Harry Cooper

  • Harry Cooper

    FOR ALL THE GLORIES of the Alberto Giacometti survey at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York (which was organized by Megan Fontanella and Catherine Grenier), for all the sculptures both classic and little known (borrowed for the most part from the Fondation Giacometti in Paris), what caught my eye and has stayed in my mind was something much more humble: a framed sketchbook page, smudged and slightly crumpled, hanging near a bathroom in one of those right-angled detours that periodically interrupt Frank Lloyd Wright’s spiral. With rapid, assured strokes of a pencil, the artist has

  • THE WHOLE TRUTH

    WHEREVER YOU LOOK—the press release, the brochure, the fact sheet, the cornerstone—Ellsworth Kelly’s new building at the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin insists on one thing, namely that it is one thing: a single work of art with a single name (Austin) and a single author (Kelly) conceived at a single time (1986) and finished at a single time (2015). Yes, it may have taken a team of architects and engineers, a small army of donors, and a handful of key players to bring it to life, or to bring it back from the dead and see it through to its public opening

  • “100 JAAR DE STIJL: PLAYING WITH LETTERS”

    The most famous hundredth birthday this year may be that of the Russian Revolution, but let’s not forget the founding of De Stijl, which is being well marked in its Dutch birthplace. De Stijl means “The Style,” a dogmatic self-designation if ever there was one, yet the movement produced a striking range of work and was, of course,  beset by its share of schisms. (In fact, on August 20, Amsterdam’s Stedelijk closed a show focusing on Chris Beekman, who left the movement out of frustration with its lack of political engagement.) This exhibition, part of

  • “Picasso and Rivera: Conversations Across Time”

    Accompanied by a dense and lushly illustrated catalogue, this exhibition uncovers Picasso’s and Rivera’s parallel interests in antiquity—Mediterranean and pre-Columbian, respectively. A dozen great paintings from the teens suggest that, as a Cubist, Rivera possessed a sensibility that was as close to Juan Gris’s as to Picasso’s. But paintings are not the only attraction here: The show is notable for its wide range of media and epochs. Plaster casts that the two studied in school (and drawings by both

  • “Picasso Sculpture”

    This American survey of Picasso’s sculpture, the first in almost fifty years (since the 1967 MoMA show), will be unforgettable. With roughly 150 works, many from the Musée National Picasso–Paris, the chief lender and coorganizer, the exhibition will trace Picasso’s continual upending of the medium. The curators have decided to stay out of the way, allowing the story to unfold in chronological chapters corresponding to distinct periods when the painter threw himself into three-dimensional work. Sculpture, which suggests carving, is too

  • LIGHT REPAIRS: A ROUNDTABLE ON THE RESTORATION OF MARK ROTHKO’S HARVARD MURALS

    WHEN IS A PAINTING not a painting anymore?
     
    In 1962, Mark Rothko created the Harvard Murals, a set of six monumental paintings, five of which were displayed in the penthouse dining room of the university’s Holyoke Center, a windowed perch with stunning views. Deeply and delicately hued expanses, the canvases ranged in color from searing orange-red to light pink to dark purple. But in the decade that followed, continual exposure to daylight drastically changed the works, fading them so that some areas lightened to near white while others turned a dull black. Languishing in storage for many years, the works were thought to be beyond repair. But recently, a team of conservators and scientists made a new and unprecedented attempt to restore the pictures—not with pigment or chemicals but with light: For each canvas, they devised a highly complex colored-light projection that, when shone on the work, returns it to its original coloration. What we see is what was meant to be seen, ostensibly. But what are the risks of such an approach? Does the use of light open the door to virtual reality, to smoke and mirrors, turning the paintings into something else altogether? Or does it constitute a brilliant way of making the paintings viewable again, without so much as touching a thread of canvas?
     
    Conservator CAROL MANCUSI-UNGARO, who worked on the project; curators HARRY COOPER and JEFFREY WEISS; art historian YVE-ALAIN BOIS; Artforum editor MICHELLE KUO; and artists LYNN HERSHMAN LEESON, DAVID REED, KEN OKIISHI, and R. H. QUAYTMAN peer into the void.

    CAROL MANCUSI-UNGARO: Rothko’s Harvard Murals were installed in 1964, but after suffering differential damage, they were put in storage in 1979. They were included in a few exhibitions, two at Harvard and one traveling exhibition, but basically they hadn’t been seen or studied for decades.

    The murals are one of only three commissions that Rothko made. Scholars studied the Seagram paintings, and they studied the Rothko Chapel, but they largely skipped the Harvard Murals because hardly anyone had seen them. Most only knew the story about their fading and being removed from view. The works

  • the Clyfford Still Museum

    TAKING STOCK OF CLYFFORD STILL (1904–1980) in these pages on the occasion of a Hirshhorn Museum show in 2001, I made the not exactly daring prediction that even though it had been more than twenty years since his death, and even though single-artist museums in the US were a rarity, the estate would find a home. An American city would offer Still’s work its own museum, thus satisfying the terms of his strict will and receiving the lion’s share of his oeuvre—more than eight hundred paintings and almost all his works on paper, some twenty-four hundred pieces in all.

    I am happy to say that

  • “Frank Stella: The Retrospective, Works 1958–2012”

    Frank Stella has been producing art tirelessly for more than fifty years now, much of it huge, making it harder and harder for any museum to mount a full retrospective without bursting.

    Frank Stella has been producing art tirelessly for more than fifty years now, much of it huge, making it harder and harder for any museum to mount a full retrospective without bursting. (The last attempt was by the Reina Sofía in 1995.) This fact alone makes the exhibition at Wolfsburg worth seeing. Uniting some sixty paintings and reliefs with a generous sampling of works on paper and a handful of models, the show will allow us to grasp the seventy-six-year-old artist whole, to consider his varied inspirations (music, literature, architecture, tools,

  • SPATTER AND DAUB: THE CONTRADICTIONS OF ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM

    ABSTRACT: LITERALLY, “TO PULL AWAY.” EXPRESS: “TO PUSH FORTH.” Did Robert Coates, the critic who gave Abstract Expressionism its current usage in 1946 (it had previously been applied to the work of Kandinsky), sense the etymological contradiction? Probably not. Was it a coincidence that he was reviewing the paintings of Hans Hofmann, known for his “push-pull” theory of composition? Probably. For Coates, the term was simply more “polite” than “spatter-and-daub school of painting.”

    The Abstract Expressionists often insisted that their work had a subject, which meant that it was neither abstract (

  • Philip Guston

    Philip Guston: Collected Writings, Lectures, and Conversations, edited by Clark Coolidge. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2010. 352 pages. $30.

    PHILIP GUSTON’S CAREER swung like a dangling lightbulb—from figuration (starting in 1930) to abstraction (around 1948) and back to figuration (from 1968 until his death in 1980). Yet he often insisted on the continuity of his work. In 1958, when asked about the “change in approach” in the late ’40s, he remarked, “I really don’t believe in change.” In 1979, a year of outlandish paintings such as Moon, which shows the artist at work in a barren,

  • Mondrian in Paris: 1912-1938

    Piet Mondrian spent the bulk of his career in Paris, sublimating its traffic and jazz into the “dynamic equilibrium” of his paintings.

    Piet Mondrian spent the bulk of his career in Paris (1912 to 1938, minus the World War I years), sublimating its traffic and jazz into the “dynamic equilibrium” of his paintings. Yet the French ignored their famous Dutch resident for far too long, and his work is still barely represented in his adopted city. This retrospective, comprising some eighty works from the painter’s Paris years, will be paired at the Pompidou with a substantial De Stijl exhibition (curated by Frédéric Migayrou and simultaneously on view), and together they promise a corrective, offering an

  • “Picasso and American Art”

    “PICASSO AND AMERICAN ART” is an opportunity (not to be) missed. There is no better story in modern art than the struggle of American artists to go through or around Picasso. Jackson Pollock said he wanted to get rid of Picasso and (another time, just to be clear) kill him. Picasso said he wanted to make paintings with “razor blades on all surfaces so no one could touch them without cutting his hands.” Great stuff. And the current exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art manages to drain all the blood out of it.

    Perhaps playing up the oedipal drama would have been too easy. Guest curator