Thomas Crow

  • Jeff Koons, Aqui Bacardi, 1986, oil inks on canvas, 45 x 60".

    Jeff Koons

    NO MUSEUM BUILDING, in spite of many recent efforts by ambitious architects, matches in iconic status Marcel Breuer’s sculptural Whitney Museum of American Art on Madison Avenue. For its final summer before moving to much-expanded quarters downtown, the museum will both honor its long tenure in a remarkable home and showcase one of those rare artists whose body of work is up to the job of filling the entire structure. The exhibition “Jeff Koons: A Retrospective”—organized by Whitney curator and unrivaled Koons scholar Scott Rothkopf—will do just that.

    Koons has arguably succeeded in

  • View of “When Attitudes Become Form: Bern 1969/Venice 2013,” 2013, Fondazione Prada, Ca’ Corner della Regina, Venice. Foreground, from left: Gary B. Kuehn, Untitled, 1968; Gary B. Kuehn, Untitled (Wedge Piece), 1968; Walter De Maria, Art by Telephone, 1967; Alan Saret, Zinc Fire, 1968; Aldo Walker, Kleines Kreuz no.128 (Small Cross no.128), 1969; Reiner Ruthenbeck, Aschenhaufen III (Ash Heap III), 1968; Richard Tuttle, Canvas Dark Blue, 1967. Background, from left: Bill Bollinger, Pipe Piece, 1968; Eva Hesse, Augment, 1968; Reiner Ruthenbeck, Möbel I (Furniture I), 1968. Photo: Kate Lacey. © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

    Thomas Crow

    THE 2013 VENICE BIENNALE set the scene for two capital lessons in the history of art. In order of historical time, the first took place at the Palazzo Ducale, amid the usual hordes visiting the chambers of state, in an exhibition devoted to Édouard Manet. The show itself (“Manet: Return to Venice”) may have been no landmark, but it made real the most often repeated slide comparison in the teaching of art history: Side by side, in unprecedented juxtaposition, were Manet’s Olympia from the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and Titian’s Venus of Urbino from the Uffizi in Florence.

    This was a meeting that the

  • Lynne Harlow, BEAT, 2007, acrylic paint, drum kit, live performance with musicians. Installation view. Photo: Julio Grinblatt.

    Thomas Crow

    THIS PAST WINTER, the Hunter College art program mounted “Notations: The Cage Effect Today” in its Times Square Gallery on far-west Forty-First Street. For an exhibition in honor of a composer who chose Silence as the title of his collected writings, the cacophony of traffic rumbling and screeching in the lee of the Port Authority Bus Terminal seemed both contradictory and entirely apposite. The visitor, rattled by the abrasive sonic events on the exterior, gladly surrendered to the relative peace of the gallery’s grotto-like spaces, into which the racket outside entered as the sort of randomized

  • Michael Heizer, Double Negative, 1969. Virgin River Mesa, NV. From Philip Leider’s “How I Spent My Summer Vacation,” Artforum 9, no. 1 (September 1970).
 Click here for Philip Leider, “How I Spent My Summer Vacation,” September 1970

    Thomas Crow on Philip Leider’s “How I Spent My Summer Vacation”

    A SNAPSHOT taken of Artforum in 1965 would have yielded a split and contradictory image. In the recollection of New Yorker Mel Bochner, the upstart Los Angeles publication had undergone a palpable shift in tone over its short period of existence: “They were no longer, by that point, about younger California artists,” he recalls thinking. “It was more about the ‘scene.’ I remember one feature, Dennis Hopper photographs, of Jasper Johns, Henry Geldzahler and Andy Warhol. They were almost like fashion magazine photos.”¹ While the style of the piece and the identity of the photographer may have said

  • View of “Cindy Sherman,” 2012. Photo: Thomas Griesel.

    Cindy Sherman

    IN THE ANGLO-AMERICAN museum world, this past winter might well have been called the season of the portrait. That theme announced itself in London, at the National Gallery’s incomparable Leonardo exhibition, in which the gathering of portrait subjects scattered from Paris to Krakow upstaged even the epochal pairing of the Louvre’s Virgin of the Rocks with its London replica. A month later in New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art opened “The Renaissance Portrait from Donatello to Bellini,” an assembly of fifteenth-century images that brought to an extraordinary semblance of life its cast of

  • Judson Powell and Noah Purifoy, Barrel and Plow, 1966, beer barrel and plow mounted on table. Documentary photograph of the work with Darcy Robinson and Judson Powell, Los Angeles, 1966. Barrel and Plow was one of fifty works included in the 1966 exhibition “66 Signs of Neon.” Photo: Harry Drinkwater.


    To better survey the manifold sites of postwar art in Los Angeles, Artforum invited art historians THOMAS CROW and ANDREW PERCHUK, curators MAURICE TUCHMAN and ALI SUBOTNICK, and gallerist HELENE WINER to join in conversation with artists JOHN BALDESSARI, HARRY GAMBOA JR., and LIZ LARNER—a group whose experiences span five decades and some of the most vibrant, vital scenes in the city. Critic and scholar RICHARD MEYER and Artforum editor MICHELLE KUO moderate.

    Michelle Kuo: We all know the myth: “The Cool School,” coined by Philip Leider himself in these pages [Summer 1964]. Leider was speaking of a “new distance,” a remove, which he saw manifested in the adamantine surfaces of the work of the Ferus Gallery artists and which came to stand for LA culture as a whole. But how might we attend to art in LA now, without reducing it to the same clichés about regional or even outsider production that persist, rather astonishingly, in many exhibitions, in much of the literature, and certainly in the market?

    How might we attend to the relationship—if any—between

  • Thomas Crow

    A COLOR PHOTOGRAPH by Hans Namuth from around 1964 shows Mark Rothko alone in his Amagansett summer studio seated in an Adirondack chair, facing away from the camera. His regard is fixed on a painting in smoldering russet hues that leans against another smaller canvas turned toward the wall; to his right, suspended by two cords from a roof beam, hangs a canvas of similar size but painted in dark pigments approaching black. No other work is visible.

    That image will be newly familiar to some thousands of theatergoers who attended performances of Red, the two-character play by John Logan that began

  • Anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss in Brazil ca. 1936. Photo: Apic/Getty Images.


    Only a handful of modern thinkers have had so profound an impact on our understanding of the world as Claude Lévi-Strauss, whose revelatory application of linguistic theory to the field of anthropology—in tracts such as The Elementary Structures of Kinship (1949), Tristes Tropiques (1955), and The Raw and the Cooked (1964)—gave birth to a structuralist model that forever transformed the studies of art history and literature, psychology and sociology. In the opening decades of the twenty-first century, his rethinking of global cultures and circuits of exchange has never been more relevant. When Lévi-Strauss died this past October, at the age of one hundred, we asked art historian THOMAS CROW, anthropologist MICHAEL TAUSSIG, and cultural theorist SYLVÈRE LOTRINGER to consider his life and legacy. Taussig’s contribution appears below. For Crow and Lotringer’s considerations, pick up the April issue of Artforum.

    MY MOST DISTINCT MEMORIES of Claude Lévi-Strauss and the structuralist earthquake he introduced in the United States shortly before I first arrived here as a lecturer in 1971 are these:

    A youngish man from the art school in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in my regular café, engrossed day after day in a book called Structuralism (by Jean Piaget, as I later learned). Not much of a memory, you say, but the intensity of that young man’s concentration sticks in my mind, emblematic of the extraordinarily exciting, almost religious passion then sweeping the University of Michigan campus. No one really knew or

  • Charles Harrison, Karlsruhe, Germany, March 2, 2008. Photo: ONUK.

    Charles Harrison

    CHARLES HARRISON may be the most important writer on modern art whom a good many readers of this magazine will never have encountered. As an accolade, that is indeed far too qualified: Harrison was one of a small handful of writers by whose standard the best art writing of our time will be judged. His death on August 6 at age sixty-seven, after a struggle with cancer, cut short a life of profound engagements with both art history and the contemporary practice of art.

    The shape of his commitments and career diverged from the patterns of his few peers in ways that may account for the limited currency

  • Set for the Jackson Pollock Bar’s performance Opening, 2009, for the UAE pavilion, Venice, June 4, 2009.

    Thomas Crow

    “VENICE IS THE OSCARS,” says Tirdad Zolghadr, curator of the United Arab Emirates pavilion in this year’s Venice Biennale, in one video component of his installation. Or, rather, he said it some months ago at a press conference announcing the pavilion, the transcript of which was recorded by British and American actors and then lip-synched by two others portraying Zolghadr and the UAE-pavilion commissioner, Lamees Hamdan. Visitors to the opening experienced this in real time as part of a performance by Freiburg, Germany’s Jackson Pollock Bar, a troupe that specialize in ventriloquized restagings

  • Left: New Museum director Lisa Phillips and Studio Museum director Thelma Golden. Right: Guggenheim chief curator Nancy Spector, Guggenheim director Richard Armstrong, and Serpentine Gallery codirector Hans Ulrich Obrist. (Photos: Tanya Ahmed)
    diary July 24, 2009

    Hopps, Skips, and Jumps

    New York

    A WARM, HIGH-SUMMER EVENING IN THE CITY found a good proportion of New York’s first-tier museum directors and curators present at the Guggenheim to hear a conversation with peripatetic Swiss curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, currently codirector of the Serpentine Gallery in London. Lisa Phillips, Glenn Lowry, and Thelma Golden were among those paying this compliment to their visiting colleague. (One important local director, who arrived without a ticket, was turned away from the sold-out event.) They and the quietly attentive crowd were rewarded with a rapid-fire but softly spoken seminar by Obrist,


    IN MID-SEPTEMBER 1962, Bob Rauschenberg paid a visit to Andy Warhol’s studio. Met curator and Warhol confidante Henry Geldzahler had arranged the meeting, which also included the Paris dealer Ileana Sonnabend, who was then setting out to make Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns into household names in Europe.1

    In that she would within a few years be doing the same for Warhol, the encounter could be described as auspicious. But a more immediate exchange that took place between the two artists casts a particular light on Rauschenberg’s catalyzing role in much of the best art of the past half century.