Keith Seward

  • Joel-Peter Witkin

    Does Joel-Peter Witkin’s photograph of a headless corpse (its neck terminating in a meaty stump, its penis shrivelling into its fat stomach, its feet absurdly sporting black socks), repel you? We know that people who develop a familiarity with death can eat in the same room as a corpse and digest as happily as ever. It is illogical to say that death is intrinsically repellent; rather, we come to repel it, to say No to death. As English sociologist Geoffrey Gorer once declared, death has become the new pornography, replacing sex as society’s greatest taboo.

    Witkin has long specialized in subjects

  • Carter Kustera

    The vital impetus behind Carter Kustera’s art is assassination. In 1991 the artist killed off his former self (Kevin Carter), and the ensuing funeral served as a sort of social debut for his current self (Carter Kustera). In 1992 he titled a show “Domicide” and aimed heat lamps at a life-size wax sculpture entitled, appropriately enough, The Disappearing Family. So what did his new show, “Based on a True Story,” have on its hit list?

    Each of Kustera’s new works gives physical form to a story that purports to be “true.” However, these stories vary widely in their credibility: Based on a True Story

  • Emil Lukas

    Emil Lukas’ medium is neither painting nor sculpture per se, but stratification. Though he may begin like a painter, with a surface, Emil Lukas compacts materials such as wood, glass, nails, rubber, oatmeal, motor oil, and paint into strata that encompass and surpass traditional modes of art-making. In Folded Collection, 1992, a large, rectangular piece of paper, placed on the floor, is divided into eight separate sections each of which undergoes a different transformative process: some are saturated, front and back, with painted abstractions, others are embroidered with needlepoint stitches

  • Charles LeDray

    To the art world’s chronic Brobdingnagism, Charles LeDray opposes his own private Lilliput of handmade, obsessively detailed, and generally twee objects. This show of his recent efforts featured tiny garments (like Becoming/Mister Man [all works 19921, a checked suit about the size of a one-year-old) and larger works made of tiny garments (like Untitled/Web, a web made of various Ken-and-Barbie-sized clothes). However, these Lilliputian duds are no play clothes. LeDray uses scale like the sculptor of an ancient Mesopotamian relief: big means powerful, tiny means vulnerable. In The Men in the

  • Ken Butler

    Superpowers would still be going at it with crossbows or flintlocks if new weapons were developed at the same rate as musical instruments. It is every violinist’s dream to own a Stradivarius made three centuries ago, and even aficionados of the electric guitar prefer Fender Stratocasters made before I was born. But if the history of musical instruments tends to slow to a standstill, Ken Butler’s show of “hybrid instruments” ought to set it moving again by leaps and bounds. Not exactly a musician, a sculptor, or a mad scientist, Butler is more a bricoleur who recycles castaway materials (ironing

  • Jenny Watson

    When artists paint like children should you give them a lollipops or put them over your knee? Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, and the rest of the Blaue Reiter group thought they could tap some primal impulse by making art like children (and other primitives), but in retrospect all their blather about “naivete” and “innocence” seems like the by-product of some regressive psychodrama. Can the same be said of Jenny Watson? The work in her new show, “paintings with bowler hats and bottles,” is certainly more “childlike” than ever. She likes to paint little girls, little boys, orange cats, and blue

  • Lawrence Gipe

    “WE’RE THE RISING TIDE/COME FROM FAR AND WIDE/MARCHING SIDE BY SIDE ON OUR WAY/FOR A BRAVE NEW WORLD/TOMORROW’S WORLD/THAT WE SHALL BUILD TODAY!” Painted on the wall, these words bore down on you at the entrance to Lawrence Gipe’s show “The Century of Progress Museum.” A nearby video monitor blaring “Rhapsody in Blue” showed old black and white footage from futurist urban-propaganda films. You were supposed to get that machine-age-world’s-fair feel. Before you went any further, you could take a button—just like at the Met—except that it was emblazoned not with the museum’s initials but with a

  • “Camera As Weapon”

    Flies crawl across a sleeping baby’s face; a massive unemployment line unfurls beside a building inscribed with the graffito “Wählt Hitler” (Vote for Hitler; the year is circa 1933, the place, Hannover); a child writes “Streik” (Strike) at the bottom of her exercise book; a sign at the edge of a wood proclaims, “Juden sind in unsern deutschen Wäldern nicht erwünscht” (Jews are not wanted in our German forests); peddlers hawk lemons, shoes, chestnuts, anything they can. Images such as these were being published by workers in their own periodicals long before Walter Benjamin—in his famous 1934


    Sex, Art, and American Culture: Essays, by Camille Paglia. New York: Vintage Books, 1992.

    So far we have seen two acts of the razzle-dazzle Camille Paglia show. The first act—the exposition, as it were—was Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson, a tumescent tome that ranges swaggeringly over the whole of the Western cultural patrimony, resembling in its ambitions such old-fashioned surveys as Erich Auerbach’s Mimesis and E. R. Curtius’ European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, but hyped-up and amphetamized for the MTV generation. Dirty, too—Paglia’s willful


    Homely Girl, A Life, by Louise Bourgeois and Arthur Miller. New York: Peter Blum Editions. Two volumes, each 36 pp. 3 editions, regular $100, signed $275, special $2,000. Available by special order only from Peter Blum Editions, 14 W. 10th Street, NY, NY 10011.

    Reading this curious two-volume collaboration between two of America’s most celebrated creators is like retracing your steps along a garden path after night has fallen. The first volume contains Miller’s longish short story about an unpretty woman, Janice, who marries twice: once to a downtown socialist who never really notices her, later

  • Joel Otterson

    Heavy-metal-video cliché numero unosearing strains of supersonic spleen emanate from a teen’s stereo system, initiating a confrontation between Mom and Pop that culminates in broken glass, shattered china, and smashed furniture. But what happens when headbangers grow up, and have a house of their own to love and defend? Will they cherish Joel Otterson’s series “Dead Rock Star Dinner Plates” or “First and Second Generation Glitter Rock Service for Three” (both 1992)? Will they buy his sculpture/furniture (made of such heavy metals as chrome, cast iron, and copper pipe) in the hope that it will

  • Sarah Morris

    In his classic 1854 essay, “On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts,” Thomas De Quincey argues that if you learn of a murder before or as it happens then you ought to view it ethically (i.e. you ought to try to prevent it). However, if you only learn of a murder after it has happened why not view it esthetically, since there is nothing you can do? In her first solo show, “CITIZENS,” 1992, Sarah Morris tried to minimize the difference between these two poles. The esthetics emerged in an elegant series of murals derived from news photos of fairly recent murders, some quite memorable (like