Richard Meyer


    IN MY FINAL YEAR AT COLLEGE, I wrote a “senior essay” on AIDS and contemporary art supervised by the visiting critic Craig Owens. When I met with Craig (we were not permitted to call him Professor Owens) during office hours, he told me that I needed to talk to Douglas Crimp, who was at the time editing a special issue of October on AIDS, activism, and cultural theory. I asked for Douglas’s address so I could write a letter of introduction (needless to say, this was years before email). “Don’t be silly,” Craig said. “We’ll just call him.” He picked up the phone and started dialing. I was terrified.

  • “William N. Copley: The World According to CPLY”

    “The World According to CPLY” offers the first comprehensive exhibition in the US of the self-taught artist known as CPLY (pronounced “SEE-ply”). A painter of bawdy, cartoonish, and often politically barbed scenes, Copley was also one of the most important collectors of Surrealist art and, briefly, a dealer in it: In 1948, he opened a Beverly Hills gallery with his brother-in-law, which, financially unsuccessful, closed after six months. Two decades later, Copley launched S.M.S. (Shit Must Stop), a periodical consisting of prints, multiples, and sound

  • “Reimagining Modernism” at the Met

    A CURATOR FRIEND once asked me what I thought of her proposal for an exhibition of two painters who had never met or known of each other’s work. I was skeptical: Why bring together artists who have no demonstrable connection beyond the fact they shared the planet for a time? “Curating,” my friend replied, “is about creating a visual conversation.” And the conversation that mattered, as she saw it, was among the objects on display rather than among the artists who made them. Instead of retrieving an episode from the art-historical past, the curator might spark a new moment of aesthetic possibility

  • “America Is Hard to See”

    TO MARK ITS MUCH-ANTICIPATED MOVE from Marcel Breuer’s uptown edifice to the Renzo Piano–designed building at the base of the High Line in the Meatpacking District, the Whitney Museum of American Art will present a banner exhibition of some six hundred artworks from the permanent collection, spanning from 1900 to today. Proposing a revised history of American art, “America Is Hard to See” mixes perennial favorites (Alexander Calder’s Circus, 1926–31; Edward Hopper’s Early Sunday Morning, 1930) with rarely seen works, such as an antilynching print José Clemente Orozco made while visiting the US

  • “Catherine Opie: Portraits and Landscapes”

    From leather dykes and surfer dudes to LA freeways and Minnesota icehouses, the photography of Catherine Opie has long engaged in a dialogue between the genres of portraiture and landscape. The Wexner offers a new lens through which to understand that discourse by focusing on two of Opie’s most recent bodies of work: a series of color portraits of friends, family members, and fellow artists and a collection of quasi-abstract landscape photographs. Opie pushes the lush color and formal stature of her portraits even further, sometimes presenting these works in oval formats


    IN THE MID-1990s, Catherine Opie created a series of photographs, titled “Houses,” that showed the facades of mansions in Bel Air and Beverly Hills. Seemingly devoid of inhabitants, the homes in these images—with their locked wrought-iron gates and ARMED PATROL lawn signs—manage to look vaguely forbidding despite verdant landscaping and bright Southern California sun. Opie was fully aware of the barricaded privacy and sense of social exclusion the pictures conveyed: “Many of these house photographs are about the closed door,” she has said. “We never really know what’s behind those


    OVER THE PAST HALF CENTURY, JOAN SEMMEL has pursued a painterly enterprise that brings extraordinary wit and acumen to representations of the body—most often the artist’s own. And this oeuvre has grown increasingly visible in recent years, thanks to a series of institutional exhibitions such as Semmel’s solo show at the Bronx Museum of the Arts this past spring. Yet a key moment in the artist’s early work, marked by a complex engagement with photography and sexuality, remains relatively little known. Here, art historian RICHARD MEYER considers this period in Semmel’s career and traces its

  • “Intimate Collaborations”

    SEVERAL YEARS AGO, I tried to persuade the artist Barbara Kruger to participate in an event I was organizing at the University of Southern California called “Contemporary Conversations.” Seeking to move beyond the staid format of most academic conferences, the event featured a series of unscripted dialogues among artists, critics, and curators. Kruger was reluctant to participate, telling me she was more interested in “the moments between or before” conference presentations—the things said backstage, shared among the audience, or discussed at the reception afterward—than in the

  • Anita Steckel


    I’VE MET ONLY ONE ARTIST who wrote dirty limericks, founded an anticensorship collective, dated Marlon Brando, worked on a cargo ship, and won the Mambo Queen of Southern California contest. Her name was Anita Steckel—and she was a pip.

    IN HER WORK of the early 1960s, Steckel overpainted vintage photographs to summon wildly unexpected associations and narrative possibilities. The Impostor, 1963, is a revamped portrait of a priest in a church, outfitted by Steckel in sunglasses, panty hose, and high heels. The lower half of the father’s white satin robes have been cut away to


    To better survey the manifold sites of postwar art in Los Angeles, Artforum invited art historians THOMAS CROW and ANDREW PERCHUK, curators MAURICE TUCHMAN and ALI SUBOTNICK, and gallerist HELENE WINER to join in conversation with artists JOHN BALDESSARI, HARRY GAMBOA JR., and LIZ LARNER—a group whose experiences span five decades and some of the most vibrant, vital scenes in the city. Critic and scholar RICHARD MEYER and Artforum editor MICHELLE KUO moderate.

    Michelle Kuo: We all know the myth: “The Cool School,” coined by Philip Leider himself in these pages [Summer 1964]. Leider was speaking of a “new distance,” a remove, which he saw manifested in the adamantine surfaces of the work of the Ferus Gallery artists and which came to stand for LA culture as a whole. But how might we attend to art in LA now, without reducing it to the same clichés about regional or even outsider production that persist, rather astonishingly, in many exhibitions, in much of the literature, and certainly in the market?

    How might we attend to the relationship—if any—between


    All good art is an indiscretion. —Tennessee Williams

    IN 1977, THE NEW ORLEANS MUSEUM OF ART organized an exhibition titled “Five from Louisiana.” The show featured a handful of artists from the state who had, as the exhibition catalogue put it, “gained national and international reputations, and have received honor and distinction on the contemporary art scene today.” The post-Minimal sculptor Lynda Benglis (a Port Charles, Louisiana, native living by then in New York City) was among them. Five authors were engaged to write essays or conduct interviews for the catalogue, each on or with a different

  • The “WACK!” catalogue

    A TECHNICOLOR SEA of bare-breasted women spills across the cover for the catalogue to “WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution,” an international survey of women’s art from 1965 to 1980 on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles through July 16. Designed by Lorraine Wild, the dust jacket reproduces a large detail from a Vietnam-era photocollage by Martha Rosler titled Body Beautiful, or Beauty Knows No Pain: Hot House, or Harem, 1966–72. More than any single work in the exhibition, more perhaps than the exhibition itself, the WACK! cover has become a site of interpretive conflict


    I'VE JUST ARRIVED in Toronto and am already running late. My taxi driver isn’t familiar with the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, the art space I need to get to. But he does know Harbourfront Centre, the cultural complex of which the Power Plant is part. He drops me off beside an expanse of shops and high-rise condominiums and I run into the building that looks the most like a refashioned factory. I am here for the opening of the survey exhibit “Glenn Ligon: Some Changes”—but virtually no one else seems to be. The place is nearly deserted. I look over to the gallery assistant at the front

  • “Energy/Experimentation: Black Artists and Abstraction, 1964-1980”

    The fifteen artists included—Al Loving, Alma Thomas, and Howardena Pindell among them—pursued vibrantly modernist alternatives to the figuration of the contemporaneous Black Arts Movement.

    Organized by Yale art historian Kellie Jones, this group exhibition joins the politics of race to the practices of avant-garde painting, sculpture, and video in the mid-'60s and '70s. The fifteen artists included—Al Loving, Alma Thomas, and Howardena Pindell among them—pursued vibrantly modernist alternatives to the figuration of the contemporaneous Black Arts Movement. The show's catalogue explores the creative contexts—like Minimalist sculpture and free jazz—that shaped black abstraction and presents a transcription of the museum's cross-generational

  • Art Since 1900

    “The first obligation of an art critic is to deliver value judgments.”

    —Clement Greenberg1

    FORGET EVERYTHING you know about the modern art survey––the capsule summaries of avant-garde movements, the potted versions of social-historical context, the glancing, “drive-by” descriptions of artists and works. Art Since 1900: Modernism, Anti-modernism, Postmodernism invests the art-history textbook with an unprecedented degree of critical intensity, intellectual ambition, and interpretive difficulty. Structured as a series of more than one hundred short but fully loaded essays, the book makes a powerful

  • Lynda Benglis

    “Vulgarity is gendered, of course.”1

    —T.J. Clark

    WHEN I TEACH AMERICAN ART of the 1970s, there is one work that always stops the class cold: Lynda Benglis’s ad from the November 1974 issue of Artforum. College students who respond matter-of-factly to other controversial works from the period––Vito Acconci masturbating beneath the floorboards of the Sonnabend gallery or Chris Burden’s having himself shot with a .22-caliber rifle––are visibly (and, on occasion, audibly) taken aback by the image of Benglis, naked and greased with oil, extending a dildo from her vagina. In contrast to the photographs

  • Robert Rauschenberg

    BEYOND THEIR FOCUS on the same artist, two new books on Robert Rauschenberg would seem to have almost nothing in common. Robert S. Mattison’s Robert Rauschenberg: Breaking Boundaries positions the artist’s life, intentions, and studio practice as the keys to understanding his work. Its highly accessible text and generous color illustrations suggest the book’s suitability for coffee-table display. Branden W. Joseph’s Random Order: Robert Rauschenberg and the Neo-Avant-Garde sets the artist’s early work within a dense context of Bergsonian philosophy, poststructuralist thought, and recent