Michael Corris

  • Bas Jan Ader, The artist as consumer of extreme comfort, 1968/2003, gelatin silver print, 13 1⁄4 × 19".

    Bas Jan Ader

    The surface of Bas Jan Ader’s most widely known works depict the artist walking out into the world at the mercy of capricious nature. Powerful forces merge—the inexorable physical laws of the universe and the urge to articulate one’s inner emotional state as truth. One man against nature.

    The myth surrounding Ader has dissipated over time, yet a critical understanding of his work remains somewhat obscured. The ill-fated voyage of In search of the miraculous, 1973—a performance in which the artist went missing after sailing out of Chatham, Massachusetts, on a tiny skiff to traverse the Atlantic—and

  • Nathaniel Donnett, Veil, 2022, reclaimed backpacks from student exchange, duct tape, plastic trash bags, tambourine jingles, wood, thread, sound, 83 × 56 1⁄2 × 90".

    Nathaniel Donnett

    Nathaniel Donnett’s “To Know a Veil” caught you unawares. Brimming with abstract images, structures, and sound, the exhibition revealed its real aesthetic and intellectual pleasures slowly and unexpectedly. If ever there were an exemplary illustration of aesthetic cognitivism—the concept that the material stuff of art both conveys and generates knowledge—this was surely it.

    The show’s title was a pun on that phrase of exasperation, “to no avail,” while simultaneously referencing the metaphorical “veil” discussed in W. E. B. Du Bois’s book The Souls of Black Folk: Essays and Sketches (1903) and

  • Joseph Havel, Provence, 2021, cardboard and oil stick on birch plywood, 80 × 60". From the series “Floor Plans,” 2021–22.

    Joseph Havel

    During the pandemic lockdown, Joseph Havel’s studio companion was an African gray parrot named Hannah. Apparently, Hannah played a significant role in the completion of a project, conceived by the artist in 2017, that used cardboard boxes. Consistent with past bodies of work, Havel started this group of sculptures and collages for “Parrot Architecture,” exhibited at Dallas Contemporary, by remaining alert to the objects in his immediate environment—i.e., likely candidates for transfiguration. Havel took advantage of the excess paper packaging that accumulated in his home as online shopping

  • View of “David-Jeremiah,” 2022. From left: I Drive Thee, 2021; El Cobarde, 2021; I Drive Thee, 2021.


    In David-Jeremiah’s new series of paintings, “I Drive Thee,” 2021–22, diagrammatic depictions of collarbones and orchid blossoms, framed by an allusion to the ludicrously expensive Lamborghini sports car, form the basis for a layered rumination on Black masculinity. The project gives unexpected visual form to the violence and trauma inflicted via racial stereotyping. Yet there is a therapeutic element here as well, as the artist argues that the visualization of these toxic markers of identity is part of the process to comprehend and counter the corrosive effects of racism on identity formation.

  • 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