Hal Foster

  • 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

  • Hal Foster

    NO CONCEPT COMPREHENDS THE ART OF THE PAST DECADE, but there is a condition that this art has shared, and it is a precarious one. Almost any litany of the machinations of the last ten years will evoke this state of uncertainty: a stolen presidential election; the attacks of 9/11 and the war on terror; the deception of the Iraq war and the debacle of the occupation; Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo Bay, and rendition to torture camps; another problematic presidential election; Katrina; the scapegoating of immigrants; the health-care crisis; the ecological disaster; the financial house of cards . . . For

  • Dan Graham

    OF ACTIVE ARTISTS over the age of sixty in the United States, Dan Graham may be the most admired figure among younger practitioners. Though never as famous as his peers Robert Smithson, Richard Serra, and Bruce Nauman, Graham has now gained, as artist-critic John Miller puts it, a “retrospective public.” Why might this be so? “Dan Graham: Beyond,” the excellent survey curated by Bennett Simpson of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (the show’s inaugural venue), and Chrissie Iles of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, offers ample reasons.

    If Minimalism was a crux in postwar

  • Peter Sloterdijk’s Terror from the Air

    PETER SLOTERDIJK IS THAT RARE THING, a public intellectual. Cohost of a program of cultural debate on German television called The Philosophical Quartet, he burst into public view in 1983 with his Critique of Cynical Reason, an ambitious study of the modern ego as steeped in cynicism, “inwardly adroit and outwardly armored,” which his American publisher touts as “the best-selling German book of philosophy since World War II,” and he has seen no fewer than twenty-seven titles into print since. Most important here is his expansive trilogy Sphären (Spheres I–III, 1998, 1999, 2004), which explores


    We rarely associate the Independent Group, much less Pop art, with political commitment, yet politics has been a persistent concern of Richard Hamilton’s work for fifty years. “Protest Pictures,” an exhibition on view at Inverleith House in Edinburgh from July 31 through October 12, gathers his key images concerning public issues—from the antinuclear movement and the Vietnam War, through the Troubles in Northern Ireland, to the current disaster in Iraq. HAL FOSTER looks ahead to this survey of polemical works by the eighty-six-year-old master.

    THE INDEPENDENT GROUP, that extraordinary crew of young artists, architects, and critics in London in the early 1950s, sought a way between the Scylla of old modernist styles and the Charybdis of new mass-cultural images. To do so, it adopted a non-Aristotelian approach to its many objects of study—science and technology, architecture and design, popular culture and advertising—an approach that was neither satirical nor celebratory, but at once analytical and playful. It was this distinctive attitude that Richard Hamilton, a crucial member of the IG, carried forward when, following

  • “Forms of Resistance”

    “FORMS OF RESISTANCE: Artists and the Desire for Social Change from 1871 to the Present” is not an exhibition one is likely to see in a major venue in the United States, given how politically restrained and financially driven our big museums are today. Organized by Will Bradley, Phillip van den Bossche, and Charles Esche for the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven (where Esche is director), “Forms of Resistance” is as much seminar as it is show, one that explores, selectively and polemically, the relations between modernist art and leftist politics in Europe and America as punctuated—put into


    FROM A DISTANCE the new Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston looks modest. A simple box on the harbor, in scale with the other (scant) buildings there, it eschews the sculptural iconicity that many art institutions have lately embraced. It is only when you round the austere edge of the building and see how its top floor cantilevers boldly over the boardwalk that you are struck not only by its physical presence—from the harbor it will indeed be a landmark, especially when aglow at night—but also by its architectural intelligence, for here the diagram of the design becomes immediately clear.



    With this article on Zaha Hadid—the subject of a retrospective currently on view through October 25 at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York—Hal Foster inaugurates a series of occasional essays on contemporary architects. The careers of several prominent designers have lately matured to the point where their shape, scope, and significance may now be grasped, in part through new exhibitions and publications. More important, architecture has once again captured the imagination of the public, which has come to view it as a principal medium for the branding of institutions of many sorts. In


    Nothing is more instructive than a confusion of time frames.

    —Alexander Kluge, The Devil’s Blind Spot

    JOACHIM KOESTER WORKS along the borders between documentary and fiction. Typically he begins with an obscure story bound up with a particular place, a sited tale that is somehow broken or layered through time. Then, usually in a photo sequence or a film installation, he works to piece the story together, but never to the point of resolution: A historical irony persists, one that can be elaborated further; or an essential enigma remains, one that can be used to test the limits of what can be seen,


    Seeking to place the art of 2005 in the context of a broader visual culture, Artforum asked art historian Hal Foster, architect and theorist Denise Scott Brown, and political philosopher Slavoj Žižek to focus on topics they considered to be of unique significance to our moment.

    OVER THIS PAST YEAR I had two little epiphanies. The first came on a January night a few weeks after the opening of the new Museum of Modern Art in New York. Walking west on Fifty-fourth Street, I looked up, absently, at a cold glow of glass, steel, and stone, and at first I didn’t recognize what I saw. White with light,


    This summer RICHARD SERRA unveiled a major suite of eight sculptures at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, culminating, in effect, a body of work inaugurated with his first Torqued Ellipses nearly a decade ago. For the occasion, art historian HAL FOSTER spoke with the sculptor about his site-specific installation and the artist’s ever-evolving engagement with space.

    HAL FOSTER: “The Matter of Time,” your permanent installation of eight sculptures commissioned by the Guggenheim Bilbao, stems from the Torqued Ellipses begun in 1996. Can you talk about the evolution of that series?



    ROBERT GOBER ONCE DESCRIBED his installations as “natural history dioramas about contemporary human beings,” and, like many dioramas, they mix the real with the illusionistic in ways that both fascinate and disorient us. With his recent project at Matthew Marks Gallery, his first New York show in more than a decade, it was the aftermath of 9/11 that we revisited as if in a waking dream. At stake was the question of how to work through this present-past (Gober began the project soon after the Al Qaeda attacks and completed it soon before the last presidential election)—how to be sensitive, at

  • Hal Foster

    In the late 1960s few critics made it into middle-class living rooms in this country—maybe an Edmund Wilson, a Malcolm Cowley, a Lionel Trilling—yet Susan Sontag, hardly an august man of letters, managed to be one of them. Through a forceful combination of intellect and style, she penetrated some homes where a rebel soul might be in hiding, longing for a different relation to culture. Like other such souls born in the Eisenhower years, I encountered Sontag through her photograph on the back of Against Interpretation (1966). So this, I thought of the striking woman with a demeanor at once open


    Critic, activist, novelist, filmmaker, Susan Sontag exceeded even that elastic and amorphous category of “public intellectual” so often linked to her name. To mark Sontag’s passing last December at the age of seventy-one, Artforum asked ARTHUR C. DANTO, HAL FOSTER, ABIGAIL SOLOMON-GODEAU, and WAYNE KOESTENBAUM to reflect on her achievements and legacy, which challenge us to reconsider the role of the critic today.


    1. For years I took Donald Judd at his word: that Minimalism is absolutely opposed to pictorial illusionism and virtual space (why, I thought foolishly, not take a literalist literally?). But is this account true to the art of Judd, let alone that of his friend Dan Flavin, early or late?1 What is the fate of the celebrated opposition between “specific object” and illusionist space in the aftermath of Minimalism—and the role of Flavin in that story? Opposed to illusionism, might Minimalism also be propped up by it, bound up with it, invested in it? In my own literalism (which was deepened by the

  • the best books of the year


    Arthur C. Danto

    The title of Joseph Leo Koerner’s extraordinary study The Reformation of the Image (University of Chicago Press) refers to the way Martin Luther “reformed” religious pictures to make them consistent with the Second Commandment, thus protecting them against the wave of iconoclasm that swept Protestant churches in the early sixteenth century. Luther’s remedy consisted in treating images


    Born in 1944 to an Indian father and a German mother, Harun Farocki studied at the German Film and Television Academy in Berlin from 1966 to 1968. This places him in the ambit of the most famous figures of New German Cinema (Fassbinder, Herzog, and Wenders), but his practice is closer to the more engaged filmmaking of Jean-Marie Straub, Alexander Kluge, and Helke Sander. Politicized by the struggles around the Vietnam War in the ’60s and the Red Army Faction in the ’70s, Farocki has, like these peers, developed a critical cinema—one focused on the image as “a means of technical control”—and it

  • Image Building

    Pop is readily associated with art, music, and fashion, less so with architecture; yet it was bound up with architectural debates from first to last. The very idea of Pop was floated in the early 1950s by the Independent Group (IG) in London, a motley collection of young artists and art critics, including Richard Hamilton and Lawrence Alloway, who were guided by young architects and architectural historians, above all Alison and Peter Smithson and Reyner Banham. As elaborated by American artists a decade later, the Pop idea was again brought into architectural discussions, especially by Robert

  • The Predicament of Culture

    The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth-Century Ethnography, Literature, and Art, by James Clifford, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988.

    THIS IMPORTANT BOOK is about a crisis in authority—the authority that underwrites modern Western representations of other cultures. The cover photograph provides the first clue to what this predicament entails. Hardly the usual ethnographic image of an old ritual or exotic dance saved for science or presented as spectacle, it shows a black man in khaki pants and smock shirt with a pencil and open notebook in his hands, his head swaddled in fabric and topped

  • Vito Acconci

    We tend to think of the house as a private space somehow apart from society, whereas, in fact, it is the social form par excellence. Vito Acconci’s Collision House and Peeling House are also social houses, but of a special sort—they are shelters that expose us to our own social forms, devices that turn our actions into signs.

    Collision House consists of several parts: a hut with, inside it, a black flag that reads “NGGR FLG NO 1,” and painted sky and clouds; a shelter identified as “BMB SHLR NO 2”, and a bicycle with connecting wires and pulleys, surrounded by a vision-obscuring wedge. With the