Lane Relyea

  • Frank Stella 1958

    The search for the real Stella continues with this exhibition, which gathers twenty works (many previously overlooked, even by the catalogue raisonné) from the months in 1958 leading up to the “Black Paintings.”

    In 1968, a decade into Stella's groundbreaking career, David Antin could only shake his head: “Frank Stella is also not the Frank Stella everybody thought he was.” The search for the real Stella continues with this exhibition, which gathers twenty works (many previously overlooked, even by the catalogue raisonné) from the months in 1958 leading up to the “Black Paintings”—when a freshly graduated Stella shared studio space with Carl Andre, attended lectures by an increasingly optical-minded Clement Greenberg, gawked at the sudden rise of Jasper

  • “Universal Experience: Art, Life, and the Tourist’s Eye”

    The fact that tourism is “the largest industry in the world” is trumpeted several times in the opening pages of the catalogue for “Universal Experience: Art, Life, and the Tourist’s Eye,” curated by Francesco Bonami and featuring more than seventy artists from nearly thirty countries. Given that museums themselves compete in this industry, usually by throwing millions at brand-name architectural add-ons while lining up blockbuster exhibitions of designer evening wear and laying off staff, the decision to make tourism the subject of curatorial investigation would seem a welcome instance of

  • “The Shape of Colour: Excursions in Colour Field Art, 1950–2005”

    Amid the dust kicked up by a Frank Gehry–designed expansion (including board resignations and staff layoffs) the Art Gallery of Ontario’s new contemporary curator, Toronto native David Moos, is launching an “excursion in colour field art.” Canadians have always crowded both the telling and the making of the Color Field saga, from elder painters like Jack Bush to recent scholars like Shep Steiner and Robert Linsley (who does not, unfortunately, contribute to the catalogue). If Moos’s checklist of thirty-six artists (from Helen Frankenthaler to a Charles Long–Stereolab

  • “Donald Judd: Early Work 1955–1968”

    Donald Judd did not begin to produce mature, wholly distinctive works of art until shortly after his thirty-second birthday, in the summer of 1960. Or so the story is told in the artist’s 1975 catalogue raisonné. “Early Work 1955–1968,” curated by Thomas Kellein, director of the Kunsthalle Bielefeld (which co-organized the show with the Menil), gathers together paintings and drawings executed before the official oeuvre’s clock started ticking. Offering itself as a missing prequel to the Judd epic, the exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue whose cover (in Judd’s signature cadmium red) is an

  • THICK AND THIN: A ROUNDTABLE

    As the 1970s gave way to the ’80s, the slogan “return to painting” was as often heard in the discussion around contemporary art as the counter-mantra, the “death of painting.” In the last issue of Artforum, a group comprising mostly critics and art historians opened our two-part examination of painting in the ’80s and beyond with a look back at the death-of-painting debate that raged at the beginning of the decade. For this month’s pendant discussion introduced by ROBERT STORR, we assembled a second panel, largely made up of painters and curators—and asked them to tell us where painting has

  • Minimalism

    TO SPEAK OF “ART SINCE 1960” is familiar enough, but the period thus delineated is certainly no seamless continuum. Hal Foster, who calls it the “neo-avant-garde,” uses the Freudian notion of deferred action to relate it to the radical provocations of the early-century European avant-garde. But it may be more accurate to say—twisting Foster’s model a bit—that the ’60s themselves mark the trauma to which artists of the past few decades have mostly responded, alternately returning to its theories and practices and recoiling from them. Perhaps the ’60s appear all the more strange today since, sans

  • James Welling

    AS WITH FRANK STELLA BACK IN THE '60s, everyone seems to want James Welling on their team. When Welling first began exhibiting in the early '80s, his black-and-white close-ups of crumpled tinfoil, strewn chunks of Jell-O, and lush velvet drapes sprinkled with pastry flakes were widely applauded as postmodern object lessons that ironized the very possibility of reference. More recently, writers like Walter Benn Michaels and Ulrich Loock have hailed these same photos as rich in metaphorical possibility, even if what they end up referencing is photography itself by dramatically figuring such

  • James Welling: Photographs, 1974-1999

    “I appreciate the act of putting an image on the wall that can only be misinterpreted,” James Welling is quoted as saying in 1980, the same year he made his well-known photographs of crumpled foil. Having enjoyed a number of large shows in Europe, Welling now gets the chance to display a full range of easy-to- misconstrue images in the US. —Curator Sarah J. Rogers has assembled a comprehensive survey of the artist's twenty-five-plus-year career. In the accompanying catalogue, postmodernism's poster boy turns over the exegesis of his work to modernist stalwart Michael Fried.

  • Barbara Kruger

    The problem with mounting a retrospective of Barbara Kruger’s art is that “art” gets misleadingly emphasized. That artist is now just one of several occupations notched on Kruger’s résumé—graphic designer and media critic are among the others—is a fact MOCA has bravely tried to own up to, even though doing so has led to some pretty absurd curatorial moves. For example, standing in one pristine gallery is a Plexiglas vitrine safeguarding a tastefully arrayed sampling of Kruger-designed coffee mugs, notepads, and umbrellas, the very same merchandise stocked in bulk and available for purchase in

  • VIRTUALLY FORMAL: LA PAINTERS

    The f-word is getting tossed around again. “Formalism is back and better than ever,” gushed David Rimanelli in these pages a few months ago. The recent encore performance by the Bennington Bunch (Olitski, Noland, et al.) at Emmerich in New York, to which Rimanelli was responding, proved that, yes, Color Field painting can still thrill audiences young and old. But the phenomenon extends much further: galleries, particularly those in Los Angeles, have been mounting more than a few exhibitions by newcomers who also traffic in precisely defined shapes and high-keyed, immaculate colors. Numerous

  • Toba Khedoori

    It’s not often you run across an 11-by-25-foot painting that could be characterized as subtle, but that’s true of all five works in Toba Khedoori’s first solo museum show. Although Khedoori’s pieces are scaled to the wall, it’s hard to label her a muralist. Unlike the well-populated, briskly narrated wallscapes of, say, Nicole Eisenman and Lari Pittman, Khedoori’s paintings are devoid of human actors. In fact, the enormous fields she presents are mostly devoid of imagery.

    Not that they’re blank. Khedoori tears sheets of paper torn from a six-foot-wide roll and covers them with a thin layer of

  • Bedhead

    Strum by emotive strum, a kind of music is coming out of Portland as pungent and ethereal as steam from morning espresso, recalling the lachrymose folk confessionals of ’70s troubadours like Nick Drake or even Carole King. Weepycore would be forgettable enough if the cooing of northwesterners like the Spinanes and Elliot Smith didn’t represent some of the past year’s most indelible sounds. Their esthetic may be self-absorbed, but as much spleen as heart adorns their sleeves.

    BEDHEAD are not from Portland, but fans of weepycore will still find the band an exquisitely unhappy dream come true. Their

  • Lari Pittman

    Two themes dominated this mid-career survey of Lari Pittman’s painting: one was sexual politics, the other, more surprisingly, was Pittman’s Americanism. Opening shortly before the July 4 weekend, the show felt like a collision between a fireworks display and a gay-pride parade. Along with the ample breasts and parted butt cheeks, the gaping sphincters and vaginas, the little fleur-de-lis erections and the teardrops of cum scattered across this 13-years-worth of paintings, there also appeared picket fences, pilgrims in tall buckled hats, praying hands beside parted books, and quotes from the

  • John Baldessari

    The same guy who, as legend has it, dramatized his conversion to Conceptual art in the mid ’60s by setting fire to the traditional canvases that marked the beginning of his career has returned to painting. Perhaps, thirty years later, Baldessari is following the path taken by many famed senior artists: retiring from his post as guiding light to indulge, at last, in those quaint, modest pleasures prohibited by the constraints of leadership. Or maybe, as many of his fans are insisting, he’s just pulling another fast one, that is, these aren’t really paintings at all but, rather, a “deconstruction”

  • Lane Relyea

    CAKE TALK

    The cocktail lounge that serves as a camp reliquary for bands like Stereolab, Love Jones, and Combustible Edison has been miraculously refurbished as a pure slice of smoke-filled, dimly lit heaven, thanks to Chicago’s THE SEA AND CAKE. Half of 1995’s best moments were spent there; the other half came from an open tomb deep in America’s mythic backwaters, where bands like Palace, Son Volt, and THE GERALDINE FIBBERS were giving voice to spirits that refuse to stay dead. “I run like blood through open doors,” sings the Fibbers’ Carla Bozulich, the desperation in her throat having aged

  • Cast Against Type

    THE FOLLOWING IS a public-service announcement: “The true artist,” reads a neon sign Bruce Nauman clicked on in 1967, “helps the world by revealing mystic truths.” Scripted in sky-blue lettering with a pink underline, the sign extends not horizontally from left to right, but in a spiral, hooking clockwise from inner to outer circle, as if it were unfurling like a maypole, spreading its apparent goodwill, its promise of enlightenment, in all directions. Wait, however, before you give Nauman a hug. Two years later, as a participant in a group exhibit at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art,

  • EXHIBITIONS

    DAVE HICKEY

    Make It New

    Bruce Nauman retrospective, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles: Bad news from the studio, but real news nevertheless. Twenty-five years of pieces, each of which seems to have arisen out of a condition of sudden panic—out of the terror of not knowing, of having forgotten, willfully, day after day, what art is and what an artist might do—of having forgotten, even, what an artist is. A fountain? A source of mystic truths? A cruel instructor? A tortured clown? We get one brutal, last-ditch guess after another, and the whole practice of “artmaking” is reinvented, again

  • OPENINGS: SHARON LOCKHART

    SHAUN HAS ARRIVED FOR HIS CHECKUP. Looking perhaps ten years old, he poses in front of a seamless monotone backdrop dressed only in his Jockey briefs. His creamy, seraphic body, blushing with the first signs of maturity, has been taken hostage by a monstrous infection: marble-sized blisters trail down from the right corner of his mouth, cluster above his left knee, and overwhelm the left side of his stomach.

    But check this out—the peculiarly opulent backdrop is colored the same sea green as Shaun’s eyes. This amplifies the look of familiarity he trains on the viewer, but doesn’t grant us laymen

  • Lisa Yuskavage

    Not since the days of “bad painting” has someone tried as hard as Lisa Yuskavage does to make a travesty of the medium. In her saccharine portraits of prepubescent nymphets, girlish innocence and sexual awakening are given thoroughly ham-fisted treatment. Yuskavage mobilizes the entire cutie-pie repertoire—big eyes peering through thick bangs, plump cheeks, pouty lips, upturned noses—to doll-up a field of semiclad and naked bodies swollen as much by baby fat as sexual ripeness. The result is a litter of Hello Sex Kitties. Garish background color catapults each figure toward the viewer, and even

  • Jason Rhoades

    Not satisfied with the visionary and the genius, the ’70s art world began marketing a new line of action hero, a kind of AWOL. G.I. Joe who staged reckless experiments using improper materials (polyurethane, loaded guns, raw meat) and whose antics were greeted by much horror and excitement. Critics outfitted this basement scientist with a beret and some structuralist vocabulary and announced the discovery of the bricoleur. Today, with a bookish art scene eager to prove it’s still crazy after all these years (or perhaps imports from France have gone beyond theory to love of Jerry Lewis?), that