Michael Corris

  • Michael Corris

    “ORGANIZING AN EXHIBITION, FOR ME,” says Jan Hoet, “is always a battle, a struggle for every work, an engagement to the point of physical exhaustion.”1 This is no loser talking; but how much of this chatter is just a load of Raging Bull? If the boxing ring can become a convincing metaphor for the Kunsthalle, how inspired after all is the choice of an amateur boxer as artistic director of Documenta IX?

    At first blush this famous pig of an exhibition holds out a delicious promise, a sweeping social challenge even. For the viewer, the promise is a closer look at the process of artistic production


    The Vortex. Long live British Yoof!1 that great art vortex sprung up in the center of London because “nobody in London thinks that anything outside London is worth looking at.” 2 British Yoof stand for the Reality of the Present––not for the sentimental Future, or the sacrosanct Past. “The British 16-year-old school-leaver joins a sub-literal [sic] and sub-numerate under-class. A leprosy of emptiness and recurrent rage marks him and her. Drugged by television in a small island more saturated than any other by the mass media, he and she have been literally trashed.”3 We want to leave Nature and

  • Simon Lewty

    In Simon Lewty’s show defacement becomes a full-blown practice of picture-making. The fact that words sometimes resemble, or can be made to resemble, pictures, and vice versa, informs a grim circularity—a stasis, in fact, not unlike the sort depicted in the high-Modernist drama of Samuel Beckett. But bear in mind that the void of meaning produced by excess can only be pulled off if you suspend your critical faculties of differentiation in the first instance; street signs in Arabic or Cyrillic look fascinatingly exotic until you learn to read them, and realize that they signify the familiar “

  • “Neo-Plasticism in America”

    In his introductory essay to a catalogue for a 1940 exhibition at his “Museum of Living Art,” by the same name, A. E. Gallatin invokes the authority of science to support his position that abstract art is both creative and progressive. Gallatin continuously describes and valorizes art in terms of “exploration and experimentation”; what the public beholds in his galleries are not merely works of art but “experiments performed in the artistic laboratory,” Furthermore, the practice of art is less a skill or technique than it is a matter of “research,” wherein artists strive “above all to obtain


    A RECENT REVIEW of Sir Anthony Caro’s monumental sculptures exhibited at the Tate Gallery in London is titled “Piecing it together,” a reference not only to Caro’s signature technique of assemblage but also to what we might call the continuity of his “oeuvre.” The question addressed by that reviewer is bluntly put in the article’s teaser as “a new uncertainty in the sculpture of Sir Anthony Caro”; further on we read of an artist whose “recent additions to [his] oeuvre are, to put it politely, rather eccentric,” an artist “discontent with the consequences of his own devotion to abstract literalism,”

  • Sonia Boyce

    The work of Sonia Boyce, an English artist of African-Caribbean origin, is work in transition, work that is not yet mainstream—not yet inured to the prospect of a facile rehearsal of a post-Modernist orthodoxy. As such, Boyce’s work seems awkward, sometimes naive, and even repellent. But, in so directly addressing the question of what sort of work she might make, the artist has succeeded in opening up a discursive space too often left unexamined.

    Boyce’s early intuition that she was not interested in producing art strictly identified as “feminist” or “black” seems to have been based on her


    A Thousand Years, 1990, is Damien Hirst’s sensational and ostentatious “machine” constructed to induce and defeat maggoty optimism. An 800-cubic-foot rectangular glass-and-steel vitrine, supplied with a quantity of hatching maggots, nutrient solutions, one skinned cow head, and an ultraviolet electronic fly-killer, comprises the clinical environment for a microdrama of survival that begs comparison with the experience of free-market-driven social life in Britain today. Newly hatched flies freely migrate from their nest inside a wooden cube in one compartment of the vitrine, whereupon they are

  • Marc Quinn

    Self (both works 1991) is a frozen cast of Marc Quinn’s head made from the artist’s blood. By planning the form of the mold to include most of his neck, Quinn insured that the volume of blood needed to completely cast the form would equal roughly eight pints—the total blood volume of an average adult male. The blood collection process occurred over the course of five months; afterwards it was a relatively simple matter to “cast” the piece by freezing. The bust is displayed in a double-glazed Plexiglas enclosure that sits atop a stunning high-tech refrigeration unit, complete with digital


    WHAT MAY BE THE FIRST example of a Western European’s account of the work of an individual artist native to the Americas has recently been made public by officials of the B******* Library of O***** University, Great Britain. This manuscript, an excerpt of which follows, is part of an impressive cache of handwritten folios, described by one library official as “the virtual precursor of the contemporary mode of exhibition catalogue essay.” Incredibly, these manuscripts were nearly incinerated; they survive owing to their accidental discovery by a university porter who spotted what he believed to

  • Alan Charlton

    Everyone knows it is not easy being a “pure” abstract painter today. We are so accustomed to the idea of the death of the historical avant-garde that any practice that justifies itself in the name of a hermetic, reductive formalism is received with indifference. Our persistent appetite for the “new” is such that our self consciousness of the paradoxical and tragic dimensions of the historical avant-garde remains curiously underdeveloped.

    Alan Charlton is a “pure” abstractionist, and as such, the historical potential for his painting seems, frankly, bleak. The formal possibilities of such a practice

  • Tony Cragg

    Tony Cragg’s sculptures have a way of seeming either perfect or excrutiatingly fey. At a point in his career at which, under the weight of his diverse production, he threatens to repeat past gestures as facile repertoire, we wonder if the tough experimentation he is known for is a thing of the past. Isn’t this rapidly accumulating output just accentuating the patterns, preferences, and blind spots of an oeuvre that has already resolved itself and entered a late, mannerist phase?

    Perhaps Cragg’s unevenness stems from a condition of excessive rehearsal in object making and a consequential denial

  • Ad Reinhardt

    As it has been a quarter of a century since we last had the opportunity to view such a concentration of Ad Reinhardt’s work, this retrospective of the paintings of this celebrated iconoclast could not have been anticipated more optimistically. The curators unfortunately did not rise to the occasion: what we got was a replay of the fairly conventional story of Reinhardt-the-painter, with little more than lip-service paid the larger and more important story of Reinhardt-the-artist.

    Ad Reinhardt idealized his abstract art in scores of texts written over a period of more than two decades, culminating

  • Hamish Fulton

    The work of Hamish Fulton has been described as originating from “the experience gained during walks made in the landscape,” as “travelling toward a kind of primal self that perhaps only exists in nature as a pure non-judgemental, non-theoretical force,” and as reflecting a relationship to nature that is “one of deep, almost religious respect.” To consign two decades of the artist’s work to this sort of mystification strikes me as patently wrongheaded: such claims evade both the origin of Fulton’s work in Conceptual art and the continued importance of the issues raised by the movement to an

  • Art in Ruins

    Political art does not exist, unless one’s conception of the political either features the sign as the agency of social change, or privileges the acquisition of information as a kind of political consciousness. Representations in art of the political, however, abound. It is precisely the willful confusion of these two registers—coupled with and fortified by the institutionalized separation of art and social practice—that sustains and legitimizes the practice of so-called political art.

    The critical and curatorial celebrations of such art generally suppress the difficult and embarrassing contradictions

  • Amikam Toren

    Performance, process and theatricality are the indices of esthetic production that have come to dominate our thinking about art. The work of Amikam Toren feasts on the ironic complexities of this situation, addressing meaning in art through the transubstantiation of form.

    In a series of pictures inaugurated in 1983, entitled “Of the Times” (exhibited at Chisenhale Gallery), as well as in a recent, related series, “Armchair Paintings” 1989–91 (exhibited at Anthony Reynolds Gallery), Toren creates objects out of their own substance. “Of the Times” is comprised of canvases covered with a grayish

  • Art & Language

    Since the late ’70s, Art & Language has addressed the issue of cultural legibility by producing pictures intentionally susceptible to radical misreading. This project continues and develops with their current exhibition entitled “Hostage Paintings: The Dark Series.” A complimentary group—“The Light Series”—is being presented concurrently at the ICA as part of a survey that extends from 1987 to the present.

    Art & Language’s work of the last decade took form through a conglomeration of oddly devised modes and mechanisms of representation. A short list of those strategies includes: camouflage (in

  • Jürgen Albrecht

    The voyeuristic act so pervades contemporary artistic culture that it is virtually invisible. Mobilizing voyeurism as a heuristic device for the understanding of observation—using this perversion as a platform from which to build a sustained meditation on the nature of what has been termed subjective vision—would seem to demand a condition whereby the very act of observation is conceived of self-reflexively. The observer would have to be placed in a position such that the system of conventions that circumscribe and limit his viewing experience are revealed. The act of looking, in other words,