Robert Pincus-Witten

  • Louise Nevelson

    “I always thought, bluntly, that I was a glamorous, goddam exciting woman. I wanted to have a ball on earth.” Tall, turbaned, draped in a caftan, swathed in smoke, her eyes shaded by mink eyelashes, Louise Nevelson—a pioneer American abstractionist whose important work dates back to the 1930s and ’40s—was ever up for the grand entrance and the telegraphed witticism. “I wouldn’t marry God if he asked me!” Such principles are less marked by our institutional critique than by the School of Margo Channing. Nevelson’s theatrical mode underscores a body of work of Diva-like exaggeration, a manner

  • Joan Miró

    THIS EXHILARATING EXHIBITION forced anew the question of Joan Miró’s position in the early-twentieth-century canon—his shifting third or fourth place after Picasso and Matisse owing to the sabot tossed into that spinning jenny by Marcel Duchamp. Despite Miró’s inspired Catalan Pantagruelism, the formalist predispositions of this show’s curator, Anne Umland, reveal that the seemingly capricious artistic strategies that Miró adopted (and equally suddenly departed from) between 1927 and 1937 were as dispassionately Cartesian as any of Duchamp’s arcane gestures. Miró’s rationalist, virtually annual

  • Terry Winters

    Terry Winters’s series “Knotted Graphs,” 2008, consists of eleven large abstract paintings—seven of which measure seventy-seven by ninety-eight inches—that, in their mood indigo, introduce, as it were, Jasper Johns to Henri Matisse. The works balance empyrean pleasure and sober order—a contrast struck by Matisse during his epochal struggle with Cubism in the teens of the previous century. Matisse’s reconciliation of these antipodal approaches set an unsurpassed example for painting in modern times. So, while not breaking the mold, Winters’s hard-won reprise of Matisse sounds a distinguished note

  • “Zero in New York”

    A reductivist abstraction embodying moral purification marked the beliefs of Group Zero (1957–1966) or, as it is often called, plainly, Zero. Whether with its white monochromes or its light works made with simple technology, the group would purge contemporary art of its debilitating expressionist incursions and, arguably, of the whiff of Fascist criminality still attached to Italian and German art a decade after World War II. As Heinz Mack and Otto Piene wrote in 1957: “The main tendency was the purification of color as opposed to the informel and neo-expressionism; the peaceful conquest of the

  • Thomas Ruff

    Wunderkind of Bernd and Hilla Becher, Thomas Ruff began his practice in the 1970s tuned to the objective and analytic tendencies of German photography—that is, with views congenial to Minimalism and Conceptualism.

    Wunderkind of Bernd and Hilla Becher, Thomas Ruff began his practice in the 1970s tuned to the objective and analytic tendencies of German photography—that is, with views congenial to Minimalism and Conceptualism. Always probing the technical boundaries of his medium, Ruff has since the 1990s applied digital correction to such hyperrationalist efforts, “inventing” documentary images at their most perfect standardization. Castello di Rivoli presents some eighty works—many from the artist’s later series, including the teasingly blurred pornographic “nudes” affiliated

  • Pablo Picasso

    “Picasso’s Marie-Thérèse” is a dream show, and not only because its key work is The Dream, an iconic portrait of Marie-Thérèse Walter. The sitter, depicted in what is widely overinterpreted as a masturbatory reverie, enjoys a prominent place in Picasso’s long succession of muses. Even if not every i has been dotted and not every t crossed regarding that fateful meeting on January 8, 1927, between the forty-five-year-old cruising titan and the seventeen-year-old girl he picked up in front of the Galeries Lafayette, we do know that, on crossing paths with Picasso, she had no idea of his sensational

  • Giorgio Morandi

    This exhibition of some 110 of Giorgio Morandi’s works—mostly paintings, but also a fair share of watercolors and etchings—is simply beautiful. But how such bliss was achieved is not quite so beautifully simple.

    Morandi (1890–1964) lived quietly in Bologna, painting humble, seemingly generic still lifes and landscapes over the course of decades, despite the turbulent shifts taking place just beyond his calm purview. To be sure, such single-mindedness may reflect contempt for or ignorance of contemporaneous “avant-garde” developments, a willed insularity perhaps not unwarranted. Of course,

  • Louise Bourgeois

    ROBERT PINCUS-WITTEN

    THE LOUISE BOURGEOIS RETROSPECTIVE at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York—an exhibition that premiered last year at Tate Modern in London—was a mammoth affair with some 150 works, a hundred of them large sculptures. The show began with the early “Femme Maison” (Woman House) series of the mid-1940s, opening on a modest scale that nevertheless reminded one of Bourgeois’s mythic status in art history. These quirky paintings depict different types of houses set upon female bodies—pedimented facade, clapboard colonial, gambrel barn, apartment tower—in a manner recalling

  • Joanna Pousette-Dart

    Much as it comes as a surprise, Joanna Pousette-Dart must now be regarded as a veteran abstract painter—the way we thought of her father, Richard Pousette-Dart, who, finally, has been transported to the higher reaches of Abstract Expressionist heaven. Echoing his slow ascendance, Joanna Pousette-Dart, now in her sixties, has been an underestimated painter for more than half her life. Thus, apart from the actual pleasures of making art, she also knows how singularly ungrateful the practice of abstract painting has become. As a vehicle for artistic expression, it is widely considered to be exhausted,

  • Joan Mitchell

    Three decades back Jill Weinberg Adams worked closely with Xavier Fourcade—Joan Mitchell’s dealer at the time—and came to know the painter well. Now, as co-proprietor of her own gallery, she has called upon her long-time associations to assemble an absorbing exhibition that addresses the work Mitchell made between 1973 and 1983. The exhibition, in addition to its sheer aesthetics, opens a Pandora’s box regarding the painter’s interface with the French art scene during that decade.

    In 1955 Mitchell, at the very height of her powers, began to divide her time between New York and Paris, decamping

  • “Dalí: Painting and Film”

    The Museum of Modern Art was the last stop of a four-city tour for “Dalí: Painting and Film,” a voluminous show that included paintings, drawings, films, and film treatments. Originating in London (at Tate Modern), the exhibition moved on to Los Angeles (to LACMA), a natural setting for the show given that it was in Hollywood that Salvador Dalí worked with Alfred Hitchcock on the filmmaker’s 1945 thriller Spellbound—at MoMA, Gregory Peck’s dream sequence, which features Dalí’s huge smoky backdrop, was projected onto a nearly wall-size screen—and on Walt Disney’s deservedly forgotten Destino (

  • “Circa 1958: Breaking Ground in American Art”

    The usual suspects may dominate the sixty-two works by fifty-seven artists borrowed from more than fifty collections for this exhibition, but Feinstein takes serious note of women and artists whose careers are in the midst of revisionist assessment.

    While not a climactic year like 1912 or 1968, 1958 displays rich sectors of overlapping modes when skewered by a fine critical eye. Curator Roni Feinstein notes the waning gestural traditions of Abstract Expressionism being replaced by Color Field and post-painterly strategies of assemblage. This progression is contrasted with a “cool” hard-edge and abstract literality eliding into incipient Minimalism (and, more subtly, into a nascent Pop sensibility). The usual suspects may dominate the sixty-two works by fifty-seven artists borrowed from more than fifty collections,

  • Gregory Crewdson

    The art of photography resides not in the ever-evolving camera but in the imaginative record of what lies before its lens. (Such was the case, at least, before the advent of digital photography and Photoshop). Two modes of photographic transcription now prevail. One is journalistic, the candid record of the “factual.” The other is “artistic,” bound to the photographer’s arranging of the subject matter itself. Such arrangements may vary widely, say, from Man Ray’s cheeky pornography to the awesome stage sets of Gregory Crewdson’s vastly admirable tableaux vivants—large, staged, and eerily static.

  • Ernst Ludwig Kirchner

    This survey of twenty late paintings by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner is an important if ambiguous event. Even when taking into account the historic achievements of both Der Blaue Reiter (Kandinsky and Company) and Die Brücke (founded by Kirchner, Karl Schmidt-Rotluff, and Erich Heckel), it seems fair to say that the greater glory of that moment was captured by the French: by Matisse and the Fauvists, by Picasso and the Cubists. Certainly Kirchner’s own adaptation of Cubist tropes, the parallelizing and fanning stroke typical of his famous urban scenes of streetwalkers, for example, had, by World War

  • Carroll Dunham

    Carroll Dunham would have been accorded serious consideration for membership in the first Postminimalist generation on the basis of the remarkable paintings in this recent revisitation were it not for the fact of his youth—or his seeming youth—since, in 1982, when this body of work began, the artist, already in his thirties, looked to be scarcely out of his teens. Without apology or false shame, Dunham had, at the time, taken up an impenitent range of transgressive images—comedic hard-ons for example, transcribed as if outlined upon a table or desk and outrageously striped or colored. Add scrotal

  • Floriano Vecchi

    The name Floriano Vecchi is less than familiar these days, yet he played an intriguing and significant role in the evolution of Abstract Expressionism and, even more unexpectedly, in that of Pop art as well. In 1953, Vecchi partnered with Richard Miller to found the Tiber Press, printing artwork for such figures as Helen Frankenthaler, Michael Goldberg, Alfred Leslie, and Joan Mitchell. Joined by poet Daisy Aldan, the friends went on to found Folder, a magazine produced under the careful scrutiny of Vecchi, an academically trained artist who originally came from Pianuro, near Bologna. Using hand

  • John Lees

    Claude Lantier, a fictional painter, fated to never complete a work, whom Émile Zola depicts in his novel l’Oeuvre (1886), has long been assumed to be based on Cézanne, a characterization that led to an irreparable break between the supreme artist of the modern era and the great realist writer who was Cézanne’s closest boyhood friend and earliest champion. One cannot help but remember this painful fait divers now that John Lees, one of the grandest eccentrics of modern American painting, is at last having a show.

    Lees, both as painter and draftsman, has ever been unable—is doubtless

  • ART AND ITS MARKETS: A ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION

    EVEN AS GOLD rises and the dollar falls, the expansion of the global art market shows few signs of reversal. This growth has been characterized by incredible immediacy, liquidity, and transparency—but also by inequity, archaic ritual, and social spectacle. Indeed, the economy of art is now both wildly speculative and idiosyncratically regulated, with unparalleled levels of attention devoted to the work of contemporary artists. What are the diverse factors that have contributed to this radical extension of interest and investment in the art of our day? And to what extent have these elements either transformed or reinscribed historical relationships among art’s audiences, institutions, collecting practices, and criticism? How might we best distinguish our present moment from previously bullish episodes and their attendant redefinitions of the aesthetic and the commoditized?
     
    From the fiscal to the formal, multiple arenas of knowledge are implicated in answering such questions. With this complex set of interrelationships in mind, Artforum invited a cross-section of figures—ranging from collector and curator to art historian and auction-house expert—to discuss the ways in which different kinds of value accrue to works of art and affect their production, display, and circulation: Ai Weiwei, Beijing-based artist; Amy Cappellazzo, international cohead of postwar and contemporary art at Christie’s; Thomas Crow, professor of modern art at the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University; Donna De Salvo, chief curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; Isabelle Graw, a founding editor of Texte zur Kunst and professor of art history and theory at Städelschule Art Academy in Frankfurt; Dakis Joannou, collector and president of the Deste Foundation for Contemporary Art in Athens, Greece; and Robert Pincus-Witten, scholar and critic, and former director of exhibitions at L & M Arts in New York. Scholar and critic James Meyer and Artforum editor Tim Griffin moderate the discussion.

    THE GLOBAL BOOM

    James Meyer: The extraordinary boom of the contemporary market in recent years, along with the globalization of art’s production and display—two related phenomena—are among the most pressing subjects in any discussion of current practice. The history of modernism is in part a history of the marketing of the new. The Peau d’Ours sale in 1914, which brought a record price for Pablo Picasso’s Family of Acrobats [1905]; the first Parke-Bernet auction of contemporary art in 1965, which featured Abstract Expressionist painting and sculpture; and the sale of the Scull Collection

  • Julian Schnabel

    Now for some whopping exaggerations and reckless paradoxes: The abstractionist of Minimalist persuasion always paints the same picture; the abstractionist of Expressionist bent always paints a different one. The former works in a received world of agreed-on perfections; the latter swims in the wilder waters of intuition and guesswork. Expressionists lack a proscriptive list of desirables that might guarantee the credibility of their work. Is this why Julian Schnabel has embellished maritime maps in his new series “Navigation Drawings,” 2007? They chart, give direction, proscribe. Then again,

  • Paul McCarthy

    Paul McCarthy’s work questions success in a culture of inauthenticity, of signature replaced by logo, of simulacrum over original. His recent project, Santa’s Chocolate Factory, 2007, perfectly exemplifies these vexed postmodern tropes. Emerging in the 1960s amidst the work of a grand generation of transgressives that includes Mike Kelley, Charles Ray, and Bruce Nauman, McCarthy’s anal-oriented performances and sculptures, with their manic embrace of bestiality and scat, their references (mayonnaise for sperm, ketchup for blood, chocolate for shit) to blood mysteries, and their unrepentant focus