Ewa Lajer-Burcharth

  • Through The Past, Darkly

    WE ARE IN HELL. Standing in a boat tossed by the infernal waters, our guide, the poet Dante, leans slightly on his companion, Virgil, to keep his balance. Rising from the waves, the contorted figures of damned souls accost the boat from all sides in a tight frieze of misery and despair. Though only shades of life, they appear as fleshy nudes vying for Dante’s—and our—attention. A demonic-looking man on the left lifts himself up by his arms to sink his teeth into the prow. The illuminated torso of another, splayed languidly on the waves like a floater, bounces off the vessel’s side.

  • Linda Nochlin

    THE DEATH OF LINDA NOCHLIN, a living legend of art history and a model of intellectual courage and critical thinking across disciplines, is hard to accept, especially for those of us who knew and loved her. To come to terms with her loss, I have sketched a portrait of sorts. I do not need to visualize her—the many Lindas I have known over time are still vivid in my mind, including the version in Philip Pearlstein’s early double portrait of her (posing pensively, with a tinge of late-1960s ennui) and her late husband Dick Pommer, a painting that, hanging as it does in Linda’s living room,

  • “Fragonard: The Fantasy Figures”

    RARELY DOES A MERE SHEET OF PAPER radically challenge our view of a major artist’s oeuvre. But this is exactly what happened when, in June 2012, a previously unknown page of brown-ink-and-pencil sketches by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, arguably the most brilliant of the eighteenth-century painters, appeared for sale at a public auction in Paris. The piece contained Fragonard’s own thumbnail renderings of eighteen “fantasy figures,” his exuberantly creative interpretations of this established pictorial genre.1 Produced around 1769, when Fragonard was in his late thirties, these extravagant portraits

  • THE BEST BOOKS OF 2012

    Eleven scholars, critics, writers, artists, and architects choose the year’s outstanding titles.

    ANTON KAES

    Miriam Bratu Hansen completed Cinema and Experience: Siegfried Kracauer, Walter Benjamin, and Theodor W. Adorno (University of California Press) shortly before she died last year after a long illness. A summa of her life’s work, this magisterial book is a gift—and a must—for anyone interested in critical theory’s engagement with film, media, and mass culture; there is no other study like it. The book’s ultimately discarded working title, “The Other Frankfurt School,” pointed to

  • Jacques-Louis David

    THE LATE WORK OF JACQUES-LOUIS DAVID (1748–1825) has not been showered with scholarly attention. It has proved difficult for art historians to muster interpretive enthusiasm for the vast ceremonial canvases produced during Napoleon’s reign, such as The Consecration of the Emperor Napoleon, 1805–1807. Nor has it been easy to understand the merits of the seemingly vacuous and mannered Neoclassicism of David’s paintings from Belgium, where, following the fall of the Napoleonic Empire, he was exiled from 1816 until his death. Neither the grandes machines of Napoleonic rule nor the overrehearsed

  • Pipilotti Rist

    A WHOLE NEW INTERIOR REALM, both uncanny and funny, opened up to visitors of Pipilotti Rist's latest installations at Luhring Augustine. At first, the simulated domestic layout seemed ordinary enough: Viewers entered via a kitchen, proceeded through a living room, a bar, two other rooms, and finally on to a bathroom. Yet this was no simple house, but a fantasy site of visual and psychic projection, produced from a feminine point of view that was as intriguing as it was unexpected.

    Woman in general—and Rist's own experience in particular—has always been at the core of the artist's work.