Ingrid Sischy

  • Rene Ricard

    FOR THE LIFE OF ME, I can’t remember exactly when or where I first met Rene Ricard. But it had to have been sometime in the spring of 1981 that our editorial bond was forged. Bets are I hooked up with Rene, in one way or another, through Edit deAk, the first writer I’d brought to Artforum when I stepped in as editor with the February 1980 issue; back then, deAk’s antenna for changes and breakthroughs in art and the discussions around it, particularly in the contemporary American-European nexus, was like lightning’s attraction to metal. She could zap it like no one else. “A Chameleon in a State

  • Ingrid Sischy talks with Michelle Kuo

    MICHELLE KUO: Under your tenure [1980–88], Artforum distinctly moved beyond the visual arts, to culture more broadly—not only to different media but to mass media.

    INGRID SISCHY: Much of that impetus came from what artists themselves were looking at, talking about, and creating. If you look at our very first issue [February 1980], we handed the editorial pages over to artists and alternative art magazines. We didn’t ask them what they were going to do before they sent in their projects.

    And that was no accident. The philosophy behind it derived, in large part, from the world of artists’


    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times—it was a time to eat salad with your fingers. In 1981, INGRID SISCHY, ANTHONY KORNER, and AMY BAKER SANDBACK, the editor and publishers of Artforum, interviewed me for the job of managing editor. They hired another candidate, but we liked each other, and Ingrid soon invited me to dinner. The guests included the film critic David Denby and an apparently wasted Artforum writer who used his fingers to eat oil-and-vinegar-soaked lettuce that drooled down his chin. (“Isn’t he fabulous?” said Ingrid.) Outside afterward Denby huffed, “What is Ingrid

  • A Conversation

    Ingrid Sischy is currently editor-in-chief of Interview and a photography critic for The New Yorker. She served as editor of Artforum from February 1980 to February 1988.

    JACK BANKOWSKY: When you took over Artforum you were only 27. How were you received in the beginning?

    INGRID SISCHY: I have no idea; I was too busy trying to do the job to worry about that kind of thing. When I was offered the position it felt like something hit me on the head. When fate knocks you on the head you go with it or you don’t. And I went with it. We had to move on the first issue so fast; by the time we finished it


    The following conversation is an excerpt from the editorial discussion that explored some of the reasons for doing this issue. It preceded our meetings with our guests in this project.

    Ingrid Sischy, 35: I think the place for us to start, just so we get our ground, is to try to roughly sketch out why we want to take on these three letters a g e in the first place.

    Thomas McEvilley, 48: Well right away we’d better talk about the problem of using the word “age.” I mean for one thing, when you bring this up to someone and you say We’d like to have a conversation with you about age, they immediately


    INGRID SISCHY What interests me about Georgia O'Keeffe: One Hundred Flowers is that these paintings are among the least private works of art I've ever seen. They're so open, as are the famous early photographs O'Keeffe's husband Alfred Stieglitz took of her, not at all like the isolated hermit figure she became.

    NICHOLAS CALLAWAY At this time in her life O'Keeffe laid herself bare, literally, emotionally, and artistically. Then, in later years, she became reclusive to the same degree that she had opened herself up early on.

    I.S. It must have taken every drop of imagination and technology while on


    THIS PAGE could be stamped with the word “before”; the facing page could get the partner word that comes along with “before” in so many contemporary layouts intended to illustrate change, the word “after.” The picture on this page was taken “before”: before honeymooning on the first Queen Elizabeth became fashionable; before travel magazines made aquamarine the only imaginable color acceptable for an ocean; before drug companies made over-the-top profits with travel pills; before those thick, impossible-to-understand frequent-flyer envelopes; before the excuse of jet lag—before practically



    FOR THE SECOND TIME, I have been involved in a case of mistaken identity having to do with a woman called Theresa. The first time it happened I told no one, afraid it would ruin the romantic atmosphere we were then living in. “We were a college class of women around 1973, building a room of our own, or, as the curriculum read (in keeping with the feminist terminology of the time), being students in an experimental women’s studies program. I had been sitting in the library reading Interior Castle, written in Spain in the 16th century by Saint Theresa of Avila. The book had been

  • Cindy Sherman's camera kabuki.

    THE CRITICISM THAT views Cindy Sherman’s role-playing photography as a deconstruction of female stereotypes (like a latter-day August Sander project, but with media images of women replacing his cataloguing of the German people), while applicable, now seems too academic and willful for the transvestism that Sherman has been staging of late. Her recent transformational characters, whether created with expressive makeup, lighting, and shadows or with the use of masks, whether she appears as a snout-faced pig or as a bearded man, have such a stylized, out-of-time, out-of-sex quality that they leave

  • A studio made en plein air. James Nares reaps the wind in golden green.

    FOR THIS OCCASION JAMES MARES’ studio is not where he lives and works in New York but in southwest Ireland, where he’s been going with his family for the past twenty years a place studded with the occasional palm tree and relics from the past. One the Fingers stones otherwise known as the Three Ladies has an ancient provenance that is locally considered doubtful. Nares likes this questionable authericity. It compounds the interpretable nature of ancient things which act as a home base for the imaginings of his contemporary mind.

    Originally Nares planned a Pu-ssu scroll painting—a landscape without


    CINZIA RUGGERI PRACTICES POLYGAMY in her studio in Milan. Simultaneously married to the natural and the artifical, the raw and the crooked, she knits a multilingual fabric of architecture, fashion, design, photography, anthropology, geology and ecology. The offspring are contemporary totems.

    Writing about Claude Lévi-Strauss, Octavia Paz notes, “the products of culture-myths, institutions, language are not essentially different from natural products nor do they obey different laws from these which their homologous cells. Everything is living material which changes. . . . We come from nature and


    Ingrid Sischy: You are surrounded by the cheers of fans and the virtual silence of American art critics. To some you’re a household name, to others you’re the lone sign of Latin America’s presence in the international arena of art. Your work’s been called a parody of the bourgeoisie, but it’s also been dismissed as a bourgeois parody. There are worlds of different opinions on the subject of your work. At the eye of the storm is your obsession with the full shapes that most of us moderns try to stay away from, even if it’s just through mental abstinence. What about these swollen forms? Why have

  • A Light Opportunity

    TO TELL THE TRUTH, THIS ISSUE BEGAN with editorial discussions about the failure of the recent spate of big international shows to intelligently meet the development of contemporary art, and about their tendency instead to carelessly throw all “the names” together in an expensive but cheap hanging spectacle of so-called international pluralism, willy nilly, irrespective of individual concerns, differences, and achievements. The American shows have failed because of naiveté, superficiality, and too passive a relation to the hypes of the mass media, while the European exhibitions, almost exclusively

  • Editorial

    THE UNIDENTIFIED PHANTASM FLOATING in the orbit of this issue is the future. That’s all the future is anyway—a phantasm. However, the way we project our anticipation of it suggests the boundaries of imagination, and these limits in turn describe the framework of history. An example: mythology views light as power; empirical practice discovers the laser; fictional practice puts it in star wars; then politicians propose to “turn the balance of terror on its head” by means of concentrated light and giant mirrors in the sky, thus fully reifying myth.

    The future phantasm remains the principal catalyst


    THE BLATANTLY MECHANISTIC CONDITION bound to photographic seeing has confounded photographic discourse. One-way thinking has stratified this moonlighting medium ever since its invention, zoning it into polemic ghettos walled off by hegemonies and hierarchies. The conceptual astigmatisms have only been aggravated since the further challenge, the tease of color, was introduced, offering still pictures a transition as momentous as sound did moving ones.

    William Eggleston’s pictorial vocabulary—edited bits from his local world—has been described as commonplace. Some have taken this to mean pictures


    THE ADJECTIVE “MODERN” AS it has been applied within culture over the last 100 years has always indicated a break from history rather than a continuation of it. But a pattern of breaks, when long enough sustained, itself becomes a “tradition.” As we begin the end of this century—the next fin de siècle—we are confronted with a situation so complex as to include not only artists whose work continues to invigorate this credo of invention but also Modern artists whose “break” or perhaps “invention” has to do with a disruption of what has become this tradition of invention in Modernism: they aggressively

  • A Note on Anselm Kiefer

    A PROJECT BY ANSELM KIEFER follows on the next six pages. Although Kiefer’s picture constructions are not illustrations of history, it is useful (but only that) to know that this particular work takes the epic of Gilgamesh as its dramatic mise-en-scène. Kiefer’s surface reference here is a point along the journey of Gilgamesh and his servant companion Enkidu that took them into a forest with a mountain that was green from cedar trees. One motive that prompted this expedition was the need for timber, with which Gilgamesh could display his power by building great walls and temples. The monumental

  • Editorial

    THE ABSENCE OR PRESENCE OF of the human figure in art has never been a question of happenstance. Abstraction was, and is, a matter of modernist plastic and intellectual principles. At crucial moments in this century the glorification of the human figure, a figure whose historic reality lacked nobility, purity and promise, seemed an act of naiveté; and abstraction was delivered to the 20th-century consciousness as the only possible chance for art to fulfill its most idealistic imperative—to offer universal vision. Still, whether the figure has been there or not it has always held a relative