COLUMNS

  • 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?

    Read more
  • Tibor Kalman

    TIBOR KALMAN IS A GRAPHIC DESIGNER, a crafter of corporate logos, a producer of presentation materials, a maker of menus and restaurant posters. But Tibor Kalman is so much more than that.

    According to most of those who judge such things (with whom I concur, by the way), he is accomplished, even brilliant at what he does. He may even be the greatest graphic designer of his generation. Certainly his output of the last twenty years, just collected in the three-and-a-half-pound book Perverse Optimist (Princeton Architectural Press), sparkles with witty solutions to the problems typical of corporate

    Read more
  • 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

    Read more
  • 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

    Read more
  • Michel Foucault’s aesthetics

    WHAT EXACTLY IS MEANT by Michel Foucault’s “aesthetics”? The ideas of sex and power we now associate with the philosopher and historian seem to exist in an entirely different register from what he found in the arts. And yet in a certain way this paradox in our relation to his thought is already present in his own work, his own aesthetics.

    The recent publication of Volume Two of Foucault’s collected writings confronts us with just such questions. Much of his writings about the arts are contained in essays, reviews, interviews, lectures—a whole body of journalism that accompanied his work as

    Read more
  • business lit

    THE PRESS KIT THAT CAME WITH my copy of Gordon MacKenzie’s Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace (Viking, 1998) describes the book as “originally self-published and already a business cult-classic.” That such a thing exists should surprise no one: so far has business writing evolved in the last thirty years, so many subgenres has it spun off, that the notion of a cult classic is today but one of the many ways in which this former publishing industry niche now constitutes a fairly complete parallel literary universe. There are management prayer books,

    Read more
  • advertising doubt

    NO ONE’S CERTAIN HOW many new advertising or media columns have started up this year (four writers I know have been asked to pen them for different publications), but it’s already clear that 1998 will be remembered as the year we got wise. We the people are acting on our inalienable right to gather in coffee shops where murmurs of Dan Rather’s bias may be heard, to rate the Super Bowl commercials, to visit Websites where the big city page-ones are slightingly compared, to read of the advance or retreat of favorite pundits, to be addressed as a knowing insider, to go into the interpretation

    Read more
  • “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

    Read more
  • whiteness studies

    IT’S REMARKABLE HOW MUCH we express our political lives in the language of color—conservatives with blue, radicals with red, queers with pink, liberals with lilac; Indian Congress Party patriots de rigueur in white, African Nationalists in black, red, and green, avant-garde apparatchiks, unfortunately like fascists, in black. The lesson of this political palette may indeed go beyond flags and festoons. In the visual display of colors lie those “shades of opinion” that modern democratic societies see as their saving grace. But there is something even more significant about the association of

    Read more
  • Robert Smithson

    IN HIS “SITE/NON-SITE” projects of the late ’60s and early ’70s, Robert Smithson mapped the ravages and beauties of the twentieth-century landscape. His chosen sites were poisoned lakes, rubbish dumps, and construction zones, by-products of industrial capitalism. Intervening and scavenging in these wastelands, he carried back from them evocative fragments—stones, salt crystals, tar samples—which, in the gallery, became non-sites, abstract reminders of the absent site’s meaning. “My view of art,” Smithson wrote in 1969, “springs from a dialectical position that deals with whether something exists

    Read more
  • paparazzi

    I LOVE PAPARAZZI. Perhaps I should qualify that statement. I know none personally. I’ve never been accosted by one. I’ve never stood on the blitzkrieg flash’s receiving end. (However, at press events, I’ve been bumped against, jostled, and pushed aside by jutting telephoto lenses.) I assume—wrongly?—that most paparazzi are pushy men, and I don’t like to be pushed around; nonetheless, I love paparazzi. They resemble (in a cheerfully debased form that nevertheless remains true to the high original) a kind of perverse artist I’ve long held dear—the artist who doesn’t merely represent a desire,

    Read more
  • George W. S. Trow and Daniel Harris

    THERE IS AN APPLIANCE in every living room that makes people stupid. This was a widely known fact before George W. S. Trow’s essay, “Within the Context of No Context” appeared in The New Yorker in 1980 (and in book form soon after), but Trow’s impressionistic meditation on the world of television, and the world of television’s effect on mass culture, fingered the beguiling awfulness of the medium, and the medium’s message, with arresting precision—arresting not least because the essay’s form mimicked the fractured pastiche that was, in 1980, only beginning to be called “postmodernism,” a condition

    Read more