Joshua Decter

  • Project Unité, Firminy

    Le Corbusier’s Unité d’ Habitation, a monumental block of low-income apartments awkwardly wedged into the hills surrounding the small city of Firminy in central France, may once have functioned as a beacon of hope; now it bears witness to a return of the repressed capitalism in crisis haunting the house of high Modernism. Completed in 1967 as part of a larger complex including a youth center, a stadium, and a church, the building was intended as a visionary response to the economic disenfranchisement caused by rapid industrialization. Continuing recession, however, has sharply reduced the local

  • Haim Steinbach

    Haim Steinbach seems set on hiding it away. Closeting things in boxes, dressers, and drawers marks a virtual return of repression for an artist who gained notoriety with his cultivated display of consumer items. For Steinbach, these indiscreet objects of desire seemed to constitute a unique esthetic field that could be reconceptualized, revisualized, and resystematized as a kind of post-Formalism. Arranged into capitalist still lifes, these objects—Nike sneakers, detergent containers, and lava lamps—had never looked more alluring or “unique” in their ordinariness.

    In his latest show, yanking open

  • Chris Burden

    A volcanic mass of rocky landscape at once wrapped with and penetrated by model trains and tracks of various sizes, Medusa’s Head, 1989–92, hung from the ceiling like a twisted child’s vision of terrestrial apocalypse. The gaping wounds on the object’s contorted surface doubled as tunnels for the immobile toy trains-atrophied, self-circulating travel refusing to proceed around a globe of materialized entropy. A grand, if not somehow threatening, deliberate inanity that also characterizes Chris Burden’s Whitney Biennial installation, Fist of Light, 1992–93, predominates here. In the latter we

  • Franz West

    The Dadaists wanted to throw it in the face of bourgeois culture; Piero Manzoni canned it as a consumable, signaling a perversely clean form of capitalist repression; and Joseph Beuys ironically monumentalized it. Enacting a Nietzschean flight into corporeal affirmation/negation, Hermann Nitsch’s and Otto Mühl’s Wiener Aktionismus group’s quasi-Dionysian performances often involved smearing the body with what appear to be its own secretions.

    This complex history of the scatological in art is reflected in the work of Austrian artist, Franz West, specifically in his investment in the art object as

  • Ken Lum

    Comprising variously patterned and colored throw pillows of outsized proportions casually plopped down beside reductive, image-populated and text-inscribed paintings, Ken Lum’s oblique arrangement of works set in motion a scramble for hermeneutic points of entry. This peculiar ensemble also demanded a patient excavation of buried contents. In contrast to the social parody of certain of Lum’s previous efforts—his “Furniture Sculpture,” 1982-93, and “Portrait Logos,” 1984—a disturbing neutrality prevailed here. Meaning had to be teased out of the potential correspondences between objects and their

  • Josef Strau and Stephan Dillemuth

    Founded in 1990 by artists Joseph Strau and Stephan Dillemuth, Friesenwall 120 is a storefront space located close to Cologne’s central gallery district. Meant to serve multiple functions, it has operated as a video and newspaper archive, provided a meeting place for a “gray panther” group, featured a scholarly exhibition on the Situationist movement, and mounted group and one-person shows. Perhaps most significantly, Friesenwall 120 has become a kind of social nexus of the Cologne art scene. Outfitted with a reading/viewing room (plus couch), the modest space might be described as a mutable

  • “The Naturalist Gathers”

    In its arrangement of images that span the history of art, and film stills, book illustrations, postcards, and advertisements, “The Naturalist Gathers” presented a genealogy of the process of collecting, ordering, and observing. Devoid of “original” artworks, this fabric of pictures portrayed the world as a chain of mediated representations, illuminating how we organize experience and construct an “archaeology of knowledge.” Composed of materials from curator Douglas Blau’s own collection, this picture gallery within a gallery became something akin to an encyclopedic vanitas, filled with images

  • Matt Mullican

    At once rationalist and (neo)Romanticist, technocratic and ambivalently spiritual, matt Mullican’s work has consistently traced a paradox of late-modern subjectivity: the tension between a private language code (resistant to the norms of everyday communication) and the desire to feed into the logic of our regulated, postindustrial society. This now familiar dualism of consciousness continues to galvanize Mullican’s practice, suggesting that the artist has always been most interested in articulating the unstable negotiation between the rational and the irrational. This dilemma was posed in the

  • Candida Höfer

    If, as is often said, we live in a post-Enlightenment culture, it is only in the sense that new techniques with which to manufacture order (like the computer and television) have been invented. So while the classificatory systems of the Enlightenment, such as the archive, the library, and the museum, are becoming increasingly outmoded inventories of our “knowledge” of the world, they continue to operate as distinctly public sites of sociocultural organization.

    It is in this respect that Candida Höfer’s work can be understood as having emerged from a lineage of German artmaking that remains firmly

  • “Fluxus: A Conceptual Country” and “Fluxattitudes”

    Strongly influenced by Dada’s rebellious spirit and John Cage’s radical experimentalism, the artistic counter-movement known as Fluxus celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. George Maciunas, and a host of artists, writers, musicians, photographers, poets, performers, and filmmakers (including George Brecht, Robert Watts, and Dick Higgins) who passed through the philosophical filter of Fluxus during the ’60s and early ’70s, sought to “democratize” art by provoking the spectator to interact physically and intellectually with the work, requiring the viewer’s self-conscious participation in the

  • Silvia Kolbowski

    The term “Formalism” continues to suffer from a rather parochial reduction to the status of a code word that refers exclusively to a circumscribed species of painting and sculpture. This conventional usage will not be dislodged easily, even though its companion notion of artistic purity insists by definition on an enforced balkanization of media that is untenable today. Art practices that are conceptual and directed at institutional critique are not exempt from spiraling into the tautological extremities of formalism, especially when the methodological mantles of seminal precursor artists such