Alex Jovanovich

  • picks March 17, 2017

    Vija Celmins

    Vija Celmins is a ruthless poet. The artist’s images in this exhibition—rippling waters, blank slates, stones, stars—are as obdurate as they are yielding, as everything as they are nothing. Experiencing a fastidiously constructed painting, sculpture, drawing, or print by the artist, often made over many years and with an endless supply of patience, is not unlike looking into a mirror. You see yourself in the picture or object you’re gazing at—or falling into—wondering how it came to be, and how you got there, too.

    Celmins frequently works small—it is when she is at her most astonishing. Here,

  • interviews March 07, 2017

    Cary Leibowitz

    There’s a ceramic piece by Cary Leibowitz from 1993 that reads: FUCKED UP HOMO BAR-MITZVAH GAY BOY WORRIES TOO MUCH ABOUT WHAT HIS MOTHER WILL WEAR. “Museum Show,” which runs through June 25, 2017, at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, is Leibowitz’s first-ever solo museum exhibition and midcareer survey, covering nearly thirty years of the artist’s identity-centric, bummer-rich comedy via paintings, drawings, sculptures, texts, and more. Here, Leibowitz talks about his work, organizing his show, and Fran Drescher.

    I’M STILL SURPRISED THAT THIS EXHIBITION MADE IT INTO EXISTENCE.

  • diary January 31, 2017

    Band of Outsiders

    DESPERATE TO LOCATE SOME SHRED OF LIGHT, grace, or decency at the beginning of our new Dark Age, I lumbered downtown to see the Outsider Art Fair the Saturday before last—as my blessed sisters were marching, raging—at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea. I was in dire need of tempering my apoplectic bloody-mindedness. (When I saw our new chef à l’orange being sworn in with the Lincoln Bible—the same bible Barack Obama used for his 2009 and 2013 inaugurations—I wanted it to explode into flames.)

    When I got there, I had the good fortune of meeting and talking to the delightful Jackie Klempay—proprietress

  • interviews January 24, 2017

    Joyce Pensato

    Homer, Kenny, Donald, Mickey: Joyce Pensato’s painterly masticating of these American cartoon icons—distilled in black-and-white enamel—have been seducing audiences for decades. One of her earliest Mickey Mouse paintings will be featured in the Whitney Museum’s survey of image-making in downtown New York, “Fast Forward: Painting from the 1980s,” curated by Jane Panetta and Melinda Lang. The exhibition opens on January 27 and runs through May 14, 2017.

    I WAS SUPPOSED TO HAVE my first ever solo show in the East Village at Fiction/Nonfiction gallery in 1991. A couple of the Mickey Mouse drawings I

  • picks December 09, 2016

    “Securing the Shadow: Posthumous Portraiture in America”

    “Secure the shadow, ere the substance fades.” The carving of character by light, as the early camera was thought to do, and as this advertising slogan for photographers of the 1800s suggests, was especially trenchant for those who wanted to remember their dead at eternal slumber’s start, with astonishing veracity, via the daguerreotype’s unearthly powers. Memorial portrait painting is another kind of alchemy—venerable, yet stranger, as it tasks the artist with reviving a kind of familiar glow or personality from the deceased––sometimes using the corpse as a model––for the commissioning bereaved.

  • interviews September 13, 2016

    McDermott and McGough

    “I’ve seen the future, and I’m not going,” says David McDermott, Peter McGough’s creative partner and fellow time-traveler for over thirty years. McDermott and McGough’s queer reimaginings of the past—from eighteenth-century America to the roaring twenties, all the way up to 1984, via painting, photography, film, and sculpture—reinvigorate one’s hopes, to paraphrase E. M. Forster, for better days ahead. Here, McGough discusses their first exhibition with James Fuentes Gallery in New York, “Velvet Rage, Flaming Youth, and the Gift of Desperation,” which opens on September 16 and runs through

  • picks August 12, 2016

    Lauretta Vinciarelli

    Light can be terribly cruel. Excessive amounts can damage eyes and burn skin. Think of José Saramago’s Blindness (1995), a story about a bright-white sightlessness that inexplicably afflicts an entire city, causing violence and horror. Or the Old Testament God: an incandescence who was severe and punishing.

    One could easily assume the light depicted in Lauretta Vinciarelli’s numinous watercolor paintings is healing and warm. The architect and artist—who died of cancer on August 2, 2011, her sixty-eighth birthday—studied Eastern philosophy and was especially devoted to the eleventh chapter of the

  • picks July 29, 2016

    “The Keeper”

    Grandpa, kids, the rich, serial murderers: Everybody collects! Freud said it has something to do with toilet training—that losing one’s shit, quite literally, can be a traumatizing experience, and collecting is a way of cauterizing that early-childhood wound. That’s stupid, and deeply ungenerous. It doesn’t explain the eerie profundity of self-described “super-medium” Vanda Vieira-Schmidt’s Weltrettungsprojekt (World Rescue Project), 1995–, a small edifice comprising more than three hundred thousand drawings created to save humanity from supernatural forces of doom, or The Sketchbook from

  • film March 17, 2016

    Remember the Alamo

    SO IT APPEARS THAT The Archies have become “dark.” Due to a big brand revamp a few years ago, Riverdale’s now overrun with murder, zombies, witchcraft, and a fine powdering of incest. Who knew? It’s making Archie Comic Publications, Inc. a great deal of money, certainly—even NPR approves. But isn’t this Frank Millering of juvenilia a cynical and predictable strategy of revivification? If you want challenging literature about the vicissitudes and complicatedness of life, maybe grow up and read Tolstoy? Kathy Acker? Karl Ove Knausgård? Lena Dunham?

    A new Pee-wee Herman movie from the inimitable

  • interviews March 15, 2016

    Isaac Mizrahi

    During Hollywood’s early days, actors didn’t just act—they also sang, danced, and played instruments. These people were, in the truest sense of the word, entertainers. The designer Isaac Mizrahi is similar—an old-school charmer who’d never settle on doing just one thing forever. This is abundantly evident in the exhibition “Isaac Mizrahi: An Unruly History,” put together by Kelly Taxter and Chee Pearlman, which opens at the Jewish Museum on March 18 and runs through August 7, 2016, the midcareer survey that explores Mizrahi’s life in fashion, theater, film, and television. Unzipped (1995),

  • diary March 15, 2016

    Sui Genesis

    IF YOU’RE OLD ENOUGH, you’ll remember the term “urban primitive,” a pejorative (I always thought) coined during the late 1980s or early ’90s for the tatted, pierced, and dyed set who, through these various cosmetic alterations to their bodies, were somehow more in touch with the dissipating collective id that was being ravaged by Western cynicism and late capitalism.

    I dunno—back then I recall the majority of UPs being aggro straight white dudes who smoked the shittiest weed and drank too much, calling anyone who had a sense of humor and not a jot of “tribal” ink on their bodies “fuckin’ faggots.”

  • picks February 12, 2016

    Beverly Semmes

    “A heartfelt seduction lasts a lifetime,” says the archly camp English band Black Box Recorder. And, no joke, they’re right, especially when it comes to Meret Oppenheim, whose sexy, Surrealist works balance nightmare and Eros with sinister aplomb. Beverly Semmes’s exhibition here, “Rabbit Hole,” is a love letter dropped into the abyss—an homage to Oppenheim’s fur-lined teacup, spoon, and saucer from 1936, Object.

    Semmes’s colorful fabric “Ghost” sculptures, made between 1996 and 2016, are T-pinned to the walls of gallery, and all six of them wear little sewn-on skirts. Two carry patterns of dots

  • picks January 29, 2016

    Jeni Spota C.

    James Hampton, a janitor, built a tinfoil throne room for Christ’s return in a Washington, DC, rental garage; Leonard Knight’s Salvation Mountain is an adobe edifice in California made in honor of God’s enduring love; Laure Pigeon’s densely worked ink drawings are faithfully recorded transmissions from beyond the veil. Painter Jeni Spota C. unabashedly joins this lineage of ecstatic visionaries for whom art is a gateway into the divine.

    One doesn’t just look at Spota’s paintings; one feels them. Their thickly encrusted oil surfaces warp—or rather, masticate—the orderly and elaborate geometry of

  • interviews December 16, 2015

    Diane Simpson

    In the November 2015 issue of Artforum, Kate Nesin says of artist Diane Simpson: “[She] realizes the singularity of each sculpture through assiduous refinements of deformation, material selection, and construction. That is, each sculpture stands on its own, marked by her attentiveness.” And attentiveness is the word one would use to describe Simpson, a scrupulous maker of body-conscious forms that call to mind the intricate details of period costumes, Art Deco design, and various kinds of ceremonial and fetish objects. Simpson lives and works in Chicago and has had numerous exhibitions. Her

  • picks October 23, 2015

    Ian Cooper

    Think about the backdrop against which the tapioca stickiness of childhood plays itself out: a middle-school classroom of plasticized wood; a gymnastics mat made of hypoallergenic vinyl; stain-resistant carpeting in tidy little squares of gray and pink. These institutional surfaces clash with the changes of bodies coming into their own—hair and sweat and semen and blood can easily be wiped away with a little Windex or a damp cloth, oddly sterilizing the messiness of puberty and the visceral weirdness of growing up. Ian Cooper’s sculptures, filtered through the aesthetics of his 1980s

  • picks September 06, 2015

    Chason Matthams

    Here is an artist happiest in the graveyard we call Google Images, promiscuous in his desire to absorb everything: stupid and brilliant, sickening and funny, banal and beautiful. Lots of people do this kind of looking now—gluttonous, glazed over, staring—and try making it into something. But few have the chops or intelligence to metabolize this modern habit into such febrile and gorgeously unhinged art.

    Chason Matthams can paint like a motherfucker. Or a fatherfucker—he doesn’t care. His pictures look like a synthesis of Ingres, Ub Iwerks, and Norman Rockwell, fed on a steady diet of GHB and

  • picks August 14, 2015

    Tom Phillips

    Tom Phillips’s approach to creating the strikingly luminous images in A Humument is by now a familiar one: He takes each page from W. H. Mallock’s A Human Document (a long-dead Victorian novel) and via collage, painting, and drawing, he turns them into voluminously embellished Concrete- or Language-inspired poems. When he happened upon the book nearly fifty years ago on a bargain rack in a London warehouse, he bet his rummaging companion that day, R. B. Kitaj, that he could turn it into “a serious long-term project.” And, indeed, with five different editions of A Humument printed and published,

  • picks July 31, 2015

    “Secret Identities: Superheroes and Selfhood”

    Superheroes are born from the worst of times: Think of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s sexy, Semitic Übermensch coming to life on the eve of World War II, or Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s psychedelic mutant marvels arriving the same year President Kennedy was assassinated. Hollywood’s bombarded us with all manner of muscle-bound escapism, especially over the last fifteen years, making fabulous bank by exploiting this country’s broken spirits from enervating wars, rotten politics, and economic crises.

    For this exhibition, seven artists offer wan and parodic meditations on the superhero mantle, putting

  • picks July 24, 2015

    Roger Brown

    Chicago Imagism: second-rate Pop from a Second City that had its moment—for about a second—too many years ago. This, of course, is all bullshit, but it is the narrative that’s been built around this Midwestern movement of painting and sculpture, which privileged interiority, eccentricity, folksiness, and craft—aspects that seemed woefully out of step with what was happening in New York and Europe during the 1960s and ’70s.

    Roger Brown, one of Chicago’s finest, was an inveterate collector of things and their stories, and his catholic tastes—from carnie art to dime store kitsch, images of the

  • interviews July 20, 2015

    Genesis Breyer P-Orridge

    Genesis Breyer P-Orridge has been making art, poetry, music, and magic for nearly fifty years. With the band Throbbing Gristle, P-Orridge became one of the main progenitors of industrial music, and in 1981 P-Orridge with Alex Fergusson commenced Psychic TV, which released its thirty-sixth studio album, Snakes, in 2014.

    In 1993, P-Orridge met and married dominatrix, registered nurse, performance artist, and musician Jacqueline Breyer— aka Lady Jaye (named after G.I. Joe’s sidekick). Shortly afterward they embarked on the project of Pandrogeny, a fusion of their souls and bodies as one through