Author: Hainley, Bruce
Date published: December 1, 2011
Meanwhile not a few wished Sturtevant taken out.
"She practices a kind of art that has made her one of the less popular artists in Manhattan," an uncredited correspondent for Time declared in 1969, before quoting the artist on her predicament: "Oldenburg is ready to kill me. It all makes him dive up a wall." '
His thoughts hadn't always been so mortal. Claes Oldenburg had given the artist an early opportunity to make a splash in one of his Happenings.
Cue bathing beauties:
Four women, Elaine [Sturtevant], Martha [Edelheit], Nancy [Fish], and Jackie [Ferrara], enter through the authence at the shallow end. They are fully dressed. They walk into the water by the shallow ladder. One of them carries a length of the red dodiesline, swims out to the bridge and attaches it. The other end is attached to the shallow ladder. The women remove their clothes, mcluding shoes, and hang them on die red line with clothespins.
The four men interrupt their threading of pipe to grunt and to he on the edges of the pool breafhing very hard. The four women from time to time wash each other with a long brush and sponges and whistie one note/ Staged in and around the pool of Al Boon's Health Club, "in the basement of the Riverside Plaza Hotel on Manhattan's West 73rd Street," Oldenburg's Washes played on May 22 and 23, 1965, part of the First New York Theater Rally, a series of dance concerts and Happenings (including works by Robert Rauschenberg, Lucinda Childs, Robert Whitman, and Yvonne Rainer, among others), organized by die curator Alan Solomon and the dancer-choreographer Steve Paxton. Sturtevant, as directed, stripped, hung out her laundry, and bathed Seuratiy while whistling one note short of a catcall in blasé response to men's heavy breathing and laying pipe. One baffled Theater Rally attendee summed it all up: "Swan Lake it ain't."3
In the same Time article, Sturtevant, "with a faraway look in her eye" and non-nonplussed by death threats, delivered one the acutest statements about her work and its consequences:
I have no place at all except in relation to die total structure. What interests me is not cornmurucating but creating change. Some people feel that a great change in esthetics in general is happening, though few understand exactiy why. Mainly, there is a great deal of anxiety.4
The artist renders her pursuit in relation to the total structure in order to catalyze change, perhaps to the normal functioning and scope of the aesthetic system. At a moment when the medium was supposedly the message, Sturtevant, exceptionally aware of the no-place from which she operated, understood that bypassing communication for hardcore transformation would not necessarily preclude aftershocks, whether conceptually motivated or unexpectedly supplementary. From her no-place, hiding in plain sight, contrapuntal to the total structure of the aesthetic, the artist devises her work, creating, in part, a vantage, passing as the status quo, from which to question various givens, systemic complicities, aesthetic formalizations, and societal fluctuations, even if they cannot be said to motivate her undercover recon missions. In other words, people get ready.
Ready or not.
Was it "a great deal of anxiety" Oldenburg felt when he was ready to "kill" her?
On Sunday, April 23, 1967, "What's New in Art," a weekly cultural calendar of the New York Times, announced an opening for Wednesday:
CLAES OLDENBURG - Sidney Janis Gallery, ?? East 57th Street. Sculpture. To May 27. 5
Of the show, John Perreault would write, for the Village Voict, that Oldenburg
does it again. Year after year he continués his great inventiveness. This year's show contains more plans and models for his wacky monuments - a giant red drainpipe for Toronto, a toilet bowl tank ball-valve for the Thames, a super-sized knee, and large mock-ups of cigarette butts ("Fag Ends"). He has made plans, models, and mock-ups into a new form of art. His "humor" is right out of Gargantua and Pantagruel and if Rabelais were alive today he would be Claes Oldenburg.6
In the guise of an art review, what Perreault also reviews, unconsciously or not, constitutes some elements of the total structure of an artist's participation in the procedural norms that allow his reputation to burgeon: recurring rhythms of production and exhibition ("this year's show" made up of "more," the plans, models, and mock-ups of next months or next year's monumental unveiling); geographic franchising ("for Toronto ... for the Thames"); and critical and historical cross-checking re: inventiveness and recognizable modes ("new" forms, today's "Rabelais"). The ubiquity and complacency of such discourse Sturtevant causes to skid on the intractabilities of the same.
The same April Sunday listing of "What's New in Art" carried another Oldenburg-related event, under the section "Recent Openings":
THE STORE OF CLAES OLDENBURG, 623 E. 9th Street. To June 17.7
Did anyone get the '"humor,"' Rabelaisian or otherwise, of the unattributed listing or the uncanniness of what wasn't the monument, plan, or mock-up it advertised? Did anyone wonder what, exactly, was being done or why? Did anyone consider it odd that there wasn't any mention of who was authorizing or doing it or (pace Perreault) what "doing it again" would really amount to? Three weeks later, on Sunday, May 14, 1967, a more standardized (or authorized) bulletin ran in "What's New in Art":
STURTEVANT- 623 East 9th Street. The Store of Claes Oldenburg by Sturtevant. To June 11.8
However many questions remain unanswered, certain matters are clarified: there's a new closing date, and an artist's name now accredits the enterprise, twice over, as if to notarize in duplicate who was doing what to whom again.
Something related to Oldenburg and his work changed the dynamics of the response to Sturtevant and hers, despite the fact that The Store of does Oldenburg by Sturtevant never was The Stoie by Claes Oldenburg. When asked about Oldenburg in the late 1980s, Sturtevant confirmed, without mentioning her performance in Washes or any other interaction the artists may have had, that "he was one of my big supporters both intuitively and intellecnially until I recreated his store [sic] and he just went bananas."" His wasn't the only volte-face, as the artist noted. People thought I was joshing, or saying that anyone could do it. Of course that was not my intention.
When I did the store of Claes Oldenburg [sic], it became clear that I was serious and people began to perceive the work as dangerous. Then the hostility began.10
Neither "What's New in Art" nor any other section of the Times carried further information about or review of The Store of Claes Oldenburg. Odier than art magazine calendar listings ("the store 623 E 9 . . . Sturtevant, to Je. 17"), the single account to appear in print of what was going down on East Ninth Street that summer headlined events that occurred a day before The Store of Claes Oldenburg opened. For his World Journal Tribune column, "The Pop Scene," John Gruen reported - Tuesday April 25, 1967 - on
A VIOLENT STRIKE AGAINST EAST VILLAGE
THE EAST VILLAGE - home of creative ferment, and love, love, love - has one of its first major strikes against it, as of last Friday.
A serious artist was given someming very much approaching the Kitty Genovese treatment when she was beaten in broad daylight on E. 9th St. by a pack of 300 school children between the ages of 8 and 16, while shopkeepers and passersby stood around and watched without so much as a blink of an eye.
Elaine Sturtevant was treated at New York Hospital for cuts and bruises on her body and head. The story went something like this. Miss Sturtevant was readying an exhibition in a store she had rented at 623 E. 9th St., which she called "The Store of Claes Oldenburg." This was Miss Sturtevant "s simulation of famed Oldenburg store on E. 2nd St., which was one of the landmarks of Pop Art some five years ago. In it, Oldenburg displayed objects and articles of food made out of plaster - pie slices, hamburgers, bread, meat, ice cream pops, as well as dresses, bridal gowns, etc., all painted in vivid colors, all paraphrasing the garishness of cafeterial and department store merchandise.
Miss Sturtevant has made a name for herself for being able to emulate the works of pop artists. Her exhibition of some seasons ago, at the Bianchini Gallery, made clear her gifts in that direction.
"I WANTED TO DO the Oldenburg store because I felt it was an important statement at the time - important enough to be revived," she told me. "So I rented this place in the East Village, and began to set up the store, much in the manner of die original. But the kids attending the school a few doors away from here didn't give me much peace when school let out. They kept standing in front of the store, cracking jokes, shouting abusive language and, finally, putting firecrackers through the mail slot, and forcing the door open, even though I kept it locked.
"On Friday, about 300 of them started to gather in front of the shop. When I tried to make them leave they started attacking me, by throwing cans at me, and hitting me with sticks. One big fellow grabbed my arm and hit me repeatedly over the head. I began screaming for the police. But no one made a move to get aid.
"AT LAST A POLICE car drove up. But the officers were not helpful in dispersing the crowd - they seemed afraid of the group of kids, as much as I was. And suddenly, the police disappeared.
"By 4 o'clock, most of the kids had gone. I thought I would be safe to leave the store and go home. I walked out and began crossing Tompkins Square. I suddenly felt someone following me, and then I felt someone grabbing my arm again. There were two men and a woman. They pushed me down on a bench. The two men held my arms back, while the woman broke a bottle over my head.
"I began to scream wildly. No one in the park moved to help me, and no policeman came to help me. I felt blood running down my face, and it must have scared my attackers. They all fled. I managed to get up. And I saw a policeman across the park, over near Avenue A. I knew he saw and heard me. But he did not come over to me. I had to walk over to him.
"When I reached him, he took me to the drugstore on 9th St. and Avenue A. He also called an ambulance. But it took too long, and so I decided to take taxi up to New York Hospital for treatment.
"THIS WAS BROAD daylight. I couldn't believe any of this could happen. But it did!"
The opening of Miss Sturtevant s "Store" was scheduled for Saturday noon. She and fellow artist Robert Rauschenberg and several friends came to open the store. No one was on the street to molest her. It was as if nothing had happened. Of course, school was not in session.
It is questionable whether Elaine Sturtevant s exhibition will be allowed to run the course (through June) on E. 9th St. Apparently, certain factions in the East Village harbors [sic] a deep hostility for the experimentation of New Bohemia, and it would seem Elaine Sturtevant was destined to be the scapegoat of its anger and violence."
In view of the audacity of the project and the revelation of its lurid opening weekend, how should the resistance to what Sturtevant did be broached? Why do her methods, the bravado of her return to the seen, erupt in violence and scapegoating, literal (the attacks recounted by Gruen) as well as figurative (Oldenburg's readiness to "kill" her) ?
The "landmark" status of Oldenburg's Store was accomplished in part by sheer hucksterism, a constant RT. Barnum-ing of its goods - from group shows to increasingly tonier solo venues; from incomprehensibihty to esteem. A single observer tracked every juncture of this typically American success story: Jill Johnston. She first saw elements of The Store when the "terrible children" (Oldenburg, Allan Kaprow, and George Brecht) "invaded Martha Jackson's Gallery . . . with more of those baffling non-commercial commodities, things youn [sic] can't use or sell or label even, which nobody could be too clear about why they should be encouraged or endured much less considered the prestige items they obviously are, or else why would Miss Jackson (whose commercial acumen is well known) clutter up her fashionable yard with a bunch of junky car tires that she permitted Alan [sic] Kaprow to put there?"'2 Positing the work in a dicey, perhaps even nonnegotiable relation with immortality, Johnston catches the roughand-tumble of the moment to clarify why no one should be too hasty to pin it or the "baffling non-commercial commodities" down with smarts. Instead, she encourages mucking around.
Claes Oldenburg sears his page with a mud-luscious Whitmanesque catalogue of the materials of art, and for Oldenburg the List is inexhaustible because he is for an art that is everything, everything that is "that does something other than sit on its ass in a museum," and preferably everything that is not self-consciously refined, in other words that is raw, quick, smelly, holy, many small "sweet and stupid" acts of ungracious side-splitting, nose-blowing living that are supposed to be left for keeps in dirty abandoned corners. Oldenburg's "Store" has that unkempt look; the items hang in blobbish disregard for civilized order; the store articles are sculptured in relief with muslin strips dipped in plaster and placed over chicken wire, then painted with enamel to give the business a high dripping festive gloss.
These environments, situations, spaces are not going any place; they're not on the market for immortality; they're just not negotiable at all, except for tempting traffic with the eye and heart that is looking for more or less anything, or ready to stumble on sometiiing; and even that is saying too much, or too little, and no doubt Robert Whitman is right when he says that "this whole business has been complicated by people who say all smart things . . ." 13
Six months after The Store's debut at Martha Jackson, Oldenburg, with the financial "cooperation" of the Green Gallery, moved what wasn't going anyplace to a new venue for the entire month of December 1961, consolidating as well as marketing a studio as the site of production embedded within a site of consumption (or vice versa). A corporate moniker, RAY-GUN MFG. CO., got top billing on all advertising for The Store - the artist, however sardonically, as CEO manqué, the "proprietor of the Ray Gun Manufacturing Co., a pseudonymous front for a talent . . . which has so far conceived Ray Gun Comics, Ray Gun Mottoes, Ray Gun Theater and once even instigated a campaign to change the name of New York City to Ray Gun."'4 Johnston hauled her ass down to business headquarters and reported on the particular fronting she encountered.
Claes Oldenburg rented a store on East Second Street which he plans to use as a studio and a place of exhibition. He calls it the Ray Gun Mfg. Co., and his first exhibition was a "store" containing at least eighty- five stock items. He says that when the children get out of school they walk by and look in, but if he approaches the door they run away. They might not run so fast if the window display included some of those cakes and pies, like the piece of yellow cake with white icing and strawberries reposing on a plate on a chair. (This reviewer's daughter could not grasp the significance of good food lying around that was not to eat.) The store has no significance. It really is a store and you can buy things (prices quoted below) and take them home. But there is one difference between this and other stores. If you take an item home and don't throw it away, it retains the status it had in Oldenburg's "store": an object you put someplace, to look at or fill up space or to fit with something else. But some other stores sell items for just that purpose, too. It's hard to think of a good difference. Anyway, Oldenburg's
store is an environment of glossy chunks and slabs - suspended, scattered, sitting - of anything from shoes, hats and dresses to brides, cakes and sardines that you move in, around, under and see from any perspective. Oldenburg made the big shapes by covering chicken wire with plaster and painting the. plaster with dripping smooth enamel so that the colors dance and bounce around like oil and sun on a hot tin roof. A gay indigestible bazaar. And quite real: no significance, an everyday affair. $49.95-$99.50.15
Did Johnston take her daughter with her because she thought she'd have fun or because she couldn't get or afford a sitter that day? Did the school children, scared by Oldenburg's "approach," fail to grasp the significance of good food lying around that was not to eat or the significance of "no significance"?
In May 1962, Johnston reviewed how Oldenburg, again with the Green Gallery's cooperation, had "converted his 'store,' or Ray Gun Mfg. Co. as he calls it, into a theater for 'happenings,' taking place over ten weekends, a different happening each weekend."'6 By November, she was yet again confronting what Oldenburg made and what his making did. She could finally grapple with how to place these "hysterical wish fulfillments'' by an artist using the everyday to permit aberration, the significance of all of it accruing by his continuous tweaking and strategic understanding of the theoretical, not to mention the economic, impact of altered venues, their respective eommunities and social scenes.
Claes Oldenburg [Green] moved the contents of his "Store" from East 2nd Street up to this gallery. Actually, almost all the objects in the exhibition are new, but the subjects and techniques, with one exception, are the same. There were three huge protagonists (in the new technique), sewn from sailcloth (by the artist's wife) stuffed with chunks of foam rubber and covered with a rubber base paint, a layer cake, an ice cream cone languishing on its side, a hamburger topped by a green pillow (which is really a pickle). ... It is, of course, painted sculpture, but the preoccupation wifh food and clothing makes a social scene that creates conflicting reactions because of the constant interplay between the fake and the real. Except where the objects are much bigger and shinier than life (the most inspired kind of hysterical wish fulfillments), you might call them "fake ready-mades." Oldenburg has made a curious identification between his medium and the things, he likes. He has found, in other words, an excellent vehicle - in the form of plaster and enamel, and a fidelity, with odd variations in size, to the real thing - for making Art out of common public goods. It is a kind of ironic turn about on the ready-made, although unlike Jasper John's [sic] beer can, his are not absolutely fake because Oldenburg permits imaginative aberrations in all the forms. Prices unquoted.17
The short review operates as a digestif, assuaging the indigestible with the cognac of meaning. What had not been "on the market for immortality," what was heretofore "not negotiable," can now be put into a context - voilà - art and artist compared with a viable mode (the readyrnade), a mood (ironic), and another artistic young gun and work (Jasper Johns's beer cans). The process, if that's what to call it, took barely over a year.
Sturtevant throws the total structure of all of Oldenburg's "aberration" and its metabolization into question with, it's tempting to say, something actually aberrant. What does it mean to mean? Is that the point? What is significance and who decides? How does meaning occur and at exactly what point does it accrue, entrusting or encrusting the object of art? Her approach to such questions is to jettison, perhaps even to betray, so much of what is usually upheld as fundamental to artistic creation (uniqueness of personal style; visible - as opposed to invisible - "originality"; everything too quickly folded into "etc.").
With the World Journal Tribune article's title as well as the opening and closing paragraphs, Gruen situates the violence in terms of territory: bohemian interlopers occupying addresses locals think they should have no business in. It wasn't exactly a co-op opening in the home "of creative ferment, and love, love, love." Oldenburg was "paraphrasing" markets, using a commercial vernacular and what was seen to be its "garishness," to take an inventory of what remained in stock when art was for sale on the lowest shelves of verisimilitude's grocery. Whatever its aesthetic potential, the merchandise sold frustrated expectations of the community, which might have needed an actual supermarket rather than a dubious bodega with foodstuffs for sale but not to eat, sundry goods available but not for any straightforward use.
Sturtevant would seem, simply, to double all of Oldenburg's marketing with her "simulation" of The Store, and yet the result of her doing it again causes changes as vicious as they are inappropriate or inappropriable. Ressentiment might not be the exact term to toss around, but the violent strike on the artist has philosophical resonance: while the students school the artist in reprisal, they learn - via an uncertain aesthetic catechism - not straightforwardly elementary lessons about New Bohemia's part in urban genrrification and the precariousness of community.
By Gruen's contextual invocation of the "Kitty Genovese treatment," the consequence of the potential asymmetry between collective experience and neighborhood community could not be put any more starkly. In March 1965, a year after the Genovese incident, a reporter for the New York Times returned to the scene to ponder questions of social responsibility.
In the quiet, tree -lined Austin Street section of Kew Gardens, Queens, the residents have wrestled for a year with the problem of what they would do if they heard a woman scream for help in the middle of the night.
On March 13 last year - a Friday - 38 of them faced that situation. They heard Catherine Genovese, 28-year-old manager of a bar, cry out when a man grabbed her under a street light and stabbed her. It was after 3 A.M. and it was bitterly cold.
The 38 persons - witnesses, the police said later - opened dieir windows and looked out at the street. All of them saw parts of the attack on Miss Genovese, for the assault lasted more than a half an hour and covered 15° feet. Her assailant stabbed her and retreated; stabbed her and retreated.
Not one of die 38 telephoned the police during the attack. Winston Moseley, the convicted slayer, finally stabbed her fatally. The assault was in the vestibule of a hallway not far from the entrance to her own apartment at 82-70 Austin Street, in the rear of a Tudor building.
Moseley left; Miss Genovese was dead. Then, at 3:50 A.M., a man called the police. Two minutes later they were on the scene.
The people did not act a year ago, and they are not certain what they would do now. The witnesses say if it happened again, They would call the police. Then neighbors are doubtful.
An attempt to organize an anti-apathy campaign was made in the neighborhood three months after the crime. The effort has not succeeded.18
A gruesome scene repeats - neighbors watching "without so much as a blink of (he eye" as a woman is stabbed to death - and then comes to be, uncannily, almost repeated. Although it might have been useful to dwell on how the refusal to come to terms with what Sturtevant was doing in relation to the total structure erupts in violence; or to suggest how by the invocation of Kitty Genovese the "serious artist" becomes, assaultively, gendered; or to consider that the woman who broke a bottle over Sturtevant 's head performs the vengeance of a wife or lover scorned (insinuating the other woman "emulates" something more than aesthetics), Gruen, in his role as reporter and not art critic, treats the ramifications of Sturtevant 's endeavor the way "cuts and bruises on her body and head" were treated at hospital: matter-of-factly: he locates The Store of Cloes Oldenburg as a "simulation of famed Oldenburg store on E. 2nd St." and as the scene of a crime. He never gumshoes how someone being "given something very much approaching the Kitty Genovese treatment" might stand in relation to issues of community and antiapathy raised by the war flickering on televisions in the living rooms of America, night after night; never interrogates what it means to see and do nothing. "Cafeteria! and department store merchandise" make up only part of all the "garishness" or guerre-ishness being paraphrased, albeit, reportedly, it is Oldenburg, and not the other serious artist, who is doing the "paraphrasing." Leaving Sturtevant to take the toll of what diat might mean and how it might feel by testing the hmits of synchronicicy and preemption, while scrambling the transmission of effect and cause; by seeing how far seeing and doing something could go.
During the spring of 1967, Oldenburg was waging a campaign for namebrand recognition. Expanding the reach of his show at Sidney Janis and its strategic, double-duty deployment of plans and scenarios, Oldenburg agreed to a feature interview for Art News;19 by the close of his show, he garnered the cover of Arts Magazine, putting a mask of his face, shiny amethyst and made out of grape Jell-O from a life-cast, above the words "America: War & Sex, Etc." The personal was becoming political. Under the same title, the editors of Arts Magazine printed selections from Oldenburg's notebooks, which bluntly and provocatively recapitulate and militarize many of his and America's erotic preoccupations - making them local, not over-there; bringing the war back home, snug in the community. The cold open of the first notes puts all in the civic crosshairs.
On the bus in from Lhe airport:
Opinion by Solther One that, all in all, the New fork practice (among the kids) of setting fire to the Bowery bums was civically beneficial. Protest by Solther Two, on the peculiar grounds that "Them poor guys ain't got the means to pay for treatment of their burns."
Competitive discussion between Solther One and Two: who knows the most wounded man. After several examples, Solther Two triumphs with a man totally inactivated. He used to be on the football team, now he can only move his mouth.
The young solthers are in front of me, walking from the bus to the shuttle. A chic woman passes in a miniskirt. "Inch more shed [sic] have to shave more than her legs!"
Now that the knee's revealed, the issue's joined. Funny diat the eagle's destiny should be decided in the bland valleys of the knee. A batde in the navel naturally would be more vulcanic - or we could have gone to the moon. Disappearance of the garter will separate the men from the boys, create a double standard for Mom: new map of Missouri."
Questions of war and sex as well as national and economic identity, haves and have-nots, Oldenburg darkly, comically, punningly, joins at the "bland valleys of the knee" or the not so bland valleys just above, the body a battlefield of need. In a closing salvo to his conquests that season, he also published, with Something Else Press, the retrospective foray of Store Days, his "book of notes, scenarios, photographs, drawings, etc. on the famous theater-store he ran on the lower East Side in the 1960's."2' Extracts from Oldenburg's studio notes, some of which would appear in Store Days, had already appeared in Artforum, in January 196e. The penultimate section of extracts began:
Store as sex. Storage-womb, breast, testicles any part of body containing. Whorehouse as in Celine - the notion shop, store as cunt, cunt as notion store, mysteries into back, curtain after curtain, gypsy store. Store on street - love, quick love, in and out."
Did an artist with such psycho-aesthetic investment in the invagination of commercial space ever stop to consider what might happen if, courtesy of the phantasmatic derangement of capitalism and branding, his notions, vagina dentatalike, bit him in the ass?
In this conflicted atmosphere - Bowery bums set aflame, equivalences commercially embothed - Sturtevant operated The Store of Claes Oldenburg. She opened it before Oldenburg's show at Sidney Janis and closed it after the publication of Store Days, preemptively putting into action during its business hours exacdy whatever Oldenburg's notes, scenarios, and "etc." never did. Taking change to the street, antiapathetically, in a manner altogether disrupting the smooth running of public relations, she obsolesced certain aesthetic modes by putting them out of business, literally, closing shop. The synchronicity of Oldenburg's activities with Sturtevant 's The Store of Claes Oldenburg demonstrates the goings-on of the total structure Sturtevant stated she had no place except in relation to. Given the violent reprisals resulting from Sturtevant s action, her aesthetic inquiry, anofher notable structural simultaneity would be the fact that during the same late spring of The Store of Claes Oldenburg, Valerie Solanas - no mere wallflower in resistance to "co-managing the shitpile" of the "money-work system" or in occupying a "nonplace" - advertised SCUM sessions on the "Village Bulletin Board" of the Village Voice: "Valerie Solanas / SCUM / Fri, April 28, 8:30 PM / Farband House 575 6th Ave (at 16th) Men 2. co, women $1.oo."13
With an obnoxious hodgepodge of fonts and impacted blocking, the brash Babel of the red and black announcement card for The Store of Claes Oldenburg looks like the design of a disgruntled Constructivist on a grappa bender. Whatever it announced wasn't corporate or accomplished "in cooperation with" gallery backing or sitting on its ass; it opened downtown, unsanctioned, under the sign of Sturtevant. I wanted to do the Oldenburg store because i felt it was an important statement at the time - important enough to be revived. What was that "important statement" and how is it "revived" by Sturtevant - and changed? It is not a question of the raison d'être of The Store of Claes Oldenburg, but rather irs catalytic consequences, some of them never possibly anticipated. Paradoxically intensifying and altering aspects of Oldenburg's work theretofore invisible, doubling them to interrogate art's interior structures, its nonvisual girding, Sturtevant, with her revival of The Store, doesn't merely reveal but takes on the latent aftermath of Oldenburg's enterprise. Each Store occupies a locale the aesthetic control of which the neighborhood's constituents did not wish to abdicate - even if they didn't consider their daily life in relation to the articulation of a vernacular a question of "aesthetic" control. Both Johnston's early reckonings with Oldenburg's Store and Gruen's reportage on Sturtevant 's are troubled by schoolchildren: fheir curiosity and their not being able to "grasp the significance of good food lying around" that can't be eaten, a conceptual indigestion intensified, perhaps, by actual want. Oldenburg's Uncle Fester stature scares off any delinquent "approach" the kids might muster; Sturtevant s appearance, however intimidating or point-blank, does not. Making The Store of Claes Oldenburg, Sturtevant by repetition produces difference, revives something other: noncommunal double agent, she sets up shop in the zone of the unrecognizable (the non-Oldenburg) and/or of the unseen ("no policeman came to help"). Double because the epistemologica! status of Oldenburg's Store is simultaneously invoked ("emulated") and revoked. Erase and rewind. So Gruen telescopes the exhibition Sturtevant was readying at the time of her beating not only back to "one of the landmarks of Pop Art some five years ago" (Oldenburg's Store) but also to her exhibition at Bianchini Gallery.
Opening On October 2, 196c, and running for three weeks (until October 23), Sturtevant 's first solo exhibition looked like a group show - although what it means for something to "look like" something else ("equivalents"?) troubles everything, or should have. In his New York Times review, John Canaday typified the mosdy jovial responses to the artist's work:
The final exhibition is recommended for pure fun first, and to make you think twice second. The Bianchini Gallery, co West 57 th Street, looks like a pop art festival when you walk in. There's a Jim Dine necktie, here's a George Segal plaster man pulling a garment district carriage rack loaded with paintings by other pop stars. Here's a wall of good Lichtensteins; there's one of Andy Warhol's flower patterns. What about the first-rate Rauschenberg drawings? The fine litde Jasper Johns flag? What about them is that everything in the show was done by a single artist, Elaine Sturtevant, who must be the first artist in history to have held a one-man show that included everybody but herself.
The reaction is a bit disturbing. Can are [sic: art?] so perfecdy imitable be much more than a set of trademarks? Does Miss Sturtevant [sic] make the ultimate confession that art today is so superficial ("Way down deep, it's shallow," somebody said) that it is only a series of copyrighted gags? But there is nothing stale about this show: Its very presumption gives it a fillip.
But it makes you wonder. What about those fancy prices for big names, if a little name can give you the same diing just as good?24
LiI Picard wrote about the show twice. For Die WeIt1 she provided a verbal snapshot of the result of the artist at work among her "friends":
In a show at Bianchini, Elaine Sturtevant, born in 1924, presents a PopParody, in which the Pop school is copied exactly. What there is resembles "pastiche": not fakes, but quite deliberate imitations.
The artist calls her victims her friends, and she worked for two years imitating Lichtenstein, Warhol, Jim Dine, Oldenburg, Nicki St. Phalle [sic], Robert Morris, Jasper Johns, Arman, Robert Rauschenberg and Stella. From a cabinet tumbles electric noise, Flags and colorful Stella squares hang from hangers on a garment-rack; set against a background of Andy Warhol flowers, a "real" unreal George Segal, based on the dancer Paxton, comics by lichtenstein and stuffed birds by Rauschenberg.
Everything is there again, Pop à la Pop. Warhol was the most difficult to copy, and also the most expensive, Elaine Sturtevant admits. That attests to Warhol.25
For Das Kunstwerk, in a rougher version of most of the information she reported in Die Weit, Picard, after mentioning that the artist had "worked for two years on her idea of exactly copying the Pop-artists she loves and admires," sketches in details about specific works not visible in any extant installation view of the show;
She made a George Segal, white and ghosdy looking, just like the original, a Roy Lichtenstein, a Jim Dine, and Glass-Vitrines filled with Armand [sic], Nicky St. Phalle [sic], Rauschenbergs stuffed Birds, Robert Morris; Flags by Jasper Johns, and Claes Oldenburgs [sic] aré hanging next to a striped Stella on coathangers on a clothrack [sic] as "Ready-to-wear Art."26
Although both crides praise what they take to be the parodie or gag aspect of the proceedings - Picard calls it "camp"; Canaday digs its "presumption." - they hack away from any potentially "disturbing" conclusions: about die depleted constitution of trademark or copyright, or the yin and yang of originality and its double. When Canaday writes that Sturtevant "must be the first artist in history to have held a one-man show that included everybody but herself," it's as if he's a short-term amnesiac, repressing what he's just stated, that "everything in the show was done by a single artist." He overlooks what it might mean that Sturtevant is doing what she is doing - or what her work actually is. Instead, Canaday surmises that she's confessing something about "art today" - its "superficiality" and fancy prices, its ranking of "big" and "little" names - 'and ignores the encroaching theoretical consequences of an artist who displays "everybody but herself" in what he refers to as a "one-man," rather than a one-person, "show." Picard, despite all her helpful cataloguing, tempers what she construes as Sturtevant s "Pop-Parody" affair by categorizing it as "Camp oder die nimmermüde Phantasie." Wavering between "camp" - that "catch-all term to describe a previously unnamed sensibility"17 then reaching its Sontagian fever pitch - or the fantastic, Picard sees the work of a "tireless imagination," but, however potentially attuned to the Nietzschean return of "everything" that is "there again" ("Alles ist noch einmal da"), she sali, like Canaday, resists seeing in Sturtevant 's debut an aesthetic strike against the visible status quo; The strike is carried out via a dispossession of a self usually ubiquitously on display, often literally objectified in a "festival" of name-brand "gags," stylistically qualified and quantified by the personal.
Individualism s copyrighting carnivalized. Whatever their insight or lack thereof, at least Canaday and Picard keep a sense of humor about staring at everything there again. Not so for Max Kozloff: no one came closer to grappling with the unruly result of the total structure Sturtevant fathomed, and no one freaked out more. Kozloff s diatribe appeared in Arcforum, in the same December io6r issue that ran a pertinent essay by Suzi Gablik on René Magritte, the artist whose conundrums gave the editors reason to put his painting The Plagiarism on the cover and Gablik reason to open with an estrangement of seeing that exposed die visibles inherent contrafactions: "Seeing is an act, in the course of which it can happen diat a subject escapes the attention. For Magritte, a thing which is present can be invisible, hidden by what it shows."28 Maybe if he'd been given a draft, Kozloff might have paused to reconsider his harangue on prints, multiples, and the "retreat from, originality."
The mid-sixties, is a period witnessing a profound discomfort with the problem of individual creation. Artists become alienated from their own identity in a bewildering series of hectic, stylistic switches which in fact, serve to devaluate the whole concept of style as a stable entity. Mannerism, eclecticism and disassociation undermine the normal long-term investment of an artist in an expandable position. Intermittently, then, but with ever greater frequency, he lashes out at these conditions, this malaise, by some kind of allegory, or even acknowledgment, of the vacancy that threatens him. Duchamp's whole life is testimony of an artist who was able to feed on the sterility and corruption of consciousness which the machine has imposed upon the nervous system of modern man. But in the hands of others, less. steeled than he to die cleavage between the functioning imagination and the consequences of machine technology, art becomes a mindless paraphrase of the commercial operation. Under die crushing pressuré to invent, to discover, their techniques become parody, allusion, quotation, imitation, and finally, replication.
This is to say that the "art-work" itself has become negotiable property - not merely dividable and reproducible as, to some extent, it has always been in the modern tradition - but an asset diat can literally substitute for a new work of art. A current show in New York, called "pastiches" by its author, Elaine Sturtevant, enacts this proposition with supreme disingenuousness. Her "7th Ave. Garment Rack with Andy Warhol Flowers," purports to be a George Segal plaster cast of a man pulling an array of work by Arman, Stella, Oldenburg, Rosenquist, Johns and Lichtenstein (all false). It is the most pathetic advertisement of an artist s apartness from herself that I have seen - but otherwise a fairly typical straw in the wind.29
The works Sturtevant makes never "purport" to be anything other than Sturtevants; rather, she jettisons as determinants any identifiable "identity "and "concept of style as a stable entity." Confronting the "sterility and corruption of consciousness which the machine has imposed upon die nervous system of modern man," Sturtevant mobilizes aesthetics: hanging chockablock with paintings, the garment rack is on wheels. More than its "negotiable property," Sturtevant catalyzes the mobility of die "art-work" by demonstrating its transitive potential within a structure or system that includes all aspects of the culture industry (fashion, advertising, etc.), operating as its simulacra - and a force of resistance. Neither exhibiting "apartness from herself" nor hiding what she was showing (however mistaken about her moves, invisible and not, many might. have been), Sturtevant, thinking twice, contends with mutability, bluntiy tracking changes causing certain concepts of selfhood to be outmoded. Asked, decades later, what she thought about style, the artist privileged the active particularity of the one who thinks - synaptic equivalent of the Higgs boson hypothesized in parücle physics - over the coming-and -going of style:
Sturtevant 's solo debut at Bianchini occurred when the press release for Pop art had taken on aspects of an obituary: Pop art was dead, an autoerotic suicide. Canaday snarled for the New York Times: "If pop art killed itself with stuntsmanship . . . let's decide right now that the Bianchini Gallery's pop-art 'American Supermarket' was the year's low."3' He was recalling, just five months before he would delight in Sturtevant s debut at the same gallery, the notorious bit of brazenness for which the Bianchini "got itself up as a real-life store, with counters, aisle signs and a turn-stile. Its stock was a collection of Pop art food items, created (or sometimes simply embellished) by such artists as Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg, Mary Lnman and Bob Watts."5* If Oldenburg's Store in its various states and changing venues inaugurates Pop art's use of American conventions of merchandising, advertising, and corporate branding, all ripe for aesthetic manipulation, what was it about American Supermarket that caused notices of Pop art's death to.be greatly exaggerated? Did it smack of some kind of insider trading? Was its mainstiearning of art's affects too smug, its crass resignation to or reification of marketing too theatrical?
A few weeks after Canaday s death notice for Pop, a colleague at the Times, covering die publication party at die silver Factory for John Rubiowsky and Ken Heyman's fizzy survey, Pop Art, started by asking, "Was it a pop art wake or a revival meeting?" Relendess, despite a summer night "in a non-air-conditioned atmosphere as thick as a can of Campbell's chicken gumbo," the reporter wouldn't let the question rest.
Roy Lichtenstein, known for his comic strip panels, was a cool and unwilted spectator. "No, I don't see any signs of pop art being dead," he asserted softly. "No one can become a pop artist now. But it's just become another thing. It's taking a different direction."
One of the artists discussed in the book, however, was not around to say whether he thought pop art was dead or alive. Andy Warhol, the party's purported host, was nowhere to be found. Rumor had it that he had sneaked off to another party in an air-conditioned hotel.53
By the time of the Times review of the Rublowsky book, the rowdy wake was over, all of Pop's bubbles burst. Like someone holding a grudge, the book critic ticks off, remorselessly, its intellectual gaucheries and offenses, as well its enabling offenders:
Pop Art, which Harold Rosenberg once described as "advertising art advertising itself as art that hates advertising," may deserve this book. Like pop art, "Pop Art" is chic, banal, unanalytical, anti-critical, historically vague, repetitive, fatuous, possibly a "put-on" (meaning possibly leg-pulling, but whose leg?), up-to-the-minute (give or take a few years) and high-priced. And like pop art, it seems interested less in art than in the promotion of certain artists and their sponsors.
Prominent among the artists here are Roy Lichtenstein (comic strip blow-ups), Claes Oldenburg (plaster hamburgers, giant rag-filled cakes), James Rosenquist (painted billboard collages), Andy Warhol (Campbell soup cans, Brillo boxes, Liz Taylor) and Tom Wessehnan (nudes and toilet seats). Each of these is given a separate chapter.
Prominent among their sponsors are Richard Brown-Baker (private income), Leon Kraushar (insurance), Leon Manuchin (corporation law), Robert C. Scull (taxicabs) and the proprietors of the Manhattan galleries, Castelli, Green and Stable.34
Of course, all of this reportage is only a dominant take on the mood and temperature of the scene, what might be called some of the vibes of the Zeitgeist, in the months leading up to Sturtevant 's multiply singular show Nevertheless, a hangover buzzes the affair: réceptive or revolted, the critical response to Sturtevant 's work situates it in relation to "put-on" and "leg-pulling," whether as "copyrighted gags" or "Pop parody." The artist's husband worked in advertising. What should have made anyone "think twice" also rankled many, not only appearing to correspond to die worst of each of those artists "given a separate chapter" in the accounting of Pop Art but also doubling what they were advertising.
Although Benjamin Birillo and Paul Bianchini owned the Bianchini Gallery as business partners, its director, the person in no small part responsible for seeing what Sturtevant did and, with the push of Birillo, bringing it into the gallery, was Dorothy Herzka, who would soon become Mrs. Roy Lichtenstein. Sturtevant wouldn't have required hearing about or reading Roy Lichtenstein 's riposte to the death of Pop art in any newspaper to know that "no one can become a pop artist now" or to understand why it all needed to go in a "différent direction." She probably grooved on Pop's zombification - dead or alive? - in full knowledge that Pop was not what she was doing, even if it had something to do with die different direction she took.
With the poster she designed for the Bianchini show, Sturtevant makes clear just how far in a different direction she would go, Gridded like a comic strip into two rows of three equal frames, each eel reproduced her drawings of . . . seemingly, notorious and notoriously identifiable works by artists whose styles were prominent, circa 196c. Sturtevant 's name centers the poster, with the date of the exhibition's run just above its final letters, all in a bold sans serif font. It would be easy to assume that the poster, seemingly so blatant, depicts and publicizes, from left to right, in the top row: the clouds of a Lichtenstein gullscape, a Stella concentric square, and the Segal garment worker pulling a clothes rack. Lh the bottom row: aspects of a Rosenquist orange-sliee-cum-car-tire and a Johns flag bookend a drawing of Fahlström movable parts, magnetic details of clothing, jackets, dresses, gloves, a bathing cap, all draped on bodies ghosted out. No problem. Except diat it's not clear how outlines of concentric squares, without any identifying colors, become a "Stella"; how a drawing of automotive fruit becomes a "Rosenquist" when there's no readily identifiable, similar Rosenquist painting; how a drawing of a flag becomes a Johns flag when usually a Johns flag isn't oriented so that it hangs down like a mourning banner. The art historian Michael Lobel has observed that at the time of Sturtevant 's show, Segal had never (yet?) made a garment worker." (In fact, it must have been, for anyone who noticed, quite a double-take to see a "Segal" pulling a clothes rack at Bianchini when, concurrendy, new Segal sculptures moped around the corner at Sidney Janis.) What the poster's reproductions of line drawings draw attention to, then, are Sturtevants, and what the poster announces is only what it shows: works by Sturtevant. Which doesn't mean that vertigo and thinking twice should not have been considered responses to what she was doing: knowing that Stella's epigrammatic catechism, "what you see is what you see," fails to acknowledge the contrafactions of what you don't see, even of what can't be seen, Sturtevant frees cognition from the habits of recognition.
The only installation shot known to exist from Bianchini (providing one of three illustrations to Kozloff 's rant in Artforum) is. of what was then identified as Sturtevant 's 7th Avenue Garment Rack with Warhol Flowers, 196c. Warhol based his Flowers series on an editorial spread from an article on color processing in Modern Photography (the transparencies for the magazine shot by Patricia Caulfleld) . With the Flowers, Warhol arranges imaging in relation to photographic technology and its propagating capability. A year before they first blossomed at Castelli in late 1964, Warhol had informed Gene Swenson that "I think it would be so great if more people took up silk screens so that no one would know whether my picture was mine or somebody else's." Swenson asked: "It would turn art history upside down?" Warhol answered: "Yes."56 When asked by Sturtevant for his flowers screen, at some point not too long after he confirmed a desire to help invert art history, Warhol said, "Wow Elaine," and repeated his affirmative by giving it to her."
Every possible meaning of Sturtevant s decision to have her Segal tableau in front of her Warhol Flowers, arranged tightly from floor to ceiling, taking up more than a quarter of die gallery, transforms them, literally, into the establishing background and/or reproducing field against which the artist places her garment worker pulling his rack of "ready-to-wear" rather than readymade art - which is almost always referred to as something other than what it was: copies, fakes, "pastiches," parodies, or an "array of work by Arman, Stella, Oldenburg, Rosenquist, Johns and Lichtenstein (all false).." Creating change, in part by "expanding, developing and exploring à theory of aesthetics," taking "something that is abstract in terms of thinking and pushpng] it, thereby getting away from the object as center of concern," Sturtevant gets at art's ideational mobility and what remains of its complex transports.38 She presents a figure of a worker who was modeled on an extraordinary mover, the dancer and choreographer Steve Paxton: the figure labors to make his way within, through, against, and beyond an aesthetic and aesfheticized (floral) field, while carrying with him what he will be working with as rriueh as on - art. As the artist Confuciusly put it: "Although the object is crucial, it is not important."59 Hanging from the garment rack, Sturtevant *s works convey die idea of art as transitive and vehicular, possibly wheeled to a potential marketplace (intellectual as much as any other kind), but, transporting the seen for traffic with the nonvisual, on an entirely different conceptual itinerary than anything like "Pop à la Pop."
Between Sturtevant 's Bianchini show .and The Store of Ckes Oldenburg that made Oldenburg ready to "kill" her, the heat of her pursuit and its ramifications was intensified by a few matters·, some exterior and coincidental to the artist's project (but nevertheless not exactly irrelevant), others interior and intentional. Sturtewmt closed on October 23, 196c, Less than a month later, the public was given a cram course on art and its doubles, courtesy of the department of the attorney general of New York State, who seemed to be answering a call of the unconscious to respond to the aesthetic test of what Sturtevant was up to.4°
Yet the New York Times did begin, on November iç, i965, a series of articles, which ran over the course of five months, following Attorney General Louis J. Lefkowitz and his plan "to develop a campaign against an 'alarming increase' in spurious paintings."41
"While specific statutes aimed at this chicanery may be necessary," Mr. Lefkowitz said, "in New York State we have enacted several new laws in recent years aimed at deceptive practices and it is with this in mind that I want to explore with die art experts the possibility of invoking diese statutes."
Lefkowitz organized hearings about art fraud, forgery, and counterfeiting; members of the Art Dealers Association of America, various illustrious art world types, and artists, including Jacques Lipchitz, Larry Rivers, Ruth Vollmer, and Ad Reinhardt, attended them. At one of the hearings, after Lipchitz discussed for Leflcowitz "the difficulties of detecting forgeries ... or even of defining what a forgery is," Rivers blundy upped the ante of the hermenéutica! stakes the attorney general faced: "I think the difficulty for you is deciding what is an artist. If the artist is just making a commodity, then the role is simpler. But everybody knows it's more than that."42
Of course, none of what was being planned in terms of possible legislation had anything to do, conceptually, with what Sturtevant was interrogating in and through her work - and yet her work haunts and is haunted by these proceedings. The attorney general's action on art fraud altered not at all what she was pursuing but the contours of die total structure in which it was pursued: indirectiy, Leflcowitz demonstrated how Sturtevant 's thinking, materialized, impinged on the governmental as well as die philosophical. Although perhaps not responding on the level of death threats, not everyone wished to be tested or was amused by Sturtevant 's investigations, as ghosted by the Lefkowitz hearings. Her work provided evidence that an artist could mine die invisible ore of die "more" that everybody knew art could be by die force of repetition. The attorney general s charges of chicanery allowed artists to voice their resistance to as well as misrecognition of concerns - however hardwired to the ontological status of art and despite a history of artists' repeated violations of whatever art had always just been - related to Sturtevant 's pursuits. Some saw art's interests in need of custodial protection, proselytization. So Reinhardt wrote to Rainer:
Yvonne, Where's Bob, Stockholm? London? I need his advice. He in California? Ho, what's up? Any announcements? Any news? I went to the Lefkowitz Hearings to protect all our interests. Anybody faking Bob's work lately? How about a nice big show, "Fake" Show, at Dwan soon, benefit of Art Dealers Association? You see Bob, tell him we got an idea to talk about, no kidding. You happy? How's the whole scene? All I know is what I read in Village Voice.You think I should go round making speeches? Preach-ins? Ad43
To refer to any of die artist's undertakings as institutional critique avant Ie discours is to bebtde it, although Sturtevant accomplishes everything and then some that that so-called vanguard practice is said to do. She was mining the field of the aesthetic. What LiI Picard described as "Glass-Vitrines filled with Armand [sic], Nicky St. Phalle [sic], Rauschenberg s stuffed Birds" were, all at once, Wunderktimmern, objectified Cliff Notes Passagenwerk, and boutique atrocity exhibitions of the total structure, for which the Bianchini poster is a flow chart and something like a blueprint. In an early profile of the artist, Yoshiaki Tòno noted "that a gallery storage-like cabinet in her studio, which was quite full of paintings itself, was actually an artwork entided Gallery" (which the caption for an accompanying illustration referred to as "A Gailery Cabinet [work in progress], 1966- ").44 Consider her movements away of figuring forth the razzle-dazzle of thinking, activities, breathtaking!/, not linguistically communicated but instantiated. Whatever of art might be locked away - something shipped, installed, advertised, sold or not, only to be reshipped, reinstalled, stored, in flux - is paroled by her repetition, transporting object to concept.
"Why should it be meaningful to make objects if one is an American artist?" With this question Öyvind Fahlström begins "Object-making," an essay in response to Oldenburg's work at the time of his Moderna Museet retrospective in 1966. Consider it a strange intermediary device, cogent program notes on how to prepare to confront the conundrum of Sturtevant 's The Store of Ckes Oldenburg.
In the U.S.A., as we know, objects (goods) have an ecstatic quality - so that they can be sold, so that new objects can be made, so that more people have the means to buy more objects. If the U.S.A. is half a warfare state with a strategic industry "for the good of the nation" (of politicians, the military and industrialists), the remainder is a market state "for the good of the individual" (of the industry). To speed up this crazy circle, dxe Americans are reminded from the time they wake up in the morning until the time when they lose consciousness, that goods are fetiches, which make them (better) Americans, mothers, millionaires, filmstars, fighters, mistresses and cowboys.
The tiresome thing about African fetiches is that they can only be (for us) beautiful shapes and a form of exoticism. The engaging thing about Claes Oldenburg's objects is that besides bringing out basic shapes and sign characteristics inherent in universal, everyday objects, he deals with fetich qualities with the glamour which ecstatic objects radiate. (Oldenburg has never made objects which are unpainted, "pure" sculpture.) Furthermore, his objects do not allude to everyday objects and are generally larger than life: they are not intended to be used, only to radiate.
Every hamburger or typewriter by Oldenburg becomes a monument to the ecstatic object. Recently, Oldenburg has also begun to make projects for monuments in New York consisting of colossal objects. (Lf this is really necessary. In Europe, monuments are erected to Garibaldi or the Unknown Soldier. In the U.S., for example, die puffing "Camel" cigarette in Times Square has become a national triumphal arch erected to the Unknown Consumer ...)...
In form, material and dimension, or "style," his earlier, papier-mâchéJike objects and his reliefs tell something about New York's shabby, seething and hectic Slavonic -Puerto-Rican East Side . . .
I imagine that nowadays he manages to direct his army of assistants who sew for him: impoverished women artists and dancers, rich housewives, professional seamstresses and, first and foremost, his wife Pat. Widiout her stitching and her contribution to his performances, Oldenburg, as we know him, would not exist.
Oldenburg's quality of involved detachment means that he can plunge into and grope about in a sea of people just as easily as he can root around in the Salvation Army's boxes of tattered and faded old clothes on Second Avenue. ... It must have been the same when he plunged into the slums of Chicago during his prehistoric years as a crime reporter.
In the same way, he was busy browsing his way through Lower East Side when my wife Barbo and I first met him in the autumn of '61. For the most part, Puerto-Ricans lived in this area, and every now and then, neighbours threw bricks through the windows in the yard so that Claes had to put up bars.45
Few images of The Store of Claes Oldenburg remain. In one photograph, taken direcdy in front of the storefront, the door is closed, the street number, 623, of the address on East Ninth reduced after hard years to a mere "23" in gold paint on its glass. A huge ice cream cone floats in the middle of the store's front baywindow, its sill filled with various dry goods - blue shirt with a striped tie, pie, slices of kinds of cake, assembled et cetera for sale - and caught barely in the glare of the window's glass, the reflected shimmer of the artist, her head wrapped in a kerchief, bent over a camera snapping the scene. The lensing of an interior view is slighdy out of focus, blurry (due to double vision?), but Tk Store is obviously fully stocked with sundries, its white walls cheerfully splatter-polka-dotted with grassy green. The artist - chic in frosty lipstick, a smart blouse, a snazzy white belt cmching her slacks - smiles among items as she looks straight back at the camera, a Styrofoam cup in her left hand, her Oldenburg Muumuu dangling above her, the Oldenburg Pie Case filled with pie within easy reach. The candid captures the bon vivant air of it all, as two men, also holding cups, look off in different directions, the ominous golem of the Oldenburg Bride rising up behind them.
Fahlström situates Oldenburg's enterprise in the intersection of a Venn diagram of the warfare and market complexes making up America. The bricks he recalls being hurled through windows shouldn't be confused with those of Ignatz Mouse repeatedly beaning Krazy Kat with "love," nor should any violation or repeat offense be confused for the actual aggression lurking in various accounts of the Stores, uncanny as the violence is and as much as it compels thinking about exacdy what incites such upheaval. Sturtevant takes all of it around the block and back, the energy of the work channeled through the orificia! whole of Oldenburg's surplus depot. ("The notion shop, store as cunt, cunt as notion store, mysteries into back, curtain after curtain, gypsy store. Store on street - love, quick love, in and out.") Block party gang bang. She does it again, and New York's shabby, hectic. East Village seethes. And radiates. The pure products of America go crazy or cause craziness or something . . . Given Sturtevant 's derangement of the temporal - demonstrating the contrafaction of presentness as well as nonduration - it's somehow fitting that The Store of Claes Oldenbura provides a proleptie and material retort to Michael Frieds "Art and Objecthood," published in Artforum, June i967, during Sturtevant's business hours. Sturtevant: "Things occur that I did not intend. If I knew exacdy what I was doing there would be no point in doing it. What keeps any body of work fascinating is what develops by doing it."*6
Although an indefatigable chronicle of Rauschenberg 's art and life for over forty years, on numerous occasions for the NewYorker, Calvin Tomk'ms, when asked about Rauschenberg s camaraderie with Sturtevant, recalled very little - despite the fact of the artists' frequent collaborations in 1967 (on his Short Circuit, on her various Relâches), and the fact that (as Gruen reported) Paxton, several other friends, and "fellow artist Robert Rauschenberg" came to Open The Store, toasting the project as much as providing protective muscle. "I wish I could be helpful," Tomkins responded, ". . . but due reflection has not turned up anytiiing that you could use. I remember meeting her once or twice in the 1960s, but I don't think I ever had a conversation with her. She hovers in my mind as someone you were inclined to think of as a mild nuisance, although I am sure this is unfair." He continued; "My one clear recollection, however, is of seeing her at a rehearsal for Claes Oldenburg's happening, called Washes. . . . Sturtevant . . . had on a very skimpy bathing suit, and Rauschenberg, who was present as an observer, looked at her and said, in his uninhibited way, 'Look at your titties.' Sturtevant said, Oh, Bob,' dismissively, but she seemed to be pleased."47
The artist made the objects for The Store of Claes Oldenburg out of chicken wire, cloth, plaster, and enamel. Among other things Sturtevant had for sale, it's not clear that Oldenburg himself ever listed as part of his phantasmagoria a 99 cents sign, ever offered a BLT or bunch of asparagus, ever noted a bra, shp, bikini, or pocketbook - all items inventoried by Sturtevant for The Store of Claes Oldenburg, which Oldenburg did come to check out. According to the artist, "He couldn't resist."48
Although some choice objects remain, most of the stuffs that stocked The Store of Claes Oldenburg were destroyed. Unstorable.
1. "Trends: Statements in Paint." Time, February 28, 1969, 71.
2. Claes Oldenburg, Washes, Tulane Drama Review, Winter 1965, 116.
3. Grace Glueck "Ballet: Brides and Turtles in Dance Program," New York Times, Hay 13, 1965, 33. The article gives contextual information as well as the precise May dates for Washes in its final paragraph.
4. "Trends: Statements in Paint," 71.
5. "What's New in Art." New York Times. April .23, 1967. D33.
6. John Perreault, "Touch of the Scary, " Village Voice, May 11, 1967, 17.
7. "What's New in Art," New York Times. April 23, 1967. D53.
8. "What's New in Art." New York Times. May 14. 1967, D25.
9. Sturtevant quoted in "Sturtevant" interview by Bill Arning, Journal of Contemporary Art 2. no. 2 (Fall-Winter 1989): 44.
10; Sturtevant in Arning, 40.
11. John Gruen, "A Violent Strike against East Village." World journal Tribune. April 25. 1967, 12.
12. Jill Johnston, '"Environments' at Martha Jackson's." Village Voice. July 6, 1961. 13.
14. Sidney TiItIm, "Month in Review," Arts Magazine. February 1962, 35-36.
15. Jill Johnston, ' 'Claes Oldenburg." Art News, January 1962, 47, 60.
16. Jill Johnston, "Claes Oldenburg," Art News, May 1962. 55.
17. Jill Johnston, " "Claes Oldenburg." Art News, November 1962, 13.
18. Martin Gansberg, "Yes, Witnesses Report; Neighbors Have Doubts," New York Times, March 12. 1965. 35.
19. Claes Oldenburg, "Take a Cigarette Butt and Make It Heroic," interview by Suzl Gablik. Art News. May 1967 30-31. 77.
20. Claes Oldenburg, "America: War & Sex, Etc.." Arts Magazine. Summer 1967, 32.
21. For the "book of notes." see Grace Glueck. "Art Notes: Fun at Home with MOMA. the Met and the Gugg," New York Times, June 18, 1967, 28.
22. Claes Oldenburg, "Extracts from the Studio Notes 1962-64)," Artforum, January 1966, 32-33.
23. First two quoted phrases are from Valerie Solanas, SCUM Manifesto (1967; New York: Verso. 2004): "non-place" is from "Deviant Payback: The Aims of Valerie Solanas." Avital Ronell's excellent introduction to the book. See also "SCUM," Village Bulletin Board, Village Voice. April 27. 1967, 2.
24. John Canaday, 'Art Shows Worth Seeing," New York Times, October 16. 1965,12.
25. LiI Picard. "Camp oder die nimmermüde Phantasie," Die Weit, December 9. 1965, 7.
26. LiI Picard, "From ABC to Camp Art." Das Kunstwerk ?-6 (1965): 58.
27. For "catch-all term . . ." see Thomas Meehan, "Not Good Taste, Not Bad Taste - It's 'Camp,'" New York Times, March 21, 1965, 30.
28. Suzi Gabjik, "Rene Magritte," Artforum. December 1965, 30-33;
29. Max Kózioff, "Three-DlmensionaJ Prints and the Retreat from Originality," Artforum, December 1965. 27
30. Sturtevant response in "Questions of Style," Artforum, September 2010, 26?.
31. John Canaday, "It Went Something Like This In 1964-65," New York Times, May 16, 1965, section 2, 19.
32. Grace Glueck, "Gallery Market Hawks Art on Rye," New York Times, October 8, 1964, 51.
33. Grace Glueck, "Warhol's Pad Is Scene of Blast Launching 'Pop Art," New Book," New York Times. June 30. 1965. 43.
34. Blot Fremont-Sinith, "Behli,d the Mali. TIre and a Toothpaste Grin.' New York Times. July 15, 1965. 27.
35- Michael Lobei. "Sturtevant Inappropriate Appropriation," Parkett December 2005, 142-64.
36. Andy Warhol in "What is Pop Art?" interviews by G. R. Swenson, Art News November 1963. 26.
37. Warhol quoted by Sturtevant in Arning,.^. In February 1986, while Bill Arning served as executive director of White Columns in New York, the space featured the exhibition Sturtevant, co.curated by Douglas Davis and Eugene Schwartz. A January 29, 198$, press release for the show is the first mention I have found in the available historical record of Warhol's silkscreen loan to Sturtevant.
38. The quoted phrases are from Sturtevant In Arning, 45.
40. See Richard F. Shepard, "Lefkowitz Given Cram Art Course." New. York Times December 11. 1965, 30.
41. Milton Esterow, "Lefkowitz Pians Art Fraud Action," New York Times, November 15, 1965, 39. The following quote from Louis Lefkowitz is from this article.
42- Both Upchitz and Rivers are quoted in Richard F. Shepard, "Artist or the Public; Who Needs the Protection?" New York Times, December 29, 1965, 31.
43. Ad Reinhardt, postcard to Yvonne Rainer, postmarked New York. March 8, 1966, Getty Research Institute, Rainer files, Box 8, folder 8.
44. Yoshiaki Tòno, "Baine Sturtevant The Logic of Forged Paintings," from the series "Top Ladies among the Painters of the World." Bijutsu Techo 282, no, 5 (1967), trans. Yuki Okumura for author. I would like to thank Jeffrey and Misako Rosen for their Invaluable assistance in acquiring the translation of this essay and a copy of this specific issue of Bijutsu Techo.
45. Oyvind Fahlstrom, Object-making," Studio International, December 1966, 328-29.
46. Sturtevant in Arning, 45-46.
47. Calvin Tomkins. letter tö author. October 27, 2009.
48. Sturtevant in Arning, 44.
A contributing editor of Artforum, Bruce Haintey teaches in the MFA program at Art Center College of Design. The fifth issue of Pep Talk is dedicated to his writìng. His book on Sturtevant, Under the Sign of fsicj, will be published by Semiotext(e).