.! >1 I





Benjamin H. D. Buchloh

"For example, it is accepted as a certainty that Foucault, adhering in this to a certain conception of literary production, got rid of, purely and simply, the notion of the subject: no more oeuvre, no more author, no more creative unity. But things are not that simple.

The subject does not disappear; rather, its excessively

determined unity is put in question, what arouses interest and inquiry is

its disappearance (that is, the new manner of being which disappearance is), or rather its dispersal, which does not annihilate it but offers us, out of it, no more than a plurality of positions and a discontinuity of functions (and here we reencounter the system of discontinuities, which, rightly or wrongly, seemed at one time to be a characteristic of serial music:'

- Maurice Blancher, "Michel Foucault As I Imagine Him"!

A mong the many traditional pictorial (and sculptural) categories that were to be dismantled in the .ft\ cubist campaigns between 1907 and 1912, the portrait appears to have been the most: formidable opponent. While-at least, temporarily-sharing the f~lte of disappearance with the genres of the III/dr, the still life, and the landscape, the portrai! as a pictorial category seems to renew itself and its heads (like those 0(- the Hydra) almost instantly after decapitation. The conclusion of cubism in Picasso's work was announced by the return to the mimetic portrait, the neoclassical renderings of Max Jacob and Ambroise Vollard, in 19 IS.

It is well known that: only when Picasso decided in the fall of 1906 to substitute the rigid structures of an Iberian mask for the mimetic drawing of Gertrude Stein's features did he consider her portrait accomplished. A few months earlier, he had literally effaced the portrait, after having spent some eighty sessions with Stein to bring about a physiognol1l ic rcsem blance, But: even in the subscqueM, programmatic instances when Picasso disassembled portraiture, by depicting his dealers, Kahnweilcr, Volhrd and Uhde, in the three magisterial portraits of 1910 that pronounce the death of the genre in an uncontradictablc manifesto, the mimetic residue of physiognomic traces works as counterevidence throughout the paintings. These antiportraits fuse the sitter's subjectivity in a continuous network of phenomenological interdependence between pictorial surface and virtual space, between

bodily volume and painterly texture, as all physiognomic fearures merge instantly with their persistent ncoation in a pictorial erasure of efforts at mimeti c resemblance.

b -.

Yet, remnants of characteristic subjectivity still appear to be articulated in Wilhelm Uhdc's s(luinring face and Am broisc Volbrd's patriarchal demcanor-c-cven if only in a passing gesture that seems to acknowledge that the disappearing conventions of mimetic depiction ate now, ;H best, embodied in the features of the caricature.

It is worthwhile, then, to ponder what the caricature and rhe mask 5h:1["(,:, in order to understand why they served, around 19 I 0, as tools in the dismantling of portraiture. First, both car: caturc and mask conceive of a person's physiognomy as fixed rather than a fluid held; in singling out particular traits, they reduce the inhnity of diffl'n~ntjated fClcial expressions to a metonymic set. 'rhus, the fixity of mask and caricature den)' outright the promise of fullness and the traditional aspirations toward an organic mediation of the essential characteristics of the differentiated bourgeois subject. Moreover, in singling out particular traits, the caric.irure reveals a certain mcchanicity of those essential features of the subject whose rigidity displays the individual subject as grotesque, In cubism caricature and mask enter into the depiction of physiognomy to attest to the always already constructed character of identity and to de-naturalize the model of physiognomic evidence in representation.

Inevitably, a clucstion arises: Why did the literal disappearance of the sitter from the surface of the painting appear to be a pictorial necessity as much as an epistemic condition in the conception of subjectivity? Answers to that question would have to precede attempts to clarify why continually renewed claims for the validity of the portrait as both a pictorial category and as a model of mimetic meaning arc sUlgcd [rom the ruins of rcprescnt.uion aficr cubism.

If cubism initiated the transition from that model to one of structural difTerence, it: obviously argued for the end of a "motivated" visual sign.2 Thcretorc, nothing had to be discredited as much as the portrait, the instantiation of the subject within a seemingly "nnrural" iconic resemblance. In portraiture, ;l seemingly natural and guar;llltecd nexus between object and representation had appeared particularly evident; in fact, mimetic resemblance had been one of the category's Iounding conditions. The desire for the lasting depiction of subjects took the possibilities for physiognomic truth as a natural given, limited, if at all, by the pa inter's hand, or, conversely, superbly enacted by the painter's mimetic skills.

It cannot surprise us that, unlike the landscape, the srilllifr, and the nude-pictorial gemes that have all but vanished since the moment of their cu bisr dcconstnlcrion-the portrait has been rcsurrccred ag<lin and <lgain. It was to become, in !-act, the site where the myth of a natural motivation of the sign, and of the mimetic model of representation, would be most avidly rC<lfGrmed within every generation of twentieth-century modernity.

These correspondences of the epistemic and the pictorial attest to the inextricnbl« relationship between rapidly changing conceptions of the subject and the equally rapid disintegration of the traditional pictorial categories. I·Iowever, before one enters into an eager thcorctica] embrace of the dcccntcrcd

subject one should also reflect 011 (he external conditions that necessitated the dismantling of the traditional concepls of a humanist bourgeois subjectivity. After all, ;1 complex historical dialectic 0pcr;HCS between the chen emerging structuralist and socialist models that aimed to dismantle bourgeois subjectivity and ,l!1 accclcracing Iate-capirnlisr agenda that aims to systematically foil the formation of subjectivity under the auspices of an emerging, and increasingly cnf()rccd, consumer culture.

"So the Russian feature film was the first opportunity in decades to put people before

the camera who had no use for their photographs.

And immediately the human face

appeared on film with new and immeasurable Significance. But it was no longer a portrait What was it?"

- Walter Benjamin, "A Short I1istory of Photography"

t'II'\ his seems to be the moment when the reflection turns inevitably to the pborograpbic dimension of .IL the problem, ccruinly as profound and hsting in irs impact on the genre of portraiture as the transformations of concepts of class identity and the psychoanalytic and structuralist theories of the subject would appear in their bearing on portraiture.

When Walter Benjamin, in his essay "A Shorr Ilisrory of Photography;' in 193 I, speaks of the new, politically educated way of seeing that overcomes the cult of the interiority of the centered bourgeois subject, which dissolves priv;)te intimacy in favor of the illumination of details, he emphasizes that this experience would be the least accessible in the domain of traditional portrait photography. Yet, he states, at the same time, that "to do without people is for photography the most impossible of renunciations,":'

In the many roles it has played throughout the rwcntieth-century, photography has fulfilled one with particular persistence: It has compensated for the losses rlut the agents of the aV<lm-g:lrde inflicted 011 traditional forms of visual experience. After all, cubist painting had enacted the epistcrnic insight that confronted <In emerging theory of subject formation such as Freud's and an emerging theory of structural signification such as de Saussurc's. Parallel to the theorization of vision in phenomenology, the traditional model of representing the subject according to mimetic resemblance had lost all credibility.


At that very moment, one was able to count on photography to supply its arsenal of seemingly guaranteed iconicity, Restoring physiognomic likeness in traditional single-frame imagery, however, amounted now to more than just redeeming mimetic representation, it reassured the spectator of the continued validity of essentialist and biologistic concepts of identity. This foundational-if not outright ideological-promise is a latent argument made in every photographic ponTait of the twentieth century.

In an astonishing-and hardly examined-comparison between the work of August Sander, the eminent portrait photographer of German Neue SaciJlichkeit,4 and the works of the Soviet filmmakers Eisenstein and Pudovkin, Walter Benjamin describes the historical predicaments of the photographic portrait and the necessary conditions for its rcssurccrion. One of them, the systematicness of the investigation, the quasi-scientific approach to the physiognomic evidence of subjectivity is, acccording to l)cnjamin, enacted in Sander's project in an exemplary manner.

The comparison between what the e5S<l}, calls Eisenstein's and Pudovkin's "tremendous physiognomic gallery" and Sander's project of documenting all the professions and trades of the Weimar Republic nevertheless astonishes the contemporary reader. First, the apparently il11parti<l1 equation of film and photography is all the more surprising given Benjmnin's acuity in the observation and diagnosis of the specific characteristics and functions of different media. Second, only a few years before the publication of Eenjamio's essay, a debate concerning the functions of photography in modern industrial (socialist) societies had emerged in the pages of Ncvy! 11 among the artist Alexander Rodchenko and the critics Ossip Brik, Boris Kushner, and Sergei Tretjakov.-

This notorious photography debate of J 928 problcmarizes, in particular, the genre of the portrait and cJuestions its possible continuation within photography in the twentieth century.

The Soviet avant-garde now approached portraiture in explicit opposition to the traditional principles of pictorial isolation and singularization. The photographic image, in general, was defined as dynamic, contextual, and contingent, and the serial structuring of visual information emphasized open form and a potential infinity, not only of photographic subjects eligible in a new social collective but, equally, an infinity of contingent, photographically recordable details and facets that would constitute each individual subject within perpetually altered activities, social relations, and object relationships. Ossip Brik argued, for example, that

Differentiating individual objects so as to make a pictorial record of them is not only a technical but also an ideological phenomenon. In the pre-Revolutionary (feudal and bourgeois) period, both painting and literature set themselves the aim of differentiating individual people and events from their general context and concentrating attention on them ... 'T() the contemporary consciousness, an individual person can be understood and assessed only in connection with all the other people-with those who used to be regarded by the pre-Revolutionary consciousness as background.6

The argument implies a radical redefinition of the photographic object itself. It is no longer conceived as a single-image print, carefully crafted by the artist-photographer in the studio, framed

and presented as a pictorial substitute-rather, in Rodchenko's definition, it is precisely the cheaply and rapidly produced snapshot that will displace the traditional synthetic portrait. The organizational and distributional form will become the photo~file-a loosely organized archive, a more or less coherent accumulation of snapshots relating and documenting one particular subject-Lenin, for example.

I·Jere is an example of the first big collision between art and phorography, a barrie between ('rerni!:y and the moment. Moreover, in this instance, photographs were taken casually, bur painting atuckcd photography with all its heavy and light artillery-and failed miserably ... I mean Lenin ... It should be stared flrl1lly that with the appearance of photographs, there C11l be no question of a single immutable portrait. Moreover, a man is not just one slim total; he is many, and sometimes they are quite opposed."

Rodchenko, of course, could not have made a more provocativ« choice to illustrate his ideas about rhe new photographic portrait than in selecting the recently deceased Lenin as subject; here, cult and hero worship had assumed already lluasi-religious dimensions. If at all, it was to be decided on this territory, in rhe mernorialization of' Lenin, whether the new socialist culture would succeed, in [;1((", not only in overcoming [he bourgeois forms of commemoration (such as the bronze statue, the plaster bust, and the oil portrait) bur, more importallt , in developing forms of public representation that were nonhierarchical and anumonumcntal, to allow viewers to disinvest from the experience of power and domination that the category of the portrait had traditionally mediated.

Sander's serial approach to the traditionally unique, single-frame portrait: must: have engendered Benjamin's enthusiastic response to the first publication of <l small se lcction of Sander's work.s This feature would have generated the comparison with the film of the Soviets, Shifting from the individual, depicted in the unfathomable artificiality of the photographer's studio, to rhe presentation of subjects as both constituted within social relations as much by the evident paraphernalia of their professional identity, Sander's emphasis on a serial and contextual conception of subjectivity was systematically embodied in the strucruring ofAlltlilz del" Zeil (best translated as the Features ~f the Time) as a larger project in Corty-five portfolios, each containing twelve photographic portraits.

Although this clearly constituted a departure from both-the traditional portrait aesthetic as much as the aesthetic principles of German Neue SachlicMeit photography that Benjamin had criricized so vehemently in the photography essay in his remarks on Albert Rengel' Parzsch's book Die Hill isl schiil1- it seems that Benjamin paradoxically ignores the conservative dimensions in Sander's project altogether. Ills is a model of portraiture that, while serial in its organization, nevertheless argues the case of social-democratic ideology-that: of a pre-established social ontology, where each individual finds his or her natural place and position in a hierarchically and cyclically structured social order. In the portraits of Sander, the statuary singularization of the sitter retains aspects of the traditional forms of representation, now transferred onto different social identities [hat have become eligible for depiction.

Despite the contrary social evidence, it was in their static and hieratic appearance that fc)l1l1chtional concepts of the subject-as grounded in nature and religion, in the solid determinations of


class, cthnicity, and racc--would be reaffirmed in Sander's hierarchical and cyclical archive.

But the balance set lip by Sander is fragile and tenuous, It shifts between a reactionary impulse to restore the credibility of essentialist notions of subject formation, along with a revision of the tradirional hierarchical and mimetic models of representation, and a conservative doubt concerning the radical, immediate, and universal applicability of an open-s-both photographic and social-structure. Sander's project seems to question whether models of nonhierarchical and anti essentialist meaning and subjectivity can, in fact, be enacted with any grcarel' credibility than the traditional forms, if the}' were to be maintained. Like other counter-modernist gestures (sllch as de Chirico's and Picasso's, in 1915) emerging at the very moment of modernism's first articulation, Sander's project inscribes the mnemonic evidence of the loss of an earlier concepr of subjccnviry within the vcry instant when the structural model is first articulated.

That balance would inevitably become ever more tenuous with each attempt to rescue the vanishing categories and conventions of subject depiction by photographic or painterly means in the face of rapidly and dramatically increasing evidence of the destruction of all remnants of the model of an autonomous and self-determining subjectivity in the present.


"This fine word-the commonplace-has several meanings;

it refers without doubt to the most hackneyed of thoughts, but the fact is that these thoughts have become a meeting place for the community. Everyone recognizes both themselves

and others in them. The commonplace is everyone's and mine; it is the presence of everyone in me. It is, in essence, the generality; to appropriate it for myself, I must

perform an act, an act by which I divest myself of my particularity in order to attach myself

to what is general, to become the generality. Not simply to resemble everyone,

but to be precisely the incarnation of everyone. By this eminently social act of association, I identify myself with all other beings in the indistinctness of the universal:' -Jean-Paul Sartre, preface to Portvai: d'un lnconnu, by Nathalie Sarraure, 194-7

~ 0 the very extent: that subjectivity is now universally socialized in the processes of collective pro& duction and social organization, the portrait's claim for right of survival in depicting "the individual subject" borders on the obsolescent if not the obscene. 10 rhe very extent that subjectivity is now universally transferred in the condition of l'cification onto the object itself, and that subjectivity is destroyed systematically in the daily practices of consumption, it will have to become spectacular in its


residual ()]"Jl1S as grotesque or it will have to be represented in a condition of objecthood.

'These nrc certainly some of the reasons why a drastic inversion of depi ctcd figures occurs in the hisrorical and mental distance that separates the photographic work of Sander from that of such postwar portrait photographers as Diane Arbus, Richard Avedon, and Irving Penn, who emulated the Sander legacy in so many unacknowledged ways. If, in Sander (as in Walker Evans, somewhat later}, the subject is still a soria/ subject, contained in the public space of urbanity and sustained in interaction and public life, those forms of social and public experience are no longer accessible in the images that the New York School photographers produced after the war. Their emphasis on the persistence of the photographic and pictorial category of the portrait is as desperate as that of the depicted "subjects" themselves, whom they retrieve in the desperate forms of eccentricity and transform into spectacle as freaks and the victims of their own attempt to shore up traditional bourgeois conceptions of originality and individuality.

Yet, it is not immediately evident what drives such an enterprise: Whether it is the reactionary impulse to salvage the obsolete genre of the photographic portrait or whether it is photography as an ideological handmaiden that arricular.cs the mythical concepts of subjectivity (it is not even certain any longer that one can situate phowgraphy in such a parasitical relationship to ideology, or whether-in its habitualizing effects-phowgraphy actually opcralCs as an ideologicd force itself). This is especially true in cases such as Avcdon's, where a threshold between an artistic avant-gardc praclice and a visual enforcement of ideology never even existed; here, all operations (photography for f:lshion and advertisement and the "artistic" ambitions of the master) partake of the same logic of enforced rnytluficaricn.

A comparison between these photographic practices and the artistic practices of the early sixties reveals an asronishing discrepancy of attitudes toward the category of the portrait. While the photographers struggle to resurrect the caregory at all costs (and the costs of sustaining a historically inaccessible genre arc, as one can sec in the cases mentioned earlier, tremendous), the artists of this generation struggle to undo the category as definitively as possible. The signal gesture in chis historical process was executed by Robert Rauschenbcrg in 1961 when he mailed a telegram with the following statement co his Paris dealer: "This Is a Portrait of Iris ClOT in say so, Robert Rauschcnberg"

Barring even the last trace of found-photographic representation from his definition of the portrait, Rauschenb'~rg now fully shifts the representation of subjectivity into the register of the pcrformative declaration, reenacting and reradicalizing, of course, the Duchampian principle operative in the rcadymade. Yet, in the process of doing so, he not only articulates one of the first instances of postwar conceptual art, he also asserts subjectivity as a concept of instantiation and iteration, as a continuousprocess rather than a status, as a performative rather than a representable object condition.

This initiated a process of complicating the conceprs of subjectivity and representation that culminated in the late sixties and early seventies in the work of such conceptual artists as DOllglas Huebler and On Kawara. One of Hucbler's proposals expressly addresses these questions and


(unknowingly?) seems to finally fulfill Rocichcnko's quests (or an open phoro hl« as the archive of a truly nonhicrarchical collective subjectivity: "Throughout the remainder of the artist's life he will photographically document, to the extent of his capacity, the existence of everyone alive in order to produce the most authentic and inclusive representation of the human species that may be assembled in that manner:' t)

The historical conflict between photographic reaction and avant-garde opposition was played out once again in the early sixties with the renewed attention pop art paid to photography-found rather than fine. Unlike the domain of photography, however, at this time it is precisely the "genre of the portrait" that is once again being dismantled, if not systematically excluded from the photographi c panorama that painting opens up. In pop art's usage of the phowgraphic image we can see most clearly what is at stake in the refusal of the genre: although exceptions occur, of course, in almost: ill! of the works by Rauschcnberg and Warhol, Lichtenstein and Richter, Ruscha and Boltanski, that reidcntiCy the pictorial with the photographic, 01' reposition the two in an inextricable relationship, the traditional individual portrait-pictorial or photographic-is all but absent from their work. Edward Ruscha explains the "absence of people" from his phorogr:lphic books:

1 have always tried to keep people out of my books ... just to eliminate the unnecessary human aspect. The first thing Andy Warhol said when he saw my book-I gave him I\wl1ty.lix GasoliJ1e Stations-was "How do you get aJJ these pictures without people in


i :::::

Douglas Duebler REPRESENTED ABOVE IS AT LEAST ONE PERSON WHOSE MIDDLE NAME IS TROUBLER 109/Variablc Piece #70: 1971 (Quincy. Mass .• September), 1973

Robert Rauschenberg Portrait of Iris Clert, 1961 Telegram'

, Works iIlustmted in this essay do not appear in the exhibilion.


them?" and r hadn't even thought about it before, but there aren't any people in them. Every once in a while you will spot one. I seem to unconsciously eliminate people f-1:0l11 them and I've never ... I don't like imagery of people. Instead of using people, I'll use something clse.10

Rusche's statement confirms our assumption that the exrlvsion of figures and faces has now become a strategy as significant as their traditional intlusion had been, and that it is precisely this decision to eliminate the representable subject: altogether that will make j reading of the resulting iconography all the more complex. What is at stake in the exclusion of the figure seems to be precisely the fundamental and unrcso lvable dialectic: A subject is only to be recognized, in Clct will be at its most visible, in the socially mediated forms of' objeCt production and service cxch.1nge.

In their approach to the category of the portrait, the artists of that generation~in particular, Lichtenstein and \\1arhol~now share the ability to articulate that absence of subjectivity; it is as visibly absent from the execution of their works as hom their iconography. In their hands, the genre now appears not only emptied of all individuality of painterly performance but of any remnants of interiorit)' and privacy of the self as sitter, The subjects depicted arc either, as in the case of Warhol, always already the public substitutes of subjectivity, the mere myths of the subject in the spectacular and substitutional appearance of the "5t;1I:" or, in the case of Lichtenstein, the pathetic residue of subjectivity living on in the comic book, the cheap romance novel, and the advertising image.

In each instance, the traces of a psychological naturalism that may still promise the viewer a sense of self and subjective differentiation, have been transferred into the registcr of the grotes<lue. As if the junction of mcchanicity and mimct.icism in Warhol's portraits of Marilyn Monroe or Elizabeth Tiylor was not enough, the permutation of industrial colors and their frequently inexact regislration in the silkscrccn process enhance the recognition of the fallacies of photographic mimesis.

At the moment, however, that Warhol reintroduces the format of the traditional portrait into his work, it actually demarcates the general disappearance of Warhol as an artist. Ifhe had emphasized serial repetition and the prerequisite of the mechanically and anonymously produced Fotomat image as the point of departure for his early portraits and self-portraits. and had denied once again the genre's claims, it is evident in the series of commissioned portraits from the early seventies onwards that he was willing to grant the rC(ltlest for an even mythical identity to be bestowed upon those both willing and able to pay for ir.

As is typical of \Varhol's work in generaL the dialectic of seduction and debasement that constirutcs the logic of the commodity is even incarnated in the phony portraits of the seventies. It is precisely the question concerning the social and public dimension of subjectivity that Warhol's portraits pose. If lustorical subjectivity within the bourgeois conception was measured-however problematically~by an individual's achievements in the public interest, by service to the common cause of social and politic;)l progress and cultural and scicnrific enlightenment, spectacular subjectivity in late-capitalist consumer society is measured according to the degree of acquired visibility and public exposure.

Gerhal'd Richter

Terese Andeszka 123]. 1964 Synthetic resin on muslin. 67 x 69


I=in Wllnnor rAth;~+A

Terese Andes7kn linn ihr Mnnn Fr rtr-

And "acquired" literally means, in \Varho]'s case, to (()fCC the development to its logical conclusion; By the early eighties, once the success of his seventies portraits had been assured, Warhol opened the dams and allowed everyone willing or vain enough to spend twenty-five thousand dollars to have their portrait painted on the basis of a Polaroid session with the artist. That: these services were ultimately advertised and offered, among others, by Neiman Marcus was only one more step in the right direction-namely, the total equation of the representation of subjectivity with the commodity exch;mgc.

The resurrection of the portrait in \Varhol's work, therefore, occurs under the auspices of a pure sign exchange value. At the vcry moment when the representation of subjectivity had become credible only in the act of exchanging the subject tor the image of the commodity object-a displacement that had been recorded in the prohibition of I-igmative rcprcscntation-c-- Warhol's seems to have uncannily understood that the total commodification of the image of the subject might just as well be practiced within the representation of the subject itself.

Warhol's intervention in the genre of the portrait has been discussed extensively, yet it is astonishing that: Lichtenstein's equally subversive and persistent dcconstructions have been all but ignored.



Roy Lichtenstein

Portrait of Allan Kaprow and Portrait of Ivan Karp, '1962 Oil on canvas, 20 x 24 each

Self-Portrait, 1978 Oil and mHgoa on canvas, 70 x 54 Photo; courtesy Leo Castelli Gallery, New York

One can argue that the category of the portrait, with its traditional promises of likeness and idcncity, of the centrality of an integrated subjectivity, is played out almost continuously in Lichtenstein's farcical interventions within the genre, This position was announced in a statement almost as programmatical as Rauschenberg's tclegr;1l11, when, in 1961, Lichtenstein painted a double portrait (rarely reproduced) in which the same sp;1rkling young man (who seems to have stepped our of a dry dc:ming advertisement) is painted rwice; the first painting is cnriclcd Portrait rif Allan Kaprow, and the second, identical painting, Portrait rif [van Karp. II

'T()() numerous to mention are the subsequent examples of Lirhrcnstcin's paintings from 1962 onward, in which all the conventional figures and to po i of portraiture appcar, yct mediated now through the mirror of 111;1S5 culture, already estranged within the imagery of the comic strip or the advertisement, Most often occupying the frame with the traditional presence of the portrayed subject. we encounter portraits of the artist (for example, lIfastnpiecr, 1962), the soldier/war hero (Torpedo Los, T 963), dw tragic muse (Drowning C,'l'i, 1963), the exotic beauty (Aloha, 1962), or even the historical portrait (CeOige Hclishingtoll, 1962). The problem of the portrait: persists even in his later work, and is approached with a similarly precise dissection: In 1977, a figure, consisting of a rectangular mirror fragment, placed above the gr;lphic shorthand for a substitute person (ric-shirt-suit), surfaces for the first time in a painting called Reclinil1g NHde, It: will reappear a year later, as an empty T--shirt with a small rectangular mirror in place of the head, entitled Self-Portrait, only to become a fixture in the subsequent iconographic program of the artist which will undergo even more hilarious variations in the substitution of the mirror by a piece of graphically textured plywood, as in Razzmatazz (1978), or perforated Swiss cheese in such drawings as SlHd),for Portrail (1977).

In this regard the radical anonymity of Lichtcntcin's comic-book characters seems to complerncnr the immediate and universal recognizability of Warhol's star imagery, since the traces of the personal and the private, the subjective and the psychological, arc encoded in the grotesCjue exaggeration of the cartoon imagery that persistently voided the validity of mimetic rescm blanco. r 2

As is common in twentieth-century avant-g<1rde practice, whenever a strategy has been developed, within which structural transformations of social relations are nnticipatcd or retroactively articulated, a younger generation of artists responds by developing counter-strategies. They tend to be either reactionary or, as is more often the case, they deny the radical implications in favor of a more reality oriented, conciliatory approach to the



history of the genre, the conditions of production, and the social implications of the artistic strategy.

Such a reversal, with regard to the radicallegacies of pop art and conceptual art, occurred in the early eighties in the work of Thomas Ruff and Thomas Struth, as they repositioned themselves within the conservative perspectives of the legacies of August Sander (and, more di reedy, the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher, their teachers). Rc-figuring the photograph meant, in Thomas Ruff's case, simply benefiting from the shock that a return to the traditional portrait now implied. This was all the more so if presented in color, in hypertrophic size, ;1I1d in anonymity, yet cOllveying the f:ulliliarit)' or, at least, a sense of acqu.unrance, since it is only the friends of the art.ists that arc eligible as the limited social group to be portrayed.

"file work opposes the strategies of Warhol's approach to the problems of portraiture in which anonymity had been the guiding principle, since the criminal, the star, and the customer in Warhol's pseudo-portraits were all linked by this principle of utter alienation as much as by the laconic production procedure; the found photograph (the police mug shot) and the mechanical phocograph (the phorobooth portrait) correspond to each other in their anonymous mcchauiciry, On the other hanel, Ruff ,11 so negates the val idity of the Bcchcrs' implied positions on histori cal subjectivity; theit insistence on the anonymity of the architectural authors and their insistence on the absence of [he producers from the sites of production clearly allies itself as ;\11 artistic gesture with a concept: of collective subjectiviry rather dun bourgeois individuality. The rigorously sustained principle of excluding the social subject, embodied in the photographic figure, was precisely what: had distinguished the Bechers' work 50 clearly from both the naively articulated assumptions of documentary photographers and the spcci acular and groteSC]lle distortions of New u))"k School photographers like Arbus and Avcdon, 'The ami-modernist legacies of Sander that the Bechers bequeathed to their disciples brought about the opposition to tile Warhol-Rusclia-Graham legacies as well. It: is in the work of Ruff and Struth that the figure reemerges as a portrait, be it alone as in Ruff's phoLOgraphs or in group, or rather, family portraits, as in the work of Thomas Struth in the eighties.

By placing emphasis on the portrait as a result of still existing communicative relations (in the Iact that only friends and close acquaintances clualify for the act of photographic subjectivity), they oppose the anomie relations articulated in Warhol's cash nexus availability of subjectivity. The symbolic construction of protected social spaces, exempt from the general law of total alienation, is both artistically and politically conservative. While these constructions claim that residual forms of sociability and subjectivity can still be detected within and against a universal anomy, it is precisely the protectionism of this operation that makes its resulting portraits as images of a privileged subjectivity and an exempted social solidarity all the more precarious. And it is in this artificial redemption of the personal that its problematic dimensions become immediately apparcl1t.l3 In the post-Fascist German bces of the young generation of Ruff's friends, we learn even less than in Sander's work about class and profession, practice and social relations. What we do learn in these portraits is their incipi cnr naturalization of concepts of subjectivity, newly presented as an ontological category, presumably


Thomas Stl'uth The Johnson Family, Edinburg. 1988 Gelatin silver print. 291/3 x 36 1/, framed


available to those fortunate enough to have privileged access to the "natural" condition, the category of the. porrrait and the producer of the myth.

Their exclusionary character borders-c-Iike all biological and foundationnlist discourses on identity~on an unconscious elitist if not racist: thought:. It: might be Ol1C of the most intriguing Icatures of Ruff's unconscious entanglement with thaL legacy that makes the monumental pictures of his friends, with their bland and gnnd aspirations toward a subjectivity that the category seems to promise but that in reality actually prohibits, so uncanny.

Srrurh, in his ;lttcmpts to escape the rigorous limitations of his photographic discipline by branching out into the receival conventions of portraiture (more precisely, the Iamiliar imagery of the family/group picture), encounters problems of a different kind.

If, in fact, the resuscitation of obsolete categories allows for the arri culat.ion of prematurely obscured historical truth (one that: the restless avant~garde production under the pressure of innovation had displaced before its actual moment of disappearance), countcr-avanr-garde strategies can, in fact, redeem some of those aspects in a gesture of opposition against both, the exclusionary and hegemonic claims of an avant-garde and the hlse and totalizing claims of ideology itself.

The question remains opcn for the moment, of whether in this new type of Neue Sachliclikcil conservatism, a social reformism is manifested that is ultimately unrenablc-c-namcly; the implicit argumerit that rather than living in an increasingly anomie society, we arc actually sustained in the private havens of sociability and communication. The tics of family and friendship not only protect us from the onslaught of systematic alienation that governs social relations at large, they also guarantee the actual existence of a spectrum of spaces and forms of subjectivity infinitely larger and more differentiated than those allowed (or by the culture industry.


1 from Foucault/Blanchot (New York: Zone 1300ks, 1987), 77.

2 The crucial essay on these questions remains Yve-Alain Bois, "Kahnweller's lesson:' in Bois. Painting As Model. (Cambridge and London: MH. Press, 1990), 65-100. My brief rehearsal of the argument here is indebted to his.

3 See Walter Benjamin. "A Small HistOlY of Photography:' in One Way Street and Other Writings, translated by Edmund jephcott and Kingsley Shorter (London: Verso, 1979), 251. The title of this essay

is variously translated as "/\ Short History" (Patton) or as "A Small History" Qephcott). Although the latter corresponds more literally to the original adjective klelne, it is, for once, Phi! Patton's otherwise totally

flawed translation that is closer to the original.

4 The association of Neue Sachlichkeit painting and Soviet film is all the more astonishing since the general tendencies of the German moverncnt aimed for a "return to order" ill the arts, a renewed emphasis on the separation of categories, the transhistorical validity of skillful painterly execution and mimetic representation.

5 Obviously. the writings of the photography debate could not have been known to Benjamin, since his extended visit to Moscow began in December 1926 and lasted unlil January 1927. But given his awareness of the Soviet avaru-garde (especially its filmic, theatrical, and literary protagonists), it still seems surprising that he did not know or feel the


necessity to research any of the photographic work or any of the writings on photography by Brik and Tteijakov when writing his essay in 1931.

6 Osslp Brik, "From Painting to Photograph:' in Christopher Phillips, ed., Photography in the Modern Era (New York: Merropolitan Museum of Arl/ Aperture, 1989), 231-32. Later in the same essay, Brik explains very specifically, how the conllict between traditional forms of representation and new social and political realities has to be addressed with the means that photography provides: "Whenever a people's commissar is isolated from his environment, the result is lccnography he's being regarded as a heroic figure, just like Napoleon, who might seem to be the central fig· ure in the Napoleonic campaigns ... To take 3 snapshot, a photographer does nat have to differentiate the individual. Photography can capture him together with the total environment and in such 3 manner that his dependence on the environment is clear and obvious. The photographer, then, can resolve this problem. something that the painter cannot do." Alexander Rodchenko argues in almost idenlical terms for the Iormal transformation of perceptual experience in accordance with political changes: 'There is no revolution if, instead of making a general's portrait. photographers have started to photograph proletarian leaders-but are still using the same photographic approach that W<1S employed under the old regime or under the influence of Western a11:' In Alexander Rodchenko, "A Cauuon" Novy! let, no. 11 (1928): 36-37:

English translation by John Bowlt in Photography In the Modem Era, 264·65.

7 Alexander Rodchenko, "Against the Synthetic Portrait, for the Snapshot;' in Phillips. Photography in the Modern Era, 238-42.

8 August Sander, Das Antlitz der Zeit (Berlin, Kurt Wolff/Transmare, 1929).

9 Douglas Huebler. text accompanying an ongoing series of works.

See Variable Piece, No. 70 On process). Global 598, 1975, 31. To what extent the depiction of subjectivity slides into the dimension of the linguistic performativc in the context of conceptual art is evident in the numerous examples to be quoted from the work of On Kawara As if tak· ing a cue from Rauschenberg's telegraphed portrait, he begins in the late sixties to mail telegrams and postcards to a selected number of artworld figures and friends stating the following perforrnauves. "I am still alive:' "t got up;' "I went:'

10 Edward Ruscha, interviewed by Willoughby Sharp, in Avalanche (Winter-Spring, 1973), 30-39. Iluscha all but states in this interview that he had never admitted people into the iconography of h is books, when he suddenly pauses. At least in one work, close to the serial object arrangements of the books, Rusch" used a series of found portrait photographs, taken by various anonymous professional photographers. The

work is called Five 1955 Girlfriends, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and it was submitted by Ruscha fOI" the exhibition and catalogue of the 1969 exhibition "Kcnzeption/Conception" curated by Konrad Fischer and Rolf Wedewer, in Leverkusen.

Certainly, one would have to take into account that the decision to depart from his principle of a refusal to depict human figures in his serial arrangements of photographs was partially motivated by the desire to intervene in what must have appeared to Ruscha at this time as the reiher orthodox and academic definition of conceptual art The subrnissian of the photographs of five (fictitious or authentic) girlfriends from the fifties. provincial beauties from Oklahoma in their campy hairdos and dress, must have appeared as a provocative statement on the rapidIy changing habits of identity (ormation in both fashion and art and as a provocative emphasis on the private and the erotic. the past and the personal, in an exhibition that so programmatically pronounced the end of all that.

11 The radical exchangeability between the two characters is all the more hilarious in this case since both were, at the time, of crucial irnporranee to the development of Lichtenstein's career: Ivan Karp, then the director of the Leo Castelli Gallery, had offered him his first exhibition; Allan Kaprow, then a crcclal friend and colleague at Douglas College of Rutgers University, who had brought Lichtenstein's work to Karp's aucnnon, was also an artist, perceived 3S seminal in the formulation of the anti -pictorial happening and pop aesthetics.

12 By enforcing and exaggerating the subject, the cartoon imagery also insists on the normalization and naturalization of its characters, the reduction to the most standard and stereotypical figures imaginable (for example. Lichtenstein's "Blonde" could be the result of a computer printout of all the advertisement, telev'slon, and film blondes of the Iifties and sixties put together). Similarly. the fragments of speech inserted in the paintings often record moments of great intensity of experience that are, at the same time, the most vacuous cliches ("That's the way it should have begun! But it is hopeless"), only to be recognized immediately as preprocessed forms, lacking any reality within the available spaces and patterns of behavlor,

13 Already in 1942, in his introductory essay to the catalogue of the exhibition, "Twentieth Century Portraits:' the curator, Monroe Wheeler, notices this condition, without, however, even attempting to understand when he writes the following, "Even the specialists seem to have often done their best work when there happened to be some intimacy between them and the Siller, or at least some mutual enthusiasm. And many artists ref use to undertake any prearranged painting of strangers at ali;' See Monroe Wheeler, Twentieth Century Portraits (New York:

Museum of Modern Art, 1942), 9.


Catalogue of the Exhibition

l)imcnsiol1s. ;lIT ill in(h ... ~::;: hcighr precedes widt-h precedes depth.

DimcllsiollS an: for paper size. unless orhcrwisc nOI'('(L

Janine Antoni

Lick and Lather, 1993~94

Seven licked chocolate busts and seven washed soap busts cast from the artist's body, 24 x 16 x 13 each Private collection, New York

Mom and Dad, 1993-94

Color photographs of artist's mother and father with makeup, three panels, 24 x 20 each

Collection Lynette and Robert Antoni

Christian Boltanski

Autel de tycee Chases (Altar to Chases High School), 1988 Six black-and-white photographs, twenty-two tin biscuit boxes, six lights, 67 x 841/2X 14 overall

Rubell Family Collections, Miami

Chuck Close

Arne, 1980

Fingerprinted stamp-pad ink on paper, 40 x 301/2 Courtesy PaceWildenstein, New York

Frank, 1980

Fingerprinted stamp-pad ink on paper, 153/4 x 111/2 Collection Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel and Carl Spielvogel, New York


Fingerprinted stamp-pad ink on paper, 153/4 x 111/2 Courtesy Louis K_ Meisel Gallery, New York Robert, 1980

Fingerprinted stamp-pad ink on paper, 153/4 x 111/2 Collection Arne and Milly Glirncher, New York

Gwynne, 1982

Watercolor on paper mounted on canvas, 741/4 x 581(.1 Collection Gerry and David Pincus, Wynnewood, Pennsylvan ia


John Coplans Self-Portrait (Feet, frontal). 1984

Gelatin silver print, 57 x 37 Collection William Schunk, New York

Self-Portrait (Reclining back, three panels, right), 1990 Gelatin silver print; 49 x 116 overall, framed

Lent by the artist, courtesy Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York

Patrick. Faigenbaum Aldobrandini, 1986

Gelatin silver print, 18 x 18

The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of Patrick Faigenbaum

Massimo, 1986

Gelatin silver print, 20 x 191/8

The Art Institute of Chicago, acquired through a grant from the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation

Sforza-Cesarini, 1986

Gelatin silver print, 197/8 x 193/8

The Art Institute of Chicago, gift of Patrick Faigenbaum

Nan Goldin Siobhan and I: kiss, NYC, 1990 Cibachrome, 20 x 24

Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York Jimmy Paulette and Tabboo!, 1991

Cibachrorne, 27 x 40

Collection Stephen and Marsha Silberstein, Philadelphia Joey at the love Ball, 1991

Cibachrorne, 30 x 40

Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York Joey in my tub, Berlin, 1992

Cibachrome, 261/2 x 391/2

Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery, New York

David Hammons

Untitled, 1989-90

Rubber inner tube, wire brush, handbag, 63 x 16 Collection Gil Friesen, Los Angeles

John Henry, 1990

Steel girder, stone, hair, 46 x 10 x 6 Rubell Family Collections, Miami


The Collector, 1981--88 (from Ten Characters)

Mixed-media installation, 96 x 87 x 127 overall (variable) Lent by the artist, courtesy Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York

Alex Katz

Trio, 1975

Oil on canvas, 72 x 96

Collection Lone and Ma rvi n Bal istocky Caroline, 1976

Oil on canvas, 83 x 78

Collection Janet and Joseph Shei n, Merion, Pennsylvania

Karen Kilimnik.

The Boardman Daughters, 1990

Acrylic, crayon on paper, 35 x 23 Collection Lewis Manilow, Chicago "Dear Prudence;' 1993

Acrylic, crayon on paper, 35 x 23

Collection James Dorment, Rumson, New Jersey The Psychedelic Conspiracy, 1993

Acrylic, crayon on paper, 35 x 23

Collection Ja mes Dorment, Rumson, New Jersey Gla (Her Majesty's Secret Service), 1994

Acrylic, crayon on paper, 35 x 23

Collection Lewis Manilow, Chicago

I nstal1ation to be executed


Bob-Tail, 1991

Polychromed wood, 34 x 44 x 16 Courtesy Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London

Robert Mapplethorpe

Self-Portrait, 1980

Gelati n sliver print, 20 x 16

Estate of Robert Mapplethorpe, courtesy Roberl Miller Gallery, New York

Lisa lyon, 1981

Gelatin silver print, 20 x 16

Estate of Robert Ma pplethorpe, courtesy Robert Miller Gallery, New York

Derrick Cross, 1982

Gelatin silver print. 20 x 16

Estate of Robert Mapplethorpe, courtesy Robert Miller Gallery, New York

Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis, 1987 Gelatin silver print, 24 x 20

Estate of Robert Mapplethorpe, courtesy Robert Miller Gallery, New York


Gelatin silver print, 24 x 20

Eslale of Robert Mapplethorpc, courtesy Robert Miller Gallery, New York


Christine and Ryonen, 1978 Oil on canvas, 50 x 30

Estate of Alice Neel, courtesy Robert Miller Ga Ilery, New York

Self-Portrait, 1980

Oil on canvas, 54 x 40

Collection National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.c'

Antonia, 1982

Oil on canvas, 50 x 32

Estate of Alice Ned, courtesy Robert Miller Gallery, New York

Daniel Oates Happy Workers (Hank & Frank), 1991

Acrylic on rigid urethane, 9 x 12 X 63/4 overall Collection Eileen and Michael Cohen, New York

Happy Workers (Bella & Stella), 1992

Oil on polyester resin and urethane foam, 24 x 28 x 20 overall (varia ble)

Collection Baishera and Ronald Ostrow, Old Westbury, New York

Uniforms (Hank & Frank), 1992

Wood, wool, steel, neoprene, 69 x 96 x 23 overall Schorr Family Collection

Lorraine O'Grady

Sisters HV, 1980-88 (from Miscegenated Family Album) Cibachrome, four from series of sixteen,

28 x 39 each, framed

Courtesy Thomas Erben Ga llery, New York


Charles Ray

No, 1992

Color photograph, 38 x 30 framed Collection Refco Group, ltd., Chicago, courtesy Donald Young Gallery, Seattle

Gerhard Richter

Betty, 1991

Color offset lithograph, 381j~ x 26

The Neuberger and Berman Collection, New York

Tholnas Ruff

Portrait, 1990

Ektacolor photograph, 85 x 65 framed Courtesy 303 Gallery, New York Portrait, 1990

Ektacolor photograph, 85 x 65 framed Courtesy 303 Gallery, New York

Andres Serrano Klansman (Knight Hawk of Georgia of the Invisible Empire 1),1990

Cibachrorne, silicone, Plexiglas, wood frame, 65 x 543/4

Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

Nomads (Catherine), 1990

Cibachrorne, silicone, Plexiglas, wood frame, 65 x 543/~

Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

Cindy Sherman

Untitled #85, 1981

Color photograph, 24 x 48

The Eli and Edythe L. Broad Collection, Santa Monica, California

Untitled !~115, 1982

Color photograph, 45V2 x 30 Collection LlNC Group, Chicago

Untitled #195, 1989

Color photograph, 30Y2 x 13Y2

Collection Rowland and Eleanor Miller, Louisville, Kentucky

Untitled #197, 1989

Color photograph, 31 Y2 x 21

Courtesy Barbara Toll Fine Arts, New York


Andy Warhol

Ladies and Gentlemen, 1975

Silkscreen ink on synthetic polymer paint on canvas; fourfrom series of nine, 14 x 11 each

Courtesy Andy Warhol Foundation for the

Visual Arts, Inc., New York

Lana, 1985

Silkscreen ink on synthetic polymer paint on canvas, 40 x 40

Collection Mr. and Mrs. S. I. Newhouse,Jr., New York

Hannah Wilke July 26, 1992/February 19, 1992: #4 from INTRA VENUS, 1991-93

Chromogenic supergloss prints; two panels, 71 1/2 X 471/2 each

Courtesy Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York

Janine Antoni 1964 Born Freeport, Bahamas.

1986 BA, Sarah lawrence College, Bronxville, New York. 1989 M.F.A., Rhode Island School of Design, Providence. Lives and works in New York City.

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..... _. Classe Terminale du tycee Chases en 1931 ; Castelgasse-Vienne. Saint- Etienne: Maison de 18 Culture et de 13 Communication de Saint· Etienne, 1987.

___ .' lnventaire des Objets Ayant Appartenu a une Femme de Bios-Colombes. Paris: Centre National d'Art Contemporain, 1974.

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Chuck Close 1940 Born Monroe, Washington.

1962 BA, University of Washington, Seattle.

1963 B.F.A., Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. 1964 M.F.A. Yale University.

Lives and works in New York City.

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John Coplam;

1920 Born London.

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1954 Born Paris,

Lives and works in Paris and Italy,

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Nan Goldin 1953 Born waslungton, D.C

1977 B.A., B.F.A., Schoo! of Museum of Fine Arts and Tufts University, Boston,

1978 M.F.A., School of Museum of Fine Arts. lives and works in New York City.


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David Hammons 1943 Born Springfield, Illinois,

1966-68 Chouinard Art institute, Los Angeles. 1968-72 Otis Art Institute, Los Angeles,

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UyaKabakov 1933 Born Dnepropretrovsk, Ukraine,

1951 Diploma, School of Fine Arts, Moscow, 1956 Diploma, Surikov Art Institute, Moscow. lives and works in Moscow,


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Ale", Kat:z 192 7 Born New York City.

1946-49 Cooper Union Art School, New York 1949-50 Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture,

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lKaren Kilimnik 1955 Born Philadelphia,

1974-76 Temple University, Philadelphia, Lives and works in New York City.

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1976 B.F.A., Maryland Institute, College of Art, Lives and works in New York City.

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Robert Mapplethorpe 1946 Born Floral Park, New York.

1970 B.F.A., Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York. 1989 Died New York City.

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Alice Neel 1900 Born Merion Square, Pennsylvania.

1921-25 Philadelphia School of Design for Women (now Moore College of Art and Design), 1984 Died New York City_

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Charles Ray 1953 Born Chicago, Illinois.

1975 B,F.A., university of Iowa, Iowa City.

1979 M.F.A., Mason Gross School of Art, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey.

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Daniel Oates 196 4 Born Lucerne, Switzerland.

1986 B.F.A., Newcastle upon Tyne Polytechnic, Newcastle upon Tyne, England,

1989 M.F.A" University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio. Lives and works in New York City.

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1962 B.F.A. and Teaching Certificate, Tyler School of Art, Temple University, Philadelphia.

1993 Died Houston, Texas.

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