Steven Watson

  • Ron Gilad, Platform + Border = Fruit Bowl (Part 1), 2000, wood, brass, 3 1/2 x 11 x 11".

    Ron Gilad

    WHEN THE DESIGNER RON GILAD moved from Tel Aviv to New York in 2001, he felt like an alien; he couldn’t quite find the words in English to express the punning visuality of his thoughts. Fortunately, the objects he creates speak in their own tongue—a language that straddles the “fat, delicious line between the abstract and the functional,” as his professional biography puts it.

    Eleven years later, Gilad still feels like an alien in New York, caught not so much between Hebrew and English, or between verbal and visual language, as between the world of art and the world of design. Still, he has

  • The original cast of Four Saints in Three Acts, onstage at the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, 1934. Photo: Harold Swahn.

    Four Saints in Three Acts

    “STEINMANIA” SWEPT OVER SAN FRANCISCO during the summer of 2011, incited by two major exhibitions related to the writer—“The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde,” at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and “Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories,” at the Contemporary Jewish Museum—as well as a new staging of Gertrude Stein’s first opera, Four Saints in Three Acts, mounted at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (and sponsored by SF MoMA and Ensemble Parallèle). I went to San Francisco in August to introduce that production, Four Saints in Three Acts: An Opera

  • Wynn Chamberlain, Brand X, 1969, still from a color film in 16 mm, 86 minutes. Tally Brown.

    Wynn Chamberlain’s Brand X

    ONE WEEKEND IN FEBRUARY 1969, the painter Wynn Chamberlain and his wife, Sally, were snowbound in their upstate New York cottage. There was nothing to do but watch television. As they switched from channel to channel, they were overwhelmed by the banality of the programs, which were incessantly interrupted by cheesy commercials, and they weren’t sure which were the more puerile. It was at that moment that Chamberlain decided to use a TV show mash-up as a frame for ridiculing the politics and commercialism of the late ’60s, while celebrating the era’s embrace of sex, drugs, and long hair.


  • Thomas Eakins, Salutat, 1898, 50 x 40", oil on canvas.


    THE NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY’S “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture” is an exhibition whose time has finally come. Or so I wrote several weeks ago, before events in Washington—just days before we go to press—came to lend my words a bitterly ironic cast. Gays and lesbians have become acceptable, as characters and as actors, on television shows (Queer as Folk, Will & Grace, The L Word) and in major films (Philadelphia, The Crying Game, Brokeback Mountain), as well as in popular music (Elton John, Ricky Martin, Lady Gaga), and the Internet has made every facet of

  • Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, Howl, 2010, still from a black-and-white and color film in 35 mm and Super 16 mm, 90 minutes. Allen Ginsberg (James Franco).

    Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s Howl

    PROBABLY NO WORK of American literature of the mid-twentieth century has taken on so many identities as Allen Ginsberg’s 1955 poem “Howl”: Beat anthem, First Amendment cause célèbre, Lower East Side fringe festival. It’s safe to say that even those who have never read the poem would recognize its haunting opening lines: “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, / dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix.” It’s even safer to say that few of its admirers would have considered “Howl” a likely subject for a motion