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Daniel Baird

DANIEL BAIRD is a writer on art, culture, and ideas based in Toronto, Canada. He is the former art editor for the Brooklyn Rail.

Some Formative Moments in the First Decade of the Rail

I must confess, I don’t remember the exact moment when I named the Brooklyn Rail. It was 1998, and Ted and I were on the L train back to Brooklyn.

Kiki Smith: Prints, Books & Things

In the early 1990s, I entered a downtown gallery and encountered a female nude fashioned from beeswax, down on all fours, a tail of intestines or shit trailing out onto the floor from her anus. The figure was crawling, desperate and humiliated but ferociously aggressive, and yet the pale, translucent wax also had a lyricism and sensuality that seemed to invoke Eva Hesse’s late work in latex.

Between The Eyes: Essays on Photography and Politics

One Sunday morning I opened the New York Times Magazine and encountered a full two-page photograph of a refugee camp in Burundi. The image hit me like a sudden, terrible, hot gust of wind

Processing Space

Entering the austere, monumental main corridor of the Ace Gallery in Tribeca, one immediately hears bursts of static, snatches of tinny, garbled voices, and high-frequency whines. The noises roll and stutter down the hall, punctuated by silences, like one of John Cage and David Tudor’s wonderfully erratic live performances. Keith Sonnier’s "Scanners" (1975), an earlier incarnation of which was purchased by Andy Warhol and installed in the entrance to The Factory, consists of six radio scanners tuned to various frequencies.

Allegories of Debris

In his spectacular installation in the fall of 2002, Swiss artist and intellectual provocateur Thomas Hirschhorn literally transformed Barbara Gladstone Gallery’s pristine, white, spacious interior into a claustrophobic shanty-cave made of cardboard and packing tape, the walls covered with graffiti, the floor littered with trash. Tinfoil cavemen resembling cheap, disposable Giacomettis lurked absurdly in cubbyholes.

José Antonio Hernández-Diez

Above the stairwell in the current survey of the work of Venezuelan artist José Antonio Hernández-Diez at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, is a large color photograph of a four track shoes balanced atop one another against a bamboo wall, their logos spelling out the four letter word "Hume." At first "Hume"(2000), like "Marx" (2000), which one encounters around the corner, seems like a boring one-liner.

The Madness of Ordinary Material

In their landmark 1984 book, Order Out Of Chaos, Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers describe how, in unstable conditions, otherwise disparate and chaotic masses are capable of organizing themselves into coherent systems.

Drawing Now: Eight Propositions

The art of drawing has been crucial to modernism from its inception through its complicated demise, and for several reasons.

Elsewhere is Here

Less than a decade ago, Williamsburg was still a desolate haven for vast, raw, dirt-cheap lofts and an emerging art scene that imagined itself an ambitious underground alternative to the narcissism of Soho and Chelsea, a 90s incarnation of the self-destructive glamour of the Lower East Side portrayed in Nan Goldin’s Ballad of Sexual Dependence.

The 2002 Whitney Biennial: The Whitney Museum of Art

For a grueling day at the 2002 Whitney Biennial, a friend and I ventured into Central Park in search of Brian Tolle’s "Waylay" (2002).

Paul McCarthy-ism

New Museum of Contemporary Art February 22 -- May 13, 2001

Gerhard Richter: Forty Years of Painting

The Museum of Modern Art February 14 – May 21, 2002

In Conversation

In Conversation with Robert Storr

Daniel Baird (Rail): One of the things that most surprised me about the Richter retrospective is its continuity  and coherence, especially given the diversity of Richter’s practice.

Janet Cardiff: A Survey of Works, Including Collaborations with George Bures Miller P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center October 14, 2001-January 31, 2002

You are standing in the room beside the stairwell on the second floor of P.S.1. It is a gray Sunday in October, a day of openings, and P.S.1 is packed with people, irritable journalists with their stick-on press passes, posturing hipsters, squealing children.

Tom Friedman at the New Museum of Contemporary Art

In an interview with novelist Dennis Cooper printed in the Phaidon catalogue that accompanies the survey of Tom Friedman’s work currently at the New Museum of Contemporary art, Friedman describes a pivotal crisis in which he cleared out his studio, boarded up the windows and closets, and painted everything in an intense, uniform white.

Brute Realism: Leon Golub at the Brooklyn Museum of Art
May 13 – August 24, 2001

In the center of Leon Golub’s searing 1982 painting, Interrogation III, is a woman with her eyes and mouth taped shut.

The Eye of the Storm:
Works in situ by Daniel Buren

Upon entering the ground floor atrium of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum, its massive concrete ramps spiraling up toward the skylight, one encounters a towering mirror-covered cube supported by scaffolding elaborately rigged to one side of the museum.

PETAH COYNE: Above and Beneath the Skin

I remember wandering into a small, shabby old church on the outskirts of Mexico City and encountering a crude, worm-eaten wooden statue of Jesus. Perilously at its base was a mountain of molten, smoldering candles, guttering wicks sticking up from the lumpy mound of white wax, the rivulets streaming down, looking remarkably like tears.

The Spiritual in Art

Even for a viewer largely ignorant of Tibetan Buddhism, the Tantra paintings at the Rubin Museum of Himalayan Art have a transcendent intensity. The central figures, remote yet radiant in their precision of detail and vibrancy of color, are pivots in a fierce, wheeling geometry that presents an image of dynamic cosmic forces the viewer is meant to internalize and take out into the world.

Lee Bontecou: A Retrospective

In a soot drawing from 1958, executed with an oxyacetylene torch, brightly highlighted, tendon-like shapes rise up to a gaping, muscle-ringed hole from which stares a blank eyeball.

Ed Ruscha

On view in the small first floor gallery of the Whitney Museum and serving as a brief but illuminating preface to Cotton Puffs, Q-Tips, Smoke and Mirrors: The Drawings of Ed Ruscha upstairs, Ruscha’s photographs, which he typically assembles into carefully designed books, are concerned with the irreducible, deadpan fact.

Daniel Richter

It was just a little over a year ago, before missiles began streaking into Baghdad, before tanks full of soldiers and eager network journalists began racing across the Iraqi desert, that some of the largest peace rallies ever organized took place in cities around the world.

2002 Painting Report, Plane: The Essential of Painting

In P.S.1 curator Alanna Heiss’s unilluminating introduction to Plane: The Essential of Painting, she misleadingly conflates the physical surface on which paint is brushed or sprayed or thrown, and the more elusive notion of the picture plane.

Matthew Barney: The Cremaster Cycle

From the moment of his first exhibits in Los Angeles and New York in 1991, Matthew Barney was catapulted into art world fame and cult status.

Attendants, Bears, and Rocks: Brice Marden at the Matthew Marks Gallery

After numerous viewings of the Jackson Pollock retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, among the things I was most astonished by was the combination of recklessness and control in Pollock’s unspooling lines, his subtle, smoldering sense of color, and the ways in which the all-over abstractions persistently evoke not so much landscape as the phenomenology of natural processes.

Ancestry & Innovation African American Art, From the American Folk Art Museum, Through September 4

In a survey of the ecstatic New Orleans visionary Sister Gertrude Morgan at the American Folk Art Museum last year, there was a film of her conducting a service in the modest home she had turned into a bright, resplendent chapel. Already elderly, she is dressed like a bride in a simple white dress, her dark, perspiring face deeply lined, her hands rough and gnarled from a lifetime of work.

Marcel Dzama: The Course of Human History Personified at David Zwirner and Jon Pylypchuk: I have thought deep into this trouble at Friedrich Petzel Gallery

When I first saw Ask the Dust, a chaotic exhibit at The Drawing Center in 2003 of the work of the Royal Art Lodge, a loose collective based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, I was by turns exhilarated, amused, and ambivalent. Here was a group of young artists making heaps of art of every conceivable kind—collaborative drawings, paintings, sculptures, videos, performances, and even music—not in an expensive loft in New York or Los Angeles, but in what might appear to Americans to be the cultural isolation of the windswept Canadian prairies.

Make It Now: New Sculpture in New York

In the perhaps overly exuberant trailer for Make It Now: New Sculpture in New York at the SculptureCenter in Long Island City, letters flash across the screen, exclaiming “Make Art Now,” “Make Pedestals Now,” “Make Monuments Now,” “Make Bird Baths Now,” “Make Dildos Now…”

Sarah Sze

The world is now largely artificial, at least for those of us living in affluent capitalist countries held together by an intricate web of systems and subsystems.

Katharina Sieverding: Close Up

In the great Danish film director Carl Theodore Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc, the close-ups of the face of the tough, enigmatic Falconetti, strapped to the burning stake, are passages in which one can literally watch her inner transcendence.

Jennifer Pastor

When I initially saw the seven line drawings of Los Angeles-based artist Jennifer Pastor’s “Flow Chart for the Perfect Ride” (1999-2000) in Drawing Now: Eight Propositions at the Museum of Modern Art, lines flowing through the roiling motion of a generic cowboy on a furiously bucking bull, I immediately read them as instances of clever, ironical Pop art.

Chronophobia: On Time in the Art of the 1960s, by Pamela Lee

If science and technology are what fuels our accelerated sense of history, and if their most basic language and culture is incomprehensible to most artists, then how can art relevantly engage modern life, how can it retain a powerful critical role in contemporary society? What role can art, traditionally conceived, play in an advanced technological society that is moving into the future at breakneck speed? These are the questions, I think, which underlie the anxiety about time and technology from which Chronophobia takes its title.

Open House: Working in Brooklyn

Late one night in the fall of 1990, I got into a cab with friends on Delancey Street and rode up over the magnificent and at that time sinister Williamsburg Bridge and then down to the waterfront. A cavernous brick building on the river had been rigged for electricity and transformed into a space for a fugitive, one-night art event and party: there were chaotic, junky installations, kinetic sculptures, performances, and punk bands.

Omer Fast Godville

Americans’ relationship to American history has always been personal, ambivalent, nostalgic, and prone to delusional fantasy. When Cotton Mather, infamous for his pivotal role in the Salem witch trials, sat down to write biographies of the early Massachusetts Colony patriarchs, he did not write about the daily struggles of men in a then remote and often embattled settlement.

In Conversation

Istvan Kantor with Daniel Baird

Since moving to Canada in 1977, Hungarian-born artist Istvan Kantor has created an enormous and controversial body of work which has encompassed mail art, sculpture, installation, noise music, both individual and collective performance, and video.

Ellsworth Kelly, Tablet: 1949 - 1973 The Drawing Center

On a recent afternoon, I was sitting at my desk, when my year and a half old daughter waddled up, babbling, grabbed a ball point pen, and stood close in front of an open expanse of white wall. She became quiet, almost contemplative, staring at the wall.

Violence, Fantasy, and Childhood: Two Shows at PS1

Disasters of War: Francisco de Goya, Henry Darger, Jake and Dinos Chapman (through February 25) Almost Warm & Fuzzy: Childhood and Contemporary Art (through April 8)

If you lived here you would be dead now

Christoph Draeger’s work, which has previously been shown at Roebling Hall in Dystopia/Babel (1998) and in Out of Order (1999), is at once apocalyptic and bitingly sardonic, while remaining carefully orchestrated and politically subtle.

Printed Works: Terry Winters at the Metropolitan Museum of New York

After a dazzling Spring show of his drawings at the Matthew Marks Gallery, a retrospective exhibition of Terry Winters’ printed works has been mounted at The Metropolitan Museum. The strongest show of contemporary art at The Metropolitan Museum in recent memory, “Terry Winters: Printed Works” includes a generous selection of Winters’ formally ambitious and technically inventive lithographs, etchings, and relief prints from the early 1980s to the present.

This Conversation May Be Recorded for Training Purposes

The Boyd Cycle is a military strategy developed by Col. John Boyd in an effort to explain the success of U.S. fighter pilots in the Korean War, despite their having inferior planes.

Everything That Matters

In the fall of 1999, I showed up at the opening of an art exhibit curated by the painter and owner of Sideshow Gallery Richard Timperio at Planet Thai, then at its original location at 7th Street and Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg.

Abby Leigh

A system is, at the very least, a set of disparate parts in dynamic relationship with one another, while the system as a whole illuminates the nature of those parts and their interconnections. Systems can be closed, as in Laplace’s deterministic interpretation of Newton’s mechanics, or they can be open and symbiotic, as is the case with biological systems.

Liberating Modern Art

According to Marx, the insidiousness of ideology rests in the way it presents deeply prescriptive class interests in the guise of nature and ordinary experience. Thinking which makes use of the concept of ideology in a critical spirit is at its most illuminating when it addresses, not the tautological bastions of political power and repression, but rather our deeper habits of judgement and taste: ideology is not transmitted through abstract, monolithic institutions, but through the texture of what Edmund Husserl called our “life world.”

Buchloh’s Neo-Avantgarde

Contemporary visual art is often slick and narcissistic and bears a disturbing resemblance to sophisticated advertising and music videos. Ugo Rondinone’s coolly smoldering slow-motion videos might well be promoting a new line of perfume, and Piplotti Rist’s hallucinatory work, which was featured on an immense screen hovering over Times Square, evokes fashion shoots and designer clothes for sassy, hipster girls.

Meyer Schapiro’s UNITY OF PICASSO

When Isaiah Berlin died, the effusive eulogies unanimously agreed that he was one of the greatest conversationalists since Diderot.

We Owe You Nothing: Punk Planet

On a blistering day last summer, I was drawn to N, 6th Street in Williamsburg by explosions of guitar noise and screeching feedback.

In The Museum of the History of Drugs

The old stretch limo screeched to a stop at Christie and Rivington, hurling Morty and Eve against the bullet-proof partition. The Russian driver lit a cigarette. He removed his upper row of gold teeth and carefully polished them with his handkerchief.


The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2023

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