ARTBOOK LOGO

ARTBOOK BLOG

RECENT POSTS

DATE 3/24/2019

Celebrating Tintoretto through the eyes of John Ruskin

DATE 3/23/2019

Exhibition of the decade 'Soul of a Nation' opens at The Broad

DATE 3/22/2019

Honoring Yoko Ono

DATE 3/21/2019

Productive agitation and passionate enthusiasm in 'Gio Ponti: Archi-Designer'

DATE 3/20/2019

Vince Aletti signing 'The Disco Files' in the MoMA PS1 Book Space during Come Together Music Festival and Label Market

DATE 3/20/2019

An entire galaxy of romantic whims in 'Ralph Eugene Meatyard: Stages for Being'

DATE 3/19/2019

Mind-unbending 'Spectacle of Illusion' excerpted in the 'Financial Times.' Pre-order now!

DATE 3/18/2019

Revisiting the most spectacular unsolved art heist of all time with Kota Ezawa's 'The Crime of Art'

DATE 3/17/2019

'Mary Swanzy: Voyages' revives a pioneer of Irish Modernism

DATE 3/16/2019

'Charles James: The Couture Secrets of Shape' talk and signing at FIT

DATE 3/15/2019

Not a boring word or image to be found in 'Walks to the Paradise Garden: A Lowdown Southern Odyssey'

DATE 3/14/2019

Embracing the Nude: Reilly Davidson on Kanye West's 'Yeezy Season 6' Zine

DATE 3/14/2019

Celebrate Lars Müller's new Bauhaus facsimile publications at the Schindler House, West Hollywood

DATE 3/13/2019

Radical intimacy in 'Araki: Impossible Love'

DATE 3/13/2019

Come to the Artbook @ MoMA PS1 Fifth-Annual Bookstore Stoop Sale: The Biggest Yet!

DATE 3/12/2019

Genre-redefining survey 'Landscape Painting Now' releases this month. Pre-order now!

DATE 3/11/2019

High design humor in 'The Danish Chair'

DATE 3/9/2019

Lars Müller's 'Bauhaus Journal' facsimile edition is a landmark in design publishing

DATE 3/9/2019

Artbook at Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles presents Tosh Berman and Claudia Bohn-Spector on 'TOSH: Growing Up in Wallace Berman's World'

DATE 3/8/2019

Love, pain, food, art and longing in Dorothy Iannone's 1969 Cookbook

DATE 3/7/2019

At last, Dorothy Iannone's suggestive and confessional—yet totally legit—1969 cookbook is available in this facsimile edition

DATE 3/7/2019

Remembering Carolee Schneemann

DATE 3/6/2019

Chaos and affirmation in 'Louise Bourgeois: Spiral'

DATE 3/5/2019

The anatomical drawings of Leonardo da Vinci, published upon the quincentennial of his death

DATE 3/4/2019

"Transcendental homelessness" in 'Siah Armajani: Follow This Line'

DATE 3/3/2019

Celebrate Women's History with this landmark survey of Graciela Iturbide’s Mexico photographs

DATE 3/2/2019

We're celebrating Women's History Month with Graciela Iturbide

DATE 3/2/2019

'Dirk Denison 10 Houses' conversation & book launch at Artbook at Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles

DATE 3/1/2019

Celebrate the end of Black History Month and the beginning of Women's History Month with 'Betye Saar: Uneasy Dancer'

DATE 3/1/2019

Just a few of the women who have blown our minds—in celebration of Women's History Month, 2019

DATE 2/28/2019

Unstoppable genius in Jason Moran

DATE 2/27/2019

A new, expanded edition of Hiroshi Sugimoto's classic 'Seascapes'

DATE 2/26/2019

Dafi Kühne Book Signing and Conversation with Lars Müller and Gloria Kondrup at Arcana

DATE 2/26/2019

Jean-Philippe Delhomme to launch 'Artists' Instagrams' at Bookmarc NYC

DATE 2/26/2019

Black Dada, Malcolm X and the refusal of representation in 'Adam Pendleton: Our Ideas'

DATE 2/25/2019

Spitfire muses in Mickalene Thomas's 'I Can't See You Without Me'

DATE 2/23/2019

Tapping in to Jacob Lawrence’s seminal series on the #GreatMigration for Black History Month 2019

DATE 2/23/2019

Artbook @ MoMA PS1 presents Tosh Berman and Andrew Lampert on Growing Up in Wallace Berman’s World

DATE 2/22/2019

Printed Matter book party for Eileen Quinlan, Ed Steck & Robert Fitterman

DATE 2/22/2019

The work of Gordon Parks is, in fact, a celebration of Black History

DATE 2/21/2019

Piotr Uklanski to sign 'Pornalikes' at Dashwood

DATE 2/21/2019

In memory of our friend and colleague, Xavier Barral

DATE 2/21/2019

Adam Pendleton reading and signing at Mast

DATE 2/20/2019

The world has lost a legend in Karl Lagerfeld (1933–2019)

DATE 2/19/2019

Celebrate today's Supermoon with 'The Moon: From Inner Worlds to Outer Space'

DATE 2/18/2019

Celebrating Presidents Day with 'Photographs of Abraham Lincoln'

DATE 2/17/2019

Get 'Mike Kelley: 99,9998% Remaining' at our Frieze Los Angeles bookstore

DATE 2/16/2019

Dennis Scholl, Kareem Tabsch & Brett Sokol present 'Shtetl in the Sun' & 'The Last Resort' at The Coral Gables Art Cinema, FL

DATE 2/16/2019

Shtetl in the Sun. What's not to love?

DATE 2/15/2019

We are smitten by Atelier Editions' 'An Atlas of Rare & Familiar Colour'

DATE 2/14/2019

Love & Hate & Other Mysteries


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