March, 1992
Robert Mahoney
pgs. 81-82

Unlearning at the former Massimo Audiello space at 142 Greene, 4th floor (December 4 - January), generally had frenetic energy, as have all of curator Kenny Schachter's driven series of seat-of-the-pants shows this past year, which have generally captured the type of energy White Columns used to have. But the site of this show induced a slight loss of momentum. The demise of Massimo Audiello marked a kind of bad-news watershed in the New SoHo of 1987-90: his fourth-floor perch made 142 Greene the central shaft way of red-chip SoHo for two seasons. Memories of Collins and Milazzo, Michele Zalopany, and St. Clair Cemin haunt the cloud of whitewash floor. The gallery structure remains intact: re-entering the sealed tomb, one could never entirely forget. Thus Unlearning's opening came off as a bit like a Winter Palace sacking, or I was later reminded of the line in Dickens's Christmas Carol, when the fence of stolen goods is astounded at the maid who took Scrooge's bed curtains (this in thick cockney): "You don't mean to say you took them down, rings and all and him still lying there!?" A vulturous, unfocused subtext dissipated the energy, and suddenly made Schachter seem like a Gorbachev who has touched off a wave that will overcome him if he does not, also, trade up. Kerri Scharlin's Suggestions best captured the often stupid nature of the energy that mismanaged renegadism will attract. Scharlin provided paper and pencil and three panels of bulletin-board cork: you the public, provide the art--by way of graffiti comments. You, the public, are some lousy artists! Three types of comments dominated: first, in a disheartening rebuff to hopes that the art-market collapse will make everyone lighten up on the careerism, was purblind artist solicitation: "Give Mark Nagy a show, (555)505-9192"; "Put my work in the show"; "How does one get access to this energy?"; second, for those who have crawlier ambitions, common bathroom-stallisms, "FUCK WASHINGTON"; "970-FUCK"; "FUCK ME"; and "FUCK HUGS" (isn't this special?); and third, the graffiti-sized-raft-of-the-medusa masterpieces of the nihilistic fringe, where preemptive career despair often disguises itself as too-good-for-the-world idealism (from this bad energy, though, great danger, the Third Coming, comes): "I think I'll cut my wrists"; "Lies Lies More Lies"; "So this is joy"; and, most chilling, "Today Massimo Tommorrow (sic ) Mary." Future nihilism infected much of the work. Leading the list, here, choosing at random, is Rachel Harrison, whose Untitled includes a collection of used, bagged tampons from September 1988 to date. This natural history in an old flatfile is certainly the Mona Lisa of the Abstract Tamponism--Harrison catapults to the forefront of what looks like (from indications in a few other shows this season) the art world's hottest new Period Style: the use of menses or menstrual-related materials as art. John Leckay is certain to be the vanguardest one of another hot-hot trend of inestimable importance, the use of sex toys as artist's materials. Lekay is actually quite witty at times, as proved by his male and female free spirit bicycles with dildos sticking up the seat part, telling the tendentious Puritanism of "critiques" attached to the likes of Gober, Smith, and others--pompous writings on "The Body" and "Gender Issues"--to go sit on it. Samm Kunce's Cyberpunk tattoo painting also takes the body issue to a new point; that the technophobe shock pulsing through our culture since the War in the Gulf, epitomized by Terminator 2 and evidenced by the sudden collapse of our car, computer, and credit industries (see below), in fact manifests itself in renewed desire for Marinetti's old "metallization of the body."

Finally, artists who were put in the show and whose work promises more. Laurel Katz's Twin Paradox plunged a roadster seat into a fish breeding tank, and its message of culture shock and adjustment gets through, though crowded by another strong piece, Saskia Friedrich's very loud, The life ones and the savers, can you feel your feelings, a series of gyro balanced fire balls suspended from the ceiling. Jeff Brown's Bus Seats and Devo Dikeou's raindrops keep falling my head playground round-and-rounder effectively secured the unlearning message in the foyer space (the only well-arranged section of the show). Paul Ramirez and Spencer Finch's potato-peeling performance, red caps, blue jackets, and distilling materials, also echoed on the deeply elf like and devious glee that all cute renegadism must have to be successful. Finally, curator Schachter himself sounded off in an audio tape of garbage-truck sounds fixed behind the stacks, which he made. The tape featured that plaintive mating call of downtown New York: the moan of unoiled truck brakes as they echo through the canyons of SoHo. Translated into the tongue of male renegadism, fueled by cruising impulse, these mastodons converse: "Why does renegade keep going to more and more openings?" asks one. Because, the other soul brake moans "Icantstoptherestoomanygreatlookingbabesintheartworld." Unlearning got by, then, but its renegadism needs to get a "steady relationship" with the art world fast, before it unravels. TODAY MASSIMO TOMMORROW MARY