Jeffrey Weiss

  • Jeffrey Weiss

    THERE ARE WORKS OF ART, though rare, that stop us cold. Bruce Nauman’s installation Contrapposto Studies, i through vii, 2015–16, is one of them. On view at Sperone Westwater gallery this past fall, it was displayed in three rooms on the first and third floors. (A second version, Contrapposto Studies, I through VII, ran concurrently and remains on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, through January 8, 2017.)The work, a sequence of seven HD-video projections, is an adaptation of Walk with Contrapposto, a one-hour video Nauman made in 1968. In the early video, the artist, hands clasped behind

  • “Revisions—Zen for Film

    DEMATERIALIZATION. In an important text of 1968, Lucy R. Lippard and John Chandler chose that word to describe the presumed disappearance of the aesthetic object in the context of Conceptual art. Dematerialization proved to be a useful myth: useful in that the term was convenient shorthand for the decline of the conventional art object (a painting or sculpture handmade by the artist-author); a myth in that so much advanced work of the period yielded a decidedly material proliferation of paperwork—handwritten or typed texts, contracts of ownership and certificates of authenticity, photographic

  • DUE PROCESS: RICHARD SERRA’S EARLY SPLASH/CAST WORKS

    SPEAKING OF HIS EARLY PRACTICE, Richard Serra makes a succinct claim: “This is this. This is not that.”1 His works from the mid to late 1960s were intended to express the actions of “process.” In so doing, they demonstrate the deployment of basic procedures that activate the primary qualities of media derived from construction and industrial fabrication, such as fiberglass and vulcanized rubber. Produced from molten lead, the works known as “splashings” or “castings” (or sometimes both) are chief examples of this category of work. Indeed, in their case, the role of process is deepened by the

  • LIGHT REPAIRS: A ROUNDTABLE ON THE RESTORATION OF MARK ROTHKO’S HARVARD MURALS

    WHEN IS A PAINTING not a painting anymore?
     
    In 1962, Mark Rothko created the Harvard Murals, a set of six monumental paintings, five of which were displayed in the penthouse dining room of the university’s Holyoke Center, a windowed perch with stunning views. Deeply and delicately hued expanses, the canvases ranged in color from searing orange-red to light pink to dark purple. But in the decade that followed, continual exposure to daylight drastically changed the works, fading them so that some areas lightened to near white while others turned a dull black. Languishing in storage for many years, the works were thought to be beyond repair. But recently, a team of conservators and scientists made a new and unprecedented attempt to restore the pictures—not with pigment or chemicals but with light: For each canvas, they devised a highly complex colored-light projection that, when shone on the work, returns it to its original coloration. What we see is what was meant to be seen, ostensibly. But what are the risks of such an approach? Does the use of light open the door to virtual reality, to smoke and mirrors, turning the paintings into something else altogether? Or does it constitute a brilliant way of making the paintings viewable again, without so much as touching a thread of canvas?
     
    Conservator CAROL MANCUSI-UNGARO, who worked on the project; curators HARRY COOPER and JEFFREY WEISS; art historian YVE-ALAIN BOIS; Artforum editor MICHELLE KUO; and artists LYNN HERSHMAN LEESON, DAVID REED, KEN OKIISHI, and R. H. QUAYTMAN peer into the void.

    CAROL MANCUSI-UNGARO: Rothko’s Harvard Murals were installed in 1964, but after suffering differential damage, they were put in storage in 1979. They were included in a few exhibitions, two at Harvard and one traveling exhibition, but basically they hadn’t been seen or studied for decades.

    The murals are one of only three commissions that Rothko made. Scholars studied the Seagram paintings, and they studied the Rothko Chapel, but they largely skipped the Harvard Murals because hardly anyone had seen them. Most only knew the story about their fading and being removed from view. The works

  • passages September 03, 2014

    On Kawara (1933–2014)

    TO SPEAK OF THE WORK OF On Kawara is, in certain respects, to speak of the life—and now, of the death. The artist’s passing deepens an absence that some might say was already there, for he spent the last half century strategically avoiding the public eye. The nature of his art is fairly well known, although it is generally seen in small, refined doses, and its visibility comes and goes: But for an ongoing installation of paintings at Dia:Beacon, the work is shown sporadically in galleries and museums and otherwise can be hard to find.

    Kawara was a young star of the postwar Tokyo avant-garde, but

  • “Mel Bochner: Strong Language”

    A good deal of attention has been paid in the past decade to the work of Mel Bochner, with exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and London’s Whitechapel Gallery, among other venues. Yet in New York, Bochner’s home for close to fifty years, the artist has, bizarrely, never received a museum survey. This welcome exhibition, though not the full-scale retrospective Bochner so richly deserves, will include more than seventy works—paintings, drawings, and prints from 1966 to the present—in which Bochner

  • ETERNAL RETURN: ROBERT MORRIS’S RECENT WORK

    FOR THE PAST TWO YEARS, Robert Morris has been producing new work that is, in unexpected ways, explicitly derived from old work. So far, the new objects are fifteen in number. They have been produced by a craftsman, Josh Finn, from a variety of hardwoods: walnut, maple, oak, cherry, mahogany, ash, alder, birch, poplar, and European beech. The techniques of fabrication are often those of cabinetry. Each work was made to stand alone, but Morris thinks of the entire group as a “family” of related objects. Four of them are variants—almost exact replicas—of works in plywood or fir previously

  • Walter De Maria

    MYTHS THRIVE on an absence of information. It would be unfair to say that Walter De Maria was given to self-mythologizing, but he was an elusive, at times even evasive, figure. He has certainly been the least visible public personality among his contemporaries. Does this partly account for the peculiar fact that,despite its obvious significance—and its inclusion in such landmark exhibitions as “Primary Structures” at New York’s Jewish Museum in 1966 and “When Attitudes Become Form” at Kunsthalle Bern in 1969—his art can almost be described as obscure? Given that certain works by De

  • CLOSE UP: THE ABSENT OBJECT

    IN “WHY SCULPTURE IS BORING” (1846), Charles Baudelaire seeks to diagnose the modern condition of the sculptural object. His chief claim, however, concerns the elementary nature of the object across historical time. In contrast to painting, Baudelaire writes, sculpture in the round is plagued by certain crucial “disadvantages.” A painting is “despotic”: In its flat frontality, it demands to be seen from one position alone. Conversely, a work of sculpture, which we are apt to view from many perspectives, cannot control the way in which it is beheld. Despite its identity as an autonomous object

  • THINGS NOT NECESSARILY MEANT TO BE VIEWED AS ART

    WHAT DOES IT MEAN to speak of the “status of the object” in art? The phrase has generally been deployed in discussions around the unfixed material identity of the aesthetic object in the postmodern era. When used this way, it is meant to signal, among other things, the end of medium specificity, which has given way in artistic practice to a mobile, variable, or indeterminate relation between the terms of a work and its material means. At stake is the work’s very constitution: It is no longer understood necessarily to take only one form—indeed, it may not require concrete form of any kind.

  • Dan Flavin’s “‘. . . in daylight or cool white.’”

    A SOLITARY LAMP mounted on an aging, flaking studio wall: Shown this way, in an unprepossessing photograph, the diagonal of May 25, 1963 is both lowly and beatific. Accordingly, for the layout of Dan Flavin’s “ ‘. . . in daylight or cool white.’ an autobiographical sketch,” which appeared in these pages in December 1965, the radiant image was reproduced in black-and-white on matte amber stock. For all its candor, the diagonal is weird and complex: a gas-filled electrical readymade that traffics with pictorial and sculptural varieties of modernist abstraction. Flavin tells us that the diagonal

  • “Matisse: Paires/Impaires”

    Forget the rivalry between Picasso and Matisse: Matisse was, it appears, his own severest competitor.

    Forget the rivalry between Picasso and Matisse: Matisse was, it appears, his own severest competitor. Coming on the heels of “Matisse: Radical Invention 1913–1917,” an exhibition concerning the artist’s tortured practice of scraping and revising his painted work, “Matisse: Paires/Impaires” showcases paired pieces devoted to a single motif. Indeed, Matisse’s process, once portrayed as largely intuitive, is now routinely said to have been formal and strict. Perhaps this approach counts as a necessary historical correction. In any

  • Jeffrey Weiss

    I WORKED BRIEFLY BUT CLOSELY with Cy Twombly in 2001, during the installation of his exhibition of sculpture at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. The show (originally organized by Katharina Schmidt and Paul Winkler for the Kunstmuseum Basel and the Menil Collection, Houston) was a leap for the NGA, a largely conservative institution. Initially intended for the East Building, it was ultimately installed in the Mellon galleries of the old West Building, a series of elegant Beaux-Arts rooms that were whitewashed for the occasion. Skylights that are normally covered or strongly filtered

  • Richard Serra

    IT IS DIFFICULT to imagine drawing without sculpture in the work of Richard Serra. We inevitably invoke them together, even when drawing is the topic at hand. Drawing is always understood to be secondary, yet Serra himself has long said that his sculpture deploys—even that it is—drawing, by which he means that it represents the functional application of drawing as an operation. Specifically, it is his idea of drawing as “cut” that has, since the 1970s, determined two basic properties of his sculpture: the physical partition of material elements and the way the work itself is made to

  • Carl Andre

    WE NEVER STOP RELEARNING the significance of certain bodies of work. A remarkable installation on view at the Chinati Foundation demonstrates—or, better, reminds us—how Carl Andre can collapse the distance between almost-nothing and almost-everything.

    Installation is intrinsic to the subliminal power of Andre’s sculpture—to the way we not only examine the work but physically engage it—and “Cuts into Space: Sculptures by Carl Andre” (organized by Marianne Stockebrand, until recently the director of Chinati) has been installed with perfect tact. Five works occupy the venue (a

  • Richard Serra Drawing: A Retrospective

    Richard Serra has described his sculptural practice as being grounded in drawing: Drawing as “cut” represents the division of a sheet by a line—and, in turn, of actual space by the edge of a steel plate.

    Richard Serra has described his sculptural practice as being grounded in drawing: Drawing as “cut” represents the division of a sheet by a line—and, in turn, of actual space by the edge of a steel plate. He has also approached drawing as a relentless, heavy application of medium—generally black paint stick—to support. And the huge “installation drawings,” which occupy whole walls, seize control of one’s sensation of the space of a room. Organized by the Menil Collection, Houston, this first full-scale retrospective of Serra’s

  • Al Taylor: Wire Instruments and Pet Stains

    At last, a museum survey for Al Taylor, who has been largely—and criminally— overlooked in the United States

    At last, a museum survey for Al Taylor, who has been largely—and criminally— overlooked in the United States. Though restricted to only two series (“Wire Instruments,” 1989–90, and “Pet Stains,” 1989–92), the exhibition will bring us some fifty works, including not only drawings but a number of objects the artist made from scavenged materials,constructions that were both inspired by and the subject of many works on paper. Taylor thought of his entire practice as a form of drawing—and of drawing, in turn, as a method for seeing. In these

  • Al Taylor

    It is hard to know where to begin describing Al Taylor’s imagination. His practice was a somewhat hermetic, hybrid one, a private marriage of drawing and object making. Taylor (who moved to New York from Kansas City, Missouri, in 1970 and died of cancer in 1999 at the age of fifty-one) spent seven years working for Robert Rauschenberg, so his scavenger’s devotion to cast-off objects comes with a pedigree. But to say that Rauschenberg’s example somehow accounts for Taylor is about as useful as saying that Frank O’Hara read a lot of Arthur Rimbaud. Marcel Duchamp was clearly important to him,

  • Kees van Dongen

    Art historians typically associate Kees van Dongen with French Fauve painting. His works from that period—images of circus acrobats and music-hall performers—are striking for their reductive and caricatural approach to modernist figuration.

    Art historians typically associate Kees van Dongen with French Fauve painting. His works from that period—images of circus acrobats and music-hall performers—are striking for their reductive and caricatural approach to modernist figuration. Yet like those of other Fauves (e.g., Braque, Derain, Matisse), van Dongen’s career extends far beyond that era. In recent times, he has been neglected, taken as a minor figure, a fatuous court painter of bohemian high society. But perhaps the contemporary reemergence of painterly figuration (Marlene Dumas, Elizabeth Peyton) allows us

  • STATE OF THE ART: MATISSE UNDER EXAMINATION

    With the Art Institute of Chicago’s exhibition “Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913–1917” poised to open later this month, art historian JEFFREY WEISS reflects on this pivotal period in the artist’s career—assessing not only the show’s remarkable discoveries about Matisse’s working process but also the advanced technologies and the curatorial approach that made such insights possible.

    IN HIS 1957 ESSAY “NEW YORK PAINTING ONLY YESTERDAY,” the critic Clement Greenberg observed that, during the 1930s, Henri Matisse’s painting Bathers by a River, 1909–17, was on view for some time in the lobby of the Valentine Gallery on East Fifty-seventh Street.¹ He claims he saw it there so often he could have “cop[ied] it by heart.” The implication is that it was an object of close study for many painters as well. What Greenberg ascribes to Bathers (and to Matisse’s work in general) is an anticipation of the “Abstract-Expressionist notion of the big picture,” with specific reference to the