Archive for the ‘ K ’ Category


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, <>


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, <>


Dates: 1935-

Nationality: American

Donald Kuspit (b. March 26, 1935) is an American art critic, poet, and Distinguished Professor of art history and philosophy at the State University of New York at Stony Brook and professor of art history at the School of Visual Arts. Kuspit is one of America’s most distinguished art critics. He was formerly the A. D. White Professor-at-Large at Cornell University (1991-1997). He received the Frank Jewett Mather Award for Distinction in Art Criticism in 1983 (given by the College Art Association). His essay “Reconsidering the Spiritual in Art” appears in Blackbird: an online journal of literature and the arts.

Wikipedia contributors, ‘Donald Kuspit’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 17 October 2010, 03:01 UTC, <>

A photographic detail from the Hirst installation Home, Sweet Home – consisting of a clutter of fag ends, beer bottles, coke cans, coffee cups and sweet wrappings on a table – graces the cover of The End of Art. Valued at around $7000, Home, Sweet Home was famously binned by humble cleaner Emmanuel Asare, who afterwards explained, to the amusement of the Press, that he did so because he “didn’t think for a second that it was a work of art.” Neither does Donald Kuspit.

Indeed, Home, Sweet Home is so far beyond what can properly considered art, Kuspit believes, that he uses the term “postart” to describe it. And, like Asare, Kuspit engages in a spot of enlightened cleaning in an attempt to remove the postmodern clutter that threatens to swamp our artistic landscape. Kuspit traces the genealogy of the postart aesthetic from Marcel Duchamp’s announcement of an “entropic split” between intellectual expression and animal expression (which led to the reification of concept over form, and from there to a nihilistic pessimism) through Warhol’s commercialism (which blurred the line between art and business) to Hirst’s installations (which reflect postmodernism’s preoccupation with the banal objects and situations of our everyday lives).

Whereas modern art consisted of revolutionary experiments motivated by a desire to express aspects of the newly-discovered “unconscious mind,” Kuspit argues, postart is shallow, unreflective banality motivated by the desire to become institutionalized; that is, part of the mainstream (along with the commercial reward that such co-opted acceptability brings). In this regard, the messianic zeal with which Van Gogh approached his work represents an ideal because it demonstrates the kind of authentic and individualistic commitment to artistic expression that today’s commercialized postartists lack. The crucifixion has become a cabaret.

Kuspit points out that it was to a very different kind of institution – the psychiatric ward – that modern artists were drawn. In an attempt to understand how the unconscious and madness can affect the creative process, modern artists turned their attention to the artworks of psychiatric patients. Modern art went on to find its greatest glories in the dark and mysterious world of the human unconscious. This is the anti-Allegory of the Cave, an emergence into night.

Acknowledging that modern art’s engagement with madness produced imperfect (but important) art, Kuspit’s new book attacks the postartists for substituting modern art’s authentic engagement with madness for the cozy passivity of the television documentary. Fearful of the dark and unpredictable world of the unconscious (largely because they are ignorant of it), postartists engage in mimicry of madness. The failure of creativity that characterizes postart, Kuspit notes, is highlighted in the way that postartists fail to imagine that there is a flicker of madness inside us all.

Typical post-art values include: a tendency to mock posterity, a tendency to elevate the banal to the status of the enigmatic and the scatological to the status of the sacred, and a preference for concept-driven art. Postart is art at the service of the mind and the product of joyless, “clever, clever” theorizing. Entertainment value and commercial panache are valued more highly than artistic ability or aesthetic worth and painting is perilously close to becoming a sub-genre of performance art. Kuspit blends psychoanalytic criticism, philosophy, and non-technical art history to make a powerful and compelling case for dismissal of the postart aesthetic. The End of Art will appeal to anyone who has ever felt cheated by the produce of the postmodern establishment.

If there’s a criticism to be made, it’s that Kuspit’s description of the New Old Masters is largely confined to a postscript. This group, which includes Lucien Freud and Jenny Saville, might be our artistic saviours, Kuspit claims, inasmuch as they represent values that simultaneously evoke the spirituality and humanism of the Old Masters and the innovation and criticality of the New Masters, enabling them to transcend the suicidal intellectualism and socio-political fixations of postart.

Cole, Emmett. “Emmett Cole Interviews Donald Kuspit.” <>


Dates: 1928-2012

Nationality: American

Hilton Kramer (born 1928, Gloucester, Massachusetts) was a U.S. art critic and cultural commentator.

Kramer was educated at Syracuse University, Columbia University, Harvard University, Indiana University and the New School for Social Research. He worked as the editor of Arts Magazine, art critic for The Nation, and from 1965 to 1982, as an art critic for The New York Times. He has also published in the Art and Antiques Magazine and The New York Observer.

Over the course of his career, Kramer came to disagree with left-wing political views and what he perceived as the aesthetic nihilism characterizing a large majority of 20th century working artists and art critics. This change of position led to his resignation from The New York Times in 1982 to found The New Criterion, now a prominent conservative magazine for which Kramer is, with Roger Kimball, co-editor and publisher. Kramer took a strongly anti-Stalinist stance in his 2003 review of Anne Applebaum’s Gulag: A History. In his 1999 The Twilight of the Intellectuals, he defended the anti-Stalinist views of art critic Clement Greenberg.

Wikipedia contributors, ‘Hilton Kramer’, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 13 October 2010, 23:08 UTC, <>


Dates: 1813-1855

Nationality: Danish

Unlike some philosophers of the modern period, Søren Kierkegaard did not produce a systematic aesthetics. His writings are nevertheless rich in aesthetic theory and the use of aesthetic categories, such as irony and humor, as well as literary techniques, in the form of pseudonyms and representative figures, that give his authorship a poetic, or artistic, character. Perhaps most renowned for his theoretical differentiations between, and literary characterizations of, three stages, or modes, of human life (the aesthetic, the ethical, and the religious) in his writings, winning him the philosophical distinction of being called “the father of existentialism,” Kierkegaard seeks ultimately to show how these dimensions may be unified in human existence through a process of personal striving toward the realization of an artistic wholeness of being, or selfhood, that constitutes, in his view, the goal of human life and art.

Understanding the aesthetic fundamentally in terms of its etymological derivation from the Greek word aisthēsis, or sense perception, Kierkegaard associates the aesthetic stage with an immediate enjoyment of life through the senses, including sensuous enjoyment through poetic, or artistic, products of the creative imagination, and with the refinement of that lifestyle through aesthetic reflection. There is an integral connection in his thought, therefore, between the aesthetic as a stage of life, the creation of artworks as a means of obtaining sensuous enjoyment, and aesthetics as the theory of sensate or artistic representation.

Walsh, Sylvia. “Kierkegaard, Søren Aabye.” Encyclopedia of Aesthetics. Ed. Michael Kelly. Oxford Art Online. 12 Mar. 2010 <>

Kierkegaard presents his pseudonymous authorship as a dialectical progression of existential stages. The first is the aesthetic, which gives way to the ethical, which gives way to the religious. The aesthetic stage of existence is characterized by the following: immersion in sensuous experience; valorization of possibility over actuality; egotism; fragmentation of the subject of experience; nihilistic wielding of irony and scepticism; and flight from boredom.

The figure of the aesthete in the first volume of Either-Or is an ironic portrayal of German romanticism, but it also draws on medieval characters as diverse as Don Juan, Ahasverus (the wandering Jew), and Faust. It finds its most sophisticated form in the author of “The Seducer’s Diary”, the final section of Either-Or. Johannes the seducer is a reflective aesthete, who gains sensuous delight not so much from the act of seduction but from engineering the possibility of seduction. His real aim is the manipulation of people and situations in ways which generate interesting reflections in his own voyeuristic mind. The aesthetic perspective transforms quotidian dullness into a richly poetic world by whatever means it can. Sometimes the reflective aesthete will inject interest into a book by reading only the last third, or into a conversation by provoking a bore into an apoplectic fit so that he can see a bead of sweat form between the bore’s eyes and run down his nose. That is, the aesthete uses artifice, arbitrariness, irony, and wilful imagination to recreate the world in his own image. The prime motivation for the aesthete is the transformation of the boring into the interesting.

This type of aestheticism is criticized from the point of view of ethics. It is seen to be emptily self-serving and escapist. It is a despairing means of avoiding commitment and responsibility. It fails to acknowledge one’s social debt and communal existence. And it is self-deceiving insofar as it substitutes fantasies for actual states of affairs.

But Kierkegaard did not want to abandon aesthetics altogether in favor of the ethical and the religious. A key concept in the Hegelian dialectic, which Kierkegaard’s pseudonymous authorship parodies, is Aufhebung (sublation). In Hegel’s dialectic, when contradictory positions are reconciled in a higher unity (synthesis) they are both annulled and preserved (aufgehoben). Similarly with Kierkegaard’s pseudo-dialectic: the aesthetic and the ethical are both annulled and preserved in their synthesis in the religious stage. As far as the aesthetic stage of existence is concerned what is preserved in the higher religious stage is the sense of infinite possibility made available through the imagination. But this no longer excludes what is actual. Nor is it employed for egotistic ends. Aesthetic irony is transformed into religious humor, and the aesthetic transfiguration of the actual world into the ideal is transformed into the religious transubstantiation of the finite world into an actual reconciliation with the infinite.

McDonald, William. “Søren Kierkegaard.”The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2009 Edition). Edward N. Zalta (ed.). <>


Dates: 1724-1804

Nationality: German

Immanuel Kant (April 22, 1724 – February 12, 1804) was an 18th-century German philosopher from the Prussian city of Königsberg. Kant was the last influential philosopher of modern Europe in the classic sequence of the theory of knowledge during the Enlightenment beginning with thinkers John Locke, George Berkeley, and David Hume.

Kant discusses the subjective nature of aesthetic qualities and experiences in Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime, (1764). Kant’s contribution to aesthetic theory is developed in the Critique of Judgment (1790) where he investigates the possibility and logical status of “judgments of taste.” In the “Critique of Aesthetic Judgment,” the first major division of the Critique of Judgment, Kant used the term “aesthetic” in a manner that is, according to Kant scholar W.H. Walsh, its modern sense. Prior to this, in the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant had, in order to note the essential differences between judgments of taste, moral judgments, and scientific judgments, abandoned the use of the term “aesthetic” as “designating the critique of taste,” noting that judgments of taste could never be “directed” by “laws a priori.” After A. G. Baumgarten, who wrote Aesthetica (1750–58), Kant was one of the first philosophers to develop and integrate aesthetic theory into a unified and comprehensive philosophical system, utilizing ideas that played an integral role throughout his philosophy.

In the chapter “Analytic of the Beautiful” of the Critique of Judgment, Kant states that beauty is not a property of an artwork or natural phenomenon, but is instead a consciousness of the pleasure which attends the ‘free play’ of the imagination and the understanding. Even though it appears that we are using reason to decide that which is beautiful, the judgment is not a cognitive judgment,”and is consequently not logical, but aesthetical.” A pure judgment of taste is in fact subjective insofar as it refers to the emotional response of the subject and is based upon nothing but esteem for an object itself: it is a disinterested pleasure, and we feel that pure judgments of taste, i.e. judgments of beauty, lay claim to universal validity. It is important to note that this universal validity is not derived from a determinate concept of beauty but from common sense. Kant also believed that a judgment of taste shares characteristics engaged in a moral judgment: both are disinterested, and we hold them to be universal. In the chapter “Analytic of the Sublime” Kant identifies the sublime as an aesthetic quality which, like beauty, is subjective, but unlike beauty refers to an indeterminate relationship between the faculties of the imagination and of reason, and shares the character of moral judgments in the use of reason. The feeling of the sublime, itself divided into two distinct modes (the mathematical sublime and the dynamical sublime), describe two subjective moments both of which concern the relationship of the faculty of the imagination to reason. The mathematical sublime is situated in the failure of the imagination to comprehend natural objects which appear boundless and formless, or which appear “absolutely great.” This imaginative failure is then recuperated through the pleasure taken in reason’s assertion of the concept of infinity. In this move the faculty of reason proves itself superior to our fallible sensible self. In the dynamical sublime there is the sense of annihilation of the sensible self as the imagination tries to comprehend a vast might. This power of nature threatens us but through the resistance of reason to such sensible annihilation, the subject feels a pleasure and a sense of the human moral vocation. This appreciation of moral feeling through exposure to the sublime helps to develop moral character.

Kant had developed the distinction between an object of art as a material value subject to the conventions of society and the transcendental condition of the judgment of taste as a “refined” value in the propositions of his Idea of A Universal History (1784). In the Fourth and Fifth Theses of that work he identified all art as the “fruits of unsociableness” due to men’s “antagonism in society,” and  in the Seventh Thesis asserted that while such material property is indicative of a civilized state, only the ideal of morality and the universalization of refined value through the improvement of the mind of man “belongs to culture.”

Wikipedia contributors. “Immanuel Kant.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 11 Mar. 2010. Web. 12 Mar. 2010. <;

Thoroughly revising previous systems and erecting new terminologies, his ‘critical philosophy’ marks a turning point in Western thought. One of his major critical analyses, the Critique of Judgement (1790), has a singular place in the history of aesthetics. Earlier 18th-century writers, such as Edmund Burke, had treated both responses to nature and art as the province of aesthetic thought; Kant, who was indifferent to painting and music, went against subsequent trends in laying his emphasis on nature. Aesthetic judgements, he contended, rest on disinterested perceptual experiences, where we find ourselves contemplatively responding to the formal appearances of things with delight or aversion. Our feelings on this level are distinct from everyday pleasure where ‘everyone has their own tastes’, and from perceptions of objects made in the course of practical activity; instead, they allow the presence of the object to show forth, no longer obscured by our preconceptions. The ‘free beauty’ at which such contemplation aims is primarily exemplified in compact natural forms like sea-shells; Kant contrasts it with our delight at the sublime in nature, exemplified by the vastness of the starry sky. Analogously, art might either be ‘neat and elegant’ in character, or else reach for the sublime in the productions of the dynamic, rule-breaking genius. Art, however, possessed only ‘dependent beauty’, admixing conceptual elements with the forms of objects.

Kant’s analysis of the experience of beauty has retained a place in aesthetic discussions, and the example of his critical method has inspired various theorists of art such as Picasso’s interpreter Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler (1884–1976) and Clement Greenberg.

McAdoo, Nick. “Kant, Immanuel.” The Oxford Companion to Western Art. Ed. Hugh Brigstocke. Oxford Art Online. 12 Mar. 2010 <;


Dates: 1957-1970

Origin: International

Key Artists: Jean Tinguely

The main purpose of this form of art is to create movement, or the illusion of movement. The term ‘kinetic’ was first used in relation to fine art by the Constructivist artists Naum Gabo and Antoine Pevsner in their Realistic Manifesto of 1920. It was not until the 1950s, however, that it became established as a recognized addition to critical classification, at a time when artists like Bruno Munari (1907– ), Pol Bury (1922– ), and Jean Tinguely were constructing objects primarily designed to express movement.

The forms taken by kinetic art are, unsurprisingly, very diverse, given that the nature of the art is non-material. They include the optical illusions imparted by the paintings of Vasarely and Bridget Riley, the fluorescent strip-lighting in works by Dan Flavin (1933–96), and mobiles by Alexander Calder. Conceptual and formal precedents for these works can be found in a similarly wide range of art, from the presupposition of movement in a Cubist painting, to the inoperative mechanization of a Duchamp ‘ready-made’.

Parfitt, Oliver. “kinetic art.” The Oxford Companion to Western Art. Ed. Hugh Brigstocke. Oxford Art Online. 12 Mar. 2010 <;

Jean Tinguely