Archive for the ‘ Critic ’ Category

HAL FOSTER

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, <en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Hal_Foster_(art_critic)&oldid=396395539>

JAMES ELKINS

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, <en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=James_Elkins_(art_critic)&oldid=379015902>

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.

<www.jameselkins.com/#page2>

YVE-ALAIN BOIS

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, <en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Yve-Alain_Bois&oldid=391028321>

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>

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>