Chapter 2: ASSASSINATION: Rick Herron, Art Slave at the New Museum and Rhizome, Artist, Curator (Part One)
Rick Herron at MASS MoCA. Courtesy of Facebook.
Rick Herron, who is a media intern at Rhizome and a worker in visitor services at the New Museum, is not represented currently by a commercial gallery. So if you have any questions about Herron’s artwork, projects, or his stories, feel free to contact him privately at email@example.com.
from Rick Herron <firstname.lastname@example.org>
to qi peng <email@example.com>
date Fri, Apr 10, 2009 at 10:48 AM
subject Re: INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
hide details Apr 10
Thanks man, I'll be working on them and will get back ASAP.]
qi peng: How are you doing today, man?
Rick Herron: I’m the owner of a broken heart today.
qi peng: Cool, what do you think about the master/slave relationship within the art world today?
Rick Herron: Let’s play master and servant.
qi peng: Any opinions on the fact that some of our future kick ass blue chip artists have to pull in terrible jobs as gallery assistant, painting package handlers, and museum whipping posts for a Matthew Barney stand-in?
Rick Herron: Well, I know that if they don’t want them, if I don’t want mine, there’s certainly someone else who does. If they are truly tomorrow’s blue chip artists, then they will get to enjoy their spoils and their hard work will be rewarded with commissions to paint a Greek man’s yacht or cover the floor of a rich lady’s apartment in brightly colored tape. It’s the ones who never get recognition and just work those jobs till they give up and do something else that contain the element of the tragic. For every Jeff Koons/Andy Warhol story there are a thousand others who just kept working those jobs or moved on. Any of my anxiety comes from hoping that my career doesn’t end at the front door of a museum saying hi to people. As for the jobs being terrible, I don’t think they are. I’ve really enjoyed all the jobs I’ve had in the art world very very much and I felt really grateful and lucky to be doing them, even when it was/is at a non-paid internship. If I thought these jobs were terrible, I wouldn’t be doing them. I’m too old for that. I’ve had terrible jobs, the ones I’ve had in the art world do not rank among them. The pay, however, IS terrible. I make now, at my full time job, what I made in college eight years ago as a summer intern at an IT company. Still, my career goal for the year is…don’t get fired. I feel lucky to have a job, one that I love doing for that matter. I won’t do this forever, I’ve hated far worse jobs for less money for far longer.
qi peng: You work full time as part of the visitor services at the New Museum. What is the experience at in uncensored terms?
Rick Herron: I don’t understand this question.
qi peng: If the New Museum is the New Museum, then what is the Old Museum?
Rick Herron: Marcia Tucker, the New Museum’s founder came from The Whitney, so at the beginning, it was a reaction to that. But The New Museum today probably functions more similarly to The Whitney than itself thirty years ago, so what the New Museum is and isn’t is constantly being redefined. And that’s what makes it the New Museum.
qi peng: Any cool stories happening at the place lately?
Rick Herron: Yes and if there aren’t, we make them happen.
Rick Herron: I’ve met them both multiple times. Tomma signed a dedication in her catalog for me to give to a friend of mine who collects her. Getting to meet artists is definitely one of my favorite parts about being there. Kenny Scharf did a drawing on my Sigg for me. Gilbert and George didn’t come in, but I saw them on the sidewalk outside and I ran out onto the street and yelled after them and went fanboy on them for a minute. They were lovely, the way you expect fabulous gay Englishmen in natty suits to be. I’m not about to start talking s–t about art stars, but some of them, as expected, are not lovely. Most of the time though, they’re gracious and appreciative and generous. I defy you to find someone that has something mean to say about Paul Chan. What a stand up guy. Mad, mad respect for him.
qi peng: What is it like to intern one day a week at Rhizome?
Rick Herron: I’m super happy to be working with Rhizome. I think Lauren Cornell, Rhizome director, is doing some of the most interesting and exciting work going on today and Rhizome’s relevance and influence will only increase as new media art becomes less…new. It helps for a movement to have a couple big stars that are easy to recognize. It gives us a common point of reference. It happens in music all the time with the kind-of-a-cross-between-Megadeth-and-Sufjan Stevens-mixed-with-a-little-Taking Back Sunday sort of descriptions we give about bands. The art world develops a very detailed, intricate categorization system in order to accurately describe works, but with new media art, that lexicon is still being developed and is added to and changed every day. It’s exciting, and confusing, to be around that. Everyone who works for a Rhizome is an artist or musician or curator or scholar or all of those things at one time and I feel lucky to know them.
qi peng: Do you ever freak out over new media art?
Rick Herron: Yes, often. But my boss Ingrid often accuses me of “liking everything.” I’m an enthusiastic person.
Rick Herron: Well, I want to use up my three Ryan Trecartins right out of the gate because I think he’s f–king awesome. It’s really really funny, but just as on point. I think he has a really keen sense of language I kind of adore. When I’m watching it, I’m thinking to myself that I want to remember EVERY SENTENCE so I can rip him off later when I’m talking with my friends. But you never can, because the bombardment of language doesn’t ever stop. And if you’re my age in the city, that’s exactly how we feel all the time, isn’t it? We’re in love with all the iPhone Twitter shit, but we use half our time on those things to complain about them.
John Michael Boling just made this piece called The Last 51 Years of Art History Represented by 51 Seconds of Battlestar Galactica Season 4 Episode 18 (2009) and it’s just kind of perfect. Appropriation can be such a lazy, easy way out, but a simple little piece like this, just a genius little clip of found footage, really validates the practice. There’s definitely life in it. I also like how I found it. I sit next to JMB when I’m doing my Rhizome work, but I had no idea that he’d made the piece until Cory Arcangel put it on his delicious and I saw his link on Facebook.
I guess if I have an assessment about anything to do with net art or new media art it’s that there’s a lot to learn, a lot to take in. It’s hard for me to keep up and I work in a contemporary art museum six days a week. If there’s a field in art that’s growing and developing so much and so fast that it seems overwhelming to take it all in, then that’s interesting and worth some introspection to me. Is anyone saying, “I just can’t keep up with what all these sculptors are doing! What will they think of next!?” I love sculpture, of course, I just find it really exciting to learn about and be a part of something that’s still forming, yet has a firm but malleable ground, is not a fad, isn’t going away. It didn’t start yesterday, I think the Rhizome archive goes back to ’96, so there’s a good deal of history to look at as well. But surf clubs and pizza parties and tumblrs and splash pages and the concept of net aesthetics are all new things to me. I hope very much to continue with Rhizome, I find it really vital and it makes me proud to have a Rhizome email address, even if my task for the week is to reorganize the filing system. And one week, it was.
qi peng: How did you land a cameo appearance in the promotional video for the New Museum’s exhibition “The Generational: Younger Than Jesus?”
Rick Herron: I was cast because they wanted to use employees of the museum or friends of the employees. I was psyched to do it because I am a ham and it sounded fun, so I sent them the pics they asked for and told them I was totally cool with the naked thing, etc. I’ve heard all my life that I am scrawny and pasty and too skinny and it made me feel very good to do away with a lot of that crap and let other people see me a different way. Even my family said, oh wow, we didn’t know you had a body like that! I’ve always felt like the most unsexy thing possible, it’s kind of cool a short little clip helped give me some confidence about myself. It also turns out that they ended up getting permission from Hyperdub to use Burial‘s song Prayer as the vid’s music. I think he’s the best thing in electronic music in years, so I’m so proud to be in a Burial video, it’s ridiculous. I want to be in BUTT magazine now, I really love BUTT. Wolfgang Tillmans, Final Fantasy, SALEM, Michael Stipe, Dutch people, hairy dudes. A whole host of wonderful things all rolled up in soft pink pages, it’s great.
qi peng: Do you have any style tips for trying to look than younger than Jesus?
Rick Herron: Moisturize, be vegan, avoid the sun, don’t age.
Rick Herron: There is a big sign over the front door that says Hell, Yes!
qi peng: During the past exhibition cycle, you programmed the music tracks for the lobby of the New Museum. What type of songs did you feature there?
Rick Herron: I thought about several different things. I wanted everything to be really new, so most of the songs I used were just released or weren’t out yet in the US. Replayability was key since my coworkers and I had to listen to those choices every day for months on end. I used New York musicians and musicians related to the shows on view, however associatively. I also played artists that had played or are going to play at the museum live. And of course, I represented my Swedes. I love The Swedes. We also played music selected by two of my coworkers, it was really fun and even though it was just lobby music, I feel enormously proud to have been given the chance to decide what a museum sounds like for a while. Jeremy Deller walked up to me and asked me what was playing, loving it and I got to say, “That’s Fever Ray man!!! She’s awesome!” The idea for us to select the music came from the director and the chief curator, so I felt very chuffed about it. And everyone seemed to really dig it, I got lots of compliments, very exciting for me.
Rick Herron: During Younger Than Jesus, we’ve got a protest jukebox by Ruth Ewan and it’s loaded with Tupac, Propaghandi, Rage, Public Enemy, Ice-T, Dead Kennedys, Fela Kuti, all kinds of stuff. I played several hip-hop artists on my list too. This summer we’re mounting a show about the Black Panthers. N.W.A. would sound great at the New Museum and it wouldn’t take much bribing at all. Lisa Phillips, the director, is quoted in Time Out New York as being a Jay-Z fan, she’s all about it. She’s a cool lady. As for the John Currin, I’m pretty sure Lisa has known him for years, so if she wanted one of his paintings, she would have gotten it a long time ago. She may well have, I don’t know. I have no idea what she collects, but John Currin and Rachel Feinstein are close to the museum and have been for a long time.
qi peng: How does the party mood differ from that at the Whitney?
Rick Herron: I think the mood differs in that, so far, the only time there IS a party mood at the New Museum is during the openings. The Whitney does live programming right in the basement, filling the first two floors with intense sound. At NewMu, all the live stuff has happened in the theater, which is beautiful, and the lineups have been rad, but the energy is very contained, hermetically sealed. It wouldn’t be uncommon for someone to visit the museum during a concert and not even register that it’s going on. I’d like to see some really honest exuberance happening right in the lobby. Robbinschilds and Ei Arakawa have both used the lobby space and it was really thrilling, but they were short, isolated events and the context was “art”. I’d like to see music happen there as just music, as just a party, it’s a space full of possibilities. It’d be fabulous to have a show start outside pied-piper style and just end up in the theater at some point, or not. The 4th floor gallery has 26 foot ceilings. I want to play music in there so bad, the acoustics must be insane with the proportions it has, the polished concrete floor. There was sound art in Unmonumental in all the galleries, I’m glad for that.
qi peng: In the fall of 2008, you were the curatorial intern at the non-profit named The Kitchen. What did you manage to do over there?
Rick Herron: I did a lot of different things. I listened to all the music submissions and took notes on them. I discovered Eve Beglarian that way and I think she’s super cool. I did very interny things like mail. I tended the gallery on Tuesdays. I worked on letters and databases and contracts, etc. I helped Ann Liv Young get her show ready in the theater. I tended bar, I worked merch tables. To prepare for the benefit auction, I visited Martha Rosler and Lawrence Weiner‘s studios to pick up work. Lawrence Weiner lives in this amazing new house in the West Village and he gave me a tour of his space and one of his books and was really nice to me. When I do stuff like that, it’s a total moment of separation and I’m just watching it all happen thinking, I am standing on Lawrence Weiner’s back patio right now, how did this happen? My experience at The Kitchen was awesome and I’m really grateful to have worked with Matthew, Rashida, Deb and everyone else. Everyone gets along really well there, it’s a very positive vibe and I was immediately welcomed and made part of the group. They gave me an email address on my first day, which the New Museum never has, and they had this little goodbye moment for me with vegan treats! The Kitchen is the best. I worked at the same place Arthur Russell worked. It doesn’t get better than that.
qi peng: Currently there is an awesome exhibition by the artist Richard Phillips called “New Museum” taking place at Gagosian Gallery, 980 Madison Avenue location, and there is a really fabulously pornographic painting that combines a lady offering doggy style to the hedge fund managers in front of wallpaper advertising The Kitchen called “Fundraiser.” Has The Kitchen ever tried to raise funds using a nude female model?
Rick Herron: I don’t know the answer to this question, but The Kitchen has a history that doesn’t shy away from something just because it contains sensational or extreme elements. It has always represented the avant-garde. A nude female model doesn’t seem like a terribly controversial way to raise funds, but it doesn’t sound very intereseting either. How is she nude, why is she nude? The context would be key, but nudity itself is par for the course at The Kitchen. In the case of this painting, however, it looks like sexism hiding behind institutional critique, and it’s pretty weak critique at that. The Kitchen fundraises by asking Antony to play piano for them, not by pimping hos. The place is almost completely staffed and run by women. I think The Kitchen does amazing things and has an important history and that’s why I wanted to be involved there. These Richard Phillips paintings don’t look very interesting to me. What I LOVE is that they ripped off the New Museum’s font and gradient color scheme to make the leader card for the video on the website. It’s cool, it looks good, it’s subtle and clever. I can’t say the same for a giant hideous painting of a woman with a Frieze magazine crammed in her vag.
qi peng: Why is sexism so rampant in blue-chip paintings even with female painters like Marilyn Minter?
Rick Herron: I don’t find Marilyn Minter’s work sexist. Is there a Marilyn-Minter-is-a-mean-ol’-sexist faction? I’ve been to her studio and met her several times and sexism doesn’t seem to be what she’s after. Gritty glamor seems more accurate, it reads as feminist to me. As a gay, I do find it pretty difficult to get excited by artists like Richard Kern or Nobuyoshi Araki (I do have his flower t-shirt from Uniqlo though. Pretty.) or something. I don’t want to dismiss every work of art sporting a booby or vagina just because I like the company of men, because I want straight people to look at queer art objectively, critically, honestly. But artists whose whole career revolves around the objectification of women, however thoughtfully and critically, doesn’t hold of a huge amount of interest to me. I just can’t get myself to like Lisa Yuskavage despite repeated efforts, though I think it has as much to do with her use of color as anything else. I find them really unpleasant. Why is sexism rampant in art? Because collectors buy it? Because sexism is still rampant in society and the art world tends to reflect what’s going on, in a skewed and obviously mediated sort of way, but it is one way society portrays its most honest self, through art.
qi peng: Would inviting Jenna Jameson to The Kitchen be an awesome event?
Rick Herron: Just to do it? Not in the least. But she’s a smart woman, there are probably a thousand interesting things she and a Kitchen artist could collaborate on. Make it happen!
qi peng: Ever had trouble with people having sex in the exhibition space there?
Rick Herron: I’ve watched live sex acts happen on stage at The Kitchen, but I think the audiences themselves are pretty well behaved these days. At the NewMu, we do make an awful lot of jokes about the brochure closet and I know some visitors be doing some nasty thangs in the bathrooms, but that’s any public space. It doesn’t make us special, it makes them drunk.
me: motherf--ker, this interview is long
i've been typing for hours
qi: Enjoy ... yeah but its awesome
me: it is. it's fun
qi: For getting some idea of the contemporary art world
me: i sound like a goodie too shoes
qi: Plus as a future curator good practice too
Especially when you write monographs ;)
qi: Thanks for answering btw
Long one is 18 pages
qi: Longest one
i don't want to/may not answer everything, but there's plenty
qi: heard the jesus show was going well
me: it totally is, i love it. and i love the ruckus it has caused on facebook
all sorts of pissy bitter banter
qi: Nice is there an exhibition catalog for it?
and a directory
of over 500 artists considered for the show
I will have to hunt them down now
me: totes. they're pretty cheap on amazon
cheaper than at the newmu store for sure
qi: How did they choose for the artist directory?
me: they asked 130 contributors to give them three names
and send in stuff
they sorted through it all and made the directory
qi: Nice... could be biased too
me: it's biased 130 ways
of course it's biased, curation is
qi: For example I will have to check to see whether Eric Doeringer is in it
me: he's not and i like him
me: i would put him in my directory
and scott blake and a whole bunch of others
qi: He is like one of the most important...
me: but it's not supposed to be this all knowing, all encompassing thing
qi: Yeah well we need a new directory called Better Than Jesus lol
me: a blog waiting to happen
Sent at 9:08 PM on Monday
Are all those artist listed with galleries?
Sent at 9:10 PM on Monday
me: in the directory? no
me: some are. some are famous. some are too trendy and famous i think. terrence koh is a whatev to me.
but there are a lot who don't have galleries, haven't shown a lot, haven't been in museum before, etc.
mark essen is 22 and makes video games.
but they wrote some big profile on him in the press so he'll be trendy enough soon.
you could do this all day
qi: Damn the guys
Well I am just flabbergasted :(
me: a lot of the contributors don't live in the US. it's a very international look.
qi: True good point
It could be useful does it have an email for each person?
me: you probably haven't heard of a lot of them. they have galleries in Europe, etc. but little to no exposure in the US
it doesn't have any contact information in it for anyone
me: which kind of makes no sense to me
it's called a DIRECTORY
qi: Would be nice to have contact info seriously
me: but Max's argument was, Google them.
because they're so young/developing, it's hard to nail them down for very long
publish the thing and the info is automatically old. someone will change something.
it's paper, it sticks around.
qi did not receive your chat.
me: so if some kid doing research 20 years later, none of it would work
but if you just look them up online, you'll get them
it sort of speaks to the way we use phonebooks now, which is to say, we don't.
qi: Yeah of course Dash Snow is probably in
Sent at 9:18 PM on Monday
me: a bunch of curators make a phonebook and leave all the numbers out. it's kind of perfect. because who uses a phonebook!? when patrons ask for them at the museum, i do reluctantly get it out for them. but i try to get them to just let me Google it for them. I don't trust phone books.
Dash Snow is not in it.
Cory Arcangel, Ryan Trecartin and Josh Smith were the only ones that really stuck out to me as obvious or super trendy. And I really like all their work.
qi: Wow this is interesting more for the peeps not in it
That's rather worth it
Sent at 9:21 PM on Monday
me: I think it would be weird to have the show and NOT have Cory Arcangel in it, so I'm glad he's there. And I'm way into Ryan Trecartin and this show was the catalyst for a big new work, so I think that's great.
Sent at 9:23 PM on Monday
me: it's not the 50 or 500 I would have picked, but a lot of them are. And I'm glad for that, I get to see 40 something new artists I didn't know before, some I really love. Kitty Kraus kind of rules!
qi: Nice... of course perhaps Rosson Crow is in it too
Hopefully the list can be updated... wish that I were younger now
me: I don't think either one of them are. But I don't have the whole Directory memorized.
Well I will have to grab it.... I will be in NYC in mid June btw
me: I do know the list of 50 well now, but 500 is a lot to keep up in one's wittle head
i have to eat and try to finish this.
Sent at 9:27 PM on Monday]
qi peng: You alluded to wanting to become a museum curator… Throw me a short proposal, title, venue, list of artists, and the reasons for this particular exhibition. What makes this proposal specifically your style?
Rick Herron: I’d like to work with Ron Gorchov to mount a retrospective of his work that contains several new site specific or show specific new projects. I’d do it at the New Museum. He was in one of the New Museum’s first shows, so it’s kind of perfect. I love his work, he’s a part of New York history, but he doesn’t have the recognition with today’s audience I think he deserves. And that’s basically what the New Museum’s mission statement is, to do just that. He had a show of new work at PS1 that Alanna Heiss curated, and I he just got gallery representation last year, but since I’m of a completely different generation than him a couple times over, I think it’d be cool to work with him on a full retrospective. They’d look so good in the glass gallery. Am I bad curator for picking a straight old white guy painter? Oh s–t, I’m The Man!
I also really like art in music/music in art and all the collaborations that come out of those overlaps. I don’t think Stanley Donwood has ever shown in the US, I love him. I’d kill to see a big ol’ museum show of his work.
For a long time, way before I did my first internship or anything to do with the art world, I dreamed of curating retrospectives of the influence and collaborative nature of Bjork and Sonic Youth on the art world. Now, the Sonic Youth one has already happened without me. They have yet to find a New York venue for it though, and I wish to hell one of our curators were interested in it. They’re a downtown New York band, we’re a downtown New York museum. They’ve worked with so many “New Museum” artists, it seems so natural. And the programming possibilities!!! They all live here, so do most of their collaborators! You could get them to do all their side projects and curate their own weeks of programming all over the museum, it would be the most exciting thing I can imagine. OBVIOUSLY, I would have gotten around to the artists they’ve worked with eventually, but when I was 13 and in science class whispering to the new girl from Seattle about Skinny Puppy, I got Raymond Pettibon and Mike Kelley in my hands and in front of my eyes because of Sonic Youth, not because I knew anything about contemporary art. I didn’t know who the hell they were, and frankly, when Sonic Youth worked with Richter or Pettibon, et. al they weren’t even all that big in the art world either. Not the megastars they are now. How much would a Richter painting have sold for in 1988? Even Richard Prince hit his super super huge prices after the nurse paintings, which they used for Sonic Nurse, first. I think their involvement in the art world is truly important and I would love so much to be a part of anything that has to do with that show. I’ve met Kerry Schuss, who represents Kim and works with Thurston, a couple different times and I really like him and what he does. I’d like to work with him sometime. Incidentally, Thurston and Kim have been to the museum several times and they haven’t been very responsive to my attempts to chit chat with them. It’s not a fun feeling to have one of your idols be indifferent to you at best, but it’s not exactly surprising, I hold no grudge, they haven’t been rude, just disinterested. If you listen to a Sonic Youth album, you don’t exactly expect kittens and rainbows to come out of Kim’s mouth. Lee, however, was incredibly sweet to me and stayed at the desk and talked to me for a long time and let me geek out on him pretty hardcore. Later, when he was leaving, he gave me one of Thurston’s guitar pics, which I now carry in my wallet at all times.
Bjork is just about it for me. She’s had work in museums before or has been the subject of work in museums, but it would be my ultimate dream to work on a full scale show looking at the different collaborative relationships she’s had with artists in her career. And I think many of her collaborators do some of their best work with her. It certainly teases out of them things they wouldn’t have done on their own, so I love looking at that process. Who wouldn’t go see a show of Michel Gondry, Spike Jonze, Alexander McQueen, Hussein Chalayan, Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, Juergen Teller, Shoplifter, Matthew Barney, M/M and a million others, without even mentioning all the musicians?
As far as a new artist, sort of a start from scratch sort of thing, I’d like to work with Jacob Kassay. He’s at Eleven Rivington, I love his work, I think he’s the real deal. He’s also a very nice person and it seems like it’s probably more fun to work with people you like, than people you don’t. Unrepresented artists I’d like to work with are Brendan Smith, Daniel Turner, Kate Fauvell, Cynthia Hsieh, Francesca Romeo, Joyce Kim, JJ Pakola and lots of others. I want to be in Robert Flynt‘s work because he photographs naked men and I had fun being a naked man. I think it’s cool to be preserved in a certain time and place and then later, oooh, I don’t look like that anymore! But you look some other way, that’s ok with me. Being 27, 28 and 29 kind of freaked me the f–k out. I feel more relaxed and comfortable now at 30, but maybe that’s just coincidence, I don’t know.
I think it’s completely insane the New Museum hasn’t done a show about street art or shown even one street artist at the Bowery location. Like really crazy. I’d like to do a show that has every square inch of the inside of that beeyotch covered. And four weeks into the show, you bring in an all new batch of arists and have them work with and over the top of what’s there, much the same way as it actually happens on the street. It’s just paint, you just go back over it and it’s the way it was before. A show like that should also be about the creation several public works involving kids and community members not associated with the arts. But I seriously think it’s this huge gaping hole that seems crazy to ignore. 190 Bowery, a building with a huge amount of graffiti history is just down the street. Laz Inc. did a big show that was popular enough to be held over at Bowery and Houston last year. Banksy did New York last year. Jeffrey Deitch redid the Haring mural at Bowery and Houston. Shepard Fairey got all kinds of attention at ICA Boston. Why isn’t the new New Museum a part of this? Just let Mint and Serf do the stairway or something. Anything. It’s maybe my biggest disappointment about Younger Than Jesus as well. To me, street art has had this really amazing moment all over the world in my generation. I think it’s really exciting to find an Invader in Paris and then in a bar in Brooklyn later. If you’re going to do a show about this generation, it seems a gross oversight not to acknowledge it at all. Claire Fontaine and Thomas Hirschhorn are the closest the museum has come so far, but that’s stretching. Maybe there are plans to a huge street art show there two years from now, I don’t know, I’m not privy to that information. I also recognize that it’s called STREET art and that by bringing it indoors and making people pay money to see it completely changes it and it brings up all sorts of issues and problems. But those are interesting discussions to have and they should be happening at the New Museum. I think institutions do have a role to play in that scene, there are ways for museums and curators to work with street artists that supports their work, creates possibilities, goes next level. It doesn’t have to sanitize and monetize, but the issue is interesting to talk about, get us a panel!
I really like Wonderwall Inc. I’d like them to temporarily transform the glass gallery. I find temporary architecture interesting. Serpentine and PS1 get loads of attention for their projects. The New Museum is small but it doesn’t mean that architectural experimentation and transformation aren’t possible. They could temporarily make the glass gallery into the New Museum Store and what is now the store would be suddenly be this strange space in the lobby to use for a show of object design or something. There are lots of shelves to fill. But our store is run off a laptop, there’s no reason why you can’t pick it up and move it.
I’d also love to have UnitedVisualArtists make a huge new piece for the back wall of the museum that is responsive to people’s movement on the sidewalk. 3 o’clock in the morning on the Bowery and you walk by the museum and a 75 foot wide LED wall reacts to you in bright white lights from 125 feet away. It would be so incredible. And it would bring people in to find out how and why and what is happening back there. I don’t think the potential for that gallery has been realized yet. Maybe the best thing so far was the Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries piece when the museum first opened and Mary Heilmann‘s ocean paintings looked really nice in there as well.
I also have this very old daydream of being a super rich trustee type and founding something called the Herron Center for Meditative Art. It would be a free, appointment only foundation that had both a permanent collection and temporary project space for contemplative art. It would be appointment only because much of the art viewing would happen in solitude and you would spend hours and days with the works, not seconds. Meditation, yoga and discussion would be a fundamental part of how the space would function. There would be several private spaces for music, sound art and meditation. Artists that come to my mind for this sort of experience would be Eliasson, Irwin, Turrell, Gonzalez-Torres, Goldsworthy, Nam June Paik, Gordon Matta-Clark, Serra, Yoko Ono, La Monte Young, John Cage, Qiu Shihua, Huyghe, Liza Lou, Sugimoto, Viola, Alvin Lucier and many many more. And if I get to keep dreaming, I’d have several architects like Peter Zumthor (I swear I’ve loved him since I first heart about Vals as a travel agent years ago, not since today when the Pritzker was announced), Preston Scott Cohen, Takashi Yamaguchi, and let’s have the ghost of Louis Kahn, design all the spaces. New artists that I’ve already mentioned like robbinschilds, Kitty Kraus and Jacob Kassay would be right at home and they’d stay at the center for months long residencies that culminate in new projects and events. This idea makes me sound like an art hippie doesn’t it? It’s just that I’d love to sit with a Turrell all day by myself. Or 1200 pounds of candy. Or those two clocks next to each other. How long before you just burst into tears? How often do we allow ourselves to REALLY look at something? Hardly ever, almost never.
Finally, I’m completely in love with the work that Ronen Givony is doing and in that spirit, I very much want to present musicians like Wim Mertens, Clara Engel, William Basinski, The Venn Diagrams, Tiny Vipers, FM3 and Olafur Arnalds to a wider New York audience. I’d like to call that series, Standing Room Lonely and it would be amazing at the New Museum or The Kitchen or (Le) Poisson Rouge or any place that could make those shows happen. Hardly any of them would be easy. Alice Tulley Hall, TheTimesCenter and the theater at The Morgan would all be dream places as well.
qi peng: On a lighter note, what are some of your favorite artists, books, television shows, sports, art magazines, toys, movies, and other cultural artifacts that you wish to share with your fans of your work here?
Rick Herron: I think there’s too much of this out there on all our profiles that no one really cares to hear about, but I guess I can name a few things. Low, Tarnation, Nobody Knows, Hung Liu, Extras, GT’s new No. 3 Botanical Kombucha, cb i hate perfume, Tiny Masters of Today.
qi peng: Do you have any recent galleries or exhibitions that you have seen and would to recommend to us?
Rick Herron: The Third Mind at the Guggenheim hasn’t closed yet and they recreated the Dream House there. It blew my mind, I loved it so so much. I can’t wait to go to the one downtown. Everything in the galleries is just opening again right now, I have to make the rounds again for things that are actually open. I’m very curious to see the Hernan Bas at Lehmann Maupin coming up soon. My work schedule makes it nearly impossible to get to the Brooklyn Museum, so it’s cool he’s going to be showing right behind the NewMu, I can just go on a lunch break. I also made my pilgramage to MASS MoCA a few weeks ago and saw the huge ass installation of wall drawings there. It’s up for 25 years, but make haste! It was pretty humbling. Protect Protect was good at The Whitney. Jenny Holzer has been a favorite of mine since I was a teenager, but you always see her one piece at a time. It’s a privilege to see so many in one place. The first one you see, For Chicago, is a stunner.
qi peng: What things in those shows inspired your curating eye and imagination?
Rick Herron: The Third Mind was sort of one of those shows where I was excited for it, but wished I could have gotten to something like it first. The Rubin did a similarly themed show a few years ago and I narrowly missed seeing it, I’m bummed about that. From a strictly curatorial standpoint, After Nature at the New Museum was very very exciting for me. That makes me sound like a suck ass because I work there, but I work there for a reason, it’s not an accident. The show had dead artists, trendy artists, outsider/folk artists, people not normally considered artists at all. The catalog was an appropriated epic poem with images from the show blown into it. The wall labels confounded and confused as much as they clarified and informed. The audio guide was full of excerpts of works of literature that contextualized, not described the objects. The theme was depressing as hell. Whether or not you LIKED the show, it seems like an awfully important one to keep in mind when sitting down to curate contemporary art. In the end, I think the critical response was sort of mixed and the audience reaction was usually that they liked certain pieces but not that they’d been bludgeoned by so much darkness. Lots of people DO NOT want their art depressing them, they get really pissed when a trip to the museum becomes a bummer. I loved it.
qi peng: Some of the peeps you have served every single day include the following: James Kalm, Keith Sonnier, Roberta Smith, Liam Gillick, Joel Wachs, Paddy Johnson, Vik Muniz, Jerry Saltz, Leonardo DeCaprio, Aggie [Agnes] Gund, Matthew Barney, etc. Do you have any fascinating stories to tell about experiences working with such icons?
Rick Herron: I think part of my job is not to be spreadin’ they business around the internet. Remember, career goal: don’t get fired.
qi peng: How do these people differ from regular museum visitors?
Rick Herron: There isn’t one way it goes down. David Bowie comes in disguise and doesn’t want to be bothered. Susan Sarandon stood around in the lobby and chatted with Kate for a good clip, cool as a cucumber.
qi peng: Do you get anyone asking for their autographs?
Rick Herron: I think someone may have asked Natalie Portman or Claire Danes for their autograph and they bailed pretty fast. The best ones though are when Karen O, Stephen Malkmus, Drew Daniel and Martin Schmidt, or Carl Newman come in and I get all excited and pumped up and then when I gush to my coworkers about how cool that was, they’re like, wait, who!? Where? What? Rem Koolhaas was in recently and two of us found it very exciting and the rest of the team was not getting why we were flipping over the surly bald man at all.
Rick Herron: Elizabeth Dee is there pretty much every day right now because she represents Ryan Trecartin. I like her, and her X Initiative project is pretty rad. I don’t know Becky Smith, but I’m sure she’s been in. I want to be friends with Lia Gangitano, from Participant Inc. I think she’s cool. She hasn’t accepted my Facebook friend request yet. We have 15 mutual friends girl, I won’t bite!