Charles Hagan

  • 1987 Biennial Exhibition: Film and Video

    Even though this year’s Whitney Biennial seemed like a return to normalcy, the film and video component wasn’t relegated to the back room entirely. Bruce Nauman’s video installation The Krefeld Piece: Good Boy/Bad Boy, 1985, was given pride of place in an alcove off the main lobby, while other video works—the Grandmother and Grandfather, both 1986, from Nam June Paik’s Family of Robot, made of old TV sets; Grahame Weinbren and Roberta Friedman’s interactive videodisk The Erl King, 1986; and Judith Barry’s First and Third, 1986–mingled with the rest of the invited guests. But both in the front

  • Chuck Close

    Chuck Close’s new photographs are in a real sense incomparable. The closest parallel to these mammoth Polaroid nudes—two of them nearly 7 feet by 22 feet—might be highway billboards. But no billboard has the incredibly fine grain of these two- and four-panel pieces, made with a camera that produces unique prints of up to 40 inches by 80 inches.

    As with his work in other media, in this installation Close seemed intent on making the pictures hard to see. One of the walls in the gallery had been moved in half a dozen feet so that the two largest works in the show, full-lenqth male and female reclining

  • Paper Tiger Television

    The Paper Tiger Television collective has achieved the considerable feat of opening up, and sustaining for the past four years, a serious political debate about the workings of the print media in this country. The format of this weekly public-access cable program, produced in New York largely by a crew of young volunteers and distributed to public access channels in other cities as well, is brilliant in its simplicity. Each half-hour show centers around a detailed critique, by an articulate and knowledgeable commentator, of one particular magazine or newspaper—Time, Seventeen, Rolling Stone,

  • “Visions of Liberty”

    Photography, or at least the mass-produced, mass-distributed halftone, has taken over many of the memorializing functions performed in earlier times by monumental sculpture—not destroying the aura of such public icons, as Walter Benjamin proposed, but replacing it with its own smudgy aura. This complicity between news photos and monuments has led to some curious chimeras that compound the two. The most obvious example is the Iwo Jima memorial in Washington, D.C., showing a group of marines raising the flag on Mt. Suribachi; this work is based on Joe Rosenthal’s heroically posed news photo, but

  • “The Photographer/Far from the Truth”

    The central conceit of this elaborate production is a provocative one: that both sides of the very contemporary opposition between melodrama and Modernism were embodied in the life of 19th-century photographer Eadweard Muybridge—the one through a famous scandal in which he shot his wife’s lover, the other in his photographic work, the famous motion studies of humans and animals. The idea for a work on Muybridge was conceived by Rob Malasch for the Holland Festival in 1982. The score, by Philip Glass, and Malasch’s three-part structure—play, slide show, dance—were both carried over to this new

  • “Burroughs,” directed by Howard Brookner

    For the most part Burroughs, Howard Brookner’s documentary about writer William S. Burroughs, doesn’t stray far from time-tested techniques of documentaries. True, there’s the darkly hilarious sequence in which Burroughs, dressed up as Dr. Benway, his character from Naked Lunch, performs an operation with a plumber’s helper, assisted by Jackie Curtis as a nurse. (The operation is unsuccessful—the patient spurts blood everywhere.) But otherwise, as in most other documentaries on cultural figures, we follow Burroughs through a wide range of activities, both public and private—readings, dinners

  • David Hockney

    Extending the idea behind his recent large grids of Polaroid SX-70s, David Hockney now uses a small automatic camera to photograph scenes in clusters—often dozens and dozens—of overlapping shots. When he gets his pocket-sized color prints back from the lab he assembles them into large composite pictures which approximately follow some major lines of the original scene. He seems to shoot his swaths of photos quickly and without a definite plan, so the resulting collages are asymmetrical and jagged around the edges, like global maps made according to some odd system. (Composite aerial photographs

  • William Christenberry

    Many of William Christenberry’s photographs have an eerie quality; looking at them you can almost see Walker Evans’ photographs looming up ghostlike in front of them. This is not especially surprising, since Christenberry was born and raised—and has done most of his photography—in Hale County, Alabama, where Evans and James Agee lived while they worked on Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Moreover, Christenberry has chosen to photograph much the same sort of subjects as Evans did, and in the same style: vernacular architecture and folk artifacts of various sorts, all depicted in a deceptively