Portrait of Arshile Gorky, c. 1936; Ben, On est tous ego,
1998 © Adagp 2010; David Humphrey, Nicole, 2010.
Artists who use language in their artwork usually come from a tradition of conceptual art. Long time Fluxus artist Ben Vautier, who is known as Ben, uses text and language as his work. He currently has a retrospective of his artworks at the MAC Lyon. Here, Ben will be rediscovered by a new generation of artists, and I believe his influence will be profound. His wit and irony are powerful. I think if Ben had been of a later generation he would be a street artist scrawling his text on the sides of buildings and under bridges. (Please Ben, that was not a challenge or even a suggestion; I think you a great artist just as you are.) In this issue of TAS, we have Ben’s longtime friend Michel Batlle in conversation with him, two bad boy artists enjoying their banter, as fresh as when it was originally published in French.
David Humphrey is also an artist who writes and who, you could say, is also a bad boy. But his text takes the form of a book about art rather than constituting the art itself, though he does see the two things as closely connected as Alexi Worth, a fellow artist, observes in his introduction to our selection from Humphrey’s book Blind Handshake, which is a collection of essays that all take other people’s art as their starting point. In this month’s TAS you can hear, as well as read Humphrey’s essay “Describable Beauty.” His paintings are delicious counterparts to his writing. They can be seen at Sikkema Jenkins in New York City and Solomon Projects in Atlanta. You can find his book on Amazon, but this you knew already.
And I am happy to publish an essay by Anna Leung, also an artist who has become an art writer, who writes about a very bad boy artist, Ashille Gorky. Leung saw his magnificent retrospective at the Tate Modern; it is now at LA MOCA through September 20, 2010. For me, he is a quintessential twentieth-century artist, and his works speaks loudly and clearly to me every time I see it.
Welcome to the beginning of the 4th year of TAS.
Deanna Sirlin is an artist and writer living outside of Atlanta, GA and Editor-in-Chief of The Art Section.