Charles Hagen

  • Good Morning America

    WITH MEDIA INFLUENCE RAMPANT throughout this year’s exhibition, the Whitney Biennial’s continuing commitment to including recent work in film and video seemed particularly prescient. Not that all the works shown refer to mass-market models; some seemed to be there simply to represent broad aspects of the current scenes—for example, a film animation segment offered the limp whimsies of Jane Aaron, a somewhat generic Robert Breer piece, and a short-short and multiscreen projection/performance by Sandy Moore, while the diary form was represented by Peter Hutton’s New York Portrait Part II, 1983,

  • The Work of Atget

    The Work of Atget.

    By John Szarkowski and Maria Morris Hambourg, New York: the Museum of Modern Art, 1981–85 (distributed by the New York Graphic Society). Volume 1, Old France: 204 black and white photographs, 180 pp.; Volume 2, The Art of Old Paris: 212 black and white photographs, 192 pp.; Volume 3, The Ancien Regime: 167 black and white photographs, 185 pp.; Volume 4, Modern Times: 205 black and white photographs, 186 pages.

    Paralleling and complementing the Museum of Modern Art’s four-exhibition survey of the work of Eugène Atget, shown over the past three years, has been one of the most

  • Art and Photography: Forerunners And Influences

    Art and Photography: Forerunners And Influences.

    By Heinrich Schwarz, edited by William E. Parker, Rochester, N.Y., and Layton, Utah: Visual Studies Workshop and Gibbs M. Smith, Inc., 1985, 158 pp., 64 black and white photographs.

    Heinrich Schwarz’s pioneering research into the prehistory of photography has long had almost legendary status among photography historians— in part due to its prescience and in part to its physical inaccessibility. As his thoughts were presented for the most part in papers prepared for symposia or in articles for small scholarly journals, which have long since fallen

  • Deans Keppel

    In both substance and structure Deans Keppel’s “Phoenix: Portrait of the Keppel Family” is reminiscent of the almost embarrassingly revealing documentary An American Family, the 1973 PBS series that made the Loud family as familiar as the Carringtons or the Bunkers, though far less reassuring. Her remarkable hour-long tape, shot between 1979 and 1983, examines her own family from the distancing perspective of documentary production. In interviews and candid footage, mostly taken around the family’s Richmond, Va., home, she examines each of the other members of the family, and their interactions.

  • James Friedman

    By going to the sites of various Nazi concentration camps—Auschwitz, Majdanek, Treblinka, and others—and photographing them as they appear today, James Friedman opens issues of memory and narrative, as well as of the real horrors of the Holocaust. These pictures show not so much the banality of evil, in Hannah Arendt’s phrase, as the banality of ’’the past”—the set of stories, necessarily semifictional and self-justifying, that we as a culture construct from historical events, no matter how horrendous, to explain how we got where we are today. Predictably, these sites have been turned into

  • BREAKING THE BOX: THE ELECTRONIC OPERAS OF ROBERT ASHLEY AND WOODY VASULKA

    TWO PHANTOMS HAUNT video art’s uneasy dreams—television and art. For over 20 years the conflicting models offered by these fields have pulled at video artists, simultaneously attracting and repelling them. They have found themselves trapped between these opposing positions—in most cases relegated to the fringes of the art world while dreaming of (or dreading) TV’s mass audience, political influence, and budgets which would allow them to do their work. By and large rejecting and rejected by both fields (though frequently yearning for the rewards each offers), video artists have formed their own

  • Michael Klier

    It takes a while to get the central metaphor in Michael Klier’s 82-minute-long videotape Der Riese (The giant, 1983). The opening scene, a high-angle shot of planes landing and taxiing around an airport in a misty gray dawn, could lead equally to a familiar narrative—cut to the arrival area, where someone is waiting to meet someone—or to a series of shots celebrating the diversity of urban life, as in the city symphonies of ’20s film. The swollen, melodramatic mood music seems to promise one or the other. The only thing out of place is the camera movement: crabbing, mechanical pans, never anything

  • Berenice Abbott

    This small show included only a sampling of Berenice Abbott’s photographs from the ’20s and ’30s, and only a few pictures from after 1940; nevertheless it managed to suggest the work’s importance in the development of Modernist photography. It was only after returning to New York from Paris in 1930 that Abbott turned to the documentary cityscapes for which she is best known. Although she was a successful portrait photographer in France, the examples of this work here show that despite a good sense of gesture she was fairly conventional as a portraitist; these pictures are distinguished largely

  • Michele Zalopany

    Michele Zalopany’s large charcoal-and-pastel drawings on paper fall into two distinct groups. One—renderings of formal gardens, villas, and fountains—recalls a host of similar pre-Oedipal ancien régime fantasies, including Alain Resnais’ and Alain Robbe-Grillet’s Last Year at Marienbad, 1961, Kenneth Anger’s Eaux d’Artifice, 1953, and Jennifer Bartlett’s recent paintings. The other deals more overtly with notions of childhood, through pictures based on photographs. Most of the figures in these images are small girls, which suggests that the pictures might be directly autobiographical. But in

  • Nicholas Nixon

    Among other things, photographs offer a license to stare. Nicholas Nixon’s recent photographs of very old people in nursing homes, made with an 8-by-10-inch-format camera, invite a cruel scrutiny. The details of the physical deterioration caused by age are given up to us to examine at our leisure. In the aseptic presence of the photographs, we are free to speculate on visual correspondences suggested by the facts of the scenes, qualities drained of human meaning: to notice, for example, that the skin of very old people can resemble (in a photograph) the crispy, translucent skin of a roast turkey;

  • “The Territory of Art”

    “The Territory of Art,” a series of 16 half-hour radio programs about contemporary art, has impressive packaging. (Produced by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, the series is being broadcast by public radio stations around the country; check your local listings.) The intro theme, by John Adams, is a sharp electronic ululating pulse. The credits for many of the shows are announced by the up-and-coming Whoopi Goldberg. The trailers for succeeding shows are provocative, tantalizing.

    All of which is good. Packaging is important in any attempt to put art on the air—or anywhere else, for

  • “The Golden Age Of British Photography, 1839–1900”

    Predictably, this wonderful show—which opened last fall at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, and will travel in this country till mid 1986—includes its full share of major-exhibition goodies. First, there are substantial selections of work from a long roster of canonized 19th-century pioneers and masters: Henry Fox Talbot, D. O. Hill and Robert Adamson, Roger Fenton, P. H. Emerson, Julia Margaret Cameron, Frederick Evans, etc., etc. Then there are the famous old-chestnut images, familiar to anyone who’s ever taken a history of photography course: O. G. Rejlander’s The Two Ways of Life,