Category: Volume 7 Issue 1

Realism Today?

For this roundtable we invited several respondents to reflect upon both the history and the present of artistic realism. We ask how its various revivals might be regarded as part of a long trajectory of “Western” art and aesthetics, and how such revivals might be triggered by discourses outside of contemporary art. If a new aesthetics of realism were possible today, how would it differ from its multiple historical antecedents? Is realism in its various modes an obsolete artistic form or style of the past (like baroque painting or modernist collage) that is as such incompatible with the modes of … Read more

The True Meaning of the Work of Saturnino Herrán: The False Critics

The introductory essay places “The True Meaning of the Work of Saturnino Herrán: The False Critics” (1920), a piece of early criticism written by the Guatemalan artist Carlos Mérida during the first year he lived in Mexico City, within the contexts of the cosmopolitan milieu of post-Revolutionary Mexico and the artist’s own trajectory. It suggests that the text both demonstrates intellectuals’ interest in questions of form and national art and Mérida’s desire to provide a critical framework for his own paintings of indigenous Guatemalan and Mexican women. In “The True Meaning of the Work of Saturnino Herrán: The False Critics,” … Read more

The Two-Fold Global Turn

This essay is a review of art historian Chika Okeke-Agulu’s Postcolonial Modernism: Art and Decolonization in Twentieth-Century Nigeria (Duke University Press, 2015). The book offers a chronicle of artistic theories, practices, and institutions during Nigeria’s independence years (1957–67) amid the historical frames of Third World liberation, African decolonization, and Cold War realpolitik. The essay explores in particular how Postcolonial Modernism revisits and explores the thematic of “national culture”—the concept presented by Frantz Fanon in 1959, with long-lasting impact on theories of postcolonial arts—in the (decentralized) Nigerian art world, with a focus on the synthetic studio practices of members of the … Read more

Realism + Its Discontents: Determinism Noir

This short comic based narrative depicts the challenges to and climate of an alternative form of realism in the art-world as a new project for art’s politics and construction. Determinism Noir, Realism and Its Discontents calls upon the classic genre of noir narratives to situate themes of agency, mastery, rationalism and metaphysics. These ideas and images are generated in the nihilistic climate of alienation, itself borne out through the machinic, technological and capitalistic forces of the Twentieth Century. The comic presents three parts: first we see the formation of a project base to insinuate a rational determinism: A world of … Read more

“The Wrong Building, in the Wrong Place, at the Wrong Time”: Marcel Breuer and the Grand Central Tower Controversy, 1967–1969

In the late 1960s, New York’s Landmarks Preservation Commission rejected a scandalous proposal submitted by Marcel Breuer and Associates to float a fifty-five-story office tower in the air rights above Grand Central Terminal. The tendency among historians has been to treat Breuer’s tower as an act of vandalism, but this article argues that such an interpretation obscures the real political and economic stakes of the controversy. In fact, Breuer’s design uncovered the single-minded profit orientation of development interests and the preservationists who opposed the scheme operated less on behalf of a landmark threatened with defacement than against an economy of … Read more

Introduction to Carlos Mérida’s “The True Meaning of the Work of Saturnino Herrán”

The introductory essay places “The True Meaning of the Work of Saturnino Herrán: The False Critics” (1920), a piece of early criticism written by the Guatemalan artist Carlos Mérida during the first year he lived in Mexico City, within the contexts of the cosmopolitan milieu of post-Revolutionary Mexico and the artist’s own trajectory. It suggests that the text both demonstrates intellectuals’ interest in questions of form and national art and Mérida’s desire to provide a critical framework for his own paintings of indigenous Guatemalan and Mexican women. In “The True Meaning of the Work of Saturnino Herrán: The False Critics,” … Read more

Meanwhile in China … Miao Ying and the Rise of Chinternet Ugly

This article examines a series of internet artworks by the artist Miao Ying (b. 1985). Contextualizing her digital collages in relation to China’s online culture and media spheres, it situates the contemporary art world’s engagement with internet art in relation to anti-aesthetics and the rise of what has been termed Internet ugly. Interrogating the assumption that internet art emerging from China can only belatedly repeat works of Euro-American precedent, it argues that Miao’s work presents a dramatic reframing of online censorship, consumerism and the unique aspects of vernacular culture that have emerged within China’s online realm. Demonstrating a distinctly self-conscious … Read more