Manny Farber / One Day at a Time MOCA
MOCA / Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, presents One Day at a Time: Manny Farber and Termite Art, an ambitious exhibition inspired by American painter and film critic Manny Farber and his legendary underground essay “White Elephant Art vs. Termite Art” (1962). The exhibition is organized by Helen Molesworth and features approximately thirty artists and more than one hundred carefully selected works of painting, sculpture, photography, film, video, and sound dating from the 1950s to the present. One Day at a Time is conceived as a cross between a monographic exhibition and a group show – an experiment in exhibition-making in the spirit of Farber’s call for “termite art.”
Aliza Nisenbaum, Kayhan reading the New York Times
Becky Suss, “August” (2016) courtesy of Jack Shainman Gallery, New York
Joan Brown, Woman Waiting in a Theatre Lobby, 1975
Becky Suss, Bathroom (Ming Green), 2016 / Jennifer Guidi, Eclipse, 2017
Originally appearing in Film Culture magazine, “White Elephant Art vs. Termite Art” was written as a screed against the idea of the masterpiece and works of art produced by “overripe technique shrieking with preciosity, fame, ambition.” Farber championed art that was committed to observation, deep attention, and the unique temporalities of the quotidian. In his words, termite art was produced through the act of “both observing and being in the world, a journeying in which the artist seems to be ingesting both the material of his art and the outside world through horizontal coverage.”
Charles Ray, Tractor, 2005 / One Day at a Time MOCA, Photo Zak Kelley
Beverly Buchanan / One Day at a Time MOCA, Photo Zak Kelley
Lorna Simpson, 31 , 2002 / One Day at a Time MOCA, Photo Zak Kelley
One Day at a Time uses Farber’s idea of termite art as a methodology for assembling the contemporary works of disparate artists as a means to think about time in its many dimensions, from the daily to the cosmological. The genre of still life plays an important role in this endeavor. Long the area of Western painting in which the passage of time – and the implications of that passing in both ethical and natural terms – has been explored, still life remains a form that exemplifies Farber’s commitment, both as a writer and a painter, to the daily, the modest, and the space in between things.
Rodney McMillian, “a lemon” (2006–12)
Jennifer Guidi, Pink Sky Mountain (Painted White Sand SF #2C, White and Multicolor), 2017 / Josiah McElheny, An End to Modernity, 2005, One Day at a Time MOCA, Photo Zak Kelley
Moyra Davey, One Day at a Time MOCA, Photo Zak Kelley
Farber’s eye-level perspective on the subtle connections that undergird the stuff of daily life provides One Day at a Time with its structure: the hybrid approach of the exhibition is itself an outgrowth of Farber’s horizontal viewpoint. It begins with a group of Farber’s idiosyncratic still-life paintings and works on paper from the late 1970s and 1980s, then fans out from this monographic presentation to explore the ways other artists have dedicated themselves to the pursuit of the everyday. The rooms of the exhibition are envisioned as small galaxies, each orbiting around a work by Farber and bound by the gravitational pull of artists “observing and being in the world.” The manifestations of this simultaneous immersion in and reckoning with the world are both distinct and interrelated. The artists gathered in One Day at a Time immerse themselves in the natural world and record the details of daily life. In so doing, they reorder the priorities of our culture away from fame, celebrity, grandiosity, and money and instead present the detailed, the minor, and the overlooked as a way to better connect with the realm of the everyday, offered here as the space of ethics and love.
Roni Horn The Selected Gifts, (1974 – 2015) One Day at a Time MOCA, Photo Zak Kelley
Wolfgang Tillmans, Window New Inn Yard / Wolfgang Tillmans, One Day at a Time MOCA Photo Zak Kelley
Artists featured in the exhibition include: Dike Blair, Joan Brown, Beverly Buchanan, Jordan Casteel, Vija Celmins, Leidy Churchman, Moyra Davey, Taylor Davis, Tacita Dean, Manny Farber, Fischli & Weiss, Jean-Pierre Gorin, Jennifer Guidi, Maurice Harris, Roni Horn, Kahlil Joseph, Sylvia Plimack Mangold, Chris Marker, Josiah McElheny, Roy McMakin, Rodney McMillian, Aliza Nisenbaum, Catherine Opie, Patricia Patterson, Quintron, Charles Ray, Rachel Rose, Sue Schardt, Nancy Shaver, Lorna Simpson, Becky Suss, Wolfgang Tillmans, and Jonas Wood.
A substantial full-color exhibition catalogue published by Prestel will accompany the exhibition. It will include an essay by Helen Molesworth and reprints of some of Farber’s most memorable pieces of writing, as well as an interview with filmmaker Jean-Pierre Gorin on the subject of termite art, a reminiscence of Farber as a teacher by artist and filmmaker Jason Simon, and a commissioned project by artists Gregg Bordowitz and Glenn Ligon.
Lead support is provided by Annenberg Foundation and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Major support is provided by Maria Seferian. Generous support is provided by Matthew Marks Gallery.