Tyler Green
Art-focused Journalism by Tyler Green

Tyler Green Modern Art Notes

Maybe quitting art wasn’t such a bad idea…

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Provocative generalist Dave Hickey gave a MOCA-sponsored talk at Los Angeles’ Grand Central Market last night. (While Hickey loudly retired from the art world a while back, he has a new book out, which apparently necessitated his un-retirement. These things happen.) It ended up being a pretty lousy day for MOCA, Hickey and for women everywhere who might find themselves in a subway car with Hickey.

First, MOCA took to  Tumblr to advertise Hickey’s talk. The museum thought that the right way to encourage people to attend was to share a quote in which Hickey found sexual assault (or at minimum, something very, verrrry close to sexual assault) “vaguely exciting.” It was a dumb thing for Hickey to say, a puerile joke at best. It was an even dumber thing for MOCA to use as promotional material. (Lookey here! Hickey is “infamous!” If he finds sexual assault funny, what else could he say that might have you rolling in the aisles!)

Then it was Hickey’s particularly bad luck that ace journalist Carolina Miranda was there to hear him — and that artist Nayland Blake, who is also the chair of the International Center of Photography/Bard MFA program, happened to be reading Miranda. I wasn’t at the talk, but… Miranda’s tweets made me blink.

In a related story, Miranda and Nayland Blake are terrific Twitter follows.

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  1. C-Mon says:

    Ha! Thanks for posting this. I guess if I had one thing to add is that I have little sympathy for a powerful art critic (a professor with a Ph.D. no less) who pitches himself as an outsider by going on a rant about how identity politics (aka women, gays, minorities) have simply *ruined* the art world, and how academia is also a nail in its coffin.(Hello Pot, this is Kettle.)

    To Mr Hickey, I say: I am a woman. I am a minority. And hell yeah I’m gonna do everything I possibly can to wreck the clubby little universe you refer to as the “art underground” (aka people who hung out at Max’s Kansas City; aka not the art underground). I’d write more — like about those lame frat guy comments you made about Hannah Wilke’s low-cut blouses — but I have more art world wrecking to do. I am a very busy gal.

    xox, C.

  2. Mat Gleason says:

    Wow. There are ways to provoke and ways to commit suicide and they don’t overlap. You cannot accuse him of being politic and that seems to be his badge of honor. There has never been a love of art beneath the crusty surface of Dave “Anti-But-Still-Quite-Establishment” Hickey, but rather a love of the elite who buy art and he really revealed that. Nostalgia for segregation is what he has been selling no matter the pretty packaging all these years. At least he unwrapped it himself and pulled out the Klan robe of his own design to make it easy for his admirers to flee the sinking ship. Wow.

  3. Zagrobelny (@Zagrobelny) says:

    I have no interest in minimizing sexual assault, even boob brushing which some people might want to write off ass “harmless”. But I think maybe we’re reading too much into Hickey’s quote to assume that this brushing was both a purposeful one and one that included brushing those aforementioned boobs. As you city folk know, lots of things get brushed and jostled in the subway in a non-sexual, non-purposeful, non-assaulting way. And a non-sexual accidental brush with someone you are fixated on for whatever reason, whether a crush or a momentary attraction, can be quite sexually charged, especially if you are an adolescent heterosexual male. There’s been a lot of art made trying to tap into the weird passions of youth and there’s nothing wrong or exploitative about exploring that.

  4. While Hickey’s statement seems much less than profound,and mostly just ill-considered…it is manifestly sexually puerile,and clearly intended to be provocative.However,it does seem to fall short of advocating,condoning or even “laughing at” “sexual assault”. Mr. Green could have encapsulated his point more effectively by just saying Hickey made a “dumb ass” comment, and MOCA made a “dumb ass” decision to use it in their promotion of their event on Tumblr.

  5. Dave Hickey…”I don’t know why MOCA used that quote. They just wanted to be provocative. They’re all about headlines, and tabloid hooks. There’s a little Jeffrey Deitch left in MOCA.”

  6. […] Already, there’s been some media kerfuffle about these Tweets, and they’ve been well covered in Modern Art Notes, followed by the L.A. Times. But I want to take the time to make a more nuanced point, one that […]

  7. Ryan says:

    Hooray! Humourless political correctness will save the contemporary art world from meanies like Hickey! Great work, heroes (and heroines, of course)!

  8. mike mccollum says:

    Whether I agree with him or not on a given issue….I really enjoy perusing his take on society (art or otherwise)…It comes from a very unique, very bright, well traveled person.

  9. Hunter says:

    It is pretty clear from the sources and comments above that Hickey has returned to a subject that is dear to him and his readers. The transgressive and badly behaved and unapologetic potential of contemporary art. Analogy? Doing something you are not supposed to do and getting a little thrill ie brushing against a woman in the subway. Above all, he has fought against self-censorship, which should be the greatest political asset but here he is, being attacked. It is ludicrous to make the comparison of his remarks with sexual assault. Good grief.

  10. […] his grumpy-old-man thing, unfortunately, just a generic out-of-touch old-white-man thing. (MoCA’s PR choices didn’t […]

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