Fairfield Porter: Art in its Own Terms

According to the important American poet John Ashbery, "To read Fairfield Porter is to rediscover art through the eyes of someone whose intuitive love and understanding of it has been matched by few contemporaries," while fellow New York School poet Barbara Guest wrote, "Blunt, intuitive, scholarly, inspired–I believe no other critic has so tackled the meaning of twentieth century art, has tightened our vision of it." Known as one of America's finest and most influential painters, Fairfield Porter (1907-1975) was also a prolific and highly insightful art critic. His writing not only reflects the independent, original mind that presided over his own visual works, but also covers an extraordinary period in American art, in which he played the double role of protagonist and witness. This new edition of "Art in Its Own Terms" restores to print a key statement in the ongoing discussion between Modern art and its past, as Porter reviews such figures as de Kooning, Johns, Cornell, Rodin, Cezanne, Leonardo and many others. Equally seminal are his considerations of the relations between art and science and art and politics. Rackstraw Downes' introduction beautifully sets the stage for this indispensable and wide-ranging volume.

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Additional Resources:
Material Witness: Selected Letters (PDF)
Digitized Selection: Fairfield Porter Papers (via Smithsonian)


Maggie Nelson: The Art of Cruelty: A Reckoning

Writing in the tradition of Susan Sontag and Elaine Scarry, Maggie Nelson has emerged as one of our foremost cultural critics with this landmark work about representations of cruelty and violence in art. From Sylvia Plath’s poetry to Francis Bacon’s paintings, from the Saw franchise to Yoko Ono’s performance art, Nelson’s nuanced exploration across the artistic landscape ultimately offers a model of how one might balance strong ethical convictions with an equally strong appreciation for work that tests the limits of taste, taboo, and permissibility.

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New York Times
JHU Muse

Additional Resources:
Writing as Performance: Interview with Maggie Nelson
Two Poems by Maggie Nelson

Douglas Crimp: On the Museum’s Ruins

On the Museum's Ruins presents Douglas Crimp's criticism of contemporary art, its institutions, and its politics alongside photographic works by the artist Louise Lawler to create a collaborative project that is itself an example of postmodern practice at its most provocative. Crimp elaborates the new paradigm of postmodernism through analyses of art practices broadly conceived, not only the practices of artists—Robert Rauschenberg, Cindy Sherman, Marcel Broodthaers, Richard Serra, Sherrie Levine, and Robert Mapplethorpe—but those of critics and curators, of international exhibitions, and of new or refurbished museums such as the Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart and the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin.

The essays:

– Photographs at the End of Modernism.

– On the Museum's Ruins.

– The Museum's Old, the Library's New Subject.

– The End of Painting.

– The Photographic Activity of Postmodernism.

– Appropriating Appropriation.

– Redefining Site Specificity.

– This is Not a Museum of Art.

– The Art of Exhibition.

– The Postmodern Museum.

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Peter Schjeldahl: Hydrogen Jukebox

For those who may be baffled by the contemporary art scene, most art criticism only serves to further confuse. Opening this book, however, is a refreshingly frank and entertaining venture. Both a poet and a critic, Schjeldahl weaves together theory, cultural context, and artistic technique. He draws one in with a simple opening line like "Jeff Koons makes me sick," then follows with an essay of surprising perception. He writes of Rothko, Warhol, de Kooning, Sherman, and Nauman, yet he doesn't ignore the animators at Disney, who are part of the art scene. The author is an art critic for The Village Voice and contributing editor for Art in America

Village Voice art critic Schjeldahl's reviews may occasion controversy–for example, his curt dismissal of Australian aboriginal painting or his putdown of Susan Rothenberg's later horses. Yet he is also a totally engaged art critic, as revealed by this awesomely alert batch of reviews, essays, articles, plus one interview and two funny poems ("I Missed Punk" and a verse-monologue lament on being a critic). He champions Eric Fischl's moralistic psychodramas, Edvard Munch's art of "emotional recognitions," Larry Rivers's reveling in chaos, Leon Golub's exposes of torturers and mercenaries. Anselm Kiefer, known for canvases laden with references to Nazism, is put in perspective here as a mostly self-referential, ahistorical painter. Ranging from Manet to minimalism, these partisan, passionate writings, edited by art appraiser Wilson, function as a savvy handbook on the current art scene.

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Susan Sontag: Regarding the Pain of Others

Twenty-five years after her classic On Photography, Susan Sontag returns to the subject of visual representations of war and violence in our culture today.How does the spectacle of the sufferings of others (via television or newsprint) affect us? Are viewers inured–or incited–to violence by the depiction of cruelty? In Regarding the Pain of Others, Susan Sontag takes a fresh look at the representation of atrocity–from Goya's The Disasters of War to photographs of the American Civil War, lynchings of blacks in the South, and the Nazi death camps, to contemporary horrific images of Bosnia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Israel and Palestine, and New York City on September 11, 2001.In Regarding the Pain of Others Susan Sontag once again changes the way we think about the uses and meanings of images in our world, and offers an important reflection about how war itself is waged (and understood) in our time.

Features an analysis of our numbed response to images of horror. This title alters our thinking about the uses and meanings of images, and about the nature of war, the limits of sympathy, and the obligations of conscience.

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Selected Other Writings
Notes on Camp
Against Interpretation
The Aesthetics of Silence
On Photography (Excerpt)

Interviews, Lectures, etc.
John Berger and Susan Sontag: To Tell a Story
On Classical Pornography (Audio)
Susan Sontag Lecture at the San Francisco Public Library
Interview (1995)

Additional Resources:
The Susan Sontag Foundation

Lucy Lippard: Six Years

In Six Years Lucy R. Lippard documents the chaotic network of ideas that has been labeled conceptual art. The book is arranged as an annotated chronology into which is woven a rich collection of original documents—including texts by and taped discussions among and with the artists involved and by Lippard, who has also provided a new preface for this edition. The result is a book with the character of a lively contemporary forum that offers an invaluable record of the thinking of the artists—a historical survey and essential reference book for the period

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PDF: Escape Attempts (excerpt from Six Years)

Other Writings Available as PDF:
Get the Message: A Decade of Social Change
The Lure of the Local
Trojan Horses: Activist Art and Power
Sweeping Exchanges: The Contributions of Feminism to the Art of the 1970s

Selected Lectures:
Ghosts, The Daily News, and Prophecy: Critical Landscape Photography
Changing: On Not Being an Art Critic
Lecture at the New School
Exhibition Histories at the Whitechapel Gallery

Hal Foster: Recodings: Art, Spectacle, Cultural Politics

For the past few decades Hal Foster’s critical gaze has encompassed the increasingly complex machinery of the culture industry. His observations push the boundaries of cultural criticism to establish a vantage point from which the seemingly disparate agendas of artists, patrons, and critics have a telling coherence. Recodings has become the classic “primer in poststructuralist debate” (Village Voice). The essays present a constellation of concerns about the limits and myths of postmodernism, the uses and abuses of historicism, the connections of recent art and architecture with media spectacle and institutional power, and the transformations of the avant garde and of cultural politics generally.

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Other Writings by Hal Foster (selection)
PDF: The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Post-Modern Culture
PDF: The Return of the Real
PDF: The ABCs of Contemporary Design
PDF: The Artist as Ethnographer?
PDF: An Archival Impulse
PDF: The Crux of Minimalism
PDF: The Archive Without Museums

Lectures (selection)
Culture Now
Contemporary Art and Mimetic Excess
Architecture and Art: If you Build it Will They Come? (The Future of Museum Architecture)

Griselda Pollock: Differencing the Canon

In this book, art historian Griselda Pollock makes a compelling intervention into a debate at the very centre of feminist art history: should the traditional canon of the 'Old Masters' be rejected, replaced or reformed? What 'difference' can feminist 'interventions in art's histories' make? Should we simply reject the all-male succession of 'great artists' in favour of an all-woman litany of artistic heroines? Or should we displace present gender demarcations and allow the ambiguities and complexities of desire to shape our readings of art?
Differencing the Canon moves between feminist re-readings of the canonical modern masters – Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec and Manet – and the 'canonical' artists of feminist art history, Artemisia Gentileschi and Mary Cassatt. Pollock avoids both an unnuanced critique of masculine canons and an unquestioning celebration of women artists. She draws on psychoanalysis and deconstruction to examine the project of reading for 'inscriptions in the feminine', and asks what the signs of difference might be in art made by an artist who is 'a woman'.

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Others Writings by Griselda Pollock
PDF: Visions & Differences
PDF: Modernity and the Spaces of Femininity

Via MOMA: The Feminist Future: Griselda Pollock (Panel Discussion)
Via YouTube:Griselda Pollock Lecture Series and Practitioner in Residence at Camberwell College of Arts
Via YouTube: Griselda Pollock Lecture: Time, Space and the Archive

Craig Owens: Beyond Recognition

Perhaps more than any other recent writer, Craig Owens explored the relations among the discourses of contemporary art, sexuality, and power. His familiarity with the New York art world and its practitioners in the 1970's and 1980's makes his writing an unparalleled guide to one of the most riveting periods of contemporary culture. (From Amazon)

Craig Owens (1950-1990) was a critic who wrote and lectured extensively on contemporary art. He showed particular interest in the issues of photography, postmodernism, feminism, and Marxist thought. A former associate editor for October and Craig Owens (1950-1990) was a critic who wrote and lectured extensively on contemporary art. He showed particular interest in the issues of photography, postmodernism, feminism, and Marxist thought. A former associate editor for October and senior editor for Art in America, as well as professor of art history at Yale University and Barnard College, his writings were collected in Beyond Recognition: Representation, Power, and Culture (1994). Owens died of an AIDS-related illness in 1990.

“I’m arguing for an art that is culturally relevant. I’m arguing for an art that does not remain content to address the problems of 19th Century society. I expect art to mediate my cultural experience,” Owens says in this interview with Lyn Blumenthal.

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