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Reviews

Post-Pickle Surprise: Tracing the Influence of Tom Rubnitz at Anthology Film Archives

by Emily Colucci on August 22, 2016
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Even if you don’t know the name of the director or the glitter-covered club kid stars, you’re probably familiar with Tom Rubnitz’s viral video “Pickle Surprise.” With over two million views and counting, the Internet granted the East Village filmmaker a prolonged afterlife. (He died in 1992 due to complications from AIDS.) After inadvertently connecting with a new generation of YouTube viewers, what is the legacy of Rubnitz’s fast-paced, TV-drenched brand of cinematic camp on today’s filmmakers and artists?

This question was explored on Sunday, August 14 in a whirlwind of videos and films at the Anthology Film Archives, courtesy of a screening organized by Dirty Looks’ Bradford Nordeen. The videos ran the gamut from literal reinterpretations to subtle references to Rubnitz’s films. Barry Morse’s “Ookie Cookie” combined tropes from “Pickle Surprise” and its sequel “Strawberry Shortcut” into an obsessively direct tribute to Rubnitz’s queer psychedelic vision while Brice Dellsperger’s “Body Double 34” featured transgender models on magazine covers maddeningly lip-synching dialogue from My Own Private Idaho. Overall, Rubnitz’s lineage appeared in the form of copious drag queens, shocks of color, media-soaked imagery and an over-the-top hallucinatory style.

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Black Is and Black Ain’t in Pace Gallery’s “Blackness in Abstraction”

by Emily Colucci on August 18, 2016
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“Black is and black ain’t.” Walking through Pace Gallery’s current exhibition Blackness in Abstraction, I began to think about that title line from Marlon Riggs’s final film—taken from the prologue of Ralph Ellison’s novel Invisible Man. Even more than the pervasive “Black is beautiful,” this curiously ambiguous phrase hints at the multitude of meanings, voices, and questions surrounding blackness in the exhibition.

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You Say You Want “A Static Revolution” At One Art Space

by Emily Colucci on August 15, 2016
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Is digital art alone a complex and multifaceted enough curatorial theme for a group exhibition in 2016?

The medium has undergone a lot of changes in the last few years. The employment of digital methods is now so widespread that it’s almost unavoidable in the contemporary art field. Perhaps because of this, an exhibition based solely on the use of digital manipulations seems redundant.

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O / U at P! And Room East

by Rob Goyanes on August 11, 2016
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Two galleries, P! and Room East—located about five blocks from each other, respectively in Chinatown and the Lower East Side—came together for a group show titled O / U. That’s shorthand for “over-under,” which may refer to the sports wager where you bet on the combined score in a game. The text for the exhibition suggests it may also refer to “a complicated sexual position, a type of double barrel shotgun,” or the formal qualities of overprinting or undercutting. Of course, overall, it suggests that the conceptual layering is heaavy, though the two galleries are spare and clean and contemporary looking.

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HIV/AIDS Goes Art History In “Art AIDS America” At The Bronx Museum

by Emily Colucci on July 29, 2016
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What is lost when HIV/AIDS becomes art history? A lot, as it seems.

As HIV/AIDS gets revisited by a slew of recent exhibitions, books and films, the real continued emotional impact of the disease is in danger of being replaced by a distant historical interest. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Bronx Museum’s current exhibition Art AIDS America.

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This Is the Last Week to See Philip Guston at Hauser & Wirth, if That’s Your Thing

by Michael Anthony Farley on July 26, 2016
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How many nearly-identical Philip Guston paintings do you need in one show? If you answered more than 50, but less than 100, be sure to head to Hauser & WIrth before Painter, 1957 – 1967 closes on Friday.

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The Spiritual Failure of Tony Oursler’s “Imponderable”

by Rhett Jones on July 22, 2016
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Is there a secret, intertwined history that ties together mass media, spiritualist con artists, pulp fiction and the unreliability of the image? Tony Oursler’s “Imponderable” would like you to think so. The multimedia artist’s latest work (on at MoMA through January 8th, 2017) is a 90-minute immersive video experience that attempts to draw connections between all of those topics as well as his own familial autobiography and other threads that relate to his collection of spiritualist memorabilia. Unfortunately, when the work seems to come close to solidifying a thematic relationship between the various subjects on its mind, it tends to feel a bit like a magician clumsily employing misdirection. The audience sees a hat, a beautiful assistant and a rabbit up the sleeve, but no magic.

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Hoarding For History: “The Keeper” At The New Museum

by Emily Colucci on July 22, 2016
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I wonder what the crew of A&E’s guilty pleasure Hoarders would say about the New Museum’s recently opened exhibition The Keeper. With four floors of artists’ obsessions, the collecting impulse on view is more manic and compulsive than merely an academic archival interest. In fact, the exhibition looks a lot like the aftermath of a Hoarders Anonymous meeting.

Before attending the group exhibition, I expected the show might too easily and predictably engage with the current archival trend in contemporary art. I’m so glad I was wrong–I wasn’t looking forward to donning white gloves to paw through precisely organized archival boxes.

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Say Yes To Death With Rachel Stern At Black & White Gallery/Project Space

by Emily Colucci on July 20, 2016
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Why does the division between life and death always seem narrower in the American South? Maybe it’s the prevalence of ghost stories or just the spooky imagery of Spanish moss hanging from a live oak tree.

Rachel Stern delves into this tenuous Southern boundary between life and death in her current solo exhibition Yes, Death at Black & White Gallery/Project Space. And what could be more emblematic of the transition into the afterlife than cemeteries?

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Not an Alternative: “FORTY” at MoMA PS1

by Emily Colucci on July 13, 2016
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Can alternative spaces and their anti-institutional goals ever be faithfully represented inside a museum? If MoMA PS1’s current exhibition FORTY is any indication, the answer is a definitive no.

What makes this realization even more awkward is that in this show, the alternative space and institution are one and the same. As its name suggests, FORTY honors the 40th anniversary of PS1 by looking back to its first exhibition Rooms. The show, like Rooms, is organized by Alanna Heiss who founded PS1 in 1976. The former alternative arts space was just one project launched under Heiss’ nonprofit Institute for Art and Urban Resources Inc.

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