Introduction

  • Jack Whitten, Pink Psyche Queen, 1973, acrylic on canvas, 71 x 60".

    ARTIST’S PORTFOLIO: JACK WHITTEN

    WHEN DOES AN IMAGE END? At the edge of the screen, we might say, or of the stretcher or the page. But none of these answers has ever seemed to satisfy Jack Whitten. His work eludes the perimeters we know. It conjures something else: infinite extension, scanning, even searching.

    The modernist grid, of course, implied such extension: its vertical and horizontal lines always iterable, potentially continuing beyond the limits of a given picture, as if that picture had merely zoomed in on a larger array. Beginning in the 1960s, though, Whitten came to understand that other kinds of movement were

  • Amy Sillman’s studio, New York, 2009. Photo: Amy Sillman.

    ACTING OUT: THE AB-EX EFFECT

    THE WORLD WAS SUPPOSED TO END this past May, but we’re still here. No Rapture, no Apocalypse. The same could be said of Abstract Expressionism: That dripping, demonstrative, unabashedly tactile practice has met its maker many times over. Yet its effects are everywhere apparent. AbEx is there, of course, in works that dramatize the false promises and ignominious deliquescence of the genre, pushing gestural abstraction to its stained, ripped, debased, and de-skilled limits (witness David Hammons’s recent suite of literally trash-bagged pictures). It is there when artists make one more cool,

  • Pop Art

    Introduction

    James Meyer

    We do not often associate Clement Greenberg with Pop. The great champion of Abstract Expressionism never published an essay on the subject, and occasional remarks in interviews and texts in John O’Brian’s indispensable anthology of the critic’s writings suggest a definite disdain for the phenomenon (the early work of Jasper Johns being a decided exception). Yet the reasons for this distaste are not entirely clear. We know that the author of “Avant-Garde and Kitsch” was no fan of mass culture, nor of the “middlebrow” poetry and fiction published in journals like the New

  • Richard Hamilton, My Marilyn, 1965, oil and collage on photograph on panel, 40 1/4 x 48". © 2004 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/DACS, London.

    Pop Since 1949

    BY THE TIME POP ART EARNED ITS CAPITAL P, the British artists, architects, and intellectuals known as the Independent Group had produced a decade’s worth of future-focused art and polemic. It was critic and IG spokesman Lawrence Alloway who first used the term to capture the group’s enthusiasm for all things mass-produced and American. In “Back to Tomorrow,” the opening section of Artforum’ s October issue, Alloway’s 1962 essay “Pop Since 1949” appears alongside Clement Greenberg’s previously unpublished reckoning with the movement that turned the tide against “pure painting.” Also in this

  • THE EYES HAVE IT: GILLIAN WEARING ON DIANE ARBUS

    Gillian Wearing has always emphasized her work’s affiliation with the field of documentary—for instance, with Michael Apted’s sequence of films beginning with Seven Up (1964)—over its roots in fine art. But her penchant for subjecting its documentary content to an alienating formal displacement (hiding the faces of the speakers behind masks in Confess all on video . . . , 1994, or arbitrarily mismatching face and voice in 10-16 and 2 into 1, both 1997) reflects her fundamentally poetic recognition that truth does not necessarily lie in unveiling or exposure but that concealment carries a truth

  • Peter Saul, New York Painter, 1987, oil and acrylic on canvas, 72 x 108".

    OBSCURED VISIONS: “EYE INFECTION”

    LATTER-DAY DEFENDERS OF THE ONE TRUE PATH OF MODERNISM may think that they were blindsided, but few real challenges come at you straight on. The one offered by the artists in “Eye Infection,” the five-artist show at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, that closed in January, comes from behind and beside, but we always knew it was there. The long-term threat posed to the conventional wisdom about what makes for a decisive critical art has been rudely explicit in the work of Robert Crumb, Jim Nutt, Peter Saul, and H.C. Westermann since the ’60s and in that of Mike Kelley since the late ’70s. For much of that time these artists may have seemed too far in the distance to worry about, but since the early ’90s they have been creeping up on the motorcade of mainstream painting and sculpture. Now this unruly crew has lurched into the passing lane.
     
    In this instance, credit for signaling them the right-of-way goes to guest curator Christiaan Braun. Braun has mounted an argumentatively eccentric but quintessentially American exhibition at the most staunchly modernist of European institutions, though it should be noted that the Stedelijk is home not only to one of the great collections of “pure” abstraction à la Barnett Newman but also to that inspired carbuncle on the face of the formalist tradition, Ed Kienholz’s The Beanery.
     
    The Ed Ruscha drawing that provided the show’s title wasn’t included in the exhibition, but the phrase epitomizes the sensibility of the five artists who were, and that of the broader tendency they represent: Think Ed Paschke, Paul McCarthy, Tony Oursler, Raymond Pettibon, Jim Shaw, and Jeff Koons. What they share is a fascination with the more unsightly aspects of contemporary life; a robust contempt for rules of the road laid down by magistrates of both the establishment and the avant-garde; a knack for the grotesque that capitalizes on the collision between refined facture and aggressively vulgar imagery (Kelley, the least fastidious maker among them, is the exception here); and a wayward way with words that has fooled much of the public into thinking that what these artists do is just a gag while giving art-world mandarins an excuse for dismissing them as retrograde anti-intellectuals and therefore beneath serious consideration.
     
    There are signs that such condescension is yielding to cautious recognition, and the improbable presence of “Eye Infection” at the Stedelijk is but one of them. Still, much of what these artists do is too unacceptable to garner a full institutional embrace. Even though Donald Judd and Bruce Nauman paid him homage, Westermann remains too “old-fashioned” in his choice of materials and techniques, as well as too perverse in what is nevertheless a formally powerful approach to sculpture, to be appreciated by much of current opinion; the same generally holds true for Nutt. Saul and Crumb are too unapologetic in the offense their work may give, to women and African Americans in particular, to be offered center stage, although, like artists from Robert Colescott to Kara Walker, they have used humor to lance the boil of repressed racial and sexual attitudes which was festering long before any of them appeared on the scene. And while some critics have attempted to co-opt Mike Kelley for fashionable categories such as the “abject” or “l’informe,” the reality is that he is anti everything that would blunt his own resistance to normative aesthetics and draw him into the academic fold. Indeed, while all the artists in “Eye Infection” use language—or their own idiosyncratic lingo—polemically, Kelley is unique in having developed a fully articulated position from which to counter prevailing art-world dogmas of taste, ideology, and class. That is to say, Kelley is almost alone in having demonstrated the full theoretical possibilities of talking back. The following remarks are based on his conversations with Braun and Stedelijk curator Jelle Bouwhuis about his work and that of his four artistic precursors.
     
    Robert Storr

    ARTFORUM: You published an article in these pages in 1989 in which you seem to take the history of the caricature as an introduction to the (then) recent American art. How does the work of artists like H.C. Westermann, Peter Saul, R. Crumb, and Jim Nutt relate to this history and to your work?

    Mike Kelley: In that article I was primarily addressing “postmodern” trends in the art world at that time. My premise was that many artworks at that moment, despite the fact that they, on the surface, made reference to modernist tropes, were exaggerations or parodies of those traditions and, as such, should

  • “Some Notes on Chaplin's Limelight” (1953)

    THE STORY GOES THAT PAULINE KAEL’S FIRST review was called “Slimelight”: That was what the late poet Robert Duncan, with whom Kael had gone to see Charlie Chaplin’s Limelight, called the picture when they walked out of the theater. The word is used nowhere in or on Kael’s piece, which—appearing in 1953 in City Lights, a journal that, like the San Francisco bookstore that published it, was named for another Chaplin movie—is still harsh enough to bring the reader up short.

    At the end of City Lights (1931), Chaplin’s tramp leaves prison so filthy and destroyed you don’t want to look at him. He walks

  • ONE AND TWO: A PROJECT FOR ARTFORUM

    AT THE HARVARD DESIGN SCHOOL, HI-LO © ARCHITECT and interdisciplinary smarty-pants Rem Koolhaas has a fiefdom where he and his Harvard © research elves crank out obese tomes mingling pedagogy and snazzy graphics. In a series studying “new, unknown, undertheorized, yet pervasive effects of modernization on the contemporary city,” the Harvard Design School Project on the City has just brought out two new volumes, The Harvard Design School Guide to Shopping and Great Leap Forward.

    The Guide to Shopping addresses the great stealth campaign of our day—no, not bioterrorism! but the makeover of

  • ’80s REDUX: “PICTURES” REFRAMED

    Today, the art of the ’80s sits on a cusp. Too near to be “historical,” the period has receded just enough to afford hindsight review. The following reflections, occasioned by Artists Space’s recent rehanging of Douglas Crimp’s seminal exhibition “Pictures,” inaugurate a new series in these pages devoted to reexamining the unsettled legacy of that era. The remarks of contributing editor DAVID RIMANELLI, whose art-world initiation occurred as the Pictures artists came to full prominence in the mid-’80s, are paired here with the fresh-eyed appraisal of art historian SCOTT ROTHKOPF, born a year

  • CRITICAL REFLECTIONS

    What is global? What is political? These are two questions the curators of Documenta X thought we should ask, and thought should be asked in relation to one another. Enlisted as part of this endeavor (both in an interview in Documenta X: The Book and as a speaker in the “100 Guests, 100 Days” events) was Etienne Balibar, distinguished professor of philosophy at Paris-X University, who first became known in the mid ’60s through his collaborative efforts with Louis Althusser.
     
    In his consideration of these questions occasioned by the works on view at Documenta, Balibar makes several observations. First there is a notion of temps mort, or “dead time,” a historical moment of the sort in which new, imperceptible, unpredictable things may happen (rather like the time that Benjamin Buchloh, in his contribution to Documenta X: The Book, sees in James Coleman’s work but finds lacking in Jeff Wall’s photographic return to “the painting of modern life”). For Balibar this temps mort is a time of “translation” that cuts across the unities of culture and asks us to complicate the notion of “fictive ethnicity” through which the very idea of a culture has been tied to the nation-state. Through this rethinking comes a first connection to the global: we need to rethink the universal-particular opposition, and in place of cultural differences look at the violence of irreconcilable ways of “civilizing.” Such are the issues Balibar thinks are presented, for example, by the “new ethnicities” that have grown up in our “global cities.”
     
    But there is also another sense of “global,” another kind of globalization discourse. It is not an anthropological discourse about identity and culture, but one of corporations, governments, and journalists. It concerns not only circulation (e.g., “glocal” marketing strategies) but also production—work and work space and the sorts of skills required to “compete” (e.g., Silicon Alley). In this discourse “globalization” has come to refer to a model of development or modernization, which one must adopt on pain of losing out, and which, politically speaking, translates as a (new) crisis in the management of the welfare state—or in what Balibar prefers to call the “national social state.” For a basic concern in his work has been to rethink politics after the notion of the national social state. He thinks we need to reconceive “citizenship” (which has traditionally been defined in terms of the nation-state) and “the cosmopolitan” (which, e.g., in its Kantian mode stays within the national horizon), as well as the geopolitical borders that the nation-state has drawn at once within and without us, overdetermined first by colonialism and then by cold war. Thus, one might speak today of an “omnipolitan” condition that cuts across the old European world of “the great nations,” a condition that, along with new patterns of immigration and human-rights politics, calls for new styles of thinking and intervention.
     
    Between the anthropological and corporativist senses of “the global,” there are no doubt many connections, some of which have begun to surface in art and art talk. For example, there is the biotechnopia often promoted by enthusiasts of the new technologies and typified by Wired which combines with-it theories of complexity and free-market corporativism in a “digital revolution.” Balibar takes another tack. In both the culturalist and economist debates, his problem is to conceive the political in new ways. He thinks we need to invent a new kind of politics, different from (though linked to) the politics of “enlightenment” and of “social transformation”; the questions of “civility” and “civilization” that he sees in the violence and the translation in the work at Documenta X form part of his attempt to articulate this politics. The global and the political thus come to be connected in a particular way. It is a matter of a reinvention of politics—one might say, of the time of that reinvention.
     
    —John Rajchman

    ETIENNE BALIBAR

    A GOAL OF THIS YEAR’S installment of Documenta, alongside the attempt to cast a “retrospective” glance over twenty years of contemporary art, was to outline some reflections on art’s relationship with the processes referred to today as “globalization”: not just the impulses and constraints of the market, but also the more or less conflictual encounters between cultures and symbolic systems of communication. When I was interviewed by Catherine David and Jean-François Chevrier before the exhibition opened, I tried to pose the question of a “civilization of globalization,” conceived

  • CRITICAL REFLECTIONS

    When Boris Groys decided at the beginning of the ’80s to emigrate from the former Soviet Union to Germany, he was considered a suspicious character in his old home and an unknown in his new. Today, fifteen years later, he is still considered a suspicious character—though for different reasons. The reactions that followed in the wake of Groys’ first book to be published in German, his 1988 Gesamtkunstwerk Stalin—Die gespaltene Kultur des Sowjetunion (translated in 1994 by Princeton University Press as The Total Art of Stalinism: Avant-Garde, Aesthetic Dictatorship and Beyond), were explosive. In elaborations of breathtaking insight, Groys exposed the connection between Soviet policy under Stalin and the projects of the artistic avant-garde—an argument not necessarily designed to win the favor of those critics who were accustomed to painting a more elevated image of the art of the avant-garde. In his inspiring 1995 book Die Erfindung Russlands (The invention of Russia), he opened the eyes of his Western audience to the position of Russia within the geopolitics of ideas. Groys’ readers would discover how Russian culture since the nineteenth century has functioned as the West’s unconscious, as it were.
     
    In Germany and Western Europe, Groys is one of the few unmistakably independent voices in contemporary cultural criticism. Between the time of his emigration and the present there are five or six incisive books and a hundred or more scattered essays, interviews, radio broadcasts, and lectures at galleries, museums, and universities concerning the foundations and phenomena of contemporary art—a body of work that, considered as a whole, offers nothing short of a new take on the philosophy of culture and art. In his theory of the avant-garde, Groys comes closest to the critical impulses of French poststructuralism, toward which he has otherwise always kept a sympathetic distance. A shared attentiveness to the material bearer of the encounters between Being and Meaning links him to Jacques Derrida, and he shares with Jean Baudrillard and Slavoj Žižek a well-developed instinct for the symptomatic significance of mass culture. Both these tendencies are pronounced in his most exciting book to date, Über das Neue. Versuch einer Kulturoekonomie (On the new. Essay on cultural economy, 1992). Many features in Groys’ spiritual makeup as well as biographical circumstances recall those of his countryman Alexandre Kojève, who, with his lectures in Paris on Hegel’s Phenomenology, decisively affected the intellectual development of his host country more than six decades ago. With Mephistophelean humor and genuine philosophical discipline, Groys has given free play to the theoretical concerns of the Western world. The days when his writings were an insider’s tip are over. They already belong to the essential library of all that our age has to say about itself.
     
    —Peter Sloterdijk

    FOR A LONG TIME NOW, the art critic has seemed a legitimate representative of the art world. Like the artist, curator, gallery owner, and collector, when an art critic shows up at an opening or some other art-world event, nobody wonders, What’s he doing here? That something should be written about art is taken as self-evident. When works of art aren’t provided with a text—in an accompanying pamphlet, catalogue, art magazine, or elsewhere—they seem to have been delivered into the world unprotected, lost and unclad. Images without text are embarrassing, like a naked person in a public space. At

  • CRITICAL REFLECTIONS

    IT WAS PROBABLY SOMETIME in 1963 that the founder of a struggling, funny-shaped, and at that point very new art magazine out of San Francisco came across the writing of a young critic in Art International whom he obviously decided he admired. That, at any rate, was the year John Irwin invited Kozloff to contribute to Artforum from New York. Though barely aware of the journal at the time (“I was in France on a Fulbright—I think a magazine with an odd format devoted to art had appeared before I left”), Max was delighted to do so. Decades passed, and publishers and editors came and went (Max himself serving as executive editor for a few years); today, Max Kozloff is surely the only writer regularly publishing in Artforum who would recognize John Irwin if he passed him on the street.
     
    Veritable tsunamis have broken and receded in art and art criticism since 1963, and Max has watched them wash in, and then out, with a certain curmudgeonly glee. Meanwhile he has stuck fiercely to the standards enforced by his own intelligence, by the rigorous care with which it is his habit to inspect the visual images that engage him, and by the searching way he combs his own responses to them. Max would probably frown at the idea that those responses should be grounded in any particular theoretical camp, and I think he feels this has put him out of step with a lot of the thinking that has been applied to art and photography during his lifetime. I also don’t think he minds. Call it the camp of Max: ferociously learned, voluminously wide-ranging, humanistic, tender at heart, but not at all forgiving of anything sensed as doctrinaire or narrow-minded. So far this camp has only one critic, and given Max’s views on simulations and simulacrums in art, I doubt he would tolerate cloning. Editorially if not scientifically speaking, this is a pity.
     
    Simultaneously elegant and stubborn, Max’s writing has appeared in most of the art and photo magazines I can think of and others besides, and he has published a civilized shelf—full of books (one of which, Lone Visions, Crowded Frames, has just been reissued by the University of New Mexico Press). But I first met him when he allowed me (at first rather begrudgingly, as I remember) to edit his articles for Artforum, and his conversation was one of the perks of employment there, so the magazine you are reading is the experience we share. A poltergeist that has haunted this publication for eons has been the mysteriously persistent impression that its text is impenetrable—technical, obscurantist, cabalistic. People seemed to enjoy floating that notion by me when I worked at the magazine, but if I challenged them on it, which I naturally tended to do, they would sometimes try to duck by pinning the blame on Artforum’s earlier history—at which point I usually found myself thinking, Now I know they’re bluffing: That was when Max was here! The essay I am honored to introduce shows how this critic’s writing has always worked: a challenging, closely argued statement, it has both breadth and style.
     
    David Frankel

    MAX KOZLOFF

    Twenty-one years ago, after having switched my field from art criticism to writing on photography, I started to make photographs as well, and in earnest. It afforded a surprised insight into the process from “behind” a medium I had previously regarded only from the front. But there was no reason that this new intimacy should require the sacrifice of a previous distance. I was beguiled by picture-making and attached to writing about the art of others. Why not—like a few colleagues—be responsible for both? Back then, one who let it be known that he simultaneously practiced an art and