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What’s the problem with critical art?

Hal Foster: Rancière’s Aesthetics, 10 October 2013

Aisthesis: Scenes from the Aesthetic Regime of Art 
by Jacques Rancière, translated by Zakir Paul.
Verso, 272 pp., £20, June 2013, 978 1 78168 089 6
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... In the fierce critiques that the charismatic thinkers of postwar France directed at each other – Lévi-Strauss v. Sartre, Foucault v. Derrida, Deleuze and Guattari v. Lacan, to pick out just a few – the theoretical stakes were high, and the political implications seemed momentous. One could talk, seriously, of the ‘politics of theory’, and many of us distant onlookers did so ...

At Dia:Beacon

Hal Foster: Fetishistic Minimalist, 5 June 2003

... The Dia Art Foundation has supported a select group of innovative artists with lavish patronage since its founding in 1974. At first, it favoured Minimalist sculptors such as Donald Judd and Dan Flavin and installation artists such as Walter de Maria and James Turrell, and certainly the early projects underwritten by Dia, from permanent exhibitions in New York City to massive earthworks in the American desert, were grand ...

At the Met Breuer

Hal Foster: Thoughts made visible, 31 March 2016

... When​ a beloved building goes dark, a hole opens in the urban fabric: so it was when the Whitney Museum left its old home on New York’s Upper East Side, constructed by Marcel Breuer in blunt granite and concrete in 1966. Its new headquarters, designed by Renzo Piano in elegant steel and glass, opened in Chelsea last May. For many months a cultural beacon in uptown Manhattan was dimmed, and the architectural dialogue between the inverted grey ziggurat of the Whitney on Madison Avenue and the expansive white spiral of the Guggenheim on Central Park, another masterpiece of late modernist building-as-sculpture created by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1959, was suspended ...

At MoMA

Hal Foster: ‘Inventing Abstraction’, 7 February 2013

... When Alfred H. Barr Jr launched the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1929, it was a paradoxical enterprise: a museum for an avant-garde art that was very much a work in progress. Nevertheless, for his landmark show Cubism and Abstract Art in 1936, Barr drew up a flow chart that funnelled the various streams of modernist practice to date into two great rivers that he named ‘geometrical abstract art’ and ‘non-geometrical abstract art ...

At the Morgan Library

Hal Foster: Ubu Jarry, 19 March 2020

... A new type has emerged,’ a critic wrote after the raucous premiere of Alfred Jarry’s Ubu roi in Paris in December 1896, ‘a popular legend of base instincts, rapacious and violent.’ ‘What more is possible?’ W.B. Yeats, who was in attendance, recalled in his autobiography. ‘After us the Savage God.’ Was the uproarious Ubu an early intimation of his ‘rough beast’ slouching towards Bethlehem? Ubu roi is also a Second Coming of sorts, and certainly ‘mere anarchy is loosed upon the world’ in it ...

Go, Modernity

Hal Foster: Norman Foster, 22 June 2006

Catalogue: Foster and Partners 
edited by David Jenkins.
Prestel, 316 pp., £22.99, July 2005, 3 7913 3298 8
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Norman FosterWorks 2 
edited by David Jenkins.
Prestel, 548 pp., £60, January 2006, 3 7913 3017 9
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... Has any other contemporary designer ‘signed’ as many cityscapes as Norman Foster? Perhaps no architect since Christopher Wren has affected the London skyline so dramatically, from the Swiss Re ‘gherkin’ to the new Wembley Stadium arch. Foster has a right to be immodest, and the Catalogue of his work is punctuated with adjectives like ‘first’ and ‘largest’, and verbs like ‘reinvent’ and ‘redefine ...

Yellow Ribbons

Hal Foster: Kitsch in Bush’s America, 7 July 2005

... this pregnancy. After her middle-class parents urge an abortion, she runs away and falls in with a foster family full of kids who are damaged psychologically or physically. This family is a palindrome of its own, a closed world run by an evangelical couple called Bo and Mama Sunshine, who have coaxed the children to accept Jesus as their ‘personal ...

Global Style

Hal Foster: Renzo Piano, 20 September 2007

Piano: Renzo Piano Building Workshop 1966-2005 
by Philip Jodidio.
Taschen, 528 pp., £79.99, February 2005, 3 8228 5768 8
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Renzo Piano Building Workshop Vol. IV 
by Peter Buchanan.
Phaidon, 240 pp., £22.95, January 2005, 0 7148 4287 7
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... of clean design and smart engineering, he was associated not only with Rogers but also with Norman Foster (Rogers partnered Foster before he teamed up with Piano). All three young architects sought a way beyond modern architecture that would both retain its economic efficiencies and extend its technical advances; to this end ...

Wine Flasks in Bordeaux, Sail Spires in Cardiff

Hal Foster: Richard Rogers, 19 October 2006

Richard Rogers: Architecture of the Future 
by Kenneth Powell.
Birkhäuser, 520 pp., £29.90, December 2005, 3 7643 7049 1
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Richard Rogers: Complete Works, Vol. III 
by Kenneth Powell.
Phaidon, 319 pp., £59.95, July 2006, 0 7148 4429 2
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... behind him. A graduate of the Architectural Association, he attended Yale in 1961-62 with Norman Foster; the two were in partnership, together with their spouses, until 1967. Hard though it is to imagine today, Team 4 disbanded for lack of work, but not before they had completed a breakthrough structure for Reliance Controls in Swindon, which Kenneth Powell ...

After the White Cube

Hal Foster, 19 March 2015

... Tate Modern II​ , designed by Herzog and de Meuron, is now rising on the Thames. On the Hudson the new Whitney Museum, conceived by Renzo Piano, will open its doors in May. Guided by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the Museum of Modern Art is planning another expansion (the last one was just ten years ago), and the Metropolitan Museum of Art will transform its modern wing by the end of the decade ...

Exhibitionists

Hal Foster: Curation, 4 June 2015

Ways of Curating 
by Hans Ulrich Obrist.
Penguin, 192 pp., £9.99, March 2015, 978 0 241 95096 8
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Curationism: How Curating Took Over the Art World – And Everything Else 
by David Balzer.
Pluto, 140 pp., £8.99, April 2015, 978 0 7453 3597 1
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... The Surrealists​ liked to proclaim that everyone who dreams is a poet, and Joseph Beuys that everyone who creates is an artist. So much for the utopian days of aesthetic egalitarianism; maybe the best we can say today is that everyone who compiles is a curator. We curate our favourite photographs, songs and restaurants, or use numerous websites and applications to do it for us ...

At the Whitney

Hal Foster: Jeff Koons, 31 July 2014

... Modern art​ was born into a market economy, and by the early 20th century it could no longer ignore its commodity status. While some artists sought to escape this condition through abstraction, say, others worked to underscore it with the readymade, an everyday product they simply nominated as an artwork. In its first incarnation, with Dada, this device was taken to be critical of the cultural-economic system in which it was enmeshed, but by the time of Pop such negativity had all but drained away ...

At Tate Modern

Hal Foster: Robert Rauschenberg, 1 December 2016

... He has created​ more than any artist after Picasso,’ Jasper Johns said of Robert Rauschenberg, his one-time partner, and the Rauschenberg retrospective now at Tate Modern (until 2 April) fully attests to the sheer abundance of his six-decade career (he died in 2008). There are impressive inventions here, such as his extravagant combinations of painting, collage and sculpture, as well as mixed experiments, such as his rambunctious forays into new media technologies, but there is a lot of recycling and wheel-spinning too ...

Arty Party

Hal Foster: From the ‘society of spectacle’ to the ‘society of extras’, 4 December 2003

Relational Aesthetics 
by Nicolas Bourriaud, translated by Matthew Copeland.
Les Presses du réel, 128 pp., €9, March 2002, 2 84066 060 1
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Postproduction 
by Nicolas Bourriaud, translated by Jeanine Herman.
Lukas and Sternberg, 88 pp., $19, October 2001, 0 9711193 0 9
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Interviews: Volume I 
by Hans Ulrich Obrist.
Charta, 967 pp., $60, June 2003, 9788881584314
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... In an art gallery over the last decade you might have happened on one of the following. A room empty except for a stack of identical sheets of paper – white, sky-blue, or printed with a simple image of an unmade bed or birds in flight – or a mound of identical sweets wrapped in brilliant coloured foil, the sweets, like the paper, free for the taking ...

I am the decider

Hal Foster: Agamben, Derrida and Santner, 17 March 2011

The Beast and the Sovereign. Vol. I 
by Jacques Derrida, translated by Geoffrey Bennington.
Chicago, 349 pp., £24, November 2009, 978 0 226 14428 3
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... Over the last decade or so critical theory has seen a marked turn to questions of ‘bare’ and ‘creaturely’ life. Why this interest in such threshold states? What’s at stake here? This kind of discourse, in which the ideas of Giorgio Agamben, Jacques Derrida and Eric Santner are central, has little to do with animal rights, and whatever bestiality is at issue is entirely our own ...

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