Kate Linker

  • “Subjects in Pictures”

    This exhibition, organized by Philip Monk, presented the work of six Toronto-based artists. Its title involves a play on words, for, as Monk notes in his catalogue essay, it can speak of both content and individuality, “subject-matter and subjecthood.” In the latter, Monk is dealing with one of the capital topics of our era, for the representation of individuals in any work extends beyond their simple figuration to encompass reflection on the forms of subjectivity in society. To “picture” individuals in and as images is to comment on the social relations their appearances imply, and on the means

  • Bruce Nauman

    Bruce Nauman’s work is important for proposing a departure from that impasse of conceptualism, the belief in the self’s authority over language, in its ability to control and define. Since the late ’60s, through punning and anagram pieces contemporaneous with works involving physical forms, Nauman has explored transformations in language that problematize meaning, revealing the arbitrariness of its assignment to words. These seemingly playful works demonstrate the abstractness of the sign, indicating that it has no inherent relation to a signified. In his more recent practice Nauman appears to

  • “For Presentation and Display: Ideal Settings”

    At the back of the gallery, Allan McCollum and Louise Lawler composed a critical installation, a reflection on the limits imposed on art by the gallery under capitalism. Lawler and McCollum are friends, and, as artists, share certain concerns. Their decision to work together can thus be seen as exemplary for collaboration, describing an area of intellectual coincidence rather than the kind of market combination that characterizes most recent endeavors.

    “Ideal Settings” appeared to take the form of a monument, a reminder of and commentary on the place common to those transactions that we describe

  • ELUDING DEFINITION

    AMONG THE TORTUOUS TEXTS of Jacques Lacan, several speak with unusual lucidity and pertinence about the constraints surrounding the very idea of women. In “Encore,” an essay from the early 70s approaching the terra incognita of feminine desire, Lacan speaks “of all those beings who take on the status of the woman.”1 Lacan exposes the problem as one of authority, for “status” is a juridical term, denoting a condition or position with regard to the law. Woman’s supposed “nature,” he implies, is highly unnatural; it is not inherent but assumed (or imposed) from outside. But in another text Lacan

  • Richard Pare

    The production of Richard Pare, the British-born photographer, is multiple. Not only a taker of pictures, he is also their collector and commentator; Pare is a curator of photography for the Seagram Collection and for the Canadian Centre for Architecture, and the author of two important books on the field—The Courthouse, A Photographic Document (1978), and Photography and Architecture. (1839–1939) (1982). Hence when, as in his recent exhibition, Pare approaches the topic of Egypt, focusing on its deserts, monuments, lush oases, and capital city, Cairo, it is with neither an untutored eye nor a

  • Imants Tillers

    The notion that esthetics follow geography has always lodged uneasily in the critical mind, but it finds its latest expression in recent Australian art. As the proverbial “Down Under,” Australia suffers from its physical isolation; it is discussed—and vocally discusses itself—in terms of its distance, and thus detachment, from Western culture. However, by a near reversal, this situation is being altered, as much Australian art, and many Australian artists, are now appearing in America and Europe.

    Central among them is Imants Tillers, whose paintings are textbook illustrations of Walter Benjamin’s

  • “Body Politic”

    Fashion is no stranger to the domain of art, so it’s not surprising that the most serious and salient topics should enter the commercial market. Over the past year we’ve been told that political art is a “hot” subject, a “new” direction—in short, a trendy topic. Through a manifestation of historical amnesia, such consumerism serves to shelve a reputable political past behind the latest intellectual commodity. It also reduces issues to tissue, to wrapping paper for the packaging of products.

    Contemporary discourse, however, has an important and expansive focus in the political investment of the

  • Anthony Gormley

    Not far away, Anthony Gormley showed a series of sculpted bodies which shunned the political for metaphysical allures, secreting a pervasive and eternalizing calm. Gormley’s spare, eerie figures seem primed by primordial forces, their smooth bodies, scored by quadrant lines, marking the axial coordinates of space. Here they crouched, squatted, or sat rolled into a knee-to-elbow ball; one strode his environment like a Giacometti, while another lay stretched out on the floor. Because they are molded forms (composites cast from Gormley’s body parts), these lead-plaster-and-fiberglass figures seem

  • Jean-Michel Basquiat

    I’ve generally been a fan of Jean-Michel Basquiat, one of the few painters able to extend the graffiti issue of language from subway to gallery wall. Basquiat’s lexicon of diagrams, animals, anatomical parts, and “Sarno” crowns (to note only its most obvious elements) always seemed unusually broad in its conjunctive capacity; in its various manifestations, fused to a range of abstract pictorial marks, it seemed able to encompass much of the verve and jostling rhythm of the street. However, judging from Basquiat’s latest one-man show, that language has become slightly strained.

    My comment requires

  • John Feker

    Most messages hit us in the time of the street, the compact, instantaneous, assaultive visual moment offered by car travel or the pedestrian’s rapid scan. To this is opposed the time of the book, or of the artwork as conventionally phrased, each of which presumes a distended, contemplative circuit, capacious in its trajectory. Television and video occupy the former zone; despite their interior locale they have an immediacy, a narrow “frequency” of message alien to the protracted wavelength of the latter. Over the last few years John Fekner’s work has occupied this temporal range, as he has

  • Margia Kramer

    Margia Kramer also traffics in well-trodden terrain, but the strength of presentation, or the information compiled, lends moving power to her work. Progress (Memory) is a three-monitor video installation dealing with the distribution and control of information through advanced technology. Each monitor occupies a separate space, or sphere of activity, determined by the parameters of an oblong hooked rug. One screen is “driven” by an individual peddling a stationary bicycle; a second, featuring computerized music, is activated by a viewer seated on a piano bench; in the third space—a somewhat

  • Raymond Hood

    For decades the skyscraper has been a keystone in architectural practice, at once defining the scope of its ambition and determining the urban skyline. Architects have measured their aspirations against the yardstick of its forms, finding in them an image of contemporary city life. Among these individuals Raymond M. Hood occupies a central position, for it was Hood who, in 1922, won the competition for the Chicago Tribune Tower, rising from obscurity to the position of the ’20s’ most celebrated skyscraper designer. Over the next decade he was to introduce four buildings that altered mid-Manhattan’s

  • Terry Fox

    This recent exhibition by Europe-based performance and sound artist Terry Fox consisted of two parts, a suite of 21 drawings/constructions and an installation. Both seemed concerned with the issue of language, as if exploring its trajectory through social, political, and artistic spheres, and tracing the transmutations thereby incurred. The former works, entitled “Catch Phrases,” are mixed media objects in each of which three layers of phrases are superposed. The first layer, penciled over a 3-by-5-foot paper sheet, transcribes the emanations of newspapers and radio broadcasts; faint checkerboard

  • “Design Since 1945”

    The pivotal year in the development of contemporary design is 1945. The beginning of the postwar period, it also marks the broad-scale confrontation by designers with the question of mass production. In its wake we’ve witnessed a steady, if variegated, flow of consumer objects, altered by different developments in technology, in life-style, and in human engineering. “Design Since 1945” is the first comprehensive American survey of this field; organized by Kathryn Hiesinger and installed by George Nelson, it encompasses some 425 objects by 280 designers in a chronicle of lighting, furniture,

  • FROM IMITATION, TO THE COPY, TO JUST EFFECT: ON READING JEAN BAUDRILARD

    THE 20TH CENTURY HAS OBSERVED a striking reduction in the notion of the imagination. What was once the shaping power of thought, the purveyor of meaning, has become a kind of cybernetic machine, its overloaded circuits programmed to spew out scintillating visual forms. “Sheer” images, “pure” surfaces emanate from the image mechanism, only to slither in the glamor of the void that constitutes consumer society, their external enchantments compensating for the loss of substantive matter. These seductive, inherently spectacular forms are not, as before, glosses of meaning; they do not hint at inner

  • Alex Katz

    To one who’s never been a fan of Alex Katz’s work, this survey of some sixty small paintings, spanning thirty years, came as the proverbial pleasure, hinting at unexpected delights and at an unknown talent for the moving nuance. These oil sketches—mainly small preparatory studies for finished paintings—indicate the “private” side under Katz’s noted “public” image; they have an intimacy, an immediacy, and indeed a variety lacking in his large-scale billboard-style works.

    This documentation of the personal aspect of Katz’s endeavor began with work from the early ’50s and continued through the

  • Charles Clough

    Increasingly, the use of hybrid media by contemporary artists must be read as a critical gesture, implying comment on the epistemological limitations or inadequacies of specific means to our time. This appears to be the case in Charles Clough’s works, which are mediumistic mongrels, amalgams of photographs and paint. Each of his recent small images consists of an art reproduction or photograph that has been swathed with brilliant strokes of swirled and scumbled paint. The colors and textures of enamel play contrapuntally with the underlying images so as to shift or mimic the focus in a harmonic

  • “Post-Graffiti”

    A seductive neologism, this show’s title soon palled, deluding the viewer. Whatever it might have meant of a rupture in stance or sensibility was negated, for “Post-Graffiti,” to judge from the catalogue blurb, denoted a simple shift from subway to canvas, from impermanence to permanence, from the milieu of the street to that of the museum or gallery. It signaled, then, a change in material ground, serving to legally and artistically legitimize what was once “outsider” art. Not that the emergence of graffiti in this spatial and cultural situation is unprecedented, as Keith Haring’s and Jean-Michel

  • Keith Haring

    Strangely, the “old masters” in “Post-Graffiti” presented mostly tepid work, as if desiring more focused spotlights, unmindful of that great group show that is the subway. Downtown, Keith Haring one-upped current fashion by staging a two-gallery, two-level show, his computer-age circuits overflowing ground floor and basement, their digital jag moving from this gallery to the space behind the former Blimpie’s up the street. Haring’s familiar gang—the radiant children and angels, the lunatic TV-lookers and extraterrestrial forms—were in full force. In the Houston Street environment they populated

  • “Still Life: Hollywood Photographs”

    The lures of Hollywood movies, with their amalgam of stars, events, and luxuriant details, were seemingly insufficient to insure audience appeal. With the aim of cementing seduction, Hollywood studios in the postwar years churned out an endless stream of promotional stills, employing publicity departments and independent agencies to disseminate the images at large. These stills were used for posters, newspaper clips, and magazine reproduction; they displayed professional as well as supposedly intimate moments. Some show rehearsed and overheightened moments taken from feature films, while others