Alex Jovanovich

  • Lauretta Vinciarelli, Night Nine, 1996, watercolor on paper, 30 x 22''. From the “Night” series, 1996.
    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

  • Howard Fried, The Decomposition of My Mother’s Wardrobe, 2014–, 294 wardrobe items, dimensions variable.
    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

  • John Lee, Pee-wee’s Big Holiday, 2016, color, sound, 89 minutes.
    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

  • View of “Isaac Mizrahi: An Unruly History,” 2016. Photo: Will Ragozzino.
    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),

  • Genesis Breyer P-Orridge at h/er opening at the Rubin Museum. (All photos: Filip Wolak)
    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.”

  • View of “Beverly Semmes,” 2016.
    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

  • Jeni Spota C., Venetian Victory, 2015, oil on canvas, 36 x 42''.
    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

  • View of “Diane Simpson: Sculpture + Drawing 1978–2009,” Chicago Cultural Center, 2010. Photo: Diane Simpson.
    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

  • Ian Cooper, Screening (Matador), 2015, screen printed and hand-dyed cotton jersey, felt, vinyl, powder-coated steel and aluminum, painted lumber, poplar dowel, felt, bias tape, thread, PVC with hardware, 85 1/2 x 54 x 20".
    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

  • Chason Matthams, Large Warm Playback, 2015, oil on linen, 40 x 60".
    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

  • Tom Phillips, Humument Fragments: Bicycle (Vintage People on Photo Postcards), 2011, watercolor on book page, 3 1/8 x 3 1/8".
    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,

  • Peter Williams, Common Thread, 2015, oil on canvas, 30 x 24".
    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