Archive for February, 2010

T.J. CLARK

Dates: 1943-

Nationality: British

Timothy James Clark (often “T.J. Clark”) was born in 1943 in Bristol, England. He first acquired fame as a Marxist art historian. He holds the George C. and Helen N. Pardee Chair as Professor of Modern Art at the University of California, Berkeley. Clark is currently concerned with examining a particular type of pictorial thought, involving notions of human uprightness and the ground plane, which runs throughout the history of painting and which he has termed “ground level painting.” The artists Nicolas Poussin, Pieter Bruegel, and Paolo Veronese figure prominently in his work on the subject.

Clark was educated at Bristol Grammar School, before entering St. John’s College, Cambridge University, where he graduated with first class distinction in 1964. He received his Ph.D. in art history from the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London in 1973. He lectured at the University of Essex 1967-1969 and then at Camberwell College of Arts as a senior lecturer, 1970-1974. During this time he was also a member of the British Section of the Situationist International, from which he was expelled along with the other members of the English section. He was also involved in the group King Mob.

In 1973 he published two books based on his Ph.D. dissertation which launched his international career as an art historian. The Absolute Bourgeois: Artists and Politics in France, 1848-1851 and Image of the People: Gustave Courbet and the Second French Republic, 1848-1851 were received as manifestos of the new art history in the English language. In 1974, his visiting professor position at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) turned into an associate professor rank. Clark returned to Britain and Leeds University to be chair of the Fine Art Department in 1976. In 1980 Clark joined the Department of Fine Arts at Harvard University, setting off a furor among many traditional and connoisseurship-based faculty. Chief among his Harvard detractors was the Renaissance art historian Sydney Freedberg, with whom he had a public feud. In 1991 Clark was awarded the College Art Association’s Distinguished Teaching of Art History Award. Notable students include Holly Clayson, Thomas E. Crow, Whitney Davis, Serge Guilbaut, Michael Leja, and Jonathan Weinberg. In 1988 he joined the faculty at UC-Berkeley.

In the early 1980s, he wrote an essay, “Clement Greenberg’s Theory of Art,” critical of prevailing Modernist theory, which prompted a notable and pointed exchange with Michael Fried. This exchange defined the debate between Modernist theory and the social history of art. Since that time, a mutually respectful and productive exchange of ideas between Clark and Fried has developed. Clark’s works have provided a new form of art history that take a new direction from traditional preoccupations with style and iconography. His books regard modern paintings as striving to articulate the social and political conditions of modern life.

Clark received an honorary degree from the Courtauld Institute of Art in 2006. He is a member of Retort, a Bay Area-based collective of radical intellectuals, with whom he authored the book Afflicted Powers: Capital and Spectacle in a New Age of War, published by Verso Books.In 2006, Jontathan Nitzan, a professor of political economy at Canada’s York University and Shimshon Bicher an Israeli professor of economy in several Israeli colleges and universities alleged that Much of Retort’s explanation—including both theory and fact—contained in their book was plagiarized, “cut and pasted, almost as is,” from their several essays and books including “The Weapondollar-Petrodollar Coalition,” a 71-page chapter in their book, The Global Political Economy of Israel (Pluto 2002), as well as “It’s All About Oil” (2003), “Clash of Civilization, or Capital Accumulation?” (2004), “Beyond Neoliberalism” (2004) and “Dominant Capital and the New Wars” (2004). In a long essay titled Scientists and the Church they argued that the reason for Clark and his Retort colleagues theft of their intellectual content was rooted in the ancient clash of science and church. Retort’s plagiarism, they contended was “part of the constant attempt of every organized faith—whether religious or academic, liberal or Leninist, fundamentalist or postist—to disable, block and, if necessary, appropriate creativity and novelty. Creativity and novelty are dangerous. They defy dogma and undermine the conventional creed; they question the dominant ideology and threaten those in power; their very possibility challenges the church’s exclusive hold over truth. And that challenge is a cause for panic—for without this exclusivity, organized religion becomes irrelevant.” Verso, the publisher of Afflicted Powers, never responded to Nitzan and Bichler’s complaint.

Wikipedia contributors, ‘T. J. Clark (historian)’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 14 November 2010, 20:44 UTC, <en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=T._J._Clark_(historian)&oldid=396770773>

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ROSALIND KRAUSS

Dates: 1941-

Nationality: American

Rosalind Krauss is an American art critic, professor, and theorist who is based at Columbia University. Like many, Krauss had been drawn to the criticism of Clement Greenberg, as a counterweight to the highly subjective, poetic approach of Harold Rosenberg. The poet-critic model proved long-lasting in the New York scene, with products from Frank O’Hara to Kynaston McShine to Peter Schjeldahl, but for Krauss and others, its basis in subjective expression was fatally unable to account for how a particular artwork’s objective structure gives rise to its associated subjective effects.

Greenberg’s gifted way of assessing how an art object works, or how it is put together, became for Krauss a fruitful resource; even if she and fellow ‘Greenberger’ Fried would break first with the older critic, and then with each other, at particular moments of judgment, the commitment to formal analysis as the necessary if not sufficient ground of serious criticism would still remain for both of them. Decades after her first engagement with Greenberg, Krauss still used his ideas about an artwork’s ‘medium’ as a jumping-off point for her strongest effort to come to terms with post-1980 art in the person of William Kentridge. Krauss would formulate this formalist commitment in strong terms, against attempts to account for powerful artworks in terms of residual ideas about an artist’s individual genius, for instance in the essays “The Originality of the Avant-Garde: A Postmodernist Repetition” and “Photography’s Discursive Spaces.” For Krauss and for the school of critics who developed under her influence, the Greenbergian legacy offers at its best a way of accounting for works of art using public and hence verifiable criteria (unsurprisingly, Wittgenstein could also be found in Krauss’s arsenal); at its worst, in a repetition of the late Greenberg, an apodictic monologue in pseudoscientific jargon cloaks essentially unverifiable judgments of taste in a mantle of spurious authority.

Whether about art from earlier moments of modernism (Cubist collage, Surrealist photography, early Giacometti sculpture, Rodin, Brancusi, Pollock) or about art contemporaneous to her own writing (Robert Morris, Sol LeWitt, Richard Serra, Cindy Sherman), Krauss has a gift for translating the ephemeralities of visual and bodily experience into precise, vivid English, which has solidified her prestige as a critic. Her usual practice is to make this experience intelligible by using categories translated from the work of a thinker outside the study of art, such as Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Ferdinand de Saussure, Jacques Lacan, Jean-François Lyotard, Jacques Derrida, Georges Bataille, or Roland Barthes. Her work has helped establish the position of these writers within the study of art, even at the cost of provoking anxiety about threats to the discipline’s autonomy.

In many cases, Krauss is credited as a leader in bringing these concepts to bear on the study of modern art. For instance, her Passages in Modern Sculpture (1977) makes important use of Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology (as she had come to understand it in thinking about minimal art) for viewing modern sculpture in general. In her study of Surrealist photography, she rejected William Rubin’s efforts at formal categorization as insufficient, instead advocating the psychoanalytic categories of “dream” and “automatism,” as well as Jacques Derrida’s “grammatological” idea of “spacing.” See “The Photographic Conditions of Surrealism” (October, winter 1981).

Concerning Cubist art, she took Picasso’s collage breakthrough to be explicable in terms of Saussure’s ideas about the differential relations and non-referentiality of language, rejecting efforts by other scholars to tie the pasted newspaper clippings to social history. Similarly, she held Picasso’s stylistic developments in Cubist portraiture to be products of theoretical problems internal to art, rather than outcomes of the artist’s love life. Later, she explained Picasso’s participation in the rappel à l’ordre or return to order of the 1920s in similar structuralist terms. See “In the Name of Picasso” (October, spring 1981), “The Motivation of the Sign” (in Lynn Zelevansky, ed., Picasso and Braque: A Symposium, 1992), and The Picasso Papers (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1998).

From the 1980s, she became increasingly concerned with using a psychoanalytic understanding of drives and the unconscious, owing less to the Freudianism of an André Breton or a Salvador Dalí, and much more to the structuralist Lacan and the “dissident surrealist” Bataille. See “No More Play”, her 1984 essay on Giacometti, as well as “Corpus Delicti”, written for the 1985 exhibition L’Amour Fou: Photography and Surrealism, Cindy Sherman: 1975–1993 and The Optical Unconscious (both 1993) and Formless: A User’s Guide with Yve-Alain Bois, catalog to the exhibition L’Informe: Mode d’emploi (Paris: Centre Pompidou, 1996).

Years after her time at Artforum in the 1960s, Krauss also returned to the drip painting of Jackson Pollock as both a culmination of modernist work within the format of the “easel picture”, and a breakthrough that opened the way for several important developments in later art, from Allan Kaprow’s happenings to Richard Serra’s lead-flinging process art to Andy Warhol’s oxidation (i.e. urination) paintings. For reference, see the Pollock chapter in The Optical Unconscious, several entries in the Formless catalog, and “Beyond the Easel Picture”, her contribution to the MoMA symposium accompanying the 1998 Pollock retrospective (Jackson Pollock: New Approaches). This direction provided intellectual validation for the explosive Pollock markets; but it exacerbated already tense relations between herself and more radical currents in visual/cultural studies, the latter growing steadily impatient with the traditional western art-historical canon.

In addition to writing focused studies about individual artists, Krauss also produced broader, synthetic studies that helped gather together and define the limits of particular fields of practice. Examples of this include “Sense and Sensibility: Reflections on Post ’60s Sculpture” (Artforum, Nov. 1973), “Video: The Aesthetics of Narcissism” (October, spring 1976), “Notes on the Index: Seventies Art in America”, in two parts, October spring and fall 1977), “Grids, You Say,” In Grids: Format and Image in 20th Century Art (exh. cat.: Pace Gallery, 1978), and “Sculpture in the Expanded Field” (October, spring 1979). Some of these essays are collected in her book The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths.

Wikipedia contributors, ‘Rosalind E. Krauss’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 20 October 2010, 01:21 UTC, <en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Rosalind_E._Krauss&oldid=391754222>

JACQUES RANCIÈRE

Dates: 1940-

Nationality: French

Jacques Rancière is a French philosopher and Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Paris (St. Denis) who came to prominence when he co-authored Reading Capital (1968), with the Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser. In 2006, it was reported that Rancière’s aesthetic theory had become a point of reference in the visual arts, and Rancière has lectured at such art world events as the Frieze Art Fair.

Wikipedia contributors, ‘Jacques Rancière’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 29 October 2010, 22:53 UTC, <en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Jacques_Ranci%C3%A8re&oldid=393692405>

RANCIÈRE, FOR DUMMIES by Ben Davis

The 66-year-old French philosopher Jacques Rancière is clearly the new go-to guy for hip art theorists. Artforum magazine’s ever-sagacious online “Diary” has referred to Rancière as the art world’s “darling du jour,” and in its recent issue, the magazine itself has described digital video artist Paul Chan as “Rancièrian” — as an aside, without further explanation, no less! For anyone looking for a primer, Rancière’s slim The Politics of Aesthetics has just been published in paperback.

Rancière has the undeniable virtue, for the esoterica-obsessed art world at least, of being something of an odd duck. A one-time fellow traveler of Marxist mandarin Louis Althusser, Rancière split with him after the May ’68 worker-student rebellion against the de Gaulle government, feeling that Althusser, a partisan of the Stalinized French Communist Party, left too little space in his theoretical edifice for spontaneous popular revolt. Against this background of disenchantment, Rancière set out to explore the relationships between philosophy and the worker, rethink ideas of history and try to construct a progressive theory of art.

The Politics of Aesthetics is a quick and dirty tour of a number of these themes. It features five short meditations on various conjunctions of art and politics, plus a lengthy interview with Rancière by his translator Gabriel Rockhill titled “The Janus-Face of Politicized Art,” an introduction by Rockhill and a concluding essay by the art world’s other favorite quirky philosopher, Slavoj Zizek. It is a short but serious book and, in keeping with French intellectual practice, sensuously impenetrable, coming equipped with a glossary of terms for the uninitiated.

Davis, Ben. “Ranciere, for Dummies.” Artnet.com.<www.artnet.com/magazineus/books/davis/davis8-17-06.asp>

RICHARD KOSTELANETZ

Dates: 1940-

Nationality: American

Richard (Cory) Kostelanetz is an American artist, author and critic. He was born to Boris Kostelanetz and Ethel Cory and is the nephew of the composer Andre Kostelanetz. After a lifetime in Manhattan and thirty-five years in its SoHo district, he has moved his studio christened Wordship to Ridgewood-SoHo, as he calls it, in Far-East Artists’ Bushwick. He never remarried. He is a passionate defender of the avant-garde. He has a B.A. from Brown University and an M.A. in American History from Columbia University under Woodrow Wilson, NYS Regents, and International Fellowships; he also studied at King’s College London as a Fulbright Scholar.

Grants have come to him from the Guggenheim Foundation (1967), Pulitzer Foundation (1965), DAAD Berliner Kunstlerprogramm (1981-1983), Vogelstein Foundation (1980), Fund for Investigative Journalism (1981), Pollock-Krasner Foundation (2001), CCLM (1981), ASCAP (1983 annually to the present), American Public Radio Program Fund (1984), and the National Endowment for the Arts with ten individual awards (1976, 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1985, 1986, 1990, 1991). He also assumed production residencies at the Electronic Music Studio of Stockholm, Experimental TV Center (Owego, NY), Mishkenot Sha’ananim (Jerusalem), and the MIT Media Lab, among other entities.

He came onto the literary scene with essays in quarterlies like “Partisan Review’ and The Hudson Review, then profiles of older artists, musicians and writers for The New York Times Magazine; these profiles were collected in Master Minds” (1969)’. Not one to shy away from controversy, he turned on his literary elders with The End of Intelligent Writing: Literary Politics in Ameroca (1974). SoHo: The Rise and Fall of an Artists’ Colony (2003) evinces not the Latest but the Last. Books of his radically alternative fiction include “In the Beginning” (1971) (the alphabet arranged in single and double letter combinations), “Short Fictions’ (1974), “More Short Fictions” (1980, and Furtherest Fictions (2007)); of his mostly visual poetry, “Visual Language” (1970), “I Articulations” (1974), “Wordworks” (1993), and “More Wordworks” (2006). Among the anthologies he has edited are “On Contemporary Literature” (1964, 1969), “Beyond Left & Rght” (1968), “John Cage” (1970, 1991), “Moholy-Nagy” (1970), Scenarios (1980), and The Literature of SoHo (1981). A political anarchist-libertarian, he authored “Political Essays” (1999) and “Toward Secession: More Political Essays” (2008) and has since 1987 been a contributing editor for Liberty Magazine.

Wikipedia contributors, ‘Richard Kostelanetz’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 19 October 2010, 12:13 UTC, <en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Richard_Kostelanetz&oldid=391630231>

DAVE HICKEY

Dates: 1939-

Nationality: American

Dave Hickey is one of the best known American art and cultural critics practicing today. He has written for many major American publications including Rolling Stone, Art News, Art in America, Artforum, Harper’s Magazine, and Vanity Fair. He is currently Professor of English at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

Known for his arguments against academicism and in favor of the effects of rough-and-tumble free markets on art, his critical essays have been published in two volumes: The Invisible Dragon: Four Essays on Beauty and Air Guitar: Essays on Art and Democracy (1997). In 2009, Hickey published a revised and updated version of The Invisible Dragon, adding an introduction that addressed changes in the art world since the book’s original publication, as well as a new concluding essay. Through his writing and lecturing, Dave Hickey has gained a substantial international reputation. He has been the subject of profiles in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, U.S. News and World Report, Texas Monthly, and elsewhere. He was the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, the so-called “genius grant.”

Hickey has had a varied career. He graduated from Texas Christian University in 1961 and received his PhD from the University of Texas only two years later. In 1989, SMU Press published Prior Convictions, a volume of his short fiction. He was owner-director of A Clean Well-Lighted Place, an art gallery in Austin, Texas and director of Reese Palley Gallery in New York. He has served as Executive Editor for Art in America magazine, as contributing editor to The Village Voice, as Staff Songwriter for Glaser Publications in Nashville and as Arts Editor for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. In 2003, he was inducted into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame, sponsored by the Friends of the University of Nevada, Reno Libraries. He is married to art historian Libby Lumpkin.

Wikipedia contributors, ‘Dave Hickey’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 23 October 2010, 15:20 UTC, <en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Dave_Hickey&oldid=392416621>

MICHAEL FRIED

Dates: 1939-

Nationality: American

Michael Fried (born 1939, New York City) is an Modernist art critic and art historian. He studied at Princeton University and Harvard University and was a Rhodes Scholar at Merton College, Oxford University. He is currently the J.R. Herbert Boone Professor of Humanities and Art History at the Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, United States. Fried’s preeminent contribution to art historical discourse involved the debate over the origins and development of modernism. Along with Fried, this debate’s interlocutors include other theorists and critics such as Clement Greenberg, Kenworth Moffett, T. J. Clark, and Rosalind Krauss. Since the early 1960s, he has also been close to philosopher Stanley Cavell.

Fried describes his early career in the introduction to Art and Objecthood: Essays and Reviews (1998), an anthology of his art criticism in the 60s and 70s. Although he majored in English at Princeton it was there that he became interested in writing art criticism. While at Princeton he met the artist, Frank Stella, and through him Walter Darby Bannard. In 1958 he wrote a letter to Clement Greenberg expressing his admiration for his writing, and first met him in the Spring of that year. In September 1958 he moved to Oxford, and then to London in 1961-2, where he studied philosophy part-time at University College, London under Stuart Hampshire and Richard Wollheim. In 1961 Hilton Kramer offered him the post of London correspondent for the journal, Arts. In the fall of 1961 Fried began his friendship with the sculptor, Anthony Caro, Caro inviting him to write the introduction to his Whitechapel Art Gallery exhibition in 1963.

In the late summer of 1962, Fried returned to the U.S, where he combined studying for a Ph.D in art history at Harvard with writing art criticism, initially for Art International, and curating the exhibition Three American painters: Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, Frank Stella at the Fogg Art Museum. In his essay, Art and Objecthood, published in 1967, he suggested that Minimalism had betrayed Modernism’s exploration of the medium by becoming emphatic about its own materiality as to deny the viewer a proper aesthetic experience. Minimalism (or “literalism” as Fried called it) offered an experience of “theatricality” rather than “presentness”; it left the viewer in his or her ordinary, non-transcendent world. The essay inadvertently opened the door to establishing a theoretical basis for Minimalism as a movement based in phenomenological experience. In Art and Objecthood Fried criticised the “theatricality” of Minimalist art. He introduced the opposing term “absorption” in his 1980 book, Absorption and Theatricality: Painting and Beholder in the Age of Diderot.Drawing on Diderot’s aesthetics, Fried argues that whenever a consciousness of viewing exists absorption is sacrificed and theatricality results.As well as applying the distinction to Eighteenth Century painting, he also uses it to assess post-1945 American painting and sculpture, which he values to the extent to which they are liberated from theatricality. Fried is dismissive of critics who wish to conflate his art-critical and art-historical writing.

Stephen Melville accepts that Fried is right to draw attention to the fear since the time of Diderot that art is threatened by the forces of theatricality, entertainment, kitsch and mass-culture; but that his analysis is limited by accepting on its own terms the response of art to this threat. Melville maintains that theatricality is a necessary condition of art and that absorption is itself theatrical.Martin Puchner holds that Fried’s distinction rests on a Modernist resistance to interference from the public sphere and a defence of the artist’s control over the external circumstances of reception. In a somewhat surprising turn Fried revisits these concerns via a study on recent photography; his oddly titled ‘Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before’ (London and New Haven 2008). In a selective reading of works by prominent ‘Art’ photographers of the last twenty years (Bernd and Hilla Becher, Jeff Wall, Andreas Gursky, Thomas Demand amongst others) Fried asserts that concerns of anti-theatricality and absorption are central to the turn by recent photographers towards large scale “for the wall” works. It remains to be seen whether this represents a slightly opportunistic attempt to reinvest his previous concerns with currency, or a genuinely productive approach to this high profile body of work.

Wikipedia contributors, ‘Michael Fried’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 18 October 2010, 21:44 UTC, <en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Michael_Fried&oldid=391522076>

BARBARA ROSE

Dates: 1938-

Nationality: American

Barbara Rose is an American art historian and art critic. She was educated at Smith College, Barnard College and Columbia University. She was married to artist Frank Stella between 1961 and 1969. In 1965 she published ABC Art in which she described the characteristics of minimal art.

In her essay, ABC Art, Rose considers the diverse roots of minimalism in the work of Malevich and Duchamp as well as the choreography of Merce Cunningham, the art criticism of Greenberg, the philosophy of Wittgenstein and the novels of Robbe-Grillet. In examining the historical roots of minimal art in 1960s America, Rose draws a distinction between Kasimir Malevich’s “search for the transcendental, universal, absolute” and Marcel Duchamp’s “blanket denial of the existence of absolute values.”

Rose grouped some 1960’s artists as closer to Malevich, some as closer to Duchamp, and some as between the two. Closer to Malevich are Walter Darby Bannard, Larry Zox, Robert Huot, Lyman Kipp, Richard Tuttle, Jan Evans, Ronald Bladen, Anne Truitt. Closer to Duchamp are Richard Artschwager and Andy Warhol. Between Malevich and Duchamp she places Robert Morris, Donald Judd, Carl Andre, and Dan Flavin. Her conclusion is that minimal art is both transcendental and negative:

“The art I have been talking about is obviously a negative art of denial and renunciation. Such protracted asceticism is normally the activity of contemplatives or mystics…Like the mystic, in their work these artists deny the ego and the individual personality, seeking to evoke, it would seem, the semihypnotic state of blank unconsciousness.”

She also contrasts minimal art with Pop Art:

“…if Pop Art is the reflection of our environment, perhaps the art I have been describing is its antidote, even if it is a hard one to swallow.”

Wikipedia contributors, ‘Barbara Rose’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 18 October 2010, 15:18 UTC, <en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Barbara_Rose&oldid=391456786>