Alex Kitnick

  • “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

  • Heji Shin

    The genre of portraiture has different looks and different functions, ranging from the high finish of heads of state to the languor of lovers lying in bed. Both deliver the sense of a person with some inner life, some history and position in the world, assembling some image of him- or herself in front of the gaze of another. So can one make a portrait of what we might call the “just almost born,” a thing whose head is jutting out into the world, but whose body is still in the womb, its sex unrevealed, its language a far ways away? (My feeling is probably not, that such an image would be something

  • Matthew Barney

    In 1967, the critic Brian O’Doherty described “the ideology of the gallery space” as “idealized,” “sealed off,” “untouched by time.” If this were true when O’Doherty penned these words, by 1991 the white cube was neurotic, with the airs of a padded cell, or so Matthew Barney suggested in “Facility of DECLINE,” his solo exhibition at Gladstone Gallery that year. To mark that show’s twenty-fifth anniversary, the artist has reformatted the exhibition, with a number of the original works on display.

    Upon first entering the gallery, there didn’t appear to be much to see (especially for a Matthew Barney

  • the staircase in contemporary architecture

    THE PRIMORDIAL SPACES of modernism were spaces of labor. It was in the industrialized efficiency of the factory floor that many of the fundamental attributes of modern architecture—the grid, the open plan, the revealed structure—were developed. And as modern labor became more corporate over the course of the twentieth century, modern architecture did, too: The cubicles of the typical modern office adhered to the same rigorous organizational logic as factory workbenches, with desks appearing one after the other, arranged in single file for solitary work. Yet today the nature of working

  • Mathis Altmann

    I had seen a few of Mathis Altmann’s works online—spooky things hanging in darkened rooms, made out of lots of junk and schmutz, nothing if not weird—so I went to the Swiss Institute prepared to see some grody riff on Halloween aesthetics by an artist in Zurich who had gone deep inside his head. (As the art world gets ever more globalized, meshing more and more with corporate culture, a surprising number of artists are responding by plumbing the depths of “interiority.”) Lined up in the basement gallery were eight little models of architectural spaces, more or less hung at eye level;

  • Sherrie Levine

    It’s difficult sometimes to know how to engage with new work by an artist like Sherrie Levine, whose very name has come to stand as a kind of marker in the history of art. When one thinks of Levine, one thinks of “appropriation”—I have an image in my mind of a portrait of the tight-lipped woman that Walker Evans shot for the Farm Security Administration or Duchamp’s Fountain done over in bronze. I think of doubling, copying, postmodernism, the death of the author, the birth of the text. I think, in other words, and while I think I often pass over the material reality of her work, and how

  • “Béton”

    Concrete (béton) is chic again. Its rehabilitation was officially ratified last year when a number of stark Brutalist buildings served as backdrops for fashionable figures in a Prada fall/winter ad campaign. For many years the material was considered drably utilitarian at best—the primary stuff of a postwar modernism associated with civic projects foisted on the public by town councils and other bureaucratic institutions. The irony of such a reading, however, is that many of the architects who employed concrete did so in hopes of opening

  • Brassaï

    Sometime in the early 1930s, Brassaï began making photographs of Parisian graffiti. He had already shot a lot of pictures of classical Parisian scenes—long, hedgerowed passages of the Tuileries; the Eiffel Tower at night—but this was something different, on the level of both subject and scale. The photographs, focusing on the iconography left by the city’s inhabitants, offer close-ups of crumbling walls—most of them found in working-class districts of the city. There are carved faces and dug-out hearts in addition to crude animals and skulls and crossbones rendered with paint and

  • OPENINGS: CAMERON ROWLAND

    Lloyd’s of London monopolized the marine insurance of the slave trade by the early 18th century. Lloyd’s Register was established in 1760 as the first classification society in order to provide insurance underwriters information on the quality of vessels. The classification of the ship allows for a more accurate assessment of its risk. Lloyd’s Register and other classification societies continue to survey and certify shipping vessels and their equipment. Lashing equipment physically secures goods to the deck of the ship, while its certification is established to insure the value of the goods

  • Greater New York

    AFTER BECOMING a part of the Museum of Modern Art in 2000, MoMA PS1 began presenting a big-tent, building-wide exhibition called Greater New York, which surveys artistic practices in the city every five years. Though ostensibly referring to its reach across the five boroughs, the title has always struck me as rather triumphalist in tone. I mean, New York is the greatest city in the world, right? And Greater New York’s function has typically seemed to be one of rounding up the best and the brightest from the city’s MFA programs and priming their goods for the market. With the exhibition’s fourth