Colby Chamberlain

  • Jessica Vaughn

    In his book 1971: A Year in the Life of Color, 2016, Darby English adopts the term representationalism to critique the tendency among scholars to analyze the abstract paintings of black artists by seeking out coded affirmations of racial identity—relating, for instance, the layered compositions of Joe Overstreet to the hair weaves at his mother’s beauty salon, or characterizing Ed Clark’s use of a broom to spread acrylic over his canvases as an homage to janitors. This tendency, English contends, foists onto abstraction precisely the sort of static definitions it aims to elude. This past

  • Sam Moyer

    Sam Moyer’s first solo show in New York, “Night Moves,” took place in 2008 at Cleopatra’s, the independent storefront space in Greenpoint founded that year by Bridget Donahue, Bridget Finn, Kate McNamara, and Erin Somerville. There, Moyer presented five “paintings” made of stretcher bars wrapped in moving blankets. Appropriately enough, Moyer had first become interested in the formal qualities of moving blankets—their off-kilter color combinations, the patterns of their stitching—while assisting the artist Mika Tajima, who at the time had taken to displaying paintings in the kind of

  • “Stories of Almost Everyone”

    Thanks to Gotthold Ephraim Lessing and Clement Greenberg, the Greek statue of Laocoön is indelibly associated with modernism’s strict separation of narrative and plastic arts. Now that medium-specific studio artists have ceded ground to project-based multitaskers experimenting with documentary, ethnographic, and archival research, however, perhaps we need to revisit the story behind the statue. After all, who is Laocoön if not the first critic to caution against accepting an artwork at face value? This survey of art from the past twenty years,

  • Jordan Casteel

    The initial response to Jordan Casteel’s “Nights in Harlem” is a case study in how an exhibition’s reception can be overdetermined by an immediately preceding exhibition. By dint of their subject matter, her larger-than-life paintings of black men she met on the streets of Harlem inevitably recall the recent survey of portraits by Alice Neel of her neighbors in Spanish Harlem and on the Upper West Side, organized by Hilton Als at David Zwirner gallery. This has prompted critics to equate Casteel with Neel, more out of reflex than reflection. Most prominently, Jerry Saltz proclaimed Casteel “

  • Trevor Paglen

    Back to school: Trevor Paglen produced his important early work on military black sites and extraordinary rendition while pursuing a doctorate in geography at the University of California, Berkeley. Having already received his MFA, he drew on geography’s analytic tools to develop an artistic practice premised on the hunch that, however “secret,” clandestine government programs would always leave material traces—facilities, flight records, post office boxes—that could be located, documented, and made visible to a broader public. This year, Paglen spent several months as an artist-in-residence

  • Devon Dikeou

    Before David H. Koch affixed his name to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exterior plaza; before the Rockefellers funded the Museum of Modern Art’s international program during the Cold War; before Solomon R. Guggenheim, J. P. Morgan, and Andrew Carnegie marshaled their fortunes toward “refining” American culture; before several centuries’ worth of upstanding burghers, upstart aristocrats, and absolutist royals who amassed collections and awarded commissions, there were popes. How different the history of Western art would be without Julius II, who commissioned Raphael’s Stanza della Segnatura

  • Anne Neukamp

    Friedrich Kittler launched his lifelong investigation into how “media determine our situation” with a simple insight: that Michel Foucault, for all his brilliance, never reckoned with data storage systems other than the written word. The whole rich field of “German media theory” has emerged out of this blind spot. Kittler’s methods not only have transformed our understanding of analog and digital technologies, but also have alerted us to the technicity of writing itself. Typographic “operators,” like commas, quotation marks, and footnotes, all have their own complicated histories that Foucault

  • Sara Magenheimer

    Louis Agassiz, 1862: “I have never felt more deeply the imperfection of our knowledge of some of the most remarkable types of the animal kingdom than in attempting to describe the beautiful representative of the genus Cyanea found along the Atlantic coast of North America. I can truly say that I have fully shared the surprise of casual observers in noticing this gigantic radiate stranded upon our beaches, and wondered what may be the meaning of all the different parts hanging from the lower surface of the large gelatinous disk.” Claude Monet, 1924: “It took me time to understand my water lilies.”

  • the politics of Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s Running Fence

    ONE SMALL ASPECT of daily life that Donald Trump’s election has altered, perhaps irrevocably, is e-mail etiquette. Professional contacts sign off on all manner of correspondence with “In solidarity.” Announcements and invitations include the poignant yet perfunctory phrase “now more than ever.” Friends forward (and reforward) online petitions, solicitations for donations, and pleas to call Congress. Among all these missives, the most memorable I have received was a post to by the artist Luis Camnitzer: “Dear President Donald Trump: Please use this golden opportunity to commission US

  • Mark Leckey

    HERE’S THE BAIT AND SWITCH: Each new technology that further isolates individuals first promises to connect them. It was film’s potential to organize collective perception that so excited Walter Benjamin: “The ancient truth expressed by Heraclitus, that those who are awake have a world in common while each sleeper has a world of his own, has been invalidated by film,” he wrote, “and less by depicting the dream world itself than by creating figures of collective dream, such as the globe-encircling Mickey Mouse.” Alone together in the darkened theater, the proletariat would commune with new totems.

  • performance January 10, 2017

    Good Charlotte

    ONE TELEVISION MONITOR in “A Feast of Astonishments: Charlotte Moorman and the Avant-Garde, 1960s–1980s,” screened clips of Charlotte Moorman’s TV appearances. On the Merv Griffin Show in June 1967, Moorman performed John Cage’s 26’1.1499” for a String Player with the help of comedian Jerry Lewis. Holding a military-grade practice bomb that Moorman had converted into a cello, he asked the audiences, “Does she know I’m famous?” Gingerly, he kneeled down before her, his head bent toward her bare shoulders while she pulled a cello string taut up along his back, playing it with her bow. It’s a

  • Slavs and Tatars

    In 1865, Édouard Manet exhibited Olympia at the Paris Salon, and Louis Pasteur patented a process for preventing spoilage in wine. It’s no stretch to claim a connection between these two events. Both modernist painting and pasteurization are techniques of purification, the one an expulsion of extraneous elements through progressive refinement, the other an elimination of pathogens through calibrated heating. Pasteurization, however, isn’t sterilization. Purge all the bacteria from wine or beer and you ruin the taste. Perhaps this explains why Clement Greenberg revised his theory of medium

  • Cao Fei

    Recently in these pages, associate editor Dawn Chan argued that for many East Asian artists, success on the international exhibition circuit is contingent on their willingness to appeal to the “techno-Orientalist” fantasies of Western curators. Few artworks seem more indicative, if not outright parodic, of this predicament than Cao Fei’s RMB City, 2007–11, a floating island constructed in the simulated ocean expanses of Second Life. Much like the Panzani pasta ad that Roland Barthes decoded as connoting “Italianness,” renderings of RMB City abound with Sino-signifiers. A panda, a

  • Natascha Sadr Haghighian

    “Reason . . . always homogenizes and reduces, represses and unifies phenomena or actuality into what can be perceived and so controlled,” observes Abhor, the “part robot,” “part black” protagonist of Kathy Acker’s 1988 novel Empire of the Senseless. “The subjects, us, are now stable and socializable.” Along with her co-narrator and partner Thivai, Abhor navigates an alternate-reality Paris where Algerians have staged an anticolonial revolt. Here she reflects on how patriarchal violence begins with the assignment of identities. “Literature,” she argues, “is that which denounces and slashes apart


    A DIAMOND is the outcome of compression. Once considered unique to the earth’s mantle, the extreme heat and pressure that push carbon atoms into a crystal lattice can now be artificially replicated to manufacture diamonds on a mass scale. Most serve industrial needs, as abrasives for drill bits or semiconductors for LEDs, but a handful of companies have modified the process to unnervingly sentimental ends: converting the cremated ashes of loved ones into “memorial diamonds.” In 2005, Jill Magid commissioned LifeGem to turn her future remains into a one-carat diamond, to be incorporated into her

  • Josh Kline

    I first visited Josh Kline’s studio in the fall of 2008, and I still haven’t recovered from the shock. At the time, Kline was filling bankers boxes with Bic pens, then slathering them in beige paint. Drawings of Tylenol bottles lay crumpled together in a pile. Everything seemed half-finished or badly neglected, yet Kline spoke of the work with animated conviction. Even in his studio, Kline harped on his day job, deeply bothered by how the protocols, postures, and products of his office had come to saturate his body.

    Kline no longer reports to an office, but he is nevertheless preoccupied with

  • Lizzie Fitch and Ryan Trecartin

    From his undergraduate days onward, Ryan Trecartin has displayed the sort of raw talent that inspires recourse to German: Wunderkind, Gesamtkunstwerk, Zeitgeist. In this respect, and several others, the most salient point of comparison to Trecartin’s career is Matthew Barney’s ascension in the 1990s. Call it the Clark Kent Effect: The art world keeps coronating fresh-faced male phenoms from the heartland. Like Barney, Trecartin combines cinematic video suites with baroque sculptural installations, maintains from project to project the same close-knit cadre of collaborators (chief among them

  • Andrea Bowers

    When Hillary Clinton recently described the barriers to racial equality as “intersectional,” the leftist journal Jacobin tweeted a wry salute to whichever Ph.D. student had joined her campaign as a speechwriter. The editors were calling out Clinton’s nod to legal theorist Kimberlé Crenshaw’s influential argument that discriminatory practices structured by differences in race, gender, or class “intersect” and compound one another. More subtly, the tweet posited an intersection of a different sort: an imagined Ph.D.-politico coupling academic jargon with campaign rhetoric. These two valences of

  • Julia Weist

    Parbunkells: two ropes bound together, with a loop on both ends. In June 2015, Julia Weist placed this single word on a billboard above a busy thoroughfare in Forest Hills, Queens. Any curious onlooker who plugged it into Google—and there were many—would have discovered just a single result, Weist’s own web page. Prior to her plucking it from a seventeenth-century sailor’s manual, parbunkells appeared nowhere on the Internet. That changed quickly. Parbunkells became a thread on Reddit; someone started a parbunkells Instagram account; on eBay, the domain name went on

  • “Ocean of Images”

    “Photography is a system of visual editing,” wrote John Szarkowski, MoMA’s long-presiding chief curator of photography. “At bottom, it is a matter of surrounding with a frame a portion of one’s cone of vision, while standing in the right place at the right time.” The belief that photography comes down to finding a spot in the landscape guided Szarkowki’s selections for “New Photography,” the annual showcase he inaugurated in 1985, and it continued to hold sway in the installments organized under his successor, Peter Galassi. Quentin Bajac, the department’s latest chief curator, broke with the