Art Criticism and Writing | MFA Program

Monday September 30th, 2013
Filed under Alumni, Fall 2013, News, Uncategorized

Alumnus Kareem Estefan Featured in September 2013 Issue of Art in America

Saturday September 21, 2013
Filed under Alumni, Events, Fall 2013, News, News, Events and Alumni

Alumna Kara Rooney in group show at Hot Wood Arts

Hot Wood Arts Gallery Opening:
Communication Breakdown

Works by:
Anna Alfredson
Alison Dilworth
Kara Rooney

Curated by:
Megan Suttles

Opening Reception
September 21st, 1-6 pm

Show Dates:
September 21st – October 20th
Open Saturdays and Sundays from 1-6 pm and by appointment

Wednesday April 10th, 2013
Filed under Alumni, News, Events and Alumni

Kareem Estefan (class of 2012) review of Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige’s exhibition at CRG’s Gallery

View of Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige’s “The Lebanese Rocket Society – A Tribute to Dreamers (Parts II, III, IV, and V),” CRG Gallery, New York, 2013. Image courtesy of CRG Gallery, New York. Photo by Susan Alzner.

Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige’s

“The Lebanese Rocket Society – A

Tribute to Dreamers (Parts II, III, IV, and V)” at CRG Gallery, New York

February 28–April 20, 2013

Much to their surprise, Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige recently came across a half-century-old Lebanese postage stamp depicting a rocket emblazoned with a cedar tree. Though enshrined in official history, this inscrutable, fantastic image—seemingly the stuff of science fiction—commemorated an event no one could remember. An enigma, it intrigued the artists enough to do some research. They discovered that between 1960 and 1967, as the global superpowers vied for superiority in the space race, Armenian students at Beirut’s Haigazian University had successfully produced the Middle East’s first rockets intended for space exploration. The Lebanese Rocket Society launched more than ten of what were called “Cedar” rockets (after the country’s national emblem), reaching an altitude of two hundred kilometers with the “Cedar IV” rocket and briefly becoming the pride of a small nation riding the hopeful, modernizing wave of pan-Arabism. The amateur space program fell apart in 1967, and later, with Lebanon besieged by sectarian strife, it was forgotten.

Like many Lebanese artists who came of age during the country’s civil war (1975–1990), a period excluded from national textbooks to this day, Hadjithomas and Joreige have investigated—and invented—unofficial histories both to redress public amnesia and to question the select images and narratives that have endured. Like The Atlas Group (a fictional art collective, created by their peer Walid Raad, that has fabricated both protagonists and producers of its narratives), Hadjithomas and Joreige sometimes blur fact and fiction. Take their project Wonder Beirut (1997–2006), for instance, which posits a photographer who, in 1968, produced postcards showcasing Beirut’s luxurious beachfront. Seven years later he ostensibly seared the images—in precise correlation to real-life bombings—as war broke out. Wonder Beirut is a fantasy of a tormented, but cathartic relation between representation and reality, in which the commodified image is scarred in tandem with its referent. The actuality is more tragic: anachronistic postcards of a pristine, idealized pre-war Beirut continued to be sold after many of the buildings they depicted had been destroyed. Displaying the postcards as a series of disfigured prints and burnt negatives by the “pyromaniac photographer” Abdallah Farah, Hadjithomas and Joreige—like Raad and other contemporary Lebanese artists—symbolize the devastation of the civil war from an imaginary perspective, which becomes a necessary foil to the hollow position of official knowledge.

Though the history it charts has dissipated in collective memory, “The Lebanese Rocket Society: A Tribute to Dreamers” is entirely rooted in fact. Hadjithomas and Joreige construct a porous, layered narrative from actual events, opening the field of inquiry outwards from the Lebanese Rocket Society to its cultural context, while accentuating the spectral character this remote subject has acquired. In so doing, the artists generate traces of a past that cannot be historically integrated because it remains, in its fragmentary reconstruction, more potential than real. To be real again, they suggest, this past must first reenter the collective imagination, which has suppressed it since 1967—a “moment of disenchantment,” in the artists’ words, when revolutionary dreams of pan-Arab modernism were defeated.

The result of extensive research, the exhibition invites viewers to look and listen across layers and intervals, connecting, sifting, and unraveling. In The President’s Album (2011), photographic fragments of the “Cedar IV” rocket form an interrupted, to-scale model of the projectile across thirty-two panels, even as most of the rocket remains concealed beneath the folds of each image. Eight meters long yet irremediably partial, The President’s Album is less a monument than a symbolic testament to the chasms preventing this historical achievement from surfacing in the present.

Indeed, wary of nostalgia and triumphalism alike, Hadjithomas and Joreige guard against notions of monumentality. The artists produced a sculptural model of a “Cedar” rocket and donated it to Haigazian, where it now stands as a public tribute to the university’s forgotten space program; but rather than reproduce this model here, they reveal glimpses of yet another replica against the backdrop of Beirut’s streets. In order to transport what looked like a missile, they needed multiple authorizations and a police convoy; hence, requiring more time to document this passage, they restaged the action with yet another replica. The photographic series Restaged (2012) records their reproduced reproduction, an indistinct projectile coasting past a crisp background that has likewise undergone many stages of reproduction: Beirut’s gaudily reconstructed downtown.

The survival of the past, and its imperceptibility to the present, is also at stake with The Golden Record (2011), a twenty-minute sound collage accompanied by a video of a spinning gold disc. Inspired by a radio transmitter embedded in each “Cedar” rocket, as well as the time capsules that Americans sent into space with each Voyager mission, The Golden Record evokes the culture and politics surrounding the Lebanese Rocket Society. A radio news report on riots in Lebanon gives way to the iconic voice of Egyptian singer Oum Kalthoum; the hum of a British fighter jet intermingles with Gamal Abdel Nasser’s resignation speech.

The artists selected these sounds in conversation with people close to the Rocket Society, whose memories and affiliations likewise instigated A Carpet (2012). A wool rug depicting the 1964 stamp that led Hadjithomas and Joreige to their project, the piece is modeled after carpets produced by young Armenian girls in a Lebanese orphanage—in particular, a carpet they gave US Presiden Calvin Coolidge in 1926, in gratitude for American support of their shelter and education outside Turkey. Among the children of these refugees, the artists learned, were students at Haigazian who took part in the Lebanese Rocket Society.

It’s just such interlinked acts of hope, idealism, and generosity that were once dramatically played out on the international stage that Hadjithomas and Joreige’s project excavates. Yet even as the artists pay tribute to dreamers—notably, Armenian refugees of genocide who dedicated themselves to the pursuit of art and science—they resist naïve laments for a lost age of peace and progressivism. Instead, they are dutifully engaged with the challenges of historical recuperation, chief among these being the privileged structures through which past events become visible, whether a web search—the most popular results being, in this case, reports on the latest rockets fired between Hezbollah and Israel—or a monument, which forecloses reappraisals, petrifying a single perspective. Hadjithomas and Joreige respond to these challenges with a paradox: by paying tribute to the dreamers of the Lebanese Rocket Society, it is necessary to recover their history as a dream, unraveling fugitive associations that are shaped by—but never bound to—subjectivity, time, and place.

Kareem Estefan is a writer and editor living in Brooklyn. He is Associate Editor of Creative Time Reports.

Monday March 25th, 2013
Filed under Alumni, News, News, Events and Alumni

Philosophy and the Arts Conference, Sophie Landres (class of 2008)

March 29-30 is the 6th annual Philosophy and the Arts Conference: Soundscapes and Territories.

Sophie Landres (class of 2008) is scheduled to present her paper, “Out of Itself: Vito Acconci and the Body of the Listener,” at 3:10pm on Saturday.  The complete schedule of panels and presentations is  posted on the conference website:

The conference will take place at The Alchemical Theater Laboratory
137 W. 14th St. New York, NY 10011
Alchemical is easily accessible via the 1, 2, 3, F, M, and L trains.

Tuesday February 12th, 2013
Filed under Alumni, News, News, Events and Alumni, Spring 2013

The Craft of Looking: Drawings by Leo Steinberg

by Noah Dillon (class of 2012)

Leo Steinberg was a kind of godfather at both my alma maters. Although I just missed being able to hear his lectures at the University of Texas, I marveled at the collection of 15th-through-20th-century prints he donated at the Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art. At the School of Visual Arts, where I did my graduate work in art criticism, students would occasionally be invited to his home. Again, I arrived a year too late to participate in those quorums, but his writings were crucial to the curriculum there. In the summer of 2012, SVA inherited part of Steinberg’s library. Looking at the marginalia and annotated bookmarks, one could glean something of his character. (continue reading on

And now, at the New York Studio School, another facet of this iconoclastic historian’s intellectual life is revealed, in his drawings. “The Eye is Part of the Mind” runs through March 9.

Friday October 5th, 2012
Filed under Alumni, Fall 2012, News, Events and Alumni

Alumni Aimee Walleston and faculty member Nancy Princenthal are in the October 2012 issue of Art In America

Aimee Walleston (class of ’09) and faculty member Nancy Princenthal both have work published in the October 2012 issue of Art In America. Princenthal reviewed Richard Avedon’s show at Gagosian and Aimee Walleston reviewed Jasa’s exhibition at On Stellar Rays as well as Nicolas Guagnini at Miguel Abreu and Balice Hertling & Lewis.

Wednesday June 13th, 2012
Filed under Alumni, News, News, Events and Alumni

Charlie Schultz (class of 2011), Naked Art Criticism, taking off the text.

Methodology by Charlie Schultz

As an art critic I like to be well informed, maybe even the most informed. Being informed makes me feel secure, security makes me comfortable but comfort, eventually, makes me complacent. So I’ve created this little experiment to do what I do in a more vulnerable manner and see what happens.

Obviously the most pure form of NAC (if you haven’t gotten a grip on what nudity means on this blog pop over the About page) would be complete serendipity and total newness. You would stumble onto artwork you’d never seen, or heard of, in a place you didn’t expect it to be. ZOWIE! Those conditions might be feasible in a controlled lab experiment, but for a working critic in NYC it’s just not likely at all.

So, this methodology is the next best thing: choose a neighborhood, one or two artists who you  know, and one or two you don’t. Go see those shows. It’s imperative to refrain from reading any press whatsoever, no press releases or artist statements, and where the title of the work is not written directly on the work, that’s to be avoided too. Zero Text is the way we try to achieve Zero Extraneous Info.

Here’s the key: choose shows from Andrew Ginzel’s list. Ginzel puts this list together for the School of Visual Art; it’s ideal for NAC because the only info Ginzel gives is the name of the artist and the gallery. That’s all you need.

visit Naked Art Criticism

Tuesday February 7th, 2012
Filed under Alumni, Links, News, Events and Alumni, Spring 2012

Sophie Landres (class of 2008), is the chair of the 2012 Art History and Criticism Lecture Series at Stony Brook University in NYC

2012 Art History and Criticism Lecture Series presents
Cinema, Architecture and Collectivity: Report on a Reversed Movie Production

This Friday, February 10, 2012

Stony Brook University Manhattan facility
101 East 27th Street,
Room 321 B
between Park Avenue South and Lexington Avenue

Imagine a reversed movie production process – one starting with the advertising campaign and – moving backwards through all the normal stages of postproduction and production, – ends where it all normally starts: with the writing of a screenplay. Imagine next the screening situation for the outcome of this production: an architectural environment built from the cinematic materials of this production – a veritable Cinecitta if there ever was one. No mere fantasy, such a project was in fact realized in 2007 under the direction of the German artist Tobias Rehberger and starring Hollywood luminaries such as Kim Basinger, Willem Dafoe and Danny de Vito, among many others.

In her lecture Blom will discuss the wider ramifications of an artistic project that is only one (if perhaps the most spectacular) among a series of recent artworks that stage encounters between architecture and moving image media such as cinema and television. The mediatic aspects of contemporary architecture are well known, as are the architectural qualities of various types of media spaces. However, by raising the very encounter between cinema and architecture to a principle, these works above all bring out the question of how collectivity is thought or figured within such an environment. The wider framework for the discussion is the question between art and social ontologies, brought on by the influx of so-called “social” or “relational” art productions.

Ina Blom is a professor at the Institute of Philosophy, Classics, History of Art and Ideas at the University of Oslo. Recent publications include On the Style Site: Art, Sociality and Television Culture (Sternberg Press, 2007); The Postal Performance of Ray Johnson (Sittard, 2003); and Joseph Beuys (Gyldendal, 2001). 
A former music critic, she also works as an art critic, contributing to Artforum, Parkett, Afterall, frieze, and Texte zur Kunst. Ina Blom is currently heading the interdisciplinary research project named The Archive in Motion, which deals with changes in our understanding of social memory due to the impact of new media technologies.

Organized by the Art History and Criticism graduate students of Stony Brook University
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Tuesday December 13th, 2011
Filed under Alumni, News, News, Events and Alumni

Kurt Ralske, MFA Art Crit class of 2012, exhibits his work at Young Gallery, LA

His exhibition has just been reviewed by LA Weekly and the LA Times.

Tuesday November 22nd, 2011
Filed under Alumni, News, Events and Alumni, Spring 2012

Alumnus Sarah Stephenson (class of 2011) hired as Copy Editor and Publications Coordinator at the New Museum.

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