COLUMNS

  • A LANDSCAPE WE ALL HELP TO MAKE

    Barry Schwabsky on Rackstraw Downes

    WHATEVER YOU THINK realism means, Rackstraw Downes is certainly some kind of realist—and, moreover, one whose elective subject matter is landscape. That in itself suggests a quixotic temperament in an artist born in 1939 whose immediate contemporaries include any number of abstract, Conceptual, and performance artists but few realists—at least of his stature.

    And even among painters pursuing realism in his generation, Downes looks like an outsider. Despite the fact that he edited a valuable collection of Fairfield Porter’s writings, there’s nothing in his work of the intimism and subjectivity of

    Read more
  • LUST FOR LIFE

    Hannah Stamler on Suzanne Valadon

    A SELF-PORTRAIT from 1911 shows Suzanne Valadon at work, presumably creating the image before us. Holding a paint-streaked palette, she turns slightly to the right with lips pursed and eyes narrowed, likely scrutinizing her reflection in a mirror beyond the frame. When Valadon made the portrait, at age forty-six, she would have been quite accustomed to holding a pose. Raised by a single mother in Montmartre, heady epicenter of the Parisian avant-garde, she began working as an artist’s model at the age of fifteen, sitting for the likes of Renoir and Toulouse-Lautrec, her friend and lover, who

    Read more
  • The Nothing Special

    On The Andy Warhol Diaries

    “When things actually do happen to you, it’s like watching TV,” Andy Warhol once observed. But what is that like? Last month, Netflix released The Andy Warhol Diaries, a six-episode adaptation of the eponymous 1989 book compiled by Pat Hackett, who received the artist’s dictations over the phone almost every morning during the last decade of his life. Unsure of what to make of this intimate, fragmented portrait, we invited Bruce Hainley and Kristian Vistrup Madsen to talk it out.

    KRISTIAN VISTRUP MADSEN: Episode 1 is haunted (first by the E! True Hollywood Story format of the interviewees, their

    Read more
  • Letters from Kyiv

    A wartime diary by Yevgenia Belorusets

    Yevgenia left Kyiv on April 5 and is currently in Warsaw en route to Venice, where her diary will be exhibited as part of the the Biennale. She plans to resume writing when she returns to Kyiv. This diary is copublished with ISOLARII.

    DAY 35 (WEDNESDAY, MARCH 30): IN THE NERVE CENTER OF CATASTROPHE

    THE ROOM I GREW UP IN no longer corresponds to the life I lead—the life that is unfolding outside the window. Looking around, it feels like a child’s room that was abandoned a long time ago. And now I have to spend the night here again. The room tells a story of peace that I can’t take seriously anymore

    Read more
  • On the Hook

    Trauma, transference, and the art of Bracha L. Ettinger

    AT A CERTAIN POINT in one’s career as a psychoanalyst, transference becomes a rare and longed for feeling. Constantly in the position of negotiating the transference of others, one struggles to muster that great and passionate illusion for oneself. Bracha L. Ettinger is one of my last teachers. I’ve had a sense for some time that she knows something very precious and particular about the most obscure and complicated aspects of psychoanalytic work, which she investigates not only in her self-analysis and work with patients, but in her art. She is the only psychoanalyst I know who is also an artist

    Read more
  • Disney Plus

    Revolt and Rococo at the Met

    BEWARE THE DECORATIVE EXCESS that leads to violent revolution. At once aesthetic and political, this cautionary tale provides the standard explanation for the relationship between the exuberant usable arts of the Rococo and the stern history paintings of classicism, as well as between monarchy and modern democracy. It is now on persuasive display at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, in two exhibitions: “Inspiring Walt Disney: the Animation of French Decorative Arts,” and “Jacques Louis David: Radical Draftsman.”  

    As I entered the “Disney” exhibition, I overheard a caretaker ask a tiny girl

    Read more
  • SIGNATURE WORK

    Jeffrey Weiss on Bruce Nauman’s His Mark

    THE IMAGE IN HIS MARK, 2021, should be familiar to observers of Bruce Nauman’s work: the artist’s disembodied hands performing a mechanical task. We have encountered it in several multichannel-video installations over the past twelve years, including For Beginners (all the combinations of thumb and fingers), 2010, in which each hand individually demonstrates finger positions for the performance of a series of piano exercises by Béla Bartók, and Thumb Start, 2013, with fingers, now on both hands at once, extended in combinations that represent a set of basic counting procedures. In turn, these

    Read more
  • Drawing Blood

    Notes on Maus

    THE GHOULISH URGE to pile on more content, more inanity, more everything all at once, now! came from an unusual subject recently: Maus, by Art Spiegelman. For those of you tuned out to the outrage cycle or just wisely ignoring all news until a blinding flash of light makes equals of us all, in January the McMinn County, Tennessee, Board of Education voted unanimously to remove from the eighth-grade curriculum Spiegelman’s comic book memoir of his parents’ life before, during, and after Auschwitz. The principal objections: a few damns and one naked corpse. The subtext: fear, a dash of anti-Semitism,

    Read more
  • Blood Meridian

    J. M. W. Turner in Texas

    TO VIEW A J. M. W. TURNER sunset in Texas, as I did recently in Fort Worth at the Kimbell Art Museum’s “Turner’s Modern World”—an exhibition making its stateside debut after premiering at Tate Britain in London—is to wish Turner might have had the opportunity to paint a Texas sunset. In fact, I came away from the show thinking that in a slightly altered universe, Turner could have been a Texan. The ferocious clouds the lifelong Londoner dangles above cowering people evoke the feeling, if not the geography, of Texas, and his canvases, like many things in the longhorn state, are applauded for the

    Read more
  • Okay Cupid

    Reopening Vermeer’s love letter to contradiction

    IN DRESDEN, a city renowned for the picture-perfect restoration by which it looks the same and yet entirely strange, an old tale of love and deception is playing out. 

    Since Vermeer’s Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window, c. 1657–59, arrived in the Saxon capital from Paris in 1742, a girl in a green dress has been intently studying a letter by pale daylight against a white wall. As other of the Dutch master’s pictures, and indeed many of those made by his contemporaries, tend to do, the unadorned interior offers no clue as to what she might be thinking. Instead, what long impressed viewers

    Read more
  • Mayor Robber

    The pointless demolition of Manhattan’s East River Park

    DURING A NORMAL YEAR one hundred thousand people recreate and run through East River Park in Lower Manhattan. Nobody has the numbers from the worst of the pandemic but it’s probably double. Painter and former drag star Taboo! enjoyed working out there in that fenced-in gym off the running track I myself have made use of since 1978. I felt comfortable asking the editor here if I could write something about the park since I knew he and much of a portion of the art world were dancing at the amphitheater at Corlears Hook, which is at the southern end of the park, the night Biden got elected. And I

    Read more
  • Mass Appeal

    Finding Andy Warhol’s religion

    ASKING WHETHER NYC needs another big Warhol show is a little like asking whether a university English department needs cheap wine and Costco cheese after a guest lecture: That’s just how we do things here. But “Andy Warhol: Revelation,” up now at the Brooklyn Museum after opening at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh in 2019, has two great strengths. It has a fresh focus—the religious dimensions of his art—and curator José Carlos Diaz has dug deep into Warhol’s enormous archive to find rarely seen and lesser-known work (associate curator Carmen Hermo organized the presenation in Brooklyn).

    Read more