Michael Lobel

  • “LAURIE SIMMONS: BIG CAMERA/LITTLE CAMERA”

    Now that we’re all living in the uncanny valley pretty much 24/7, Laurie Simmons’s work is timelier than ever. For decades, she’s been exploring the myriad ways we humanize objects and objectify the human. Opening at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and then moving on to the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, this show will include about 130 pieces—primarily photographs, as well as some sculptural objects and films—spanning from the beginning of the artist’s career in the mid-1970s to images made this year. This assembly of such a comprehensive body of Simmons’s work

  • James Rosenquist

    JAMES ROSENQUIST helped define an era—even as he undid its imagery from within. His cool handling of advertising and media made him one of the key figures of the Pop movement in the US and contributed to the distinctive look of American art in the 1960s; he depicted motifs redolent of the postwar period, from Marilyn Monroe and JFK to automobiles and processed foodstuffs. But while many are inclined to view Pop as an art that unequivocally celebrated the new, Rosenquist took a more nuanced stance by playing with time and history from the very start. In fact, his signature paintings employed

  • LOST AND FOUND: SUSAN WEIL AND ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG’S BLUEPRINTS

    WRITING IN THESE PAGES IN 1972, the critic Leo Steinberg famously heralded the radical rupture instigated by ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG’s art. Rauschenberg’s “picture planes,” dense accumulations of things and images, dispensed with the transcendent weightlessness of modernist painting and instead evoked the quotidian material of studio floors and detritus, streams of data and imprinted information. As art historian Branden W. Joseph would later write, this is work that “views history in terms of an archive.”
     
    And so scholar MICHAEL LOBEL’s recent discovery of a cache of photographic negatives from 1951 in the University of Illinois at Chicago library archive provides an apt sequel to the story: Published here in Artforum for the very first time, these images feature Rauschenberg and his then wife and collaborator, SUSAN WEIL, demonstrating their process of making the legendary blueprints—direct cyanotype impressions of bodies and things—on the floor of the one-room apartment they shared in New York. Lobel explores this seminal episode in the young artists’ lives and its striking implications for their future work, teasing a rich history out of the smallest details of these “lost”—and newly found—pictures.

    IT IS AN UNFORGETTABLE PORTRAIT of the artist as a young man: A tousle-haired Robert Rauschenberg, in rolled-up shirtsleeves and paint-spattered jeans, stands barefoot amid a body of work, selections from a group of blueprints—primitive photograms—that he and Susan Weil, then his wife, produced collaboratively from about 1949 to 1951. The photograph captures myriad details that speak to the couple’s creative process and ambitions in their early years living in New York and foreshadows artistic breakthroughs yet to come. Although the picture was taken more than six decades ago and

  • “Vincent Fecteau: You Have Did The Right Thing When You Put That Skylight In”

    If San Francisco–based artist Vincent Fecteau is known for his meticulous approach to sculptural form, then this exhibition of some twenty pieces spanning the past fifteen years promises to highlight the broader range of his work: its engagement with architectural space, its consistent embrace of a collage aesthetic, and its wicked sense of humor. These qualities are evident in a recent series of diorama-like units—more than a dozen will be on view—that may (helpfully) torpedo the artist’s reputation as a restrained and tasteful abstract sculptor. The new

  • Haim Steinbach

    Like most artists, Haim Steinbach has been subject to the tyranny of the label, the easily identifiable category—a boon for critics, curators, and collectors (and for students cramming for art-history exams), but a practice that risks reducing our understanding of the artist to a few salient characteristics and a slot in a movement or historical period. For Steinbach, this has resulted in his being defined primarily through his signature shelf works of the 1980s, groupings of objects that helped position him alongside neo-geo artists such as Ashley Bickerton and Jeff Koons, whose work was

  • “Becoming Van Gogh”

    Vincent van Gogh’s last years—which witnessed the production of such canvases as The Starry Night, 1889, and Wheatfield with Crows, 1890; the ear episode; and his untimely demise—exert an inexorable pull, often serving to define the Post-Impressionist’s career as a whole. In some ways, this isn’t surprising, considering the relative brevity of van Gogh’s active period (barely ten years) and the lurid fascination with his decline, at least in the popular imagination. But it isn’t the public alone who have privileged van Gogh’s late period: In the catalogue for a 1984 show at New York’s

  • George Bellows

    One of the premier American realists of the early twentieth century, George Bellows gave us, in his relatively short career (he died in 1925 at age forty-two), a host of dynamic images depicting feral boxers, unruly street kids, and the modern metropolis in the making.

    One of the premier American realists of the early twentieth century, George Bellows gave us, in his relatively short career (he died in 1925 at age forty-two), a host of dynamic images depicting feral boxers, unruly street kids, and the modern metropolis in the making. This full-dress retrospective, the first devoted to Bellows’s work in more than thirty years, promises to expand our understanding of the artist’s repertoire. Of particular interest among the 130 paintings, drawings, and lithographs to go on view is an array of his lesser-known pictorial responses to World

  • SCALE MODELS: LAURIE SIMMONS AND ANNE COLLIER

    WHAT’S IN A GENERATION? From Pepsi to yuppies, the notion of a generational style or sensibility is often dismissed as a mere marketing tool, a way of breaking up the population into discrete consumer subgroups (that crucial “men 18–34” demographic, for instance). Nevertheless, these types of categories have a strong hold on us: on our cultural experience, our sense of history, our thinking about art. I’ve dealt with plenty of generations in my own art-historical work—the ’60s generation and the Pictures generation, mainly—yet I don’t feel I belong to any clearly legible one. I guess

  • THE PICTURES GENERATION

    The hallowed halls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York would seem an unlikely setting for “The Pictures Generation, 1974–1984”: an exhibition of artistic insurgents who dissected the images and words of the mass media with cutting ken. Here the past is far from settled, and while many figures represented in the show have already secured a place in the history books, group hagiography is hardly easy among practices so diverse and ongoing. Yet even if the works defy rigid, canonical terms, this first group retrospective still gave us an astonishing corpus—allowing an era’s real complexity to surface and then be amplified in critical debate. Artforum asked art historians MICHAEL LOBEL and HOWARD SINGERMAN to reflect on the show’s picturing of a moment that holds great sway over our own.

    ONE OF THE MORE CURIOUS SEQUELAE of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s staging of “The Pictures Generation, 1974–1984,” curated by Douglas Eklund, was the controversy surrounding the exclusion of Philip Smith from the show. Smith is one of five artists—the others were Troy Brauntuch, Jack Goldstein, Sherrie Levine, and Robert Longo—whose work Douglas Crimp had included in the 1977 show at Artists Space in New York titled “Pictures.” The event gave this group its name, in part, and has since been mythologized as a pivotal moment in postwar art. While those other four artists were represented

  • “The Pictures Generation, 1974–1984”

    With this presentation of approximately 160 works, curator Douglas Eklund seeks to expand the movement’s historical parameters, tracing its origins to the 1970s proving grounds of Hallwalls, a nonprofit art space in Buffalo, and to the classrooms of the California Institute of the Arts.

    The label “Pictures Generation” conjures a loosely affiliated group of New York–based artists—the likes of Sherrie Levine, Richard Prince, and Cindy Sherman—who exploited the slippage between categories of art and mass media to usher in the age of appropriation. With this presentation of approximately 160 works, curator Douglas Eklund seeks to expand the movement’s historical parameters, tracing its origins to the 1970s proving grounds of Hallwalls, a nonprofit art space in Buffalo, and to the classrooms of the California Institute of the Arts. While reframing well-known

  • Black to Front: Robert Colescott

    Robert Colescott’s Interior I, 1991, is a spot-on pastiche of one of Roy Lichtenstein’s “Interiors” paintings: Here are the sterile modern furnishings, the stark outlines, the repeating dot patterns. Yet someone has shuffled in to disturb the otherwise pristine scene—a dark-skinned figure sits on the white couch, his stockinged foot plunked unceremoniously on the gleaming coffee table. Considering the man’s relaxed posture and garb, could that open can he grasps be anything but a beer? Colescott disarranges Lichtenstein’s distinctive interior through more than just the introduction of that

  • Jeff Koons

    The more than fifty works included in this retrospective will allow viewers the opportunity to consider the full span of the artist’s career, from the lesser-known early “Inflatables” (plastic blow-up playthings paired with mirrors) to sculptures from his 1988 “Banality” series to his more recent hyperreal paintings.

    Over the course of two and a half decades, Jeff Koons has explored the excesses of a hypertrophied consumer culture. The more than fifty works included in this retrospective will allow viewers the opportunity to consider the full span of the artist’s career, from the lesser-known early “Inflatables” (plastic blow-up playthings paired with mirrors) to sculptures from his 1988 “Banality” series to his more recent hyperreal paintings. A catalogue with texts by the curators and by Arthur C. Danto, Rem Koolhaas, and Hans-Ulrich Obrist should shed further light on Koons’s status as one of the preeminent

  • SIGN LANGUAGE: JAMES ROSENQUIST IN RETROSPECT

    This month, more than forty years after JAMES ROSENQUIST began capturing on canvas the larger-than-life, color-saturated imagery of consumer culture, a major traveling retrospective of his work comes to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. We asked art historian MICHAEL LOBEL to reflect on the thinking behind the big paintings before turning to MARCIA TUCKER, FRANK STELLA, ROBERT RAUSCHENBERG, ED RUSCHA, BARBARA KRUGER, DAVID SALLE, and RICHARD PHILLIPS for their thoughts on the artist's influence yesterday and today.

    IN 1966, JAMES ROSENQUIST WAS “THE MAN IN THE PAPER SUIT.” Or at least