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Karen Archey on Christopher Williams: Screw your concerns with the hegemony of clean drywall


View of Christopher Williams, “For Example: Dix-Huit Leçons Sur La Société Industrielle (Revision 19),” David Zwirner, New York, 2014.

In Art-Agenda’s most recent review, Karen Archey speculates on Christopher Williams’s radical drywall at David Zwirner.

She writes:

Do you think any collectors were bothered by the raw, open drywall and exposed electric wiring at Christopher Williams’s newest exhibition at David Zwirner? Or did they read it as a bad-boy “fuck you” without actually feeling insulted? Did they read it as Christopher Williams probably intended, as a savant gesture referencing the institutional critique strategies of his mentor Michael Asher, who made work during a time in which manipulating a gallery’s architecture was actually a radical gesture? Do you remember the time in Sex and the City that Charlotte meets a movie star in her gallery and he confuses the fire extinguisher for contemporary art?

Wait—cringe! I forgot mass-appeal pop culture isn’t in-the-know enough to be considered a salient reference in a contemporary art criticism context, even if it’s poking fun of the art world’s need-to-knowness, and especially not if it’s a television show detailing the lives of “basic” women. Intentionally raw walls okay; Sex and the City references not okay. Got it.

You probably get what I’m going for here. There are certain radical gestures—walking around nude in full body paint at an art fair, making monochrome paintings, or performative alterations in the gallery space, for example—that through time have become so prescribed that they’re really not subversive at all, but are still created with the expectation of an earthshattering, slack-jawed reception. These practices are both narcissistic and impotent.

Read the rest of the review on Agenda here.

Anyone else have thoughts about importing institutional critique into the gallery?