on May 22, 2015
This book is pretty good. And, it is well written. It has got some problems though.
You never really get a sense of who Sturtevant was, what motivates her, or what she thinks about her art. She remains pretty mysterious. That is largely because she wants to stay mysterious. But, Hainly doesn't really even speculate.
A big misstep is that the first section includes two distinct articles that alternate on opposite pages. This starts out being super confusing and ends by being merely annoying. there is no real reason for this.
The second section of the book is a fictionalized dialogue that weirdly focuses on a lot of topics that are not linked to Sturtevant's concerns like current trends in gay pornography. The dialogue is between a 50 year-old Hainley stand in ( a little bit of a mary sue), a 25 year-old professional escort and ‘Zombie Boy’ Rick Genest. That is right this dude: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmeELC5EGv4
It is a common novelistic technique to fantasize about some stuff then pretend that protagonist has those same concerns. Pretty sure that Sturtevant didn't care about ‘Zombie Boy’ Rick Genest though.
Lots of questions:
What was Sturtevant's thinking?
What did people think about Sturtevant in the 60s?
Why was Sturtevant's art risky for those she copied?
Why were people angry with her?
What changed when she got divorced?
There are good things in the book. And, Hainley isn't slacking. He followed up what leads he could and interviewed those who would talk to him.
Lots of people say they don't remember.
There seems to be some point where she transgressed some boundary. People thinking they could slot her in one social role and her not staying there. Is something about her story still art world taboo? Maybe something about money?
Here is a more favorable review than mine that has a good summary of some of the good parts:
"It’s a fascinating read—the reactions and nonreactions to Sturtevant; a physical attack on the artist by a mob of schoolchildren, seemingly angered by the storefront; Oldenburg wanting to “kill” her in reaction to her work; a prepossessing moment in which Duchamp arrives to Relâche, views the cancellation sign, and returns to his taxi, which had been left running with his wife waiting inside."
on February 5, 2014
This is a totally exhilarating book of writing about art that takes many unexpected forms, asks the biggest and most important and difficult questions in fresh and urgent terms, and provides the best, most meticulous research possible on one of the slipperiest and most untrackable artists ever.