Devon Dikeou

Risa Puleo

Devon Dikeou, an Austinite by way of New York and Denver, currently has work on view in San Antonio as part of Artpace’s 11.1 International Artist-in-Residence program. Her work measures the physical, conceptual and emotional distances, intersections and moments of exchange between the various objects and subjects in the art world, including art objects, artists, collectors, dealers, critics and curators. She has also occupied many of these roles in various parts of her practice. For instance, Dikeou has edited and published zingmagazine: a curatorial crossing since 1995, for which she invites artists and arts professionals to “curate” multipage printed spreads. Similarly, her artistic voice continues to manifest as the curator, collector and patron of the Dikeou Collection (1998–ongoing), a platform for realizing zingmagazine’s curatorial projects in physical, three-dimensional exhibition spaces. This photoessay attempts to recreate a studio visit Dikeou originally conducted for the Artpace selection process. In her Austin home, Dikeou staged a selection of her artworks in tandem with the function of each room, assuming the role of tour guide and interpreter of her own work.

Horn Please (installation view), 2009; custom-designed bumper stickers inspired by the phrase “Horn Please,” commonly painted on the back of Indian commercial vehicles; 3 x 5 inches; edition of 100

When commissioned to create an artwork for a Bollywood-themed event at the Denver Art Museum, Dikeou reminisced on her travels to India. The result was Horn Please (2009), a bumper sticker edition that echoed the signs handpainted on commercial vehicles asking other drivers for a courtesy honk when passing. Here, Horn Please is shown on the bumper of Dikeou’s car.

“Out, Out Damn Spot”—Macbeth, Shakespeare, 1992–ongoing; relic of happening: professional waiter serving 300 warm towels to viewers, who used and discarded towels; 24 x 14 x 16 inches

Considering the dilemma of how to stand out in a group exhibition, Dikeou was inspired by Lady Macbeth’s famous attempts to wipe the blood from her hands. Dikeou’s performance “Out, Out Damn Spot” involves a hired butler who serves hot towels to gallerygoers at the exhibition opening. A meditation on and metaphor for ambition, this gracious welcome quickly goes cold like the wet towel visitors are left holding.

Shake: An Accumulated Gift Collection of Salt and Pepper Shakers (installation view of entire collection), 1991–ongoing; snow globes altered to become functioning salt and pepper shakers (each is filled with salt or pepper and a shaker; when used, the diminishing salt and pepper reveals the accumulated gift collection of shakers); 12 sets in an ongoing collection; each shaker 3½ x 2½ x 2½ inches

An extra set of salt-and-pepper shakers in Dikeou’s home caused her friends to think she collected them. When invited to exhibit work in a snow-globe themed exhibition curated by Jane Harris for P.S. 122 in New York, she created the series Shake (1991–ongoing). Dikeou divided and nested a pair of individual shakers inside two snow globes, each modified to be a shaker itself, filling one globe shaker with salt and the other with pepper to hide the original shakers. Over time, using the pair of snow-globe shakers reveals which salt-and-pepper set is hidden inside. Each pair of snow-globe shakers is named for the giver of the original set.

“One Little Piggy Ate Roast Beef, One Little Piggy Had None,” 1991–ongoing; happening: 100 pounds of sliced roast beef, served in sandwiches and consumed in variable dimensions

In response to an invitation to participate in Decorous Beliefs, a 1991 exhibition curated by artist Kenny Schachter for Natalie Rivera Gallery, New York in reaction to the political correctness of the culture wars of the late 1980s, Dikeou responded as a proud carnivore. She carved 100 pounds of roast beef and served the meat as sandwiches at the opening. The carver and accoutrements remained in the exhibition space in 1991. Photographer Erica Botkin and I enjoyed sandwiches on embossed napkins in Dikeou’s dining room.

Entertaining is Fun (After Dorothy Draper), 2008; 156 Scott toilet paper rolls unrolled to a diameter of 3 inches and stacked in a cubic grid with an 8½ x 11 inch footprint of twelve rolls; 8½ x 11 x 62 inches

Invited to take part in an exhibition of works on paper called 8½ x 11, Dikeou created Entertaining is Fun. First unraveling rolls of Scott brand toilet tissue down to a diameter of 3 inches, she then stacked these rolls to form a column measuring 8½ inches wide, 11 inches deep and 62 inches tall (the artist’s height). Dikeou then rewound the toilet paper into rolls and repacked them into the original packaging in this tongue-in-cheek take on drawing and Warhol’s Brillo Boxes.

The Niney Chronicles (installation views), 2007–ongoing; (left) Niney: Hospital; C-print mapping all the sutures on Niney and the names of those who made them, mounted on aluminum with non-glare Plexiglas surface; 20 x 30 inches; edition 2, 1 AP; (center) Niney: Calgon Take Me Away!; 44 Gerber baby food jars, ¾ cap of Woolite and 198 ounces of water containing the residue from washing Niney (one jar for each year of the artist’s life), displayed on Plexiglas shelves; dimensions variable; edition 2, 1 AP; (right) The Niney Time Line; a series of sign paintings commissioned by the artist to record the life and times of Niney; acrylic on canvas; dimensions variable; edition 2, 1 AP

In a series of documents, photographs and text paintings, Dikeou details the life of her childhood security blanket as an art star. Dikeou brings both sweetness and humor to the project, while making serious nods to the high conceptualism of Joseph Kosuth and John Baldessari, and the abjection of Mike Kelley and Vito Acconci.

Touch of Greatness, 1994–ongoing; autographed baseball from the artist’s personal collection, signed “To Devon: Reggie Jackson”; left unguarded to collect viewer’s fingerprints, diminishing in value as a collectible, while increasing in value as an art object; dimensions of a regulation Major League baseball

Along with a display of the twenty-two issues of zingmagazine that Dikeou has edited and published in the past fifteen years, the media room also features the work A Touch of Greatness, an official Major League baseball signed “To Devon” by iconic player Reggie Jackson. Visitors are encouraged to handle the baseball and in doing so, the baseball's value as an art object increases, while simultaneously decreasing in value as a collectible.

“WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?” (installation view), 1991–ongoing; 10 boards (Ho Hum All Ye Faithful, Obfuscation, Broken Tales, Needlepoint, Embroidery, Macramé, Crochet, On From Here, Manes, Home for June, AMO, Not a Lear, Under the Influence); replicas of lobby directory boards announcing gallery listing of artists, curators, exhibition titles, and dates; each 18 x 24 inches; edition of 2, 1 AP Starting with her first group exhibition in 1991, Dikeou has catalogued all her exhibitions with a sign display that is an exact model of the display used by dealer Leo Castelli in the lobby of his 410 West Broadway building to announce exhibitions in the 1980s. Collectively entitled “WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?” each board functions simultaneously as a monument and a tombstone to Dikeou’s exhibition. Together the boards comprise an archive of happenings in the art world in the past twenty years, as well as a résumé of Dikeou's practice.

Dikeou's art is a kinder, gentler strain of institutional critique mixed with some of the impulses of relational aesthetics. She understands the subject of her practice, the art world, as based in authentic relationships between people, objects and experiences. Works like "WHAT'S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT" and others posit that generosity and love have everything to do with everything.

Risa Puleo is Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin.

Photographs by Erica Botkin.

« return to table of contents