Featured in
Issue 217

kurimanzutto’s ‘TITAN’ Wants You to Look at Art in Plain Sight

Exhibited in defunct phone booths along 6th Avenue, artists including Renée Green, Glenn Ligon, Patti Smith, and Rirkrit Tiravanija ask us to engage with the world around

BY Paul Stephens in Reviews , US Reviews | 11 DEC 20

With its political turmoil and pandemic lockdowns, 2020 has been a banner year for text-based works and street art, to which a partially depopulated and boarded-up Manhattan has provided a stark backdrop. Organized by Damián Ortega and Bree Zucker, kurimanzutto’s ‘TITAN’ – an outdoor exhibition staged in phone booths on Sixth Avenue that are due to be replaced by wi-fi kiosks next year – is well suited to a moment when guards seem to outnumber visitors at the Museum of Modern Art half a block away. 

Hal Fischer, 'Gay Semiotics', Street Fashion: Jock, 1977, TITAN, kurimanzutto
Hal Fischer, Handkerchiefs, 1977, Signifiers for a Male Response, 1977 and Street Fashion: Jock, 1977, from the series 'Gay Semiotics', installation view, 'TITAN',  kurimanzutto, New York City. Courtesy: the artist and kurimanzutto, Mexico City / New York and Project Native Informant, London; photograph: PJ Rountree

The panels of these now-obsolete booths feature poster reproductions of works by 12 artists, including Hans Haacke, Zoe Leonard and Cildo Meireles, among others. I saw ‘TITAN’ on 7 November, just minutes before CNN called the US presidential election for Joe Biden. The timing was propitious given that Glenn Ligon’s trio of works – Synecdoche (For Byron Kim) (2018), Aftermath (2020) and Red Hands #2 (1996) – features the date 3 November 2020 on one end of the booth and, on the other, 4 November 2020 (the day of and the day after the election). The works feel particularly vulnerable on the street. A promotional sticker for the far-right, conspiracy-theory website InfoWars had been affixed to the centre of Aftermath. Jackhammers pounded a few feet away. Behind, an advertisement for a salad read: ‘YOUR VOICE. YOUR VOTE. YOUR MEAL. Introducing the Poll Bowl.’

Renée Green, TITAN Billboards, 2020, kurimanzutto
Renée Green, TITAN Billboards, 2020, from Space Poem #5 (Years & Afters), 2015, installation view, 'TITAN',  kurimanzutto, New York City. Courtesy: the artist and kurimanzutto, Mexico City / New York, FAM and Bortolami Gallery, New York; photograph: PJ Rountree

During the hour or so that I meandered among the booths, not a single passerby seemed to notice any of the works. Hal Fischer’s ‘Gay Semiotics’ (1977), from his series evoking the lost world of pre-AIDS urban cruising, could be read as fashion ads. Despite this, the works in ‘TITAN’ reward the curious flâneur who takes the time to engage. Renée Green’s booth reads: ‘AFTER THE CRISIS’ and ‘AFTER YOU FINISH YOUR WORK’. Taken from the artist’s Space Poem #5 (Years & Afters) (2015), the words feel apt for these dark days with no decisive end in sight.

'TITAN' is on view in New York City through 3 January 2020.

Main image: Yvonne Rainer, EXCERPTS FROM APOLLO’S DIARY, WRITTEN DURING HIS LAST VISIT TO EARTH FROM MOUNT OLYMPUS, 2020, installation view, 'TITAN',  kurimanzutto, New York City. Courtesy: the artist and kurimanzutto, Mexico City / New York; photograph: PJ Rountree

Paul Stephens is the author of Absence of Clutter: Minimal Writing as Art and Literature (MIT, 2020) and The Poetics of Information Overload: From Gertrude Stein to Conceptual Writing (Minnesota, 2015).