Stuart Morgan

  • Bobbies and Buddhists and Boone, Oh My!

    MADE BY ARTISTS for other artists as a creative act, classic art magazines like the Blaue Reiter Almanac and Documents offered rich verbal and visual resources and satisfied a perennial need. Today, with large-scale marketing as the aim, even the smallest of art magazines demands quite a different structure. Names suggest an ideal viewing space: Parkett, Frieze, the defunct Spanish Arena (with its overtones of bullfighting), the equally extinct Wolkenkratzer (Skyscraper). Others denote meetings, like Artforum itself, or the Belgian Forum. Combined, they offer a scenario of vision and judgment.

  • English Drag

    WHEN ALASTAIR SIM WAS APPROACHED to play two roles instead of one in the 1955 Ealing comedy The Belles of St. Trinian’s, he hesitated. One was Clarence Fritton, an unscrupulous racehorse owner. The other was his sister Millicent, the headmistress of a girls’ boarding school. Thankfully, the hesitation was short-lived. Heavy-busted, broad-shouldered, Sim minced his way through the movie wearing an elaborately marcelled wig, pince-nez, buckled shoes, drop earrings, any amount of pearl and jet chokers, fur everywhere, and a skirt that looked like a converted hammock. “I suppose I’m just a foolish,

  • THINGS THAT GO BUMP

    LISA LIEBMANN

    Discombobulated and cacophonous, with a populist bent, Documenta 8 was almost entirely free of the lofty airs that surrounded its elegant, smug predecessor in 1982, and that to some degree hovered over many of the more ambitious and large-scale international exhibitions in the five years since. Absent, for instance, was any sense of highbrow intellectualism or formalism, and gone as well the sense of giddy congruence with recent commercial, critical, and promotional dicta. Painting, for one, seemed relatively scarce, and while classicism and mannerism, minimalism and expressionism,

  • Neil Bartlett And Robin Whitmore, A Vision Of Love Revealed In Sleep

    “Poor little devil, what will become of him?” asked Dante Gabriel Rossetti about Simeon Solomon, in his youth a celebrated painter and socialite, later the forgotten man of Pre-Raphaelitism, an alcoholic who sold matches, worked as a sidewalk artist, and died in a London workhouse. After the police caught him having intercourse with a man twice his age in a public urinal, Solomon’s circumstances grew steadily worse until his death 32 years later, in 1905. “My behavior has been perfectly disgraceful,” he admitted cheerfully when he was sentenced. Yet nothing resembling an apology ever passed his

  • SOMETHING MAGIC

    THE VERY MENTION OF Robert Mapplethorpe’s name evokes powerful images and issues—the expressions on faces prepared to meet the faces that they meet, the white man’s choice of the black male as model, the woman bodybuilder, the foregrounding of the phallus, the tableau of sexual ritual in which needs are formally laid out but left unexplained. In the reactions they cause, these presentations practically divide the world. By now the compliments have all been paid, the objections voiced. They slipped quickly off our tongues. But now that we’re used to Mapplethorpe’s iconography, now that our system

  • Julian Opie

    In his famous driving-instructor monologue, Bob Newhart was intrigued when his new pupil told him she had already been taught the two ways of stopping a car. Overcome with curiosity, he asked her about the second way. Yes, he had to admit, throwing the car into reverse is another way of stopping it.

    Julian Opie may be too young to remember the joke, but he has certainly grasped the principle. He has stopped working in his old manner by contradicting as many of its previous characteristics as possible. Brushy painting has been replaced by spraying, primary colors have mutated into cosmeticized

  • Martin Naylor

    In Martin Naylor’s work meaning emerges from the gaps between words, objects, and paintings. His has been a lengthy pursuit, with a repertoire of symbols—a chair, a knife, a black cloth, the outline of a house, an embracing couple—employed time and again in a series called “Between Discipline and Desire,” 1977–86, so long a series by now that sub-, even sub-subtitles are employed to distinguish separate works. The stiffness of the drawing; the clumsy translatorese of the sentences, with their jerky, unliterary quality at odds with their poetic intent; and the insistent disjunction between parts

  • THE LEAP OF FAITH

    EARLIER THIS YEAR, A VISITOR to the National Art Gallery of New Zealand, in Wellington, would have seen Colin McCahon’s Practical Religion: the Resurrection of Lazarus showing Mount Martha, 1970, hanging in the entrance hall. Because McCahon’s paintings remain in museums or private collections in New Zealand; because almost all the published criticism of his work has emerged from within his own country; even, perhaps, because he has rarely ventured beyond his native land, the canon of “world art" never includes him, and his greatness is acknowledged only there. But if even a reputation supported

  • Pablo Picasso

    “Later he used to say quite often, paper lasts quite as well as paint and after all if it ages together why not, and he said, further, after all, later, no one will see the picture, they will see the legend of the picture, the legend that the picture has created, then it makes no difference if the picture lasts or does not last. Later they will restore it, a picture lives by its legend and not by anything else.” The discovery of so many “lost” sketchbooks by Pablo Picasso only confirms that what he told Gertrude Stein about masterpieces applies equally well to the reputations of the people who

  • Richard Wentworth

    Richard Wentworth’s work depends on two positions about our relationship to objects. First, that it is governed by an acknowledged grammar of small moves performed unconsciously with things near to hand; second, that it is constantly modified by words. Each of his sculptures exists at an intersection of modes of communication, distinguished for convenience but mingled constantly in daily life. Though Wentworth may draw on it, he is not trying to imitate the vernacular. Indeed, one of his recurring scenes is the rift between high and low, art and life, function and use. These may be contrasted,

  • “Antidotes to Madness?”

    When John Cleese kicked and hit his own car in the BBC series Fawlty Towers and ripped a public telephone off the wall in Clockwork, we laughed while secretly admiring his courage. Machines designed to extend our sensoriums have a stubborn streak of their own. The trouble is, they are here to stay, and we have no choice but to learn to live with them. Ree Morton, whose drawings (six of which were included here) suggested the title and the poetic underpinnings for the selection of installations in “Antidotes to Madness?,” regarded art as white magic. Can it help us control our living spaces?

  • Simon Lewty

    In Simon Lewty’s new drawings the paper is so stained and ripped that it looks like old parchment. Near the edge of each sheet a “frame” has been drawn, and within it other black lines enclose irregular doodles. Perhaps they are bodies, since as they shift from cartographic projection to shallow three-dimensionality these blobs acquire a semblance of life. Baggy yet weightless, they occupy an equivocal, compartmentalized space where size, direction, and gravity no longer hold sway and images take precedence over (yet may be undermined by) language.

    Invented words, which promise more meaning than

  • Terry Atkinson

    Since leaving the Art & Language group in 1975, Terry Atkinson has devoted himself to becoming a contemporary version of a 19th-century history painter—in his case, a painter of the history of the working classes. By the early ’80s he was relying on increasingly complex methods. His “Postcards from Trotsky,” 1982, involved impossible scenarios, combining material from a variety of periods and employing titles so long they seemed to subvert the images themselves. The "postcards,” which had maps to explain them, were executed in what Atkinson called a “botched” style—his own visual equivalent of

  • John Virtue

    Each of John Virtue’s “Landscapes,” 1981–85, consists of a set of black-ink drawings, mounted in grid formation with no gaps between them. If the grid is a dissipating force, promoting loss of focus and dispelling any prospect of narrative, it also serves to unify; constituent parts are equal in size, and enough landmarks recur in the drawings to convey the impression that this is a single region, crossed and recrossed continually. Houses—sometimes terraced, but more frequently in isolation—are pictured as entire pictorial units, complete with gates, fences, and paths. The viewpoint is never

  • Photographs of the last resort, by Martin Parr.

    “Do you have any brochures about New Brighton?”

    “No.”

    “Have you run out?”

    “We never had any.”

    IT WASN’T THE FACT that I was in an office marked “Tourist Information” that annoyed me. It was that the office was on England’s New Brighton seafront.

    A hundred years ago tourists had all the information they needed. New Brighton, on the shores of the Mersey, was famous for its miles of sands, with bathing machines, donkey rides, oyster stalls, and minstrel shows on the pier. Its 621-foot steel tower rivaled the one in Blackpool, further up the coast. Then gradually it all went wrong. First the tower

  • The Saatchi Collection

    For years the chance of seeing advanced an in London has been small. The Tate Gallery long ago abdicated responsibility for mounting large solo exhibits of relevant contemporary artists, Only the White chapel and at times the lCA have been operating on an international level. The decision to open the Saatchi Collection to the public, in stages, in a specially designed gallery at 98A Boundary Road, in St. John’s Wood, means that Britain has a first rate contemporary an museum at last.

    Since one focus of the collection is American art from 1960 to the present, the first choice of works came as no

  • Thérèse Oulton

    Tact: from the Latin tactere, to touch. Wet paint worked into wet paint, with a brush or by hand, has been submitted to gestures ranging from a caress to a cut. Involved in the substance of the paint itself, imagery is so barely distinguishable that it might pass for a trick of the light. Space is subject to constant interruption; heights, depths, and distances have been made only to be unmade. It is a question of control: treated as a temptation, control has been toyed with, then publicly refused. Indeed, so flagrantly has the enterprise of creation been abandoned that the paint seems still

  • RICHARD WENTWORTH’S AD HOC ESTHETICS

    THE ENGLISH HAVE HOBBIES. They grow giant marrows or make models of Westminster Abbey out of matchsticks. Richard Wentworth takes snapshots of ad hoc maneuvers we see every day but never give a second glance. Following Bernard Rudofsky, who wrote of “architecture without architects,” it might be possible to call Wentworth’s events “sculpture without sculptors” but for two reasons. First, they bear the same relation to Michelangelo’s David as a MacDonald’s burger does to a gourmet dinner: Second, they are the result of no intention beyond that of answering a sudden need as quickly as possible.

  • ROBERT SMITHSON'S EARLY WORK—A RESURRECTION

    IN 1961 GEORGE LESTER, who owned a gallery in Rome, put Robert Smithson on a stipend to make work for a one-man exhibit there. Early this year Lester helped to mount an augmented version of that Italian show at the Diane Brown Gallery in New York,1 with the result that 40 “new” paintings have come to light and a brief, crucial phase of Smithson’s development can be discussed for the first time.

    Not unexpectedly, genres range from conventional second-generation Abstract Expressionist Sturm und Orang through proto-Pop collage. Somewhere between the two are cross-sectioned landscapes, showing

  • BREAD AND CIRCUSES

    THROUGHOUT THE 1980S one large-scale international art survey has followed another, manipulated with all the now-familiar devices of authoritarian populism. An international junta of curators has been using art to present spectacles devoid of any meaning more specific than the assertion of power. Their tactics are to let selections overlap those of fellow junta-members in order to strengthen the cause; to use the same language as the others; to pretend to be men of the people as a disguise for snobbish, old-fashioned connoisseurship; above all, to say as little as possible. Assertion has replaced