Anne M. Wagner

  • Digital rendering of Theaster Gates’s sculpture Black Vessel for a Saint, 2017, as it will be installed in the Walker Art Center/Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.


    After a year of extensive renovation, a transformed Minneapolis Sculpture Garden opens in June with the aim of tying the garden, built by Edward Larrabee Barnes in 1971, to the Walker Art Center via a new plaza, entrance, and expanded lobby, all designed by HGA Architects and Engineers. While Barnes based his garden on extant European examples, HGA has instead emphasized the flora of the region, employing native plants and trees and using environmentally sustainable materials and building practices.Beloved fixtures of the original garden, such as Claes Oldenburg and Coosje

  • Anne M. Wagner

    I’ve never encountered a book like Helen Macdonald’s H Is for Hawk (Grove Press). The cover presents it as a memoir about loss and falconry, one that dazzles and fascinates, and this is true. But the fireworks and fascination don’t seem sufficient to account for the sensation that something mysterious, something marvelous, something more or other than talent and skill, has shaped its pages. I don’t quite know what to call this quality—not profundity or vision, not aliveness or aloneness, but some unique hybrid of all four. Macdonald feels and sees not just like a hawk (though close enough)

  • Anne M. Wagner

    AS AGNES MARTIN and Anne Truitt used them, the two time-honored disciplines, painting and sculpture, pictorial field and solid object, remained importantly distinct. And this is true no matter how far individual works—Martin’s White Flower, 1960, say, or Truitt’s Valley Forge,1963—push the familiar envelope of form. What brings these artists together is not a matter of one or another medium. They are linked because, looking at their artworks, we are given such compelling experiences of time. They offer examples of what—however provisionally, even tendentiously—I’m going to

  • View of “Sculpture After Sculpture,” 2014–15. From left: Katharina Fritsch, Elefant, 1987; Charles Ray, Tractor, 2005; Jeff Koons, Metallic Venus, 2010–12.

    “Sculpture After Sculpture”

    WITH “SCULPTURE AFTER SCULPTURE,” Stockholm’s Moderna Museet staged one of the most suggestive presentations of contemporary sculpture I can remember seeing: a show brilliantly choreographed as both an experience and an argument. Few exhibitions manage to bring the two together; where “Sculpture After Sculpture” outpaced the ordinary offering was in its success in materializing its thesis as an installation, an orchestration of objects in space. Picture a presentation of just thirteen objects: no filler, no extras—just an encounter, straight up. Such a display follows from Minimalism,

  • Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, Ugolino and His Sons, 1865–67, marble, 77 3/4 x 59 x 43 1/2".

    “The Passions of Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux”

    Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux’s controversial sculpture has become synonymous with the Second Empire, the regime he served so well. His portraits captured its glittering women and self-made men, Napoléon III among them, while editioned spin-offs from his monumental public works—such as La Danse, carved for the Paris Opera in 1869—made them available to the bourgeois connoisseur. The great public pieces will inevitably be absent from this exhibition (co-organized with Paris’s Musée d’Orsay), but its sheer scale—more than 160 sculptures, paintings, and drawings (

  • Anthony Caro, Hopscotch, 1962, aluminum, 18' 1“ x 7' x 8' 2 1/2”.

    Anthony Caro

    Only a few twentieth-century sculptors have been thought to achieve “breakthrough” work. If Anthony Caro can be counted among them, it is due to the fact that in the early 1960s, the British artist’s painted metal constructions managed to “invade space,” to borrow Clement Greenberg’s famous phrase. Marshalling lines of force and direction, yet deploying no preordained pattern, Caro’s pieces seem to be organized according to an axial symmetry that has surrendered to the structural laws of intersection and relationship—an internal energy that in 1963 Michael Fried

  • Gerbils living in the computer-manipulated environment of the Architecture Machine Group’s Seek, 1969–70, Jewish Museum, New York, 1970. Photo: Shunk-Kender © Roy Lichtenstein Foundation.


    HARDWARE, SOFTWARE: Do these terms still summon entities and concepts that can be evoked in art? Can they still be represented, in other words? And perhaps more to the point, does this figurative possibility seem useful, now that soft and hard technologies have become our half-human familiars, the tireless servants of our physical and mental lives? Good-bye to worry beads and knitting; hello to hands tightly gripping their talismanic devices and laps in which pet machines purr softly as the hours go by. Today’s genies arrive as a ceaseless deluge of downloads and leave their traces in the

  • Helen Frankenthaler


    LEARNING OF HELEN FRANKENTHALER’S DEATH this past December jolted my sense of time, though it is hard to say precisely why. It is as if past and present have become muddled, as if somehow, in some section of my cultural subconscious, the news of the loss had preceded its actual occurrence—had preceded it, and been accepted, absorbed: déjà vu, with no shiver in its wake. “She should have died hereafter,” says Macbeth on learning of the untimely death of his wife. In Frankenthaler’s case, or at least in the crucial matter of her reputation, the loss seems to have been inflicted

  • Chris Burden, 747, 1973. Performance view, Los Angeles, January 5, 1973. Photo: Terry McDonnel.


    FROM THE BEGINNING—which is to say from the early 1970s onward—Chris Burden’s performance works have provoked questions about their “manipulative, autocratic” character.¹ Such worries were never a simple function of the artist’s aggressively risky and sometimes downright masochistic behavior. On the contrary, they stemmed from the ethical quandaries his work presented for any reasonably thoughtful viewer. For if Burden’s performances required his submission to bodily and mental stresses, the viewer, too, had tests to undergo. Ought one simply to accept an artist’s decision to be shot,

  • Anne M. Wagner

    BEST: NOT A WORD I’VE EVER MUCH LIKED when applied to exhibitions. I think my discomfort comes from the way the term seems to brook neither comparison nor argument, or at least implies that the arguing and comparing are over, when in fact they may have only just begun.

    The exhibition I want to argue for is “Alice Neel: Painted Truths,” a show originated by Jeremy Lewison and Barry Walker at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. I saw it at the Whitechapel Gallery in London on a late afternoon this past September, when the streets were teeming with people, and the shopping and selling were still going

  • Anne Truitt, First Requiem, 1977, acrylic on wood, 90 x 8 x 8". Four views.


    The work of Anne Truitt has always stood slightly apart: Concurrent with Minimalism and Color Field painting, but never quite commensurate with their terms, her oeuvre has long eluded categorization and, for that matter, sustained critical reception. On the occasion of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden’s recent groundbreaking retrospective, the late artist’s first in thirty-five years, Artforum asked art historian Anne M. Wagner to revisit Truitt’s inimitable engagement with temporality, shape, and medium.

    “THE PAST,” WROTE L. P. HARTLEY in The Go-Between, “is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” But where does the border lie between past and present? Why do some events and experiences feel unbearably distant and others not estranged at all? How far away, to choose a less than random example, are the major and minor happenings of 1974? That was the year that a sitting president resigned under threat of impeachment, an heiress was kidnapped and (temporarily) radicalized, computers arrived in the nation’s newsrooms, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre made movie history, and the Corcoran

  • Olafur Eliasson

    MOST SOLO EXHIBITIONS require little explanation of why or how they came to be. Their logic inevitably seems to fit some well-established category: There is the midcareer survey or the full-dress retrospective, or the show that concentrates on a single genre or theme. Why, then, does it seem less than easy to slip “Take your time: Olafur Eliasson” into a ready-made slot? There is no question that the show, billed as a survey and initially mounted at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art by curator Madeleine Grynsztejn, provides the amplest US presentation to date of the work of the forty-one-year-old