Daniel Soutif

  • “Transavanguardia”

    As it was with arte povera, so it goes with the Transavanguardia. Some two decades after Achille Bonito Oliva coined the term (in a 1979 article in Flash Art), it now resurfaces on the occasion of an exhibition reuniting the five artists who were its most emblematic vectors. Having handily won out over the rival label arte cifra (proposed by critic Wolfgang Max Faust, for the group’s first exhibition, held in June 1979 at Galerie Paul Maenz in Cologne), Transavanguardia was indeed rather rapidly effaced in favor of the proper names Sandro Chia, Francesco Clemente, Enzo Cucchi, Nicola De Maria,

  • William Eggleston

    One new photograph, specially commissioned for this 215-image retrospective, shows a spotted pooch, presumably made of porcelain but in any event exceedingly well behaved. Sporting a red leash that leads outside the frame (to its master’s hand? to a doorknob?), the animal, an English pointer by the look of it, stares patiently out at us. We can easily guess that the photo was taken in Japan (Kyoto, in fact), or at least in a Far Eastern country, as the upper corner reveals the edge of a poster on which several ideograms appear. Like all of the Japanese photos commissioned for the Fondation

  • David Reed

    David Reed's exhibition begins in the half-light of the stairwell. Ascending the steps, you hardly notice the single work by the artist that hangs there, save perhaps to observe that its dimensions seem to match those of the painting opposite it, a work by Ferdinand Hodler that belongs to the Kunstmuseum and is no better lit. Likewise, as you reach the top of the stairs, you do not immediately see the vertical canvas, No. 218-2, 1982-86—though it is a striking work—placed in the corner near the window behind a large sculpture by Donald Judd that all but dominates this space. The

  • Luigi Ghirri

    Luigi Ghirri, who died unexpectedly in 1992 when he was not yet fifty, occupied a very visible place in the world of photography during his lifetime. The two exhibitions devoted to him by his native province, Reggio Emilia, gathered more than 700 of his images and not only gave well-deserved homage to an exceptional photographer but spectacularly highlighted the change in the status of photography since the '70s and '80s, the decades during which his work developed.

    Ghirri's photographs may at first seem extraordinarily contemporary or exquisitely dated, depending on which of his multiple facets

  • Daniel Soutif

    THROUGHOUT ITS HISTORY, WHICH SPANS MORE THAN a hundred years, the Venice Biennale has been saddled with many titles, from the pretentious to the banal to the simply cumbersome. Now, in its forty-ninth edition, it can lay claim to the most confusing to date: “Plateau of Humankind.” From the original Italian version—Platea dell'umanità—the title was weirdly translated into both English and German with the French word “plateau” (“Plateau of Humankind,” “Plateau der Menschheit”), as though there were no equivalent for it in the languages of Shakespeare and Goethe.

    To listen to Harald

  • Robert Ryman

    Does the concept of a retrospective imply chronology? The organizers of the Robert Ryman survey at the Haus der Kunst in Munich think not. The press release announcing the “fifty-work” show, cocurated by Bernhart Schwenk in Munich and Christoph Schreier and Volker Adolphs at the Kunstmuseum Bonn, expressly states that the show is “conceived as an ‘unusual overview.’ . . . In contrast to a traditional retrospective, the exhibition . . . emphasizes the effect of Ryman’s paintings. The individual works are not presented in chronological order but rather in their atmospheric relations to one another.”

  • François Morellet

    A FEW CHOICE PAGES extracted from a vast volume—that would be one way to describe the François Morellet exhibition recently presented by the Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume. This two-story space, once a temple of Impressionism, is sizable enough, but it still couldn't accommodate a complete retrospective (thus making the necessity for one all the more glaring) of a prolific artist, now seventy-four years old, whose first pictorial forays date back to the immediate postwar period.

    Nonetheless, curator Daniel Abadie, who organized the exhibition in close consultation with Morellet himself,

  • Jean-Hubert Martin

    JEAN-HUBERT MARTIN isn’t shy when it comes to speaking his mind on modernism and non-Western art. The former director of the Musée National d’Art Moderne at the Centre Georges Pompidou, who remains best known as curator of the mammoth, controversial “Magiciens de la terre” show in Paris nine years ago, dismisses as “arrogant” the “conception of modernity that is only interested in the exotic arts’ contribution of formal novelty” and calls this notion one obstacle to “the idea of the equality of cultures and the valorization of non-Western arts.” Martin’s views should get another very public

  • Bertrand Lavier’s Giulietta

    CERTAIN WORKS OF ART make their mark in history by breaking the thread of a tradition; others, perhaps more rare, endure because they are able to knot together numerous threads. Giulietta, 1993, belongs to the second category.

    So who is Giulietta? And how does she present herself? In answer to the first question, suffice it to say, for now, that Giulietta is an Italian sports car produced by Alfa Romeo. As to the second question, we will also content ourselves with an abbreviated response: Giulietta presents herself in a rather bad light. Although placed on a white pedestal, like some precious

  • PICTURES AND AN EXHIBITION

    The Museum and the Photograph: Containers of Whatever

    “What have we seen? . . . But what haven’t we seen? . . . A dream on ground level. A real five-franc bill, under glass, and the most current small change, just what you’d have in your pocket, but framed, mounted, empedestaled, laid on padded velvet, and labeled in an eccentric script. . . . Two porcelain chamber pots, white on blue, with flower and leaf motifs and a romantic thatched hut. The god Mars, very lifelike, in faux bronze, ‘the perfect gift item,’ with a label around its neck as if it were a parcel: ‘To our dear godmother, from her

  • FLIGHT INTO WHITENESS: BRAM VAN VELDE

    IN 1923, BRAM VAN VELDE made a painting entitled Neige (Snow), or, sometimes, Paysage de neige (Snowy landscape). He was 28 years old. Something quite frightening happens on this canvas, like a definitive leave-taking—a goodbye in that terrible dimension of “forever.” Three men are walking in the white that takes up most of the surface. Two of them have turned around to stare at the viewer, as if for the last time. The third is walking toward a cramped village in the distance, at the bottom of a valley. Maybe the young man who painted this image didn’t really understand it yet, for he would

  • André Cadere

    Three short documentary films by Sarkis, Ida Biard, and David Ebony, comprise the heart of André Cadere’s retrospective. Without the evidence supplied by these films, and the photographs, letters, and caricatures attributed to the Belgian artist Jacques Charlier also included in the exhibition, the dozens of colored rods on display at P.S. I would have remained enigmatic baubles or, even worse, would have been mistaken for Minimalist sculptures. The status of these objects as instruments allied to a truly unique critical practice rather than “works” in a traditional sense, would have been entirely

  • FOUND AND LOST: ON THE OBJECT IN ART

    CONVENTIONAL WISDOM TELLS US THAT the father of “object art” was Marcel Duchamp—that in transplanting the perfectly ordinary manufactured urinal of his 1917 Fountain from the vendor’s shelf to the exhibition space Duchamp rattled the foundation of the work of art itself. Though the mere reenactment of Duchamp’s maneuver would seem to lack any intrinsic interest,1 it is nevertheless among the most often-repeated artistic gestures of our century. This poses us a question. Duchamp’s readymades transformed esthetic judgment, challenged the functions and powers of critical discourse. Yet having

  • Paul-Armand Gette

    “Let us not separate art from science,” wrote Paul-Armand Gette in 1978. “For, as little effort as we make to understand scientific discourse, it does not seem lacking in poetry to us.” Emotion and poetry are not usually expected to be part of the sciences. Yet for 30 years, Gette has worked in this nearly deserted area. In particular, he explores the science of taxonomy, the ordering of reality's labyrinths through the flowing wisdom of a Latin that exoticizes everything: botany, entomology, mineralogy, etc.

    There is no synthesizing order in Gette's universe, only possibly progressive shifts

  • “L'Internationale Situationniste, 1957–1972”

    The Internationale Situationniste has made a surprising comeback on the French scene, after having sunk into the recesses of revolutionary history following its self-disbandment in 1972. The Centre Pompidou recently presented an exhibition of the artistic output of a movement that claimed to have had a direct role in triggering the events of May 1968 in France. More than any other movement of the ’60s, Situationism had roots in several artistic avant-gardes. Founded in 1957, the movement came out of the dissolution of COBRA, the Internationale Lettriste, the Mouvement International pour un

  • Francois Morellet

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    Francois Morellet's work combines a purist approach to systems, which comes directly from the great geometric and

    Constructivist traditions, with an irrepressible sense of humor, whose antecedents can be traced through Dada back to great

    19th-century French humorists such as Alphonse Allais. Morellet's work from the early '50s prefigured certain aspects of

    Minimalism and Op art by several years, and the artist has continued adding new systems to those he developed originally.

    However, Morellet uses a comic mode to undermine and expose the absurdity of the very systems he employs. In this

  • François Morellet

    François Morellet’s work combines a purist approach to systems, which comes directly from the great geometric and Constructivist traditions, with an irrepressible sense of humor, whose antecedents can be traced through Dada back to great 19th-century French humorists such as Alphonse Allais. Morellet’s work from the early ’50s prefigured certain aspects of Minimalism and Op art by several years, and the artist has continued adding new systems to those he developed originally. However, Morellet uses a comic mode to undermine and expose the absurdity of the very systems he employs. In this way,

  • L'art Africain

    L’Art africain by Jacques Kerchaches, Jean-Louis Paudrat, and Lucien Stéphan. Paris: Editions Mazenod, 1988, 620 pp., 248 color and 821 black and white illustrations, FF. 880.

    IN 1965, A SMALL Parisian publisher, Editions Mazenod, launched a series entitled “L’Art et les grandes civilizations” with the publication of André Leroi-Gourhan’s Préhistoire de l’art occidental (published in the U.S. by Harry N. Abrams under the title Treasures of Prehistoric Art), a work acknowledged at the time to be fundamental to the field. Mazenod has now brought out a collection of essays on African art in a no

  • Etienne-Martin

    Today at the age of 76, Etienne-Martin occupies a place of his own in sculpture. He has created not only an autonomous world, but a diverse one. If one didn’t know that the author of this work has held a professorship at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, one might classify his work as art brut. That Harald Szeemann should have chosen such an artist to occupy the space here makes good sense. Szeemann, who last year presented a beautiful group of works by Mario Merz in the same space, plays the ruggedly primitivist forms of Etienne-Martin against the austere spatial geometry of the vast chapel.