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

  • MARY REID KELLEY

    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