Tim Griffin

  • Frank O’Hara in his home, New York, 1965. Photo: Mario Schifano. Courtesy the Estate of Joe LeSueur.

    IN PERSON

    INEVITABLY, THE IMAGE THAT ADORNS the cover of this month’s issue will elicit from readers a searching double take: The amber vastness and big sky of the American West are immediately recognizable, with the panoramic terrain’s sun-scorched sand, silt, and shale having provided a stage for epic characters in cinema for nearly a century. And yet the protagonist here is playing his leading role in this romantic fantasy all wrong, having eschewed the commanding poses of so many outlaws and cattlemen for a quietly distracted (if not befuddled) look backward from his horse—or pony, as it happens.

  • Leandro Erlich, Window and Ladder—Too Late for Help, 2008, metal, ladder, fiberglass, brick, 14' 9“ x 5' 3”.

    NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION

    DELVING INTO ART HISTORIAN Christopher S. Wood’s consideration of legendary Renaissance scholar Michael Baxandall in the current issue, readers may have the sneaking suspicion that they are being directly and personally addressed by the text’s first line: “Money is very important in the history of art.”

    For while those droll words are, in fact, merely cited by Wood—he is, of course, quoting from Baxandall’s 1972 book Painting and Experience in Fifteenth-Century Italy—and speak to things at a historical distance, their fundamental point, and intended implications, are entirely pertinent

  •  Matt Mullican, Untitled, 1975–76, ink on paper, 8 1⁄2 x 11".

    WHAT IS THAT PERSON THINKING?: AN INTERVIEW WITH MATT MULLICAN

    WHEN MATT MULLICAN is invited to lecture on his artistic practice to a large group at a museum or school, he typically begins his presentation by affixing a number of images to the wall behind him: first, a photograph of one person, followed by a comic-strip rendering of a second person; then two stick figures (one framed, the other unframed), an abstract sign for the human body (akin to those found at crosswalks or on bathroom doors) and a similarly spare icon denoting a head and chest (think of the cropped international symbol for customs officers at airports); and finally, a circle, a square,

  • SNAPSHOT OF 2008

    FOR A FEW DAYS in mid-September, it was acute: the feeling that, however little the physical contours of the world might have changed, its form now was nevertheless imbued with a kind of virtuality. How else to describe the experience of, say, a city like New York, a place seemingly intact—even prospering wildly, to judge from the ubiquitous construction cranes accenting the skyline—while headlines blared news of a financial collapse portending substantive shifts in the character (to say nothing of the underlying organization and perception) of everyday life? To walk among the glistening

  • A Dymaxion Car, designed by R. Buckminster Fuller, in front of the US Capitol, Washington, DC, July 20, 1934. Photo: Corbis

    TOMORROW NO MORE

    IN THE UNITED STATES over the past three months, it has become abundantly clear that the points for debate between the two major political parties’ presidential candidates are not nuanced matters of policy but rather the most basic tenets of the country’s social and economic infrastructure. Yet most remarkable about this particular election season is that such attention to the very contours of civil society has been prompted less by abstract ideology than by concrete circumstance. The credit crisis, for instance, required government intervention on a scale unseen since the Depression, forcing

  • CHANTAL AKERMAN: CHILDREN’S BOOK

    A CRUCIAL TERM FOR CHANTAL AKERMAN is that of evocation, which she regularly uses to describe the thinking underlying her various projects. Speaking, for instance, about her powerful 1999 documentary, Sud (South)—for which the artist and filmmaker traveled through a swath of rural America stretching from Georgia to East Texas, where she found herself confronted by the recent, horrible lynching of James Byrd Jr.—she observed: “[The film is] neither an anatomy of James Byrd’s murder nor the autopsy of a black man lynched by three young white males, but more an evocation of how this event fits into

  • Mad Men, 2007–, still from a TV show on AMC.

    ART AND AGENCY

    AMONG THE MORE INTRIGUING SCENES in the AMC television series Mad Men, a drama set in the offices of a prominent New York advertising company at the beginning of the 1960s, is a sequence in which a few of the firm’s executives sit down to view freshly minted commercials for the day’s presidential candidates, Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy. The contrast in styles couldn’t be starker: Nixon sits stolidly at his desk, enumerating his qualifications in clear terms before somberly conveying his views on what he considers the nation’s most pressing issues; Kennedy, by contrast, appears in his

  • Opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympic Games, Beijing, August 8, 2008. Photo: Doug Mills/New York Times/Redux.

    Mirror Image

    A COROLLARY of Marshall McLuhan’s famous adage that art is a “radar environment” uniquely suited for making clear the effects of media in culture is his lesser known analogy between those effects and the sound waves that become visible along an airplane’s wings just before it breaks the sound barrier. “The sudden visibility of sound just as sound ends,” McLuhan writes in Understanding Media (1964), “is an apt instance of that great pattern of being that reveals new and opposite forms just as earlier forms reach their peak performance.” And so, he argues, the fragmentary quality of mechanization

  • Eva Hesse, H+H, 1965, varnish, ink, gouache, enamel, cord, metal, wood, papier-mâché, unknown modeling compound, particle board, and wood, 27 x 27 1/2 x 4 7/8".

    “Oranges and Sardines: Conversations on Abstract Painting”

    For this exhibition, contemporary artists Mark Grotjahn, Wade Guyton, Mary Heilmann, Amy Sillman, Charline von Heyl, and Christopher Wool pair their own canvases at the Hammer with those of the earlier figures (Klee, De Kooning, Gonzalez-Torres, and Guston among them) who they say influenced them most.

    Few have managed to render the light anxiety of artistic sublimation with such comedic facticity as Frank O’Hara did in his 1957 poem “Why I Am Not a Painter,” a New York School parable in which the sources of one’s inspiration—here, sardines and the color orange—are shown to be always right there in the artwork (and also not). Acknowledging this conundrum, contemporary artists Mark Grotjahn, Wade Guyton, Mary Heilmann, Amy Sillman, Charline von Heyl, and Christopher Wool pair their own canvases at the Hammer with those of the earlier figures (Klee, De Kooning, Gonzalez-Torres,

  • Marcel Broodthaers, ABC—ABC Image, 1974, one of eighty projected slides, dimensions variable. © 2008 Broodthaers Estate/SABAM.

    “Un Coup de Dés: Writing Turned Image. An Alphabet of Pensive Language”

    With concerns over the fate of the Generali’s groundbreaking Conceptualist program running high since the institution’s merger last year with the Bawag Foundation, it would seem anything but a random toss of the die that incoming director Sabine Folie’s debut exhibition looks, according to press materials, to Stéphane Mallarmé’s provocative “unmasking [of] language as a convention that serves to subject the individual to discipline and a regulated system of capitalist exploitability.”

    With concerns over the fate of the Generali’s groundbreaking Conceptualist program running high since the institution’s merger last year with the Bawag Foundation, it would seem anything but a random toss of the die that incoming director Sabine Folie’s debut exhibition looks, according to press materials, to Stéphane Mallarmé’s provocative “unmasking [of] language as a convention that serves to subject the individual to discipline and a regulated system of capitalist exploitability.” In considering such use and subversion of language in postwar and contemporary art in

  • Alain Resnais, L’Année dernière à Marienbad (Last Year at Marienbad), 1961, still from a black-and-white film in 35 mm, 94 minutes. X (Giorgio Albertazzi) and M (Sacha Pitoëff).

    A New Novel

    IF ONLY IN THE SPIRIT of rhetorical gamesmanship, it seems entirely worthwhile to ask whether the concept of the avant-garde, or neo-avant-garde, is not totally irrelevant when it comes to discussions of artistic production today—even if considered simply a kind of measure against which the latter might be judged (and, almost invariably, deemed inadequate). But in suggesting as much, maybe one should scrutinize less the art than the metaphor underlying the critical model, insofar as the kind of military engagement providing the basis for such terminology is also long since a thing of the

  • Jean-Luc Godard, La Chinoise, 1967, still from a color film in 35 mm, 96 minutes. Guillaume (Jean-Pierre Léaud). © 2008 Koch Lorber Films. Image scan courtesy of the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. Special thanks to Hedi El Kholti.

    LESSONS OF ’68

    WHY MAY 1968? The risks attending any real attempt to consider anew the significance of the events that took place worldwide during that month—or even merely to honor their anniversary now, forty years later—would seem prohibitive. Certainly, to address that historical moment’s ideas and actions in all their complexity and specificity would require far more than a single issue of an art magazine: Whole compendiums of studies from a wide variety of disciplinary vantages, sociological and economic, anthropological and artistic, would be needed. Yet therein rests, perhaps, an even greater