Johanna Burton

  • Dorothy Iannone

    In the preface accompanying Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer (1934), Anaïs Nin (or, some claim, Miller ghostwriting) argues, “If there is here revealed a capacity to shock, to startle the lifeless ones from their profound slumber, let us congratulate ourselves; for the tragedy of our world is precisely that nothing any longer is capable of rousing it from its lethargy.” The long-term censorship of Miller’s work in America and Britain made clear that the book indeed had such a capacity: Tropic of Cancer was not published in the US until 1961, when it become a central object in the era’s fierce


    THE TERM APPROPRIATION often seems too simple to describe Sherrie Levine’s practice—or at least renders her operations too static. For if the artist’s reuse of objects, images, and words (now often her “own”) is a common thread throughout her oeuvre, it’s important to remember that such a through line also reveals the complexity of the changing contexts it traverses. This is certainly the case in Levine’s project for Artforum, in which the source to which she returns is her “Untitled (After Walker Evans)” series—twenty-two images selected and rephotographed from the hundreds of pictures Evans

  • Trisha Brown

    This past spring, in celebration of a presentation of the last forty years of the eminent choreographer’s dance works at the Brooklyn Academy of Music as well as of her first solo gallery show ever, a selection of drawings at Sikkema Jenkins & Co., Trisha Brown was invited for a conversation on the Leonard Lopate radio show. With the discussion ranging from Brown’s collaborations with Robert Rauschenberg to continued gender discrimination when it comes to fame and funding in the arts, the twenty-minute interview—as the format dictates—presented a radically uneven set of information: introductory

  • Barbara Kruger

    If ever there were a time to reflect on the recent past of a present moment, this would seem to be it. With its many uncanny parallels to and, perhaps in retrospect, prescient harbingers for our day, the ’80s—that messy, sprawling decade, which seemed to begin sometime in the 1970s and arguably maintained force well into the early 1990s—holds a certain kind of fascination for many of us today. Indeed, the seeds of our current situation (economic, political, and specifically for this context, artistic) were sowed during those years when Reagan took office, the AIDS crisis hit, and the stock market

  • Susan Rothenberg

    Nearly impossible, it seems, not to start with the horses, even though they make no appearance in Susan Rothenberg’s latest canvases. Indeed, it is telling how very thoroughly, since first materializing in her work (over three decades ago), Rothenberg’s equine forms have become identified with the artist and how, in a sense, they would seem to shadow every form she has turned to since (to say nothing of the critical discourse attending her oeuvre). Appearing at a moment—the mid-’70s—when newly minted postmodern ideas were putting heat on painting, Rothenberg’s horses seemed at once to reintroduce

  • Guy de Cointet

    Ferdinand de Saussure’s famous Course in General Linguistics (published posthumously in 1916) defines language as “a system of pure values which are determined by nothing except the momentary arrangements of its terms.” Such a characterization—a radical proposition in its day—has over the years become largely taken for granted. Most people, it seems, would admit that words are tethered somewhat arbitrarily to what they signify (“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”), but however well-established the idea might be, we rarely see this premise of instability in action. For the most part,

  • Nayland Blake

    The OED tells us that the word behave derives from the Middle English “be + haven”—“to have” or, slightly differently, “to hold”—and that behavior, then, designates the manner in which one holds oneself. But though the dictionary doesn’t ascribe any inherent judgment to the term (one could behave very badly or with utter propriety or in any manner in between) there is built into its everyday use an assumption of the worst. One rarely brings up behavior if it’s good (unless as a way to reduce jail time!); and though ostensibly describing an individual’s actions, the word always serves to point

  • Kelley Walker

    For his third solo show at Paula Cooper, Kelley Walker presented a number of large-scale “paintings” across which march silk-screened images of scanned bricks and cinder blocks. Quasi-photographic in nature and blushed with unnatural hues, the resulting “stacks” flicker between illusionism and flatness, rendering each composition at once another depiction of a wall (or barricade) and another variation on the theme of minimal, nonreferential grids. On close inspection, however, the “mortar” ostensibly holding steady each of these hybrid feats adds—quite literally—another unexpected layer. Hand-cut,

  • Babette Mangolte

    For “Collision,” her second solo show at Broadway 1602, avant-garde filmmaker and documentary photographer Babette Mangolte opted, as the title suggests, to bring together the many materials, methods, and periods of her production. Mangolte is, of course, known by now—the woman behind the lens, producing images of so many of the most germinal performances of the 1970s and beyond; without her, we would have much less of the still scant “proof” of events by Trisha Brown, Yvonne Rainer, Robert Whitman, and Richard Foreman, to name just a few. But although Mangolte’s complicated position as

  • Lorraine O’Grady

    In 1980, at Just Above Midtown Gallery in New York, Lorraine O’Grady presented her first official (which is to say first invited) public performance piece, Nefertiti/Devonia Evangeline. The work followed closely on the heels of the artist’s more (in her words) “hit-and-run” foray into performance, Mlle Bourgeoise Noire—in which she showed up at New York art openings as the title character, unannounced and uninvited, calling attention to those deeply raced, gendered, and classed environments—and likewise concerned itself with issues of representation.

    But Nefertiti/Devonia Evangeline made unapologetic

  • Moyra Davey

    “WELL, I’LL BE DAMNED!” Standing at the entrance to “Long Life Cool White: Photographs by Moyra Davey”— a survey of the artist’s photographs from the past two decades (and her first museum show), curated by Helen Molesworth—was a fifty-something man in khakis, hands on hips, shaking his head vigorously, grinning, clearly in the pleasurable throes of realizing he had been duped. It seemed that he had just read the wall label for a group of one hundred eight-by-ten C-prints, each placed under Plexiglas and all hung in a neat grid. A lesson in infinitely subtle comparison, every photograph depicts

  • Mona Vatamanu and Florin Tudor

    It appeared when one entered Mona Vatamanu and Florin Tudor’s exhibition (the Romanian artists’ first in the United States) at Lombard-Freid that a lecture had just taken place or would take place very soon. Rows of folding wooden chairs were arranged in neat diagonal rows in front of a stark wooden lectern with a microphone. Yet, though nobody was situated at the podium—and the day I visited I was the only person in the space—a single voice, enunciating crisply with moderated pitch, rang through the room. The Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels’s influential 1848 screed, was being read in