Nuka Kiva, Marquesas Islands On the Billows of the Wide-Rolling Pacific Six months at sea! Yes, reader, as I live, six months out of sight of land; cruising after the sperm-whale beneath the scorching sun of the Line, tossed on the billows of the wide-rolling Pacific -- the sky above, the sea round, and nothing else!                                          -- Herman Melville, Typee, Chapter One Last month, after exiting the Matisse exhibition, from across Fifth Avenue yours truly spotted one of … [Read more...]


Still Life with Blue Tablecloth, 1909 Matisse at Work As Matisse became less fauve and more the artist we love, he began to depict fabrics that joyously overwhelm all other subject matter. He painted images of : tablecloths, exotic costumes worn by otherwise depersonalized women, wall hangings. And, by shifting slightly to see that it was not the cloth itself that interested him but the patterns, then wallpaper too is a subject. Because we suddenly have access to the fabrics that the artist … [Read more...]


Robert Smithson (1938-1973), c. 1968         Once you have approached the mountains of cases in order to mine the books from them and bring them to the light of day---or rather of night---what memories crowd in uponyou!                      -- "Unpacking My Library" in Illuminations, Walter Benjamin By The Book To my mind, the most interesting aspect of the … [Read more...]


        "I am a Modern artist dying of Modernism." Robert Smithson, 1961            (in a letter quoted by Thomas Crow) Robert Smithson: Spiral Jetty, 1970                    Developing the Negatives The death of Robert Smithson in a plane crash in 1973 was not only the loss of an important artist (and the art he … [Read more...]


      Touring Chelsea: Chelsea High Line Railroad, courtesy Friends of the High Line                 Why We Still Go to Galleries As I become more and more a denizen of the internet, the digital ether, I get nervous. Transformations are traumatic. And so I cling to past modes of perception. Is it my imagination, or is it really the case that the longer I am online, the stronger my need to experience … [Read more...]


My East Village Not that I want to give any secrets away, but I live in the East Village. To be even more specific, our tenement digs -- in light-hearted moments we call it our jewelbox pied-a-terre -- is in the heart of a small and growing smaller Ukrainian enclave. This Little Ukraine is also, judging by my building, peppered with Poles, and at least one half-Pole, namely John Urzendowski Perreault. Nevertheless, this storied Ukrainian neighborhood can also be seen as one big N.Y.U. dormitory … [Read more...]


Last week, a well-attended memorial for Leon Golub (1922-2004) was held at Cooper-Union's Great Hall (where Lincoln spoke). Personal talks and reminiscences were offered by Nancy Spero, the artist's wife and a fine artist herself, as well as by Kiki Smith, the poet Clayton Eshleman, and many others. I was reminded of an appreciation I wrote for N.Y. Arts magazine in June of 2001 on the occasion of the artist's retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum. I couldn't find it online, so I thought I would … [Read more...]


Max Ernst: The Blessed Virgin Chastizes the Infant Jesus Before Three Witnesses, 1926 Why Surrealisms Now? Three exhibitions prompt this question: "Dal�" at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (to May 15), "Max Ernst: A Retrospective" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1000 Fifth Avenue, to July 10) and "Surrealism USA" at the National Academy of Design (1083 Fifth Avenue, to May 8). I would not accuse the Metropolitan and certainly not the National Academy of Art (see below) of pandering to the … [Read more...]