Eric Banks

  • “Rester Vivant”

    A dead poet no longer writes, which is why it’s important to stay alive. This simple working hypothesis was set out in Michel Houellebecq’s early essay “Rester vivant” (Stay Alive, 1991), and in a career that has made him more than just a writer, this volcanic figure has flirted with the negation of the claim again and again. He’s disappeared in real life, been kidnapped on the screen, and rubbed himself out in the 2010 novel The Map and the Territory. But he has also often threatened to disappear into other guises—filmmaker, photographer,

  • Didier Eribon’s Returning to Reims

    Returning to Reims, by Didier Eribon. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e)/Foreign Agents, 2013. 240 pages.

    TO READERS who followed America’s culture-war shoot-outs of the 1980s and ’90s, Didier Eribon will forever be linked to Michel Foucault and Claude Lévi-Strauss. In his biography of the former and book-length interview with the latter, Eribon brought a journalist’s clarity to works that were models of intelligence leavened with implicit critical admiration. In the decades since, he made the transition from journalist to academic, but he never ceased to act as a dynamic mediator of worlds. In a country

  • Eric Banks on Lawrence Alloway’s “Network: The Art World Described as a System”

    IN SEPTEMBER 1972, in what would become a decennial ritual, Artforum published an issue marking a significant birthday for the magazine, in this case its tenth anniversary. The cover selected for the issue was a simple black-and-white photo taken in the Artforum office of a vacant desk. Behind the desk, a grid comprising ten years’ worth of the magazine’s covers hung on the wall. The desk, one surmises, belonged to founding editor Philip Leider, who had just stepped down. Whether intended or not, the empty desk signified that the editorial direction of Artforum, mapped out visually in the grid

  • “September 11”

    In 2003, the late New York Times critic Herbert Muschamp received a FedEx package from Ellsworth Kelly containing a belated proposal for Ground Zero: a green trapezoid collaged on an aerial shot of the site.

    In 2003, the late New York Times critic Herbert Muschamp received a FedEx package from Ellsworth Kelly containing a belated proposal for Ground Zero: a green trapezoid collaged on an aerial shot of the site. “Like Piet Mondrian in the 1940s,” Muschamp wrote, Kelly had “transformed Manhattan into the musical state of mind we intuitively know it to be.” But the emotional pitch of that music, he noted, was perhaps “too high for the city to bear.” Ten years removed from the horror of the attacks, “September 11” presumes an audience prepared to look on almost forty artists’

  • THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR

    13 SCHOLARS, CRITICS, WRITERS, AND ARTISTS CHOOSE THE YEAR’S OUTSTANDING TITLES.

    BRIGID DOHERTY

    I turned to Psyche: Inventions of the Other, Volume I (edited by Peggy Kamuf and Elizabeth Rottenberg; Stanford University Press) in connection with my attempts to look differently at what is made of thinking (and writing) in the art of Hanne Darboven, whose work has often been regarded (to my mind erroneously, or mostly erroneously) as an instance of “Conceptual art.” Psyche—which comprises translations of the first sixteen essays from a volume of Jacques Derrida’s writing that originally appeared

  • General Idea

    This show, which incorporates a touring exhibition of General Idea editions, focuses on the group’s media work, from FILE Megazine to AIDS wallpaper, and reunites pieces from the late “Mondo Cane” and “Placebo” series of sculptures.

    The three artists who made up General Idea—Felix Partz, Jorge Zontal, and AA Bronson—collaborated for twenty-five years after coming together in 1969 in Toronto. With Partz’s and Zontal’s deaths from AIDS in 1994, GI ceased to exist, but the past half decade has seen a surge of interest in the group’s early queer promotion of media art—an unholy pairing of Pop and mail art imbued with dark visions of s/m and fascism. This show, which incorporates a touring exhibition of GI editions, focuses on the group’s media work, from FILE Megazine to AIDS wallpaper, and reunites pieces

  • William Wegman

    Through more than 260 photographs, drawings, paintings, collages, books, and videos from 1968 to today, this show, organized by the Addison Gallery, may s how which critical take fits Wegman's oeuvre.

    Since 1970, William Wegman has marketed himself and his kennel of canine celebrities so well (and so far outside the precincts of contemporary art) that it's hard to formulate a critical take. But here are three attempts: (1) Wegman is a canny critical artist, the most literal (mis)reader of Smithson's site/non-site dialectic yet; (2) he's learned Warhol's “business art” model all too well; (3) he'd be nowhere without the adorable pooches, the most famous in America since Benji. Through more than 260 photographs, drawings, paintings, collages, books, and videos from

  • Zero

    This exhibition promises something more than the usual retread of Heinz Mack, Otto Piene, and Günther Uecker. Instead, “Zero” looks at their influences (with some three hundred works by nearly fifty artists, from members of Gutaï to Pol Bury, Hans Haacke, Daniel Spoerri, and, of course, Yves Klein) and organizes the works largely according to theme (light, vibration, etc.).

    Time again to revisit Group Zero? The concerns of this midcentury minimovement, which caught the current of early ’60s European investigations into “environments” and kineticism, seem to come under scrutiny every few years, but this exhibition promises something more than the usual retread of Heinz Mack, Otto Piene, and Günther Uecker. Instead, “Zero” looks at their influences (with some three hundred works by nearly fifty artists, from members of Gutaï to Pol Bury, Hans Haacke, Daniel Spoerri, and, of course,

  • the best books of the year

    Twelve scholars, critics, and artists choose the year's outstanding titles.

    YVE-ALAIN BOIS

    A book like Alastair Wright’s Matisse and the Subject of Modernism (Princeton University Press) is enough to rekindle my faith in the future of art history as a discipline. (Here I could also mention two other such rare pearls from 2005: Maria Gough’s The Artist as Producer: Russian Constructivism in Revolution [University of California Press] and Christina Kiaer’s Imagine No Possessions: The Socialist Objects of Russian Constructivism [MIT Press]). The first amazing trait of Wright’s book is that it manages

  • Albert Oehlen

    I Know What You Did Last Summer helped launch the careers of Jennifer Love Hewitt and Freddie Prinze Jr. “I Know Whom You Showed Last Summer” (the title of Oehlen’s exhibition) won’t launch anyone’s career, but it may lead Miami gallerygoers to take a closer look at two artists, Albert Oehlen and Malcolm Morley—or at least that’s Clearwater’s plan. Oehlen’s thirty-work survey, spanning 1983 to the present, strategically precedes Morley’s big MoCA show in December. The younger German painter is known for collaborating with more folks than a Vichy bureaucrat (having

  • “Masters of American Comics”

    Also on view at the UCLA Hammer Museum

    Funny as a crutch, as Ralph Malph used to say: Most discussions of comics are drier than a Methodist wake. And with fans’ obsessive knowledge of particular faves often exaggerating their subject’s relative cultural importance, essays on the medium frequently adopt a tone that is, ironically, world-serious. This show hopes to circumvent this somber solipsism by tracing comics’ development over the century, with drawings and vintage newspaper strips by fifteen “masters” exhibited alongside comic books themselves. The

  • Art Metropole

    CANADA, IT USED TO BE SAID, is a place with more geography than history. But that old joke about a place where nothing happens desperately needs retiring. Vancouver has been a major international city since World War II, a multicultural hub of Pacific Rim business that swelled with wealth and power following the influx of rich Hong Kong Chinese in the mid-’90s. Toronto, too, is a bustling, big-shoulders town, with new steel-and-glass developments muscling upward on practically every downtown corner. If the cities as a pair epitomize two sides of a vibrant northern economy, they also fall back

  • Eric Banks on Frank Sinatra’s paintings

    [Adolph Gottlieb] is Byron to Greenberg’s George Eliot—the most vulgar-minded genius that ever produced a great effect in oils. A Mantovani or a Lawrence Welk. Charlie Parker playing insolent variations on the theme of “I’d Like to Get You on a Slow Boat to China”—feeling for a way to retrieve, and make properly unbearable, the pop song’s contempt for the masses it aims to please.

    —T.J. Clark, “In Defense of Abstract Expressionism” (1994)

    HAS THERE EVER BEEN a less classy adjective than “classy”? The word squirms in its anachronistic embarrassment: Dames are classy, joints are classy, wheels are

  • Franz Kline

    Viewers will have the chance to pose questions of the whole of Kline’s oeuvre with this seventy-work survey, which marks the twentieth anniversary of the Castello di Rivoli.

    The relation between Franz Kline’s early portraits and landscapes—images of the coal-mining region of Pennsylvania where he grew up—and the far-better-known abstract canvases has always been a bit obscure. Beyond their basis in drawing—indeed, many of Kline’s most celebrated paintings were first sketched out in ink on telephone-book pages—is there a connection between these two phases in his life as an artist? Viewers will have the chance to pose the question of the whole of Kline’s oeuvre with this seventy-work survey, which marks the twentieth anniversary of the Castello di Rivoli. In addition

  • Group Zero

    Just as a generation of artists in the States revolted against the expressionist ethos of action painting, in Europe art informel and tachisme engendered a host of countermovements in the late ’50s. Such painterly purpose at least was the explicit target of Düsseldorf-based Group Zero.

    Just as a generation of artists in the States revolted against the expressionist ethos of action painting, in Europe art informel and tachisme engendered a host of countermovements in the late ’50s. Such painterly purpose at least was the explicit target of Group Zero, the Düsseldorf-based association of artists whose core membership included Otto Piene, Heinz Mack, and Günther Uecker. Founded in 1957, the group would, over the next decade, produce manifestos, the magazine Zero, and, of course, a steady stream of experiments in technologically

  • Albert Oehlen

    Only the most dedicated gallerygoers may have been able to follow the twists and turns of Albert Oehlen's oeuvre.

    Only the most dedicated gallerygoers may have been able to follow the twists and turns of Albert Oehlen’s oeuvre. With a tilt against a “signature style” that's virtually a signature in itself, the Cologne artist began his career with épater canvases of historically freighted interiors; now he’s perhaps as well known for his computer-generated paintings as for his collaborations with Kippenberger in the ’80s. Fittingly subtitled “Oeuvres” to signal the multiplicity of Oehlen’s production, this exhibition finally allows for a complete overview of the artist’s work, with some

  • Alison and Peter Smithson

    The mighty Brutalist shadow cast by Alison and Peter Smithson’s best-known public works (the Economist Building, the Robin Hood Gardens) has obscured the complexity of their four-decade practice. That’s the contention of this exhibition, which bookends the British architects’ career by focusing on two domestic projects—the House of the Future, a model produced for the “Daily Mail Ideal Home Exhibition” in 1956, and the lesser-known Hexenhaus, an idiosyncratic piece-by-piece redesign of a Hessian cottage begun in 1986. Through films and scale models, curators James Peto, Max Risselada, and Dirk

  • Medardo Rosso

    True to his surname, Medardo Rosso was a fiery spirit who escaped ottocento realism to become one of the progenitors of modern sculpture.

    True to his surname, Medardo Rosso was a fiery spirit who escaped ottocento realism to become one of the progenitors of modern sculpture. Curated by Dieter Schwarz of the Kunstmuseum Winterthur, this show of some forty sculptures and twenty-five drawings surveys the artist’s brief career, from the detailed genre subjects of the early 1880s to the figures melting into environments from the following decade. Rosso urged viewers to “forget the material,” but he obviously loved it himself, embracing plaster and wax rather than treating them as mere stages in bronze casting. (A concurrent show

  • Albert Oehlen

    ERIC BANKS: One of the things that strikes me about the way you came to artmaking is how incredibly collaborative your work was in the early ’80s.

    ALBERT OEHLEN: That whole attitude came from feeling very independent, because we were opposed to the image we had of painting at the time. A big advantage for us—me, Martin [Kippenberger], my brother Markus, [Werner] Büttner, and so on—was that we didn’t know the Italian Transavanguardia artists and so forth from the beginning. They were a couple of years older than us. We heard of them when they became famous enough, as well as Schnabel and other

  • Artforum, February 1973

    Lawrence Alloway’s consideration of the work of Sam Francis ran in Artforum thirty years ago. Senior editor Eric Banks reassesses the career of the once-influential postwar critic.

    THIRTY YEARS AGO THIS MONTH, Artforum published a five-page feature on the career of Sam Francis on the occasion of the artist’s retrospective at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, in Buffalo. Marked by the rather harsh judgment of its author (“Francis is a far less subtle painter in the ’60s than he was in the ’50s and similar declines can be proposed . . . in the cases of Noland, Stamos, Stella, and [Raymond] Parker”),