Thomas Crow


    With the second and final leg of the Museum of Modern Art's Jackson Pollock Retrospective under way at London's Tate Gallery, Artforum contributing editor THOMAS CROW is joined by art historian MICHAEL FRIED in assessing the New York installment of the show and the critical response that greeted it. Their paired views celebrate the artist's achievement, in Crow's words arguably our culture's “Most Important Artistic Event.”

  • Moving Pictures

    The Jackson Pollock retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art was a triumph of arrangement, lighting, sight lines, and spatial design. It exerted a fierce grip on the visitor’s subjective passage through the installation, each moment of relative calm and relaxation giving way to a rush of funneling acceleration toward some revelation of spectacular and overwhelming visual impact. And then the cycle would repeat itself, until the dampening close of the installation on the 1953 canvas The Deep, with its covering of smoothly congealed white matter parted, only barely, to allow a glimpse into some

  • Michael Fried

    ANYONE WITH SERIOUS interest in visual art needs to read this book: that is simply the judgment of history, which supersedes any mere reviewer’s recommendation. So conspicuous has been Michael Fried’s profile as high Modernism’s most forceful and articulate standard-bearer that the detailed substance underlying this reputation has been more often assumed than examined or reexamined. The appearance of this collection removes any reason for such carelessness.

    It has been some three decades since the defining essays of this collection first appeared. In that long intervening period, Fried gave up

  • Rethinking the Youth Question

    THE ACADEMIC ENTERPRISE that goes by the name of cultural studies is by now a global phenomenon. Its fortunes indeed have paralleled the transnational expansion of the entertainment industries from which its exponents draw so much of their material for interpretation, adopting as well the unargued assumption of success over “sunset” counterparts in the world marketplace, with university colleagues who still find value in some refined and disinterested standards of art generally playing the analogous part of the latter. Traditional criteria of distinction, it is confidently asserted when not

  • This Is Now

    IN 1951, at the height of Jackson Pollock’s achievement as a painter, even his most ardent admirers had yet to articulate the radical implications of lowering the canvas from easel to floor. At that same moment, the neophyte artists Robert Rauschenberg and Susan Weil were already extending that breakthrough procedure into new territory. Their horizontal imprints of human bodies on blueprint paper share a seamless, allover procedure with the great poured canvases, yet recover simultaneously the monumental human figure that had been all but banished from New York School painting. Collaboration

  • Meyer Shapiro

    MEYER SCHAPIRO, WHO DIED on March 3 at the age of 91, enjoyed an adulation that may in his later decades have been as taxing as it was rewarding. Intent younger art historians asked him time and again to recount the genesis of the extraordinary publications with which he began his career in the ’30s; to rehearse his simultaneous commitments and interventions (in such journals as New Masses, Art Front, and Marxist Quarterly) in the politics of the Left during the Great Depression, Popular Front, and anti-Stalinist schisms; to recall his warm and abundant friendships with giants (and peers) in



    Make It New
    Bruce Nauman retrospective, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles: Bad news from the studio, but real news nevertheless. Twenty-five years of pieces, each of which seems to have arisen out of a condition of sudden panic—out of the terror of not knowing, of having forgotten, willfully, day after day, what art is and what an artist might do—of having forgotten, even, what an artist is. A fountain? A source of mystic truths? A cruel instructor? A tortured clown? We get one brutal, last-ditch guess after another, and the whole practice of “artmaking” is reinvented, again


    IN AN INTERVIEW CONDUCTED as his recent retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, was about to open (Artforum, April 1994), Robert Morris was asked his views on the large topic of “other artists.” He answered in a noncommittal way, saying that he admired any number of artists of the past but specifying only his most obvious lodestone in Marcel Duchamp. “The only one I vaguely despise,” he added, “is Picasso.”

    Having read this exchange on my way to the Guggenheim, it stayed with me as I walked through the exhibition, for the one other artist who insistently kept coming to mind

  • 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