Artforum as Art World: Donald Lokuta’s belated ‘Casting Call’

In the calm after an exciting week of events at the Urban Arts Space as part of Donald Lokuta: Plato’s Cave-Segal’s Studio, you can reflect on the broader issues at stake in the exhibition by turning to page 242 of the September Issue of Artforum Magazine.

There you will come across an ad for the exhibition, but this is not any old ad. Beautifully designed by the UAS design team combo of James Allanson and Kelly McNicholas, this ad was placed in Artforum as a direct extension of the main themes of the show, specifically how Lokuta’s investigation into ‘the unseen’ in his photographs of Plato’s Cave and Segal’s Studio expands into his own position in the wider Art World.  

In a conversation as part of the series Between Artists, artist William E. Jones makes the following comment to his fellow-artist and filmmaker, Thom Andersen about the role of Artforummagazine in the contemporary Art World as akin to Pravda in the former Soviet Union during the purges:

It occurs to me that Artforum functions more or less like Pravda in the realm of art today. You read it to see if your friends’ careers are still alive. It doesn’t matter what anybody says about them. As long as their names are mentioned,they are still in the arena. The real problem is not being mentioned.
Jones’ comment highlights a use of Artforum not as a  marker of current tastes and trends nor as a mapping of current exhibitions and critical approaches, but as a place to evoke a camaraderie between artists, each rooting for the ‘life’ of each others’ careers. But what would Jones’ have made of Lokuta’s solitary appearance in Artforum? As a photographer of Segal’s Studio, Lokuta’s appearance in the pages of Artforum has been limited to documenting another artist at work. The January 2009 article ‘Casting Call’ by Segal’s model, Martin Friedman, is illustrated by Lokuta’s photographs, including the one below, and he is given the photo credit, and even mentioned in the essay as ‘assisting’ Segal, but that is the limit to his role.

Donald Lokuta Casting Martin Friedman, 8-4-91

In a way, Artforum, as the beacon of the Art World, is not looking at Lokuta’s work but still using it, as documentation for the Segal’s Studio series. Yet if we see the Art World as an extension of Lokuta’s art world, then Lokuta’s appearance in Artforum operate in a comparable way to his appearances in Segal’s studio as friend, model, assistant and photographer.I wanted to point to this unseen aspect of his appearance in Artforum by reusing the same photograph of his previous ‘appearance’, but this time to directly promote and parade his artistic work.

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