Kate Linker

  • Public Sculpture: The Pursuit of the Pleasurable and Profitable Paradise

    A SERIES OF IMAGES HOVERS over the recent emergence of public sculpture in America. In one, we witness an epiphany: above a plaza swept by sunny skies, the heavens open and a helicopter descends. The sculpture is deposited amidst the massed crowds who respond with adoring cheers. In a second, the scene changes. The machines are gone. Quiet reigns. Children clamor over their new-found toy and rest on its ledges. And to such paradisiacal visions of the public “interacting with the art” is aligned one more, a ceremonial view, in which the Mayor dedicates the artwork, signifying official acceptance.

  • Meditations on a Goldfish Bowl: Autonomy and Analogy in Matisse

    A MATISSE PAINTING FROM the ’20s shows a woman observing a goldfish bowl.1 An image of seeming simplicity: much as Emma Bovary scans her world, so the figure regards the fish and, like Flaubert’s readers, we observe her in her observations. A chair frames her body and, beyond that, a screen; to the rear, a summary window, its panes bounded by the picture frame, indicates the border between inner and exterior space. But here certain complexities intervene, for the window (a glass) is actually made of sketches, one of which figures a woman looking in; and the mirror above the mantel (again,

  • Jackie Ferrara’s Il-lusions

    TWO APPROACHES TO JACKIE FERRARA’S sculpture seem to prevail. One stresses its “architectural” nature, finding analogues or fantasies of buildings, and unfailingly refers to the pyramids; this reading views her work allusively, linking it to “architectural imagism” in recent art. The other—less trendy—approaches it through procedures or traditions, seeing Minimalism, reductivism and general abstraction in (again) “pyramids,” “stacking” and wood. The one looks out, the other, in; one accents content, the other, form. Sometimes a writer notes that Ferrara’s work “refers to antithetical esthetic

  • The Writings of Robert Smithson

    The Writings of Robert Smithson, ed. Nancy Holt (New York, New York University Press, 1979), 221 pages, 220 black and white illustrations.

    Artists-as-artists, Ad Reinhardt wrote, say the same thing—repetitive nothing is the subject of their work—but Robert Smithson, the guardian of impurity, had a very great deal to express. Those party to his late-night ramblings at Max’s could have these dictates readily. There the vituperative tongue and wide-ranging intellect held court until all hours. But for the rest, it seemed, there were other sources to contact. In the late 1960s one could expect regular

  • Charles Simonds' Emblematic Architecture

    “LET US SUPPOSE,” WROTE George Kubler, “that the idea of art can be expanded to embrace the whole range of man-made things, including all tools and writing in addition to the useless, beautiful, poetic things of the world. By this view the universe of man-made things simply coincides with the history of art.”1 Kubler’s remark, made in 1961, begins a well-known book in which objects and ideas, artifacts and “mental culture,” tools and expression are united under the common rubric of form. The Shape of Time proposed to align these divided and divisive terms as the elements of a temporal morphology.

  • Oyvind Fahlstrom’s Political Gamesmanship

    OYVIND FAHLSTROM DIED OF cancer on November 9, 1976. He left behind a question, scribbled in the diaristic notations of his late work. It is phrased as a question of “political art,” and reads: “Can we become the sons/daughters of Marx and Mondrian?”

    The query is not original. The social role of the artist has been hotly debated since the late 18th century, with accelerated energy in the last decades. The literature on “engagement,” “commitment,” and the ethical obligation of the artist is indication enough. What is original is Fahlstrom’s answer, its esthetic cast, and its relation to the dense