James Meyer

  • Danh Vo

    THE ART OF DANH VO consists of objects either acquired and modified or fabricated by the artist—and also, in a sense, explicated by him. The extensive labels in his exhibitions tell us how Vo procured these things, the histories and persons they represent, and how we might interpret them. Vo’s objects and images are testaments to public and private histories so intricately interwoven they must be explained; otherwise, these things (some are barely “things”) and their significances would elude our grasp. Many shows of contemporary work require discursive framing; Vo takes this convention to an

  • “S, M, L, XL”

    Taking its title from Rem Koolhaas’s 1995 manifesto, “S, M, L, XL” is an examination of sculpture and scale. Scale, the relative size of one thing to another, became a preoccupation of aesthetic theory with the publication, in these pages, of Robert Morris’s “Notes on Sculpture” in 1966. Fittingly, two of the four works in the show are by Morris: Portal, 1964, a post-and-lintel structure so narrow we can barely squeeze through it, and Passageway, 1961, an increasingly constricting curved corridor that funnels us to a dead end. And while Franz West’s Blue, 2006, adds a

  • Carl Andre

    THE PAST DECADE AND A HALF has been good to Minimalists and post-Minimalists. Yet compared with many of his contemporaries, Carl Andre has been relatively undersung. The last American retrospective of his work was in 1978–80; the last European survey in 1996. A chill has surrounded Andre’s art since the horrific death of his former wife, the remarkable artist Ana Mendieta, in the early morning of September 8, 1985. Andre was acquitted of responsibility, yet the furor surrounding his life drowned out attention to his work, which is among the most important contributions to the history of modern

  • “Carl Andre: Sculpture as Place, 1958–2010”

    In Carl Andre’s own telling, his sculpture has occupied three distinct phases: “sculpture as form” (the carved beams of 1958–59), “sculpture as structure” (the stacked constructions of 1959–65), and “sculpture as place” (the horizontal arrangements of bricks and metal plates of 1966–2010 for which he is best known). This long-awaited retrospective, the artist’s first in the US in more than thirty years, aims to trace the contours of these developments with some fifty works produced between the late 1950s and early 2000s. Yet the show promises much

  • “Matisse: In Search of True Painting”

    SOMETIME DURING the summer of 1906, in the French border town of Collioure, a teenager named Camille Calmon sat down to model for Henri Matisse. Matisse completed two paintings of Calmon in sailor’s clothes. Young Sailor I possesses the brilliant color, vigorous handling, and accentuated facial contours, verging on scarification, of the painter’s Fauvist portraits of the previous year; his voluminous green leg and the sweeping crescent line of his arm foretell the grand manner of the famous paintings of bathers and dancers of 1907–1909. Calmon looks to his right. His body is wiry, compact. His

  • “Ellsworth Kelly Plant Drawings”

    Since the late 1940s, when he moved to France, Ellsworth Kelly has drawn from nature with a remarkable consistency.

    Since the late 1940s, when he moved to France, Ellsworth Kelly has drawn from nature with a remarkable consistency. Whereas the earliest paintings from his sojourn in Paris court a deliberate clumsiness, the plant drawings he made then, such as his stunning depictions of apples and seaweed, are paragons of finesse. Kelly’s experiments with noncompositional techniques later resulted in a new kind of abstraction, as Yve-Alain Bois has shown. Yet Kelly is arguably our greatest draftsman in a more conventional sense. The plant works are all contour. Kelly’s line reveals the

  • Glenn Ligon

    THE LATE 1980s AND EARLY ’90s is a time without a name. Eras become knowable after the fact: Only recently have scholars and younger artists turned their attention to that relatively undefined art-historical moment. The moment in question witnessed the rise of AIDS activism and an expanded institutional critique (with its “minings” of public institutions and engagement of sites beyond the white cube), the Whitney Biennial of 1993 and the first manifestations of an art of relational exchange. Glenn Ligon and his generation—my generation—emerged in this milieu. Bracketed by such events

  • “Sol LeWitt: Structures, 1965–2006”

    We tend to think of Sol LeWitt as a gallery artist, yet he moved beyond the white cube as early as 1968, burying a work in a collector’s backyard.

    We tend to think of Sol LeWitt as a gallery artist, yet he moved beyond the white cube as early as 1968, burying a work in a collector’s backyard. By 1969, he was building large-scale “open” cubes to be exhibited outdoors; in the decades to come, he would develop his “Complex Forms”—strange, pointed shapes suggestive of crystals and icebergs—and his monumental sculptures made of concrete blocks. Redeeming an ordinary building material for art and evoking enormous towers and ziggurats, the block pieces make explicit the artist’s fascination with architecture,

  • Larry Bell

    Transparent, reflective, and opaque all at once, the art of Larry Bell has always flirted with contradiction.

    Transparent, reflective, and opaque all at once, the art of Larry Bell has always flirted with contradiction. During the 1960s Bell became known for his vacuum-coated glass cubes mounted on pedestals. Initially aligned with the so-called finish-fetish aesthetic of Los Angeles’s Ferus Gallery, he was equally associated with East Coast Minimalism, yet his works, which brilliantly undermine their objectness, subvert Minimalism’s literalist aims. (Even Michael Fried admired Bell’s “gorgeous baubles.”) Known primarily for these sculptures and for his walls of glass, Bell

  • John McCracken

    John McCracken occupies a distinctive place in the Minimal field.

    John McCracken occupies a distinctive place in the Minimal field. While his sculptures of portals and pyramids and his justly celebrated planks (begun in 1966) betray a fascination with architectural forms shared by other Minimalists, the SoCal artist, unlike his peers, fabricated the great majority of his fiberglass and polyester resin works himself, by hand, and his kitschy Mandala paintings of the 1970s evoke the acid culture of Haight-Ashbury far more than the arid ambience of the white cube. Complemented by a comprehensive catalogue with contributions by the artist,

  • Francis Alÿs

    A STORY OF DECEPTION, 2003–2006, consists of a painting sliced in half and a film loop of a highway shot from the front of a car. The car straddles a dashed white center-line. In the middle distance, we see the glimmer of an oily mirage hovering above the scalding pavement. As the vehicle inches forward, the mirage evaporates, only to grow larger at the horizon, where the road dissolves. The car moves deliberately, slowly, as if toward a destination. It goes nowhere. Nothing changes.

    A Story of Deception was an apt introduction to the mind of an artist whose practice revolves around the representation

  • “In & Out of Amsterdam”

    GLOBALISM AND CONCEPTUALISM: It has become increasingly apparent that these two notions are indissolubly linked, but how? “In & Out of Amsterdam: Travels in Conceptual Art, 1960–1976” is only the most recent curatorial effort to examine this association, first proposed by the exhibition “Global Conceptualism: Points of Origin, 1950s–1980s,” overseen by Jane Farver at New York’s Queens Museum of Art in 1999. The Queens show tracked seemingly independent eruptions of a Conceptual tendency in discrete locales across the globe, contesting the Western orientation of previous surveys. Galleries were

  • Luke Fowler

    TENEMENT FILMS (3 MINUTE WONDERS), 2009, the opening presentation of Luke Fowler’s solo show at the Serpentine Gallery, comprises four 16-mm shorts, screened here one to a wall. Each work records the apartment of one of the artist’s neighbors. Helen is a flurry of erratic shots, quick cuts, and multiple exposures. In the relatively static conclusion to David, the camera points outside: David’s possessions ultimately tell us less about him, Fowler implies, than this open window, this view of Glasgow’s pedestrians, its streets. In the moodily lit Anna, a young woman is glimpsed in reflection,

  • “Eva Hesse: Studiowork”

    Eva Hesse’s test pieces occupy a peripheral place in writings on the artist. As small as curios and variously shaped in latex, Sculp-metal, wire mesh, and wax, among other materials, they are typically seen as mere studies for the “major” works.

    Eva Hesse’s test pieces occupy a peripheral place in writings on the artist. As small as curios and variously shaped in latex, Sculp-metal, wire mesh, and wax, among other materials, they are typically seen as mere studies for the “major” works. It would seem that no aspect of Hesse’s art and life has escaped scrutiny: The artist’s drawings, her German works, and her paintings have each inspired recent shows, and it was almost inevitable that, like the croquetons of Seurat, Hesse’s test pieces would receive their due. Fortunately, the driving force here is

  • THE BEST BOOKS OF 2008

    15 SCHOLARS, CRITICS, WRITERS, AND ARTISTS CHOOSE THE YEAR’S OUTSTANDING TITLES.

    MICHAEL HARDT

    The financial crisis of fall 2008 is one symptom of a transition in the nature and form of global order. The most important question this transition raises is what new possibilities it is opening up; but before asking that, one has to understand also what the transition is closing down. Two of the best books I have read in the past year, Giovanni Arrighi’s Adam Smith in Beijing: Lineages of the Twenty-First Century (Verso) and Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (Picador),

  • ART AND ITS MARKETS: A ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION

    EVEN AS GOLD rises and the dollar falls, the expansion of the global art market shows few signs of reversal. This growth has been characterized by incredible immediacy, liquidity, and transparency—but also by inequity, archaic ritual, and social spectacle. Indeed, the economy of art is now both wildly speculative and idiosyncratically regulated, with unparalleled levels of attention devoted to the work of contemporary artists. What are the diverse factors that have contributed to this radical extension of interest and investment in the art of our day? And to what extent have these elements either transformed or reinscribed historical relationships among art’s audiences, institutions, collecting practices, and criticism? How might we best distinguish our present moment from previously bullish episodes and their attendant redefinitions of the aesthetic and the commoditized?
     
    From the fiscal to the formal, multiple arenas of knowledge are implicated in answering such questions. With this complex set of interrelationships in mind, Artforum invited a cross-section of figures—ranging from collector and curator to art historian and auction-house expert—to discuss the ways in which different kinds of value accrue to works of art and affect their production, display, and circulation: Ai Weiwei, Beijing-based artist; Amy Cappellazzo, international cohead of postwar and contemporary art at Christie’s; Thomas Crow, professor of modern art at the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University; Donna De Salvo, chief curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; Isabelle Graw, a founding editor of Texte zur Kunst and professor of art history and theory at Städelschule Art Academy in Frankfurt; Dakis Joannou, collector and president of the Deste Foundation for Contemporary Art in Athens, Greece; and Robert Pincus-Witten, scholar and critic, and former director of exhibitions at L & M Arts in New York. Scholar and critic James Meyer and Artforum editor Tim Griffin moderate the discussion.

    THE GLOBAL BOOM

    James Meyer: The extraordinary boom of the contemporary market in recent years, along with the globalization of art’s production and display—two related phenomena—are among the most pressing subjects in any discussion of current practice. The history of modernism is in part a history of the marketing of the new. The Peau d’Ours sale in 1914, which brought a record price for Pablo Picasso’s Family of Acrobats [1905]; the first Parke-Bernet auction of contemporary art in 1965, which featured Abstract Expressionist painting and sculpture; and the sale of the Scull Collection

  • OUT OF THE PAST: A CONVERSATION ON EVA HESSE

    THE FOLLOWING CONVERSATION with Robert Smithson and Nancy Holt was recorded on June 5, 1973, at the loft they shared on Greenwich Street. It was the last time I saw Bob, who died in a plane crash in Texas six weeks later. (Nancy has been my neighbor in Galisteo, New Mexico, since 1995.) I was writing my book on Eva Hesse at the time and was taping interviews with mutual friends and other people close to her. I was struggling with how to write this book on someone I had known so well—how to concentrate on the art without denying the life, and without letting the life overwhelm the art. Sol LeWitt, Eva’s best friend, was a constantly no-nonsense adviser on how to go about it. While I originally wanted to do a “smooth” edit of this text, Holt and the editors of Artforum persuaded me to leave it “rough,” as a kind of (embarrassing) time capsule. And so it stands.
    LRL

    LUCY LIPPARD: Mel [Bochner] mentioned a summer when you all saw a lot of each other.

    ROBERT SMITHSON: I think it was ’66, because that was when I wrote my article “Quasi-Infinities and the Waning of Space,” where I included Eva.

    NANCY HOLT: It’s true. We saw each other about four, sometimes five times a week. We went to Max’s [Kansas City] a lot, ate a lot at an Italian restaurant with Sol. I remember by the end of the summer Bob didn’t want to see an Italian dish ever again.

    LL: When did you meet Eva? Do you remember?

    RS: I think it must have been ’66. Sol introduced me to her.

    NH: I remember exactly

  • THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR

    ELEVEN SCHOLARS, CRITICS, AND ARTISTS CHOOSE THE YEAR’S OUTSTANDING TITLES.

    JOHN BALDESSARI

    Kierkegaard once said that his goal in writing was to make life difficult for people. I read Edward Said’s On Late Style (Pantheon) because its title suggested that it might offer insights into my life’s pursuit of trying to understand art. The subtitle of the book is Music and Literature Against the Grain. The photo of Said on the back cover shows his shirt collar slightly askew, which I chose to understand as an unintended message.

    There are no artists (in the narrow sense) discussed, but the book contains

  • “Snap Judgments”

    AFRICA AND PHOTOGRAPHY have a tangled history. Can the medium that has depicted Africa for the West since the moment of the camera’s invention, during the colonialism of the nineteenth century, escape this troubled past? The thesis of “Snap Judgments: New Positions in Contemporary African Photography” was that this possibility exists not only in theory but in practice among contemporary African artists, who are all too often ignored beyond their homelands. In his impressive introduction to the catalogue, curator Okwui Enwezor states that Western photographic depictions have either aestheticized

  • “The Wall”

    “POOR CHINA!” It is June 2003; Venice is sweltering. A friend and I have traversed the Arsenale and now find ourselves standing before an installation of bright lights and ungainly statuary that is meant to evoke the chaotic dynamism of the postmillennial Chinese city. Despite this theme, the work feels inert—showy, but dumb. We grow restless. The aforementioned comment by my companion expresses with sad resignation the view that contemporary art in China cannot hold its own against the more sophisticated endeavors of the West. Not only can it not compete: It is worthy of our sympathy.

    Buffalo,