Amy Baker


    HAVE YOU EVER walked into a darkened room only to find that, once your eyes adjusted to the light, there was much to discover? Long ago, I wrote this about a particular Ryman painting, yet it is a feeling at the heart of what makes all of his artwork so remarkable. Often described as simply squares of white paint of various textures, Ryman’s paintings suggest a narrow focus. That focus, however, allows our attention to be more acute and sharpened, and what is actually offered is far from straightforward. What might at first seem simple turns out to be complex.  

    Ryman’s art is one of practical

  • Left to right: David Frankel, Amy Baker Sandback, Anthony Korner, and Ingrid Sischy, 2003. Photo: Lilian Haidar.


    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times—it was a time to eat salad with your fingers. In 1981, INGRID SISCHY, ANTHONY KORNER, and AMY BAKER SANDBACK, the editor and publishers of Artforum, interviewed me for the job of managing editor. They hired another candidate, but we liked each other, and Ingrid soon invited me to dinner. The guests included the film critic David Denby and an apparently wasted Artforum writer who used his fingers to eat oil-and-vinegar-soaked lettuce that drooled down his chin. (“Isn’t he fabulous?” said Ingrid.) Outside afterward Denby huffed, “What is Ingrid

  • Picture This

    TO ANYONE FROM a museum—with lead time for an exhibition or a catalogue essay measured in years—the monthly sleight-of-hand demanded by a magazine like Artforum holds out the promise of more immediate gratification. This euphoric anticipation is quickly followed by horror at the speed with which decisions must be made, and at how quickly, and publicly, these decisions meet with a response. Decidedly contemporary rather than merely modern, Artforum often publishes unknown or untried critical voices, and cannot seek refuge from public outcry by hiding behind figures of authority. In all of this


    Sex, Art, and American Culture: Essays, by Camille Paglia. New York: Vintage Books, 1992.

    So far we have seen two acts of the razzle-dazzle Camille Paglia show. The first act—the exposition, as it were—was Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson, a tumescent tome that ranges swaggeringly over the whole of the Western cultural patrimony, resembling in its ambitions such old-fashioned surveys as Erich Auerbach’s Mimesis and E. R. Curtius’ European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, but hyped-up and amphetamized for the MTV generation. Dirty, too—Paglia’s willful

  • Moral Right

    CAN IT BE that the government of the United States, despite the likes of Jesse Helms, truly believes in the inherent value of art? The signals are mixed. Although, after very public debate, NEA funding was cut back, in late November 1990, without public ceremony, Congress enacted the “Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990” (known as “VARA”), which incorporated into existing federal copyright law a provision that deals with the moral rights of visual artists. (California, New York, and nine other states already had their own moral-rights acts. To what extent these state laws will remain vital or be


    A SERIES OF major exhibitions on industrial design, some attended by over a hundred thousand people, might surprise the contemporary public of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, a public used to a schedule dominated by “high art,” mostly from the past. But between 1917 and 1940, the period bracketed by the world wars, a number of largely forgotten programs addressed—the design of mass-produced objects. The original charter of 1870, in fact, included the mandate of “encouraging and developing the study of the fine arts, and the—application of arts to manufacture and practical life.” Though


    THESE NOTES ARE ABOUT a friend I never met, and whom, if she hadn’t existed, I might have half invented (maybe) on my own. Her name was Emmy Scheyer, but she was called “Galka,” and she came to the United States in 1924 from Germany. Landing first in New York, she spent time in the Public Library here looking up the addresses of most every cultural institution in the nation. When she wasn’t writing these museums about the several contemporary European artists she felt they needed for their collections, she was observing the pace of the natives, whom she thought of as endlessly rushing about on


    LIGHT HAS SO OFTEN, and in so many cultures, been used as a metaphor for higher knowledge and spiritual well-being that you might think it was some rare element, like lustrous gold. Yet light is quite literally everyday—a universal medium basic to life, a gift so commonplace that we take it for granted, the way the fish takes for granted the sea. The richness and the ordinariness of light coexist in photography. Beginning as theory in the 19th century, the medium has evolved as both esthetic and practical, so practical, in fact, that we risk here another comparison to the fish swimming uncritically

  • James Rosenquist and Giacometti: A Biography.

    Giacometti: A Biography
    By James Lord, New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1985, 575 pp., 28 black and white illustrations.

    GIACOMETTI IS A MUCH considered study of the artist by an author who is both earnestly reverential and well-informed. The stance taken is that of a knowing bystander, one who feels free to add his asides but who never formally enters the action. James Lord knew the artist, and in his earlier book A Giacometti Portrait, published by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1965, he shared his experience of posing in the studio on the rue Hippolyte Maindron. Based on notes taken

  • Robert Ryman’s studio. A wall of reminders.

    IN ROBERT RYMAN’S STUDIO a wall is always push-pinned with a random sampling of photographs, ghost stand-ins for near-impossible-to-reproduce original paintings dating from 1958 to the present. Ryman makes no preliminary drawings or sketches for his paintings, so the pale wall of photographs forms a reminder of the artist’s long exploration. The questions consistently addressed in his work are those of attachment, space, and surface, and, by extension, their tandem role in shaping visual perception. This concern has the nature of a formal inquiry; the means are an intuitive attention to minute

  • Auguste Rodin, Art of the City, Art, Maps of the Heavens, and The Sketchbooks of Hiroshige

    ELEVEN TOPICS ARE DISCUSSED in these conversations between Auguste Rodin and the critic Paul Gsell, set like a Socratic walk in the garden with the white-robed “Master” presenting his wisdom to a respectful chronicler. Mannered and self-righteous, Rodin expands about the true and the good, and if to our jaded sensibilities he sounds pompous, his stature allows him this. More readable than the long-winded earlier translation, this new English rendering is more than a period piece or a source for Rodin scholars. While it is hard to undo the memory of the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Rodin piece,


    Amy Baker Sandback: Your images are very much part of this country of immigrants and working people.

    Luis Jimenez: If I was an outsider looking at America or the West—what would I see? What would I be looking at? It would be the strong and vibrant images that stand out, like the cowboy, not those coming out of the fine-art situation. It would be the motorcycle, the automobile; this is the important visible iconography of America, but it’s not art in itself. The use of these popular images is part of the game: to take my work as close to the edge as I can, because then the challenge is greater,