Yoko Ono: Painting To Hammer A Nail (1966)

Yoko Ono: Painting To Hammer A Nail (1966)


Curated by Todd Levin
June 19 – August 15, 2009
Opening reception June 18, 2009 6-8pm

Jãnis Avotinš, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Alexandra Bircken, Alighiero E. Boetti, James Castle, Joseph Cornell, Thea Djordjadze, Leonardo Drew, Robert Elfgen, Roe Ethridge, Peter Fischli/David Weiss, Melissa Gordon, Rodney Graham, Hannah Greely, Rashawn Griffin, Françoise Grossen, David Hammons, Jay Heikes, Mary Heilmann, Barkley L. Hendricks, Diane Itter, Sergej Jensen, Titus Kaphar, Marvin Lipofsky, John McQueen, Ed Moulthrop, Bruce Nauman, Cady Noland, William J. O’Brien, George Ohr, Demetrius Oliver, Yoko Ono, Paul Outerbridge, Steven Parrino, Ed Rossbach, Sterling Ruby, Anj Smith, Shinique Smith, Gert & Uwe Tobias, Rosemarie Trockel, Peter Voulkos, Franz West, Toots Zynsky.

Curator Statement

For three years, starting in 1961 (the year I was born), the English literary critic A. Alvarez prepared a series of programs for BBC radio on the intellectual scene in America called “Under Pressure.” In these broadcasts, various writers commented on the need for artists to create their own language. This is an extract of what poet Robert Lowell said to Alvarez: “Some artists have impatience with the prosaic, everyday things of life, that sort of whimsical patience that other people may have…they leap for the sublime…what one finds wrong with culture is the monotony of the sublime…Art is always done with both your hands…the artist finds new life in it and almost sheds their outer life..” Whilst relistening to, and reflecting upon these radio programs recently, it became sadly apparent that facile irony had become one of the dominant philosophical stances of the art world, and that perhaps the artists and artwork I chose for inclusion in Your Gold Teeth II simply had to lay in wait until the Oligarch decade was over. Any artist can hide for a long time in the wilds of their own irony, never rising above the vegetation. But hipness, in the illicit art world sense, feels suddenly puerile, meaningless, a sham, another way of simply buying into the system. One is sick to death of all the posturing.

In contrast, within this group exhibition one senses that boundaries are being tested, and rules of art conduct are being subverted – not subverted where craft is cast aside in favor of studied simplicity such as in the recent Whitney Biennial and Unmonumental exhibitions, but subverted by craft itself. On the contrary, there is a ‘muchness’ to a great deal of the work in this exhibition. When the cultural bar has recently been lowered to the point of absurdity, the only revenge worthy of the name comes from reestablishing standards lost to laziness and expediency, putting into sharp relief the dreck that surrounds it.

So much of what one sees today is one-sided. Either it is cold and calculated, with a minimum of feeling, or it is a sloppy slum of terrifying emotion. Somewhere in the labyrinth the artists in this exhibition have found individual answers to this balancing act. To give this ‘answer’ in words is approachable, but ultimately impossible. What is involved is the union of an idea with emotion, precomposition with improvisation, discipline with spontaneity. These artists have an affinity for the controlled yet significant gesture, the performed essence, a result of concentrated internal selection from a vast repertoire of expressive options. This stripped down approach to craft often obscures a wider technical command than is immediately apparent. If you’re looking for order, you will find it. But even when these artists systematically subvert themselves for the devious pleasure of it, they still maintain a level of control where they strange can be made familiar – and vice versa. By eschewing displays of obvious virtuosity, the artist gains the advantage of a kind of mystery.

A good jazz improviser can make one note do the job of many. Incomplete utterances can fully communicate an idea. Imply, don’t state. Artwork doesn’t have a necessary end goal. Ideas, rendered in these artists’ distinctive lo-fi argot, feel aired out and simplified without being rendered trivial. A sense of satisfactory unsatisfaction remains. The artwork featured in Your Gold Teeth II is about the opening up of ideas and approaches, not the pin-point sharpening of them.

Todd Levin
June 2009

Marianne Boesky Gallery

509 West 24th Street
between 10th and 11th Avenues.
New York, NY 10011, USA


Monday to Friday from 10am to 6pm beginning June 23rd.

Tel: 212-680-9889
Fax: 212-680-9897

For further information or images, please contact Annie Rana at 212.680.9889
or [email protected].


Who are these children
Who scheme and run wild
Who speak with their wings
And the way that they smile
What are the secrets
They trace in the sky
And why do you tremble
Each time they ride by

Throw out your gold teeth
And see how they roll
The answer they reveal
Life is unreal

Who are these strangers
Who pass through the door
Who cover your action
And go you one more
If you’re feeling lucky
You best not refuse
It’s your game the rules
Are your own win or lose

Throw out your gold teeth
And see how they roll
The answer they reveal
Life is unreal

Throw out your gold teeth
And see how they roll
The answer they reveal
Life is unreal

Words and music by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen
© 1975 MCA Music Publishing, A Division of Universal Studios, Inc. (ASCAP)