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Anselm Kiefer’s road to heaven, informed by an awareness of history, is paved with a scepticism that is turned as much against scientific certitude as it is against theological authority. He does not assume the existence of a paradise, only the ancient need to imagine one.

Michael Auping


Sol LeWitt…was focused on systems and concepts — volume, transparency, sequences, variations, stasis, irregularity and so on — which he expressed in words that might or might not be translated into actual sculptures or photographs or drawings. To him, ideas were what counted.

At the time, linguistic theorists were talking about words and mental concepts as signs and signifiers. Mr. LeWitt was devising what you might call his own grammar and syntax of cubes and spheres, a personal theory of visual signs. It was theoretical, but not strictly mathematical. Partly it was poetic. He began with propositions for images, which became something else if they were translated into physical form by him or other people.

He also liked the inherent impermanence of Conceptual art, maybe because it dovetailed with his lack of pretense: having started to make wall drawings for exhibitions in the 1960s, he embraced the fact that these could be painted over after the shows. (Walls, unlike canvases or pieces of paper, kept the drawings two-dimensional, he also thought.) He wasn’t making precious one-of-a-kind objects for posterity, he said. Objects are perishable. But ideas need not be.

“Conceptual art is not necessarily logical,” he wrote in an article in Artforum magazine in 1967. “The ideas need not be complex. Most ideas that are successful are ludicrously simple. Successful ideas generally have the appearance of simplicity because they seem inevitable.”

Michael Kimmelman
New York Times


In painting you discipline your unconscious for when you want it to open up and when you want it to close down. One of the great experiences as a painter is to open the unconscious up and let it fly. It’s the internal rhythms and music of the artist that really give energy and strength to the paintings. Rhythms that come from inside dictate what the painting will look like. These are much more important than anything else.

Alex Katz, in conversation with Denise Green

At the end of his life, Kahn was almost willfully eccentric. His words were self-conscious in a way that his buildings never were, and he seemed to like being seen as a guru. It makes sense that he enjoyed going to India and Bangladesh. In Philadelphia, he had to cope with debts and three families clamoring for his attention, but on the subcontinent he was a prophet. He was a difficult, self-absorbed artist devoted to his work. He would go to his office at night and on holidays, perhaps not so much to escape domesticity but simply because his greatest passion was drawing buildings and thinking about what architecture means. His earnestness put him somewhat out of fashion for a while after his death, and even now it dates him more than anything else. “Did the world need the Fifth Symphony before it was written? Did Beethoven need it?” he asked. “He designed it, he wrote it, and the world needed it. Desire is the creation of a new need.” Kahn believed in designing for the ages, and he pretty much did. Only a few buildings in our time can be called sublime. Many of them—the Salk Institute, the Kimbell, Dacca—are Kahn’s.


Paul Goldberger
The New Yorker

Pleiades is the first of Turrell’s Dark Pieces, which he developed to explore the experience of vision at night, especially in relation to his Roden Crater project. In these works, Turrell is interested in creating a space in which the viewer experiences a blurring of the boundary between what is seen outside oneself and what is seen in the mind’s eye.

Turrell says:

“Pleiades is a Dark Piece where the realm of night vision touches the realm of eyes-closed vision; where the space generated is substantially different from the physical confines and is not dependent upon it; where the seeing that comes from ‘out there’ merges with the seeing that comes from ‘in here;’ where the seeing develops over and through dark adaptation but continues beyond it.”

“In this work, what is generated in you and what is actually out there become a little more equal.”

On James Turrell
Mattress Factory

Roden Crater

From a review in the New York Times of two new documentaries–Agnes Martin: With My Back to the World and Squatting the Palace, about Kiki Smith:

“I’m very careful not to have ideas, because they’re inaccurate,” the artist Agnes Martin says in Mary Lance’s touching documentary about her, but it’s a lie. Ms. Martin was full of ideas, and she dispenses them engagingly.


The pairing…is interesting in that it shows just how different artists’ methods can be. Ms. Martin is pictured making detailed calculations on the spacing of her painted bands, while Ms. Smith’s vision is sketched on a napkin, and her approach to executing it is something like an act of surrender. “I know that in my little notebooks on scraps of paper, everything is beautiful,” she says. “It all works seamlessly. And when you get there, it’s all like a nightmare. The main thing in making art often is letting go of your expectation and your idea.”


I have always felt more related to the Abstract Expressionists than any other group. I think that’s what I came out of…But then it was Rothko to whom I would respond, especially in his later paintings…The whole idea of beauty was not embarrassing to me, as it was for a lot of people. Its one of the things that was encouraging about Rothko, that he didn’t seem to be embarrassed about it, either.

Brice Marden

The problem Marden was struggling with lies at the very heart of modernism itself, the struggle against pictorial illusion. The picture plane is an imaginary plane represented by the physical surface of the canvas or the paper. Behind it lies picture space, the apparent space created by the use of perspective or other illusionist devices. Artists can either pierce the picture plane using perspectival illusion to create space (as in the art of Giotto), or they can leave the plane intact, as Marden does. Referring to Cézanne, Picasso, and Pollock, Marden has said that
Modernist painting has been about how the color comes up closer to the surface and how that affects the viewer. The whole evolution of modernism is about getting up, up, up to the surface, tightening the surface of the plane.

Richard Dorment

New York Review of Books

Marden cuts the cord that still bound an artist like Jasper Johns to the literary underpinnings of nineteenth-century symbolism, without simultaneously destroying art’s ability to evoke natural forms. He jettisons story, myth, and illusion, and with them representation, composition, and spatial depth. What we are left with is paint, canvas, scale, shape, and brush stroke—but also, crucially, the possibility of allusion. Nebraska was inspired by the feelings Marden had when traveling through a landscape—not big feelings of awe or exaltation but something altogether gentler and more subdued, a consciousness and appreciation of the flat green farmlands and wide-open spaces. Modest and self-contained, Nebraska avoids the grandiloquence that characterized American landscape painting from Frederic Edwin Church to Clyfford Still.

Richard Dorment

New York Review of Books

As I walked through the Corcoran’s new permanent collection installation, I bumped into an old friend. Up on the second floor I found Anne Truitt, twice. One was magnificent: 1962’s Insurrection, a vertical plank, painted red on one vertical half and pink on the other.

Like all the best Truitts its beauty was a product of its subtlety. When Truitt entered her mature period in the 1960s, such subtlety was out and had been for a while. Abstract expressionism? (Glug glug.) Pop art? (Bam!) Subtlety was not something admired at the Cedar Bar.

That’s part of the genius of Truitt. She is the slow food of art; you have to stand in front of her painted sculptures, for a minute, maybe two, to feel what there is to see. At the Corcoran I noticed that the Truitt was just taller than a person. And just wider too. I was thicker than each painted half, but barely. And to see the whole sculpture I had to walk around it, making me all the more aware of my own body and presence in front of Truitt’s work.

Tyler Green

Modern Art Notes