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CHARLES LUTZ “BABEL (Brillo Stockholm Type)”

Visitors to this year’s Armory Show in New York were treated to that rarest of opportunities in the current art world: free artworks.


Somehow the sum of 100 percent offhandedness and 100 percent calculation, Bernard Frize’s paintings continue to defy even their own expectations.

The Color Bars of Francis Alÿs

Has language effectively usurped the air around contemporary art objects? Today, it feels a bit like a foregone conclusion. We rely upon object labels and critical writings to provide context that blank walls cannot; in most cases, we expect such textual explanations even if we despise them.

Drawing Surrealism

Drawing Surrealism, curated by Leslie Jones of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Isabelle Dervaux of the Morgan Library & Museum, is a scholarly overview of an impressive 165 works on paper by 79 artists who shared the dream visions of Surrealist practice.

Beyond Thinking

Long ago, after a graduate seminar session on Virginia Woolf, I debated another student about whether Woolf’s “moments of being”—flashes of pure perception or unmediated experience—were possible.

It looks like words have won...

It is a great declaration and I wish it were true. It excites me to think that words OR visuality could win the day.

Centaurs and Microbes

Harold Rosenberg lamented that artworks in the late ’60s had become centaurs, “half art materials and half words.” The same could be said of all objects.

Talk/Show: Language and the Resistant Artwork

In pondering the condition of art and the flood of associated language made possible by global digital connectivity, a proposition has been floated—one that allows for two aligned readings and two answers to the questions it raises.

Visual Intelligence

At a recent talk, I was asked whether I thought that we can experience art without language, whether we need language and words. My answer was that it is pretty well established that language is precessionary to perception.

Words are Limited

Words are Limited

This Is How We Do It

I remember when Peter Schjeldahl, writing about Andrea Mantegna at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, called Northern Italian Renaissance painting, “the high noon of western painting.” Or something like that. I can’t find it on Google.

Notes on Looking, Thinking, and then Writing

The problem is not too many words; it’s the way they are used. Imagine if art writers had no choice but to indicate “evidentiality.”

DOUG ARGUE Artspeak and The Art of Translation

Once upon a time, Arthur Danto proclaimed the death of grand narratives that defined art movements and pronounced contemporary art beyond the “pale of history,” bereft of a unifying narrative.

Breathing Room

Nancy Princenthal’s proposition lead me to think of the famous opening of John Berger’s Ways of Seeing (1972): “Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak.”

Discourse ≠ Art

In the context of the contemporary art world, Nancy Princenthal describes the relation of words to images in terms of conflict or competition: “Words have won.” But is the relationship necessarily adversarial?

Arguing Art

Words have won? If only. Better that than the gnawing assumption gaining traction in everyone’s mind right now, which is that money has won. But what does “winning” mean and what exactly is being contested?


David Shrigley’s recent show at Anton Kern, Signs, relied heavily on language, making pictures out of words or using images as substrates on which text was written. Words were on placards, on cat-shaped canvases, on a bronze gong.

Prolixity and Art

The question is not whether language has “gotten the jump on visuality” (for it has), but rather what kind of language sits so heavily upon our experience of the visual.

SABINE HORNIG Transparent Things

Sabine Hornig’s solo exhibition at Tonya Bonakdar is called Transparent Things, which describes both the objects she photographs and their resulting sculptures.


“In view of the some four thousand publications on Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio,” the author of a very recent book about him writes, “one might think that everything that could possibly be said about the artist has been said—but not by authors currently reaching for their pens or switching on their laptops.”

Sense and Unsensibility

The symbolic battle between word and image is a metaphoric representation of the contained malleability of human expression.

The Medium Has No Message

Text and image cannot be disentangled. We learn to read with picture books; we learn to look with captions.

A.R. PENCK New Paintings

A.R. Penck has been part of the German imagination since the early 1960s, when his interest in information systems and all manner of signs was ahead of its time.


MomentaArt’s contribution to the eight-gallery-strong Brooklyn/Montreal Exchange, running from January 11 through February 17, 2013, features the work of Sylvie Cotton (Montreal), Sébastien Cliche (Montreal), and the collaborative team of Mark Tribe and Sophie Knight (New York).

CORA COHEN The Responsibility of Forms

Language is integral to painting’s structure. Of all the art forms, painting is at once the most archaic and the most supremely socialized—it comes to us through centuries of babbling dialogue, entrenched in history and myth, and resplendent with references to other paintings and the civilizations that grew around them.

TOMMY MINTZ Mind the Gap/Mine the Gaps

The detection of a spirit presence lies at the heart of many current TV shows claiming to search for the paranormal. Mind the Gap/Mine the Gaps, Tommy Mintz’s current exhibition of photography, does the reverse.


A postcard-sized photograph of the cave paintings at Lascaux is the first image in Trevor Paglen’s exhibition at Metro Pictures. In what is today southwestern France, early humans applied mineral pigments to walls of stone, bringing forth images of animals, human figures, and symbols that remain enigmatic over 17,000 years later.

LARRY POONS New Paintings

The recent exhibition of Larry Poons’s paintings carries a certain irrational logic that continues from where his former exhibition culminated three years ago. I would characterize the former show, also at Danese, as revealing a kind of regal, yet distant attitude toward painting, thereby suggesting a hesitant, but substantially transformative view of the painterly craft.


Paul Laffoley and Suzanne Treister are two rare artists who don’t fit into the current art discourse focused on politics and critical theory. Laffoley and Treister are more suited to a gathering in the Samovar Tea Room at the Museum of Jurassic Technology than a Whitney lecture.


The Brooklyn Rail

MAR 2013

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