PRINT December 2004

Robert Rosenblum

1 “Andy Warhol: The Late Work” (Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein, Vaduz) In a year that honored our pantheon of twentieth-century deities (see below), two Warhol shows soared high. Organized by Mark Francis and Jean-Hubert Martin for Museum Kunst Palast, Düsseldorf, “The Late Work” buried stale prejudices that favor ’60s over ’70s and ’80s Warhol by offering an eye-popping spectacle of little-known work, including mural-size crosses and knives, replays of Pollock’s drip paintings as tangled yarn, and takes on Arp’s and Kelly’s organic contours as the flattened profiles of a dozen supermarket eggs. These fresh vistas should soon prompt new excavations into Late Warhol–land.

2 “Andy Warhol: Self-Portraits” (Kunstmuseum St. Gallen, Switzerland) Like Picasso’s ever-expanding universe, Warhol’s can constantly be seen from new angles, in this case through the lens of self-portraiture. As evidenced in Dietmar Elger’s show, Warhol subjected this abiding theme to an overwhelming range of variations, from intimate photographs to wallpaper murals that completely undo the concept of selfportraiture with decorative assembly-line repetition. The psychological spectrum is no less broad, with its constant shifting from total concealment to shrill revelation—both guises, of course, being theatrical deceptions.

3 “Joan Miró: La Naissance Du Monde” (Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris) Another Miró show? We all know he’s great, but curator Agnès de la Beaumelle’s exhibition, concentrating on the 1920s, resurrected his tonic genius even for those familiar with it for decades. Seeing him move from Cubist earth to Surrealist skies as he soared like a bird across ethereal expanses of color was like watching a supersonic takeoff. An old love reborn.

4 Willem de Kooning (Gagosian Gallery, New York) A similar story. In this career-long anthology, perfectly selected by David Whitney for the artist’s centennial, the ubiquitously venerated master was suddenly brought back to life. Beginning at the end, the show moved from the supernal late works, with their triumph of weightless spirit over juicy flesh, back down memory lane, passing one muse after another—Hamptons flatlands, the Long Island Expressway, urban floozies, ancient myth—through half a century of works bursting with the fertility of genius. From gritty head-on collisions of black and white to caught-in-the-act explosions of rainbow color, de Kooning’s perpetuum mobile continues to astonish.

5 “Francis Bacon and the Tradition of Art” (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna) Just as de Kooning can evoke the ghosts of the old masters, especially Hals and Rembrandt, so too can another rebel, Bacon. Here, he is revived by curator Barbara Steffens as a tradition-soaked painter who kept drawing on Titian, Velázquez, Ingres, and Van Gogh. This august company looked especially at home in the venerable corridors of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, which provided a perfect genealogical setting for a painter who may now be the ultimate heir to museum-worthy traditions.

6 Donald Judd (Tate Modern, London) Another refresher course from our historic canon, Nicholas Serota’s Judd retrospective had the effect of a full-career Mondrian show, making an artist synonymous with Minimalism look maximal in complexity and variety. Judd’s infatuation with the exquisite nuance of synthetic colors added even more contradictory layers to his puritan core. In a way, he represents his generation’s update on Rothko’s own paradoxical mixture of the monastic and the epicurean, moving from the ivory tower to the carpenter’s shop and the factory.

7 “Dalí and Mass Culture” (Caixa Forum, Barcelona) This year marked not only de Kooning’s centennial but Dalí’s, too, and the Spaniard loomed just as large. If right-thinking art people scorned Dalí’s love of publicity stunts, much as they thought his art pandered to a lowbrow audience, this major aspect of his career was enthusiastically explored here. Like time travel through twentieth-century pop culture, the spectacular installation offered a trip that covered the Dream of Venus Pavilion at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, clips from Spellbound, projects for Disney films, and TV ads, not to mention luxury merchandise, like his eerie jewelry that often usurped the role of Catholic relics. Appropriately the show concluded with the master’s joining up with a younger publicity hound, Warhol. Purists may sneer, but Dalí gave us a preview of what’s become commonplace commerce in the art world today.

8 Karel Funk (303 Gallery, New York) An unforgettable miniature portrait gallery of eleven monkish aliens from the bleak world of North Face. These lonely survivors of a Manitoba winter are hidden presences, their faces to be guessed at beneath the protective gear of windbreakers and trucker hats. What we see most of are small patches of exposed skin and hair, rendered with a fanatical hyperrealism of stubble and pore that might make a Flemish primitive jealous.

9 “Michael Craig-Martin: Surfacing” (Milton Keynes Gallery, Central Milton Keynes, UK) I confess I saw only the catalogue, not the show, but that was enough to celebrate the full-scale emergence of Craig-Martin as a spectacular muralist who can now command outdoor as well as indoor spaces. At Milton Keynes, he covered the pure rectangle of the gallery’s facade with his signature mixture of psychedelic color—magenta clashing with turquoise—and a single utilitarian object: an outsize rendering of a metal filing-cabinet drawer. The effect, especially with the changing light of day, must be hallucinatory, a building transformed into a painting. The indoor murals, with their infinite proliferation of paper clips, lightbulbs, and cell phones, also dissolve reality. A big historical presence, Craig-Martin looms somewhere between Patrick Caulfield and Peter Halley.

10 Vivienne Westwood (Victoria & Albert Museum, London) A breathtaking cornucopia of a delirious, postmodern imagination that not only ransacks centuries of historical costume but clothed the Sex Pistols, too. From punk to dix-huitième siecle, Westwood juggles both past and present with the same zeal for the outrageously over the top. And you could even see the very shoes that tripped up Naomi Campbell on the catwalk.

Artforum contributing editor Robert Rosenblum is professor of fine art at New York University and a curator at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York.