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BITING THE HAND THAT FEEDS YOU: HOW TO STAY OUT OF THE DOG HOUSE WHILE BARKING AT THE IVORY TOWER by Keith J. Varadi

PART I: HERE, SEE

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The Misfits Fiend Club, tee shirt, Amazon.com

Picture this: A mother pulls her Subaru Outback up to the local mall and drops her teenage son off to meet his friends. He’s wearing a black beanie, black nail polish, a Misfits Fiend Club tee shirt over a cream-colored waffle thermal shirt, black Levi’s 510 Super Skinny jeans, and black Vans Sk8-Hi shoes. He walks into the food court and immediately buys a large Mountain Dew and an Auntie Anne’s pretzel with extra salt and extra butter. He calls his best friend on his iPhone 5s and meets his best friend and the rest of his crew downstairs by the Hollister to sheepishly ogle girls and make snarky comments about jocks. Then he tells his friends he’s bored with capitalism, calls his mom to pick him up, and she drives him back home. After they snake through the housing development he lives in with his parents and arrive at their house, he snaps at her to give him her credit card. He opens his MacBook Pro, logs onto Amazon.com, and orders The Anarchist Cookbook. This is not far from what it is like for a mid-career artist to agree to do a solo exhibition at a major international museum, only to intentionally orchestrate the entire production in order to mock or “critique” art history and the history of that particular institution. 

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EGALITARIAN ELITE: Mai-Thu Perret at David Kordansky Gallery by Keith J. Varadi

January 25 to March 22, 2014

5896 Smiley Street

Los Angeles, CA

310-558-3030

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Mai-Thu Perret, Astral Plane, Installation View

Like much art being made and shown today, the work of Swiss artist Mai-Thu Perret is transparently tied to money. It looks expensive. It looks rare, unique, and considered. It looks decorative and nonfunctional. When shown in a group, it looks like a personal collection; when shown individually, it looks easily collectable. It looks like art, but not like the timid, mannered art currently being exemplified and magnified at contemporary art fairs. It looks more like something that would be sought after by some Indiana Jones type character Leonard DiCaprio or James Franco could potentially play rather than those actual actors, both of whom now happen to be avid and visible art collectors.

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THE BUBBLE GUM DIRGE by Keith J. Varadi

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Lady Gaga, Artpop album cover

On November 6th, 2013, Lady Gaga released the album Artpop, which prior to its release, the star told MTV she wanted to mirror “a night at the club.” Despite relatively mediocre sales, both singles—“Applause” and “Do What U Want”—have definitely been played at certain clubs, though probably not at the same clubs where Gaga is used to her hits being in rotation. Ironically, “Applause” is perhaps her best song to date, reminiscent of a glammed-out Annie Lennox, but it certainly breaks the mold of the watered down Euro trance thumpers she became famous for as a runway-styled Butoh cyborg character just a few years ago. And now, the girls and the gays alike seem to be bored with her.

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STEEL YOUR MIND: The 2013 Carnegie International by Keith J. Varadi

October 5, 2013 - March 16, 2014

Carnegie Museum of Art

4400 Forbes Avenue

Pittsburgh, PA 

412-622-3131

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Frances Stark, installation view of Bobby Jesus’s Alma Mater b/w Reading the Book of David and/or Paying Attention Is Free, inkjet print on paper and multichannel projection with sound (4:20 min), 2013

According to this year’s press materials, “The 2013 Carnegie International presents new voices rooted in history, a sense of place, and play. The exhibition is guided by a shared passion for the individual and the exceptional; for art that celebrates dissonance and beauty; and for artworks that stay in touch with the everyday.” Normally, language such as this can be extremely frustrating. This is some of the most generic writing about some of the most ubiquitous, casual, and boring tropes that have recently become exhausted in almost every art city in the world. In this case, it is especially frustrating, because unlike many of the recent manifestations of such atrociously vague and vanilla conceits concerning “play” and “the everyday,” the three curators tapped this time around for the International have taken a decidedly focused, yet sprawling approach, which luckily for them (and all visitors), has yielded incredible results.

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GREY MATTER: Patrick Jackson at François Ghebaly by Keith J. Varadi

November 9, 2013 to January 11, 2014

2600 S. La Cienega Boulevard

Los Angeles, CA

310-559-0100

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Patrick Jackson, The Third Floor, Installation View

In Patrick Jackson’s exhibition, The Third Floor, the Los Angeles-based artist gives François Ghebaly’s Culver City gallery a home makeover of sorts, in the last show at this location before Ghebaly solely commits to his new space downtown, providing an additional contextual layer to the scene from the outset. The first floor of the gallery has been covered in off-white carpet, potentially triggering the impulse of certain visitors to take off their shoes, as was proven to be the case by numerous individuals momentarily pausing upon entering at the opening. This sly, satirical move falls somewhere between plastic on a living room sofa and museum barriers in the contemporary wing. But as one moves into the space, a rectangular hole can be seen cut out of the floor, revealing carpeted steps that lead into a makeshift underground lair, with exposed mini-scaffolding and what appears to be artifacts and detritus, obscured by distance. 

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ART SUGAR NET MAGIC by Keith J. Varadi

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“Take me to the place I love / Take me all the way” – Anthony Kiedis

Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Under The Bridge,” 1992

It’s 2013, going on 2014. Every artist, critic, or curator seems to have something to say about the endless ways in which the Internet and social media are affecting how artists, especially young artists, are now making art, seeing art, thinking about art, and disseminating art. Often, when reading a new article or essay, or going to a lecture or panel discussion directly or indirectly about or related to “Internet Art,” “Post-Internet Art,” or even the way in which abstract painting looks different on an Apple product than in a gallery, it is near impossible not to get bored or annoyed. Any critically engaged member of society understands the effect the Internet has had on the world; therefore, any critically engaged artist, curator, critic, dealer, or collector surely must understand the effect the Internet has had on the art world. Yet despite the consensus that the art world is shifting because of it, few have written or spoken about the matter in a very concise, direct, and expository manner.

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