Archive for the ‘ F ’ Category


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: 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, <>


Dates: 1926-1984

Nationality: French

Michel Foucault, born Paul-Michel Foucault (October 15, 1926 – June 25, 1984), was a French philosopher, sociologist, and historian. He held a chair at the Collège de France with the title “History of Systems of Thought,” and also taught at the University at Buffalo and the University of California, Berkeley.

Foucault is best known for his critical studies of social institutions, most notably psychiatry, medicine, the human sciences, and the prison system, as well as for his work on the history of human sexuality. His work on power, and the relationships among power, knowledge, and discourse has been widely discussed. In the 1960s Foucault was associated with Structuralism, a movement from which he distanced himself. Foucault also rejected the post-structuralist and postmodernist labels to which he was often later attributed, preferring to classify his thought as a critical history of modernity rooted in Kant. Foucault is particularly influenced by the work of Nietzsche; his “genealogy of knowledge” is a direct allusion to Nietzsche’s genealogy of morals. In a late interview he definitively stated: “I am a Nietzschean.”

Wikipedia contributors, ‘Michel Foucault’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 24 November 2010, 23:04 UTC, <>

Foucault’s aesthetic writings are preponderately situated in a rather narrow period of time – basically what he later called “those strange years, the ’60s.” It was the moment before ’68, when the loose group of historians, anthropologists, psychoanalysts, and philosophers that Americans now classify as “poststructuralist” or “postmodernist” was emerging. Not only do most of Foucault’s aesthetic writings date from this period, but they form a coherent group with a distinct relation to his archival research. In his “methodology” and in his “aesthetics” from this period there is much talk of impersonality, anonymity, faceless authorship. It was, after all, a time of Minimalism, Beckett, Robbe-Grillet, and Warhol, and Foucault tried to associate with such work the existence of a kind of “neutral space” – an “absence of oeuvre” that “affirms nothing.” He tried to show that the turn to this space was “archaeologically” significant, forming a sort of counterpoint to the importance given to language of the “linguistic model.” For it exposed something in language that was prior to linguistics or analytic logic and the ways in which words and images, saying and seeing are thought to be related to one another. The aim of Foucault’s own analysis of discourse was then at once to specify and attain this prior zone.

Foucault’s well-known reading of Magritte exemplifies this attempt. The logic of abstraction in Kandinsky and Klee, he said, is in fact not one of reduction and self-reference. Rather, Kandinsky undoes the relation between resemblance and affirming a subject, while Klee undoes the hierarchical relations of images to words in an “uncertain, reversible, floating space.” In taking up the problem posed by the two Bauhaus painters, Magritte may then be seen to point to a free zone before words and images, forms and contents, signifiers and signifieds are determined, a zone where at last painting might “affirm nothing.” Abstraction, in other words, leads to this free space before saying and seeing become “archivally” determined within some particular “discourse”; and Ceci n’est pas une pipe would then be Magritte’s paradoxical procedure to diagnose the existence of this space. Conversely an “archive” is what at a particular time and place so relates seeing and saying as to make something like “representation” or “affirmation” or the distinction between form and content possible. The aim of Foucault’s aesthetics was then in each case to attain what he described as the “anonymous murmur” of discourse, where what can be said and who can speak is up for grabs. As a kind of new archivist (as Deleuze called Foucault), he would thus join with the artist in trying to diagnose who or what, outside the prevailing “archive,” we might yet become. A strange asceticism and madness permeates this attempt. For, much as with the “neutral space” in the artwork, to attain the free anonymity of discourse was to undo one’s own discursive position in an act of depersonalization that Foucault took precisely to be characteristic of madness in his time, a matter of course of great concern and ongoing research for him. But it is at this point that the problems begin. Is it that the “absence of oeuvre” just is this zone “outside” a given archive in thought, and with it, “aesthetics”? Or is this zone rather something future historians will assign to us or our archive, the reason for our having been drawn to it a mystery? Foucault in fact entertains both hypotheses; and when after ’68 there was no further talk of such questions, one may infer that he silently adopted the second option.

Rajchman, John. “Out of the Ordinary.” ArtForum, December, 1998. <>


Dates: 1866-1934

Nationality: British

Roger Eliot Fry (December, 14  1866 – September  9, 1934) was an English artist and an art critic, and a member of the Bloomsbury group. Despite establishing his reputation as a scholar of the Old Masters, as he matured as a critic he became an advocate of more recent developments in French painting, to which he gave the name Post-Impressionism. He was the first figure to raise public awareness of modern art in Britain, and emphasized the formal properties of paintings over the “associated ideas” conjured in the viewer by their depicted content. He was described by the art historian Kenneth Clark as “incomparably the greatest influence on taste since Ruskin… In so far as taste can be changed by one man, it was changed by Roger Fry.”

Wikipedia contributors, ‘Roger Fry’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 25 November 2010, 02:11 UTC, <>

Fry’s clearest thoughts on art, according to Kenneth Clark, appeared in the introduction to Reynold’s Discourses. Fry and Clive Bell enjoyed mutual inspiration from one another. It was Bell’s 1914 polemic Art that introduced the concept of “significant form” to Fry, which would subsequently be more associated with Fry than Bell. In the essays of Vision and Design, Fry stated his case that all art could and should be appreciated principally by its “significant form.” To a public suspicious of complicated modernist theories and the notion of expertising, Fry’s viewer-approach dictum appealed to many. His books convinced a vast readership of the qualities of modern art. Fry criticized the German model of art scholarship in 1933 as seeing works of art “almost entirely from a chronological point of view, as coefficients of a time sequence, without reference to their aesthetic significance.” Fry’s populist approach to art became so pervasive that some thirty years later the German-American art historian Rudolf Wittkower decried it in his own lecture, “Art History as a Discipline.” He owed much to Morelli and Pater, the latter of whom he remarked in 1898, “makes so many mistakes about pictures; but the strange, and for a Morelli-ite disappointing, thing is that the net result is so very just.” (quoted, Ladis). His early monographs on Bellini and Veronese were the best writings on those artists of the time. Throughout his life, he continued to paint and always considered himself an artist as well as an art historian.



Dates: 1856-1939

Nationality: Austrian

Freud had great reverence for the arts, and his writings on them consist partly of general, rather sketchy, accounts of what art is, which belong very largely to the first part of his career and are uninfluenced by either the structural theory or the postulation of aggression, and partly of much fuller studies of particular artists or works of art (Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo’s Moses, Dostoyevsky). However, these latter works are, despite their brilliant aperçus, mostly illustrations of some fragment of psychoanalytic theory. In ‘Der Moses des Michelangelo’ (Imago, iii/1, 1914, pp. 15–36; Eng. trans. Complete Works, xiii, pp. 209–38) Freud said that he found himself almost incapable of gaining pleasure from a work of art unless he could explain what its effect was due to: the art he collected seems not to confirm this.

Freud took virtually no interest in contemporary art, though the Surrealists tried to gain his approval for their special appropriation of his views (see Surrealism and Automatism). In his famous meeting with Salvador Dalí in London in 1938, Freud is said to have wryly remarked that it was Dalí’s conscious mind that interested him. Freud had a passion for ancient art and was an avid collector, acquiring most works from dealers in Vienna. He brought his collection, which included Etruscan pieces, ancient Roman pots, heads, figurines and glassware, ancient Greek pots, heads and figurines, and ancient Egyptian figurines and fragments of wall painting, to London when he fled Vienna after the Nazi occupation in 1938, and it is now housed in the Freud Museum, London. Freud professed to have read more archaeology than psychology, and over the decades he used archaeology as a metaphor for the psychoanalytic process. He visited many archaeological sites in Europe, and a lifelong friend was Emanuel Löwy (1857–1938), a professor of archaeology in Rome and later in Vienna.

Freud’s son Ernst Freud (1892–1970) was an architect practising in London, and Ernst’s son was the painter Lucian Freud.

Wollheim, Richard. “Freud, Sigmund.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. 12 Mar. 2010 <>

…Consider the interesting case in which happiness in life is predominantly sought in the enjoyment of beauty, wherever beauty presents itself to our senses and our judgement–the beauty of human forms and gestures, of natural objects and landscapes and of artistic and even scientific creations. This aesthetic attitude to the goal of life offers little protection against the threat of suffering, but it can compensate for a great deal. The enjoyment of beauty has a peculiar, mildly intoxication quality of feeling. Beauty has no obvious use; nor is there any clear cultural necessity for it. Yet civilization could not do without it. The science of aesthetics investigates the conditions under which things are felt as beautiful, but it has been unable to give any explanation of the nature and origin of beauty, and, as usually happens, lack of success is concealed beneath a flood of resounding and empty words. Psychoanalysis, unfortunately, has scarcely anything to say about beauty either. All that seems certain is its derivation from the field of sexual feeling. The love of beauty seems a perfect example of an impulse inhibited in its aim. ‘Beauty’ and ‘attraction’ are originally attributes of the sexual object.

Freud, Sigmund. Civilization and its Discontents. trans. James Strachey. Norton, 1961. pp. 29-30.


Dates: 1968-Present

Origin: International

Key Artists: Judy Chicago, Cindy Sherman

May be defined as art by women artists made consciously in the light of developments in feminist art theory. In 1971 the art historian Linda Nochlin published a groundbreaking essay ‘Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?’. In it she investigated the social and economic factors that had prevented talented women from achieving the same status as their male counterparts. By the 1980s art historians such as Griselda Pollock and Rozsika Parker were going further, to examine the language of art history with its gender-loaded terms such as old master and masterpiece. They questioned the central place of the female nude in the western canon, asking why men and women are represented so differently. In his 1972 book Ways of Seeing the Marxist critic John Berger had concluded ‘Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at’. In other words Western art replicates the unequal relationships already embedded in society. Feminist art followed a similar trajectory. In what is sometimes known as First Wave feminist art, women artists revelled in feminine experience, exploring vaginal imagery and menstrual blood, posing naked as goddess figures and defiantly using media such as embroidery that had been considered ‘women’s work’. One of the great iconic works of this phase of feminist art is Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party, 1974–79. Later feminist artists rejected this approach and attempted to reveal the origins of our ideas of femininity and womanhood. They pursued the idea of femininity as a masquerade – a set of poses adopted by women to conform to social expectations of womanhood.

“Feminist art.” 12 March 2010. <>

Cindy Sherman


Dates: 1960-1975

Origin: International

Key Artists: Joseph Beuys, Nam June Paik

Informal international group of avant-garde artists working in a wide range of media and active from the early 1960s to the late 1970s. Their activities included public concerts or festivals and the dissemination of innovatively designed anthologies and publications, including scores for electronic music, theatrical performances, ephemeral events, gestures and actions constituted from the individual’s everyday experience. Other types of work included the distribution of object editions, correspondence art and concrete poetry. According to the directions of the artist, Fluxus works often required the participation of a spectator in order to be completed (see Performance art).

The name Fluxus, taken from the Latin for ‘flow’, was originally conceived by the American writer, performance artist and composer George Maciunas (1931–78) in 1961 as the title for a projected series of anthologies profiling the work of such artists as the composer La Monte Young (b 1935), George Brecht, Yoko Ono, Dick Higgins (b 1928), Ben, Nam June Paik and others engaged in experimental music, concrete poetry, performance events and ‘anti-films’ (e.g. Paik’s imageless Zen for Film, 1962). In a manifesto of 1962 (‘Neo-Dada in Music, Theater, Poetry, Art’, in J. Becker and W. Vostell: Happenings, Fluxus, Pop Art, Nouveau Réalisme, Hamburg, 1965), Maciunas categorized this diversity under the broad heading of ‘Neo-Dada’ and stressed the interest shared by all the artists in manifesting time and space as concrete phenomena. Influences of Fluxus noted by Maciunas included John Cage’s concrete music (1939) and intermedia event at Black Mountain College, NC (1952), with Merce Cunningham, Robert Rauschenberg and others; the Nouveaux Réalistes; the work of Ben; the concept art of Henry Flynt (b 1940); and Duchamp’s notion of the ready-made.

Corris, Michael. “Fluxus.” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. 12 Mar. 2010 <;

Joseph Beuys