Friday, December 18, 2009

Ree Morton in Best of 2009 Artforum issue

Ree Morton: At the Still Point of the Turning World closes today at The Drawing Center.
The exhibition is a Best of 2009 pick in the current issue of Artforum, and reviewed in the same issue.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ree Morton: At Still Point of the Turning World reviewed in Art in America

"Now that so much art looks like Ree Morton’s, it’s hard to imagine just how radical her work appeared in the ’70s. In her brief career (she got her BFA in 1968 at 32, and died in a car accident at 41) and without even seeming to try, Morton turned everything upside down. Although she was surely reacting to the male-dominated, pared-down, intellectually based art prevalent at the time and therefore can certainly be considered a feminist, Morton did not take a political stance as much as simply use art to make sense of her life as a woman. In doing so, she introduced feminine values (she once designed a series of nautical signal flags representing her friends, many of them women, and flew them from a schooner in New York Harbor), oblique personal narrative and droll aphorisms that could be seen as precursors to those of Jenny Holzer and the Guerrilla Girls."
Read more.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Man in the Holocene

I'm frequently asked to talk about what project(s) I've always wanted to do, or have been working on, which I seem to hesitate to do (it seems a bit indulgent)....this came up in the Q&A after a recent talk, and as per some follow up emails, where's what I should have said:

I have been researching an exhibition I'd like to curate about contemporary art and metaphysics for over a year now, currently titled Man in the Holocene, after the Max Frisch seems to me that contemporary art is taking over the place of metaphysics in human understanding. If metaphysics was cast out of natural philosophy, out of scientific rationality, modernity and philosophy (think Heidegger/Derrida) have its concerns crept up in contemporary art now? Is aesthetic knowledge the place of the qualitative in a world of quantitative reasoning and mediated 'information'? Metaphysical concerns seem to unite so much of current contemporary art, and provide the ground for a lot of current discussions around ideas of sincerity, enchantment, curiosity, experience, presence, and 'alchemy'...

Monday, November 30, 2009

Ree Morton: At Still Point of the Turning World reviewed in Time Out

From this week's Time Out NY:

This exhibition, which comprises both drawing and sculpture, traces Morton’s rapid progression from Process-oriented art to work that infused the formal and conceptual language of Postminimalism with more unruly elements of personal narrative, theater, ritual and decoration. [ree.jpg]

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Friday, November 06, 2009

Thomas Bernhard interview from late 1986, via Sign and Sight

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ree Morton in The New Yorker

Ree Morton: At the Still Point of the Turning World, currently on view at The Drawing Center, is reviewed in Peter Schjeldahl's Critic's Notebook this week.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Recent Writing

Ree Morton: At the Still Point of the Turning World

The accompanying catalog to my exhibition of the drawing-based work of Ree Morton (1936-1977), currently on view at The Drawing Center, features a conversation with Cornelia H. Butler and Allan Schwartzman, as well as Lucy Lippard’s 1973 essay “At the Still Point of the Turning World” with a new introduction by the author.
A short essay I wrote on the Polaroids of Carlo Mollino is in this month's edition of Flash Art.
The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
An essay on Indian artist Tallur L.N. I wrote last year is published in conjunction with the artist's recent show, Placebo, in Mumbai.
My recent text on conditions of medium specificity and the filmic apparatus is included in Lisa Oppenheim's current exhibition, Invention Without a Future, at Harris Lieberman in New York.

Friday, September 25, 2009


, an exhibition I organized at The Drawing Center earlier this year in collaboration with iCI, kicks off its tour at the Contemporary Museum, Baltimore. The exhibition is on view until December 20th. The catalog, distributed by DAP, is also available for pre-order through Amazon.


Though the technology for transmitting information long-distance dates from the nineteenth century, it was the fax machine, made commercially available in the 1970s, that turned facsimiles into a primary form of communication. Artists readily exploited the fax machine for its graphic and interactive possibilities, positing the medium as a precursor to the then-nascent field of new media art and within the legacy of mail art. Fax presents works by a multigenerational group of nearly 100 artists, architects, designers, scientists and filmmakers--Mel Bochner, Liam Gillick, Wade Guyton, Glenn Ligon, Jan De Cock, Cerith Wyn Evans, Morgan Fisher and Aurelien Froment, among others--that use the fax machine as a tool for thinking and drawing. Published to accompany an exhibition at New York's Drawing Center, FAX includes the drawings, texts, examples of early telecommunications art (with inevitable transmission errors), junk faxes and fax lore that were all transmitted via the gallery's fax line.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ree Morton at The Drawing Center

Ree Morton: At the Still Point of the Turning World

September 18 - December 18, 2009
Main Gallery and Drawing Room

Opening Reception:
Thursday, September 17, 2009 6–8pm

The Drawing Center presents an exhibition of the work of the late American artist Ree Morton (1936–1977). The exhibition highlights Morton’s influential body of work, remarkably all produced between her decision to turn to art full-time in the late 1960s and her tragic death in an automobile accident shortly before her 41st birthday. While reflecting many of the currents of Postminimal and Conceptual art of the 1970s, Morton’s work also looked to a pioneering use of personal narrative, intimacy, humor, and poetic imagination. Yet the scope of her artistic production remains largely unrecognized, as does her vital contribution to feminist art practice and the importance of drawing to her development as an artist. Repetitive, minimal forms in Morton’s early work lead to more biographically tinged mark-making, ranging from abstracted diagrams acting as topographies of memory to botanical illustrations and decorative motifs. A marked interest in phenomenology, spatiality, kitsch, and the emotive potential of materials is merged in Morton’s later work, her sculptural practice presaging the formal vocabulary and theatricality of later installation art. The exhibition is comprised of a selection of major drawings, several of which will be on view for the first time, along with drawing-based sculptural works and a selection of notebook sketches. Curated by João Ribas, the exhibition takes its title from a T. S. Eliot poem Morton kept above her studio desk.


Born in Ossining, NY in 1936, Ree Morton died tragically in a car accident in 1977 in Chicago. She first studied nursing, then married and had three children before completing her BFA at the Rhode Island School of Design (1968) and her MFA at Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia (1970). During her lifetime, her work was exhibited at the ICA (Philadelphia), Artists Space and the Whitney Museum (both New York) among other venues. She was the subject of a 1980 retrospective at The New Museum and solo exhibitions at the Guggenheim Museum in New York (1985) and Generali Foundation in Vienna (2008). Morton’s work has been included in numerous group exhibitions, including High Times, Hard Times: New York Painting 1967–1975 (organized by iCI), and the WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2007).

Thursday, September 24, 6:30pm (Main Gallery) and 7:30pm (Drawing Room)SoHo Night exhibition tour with assistant curator Rachel Liebowitz

Saturday, October 24, 4pm
Free gallery talk with exhibition curator João Ribas.

Thursday, December 10, 6:30pm
Video screening of Ree Morton: An Interview (1974)

The Drawing Center will publish Drawing Papers 87: Ree Morton: At the Still Point of the Turning World featuring a roundtable conversation with Drawing Center curator João Ribas, independent curator Allan Schwartzman, and MoMA chief curator of drawings Cornelia H. Butler, as well as Lucy Lippard’s 1973 essay “At the Still Point of the Turning World,” with a new introduction to the text by Lippard. Approximately 120 pages, 50 color images.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Unica Zürn reviewed in Time Out New York

Unica Zürn: Dark Spring reviewed by Joshua Mack in Time Out New York

Unica Zürn: Dark Spring
The Drawing Center, through July 23

In 1953, following a series of self-induced abortions and a brutal divorce, the German poet and novelist Unica Zürn (1916–1970) moved to Paris with the artist Hans Bellmer, and began making art using the Surrealist technique of automatic drawing. Replete with snakes and leering eyes swarming in linear networks, her output reflected the influence of Bellmer’s circle—from Henri Michaux’s mescaline-induced drawings to Wols’s agglomerations of insectlike creatures. But as pieces and documents assembled here clearly indicate, Zürn’s agitated facture and nightmare imagery also evinced a keen understanding of pictorial composition, and suggest miseries like ceaseless itching and sleepless nights.

They also presaged trouble. In 1960, Zürn suffered a psychotic incident and was in and out of institutions until her suicide, in 1970. Following her initial breakdown, her touch became more flaccid, and her imagery gave way to doodlelike renderings of faces and birds that seem repetitive and decorative in contrast with her initial efforts.

More compelling is the backstory told by the ephemera on display. Zürn wrote several experimental texts, including the grimly autobiographical Dark Spring. In one passage she described the enormous pleasure she derived from rope cutting her flesh. A set of photographs of her bound torso, taken by Bellmer, indicates that the couple practiced BDSM, while his notation to crop her visage from the images hints at deeper efforts at effacement.

That’s not all. Her psychiatrist traded her drawings for cigarettes, and it was Michaux who had arguably put her in the hospital by giving her mescaline—raising the troubling prospect that Zürn’s life was a hideous coincidence of art, madness and abuse.—Joshua Mack

Monday, May 04, 2009

Unica Zürn in The New Yorker

Unica Zürn: Dark Spring in The New Yorker.

35 Wooster St. (212-219-2166)—“Unica Zürn: Dark Spring.” The story of Zürn’s life threatens to overshadow her work: in 1970, the fifty-four-year-old German artist, who suffered frequent bouts of depression, jumped to her death from the Paris apartment she shared with her lover, the Surrealist Hans Bellmer. This absorbing show, organized by João Ribas, reveals a gifted—and, yes, tortured—artist, who merits more than the footnote she’s been allocated in the annals of Surrealism. (Zürn may be best known as the author of the cult roman à clef “Dark Spring.”) Intricate works on paper, made using the Surrealist technique of automatic drawing, are filled with fantastical creatures that curl into and out of patterned abstraction. Vitrines in the middle of the gallery contain printed matter, including an exhibition catalogue of Zürn’s work with an introduction written in illegible glyphs by Max Ernst. Disturbing photographs of the artist’s body, bound into grotesqueries with cord, look uncannily like Bellmer’s dolls, transforming a model and muse into a masochistic collaborator. Through July 23. (Tuesdays through Fridays, 10 to 6, and Saturdays, 11 to 6.)

Unica Zürn Artforum Critic's Pick

Unica Zürn: Dark Spring is a Lauren O'Neill-Butler Critic's Pick at

Unica Zürn


35 Wooster Street
April 17–July 23

The black-and-white photographs of Unica Zürn’s body—bound by string, coiled, and reduced to a sack of bulbous flesh—are some of Hans Bellmer’s most admired works and, until recently, her mere cameo in art history’s canon. As a remedial course, perhaps, this elegant show offers a bounty of Zürn’s automatic drawings, a few shimmering paintings, and some brilliant pieces of her writing (for which she is most regarded). Although it reprises themes set forth in Ubu Gallery’s similar 2005 show, the Drawing Center exhibition thoughtfully and tenderly examines her short career and mental illness without didactically trying to “rediscover” her and without mythologizing her suicide at age fifty-four or her interest in sadomasochism. The tranquil sea-blue walls and the thick black frames here temper the hotness of these issues, and so do the sweet, nearly oceanic and biomorphic forms in her finely detailed renderings. These creatures hover at the center of her pages, bearing multiple countenances, breasts, limbs, and orifices, though, unlike a Bellmer "Poupeé," rarely do Zürn’s striations recall actual bodies. Instead, forty-nine mostly untitled works here offer roving, repetitive deviations: delicate lines, smudged ink, and twisting spirals appear as faces, then just shapes, and finally as faces, again, through an echolike effect. Intense and otherworldly, they offer a window into a mind that contemporary artists––particularly those invested in psychedelic motifs––should investigate. For some, her work might feel like the sun against their eyes; for others, a beacon in the distance.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Unica Zürn and FAX reviews

Two recent reviews of my curated exhibitions at The Drawing Center:

Unica Zürn:Dark Spring reviewed by Ken Johnson in the New York Times, and FAX reviewed by Brian Droitcour at Both exhibitions are on view until July 23.

LinkArtist and publisher Serge Onnen and I discuss the relationship between drawing and text on the occasion of his recent book Drawings on Writing.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

One of the defining issues in contemporary art today, it seems to me, is the signal difference between information and knowledge, the problematic but persistent notion of content as a kind of mediating quantity between them. The problem is succinctly put in this line from T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets:

Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

What is at stake is precisely the character or modality of knowledge that art is supposedly implicitly engaged or concerned with (the 'where' of Eliot's query), and the relationship of that knowledge to experience or other regimes of understanding. This explains, I believe, a recent trend towards the artist as 'mystic' and related thematics, the use of artistic practice as a kind of integrative social practice, or something like the increasing use of "re-enchantment" as a term. It may in fact, signal a significant shift in the art of a generation--as it moves from an image-making focus, appropriation, and media critique, towards an articulation of a realm of knowledge that is directly related to the realm of art or aesthetic production....the kind of understanding positioned within the order of the sensible.

One reason the Geithner plan for "legacy asset" resale may not work: the problem is not liquidity but quality..from today's Financial Times:Link
Those betting the programme will succeed are basing those wagers partly on the belief that a lack of liquidity is the main reason for the assets' decimation in value. If that is true, buyers will reap gains once liquidity is restored.

But if depressed prices reflect the weak underpinnings of the housing market, consumer credit and the overall economy, gains could be scarce - or longer in coming. These are, after all, assets backed by credit that eventually needs to be paid off. Their quality, rather than their liquidity, may be the problem. Read more...


Frederick Kiesler: Co-Realities at The Drawing Center won a 2008 AICA Award for Best Exhibition by a Non-Profit.