Michael Corris

  • Alfredo Jaar

    Half a century after the end of the Holocaust, Alfredo Jaar presented Real Pictures, a project that speaks of a more recent genocide—the massacre of close to one million Tursi in Rwanda. To his credit, Jaar raises the question of how such an “event” can be represented, while ruefully reminding us how unlikely it is that the word “Butare” will ever achieve anything like the resonance of “Auschwitz.”

    For Real Pictures, Jaar sifted through the thousands of photographs he took during his journey through Rwanda, Zaire, and Uganda in the summer of 1994. He visited the massive refugee camps in Zaire,

  • “The Day After Tomorrow”

    “The Day After Tomorrow” displayed a rough romanticism. Curated by Isabel Carlos, this was a show in the “provinces” that was not “provincial,” obsequious, or describing yet another horizon of “assimilation.” The exhibition functioned as a sober response to the malaise of the “end of history” syndicate and the smugness of the North. It also demonstrated that Carlos is neither innocent of the art of the North nor an isolationist, as it included major commissioned projects and works byJames Turrell, Cathy de Monchaux, Stephan Balkenhol, and Taro Chiezo.

    Yeah, you would have found familiar themes

  • Rashad Araeen

    Rasheed Araeen is probably best known outside Great Britain for his role as a founding editor of Third Text, a quarterly publication that has contributed significantly to the current discourse on non-Western art. But this publishing initiative is only half the story; Araeen’s career as an artist stretches back to the ’50s. In the ’60s, his work addressed a wide range of issues and incorporated a broad range of conceptual frames, including systems theory, time-based performance, and the geometry and structure of constructed objects. Trained as a civil engineer, Araeen produced metal works that


    EVERY ARTIST HAS A STORY to tell, but we tend to remember best those artists who know that the first principle of storytelling depends on setting the scene and getting the details right. We don’t really care that Joseph Beuys’ tale of his exploits as a Luftwaffe pilot is basically a fabrication, or that Jasper Johns’ dreamscape account of his notorious Flag of 1958 isn’t really much of an explanation. The “art” of being an artist might be construed as the job of telling the story of becoming an artist, but what are we to make of those perplexing works where the subject matter and the way it is

  • “The Romantic Spirit in German Art 1790–1990”

    Though assembled under the sign of Romanticism, “The Romantic Spirit in German Art: 1790–1990,” was not exclusively, or even principally, about the Romantic period in German art and its legacy; it was really about the recent reunification of Germany. Here Romanticism has been transformed into a Masonic cult, a kind of Virtual Romanticism—more an agent of German simplification than unification. This is not to deny that Romanticism figured as a source of expression for artists far afield of the period from the late 18th to the early 19th century, but such an argument is anything but self-evident

  • Peter Fend

    Alternately Mr. Passionately-Disposed-Man-with-a-Plan or the all-time Olympian Nerd, Peter Fend’s presence on the shop floor enables him to constitute his scenario as a series of “multiple originals,” turning a potentially static display of maps and models into a chameleonlike facade of information and orientations.

    Fend allies himself with architects because architecture is the field of social practice that encompasses his ideals and ambitions most completely. Architecture counts because it is the fundamental experience of our environment. Fend knows this and is fond of quoting a remark attributed

  • Beep Beep

    IN THE RUSH to herald a paradigmatic shift in feminist practice, a number of curators seem to be championing work that turns away from a prior body of mediatized feminist art (the work of Barbara Kruger, Louise Lawler, Sherrie Levine) and lays claim to an expanded esthetic arena. In many instances this purported shift seems to be founded on a relatively naive raiding of conventional esthetic forms—naive because the appropriation of painting and sculpture can no longer claim legitimacy simply as a “colonization” of “phallocentric” forms of Modernism.

    The certainty with which curators have embraced

  • Claus Carstensen

    Our century of art reveals a rich and populous subcultural world of work of—or on—excrement, excretions, and fluids. To name a few: the prissy urinal of Marcel Duchamp, as well as his later semen painting; Piero Manzoni’s canned shit; Andy Warhol’s oxidation paintings; Andre Serrano’s Piss Christ, 1987; the brown stuff of John Miller’s and Mike Kelley’s art; Carolee Schneemann’s menstrual blood; and Helen Chadwick’s Piss-flowers. Do we really need to add to this scatological sweepstakes? Claus Carstensen seems to think we do that there is a good deal left to be said about art and the future

  • Pierre Molinier

    To paraphrase an old blues man, some works of art are meant to signify, others to sanctify. The late photographic work of the virtually obscure French Surrealist Pierre Molinier seems to embrace both modalities. In the end, his work is perhaps more interesting considered as a form of psychosexual reparation mediated through Surrealist dogma.

    This interpretive move has consequences for Molinier’s reentry into the consciousness of the art world. Thus far, the recoding of this body of work seems to be a clear example of annexation by mainstream discourse of gendered representation. That this sort

  • Itai Doron

    Here’s the pitch: Guy Debord meets Marshall McLuhan. The interior monologue of a star-struck Hollywood foundling begins its expansion to infinity. The attack of the 50-foot notion. We find ourselves trapped in a 12,000-square-foot projection of Itai Doron’s imaginative neural network. This is the body electric, and he sings with a vengeance. This is The Immaculate Stereoscopic Conception of Mr. D., 1993. Across town, in the impeccably Modernist White Cube, a more modest exhibition concentrating on Mr. D.’s primal media recollections is on offer. Titled “The Secret Life and Archaic Times of Mr.

  • Melanie Counsell

    Under the aegis of a facile appropriation of Foucauldian theory, artists continue to busy themselves with the task of. literally and limply paraphrasing the social history of “site.” In far too many of these well-intentioned esthetico-archaeological projects not even the worthy recovery of a significant, albeit marginalized, past can mitigate their blandness nor justify their numbing effects. With all this in mind I can’t say that I didn’t approach Melanie Counsell’s installation with a great deal of skepticism. Sited in a dank cinema in a working-class neighborhood of London’s East End, the

  • Dinos & Jake Chapman

    Francisco Goya began work on the portfolio of etchings titled Desastres de la Guerra (Disasters of war) two years after the Napoleonic invasions of Spain in 1808. Ten years latter, at the age of 75, the plates were completed. Desastres is generally thought to be an allegory inspired by the themes of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: conquest, war, famine, and death. It has become something of an icon for antiwar activists and a benchmark for so-called politically engaged artists, who claim Desastres exemplifies an esthetically competent, highly emotive, and politically effective art.



    MICHAEL CORRIS: In the service of a souped-up formalist view of Modernism, Rosalind Krauss recently enlisted Algirdas Julien Greimas’ semiotic square to reanimate that most conventional, reductive, and central modalization of Modernism’s development: the relationship between “figure” and “ground.” The basic conceit at work here is that the terms “figure” and “ground”—canceled, mirrored, and restated within the logic of Greimas’ square—will bear significant conceptual results. But the very cancellation of the terms of this dichotomy reinforces their power, resuscitating the figure/ground

  • “Gravity and Grace”

    Canonization, of a sort, in journalistic art criticism is always in vogue, but one must remain highly suspicious of the kind of pious invocation of history masquerading as critique that is really about beating the present and its possible future(s) over the head with the big stick of the past. Readers are most likely familiar with the phenomenon of chastening young artists in the name of Minimalism, arte povera, and Conceptual art. Simply add the prefix “domesticated” to any curatorial category you care to mention and voilá, Bob’s your uncle!

    Imagine if you will a land where even the auratic

  • Caroline Russell

    Exhibitions don’t really begin and end at the gallery; for Caroline Russell, whose interest in display began in 1987, the invitation card plays a significant role in setting up the spectator. While the sophisticated contemporary-art audience expects to be titillated through the mail slot, Russell’s use of a grammatically incoherent excerpt from a commercial-supplier-of-display-paraphernalia catalogue is so cannily like the experience of the show itself as to be virtually ekphrastic: “Bumper Strip has vertical ribs along the entire length of the strip reducing surface contact by passing traffic,

  • Terry Atkinson

    “‘No poetry after Auschwitz and Hiroshima,’ Adorno is reputed to have written! Who is he trying to kid? The statement itself is poetic.” So writes Terry Atkinson in a short essay justifying his continued interest in historical and political representation and Modernism. But Atkinson’s sense of the quote is slightly askew. Theodor Adorno did not mean that poetry could not or should not exist but that poetry could no longer be thought of as a humanizing force. As far as Adorno is concerned, the concept of civilization embodied in the Enlightenment ideal of Reason ended definitively one day in

  • Gilbert & George

    The penis is no longer a penis. This is the dilemma facing Gilbert & George in their latest series of hand-colored photomontages titled New Democratic Pictures (all works 1991). Up to a certain point a penis was still a penis; prior to the ’80s an artist didn’t need to be any more explicit about what a penis actually meant. And as long as Gilbert & George remained clothed in their works, they didn’t need to worry either. But genitalia are now as implicated as soup cans and kitsch in the dance of transfiguration and transgression in Art and Life. Gilbert & George know this quite well and in

  • Simon Periton

    Simon Periton’s collections of anecdotes have always seemed seriously to question the viable limits of the idea of inconsequentiality, inconsistency, and gracelessness as an important way forward for art in England. The esthetic is more about terms of endearment than qualities of engrossment. For example, one is confronted with the little arty-thing, unrelentingly coy and opaque (Untitled; Eggs, size I; all works 1992); the frosty prop in the theater of stupefaction (Can’t see the wood for the trees); and the souvenir of an enfeebled dandyism (Don’t you ever get the feeling you’re going round

  • Shirazeh Houshiary

    Shirazeh Houshiary constructs a variety of sculptural forms based on the metaphysical doctrines of Sufism. Since Sufism has no sculptural tradition of its own, she is compelled to appropriate various formal means of late-20th century Western sculpture. The earliest examples of Houshiary’s art are spiritually suggestive environments and striking objects in a biomorphic idiom. Later, she achieved a higher degree of esthetic autonomy and monumentality in her sculptures; they are minimal in form, ascetic, and theatrically installed.

    A recent grouping of sculptures questioned the audience’s belief