Publications

2016
Simmons, William J. Exhibition text: Eli Cortiñas at Waldburger Wouters, Brussels. Brussels: Waldburger Wouters Gallery, 2016.
Simmons, William J. Exhibition text: Elisabeth Vellacott at New Hall Art Collection, University of Cambridge. Cambridge: University of Cambridge, 2016.
Simmons, William J.Review: The Freedom Principle at ICA Philadelphia.” Performa Magazine, 2016.
Simmons, William J.Review: Like Cattle Towards Glow by Dennis Cooper and Zac Farley.” Flash Art, 2016.
Simmons, William J.Review: Victor Burgin at Bridget Donahue and Cristin Tierney.” Aperture, 2016.
Simmons, William J.Review: Alex Prager's "La Grande Sortie" at Lehmann Maupin.” CRUSHfanzine, 2016.Abstract

 

Alex Prager is difficult to place, which has, I think, scared off many critics and historians. She has worked with celebrities like Elizabeth Banks and has created glamorous fashion editorials, which, I would suggest, are the roots of a sexist discomfort around her photography and film. As with Marilyn Minter and Laurie Simmons, the charge has frequently been levied against her (in subtle and overt ways alike) that her work is too slick, too staged, too pretty. I’ll translate this for you: too feminine, too anti-conceptual, too fashion, too LA for New York and too New York for LA. This is still the case in 2016, and somehow people forget that she was a critic at Yale and has influenced a generation of photographers my age. Moreover, as a result of these sexisms, Prager has always been associated more forcefully with film than photography, since the former, as a result of melodrama and film noir, has at least some precedent for the establishment and appreciation of a limiting écriture feminine.

This laundry list is not meant to sound defeatist; it is rather to illustrate the backdrop against which Prager nevertheless continues to excel. In La Grande Sortie, on view at Lehmann Maupin Gallery, Prager premieres a film about the post-pregnancy return of prima ballerina Émilie Cozette. The film contains Prager’s trademark shots of excited, lazy, napping, beautiful, comical, humdrum audiences alongside Cozette’s hyper-real and deadly serious performance. It is not a scary film, as some have claimed. Instead, I found myself nearly moved to tears. It’s an exercise in the dramatization of self-loathing. Fear suggests a remove, that something out there is frightening, but there is nothing more powerful than interiorized hatred. That you can’t run away from.

But I have to pull myself out of this hackneyed soliloquy. I wanted initially to see La Grande Sortie along the lines of David Lynch’s Inland Empire or Lars von Trier’s Melancholia orNymphomaniac, but Prager insists that we see her as a photographer, and I have decided to take her lead. The main gallery room is filled with stills from the production of the film, but they stand on their own. The velvet frames create a sense of separation from any narrative, and I began to realize that Lynch and von Trier are not the way to go, but rather Julia Margaret Cameron, William Eggleston (Prager’s inspiration for becoming a photographer), Laurie Simmons (who also credits Eggleston for her deciding to shoot in color), Stephen Shore, Gregory Crewdson, and Philip-Lorca diCorcia.

Above all, her true counterpart is Hiroshi Sugimoto. While Sugimoto shows us time-lapsed photographs of the movie screen, which fades to a glowing white, Prager reveals the opposite – she documents, with intense precision, the audience who might be watching the films Sugimoto chooses to photograph. She thus makes literal the divide not only between the audience and the film, but also, more generally, between the spectator and the image – a site where bodies cannot linger. As Roland Barthes notes in Camera Lucida, “My desire to write on Photography corresponded to a discomfort I had always suffered from the uneasiness of being a subject torn between two languages, one expressive, the other critical…” Prager can do it all – she can make you cry and then direct you toward the history of art. She can move effortlessly between the academic and the affective.

 

Simmons, William J.Laurie Simmons x Marilyn Minter.” King Kong Magazine, 2016, 1, 2. laurie_marilyn_king_kong.pdf
Simmons, William J.Portfolio: Cindy Sherman, New Work.” King Kong Magazine, 2016, 1, 2. cindy_sherman_king_kong.pdf
Simmons, William J.Interview: Joan Semmel.” Flaunt Magazine, 2016.Abstract

Joan Semmel is an icon of feminist art alongside Judy Chicago, Marilyn Minter, and the Guerrilla Girls, but she (like her activist colleagues) is foremost a virtuosic painter. Her nude self-portraits celebrate not only the unedited female body, but also Semmel’s painterly acumen and nuanced historical awareness. In this way, we might compare Semmel’s work to the stunning nudes of the Impressionists, but in the same breath, also see her concern for color and composition to be reminiscent of Agnes Martin’s lyrical minimalist works. Semmel provides an opportunity to think about the paint, the canvas, and the brush—the building blocks of activist work—instead of just relying on a cursory look at her chosen content. Semmel is currently exhibiting new work at Alexander Gray Associates in New York. Her work is also included in “Coming to Power” at Maccarone Gallery, New York.

Simmons, William J.Review: Portland Biennial.” Art Papers, 2016. portland_biennial_review.pdf
Simmons, William J.Interview: David Harrison at Sargent's Daughters.” King Kong Magazine, 2016.
Simmons, William J.Interview: Daniel Arsham for Semaine.” Semaine, 2016.Abstract

Daniel Arsham’s work, as he told us in his Brooklyn studio, is “hard to define,” but we could think of a few words – beautifully contemporary, deeply historical, wildly cool. When we met him on one steamy day, his studio was in full gear, even though most New York-based artists take the summer off and head to the Hamptons. Arsham wore a monogrammed lab coat – a dapper mad scientist, to be sure.

Arsham is, in many ways, a superstar. He did stage design for and toured with Merce Cunnningham, perhaps the most inventive figure in modern dance. If that’s not intriguing enough, he has also collaborated with the fabulously talented and stylish Pharrell Williams. Public School tapped him to create their runway for Men’s Fashion Week. We’re almost out of breath, but one last thing – his film Future Relic 02 starred James Franco.

Arsham is about to embark on a totally new outlet. After years of working with color-blindness, he has started using corrective lenses that will allow him to see a greater range of colors. Semaine is hosting the world premiere on our website of Arsham’s new film that documents his first experience seeing colour with EnChroma glasses. 

Simmons, William J.Interview: Germano Celant on William N. Copley.” MUSE, 2016, 44.
Simmons, William J.Review: Mary Heilmann at Whitechapel Gallery, London.” Flash Art, 2016, 310. 310_so_16_all_trascinato_7.pdf
Simmons, William J.Interview: Lorna Simpson.” Interview Magazine, 2016.
Simmons, William J.Review: Jill Soloway's I Love Dick.” Flash Art, 2016.
Simmons, William J.Interview: Pat Steir .” Interview Magazine, 2016.
Simmons, William J.Inside the 23rd Annual Watermill Benefit.” V Magazine, 2016.
Simmons, William J.Feature: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II.” Flaunt Magazine, 2016.
and Simmons, William J. Simone Leigh. “Artists at Work: Simone Leigh.” Interview Magazine, 2016.

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