Tom Holert

  • “Sammy Baloji and Filip De Boeck—Urban Now: City Life in Congo”

    Urbanity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is marked by a precarious entanglement of colonial past and globalized present, of decrepit infrastructure and formidable social resilience. This spring at Wiels, Congolese artist Sammy Baloji and Belgian anthropologist Filip De Boeck will team up to tackle these incongruities. Investigating what sociologist AbdouMaliq Simone has called “people as infrastructure,” fifty of Baloji’s photographs will illustrate the ways city dwellers organize in and around the seemingly dysfunctional environments of Kinshasa, Lubumbashi, and

  • “Isa Genzken: Retrospective”

    From the retro-Futurist Ellipsoids of her first solo show in 1976, when she was still a student at the Arts Academy in Düsseldorf, to her newest expansive, mannequin-filled installation Schauspieler (Actors), 2013, German artist Isa Genzken has reanimated sculpture in strikingly revisionist ways. Genzken quickly departed from her early negotiations of Minimalism and post-Minimalism to hybridize the languages of modernist abstraction and the crass materialism of vernacular culture, exemplified by the aptly titled

  • INFORMATION SOCIETY: THE ART OF LES LEVINE

    TWO MEN PEER THROUGH the glass panes of a revolving door, the lights of a nocturnal Manhattan street visible behind them. The man on the right, sporting a fedora and a blank expression, is instantly recognizable as Andy Warhol. The man on the left, looking through horn-rimmed glasses directly at the camera, is less familiar. But back in February 1969—when this photograph appeared in New York magazine, illustrating the article “Plastic Man Meets Plastic Man” by David Bourdon—many readers would have recognized Warhol’s bespectacled double as Les Levine.1 In fact, between 1967 and 1970,

  • BURDEN OF PROOF: CONTEMPORARY ART AND RESPONSIBILITY

    Art, today, has the task of answering to this world or of answering for it.

    —Jean-Luc Nancy

    ONTOLOGICAL TROUBLE

    In our age of fatigue and collapse, it is harder than ever to know what we mean when we speak about “art.” Art has always been entangled with power, its autonomy and self-definition thus perpetually troubled. But today, as finance capitalism displays a baffling and disastrous vitality in the face of its triumphant failure and annihilates its last vestiges of moral legitimacy, the art world’s deep interdependence with the sectors of society benefiting most from the crises caused by

  • TEST SUBJECTS: THE ART OF JOSEPHINE PRYDE

    WALKING ALONG DÜSSELDORF’S GRABBEPLATZ toward the grim gray Brutalist building that houses the Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, visitors to Josephine Pryde’s current retrospective were confronted with an image of disturbing cuteness—or, perhaps better, with a cute disturbance. An enormous poster, mounted prominently on the facade, stamps the show’s ingratiating if ultimately inexplicable title, “Miss Austen Enjoys Photography,” over a black-and-white photograph of a guinea pig, staring unblinkingly at the camera—close-up, unavoidable, irresistible in its cunning vivacity.

  • Judith F. Rodenbeck’s Radical Prototypes

    Radical Prototypes: Allan Kaprow and the Invention of Happenings, By Judith F. Rodenbeck. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011. 312 pages. $35.

    FEW COULD QUIBBLE with Allan Kaprow’s laconic definition of Happenings in 1966, when he spoke of them simply as “collage[s] of events in certain spans of time and in certain spaces.” But at the time, the question of what a Happening actually was—eight years after the term had been coined by Kaprow in his groundbreaking essay “The Legacy of Jackson Pollock”—had become something of an obsession. In 1965, Al Hansen had spoken of the “confusion about the

  • JOINT VENTURES: THE STATE OF COLLABORATION

    THE UTOPIA OF TRULY SHARED, communal, multiple authorship always seems to be receding from sight. But the dream won’t die: Collaboration continues to be held up as a means of escaping Western, patriarchal mythology and power structures as well as the art-market matrix of originality and authorship. Collectives and collaboratives are still assumed to be intrinsically liberating. Their emancipatory dimension is linked with the elevation of co-labor, of working in teams rather than lingering in the solitude of the studio. According to Mira Schor, the feminist artist and former coeditor of the

  • Cosima van Bonin

    Continuing a labor-intensive series of ambitiously scaled shows that began in July with “The Empire Fatigue” at Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria, von Bonin now embarks on the “Lazy Susan Series”—a “Rotating Exhibition” (like the title’s rotating platter) starting at Witte de With and “looping” through 2011 at Bristol’s Arnolfini Gallery, Geneva’s Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, and Cologne’s Museum Ludwig.

    Continuing a labor-intensive series of ambitiously scaled shows that began in July with “The Empire Fatigue” at Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria, von Bonin now embarks on the “Lazy Susan Series”—a “Rotating Exhibition” (like the title’s rotating platter) starting at Witte de With and “looping” through 2011 at Bristol’s Arnolfini Gallery, Geneva’s Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, and Cologne’s Museum Ludwig. Across the four turns, the Cologne-based artist will engage themes of indolence, exhaustion, and boredom, deploying sculptural and painterly strategies

  • art schools

    Rethinking the Contemporary Art School: The Artist, the PhD, and the Academy, edited by Brad Buckley and John Conomos. Halifax: Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, 2009. 234 pages. $25.

    Art School (Propositions for the 21st Century), edited by Steven Henry Madoff. Cambridge, MA, And London: MIT Press, 2009. 268 pages. $30.

    IN FACT IT MUST SURELY BE FACED that the now conventional means of justification of ‘art education’ in general must be abandoned or at least stringently reviewed,” asserted the late Charles Harrison in a 1972 Studio International essay. Harrison was prompted to

  • Tom Holert

    IN 1826, VENICE’S TEATRO GOLDONI, a venerable establishment near the Rialto Bridge, obtained the first gas chandelier in Italy. With this bit of history in mind, the theater seemed just the right place to host No Night No Day, 2009, an “abstract opera” created by artist and filmmaker Cerith Wyn Evans and sound artist Florian Hecker. Chandeliers, particularly those made of Murano glass on the Venetian island of the same name, have been components of Wyn Evans’s work for the past few years: Since 2002, the Welsh artist has deployed light that is reflected in pendants shaped by Murano masters and

  • “Cult of the Artist”

    Taking full advantage of Berlin’s centralized museum system, Peter-Klaus Schuster, general director of the city’s public museums and head of the Nationalgalerie, celebrates his impending retirement with a colossal “Ring” of ten large exhibitions all centered on the cult of the artist.

    Taking full advantage of Berlin’s centralized museum system, Peter-Klaus Schuster, general director of the city’s public museums and head of the Nationalgalerie, celebrates his impending retirement with a colossal “Ring” of ten large exhibitions all centered on the cult of the artist. (The Wagnerian echo is clearly intended.) Hans von Marées, Beuys, and Warhol are the first of the (exclusively male) artist-heroes receiving personal surveys; subsequent shows are dedicated to Giacometti, Klee, Koons, and a double bill of Karl Friedrich Schinkel and the poet Clemens

  • LEARNING CURVE: RADICAL ART AND EDUCATION IN GERMANY

    ON THE AFTERNOON OF JUNE 22, 1967, Joseph Beuys called a surprise press conference at the Düsseldorf art academy, where he announced the founding of the German Student Party (DSP). It was only twenty days after a policeman had killed student Benno Ohnesorg during a demonstration against the shah of Iran’s visit to Berlin—a pivotal moment in the political mobilization of students in West Germany and one that would culminate in the protests of 1968. Amid this turmoil, a photograph from the meeting shows Beuys and his students sitting and looking down with a deliberate air of circumspection

  • “Traces of the Sacred”

    This enormous, multidisciplinary exhibition explores the destiny of the sacred and the transcendental in an age of “religious crisis,” as the curators would have it.

    This enormous, multidisciplinary exhibition explores the destiny of the sacred and the transcendental in an age of “religious crisis,” as the curators Angela Lampe and Jean de Loisy would have it. Under headings such as “Cosmic Revelations,” “Doors of Perception,” “Nostalgia for Infinity,” and “Sacred Dances,” the Centre Pompidou's, well, far-reaching enterprise will feature works by some two hundred artists, from Kandinsky to Cage, from Goya to Chan (Paul, that is), most of them jibing with cultural critic Mark C. Taylor's notion of “theoesthetics.” The

  • ATTENTION SPAN: THE ART OF OMER FAST

    ENTERING A PITCH-BLACK BASEMENT GALLERY at the Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien (MUMOK) this past fall, visitors encountered two screens suspended from the ceiling, seeming to hover in midair. Though facing the same direction, the screens were on different planes, one set back roughly eighteen inches from the other. This gap engendered a peculiar spatial rhythm while also underscoring the confounding internal disjunctions of the work the screens were part of—Omer Fast’s video installation The Casting, 2007.

    The Casting is a visual feast of gory detail, charged expressivity, and compositional elegance, encompassing shots of US soldiers on patrol in a Humvee, a beautiful red-haired woman, Iraqi civilians on a roadside, a GI shooting, a screaming woman in a chador, a Bavarian townscape, a nightclub, a female arm scored with numerous cuts, a film crew in a studio, a landing strip at night. And yet for all the sheer cinematic splendor—the elaborate choreography, the hyperrealist polish—there is an intense strangeness as well. True, it’s unclear how all of these shots are connected to one

  • Stan Douglas

    “STAN DOUGLAS. PAST IMPERFECT: Works 1986–2007” is the most comprehensive exhibition of the Canadian artist’s output to date. Not unexpectedly, this undertaking—the result of a collaborative effort by two prominent art institutions in Stuttgart, Germany, the city’s Staatsgalerie and the Württembergischer Kunstverein—fosters an intense awareness of the extent to which viewers are able to cope with complexity. Much of Douglas’s recent work, from Suspiria, 2002/2003, in which the Brothers Grimm meet Marx’s Kapital as well as the 1977 Dario Argento classic from which Douglas takes his title, to

  • Tom Holert

    VISITING THIS YEAR’S DOCUMENTA, three weeks after it opened, I was presented with the rather daunting challenge of trying to keep an open mind. Waves of negative opinion, sniping, and relentless gossip had all but hardwired themselves into my brain, and to set aside every enraged report and bitter lament of a colleague or friend who had already seen the show in Kassel required an enormous effort.

    Under such circumstances, artistic director Roger M. Buergel’s ur-modernist wish for “the gift of an unpreconceived gaze” (as he himself put it in a 2005 essay reprinted in the first of three Documenta

  • FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE: THE ART OF SILKE OTTO-KNAPP

    ANY ENCOUNTER WITH SILKE OTTO-KNAPP’S NEW PAINTINGS inevitably becomes a kinetic affair. The ordinary small movements that occur when one stands in front of a painting—shifting one’s weight from one foot to the other, inadvertently changing perspective—reveal that what seems a silver monochrome from one point of view is immediately discernible as a figurative painting from another. One finds oneself stepping from side to side in order to better consider the puzzling sensation accompanying these appearances and disappearances, leaning forward and back, tilting one’s head this way and

  • Contemporary Art in Belgrade

    IN APRIL 1999, during the bombardment of the Serbian capital by nato planes, the photographer Vesna Pavlović took pictures of guests in the Belgrade Hyatt. One of the photos shows a man lying on a deck chair at the edge of the hotel’s swimming pool, draped in a white terry-cloth robe, checking his messages on his mobile phone (Herzlich willkommen im Hotel Hyatt Belgrad [A Cordial Welcome to the Hotel Hyatt Belgrade], 1999). While Pavlović leaves it to the audience to decide whether the subject is a Western journalist or a local mafia boss, there’s no ambiguity about this man’s nonchalance in

  • Jonathan Meese

    The roughly two hundred objects here, made by the artist and collaborators Daniel Richter, Raymond Pettibon, Jörg Immendorff, and Albert Oehlen, revolve around a Meese-designed set for the adaptation of Pitigrilli’s Weimar-era novel Kokain, to be performed on-site.

    Ultimate myth-o-man, post-Beuysian neo-shaman, excessive ritualist—the possibilities for describing Jonathan Meese abound, perhaps not surprisingly, as his art is also of and about abundance. Seeking the thrills of the too-much, this painter, installation artist, and performer fought his horror vacui in recent shows in Frankfurt and Copenhagen by expanding his list of heavyweight obsessions (Kubrick and Kinski, Wagner and Balthus). He’s also added the Hitler salutation to his gestural repertoire and set design to his portfolio. The roughly two hundred objects here, made

  • Georg Herold

    Georg Herold is a determined desublimator, continuously casting doubt on the structures of value and value-production both within and outside of the art world. In the late ’70s and ’80s, he participated, along with Kippenberger, Oehlen, and others, in a post-Beuysian micromovement against an all-too-easy German neo-expressionism. His trademark deployment of poor and “stupid” materials (bricks, wire, underpants) explores the perception of art and the basic rules of social interaction. This twenty-six-year retrospective of seventy sculptures, photographs, objects, and