by Violet Lucca
by Jackson Arn
at Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts
by Anya Ventura
The most immediate aspect of the German artist Anna Oppermann’s work is its insistent and compulsive weirdness. In the late 1960s, Oppermann, who died in 1993 at the age of fifty-three, began creating works she called “Ensembles”: early examples of installation art consisting of drawings, photographs, paintings, and household objects arranged in dense, overlapping constellations that spread across gallery walls and floors, and that took as the
ir central theme the conditions of being a woman and an artist. Oppermann saw her Ensembles as permanently unfinished and endlessly preparatory, often circling back to a given installation over the course of several years. Her work, which has rarely been exhibited outside Europe, was often received harshly by critics during her lifetime, but today it seems ripe for reappraisal as a feminist project reclaiming the domestic sphere as philosophical and aesthetic territory....
at Matthew Marks
It’s easy to forget that New York titans of contemporary art history like Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, and Andy Warhol were real people who lived real lives in cluttered apartments that resemble those many of us currently inhabit—square footage notwithstanding. As shown in images featured in this exhibition of Ugo Mulas’s photographs of New York City’s artistic power players from the 1960s, Johns hung out with friends and roasted veget
ables, though who knows how great his cooking was—how could it have been with all those liquor bottles crowding his counters? A commercial and documentary photographer from Italy, Mulas met Leo Castelli while shooting the 1964 Venice Biennale, after which he traveled to New York three times and fell in with the New York School and Pop crowds. Mulas’s disarmingly tender photographs humanize his subjects and portray a 1960s New York art world that looks much like the current one, despite our tendency to mythologize that era. ...
What is modern painting? For about the last 150 years, we’ve been given two different answers to the question. The first, based upon the criticism of the French poet Charles Baudelaire, is that painting is modern if it addresses the peculiar character of modern life: the fugitive nature of urban experience, the alienation of work under the regime of capital, and the fleeting consolation provided by commodified pleasures. If an artist depicted thes
e or similar subjects, he was modern. (The modern artist was usually figured as male since women were generally denied access to the delights and degradations of modernity.) The second answer to the question of what makes painting modern is a formalist one. Painting is modern if it abjures representation, storytelling, and allegory in favor of pure painting, that is, art for itself alone. To accomplish this—to purge itself of everything extraneous—painting had to become focused solely on its materials (paint, flat canvas, stretcher, and, possibly, frame) and the formal attributes that arise from them: namely, color, tone, direction, surface texture, and facture. Classic statements conveying this perspective on modern painting were made by the young Symbolist painter Maurice Denis in 1890 and the American critic Clement Greenberg in 1962. The first wrote: “Remember that a picture—...
at Fortnight Institute
by David Markus
The America of career burglar Jack Black’s 1926 novel You Can’t Win is one of rampant crime, drug use, fugitivity, and punitive justice. For novelist and former New York Times art writer Randy Kennedy, it is also an America discernibly rigged to benefit the wealthy and powerful at the expense of society’s vulnerable. In other words, Black’s America is in no small part the America of today. The artworks, historical documents, and books (incl
uding a rare first edition of Black’s book) that Kennedy assembled as curator of “You Can’t Win: Jack Black’s America” reflect the themes of social alienation and transgression that drew William Burroughs and others to Black’s story. At the same time, they testify to forms of structural violence that are as prevalent in our own era as they were at the cusp of the Great Depression. Prison life was a prominent motif in the exhibition. Out of roughly a dozen vintage postcards on loan from author and expert in early twentieth-century American depravity Luc Sante, several pertained to crime and punishment, including one featuring the morbid image of a man strapped to an execution chair. In the images from Jack Lueders-Booth’s “Women Prisoners” series of color photographs, which he took between 1978 and 1985, a period in which the incarceration rate in the United States began...