Mark Godfrey

  • “Uh-Oh: Frances Stark 1991–2015”

    From her celebrated video My Best Thing, 2011, to recent works integrating her Instagram posts, Frances Stark has been exploring the kinds of relationships that might spark up between an artist and strangers, whether on far-flung continents or in nearby LA neighborhoods that can feel just as distant. Entwining her personal circumstances with her works in ways that feel necessary (and never spectacular or crudely confessional), Stark presents a new model of what it means to be an artist today. This hometown survey will include Stark’s projections and videos along with her

  • Melvin Edwards and Frank Bowling in Dallas

    “THIS EXHIBITION is devoted to commitment,” wrote curator Robert Doty in the catalogue for the Whitney Museum of American Art’s 1971 survey “Contemporary Black Artists in America.” He continued, “It is devoted to concepts of self: self-awareness, self-understanding and self-pride—emerging attitudes which, defined by the idea ‘Black is beautiful,’ have profound implications in the struggle for the redress of social grievances.” In fact, the Whitney’s own commitment to presenting the work of African American artists might not have been as readily secured without the prompting of an activist


    FOR ANRI SALA, sound has always functioned as both an expressive medium and a register of memory, hauntingly subject to erasure. In the work for which Sala first garnered acclaim, the 1998 video Intervista, silence is the sensory analogue of historical amnesia, a condition the artist seeks to reverse, specifically by trying to find, and later re-creating, the lost sound track of a reel of 16-mm footage showing his mother speaking at an Albanian Communist rally, circa 1977. Since then, the artist has produced a series of videos in which sound becomes a means through which to investigate the


    LIKE A SOCIALIST INVESTMENT BANKER, a painter in a top MFA program circa 1990 was something of a living contradiction in terms. It’s no coincidence, argues curator MARK GODFREY, that artists JACQUELINE HUMPHRIES, LAURA OWENS, AMY SILLMAN, and CHARLINE VON HEYL all got their starts as renegade practitioners of gestural abstraction in the poststudio atmosphere that prevailed a quarter century ago. Challenging their own educations as well as the gendered connotations of their chosen field, Humphries, Owens, Sillman, and von Heyl established resistant positions poised between authenticity and appropriation. Here, Godfrey looks at the commonalities that unite his subjects, proposing that an adroit “fakery” of gesture and a new engagement with composition, agency, intention, and other erstwhile taboos inform the practices of all four painters—and have made them central to the art of today.


    IN 1986, when she was a student in the famously theory-driven Whitney Independent Study Program, the artist Jacqueline Humphries presented a group of her abstract paintings to visiting professor Yvonne Rainer and received a silent shrug in response. The gesture, Humphries recalls, appeared to mean something like “Oh well—there’s nothing I can do for someone like you.” Humphries was taken aback to find Rainer at a loss for words, but from our vantage point the anecdote isn’t so surprising: There were no words, at that time, with which an ISP faculty member might credibly discuss


    AT A TIME when restitution debates rage, it would be easy to suppose that Amie Siegel’s film Provenance, 2013, is simply a denunciation of a trade that has seen the furnishings designed for the Punjabi city of Chandigarh by Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret wrested from their original setting and sold by unscrupulous dealers into the luxury designer-furniture market in Western Europe and the United States. But Siegel’s work does not really push this agenda; rather, it concerns the vagaries of value as objects move across the world.

    Adopting the structure of the provenance list, the film moves


    OVER THE PAST TWO YEARS, Frances Stark has created an extra­ordinary series of new works that stage frank, funny, and often bawdy encounters with figures ranging from avant-garde-film scions to dancehall stars. Through these interlocutions—some virtual, some actual—Stark has expanded her career-long cross-media exploration of the pressures and pleasures of life as an artist, one in which the confessional mode serves as a conduit to wry insights into the workings of the art world. Beginning with her acclaimed film My Best Thing, 2011, and continuing through more recent projects such as


    EACH OF THE EIGHT LARGE PAINTINGS—all Untitled, 2011—that Christopher Wool is showing at this year’s Venice Biennale is dominated by a bulbous central blotch, taller than it is wide. Yet it feels wrong to call these looming blotches “shapes”: They have very few of the characteristics that we understand as constituting shape, since the contours, sometimes defined, elsewhere disintegrate and become patchy, and each nonshape partially continues in a faint area to one side. The images recall Rorschach tests because there are suggestions of symmetry, but one quickly realizes they aren’t


    THE FIRST SUBSTANTIAL BODIES of sculpture Pino Pascali produced in the four short years of his mature career seem so different that they could be the work of separate artists. Pascali emerged in 1964–65 with a series of object paintings: canvases seemingly wearing bikinis, bearing bulging pregnant bellies, or pursing pouty lips—works clearly connected to the playfully sexual imagery of Pop. In 1965, he used automobile parts to make fake tanks, cannons, and bombs for the series “Armi” (Weapons), which was, fittingly, shown at Galleria Sperone in Turin, then Italy’s center of car manufacturing.


    Between the abundance of postwar Italy’s “economic miracle” and the ascetic bent of Conceptual art, the artist ALIGHIERO BOETTI took up the multiple implications of making and thinking, consumption and revolution, local and global. His remarkable oeuvre spans both laborious craft and humorous Duchampian gesture; he went so far as to rename himself Alighiero e Boetti in 1972, the “and” a nod to the doubled demands on artists to be at once star persona and withdrawn auteur. On the occasion of a major retrospective of Boetti’s work at the Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donna Regina (MADRE) in Naples, on view until May 11, Artforum asked critic and curator MARK GODFREY to examine the artist’s twinned and protean practices.

    IN 1967, ON THE CUSP of Arte Povera’s inception, Alighiero Boetti produced the editioned poster Manifesto, which featured a list of young Italian artists flanked by a grid of symbols. The reference to the Futurist Manifesto was unmistakable given this title, yet while Filippo Marinetti’s 1909 text had been published in Le Figaro to reach a large audience, Boetti created his Manifesto for private distribution, tacitly acknowledging that for a generation of artists emerging in the mid-1960s, the ambitions of the historical avant-garde were no longer worth even dreaming about. In the place of any


    WITH ONE EYE ON WALKER EVANS and the other on Eugène Atget, Zoe Leonard began in 1998 to document a passing era of material and retail culture. For her monumental archive of some four hundred photographs, cannily titled Analogue, 1998–2007, she took frontal photographs of small independent stores, first around her home in Brooklyn and then in other parts of New York and in Chicago. She was particularly attracted to shops with deteriorating signage, quirky window displays, and an often seemingly random array of products. Especially compelling to her were handwritten signs whose wording, frequently

  • Mark Godfrey

    SOMEWHAT PUT OFF by the cheesy ad adorning vaporetto stops, the queue outside, and the general air of disappointment infusing the art crowd in Venice, I entered “Artempo” not expecting much, but discovered the most riveting exhibition of the summer. The show was housed in the Palazzo Fortuny, once home to nineteenth-century collector, scholar, artist, and designer Mariano Fortuny. Some of Fortuny’s own collections and artworks remained on display, but most of the installation showcased the property of Axel Vervoordt, one of Europe’s most catholic collectors and dealers of antiques and art. With

  • Christopher Williams

    “THE ACHIEVEMENTS of the Italian Communists are nowhere more evident than in the city of Bologna.” Thus Donald Sassoon opened his introduction to the English version of the collection of essays Red Bologna (1977), which familiarized an international audience with the progressive policies of the Italian town’s Communist government. Among Bologna’s ambitious projects of the time was an impressive new building for the town’s Galleria d’Arte Moderna, which was officially opened on May 1, 1975. Designed by Leone Pancaldi and situated in the industrial north of the city, the building appeared somewhat

  • Rosalind Nashashibi

    A PLUG SOCKET, three screw holes in the floor, the back of an electric toothbrush . . . A pair of earrings above a string of pearls, a bank logo, two wooden knobs and a letter slot . . . Sequences like these make up one part of Eyeballing, a film shot in New York in 2005 by London-based artist Rosalind Nashashibi. The objects appear on-screen for around fifteen seconds apiece in static, unbroken shots. Given the title’s prompt, you quickly get the picture: Each item appears to have two rudimentary eyes and a mouth. They are not so disparate after all, but form a collection of found faces, an

  • Thomas Demand

    IN ORDER TO theorize what for him was the essence of Thomas Demand’s work, art historian Michael Fried returned in these pages last year (Artforum, March 2005) to the arguments of his 1967 essay “Art and Objecthood,” where he had famously articulated the contrast between “literalist” and “modernist” art. The viewer of literalist art was implicated in the “total situation” of a display, so that the shifting physical relationships of his or her body to artworks counted more than his or her ability to scrutinize the particular composition of any one piece. A modernist painting, on the other hand,


    On a bright day in late March, scores of local fishermen in Key West, Florida, and Havana, Cuba, assembled to realize Francis Alÿs’s Bridge-Puente, a work for which two chains of rowboats would extend from their respective harbors to the horizon—poignantly suggesting a link between the two countries. Writing in response to Alÿs’s most recent—and perhaps most poetic—intervention to date, art historian and critic Mark Godfrey reflects on the practice of an artist who explores history, culture, and political conflict in eloquently corporeal terms.

    LAST SEPTEMBER, Francis Alÿs hung a length of string

  • Janice Kerbel

    JANICE KERBEL’S WORK improbably melds dreamy, escapist longing with the meticulous research of a botanist or a rigorous master thief. By coupling these two modes of thought, she addresses questions of ecology, tourism, surveillance, and urbanism with an uncommon poetry, as in The Bird Island Project, 2000–2002. The work began with Kerbel fantasizing about a paradise where she could holiday but ended up as a precise representation of a fictitious yet geologically possible atoll in the Bahamas. Ready for tourist development, the island is inhabited by the Exuma Emerald, a bird that’s utterly


    LOOKING BACK, it’s hard not to notice how often British artist Catherine Yass has set up her camera to face walls, capturing surfaces spotted by stains in a meat market (“Stall,” 1996), scratched with graffiti in a prison (“Cell,” 1998), obscured by steam in a Baden-Baden spa (“Baths,” 1998), or decorated by tiles in the Prague underground (“Metro,” 2001). These works were part of a larger investigation of empty architectural spaces and were shown as transparencies mounted on light boxes, each image a composite of two photographs taken moments apart. Yass’s interest in disrupting photographic

  • Mark Godfrey on the artist as curator

    In the book that accompanies “An Aside,” the “exhibition without an idea” that Tacita Dean has curated as part of the Hayward Gallery’s National Touring Exhibitions program, Dean tells a story that explains both the formation of her curatorial strategy and her first choice of a work. Two years ago, watching Lothar Baumgarten’s There I Like It Better Than in Westphalia, El Dorado, 1968–76, she was taken by the way Baumgarten had photographed the slides and recorded the sounds over a considerable period of time without knowing what the final form of the work would be. Dean adopted this model for


    STEPPING OVER CARL ANDRE’S work, visitors to last year’s Minimalism survey at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, soon came across three helpings of art porn. First was a projection of slides taken in 1966 by Dan Graham for his seminal Homes for America; then there was Mel Bochner’s 36 Photographs and 12 Diagrams of the same year; and, finally, there were installation shots of Robert Grosvenor’s 1968 Haags Gemeentemuseum show. Graham used photography to document minimal forms and serial arrangements in suburbia, and Bochner employed the camera to fix any one arrangement of a constantly