Robert Rosenblum

  • Pavel Tchelitchew

    Once upon a time, Pavel Tchelitchew’s giant fairy tale of a painting, Hide-and-Seek, 1940–42, was firmly enshrined in MoMA’S pantheon. With its fetal spirit-children and gnarled oak tree becoming at once a monstrous hand, foot, and head, it provided a grandly orchestrated finale for Surrealism’s regressions to our roots in infancy and nature. In 1954, Alfred Barr, in his Masters of Modern Art, summed up the painting’s embracing mysteries: “The tree of life becomes the clock of the seasons; its greens and fiery reds and wintry blues celebrate the annual cycle of death and rebirth.”

    Times change.

  • John Singer Sargent

    WHAT ARE OUR CHANCES OF DISCOVERING yet another John Singer Sargent when, beginning this October, he’ll be seen in full regalia on an Anglo-American museum tour to London, Washington, and Boston? Our century has created many different Sargents, befitting our own shifting tempers as well as the chameleon character of this slippery artist who is as predictable as he is surprising. Born in Florence in 1856 of well-to-do American expatriates, he lived and painted the Life Styles of the Rich and Famous, preparing his career in Paris as a student of the high-society portraitist Carolus-Duran, while

  • Jackson Pollock

    Could the last Pollock retrospective in the States really have been in 1967? Even the French and Germans had one more recently (1981). At MoMA, where Kirk Varnedoe, assisted by Pepe Karmel, will present about 200 works, Americans will have to start from scratch. Does the real action only begin in 1947, or will we now be just as fascinated by Pollock’s first act, anchored by the huge Peggy Guggenheim mural of 1943? And maybe we’ll discover an equally fresh finale, 1950–56, centered on the offbeat accents of Blue Poles. This three-part drama promises to confirm both the spine-tingling reality of

  • ISN’T IT ROMANTIC?: THE ART OF MARK ROTHKO

    This month the National Gallery in Washington, DC, opens the first full-scale American retrospective of MARK ROTHKO’s work in twenty years. To mark the occasion, art historian Robert Rosenblum, who with this issue joins Artforum’s masthead as a contributing editor, offers a personal chronology of his five-decade-long dialogue with the artist’s work.

    ca. 1953 Amazing to recall, now that he is as permanently enshrined in the pantheon of artist-deities as Matisse or Mondrian, but Rothko, back in the early ’50s, was a fighting word. I remember vividly the combative, black-and-white climate that divided the New York art world into pro-or-con extremes when faced with the unheralded innovations of the Abstract Expressionists. And in my own academic neck of the woods, NYU’s Institute of Fine Arts, there were no-less-heated debates among us graduate students about whether such things as a chaos of poured pigment or a few blurry rectangles of color

  • Andy Warhol Drawings 1942–1987

    Like Picasso, Warhol offers a bottomless pit for future exhibitions: it’s not only the universal range of themes and the mastery of different media but also the submerged iceberg of still-unseen work. The next shuffle of the artist’s legacy will offer some 230 drawings selected mostly from the thousands in his estate, a production by Warhol specialists Mark Francis and Dieter Koepplin. Although the commercial drawings of the ’50s may be familiar, the later works on paper, which proliferated after the last drawing retrospective in 1976 (in Stuttgart), promise countless surprises, as do the

  • Robert Rosenblum

    1 Duane Hanson (Saatchi Gallery, London): Perhaps it’s my passion for Spanish polychrome sculpture (with real hair and fake tears) that made me a longtime fan of Hanson’s, a love that dared not speak its name in “serious” art circles. And now I find sweet revenge for my minority view. Dusted off and minimally displayed, this tribe of American waxworks uglies suddenly took on a freshly macabre second life. Hanson’s role may now be Johnny Appleseed’s, with progeny like Charles Ray, Robert Gober, and the Chapman Brothers, whose humanoids are at their best when, like Hanson’s, they sport Nikes and

  • Arthur Dove: A Retrospective Exhibition

    It's been some twenty-three years since Arthur Dove’s last retrospective. How will he look today? Rumors from the last two decades may reconstruct him in surprising ways. Is he a belated Symbolist? Are his nugget-size distillations of pagan moon and sun previews of the cosmic heroics of Still, Rothko, and Gottlieb? Are his grass-roots assemblages of everything from monkey fur to denim coining attractions for Rauschenberg? Or is he mainly, as the textbooks used to say, a pioneer of abstraction running neck and neck with Kandinsky? The accompanying catalogue should help sort it out. Sept. 20–Jan.

  • The Dark Mirror: Picasso and Photography

    Thanks to a series of eye-opening exhibitions curated by Anne Baldassari at the Musée Picasso in Paris, aficionados have been learning the extent to which the artist who presumably helped bury photography’s claims to truth was, in fact, immersed in the magic of the camera. Not only was he an inventive photographer who played with the mirrors and shadows he would recreate in his paintings, but he was also an avid collector whose stashes of everything from kitsch postcards to documents from French colonial Africa would find startling new lives in his work. This show, organized by photography

  • “Braque: The Late Works”

    Sharing the prejudices of most New York art people, I had always located Braque on some remote and far too comfortable French planet, where, together with the likes of Bonnard, he went on cultivating his own beautiful gardens but could never do anything risky enough to make my pulse beat faster. For me, even his most audacious Cubist work, when seen beside Picasso’s, often looked like a genteel and redundant counterpart to his significant Spanish other’s macho drama and daring. As for what he did after the First World War, this could be quickly banished in the category of the unadventurous,

  • Dan Flavin

    THE DEATH OF Daniel Nicholas Flavin, Jr., on November 29, 1996, sent my memory rushing back to the early ’60s, now a mythic moment in the history of art. Born on April 1, 1933, Flavin was part of my own generation, for which the complementary austerities of an iconic soup can and a perfect rectangle appeared to launch a visual order in which industrial uniformity and pure cerebration would be the reigning muses. Worshiping early at New York’s shrines of Modern art (he once worked as a guard at the Museum of Modern Art, and attended Meyer Schapiro’s lectures at Columbia), by 1963 Flavin had become

  • Robert Rosenblum

    FEARFUL SYMMETRY

    Now that Beauty is back, I don’t have a moment’s hesitation about the year’s best: ANDY WARHOL’s Rorschach paintings at Gagosian. This time round, they took even more of my breath away, confirming how huge canvases can still thrill us with both gorgeous, tapestry-like patterns and mysterious densities that, in a perfect tribute to their sources in the archaic days of psychobabble, trigger fantasies about internalized emotions and body parts. Moreover, this particular vocabulary in Warhol’s language of “found abstraction” is amazingly Janus-faced, looking not only backward to