COLUMNS

  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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,

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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).

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  • Light Years

    The Met’s Afrofuturist period room thinks inside the box

    IN HIS INTRODUCTION to Period Rooms in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1996), the longest-serving director of the New York museum, the now-retired Philippe de Montebello, notes the popularity of his subject. “Virtually everyone who visits the Museum’s American Wing finds there the opportunity to experience a sense of the way our forebears lived,” he writes. A period room is a museological device that combines architecture, furnishings, decorative art, and functional objects to represent an interior of a certain time, place, and style. A feature of many museums, the rooms purport to represent

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  • Safe Harbor

    What story will Hong Kong’s M+ museum tell?

    AT A SPECIAL PREVIEW EVENING FOR M+, local artists and patrons—and some internationals who had abided Hong Kong’s rigorous quarantine measures—cautiously entered the Brutalist-style building, at 700,000 square feet one of the largest contemporary art museums in the world.

    The museum has weathered criticism from its inception, dating back to a 1998 proposal for a cultural district complete with sites dedicated to visual and performing arts. In the 2000s, Hong Kong was unfairly stuck with the label of “cultural desert” despite the presence of a robust modern art scene there since the 1960s, and

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  • Cosmic Dancer

    Dan Beachy-Quick on Charles Ross’s Star Axis

    COSMOS IS A WORD UNIVERSAL IN SCOPE, but hidden inside it, like the intimate drawers of a jewelry box, other meanings are kept. Order: of stars, of world, of self. Pattern: macrocosm, microcosm. Form. Ornament. Adornment. The light-year dance of galaxies around one another is cosmic; so is the pearl-drop pendant hanging below the throat. Absolute zero and blood-heat braided together, as is that intimacy between self and universe entire—a fact somehow known before it’s learned, forgotten before it’s ever been grasped—may well be the fundamental discovery needed to put your foot on Star Axis’s

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  • Up In Smoke

    Dodie Bellamy on Judy Chicago’s Forever de Young

    GIDDY FROM SIPPING FLUTES of the de Young Museum’s prosecco, my friend Karen and I quickly realized that from the VIP section, the view of Judy Chicago’s smoke sculpture, Forever de Young, was going to suck. Since we were standing to the side of the huge pyramid-shaped scaffolding that was holding the canisters of colored pigments that would be “released” into the air, we knew we would not be able to see the whole picture. We scanned for a better vantage point but were cordoned off, and the rest of the crowd formed a dense mass that looked impossible to insert ourselves into. So we hunkered down

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