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Stuart Sherman: Nothing Up My Sleeve


Participant Inc.
253 East Houston Street, 212-254-4334
East Village / Lower East Side
November 8 - December 20, 2009
Reception: Sunday, November 8, 7 - 9 PM
Web Site

Curated by Jonathan Berger

Nancy Barton and Michael Glass with Allison Somers and Eric Van Speights; James Lee Byars; Carol Bove; Matthew Brannon; Katarina Burin; Tony Clifton; Vaginal Davis; Eileen Gray; Harry Houdini; Andy Kaufman; KIOSK/Alisa Grifo and Marco Romeny; Little Switzerland; Babette Mangolte; Pedro, Murial, and Esther; SITE Projects; SUPERSTUDIO; Stefanie Victor; Hot Keys/Jeff Weiss and Richard C. Martinez

Performance, Monday, November 16 at Santos Party House, 96 Lafayette Street, NYC: Advanced Capitalism Reunion: Reparations and Retardations. Vaginal Davis with Pedro, Murial, and Esther (P.M.E.), 1989-2009; and a rare NYC appearance by international singing sensation, Tony Clifton, and his 17-piece Katrina Kiss My Ass Orchestra, sponsored by Comic Relief Doors at 8pm, $20, for reservations please call 212 254 4334

Nothing Up My Sleeve is based on the work of the widely unknown, remarkable artist Stuart Sherman. Sherman was an early member of both the Charles Ludlam and Richard Foreman theater companies. Over a thirty-year period, he compiled an immense body of his own work in performance, film, video, writing, sculpture, and drawing until his death in 2001. He devoted a large amount of his time to the creation of numerous small tabletop performances, which he called ‘spectacles.’ These performances involved the manipulation of both familiar and unfamiliar everyday objects atop one or more folding TV dinner tables. Performed by a pokerfaced Sherman, the spectacle performances sit in a uniquely awkward hybrid space that moves between references to comedy, illusion, minimalism, surrealism, melancholia, foreign language, and vaudeville. The performances are constantly shifting in appearance and impact, evoking everything from a three card monty game, to a musical number, to a magic show, to a Fluxus action.

Nothing Up My Sleeve focuses on the notion of artists creating alternate lived realities through the use of various forms of deception, which they are able to justify through the aspirations of their work. In doing so, these artists are able to revise the negative stigma attached to the act of lying, questioning the assertion that ‘the truth’ is fact, and instead engaging it as a subjective form. Using the many relevant concerns which permeate Sherman’s work as a guide, including transubstantiation, perception, trompe l’eoil, illusion and magic, fiction, communication, and language, the exhibit explores these themes as they manifest in the work of artists of the 20th and 21st century. The artists included in the exhibition span a 150-year period, representing a diverse range of practices and relationships to art and culture.

Nothing Up My Sleeve will be accompanied by a publication, functioning as an extension of the exhibit in print format, designed by Julian Bittiner, which will include contributions of special projects from each of the participating artists. Reprinted for the publication, with new commentary, are two early critical texts about Stuart Sherman’s spectacle works, by John Matturri (written in 1978), and Berenice Reynaud (published in issue eight of October art journal, 1979). The book will also include texts by Lia Gangitano, Jonathan Berger, Molly McGarry, and Mark Bradford, in addition to an interview with the members of SUPERSTUDIO by Carol Bove, and an interview with SITE Projects by KIOSK.

Nothing Up My Sleeve is curated by artist Jonathan Berger. Berger’s work encompasses the fields of sculpture, drawing, architecture, installation, performance, design, philosophy, and curatorial projects. Most recently, he presented a commissioned large-scale installation for the 2008 Busan Biennial at the Busan Museum of Modern Art, South Korea. “Prologues, Epilogues, Thresholds,” three new sequential solo exhibitions, was presented in October, November, and December of 2007 at the Andreas Grimm Gallery, NYC. Recent curatorial projects include “Where Art and Life Collide: Ron Athey, Vaginal Davis, Franko B,” a series of premiere performances, lectures, and events (presented in 2006 at Artists Space, Participant Inc., and Siberia, NYC), and the 2005 exhibit “Founders Day: Jack Smith and the Work of Reinvention,” at Grimm-Rosenfeld NY, which received critical acclaim from Roberta Smith in the NY Times. Berger has been awarded multiple fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Millay Colony, and the Corporation of Yaddo. Forthcoming curatorial projects include retrospective exhibitions of Andy Kaufman and Peter Schumann.


Andy Kaufman and Bob Zmuda, Uncle Andy’s Funhouse Limited edition t-shirt, reprinted from the original!

Pedro, Muriel and Esther, The White to Be Angry CD and signed poster

Elementary Set, Houdini Inspired Bracelet

For information on editions please visit:

Also in conjunction with Nothing Up My Sleeve:

Lynne Margulies reading from Dear Andy Kaufman, I Hate Your Guts! (A Process Book, introduction by Lynne Margulies, foreword by Bob Zmuda), details to follow at

Beginningless Thought/Endless Seeing: The Works of Stuart Sherman Curated by John Hagan, Yolanda Hawkins, and John Matturri October 20 – December 20, 2009, at New York University’s 80WSE Gallery 80 Washington Square East, NYC

Nothing Up My Sleeve is presented as part of Performa 09 (November 1-22, 2009), the third edition of the internationally acclaimed biennial of new visual art performance presented by Performa, a non-profit multidisciplinary arts organization dedicated to exploring the critical role of live performance in the history of twentieth century art and to encouraging new directions in performance for the twenty-first century.
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