways of Curating, Hoffmann is not a storyteller. Instead he writes gently provocative essays that immediately make you agree or disagree with him.

The Paradoxical Absolute

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If I understand her convoluted comment-question correctly, an elderly woman in the audience wanted to know, during the Q&A session, if the speaker, Frances Stark, had just done a performance. Based on Stark’s zigzag lecture on her relationship to the artist Robert Ryman, I had wondered the same thing. For about an hour the Los Angeles–based artist covered a range of topics, which seems typical of her multidisciplinary practice that embraces expository and confessional writing as well as visual art in diverse media (drawing, collage, photography, video, and performance). But by the end it became clear that Stark’s talk was among the most bewildering and cryptic that I’ve ever attended, and I can’t decide if my frustration is justified—that Stark meandered without having anything substantial to say—or if I just didn’t get it.

Writing for Socially Engaged Art

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After being asked to participate on this panel, I wanted to know what kind of writing on socially engaged art is already out there. My conclusion is that there’s a lot of writing on socially engaged art out there. We have books devoted to the subject by Grant Kester, Claire Bishop, Pablo Helguera, Tom Finkelpearl, Nato Thompson, and Gregory Sholette, among others. We have essays by the above authors, as well as by Ben Davis, Steve Lambert, and Yates McKee. (Why so many men, I wonder?) They write on Project Row Houses, Theaster Gates, Suzanne Lacy, Tania Bruguera, Superflex, and the Yes Men, as well as projects sponsored by Creative Time, Art in Odd Places, and local and state arts councils across the country.

Affective Technologies

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The Kitchen invited Hal Foster, a historian, critic, and professor of art at Princeton University, to discuss his two recently published books. After an introduction by Tim Griffin, director and chief curator of the venerable institution, the soft-spoken Foster established the evening’s agenda: he would read from the books before being joined by Griffin (and then the audience) for a Q&A. The following narrative draws from both parts.

Totally Wired

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Philippe Vergne wasn’t kidding when he introduced the evening’s speaker, the artist Richard Aldrich, by declaring, “A world of words is present in your work.” Vergne, director of the Dia Art Foundation since 2008, also stated that any one work by Aldrich, a painter who sometimes incorporates text into his spare canvases of splotchy colors and sketchy lines, contradicts the next. Each piece, continued Vergne, requires its own language.

Before and after Institutional Critique

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I caught Rhea Anastas’s paper, “Untitled by Andrea Fraser: A Short Reception History 2002–5,” in a 2006 CAA Annual Conference session chaired by Andrew Perchuk and Matthew Jesse Jackson called “Before and after Institutional Critique.” Rather than summarize Anastas’s enlightening talk or describing Fraser’s video from 2003—if you know it, you know it—I want to offer two thoughts, on both the audience for the work and the artist herself, that popped into my head while listening to Anastas speak.

 

IN TERMS OF

Reviews of lectures, panels, interviews, conferences, and other live speaking engagements in the visual arts.

 
Funding for In Term Of has been provided by the Arts Writers Grant Program.