Annette Michelson

  • Toward Snow

    The working of his thought is thus concerned with that slow transformation of the notion of space which, beginning as a vacuum chamber, as an isotropic volume, gradually became a system inseparable from the matter it contains and from time.

    —Paul Valery, Introduction To The Method Of Leonardo Da Vinci

    My eye, tuning towards the imaginary, will go to any wavelengths for its sights.

    —Stan Brakhage, Metaphors On Vision

    THERE IS A METAPHOR recurrent in contemporary discourse on the nature of consciousness: that of cinema. And there are cinematic works which present themselves as analogues of consciousness

  • Three Notes on an Exhibition as a Work

    I

    IT IS THE PARTICULAR DISTINCTION of Robert Morris to have proposed, through a series of exploratory enterprises, the terms of a sharpened definition of the nature of the sculptural experience. Cognitive, then, in their fullest effect, these enterprises demand time for comprehension. More than this, however, they elicit the acknowledgement of temporality as the condition or medium of cognition, as of esthetic experience. Time, then, has been inscribed variously, from the first and with increasing emphasis in Morris’s work, and I wish to suggest from the outset something that I have elsewhere

  • Bodies in Space: Film as “Carnal Knowledge”

    I

    All mastery casts a chill.

    —Mallarmé
    The indefinable, knowing

    fear which is the clearest

    intimation of the metaphysical.

    —Borgès

    IN THE WINTER OF 1905 the first continuously operated movie theatre opened in Los Angeles. There is an obvious sense in which the history of film is circumscribed by the feature of that theatre’s initial program, George Meliès’ Trip to the Moon, and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. There is another sense in which its evolution hypostatizes the accelerating dynamics of History. Walking the three blocks between the Museum of Modern Art’s screening room

  • What is Cinema?

    André Bazin, What is Cinema?, ed. Hugh Gray, (Berkeley: University of California Press) 1967.

    There things are . . . Why manipulate them?

    —Roberto Rossellini

    Cinema is a manipulation of reality through image and sound.

    —Alain Resnais

    OF ALL THE BOOKS on film which have been issued these past two years, in desperate anarchy from the major publishing houses, the selection of essays assembled by Mr. Hugh Gray from the critical writings of André Bazin is, as might have been expected, incomparably the best. It is, in fact, the only book with any claim at all to intellectual distinction, as it alone

  • Jean Arp

    The exhibition of sculpture and reliefs by Jean Arp at the Sidney Janis Gallery has overlapped with the opening of the exhibition devoted to Dada, Surrealism and their Heritage, at the Museum of Modern Art. I would not say that the Museum representation contradicts or transforms one’s view of Arp’s achievement, as derived from the Janis show. It does, however, complement that view, inciting one to give some consideration to Arp’s relation to those two movements. For the Janis show, while including some work of the same style and periods, had curiously inflected Arp’s career in a very different

  • Jasper Johns

    Jasper Johns, showing for the first time in two years, exhibits six paintings. They constitute two sets, most of whose overlapping elements are already familiar to students of Johns’s iconography. I do not propose, in the space at hand, to thoroughly investigate all the developments in the recent work. What I would suggest, however, is that these paintings (they are not entirely painted, for they involve the use of silk screen and other, unidentified, processes) are somewhat lighter in their burden of discourse. They do not, like Edingsville of 1964, seen in Johns’s last show, involve quite so

  • Ron Davis

    Ron Davis has extended the techniques and implications of his work of last year in a series of variations on a dodecahedron seen in partial elevation. He has increased the complexity and the range of relationships between color and surface, thereby enriching and clarifying the speculative and pictorial aspects of his effort to a degree which uncompromisingly defies the limits of the brief review.

    Before considering, nevertheless, the manner in which this is accomplished, I should make clear that Davis represents, in my view, a fresh and supremely intelligent extension of a development central in

  • Sylvia Stone

    Sylvia Stone’s current exhibition, her best so far, synthesizes her flat, large-scaled geometric mural pieces with the much more intensely illusionistic aspect of a preceding period. In the latter, she had contrived, through strong hue contrast, to give an illusion of a continuous, ribbon like surface pleated or folded back upon itself. Her present work, of tinted Plexiglas and acrylic paint, has been taken down from the wall to stand on the floor, like screens. The intensifications and modifications of the illusionist project involve strategies of the following kind.

    One large, stable rectangular

  • 10 x 10: “concrete reasonableness.”

    IN 1948 HENRI MICHAUX PUBLISHED Ailleurs, a classic of imaginary anthropology which recalls, in some ways, Montesquieu’s Lettres Persanes (rewritten in a post-Surrealist climate) and anticipates, in others, Levi-Strauss’s Tristes Tropiques (redone after Lewis Carroll). In the chapter which relates a journey through The Land of Magic, Michaux speaks of an “exquisitely cold light, invented by the Magi and displeasing to outsiders. It has none of the brimming excess and brutality of a sun which simultaneously radiates heat and cold––not to speak of infra-red and ultra-violet rays . . . In their

  • Agnes Martin: Recent Paintings

    ONE CURRENT PREOCCUPATION OF CRITICISM is the accurate definition of the complex relationships obtaining between the efforts of younger painters and sculptors on the one hand and, what would, on the other, seem to be their Constructivist and neo-Piasticist precedents. A literature of critical distinction is developing with a rapidity which both symptomatizes and heightens the urgency of the problem, exacerbating, in its articulation of a formalist esthetics, the very historical consciousness in which that esthetics is grounded. There is a very particular sense in which the compositional dynamics

  • Breton’s Esthetics

    Of André Breton, seventy this year, one can say nothing so accurate or definitive as the formulation, in Mad Love, of his deepest aspiration:

    “There is, I feel, no more important lesson in esthetics than that which crystals have to give us. A work of art—or, for that matter, a fragment of human life considered in its deepest implications—has value for me only if it possesses the hardness, rigidity and angularity of crystal, its polish on every facet, inside and out. I wish this statement to be understood as a diametrical, steadfast and categorical opposition to any attempt at a definition of