Sarah K. Rich

  • Cathy Wilkes

    ON JULY 1, 1916, British and French soldiers charged the German front lines near the River Somme, expecting to hasten their victory in the Great War. Instead, the disastrous Battle of the Somme would become one of the bloodiest engagements in European military history, resulting in over a million dead soldiers. Though the losses were massive in scale, the burden was often borne by small communities whose entire populations of young men had been transplanted to the front (more than five thousand of those wounded on the first day of battle, for example, came from a single area in the province of

  • “Revelation: Major Paintings by Jules Olitski”

    Should you visit this retrospective of Jules Olitski’s paintings, forget the formalist criticism that tried to normalize them.

    Should you visit this retrospective of Jules Olitski’s paintings, forget the formalist criticism that tried to normalize them. Instead, see the canvases as the artist often did—as gorgeous, sexy things that tested the rules of decorum. With some canvases in luscious pink, some as shiny as lip gloss, and some with titles like Prince Patutszky Pleasures, 1962, the works in this exhibition are far too sensuous to fit snugly within the bloodless category of “opticality.” “Revelation” will boast strong examples representing

  • Michael Goldberg

    Coming of artistic age in the 1950s, after Abstract Expressionism had already fought its toughest battles, Michael Goldberg charged into gestural abstraction with the ardor of a new recruit in a winning war.

    Coming of artistic age in the 1950s, after Abstract Expressionism had already fought its toughest battles, Michael Goldberg charged into gestural abstraction with the ardor of a new recruit in a winning war. Yet Goldberg’s campy sense of humor, quickened by his friendship with Frank O’Hara, imparted to his canvases a wry wit uncommon among the Abstract Expressionists. Note his Madame Recamier, which Goldberg commenced in 1956 by copying Jacques-Louis David’s elegant portrait only to obliterate the copy with turbulent marks; or his Greasy Spoon

  • Howard Hodgkin

    Many postwar painters have yielded to the siren song of the big brushstroke, their efforts all too often settling into cliché or parody.

    Many postwar painters have yielded to the siren song of the big brushstroke, their efforts all too often settling into cliché or parody. The twenty paintings in this exhibition, however, just might prove that gestural abstraction can thrill us yet—without irony or apology—at least if it’s by Howard Hodgkin. In these works (all made in the past ten years, many never before publicly shown), oil paint gets to slither, voluptuously, over raw wood. Expect plays with scale to delight the mind, daring color to seduce the eyes. In Sky, 2005–2009, a broad wash of light cerulean

  • Kenneth Noland

    THERE ARE SOME PAINTERS who treat a finished canvas as a virginal thing that should remain undisturbed on the wall once placed there. When I made a trip three years ago to Kenneth Noland’s Maine studio, I was surprised to learn that he was not one of them. I was visiting the artist because I wanted to view a circle painting titled Back and Front that he had kept since making it in 1960. After I’d looked at the canvas for a while, I told him I didn’t understand why the top had to be the top. “Well, let’s see,” he said. He sprang from his seat and rotated the canvas a half turn. He talked about

  • Arshile Gorky

    THERE WERE TWO Arshile Gorkys to be found in this retrospective: Gorky the Authentic, and Gorky the Faker. As the exhibition made clear, most of Gorky’s work teeters on the fulcrum point between these two categories. The installation in Philadelphia began with Gorky’s self-portrait of circa 1937, the one with haunting eyes and lumpy, fingerless hands that barely support an insubstantial palette. Next to the portrait, a wall label shared details of Gorky’s tragic life story—of his mother’s death by starvation, his survival of the Armenian genocide, his eventual suicide. Thus was Gorky the

  • Alice Neel: Painted Truths

    Though Alice Neel (1900–1984) could sometimes appear matronly (she played a bishop’s mother in the 1959 Beat film Pull My Daisy), she was a political radical and a bohemian whose portraits questioned social and artistic categories with enduring acumen.

    Though Alice Neel (1900–1984) could sometimes appear matronly (she played a bishop’s mother in the 1959 Beat film Pull My Daisy), she was a political radical and a bohemian whose portraits questioned social and artistic categories with enduring acumen. While she mastered the figural distortions developed by modernists before her (limbs like pulled taffy, faces with not-quite-level eyes, oversize heads heavy with psychic burdens), she rendered her subjects with a sincerity that modernists typically feared. The MFA’s sixty-eight-work retrospective spans

  • Sarah K. Rich

    THE PUNTA DELLA DOGANA is a protrusion of land that juts out at the southern entrance of Venice’s Grand Canal. Its name, which means “Customs Point,” refers to an earlier function of the spot: Serving as Venice’s chief maritime portal, it was the location of the city’s sea customs for four centuries. As a site historically given over to the task of deciding what may or may not enter, the Punta would provide any collector a powerful venue for putting his aesthetic criteria on display. The customs building is especially appropriate for François Pinault, the French billionaire whose private

  • Repartir à zéro

    IN A DARKENED AND CONFINING antechamber at Lyon’s Musée des Beaux-Arts, two videos set the tone for what was to come: On a screen to the left, a mushroom cloud silently unfurled over Nagasaki; on the right played an excerpt from Roberto Rossellini’s Germania anno zero (1948) in which a blond boy wanders in Berlin’s postwar rubble, picking up a piece of debris, distractedly pointing it like a pistol at his own head, and then throwing it like a grenade into the window of a neighboring ruin. Both clips ran as short loops (just a few minutes each) and without sound, producing a hypnotic repetitiveness

  • “Target Practice: Painting Under Attack 1949–78”

    A substantial portion of the postwar avant-garde made destroying painting its special mission. “Target Practice” presents an international array of more than eighty important works by some fifty artists who ripped, erased, burned, shot, stabbed, or otherwise molested the medium, often by wielding weapons forged in Conceptual practices, as well as in performance, video, and other media.

    No matter its content or its formal attributes, painting is a medium that reproduces bourgeois ideology all too legibly: Its emphasis on visual effects partakes in a distribution of sensory labor that disenfranchises touch and other senses; its two-dimensional retreat from real space suggests something like bourgeois decorum (unlike sculpture, which is always barging in). For these and other reasons, a substantial portion of the postwar avant-garde made destroying painting its special mission. “Target Practice” presents an international array of more than eighty important

  • “Donald Sultan: The First Decade”

    In reproductions, the subtle tactile properties of Sultan’s industrial media are lost, so this substantial exhibition of twenty-three major early works should be a revelation

    The title of Donald Sultan’s White Gun, March 18, 1982 specifies the date of the painting’s creation, but it also questions the temporality of objects in industrial culture. When does one attend to a specific day in the life of a gun—at the time of its manufacture (if it is an antique), or at the instant of its firing? What happens to these temporalities when Sultan renders the gun in flat, emblematic stillness? Many of his early paintings—often made by coating linoleum panels in viscous tar—reference ephemeral subjects of modernity (a migrant workforce, a decaying

  • 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

  • Amy Sillman

    EVERYONE HAS AT SOME TIME perched upon the lonelier, more acute angle of a love triangle. Childhood is the most brutal and famous introduction to the condition of the third wheel, when one discovers one is not a parent’s first and only love. The adolescent crush, which usually seeks the shortest route, is often directed at a sibling’s main squeeze. Less foundational, but just as traumatic, are those chaste threesomes in which a single adult might innocently accompany a couple to lunch, the loner doing her best to ignore the echoing vacancy on her side of the booth.

    Amy Sillman has condensed the

  • “Joan Miró: Painting and Anti-Painting 1927–1937”

    In 1927, Joan Miró famously declared he would “assassinate painting.” His plan, as it turns out, was not to blow a hole in the medium's heart, but to infiltrate its ranks and slip slow poison in its drink. This substantial exhibition of Miró's "anti-painting,” accompanied by a scholarly catalogue, will chart the pollutant's course.

    In 1927, Joan Miró famously declared he would “assassinate painting.” His plan, as it turns out, was not to blow a hole in the medium's heart, but to infiltrate its ranks and slip slow poison in its drink. After all, Miró never relinquished painting. Rather, as this exhibition will argue, he contaminated it—namely, with strategies of collage. In some works, flat forms are painted to look as if they were cut and pasted into the picture plane. In others, parsimonious applications of pigment float against an unprimed support. Miró's “anti-painting” has been an enduring interest

  • “The Jazz Century”

    For most of the twentieth century, jazz has been the avant-garde’s sound track. From its formal developments of improvisation to its articulations of cultural hybridity, jazz catalyzed some of the most celebrated and adventurous moments in painting, photography, literature, and cinema.

    For most of the twentieth century, jazz has been the avant-garde’s sound track. From its formal developments of improvisation to its articulations of cultural hybridity, jazz catalyzed some of the most celebrated and adventurous moments in painting, photography, literature, and cinema. For this intercontinental group exhibition featuring eighty artists and some six hundred works, curator Daniel Soutif will showcase the music’s artistic dialogue by interspersing the work of modern painting’s most adoring jazz fans (Aaron Douglas, Piet Mondrian, Jackson Pollock) with less

  • Bridget Riley

    Featuring fifty-eight paintings and more than one hundred drawings that span Riley's prolific career, this retrospective will debut several recent pieces and two murals created specifically for the exhibition.

    It was not unusual for 1960s French critics to claim Bridget Riley as their own. At times maintaining that they (namely, Viktor Vasarely) spearheaded Op art, the French have extended an honorary laurel to the English artist—and are gearing up for a new opportunity to frame her practice. Featuring fifty-eight paintings and more than one hundred drawings that span Riley's prolific career, this retrospective will debut several recent pieces and two murals created specifically for the exhibition. Though curator Anne Montfort may emphasize Riley's Gallic connection (the press

  • “Be-Bomb”

    MANUEL BORJA-VILLEL AND SERGE GUILBAUT don’t want to set the world on fire, they just want to detonate a thermonuclear device in the heart of art history. Ostensibly trying to blow a hole in the more conservative habits of exhibiting institutions and scholarship on postwar art, the curators’ recent exhibition, “Be-Bomb: The Transatlantic War of Images and All That Jazz, 1946–1956,” at the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, gathered a politically charged collection of artworks, documents, and artifacts of popular culture from the decade following the Crossroads nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll

  • THE RETURN OF OP

    With two major survey shows on Op art running almost concurrently in Europe and the United States, we asked contributing editor David Rimanelli and art historian Sarah K. Rich to assess the exhibitions and reflect on the resurgence of interest in—and contemporary resonance of—this long-moribund movement.

  • Sarah K. Rich

    FOR A LONG TIME OP ART has occupied a position similar to that of the bouffant hairdo. Briefly fashion-forward, it quickly became an embarrassment. Almost as soon as Op debuted, it degenerated into one of the most visibly dated features of the ’60s. Fleeting reappearances in subsequent decades took place through appropriations—both cynical and affectionate—by younger figures for whom its retro quality was the salient feature. So, with a few exceptions, paintings associated with the Op moment have languished in museum storerooms, and the various jigsaw puzzles, pot holders, and lunch boxes that

  • “Jo Baer: The Minimalist Years, 1960–1975”

    Viewed in reproduction, the early paintings of Jo Baer can make a misleading first impression. They might appear impassive, even “noncommittal,” to repeat a term used by John Ashbery when he reviewed Baer’s first solo show in 1966. Seen in person at Dia Center for the Arts’s current exhibition of Baer’s “Minimalist Years,” however, those paintings seem quite the opposite. They are grand, open, elegant things, and while these luminescent canvases are often pleasing to the eye, they are just as often satisfying to the intellect.

    Dia showcases some of Baer’s most splendid efforts from the ’60s and