Miriam Rosen


    AS CARLOS FUENTES TELLS the story, he was traveling in a remote part of Mexico when he came upon a village and asked an old man its name. “In troubled times, we call it Zapata,” the old man answered, “and in peace time, we call it Santa Maria.”1

    I was reminded of this anecdote—cited by Fuentes in the thick of the American hostage crisis in Iran as a warning against the one-dimensional mentality of his neighbors to the north—because the medieval French church in Bar-le-Duc where Michèle Blondel has done her project for Artforum is alternately known as Saint Pierre or Saint Étienne (and also, on

  • Christine Spengler

    With time and forgetting, all war photographs probably become antiwar photos. But Christine Spengler’s black and white “witnesses,” as she calls them, hardly need to wait for the allegiances and enthusiasms of the moment to fade. Not that these are atrocity pictures: in this retrospective exhibit, entitled “De la Guerre et du Rêve” (Of war and dreaming), she has spared us the blood and gore, the mangled bodies and leveled buildings, the violence, the fear, the hysteria. Even the soldiers are scarce, and the great leaders nonexistent. No, hers is the view from between the battles, when life, such

  • Rebecca Horn

    Rebecca Horn has never stopped giving performances; her installations, no less than her films, are elaborately staged in time as well as space, and her poignantly humanized machines are also mechanized actors. In “La Lune rebelle-Concert Upside-Down” (both works 1991) the lead roles are accorded to a motley crew of manual typewriters and a grand piano. The once-proud typewriters, rendered obsolete (by electricity and word processors), hang bottoms up in the arcaded gallery entrance, intermittently clacking away and shifting their carriages with the help of a motorized hookup. At the end of the

  • Georges Bataille

    It was at the seaside resort of Les Sables d’Olonne that philosopher, Georges Bataille began Les larmes d’Eros (The tears of Eros) in the summer of 1959. Ambitiously conceived as an illustrated history of eroticism, this book was to have been, in Bataille’s words, “more remarkable than any I’ve published so far.” It was his last, completed against the odds of illness in April 1961. Three decades later, Les larmes d’Eros has literally become a kind of “pre-text” for this two-part artistic homage, aimed at tracing the echoes of “Bataillian thought” in the visual arts of his time and ours.


  • Bernard Faucon

    For the past 14 years, Bernard Faucon has been photographing his memories, dreams, and fantasies. In the beginning, this personal universe took the form of true-false tableaux of his boyhood (no girls, no adults), elaborately, if not obsessively, staged with shop-window mannequins and an occasional live model. Then the mannequins were, as Faucon puts it, “dismissed,” and he turned to the settings alone, staging space, light, color, and time into increasingly emblematic landscapes and interiors that he called “Les Chambres d’amour” (The rooms of love, 1982–89) and “Les Chambres d’or” (The rooms

  • Yamou

    These are very silent paintings, silent in a way that has nothing to do with calm. Actually, they’re not paintings at all, but painting shapes compactly worked in sand and dirt and scrap metal. As such, they don’t describe, they don’t narrate, they don’t orchestrate their earthy colors and textures; they just appear there, before us, as markers of time and of a certain seething rage. Time is in the cracks and the rust that has come to pattern the surfaces; the rage goes deeper, like the occasional scratches and scrawls that have been added by hand, or the nails driven into the edges of the metal

  • Jean Kerbrat

    The moral of Jean Kerbrat’s sculpture is that life consists of memory, responsibility, and death. Especially death, which is evoked, if not imposed upon us, by the very material of his most recent pieces: funereal slabs of granite and marble that hang on the walls or lie on the floor as implacable monuments to mortality. On their flat surfaces, laser-engraved in pseudotombstone style, are an assortment of texts—book indexes, front-page news stories, a personal ad, and one stranger-than-fiction but no less authentic letter from the Social Security administration announcing artist Kerbrat’s own

  • Françoise Schein

    Françoise Schein was trained as an architect, and she works “between” art and urban design. Hers is a peripatetic vision that roams “between” science and philosophy, geography and politics, history and myth. Appropriately, the matrix/metaphor that she uses to organize the resulting intersections and interstices is the map.

    Schein’s first public commission, entitled Subway Map Floating on a New York Sidewalk, 1985, consisted of a steel and glass model of the New York subway system intended to give passersby an overview of the vast nexus underneath Manhattan. Subsequent public-scale proposals

  • Isabel Muñoz

    The only photograph in Isabel Muñoz’s “Tango” series that has a title is The Woman with the Red Shoes, 1989, an elegant black-and-white fragment of a couple dancing on a strip of Buenos Aires sidewalk. Muñoz saw the woman (and her shoes) dancing in a flea market the first day she arrived in Buenos Aires; she found her again in a stage show and convinced her to pose. But the result is hardly a portrait: the camera angle is high, the depth of field is shallow, and the woman and her partner are cut off above the hips. The image, like the dance, is a distilled metaphor of seduction: the thrust of

  • Hreinn Fridfinnsson

    Hreinn Fridfinnsson’s raw materials include photographs, fossils, chicken wire, wood, fake crystals, Play-Doh, and plentiful dreams; if he were a generation or two older, he doubtless would have been a Surrealist. Coming of age as he did at the end of the ’60s, however, he became a Conceptual artist. It may not be coincidental that his plunge into the (artistic) life of the mind in 1971 corresponded with the move from his native Iceland to Amsterdam, where he has lived ever since; then again, it could be argued that the remote and disembodied quality of his work is typically Icelandic, relative

  • Eduardo Chillida

    Eduardo Chillida’s sculptures are meant to be walked around and written around. For all of their apparent simplicity, these stately totems of forged steel and carved granite cannot be fully appreciated from a single point of view. From a fixed vantage (or a photograph), it is impossible to anticipate the unseen aspects, just as it is impossible to convey the experience of discovering them by cataloguing the dissimilar features of one not-quite-regular form or another. This is, it might be argued, the stuff of poetry—elusive and allusive—which may explain why Chillida’s commentators of choice

  • Robert Combas

    No one will ever know how Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec would have reacted to his posthumous encounter with painter Robert Combas, but a lot of people, including the Board of Directors at the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum in Albi, which hosted their joint exhibition, didn’t entirely approve. Though Toulouse-Lautrec was born and raised in Albi, he was hardly a favorite son during his lifetime; in 1895, one of his uncles apparently summoned local notables to an auto-da-fé of eight of his paintings with the declaration, “This filth shall not dishonor my residence.” Even after his death there was no rush to

  • Giangiacomo Spadari

    Giangiacomo Spadari’s “Concrete Utopias” of the early ’70s are documents two times over. Intended as visual essays on moments of revolutionary history, these bold, poster-like paintings have become, at two decades’ distance, irrefutable records of their own political and artistic moment—the halcyon days after May 1968 when all utopias seemed concrete, and when European artists like Spadari felt at one with their social calling.

    Although Spadari had addressed political themes since the mid ’60s, with 1968, he explains, came “the urgency of approaching events with my own tools, those of painting.”

  • Detlef Orlopp

    Detlef Orlopp’s black and white photographs are not conventional landscapes and seascapes but moments of nature in two dimensions. Expanses of rock or water defined by light and shadow, texture and pattern, his images are virtually devoid of depth. There is none of the Sturm and Drang of the great outdoors, no plunging perspectives or distant horizons, not even the most rudimentary clues of scale to tell us that “here” is closer than “there.” What is left, once all the scenographic trappings have been cropped away, is nature as presence rather than setting: the grainy ridges of a mountainside,

  • Raymond Saunders

    In the paintings of Raymond Saunders, black is a world. Not the mystico-cerebral universe of Ad Reinhardt, or the folk-historic reality of Jacob Lawrence, but an encyclopedic world of visual encounters: with still fifes and greeting cards, with children’s drawings and book illustrations, with graffiti and Japanese calligraphy, with memory and chance. It is the world of an African-American wanderer who claims (with reason) that he can make the color “sing.”

    For Saunders, the vast black surfaces on which he works—usually painted canvases but also blackboard slabs—function not as neutral backgrounds

  • Luciano Bartolini

    Characterized by bold black, red, white, or yellow monochrome surfaces punctuated with torn paper, spattered paint, gold leaf, and horizontal color bands, the collage paintings in Luciano Bartolini’s “Emblematische Blumen” (Emblematic flowers, 1989–90) series, command the gallery space with their iconic presences.

    For the most part, the “emblems” are high on the canvas; if they were lower, the effect would be decorative, but the balancing act between color and gravity in these paintings charges the hovering shapes with visual tension. There are echoes of Byzantine mosaics and gold leafed miniatures,

  • Rai

    The young girl wants to get married

    The divorced woman wants to break loose

    The married woman wants a divorce

    The married woman wants to break loose

    The married woman wants to go wild

    You’ve done what you wanted

    You’ve done what you decided

    My God, my God, her husband’s asleep

    —Cheb Khaled, “Hada Raykoum” (It’s your opinion)

    AFTER REGGAE, JUJU, fado, zouk, Ofra Haza, and lambada, Algerian rai (pronounced like the whiskey) is making its way to the center of the world-music stage. And for good reason: the rhythms are not only different but irresistibly danceable, a syncopated mix of melody and

  • Présence Panchounette

    After twenty-plus years of thumbing its collective nose at French art and society, Presence Panchounette, the Bordeaux-based group of artist-provocateurs made up of one former-boxer-turned-pedicurist (Frédéric Roux), one former-auto-racer-turned-secondhand-furniture-dealer (Michael Ferrière), and one still-working journalist at Radio Montecarlo (Jean-Yves Gros), has come up with the ultimate insult: the decision to disband. In a word, they say, the contemporary scene is boring, and even if the rest of their generation has been comfortably co-opted, they have no desire to join the institutional

  • Daniel Spoerri

    Some people collect art (or stamps or coins); others just collect. Daniel Spoerri is decidedly in the second category. As this retrospective demonstrated, he has been collecting everything from eyeglasses, vegetable peelers, and shoe trees, to artificial limbs, animal horns, and the worktables of his artist friends for at least the past 30 years. Unlike the rest of us, Spoerri has not simply filled his closets with the flotsam and jetsam of daily life. Nor, in most instances, has he opted for the artistic alternatives of estheticizing or appropriating it; rather, to use his own term, he has “

  • William Klein

    Like memory, travel, or speaking a foreign language, black and white photographs impose a certain ironic distance on experience. In the work of William Klein, this inherent irony assumes the weight of style. During the mid ’50s Klein led a singular assault on the etiquette of street photography; armed with a wide-angle lens and an open flash, he produced a book of crowded, grainy, shifting, and/or distorted images of New York City, published under the uncommon title, Life is Good and Good for You in New York: Trance Witness Revels, 1956. The occasion was Klein’s first (and clearly combative)