Keith Seward

  • “The Return of the Cadavre Exquis

    Rarely does the firstborn name its parents, but when the Surrealists first played a sort of parlor game in 1925, it resulted in the sentence “The exquisite corpse will drink the new wine,” and ever since the game has been known as the Cadavre Exquis. In the game, a piece of paper is folded into as many segments as there are players (usually three or four); the first player writes or draws something on the first section, which is then hidden in a fold as the second player adds something to the next section, and so on; until the “corpse” is complete, none of the players is to have a knowledge of

  • Neke Carson

    The name of Marcel Duchamp drops out of the mouths of so many unimaginative artists as an excuse for their pseudo-Dada, neo-readymade objets d’art that it’s hard even to like Duchamp anymore. As T. S. Eliot said, every new work of art changes every prior work by making us perceive it differently, and so Duchamp seems weakened when you’re forced to see him through the veil of dull disciples who’ve trivialized and exhausted what were once great ideas. But then there’s an artist like Neke Carson, who doesn’t appear to have any particular thing for Duchamp, yet picks up his baton and runs another

  • “Objects of Their Affection”

    “Fashion may be glamorous,” its detractors will admit before delivering what they consider to be the coup de grâce, “but it’s vacuous.” The frumpy and the dumpy might criticize fashion but it’s not just a passive process of consuming the latest and greatest. As its etymology would indicate, fashion is a question of actively producing something; like art, it’s about fabricating appearances.

    “In conceiving this show of objects from the collections of eight American designers, I wanted to go beyond the fact of collecting to see if there was a connection between what these eight designers collect

  • Larry Mantello

    As you grow older, Christmas begins to give you the same vague feeling of disappointment that you get the first time you run into your favorite celebrity in the bathroom. There’s no more Santa, holidays aren’t holy, and for anyone who has suffered through some brand of academic Marxism, you can’t even enjoy the yuletide extravaganza of consumerism without feeling like you’re perpetuating class oppression. Blissfully unaffected by all of this, Larry Mantello makes art that never grew up: his sculptural assemblages of mall-style commodities, many of which are thematized according to holidays and

  • Oliver Wasow

    On the photographic evidence alone, it would scarcely be illogical to infer that Oliver Wasow is the last man on earth. His expertly manipulated, uninhabited color photographs have been compared to Romantic landscape paintings for their sense of sublimity, desolation, and grandeur; but the suggestively postapocalyptic scenes they depict are less landscapes than sites—landscape neutralizes any link between history and a given location (one would never refer to Treblinka as a landscape), while site suggests a place where something definite has transpired (Hiroshima, site of the first atomic bomb

  • Aziz + Cucher

    The first thing everyone notices about the nude figures in Aziz + Cucher's new series of digitized Ektacolor prints, “Faith, Honor & Beauty,” 1992, is that they appear to have had their penises and vaginas rubbed out. Closer inspection reveals that they also lack nipples and navels. How ever, these mutations of the body are more idealizations than mutilations, more along the lines of those practiced by Polyclitus than by Jeffrey Dahmer. Each of the roughly life-size photographs presents a single figure—generally a handsome, muscular man or pretty, shapely woman—in contrapposto. Echoing historical


    “Something dead in the street commands more measured units of visual investigation than 100 Mona Lisas!” So says Robert Williams in his “Rubberneck Manifesto” of 1989, and it’s true—no Louvre gridlock matches the rubbernecking delays caused by a good car-wreck. But isn’t this a deadly realization for a painter? Creating a single Mona Lisa would be enough for most artists, but Williams wants to surpass a hundred of them. Can rattling the bars of an old medium like easel painting ever attract as much attention as road kill?

    After a youth spent among beatniks and street gangs, in the mid ’60s Williams

  • Dennis Oppenheim

    “A toy is a child’s first initiation to art,” Charles Baudelaire once claimed; conversely, art could be the adult’s swan song to toys. There’s an area where the tendrils of the ludic wrap around the roots of the esthetic, and that’s precisely where Dennis Oppenheim works. Ranging from the little art experiments he did with his kids in the ’70s to the sculptures in his latest exhibition, Oppenheim has created a body of works that comprise his own little Land of the Misfit Toys. For instance, Think Tank, 1993, is half Cat in the Hat, half a passionately staged Gomez Addams toy-train wreck: two

  • Rona Pondick

    Reading the massive pile of critical literature on Rona Pondick is like crawling naked through psychoanalytic razor wire. All the vague allusions to oral and anal fixations, the specious bandying about of terms like “repression,” “compulsion,” and “fetish,” the detection of penises, vaginas, and breasts in every artwork—it’s painful to read, not because of the uncomfortable psychic truths it turns up, but because it’s so full of bad causal reasoning and outmoded shrink jargon. Not that Pondick doesn’t ask for it; any artist who uses beds, baby bottles, and shoes as her signature materials is

  • Richard Pettibone

    Some people get to play out their obsessions in public. In the case of Richard Pettibone, it’s his thing for Ezra Pound. Though Pettibone has been doing “appropriation” art for longer than the genre has existed as such, in recent years his shows have been all but one-man monuments to the champion vorticist, one-time fascist, and generally irascible author of the Cantos, the composition of which occupied Pound for much of his life. The poet also forms the focal point of Pettibone’s last show, in which he reproduced the covers of a number of Pound first editions and displayed them lovingly on

  • Orlan

    Is Orlan a Dr. Benway groupie? Since 1990, the French artist has undergone elective plastic surgery six times (and will go under the knife again in New York) in an attempt to make herself look like a computer-generated “ideal,” pieced together not from spare body parts but from art-historical references—the forehead of the Mona Lisa, the eyes of a School of Fontainebleau Diana, the nose of Gerome’s Psyche, the lips of Boucher’s Europa, and the chin of Botticelli’s Venus.

    Orlan’s point is not simply, however, literally to become a work of art. As is evident in the more or less documentary works

  • Wired

    IS THIS WHAT CYBERPUNKS would look like if they took off their mirror shades? Would they have four eyes, like Bruce Sterling on the cover of Wired? The polyocular gaze of the cyberpunk author and electronic freedom-fighter fixes us with an intensity unmatched by anyone save, perhaps, the Marquise Casati in Man Ray’s famous photograph. But this is not surrealism. It is not concerned with dreams, hypnotism, or other psychic weirdnesses, but with a vision of a consensus reality accelerated by technology. The correct prefix is not “sur” but “hyper,” or maybe “cyber.” “Bruce Sterling Has Seen the