Peter Schjeldahl’s New Yorker review of Pipilotti Rist’s show in New York last fall has been in the pocket of my handbag for months. I originally read it while traveling and had torn out the pages after marking them up with squiggly lines. Happy squiggly lines. The paper was worn and ragged from months of riding in that forgotten pocket but a review about contemporary art that is titled “Feeling Good” deserves to be remembered, all these months later. Besides, I am a fan of Rist’s work.
This passage really spoke to me:
Pleasure is a serious matter in and for art, which must justify itself continually in a global culture of mass entertainments…Rist is remarkable for having insisted on bliss throughout an era, which peaked in the nineteen-nineties, when a parade of artists ambitiously expanded art’s physical scale and social address only to burden it, self-importantly, with theoretical arcana and political sanctimony. (Going to galleries and museums became like attending church or school.) Today, after a subsequent spell of market-bedizened, balefully frisky seductiveness, from the likes of Jeff Koons (a gifted artist with a lot to answer for) and Damien Hirst (from whose nightmare of chipper cynicism we may finally be awakening), Rist stands out in a graver light. Responsible as well as responsive to contemporary art’s enlarged public sphere, she maintains standards of craft and sincerity—outward discipline, inward necessity–that speak for themselves, without critical gloss or winking irony…In the spell of Rists’s work, I feel the world of art, momentarily indistinguishable from that of life, stabilize inside and around me—with such lightness! The mood doesn’t last, of course, but it leaves a trace in the heart, endorsed by the mind, of stubborn hope.
What a great way to describe Rist’s approach: “she maintains standards of craft and sincerity—outward discipline, inward necessity–that speak for themselves, without critical gloss or winking irony.”