Hal Foster

Hal Foster teaches art history at Princeton. He has written widely on postmodernism, the avant-garde and aesthetic theory, both in the LRB and in his books, which include Recodings, The Return of the Real and The First Pop Age. He edited the influential essay collection The Anti-Aesthetic.

There​ is an urgent project in the humanities today to ‘provincialise Europe’, to open its cultural histories to critical views from elsewhere. One of the project’s imperatives is to decolonise European modernist art, to reveal its underpinnings in empire, including movements such as Surrealism that were more engaged than most with other perspectives and places. In...

Nosooner had the First World War ended than the German painter Kurt Schwitters began to make collages out of ‘old train tickets, pieces of driftwood, cloakroom numbers, wire or wheel parts, buttons and other old junk from the attic or trash heap’. When this work was first shown in 1919, reactionary critics couldn’t see past the rubbish, condemning it as an anarchistic...

Which red is the real red?

Hal Foster, 2 December 2021

In​ the summer of 1953, after a stint in the army, Jasper Johns, aged 23, moved back to New York City. There, a few months later, he met Robert Rauschenberg. Their artistic and romantic partnership would last until 1961; the company they kept included John Cage and Merce Cunningham. In this heady atmosphere, Johns chose, in autumn 1954, to destroy all his prior work, and to begin the...

Ghosting: Dead to the World

Hal Foster, 29 July 2021

Howlong can you be absent before you are declared dead? Do you have any civil rights during this interval – which some societies set at the biblical seven years – or are you merely the target of legal action? What happens if you return and your spouse has remarried or the kids have sold the farm? Do you have any recourse apart from revenge? In Absentees, a book about the many...

At MoMA: Félix Fénéon

Hal Foster, 3 December 2020

Which​ modern artists identified with anarchism? The Dadaists would be a good guess, but the truly political ones, such as John Heartfield and George Grosz, were communists, and since the early days of Proudhon and Marx anarchists and communists have been more rivals than comrades. The ultra-composed Neo-Impressionists aren’t obvious angels of chaos, yet Georges Seurat, Camille...

When Hal Foster uses the word ‘first’ in the title of his confidently focused study, he means to start us thinking about Pop now and then. It is a reference to Reyner Banham’s

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White Hat/Black Hat: 20th-Century Art

Frances Richard, 6 April 2006

Helen Gardner’s benevolently dictatorial Art through the Ages was published in 1926, and remained the pre-eminent survey for American undergraduates until 1962, when H.W. Janson’s

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