Powerful Babies at the Spritmuseum

Keith Haring’s creative impact was influential, and he broadly changed the model of what it means to be an artist. Today that model is not just coopted, it’s a memetic standard. But the curious thing about a successful meme is that when its impression becomes ubiquitous, the origin is often forgotten. Curators Bill Arning and Rick Herron grapple with this dilemma and attempt to bridge the gap between Haring’s work and legacy with the exhibition Powerful Babies: Keith Haring’s Impact on Artists Today at the Spritmuseum in Stockholm.

Powerful Babies: Keith Haring’s Impact on Artists Today, installation view, Spritmuseum, Stockholm. Courtesy of the Artists and Spritmuseum. Photo: A. Rompel.

Powerful Babies: Keith Haring’s Impact on Artists Today, installation view, Spritmuseum, Stockholm. (clockwise from bottom left) Joakim Ojanen. Sensitive Artist, 2015; ceramic sculpture; 26 x 12.6 x 7.9 in. (66 x 32 x 20 cm). Courtesy of the Artist and Galleri Thomassen, Gothenburg. Raul de Nieves. It’s My Party and I’ll Cry If I Want To, 2013; mixed media; 46.1 x 25.9 in. (117 x 66 cm). Courtesy of the Artist and LOYAL, Stockholm. Misaki Kawai. Smash Master, 2010; acrylic on canvas; 36 x 48 in. (91.4 x 122 cm); Courtesy of the Artist and LOYAL, Stockholm. Steven Evans. Dancing Was Our Pagan Rite (for K.H.), 2015; paint and vinyl lettering on wall; dimensions variable. Courtesy of the Artist. Photo: A. Rompel.

In his essay for the exhibition catalog, Arning makes two often-missed but brilliant points. First, to judge any one of Haring’s pieces as a discrete object is to miss the point, because the art object is a statement of its time. Haring’s work encapsulates a specific time in NYC’s youth-art-clubbing-activist-gay culture, and to fully appreciate it, one must consider the totality of that scene, in which art extended beyond the object and mixed with the realm of the everyday. (In addition to his paintings, Haring put his iconic line drawings on T-shirts, buttons, posters, billboards, and in magazines; in 1986, he opened the Pop Shop, a commercial venture that sold his images as everyday, affordable items.) Second, Arning points out that Haring’s oeuvre is easily contextualized in our present age of of Relational Aesthetics, which makes it difficult to comprehend the prejudice against the work during Haring’s life. Arning and Herron took the totality of Haring’s history, narrative, and methods, and used them as a framework for selecting the twenty-two artists in this exhibition.

Haring’s legacy is present in two ways: the literal and the memetic. The literal handles the ways in which artists have continued Haring’s strategy of physical expression, be that on a painting or a T-shirt. The memetic deals with the ways in which artists have absorbed and then pushed beyond Haring’s relational view of life-as-art-as-life. Powerful Babies focuses on the literal aspect, as it’s the more obvious of the two. However, some of the strongest works in the show take Haring’s relational strategy and fold it onto itself.

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Mexico City

Daniela Libertad: Empujo Puertas que Debería Jalar, Jalo Puertas que Debería Empujar at MARSO

In her solo show at MARSO, Empujo Puertas que Debería Jalar, Jalo Puertas que Debería Empujar [I Push Doors I Should Pull, I Pull Doors I Should Push], Mexican artist Daniela Libertad presents her latest works of sculptures, drawings, videos, objects, and photography. Libertad’s practice has been characterized by her explorations of space and material through relations, rituals, and repetitions. In her exhibition, every piece is anchored in these investigations with an almost imperceptible flow. The works establish a strong yet veiled connection between the association and transformation of their essence and functions, while underlining the limits and tensions of bodies and language.

Daniela Libertad. Diagrama 46 [Diagram 46], 2015; graphite on paper. Courtesy of MARSO.

Daniela Libertad. Diagrama 46 [Diagram 46], 2015; graphite on paper. Courtesy of MARSO.

Diagrama [Diagram] (2015), a series of twelve drawings, sets this initial dialogue around the placement of space with the exhibition’s recurring elements of monochromatic dimensions, perspectives and shadows in search of interconnected paths, and the brief and everyday, which are given importance. Made with graphite on paper, Libertad’s drawings evoke constructive geometries within a devoted process. The intensity of lines varies as the artist generates a deck of spatial possibilities. Whereas this universe seems calculated, firm, and steady, two adjacent photographs stand as counterweight, portraying natural elements in ephemeral circumstances. As its title remarks, Rama, Sombra [Branch, Shadow] (2015) captures a curvy tree branch that is balanced on the ground. Thanks to the branch’s arched position, the shadow projected against the pavement completes an oval. The photograph emphasizes the dichotomy between the present and the missing—an ambiguous feeling that lingers throughout the show.

Through the obsessive repetition of patterns and structures, Libertad confronts negative and positive space in a series of 196 drawings, Formas y Espacio [Shapes and Space] (2015). Pinned directly onto the gallery walls, the drawings are organized into pairs; contour line drawings of geometric compositions are paired with their counterparts, which reproduce the same shapes but with spaces filled in. The graphite is applied with such strength and intensity that it turns the paper into a thick, reflective surface. These layers bring a new focus on materiality by giving them volume.

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Help Desk

Help Desk: Self-Promotion

Help Desk is where I answer your queries about making, exhibiting, finding, marketing, buying, selling–or any other activity related to contemporary art. Submit your questions anonymously here. All submissions become the property of Daily Serving.

I’m an artist in [redacted city] and I just got a solo show at a little gallery. I have no idea how to promote it. I didn’t go to art school and I’m sort of feral, as in I don’t have a huge group of people to invite. I’m lost on how to market the show. I’ve made a list of some galleries and thought I would send them invitations, but where do I start?

Andy Warhol, People on the Street, ca. 1980. © Andy Warhol. Gift of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. RISD Museum, Providence, RI.

Andy Warhol. People on the Street, ca. 1980. Gift of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. RISD Museum, Providence, RI.

Congratulations! Marketing a show isn’t hard—it’s all about being organized and targeting the right people—and I’m happy to help. The first thing you need to do is read my 2013 column on writing a basic press release (and pay attention to the initial comment below the article, because it adds a good point that I forgot to mention). Once you’re done reading, draft your press release, have a few people give you some feedback, and revise accordingly.

Once the press release is done, you’ll need one to three images of the work that will be in the exhibition. The artwork should be well lit, in focus, and photographed against a white background. There shouldn’t be anything else in the frame; if you’re unfamiliar with the basics of documenting artwork, this four-minute video will be very helpful.

Now figure out to whom you will send the release and images. Your idea of making a list of galleries is perfect—and before you hit “send,” I want you to take a long, hard look at that list. Blasting a lot of strangers has rarely worked to anyone’s advantage, so ask yourself: Do these galleries exhibit work like yours? Are they likely to be interested? If yes, you’re cleared for takeoff. If no, take them off the list. And if you honestly feel there’s a compelling reason to contact them, make sure you’re sending the email with a personal note above the text of the press release: “I know you only represent artists from China, but I love your gallery and have been inspired by the work I’ve seen there over the last three years. I would be honored if you came to see my show.” (And since emailing galleries is a little like sending an application, read these tips on thinking strategically.)

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From the Archives

From the Archives – The Anti-Spectacle Generation

Today, in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we bring you Catherine Wagley’s review of the exhibition After 1968: Contemporary Artists and the Civil Rights Legacy. Following the author’s analysis of generational differences in attitudes towards protesting, it’s clear that although the featured artists came of age in a world devoid of Dr. King, the impact of his life’s work nonetheless resounded powerfully. This article was originally published on February 25, 2010.

Leslie Hewitt. Make it Plain (2 of 5), 2006.

L.A. Expanded: Notes from the West Coast
A weekly column by Catherine Wagley

The Pew Research Center caused a stir this week when it released a study portraying the Millennials, those who came of age during the first decade of the 21st Century, as the most even-tempered generation in recent history. Unlike the Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers, the Millennials have sidestepped almost all reactionary impulses. “They look at themselves and they say, ‘Our generation is quite different than our parents’ generation.’ But they don’t say it with any rancor,” Pew president Andrew Kohut told NPR’s Robert Siegel. “The only thing they criticize the older generation for is their lack of tolerance.”

This sounds suspiciously rosy, even toothless, as though, by some accident of history, a whole generation of nonjudgmental diplomats emerged at the exact moment the U.S. entered Iraq. But the Pew study has more bite to it than Kohut suggests. Refusing the spectacle of rebellion that your parents’ generation reveled in is another way of breaking history’s patterns.

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Body Politic: Jill J. Tan interviews Eiko Otake

Today from our friends at Guernica, we present an interview with performance artist Eiko Otake. Author Jill J. Tan writes, “Eiko embodies experiences in order to cultivate empathy in her audience. Within her, the maggot, the artist, and the political actor all agitate toward truth.” This article was originally published on December 1, 2015.

Photo: William Johnston. Courtesy of the Artist.

Photo: William Johnston. Courtesy of the Artist.

Eiko Otake dances with a stillness at once excruciating and exquisite. Her work is a negotiation of precision and flow, withdrawal and surge, shyness and exposure. For much of her career, she has danced as half of a duo, Eiko & Koma, with her partner in performance and life, Takashi Otake. Her first solo performance, which took place just last year, was titled A Body in Places; it has so far included “A Body in a Station,” put on at Manhattan’s Fulton Center, and “A Body in Fukushima,” a photo series in which Eiko’s movements are documented against a landscape made desolate by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. As Eiko notes in the following interview, “I am using my body as a constant.”

Eiko Otake and Takashi “Koma” Otake met in Tokyo in 1971 as students at an avant-garde theater company run by Tatsumi Hijikata, a choreographer and co-founder of the performance genre Butoh. Eiko and Koma’s partnership, which began as an experiment, has lasted for over forty years. They settled in New York in 1976 and toured often, performing at museums, theaters, and festivals. They also staged free, public outdoor performances to take their work beyond the confines of traditional art spaces. In 1996, they became the first collaborators to jointly receive a MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant.

Read the full article here.


New York

Marina Rosenfeld and Ben Vida at Fridman Gallery

It is a strange thing to sit in a room for an hour and experience two people producing something unrecognizable. When successful, the relationship between the audience and the performers depends on generosity and trust. We, the audience, trust that we will be entertained, and so we open ourselves to the possibilities of the experience. In exchange for our receptivity, they, the performers, abandon certainty and create. On January 6, 2016, Marina Rosenfeld and Ben Vida did just that. Emanating unselfconscious enthusiasm, Rosenfeld and Vida’s event kicked off Fridman Gallery’s inaugural edition of its New Ear Festival dedicated to sound and performance.

Marina Rosenfeld and Ben Vida. New Ear Festival, 2016 (performance still); sound performance. Courtesy of Fridman Gallery.

Marina Rosenfeld and Ben Vida. New Ear Festival, 2016 (performance still); sound performance. Courtesy of Fridman Gallery.

Forgoing any sensational visual effects, Rosenfeld and Vida stood behind two industrial tables, equipped with a modest array of electronic devices and illuminated by comfortably dim lighting. Despite their similarly minimalist setups, each performer interacted with her or his materials with distinctly different approaches. Rosenfeld, who used a pair of turntables, a mixer, and a stack of vinyl records, danced around like Mickey Mouse as the sorcerer’s apprentice in Fantasia. Her movements evoked the cartoon mouse’s theatrical gesturing and delight at realizing he could make the objects and elements do his bidding—though she didn’t meet a disastrous end. Vida, meanwhile, bent with concentration over his mixer and modular synthesizer as he adjusted knobs amid an eruption of wires.

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Galeria Piwna 20/26 Emilia and Andrzej Dłużniewski 1980–1993 at Galeria Monopol

Galeria Piwna 20/26 Emilia and Andrzej Dłużniewski 1980–1993 at Monopol provides a rare glimpse into the history of an influential apartment gallery that operated in Warsaw for thirteen years. From the imposition of Martial Law through the collapse of the Berlin Wall and beyond, the Dłużniewskis exhibited artworks by Polish and international post-conceptual artists. The retrospective exhibition at Monopol resonates with an uneasy timeliness: Given the prevailing political conditions in Poland, this sort of clandestine space could become a necessity once again.


Galeria Piwna 20/26 Emilia and Andrzej Dłużniewski 1980-1993, 2015; installation view, Galeria Monopol, Warsaw. Courtesy of Galeria Monopol.

Last October’s election placed the PiS party (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość, or Law and Justice) into power in the Sejm (lower house) and Senate (upper house) of the Polish parliament. Their 235 seats allow them to bypass a coalition government and form a supermajority that can amend the country’s constitution; with President Andrzej Duda—also from PiS—as the head of state, they are effectively unstoppable. In the last two months alone, the new government has neutered the Constitutional Court (the only authority able to declare laws unconstitutional), and enacted a purge of public media, dismissing the executives of all public radio and televisions stations. The new culture minister attempted to ban the production of a play, and foreign minster Witold Waszczykowski said, “…a new mix of cultures and races […] has nothing to do with traditional Polish values.”

These recent developments sit in the shadow of Martial Law, which banned non-religious meetings, authorized the “preventative detention” of “suspicious persons,” and placed the media under military management from 1981 to 1983—a history that supplies a chilling perspective on Galeria Piwna 20/26 Emilia and Andrzej Dłużniewski 1980–1993.[1] The exhibition at Monopol takes the form of both original works in Piwna’s collection as well as ephemera accumulated over the course of its lifespan. Galeria Piwna 20/26 conducted its operations through a network of friends and word of mouth, though the public was always welcome. Like many apartment galleries, it did not keep regular hours; often shows were up only for a few days, which meant that the openings (which frequently included performances) were the central event, a way to not only show art that might not be otherwise seen, but to bring people together. Most importantly, the gallery created a non-institutional space in which to oppose the circulation of propaganda and the kinds of culture associated with and sanctioned by the Communist authorities.

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