Max Kozloff

  • Roy Lichtenstein at the Guggenheim

    I CAN STILL REMEMBER Ivan Karp’s “take-this-if-you-dare” look, as he hauled out, face backward, a number of canvases which were to be my first Lichtensteins. How was a guileless critic to know in that distant year (1962), that he would be confronted by what was quickly to become a grand trademark of sixties art? The subjects, the identities of those pictures have passed from my mind, but not their acid shock. To drink in those images was like glugging a quart of quinine water followed by a Listerine chaser. And there was, too, the fierce disbelief that anything so brazen as these commercial

  • Men and Machines

    OF THE FLICKED AND TWISTED pigmented gristle of Francis Bacon’s faces, Lawrence Cowing recently wrote:

    When a thing is ‘painted’ it is captured or reborn in a substance that is endlessly protean, metaphoric, adhesive and elastic, infinitely fantastic. The equivalence itself is a unique, improbable fantasy of Western man. It is always more or less uncontrollable, impulsive and automatic. It is not for want of trying that no picture has quite been repeated since painting began. The stuff of painting remains beyond comprehension; it is unreasonable and disturbing that the whole message must reach

  • 9 in a Warehouse

    AN IDEA OF THE IMPLAUSIBLE INNOVATIONS that charge many of the new sculptures at an exhibition called 9 at Castelli, in a spacious upper west side gallery warehouse, may be obtained by imagining, of all things, how the works must be prepared for re-shipment back to the studio. Instead of being dismantled, unhooked, dollied and crated, these sculptures will have to be rolled up (Bollinger), swept into a pile (Serra), chipped and chiseled from a corner (Serra), and scraped and scrubbed from the wall (Sonnier). All of which is a way of saying that their approach to installation hints inordinately

  • Constructivism in Buffalo

    IT IS A MIND-STAGGERING proposition to imagine what would have happened had Lenin dug the Dadaists when they were practically neighbors in the Zurich of 1916. The political insurgency of the one, and the esthetic put-on of the other would have provided one of the grandest misalliances in 20th-century culture. From this vantage, of course, the idea seems preposterous: the campaign to make a new society on the ruins of the Imperial capitalist order, and the one to discredit all society as absurd, though they had a certain mutual disgust for the present, were, on the face of it, atrociously

  • Neo-Impressionism and the Dream of Analysis

    FOR PURPOSES OF SUPPOSITION, one might propose a hypothetical polarity in the alternatives open to modern abstract art, particularly art concerned with color. A cycle does seem to have developed either at extended length or at short if isolated intervals, in which painters swing between a tenuous, soft, transparent, open, and above all luminous form of color, on one hand, while on the other, they tend to adopt a hard, settled, flat, opaque chromaticism, fitted to the containment of color as shape or pattern. Each of these conditions has its structural imperatives, but more importantly, each

  • Light as Surface: Ralph Humphrey and Dan Christensen

    WHAT IF THE “REDUCED” and monochrome surface, a trademark of minimal art by virtue of its tangibility or thingness, is transformed into a fictive, hallucinating facade? We have been so accustomed to a kind of concretion purged of incident in modern art, that our awareness of induced or subliminal sensations given off by the work seems a by-product, or an irrelevant distraction to the central experience. The fact that our physiology involuntarily compels us to receive some measure of nuance even in the most hushed circumstances almost repels or deflects our attention back to the area of conscious

  • “The Academy,”Art News Annual #XXXIII

    The Academy, Art News Annual #XXXIII, ed. Thomas Hess & John Ashbery (Macmillan, N.Y. 1967), 176 pages, illustrations.

    Failed art, as prevalent as forgettable conversation, rarely provides a critical issue. We are success oriented, not inclined to devote much attention to the downbeat and the also-rans. But, (leaving aside simple deficiency of talent), the latter often fall into commingled categories—the sentimental, the rhetorical, and the academic—which are quite worth studying as phenomena that may shift their perimeters at any moment. For every gesture or sensibility in art is now shadowed

  • Jasper Johns: “The Colors”; “The Maps”; “The Devices”.

    THE STRANDS OF JASPER JOHN’S activity as they interlaced in 1959 are extremely complex. Belonging to this year, for example, are Shade, False Start, Jubilee, Two Flags, Black Target, Highway, Thermometer, and Device Circle. If we look ahead, he was not to finish Figure 5 until 1960, and Good Time Charley until 1961. Clearly, then, the standards of continuity which would judge some works of art to be stragglers at a given moment, and others premature arrivals, do not apply in this instance. For the processes of hybridization and deliberate mismating are the control factors in an outlook which

  • Meditations on a Hobby Horse

    Meditations On A Hobby Horse by E. H. Gombrich, Phaidon, London 1963: E. H. Gombrich is a remarkable art historian who has increasingly concerned himself with the reciprocal relationships between art and perception. Or more precisely, he is interested in what happens when we look at pictures and how our eyes and minds are set to work by objects which are mental and sensuous amalgams in their own right. This has led him, in his famous “Art and Illusion,” to discuss such matters as the theory of representation, the psychological conditions of sight, and the nature of visual communication. One of

  • Surrealist Painting Re-examined

    OF ALL THE DECISIVE MOMENTS in the tradition of 20th century painting, only one can be said to burrow still relevantly with in us, and to surface in ambitious works of art that show a sibling connection with the past. Cubism and Expressionism had ground down exhaustedly to an impasse during the fifties. The example of the Bauhaus today sometimes fitfully re-emerges, but then mainly in forms alien to its own pedagogy. Yet Dada, as it is almost axiomatic to say, and its rambunctious outgrowth, Surrealism, surround and confirm a swarm of present avant-garde works reflecting a confusing wealth of

  • The Inert and the Frenetic

    CLASSIFICATION HAS ALWAYS BOTHERED PEOPLE interested in visual art. It has become a human problem far more than an academic one, for the reason that if one can know where a work of art “belongs,” one can diminish its challenge to the imagination and to the emotions. When a critic triumphantly claims that an artist fits into no category, that he is, in fact, his own man, we are invited to applaud, as if that artist deserved special praise for having demonstrated meritorious conduct in being individual. No less of a cliche is it to say that an artist does fit into a style, or a movement, as if it

  • The Many Colorations of Black and White

    TO SAY OF a man that he sees things in black and white, that is, that he has a categorical, blunt mind, insensitive to nuance, is not a compliment. But a vice in life may be a virtue in art, a region where the terms of reference are inevitably changed. Here the Manichean contrasts, the value jumps, the boldness and immediacy of drawing, the very extremity of the achromatic colors, all contribute to give a picture of the primordial vocabulary of art itself. Further, the combination of black and white is an irreducible quotient less than which the idea of visual relationships can scarcely exist.

  • Problems of Criticism III: Venetian Art and Florentine Criticism

    LET ME BEGIN BY SAYING that criticism seems most alive to itself when it is kept somewhat off guard by works of art—when a critic suspects that he must enlarge his frame of reference, or intensify his analytic tools, or even switch his methodological approach to make his experience intelligible in its own terms. Many things in current art have required him to move off his intellectual base, from minimal art to the theater of mixed means. These have engaged him in philosophical, sociological, or perceptual operations that may come to seem more or less warranted by the shifting developments under

  • Joan Mitchell

    Joan Mitchell’s recent paintings at the Martha Jackson Gallery provide an instance of one of those critical hindsights, reluctantly formed, and disagreeable to contemplate. It is one thing to discover that an artist one had not been too fond of in the past reveals an unexpected solidity, enough perhaps to revise one’s previously negative estimate. It is quite another to see in present work a superficiality that retrospectively belies a long-held, and obviously not too perceptive indulgence. Such is my experience with Miss Mitchell’s new show.

    This time around, the artist, who has been living for

  • Robert Natkin

    In one of his two continuing pictorial idioms, Robert Natkin, at Poindexter, composes by means of repeated rectangular modules of jigsawed forms—bars, color grids, chromatic bubbles, and irradiated, voids—echoing each other up and down or laterally across the picture façade. Value contrasts are extreme, as is the range of the spectrum, but the total effect is dry, “ironed on,” even sometimes paper thin. A rather metallically graded series of greys or its equivalent in a harmonic registration of colors glints through the patterning in the form of intervallic registers of tone. Natkin plays with

  • Judith Dolnick

    Judith Dolnick, the painter’s wife, exhibits a group of acrylics, some of them tondos, far less problematic in their appeal. Her facility in watercolor is authentically transferred to these larger works, not as ambitious and risky as her husband’s, although they contain some of the same motifs. Her strength, a relaxed and fluent handwriting of wavy filaments and burbling clouds, is also marked by a certain weakness—the tendency, once again, to be episodic. She may compose out from the center or spot more disparately, but in either case the margins are comparatively unemployed in the ensemble,