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Art, Theory, and Infancy

During a job search at a prominent university about 20 years ago, a search committee decided not to appoint a scholar in non-Western art despite the fact that, all agreed, this person surpassed in knowledge, field research, languages, and publications almost all (few) contenders in the field. The rationale of the decision was pithily expressed by a member of the committee: “He doesn’t have enough Theory.”

To the Archives!

Over a decade ago, when I was beginning my research on art along the New York waterfront in the 1970s, I came upon a marvelous quotation by George Segal. Segal is not someone who comes to mind when thinking about such artists as Vito Acconci and David Wojnarowicz who made art on the waterfront.

Thinking Social

What role does theory play in art-making today? How do artists and art practitioners “think” about art in the absence of an overarching theoretical paradigm—theory with a capital T?

Art (Un)Doing Theory

Today scale matters more than ever, and the perspectival shifts generated by contemporary technology only further corroborate a materialism in flux, and one that exists independently of the human mind and our ideas about it.

Dear Joachim,

I have been thinking about your invitation and the questions you’ve posed—though not, I must say, as questions. I don’t know how your prompt will appear when it is polished for the Rail, but something a bit more polemical would have been easier to speak to or push back against. What follows is a kind of reading of your email exchange with Phong, written mostly in the conditional tense.

Theoretical Brutality: Cézanne And Gauguin

In his conversations with Emile Bernard, Paul Cézanne had very violent words about his fellow painter—someone who had actually been his friend for a while: Paul Gauguin.

Of Mice and Ghosts

Reading the prospectus for this issue’s Critics Page brought to mind a passage by Erwin Panofsky that a good friend is fond of quoting.

Thinking and Looking in the Studio

I admit to being surprised when the theoretical equipment I received in graduate school came to be of little use when I started to go to art studios.

Art, Theory, Poetry, and an Airplane Above Some Trees

Artists and theorists in the Western tradition have long fed off one another’s work. Some of the most prominent theorists have themselves been artists, although few who might have considered themselves principally to be theorists have claimed to make art of any kind.

As It Feels

During recent decades, as Joachim Pissarro observes, theoretical constructs have guided the critical evaluation of visual art and even shaped its base in perceptual experience.

Art Theory/Art Writing

“Because most of us lack confidence in our ability to simply look at and feel art, in the same way that we can listen to and feel music, there exists a vast business of interpretation.” (Michael Findlay, The Value of Art)


The Brooklyn Rail

FEB 2014

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