Daniel Marcus

  • Jasper Johns

    AT AGE EIGHTY-EIGHT, Jasper Johns has come to occupy a unique position in American culture. Rivaling Bob Dylan for sheer unrelenting inventiveness, he persists in the form of an enigma, continuing to mine a vein by turns ultra superficial and maddeningly hermetic. Any attempt to summarize Johns’s significance runs immediately into contradiction: Indifferent to public attention yet virtuosic in his performance of artistic savoir faire, Johns is at once the iconic face of postwar American art and its most obscure, inward-focused contributor. A touchstone of queer art history—together with

  • “Fernand Léger: Painting in Space”

    A renegade Cubist in 1920s Paris, Fernand Léger arrived early at the notion of a rapprochement between painting and architecture. In 1933, he traveled to Greece as a delegate to the Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne; in 1936, he collaborated on a theoretical “Suspended House” with American architect Paul Nelson; and during the ’50s, he joined with Le Corbusier and Charlotte Perriand to advocate a “synthesis of the arts,” seeking to integrate modernism with mass media. These histories will be the subject of “Painting in Space,” a survey organized by the Museum

  • Wifredo Lam

    Visitors to the retrospective of Wifredo Lam at the Centre Pompidou will confront many things at once: an expanded geography of Surrealism, a bid for one painter’s canonization as an exemplary “plural modernist” (a term the museum recently used to advertise a rehang of its collection), and a case for the centrality of African Creole cultures to the formation of “European” modernity. A Cuban-born painter of mixed-race ancestry, Lam thought of his practice as an act of decolonization. Catherine David’s retrospective tracks Lam’s work across five decades, from 1926 to the

  • Allan Sekula

    Measured in anxious days and weeks, the slow pace of shipping once served as a reminder that commodities, although seemingly self-generated, are nevertheless the products of labor, including that of transportation. However, with the advent of containerization, dockside automation, and networked logistics, the figure of the transportation worker is increasingly supplanted by an algorithm—or worse, by a drone. While these innovations have driven down the cost of shipping, they have also made supply chains more vulnerable to interruption: It was no fluke, for example, that Occupy Oakland

  • Fernand Léger

    As theorized by fin-de-siècle sociologist Georg Simmel, the term metropolis denotes less a specific scale of the city than the acceleration of stimuli therein, including traffic and advertising, the spasms of the business cycle, and the unending flow of pseudo-history in the news media. To ward off neurasthenia, Simmel argues, the urbanite develops a “protective organ,” a kind of mental shield, which blunts the force of sensation, subordinating aesthesis—the domain of perception—to the rule of reason. In other words, the faster things go, the less one feels.

    Might we also add: the less

  • “Léger: Modern Art and the Metropolis”

    If Baudelaire’s generation first proposed metropolitan life as a fitting subject for art, it was not until the interwar years that the urban environment was codified as a graphic style. At the center of this transformation was a single canvas: Fernand Léger’s The City, 1919. In this mural-scale painting, the metropolis becomes one in substance and signifier, its essence reduced to a spectacular shorthand cribbed from the billboards and music halls of Paris’s Place de Clichy. This seminal work is the focal point of “Léger: Modern Art and the Metropolis,”which tracks Léger’s

  • Helen Frankenthaler

    In the days following Helen Frankenthaler’s death, on December 27, 2011, my Facebook feed teemed with JPEG memorials, makeshift tributes to a painter many had forgotten. The image I remember best was a photograph of the artist in her studio, taken by Douglas Banks for Life magazine in 1956; it shows Frankenthaler sitting on top of, and surrounded by, her canvases of the previous half decade, including the breakthrough Mountains and Sea, 1952, as if ensconced in a sort of aqueous dream-cubicle.

    Banks’s portrait of Frankenthaler is seductive, but also troubling: While ostensibly emphasizing the

  • “Georges Braque and the Cubist Still Life, 1928–1945”

    “Defeat is certain” was the admonishment given by Jean Paulhan, the former editor of La Nouvelle Revue Française and a stalwart of the French Resistance, to Claude Roy, a young poet who came seeking encouragement during one of the darker hours of the German occupation. In no mood to console, Paulhan instead steered his visitor before a small painting hung on the wall, Georges Braque’s Kitchen Table with Grill, 1942–43, a still life depicting a single cooked fish on a plate, accompanied by an iron griddle and a jug of wine.

    One can imagine the bewilderment Roy must have felt during this strange

  • Brian Weil

    Coordinating “deviant” sexual assignations in the pre-Internet era was no easy matter; doing so required magazine subscriptions, stealth, postage, and patience. This was how it was in 1980, when photographer Brian Weil began placing ads in fetish periodicals seeking participants for a project titled “Sex,” 1980–82. The result was a haunting series of some two dozen photographs of alt-erotic revelry: We see a couple fucking atop a pair of taxidermied deer, a man (or a woman?) getting fisted from behind, another man receiving aquatic fellatio from a carp—and so on. In a rare self-portrait,

  • Charline von Heyl

    In the run-up to what promises to be a marathon year for Charline von Heyl (a major survey of her work is currently on view at the Tate Liverpool), a recent exhibition of a decade’s worth of her paintings and works on paper at the Philadelphia ICA gave visitors a sampling of what is surely one of the more challenging, complex—and enjoyable—bodies of contemporary abstract painting. For von Heyl, painting is as alive as ever; it is the medium’s fecundity in the here and now that interests her most. If the burden of modernism is at issue in her work, it is as a storehouse of pictorial

  • Printemps de Septembre

    CURATOR ANNE PONTEGNIE could not have known that her title for this year’s Printemps de Septembre, “D’un Autre Monde” (From Another World), would resonate so well with the autumnal protests that swept the United States, for which another world is very much at issue—though she might have guessed that, at least for some viewers, the combination of these words and this contemporary arts festival’s titular “springtime” would call to mind last year’s spate of uprisings in the Arab world. But Toulouse is not Cairo, and this was not that kind of springtime. Far from it: Toulouse is a medieval city

  • “Lifelike”

    One thing missing from French sociologist Henri Lefebvre’s phenomenology of postwar capitalism is an account of the objects that populate the everyday world.

    One thing missing from French sociologist Henri Lefebvre’s phenomenology of postwar capitalism is an account of the objects that populate the everyday world. Even for Jean Baudrillard, Lefebvre’s student, consumer goods function more as signs and ciphers than as obdurate things. But it is among these uncanny objects and signs that the routine dramas of daily life are played out; not surprisingly, this domain has attracted artistic interventions ranging from the typographic to the surreal and beyond. “Lifelike” brings together ninety examples of engagements with the quotidian

  • EYES IN THE HEAT: JEAN DUBUFFET, CATHY WILKES, AND JOSH SMITH

    IT IS 1946. The war has just ended, and Henri Michaux, an avant-garde poet turned painter, finds himself haunted by faces: “As soon as I pick up a pencil or a brush, ten, fifteen, twenty of them surge up to me on the paper one after the other. And most of them wild. Are all those faces me? Are they other people? From what depths?” In Michaux’s works of the period, these questions are redoubled on the page, where the human face is reduced to a zero-point of legibility. A year earlier, Michaux had started on a series of faces using thin washes of gouache, watercolor, and ink to evoke the eerie