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Gagosian Quarterly

June 29, 2021

Shortlist

Mixtape:Spencer Sweeney

In this series we invite artists and writers to tell us about works of art, literature, film, or music that have influenced their work or are at the forefront of their minds today. Here Spencer Sweeney shares a selection of songs that have punctuated his journey through the pandemic and ponders the expressive powers of a playlist.

Spencer Sweeney, Self-Portrait Morning Gown, Records, 2019, oil on canvas, 66 × 42 inches (167.6 × 106.7 cm)

Spencer Sweeney, Self-Portrait Morning Gown, Records, 2019, oil on canvas, 66 × 42 inches (167.6 × 106.7 cm)

Spencer Sweeney

Spencer Sweeney has been a vital presence in the art, nightlife, and music of New York for twenty years. As a musician and performance artist, he was a member of the seminal noise-art group Actress; as a painter and visual artist, he makes collages, paintings, self-portraits, and drawings, as well as environments and immersive experiences, such as the 2010 show in which he moved his living quarters into a gallery space and installed himself alongside the art objects on view.

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A playlist is a kind of sacred thing: each song selection and placement is an expression of the soul. That’s the magic you get when listening to a mixtape.

This playlist started from songs that caught my attention while I was working in the studio during the lockdown. It’s a mixture of well-known and lesser-known recordings from jazz, funk, swing, rock, and beyond. I chose from pop cultural masterpieces and contextualized them against more sprawling avant-garde arrangements. I wanted to draw attention to some unexpected commonalities between the tracks.

I often start in one place with a song and then each time I revisit it I have a different experience and make new connections. This bleeds into my studio practice, too, in the repetition of visual motifs.

Whether music or art, it’s about the journey, and most importantly, getting lost along the way.

Mixtape: Spencer Sweeney

Spencer Sweeney’s New York studio. Photo: Pushpin Films

The music community has been hit disproportionately hard by the pandemic. Opportunities for musicians to perform in front of live audiences have been almost nonexistent, many venues have gone permanently dark, and we’ve lost luminary artists to the virus. In this playlist, I included the song “Night in Zeralda” by jazz musician Manu Dibango, a lifelong inspiration who lost his life to COVID.

Making a mixtape or a playlist is a soulful and deeply personal expression. When you’re listening to a playlist, you immediately think about the person who put it together or for whom it was made. I sent the song “M’Bemba” by the Afro-Pop singer/songwriter Salif Keita to a friend on the day of the announcement of COVID lockdown. The song came to me again around the time of vaccination rollout and reopening, at which point I sent it to her once more with a reminder of how far we’ve come in the past year. It was a song shared to deliver feelings of courage, strength, and beauty.

Artwork © Spencer Sweeney

Spencer Sweeney in his studio, New York. Photo: Rob McKeever

In Conversation
Spencer Sweeney and Edek Bartz

Curator and concert promoter Edek Bartz speaks with the artist about portraiture, album covers, and subverting expectations.

Spencer Sweeney and Kembra Pfahler

In Conversation
Spencer Sweeney and Kembra Pfahler

Kembra Pfahler speaks with Sweeney about his work, staying inspired, and the relationship between self-portraiture and performance.

Black-and-white photograph of Alexander Calder and Margaret French dancing on a cobblestone street while Louisa Calder plays the accordion in front of a large window outside of James Thrall Soby’s house, Farmington, Connecticut, 1936

An Alphabetical Guide to Calder and Dance

Jed Perl takes a look at Alexander Calder’s lifelong fascination with dance and its relationship to his reimagining of sculpture.

Mike Milken and Larry Gagosian

In Conversation
Mike Milken and Larry Gagosian

Mike Milken interviews Larry Gagosian about their shared histories, the important role of art in moments of crisis, and the long-term impact of creative visions.

Twelve Tracks: Roe Ethridge

Shortlist
Twelve Tracks: Roe Ethridge

Roe Ethridge shares the transportive powers of his playlist “Teenage Chemicals in 1985,” a soundtrack that began playing in those formative years and hasn’t stopped since.

Calder: Sculpting A Life

Calder: Sculpting A Life

The first authorized biography of Alexander Calder was published this past fall. Biographer Jed Perl and Alexander “Sandy” S. C. Rower, president of the Calder Foundation, discuss the genesis of the book, the nature of genius, and preview what’s to come in the second volume with the Quarterly’s Wyatt Allgeier.

Still from Vertigo (1958), directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Photo: PARAMOUNT PICTURES/Ronald Grant Archive/Alamy Stock Photo

Shortlist
Five Films: Louise Bonnet

Los Angeles painter Louise Bonnet reminisces about the films that influenced her development as an artist.

Jenny Saville, Study for Pentimenti I, 2011, graphite and pastel on paper.

Shortlist
Five Preoccupations: Jenny Saville

Jenny Saville shares a selection of the books, films, and more that have been her companions in the quiet of the shutdowns in recent months and as she looks ahead to a new exhibition next year.

Five Books: Urs Fischer

Shortlist
Five Books: Urs Fischer

Urs Fischer talks about reading during the pandemic lockdown, sharing five books—both fiction and nonfiction—that he has turned to while in self-isolation.

Jennifer Guidi, We Shine Outward Into the Universe (Gemini and Cancer), 2019.

Shortlist
Twelve Tracks: Jennifer Guidi

Jennifer Guidi shares a selection of the music she listens to in the studio and speaks about its connection to her meditative painting process.

Still from La Jetée (1962), directed by Chris Marker.

Shortlist
Five Films: Sarah Sze

Sarah Sze writes about five films that live as richly evocative images in her visual memory.

Sergio Zambon black-and-white portrait

Fashion and Art: Sergio Zambon

Designer Sergio Zambon, head of menswear at Moncler, speaks to Wyatt Allgeier about his inspirations and visions for this season’s 2 Moncler 1952 M collection, a project under the Moncler Genius initiative, and his collaboration with artists Andrea Anastasio, Prem Sahib, and Erwin Wurm on a special exhibition of unique artworks—being sold for a good cause—presented in Milan on September 25, 2021, in conjunction with the live digital show “MONDOGENIUS.”