Thomas Crow

  • American Art in the 20th Century

    AMERICAN PAINTING TRIUMPHED SOMETIME after 1945 and began a golden 25 years of New World dominance in avant-garde art. That familiar thesis underpins the exhibition “American Art in the 20th Century: Painting and Sculpture 1913–1993,” seen in Berlin over the summer and in somewhat modified form this autumn at the Royal Academy of Arts and the Saatchi Gallery in London. But the show’s organizers, the long-standing team of Norman Rosenthal and Christos M. Joachimedes, have given the truism a new historiographic twist by interpreting it to mean that American painting did not exactly triumph over

  • The Graying of Criticism

    THE TASK OF WRITING on the occasion of Artforum’s 30th anniversary entails far more than the usual procrastination and delay. Because the work necessarily involves going back over the past volumes of the magazine, particularly the decade from 1965 to 1975, it is nearly impossible to stop reading and return to the job at hand. Single issues from that period maintain a level of informativeness and intensity that put to shame whole books of recent critical writing. And that level is all the more impressive when one takes into account how frequently regular contributors appear and how quickly the


    A WAVE OF INFATUATION for the 1960s has lately passed through the art institutions of London. Since the Royal Academy staged its sugar-coated extravaganza “The Pop Art Show,” in 1991, three more major exhibitions have centered on the decade. With one exception, these shows have strained to advance the obvious proposition that the legacy of the period lives on in the art of the present, and have succumbed to a romance of happier times implicit in that impulse. Paradoxically, throughout Dr. David Mellor’s “The Sixties Art Scene in London,” currently at the City of London’s Barbican Art Gallery1


    CROSSOVER BETWEEN THE STUDIO and the seminar room has been a conspicuous feature of advanced art over the last fifteen years. The principal medium of exchange has been what is broadly termed “theory,” which in practice has meant a narrower set of concepts derived from the translated texts of a few French writers. But what can one say about the other, parallel development in the study of art within the academy: the strong emergence over the same period of (for want of a better term) a social history of art? Here any passage from the classroom to the actual fashioning of art has been much less


    In the pages of this continuing series Artforum invites a range of critics or theorists to articulate what they see as the role and responsibilities of art criticism today.

    IN THE YEARS SINCE 1970 or so, a deep divide has occurred in art criticism: its vocabularies and modes of address no longer even begin to cohere into one dialogue. By contrast, even the most demanding criticism of the Modernist generation took for granted a common space of viewing and, by extension, of discussion of art. Art was made in the studio, then brought complete and intact to the gallery. The critic’s task was to give


    JUST WHY IS IT that Pop, after three decades, retains so much of its youthful exuberance and vibrant appeal?“ writes Marco Livingstone, organizer of ”The Pop Art Show" at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, at one point in his catalogue overview.1 The sentence jumps off the page, its syntax and tone precisely those of Richard Hamilton’s title for his famous collage of 1956: Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing? Surely, one thinks, the exactness of the parallel is intended, and, therefore, this rhetorical question must be designed, as it was in Hamilton’s piece, to

  • Being “Economical with the Truth”

    THE PUBLIC FACE OF the war in Britain and the United States seems, as far as one can tell from this side of the Atlantic, to have been nearly the same. The best proof of this came in an interview on BBC radio with three American foreign editors. The British interviewer expressed the general opinion among his colleagues that American military spokesmen were more forthcoming than their British counterparts; the Americans countered with their belief that the reverse was true. An unfamiliar accent produces the illusion of more information and more sense, when the product is exactly the same.



    “HIGH AND LOW: Modern Art and Popular Culture,” just mounted by the Museum of Modern Art, seems to have crashed and burned on impact like one of Roy Lichtenstein’s Pop-art jet fighters. The reviewers in the daily and weekly press have seen to that. It is not often, after all, that the New York Times is willing to label as “a disaster” such a major and long-anticipated undertaking by a kindred civic institution. The exhibition, along with what remains of its credibility, will now limp across the continent to Chicago and Los Angeles over the coming year. But this protracted aftermath is potentially