This Year, Give Stuart Sherman


At a time of year when exuberant celebration meets with reflection and humanitarian impulses, it seems appropriate to devote my posts to a few artists, curators, and projects that have recently aroused this glogg of feelings in me. I wanted to simply illustrate this combination of seasonal attitudes through these projects, under the conceptual heading of “earnestness,” but I’ve been told that to be earnest is something different – more like being serious or honest, which may be part of what I’m getting at but doesn’t encompass it. So I will instead be spending these two weeks clarifying this feeling, in the course of presenting the works. My hope is that this will be a not-too-sugary holiday project. Let me know what you think.

To begin: Stuart Sherman: Nothing Up My Sleeve at Participant, Inc. in New York. This conversational group show, organized by artist Jonathan Berger, starts with Sherman, a performance artist whose idiosyncratic practice included minimalist cartoons, stints in the theater of Richard Foreman, and perhaps most famously, a series of “spectacles” – sleight-of-hand-like actions performed with exceedingly humble materials on rickety card tables, often in the parks of New York. Sherman is just one of the nodes of the show, which includes reflections on magic, deception, and spirituality through the work of James Lee Byars, Andy Kaufman, Carol Bove, Houdini, and Vaginal Davis, among others.

There is also Beginningless Thought/Endless Seeing at NYU’s 80WSE gallery, a more straightforward retrospective of Sherman’s work. In the context of my project for this blog, I’ve included a 1983 interview with Sherman by Kestutis Nakas on Your Program of Programs, which showcases Sherman’s naïve charm as a performer, with the added layer of Nakas’ good-natured lunacy. Two sides of the same coin, perhaps? Happy Solstice!