Radical Statements: Four Reviews by Laurie Anderson

Anderson. ©TIM KNOX



During the early ’70s, Laurie Anderson was a mainstay in this magazine’s reviews section, often writing several reviews every issue. With her criticism receiving a shoutout from Alanna Heiss in MoMA PS1’s exhibition “Forty,” below are four reviews by Laurie Anderson from the ARTnews archives.

“Reviews and Previews”
December 1971

Elaine Sturtevant’s [Reese Palley] Studies for De Maria’s “New York Is Shit” is a series of large framed pieces of paper. “New York Is Shit” is penciled in longhand on one of them. “Tel Aviv Is Shit” is written on another. A third reads “Cologne Is Shit.” London, Paris, and Rome are also cited. Aside from possibly recognizing the truth of these statements, the up-to-date viewer (that is, reader) will also recognize the format as being an exact replica of a set recently done by Walter De Maria. Sturtevant is, of course, known for some of her earlier Pop Art replications—Jasper Johns flags, Andy Warhols, Frank Stellas, etc., and most spectacular of all, her mid-’60s re-creation, almost exactly in situ on the Lower East Side, of Oldenburg’s elaborate object-filled Store. Aside from the fact that art pilfering is usually more or less subtle and this exact duplication sets the practice in bold relief, Sturtevant has taken an extreme position in her attempt to free a particular idea from the name of its originators. Visually, the De Maria series is fairly dull. As a reaction to “brand-name” styles, it is a radical statement.

“Reviews and Previews”
February 1972

John Cage’s [Jackson] “Not Wanting to Say Anything About Marcel” has been described at length in these pages (Jan ’70). The “plexigrams” (executed in collaboration with designer Calvin Sumison) are elegantly worked, eight-decked sheets of plastic. The forms and letters on each seem to be suspended in a free space where the images are superimposed. The oblique references to things like Duchamp’s film Anemic Cinema and Large Glass seem to be an attempt to catch up with what Duchamp called his “delay in glass.” However, according to the laws of chance (given Duchamp’s reputation) his domestication into the realms of taste (if not intelligibility) was probable. In this context, Cage’s original scores, also in this exhibition, seemed to have more impact. Pages from his notebooks are concrete poems with notes that have been freed from their staves to float over the pages. Cage has paid homage to Duchamp but, perhaps by chance, his material work has more to do with Duchamp than his handsome but rather conventional experiments in graphics.

“Reviews & Previews”
December 1972

At Sonnabend, William Wegman showed photographs and videotapes of his studio hijinks. The photographs included Beauty Contest; 1st place; Hobbies: tennis, skating, housework; 2nd place; Hobbies: traveling and disguises, in which a woman doing an arabesque on skates holds an iron in one hand and a tennis racquet in the other while Wegman—in fake beard and dark glasses—walks by with a suitcase. There are also several superimposed photographs of his dog. Funnier than these—in a strictly deadpan way—are the videotapes. Wegman is a diabolically brilliant one-man situation comic. There are dialogues in which the camera focuses only on his mouth, to create two totally different characters. There is a song “sung” by his navel (which becomes an open mouth when his stomach is puffed out and a smirk when it is sucked in); there are a nose dance and a speech given by a “mental patient” whose mouth froze into a smile after electric shock treatments. Several sequences in which Wegman’s dog wears a long cloak and seems to be following an invisible tennis match are pretty funny. Unfortunately, like daytime TV, once you get into the punchline rhythms of the gags, they tend to get a little stock.

“Reviews & Previews”
March 1973

Lynda Benglis, best known for her sculptures in polyurethane foam, shows five videotapes at Paula Cooper (to March 10). In Noise, the faces of five friends are incidental to the play of static, snow and varying densities of dots and lines coupled with street sounds that determine (and undermine) quickly comprehensible audio-tactile space. Images are taped, played on the monitor, retaped, replayed, etc. until the image is removed several times. In Face Tape and On Screen, Benglis makes faces (à la Nauman), then retapes the tape several times so that several simultaneous images appear in varying degrees of clarity and intensity.In Home Tape, Revised, Benglis recorded family situations making use of instant replay and a subsequent commentary on the action—a kind of deadpan interior monologue. Precisely controlled and modulated, Benglis’s tapes work on several formal descriptive levels simultaneously.

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