Lists and who’s in: Art 21’s new season on PBS

I was talking with Bay, Ava, Nancy and Andrea the other night about Karen Kilimnik‘s work (on view now at ICA and at the Powel House — we’ve written lots, just use the blog search function at the top of the page…it didn’t used to work but now seems to work great –if I have time I’ll put in links later). We were puzzling over why the artist seems to be all over the place right now (in addition to her Philadelphia show, she had shows in Paris and London recently — and that’s just what we know about, there are probably more). Andrea remarked that that’s the way it works. An artist gets “hot” and suddenly you can’t turn around but that their work is in your view.

Karen Kilimnik
Karen Kilimnik. Scatter artpiece from her ICA show.

Some of us had seen Kilimnik’s Philly shows and some hadn’t but had seen other work by the artist. All of us seemed to question the heft of the work–its gravitas for the ages as well as its aesthetic. I hazarded that if you tried to boil down the massive list of contemporary artists to a list of 10 important names that would be recognized in 100 years as THE artists of our time she wouldn’t be on the list. Now I know this is not fair and that nobody in their right mind could make such a list but my point was that her work, while interesting (and also annoying let’s be fair) is brittle.


I do think her work is important. She’s commenting on our contemporary culture which she mirrors, spitting back everything good and bad as if a partially digested meal, everything translated into the same horrible bile. And if that’s the message–that our culture’s a sewer– that’s a valid message and an important one. But whether she gets that point across is questionable since everything is so coded and mysterious — and not so visually engaging — that it’s a puzzle most people don’t want to try to solve.

Art 21

Then, as conversations do, our thoughts wandered elsewhere and someone brought up the PBS series, Art 21. Now there’s a list of artist’s names for you. Going into its fourth season, Art 21 has chronicled the studio practice and biographies of around 17 or 18 artists each time they’ve gone out with their cameras. That’s a lot more than 10, and looking back on who they’ve covered, you can see that some of the artists will have greater staying power than others.


I just got the trailer DVD for Art 21’s Season 4 — which begins Oct. 28 — and here’s what you all want to know: the list of names. Like other years, there are some “oh sure, of course” names –Jenny Holzer, Robert Ryman, Nancy Spero, Pierre Huyghe. And then there are some surprises — Mark Dion, for example, whose archeological digs through archives and artifacts and history and the resulting educational displays I have seen and understood but have yet to like.

Here’s the full list of what’s coming up in Art 21’s Season 4, and below are some of the quotes I pulled off the 4-minute trailer the nice folks at PBS sent me.

Jenny Holzer
Mark Dion
Nancy Spero
Robert Ryman
Laurie Simmons
Mark Bradford
Ursula Von Rydingsvard
Inigo Manglano-Ovalle
Robert Adams
Jennifer Allora & Guilllermo Calzadilla
Catherine Sullivan
Alfredo Jaar
Lari Pittman
Judy Pfaff
Pierre Huyghe


Four themes

There are four episodes in the series and each deals with a theme. (The shows will run on four consecutive Sundays at 10 pm (ET)).

Oct 28-Episode 1 is Ecology and includes von Rydingsvard, Manglano-Ovalle, Adams and Dion;

Nov. 4-Episode 2 is Paradox with Allora and Calzadilla, Ryman, Bradford and Sullivan;

Nov. 11-Episode 3 is Protest with Spero, Le, Jaar and Holzer; and

Nov. 18-Episode 4 is Romance with Simmons, Pittman, Pfaff and Huyghe.

Some quotes from the artists highlighted in the trailer:

The real purpose of painting is to give pleasureRobert Ryman

Ursula von Rydingsvard, ence pence, 1997, cedar and graphite, 89 ½" x 186 1/8" x 72", DeCordova Museum, Lincoln, MA. Lent by the Artist; Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York, NY and Barbara Krakow Gallery, Boston, MA
Ursula von Rydingsvard, ence pence, 1997, cedar and graphite, 89 ½” x 186 1/8″ x 72″, DeCordova Museum, Lincoln, MA. Lent by the Artist; Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York, NY and Barbara Krakow Gallery, Boston, MA

Anger has been a tremendous organizing force for me. I am grateful to my angerUrsula Von Rydingsvaard

Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Cloud Prototype No. 1, Fiberglass and Titanium alloy foil,
132 x 176 x 96, 2003. Courtesy of Max Protetch.

The piece in a sense reflects its public. They are the storm. La tornata somos nosotros.Inigo Manglano-Ovalle

As I start a project I always have to create a world. My walk through the world is the work.Pierre Huyghe

Lots of things are determined by a romantic impulse, but I try to squelch it.Judy Pfaff

The Cloud, Valle Del Matador, Tijuana-San Diego, Mexico-USA Border, October 14, 2000.

My way of thinking is Cartesian. It’s pretty logical. I try to make sense.Alfredo Jaar

Burning Oil Sludge, Weld County, Colorado
Robert Adams
gelatin silver print on paper mounted on paperboard
image: 6 x 7 5/8 in. (15.2 x 19.4 cm)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Virginia Zabriskie

I’d like to document what’s glorious in the WestRobert Adams

Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla
Allora and Calzadilla, from the recent group show, Empathetic, at Temple Gallery.

How do you put these things together? You use glue–ideological glue.Guillermo Calzadilla and Jennifer Allora

At the end of the day my work is about celebration. I’m interested in the politicized body. Mark Bradford

Mark Dion. Mobile Wilderness Unit, 2001 (290 x 170 x 380 cm)

Some paint, some take photos. I shop.Mark Dion