This “Pillow” sculpture was made by Stephen Antonakos in 1963, and I spotted it recently in his show at Lori Bookstein Fine Art in Chelsea in New York. It helps demonstrate how much the standard art-historical narratives cut out of the real story of art. Where do Antonakos’s pillows fit in the scheme of things, as we’ve all learned it? They don’t even fit into the standard story of their maker’s art, since he’s known for works in neon. On the other hand, what’s even more weird is how few works don’t fit our standard narratives: People complain that art has to be about more than “mere” novelty, but novelty of any kind is surprisingly hard to achieve. Hence my interest in these unsettling pillows, more likely to cause insomnia in a poor art historian than to cure it.
By Blake Gopnik