COLUMNS

  • “Invisible Colors”

    IN HIS SHORT ESSAY “The Storyteller,” written in 1936, Walter Benjamin reflects on the impoverishment of soldiers returning from World War I, observing that they have “grown silent—not richer, but poorer in communicable experience.” At the root of this impoverishment, he says, is Chokerlebnis: the reduction of experience to naked information, wherein media (“every glance at a newspaper”) has the power to shock. Today we might quickly grasp Benjamin’s meaning by recalling, for example, the Vietnam War image of the young man with a pistol to his head, which reduced our experience of that conflict

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  • Identity Aesthetics

    CAN ELEGANCE COEXIST WITH CRITIQUE? Aesthetics with politics? Material and formal intensiveness with sociocultural inquiry? My own answer would be a resounding “Yes.” But much contemporary art seems to answer “No.” Indeed, some recent shows appear to be wedded to the idea that intensive aesthetic labor undermines political intent—especially in work by minorities. The Brooklyn Museum’s recent exhibition “Global Feminisms,” for example, foregrounded contemporary work by women artists of all colors, ethnicities, and nationalities that emphasizes the reductive, the dystopian, the aesthetically

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  • The “WACK!” catalogue

    A TECHNICOLOR SEA of bare-breasted women spills across the cover for the catalogue to “WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution,” an international survey of women’s art from 1965 to 1980 on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles through July 16. Designed by Lorraine Wild, the dust jacket reproduces a large detail from a Vietnam-era photocollage by Martha Rosler titled Body Beautiful, or Beauty Knows No Pain: Hot House, or Harem, 1966–72. More than any single work in the exhibition, more perhaps than the exhibition itself, the WACK! cover has become a site of interpretive conflict

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  • Richard Prince

    CONSIDER, FOR A MOMENT, “Fugitive Artist: The Early Work of Richard Prince, 1974–77,” currently on view at the Neuberger Museum of Art at Purchase College, State University of New York, and organized by art historian Michael Lobel, director of the master’s program in modern and contemporary art, criticism, and theory at the college. A sharp, smart survey composed of fifty-four works, the show coruscates a range of maneuvers prior to the artist’s now-iconic rephotography of advertisements featuring fashion models, living rooms, and luxury accessories. The accompanying catalogue is elegant, and

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  • Feminism

    TAKING THE SIXTH STREET EXIT off the Harbor Freeway in Los Angeles these days puts you square in front of an enormous mural featuring a group of well-dressed lovelies. When I saw it, my heart skipped a beat—was it the cast of The L Word, fittingly grown to Attack of the 50 Foot Woman proportions in their hometown? Nope, it was an ad for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the members all dressed in black tie—a uniformity that accounted for the freeway-enhanced gender confusion. It was as if all of LA, seen through the lens of The L Word, were engaging in a reconsideration of gender. One woman,

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  • curatorial returns to the academy

    TAKEN BY ITSELF, last November’s announcement by Russell Ferguson, chief curator and deputy director of the Hammer Museum of the University of California, Los Angeles, that he was leaving his position after some five years at the institution to take the reins at UCLA’s Department of Art may seem not to warrant much comment. While the studio art program, one of the nation’s best, has traditionally been chaired by practicing artists, the transition promises by all accounts to be both smooth and organic, not signaling any immediate change in the overall program of either the museum or the school.

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  • Carsten Höller

    CARSTEN HÖLLER’S five silvery slides in Tate Modern’s massive Turbine Hall in London are elegant sculptures that spiral down like giant serpents from the gallery floors, curling and twisting their metallic bodies before reaching the ground with open mouths. They are roofed with transparent acrylic plastic, allowing glimpses of people sliding down. And everyone in the hall can certainly hear them screaming—with excitement, perhaps with fright, and no doubt also with joy. Groups of enthusiasts linger in the arrival area. The ride from the top level, nearly 90 feet high, is terrifyingly fast—the

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  • Jackson Pollock’s late work

    SOMETIMES THE SMALLEST things create the most arresting aesthetic experiences—an observation resoundingly reconfirmed for me at “No Limits, Just Edges,” the Jackson Pollock works-on-paper exhibition recently on view at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York (and before that at the Guggenheim Foundation’s outposts in Berlin and Venice). As I walked through the show’s expansive last room, my eyes gravitated, almost magnetically, to the lower right-hand corner of an untitled 1951 drawing, where, beneath the slashing arrows and scrawled numerals soaked into the fibers of the absorbent Japanese

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  • Chris Gilbert

    CURATOR CHRIS GILBERT has resigned from his position at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. Mobility among art institutions has been an increasing feature of art mediation and presentation over the past twenty years, but Gilbert doesn’t seem to have left in order to write a book, research a group exhibition, or move on to a bigger and better place. What is uncommon is his decision to resign on a matter of political principle and then call for a radical rethinking of the role of the curator and the artist in a contemporary-art context. This is a highly unusual step for someone

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  • Catherine de Zegher

    IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY, Charles Baudelaire said art criticism should be “passionate, partisan, and political.” For the poet and critic, these three words were synonymous—“political” meant “partisan” and “partisan” meant “passionate”—and without them there would be no point to modern, secular art. In this sphere, in other words, the safe space of neutrality, “objectivity” and dispassionate judgment has no place. Take a stand and get behind it: So should art do, and so shall this essay, concerning Catherine de Zegher’s recent departure from New York’s Drawing Center, where she had been director

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  • Guillermo Kuitca

    GUILLERMO KUITCA typically settles on a given structure as a form of emptiness. One may consider his work a kind of seating plan, as the Argentinean artist himself will tell you: Vacant chairs attest to an absence; what’s more, the plan is only a representation, not the thing it represents. And so the represented thing becomes merely a gap, a void—space as an object. Such empty space accrues the element of time, and the hidden cause of the desire. Am I saying that Kuitca draws, paints, fixes his collages into the dynamics of desire? Yes.

    Not that there is one and only one structure in Kuitca’s

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  • Luc Delahaye

    THE PHOTOGRAPH, framed without margins and behind Plexiglas, is just under four and a half feet high by nearly nine and a half feet wide. Its title is A Lunch at the Belvedere, and it depicts an actual event that took place at the Hotel Belvedere in Davos, Switzerland, during the World Economic Forum of 2004. The lunch was hosted by Pervez Musharraf, president of Pakistan, whose guest of honor was the famous American financier-philanthropist George Soros. The diners, eleven men, sit facing the viewer—though none looks toward the camera—on the far side of a long table that runs the full width of

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