Archive for February, 2012


Dates: 1955-

Nationality: American

Hal Foster, who is the Townsend Martin, Class of 1917, Professor of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University, is an internationally renowned author of books on post-modernism in art. Born 1955 in Seattle, the son of a partner in the distinguished law firm of Foster Pepper and Shefelman, Foster was educated at a private academy, Lakeside School, where one of his classmates was Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

Hal Foster’s intellectual formation was constituted, initially as a critic, then as a critical art historian, in the fraught cultural context of late-1970s New York. Following his undergraduate education at Princeton, he first began to write art criticism for Artforum in 1978. This criticism was marked by a precocious ability to theorize postmodernism through critical theory. The strength of his early writing quickly propelled Foster into a major presence in the New York art scene: from 1981-1987 he was an associate, then senior editor at Art in America; in 1983 he edited a seminal collection of essays on postmodernism, The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture; and in 1985 he published his first collection of essays, Recodings: Art Spectacle, Cultural Politics.

Shortly after the appearance of Recodings, Foster’s semi-independent position as an art critic began to shift towards a more academically affiliated position as an art historian. Leaving Art in America in 1987, he became the director of critical and curatorial studies at the Whitney Independent Study Program until 1991 (though his involvement continues into the present). Foster received his Ph. D. from the Graduate Center at the City University of New York in 1990, writing a dissertation on Surrealism under the direction of Rosalind Krauss (later revised to become his first book, Compulsive Beauty). In 1991 he assumed a position in the Department of Art History at Cornell University, the same year that joined the editorial board of the journal October, a position he continues to hold. Foster left Cornell in 1997 to assume his current chaired professorship in the Department of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University. In addition to Recodings and several edited collections, Foster’s books include Compulsive Beauty (1993), The Return of the Real (1996), Design and Crime (and Other Diatribes) (2002), and Prosthetic Gods (2004). He is also the author, with Rosalind Krauss, Yve-Alain Bois, and Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, of the recent textbook Art since 1900: Modernism, Antimodernism, Postmodernism (2004).

Along with other members of the October editorial board, and an older generation of critic-historians whom he cites as intellectual models (most notably Michael Fried, Rosalind Krauss, and T. J. Clark) Foster has consistently worked to straddle the double role of critic and historian. In large part the double imperative of history and criticism (an imperative central to all his writing) is a direct result of being intellectually constituted at the juncture of late modernism and emergent postmodernism. For Foster, as with other like-minded critics of his generation, postmodernism offered the productive potential of a historical rupture, while maintaining a ground in the antecedent practices of the historical- and neo-avant-garde. As he argues in The Return of the Real, this often vexed relation between historical discontinuity and continuity was a central problem of the avant-garde. The continued avant-garde negotiation between social-political critique and historical engagement is, for Foster, the core challenge of art history and production in the wake of modernism. Foster argues for a variety of ways in which avant-garde postmodernism extends the critical advances of late-modernism. First, postmodernism moves beyond a tendency to level critique within and at the institutions of art (the gallery/museum), opening instead onto more extended public sphere (bus shelters, baseball stadiums, taxi cabs, etc.). Second, in moving beyond the institutional framework of art, there is a concurrent shift away from a modernist “deconstructive” engagement with conventional art forms such as painting (Daniel Buren’s banners, for example) and sculpture (Michael Asher’s displacements). Third, while Minimalism and post-Minimalism activated the body of the viewer, postmodernism no longer assumes this body to be gender, race, or class neutral. And finally, critical postmodernism, attempts to circumvent the danger that late-modernist institutional critique will fold back into the mainstream of institutional practice, becoming it own professionally sanctioned form of expertise.

By the mid-1990s, the future viability of a postmodern avant-garde—conceived as a dialectical negotiation of the “temporal, diachronic, or vertical axis” of history with the “spatial, synchronic, or horizontal axis” of the social—had, for Foster, entered a state of crisis. This breakdown in the historical-critical axes of the avant-grade was born, he claims, not of the failure of the avant-garde, but of its very success. Indeed, for Foster, the imbalance and eventual nullification of the dialectical terms “history” and “criticism” can be traced to the very efforts of the avant-garde to shift a historically grounded criterion of quality, to a socially or politically determined criterion of interest. This is a crucial move for Foster, as it allows for an acknowledgment of avant-garde crisis, while resisting the despondency of various positions that proclaim the initial failure of historical avant-garde, and worse, the farcical reputation of this failure within the neo-avant-garde (as argued Peter Bürger’s influential Theory of the Avant-Garde).

If Foster advocates a recuperative dialectic for the neo-avant-garde through to the first generation of avant-garde postmodernism, by the mid-1990s the dialectical engine of history and critique, as he sees it, is no longer working. Foster thus advances an alternate historical-critical model conceived on the Freudian notion of deferred action (nachträglichkeit). According to Foster’s model of deferred action, the historical and epistemological significance of the avant-garde is never fully apprehended in the first instance. Nor can it ever be, as, for Foster, the avant-garde is registered as a form of trauma—as a hole in the symbolic order of history. Thus, while the historical avant-garde grappled to work through the traumas of modernity, the neo-avant-garde responds to, and attempts to work through, the deferred trauma of this initial working through. No longer an evolutionary avant-garde of historical progress, Foster replaces dialectical sublation with nachträglichkeit, and the past and future tenses of continuity and rupture with the future-anterior of the will-have-been.

As a recent recipient of Guggenheim and CASVA fellowships, he continues to write regularly for the London Review of Books, the Los Angeles Times Book Review, October (where he is also a co-editor), and the New Left Review.

Wikipedia contributors, ‘Hal Foster (art critic)’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 12 November 2010, 22:02 UTC, <>



Dates: 1955-

Nationality: American

James Elkins is an art historian and art critic. He is also E.C. Chadbourne Chair of art history, theory, and criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is on the faculty of the Stone Summer Theory Institute, a short term school on contemporary art history held in Chicago.

Wikipedia contributors, ‘James Elkins (art critic)’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 15 August 2010, 08:52 UTC, <>

James Elkins grew up in Ithaca, New York, separated from Cornell University by a quarter-mile of woods once owned by the naturalist Laurence Palmer. He stayed on in Ithaca long enough to get the BA degree (in English and Art History), with summer hitchhiking trips to Alaska, Mexico, Guatemala, the Caribbean, and Columbia. For the last twenty-five years he has lived in Chicago; he got a graduate degree in painting, and then switched to Art History, got another graduate degree, and went on to do the PhD in Art History, which he finished in 1989. (All from the University of Chicago.) Since then he has been teaching at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is currently E.C. Chadbourne Chair in the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism.

His writing focuses on the history and theory of images in art, science, and nature. Some of his books are exclusively on fine art (What Painting Is, Why Are Our Pictures Puzzles?). Others include scientific and non-art images, writing systems, and archaeology (The Domain of Images, On Pictures and the Words That Fail Them), and some are about natural history (How to Use Your Eyes). Current projects include a series called the Stone Summer Theory Institutes, a book called The Project of Painting: 1900-2000, a series called Theories of Modernism and Postmodernism in the Visual Art, and a book written against Camera Lucida.



Dates: 1952-

Nationality: French

Yve-Alain Bois is an historian and critic of modern art. Yve-Alain Bois was born on April 16, 1952 in Constantine, Algeria. In a formative early experience, he rejected Michel Seuphor’s mis-characterization of Piet Mondrian as a kind of neo-Platonic monk, upon receiving this book as a confirmation present from his grandfather. He received an M.A. from the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes in Paris for work on El Lissitzky’s typography, and a Ph.D. from the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales for work on Lissitzky’s and Malevich’s conceptions of space. His advisor was Roland Barthes.

He is a Professor in the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, in the chair inaugurated by Erwin Panofsky and formerly held by Millard Meiss, Irving Lavin, and Kirk Varnedoe. Previously, he served on the faculty at Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University, and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique.

He has written books or major articles on canonical artists of European modernism including Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Piet Mondrian, El Lissitzky, Kazimir Malevich, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, and of American postwar art including Barnett Newman, Ad Reinhardt, Cy Twombly, Ellsworth Kelly, Richard Serra, and Robert Ryman. He is also an influential interpreter of comparatively more obscure artists including Wladyslaw Strzeminski, Katarzyna Kobro, and Sophie Calle. He is an editor of the journal October.

Wikipedia contributors, ‘Yve-Alain Bois’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 16 October 2010, 09:12 UTC, <>


Dates: 1949-

Nationality: British

Griselda Pollock is a prominent art historian and cultural analyst, and a world-renowned scholar of international, post-colonial feminist studies in the visual arts. She is best known for her theoretical and methodological innovation, combined with deeply engaged readings of historical and contemporary art, film and cultural theory. Since 1977, Pollock has been one of the most influential scholars of modern, avant-garde art, postmodern art, and contemporary art. She is also a major influence in feminist theory, feminist art history and gender studies.

Born in South Africa, Griselda Pollock grew up in both French and English Canada. Moving to Britain during her teens, Pollock studied Modern History at Oxford (1967-1970) and History of European Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art (1970-72). She received her doctorate in 1980 for a study of Vincent Van Gogh and Dutch Art: A reading of his notions of the modern. After teaching at Reading and Manchester universities, Pollock went to Leeds in 1977 as Lecturer in History of Art and Film and was appointed to a Personal Chair in Social and Critical Histories of Art in 1990. In 2001 she became Director of Centre for Cultural Analysis, Theory and History at the University of Leeds, where she is Professor of Social and Critical Histories of Art.

Griselda Pollock continually challenges the dominant museum models of art and history that have been so excluding of women’s artistic contributions, and articulates the complex relations between femininity, modernity, psychoanalysis and representation. Pollock is engaged in French feminism and psychoanalysis. She is best known for her work on the artists Jean-François Millet, Vincent van Gogh, Mary Cassatt, Bracha L. Ettinger, Eva Hesse and Charlotte Salomon.

Wikipedia contributors, ‘Griselda Pollock’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 27 November 2010, 10:23 UTC, <>


Dates: 1947-

Nationality: American

Noël Carroll is an American philosopher considered an authority for his aesthetic analysis of films. He works in general on philosophy of art, theory of media and also philosophy of history. He is at present a distinguished professor of philosophy at the CUNY Graduate Center. As a journalist, he has also published a number of articles in the Chicago Reader, ARTforum, In These Times, Dance Magazine, Soho Weekly News and The Village Voice.

Wikipedia contributors, ‘Noël Carroll’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 4 October 2010, 18:42 UTC, <>

Philosophical aesthetics in the twentieth century has shown a striking inability to come to terms with mass art. In the main, the phenomenon is generally ignored in philosophical treatises on art. Instead the examples upon which twentieth century philosophers of art construct their theories are primarily drawn from the realm of what is often called high art. Moreover, when philosophers or philosophically minded art theorists have focused on the topic of mass art, their finding are frequently dismissive and openly hostile. Often their energies are spent in the attempt to show that mass art is not genuine art, but something else, something called kitsch or pseudo-art. (Carroll 15)

Carroll, Noël. The Philosophy of Mass Art. Oxford University Press, Inc., New York, 1998.


Dates: 1944-

Nationality: Belgian

Thierry de Duve is a Belgian professor of modern art theory and contemporary art theory, and both actively teaches and publishes books in the field. He also curates exhibitions. He has been a visiting professor at: the University of Lille III (France), the Sorbonne (France), MIT, and Johns Hopkins University, and was the Elliot and Roslyn Jaffe Distinguished Visiting Professor in Contemporary Art in Penn’s History of Art Department. He was a fellow at the Center for the Advanced Study of the Visual Arts (CASVA) at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

Wikipedia contributors, ‘Thierry de Duve’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 22 October 2010, 06:55 UTC, <>

Thierry de Duve is professor at Université Lille 3, département des arts plastiques in Villeneuve d’Ascq, France. He writes and teaches on modern and contemporary art. Committed to a reinterpretation of modernism, his work has long revolved around Marcel Duchamp’s readymade and its implications for aesthetics. His publications include: Pictorial Nominalism: On Marcel Duchamp’s Passage from Painting to the Readymade, with D. Polan (Minneapolis,1991); Clement Greenberg between the Lines, translated by Brian Holmes (Paris, 1996); Kant After Duchamp (Cambridge, 1998); and The Definitively Unfinished Marcel Duchamp (Cambridge, 1993).