Robert Pincus-Witten

  • “The Armory Show at 100”

    A PHOTO OF BOXY AUTOMOBILES parked on Lexington Avenue in front of the 69th Regiment Armory in New York reveals the excitement that greeted the beyond-famous, dramatically transformative Armory Show. The day of the exhibition’s opening, February 17, 1913, some four thousand visitors turned out for an overview of international developments in contemporary art; by show’s end, some eighty thousand visitors had seen it. Though intended to promote American art, the Armory Show also embraced the radical avant-garde in Europe—at the time, still largely unseen in the United States—and ultimately

  • Peter Voulkos

    This concise exhibition of ten ceramic pieces formed a rare survey of the work of Peter Voulkos, an artist whose production merits far broader examination. This signal potter/sculptor drastically ruptured the tropes that assign craftworks to a lesser status than art. There are, of course, many preconceptions that play into this conventional demotion—mostly, the association of clay-based crafts with utilitarian vessels and the belief that clay itself is of lesser status than paint (or wood or marble or bronze). Of course, other notables aspired to break this prejudice, but few did so as

  • Constantin Brancusi

    In the wake of the excitement generated by the Armory Show centennial comes an exhibition of five polished bronzes by Constantin Brancusi that were cast between 1992 and 2006. This show, tasteful to a fault, both reminds and distracts. It reminds us anew of the Armory brouhaha in 1913; of a fracas occasioned by the 1926 arrival on these shores of several Brancusi sculptures (the works were seen by American customs officials as industrial products, hence subject to the import duties from which artworks were exempt); of Brancusi’s connection to the Arensberg circle and the New York beau monde of

  • Walter Dahn

    Walter Dahn is a founding member of Mülheimer Freiheit, aka the Junge Wilde, a group of young German artists who took their moniker from the Cologne street on which they once worked. The artists in question were part of a generation of talented painters whose work was seriously informed by the “capitalist realism” of Sigmar Polke and by the shamanism of Joseph Beuys. “We were . . . like a band. We went to every concert we could see. . . . It was a kind of mixture of an insane asylum, kindergarten, and art school,” says Dahn in an interview with Richard Prince that appears in the exhibition’s

  • William Scott

    To celebrate the centennial of William Scott’s birth, McCaffrey Fine Art mounted a survey of twenty simply delineated, rather poignant later still lifes dating from between 1976 and 1986. The disarming expressiveness of these oddly meek works—showing an outlined pear, a flat white cup, most measuring roughly twenty by twenty inches, some even smaller—stands in vivid contrast to the imposing role in British painting that Scott played in the 1950s. Indeed, by the time these pieces were made, interest in his work had markedly declined, largely because of the era’s tidal drift away from

  • Martial Raysse

    Well remembered as one of the nine signers of the 1960 Nouveau Réalisme manifesto, Martial Raysse spent a good portion of the 1960s in New York City during the salad days of Pop art. His familiarity with the movement is echoed in A propos de New York en peinturama, 1965, a piece conflating painting and Super 8 projection. Such hybridity typifies the thirty-five early works by Raysse in this show, the first American overview of this somewhat neglected artist in forty years. Indeed, his signature works are hodgepodges, combining film, photography, collage, found objects, neon tubing, art-historical

  • Shirley Goldfarb

    My first memory of Shirley Goldfarb is as a model at the Art Students League summer school in Woodstock, New York. It was 1951 and I was sixteen. She had Louise Brooks–like black bangs and an exophthalmic gaze (a source of great unhappiness, as recorded in her journals), which she kept hidden beneath her signature huge round-lensed sunglasses. “Shirlay” (as the French called her) and I would occasionally run into one another at the turn of the 1960s, when—each from our different corners—we were part of a miscellany of Americans in Paris. I eventually left, but Goldfarb stayed on for

  • Ted Stamm

    In the late 1970s and early ’80s, Arts Magazine, now gone, published my journal entries, which, I hope, showed that criticism was not solely the articulation of issues lurking out there in some theoretical ether but also an activity sharply inflected by the social situation in which it was met. Among those blog posts avant la lettre was one devoted to Ted Stamm’s then all but unknown paintings. In that entry, published in May 1979, I observed his “lean, mean” racer build—one that belied the congenital heart defect that led to his death from a heart attack just five years later, at the age

  • Alberto Burri

    Shown in this bijou Upper East Side town-house gallery, a group of ten paintings titled Nero Celotex (Black Celotex), 1986–87, by Alberto Burri (1915–1995) bring to mind contrasting works by Dieter Roth (1930–1998) and his son Björn in a concurrent exhibition at Hauser & Wirth’s dauntingly mammoth new outpost in Chelsea. Both Burri and Roth the elder, in some measure overlooked in the United States, are in their own countries—Italy and Switzerland, respectively—regarded as iconic figures. I briefly couple these exhibitions because they curiously illustrate reverse patterns of development.

  • “Koloman Moser: Designing Modern Vienna, 1897–1907”

    Gustav Klimt, Gustav Mahler, and Egon Schiele are now household names, so excavated has the Viennese Secession been this past half century. To that roll call of eminences, we may now add Koloman Moser (1868–1918), the subject of this comprehensive survey, the designer’s first institutional show in the US. In 1903, already famous as a contributor to the Secessionist publication of sacred rites and adolescent rut Ver Sacrum, Moser went on to cofound the storied Wiener Werkstätte, whose textile, furniture, ceramics, wallpaper, and jewelry ateliers mixed nature and

  • Alighiero Boetti

    In Mi fuma il cervello (Autoritratto) (My Mind is Burning [Self-Portrait]), 1993, a work made the year before his death, Alighiero Boetti, portrays himself in bronze as a lean fellow holding a garden hose aloft. Steam rises as water hits the heated sculpture’s head, a clue, perhaps, to the artist’s prodigious sense of invention. In becoming a dual personage—a conceit dramatizing the narcissism implicit to artmaking—Boetti styled himself “Alighiero e Boetti,” the e a particule signifying high birth (in his case, the aristocracy of his mind). This embellished name, however, was not used

  • Nancy Dwyer

    Which of these things is not like the other: history painting, portraiture, landscape, still life, words? Even as late as 1970, one still assumed that “studio majors” would find “words” misplaced on a list of the academic genres—even if, by then, it was also as likely that the academic genres themselves would no longer be recognized as such, so complete was the rout of academicism by that date.

    This was all felt rather keenly during the era when an art of “word as image” began to take hold. Nancy Dwyer added the skills of the commercial sign maker to this theoretical mix; by the mid-1980s,

  • Cy Twombly

    Despite the temptation, I cannot easily say of the eight great untitled paintings in this show—looping ovals of glowing orange, yellow, and red upon bright apple-green fields that were made shortly before the artist’s death in July 2011 at the age of eighty-three—that they represent a life summation. That term, so readily at hand at this valedictorian moment, suggests knowledge of where Twombly was going as well as of from where he was coming. Yet such hyper-privileged information is nowhere to be found; no more greatly revered a contemporary master has blown more dust into the eye of

  • David Salle

    Lever House, the Miesian, midcentury skyscraper designed by Gordon Bunshaft for Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, has become, in recent years, a deluxe site for the exhibition of contemporary art. The installations there are visible through—though often harried by—the building’s broad glass curtain walls that front onto Park Avenue.

    In order to ameliorate the distractions of the sudden shafts of light glancing off the neighboring office buildings and the roaring traffic’s boom, architect Christian Hubert, working with curator Richard Marshall, hung gauzy scrims battened by rectangles of wood

  • Dorothea Rockburne

    This show of twenty-four works—ranging in size from the parietal Tropical Tan, 1966–67, to the diminutive group of drawings called Silence, 1972—reminded us of Dorothea Rockburne’s vital achievement. Moreover, the exhibition demonstrated that the once-radical pictorial solutions of post-Minimalism, with the passage of more than four decades, now strike affective notes unusual to the art’s original intentions (to the extent they can be determined).

    This new, emotional key is registered, for example, in six studies for Scalar, the large 1971 work in the collection of the Museum of Modern

  • Ralph Humphrey

    Because Ralph Humphrey is saddled anew with the unfortunate appellation “’70s painter” each time his work is rediscovered—as happens seemingly once a decade—the results of these excavations have typically been equivocal. Artists such as Elizabeth Murray, by contrast, have broken free of the faint praise built into that suspect moniker.

    Humphrey entered the lists as the elusive obsession of Klaus Kertess (as he tells us in a Candide-like catalogue memoir) when the latter turned away from art history at Yale University to found the Bykert Gallery. The catalogue text by the fine painter/critic

  • “Times Square Show Revisited”

    Were we to have the beer-stained napkin upon which was scrawled the brainstorming list of the participants in, say, the Salon des Refusés or the first Impressionist exhibition (perhaps we do, but I’ve forgotten my Rewald), imagine how precious such scraps would be. It may yet seem a stretch to equate the Times Square Show of the spring and summer of 1980 with these epochal undertakings—though posterity, such as it is a little more than thirty years on, appears to be taking a bullish view. But it seems to me that the ephemera generated by this sprawling Pictures-era conclave, from handbills

  • “Picasso and Françoise Gilot: Paris-Vallauris 1943–1953”

    The details of Pablo Picasso’s public and private life are by now well known. No artist of parallel celebrity (is there one?) has been so written about—often enough in records as delightful to read as they are fundamental to art history. This is especially true of the memoirs written by the women in his life. Fernande Olivier, Picasso’s earliest companion of fame, spilled the beans in Picasso et ses amis (Picasso and Friends, 1930), recounting his Bateau-Lavoir high jinks—prize fights, recreational drugs—during the first decades of the twentieth century, when he and Braque were

  • Ivan Karp

    BRONX-BORN, Brooklyn-bred, Depression-formed, Ivan Karp—much loved, underappreciated—died in June of this year at the age of eighty-six in Charlotteville, New York, a fading Catskills town that he and his wife, the sculptor and educator Marilynn Gelfman-Karp, virtually saved from extinction. Ivan was a prince of a fellow who played a memorable role in the postwar New York art world. He began to make his mark shortly after his honorable discharge from the wartime US Army and a brief sojourn in the still-grim Paris of 1949, where he wrote occasional art reviews for small publications.

  • André Masson

    Comprising thirty-five works dating from between 1922 and 1944, this informative presentation offered important examples of André Masson’s various early phases, providing a rare occasion for a reconsideration of the artist’s larger contribution to modern art history, long overshadowed by his decidedly lesser postwar output.

    French born, Belgian raised, and seriously wounded, mentally and physically, in World War I, Masson had, by the 1920s, entered the circle of artists drawn to theories of automatism. That is not to say that Masson’s early works, such as Le Rêve du prisonnier (The Dream of the