The C-Word: Craft

Mrs. Webb on her motorcycle, n.d.

    A Pot by Any Other Name Is Still a Pot Two exhibitions at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) spell out the contradictions that have finally surfaced at what used to be called the American Craft Museum -- and before that the Museum of Contemporary Craft. Both names had incorporated the apparently now forbidden C-word. The first of the exhibitions is “NYC Makers, The MAD Biennial” (running until Oct. 12), already effectively slammed elsewhere, but in ways that don’t … [Read more...]

The Six Sins of Joan Mitchell

Joan-Mitchell cropped.

  Rich and Lonely Joan Mitchell (1925-92) committed her First Sin by being a woman artist with more talent than many of the men in her generation. Nevertheless, being in the second generation of Abstract Expressionists was her Second Sin. No one ever wants to be the second generation of anything. Is that why we had Neo-Geo and the Pictures Generation instead of second-generation Pop Art? Her Third Sin was that she had been born to a wealthy Chicago family. Artists, male or female, … [Read more...]

Dada Perfume: A Duchamp Interview

duchamp w bicycle wheel cropped

In honor of the 100th anniversary of the readymade, a big batch of remade readymades are now on view at New York’s Gagosian Gallery on Madison Avenue (through Aug. 29, 2014). This fall, “Readymade@100” debuts at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center, Washington, D.C. (Sept. 9 - Oct. 19). One of my very own readymades (Stolen Readymade, 2014) is part of the exhibition. As one might suspect, many of the iconic pieces now on display at Gagosian still convey the master’s wit, but … [Read more...]

Jeff Koons Closes the Whitney

"Michael Jackson and Bubbles," 1988.

                    Pop Art Comeback Announce that you like Jeff Koons and they’ll think you’re crazy or a capitalist running-dog lackey. Say you hate him and you’re just another anti-capitalist snooty spoilsport, without a sense of irony. So the best thing to do might be to avoid the big, expensive show of his shiny, expensive art now at the Whitney. After all, everyone has already seen most of the stuff; … [Read more...]

Lygia Clark: The Geography of Hagiography

Lygia Clark at MoMA

                    Is Lygia Clark’s oeuvre another case of the oeuvre with a caesura? If so, Clark (1920-1988) got it backwards. You are supposed to start out avant-garde, like some artists I dare not name, and then end up producing Almost Art. It look like art, it smells like art, but something is missing. At least it is saleable. Clark, a goddess of the avant-garde, started out with decades of Almost Art. … [Read more...]

St. Gauguin: Trouble in Paradise

"Self-Portrait with Portrait of Van Gogh," Paul Gauguin, 1888.

      Seeing the art world as a family is a handy tool, for it is like the philosophical idea that things in a category have a family resemblance rather than embody an archetype or, perish the thought, a Platonic form. On the other hand, if you are not Protestant, or Jewish or Muslim, you also have The Holy Family and the various saints to think about. When did the art world stop being a family or a religion? When it became a strictly financial machine. Andy Warhol deemed his … [Read more...]

Futurisms: Can Italian Futurism Be Saved?

Giovanni Acquaviva: Facismo/Futurismo Plate from The Life of Marinetti Dinner Service 1939. Wolfsonian Musuem, Miami, Fla.

    To some, mixing art and politics is like mixing oil and water. In reality it is more like mixing oil and vinegar. But where’s the salad? The dangers are (one) political aesthetics and (two) artistic politics. Examples of the first danger are when, in olden times, Greenbergian formalists froze out political art, the better to promote capitalism around the world; and nowadays, in more enlightened times, when poststructuralists use aesthetics to destroy their academic rivals. An … [Read more...]

Afrofuturism Arrives — With Sun Ra!

Sun Ra

Derek Adams: We><Here BLACK TO THE FUTURE...... Afrofuturism has been smoldering underground for awhile. The term was coined for African-American Si-Fi by critic Mark Derey in an essay called Black to the Future in 1994. In music, in the personage of Sun Ra, it existed before it was named, and it has a prehistory in science fiction too, in the work of Samuel Delany and Octavia Butler. And some now claim that Afrofuturism may go as far back as two works by Harlem Renaissance author … [Read more...]

Christopher Wool: Pulling the Wool Over Your Eyes

Apocalypse Now, 1988.

  Christopher Wool gets better in this century. The Guggenheim retrospective (through Jan. 22) proves it. The words and wallpaper-roller and black-on-white sprayed, printed and tricked-up paintings of the last century all have their place, but the 21st-century “gray paintings” are so far his best. Less sarcastic. More complicated. More subtle. More ironic. I look upon his 20th-century paintings, even the word paintings, as rehearsals for the  gray paintings. No more offhand appropriations of … [Read more...]

Mike Kelley, Back to School

Detail of Mike Kelley: Deodoriazed Central Mass.

      This is a test. Can you look at Mike Kelley’s huge survey (MoMA PS1 to Feb. 2) without thinking of how he died? Is it too soon to come to grips with the art? Recent evidence has emerged that St. Vincent was shot by some stupid boys by mistake. Nevertheless, van Gogh’s “suicide” haunts even the most cheerful of his landscapes. That haunting and the fading of certain colors shows how both false history and bad chemistry are art’s most dangerous collaborators. I … [Read more...]