Art and Objecthood

Art and Objecthood

Essays and reviews.

Michael Fried

352 pages | 16 color plates, 72 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 1998

Art: Art Criticism

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The emphasis of this selection of critical writings by Michael Fried is upon his work between 1963 and 1966, the reasons he gives for this both explaining and, to a certain extent, justifying the compilation of this collection. Sensitive to what he describes as his peers’ tendency to conflate his views from these distinct periods in his intellectual life, Fried uses the lengthy introduction prefacing the selection to explain the development of his thought from the late 1950s to the present and, relatedly, to clarify the relationship between his earlier critical and later art-historical work.

Fried’s more recent work as an art historian has dealt extensively with the critical reception of French painting from the 1750s to the 1860s. He is keen, on the one hand, to distinguish his approach as an historian from that as a critic. On the other hand, he wishes to clarify the shared “genealogy” of his interests as both critic and historian, namely the enduring concern with “the relationship between the painting and the beholder” (pp. 47-48). He asserts that it is his job as an art historian to understand the differences of opinion within the critical reception of French art throughout the period in question rather than “to seek to resolve the dispute by coming down on one side or the other” (p. 51). Yet he regards the evolution of his critical work as, while avowedly judgmental, nonetheless central to the formation of his views on the nature of painting and spectatorship on which his subsequent historical work would be based. Openly noting what he now takes to be the absence of history in his critical work, and having left out those writings that he now sees as “hopelessly immature or otherwise not worth republishing,” he also asserts that the questions raised during his time as a formalist critic would directly inform the way in which he would interrogate the past as an art historian: “from the start, the distinction between art criticism and art history seemed to me a matter of emphasis rather than of principle” (p. 8).

What appears in the main body of the text is an unmodified record of Fried’s evolution as a high modernist critic, the shortcomings of his arguments having been considered in the introduction. There he addresses head on what he describes as the oversimplifications and value judgements in his formalist criticism, namely his contention that there are certain problems intrinsic to painting, that formalist analysis is the only tool capable of making value judgements about art because of its power to objectify the subjective, and his support for a nonteleological dialectical theory of artistic progress. Yet at no point does he discount their overall contribution to his intellectual development: “although I could not write those essays now,” he reflects, “I have no choice but to stand behind them” (pp. 51-52).

Thus Fried openly maintains that the republication of these essays is not an effort to justify them. If anything, their reappraisal in the introduction can be seen to criticize them. Yet it also contextualizes them historically, and it is here that the value of this anthology for students and scholars of the period is readily apparent, for the introduction explains when and under what circumstances his key essays were written. Falling into three parts, what comes first in the introduction is an intellectual autobiography that accounts Fried’s contacts and influences throughout his career as a critic, as well as the circumstances in which his essays and reviews were commissioned. Then the development of the central ideas in his critical work is addressed, and a useful lexicon is provided of the specialist terms that appear repeatedly throughout the collection. This is particularly helpful, as the meanings for many of the terms used have become obscured or forgotten over time. The terms “dialectic,” “conviction,” and “essence,” for example, are each given working definitions, and their entry into his thinking through external figures—Hegel and Wittgenstein, for instance—is explained. And to further facilitate the readers’ understanding of his account of the formal nature of 1960s high modernism and the challenge it faced from Minimalism, the selections are arranged in reverse chronology. Consequently, it is much easier for readers who are unfamiliar with the trajectory of his thought to retrace its development through the most difficult, but also the most substantial and interesting texts in the collection, which Fried himself flags in the introduction as “Shape as Form: Frank Stella’s Irregular Polygons,” “Art and Objecthood” and “Three American Painters: Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, Frank Stella.” For these three essays encapsulate the development of Fried’s thoughts on the evolution of modern painting and why he believed Noland, Olitski, and Stella to be its best practitioners to date. The work of these three artists remained concerned about painting in spite of the fact that, because of the reductive internal logic of modernism, the means with which painters could innovate were now drastically reduced. And if these post-painterly abstractionists have long been buried under the “avalanche” of postformalist artists who followed, this collection reminds us of the historical conflict that decided their fate.

Although it is not intended to, this book helps to document one of the turning points between modernism and postmodernism, since it recounts Fried’s own struggle on behalf of high modernism against what he referred to in “Art and Objecthood” as the reintroduction of ideology into visual art through Minimalism, a lead that has been followed by a diversity of conceptual art practices since the late 1960s. Consequently, this collection makes a timely addition to the documentation of the period, given the burgeoning interest amongst art historians in the art and art practices of the 1960s. For students and readers unfamiliar with the material, this collection provides a clear exegesis of works of art that, being so formally stripped down, might be seen as inaccessible on any but the most basic visual level. For scholars, it clarifies the development of formalist thought in the 1960s, distinguishing Fried’s from Greenberg’s thought by mid-decade, largely by fleshing out the philosophical references inferred, but not cited in Fried’s texts from the period in question.

Nancy Jachec Oxford Brookes University

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  • List of Illustrations Preface and Acknowledgments An Introduction to My Art Criticism Pt.
  • 1: 1966-77 Shape as Form: Frank Stella's Irregular Polygons (1966) Morris Louis (1966-67) Jules Olitski (1966-67) Art and Objecthood (1967) New Work by Anthony Caro (1967) Ronald Davis: Surface and Illusion (1967) Two Sculptures by Anthony Caro (1968) Recent Work by Kenneth Noland (1969) Caro's Abstractness (1970) Problems of Polychromy: New Sculptures by Michael Bolus (1971) Larry Poons's New Paintings (1972) Anthony Caro's Table Sculptures, 1966-77 (1977) Pt.
  • 2: 1965 Three American Painters: Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, Frank Stella (1965) Pt.
  • 3: 1962-64 Anthony Caro (1963) Frank Stella (1963) New York Letter: Oldenburg, Chamberlain (October 25, 1962) New York Letter: Louis, Chamberlain and Stella, Indiana (November 25, 1962) New York Letter: Warhol (December 25, 1962) New York Letter: Johns (February 25, 1963) New York Letter: Hofmann (April 25, 1963) New York Letter: Noland, Thiebaud (May 25, 1963) New York Letter: Hofmann, Davis (December 5, 1963) New York Letter: Kelly, Poons (December-January 1963-64) New York Letter: Judd (February 15, 1964) New York Letter: De Kooning Drawings (April 25, 1964) New York Letter: Olitski, Jenkins, Thiebaud, Twombly (May 1964) New York Letter: Brach, Chamberlain, Irwin (Summer 1964) Writings by Michael Fried, 1959-77, Exclusive of Poetry Index of Names in "An Introduction to My Art Criticism".
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Book Description Paperback. Condition: new. Paperback. Much acclaimed and highly controversial, Michael Fried's art criticism defines the contours of late modernism in the visual arts. This volume contains twenty-seven pieces, including the influential introduction to the catalog for Three American Painters, the text of his book Morris Louis, and the renowned "Art and Objecthood." Originally published between 1962 and 1977, they continue to generate debate today. These are uncompromising, exciting, and impassioned writings, aware of their transformative power during a time of intense controversy about the nature of modernism and the aims and essence of advanced painting and sculpture. Ranging from brief reviews to extended essays, and including major critiques of Jackson Pollock, Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, Frank Stella, and Anthony Caro, these writings establish a set of basic terms for understanding key issues in high modernism: the viability of Clement Greenbergs account of the infralogic of modernism, the status of figuration after Pollock, the centrality of the problem of shape, the nature of pictorial and sculptural abstraction, and the relationship between work and beholder. In a number of essays Fried contrasts the modernist enterprise with minimalist or literalist art, and, taking a position that remains provocative to this day, he argues that minimalism is essentially a genre of theater, hence artistically self-defeating.For this volume Fried has also provided an extensive introductory essay in which he discusses how he became an art critic, clarifies his intentions in his art criticism, and draws crucial distinctions between his art criticism and the art history he went on to write. The result is a book that is simply indispensable for anyone concerned with modernist painting and sculpture and the task of art criticism in our time. This volume contains twenty-seven pieces of Michael Fried's art criticism, originally published between 1962 and 1977. Ranging from brief reviews to extended essays, and including major critiques, the writings establish a set of basic terms for understanding key issues in high modernism. Shipping may be from multiple locations in the US or from the UK, depending on stock availability. Seller Inventory # 9780226263199

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Book Description Condition: New. Contains 27 essays and reviews defining the contours of late modernism in the visual arts. Ranging from brief reviews to extended essays, the writings establish a set of basic terms for understanding key issues in high modernism. An extended introductory essay by the author clarifies his views. Num Pages: 352 pages, 16 colour plates, 75 halftones. BIC Classification: ABA; AC; DNF. Category: (P) Professional & Vocational; (UP) Postgraduate, Research & Scholarly; (UU) Undergraduate. Dimension: 230 x 155 x 25. Weight in Grams: 562. . 1998. New edition. Paperback. . . . . Seller Inventory # V9780226263199

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Book Description Condition: New. Contains 27 essays and reviews defining the contours of late modernism in the visual arts. Ranging from brief reviews to extended essays, the writings establish a set of basic terms for understanding key issues in high modernism. An extended introductory essay by the author clarifies his views. Num Pages: 352 pages, 16 colour plates, 75 halftones. BIC Classification: ABA; AC; DNF. Category: (P) Professional & Vocational; (UP) Postgraduate, Research & Scholarly; (UU) Undergraduate. Dimension: 230 x 155 x 25. Weight in Grams: 562. . 1998. New edition. Paperback. . . . . Books ship from the US and Ireland. Seller Inventory # V9780226263199

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  • Print length 352 pages
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  • Publication date April 18 1998
  • Dimensions 22.5 x 15.24 x 2.46 cm
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  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ University of Chicago Press; 1st edition (April 18 1998)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 352 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0226263193
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0226263199
  • Item weight ‏ : ‎ 584 g
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 22.5 x 15.24 x 2.46 cm
  • #477 in Modern Art (Books)
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The word "objecthood," by virtue of the contained suffix, can be defined as the condition of being an object, or the object condition. "-hood" derives from a distinct noun, which had the meaning of "person, sex, and state or condition," which was applied to other nouns.  The meaning of "objecthood" then depends on the meaning of the word "object."  The relevant definition of the word is: "Something placed before the eyes, or presented to the sight or other sense; an individual thing seen or perceived, or that may be seen or perceived; a material thing" (OED) [See perception , senses .]  The term in its broadness presents a problem to media theorists.  How is it that some objects can be classified with, or viewed with special significance at the exclusion of all other objects?  More specifically, under what conditions are objects declared art objects, and under what conditions do they remain mere objects? The specific word "objecthood" relates to theories of media via Michael Fried's reliance on the term in his art theory and criticism.  The term does work in his essay "Art and Objecthood" by containing the anti-theses of art. Fried is able to set up a system of valuation that valorizes objects in the world, which by nature of their properties defy the condition of being an object (We will go on to discuss, the condition of being an object as presenting spatial continuity with the surrounding world). Art objects are composed with an internal coherence and therefore are seem autonomous from the surrounding world.  Fried's claims about objecthood are formulated with and applied to objects that were created in the mid to late sixties under the label minimalist art, or literalist art as Fried calls it.  Literalist art is work that acknowledges or foregrounds its status as merely object, or its objecthood.  With this polemical connotation "objecthood" has duplicitous meaning in that "object" can also be defined as, "A statement thrown in or introduced in opposition; an objection" (OED).  In this light minimalist art is cast as an anomaly or flagrant deviation from the normal conditions of art. "Art" and "objecthood" are then binary categories into which objects can be classified. Their classification is dependent on whether they exhibit the qualities of banal objects or are constituted to elide these qualities. The classification plays out primarily in terms of shape.  This makes good sense because shape is defined as "External form or contour; that quality of a material object (or geometrical figure) which depends on constant relations of position and proportionate distance among all the points composing its outline or its external surface " (OED).  The picture plane as the residence of shape, depicted shape, has the ability to hold a shape that is not "merely literal" or not object, by the fact that the picture plane has the potential to be a coordinate plane that is autonomous from the world.  In order to fulfill this aspiration the support--the physical object that is the painting hanging from a wall in a building--cannot be the shape the dominates the experience of its contents.  Fried analyzes minimalist art as art that "seeks to occupy a position" in the world.  As apposed to art, literalism wants shape to only be considered in the domain of the world.  Consider the difference between the picture plane and Tony Smith's Die , 1962.  Smith's piece must be recognized as an object similar in status as any other object. Its physical or literal shape is the only shape present, and therefore must clearly define and affirm its existence in the viewer's spatial environment, the world. It only "seeks to occupy a position in the world " [1] .  The picture plane on the other hand can contain shapes.  Significantly, the picture plane contains shapes that the viewer apprehends, but does not necessarily have to perceive them in his actual spatial environment. The distinction between the two can also be seen in terms of syntax.  Unlike art, the gestalt of objecthood necessitates that the only meaningful relationship is between the thing and the surrounding space.  The viewer is made conscious that they are the critical factor in the situation; the objects relate to them and for them.  In art Fried claims, "all meaning is in the syntax."  The claim is that there is a correlation between situating constitutive elements (shape) in an autonomous field and the perception that the constitutive elements fully relate and are purposeful or internally meaningful.  They seek their meaning from one another.  As opposed to Smith's piece the work of Anthony Caro contains more than one element.  These elements, if they form compositional relationships that seem to have an underlying logic or order to them, present themselves to the viewer as self-sufficient and internally purposeful. The viewer is drawn to the compositional unity of the piece, not the unitary object confronting them. Although Fried is writing specifically about art and in the context of art related dialogues, he relies on more general discussions about objects and phenomenology.  In order to see how Fried is able to claim that there can be a distinction between the perception of objects and the perception of art we need to examine how the perception of art and objects are thought of philosophically. Descartes, writing in Latin, uses the word corpus , meaning body , to denote material things or the objects of the world.  Descartes conceives of body or bodies as all composed of the same elementary substance.  "All the matter existing in the entire universe is one and the same, and is always recognized as matter simply by virtue of its being extended." [2]   Body is not only seen as uniform, but also in a rather strict dichotomy with the self.  Thus bodies become associated with externality.  This polar conceptualization leads Descartes to conclude that bodies are in their essence, indistinguishable from the world, the external, and thus are indistinguishable from length, breath, and depth. [3]   Descartes thinking is carried out with an extremely clear dichotomy, and therefore the contents of the world, are not investigated for particularity but are conceptualized as unitary.  Thus for Descartes anything which is perceived and has three dimensionality is an object.  Descartes would agree with Fried that objecthood is the ability to "occupy a position." The argument mentioned above, that the picture plane is in a sense "autonomous" from the rest of space, could easily be overwhelmed by a Cartesian model, which pointed to its physical dimensions in space as proof of its objecthood (Fried terms this reading of shape of the plane as literal shape).  The argument could be challenged by arguments about whether the literal shape is noticeable, but anyone who operated within the strict Cartesian dichotomy would never grant something actually in the world, status as anything other than a mere body, or object.    Maurice Merleau-Ponty breaks down Descartes system of binaries and conceptualizes the self and bodies as thoroughly intermeshed and indistinguishable, especially with respect to the body.  With no clear distinction between subject and object, objects can be part of the subject's being.  Paintings represent a set of objects that do just this.   "I would be at great pains to say where is the painting I am looking at.  For I do not look at it as I do a thing; I do not fix it in its place.  My gaze wanders in it as in the halos of Being ". [4]   Thus a special category of objects, paintings , especially eludes the Cartesian binaries.  Merleau-Ponty is able to make such an argument by claiming that we do not distinguish ourselves by way of Descartes' model of vision.  Descartes used the analogy of a blind man with sticks that triangulated the presence of other objects, to explain vision.  Merleau-Ponty differs, claiming that physically moving our bodies through space and perceiving our own body before us is how we establish and differentiate the world.  The special category of objects, paintings, especially eludes this process, and returns the spectator for a moment to a time when the dichotomy, between subject and object, was not yet formed.  The view of a painting does not move to perceive and define the object before them.  Fried implicitly takes up this line of reasoning by stressing how the viewer encounters the work. Fried quotes Robert Morris as saying, "One is more aware than before that he himself is establishing relationships as he apprehends the object from various positions and under varying conditions of light and spatial contexts." [5]   This act that establishes objecthood is a reenactment of Merleau-Ponty's narrative of establishing the subject and object.  Note that in the quote consciousness of the object and the self occur simultaneously.  Conversely, with art Fried puts an emphasis on art's ability to arrest the viewer before the work; "One's experience of a Caro is not incomplete, and one's conviction as to its quality is not suspended, simply because one has only seen it from where one is standing...a single brief instant would be long enough to see everything, to experience the work in all its depth and fullness, to be convinced of it forever." [6]   During the experience of art subject and object, space and time become collapsed, negating the possibility of objects [see time, space ]. Color being a formal property of art and a property of object is a key term in classifying art and objects.  Descartes relegates color to a secondary property of reality.  This allows him to construct a unitary and undifferentiated model of objects, by making shape, a spatial property, the defining characteristic.  "If he had examined...color, then--since there is no ordered or projective relationship between them and the true properties of things...he would have found himself faced with a conceptless universality and a conceptless opening upon things ." [7] Painting confounds the Cartesian concept of "thing" by making color a key component in the illusion of space, and therefore establishing space and shape in terms other than dimension or without explicit or oblique references to dimension.  Here we see a key problem of objects, "which properties define them? And the mobilization of what properties count as ordinary and which as artful?"  For Fried, painting's ability to create an optical space particularly by means of color is key to its success as art; however, he goes on to say sculpture encounters color as a property of objects in that it represents a surface . [8] What properties of the object must the art exhibit?  In terms of color the answer seems to be different for painting and sculpture .  Clement Greenberg argues that an art form "through its own operations and works, [determines] the effects exclusive to itself and "narrow[s] its area of competence ." [9]   Greenberg then is claiming that different media determine what they are through self-analysis, thereby establishing the appropriate formal properties to mobilize and utilize. In a key passage Greenberg presents an argument comparable to Merleau-Ponty and Fried as he writes:

All recognizable entities (including pictures themselves) exist in three-dimensional space, and the barest suggestion of a recognizable entity suffices to call up associations of that kind of space...and by doing so alienate the pictorial space from the literal two-dimensionality which is guarantee of the painting's independence as an art. [10] Greenberg agrees that painting is art because it disrupts and replaces the special continuity of the world, but Greenberg spells out the effect of painting is due specifically to its formal properties.  The essential norms or conventions of painting are at the same time the limiting conditions with which a picture must comply in order to be experienced as a picture.  Modernism has found that these limits can be pushed back infinitely before a picture stops being a picture and turns into an arbitrary object. [11] Here Greenberg's dogmatic formalism re-enters taking weight away from the preceding quote.  The status of art is not dependent on the presentation of a space disjointed from three-dimensional space, but is only such for painting because this effect is a virtue of its formal properties.  It is adherence to form that makes any work other then mere object, not our perception not as Fried and Merleau-Ponty argue.   Here Greenberg echoes Clive Bell, who in his 1914 Art attempts to separate art from other objects in the world.  Bell claimed that art was that which is constituted in a significant form; however, an understanding of what a significant form is relies on antecedently understood notion of art. [12]   Looking at this more archaic formalism we can see how Greenberg's historical telos can be argued to be just a tautological as Bell's argument when trying distinguish art from objects.  These media that are undergoing self-analysis are likewise antecedently understood as art.  When asked what is art, responding, "Art is that which is about art" doesn't answer much. In this context we can see Fried's argument as an attempt to maintain a distinct category of art, while escaping the form-art tautology of Bell via claims about the distinct way the viewer receives painting.  However, it is interesting to note that one could argue that his conception of art, while citing its similarity to Merleau-Ponty's understanding of what is special about painting, is an importation of the effects of specific to painting.   Fried's invocation of the word "objecthood" as the antithesis of art allows him to set up polemical structure with explicit value in it.  By virtue of its opposition to the banality, worldliness, and gracelessness of objecthood, art takes on transcendental significance. Other writers do not distinguish art from objects by way of arguments about perception or phenomenology, but examine the way art objects behave socially to gain their status. Walter Benjamin's concept of the " aura " depends on art as an object residing in specific spaces. The fact that forms of art such as painting and sculpture must exist in one spatial location corresponds to their social and class function.  They are the media of an elite aristocracy and middle class.  They do not make themselves available to mass spectatorship .  The media's natural emphasis on authenticity and originality makes them available for ritualistic purposes. The object's boundness to a specific space is requisite for what Benjamin calls the cult value of non-reproducible art.  However, as a Marxist he sees cult-value as historically determined and in dialectical motion.  Therefore, art as a category will outlive cult-value and its spatial specificity, in the form of reproducible art.  This art, unlike art with an aura, has no specific spatial location, and is unable to be located as an object.  It would be difficult to term the art of film as an object in the sense that has been discussed above. Raymond Williams starts from the premise that like all made objects, art objects are materially produced within a society.   However, art objects become reified under formalism, such as Greenberg and Bell's.  The rhetoric of art theory claims these objects are distinct from other objects because their production is defined by the "medium" in which they are constituted.  William tries to reveal the attempt to partition off art objects from other produced objects as a response by the middle class to the alienation of labor.  Therefore, there is nothing intrinsic in the object or in the experience of it that distinguishes it from the other objects produced in society.  Rather it is a set of social practices that define and declare the object art. Tony Gibart Winter 2002

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Frida review – intimate dive into artist’s letters is raw and thrilling

Voiceovers of Frida Kahlo’s writing give us unprecedented insight into her life as she dealt with chronic pain, divorce, infidelity, miscarriage and commercial success

“I paint because I need to.” The revelation of this new documentary about Frida Kahlo (yes, another one) is the white-hot brilliance of her writing. On the voiceover, Kahlo tells her story in her own words, stitched together from letters, diaries and interviews (brought to life by Mexican stage actor Fernanda Echevarría del Rivero). The end result has a raw, thrilling intimacy.

Kahlo was rebellious by nature. As a little girl she tugged on the priest’s cassock: “Was the virgin Mary really a virgin?” At college, on course to become a doctor, she wore men’s suits; in old photos, she looks like a beautiful boy. Then came the life-changing accident that nearly killed her. Aged 18, Kahlo was travelling on a bus that collided with a tram. “The handrail went through me like a sword through a bull,” she remembers. In a hospital bed for months – “trapped alone with my soul” – she began painting. Kahlo’s intensely autobiographical canvases appear on screen as she describes the moods and events they depict.

Controversially, director Carla Gutiérrez animates some of Kahlo’s work. So the hair on the floor in Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair (painted after separating from her husband, Diego Rivera), comes to life, fluttering down to the ground. These bits have outraged some Kahlo fans. What’s all the fuss about, I wonder. Can it really be worse than plastering her work over tea towels?

Then there’s a fascinating section where Kahlo describes stepping out of Rivera’s shadow; it’s like a manifesto. After a devastating miscarriage, she became obsessed with “starting over” and “painting things how I saw them, through no one else’s eyes”. She regretted wasting “my best years on a man”. After divorcing, Rivera begged her to marry him again, and Kahlo agreed on two conditions: a) she would pay half of everything; b) they would never have sex with each other. (The infidelities on both sides had been epic: she slept with Trotsky; he slept with her favourite sister).

Each new sentence adds more: more complexity, more woman. There’s the anguish and vulnerability of living with chronic pain; Kahlo is scorchingly sexy too (her love letters practically pulse with desire). She is savage about her enemies (watch out Surrealists) and swears like a trooper. On a visit to New York, where the monied art world is fawning over Rivera, Kahlo sticks a pin in his ego: “Diego is big shit here.”

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Michael Fried

Art and Objecthood: Essays and Reviews Paperback – April 18, 1998

  • Print length 352 pages
  • Language English
  • Publisher University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date April 18, 1998
  • Dimensions 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • ISBN-10 0226263193
  • ISBN-13 978-0226263199
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  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B007YXSAT4
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ University of Chicago Press; 1st edition (April 18, 1998)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
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  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0226263199
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  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • #41,088 in Arts & Photography Criticism

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The colorful, graphic illustration portrays a woman in a red top, eating from a head on the table below.

A Food Writer Whose Essays Go Heavy on the Salt and Fire

Geraldine DeRuiter’s “If You Can’t Take the Heat” expands on her viral, award-winning blog posts.

The author of the popular Everywhereist blog, DeRuiter has skewered fine dining and food-world sexism. Credit... Kimberly Elliott

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Jennifer Reese’s work has appeared in the Book Review and The Washington Post.

  • March 9, 2024 Updated 1:59 p.m. ET

IF YOU CAN’T TAKE THE HEAT: Tales of Food, Feminism, and Fury, by Geraldine DeRuiter

Geraldine DeRuiter, the pungent voice behind the Everywhereist blog , knows how to rant.

You may have read her fiery rejoinder to the cinnamon roll recipe that the chef Mario Batali appended to his 2017 apology for sexual misconduct . Not only was attaching a recipe risibly tone-deaf, DeRuiter concluded in her James Beard Award-winning piece, but the recipe itself was sexist, a time waster foisted on the group likeliest to bake the “oddly savory” rolls: women.

Or perhaps you caught DeRuiter’s viral takedown of an abysmal dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant. Haughty waiters served meat molecules squirted from an eye dropper and “rancido” ricotta. (“You mean … fermented? Aged?” she asked. “No,” her server told her. “Rancid.”) DeRuiter’s assessment: “This was single-handedly one of the worst wastes of money in my entire food and travel writing career bwah ha ha ha ha ha oh my God.”

The pink cover of “If You Can’t Take the Heat” by Geraldine DeRuiter features a hand with red nail polish squeezing a pink-iced, cherry-topped pastry. The text is red and white.

Brimming with venom and verve, these two pieces — both of which appear in her new book, “If You Can’t Take the Heat: Tales of Food, Feminism, and Fury” — showcase DeRuiter’s mastery of irony, profanity and stream-of-consciousness indignation. The essays that fill out the collection, a grab bag of the autobiographical and polemical, are characteristically lively, though they highlight significant gaps in DeRuiter’s skill set.

DeRuiter’s parents divorced when she was young and she grew up with her Italian mother (“like a tiny, loud leopard-print-clad carnival”) in Seattle and Florida. Her mother features here as an agent of mostly benign chaos. She accidentally burns her house down and, perhaps more shockingly, suggests DeRuiter eat an 18-inch-long hair that turns up in a slice of pie.

DeRuiter devotes one essay to her father, a spy whose cover was to present himself as boring, “the human equivalent of a tasseled loafer.” “Do you know how hard it was for 5-year-old me to convince a man like that that I needed the 1984 Loving You Barbie (with mini stationery set included!) or I would absolutely die ?” DeRuiter writes with typical theatricality. She attempts to understand this opaque man by studying the history of beef stroganoff — one of the few dishes he cooked — and mastering the recipe. The experiment draws shaky parallels between the Eastern European origins of both stroganoff and her father and yields no satisfying conclusions.

The bedrock relationship of DeRuiter’s life is her long marriage to her genial husband, Rand, who “does not run away in horror when he sees me tear connective tissue from bone like a raptor while eating.” Nor does Rand run away in horror when she screams, snaps and shouts at him, something she describes herself doing on the regular. She reports “screaming” whenever they pass a Red Lobster “with the urgency of someone who has been stabbed with something very sharp” because she loves the chain just that much. Sometimes Rand tells her she’s “great.” Her retort: “‘WHY?? WHAT IS BROKEN ABOUT YOU THAT MAKES YOU THINK THAT?’ I often scream back.”

The reader begins to wonder the same thing. DeRuiter has an “all eyes on me” narrative persona — ravenous, pugnacious, irrational, loud. Unmodulated, her voice is ideal for delivering a rant, but it can overwhelm less flammable material.

One of her overarching gripes — a rightful gripe — is about the way women blunt their anger and soften their voices in order to placate and please. But women can also soften their voices in order to persuade and illuminate. There are some wonderful observations in DeRuiter’s paean to the reader responses you find on cooking sites, “that tender section of user-generated comments beyond the end of a recipe.” She has discovered poignant personal tales and beguiling humanity there, hiding in plain sight in the maelstrom of the internet.

But rather than exploring this tranquil space with delicacy and gentle wit, she swamps it with salty all-caps asides and sarcastic mini-diatribes. An essay on her decision not to have children is larded with nonsensical observations, including a meditation on the dearth of successful childless women — baffling given how many such women DeRuiter mentions elsewhere in the book. She pads the piece with elaborations, both serious and fanciful, on the benefits of not becoming a parent. Here’s one particularly lazy, unfunny line, geared toward showing how “wacky” she is: “I regularly make cake at 9 p.m. and eat it by 9:30 p.m. knowing that I don’t need to set a good example for anyone.” There are hundreds of great reasons to forgo children. This isn’t a great reason. It’s not even a reason. Mothers also eat cake at 9:30 p.m.

Describing her childhood food preferences, which ran to raw potatoes, toothpaste and entrails, DeRuiter writes, “If it caused someone to raise their eyebrows in a measure of alarm or admiration or exasperation, I would eat it.” The same craving for attention shapes her writing. While reading this book, my eyebrows were sometimes raised in admiration; too often, sadly, in exasperation.

IF YOU CAN’T TAKE THE HEAT : Tales of Food, Feminism, and Fury | By Geraldine DeRuiter | Crown | 336 pp. | $27

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  2. Art and Objecthood: Essays and Reviews, Fried

    Much acclaimed and highly controversial, Michael Fried's art criticism defines the contours of late modernism in the visual arts. This volume contains twenty-seven pieces, including the influential introduction to the catalog for Three American Painters, the text of his book Morris Louis, and the renowned "Art and Objecthood." Originally published between 1962 and 1977, they continue to ...

  3. Art and Objecthood: Essays and Reviews

    Art and Objecthood: Essays and Reviews. Paperback - April 18, 1998. Much acclaimed and highly controversial, Michael Fried's art criticism defines the contours of late modernism in the visual arts. This volume contains twenty-seven pieces, including the influential introduction to the catalog for Three American Painters, the text of his book ...

  4. Art and Objecthood: Essays and Reviews by Michael Fried

    121 ratings10 reviews. Much acclaimed and highly controversial, Michael Fried's art criticism defines the contours of late modernism in the visual arts. This volume contains twenty-seven pieces, including the influential introduction to the catalog for Three American Painters, the text of his book Morris Louis, and the renowned Art and Objecthood.

  5. PDF ART AND OBJECTHOOD

    Art and objecthood : essays and reviews I Michael Fried. p. em. Mainly reprints of the art criticism written by the author between 1961 and 1977· Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN o-226-26318-5 (cloth: alk. o-226-26319-3 (pbk. ' alk. papec) 1. Art, Modern-2oth century. 2. Art. I. Title. N64go.F727 1998 709'.04.-dc21

  6. Art and Objecthood: Essays and Reviews

    Art and Objecthood: Essays and Reviews. Art and Objecthood. : Much acclaimed and highly controversial, Michael Fried's art criticism defines the contours of late modernism in the visual arts. This volume contains twenty-seven pieces, including the influential introduction to the catalog for Three American Painters, the text of his book Morris ...

  7. Art and Objecthood: Essays and Reviews

    Michael Fried Art and Objecthood: Essays and Reviews Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998. 351 pp.; 16 color ills.; 72 b/w ills. Cloth $55.00 (0226263185) Nancy Jachec. CrossRef DOI: 10.3202/caa.reviews.1999.98. The emphasis of this selection of critical writings by Michael Fried is upon his work between 1963 and 1966, the reasons he ...

  8. Art and objecthood : essays and reviews

    Michael Fried's often controversial art criticism defines the contours of late modernism in the visual arts. This volume contains 27 pieces, including the introduction to the catalogue for "Three American Painters, " the text of his book "Morris Louis, " and "Art and Objecthood." Originally published between 1962 and 1977, the essays continue ...

  9. Art and Objecthood: Essays and Reviews (9780226263199): Michael Fried

    The result is a book that is simply indispensable for anyone concerned with modernist painting and sculpture and the task of art criticism in our time. Art and Objecthood: Essays and Reviews [Michael Fried]. Much acclaimed and highly controversial, Michael Fried's art criticism defines the contours of late modernism in the visual arts.

  10. Art & Objecthood

    Art & Objecthood - Essays & Reviews (Paper) Paperback - 9 April 1998. Michael Fried's often controversial art criticism defines the contours of late modernism in the visual arts. This volume contains 27 pieces, including the introduction to the catalogue for "Three American Painters," the text of his book "Morris Louis," and "Art and ...

  11. Art and objecthood : essays and reviews : Fried, Michael : Free

    Art and objecthood : essays and reviews by Fried, Michael. Publication date 1998 Topics Art, Modern -- 20th century, Art Publisher Chicago : University of Chicago Press ... Language English. xviii, 333 p. : 24 cm Mainly reprints of the art criticism written by the author between 1961 and 1977 Includes bibliographical references (p. 327-330) and ...

  12. Introduction: 50 Years of 'Art and Objecthood': Traces, Impact

    Fried M (1998[1967]) Art and Objecthood: Essays and Reviews. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Google Scholar. Jones CA (2000) The Modernist paradigm: The artworld and Thomas Kuhn. Critical Inquiry 26(3), Spring: 488-528. ... 'Art and Objecthood', Philosophy. Next. Open in viewer. Go to. Go to. Show all references. Request permissions ...

  13. Art and Objecthood: Essays and Reviews Hardcover

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    Art. Michael Fried. Art and Objecthood: Essays and Reviews. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998. The Michael Fried of Art and Objecthood is a marvel of certitude, and in James Joyce's Stephen Hero he has found a nearly perfect epigraph for this collection of his art criticism: " [H]e was persuaded that no-one served the generation into ...

  15. Art and objecthood : essays and reviews

    Much acclaimed and highly controversial, Michael Fried's art criticism defines the contours of late modernism in the visual arts. This volume contains twenty-seven pieces, including the influential in. ... Art and objecthood : essays and reviews. Author: Michael Fried ...

  16. Art and objecthood : essays and reviews

    Much acclaimed and highly controversial, Michael Fried's art criticism defines the contours of late modernism in the visual arts. This volume contains twenty-seven pieces, including the influential introduction to the catalog for 'Three American Painters,' the text of his book 'Morris Louis,' and the renowned "Art and Objecthood." Originally published between 1962 and 1977, they continue to ...

  17. Art and Objecthood: Essays and Reviews

    Much acclaimed and highly controversial, Michael Fried's art criticism defines the contours of late modernism in the visual arts. This volume contains twenty-seven pieces, including the influential introduction to the catalog for Three American Painters, the text of his book Morris...

  18. Art and Objecthood: Essays and Reviews

    Much acclaimed and highly controversial, Michael Fried's art criticism defines the contours of late modernism in the visual arts. This volume contains twenty-seven pieces, including the influential introduction to the catalog for Three American Painters, the text of his book Morris Louis, and the renowned "Art and Objecthood." Originally published between 1962 and 1977, they continue to ...

  19. Art and Objecthood: Essays and Reviews

    Much acclaimed and highly controversial, Michael Fried's art criticism defines the contours of late modernism in the visual arts. This volume contains twenty-seven pieces, including the influential introduction to the catalog for Three American Painters, the text of his book Morris Louis, and the renowned "Art and Objecthood." Originally published between 1962 and 1977, they continue to ...

  20. Michael Fried Biography, Art, and Analysis of Works

    In 1967, Fried published an essay entitled "Art and Objecthood," arguably one of the most important pieces of art criticism in the 20th century. Later Career Michael Fried abandoned art criticism in 1977, and steered his writing toward pinpointing the trajectory and overall meaning of Modernism in art, from the 19th century to the present day.

  21. Art and objecthood : essays and reviews

    Much acclaimed and highly controversial, Michael Fried's art criticism defines the contours of late modernism in the visual arts. This volume contains twenty-seven pieces, including the influential introduction to the catalog for 'Three American Painters,' the text of his book 'Morris Louis,' and the renowned "Art and Objecthood." Originally published between 1962 and 1977, they continue to ...

  22. Art and Objecthood: Essays and Reviews

    Much acclaimed and highly controversial, Michael Fried's art criticism defines the contours of late modernism in the visual arts. This volume contains twenty-seven pieces, including the influential introduction to the catalog for Three American Painters, the text of his book Morris Louis, and the renowned "Art and Objecthood." Originally published between 1962 and 1977, they continue to ...

  23. objecthood

    Art and Objecthood : Essays and Reviews. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998. Greenberg, Clement. O'Brian, J., ed. ... The term does work in his essay "Art and Objecthood" by containing the anti-theses of art. Fried is able to set up a system of valuation that valorizes objects in the world, which by nature of their properties defy the ...

  24. Opinion

    The Oscar Contender That Won't Let Us Look Away. Mr. Klion is a journalist and cultural critic. Any filmmaker trying to draw meaning from the Holocaust onscreen faces potential pitfalls. If you ...

  25. This Prophetic Academic Now Foresees the West's Defeat

    It is called "La Défaite de l'Occident" ("The Defeat of the West"). Its author, Emmanuel Todd, is a celebrated historian and anthropologist who in 1976, in a book called "The Final ...

  26. Frida review

    Cath Clarke. Wed 6 Mar 2024 06.00 EST. "I Frida Kahlo (yes, another one) is the white-hot brilliance of her writing. On the voiceover, Kahlo tells her story in her own words, stitched together ...

  27. Art and Objecthood: Essays and Reviews: Fried, Michael: 9780226263199

    Art and Objecthood: Essays and Reviews [Fried, Michael] on Amazon.com. *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. Art and Objecthood: Essays and Reviews

  28. Book Review: 'If You Can't Take the Heat,' by Geraldine DeRuiter

    DeRuiter's assessment: "This was single-handedly one of the worst wastes of money in my entire food and travel writing career bwah ha ha ha ha ha oh my God.". Brimming with venom and verve ...