Steven Henry Madoff

  • Mircea Cantor

    The melancholy that permeates Mircea Cantor’s work here stems from a mournfulness specific to our epoch’s need to capture every transaction, identity, and event in the sprawling prison of digital memory. We have lost not so much the ability to forget as the freedom to be forgotten. Yet in an Israeli context, the notion of memory also bears a more conventional and particular weight: the moral imperative of remembrance. Although several of the twenty-one works in Cantor’s show had previously been exhibited elsewhere, memory’s meanings became especially troubling in this setting. The centerpiece

  • Rudolf Steiner

    Austrian visionary Rudolf Steiner (1861–1935) held intellectual sway long enough to meet Nietzsche and get run out of Berlin by Hitler.

    Austrian visionary Rudolf Steiner (1861–1935) held intellectual sway long enough to meet Nietzsche and get run out of Berlin by Hitler. Steiner influenced everything from education to spiritualism, organic farming, and architecture, and his form of blackboard drawing was adopted by Joseph Beuys. This summer, the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg and the Vitra Design Museum examine the depth of this polymath’s impact, with two exhibitions under the same roof, one boasting works by fifteen artists, including Olafur Eliasson and Katharina Grosse, the


    AS AMERICA’S MISADVENTURES in Iraq and Afghanistan continue, with Iran boiling on the horizon, war fills our minds. A growing number of artworks and films focus on our current crises, but what makes Mary Reid Kelley’s videos particularly fascinating is that they send us backward in time to the grimly instructive universe of World War I. The Great War hovers above all narratives of armed conflict in modern memory, with its shattering speed of destruction, its multiple fronts blistering and spreading, the world order collapsing in its path. Broken unities gave way to the iconoclasms of a new

  • William Kentridge

    CAROLINE WALKER BYNUM RAISES an interesting question in her 2005 book, Metamorphosis and Identity: “Were medieval werewolves really metempsychosis?” Metempsychosis is the transmigration of the soul from one animal to another, and odd as the question seems in thinking about the South African artist William Kentridge, it has a curious resonance with this survey, recently on view in San Francisco, precisely because there is a single essence that inhabits his every theme and leap from medium to medium—whether drawing, animation, installation, sculpture, or opera—and that is the ruthlessness, or

  • Morality

    It seems a given among contemporary practitioners that all art is political and therefore implicitly holds an ethical position.

    It seems a given among contemporary practitioners that all art is political and therefore implicitly holds an ethical position. No doubt that idea will be healthily interrogated in Witte de With’s ambitious nine-month project comprising five exhibitions, film and performance programs, a three-day symposium, a website, a culminating publication, and an intriguingly broad list of artists, ranging from Sarah Morris to Nedko Solakov to participants in the Polish punk scene of the 1980s. What needs to be taken into account is an anthropology of morals

  • “Abstract Expressionism: A World Elsewhere”

    This sweeping show of Abstract Expressionism, organized by the British art historian and critic David Anfam, was long on firsthand pleasures, and offered room to reflect on what abstract meant initially and what it means now—not simply “a world elsewhere,” but worlds that seem a trillion miles apart.

    There were sixty-two works on view by AbEx’s main protagonists and a handful of artists that Anfam meant to wedge into the canon. In place of a strict historical narrative, his exhibition was propelled by his sheer visual confidence, beginning with starker works and opening out into loosely syncopated

  • “Eclipse”

    THE MELANCHOLIC, even eschatological perspective that finds a brooding cloud in clear daylight may well describe a Nordic sensibility that needs to be retired as mere cliché—but curator Magnus af Petersens’s recent show titled “Eclipse: Art in a Dark Age” at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm suggested that that time has not yet come. An interesting choice for the museum’s fiftieth anniversary celebration, the exhibition was meant to capture the zeitgeist’s mood of cataclysm as a shared premise not only of life but of cultural production.

    “Eclipse” was efficient in its task, including thirty-seven

  • film October 30, 2008

    Friends with Benefits

    MYSTERY, OF COURSE, is in the not-seen, in the unquantifiable. This not-visible suffuses the archaeology of knowledge, bolstering it like a flange supporting the weight of the seen. Evidence of the ineffable in the particular form of fellow feeling is everywhere present in the curiosity and affection that Rirkrit Tiravanija displays in Chew the Fat (2008), his loosely constructed film memoir of the working lives of his close circle of friends—a group of artists who rose to critical attention in the 1990s: Angela Bulloch, Liam Gillick, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Douglas Gordon, Carsten Höller,

  • Service Aesthetics

    THE ATTITUDES AND TECHNIQUES of artists have clearly buckled and changed many times over the past century, as industrialism became postindustrialism and first-world enterprise shifted from goods to services while manual production was shunted to outlying zones of cheap labor. The significance of these shifts is a central focus of Helen Molesworth’s 2003 essay “Work Ethic,” in which she describes how artists—in their working ethos, methods, and social legitimacy in relation to other workers—are strapped to the twin engines of the economy and the technologies that drive it. Art historian

  • “The Art of Participation: 1950 to Now”

    Curator Rudolf Frieling chooses to begin this scholarly exhibition with John Cage’s 4'33" of 1952, moving forward across six decades of artists and collectives ranging from such midcentury luminaries as Allan Kaprow, Andy Warhol, and the global mischief-makers of Fluxus, to Maria Eichhorn, Francis Alÿs, and recent digital initiatives by Torolab and ShiftSpace.

    Since the 1990s, art wedded to social praxis has fueled endless critical inquiries, exhibitions, private name-calling, and studious name-giving—the stickiest example being Nicolas Bourriaud’s “relational aesthetics.” But of course art devoted to participatory practices and communal collaboration can trace its bloodlines through the twentieth century, from Dada on. Curator Rudolf Frieling chooses to begin this scholarly exhibition with John Cage’s 4'33" of 1952, moving forward across six decades of artists and collectives ranging from such midcentury luminaries as Allan

  • diary January 24, 2008

    Crossover Appeal

    Park City, UT

    Last Thursday, while I waited for Robert Redford to show up at the Leaf Lounge on Main Street, the temperature outside hovered at eighteen degrees and the street was jammed with temporary migrants here for the Sundance Film Festival. Something like sixty thousand people are expected to attend the twenty-fourth edition of the event, and it seemed as if they were all on Main, cruising for distribution deals or hunting for stars to snap, paparazzi-style, as they rushed from one media fete to the next. At one moment or another, Quentin Tarantino walked by, as did Paris Hilton in pink, Sir Ben

  • SITE Santa Fe

    IN ORGANIZING this year’s SITE Santa Fe Biennial, Klaus Ottmann made two decisions that stood as curatorial provocations, both for this show and for big, pulse-taking exhibitions more generally. First, he pronounced that no peremptory theme would get in the way of the art itself. Second, he disallowed the dizzying glut of work typical of today’s endless biennials and fairs in which no piece is given the contemplative space it needs. In fact, there are so few artists in Ottmann’s exhibition—thirteen in all—that it’s possible to list them swiftly and savor his sense of curatorial modesty. They

  • Marcel van Eeden and Aneta Grzeszykowska

    BY ANY MEASURE, Karl McKay Wiegand (1873–1942) led an extraordinary life. He had multiple careers as a gangster, bootlegger, mountain climber, Abstract Expressionist, naval commander, chancellor, and matinee idol. At times he took on several of these roles at once. Dutch artist Marcel van Eeden recounts Wiegand’s exploits in a suite of 150 pencil drawings done in the style of old news photos and snapshots and simply titled K. M. Wiegand. Life and Work, 2005–2006. Here we see him scaling a rock face, getting handcuffed, being sworn into office, or standing glamorously with a starlet in the glare

  • the Festival d’Avignon

    IT WAS ONLY DURING the brief rendition of a 1977 performance piece by Marina Abramović, in which five couples sat and slapped each other’s faces faster and harder over several minutes, that I began to understand the state of contemporary theater.

    I was in Avignon for the annual theater festival, which has been held there each summer since 1947 and remains ground zero for the European theater world. The identity crisis under which theater strains, or so its critics say, was in ample evidence. Audiences booed, cursed, and awarded rapturous ovations for the twenty-three works presented, with opinions

  • Steven Henry Madoff on the Walker Art Center

    WHAT IS THE ROLE of today’s art museum? Is it a storehouse, a place for viewers deep in introspection to stand before works of art, a site of self-discovery? Or is it a place for group interaction, a mall, a social club, an entertainment zone? These are the questions facing the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis this month as it opens its bigger, better, and considerably shinier $67.5 million expansion designed by Herzog & de Meuron, and Kathy Halbreich, the Walker’s director, has answers to give.

    Her ideas, along with the broader ramifications on museum practice that the Walker’s new building

  • James Cuno

    SOME GUYS HAVE all the luck. Or if not luck exactly, then a sense of moment about them, so that all eyes turn in their direction when opportunity comes. This is certainly the case with James Cuno, 52, who was appointed in January as the new director of the Art Institute of Chicago, replacing James N. Wood after twenty-four years on the job.

    Cuno’s moment has come often enough lately that he managed to use the same quote twice about himself in little more than eighteen months. In response to a reporter’s question in June 2002 as to why he was leaving his eleven-year directorship of the Harvard

  • the Venice Biennale

    THOSE WHO RECALL THE WAR between Vittorio Sgarbi, former undersecretary of the Italian culture ministry, and Francesco Bonami, director of visual arts for the 50th Venice Biennale [see Artforum, May 2002], may wonder what became of the clangor over Bonami’s appointment: It ended with a whimper when Sgarbi was summarily booted from office last summer. Even at its most heated, this was nothing more than a local skirmish compared with the real war and terrorism under the pall of which this Biennale, opening next month, has been planned and largely realized.

    It is hard to believe that only two years

  • Jenny Holzer

    STEVEN HENRY MADOFF: I’m sorry, I’m just stuck in the present here for a moment. I mean, what your “Truisms” series makes me think about now is the swirl of confusion and anxiety around terrorism. Don’t you think the “Truisms,” with all their weird thoughts and different voices, have an eerie resemblance to what’s going on in our heads today?

    JENNY HOLZER: Well, the work with multiple voices from the late ’70s and early ’80s—the “Truisms” and the “Essays,” for example—looks hopeful to me. I presented the voices more or less simultaneously, and weighted evenly, to suggest that the thoughts were

  • Ars Electronica

    The Web as new-millennium juggernaut is already an old anthem, and it was only slightly refreshed by a politically hip twist at the twenty-third annual Ars Electronica new-media festival. At a cost of nearly $1.7 million dollars and with 1,373 artists submitting work for the Prix Ars, which takes the Oscar-like form of the Golden Nica, the festival is no small affair. Still, like digital art itself, it has remained marginalized in the larger arena, and its codirectors, Gerfried Stocker and Christine Schöpf, took a calculated run this year at greater art-world relevance. Riding the coattails of

  • Bridget Riley

    Steven Henry Madoff recounts the serendipitous meeting that led to Bridget Riley’s first solo show, at London’s Gallery One, in 1962.

    IT’S THE MEREST COMMONPLACE to say that rain is a nourishing force, and when we do we’re usually speaking of the fruits of the earth, not the fruits of art—except, perhaps, in the case of Bridget Riley, which takes us back to a late autumn afternoon in London, 1961. She was still unknown.

    Riley was thirty, laboring as a draftsman in the offices of the advertising powerhouse J. Walter Thompson. As she made her way from work that day through the narrow streets