Essays

Jeff Koons, “Play-Doh” (1994–2014)

I wrote most of the first two sections of this essay (Part 1) in March 2011, but never submitted it anywhere. I think I lost interest in the subject. I thought I wrote it well before the negative critiques would surely come rolling in, even before Koons’s retrospective at the Whitney in 2014.

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Jeff Koons,

Shiny on the outside, hollow on the inside. That is how the work of the American artist, Jeff Koons, has been generally described and received, not only by those who are less than affectionate toward it but also by those who like it.

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Post image for From the Deep South, an Overlooked Chapter in Art History

ATLANTA — Is Bill Arnett enjoying the last laugh?

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Martin Puryear,

Recently, and rather unexpectedly, the term “negative capability,” which was coined by the poet John Keats, came to mind. Was this an outlandish association to make while looking at Martin Puryear’s debut exhibition at Matthew Marks?

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Maria Lassnig, “Du oder Ich” (2005)

Very recently I was told that a certain art magazine editor, who had deleted the feminist critique from a review I had written, “can only take so much feminism.”

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EssaysWeekend

Some Follow-up Thoughts on Michael Mazur (1935–2009)

by John Yau on December 14, 2014

Michael Mazur,

In the catalogue accompanying the exhibition, Looking East: Brice Marden, Michael Mazur, Pat Steir, at the Boston University Art Gallery, John Stromberg opens his essay, “Michael Mazur: A Delicate Balance” with this sentence: “Michael Mazur’s path to his recent paintings based on Chinese art has been less than linear.” Couldn’t this observation have also been made about Marden and Steir?

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Post image for A Single Woman Is a Witch: Battling to Save the Art Environment of Mary Nohl

Over a period of 50 years, the artist Mary Nohl transformed her yard as well as the interior and exterior of her cottage into an environment that stands in conversation with the surrounding land, lake, and her childhood memories. Almost immediately after the first cement sculptures materialized in the 1960s, however, she became known as “The Witch.”

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EssaysWeekend

Can I Be a Witness?

by John Yau on December 7, 2014

Michael Mazur,

I have been thinking about the difficulty of characterizing Michael Mazur in part because, while he became highly celebrated as a printmaker, his paintings have never received nearly the same attention. Once a label is attached, it takes years to remove it.

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Post image for How Rosalind Franklin’s “Photo 51” Told Us the Truth About Ourselves

Beautiful, isn’t it? Peer deep into this photograph’s heart, eye, vanishing point. Despite the beauty, no hammered stare, of any length, unlocks meaning or maker. The image (inviolate) defies casual analysis.

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Post image for Performing Publishing: Infrathin Tales from the Printed Web

In “Search, Compile, Publish” I identify some of the tactics used by artists who make books and other printout matter in the post-digital print space: grabbing, scraping, hunting, and performing.

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