Although Indiana was not seduced by the Cult of the Name, it is all but impossible to read these pieces today and not think about how they helped shape public perception of Jeff Koons...Jenny Holzer...Gerard Richter...Eric Fischl...and the other art superstars such as Cindy Sherman, Richard Prince, Barbara Kruger, Sherri Levine, and Robert Mapplethorpe who came into his crosshairs. It is also impossible to read the columns without savoring their radioactive wit and aphoristic intelligence ... Indiana has the thankless honor of being one of our culture’s most prescient critics, and one of its most distinctive. His voice is unabashedly queer, the slant catcall of an outsider empathetic to other outsiders but combustible toward anything institutional ... Few critics today write the way Indiana does in these columns, and fewer still are so prepared to burn bridges or make enemies. Social media has arguably depressed this brand of idiosyncratic, bilious, often sarcastic criticism ... Written during the AIDS epidemic—U.S. AIDS-related deaths topped 10,000 by the end of 1985—Indiana’s criticism functioned as an existential plague journal, one man’s weekly effort to determine what’s authentic and what isn’t, what matters and what’s bullshit ... Indiana was, and remains, a different kind of writer—a sui generis mash-up of Ambrose Bierce, E. M. Cioran, Lester Bangs, and Louis-Ferdinand Céline.
Vile Days...is a terrific read, especially if you happened to be there during that 'stunningly deranged decade' (to quote Indiana quoting Carol Squiers) ... The columns collected in Vile Days are cynical, sarcastic, funny, outrageous, and increasingly jaundiced as mass culture, hypocrisy, and money began to take over the scene, but Indiana could also be generous and even sentimental ... At the time, read one by one, the columns were eccentric and witty. All together they are brilliant and startling[.]
At a moment when 1980s New York has returned with a vengeance in the figure of Donald Trump, Indiana’s columns have never been more relevant. Famously, Indiana’s columns raked the New York art scene over the coals. Although Indiana’s snark is fun to read, the columns now also exist as an archive documenting what it was like to live in New York City in the 1980s. When he wrote about art in the city, Indiana situated artworks and aesthetic debates within a complex tapestry of local concerns. Richard Serra’s Tilted Arc reminded him of the homeless problem in his neighborhood; an exhibit of paintings at the SoHo branch of Chase Bank called to mind the long lines in his neighborhood bank. Or, as I’ll discuss here, a piece of land art summoned the dire specter of friends who were dying of AIDS. Indiana’s columns show us many things that we have forgotten about the 1980s.