Michael Fried

  • “THOMAS STRUTH: FIGURE GROUND”

    Opening in early May and continuing until mid-September will be a more ambitious and comprehensive exhibition of Thomas Struth’s work than has ever been mounted. Organized by the distinguished critic-curator Thomas Weski, the show will comprise more than 120 items, representing every series of the artist’s production (“Unconscious Places,” 1976–2008; “Family Portraits,” 1985–; “Museum Photographs,” 1989–2007; “New Pictures from Paradise,” 1998–2007; “Nature & Politics,” 2007–, among others), and will also include several of the hypnotically compelling video portraits that

  • “The Figurative Pollock”

    “The Figurative Pollock,” organized by Nina Zimmer, was a pleasant surprise. For one thing, the large selection of early drawings and paintings on view would have made for a highly informative show in its own right; the exhibition featured major early paintings such as Stenographic Figure, ca. 1942; The Moon Woman, 1942; Guardians of the Secret, 1943; The Moon-Woman Cuts the Circle, 1943; Totem Lesson 1, 1944; and Totem Lesson 2, 1945. All were effectively hung and looking amazingly fresh. Then there was a group of works from 1946–47 that culminated with the allover Constellation, 1946; Something

  • Frank Stella

    No artist of his generation has been remotely as productive and creative as Frank Stella, a distinction to be celebrated by a large retrospective exhibition at the Whitney this fall and winter. Michael Auping, chief curator at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, will assemble some 120 works—paintings, reliefs, maquettes, sculptures, and drawings—the earliest items dating from 1958, the marvelous exploratory year leading up to the “Black Paintings” of 1959, and the most recent, K.459, from 2012, a gray sculpture that, depending on how it

  • Michael Fried

    James Welling: Monograph (Aperture) is a sensationally attractive book. It was published to coincide with a large survey exhibition of the artist’s work from the 1970s through 2012 that opened at the Cincinnati Art Museum and traveled to the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, where I caught up with it. The main text, by James Crump, is an exemplary account of Welling’s career to date: It proceeds in chronological order, series by series, with unflagging intelligence and critical acumen. Not only does Crump do justice to the critical literature, but time and again he contributes new information about

  • Michael Fried

    A RECENT REVIEW OF SHOWS by Helen Frankenthaler at Gagosian Gallery and Morris Louis at Mnuchin Gallery gave New Yorker critic Peter Schjeldahl the chance to express his considered views on Color Field painting:

    Color-field reacted against the juicy, muscular styles of Willem de Kooning and his many followers, which [Clement] Greenberg deemed spurious and passé. It won that scrap, in the court of uptown galleries, but soon succumbed to the juggernauts of Pop art and minimalism, which had behind them forces of more than rarefied aesthetic theory: by 1962, Andy Warhol’s silk-screened works equalled

  • Anthony Caro

    ALL OF US WHO WERE CLOSE TO ANTHONY CARO (Tony to his friends, an international society of thousands) were certain that he would live to be at least one hundred, making significant sculpture all the way. My impression was that he thought so too, though the last few times I saw him he spoke confidingly about the experience of being really old (he was eighty-nine when his heart gave out on October 23, 2013) and how different that was from anything he had quite imagined. In fact, when I spent two days with him this past July in his Camden Town studio, his legs were hurting so much that he found it

  • Charles Ray

    For more than five years now, Charles Ray has been making sculptures based closely on the human figure, somewhat in the manner of his first work of this type, Aluminum Girl, 2003. In his 2007 show at Matthew Marks Gallery, another such piece, The New Beetle, 2007, depicted, if that is the word, a naked young boy seated directly on the ground playing with a small model of a Volkswagen. Since then, Ray has been mining this vein in a number of works, three of which, all dated 2012, made up his recent exhibition in the same gallery.

    The first to be completed, Sleeping Woman, had its origin in more

  • “James Welling: Monograph”

    Over the past forty years, there has been no American photographer more creative and original than James Welling.

    Over the past forty years, there has been no American photographer more creative and original than James Welling. Certainly no photographer has been more successful working in both black-and-white and color and in both depictive and abstract modes (sometimes, as in the “Glass House” photo­graphs, 2006–2009, within a single image). Welling’s recent show at David Zwirner was further evidence of his super­lative gifts, with ravishing, tempera-like color variations on scenes associated with the painter Andrew Wyeth and two very different groups of abstractions. This ambitious

  • CLOSE-UP: GRAY SCALE

    A LARGE RETROSPECTIVE of the German photographer Michael Schmidt, curated by Thomas Weski, was held at the Haus der Kunst in Munich during the late spring and summer of 2010. I flew to Munich from Berlin expressly to visit it and am glad I did (in fact, I reviewed it for these pages). Not only was the exhibition a fairly comprehensive survey of the oeuvre of one of the most original contemporary photographers, but it was accompan­ied by a publication that I might otherwise have missed before it went out of print, as it now appears to have done.

    The publication is a photobook called, simply, 89/90

  • THE BEST BOOKS OF 2011

    Ten scholars, critics, writers, and artists choose the year’s outstanding titles.

    SVETLANA ALPERS

    Imagine that you are listening to a spirited conversation between a French art historian and a German painter. De Rouget and Daimler, as they are called, are at lunch on a recent October Sunday near Pontarlier. It is where Degas vacationed briefly in 1904 and where absinthe is made. In Il était plus grand que nous ne pensions: Édouard Manet et Degas (Paris: Nouvelles Éditions Scala/Collection Ateliers Imaginaires), Éric Darragon, author of a subtle biography of Manet and writings on contemporary German

  • Luc Delahaye

    At Galerie Nathalie Obadia in Paris, Luc Delahaye recently showed ten large-format color photographs and one small black-and-white print, the bulk of his production since 2006. In his previous exhibition in Paris, at La Maison Rouge in 2005, nearly all of the photographs were made with a panoramic camera, but Delahaye seems to have come to feel that the format had become limiting, and the new work all issues from a four-by-five-inch camera that he wields without a tripod. This allows him to respond to events as they actually take place, in a quasi-photojournalistic manner, even as his aims go

  • Michael Schmidt

    It is hard to imagine a tougher venue for a photography show than Munich’s Haus der Kunst, with its vast, uninflected spaces and general pathlessness, but the recent survey exhibition by the Berlin photographer Michael Schmidt met the challenge triumphantly. Curated by Thomas Weski and titled “Grau als Farbe” (Gray as Color), it comprised nearly four hundred black-and-white photographs grouped, for the most part, to reflect the previous coming together of many (though by no means all) of them in the brilliant and original photo books Berlin Wedding (1978), Waffenruhe (Ceasefire, 1987), Ein-heit

  • Mitch Epstein’s American Power

    American Power, by Mitch Epstein, London: Steidl, 2009. 144 pages. $72.

    MITCH EPSTEIN’S BOOK American Power comprises sixty-three color photographs of energy-related sites across the United States plus a short, vivid afterword, in which he describes the origins of his project in a commission from the New York Times Magazine as well as some of the difficulties he encountered, including run-ins with police, in post-9/11 America. “I didn’t start it with any kind of specific political agenda,” Epstein recently told the Times. “But as I worked and traveled”—between 2003 and 2008, he visited twentyfive

  • Willard Boepple

    At Lori Bookstein, Willard Boepple exhibited six recent sculptures, five of them of a type he calls “Looms.” The basic structural idea, as always in his art, is deceptively simple: Within what the press release described as a “box-like frame” linear elements of various lengths run from side to side (also, less emphatically but nevertheless tellingly, between front and back), either horizontally or slanting; some extend slightly beyond the “frame.” Boepple characteristically works in wood, and indeed two of the most beautiful pieces, Burnley and Preston, both 2008, are in poplar, the first painted

  • Jules Olitski

    BEFORE SITTING DOWN to draft these reflections, I went to my shelves and brought forth Yve-Alain Bois, Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, Hal Foster, and Rosalind Krauss’s monumental and tendentious Art Since 1900: Modernism, Antimodernism, Postmodernism (2004), consulted the index, and looked up “Olitski, Jules.” There was one reference, on page 472. I turned to page 472, where I found an inset column headed “Artforum.” In the last paragraph I read: “[Editor Philip] Leider’s insistence on lucid analytical prose forged a close relationship between him and Michael Fried, opening the magazine’s pages as well

  • Michael Fried

    DOUGLAS GORDON AND PHILIPPE PARRENO’S FILM Zidane, a 21st Century Portrait, 2006, was made as follows: During the entirety of a ninety-minute soccer match between Real Madrid and Villarreal in the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu in Madrid on the evening of April 23, 2005, seventeen synchronized movie cameras, using different types of film and in various positions around the stadium, were trained on one player, the superb and legendary Real halfback Zinédine Zidane. (Zidane, born in Marseille to an Algerian family and now in his midthirties, played spectacularly for France in the recent World Cup before

  • Joseph Marioni

    At Peter Blum’s new gallery in Chelsea, Joseph Marioni recently showed six paintings made earlier this year in his newly renovated studio, a former meeting hall in Tamaqua, Pennsylvania. This studio has, for the first time, given Marioni the space to take his art up to what may well prove to be its maximum size—and the results are dramatic. The artist paints on stretched canvases hanging on a wall, using a long-handled roller. There is a limit to his (two-handed) reach with such an implement, and in several of the paintings on view here, that limit seems to have been attained.

    What is immediately

  • David Smith

    FOR YEARS—decades, really—when encountering a sculpture by David Smith in a museum or an art gallery, I’ve looked at it long and hard, from up close and far away. I’ve walked all around it and peered at it from every point of view; and then, if it was a piece I found compelling (and no one was watching), I made a loose fist with my right hand and lightly rapped the sculpture in order to hear—I almost wrote “see”—how it sounded. Only then do I ever feel that I know a work by Smith, whatever else knowing it might be taken to mean. So imagine my satisfaction when I read Michael Brenson’s essay “

  • Luc Delahaye

    THE PHOTOGRAPH, framed without margins and behind Plexiglas, is just under four and a half feet high by nearly nine and a half feet wide. Its title is A Lunch at the Belvedere, and it depicts an actual event that took place at the Hotel Belvedere in Davos, Switzerland, during the World Economic Forum of 2004. The lunch was hosted by Pervez Musharraf, president of Pakistan, whose guest of honor was the famous American financier-philanthropist George Soros. The diners, eleven men, sit facing the viewer—though none looks toward the camera—on the far side of a long table that runs the full width of

  • Thomas Struth

    It is like saying: “I classify works of Art in this way: at some I look up and at some I look down.” This way of classifying might be interesting. We might discover all sorts of connections between looking up or down at works of Art and looking up and down at other things.

    Ludwig Wittgenstein, Lectures & Conversations on Aesthetics, Psychology and Religious Belief, 1966

    In “Audience,” Thomas Struth’s 2004 series of photographs shown recently at Marian Goodman Gallery, tourists visiting the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence are depicted looking up at Michelangelo’s David, which towers above them.