Archive for February, 2009
United Art Contractors were among the best artists of the '80s, in this blog's jaundiced opinion. Their self-plugging ads in the back pages of Artforum were a laugh riot, albeit extremely dry. A couple of years of these droll gems brought the artists to the attention of New Museum curator Marcia Tucker, who included "Terri and Dave" (the only names I've ever heard for them) in a group show, netting a blase response from the New York Times ("United Art Contractors' comments on the commercialism of the art world wear thin quickly." - Michael Brenson, 1986).
The images in this post I clipped and saved back in the day and recently scanned--for what it's worth they are the only things I kept from those mid-'80s Artforums. The texts below were found by googling "United Art Contractors."
In the mid-1980s, United Art
Contractors, self-described as "minor
conceptual artists," ran a series of ads in
Artforum that humorously tackled
careerism and corruption in the artworld.
"We're Desperate: We Want to Buy Our Way
into a Show" (March 1984) pretty much
sums up their enterprise. The piece
describes “two desperate, middle-aged,
small-town, minor conceptual artists
without time or talent” who want to buy
their way into a large group show. In
September’s "Brilliant New Work by United
Art Contractors," they revealed that they
paid for reviews: “Rave review by well
known art critic $150, medium review by
well known art critic $100, bad review by
well known art critic $50, dynamite review
by average art critic $75, ok review by
average art critic $50, poor review by
average art critic $25; any kind of review
by unknown art critic (it’s all the same
March of 1985 [January, per the
chronology below. --ed] brought
"You Get What You Pay For: No Talents Buy
Their Way In." Michael Selic, president of
Works, San Jose, took the Contractors’
thousand dollars—along with their
stipulation that he spend it entirely on
himself, not the gallery. The show
consisted of “one hour of polite
conversation with wine and cheese (but
only polite conversation, we don’t want
“Amuse Us.” Artforum 22, no. 5 (January 1984): 92
“We’re Desperate: We Want to Buy Our Way Into a Show.” Artforum 22, no. 7
(March 1984): 112
“Yoko Ono Be Our Patron.” Artforum 22, no. 8 (April 1984): 94
“Your Ideas May Already Be Worth a Clock.” Artforum 22, no. 10 (Summer
“Brilliant New Work by United Art Contractors.” Artforum 23, no. 1
(September 1984): 16
“United Art Contractors Ride Andy Warhol’s Coattails to Success.” Artforum
23, no. 3 (November 1984): 118
“You Get What You Pay For: ‘No Talents Buy Their Way In’.” Artforum 23, no.
5 (January 1985): 31
“Please Tell Us How Pretty We Look.” Artforum 24, no. 1 (September 1985):
“We Caused the Shuttle Disaster.” Artforum 25, no. 1 (September 1986): 62
“We Can’t Get our Hair Right,” Artforum 26, no. 3 (November 1987): 179
“Grand Lawyering: A Legacy of Understated Elegance.” Artforum 28, no. 3
(November 1989): 179
“Still Wet Your Pants at Age 40?,” Artforum 28, no. 5 (January 1990): 166
Spectacular (as in "society of the...") youtube video from i like nice things.
Pretty sure the "dad" in that commercial is a male enhancement spokesperson in current cable ads.
Children do not get enough carbs and processed food, what they need is a hyperkinetic commercial to remind them to "eat carbs!"
Sorry I missed the top video in the pair before the use violation monster ate it.
Update: The missing vid was The Lennon Sisters at their android prom queen finest singing "Sugartime." [YouTube - thx jeff]
Ink, paper, linen tape, 17 x 11 inches. Top image is a scan of a photo by Ray Rapp
Marcin Ramocki's film Brooklyn DIY opens at MOMA tonight.
Am curious to see it for the involvement of various friends but describing art in terms of neighborhoods can be problematic.
Did a "Brooklyn School" ever develop, after artists began settling the region? Do critics talk about it?
Answer: no, the New York critics mostly snub Brooklyn galleries.
So, did the artists develop a style or philosophy that is contrary to the Chelsea style, the way "downtown art" challenged uptown in the 60s or graffiti came to be identified with the East Village?
No, after 1997 or so (the demise of Soho, which mingled artist and gallery lofts), Brooklyn became the region where artists lived and Chelsea became the region where the same artists showed.
Waves of "frissons of difference" came not from within NY but from London, Los Angeles, Asia...
Will watch the film with an open mind and report back with any changes to the above.
Update: Good movie, and most of the people interviewed disavowed a "Williamsburg style." The archival footage of past art shows and present-day glimpses inside studios suggests much trash-picking and bricolage. Amy Sillman comments throughout but I don't think you ever see one of her (non-bricolage) paintings, just quick details.
Critic Sarah Schmerler, interviewed in the film, offers the best "reason for Williamsburg" but it is esentially faint praise. She compares art to the gold in Fort Knox that backed US currency at one time. She feels that for New York to be a credible art center, tangible evidence of actual, vigorous artmaking should be on display somewhere in the city, otherwise galleries are just sterile delivery systems for culture happening out of town. This is a sophisticated variant of the "at least someone's doing something" declaration I used to hear in Dallas when I lived there years ago. Something is better than nothing but that doesn't make it important. Ironically the director of the film did much to advance art into the 21st Century with his Williamsburg gallery vertexList but computer and cyber-discourse is almost completely absent from the movie. For the next Billburg doc someone will need to talk about Ramocki.
"Posting the 'THX Sound' on his synthesizer history website."
"But still recognizably the THX Sound?"
"Somebody might use it at the beginning of a movie. Prison, $200,000 fine. "
Feel a bit bad for posting a link on the Rhizome.org chatboards to a recent Paddy Johnson thread.
Mentioned that she and her commenters had reservations about a project the Rhizomers were high fiving.
So they promptly dispatched one of their worst trolls--a real piece of work--to ask Johnson "how many angels can dance on a pinhead" type questions, to wear her down and punish her for having a contrary opinion.
Arguing on Rhizome has a similar air of futility.
The house style there, especially when one is on the down side of an argument, is to provoke an exchange of personal insults, hoping one's opponent cracks and says something that sounds "too harsh." The one who didn't crack then claims the moral high ground and gets to lecture the one who did about Internet manners. Arguing this way is...challenging...and very little gets accomplished.
A moderator would help.
Underlying some of these battles are real philosophical differences, what could be broadly termed an art-for-art's-sake mindset vs an activist mindset. Also academic vs non-academic, artist vs programmer, artist vs designer, etc.
But mostly it's just people being territorial about their friends and "home turf."
Disquiet's Marc Weidenbaum wrote 16 Albums That Changed My Life in response to a Facebook query. Fortunately he didn't put the answers there but shared them outside the gated community, that is to say, on his blog on the open Internet.
The post is a choice example of first person writing that is fun to read and uses autobiography to clearly and honestly stake out a critic's longstanding themes. It was interesting to learn this:
From 1989 through 1996 I was employed full time as an editor at Pulse!, the music magazine of the now defunct Tower Records. It was an amazing experience, to be that drenched in music on a daily basis. I wanted to work at Pulse! when I got out of college because it was the one magazine I knew of that took all music as its subject. These records, though, aren’t the reason I stayed at Pulse!; they’re the reason I eventually felt I was able to leave. I realized that for all my interest in a broad range of music — in a given year, I could interview Anthony Braxton and Billy Childish, Glenn Danzig and Depeche Mode, Aphex Twin and Rob Zombie — the following music made me wake up to the knowledge that electronically mediated (and, in a more fundamental way, meditative) music was where my head was at: [followed by discussions of John Fahey’s The Essential John Fahey, Deep Listening Band’s Deep Listening, Oval’s 94 Diskont, DJ Krush’s Strictly Turntablized, Gavin Bryars’s The Sinking of the Titanic, Cliff Martinez’s score to sex, lies, and videotape]
On the Oval CD, this is great:
Oval’s 94 Diskont: Of all the records listed here, this is probably the one most consumed by what succeeded it, the one that will hold up least — not because it was less great, but because its breakthroughs (the glitch, the desiccated quietude, the sense of process-as-content) have been so thoroughly absorbed, quantified, and codified, in the same way that the once radical lessons of the Velvet Underground, and Thelonious Monk, and Igor Stravinsky, just to name a few, have been normalized over time. Still, after hearing it, I never looked at my CD player the same way again.
Assignment for hypothetical journalism or fiction writing class:
Rewrite this New York Times story, The Great Divide, from the perspective of a reporter biased in favor of the South Asian immigrants to a Queens neighborhood. Try to include as many slurs and negative quotes as possible against the white ethnic holdouts in the area.
"Pitch Sequences 2" [7.9 MB .mp3]
Ambient monochrome-style tune with two antiphonal riffs going in and out of sync using LFO settings, intermittently joined by some off-the-shelf glitchy beats.