Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Public's Right to Own, Part II

My friends at Triple Candie are pushing the envelope again with regards to authorship and the public's right to own/view artwork, staging another exhibition about the art of an elusive artist, rather than of the art by said market-weary recluse. Last time around it was David Hammond, who has a coy-at-best relationship with the "art world." This time they're offering their take on the work of Cady Noland, not so much a recluse as a total refusnik, rejecting the art market outright and in no uncertain terms. And rather than simply offering images of Cady's work, this exhibition offers "approximations" made by four other arists, working from images:
They are approximations that have been handicapped by practical limitations (e.g. lack of money and technical expertise; insufficient information about scale, materials, or color; the obsolescence of certain ready-made components; and a limited time-frame). By deliberately falling short of its target, the exhibition is meant to incite the public's desire and curiosity to experience the real thing, which remains frustratingly elusive.
Triple Candie offer an intriguing rationale for the exhibition:
"Cady Noland Approximately" was conceived of conjointly with—and is meant to serve as a complement to—the exhibition "David Hammons: The Unauthorized Retrospective" that was presented at Triple Candie in February/March 2006. There are a number of important similarities between the two artists. Both are evasive figures whose art has been highly influential on younger artists. Both artists tightly control access to their work. Both have expressed dissatisfaction with the art world and have operated outside of it, on their own terms, albeit in different ways. The Hammons exhibition consisted of photocopies and computer printouts from existing reproductions; this exhibition consists of three-dimensional objects that are made from information gleaned from existing reproductions but which are not exact replicas. In comparing the two exhibitions, one question that arises is: "Which of the two compromised forms of replication is closer to the real thing?"
But as Brian Sholis points out, this approach leaves out a critical component of Noland's work and by doing so can't really hope to expose the viewer to an experience even remotely approximating the original. From Brian's blog:

Far be it from me to police what a gallery chooses to exhibit, but it seems to me that making an exhibition-of-photocopied-reproductions-as-homage in the spirit of one artist—an exhibition that leads even the Times to wonder if the artist is involved—is one thing. It is far different, and less malicious, than re-creating the artworks of an elusive artist, no matter how poorly and with how much transparency. As someone said last night at dinner, "This show cannot even begin to look like a Cady Noland show. Cady has very specific reasons for installing her objects the way she does; the relationships between them are of equal importance to the sculptures themselves. This cannot be re-created by others' hands." Hammons is enigmatic, and his relationship to exhibitions and the market can be seen, in some way, as part of his oeuvre; Noland's relationship with the art world is much closer to a categorical "no." In my mind, the differences between those stances outweigh the similarities described above.
However, that said, the value of these efforts for me is in the complexity of the questions they raise. As I've noted here before, one of the huge advantages of this age of pluralism in the visual arts is that it's providing a opportunity to really dig back into and flesh out the issues explored by the far-too-often prematurely assassinated movements of the 20th Century. The questions raised/answered about authorship by Post-Modernists were hardly exhaustive, and this exhibition most certainly illustrates that. Then again, I begin to wonder whether the issues can ever be exhausted and at what point we simply have to let the artwork do its job and speak for itself. [ok, so that was lame...let me try again] at what point we have moved too far away from what visual art can teach us and enter into what might be better off in written form.

Anything but dull, those Triple Candie kids.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love Cady Noland's work and was just wondering why she never shows and if she is even represented by a gallery. Does anyone know if she even creates new work?

4/20/2006 10:30:00 AM  
Anonymous ML said...

The art world discussing the art world. I guess we never get tired of ourselves.

4/20/2006 10:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The art world discussing the art world. I guess we never get tired of ourselves."

I don't understand that quote. Isn't this an art blog? Should people be sharing recipes or something? What would you like people to talk about?

4/20/2006 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I suspect ML was refering to the exhibition, Anonymous, not the post. Implying that art about something other than "art" itself may be more what we need now.

4/20/2006 11:09:00 AM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

I've got a great recipe for chicken jambalaya.

4/20/2006 11:26:00 AM  
Anonymous onesock said...

I am really excited by the self-reflective quality of these exhibitions. But I think the questions that these raise are also important and when thinking about these shows one needs to be aware of some of the issues that were mentioned about the nature of Noland’s work. For example, I remember one of the justifications for the Hammons show was to expose his work in his hood when the reality is his work has always been in and of his neighborhood in arguably greater exposure than art in a gallery could ever accomplish. Anyway, I think these exhibits are transgressive and I agree with Ed that they are mining issues here that are ripe. And I don’t mind an art presentation that deals with art as subject because it always has other implications as well, questions raised can shed light on other systems. Plus I see the humor in the reversal of the institution (gallery system) scrutinizing the activities of the artist, turning the conceptual art practice completely around-very funny.

4/20/2006 01:28:00 PM  
Blogger Hungry Hyaena said...

I second the call for more information on Noland. Despite searches today and in the past, I've turned up little information on her rejection of the Art World. This aspect of her practice is very interesting to me and I'd like to know more about her motivations. I'd be grateful if Edward - or anyone passing through - would post on this or offer some URLs.

In regards to the exhibition, I reserve comment. The Triple Candie folks sure do know how to get folks talkin', though.

4/20/2006 02:59:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Cady Noland was fresh for about ten minutes fifteen years ago. By now we are inundated with the "I am more inside than you" gestalt. Problem is if you eat your own tail for long enough you end up with your head up your ass.

Enough with 'sally go round the roses' and 'leader of the pack' Where are the Beatles and Dylan of the art world to lead us out of this land of novelty hits and thinly disguised kitsch parading as hormone drenched youthful irreverence.

Look what I learned in school today, pop. I can be a radical too!

4/20/2006 03:51:00 PM  
Blogger Chris Rywalt said...

Tim, I'm your man! Okay, I haven't worked out what I'm going to do yet -- I'm still Robert Zimmerman -- but when I do, watch out!

4/20/2006 04:04:00 PM  
Anonymous onesock said...

here is a Sculpture Mag article from 97 that mentions Noland and Hammons:

Here is an interview:

she has website at (NOT!- denied again!)

4/20/2006 05:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From the comments and many more I've seen around, sometime first re-voiced last or last, last, year (?) on artnet, and print, artforum—Yes folks, Cady Nolan is alive and well, doing just fine. She may think galleries are the weak wink in art. She may figure that what is better is to take a Duchampian quote to practice, as Duchamp surely did.
Also when and when the prices finally soar, and a flabbergasted market finally resumes to normal, and when collectors...

...was looking for the quote but...
'He worked alone and in secret, following his own stated view that the contemporary artist's only recourse was to be underground'

Cady Nolan may have critiqued the artwork and it's flimsy market to a tee. Perhaps! But I wouldn't know for sure!


4/20/2006 10:17:00 PM  
Blogger amory blaine said...

Too bad Brian Sholis has bought in bulk the preciousness that the art market demands in shunning the Triple Candie project. Too bad he thinks that "cognoscenti" and "the public" are one and the same.

If these aren't Cady Noland sculptures, and those responsible for creating them aren't willing to claim them as something else (à la Sturtevant, or some such), then what are they?

They're approximations, Brian. One thing that you get to do when you make things in a new way, you get to name the terms. It seems that approximations may have both named and unnamed colaborrators.

This show is a gesture whose faults are outweighed by the complexities of its combined virtues. It is part ghost story, part lament. Its honesty might very well be a little too intense for some to handle, but for those with a taste for that, it will taste sweet. That the beginning of Mr. Sholis's blog is laced with a threat of legal action from the artist is plenty to go on. Any writer who's first thoughts of a show include litigation should be put in the stocks. Your Fucking Face, indeed.

4/23/2006 03:12:00 PM  
Anonymous in defense of cady and her fans said...

dear armory blane and others

you do not understand the situation and are misdirecting your anger at brian sholis. maybe you dont know that one of the artist's who curated this show looked me in the eye and said "we intended this show to be CONTENTIOUS" there is nothing complicated about that, and nothing interesting in looking at knock offs. go buy that kids work on 22nd street if you like such things. at least he's making a living.

this show is a huge problem for many people, and if many artists, curators, and writers think its mean spirited, evil, agressive and as a result want to boycott triple candy, that is a direct result of the show's provocation. they failed.

there is a reason an artist such as cady noland doenst want to deal with the art world. this is her right, and she should do what she wants. she's a great artist, she is taking a risk, but she also knows the artworld as a result of her success (not a critique from the more typical and bitter artist who feels they dont get enough) maybe she knows something, maybe you should listen, maybe she is smarter than us all.

4/25/2006 01:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Brian Sholis said...

I guess I should clarify the first sentence of my post: I was not suggesting that Noland would threaten legal action. In fact, after hearing from people who know her better than I do (I've only met her once, and corresponded with her briefly), I don't think she'll do anything at all in response to the exhibition. When I wrote, ". . . that will be very short-lived if Cady Noland responds to this exhibition the way she has to exhibitions that include artworks she actually made," I was referring to the numerous recent instances in which Noland has harangued gallerists that have chosen to exhibit her work, or convinced dealers who asked for her permission to give up on including her in their shows. It has more to do with respecting Noland's wishes than any legal action. (I know of no instance where she has threatened or taken legal action.)

As I noted at the end of my post, we "need instead to stoke Noland's desire to collaborate with a gallery or institution on an exhibition of her own work." My condemnation of the Triple Candie exhibition—which I am eager to see—stems more from a disappointment in the Harlem non-profit's misunderstanding of Noland's feelings. I think Noland is one of the most important artists of her generation, and it pains me to think she might slip from our consciousness (hence "Why We Should Talk About Cady Noland"). That Triple Candie's exhibition might increase her reluctance to show her work again is in my mind a true shame.

I have the same desire that Peter and Shelly have. I just feel—again, without yet seeing the exhibition—that they have gone about achieving it in the wrong way.


4/25/2006 10:40:00 PM  
Blogger Tyler said...

I certainly agree with the good Mr. Sholis, but I want to point out one wee thing: He's less condemning the exhibition than he is this trend of curators turning themselves into artists by making installations out of the art of multiple artists, by creating unrealized work, or by re-creating existing work.

Conveniently (for me), I've discussed this ad absurdem on MAN. And next week I think I'll have more on Felix Gonzalez-Torres @ Venice and all this.

4/25/2006 11:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Brian Sholis said...

Tyler, who's the "he" in your sentence? (Is amory blaine a he?) If it's me, I guess I should make another clarification. Few of my thoughts about this "trend" are well-formulated enough that I would put them out in public. I was, and for now am, only speaking about the Cady Noland exhibition. I look forward to reading more about Gonzlez-Torres.


4/26/2006 02:26:00 PM  
Blogger amory blaine said...

This trend of caring about artists' feelings is interesting and new. The other trend, however, of writing on things one hasn't seen, is not very new or interesting.

There's nothing complicated in wanting to make something contentious? It's a whole lot more complicated than serving up pablum, or offering something tried-and-true. What irritates me about some of these reactions is the knee-jerk argument of "wrongness". Are you offering that there is some objective "right"? Is that "rightness" comprised of adulation, supplication, inaction, and silent reverence?

No thanks, I don't go to that church.

And I would think that, like the Unauthorized Retrospective, this exhibition was done in the only way that triple candie could do it. In no time, with help from friends, and with very little money. I think that it's a tribute to the currency of her work that a group of people would go out of their way to make a gesture that would attempt to somehow fill the gap of her absence (a futile but encouraging effort) and bring her name out of their throats in a clear and ringing tone. More like a barbaric "Yalp" than Neil Simon's whispered "Cancer".

If anything, this show is an entreaty to Cady Noland. As much a curtain call as "Why We Should Talk About Cady Noland". It's just that it's not words, it's concrete. It's confusing. Damned ambivalent.

Looking at knock-offs is not interesting? Why not? Is it due to an overbearing sense of "the original", of some "authentic" experience? I think it is a reverence for a brand. Then there can be no satisfaction, even if the pieces were 1:1 exact replicas with no observable difference from the products straight from Ms. Noland's studio. What you're after is an interaction with your fetish object. This has absolutely nothing to do with the ideas behind Cady's work. You're only seeing what's not there. Like a petulent child who didn't get exactly what they wanted for Christmas, you're spoiling what fun is to be had for the rest of us. Mature. Adult. Human. Beings.

Boycott Triple Candie? That has got to be the most obscenely stupid thing I have ever heard. What are you going to do? Stop not giving them money? Stop not bringing all your friends to the openings? Stop not helping them install shows? Great. I can't wait to not see you around there anymore. With friends like you, who needs friends?

It saddens me to see fans and writers and critics displaying such a lack of flexibility when it comes to engaging the topic of replication, reproduction, approximation in absentia, ... alternative modes of production, folks. It's not like we haven't been here before. A million goddamn times.

What interests me is how exciting this feels. I haven't been this excited about a show and its ramifications in a very long time.

4/28/2006 06:09:00 PM  
Blogger amory blaine said...

My condemnation of the Triple Candie exhibition...

Seems like someone's drunk with power!

Drunk, I tell you! Drunk!

(Rudy? Is that you, Rudy?)

4/28/2006 07:18:00 PM  
Blogger amory blaine said...

"You got to go there to know there", I think Zora Neale Hurston said that.

4/30/2006 12:46:00 AM  
Blogger amory blaine said...

"I'll let you be in my dreams if I can be in yours", I said that.

4/30/2006 12:49:00 AM  
Anonymous Brian Sholis said...

Hi Amory,

Thanks for following up. I'm by no means drunk with power, as I have no power on which to be drunk--a fact I always keep in mind and one that informs (in varying degrees of consciousness) all of the things I say or write. A briefer response on my part, due to time limitations:

My "caring about the artist's feelings" stems from the ramifications of this exhibition on Noland's desire to continue making (and exhibiting) her own art. What gives me most pause about "CN Approximately" is not the questions of replication, reproduction, and approximately that it raises, but rather this--admittedly nebulous and arguable--negative impact on Noland's production. For those fans of her work who hold on to the hope that she may one day reverse course and exhibit, any narrowing of the horizon of possibility is painful. For this reason I still wish that this show had not taken its current form.

Nonetheless, I agree that the thorny issues brought up by this show are productive complications, ones both exciting and well worth thinking about. I don't, however, think that this was the "only way" Triple Candie could have put the exhibition together. For clarification's sake, I never suggested boycotting the show or that looking at knock-offs is not interesting; I believe those are responses to another person commenting on this post.

At this point I have to recuse myself from further posts on this thread, as I was traveling this weekend and have personal- and work-related obligations this week that will keep me from my usual blog-reading. If you'd like to continue this conversation, however, feel free to write me (my e-mail address is in the right-hand column of the site linked to this profile). I'd be happy to keep talking (although perhaps at a slower pace) . . . especially after I have seen the exhibition.


5/01/2006 12:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Brian Sholis said...

A postscript: Rarely does anything I "publish" on "In Search" provoke commentary, especially thoughtful critiques, so I appreciate your responses. Beyond making for interesting conversation, they are teaching me a very valuable lesson about maintaining a level of specificity with everything I post to my site.

5/01/2006 01:00:00 PM  
Blogger rockdot said...

"...need instead to stoke Noland's desire to collaborate with a gallery or institution on an exhibition of her own work.
(I misread this as STROKE). I don't know of an instance in which anyone has stoked Cady Noland's desire to collaborate with a ...whatever. She has, to the best of her ability, rightfully excercised her control over the exhibiton of her work. What she can't control is the exhibition of reproductions of her sculpture. CN Approx. (see the show!) is just that – an inventory of sculptural reproductions. What is this need to protect Cady Noland? She's a big girl with big work that more often than not articulates the "mean spirited, evil, agressive" side of American culture. More power to her – she's one of the best.
And don't fool yourself, in this art-on-art world, Cady Noland is a celebrity. As she said herself:
. . . I remember reading several interviews with Paul Newman where he talks about being treated like an object. Strangers want to walk up to him and prod him, vent feelings on him and knock on his surface to find out "who's home." When I think about celebrity that way I often think about Allan McCollum's surrogates, particularly the black and white plaster pictures.
Triple Candie and it's collaborating artists are responding to her work and to her postion.

5/02/2006 12:11:00 AM  

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