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Author page: Michael Fried

Now I want to go a step further and propose that the portraits of monomanes represent not only a climactic stage in Géricault’s development but also a decisive episode in the antitheatrical dialectic generally—as if they mark the limit case of absorption, beyond which for the moment, but perhaps not only for the moment, it was impossible for painting to go.
Together with the sharp-edged quality of the shapes, the intensity of the color-juxtapositions, and the interplay between the shapes with minimal thickness and the ones backed by PVC, the layering adds a note of enhanced plasticity to the ensemble. Put another way, the “Shards” are at once intensely “pictorial,” for reasons already given, and intensely tactile, which is to say that one’s perception of the “Shards” veers continually between a sense of their strength as compositions—as if in the flat—and their presence as a special sort of material artifact, their character as an entirely new variety of relief.
What all this comes down to, then, is that Berger accepts a priori a militant and often staggeringly vulgarized brand of Marxism from which all his judgments about art derive, in language anyway. … My fundamental objection is not that Berger begins from a position of accepting Marxist theory. In the world we live in more and more critics of art may be expected to start from similar political premises. But what is imperative is that the critic define his terms; that he show with sensitivity and logical rigor the usefulness and, if possible, the necessity of employing Marxist concepts and terminology. Unless he can do this his judgments will reveal nothing more than the strength of his bias and the slovenliness of his mind: they can say nothing about the works of art in question.
From the first the landscape Impressionists were seen as pursuing an “advanced” pictorial agenda with roots mainly in Manet’s painting, a view of their collective enterprise which rendered all but invisible what I have been calling the momentousness of their shift away from the figure painting project. To this day, that shift has escaped comment by students of Impressionism. Ultimately, the advent of landscape Impressionism amounted to nothing less than the emergence of a new paradigm for ambitious painting, keyed not to figure painting and antitheatricality as theorized by Diderot but rather to a linked series of “formal” issues and demands that had no single master critic or theoretician.
What I mean is the following: the technology photographs appear full of—in effect charged with—the evidence of human intentions. That is, we do not doubt for a moment that every wire, every length of tubing, every switch, diode, transistor, condenser, resistor, amplifier, oscillator, and voltage regulator…every electronic device and accessory however small and inconspicuous, was positioned where it is shown to be by a human agent or a team of human agents so as to bring about a nested series of specific outcomes. At the same time, equally crucial to my account, no matter how hard or closely or committedly one looks one is absolutely unable to grasp either the larger, overarching purpose of the tokamak itself…or for that matter the lesser, partial purposes of the individual devices and their connections.
Nonsite is pleased to announce the publication of Promesse du Bonheur, a collection of new poems by Michael Fried accompanied by more than thirty photographs by James Welling. The book is appearing under the double aegis of nonsite.org and David Zwirner Books, and is available through David Zwirner Books and Amazon. To mark its publication, we offer an essay by Fried analyzing one of the poems in the collection, “September Sky,” along with an abstract photograph by Welling which serves, in the book, as an introduction to the collection.
This is to say that the strictly documentary character of Adams’s work, which by and large claimed viewers’ attention at the time of New Topographics, has somewhat receded in importance. And it is also to suggest that the theoretical issue of the non-representational nature of the photograph as well as of the problematic status of the photographer’s inten­tions owing to the photograph’s indexicality…turns out to be not quite relevant to the present case. Or rather, more precisely, it is as if the “weak intention­ality” of the pho­to­graph…turns out to throw into relief the extra­ord­inary strength and efficacy of Adams’s esthetic perfection­ism…with respect to the appear­ance of the final print, the esthetic artifact as such.
Even­tually the Park Avenue series will be recognized as one of the major triumphs of Caro’s long and distinguished career, and in particular as a knockdown demonstra­tion of the continued viability of high modernist abstraction in the face of the widespread assumption that no such thing is any longer even conceivable.
…the black lead of his carpenter’s pencil has been pressed into the paper with tremendous force, far exceeding the demands of the form or the requirements of the shading in that precinct of the image…
In other words, following some difficult sentences on contingency, the play drive will “introduce form into matter and reality into form. To the extent that it deprives feelings and passions of their dynamic power, it will bring them into harmony with the ideas of reason; and to the extent that it deprives the laws of reason of their moral compulsion, it will reconcile them with the interests of the senses.”