Emmelyn Butterfield-Rosen

  • Jean Vigo, Zéro de conduite (Zero for Conduct), 1933, 35 mm, black-and-white, sound, 44 minutes.



    The 1986 feature film Landscape Suicide by James Benning was streaming on Criterion last year, and I became mesmerized by it all over again, having seen it only once, many years earlier, in a theater. The title comes from Michael Ondaatje’s novel Coming Through Slaughter and suggests a casual and reckless obliter-ation of history. Benning’s film takes as its subject two people and two landscapes: the depressed high-school student Bernadette Protti, who in 1984 stabbed to death a popular cheerleader in Orinda, an affluent suburb in the Bay Area, and Ed Gein, who committed two

  • Titian, Diana and Callisto, 1556–59, oil on canvas, 73 5⁄8 × 80 1⁄2".


    FEW FACES TO MEET the public spotlight in recent years have more to tell about the mental mechanisms of male shame, impunity, and self-absolution than that of the furry brown-and-white-spotted Spanish pointer staring out of Titian’s Diana and Callisto, 1556–59. This dog has been a bad dog, as he seems to know. (I say “he” since, according to the visual logic of gender organizing the suite of pictures of which Diana and Callisto forms one-sixth, Titian’s “big dog” simply can’t be a bitch.)1 Sometime previously, on a hunting trip that took an unexpected twist, this Spanish pointer turned against

  • Mug shots of Félix Fénéon, April 26, 1894. Photos: Alphonse Bertillon.


    One spring evening in Paris in 1894, an elegant young man was strolling alone near the Luxembourg gardens. . . . He jumped on the platform of a departing bus and climbed to the top open deck. He had just sat down, arranging the folds of his Inverness cape, when an explosion rocked the street. . . . “Another bomb,” someone said. . . . The thin lips of the elegant young man lifted slightly in a smile.1

    THESE LINES, reminiscent of a script for a BBC detective drama, open the definitive and only biography of the French critic, editor, and art dealer Félix Fénéon (1861–1944), an obscure but much


    “BLACK MODELS: FROM GÉRICAULT TO MATISSE,” on view this past spring and summer in Paris at the Musée d’Orsay, was a tripled-in-size version of “Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet and Matisse to Today.” That exhibition, which opened this past fall at Columbia University’s Wallach Art Gallery, was curated by Denise Murrell, based on her 2014 dissertation, “Seeing Laure: Race and Modernity from Manet’s Olympia to Matisse, Bearden and Beyond.” (A scaled-back version of the Paris show is now open through December 29 at the Mémorial ACTe in Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe.)

    There were major

  • View of “Splendeurs et misères: Images de la prostitution, 1850–1910” (Splendor and Misery: Images of Prostitution), 2015–16, Musée d’Orsay, Paris. Foreground: Auguste Clésinger, Femme piquée par un serpent (Woman Bitten by a Snake), 1847. Background: Édouard Manet, Olympia, 1863. Photo: Sophie Boegly.

    sex and art from Fragonard to Manet

    TWO MAJOR EXHIBITIONS in Paris this fall examined the entwinement of modern art’s history with the history of sex. At the Musée du Luxembourg, “Fragonard amoureux: Galant et libertin” (Fragonard in Love: Suitor and Libertine) surveyed the career of Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732–1806), France’s last and best Rococo painter, through the lens of what the museum’s literature called the “love prism.” At the Musée d’Orsay, “Splendeurs et misères: Images de la prostitution, 1850–1910” (Splendor and Misery: Images of Prostitution) presented “the world of love for sale” as the trope par excellence of

  • “Sonia Delaunay: The Colors of Abstraction”

    Russian-born Sonia Delaunay-Terk traced her aesthetic breakthrough specifically to 1911, when she created a patchwork quilt for her infant son, “nowadays shown in art galleries as one of the first abstract paintings,” she boasted in 1962. That the sewing of a baby blanket could become the foundation for launching a lifelong career—as an abstract Simultanist painter alongside her husband, Robert Delaunay and, later, an impresario of related fabric and fashion businesses—vividly demonstrates the prototypically twentieth-century

  • the Ballets Russes centennial

    THIS SPRING, A FLURRY OF exhibitions in Europe and America will celebrate the centennial of Sergey Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, which debuted on May 18, 1909, in Paris—an inauguration that was to have a profound impact on the way art, dance, and theater would be promoted and experienced in the twentieth century. The company’s first season marked the moment when dance displaced Wagnerian opera as the most modern medium of high-cultural entertainment. The Ballets Russes quickly became a fashionable brand associated with ambitious multimedia performance, achieving production values of Zeffi relli-esque

  • Paul Sharits, Shutter Interface, 1975, four-screen 16-mm film loops with four separate sound tracks. Installation view, 2009.
    picks March 17, 2009

    Paul Sharits

    This restoration of Shutter Interface, 1975, and retrospective of works on paper provides a rare opportunity to examine a quantity of Paul Sharits’s work and makes apparent its brilliance and hard-core beauty. Shutter Interface is a jittering mural of seductive color. Four film loops, sequences of solid-color frames punctuated at intervals by black, are projected to create a long, overlapping band. Looping simultaneously, colors blend, flickering rapidly back and forth across the wall. A loud sound track, timed to the black frames, evokes tinnitus, wind suction, and fingers around a wineglass.

  • FUN-GUN, 1967, bullets and acrylic on canvas, 57 x 60".
    picks February 05, 2008

    Judith Bernstein

    Over the past five years, Mitchell Algus Gallery has been uncovering an often-censored and still-overlooked genre—what Lorraine O’Grady has described as the feminist “Prick Art” of the 1970s (Eunice Golden, Joan Semmel, Anita Steckel, and others). Judith Bernstein’s twelve drawings and collages assembled in Algus’s current exhibition reveal another dazzling contribution to this body of work.

    Mockingly monumentalizing the erect penis, delighting in its seemingly endless possibilities of satirical association, Bernstein’s works proceed from a series of formal conflations: the penis as gun, screw,

  • Robert Greene, Star Garden, 1988, oil on panel, 46 x 73".
    picks October 31, 2007

    Miriam Back, Helen Bradley, Robert Greene, and Florine Stettheimer

    Seeing Vaslav Nijinsky’s dance in L’Après-midi d’un faune in Paris in 1912 was an ecstatic turning point in Florine Stettheimer’s art and life. Immediately after witnessing the infamous Ballet Russes production, she began designing her own ballet, Orphée des Quat’z-Arts, unfortunately never to be produced. But her commitment to theater and stage design deeply informed all her subsequent painting, and when she finally came to prominence in America, it was for her sets and costumes for Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson’s opera Four Saints in Three Acts. (At the time of Stettheimer’s death in

  • Untitled, 1967, vacuum-formed plastic, plastic tubing, and frosted acrylic, 27 x 15 x 9".
    picks April 24, 2007

    Lee Bontecou

    Donald Judd wrote of Lee Bontecou’s early-‘60s relief sculptures, “The image extends from something as social as war to something as private as sex, making one an aspect of the other.” While similarly collapsing fragility and violence, Bontecou’s fish and flower sculptures, made a few years later, depart from this ultimately indecipherable relationship to subject. With their meticulously fabricated individual petals, pistils, filaments, stigma, teeth, fins, and gills, these sculptures of the natural world seem almost hysterically hyper-identified with their organic objects of representation.

  • You and I, Horizontal (III), 2006, computer, digital file, two video projectors, and hazer, 30-minute cycle in two parts, dimensions variable. Installation view.
    picks February 21, 2007

    Anthony McCall

    You and I, Horizontal (III), 2006, Anthony McCall’s newest film installation, continues a body of work begun in 1973 with Line Describing a Cone. This first “solid light film” initiated a practice that remains radical in its insistent deprivileging of the screen as the circumscribed surface of representation. In the current installation, twin projectors, installed at eye level, beam white light onto a wall across the darkened gallery. On the wall, angles and ovals slowly shift in adjacent zones that never seem to merge fully, which is vaguely frustrating. (At one point, symmetrical curves resemble