Thomas McEvilley


    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