James Meyer

  • Dale McConathy, 1968. Photo: Victor Lassiter.

    THE MIRROR OF FASHION: DALE McCONATHY AND THE NEO-AVANT-GARDE

    On the face of it, “The Crystal Land,” the earliest of Robert Smithson’s magazine texts, is a charming travelogue: a recollection of a visit to an abandoned quarry in New Jersey. That Donald Judd is among the “guests” along for the tour seems an incidental detail, until it becomes apparent that Judd’s work has become fodder for the author’s capacious imagination. The flat, descriptive prose is strikingly suggestive of Judd’s “placid but dismal” style, and Judd’s pink Plexiglas box is compared to a “giant crystal from another planet.” Nor does Judd himself escape appropriation. The Judd of

  • Hans Haacke, Shapolsky et al Manhattan Real Estate Holdings, a Real-Time Social System, as of May 1, 1971.

    Antagonisms

    When did criticality get a bad name? In the go-go fin de ’90s, politically thoughtful work took a backseat to mediocre painting, glamorous video rooms, “sensational” schlock, and post-Conceptual photography of epic scale. This near-half-century survey presents a range of critical activities—from ’60s activism and street theater to photoconceptualism and current forms of institutional critique. A bit ambitious, perhaps. Yet one can only admire MACBA for launching this show at such an affirmative moment, when marketing and spectacle seem to dictate what is seen and discussed.

  • Victor Burgin

    Artist and essayist Victor Burgin is not easy to place. One of the first to employ photography and text to examine the construction of subjectivity by advertising and television and the technics of the gaze, the British artist bridges the worlds of ’60s photo-Conceptualism, the psychoanalytic and feminist milieu of Screen during its ’70s heyday, and the early ’80s “Pictures” scene. Subsequent video- and computer-based efforts engaging painting, photography, and film have readapted the social critique immanent in his approach for a “post-medium” moment. Burgin’s work has rarely been visible en

  • James Meyer

    JAMES MEYER

    1 Tate Modern The plant is grand, the site unique. Yes, the rearrangement of the collection led to forced pairings and hackneyed themes (when I see “The Body” I want to ...), and the Louise Bourgeois towers, not to mention the single-artist installations, affirmed the fashionable status quo. Still, the new Tate’s energy and ambition are formidable. One only hopes that future curatorial efforts will live up to the building.

    2 The Theme Survey The reinstallation of the Tate’s collection is the apotheosis of a museological trend. I had the pleasure of witnessing its birth back in 1996 at

  • “Live In Your Head: Concept And Experiment In Britain, 1965–75”

    Was there a British Conceptualism? Previous surveys of this development have mapped a cross-Atlantic phenomenon; more recently, “Global Conceptualism” made the case for a worldwide tendency. Current retrospective exhibits of Sol LeWitt, Martha Rosler, and Cildo Meireles have instead focused on the work of a single practitioner. Neither global nor monographic in approach, “Live in Your Head” examined the local context of Britain in the ’60s and ’70s. Inured to all the buzz surrounding Young British Art, the Turner Prize, Tate Modern, etc., one could easily wonder whether Conceptualism itself was

  • IMPURE THOUGHTS: THE ART OF SAM DURANT

    Each period casts a very long shadow. One’s period is when one is very young.

    —Diana Vreeland

    THE SUMMER OF LOVE CAME LATE TO THE VINEYARD. When it did, it hit hard. That summer Ali MacGraw died in Ryan O’Neal’s arms after warming his cold, preppy heart (“Love means never having to say you’re sorry”). Our local bard, James Taylor, told us we had a friend, and we believed him. Sitting cross-legged at a free concert, joints aflame all around us, we savored Sweet Baby James’s romantic baritone and sincere words. That summer the hippies took over the beaches. Their insouciance offended our Eisenhower-era

  • Live in Your Head: Concept and Experiment in Britain, 1965–75

    Tired of YBA? The latest survey to reexamine the art of the ’60s and ’70s, “Live In Your Head” revisits the context of British Conceptualism, in particular the more ephemeral and far-out practices that flourished during that fabled epoque. In this show, curated by Clive Phillpot and Whitechapel’s Andrea Tarsia, expect to see works by Richard Long and Art & Language alongside more extreme projects: remnants of John Latham’s notorious supper at which guests chewed up and spit out pages of Greenberg’s Art and Culture; Susan Hiller’s early opus incinerated and poured into a test tube; and Gilbert

  • “Global Conceptualism: Points of Origin, 1950s–1980s”

    “Global Conceptualism” made two claims. It suggested that Conceptualism—the visual presentation of a linguistic idea—was an international phenomenon and that its emergence was inextricable from the leftist, postcolonial politics of the ’60s and ’70s. Both arguments implied a critique of previous formulations. First, the show pointed up the Western bias of such important earlier surveys as the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris’s “L’art conceptuel, une perspective” (1989) and the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art’s “Reconsidering the Object of Art, 1965–1975” (1995). Second,

  • Ronald Bladen

    RONALD BLADEN IS TODAY A SOMEWHAT OBSCURE figure. This was not always so. His Three Elements, 1965, identical rhomboids perched at a 65-degree angle, was a standout in the Jewish Museum’s landmark “Primary Structures” in 1966, vying for attention with Donald Judd’s static cubes and Robert Morris’s L-Beams (it was Bladen’s work in fact that dominated the coverage in the New York Times and Life). Another sculpture, the extraordinary X, 1967, headlined the Corcoran Gallery’s 1968 “Scale as Content” exhibition. For a few brief years, Bladen was a player in the fiercely competitive Minimal arena.

  • “Global Conceptualism: Points of Origin, 1950s-1980s”

    Recent exhibitions of Conceptual art have focused primarily on work produced in the United States and Europe during the ’60s and early ’70s. Organized by an international team of curators, “Global Conceptualism” casts its net wide: Works by Kosuth, Broodthaers, Piper, and other avatars of American and European Conceptualism are shown alongside lesser-known projects from Africa, Australia and New Zealand, East Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America. Presenting over ninety artists of diverse origins, the Queens Museum of Art repackages the Conceptual model for a contemporary, globalized art world.

  • Unfashionably Late

    PAINTING IN THE 90’S HAS become a tightening circle, a game of diminished rewards and opportunities. Every year a “new” painting is touted; every season brings a “hot” young artist. For all these claims, little work stands out. Midcareer mediocrities receive vast retrospectives, pseudomasters reign at the Met. The few painters we can point to with confidence, we praise excessively, out of a nostalgia for better times (our endless lionizing of Gerhard Richter, for example, or our hesitancy to criticize Robert Ryman, whose process-based abstraction has finally lost its freshness). As for the

  • Carl Andre

    Early in his career Carl Andre summarized the history of 20th-century sculpture with a simple maxim: “Sculpture-as-shape; sculpture-as-structure; sculpture-as- place.” Shaped or modeled sculpture was the dominant practice from antiquity until Rodin; structural sculpture, a sculpture of repeated, joined units, emerged with Tatlin and Brancusi. In “sculpture-as-place” these units are unattached and laid directly on the floor; inviting one to walk around and across it, it’s a sculpture that solicits bodily participation.

    The best example of “sculpture-as-place” is of course Andre’s own work—the