From the Archives

From the Archives – Anthony Discenza Presents A Novel: An Exhibition by Anthony Discenza at Catharine Clark Gallery

Fiamma Montezemolo’s The Secret just opened at Kadist SF, and Montezemolo’s solo show has us thinking about books, selves, and Borges. Just as Montezemolo deploys redaction of and extraction from Jorge Luis Borges’ short story “The Anthropologist” to draw us into The Secret, so did Anthony Discenza create what has been described as a Borgesian universe (that leads off with a quotation from Borges) of layered selves in Anthony Discenza Presents A Novel: An Exhibition by Anthony Discenza, reviewed below by Maria Porges for our sister publication Art Practical. Porges traces the multiple selves and references within references that Discenza draws into his work, ultimately situating her own review as one piece of this universe. This article was originally published on March 22, 2016.

Anthony Discenza.

Anthony Discenza Presents A Novel: An Exhibition by Anthony Discenza, 2016; installation view. Courtesy of Catharine Clark Gallery.

When or why does art become the idea of art: a representation or simulacra of it, rather than the thing itself? In a constellation of objects and images, Bay Area artist Anthony Discenza tackles this question, among several others, through a deftly ironic manipulation of the visual languages of Minimalism and Conceptualism—tropes that, many decades after their first incarnations, continue to be recycled ad nauseam in galleries and museums worldwide. The works presented here are meant to be seen as enclosed in a veritable cloud of quotation marks, as a kind of performance of these too-familiar ideas, experienced through the filter of Discenza’s own writing in the form of a longish essay available as a newsprint takeaway from stacks in the gallery. Prefacing Discenza’s text, quotes from Jorge Luis Borges and Joanna Russ muse on the idea that there are not only multiple universes in which we live out one thread of possible choices, but that we consist of multiple selves. The exhibition is based on this conceit: Anthony Discenza, friend (or doppelgänger?) of “Anthony Discenza,” has put this show together from notes and materials abandoned by the other. By stepping outside of himself in this way, the essay’s author can describe and evaluate his own gifts as well as his shortcomings with a charming wryness, talking about the work of “Anthony” as if it is not his own. “Anthony,” we learn, had planned to make this show by using, as a point of departure, the 1969 art-world novel The Disappointments by Lane Hobbs, an artist and critic who (of course) died prematurely in 1974, having produced only this satire of the late 1960s scene in New York. That this novel does not actually exist should go without saying, but I am going to say it anyway; as indicated by the essay’s title, “Considering A Novel: An Exhibition in the Subjunctive,” the book’s existence is fictional, like the concept of the two Anthonys. The Disappointments serves as a vehicle for the ultimate subject here: the artist’s struggle to make art, to put forward work and be confident in its clarity, originality, and importance, but ultimately, by some important inward measure, to fail.

Read the full article here.

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