ARTBOOK LOGO

ARTBOOK BLOG

RECENT POSTS

DATE 10/18/2017

Into Words: Carroll Dunham speaks with Scott Rothkopf at The Whitney

DATE 10/18/2017

BACK IN STOCK! Karlheinz Weinberger: Swiss Rebels

DATE 10/17/2017

The 60s Satanism of Anton LaVey & Jayne Mansfield

DATE 10/16/2017

See pics from our 2017 AIGA pop-up bookstore!

DATE 10/16/2017

'Erwin Wurm: One Minute Sculptures' and the involuntary, inadvertent, unpredictable and idiotic

DATE 10/14/2017

Get your copy of the 2018 Toilet Paper monthly calendar!

DATE 10/13/2017

Ellen Lupton on Herbert Bayer's indelible Bauhaus 'universal' lettering

DATE 10/12/2017

Design Is Storytelling and other design favorites

DATE 10/12/2017

Ellen Lupton's 'Design Is Storytelling' releases next week. Preorder now!

DATE 10/11/2017

Remarkable midcentury photos from the Father of Iraqi Photography

DATE 10/10/2017

"I think painting is my sexual preference." Amy Sillman: The ALL-OVER

DATE 10/10/2017

Making Never Built New York: Discussion, Q+A & Book Signing at Queens Museum

DATE 10/10/2017

Holiday Gift Guide 2017: Weird and Wonderful Staff Favorites

DATE 10/9/2017

"Just having a body is a daily comedy." Amy Sillman: The ALL-OVER

DATE 10/9/2017

Holiday Gift Guide 2017: New York, New York

DATE 10/8/2017

From Andy to Mao Zedong: Damiani presents Jean Pigozzi's selfies, 1972–2016

DATE 10/8/2017

Holiday Gift Guide 2017: Rebels and Resistance!

DATE 10/7/2017

OG Selfie master Jean Pigozzi publishes "ME + CO" spanning 1972–2016

DATE 10/7/2017

Holiday Gift Guide 2017: For the Fashion Forward

DATE 10/6/2017

Jack Pierson to launch 'The Hungry Years' October 12 at SVA

DATE 10/6/2017

Ultraviolet light, crude oil baths and more in 'Holidays in Soviet Sanatoriums'

DATE 10/6/2017

For the Collector: Limited Editions & Catalogues Raisonnés

DATE 10/5/2017

For the cheeky Russophile, a Soviet design booklist

DATE 10/5/2017

Holiday Gift Guide 2017: For the Photographer and Photography Collector

DATE 10/5/2017

Could anyone not love "Holidays in Soviet Sanatoriums'?

DATE 10/4/2017

A photographer's revelation in "Joel Meyerowitz: Cézanne's Objects"

DATE 10/3/2017

Join Artbook @ AIGA National Conference, Minneapolis

DATE 10/3/2017

Holiday Gift Guide 2017: For the Design Devotee

DATE 10/3/2017

Courtesans, clients and codes in eighteenth-century Japanese tattoos

DATE 10/2/2017

Dive deep into the history of Japanese tattoos in this new gem from MFA Boston

DATE 10/2/2017

Holiday Gift Guide 2017: For the Art Lover

DATE 10/1/2017

From aviator glasses to yoga pants: MoMA's 'Items' asks, Is Fashion Modern?

DATE 10/1/2017

Holiday Gift Guide 2017: Stocking Stuffers

DATE 9/30/2017

What are the possible meanings of the Bucket Hat? MoMA reveals all in 'Items: Is Fashion Modern?'

DATE 9/29/2017

MoMA asks the question: Is Fashion Modern?

DATE 9/28/2017

Sory Sanlé on 'Les Afro-Pop'

DATE 9/27/2017

Sory Sanlé remembers 'Belle de Jour' in 'Volta Photo 1965–85'

DATE 9/26/2017

The wonderful recently discovered studio portraits of Sory Sanlé

DATE 9/25/2017

Artbook @ MoMA PS1 debuts new 2,000 square foot space at 2017 NYABF

DATE 9/25/2017

Watch Grace Coddington on Late Night with Seth Meyers

DATE 9/25/2017

Tell Me Something Good: Artist Interviews from the Brooklyn Rail Launches 9/26 at 192 Books

DATE 9/24/2017

The astonishing books and prints of Louise Bourgeois

DATE 9/22/2017

How we love the books and prints of Louise Bourgeois in MoMA's 'An Unfolding Portrait'

DATE 9/20/2017

Siglio to launch 'The Stampographer' at Spoonbill & Sugartown

DATE 9/20/2017

Black artist as superhero: Barkley L. Hendricks in 'Soul of a Nation'

DATE 9/17/2017

Join Artbook @ MoMA PS1 for signings and launch events at the NYABF

DATE 9/16/2017

What can we learn from 'Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power'?

DATE 9/11/2017

See inside Guantánamo Bay with Debi Cornwall's 'Welcome to Camp America'

DATE 9/10/2017

A 13-year-old star is born at the 1982 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix

DATE 9/9/2017

Catch Grace Coddington and Michael Roberts at the BOOKMARC GingerNutz launch today!

DATE 9/8/2017

Fashion Week Favorite: GingerNutz at The Met


BOOKS IN THE MEDIA

CORY REYNOLDS | DATE 9/30/2014

Termite Art: 'What Nerve: Alternative Figures in American Art' in NY Times

The New York Times' Ken Johnson writes, "In 1962 the film critic Manny Farber published the provocative essay White Elephant Art and Termite Art, in which he distinguished two types of artists: the White Elephant artist, who tries to create masterpieces equal to the greatest artworks of the past, and the Termite, who engages in 'a kind of squandering-beaverish endeavor' that 'goes always forward, eating its own boundaries and, likely as not, leaves nothing in its path other than signs of eager, industrious, unkempt activity.'"

Termite Art:
Above: a work by Gary Panter and Austin Corbin, from Near Extinction and Salvation of the American Buffalo (1981).

While White Elephant artists like Richard Serra, Brice Marden, Jeff Koons and a few other usually male contemporary masters still are most highly valued by the establishment, the art world’s Termite infestation has grown exponentially. They’re everywhere, male and female, busily burrowing in a zillion directions. They’re painting, drawing, doodling, whittling, tinkering and making comic books, zines, animated videos and Internet whatsits — all, it seems, with no objective other than to just keep doing whatever they’re doing.

Termite Art: 'What Nerve: Alternative Figures in American Art' in NY Times
Above: “Wow” (1968) by Jim Nutt.

Where did they come from? How did this happen? The history of White Elephant art is well known, that of Termite art much less so, which isn’t surprising given its furtive, centerless nature. So it’s gratifying to see a rousing exhibition at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum that blocks out a significant part of what such a history would entail. What Nerve! Alternative Figures in American Art, 1960 to the Present presents more than 180 paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs and videos by 29 artists whom Mr. Farber probably would recognize as Termites.

The show was organized by Dan Nadel, an independent curator, co-editor of The Comics Journal and author of books about comic-book history, in consultation with Judith Tannenbaum, the museum’s recently retired curator of contemporary art. In his introduction to the exhibition’s invaluably informative catalog, Mr. Nadel doesn’t refer to Farber’s zoological terminology, but he posits a similar set of oppositions. The show, he writes, “proposes an alternate history of figurative painting, sculpture and vernacular image-making that has been largely overlooked and undervalued relative to the canon of Modernist abstraction and Conceptual art.”


Termite Art: 'What Nerve: Alternative Figures in American Art' in NY Times
Above: "Show Girl I" (1969) by Karl Wirsum.

Specifically, the exhibition focuses on four groups of artists associated with as many different geographical regions: the six-artist group calling itself the Hairy Who, which exhibited in Chicago from 1966 to ’69; nine artists associated with the San Francisco-born trend known as Funk; the four art- and zine-producing members of the noise band Destroy All Monsters, which disturbed the peace in Ann Arbor, Mich., from 1973 to ’77; and Forcefield, a four-artist collective that made music, videos, sculptures, installations and colorful, knitted costumes in Fort Thunder, a former warehouse in Providence, R.I., from 1996 to 2003.

Termite Art: 'What Nerve: Alternative Figures in American Art' in NY Times
Installation view of Forcefield’s "Third Annual Roggabogga," Whitney Museum of American Art (2002).

Many artists in What Nerve! have had nationally and, in some cases, internationally visible careers: the Hairy Who’s Jim Nutt, Gladys Nilsson and Karl Wirsum; from Funk, the ceramicists Ken Price and Robert Arneson and the painters William T. Wiley and Peter Saul (represented here by a wacky 1966 sculpture of a man in an electric chair, one of the few 3-D works he made); and Mike Kelley and Jim Shaw of Destroy All Monsters. Forcefield (the Rhode Island school alumni Mat Brinkman, Jim Drain, Leif Goldberg and Ara Peterson) was exceptional in that it achieved national recognition during its own lifetime when the group was in the 2002 Whitney Biennial.

Termite Art: 'What Nerve: Alternative Figures in American Art' in NY Times
Above: "John Reed, Jim Shaw, Mike Kelley, Basement, God’s Oasis" (1975/2011) by Cary Loren.

The works in the exhibition, however, are from the times when the groups were active. (In the case of Funk, for which no self-selected group existed, Mr. Nadel picked pieces that were included in a 1967 show at the University of California, Berkeley, called “Funk,” which was organized by the curator Peter Selz.) This focus on early works catches the artists when they were young, feeding off the creative energies of their comrades and responding most nakedly to their historical times. It gives the show an exciting spirit of discovery that tends to fade when artists mature and peel off into their more individualized, professional careers.

Among the most poignant works are a set of finely made drawings of funny monsters on paperback-book-size cards by Mr. Kelley. These reveal his debt to Mad magazine, underground comics, the cartoonist Ed Roth (a.k.a. Big Daddy) and Mr. Nutt, whose bizarre portraits of imaginary characters painted on the reverse sides of plexiglass panels are also highlights. Mr. Kelley’s drawings show an intimate side of him that almost completely disappeared when he went on to his immensely influential career as a producer of conceptually and materially extravagant multimedia spectacles.

Termite Art: 'What Nerve: Alternative Figures in American Art' in NY Times
Above: "See America First" (1968) by H. C. Westermann.

Mr. Nadel has added to the show works by six artists who didn’t belong to any particular group but who influenced or were influenced by the group-affiliated artists. These include a suite of mordantly comical prints called “See America First” by the woodworking genius H. C. Westermann, who was revered by almost everyone else in the exhibition. There are elegantly erotic paintings by the Chicago Imagist Christina Ramberg and ribald, brusquely painted cartoon pictures by William Copley. The painter Elizabeth Murray, who came out of Chicago, is represented by two of her exuberant, Cubist spins on domestic chaos. A series of semiabstract paintings on paper by Gary Panter — the underground comic artist and designer for the TV show Pee-wee’s Playhouse — pertain to the extinction of the American buffalo. Most unexpected, there are Cubist-style watercolors portraying heroic imaginary characters and a complicated, panoramic picture of some kind of futuristic machinery by Jack Kirby, the comic-book artist who, along with the writer and editor Stan Lee, created the Fantastic Four, the X-Men and other popular superheroes.

Many more artists might have been included. R. Crumb has certainly been an inspiration for countless Termite-types. The Chicago painters Roger Brown and Ed Paschke would fit right in. San Francisco’s Mission School of the 1990s, which included Chris Johanson, Margaret Kilgallen and Barry McGee, would be another group worth adding, as would the collective around the video makers Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch. This is not to quibble, but to observe how suggestively the exhibition samples an extraordinarily lively history that’s been hiding in plain sight for half a century.
Termite Art: 'What Nerve: Alternative Figures in American Art' in NY Times
Termite Art: 'What Nerve: Alternative Figures in American Art' in NY Times

What Nerve!

What Nerve!

RISD MUSEUM OF ART/D.A.P.
Pbk, 8.75 x 10.5 in. / 368 pgs / 300 color.

$39.95  free shipping



ARTBOOK LOGO
 
 

the art world's source for books on art & culture

  

CUSTOMER SERVICE
orders@artbook.com
212 627 1999
M-F 9-5 EST

TRADE ACCOUNTS

800 338 2665

CONTACT

JOBS + INTERNSHIPS

NEW YORK
Showroom by Appointment Only
75 Broad Street, Suite 630
New York NY 10004
Tel   212 627 1999

LOS ANGELES
Showroom by Appointment Only
818 S. Broadway, Suite 700
Los Angeles, CA 90014
Tel. 323 969 8985

ARTBOOK LLC
D.A.P. | Distributed Art Publishers, Inc.


All site content Copyright C 2000-2017 by Distributed Art Publishers, Inc. and the respective publishers, authors, artists. For reproduction permissions, contact the copyright holders.

ARTBOOK AMPERSAT

The D.A.P. Catalog
www.artbook.com