The Orange and the Grey…

During the summer I will be posting chunks of research for a series of articles I would like to write, a series of long narrative essays about the New York art world since Andy Warhol’s death. Rather than attempting to catalogue the entire history I will zero in on a few key moments, try to describe them in as much, and as realistic detail as possible and then unpack why these moments are important. The first is about relational aesthetics and Rikrit Tiravanija’s Untitled (1992) Free . Relational aesthetics bother me, and I don’t quite understand why, so my first stab at this will attempt to unravel where this discomfort comes from.

From ArtNet - image by David Zwirner Gallery

Here’s a skeleton of an article I’m writing…

* When Dinner Tore Art from the Walls *

SoHo has since molted and shed all but a few select morsels of grime, but in 1992, five years after Andy Warhol had died, the old manufacturers’ cast iron pillars looked as if they were about to topple, needle-drug-users still nodded off in the alleyways, and there were real live artists living and working in the lofts above. Galleries too. But the art on display in those was wanting for something vital. (TKTK quote) Money was one of the reasons why. Prices had soared during the 1980s. Various crazes had swollen and crested bringing with them a glut of mediocre imitators; and then the market collapsed, (tktk proof) wiping out the small timers and scaring the established. By 1992 prices had yet to recover. (tktk somethign about art prices being X fraction of what they used to betktk) But there was more than a lack of money haunting New York’s art scene. It was bleaker and darker and more dangerous than that. Andy [Warhol] was dead. Basqiat died a few months later. Keith Haring had died in 1990. AIDS was devastating New York’s gay community ; artists were murdering one another (TKTK art murders club murders race riots); violent crime levels were peaking and everything, everyone in the community was obsessed with money, gloom and death – and it seemed like all the art work reflected this.

((examples of said art work – Peter Halley, Kiki Smith, hard edged geometric abstraction and weird relationships with the human body – like bottles of aids blood; also something about the Brits – Damien Hirst et al were all graduating Goldsmith’s around then))

On a Thursday afternoon gallery crawlers snaking their way through SoHo’s 89 Greene Street caught a whiff of something strange but… rich, complex and delicious. (TKTK quote) As they made their way around the tight columns on the xx floor toward the 303 Gallery they saw, not a white walled gallery but a small Asian man stirring a tureen of bubbling yellow curry and rice steaming in large pots, and the gallery itself was… nothing, just filled with garbage bins and filling cabinets and people clutching TKTKTTK and swallowing chunks of warm, nutritious curry. Strangest of all, this warm, nutritious food was free. They were ladling out to anyone who wanted any…

((interview with attendees))

From here I would like to talk to people who attended the dinners – i.e. was the food any good, what was the scene around it, how special of a moment was it…

Then I will talk about what the work means:

(analysis of the work then – what it meant in 1992)

-an inversion of an art gallery, back office stuff items pushed forward into the gallery space, back office converted into a makeshift galley which served Thai food

-meaning nutrition etc. moved forward again… against the idea of body as an abstraction or the abstract relationship with the body that abstract art has

-the food was free, anyone could sit at the same table as the artist… hierarchies destroyed, the marketplace pushed away

-mocking Andy Warhol’s factory, mimicking Gordon Matta-Clark

-the creation of community, the dinner as a communal thing creating a community

After talking about what the work meant then, I’d try to ground it with a little historical context:

(historical context))

Yves Klein: Blue Monochrome (MoMA - New York)
(Photo courtesy of Sergio Calleja)

-long history of intervening in the body – Yves Klien once handed out cocktails laced with methylene blue, a chemical which dyed gallery-goers pee blue

how Rirkrit staged the project again and again, altering things slightly, hiring surrogates, playing with racial and social dynamics

– the 2007 recreation of the project

((then my sort of spin on what relational aesthetics has done))

– the naïve painting that followed (e.g. his ex-wife Elizabeth Peyton who painted faux teenage rock stars etc)

-how relational aesthetics was corrupted by/contributed to the institutionalization of art

– identity politics in art

-how it hurt abstraction

End on a dinner scene of some sort

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