Author: Peter Schjeldahl

  • How It Got That Way

    How It Got That Way June 16, 1966 Most shows that are “about” something are boring even when the works in them are interesting. Such exhibitions usually are the bright ideas of museum functionaries who see it as their duty to educate or otherwise to molest the public. Of late the favored “thematic content” has […]

  • Art: Appraising Passions

    Appraising Passions January 7, 1981 More is happening in American art right now than ever before. There is more of everything and of everybody, including critics. There is more public interest and much more money — not necessarily in that order. There is a lot of confusion, fatigue, hysteria, cynicism, and paranoia. Sometimes I wonder how anyone […]

  • Frank O’Hara: He Made Things and People Sacred

    It was 3 a.m. of a Saturday night on Fire Island, pitch black on the beach except for the head­lights of a disabled taxi and those of another jeep headed its way, sloughing through deep ruts at maybe 25 miles an hour. Frank O’Hara, one of nine tem­porarily stranded passengers, stood alone off in the […]

  • Clemente to Marden to Kiefer: It’s the All-Eighties Art-Stars

    Clemente to Marden to Kiefer Art lovers in New York and baseball fans everywhere get weird in October. For the former, it is the season of undulled appetite, when an unleashed flood of new objects and images temporarily scintillates with interest and promise. For the latter, it is the ferociously accelerating climax to long languorous […]

  • Farewell Column

    This is goodbye. After eight years with the Voice, I have been hired as the art critic of The New Yorker. Not long ago I wrote in these pages that to separate me from my column would be as simple as prying it from my cold, dead fingers. I meant that I could not imagine […]

  • Thompson’s Gift

    I was briefly offended at this exciting show by sounds of excellent jazz. They emanated from speakers in a room that contains dozens of small paintings and drawings, whose massed array did not rescue my mood. Bob Thompson’s littlest pictures are some of the most piquant artworks I know. They should be given individual breathing […]

  • Shining Through

    Two rooms of the dozen or so in this Mark Rothko retrospective will rock you. Maybe others will, too, depending on your susceptibility and appetite. Rothko was always onto something, usually an insinuating quality of light, even in his gawky early figurative and Surrealist styles and in his theatrically depressed, overbearing later phases. With more […]

  • Purple Nipple

    Lisa Yuskavage is an extravagantly deft painter in oils of cartoonish, often anatomically impossible bimbos, nymphets, and other female travesties with hypercharged libidos and the self-esteem of cat litter. Most are young, but even the more adult ones ooze moist innocence. They would be pathetic if we could pity them or contemptible if we could […]

  • Crash Rash

    If the demolition derby isn’t America’s greatest underknown sport and sacrament, I want to know what is. It is an end-of-summer ritual in New York State’s dozens of rural counties, culminating this year in a championship derby on Labor Day at the New York State Fair in Syracuse. I have attended it religiously for years […]

  • Gehry in Gear

    The uptown Guggenheim’s big-bang motorcyle show—the most publicly successful offering in the museum’s history, we are told—raises two hot issues. Three if you count motorcycles, which I don’t. Motorcycles do only a little for me, and that little is kind of icky. Like guns, motorcycles are innately insane devices—anxiety generators, disasters in waiting, just asking […]