Alexander Alberro


    ENTERING SERGIO VEGA’S Tropicalounge, 2002–2005, is like walking into a diorama. Designer furniture, potted exotic plants, a harmonious color code, and the sounds of smooth bossa nova create a cordial ambience that is augmented by the scent of potpourri and by the ensemble’s many interactive objects and spaces. The vivid manner in which Vega’s sculptural installation engages a visitor’s senses recalls the Tropicália of Hélio Oiticica and its legacies in the work of artists such as Cildo Meireles and Artur Barrio. But Tropicalounge is also oddly incongruous. What is one to make of the cockeyed

  • Behind the Facts: Interfunktionen

    Structured around some of the most scrupulously unscrupulous projects highlighted in the twelve issues of the groundbreaking international journal Interfunktionen, this exhibition captures the enormous transformation of art that took place between 1966 and 1975 and crystallizes the exchange of ideas between Europe and the US in those years when both ends were burning.

    Structured around some of the most scrupulously unscrupulous projects highlighted in the twelve issues of the groundbreaking international journal Interfunktionen, this exhibition captures the enormous transformation of art that took place between 1966 and 1975 and crystallizes the exchange of ideas between Europe and the US in those years when both ends were burning. The one hundred works on view, by Günther Brus, Richard Long, Yvonne Rainer, and thirty-six other artists, were made during the journal’s run (though not all were featured in it) and were inspired by the


    In this occasional series, Artforum looks back on alternative magazines and journals whose importance for contemporary art—whether in introducing a new discourse or galvanizing a scene—is often matched by the brevity of their life span.

    IN THE FALL OF 1974, JOSEPH KOSUTH, SARAH Charlesworth, Michael Corris, Preston Heller, Andrew Menard, and Mel Ramsden—all members of the New York wing of the art collective Art & Language (ALNY)—began to meet two or three times a week at The Local, a small basement bar in Greenwich Village operated by Mickey Ruskin (the former owner of Max’s Kansas City), in


    STÉPHANE MALLARMÉ'S DREAM of the ideal book, a book capable of encapsulating the entire universe, depended on a recognition of the meaning of format that moved against the “artificial unity that used to be based on the square measurements of the book.” The late-nineteenth-century poet called for a precisely reckoned and designed volume in which everything was to be “hesitation, disposition of parts, their alterations and relationships”—one in which typography and even the folding of the pages would achieve an ideational, analytic, and expressive significance. In the twentieth century, this

  • Ulrike Ottinger

    ULRIKE OTTINGER'S 1978 Portrait of Two Women Drinkers describes a silent encounter between strangers on opposite sides of a café window. The immaculately and fashionably dressed figure in bright yellow inside the café raises a glass of cognac to the shabby-looking woman outside, who touches the window in a gesture of eager longing. Ottinger, a prominent force in the New German Cinema, shot this picture during the making of her 1979 film Ticket of No Return, a meditation on Berlin and drinking. It is not a still from the movie: Ottinger describes her photographs as “visual notes” that help her

  • Valie Export

    IN 1967, WHEN Waltraud Höllinger changed her name to Valie Export and began producing public performance pieces as a fellow traveler of the Viennese Actionists, notoriety came quickly. In Aktionhose: Genitalpanik, 1969, she cut out the crotch of her jeans and walked the aisles of a Munich art-film house that featured sexually explicit films, challenging the voyeurs to look at a body that returned the gaze. She was already known for her action a year earlier, Tapp- und Tastkino (Tap and touch cinema), staged in the busy streets of Vienna’s shopping district. Wearing a large box over her torso,

  • James Coleman

    This exquisite show is essentially a mini-retrospective of the Irish artist James Coleman’s work. Three of the nine pieces on display are from the early ’70s, when Coleman was still working primarily with silent 16 mm black-and-white film loops, among them the intriguing Playback of a Daydream, 1974, projected on a small screen on the stage of the museum’s film auditorium. The viewer encounters not a moving picture but a single static image: Joseph Jastrow’s famous duck-rabbit drawing, in which both animals can be seen, but not simultaneously. Each blinds the viewer to the other. The projected

  • Gary Hume

    Gary Hume appears to have entered his Midsummer Night’s Dream period. His recent paintings conjure up a world of enchanted woods haunted by evanescent spirits, where nothing is quite what it seems. His principal subjects are things that fly, hover, hang, float, swim—birds, flowers, angels, nests, reflections in running water. Here, the laws of gravity and identity are in abeyance.

    Hume is by no means the first British artist to be interested in this kind of subject matter. When I interviewed him in 1995, just about the only bit of biographical information he gave me was that he takes his son to

  • Silvia Kolbowski

    Silvia Kolbowski’s multimedia installation, An Inadequate History of Conceptual Art, 1998–99, comprises a 9-by-12-foot projection of a soundless, sixty-minute videotape loop featuring close-ups of different pairs of hands along with an audio recording of various voices. The hands and memories belong to twenty-two artists who responded to Kolbowski’s request to “briefly describe a conceptual art work, not your own, of the period between 1965 and 1975, which you personally witnessed/experienced at the time.” Kolbowski encouraged the participants to assume a broad definition of Conceptualism, one

  • Mary Kelly

    Mary Kelly’s Mea Culpa, 1999, gave the initial impression of being one long, thin gray banner extending entirely around the perimeter of the vast front gallery. In fact, like a film strip that breaks down into shorter segments, the work comprises four separate panels, one for each wall of the exhibition space. Each part is further divided into four sections and displays, against a white matte background, sixteen to twenty swags of light gray material. Uniformly shaped but tonally variegated, the draped material seems soft and ephemeral, like clouds seen through the window of an airplane. The

  • Dennis Adams

    Over the past two decades, Dennis Adams has produced site-specific work, often in highly visible locations such as bus stops, that focuses on the phenomenon of collective amnesia in the late twentieth century. From the “transformations” of Patricia Hearst to the trial of Klaus Barbie, from the demagoguery of Joseph McCarthy to the execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, Adams has singled out controversial figures and events from our not-too-distant past that, if buried underneath layers of silence, still carry an explosive charge.

    For his 1998 video installation, Outtake (first shown in Bremen,

  • John Knight

    Since the late ’60s, John Knight has been producing a thoroughgoing, institutionally critical art, and in this show he continues his caustic, often brilliant interrogative practice with an installation that was as intellectually rigorous as it was seductive. Entering the gallery, one was immediately engulfed by the visual and olfactory extravaganza of twenty-seven floral arrangements that seemed momentarily to transform the exhibition space into a flower shop or a funeral parlor. Each bouquet was accompanied by a small card acknowledging the name of the lending institution, in each case a

  • “Ubu and the Truth Commission”

    Standing on a large wooden table, on what is a bare stage save for a stuffed vulture perched on a metal stand, a man dressed in ragged white underwear, T-shirt, and black lace-up military boots pantomimes an evening stroll with a large, three-headed dog puppet. Behind the table, a screen shows a black-and-white animated film evoking, through the use of cartoonlike drawings, the horrors of police brutality. This scene occurred during the Handspring Puppet Company’s performance of Ubu and the Truth Commission, which was directed by South African artist William Kentridge and was part of the fourth

  • “Conceptual Photography from the 60's and 70's”

    Although Conceptual art was largely an attack on the primacy of the visual, it often took photographic form. What this excellent, if uneven, exhibition of forty-eight works by seventeen artists suggested is that the field of Photoconceptualism included diverse rather than uniform strategies. Many of the pictures, though seemingly ad hoc, function as secondary documents of more transitory, often site-specific or performance work. Gordon Matta-Clark’s Splitting, 1974, and Etant D’Art pour locataire (Conical Intersect), 1975, for instance—both of which feature buildings “cut” by the artist

  • Raymond Pettibon

    An installation of a couple of paintings, a vast mural covering an entire wall, and nearly one hundred pushpinned pen-and-ink drawings of varying sizes that appeared to have been haphazardly torn from sketchbooks, Raymond Pettibon’s recent show overwhelmed the viewer. Beyond the sheer number of images displayed are the texts that form integral parts of the works. With far more to look at and to read than could be absorbed, there was a conspicuous lack of cohesion in the wall-to-wall display. A fragmented stream of consciousness evocative of ’20s modernists such as James Joyce, Alfred Döblin,


    A man gets up as brusquely as a specter on a coffin and falls in the same way. He gets up a few hours later and then he falls again, and the same thing happens every day; this great coitus with the celestial atmosphere is regulated by the terrestrial rotation around the sun. —Georges Bataille, “The Solar Anus”1

    Filmed with all the glossiness, sharpness, and brilliant color of an advertisement for a Caribbean getaway cruise or an exotic rum, Rodney Graham’s Vexation Island, 1997, immediately attracts the viewer’s attention through its compulsive beauty. The first image in this nine-minute film

  • Dana Hoey

    Two young women stand at the water’s edge. The one in the foreground is still, out of shape, her shoulders hunched, her pallor accentuated by an unflattering black bathing suit. The tanned, muscular girl in the sleek red bikini, farther from the camera, has apparently just struck her. Though the title of Dana Hoey’s Bikini Brawl, 1995, may sound like a scene out of Baywatch gone berserk, the photographs in the artist’s solo debut put women’s interactions with one another on display in highly staged tableaux to address the construction of gender identity. In these sixteen 40 x 30-inch prints,

  • Tony Smith

    Tony Smith’s Moondog, 1964, consists of extended polyhedral columns (the “legs” are octahedral; the top, tetrahedral) assembled in a structure that, according to the artist, “relates to Japanese and Korean lanterns.” Though Smith envisioned it at its current size—approximately seventeen feet high—the piece was originally three feet tall and only realized in its full scale after Smith’s death. Moondog is an elaborate, almost labyrinthine combination of form and volume; internal and external elements are fused in complex geometric configurations. Unlike most of Smith’s earlier pieces, which tended

  • Louise Lawler

    Louise Lawler’s recent show comprised a fabulous body of quasi-conceptual photographs and a collection of objects glass shelves of drinking glasses with words etched on them and more intimately scaled, domed crystal paperweights containing images of artworks—all of which reflected on the presentation, purchase, and sale of art. This, in itself, is nothing new. Lawler, as Craig Owens once put it, displaces critical attention away from individual works of art and onto their institutional frames, “thereby presenting, rather than being presented by, the institution.” The photograph A Spot on the

  • Martha Rosler

    In her recent exhibition, “Transitions and Digressions,” Martha Rosler embarked on a critical analysis of the links between ideology, economics, and politics. This show included color photographs of shop windows, a series of “road” photos taken with a toy panoramic camera, and a video, Chile on the Road to NAFTA, Accompanied by the National Police Band, 1997, which tracks, through a taxi’s window, the colonization of the Chilean landscape by the images of global capital.

    The “road” photographs, all taken in New York and New Jersey, belong to a series entitled “Rights of Passage,” 1994–96, taken