Scott Rothkopf


    It’s easy to love a Castiglione lamp. Harder, perhaps, to embrace without irony the more tricked-out artifacts of modernism’s schizophrenic dotage. Such Jetsons-era concoctions could scarcely be called “timeless,” but for artist Josiah McElheny that’s precisely their allure. McElheny has repeatedly gravitated toward a class of objects that show both their age and their Age, embodying as they do the often unresolved or inassimilable aesthetic aspirations of their historical milieu. He has taken as his subject not the Bauhaus’s iconic Wagenfeld lamp but that design school’s madcap Metal Party,

  • Palazzo Intrigue

    As I made my way past souvenir shops crammed with gold- and crystal-encrusted trinkets toward Karen Kilimnik’s exhibition at the Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa, I began to worry that Kilimnik needed a show in a Venetian palazzetto about as much as Thomas Cole needs a retrospective in a forest. After all, her off-kilter studies in fandom, whether directed at contemporary urban waifs or traditional bucolic splendors, have always thrived on their palpable alienation from the glamorous and tawdry worlds they conjure—an ambience not lived but learned from glossy magazines, a period memoir, a paused

  • Glenn Ligon

    Glenn Ligon has long demonstrated an omnivorous taste for words and images by the likes of Richard Pryor and Adrian Piper. However, this midcareer survey of more than fifty works spanning two decades traces Ligon’s penchant for gobbling up and reevaluating his own earlier output. Condition Report, 2000, for example, is based on a conservator’s assessment of a painting from twelve years before, while other works find Ligon meditating more generally on the theme of revision. A catalogue with contributions by Wayne Koestenbaum and Mark Nash, among others,

  • diary December 04, 2004

    High Crass


    Day two of the art fair began with a phone call from Yoko Ono. “Hello,” I said tentatively, picking up the receiver. “Hello,” she replied. With the easy part behind us, we talked about the weather. “Is it warm in Miami?” she asked. “Yes,” I answered. “And sunny.” I couldn’t believe it—not that I was actually chatting with Yoko, but that the conversation was virtually indistinguishable from one I might have had with my grandmother. Perhaps this shouldn’t have surprised me, though, since she had absolutely no idea who had answered the ringing phone of her Talking Sculpture, perched on a table

  • diary December 02, 2004

    Puppet Preview


    In a cab from the Miami airport on Wednesday, I got a call from a savvy collector who suggested in not so many words that the art fair was all but over—before it had even begun. And judging from the diffuse energy at the vernissage that night, the prognosis seemed fairly accurate. By that time, any collector worth his fleur de sel had already breezed through the fair, and not during Wednesday’s afternoon “First Choice” preview either. Clearly, “First Choice” was for latecomers only, or, as promotional materials put it, major collectors, museum directors, press, and “special” VIPs. Shopping, it

  • Screen Test: Jeff Koon's Olive Oyl

    Jeff Koons paints a picture. Well, not Jeff Koons exactly, but Jeff Koons and three teams of three assistants, working eight-hour shifts, twenty-four hours a day for more than a month. Still, Art News put it simply as “So-and-So Paints a Picture” when in the ’50s and ’60s the magazine dispatched writers and photographers to catch de Kooning or Hoffman or Pollock in the act. The series of articles let readers see individual paintings in various states of undress, offering an unusually intimate glimpse of an artist’s studio life, right down to photos of messy palettes. Artforum gave Koons a somewhat


    Like scene-stealing extras, the photographs that fill Ed Ruscha’s books of the ’60s have long refused to play a supporting role in his artistic production. Nevertheless, as early as 1965, the artist insisted that the pictures in Twentysix Gasoline Stations or Various Small Fires were not important in and of themselves, but only insofar as they allowed him to make books. In the early ’70s he opined, “I’m not a photographer at all,” a sentiment he echoed recently when claiming that he’s never considered himself a “photographer with a capital P.” Still, it’s the pictures within his books that rate

  • the 2004 Carnegie International

    SCOTT ROTHKOPF: Given that there’s been no advance word on your show, would you begin by telling us how it will differ from previous Internationals?

    LAURA HOPTMAN: Unlike the past three Internationals, which used a broad survey format, the 2004 installment will be organized as a kind of narrative that unfolds through groupings of artists. Some sections will emphasize a common formal language, as in, say, a kind of absolutist abstraction, by artists such as Tomma Abts or Mark Grotjahn. In other cases, a section might emphasize a common theoretical strategy, as in a cluster of radical empiricists,


    Francesco Bonami’s 50th edition of the Venice Biennale—”Dreams and Conflicts: The Dictatorship of the Viewer”—delegated responsibility to nearly a dozen curators and, ultimately, to the viewers themselves, pointedly bringing an end to the monolithic “Grand Show” of yesteryear, for better or (as the consensus seemingly would have it) for worse. And the unseasonable weather didn’t help. At June’s heat wave–plagued vernissage, many openly wondered whether it was the lack of inspiration or rather the perspiration that was dampening their enthusiasm. We invited three regular contributors—art historian

  • Diller + Scofidio

    For all the recent talk of blurred boundaries between architecture and the visual arts, nobody’s made much of a splash in both fields since Michelangelo hit Saint Peter’s. The twentieth century spawned its share of architect/artists, such as Le Corbusier, Theo van Doesburg, and Tony Smith, but all were more renowned for their work on one side of the disciplinary divide than the other. Recently, artists as diverse as Vito Acconci, Pierre Huyghe, and Jorge Pardo have tried their hand at some form of architecture, while numerous architects have submitted their drawings and even sculptures to the

  • The Poets: Edit deAk and Rene Ricard

    IN “ART ATTACKS! HEAVY VOLLEY AT AESTHETIC FOLLY,” a special supplement to the September 29, 1981, SoHo Weekly News, Rosalind Krauss opined, “In its most recent incarnation, Artforum announced its determination to . . . let ‘art speak for itself.’ . . . And so artists and poets write for Artforum a kind of cheerfully incontinent, incantatory assertion of self and selves.” Krauss doesn’t name the perpetrators, but Artforum readers would likely have recognized Rene Ricard and Edit deAk as the prime suspects. Ricard, a poet, had recently published a highly personal panegyric to Julian Schnabel,


    I FIRST ENCOUNTERED THE ART CRITICISM OF THE ’80S around 1996, which made me a bit late to the party. By that time the party had moved to university seminar tables across the country and been neatly parsed for the syllabi, so that students like me could admire how Sherrie Levine plumbed the depths of originality (week 2: “Appropriation”) and Cindy Sherman slyly turned the camera on herself (week 5: “The Gaze: Basics”). Little did I realize, though, that I had nearly missed the party altogether, because just two years later the syllabus, previously titled “Critical Theory and Visual Practice

  • The Painter: Thomas Lawson

    THROUGH THE SELECTIVE LENS OF ART HISTORY, WE TEND to see the critical melee of the early ’80s as a focused duel between the photo-based art of “Pictures” and brushy neo-expressionism. Although this formulation allows for the later emergence of more restrained, geometric canvases by the likes of Philip Taaffe and Peter Halley, it largely ignores the alternative modes of painting that flourished at the turn of the decade, including that advanced by Thomas Lawson. The Scottish-born painter and critic came to New York in 1975 and soon began publishing insightful essays and masterful exhibition

  • The Architects: Aldo Rossi, Peter Eisenman, Bernard Tschumi, et al.

    AT THE TURN OF THE ’80S, THE TYPICALLY PAROCHIAL ART press cast a roving eye on popular film, music, and fashion—to name only a few of its lasting fancies. Yet by far the greatest extracurricular infatuation was architecture, garnering numerous reviews and features as well as the covers of Artforum, which showcased a project by SITE in 1982, and Art in America, which featured the recently completed AT&T Building in 1984. Art in America in fact went so far as to launch a monthly series in 1980 introducing readers to luminaries such as Aldo Rossi, Charles Moore, Peter Eisenman, and Michael Graves.

  • The Diarist: Robert Pincus-Witten

    NOVEMBER 12, 1980: “THE EVENING ESSENTIALLY A HAPPY but disquieting one: it definitely marks the death of the ’60s,” proclaims Robert Pincus-Witten’s diary (as published in Arts) on the occasion of Metro Pictures’s opening party. “Henceforth, we of the ’68–’72 set, no matter our good will, are of another, older generation. In the juke box light of the dance floor . . . I could feel my laughing crow’s feet deepen into wrinkles. This is no plus ça change moment but a different era.” For a critic who had played a central role in defining the previous epoch, this clearly wasn’t just another night

  • Jasper Johns

    With the survey “Drawing Now” attracting attention at MoMA in fall 2002, the time is ripe for a fresh, full-career look at our own old-master draftsman. For the Menil Collection, curator and catalogue author Mark Rosenthal has assembled a jewel-box group of thirty works, many of them lent by the artist himself. Covering the years 1955 to 2001, the exhibition provides a concise, up-to-date counterpoint to the National Gallery’s more expansive 1990 take on the same subject. The chosen examples, though limited in number, survey the full range of Johns’s varied iconography and virtuoso technique,

  • Ellsworth Kelly

    Following the artist’s massive 1996 Guggenheim retrospective, Ellsworth Kelly’s oeuvre has been sliced and diced into ever-finer morsels, from his early drawings to his relief paintings and Spectrums. Now comes an exhibition organized by curator Toby Kamps around Red Blue Green, 1963, a major canvas in the museum’s collection. The show and its catalogue, with essays by Kamps, Roberta Bernstein, Sarah Rich, and Dave Hickey, focus on a group of fourteen large-scale paintings as well as source materials from 1958 to 1965, a period when Kelly further blurred the line between figure and ground and

  • Carroll Dunham

    Carroll Dunham’s canvases of the past several years make a neat mess of the still-fruitful territory between abstraction and figuration. Blobs of paint morphed into puffy creatures, and more recently into phallic-nosed alpha males impotently shooting at one another. This fall we’re caught in the cross fire at a two-decade survey of Dunham’s work, organized by New Museum director Lisa Phillips and senior curator Dan Cameron (the latter joins novelist A.M. Homes, critics Sanford Schwartz and Klaus Kertess, and artist Matthew Richie in the accompanying catalogue). The exhibition

  • Jean Fautrier

    Jean Fautrier’s art has always been a matter of taste, and his often seemed pretty bad, down to the snakeskin shoes he famously wore to the opening of his war-inspired “Hostage” series. Some critics argue that the later paintings’ flirtation with kitsch is deliberate. Now we have a chance to judge for ourselves with this long-overdue first US retrospective. Organized by Haggerty Museum director Curtis L. Carter and Karen Butler of Columbia University, the exhibition surveys Fautrier’s forty-year career and is accompanied by a catalogue with contributions


    GENE SWENSON PACES ALONE ON FIFTY-THIRD Street carrying a blue question mark perched on a pole. He’s picketing the Museum of Modern Art and the guards have orders not to let him in, although he curated an exhibition at the institution little more than a year earlier. In a short time—from the fall of 1966 to the spring of 1968—Swenson went from being one of New York’s most influential critics to a bitter and paranoid outcast, prophesying the fall of Rome. “The art world is sitting on a time bomb of social revolution,” he wrote in April 1968, and within a year it would explode in a torrent of