Curator and historian, gallerist and writer: Klaus Kertess (1940-2016) was a decisive and forward-thinking presence in the art world. He founded the Bykert Gallery in 1966, where he represented artists including Chuck Close, Ralph Humphrey, Brice Marden and Dorothea Rockburne; three decades later, he curated the 1995 Whitney Biennial, the follow-up to the famously political 1993 iteration. “What is being proposed here,” he wrote in a catalogue essay for the 1995 exhibition, “is not a return to formalism but an art in which meaning is embedded in formal value. An acknowledgment of sensuousness is indispensable—whether as play or sheer joy or the kind of subversity that has us reaching for a rose and grabbing a thorn.”
The art world has changed considerably from the relatively convivial world of the ’60s to today’s globalized milieu, but Kertess was a constant throughout the years, curating shows of provocative new work and writing critical essays on artists whose work challenged and engaged him, while also maintaining a vital literary sideline (his short stories are collected in 2000’s South Brooklyn Casket Company).
This volume collects a selection of works by Kertess written over three decades, including meditations on Agnes Martin, Joan Mitchell, John Chamberlain, Vija Celmins, Chris Ofili and Matthew Richie. With each essay accompanied by full-color reproductions of works discussed, Seen, Written provides a priceless opportunity to see art through the eyes of a lifelong viewer.