David Carrier

  • Jane Hammond

    Self-imposed restrictions play a major role in Jane Hammond’s art. In the past she has limited herself to two standard sizes of canvas and titled her paintings only by strings of numbers determined by her compositions; since 1988 she has constructed crowded surrealist stories using a fixed repertoire of 276 symbols and images borrowed from books, games, paintings, scientific charts, and various other sources. In 1993 Hammond initiated another kind of process: She asked poet John Ashbery to write down some titles for paintings that she would then execute. He came up with forty-four, and she has

  • Charles “Teenie” Harris

    Charles “Teenie” Harris (1908–98) was hired in 1939 as a freelance photographer for the Pittsburgh Courier, a widely circulating African-American newspaper. For the next forty-some years he covered the local scene: He took pictures of steelworkers, Negro League baseball players, and neighborhood kids; he made portraits of a coal miner, a female disc jockey, a soda jerk, and a policeman; he photographed visiting leaders like John F. Kennedy, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Martin Luther King Jr. as well as protesters against racial segregation; and he snapped celebrities, including Duke Ellington, Joe

  • Jean Cocteau

    For such a bold innovator in ballet, film, theater, and creative writing, Jean Cocteau was a surprisingly tame draftsman. Apart from a couple of early flirtations with Cubism, an amazingly grotesque c. 1920 caricature of his friend Proust, and the bizarre Self-Portrait, Multiplied Under the Effect of Opium, c. 1925–27, Cocteau's modest drawings are mostly reserved, linear, and rather academic-imagine Ingres without the fanatical lucidity or Neoclassical Picasso without the bite. This exhibition documented almost sixty years’ worth of Cocteau's work on paper, supplemented by photographs and

  • “Wounds”

    “Wounds: Between Democracy and Redemption in Contemporary Art” opened by dramatically juxtaposing images of decapitated heads and anatomical fragments by Théodore Géricault with Edvard Munch’s 1907 canvas The Death of Marat II. In the same room, Gerhard Richter’s Two Candles, 1983, accompanied Andy Warhol’s 1963 car crashes and Francis Bacon’s Double Portrait of Lucian Freud and Frank Auerbach, 1964. Viewers then passed through a door surrounded by Ian Hamilton Finlay’s Four Guillotine Blades, 1987, to encounter Malcolm Morley’s long horizontal work New York City Postcard, 1971, an enormous

  • Thaddeus Mosley

    The sculpture of Thaddeus Mosley, a self-taught black artist, seems to emerge from the heroic days of early Modernism. This is unsurprising—Mosley began to sculpt during the ’50s after being inspired by art he read about and saw at the Carnegie Museum. Sources that became and remain central to his work are Constantin Brancusi, Isamu Noguchi, and a number of anonymous African (and African-American) artists. These sculptors, Mosley notes, “are important to me because they confirm and extend what I do.” Brancusi’s work, he points out, developed in a similar fashion, absorbing African influences

  • “The World Over”

    Given that in 1642 a Dutch cartographer was the first European to initiate an encounter between Maori and European cultures, it seemed appropriate that this exhibition with its theme of “art in the age of globalization” should be set both in Wellington and in Amsterdam. Ideally a reviewer would have traveled directly from “The World Over,” in Wellington, to Amsterdam—very nearly at the opposite point on the globe—to view the other half of the show, “Under Capricorn,” at the Stedelijk. As it was, after traveling to New Zealand, I reached Amsterdam just in time to see that portion of the exhibit

  • Raymond Saunders

    In 1953, at the age of 19, Raymond Saunders had his first solo exhibition in Pittsburgh; several years later he left his native city and began showing widely in the Bay Area. The recent exhibition of Saunders’ work at the Carnegie displayed nine new paintings, while the Center for the Arts exhibited a wide selection of images on paper, as well as two large mixed-media pieces on plate glass.

    Saunders’ delicate works on paper combine elements such as pages from children’s books, cartoons, domestic and foreign stamps, beautifully painted flowers, and even, in one piece, a de Kooning–esque drawing

  • David Humphrey

    This show of David Humphrey’s paintings and drawings made between 1987 and 1994 (which originated at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati) revealed an artist who blends figuration and abstraction—biomorphic forms are set against decorative grounds and figures are covered in painterly marks—to suggest an underlying narrative. In Confusion of Tongues, 1987, (the earliest of the works shown here) shapes resembling human heads float against a pale background; Guests, 1992, depicts a man and child against a faded image of a man and a woman; and Close, 1994, features Philip Guston–esque cartoon

  • THE BIG PICTURE

    I met Ernst Gombrich in London in 1973, after completing a doctoral thesis dealing, in part, with his work. What most impressed me was the range of his interests. Apart from his two histories, Art and Illusion: A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation (1960) and its too rarely read complementary account, The Sense of Order: A Study in the Psychology of Decorative Art (1979), he has written on psychoanalytic approaches to art, has developed a number of important iconographic studies, and has dealt with such varied topics as cartoons, Hegel’s esthetics, and Nazi radio broadcasts.

  • Carnegie International

    Compared, say, with the Whitney Museum in New York, the Carnegie offers what to a new curator must seem a paradisiacal expanse. On the ground floor, a long, wide entrance corridor leads toward the Hall of Sculpture. Upstairs is a series of enormously high rooms off of which stretches a balcony that looks down on the sculpture hall and across from which is an even longer sequence of front galleries illuminated by natural light.

    Unfortunately, this year’s International, curated by Richard Armstrong, too often makes ineffective use of the museum’s space. In the entrance corridor, the Joan Mitchells

  • CRITICAL REFLECTIONS

    WHEN, ABOUT A DECADE AGO now, I started to make my way from academic philosophy to art writing, the book of the time that most impressed me was Richard Shiff’s Cézanne and the End of Impressionism (1984). Cézanne’s paintings have been so much discussed, Shiff argued, that we cannot really see them apart from the commentary on them. And since the way commentary is understood depends upon the interests of the interpreter, the interpretation of writing on paintings inevitably becomes “an end in itself.”

    In posing this philosophical problem, Shiff, an epistemologist of art history, was a true disciple

  • Critical Camp

    True High Camp always has an underlying seriousness. You can’t camp about something you don’t take seriously. You’re not making fun of it; you’re making fun out of it. You’re expressing what’s basically serious to you in terms of fun and artifice and elegance.

    —Christopher Isherwood, The World in the Evening, 1954

    ROSS BLECKNER’S ART has been variously interpreted, much celebrated, yet not entirely understood—in short, it has struck a nerve. Situated at the center of the various crosscurrents that have informed New York painting in the past decade and a half, Bleckner’s oeuvre affords a particularly

  • FINE YOUNG CANNIBAL: FABIAN MARCACCIO

    FABIAN MARCACCIO FOSSILIZES painting, preserving its body without admitting that it is completely dead. He uses the most traditional elements of painting—ground, brushstroke, color, frame—in ways that both acknowledge their histories and negate them. “What is interesting,” he says, “is to demolish painting from within. I’m not a painting lover.” Marcaccio’s paintings display changing states of things that lack essences. Sometimes everything in them seems to be turning to crystal, as in one of J. G. Ballard’s worlds; elsewhere, everything is going soft, as in some of Matta’s paintings. “Look at

  • ATTITUDE IS EVERYTHING AND EVERYTHING HURTS

    By refusing to have a career or to make history, [Chet Baker] managed to do both, and in the end achieved that rarest of prizes. He had a life in the arts . . . in real time.
    —Dave Hickey, “Chet Baker: A Life in the Arts,” 1991
     
    In a 1965 essay, “Minimal Art,” the philosopher Richard Wollheim described works of art that either are “to an extreme degree undifferentiated in themselves” or else exhibit differentiation which “comes not from the artist but from a nonartistic source, like . . . the factory.”1 As Rosalind Krauss suggests, commenting on this passage, it was natural then to move toward a phenomenological analysis: such artworks, like everyday objects, “simply exist within the user’s own time; their being consists in the temporal open-endedness of their use; they share in the extended flow of duration:’’2 Some critics loved the radicality of this breaking of the barriers between art and nonart. Michael Fried, who hated Minimalism’s theatrical appeal to the spectator’s presence, rejected any such ”sensibility or mode of being . . . corrupted or perverted by theater.“ No doubt ”we are all literalists most or all of our lives,“ he added, but ”presentness is grace.“3 Fried seems to have been rejecting Minimalism in the name of a quasi-theological vision. Perhaps the ideal of the pure encounter between the spectator and the Minimalist artwork, far from being liberating, resembled what was problematic in ’60s radicalism: ”Minimalism . . . might well be described as perpetuating a kind of cultural terrorism, forcing viewers into the role of victim.“4 The politics of an art of pure perception are complicated.
     
    When Alan Uglow arrived in New York, in 1969, these concerns were much debated. Today, however, when the original promise of Minimalism belongs to what has become a pretty distant world, we need to find new ways to describe his painting. Often art writers become too academic. As Uglow said to me, ”Maybe some people are making foot-notes where they’re not needed, where they’re not necessary." When we talked late this summer, I sought to stave off bookishness. Aiming to avoid the dramatic rhythms or the historical or ideological or philosophical pigeonholing of critical writing, I wanted to stay as close as possible to the surface of the works we were looking at together.
     
    —DC

    ALAN UGLOW: These recent paintings are called “Standards.” They have a uniform nature.

    DAVID CARRIER: Uniform because you always subdivide your surface the same way?

    AU: No, but I’m playing with that idea. I’m interested in essentials, in getting rid of lots of stuff I find that very freeing psychologically. Basically I’m trying to make the pieces mundane or ordinary in a certain way. The frame opens the whole idea up and closes it at the same time. My work has changed, but some things have remained consistent, like this idea of “open” and “closed.” At the moment, which is a closing-off period,

  • Allegheny Landing Sculpture Park

    Since we lack an iconography available to both serious artists and the larger public—who could sculpt John Wayne to please both Rosalind Krauss and the average moviegoer?—our public art is problematic. These four commissioned works, all 1984, are sited in a riverside park just north of downtown Pittsburgh. Isaac Witkin’s The Forks, though presumably referring to the nearby river forks, seems a Claes Oldenberg in aluminum, representing drips of that metal. Like the George Segal-esque The Builders, by George Danhires, whose figures stand by a building as if they had constructed it, this work is

  • Willem de Kooning at the Pittsburgh International

    IS DE KOONING “A Nietzsche who has read Wittgenstein,“ or ”a celebrity more and more alienated from his true qualities“? Is painting for him ”a real action, comparable to crossing an ocean“? Is his art ”a Soutine repainted by Mondrian,” “a painted Der Ring des Nibelungen,” or a ”self-evident“ combination of ”the great plastic and painterly traditions of Western painting with Late Cubist syntax"? The effect of such criticism is to hide Willem de Kooning’s art beneath a mass of literary ideas. Can we still see his pictures?

    Pre-1975 de Koonings tend to come in two formats, tall rectangles for human

  • Recent Esthetics and the Criticism of Art

    PERHAPS THE ALMOST TOTAL LACK of contact between art critics and philosophers writing about art is justified. Estheticians characteristically treat historical issues—the relation of Kant’s esthetics to his epistemology, Hume on taste, Dewey on emotion—in purely historical terms; or they discuss issues that critics might find interesting in ways that critics will certainly think dull. For example, perhaps the most widely discussed recent work in esthetics is the institutional theory of art. Much traditional esthetics offers an answer to the question: “What properties are necessary to make something