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

  • David Smith at the Tate

    AT A TIME WHEN HIS LEGACY has be­come immensely relevant, and at a moment when the recentness of his death would naturally have encour­aged some acknowledgement of what he had done, we are given the long planned and well-installed retrospec­tive of David Smith’s sculpture at the Tate Gallery. Directed by Frank O’Hara, of the Museum of Modern Art (whose life, like Smith’s, was re­cently cut short at high tide by an automobile accident), it is congested with the memorable pieces, familiar and unfamiliar, of a long career. One had assimilated these works, or sculp­tures like them, oftentimes in

  • Larry Poons

    OF LATE, THE CAREER OF ABSTRACT ART, once uneasy and open-ended, is gelling in the work of a handful of American painters who have pressed a series of interlocking, but unique visions into existence. Three such painters are Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, and Frank Stella. Another, still in his twenties, is Larry Poons. The powers that have been funneled to give his art its distinctive range and tension have over-arched the esthetic landscape of perhaps the last twenty years and Poons, as a result, is one of those classic, central figures who sums up a tradition, while freshly extending its

  • The Honest Elusiveness of Jim Dine

    ONE HAS NO DIFFICULTY IN LOCATING the area in which the vision of Jim Dine tumbles and spins and disports itself, like some playful dolphin. His haunt is the fluid sea of visual paradoxes and ironies discovered by Johns and Rauschenberg. This means, initially, that Dine has concerned himself with the inclusion of objects into painting, the continued opulence, but devaluation, of material paint, and the effect of words which label representations which he is at pains to undermine. Considering Dine’s origins, one is not surprised to see displacements and disassociations in his art, nor a whole

  • The Dilemma of Expressionism

    EXPRESSIONISM, AS A VISUAL MODE in art, has passed into the history of the 20th century. So complicated and ambiguous has the present artistic situation become, that the bellicose progeny of Van Gogh look optimistic and simple-minded by comparison. And so alien to the direct transmission of feeling is current thought, that Expressionist art begins to look inflated and bombastic. One is willing to admit the existence of a number of masterpieces of the genre, but inwardly one does not submit oneself too eagerly to be moved by them. If this is because Expressionism no longer constitutes fashion,

  • Whitney Annual: Sculpture

    Museum openings, for some reason, whether it is the fur and the clatter, or the Crest toothpaste smiles of everyone including the works of art, always put me to thinking of the end of Western civilization. They are the art world’s affirmation of old Veblen’s theory of conspicuous consumption, decked up with a whorishness impossible to resist. That of the Whitney Museum’s 1968 Sculpture Annual was no exception. Hundreds of people coquettishly trying to look younger than they are, younger than the young, dabbed their ashes and spilled their drinks on the floor while successfully, and in most cases

  • Robert Irwin

    What is deterministic in the artistic processes of Robert Irwin and what is optional in the viewing of his work, mesh chimerically in the consciousness. For there is something minatory in one’s helplessness in sorting out the boundaries of color tones that are known to be quite discrete, as they are applied in dotted screens. Overlappings, therefore, occur only in an imagination betrayed by the knowledge that Irwin’s materials are laid down exclusively side by side. This was the Neo-Impressionist ethic, too, to be sure, but the Seurat group emphasized tangibility, and firmly modulated transitions:

  • Les Levine

    A rather chilly exhibition, authored by a man named Les Levine, comprised in part of what looked like frigidaires swaddled in glistening vinyl, opened at the Fischbach Gallery. A Canadian artist hitherto unshown in these parts, Levine apparently feels so at home here that he is immediately kindled by the sensuous aspect of something called Eastman’s Uvex Plastic sheet. According to the flyer accompanying the show, “The sculptures are vacuum-formed from clear plastic sheet, then back sprayed with a silver metallic paint to create the glossy, silvery appearance.” Additionally, constructed armatures