Thomas McEvilley

  • Alberto Giacometti

    This was a major show of works by an artist who, although dead 20 years, is very relevant today in context of the return of figuration and calculated angst. In Alberto Giacometti’s classic paintings of his wife Annette and his brother Diego, the figures are sharply attenuated. They melt into their backgrounds, hidden in swirling lines that do not quite coalesce into faces or postures, their identities uncertain; yet their presence as living realities in the artist’s mind—and in the viewer’s—is nevertheless undeniable. The work expresses a kind of elementary existential questioning of human

  • Pina Bausch Tanztheater Wuppertal

    The Pina Bausch performances at BAM this year were typically varied and unexpected. The Seven Deadly Sins (1976), an evening of selections from the Bertolt Brecht/Kurt Weill collaboration of the same title, restaged and choreographed by Bausch, asserted her sense of continuity with the early 20th-century German avant-garde, just as The Rite of Spring (originally staged by Bausch in 1975 and performed at BAM in 1984) served to relate her to the modern dance of Martha Graham. These works are, for Bausch, comparatively conventional dance theater. It is the works that are entirely her own—such as

  • Who will occupy the deep space in recent painting?

    THERE’S AN EXPERIENCE like recognizing a long-forgotten acquaintance when one sees the representations of deep space, both perspectivally rendered architectural interiors and atmospheric outdoor skyscapes, that have reappeared in recent painting. As one gazes into the vastnesses opening the canvas out and up to stirring depths and heights, the moment, while exhilarating in its Wagnerian grandiosity, is fraught with uneasy questions. Why did we forget this acquaintance some hundred years ago, or decide we didn’t want it anymore? This brings up other questions, like: Who were we when we last were

  • Donald Lipski

    A striking feature of Donald Lipski’s exhibitions is the sheer abundance of work shown. Here, in the front room, there were 13 wall pieces and 5 floor pieces. In the back room, 33 smaller pieces were arranged on shelves. In a private office behind this room hundreds of tiny Lipski pieces covered three walls. Actually, the whole gallery was an installation, the works organized like pebbles sifted by the waves.

    This work, made by altering and combining found objects or parts of them, has an obvious surrealist aspect. In some cases Lipski combines objects opposed in some way, as in the tactile

  • MORE GOLDEN THAN GOLD

    PERFECTION AND USE WERE united in the astrolabe, a device both cunning and beautiful on which mariners’ lives once hung in the stormy dark. But forms that are perfect by and for themselves are another matter. Like Fabergé eggs for czars’ children, they may be perfect but have little to do with survival. Here below, in the midst of poverty and the terror of our expectations, rich-looking things seem useless or worse. They seem to contradict the serious needs of our time. The dirt of the passing moment usually shows more truth than the unchanging high polish of perfection. The very idea of perfection

  • Kurt Schwitters

    You should cry if you missed the Kurt Schwitters show at the Museum of Modern Art. Curated by John Elderfield, who called it “the most comprehensive [Schwitters] exhibition yet assembled,” the show included more than 100 of his magnificent collages and about 50 large-scale assemblages, as well as numerous drawings, sculptures, prints, photographs of the Merzbau environments, and a fascinating recording of Schwitters reading his echolalic poetry. The show will travel to the Tate Gallery in London and the Sprengel Museum in Hannover, West Germany, Schwitters’ home city.

    The exhibition was exquisite

  • The original sin.

    “QUOTATION,” “APPROPRIATION,” “IMAGE-SCAVENGING,” “age of simulacra”. . . . For several years now these words have filled the air as we have tried to explain to ourselves what has been happening in recent art. They are such complex words. They provoke a certain nostalgia for the clear brightness of slang. Sometimes, when thinking about quotational art, I call such works “After Art”—works that are openly after other pieces. And then I think, but hey, isn’t a French term de rigeur, and just imagine—in contrast to art nouveau, art passé. Then again, as things have been going lately we may soon be

  • Will Mentor

    Will Mentor’s “The Eight Spheres of Yoga,” 1985, consists of seven paintings, all distinctly quotational in mode. At the center of each is a classically Surrealist bonelike shape with a central hole allowing a view of various things in an illusionistic space beyond. Other shapes—like partly furled cloths, or folded papers—spread out from these centers with intricate, sometimes paradoxical overlaps. Within these shapes one catches glimpses of further illusionistic spaces, as in the work of René Magritte, and somewhat like the chroma-key effect in video. Most commonly, the background revealed

  • Susan Rothenberg

    Like some other painters of her generation, Susan Rothenberg seems tofeel the need to rediscover painting from the ground up, more in a structural than a historical sense. Her earlier images are studiedly childish; the crudely outlined heads and hands have something in common with graffiti in the unengaged way they lie on the canvas ground. In her earlier work, the paintings’ vertical division (like an open book), the x-ing out of the image of the horse, and the fragmentation of the human figure all seem to suggest a reluctance to represent—a denial of the validity of canons of representation,

  • Francesco Clemente

    The ways in which Francesco Clemente is a post-Modernist painter include his widespread quoting; the awkward, unfinished look of some of his surfaces; his apparent overproduction; his work’s overt, if somewhat inchoate, content, much of it based on dream sources; and his cool display of versatility as he moves from one medium to another, one genre to another, and one style to another.

    Some major works were included in this three-gallery show, beginning with the large untitled painting to the left of the entrance at the Castelli gallery. This picture seems to represent the Hindu monkey god Hanuman

  • Nicolas Moufarrege

    Nicolas Moufarrege showed paintinglike wall objects made in a variety of media, especially needlepoint. He exhibited some unaltered commercially made needlepoint patterns based on famous paintings; some patterns were partially or fully filled in with needlepoint he did himself. This venerable distaff medium is making its entrance onto the stage of high an, in the post-Modern spirit of mixing images and materials usually separated and that often semiotically short-circuit one another. Kevin Franke, for example, makes acrylic paintings that look exactly like traditional needlepoint panels, while

  • Michael Heizer

    A large version of Michael Heizer’s 45° 90° 180° was installed in front of the engineering building on the Rice University campus on December 8 and 9 of 1984. The piece’s three stone slabs are of Texas pink granite, cut about 180 miles from the site of installation; each weighs nearly 70 tons and measures 12 feet 8 inches by 20 by 18 by 28 feet, with a 33-inch thickness. The concrete bases measure 12 by 18 by 3 feet 6 inches, making them nearly equal in volume to the granite stones; each of the six elements displaces about 750 cubic feet.

    The Rice piece relates closely to two earlier Heizer works:

  • I Think Therefore I Art

    CONCEPTUAL ART HAD A BURNING hot moment in about 1968 when it developed at blinding speed and, passing beyond the limits of a narrow definition which was quickly closing in on it, entered into dance, music, and literature as a new indwelling spirit. This spirit seemed bent against the practice of painting, whose demise its practitioners declared to be imminent. But the demise of painting had been declared imminent by Alexander Rodchenko in 1921. Such predictions are notoriously inaccurate. D. W. Griffith, in 1915, predicted the obsolescence of the book within ten years; Marshall McLuhan reiterated

  • Joseph Kosuth

    Joseph Kosuth’s “Protoinvestigations,” first exhibited in 1972, made contributions both to the conceptual-art vocabulary and to certain elementary combinations of the units of that vocabulary. In those days conceptual art, perhaps still feeling roots in Minimalism, felt constrained to stress simplicity and unity. Nowadays one wonders whether conceptual elements and procedures will build into more complex structures perhaps less puritanically reductive.

    In his recent show Kosuth showed six photographs entitled, after a famous passage of Freud, “Fort! Da! 1–6.” Each 6-by-10-foot image, mounted on

  • Man Ray

    The objects assembled here, some originals and some replicas, ranged in date from 1928 to 1973. Most of them are from the ’50s on, and interestingly present Man Ray not simply as a classical Modernist but as a somewhat contemporary artist. A protosemiotician of art, Ray, along with Marcel Duchamp and René Magritte, devised the critical modes of art objecthood, creating objects that avoid categories through a multileveled visual and verbal punning which splits apart realms of signification that are commonsensically understood as together, and conjoins those commonly apart. The catalogue reprints

  • Mel Kendrick

    Mel Kendrick’s new sculptures remind one so inevitably of early Picasso and Brancusi and of the African art that influenced those artists that they could almost be called quotational. The works are living-room size—smaller than a human torso, and mounted at a convenient viewing level on wooden and metal stoollike stands. They are carved out of wood with a power saw and compiled by accretion of pieces with a classical Modernist vocabulary of curves, serrations, holes, and angles. On the one hand they suggest something of timeless esthetic feeling, while they also resemble certain quasi-conceptual

  • Letters: On “Doctor Lawyer Indian Chief: ‘“Primitivism” in 20th Century Art’ at the Museum of Modern Art in 1984,” Part II

    To the Editor:

    Under normal circumstances I would not trouble Artforum’s readers with a continuation of the exchange between myself and Thomas McEvilley on the “’Primitivism’ in 20th Century Art“ exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art [“Doctor Lawyer Indian Chief,” November 1984; “Letters,” February 1985]. However, there are important issues which have been obscured in this fray, and these need clarifying. Thus I ask the reader to rise above the intemperate tone of McEvilley’s “final word” and to—dare I say?—please bear with me.

    In places, McEvilley and I argue past each other, creating differences

  • Carolee Schneemann

    In the back room here, in an exhibition without announcement or opening, five works by Carolee Schneemann were shown, works ranging in date from 1960 to 1983 and constituting a kind of mini retrospective. These pieces have all been seen in New York before, but perhaps without enough perspective on their position in art history. Schneemann’s niche in the history books is assured on the basis of Meat Joy alone, a classic performance work from 1962. And her film Fuses, 1965–68, with its explicit sexual imagery presented with profound respect and sensitivity, is both a beautiful lyric and a devastating

  • Pat Steir

    Pat Steir’s The Brueghel Series (A Vanitas of Style), 1982–84, is a complex piece of painting related to the mode of combining images that Sergei Eisenstein called “intellectual montage.” Its image complex begins with a quotation of a 16th-century Netherlandish painting, Jan Brueghel’s Flowers in a Blue Vase, 1599. The piece is often reproduced—Steir copied her version of it from a museum poster—and its selection as the found work to be altered or quoted has some slight resonance with Duchamp’s use of a museum postcard of the Mona Lisa. Though not widely known as such, Duchamp is in fact a “