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

at 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
at LADIES’ ROOM
– Jessica Simmons

Derek Paul Jack Boyle
at SMART OBJECTS
–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
at NAVEL
–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
at LAXART
–Matt Stromberg

Kahlil Joseph
at MOCA PDC
–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
Reviews
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

Home
at LACMA

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.
Featuring:
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
Generous
Structures
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.
Featuring:
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

Ma
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
at LACMA
Jessica Simmons
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
Analia Saban
Ry Rocklen
Sarah Cain
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews
Made in L.A. 2016
at The Hammer Museum

Doug Aitken
at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA

Mertzbau
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
Non-Fiction
at The Underground Museum
Catherine Wagley
The Art of Birth Carmen Winant
Escape from Bunker Hill
John Knight
at REDCAT
Travis Diehl
Ed Boreal Speaks Benjamin Lord
Art Advice (from Men) Sarah Weber
Routine Pleasures
at the MAK Center
Jonathan Griffin
Exquisite L.A.
Featuring:
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
Reconsidering
Marva Marrow's
Inside the L.A. Artist
Anthony Pearson
Mystery Science Thater:
Diana Thater
at LACMA
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
at LACMA

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:
F.B.I.
at Arturo Bandini
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women Talking About Barney Catherine Wagley
Lingua Ignota:
Faith Wilding
at The Armory Center
for the Arts
and LOUDHAILER
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
at ASHES/ASHES
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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
MEAT PHYSICS/
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
SOGTFO
at François Ghebaly
Jonathan Griffin
#studio #visit
with #devin #kenny
@barnettcohen
Mateo Tannatt
Photographs
Jibade-Khalil Huffman
Slow View:
Discussion on One Work
Anna Breininger
with Julian Rogers
Reviews Pierre Huyghe
at LACMA

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
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in lieu
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Murmurs
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Night Gallery
OOF Books
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The Box
Track 16
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Wilding Cran Gallery
Wönzimer Gallery
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Arcana Books
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the Landing
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USC Fisher Museum of Art
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UTA Artist Space
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Nino Mier Gallery
Nonaka-Hill
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STARS
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The LODGE
Various Small Fires
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r d f a
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Et al. (San Francisco, CA)
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Libraries/ Collections
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Whitney Museum of American Art, Frances Mulhall Achilles Library (New York, NY)
Yale University Library (New Haven, CT)

The Performance Artist and the Politician

Leer en Español

Kristina Wong, Kristina Wong for Public Office (2020). Performance, 65 minutes. Image courtesy of the artist and the Skirball Cultural Center. Photo: Larry Sandez.

On a weeknight in March at The Virgil in Silver Lake, Gnarlie Hose, a character played by filmmaker Joey Soloway, took the stage for the very first time. They were dressed in a brown corduroy suit, gut hanging out of their unzipped pants, their face disfigured with a black eye. Peering out with suspicion at a full house and gripping the mic with their oversized hands, Hose boasted about his mansion in Sag Harbor, accentuating the words “Saaag Haaarbor,” and breathing heavily into the mic. Back in Long Island, as Hose told it, he was housing a fraternity of male celebrities who had been disenfranchised by the #MeToo movement, or as he renamed it, “Us Also.” According to Hose, this consortium of male perpetrators included the infamous television host Billy Bush. Upon mention of his name, a performer playing Bush strode across the stage with the bravado of an over-tanned, muscly, middle-aged millionaire. As Hose explained, Bush had been rehired as a co-host on Gnarlie Hose Show after losing his job for laughing on tape to Trump’s incredulous statement, “grab ’em by the pussy.”

The brainchild of Soloway and artist/actor Marval A Rex (who plays Billy Bush), Gnarlie Hose Show is a performance art project that is both a parody of the Charlie Rose show and an authentic attempt to platform roundtable discussions with actual activists and artists. Despite the exaggerated antics of both characters on stage, Soloway and Rex use their show, which they plan to host regularly at The Virgil, to facilitate provocative dialogue about toxic masculinity and the possibility for radical change. In effect, the presence of tricksters Hose and Bush acts as a lubricant for candid dialogue amongst their legitimate guests. During the show, they invite a majority trans and queer cast of guests to say “whatever the fuck [they] want,” as Rex explained to me in a phone interview,1  and they bar all recordings of the live performances so that guests may speak openly and without fear of retribution on social media. The show’s premiere featured activist Janaya Khan, who co-founded Black Lives Matter Canada; artist and filmmaker Zackary Drucker; and artist and activist Favianna Rodriguez. Sitting at a roundtable under a neon sign that read “Gnarlie Hoes,” Rex—in character the whole time—facilitated a conversation that spanned the war in Ukraine, prison abolition, the climate crisis, intimate partner abuse, trans rights, and more. 

While actual performance artists like Soloway and Rex are utilizing grassroots activism and local political platforms to address real issues impacting their communities, far from the comedic stages of queer Los Angeles, national politicians are throwing shade at one another for behaving like “performance artists.” The term is being leveled like a slur at far-right politicians in an effort to deem them inauthentic and over the top. Rejecting this type of empty rhetorical strategy, many performance artists working today are combating the lies and absurdity of American extremism by taking genuine action for transformative change. Whether it’s in the form of hosting roundtable discussions with Black, trans, and queer activists, educating the public about the parliamentary procedures at the neighborhood council, or mobilizing local mutual aid networks, many performance artists are clearly doing more than drawing attention to themselves for attention’s sake alone, as certain politicians would like to believe. In fact, the weaponization of performance art on the national media stage dangerously obscures the actual impact of extremist politicians who promote the racist, homophobic, Islamophobic, and antisemitic conspiracies that are being seriously accepted as fact by millions of Americans. So it is, that in a strange turn of events, the members of the same Republican party that stripped performance artists like Karen Finley of federal funding three decades ago due to “standards of decency”2 are now accusing one another of acting like them. 

The quibble began last December when Congressman Dan Crenshaw (R–Tex.) used the term to discredit lawmakers like Marjorie Taylor Greene (R–Ga.) and Lauren Boebert (R–Co.) as narcissistic and ineffective. On social media, Greene regularly draws attention to herself with ludicrous statements, like suggesting that Jewish “space lasers” ignited the 2018 wildfires in California.3 Similarly, Boebert seizes the limelight with hateful rhetoric and superfluous behavior; in her first week in office, she refused to open her handbag for security guards at the Capitol, while boasting online that she carries a loaded, semiautomatic pistol in Washington.4 For these reasons, the less-extremist Crenshaw called out his colleagues at a campaign event, saying that “There are two types of members of Congress: there is performance artists and there is legislators. Performance artists are the ones who get all of the attention, the ones you think are more conservative because they know how to say slogans real well.”5 Following Crenshaw’s logic, the defining trait of performance artists is their ability to aggrandize and falsify their actions in order to gain public notoriety.

While the distinctions between performers and politicians have been indefinitely blurred with the likes of Ronald Reagan, Donald Trump, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Volodymyr Zelenskyy taking office after successful careers in television and film, the ramifications of their power are distinctly vast, as are the contextual frameworks. Imagining Greene or Boebert as performance artists may evoke a few laughs in an art context, but compared to the absurdity of the conspiracy theories these representatives propagate, such a hypothetical seems benign. When the behavior of far-right politicians is indiscriminately associated with performance artists, it is one more strategy of the far-right to deflect responsibility. Hardly the fault of actual performance artists, the discombobulation of political discourse in this country is a concerted effort of right-wing extremists to undo the thin threads of democracy. Take, for example, far-right radio host Alex Jones, who, in a Texas courtroom in 2017, claimed that his propagation of conspiracy theories—like “Pizzagate” and the Sandy Hook massacre as a “hoax”—was merely part of his persona as a “performance artist” and therefore should not be taken seriously.6 More than just blithe disregard for artists and their practices, the misappropriation of the term is a tactic of the far-right to deny accountability and downplay their precarious influence.

Performance of Gnarlie Hose Show at The Virgil (2022). Image courtesy of the artists. Photo: Elizabeth Viggiano.

In contrast, actual performance artists, like L.A.-based Kristina Wong, have ventured into public office, precipitated by Trump’s rise to the presidency and the consequential perversion of American politics. In the dramatized version that Wong tells in her one-woman show Kristina Wong for Public Office, in 2019, after being trolled online by the aforementioned Jones and other far-right conspiracy bloggers for her educational YouTube series Radical Cram School, Wong filled out candidacy paperwork during a hazy, weed-filled evening. Three years later, she is a two-term Sub-District 5 Representative of Koreatown Wilshire Neighborhood Council. In Kristina Wong for Public Office, which premiered at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles in February 2020, Wong entertainingly narrated her experience as a representative. Reminiscent of Elvis in a white power suit and bejeweled cape, and surrounded by handmade American flags, she opens her show as if at a campaign event, rallying the crowd with questions like, “Are you ready to throw blind fanatical support around a candidate who will make promises and maybe deliver on a fraction of them?” In the energetic 65-minute performance, the artist parodied the connections she perceives between being a performance artist and a politician, while genuinely educating her audience about the democratic process, voting rights, and the history of campaign rallies. 

Despite her sardonic tone throughout the show, Wong’s self-aggrandizing performance as a politician is for more than just laughs. Rather, she uses the absurdity of the current moment to confront the brokenness of the American political system while openly reckoning with her personal failures and insecurities as both an artist and an elected representative. “People hated me as a performance artist, and people will continue to hate me as a politician,” Wong concludes after expressing worry about her likability as a candidate. At the show’s end, Wong shares the story of her proudest achievement yet, in which the Neighborhood Council unanimously passed a public statement in favor of abolishing ICE. However symbolic, the declaration acknowledged the thousands of undocumented immigrants living in Koreatown, who face inhumane treatment and deportation at the hands of federal agents, and satisfied Wong’s innate need to feel like she was making a difference. 

When New York-based performance artist Amy Khoshbin launched her campaign for City Council in District 38 of Brooklyn in 2018, she did so while standing at a podium in front of a projection of a hand-drawn campaign ad at The Whitney Museum of American Art. What began as a traditional campaign speech, in which the candidate introduces herself to her constituents, transformed into an enthusiastic rap about nonviolent dissent and the power of grassroots activism. Tearing off her long, red blazer and throwing the cardboard podium into the audience as if it were crowd-surfing at a concert, Khoshbin called for everyone to stand up and dance as she led the audience to the rap’s hook, “No more violence, break our silence, shine our brilliance, we make a difference.” You Never Know (2018) was a performance artwork and political launch in one, as Khoshbin explained that evening: “I see using media and creativity as our tools for social change.” 

Khoshbin decided to run for office following the success of her public art project Word on the Street (2017–present), which launched during the Women’s March in 2017 and included a participatory banner-making workshop and quirky signage posted across New York City with messages like, “Embrace the absurd.” As an Iranian-American, Khoshbin’s decision was partly a response to Trump’s vicious attack on immigrants, and partly a way to demystify the political process and empower regular citizens like herself to get involved.7 In the process of deepening her activism in her local district, however, Khoshbin’s perception of her candidacy as a performance dramatically shifted. Humbled by the political dynamics of her neighborhood, the artist stepped down from her candidacy after a well-respected community member, who had lived and raised her family in the district, was endorsed by the local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. (Khoshbin also sat on the organizing committee of the chapter.) Instead, she decentered herself and focused her energy on mobilizing mutual aid networks and rallying support for prison abolition and racial justice in her neighborhood.

While performance artists like Khoshbin are meaningfully engaging their communities—often doing so by using performance in authentic, inventive ways—the term has been co-opted and used to signal inauthenticity. In any case, it’s hard to imagine elected officials like Boebert using the strategies of real performance art to achieve anything in the political realm. Meanwhile, the same conspiracists who use the term “crisis actors” to falsely claim that the parents of the Sandy Hook shooting victims were hired actors are the ones who are claiming to be performance artists to deflect accountability and intentionally undermine our democratic system. When politicians with influence and power deem performance art as inauthentic or unserious, this deflection not only demeans the real work that artists are doing, it also creates a political theater that seeds dangerously influential misinformation. When actual performance artists are stepping into the realm of politics, broadcasting their views on stage, or supporting grassroots activism locally, they are more than just performing; these artists are taking an active role in the participation and formation of a functioning democracy. These artists are transposing the troubling viscerality of American political unrest into a joyous expression that communicates the possibility for change, and in doing so, reaffirming the transformative power of creativity.

Performance of Gnarlie Hose Show at The Virgil (2022). Image courtesy of the artists. Photo: Elizabeth Viggiano.

Kristina Wong, Radical Cram School (2020). Video still from season 2. Directed by Jenessa Joffe. Image courtesy of the artist.

Kristina Wong, Kristina Wong for Public Office (2020). Performance, 65 minutes. Image courtesy of the artist and the Skirball Cultural Center. Photo: Larry Sandez.

Amy Khoshbin, You Never Know (2018). Performance at An Evening with VECTOR on June 22, 2018. Images courtesy of the artist and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Photos: Andrew Kist.

Amy Khoshbin, You Never Know (2018). Performance at An Evening with VECTOR on June 22, 2018. Images courtesy of the artist and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Photos: Andrew Kist.


This essay was originally published in Carla issue 28.

  1. Marval A Rex, interviewed by author, March 14, 2022.
  2. “Finley v. NEA,” Center for Constitutional Rights, updated December 11, 2007, https://ccrjustice.org/home/what-we-do/our-cases/finley-v-nea.
  3. Bruce Y. Lee, “Did Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene Blame A ‘Space Laser’ For Wildfires? Here’s The Response,” Forbes, January 30, 2021, https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucelee/2021/01/30/did-rep-marjorie-taylor-greene-blame-a-space-laser-for-wildfires-heres-the-response/?sh=3ad3b388e44a.
  4. Katie Rogers and Dave Philipps, “A Republican Lawmaker for Whom the Spectacle Is the Point,” The New York Times, updated January 29, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/13/us/politics/lauren-boebert-republican.html.
  5. Jon Skolnik, “GOP civil war heats up: Dan Crenshaw calls out GOP ‘grifters’ and ‘performance artists’ in Congress,” Salon, December 7, 2021, https://www.salon.com/2021/12/07/civil-heats-up-dan-crenshaw-calls-out-grifters-and-performance-artists-in-congress/.
  6. Callum Borchers, “Alex Jones should not be taken seriously, according to Alex Jones’s lawyers,” The Washington Post, April 17, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/04/17/trump-called-alex-jones-amazing-joness-own-lawyer-calls-him-a-performance-artist/.
  7. Amy Khoshbin, interviewed by author, March 16, 2022.

Julie Weitz is a transdisciplinary artist whose narrative-based works include live and multimedia performances, video, drawing, and installation. Her highly collaborative process often involves spiritual leaders, activists, poets, choreographers, and musicians, and frequently draws on her heritage as a queer, Ashkenazi, and diasporic Jew.

More by Julie Weitz