Stuart Morgan

  • Apollinaire, Eye to Eye, and Jean Cocteau and the French Scene

    “I HAVE EXPERIENCED MY greatest artistic emotions, when I suddenly discovered the sublime beauty of sculptures executed by the anonymous artists from Africa. These passionate and rigorously logical works are what the human imagination has produced as most potent and most beautiful.” Picasso’s earliest recorded statement on art was transcribed by Guillaume Apollinaire, who may even have been with him when he looked into a shop window or visited the Trocadéro collection in Paris. For Apollinaire this marked one stage in a lifetime’s research; by 1918, the year of his death, he had published (with

  • Lisa Milroy

    A fur coat and red high-heeled shoes; a blue-and-white striped skirt; a bulging address book; a pile of clothes; a black party dress. These objects are taken out of context, set against thick, creamy grounds, then dealt with as a portraitist treats a sitter. There are huge variations within the chosen style: painterly, succulent, it recalls both Manet and Goya, with a hint of old-fashioned graphic illustration in the way the brush “draws” to mark an outline.

    One of the sharpest curatorial moves of the year was Sarah Kent’s decision to take a group of Lisa Milroy’s paintings out of their Cork

  • Colin McCahon

    Colin McCahon has written that his first artistic experience was watching a sign-painter writing “Hairdresser and Tobacconist” on a shop front. “The grace of the lettering as it arched across the window in gleaming gold, suspended on its dull red field but leaping free from its own black shadow, pointed to a new and magnificent world of painting. I watched from outside as the artist working inside slowly separated himself from me (and light from dark) to make his new creation.” Later, when McCahon himself became an artist, he too used other people’s messages, copying passages from the Bible and

  • “Scenes & Songs from Boyd Webb,” codirected by Boyd Webb and Philip Haas

    As children scale a wall to look through a barred window in a Whitechapel street, the camera behind them moves in and up to reveal what they are struggling to see: a photographer’s studio with a paper sky, a canvas sea, and a beach made from carpet underlay. The children are right to feel excluded; this is a sort of playground. Inside, actors apply themselves earnestly to their tasks. A peasant startles a rabbit by bowling eggs off a carpet globe. Nude workers crawl up and down rubber slopes, operating a mill which grinds corn to feed geese. A blue carpet, suspended horizontally, is agitated

  • Dale Frank

    There was a smell of burnt straw. Standing unsteadily on an artificial floor which shifted beneath their tread, viewers watched as the artist sat and cleaned a rifle. On another occasion he wandered among his audience in a silent, darkened room, whipping a 9-foot willow branch through the air. Dale Frank’s performances were abstract, enigmatic, not always fully predetermined. Above all, they were designed to provoke tension. Since audiences could seldom understand all of what was happening, Frank’s events blended communication with misunderstanding, transmission with an in-built sense of loss.

  • David Tremlett

    As part of a challenge to the ontological status of sculpture, three British artists of the same generation were drawn to travel. Though motion, impermanence, and elementary narrative attracted them, it defied their artistic means, and in this, perhaps, lay its enduring fascination. Almost 20 years later, Hamish Fulton indulges a Victorian taste for exotic landscapes, recorded in a spirit of deep melancholy. Richard Long walks in patterns as one element of an art that doubles and redoubles its phenomenological ramifications. David Tremlett wanders at random, often at the slightest pretext,

  • Susan Hiller

    In 1972 Susan Hiller’s attempts at automatic writing resulted in texts apparently dictated by some external force. Plural, female, and rhapsodic, the “writers” called themselves “sisters of Menon.” In a script that was not her own, they beseeched Hiller to join their company. Their voices, which Hiller described as insistent, repetitive, personal, and punning, set up a paradoxical relationship between asserted existence and apparent insubstantiality (“I live my sister,” “the riddle is the sister of the zero”); it constantly switched from “I” to “we” to “everyone.”

    As an artist, Hiller’s chosen

  • Gerard de Thame

    On nights when it is too hot to sleep, you might get up and pour yourself a drink or try to write letters or just watch the curtains blowing against the window frames. Outside, other dwellings are full of people sleeping or pacing too. It becomes harder to concentrate as tiredness sets in. The furniture starts to look odd. Shadows mystify corners you thought you knew. Feeling not entirely safe nor fully in control gives that feeling a special savor.

    In “Through the Night,” 1984, a series of large black and white paintings by Gerard de Thame, semidarkened interiors come to resemble film noir sets

  • Saul Steinberg

    Start with the signature. It’s always there, plus a date and sometimes a copyright symbol. Abbreviated to “ST,” “Steinberg” even becomes a brand name on products in the work. This apparent monomania extends to the creation from scratch of a world that resembles the real one. Pencils are carved and painted, a camera is a block of wood with a pushpin for a button and the screw top from a soda bottle for a knob. There are signs that the world outside Saul Steinberg’s studio consists of landmarks like hotels and banks—Miami and Istanbul are Miami and Istanbul because trains stop there; Steinberg

  • BREAKING THE CONTRACT: A CONVERSATION WITH PETER GREENAWAY

    THE FOLLOWING CONVERSATION TOOK PLACE in September in London between Stuart Morgan, a critic who writes regularly for Artforum, and Peter Greenaway, the filmmaker.

    Stuart Morgan: Is it true that the original version of your film The Draughtsman’s Contract, 1982, was over four hours long?

    Peter Greenaway: Yes, a mass of stuff was cut from the present version having to do with symbolism, allegory, the relationship of people upstairs and downstairs, and the continuation of the living-statue conceit. (The statue had a wife and dog.) All the minor characters played the game of aping their masters.

  • Edward Allington

    Suspended conchs daubed with gold paint spew plastic objects—insects, pineapples, grapes, even entire palm trees. Edward Allington’s exuberant tastelessness marks the convergence of two apparently unconnected trends in recent British sculpture—a concern with recycling, and an exotic, sexualized abstraction. At best it may be only a shotgun marriage, with viewers forced to waver between one type of interpretation and another. Though they never merge, the strands are as intricately entwined as Allington’s dual themes, money and flesh, and his double time scheme, which forces the present and the

  • Bruce McLean

    Within a few weeks Bruce McLean showed works on paper at one venue, paintings and sculptures at a second, and a new solo performance at a third. Evidently he is one of the most popular artists in Britain. But is he one of the best? That no one ever really says so should come as no surprise. McLean escapes interpretation as well as reprisals; he makes a quip and a run for it at the same time, slipping from one medium to another at high speed, careering through a career in a feisty, mock-macho manner that is somehow crucial to the whole enterprise. The works are neither good nor bad, we conclude;