Archive of RM Vaughan

RM has written 12 article(s) for AFC.

Posts by author:

RM Vaughan

No Paintings for Old Men: I’m Done With Amy Feldman

by RM Vaughan on February 24, 2017
Thumbnail image for No Paintings for Old Men: I’m Done With Amy Feldman

I have to hand it to NYC-based painter Amy Feldman: not every artist can cause me to temporarily lose the will to carry on writing and the energy to carry on chronicling our bankrupt, post-meaning culture. What, I wondered as I walked around the palatial Blain/Southern Gallery, is the damned point anymore? Confronted on all sides by Feldman’s aggressively vacuous, massive canvasses, I can’t even argue conclusively that Feldman’s work is good or bad. It operates so outside of any qualitative value scale that I understand—as if attacking the very idea of value—that it defeats all rational readings of art or art making. All I can do is respond. And respond I must.

Read the full article →

On Power: A Teachable Moment for the New Year

by RM Vaughan on January 3, 2017
Thumbnail image for On Power: A Teachable Moment for the New Year

The arts have a way, a particularly cruel way, of making sure everybody knows the pecking order and thus where to set their beaks, big and sharp or tiny and soft.

Read the full article →

Matthew Metzger’s Sweet Peace

by RM Vaughan on November 28, 2016
Thumbnail image for Matthew Metzger’s Sweet Peace

We live in terrible times. I need not explain that assertion. And while I do not subscribe to the reading of art as always and/or necessarily “therapeutic”, it would be silly of me to not acknowledge that art can be therapeutic, even healing. To wit, Matthew Metzger’s exhibition The Shade of a Line is the Xanax in my tea.

Metzger is a Chicago-based painter whose work tilts back and forth between neo-Minimalism and neo-Color Field. I normally have nothing good to say about Minimalist work, as I find such works have nothing to say (and, yes, that is reductive, but so is the style). However, in Metzger’s case, the paintings vibrate with buried colors and dreamy pools of semi-occluded light. They teem with an interior life that reminds me of staring into precious stones, of the first hues of the morning, of being less than lucid. Put plainly, Metzger’s paintings are pretty. Let us give thanks for prettiness in an ugly world.

Read the full article →

The Hellion is a Lonely Hunter (with apologies to Carson McCullers)

by RM Vaughan on October 27, 2016
Thumbnail image for The Hellion is a Lonely Hunter (with apologies to Carson McCullers)

After wandering through “Golem”, the Jewish Museum Berlin’s occasionally insightful but too often flat meditation on the fabled creature of medieval European-Jewish folklore, I was left with a curiously empty feeling. Hardly what one expects from an exhibition depicting a monster of such long-standing and resonant legend; a homunculus whose story has influenced all things horrific from Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein to Disney/Marvel’s evil robot Ultron to those adorably gangly “grey aliens”.

Read the full article →

Being Dieter Meier

by RM Vaughan on September 30, 2016
Thumbnail image for Being Dieter Meier

What becomes a near-legend best? A fresh new mantle of re-invention. Plus a few bitter truths held up to the baldest light.

Read the full article →

A Melancholic Stroll through the Sony Photography Awards

by RM Vaughan on September 7, 2016
Thumbnail image for A Melancholic Stroll through the Sony Photography Awards

Only a terribly mean person could find fault with the traveling edition of the annual Sony Photography Awards. As both a showcase of a specific kind of photographic venture (more on that in a moment) and, likely more to the point, a brand-enhancing exercise in “excellence” promotion, the exhibition does exactly what it promises and is devised to do.

The competition specializes in the subset of photography most of us identify with National Geographic Magazine and its world-of-wonders aesthetic.

I know that sounds snarky but I do not mean it that way. Everybody loves this kind of photography, me included, for a reason – it is lovely and provocative, a moment of otherness, of not us/not here viewed from a safe distance. I buy a lot of postcards, and I have no shame when it comes to finely focused close ups of adorable mammals with pink ears.

What prompted my unease after wandering around this exhibition was a strong feeling that in a half-generation or less, shows like the Sony Photography Awards will be, at best, retro-cute, or at worst antique and irrelevant.

Read the full article →

The Berlin Biennale: An Act of Passive Compliance

by RM Vaughan on June 28, 2016
Thumbnail image for The Berlin Biennale: An Act of Passive Compliance

Since the last Berlin Biennale, Europe has undergone a currency and debt crisis, watched far right political entities grow from obscure clusters of nutjobs into massive populist movements, dealt, badly, with the millions of people fleeing conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa, and been subjected to terrifying and brutal acts of terrorism by all manner of extremists.

In all of these crises, Berlin, the capital of the EU’s richest and most politically powerful country has played a central and keynote-determining role.

I can thus think of no better way, given the circumstances, to reinforce the popular perception that contemporary art has nothing to say about the world that surrounds it than by hiring the NYC-based fashion bloggers DIS to curate the ninth edition of the Berlin Biennale. I have rarely seen such a profound case of not giving the people what they want, of so many heads so far up so many assholes.

Just walk away, Berlin. Go have a strong drink. Read a good mystery novel. Take too much MDMA and pee your slacks. Sit in an empty room and cry. Do anything but waste 26 Euros on the Berlin Biennale.

Read the full article →

“When the Cat’s Away, Abstraction” Offers a Candy Store Gleefully Blown to Bits

by RM Vaughan on May 2, 2016
Thumbnail image for “When the Cat’s Away, Abstraction” Offers a Candy Store Gleefully Blown to Bits

Sometimes you happen upon an exhibition that is so bang-on in its intent and presentation that all you can do is stand back and admire its charms. Such is the lucky fate of anyone who wanders into “When The Cat’s Away, Abstraction”, a new group show highlighting works that begin from digital sources and end in traditional commodities.

Read the full article →

Just Looking: Stephen Shore at C/O Berlin Amerika Haus

by RM Vaughan on April 19, 2016
Thumbnail image for Just Looking: Stephen Shore at C/O Berlin Amerika Haus

Stopping in front of a Stephen Shore photograph is like being the horny one in a sexless marriage. It is frustrating, yes, but also strangely comforting, because you always know where you stand.

Read the full article →

In the Ring: Paul Pfeiffer at Carlier/Gebauer

by RM Vaughan on April 6, 2016
Thumbnail image for In the Ring: Paul Pfeiffer at Carlier/Gebauer

At least half the fun on any spectacle is the after-chat: the armchair philosophizing, the intention guessing, the interpretation, the endless acts of interpretation. The ancient Romans knew that much.

For instance, think of Beyonce’s recent Super Bowl performance, which is now generating MA theses, or Taylor Swift’s over-discussed Grammy speech, or, even more fleeting but just as worthy of spin-offs, that moment during the Golden Globes when Lady Gaga bumped into Leonardo Di Caprio – memes sprung up like freshly watered Sea Monkeys. (And, no, I hardly think it accidental that these three examples are all centred on people who present as female – women are still watched far more closely than men, because men still run the shows).

Paul Pfeiffer’s tri-part video installation, “Three Figures in a Room”, digs into this watch-analyse-watch again circle by distilling one world media event (a televised boxing match) to its core elements – sights and sounds.

Read the full article →