PRINT Summer 1967

Art and Objecthood

Edwards’ journals frequently explored
and tested a meditation he seldom
allowed to reach print; if all the world
were annihilated, he wrote . . . and
a new world were freshly created,
though it were to exist in every particular
in the same manner as this world, it
would not be the same. Therefore,
because there is continuity, which is
time, “it is certain with me that the
world exists anew every moment; that
the existence of things every moment
ceases and is every moment renewed.”
The abiding assurance is that “we
every moment see the same proof of
a God as we should have seen if we
had seen Him create the world at first.”

Perry Miller, Jonathan Edwards


THE ENTERPRISE KNOWN VARIOUSLY as Minimal Art, ABC Art, Primary Structures and Specific Objects is largely ideological. It seeks to declare and occupy a position—one which can be formulated in words, and in fact has been formulated by some of its leading practitioners. If this distinguishes it from modernist painting and sculpture on the one hand, it also marks an important difference between Minimal Art—or, as I prefer to call it, literalist art—and Pop or Op Art on the other. From its inception, literalist art has amounted to something more than an episode in the history of taste. It belongs rather to the history—almost the natural history—of sensibility; and it is not an isolated episode but the expression of a general and pervasive condition. Its seriousness is vouched for by the fact that it is in relation both to modernist painting and modernist sculpture that literalist art defines or locates the position it aspires to occupy. (This, I suggest, is what makes what it declares something that deserves to be called a position.) Specifically, literalist art conceives of itself as neither one nor the other; on the contrary, it is motivated by specific reservations, or worse, about both; and it aspires, perhaps not exactly, or not immediately, to displace them, but in any case to establish itself as an independent art on a footing with either.

The literalist case against painting rests mainly on two counts: the relational character of almost all painting; and the ubiquitousness, indeed the virtual inescapability, of pictorial illusion. In Donald Judd’s view,

when you start relating parts, in the first place, you’re assuming you have a vague whole—the rectangle of the canvas—and definite parts, which is all screwed up, because you should have a definite whole and maybe no parts, or very few.1

The more the shape of the support is emphasized, as in recent modernist painting, the tighter the situation becomes:

The elements inside the rectangle are broad and simple and correspond closely to the rectangle. The shapes and surface are only those which can occur plausibly within and on a rectangular plane. The parts are few and so subordinate to unity as not to be parts in an ordinary sense. A painting is nearly an entity, one thing, and not the indefinable sum of a group of entities and references. The one thing overpowers the earlier painting. It also establishes the rectangle as a definite form; it is no longer a fairly neutral limit. A form can be used only in so many ways. The rectangular plane is given a life span. The simplicity required to emphasize the rectangle limits the arrangements possible within it.

Painting is here seen as an art on the verge of exhaustion, one in which the range of acceptable solutions to a basic problem—how to organize the surface of the picture—is severely restricted. The use of shaped rather than rectangular supports can, from the literalist point of view, merely prolong the agony. The obvious response is to give up working on a single plane in favor of three dimensions. That, moreover, automatically

gets rid of the problem of illusionism and of literal space, space in and around marks and colors—which is riddance of one of the salient and most objectionable relics of European art. The several limits of painting are no longer present. A work can be as powerful as it can be thought to be. Actual space is intrinsically more powerful and specific than paint on a flat surface.

The literalist attitude toward sculpture is more ambiguous. Judd, for example, seems to think of what he calls Specific Objects as something other than sculpture, while Robert Morris conceives of his own unmistakably literalist work as resuming the lapsed tradition of Constructivist sculpture established by Tatlin, Rodchenko, Gabo, Pevsner and Vantongerloo. But this and other disagreements are less important than the views Judd and Morris hold in common. Above all they are opposed to sculpture which, like most painting, is “made part by part, by addition, composed” and in which “specific elements . . . separate from the whole, thus setting up relationships within the work.” (They would include the work of David Smith and Anthony Caro under this description.) It is worth remarking that the “part-by-part” and “relational” character of most sculpture is associated by Judd with what he calls anthropomorphism: “A beam thrusts; a piece of iron follows a gesture; together they form a naturalistic and anthropomorphic image. The space corresponds.” Against such “multipart, inflected” sculpture Judd and Morris assert the values of wholeness, singleness and indivisibility—of a work’s being, as nearly as possible, “one thing,” a single “Specific Object.” Morris devotes considerable attention to “the use of strong gestalt or of unitary-type forms to avoid divisiveness”; while Judd is chiefly interested in the kind of wholeness that can be achieved through the repetition of identical units. The order at work in his pieces, as he once remarked of that in Stella’s stripe paintings, “is simply order, like that of continuity, one thing after another.” For both Judd and Morris, however, the critical factor is shape. Morris’s “unitary forms” are polyhedrons that resist being grasped other than as a single shape: the gestalt simply is the “constant, known shape.” And shape itself is, in his system, “the most important sculptural value.” Similarly, speaking of his own work, Judd has remarked that

the big problem is that anything that is not absolutely plain begins to have parts in some way. The thing is to be able to work and do different things and yet not break up the wholeness that a piece has. To me the piece with the brass and the five verticals is above all that shape.

The shape is the object: at any rate what secures the wholeness of the object is the singleness of the shape. It is, I believe, this emphasis on shape that accounts for the impression, which numerous critics have mentioned, that Judd’s and Morris’s pieces are hollow.


SHAPE HAS ALSO BEEN central to the most important painting of the past several years. In several recent essays2 I have tried to show how, in the work of Noland, Olitski and Stella, a conflict has gradually emerged between shape as a fundamental property of objects and shape as a medium of painting. Roughly, the success or failure of a given painting has come to depend on its ability to hold or stamp itself out or compel conviction as shape—that, or somehow to stave off or elude the question of whether or not it does so. Olitski’s early spray paintings are the purest example of paintings that either hold or fail to hold as shapes; while in his more recent pictures, as well as in the best of Noland’s and Stella’s recent work, the demand that a given picture hold as shape is staved off or eluded in various ways. What is at stake in this is whether the paintings or objects in question are experienced as paintings or as objects: and what decides their identity as painting is their confronting of the demand that they hold as shapes. Otherwise they are experienced as nothing more than objects. This can be summed up in the assertion that modernist painting has come to find it imperative that it defeat or suspend its own objecthood, and that the crucial factor in this undertaking is shape, but shape which must belong to painting—it must be pictorial, not merely literal. Whereas literalist art stakes everything on shape as a given property of objects, if not, indeed, as a kind of object in its own right. It aspires, not to defeat or suspend its own objecthood, but on the contrary to discover and project objecthood as such.

In his essay Recentness of Sculpture Clement Greenberg discusses the effect of presence which, from the start, has been associated with literalist work.3 This comes up in connection with the work of Anne Truitt, an artist Greenberg believes anticipated the literalists (he calls them Minimalists):

Truitt’s art did flirt with the look of non-art, and her 1963 show was the first in which I noticed how this look could confer an effect of presence. That presence as achieved through size was esthetically extraneous, I already knew. That presence as achieved through the look of non-art was likewise esthetically extraneous, I did not yet know. Truitt’s sculpture had this kind of presence but did not hide behind it. That sculpture could hide behind it—just as painting did—I found out only after repeated acquaintance with Minimal works of art: Judd’s, Morris’, Andre’s, Steiner’s, some but not all of Smithson’s, some but not all of LeWitt’s. Minimal art can also hide behind presence as size: I think of Bladen (though I am not sure whether he is a certified Minimalist) as well as of some of the artists just mentioned.

Presence can be conferred by size or by the look of non-art. Furthermore, what non-art means today, and has meant for several years, is fairly specific. In After Abstract Expressionism Greenberg wrote that “a stretched or tacked-up canvas already exists as a picture—though not necessarily as a successful one.”4 For that reason, as he remarks in Recentness of Sculpture, the “look of non-art was no longer available to painting.” Instead, “the borderline between art and non-art had to be sought in the three-dimensional, where sculpture was, and where everything material that was not art also was.” Greenberg goes on to say:

The look of machinery is shunned now because it does not go far enough toward the look of non-art, which is presumably an “inert” look that offers the eye a minimum of “interesting” incident—unlike the machine look, which is arty by comparison (and when I think of Tinguely I would agree with this). Still, no matter how simple the object may be, there remain the relations and interrelations of surface, contour and spatial interval. Minimal works are readable as art, as almost anything is today—including a door, a table, or a blank sheet of paper . . . Yet it would seem that a kind of art nearer the condition of non-art could not be envisaged or ideated at this moment.

The meaning in this context of “the condition of non-art” is what I have been calling objecthood. It is as though objecthood alone can, in the present circumstances, secure something’s identity, if not as non-art, at least as neither painting nor sculpture; or as though a work of art—more accurately, a work of modernist painting or sculpture—were in some essential respect not an object.

There is, in any case, a sharp contrast between the literalist espousal of objecthood—almost, it seems, as an art in its own right—and modernist painting’s self-imposed imperative that it defeat or suspend its own objecthood through the medium of shape. In fact, from the perspective of recent modernist painting, the literalist position evinces a sensibility not simply alien but antithetical to its own: as though, from that perspective, the demands of art and the conditions of objecthood are in direct conflict.

Here the question arises: What is it about objecthood as projected and hypostatized by the literalists that makes it, if only from the perspective of recent modernist painting, antithetical to art?


THE ANSWER I WANT to propose is this: the literalist espousal of objecthood amounts to nothing other than a plea for a new genre of theater; and theater is now the negation of art.

Literalist sensibility is theatrical because, to begin with, it is concerned with the actual circumstances in which the beholder encounters literalist work. Morris makes this explicit. Whereas in previous art “what is to be had from the work is located strictly within [it],” the experience of literalist art is of an object in a situation—one which, virtually by definition, includes the beholder:

The better new work takes relationships out of the work and makes them a function of space, light, and the viewer’s field of vision. The object is but one of the terms in the newer esthetic. It is in some way more reflexive because one’s awareness of oneself existing in the same space as the work is stronger than in previous work, with its many internal relationships. One is more aware than before that he himself is establishing relationships as he apprehends the object from various positions and under varying conditions of light and spatial context.

Morris believes that this awareness is heightened by “the strength of the constant, known shape, the gestalt,” against which the appearance of the piece from different points of view is constantly being compared. It is intensified also by the large scale of much literalist work:

The awareness of scale is a function of the comparison made between that constant, one’s body size, and the object. Space between the subject and the object is implied in such a comparison.

The larger the object the more we are forced to keep our distance from it:

It is this necessary greater distance of the object in space from our bodies, in order that it be seen at all, that structures the non-personal or public mode [which Morris advocates]. However, it is just this distance between object and subject which creates a more extended situation, because physical participation becomes necessary.

The theatricality of Morris’s notion of the “nonpersonal or public mode” seems obvious: the largeness of the piece, in conjunction with its non-relational, unitary character, distances the beholder—not just physically but psychically. It is, one might say, precisely this distancing that makes the beholder a subject and the piece in question . . . an object. But it does not follow that the larger the piece the more securely its “public” character is established; on the contrary, “beyond a certain size the object can overwhelm and the gigantic scale becomes the loaded term.” Morris wants to achieve presence through objecthood, which requires a certain largeness of scale, rather than through size alone. But he is also aware that this distinction is anything but hard and fast:

For the space of the room itself is a structuring factor both in its cubic shape and in terms of the kind of compression different sized and proportioned rooms can effect upon the object-subject terms. That the space of the room becomes of such importance does not mean that an environmental situation is being established. The total space is hopefully altered in certain desired ways by the presence of the object. It is not controlled in the sense of being ordered by an aggregate of objects or by some shaping of the space surrounding the viewer.

The object, not the beholder, must remain the center or focus of the situation; but the situation itself belongs to the beholder—it is his situation. Or as Morris has remarked, “I wish to emphasize that things are in a space with oneself, rather than . . . [that] one is in a space surrounded by things.” Again, there is no clear or hard distinction between the two states of affairs: one is, after all, always surrounded by things. But the things that are literalist works of art must somehow confront the beholder—they must, one might almost say, be placed not just in his space but in his way. None of this, Morris maintains,

indicates a lack of interest in the object itself. But the concerns now are for more control of . . . the entire situation. Control is necessary if the variables of object, light, space, body, are to function. The object has not become less important. It has merely become less self-important.

It is, I think, worth remarking that “the entire situation” means exactly that: all of it—including, it seems, the beholder’s body. There is nothing within his field of vision—nothing that he takes note of in any way—that, as it were, declares its irrelevance to the situation, and therefore to the experience, in question. On the contrary, for something to be perceived at all is for it to be perceived as part of that situation. Everything counts—not as part of the object, but as part of the situation in which its objecthood is established and on which that objecthood at least partly depends.


FURTHERMORE, THE PRESENCE OF literalist art, which Greenberg was the first to analyze, is basically a theatrical effect or quality—a kind of stage presence. It is a function, not just of the obtrusiveness and, often, even aggressiveness of literalist work, but of the special complicity which that work extorts from the beholder. Something is said to have presence when it demands that the beholder take it into account, that he take it seriously—and when the fulfillment of that demand consists simply in being aware of it and, so to speak, in acting accordingly. (Certain modes of seriousness are closed to him by the work itself, i.e., those established by the finest painting and sculpture of the recent past. But, of course, those are hardly modes of seriousness in which most people feel at home, or even which they find tolerable.) Here again the experience of being distanced by the work in question seems crucial: the beholder knows himself to stand in an indeterminate, open-ended—and unexacting—relation as subject to the impassive object on the wall or floor. In fact, being distanced by such objects is not, I suggest, entirely unlike being distanced, or crowded, by the silent presence of another person; the experience of coming upon literalist objects unexpectedly—for example, in somewhat darkened rooms—can be strongly, if momentarily, disquieting in just this way.

There are three main reasons why this is so. First, the size of much literalist work, as Morris’s remarks imply, compares fairly closely with that of the human body. In this context Tony Smith’s replies to questions about his six-foot cube, Die, are highly suggestive:

Q: Why didn’t you make it larger so that it would loom over the observer?

A: I was not making a monument.

Q: Then why didn’t you make it smaller so that the observer could see over the top?

A: I was not making an object.5

One way of describing what Smith was making might be something like a surrogate person—that is, a kind of statue. (This reading finds support in the caption to a photograph of another of Smith’s pieces, The Black Box (1962), published in last December’s Artforum, in which Samuel Wagstaff, Jr., presumably with the artist’s sanction, observed “One can see the two-by-fours under the piece, which keep it from appearing like architecture or a monument, and set it off as sculpture.” The two-by-fours are, in effect, a rudimentary pedestal, and thereby reinforce the statue-like quality of the piece.) Second, the entities or beings encountered in everyday experience in terms that most closely approach the literalist ideals of the non-relational, the unitary and the holistic are other persons. Similarly, the literalist predilection for symmetry, and in general for a kind of order that “is simply order . . . one thing after another,” is rooted, not, as Judd seems to believe, in new philosophical and scientific principles, whatever he takes these to be, but in nature. And third, the apparent hollowness of most literalist work—the quality of having an inside—is almost blatantly anthropomorphic. It is, as numerous commentators have remarked approvingly, as though the work in question has an inner, even secret, life—an effect that is perhaps made most explicit in Morris’s Untitled (1965–66), a large ring-like form in two halves, with fluorescent light glowing from within at the narrow gap between the two. In the same spirit Tony Smith has said, “I’m interested in the inscrutability and mysteriousness of the thing.”6 He has also been quoted as saying:

More and more I’ve become interested in pneumatic structures. In these, all of the material is in tension. But it is the character of the form which appeals to me. The biomorphic forms which result from the construction have a dream-like quality for me, at least like what is said to be a fairly common type of American dream.

Smith’s interest in pneumatic structures may seem surprising, but it is consistent both with his own work and with literalist sensibility generally. Pneumatic structures can be described as hollow with a vengeance—the fact that they are not “obdurate, solid masses” (Morris) being insisted on instead of taken for granted. That the forms which result are “biomorphic” reveals something, I think, about what hollowness means in literalist art.


I AM SUGGESTING, THEN, that a kind of latent or hidden naturalism, indeed anthropomorphism, lies at the core of literalist theory and practice. The concept of presence all but says as much, though rarely so nakedly as in Tony Smith’s statement, “I didn’t think of them [i.e., the sculptures he ”always“ made] as sculptures but as presences of a sort.” The latency or hiddenness of the anthropomorphism has been such that the literalists themselves have, as we have seen, felt free to characterize the modernist art they oppose, e.g., the sculpture of David Smith and Anthony Caro, as anthropomorphic—a characterization whose teeth, imaginary to begin with, have just been pulled. By the same token, however, what is wrong with literalist work is not that it is anthropomorphic but that the meaning and, equally, the hiddenness of its anthropomorphism are incurably theatrical. (Not all literalist art hides or masks its anthropomorphism; the work of lesser figures like Steiner wears it on its sleeve.) The crucial distinction that I am proposing so far is between work that is fundamentally theatrical and work that is not. It is theatricality which, whatever the differences between them, links artists like Bladen and Grosvenor,7 both of whom have allowed “gigantic scale [to become] the loaded term” (Morris), with other, more restrained figures like Judd, Morris, Andre, McCracken, LeWitt and—despite the size of some of his pieces—Tony Smith.8 And it is in the interest, though not explicitly in the name, of theater that literalist ideology rejects both modernist painting and, at least in the hands of its most distinguished recent practitioners, modernist sculpture.

In this connection Tony Smith’s description of a car ride taken at night on the New Jersey Turnpike before it was finished makes compelling reading:

When I was teaching at Cooper Union in the first year or two of the fifties, someone told me how I could get on to the unfinished New Jersey Turnpike. I took three students and drove from somewhere in the Meadows to New Brunswick. It was a dark night and there were no lights or shoulder markers, lines, railings, or anything at all except the dark pavement moving through the landscape of the flats, rimmed by hills in the distance, but punctuated by stacks, towers, fumes, and colored lights. This drive was a revealing experience. The road and much of the landscape was artificial, and yet it couldn’t be called a work of art. On the other hand, it did something for me that art had never done. At first I didn’t know what it was, but its effect was to liberate me from many of the views I had had about art. It seemed that there had been a reality there which had not had any expression in art.

The experience on the road was something mapped out but not socially recognized. I thought to myself, it ought to be clear that’s the end of art. Most painting looks pretty pictorial after that. There is no way you can frame it, you just have to experience it. Later I discovered some abandoned airstrips in Europe—abandoned works, Surrealist landscapes, something that had nothing to do with any function, created worlds without tradition. Artificial landscape without cultural precedent began to dawn on me. There is a drill ground in Nuremberg large enough to accommodate two million men. The entire field is enclosed with high embankments and towers. The concrete approach is three sixteen-inch steps, one above the other, stretching for a mile or so.

What seems to have been revealed to Smith that night was the pictorial nature of painting—even, one might say, the conventional nature of art. And this Smith seems to have understood, not as laying bare the essence of art, but as announcing its end. In comparison with the unmarked, unlit, all but unstructured turnpike—more precisely, with the turnpike as experienced from within the car, traveling on it—art appears to have struck Smith as almost absurdly small (“All art today is an art of postage stamps,” he has said), circumscribed, conventional . . . There was, he seems to have felt, no way to “frame” his experience on the road, that is, no way to make sense of it in terms of art, to make art of it, at least as art then was. Rather, “you just have to experience it”—as it happens, as it merely is. (The experience alone is what matters.) There is no suggestion that this is problematic in any way. The experience is clearly regarded by Smith as wholly accessible to everyone, not just in principle but in fact, and the question of whether or not one has really had it does not arise. That this appeals to Smith can be seen from his praise of Corbusier as “more available” than Michelangelo: “The direct and primitive experience of the High Court Building at Chandigahr is like the Pueblos of the Southwest under a fantastic overhanging cliff. It’s something everyone can understand.” It is, I think, hardly necessary to add that the availability of modernist art is not of this kind, and that the rightness or relevance of one’s conviction about specific modernist works, a conviction that begins and ends in one’s experience of the work itself, is always open to question.

But what was Smith’s experience on the turnpike? Or to put the same question another way, if the turnpike, airstrips and drill ground are not works of art, what are they? What, indeed, if not empty, or “abandoned,” situations? And what was Smith’s experience if not the experience of what I have been calling theater? It is as though the turnpike, airstrips and drill ground reveal the theatrical character of literalist art, only without the object, that is, without the art itself—as though the object is needed only within a room9 (or, perhaps, in any circumstances less extreme than these). In each of the above cases the object is, so to speak, replaced by something: for example, on the turnpike by the constant onrush of the road, the simultaneous recession of new reaches of dark pavement illumined by the onrushing headlights, the sense of the turnpike itself as something enormous, abandoned, derelict, existing for Smith alone and for those in the car with him . . . This last point is important. On the one hand, the turnpike, airstrips and drill ground belong to no one; on the other, the situation established by Smith’s presence is in each case felt by him to be his. Moreover, in each case being able to go on and on indefinitely is of the essence. What replaces the object—what does the same job of distancing or isolating the beholder, of making him a subject, that the object did in the closed room—is above all the endlessness, or objectlessness, of the approach or onrush or perspective. It is the explicitness, that is to say, the sheer persistence, with which the experience presents itself as directed at him from outside (on the turnpike from outside the car) that simultaneously makes him a subject—makes him subject—and establishes the experience itself as something like that of an object, or rather, of objecthood. No wonder Morris’s speculations about how to put literalist work outdoors remain strangely inconclusive:

Why not put the work outdoors and further change the terms? A real need exists to allow this next step to become practical. Architecturally designed sculpture courts are not the answer nor is the placement of work outside cubic architectural forms. Ideally, it is a space without architecture as back ground and reference, that would give different terms to work with.

Unless the pieces are set down in a wholly natural context, and Morris does not seem to be advocating this, some sort of artificial but not quite architectural setting must be constructed. What Smith’s remarks seem to suggest is that the more effective—meaning effective as theater—the setting is made, the more superfluous the works themselves become.


SMITH’S ACCOUNT OF HIS experience on the turnpike bears witness to theater’s profound hostility to the arts, and discloses, precisely in the absence of the object and in what takes its place, what might be called the theatricality of objecthood. By the same token, however, the imperative that modernist painting defeat or suspend its objecthood is at bottom the imperative that it defeat or suspend theater. And this means that there is a war going on between theater and modernist painting, between the theatrical and the pictorial—a war which, despite the literalists’ explicit rejection of modernist painting and sculpture, is not basically a matter of program and ideology but of experience, conviction, sensibility. (For example, it was a particular experience that engendered Smith’s conviction that painting—in fact, that the arts as such—were finished.)

The starkness and apparent irreconcilability of this conflict is something new. I remarked earlier that objecthood has become an issue for modernist painting only within the past several years. This, however, is not to say that before the present situation came into being, paintings, or sculptures for that matter, simply were objects. It would, I think, be closer to the truth to say that they simply were not.10 The risk, even the possibility, of seeing works of art as nothing more than objects did not exist. That this possibility began to present itself around 1960 was largely the result of developments within modernist painting. Roughly, the more nearly assimilable to objects certain advanced painting had come to seem, the more the entire history of painting since Manet could be understood—delusively, I believe—as consisting in the progressive (though ultimately inadequate) revelation of its essential objecthood,11 and the more urgent became the need for modernist painting to make explicit its conventional—specifically, its pictorial—essence by defeating or suspending its own objecthood through the medium of shape. The view of modernist painting as tending toward objecthood is implicit in Judd’s remark, “The new [i.e., literalist] work obviously resembles sculpture more than it does painting, but it is nearer to painting”; and it is in this view that literalist sensibility in general is grounded. Literalist sensibility is, therefore, a response to the same developments that have largely compelled modernist painting to undo its objecthood—more precisely, the same developments seen differently, that is, in theatrical terms, by a sensibility already theatrical, already (to say the worst) corrupted or perverted by theater. Similarly, what has compelled modernist painting to defeat or suspend its own objecthood is not just developments internal to itself, but the same general, enveloping, infectious theatricality that corrupted literalist sensibility in the first place and in the grip of which the developments in question—and modernist painting in general—are seen as nothing more than an uncompelling and presenceless kind of theater. It was the need to break the fingers of this grip that made objecthood an issue for modernist painting.

Objecthood has also become an issue for modernist sculpture. This is true despite the fact that sculpture, being three-dimensional, resembles both ordinary objects and literalist work in a way that painting does not. Almost ten years ago Clement Greenberg summed up what he saw as the emergence of a new sculptural “style,” whose master is undoubtedly David Smith, in the following terms:

To render substance entirely optical, and form, whether pictorial, sculptural or architectural, as an integral part of ambient space—this brings anti-illusionism full circle. Instead of the illusion of things, we are now offered the illusion of modalities: namely, that matter is incorporeal, weightless and exists only optically like a mirage.12

Since 1960 this development has been carried to a succession of climaxes by the English sculptor Anthony Caro, whose work is far more specifically resistant to being seen in terms of objecthood than that of David Smith. A characteristic sculpture by Caro consists, I want to say, in the mutual and naked juxtaposition of the I-beams, girders, cylinders, lengths of piping, sheet metal and grill which it comprises rather than in the compound object which they compose. The mutual inflection of one element by another, rather than the identity of each, is what is crucial—though of course altering the identity of any element would be at least as drastic as altering its placement. (The identity of each element matters in somewhat the same way as the fact that it is an arm, or this arm, that makes a particular gesture; or as the fact that it is this word or this note and not another that occurs in a particular place in a sentence or melody.) The individual elements bestow significance on one another precisely by virtue of their juxtaposition: it is in this sense, a sense inextricably involved with the concept of mean ing, that everything in Caro’s art that is worth looking at is in its syntax. Caro’s concentration upon syntax amounts, in Greenberg’s view, to “an emphasis on abstractness, on radical unlikeness to nature.”13 And Greenberg goes on to remark, “No other sculptor has gone as far from the structural logic of ordinary ponderable things.” It is worth emphasizing, however, that this is a function of more than the lowness, openness, part-by-partness, absence of enclosing profiles and centers of interest, unperspicuousness, etc., etc., of Caro’s sculptures. Rather they defeat, or allay, objecthood by imitating, not gestures exactly, but the efficacy of gesture; like certain music and poetry, they are possessed by the knowledge of the human body and how, in innumerable ways and moods, it makes meaning. It is as though Caro’s sculptures essentialize meaningfulness as such—as though the possibility of meaning what we say and do alone makes his sculpture possible. All this, it is hardly necessary to add, makes Caro’s art a fountainhead of anti-literalist and anti-theatrical sensibility.

There is another, more general respect in which objecthood has become an issue for the most ambitious recent modernist sculpture and that is in regard to color. This is a large and difficult subject which I cannot hope to do more than touch on here.14 Briefly, however, color has become problematic for modernist sculpture, not because one senses that it has been applied, but because the color of a given sculpture, whether applied or the natural state of the material, is identical with its surface; and inasmuch as all objects have surface, awareness of the sculpture’s surface implies its objecthood—thereby threatening to qualify or mitigate the undermining of objecthood achieved by opticality and, in Caro’s pieces, by their syntax as well. It is in this connection, I believe, that a very recent sculpture, Bunga, by Jules Olitski ought to be seen. Bunga consists of between fifteen and twenty metal tubes, ten feet long and of various diameters, placed upright, riveted together and then sprayed with paint of different colors; the dominant hue is yellow to yellow-orange, but the top and “rear” of the piece are suffused with a deep rose, and close looking reveals as well flecks and even thin trickles of green and red. A rather wide red band has been painted around the top of the piece, while a much thinner band in two different blues (one at the “front” and another at the “rear”) circumscribes the very bottom. Obviously, Bunga relates intimately to Olitski’s spray paintings, especially those of the past year or so in which he has worked with paint and brush at or near the lim its of the support. At the same time, it amounts to something far more than an attempt simply to make or “translate” his paintings into sculptures, namely, an attempt to establish surface—the surface, so to speak, of painting—as a medium of sculpture. The use of tubes, each of which one sees, incredibly, as flat—that is, flat but rolled—makes Bunga’s surface more like that of a painting than like that of an object: like painting, and unlike both ordinary objects and other sculpture, Bunga is all surface. And of course what declares or establishes that surface is color, Olitski’s sprayed color.


AT THIS POINT I want to make a claim which I cannot hope to prove or substantiate but which nevertheless I believe to be true: viz., that theater and theatricality are at war today, not simply with modernist painting (or modernist painting and sculpture), but with art as such—and to the extent that the different arts can be described as modernist, with modernist sensibility as such. This claim can be broken down into three propositions or theses:

1. The success, even the survival, of the arts has come increasingly to depend on their ability to defeat theater. This is perhaps nowhere more evident than within theater itself, where the need to defeat what I have been calling theater has chiefly made itself felt as the need to establish a drastically different relation to its audience. (The relevant texts are, of course, Brecht and Artaud.)15 For theater has an audience—it exists for one—in a way the other arts do not; in fact, this more than anything else is what modernist sensibility finds intolerable in theater generally. Here it should be remarked that literalist art, too, possesses an audience, though a somewhat special one: that the beholder is confronted by literalist work within a situation which he experiences as his means that there is an important sense in which the work in question exists for him alone, even if he is not actually alone with the work at the time. It may seem paradoxical to claim both that literalist sensibility aspires to an ideal of “something everyone can understand” (Smith) and that literalist art addresses itself to the beholder alone, but the paradox is only apparent. Someone has merely to enter the room in which a literalist work has been placed to become that beholder, that audience of one—almost as though the work in question has been waiting for him. And inasmuch as literalist work depends on the beholder, is incomplete without him, it has been. And once he is in the room the work refuses, obstinately, to let him alone—which is to say, it refuses to stop confronting him, distancing him, isolating him. (Such isolation is not solitude any more than such confrontation is communion.)

It is the overcoming of theater which modernist sensibility finds most exalting and which it experiences as the hallmark of high art in our time. There is, however, one art which, by its very nature, escapes theater entirely—the movies.16 This helps explain why movies in general, including frankly appalling ones, are acceptable to modernist sensibility whereas all but the most successful painting, sculpture, music and poetry is not. Because cinema escapes theater—automatically, as it were—it provides a welcome and absorbing refuge to sensibilities at war with theater and theatricality. At the same time, the automatic, guaranteed character of the refuge—more accurately, the fact that what is provided is a refuge from theater and not a triumph over it, absorption not conviction—means that the cinema, even at its most experimental, is not a modernist art.

2. Art degenerates as it approaches the condition of theater. Theater is the common denominator that binds a large and seemingly disparate variety of activities to one another, and which distinguishes those activities from the radically different enterprises of the modernist arts. Here as elsewhere the question of value or level is central. For example, a failure to register the enormous difference in quality between, say, the music of Carter and that of Cage or between the paintings of Louis and those of Rauschenberg means that the real distinctions—between music and theater in the first instance and between painting and theater in the second—are displaced by the illusion that the barriers between the arts are in the process of crumbling (Cage and Rauschenberg being seen, correctly, as similar) and that the arts themselves are at last sliding toward some kind of final, implosive, hugely desirable synthesis.17 Whereas in fact the individual arts have never been more explicitly concerned with the conventions that constitute their respective essences.

3. The concepts of quality and value—and to the extent that these are central to art, the concept of art itself—are meaningful, or wholly meaningful, only within the individual arts. What lies between the arts is theater. It is, I think, significant that in their various statements the literalists have largely avoided the issue of value or quality at the same time as they have shown considerable uncertainty as to whether or not what they are making is art. To describe their enterprise as an attempt to establish a new art does not remove the uncertainty; at most it points to its source. Judd himself has as much as acknowledged the problematic character of the literalist enterprise by his claim, “A work needs only to be interesting.” For Judd, as for literalist sensibility generally, all that matters is whether or not a given work is able to elicit and sustain (his) interest. Whereas within the modernist arts nothing short of conviction—specifically, the conviction that a particular painting or sculpture or poem or piece of music can or cannot support comparison with past work within that art whose quality is not in doubt—matters at all. (Literalist work is often condemned—when it is condemned—for being boring. A tougher charge would be that it is merely interesting.)

The interest of a given work resides, in Judd’s view, both in its character as a whole and in the sheer specificity of the materials of which it is made:

Most of the work involves new materials, either recent inventions or things not used before in art . . . Materials vary greatly and are simply materials—formica, aluminum, cold-rolled steel, plexiglas, red and common brass, and so forth. They are specific. If they are used directly, they are more specific. Also, they are usually aggressive. There is an objectivity to the obdurate identity of a material.

Like the shape of the object, the materials do not represent, signify or allude to anything; they are what they are and nothing more. And what they are is not, strictly speaking, something that is grasped or intuited or recognized or even seen once and for all. Rather, the “obdurate identity” of a specific material, like the wholeness of the shape, is simply stated or given or established at the very outset, if not before the outset; accordingly, the experience of both is one of endlessness, of inexhaustibility, of being able to go on and on letting, for example, the material itself confront one in all its literalness, its “objectivity,” its absence of anything beyond itself. In a similar vein Morris has written:

Characteristic of a gestalt is that once it is established all the information about it, qua gestalt, is exhausted. (One does not, for example, seek the gestalt of a gestalt.) . . . One is then both free of the shape and bound to it. Free or released because of the exhaustion of information about it, as shape, and bound to it because it remains constant and indivisible.

The same note is struck by Tony Smith in a statement, the first sentence of which I quoted earlier:

I’m interested in the inscrutability and mysteriousness of the thing. Something obvious on the face of it (like a washing machine or a pump), is of no further interest. A Bennington earthenware jar, for instance, has subtlety of color, largeness of form, a general suggestion of substance, generosity, is calm and reassuring—qualities which take it beyond pure utility. It continues to nourish us time and time again. We can’t see it in a second, we continue to read it. There is something absurd in the fact that you can go back to a cube in the same way.

Like Judd’s Specific Objects and Morris’s gestalts or unitary forms, Smith’s cube is always of further interest; one never feels that one has come to the end of it; it is inexhaustible. It is inexhaustible, however, not because of any fullness—that is the inexhaustibility of art—but because there is nothing there to exhaust. It is endless the way a road might be: if it were circular, for example.

Endlessness, being able to go on and on, even having to go on and on, is central both to the concept of interest and to that of objecthood. In fact, it seems to be the experience that most deeply excites literalist sensibility, and which Smith’s account of his experience on the unfinished turnpike is a case in point. Similarly, Morris’s claim that in the best new work the beholder is made aware that “he himself is establishing relationships as he apprehends the object from various positions and under varying conditions of light and spatial context” amounts to the claim that the beholder is made aware of the endlessness and inexhaustibility if not of the object itself at any rate of his experience of it. This awareness is further exacerbated by what might be called the inclusiveness of his situation, that is, by the fact, remarked earlier, that everything he observes counts as part of that situation and hence is felt to bear in some way that remains undefined on his experience of the object.

Here finally I want to emphasize something that may already have become clear: the experience in question persists in time, and the presentment of endlessness which, I have been claiming, is central to literalist art and theory is essentially a presentment of endless, or indefinite, duration. Once again Smith’s account of his night drive is relevant, as well as his remark, “We can’t see it [i.e., the jar and, by implication, the cube] in a second, we continue to read it.” Morris, too, has stated explicitly, “The experience of the work necessarily exists in time”—though it would make no difference if he had not. The literalist preoccupation with time—more precisely, with the duration of the experience—is, I suggest, paradigmatically theatrical: as though theater confronts the beholder, and thereby isolates him, with the endlessness not just of objecthood but of time; or as though the sense which, at bottom, theater addresses is a sense of temporality, of time both passing and to come, simultaneously approaching and receding, as if apprehended in an infinite perspective . . .18 This preoccupation marks a profound difference between literalist work and modernist painting and sculpture. It is as though one’s experience of the latter has no duration—not because one in fact experiences a picture by Noland or Olitski or a sculpture by David Smith or Caro in no time at all, but because at every moment the work itself is wholly manifest. (This is true of sculpture despite the obvious fact that, being three-dimensional, it can be seen from an infinite number of points of view. One’s experience of a Caro is not incomplete, and one’s conviction as to its quality is not suspended, simply because one has seen it only from where one is standing. Moreover, in the grip of his best work one’s view of the sculpture is, so to speak, eclipsed by the sculpture itself—which it is plainly meaningless to speak of as only partly present.) It is this continuous and entire presentness, amounting, as it were, to the perpetual creation of itself, that one experiences as a kind of instantaneousness: as though if only one were infinitely more acute, a single infinitely brief instant would be long enough to see everything, to experience the work in all its depth and fullness, to be forever convinced by it. (Here it is worth noting that the concept of interest implies temporality in the form of continuing attention directed at the object, whereas the concept of conviction does not.) I want to claim that it is by virtue of their presentness and instantaneousness that modernist painting and sculpture defeat theater. In fact, I am tempted far beyond my knowledge to suggest that, faced with the need to defeat theater, it is above all to the condition of painting and sculpture—the condition, that is, of existing in, indeed of secreting or constituting, a continuous and perpetual present—that the other contemporary modernist arts, most notably poetry and music, aspire.19


THIS ESSAY WILL BE read as an attack on certain artists (and critics) and as a defense of others. And of course it is true that the desire to distinguish between what is to me the authentic art of our time and other work which, whatever the dedication, passion and intelligence of its creators, seems to me to share certain characteristics associated here with the concepts of literalism and theater, has specifically motivated what I have written. More generally, however, I have wanted to call attention to the utter pervasiveness—the virtual universality—of the sensibility or mode of being which I have characterized as corrupted or perverted by theater. We are all literalists most or all of our lives. Presentness is grace.

Michael Fried



1. This was said by Judd in an interview with Bruce Glaser, edited by Lucy R. Lippard and published as “Questions to Stella and Judd,” Art News, Vol. LXV, No. 5, September 1966. The remarks attributed in the present essay to Judd and Morris have been taken from this interview, from Judd’s essay “Specific Objects,” Arts Yearbook, No. 8, 1965, or from Robert Morris’s essays, “Notes on Sculpture” and “Notes on Sculpture, Part 2,” published in Artforum, Vol. IV, No. 6, February 1966, and Vol. V, No. 2, October 1966 respectively. (I have also taken one remark by Morris from the catalog to the exhibition “Eight Sculptors: the Ambiguous Image,” held at the Walker Art Center, October–December 1966.) I should add that in laying out what seems to me the position Judd and Morris hold in common I have ignored various differences between them, and have used certain remarks in contexts for which they may not have been intended. Moreover, I have not always indicated which of them actually said or wrote a particular phrase; the alternative would have been to litter the text with foot notes.

2. “Shape as Form: Frank Stella’s New Paintings,” Artforum, Vol. V, No. 3, November 1966; “Jules Olitski,” the catalog introduction to the exhibition of his work currently at the Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C.; and “Ronald Davis: Surface and Illusion,” Artforum, Vol. V, No. 8, April 1967.

3. Published in the catalog to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s current exhibition, American Sculpture of the Sixties. The verb “project” as I have just used it is taken from Greenberg’s statement, “The ostensible aim of the Minimalists is to ‘project’ objects and ensembles of objects that are just nudgeable into art.”

4. “After Abstract Expressionism,” Art International, Vol. VI, No. 8, October 25, 1962, p. 30. The passage from which this has been taken reads as follows:

Under the testing of modernism more and more of the conventions of the art of painting have shown themselves to be dispensable, unessential. By now it has been established, it would seem, that the irreducible essence of pictorial art consists in but two constitutive conventions or norms: flatness and the delimitation of flatness; and that the observance of merely these two norms is enough to create an object which can be experienced as a picture: thus a stretched or tacked-up canvas already exists as a picture—though not necessarily as a successful one.

In its broad out line this is undoubtedly correct. There are, however, certain qualifications that can be made.

To begin with, it is not quite enough to say that a bare canvas tacked to a wall is not “necessarily” a successful picture; it would, I think, be less of an exaggeration to say that it is not conceivably one. It may be countered that future circumstances might be such as to make it a successful painting; but I would argue that, for that to happen, the enterprise of painting would have to change so drastically that nothing more than the name would remain. (It would require a far greater change than that which painting has undergone from Manet to Noland, Olitski and Stella!) Moreover, seeing something as a painting in the sense that one sees the tacked-up canvas as a painting, and being convinced that a particular work can stand comparison with the painting of the past whose quality is not in doubt, are altogether different experiences: it is, I want to say, as though unless something compels conviction as to its quality it is no more than trivially or nominally a painting. This suggests that flatness and the delimitation of flatness ought not to be thought of as the “irreducible essence of pictorial art” but rather as something like the minimal conditions for something’s being seen as a painting; and that the crucial question is not what these minimal and, so to speak, timeless conditions are, but rather what, at a given moment, is capable of compelling conviction, of succeeding as painting. This is not to say that painting has no essence; it is to claim that that essence—i.e., that which inspires conviction—is largely determined by, and therefore changes continually in response to, the vital work of the recent past. The essence of painting is not something irreducible. Rather, the task of the modernist painter is to discover those conventions which, at a given moment, alone are capable of establishing his work’s identity as painting.

Greenberg approaches this position when he adds, “As it seems to me, Newman, Rothko, and Still have swung the self-criticism of modernist painting in a new direction simply by continuing it in its old one. The question now asked through their art is no longer what constitutes art, or the art of painting, as such, but what irreducibly constitutes good art as such. Or rather, what is the ultimate source of value or quality in art?” But I would argue that what modernism has meant is that the two questions—What constitutes the art of painting? And what constitutes good painting?—are no longer separable; the first disappears into the second. (I am, of course, taking issue here with the version of modernism put forward in my Three American Painters.)

For more on the nature of essence and convention in the modernist arts see my essays on Stella and Olitski mentioned above, as well as Stanley Cavell, Music Discomposed and Rejoinders to critics of that essay, to be published as part of a symposium by the University of Pittsburgh Press in a volume entitled Art, Mind and Religion. Cavell’s pieces will also appear in Must We Mean What We Say?, a book of his essays to be published in the spring of 1968 by Scribner’s.

5. Quoted by Morris as the epigraph to his “Notes on Sculpture, Part 2.”

6. Except for the Morris epigraph already quoted, all statements by Tony Smith have been taken from Samuel Wagstaff, Jr.’s, “Talking to Tony Smith,” Artforum, Vol. V, No. 4, December 1966.

7. In the catalog to last spring’s Primary Structures exhibition at the Jewish Museum, Bladen wrote, “How do you make the inside the outside?”, and Grosvenor, “I don’t want my work to be thought of as ‘large sculpture,’ they are ideas which operate in the space between floor and ceiling.” The relevance of these statements to what I have adduced as evidence for the theatricality of literalist theory and practice seems obvious.

8. It is theatricality, too, that links all these artists to other figures as disparate as Kaprow, Cornell, Rauschenberg, Oldenburg, Kienholz, Segal, Samaras, Christo, Kusama . . . the list could go on indefinitely.

9. The concept of a room is, mostly clandestinely, important to literalist art and theory. In fact, it can often be substituted for the word “space” in the latter: something is in my space if it is in the same room with me (and if it is placed so that I can hardly fail to notice it).

10. Stanley Cavell has remarked in seminar that for Kant in the Critique of Judgment a work of art is not an object. I will take this opportunity to acknowledge the fact that without innumerable conversations with Cavell during the past few years, and without what I have learned from him in courses and seminars, the present essay—and not it alone—would have been inconceivable. I want also to express my gratitude and indebtedness to the composer John Harbison, who, together with his wife, the violinist Rosemary Harbison, have given me whatever initiation into modern music I have had, both for that initiation and for numerous insights bearing on the subject of this essay.

11. One way of describing this view might be to say that it draws something like a false inference from the fact that the increasingly explicit acknowledgment of the literal character of the support has been central to the development of modernist painting: namely, that literalness as such is an artistic value of supreme importance. In “Shape as Form” I argued that this inference is blind to certain vital considerations; and implied that literalness—more precisely, the literalness of the support—is a value only within modernist painting, and then only because it has been made one by the history of that enterprise.

12. “The New Sculpture,” Art and Culture, Boston, 1961, p. 144.

13. This and the following remark are taken from Greenberg’s essay, “Anthony Caro,” Arts Yearbook, No. 8, 1965. Caro’s first step in this direction, the elimination of the pedestal, seems in retrospect to have been motivated not by the desire to present his work without artificial aids so much as by the need to undermine its objecthood. His work has revealed the extent to which merely putting something on a pedestal confirms its objecthood; though merely removing the pedestal does not in itself undermine objecthood, as literalist work proves.

14. See Greenberg’s “Anthony Caro” and the last section of my “Shape as Form” for more, though not a great deal more, about color in sculpture.

15. The need to achieve a new relation to the spectator which Brecht felt and which he discussed time and again in his writings on theater was not simply the result of his Marxism. On the contrary, his discovery of Marx seems to have been in part the discovery of what this relation might be like, what it might mean: “When I read Marx’s Capital I understood my plays. Naturally I want to see this book widely circulated. It wasn’t of course that I found I had unconsciously written a whole pile of Marxist plays; but this man Marx was the only spectator for my plays I’d ever come across.” (Brecht on Theater, edited and translated by John Willett, New York, 1964. In this general connection see Stanley Cavell’s essay on Beckett’s End-Game, “Ending the Waiting Game,” to be published in Must We Mean What We Say?

16. Exactly how the movies escape theater is a beautiful question, and there is no doubt but that a phenomenology of the cinema that concentrated on the similarities and differences between it and the theater—e.g., that in the movies the actors are not physically present, the film itself is projected away from us, the screen is not experienced as a kind of object existing, so to speak, in a specific physical relation to us, etc.—would be extremely rewarding. Cavell, again, has called attention, in conversation, to the sort of remembering that goes into giving an account of a movie, and more generally to the particular difficulties involved in giving such an account.

17. This is the view of Susan Sontag, whose various essays, collected in Against Interpretation, amount to perhaps the purest—certainly the most egregious—expression of what I have been calling theatrical sensibility in recent criticism. In this sense they are indeed the “case studies for an esthetic, a theory of my own sensibility” that she takes them to be. In a characteristic passage Miss Sontag contends:

Art today is a new kind of instrument, an instrument for modifying consciousness and organizing new modes of sensibility. And the means for practicing art have been radically extended. Painters no longer feel themselves confined to canvas and paint, but employ hair, photographs, wax, sand, bicycle tires, their own tooth brushes and socks. All kinds of conventionally accepted boundaries have thereby been challenged: not just the one between the “scientific” and the “literary-artistic” cultures, or the one between “art” and “non-art”; but also many established distinctions within the world of culture itself—that between form and content, the frivolous and the serious, and (a favorite of literary intellectuals) “high” and “low” culture. (pp. 296–7).

The truth is that the distinction between the frivolous and the serious becomes more urgent, even absolute, every day, and the enterprises of the modernist arts more purely motivated by the felt need to perpetuate the standards and values of the high art of the past.

18. The connection between spatial recession and some such experience of temporality—almost as if the first were a kind of natural metaphor for the second—is present in much Surrealist painting (e.g., De Chirico, Dali, Tanguy, Magritte). Moreover, temporality—manifested, for example, as expectation, dread, anxiety, presentiment, memory, nostalgia, stasis—is often the explicit subject of their paintings. There is, in fact, a deep affinity between literalist and Surrealist sensibility (at any rate, as the latter makes itself felt in the work of the above painters) which ought to be noted. Both employ imagery which is at once holistic and, in a sense, fragmentary, incomplete; both resort to a similar anthropomorphizing of objects or conglomerations of objects (in Surrealism the use of dolls and mannikins makes this explicit); both are capable of achieving remarkable effects of “presence”; and both tend to deploy, and isolate, objects and persons in situations—the closed room and the abandoned artificial landscape are as important to Surrealism as to literalism. (Tony Smith, it will be recalled, described the airstrips, etc., as “Surrealist landscapes.”) This can be summed up by saying that Surrealist sensibility, as manifested in the work of certain artists, and literalist sensibility are both theatrical. I do not wish, however, to be understood as saying that because they are theatrical, all Surrealist works which share the above characteristics fail as art; a conspicuous example of major work that can be described in those terms is Giacometti’s Surrealist sculptures. On the other hand, it is perhaps not without significance that Smith’s supreme example of a Surrealist landscape was the parade ground at Nuremberg.

19. What this means in each art will naturally be different. Music is in perhaps the most difficult situation, being compelled to engage with and, hopefully, to defeat theater on what has become theater’s home grounds and almost exclusive property, time. Besides, the physical circumstances of a concert closely resemble those of a theatrical performance. It may have been the desire for something like presentness that, at least to some extent, led Brecht to advocate a non-illusionistic theater, in which the actors would not identify with the characters they play but rather would show them forth, and in which temporality itself would be presented in a new light:

Just as the actor no longer has to persuade the audience that it is the author’s character and not himself that is standing on the stage, so also he need not pretend that the events taking place on the stage have never been rehearsed, and are now happening for the first and only time. Schiller’s distinction is no longer valid: that the rhapsodist has to treat his material as wholly in the past: the mime his, as wholly here and now. It should be apparent all through his performance that ‘even at the start and in the middle he knows how it ends’ and he must ‘thus maintain a calm independence throughout.’ He narrates the story of his character by vivid portrayal, always knowing more than it does and treating ‘now’ and ‘here’ not as a pretense made possible by the rules of the game but as something to be distinguished from yesterday and some other place, so as to make visible the knotting together of the events. (p. 194.)

What remains unclear, however, is whether the handling of time Brecht calls for is tantamount to authentic presentness, or merely to what I have been calling presence—i.e., to the presentment of time itself as though it were a kind of literalist object. In poetry the need for presentness manifests itself in the lyric poem; this is a subject which requires its own treatment.

For a discussion of time in the theater see Stanley Cavell, “The Avoidance of Love: A Reading of King Lear,” to be published in Must We Mean What We Say?