Frieze Preview: Jennifer Kabat

Looking forward to Nancy Holt, David Horvitz and Eileen Myles


Nancy Holt, Western Graveyards, (all, details), 1968. Courtesy Parafin, London

Nancy Holt, Western Graveyards, (all, details), 1968Courtesy Parafin, London

Theft, death and poetry. Those are my plans (hopes) for Frieze New York.

David Horvitz is the thief. His project, true courtship dance, newly commissioned for this year’s fair, will involve a pickpocket slipping small artworks into strangers’ pockets. Horvitz likes art to be sly, a secret between two people. He looks at what happens when art is reduced to a relationship, to the act of looking, feeling or even touching the work. Personally, I like thieves, and I like stories of art theft, so both this project and the enlisted pickpocket – who is not Horvitz himself, but a professional (how one finds and hires said pro, I do not know) – thrill me. So too does this idea of tiny illegal generosity.

Next, death: That would be Nancy Holt, who passed away in 2014. I grew up visiting her Dark Star Park in Arlington, Virginia, and as a kid I didn’t even register that it was art, or that art could be so integral to place. Her work often investigates time, place and landscape, and at Frieze is a photography project on death, boundaries and the American West, shot in overlooked and under-examined rural cemeteries. Looking at them, she writes of ‘becoming fascinated by the graves in the West because they were contained spaces, often with fences surrounding them. They reflect how people thought about space out West; their last desire was to delineate a little plot of their own because there was so much vastness.’ The West has always been a landscape of longing, where people tried to contain and tame the lands, and here Holt explores the last sentiments that these pioneers voiced – pioneers like Elizabeth Mary Tonkin. She died at 27 years, 10 months and 17 days. To know her age with such precision makes her epitaph all the more moving: “the abyss of heaven // Hath swallowed up thy form;  // Yet on my heart, deeply hath sunk the // love thou hast given…”

David Ireland, another artist who recently died and is being shown at Frieze, turned all of life, or at least where and how he lived, into art, imbuing it with a Zen consideration of each element. His home – 500 Capp Street in San Francisco – was recently opened to the public, while other projects like his 1986-87 commission at the Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito explored and restored elements of a 19th-century barracks that had once been integral to delineating the American West. 


Courtesy Catherine Opie

Courtesy Catherine Opie

Lastly, poetry. I love how it is crossing into art these days. At Frieze, poet and artist (or artist-poet) Heather Phillipson’s new project 100% OTHER FIBRES will use text and image to explore the space of the fair itself, and poet Eileen Myles (who is finally being deemed a national treasure) will be giving a keynote presentation at Frieze Talks. The other talk I’m excited about is the conversation between Dan Fox and Mark Leckey. Dan is a generous writer whose book on pretentiousness explores its titular subject via his parents and the possibilities of art, while suggesting what the world might offer us if we open up to being pretentious. He’s also a great fan of Leckey, for whom those subjects – pretension, music, parents and possibility – are also a lodestone. I cannot wait to hear the two of them together. 

Jennifer Kabat is a writer based in upstate New York, USA. A recipient of the Creative Capital / Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant for criticism, she teaches at New York University and is working on an essay collection called Growing Up Modern.

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