Christa Noel Robbins introduces Andrea Fraser’s 1994 talk.
Early in 1969 a group of artists came together under the name “Art Worker’s Coalition” (AWC) in order to advocate for the rights of artists. Initially formed in response to the Museum of Modern Art’s mistreatment of a sculpture by a living artist and subsequent refusal to take that artist’s desires into consideration, the AWC quickly expanded into an activist group that agitated not only for artistic integrity and compensation, but also, and most visibly, for equal rights and an end to the Vietnam War. Continue reading
conducted by Kris Cohen (KC) and Christa Noel Robbins (CR)
Question 1 You said in the lead up to this interview that you’re writing a lot about form right now. What’s driving that interest in form? Why now?
I always feel stupid in front of “why now” questions, because they seem to presume a shared “now” and, you know, I don’t think we can presume that, since I think of the present as an effect of mediation, a time-genre giving form to an affective sense that gains traction through circulation. I have always written about form: the nation form, the couple form, the form of life… Think of Formica, a laminate that appears as a single hard substance so stable it can be cut to order. Continue reading
In his “Forms” entry for Marxism and Literature Raymond Williams distinguishes between two senses of form. One has to do with the identification and description of “available forms” and their attendant “rules,” the other with the “active making of forms,” a “shaping impulse” by which forms of expression, of sociality, of being in the world more generally become identifiable as forms. “Form,” Williams concludes, “thus spans a whole range from the external and superficial to the essential and determining.”
“Robert Motherwell and the New York School at Hunter,” The Bertha and Karl Leubsdorf Art Gallery, Hunter College, February 12-May 2, 2015.
Robert Motherwell was a central figure within the New York School of Abstract Expressionism. A lyrical painter, his works celebrate the dynamism of paint itself; they are grand, gestural and heroic. Their value, however, lies more often than not in the economy by which this heroism is achieved. One wonders, when contemplating what I regard as his best works—works such as his Pink Nude with Bowed Head (1958) and Chi Ama, Crede (1962)—how Motherwell knew to stop when he did: to allow this particular balance of disorder and finish.
In general, however, there’s a little too much finesse to almost everything Motherwell did. The spontaneity we tend to associate with Mothewell is often too carefully contrived; there’s a practiced flare that comes across as overly stylized, excessively rehearsed. That’s why the few paintings I admire strike me as so good. They’ve managed to corral the twee sentiment that so many of his paintings unleash toward something somehow more faulty, more contingent and careless—careless enough to make you appreciate its emergence despite all odds.
But these few successes are not what makes Motherwell worth writing about. What makes him worth writing about is the extraordinary role he played as an educator, organizer and publisher within and for the postwar New York scene. Continue reading