David Rimanelli

  • David Diao

    Failure: no one wants to become one and yet as a theme it is one of the 20th century’s privileged topoi. Long before post-Modernism’s esthetic and ideological valorization of incompletion and irresolution over “organic unity,” high-Modernist literary exemplars mined the rich thematic vein of failure: the narrator’s pathetic failure to quit smoking in Italo Svevo’s The Confessions of Zeno; and the literal failure of the characters to move, buried as they are in sand up to the neck, in Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days.

    In the realm of painting, failure is a no less popular theme, particularly since

  • David Rimanelli


    What Artforum’s year-end best-and-worst feature proposes is essentially an opportunity for the typically disenfranchised figure of the art critic to play, if not Addison DeWitt, then Earl Blackwell, awarding certain artists or shows Princess Di’s tiara while consigning others to the Cher/Roseanne dustbin of bad taste. Given this context, there is something a little weak about honoring (or condemning) the Great Dead. After all, Constantin Brancusi isn’t going to collar you at a cocktail party. Having said that, I’m giving the MONDRIAN retrospective top honors. This was, like the

  • Andreas Gursky

    Did photography “ruin” painting? This question, which achieved its 19th-century crystallization in Baudelaire’s famous complaint in “The Salon of 1859,” has nagged at critical consciousness ever since the advent of the medium. Various theorists from Walter Benjamin to Rosalind Krauss have attempted to unravel the Gordian knot that links painting and photography; none has yet discovered Alexander’s sword.

    In the 19th century, Romantic pictorialists like the Victorian grandes dames Julia Margaret Cameron and Lady Hawarden reveled in the camera’s power to transform real-life objects and people into

  • David Salle's Search and Destroy

    I APPROACHED DAVID SALLE’S first movie with an open mind, if not exactly an open heart. Bashing Salle, after all, whether for his paintings or his public persona, has become a rather routine gesture; there’s not much pleasure left in it. (Eileen Daspin had perhaps the last gasp of dramatically wicked fun at Salle’s expense eighteen months ago in the fashion and society magazine W’s excoriating profile of the artist, which quoted yours truly.) It seemed a better idea to see Search and Destroy in a frame of mind in which I might actually enjoy the film. Getting a movie made is famously hard, and

  • David Rimanelli

    What is Bruce Weber? Briefly, he is one of the most successful and widely imitated commercial photographers of our time. Whatever Weber’s detractors might say, there is no denying the ubiquity of his signature style: the way his camera lingers on the luscious twists and turns of ripe male flesh; the way his predominantly black and white photographs still carry the charge of sunlight in their silver patinas; the overall ambience of perpetual leisure and effortlessly satisfied desire. With its unrepentant celebration of WASPy men’s good looks, Weber’s work has a decided homoerotic undercurrent.



    Make It New

    Bruce Nauman retrospective, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles: Bad news from the studio, but real news nevertheless. Twenty-five years of pieces, each of which seems to have arisen out of a condition of sudden panic—out of the terror of not knowing, of having forgotten, willfully, day after day, what art is and what an artist might do—of having forgotten, even, what an artist is. A fountain? A source of mystic truths? A cruel instructor? A tortured clown? We get one brutal, last-ditch guess after another, and the whole practice of “artmaking” is reinvented, again

  • the Warhol Museum

    A BRIEF BUT UNCOMFORTABLE flight from Newark to Pittsburgh last May saw me to the opening of the Andy Warhol Museum, epicenter of the international art world, at least for a weekend.

    Checking in at my hotel, an existentially uneasy but otherwise presentable Ramada Inn, I was greeted with a little present intended for members of the Warhol junket, a small black bag emblazoned with a reproduction of Warhol’s Eggs, 1983, and containing a sampling of les délices pittsbourgeoises: a box of Ritz crackers, a minibottle of Heinz ketchup, a Clark Bar, a Clark Super Mario Brothers chocolate patty, a package

  • Louise Bourgeois

    What are the main currents of contemporary art? And what artists serve as the most visible and influential conduits for these currents? These are the questions raised by the Brooklyn Museum’s recent exhibition “Louise Bourgeois: The Locus of Memory, Works 1982–1993.” As a retrospective, albeit a partial one, the show took Bourgeois’ stature as a fait accompli. But the reasons for Bourgeois’ significance given by the show’s curator and selected catalogue essayists were often at odds with the evidence of the art—what we saw and what we were told to see in Bourgeois’ art didn’t match up.



    JOHN WATERS’ NEW MOVIE, Serial Mom, is not what you would call an especially plot-driven narrative. In the gentle language of literary criticism, the diegesis is subsumed by the rabid, frothy-mouthed semiosis. From the very first scene, which shows Beverly Sutphin (Kathleen Turner), the serial mom of the title, stalking a pesky fly through her exquisitely hygienic kitchen, it’s abundantly clear that this woman is totally wacko. Establishing her, uh, dark side early on, the film provides not the usual pleasures of fear and suspense but a series of increasingly ornate vignettes of mayhem. And

  • Ull Hohn

    I’ve never been a painter, but in a slough of despond, or when overcome by paralyzing lethargy—for moments, hours, days—psychically wired to the TV set, my only friend, I’ve had occasion to be an armchair painter, thanks to Mr. Bob Ross. Mr. Ross, you see, is perhaps our nation’s preeminent instructor in the art of amateur painting, although as this is his vocation he must be accounted a professional. Such are the ironies of public television, which is Mr. Ross’ main venue. I believe his show, of which I’ve seen only fragments, but fragments seen perhaps a hundred times, I believe his show is

  • John Boskovich

    The lack of an interior life is less often the root of suffering than one might imagine. Usually, it’s an excess of interiority, an obscene plenitude of psychic involution, that sends sensitive souls spiraling downward into the vortex of depression, madness, and rage. You think too much; you dwell morbidly on yourself. Get out of the house, they (your friends, your business associates, your psychiatrist) say; rejoin the world. Maybe you should join a support group.

    You think about: friends who have died gruesome deaths; your own death; your loneliness and your fear of other people; sex as momentary

  • Ashley Bickerton

    “Just Another Shitty Day in Paradise! (A Travelogue)”: clever, smirking, weary and depressed, this title announces Ashley Bickerton’s latest exhibition of sculptures. We find ourselves amid the wreckage of a South Seas debacle. Sharks and manta rays made from transparent materials have been outfitted with odd leather vestments. Wall-mounted cartographic whimsies like Islands and Ash’s Atoll (all works 1993) highlight such tropical hot spots as “Failed Expectation Shoal,” “Sordid Solitude Rise,” and “Cheap Sexual Gratification Key.” Headless and limbless buddhas of perversity like Fat Body Totem

  • Gerhard Richter

    Sometimes I have lunch at a burrito joint near my house. In the bathroom, there is a small oblong painting, sort of a thrift-store abstraction, bearing an appropriately indecipherable signature that looks like it could be “Starck.” Painted on fiberboard, or a similar industrial-looking material, and screwed into the wall at each of its four corners, its surface and means of support could be compared to those of a Robert Ryman. But with its wedges of too-bright, acidulous red and yellow, it really looks like an unwitting parody of a Gerhard Richter abstraction. The composition is roughly unified

  • Alexis Rockman

    Alexis Rockman’s new series of paintings, collectively titled “Biosphere,” 1992–93, is inspired by one of the artist’s favorite movies, Silent Running, 1971. I’ve seen this film several times, although many of its details (no doubt indelibly etched on Rockman’s mind) remain vague to me—this movie tends to be a late-late-night treat. As I recall, it involves greenhouses in space that preserve the flora and fauna of Earth. When for some reason the mission must be aborted, chief gardener Bruce Dern—psycho character-actor par excellence—murders his fellow crew members rather than sacrifice his

  • Katharina Fritsch

    Nobody, it seems, likes rats. Mice are cute; rats, just dirty. Stuart Little is a mouse; Templeton, a rat. In the urban cesspool, rats surpass cockroaches as pestilential, borderline-scary nuisances. (Roaches, after all, are easy to kill.) When a rat scurries past me on the detritus-strewn lanes of Manhattan’s Lower East Side, I have to steel myself not to jump.

    Maybe Katharina Fritsch, alone, really likes rats. She’s a rodentiaphile teuton. Given the scale and freak glamour of her DIA installation, Rattenkönig (Rat king, 1993), she tries hard to make the most of them as icons. We are told that

  • Jean Genet: A Life

    A FAMOUS BRASSAÏ PORTRAIT of Jean Genet adorns the dustjacket of Edmund White’s new biography of the writer. Genet seems physically slight, his head somehow too big for his frame; his sleeves rolled up and his hands stuffed in his pockets, he is almost the image of the street toughs he lovingly glamorized in Notre Dame des Fleurs, Journal d’un Voleur, and other works. He looks 40. His hair is close-cropped and graying, his eyes are dark, melancholic, even angry. Brassai has backed him into a corner for the picture, a glancing allusion to the various confinements Genet suffered in his youth and

  • David Rimanelli

    ODI PROFANUM VULGUS ET ARCEO,”1 said Horace, and after spending a few hours at the 1993 Whitney Biennial I can’t say I disagree. Elisabeth Sussman and her cohorts have done their level best to bring the noise and discord of contemporary American society into the museum, but as a pallid reactionary, whose taste runs to pretty abstract paintings and mythological scenes à la Poussin, I wasn’t too impressed. And as a more or less full-time and often unwilling member of New York’s squalid vulgus, I think the museum should be about quiet time. With interactive video and audio installations coming at

  • New Wave

    THE HELLENISTIC GREEKS INVENTED historical self-consciousness as we know it when, five hundred years after the original efflorescence, they revived the Archaic style for contemporary markets. This ambiguous advance in the history of taste was not without detractors—“Cessavit deinde ars” proclaimed the Elder Pliny of Greek art after Lysippus—and a general disapprobation of revivalism has persisted to this day. For every Renaissance there’s a half-dozen neo-Gothics. But what are you supposed to do when all culture is revivalist?

    On the threshold of the millennium, revival culture is the only thing


    Sex, Art, and American Culture: Essays, by Camille Paglia. New York: Vintage Books, 1992.

    So far we have seen two acts of the razzle-dazzle Camille Paglia show. The first act—the exposition, as it were—was Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson, a tumescent tome that ranges swaggeringly over the whole of the Western cultural patrimony, resembling in its ambitions such old-fashioned surveys as Erich Auerbach’s Mimesis and E. R. Curtius’ European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, but hyped-up and amphetamized for the MTV generation. Dirty, too—Paglia’s willful

  • Susan Sontag's The Volcano Lover: A Romance

    The Volcano Lover: A Romance, by Susan Sontag. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1992.

    SUSAN SONTAG’S NOVEL The Volcano Lover: A Romance is the story of Sir William Hamilton, British ambassador to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies for forty-odd years; his low-born but high-spirited (some would say bumptious) wife, Emma; and her famous boyfriend, Admiral Lord Nelson. It is also the story of Naples, one of the great cities of the 18th century, and latterly a tale of the Neapolitan Revolution. Sontag is obviously fond of this period, and she does a pretty good job of weaving the historical particulars