Spread about a large rear gallery at the Bronx Museum, this exhibition surveys various bodies of work by the Argentine American artist Jaime Davidovich. At the entrance of the show, alongside the explanatory wall text, a small monitor atop a pedestal plays the video that lends the exhibition its title, Adventures of the Avant-Garde. In this 1981 short loop, Davidovich takes on a role that was familiar to him: the quasi-documentarian, the ad hoc journalist, the inquisitive artist with a camcorder. We see Davidovich, clad in a private investigator’s tan trench coat and holding a wired microphone, foray into the world, in search of the meaning of the aspirational term avant-garde. Taking his quest for knowledge to the streets of Iowa City (of all unlikely places), Davidovich speaks with an artist, a professor, a museum security guard, and people on the street. At the end of the roughly ten-minute video clip, Davidovich admits to being “more confused now than ever.”
Adventures of the Avant-Garde provides an apt title for this survey of Davidovich’s work. Taken primarily from the 1970s and ’80s, the works in the exhibition offer a portrait of the artist: an adventurer with an idiosyncratic vision, a quick sense of irony, and a populist approach to artistic practice. Davidovich is also remembered as Dr. Videovich, his mad-scientist, television-obsessed alter ego, who anchored the long-running public-access TV show The Live! Show. In terms of the art world, Davidovich was an early and eager adopter of the televisual, capturing The Live! Show weekly between 1977 and 1974 and helping to form both Cable SoHo and the Artists’ Television Network. Hosting his half-hour variety show while seated behind the red nameplate of Dr. Videovich—“a specialist curing TV addiction”—Davidovich hosted artists, performers, and comedians; sold television-related trinkets (“videokitsch”); took viewers’ phone calls; and discussed everything from art to contemporary politics, all through the same speculative, somewhat distorted point of view.