Issue 33 August 2023

Issue 32 June 2023

Issue 31 February 2023

Issue 30 November 2022

Issue 29 August 2022

Issue 28 May 2022

Issue 27 February 2022

Issue 26 November 2021

Issue 25 August 2021

Issue 24 May 2021

Issue 23 February 2021

Issue 22 November 2020

Issue 21 August 2020

Issue 20 May 2020

Issue 19 February 2020

Letter from the Editor –Lindsay Preston Zappas
Parasites in Love –Travis Diehl
To Crush Absolute On Patrick Staff and
Destroying the Institution
–Jonathan Griffin
Victoria Fu:
Camera Obscured
–Cat Kron
Resurgence of Resistance How Pattern & Decoration's Popularity
Can Help Reshape the Canon
–Catherine Wagley
Trace, Place, Politics Julie Mehretu's Coded Abstractions
–Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.: Featuring: Friedrich Kunath,
Tristan Unrau, and Nevine Mahmoud
–Claressinka Anderson & Joe Pugliese
Reviews April Street
at Vielmetter Los Angeles
–Aaron Horst

Chiraag Bhakta
at Human Resources
–Julie Weitz

Don’t Think: Tom, Joe
and Rick Potts

–Matt Stromberg

Sarah McMenimen
at Garden
–Michael Wright

The Medea Insurrection
at the Wende Museum
–Jennifer Remenchik

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Mike Kelley
at Hauser & Wirth
–Angella d’Avignon
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Issue 18 November 2019

Letter from the Editor –Lindsay Preston Zappas
The Briar and the Tar Nayland Blake at the ICA LA
and Matthew Marks Gallery
–Travis Diehl
Putting Aesthetics
to Hope
Tracking Photography’s Role
in Feminist Communities
– Catherine Wagley
Instagram STARtists
and Bad Painting
– Anna Elise Johnson
Interview with Jamillah James – Lindsay Preston Zappas
Working Artists Featuring Catherine Fairbanks,
Paul Pescador, and Rachel Mason
Text: Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Reviews Children of the Sun
– Jessica Simmons

Derek Paul Jack Boyle
–Aaron Horst

Karl Holmqvist
at House of Gaga, Los Angeles
–Lee Purvey

Katja Seib
at Château Shatto
–Ashton Cooper

Jeanette Mundt
at Overduin & Co.
–Matt Stromberg
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Issue 17 August 2019

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Green Chip David Hammons
at Hauser & Wirth
–Travis Diehl
Whatever Gets You
Through the Night
The Artists of Dilexi
and Wartime Trauma
–Jonathan Griffin
Generous Collectors How the Grinsteins
Supported Artists
–Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Donna Huanca
–Lindsy Preston Zappas
Working Artist Featuring Ragen Moss, Justen LeRoy,
and Bari Ziperstein
Text: Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Reviews Sarah Lucas
at the Hammer Museum
–Yxta Maya Murray

George Herms and Terence Koh
at Morán Morán
–Matt Stromberg

Hannah Hur
at Bel Ami
–Michael Wright

Sebastian Hernandez
–Julie Weitz

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Alex Israel
at Greene Naftali
–Rosa Tyhurst

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Issue 16 May 2019

Trulee Hall's Untamed Magic Catherine Wagley
Ingredients for a Braver Art Scene Ceci Moss
I Shit on Your Graves Travis Diehl
Interview with Ruby Neri Jonathan Griffin
Carolee Schneemann and the Art of Saying Yes! Chelsea Beck
Exquisite L.A. Claressinka Anderson
Joe Pugliese
Reviews Ry Rocklen
at Honor Fraser
–Cat Kron

Rob Thom
at M+B
–Lindsay Preston Zappas

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age
of Black Power, 1963-1983
at The Broad
–Matt Stromberg

Anna Sew Hoy & Diedrick Brackens
at Various Small Fires
–Aaron Horst

Julia Haft-Candell & Suzan Frecon
at Parrasch Heijnen
–Jessica Simmons

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Shahryar Nashat
at Swiss Institute
–Christie Hayden
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Issue 15 February 2019

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Letter to the Editor
Men on Women
Geena Brown
Eyes Without a Voice
Julian Rosefeldt's Manifesto
Christina Catherine Martinez
Seven Minute Dream Machine
Jordan Wolfson's (Female figure)
Travis Diehl
Laughing in Private
Vanessa Place's Rape Jokes
Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Rosha Yaghmai
Laura Brown
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Patrick Martinez,
Ramiro Gomez, and John Valadez
Claressinka Anderson
Joe Pugliese
Reviews Outliers and American
Vanguard Art at LACMA
–Jonathan Griffin

Sperm Cult
–Matt Stromberg

Kahlil Joseph
–Jessica Simmons

Ingrid Luche
at Ghebaly Gallery
–Lindsay Preston Zappas

Matt Paweski
at Park View / Paul Soto
–John Zane Zappas

Trenton Doyle Hancock
at Shulamit Nazarian
–Colony Little

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Catherine Opie
at Lehmann Maupin
–Angella d'Avignon
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Issue 14 November 2018

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Celeste Dupuy-Spencer and Figurative Religion Catherine Wagley
Lynch in Traffic Travis Diehl
The Remixed Symbology of Nina Chanel Abney Lindsay Preston Zappas
Interview with Kulapat Yantrasast Christie Hayden
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Sandra de la Loza, Gloria Galvez, and Steve Wong
Claressinka Anderson
Photos: Joe Pugliese
Reviews Raúl de Nieves
at Freedman Fitzpatrick
-Aaron Horst

Gertrud Parker
at Parker Gallery
-Ashton Cooper

Robert Yarber
at Nicodim Gallery
-Jonathan Griffin

Nikita Gale
at Commonwealth & Council
-Simone Krug

Lari Pittman
at Regen Projects
-Matt Stromberg

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Eckhaus Latta
at the Whitney Museum
of American Art
-Angella d'Avignon
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Issue 13 August 2018

Letter From the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Letter to the Editor Julie Weitz with Angella d'Avignon
Don't Make
Everything Boring
Catherine Wagley
The Collaborative Art
World of Norm Laich
Matt Stromberg
Oddly Satisfying Art Travis Diehl
Made in L.A. 2018 Reviews Claire de Dobay Rifelj
Jennifer Remenchik
Aaron Horst
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring: Anna Sew Hoy, Guadalupe Rosales, and Shizu Saldamando
Claressinka Anderson
Photos: Joe Pugliese
Reviews It's Snowing in LA
at AA|LA
–Matthew Lax

Fiona Conner
at the MAK Center
–Thomas Duncan

Show 2
at The Gallery @ Michael's
–Simone Krug

Deborah Roberts
at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
–Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi

Mimi Lauter
at Blum & Poe
–Jessica Simmons

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Math Bass
at Mary Boone
–Ashton Cooper

(L.A. in N.Y.)
Condo New York
–Laura Brown
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Issue 12 May 2018

Poetic Energies and
Radical Celebrations:
Senga Nengudi and Maren Hassinger
Simone Krug
Interior States of the Art Travis Diehl
Perennial Bloom:
Florals in Feminism
and Across L.A.
Angella d'Avignon
The Mess We're In Catherine Wagley
Interview with Christina Quarles Ashton Cooper
Object Project
Featuring Suné Woods, Michelle Dizon,
and Yong Soon Min
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos: Jeff McLane
Reviews Meleko Mokgosi
at The Fowler Museum at UCLA
-Jessica Simmons

Chris Kraus
at Chateau Shatto
- Aaron Horst

Ben Sanders
at Ochi Projects
- Matt Stromberg

iris yirei hsu
at the Women's Center
for Creative Work
- Hana Cohn

Harald Szeemann
at the Getty Research Institute
- Olivian Cha

Ali Prosch
at Bed and Breakfast
- Jennifer Remenchik

Reena Spaulings
at Matthew Marks
- Thomas Duncan
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Issue 11 February 2018

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Museum as Selfie Station Matt Stromberg
Accessible as Humanly as Possible Catherine Wagley
On Laura Owens on Laura Owens Travis Diehl
Interview with Puppies Puppies Jonathan Griffin
Object Project Lindsay Preston Zappas, Jeff McLane
Reviews Dulce Dientes
at Rainbow in Spanish
- Aaron Horst

Adrián Villas Rojas
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
- Lindsay Preston Zappas

Nevine Mahmoud
at M+B
- Angella D'Avignon

Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960- 1985
at the Hammer Museum
- Thomas Duncan

Hannah Greely and William T. Wiley
at Parker Gallery
- Keith J. Varadi

David Hockney
at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (L.A. in N.Y.)
- Ashton Cooper

Edgar Arceneaux
at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (L.A. in S.F.)
- Hana Cohn
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Issue 10 November 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Barely Living with Art:
The Labor of Domestic
Spaces in Los Angeles
Eli Diner
She Wanted Adventure:
Dwan, Butler, Mizuno, Copley
Catherine Wagley
The Languages of
All-Women Exhibitions
Lindsay Preston Zappas
L.A. Povera Travis Diehl
On Eclipses:
When Language
and Photography Fail
Jessica Simmons
Interview with
Hamza Walker
Julie Wietz
Object Project
Featuring: Rosha Yaghmai,
Dianna Molzan, and Patrick Jackson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McLane
Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA
Regen Projects
Ibid Gallery
One National Gay & Lesbian Archives and MOCA PDC
The Mistake Room
Luis De Jesus Gallery
the University Art Gallery at CSULB
the Autry Museum
Reviews Cheyenne Julien
at Smart Objects

Paul Mpagi Sepuya
at team bungalow

Ravi Jackson
at Richard Telles

Tactility of Line
at Elevator Mondays

Trigger: Gender as a Tool as a Weapon
at the New Museum
(L.A. in N.Y.)
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Issue 9 August 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women on the Plinth Catherine Wagley
Us & Them, Now & Then:
Reconstituting Group Material
Travis Diehl
The Offerings of EJ Hill
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
Interview with Jenni Sorkin Carmen Winant
Object Project
Featuring: Rebecca Morris,
Linda Stark, Alex Olson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McClane
Reviews Mark Bradford
at the Venice Biennale

Broken Language
at Shulamit Nazarian

Artists of Color
at the Underground Museum

Anthony Lepore & Michael Henry Hayden
at Del Vaz Projects


Analia Saban at
Sprueth Magers
Letter to the Editor Lady Parts, Lady Arts
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Issue 8 May 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Kanye Westworld Travis Diehl
@richardhawkins01 Thomas Duncan
Support Structures:
Alice Könitz and LAMOA
Catherine Wagley
Interview with
Penny Slinger
Eliza Swann
Exquisite L.A.
taisha paggett
Ashley Hunt
Young Chung
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Alessandro Pessoli
at Marc Foxx

Jennie Jieun Lee
at The Pit

Trisha Baga
at 356 Mission

Jimmie Durham
at The Hammer

Parallel City
at Ms. Barbers

Jason Rhodes
at Hauser & Wirth
Letter to the Editor
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Issue 7 February 2017

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Catherine Wagley
Put on a Happy Face:
On Dynasty Handbag
Travis Diehl
The Limits of Animality:
Simone Forti at ISCP
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
More Wound Than Ruin:
Evaluating the
"Human Condition"
Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.
Brenna Youngblood
Todd Gray
Rafa Esparza
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Creature
at The Broad

Sam Pulitzer & Peter Wachtler
at House of Gaga // Reena Spaulings Fine Art

Karl Haendel
at Susanne Vielmetter

Wolfgang Tillmans
at Regen Projects

at Chateau Shatto

The Rat Bastard Protective Association
at the Landing
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Issue 6 November 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Kenneth Tam
's Basement
Travis Diehl
The Female
Cool School
Catherine Wagley
The Rise
of the L.A.
Art Witch
Amanda Yates Garcia
Interview with
Mernet Larsen
Julie Weitz
Agnes Martin
Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.
Analia Saban
Ry Rocklen
Sarah Cain
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Made in L.A. 2016
at The Hammer Museum

Doug Aitken
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA

at Tif Sigfrids

Jean-Pascal Flavian and Mika Tajima
at Kayne Griffin Corcoran

Mark A. Rodruigez
at Park View

The Weeping Line
Organized by Alter Space
at Four Six One Nine
(S.F. in L.A.)
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Issue 5 August 2016

Letter form the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
at The Underground Museum
Catherine Wagley
The Art of Birth Carmen Winant
Escape from Bunker Hill
John Knight
Travis Diehl
Ed Boreal Speaks Benjamin Lord
Art Advice (from Men) Sarah Weber
Routine Pleasures
at the MAK Center
Jonathan Griffin
Exquisite L.A.
Fay Ray
John Baldessari
Claire Kennedy
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Revolution in the Making
at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel

Carl Cheng
at Cherry and Martin

Joan Snyder
at Parrasch Heijnen Gallery

Elanor Antin
at Diane Rosenstein

Performing the Grid
at Ben Maltz Gallery
at Otis College of Art & Design

Laura Owens
at The Wattis Institute
(L.A. in S.F.)
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Issue 4 May 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Moon, laub, and Love Catherine Wagley
Walk Artisanal Jonathan Griffin
Marva Marrow's
Inside the L.A. Artist
Anthony Pearson
Mystery Science Thater:
Diana Thater
Aaron Horst
Informal Feminisms Federica Bueti and Jan Verwoert
Marva Marrow Photographs
Lita Albuquerque
Interiors and Interiority:
Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Char Jansen
Reviews L.A. Art Fairs

Material Art Fair, Mexico City

Rain Room

Evan Holloway
at David Kordansky Gallery

Histories of a Vanishing Present: A Prologue
at The Mistake Room

Carter Mull
at fused space
(L.A. in S.F.)

Awol Erizku
at FLAG Art Foundation
(L.A. in N.Y.)
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Issue 3 February 2016

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Le Louvre, Las Vegas Evan Moffitt
iPhones, Flesh,
and the Word:
at Arturo Bandini
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women Talking About Barney Catherine Wagley
Lingua Ignota:
Faith Wilding
at The Armory Center
for the Arts
Benjamin Lord
A Conversation
with Amalia Ulman
Char Jansen
How We Practice Carmen Winant
Share Your Piece
of the Puzzle
Federica Bueti
Amanda Ross-Ho Photographs
Erik Frydenborg
Reviews Honeydew
at Michael Thibault

Fred Tomaselli
at California State University, Fullerton

Trisha Donnelly
at Matthew Marks Gallery

Bradford Kessler
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Issue 2 November 2015

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Hot Tears Carmen Winant
Slow View:
Molly Larkey
Anna Breininger and Kate Whitlock
Americanicity's Paintings:
Orion Martin
at Favorite Goods
Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal
Layers of Leimert Park Catherine Wagley
Junkspace Junk Food:
Parker Ito
at Kaldi, Smart Objects,
White Cube, and
Château Shatto
Evan Moffitt
Melrose Hustle Keith Vaughn
Max Maslansky Photographs
Monica Majoli
at the Tom of Finland Foundation
White Lee, Black Lee:
William Pope.L’s "Reenactor"
Travis Diehl
Dora Budor Interview Char Jensen
Reviews Mary Ried Kelley
at The Hammer Museum

Tongues Untied
at MOCA Pacific Design Center

No Joke
at Tanya Leighton
(L.A. in Berlin)
Snap Reviews Martin Basher at Anat Ebgi
Body Parts I-V at ASHES ASHES
Eve Fowler at Mier Gallery
Matt Siegle at Park View
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Issue 1 August 2015

Letter from the Editor Lindsay Preston Zappas
Metaphysical L.A.
Travis Diehl
Art for Art’s Sake:
L.A. in the 1990s
Anthony Pearson
A Dialogue in Two
Synchronous Atmospheres
Erik Morse
with Alexandra Grant
at François Ghebaly
Jonathan Griffin
#studio #visit
with #devin #kenny
Mateo Tannatt
Jibade-Khalil Huffman
Slow View:
Discussion on One Work
Anna Breininger
with Julian Rogers
Reviews Pierre Huyghe

Mernet Larsen
at Various Small Fires

John Currin
at Gagosian, Beverly Hills

Pat O'Niell
at Cherry and Martin

A New Rhythm
at Park View

Unwatchable Scenes and
Other Unreliable Images...
at Public Fiction

Charles Gaines
at The Hammer Museum

Henry Taylor
at Blum & Poe/ Untitled
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Buy the Issue In Our Online Shop
1301 PE
Ace Hotel DTLA
Anat Ebgi (Wilshire)
Anat Ebgi (La Cienega
Arcana Books
Artbook @ Hauser & Wirth
Baert Gallery
Bel Ami
Blum & Poe
Canary Test
Carlye Packer
Charlie James Gallery
Château Shatto
Chris Sharp Gallery
Cirrus Gallery
Commonwealth & Council
Craft Contemporary
D2 Art
David Kordansky Gallery
Diane Rosenstein
François Ghebaly
George Billis Gallery
Giovanni's Room
Hamzianpour & Kia
Hannah Hoffman Gallery
Harper's Gallery
Hashimoto Contemporary
Heavy Manners Library
Helen J Gallery
Human Resources
Hunter Shaw Fine Art
in lieu
Karma, Los Angeles
Lorin Gallery DTLA
Lorin Gallery La Brea
Lowell Ryan Projects
Luis De Jesus Los Angeles
MAK Center for Art and Architecture
Make Room Los Angeles
Matter Studio Gallery
Matthew Brown Los Angeles
MOCA Grand Avenue
Monte Vista Projects
Morán Morán
Moskowitz Bayse
New Low
Night Gallery
Nino Mier Gallery
NOON Projects
O-Town House
One Trick Pony
Paradise Framing
Park View / Paul Soto
Patricia Sweetow Gallery
r d f a
Rele Gallery LA
Roberts Projects
Royale Projects
Sean Kelly
Sebastian Gladstone
Shoshana Wayne Gallery
Shulamit Nazarian
Smart Objects
Steve Turner
Stroll Garden
Tanya Bonakdar Gallery
The Box
The Fulcrum
The Hole
the Landing
The Poetic Research Bureau
The Wende Museum
Thinkspace Projects
Tierra del Sol Gallery
Tiger Strikes Astroid
Tomorrow Today
Track 16
Tyler Park Presents
USC Fisher Museum of Art
UTA Artist Space
Various Small Fires
Libraries/ Collections
Bard College, Center for Curatorial Studies Library (Annandale-on-Hudson, NY)
CalArts (Valencia, CA)
Center for the Arts, Wesleyan University (Middletown, CT)
Charlotte Street Foundation (Kansas City, MO)
Cranbrook Academy of Art (Bloomfield Hills, MI)
Getty Research Institute (Los Angeles, CA)
Los Angeles Contemporary Archive (Los Angeles, CA)
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Research Library (Los Angeles, CA)
Marpha Foundation (Marpha, Nepal)
Maryland Institute College of Art, The Decker Library (Baltimore, MD)
Midway Contemporary Art (Minneapolis, MN)
Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara, Emerging Leaders of Arts (Santa Barbara, CA)
Northwest Nazarene University (Nampa, ID)
NYS College of Ceramics at Alfred University, Scholes Library (Alfred, NY)
Pepperdine University (Malibu, CA)
Point Loma Nazarene University (San Diego, CA)
Room Project (Detroit, MI)
School of the Art Institute of Chicago, John M. Flaxman Library (Chicago, IL)
Skowhegan Archives (New York, NY)
Sotheby’s Institute of Art (New York, NY)
Telfair Museum (Savannah, GA)
The Baltimore Museum of Art Library & Archives (Baltimore, MD)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Thomas J. Watson Library (New York, NY)
University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)
University of San Diego (San Diego, CA)
USC Fisher Museum of Art (Los Angeles, CA)
Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN)
Whitney Museum of American Art, Frances Mulhall Achilles Library (New York, NY)
Yale University Library (New Haven, CT)

How We Practice

Matthew Barney, film still from Drawing Restraint 5 (1989). Image courtesy of Gladstone Gallery. Photo: Michael Rees.

Matthew Barney, film still from Drawing Restraint 5 (1989). Image courtesy of Gladstone Gallery. Photo: Michael Rees.

What do we mean when we use the word practice today? What, for instance, do my students mean when they describe how the internet informs their practice? And is that different from the yoga teacher, who, while correcting a posture in a recent class, told me that my “practice seemed off”? As a practicing artist, writer and teacher, the more I sit with this seemingly self-evident piece of lexis the more disconcerted I become by our mutual, if conflicting and open-ended, usage of it. How can one word at once describe a process, the ideas behind that process, and the application of that process? Why has it become such common parlance in the world of visual art, and in applying it so broadly, what nuance are we possibly doing away with?

My aim is not to argue against the term-as-idea—to snuff out the word simply because it’s fashionable—but rather to make a case for the potential of practice through a more sensitive understanding of what it might offer artists. I’ve tried to explore these questions without over-abusing the word itself, though that too proves a (surprisingly demonstrative) challenge. I’ve gotten so used to slinging the term around that now I can’t think up any others in its place.

I’m not the first person to question the overuse and under-investigation of this word. In his 2014 review of the Whitney Biennial for The New Yorker, aptly titled “Get with It”,1 Peter Schjeldahl wrote about a phenomenon he labeled as “The Age of Practices”:

The word “practice” pops up as a leitmotif throughout the show’s densely texted catalogue. We used to speak of what artists do as their art or their work or, tangentially, their style, vocation, discipline, allegiance, or passion. But now all is practice, with a sense of discrete, professional enterprise. In a way, the fashionable usage recalls the rage for academic critical theory that dominated highbrow art and art talk during the nineteen-eighties and nineties. A subsequent, general rejection of that brainy orientation remains tied to it as a shift of emphasis in the formula “theory and practice.” A practice presumably speaks for itself, in a community of practitioners, like those with nameplates in an office complex.

Schjeldahl brings up three critical points here, worth bearing out:

1. Practice has supplanted words like “discipline” or “style” because it reflects the art world’s desire to legitimize and professionalize. The word itself is sub-defined as a place of business. Who owns practices, after all, if not doctors, dentists, and lawyers.

2. Practice implies a community-bound enterprise, determined and defined by the characteristic of membership.

3. Practice refers to an evolving theoretical turn in art, art criticism, and—though Schjeldahl doesn’t directly say it—MFA programs that now offer terminal degrees in some form of practice (social, critical, or otherwise).

It’s hard not to agree with Schjeldahl on each front: that practice is in fashion because it holds inside of it communal, cerebral, and expert tendencies—

and that words like “vocation,” “passion,” and even “production” feel dated and one-dimensional in comparison. This is an astute analysis, one of the few I’ve read, but it only goes so far as to unpack the word in relation to, and in association with, culture (corporate, cooperative, institutional, etc.). In a short 2007 New York Times essay titled “What We Talk About When We Talk About Art,”2 Roberta Smith made a similar case with similar terms, arguing that the word practice, which intimates the need for a license or permission to make work, “turns the artist into an utterly conventional authority figure.” Like Schjeldahl, Smith resents the word not only as a vestige of vocabulary specific to MFA programs, but also as a reflection of those programs’ professional function: artists now feel they must receive a terminal certificate to produce seriously. In the minds of these leading critics—both of whom have been around long before this word came into style—neither the term practice nor its broader professional implications leave sufficient space for the experimentation that is the real work of the artist.

I’m struck at once by how accurate and how limited this understanding is. Schjeldahl and Smith approach practice from a singular and somewhat rigid point of view—the professional group operating within a privatized market and/or academic framework—and overlook other possible readings or implications of the word and its possible ideation.

My first encounters with practice, as a ritual and a site, were miles away from the art world. For a decade, I was a competitive distance runner and practice, once again, had twin meanings: it was both where I went—from, say, 6:30am to 10:00am, and then again at 5:00pm—as well as the thing I did once I got there. At the time, I didn’t know the word tautology, but if I did, I would have used it to describe the linguistic shortcoming of going to practice to practice. My athletic life drew to a close as I neared the end of college and, longing to move away from a world-as-body and into a world-as-mind, I could not imagine a single point of overlap between the two, and went so far as to hide my jock identity from my newfound artistic friends. I changed out of my running clothes in public bathrooms stalls after practice to avoid any conversation around, or acknowledgement of, my other life. I was still too ignorant to consider the potential that one world lent to the other. I’d ventured into visual art in part because it seemed irreconcilable with running. Practice followed me persistently, unwittingly, from one life to another. How could the same word apply to such different sites of action?

As with any festering conflict, this one eventually, recalcitrantly, bore fruit. Though I dodged it for years, my training as a runner eventually opened up broader possibilities into what I had compartmentalized as my “creative” life. I don’t mean to imply that I began making art that pictured athleticism (though I did do that for a while and it was pretty terrible), but I began considering how the terms of practice for the athlete’s body could provide some insight for every artist’s body.

In order to do this, I needed to circumnavigate problems like legitimacy, license, and ultimately, salary—naturally put forward by professional critics—as well as the idea that both art and sports are generally competitive and require a lot of “hard work.” See Philip Glass’s recent interview on Fresh Air3, in which Glass likens a musician’s capacity for self-discipline to the training ethic of athletes. Or refer to the essay “Athletic Aesthetics”4 by Brad Troemel in The New Inquiry, in which the drive to create a singular artist brand online is compared to a sportsman-like competitiveness. Like every football, tennis, swimming, boxing, basketball, or running movie ever made, these treatises are not untrue, just facile. They flatten all athletic experience into the training montage and the championship match while disregarding that its veritable reality is comprised of hundreds if not thousands of private hours spent repeating grueling tests to build strength, skillfulness, and endurance. By approaching athletic life as a blanket metaphor rather than a lived experience, we oversimplify a timeless ritual of repetition. We miss an opportunity to consider the stakes of practice as a generative and ongoing engagement with failure, perpetrated as infinite rehearsal.

The best case study for this can be found—where else?—with the young Matthew Barney, who coined the phrase “the Artist is the Athlete,” and who, alone in the Yale gymnasium basement in the late 1980s, created the first six Drawing Restraint experiments. (Barney was, not coincidentally, a former football star in his Idaho hometown, and, depending on whom you ask, was either too short or had too weak an arm to play college ball.) In these early and solitary experiments, Barney strapped himself into home-fashioned restraints and reached against them and toward a far wall with drawing utensils in hand. In other cases he held a long pen and jumped on a small trampoline while reaching for the ceiling. Though only one of these early Restraints makes direct reference to sport (in Drawing Restraint 3 Barney tried to clean and jerk a bar made from frozen petroleum wax and jelly), they all tapped a familiar muscle memory for the young former quarterback.

These blunt experiments—and they were crucially “experiments,” never “performances”—mimicked and enacted the terms of practice for the athlete. Though the subsequent Drawing Restraints would become slicker and more refined, it was these early, messy experiments that did the real work. I recognize every single one as an engagement with untold repetition, exhaustion, stamina, anxiety, futility, masochism (however tame), and most of all, the real beating heart of practice: failure.

I’m not just talking about the narrative failure here—of Barney’s inability to continue with his football career—but meta-failures, teased out as meaningful strategy and content. First, failure in its most literal sense: Barney’s foundering body, reaching desperately over and over for a wall it couldn’t quite touch. Second, failure as internalized and physiological: what we call soreness after physical exertion is actually a breakdown of muscles, or an inability of the body to withstand strain. Barney labels this process “entropy,” or sometimes the more medicalized “hypertrophy” in his writings; it is the process of small fissures—called “micro-tears” by exercise physiologists—created in our hamstrings, biceps, or pectorals, to be “patched” by nascent muscle. Barney refers to this process in a 2006 video produced by SFMoMA, saying, “I think that as an athlete you understand that your body requires resistance in order to grow. The whole training process is built upon that understanding.”5 Consider this as a model for generative catastrophe: body builders working to create as many internal tears as possible.

These early Drawing Restraint experiments—so rife with practice—manifest and describe failure itself. In athletic terms, and arguably creative ones, the subject is, by design, met face-to-face with his or her own inadequacies, not as a byproduct of practice but as its endpoint. Practice teases out faults and weaknesses in an attempt to patch, to strengthen, to move toward but never quite reach one’s own impossible “potential.” The etymology of the word refers to being fit for action but never engendering the action itself. Practice, then, is the perennial state of being almost-there, the great anti-climax. The artist—forever making, searching, rehearsing, and confronting impossible and often laborious problems—belongs this same country.

We need a word like practice. To dismiss it offhand as being synonymous with “work” or “professionalism” is a mistake. The more critics bemoan the term as making sole reference to the institutionalization of art, or the overvaluation of credentials (as William Deresiewicz declared in his recent article for the Atlantic6, the less space they afford for its multivalent promises. I’ve been turning to artists themselves to do this work, to demonstrate and engage the conditions of athletic life (Francis Alys, Mark Bradford and Yoko Ono are supreme at this), to remind me of just how meaningful a connection can be made.

Not every artist needs their practice to produce content. Their explorations, like Barney’s, make simply plain how practice can function as both productive failure and rehearsal for active, extended bodies. More than any other discursive arguments about the term, the early Drawing Restraint works lay bare this kinship between athletic practice and creative practice distinct from a conversation around professionalization and remuneration. Creative and athletic inquests are not so far removed after all. If only I’d known earlier.

This essay was originally published in Carla issue 3.

  1. Peter Schjeldahl, “Get With It.” The New Yorker 17 Mar. 2014. Print
  2. Roberta Smith, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Art.” The New York Times 23 Dec. 2007. Online
  3. Philip Glass On Legacy: ‘The Future…It’s All Around Us.’ Fresh Air with Terry Gross, NPR, 6 April 2015. Radio
  4. Brad Troemel, “Althetic Aesthetics.” The New Inquiry 10 May 2013. Online.
  5. Matthew Barney on The Origins of Drawing Restraint,, June 2006.
  6. William Deresiewicz, “The Death of the Artist—and the Birth of the Creative Entrepreneur,” The Atlantic, January/February 2015. Print

Carmen Winant is an artist and the Roy Lichtenstein Chair of Studio Art at the Ohio State University. Her work utilizes installation and collage strategies to center modes of feminist exchange and social movement building, with particular emphasis on intergenerational and multiracial solidarity. She is a mother to her two sons, Carlo and Rafa, shared with her partner, Luke Stettner.

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