COLUMNS

  • Jack Smith’s posthumous career

    AMONG THE MANY EVOCATIVE ELEMENTS to be found in “Thanks for Explaining Me,” the recent exhibition at Gladstone Gallery in New York devoted to the work of Jack Smith (1932–1989), was the unmistakable sound of the artist’s voice, at once somnolent and hysterical. Even before one had fully entered the show, Smith could be heard loudly complaining about art-world corruption.

    Smith was famous long ago for his scandalous 1963 film Flaming Creatures, and like an insanely protective parent, he took steps to ensure that none of his subsequent work would ever leave the nest. Thus, as positioned by curator

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  • Ai Weiwei and Sharjah Biennial 10

    IN THESE DAYS of the Arab Spring, paradoxically hovering between revolution and repression, there is much hand-wringing in the global art world. Protests and petitions against arrests, dismissals, censorship, and labor rights have erupted, targeting countries and societies that the Western art establishment feels should be better apprised of the avant-garde tradition of artistic autonomy and liberal notions of unfettered intellectual expression. It is as if a beehive had suddenly exploded and stung the previously passive moral lions of the field, waking them from their unreflective slumber. From

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  • Paul Cézanne

    BACK IN 1990, in an essay for the Oxford Art Journal, Griselda Pollock asked the question “What Can We Say About Cézanne These Days?” Her answers—regarding the contributions that could be made through socio-historical, psychoanalytic, and feminist interventions—were rather more generous than that given in the London Review of Books this past December by T. J. Clark. In the opening of his review of the Courtauld Gallery in London’s recent exhibition dedicated to the artist’s “Card Players” series, 1890–96, Clark flatly declared: “Cézanne . . . cannot be written about any more.” When

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  • Blinky Palermo

    THERE ARE VERY FEW ARTISTS for whom my admiration is absolute, and Blinky Palermo is one of them. It is most productive to call him a painter, because even if not everything he made was a painting, those other things can best be understood as originating in painting and extending it.

    Michael Fried told us in 1967 that for a modernist painting to be successful it must overcome its objecthood. For me, Palermo’s achievement was, on the contrary, to make paintings that are plainly objects and at the same time successful paintings. More than successful: It is my conviction that Palermos at their best

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  • interviews W.A.G.E.

    IT’S A CURIOUS TWIST in the history of art that de-skilling—the reduction of the once-hallowed making of art to the level of performing the mundane task of the day—has cut both ways. When Seurat famously said he just wanted to be paid by the hour, he was cannily acknowledging the routinization and commodification of all forms of experience in the advent of modernity, and at the same time attempting to defy bourgeois notions of artistic virtuosity and to undermine the traditional value of art itself. But three-quarters of a century later, amid the birth of institutional critique and

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  • craft and commerce

    AT AI WEIWEI’S EXHIBITION at Tate Modern in London this past October, visitors tromping around in his installation of a hundred million handpainted porcelain sunflower seeds allegedly kicked up dangerous clouds of ceramic particles, prompting museum administrators to cordon off the work only a few days after its unveiling. Though the proverbial dust seems to have settled, the specter of outsourced labor that hovered over the masses of individually crafted seeds (made in Jingdezhen, China, a city known for its porcelain production) continues to inform debates about the ethics of hand-making in

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  • Marc Bauer

    MARC BAUER’S DRAWINGS constantly call themselves into question. Made largely with pencil, they nevertheless lack contours, renouncing what was long held to be the medium’s prime strength: its ability to delineate forms with high precision. The Swiss artist’s lines are so out of focus, in fact, that they barely give shape and definition, blending into one another to the point where they are on the verge of dissolving into a mist of gray. With all their blurring and smudging, his drawings instead seem to emulate painting, with its far more opaque surfaces. In this, Bauer plots a new twist in the

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  • “Hide/Seek”

    THE NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY’S “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture” is an exhibition whose time has finally come. Or so I wrote several weeks ago, before events in Washington—just days before we go to press—came to lend my words a bitterly ironic cast. Gays and lesbians have become acceptable, as characters and as actors, on television shows (Queer as Folk, Will & Grace, The L Word) and in major films (Philadelphia, The Crying Game, Brokeback Mountain), as well as in popular music (Elton John, Ricky Martin, Lady Gaga), and the Internet has made every facet of

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  • Marlene McCarty

    STARTING IN THE LATE 1980S, New York–based artist Marlene McCarty signaled her rejection of modernist abstraction by heat-transferring onto canvas the freighted verbiage that fueled and undermined struggles for women’s and gay rights. With texts such as I MAY NOT GO DOWN IN HISTORY BUT I MAY GO DOWN ON YOUR LITTLE SISTER rendered horizontally in a diminutive font across a canvas, a perverse reorientation of a Barnett Newman “zip”; or SHOOT A WOMAN SAVE A JOB curling in whorls like Kenneth Noland targets on two canvases hung at what McCarty calls “tit height” and quoting the message now familiar

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  • “Who Knows Tomorrow”

    PRITA MEIER

    THE LANGUAGE OF GEOGRAPHY—Africa, Europe, the West, the periphery, local, global—inevitably drives exhibitions that critique Eurocentric paradigms. “Who Knows Tomorrow,” a multivenue exhibition on view this summer in Berlin, marked an attempt to move beyond this cartographic model by focusing on temporal interconnections. “Africa” and “Germany” were not considered spatial or conceptual opposites, but rather were signposts of a specific historical moment when discrete spaces such as nation and continent became operative for the modern management of “global” power. The texts accompanying

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  • Stephen Kaltenbach

    “BECOME A LEGEND.” It was a command. But it was also a crazy dream to live by—a stunning credo Stephen Kaltenbach issued to himself and each of the thousands of readers of this magazine in the summer of ’69. This was the eighth of twelve anonymous ads the now seventy-year-old artist placed in Artforum between November 1968 and December 1969. It is still, more than forty years later, the tightest, most thrilling “micro-manifesto” (his term) you could ever read. I want to put an exclamation mark at the end of it, but the original better reflects Kaltenbach’s own decision, made long beforehand,

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  • the women of Pop

    OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS, the generative investigation of the practices of women artists has yielded plenty of surprises—enough, certainly, to have an enormous impact on how we think about the past and make art in the present. One of the most recent revelations is among the most startling: To find the proximate origins of the feminist art movement, it seems, we need to look to Pop art. That’s right, Pop, the rubric under which Allen Jones’s seminude woman–as–coffee table is filed, the last blazing bastion of culturally sanctioned misogynistic art. This, at least, is the conclusion strongly

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