David Salle

  • Alex Katz, Yellow Tree 1, 2020, oil on linen, 72 × 72". © Alex Katz/Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY.


    IN LATE OCTOBER, on the opening night of the Alex Katz retrospective at New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, crowds of people in a party mood lined the spiral ramp from the ground-floor rotunda all the way to the uppermost skylight. This in itself is not so unusual—just about any opening at a major New York museum tends to bring out the scenesters. What happened next, however, is less common. Toward the end of the night, as the artist, who at ninety-five is seemingly immune to the depredations of advanced age, and who that evening was resplendent in a cream-colored suit and gold tie, made

  • Janet Malcolm, New York, 1981. Photo: Nancy Crampton.

    JANET MALCOLM (1934–2021)

    ABOUT TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO Janet Malcolm published a profile of me in the New Yorker that became something of a touchstone of art journalism. It served as the title essay of one of her collections, and has been reprinted several times. I’m told it’s often assigned in classes on art writing, on the assumption that it sheds some light on that murky enterprise.

    It’s uncommon for the subject of a profile to warmly remember the profiler, and my friendship with Janet struck some people as odd. For some, it would be hard, or so they imagined, to get past the discomforts of so much self-exposure, and

  • Lisa Liebmann

    LISA LIEBMANN was a passionate explainer. She wrote fine-textured prose that detailed the interplay of the subtle, shifting, often evanescent sensations connected with the act of looking—and that expressed her complex, animated, and mostly approving relationship to art and to the scene. Her writing was imaginative; she could take vast interpretive leaps without bothering to look over her shoulder. She was the embodiment of an engaged critic—a participant, in many ways the ideal audience member. Lisa let the art, whatever it was—painting, opera, ballet, literature—flow through

  • Thomas Houseago, Masks (Pentagon), 2015, Tuf-Cal, hemp, iron rebar, steel, redwood. Installation view, Rockefeller Center, New York.

    Thomas Houseago

    STYLE REFLECTS CHARACTER. It’s the aggregate of choices one has made, consciously or not, regarding art that came before.

    I remember an episode of The Sopranos that goes something like this: Mobster Johnny’s life sentence just got a lot shorter. We see him in the prison hospital as he learns he has late-stage cancer. Tough break. The hospital orderly, also a lifer (played with touching eagerness by director Sydney Pollack), was an oncologist on the outside. The unlikeliness of the two men occupying the same room is heavy in the air. Patient and orderly start talking. Holding a mop in one hand,

  • Summer Reading


    I’ve spent countless hours listening to Bob and Ray, first on the original radio broadcasts, later on cassette tape or CD compilations of their greatest routines. I don’t know of any other comedy as mesmerizing or closer to the spirit of art—that ability to make a whole world out of a few ingredients. I love them extravagantly. Bob and Ray, Keener Than Most Persons by David Pollock (Applause Books) is the first behind-the-scenes study of how the duo generated their material and shaped it into such casual sublimity. I’m cheating a little, as this under-the-radar book came out in

  • View of “Dana Schutz: If the Face Had Wheels,” 2011. Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York. From left: Her Arms, 2003; Twin Parts, 2004; Party, 2004. Photo: Jim Frank.

    Dana Schutz

    TALENT AND IMAGINATION are easily misunderstood. What passes for imagination today is often just a recontextualization of cultural signs; and talent is easily confused with knowingness or a desire for attention. Only occasionally does an artist come along who has both, and is able to use these capabilities to cast an original narrative idea into pictorial form. At age thirty-five, Dana Schutz is that rarity. Her paintings depict weird or funny characters and scenes cut from whole cloth. But the imagining is inseparable from the paint itself. The brush feels like an extension of the painter,

  • Dana Schutz, Autopsy of Michael Jackson, 2005, oil on canvas, 60 x 108".

    “Dana Schutz: If the face had wheels”

    Dana Schutz paints with directness and expediency, and her work has an exhilaration that comes from giving form to internal feelings.

    Dana Schutz paints with directness and expediency, and her work has an exhilaration that comes from giving form to internal feelings. She is an American symbolist who is sometimes mistaken for a realist. Her paintings often depict scenes that are absurd, goofy, or grotesque: things seen in the mind’s eye. A woman eating her own arm, a nude man lying prone in the desert, someone caught midsneeze— the pictures revel in the power of pictorial visualization. Schutz has a winning curiosity about strange forms that the self, and self-destruction, can take; you can imagine her

  • Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, 2007, still from a color film in 35 mm, 112 minutes. Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Amalric) and Empress Eugénie (Emma de Caunes).

    Julian Schnabel’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

    EVEN BEFORE CITIZEN KANE (1941), Orson Welles was already experimenting with using film techniques to heighten audience awareness of the special relationship between the teller and the tale that is fundamental to movies. In a little-known precursor to that film titled Too Much Johnson (1938), Welles made inventive use of a handheld camera to expose the phenomenological conundrum at the heart of moviemaking: How do you make an audience aware of the artificiality of cinematic reality and still keep them emotionally connected to the story? In the great leap that was Citizen Kane, Welles explored

  • The Best Exhibitions of 2005

    To take stock of the past year, Artforum contacted an international group of artists to find out which exhibitions were, in their eyes, the very best of 2005.

    “Edward Munch by Himself” (Royal Academy of Arts, London) This show gave me butterflies, screwed me up, and made me cry.

    John Baldessari, “A Different Kind of Order” (Museum Moderner Kunst, Vienna) I rarely go to exhibitions these days. Perhaps I’m too jaded. But the Baldessari retrospective was something else. Focusing on his production from 1962–84, it was notable for its curatorial indifference to the marketplace—so

  • David Salle

    I met Jim sometime in the early ’80s—Peter Schjeldahl brought him around to a show of mine. He seemed curious about younger painters. I had grown up knowing his work but really saw it in depth at the Whitney retrospective in 1986, which was dazzling. I was seeing a lot of the things for the first time, and I remember thinking how different the work felt from the way it had been encapsulated in the official version, partly because you saw only certain works, in reproduction. You saw only the classic paintings, never the really nutty ones with constructions and neon, or with the plastic bag full

  • Balthus, La Jupe blanche (The white skirt), 1937, oil on canvas, 51 1/4 x 63 3/4"


    BALTHAZAR KLOSSOWSKI, OR BALTHUS, or the Count de Rola, as he preferred to be known later in life, died February 18 at the age of 92. His passing did not go unmarked: U2 frontman Bono sang a tribute at his funeral, and critics Michael Kimmelman and Jed Perl wrote appropriately admiring eulogies, if colored by a certain defensiveness about Balthus’s historical position. Other commentators, such as Linda Nochlin (interviewed on National Public Radio), could not be moved to praise, even by his demise. Speaking ill of the dead is no more popular in the art world than in the rest of our culture, but

  • BEST OF THE ’90s: FILM

    CINDY SHERMAN, artist:
    Thomas Vinterberg’s brilliant The Celebration (1998) is especially important because it signals the future of the medium, away from Hollywood’s excesses.

    JOHN WATERS, filmmaker: During the 1994 Cannes Film Festival I was sick in bed with the flu on the night Pulp Fiction premiered. Suddenly, from blocks away I heard the most stupendous roar of approval from the opening-night audience. I was so pissed to have missed the night Quentin Tarantino became an instant cinematic icon. But once I saw the movie I knew he deserved it. I guess you could call me a Quentin-hag.