Alex Kitnick

  • CROSSED PATHS

    THE MUSEUEMS ARE CLOSED but the sculptures are still there. Memorials and monuments, too. If you’re in Lower Manhattan, you can ramble along the Irish Hunger Memorial’s serpentine path, a rugged simulacrum of peat and stone. I’ve never been to Ireland, but I take it that parts of it look like this. The strangeness of the work is its location in Battery Park City, where since 2002 it has sat like a souvenir between corporate towers, with the Hudson River stretching out to the west. Robert Smithson called certain of his sculptures “nonsites” to denote their difference from the sites whence they

  • “Danh Vo: Take my breath away”

    In the Christian tradition, the “laying on of hands” is a way of transporting a spirit from one body to another. Danh Vo made a similar technique integral to his art. Starting with an array of scavenged objects, ranging from grand chandeliers to presidential pens, Vo alters them—in ways that are undetectable to the human eye—by imbuing them with an affective charge. At times, he cuts these items into pieces, as he did with Roman sculptures and, more metaphorically, the Statue of Liberty. And then there are the cardboard boxes that he

  • Louise Lawler

    IN THE VIDEO The Public Life of Art: The Museum, 1988–89, Andrea Fraser guides the viewer through the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Wearing a gray business suit, she twirls past paintings by Matisse and Kline as she breathlessly enumerates the benefits museums bring to their home cities, including business talent and tourist dollars. Her script is ironic and incisive, to say the least, but the way she is framed by the camera—beside brochures and under works of art—is also striking. In one shot, a fragment of a Roy Lichtenstein painting and a burnished metal trash can form a tense

  • Thomas Eggerer

    Thomas Eggerer’s recent exhibition marked a conspicuous shift in the artist’s practice. While architecture and the (almost always male) human figure have long been central to Eggerer’s paintings, both subjects typically appeared with a brushy unfinish that emphasized the paintings’ process. In contrast, Eggerer’s new compositions have a smooth, even-sealed quality to them. But perhaps the defining feature of the painter’s earlier practice was that his bodies almost always appeared in groups—clamoring in the ocean, working in the fields, traveling by bus, or lolling about on a playground.

  • Liz Glynn

    The William C. Whitney House used to stand at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Sixty-Eighth Street, but like a lot of things in New York, it was torn down to make way for the future. (A large apartment complex occupies the site today.) For her project some ten blocks south, at Doris C. Freedman Plaza, Los Angeles–based artist Liz Glynn has re-created portions of the lost building’s Stanford White–designed interiors out of concrete. Using photographic documentation as a kind of negative, Glynn cast a suite of armchairs and settees and sofas, as well as entryways and porticos, which gave the project

  • “RITA McBRIDE: EXPLORER”

    At the beginning of their career, Bernd and Hilla Becher referred to the industrial structures in their photographs as “anonymous sculptures,” but eventually they dropped the phrase, worried that it sounded too arty. McBride’s artworks, which often take the form of quasi-architectural features such as vents and stadium seating, similarly wrestle with their relationship to sculpture, while simultaneously expanding its possibilities. Though the artist’s work might appear unassuming at first, its weight and power grow on the viewer, gradually revealing a subtle, pointed engagement

  • “MECHANISMS”

    “Mechanisms” situates itself in a tradition of machinic shows, most famously Pontus Hultén’s 1968–69 encyclopedic presentation “The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age.” But where Hultén filled MoMA's galleries with hardware—ranging from a race car to Robert Rauschenberg’s metal assemblage Oracle, 1962–65—and emphasized the items’ autonomy as objects, the roughly one hundred sculptures, photographs, videos, paintings, and site-specific installations Huberman has selected for “Mechanisms,” by artists including Aaron Flint Jamison and Park McArthur,

  • Mathias Poledna

    The kernel of Mathias Poledna’s exhibition was Substance, a six-minute, forty-second 35-mm film depicting the movements of a Rolex watch. The 2014 work was first shown at the Renaissance Society in Chicago that year, and in that exhibition, Poledna also removed the trusswork from the institution’s ceiling. Two portions of that metal structure appeared here, suspended by wire, like bits of a miniature railway bridge. Hanging in an otherwise empty white cube, these were the first things one saw before a mix of music and motorized projector noise ushered the viewer into the black box at the gallery’s

  • Shannon Ebner

    Since its beginnings, Shannon Ebner’s practice has investigated language’s structures, but where it once sought to make them objective by building words out of cinder blocks (among other things), it has now entered a more poetic, associative phase. Her recent exhibition, “STRAY,” contained an LP with readings by poets Susan Howe and Nathaniel Mackey as well as photographs of verses of poems that had been wheat-pasted onto the gallery’s walls. If these elements to some extent called to mind her earlier work, other moments—such as a snapshot-size portrait of Grace Dunham, or a flock of

  • Fia Backström

    For her recent exhibition at Mary Boone Gallery, curated by Piper Marshall, Fia Backström put together a group show that used a strange scaffolding of the artist’s own design as its armature. Comprising gray metal dowels coming off a central shaft—something like a towel rack if one had a bathroom big enough to put it in—each of the six custom contraptions sported outstretched arms on which Backström hung photographs. Outfitted with clamps that grabbed the photos and thrust them out into space, the devices had a dynamic quality that might have reminded some viewers of the avant-garde

  • Mary Beth Edelson

    The seventeen photographs in this show offered a morphing, moving image of subjectivity. Drawn from Mary Beth Edelson’s 1973 series “Women Rising,” they were all self-portraits of some kind or other: black-and-white pictures of the artist standing naked on a beach in North Carolina with her legs spread and her arms held up and bent at the elbow. Most incorporated the same picture, printed from the same negative, though a couple of others offered variations on the theme. But the photographs served only as the ground for figures to come: With marker and paint, Edelson went to work on them,

  • THE CONFORMISTS: THE ART OF GENERAL IDEA

    AT THE HEIGHT of the Reagan-era culture wars and the AIDS crisis—a moment that shaped today’s battles over social values, over what is normal and what is not—General Idea decided to fit in. The group explored assimilation and transgression, convention and critique, biopolitics and style. They inserted their quixotic brand of activism, agitprop, marketing, and performance, virus-like, into the mainstream, with results that were anything but. On the occasion of the retrospective “Broken Time,” which travels to the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires this month, critic Alex Kitnick takes a new look at General Idea—and their reimagining of what art and life could be.

    Artists are “abnormal,” but they get away with it by calling themselves artists.

    —Jill Johnston, 1968

    WHAT DID IT MEAN to be a “normal” artist in the late 1960s, after the twinned explosions of Conceptualism and Pop? Reflecting on their early careers, the partners in General Idea put it this way: “We wanted to be famous, glamorous and rich.” They were obviously being tongue-in-cheek, yet their words also offered a shrewd insight: Not only had the media image of the artist’s lifestyle become part and parcel of artistic practice but, after Warhol, art now offered a path to a kind of mainstream