Bruce Hainley


    “THE MAIN SUBJECT IS THE SURFACE, which has its color, its laws, over and above the objects,” Pierre Bonnard declared in December 1935.

    I don’t know what I expected to accomplish by hauling my ass to Copenhagen’s Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek museum for the second stop of “The Colour of Memory,” the first globe-trotting Bonnard survey in twenty years. Concentrating on the artist’s later solar work, the splendid exhibition, arranged chronologically, stumbled only with a series of not-uninteresting but nevertheless wince-inducing “soundscapes,” about which the less said the better.

    I tried to take some

  • Cady Noland


    ON SECOND THOUGHT: What was she thinking?

    What was she thinking about Lee Harvey Oswald or Charles Manson, Betty Ford or Jackie O.?

    What was she thinking about the old red, white, and blue? About violence? About American history?

    What was triggered in her thinking when it occurred to her (if it did) that Clement Greenberg curated both her mother and her father in their first big New York group show, “Emerging Talent,” in 1954, also the year Patricia Campbell Hearst was born—“Patty,” who emerges in the Museum für Moderne Kunst’s astounding survey “Cady Noland,” curated by Susanne Pfeffer in


    THE MUSEUM FÜR MODERNE KUNST (MMK) in Frankfurt is presenting a comprehensive survey of the work of Cady Noland through March 31. Curated by Susanne Pfeffer, the exhibition takes stock of how Noland’s work grapples over and over again with the American pathologies of capitalism, consumption, celebrity, and violence. Here, Artforum contributing editor Bruce Hainley considers how Noland’s art is also somewhat of a family affair.

    CADY NOLAND’S infamous solo show at New York’s Paula Cooper Gallery, March 26–April 23, 1994. American AF I am thinking. Closed not much more than seven weeks before O. J. Simpson rode the white Bronco into our current consciousness. 24/7 entertainment news. Celebrity media glare. Kommencement of Kardashianness. Bros before hos. Domestic violence the star-spangled ethos I am thinking. She found forms for that frenetic consciousness. C.N. saying, “I make an issue of the way things are connected.” When she makes an issue (not long before the show opened) of the way things are connected, I am


    David Hammons: Bliz-aard Ball Sale, by Elena Filipovic. London: Afterall Books, 2017. 160 pages.

    IN 1983, David Hammons held his Bliz-aard Ball Sale, which “probably didn’t bear that title, or any title at all,” as Elena Filipovic discloses in her amazing exposition on the artist’s chill maneuvers. Meanwhile, six months or so later, at a coven sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, Rosalind Krauss informed the assembled that she—and here Filipovic quotes Adrian Piper’s writing on Krauss’s decree—“doubts there is any unrecognized African-American art of quality because if it

  • slant September 26, 2017

    Into the Storm

    APRIL 16, 2017 AT 2:24 PM EST

    Dearest Bruce,

    Today, a resurrection. 

    On Tuesday, as you recommended, I went to Light Industry to see Lyn Blumenthal and Kate Horsfield’s 1984 conversation, or portrait of, Craig Owens, part of Video Data Bank’s incredible interviews with artists and writers. This was some six years before he died, age thirty-nine, of—I rehearse the intolerable boilerplate—AIDS-related complications. 

    Eighty black-and-white minutes. Owens sits in a director’s chair in front of a makeshift backdrop—the zigzag of a wrinkled moving blanket. He talks and talks, always smoking. Or… he’s


    On the occasion of “Hanne Darboven: Kulturgeschichte 1880–1983” currently on view at Dia:Chelsea, New York, and “Hanne Darboven: Packed Time” opening February 25 at Sammlung Falckenberg, Hamburg, contributing editor Bruce Hainley speculatively explores the artist’s epic activation of personal and political history.

    HANNE DARBOVEN’S FATHER, CÄSAR—trained as a chemist, heir to and head of his family’s coffee-roasting business, which expanded during World War II as the coffee supplier for the Nazi forces1—“smoked some seventy cigarettes a day.”2 His daughter equaled, or perhaps even surpassed, his daily habit: She was rarely seen or pictured without a cigarette in hand. Lawrence Weiner remembers Darboven smoking Salem menthols in the 1970s (“We constantly kidded her about it”).3 Was the preference merely funny? Perhaps it signaled other cultural echoes, other milieus, concerns, affinities, however


    “CHILLING DISPLAY OF MASCULINITY”: The phrase is Jacqueline Rose’s, describing political posturing in the run-up to the Brexit referendum. Is there really any fathoming of Benjamin’s assessment “no document of culture which is not at the same time a document of barbarism” without also feeling the brunt of such displays? Vengeful braggadocio has never been absent from world affairs, but the testosterone has been rank and rampant lately and shows no sign of abating.

    I mention to B. a sculpture by Kenneth Tam that I remember as a shelf of used men’s deodorants and soaps—Old Spice, Mennen Speed

  • performance November 25, 2016

    Thank You for Being a Friend

    November 21, 2016 at 8:54 PM EST

    Dear Mr. B,

    I’ve just come home from an event of much love at the Kitchen, part of the rollout of Douglas [Crimp]’s superb memoir [Before Pictures]. Three exemplary interlocutors from three different dance worlds: Adrian Danchig-Waring (New York City Ballet/Balanchine), Silas Riener (Merce Cunningham), and Yvonne Rainer (Yvonne Rainer). 

    A little asymmetrical, I suppose, since Rainer got to play herself, though everyone did a very good job representing. 

    Rainer, at the end, was trying to respond to a question from the audience, and failing a bit. She said her mind

  • “Richard Prince: The Douglas Blair Turnbaugh Collection (1977–1988)”

    ON JULY 28, 2016, Richard Prince retweeted an item from curator Marvin Heiferman’s feed about a $1 billion copyright-infringement suit that photographer Carol Highsmith had just filed against the stock-photo agencies Getty and Alamy, charging “gross misuse.” Earlier that day, Prince had tweeted a picture of a slightly enlarged black-and-white photocopy of his short 1977 text “Practicing Without a License.” He commented: “Feel like I got hacked. Or waxed. Or whacked. Mickie’d. Surprised they didn’t have my underwear on display. Shame.”

    What instigated the Twitter outburst of Assange-ish lingo and

  • Bruce Hainley

    “The essential signification I attach to my poetic activity,” Michel Leiris wrote in his journal in 1941, war soon everywhere, “is that of a refusal.” The autiobiographical Manhood (1963; first published in 1939 in French as L’âge d’homme), he continued, was “the negation of a novel.” Keep in mind this noble lineage of refusal and negation (luxury goods) when handling Derek McCormack’s incantatory contaminant The Well-Dressed Wound (pas de chance). Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln hold a séance to contact their recently dead fashionista faggot son, Willie; ghostly, AIDS-y mayhem ensues with spirit

  • film September 12, 2014

    PrEP School

    JACQUES NOLOT NEVER FORGOT how Roland Barthes introduced him to André Téchiné: “Je vais te montrer une roulure” [“I’ll show you a slut”]. A young and come-hither mec on the make, Nolot would only later become known as a writer or a filmmaker, or even the suave figure in films by François Ozon, among others. He commented, decades later, on the not precisely meet-cute in a bar with Téchiné, the director he would end up working with more than any other, both as an actor and screenwriter, and on Barthes’s exactitude: “That was true in a mythological sense: he who has no stable place.” When Pierre,

  • Sturtevant

    BRUCE HAINLEY: The Lady died. When I first heard the news about the sad, too-soon event, all I could think was: What a total drag. Not that the spaceship wasn’t going to come for her eventually, but I just couldn’t believe she wouldn’t stick around to cause double trouble at her exhibition this November at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Anything memorial strikes me as so antithetical to the forward movement of her every act of thinking, her art. We should open up a great Meursault in her honor and really get into it, since fresh, involved dialogue was one of her fortes.


  • Bruce Hainley

    1 MAUREEN GALLACE (OVERDUIN AND KITE, LOS ANGELES) We live in a time of a lot of very bad art. (Has it ever been otherwise?) Not long ago, Frederick Seidel summed the situation up: so much “heat but no warmth.” He was alluding to empty sublimity that routs actual intensity. Gallace, however, makes some of the most intense paintings going. Luminous grays, gliss-andos of white, and auroral pinks and oranges dramatize her precise blues. In her “seascapes,” if that’s not too faggy a term, waves crash upon the shore and the horizons disappear—which is not a minor event for a painter who always


    FORGOING OUTRIGHT ATROCITY, of which there is so much—too much—right now, aren’t the “life,” “body,” and “face” of Michael Jackson in the running for some of the most abstract events of the last century? (I use the tweezers of scare quotes to approach each of those precarious terms because I’m not certain I could handle them at all otherwise.) “His” face and its occlusion, in the final years, when any nose he had was entirely prosthetic (not to mention the permanent eyeliner and chemical bleaching), became a brutal inversion of all the solar joy he beamed as a young performer—that

  • “An Opening of the Field: Jess, Robert Duncan, and their Circle”

    Finally, with Jay DeFeo’s epic work making a grand tour, a definitive edition of Robert Duncan’s The H. D. Book becoming available, and Peter Gizzi and Kevin Killian’s recent collection of Jack Spicer’s poetry spiking the cultural punch, certain elemental structures of the San Francisco Renaissance are coming into focus. Using as its launchpad the dynamic domesticity of Duncan and his longtime companion, the still too little celebrated collagist Jess (Collins), this show of thirty-five artists from their magic circle—many too long in the

  • Bruce Hainley

    Midwinter murder is in my heart

    As I stand there on the curb in my opera pumps,

    Waiting for the car to come and the opera to start,

    Amid the Broadway homeless frozen clumps.

    —Frederick Seidel, “Midwinter”

    I’VE BEEN HEARING ABOUT art as social practice for a while, but this year there was truly no escaping it. Not clear what the phrase really means, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t include most of what Martha Stewart still intrepidly serves up in Living. Although, since most of that magazine shows people actively effecting some kind of exchange with one another, seemingly quite seriously and/or

  • “Ken Price Sculpture: A Retrospective”

    The late Ken Price was the hairy potter our greed-driven times needed—one who conjured wonder from base materials.

    With his “Snail Cups,” 1965–68; “Curios” (cabinets), 1972–78; and a quarry’s worth of psychedelic philosopher’s stones, the late Ken Price was the hairy potter our greed-driven times needed—one who conjured wonder from base materials. The wand that chose him was a paintbrush, and the canvas (or support) he championed—bowing to and freaking with influences and peers as various as Antoni Gaudí, Magritte, and John Altoon—was fired clay. Let’s just hope, for an artist who so exuberantly shrugged off the quandary of craft versus art, that LACMA’s exhibition,


    WE CAN'T GET ENOUGH. We love to rediscover STURTEVANT, to relive her relentlessly recombinant logic. We love the way her work multiplies, whether as hyperspeed sexed-up video clip or scandalously wholesale copy or the readymade we never really knew. And we’ve probably reinterpreted the legendary Paris-based artist as many times as she has reinterpreted the work of others. But over the past several years, Sturtevant has seemed to outstrip even the manic proliferation suggested by her reproductions of Warhol Marilyns and factory-line sex dolls. Her recent videos and theatrical environments unleash

  • Roland Barthes

    Roland Barthes, Mourning Diary: October 26, 1977–September 15, 1979, translated by Richard Howard. New York: Hill & Wang, 2010. 272 pages; Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments, translated by Richard Howard. New York: Hill & Wang, 2010. 256 pages; Roland Barthes, Incidents, translated by Teresa Lavender Fagan. New York: Seagull Books, 2010. 184 pages.


    So Helen Vendler sets the scene for her defense of Roland Barthes, six years after his death in 1980, with the question she was asked “by an eminent literary critic in tones of impatience and revulsion,

  • diary October 24, 2010

    Clements’s Time

    THERE WAS NO ONE who looked remotely as compelling as George Clements at the opening for Richard Hawkins’s first American museum survey at the Art Institute of Chicago, so I’m skipping any rundown or namechecking of supposed hoi polloi. Many will not know who George Clements is or why, if he’s of such aesthetic consequence, so Jean-Paul Belmondo–esque, he wasn’t actually present. Of course, George in all his complicated Georgeness very much was present, but “in” the art and not “on” the scene. I was going to use that fact to let loose on why I think there’s so much diarrhetic diarizing on the