Sunday, October 31, 2021

Derek McCormack | Grab Bag

Derek McCormack
Grab Bag
New York City, USA: Akashic Books, 2004
200 pp., 5 x 8", softcover
Edition size unknown

The only Halloween programming I've participated in this year was watching Derek McCormack's excellent presentation for the BATA Museum about the use of dolls in horror films, a couple of nights ago. I checked to see if it has been posted to their site, but they're apparently timid about copyright issues arising from the film stills, so it looks like it won't materialize. 

But McCormack's Grab Bag is still available for purchase. The title was his first book published in the US, and the first in a series of titles edited and presented by the acclaimed author Dennis Cooper. Grab Bag is comprised of two interrelated novels, Dark Rides and Wish Book, both are set in the same small rural Ontario city, in different eras. The cover features an illustration by Ian Phillips (of Pas de Chance), representing their shared interest in vintage Halloween trinkets, and maybe McCormack's love of holiday themed Scholastic books. 

The Village Voice placed Grab Bag on their Best Books of the Year list in 2004, and the title has received considerable praise elsewhere, including filmmaker John Waters ("Boy, can Dennis Cooper find ’em! Grab Bag will grab you, all right; plain, simple, and hard"), and novelist Edmund White ("Grab Bag culls the best of the perverse and innocent world of Derek McCormack. The mystery of objects, the lyricism of neglected lives, the menace and nostalgia of the past – these are all ingredients in this weird and beautiful parallel universe"). 

It's available both as a Kindle edition and paperback, from Amazon, here

"I want to say: There are no natural couplings in my books. But I won’t. It’s not true. Dark Rides and Wish Book couple nicely, I think. Dark Rides is set in Peterborough in the 1950s. Peterborough, Ontario. My hometown. And Wish Book is set in Peterborough in the 1930s. So there’s the city. Both books feature country music stars. In Wish Book, a kid’s obsessed with Jimmie Rodgers. In Dark Rides, a kid’s obsessed with Hank Williams. There’s a story in the book about Hank Williams coming through town in 1952. That happened. Hank came. He played a skating rink. Between shows he got drunk at the Pig’s Ear Tavern. According to Chet Flippo, Hank passed out onstage and had to be escorted from town by police. It was, Flippo says, the beginning of the end for Hank. His last hurrah. I like to tell people that Peterborough killed him." 
- Derek McCormack, interviewed by Raul Deznermio

Saturday, October 30, 2021

David Hammons | The Holy Bible: Old Testament

David Hammons 
The Holy Bible: Old Testament 
London, UK: Hand/Eye Projects, 2002 
1002 pp., 30 x 24 x 2.5cm, leather 
Edition of 165 

David Hammon's first published bookwork is a kind of appropriation closed circuit, taking Duchamp's assisted readymades to the their logical conclusion. Hammons rebound the soft-cover edition of Arturo Schwarz’s 1969 book The Complete Works of Marcel Duchamp as a leather-bound, gilded edge bible, complete with slip-case. 

The work is often read as a critique, a black artist mocking the exaltation of Duchamp in the contemporary art world, and it could also function as an update of Rauschenberg's patricidal gesture in Erased de Kooning (note the use of the old testament). But Hammons' work has frequently nodded to Duchamp in the past. Their practices share the regular use of found materials and a penchant for puns, for example. 

Bag Lady In Flight (1982) has echoes of Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase and selling snowballs on the streets of Manhattan might be seen as an update on placing a urinal on a pedestal in an exhibition. Even the territorial pissings of the Ricahrd Serra intervention Pissed Off can’t help but evoke Duchamp’s FountainToilet Trees from 1990 [see below] makes the connection even clearer: the work consists of urinals affixed to trees by black rubber tubing. 

“I am the C.E.O. of the D.O.C.—the Duchamp Outpatient Clinic,” Hammons told New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl, in 2002. “We have a vaccine for that smartness virus that’s been in the art world for the last fifty years.” 

When asked about the quote by the same magazine several years later — "did it suggest a struggle to escape the Master’s shadow?" - Hammons’ smiled and quietly replied, “You never get free of Duchamp. He’s always there.”

Friday, October 29, 2021

Niki de Saint Phalle

Niki de Saint Phalle was born on this day in 1930. 

 "I use technology in order to hate it more properly. I make technology look ridiculous." 
- Nam June Paik [c. 1974]

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Franz West | Onkel-Stuhl (Uncle Chair)

Franz West
Onkel-Stuhl (Uncle Chair) 
Paris, France: Self-published, 2001-2009
84.5 x 50.5 x 55.9 cm.
woven synthetic textile over steel tubular frame 
Unlimited Edition, each unique

West had a long history of producing artworks to be sat on. His very first, made in collaboration with Mathis Esterhazy in the late 1980s, were made from scrap metal. For his 1989 solo exhibition at MoMA PS1, the artist laid the chairs out with the day’s newspaper for visitors to read. He placed chairs in front of classic artworks at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, and installed them facing the waterfront for the 1990 Venice Biennale. 

“I’ve lived with basically every furniture type Franz produced—chairs, couches, divans, tables. And I think his dining chairs are among the most comfortable that I’ve come across.” 
- David Zwirner (who represents the artist’s estate)

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Roy Lichtenstein

Roy Lichtenstein was born on this day in 1923. 

Richard Nonas | Boiling Coffee

Richard Nonas
Boiling Coffee
New York City, USA: Tanam Press, 1980
[166] pp.,  21.5 x 19.5 cm., softcover
Edition of 1750 

"A visual and textual poem made out of pictorial collage, handwritten texts, and black and white prints." - Franklin Furnace

Nonas died in May of this year, at the age of 85. 

Monday, October 25, 2021

Dick Higgins

Dick Higgins died on this day in 1998, at the age of 60.