Hal Foster

  • General Idea

    Will 1984 be the year of Orwell’s Big Brother or of the Miss General Idea Pageant—or are they somehow in cahoots? General Idea is a group of three Canadian artists—AA Bronson, Felix Partz, and Jorge Zontal. General Idea, we are told, is for them the artist; Miss General Idea is their art and muse; a “Pavilion” (reconstructed from show to show) is their museum; a magazine they publish, called FILE, is their mass media; and the Pageant, which can mediate nearly any information, is their format. There have been several such projects; the Pageant itself is scheduled for 1984. So much for the artist

  • Bryan Hunt

    Bryan Hunt’s sculpture wavers between the natural, the architectural, and the figural. It may simultaneously evoke a waterfall arrested in bronze and a body stripped of flesh. “Fresh” and “rotten” mix as if they were forms. The work is about such paradoxes. The oppositions are the expected ones—volume and void. stasis and motion—but the real interest is the play of natural and cultural. In the drawings especially, these forms inflect this opposition: the waterfall (nature), the arch (architecture), and the quarry (a place “between” nature and culture, where natural material is extracted for

  • About Looking and Seeing Berger: A Revaluation

    “WHY LOOK AT ANIMALS?” John Berger asks in the first of 23 brief essays. They disappoint so, our pretty pets and zoo inmates, they look so dead, so indifferent. What do we see there? Berger answers simply: we see “marginality,” and theirs reflects our own. Mere tokens, neither natural nor social, animals exist, properly, nowhere—a fate, Berger implies, that may be ours, too. As we isolate, so are we isolated, and that is what the dumb stares of both zoo visitors and zoo animals bespeak, isolation—an “historic loss” due to the “culture of capitalism.” In 19th- and 20th-century Western Europe and

  • Robert Grosvenor

    Modern art proceeds by breaks: its history is a series of new premises rather than a long line of conclusions. Certainly earthworks signaled a new sculptural practice: so too did minimalist work by Donald Judd, Carl Andre and Robert Grosvenor. In a self-critical period (the ’60s, say) new premises develop and pass quickly; in a tolerant one (the ’70s) they rarely even come into focus. So it is unusual when an artist like Grosvenor is able to do important contemporary work based on an “old” mode.

    The piece under review is neither a Judd-type of “specific object” nor a Robert Morris “gestalt.” An

  • Susan Rothenberg

    New Image painting—is it subversive, reaching a “new dialectical high” that renders the representational and the abstract “indeterminate” and turns historical styles into “seductive signs” (Donald Kuspit)? Or is it regressive, willfully naive (as is so much other art today), painting whose “indeterminacy” is Pop-ish irony, whose new images are old ready-mades? This is one question (that is, if you want to look beyond the fashion of a new style), and Susan Rothenberg is one painter to ask. And yet with her such a question misses the point; her concerns, even with the horse paintings, cut under

  • Leon Krier

    “The Reconstruction of the European City, 1967–1980” is a project of drawings and manifestos by Leon Krier; it is also an extraordinary critique of modern architecture, indeed of modern capitalism. The drawings show the European city (specifically Paris, West Berlin and Luxembourg) in detail and in total, in neo-Beaux Arts cityscapes and town plans. The “reconstruction” of each city is according to street, square and quartier (the prototype does seem to be pre-Hausmann Paris). More importantly, it calls for seeing the classical architectural mode as the only standard. Such, in brief, is the

  • Charles Fahlen

    As seen in models, plans and photographs, the work of Charles Fahlen relates equally to site-specific sculpture of the present and commemorative sculpture of the past. Three of the five proposals here seem to be for public works in the conventional sense. These proposals—one for a J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial in Los Alamos, one entitled Major for the American Postal Workers House in Philadelphia, and one called General Grant for Chester Springs, Pennsylvania—all honor public figures or services in public places, and all allude to their subjects with their forms. For example, the cubistically

  • “Sequences”

    “Sequences” is not a program like Krier’s “reconstruction”; it is an investigation of method. In the projects of five young architects we see how the sequence is used to (re)present and reflect on architectural activity. Bernard Tschumi, who curated the show, adds a Barthes-like essay on the concept of the sequence, which, he says, is basic to architecture “insofar as it allies notions of route as well as ritual, movement as well as method, program as well as narrative.” Many of the thoughts that follow are his.

    A sequence may be based on transformation—on a set of ordered and reordered elements.

  • Lewis Baltz

    Park City, Utah, was once a mining town and is now the site of a ski-resort development. It is a thoroughly used place. In 1978 and ’79 Lewis Baltz was there to record its development, and “Park City,” a portfolio of 102 photographs, is his record. As seen in these photos (which are free of any rhetorical protest), Park City’s physical dislocation is a psychological one as well.

    We first see Park City from above, but it appears as a panorama without prospect—as part landscape and part site. Our very introduction dislocates us. In the next photos we are down at the level of the site, but on its

  • Patricia Johanson

    If Lewis Baltz’s theme is Landscape Lost, Patricia Johanson’s is Landscape Regained. In drawings and models she renders natural forms (a leaf, a flower, a fern) as landscapes. “The leaf becomes the earth in microcosm,” she writes, and its design becomes that of the landscape, a topography. The result is not merely a leaf or a fern writ large: the grand scale turns the leaf into a site. Not only does the leaf (stem, veins, edge, etc.) become a thing like a cliff or terrace, island or bridge, but the whole should also evoke old ruins, Japanese gardens, burial mounds. One should not see the design;

  • Michael Loew

    To review Michael Loew’s paintings is to review, in précis, a tradition of modern painting, one that is based in Cubism and refined in neoplasticism. There are passages in the work, but the grid does not allow for revolutions. This latter observation is a criticism only if one assumes that development necessarily means refinement.

    At first a figure painter, Loew soon came under the influence of Mondrian. Even today he works from life—abstracts from figurative images to self-referential forms. Such a passage can be seen not only within the stages of each painting (as it proceeds from sketch to

  • Ezra Stoller

    Ezra Stoller is the dean of modern architecture photography. The 85 photographs in this exhibit, taken over the last 40 years, show many of the American buildings in the modern canon. We know them well—or so we think. Actually, many of us know only the photographs. So now it is important to see how they work—as photographs, yes, but as documents, too.

    They are styled: it is as if Stoller poses the buildings as he presents them. They are made photogenic—volumes are highlighted, textures are touched up—almost photographic, as if they had been redesigned in the photographs. Somehow Stoller is able

  • Richard Fleischner

    Richard Fleischner also works with basic forms—in whole suites of drawings. But his interest is less in image than in structure, less in the primal than in the primary. Though they do resemble houses, cages, corrals and the like, the forms in Fleischner’s drawings are not laden with associations. And yet it is significant that images of this sort are among the first that we draw as children, for these drawings investigate our first intuitions of representations.

    The investigation is fundamental—how do lines define planes that in turn form volumes that construct space? Extended form, marked space,

  • Alain Kirili

    Eight square iron poles by Alain Kirili stand in the gallery. They are not ordered as a group nor do they conform to any one scale. Two tower above us; the rest stand below. The two tall ones, bare but for a notch near the top, are like markers with nothing to mark. Set on bases—residual pedestals—they are indirectly related to public sculpture, sculpture that commemorates a historically-important person or place. And yet the poles refer to nothing—they seem as pure and homeless as any modern sculpture.

    If the tall poles are markers without sites, the short ones are figures without human form.

  • Pastiche/Prototype/Purity: “Houses for Sale”

    “HOUSES FOR SALE,” A SHOW put on by the Castelli Gallery in New York and the Corcoran Gallery in Los Angeles, proposed “a reversal of the process” by which a house is usually commissioned: the architect became a Prometheus unbound from the rock of a set site and freed of the vulture client. And yet his freedom was somewhat nominal: his design had to be practical, buildable. Many of the architects assumed further constraints—nearly all based the house on the family, and most presumed a high style for the client. The houses are indeed for sale.

    To discuss the presence of architectural forms in the

  • Daniel Buren

    The elevator opens on a corridor a bit more than body-width, with walls of blue-and-white striped fabric. One enters and walks 90 meters to a door marked Exit.

    Exit: a work in situ by Daniel Buren: the title is a contradiction that suspends one. Is it a place or a non-place? A work of art? But where? If “Exit” here is a noun, is absence made a thing, a presence?

    One walks into Exit . . . a paradox that can’t be helped, and is not merely semantic. Or, rather, it precisely is semantic—the work questions the semantics of cultural space. One walks in and is framed—one “narrates” the work, as in a film

  • Richard Diebenkorn

    Here are more paintings in Richard Diebenkorn’s “Ocean Park” suite named after the area in Santa Monica where he works. Suite? Well, more like saga—he is up to number 125, which is quite a production over 13 years.

    As usual, the washy ochres, clays and blues recall landscape, even when there is no evidence for it. The materiality of the paint contradicts any such pictorialism; the planes are not ordered as “grounds” nor do the colors recede as “spaces.” One does not look out from or even into these paintings; one looks, if anywhere, down. The paintings are flat twice over. So the paintings are

  • Al Held

    Like Diebenkorn’s, Al Held’s paintings seem “abstract”: he too refers them back to the world or to representational art. The mediation is announced in the titles: there are four “Florentines,” three “Venetians,” Bruges I, and Padua I. However, the paintings do not specifically refer to the cities. Though each Florentine is lime and red on mauve, and each Venetian is lime on pink, there is no real reference to the two traditions called “Florentine” or “Venetian.” For that matter, Bruges I has color as “mediterranean” as the others. Only in Padua I is there a piazzalike form that may refer to the

  • John Willenbecher

    In a hushed light hang six “paintings” by JOHN WILLENBECHER, each made up of three panels. In each. a thick rope hangs from two pegs, suspending spheres, cones, and, in one work, tetrahedrons. Both the panels and the volumes are speckled in a way that is ethereal. Kitschy.

    Rope? Let’s see. Willenbecher has used drapery before—maybe he is concerned with things hung. suspended crucified? In the poster for the show, a reproduction of Saint Serapion by Zurbaran, the saint is shown martyred (he preached the Word to the Moslems), hung by the wrists from rope. arms raised in a Christ-like gesture. which

  • Mario Merz

    MARIO MERZ presents in this show more “objects passed through by neon” but the objects now are canvas and burlap tacked on the wall with pictorial images (mostly of reptiles: a crocodile, a lizard) painted in metallic paint and charcoal. Immediately one is struck by the juxtapositions of fragile and raw materials, and of their connotations. Cool and hot at once, neon is the sign of packaged desire, whereas burlap and charcoal are rough and rejected stuffs. Though as cultural symbols, neon and burlap contrast sharply, neither is a “fine art” material.

    Germano Celant describes Merz as a “nomad,”