Keith Seward

  • Jim Anderson

    Jim Anderson’s formal lexicon derives from the guitar, which he perverts into all manner of what Duchamp called “objets d’ard,” including sculptures of bedpans, sex toys, and S/M paraphernalia of obscure purpose, to name but a few. In Swan Song (all works 1995), a V-shaped guitar is no longer a prosthetic rock-star penis but has been coaxed into a form simultaneously resembling a swan and a strappado. One of the accompanying videos shows the artist bound to this torture device, the wings of the V pinioning his arms behind his head, the neck of the sculpture sidling down his spine into his ass.

  • Allan Kaprow

    “Once, the task of the artist was to make good art; now it is to avoid making art of any kind,” wrote Allan Kaprow in a 1966 manifesto, formulating a paradox that has come to pervade his entire oeuvre. The Happenings and Environments through which he made his name in the ’50s and ’60s all attempted to merge art and life, to bring the audience inside the work instead of leaving it standing stupidly around in front of it. Kaprow has never ceased to make works or pen position papers (such as “The Education of the Un-Artist: Part II,” 1972, and “Art Which Can’t Be Art,” 1986) that decry this separation

  • “Critics as Artists”

    It goes without saying that every critic is a failed artist, bitterly transforming his resentment and disaffection into superfluous analytical bitchiness. Those who can, do, and those who can’t, write criticism. As if to give credence to the stereotype, by and large the works in “Critics as Artists” demonstrated about the same level of quality as a collection of thrift-store paintings; if you were looking for technical virtuosity or esthetic vision, there was no point in looking here, even though taken as a whole the works could have comprised a great conceptual maneuver à la Jim Shaw. To be

  • Nicola Tyson

    Nicola Tyson excels at figure studies of the human body—not as it is but as it could be. Like a balloon artist, Tyson twists a basic form into novel arrangements, building an inner pressure that erupts in unexpected evaginations and bulbous erections. Little holes denote misplaced anuses, vestigial urethras, or other orifices of obscure purpose. In Self-Portrait: Early ’70s (all works 1995), a figure—isolated against a flatly painted background that nevertheless suggests the corner of a room—stands with her feet pointed at the viewer and her head at the corner, truncated arms groping blindly

  • Allen Ginsberg

    Like the other Beats, Allen Ginsberg upheld an esthetic that emphasized directness, immediacy, and lived experienced-a kind of aformalism that enabled its practitioners to sow their creative seeds in a variety of fields. William Burroughs added collage and painting to his writing; Paul Bowles added writing to his music; and Ginsberg took up photography alongside his poetry. Given the pictures exhibited in Ginsberg’s show—some from the halcyon ’50s and ’60s, others more recent, in either case mostly portraits, unpretentious in form, personal in content, all in black and white—he appears to treat

  • “Bunnies”

    Bunnies—unlike the “death of painting,” the “rebirth of abstraction,” or the “return to figuration”—are rarely the conceptual framework for a group show. Bunnies are thought to be cute, huggable, cuddly; even the word, which rhymes with “funny” and “sunny,” connotes something infinitely friendlier, happier, goofier than art, which almost never aspires to cuteness and only infrequently allows itself to be touched, let alone cuddled. In “Bunnies,” the apparent incompatibility between this fuzzy creature and the work of art is embodied by Dieter Roth’s Rabbit, 1975, which insinuates that even shit

  • Hiroshi Sugimoto

    Hiroshi Sugimoto is known primarily for the three series of photographs he has been working on since the late ’70s, early ’80s. The series are nominally differentiated by content—movie theater interiors, seascapes, and dioramas—although Sugimoto approaches them all with a precise sense of form: balanced if not symmetrical compositions, extreme clarity of focus, grays modulated into a sort of photographic grisaille, long exposure times reminiscent of Atget. All of this—the impulse to work in a series, to foster a project over a period of ten years or more, to apply a stringent set of compositional

  • László Moholy-Nagy

    Though photography may be an a posteriori medium by nature, László Moholy-Nagy had a very a priori notion of what comprises a good photograph—one shared by many of his contemporaries. It had to be distinctly photographic, he felt, an exploration and exploitation of the technical possibilities inherent in various kinds of picture-making processes—and the result, generally speaking, were photographs with geometric, Constructivist compositions. In his camera-made works, Moholy-Nagy demonstrated how the worm’s and the bird’s eye view can transform a European metropolis into an aggregate of plunging

  • Adolph de Meyer

    Adolph de Meyer is largely remembered as a pictorialist photographer. He was a close friend of Gertrude Kasebier, and Alfred Stieglitz not only showed his work at the Photo-Secession Galleries in New York but also devoted two entire issues of Camera Work to his pictures. However, with the incredible ascendancy of fashion in recent times—we now have supermodels, though not superartists or superwriters—it should come as no surprise that this exhibition of de Meyer’s photography makes a convincing, intelligent argument for reevaluating the commercial work that he produced for magazines such as

  • Allan Wexler

    Allan Wexler’s brilliantly inventive oeuvre, which consists of variations on and mutations of something far older than the novel or the easel painting—domestic architecture—should give hope to anyone suffering from the anxiety of influence. Perhaps the key to Wexler’s inventiveness lies in his description of himself as an architect trapped in an artist’s body. In architecture, the realm of the possible is often fenced in by practical exigencies (everything from the constraints of construction to the demands of clients) that can be swept aside when working on a smaller scale. Thus, in applying

  • Christian Lemmerz

    In his first New York solo show, Christian Lemmerz delights in injecting death and decay into an otherwise elegant and precise post-Minimalist esthetic. In Body Bag 1 & 2, 1994, two black body bags are labeled “vagina.” Augenzeugen (Lucy) [Eyewitness (Lucy), 1993-94] presents nine fish tanks filled with formaldehyde and pigs’ eyeballs. Embryo (Anal) II is comprised of what looks like a brown fetus pulled out of someone’s asshole. Naturally, such a project produces a certain je ne sais quoi that an accompanying catalogue essay describes as “revulsion,” and the press release deems “Evil.” In a

  • the Virtual Office

    “WE HAVE AN OFFICE. But there’s no office in the office,” says a Chiat-Day employee, intending neither a Zen paradox nor a Heideggerian tautology but simply trying to explain the ad agency’s new “virtual office.” There tends to be little that’s properly virtual about virtual reality—it’s not a simulacrum that anyone honestly mistakes for the real thing-but in the popular mind the word has come to designate vanguard technology, as though its origins in the Latin word for “man” (vir) had been amputated and replaced by a new prosthetic connotation. The realest thing about virtuality may be the

  • Andres Serrano

    Andres Serrano returned from the land of the dead and apparently decided to go East—to Budapest, “a city that attracted his attention in 1993 during a brief detour from Vienna,” as the press release for his latest exhibition so picturesquely put it. Serrano is the artistic equivalent of a band that puts out concept albums, and for this new show the theme is not the morgue, the KKK, or body fluids, but the city. While being plunged into the rhythms of a new metropolis tends to produce a discombobulating sense of contingency in most of us, Serrano appears to have emerged from Budapest with an

  • Jeanne Dunning

    Jeanne Dunning tends to take two kinds of photographs: at first glance, you might characterize them as pictures that either defamiliarize the familiar or vice versa. The former present a thing in a way that suggests something else, as in Dunning’s well-known pictures of anuslike fruits, or in a recent photograph called Hand Hole (all works 1994), a tight close-up of a cupped hand that takes on the appearance of some sort of sexual orifice; the latter clearly and unambiguously focus on an obviously manufactured bodily “deformity,” as in The Extra Nipple, a photograph that could easily be your

  • Richard Meier

    If Richard Meier’s buildings and sculptures were before and after photographs, nothing less than a nuclear apocalypse would lie between them. While his clean, white, pristine buildings all stem from a rationalist, Modernist tradition, Meier’s sculptures look more like architectural models for the end of the world. Useless platforms, passageways that end abruptly, precarious towers of obscure purpose, ruptured cubicles, tortured metal armatures, steel excrescences that look less like decorative motifs than unneeded prosthetics—it all gives the impression of a bomb dropped into a planned community.

  • Lyle Ashton Harris

    In case you don’t already know, the art world is as rife with gangs as any urban ghetto—they have unofficial and sometimes official names (“the Yale Mafia”), turfs, and protocols—and so you have to look past the fact that institutions like the Whitney Independent Study Program seem to act on Lyle Ashton Harris like a sort of Art superego, transforming idlike impulses of creativity into the SoHo equivalent of gang colors and secret handshakes. Harris’ work may toe a certain party line (the interrogation of identity, the deconstruction of gender, class, and ethnicity, etc.), but it does so from

  • Rita Ackermann

    Each painting in Rita Ackermann’s first solo show was organized around a predominant theme (speed, vacation, drugs, doing nothing) and populated by svelte waifs, fashionable nymphs, and other girlish sprites combined and recombined in almost serial fashion, like Minimalist variations of a cube. In Now I’m Gonna Take a Vacation (all works 1994), Ackermann’s figures—all drawn in black outlines and somewhat arbitrarily filled in with color, as in a coloring book—cop typical vacation poses. One girl dives into the water; another skinny-dips; one faces us with her camcorder; another lying on her

  • Paula Hayes

    It is easy to see from Paula Hayes’ work that she’s an artist excited by nature; in fact, with her proliferating root systems, eroticized bees, ominous frosts, and suggestive phrases, it would even be easy to think that she’s sexually excited by nature. In Wish Energy (all works 1994), a sinewy house is labelled both “nice” and “haha,“ and a big arrow pointing downward at some sort of root system says “2″ hard frost.” Seemingly unconnected phrases line the individual roots: “Fucking everyone is fucking no one, take the queen jelly, oh it’s necrophilia is it!?, you know the ego is in the blood.”

  • Barbara Kruger

    In her recent installation Barbara Kruger used the royal “we” to subjugate, threaten, and harass “you.” That “we” was given an audible Big Brother voice—male, of course—coolly meting out invective in a brilliantly mixed soundtrack punctuated with cheers, laughter, screams, church music, gagging noises, and an ominous sample from the song “We Are the World.” “My people are better than your people,” the voice intoned, “More intelligent, more graceful, more powerful, more beautiful, more chosen, more agile and cleaner. My people invented everything.” While the gallery walls were papered with a

  • “Altered”

    Everyone seems to know by now that Rudolf Schwarzkogler did not actually kill himself by cutting his penis off in slices during an Aktion, and yet you will read no text about the Austrian artist that does not relish in either reporting or debunking the castration myth. Perhaps this is because, while manifestly untrue (Schwarzkogler died in 1969 when he leapt or fell from a window), the myth nevertheless expresses in nuce certain truths about the products of his all-too-brief career. Not only does it condense the automutilative forces generally rampant in his work into a picture of the ultimate