Hal Foster

  • Richards Ruben

    Diagonals are not new to Richards Ruben’s work: he has painted such bands on a grand scale for several years at least. Now, though, there is only one diagonal, and the scale of the work is much smaller. Also the diagonal is now a “cut.” As a line it is subtractive, not compositional or descriptive of any motif. In effect, it subtracts the surface from itself in order to make it the “image” of the work. It also cuts through the surface to expose the many surfaces and many colors that make it up. (The colors, often garish, often earthy, seem also to be added directly to the cut) As the surfaces

  • Lydia Dona

    Lydia Dona paints on cardboard panels that form either horizontal or vertical sequences: sequences, not series, for the panels or frames are not all the same. Size varies as does technique; and displacement, not repetition, is the crux of the work. At least that is the format of two of the four works, Local Direction and French/German Color Proportion, 1; the other two are compositional (and compromise somewhat the merits of the first two).

    Dona’s work recalls Jennifer Bartlett’s; both seem intuitive but are largely systemic. And yet Dona’s work is at once more simple and less obvious than

  • Ulrich Ruckriem

    Ulrich Ruckriem is a German sculptor who has also worked as a stonecutter at the Cologne Cathedral. Recently he showed nine works, mostly slabs and blocks of quarried bluestone, into which he cut geometric forms. In each work the fine lines of the cuts counterpoint the rough contours of the given shapes.

    Obviously Ruckriem the stonecutter is important to Ruckriem the sculptor. In effect, the pristine stone that is worked in the quarry into slabs and blocks is worked further by Ruckriem, but not toward a product that is to become an element in a conventional piece of architecture or sculpture.

  • Jennifer Bartlett

    Jennifer Bartlett is known for her painted sequences that are made up of hundreds of square plates. The squares compose a few larger squares, or frames, which in turn compose the sequence as a whole. Each frame is seen simultaneously as distinct and as connected to the whole; distinct inasmuch as one image is rendered there in one style or technique and connected inasmuch as the plates are regular and the one image is repeated. This, at least, is the format of a 1976 work called Rhapsody.

    If the title is any clue, Bartlett thinks of her composition in terms of music; and it is true that each

  • Kit Fitzgerald And Jon Sanborn

    “Resound,” a video installation by Kit Fitzgerald and Jon Sanborn, consists of 20 elements scored for eight color channels in stereo sound. Each element is made up of the sound and the image of an ordinary action or accident (e.g. a handclap, a dropped tool). None of the videotapes was constructed as a whole; and the elements, which are very brief, move randomly and rapidly from monitor to monitor. One may be repeated many times, or leap elsewhere after one or two runs. Relations that do occur seem to be coincidental.

    Here one wonders about the order of unorder. What is “pure” randomness? Does

  • A Tournament of Rose’s

    THE SHOW, CURATED BY Barbara Rose, at New York University’s Grey Gallery, is called “American Painting: the Eighties.” It is to go on to the Contemporary Art Museum in Houston and then to the American Center in Paris.

    One is taken aback: the Eighties? But there’s no mistake; such is the title and claim of the show: the 41 painters elected by Rose shall represent the major painting of the 1980s. It seems preposterous; the painters may be worthy, but to make such a claim! And this seems (partly) intended: one is thus compelled, at the very start, to seek out Rose’s rationale in her catalogue essay.

  • John Baldessari’s ‘Blasted Allegories’

    All thought, judgment, perception, as comparison has as its precondition a positing of equality, and earlier still a making equal.

    —Friedrich Nietzsche1

    Allegories are, in the realm of thought, what ruins are in the realm of things.

    —Walter Benjamin2

    JOHN BALDESSARI’S “BLASTED ALLEGORIES (Colorful Sentences)” of 1978 consist of clusters of four or more Polaroid photographs of “random T.V.” scenes (often tinted), captioned and arranged in novel kinds of syntax. Some are reminiscent of subject-verb-object declarations, others of equations or ratios similar to rhetorical figures or tropes. Still

  • Nancy Holt

    The campus of Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington, is now the site of many contemporary sculpture projects; one of the latest is Nancy Holt’s Stone Enclosure: Rock Rings, which was documented in a recent show in New York. The work is a compass and an observatory; there are two concentric walls or rings of rock 20 and 40 feet in diameter, with four arches on the north/south axis (as defined by Polaris) and 12 holes oriented to the other points of the compass (NE/SW, E/W, etc.). It is both a very real site and a very abstract system; somehow this makes it seem to be at once

  • Tony Smith

    Ten Elements is the title of a recent work by Tony Smith. It’s a fine sculpture but, as it looks like a model for a larger project, it’s hard to know how it should be discussed. The case itself is not so troublesome (it’s likely that the present version is the only version we’ll see); what is troublesome is that it leads one to consider what “sculpture” is nowadays and how hard it is to come to terms even with conventional work. No one wants a strict definition of sculpture; an operational idea or two would suffice, and a few have come up. As it is, Ten Elements could be seen as either a “

  • Alain Robbe-Grillet and Robert Rauschenberg

    Alain Robbe-Grillet, the French author and filmmaker, and Robert Rauschenberg have collaborated on an “image-text.” The collaboration was difficult, in part because of the procedure (Rauschenberg blocked out where the text would be, Robbe-Grillet wrote it in longhand on plates, and Rauschenberg set the image down on stones) and in part because of one-upsmanship (the images, all taken from French magazines, referred to the text but had a visual logic that often intruded upon it and Robbe-Grillet would complain. Page by page this went on, mostly by mail, for six years. The tension of image and

  • Bruce Boice

    In the early ’70s Bruce Boice did paintings in three panels; each panel was framed by strips of wood and/or unpainted bands on the border of the canvas and was governed by a unit of measure that seemed to be the depth of the canvas (from the wall). Robert Pincus-Witten read these paintings as equations or transformations, in which the panel framed with wood represented painting as a “picture” (because the frame concealed the stretcher ) and the unframed panel represented painting as an “object.” The panel in between mediated the two, acting as the “operation” of the equation.

    Whether the painting

  • Ron Davis

    The paintings of Ron Davis are flagrant. If you don’t like flagrancy for flagrancy’s sake, you are left with two options: cast a cold eye on them (and leave it at that) or argue them into line with the work of Stella and others (that is, the canon). The first option is not in very good faith; it is the way of prudes. The second option is in such good faith as to be bad faith; it is the way of sophists. I’m somewhere in-between: embarrassed for liking them, wondering why I do.

    Up until 1973 or so, Davis made irregularly shaped paintings with polyester resin and fiberglass. As most critics had it,

  • Gerard Marx

    Gerard Marx calls his works “photo-constructs.” Formerly, these consisted of a beam or plank set on a photo-sensitive sheet of linen or masonite; this was then exposed to produce a white image, which of course bore a one-to-one relation to the wood. To complete the work, the sheet was tacked on the wall with the wood placed next to it. The technique of the new constructs is the same, save for one important thing: the image is no longer made by contact with the wood. A piece of cardboard, related in form to the piece of wood, now lays out the image. The work is still about opposition—positive

  • Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe’s “North Group” Paintings

    Contradiction provides the dialectic that makes it possible to see.1

    THE PAINTING OF Jeremy Gilbert-Rolfe is scientific in a Brechtian sense: it is subversive, consisting of structures that question the conventionality of structuring. The conventionality is, of course, pictorial. However, since the pictorial engages the perceptual and the cognitive, the process is, ideally, endless. One may reflect on the conventional nature of all relations—reflecting in a nonpassive way—for to see the conventional is to see that what seems “natural” or “essential” is in fact historical or conditioned, in a

  • Robert Morris

    In a preface to the recent show called “Mirror Works,” Robert Morris tells of how uneasy he was when the mirror insinuated itself into his work; it seemed hard to redeem, it was so “disco-degenerate.” “Later its very suspiciousness seemed a virtue.”

    Such an inversion is common with Morris: he works in tension with received ideas of sculpture to clarify just what sculpture is. In Voice, 1974, an idea of sculpture as a static and atemporal thing was used as a foil for elements more in keeping with performance. New prospects were generated for sculpture, even as it was defined critically. “Mirror

  • Dennis Oppenheim

    It is difficult to talk about the art of Dennis Oppenheim, to order it into a concerted body of work, for it articulates itself in ways that defy language and that resist such ideas of order as “continuity” or “oeuvre” or even “artist.” What relates an otherwise diverse practice (from earthworks to puppet performances) seems to be an imperative to do two things: one is the desire to let (what Oppenheim calls) subliminal or “root impulses,” and the forces of the material(s) used, bespeak themselves somehow; the other is the necessity, as a major contemporary artist, to render work that is

  • Joseph Beuys

    So much is the man, Joseph Beuys, the image and the instrument of the art that one dwells first on a portrait of him. Photographs show a face that seems to register the mind exactly; indeed, they seem so coincident that the man seems less, not more, real, like an actor or a persona that subsumes the person. Beuys looks equally like Beckett and Buster Keaton, lined and deadpan, keen to absurdity. So extreme is the picture that it seems parodistic, and one is not sure whether it constrains or frees him (my sense is that, unlike Duchamp, it constrains him). As it is, one envisions a man (again, a

  • Robert Adams

    In 1974 Robert Adams came out with a book of photographs called The New West: Landscapes Along the Colorado Front Range, and then in 1977 a book called Denver: A Photographic Survey of the Metropolitan Area. The New West is a rubric of sorts for all the photography, for it documents just that phenomenon, a West that no longer abides with misconceptions of it, a West that is neither the Old West of frontier nor the Free West of natural life. Rather the New West is, in part, a spotty sprawl of social forms, alienated from both human life and natural context.

    In effect, the photography documents an

  • Michael Goldberg

    It is a simple grammar of form, in the work of Michael Goldberg, that allows for its complex statement, and it is the necessity of material and process that allows for its strong freedom.

    Goldberg works with bare stretched canvas on the floor—a simple method but with complex results, for, directly, the disposition of the work is problematic. We are unsure whether we look down upon a surface of forms, like a table, or at a (more conventional) vertical image of figure and ground. It seems to be both a collagelike abstraction and a landscape or architectural image.

    Goldberg masks out areas of canvas

  • Kimber Smith

    It is reassuring to see a painter like Kimber Smith, who has painted now for three decades, continuing to paint well, free of the anxiety of anachronism. Such anxiety is debilitating; it may provoke an undue obeisance to superficial trends or a cranky irony in regard to painters more “of the day”; it may provoke a surreptitious revision of one’s work with an eye to art history or a frivolity that would pass as gayness but is in fact self-parody; or it may just be manifest in a tiredness with an edgy compulsion to go on. Smith treads past these hazards with an apparent nonchalance. The manner