Archive for the ‘ Historian ’ 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: 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: 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, <>


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: 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, <>