POST BY PADDY JOHNSON
Marina Abramovic, Art must be Beautiful, Artist must be Beautiful, 1976, video still
I’m giving a talk at RISD tonight so I’ll be out of commission for the most of today and tomorrow. Two unrelated comments before I leave:
- Yesterday’s panel discussion on New Media at the New Museum left me frustrated. The presentation was decidedly low-fi (no Internet, no working phones, no images, no computers), and the conversation frequently broke down into who was going to be the “old fuddy duddy” or duddress in the group. The low point occurred when woman in the audience complained that new media people maintained an air of arrogance and superiority, conflating artists with tech guys. Next time I’m on a panel for an audience like this, we’ll need to start out with some basic definitions
- On Monday I said the following tweet prompted quite a few responses over facebook: Question from last night’s closing party @postmasters. Is there a well-known unattractive artist who regularly performs naked?
This question came up because it’s almost impossible not to remark on Marina Abramovic’s beauty while visiting her show. As I mentioned Sunday night, I suspect we simply remember the good looking artists better: Instincts are defining.
I won’t bother going into the whole thread, which covered, amongst other topics, whether porn star Ron Jeremy is an artist. (I think we can look to the Gaga thread to answer those questions.) Jerry Saltz posted an excerpt from review he wrote in 2004 though worth a read through. I don’t have time to discuss the article, but the Richard Prince Vito Acconci exchange is priceless!
“Vito Acconci: Diary of a Body 1969-1973,” Apr. 3-May 1, 2004, at Barbara Gladstone Gallery, 515 West 24th Street, New York, N.Y. 10011.
It’s rarely mentioned that many of the artists who get naked for their work have great bodies. Hannah Wilke was a beauty, Lynda Benglis a babe and Carolee Schneemann, Karen Finley and Annie Sprinkle all show their big breasts as often as possible. Janine Antoni is gorgeous and Claude Wampler is cute. Andrea Fraser, who fobs off her naked-ness as “institutional critique,” is notable mostly for her round rear end.
Women aren’t the only ones. It’s hard to imagine Chris Burden’s early work without envisioning his sweet, baby-seal-like body, or Matthew Barney’s art without enjoying his good looks. Even the once spongy Jeff Koons got buff for his close-up with Cicciolina. There are exceptions, though, mainly on the male side. In addition to the multiple love handles of Paul McCarthy and the geezerliness of John Coplans, there are the pigeon toes, knock-knees and chunky thighs of that Keith Richards-Johnny Cash-Quasimodo of the art world, our own Man in Black, Vito Acconci.
To me, Acconci is a hero, and not just for his ultra-radical work. He’s proof that an “unconventionally attractive” man, as I prefer to call him, can be a sex symbol. Acconci is sexy not because he’s beautiful but because he’s cool, passionate and smart. Like Bob Dylan, his beauty isn’t easy, although his droning, stuttering voice, like Dylan’s bitter one, helps. In 1990, an interviewer asserted that Acconci had “the most charismatic voice in the art world.” The following year, Richard Prince asked him, “You really think you would have been able to fuck anyone without it?” to which Acconci answered, “That’s probably exaggerated,” then conceded that his voice is the kind that “lulls you through a dark, disturbed night. . . promising intimacy, sincerity, integrity, maybe some deep, dark secret.” …