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At the Guggenheim

Hal Foster: Pop Surrealism, 18 December 2003

... The first painting you see at the James Rosenquist retrospective at the Guggenheim in New York until 25 January is President Elect: a broad headshot of a beaming JFK, manicured fingers with a piece of cake, and the sleek side of a pale green sedan. A collage study reveals the sources to be a campaign poster and two magazine ads; cropped and gridded, then painted on canvas, the images promise good times ahead: a youthful President, a skilful housewife (moist cake was the ultimate test), a nice car ...

On Richard Hamilton

Hal Foster, 6 October 2011

... Richard Hamilton, who died on 13 September at the age of 89, invented the idea of Pop art, along with his colleagues in the Independent Group, more than 50 years ago. In ‘Persuading Image’, a lecture he gave in 1959, Hamilton argued, well before it was a commonplace, that consumer society depends on the manufacturing of desire through design, forever updated by the forced obsolescence of style ...

At the Hayward

Hal Foster: Ed Ruscha, 19 November 2009

... Whatever my work was made up of in the beginning,’ Ed Ruscha said in 1989, ‘is exactly what it is like today.’* Well, not ‘exactly’, but his art is consistent, and this is still true 20 years later, as is made clear by the excellent survey of his paintings of the last 50 years curated by Ralph Rugoff, now at the Hayward until 10 January ...

At Inverleith House

Hal Foster: Richard Hamilton, 14 August 2008

... Richard Hamilton’s ‘Protest Pictures’ have turned the galleries of Inverleith House in Edinburgh into a time-machine.* News events from the last fifty years flash up in every room, from a drug bust and a student murder in the 1960s, through the Troubles in the 1970s and 1980s, to the Gulf debacles of the last two decades. In each instance Hamilton is concerned to capture the mediation of the event in order both to deconstruct its effects and to turn them to his own ends ...

In Central Park

Hal Foster: The Gates, 3 March 2005

... The Gates’, the orange portals and banners that punctuated many of the paths in Central Park from 12 to 27 February, were greeted with great delight. People were first softened up by the numbers – 7532 portals, 5290 tons of steel, 60 miles of vinyl tubing, 116,389 miles of pleated nylon, 23 miles of trails, $21 million in costs – and then worked over by all the wacky presentations by the Bulgarian-born Christo and his French-born partner Jeanne-Claude (she of the punk-red hair ...

At the Guggenheim

Hal Foster: David Smith, 9 March 2006

... David Smith is often seen as the Jackson Pollock of modern sculpture, the artist who transformed European innovations (in welded steel above all) into an American idiom of expanded scale and expressive power. Like most legends in art history, this isn’t false, despite the immediate catch that his greatest follower, Anthony Caro, is English. Yet it does play too neatly into the usual story of Modernist art: that it was smashed by Fascism and totalitarianism in prewar Europe, then triumphally restored in postwar America as the analogue of American Freedom ...

At the Grand Palais

Hal Foster: Richard Serra, 22 May 2008

... There is a general recognition of a ‘late style’ in music and literature – a turn to a vital asperity towards the end of a life of composition à la Beethoven or Yeats – but less so in visual art, at least among prominent Modernists. One exception is Matisse, who, in his late cutouts, returned with gusto to ‘the purity of means’ that marked his early Fauve paintings ...


Hal Foster: Cindy Sherman, 10 May 2012

... A master of impersonation, Cindy Sherman has served as her own model in her photographs since 1975, playing with familiar roles of female identity in series after series of inventive work. From the beginning she appeared almost too good to be true. Sherman was popular, first with other artists, gradually with the art world at large, eventually with a broad public; at the same time she could be seen as a postmodernist, for, along with peers in ‘appropriation art’ like Sherrie Levine, Barbara Kruger and Louise Lawler, she advanced a novel idea of the picture as a text of other pictures, in her case alluding to B-movie types and stock TV characters ...

At the Whitney

Hal Foster: Ed Ruscha’s Hollywood Sublime, 2 September 2004

... In the early 1950s I was awakened by the photographs of Walker Evans and the movies of John Ford, especially Grapes of Wrath where the poor ‘Okies’ go to California with mattresses on their cars rather than stay in Oklahoma and starve. I faced a sort of black-and-white cinematic identity crisis myself in this respect … a little like trading dust for oranges ...

At the Guggenheim

Hal Foster: Russian Art, 3 November 2005

... With every blockbuster, the Guggenheim prompts suspicion: ‘How did it get the loot, and to what end?’ The current mega-show, Russia! Nine Hundred Years of Masterworks and Master Collections, on until 11 January, is drawn mostly from the Tretyakov Gallery and the Hermitage, and it doesn’t seem too paranoid to wonder about the geopolitics in play ...

At the Guggenheim

Hal Foster: Italian Futurism , 20 March 2014

... The Italian futurists​ were hell-bent on modernity, largely because Italy was late to industrialise. Led by the strident Marinetti, these artists, architects, photographers, writers and composers were the self-appointed shock troops of the new. They were ready, rhetorically at least, to ditch traditional culture, calling for museums to be set ablaze and Venice to be paved over, and disdained liberal institutions, railing against the vagaries of parliamentary democracy in particular ...

At the Hayward

Hal Foster: ‘The Painting of Modern Life’, 1 November 2007

... The Painting of Modern Life, the first show at the Hayward Gallery curated by its American director, Ralph Rugoff, is an ambitious attempt to see how this artistic project stands nearly 150 years after Charles Baudelaire proposed it in his essay ‘The Painter of Modern Life’ (1863). There the poet called for a shift in subject matter – already begun in the practice of Manet and others – away from the grand themes of myth and history, and towards the everyday activities of urban life, especially of middle-class leisure ...


Hal Foster: Sigmar Polke, 19 June 2014

... For some​ , Sigmar Polke is his own greatest work, which is to believe that this influential German artist, who died in 2010, counts above all because of the protean force of his personality. Polke learned the importance of persona from his charismatic teacher Joseph Beuys, and he passed it on to subsequent artists who were also wayward performers, such as the German Martin Kippenberger and the American Mike Kelley ...

The Last Column

Hal Foster: Remnants of 9/11, 8 September 2011

... There is a hangar at JFK Airport – Hangar 17 – where, until recently, about 1200 pieces of steel and other objects from the World Trade Center site were warehoused. In the frenetic days after the attacks, these remains were selected as tokens of 9/11, so that they might be dispersed to memorials around the US, foremost among them the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at Ground Zero, which opens on the tenth anniversary of the event ...

In Venice

Hal Foster: At the Biennale, 4 August 2005

... Why go to the Venice Biennale and further burden a city already sinking under the pressure of its own attractiveness? It’s simple: the Biennale remains the best crash-course in contemporary art, with two major surveys, a score of national pavilions, and sundry projects scattered around town, sometimes in exquisite churches or palazzi. Documenta, the other prestigious international exhibition in Europe, tends to be more curator-driven; also, it takes place only every five years, and its setting, Kassel in Germany, isn’t a World Heritage Site ...

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