Elisabeth Sussman

  • Charles Ray, Family Romance, 1992–93, painted fiberglass, synthetic hair. Installation view, 1993 Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Photo: Ted Thai/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images.

    the 1993 Whitney Biennial

    IN 1991, when I came to the Whitney, I felt we were under siege. It was impossible to work in an art museum and ignore what was happening around you. The conservative Republican campaign to defund the National Endowment for the Arts, which was really a thinly veiled effort to censor American artists, was in full swing. Under George H. W. Bush appointee John Frohnmayer, the NEA had withdrawn funding (later partially restored) for the group exhibition “Witnesses: Against Our Vanishing,” organized by Nan Goldin at Artists Space in New York. Washington, DC’s Corcoran Gallery had bowed to congressional

  • View of “Consider the Lobster,” 2009, CCS Galleries, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY. Foreground: Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 2007. Middleground: The Eagle Has Landed, 2006. Background: Car Stereo Parkway, 2005. Photo: Jason Mandella.

    Rachel Harrison

    RACHEL HARRISON HAS A FLAIR FOR TITLES, even when borrowed, as in the case of her current midcareer survey, “Consider the Lobster.” The name comes from a collection of David Foster Wallace’s magazine articles, one of which finds the author at the annual Maine Lobster Festival, pondering the “morality” of the American ritual of lobster boiling. Harrison’s choice of title is explicitly referenced near the entrance to a companion exhibition with a projection of László Moholy-Nagy’s 1936 film Lobsters, but it’s worth considering how this “garbage man” of the sea, to borrow Wallace’s epithet, might

  • Guerrilla Girls, Benvenuti alla Biennale Femminista! (Welcome to the Feminist Biennial!), 2005, digital print, 17' x 13' 1 1?4". From “Always a Little Further,” Arsenale.

    Candide Cameras

    “All’s for the best in this best of all possible worlds.”

    —from Leonard Bernstein’s Candide (1956)

    In 1956, when Eisenhower’s America was perhaps at its most optimistic, Leonard Bernstein puckishly premiered his opera Candide on Broadway. A collaboration between the composer, playwright Lillian Hellman (book), and poet Richard Wilbur (lyrics), the work celebrates the stinging satire of Voltaire’s 1759 novella. To the accompaniment of Bernstein’s sprightly score, Candide’s philosophically inclined tutor, Pangloss, puts forward the notion to his pupil that the world as it is—no matter its evils,

  • Lee Bontecou

    After exhibiting in New York and beyond throughout the ’60s, Lee Bontecou (1931–2022) receded from the art world’s view by the early ’70s: She moved out of the city, left the prestigious Leo Castelli Gallery, and showed her work far less frequently. Reviewing Bontecou’s highly anticipated retrospective at the UCLA Hammer Museum for Artforum’s January 2004 issue, the curator Elisabeth Sussman concludes that the show “makes a strong case for Bontecou’s taking a major place in a much-needed historical reevaluation of the history of late-twentieth-century American art.” Presenting the sculptures

  • Painting by Julian Schnabel installed at Sotheby’s, ca. 1990–91. Photo: Louise Lawler.


    Few funerals have been as indecorous as the one held for painting in the early ’80s. Was the deceased truly dead, and, if so, in whose name could the death certificate be signed? Or was this a burial without a corpse, another instance of the ritual interments that seemed to recur throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as Arthur C. Danto suggests in his keynote statement? Artforum convened the roundtable that follows to offer our own reexamination of the Death of Painting debate and its legacy throughout the decade. In the April issue, a second group led by Robert Storr considers the afterlife of painting in the ’80s and beyond.

    In recalling a period of severe depression he underwent in the “melancholy winter of 1826–27,” John Stuart Mill wrote, in a famous passage of his autobiography, that he had been “seriously tormented by the thought of the exhaustibility of musical combinations.” Sooner or later, all the possibilities would have been used up, and music would be over with. There was no sense in Mill that this had already taken place, but the thought that it could or would deepened his distress. No composer of Mill’s time had, for instance, presented monotone works—a single note sustained for a substantial interval—nor