COLUMNS

  • Black Hole

    CHARLES BURNS GETS OFF TO great starts, though his comic-book episodes don’t begin in media res so much as in the middle of nowhere. Take issue no. 6 of his ongoing series Black Hole (Fantagraphics Books): On the left page, a teeny square hit of acid sticks to a strip of Scotch tape on a pitch-black ground. On the right, a pudgy teenage girl in a bra and jeans, arms hanging like summer sausages, stands in her dorky bedroom (Siamese cat posters, Christmas-caroling-Hummel-figurine knockoffs, a framed yearbook portrait, a ceramic pencil mug) wearing a dumb smile, her shiny hair parted down the

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  • Mati Klarwein

    I FIRST ENCOUNTERED MATI KLARWEIN in 1970. Miles Davis had just released his revolutionary Bitches Brew, which featured Mati's painting on the sleeve. It was a perfect visual synthesis of Miles's magical amalgam of funk, rock, jazz, and psychedelia. Mati soon became a famous artist, quite outside the art-world path, for the lavishly detailed, cosmically erotic paintings that fronted albums by Santana, the Chambers Brothers, Earth, Wind & Fire, and others.

    I believe that at the time Mati was going by the name Abdul Mati Klarwein. He once said, “If all Jews would add an Arab name to theirs and all

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  • Daniel Pinchbeck on Peter Pinchbeck

    WHEN MY FATHER DIED, in September 2000, he left behind hundreds of paintings and sculptures in his rent-controlled loft on Greene Street. The work ranges from severe wooden constructions made in the 1960s to woozy zigzags crafted out of plaster, from icon-size images to rolled-up canvases of vast dimensions. My father’s art went ignored, essentially unseen during his lifetime. There were no career retrospectives, no solo museum shows, no fanfare. His artist friends were his only audience.

    In the aftermath of his life, I find myself compelled to fight his battle for him: I think that my father’s

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  • Ron Galella

    ONE OF RON GALELLA’S candid portraits of Liza Minnelli, taken in 1968 at the premiere of A Dandy in Aspic, shows Judy’s little girl in an amazing white suit, black shirt, and white silk tie, a daisy brooch on her swank lapel, no longer The Sterile Cuckoo, but ready for all the cabaret, life, has to offer. It only seems strange that dandy, pixie Liza-pre Halston, pre-disco, pre-encephalitis, pre-everything else, an awkward inheritance worked into almost iconicity—should ever have been able to deal in the real: i.e., to pull off something that might allow her, for a moment, to be just Liza.

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  • Andrew Ross on “Black Romantic”

    WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME a major art museum issued an open call for submissions to an upcoming show? Um . . . never? While open calls are the staple of a thousand regional and community art centers, the metro curator lives or dies by her own deft instincts about where to look, how to prefer, and what to embrace. So when one of the art world’s most sophisticated curators circulates an announcement that begins “Attention Artists!” and goes on to solicit work in the figurative genre of “romanticism,” irony hounds are likely to salivate at the prospect of another juicy morsel of conceptualism coming

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  • Learning from Philadelphia

    Robert Venturi, whose seminal Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture of 1966 is credited with returning historical concerns to the forefront of architectural theory and practice after the willful amnesia of modernism, is, it would seem, overcome with anxiety about his own place in history. Weeks before the Philadelphia Museum of Art opened “Out of the Ordinary: The Architecture and Design of Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Associates” this summer, Venturi issued his latest broadside. “I am not now and never have been a postmodernist” ran the quote accompanying a frowning Venturi on

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  • “The Short Century”

    In 1959, standing before the assembled participants of the Second Congress of Black Artists and Writers in Rome, Frantz Fanon urged those in attendance to reach out to “the people” where it is hardest to do so: “We must join them in the fluctuating movement which they are just giving a shape ... It is to the zone of occult instability where the people dwell that we must come.” The question raised by “The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa, 1945–1994,” which opened in February at Munich’s Museum Villa Stuck, is exactly how to comprehend and represent this “zone of

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  • the Austrian Boycott Debate

    THE VIENNA SECESSION has put its distinctive facade—one of the most photographed tourist attractions in the city—at the disposal of artists like Franz West and Renée Green for work critical of the new Austrian government, a coalition formed by the conservative People’s Party (known by its German initials ÖVP)—the hitherto dominant Social Democrats’ long-time partner in the Austrian government—and the openly racist, far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ). Encouraged in part by the harsh international reaction to this dismaying coalition, almost every noteworthy Austrian intellectual, artist, filmmaker,

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  • Konrad Fischer/Lueg

    ASK ANYBODY ABOUT THE LEGACY of Konrad Fischer’s Düsseldorf gallery and you’ll get a laudatory earful. “He was a genius,” Carl Andre tells me over the phone. “Like one of those great Hollywood producers, Konrad knew how to gather the right people and get them what they needed to do their work. He was a tremendous facilitator.” “If Leo Castelli was running the most important art gallery in New York at the time, Konrad Fischer clearly started up the most important gallery in Europe,” says Marian Goodman. Fischer’s legendary status as a dealer is beyond question. But what of his work as an artist?

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  • Frank O’Hara

    AS VIEWED FROM THE VANTAGE POINT of our empire’s continued obsession with health, Frank O’Hara (1926–1966), the poet and Museum of Modern Art curator, looks, if not like death, then the very body of ill health. In the photographs and paintings of the poet at the center of “In Memory of My Feelings: Frank O’Hara and American Art,” an exhibition of 102 (as often as not collaborative) works by O’Hara and his painter friends, on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles through November 14, there is O’Hara’s too-thin human form, gay and white and plucky or sad, seen by this camera or

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  • bad art

    IT HAS BEEN SIXTY YEARS since Clement Greenberg denounced middlebrow culture in “Avant Garde and Kitsch,” and decades since a serious defense of Greenberg’s ultra-highbrow position didn’t meet with a certain amount of eye-rolling. Despite Greenberg’s current revival in upper reaches of academia (particularly in continental art-critical circles), the moral all-or-nothing of his critical vision increasingly seems to have been permanently consigned to the dustbins of art history. The “debate” that still goes on between defenders of high culture and partisans of pop, at least as it’s portrayed in

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  • “Black Like Who?”

    THE BAR-B-Q AT HARVARD was unexpectedly juicy. Delectable pulled pork, tangy ribs, and luscious chicken—with all the fixin’s—were served up beneath the pious eyes of those ethereal Northern European portal sculptures that have presided for generations over the serene proceedings within a hall named for Adolphus Busch, just off Harvard Yard. This piquant supper followed an edgy panel discussion titled “Black Like Who?,” one of several arranged by Ellen Phelan, James Cuno, Glenn Ligon, and Karen Dalton for the two-day conference “Change the Joke and Slip the Yoke” (after Ralph Ellison), which was

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