Max Kozloff

  • The Rivera Frescoes of Modern Industry at The Detroit Institute of Arts: Proletarian Art Under Capitalist Patronage

    THEY LOOK AS COMPLEX and involuted as machines themselves. But if the ensemble is hard to remember, the large masses of these paintings are immediately felt. The eye notes a thousand independent shapes entered into a pattern that has yielded to them without interrupting its flow. The more simplified “technological” styles of Western Europe—in Holland, France, Germany, and Russia—are not more monumental. Rivera’s pictorial economy takes into itself the insatiable need to show how things work and his frescoes, loaded with an almost bewildering amount of information, are more descriptive than any

  • The Uncanny Portrait: Sander, Arbus, Samaras

    IN ITS RECEPTION OF THE human face, photography increases the mystery that always results from its freezing of movement and the receding of the present of its actual images from our present. The snap of a shutter distances a real landscape or parade: these things are still “there” for us, yet cut out from everything they were once in. “Our face,” though,

    is where we are. We kiss, eat, breathe and speak through it. It’s where we look, listen and smell. It is where we think of ourselves as being finally and most conclusively on show. It’s the part we hide when we are ashamed and the bit we think

  • American Painting During the Cold War

    MORE CELEBRATED THAN ITS COUNTERPARTS in letters, architecture, and music, American postwar art has become a success story that begs, not to be retold, but told freshly for this decade. The most recent as well as most exhaustive book on Abstract Expressionism is Irving Sandler’s The Triumph of American Painting, a title that sums up the self-congratulatory mood of many who participated in its career. Three years ago, the Metropolitan Museum enshrined 43 artists of the New York School, 1940–1970, as one pageant in the chapter of its own centennial. Though elevated as a cultural monument of an

  • Other Criteria: Confrontations with Twentieth Century Art

    Leo Steinberg, Other Criteria, Confrontations With Twentieth Century Art (New York: Oxford University Press), 1972, 436 Pages, 278 Black-and-white Illustrations.

    You can, as an artist, try to say something big about life; or be content to make the stuff in your hands come to life. And this humbler task is the greater, for all else merely follows.

    —Other Criteria

    AS A BOOK MODE, the collection of a critic’s occasional essays tends to be unjustly neglected or condescended to. Prejudices in these matters run in favor of the substantial thesis, the monograph, the survey, the in-depth or the full-scale,

  • Atget’s Trees

    A MAN NAMED JEAN Eugène Auguste Atget is born in Bordeaux in 1856. Accounts have it that he was soon orphaned and worked during his early years on ships—in what capacity is not known. We hardly gain a clearer picture of the next stage of his life, that of a traveling actor in what were then called “third roles,” an itinerant, obscure, mediocre form of existence that occupied him well into his forties. By this time, he seems to be living near Paris, to be making some friends among theatrical folk, and to be advancing nowhere in a profession to which neither his gaunt looks nor his gifts, what

  • Inwardness: Chicago Art Since 1945

    IN CHICAGO FOR OVER 25 years, artists have been responding to the history of their times without feeling in the least obliged to further the history of art. They have not subscribed to the belief that the avant-garde has a monopoly on the modern. They have not understood that they are required by critics to develop a new look at regular intervals. Elsewhere, outside New York, masses of artists absorb at some distance in time and understanding the latest ideology of the art capital. They would escape their terror of being regional only at the cost of becoming provincial. Provincial art depends

  • The Trouble with Art-as-Idea

    In a sense, then, art has become as “serious” as science or philosophy which doesn’t (sic) have audiences either. It is interesting or it isn’t, just as one is informed or isn’t.

    —Joseph Kosuth, “Introductory Note by The American Editor,” Art Language, Vol. No. 2, 1970.

    I am a successful culture fucker.

    —Lawrence Weiner, Avalanche, Spring, 1972.

    My exhibition at the Art and Project Gallery in Amsterdam in December ’69, will last two weeks. I asked them to lock the door and nail my announcement to it, reading: “For the exhibition the gallery will be closed.”

    —Robert Barry, October 12, 1969.

    It is

  • Violent America

    LAWRENCE ALLOWAY’S VIOLENT AMERICA: The Movies 1946–1964 (The Museum of Modern Art, New York) brings to its touchy subject a range of plausible observation that is foreshortened yet comprehensive, and a phrasing that is as economical as his ideas are manifold. Despite this, the book will appear iconoclastic, mildly or extremely, depending on the parti pris of the reader. It originated as a commentary on a film series he gave at the Modern in 1969. Within this context three years later, there appears a portmanteau treatise of approaches to film, written by an art critic unhappy about the

  • The Futurist Campaign

    IN OCTOBER 1911, THREE AMBITIOUS young Milanese painters—they were, on the average, in their late 20s—made a flying trip to Paris. Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, and Luigi Russolo, in an earlier series of public manifestos and, for want of a stronger word, “theatricals,” extending back almost two years, had clarioned the word “Futurist” as the standard bearer of their new art of violent, ecstatic prophecy. Preparing for their crucial French debut at the Bernheim-Jeune Gallery, they were anxious to check their progress against that of the Cubists, of whom they had only garbled reports. It was an

  • Four Short Essays on Vuillard


    His mother was the acknowledged muse of Edouard Vuillard’s art. She occupies the same central place in her son’s work as Bonnard’s wife in his. The old woman potters around, cooks, and most often, sews; the younger one bathes, is perpetually au toilette. The vision of these two Nabi painters, friends throughout life, returns again and again to the domestic image of one woman, the ideal point of reference for their view of society—and more, too, the emotional focus of their humanity as artists. Bonnard shows her most typically in the tub, half levitated by the water and adrift in a

  • The Multimillion Dollar Art Boondoggle

    A Report on the Art and Technology Program of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art reveals the underpinnings and negotiations for an exhibition (Summer, 1971), more completely than we have ever gleaned before in a catalog, or from hearsay. It comes to us almost as if it were sensitive material suddenly declassified. Readers are given to understand, quite correctly, that all the deals, researches, and compromises, all of which usually stay behind the scenes of a show and are now revealed, hold more importance than the art eventually displayed. They compromise the real subject and true interest

  • On Negative Space

    FIRST, IF NOT FOREMOST, Manny Farber is a connoisseur—excruciatingly knowing and hilarious—of movie jinks. He is able to calibrate the precise moral and spatial differences between Hawks and Huston, Sturges and Capra. Panofsky once said that if the connoisseur may be a laconic art historian, the historian is a loquacious connoisseur. One will find history of a sort (and unintended), in Farber’s finally collected essays, Negative Space (Praeger, $7.95): the history since the forties of most conceivable hang-ups, suavities, and euphorias of the fetishy, florid American film industry. But it is

  • Mark Rothko (1903–1970)

    VISITING MARK ROTHKO’S STUDIO in the 1960s was always a moving experience, artistically, and a prickly one, socially. Prickly because of the painter’s special pride, which could queer any openness in being with him and make it difficult to speak admiringly or to be casual. His visitors were given to understand that they were in the presence of a supreme master, one who might happen to take ill even the most spontaneous respect. This pride was hardly that of the fast gun who knows he’s very good, or the beleaguered genius, upon whom all eyes were fixed. There was no one “out there” with whom

  • Steven Urry

    To enter the Royal Marks Gallery this month is to venture into a gaggle of shimmying, shimmering metal forms that bask hugger-mugger in the gallery light, giving off as they do, an almost manic joie-de-vivre. The author of these aluminum frolics is Steven Urry, who makes one of the most accomplished debuts it has been my pleasure to witness. The nerve with which these aggregates have been joined together and then crowded environmentally upon each other, is as apparent as the levity of a sculptor who can imagine such titles as Psychedilly Rose, or Waul Phaulderawl. But if there is something

  • Philip Pearlstein

    For this reason, Philip Pearlstein’s elevation, as opposed to mere acceptance of the figure as subject, is obviously very much against the grain of contemporary artistic ambition. But the very fragmentation of his effort has something indomitably misguided about it: it compels curiosity, not by virtue of any success within his paintings (whose qualities vary considerably), but by the excessive pressure and density of a program that half knows, and is half unaware, of the odds it is facing.

    With implacable zeal, Pearlstein proposes a race of beings that are about as matter of fact, and unselfconscious

  • Cy Twombly

    Cy Twombly’s is one of the more rare instances of an American artist—Joan Mitchell’s is perhaps another—whose work continues to hold interest despite having been uprooted and transplanted to Europe about ten years ago. Its distance from its place of origin and source of information tells in an arrested development, but not so strongly as to overwhelm the authenticity of its vision. Twombly’s residence in Rome has cut him off from all that has happened in art here since the late fifties, but it has not obscured the elegance, irony, and insouciance that had earlier marked his contribution. These

  • Robert Whitman

    About the only short term conclusion one can draw from Robert Whitman’s “environment” called “Dark” at the Pace Gallery, is that the more sophisticated the technology at an artist’s disposal—in this case a thankfully harmless laser beam—the more absurdly minimal his dramatic effect. Of course, this won’t do as a generalization, but the fact remains that the thin red, self-erasing or slightly dipping ribbons of granulated light that laterally bisect the darkened chambers of the gallery are quite a come-down for the man who had earlier given us the cinematic and live action composite called Prune

  • Robert Morris

    At this writing, the third and last installment of the Morris exhibition at Castelli has not yet been mounted. The fact that the sculptor’s work is made to unfold successively rather than simultaneously in time, while it may be due to the restricted space of the gallery, is symptomatic also, of a larger program, of a definite, but bewildering intention. For one cannot see all at once the self-evident, cannot piece together the literal. This peculiar condition applies to his overall production itself, hauntingly variegated in its syntax, but never seeming eclectic or derivative in the light of

  • Helen Frankenthaler

    Hanging into and down the surfaces of Helen Frankenthaler’s new paintings are soft, sodden stretches of color, of which some titles—Cinnamon Burn, Chalk Zone—are fair indications of their sensory allusiveness. Frames are as arbitrary in their containment of masses as edges are meandering in their sometimes “cut” or blotted presence. One finds very little incident in this languid, often pastel, and occasionally bilious terrain. Some very delicate adjustments of energy and dissonance are necessary to bring off her particular suspension of forces, and these, for the most part, are lacking in this

  • Frank Kupka

    “Though it seems quite simple, Kupka’s case has its own complexity. We find in him a kind of spontaneous generation of free forms arising independently of any Futurist, Fauve, or Cubist influence, or else spurred by all these movements at one and the same time. It is amazing to see with what ease he passes from one form to another, from the simplest to the most baroque, from the arabesque with very pure lines to Symbolist turgidity.” Written by Michel Seuphor, these words sum up much of the atmosphere and perplexity of Frank Kupka, an artist who has not really been put into the historical record,