images, power, etc.


At their best, photographs of artists can be totemic: They establish status within the tribe, produce value, dazzle with allure, and manufacture myth; as Barbara Kruger wrote in her 1988 essay “Picturing Greatness,” they “freeze moments, create prominence, and make history.” Sometimes these pictures take on talismanic lives of their own, becoming fetish objects, what philosopher Francis Bacon called “idols of the mind,” as with photos of Pollock painting or Warhol doing almost anything (or nothing). We’ve all been transfixed by Picasso in his underpants at the beach, Bacon in his grimy studio, de Kooning studying his paintings, Leon Golub’s huge head, Hockney’s Dutch boy grin, Kahlo’s unibrow, Schnabel in his pajamas, Mapplethorpe’s image of Louise Bourgeois holding a giant phallus, and his self-portrait as a faun. In our collective mind’s eye we see Beuys in his hat, Baselitz in his castle, and Basquiat in his designer suit; the young and beautiful Johns and Rauschenberg, the rakish Duchamp, and the ruddy Robert Smithson.

more from Salz at the Village Voice here.