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Afterall Books

Night Sea

Agnes Martin’s Night Sea (1963) is a large canvas of hand-drawn rectangular grids painted in luminous blue and gold. In this illustrated study, Suzanne Hudson presents the painting as the work of an artist who was also a thinker, poet, and writer for whom self-presentation was a necessary part of making her works public. With Night Sea, Hudson argues, Martin (1912–2004) created a shimmering realization of control and loss that stands alone within her suite of classic grid paintings as an exemplary and exceptional achievement.

Warhol Marilyn

Warhol Marilyn (1965) is not a work by Andy Warhol but by the artist Elaine Sturtevant (1930–2014). Throughout her career, Sturtevant (as she preferred to be called) remade and exhibited works by other contemporary artists, among them Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, and Robert Rauschenberg. For Warhol Marilyn, Sturtevant used one of Warhol’s own silkscreens from his series of Marilyn printed multiples. (When asked how he made his silkscreened work, Warhol famously answered, “I don’t know.

The Little Screens

Lee Friedlander’s The Little Screens first appeared as a 1963 photo-essay in Harper’s Bazaar, with commentary by Walker Evans. Six untitled photographs show television screens broadcasting eerily glowing images of faces and figures into unoccupied rooms in homes and motels across America. As distinctive a portrait of an era as Robert Frank’s The Americans, The Little Screens grew in number and was not brought together in its entirety until a 2001 exhibition at the Fraenkel Gallery in San Francisco.

Educational Complex

One of the most influential artists of our time, Mike Kelley (1954–2012) produced a body of innovative work mining American popular culture as well as modernist and postmodernist art—relentless examinations of subjectivity and of society that are both sinister and ecstatic. With a wide range of media, Kelley’s work explores themes as varied as post-punk politics, religious systems, social class, and repressed memory.

Deleuze Monument

Part-text, part-sculpture, part-architecture, part-junk heap, Thomas Hirschhorn’s often monumental but precarious works offer a commentary on the spectacle of late-capitalist consumerism and the global proliferation of commodities. Made from ephemeral materials—cardboard, foil, plastic bags, and packing tape—that the artist describes as “universal, economic, inclusive, and [without] any plus-value,” these works also engage issues of justice, power, and moral responsibility.

Dropout Piece

The artist Lee Lozano (1930–1999) began her career as a painter; her work rapidly evolved from figuration to abstraction. In the late 1960s, she created a major series of eleven monochromatic Wave paintings, her last in the medium.

The Studio

Throughout his career, Philip Guston’s work metamorphosed from figural to abstract and back to figural. In the 1950s, Guston (1913–1980) produced a body of shimmering abstract paintings that made him—along with Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, and Franz Kline—an influential abstract expressionist of the “gestural” tendency. In the late 1960s, with works like The Studio came his most radical shift.

Block-Experiments in Cosmococa—Program in Progress

Hélio Oiticica (1937–1980) occupies a central position in the Latin American avant-garde of the postwar era. Associated with the Rio de Janeiro-based neo-concretist movement at the beginning of his career, Oiticica moved from object production to the creation of chromatically opulent and sensually engulfing large-scale installations or wearable garments.

Triangle

In Sanja Iveković’s Triangle (Trokut, 1979), four black-and-white photographs and written text capture an eighteen-minute performance from May 10, 1979. On that date, a motorcade carrying Josip Broz Tito, then president of Yugoslavia, drove through the streets of downtown Zagreb. As the President’s limousine passed beneath her apartment, Ivokevic began simulating masturbation on her balcony. Although she could not be seen from the street, she knew that the surveillance teams on the roofs of neighboring buildings would detect her presence.

Infinity Mirror Room - Phalli’s Field

Almost a half-century after Yayoi Kusama debuted her landmark installation Infinity Mirror Room--Phalli’s Field (1965) in New York, the work remains challenging and unclassifiable. Shifting between the Pop-like and the Surreal, the Minimal and the metaphorical, the figurative and the abstract, the psychotic and the erotic, with references to “free love” and psychedelia, it seemed to embody all that the 1960s was about, while at the same time denying the prevailing aesthetics of its time.

Kunsthalle Bern 1992

Michael Asher (born in 1943), one of the foremost installation artists of the Conceptual art period, is a founder of site-specific practice. Considered a progenitor of institutional critique, he spearheaded the creation of artworks imbued with a self-conscious awareness of their dependence on the conditions of their exhibition context.

One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank

In Jeff Koons’s One Ball Total Equilibrium Tank (1985), a Spalding basketball floats in the center of a glass tank that stands on a four-legged black metal structure. It has been called one of the defining works of the 1980s--but also described (by such critics as Craig Owens, Rosalind Krauss, and Hal Foster) as “an endgame,” “misleading,” and “repulsive.” The work presents what the artist called “the ultimate state of being”--neither death nor life but the absence of change. It captured a spirit of the time, characterized by commodification, seduction, and political inactivity.

Swingeing London 67 (f)

One of the defining paintings of British Pop art, Richard Hamilton’s Swingeing London 67 (f) depicts two men--Mick Jagger and Hamilton’s art dealer Robert Fraser--handcuffed together in the back of a police van. The image is taken from a newspaper photograph that shows the two being driven from Lewes prison to Chichester Magistrates Court following their June 1967 arrest for possession of drugs.

Picture for Women

Jeff Wall's Picture for Women (1979) marks the transition of photography as an art form from the printed page to the gallery wall. Before this, photographs—from the orthodox photographic work of Walker Evans to the Conceptual photography of Dan Graham—seemed intended for the page even when hung in a gallery. In Picture for Women, a woman looks outward, as if at the viewer; a camera occupies the center of the photograph; the photographer stands on the right.

Conical Intersect

Gordon Matta-Clark's Conical Intersect (1975) was a torqued, spiraling "cut" into two derelict seventeenth-century Paris buildings adjacent to the construction site of the controversial Centre Pompidou. With this landmark work of "anarchtecture," Matta-Clark not only opened up these venerable residences to light and air, he also began a dialogue about the nature of urban development and the public role of art.

Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman

Opening with a prolonged salvo of fiery explosions accompanied by the warning cry of a siren, Dara Birnbaum’s video Technology/Transformation: Wonder Woman (1978–79) is a concise, action-packed, and visually riveting video. During its seven-minute span we see, again and again, the transformation of the drab secretary Diana Prince into the super-heroic Wonder Woman. By isolating and repeating the moment of transformation--spinning figure, arms outstretched--Birnbaum unmasks the technology at the heart of the metamorphosis. In this illustrated examination of Birnbaum’s video, T. J.

Imagevirus

In the mid-1980s, the Canadian art group General Idea (AA Bronson, Felix Partz, and Jorge Zontal) created a symbol using the acronym AIDS, arranging the letters in a manner that resembled Robert Indiana’s famous LOVE logo. This launched Imagevirus, a project of paintings, sculptures, videos, posters, and exhibitions that investigated the term AIDS as both word and image, using the mechanism of viral transmission. The Imagevirus spread like a virus, producing an image epidemic in urban spaces from Manhattan to Sydney.

Étant donnés

Following Marcel Duchamp’s death in 1968, the Philadelphia Museum of Art stunned the art world by unveiling a project on which he had been working secretly for twenty years, long after he had supposedly given up art for chess. Installed by the museum curators with the assistance of Duchamp’s widow Teeny and stepson Paul Matisse, Étant donnés (known in English as Given, or, literally, “being given”) consists of a small room with a locked wooden door; through a peephole can be seen a landscape of trees, with a naked female figure at the front, her arm outstretched, holding a lamp.

A Line Made by Walking

In 1967, Richard Long, then twenty-two years old and a student at Saint Martin's School of Art in London, walked back and forth along a straight line in the grass in the English countryside, leaving a track that he then photographed in black and white. The resulting work, A Line Made by Walking, was not only the starting point for Long's career as an artist but also a landmark for a new kind of art emerging in Europe and the Americas.

Au Naturel

Amna Malik opens her study of Sarah Lucas’s Au Naturel (1994) by asking “Does art have a sex? And if so, what does it look like?” Au Naturel is an assemblage of objects--a mattress, a bucket, a pair of melons, oranges and a cucumber--that suggest male and female body parts. Through much of Lucas’s work, and particularly through Au Naturel, Malik argues, we are placed in a position of spectatorship that makes us see “sex” as so many dismembered parts, with no apparent morality attached--no implication of guilt, shame, or embarrassment.

Wavelength

In 1966, at the height of minimal art in New York, artist Michael Snow chose not to make another object to be placed in a room but instead spent a year planning a film of a room: Wavelength, a forty-five-minute more or less straight-line zoom from the near to the far wall of a loft space, accompanied by a rising sine wave. In this illustrated study, Elizabeth Legge describes Wavelength as a film of virtuosically managed tensions, sensuous beauty, subtle light and color, and recession into perspectival depth.

Cultural History 1880–1983

Hanne Darboven’s Kulturgeschichte 1880-1983 (Cultural History 1880-1983) (1980-1983) is an overwhelming and encyclopedic installation consisting of 1,590 works on paper and 19 sculptural objects.

La Jetée

Chris Marker’s legendary “ciné roman” (“film novel”) La Jetée is considered one of the greatest and most influential experimental films of all time. This short film--a postapocalyptic story composed almost entirely of black-and-white still photographs—has been praised by cultural theorists and Netflix subscribers alike.

Mappa

In 1968, the Italian artist Alighiero Boetti renamed himself Alighiero e (“and”) Boetti, effectively expressing the duality of his personality and his work--and, by extension, the dichotomies of society and culture and art and life. Boetti was a central figure in the arte povera movement, a group of Italian artists in the late 1960s who expressly distanced themselves from commercialization and the slickness of Pop Art. These artists worked with a wide range of nonconventional materials--from wool and vegetables to silk and dirt.

Blow Job

In Andy Warhol’s silent black-and-white movie, Blow Job (1964), a youth is filmed as he is apparently being given the sex act named in the title. The 35-minute film is accentuated by the paucity of expression on the actor’s face: we see only his head and shoulders, rigidly framed so that all offscreen space has to be imagined, or avoided. Sometimes the young actor looks bored, sometimes as if he is thinking, sometimes as if he is aware of the camera, sometimes as if he is not. Like the protagonists of other Warhol films, he is apparently left to his own devices.

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