Hal Foster

  • 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

  • Hal Foster

    “The bourgeois . . . Not so long ago, this notion seemed indispensable to social analysis; these days, one might go years without hearing it mentioned. Capitalism is more powerful than ever, but its human embodiment seems to have vanished.” So begins The Bourgeois: Between History and Literature (Verso) by Franco Moretti, who, with the aid of Marxist predecessors such as Georg Lukács and Fredric Jameson, goes in search of this apparently missing person. A witty comparativist, Moretti tracks this paradoxical figure from the desert island of Defoe to the equally lonely dollhouse of Ibsen; along

  • Hal Foster

    WITH SOME SHOWS, I leave knowing less than I did before entering them. “Claes Oldenburg: The Sixties” was not one of those. Beautifully installed at MUMOK by curator Achim Hochdörfer in close collaboration with the artist, this exhibition allowed us to see the early mature work of the great Oldenburg anew, in large part because, even as it traced his singular development of motifs (such as the “ray gun”), it also displayed his interconnected use of mediums—by way of hundreds of objects, drawings, watercolors, posters, and documentary films and photographs (many of which were related to his

  • TRADING SPACES: A ROUNDTABLE ON ART AND ARCHITECTURE

    Trading Spaces a roundtable on art and architecture Art and architecture meet more often and more profoundly today than ever before—from public art to the art-fair tent, from the pavilion to the installation. But if the interchange between these fields offers a host of new possibilities for structure, space, and experience, it also makes reflection on their status more urgent. To chart this complex constellation of interactions, Artforum invited critics HAL FOSTER and SYLVIA LAVIN; artists THOMAS DEMAND, HILARY LLOYD, and DORIT MARGREITER; architects STEVEN HOLL and PHILIPPE RAHM; and curator HANS ULRICH OBRIST—a group whose pioneering work marks the front lines of art-architecture exchange—to engage in a conversation moderated by Artforum senior editor Julian Rose.

    JULIAN ROSE: While many agree that there is an unprecedented level of interchange between art and architecture today, there is surprisingly little consensus about what, specifically, these interactions entail or where they actually take place. Which models of interaction between art and architecture are most significant, and where can we begin to locate them?

    STEVEN HOLL: Architecture is an art—the premise of a division is specious.

    THOMAS DEMAND: I do think there is a clear difference between the practices, though. Every time I’ve ever worked with an architect, the collaboration was based

  • Hal Foster on criticism then and now

    HOW CAN WE ACCOUNT for the sheer intensity of the criticism published in Artforum in its first heyday, from the mid-1960s to the early ’70s? That era of the magazine saw Michael Fried prosecuting Minimalism in his brief against “objecthood” (Summer 1967), Robert Morris deconstructing sculpture in his “notes” on the subject (various issues, 1966–69), and Rosalind E. Krauss parsing the “sense and sensibility” of post-Minimalist practice (November 1973), to name only a few salient examples. This writing was so incisive about the art of its moment; sometimes, though, it is fair to say, it overreached

  • “September 11”

    THE GAMBIT OF THIS EXHIBITION about 9/11, which includes sixty-nine works by forty-two artists, is deceptively simple: to eschew any images of the attacks and any made in response to them. (As if to prove the rule, there is one exception, a 2003 proposal by Ellsworth Kelly to reconfigure Ground Zero as a giant trapezoidal park of bright green grass.) Instead, MoMA PS1 curator Peter Eleey writes in his brochure, “this exhibition considers the ways in which 9/11 has altered how we see and experience the world in its wake.” This is a strong thesis—one that asks to be taken seriously. As for

  • JUST WHAT WAS IT . . . ?: THE ART OF RICHARD HAMILTON

    RICHARD HAMILTON, who died on September 13 at the age of eighty-nine, did more than anyone else to announce the idea of Pop art, with his famous collage Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?, 1956, a tiny image of a modern interior cluttered with consumer products, media, and people. Originally made for the Whitechapel Gallery show “This Is Tomorrow” (where it served as an illustration in the catalogue), it became, over time, the first emblem of Pop. Equally important was the list of Pop attributes that Hamilton included in a 1957 letter to the architects Peter

  • Hal Foster

    YOU ENTERED KW THROUGH A COURTYARD, then walked down a narrow corridor to a viewing platform. Below you, in a basement gallery, was a large pyramid of blue boxes perfectly stacked—if, that is, you happened to be the first one to the opening. By the time I got there, the pyramid was still intact but its contents had been ransacked, for the boxes held seventy-two thousand bottles of beer free for the taking and giving, drinking and disposing. By the end of the show, the ziggurat was a ruin, a mound of soggy cardboard with a perimeter of broken glass, like a funeral pyre in a Berlin club after

  • CLOSE-UP: A RROSE IN BERLIN

    FOR SEVENTY-TWO HOURS at the end of January, the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin displayed Belle Haleine, said to be the only original “assisted readymade” by Duchamp that survives. To produce this piece, the artist appropriated a greenish flacon of Rigaud perfume and substituted an elegant label, with a Man Ray photo of the demure Rrose Sélavy (Duchamp’s infamous alter ego) above the complete title, Belle Haleine, Eau de Voilette, the brand name RS (with the R reversed), and a double place of origin, New York and Paris. The Rigaud box, signed by Rrose and dated 1921 on the back, framed the bottle

  • PRESERVATION SOCIETY: TWO VIEWS ON “CHAOS AND CLASSICISM”

    On the occasion of the major survey “Chaos and Classicism: Art in France, Italy, and Germany, 1918–1936,” organized by Kenneth E. Silver and on view at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York through January 9, Artforum asked art historian and critic Hal Foster and contributing editor Robert Pincus-Witten to reflect on the renewed fascination with—and recent relevance of—the oneiric yet chilling “return to order” in European art between the wars.

    HAL FOSTER

    SEVERAL CURRENTS run through “Chaos and Classicism,” an unusual show about representational art in France, Italy, and Germany entre les guerres. Curated by Kenneth E. Silver, the New York University professor who has written the best book on the French part of the story, Esprit de Corps: The Art of the Parisian Avant-Garde and the First World War, 1914–1925 (1989), “Chaos and Classicism” presents us with a return to the classical nude and so to figurative painting and sculpture; a revival of ancient themes that extends to film, fashion, and the decorative arts; an attempt to reconcile

  • Hal Foster

    FOR A LONG TIME I carried around a caricature of Theo van Doesburg, the leader of De Stijl. I saw him as an animator along the lines of Marinetti or Tzara, more skilled at publicity than at practice, and at best an effective foil for more gifted collaborators such as Mondrian, J. J. P. Oud, El Lissitzky, Schwitters, and Hans Arp and Sophie Taeuber-Arp. I thought his abstraction was mostly vapid, too often a didactic reduction of cow or card players to colored rectangles—the kind of thing that can give the whole enterprise a bad name. And his aesthetic moves appeared helter-skelter—at times