Hal Foster

  • OBJECT LESSONS

    SEVERAL DECADES ON, the art of Donald Judd is still stunning. In the exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art that opened March 1, smartly curated by Ann Temkin, Yasmil Raymond, Tamar Margalit, and Erica Cooke, all the work looks fresh (kudos to the conservators), but the early paintings and objects are especially vivid. The intensity of the cadmium red, often made tactile by roughened surfaces of board and wood. The physicality of the specific shapes, such as a yellow oval affixed to the support or a tin pan embedded there. The first tentative move into actual space with a painting whose aluminum

  • SMART OBJECTS

    IMAGINE THAT ANDY WARHOL and Eva Hesse had a secret tryst in 1966 and Rachel Harrison was the love child that resulted. With its canny use of both Pop signs and funky materials, her rambunctious sculpture points to such an unlikely lineage. Smartly curated by Elisabeth Sussman and David Joselit, “Rachel Harrison Life Hack,” the midcareer survey of her work at the Whitney Museum of American Art, is roughly chronological: It guides us easily from an installation improvised out of cheap paneling, casual photographs, and canned peas in the mid-1990s to a large circle of totemic sculptures gathered

  • Hal Foster

    FOR PAUL CHAN, “art is a lawless proposition.” “The telos of artistic form,” he argues, is a “spirit of irreconcilability.”1 As Chan well knows, this principle runs counter to traditional ideas of art as the mastering of composition and composure. He wants this irreconcilability because it keeps artistic form open and dynamic, and because this making and unmaking of the object might inspire a similar movement in the subject. Or so Chan believes: A lawless proposition is also a hopeful one.

    Chan placed open and dynamic forms throughout Greene Naftali in March, a month when the Trump catastrophe

  • REAL FICTIONS: ALTERNATIVES TO ALTERNATIVE FACTS

    1. DESPITE RUMORS OF ITS DISAPPEARANCE, the real remains with us. The labor of its production is “obstinate,” Alexander Kluge and Oskar Negt argue; it persists in the overlooked furniture of our everyday lives. The real is as intractable as history, Fredric Jameson adds; neither can be transcended. If these formulations seem right, then the question of the real is not a matter of its presence but of its position—where it is located, how, by whom, and for what reasons. One way to come to terms with some criticism, art, and literature is through these framings.1

    2. We say that modern critique

  • Hal Foster

    THERE IS SO MUCH about the political culture of this country that, as a pointy-headed intellectual, I don’t get. During this election year, then, the two best shows for me—best as in most instructive—were Jim Shaw’s “The End Is Here” at the New Museum and Tony Oursler’s “The Imponderable Archive” at Bard College. (Imponderable is the title of a related book and film; the latter is screening at the Museum of Modern Art in New York through April 16, 2017.) Each exhibition was a wild ride through the fringe worlds of weird belief, occult practice, and conspiracy theory—fringe worlds

  • Hal Foster

    “PICASSO SCULPTURE” is both amazing and appalling. With 141 objects in eleven galleries, the presentation is lucid, stately, almost grand, and the work is inventive in the extreme. Yet there are times when all this creativity betrays a manic energy—I can’t help myself!—as well as an aggressive defiance: I can trump anyone! What else, you say, is new about Picasso?

    The master made circa seven hundred objects, which is a lot, but not when compared with roughly forty-five hundred paintings. As the curators Ann Temkin and Anne Umland demonstrate, his engagement with sculpture was episodic:

  • THE REAL THING: “NEW OBJECTIVITY: MODERN GERMAN ART IN THE WEIMAR REPUBLIC 1919–1933”

    FOR A LONG TIME, Neue Sachlichkeit, the dominant tendency in German art of the 1920s, was seen as a return to order in general and as a reaction against Expressionism and Dada in particular, despite the fact that some neusachlich artists—Max Beckmann, for example—were involved in Expressionism and others, such as George Grosz, Otto Dix, and Christian Schad, were central to Dada. Neue Sachlichkeit was framed in this way by its earliest proponents, Gustav Friedrich Hartlaub, who staged the first show on the subject, “Neue Sachlichkeit: Deutsche Malerei seit dem Expressionismus” (New

  • Summer Reading

    HAL FOSTER

    Whither photo history and theory? A growth field in universities and museums a generation ago, it seems endangered today. For young people, photography is so last-century; for the rest of us, it is both everywhere and nowhere in a way that is very difficult to grasp. On the one hand, the great modernist accounts, such as the technophilic utopia of Benjamin and the traumatophilic pathos of Barthes, appear outdated; on the other hand, distinguished voices from somewhat outside the field feel empowered to tell us “why photography matters as never before.” (Answer 1: Its digital pictoriality

  • Robert Gober

    FROM THE BEGINNING, the art of Robert Gober was distinctive, as if it had emerged full-blown from his forehead; and, in fact, an early work, Slides of a Changing Painting, 1982–83, a slide show of eighty-nine photographs of a single painting altered again and again, has served as a source for many pieces ever since. (The template of this painting, the torso, is a leitmotif of his work as a whole.) Right away, Gober announced metamorphosis as a central concern—metamorphosis not only from image to image but also from medium to medium, above all from the pictorial to the sculptural and the

  • Hal Foster

    AT A MOMENT when almost everything is collage and montage—with cut-and-paste the most basic operation on computers and image appropriation and object juxtaposition the most common procedures in art—it is a pleasure to reencounter the modernist origins of these devices. This is to be reminded of the subversive force they once had, especially in expert hands such as those of Hannah Höch (1889–1978), who wielded a kitchen knife with an acuity, at once aesthetic and political, like that of no other artist of her time (save perhaps John Heartfield) or since (except maybe Barbara Kruger).

  • SERRA IN THE DESERT

    EAST-WEST/WEST-EAST is a new sculpture by Richard Serra commissioned by Sheikha al-Mayassa al-Thani of Qatar; it is located in the Brouq Nature Reserve in the western portion of this tiny state in the Gulf enriched by its holdings of gas and oil. To arrive at the desert site, you drive west from Doha for forty miles (almost the width of the country), passing one construction site after another on a vast freeway, and then, suddenly, the landscape becomes almost lunar in its vacancy. Exiting via Camel Underpass No. 7, you travel seven or eight more miles on a makeshift road until the sculpture

  • Isa Genzken

    THE ISA GENZKEN RETROSPECTIVE currently at the Museum of Modern Art in New York reveals both the range and the ambition of this influential artist, and the Modern has given her the large galleries that she deserves; this is all the more important in the United States, where her work is still not well known.* In this light, responses to the exhibition have proved more problematic than usual: Though often positive in tone, many reviewers have positioned Genzken in relation to the men in her life, both older (Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, her onetime partner, and Gerhard Richter, her former husband) and