Hilton Als

  • View of the Whitney Biennial 2022. Steve Cannon’s library and A Gathering of the Tribes archival material. Photo: Ron Amstutz.

    Whitney Biennial 2022

    SPLENDOR. That’s the word that comes to mind as one walks—sails—through the 2022 Whitney Biennial. Splendor as a transformative experience, affecting soul and spirit. Curated with visual alacrity, emotional commitment, and historical heft by Adrienne Edwards and David Breslin, this exhibition, which is so much about loss, discovery, and opening our eyes to the possibility of art in space, also destabilizes the museum-as-institution’s relationship to what makes an exhibition. No more walls, the curators seem to be saying throughout the show—specifically


    Curated by Stephanie Weber and Anna Straetmans

    For more than forty years now, the formidable black American artist Senga Nengudi has been transforming our notions of what constitutes performance, sculpture, and photography. Indeed, in her extraordinary series “R.S.V.P.,” begun in the mid-1970s, the once-Los Angeles–based artist—she relocated to Colorado Springs at the end of the ’80s—continues to evocatively combine man-made materials, such as pantyhose, with natural elements, such as sand and rock. In this valuable survey of nearly fifty pieces, which will be accompanied by a catalogue featuring


    In this age of self-serious and self-congratulatory art, the sculptor Sarah Lucas offers up something entirely original and sui generis: humor and play. An anti-didactic feminist who finds, for instance, much amusement in all the fuss that surrounds the phallus, Lucas produces pieces that address our post-Freudian world—a world that still cleaves to self-defining signs and symbols as a way of expressing our investment in what gender dictates about behavior. As part of the original Young British Art scene in London, Lucas was, of course, well known

  • Juergen Teller

    AS THE HISTORIAN Simon Schama tells us in his informative and enriching Landscape and Memory (1995), Cornelius Tacitus completed his monumental study Germania; or, On the Origin and Situation of the Germans, around the year 98. For approximately two hundred years before that, Roman legions had been spending a great deal of time, money, and manpower attempting to suppress those “children of nature” who inhabited a northern land- scape antithetical to the sophisticated Romans’ manicured own. That German landscape, which Tacitus described as “for the most part bristling forests and foul bogs,” was

  • Frank O’Hara

    AS VIEWED FROM THE VANTAGE POINT of our empire’s continued obsession with health, Frank O’Hara (1926–1966), the poet and Museum of Modern Art curator, looks, if not like death, then the very body of ill health. In the photographs and paintings of the poet at the center of “In Memory of My Feelings: Frank O’Hara and American Art,” an exhibition of 102 (as often as not collaborative) works by O’Hara and his painter friends, on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles through November 14, there is O’Hara’s too-thin human form, gay and white and plucky or sad, seen by this camera or

  • the Prosthetic Aesthetic

    KIM NOVAK’S PROTUBERANCES in Hitchcock’s Vertigo, Godzilla pores, pus flowering on top of pimples, nineteenth-century bustles and false fronts, Veronica Cartwright’s bug-eyed expression of horror in Ridley Scott’s Alien, prosthetic cocks or a “real” erect one, cellulite and diagrams on how to combat it, the male/female character in Silence of the Lambs regarding his image in the mirror, dick tucked between his legs—all these tabulae non rasae sprang to mind as I watched models garbed in Rei Kawakubo’s Spring/Summer ’97 collection walk down the runway this fall, their backs, shoulders, and hips


    EARLY ONE EVENING last winter, the 34-year-old British-born, Brooklyn-raised, and Paris-based couturier, painter, poet, musician, and hair-and-makeup artist Andre Walker went for a stroll along the eastern half of 14th Street in Manhattan. Moving through the stale winter air, buoyed along by his own centrifugal reverie and strikingly costumed as was his custom (ankle-high horsehair boots, plaid summer trousers, green mohair jumper, brown mohair scarf), Andre Walker alternated singing and explaining lyrics of his own invention: “You knew I was a dodo bird when you met me. . . . / Would you mind?”

  • Claire McCardell

    FROM TIME TO TIME, the extraordinarily well-dressed young man and his companion attended films together, less for entertainment than as corroboration or refusal of their respective internal realities or turns of mind. At the recent retrospective of Andy Warhol’s films at New York’s Film Forum, the two men sat through films that depicted (among other things) various people in various states of undress. What clothes the “actors” wore said as much about their epoch as did the words they used—gender was being bent in a confused way, particularly in Chelsea Girls, Warhol’s messy tour de force. In

  • Grease

    IN THE WORLD OF FASHION or, more accurately, of fashion as an event in magazines, greasy as the skin tone is in. Greasy is achieved by applying lubricants, supplemented by eyeshadow with a sheen and lipstick (light) with a gloss. Greasy skin connotes nonresistance to the real—skin made oily by the only atmosphere the modern woman knows: office air systems that circulate illness and the mild anxiety, fueled by gossip, that is office life. The modern woman as she exists now in fashion magazines rejects the finished, calm, distanced patina of luxury—rejects face powder—as unrealistic. Yet she


    LIKE MOST SALON PHOTOGRAPHERS, Wolfgang Tillmans takes pictures he would have us “take” as diaristic impressions—images of places seen and people observed in them, generally arranged around occurrences that project the fly-by-night. The genesis of the style is not so much in the old New York school of photography (Diane Arbus’ early 35-mm. work, say) as in images that are less emotionally based (the subjects are, rather, visually “interesting”), more driven by narrative, if of seeming randomness. Compare Hubert Selby Jr.’s Last Exit to Brooklyn, say—a novel of fast cuts, a third-person voice


    Society works in strange ways: in order to have it you must be involved with people. My mother, who never read Proust, believed in an ideal Platonic society—which is to say, a society of people (her children) based on herself. Meanwhile, my mother had become a “nice” person in order to separate herself from her own mother’s family—which is to say, her family had been constituted of people who were not nice. Isn’t that one function of society: to let one become an individual, so that one leaves it?

    Mostly what we “like” in photographs is what we recognize as emotion in them; a decisive emotional


    Mourning (the Sadness) finds itself in the in-between. I mean, it (the Sadness) is a stuttering toward a word which will not . . . out. One word—not a word but an acronym for the experience beyond it: DEATH.

    Bodies come and go (I am stuttering now) but only in memory, only without pain—not “real” (the memory of that dead person’s alive smell, say) but as flat as demanding no space whatsoever, no reflection whatsoever.

    Which images are tolerable in the Sadness? Images that are in between, representative of the Sadness (Mourning) and therefore able to transcend it. One image that is in between: Jaye