ABOUT USEstablished in Santa Barbara, California, in 2004, Left Coast Books is a bookstore and art
gallery that specializes in ART BOOKS,
offering thousands of titles on painting, sculpture, graphic arts,
architecture, design, photography, film, video, and performance art. We also
sell classics, literary fiction, history, and a broad variety of useful
academic books. We are open to the public Wednesdays through Saturdays, 11 AM to 6 PM. Internet orders are processed and shipped on a daily
The owner, Simon Taylor, was born in England and lived in New York from 1988 to 2003, working as a museum curator and
art critic. He curated “Abject Art” at the Whitney Museum of American Art in
1993, and a series of exhibitions at Guild Hall Museum, East
Hampton, NY, in the early 2000s, where he held the position of
Curator. His writings have appeared in Art
in America, Afterimage, Art + Text, Third Text, World Art,
and in numerous exhibition catalogues. He has lived in California since 2003.
New York. c. 1993
Left Coast Books, 2010
Phobic Object: Abjection in Contemporary Art."
In: NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star.
New York: New Museum of Contemporary Art,
Excremental Vision: No!art, 1959-1964.”
Lurie: No! New York and Philadelphia:
Boris Lurie Art Foundation and
'Exotic' is Uncannily Close." In: “It’s
a Poor Sort of Memory That Only Works
Backwards”: On the Work of Johan
Grimonprez.Ostfildern, Germany: Hatje
Cantz Verlag, 2011.
December 2012, I was contacted by a curator at the New Museum of Contemporary
Art in New York, who is organizing a forthcoming exhibition on “NYC
1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star,” opening in February 2013. To my
surprise, the museum asked for permission to reprint my essay, “The Phobic
Object: Abjection in Contemporary Art” from the Whitney Museum of American
Art’s Abject Art catalogue, an exhibition that followed
the notorious 1993 Whitney Biennial, and became a source of great controversy (for
a multitude of reasons). I am not sure what the curators of “NYC 1993” have in
mind, but it has the potential to be a real shit-stirrer. Like the return of
the repressed, this exhibition keeps coming back to dog me, personally. On the
one hand, it’s gratifying to know that an exhibition you curated twenty years
ago is still being talked about; on the other hand, what’s being written, from
some quarters, is sometimes badly misinformed.
main criticism leveled at the Abject Art exhibition is its strident tone, the
way the curators “instrumentalized” the abject for political ends. We are
all prisoners of our era and its limitations. I would have preferred to have
been around during the sixties, which was a more progressive and experimental
time, but the recessionary years following the October 1987 Crash (memorable
for the Persian Gulf War, the beating of Rodney King and the riots in L.A., the
AIDS pandemic and the callous treatment of people with HIV, etc.), was not a
time of great optimism, and the visual culture of the period reflected that
reality in ways that were often rude and in-your-face. I make no apologies, in
retrospect, for letting my contempt for our political leaders, anger at
patriarchy, and hatred of capitalism shape the way I conceived the exhibition. It
was authentic and true to the times. My gallery-going confirmed that there was
a lot of political art being shown, and much of it was body-related and
scatological, fueled by anger at the social injustices of the world,
highlighted especially by the AIDS crisis which cast a pall over the culture.
My essay failed to unpack the concept of abjection coherently, but I connected
the dots between the stuff I was reading in the seminars (with Rosalind Krauss,
among others), the world of contemporary art, and a lumpen sense of how the
underclass was faring after years of Reaganism.
person who initiated the exhibition and insisted on using the term “abject art,”
I followed the critical reaction to the exhibition in the first year or two
afterwards, but gradually lost interest and stopped
researching the subject altogether. The denunciations from the Right (from
people like Hilton Kramer and the Christian Action Network) were as laughable
as they were predictable, but the criticism from peers and colleagues (notably
Rosalind Krauss, Hal Foster, Martin Jay, Helen Molesworth, and Frazer Ward) was
painful to read. Back then, it was necessary to browse the bookstores and
magazine stands, or go to the New York Public Library to look up Art Index to
find out what was being written. In 1993, the World Wide Web was invented, and
within a few years, everything had changed. “Googling” has radically changed
how scholars, not to mention the general public, go about researching topics of
interest. In recent years, I have resisted Googling “abject art” (or my
controversial tenure at Guild Hall), but the recent request to reprint my
“Phobic Object” essay instigated a recent Google search that unearthed copious
writings on the subject. There are dozens and dozens of references to "abject art" in books,
magazines, journals, and in popular culture. Much of the criticism leveled at
my writings and art-world activities, particularly concerning the Abject Art
exhibition, is legitimate, if not always correct, but there is a whole lot of
bullshit out there, as well … on the one hand, academic oneupmanship and
political posturing … on the other hand, errors, distortions,
mischaracterizations, and, in some cases, outright lies.
emptor: Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.
Simon Taylor, December 11, 2012.